Episode 929: Les Disposables

“I like being the way I am right now, and I don’t want it to end.”

“Since Barnabas Collins returned from the past,” says a disembodied Nancy Barrett, “his actions have been a mystery, and a matter of concern, to many who had once been close to him.” Yeah, no kidding. We’ve had a front-row seat to both the mystery and the concern for a couple months now.

She continues, “No one has known of the strange force that has compelled him to do the things he has done — the people of the Leviathan, who hold his beloved Josette hostage, and threaten him with the return of the curse of the vampire. He has become desperate to find a way of stopping the menace that threatens Collinwood.”

Oh, well, that explains everything. Why didn’t you say so?

915 dark shadows adlar barnabas one of us

Well, they did, actually, but that was in episode 915, the “emergency episode” that they hurriedly filmed and rushed onto the air a few weeks ago, when it became clear that the fans weren’t enjoying the Leviathan story very much. So they came up with a crazy dream sequence that realigned Barnabas’ character arc, and stuck it into the show as soon as they could. Now we’re catching up to the point when they decided to pivot the story.

The thought process behind the change appears to be that the Dark Shadows audience didn’t want to see Barnabas being evil, an assertion that is backed up by zero percent of the available evidence. That’s practically the only thing anyone ever says about the Leviathan story, and I honestly don’t understand where that idea comes from.

The Dark Shadows audience loves Barnabas being evil. Barnabas being evil is the entire reason why the show still exists in January 1970. Every time there’s been a dip in the ratings, it’s because Barnabas isn’t being evil enough, and they have to find a way to get some fangs back in his mouth.

As exhibit A, I would like to draw your attention to the next two months of the Leviathan story, which is not generally considered a golden age for the show. If the problem was that Barnabas was evil, then they’re fixing that problem as of now, which means that from here on, the show is getting back on track. Except it’s not. That was not the problem.

Another thing that isn’t the problem is that Barnabas’ change of heart means that the writers need to throw away their carefully-planned storyline projections, and start over again. That isn’t actually a problem, because they never had any real plans to begin with, except to stumble from one crisis to the next, and try to record a decent episode approximately five times a week.

Lately, they’ve just been hopping haphazardly from one dead-end storyline to another. Chris is a werewolf, and Sabrina is learning how to talk again; Olivia is Amanda, and needs Quentin to recognize her; Angelique is married to a millionaire, for some reason; Paul is being drugged and held at Collinwood against his will; and then there’s all that fuss at the antiques shop. None of these really have anything to do with each other, except the last two, and even that connection is kind of tenuous, and getting tenuouser.

929-dark-shadows-paul-carolyn-food

Because they haven’t really figured out what to do with Paul, have they? This was a big storyline for weeks — Carolyn’s deadbeat father shows up in Collinsport, hoping to make things up to her! And it led up to a blockbuster cliffhanger reveal — he made an unwitting deal with the devil twenty years ago, promising Carolyn to the Leviathans!

But since then, they’ve been kind of walking in place, without any real path for Paul to take. He was planning to stand with Carolyn, and fight the conspiracy threatening his family, but it turns out that Liz is actually a member of that conspiracy, and she wants to keep him quiet and out of the way.

That’s just fine, except for the quiet and out of the way part, because this is supposed to be a major storyline, and quiet and out of the way is exactly what a major storyline shouldn’t be. And yet, here we are.

I mean, take the Paul-related material in today’s installment. He sneaks downstairs, runs into Carolyn, tells her why he’s sneaking downstairs, and she sends him back upstairs to bed. There’s a whole chunk of today’s episode about whether Carolyn is going to bring Paul his meals, which is beside the point. I am not interested in Paul’s mealtime arrangements. I want him to do something.

So I don’t know what the original plan was for Paul; my assumption is that there wasn’t one. All I know for sure is that he isn’t going to be on the show for very much longer, so all this upstairs/downstairs stuff is immaterial.

929-dark-shadows-barnabas-paul-gunplay

Anyway, it turns out this isn’t really an episode about Paul in the first place. They’re just using Paul as an example, to show that Barnabas isn’t evil anymore. When Paul returns to his room — clutching a loaded gun, obviously, because it’s Collinwood, and there’s two of these in every bedroom — he finds an apologetic ex-vampire, hoping to make things right.

It turns out Barnabas doesn’t want to keep Paul prisoner, here in Collinwood’s third-best guest room. He wants to help Paul escape.

