“I found out what it was to be a Collins!”
And then, fortunately, she went insane and died. Hooray!
I know, I’m sorry, that sounds bad, but that’s the point of view of the show, and you know it. She was a funny old lady, and she provided us with one of the great Friday cliffhangers of our time, but if she tells Edward the secret, then Barnabas will be hunted down and staked in his coffin, and we don’t want that to happen. At least, not yet; there’ll be plenty of time for that later.
Sorry, I’ll back up. Barnabas Collins has traveled back in time using the ancient Chinese secret of I Ching, in order to find out why the ghost of Quentin Collins is taking over Collinwood and killing children and whatnot. But Barnabas overshot his target, thanks a lot China, and now he’s stuck somewhere in Quentin’s mid-twenties, way before he dies and even becomes a ghost in the first place. But Barnabas doesn’t know how to get back, so he’s stuck in 1897, and I guess this is what the show is about now.
So the theme for the day, this week and possibly the entire run of the show is that everybody is a dick to Barnabas. All he wants to do is wreck causality and continue his centuries-spanning war on drunk women, and everyone keeps giving him attitude.
First up, there’s Edith, who revealed on Friday that for the last hundred years, the Collinses have been passing the instruction from one generation to the next that if Barnabas ever shows up, you should be a dick to him. Seriously, that appears to be the entire purpose of the Collins family.
So now Barnabas is listening outside Edith’s door, and just waiting for her to tell Edward where to find him during the day, and what to do with him once they’ve found him.
He hears Edith mumble the word “mausoleum”, so he takes off for the Old House, where his new gypsy friend Magda is setting up the new furniture. The last time we were here, the place looked like a pack of timber wolves had come through, but now it’s kind of shabby chic, with a phenomenal lavender seating implement that I can’t think of a decent name for.
Yes, this is a high-stakes dramatic situation, but if 1897 teaches us anything, it’s that there’s always time to appreciate creative furniture, even in our darkest hours.
Barnabas rushes in, and Magda says, “Back so soon? I was going to arrange everything the way that you ordered, your majesty,” segueing into a mocking curtsey which is perfectly timed to drive Barnabas out of his mind.
He says that he wants her and her husband to go to the Collins mausoleum, and remove his coffin from the secret room before anyone goes to look for it. She gives him some gypsy sass, and the scene just gets better from there.
Barnabas: When the door opens, there must be no sign that you and Sandor had been there, do you understand?
Magda: You ask if I understood, no, I do not understand! Who will open the door?
Barnabas: That is no concern of yours.
Magda: What will they be looking for — (drops into another curtsey) — Mr. Collins, sir?
Barnabas: Get your coat and GO!
Magda: Oh, so kind and considerate, worrying about me and the coat.
It’s lovely. We should have had gypsies years ago. Why did we never have gypsies before? Who is in charge of the gypsy supply?
Meanwhile, Edward is still in Edith’s room, trying to squeeze the secret out of her. She’s gone all vague in her declining moments, drifting back and forth through her memories like she’s got I Ching: The Home Game. At one point, she asks, “Is Judith dead? You didn’t kill her?” because who even knows with this family.
Okay, back to Barnabas. He comes back to Collinwood to fret in the drawing room and wait for the torch-wielding mob to arrive, when the secret panel opens and a whole other loopy Collins emerges, holding a gun. This is Carl.
Following the show’s new rules re: being a dick to Barnabas, Carl points the gun at Barnabas’ temple, and says, “I know who you are, and I know where you’ve come from! I know everything about you!”
Barnabas keeps it together, because by now he’s used to this kind of treatment. It turns out to be a practical joke anyway — firing the gun just releases a flag with the word FIB on it. Carl dissolves into giggles, thrilled with himself.
Barnabas is not in the mood, so Carl immediately downshifts. “It was quite a trick, wasn’t it?” he says. “Well, I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. Hi, I’m Carl Collins; you’re Barnabas.”
