Episode 896: Help Wanted

“I don’t believe that she’s not worried about Philip, either.”

Things look bleak for the global Leviathan conspiracy. The ancient book of prophecy has been stolen. The child is sick. The boss is spending all his time punishing the Chosen Ones. It’s only been two weeks, and the organization is falling to pieces.

We need a firm hand at the wheel, a steady leader in an unsteady world. We need a thirteen year old.

896 dark shadows megan kill me

Carolyn is hanging around the antique shop, selling nothing to anyone, when her boss hurls herself through the door.

“Someone’s coming to KILL me!” Megan screams, and then rushes around the room, twirling and shouting and doing her best impression of a Woman Who Thinks That Someone’s Coming to Kill Her. It is not a subtle performance. It’s a performance that could be seen from low Earth orbit.

Carolyn grabs her, shouting, “Megan, get hold of yourself! No one’s going to kill you!” which I wouldn’t be that confident about if I were her.

Megan shrieks, “Let GO of me, MY KILLER’S ON THE WAY!” and then rushes upstairs, never to be seen again. This happens with fictional characters occasionally; they get a weird idea in their heads, and the only thing to do is give up and start writing about somebody else.

896 dark shadows carolyn julia megan

Then Julia walks in the door, and yeah, maybe she is here to kill Megan. I mean, it’s more likely than the idea that she wants to buy something from this dusty junkpile. I’m not sure why everyone is suddenly obsessed with procuring more old crap when they already live in a house that’s stocked to the gills with old crap. It’s 1969; buy something colorful.

Carolyn tells Julia that the baby is sick, suffering from a high fever that has apparently lasted for two full days. When Julia tries to examine the sprat, Megan somersaults back down the stairs, snatching the baby out of his crib, and clutching him to her heaving bosom. This is what she does for a living now, just rushing around in an unprompted panic.

She says she’s got to run away with the baby, so the “someone’s coming to kill me” delusion is still in effect. But Carolyn reminds her that she can’t go anywhere until Philip comes home, and all of a sudden the tension drains out of the room. The spooky music cue dies away, and Megan returns to normal, or at least back to her typically elevated baseline.

Julia asks if she’s worried about Philip, but Megan assumes a sunny expression, and says that Philip is just out getting some merchandise. Then she walks upstairs with the baby, a fake crisis averted, three minutes after the nick of time.

896 dark shadows carolyn julia story

With Megan gone, Carolyn and Julia are left standing around on somebody else’s set, trying to fit together the pieces of a shattered storyline.

Carolyn:  What do you think is the matter with her?

Julia:  With her, or with the baby?

Carolyn:  Well, both of them, I would say.

Julia:  I don’t know about the baby, because I didn’t get a chance to examine him very much, but I did get a chance to see her. She’s terrified, of something.

So that’s where we are, right now. The best characters on the show are stuck standing around, gossiping aimlessly about the worst characters. Julia tries to  get the scene back in gear.

Julia:  Perhaps she and Philip have been working too hard, trying to get the shop in order. Or perhaps the strain of taking care of the baby has triggered some hidden fear. (She sighs, and shrugs.) Who knows?

Carolyn:  You don’t think that there’s any truth in what Megan is saying, that someone is trying to kill her?

Julia:  Oh, no. I don’t believe that. And I don’t believe that she’s not worried about Philip, either.

And then the scene kind of limps to a close, and we move on to something else.

896 dark shadows amy david grapple

Back at Collinwood, we find David Collins, a young man who — after all this time — still does not understand the difference between right and wrong, if there is one. He went to the antique shop the other day, yet another innocent consumer drawn by the irresistible lure of bygone merchandise, and he happened across a big leather-bound weapon of mass destruction. This is “the book,” an unreadable tome in an indecipherable script.

There’s a prophecy that holds that the arrival of this book in Collinsport will bring about the end of all things, and that prophecy is correct, give or take about sixteen months. I mean, first there’s Parallel Time and then 1840 and then Parallel Time again, but after that, yeah, the end of all things. Pretty much nailed it.

