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Under the Dome Recap: Now Entering Frozen Donkey Wheel Territory

"Awakening" -- When Barbie enlists his father\'s help to reach out to Julia, he realizes that Don may know more about the Dome than he is letting on. Meanwhile, Big Jim appoints himself sheriff of Chester\'s Mill, on UNDER THE DOME, Monday, August 18 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured Eddie Cahill as Sam Verdreaux Photo: Best Possible Screen grab/CBS2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

"The last 5 episodes of Under the Dome totally rock," tweeted Stephen King last week. By the end of this episode — the first of the final five — I don't know if rock is the word, but we're certainly seeing some wild stuff. While we're comparing everything to Lost all the time, since there's no other way to live/to watch this show: "The Red Door" is the Under the Dome's frozen-donkey-wheel episode.

After his unauthorized domeside visit with Julia, Barbie finds himself in the custody of some shady dudes in shady uniforms and funny caps. This one lead commando — very stern, totally nondescript — is on grilling duty. They know who Barbie is, they know he escaped the inescapable dome, and they know about the magic rhythm-shaker egg, which they call a "power source," which could be accurate. Barbie knows not to play ball with these mo-fos who haven't done anything to help anyone inside the dome. (They did try, like, a nuke. That would've been super helpful if it had punctured the dome. I mean, everyone'd be dead, but they wouldn't be starring in Under the Dome!) Bad Dude McHat sucker-punches Barbie in the kidney for his lack of cooperation. They're both real tough guys.

Inside Chester's Mill — the town where every second of Under the Dome has taken place until a couple weeks ago, the town where not another second of the show need take place because everyone can probably now escape — Julia's house has an interesting new view: black-clad military men patrolling on the outer edge of the dome. Big Jim stops by to try to get Julia to admit something non-death-oriented happened with Barbie, and the Domekidz are all spooked. Norrie asks a smart question: How do they people outside the dome know about the egg? Have they been reading the recaps??

Loud, scruffy barber Dwight Lyle Yoakam is still entirely verbal after that simple, easy-to-obtain, totally-wouldn't-ever-exist-in-real-life-but-fuck-it dose of Cray-B-Gone. He's the man tasked with answering Pauline's dumbfoundingly dumb questions: "Why red? Why a door?" You painted that shit, lady! You tell us!

Instead, Junior's mom tells us this: "Art Theory 101: A door always symbolizes a way in somewhere." (Also just, like, World Theory 101?) Pauline's trying to deduce the painting they now know is super significant (why didn't she know after she painted it many many times?), but I think she secretly understands and just won't tell us 'cause she's a pro at dragging Under the Dome out as long as possible. This anything-can-and-will-happen-just-because series has me theorizing at that level. Anyway, these scenes between Lyle, Pauline, and Uncle Sam are as brutal as anything this show's got. Their next scene's rough, too: Pauline finds a red door at the ante-dome playground, but it's actually a red herring. Fish and doors, so mix-uppable!

Junior Jim and Senior Jim, Chester's Mill's finest and onliest police officers, have a truth-staredown about Barbie. Big is relieved to be back in cahoots with Little, who caves. Together they journey to the center of the dome, the abyss. I appreciate how Big Jim's What's It All Mean/What's My Purpose/Why Does the Dome Love Me So narrative this season has lead to this place where he's figuring out he was a dick to his genuinely prophetic, non-crazy wife. And now he's hoping to Moses the town into the abyss, which, despite seeming Jim Jones–y, would be the best thing Jim's ever done.

Speaking of juniors and seniors, Papa Barbie visits Baby Barbie in his new dome, which is a cube, and much smaller. Dadbie explains, bafflingly, that after the botched missile strike, the military tried to save face by, um, admitting it was out of its depth and hiring shady private contractors. (They're Blackwater, right? They're totally Blackwater.) Barbie's dad continues pushing for the egg; he acts like it's just the contractors who want it, but c'mon, everyone wants it. OH, WAIT — the contractors are Barbie's dad's private security firm. Again: Mr. Barbara is Under the Dome's Charles Widmore from Lost.

The Domekidz and Julia are holding out for a Wi-Fi signal and debating whether to throw themselves out of the dome. "Do we just stay here forever, then?" Joe asks. "At some point, 'not safe' out there might be better than 'not safe' in here." It seems like "at some point" might equal "at any point," but I guess we have to accept that there is a great unsafeness outside the dome, waiting for these innocent people.

