Sunday, September 13, 2009

Julie, Julia and K: A Recipe to Cure Pop Culture Ennui

As I have mentioned a few times in this blog, I sometimes get discouraged with pop culture. And, as you have seen, I can ignore my blog for months at a time. The death of Michael Jackson has left me decidedly un-entertained by the shennanigans of Heidi and Spencer, Lindsay Lohan or even my old throwback, Justin Timberlake, who seems content doing everything but making music (Congrats to him for snagging and Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series—the first for an “SNL” host). I don’t care about Kourtney Kardashian’s baby or who’s bonin’ whom on the latest edition of “The Real World.” I’m not even excited for this year’s trainwreck award show, the VMAs. Yes, bloggers, I have been suffering from the worst case pop culture ennui I’ve ever had, and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” or “Patron Tequila” by the Paradiso Girls isn’t curing it.

But today, in a small theater in Nowhere, Midwest, my ennui was cured, the love of all things entertainment reborn after seeing the delicious little film called “Julie and Julia.” Starring the always scrumptious Meryl Strep (having a ball as always) and the adorable Amy Adams, the movie follows the lives of Julia Child and Julie Powell, two women, one in the 1950s, one in the new millenium, who found their joy and accomplishment in food.

In the first twenty minutes, I was rapt by Julie’s disgust at the daily drudgery of a job she hates, having little money (thankfully, I don’t live above a pizza joint) and edging closer to the big 3-0 miles away from the goals and successes you’d thought you’d have by that terrifying milestone.
My struggles have been briefly mentioned in this blog as well: finding a job that I can remotely enjoy, trying to get my book published, trying to make something of myself and not be jealous of my more successful friends. In college, I discovered a love of and a talent for cooking so much that I have contemplated enrolling in culinary school. Yes, while my peers were doing kegstands and playing beer pong, I was roasting chickens and saving a for a pasta maker. Watching the film felt like being rejuvenated, being heard, being understood just like Julie did when she cooked Juila’s recipes. While I don’t anticipate plowing through all 524 recipes in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” I definitely search the book for inspriation of my own, and hopefully, it’s in the Boeuf Bourguignon or the Pear Tarte.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Conan O'Brien: The Comedic Supernova Takes Over "Tonight."

Last night, as the stars brightened the summer sky, a miracle occurred. It wasn’t Halley’s Comet or a rare meteor-shower. It was something far more entertaining and awe-inspiring. I, your lover of all things pop cult, full-on belly-laughed during “The Tonight Show…” now helmed by the brilliantly zany (and dare I say handsome and a little more buff) Conan O’Brien. And the most amazing thing is that it happened through-out the fantastically fun debut of “Tonight’s” new host and gorgeous new set. I had an assortment of laughs: a hearty chuckle in the beginning skit of the show as my beloved Conan, preparing for the debut of his show, forgot to move to Los Angeles and literally ran over the Brooklyn bridge, through Wrigley Field, past the St. Louis Arch, the Rocky Moutains, Las Vegas, Death Valley and crashed through the gates at the Universal lot. I giggled ‘til I nearly cried as Conan took over the tram tour at the movie lot, doing everything from critiquing the actor playing Norman Bates’ attire in a way that would make Tim Gunn smile to taking the tram out onto the streets of L.A. to buy the tourists gifts at the 99 Cent Store! I fell over, whooping, at Will Ferrell as he declared that his fellow Tony Award nominee, Liza Minelli, is a communist and a “red menance” and that Conan’s projected success on the show is a “crapshoot.”
If you're a fan, you already know that Conan didn't dumb-down or dilute his trademark screwball humor for the more mainstream timeslot. He is still the same, NBC-bashing, stupid, lunatic he was in New York at 12:35am, and that is a wholehearted compliment. There are certain stars that you want to shine brighter than the rest because of they are unique, intelligent and talented. And Conan O’Brien is definitely one that should supernova. I gladly admit I carried the transcript of his the speech he delivered at the Harvard Commencement in 2000 in my purse for years, because it was as inspiring as it was ridiculous. He is unabashedly self-deprecating and incredibly quick-witted, and most importantly, a hell-of-a lot funnier than Jay Leno (who is still airing before O'Brien in a bizarre programming move by NBC execs).Last night, Conan hit the ground running with his own brand of pompadour-flopping humor with guest Will Ferrill and music act, Pearl Jam. I can’t wait to see him sincerely flirt with Hollywood’s A-listers. Judging by the enthusiastic audience's cheers, screams and chants, and Conan's hilarious first show, it won’t take a miracle for Conan to thrive in his shiny new digs.
Bravo, Conan, bravo!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Why Am I Hotter than All? Jessica Biel Bravely Shares Her Plight

While most people are embattled in horrific situations stemming from the recession, skyrockteing unemployment, foreclosure, swine flu, wildfires and even the casualties of war, one brave actress is speaking out, courageously sharing her personal pain for the betterment of others. No, I’m not referring to Farrah Fawcett’s sobering cancer documentary. Or even Brooke Shields’ struggle with thinning eyelashes (Thank God for Latisse!). It’s none other than the extremely healthy Jessica Biel. In the June issue of “Allure,” she details her frustration and pain about the tribulations of…hotness. Yes, you read that correctly. But it doesn’t end there, Ms. Biel if you’re nasty, thinks that her white-hot beauty hinders her career. Please grab your Kleenex (read: barf bag) and read on if you can:

Jessica Biel says her good looks are hurting her career.
"Yeah, it really is a problem."
The actress -- whose latest film, Powder Blue, (in which she plays a stripper) is going to straight to DVD -- isn't handed plum roles.
"I'm in there with everybody else, fighting for the good parts. Yes, The Illusionist has made a difference -- but a huge, massive difference, so I can pick and choose what I want? No."
Biel, 27, covets the careers of Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman.
"I just want an opportunity. If you don't like the audition, don't hire me!" she says. "But if you don't want to even see me -- that's hurtful. And why? You know nothing about me!"

If you aren’t emotional over that then you are DEAD INSIDE!

