Episode 776: Blood Sports

“If we only knew what these three bullets meant.”

“Miss Collins,” Rachel says, eyeing the loaded heater in her former employer’s hand, “you must put the gun down. You’ve got to realize!” And then: Ka-POW! It turns out she doesn’t got to, after all.

So we start the week off with a bang, and it’s going to get messier from here. This is a particularly dangerous time to be a Dark Shadows character; we had two murders last week, and there’s going to be three this week, including the governess who just got fired ten seconds ago. Soap operas don’t usually have a weekly body count like this, except for General Hospital, obviously, where they have a dedicated budget for ammunitions.

776 dark shadows tim rachel jostle

Now, the decision to pull the plug on Rachel’s scattered story arc was not the result of a long-range storyline master plan. It’s a backstage production decision, as is almost always the case on every single television show ever, no matter what anybody says, especially Damon Lindelof, Stephen Moffatt, Shonda Rhimes, Joss Whedon, Chris Carter, and whoever writes Game of Thrones. Yes, they are lying to you. They write lies for a living.

Kathryn Leigh Scott wanted to go spend the summer with her boyfriend, a photojournalist who was doing a story for Time on African photo safaris. Apparently, in 1969, weekly newsmagazines had the money to send photographers and their actress plus-ones on months-long field trips. They didn’t realize that they should start saving up, just in case the internet was invented.

Anyway, Kathryn said she wanted some time off, and Dan said okay, because who can say no to those eyes? And now Barnabas has the blood of another Josette on his hands, which is a bonus, because every once in a while you want to give Barnabas a new reason to feel sorry for himself.

776 dark shadows tim judith why

The story point here is that hotshot vampire Dirk Wilkins has decided to punish Barnabas for refusing to bring his dead girlfriend back to life, which Barnabas couldn’t do anyway. I don’t know where people get these ideas. So Dirk vampire-hypnotized Judith, gave her a gun, and told her to use Rachel as target practice. This plan worked perfectly, because Dirk is good at follow-through.

Rachel’s boyfriend Tim rushes to the scene, and naturally, he picks up the gunshot victim and jostles her around a bunch; he must be working for the African photo safari tourist board.

He asks what happened, and Rachel gasps that Judith shot her. Tim looks over at the blood-dazzled Judith and yells, “Are you crazy? What did you do that for?” which is pretty much everything that’s wrong with Tim, condensed into one moment. P.S. This is my favorite television show.

776 dark shadows edward trask sherry

For the last few episodes, Dirk has been absolutely dominating the show, just chewing his way through the cast with no regrets, and at this point you could make the case that he’s interesting enough to consider at least a junior membership into Murder Club. But, sad spoiler alert: this is his last episode. Within the next twenty-two minutes, Edward is going to pound wood through Dirk’s reckless, untamed heart, and he will be lost to us forever.

Dirk makes three crucial mistakes today, so we might as well identify them, and do some post-post-mortem Monday morning quarterbacking.

776 dark shadows trask edward judith back

Mistake number one: He forgets to turn Judith back on. Left at a loose end, she just strolls back home to Collinwood, smoking gun in hand. Edward and Trask have been standing around the drawing room, drinking sherry and talking about how frantic with worry they both are, and they probably would have gone out to look for her at some point, especially if the sherry ran out and they had to go on a supply run anyway.

But Judith walks back in with the evidence in hand, which proves once again that if you stay home and drink, things usually work out okay.

776 dark shadows dirk judith color

Mistake number two: He changes his mind. Edward and Trask put Judith to bed and keep watch over her, and then Dirk calls and says he wants her to come back and work another shift.

So she gets up and sleepwalks her way out the door, with Edward in hot pursuit. Judith is dazed and wearing bedroom slippers, and she’s not really built for speed in the first place, so it’s not hard for Edward to keep up. He could probably stop off in the drawing room for another sherry and still pick up the trail without breaking a sweat.

776 dark shadows edward judith coffin

Mistake number three: In just one night, Dirk managed to assemble a team of three blood slaves — Tim, Judith and Rachel. That’s not exactly an elite commando unit, but between them, they were more than adequate protection during the day. They even had a gun! There’s no reason for the organization to fall apart this easily.

But Dirk had Judith shoot Rachel, and then Tim took Rachel over to the Old House to die on a couch, leaving the coffin unprotected. You’ll notice that all of these mistakes are related to staff management; it’s just one resourcing snafu after another.

776 dark shadows dirk staked

Here’s how it should have gone down: The whole team together — forget the Barnabas revenge thing, focus on security first. Find guns for all three of them, and tell them to shoot anybody who comes through the door.

They could have had an epic last-stand shootout. Yes, eventually the good guys would organize a posse and take Dirk down, but not like this. He should’ve gone out Butch and Sundance style, in a hail of bullets.

But they had to kill him, because they couldn’t contain him. Dirk was too beautiful for this world, a rebel teen idol who flamed out in a blaze of glory. He lived fast, he died young, and he left a good-looking corpse. Several of them, actually, all over the place.

