Friday, October 31, 2008

Snarky "Supernatural" Recap: Yellow Fever

“Supernatural” has always been a hit or miss. The Monster of the Week premise and the show’s mythology can make for some fantastic episodes (“What Is And What Should Never Be, “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “In the Beginning” to name a few) and some horrendous ones (“Ghostfacers,” “Red Sky At Morning,” “Route 66”). Thankfully, this season dove into a new chapter of the mythology with installments that are more intense, powerful and funnier than ever. Spoilers (yes, I read them) pegged this week’s episode, “Yellow Fever,” as one of the funniest installments in the show’s history. Yeah, well, we’ll see about that!

After a lengthy “THEN” montage that lets us know that the show’s mythology should be in play, “Yellow Fever” opens with a purposely familiar sequence: a panicked Dean tearing over shiny, wet asphalt and some unseen creature seems to be right on his heels. Hmm, that’s odd. This has to be a dream sequence, because Dean Winchester doesn’t run from anything that I can remember. Jensen Ackles seems to be exaggerating his stride by over-pumping his arms and it colors the pursuit with subtle comedy even as it conjures up much more horrifying nightmare (and eventual end to his life) that opened “No Rest For The Wicked.” Terrified Dean runs around a corner and careens over a homeless man’s shopping cart as what sounds like hellhounds and growl and snarl from somewhere behind him. Too scared to react to the pain—because damn, that looked like it hurt stunt double or not—Dean warns the bedraggled vagabond picking through the dumpster, “Run, he’ll kill you!” The homeless guy doesn’t seem to be at all afraid or even startled as he turns his head to reveal the hideous and hellish beat making Dean flee like a giant pansy. Is it Lilith in her true form? Sam gone darkside? Paris Hilton? Nope, a teeny, tiny shitzu with perfectly coifed fur and a pink bow lovingly attached to her little head. Ha. Dean bolts, screaming, and it turns into a Halloween-ish howl that comes from those motion-activated ghosts. Tinkerbell makes chase, adorably, of course.

Awesome title card. Metallicar ambles past the industrial landscape of Rock Ridge, Colorado as “43 Hours Earlier” flashes on the screen, indicating that the entire chase scene happens some time in the future. Sammy and normal Dean are Federal Agents Tyler and Perry. I know it is an Aerosmith reference, but it’s more fun to imagine that Sammy is a closeted Tyler Perry fan, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” is his favorite movie, and he envisions playing Grit Ball with Ruby 2.0 when she does evil, blasphemous things like choking his recently resurrected brother. Sammy and Dean are visiting the county morgue to investigate the death of Frank O’Brien, a police officer and marathon runner who died of a mysterious heart attack. The brothers Winchester apparently have already done research and linked this death with the two others in a town over just yesterday. The coroner isn’t shocked or concerned that a 44-year-old athlete kicked the bucket so suddenly, “Everybody drops dead sooner or later, it’s why I got job security.” Ugh! I honestly can’t watch the rest of this scene, not because I am disgusted by the autopsy they convince the coroner to do, but because it is so inaccurate. The doctor makes a five-inch incision, cuts the ribs and pulls out the heart? Spare me, show! You had a perfect opportunity to show off some awesome gore, and you got lazy and sloppy. One episode of “Dr. G” and you’d know how delightfully gruesome autopsies can get, so I’m downright appalled that a horror show pass up the excuse to use a BONE SAW and a RIB SPREADER?! You could have flayed poor Frank’s torso open ala Claire from “Heros” in season one. So I must gloss over this egregious oversight and summarize or I’ll stop watching. After a lot of squishy, gross sound effects, Sammy and Dean both wish they hadn’t eaten those truck stop taquitos because Dean is forced to hold poor Frank O’Brien’s extremely healthy heart that is oddly free of blockages or malformations and smug Sammy gets nailed in the face with “spleen juice.” Ew. Again, this would mean a ton of paperwork and some bloodwork for Sammy as he was sprayed directly in the mouth and eyes, but they were going for comedy and realism, and it was pretty funny. Sam asks the doctor about the bloody scratches on Frank’s hands and forearms, that is missing his wedding band, but the inept coroner, who probably got his degree from Sally Struthers, attributes that to his heart attack, “When you drop dead, you actually tend to drop.” Unless this poor bastard dropped dead onto a whirring meat grinder, I doubt his fall caused such damage.

After the autopsy, Fed-Like Sammy and Un-Fed-Like Dean head over to the sheriff’s office, where a baby-faced deputy grins at Dean as they wait in the quiet, birds chirping in the background. Deputy Linus knows pretty when he sees it! The sheriff exits his office, reams the deputy for keeping the federal agents (HA!) waiting, and ushers them inside but not before he makes them take off his shoes. They pad into the office in their stocking feet. I immediately assume that Sheriff Al Britton is a lover of Asian culture, and would have an office decorated with ornate dragons and folding screens, novelty buddhas and a litany of satin throw pillows. Fed-Like Sammy and Un-Fed-Like Dean must have expected the same thing, because they survey his normally appointed office in confusion before introductions are made. Al reaches for a family-sized bottle of antibacterial gel, squeezes one-third cup of the stuff into his palm and vigorously rubs it in. It seems the town sheriff has a serious case of OCD, and not the mild, trendy kind made famous by Howie Mandel and Donald Trump. Finally, he sits down, “so what can I do for Uncle Sam?” He asks. Sam answers that they are investigating Frank O’Brien’s death and some of his men found Frank’s body. Frank and Al were friends and “gamecocks.” Dean snorts, because he has the emotional maturity of an eleven-year-old boy. Al levels him with a look of disapproval and explains that they are “majestic animals” and the mascot of their softball team. Al continues. He knew Frank since high school and that he was a “good man.” Dean pipes in, “big heart.” In the sanctity of my bedroom, I perform a fantastic spit-take of iced tea, because that little zinger was as awesome as it was shamefully wrong, and I never saw it coming. That almost makes up for the half-assed autopsy. Fed-Like Sammy nearly kills him with a stealthy bitchface. Then, he asks if Frank was acting strangely before he died. Al says that Frank was “real jumpy” and refused to answer his phone, so finally, he sent some of his men over to check on him, and they discovered his body. Sheriff OCD coughs into his hands and proceeds to shellack them in another hearty coat of antibacterial gel. Dean clearly thinks this man is a germophobic freak, and doesn’t do much to hide it. “So why the feds give a crap?” Sheriff OCD questions. Man, everyone in Rock Ridge is so eloquent and articulate, but this is obviously supposed to be an industrial town, and no one has time for fancy book-learnin’, so even the sheriff and the coroner talk like Joe the Plumber. Dean assures him that it’s probably “just a heart attack.”