In all honesty, celebrities should understand that with half of the country in foreclosure, no one wants to hear about the difficulties of making millions of dollars. With CEOs working entry-level jobs to just make ends meet, the reading public and even the CASTING public doesn’t want to know how one’s perceived hotness is a detriment to one’s career, especially when it is a major job requirement. I guarantee the viewing public would not pay $10 per ticket to see Ron, the IT Supervisor, make whoopie with the Edna, a Wal-Mart salescleark, on a 20 foot screen.

Biel is not a terrible actress, but up until now, she has gleefully cashed in her wiles in the heinous action movie (co-starring Nic Cage) “Next,” the terrible “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” and unforgivable fighter pilot crapfest, “Stealth.” If you depend on your looks for a paycheck—even if you’re paying your dues— you shouldn’t you be upset when Sorsese isn’t calling.

My mama taught me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I’ll leave my faithful readers to debate Biel’s hotness or lackthereof. But countless other exquisite actresses have struggled to garner critical cred and have managed to do so by, yes, paying their dues, but working tirelessly to cultivate their talents by taking risks. For example, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote “Good Will Hunting” to create starring roles for themselves and their friends—and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Charlize Theron, the South African stunner and former model, has her very own Oscar for her fantastic and chilling turn in “Monster.” The lovely Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar in 2002. Now that is a career obstacle to complain about. She also has two Emmys for her work in “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.”

I cannot sit here and condone Jessica’s use of a national magazine to complain about a seemingly trivial problem nor can I walk a mile in her Jimmy Choos. As I go to a job I don’t remotely like, I wish I could! I also wish that the beleaguered Ms. Biel will step away from the mirror, count her blessings, and work on her craft and maybe, just maybe, Sorsese will finally call.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Great K Has Returned; DVR Pulled Me Back In!

If you’ve spent even a moment browsing this blog, it’s fairly obvious that I’m a carding-carrying, in-need-of a-12-step-program (and eventually a “Sober House” with Dr. Drew Pinsky) pop culture addict. But even I—the girl who cursed the life of the postman who delivered her beloved “Entertainment Weekly” waterlogged from the current snowstorm—can sometimes be appalled by the ridiculousness of the media. From Jessica Simpson’s audacity to gain eleven pounds, to the inflammatory “she probably deserved it” comments surrounding the anything-but-funny Rihanna/Chris Brown Scandal, to the Kim Kardashian on “Larry King Live” talking about the worsening economy, I sometimes have to take a break from the fuckery.

And there is no better time to take a break than in the beginning of the year when celebrities are too busy patting themselves on the back with Oscars and Grammys and Golden Globes (oh my!) than to actually work. So I took a step back and tried to live life as a normal member of society who didn’t check EONLINE.Com five times a day to see if Britney/Lindsay/Miley Cyrus had any kind of dramatic kerfuffle. But in the midst of the economic crisis and the realization that our shiny new President, even with all of that swagger, common sense and intelligence, can’t fix the country in 85 days, we have embraced all of the ridiculous, petty and ugliness about Hollywood. I’d much rather pay attention to the weed-induced hilarity of Joaquin Phoenix than rant about how the economy is affecting my career (or lackthereof).

So I got DVR.

Normally, I’m a technology-phobe. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 24 just because I wanted to be different (and didn’t want brain cancer).

I didn’t even want an MP3 player and only got one because my father bought it for me.

I didn’t “get” internet when it was first unveiled in the early 90s.

And now, of course, I can’t imagine my life without those wonderful, beautiful, fantastic toys. My purse has more electronics and adapters in it than makeup and lipgloss.

However, I always wanted DVR, but could never afford it. Now, I have a job working 3pm to midnight, and it became a necessity for K to stay in the pop cult loop and not miss “Supernatural,” “Ugly Betty,” etc. And DVR is officially the best thing that ever happened to me. It, like the perfect man in a romantic comedy, has pulled back the velvet curtains and revealed a world I could only imagine in my sad, loveless, pre-DVR life. I have discovered new shows and have had exquisite rendezvous’ with old friends like…

The delightful fun, fascinatingly disgusting show about Temperance Brennan, a foresensic anthropologist, and her disarmingly attractive FBI partner, Seely Booth (Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, respectively) is one I missed up until now. I watched this show when it first debuted in 2005, but college and impending graduation got in the way of regular viewership. Now, I DVR the show in syndication on TNT, and come home to the classic and oddly romantic “will they/won’t they” sexual tension between Bones and Booth. They make eyes at each other over purreed corpses and pulverized bones. The writing is as weird and gross as it is sentimental and sweet and intelligent. It’s the “Grey’s Anatomy” of cop procedurals (and I’m talking about ‘Pick me. Choose me. Love Me’ Grey’s, not the Izzie’s-sexing-a-ghost Grey’s.) and has magically avoided the behind-the-scenes drama. Bravo!

“Hell’s Kitchen”
The cooking show that makes the entire process of running a restaurant look like a complete clusterfuck is an absolutely can’t miss. Not because I’m dazzled by chefs chiffanodding skillz, but because of Gordon Ramsay’s storied shitfits and the chefs blatant incompetence. This current season has produced a particularly (or purposely) bad crop of wanna-be executive chefs, two of whom Ramsay has eliminated during service. Because they cook the same things every service and always managed to supremely fuck something up. He squeals and shrieks and cusses like a hysterical housewife on a tear, and I LOVE it. “Top Chef” is it not, but it is delectable all the same!

“For the Love of Ray J”
I will admit, when I first saw previews of this hip hop version of “Rock of Love,” I rolled my eyes and swore I wouldn’t watch (just like I did with “ROL” but I watch it like it’s going out of style). Ray J is more famous for his sextape with Kim Kardashian, his “relationship” with Whitney Houston, and being Brandy’s little brother than his musical abilities (which include an annoyingly catchy song called ‘Sexy Can I’ and…um…that’s it). But I was sucked in, and I LOVE it. The girls are classier than the barhags and strippers they scraped off the shallow end of America’s intelligence pool, but the show is just as salacious. Ray J is smarter than he looks, and uses his experience as an entertainer to heighten moments with his (scripted?) confessional recaps of the competition for his heart. From literally falling off the chair when a girl made herself into a human banana split (by rubbing herself in ice cream and nuts and deep-throating a banana in the splits no less) to hilariously wincing when a bikini-clad drunk contestant poked in him the chest with a fork, pure guilty pleasure entertainment. And with the aide of DVR, I can fastfoward through the commercials and the repetitive champagne ceremonies, and get straight to the good stuff.

