The Secret Circle: Family Trouble Dare (PHOTO RECAP)

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We're eight episodes in and it's becoming clear that The Secret Circle is not so much about magic itself, but rather what magic attracts. In the case of this circle, it's MIND-NUMBING HORROR. Whether it's dealing with teens in pig masks toting chloroform hankies or demonic slugs crawling in your orifices, it's starting to look like being a witch isn't exactly the hottest scenario. This subtle shift in intention makes sense from a writing standpoint as it's probably more thrilling to watch our heroes run from danger than study books and easily solve problems with a quick chant. So basically The Secret Circle has doubled down on its horror elements, and that's something I definitely approve of. Horror is the best!

After last week's Halloween-themed boogeyman terror, this week's episode, "Beneath," was more of a traditional ghost story. No alarming intruders or stalkers, just an unraveling mystery mixed with intrigue, hard liquor, and the world's worst game of Truth or Dare. Let's jump right in!

We began the morning after Cassie's Halloween party, or maybe it was a couple of days later? All I know is, the house looked impeccable but Jane still wasn't home. Plus none of the circle had compared notes about their abduction yet? So it must have been the next day and I guess Cassie's just a super quick cleaner. Whatever, I realize I'm not really supposed to dwell on the timeline here, but that is ALL I think about sometimes?

Just because Jane was missing didn't mean there wouldn't be a kitchen exposition scene!

Melissa had the right idea by sitting this episode OUT. Apparently her mom decided that a dead boyfriend and a violent abduction were probably more than a teenager can handle during the course of a week, so they went on a Carnival Cruise or something (I made that up). But yeah, no Melissa.

The rest of the circle, however, had suddenly realized what happened to Luke, the world's most wholesome-looking witch hunter.

To her credit, Cassie was relatively forthcoming about her ability to work magic on her own. Obviously this didn't sit well with Faye, who said one of the meanest things she's ever said, "If I had my own magic I wouldn't be here." "BURN!" - Luke (because he got burnt up.)

Sad Adam (Sadam?) ended up having the best instincts when he straight-up questioned Jake's story about how he'd somehow eluded the ritualistic sacrifice of their supposed circle. And then Jake was a hilariously bad liar. None of his excuses ever made sense and he just didn't do a good job of playing it off at all. On the other hand, just look at him. He looks like he's made of brown sugar and butter! Who could possibly be suspicious of him? Cassie definitely wasn't.

At this point Faye's Cheekbones of Jealousy made an appearance and suddenly she started flying off the handle, accusing Cassie of having been the source of all their ills. It was true that tons of terrible things had happened to these kids ever since Cassie arrived, but as Diana pointed out it had more to do with their binding of the circle than anything. (Also, low blow, Faye, it's not like Cassie WANTED to move here.)

Luckily Cassie did some quick thinking and shut down Faye's drama by distracting everyone with the mystical pages that antiques dealer had left her.

Jake was VERY interested in it obviously, but the most anyone could surmise was that the signed "JB" stood for Jane Blake and not "John Blackwell," the presumably certain-to-appear evil warlock who fathered Cassie. Anyway, at this point the entire gang decided they needed to be more pro-active in locating Jane, so Cassie volunteered to go visit Faye's family's cabin, and where Cassie goes, Jake goes. And Faye. Suddenly it was a road trip!

Now, we already knew Faye's grandpa was dead because Dawn had straight up murdered him with a crystal that one time. So it was pretty funny how cagey Dawn got when Faye mentioned she was on her way to visit him.

So then we found out that it was CHARLES who'd bludgeoned Jane in the head and stolen the crystal at the end of last week's episode. Honestly, why keep that a mystery, The Secret Circle? This seemed like kind of a let down. I don't know, I don't run the world. Anyway, Charles had the situation handled.

Hi Jane! Jane was chillin' in the back of Charles' car just catching up on some sleep. Additionally, he'd hidden Charles' body where NOBODY would EVER find it.

Anyway, the kids drove up to "Pine Lake" which was only 3 hours away, despite the fact that it had taken like 17 hours for Jane to get there. I'm guessing she just stopped at Wendy's a few times along the way or whatever?

