The eighth episode of Supernatural does not get a lot of love – in fact, it’s one that’s routinely skipped on rewatches or ridiculed for its “bad writing”. But honestly? ‘Bugs’ is a great episode, especially now in retrospect. All those early episodes are frankly amazing, with both the acting and the writing top notch and the cinematography off the charts gorgeous.
Bugs are not my favorite thing, so there are some parts of this episode that are indisputably cringeworthy, but it goes with the territory. The guest stars on this episode are also amazing, especially Carrie Genzel (who wrote a wonderful chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and would memorably return to the show in Just My Imagination) and Tyler Johnston, who played a young Matt here and would later return as Samandriel. See the end of this review for some (cringeworthy and also hilarious) behind the scenes insights from Carrie and Tyler about the filming of this episode.
So, what’s not to like?
I watched, as always, with some of my friends and fellow Supernatural fans, via zoom. Which, after a year of the pandemic, is how most of us live life half the time anyway!
The open is, as is often the case, pretty scary – a guy working in a housing development falls down a hole, breaks his ankle and is trapped. While his friend gets a rope to try to save him, he looks around and to his horror hears the sound of thousands of beetles coming for him. He screams for help as they crawl into his ears, his mouth… by the time the other guy shines his flashlight into the hole, guy number one is dead dead dead.
Everyone doing the rewatch: Ewwwwww
Cut to the boys, as always. Sam’s reading the paper in a bar, about the “local death that’s a medical mystery” as Dean comes down the stairs, grinning and shuffling a fist full of bills. I’m struck sometimes now by how carefree early seasons Dean is, despite what they’re already facing. He is genuinely thrilled that he’s won a bunch of money in a poker game or whatever.
Sam: You know, we could get day jobs…
Dean: Hunting’s our day job. Besides, we’re good at it, it’s what we were raised to do.
Sam: How we were raised was jack.
Dean: Says you!
The brothers are still new to being back together, Dean still sensitive and defensive about the hunting life that Sam left behind and Sam still critical of all the things that he left to get away from.
Also they are extremely distracting because they look like THAT.
The newspaper suggests maybe mad cow disease, which – remember that?
Dean: Wasn’t that on Oprah?
Sam: (incredulous) You watch Oprah?
Ah, the things we (and Sam) were learning about Dean Winchester. So much softness underneath that performatively gruff (sometimes) exterior.
The Impala streaks across some beautiful Vancouver countryside on her way to Oasis Plains. Sam and Dean pose as Uncle Dusty’s never-before-mentioned nephews, rolling easily with the guy’s skepticism and flattering him enough that he forgets about it soon enough. They’re good at what they do; John taught them well. And, as I’ve pointed out many times already on this rewatch, they’re SMART.
They amass some intel, like the guy’s brain disintegrated in an hour or less and that, unlike mad cow disease, there was no sign of dementia, lack of motor control, or anything else weird.
Sam and Dean look down the very deep hole.
Dean: Only room for one, you have a coin?
Sam: Dean, we have no idea what’s down there!
Dean: Okay I’ll go if you’re scared. You scared? Call it in the air, chicken!
Sam: (exasperated) I’m going.
Dean: I said I’d go!
Sam: I’m going. Don’t drop me!
Me: I could sit here and listen to their brotherly bickering and banter all damn day. I miss it so much it makes my heart ache.
That accomplished, they get back into the Impala and pass an open house that’s advertising Free BBQ, and Dean pulls over.
Dean: I know a good place to start. I’m hungry for BBQ, how bout you?
SaM: Free food’s got nothing to do with it?
Dean: Of course not, I’m a professional.
This time the banter is good humored, the brothers gently teasing each other, smiling when the other isn’t looking. Dean looks around at the brand new housing development as they get out of the car, saying that it would freak him out growing up in a place like that, manicured lawns, etc.
Dean: I’d blow my brains out.
Sam: There’s nothing wrong with normal.
Dean: I’d take our family over normal any day.
Both brothers know they’re not talking about Oasis Plains. I really appreciate it now, how neither of them will let it go – they go round and round and round, each stuck in their own perspective of why Sam left and what that means. That strikes me as so realistic – it’s what we do, we get stuck on this stuff, and it gets in the way of our relationships with people we love. I so enjoy watching Sam and Dean struggle with it, knowing that eventually they’ll work it out.
Larry the developer welcomes them to the open house, taking one look at Sam and Dean going house shopping and assuring them that “we accept homeowners of any race, religion, color or…. Sexual orientation.”
Dean: (deadpan) We’re brothers.
Larry: (awkward) Oh.