I anticipate this mid-season new show will be canceled before the weather turns warm, but my prediction is a compliment. I love this show about the imaginary country of Shiloh and the politics of its power-hungry king and the inevitable ugliness behind the polished propriety of the royal family. Chris Egan plays David, a soft-spoken, but intelligent and brave soldier who literally slays Goliath to save the king’s son, and becomes the country’s hero. Naturally, young David, who was raised on a farm, stumbles as he traverses the high society. With fantastically nuanced performances, swift and slick plotlines and the wonderful cast, the series is better off for the more sophisticated HBO viewer and is wasted on a flailing network like NBC.
DVR has changed my entertainment viewing life for the better, and has pulled me back into the industry I love so much. Just in time for “Fast and Furious” and the onslaught of frothy summer movies and TV shows! Thank you, DVR!

More articles to come, promise!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snarky Supernatural Recap: After School Special

While the Supernatural fandom mourns the seemingly unexpected death of beloved Supernatural director and producer, Kim Manners, this week’s installment of the show provided fans with a (rare) Sam-centric storyline, Dean in some fetching red shorts, and some patented Supernatural angst as an escape. Thank you, show, for proving that no matter how bad our lives get, Sam and Dean’s will always be worse.

The “THEN” previews are from all the way back in the first season, touching on Sam’s rocky relationship with his shitty father, his need to live a normal life, Dean’s inherit need to protect Sammy, and their collective miserable childhood. “NOW.” In the cafeteria of Truman High School in the fictional Fairfax, Indiana, a group of cheerleaders and jocks gossip about another, approaching cheerleader. She’s a “slut” who apparently had sex with another popular guy and gave him the “reverse cowgirl and everything!” Now, in my high school, gossip as salacious as that would make mighty popular. Go figure! Anyway, the head cheerleader, who is blonde, of course, declares their table is a “skeeve-free” zone and Skinny, Skanky Taylor needs to take her arse somewhere else. The table then starts a very obnoxious cough-into-the-hand chant of “slut, slut, slut” which predictably embarrasses Taylor in front of the entire school, and sends her running to another table to sit with a girl who isn’t a size two and is therefore obese! Jessica Simpson tells her that her friends are jerks and that she’s “sorry” about the way they treated her. Taylor, angry and humiliated, snarls back, “Don’t you feel sorry for me, you fat ugly pig!” and thus pays forward the social torture. She immediately regrets it when Jessica Simpson darts out of the cafeteria, feeling just as miserable and lost and alone as poor Taylor. Ah, high school, the supposed best years of our lives!

The next day, in the girl’s bathroom, Taylor comes out of the stall, tears falling freely and she tries to make herself presentable for her next class. Jessica Simpson is abruptly standing behind her, leering with dead eyes. “You think I’m ugly?” she asks in an eerie monotone. Taylor, whose coifed brunette hair belongs in a Pantene commercial, apologizes and promises she didn’t mean it. Jessica Simpson just stares at her blankly before snatching a handful of Taylor’s silky tresses and ramming her pretty little face into the mirror, breaking the glass. She then thunks her chin on the hard porcelain of the sink. Blood splatters from Taylor’s mouth, because that’s never NOT disgusting. Jessica Simpson bodily yanks a writhing Taylor across the bathroom and into the stall. Without hesitation, she pushes the cheerleader’s head into the toilet and flushes. “I’m not ugly,” Jessica Simpson declares as she drowns the poor girl, who is putting up one hell of a fight. But, of course, Taylor dies after inhaling putrid public high school toilet water, and Jessica Simpson throws her body onto the tiled floor, and still stares with a stony gaze. A nasty, black tear dribbles down her cheek as she announces to the soggy corpse, “you’re ugly.” I think killing her was a good enough come back, Jess.

Awesome! This almost makes me forget about the last two episodes. Hee!

Pimp title card! A beautiful, vertical shot of an old, classic building morphs into an orderly’s familiarly broad back. Jessica Simpson, who has recovered from whatever supernatural force overtook her body, is looking out the window of yet another insane asylum. “I’m not talking about it anymore,” she says. “I already told the cops and the doctors, no one believes me. They think I’m crazy!” “I’m a little more open-minded than most,” Sammy’s deep voice rumbles off-screen. Shocker, y’all, he’s the orderly! And wow, his voice has gotten octaves deeper since season one. Proving for the millionth time that our Darling Sammy is ALL man now! Apparently, Jessica Simpson’s real name is April, and she told the police she was possessed. And now we know why Sammy is talking to the witness and not Dean, because he has personal experience with demonic possession. April won’t tell Sammy why she thought she was possessed, but Sammy just twitches his magically sensitive eyes at her, and she relents. She’s a Sam-girl! Like me! (HEY!) Sorry, Dean! “When I hurt Taylor, I was there in my head but I couldn’t control my body. I could see what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop. I just wanted to stop.” And I now know that she’s a Canadian actress, by the way she pronounces the word “stop.” Haha! To make a long scene short, after Sammy asks if she smelled sulfur or happened to notice any black smoke trying to jam its way into her body, April is convinced HE’S crazy.

In the Metallicar, Sammy relays the information to Dean, who thinks that “maybe it wasn’t a demon, I mean, kids can be vicious.” Sammy concedes, but he thinks they should check out the school since they are in the area. Dean is reluctant, “Truman High, home of the Bombers,” he says with faux nostalgia. “We went there for like a month a million years ago, why are you so jazzed to go back?” Dean wonders. Sammy promises he’s not, that he just wants to be a thorough hunter. We know that’s a damn lie because he already has their covers picked out. Hilarity is about to ensue!

