Episode 812: While You Were Out

“I’ll be meeting you on the back road to salvation.”

Hey! Tim Shaw’s back in town, and he has a hand and a top hat and a whole new lady. Just try to ignore him, he’s only doing it for attention.

812 dark shadows tim hand

The story so far: There’s this thing called the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi. It’s an actual hand, cut off an actual guy named Count Petofi. It doesn’t decompose or anything; it just sits there in its carved inlaid box, and plots your destruction. That’s because Count Petofi is such a powerful dark wizard that even his discarded body parts pulse with power; this is a guy who has to be careful about how he disposes of his toenail clippings, so they don’t burst into flames and burn the house down.

Everyone’s been chasing around after the Hand for as long as I can remember, mostly because it’s supposed to be the cure for werewolves, and you know how useful that could be in a tight spot.

But the Hand ended up in the possession of Tim Shaw, who ran off to New York with it a few weeks ago, leaving everyone in Collinsport to stand around and talk about how desperate they are to get it back. Nobody actually took a step in the direction of New York, of course, because if you wanted to do a scene there, you’d have to put up an establishing shot of 1897 New York, and who even knows what that looks like? At this point, the only establishing shots that they have are Collinwood, the Old House, the Blue Whale, the Collinsport Inn and the moon, so they can’t go very far outside their corridor.

Tim used to be a fussy schoolmaster and clueless fall guy, who taught at Reverend Trask’s boarding school and was hypnotized into killing Trask’s wife. He was going through a rough patch storyline-wise, because his girlfriend was killed, he didn’t have a job, and nobody was interested in putting a gypsy curse on him, so he didn’t really have anything to do. In fact, I don’t think he’s even on the show anymore.

Except here he is, back from New York, with a new haircut and a bad-boy attitude. While he was away, he figured out how to use the Hand to his advantage, something that nobody else seems to have the knack for. He’s got fancy new clothes on and he’s staying in a fairly opulent hotel suite, so the implication is that the Hand helped him to get rich somehow. Tim Shaw must be a level six chaotic neutral magic-user.

812 dark shadows amanda tim stage

But Tim’s got another new toy to play with, namely: Amanda Harris, a beautiful and theatrical young woman of no fixed abode. Amanda is played by Donna McKechnie, a Broadway musical comedy actress. Tim opens the door, and Amanda walks straight to center stage, rolling her eyes and exclaiming, “May I ask why I had to wait in the lobby for five minutes before I was allowed to come up?” She concludes the line by pointedly unfurling her wrap and putting her hands on her hips, a vision of musical comedy impatience. She is fantastic.

812 dark shadows donna mckechnie amanda

Donna McKechnie will be famous someday, in that weird “Broadway star” version of famous that means practically nobody knows who you are. So far, she’s had a chorus role in the original Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and she’s danced on the TV variety show Hullabaloo. At the moment she’s in Promises, Promises, a Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach musical which also happens to be about succeeding in business without really trying. People were super into that theme in the 1960s.

In Promises, Promises, Donna played Vivien Della Hoya, one of the secretaries at the insurance company. She doesn’t have a tremendous amount to do in the show, except for “Turkey Lurkey Time,” a number at the end of act one with the three secretaries performing at the office Christmas party.

Here’s a video of Donna performing “Turkey Lurkey Time,” and you should watch it, if you have a spare moment and a pair of headphones. Donna is the star attraction, and she really gets a chance to shine. They really choreographed the hell out of this number; I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much choreography in one place.

This is actually relevant to our purposes today, because this is the performance that got her cast as Amanda. Producer Dan Curtis went to see Promises, Promises, and “Turkey Lurkey” made such an impression on him that he asked Donna to audition for Dark Shadows. This isn’t the first time Dan’s gone shopping like this; earlier this year, he saw Jerry Lacy in Play It Again, Sam, and asked Jerry to come back to the show as another Reverend Trask. Dan apparently thought of a Broadway show as a long series of auditions for Dark Shadows.