And we all know he’s a bow-legged liar because...a second later, Dean shakes his head, “No way that was a heart attack,” Fed-Like Sammy and Un-Fed-Like Dean walking down the street. “Three victims all with strange red scratches, all went from jittery to terrified to dead within 48 hours,” Sammy summarizes. “Something scared them to death,” Dean concludes. But I have decided that I don’t really care what killed Frank or even what is going to happen in this episode. Our boys are doing a simple walk-and-talk scene, but they’re wearing exquisitely tailored suits, and Jared Padalecki’s pecs should be earning residuals because they are workin’ hard beneath his crisply ironed shirt. Jared and his perfectly chiseled pectorals execute a perfect GQ strut complete with one hand in his pocket, his back straight and his long tie billowing the Colorado (Canadian) wind. The Battle of the Pretty For This Episode has officially begun, and we’re only six minutes into it! Dean is facing some seriously hot competition. Back to the action. Dean says there are “a hundred” nightmare things that could scare someone to death with demons, witches and the always mentioned but never seen chupracobra being at the top of the list, so they need to start finding evidence and eliminating suspects. They decide to go visit the last person who saw Frank alive, his neighbor, Mark. Dean suddenly stops mid-stride, and admits that he doesn’t “like the looks of those teenagers down there.” Sammy double-takes at a group of suburban fourteen year-olds who look more like band geeks than badasses. Also, Sammy knows he and Dean could kill them all without even getting winded. I can tell by the pained and confused expression on Dean’s face that he can’t believe he is afraid of them, let alone acting on that fear in front of his giant of a lil’ bro. Dean suggests they walk another way, and leaves Sammy stunned as he crosses the street, putting distance between him and the Band of Badass Band Geeks. Dean gives me a little GQ strut of his own that is quite good even though Dean’s face is pinched with inexplicable anxiety. It almost looks like Tyra Banks’ patented ugly-pretty model face. Jared, you jus’ been served, sucka!

Mark’s house is apparently Rock Ridge’s only reptile sanctuary. The walls are littered with cages containing all kinds of creepy crawly critters, including lizards, a crocodile, frogs, and a fat boa constrictor is draped around Mark’s neck. “Tyler and Perry, just like the Tyler Perry films, right? I love ‘Tyler Perry Presents Family Reunion Written, Directed and Starring Tyler Perry!’” Mark completely doesn’t say. “Yeah,” Sam agrees curtly, surveying the apartment. The dwelling sounds like a noise machine, strumming with the ribbets of frogs and hissing of snakes. Dean is sitting on the couch, and is awfully uncharacteristically twitchy. His pretty, pretty face looks disjointed and odd. When asked, Mark, who is quite rotund with a goatee and a receding hairline, explains that Frank was scared of everything before he died, and specifies “witches,” immediately catching Sam and Dean’s attention. “’Wizard of Oz’ was on TV the other night, right? And he said that green bitch was totally out to get him,” Mark clarifies as he guides the head of his reptilian friend around with his hand. The Wicked Witch is definitely not the kind of witch they had in mind, although how cool would it be to have Sam gank her while Dean fights off the flying monkeys? Mark confesses that Frank was terrified of “Al Queda, ferrets, artificial sweetener, Pez dispensers with their dead little eyes,” while Dean grows increasingly more anxious as he notices more and more furry and scaled critters in the apartment. Sammy, unaware of Dean’s trepidation, forges ahead, asking what type of guy our dearly departed Frank was. And low and behold! Frank was “a dick and a bully” and who “taped half the town’s butt cheeks together.” Dean snorts in approval, and confirms what I have always believed: he was a major punk ass when he was a teenager and probably raised more hell than he exorcised. Deano regains his Un-Fed Like composure, and wonders if Mark believes that anyone would want to get revenge on Frank, the former dick. Mark insists that Frank “got better” and no one would want to hurt him, especially after his wife died twenty years ago.

Dean, who is breathing hard, eyes the snake around Mark’s neck. “Don’t be scared of Donnie,” Mark grins wickedly. “He’s a sweetheart. It’s Marie you gotta look out for. She can smell fear.” And now you get a hint of why Frank tortured this poor loser in high school. He’s a grown man who names his reptiles after Donnie and Marie Osmond and let’s them roam free in his apartment. Marie, true to her talent, follows the scent of fear and slithers up the back of the sofa. She is an Albino Boa Constrictor, and her yellow skin would make a fetching handbag. Sammy watches her, completely fine with it because HE FIGHTS MONSTERS FOR A LIVING! Dean, on the other hand, gasps in pure dread as Marie moves over his shoulder and down the inside of his thigh. Is it sick and wrong that I’m jealous of that fucking snake? Hilariously, Dean manfully gulps it down and tries to smile as the absolutely enormous reptile lithely glides down the length of his body. Dean’s facial expressions are hilarious as he endures the torture of being fondled by a snake. Hee! The fact that Sam doesn’t rattle off at least three Britney Spears/Slave 4 U jokes makes me think that he, once again, has been sidelined to Wet Blanket status. Again, really?

Nighttime. The Metallicar is parked on a quiet street. Inside, Dean scratches his forearm as he reads an article. He jerks as Sam opens Baby’s creaking door and climbs in. While Sammy was inside sweeping Frank’s home, Dean went to the county clerk’s office to do research on Frank’s late wife. “Jessie was a manic depressive. She went off her meds back in ’88 and vanished. They found her two weeks later, three towns over, strung up in her motel room. Suicide,” but Frank couldn’t have done it as “he was working a swing shift…airtight alibi.” Dean starts the car and begins to drive down a rain-soaked street. Sammy says that Frank’s house was clean, “no EMF, no hexbags, no sulfur,” which in layman’s terms means, “no ghosts, no witches, no demons,” Dean clarifies as he drives in an attentive manner. His eyes jump from mirror to mirror and his hands are in the 10-and-2 position.