Dean cranks the Metallicar’s engine and the beginning drums of Foreigner’s, “Long, Long Way From Home,” plays on the soundtrack as the flashbacks begin! Truman High School, 1997. I have no idea what it is about this scene, be it the bright, happy, normal colors of a suburban high school, the blatant car porn as the Metallicar ambles up to the school in lurid slow motion with young Dean (played competently by Brock Kelley) in the passenger seat (and damn if that’s not a weird sight. Dean drives with GUNSHOT WOUNDS!), or the kinetic electric guitar of the song, but I squeal and scream and giggle like a true fangirl that I am. Young Dean, with full model face, licks his lips and ambles out of the car in Dean’s vintage leather jacket, collar turned up of course. These few seconds are enough to convince me that Brock Kelly knows just how hot he is in real life and as this character. And I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look like he could be related to Jensen Ackles. Great bit of casting!

Wee Sammy is small. Really small. I mean, he’s like four-foot-seven. But I recognize him immediately, because he’s broody and angsty and carrying a backpack that’s almost as big as he is! (Young Sammy is also being played by the same amazing little Colin Ford, who played him in “A Very Superatural Christmas.”) After he thanks his shitty father for a ride (who we never actually see, because he’s too busy playing a ghost on Grey’s Anatomy. Wrong show, Jeff, wrong fucking show!), he asks Sammy if he has his “Lunch? Books? Butterfly Knife?” Sammy glums a “yeah, Dean.” Dean steps in front of Wee Sam, asking him if he’s okay. Some things never change. Wee Sam is frustrated, “look this is the third school we’ve been to this year, and it’s only November. I’m just sick of always being the new kid.” “Anybody gives you any trouble, you just let me know?” Dean says, flexing his big brother muscle. “Relax, Dad said this hunt will take two weeks, tops. Soon as he gets back, we’re outta here!” “To another school,” Wee Sam sulks, “awesome.”

The next scene beautifully illustrates just how different yet alike Sam and Dean are in a way that only siblings can be by intercutting between the two Winchesters being introduced to their respective homerooms. Sam is crestfallen and sick of the entire process, while Dean calls the teacher “sweetheart” and “sugar” and is literally too cool for school. Sam slinks to this seat, head down, while Dean ambles down the aisle and charismatically spins into his desk in a way that would make The Fonz and AC Slater very, very proud. Both boys draw the attention of student. For Sam, it’s a freckle-faced geek in thick glasses who is impressed when Wee Sammy’s butterfly knife falls out of his backpack. For Dean, it’s a pixie-faced blonde in a pink sweater. The icing on an already delectable and ingenious scene piece of film is that Wee Sam’s class is reading “The Outsiders” as indicated on the board behind the teacher. I am falling in love with this show all over again.

Dean’s craggly-faced teacher asks him where his books are, and he smiles, “Don’t need them, sugar. Not gonna be here long enough anyway.” And the entire class, including Tinkerbell, thinks he’s just so dreamy and badass. I just might, too, because this Dean hasn’t been to Hell, doesn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders, and is just a mouthy, teenage spitfire who knows his way around a sawed-off.

As Wee Sam’s class gets an essay assignment on “their most memorable family experience,” the geek, who more like an adorable Paul Pfeiffer from “The Wonder Years” introduces himself as Barry just before a burly bully starts repeatedly flicking the poor kid’s ear in an attempt to beat his previous record. Poor Barry winces, but takes the abuse. Sammy, bred to protect people who cannot protect themselves from bullies or…banshees, tells the bully to leave him alone. “You wanna take his place, midget?” Burly Bully asks. Wee Sam pivots in his seat, “yeah, sure,” he says, and stares the bully down with Giant Sammy’s unnerving confidence and a little smirk that makes him seem dangerous. Wow, Wee Sammy is a badass! Burly Bully is shocked by such a turn of events because little freshman midgets should be terrified of him, and this does not compute.

Wee Sammy continues to stare him down, and the screen morphs into Giant Sammy’s prominent mug as he walks the same halls in a janitor’s uniform. The bell rings and the same teacher who introduced Wee Sammy steps out of the classroom just as Sam passes it.

Gym. A whistle blows as the camera moves from one net of balls to…well Dean’s balls. That’s right, folks, our beloved Scrappy Doo is rocking a pair of supertight shorts, a Truman High Polo, high knee socks, and a red sweatband in a cute, sexy, hot, wrong, bow-legged way that only Dean can. Wow. Um, seriously, thank you, Supernatural! Next stop: SPEEDO! Dean is subbing as a gym teacher, and he walks up and down the line of Truman High School students, praising the game of Dodgeball like it’s an ancient, sacred art. If you’ve ever played Dodgeball in middle school with boys, you know how lethal it can be. And Dean was definitely the kind of kid that would injure and maim as many dorks as humanly possible with those painful rubber balls. “You will have the honor of playing one of the greatest games every invented. A game a skill, agility and cunning. A game with one simple rule: DODGE!” And with that he takes a ball and whips it full throttle at a poor little kid, who doesn’t catch on and dodge, and gets nailed in the gut for his short bus brand of specialness. That will definitely leave a mark. I’m ignoring the little comments about “Ms. B being in Massachusetts getting married,” because hello, the lesbian gym teacher joke has been done a five gazillion times. Dean forces the kid who dare defile the game of Dodgeball to take a lap, and I’ll be damned if we don’t have our Deano back! He just used the Dean voice. The real, non-pyscho Christian-Bale-as-Batman one! He’s gruff and embracing another role with Dean’s trademark reckless abandon. We haven’t seen Silly!Dean since before he admitted that he remembered his time in Hades waaaay back in an episode I refused to admit exists because it’s was as bad as “Route 66” and “Bugs” COMBINED!

Janitor Sammy steps into the gym, and literally fills up the entire doorway with his gigantic, manly frame. Jesus, I need to meet Jared Padalecki just so I can climb him like a Great Oak. Dean tosses the net of balls up in the air, and tells the kids to “go nuts” while he gets an update from Sammy. Sam hasn’t found any sulfur, and Dean quickly concludes, “No sulfur, no demon; no demon, no case” and he is itching to get on the road, but after lunch because it’s Sloppy Joe day. Aww, Dean’s appetite is back! Sammy winces as a kid predictably get beaned in the face with a ball off-screen and runs through the shot with a hand covering his mouth and nose. “Good hustle, Colby! WALK IT OFF!” Dean growls in a way his dad probably told him after he stabbed him with a pick-axe or something equally brutal. Then he licks his lips and smirks at Sam in a way that is so adorkable and hot, and why, why, why don’t I work on this show?! Oh, that’s right, the restraining orders. Moving on. Dean officially wins the Battle of the Pretty for this Episode. Just for that! Good job, Winchester!

