Under the Dome: “Alaska”

Hey, Everyone! Remember that load-bearing column from last week’s show? And how Junior said it wasn’t a load-bearing column and knocked it out? Turns out it was actually a load-bearing column after all and this week it collapses, proving that old Chekhov dictum: if you cut a load-bearing column in half with your reciprocating saw in Act I, then in Act III it has to collapse so that everyone can blame the alien sex lady anthropologist for it.

And by “alien sex lady anthropologist” I assume you all know I mean Christine played by Marg “Wonky Lips” Helgenberger. Who has brought this level of dramatic craftsmanship to an episode of Under the Dome, a show not exactly known for caring about fancy dramaturgical theories like matching shots, making sure background actors know when the camera is rolling, and plot logic? Why, it’s Peter Medak, the great director who last worked with Marg Helgenberger on a little movie critics like to call Species II. And it’s a good thing they got someone who knows how to bring out the best in Marg, because this episode is All About Christine.

The producers continue to wring every last penny out of those purple rave cave sets by kicking off the episode with Junior and Christine wrapping up a session of lovemaking on their dirty floors. Some people might think Christine is too old for Junior but those people need to shut up because his last girlfriend was Dead Girl Melanie, another alien sex queen (although her major was sociology not anthropology) who was also his mother’s high school BFF, and she was dead. So despite the age difference, Christine has advantages.

Their kissing makes the purple cave crystals glow — they activate the rave! — and Christine rubs space jizz all over Junior’s lips. “What is that?” he asks. “Oxytocin,” she croons. “Our bodies produce it naturally during sex. This is about 1000 times stronger.” Give or take. Which brings us to tonight’s theme: it’s hard to be a middle-aged woman, even an alien sex queen anthropologist one. Because Christine can’t just seduce Junior with sex, she has to rely on alien sex drugs to keep him interested.

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Later, Christine reads a touching and poignant monologue into her tape recorder: “The dome’s energy supply is beginning to fail,” she says, mournfully. “When Jim Rennie destroyed the egg he compromised our power source. One amethyst died this morning, the second one is losing power which is causing the amniotic fluid in the cavern to dry up. It’s only a matter of time before the Dome begins to calcify.”

It’s almost as if the Dome is approaching middle age and needs more calcium. It’s almost as if the Dome’s sexual powers have become dependent on the drugs it can give younger men. It’s almost as if no one is listening to the Dome anymore and the power it once had over virile, handsome young males like Dale Barbie, and the respect it engendered from younger women, like Eva, is beginning to wane? Almost?

Speaking of which, Barbie punched the door next to Julia Shumway’s head last episode and stormed out of their motel room, and now we see that he’s stormed right into his dream squeeze Eva’s motel room. Chester’s Mill may have had shortages of water, food, crops, propane, bandages, heat, electricity, and piglets, but it will never have a shortage of lovemaking candles. First Hacker Hunter loaded up his Nookie Closet with them last episode in his misguided attempt to hump Norrie, and now Eva’s motel room has more candles in it than the Phantom’s lair in “Music of the Night.” Eva gently bandages Barbie’s hands, and smiles, “What did Julia say to make you punch the door like that?”

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Way to side with the abuser, lady! Whatever happened to female solidarity? But while Eva may have some sick dance moves, she has zero poker face and when Barbie asks her who she really is she gives it all away by using acting. “I can’t be with someone who won’t talk to me,” Barbie says, and this time he storms out the door, rather than punching it.

Christine’s power over the Millers may be waning because her amniotic fluid is drying up and she’s starting to calcify, but she’s not helping matters by greeting a door-storming Barbie at Town Hall with “Have a seat, hon.” Oh, Christine! Nothing makes you sound more like a middle-aged truck stop waitress than calling people hon. You might as well start wearing comfortable shoes. Barbie is about to make some really crude comments about Christine’s neck when the ceiling collapses. This is such a victory for the unnamed extra from last episode who told them it was load-bearing that he suddenly gets a name (Carpenter Pete) and a truckload of backstory (he was in Iraq and did something with bombs and his wife cheated on him).

But while everyone’s listening to Carpenter Pete’s backstory, no one’s listening to Christine, and the last straw for her is when Uncle Sam shows up, drunk, fresh from humping Abby, and she tells him that all the injured people need help. Since the last help we saw him administer was leading an AA session, we have to assume that everyone under the collapsed ceiling is a recovering alcoholic who really needs a drink right now. But instead of talking through the 12 Steps with them, Uncle Sam gets lippy. This really sends Christine over the edge and she shows up at Abby’s house where drunk Abby monologues about her disabled daughter, then says, “Doctors are fixing her brain…” Christine rolls her eyes and asserts her sexual dominance by giving Abby a bottle of pills to kill herself with because, really, why is Sam attracted to this moron when he could have a slightly older woman who actually knows how brains work?

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But younger women are good for one thing. In yet another blow to Christine’s dignity, the space aliens have told her that she is too old to grow fresh Sea Monkeys inside of her. Instead, she must, once again, be humiliated by turning to a younger woman for help — in this case, Eva. She lures her to the rave caves and rants, “The egg put a lifeforce inside you. You are changing cell by cell into a better version of yourself that can bear Barbie’s child…the child who will replace me!” Then she feeds Eva a fistful of lubricant that makes her all placid and docile and want to have Barbie’s Sea Monkey again.

