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'Salem' recap: I will survive

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Survivors” | Aired May 11, 2014

Just when you thought there was one character on this show who could almost definitively fall under the “hero” category, John Alden goes and strangles a guy over a decorative box. Well, and some blackmail. And the guy did kind of step over the line when he brought Mary into it, but still, it was pretty shocking to discover that John is a murderer rather than the tortured war veteran he was made out to be. Then again, is one kind of murder preferable to the other? A philosophical question for another time. Right now … let’s talk about some mother-effing snakes in some mother-effing stomachs.

Remember Mercy, the possessed girl that Mary keeps using to falsely accuse random people of witchcraft? She’s gone from being dragged around town in a harness like a witch-sniffing dog to having her gut cut open by some Bible-wielding exorcist who actually manages to successfully expel Mary’s pet snake from Mercy’s stomach. So … win? I guess? You know you’re having a bad day when a snake crawling out of your bleeding abdomen is actually considered an improvement. This is none too convenient for Mary, of course, whose grand witchy plan hinges on being able to use Mercy to continue setting up innocent people to fall victim to the panic and paranoia that has taken over Salem. How will Mary be able to maintain her status as the leader of the witches and puppet master of Salem if she can’t even keep a teenage girl under her control?


Another young girl whom Mary can’t seem to keep in check is Anne Hale, who is forever fluctuating between annoyingly naive and surprisingly bold. She makes a case for option “A” when she finds John in the cemetery while he’s quietly contemplating his parents’ gravestones. “You miss them, don’t you?” she asks. Umm … did they have facepalms back then? Because if not, they should retroactively instate them just for this moment. John gives her one of his best facial expressions that says, “I am confused — but almost amused — by your complete lack of tact.” Either that, or: “I’m hungry.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell with John.

He and Anne chat awkwardly for a bit about how she was sick and had a dream about a doll. OK, Anne, dating tip No. 1: If you’re trying to seduce a man, don’t tell him about how you spent a night writhing on the floor in a fevered state, having hallucinations about creepy dolls. I’m no expert on 17th-century courtship etiquette, but that’s kind of a given. Lucky for Anne, her awkwardness is matched only by John’s obliviousness, so rather than reciprocate her moon eyes, John latches on to the potential witchcraft aspect of the whole story, leading him to suspect Hale as a possible witch.

After Hale shows up to crash John and Anne’s little graveyard date, John heads to the pub to have bro brunch with Cotton. They gossip over mimosas and appetizers, talking about their respective hair products and how terrible they are at talking to women. “Blah blah, ale, blah blah … witches be crazy.” You know, the usual. Cotton is clearly distracted by Gloriana, his redheaded lady friend, who is getting up close and personal with the New Guy in Town. Cotton does what any man of God would do in that scenario and attacks the man. (“Turn the other cheek” and all.) As per the Bro Code, John steps in to help Cotton by trying to break up the fight. In the process, however, it becomes clear that John knows New Guy in Town from somewhere, despite his not-at-all-convincing claim that he’s never seen the man before.

New Guy’s only defining quality is that he wears a really big hat. It’s almost like they said, “Well, we’ve got too many beards and notable hairstyles going on, so how can we make this guy stand out?” “I know: a giant hat!” Well, it worked. Captain Hat (whose real name is Hooke, which, by the way — is that really any less ridiculous than “Captain Hat”?) is an old acquaintance of John’s from his time away from Salem, but the two men aren’t exactly happy to see each other. Hooke is just trying to get a mysterious package from the ship that Mary has quarantined, but he warns John that he could tell all of Salem who John Alden really is. Dun dun dunnnn! What could John be hiding? A shameful act of war? Another love interest? A tramp stamp? No doubt all will be revealed in time!

