The Secret Circle: A Dirty Shame (PHOTO RECAP)

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Uhhhhhhhhhmmmm YES. Yes, please. This episode. All of it.

I don't know if there was a single thing I didn't love about "Curse." Hold up, let me put on my thinking cap real quick. I'm sure I can think of something. Okay, this thinking cap isn't working, needs more stickers. Anyway, nope, can't think of a single thing I didn't love about this episode! "Curse" was The Secret Circle firing on all cylinders and while it might be TEMPTING to say, "Oh, it finally changed course," the reality is that each and every thing this episode did right was foreshadowed and set up earlier in the season. Credit where credit's due! I mean, again, it wouldn't have killed this show to have hinted that Blackwell had powers when he first appeared, but now we know his initial lameness wasn't so much a broken promise as it was delayed gratification. That gratification may have been delayed, but boy did it arrive this week.

Here's a quick rundown of the important things that happened in "Curse": John Blackwell does indeed still have magic and he used it to cockblock his own daughter in the most brutal way imaginable. Adam and Cassie are dunzo; Cassie seems destroyed over it; Adam is suddenly 200% more likeable. Everyone now knows about Jake's murderous past. Amelia and Ethan were definitely a thing back in the day. Jane is back in play. Dawn now knows about the witch hunters. For a show that's been relatively pokey about getting everyone on the same page, these were A LOT of elements to dump onto the table and as a viewer it felt straight-up exhilarating. And there are still FIVE episodes left!

Okay, let's do this.

We began in the aftermath of last week's spooky, sex-birdemic incident. There were casualties!

Meanwhile some soft-lit and maddeningly gross pillow-talk was under way.

I mean, fine. People were probably rooting for Cassie and Adam. But for me I felt like their relationship made them each much, much lamer. Over the past few weeks they'd both became dead-eyed and boring, and frankly I'd begun to like Cassie less and less. It might've had a little to do with her becoming a humorless vessel for black magic, but there's definitely been a spark missing from our plucky heroine ever since she gave in to this inevitable, chemistry-free pairing. Anyway, call me heartless, but all this soft-whispered "Let's make love all day" junk really tickled my gag reflex. (But in retrospect, maybe that was intentional?)

When Blackwell informed the two of them that (A) he knew they had sex and (B) it activated a deadly curse, thus began the episode's strongest recurring theme: SEX IS AWKWARD. Seriously, I don't know that I've ever seen a teen drama so correctly represent the inherent awkwardness of sex between teenagers before. The rest of the episode was basically an endless series of humiliations for them and I can't deny that I didn't take some satisfaction in the schadenfreude of it all.

Meanwhile Faye was dealing with some awkwardness of her own:

Eva was NOT happy to see Faye, especially when Faye didn't believe her that Lee had skipped town. What was especially funny about this scene was how quickly Faye sussed out the situation: Eva had leeched Faye's powers via that piece of garbage Lee had given her and also Lee was probably not in good health. I also loved when Faye expressed skepticism that Lee was intelligent. She had a good point!

In order to convince Cassie that the curse between her and Adam was, in fact, real, Blackwell took her for a visit to grandma's facility.

Hey, Grandma Jane! It was seriously nice to see her again, but a genuine bummer when it became clear that her witch-Alzheimer's was so serious. In a clever (and heartbreaking) bit of writing, for the entire scene Cassie had to pretend she was Amelia in order to have a conversation with Jane. But she did confirm that the curse was indeed real: Once activated, someone in the circle would die!

So then it was time to break the news to the others, and the awkwardness just kept heightening.

Faye's reaction was priceless, obviously:

In addition to laughing at Cassie and Adam to their faces, Faye mostly just expressed skepticism about the curse, claiming it was probably just some form of witch-abstinence lesson.

