Episode 780: The Establishment Vampire

“I’m always with fear, Barnabas, but we don’t have time to think about that.”

Okay, I get that it’s a rough way to wake up. It’s dusk, and Barnabas gets up out of his coffin, and the door to the secret room in the mausoleum is wide open. Someone’s been sneaking around his coffin, and obviously that’s an unpleasant surprise.

But then Quentin appears at the door, which is pretty much the best case scenario. If somebody’s going to suddenly appear in your bedroom, then it ought to be Quentin Collins, right? You can’t improve on that.

And this is how out of control things have become for Barnabas: he opens his mouth and bares his fangs. Dude, seriously. What are you planning to do? Put that back in your mouth, and try, for the first time in your long and ridiculous life, to be a grownup.

780 dark shadows barnabas fangs

At the moment, Barnabas has time-hopped back to 1897, where he’s supposed to be figuring out how to protect the present-day Collins family from being driven out of their house by the angry ghost of guess who? Quentin Collins. So threatening to kill the guy in a way that simply begs for a revenge-haunt is not good policy.

But everything is falling apart now. Carl Collins’ fiancee was killed by a vampire, and he wants to do something about it. So he staked out the mausoleum, so to speak, and discovered Barnabas’ secret hiding place. Carl was foolish enough to bring his brother Quentin to help him destroy the vampire, but Quentin double-crossed him, and locked him up here to be killed when Barnabas woke up.

And that plan — as with every plan — has gone awry. It’s been a bad year for plans.

780 dark shadows quentin barnabas action

But at least Quentin knows how to handle a tricky social situation. He stops Barnabas short, by saying those magic words that change the fates of galaxies far, far away: “You’re my only hope.”

It’s a terribly romantic thing to say. It would be more so if he wasn’t talking to a psychotic vampire who is essentially in the process of being hunted by villagers carrying torches and farm implements.

Surprised, Barnabas says, “You can look upon me without fear?”

“I’m always with fear, Barnabas. But we don’t have time to think about that.”

So here we are, in another meeting of Murder Club, the social network for monsters who cover up for each other’s crimes. Quentin has called the meeting to order, and he starts with old business: Is Carl dead?

780 dark shadows barnabas quentin plan

Carl is not dead, as it happens. Carl figured out how to escape before Barnabas woke up, and now he’s running loose among the populace, probably trying to figure out where you get torches from in a hurry.

As ever, Barnabas takes charge. He’s the main character of the show, so obviously he has to be at the center of everything. He needs to step in, and make the big decisions. The problem is that he is unbelievably bad at this job.

Barnabas:  How long ago did he escape?

Quentin:  I don’t know. I just left Collinwood, he wasn’t there.

Barnabas:  Well, go to Collinwood at once. Find him!

What? I just told you he isn’t at Collinwood. I mean, yeah, he might have come back — this is Dark Shadows, and you only get so many locations per episode — but this isn’t a promising start.

Quentin:  What if Carl’s already talked? What if I can’t stop him?

Barnabas:  You’ve offered to help me!

Quentin:  Yes.

Barnabas:  Then do as I say. Now go to Collinwood — and if it’s too late, then come to the Old House. I’ll be there as soon as I finish what I have to do. Hurry!

So that’s the plan. Go to Collinwood, then go to the Old House. It’s so crazy it just might work.

780 dark shadows carl trask mausoleum

As it happens, Carl did go back to Collinwood, and told Reverend Trask about the coffin in the mausoleum. Trask didn’t believe him, obviously, so now Carl’s dragged Trask over to the mausoleum to prove it. They’re not armed or anything. Plus, the last guy that Carl showed the coffin to turned out to be on the vampire’s side. Nobody on this show can think even one step ahead.

But this time, the coffin isn’t even there. Carl opens up the door, and the secret room is empty; Barnabas pulled off another one-handed coffin shuffle. I don’t know how he manages those — I remember when I was back in college and I tried to move a futon on my own; it was a disaster. He must be using TaskRabbit.

Anyway, the coffin’s not here, so Trask starts in about how “high-strung” Carl is. And you know how crazy people get when they think you’re calling them crazy; it makes them upshift a gear and get even crazier.

Carl:  Now, you’ve got to believe me! Quentin! Quentin was here!

Trask:  Then we shall ask him.

Carl:  Oh — but he won’t admit it!

Trask:  Oh really? I wonder why.

Carl:  I don’t know. I mean, I don’t understand any of it.

Trask:  Obviously.

Carl:  You stop that! And don’t you look at me like that! I am not crazy, I am not! And don’t you think I am, because you’re wrong!