Tomorrow: All Points.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Judith pulls the trigger, and Tim hears the shots. As he’s opening the cellar doors, Judith clears her throat. I can’t quite describe why that’s funny — you need to see the shot of Judith, standing there with a gun in her hand and clearing her throat, like she thinks the gunfire isn’t quite enough to get your attention.

Exasperated with worry, Edward exclaims, “It can’t go on like this. What does he want? Who is he? What does he want from us? What does he want from her?” This might actually be scripted, for all I know.

When Edward urges Judith to go upstairs and get some sleep, you can hear people walking around in the studio.

When Tim carries Rachel into the Old House, he passes a camera, which intrudes in the shot.

When Judith gets up from the bed and Edward follows her, the mist machine is going nuts in the background. They might be using it to represent smoke in the fireplace. It’s hard to say.

Tomorrow: All Points.

776 dark shadows dirk judith fangs

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

37 thoughts on “Episode 776: Blood Sports

  1. All these years later, and I still can’t watch this episode again. I have vivid memories of watching this when it aired in 1969 and being seriously broken up by Rachel’s bloody murder. But in the second grade, I didn’t know anything about work sabbaticals.

    1. Was Billy Graham or some Tipper Gore wannabe trying to prevent 2nd graders from watching this show? Growing up in the ’70s all I remember hearing was ‘Speed Racer’ was, well, too ‘racy’.

      1. Not really. My dad remarried a woman with very conservative ideas about what I should watch and read. She had to prescreen everything. She worked and got home after DS, so she couldn’t have stopped me from watching it, but once I assured her that no one was having sex, she was FINE with it. She actually asked me if this was the soap with the woman who didn’t know who the father of her baby was. When I was able to say with absolute truth that there were no babies at all on DS she didn’t care.

      2. DS got away with so much more than anybody could today, for a couple reasons.

        #1: no VCRs, so people with day jobs could only hear about the show second-hand.

        #2: the Christian right didn’t start to make culture-war noise until the late 70s, and they didn’t really get powerful until the 80s. This was partly technological too — mass mailing in the 80s helped Christian right groups to organize.

        It really is remarkable how different the standards were in the late 60s. I wrote about the Christian right in this post: https://darkshadowseveryday.com/2014/11/16/ep-523/

    2. I think Rachel’s death — not to mention being used as a pawn for murder — alters Tim Shaw irrevocably. It’s somewhat tragic (sort of like the permanent effect Nicholas Blair’s machinations has on Joe Haskell).

    3. And actually, Dirk’s death is relatively gruesome. I believe it’s the most explicit vampire staking we’ve had so far…at least the bloodiest, with blood running out of his mouth.

  2. In this episode, Trask seems to revert to “Rev. Trask religious fanatic,” which is how he was introduced to us in his first appearance in 1897. He prays to God for help in stopping the vampire but alone, not in sight of any other character, so you can’t claim it’s just an act. That’s hard to reconcile with the man who just committed cold-blooded murder in order to marry a wealthy spinster. (I can understand why he’d want to stop the vampire — it’s in his best interest — but that he actually believes God would aid him is almost laughable.)

    1. Compartmentalization is part of it. I also remember that Angelique timed her undoing of the Quentin zombie spell with Trask’s attempt to heal Quentin. Thus Trask believed his own press about having an in with the Big Guy. How could he not after channeling such a miracle?

  3. One rule I wish the writers/producers/whoever would have adhered to is “Each actor gets to play only one character per time period/timeline,” with the possible exception of the present-day “real” timeline. The one actor-exception to this rule (and any rule worth its salt should have at least one or two built-in exceptions) is Thayer David, who was largely wasted as Sandor but who was (SPOILER ALERT!) simply awesome as Count Petofi, my hands-down all-time favorite Dark Shadows character. I’ll have more to say about him when the time comes. At any rate, the reason I bring this up now is that we’ll be seeing more of Ms. Scott and Mr. Davis — in different roles, of course — later on in 1897. This is a mixed blessing, to be sure.

        1. It is impossible to get too much KLS, ever.

          And they needed to recycle the actors because of the decision to extend 1897. Also, Kitty meets the fate intended for Rachel, had she lived. One Josette is swapped for another Josette to go back in time to be Josette. Something like that, and it all leads to the Leviathans.

          1. Kitty is fun ’cause she has an edge. She’s not so painfully innocent, like Josette. It’s fun to see KLS play an aristocrat trying to hide an embarrassing secret. Too bad Kitty had to become Josette, instead of the other way around.
            Imagine, if Petofi had blackmailed Kitty into marriage the way Jason did with Liz, leading up to a sumptuous 1897 wedding climax. Instead of just one pistol in a purse, there would have to be at least two hidden itchy trigger-fingers, waiting for the “I do”.

            “OMG! Look out, Petofi! The preacher is King Johnny Romano, in disguise!”

          2. Right now, I’m around episode No. 130 and the introduction of Laura (which I love). I’ve seen 1897 before back in the 1990s– I look forward to seeing it again.

