The Secret Circle: Jackpot (PHOTO RECAP)

Somebody got a tan over spring break! See, while most people get bummed when shows go on hiatus, I personally appreciate being able to step back and take a breather. Not just because I need to devote more time to my side career as the saddest clown at the pony rodeo, but because hiatuses give us a chance to relax our expectations about a show. We can digest what's come before, and in certain cases, a show can go and get that proverbial spring break tan. If "Lucky" is any indication, The Secret Circle got a tan AND did some sit-ups and also took out that crusty eyebrow ring. Looking good, The Secret Circle!

Specifically, I remember the last episode left me feeling pretty bummed with regard to The Great Blackwell Letdown of 2012. I get that making him so weaksauce was an attempt to subvert audience expectation, but I still question the wisdom of promoting abject disappointment in viewers. Fortunately "Lucky" went a long way toward righting this error... Not so much in giving Blackwell any degree of badassery, but in upping the emotional impact he's having on Cassie. She has a dad again, you guys! And just in time too, seeing as she almost turned into a stone-cold murderer in this episode.

But there were a lot of other reasons "Lucky" put a smile on my face. Let's talk about 'em!

We began in Faye's bedroom where she was arranging her ponytail while listening to her new favorite jam...

Lee's splash intro! Clearly that was a web design decision that really paid off for Lee. Then Dawn arrived for their daily A.M. exchange of mother-daughter sassery before Faye dropped a bombshell.

From the way Faye threw it in her face, was it totally out in the open, then, that Dawn and Blackwell were a thing back in the day? I don't know, seems kinda strange that Faye wouldn't have mixed feelings about that seeing as Dawn would've been stepping out on her real dad. (Maybe her real dad. It's complicated.)

Meanwhile at Cassie's joint, she was having some quality time with her dad. He seemed eager to prove to her that he was not the devil.

Despite the fact that we didn't learn a whole lot more about him (he loved his wife, that's why he left her!), this was a great scene. First of all, the casual use of magic was awesome, but also we learned a lot more about dark magic's effects on people. When Cassie pointed out that dark magic is pretty cool because she's been able to protect her circle on a daily basis, Blackwell said that HE'D been trying to protect his circle before dark magic broke his brain. So this was a very "Do as I say, not as I do" conversation, but it really raised the stakes for the struggle Cassie's about to endure. Also, you know, it's always awesome seeing a teen character having a meaningful conversation about magic with an elder.

And I still love this dynamic:

I liked that Blackwell recognized how seriously Jake takes Cassie's well-being and asked him to keep watching out for her. I don't know, it just seems like a cool thing for a dad to do.

Oh and THIS! See, this episode had a lot of scenes I just plum enjoyed. How rare is it to see the entire circle just hanging out? And not only that, but cracking jokes! Faye was in rare form, openly teasing Jake and Adam about fighting over Cassie.

Yeah Faye was definitely in top form this episode, it's so nice when she can be both bitchy AND likeable. (Remember how she was just randomly hostile to everyone in the Valentine's Day episode yet people still hung out with her?) Funny Faye is my favorite. She's almost as good as Sad Diana.

Haha, oh Diana. See, you can give someone a glamazon makeover but deep down she's still just a sad, sensitive nerd. And she brought up a room-silencing truth here: Cassie's lucky to have Blackwell back because they'll never get to see their dead parents again. I know that the characters' broken families are part of the premise, but I appreciate whenever the show recognizes just how sad that is for them.

This also marked the first episode where Adam and Cassie were in a full-blown, kissing-in-public romance!

And it also was the first episode where I became immediately annoyed by it! Fortunately, that seemed to be intentional. (More on that later!)

Oh look who was awake?

So it shouldn't come as any surprise that Eva was crazy. Cute and sorta low-key, sure, but we immediately knew she was was trouble when she greeted Lee with "Hi, baby." The psycho girlfriend archetype always skirts the edges of misogyny (their entire existence revolves around one dude?), but I think it was handled pretty well here. Eva's instability was as sad as it was threatening.