Trask:  Now, there’s no question of right or wrong, Mr. Collins. The Devil has told you to say these things, you are in the clutches of someone far stronger than yourself.

Carl:  Well, I’ll prove it to you, then. I’ll prove I’m right.

Trask:  You have already tried to do that, haven’t you?

Carl:  But this time, I will. Somehow, I will!

So I think what Dark Shadows is doing here is deconstructing the concept of a reasonable person. Carl is correct here — there really is a vampire — but Trask thinks that he’s crazy. But Trask’s sneering doesn’t make sense — he agrees that vampires exist; he just doesn’t believe that there could possibly be a vampire hiding in this room, which was literally constructed to hide vampires in.

In fact, there’s only four characters on the show today, and every single one of them is out of their mind. Who is the adult today?

780 dark shadows barnabas carl tell

Carl runs home to sulk and call the police, but guess what. Remember how Barnabas told Quentin that he was going to be at the Old House? He changed his mind. Because here he is! With a spooky green light and everything!

Now, to be clear, Carl is entirely in the right here. Barnabas is incredibly toxic, and needs to be put down. Barnabas didn’t personally kill Carl’s fiancee, but he did turn Dirk into a vampire and then just set him loose, to bite and kill whoever he pleased.

But Barnabas says, “What have you done, Carl? Whom have you told?” as if this is all Carl’s fault. I mean, it doesn’t really matter what they say to each other — Barnabas is going to strangle Carl no matter what happens — but he doesn’t need to be such a dick about it.

780 dark shadows barnabas quentin plan a

So that went great. And naturally, the next person who walks by just opens the doors and finds Carl lying there on the ground, because obviously if you’re planning another serial killing, it should be in the drawing room of an occupied house. Barnabas makes a little show of hiding behind the door, which is adorable, because he is made of stealth.

Luckily, it’s Quentin who opens the door, so at least Barnabas doesn’t have to keep piling up bodies in front of the drinks cabinet.

“You had to do it,” Quentin says, looking down at his dead brother. “I know that. But — oh, god — will tonight ever see an end to all of this?” The answer to that question is don’t hold your breath.

780 dark shadows quentin barnabas may

Barnabas tries to be reassuring. “This may give us time,” he says.

“May?” Quentin yelps. “You mean, you did this without knowing for sure that it would?”

And then somebody knocks at the front door. This is typical for a Murder Club meeting; it’s an aerobic sport.

Barnabas tells Quentin to go answer the door; he’ll deal with this. So Quentin walks to the door, and he’s already starting to learn what it means to be Barnabas’ henchman. It’s just one damn thing after another.

780 dark shadows trask quentin door

It’s Reverend Trask, of course — there are only four characters today, including the corpus delicti, so if it’s not Trask then this must be one of those self-knocking doors. Yes, I know that joke doesn’t make any sense. Look at what’s going on right now. Nothing makes sense anymore.

Okay, so Trask — he wants to talk to Edward or Judith, because he’s longing for the company of someone who at least pretends to be sane. Quentin says they’re not home — god knows what they’re up to, while we’re not looking. Trask says he’ll wait for them in the drawing room, and Quentin tries to divert him to an alternate route. But today is the day for people to do whatever the hell they want, so Trask opens the drawing room doors and walks right in.

780 dark shadows trask carl arm

And just look at what Barnabas has done. For Pete’s sake.

Trask walks into the middle of the room and starts yelling as usual, and Quentin is horrified to see Carl’s arm, dangling from behind the curtains.

That was Barnabas’ plan. Quentin should stall Trask, while Barnabas hides Carl’s body behind a curtain. That was the best he could come up with.

There’s a secret panel in the wall, by the way. Barnabas knows about it; he could have hidden Carl’s corpse in there. Or stick him behind the sofa, at least. When you’ve got a dead body to hide, who thinks “curtain”?

780 dark shadows carl trask body

So the body just tumbles to the floor, obviously, which arouses Trask’s suspicions. I mean, he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree, but even he can tell when a dead body suddenly flops to the pavement right in front of him.

And I have to ask: who thought that strangling Carl was a sustainable solution to this problem? People are starting to wonder if there’s still a mad killer on the loose. Why would you add one more body to the pile? How did Barnabas think this evening was going to go?

So it’s impossible to avoid the obvious conclusion that Barnabas is terrible at this — and honest to god, it’s the only thing he even knows how to do.

780 dark shadows barnabas trask quiz

So this week has been a referendum on Barnabas’ tactics, and the concept of the Establishment Vampire. Everything that’s happened here, all the steps that led the angry villagers to the castle drawbridge to put a stop to things — they’re all Barnabas’ fault.

