A Blast From the Past: Supernatural ‘Dog Dean Afternoon’

Warner Bros/The CW
Warner Bros/The CW

‘Dog Dean Afternoon’ won’t go down in Supernatural history as one of the greatest episodes ever, but I liked it. Just about everyone in the fandom was well prepared for the way we were intended to view it – if you weren’t already spoiled for the comedic intent of an episode where Dean becomes a dog whisperer, then the montage of Supernatural’s greatest comedic moments should have clued you in. Which is good, because if you’d been prepared for a serious SPN ep, you might have been gobsmacked by this one.

It was silly. At times, it was so silly that it veered dangerously close to embarrassment squick for me – Dean lusting after an ultra-feminine pink-ribboned and coifed poodle, and Sam’s dubcon Yorkie petting come to mind — but something saved it. That something was Ackles and Padalecki, who in my humble opinion are comedy geniuses. Especially when they get to be funny together.

Anyone who’s ever seen them onstage together at a con, or watched the clandestinely taken con videos, knows that they could go on the road as the ‘J2 Comedy Hour’ if they ever want a break from network television. They riff off each other seamlessly, so in tune that they anticipate each other’s reactions and are right there ready to respond with something that’s so perfect that it’s hysterical. Just as the real life closeness that Jared and Jensen share makes the bond between Sam and Dean onscreen genuine, it also makes Sam and Dean together every bit as funny as Jared and Jensen. They are both capable of subtle comedic moments – a look, a tilt of the head, a slight widening of the eyes directed at the other one – and both got to display those talents in this episode.

Dean retrieving Sam’s discarded balled up paper from the trash repeatedly was so well done, from Dean’s apparent cluelessness as to what he was doing, to Sam’s confused “I don’t want that,” and then the slowly dawning awareness that his brother is playing fetch. Tears were running down my face for a very different reason than why that usually happens when I’m watching SPN!

The scene with the snarky pigeon also reduced me to helpless laughter. Dean’s indignation, the pigeon’s spot-on dialogue, and Sam’s flustered hand waves and almost-curtsey to pacify the onlookers after he’s manhandled his brother into the car were all perfect. I loved Dean’s Scooby channeling “ruh roh” and his admission that he wanted to lick Sam’s face to bring him around (and his almost-admission that he was feeling an urge to sniff butts, presumably Sam’s, which also made me laugh out loud).

Dean letting all the dogs out was another favorite moment – Dean has always given a great big “F you” to the idea of fate and destiny, so his decision to give them freedom of choice seemed completely in character. Yay for them coming to his rescue in return too.

And Dean abruptly getting up from the table to all but bark at the mailman, to Sam’s utter disbelief? Priceless. I might have squealed at my television at that moment, because Ackles’ subtle rendition of canine tendencies was so well done – as was Padalecki’s portrayal of Sam’s slightly horrified, slightly amused realization of what his always-in-control big brother was doing. You could tell that Sam was taking a bit of pleasure in seeing Dean lose his cool, which seems like such a little brother thing to do, and so in character for Sam. It evoked the ‘old days’ of Season 1 and 2, when the boys were constantly bickering in the most affectionate, brotherly way possible. I loved it.

Throughout the episode, Sam treats Dean’s dog-like behaviors with an affectionate indulgence, which I found thoroughly heartwarming. Sam driving the Impala while Dean sticks his head out the window and looks blissed out was another favorite moment – instead of being annoyed, Sam exhibits a fondness for Dean more openly than usual, perhaps because Dean’s own defenses are down due to the spell. I was half expecting Sam to buy a package of rawhide treats and surprise Dean with it, or offer to scratch behind his ears. (Pretty sure that’s happening in fanfic somewhere by now.)

Warner Bros/The CW
Warner Bros/The CW

And speaking of fanfic, while it’s good riddance to the creepy MoTW, I have to give him props for suggesting that Dean should be leashed. I mean….is it hot in here? Anyway…

The other thing I enjoyed about this episode was simply the opportunity to revel in the boys being on the same wavelength, completely. They were in sync throughout the episode, the way they used to be in Season 1 and 2 before tragedy kept coming between them and tearing them apart. It was a tremendous relief to be able to put aside the constant worry about the big Zeke-shaped secret between the brothers and just enjoy that close bond between them that drew me into the show in the first place. Time and time again, Sam and Dean exchanged a glance that said so much without any words at all, the way they used to all the time in the early seasons. Sam holding up the Joffrey mouse with a quizzical expression; Dean responding with an answering expression even in the middle of a conversation. That level of being tuned into each other is one my favorite things about Sam and Dean, and it was wonderful to see it again – and more than once!