Home Ec. The camera pans across a food processor as three finger-sized pieces of are tossed in, and the whirring blades chop, dice and mince it finely in mere seconds. After four seasons of watching this show, I already know where this is heading, and I’m simultaneously excited and nauseous for the impending gore. The same jock from the late Taylor’s table is bugging a poor skinny kid with emo hair. “I need to copy your algebra homework again!” Emo McGee ignores him, spacing out. Jock shoves him roughly and repeats his demand. Emo McGee looks at him menacingly. “Why, because you’re a stupid brain-dead dick?” He seethes, and then turns on the food processor, prepping it for the assignment. Just as surprised as Burly Bully was at Wee Sam’s defiance, Jock is momentarily stunned by the refusal. Then, of course, he amps up the aggression to threaten, “I’m going to shove my first down your throat, you freak!” “That fist?” Emo McGee evilly inquires. “Yeah!” Grinning, Emo McGee shoves the aforementioned fist into the appliance of doom! I highly doubt Bobby Flay will be serving THAT up for dinner. Jock screams and howls as Emo McGee laughs and laughs. Blood splatters all over them, and the camera even zooms in for a shadowy glimpse of the hand being julienned in a bowl full of blood and flesh. Tasty. I may have been screaming in a psychotic combination of glee and visceral disgust during this whole awesome display of gore, but you cannot prove it. The show hasn’t been that gory in a while, and it definitely beats out the hand-down-the-garbage-disposal from “Home” in Season One. The students, raised in the post-Columbine generation, scatter, duck and bolt as the teacher rushes poor screaming, bloody Jock and his mangled hand pass Janitor Sammy—who has quite a mess to clean up now— and down the hall. Guess what? Jock ain’t a jock anymore. It’s a tragedy. Emo McGee, who is splattered in Jock’s blood, passes out. Sammy rushes over to him and notices an icky black substance oozes from his ear, and THAT seriously skeeves me out, maybe more than the hand in the food processor. Ick. Emo McGee is disoriented and woozily asks Janitor Sammy what happened. Sammy just frowns and has nothing good to say.

In the deserted hallway, Sammy is using his trusty EMF monitor to check for any readings, when Dean finds him, wearing an absolutely fetching Truman High tracksuit. And I haven’t been this happy with the guys’ wardrobes since “In My Time of Dying” when Dean ran around for the whole hour in a tee shirt and thin cotton pants. He looks loose and comfortable and gorgeous. Red is definitely his color. Sammy asks how the “Non-Violence Assembly” is going. “Apparently shoving a kid’s arm into a Cuisinart is not a healthy display of anger.” No, but it makes great TV. Ha! Sam tells Dean that he saw ectoplasm leaking out of his ear, and figures they are dealing with a ghost possession from a very angry spirit. Sammy does admit that they can’t figure out where the ghost is haunting, exactly, as it’s not giving off any readable electromagnetic activity. They need to find record of “someone dying bloody” inside the school. Dean, picking an incredibly odd time to start doing his homework, already found out that “three of the cheerleaders are legal” and “there was only one death on campus back in ’98, some kid named Barry Cook.” Um…quoi? Suddenly Sad Sammy snatches the paper in shock and surprise. Dean says that he “slit his wrists in the first floor girls’ bathroom” which is where poor Taylor was “swirly-ed to death.” Obviously, they figure out that the ghost is possessing nerds and using them to go after bullies. Sam confesses that “Barry had a hard time” in school.

In another seamless transition, the camera zooms tight on Wee Sam’s face and then curls around to show the busy hallways Truman in 1997. Barry, the kid Sam met on his first day, walks down the hall when an older jock swipes his books and sends them flying down the hallway. Students in the hall laugh as Barry scrambles to gather up his textbooks and pencil case. As Sam dutifully helps him, we learn that Barry is counting the days until he’s free from high school and he can go to Michigan State and becoming a veterinarian, because “animals are a lot nicer than people.”

Janitor’s Closet. Young Dean is making out with Tinkerbell, and describing his perfect date night to her: “you. Me. A bucket of popcorn extra butter. And a midnight screening of ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ at the Cinedome.” He says between kisses. Tinkerbell can’t because she has an eleven o’clock curfew. Dean, having a terrible father, who rather fight demons and train his sons like warriors than be a good parent, and a crispified mother, doesn’t understand. “So if I break it, my folks will ground me for a month,” she explains. “Yeah, parents terrifying,” Dean buhs. I guess the threat of eternal grounding isn’t exactly scary when you were raised to battle evil. Tinkerbell is shocked to learn that Dean’s father has left him to his own devices for two weeks while he’s “on a job.” Dean claims he has a “pretty sweet set-up at The Pines [Motel]. HBO, Magic Fingers, free ice, it’s great.” I definitely agree with him on the free ice, but apparently, he’s never swiped Citrus-Infused Water from Marriott lobby in downtown Chicago. It is fantastic! Dean and I are both incredibly cheap dates. Back to the show. “I do whatever I want, when I want, it’s perfect.” Dean admits. When Tinkerbell asks him if he misses his dad, Dean becomes uncharacteristically quiet, because his bravado is hiding the fact that he is more than likely petrified that his father will never come back and exhausted from the responsibility of taking care of a 14-year-old while he’s gone. Dean ends their make-out session and greets Sammy as he walks through the halls with Barry, who thinks Dean is cool, and even cooler because he was hanging out with Tinkerbell. Sammy and Barry walk directly into the path of Burly Bully, who towers over Wee Sammy and outweighs him by a good 75 pounds. “Hey, tough guy, still want to take [Barry’s] place?” Barry runs to get a teacher, and Wee Brave Sammy places a hand on Barry’s rotund tummy to keep him from following. The whole school gathers around to watch Burly Bully antagonize and then punch poor Sammy. Wee Sammy falls to his hands and knees, and struggles with anger and the fact that he could easily kick this bastard’s ass. Unfortunately, Mr. Wyatt arrives to escort Burly Bully to the principal’s office before Wee Sammy can unleash a smackdown that he deserves. Barry stands behind Sam as he watches him go.

