“Under the Dome” recap (1.4): Alice to the rescue

First of all, has anyone else noticed that Under The Dome uses the same clip of bisected cow in every intro?  Like, “we spent 30,000 dollars on CGI and butcher bills and dammit, we are getting our money’s worth.”  But the shock value is wearing off.  Kind of like the concept of a town trapped together, forced to confront its own demons.  It’s compelling in theory, but seeing them scratch their heads at/on the Dome every week is getting old.  Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, since the Army guys who’ve been staking out the Dome are packing up and leaving.

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“Sorry guys, but ‘The Fosters’ is on at the same time.”

This week, all the action coalesces around an outbreak of meningitis made worse by the fact that Chester’s Mill is home to the single worst hospital in the developed world.  For one thing, when the episode starts, they’re out of sterile masks and gloves. This is after only three days trapped under the Dome.  Secondly, there are no doctors on account of one is on vacation, one died crashing into the Dome, and Barbie accidentally shot Julia’s Husband, M.D.  Into this madhouse walks Doctor Alice, lesbian psychiatrist extraordinaire.  And, as the daughter of a psychiatrist, I took a lot of flack as a kid about how my mom wasn’t a “real doctor,” so it’s nice to see her swoop in and start talking about CCs and EEGs and all the other acronyms I will never understand.

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Yes, I’m a physician, and if I take these glasses off, I’m Superman.

Doctor Alice is actually there to get Norrie and Joe checked out for their seizures, but the plague takes precedence so the pink star-crossed lovers are left to their own devices.  Like true children of the millennium, they get out their iPhones (sorry, forgot who does product placement for this show) their Androids and film themselves having more seizures.  It’s basically the same song and dance as before, except this time Joe pauses in the middle to stare at the camera with a silencing finger over his lips.  They speculate that it means the Dome wants them to keep quiet about their seizures.  And kids, I know you read Harry Potter so do I really have to remind you of the foolishess of trusting any disembodied consciousness? It’s probably Voldemort.

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New theory: the Dome was cast by Aria Montgomery because Norrie stole her macramé vest.

 The two chief obstacles raised by the plague are 1. An antibiotic shortage and 2. The necessity of enforcing a quarantine of the hospital. Problem one is handled by Big Jim and Barbie, who find that most of the town’s medicine has been hijacked by Reverend Lurch. They find him attempting to burn all the medicine (because the last time he played with fire it turned out so well) and babbling about how this is all God’s will.  What is really is, though, is just truly flimsy characterization. For the past two episodes the Reverend has been corrupt, drug-addled, and far from pious. To make him suddenly an ultra-religious lunatic is—well I guess you can’t character assassinate a bad guy, but you can at least make him bad in consistent ways.

With Barbie and Jim away, and Linda sick with meningitis, the task of maintaining order in the hospital falls to Junior.  His dad—with an inexplicable confidence in his son’s sanity—hands him a shotgun and tells him not to let anyone out.  Initially he handles the job about how you’d expect a power-obsessed, paranoid boy.

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DON’T WORRY, I JUST WANT TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME.  I MEAN QUARANTINE YOU.  SORRY, WRONG HOSTAGE SITUATION.

In next to no time, though, he’s telling stories so homespun that they are LITERALLY ABOUT CORNBREAD AND SKILLETS.  And even the memory of comfort food is enough to remind the citizens of Chester’s Mill of their humanity, and the situation is defused.  I have the same problem with this scene I do with the Reverend.  I mean, I get what the writers are trying to do by making the hospital an even more concentrated version of the Dome, and by showing that their shared memories are the only thing keeping them from an all-out riot, but Junior is not the one to deliver that message.  From everything we’ve learned so far, his psyche is far too fragile and untrusting to be capable of putting down the shotgun and walking away.

Upstairs, the truly sick folks are still waiting on antibiotics.  In fact there is only one dose left, and both Sheriff Linda and her third grade teacher are in desperate need of it.  Standing between them, Doctor Alice has no idea what to do. However, rather than forcing her to make a tough moral decision–who is more valuable in this crisis, a cop or a teacher?—the show backs down and has the teacher offer to sacrifice her life.  It makes me think that what this show really has is a pacing problem.  We’ve been living the first three days with these characters for four whole episodes and the strain of captivity is only just starting to show.  No one has been driven crazy who wasn’t already crazy, the problem of scarcity of resources has barely been broached, and the mystery of the Dome is going so slowly I feel like I’m playing Mother May I with a particularly cruel Mother.

The two storylines that actually move forward this week are Julia’s and Angie’s.  Last week, Julia found the map where Barbie had recorded the location of his Secret Murder Business, so of course this week she sets out to investigate, plague or no plague.  What she finds is that her late husband completely bankrupted them with his secret gambling problem, and Barbie was sent to town to collect the money he owed.  Barbie admits to that much, but denies killing Peter.  Now it’s just a race to see what Red busts open first: this mystery or Barbie’s trousers.  Or both.  Probably both.

This week in Blondes I’m Rooting For, Angie is still locked in the Rennie Family Secret Lair.  She makes a bold but ill-timed attempt to stab Junior, but all that gets her is even tighter chains.  And then she tries to climb up on the top bunk but ends up breaking a water main and flooding the place.  But even when her luck fails her, her lungs remain strong, and she finally screams loud enough to attract Big Jim’s attention. He heads down to the Lair where he finds her shivering.  My guess is, he’s not going to do his civic duty.

So obviously this show is frustrating in many ways, and those of you who tuned in for a hot lesbian couple are probably a bit disappointed.  The most romance we’ve gotten so far is Carol so far is Carolyn trying to steal extra insulin for Alice (which is actually pretty sweet). But it’s nice that they’re there at all, being quietly heroic.  And, lest we forget, they are the only intact couple in the entire town.  So that’s worth sticking around for, as is the promise of seeing Sheriff Linda take her hair down again.

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If she did this and the cowboy hat at the same time, I’m pretty sure the Dome would explode.

 What’d you think of this week’s episode? Are you still watching?

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