But the awkward comedy of the scene slightly overshadowed the reactions of Melissa and Diana. I loved how Melissa looked like she desperately wanted to un-hear the news about Cassie's sex life, but look at Diana: She now knows her ex is sleeping with her friend. It doesn't even matter what kind of Vegemite-smeared nookie she's getting down at the marina, this was her LIFETIME boyfriend we're talking about. So this was just a quick, subtle reaction shot, that reminded us how truly weird this scene was for everyone involved.

Oh, the funniest moment of the episode: After Cassie told them that one of the circle might die, Melissa casually responded, "Well, I have been feeling kinda tired lately." I laughed so hard at this! It wasn't clear if she was joking or being earnest (probably both) and that's what made it so funny. Definitely a Jessica Parker Kennedy MVP moment (the first of two, actually).

Anyway, that's when Cassie noticed that Jake wasn't in attendance. That's because he was busy lounging around in his underwear listening to evil whispers.

Then Cassie hilariously just busted right into his bedroom.

After it was clear that Jake was definitely under the weather (the spidery black veins on his arm were a bit of a giveaway), Cassie broke the news to him:

Again: So much going on in just one tiny moment! Can you imagine getting that kind of news? You are going to die and the reason is that the lady you love slept with someone else. That is just a good metaphor right there.

So then Blackwell announced that he had an elixir that might reverse the curse (revurse?), but they'd need to visit that old witch shop in town for the ingredients.

Perfectly capitalizing on a loose end from earlier in the season, the particular witch in question had been BRUTALLY MURDERED by Jake for no real reason back on Halloween night. Obviously since then Jake had turned his back on the witch hunters and is in most other ways a good guy, but it's always bugged me that he had this murder in his past. Fortunately it looked like that was the only one, but also this show was not about to let him off the hook:

By the way, the makeup people did a killer job of making Chris Zylka seem marginally less attractive than usual. Props!

Speaking of props:

Haha WHAT? JUST LOOK AT THIS JUNK. This was what Lee kept in his trunk on a day-to-day basis! In retrospect, was he not the most ridiculous character on television? Seriously.

Anyway, just as the ladies were breaking into his car in order to figure out where he'd gone (I don't get it either), THE FUZZ arrived!

In a classic "fun 'n games" moment (of which there haven't been nearly enough on this show), Faye and Melissa decided that Diana needed to do a better job of flirting with the cop. So they did this:

OH LORD. First of all, how is that not just frightening? It reminded me of that 'peek-a-boo' dress that the overweight madame wears in Showgirls. So yeah, this was 100% ridiculous, but I loved it anyway. And the best was the smash-cut to all three of them in the back of the cop car!

Good times. They ended up getting off when Eva came out and lied to the cop, thus setting them free. That was nice of her! But Faye was still not convinced Lee was out of town. That is because Faye is smart.

After being told that their elixir required one more, highly rare ingredient found only in the woods, our central love triangle suddenly found themselves slogging through one of the coolest-looking forests ever. (Congrats, Vancouver!)

Another great thing about this episode was that the stress from guilt (and dying) brought out the best in Jake. He was seriously such a fun bastard, routinely antagonizing Adam and Cassie about having done the dirty. I loved when Cassie called him out on why he was behaving that way:

And even better, how he immediately confirmed it:

Seriously, with a simple "It should've been you and me," this show finally started getting real. The time for being coy and leaving things unspoken is definitely passed... The more these characters learn about each other, the more entertaining it'll be.

Anyway, that's when Jake started hallucinating up some incriminating things:

And the stakes were REALLY raised when it appeared that his t-shirt collection might be in danger:

Back at Jane's facility (which, didn't that place look AWESOME? I would seriously love to spend a few days/weeks/months there!), her busy schedule of classic movies and solitaire was rudely interrupted.

Dawn and Charles (whose haircut and leather jacket suggested a return to badassery) had finally mobilized in figuring out the Blackwell situation, and that included investigating what exactly he'd talked to Jane about. The downside was it involved a crystal. Man, if these things aren't destroyed by the end of the season, it might ruin my summer.

Back in the woods it was nighttime and Jake finally went off the deep-end.