Mr. Barbara sends Julia a Lost-y outside-to-inside/mainland-to-island vlog. Melanie knows Mr. Barbara's voice, and don't forget that her hometown is Zenith. JACK AND CLAIRE MELANIE AND BARBIE ARE BROTHER AND SISTER?! We'll see! But yes, they are, definitely. Anyway, Mr. Barbara low-key threatens Barbie's life in his message to Julia — pass the egg or accept my handsome son's grisly death. Now Melanie and the Domekidz get to debate not only jumping over the abyss, but throwing the egg into the abyss. Melanie is violently AGAINST giving up the egg, since she "died for it once" and feels like it's responsible for turning her into a teenage zombie with a new lease on life.

Running out of options, Mr. Barbara's Blackwater get brutal against Barbie. The violence here is hard to handle, not because Barbie's a TV character I love and can't live without, but because it's jarringly physical and not fun. Barbie escapes, though, so at least we're not going to 24 Torture Land.

There's a funny scene where Big Jim knows what's going in the dome 100 times more than Rebecca Sciencetree, so he blows her mind once with the "Barbie's aliiiive" news, and then again with the "there's a glowing rhythm-shaker egg" bombshell. BLAOOWWWWW. Then Jim asks for an egg-detector, which is some real Under the Dome shit. Rebecca goes straight to Julia and the Domekidz and tattles on Jim, which is good.

Since the Former Domekidz can't figure out the red-door mystery, Pauline's onto a new cryptic design — a STICK-DRAWN MUD SPIRAL. "I see symbols everywhere I turn, anything, and now it's in the form of a spiral," she says, describing the mindset of everyone working on Under the Dome.

Big Sheriff Jim saunters up to the edge of the dome, not unlike one Hank Schrader, and asks, via notepad, who's in charge. Like the cockiest Pictionary player, Jim notebook-negotiates with a representative from Mr. Barbara's Blackwater. He offers the egg in exchange for the whole town's safe escape. Officer Unfriendly shakes his head; hell no. Jim immediately downgrades his request to "me and my son," and I sadly have to wonder if he ever wanted to do the Moses thing after all. Jim's lesser request is a big 10-4. Officer U shows Jim a thermal GPS readout with the egg's location (Convenient! But seriously, how do they know about the egg? I can only come up with an explanation that gives Mr. Barbara the exact background of Charles Widmore).

Surprise: Pauline knows Hunter-Hacker and has been working with him on the Hounds of Diana's dome-exposing. Hunter was Pauline's art student, because, again, #convenience. "And this other Computer Gentleman?" Lyle asks, awesomely, stealing the episode. Oh, he's Trevor, a character we hopefully don't need to care about. Barbie busts in, rages out when he sees Sam the Slayer, and tells Pauline all about her murderer brother. Out in the hallway, Sam explains himself to Pauline like a man yelling at a deaf person because he doesn't understand that that doesn't help. "YOUR JOURNAL. MADE IT SEEM LIKE.  THOSE FOUR KIDS. WERE SOMEHOW. MAKING IT. HAPPEN." Pauline makes sure Sam never touched a proverbial hair on Junior's actual head, and glumly, randomly decides that she and Sam must return to Chester's Mill to "atone" for their "sins." Yep — best way to make everything better is to return to the town where you faked your death, abandoned your husband and son, and murdered one or maybe two young women, guys. (Still unclear if Sam killed Melanie, especially after this week.) They'll be thrilled to have you back in their stress-free situation.

Notice how all the insanity has been written out of Junior's personality? It's almost like if you're super handsome, you can't be a psychopath for too long. Especially if there's a love interest like Melanie kicking around. Notice how, during their intense egg-protecting walk together, Junior and Melanie's hands are overlapped, occasionally bumping, but not quite ready to hold each other? Hashtag subtlety. 

Groan: "Big Jim Rennie doesn't know what it's like to love anybody but himself," Julia says to Big Jim Rennie's face. The third person hurts, Julia! Jim tries countering by bringing up what a great dad and husband he's been. He's bummed that the egg has disappeared again and that he won't get to go on a Zenith vacation with his boy.

Barbie, Pauline, Sam, Lyle, and Hunter-Hacker sneak into Mr. Barbara's compound/Barbie's childhood home, where the fated red door leads to a small cellar room. There's a door that "wasn't there before," according to Barbie — the fivesome heads into the cobwebs.