And I want to take a moment to praise the flashbacks. Usually, I hate flashbacks in television shows, especially when they don’t use the same actors. Supernatural has always made the flashbacks fit flawlessly into the plot of the show and it always sheds an enormous amount of light on the characters, painting them as layered, complete, and complicated people in a usually gut-wrenching, heartbreaking manner. Bravo!

We fade into Sad Sammy salting and burning his childhood friend’s bones. “So long Barry Cook,” Dean says, somewhat insensitively. Rain coats the Metallicar’s otherwise pristine windshield as Sammy broods in the passenger seat. “You alright?” Dean asks, and for some reason him saying that feels wonderful. It comforts ME because it’s been months since he was worried about Sam, and not the other way around. Regardless of how big and strong and big Sammy is, he is still Dean’s younger brother, and Dean will always try to protect and worry about him. That’s just the way it is. “Barry was my friend, and I just burned his bones,” Sam responds. And no, he’s definitely not alright. “Well, he’s at peace now, Sam.” Dean offers weakly. “I mean if Dad had let us stay just a little while longer, maybe I could have helped the kid,” Sammy shoulda-coulda-wouldas. Dean, being pragmatic, admits that Barry was on every anti-anxiety and anti-depressant available, and his parents had just gotten divorced. He even admits that “school was hell for that kid”—and we know Dean is sensitive about the use of the word “Hell”—and he “just wanted out.” Sam couldn’t have saved him. Dean skillfully changes the subject, and admits he was glad they left that school because he hated it. Dean wonders why Sam didn’t think it was “that bad” after “what happened to [him].”

Whiteout to Wee Sammy sitting outside on the bleachers, brooding as Dean plots Burly Bully’s death in a way only Dean can. “That kid’s dead! I’m going to rip his LUNGS OUT!” Hee! Brock hasn’t exactly mastered the Dean growl, but neither did Dean until the end of Season One…it’s as close as anyone else can get. Sammy pleads for him to “just shut up” because he doesn’t need Dean’s help. “That’s right, you don’t. You could have torn him apart, why didn’t you?” “Because I don’t want to be the freak for once Dean. I want to be normal.” And the writers just scored majority continuity points, because Giant Sammy hates being considered a freak just as much as Wee Samy. “So taking a beating, that’s normal?” Dean asks. I could easily site the whole Superman-complex to back up Sam’s argument (Superman’s alterego Clark Kent is a bumbling, spineless wimp not because that’s how Kal-el saw mankind, etc) but I won’t. Sammy is smart enough to know that most kids aren’t trained to take down grown men and demons, so he hides it. Sammy asks if Dean’s heard from his father. Dean pouts that they’re going to have to stay another week, and he is weirded out because Tinkerbell wants Dean to meet her parents, and he “doesn’t do parents” as he’s never had a real one.

Wee Sammy gets detained by the teacher by Mr. Wyatt. Sam is worried that he got in trouble about the fight, but Mr. Wyatt wants to talk to Sam about the essay he wrote. His most memorable family experience was killing a werewolf with his dad and brother. Mr. Wyatt gives him an A even though he believes Sam wrote mistakenly wrote a fictional story because he it was a well-written. Being an English teacher, Mr. Wyatt asks if Wee Sam has ever thought about pursuing a career in writing. “I can’t. I have to go into the family business” which is wink-wink car repair. It just occurs to me, and hopefully to the audience Wee Sammy thought about doing anything else but hunting demons. He was born into a world of parent-stealing evil and violence and assumed that he had to stay there. If your heart has broken already, you won’t make it to the end of the episode, so bail now. Mr. Wyatt asks Sam point blank if he wants to follow his dad and brother’s footsteps. “No one’s ever asked me that before,” Sam says. And then? “More than anything, no.” Mr. Wyatt then offers Sam probably the most invaluable piece of advice of his young life: “I don’t want to over step my bounds here, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Look, I know what it’s like, I come from a family of surgeons and that wasn’t me. So I traded in the money and prestige of being a doctor for all the glamour you see around you. The point is there may be three or four big choices that shape someone’s whole life, and you need to be the one that makes them. Not anyone else. Just live the life you want to live.” And those are probably the most beautiful, precious words Sammy has ever heard in his entire life.

Everyone has a teacher that touches their lives and makes them feel special. For me, it was my first grade teacher, Ms. Harris, who was Southern and had perfect red hair and was the most glamorous and smart woman I’d ever seen. For Wee Samuel Winchester, it’s Mr. Wyatt. We now know why Sammy was so determined to get back to this school and why he had the strength to leave his family behind for Stanford.

The next morning, Dean drives Sammy back to the school, so he can have his “Oh, Captain, my Captain moment” with his former teacher. In a neat moment of continuity, the camera spirals around Giant Sammy and then morphs into Wee Sammy as he runs his fingers through his hair, then back to Giant Sammy as he does the same thing with that almost-mullet. When Sammy turns into the Antichrist, can he get a makeover? I’m thinking a trendy fauxhawk, some eyeliner and black suits. Yes? No? Before Sammy can even knock on the door, a young, tiny student mysteriously appears out of nowhere to ask for directions. I now know that if I ever get the pleasure of meeting Jared Padalecki, I will come up to about his navel, because this girl and I are about the same size. After Darling Sammy gives her directions, she smiles sweetly and innocently, and says, “Thanks, Sam.” Wait, WHAT?! Sam quirks his head to the side like the confused puppy he is because she thanked him by name. Kung Fu Spice takes this moment to whip out her standard issue tenth grade compass and stab Sammy in on one his finely chiseled pectoral muscles! Possessed or not, this bitch needs to die! How dare she defile the sacred pec! Her voice drops several octaves when she proclaims, “you got tall, Winchester!” And she then does what my father taught me to do to bring guys to bring them down: she kicks him swiftly in the balls. And honestly, I’m more pissed off about the pec-stabbing than the scrotum-kicking, because I know where Lil’ Sammy’s been, and I want none of it. She follows up the nutcracker kick with a roundhouse to the face that sends Sammy (well, his stunt-double) crashing into the lockers and then to the floor. Why is Sam getting his ass kicked by a 15-year-old? I know he knows he could render this possessed girl a vegetable if he actually fought back, but come on, Sam! Man up! Ectoplasm oozes out of Kung-Fu Spice’s mouth as Sammy recovers, takes out his trusty flask, and pours a handful of salt in his palm. Since when does he carry salt in his flask? Mighty convenient, show! Anyway, he rolls to his knees and jams the stuff down her throat. Kung-Fu Spice shakes and wiggles as the salt forces the ghost out of her. The black blob of the ghost bounces down the hall and splatters through the ceiling like demonic flubber. Cool! Sammy saved the girl from the ghost, but she now has high blood pressure from ingesting a year’s worth of salt.

