“I must learn your secret — how to bring you half alive!”
It’s 4:00 on another summer afternoon, and Dr. Julia Hoffman is mixing drinks. “Nothing for me, thank you,” Elizabeth says, and the doctor replies, “Are you sure, Mrs. Stoddard? You usually like a cocktail before dinner.”
It’s not a typical situation for someone with a medical degree and her own sanitarium, but Julia’s currently on vacation in a parallel dimension, solving other people’s problems. She’s murdered her alt-universe double — Collinwood’s housekeeper, Hoffman — and taken her place, in order to revive a black-magic-afflicted coma victim and destroy a wicked witch. Now she’s hopping back and forth between making beds and exploring the outer limits of human consciousness, just like every other woman in 1970.
She’s a housekeeper, a bartender, an impostor, a spy, a murderer, a blood specialist, a henchperson, a mad scientist, a dear friend and an all-purpose lunatic. I don’t know she does it; it just goes to show that women really can have it all.
So this is what’s left, when you’ve killed all your characters and you still can’t go home for another two weeks: three sad people, plus an unconscious woman in the basement and a mysterious pair of feet. Over the last week, we’ve lost two more cast members, whittling Parallel Time’s endless murder mystery down to the minimum viable suspects. If we’re ever going to find out who killed Angelique all those months ago, then we’d better do it soon, while we’ve still got a family to offer cocktails to.
Elizabeth’s refusing the adult beverages because she’s worried sick about her daughter Carolyn, whose husband jumped from a high window last week. Carolyn’s spent the last few days drinking her way across the great mansions of the Eastern seaboard, and Liz doesn’t know how to help Carolyn get over her loss. She’s about to learn that she can stop worrying about it; that problem has been decisively solved with a large kitchen knife.
Roger breaks the news that Carolyn’s been murdered in the tower room by their cousin Quentin, who may still be in the house and armed with silverware.
“Mrs. Stoddard,” Julia says, “would you care for a brandy? It might help.” It’s not super clear how a brandy would help, but when Julia’s in housekeeper drag, she’s not allowed to give people sedatives, and she doesn’t know what else to do.
She tries Roger, but he’s not buying either. “No, thanks,” he says. “It doesn’t seem the moment, somehow. I’ve been accused of drinking to escape reality. Well, perhaps reality has caught up with me this time. I think a brandy would be pointless.” Okay, Julia thinks. You could’ve just said no thanks.
“If only I’d gotten there a moment or two earlier!” Roger moans, as his sister collapses into sobs. “What was she doing in the tower, why was she there?” Why were YOU there? somebody doesn’t say, because we’re not solving the mystery this week.
“Poor Carolyn,” he continues. “She’s with Will now, I must think of that.” That’s not entirely true, because Carolyn was in the tower room and Will’s spread over a substantial percentage of the back patio, but you know what he means.
“It’s all of our fault, really!” he says, generously. “We’ve gone on living in this house, half suspecting that Quentin was here, ignoring all of the signs that pointed to more violence.” Then they just keep sitting on the couch.
Elizabeth goes to spend a little time in a room that doesn’t include someone pointing out whose fault everything is, and Roger sighs, “The sum total of my life seems to be that I can never help anyone.” Then he decides that he will have that brandy after all.
While Julia pours, he asks if she thinks Quentin is still in the house, but he’s just killing time until the drink arrives. He clutches at it with both hands. “I need this,” he explains. “Oh, how I need it.” Then he drains it in one gulp. Dude needs to figure out his bar orders in advance.
Liz pops back in, and says they need to go out to the mausoleum and decide where Carolyn’s going to be buried. The others say that can wait until tomorrow, but Liz insists they have to go now. They’re the only three characters with speaking lines in today’s episode, and if they all stay in the drawing room, then they’ll run out of things to talk about, which they already have.
And then it’s off to the mausoleum for some mystery feet! This is common Dark Shadows practice when they don’t feel like paying a guy to show up and eavesdrop on people; they get a stand-in to do the feet, and we have to imagine the rest of him.