THIS IS WHERE THINGS GET CRAZY. First of all, the sucker-punchy Blackwater guy goes into the basement and there's no door. The room's empty, undisturbed. So only certain people can see the entrance/exit routes to the dome? Not sure, because there's no time to think about it when a dusty smoke-spiral is flinging itself through the Styrofoam cave and straight into Uncle Sam's face, giving him a fuzzy vision. In it, Sam's conversing with Junior after Pauline's death. Junior loved his uncle so much that he thought he was going to live with him instead of his dad. So, good job not seeing your nephew for all the years between that moment and the dome coming down, Sam. You've always been a great person.

Barbie's smoke-vision is the biggest part of the episode. On the day Barbie put a yellow handprint on the red door everyone just walked through, MELANIE WAS THERE, looking exactly like she does now. She and 6-year-old Barbie seem familiar with each other, but Barbie asks why she's "only here today," and if she'll come back. Melanie's mom wanted her to meet Barbie, and she says they'll reunite one day. WHAT IS HAPPENING? Did Melanie die after all? Doesn't seem like it, because the red door leads to Lake Domo! Which is where Melanie emerged/"came back to life" in the season-two premiere, thrashing and gasping. (She had amnesia, though. These guys don't.) Pauline's obnoxiously opaque vision features Melanie in the original egg-pit. "This is where it began, and this is where it ends — for all of us," Melanie monotones. 

"Did any of you guys see stuff?" Barbie asks his fellow Chester's Mill arrivals. "I coudn't see crap," says Hunter. (This kind of dialogue is why Under the Dome took home 12 Emmys last night. Wait, maybe I'm confused and that didn't and won't ever happen.) Hunter is for some reason excited to be under the dome with some people he barely knows. "Buckle up, kid — it's about to get a lot weirder," Sam tells him/us.

In another small cellar room, Junior and Melanie hide the egg and cozy up at last. "It's so peaceful down here," Melanie says. Too bad she couldn't get to know Angie better — they could've had a nice debate about the relative peacefulness of the bomb shelter. Since, you know, Junior violently, insanely held Angie prisoner there, what, less than three weeks ago?

Just outside the bomb shelter, Pauline enters the Rennie homestead, her old home. And there's Big Jim, who doesn't break down, doesn't lunge out to strangle, but just says, "Pauline?" Yes, buddy. Pauline.

Minutes From the Town Meetin'

More Lost: Hunter is a combination Daniel Faraday/Miles Straume figure, from the personality to the function he serves to the fact that he's a latecomer to the island/dome.

• The magical, suddenly appearing doors subplot reminds me of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, where that kind of stuff is critical. Maybe this was intentional.

• More sagacity from the comments section. Says commenter Stealie: "I don't think I've ever hate-watched a show the way I hate-watch this show. Actually, it's more of a love/hate-hate-watch, because it reminds me of the utter CRAP they churned out on TV when I was a teenager/20-something back in the '70s and '80s. Then, of course, we had very few alternatives, so the fact that I'm choosing to waste my time on this ridiculous show is a bit disturbing. Then I get the warm fuzzies, remembering the hours of wasted time spent watching Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, or The A-Team." Well said.

• And a little more, from commenter NYCWatcher: "When did medical care in Chester's Mill get so excellent? At the end of last season, Julia was shot and unconscious in a mini-hospital that lost its doctors outside the Dome. She quickly and fully recovered. Phil quickly and fully recovers from a gunshot to the torso. Not only recovers, but seems to have developed extra strength to demolish the windmill, undetected. Yet poor Barbie is stuck in Zenith nursing the wounds from his cave fight with Sam who seems fully recovered from that cave fight and his deep scratches from Angie. And when did Chester's Mill's cleaning industry develop? Everyone wears such clean and freshly pressed clothes."

• Another thing to remember, while we're back in the bomb shelter of terror: Barbie started this show out as a real not-upstanding guy … who killed Julia's husband. She then found out about this days later, continued sleeping with/loving/doing anything for Barbie, and has since, in less than three weeks, completely forgotten about dead Mr. Shumway and all that murder business.

• You might presume the opposite effect, but every week I watch and think about and write about this show, I want to reread Under the Dome. What's everyone's read count on that thing? Any two-timers? More? It's definitely worth a second look.

• Everyone on this show is so incredibly made-up and put-together every week — why are they letting Rebecca Pine go onscreen every week with a spotty complexion?

• Speaking of revisiting: I don't know if I'm going to be able to enjoy Dean Norris's performance on Breaking Bad the same way after all this Dome-ing. I can't even remember if he was good in BrBa anymore. I want to believe, but ...

Photo: CBS