Saying so much with a look
Saying so much with a look – original cap at

I was feeling downright nostalgic by the time the episode was nearing its end. I adore the Men of Letters bunker, but I literally squeed outloud to see Sam and Dean sitting at a table working a case together at a tacky motel, their plaid shirts clashing wonderfully with the diamondback curtains and décor. This is my Show! These are my boys! (I might have said that out loud, but nobody has called me on it yet. Shhhh). The boys even used Poison cover names. And the dialogue was old school SPN, with the pop culture references subtle and sparsely used, instead of shoe-horned in, as they sometimes seem recently.

We even got an ending that felt reminiscent of so much of early season SPN. Sam knocked unconscious, Dean demanding “What did you do to my brother?” in that voice that leaves absolutely no doubt what Dean Winchester will do to anyone who hurts his Sammy, and then using both brains and brawn to fight himself free and get to Sam. And then (as if all that wasn’t enough to already have me basking in nostalgic bliss) we got protective big brother Dean cradling Sam’s head tenderly as he pleads for him to be okay. It reminded me of that iconic scene in All Hell Breaks Loose, as Dean skids to his knees and catches Sam as he falls, desperately cradling his face to try to bring him around. Remembering that scene, and how much it tore my heart out, added gravity to this one – a shock to my system after an episode that was mostly light-hearted.

Warner Bros/The CW
Warner Bros/The CW

Of course, in Supernatural, this is a very scary thing indeed. I know, deep down in my SPN-loving heart, that Show is letting me revel in the brothers’ closeness and laugh with them and be light-hearted for a while, only because it’s setting me up for a fall. They’re reminding me of why I love this Show and these brothers, how much I love seeing them working a case together, seeing how much they care about each other, how happy it makes me to see them be happy for a change – so that when the inevitable crash comes, it will hit me all the harder. Why, Show, why??

Sam is getting closer to figuring out that something is very wrong, and Dean is getting more and more worried about what he’s done. The parallels were pretty clear — the MoTW did what he did out of desperation to survive, and that seemed to be a parallel to Dean’s desperate measures to save Sam, in addition to the guy’s whole ‘get possessed to be healed’ thing. And the bit of obvious foreshadowing, as Dean talked about the guy being possessed by something he couldn’t control, and that it was only a matter of time before it took over….that was absolutely chilling. For a moment, I really thought that Dean was going to spill his secret to Sam – you could tell how much he wanted to, and more than one of us was probably yelling “Tell him!” to our screens.

I’m getting spoiled by having some of the cast and crew watching along with us on Twitter – Jared joined in again, sharing a few behind the scenes tidbits (yes, poor Jensen really drank that yucky liquid concoction) and confiding that he was a bit disappointed by the animal voices. Most of fandom seemed to agree.

Meanwhile, Osric was at an airport trying to find a television tuned to the CW so he could watch, and as frustrated by finding them all tuned to CNN as any fan would be, which made all of us love him even more than we already did. Then he amused himself by writing some spontaneous SPN fanfiction on his phone, which amused us even more than it did him.

All in all, I enjoyed this episode, but it left me with a sense of foreboding. I keep remembering what Jensen said to me about Dean getting himself more and more tangled up in lies, and how things were going to get worse. The way he said it, and the expression on his face, literally gave me shivers (and not the good kind we all sometimes get when Jared or Jensen or Misha look at us…) I can’t help but think that this episode was a lovely little reminder of just how good Show can make me feel – and that it can just as effectively break my heart into a million pieces.

Next week, we find out how Castiel is doing with assimilating and pick up his journey of ‘being human’ as he tries to elude the angels who aren’t exactly willing to let him get on with his life. More heartbreak, we suspect. Damn it, Show!

What did you think of Dog Dean Afternoon? Chime in with comments!

And if you enjoy our episode reviews, check out our new book, Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls, for more about the best Show in the world and lots of insights from its amazing cast and fans. Click through the link at the top right of this page to purchase from amazon.

