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Under the Dome Recap: We Have to Go Back

"Going Home" -- When Barbie descends into the unknown abyss in the mysterious tunnel to look for Sam, he discovers a world that is familiar but filled with unanswered questions, on UNDER THE DOME, Monday, August 11 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured (L-R)   Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway, Mike Vogel as Dale "Barbie" Barbara Photo: Brownie Harris/CBS©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I planned to start this recap with a delighted bit about how I'm finally unwittingly thrilled to watch Under the Dome each week. I'm not counting down the days till the new episode yet, but by Monday, I'm ready for more. The now officially endless mysteries, the pulpy, silly rhythms, the character dynamics — they're all getting familiar and intriguing and even addictive enough for Under the Dome to, at long last, feel like a weekly habit that isn't completely unhealthy. 

And then the news of Robin Williams's absolutely tragic death came a few hours before showtime, and Under the Dome felt like a silly afterthought, especially as my eyes kept flicking to my wife's laptop screen, where the delights of Hook were unfolding. I've always experienced the Domekidz — one of my favorite elements of this series — as Spielberg Lite, with the wonderment, the curiosity, the adventure-lust. But they're more like Spielberg Lite Lite Super Lite, if you've actually been anywhere near a Spielberg movie recently. Those kids in Hook are so good, and Williams seems like the most vital and mystified child of them all.

This is a hard night, and I'm rambling. I just don't want to proceed without saying: Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. Thank you for literally everything. I hope your story can help us help each other through our battles with mental illness. I know your work will keep kids and adults laughing and crying for as long as we're watching stories on screens.

Now let's try to do Under the Dome ...

While Barbie was fending off nightmares about Sam's dip into the abyss, Junior and Melanie spent the night cozied up together. (Inevitable couple alert.) The Domekidz wake up and serve us this little exchange for breakfast:

Norrie: "Did the egg do anything else last night?"
Junior: "Uh, not since it showed us the obelisk from Zenith."
Melanie: "Which is so weird. Why would it show us something from my hometown?"
Norrie: "Your hometown is Barbie's hometown. That has to mean something."

Oh, Under the Dome. Any time you want to stop holding our hands, we're ready. Let us fly! Please! We pay attention, we know what happened one episode ago, we know all about the town you've been teasing us with for six episodes.

Next up: Junior has to hear the sad news that his uncle killed Angie and also killed himself. If you didn't know Junior was going to deny all that and shout "YOU'RE LYING!" then you don't know Under the Dome well enough quite yet.

But there are actually has some real surprises in store tonight. Barbie decides that retrieving Sam's clearly irretrievable body is essential so that Junior can feel better. Great! Let's do this! The police department has all the necessary spelunking equipment? Of course it does! Back to the hole, where the compass goes bonkers like it's on the island from Lost!

"The darkness, I think I'm gettin' closer to it," Barbie says cryptically, nonsensically, or just existentially as he heads into the abyss beneath Chester's Mill High School. And suddenly Rachel Lefevre and Mike Vogel are putting in their most grueling emotional work yet, as Barbie gives up on his exploration 30 seconds in and cuts the rope. (He feels like something's physically pulling him down.) Julia wails the wail of a thousand banshees, and Rebecca Pine can't even science away the pain.

Between Barbie's status as a main main character, the title of this episode ("Going Home"), and the deliberately opaque nature of the abyss, it's clear Barbie's gone somewhere else rather than to A Better Place. Which means ditto for Uncle Sam, which means I was wrong to bid adieu to him last week, and for that, I apologize. But seriously, this show has done the unthinkable, taking several characters out of the dome mid–season two. I'm impressed enough to give this episode five stars. It's the boldest thing the series has done. Go, Dome, go!

