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'Salem' recap: The truth shall set you free

Season 1 | Episode 12 | “Ashes, Ashes” | Aired July 6, 2014


That was the sound of the sticks of dynamite lit by the writers at the beginning of the season finally exploding. In the penultimate episode of the season, our weeks of waiting finally paid off on two fronts. First, we found out the truth about John’s mysterious past. Second, John made the long-overdue discovery that Mary is a witch. There you have it, folks: two dramatic reveals (though, sadly, neither of them involved the reveal of Shane West’s torso), and it’s not even the finale yet. Buckle up! The end is almost here.

Mercy is traipsing around the mass grave in the woods, babbling self-righteously and sporting what looks to be a crown of thorns, because apparently she thinks she’s Jesus. Mary finds her talking to corpses (again), and tries to verbally slap her back to reality so she can tell Mercy that Increase has four of her friends and he’s torturing them. Not to worry, though—Mary reminds Mercy that the Grand Rite is nearly complete, which means, to quote Mary, “Death.” I mean, I didn’t really expect her to say “balloon animals” or anything, but could you be more ominous, Mary? Or more vague?

I’m not the only one unclear on the details of the Grand Rite. Cotton is more focused than we’ve seen him since Gloriana left, and he may even be sober (shocking!) as he pores over his books trying to find out what the Grand Rite will bring and how the Malum plays into it. His studying is interrupted when Anne shows up. (At this hour? Scandalous!) She’s still reeling from the shock of finding out that she could be a witch, and she asks Cotton to check her for devil’s marks. Cotton seems nervous—probably because the last time he did this, it was with his prostitute girlfriend while his creepy father watched. Nonetheless, Cotton agrees and proceeds to, er, examine Anne, which elicits some surprising reactions from her, given that this is probably the first time she’s been touched like this before. Her eyes turn a demonic red, and her now-snakelike tongue flicks out of her mouth in pleasure. Lucky for her, Cotton misses these rather obvious signs, which I’m pretty sure would be considered “devil’s marks.”

You know who has their fair share of devil’s marks? The elders, whom Mary meets in the woods to discuss the Grand Rite. They tell her that five more will die to complete the sacrifice, and Mary asks why John has to be one of them. Because, you know, there are plenty of other people who are much more annoying that they could easily kill instead. But the elders basically tell her that it’s because she cares about John that he has to die. A sacrifice is only a sacrifice because it’s something you don’t want to lose.

With his new theory about the Malum, Cotton goes to his father, of all people, to seek his help in stopping the Grand Rite. As usual, Increase dismisses Cotton on both counts: first, on his translation about the Malum, and second, on his intent to stop a Grand Rite, which Increase says is incredibly difficult. He did it once by strangling a six-year-old girl, which left his hands blackened by hellfire. (Are you sure that’s not just gangrene, Increase? You should really get that checked out by a dermatologist.) Increase does give Cotton one piece of advice, which is that in order to stop a Grand Rite, you must kill the witch who started it, which he assumes to be John Alden.

At the trial, Increase makes a compelling argument that John is a witch, bringing up the captain’s involvement with Giles Corey and Bridget the midwife, plus his claims that prayer is worthless, and the fact that he has yet to be harmed by the witches’ magic. The real problems start when Mercy’s little minion Emily testifies (per Mercy’s request) that John did in fact sell her and the other girls’ souls to Satan. Oh, and he slept with all of them. Things look pretty dire for John, but the girl wavers under Cotton’s cross-examination. Then Cotton puts the attention back on Increase when he displays one of his father’s more disturbing torture devices. Mather senior is adequately ruffled, and calls for a brief recess.

Now that they’re alone together, Cotton asks John to come clean about the Malum, and John tells him he buried it with Giles Corey. See, a good friend will defend you when you’re accused of witchcraft, but a great friend will resort to grave-robbing in order to help save you and the entire town from a Satanic ritual. Unfortunately for Cotton, he endures the disgusting task of digging up Giles Corey, only to discover that the Malum isn’t there. Also, could someone please get Cotton a Wet-Nap?

