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Under the Dome Recap: Barb Shot the Sheriff

"Reconciliation" -- Julia takes over as the leader of Chester\'s Mill after the town becomes divided in the wake of Big Jim and Rebecca\'s plans for population control.  Meanwhile, Joe and Norrie help Melanie search for more clues about her identity at the Dome wall, on UNDER THE DOME, Monday, July 28 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured (L-R) Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway and Mike Vogel as Dale "Barbie" Barbara  Photo: Brownie Harris/CBS2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I'm not sure how I can watch Under the Dome so closely — too closely, some/all might say — without realizing last week that the scratches on Uncle Sam's shoulder clearly came from Angie's bloody fingernails. Major flub, to not even imagine that as a possibility until days later. In my defense, this show doesn't exactly condition us to seek out logical explanations. I figured Uncle Sam's Scratchy Shoulder was just the latest brand-new mystery along a never-ending trail.

But it's not! Uncle Sam, patriotic moniker and all, is an ax-murderer. That mild-mannered, alcoholic former medical professional killed Angie, and he'll kill the other Domekidz if he gets the chance. First, though, we've gotta sit through Barbie and Julia's latest, as the title says, "reconciliation," and dig into some town politics.

Under the Dome doesn't offer us too many scenes or images that make me exclaim something joyful, but Big Jim behind bars comes pretty close. He's committed so many stupid, mean actions and stopped us from getting answers so many times that he deserves to sit with his hunger and self-righteous anger for at least a few hours. Plus, jail gives Big Jim pinkeye, which is great.

The non-trial of Rebecca and Big Jim is too boring and pointless to really even discuss. Carolyn, who's been God knows where doing who knows what, is selected to legally represent the schemers. "Everything I did, I did for the island this town," Big Jim growls. Jim's fans and foes, gathered at the gazebo/courthouse, get riled up to the point where they're ambiguously grappling with each other. Some anonymous lug pulls a gun. Fortunately, DJ Sheriff Philly Phil is here — qualified, talented, and professional as ever — to neutralize the threat with a quick and reasonable bullet to the heart. It's truly stupefying, the things people will do for Big Jim.

Phil has definitely never murdered anyone but he literally shrugs off the deed and, at Julia's insistence, gives up the job he's trained for his entire life. Julia, who trusts Barbie 12 hours of each day and distrusts him the other 12, wants Barbie to take over for Phil. Nice try. Barbie knows the position has a horrible retention rate and an even worse benefits package. 

Junior and Uncle Sam, code name Team H.A.N.D.S.O.M.E., are on the hunt for Lyle the Batshit Barber. Sam tells Junior that his mother didn't only have visions of pink stars and dark doors — she saw the dome coming. "She used to say, 'Four hands will hold up the dome, and without them it will fall,'" Sam says. Either I'm imagining the murderous glint in Sam's eyes or Junior is just totally missing it, so Junior goes ahead and tells Sam who the remaining three hands are. Sam's kill list is now full. (Who else got an immediate vision of Big Jim murdering Uncle Sam and saving Junior in the nick of time, causing a tearful father/son reunion?) 

"I just found out I died; I can't just sit around and do nothing," Melanie tells Joe and Norrie. It's been a while since we've done some dome-touching, so Domekidz co-presidents Norrie and Joe take Domekidz trainee Melanie to place her hand upon the structure of destiny. Nothing happens, but Norrie is mean to Melanie and Joe and Melanie kiss in the woods because #teens. I typically love the Domekidz and think they're one of the best parts of the series, but this love triangle is a menace. I mean, Jim and Melanie's kiss didn't even incite a seizure or a vision or even a minor inexplicable cataclysm, and it evidently had zero significance for Joe. Why even go there, buddy? Your girlfriend's mom died a few days ago, and you don't even know if Melanie's a zombie or a ghost or what. Or was that part of the attraction?

Just as a visually and emotionally interesting moment kindles between Rebecca and Jim in their cells, a sauced Philly Phil pedals in on the plot tricycle. Jim butters up the newly unemployed marksman, telling him he's the best sheriff in the town's history rather than the worst sheriff in human history. The tricycle rolls toward … something. 

Who is the Chester's Mill mob, anyway? One day they're amen-ing Big Jim in the church, then they're out for his blood, then they're donating tons of food in a town of vicious scarcity immediately after hollering about how they wouldn't do that exact thing. (Maybe they're all #teens?) Not that the food drive matters — just as Barbie discovers a bunch of empty boxes, everything goes kablowie, like REALLY kablowie.  It's one of the better Dome setpieces, and certainly one of the most surprising. There was no way to expect this or to process it in real time. It's a haymaker: A huge portion of the town's food has been savagely detonated.

That'll turn out not to be true, but for a moment things seem dire. Finally, a problem that won't be solved inside of 42 minutes! Unless that Andrea lady's entire house is packed with deus ex machina snacks courtesy of her end-times-fearing husband! Julia dubs Rebecca and Big Jim's plot "inexcusable but not unforgivable," which is fine. But what is both inexcusable and unforgivable — and also unbearable, and laughable — is this show's insistence on this shitty Problem of the Week format. How are we supposed to get anywhere this way?

Carolyn's reason for emerging from the background becomes clear as she discovers that Phil and some random yokels stashed the food away and orchestrated the explosion. (Should I even waste the keystrokes to ponder how quickly this terrorism came together?) Since Under the Dome's been dangerously low on television's Brutal Violence Toward Women Quota, Phil and his hick buddy slam Carolyn around and subdue her. Barbie hasn't gotten to rage out yet this season, so he gets the opportunity to take out Phil's entire new gang and save Carolyn. We won't talk about how Barbie faced a devastatingly similar hostage situation just two episodes ago with Lyle and Rebecca. Wait, oops.

Junior, real drunk, wakes up just before getting pillow-killed by Uncle Sam. Love, it turns out, is Sam's weakness. He cannot murder someone who harbors that specific feeling toward him. Can Rebecca maybe collect a few of Sam's hairs and science up a love potion for Norrie and Joe? Perhaps after the Sweetbriar Rose Thanksgiving love-fest is finished.

At the high school, right before Rebecca can do science on Melanie and Joe's blood samples, there arises such a clatter. It's Sam and Junior, busting into the empty locker with Angie's bloody hand print. And, voilà, the locker is the hatch from Lost. Next week: journey to the center of the dome! Hopefully Desmond is down there! 

Minutes From the Town Meetin'

This is a very specific note, but I'm going for it: I visited New Hampshire for the Keene Pumpkin Festival right after reading Under the Dome in 2009. (Delightful event, lovely town.) There was a nice gazebo there, and while the whole town made me think of Chester's Mill, the gazebo really seemed like something straight out of Stephen King's novel. So it was funny to see Julia and Barbie holding court on an almost-identical gazebo in this episode.

"Reconciliation" opens on an eyeball, because this will always, always be Lost Lite.

"Maybe benevolence isn't such a bad quality in a leader," Rebecca tells Jim. No writer on Under the Dome has ever heard been fortunate enough to hear a human speak to another human. 

The Painting of the Week — officially a season-two franchise — depicts the Obelisk of Zenith and another reference to 1821.

Kids aren't still saying mack. They just aren't.

Barbie's beard-manicure game is becoming a thing of awe and beauty, and Julia's one of the only other people who's continually able to maintain such a high standard of personal grooming. This tells me they will always end up back together.

And on the Domekidz Bloodquest, Norrie pops off with a meta line about how many of the show's mysteries are actually dead ends. Cool/weird?

Photo: Brownie Harris/CBS