That’s bad news for Paul, because the key to Barnabas’ character is that he fails at absolutely everything that he ever tries to do. That’s why the Leviathans, under his adminstration, have achieved nothing and threatened no one. Seriously, we are two months in on this fiendish conspiracy, and I can’t think of a single villainous thing that the Leviathans have done so far except cheat at a board game, and they even got caught doing that.

But now that Barnabas wants to help, all bets are off. Paul might as well get accustomed to the idea of a messy death on the rocks below Widow’s Hill. This is the final destination of every person that Barnabas tries to help.

929-dark-shadows-paul-barnabas-gun

What ensues is a two-minute negotiation, conducted entirely at gunpoint. Barnabas has brought Paul’s clothes, and enough money to get him out of town. He promises that he’ll make sure Carolyn isn’t harmed, once Paul is out of danger.

Paul gradually comes around to this idea, although he continues to keep Barnabas covered the whole time. Barnabas hardly notices; his only concern is making sure Paul knows that this is all a big misunderstanding. He’s a Collins; firearms mean nothing to these people.

Barnabas closes the scene with, “Now get ready, and be ready to go in an hour’s time. I’ll see that you get out of the house without anyone seeing you.” I don’t know why Paul needs an hour to get dressed, or how Barnabas is planning to get him out of the house. All I know is that Barnabas is taking an interest in Paul, which means that Paul is doomed.

929-dark-shadows-philip-liz-megan-social

Meanwhile, downstairs, Liz is hosting one of the weirdest social events of the year. As we all know, Liz is one of Them, and she’s invited a couple more of Them over to the house, namely Megan and Philip, that uncanny couple from the antiques shop. They’re even weirder here, if that’s possible. They stand around near the drawing room window and talk about their plans for world domination, because apparently this story takes place in a universe where cocktails were never invented.

Liz kicks things off by saying, “I think you are both very fortunate to be the ones to guide the child.”

“Philip and I are very grateful for that,” says Megan. “Aren’t we, Philip?” Philip says yes.

And then Megan speeds into a furious lunatic monologue, as the camera pulls in slowly for a close-up. The rant, delivered in an urgent whisper, goes as follows.

929-dark-shadows-liz-megan-rant

This crisis has been a very good test for us!

929-dark-shadows-megan-group

The time isn’t far off, when our people will become a group! We’ll come into our own!

929-dark-shadows-megan-responsible

There’ll be many more responsibilities then, and we must be prepared to meet them!

929-dark-shadows-megan-our-own

When the time is right, our people — from various parts of the world! — will converge here!

929-dark-shadows-megan-converge

Right here!

929-dark-shadows-megan-society

We shall re-establish our own society — right here, in Collinwood!

929-dark-shadows-philip-liz-megan-social-encounter

And then she turns and hisses, “That is one of the reasons you were chosen, Mrs. Stoddard!”

And Liz, god bless her, actually finds a way to continue the conversation. You have to say this about the one percent; they’re trained to keep things moving in their social encounters. Personally, I wouldn’t have a thing to say at this juncture; I’d probably ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” and then just say, “Oh, how interesting, tell me everything about that” until the party ends.

929-dark-shadows-paul-stairs

So I don’t know if Paul really needs all that much help sneaking out of the house, what with everyone converging in the drawing room; they seem to have a lot on their plate right now. Paul basically just strolls downstairs and right out the door, and presto, he’s back in circulation. It’s funny how these things always seem like a much bigger deal than they really are.

Now, you may have noticed that Barnabas’ “I’ll see that you get out of the house” plan didn’t have much in the way of a step two. I suppose the concept was that anyplace is better than Collinwood, where people keep talking about coming into their own.

But twenty years ago, Paul walked out of this house and disappeared into the aether; if there’s one thing this guy knows how to do, it’s make himself scarce. He’s about to get a whole lot scarcer.

929-dark-shadows-chosen-room

Because what does he do? He heads straight for the antiques shop, to find out just what it is that they’re hiding up here, in this blasphemous bedroom.

Now, this is the moment when Paul — if he actually matters to this storyline — should discover a source of strength and power. He’s been cooped up in a guest room, with sedatives poured down his throat every six hours, and this is intolerable. From this point, he starts hitting back. He steps up, and takes action to protect the daughter that he abandoned so many years ago.