32 thoughts on “A Blast From the Past: Supernatural ‘Dog Dean Afternoon’

  • Love to see what you have to say about “our’ guys. I feel like you’ve been sitting and watching with me. Its a little scary how much of my thoughts, I find in yours. You have the writing skills, that I lack. This episode had so much going for it. I enjoyed the beginning, with all the flashbacks, to earlier seasons. My dog barked at Dean, when he starting shouting “You, you, you!” at the postman. I loved how Sam, to an extent, got to take care of Dean; and I loved the end where Dean was so worried about Sam. I almost cried, at Dean trying to get Sam to wake up; then I cried with laughter, when he threatened to lick his face. Keep doing these reviews. I love them.

    • I love that we’re on the same wavelength when it comes to Show! Thanks so much, so glad you’re enjoying our reviews 🙂

  • For the most part, I enjoyed the episode as well. But, like Jared, I was put off by some of the animal voice and dialogue. LOVED the Colonel and the pigeon! The rest of it felt a little “Dr. Dolilltle” (Eddie Murphy movies) to me. The fetching and the pigeon scenes were hilarious.

    • I cannot watch either of those 2 scenes without cracking up. But I agree with you and Jared too, some of the voices were just too cartoonish. I think Jensen could have carried the scenes even without us hearing the animals’ dialogue, he’s so damn good!

  • In addition to all the things you enjoyed in this episode, I also really enjoyed the animal rights people wearing sunglasses, with the revelation about why and their line about hunters: “selfish dicks who define themselves by what they kill.”

  • I love dogs, Jared and Jensen (who also love dogs). This ep was wonderful! Sad and happy, filled with foreboding, and I was yelling at Dean to tell Sam the truth! My full review is over at Winchester Family Business under Robin’s Rambles. I bought your book this week!

  • I loved the episode and laughed all the times everyone else did. Loved Dean talking to the mailman and the subtle way you realized that Dean was fetching Sam’s napkin out of the garbage. I could have done without the cat eating though. Loved the review you wrote!! Met you at Chi Con when you signed my book and I am just sitting down to read it.

  • “they could go on the road as the ‘J2 Comedy Hour’ ” THIS. I’ve thought it many times.

    I agree with everything you’ve said. I enjoyed the ep for what it was. I ignored everything else (animal voices, etc.) One reviewer suggested the ep would have been better without any animal voices. Just let Dean/Jensen react to what he alone hears and see how others react to Dean. Jensen would have rocked that (and Jared as well.)

    • I totally agree — both the boys can carry comedy amazingly well. They really could do the J2 Comedy Hour. Sign me up for tickets!

  • Adored it! Absolutely adored it! Agree with you about the animals’ voices — a lighter, less accent-laden dialogue would have been better — but this is nit-picking! Your review absolutely dovetails (pun intended) with mine — if I wrote one. I haven’t laughed so hard since the Yorkie chased Dean down the street in Yellow Fever or on several other brilliant occasions I could list!

    • Dovetails, hehe. It was very therapeutic to laugh so hard….and then the sense of foreboding hit me. *shivers*

  • Personally, I found the episode cringe-worthy. Even in the best comedy episodes, the villain has to be engaging or menacing in order to make the pay off worth it. That wasn’t the case here. So instead, it felt like a terrible, terrible dog version of Look Who’s Talking with even worse voices.

    What was even grosser to me was the constant use of “shamanism” as being the source of this magic, particularly tied to Native and Inuit cultures. Really? The show creates what is essentially an EPIC based on Judeo-Christian mythology, but then these cultures get…dogs talking. And apparently all animals share a common language? I get it. Some of these things were meant to be funny, but too many “out there” moments take the realism out, which takes away from the stakes and then that takes away from the comedic pay off. It just felt wrong the entire time.

    In episodes like “Yellow Fever,” the main thrust of the plot was still based on a tragic story, and Dean’s fear was deeply connected to the mythology. In “Changing Channels,” Gabriel creates hilarity but underneath it all is a very real message. The reason the SPN’s greatest comedy hits were so good was because they didn’t belittle the audience nor did they “dumb” down an episode in order to hamfist some talking animals into it.