The boys are running out of leads. Sammy sighs, and notices that Dean is practically driving Ms. Daisy by going at an aggravatingly slow twenty miles per hour. “So what, safety’s a crime now?” Dean fires back when confronted. His eyes are abnormally large, and his brow is stuck in a furrowed position. Sam says nothing as the Metallicar crawls down what I’m assuming is the town’s main drag right past the Bluebird Hotel. Sammy points this out, too. “I’m not going to make a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic, I’m not suicidal,” twitches the very man who personally knocked on death’s door in order to save his brother. Sammy looks at Dean as he has sprouted another head. And breasts. Dean mirrors his expression, “did I just say that? That’s kinda of weird.” He chuckles, on edge. A strange noise distracts Sammy from calling the men with the butterfly nets. “Do you hear something?” He tracks the noise to the EMF meter inside of his jean jacket, and it is signaling a significant amount of EMF activity. IN THE CAR. He points it experimentally towards Dean and the levels spike. Dean’s eyes flare, “am I haunted? Am I haunted?” He actually panics. What on earth is going on with Dean?

In the light of the morning, Sam ambles by a whimsical and colorful mural holding a box of donuts with his cell phone to his ear. He makes moves to enter the hotel when he hears the addictive beats to “Eye of the Tiger” rattling the paint off the Metallicar. Inside, Dean is lying on his back in the front seat air drumming to this song. I get the feeling this is how Dean has passed many a night when he was hunting alone while Sammy was at Stanford. It also illustrates how freaking huge the Metallicar actually is, because Dean’s legs aren’t bunched up or hanging out the window, but resting somewhere inside the enormous front seat. Unfortunately for Dean, who is burying his burgeoning anxiety with the awesomeness of “Eye of the Tiger”, and the viewing audience, who want to see Dean rock out Rocky-style, Straight-Laced Sammy bangs on the hood of the car, and startles him upright. Dean exits the car and shows Sammy the self-inflicted bloody welts on his forearm. Sammy hands Dean the box of donuts in hopes of comforting him. As expected, Dean smells them appreciatively and then he rips the box open…and, oh wait, what the fuck? Not only does he not cram one of those sugary glazed pastries of the gods into his smart mouth, but he doesn’t even OPEN THE BOX! Instead he tosses them on the seat of the Impala and refocuses on Sammy. Bedazzle your handbaskets, kids, because the apocalypse is coming sooner than expected. It is Sammy’s turn to be scared speechless because Dean just confirmed that he has lost his mind, and we all know he fucking has, because box of fresh donuts are sitting in the front seat of the Metallicar unmolested!

Sammy and Bobby worked together through the night to figure out what ails poor un-hungry Deano. “It’s Ghost Sickness,” Sammy explains, sounding more capable and knowledgeable about their diagnosis than the bungling coroner. Dean, however alarmed, looks absolutely delectable in the reaction shot. His eyes pop with green, echoing the color of the shirt he is wearing, and his skin is smoother than Ryan Seacrest’s. Suck it, black and white! “Oh God, no,” he sighs and swoons against the car. “I don’t even know what that is,” he deadpans, showing Sammy that the real Dean Winchester is still alive and…Holy Shit…did Jensen just blink like seven times in a row and lick those pouty lips of his? That’s one for the record books, folks. He is really fighting for the Pretty Title in this episode. But I digress. Sammy continues his exposition, “Some cultures believe that certain spirits can infect the living with a disease, which is why they stopped displaying bodies in houses.” “Get to the good stuff,” Dean hurries for the sake of the audience. And bravo, Dean, because far this episode has been nothing but exposition. “The symptoms are you get anxious, then scared, then really scared…and then your heart gives out.” Sammy then bores us all by saying words that don’t make Dean shriek and flail like a 12-year-old watching “High School Musical 3” or run from three-pound puppies, so I must summarize. Yellow Fever can be transmitted through casual contact just like the flu. Frank O’Brien was the first to die, so he is the “outbreak monkey” and he must have passed the disease along to members of the Cornjerkers softball team when he played them at a tournament that weekend, hence the heart attacks in the first town over. Dean caught the disease from his corpse, and Bobby estimates he as twenty-four hours to live. This is all expressed with no Screamy Angst or Orchestra of Woe, so blah, blah, yada yada, snore.

Smart Dean wonders why his brother doesn’t have the fatal disease because he was “hit with the spleen juice” and Sammy eager to share his theory that all of the victims—a cop, a vice principal and a bouncer—were “dicks” who used “fear and intimidation” on a regular, if not daily, basis and as “weapons.” This part of the scene has caused rabid levels of rage and gruesome death threats on poor fictional Sammy Winchester’s life from the internet fandom. Dreamy Dean Winchester couldn’t possibly be a dick, because he saves lives and has pouty lips and beautiful green eyes and awesome one-liners like “I’m Batman.” “Kamakaze? I’m more of a ninja”, and adorably little bow-legs!111. The fact of the matter is, Dean has always been harsh, intimidating and downright cold when it comes to hunting, and as wisely alluded to earlier in this episode, he thinks bullies taping buttocks together is funny (which I think it is if someone's stupid enoguh to let you get THAT close). Also, if you remember in “What Is And What Should Never Be,” Dean was a complete prick who bedded Sammy’s prom date on prom night, stole money from him and missed his little brother’s graduation. I imagine when Dean isn’t saving lives or roasting in hell, he can be quite dickish indeed. And I’m okay with that. I’d rather be a “dick” and be Straight-Laced, Exposition Sammy. So there!

