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Salem, episode 111: Mary (WGN America)

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'Salem' recap: The best-laid plans

Season 1 | Episode 11 | “Cat and Mouse” | Aired June 29, 2014

With only two episodes left in the season, things in Salem are really starting to heat up—and I don’t just mean the pot of boiling water that Increase has been using to torture Mercy’s gang of teen cohorts. Alliances are shifting, secrets are being revealed, and stakes are rising for everyone in Salem. All this drama makes for enough excitement that “Cat and Mouse” is still a jam-packed hour of thrills and gasps, despite the fact that John Alden spends the whole time moping in a jail cell (and fully clothed). Not an easy feat! Here’s what happened in this week’s Salem.

Mary and Increase meet up for a walk-and-talk through the town, discussing the pros and cons of putting John on trial for witchcraft. Having had some time to regroup and recover from the shock that paralyzed her when Tituba first accused John, Mary seems back to her normal scheming self, if a little desperate. She convinces Increase that, although he can be a little rough around the edges, John is basically the Salem equivalent of the star quarterback, and the town loves him. If Increase doesn’t want to alienate the public, he should show them that he has the support of the town Selectmen, Mary tells him. She says she’s certain the Selectmen would vote to put John on trial, so why not let them decide? Increase actually agrees to put it up to a vote, much to Mary’s relief, although he knows something she doesn’t know, which comes into play later.

Anne confronts her father about her little walkabout with his creepy magic teleporting mask, but Hale is still playing coy about his extracurricular activities. It takes some serious conviction to try to play off a magic mask, especially to your own daughter, but Hale wasn’t ready to come clean to Anne. In response, she threatens to seek answers from Increase if her father won’t tell her the truth. Hale, though rattled, still refuses to tell her that he’s a witch.

Cotton, looking more and more like a homeless Gary Busey, stumbles home to find his father lurking in his room, waiting to shower him with shame. Then, surprisingly, Increase actually compliments Cotton, calling him a “gifted speaker,” and he asks his son to help him convict John as a witch. Well, no matter how starved for fatherly approval Cotton may be, he is not about to betray his only friend and the future father of his children just to bolster his status in the town and get a pat on the head from his deranged dad. So he basically tells Increase to shove it, and the man reminds Cotton that he shouldn’t let his feelings cloud his judgment, lest he let a witch escape, as Increase himself once did. So there you have it: Increase did actually have feelings once. My guess is that he vowed after that mishap to never again feel any human emotion, unless it was rage, disappointment or sadism.

When it comes time to vote on whether or not John goes to trial, it’s down to Mary’s vote to break the tie. Just as she’s about to announce her position, Increase reveals an ace up his sleeve: George, it seems, is well enough to cast his own vote. Sure, he can’t speak, but as Mary points out, he can spit. And the ever-creative Increase has decided that this can act as an indication of George’s vote. In a dramatic and disgusting display, George spits a “yes” onto John’s shoe, damning the captain to a trial that will surely end with him being sentenced to death.

Afterward, Mary pays a visit to John in his cell, starting with an “I told you so,” but quickly veering into an apology. She tearfully confesses that if she’d just agreed to go with him to New York, neither of them would be in this mess. John tells her that this situation isn’t the result of just one choice, and he tries to console her. When Mary tells him that she can help him escape, John refuses her offer, telling her that he’d rather stay and die than play their game. He strokes her cheek, but Mary is too upset at his stubbornness; she bids him a terse farewell and leaves the jail.

Still determined to save John, Mary meets up with Mercy in the woods. Mary tells her that Mercy’s original plan of killing Increase was the right choice, and it’s up to the two of them to make it happen before he can endanger any more people Mary cares about. Mercy scoffs at this, knowing that Mary means John, but Mary turns on her warm, maternal smile and tells Mercy that she’s referring to the girl herself, of course. Increase wants her to be hanged, and Mary says she’ll protect Mercy as she would herself. Mercy’s face softens immediately at Mary’s affection, and the girl is under her spell again, willing to do anything Mary asks.