He went out of his way to educate the family about the existence of dangerous supernatural creatures. He put himself in the middle of every crisis, taking on Jenny, Laura, and the werewolf attacks. He turned away Angelique’s offers of help. He bit Charity Trask for no reason other than to be a jerk, which led to Trask discovering the bite marks and ending up right here.

And worst of all, he’s been trying to run this entire carnival of destruction when he’s out of action for almost 12 hours a day.

780 dark shadows barnabas eyes

So, news flash for Barnabas: A vampire is not supposed to be a civic leader. 

A vampire sneaks around in the darkness. Furtive is the keyword. He’s the creature under the bed; he’s the tapping at the casement window. He is not an active participant in local affairs.

Back in 1968, Barnabas took on the role of the kindly uncle/butler, taking care of the Collins family. He could manage that because he was cured, and didn’t have to worry about the sunrise anymore.

But on this time trip, he’s a vampire again, and he’s still trying to be in charge of the family. He’s the Establishment Vampire, who discreetly snacks on the young ladies and then goes back to the board meeting.

There are so many reasons why this doesn’t work, but the main one is that a vampire is actually less powerful than everybody else, because they can all operate 24 hours a day, and he’s out of action during daylight. So there have been tons of scenes with Barnabas telling somebody to guard him, or leaving little notes for the gypsies while he tucks himself into his coffin at dawn. This is no way to run a criminal organization on this scale; you need to be on call.

And so, as the Convenient Rooster crows and a new day begins, Barnabas has to look back at this evening’s events, and reflect: Is there anything I could have done differently?

Monday: The Hunt.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Carl leads Reverend Trask to the cemetery, you can see the edge of the green burlap used to represent the grass.

Carl rushes to the drawing room doors to escape from Barnabas, and the wall wobbles slightly as he pulls on the door handles.

When Carl’s dead body is lying on the floor, you can see that he’s breathing. Barnabas moves to kneel next to him, and you can see a blocking mark on the floor.

After Carl falls from behind the curtain, Quentin rushes over and kneels by his body. A shadow passes over them as a camera moves by.

Monday: The Hunt.

780 dark shadows barnabas quentin kiss

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

32 thoughts on “Episode 780: The Establishment Vampire

  1. It doesn’t surprise me that Barnabas could move the coffin all by himself. After all, a mature vampire has the strength of 20 men. Abraham Van Helsing said so himself. The trouble, of course, is precisely what you’ve pointed out: Barnabas is not behaving like a mature vampire. He has apparently allowed his little flirtation with re-mortality in 1968 to cloud his judgment. But, then again, Barny never was the sharpest knife in the drawer. Not that I mind or think any less of him. After all, if he were a lot brighter, there wouldn’t be much in the way of Dark Shadows, would there? Just think of all the grief that could’ve been avoided if he had preferred Angelique to Josette. A typical American bounder, as our cousins from England might say.

  2. This episode is insane and I love it.

    It seems like they wanted to give Karlen a big send off (he doesn’t return for at least six months or more). So, Carl exposes Barnabas and dies.

    However, this could have been achieved far more rationally. One, Barnabas has the ability to put people under his control. He didn’t need to kill Carl. You could also have Trask immediately believe Carl and later be surprised by Carl’s sudden about face. Carl could even then die trying to protect his new vampire master. Same end result, less wacky journey.

    1. Hell, it was the stupidest move that Barnabas made – and he’s the expert.

      The question is “has Carl told anyone?” Notice that he does not wait for that answer

      Well option 1 – Carl has told. Killing him is confirmation.

      Option 2 – Carl hasn’t. A dead body will alert everyone else that it did not end with Dirk Wilkins. They start Asking Questions Like “Why don’t we see you during the day?”

      On the other hand, you can put Carl under control, and given his reputation as practical joker, you CAN convince Trask that it was all practical joke, if it ends with Trask being soaked by a bucket of water that falls on him as he opens the door.

      But that is me…

      Barnabas is just STUPID..

      Barney, baby, Newsflash: Vampirism is NO EXCUSE for stupidity

      Leroy Jethro Gibbs would slap you silly for it.

  3. Carl’s death is the worst moment of 1897. Clearly Karlen was leaving the show temporarily. But killing Carl just makes me despise both Barnabas and Quentin, at least for the moment. Why not bite Carl and send him off to the nineteenth century equivalent of Windcliff if he had to leave the show?