After all, most of the action around Collinwood these days happens to outsiders — a doctor, a professor, a distant cousin, a couple of ancestors. Paul is an actual member of the show’s core family, back from the dead to fill this empty space in the org chart with vitality and hope. This is the show’s opportunity to create a hero, repenting his earlier transgressions and fighting to build a better life for his fractured family.

I mean, it doesn’t happen that way. Mostly he just screams. But it would have been nice.

Tomorrow: Man with Feelings.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, Megan knocks a pencil off the desk.

Philip coughs after he locks the door to the Chosen Room.

When Carolyn enters the drawing room, the camera lingers too long on the shot of Paul, and gets Carolyn’s head at the bottom of the frame as she passes by.

Something goes wrong with the boom mic when Paul is speaking to Carolyn; his line about being allergic to the medicine sounds tinny and faraway.

Carolyn asks Paul, “You’re not planning to leave Collinwood, are you?” She means Collinsport.

Paul says that he’ll take Carolyn with him: “It’ll be just like old times!” But they never had any old times like that; he abandoned her when she was an infant.

There’s a tape edit right after Megan and Philip say good night; it cuts abruptly to Paul in the antique shop.


Behind the Scenes:

This is Michael Maitland’s last episode as Michael the cosmic starbrat, and I for one will miss him terribly. When he started on Dark Shadows, he was just finishing up a four-year run on Broadway, in the original cast of Mame, and he landed another Broadway show in October 1970 — The Rothschilds, which ran for more than a year. He also made some TV appearances over the next few years — Search for Tomorrow, Emergency, a walk-on role in an ABC Afterschool Special. In 1975, he retired from acting and went into the restaurant business. He died of cancer in 2014, at the age of 57. There’s a nice article on him at The Collinsport Historical Society.

Tomorrow: Man with Feelings.

929-dark-shadows-paul-scared

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 929: Les Disposables

  1. I’ve just seen this episode, & the bit where Barnabas ostentatiously peers out of the drawing room doors for about 3 minutes while Paul escapes, then insists to Liz & the Todds he was just checking the time is hilarious beyond belief.

  2. In the beginning Barnabas was also conflicted. That was the quality that made him more compelling; for the first time there was a portrayal of a vampire who seemed at odds with his own actions: “The truth is, I loathe him. I loathe him very deeply.” This is the reason he is still on the show nearly three years later, when the original plan instead was to have him staked after just a few weeks.

    Likewise, Julia was probably more interesting as the scheming, secretive, single-minded career obsessive, but these character traits wouldn’t work long term as Barnabas’ best and most trusted friend and Collinwood permanent house guest and Collins family co-minder. But it was Grayson Hall’s idea to have Dr. Hoffman fall in love with Barnabas, thereby creating a conflict in the character that would guarantee her longevity on the show.

    And what of the show’s original “villain”, Roger Collins? If the portrayal had stayed true to that laid out by Art Wallace in his Shadows on the Wall story bible, then Roger would have been dead sometime in 1967 as originally planned.

    Then there’s Mrs. Johnson, who is angry and vindictive and spies on her new employers on behalf of someone who’s out to destroy them. The original plan was to make her character vicious and insane and who would become a dangerous threat to Vicki. But Clarice Blackburn seems to have re-created the character herself, as someone who could be liked and trusted.

    True evil is singularly one-dimensional, without any redeeming qualities or saving graces – that’s why we don’t mind when Petofi goes up in flames and doesn’t make it to 1969 as he’d hoped. We don’t really care about evil characters, and we don’t care when they die. So that’s why Barnabas, Julia, Roger, Sarah Johnson, Quentin, and even Angelique had to evolve in some way from when they were first introduced.

    This is why we are still watching and talking about Dark Shadows 50 years later: because of the actors who brought such depth to the characters they played, that ultimately the writers came to write for the actors who played them, rather than the actors having to simply fit into the mold of the characters as they were originally created.

    1. Yes, Barnabas comes across as more “human” to me than he does during the Leviathan period. And he even had Willie as a “sounding board/unwilling accomplice” prior to Julia’s arrival. The Leviathan storyline involves him alienating his friends and pursuing a non-personal goal. So, yeah, not a good dramatic move.

      And you’re right that the early Leviathan Barnabas is one-dimensional and thus dull. Even Quentin and Angelique at their worst were never that. Quentin loved Jamison and was charming and funny. Angelique was the witch who could perhaps be “tamed” or “saved” by the love of a man (not necessarily progressive but so it goes).