Hale decides to try the old catch-more-flies-with-honey tactic in his ongoing battle with John Alden. Rather than glaring at John like a lion staring down a gazelle, Hale tells John he wants to throw a party in his honor! What a hilarious and totally non-transparent plan. This party is the obligatory town event of the episode that brings (almost) everyone together, so when things hit the fan it’s sure to splatter on all of them, except for Hooke and the Toad Vessel Formerly Known as George Sibley. While Mary is attending John’s party, Hooke goes to talk to Sibley about getting his parcel off the ship, but he finds the man has other things on his mind … like the scrawled note he’s been working on writing in his own blood that reads, “WITCH.” Hooke takes the note from Sibley and starts plotting his next move, which does not involve using some disinfectant on Sibley’s wound from stabbing himself . I’m just saying, in the 1600s, infection was like the number-two cause of death — after getting murdered for being a suspected witch.

After last week’s unfortunate doll-curse incident, Hale has given Anne a Valerian-root necklace to protect his daughter from any more spells. Mary finds this out the hard way when the necklace burns her fingers at its touch. Confronting Hale, Mary points out that perhaps he should have invested instead in a chastity belt, given how Anne has been drooling over John lately. Zing! To be fair, John looks especially gorgeous at the party — I think he might have even combed his hair. He’s not shy about how miserable he is, though. Hale tries to convince John that his reason for throwing the party is really that he’s worried about Anne because he believes someone put a spell on her. To which John replies, “You are full of far more s**t than I thought possible.” Good one, John! That guy sure knows how to deliver an insult.

Meanwhile, Cotton is in one of his moods, this time brought on partly by his earlier scuffle with Hooke over Gloriana, and also partly because of his conversation with Mary, where she called him a failure and reminded him that he’s a disappointment compared to his father. Tormented as ever by his own sinful desires, Cotton runs into Gloriana, and he tries to shrug off his outburst in the pub by saying he was being charitable. (Ha!) When she keeps goading him, Cotton finally snaps, pushing Gloriana down on the stairs and forcing himself on her. Point taken, Cotton. Clearly you’re a weak man who needs to push women around in order to feel powerful. Congratulations on being the most despicable character on a show full of murderers.

Hooke retrieves his package from the ship after threatening Mary with Sibley’s note, which, even though it looks more like a finger painting by a very disturbed child, would probably be enough to get her hanged. He might have gotten away and delivered his parcel to the woman who ordered it, but he runs into John, and they get to talking. And by “talking,” I mean strangling. John actually does kill Hooke, just like he said he should have done years ago, but not before Hooke accuses John of some pretty awful things, like treason and mass murder.

After Mary and Tituba repossess Mercy via another snake (or “familiar”) slithering down her throat, Mary opens her door to find John walking around in the night. Suddenly the two former lovers seem much younger than they did when they were both killing people moments ago (granted, indirectly so, on Mary’s part, but the end goal is the same). John brings up their last conversation before he left for war, wondering if they were both lying — he about coming back in a year, and she about waiting for him. Mary tells him they weren’t lies, just wishes. Both of them have done what they had to do in order to survive. Not that that justifies murder, but overall it’s a pretty good excuse. One thing is for sure: Neither of them is who they were when they made those promises. And whoever they are now, they’re both killers.


To drive home the “different people than we were” theme, Mary looks at her reflection in a mirror after John has left. Suddenly she sees Mercy standing behind her with a smile on her face and a snake in her hand. Looks like Mary needs to come up with a plan B ASAP. Maybe she’d have better luck with amphibians?

It’s hard to know who in Salem to root for at this point. It doesn’t feel right to hope that Mary succeeds in killing another innocent person or manipulating a young girl, but at the same time, you can’t help but be disappointed when Mary’s power is threatened. Plus, who else is there to root for? Mary may be a snake in the grass, but Hale is a power-hungry rat who looks far too much like Lucius Malfoy to ever be truly likable. To quote Sue’s famous speech from the first season of Survivor (appropriate, given the title of this episode), in the end, it should be as nature intended: The snake should eat the rat. Assuming the snake hasn’t already been eaten by a human host who’s being controlled by a witch.

Salem, rated TV-MA, airs Sundays at 10/9 C on WGN America.

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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