Cotton breaks the news to John, who is more disappointed by the fact that Cotton’s belief in his innocence seems to be wavering. Just then, the four girls are paraded up to the gallows to be hanged. Emily stops at John’s cell, where she tells him how sorry she is for lying about him, and she hands him a half of a coin—the coin that John and Mary shared as a symbol of their devotion before he left with the militia. John doesn’t have time to contemplate how Emily got it, because within the next minute, he watches as the girls are hanged.

Mercy’s other friend, whose name I can’t remember, but it’s not Elizabeth or Charity or Susannah, is horrified at seeing her friends die, and she runs to tell Mercy, who had claimed that the “Queen of the Night” would protect them all. Mercy is enraged, and she tells her friend to go to Salem and gather all the sad and suffering, and they will build an army to appoint a new Queen of the Night. Is Mercy going up against Mary? This could get ugly.

Back on Law & Order: Salem, Increase brings new charges against John—ones that he’s actually guilty of. The reverend accuses John of treason and murder of militia soldiers, whom he killed while fighting with the “savages.” When John refuses to deny the charges, they take another break so Cotton can try to get the truth out of him. At first John is like, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH,” but then he decides to come clean about his past. He confesses that yes, he did murder a group of militiamen. He was saved by a group of Mohawks, who are enemies of the tribe that the settlers were fighting against. They healed him and let him stay with them, until one day when they returned to find the village burned and the women and children slaughtered by the militia. John’s murder of those same men (one of whom was the father of the quiet orphan boy John befriended) was an act of vengeance, but still treason. Cotton looks at John, clearly wanting to believe him, but he says he’s not sure if John needed a “friend or a pawn.” Seeing Cotton’s face looking so crushed is enough to break your heart, especially since his and John’s friendship is actually one of the healthiest relationships in Salem. I hope these two patch things up and just admit that they’re obviously soul mates.

Speaking of soul mates, Mary is crying in her room when Isaac pays an unexpected visit to commiserate with her over John’s impending death. At seeing Isaac’s wound (which she’s partially responsible for), Mary breaks down, telling Isaac that it’s all her fault—his bleeding abdomen and John’s death sentence. Isaac tells her she can save John (and more important, he makes her realize that she wants to save him). He says he always thinks of her as “Magic Mary” (if only he knew), and that she can do anything. This scene is so raw, and Isaac is so earnest and endearing, that it makes it clear how right Mary was when she said that of all the horrible people in Salem, Isaac deserves better than what he’s gotten.

After pulling herself together and donning her best peacock-themed outfit, Mary goes to John’s cell (actually, inside the cell) to save him. John tells her to go back to her life, but she responds, “You are my life.” (Cue swooning.) John almost looks relieved to hear she still has feelings for him, like a weight has been lifted from his heart. But he’s discouraged by how the people of Salem have turned against him, even after he’s given everything to try to save them. He’s ready to die for a crime he’s actually guilty of. Mary has other plans, though, and when they kiss, she transports them out of the cell and into the woods. When John sees where they are, he’s startled, and backs away from Mary, starting to put the pieces together: The love of his life is a witch.

There you have it. John finally has to come to terms with how Mary has changed—not just that she’s a married woman of society now, but that she’s a completely different person from the one he fell in love with. Both of them are miles away from the people they were before John left, and now they each know why. She became a witch, and he became a traitor. The only thing yet to be revealed is why she turned to witchcraft. Maybe the finale will bring that secret to the surface too. It’ll be hard enough for John to handle learning that Mary is a witch who orchestrated the murder of a dozen people, but finding out she was pregnant with his child will be an even harder realization. Hopefully Cotton heard Emily’s confession to John that she lied about him, and the reverend will have renewed faith in his friend so he can be John’s rock as he comes to grips with everything.

Meanwhile, Anne is a growing concern, and she’ll need some witch lessons, although she’s not going to be too keen on the whole “killing people” thing. Or will Mercy’s march of wrath derail everything else in Salem? Will Mercy finish the Grand Rite where Mary could not? Is that possible? I’m not up on my witchy ritual logistics, but that sounds plausible, and if anyone could pull off a last-minute move like that, it’s Mercy. We’ll see what the finale brings next week. One thing I’m sure of is that no one is safe.

Salem airs on Sundays at 10/9C 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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