  4. This was the worst idea the writers ever came up with. If John Karlen wanted to leave the show, why bother to bring Carl back just to kill him off? In 1795, they sent Andre off to New York, the same should have been done with Carl.

    There’s also the matter of Barnabas changing history by killing Carl. Not to mention he is responsible for the deaths of Pansy, Dirk, Rachael, & the prostitute in the beginning of 1897. This completely defeats the purpose of his being in 1897 to save David & Chris as he now has all these other people who’s lives he destroyed. He just doesn’t care about anyone other then Quentin & Jamison.

    I have to work this out that in the original timeline, these people still died but by other means- examples: the prostitute was so drunk, she fell in the ocean and drowned, an insane Dirk, following the death of Laura, killed Carl, Pansy, & Rachael and was then shot to death by Edward.

  5. Agree – killing Carl was the worst. AND notice how broken up Quentin was about it –
    I did like it when B. showed Quentin the fangs though. It was like an automatic vampire reaction to danger. It’s good to remind usevery now and then of just how entirely destructive Barnabas could be if he wanted.

  6. I completely agree that Barnabas had the ability to put Carl under his spell and not kill him. Killing him actually leads to the conclusion that Barnabas is, at heart, a serial killer who likes killing. Now this isn’t a big surprise. Pretty much Plan A for every crisis is “kill person X”. But now it is really hard to tell yourself that Barnabas only killed because [insert excuse here]. He had options. He just liked killing Carl so he chose that option.

    1. And the original Trask, which is the first time he “loses me.”
      Here was someone who would be a lot more valuable alive (because of Vicky), but that idea got replaced by a piece of melodrama like sealing him up. (It’s a little too close to home, because NON-fictional people are always doing that – putting theatrics before something more practical.)

  7. Our premise:

    Karlen must die, because he has work elsewhere .

    Writers argue about how Karlen will die.

    Much disagreement ensues.

    Finally, they give up, and just let Barney do it.

    But the golden lining is….this short storyline results in the creation of the best thing ever on DS.

    Nancy Barrett’s Pansy Faye.

    1. Plus, it was exciting. I’ve been making lots of jokes at the characters’ expense, but it’s cool to see the writers just kick over tables that we thought were unkickable. The Barnabas/Quentin scene at the beginning of this episode is pure soap opera dynamite, the two biggest stars now completely aligned.

    2. If Barnabas hadn’t killed him, Carl would have been chasing behind his “PANSY!” – even if she was in another woman’s body – totally cramping Nancy Barrett’s style.

  8. Isn’t it suggested (or outright stated) in 1795, that Barnabas, as well as being a vampire, is also possessed by a Demon? I think it comes up when Bathia Mapes is doing the exorcism on him.

    I know they’ve never brought it up again after that, but I’ve always just assumed that when Barnabas is a Vampire he’s constantly at war with the demon possessing him and that’s why occasionally the demon wins, causing him to do things like kill Carl. And this especially happens when Barnabas is feeling threatened or unsafe, the demon takes charge and starts making decisions.

    At least that’s what I tell myself, to explain all of Barnabas’ dumb decisions. 🙂

    1. I think Barnabas is the demon. He made bad, selfish decisions before he was a vampire too. I don’t like giving characters a pass for their decisions by saying they couldn’t help it. Of course he can; he just doesn’t.

    2. Barnabas does not need a demon to make lousy decisions. Lousy decisions are second nature to him.

      “Things happen for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid and make lousy decisions” That sums up Barnabas in a nutshell

  9. Barnabas also chose to hang around the Old House — rather than simply have Magda claim he’d left on business early that day. Not that Trask would believe a gypsy but it’s an attempt at an alibi.

  10. Ultimately it seems that Dan Curtis is becoming increasingly fond of killing off characters who are no longer of any use to the show. Each year the body count rises. In 1966 there was only one murder. In 1967 Barnabas in the beginning doesn’t even kill anyone. Instead he attacks strangers in town and kidnaps Maggie. His first kills are of cattle. Then there was Dr. Woodard, followed by the successive tally of kills between Barnabas and Angelique in 1795. In 1968 between a witch, a Frankenstein-type creation, and a werewolf, people began dying by the score. Now in 1969 even Collins family members will be killed for finding out Barnabas’ secret, and he doesn’t waste any time with Carl, it’s just a matter of hours, whereas in 1967 he took days and weeks while toying around with the idea of killing David Collins for what he knew.

    This is because by 1969 the show has become pure spectacle, and what could be more spectacular than witnessing the death of a character on camera, which would carry more weight than that of a mere day player the audience hasn’t had time enough to develop a fondness toward. It will continue escalating in this manner, until finally in 1970 with House Of Dark Shadows Dan Curtis has virtually the entire cast killed off.

