Big Jim takes Barbie on a manhunt, while Junior searches for a way out

By Darren Franich
Updated July 09, 2013 at 05:02 AM EDT
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Things continue trending downwards in the happy town of Chester’s Mill. One cop killed another cop — accidentally, maybe. The angry mob cares about semantics. In last week’s episode, the whole town came together to put out a fire. At the start of last night’s episode, the whole town came together looking to start some trouble. Deputy Linda led off-the-reservation Deputy Paul into jail, flanked an angry crowd of townspeople. Deputy Paul insisted that he wasn’t at fault: “It was the Dome that did it to Freddy!” Big Jim questioned whether Linda was up for managing the crisis. (The tiny police force has shed 75% of its employees in the last three days.)

Someone threw a glass bottle at Deputy Paul. Big Jim gave another one of his famous speeches. He’s the town’s only remaining councilman; he won’t stand for frontier justice; he called the townspeople “Friends,” in the tone of voice that suggested he was going to finish that statement with “…Romans, Countrymen!”

The mob dispersed. Inside the jail, Deputy Paul insisted from inside the jail cell that it wasn’t his fault. It was the Dome, he tells ya, the Dome! Then he started coughing. Linda went inside to check on him, and he clocked her — than he ran off, locking her up with a warning. “It’s going to kill us all,” he said, “If the town doesn’t kill me first.”

Across town, Big Jim and his son were having a father-son chat. Big Jim was concerned that his son wasn’t taking advantage of the possibilities of Dome life. “People are looking to me to lead, to stand up like a man does. It reflects poorly when my son is AWOL. This situation is an opportunity.” All Junior’s life, Big Jim has been providing for him. He got his son on the football team. Who cares if Junior didn’t want to play football — that’s what a man plays. Big Jim asked him what happened to his face, and Junior said Barbie beat him up. Jim was angry, but not at Barbie. “Nine years since your mother died, and it still looks like you’re hiding behind her skirt.”

Junior doesn’t have the most positive relationship with his father, is the vibe you’re getting. This may explain (without excusing) why Junior seems to think the right move in a calamity is to imprison his girlfriend in the nuclear bunker out back. But Angie isn’t just sitting idly. She found a radio, so she’s getting information from the outside. And she came up with a plan for getting out. Junior thinks the Dome caused all of this? Thinks the Dome made her crazy? Thinks he’s protecting her? She gave him a suggestion: “Has anyone tried going under it?” She reminded him about the cement factory tunnels; she started talking about the old days, when they went down there; she was flirting with him, using his psycho-puppydog devotion and maybe directing it into something positive. Maybe she was just hoping he’d die in those tunnels. If that’s a worst-case scenario, it’s not so bad.

Back up top, the non-bunker portions of Chester’s Mill weren’t looking so bad on Day Three. Big Jim wrapped things up with his co-conspirator, Reverend Coggins. The bills of sale for the propane all burned down in Duke’s house. “The only files left that can implicate us in this drug business are right here,” said Jim, pointing at his head and the Reverend’s head, the implication being that the Reverend’s head could disappear if it had to. Meanwhile, Barbie and Julia started asking each other questions. How did Barbie just happen to be in Chester’s Mill when the Dome came down? And how did Julia Shumway, who comes off like a big-city reporter who keeps Woodward & Bernstein Bobblehead Dolls on her desk, wind up in a tiny Maine burg? All questions were forestalled; Barbie caught sight of DJ Phil Bushey and decided to go visit the diner. (Mystery Spot Check: Now we know for sure that Big Jim, Reverend Coggins, and Sheriff Duke were involved in some drug business. Is Barbie connected to that somehow — and does that mean Julia’s husband was, too? Was the DJ involved? If we’re tracking this out, does this mean that representatives from the local political, law-enforcement, religious, medical, and media institutions were all involved? Is Walter White hiding in the forest, cooking blue meth for Chester’s Mill?)

Cracks are starting to form in the Chester’s Mill facade. At the Sweetbriar Rose, a couple of barfly-looking toughs were hanging out. One of them was played by Leon Rippy, who was Tom Nuttall on Deadwood. (I mention this just because it’s a sin not to mention when you spot someone from Deadwood.) Carolyn came by to ask if they’d seen her daughter, Norrie; she flashed a picture of the whole family together. The good old boys blanched. “My partner and I are a same sex couple with a child,” she said. “What’re you doing here in Chester’s Mill, anyway?” asked Barfly #1, in an accusing tone. When she said they were taking Norrie to a private school, Barfly #2 knew what she was talking about. “The girl’s reformatory!” he said. “Think they can pray the gay out of her?” That just about started a fight going right there; Rose came over to deflate things a little bit, but that’s the kind of nasty, brutish sentiment that looks liable to explode as the bad days pass in Chester’s Mill.

