In the final scene of “Balcoin,” The Secret Circle‘s Fall season finale, the five surviving members of the original coven stood in tableau as a sad tugboat full of failed witch hunters motored off into darkness. It should have been a victorious moment, but then why did everyone look so sad? The biggest reason was the departure of Jake, the complicated and inscrutable witch who’d set out to murder the circle but ultimately ended up saving them.

It’s hard to overstate just how important Jake (and by extension Chris Zylka) have been to The Secret Circle so far. For one thing, the character’s only appeared in four episodes but already feels so integral to the story and relationships that it feels like he’s been on it since the beginning. It was a stroke of genius introducing a character with such a baffling and sinister agenda, if only for all the story potential it brought. But the casting of Chris Zylka was just an extension of that good decision making. A cynical viewer might assume he was added to the show merely because he resembles a stack of gold river stones dressed in a Deep-V. But that would be missing the weird energy Zylka brings to every scene he’s in: That measured tone of voice, the way he stares at people like he can see into their bones, or even the way he seems to look physically different just by holding his head at a different angle. (Seriously, I’ve been doing these photorecaps for a year now and haven’t seen so much facial diversity from one person since Ian Somerhalder’s weekly rollercoaster of crazyfaces). In Zylka The Secret Circle has found that fine line between sinister and earnest, and that combination perfectly sums up the show itself.

I guess this was all just a long way of saying I really hope Jake isn’t gone for good! Because this episode was basically the Jake show. His scenes with Cassie were all pretty terrific and we also got my absolute favorite storytelling convention: A villain becoming a hero. This was a fantastic episode, in other words. Let’s talk about it!

We picked up where last week’s episode left off: Jane’s struggling with memory loss. First she couldn’t answer basic questions about what she’d been up to over the weekend, and now Cassie was pestering her for info about that witchcraft parchment she’d been given.

I mean, take a hint, Cassie! This lady needed help! And this was only what we saw; I can only imagine the grilling Cassie gave her earlier in the morning. Was there also a fruitless hourlong conversation about who’d eaten all the Apple Jacks, or, you know, where Jane’s car was? Seriously, didn’t she drive it to the lake? But Charles drove her back? Who knows. Look at this poor woman:

Anyway, later on at school Melissa was surprised to see her cousin Holden paying her a visit. For one thing he’s a UCLA student? Visiting her in the hallways of her high school? This made no sense, but hey, it made her happy!

But then, wouldn’t you know it, a newly on-the-market and empowered Diana moseyed on over to rekindle a longstanding crush on Holden:

This was another episode where Melissa only got like 25 seconds of screentime, but she was cutting people the side-eye in every scene. Melissa was the best, basically.

Meanwhile, I hadn’t realized this, but Jake had never visited the witches’ lair before! So Cassie brought him there after school and he immediately set about pocketing stuff. Oh, Jake.

But whoops! Faye saw him do it and she was NOT about to let it slide.

Jake gave some lame excuse about wanting his “family stone” to lay on Nick’s grave, but Faye just rolled her eyes at that idea, which was brutal but hilarious.

This episode went a long way toward establishing that Faye has a sort of mutant power in being able to read people, especially if they’re Jake. She’d been more or less calling him out since he’d arrived in town but now we knew it wasn’t just because she’s petty. It’s because he actually was up to no good!

Cassie didn’t seem to mind though! Especially when Jake helped her explore her family roots by discovering some hidden text in the parchment.

Immediately upon discovering that the initials “JB” stood for John Blackwell and not her grandmother’s, Cassie then found out that her father was a descendant of a man named Balcoin, the progenitor of all Dark Magic.

Jake did NOT handle this discovery well and essentially ran out of there. It seemed very suspicious! That’s definitely something that’s pretty charming about him, he’s the worst liar. I mean, he somehow got mixed up in all this sinister junk with the witch hunters but can’t even keep his cover straight? It suggests that he’s probably a pretty decent guy just in over his head. Heck, even his bossman can see that Jake’s gone romantically AWOL.

Jake claimed he didn’t have feelings for Cassie, which worked out because it was apparently time for the witch hunters to pack up and leave town. This obviously meant Jake would have to break things off with the circle, and Cassie in particular. So he went about it in just about the most callous way possible, and right after she’d spent all day working up the courage to ask him to a charity dance.

It went like this, basically, but even more awkward and heartbreaking:

Poor Cassie!

Meanwhile at the Boat House, Adam was waiting tables and enjoying the flirtations of the 100% single-and-willing female clientele? It looked like it was going to be a big tip day for him. But then came Faye hoping to enlist him in her quest to bring Jake down.

Don’t have to ask Adam twice!

Oh, but look what other pair were enjoying each other’s awkward company? For her part Dawn was doing her best to get on Charles’ good side.

It was a VERY smooth attempt, but strangely it didn’t work! Better luck, next time, Dawn!

Trouper that she is, Cassie decided she’d go to the fundraiser gala alone.

But look what happened when she started getting all primped in full view of Jake’s bedroom! Next thing we knew the doorbell was ringing!

First of all, can you imagine seeing THIS standing on your doorstep? Second of all, it’s a good thing Jake brought his cool suit with him on this witch murdering trip! But anyway, Jake had said some fairly harsh things to Cassie earlier in the day, but offered a pretty weak apology in my opinion. I would have been so mad still! As it turned out he didn’t have to try too hard to win Cassie over because again, it was Jake in a suit holding a bouquet of flowers and admitting he had feelings for her. What, was she NOT going to fall in love all over again??