    As for carrying his own coffin, Barnabas could and would have easily accomplished this task. In F. W. Murnau’s 1922 Bram Stoker adaptation Nosferatu, there is a scene where Max Schrek as Count Orlok is shown carrying his coffin, tucked under one arm, toward the house he has recently bought as he prepares to move in.

    1. On the other hand, with John Karlen gone, it was a lost golden opportunity to have Collinwood haunted by a practical joker

  11. It always seemed to me that the line he wouldn’t cross was actually killing a Collins – even though he talked about doing in David I don’t think he had intended to give him more than a ‘sound spanking’. Barnabas killing one of his flesh and blood kin should have been a big NO NO for the writers..

  12. Barnabas killing Carl was nothing more than payback for what Carl did when he first met Barnabas. Remember Carl sneaking up behind Barnabas with the fake gun? One does not play tricks on vampires. Unless one wants to die. Carl is exceedingly lucky he wasn’t thrown head first off Widow’s Hill.

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if John Karlen asked for a big death scene, before leaving.

  13. I would bet that Edward and Judith are secretly tickled pink and pleased as punch to have their useless brother, Carl, pruned from the family tree.

  14. I still maintain that Carl had to die to completely and permanently remove him from the story in a believable way. And I also still believe that having Quentin complicit in his death has a harsh bet incredibly effective way of showing the desperate depths to which he had sunk.

    But Joanne is right that Barnabas killing a Collins in cold blood is a bit hard to swallow. It seems like he might have attempted to put Carl under his blood thrall first. Or they could have chased him off Widows’ Hill, or he and Quentin could have fought there and he fell. Maybe he was fighting with Barnabas instead of Quentin. Or maybe he saw the werewolf transformation like Joe and Sabrina, but instead of just losing his mind he had a heart attack. Maybe I’m flattering myself, but I think these are all better than “Well, I’ve tried NOT openly slaughtering him in the busiest room in his family home, and I’m all out of ideas.”

    1. Maybe in some way that only Barnabas can rationalize Carl was the doppelganger of 1967 Willy so in Barnabas mind Carl was placed in the same ‘social standing’ as Willy and therefore OK to kill him – that seems to fit in with how Barnabas mind would work. Also he used Charity as his ‘little helper’ probably based on the fact that her lookalike Carolyn was real good at that job.

  15. When Barnabas first arrived in 1968, he wasn’t cured. That wasn’t fully accomplished until he returned from 1795. And he was the nice uncle/butler from his first step into Collinwood after Willie found him in the secret room for the first time. Well, except for his whole kidnapping Maggie Evans and literally driving her insane. But other than that…

  16. This episode broke me. There were so many other ways Barnabas could have silenced Carl. And if Carl had to die (for Karlen to go to another gig), why not have him find something in the secret mausoleum room while he was trapped there, and attempt to stake Barnabas? His timing could be REALLY bad, and when Barnabas wakes up, he is forced to strangle Carl in order to survive. It’s simple self-defense, and then Quentin could feel REALLY guilty, because he essentially set up Carl’s actual death. The two kaiju could still make a pact, and Reverend Trask could get suspicious of Barnabas some other way.

    Barnabas’ cold-blooded strangling of Carl could also be curtailed a bit if Barnabas had some pre-recorded monologue explaining how his bloodlust is starting to affect his reason. He’s been on a very lean diet in 1897, snacking on Charity and that’s about it. If he’d bitten Carl instead of strangling him, he could chalk it up to being hangry.

    This is my first watch-through of the entire DS series, and I honestly have no idea where they go from here. I know they stay in 1897 quite a bit longer. I’m interested to see where it goes. I somewhat appreciate them throwing caution to the wind, but the strings were really showing for me in this one.

  17. It still amazes me that, despite the vast arsenal of weapons at Collinwood, there does seem to be a dearth of hiding places for the resultant corpses. Or maybe the door to the secret panel got stuck (or was already full of stiffs?). I mean really. Bad enough to just stick Carl behind the drapes, but STANDING UP? Even Barnabas had to know that wasn’t workable!

    And I am in total agreement about Barnie using his hypnopower on Carl; we’ll see him use it on Istvan in the near future; he could have done the same with Carl, have him zombie-walk right off the cliff. And have Trask see it, and get suspicious.

    So many other ways that Carl’s departure might have been handled, it just seems the writers weren’t thinking about this. A Barnabas plan for sure.

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