Where the writers, Anthony Dabb and Daniel Loflin, made the first of several fatal mistakes is by using the same excuse to excuse Sam from getting the same disease. I hate to say this, people, but despite those broad shoulders, dewy (blue? brown?) eyes, penchant for brooding to emo-ska, unfortunate hair, and undiagnosed manorexia, our Darling Sammy horrifies people right along side his bow-legged dick of a brother. So he’s a huge dick too. (I intend whatever puns you can get from that, nasty!) The difference between him and Dean is that he has demon blood in him and is immune to just about anything they can dish out, including the demonic warfare in “Croatoan” and Lilith’s lethal white light. Of course, Sammy wouldn’t succumb to silly Ghost Sickness, spleen juice or no spleen juice. The fact that the characters didn’t even consider that as an option is implausible and downright foolish on the writers’ part. Even poor Doomed Dean has a hard time swallowing that bit of shoddy writing. Moving on, Sammy says that if they “gank the ghost who started this whole thing,” it will cure the Yellow Fever outbreak, thus saving Dean’s second life. They immediately assume the ghost responsible is Jessie, Frank’s wife, because “no one really knows why she killed herself” even though we know that she was bipolar and off her meds. Sounds like reason enough to me! But they have no other leads, so…to the Metallicar! BOOM! BAM! THWAP!

Or not. This scene isn’t over yet?! Sam wonders why his brother was waiting in the car and not up in their room. Dean looks sheepish, “our room is on the fourth floor,” he begins, “it’s…high,” he gasps. Sammy bristles and pushes his lips together. His face aches to tease his brother, but realizes that he suffering, so he sighs, “I’ll see if I can move us down to the first.” “Thanks!” Dean replies graciously. Sammy departs and Dean moves his eyes back and forth shiftily, and climbs back into the Impala to retrieve his donuts. He opens the box, put then sets them aside, unable to eat. God, he is so sick, my poor Scrappy Doo!

Ever the dutiful hunter, Dean is trying to do some research on Yellow Fever inside the surprisingly tasteful and clean hotel suite that is presumably on the first floor. It includes a kitchenette and a cute living room decorated in olive greens. His anxiety grows. He glares up at the starburst clock as it beats louder. The sound of the clock ticking is irritatingly loud and paired with the beating of a human heart. Is Jackie Dahmer back? Nah, they are just borrowing the same sound trick, because it is quite effective. Jensen’s eyes are abnormally large and glassy as he tries to block out the noise and focus on the book. The photos and information definitely do not provide him any comfort. “[Those who suffer] from Ghost Sickness are affected by hallucinations…eventual horrible death,” Dean reads and he begins to the cough. The simple sounds of the room grows louder as he studies pictures of a poor eviscerated soul and another of a man vomiting up a river of blood. The lyrical chirping of blue birds now sound like the death squawks of predatory buzzards. “You’re dying.” Dean reads. “Again. Loser.” HA! The words are embedded in the text, but larger and bolder. Dean’s eyes pop even wider as his vision grows blurry at the edges and the images tremble, indicating for the folks in the back that he’s tripping. Get your glowsticks and your ring pops, everybody! He rubs them in an effort to snap himself out of the hallucination, but he has no such luck. The book continues to taunt him in bolded, evil Times New Roman, “You gonna cry? Baby gonna cry?” Dean grunts in frustration, and tears his eyes away from the book. He refocuses angrily on the clock that is still ticking incessantly. He can’t stop the Ghost Sickness or the hallucinations, but he can kill the Clock of Doom! The pretty starburst clock ticks boom three more times in slow motion before the screen fades to black and we are treated to a cathartic crunch of wood and the shatter of glass. Good to know Deano’s anxiety attacks mirrors my own…well, without all of the acidy trips and whatnot.

Sammy stalks back into the hotel room. His booted feet step directly behind the destroyed clock that will never tick again. Sam asks Dean if everything is all right. Dean is casually sitting on the couch, feet crossed at the ankles, drinking a beer. “Just peachy,” he snarks as he scratches his arm. Sammy discloses that Frank’s wife was cremated, so she mostly likely isn’t their ghost. Sammy sits down and nudges Dean’s feet with his large ones. “Hey! Quit pickin’ at that!” Hee! I like Big Brother Sammy. Dean obeys and slumps on the couch looking positively miserable. Concerned, Sammy asks him how he’s feeling. “Awesome,” Dean deadpans with his blistering fake smile. “It’s nice to have my head on the chopping block again. I forgot what that feels like…freakin’ delightful.” He complains as he takes another sip of beer. Sammy promises they will keep looking for answers. He doesn’t have a chance to offer the emo-words of encouragement we all know is coming because Dean swallows his beer and starts coughing. Sammy asks if he’s okay, probably thinking it’s just part of the sickness, just like I do. It’s not until Dean grabs his throat and gags that Sammy (and I) worry. Wheezing, Dean darts for the sink and vomits up something hard that hits the drain with an audible clang. Sam is two steps behind him, running to, I don’t know, hold Dean’s hair back. I’m definitely not going to stand front and center while anyone barfs, sorry. I’m not afraid of snakes or autopsies, but I have an embarrassing fear of being puked on. Dean rinses off the blood and bile coated thing he coughed up. It is a woodchip with some mystical shapes on the underside. Sammy is actually thrilled at this new development. I doubt Dean echoes his glee. “We’ve been ignoring he most important clue we have: you!” “I don’t wanna be a clue,” he pouts adorably. Hee! But Straight-Laced, Exposition Sammy is on a roll, “the abrasions, this…the disease is trying to tell us something.” “What? Woodchips?” Dean dumbly questions. Dude, you decipher convoluted ghost communication on a regular basis. You know it’s not that simple. “Yes, exactly!” Sammy agrees. Okay, maybe it is.

The beautiful Metallicar rolls over a bed of woodchips and into same industrial site they passed on the way into town. It is the now condemned Cassity and Sons Lumber Mill. The towering structures of yellow and silver steel are weathered and rusty from neglect. Other parts of the building are darkened in shadows and eerily quiet. Deano exits the car, “oh, I’m not going in there.” This moment is the first of several throughout the episode where I don’t recognize Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, because the presence of fear negates the presence of Dean Winchester as we know it. He is no longer the charismatic, self-proclaimed maverick, who fights demons with reckless abandon and a scrappy flair. Add fear to the mix, and Dean is you…and me, Eric Brady…and any sane person who uses the self-preservative emotion to gage how much their action endanger their actions. Fear tells us that exploring an abandoned lumber mill or letting a reptile that can grow up to fourteen feet long and can easily crush you to death slither around your nether regions is ridiculous and could end your life. Papa Winchester mercilessly trained and beat instinctive fear out of his sons, so it is rarely something they deal with beyond sarcasm and a bit of gun porn. Fear in the Realm of Winchester is far different than fear in plain ole reality. So naturally, Scaredy Doo is not going there. Sammy fires up his dewy (blue? brown?) eyes and prepares to drop the kindest, most uplifting speech on his yellow-bellied, wimp of a brother, one that would have Oprah doin’ the ugly cry. “I need back up, and you’re all I’ve got.” HUH?! Whereare Sammy’s sensitive poems about overcoming one’s challenges to emerge triumphant and alive? That’s it? Wait, he’s talking again. It’s coming now. Get your tissues, folks, it's going to be a doosey. “You’re going in, Dean!” That was…sweet? I’m starting to think that our Sammy has been kidnapped and replaced by our vampy shapeshifter from last week.

