'The Secret Circle' brews its best episode yet: 'Balcoin' toils with trouble

tsc-cassie-jake-dance.jpgWe're just going to go ahead and say it: The addition of Chris Zylka as Jake to "The Secret Circle" has elevated this show to an immeasurable degree. We were hooked by the show from day one, but Jake's arrival in town not only introduced us to his compelling storyline, but illuminated the potential in other characters.

Tonight's episode, "Balcoin," is without a doubt our favorite episode of "The Secret Circle" yet. As Chance Harbor prepares for a fundraising event, Cassie ( Britt Robertson) does some digging into her family history. Her most trustworthy source of information, her grandmother, is out of commission due to a mind-muddling glitch in Charles' spell, so Cassie turns to Jake for help climbing her family tree.

Needless to say, the already-evident chemistry between Jake and Cassie crackles in this episode. Part of what makes his character so intriguing is his backstory. Cassie seems to have burst into existence in the pilot -- we know that she had a good relationship with her mother, but other than that, her past has thus far been irrelevant to the story, with no mentions made of friends left behind or connections remaining to her life outside Chance Harbor. The rest of the circle have been so involved in each others' lives since birth that secrets between them are rare.

Thus, Jake is the only character (who isn't a parent, anyway) with some mystery to him. There's a level of life experience that other characters lack, and the damage done by that experience becomes palpable as Jake grows conflicted in this week's episode.

Despite his plethora of secrets and lies and bad intentions, we can't help but root for Jake when it comes to his relationship with Cassie. Their attraction feels more genuine than her attraction to Adam ( Thomas Dekker) -- perhaps because it's based on who Jake and Cassie actually are as people, as far as their personalities go, as opposed to being rooted in bloodlines and family destiny that was in play before the characters were even born.

When the dark truth of Cassie's lineage is revealed, the witch hunters' sense of urgency gets a shot of adrenaline. Just as his connection with her deepens, the hunters ask Jake to make the ultimate choice. He's forced to reconcile with his past decisions, and we're going to finally see whether his feelings for Cassie are genuine or just part of the game. His decision may surprise you -- it certainly threw us for a loop.

Tune in tonight at 9 p.m. EST on The CW. In addition to the Jake drama finally reaching a breaking point, fans can look forward to a startling cliffhanger in the final moments of the episode. We definitely didn't see this one coming, but it definitely adds a whole new level of intrigue to one of the members of the circle. Let's just say that the wait for January 5 is going to be very, very long.

(For what it's worth, our only major complaint about this episode? Not nearly enough Jessica Parker Kennedy. She's proven herself to be one of the most compelling actresses on the show, and we hope that Nick's demise doesn't push Melissa's story to the backburner.)
Photo/Video credit: The CW