Under the Dome: “Redux” and “The Kinship”

Episodes 3 and 4 of Under the Dome see the return of our old friend, Gibberish. After everyone crawls out of their pus-pods, dripping with goop, they discover they’ve been doped up with Oxytosin (Gibberish Word #1) and dreamed an entire year that doesn’t exist. Lopsided Lipped Marg Helgenberger, the fake FEMA therapist who is either an alien or a lesbian, turns to Dead Girl Melanie and says, “You had a job: lead the people to be cocooned so the egg could infuse them with the Life Force,” which might not even be English, then Melanie “died during the download” which isn’t a real thing either, and Lips sneers that she should have “cocooned you just like the others.”

The only person speaking actual English words that make sense is Fivehead Norrie who, upon observing that they’re all still trapped Under the Dome, sneers, “Oh yay. We’re still trapped inside this Hell Bubble.”

No one is happy about the Hell Bubble, especially Junior who got to wear a cool leather jacket in the dream world, but now he’s back to his basic white tee. He punches the Dome over and over, but it doesn’t upgrade his wardrobe, so he burns down his house and moves into a tent. Big Jim is so angry about this that he adopts a dog and gives it a power bar he was saving for Junior, then moves to a nearby island with his dog where he uses binoculars to spy on Junior flirting with Lips, who jogs by his tent every morning, stopping to peel off one of her two tops and moan, “Wow, I get so sweaty when I run.”

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Meanwhile, the dog prances around behind Big Jim on its hind legs wearing lipstick and an old mop for a wig, whining, “Look at me, Big Jim! Look at me! Aren’t I enough for you?”

The Junior Rennie-Big Jim Rennie-Stray Dog love triangle is merely one of three that are poking up their pointy heads underneath the dome. “Where was I?” Julia Shumway asks Barbie when he crawls out of his goop-cocoon. “You were dead,” he says, and she almost makes a facial expression. It’s always a mistake to ask people to describe their dreams, never more so than here because in Barbie’s dream he spent a relaxing year away from Julia Shumway, hooked up with Eva, and got her pregnant.

In real life, it turns out that Eva and Lips are not just sassy ladies with sexual and emotional needs who came out of nowhere, but practitioners of the world’s most exciting profession: anthropology. “Remember when we found that meteorite in North Dakota?” Lopsided Lip smiles. “Who negotiated our exit with that wolf?” I thought archeology was the most dangerous game but it’s nothing compared to anthropology! But Eva doesn’t want to reminisce, she wants to ferment cattle feed and turn it into a delicious snack for the Millers who are running out of food. Yes, folks, we’re back to shortages!

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“There’s too many people and not enough tents,” someone screams.

It’s just not Chester’s Mill if someone’s not running out of something, whether it’s propane, water, crops, or common sense. Barbie and Eva decide to go scout for foodstuffs because Eva has “a lot of experience in third world countries” like North Carolina. They find cattle feed and Eva declares that she can turn it into a gag-inducing snack by fermenting it like jailhouse hooch, and that’s probably better than the Miller’s deserve. Barbie takes her on a tour of memory lane (“We lost most of these crops to butterfly infestation,” he says, dreamily) before furrowing his brow and sighing, “There’s enough cattle feed to hold us over until the crops start producing.”

If Barbie’s talking crops to Eva, it’s a sure sign that he and Julia Shumway are over. And, really, it makes perfect sense. Barbie and Julia knew each other for exactly three weeks, and their entire relationship is founded on the fact that he murdered her husband. But when Barbie was in his pus-pod he dreamed that he spent an entire year with Eva, she was pregnant with his baby, and he didn’t murder anyone she was legally married to first. I know that they do things differently in Chester’s Mill, but come on. There’s no comparison.

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Even worse for Julia Shumway, she’s no longer King Ginger. There can be only one Smurfette in the Smurf village of Chester’s Mill, and now Lips seems to be trying to claw the Smurfy tiara off Julia’s thick, perfectly conditioned head with lots of natural body and bounce. She’s conspiring with Eva, she’s giving Scarecrow Joe advice, she’s gotten Uncle Sam to lead a therapy group so the Millers can share their feelings, and she’s playing Love It or List It with Junior. Deeply invested in the emotional well-being of the Millers, Lips has convinced Junior that they need to renovate town hall because nothing will put his daddy issues to rest faster than remodeling daddy’s office. “Blow out the walls,” she commands Junior. “Let’s have an open concept living area, replace these countertops, and put in an extra powder room in the finished basement.”