Dean does what any other heterosexual guy when faced with fear would do—he pulls a fifth of whiskey from his jacket pocket and takes a searing pull. “Let’s do this!” He growls in a complete parody of our Scrappy Doo. He puffs himself up to investigate the abandoned warehouse. “It is a little spooky, isn’t it?” he retorts, losing composure. Ha! They open the trunk arsenal, and our giant Sam has to lean all the way down to hand his brother his beloved pearl-handled 45mm as he grabs his trusty sawed-off. “I’m not carrying that. It could go off!” Dean says. “I’ll man the flashlight.” He smiles and seems proud of himself, because he’s going in that scary, scary place. Hee! The corners of Sam’s mouth twitch with thinly veiled frustration. Sammy is two seconds away from beating Dean’s ass.

Dean executes some stellar flashlight-fu, notably protected by the bulk of his giant of a little brother’s frame as they creep and stealth into the warehouse. Sammy’s trusty EMF meter signals from his pocket, but it is Dean’s sickness that is triggering it. It will be useless until he is better or dead, so Sammy tucks it back into his pocket. He then notices something on the floor, and reaches to grab it. The abrupt movement makes Scaredy Doo jump in fear. Beneath a scrap of fabric, Sam finds Frank’s missing wedding ring, indicating that Frank was at the warehouse before he died. More flashlight-fu down a dark, cinder block hallway. The boys hear rustling coming from one of the lockers and enter what used to be a breakroom. Sammy mouths to Dean that he’ll open the locker on the count of three. When he does, an adorable little tabby cat hops off the top shelf with a frightened meow. Dean lets loose a terrific bloodcurdling, girly scream that melds into hiccups of shrill shrieking. I’m so making that my ringtone! It stretches his face out until he resembles the black and white SCREAM mask. Meanwhile, Sam gapes at him and raises his eyebrows in pure incredulity. The entire sequence was predictable, but Jensen’s commitment kept it satisfyingly funny. “That was scary!” He enthusiastically admits with a toothy smile, panting.. Those three words are goofy delivery makes the entire moment golden and makes me giggle like the fangirl I am. Sam gingerly brushes past Dean, because he doesn’t know how to process his giant pussy of a brother. Dean whimpers and scampers after him.

More flashlight-fu into a destroyed office. The floor of the room is covered in dirt and furniture and papers are haphazardly strewn around the space. Sammy finds an aged work badge that belongs to Luther Garland, no, not Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz” but LUTHER. Very cute, show! His picture is that of a menacing bald white man and not Liza Minelli’s mama. Dean investigates the papers on the desk on the far corner of the room, and finds aged drawings of Frank’s wife, Jessie. As soon as he pulls up a picture—ripping it in the process—the machinery mysteriously fires up even though the mill has been abandoned for at least a decade. Conveyors belts convey and whirly things whirl. Dean, of course, nearly pisses his pants in horror as Sam calmly observes. Dean uses his flashlight to pan around the small room. He passes over a hunched figure that skillfully blends into the drab room before he gulps and backtracks. The beam of light reveals someone cowering in the corner, his back to the boys. Scaredy Doo is literally paralyzed in fright, eyes as big as quarters. Sam follows Dean’s line of sight and lifts his gun at the apparition. He then approaches it. Wait, why is the ghost hiding?! Is it opposite day in “Supernatural” Land? Sam is the no-nonsense hunter. Dean refuses to carry a gun. And now, GHOSTS are hiding?! Since when do ghosts hide? Sam turns back, probably to ask Dean the same question, but through the swinging doors, we can see Dean hightailing it out of the factory, tossing his brother nothing more than a backwards look before he tears to the safe light of day. Finally, the terrified ghost remembers he’s a ghost and advances towards Sam, revealing he is Luther Garland, the man on employee badge. The poor ghost has bloody wounds on his face and hands. He takes another step and Sam blasts his undead self with rock-salt rounds. Outside, Dean is crouched behind the trunk of his baby, guzzling the last of his whiskey. Sammy runs out with Luther’s ID. “Looks like we got the right place.”

Fed-Like Sammy and Un-Fed-Like Dean are back at the sheriff’s office. Dean is standing a mandated five feet away from the counter, swaying. Deputy Linus has pulled the Garland file, and finds that his cause of death was ruled a vague “physical trauma” and our teenaged deputy is too young to remember any details of the murder. His boss, the OCD Sheriff, is out sick and therefore isn’t available for questioning. Linus notices Dean swaying, scratching and staring at his fingers in amazement, and discreetly asks Fed-Like Sammy if he’s drunk. Sammy, who once again looks amazing in his FBI suit and styled hair, glares his BLUE eyes at Dean and says he’s not. Dean offers an inebriated wink-thumbs up combo that proves he definitely is. Sam takes the Luther’s file, and leaves. Dean stays in his spot, probably because Sammy threatened one of the Metallicar’s headlights if he moved, and beams at Deputy Linus with glassy eyes. “You know what? You’re awesome.” Deangirl Linus smiles brightly. And wow, I am just now noticing that he looks like a younger Deano. “You too, I guess.” Sammy scruffs Dean by the back of the neck and hauls him out of the station. Sheriff OCD, who is apparently barricaded in his office, uses the intercom to ask who was visiting. And I definitely know that this kid is related to the Winchesters, because he just lied to them. Deputy Linus tells him it was the FBI agents who requested Luther’s file. Inside, the heartbeat of anxiety pumps as the sheriff SCRUBS HIS SKIN BLOODY WITH STEEL WOOL and loading his pistol. Poor Al is halluncinating. He points his pistol at the talking reflection of himself emanating from the trophy case. “They know what you did. And now they are going to make you pay,” his paranoia tells him.