NEXT: Big Jim introduces himselfBig Jim waltzed into the Sweetbriar Rose. He had an announcement to make. Deputy Paul was missing. He was going to the Blackridge Woods; he stole a rifle, and some provisions from the department store. (Big Jim had let Deputy Linda out of jail himself — and once again told her, flat-out, that she maybe wasn’t fit to keep the peace.) The two barflies offered to join the search party. Big Jim introduced himself officially to Barbie. He noticed his busted knuckles. He asked if he was a bounty hunter. He told Barbie that Deputy Paul was a man not to be trifled with — marine, two tours in Iraq, one silver star. He asked Barbie if he was in or out, and out didn’t seem like an option.

You know who’s enjoying Dome Life even more than Big Jim? The kids. The local teenaged population spent the evening at a local skateboarding park. (You can see the CBS showing on Under the Dome sometimes; I didn’t know kids hung out in skateboard parks after 1993.) The kids are running low on energy; some of them are already forgetting what it was like to text. Joe has a generator, though. And Norrie, the out-of-town girl, really wanted to charge her phone. And she wants a place to stay. Joe’s parents aren’t around? Sounds perfect.

Norrie and Joe got to know each other. Joe gave his life story: Dad drives a rig, Mom was in Westlake when the Dome came down. Norrie told an extensive lie about her father the musician. They were getting close. Then Joe’s friend Ben showed up with a couple girls who really wanted to charge up. Very soon, every teenager in town realized that Joe had power and no parents. A party started. Somebody was using one of those crappy Microsoft tablets that seem to only exist in brief product-placement sequences on broadcast TV shows. Ben told Joe: “People have The Simpsons Movie going in the living room. They totally saw the Dome coming!” (ASIDE: Fans know this is an in-joke — although the Simpsons movie predates Stephen King’s Under the Dome, King maintains that he conceived the Dome idea decades ago. It’s all in good fun. They’re all just riffing on Kandor, anyhow. #BottledCity. END OF ASIDE.)

Joe was feeling nervous. But Ben reminded him that this was an opportunity. “You’ve become the most popular guy in town!” he explained. Unfortunately, right about then is when the former most popular guy in town walked in. The guy looked like a sociopathic clone of Tom Cruise in All The Right Moves and he reminded Joe that he used to date Angie. The guy immediately set up shop by the power conduit, charging five bucks for five minutes. Norrie stood up and laid down some knowledge on him. “You know about the Sherman Anti-Trust act?” she said. “What you’re doing is illegal. Monopolies are illegal.” They almost came to blows. Right then the power went off: The generator gave out, with all the electrical cords connected to it. The douchebag promised he’d see Norrie again.

Elsewhere in Domeville, Junior set off for the old cement factory. Julia followed him; she could smell a story, or she just wanted to cozy up to the son of the most powerful man in town. (As bad as Junior is, it’s striking how everyone in this episode seemed to be using him for their own ends. The kid might be crazy, but it takes a village to raise a crazy child.) Deep underground, just west of the Mines of Moria, Junior found a way out…and ran straight into the Dome. He punched it a couple dozen times, until the Dome blew up his flashlight battery.

Julie had a heart-to-heart chat with Junior. He was freaking out. They were trapped down there, he said. A whole lifetime of emotional issues were coming out in the caves. “A man stands up,” he said. “A man doesn’t screw up.” Julie told him her origin story. She was covering the mayor’s race in Chicago. The guy in the lead was a real machine politician — let’s call him Bomb Remanuel. One of her sources showed her documents that indicated he’d been bribed; the documents weren’t verified, but Julia ran with them; her lie surfaced, the guy got re-elected, and she was fired. (Basically, she pulled a Rather. Nobody crosses Bomb Remanuel!)

Julia was confessing something to Junior. Junior told Julia something, too. That guy Barbie attacked him, said Junior. “People think he’s this hero, but he’s a psychopath. What’s he really doing here?” The whole Junior thread is interesting, but I worry it’s treading water a bit. As much as they’ve done to make the kid not seem like a complete bad guy — and as Under the Dome readers know, Book-Junior makes TV-Junior look like Cuba Gooding Junior — he’s still the guy who locked his girlfriend up in a nuclear bunker. Barbie did something bad, too, but the show hasn’t really made you believe that he’s a bad guy — he’s pulled the old “swoop in to save people’s lives” trick too often. It feels a bit like Under the Dome wants to make its main characters morally ambiguous, but not too ambiguous.