812 dark shadows amanda tim smile

Still, I wouldn’t get too attached to Amanda. These days, the average lifespan for a new female character is half an episode; they keep getting killed by vampires and werewolves. In fact, that’s why they’re introducing a bunch of new characters lately, because they killed about half the cast, and then realized that it’s hard to fill up a half-hour of television without people.

812 dark shadows amanda tim practical

But they appear to be investing in the new girl, announcing that she’s got some mysterious plot points hidden under that hat. They establish a whole backstory very economically in this scene.

Amanda:  You have more secrets than any man I’ve ever known!

Tim:  Are you saying that as a comment on me, or a boast about yourself?

Amanda:  It’s just a fact.

Tim:  But you have known many, many men, haven’t you?

Amanda:  Ah — you’re forgetting our agreement. The past, beyond two weeks ago, is a closed book. No questions asked.

812 dark shadows amanda tim paid

Amanda:  But what about now? How long are we going to be in this dreary little town?

Tim:  Well, if you’ve become bored with our little game, you can go back to New York at any point. In fact, there’s a train leaving in an hour.

Amanda:  All right. I’ll stay.

Tim:  Now, don’t look so sad! After all, the last two weeks have been very profitable for you, haven’t they? New, expensive clothes, furs, jewelry… That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?

Amanda:  Yes.

Tim:  And it’s not as though your services are coming to me cheaply. You’re being paid quite well, and I think you’re going to be worth every single penny of it.

812 dark shadows tim smile

You see what I mean about the economical writing? They’re getting a lot done, in a brief scene.

Amanda:  What is it you’re eventually planning to do to this man?

Tim:  No more questions, Amanda.

Amanda:  Well, I’m not just being curious. I’m concerned about you.

Tim:  Oh! We wouldn’t want to lose the meal ticket, would we?

And unfortunately, that kind of does it for my interest in Tim Shaw’s new personality. I don’t know what it is about this character that just repels me. I was so in love with Don Briscoe when he was sexy misunderstood werewolf boy Chris, but Tim Shaw gets on my goddamn nerves, every time. They’ve even given him a slightly improved hairstyle, and it’s not helping. And now apparently he’s paying for sex.

812 dark shadows amanda tim kiss

Amanda:  Have you always been that cynical?

Tim:  Cynical is not the word, Amanda. I think the more appropriate word would be practical. We have a very practical relationship. (He kisses her on the cheek, and they embrace.) And let’s keep it that way.

And you know, they do keep it that way — this is about as far as these two ever get. Tim and Amanda are being introduced as a strangely awkward couple here. They kiss a couple times in this scene, and they put their hands on each other quite a bit, but it doesn’t feel passionate. They’re both clearly thinking about something else the whole time.

812 dark shadows amanda chris chemistry

Now that I think of it, that may be my real problem with Tim. He’s paired with three different women in 1897 — Rachel, Charity and now Amanda — and he has zero chemistry with any of them. Charity was an arranged marriage type situation, but Tim and Rachel were supposed to be childhood sweethearts, and that never really showed up on screen.

And here — when he’s returning to Collinsport as a new man, ready to take charge of a storyline — they explicitly inform us that this woman is being paid to hang out with him. Paid well, too — with furs, and jewelry. It doesn’t reflect well on Tim’s charisma.

I mean, you wouldn’t have to pay a girl to date Chris Jennings. Practically his entire storyline is about women throwing themselves at him, and becoming werewolf chow. But Tim is so chemistry-free that he has to remind his girlfriend on an hourly basis of the extravagant amount of money that he spends on her, just to get her to cheer up. I hope he’s enjoying these awkward clinches with Turkey Lurkey, because my prediction is that eventually she’s going to want a better scene partner.

Tomorrow: Happy Haunts.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Something gets stuck in Quentin’s throat during the choking scene; he continues to cough occasionally over the next couple scenes.

In Tim’s first scene with Amanda, he completely blows one of his lines. He says, “And –”  and stops. Then there’s a long pause for a teleprompter break before he continues, “– it’s not as though your services are coming to me cheaply.”

Amanda takes several looks at the teleprompter as well, but she disguises them as eye rolls, so it doesn’t look quite as bad.

