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'Salem' recap: Another one bites the dust

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “The Stone Child” | Aired Apr 27, 2014

Life in the 1600s was hard. Life in 1692 Salem was even harder — especially for any animals living within a five-mile radius of the town. (Seriously, what’s with all the mutilated reptiles and rodents in this episode?) Even if you survived the everyday trials, such as childbirth, the flu or a nasty paper cut that got infected, you still had to avoid getting accused of witchcraft. So far, the people of Salem are zero for two in executing actual witches. In fact, the people they’ve killed have been two of the most likeable, reasonable characters we’ve met — which is why they had to die. Salem is no place for reason or logic. Salem is fueled by mania, madness and paranoia. It’s like a Charlie Sheen house party. And what happens to the person at the party who points out that maybe it’s not a great idea to pour vodka into the pool and light it on fire? They get sent packing. Only, in the case of Salem, they end up dead. Just ask Bridget, the midwife who dared use medicinal “potions” and birthing techniques to help a pregnant girl.

In the latest episode of WGN America’s Salem, we start things off with Cotton Mather having some kind of nervous breakdown/guilt trip/bender in which he seems to be feeling a little bad about killing Giles Corey, who maybe wasn’t a witch after all. (Oops.)

Cotton is sticking his finger into the candle flame and writing morbid poetry like a death-obsessed teenager. The best part of this scene is his hair, which starts to look increasingly like Jim Carrey’s hair in the Ace Ventura movies. Tortured by the idea that some innocent people might be killed (by him) in the war against the witches, Cotton seeks solace in his two favorite things: alcohol and sex with prostitutes. Which are, you know, totally OK by Puritan standards … Just as Cotton is making some would-be profound comment about holes that can never be filled (*snicker*), John storms in and pins a stark-naked Cotton to the wall. (Am I the only one picking up on some sexual tension between these two?) Thus begins an unlikely alliance between the reverend and the rebel.

It’s clear that John still doesn’t like Cotton — you can tell because John’s mouth does that angry snarl thing every time Cotton speaks — but he realizes that the reverend knows a bit about witches. Not to mention that John doesn’t exactly have a whole bunch of people waiting in line to exchange friendship bracelets. He’s still having a hard time playing well with others. For this reason, it’s not surprising when John is arrested.

While Isaac and Cotton are poking around the woods, finding dismembered hands that erupt with insects, John gets a visit from an old friend in prison: Mary Sibley. She’s come to tell him she wants him to leave Salem. (Lies! Who wouldn’t want Shane West’s pretty face to stick around?) John isn’t fooled, but after some one-sided flirting, John storms out and gives his half of a coin (a symbol of his and Mary’s love from their younger years) to a beggar girl. That’s gotta hurt. (Especially since we see Mary wearing her half-coin later in the episode — and John sees it too.)

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Eager to distract herself from her own problems, Mary pays a visit to a young unmarried girl who is in early labor. Mary orders the midwife to stop delivering the baby until the girl agrees to tell them who the father is. The midwife is like, “Umm, that’s not really how this works.” (OK, she doesn’t say it, but her facial expression does.) Bridget is a straight shooter, which is admirable, but ultimately not ideal for a woman living in 17th-century Salem. She sees right through the nonsense of the witch hunt, telling Mary of her theory: “I think the selectmen are exploiting [Mercy’s] condition to create fear in Salem. This so-called witch panic is yet another attempt by the Puritans to control us.” Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! What prize do we have for the lucky lady? What’s that? A noose? Oh …

The girl eventually gives up the boy’s name. Bridget the Midwife pleads with Mary to use her position in Salem to help the poor and those who are less favored in the eyes of the Puritans, but Mary is too preoccupied with remembering her lost child to listen to Bridget. Back in the privacy of her own home, Mary is free to cry in peace as she nurses her pet toad from her leg nipple. (I was wondering if we’d be seeing that again …) She’s too distraught to really revel in her plan to turn the people of Salem against each other, but when Tituba asks, Mary tells her how she plans to get the next “innocent” needed to continue their ritual. Mary’s declaration that “the earth cries out for innocent blood” reminded me of the fact that she’s kind of the villain here. Well, relatively speaking. At best, she’s a morally gray character who seems totally fine with murder. I guess her outlook is that no one in Salem is innocent? That might be true at this point.

While the two witches discuss their master plan, Mary tells Tituba that she knows of a girl carrying death in her womb — referring to the girl in labor whose baby indeed turns out to be stillborn. When the girl reports having seen a vicious hag clawing at her stomach while she was giving birth, this stirs up a new witch hunt that puts midwife Bridget at the center. When Cotton interrogates Bridget, she tries to explain the science of birth and whatnot, which is a total no-no when it comes to defending yourself against charges of witchcraft. To top it off, Mary orchestrates a dramatic witch test by having the accused stand before Mercy, the possessed girl from last week, to see if she reacts to them. Oh, and she does. If by “react,” you mean “spew blood at her in an abrupt and violent fashion.” With another spatter of blood, Bridget’s fate is sealed, and another innocent is killed for Mary’s grand plan.

Meanwhile, John and Cotton have been begrudgingly working together to research this witch business for the good of Salem, and they actually make a good team. John explains the ritual he witnessed in the woods, and Cotton tries to relate it to everything he knows about witches and “hellfire” (aka demon tar wrestling). John calls Cotton a nerd for knowing how to read Latin, and their hate-flirting banter continues. It’s almost as if Cotton never accidentally-on-purpose murdered John’s sort-of friend Giles. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to allies. Fittingly, right after this scene is an announcement that “Salem is brought to you by eHarmony,” which may be the most amusing juxtaposition of a show and a sponsor I’ve heard of.

After Bridget is sentenced to death for basically being good at her job and making intelligent comments about biology, she stands on the stage and asks God to send a sign that she’s not a witch. To his credit, Cotton looks around like he half-expects it to start raining unicorns, or to see a giant neon sign that says, “SHE’S INNOCENT.” Alas, no such sign appears, and Bridget is killed. Distraught over the loss of her friend, Anne Hale (that young redhead who’s really into John) slaps Cotton across his face. That’s probably why earlier, John told her that she reminds him of someone he once knew — obviously meaning Mary when they were younger. Anne is young and passionate, which means she’s probably going to be killed by the end of the season. She already has two strikes against her: 1) She’s an intelligent woman who speaks her mind, and 2) Mary Sibley doesn’t like her. That’s probably why Mary put the world’s creepiest doll in Anne’s room. Nothing good ever comes from creepy dolls.

There was a lot going on in this episode, including some things I didn’t even touch on, such as Magistrate Hall and the seer with his mutilated animal menagerie, and Cotton’s admiring of John’s form while John dug a proper grave for Giles in the cemetery. All in all, they really kept the action going in the second episode. It’s a good balance of laying groundwork and keeping the plot moving. Hopefully they can maintain this pace — and keep finding characters to kill off.

What’s your take so far? Are you loving the John Alden-Cotton Mather alliance as much as I am? Would you call Mary a villain? What’s the creepiest or scariest thing you’ve seen on this show so far? Dead baby in a jar? Creepy voodoo doll? Thigh nipple? Disintegrating hand? There are so many good options. Leave your vote in the comments section, along with any John Cotton fan fiction links you know of. I’m only asking for a friend …

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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