Meanwhile over at the Boat House (which presumably saw a huge drop-off in customers once that coffee house opened), Melissa and Diana had a run-in with a WEALTHY AUSTRALIAN HUNK who SAILS and knows about CHAMPAGNE. Because she's just smooth like that, Diana kinda blew him off and walked outside, most likely because she doesn't think she can date someone outside the Circle or whatever. And that's when my favorite new version of Melissa arrived: DR. MELISSA, love expert.

After a quick pep talk from Dr. Melissa, Diana was better able to face the guy when he followed them outside. And what a face:

This is Grant. He does for the overbite what Jason Statham does for receding hairlines. Also the accent didn't hurt. This lady knows what I'm talking about:

Meanwhile at the witch house Blackwell was secretly searching for something and NOT finding it.

And when he couldn't, he got so mad he knocked over a whole table of junk!

Claiming that she refused to go to that night's high school casino-themed fundraiser alone, Faye decided to go pay Lee a visit to invite him. Because nobody has phones in Chance Harbor, just FYI. Immediately upon walking in, though, she found a certain pair of tattered Pay Less lady moccasins.

The best was when Faye just threw them in the garbage and carried on. As any woman will tell you, throwing another woman's shoes in the trash is basically the "Yo Momma" joke of the female world. GET READY TO FIGHT.

Unfortunately Lee declined Faye's offer to attend a high school casino night party. She seemed kind of shocked, and with good reason. I mean, how many girls who look like Faye are gonna just walk into Lee's awful voodoo garage with such an appealing proposition?

After Cassie reported to Adam what she'd seen her father doing, he and she did something amazing: They broke into Jake's house!

As Adam explained, back in the day he and Nick (remember him?) had found a witch item in that particular compartment and discovered that it was used for draining a witch's powers, so Nick hid it in his things.

Meanwhile back at the coffee shop (caffeine withdrawal is a bitch), Dr. Melissa was in full effect.

Melissa told Faye to get back in the game, and so she did:

And that's when she had a close encounter of the mousy kind:

Whoops! Lee decided to pretend he barely knew Faye and instead mouth-attacked Eva. Poor Faye!

Meanwhile at Casino night, Diana found herself once again on the receiving end of a charm offensive.

For someone who tries to impress a girl by throwing down a bunch of Benjamins, Grant was surprisingly non-sleazy! Good on'im.

After confronting her father with the whole "witch draining" thing, Cassie learned she had it all wrong: The item was meant to tether a human (like, say, Eben) to a witch (like, say, Ethan). In Blackwell's opinion, someone from his circle had betrayed them by lending Eben magic in order to kill Blackwell. Because she spotted Ethan on the scene during her timewarp flashback, Cassie deduced that Ethan must've been the prime suspect.

But bringing it up with Adam was probably not the best idea.

Haha! I laughed at this scene so much. Adam was MAAAAD. Honestly, would it shock any of these kids to find out that their parents did bad things in the past? I figured that was already common knowledge in this town. Anyway, Adam was perfectly cool with viewing Cassie's dad as a villain but when it came to his own dewy-eyed daddy that accusation was OUT OF BOUNDS.

So they enjoyed their first-ever shouting match (important in any romance), and Adam stormed out. That's when she, of course, went to Jake for his advice. But when she made the mistake of sympathizing with Adam's feelings, HE shouted at her too.

Poor Cassie!

Back at the world's most inappropriate high school fundraiser (Teen gambling! Mocktails! Sixteen-year-old waitresses with tons of cleavage!), Faye was NOT having a good time.

Fortunately she turned to the right Love Doctor.

To be fair, she didn't just jump back into Lee's arms immediately. First she fired off a pretty great line about not being the kind of girl who will sit and wait for a guy to choose. YES! Take this message to heart, ladies. But anyway, that was beside the point because Lee made his choice then and there.

Oh, and the we got THIS long-awaited reunion:

So it didn't come to much. Dawn quickly presented the idea that they team up and, you guessed it, get their powers back. But Blackwell was like, "I've changed," and "Where's Ethan?" and Dawn got all frowney-faced. Oh well, better luck next time, Dawn.

Then Adam and Cassie had their very first post-argument apology session.:

And a couple of teen witches cheated at blackjack:

Haha, that is several thousand dollars worth of skee ball tickets right there! How many sock monkeys does Faye need, exactly?

Unfortunately the good times couldn't last forever.