The most notable aspect of the fundraiser party was that it took place at Melissa’s house (I think?). We definitely didn’t get to meet her parent(s), but from the looks of the joint she’s pretty well off.

Adam and Faye were there for basically only one purpose: To keep an eye on Jake. But that didn’t mean Faye wasn’t about to go finagle some drinks from the open bar. Teens, am I right?

At this point Jake turned to Cassie and said, “We’re gonna dance.” Not even a question. And so began the best scene of the episode (and possibly the series so far). First of all, it was set to an M83 song, which represented a convergence of things I enjoy that was borderline unsettling. But also, the writing and acting! So good.

Cassie’s speech about creating an imaginary father for herself when she was little was just about the most heartbreaking thing I’ve heard in a while. She’d sit around imagining what he was like, and how proud he was of her. Seriously devastating stuff.

The conversation was just very well realized. Music and emotions built up until they were basically just gazing at each other like this:

Chills! It was just really rather good. So obviously Jake’s phone buzzed and he had to go answer to some Witch Hunter jerk. But this got me… Before leaving the room, Jake hesitated, looked back at Cassie one more time and she gave him another one of those secret smiles she’s so good at:

Credit where credit’s due: The Secret Circle is awesome at showing us emotional connections rather than simply telling us about them. Neither of these characters are the types to speak openly about their feelings, so it’s glances and gestures like these that tell the story here. I just think it’s really good stuff and I regret that these photorecaps never do these moments justice.

So apparently after Isaac reported back to “the Council” that Cassie had dark magic in her, they’d decided to kidnap her and turn HER into a witch hunter alongside Jake. One would think Jake would be stoked about that, but it was pretty clear he’d had a fairly major change of heart about doing anything to Cassie. So he claimed he’d grab her and meet them at the harbor. But whoops, LOOK who was spying on them!

Adam rounded up the rest of the circle just after Jake and Cassie had taken off.

Elsewhere, in Jake’s bedroom, he decided it was finally the right time to show her his Book of Shadows. In it were tons of mentions of Balcoin, in addition to some pretty awesome illustrations:

Dang! That Balcoin was intense! If we ever even remotely see anything like that creature walking down the stairs, this could become my favorite TV show of all time! But rather than be grateful for this out-of-nowhere revelation that her ancestors were evil, Cassie instead became infuriated with Jake. WHY had he been so obsessed with her family tree?

Whoops! The cat was officially out of the bag. But the sad irony was it happened just at the moment Jake had clearly decided to turn his back on the witch hunters. It was pretty safe to assume that he DID intend to take Cassie to a safer location, but by that point she was just looking to get away from Jake as quickly as possible. Fair enough!

This part made me laugh because WHERE could Isaac have been possibly standing so that she couldn’t see him immediately to her left? Beside the fern? Anyway, it was still pretty spooky up until that point when they looked at each other pleadingly through their bedroom windows. Jake had never looked so tragic!

So yeah, Cassie was knocked out and thrown into the back of a black sedan.

When he tried to run after her, Jake got clocked in the head by a goon and left on the sidewalk.

This was funny: One of Jane’s biggest symptoms of her weird magic-induced Alzheimers was that it folded together several different timelines in her head, so she kept thinking it was 15 years earlier. In this case, she dropped the bombshell that Dawn had been romantically involved with John Blackwell!

Hm, I wonder if that information would be important in the future?

Meanwhile Jake came to in his driveway only to face the wrath of Adam.

And in the biggest pay-off yet that Faye can read people well, she verified that for the first time ever, Jake was being real with everyone: He truly did like Cassie and wanted to help save her before that ship had sailed. Literally. She was tied up on a boat somewhere:

Adam busted out a KNIFE and Jake busted out some witchcraft, and suddenly a team of teen witches was infiltrating the harbor!

Unfortunately, upon freeing Cassie, the tables turned a few times.

Jake finally stood up to his own boss! It gave his friends just enough time to flee (and set the dock on fire while doing so).

It was unclear how Isaac would react to Jake’s betrayal. It always seemed like a strained matchup, seeing as the Witch Hunters probably weren’t thrilled at their own hypocrisy for hiring witches to kill witches. So it seemed like Jake might’ve been about to face some pretty serious wrath for ruining Isaac’s plans.

But apparently Jake and Isaac were friendlier than we thought! Rather than being enraged and vengeful, Isaac was more just a disappointed dad. Jake had F’ed him over but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t work it out.

Just as their tugboat was pulling away, Isaac dropped a major bombshell: Cassie wasn’t the only child of Blackwell in their circle! Didn’t see that one coming! I mean, actually we sorta DID see that coming in the earlier scene when we found out about Dawn’s relationship with Blackwell. But maybe Faye is too obvious a choice for this particular twist? But then again, The Secret Circle hasn’t quite mastered the blindsiding twist just yet, so it very well could be true that Faye is Cassie’s half-sister. Who knows? I don’t. That’s why it’s a cliffhanger!

Not just a cliffhanger, but straight up tragic: It appeared that with Jake’s departure he and Cassie were dunzo for the time being. Any last-minute wishes that he’d jump off the boat and swim to Cassie never came to fruition either. He simply disappeared into the hazy, smoke-filled night as the two gazed at each other from afar:

Aw, poor kids.

And with that, The Secret Circle concluded its first 9 episodes. No more until 2012! That is such a long amount of time it doesn’t even make sense! I miss it already!

QUESTIONS

… So who’s Cassie’s half-sibling?

… According to the previews Jake will be back. But will it be as a “guest star” or something more full-time?

… Should Diana go after Holden or should she return to Adam?

… Will Jane recover or do you think she’s a goner? And where IS her car?

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