First off, because I've yet to have a chance to thank him for it here, big props to Big Gay Al. This lovely gentleman procured -- for free -- the laptop upon which I now type. I owe you big time, pal.
As a sign of how drastically altered the times in which we find ourselves have become, the fourth-season opener of this show begins with three words I never thought I'd hear: "Previously, on Charmed." For those of you emerging from a three-year-long coma, here's the scoop: The Dolt wooed, did, healed, did, married, and did Piper. The Colethazor met, then attempted to kill, then became intimately acquainted with Phoebe's tongue. Alyssa Milano told Shannen Doherty she was a drunk piece of white trash, and added that the biggest, bestest fans of the show hated Prue and loved Phoebe. Shannen told Alyssa she was a brainless, no-talent slut, and added she didn't give a good goddamn what a bunch of twelve-year-olds thought. Alyssa told her mother to tell her agent to tell Aaron Spelling that Shannen was being mean, and that she'd quit the show if Aaron didn't fire Shannen. Aaron, still on his game despite the fact he's getting on in years and ill, cannily waited until Shannen finished directing last season's final episode, then rather unceremoniously sacked her ass. The alarmingly pale Rose McGowan found herself joining the cast as a heretofore unheard of fourth sister, and Brad Kern busied himself digitally blurring and otherwise editing Shannen out of all earlier footage recycled for this season's premiere. You got all of that? Good.
Halliwell Manor. Attic. The camera slowly pans through the darkened room to settle upon Piper. Struggling to speak through tears, she recites, "In this night and in this hour, I call upon the ancient power -- bring back my sister. Bring back the Power of Three." Nothing happens, because Shannen was fired. Just in case you forgot that little detail. Piper rolls her eyes heavenward in frustration and flips through the Book of Shadows. She lands on a page entitled "To Call a Lost Witch." There are some instructions about grinding up rosemary, cypress, and taro root in a "Silver Mortar" while chanting, which Piper proceeds to follow. "Power of the witches rise," she intones. "Course unseen across the skies. Come to us who call you near. Come to us and settle here." She then lifts a frighteningly sharp dagger to her left hand and draws the point across a fingertip. "Blood to blood, I summon thee," she continues, squeezing a few drops out into the "mortar," which actually looks more like a Beaux-Arts ashtray. "Blood to blood, return to me." A nearby candle gutters, but nothing else happens. Yet. So tricky with the writing are the ladies and gentlemen of Spelling Productions. Not.
Piper wipes away a stray tear as Phoebe calls her name from downstairs. For a moment Piper foolishly believes Prue has returned and rises up a bit, then slumps back into her seat, defeated. Phoebe enters the attic and crosses to her with concern. "What are you doing?" she asks gently. "It's four o'clock in the morning." To the credit of both Holly Marie Combs and the make-up artist, Piper looks realistically haggard. Her eyes are swollen and red, and her skin's a bit blotchy. Phoebe notes the cut on Piper's finger and moves to wrap it in a white cloth. Piper distractedly mutters something about not understanding why magic can't help the gals out in the current situation. "It's not like we haven't cheated death before," she snuffles. By way of explaining why Piper survived the season-ending attack by Fruma-Shax on herself and Prue, Phoebe replies coolly, "Leo can't heal the dead." So, apparently, we are to believe that the Dolt was not able to return from Hell in time to apply the special Whitelighter tingly touch to both affected sisters. Whatever. Alyssa had Shannen fired. That's all you really need to know. Piper carries on about mysterious "other magic" that should be working, but isn't. Rising a bit unsteadily to her feet while slamming the BoS shut, she babbles, "It's like the Book deserted us and deserted Prue and I don't. Understand. Why!" This last word is delivered as a near-howl of frustrated anguish, and I would have gotten a bit moist had not near-howls of frustrated anguish become so distressingly commonplace in recent days. Phoebe chokes up a bit and splutters, "We lost our sister. How can we ever understand that?" Piper dissolves into sobs and collapses into Phoebe's embrace. Over Piper's shoulder, Phoebe continues, "I just thank God I didn't lose you, too." Phoebe kisses Piper's forehead as she pulls out of the hug. "We have to get some rest," she urges. "Prue would never forgive us if we looked bad at her funeral." Piper allows a brief smirk of wry-yet-damp assent at that statement, and the two shuffle out of the attic. The camera pans down past their retreating forms to the BoS.