When Hale catches Anne talking to Increase about witches, he realizes that his daughter wasn’t bluffing about exposing him (or at least implicating him in her search for truth). He not-so-subtly ushers her away from Increase and sits her down for some Real Talk. He tells her about watching his parents burn as witches, and how he was taken in by other members of the group. He tells Anne that yes, he is a witch, but he’s still a loving father. Unsure and overwhelmed, Anne runs out of the room and leaves him there to wonder if she’ll turn him in.

Mary calls on Isaac to join her for “tea,” which is obviously code for “be a pawn in my murder plot.” Poor Isaac … After she’s done drugging him and planting a false account of his chasing Mercy in the woods, Mary apologizes, telling Isaac that he deserves better. But a witch has to do what a witch has to do. Following Mary’s brainwashing session, Isaac goes to Increase and tells him that he saw Mercy in the woods and tried to catch her for him. Increase is skeptical of Isaac’s motivation and questions whether he’s being honest, but he asks Isaac to lead him into the woods anyway.

Anne goes to see Cotton, of all people, to try to get some unbiased answers about witches. Cotton tells her that he’s just about to enjoy his late-afternoon drink (a precursor to his early-evening drink, which would follow shortly). Cotton may be a self-professed failure at many things, but drinking is certainly not one of them. He ponders the morality of witchcraft with Anne, who, in trying to pump him for information, gives him the impression that he should try to kiss her. When she pulls back, Cotton is dejected, but Anne tells the reverend that his only failure is in not becoming his father, which is not a failure at all.

A ways into their hunting trip, Increase turns his knife on Isaac and asks him who he’s working with and what their plan is. Isaac maintains his innocence, and then Mercy appears, giggling creepily. While the two men chase Mercy farther into the woods, Mary is in her room doing a spell that tightens Increase’s cilice, the hooked belt that he wears around his chest to remind him of his sins. This gives Mercy enough of an advantage that she tosses her hand-carved bone knife, but she misses, allowing Increase to reach for his own dagger, which does not miss. She falters, but gets back up and continues to attack, until Increase slices her abdomen and she flees. Increase turns around to find Isaac on the ground, Mercy’s knife in his gut.

A knock comes on Mary’s door, and the servant tells her she’s been called on by Reverend Mather. She assumes he means Cotton, but he corrects her and says that it’s Increase who wishes to speak with her. Oops! This is the third consecutive episode that finds Mary shocked beyond words, which must mean the show is doing something right, because when Mary is surprised, generally the viewers are surprised.

Two more surprises are in store before the credits roll on “Cat and Mouse.” First, Cotton shows up on Increase’s doorstep and announces that he will be participating in John’s trial … as John’s defendant. Booyah! Suck it, Daddy Dearest. Cotton’s eloquent speaking skills (when he’s not totally smashed) will be put to use after all, and working against Increase. Way to stand up to your father, Cotton. I’m proud of you.

Anne will be proud too, I’m sure, but for now she’s got some other things to worry about. When she comes home, her father insists on speaking with her, even though she clearly needs more time to process the whole my-dad-is-a-witch thing. No such luck, girlfriend. Hale tells her that the power of the magic mask can only be accessed by a witch, meaning that she must have inherited the magic gene from him. Anne is a witch!

At this rate, it almost seems like Mary should open up a school for young witches. Next season can be Salem: Academy, and Mercy and Anne can vie for whatever the witch version of valedictorian is. This is assuming that Mercy survives her wounds from Increase. That girl is all kinds of crazy, but she’s someone you want on your side. Although she could stand to improve her aim if she actually wants to be a useful assassin.

Cotton, on the other hand, is proving to be far more useful than could have been expected from someone who just last episode was peeing in a tree. He may be one of the most flawed characters on TV, but Cotton’s loyalty to John might be enough to start redeeming him. I’m looking forward to some more Jotton scenes as the two of them work together to defend John at his trial—no matter how futile it may be.

Meanwhile, I’m sure Mary will come up with yet another plan to try to save his life. Or at the very least, maybe she’ll make out with him again, since he’s probably going to die and all. If she’s looking for another way to stall Increase, might I suggest they punish John by parading him around town in shackles … and nothing else? Just a thought.

Salem airs on Sundays at 10/9C on WGN America.

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