“I remember the first sensation I had from him in the future.”
“Do you feel his presence?” Barnabas asks.
“Yes,” Julia shudders, “but not as strongly as before.”
So there you go, that’s our show this week: characters walking from room to room, consulting their ghost barometers.
Accidental tourists Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman took a quick time trip to 1995 the other day, and now they think they know everything. You know how time travelers are; they’re like Burners. Oh my god, I can’t believe there’s still dust in my shoes, they say, six weeks after leaving the playa. It’s so weird being back here in default world, where you have to use money and you can’t hug strangers, and none of the cars look like giant extinct animals. Okay, fine. We get it. You’re cool.
They’ve seen a post-burn Collinwood, where all their friends were dead or mad or missing, and now it’s all they can talk about. Julia walks into the house and announces, “He’s here! I can feel his presence!” Barnabas asks if she’s sure, and she says of course she’s sure, and now we’re watching somebody feeling things. This has been happening a lot lately; it’s like an epidemic.
There’s a gang of ghosts in the house — two adults, and a couple of Dreamers — who have crossed the border into the physical realm, and now they’re crossing out items on their post-mortem bucket list. Two items have already been checked off, but they’re doing them out of order, so Barnabas and Julia are entirely lost. They thought the next one was going to be “the night Rose Cottage was destroyed,” but while they were worrying about that, “the picnic” snuck by, under the radar. It’s pandemonium, foreshadowing-wise.
“I’m going upstairs to Elizabeth,” Barnabas declares. “Everyone must leave this house at once!” So that’s just what Elizabeth needs, a pair of hysterical houseguests charging around, demanding a full evacuation because they feel a presence.
Julia suggests that maybe they wait to pull the emergency cord until something actually happens, but Barnabas scoffs, “Wait for the effects? Stand here and wait for the beams of the ceiling to fall in?” It’s a great moment for the highly-strung.
Barnabas knows that the oncoming catastrophe involves the children fraternizing with ghosts somehow, so he lets himself into young David’s bedroom and finds an unauthorized model ship on the boy’s desk. He picks it up and quietly freaks out, recognizing it from the magical future playroom that doesn’t exist.
David walks in and finds Barnabas messing with his stuff; cue the boat drama.
Barnabas: David, where did you get this boat?
David: I found it in the attic.
Barnabas: The attic?
David: Yes. Is there anything wrong with my having it?
Barnabas: No, of course not. It’s just that I’ve never seen it before.
David: That’s because I only found it yesterday. Isn’t it neat?
Barnabas: Yes! But it’s in very good condition for something that’s been stored away in the attic.
David: Well, that’s cause it was all wrapped up in paper.
Barnabas: I see.
And David just stands there, like, is there anything else I can do for you, Barnabas? Why are you standing in my bedroom, evaluating the condition of things? Have you been helped?
So clearly Barnabas is suspicious, but the question is: of what? It’s a model boat. Unless it’s rigged with C4, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to do anybody any harm. Plus, we’ve never noticed it before — if Barnabas says it was in the mysterious playroom of the future, then I’m sure he’s correct, but they didn’t point it out at the time, and I’m not sure why they’re making a deal about it now.
And why is the ship in extra good condition, anyway? Was this a model ship that already existed and was cleaned up by ghosts, or is it a new model ship created by the ghosts out of ectoplasm? Or are ghosts just naturally dust-repellent?
The reason why I’m asking is that I’m trying to come up with some kind of unified theory of what on earth is going on. The ghosts give the kids clothes and model boats; they leave flowers for Quentin, and then lure him into old rooms to read the most extraordinary things.
He’s found a journal written by the second creature, the one he calls Daphne. “Today I am going to kill him,” he reads. “His death is the only answer.”
Then he has a little thinks moment, where he says, “Kill him? Daphne, kill someone?” He’s never actually met Daphne.
So beyond the obvious question of why would she show that to the guy she’s trying to spectrally seduce, there’s also the other obvious question, which is why you would write something like that down in the first place. What the hell was wrong with Daphne?
Really, the whole storyline is just a mess of unrelated details, held together by a common theme, which is nobody telling anybody the truth. David and Hallie aren’t telling the adults about seeing a ghost and dressing up in the playroom, even though they’re kind of freaked out by it. Quentin isn’t telling Barnabas and Julia that he’s seen a ghost either, although he knows that in the future, he’ll be driven mad by the destruction that his silence enables. Nobody wants to tell Elizabeth anything that might upset her, and apparently talking to the children is out of the question.
Barnabas says that David is hiding something, and Julia asks if they should just tell him what’s at stake. “We can’t do that!” Barnabas asserts, and does not elaborate. They just can’t, that’s all.
So the web of fear tightens inexplicably around this weird little knot of characters, as the ghosts deal out an unending supply of red herrings.
As if the magic boat wasn’t bad enough, the next time David walks into his room, he finds an old-fashioned suit waiting for him on his bed. It’s more hypnoclothes, like the salmon-colored dress that Hallie found and hasn’t been able to shake. He knows this is bad news, but he does the same thing that Hallie did, namely, put it in a drawer and lie to people about it.
Daphne shows up and looks at him, and David asks her about the clothes, and the photo he took, and the man that he thinks is watching them all, and she just smiles and doesn’t say anything at all, out of misguided respect for Henry James. Then he hears Barnabas and Julia in the hall, so he jumps into bed with all his clothes on and pretends to be asleep. The nosy parkers open the door and see that he’s in bed, so they exit and close the door, and then David jumps out of bed again, and keeps looking at that photo he took. We really are just waiting for the roof to fall in.
And there’s more, there’s a lot more. Quentin goes back to Daphne’s room, and he looks around in all the corners, firing off questions. “I was just about to tell Barnabas and Julia all about you!” he says. “But I didn’t! Because I saw you standing there! Now, why did I do that?”
Then she appears to him, and he keeps asking why, and then he asks if Barnabas and Julia are right, if they really have been to the future, and everyone was dead, and he was mad, is that all connected to what he’s not doing right now, and why is he not doing it?
She just looks at him. Then she turns and walks out of the room, and he follows her.
Somewhere along the way, he gets hypnotized, so now he’s walking down the stairs, staring straight ahead like he’s sleepwalking, just like the writers are, and just like I am, sleepwalking through these blog posts about a storyline that hardly exists.
The doors blow open and there’s the sound of rushing wind, because that’s a thing that ghosts do. We hear the tinkling sound of the carousel theme, because ghosts always have theme songs. And Quentin follows the ghost all the way out to the cemetery to stand by her grave, unable to resist doing the same things that we’ve already seen in countless episodes before.
“This is where I was to come,” he breathes. “But why?” And we follow along, unwilling and unsurprised.
Tomorrow: Carry a Big Stick.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Barnabas is looking at the model boat, and we’re looking at a close-up of Barnabas. We hear David say “Cousin Barnabas!” and we follow Barnabas as he whirls to see David, and for an instant we get a little glimpse of David as the camera moves to pick him up — and then they cut to another camera, for another close-up of Barnabas. It’s hard to describe, but check it out; it’s a weird moment.
When Julia’s talking to Barnabas in the drawing room, she starts, “If only we could get him to, to — couldn’t we tell him what’s at stake?”
The tombstones of Gerard, Daphne and Tom Jennings have switched places since we saw them last week.
Tomorrow: Carry a Big Stick.
— Danny Horn