    Maybe I’m too attached to realism, but Dean letting out domesticated dogs (even with him calling on them at the end) smacks of irresponsible behavior. I don’t care if he could hear them talk for one episode. We know what happens to animals that are used to being fed and cared for once they are let out on their own. Most of the actions in this episode made no sense. Connected to this is my dislike of what they are doing to Cas’ character. I know being human is a big transition and there are many things he won’t know how to do, but he has also canonically stated he observed humanity. He was also nearly powerless in season five and was capable of traveling to the brothers and providing help to him. A few jokes about his inability to get cultural references were fine before, but I don’t want him to constantly be either 1) a tragic figure or 2) a source of comedy. Both options reduce his character, which I don’t see the writers doing with Kevin or Crowley. But that’s all beside the point until I see next week’s episode.

    I do agree that some parts did harken back to early episodes. I do miss the occasional lightheartedness of the series. In fact, I think the loss of that tone has made watching the constant Sisyphus-like stories a bit too emotionally draining, but if I want lightheartedness, I want it done well. I want the story to be just as good as those previous episodes. I want them to not be so offensive to other cultures just so they can have their “magical” fun. I want a joke that isn’t a gay dog. Sorry to feel so negatively, but I just simply don’t agree with fandom giving a pass on their use of “shamanism,” Inuit “spells,” etc.

    • You make some very good points, and I agree this was not in the category of Yellow Fever or French Mistake – there were problems in between the comedic moments. Also agree with some worry about where they’re taking Cas and how consistent (or not) his story will turn out to be. Ohgod, nervous about tomorrow night all over again!

  • LOVED your review! I too raised an eyebrow at the animal voices but soon forgot about them while I got lost in the story. I, for one, was SO happy to see them get out of the bunker and back to business, as it were. Agree about the pending “fall” and fear it’s arrival. The fetching scene was masterfully done by both guys! And the look Jensen gives the stuffed owl cracked me up! I fear the Zeke secret will soon implode and leave a mess. I can’t count how many times in watching this show I’ve talked to the t.v., saying “After ____ seasons, how come you boys haven’t learned to TALK! STOP KEEPING SECRETS!!” Oh well…makes for good television, I suppose.

    • Hmmm. I can’t understand why Dean and Sam don’t hear us — I mean, we’re all yelling the same thing! lol

  • Absolutely loved it, its the at least once a season comedy relief we get pretty much since season 2, and meeting the trickster. Knowing how ironic it is how much Jared loves animals, yet it is Jensens character who goes Dr. Doolittle.

    • I think Jared could have done a bang-up job of it too, if he was the one to go Dr. Doolittle. They’re both so good at comedy!

    • I suspect it’s difficult to do in the subtle way he did it, which is the tough thing about comedy. He can do subtly funny better than most actors.

  • Loved your review. The line about the possesor taking over made me think about the title of the Premier and liking it here. Will Zeke leave? What will be left of Sam etc questions? The episode was about the unintentional consequences of choices we make in order to attempt to survive horrible events. Along side the gruesome MoTW, the acting by J2 was not over the top and actually within the characters’ personalities so kudos. Is there any type of role our J2 cannot pull off together? Clearly the original chemistry from the pilot lives potently.

    • I’ve been thinking about the title of the premiere this whole season – so much foreboding! I agree with you that there don’t seem to be any roles that the J’s can’t pull off — and oh yes, that chemistry is still very much there, lucky for all of us!

  • I don’t know why I haven’t read more of these! I love the way you wrote this all out and my goodness, I had the same thoughts about all of it! I love those boys!
    We’re totally going to get out hearts shattered this next episode. *sigh*
    as for the lying bit, we seemed to be a bit overdue for the brotherly fibs, and now it’s being made up for exponentially. *NOO!!*
    I love what you had to say and I’m looking forward to next week even more!

    • Thanks so much! We almost always post episode reviews, in between interviews with cast and crew, here on our blog. And we just published a few books on Supernatural and its amazing fans too, links at the top right of the page if you’re curious 🙂

  • Ah. Your recap was nice and positive. I too enjoyed the boys just getting back on the road and solving a case! The hotel room was most welcomed, as amazing as the bunker is. I guess that’s not quite home for us either yet? Anyways. Lovely! Thank you for sharing.

    • I do love the bunker, but we all got used to the boys being in motel rooms for 8 seasons, so I think I’ll always have a nostalgic affection for them too 🙂

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