      Barnabas as a character was arguably more limited than Quentin and Angelique because his conflicts worked best externally — as a vampire, he is struggling with exposure and with his bestial urges. His vampiric nature is what prevents him from being with the woman he loves (and we conveniently forget the utter lack of chemistry between them or in Vicki’s case, reciprocal interest).

      Barnabas the Gay Uncle is not a character. Barnabas the (still likely gay) vampire is a great one.

  3. Compared to the Leviathans story, the Dream Curse and the Lost Fountain Pen plotlines were thrill-a-minute rollercoaster rides to excitement. When I first watched it, I kept thinking, ‘this time, this week, they have to do something…’ But they just kept going around in the fish tank, back and forth.
    Put in some piranhas, or at least change the water!

    BUT…on the good side, Liz’s snake brooch just goes with EVERYTHING she wears!
    At least the Leviathans had a quality line of jewelry.

  4. On rewatch, as you have pointed out in this blog, the real key failing of the Leviathan story is that Barnabas is inexplicably mean to Julia after being close friends for years. It makes no sense.

    On top of that, the story drags and most of the characters we want to see (Quentin, Chris, Paul) are backburnered in favour of the Leviathan kids. It goes down more easily on the second and third viewings because we KNOW not to expect anything, but it doesn’t leave a lot to look forward to.

  5. I agree with the suggestions that the audience liked Barnabas not as “evil” but as vampire. Barnabas the vampire — evil vampire or good vampire (the latter an innovation at the time, though somewhat old-hat nowadays) — was what the audience loved. Barnabas the good former vampire was acceptable, but Barnabas the evil former vampire was intolerable

    The writers couldn’t figure out back then how to perpetuate a good vampire. And having a show in which an evil character was both the star and the protagonist really wasn’t an option in the 1960s. (They could get away with it today, in this morally ambiguous times.) In succeeding years, other writers have been able to work this out, such as by coming up with vampires who feed only on bad people, vampires who feed only on animals, or even (in the case of True Blood) vampires who drink only synthetic blood

    In short, DS created a monster — both literally and figuratively — and didn’t quite know how to handle him for the long haul. To put it another way, their Dracula was also their Frankenstein. Who needed Adam? 😉

    1. You forgot about the “good vampires” Henry Fitzroy of “Blood Ties” He DOES feed on people, not lethally, and his victims either lose five minutes of their time and the memory of it, or just remember a great sexual encounter

      1. That is sexual assault, though. Assaulting somebody when they can’t remember it (via alcohol, rohypnol or vampire hypnosis) is still wrong. I’m generally uncomfortable with the idea of “good vampires” that forcibly separate people from their body fluids.

        1. Actually, it is petty larceny. They just take some of other people’s property either under false pretenses or taking advantage of a distraction. If you want to think of it in terms of sex, you can do so, but I think that a hungry vampire thinks more on terms of food (though if it is pleasant for the victim then there is less struggle, and more willingness to go through it again).

          1. A person’s body is not an object that you can borrow from. You can’t physically molest somebody and then say “Oh, I was only using your (body part) for fifteen minutes. You can have it back now.”

            I totally get the sexy vampire drinking my blood fantasy; there’s a lot of sexy vampires on TV and that is awesome. The human willingly feeding the vampire is super sexy and fun. The vampire doing that to you by force and making you submit to them is also a potentially exciting fantasy.

            But we’ve talked about this in comments before, and I’m really surprised by your willingness to think of human beings as no harm-no foul food sources, and to describe that as “good” and simply a matter of dealing with “hunger”. If I gave someone rohypnol and drained a pint of blood from their arm, it’s assault. Doing that with my mouth is sexual assault.

            I mean, I have no problem with villains in fiction (or fantasy, or whatever) doing villainous things, and sexy people in fiction get special rights to do exciting things to other fictional people. But the way you describe this, completely dissociating emotionally from what happens to another person’s body, makes me uncomfortable.