In a playground Somewhere in America, probably Zenith — wait, no, definitely Zenith — lies a confused Dale Barbara, who's sharp enough to realize and accept that he's been magically transported out of Chester's Mill. Due to a major writing flub or just a dumb stroke of coincidence, Sam Verdreaux walks the streets of Zenith right near the dazed Barbie, despite their having fallen into the abyss a day apart. At Davison Psychiatric Institute, Sam tracks down Junior's mother and his own sister, Pauline, who's doing art therapy. Cue tearful reunion. Cue also a trip to see Lyle the Insane Barber, who made it out of the dome but can now only say "Melanie."

It's impossibly exciting, knowing that we're going to have a Chester's Mill plot and a Zenith plot every week now (or for at least a few weeks). Sure, it doesn't free us from bland sibling banter and irritating Barbie the Enforcer subplots, but still: Who knew how claustrophobic it was getting inside that dome? Each new piece of scenery is wonderful. I might already like Zenith more than Chester's Mill.

Back in the Mill, Rebecca breaks her promise to Julia and tells Jim that Barbie's "dead." Jim holds a vigil for the man he tried, just days ago, to murder for, I think, "treason." (Not to mention the townspeople rallying around — and praying with! — Jim something like two days after they were calling for his blood.) In the hole, Joe pilots a drone (very #trendy) into the abyss. The signal vanishes quickly (again: Lost), but there's a quick flash of the playground that nobody notices because nobody knows what they're looking for. Luckily, Joe catches it on a replay.

I didn't really realize Under the Dome is kind of a soap opera until Barbie's dad showed up. Pops is the head of Aktaion Energy, a company named after a Greek hero who was torn apart by dogs. Makes sense, then, that the shadowy Hounds of Diana are plastering signs on Aktaion billboards. Do they know something we don't? Does Barbie's dad have some involvement with the dome, Charles Widmore–style? He does give Barbie one of those classic Lost-y lines, saying, "Everything I've done in business has been for the island our family."

Just like we got a big dramatic ending set to M83 last year, we've got Coldplay's "Midnight" scoring the end of "Going Home." In the high-school hole, the rhythm-shaker egg projects its florescent pinkness into the abyss, painting the Zenith skyline. In the woods near Barbie Senior's property, Papa says he'll do his best to get Barbie to the dome's edge despite the area being under heavy military supervision. And there, as the cliff-hanger of the week, in the ground, tucked between the trees, is the fated red door with a Domekid handprint on it. 

Minutes From the Town Meetin'

If you have a spouse with a nickname like Big Jim and you call him Big Jim instead of just Jim, speak now. Otherwise, Pauline is BOGUS.

When Junior asks why Big Jim always has to make everything about himself, I wondered for a second if Jimbo would delve into his past and help us understand why he is the way he is. Ha! Nice try, optimism.

It's starting to seem like the only purpose of the obelisk is to be a visual signifier. It might just be Zenith's Empire State Building, not its four-toed statue.

What exactly does it mean for Julia to be the Monarch? Remember how much of season one was devoted to that crap, and now nothing?

I somehow missed this earlier this year, but Brian K. Vaughan, the Lost veteran who adapted Stephen King's novel for TV, was heavily involved in season one, and also wrote the all-time great graphic novel Y: The Last Man and is currently penning another classic, Sagaleft Under the Dome before season two! "It was the great thrill of my life to help adapt one of the best books ever from my all-time hero, but I’ve got two very young kids at home who I never got to see last season, so I’m enormously grateful to CBS and Amblin for letting me out of my contract a little early," he wrote. "As for the future, it’s been a huge honor to get work in film and television over the last few years, and I’m open to doing more down the line, but right now, I’d just like to concentrate on comics. Other than my family, nothing brings me more joy than making new shit, and I think there’s still no better visual medium to tell original stories than comics."

And the finest comment of the season so far, from HughG16 on last week's recap: "The Lesson Of This Show is not that we can all survive together under a dome. It's that there is a Realm Beyond Hatewatching. It is beyond pain. It is beyond pleasure. And it is definitely beyond the reach of any acting teachers." Completely agree. Stay with me in this new realm, friends. It's inexplicably fun here.

Photo: Brownie Harris/CBS