Behind the Scenes:

Tim’s room at the Collinsport Inn is a commonly-used bachelor pad set. We’ve seen it before as Burke’s suite at the Inn, Tony’s apartment and Joe’s apartment.

Prop-spotter PrisoneroftheNight points out, “In Tim’s room, resting atop the bookshelf against the left part of the back wall is a clock that we’ve seen before. Though the sloping black sides of the clock are obscured by a figurine and a row of box plants, it strongly resembles the one in Vicki’s room in 1966 to 1968 and the one in the Collinwood (new house) study of 1796.

“A minor props note: In Tim Shaw’s room there’s a green antique lamp identical to the one first seen at the Evans cottage in episode 7 back in 1966; we see also as Quentin watches from the lobby while Tim and Amanda go upstairs that the green lamp in Tim’s room has an identical twin resting on the front desk downstairs. These two scenes must have been filmed concurrently, which means they must have at least two of every lamp they’ve had on the show. Except for the Ralston-Purina lamp, which is without doubt unique. I think that this is the first time where we see two separate lamps that are exactly identical down to every last detail, the green lamp with the oil barrel on the side that was the very first type of green lamp ever shown on the series.”

And as long as we’re prop-spotting, Nora’s also got her anachronistic Raggedy Ann doll today; we last saw it in March.

Today’s show aired on the day of a blood drive organized by the Actors Fund of America, and Jonathan Frid recorded a commercial for it: “Blood is my business. I wouldn’t be Barnabas of Dark Shadows if it weren’t. But, really, blood should be everyone’s concern, and Tuesday August 5th is Actors Fund Blood Donor Day at Shubert Alley. Do come. Meet the stars. Give blood right on a Broadway stage and get two free tickets to a Broadway show. You must have an appointment. Call (212) 799-8290. Thank you.”

Tomorrow: Happy Haunts.

812 donna mckechnie promises

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

42 thoughts on “Episode 812: While You Were Out

  1. I think Briscoe has very little chemistry with his female costars, which even he didn’t have off-screen issues would have derailed any career on a soap opera.

    The emotion in the Shaw arc appeals to me — he’s been devastated and altered permanently by Trask’s manipulations and his desire for revenge. But Briscoe doesn’t deliver, unfortunately.

    I’d also buy Carl in this situation. His childishness would excuse or at least explain their relationship more, but Tim is handsome and wealthy. Fair or not, the implication that he’s buying Amanda’s time and affections makes us think less of him.

    Tim 2.0 (and I do consider him somewhat of a new character) suffers from not making a friend (no warmth or real camraderie is established between him and Amanda), or a joke (he’s rarely funny or relaxed enough with anyone to make jokes). The best he does is make plot points happen, but arguably Amanda represents the plot driver more than Shaw does.

    They could have made them a younger, less Gypsy Sandor and Magda — crooks up to no good but still affectionate toward each other. They were in New York together with lots of money. That is a good foundation.

    1. The only time Don Briscoe was a good actor is when he was Tom the rabid vampire. Otherwise he always seemed stilted and wooden, but incredibly handsome.

    2. Sometimes Briscoe does a little W. C. Fields imitation. The Tim/ Amanda relationship could have worked if it had been built on that, if he’d been calling her “my little chickadee” and making vague promises of future wealth while she rolls her eyes at him and takes every opportunity to look for a way to ditch him and step up to someone whose idea of a hot date doesn’t involve a night-time stroll by the docks of a fishing village. Fields’ usual character was a cartoon version of the loser a good-time girl might find herself temporarily stuck with, and he was hilarious. But Tim Shaw actually is such a loser, and Amanda actually is temporarily stuck with him. It takes Fields to make that endearing.

  2. It’s nice to know there’s at least one connection between Dark Shadows and Shindig, Hullaballoo etc. Although if anyone makes you think of those shows right away, it’s the dancers in the back during the second half, especially the center one.

  3. That look to the teleprompter that Briscoe gives before the “services don’t come cheaply” line, it’s like a hunter straining to site the bullseye on a deer at a hundred yards. Briscoe will do that again a few episodes later when he shows up at Petofi’s basement lair. It seems he is already in a downward spiral.