This is the enigmatic Claude North, who’s been living in the secret room in the mausoleum for who knows how long, drinking milk and drawing on his sketchpad. He’s apparently come back to pick up his dagger, possibly en route to the dairy for a refill.
Luckily, Claude shuts the secret panel before Liz and Roger walk in, and proceed to have a conversation that should reassure Claude that he’s made the right choices in his living arrangements. There are worse things than huddling in a dank stone room by yourself, and here come two of them. Their conversation, which is entirely baffling, is presented here in full.
Roger: Elizabeth, I understand your grief, but this is not right!
Liz: I had to come here, Roger.
Roger: Elizabeth, why have we come here?
Liz: I don’t want Carolyn buried next to Angelique. You can understand that, can’t you?
Roger: Yes. She should be buried in the cemetery, with her husband.
Liz: No. She’s a Collins. She belongs here. Her ancestors are buried here.
Roger: Well, I’m certainly not going to argue with you. If it’s settled, let’s go back to Collinwood.
Liz: No, not yet.
Roger: Elizabeth —
Liz: We have other things to do!
Roger: In heaven’s name, what?
Liz: If you don’t want to do them with me, Roger, I will do them alone!
Roger: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Liz: You will, Roger. You will.
I’m not sure about that, because I for one don’t understand what you’ve accomplished so far. Liz doesn’t want Carolyn buried next to Angelique, who’s here in the mausoleum, but then she says Carolyn should be buried in the mausoleum, because her ancestors are here. So how does that help with the Angelique proximity problem? Also, why did you have to come all the way out to the mausoleum to spend forty seconds not making the decision that you just didn’t make?
Meanwhile, Julia’s in the Old House basement with Roxanne, the fountain of life force who’s keeping Angelique alive. Julia’s got science machines scattered around the room, with a big Frankenstein wall switch and things that go zap, and she gives us a handful of incoherent exposition.
“I must learn your secret — how to bring you half alive, so that Angelique cannot function!” she says, in thinks. “Even though she’s not directly responsible for Carolyn’s death, everything that happens in that house is because of her. Yet if you rise, if you talk, Angelique will die, she told me that, and then Quentin will be trapped! I must be careful — very careful not to go too far!”
So she starts plugging extension cords into the girl’s scalp, being extra careful not to go too far. Then they do two minutes of electrified metal machine music with a commercial break in the middle, to no avail. Roxanne is not interested.
So this is what Dark Shadows is like these days, just feet and knives and under-motivated mad science. The characters drift from one scene to another, changing their minds and unmaking decisions, and being careful not to wake each other up. It’s kind of peaceful, in a way, if you like that kind of thing.
Monday: PTED: Destroyer of Worlds.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Julia opens the drawing room doors to find Liz and Roger on the couch, the boom mic is clearly visible.
Julia says that she’s enjoying Alexis’ visit, and Roger says, “Does — are you?” At the same moment, we can see Liz outside the drawing room, waiting for her cue to enter.
When Claude enters the secret room in the mausoleum, there are electrical cables on the floor.
Behind the Scenes:
Alex Stevens is the stand-in for Claude North today, as we follow his legs and gloves and dagger around town. Stevens is better known in Dark Shadows circles as the stunt man who played the werewolf — both the Chris version and the Quentin version — in 23 episodes, starting in December 1968. He also played Janet Findley falling down the stairs in one episode. This is his last episode on the show.
After Dark Shadows, Stevens had a long and productive career as a stunt man in a ton of movies, including Night of Dark Shadows, The French Connection, Super Fly, The Eyes of Laura Mars, Superman, Scanners, The Four Seasons, Splash, 3 Men and a Baby, King of New York, and Goodfellas, plus an episode of jailhouse drama Oz and three episodes of Ryan’s Hope. He was phenomenal, and I will miss him terribly.
Monday: PTED: Destroyer of Worlds.
— Danny Horn