Speaking of women who want to have Sea Monkeys with Barbie, Julia Shumway is in full effect this episode. In fact, as Christine’s power wanes, Julia Shumway, as the younger Ginger, sees her power grow. She’s hooked up with Big Jim who is not only unshaven (sure sign that he’s become an untrustworthy psycho) but he and his new son, Indy the Dog, are starring together in Air Bud 12: Spy Buddies (let’s see a reverse angle on that, please). They blow up a rowboat, which drives the Army people nuts and Julia uses the distraction to sneak into their lab and steal files that prove Christine is old and past her sexual prime. Instead, she is distracted by an unrelated file on the scientist’s desktop labeled “Alaska,” a place she’s heard of many times, but has never visited.

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She and Big Jim use their guns to capture a scientist and when Big Jim snarls that they want information, Julia sort of takes things in an unexpected direction when she says, “Yeah, information about Alaska!”

Big Jim: What? We’re trapped under a dome and need to get out and also maybe figure out why everyone in town is a zombie for Christine, a middle-aged anthropologist.

Julia: No, we need to know about Alaska. I can never remember if its capital is Fairbanks or Anchorage.

Scientist: Actually, it’s Juneau.

(Beat.)

Big Jim: Okay, maybe we do need to know a little bit more about Alaska after all.

It turns out that the egg is a power source (for women? Like a female viagra?) and “We did hire a woman named Christine Price as an anthropologist to find the world’s first intact egg,” says Professor Exposition. Also, everyone in the research lab up in Alaska who touched a previous egg wound up jumping off the roof together which, for some reason, the Army filmed from two different angles and in sepia tones so that they could have enough coverage for any possible future flashbacks.

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Back in Chester’s Mill, Norrie has shaken off her goop poisoning and she and Joe are just exiting Town Hall after making love all night (remember, the number of condoms Joe had was “lots”). They bump into Hacker Hunter who’s serving up brown goop to the crowd that comes complete with its own “fffrrrrrtttt” sound effect. He says it’s cattle feed, but my guess is that it’s probably made of the 171 dead Millers since that’s how many have died to date and we haven’t seen more than a couple of funerals. If the way Andrea’s corpse was treated two episodes ago is any indication, when you die in Chester’s Mill they just chuck you out on the porch and wait for the Meat Man.

“I bet you two are hungry,” Hacker Hunter leers at the young lovebirds, like Uncle Sticky.

But they aren’t and later he follows them up onto a rooftop because he’s dumb enough to keep obeying Christine. Once there, Joe shows him how they can totally see Ye Olde Papermill from there (a sure sign that we might still be in the alternate reality because Chester’s Mill only has one Ye Olde Factory and it’s Ye Olde Cement Factory), and Norrie runs a cow metaphor into the ground, which causes Hacker Hunter to fall off the roof and scream, “I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel my legs!!!!!” At Town Hall, Barbie runs to get Eva to help (“I’m going to go get Eva, she dealt with a lot of these injuries in the alternate reality,” he shouts), but after he’s gone Hacker Hunter blames Norrie for his roof dive, and I’d say they are then surrounded by a pack of townspeople who are acting like zombies and that that’s strange, but this is how things sort of normally go here. The Millers always just do whatever the lead actors tell them, whether it’s form a lynch mob or move into a tent city or surround Norrie and Scarecrow Joe and jostle them.

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Meanwhile, Barbie has been running all day and finally reaches Eva at the motel by nightfall. She agrees to come with him, but then the garbage explodes. See, it turns out there’s one thing middle-aged women are still good at, and that’s manipulating people. Christine went to Carpenter Pete’s tent with some delicious meat in a ziplock bag (“We killed a piglet last night,” she says, clearly referring to Abby) and she offers him “Women, power, status,” all the things that have traditionally been the due of carpenters since time immemorial…but Barbie stands in his way! Carpenter Pete’s not having it, so he blows up a pile of garbage in Barbie’s face and then beats him with a baseball bat. Eva calls him a piece of trash, which is symbolism (remember who’s directing this episode, people) and then Barbie kills him and he and Eva kiss with gross bloody mouths.

Meanwhile, Big Jim gets captured by Professor Exposition who notices that Big Jim hugs Indy the Dog way more than he ever hugged his son, so he threatens to kill Indy unless Big Jim tells him where the egg is. Big Jim can’t let them kill his new, hairy, more obedient son so he tells them he broke the egg. Then Professor Exposition speaks a bunch of science words at Big Jim that he doesn’t understand, and slowly closes him in a birdcage. Everyone understands the international language of locking you inside a cage.

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The younger Ginger (Julia Shumway) captures the older Ginger (Christine Price) and takes her to Bird Island where the Army people say they’re going to “fix” her, which is interesting because Norrie got fixed by not having sex with Hacker Hunter and then having lots of sex with Scarecrow Joe. Barbie was fixed by having sex with Eva, and he fixed Eva with sex, too. And Uncle Sam got fixed by having sex with the piglet, I mean Abby, and some off-brand vodka. So whatever happens to Christine on Bird Island, they’re going to need lots of candles.

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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