After mistaking Adam for the witch he'd killed, he basically started shouting about having murdered him and then he BODY-SLAMMED Adam!

Seriously, Jake looked like something out of a horror film:

That's when Cassie got that look in her eye and it seemed like something bad was about to happen. Luckily Adam had just enough composure to keep her from doing it.

Then they joined forces to use REGULAR magic and threw Jake across the forest where he came to rest on a nice pile of moss.

But the cat was out of the bag: Ladies and gentleman, Jake was now a known murderer.

And keep in mind this is NOT Mystic Falls where murder is not only not a problem, it's kind of an aphrodisiac. Nope, in Chance Harbor it's still pretty rare and SERIOUS. I approve.

Another thing I approve of? This tiny moment:

A very quick exchange, but also maaaaybe my favorite moment in the whole episode? Another killer moment from JPK whose expression in that last shot was a bit of a stunner. Some of you guys had posited last week that Melissa might just be the other Blackwell child, and personally I'm rooting for that so much now.

Anyway, Faye returned to Lee's voodoo garage for one more confrontation with Eva and it didn't take long for Eva to admit her lie and then ask Faye for some witch-CPR.

Personally I think Faye was more shocked by the fact that Lee now resembled a completely different, clean-shaven dude.

Under the threat of witchcraft (Eva had briefly de-moisturized Faye's hand), Faye agreed to help resurrect Lee.

We knew she wouldn't be able to do anything outside of her circle—Which, come to think of it, how was Eva using Faye's powers again? You know what, nevermind. Anyway, it was definitely just a ploy to destroy this thing:

Unfortunately Eva snatched it out of her hands and a brief but highly satisfying cat fight transpired!

Anyway, Faye finally finished off the garbage prop and things took a really interesting turn.

Eva pulled such a total 180 and was immediately just a sad, confused girl again. I didn't see that coming! I really respected that this show did that... It gave us the inevitable cat fight but still brought things home in an emotional way. So that was cool. Now have fun disposing of Lee's body, lady!

Back at the witch house (who knew it had a bed??), Jake was not looking so hot. Well he looked hot fever-wise maybe. But yeah, it was time to do something about saving his life. Blackwell mixed up the elixir but he had one tiny piece of information to share: Cassie and Adam were the ones who had to drink it and it would basically make them fall out of love! I've honestly never once in my life seen a movie or TV show where characters dealt with this particular dilemma. It was seriously refreshing to see The Secret Circle invent a brand-new way to destroy a romance!

Because Jake was a known murderer, that muddied things a bit, but it was still slightly outrageous when Adam legit suggested they let Jake DIE in order to preserve their romance. That's some harsh stuff right there! And that's also a big reminder of how much Adam kinda sucks. Fortunately Cassie didn't entertain that option and they opted to drink the anti-love potion.

It was an emotional scene and possibly the first time I've ever actually rooted for Cassie and Adam (a fleeting impulse to be sure), but a proper send-off for a plotline that was more important to the premise than it ever was entertaining.

The next day Jake was feeling slightly better, but even he had reservations about whether they should have allowed him to die or not.

And again, Blackwell came through with a highly awesome paternal moment. He assured Jake that people CAN change and Jake basically lit up at that. I seriously love these scenes because as cool and assured and attractive as these kids are most of the time, all they really want is their dead parents back. That Blackwell can sort of offer that to them is as touching as it is crowd-pleasing. It was a truly nice moment and I continue to believe it even in light of the impending revelation about Blackwell (more on that in a sec).

After a long night of, I guess, cuddling during Game of Thrones, Cassie and Adam woke up in a fresh state.

Right off the bat things were already different. For one thing...

Adam was immediately cooler. As he'd explained, his previous love for Cassie left him permanently nervous and fearful, but he no longer felt that way. In fact, he now seemed like an energetic, dynamic go-getter and it was awesome! (I guess their love truly WAS a curse?) Seriously, I suddenly have high hopes for this character.