The funniest part about this whole scene is that he cradles the now unconscious Kung Fu Spice the gorgeous chest she stabbed not seconds ago. He caringly hooks his chin over her head even though he’s still on his damn knees. Wow. He’s huge!

Dean has parked the Metallicar near a scenic creek with a bridge used in the pilot as a backdrop. (Another fantastic touch!) Sammy is nursing his ego and his wounds. Dean digs in a cooler and produces a thoroughly chilled bottle of what looks like malt liquor. “Trust me, this’ll help.” At first, I think he means drinking it it’ll help with the pain of his pectoral puncture wound and be a great disinfectant, but Sammy sheepishly takes the bottle and gingerly places it between his legs. Hee! I can hold that there, Sam. “That ghost is dead!” Dean seethes. “I’m going to rips its LUNGS OUT!” Dean growls, providing his character continuity. “Well, you know what I mean,” he amends, because ghosts don’t actually have lungs. And I know this entire scene—Dean worried about Sam’s injured johnson and defending his honor and all—is going to send Wincest fandom into a frenzy.

“It knew my name, Dean, my real name.” Sam declares, “what the hell?” Clearly, he’s bewildered because both Sam and Dean thought that Barry was the ghost and the case was essentially over. Dean figures they missed something and checks out the stolen stats on the three nerds-turned-aggressors, and realizes that all of them ride the same bus. But it’s confusing because as far as Dean knows, “Ghosts are tied to the places that they haunt, they can’t just bail.” But Studious Sammy knows that there is “lore about ghosts possessing people and riding them for miles…when they leave the body, they’re bungeyed back to their usual haunt, but until then the ghosts can go wherever they want.” “Ghosts getting creative, well that’s super,” Dean glums and opens his own bottle of malt liquor while they gameplan.

To make a long recap shorter, it’s time to summarize! Sammy and Dean investigate the bus “a flap of skin, a hangnail” anything that could tie the ghost to the bus. When Dean looks into the glove compartment, he finds that driving permit was issued just two weeks ago—right before attacks started—to a Dirk McGregor, Sr. Sammy, of course, knew Dirk, Jr. “Did you know everybody at this school?” Dean wonders.

Flashback. School is letting out and Sammy steps outside to see Burly Bully once again picking on helpless Barry. He immediately comes to his defense, “Leave him alone, Dirk!” That’s right, folks, Dirk Jr., is the Burly Bully. “You never learn, do you, MIDGET?” Dirk hisses. Sam sighs and tells Barry to get on the bus. When he tries to follow, Dirk pushes Sammy to the ground again and starts to heckle him. “Come on LOSE-chester, let’s see what you got? Come on, FREAK!” Dirk found the magic word, because Wee Sammy springs up from the ground and shoves Dirk, ready to RUUUUMMMMMBBLLLLE!! Dirk swings, and Agile Sammy dodges it, and clobbers him with a punch to the gut. Sammy backs up and lets Dirk take the offensive. Dirk swings and misses again, allowing Sam to nail him in the stomach and knee him chest, and then punch him in the face. Sam continues, punching him with a left and a right, and then kicks him at bend of his knee, taking Dirk to the ground before effectively finishing the fight with a teeth-rattling haymaker! The crowd, of course, cheers Wee Sammy on and so do I, because Wee Sammy is better at the hand-to-hand than Giant Sammy. Wee Sammy gets his first lesson in how to loom and tower over bad guys as he leans over Dirk to inform him, “You’re not tough, you’re just a jerk! Dirk the Jerk.” And now the Burly Bully runs away as the crowd laughs and chants “DIRK THE JERK! DIRK THE JERK!” The tables have been turned.

Are you proud of Sam? Are you glad he put that bully in his place? Just wait, because you’re going to feel like shit in about two minutes.

The guys visit Daddy Dirk claiming to be friends of late son. Dirk’s father is an old man, who looks like a cross between a Santa Claus without the beard and Bilbo Baggins without the hobbit feet. He has white eyelashes, sad eyes, and seems eternally grateful for the company. Dirk apparently passed away when he was 18 from booze and drugs. “He slipped through my fingers. It was my fault.” Daddy Dirk guiltily admits, because because “school was never easy for Dirk” because “they didn’t have much money. Kids picked on him. They called him poor and dirty and stupid. They even had a nickname for him: Dirk the Jerk.” Sammy gulps down his responsibility for that. To make matters even worse, Dirk’s mother suffered for years with cancer before dying when Dirk was thirteen. It fell to Dirk, Jr. to “makes sure Jane got her medicine” and clean up after her, because Dirk, Sr. worked three jobs. Sammy looks at a picture of Dirk, young and clean and smiling like a normal kid. Not the mindless blowhard he remembers. Now, it’s time for Daddy Dirk (the mean, evil writers) to twist the knife a bit deeper. “You watch somebody die slow, waste away to nothing, it does things to a person, horrible things.” Dirk never talked about the mighty, psychological burden his mother’s death took on his son but he knew that he was incredibly angry. And that’s why he bullied kids at school. Dean takes over for Sammy, who looks like he may vomit from the heady realizations that he and Dirk actually had some common ground, and lies to Daddy Dirk about wanting to pay respects to his son. Dirk was cremated. “All of him?” Dean blurts out. HA! Daddy Dirk apparently keeps a lock of his hair in his Bible on his bus.