NEXT: Butch and SundanceIn the forest, the hunting party set off after Deputy Paul. Barbie noticed his fake trail; Barbie insists that he was just a grunt, but he was clearly a multi-talented grunt. Big Jim never went to war: “I never had the privilege,” he explained. Something unexpected happened on that manhunt: I got the sense that Big Jim was starting to like Barbie. Maybe he admires the man’s willingness to jump into the fray; maybe he looks at Barbie and sees the son he always wanted. Either way, he was excited to keep the hunt going, even after Deputy Paul shot one barfly. “We’re finishing this thing,” said Big Jim. “Are we trying to bring him in, or take him out?” asked Barbie. Big Jim couldn’t see how that made a difference.

They had a moment together, Big Jim and Barbie. Barbie thought this was just a power trip for the older man. Big Jim took the opportunity to reveal his origin story. In his youth, Big Jim was a cornerback on the football team. It’s a position for small guys, with the speed and the agility. “Back at school, we had this all-state wide-out, a real showboater. He called me ‘Big Jim’ as a joke.” One day, the jokes got to be too much. The guy wouldn’t shut up with the “Big Jim” stuff. “I put the mother of all hits on this punk,” said Jim. “Went in low, completely shattered his pelvis. Guess what: Big Jim what’nt a joke no more.”

This was an instructor story for a lot of reasons. To Big Jim, it was a lesson in power: “Sometimes, an example needs to be made. Command respect. An eye for an eye.” But it’s worth pointing out that this famous hit happened in a scrimmage: Big Jim took down a member of his own team, and an incredibly valuable member at that. The implication being: What’s good for the team isn’t always good for Big Jim.

Right then Deputy Paul came out of the wilderness. He held a gun on Big Jim and Barbie. He heard everything Big Jim said, about an eye for an eye. Here’s the crucial thing: He didn’t shoot the guys. Maybe he was going to. Maybe not. He told Barbie, “Drop your weapon.” Turned out, those were his last words: He got shot by Deputy Linda, who was lurking just offscreen behind a tree. Maybe Linda’s shot was justified: We already knew Deputy Paul had an itchy trigger finger. (You ask me, he didn’t look like a guy who wanted to shoot anyone.)

The trio delivered the dead Deputy to Reverend Coggins — the third dead cop in as many days. Despite this severe turnover in staff, Big Jim congratulated Linda. She stepped up. She filled Duke’s shoes. He declared, “There’s a new Sheriff in town.” (Linda looked a bit wary, but also excited; by the end of the episode, she was wearing Duke’s hat and falling asleep in his old jail cell/bedroom.) Meanwhile Big Jim offered Barbie some scotch. But then Julia showed up with Junior and punctured the burgeoning bromance. You could read Junior’s thoughts in his eyes: Yet again, Barbie is palling around with someone in Junior’s life; yet again, someone in Junior’s life looks much happier with Barbie than with Junior.

Junior told Big Jim about his trip to the tunnels, and Big Jim didn’t look impressed. He poured his son some milk, dismissively. Junior poured it out and went down to visit Angie. He was on the edge of crying. Angie saw his bruised knuckled and pulled out the first aid kit to bandage him; she also grabbed the scissors from the first aid kid, for later. (Please God, don’t let Angie spend the entire summer slowly getting out of that bunker.) Speaking of bruised knuckles: Julia noticed that Barbie had some punching bruises, dug into his bag, and found a map of Chester’s Mill with a specific place marked on the map. (Presumably, this is the cabin where Barbie killed Julia’s husband.)

Over at Joe’s house, he impressed Norrie with some references to Star Wars. (ASIDE: Not a critique but a genuine open question: Do contemporary teenagers really talk with serious fluency about the original Star Wars trilogy, like characters in a Kevin Smith movie? Weren’t most high schoolers nowadays raised on Harry Potter? END OF ASIDE.) Norrie said, “I like nerds.” Then her mom ran in, which caused some immediate confusion. Norrie and Joe held hands. There was a sound of electricity — it sounded a bit like when somebody touches the Dome — and they collapsed, chanting together “The Pink stars are falling in lines.”

We’re at the end of Day Three Post-Dome, fellow viewers. What do you think of how the show is developing? This episode was light on Dome mystery and heavy on inter-character drama. Intrigued by Linda’s readiness to pull the trigger? Wondering what Julia will think if she gets to the bottom of the Barbie mystery? Any Pink Star theories?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

Episode Recaps

Under the Dome

Chester’s Mill residents suddenly find themselves cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable barrier, which surrounds the town in this Stephen King adaptation.
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