    Regarding the character Tim Shaw, it’s escaped me how he’s come into such a windfall. Just weeks and months ago he was a schoolteacher who had a debt situation with Trask. Was he paid off, for his silence?

    1. The explanation provided is that Shaw made a lot of money with the Hand, which in other words means no explanation is given, as there’s no reason to believe that Shaw would be able to use the Hand any more effectively than Evan Hanley (an actual Satanist who studied the Hand).

  4. It doesn’t matter that Tim Shaw doesn’t possess Evan Hanley’s occult knowledge. People don’t use the Hand; the Hand uses them. Maybe the Hand just likes Tim Shaw more than Evan Hanley. There is no accounting for the Hand’s taste in men.

    1. “There is no accounting for the Hand’s taste in men.”

      You know, that sentence is just begging for a lewd reposte, but damn if I can think of a good one.

    2. I think the Hand took one look at Tim Shaw and thought, “OMG, look at that hair!” and went full-on Pygmalion. But you should never trust the Hand because the Hand is an a*****e.

  5. It strikes me as ironic that Dark Shadows cast Donna McKechnie, who became known for her dancing skills, in an acting role where she dances only once. Yet DS cast Harvey Keitel, who became known for his acting skills, in a role that was mostly dancing and no acting.

  6. Amanda gets a lot of hate in the fandom and I’m not sure why. The first time I saw her I wasn’t sure what to think of her but later viewings she has really grown on me and I really like her character. I don’t think she gets a fair shake in the fandom because she becomes just another love interest for Quentin.

    They stuck her in Angelique’s brown dress (from her first appearance out of the fireplace) for the next couple episodes but it doesn’t really fit, the bodice doesn’t meet the skirt and you can see the gap when she moves, it’s not until a few episode from now that she gets her own fitted piece of wardrobe.

    1. I think there is resentment toward Amanda, as a character, because she becomes Quentin’s “true love,” which many fans believe was Beth — especially because she had stood by Quentin so faithfully during his werewolf curse.

      But the chemistry between Amanda and Quentin was much more intense.

      1. I get that I guess, I felt the same way when I first watched the show. I freaking love Beth, I hate how her character ended up, the poor girl never got a fair shake. But Amanda for Quentin was a huge breath of fresh air. She didn’t know anything about the curse or all the fucked up things he did in the past, with her he could start absolutely over.

      2. To be honest, I feel nothing between Quentin and Amanda. Absolutely nothing. For me, their relationship is just something the script dictates. I could never take them seriously as a couple, unlike Quentin and Beth, who seemed like the real thing.

        1. Same here. Amanda was a wasted opportunity, especially when we get back to 1969. But I was always on Beth’s side.

          First time through the series, I absolutely thought this was a young Teri Garr and she was awful. Now I love McKechnie’s performance.

  7. How Tim got The Hand to do his bidding was quite simple. Tim was a schoolteacher. Whenever The Hand disobeyed, Tim got the ruler and gave said hand a good smack. After awhile, The Hand learned who was boss.

  8. Watching this episode again, I noticed the lovely scene between Quentin and Nora where he consoles her after Edward had no idea who she was. It’s another small touch that demonstrates how different in many ways Quentin is from the character we met just a few months ago.

    1. The other thing that scene demonstrates is how astonishingly out of touch Nora must be. Quentin says, “Have you ever read a story about someone putting a spell on someone? Well, that’s kind of what happened to your father.” Which is cute, except that’s exactly what happened to her father, her brother, her step-uncle and step-cousin, and the only domestic in the house with any speaking lines. Also, Quentin had at least two funerals, one of them involving six feet of concrete. Also, her mom called her into the flames on several occasions, and then turned into an old woman and died right in front of her.

      I mean, I have all the respect in the world for Raggedy Ann, but I don’t think there’s a doll raggedy enough in this world or any other that could distract you to this extent. That thing must be weapons-grade raggedy.