When David was leafing through the book in the antique shop, he ripped a page, and then made the odd decision that he would steal the book, so that nobody would know that he tore it. The other option at the time was to close the book and saunter away casually, which is easier to get away with than trying to stuff a twenty-pound hardback under your shirt.

But here we are, with the evidence. Amy asks what he’s going to do with it, and he says he’s going to burn it in the drawing room fireplace. This is also not a great strategy, because it’s enormous and has a leather cover, and also this is the drawing room. Sometimes these people forget that they live in an enormous mansion which has entire closed-off wings that nobody ever goes into.

But David’s impulsive like that; his plan is to burn the book, and then fake his own death and head for Mexico, laughing maniacally. He’s in Maine, so making for the northern border would be a lot easier, but the heart wants what it wants.

896 dark shadows david amy book

Amy tries to talk sense to him, and they grapple with the book, which falls onto the desk and opens to the centerfold. This is a picture of the Naga, the four-headed snake — a creature without a soul, and the emblem of the Leviathan people, whoever they turn out to be.

David stares at the picture, and good ol’ cue 31 kicks up — kettle drum, woodwinds, the whole works. That means he’s been instantly hypnoconverted into a member of the Leviathan gang, who are plotting to slaughter all human life and replace us with a race of twisted demon pig weasels. This is about six times less dangerous than David would ordinarily be, so it’s actually a positive step, as far as humanity is concerned.

897 dark shadows david amy smartass

Suddenly, David starts bossing Amy around, and there’s a bit of dialogue that I’m kind of in love with.

David:  Amy, you stand outside the door and see that no one comes in while I’m reading the book.

Amy:  While you’re what?

David:  Reading the book.

Amy:  But you don’t know how!

David:  Yes, I do.

Amy:  Then read some of it for me.

David:  You’re forbidden to hear any of it.

So that’s how you do that. And then he sits down and starts reading about how those who have been hidden so long shall rise and show themselves.

896 dark shadows naga book

Now, the odd thing about this moment is that the plot point is one of the major tropes in H.P. Lovecraft’s work, but it’s presented in a way that’s basically the opposite of what Lovecraft stories are actually like.

Lovecraft characters are always being hypnotized by books; it’s one of the major things that they do. Somebody gets curious about an ancestor, or they’re an academic who comes across a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. And they slowly become more and more obsessed with the books and letters and diaries that they’re able to piece together — an intellectual endeavor that leads them, step by step, to the threshold of things what man was not supposed to know.

But in Lovecraft, this happens slowly, as their curiosity or lust for power takes hold of their consciousness. It’s a gradual process, based on a character flaw.

But David is just a kid, who doesn’t really have much interest in this knowledge. He used to run around the house staring into a crystal ball, but that was years ago; now he patronizes small businesses and shoplifts. So his instant conversion has nothing to do with his character. It’s not a metaphor for anything in particular.

896 dark shadows megan carolyn rushing

So these feel like empty gestures, so far. Barnabas ran across the Leviathans in the woods, while he was thinking about something else. Megan and Philip qualified as the Chosen Ones by opening a box that Barnabas practically forced them to take. And now David, apparently by happenstance, falls instantly under the sway of a book that he was just about to burn in the fireplace. Joining the Leviathans isn’t a choice that people make; it’s just a thing that randomly happens to whoever’s on the show that day.

And honestly, they can’t get a handle on what anybody is concerned about. When we get back to the antique shop, Carolyn asks if Megan still feels like somebody’s going to kill her, and Megan awkwardly says no, and I have no idea whether she means it, not that it matters. The baby’s still sick, presumably, and there’s no sense of purpose.

Megan says that she’s grateful for Carolyn’s help, and Carolyn says, “I wish I could do more, like find that book. I just can’t seem to get onto anything there. It’s as if someone were deliberately concealing something.” Which is true, someone is, but where do we go from there?