            I always thought the decision to extend 1897 was a mistake. The last third felt drawn out and scattered. I got tired of it. I want to see if I feel that way again after a full viewing of everything leading up to it.

            I liked 1795 better because it was tighter and more focused. (I did love the start of 1897, though, especially the sibling bickering of Edward, Judith, Carl and Quentin).

    1. We’re most likely at the point where the DS folks are deciding to extend 1897 beyond what they had originally planned. With new characters being introduced for some new storylines, the powers that be were no doubt wondering how they were going to be able to afford a number of new actors/characters. Killing off a few characters and then recycling the actors was probably in part an exigency decision.

    2. Oh, I disagree- I wish 1897 had gone on longer and had included a lot more doubling. For example, I’d have liked to see John Karlen come back as a suave, smooth-talking fellow. And Don Briscoe as a straight-up imitation of W. C. Fields, in the same way that Tony Peterson gave Jerry Lacy a chance to do a straight-up imitation of Humphrey Bogart. And Clarice Blackburn as, I don’t know, Magda’s even saltier cousin.

  4. My Church of Christ membership family LOVED Dark Shadows when it first aired – wouldn’t miss it. this even included my Grandparents – but then, they’d watch anything we wanted – including Batman and Soul train.
    The only friend whose parents refused to let her watch DS was a Jehova’s Witness. But, she still had a big crush on David Selby.
    The radical religious right jazz came along in the 80’s with Jim & Tammy and Ronnie and Nancy.

  5. Violence on TV is great, neocons love it. Sex…no! LOL

    Rachel & Tim’s last scenes always make me tear up. So much missed opportunity.

    Thanks Danny – I had no idea that KLS wanted time off to go to Africa. I had never heard a reason why she was gone for this time, but she was sure due for a vacation.

    As to the (SPOILER ALERT) eventual returns of KLS and Roger to 1897 – I’m all for it. Charles D Tate is my second favourite RD character, and I absolutely love Kitty Soames. To me the show starts to dwindle a bit when she gives in to Josette and then eats it again.

  6. “Mistake number two: He changes his mind.” Although it probably wasn’t a good decision for Dirk to let Judith out of his immediate vicinity while he was sleeping in his coffin, he actually didn’t change his mind about her. In the previous episode, he told Judith that she was to return to him the following night, so that was in the plan all along.

  7. Guarding Dirk. So that’s what Tim was doing outside Dirk’s cellar hide-out. I thought he was just there to take the night air, or maybe to make sure the bulkhead to the cellar didn’t float away. This episode seems to be all about people with bad security plans. Edward let’s himself be easily distracted by Dirk’s diversions. Then Dirk, himself, has no guard at all right when he has stirred up his opposition. Tim finds Rachel and wanders away from his post with her body. I thought when I watched it that Tim did not seem to be under Dirk’s control at all.

    1. Dirk should have just killed Rachel himself and hid the body from Tim so he’d still guard him that day. Then he wouldn’t have needed to involve Judith at all, so there would be no opportunities for others to follow her to his lair. But then, Dirk was both evil and insane, and I think he got a perverse thrill from having his high and mighty former employer carry out the murderous plan. I shudder to think what her “reward” would have been.

  8. A story KLS tells in her Dark Shadows Memories about that trip to Africa with her boyfriend Ben is how recognizable her character had become. She said Ben was photographing a pride of lions at a wildebeest kill early in the morning somewhere in the Serengeti Plain, when another Landrover arrived. They heard a young girl asking her mom if that was Maggie Evans over there.

  9. Oh, I disagree- I wish 1897 had gone on longer and had included a lot more doubling. For example, I’d have liked to see John Karlen come back as a suave, smooth-talking fellow. And Don Briscoe as a straight-up imitation of W. C. Fields, in the same way that Tony Peterson gave Jerry Lacy a chance to do a straight-up imitation of Humphrey Bogart. And Clarice Blackburn as the diametric opposite of Abigail/ Minerva- she could have been Magda’s black sheep cousin, the shameless woman.

  10. As your screencap clearly shows, the stake wasn’t even in Dirk’s chest much less his heart. That’s really sloppy even for this show.

    I thought the Dirk/Judith SFX shot was really well done and I’m impressed that Davis could talk while wearing the fangs, something Frid apparently couldn’t manage.

  11. First off, I want Edward’s smoking jacket. How smooth is that with the velvet lining!

    Secondly, had I been a kid watching this when Dirk was seen superimposed over Judith, I would’ve had nightmares forever! He looked so scary!

    Thirdly, what the hell with him being killed off just when he got awesome!

  12. This was Roger Davis at his best. Too bad it had to end, but the character could go no further.

  13. …So why exactly is Tim not dead? Dirk’s big spiel to him before whipping out the fangs was all about killing him, not blood-slaving him, and we never see him actually controlling Tim. Did the writers just forget between mad bursts of typing?

  14. Rachel has one of the sadder deaths and lives on the show. She got mistreated by people from beginning to end. Not a single person truly did right by her.

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