Peaceful Pines Assisted Living. Very cute, show. Fed-Like Sammy and Un-Fed-Like Dean round the corner of the facility and Dean jumps, pressing himself against the wall as a feeble old woman with an IV bag shuffles past them. “This isn’t going to work. These badges are fake. What if we get busted, we can go to jail!” He nags. This is the second time that I don’t recognize this coward as Dean and I think he has been possessed by someone else. Sam urges him to calm down and take a deep breath (and I can see his bicep bulging through his suit jacket). Dean acquiesces, drawing in air and pushing it out through his ridiculously red, pouty lips. “Feel better?” He shakes his head, hopeless and child-like. Sam ushers him down the hall and tosses a “don’t scratch!” as they pass through the doors into the empty rec room to speak to Luther’s brother. Why is that so cute? Mr. Garland is a wiry man with graying hair and haggard appearance. He sits at a desk in a wheelchair and suspiciously wonders why the FBI care about Luther’s case. Dean gulps when Mr. Garland asks for ID, but they still manage to hand them to him simultaneously. The thin, stubbled old man holds them and studies them for an eternity for our poor sick Dean. “Those are real,” he assures him. Sam pointedly clears his throat, but Dean can’t stop himself. “Who would pretend to be an FBI agent? That’s just nutty!” Sammy stomps on his foot.

Finally, the boys sit down and ask about Luther’s death. In short, Luther was “too big and too mean lookin’.” But he was a gentle giant who likes to play with kittens. Luther’s brother failed to protect him from the town’s scrutiny. Mr. Garland and the whole town know that Frank O’Brien killed Luther, because Jessie, Frank’s wife, worked at the plant and was sweet to Big Luther, and he developed a crush on her. When Jessie disappeared, Frank was convinced that Luther was responsible. In a flashback the peppers this explanation, we see that Frank went to the lumber mill, found Luther’s drawings of Jessie and forced him out of the building at gunpoint. He knocks him down and hits him with the butt of his rifle before he wraps a chain around his neck. There is a tight shot of a car’s rear wheels and brakelights that tear away and reveal the coiled chain unraveling as a car zooms away until it snaps taut and we snap back into the rec room at Peaceful Pines. Awesome transition. “They found Luther with a chain wrapped around his neck. He was past dead.” Frank O’Brien was never arrested because he was “the pillar of the community” and Luther was the “town freak.” Mr. Garland has forgiven Frank because he grew to understand that Frank was operated on fear, and wait for it, “[fear] spreads and spreads.” The camera gets in tight on the old man’s face as he says this. He seems prematurely aged by a life of tragedy and it simply drives his point home…or justifies this needlessly complicated plot.

Outside of Peaceful Pines, Dean realizes that the marks on his arm are roadrash and the woodchips he coughed up are from Luther swallowing them when he was dragged down the road. “You’re experiencing his death in slow motion.” “Not slow enough. I say we burn some bones, and get me healthy,” Dean says. That’s the Dean we all know and love. God, I miss him! Wet Blanket Sammy explains that it won’t be that easy, because Luther’s “body was ripped to pieces” and “he’s probably scattered up and down that road. There’s no way they we can find all of the remains.” But really, it’s because the writers don’t just want show the boys burning bones—been there, done that—so we’re not going to even mention that even the murder occurred two decades ago, and the Luther-bits that weren’t buried probably eaten by animals or decomposed away years ago. Sammy promises that they will figure something else out and proceeds to not go all emo on Dean’s ass, which makes me sad. Stupid Sammy Shapeshifter! You can’t tell me he’s not one now!

The FEAR turns Dean into a stranger again as he delivers the monologue that makes this exposition-heavy episode completely worth it. “You know what? Screw this. What are we doing?” “We’re hunting a ghost?” Sammy duhs. “A ghost! Exactly! Who does that?” “Us,” Sammy duhs again. “And that is exactly why our lives suck! We hunt monsters, what the hell? Normal people see a monster and they run, but not us. We search out things that want to kill us. OR EAT US! (Big ups, to Jackie Dahmer, yo!) You know who does that? CRAZY PEOPLE! We are INSANE! And then there’s the bad diner food and the skeevy motel rooms and the truck stop waitress with the bizarre rash. I mean who wants this life, Sam? Seriously? Do you actually like being stuck in a car with me eight hours a day, every single day? I don’t think so. I drive too fast and I listen to the same five albums over and over and over again. And I sing along. I’m annoying; I know that. And you! You’re gassy. You eat half a burrito and you get toxic. You know what? You can forget it. Stay away from me, Sam, because I’m done with it. I’m done with the monsters and the hellhounds and the Ghost Sickness and the damn Apocalypse. I’m out. I’m done. Quit!” This is a rare moment when the show cashes in on its history in a way that is rewarding and fun for the fans. Dean poses the very same questions all fans have at some point. Jensen Ackles just devours this brilliant material, adding a bit of camp, while keeping it entirely grounded. His usually deep, gravelly voice is so high-pitched and cowardly and he actually squawks and overemphasizes words. He paces the length of the car with his super-large eyes wild with alarming epiphany. Jensen looks like he is having the time of his life, and I feel terribly because all that Jared was given to do is react and stutter.

Dean tosses Sam the keys to his most prized possession and stalks off into the night, which is a good thing since Dean has been drinking all day and probably shouldn’t be driving. We follow Dean up the road and hear the jingle of a collar and the padding of little paws. Dean slowly turns to find Tinkerbell seeking refuge from Paris Hilton. Hee! We are back at the beginning.

