Hi y’all. It’s raining plagues in Chester’s Mill but we’re in the midst of a Carolyn drought, so this is going to be a brief recap just to keep you caught up.
Last week, Junior found Angie’s bracelet under his cot and assumed he must have killed her, which in real life would be a valid assumption but in TV land, means somebody is playing mind games with him. The mystery lake girl continued to have zero clues about her own origins, which nobody found more suspicious than Norrie, who feared the competition for Joe’s affection. The town began to suffer a series of pseudo-biblical plagues, which (shocker) Big Jim believed were sent to test his moral fiber. More shocking was the fact that cutie science teacher Rebecca Pine went along with his delusions of grandeur. She also dropped a serious buzzkill about how “people are going to die” because “there’s not enough food.” Why don’t you take your science and get out of my Dome, Rebecca. Oh right, you can’t.
This week, Big Jim and Rebecca set up a town census, in which citizens are asked questions such as “Do you have a family history of illness?” and “How much food, on average, do you consume in a day?”
“Do you perform a useful occupation or are you, like, a TV recapper?”
We also meet a new character, Lyle the town barber, who does that creepy thing where he shaves Big Jim’s neck and you get the feeling he’s about a second away from slitting his throat. It turns out they both once competed for the love of Pauline, Big Jim’s wife and Junior’s mom. Lyle is played by Dwight Yoakam, whose dramatic chops and charisma are desperately needed in Chester’s Mill, who has felt a little flat after the loss of Linda and Angie.
LIFEHACK: NEVER TRUST YOUR EX’S EX WITH YOUR NAKED NECK.
But the true star of this episode, folks, is the Microsoft Surface Tablet, in the most egregious product placement since Emily Fields got her BEAUTIFUL TOYOTA. Joe, Norrie, and the mystery lake girl all go the high school, where their “WONDERFUL PIECES OF MACHINERY” (direct quote) suddenly begin receiving emails. Junior is there, searching for clues about whether or not he killed Angie, and he gets an email from his still-alive mom. She’s like, “Hey, by now you’ve probably figured out that I’m still alive” and Junior is like “Um nope, I’m actually sort of a moron.” She tells him that the only person he can trust is Lyle the barber. Lyle, the menacing, vindictive, ideologically-driven barber. So it’s clear, if nothing else, that Pauline has a very definite type. (Incidentally, Pauline’s screenname is “Hounds of Diana,” whose main mythological deal was ripping dudes apart for watching Diana bathe, so.) Anyway, before she can say anything else, the magic wifi cuts out, though everyone makes it clear that this is not the fault of the OBSCENELY USEFUL MICROSOFT TABLETS.
WHATEVER, I STILL WANT AN IPAD.
But all investigations are halted by the arrival of this week’s plague: blood-red acid rain. Lyle is like, “GOD IS PUNISHING US!” but Rebecca is like “Um excuse me, it’s probably just algae that’s turned red and toxic from all the shit we’ve dumped into our water supply.” Lyle is like “I’m a REAL American. Science is for Communists.” And man, if I were still an intellectually overeager undergrad, I could really dig in to the politics of Under the Dome, especially this week’s census paranoia and the ongoing science v. religion war, made even more interesting because Julia is a much more likeable character than Rebecca. (At least to me, but I may be blinded by her hair.)
But science v. religion plays out very dramatically this week when Lyle kidnaps Rebecca and leaves Big Jim stranded out in the acid blood rain. Lyle takes Rebecca into his woodshed and ties he to a chair. He brings in a bowl of the blood rain (and while this show’s writers frequently fall asleep at the wheel, the photography is always on point, even when it’s something as simple as a chipped ceramic bowl). Rather than find out what he intends to do with said acid, Rebecca tries to engage him in a little theological debate.
She holds strong until he starts pouring the acid down her neck, and then she’s like “HALLELUJAH I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT. DEATH TO SCIENCE.”
Luckily, before she has to go completely Galileo, Barbie, Julia, and Junior burst in to save her (well, Junior is there to talk to Lyle about what his mom said, but will save Rebecca as long as he’s there). Julia seems to be talking him down, but that doesn’t stop Rebecca from throwing the bowl of acid rain on his face. I have mixed feelings about this because:
On the opposite end of that dynamic, Norrie hates the mystery girl precisely because she doesn’t want to lose Joe.
When their magical wifi cuts out, they trace the signal to the locker where Angie was killed. To everyone’s surprise, mystery girl walks straight up to the locker and twirls in the combination like she’s known it all her life. The locker is empty, but Angie finds her knowledge of the combination deeply suspicious. But Joe has the idea to check the records on who has had that locker or the last 50 years. WAIT. STOP. TIRE SCREECH. There is no way that any public high school in America, where they can barely keep track of which teachers are pervs, has a locker record. But whatever, on the list they find the name Melanie Cross, a girl from the ’80s whose yearbook picture looks exactly like mystery girl. So I guess we can call her Melanie now. I wonder if the original Melanie disappeared at the same time as Junior’s mom.
Then, because no problem in Chester’s Mill is permitted to last beyond a single episode, Rebecca fixes the rain by dumping the lake full of Purell. It causes selectively permanent damage: for example all the town’s pigs are DEAD, but Big Jim’s face—which was out in the rain for an equally long time—is FINE.
Back at the diner, Rebecca breaks the news that the rain destroyed a great deal of their already limited resources. So she finally comes clean about what the census was really for: a contingency plan in case they need to “thin the herd.” Julia is so outraged by this that she stomps out. Barbie, on the other hand, is willing to listen, which might just be the final nail in the coffin of Julia and Barbie’s couplehood. And Big Jim, of course, is delighted to finally be granted ultimate power over life and death. For my part, this is the first interesting plotline UTD has served up this season: a question with no easy answers. And while you can’t deny the fact that Chester’s Mill is about to run up against a huge resource shortage, putting government in charge of assigning value to human life is obviously reminiscent of the darkest moments in human history.
Finally this week, Junior’s uncle visits Lyle in jail and they back-and-forth about some big secret they’re sharing, which probably has to do with Angie or Pauline or Melanie or some other mysteriously disappeared girl.
See you next week, with the promise of friction between Juila and Big Jim and the hope that we will finally see Carolyn again.