Eva arrived, made this really huge emotional display about how much she loves Lee and he still broke up with her. But before you go and assume she got a raw deal, please keep in mind that her sad pathos seriously got under your skin. No good was going to come of this.

Speaking of pathetic, somebody had busted out his best black outfit only to forlornly watch Cassie from across the room.

Aw, Jake. Dr. Melissa may have just prescribed you a big dose of reality, but I'm still on your side, big guy!

Outside, Blackwell's night was just about to take a turn for the irritating:

Cassie walked out JUST as some guy had run up and stabbed her father, prison yard-style. She may have only known Blackwell for two days, but NOBODY was about to be runnin' up stabbing her daddy!

And in another of The Secret Circle's out-of-nowhere bursts of awesomeness, THIS was how she finally took him down:

He got BLEACHER'D! Honestly, it was perfect. And the stunt itself was nothing short of amazing. Like that sick car crash from a few episodes back, when The Secret Circle gets serious about stunts it does them better than most other shows.

And guess who the stabber was?

Ethan! But that wasn't even the most shocking part of this scene. THIS was:

No joke, Cassie was legitimately about to FINISH HIM, Mortal Kombat-style, with a piece of busted bleacher seat.

Fortunately Blackwell caught up and stopped her because WOW. Among the things this show has done right, it's Cassie's progression toward the dark side and not only did this prove just how dangerous she's becoming, but Ethan is the father of her boyfriend. She may not have gone through with it, but I'm guessing their interactions will be slightly awkward from this point onward.

Meanwhile, after he'd won a stuffed monkey for her, Grant finally got some facetime with Diana:

There's a running joke that anytime someone new arrives in town, the kids immediately trust that person only to discover they're evil and/or dangerous. It's happened in basically every episode so far, right? So one cool thing about this episode? That never happened with Grant. From start to finish, he and Diana's interactions were just grade-A teen wish fulfillment, a thread of funtimes woven through an otherwise tense or sad episode. Who knows, maybe next week we'll find out he has an evil mutant conjoined twin hidden under his expensive coat, but for now at least I dug that at least one character was allowed a kernel of happiness.

Because Lee sure wasn't:

The only thing worse than an emotionally fragile, jealous girl with entitlement issues is when that girl ALSO suddenly has magical powers.

Whoops! Now, to me it looked pretty definitively like Lee was dead, but I'm not a doctor of witchcraft. He's dead right? Oh, well. Bye, Lee!

Later, Blackwell confronted Ethan.

Ethan talked some junk to Blackwell, including the fact that he had indeed sort of betrayed the circle (in order to kill Blackwell) but also, apparently Amelia had wanted Blackwell dead too, thus implicating her in the whole betraying-the-circle thing. Now, I just wanted to point out that this episode made overt references to both Nick and Amelia. On the surface the writers could just be making references to their own mythology, but if The Vampire Diaries has taught me anything, it's that out-of-nowhere references like that usually have a purpose for later. What I'm saying is, do you think we'll be seeing Nick or Amelia again at some point?

Anyway, their conversation concluded with Ethan gloating over the fact that Cassie and Adam were finally completing their families' written-in-the-stars B.S. And that's when Blackwell dropped this awesome piece of info. That written-in-the-stars thing is actually a CURSE! Dun-dun-dunnn!

That revelation, coupled with another important first in our heroes' romance, led to The Secret Circle's best ending yet.

After the bummer news from her father that she'd never be able to control her dark magic and should give up magic entirely, Cassie attempted to push Adam away. You know, for his safety. Needless to say it didn't work and suddenly they were shirtless hugging!

And then this happened:

This screengrab does no justice to how beautifully eerie this crane-shot + CGI were. While this show hasn't necessarly mastered the art of the cliffhanger, it's definitely begun to make strong closing images one of its best trademarks. These swarming crows were just so cool to me. Also, there's the added meaning that one of the series' central themes (Cassie and Adam's romance being destined) has now been inverted! Their slightly boring romance is a HARBINGER OF DOOM, you guys!

Good tease. Great episode. Excellent tan. Welcome back, show.



... Is Lee fully dead or just getting some Z's?

... Do you trust the Aussie sailor dude?

... Is Cassie becoming one of the most complex lady protagonists on television?

... Should Dr. Melissa start a cable access call-in show?

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