Cut to a sweaty Dean sitting on the edge of his bed in the darkened motel room. Sammy enters, relieved when he finds his brother. “I looked everywhere for you, Dean! How’d you get here?” “…ran…” Dean pants with bags under his eyes. He looks quite ill and I imagine since his heart will be stopping soon, he might regret his marathon. “What do we do now? I got less than four hours on the clock. I’m going to die, Sammy.” Dean confesses. I have been waiting for this sequence all week, especially after seeing the trailer for this episode. “Yeah you are,” Sammy says matter-of-factly. “It’s about damn time, too.” Dean’s vision blurs at the edges and bounces as he looks at Sammy as his eyes flash a demonic yellow then to a devilish white, and we know he’s imagining this. “The truth is you’ve been a real pain in my ass.” Dean attempts to move, but Badass Evil Sammy anticipates it. Without even turning his head, he lifts his hand, and telepathically flings Dean into the wall. “You get out of my brother, you evil son of a bitch!” He rages through clenched teeth. Stay in him, stay in him! He’s more fun when he’s evil. And more hot. Awesomely, Scrappy Doo overcome the silly fears of the Ghost Sickness, because this is the only mind-numbing, heart-stopping, soul-shattering fear he’s ever had: losing his brother to the very evil that killed his parents and grandparents.

The heart of fear is thumping away, which will never not be scary. The sound guys have exaggerated Sam’s voice, making it deeper, deliberate and far more sinister. Sammy laughs at the notion that he is possessed. “No one is possessing me, Dean. This is what I’m going to become,” Badass Evil Sammy says as he ventures towards him. “This is what I want to become.” Dean struggles and cringes and almost cries as Badass Evil Sammy places his hand around Dean’s neck, lets his eyes flip white, and then? Evil Sammy squeeze. That’s right folks, Sammy is strangling his brother, and I’m loving it! Get him, Sammy, get him! Dean fights for breath and suddenly, Badass Evil Sammy is gone (aww) and Regular Sammy is there with his hands on Dean’s shoulders, trying to pull him out of his delirium. No-Nonsense Sammy pops Dean’s shoulders sharply against the wall, and successfully knocks him back into reality. And I’m pissed! That entire sequence was basically in the previews from last week. I wanted more Badass Evil Sammy, and Jared Padalecki does too, because he actually gets to, ya know, act!

Next day. Lumber Mill. Sammy is sitting on the Metallicar’s hood as Bobby’s rusted out Chevelle ambles up the dusty path. He wonders where Dean is, and Sammy snorts, “home sick.” Cut to Dean sitting on the couch watching “Gumby” and scratching the bloody hell out of his arm. And I’m sorry. Ghost Sickness or not, claymation (and Claymates) is downright petrifying. He should just put in a snuff film! It would be less scary than MOVING CLAY. Dean jolts back when someone lassos Pokey (Bonus point for you, if you get the awesome reference!) and hauls him down a dirt road. Kudos to whoever procured this clip! “This isn’t helping,” Dean mutters. No Dean, that creepy shit isn’t helping. In fact, it’s making me scratch.

Back Sammy and Bobby. Sammy coldly calculates that Dean has about two hours before he dies. In a mildly amusing sequence, Sammy learns that Bobby can not only read, but speak Japanese, and that the thing causing the Yellow Fever is Buru-Buru, which is some kind of manifestation of fear. Since the writers won’t let them salt and burn the bones, Bobby says they have to do the next best thing: scare the ghost into the light. Huh? What? Who cares? Sammy calls Dean to breezily assure him that they have a good plan and he just needs to “ride out the trip” like Ghost Sickness is the teacup ride at Disneyland. As soon as Sammy hangs up, Bobby says “this is a terrible plan” and Sammy knows it is, but it’s all they have left to try. All right, I’ve had it, show! I have kept my feelings quiet throughout this recap, because I was waiting to see how the writers would handle Sammy’s fear about his brother’s impending demise. I do believe that when Dean was hallucinating Badass Evil Sammy, Real Sammy was actually lamenting about the entire situation, confessing some beautifully dark things about how he refuses to fail Dean again, but we didn’t get to hear that. And this is the perfect moment to confide in Bobby. Instead the writers stupidly continued with the “oh Dean’s dying again” nonchalance, and thus, Sammy’s sitting his giant ass on Dean’s priceless, precious baby and waxing stoic about how Dean has less than two hours to live. Whatever. The characters of Sam and Bobby need to reference whatever Sam’s emotions may be. I’m not asking for anyone to dust off the Orchestra of Woe or the Capital-M Melancholy that bogged down last season in lieu of Sammy getting his ass kicked by a titan of a ghost, but we need something. The fact they, yet again, don’t there ruins the entire episode. Comedy is awesome, but “SPN” has always been a pleasant mix of both, and the laughs ended seven minutes ago.

In a series of artful shots, Sammy creeps back into the lumber mill without Bobby and clutching his shotgun. We get several shots of him from various angles walking through dark shadows and contrasting milky light streaming in from outside. Luther’s hand suddenly slams onto a pane of glass the camera is shooting Sammy through and then focuses on the dusty pane of glass and Luther’s ghostly reflection. Yes, I jumped. Shut up.

Back at the hotel. Delirium has overwhelmed Dean, and he hears the snarl of demonic pitbulls, and fortunately for him, it’s not Sarah Palin. Not a second later, unseen forces beat against the door to his room, nearly rattling it off its hinges. Dean ducks down behind the armchair he was sitting in when finally the doorframe splinters and the sheriff enters the room with his pistol. Dean lifts his upper body up like a prairie dog to see who it is, and is relieved that he is not about to be mauled by hellhounds. Dean’s vision bounces and throbs throughout the scene and we can’t tell what is real and what isn’t. I do know that the confrontation between the two characters looks completely ridiculous regardless of how much the actors are trying to make it believable. Long story short: Al’s not one bit guilty for not busting Frank for brutally killing Luther because it the FEAR made him do it or whatever. I don’t care. Commence with the dying! Dean tries to tell the sheriff that he’s sick and needs to calm down. But again, stupid, because this guy was infected before Dean, so he should be dead right now. They struggle until Dean’s instincts take over, and he finally starts to kick some motherfuckin’ ass. He busts the sheriff in the face and knocks him back into the coffee table, which shatters, but sadly, doesn’t impale him. Boo! Al clutches his rapidly beating heart and dies gorelessly. Bad form, Al, bad form!