            1. Sadly, that seems to be a legacy of Barnabas Collins; where the vampire once was a loathsome, evil enemy of the living, it has become simply ‘misunderstood’. No longer a predator who takes (and revels in the destruction it causes), now we get a collection of lonely, tormented guys (with rockin’ hot bods (of course)) wanting sympathy while taking ‘only what they need’ and hating themselves, which somehow makes them sexy and irresistible. And therefore, it becomes okay for them to suck a pint now and then, even from an unwilling victim (who becomes enviable for their encounter!)
              Sorry. I prefer my undead to be SCARY! Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, even Frank Langella, are way better than all these ‘sparkle vampires’ AND their rock-hard abs and tight buns. Barnabas was an innovation at the time, but now, everyone’s trying to imitate that.

              1. The problem with the SCARY traditional vampire is that it is a story that has been told over and over, The new vampires can be awfully clichéd (sparks, anyone)?) but also there is a lot of innovative writing in the genre. For a truly mind bending read try C. S. Friedman’s “The Madness Season”

            2. Danny, as to find that my body fluids were taken, I would not be as much upset as if I found my money gone, specially if it meant I had no money for a bus ticket back home. I have had my purse ripped off, and it meant closing my bank accounts and transferring the money to new ones – so that my old checks could not be used, and getting a new driving license. I did not have the time to feel violated, only aware that I had a problem to be solved.

              And I still think of it as larceny. Stealing, taking someone else’s property.

              As to how serious you want it to be depends on whether or not there are more serious problems that need taking care of, and whether or not the thief can help you there.

              Given the scope of some problems in these stories, a vampire who behaves as I describe, can be at worst be classified as a regular nuisance that you can put up with.

              1. So…you’d be okay with finding a leech or a tick had attached itself to you? How about a tapeworm? They’re just trying to get by, can’t help being parasites. (Or am I comparing apples & oranges here?)

                And when your stuff was stolen, no, you didn’t think about ‘violation’ at the time, but afterward you must have felt it.

              2. I think it’s rape. Rape survivors talk about their assault as being far worse than an inconvenience that needs to get sorted out. There is pain and violation in that act that lasts, sometimes forever.

                I’ve had my car stolen, and my computer, and my credit cards. You’re right about those — if you have insurance, they’re setbacks that need to get corrected, and it’s better to focus your attention on solving the problem instead of being mad at the thief.

                That is not the case with rape survivors. Somebody actually touching your body, forcing themselves on you and hurting you is a different level of trauma, and the idea of your rapist actually taking part of you away would make it worse.

                Vampires are fictional, so I’m not worried about what they do to imaginary people. But the metaphor is clearly seduction/rape, which is clear from the first scene in Varney the Vampire all the way down to True Blood and Vampire Diaries and all the vampire detective book series.

                Vampires on the whole are weaker than humans — they have to spend half their time hiding in a box, while the rest of us walk around in the sun. The power that vampires have is the power to rape people and get away with it.

                1. Actually, more or less traditional vampire lore holds that vampires are far more powerful than humans — especially older vampires with a lot of experience (and lifetimes) under their belts. (The longer one is a vampire, the more powerful he or she becomes.) They can assume a variety of shapes and guises, ranging from bats, wolves, and rats to mists and even total incorporability and invisibility. They can mentally control or at least manipulate the weak-willed. They’re much stronger, faster, and — aside from a few key weaknesses and limitations — more invulnerable than mere mortals. In fact, the idea that vampires must spend all daylight hours in their coffin is not universal or even very traditional. In the novel Dracula, for instance, the Count does appear during the daylight hours. It’s just that, during daytime, vampires are much less powerful and more vulnerable. They must also stay out of direct contact with sunlight, but indirect, shaded light is no problem — at least not, again, to an older, more powerful vampire. (Younger vampires, it would seem, must spend much more time in their coffins and are more vulnerable to daylight, even indirectly.)

                  In short, vampires are hardly weaker than humans.

                  Of course, they’re fictional and we’re not, which may be their greatest weakness. Or maybe it’s their greatest strength, depending on how you look at it. 😉

  6. Michael Maitland also had a bit of a singing career. At one DS convention, he was supposed to appear and present his cabaret act, but he cancelled at the last minute. I was disappointed – I, too, enjoyed his Evil Jerk character and was curious about the man.

  7. I preferred Alexander to Michael. Alexander was a classic “creepy kid.” Michael was just a spoiled brat.

  8. “Clutching a loaded gun, obviously, because it’s Collinwood, and there’s two of these in every bedroom…” Just a point of clarification…Jason retrieved the gun from the drawing room. That’s why he snuck downstairs, and then Carolyn caught him in the drawing room.

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s