During the demo, Junior gets into a passionate battle with another Miller about whether a crummy 4×4 is “load bearing” or not. Reclaiming his masculinity, Junior uses his reciprocating saw to chop it down and reveals that it’s not load bearing after all. “My team, my call, get out now,” Junior snarls at the hapless Miller, who beats a retreat, twirling his non-existent mustache and cackling, “You are going to regret this. All of you.” Don’t worry—I already do!

“But what’s been happening to Uncle Sam this episode!” I hear you crying. “How is his therapy group going? Has anyone made a breakthrough?” You’ll be happy to know that one of his patients, Abby, made such a big breakthrough that she hung herself. Fortunately, Sam was at her house when it happened and he cut her down. Drunk, she rolled around on the floor in a limp pile, moaning, “There’s no fixing me. I just want to lie here on my sisal rug, with my hanging rope, and my smock, and my off-brand vodka, and cry.” Fortunately, Uncle Sam is a full-service therapist and he winds up helping her hide her vodka (inside his tummy) and then he hides his genitals (inside her tummy)! Now that’s therapy!

The other love pyramid rising up over this desert of horniness also has a ginger at its apex: Scarecrow Joe-Fivehead Norrie-Hacker Hunter. In the dream world, Norrie was in a sorority because, like many Germans who joined the Nazi party, she wanted to “be part of something bigger than myself.” Now that she’s back under the dome, she still lusts for sleazy dudes with tight abs, and Hacker Hunter fits the bill, while Scarecrow Joe feels like a third wheel made of garbage.

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To deal with the food crisis, Hacker Hunter and Fivehead Norrie go to Hoarder Andrea’s house, toss her corpse out on the front porch like the recycling, play loud music, and almost smooch. Joe is incensed that they’d be so disrespectful to dead Andrea but they’re all like, “Um, we propped her up in a chair.” Later, Lips says they all need to start hunting for food and suggests that Joe “could build traps” so everyone else can make out like horny weasels while he nerds it up in the woods. Joe actually catches a pig in his trap (which is amazing, since all of them died last season) but then he realizes that, like him, no one will ever suck face with this pig and so he lets it go. Blammo! Piglet goes down with an arrow sticking out its neck, and cut to Fivehead Norrie going all Katniss with a bow and arrow.

Something is wrong with the people of Chester’s Mill, and it’s not just the fact that Norrie hates pigs. All the men are acting like really bad boyfriends. Whether it’s Barbie punching the wall when Julia Shumway wants to talk, or Hunter Hacker generally just grinding on Norrie’s leg when she wants to talk, these guys are all one forgotten anniversary away from appearing on Tool Academy. Even Fivehead feels like something is wrong, and Hacker Hunter agrees, so he leads her to a broom closet filled with candles and gives her chocolate because we all know that nothing makes the ladies go crazy and forget their troubles like chocolate, amiright? But to his consternation, it doesn’t make her horny, it makes her want to talk!

“Today hasn’t been my favorite day ever,” Fivehead says. And Hunter is like, “Um, I took off my shirt and sucked your face and lit all these candles and gave you chocolate so let’s make a baby.” But Fivehead wants to talk, not hump, so he adjusts his programming and says, “If you want to talk—or whatever—I can do that too,” I mean, anything to get her to stay in the Broom Closet of Nookie. But this isn’t right and Norrie dashes off and finds Joe because she’s angry and full of hate. Joe gets all excited because this Norrie, full of self-loathing and guilt, is the one he loves. In one of Under the Dome’s most moving exchanges, the two fall into each other’s scrawny arms.

“Does this mean…I should get a condom?” he asks.

“Do you have one?” she says.

“I have…a lot.”

So swoony.

But a lot of condoms are not to be for Julia Shumway who is rowboating away from all these bad boyfriends with their dream ladies and imaginary pregnancies and their anthropology, and she arrives on Big Jim Island where Big Jim (deep breath) has been abducted by the military and imprisoned in a room full of taxidermy and science and told he has to find the egg but then he realizes no one will shoot him because they need to know where the egg is and so he nopes out of there and goes on the run. Julia rescues him from the army, proving that on Under the Dome, every Ginger gets a Rennie.

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As for Big Jim’s dog? Realizing that he’s been replaced by Julia Shumway, he pulls off his mop-wig, and drops it in the dirt along with his broken heart. Shoulders slumping, the one animal who really loved Big Jim walks off into the darkness to call his agent and get off this show. But sometimes, on lonely nights, he’ll sit on his back porch, and pull out that power bar wrapper and stare at it for a while, and then look up at the stars, and wonder if, right at that moment, Big Jim is looking up at the same stars, too.

Grady Hendrix has written for publications ranging from Playboy to World Literature Today and his latest novel is Horrorstör, about a haunted Ikea.

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