Lumber Mill. Sammy’s searching for Luther and talking to Bobby on his two-way. Sammy hypothesizes that he needs to make him angry in order to draw him out. He puts the gun down and proceeds to destroy Luther’s drawings of his beloved Jessie. Who’s the dick now, Sammy? LEAVE LUTHER ALONE!11 *sobs* The machines supernaturally power on. Sammy continues his demonic destruction. The camera slides over as Sammy stands upright, and we see Luther’s ghost seething behind him. Sic ‘em, Luther! Sammy senses big ole Luther, and when he turns around, he actually has to look up at the giant hulk of a ghost. Luther wastes no time and tosses the Formally Ginormous Sammy across the room like a rag doll. I’m rooting for Luther, y’all! I think he could win this one.

Motel. Dean has covered the sheriff’s corpse with the bedspread. He sits on the foot of the other bed, shaky and scratching the skin off his already bloody forearms. Apparently, he’s giving up on drinking, which is a shame, because alcohol is a depressant and might be able to buy him some time. His anxiety has finally reached critical mass; his mind is replaying Badass Evil Sammy’s creeptastic voice; his watch ticking is deafening; he hears hellhounds; and he can’t trust anything he sees. Desperate, he presses the Bible to his cheek and closes his eyes in fervent prayer. God or Castiel ain’t helpin’ you, buddy! “Hi, Dean!” A child-like voice greets. His eyes snap open audibly, and the camera does another reveal slide, so we can see the Lilith in Zoey’s meatsuit from “No Rest For The Wicked.” Remember her? She’s the little girl Lilith possessed and Sam almost killed. She’s wearing a puffy pink dress I would have cut a bitch for when I was nine. “Oh! No!” Dean cowers. His skin crawls and he visibly shutters as Lilith giddily hugs him and says, “it’s time go to back now,” she grins. I’m jealous of her too, now! And I still want that dress! Dean pries himself away and stands up, refusing to meet her eyes. “What’s the matter? Don’t you remember all the fun you had down there? Four months is like forty years in hell.” She estimates and then…DUN! Is it really the first one of the episode? “And you remember every second.” Come again? Did he LIE to Sammy when he said he didn’t remember? We get no confirmation either way, because Dean’s heart starts the wonky beat, and he crumples to his knees in pain. Dean asks why he got infected, and Lilith says he knows why, and starts torturing my pretty-faced baby to death. “Ba-Boom! Ba-boom! Ba-boom!” Dean’s heart sails into supraventricular tachycardia, which trust me, is as uncomfortable as it looks.

Lumber Mill. Sammy is getting his ass kicked. And that’s not exactly a rare occurrence on this show, but this time, Sammy’s purposely not fighting back. Luther literally hauls Sammy cross the room by his ankle, stomps on his back, cracks his head against the floor repeatedly. Ouch. It’s refreshing to see our giant Sammy crawling away from a force bigger than himself. Sam even smiles while Luther slams his hard skull against the cement floor. So his romps with Ruby 2.0 turned him into a sadist? I bet his safe-word is “Marzipan.”

Lilith continues “Ba-booming.” Dean has the slowest heart attack in the history of heart attacks.

Luther grabs Sammy’s collar, and Sammy retrieves a chain hidden in the sawdust that covers the floor, and wraps it around Luther’s neck, creating an iron noose. “Bobby, punch it!” He screams. Bobby shifts the Metallicar into gear and floors it. The chain jerks poor Luther’s ghost off Sam, out the lumber mill and down the road. Meanwhile, Dean’s still babysteppng towards the light. For the second time in Luther’s (after)life, he being dragged to his demise. Dean draws in a wheezing breath of finality. And stops. Stops breathing. Stops struggling. Stops living? Luther’s disintegrates in plumes of ghostly smoke. As his body falls away, we can only see the chain and Luther’s head, and he looks like Humpty Dumpty. Finally, his eye close and Humpty Dumpty has The Great Fall, leaving Bobby dragging nothing but chain. The machines skitter to a stop, and Luther is gone. Dean dead-eyes the camera for three agonizing seconds before he gasps back to life, coughing. The room is quiet and his forearms are completely healed. Exhausted, he flops against the luggage under his head and just breathes.

Lumber Mill. In front of an undeniably scenic ridge of evergreens and mountains, Dean, Bobby and Sam recap the day’s events. Dean offers Bobby a beer, but he declines. “So you guys roadhauled a ghost?” A fully recovered Dean asks. Sammy blahs about how it was an iron chain etched with spellwork, which is bullshit because iron dissipates even the strongest of ghosts (see 4.2 as reference), like rock salt does with demons. Those are hard and fast rules, show. “It was what he was most afraid of,” Sammy explains. Dean, back to being normal, doesn’t care what Sammy did to the ghost that was inadvertently killing people. “On the upside, I’m still alive, so go team!” Sammy asks Dean how he’s feeling. Judging by how he looks? I’d say pretty damn good. He’s wearing one layer, everyone, and it’s a tight grey shirt. He squints against the yellow sun like a model that’s "Too Sexy" for everything. Sammy also thinks he’s photo shoot for Stetson For Men, because he is artfully draped against the side of the Metallicar, one hip popped, hand in his pocket, and filling out his denim shirt the way all men should. Man, The Battle For The Pretty will have to be a tie. Again! If you’re keeping score, it’s Jared 1, Jensen 0, and two ties.

Dean’s bravado is back with a vengeance. “I’m fine! You want to go huntin’? I’ll hunt. I’ll kill anything.” He boasts, and that's HOT! Kill something, Dean! And do it shirtless! Sammy and Bobby tease him instead. Bobby has to leave, and pointedly tells he boys to drive safely since they are drinking beers while leaning against a car, which sends a bad message to the kiddies. After he drives away, Sammy wonders what Dean saw at the end. “Besides a cop beating my ass?” Dean jokes. “Seriously.” Dean looks down, mulling over if he should tell his brother the truth. He faces him and Sammy eyes fucking glow demonically (proving my theory that Sammy’s been a shapeshifter since episode five). Whether it is a residual hallucination or it actually happened we never know, but Dean swallows, and lies, “Howler Monkeys. Those things creep he hell out of me.” Sammy knows he’s avoiding, so Dean offers this, “Nothing I couldn’t handle.” End scene. Thank God that’s over! It was the funniest episode of “SPN” I’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t make it the best!

I’m not even attempting to recap Dean’s rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” because it’s so awesome, I can’t do it justice. Youtube it, y’all!

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