Cassie and Jake's ride up was filled with the usual amount of exposition and sexual tension and character insight. Jake was already kind of on thin ice with his witch hunter boss for becoming "too intrigued" by Cassie, so his main goal on this trip was to simply learn more about the extent of Cassie's dark magic. Which meant that he basically grilled her about her family tree or merely pouted when she didn't want to talk about it.

The spookiness began right after the kids arrived and Faye spotted a ghostly little girl running around the lake.

How scary was that childrens' laughter she heard? Very Blair Witch!

So, obviously neither Jane nor Henry were there, but Cassie DID find Jane's scarf:

Way to go Charles! Jeez, that's like Grandma Clobbering 101: DON'T leave the scarf behind!

Also the power was out, so the kids set about starting up the generator and/or breaking into the liquor cabinet. Faye continued to investigate mysterious happenings around the house, including the sudden appearance of tiny wet footprints on the hardwood.

Aaahhh! Disappearing galoshes!

Meanwhile after a very refreshing glass of Chardonnay, Dawn conferred with Charles about what to do with Jane. That's when he revealed that he'd found a new crystal.

Dawn could barely contain herself she was so power hungry! It was immediately obvious that she hated Charles having the upper hand, so we knew we were headed into tense waters with that one.

Back at the cabin the boys had turned on the generator while the girls did their thing. Later, Jake starting showing some intense interest in Cassie's powers, including getting her to light the fireplace without chanting.

The fire actually lit so powerfully that Jake just straight-up stared at her in silent concern. Or was it <3??

I think we've all been here:

But what began as a luxurious bath in her grandfather's soaking tub quickly took a turn for the disgusting!

To be fair, that bath looked like something a lot of people would pay tons of money for at a fancy health spa, but on the other hand it looked like it smelled terrible. Needless to say, Faye immediately blamed Cassie.

Because the old "bathtub full of weeds" prank is basically the oldest witch prank in the witch book.

Elsewhere Charles and Dawn snuck into the kids' abandoned house headquarters.

It was weird how they sort of pretended they'd never been there before, even though it had been THEIR hangout originally? Like remember when Faye found all those old pages in the wall from the previous circle? I don't know, I'm sure I missed something here. But yeah, it was sort of cool how proud Charles and Dawn seemed of their little fledgling witch children.

After finding Diana's Book of Shadows, Dawn decided to make her move by requesting she become the crystal's protectress.

But Charles totally stood up for himself! Who knows, maybe the fearsome version of him featured in the original pilot might be making a comeback? Either way, it's nice to see some tension between these two characters. Power struggles are always fun!

Then came the episode's centerpiece element: the most passive-aggressive game of Truth or Dare in history! For the characters it looked like just a bunch of bad times, but we the viewers reaped the benefits.

Truth or Dare is just a great way to reveal things about our favorite characters. Like for instance what they look like with their shirts off!

Did you know that Diana could probably play a female lead in a Michael Bay film? I didn't! By the way, I love how it was Faye who dared Diana to take her shirt off. Is it safe to start the countdown clock until Faye's kissing girls? Make it happen, CW!

Jake faced even more questioning from Adam about the whole witch hunter thing. And then I guess everyone forgot the rules of Truth or Dare and just started randomly throwing out truths and/or dares at their startled friends. For example, Faye started demanding ultra-personal truths of Cassie before she'd even said anything. Luckily Cassie's lady-wingman Diana swooped in and dared Cassie to mash faces with Jake, which ended up being a hilarious test of Faye's resolve.

Then Faye unloaded on Cassie once again, but this time Cassie stood up for herself!

Cassie didn't say anything TOO horrible, mostly just accusing Faye of being kind of pathetic, but it was enough to make the tipsy Faye run out of the house and attempt to drive off.

Fortunately for everyone's safety, the rain slicker-clad girl ghost grabbed Faye's attention before disappearing into the woods.

Elsewhere, Jake interrupted Cassie as she rifled through Henry's things and they shared some pretty fun dialogue.