The dead of night. Papa Dirk’s haunted bus plows through the fog, taking the still unspecified sports team to or from a game or meet. Eddie, a huge dude who looks like a Hell’s Angel with his bald, goatee and sun-weathered skin, is a substitute driver for Daddy Dirk. We know he’s haunted by his devilish smile, but ectoplasm leaks out of his nose for the folks in the back. Coach asks Ectoplasm Eddie to watch his speed, but Ectoplasm Eddie is on the plan for revenge. Fortunately for everyone on the bus not named Ectoplasm Eddie, it is derailed by a row of spikes placed in the middle of the road by Sammy and Dean. The bus rolls over them and blows all of its tires, forcing Ectoplasm Eddie steer the bus to the shoulder of the road running through the Canadian backwoods. Ectoplasm Eddie steps off the bus to smell the air and look evil and isn’t surprised when Sammy pops out of nowhere, a shotgun trained on his back. “Winchester?” he sneers, “what are you going to do? Shoot me?” “Don’t need to!” Dean pops up and ties Eddie up with a length of rope that’s been soaked in salt water to keep the ghost from jumping bodies. Um, okay. Sure. I guess that works. Dean bounds on the bus, and demands everyone to stay where they are in his best hero voice. Someone asks if he’s the gym teacher and he blows his cover. Sort of. “I’m like 21 Jump Street. The busdriver sells pot. Yeah!” Hee! Now I don’t remember the show “21 Jump Street”, but I don’t think Johnny Depp ran around tying people up in ropes soaked in condiments. Dean’s cute enough to make the kids buy it, so they do. But Scrappy Doo can’t find the hair, and Ectoplasm Eddie apparently stashed it somewhere they’ll never find it. Ew. Not there, nasty!

Sammy, desperate, slams him against the side of the bus and demands to know where the hair is. “Sam Winchester, still a bully.” God, this ghost is clueless! Ectoplasm Eddie decides to launch into a tirade about the evils of Sammy the Bully and the jocks who think they’re better than everyone else. “To you I was just Dirk the Jerk, right?” Um, you tortured him from the second you saw him, so yeah, that’s what you were. “Now you evil sons a bitches are going to get what’s coming to you.” “I’m not evil, Dirk!” YES YOU ARE! I KEEP WAITING FOR THAT EVIL TO EMERGE! “I’m not!” Sammy implores. “And neither were you. Trust me, I’ve seen real evil. We were scared and miserable, and we took it out on each other. That’s high school, but you suffer through that, and it gets better. I’m just sorry you didn’t get a chance to see that. You or Barry.” Sammy explains, continuing to break my heart. But this isn’t exactly comforting to Dirk the Ghost. “Things aren’t going to get better for me, not ever!” He screams and gains the strength to snap through those salt-encrusted ropes. Sammy shoots him (and his host body) twice in the chest. Granted it’s rock salt, but OUCH. Dirk the Ghost jumps from Eddie to Plump Stan on the bus, who tackles Sammy and starts pummeling him all about the face and head. Dean shoots the poor possessed bastard in the back, but that has no effect, and Sammy would rather he find the hair and not further injure the teenager. Dean searches and searches, and even pats down a wheezing Eddie and eventually finds the hair in his boot. He immediately torches it, killing the ghost in an impressive display of computer generated sparks and fire. Plump Stanley promptly passes out ontop of Sam, who chokes and coughs beneath his weight, and it’s a lot funnier than it should be because of Jared’s long, long limbs. “Lil’ help!” he hisses as Dean comments about Plump Stanley giving his brother “the full cowgirl!” Hee!

Want to know why Dean hates Truman High School? Here’s why: Dean being Dean decides to sabotage his relationship with Tinkerbell by making out with an unnamed dimpled brunette and gets caught by Tinkerbell. But she’s not mad at him. She feels sorry for him because she thought that “maybe underneath your whole, I-could-give-a-crap bad boy thing that there was something more going on, like the way you are with your brother. But I was wrong. You spend so much time trying to convince people that you’re cool, but it’s just an act. We both know that you’re a sad, lonely little kid, and I feel sorry for you Dean.” And she says this in front of the whole school. Dean’s only response is “Don’t feel sorry for me. I save lives. I’m a hero. A HERO!” to Amanda’s retreating form. Tinkerbell is right, and it reads all over his pretty, pretty face. As this is happening to Dean, Sammy is being congratulated and praised by everyone in school for whooping Dirk the Jerk’s ass. So there Sam learns the rewards of doing the right thing, and eventually decides to dedicate his life to doing the right thing the RIGHT WAY. John soon arrives to collect the boys. Dean trips over himself to get out of that school, and Sam has a newfound confidence, but he has to leave Barry. Without his protector, Barry will be terrorized by Dirk the Jerk until he kills himself just that next year. Dirk will suffer for three more years before dying as well.

Sammy’s “Dead Poet’s Society” moment isn’t exactly a happy one. He admits to Mr. Wyatt that he did indeed go to college, probably because the advice he gave him, but that eventually the real world responsibilities caught up with him and he had to deal with that. Sammy thanks him for “taking an interest in him when no one else did.” Mr. Wyatt, being a teacher, replies, “the only thing that really matters is that you’re happy. Are you happy, Sam?” Jared Padalecki’s face barely moves. His lips tense a tiny bit, but his eyes seem to sink and darken as the camera tracks his face and eventually fades to black. He’s not happy. He only had four years to live his life the way he wanted before he was blindsided by the death of his girlfriend, and then everything he ran away from, and then the fast-approaching apocalypse.

The episode was heavy, not only for the boys, but for anyone who has dealt with bullies and teasing and lives ending far too soon. It was fantastic and sad and smart and very, very real. Sammy and I are the same age and it dealt with a lot of issues I experienced as a youth. Fortunately, my biggest worry is trying to find and keep a job in this economy, and not the safety of the human race. As always, Sam and Dean’s terrible lives put everything in perspective. Thank you, boys.