With only one episode left until the season finale of Salem, the witch war stands at that critical point where anything is possible. Can good outdo evil when the Countess is the one calling the spells? Will Mary and John Alden’s son make it out of this witch game alive, or will he just turn into the Devil? Mary’s appearance has greatly diminished since her son was placed into hiding and she was shackled in the square for her indiscretions with Dr. Samuel. Mercy Lewis has decided to finally show her face to Mary, and it’s the face-off we’ve been waiting for all season.
The timing is perfect: The last time Mary saw Mercy, she was burnt to a crisp, and now Mary is the one at her weakest and lowest point and Mercy is dressed the nines—hair curled and pinned back like an American Doll. She’s come to tell Mary that she intends to marry Sebastian and become Marburg royalty. Mary knows now that Mercy was the one behind kidnapping all the Salem children. She scolds Mercy with a foreboding speech about how soon Mercy will lose everything, too.
You might think I’m mighty mean, but least I’m not, a false queen.
Anne and John are in hiding in the Hale house (in the room John Hale used to send his daughter Anne to when she was young) where John talks of the Old Ones—the Essex witches who used to rule the woods before Mercy killed them. They apparently scared the shit out of him and never let him play with toys. Anne tries to soothe John by introducing him to Mr. Jenkins but that only scares him more, so Anne leaves him there to cry for his mother. Anne has become somewhat hardened, even though it’s obvious she wants what’s good to come out of this. It’s not her fault she doesn’t know which way is up, or down. She’s a baby witch with a lot more to learn.
Come little Devil, I’ll take thee away…
As quickly as Mercy lashed out at Mary with her pumped up version of what’s to come, we see her being rejected by Sebastian in bed. She’s naked and ready to surprise him with a happy good morning under covers when he shoves her out of his room and tells her to stay on the ship with the servants. Mercy is dumbfounded and echoes the same sentiments she just gave to Mary, that the Countess spoke of Mercy like she was her own daughter.
John Alden didn’t die from the wounds in the woods when they were handling the trade-off with little John. But he’s in really bad shape. John Alden tells Cotton that Anne is a witch, but Cotton doesn’t believe it. In fact, he’s pissed. That’s his wife, Anne Mather John Alden is talking about. The music suddenly gets extra melty as the two men stare at each other and their hardened conversation of he said/she said turns into a bromantic moment. Maybe Cotton is intrigued because what John Alden has to say holds some truth. How did Anne find Cotton in the woods on some many random occasions? JA says he saw her practicing witchcraft. I want them to hug, or kiss cheeks, but instead JA tells Cotton he’ll see him “on the other side” and Cotton disappears to go find his witch wife.
Anne is startled to find the Countess is in her dining room. People love to show up unannounced at the Hale residence. But on this occasion, it’s a bombshell that’s arrived. The Countess speaks of a child that she had with Anne’s father, John. HOLY SHIT. Anne Hale is a Marburg. A Hale-Marburg. She is the Countess’s long lost daughter—or so the Countess says. But Anne seems to buy it, because apparently her father’s Book of Shadows referred to such truths. So this doesn’t come as much of a shock to Anne, only a grave disappointment because, as she puts to the Countess, she only wants love, not to be a royal queen in power. (That’s what Mercy so desperately craves.)
The Countess puts Anne into a tight situation, telling her she’ll kill Cotton if Anne doesn’t bring her the boy. In our hearts, we know what Anne will do but we hope she and Mary will formulate some kind of plan to spare the son and save themselves. Has their spell juice run out? Anne asks the Countess why she didn’t keep her and the Countess has a answer for everything. Anne will receive some kind of grand inheritance for being the daughter of the Countess, but she doesn’t care, nor see how that’s possible when it’s “men who inherit everything.” The Countess says no and that “real authority descends upon women.” She calls Cotton her Puritan Beard. And a fine beard the man has, regardless of these witchery remarks being said behind his back.
The Countess takes Anne to Tituba, who she’s tied up for safekeeping. Because she’s kissed everyone else, it’s fine time the Countess lay a wet one on Tituba. After they make face, the Countess speaks of Tituba’s shame, lies, and misery. Lies drip from her lips. Mary doesn’t care about her. The Countess paints a portrait of Tituba’s life as a slave—poor Tituba—and Tituba cries in response. Aha! The Countess has her right where she wants her. Anne watches on, awestruck. She’ll let Tituba live, because she wants to tell her about the “Secret Essex Stronghold.” For someone so keen on letting everyone know that the Essex ain’t no thang for a Marburg—the Countess does a fine job of doing everything in her power to take down the Essex name.
Lips so soft, taste like lies, I know you’ve kissed Mary, but try this on for size.
Back at the Hale house, Cotton’s arrived before Anne trying to find her, or the boy. He can hear the boy through the walls but it isn’t until Anne arrives and rips off a chicken’s head to spray its blood on the walls that Cotton finally sees his wife’s a witch after all. She enters into a stairwell through the wall where she casted the blood, up into the hidden room where she takes little John by hand, covers her face with her father’s magical mask and they go into the woods. But what woods? Cotton sees all of this and follows her so far as he can get—into the stairwell, where she remains trapped, stunned and begins to ugly cry.
Mary tells the Old Ones she’s going to do it: She’s going to cross the Forbidden Threshold. I’m beginning to think the Countess is two steps ahead of her and already knows what this threshold is all about. As Mary enters the wood, she eats something off a tree, spins in a few circles chanting, “There’s no place like home!” Just kidding, she doesn’t chant that. But she does cause a tree to de-web its tangled roots and enters into Forbidden Stronghold where all of the Old Ones and their warty faces spat at her for showing her face here and risking their Essex livelihood. The Countess could follow her here, and they won’t join her back in the real world to rally behind her. All she receives by going here and risking the Essex secrecy is shame.
Some witches wear white, some witches have warts and white hair. Fuck with the Essex Stronghold and you’ll get your share.
Mary will have to rely on her Puritan Beard too. She tells John Alden to get his ass in gear and meet her in the woods to help save their son. He says he only has one shot and Mary tells him the Countess can’t be killed, so it’s semi-clear that he just might have to kill their son. The Countess snaps Mary out of her search. She is on her bed, eyes open now, with the Countess and Sebastian standing above her. The Countess asks Mary to repeat some words that Mary refused to say. Eh. That’s okay. Off to the woods they go.
Anne and Tituba show Mary that they are on the Countess’s side—they have the boy in their possession and there’s nothing Mary can do now. She still won’t say the words. So the Countess joins Mary’s blood with the boy’s blood, wipes it over his forehead and lures him down to the Crag as he fights to get away. He will be sacrificed now and Mary knows she may not have another chance to say how she feels, so through choked tears, she tells her son how much she loves him and how sorry she is, which is apparently enough for the Countess to continue the deed. Mary is horrified. The Countess is ecstatic! Even this one technicality slipped by Mary. All she needed to do was speak of love aloud.
These witches don’t stand together as one, when the Devil arrives, their work here will be done.
In one sweeping, grand gesture—her deep red dress billowing around her in the hot black Crag, the Countess speaks to the comet up ahead, to the portal of Hell, and dips little John down into the bubbling tar to be reincarnated as Lucifer himself. When she pulls him back up, she carries him up to the shore and waits. He (it?) is alive. The Devil Child rises from the ground and Mary nods her head toward the woods where John Alden waits with his shotgun. He shoots. But nothing happens. The Devil Child stands up smiling. “Join us Daddy,” he says giggling. If someone’s winning the witch war right now, it’s the Countess.
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