One day in the not-too-distant future someone will stand trial for illegally downloading Under the Dome and the judge will ask, “Is this the television program that features grown men standing in a room shouting about a make believe egg? Ham-handed Guantanamo Bay metaphors? A woman drawing pictures with poo? Dwight Yoakam in an ill-fitting white undershirt? And a gang of imbeciles running across a lawn and hiding in a root cellar?” And the prosecutor will say, “Yes, your honor. That would be episode 9.” And the judge will say, “I dismiss all charges. By watching this episode the accused has been punished enough.” And everyone in the world will cheer.
As Sam Verdreaux says, buckle up kids, it’s about to get a lot weirder. Welcome to episode 9 of Under the Dome.
Remember that episode of Sesame Street where Big Bird’s sister sent him her egg to babysit and it made him really anxious? This episode is basically Big Bird’s worst nightmare and you should probably imagine Big Bird instead of Dale Barbie locked in a room while men in black uniforms slap him around, shouting, “Where’s that egg!”
But Big Bird knows how to get around a security force made up entirely of depressed middle-aged dads who eat Stouffer’s For One every night since the divorce. Before you can say, “I’veseenthisbefore!” Big Bird has immobilized his oppressors by showing them pictures of their ex-wives watching their new husbands play catch with the children who never want to see them anymore. Leaving them sobbing loudly in his wake, Big Bird flies to safety with the only character whose carefully cultivated stubble is as painfully manicured as his own: Computer Hacker. (I call him “Computer Hacker” because his actual character name is “Hunter May” and that is as embarrassing for you to read as it is for me to type.)
“Someone out there is playing hardball to get this egg,” Julia Shumway intones breathlessly which is just about the only tone she has left after hanging out with Fivehead Norrie, Scarecrow Joe, Junior Rennie, and Dead Girl Melanie whose preferred method of conversation is the recap.
“Look at this glass of water,” Fivehead will say. “Do you think it came out of the tap that leads to the reservoir where Agatha drowned last week?”
“Wait,” Dead Girl Melanie says back. “You mean Agatha who’s the mother of Maxine, the ruthless drug dealer who started a fight club in the old cement factory before Big Jim Rennie shot her?”
“My dad would never do that,” Junior says. “He only wants to know where the egg is because he really cares about this town.”
“That water is probably cool and wet,” Scarecrow Joe says. “And it’s in a glass that I bet Dale Barbara, Julia’s lover who killed her husband, drank from while he and Julia were falling in love before he escaped from the Dome.”
Outside the Dome, Pauline (Big Jim’s wife who everyone thought was dead), Sam Verdreaux, and Lyle (disguised as country western star Dwight Yoakam) are trying to interpret Pauline’s terrible art of a red door, figuring that if they can understand her poorly executed painting they can find a way back under the dome. “Why red?” Pauline asks. “Why a door? Art Theory 101, a door always symbolizes a way in somewhere.” Actually, that is the actual literal purpose of a door, not its symbolic meaning.
Unable to critique art, the three Domers head to the playground they emerged into after escaping the Dome through the tunnels behind dead Angie’s locker [NOTE: after typing that sentence I was confronted with the futility of human existence and spent some time weeping quietly] where they think there might be a red door. In the playground they encounter not just two more divorced dads sitting on a bench and growing facial hair (“I’ll try drawing off the one with the tablet,” Sam Verdreaux says manfully), but also the small child victimized by Dale Barbie last episode. “No grown ups!” the traumatized tyke howls as he runs away from Pauline. Jesus, people, leave this kid alone. Parks are for grown-ups with kids ONLY. But Pauline is giddy with memories of how even as a wee third grader, her son, Junior, was obsessed with dead Angie and used to follow her around everywhere. She’d be so proud to know that he grew up to stalk, abduct, imprison, and attempt to rape her.
But soon she’s depressed again and begins drawing spirals in poo with a stick. “It’s starting, Lyle,” she says. “This is how my visions always start.” With poo? Then she shivers, “Something about this spiral, I don’t know, it scares me.” Because it’s made of poo? “Hey, did you find anything?” Sam asks. “Pauline found this great poo,” Lyle says, helpfully.
What is also helpful is that Big Jim Rennie decides to communicate with the soldiers outside the Dome by holding up signs. Why hasn’t someone done this before? The soldiers seem eager to exchange ideas and even get their commanding officer to participate almost immediately. If Big Jim is the first one to have this idea, then he deserves to be in charge of Chester’s Mill. The talks almost derail when the commander gets Big Jim’s job title wrong (calling him town councilman instead of sheriff) but before long Jim is holding up a picture of a lemon and writing, “I can get what you want.”
You can practically read the frustrated expression on the commander’s face, “I don’t want any more lemons!” he thinks. “I’ve already got too many lemons. WE HAVE PLENTY OF LEMONS OUT HERE!”
Also frustrated are Sam and Pauline, because they’re hiding with the Computer Hacker since he was Pauline’s best student in art class, which meant that he is a terrible painter, too. In the Computer Hacker’s lair we are introduced to the best new character of 2014, Trevor, the “other computer gentleman.” Also, Big Bird arrives and tells everyone that Sam murdered Angie.
“You murdered Angie?” Pauline screams at him.
“It was your terrible paintings that made me do it!” Sam screams back.
“You’re not interpreting them correctly!” she shouts. “That wasn’t a picture of Angie with an axe in her head, it was a painting of a duck wearing a hat! Get it?”
“No,” Sam cries, “I don’t get it. The only solution is to go back under the Dome!”
After pulling the old Trevor In a Hoodie Switcheroo, the whole stupid gang go into Big Bird’s root cellar and get facials from the smoke monster on Lost and WHEEEEEEEEEEE they pop up from the lake in Chester’s Mill like a bunch of dumb otters (except Lyle who had a concert commitment in Oklahoma). On shore, Junior Rennie is hiding the egg so no one else can find it, requiring him to return to his roots, and by “roots” I mean “the bunker where he once imprisoned Angie and almost killed her.” Good times. Dead Girl Melanie goes with him and stretches out on a bunk, inviting Junior to stretch out next to her.
“It would help me feel less alone,” she says, giving reasons number 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 of why people have sexual intercourse.
The world of Under the Dome is full of disturbing things, like Big Jim Rennie trying to wink at Julia Shumway (HE CAN’T WINK) but nothing is more disturbing than its depiction of sex. Try to think of an adult couple, and you come up blank. Julia Shumway’s husband is dead. Big Jim Rennie’s wife is pretending to be dead. Lesbian Carolyn’s wife is dead. Joe and Angie’s parents are missing. Sheriff Linda is dead, while Rusty, her fiancé, is on the other side of the Dome, writing sad blog posts. Harriet Arnold’s husband is missing. In the world of Under the Dome, a relationship is only the first step in a process that inevitably ends with a spouse either faking her suicide, crushed by a truck, in a diabetic coma, shot, or just plain old missing. The only surer way to die in Chester’s Mill is to put on a police uniform.
It is a bleak depiction of human relationships but maybe it’s the writers’ way of grappling with the existential pain of being alive. But let Rebecca Pine sum it up for us: “Either way, things are going to get worse.”
Grady Hendrix is the author of Satan Loves You, Occupy Space, and he’s the co-author of Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook. He’s written for publications ranging from Playboy to World Literature Today and his story, “Mofongo Knows” appears in the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.