Unfortunately it was clear that Cassie was only pretending to feel the same way. Because right after Adam gave her the dreaded cheek-kiss and took off for work, her panicked heartache took over:

So sad. This was nice though:

Faye came away from her situation with Eva (and, remember, a DEAD boyfriend) filled with empathy of all things. Strange, right? A surprising and sophisticated choice, but it worked. And it was really nice seeing these three bonding during this episode. Don't get me wrong, I love Faye's mean one-liners like everyone else, but she can be just as funny and snarky without resorting to abject hostility. I'm liking this arc a lot.

Later that night, Blackwell arrived to see how his daughter was doing.

Devastatingly enough, the elixir only affected Adam. Apparently Cassie's dark magic made her immune, so now their mutually assured breakup is an unrequited love situation. Harsh! But again, so clever. I didn't see that coming at all. Poor Cassie!

Back at Jane's facility, Charles was up to some freelance, after-hours schemin':

It wasn't 100% clear if he was restoring Jane to her previous self or if he was simply using more mind control on her in order to defeat Blackwell, but defeating Blackwell was definitely tops on his agenda. I felt bad for Jane, though. She probably just wanted to sit the whole thing out.

Then the shocker:

Dawn called out Blackwell: He'd used MAGIC to invent the "curse" whole cloth, even compelling Jane and nearly killing Jake in the process. All because he bore some kind of grudge against Ethan and Amelia's 'written-in-the-stars' love affair. What a reveal!

BUT! And this is important, I think: Despite doing these reprehensible things, it's still not clear he did them for EVIL reasons. Sure, it sucks to break your own daughter's heart, but (A) he didn't seem to know her feelings would remain that strong, and (B) he implied that their romance was a threat to the circle, much in the way that Ethan and Amelia's love destroyed THEIR circle. If I'm reading this scene correctly, he felt that the only way Cassie would remain safe (and uncorrupted by dark magic) would be to keep her in a circle and at a platonic distance from Adam. So while I think we're supposed to believe this was a big twist and that Blackwell is evil, I didn't see it that way. It shows he makes tough decisions that can certainly hurt people, but his interactions with the kids and his main scheme only prove he's legitimately looking out for their safety. Particularly now that the witch hunters are back.

Oh and he was NOT having Dawn's threats:

Although, did it seem like she was kind of on his side anyway? I definitely got a vibe that she and Charles had gone separate ways in this episode. Whereas Charles wanted to destroy Blackwell, it seemed like Dawn was eager to team up with him. She definitely didn't disagree with his assessment that Ethan and Amelia destroyed their circle. But anyway, the moral of THIS story is that the parents' interactions just got SO COMPLICATED. In the best way. I suddenly care way, way more about them, and I'm excited to see how this all pans out. (The fact that Dawn now knows about the witch hunters' return was just icing on the cake.)

Then we got this final scene which, again, set off all kinds of fireworks in my brain.

Note the picture.

Note the fact that Cassie hummed the show's theme song, which we learned in the pilot was the lullaby Amelia used to sing to her.

And note the moving ceiling stars and the bright one right in the middle. Guys, Amelia is coming back, isn't she? It could be foolhardy to make predictions like this, but I feel like there might just be a Blackwell vs. Amelia showdown and half the kids will choose one side over the other. Does that sound crazy?

THIS SHOW!

Seriously, this was a great episode. I'm not sure if it's appropriate for me to say this, but I feel like now it's time to start making some noise about how much we like The Secret Circle. I have no idea what its odds for renewal are, but based on all the promise displayed in this episode, I feel like not getting a second season would be a true tragedy. It's almost like this whole SEASON has been about setting the table for an even better Season 2. Make it happen, CW!

Super excited about next week. Will this be the episode a certain drowned hunk returns? Who even knows!

BYEEEE.

 

QUESTIONS:

... Is Blackwell evil or just misunderstood?

... Isn't Adam so much better now?

... Amelia is totally coming back, isn't she?

... Who changes the sheets of the witch house bed?

 

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