These days, I don’t know what’s more frustrating about CBS’s ‘Under the Dome’: the fact that the show continues to be so incredibly stupid, or the fact that it continues to be the highest rated series on Monday nights. Perhaps it’s like a train wreck and people just can’t look away. The silliness continues in this week’s episode, with the added bonus of special guest star Dwight Yoakam!
Yoakam plays the town’s barber, Lyle, who apparently knows Jim well, even though none of us viewers have ever seen him before on the show. He dated Jim’s wife, Pauline, when he was younger – a fact that will come into play later in the episode. He seems like a normal guy at first, but we’ll soon learn that he’s as goofy as the rest of the citizens of Chester’s Mill.
This week’s entry gets underway with Barbie catching the Girl Who Shall Not Be Named (seriously, we’re in the third episode and this chick still doesn’t have a name… do the others just say “Hey, you!” when they want to get her attention?) going through his personal stuff in Julia’s house. She claims that she’s just trying to jog her memory, but Barbie thinks she’s a snoop. Of course, this is just a manufactured scene by the writers so viewers can obtain an important piece of information: the fact that Barbie comes from the town of Zenith, which is the same town where we saw the very-much-alive Pauline earlier this season.
At the request of school teacher/rocket scientist Rebecca, Jim has everyone in town come to the diner and fill out a census form, which he claims will be used to determine how the town’s dwindling resources will be distributed. While most of the series’ main cast members are at the diner, it starts pouring rain. Except it’s not rain… it looks like blood. However, once it starts burning everyone outside who gets hit by it, Rebecca figures out that it’s actually acid rain caused by the less-than-environmentally-safe conditions of the town’s lake.
Big Jim and Rebecca go off in a vehicle together (I honestly don’t remember why, but it’s not important) and Jim has to slam on the breaks when a mysterious hooded figure appears in the middle of the road. Jim crashes the car into a tree, and the hooded man comes over, throws Jim out of the car and takes off in the vehicle with Rebecca still inside. So, not only has she been kidnapped, but now Jim is outside unprotected from the burning rain.
While all this is going on, Joe, Norrie and Nameless Girl have teamed up so that at least 20% of this episode can be devoted to plugging Windows 8. Yes, the Microsoft product placement was rather obvious in previous shows, but this one goes to new lengths of abuse. Joe carries around his Windows Surface tablet everywhere, even when he’s not using it. The three find that the Internet is miraculously up again, and that people outside the dome have been sending them emails and posting tweets about them. Joe even has one from his father, who asks his son to take care of his sister, Angie. Talk about bad timing, dad. Junior discovers that he has a message too – it’s a video from his mother, who tells her son that she’s alive and that he needs to talk to Lyle if he wants answers. No reason to just tell him what he needs to know yourself, right mom?
Next we discover that Lyle is the one who kidnapped Rebecca, and now has her tied up in his barn… or storage shed… or something like that. Lyle, as it turns out, is pretty much a combination of two former ‘Under the Dome’ characters: Rev. Coggins and Ollie Dinsmore. He’s a religious nut who believes the dome is inflicting plagues on the town and that only the righteous will survive. He intends to convince Rebecca by pouring some of that acid rain on her head. Fortunately, after already rescuing Big Jim, Barbie and Julia join Junior to storm Lyle’s place. Julia tries to convince him to let Rebecca go by telling Lyle that the dome has been speaking to her as well. It’s enough of a distraction that Rebecca is able to loosen the ropes around her hands and grab the bowl of acid that Lyle threatened her with. She dumps it on his face. Ouch.
The Scooby Gang (i.e. Joe, Norrie and Nameless Girl) make their way back to the site of Angie’s murder at the high school. While there, Nameless Girl suddenly remembers the combination to the locker that Angie died in front of. When they open it up, it’s empty, but Norrie gets all bitchy about how the girl could possibly know the combination. (Jealous of the way Joe looks at her, Norrie?) Joe goes into one of the administration rooms and looks up the locker’s history. This begs the question of whether schools actually keep records of what students used which lockers in perpetuity. Anyway, a name on the list – Melanie Cross – jumps out at Nameless Girl. She was a student in 1988, so Joe finds the yearbook for that year and looks her up. Sure enough, the photo shows Nameless Girl. This fits my theory that she was someone who died long ago that the dome has somehow resurrected.
Lyle gets locked up in jail, and treats us all to a verse of CCR’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” (Hey, if you’ve got Dwight Yoakam on the show, you might as well invent a reason for him to belt out a tune). Sam comes to see him, and we learn that the two have been in cahoots over the years, although we’re not sure why. Sam threatens Lyle before he leaves. Junior sees the meeting on a security camera, but it doesn’t look like he can hear what was said. After Sam leaves, Junior pays Lyle a visit and tells him about the message he got from his mother. Lyle promises to tell him everything if Junior will set him free.
Back at the diner, Barbie and Julia find out that the real reason Rebecca asked Big Jim to take a census is because the town’s resources can only support about 75% of the population – meaning that they have about a quarter too many people. Rebecca’s solution? They need to start thinning the herd. Of course, Big Jim is on board with this (he’s already thinned some of the herd himself, after all), but the big surprise is that Barbie seems to be going along with the idea as well. Appalled, Julia storms out on him, and Barbie chases after her. With Rebecca now alone with Big Jim, she tells him the truth. They can’t wait any longer – the town is already at the point where they need to start killing people off. Maybe they should start with the writing staff?
‘Under the Dome’ has never been a smart show, but last season it was at least marginally original at times, and rarely flat-out boring. So far this season, it’s been a very by-the-numbers affair, with a new problem/issue every week for the town to overcome. The new characters introduced this season – namely Rebecca and Sam – are woefully lame, and because the show can’t have Big Jim being evil every week (like he was in almost all of Season 1), the best actor on the show (Dean Norris) hasn’t been given anything of interest to do or say.
One final note: for those of you out there who love viral marketing, the website mentioned during the scene where Joe and Junior check their messages, www.houndsofdiana.com, provides some clues about what may be coming later this season.