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Under the Dome Recap: Beneath the Planet of the Dome

"In The Dark" -- When Barbie and Sam set out to investigate a mysterious tunnel, a cave-in severs their path back to Chester\'s Mill. Meanwhile, Julia and Big Jim face off in a struggle for power as a dust storm rages in the town, on UNDER THE DOME, Monday, August 4 (10:00 -- 11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.   Pictured (L-R)Grace Victoria Cox  as Melanie Cross, Mackenzie Lintz    as Norrie Calvert-Hill Colin Ford  as Joe McAlister and Alexander Koch  as Junior Rennie Photo: Brownie Harris/CBS2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If ever Under the Dome needed to totally bring it, it was this week. You don't just end on a Lost-style hatch shot without having something big in store. And there was something big — for Uncle Sam, at least. Everyone else, and the overall mythology of the series? Still on hold.

I'll give Under the Dome this: It doesn't make us wait for the trip into Chester's Mill's personal Carcosa. Down the locker-hatch we go, into the center of … the high-school basement. BOOOOOO!! Alright, I take it back. I can't be booing this early. We'll see what happens. Inside the haunted high-school basement. (I mean, it better be haunted.)

But first, a check-in at the Sweetbriar Rose. Apparently Barbie did take the sheriff gig last week? Didn't seem like it — at all — but we'll go with it. (Monarch + sheriff = No. 1 power couple on Forbes' next list. Go #Jarbie.) Norrie and Joe are continuing to feud about that goddamn Twilight kiss Joe shared with Melanie. And since teen love is fickle, Norrie temporarily takes hers away from Joe.

The only thing worse than Under the Dome thinking we dig its janky Problem of the Week setup is it giving us a Weather Formation/Natural Disaster of the Week instead. So far we've had mystery rain, acid-blood rain, darkness spells, and magnet mania, all in just 19 episodes. So bring on the DUST! The effects are on par with The Wizard of Oz (1939) in its pre-twister moments. It's so worth it toward the episode's end, though, if only for the shots of Dusty Junior, Dust Norrie, and Dusty Mel. I LOL'd.

"I appreciate you looking after me, but Lyle's dying today," Junior tells (Secret Murderer) Uncle Sam in the tunnel. Time out on that for a second: Lyle, with who knows what tools, set up a surprisingly lethal mousetrap in the caverns. (If you didn't chuckle as the Styrofoam rafters and boulders came thunking down, you're not really living.) Barbie risks his life for Junior, and then Sam risks his life for Barbie. It's hard keeping track of how many times these scoundrels and killers redeem and un-redeem themselves.

Exploring on the other side of the rubble, Barbie tries an idea characters on this show are often banned from having: asking and saying what needs to be asked and said. Why didn't Sam tell anyone about Melanie being a zombie from the 1980s? Oh, wait — THANKS FOR ASKING, BUT YOU'RE ABOUT TO FALL INTO A HOLE THAT NEVER ENDS. Next time, just keep quiet, Barbie. Unless you've got another line as good as this one: "I don't like you hangin' around Julia, 'cause I think you're shady as hell. But right now, we're both stuck on some cliff, so how boutcha shut up."

Where is it exactly that the Domekidz 2.0 (unless Lyle/Sam/Melanie/Pauline were the original Domekidz — then we're at 3.0) find Joe? Did Angie have an apartment in town? Because the McAlister family home got leveled a few episodes ago in the magnetpocalypse. Wherever they are, they leave and go directly to the spot on the lake where Julia dropped the magic rhythm-shaker egg. The Domekidz do their Captain Planet move and summon the egg back into the plot.

Dude-man Benny (real name: JOHN ELVIS) is back for the first time this season, and it's good to see him. I can't even be mad he didn't think twice before going out in the dustbowl with his asthma, because that is soooo Benny, bro. Big Jim uses the town's love of Benny to get Boss Science's windmill plan underway. Together they assemble a rustic, large-scale version of one of those spray-bottle fans you buy at Disney World. It quells the Weather Formation/Natural Disaster of the Week. I was worried!

With just minutes on the scoreboard, the Domekidz initiate an egg-touching session and ignite a wonderful, meaningless flurry of pink stars. And there's the Obelisk of Zenith, equally meaningless, equally pink. I haven't had high hopes for learning about the Hounds of Diana, or Junior's mom, or what it means for Julia to be the Monarch, or anything, really. Still, I'd prefer all-out silence to these bland nudges — Eh, eh, remember this thing you don't know anything about and won't know anything about for a long time, maybe forever?! We'll see. Next week we'll cross the halfway point for season two. Maybe the pace will pick up.

We get a little of Rebecca's backstory while she and Julia cook up a bomb. She was primed to be a superstar at Cornell before her dad got sick — and even science couldn't save him. Then Rebecca and Julia yell one time, quickly, for Barbie and Sam to back away from the impending detonation.

In the cave, Barbie gets a human moment, reminiscing about the people he's killed and whether he'll face them again in the afterlife. Suddenly he notices Sam's scratchy shoulder, and Sam reacts like the guiltiest man in the universe. And he actually confesses! It's a great scene, honestly. Not so great, though? Barbie's ethics as sheriff. "I am taking you in. And your justice is gonna be whatever Junior does to you once he finds out." Sam loses interest in murdering the Domekidz and hops into the abyss; his six-episode run has come to an end, friends. (Unless he's coming back? Yeahhh, he's coming back.) Till next time, here's a final shot identical to last week's final shot, only it's an ever BIGGER hole.

Minutes from the Town Meetin'

Under the Dome added four medium-to-big characters this season — Rebecca Pine, Sam Verdreaux, Zombie Melanie, and Lyle Yoakam. So why is every week still an uninspired power struggle between Big Jim and Team Jarbie?

"I left the love of my life in a hole, like garbage. And now she's back." Another perfect Dome sentence.

Barbie's intensity is exhausting. Week after week with the scowling and the yelling! Have a cup of tea, guy!

"So who the hell went into the school basement and dug a tunnel? And why?" New questions for the endless list, courtesy of Rebecca Science.

"What're you even doing here, nobody called you." When it comes to the Big Jim/Junior scenes, Alexander Koch's got that surly teenager attitude down.

When it started to look like Melanie and Junior might kiss, I wondered if she'd been secretly looking for a soul to suck through a mouth. How else would kissing be such a priority to this newly undead girl?

I blasted through the first six episodes of The Leftovers over the weekend. While I'm still not sure it's a Great Show, it definitely stomps Under the Dome in terms of creating a small-town atmosphere where everything's just a little bit off in the wake of a supernatural event. Tons of points for the music, too. Under the Dome needs a better composer.

Photo: Brownie Harris/CBS