Carl holds out his hand, and Barnabas just stares at him, trying to figure out what this even is. “Well, I’m glad to meet you,” Carl says, and shakes Barnabas’ hand.
So this is what happens to Collinses when you leave them out in the sun for too long. Carl is something we haven’t seen in a Collins generation yet — a middle child. Too young to inherit the money like Edward, or be vice-president like Judith, not cute enough to be the dashing teen rebel like Quentin, Carl’s just been drifting through life, ignored and unnecessary.
He’s also the first character in a year and a half to be introduced without any significant connection to a supernatural plotline. The last one was Millicent, in the 1795 story, and like her, Carl is a pure character actor part, created to give one of the underused cast members something interesting to do. Carl is mostly decorative, just there to fill out the family and make argument scenes more unpredictable, and therefore I like him very much. Carl is great.
Upstairs, Edith is on the verge of telling Edward the secret, when we get another glimpse into life at Collinwood. She suddenly sits up in bed and addresses some invisible presence, saying, “What are you doing here? You’re dead!” which might as well be printed on a sign at the front door.
She acts like her dead father-in-law Daniel Collins is in the room, and considering what we know about this place, he probably is.
This turns into a monologue that’s fairly grim for her grandson to witness.
Edith: Daniel — keep away from me! I always hated you! You ruined my husband. You never were a father to him! You made us live in this house — I hated it! We wanted to live in the Old House… I begged you… You said no. No, if you’re going to be a Collins, you must live at Collinwood. That’s what you said! I found out what it was to be a Collins! I found out!
As you may recall, Daniel was the little boy that we saw in the 1795 story. He seemed to be in pretty good shape when we left him, except that his sister was irretrievably insane, almost everyone else in his family had died, and he was raised by an emotionally stunted great-uncle who passed on his terrible burden of protecting the family from undead ghouls. Apparently that wasn’t a nurturing environment.
And then Edith just drifts off into another memory, and she never tells Edward the secret, because everyone is a dick to him too. She’s right, this really is what it means to be a Collins.
Trapped, haunted, insecure, cynical, jealous, greedy and full of regret — that’s the Collins family that we’ve been introduced to over the last week, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope that life is going to get better for them. In other words, they’re the perfect family for a monster movie soap opera time travel drawing room comedy. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Tomorrow: Another Jane.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
This week’s episodes were shot out of order. This episode should have been taped on a Monday, but instead it was taped on Wednesday. That makes a gap of five days between taping Friday’s cliffhanger and the reprise in today’s teaser, and that seems to have thrown everyone off balance in the first scene.
At the beginning of the teaser, you can see Edith looking out into the studio for her cue before she starts acting. Then she and Barnabas are out of synch — she says, “You are the secret!” and his response is “Tell me what’s wrong!” Then after her next line, he reacts to the “you are the secret” reveal. They continue to muddle through, clearly uncomfortable with their lines, and Barnabas seems more puzzled than horrified. At the end of the teaser, the closing music sting plays after the scene has faded out.
Near the beginning of act 1, when Edward is trying to take Edith’s pulse, he also looks for a cue from the studio before he starts acting. Then Edith says “I hear you,” before Edward says, “Can you hear me, grandmother?” They finally pull themselves together after the first Barnabas/Magda scene.
Edith stops and looks at the teleprompter before she says, “Is Judith dead?”
Behind the Scenes:
Isabella Hoopes, who plays Edith, was born in 1893, so she was actually around for 1897 and knew what it was like. Her acting career seems to have started late in life. She was in the original Broadway cast of Wonderful Town in 1953-54, at the age of 60. She also appeared on Broadway in Saratoga in 1959-60. Dark Shadows was her only TV role.
After Dark Shadows, she had one more Broadway appearance, in the original cast of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds in 1978. She also had small appearances in a few movies — Elderly Lady in Cancel My Reservations, Woman on Platform in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and finally Old Lady in 1984’s Grace Quigley. She died in 1987, at age 94.
Tomorrow: Another Jane.
— Danny Horn