896 dark shadows david altar

Well, David goes to the altar in the woods, which is open for business 24 hours a day. He stands in front of it and declares, “I am one of you now,” and the stone splits into two sections which silently draw away, revealing a hole that David can crawl through. In tomorrow’s episode, he finds there’s a hidden cellar under the altar, where he finds some leaves and skeletons, and he hears weird voices, and then he just loses consciousness, falling to the floor in a swoon.

Tomorrow: You’re the Worst.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Carolyn approaches Julia at the start of act one, they cut to a camera that’s still zooming in to settle on a close-up of Carolyn.

Julia says to Carolyn, “Perhaps the strain of the baby — taking care of the baby — has triggered some hidden fear.”

You can see the boom mic in act two, when Megan walks downstairs into the antique shop.

Tomorrow: You’re the Worst.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

32 thoughts on “Episode 896: Help Wanted

  1. I wish someone could find the ABC promo for the Leviathan story. It featured Barnabas at the antique shop handing the naga box to Megan and Phillip and then the camera pans over to a frightened Carolyn. It was actually good, and ABC ran the promo during the daytime programming hours.

  2. I’m not going to link this storyline to McCarthyism – okay, well, maybe I am a little. All good science fiction and horror taps into the deepest fears of human beings, including our social-political fears, and Senator McCarthy’s little stunt resulted in a whole bunch of great (and not so great) films and TV-shows about people who looked just like us but were actually anything BUT us! Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the classic, but there was also Invaders From Mars, told from a kid’s point of view: his mom and dad, the local cops, the sweet little girl next door, all of them serving the evil Martians. It Conquered the World, the TV show The Invaders . . . All of these both terrified and thrilled me. The trope of being held in thrall got my attention, and that happened A LOT on Dark Shadows. (It happened on Lost in Space and Star Trek, too; my favorite ST episode is the one with the spores, and I loved the LOS episodes where Judy was taken over by a plant or Professor Robinson was possessed by a mummy.)

    What was even more thrilling to this young teen was that the children were always a part of it, so when David becomes a MAJOR Leviathan, I was hooked, and I paid no attention to the differentiation over HOW he became possessed. The next major character to go Leviathan will do so through a crazy clown dream!!! It didn’t matter. I found it to be scary fun.

    Believe me, this story will go off the rails soon enough, and I’ll be right there with you saying “WTF!” Right now, though, I find Barnabas’ cool evil (with a full smile showing teeth) much scarier than any stage of being a vampire ever was. And watching the Collins family fall in this early stage before all the heavy breathing begins is, for me, the scariest part of the Leviathan saga.

  3. Anyone notice how ‘fake’ the baby looks when they carry it around – I know they probably didn’t want to use real children but still sometimes the way they handle the ‘prop’ 🙂

    1. Better than the way they handle prop guns.

      I thought the big dealio was making that ONE ROOM into the Leviathan room. Shouldn’t they be keeping the Levia-tot IN its special room? (Of course, they should have held on to the book, too. Barnabas should really look in the Yellow Pages to see if Reverend Trask’s orphanage is still around, and give them the kid.)

      Has Julia even OFFERED Megan a sedative? Dang, I thought she had a Pez dispenser full of Valium in her purse. Megan needs to be tranquilized, and often.

      1. Even mor stunning is the fact that Julia didn’t even offer the baby a baby aspirin – or inquire if one had been given to him.
        Julia – DR. Hoffman – didn’t even insist on checking the baby’s temperature – or on taking him to the ER.
        I’ve seen her show more urgency about administering Barnabas’ anti-vampire treatments.
        And no, Megan couldn’t have stopped Julia if she was in true dr. mode – if anyone can slap the spit out of Megan’s mouth, it’s Julia.