  9. First time posting…I saw Donna McKechnie in Provincetown last summer. She was amazing and can still do a high kick..we chatted briefly at her meet and greet and she was lovely. (No freaking pictures were allowed..) I wish she stuck around longer as Amanda/Olivia but knowing what she would end up doing soon after..it’s a fair trade.

  10. Donna McKechnie came to speak to the students in my drama class a few years ago. She talked about The Turkey Lurky dance and how physically strenuous it was. Many dancers had serious physical problems afterwards because of the intense whiplash effect on their necks during the choreography. Her work in Company and A Chorus Line was even more remarkable, and I’ve always been thrilled that she was a part of DS history.

  11. Tim Shaw must be a level six chaotic neutral magic-user.

    I can’t recall if I mentioned this before, but the Hand of Count Petofi reminds me of a powerful relic in D&D called the Hand of Vecna. I wonder if Gary Gygax ever watched Dark Shadows?

  12. Don Briscoe was a very fine actor and the best looking guy in this entire series. it makes me laugh that Jonathon Frid was the vampire heartthrob in 70’s teen mags when it took more than a little plaster of Paris to fix his fugly face. It’s heart-breaking Briscoe lost a battle to drug addiction and mental illness.

  13. I had never heard of “Turkey Lurkey” (or “Let’s Have a Kiki,” for that matter), until this “Glee” episode.

  14. Watching Quentin with Nora this episode reminded me of when I first saw Quentin with Jamison. He’s quite good with children, isn’t he? Which means his new found role of devoted father isn’t quite so far out of character as I first thought.

  15. Donna McK. was also in the Patty Duke masterwork from 1965, “Billie.” Donna replaces Patty in a dance scene that apparently had become too difficult for Patty. Patty runs off the stage at one point and then reappears, replaced by Donna in the same costume.

  16. This episode was filmed on July 28, 1969, and I’ll bet Denise Nickerson will ALWAYS remember it as the day she got kissed by both David Selby AND Don Briscoe.

  17. I notice that Tim tells Nora that he spoke to Charity before coming upstairs to her room. In tomorrow’s episode, Nora will tell Jamison that Tim saw no one but herself when he came to visit. Admittedly not the most glaring inconsistency in DS history, but makes me wonder whether Nora is lying or just has a memory like a sieve.

    Also, Quentin comes into the Collinsport Inn wearing no hat, which is typical for him. In contrast, Tim is wearing a hat when he leaves the Inn, or just about anytime he is outside his room. It looks like the same hat that Edward held in his hand several episodes ago.

    Tim never used to wear hats at all. Just one of the changes he has undergone. Other changes in his character seem even more mysterious, not to say inexplicable. I guess that happens when you have been a Manchurian candidate and then come into possession of a magic hand.

  18. I started off liking the Amanda character and hoped she would stay around. But as time went on, I thought she treated people who weren’t Quentin or weren’t doing things for her abominably. Particularly when they’re back in 1969/70, she was kind of a bitch.

    Then when Quentin came along, memories intact, she became very whiny and shouty. She certainly didn’t live up to the expectations I had of the character.

    What I’m saying is that there are plenty of reasons coming up to dislike this character and/or DMcK’s portrayal. It doesn’t always come down to jealous housewives who fantasize about Quentin.

  19. Just a quick shout out to Louis Edmonds, whose performance as Edward the butler in the last two episodes was quite charming. Edmonds had a real flair for this sort of Clifton Webb-esque part. It would have been interesting if they’d done a storyline in some time period where Edmonds played a real butler at Collinwood.

    The link above to the Turkey Lurkey clip is dead so I’ll post it again. I’m still undecided about Donna McKechnie’s acting but she sure could dance. The choreography is by Michael Bennett.

  20. At 12:00 or so, when Amanda turns her back to Trask and lifts her arm to dab at her eye, her bodice separates from her skirt (1890s bodices and skirts would have been firmly connected with hooks and eyes) to reveal BARE SKIN, instead of a corset and chemise. I realize we’re not talking Merchant-Ivory attention to detail here, but I had just gotten use to all the anachronistic, but inoffensive, zippers on the ladies’ dresses. I wonder where they got the costumes from? I’m not even going to ask about the wigs.

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