But Jake started insulting Faye by claiming she'd overblown their relationship and he never liked her that much, etc. Because Cassie's decent to the core (and an actual friend to Faye, despite Faye's ideas to the contrary), she actually seemed to get annoyed at him on Faye's behalf. And when he attempted that "you're cute when you're angry" routine she called him a cheeseball and walked off. It was pretty great, I don't know, maybe you had to be there. THEN he randomly tried to start tutoring her to take her emotions and funnel them into her magic? It was weird.

Ultimately though, Cassie just got sick and tired of not getting with Jake, so she finally took some initiative.

And then he rebuffed her! It was really weird and awkward, and Cassie handled it the best way she knew how:

Cassie <3s running out of rooms so much!

Meanwhile out in the barn, Adam and Diana were screaming at each other and it mostly had to do with whether Adam did or did not cringe when Cassie kissed Jake. Here's how it went:

Whoops!

Meanwhile Charles found a spell that would not only wipe away Jane's memories of her attack, but would also allow him to control her thoughts and actions? It sounded creepy!

So then Cassie spotted the ghost girl by the lake, and Faye informed her that it wasn't just any girl, it was FAYE as a young girl. For some reason this caused Faye to wade into the lake and thrash about.

Which meant it was up to Cassie to take care of business.

And boom! Without really know what she was doing or why, Cassie ended up releasing Henry's dead body from the lake! It turned out that when he was murdered, his energy remained in the atmosphere and manifested itself in the form of a memory that Faye would recognize and interpret as a sign. All in all, a fairly elegant explanation for a haunting.

Oh, but you know, still traumatic for Faye:

In the morning Faye still seemed pretty shaken up by the sight of her grandfather's corpse, not to mention her lingering anger toward Cassie for stealing her slab of badboy. But luckily Dawn swooped in to demonstrate that despite her predilection for villainy, she's really a pretty great mom.

I mean, obviously Dawn was the ACTUAL murderer of Faye's grandfather, but throughout the episode she'd been really concerned about exposing Faye to the resulting trauma. It just seems rare that a TV parent would be so good about protecting their kids emotionally as much as physically. I don't know. It's late.

Cassie and Jake enjoyed a weird drive back, though neither one of them mentioned their abortive makeout session. It seemed like Cassie was over it, though, because it didn't take much for her to seem kinda into him again.

He seemed way nicer on the drive back. And this tiny moment was just the best:

Quick question: Has Cassie ever smiled like this at Adam? Just askin'! Anyway, it did seem like Jake was starting to genuinely like Cassie, but then again, who can tell? Maybe I just imagined it. This show is kind of a Rorschach test like that.

Meanwhile the other car contained a different flavor of awkward:

This conversation actually reflected really well on both of these kids. Adam didn't want to let Diana go (understandable!), but she was definitely making an argument for sowing their wild oats or whatever. Personally, I think society (and especially teen soaps) put way too much value in the high school sweetheart story, so I think it's awesome and refreshing that Diana's broadening her horizons a bit. I mean, sure, sucks for Adam, but ultimately if they'll end up together it should be for the right reasons. Right?

Anyway, guess who was chillin' in Jake's bedroom!

Sorry, but this was kinda ho yay right? Some dude just hanging out in your dark bedroom all day? Count your deep-Vs, Jake. Anyway, Witch Hunter bossman basically called Jake out for getting too close to the other witches, and declared this a now-or-never situation. Which side will Jake choose, you guys???

Then, in what I'm assuming was SUPPOSED to be a cliffhanger, Cassie was reunited with a strangely blank Jane.

The reason I'm saying it wasn't really a big deal was that Cassie immediately knew that Jane's story didn't add up, and then Jane also seemed to realize that she'd been zapped. So, okay. Cool. It's not a mystery for us, and it's not really a mystery for them either. See you next week!

All in all, an effective if not as action-packed hour. But sometimes good old-fashioned teen drama can be just as stressful as monster attacks or home invasions, so I admire The Secret Circle for continuing to switch things up.

Next week is the mideason finale! I'm sad already!

 

QUESTIONS

... How stoked is Melissa to have missed that whole thing?

... Will Charles fully return to his badass ways?

... Do these friends ever actually have GOOD times together?

... So Jake's totally going full-hero in the next episode right?

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