        1. Well, then we could add ‘pediatrician’ to Dr. Hoffman’s list. What CAN’T Julia do? 🙂

          1. Yeah, I am asking Julia to wear too many hats, I guess but being she is a psychiatrist and Megan is obviously hysterical and barely in control, it would have been reasonable for Dr. Hoffman to assert herself by asking something like – Exactly how high IS the baby’s fever? Babies can have seizures when their temps get up around 104 – especially if that high temp goes on for days.
            Julia’s so ready to go Dr. in most other situations, it just seems out of character for her to stand by indifferently during a medical emergency involving a baby and an obviously overwhelmed caregiver.
            Plus it would have been fun to see Julia and Megan butt heads!

  4. All power to the Twisted Demon Pigweasel!

    That shot of Megan with her hand to her face is like a pulp magazine cover come to life.

    1. I just did a Google image search for ‘pig weasel’; one of the pictures that comes up is of Henry Waxman.
      Just saying. Google gave the results, not me.

  5. I wonder whether Nancy Barrett was influenced by Marie Wallace’s performances for her portrayal of Carolyn Stoddard of 1995 and the other character she plays in 1840, whose moods are always flipping unpredictably from crazed acidic ranting to derisive laughter.

  6. The been caught steeling fits in perfect with David’s fat costume that comes up later in liz’s psychedelic clown dream from hell.

  7. “…good ol’ cue 31 kicks up — kettle drum, clarinet, the whole works”
    Please stop with the “clarinet”. That has got to be a cor anglais. Beautiful sound.

  8. I felt much the same during Big Finish’s Bloodlust.
    A David Collins posessed by an ancient evil force is still bound to be much nicer than the real David.

  9. Did anyone notice the set malfunction at the end of the episode? After David crawls through the hole under the altar, it closes but only one side moves, leaving the whole thing off centre at the end.

  10. I wonder if Megan would be a more compelling character if she were the first character we’d seen Marie Wallace play. After Eve and Crazy Jenny, seeing her as a non-maniacal person gives it away that she will eventually go nuts.

    1. This time around I loved seeing her acting relatively normal and composed in the beginning, knowing as I do what’s coming, and then when she starts growing more and more hysterical as the plot advances it’s a joy to watch, but I think they could’ve delayed that shift just a bit longer. Also, yeah, if we hadn’t seen her maniacal portrayals before we might’ve just thought Megan was maybe a little high strung at first, but not so much that we wouldn’t be a bit shocked by her sudden transition to increasingly frantic outbursts, violent mood swings, and growing paranoia.

  11. I presume you’ll discuss it tomorrow but I enjoyed the catty banter between Julia and Olivia, with poor Carolyn left wondering what the hell was going on.

  12. THANK YOU, Danny, for pointing out two things that have been driving me nuts:

    1) Why the hell Carolyn is so keen on this dusty disaster of a shop–she lives with far more valuable and better kept antiques–literally! That statue of the cougar and eagle was right out of Quentin’s room.

    2) David, why the hell are you squirreling away/reading your stolen tome of forbidden knowledge in the busiest room of this entire house??? There are two entire sealed off wings that you could read in comfortably and secretly anytime you want–Adam did it for weeks!

    1. Carolyn wants friends close to her own age who don’t live at Collinwood. I think it may have just occurred to get that she doesn’t have to hang out there all the time. It’s not the antiques or the job, it’s the social aspect. Which is why she’s so distraught when Megan goes bat****.

      As for David, look what happened when he went off to explore an abandoned wing. I’ll bet he’s committed to staying in the part of the house inhabited by living people.

  13. I’ve noticed in this episode every time I watch it that Julia appears to have a bandage on her chin that looks like it’s been badly camouflaged with makeup. Perhaps she tripped and fell over some of that construction equipment that we occasionally hear in the background. Snicker…

    1. I had thought it was a piece of Scotch Tape, but “a bandage on her chin that looks like it’s been badly camouflaged with makeup” seems like a better explanation.

  14. I’m honestly more interested in the return of Donna McKechnie than anything else currently going on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s