He introduces them to Linda Bloom, head of sales (Carrie Genzel) who also takes one look at them and reassures them of the same exact thing.
Dean: (exasperated) Right. I’m gonna go talk to Larry, okay honey?
He slaps Sam on the ass affectionately and walks away.
What makes that scene extra wonderful is that reaction was an ad lib on Ackles’ part (see Carrie Genzel’s recollections of that at the end of this article). I think this is the first time Sam and Dean are mistaken for a couple in the early seasons of the show, but it won’t be the last. Whether it was Jared and Jensen’s unmistakable chemistry, which Kripke and others had already recognized, or Kripke’s acknowledged propensity for writing intense relationships between straight guys, the theme took hold, inspiring lots and lots of fanfiction. The first was posted the day after a preview for Supernatural was shown at Comic Con, in fact.
Sam stays to talk with Linda Bloom (Genzel), scooping up a runaway tarantula that’s headed for her and giving it back to Larry’s son, Matt.
Matt (Tyler Johnston, who was a baby at the time) is a kid who feels like a freak, who doesn’t fit in with his family and feels ostracized by them. Sam Winchester can 100% relate.
Matt: You gonna tell my dad? Larry usually skips me in the family intros. I’m not exactly brochure material.
Sam: Hang in there, it gets better, I promise.
In the aftermath of Season 15, there’s lots of discussion in fandom about who was queer coded on the show and who wasn’t. I’m not weighing in here, but there’s a through line of Sam feeling like an outcast and a ‘freak’ from the start, overtly referenced in this episode.
Larry: I’m so sorry about my son.
Sam to Dean: Remind you of somebody? Dad?
Dean: Dad never treated us like that.
Sam: Well, he never treated YOU like that. You were perfect. He was all over my case.
Like most siblings, the brothers see their childhoods through strikingly different lenses. Dean shoots back that Sam was sometimes out of line, and Sam protests.
Sam: When is saying I’d rather play soccer than learn bow hunting out of line?
Dean: Bow hunting is an important skill!
Dean’s towing the John Winchester line, afraid that acknowledging any doubts would be validating Sam’s reasons for leaving – and perhaps encouraging him to leave again.
Back in the car, the boys figure out a little bit more with their smarts, including that hauntings sometimes include bug manifestations. Dean speculates that maybe the bugs are being controlled somehow, like Willard (remember that movie?) and that maybe Matt is their Willard.
These early episode excel at going back and forth between scary and horror-filled cases of the week, angsty emotional moments between the brothers, and lighter moments between them. Dean tells Sam to pull over (also, early episodes – Sam drives sometimes!) at a model home after seeing the steam showers advertised.
Dean opens up the garage door as Sam asks if they’re really gonna squat in an empty house?
Dean motions Sam to drive on in, and Sam does, reaching out the open window to poke Dean in the stomach as he does. Another playful ad lib, this time by Padalecki. You get the idea that Jared and Jensen are having a lot of fun, and are already interacting like brothers for real.
While Dean is luxuriating in the steam shower, realtor Linda Bloom swats a spider that crawls across her face and all of us doing the rewatch prepare ourselves for another Ewwww scene. She takes a shower and is suddenly overwhelmed by hundreds of spiders. Screaming, she slips on the wet tile, the glass breaks and she crawls out bleeding and covered in spiders. Unfortunately for Carrie Genzel, some of them were REAL.
Sam hears the ambulance and bangs on the door for Dean to hurry up, and we’re treated to a smiling Dean with a towel on his head looking absolutely ecstatic about the rare luxury of being able to take a steam shower. Dean Winchester’s ability to revel in physical delights is part of his charm, honestly. Sam is not amused. Which is part of his charm, honestly. I’m charmed a lot by these boys, what can I say?
Sam and Dean find out Linda was killed by spiders as they stand in the rain with umbrellas. It’s the only time you see the Winchesters with umbrellas, because someone (producers maybe?) didn’t think they looked very badass. Personally I just think it was smart, but I doubt Sam and Dean kept their umbrellas in the Impala, so valid I guess.
Still, this is what they look like with umbrellas, so….
They jump the fence very athletically (Jared and Jensen themselves) and follow Matt into the woods to see what he’s up to. He’s more fearful of them than they are of him though.
Matt: You’re not serial killers?
Sam: No, I think you’re safe.
He insists that the tarantula was a joke and he had nothing to do with Linda’s death, but says that there is something going on with the insects.
Sam: Why didn’t you tell your dad?
Matt: Larry doesn’t listen to me, too disappointed in his freak son.
Sam: I hear ya.
Dean: (indignant) You do?
Sam: Don’t sweat it, because in two years something great is gonna happen – college. You can get out of your house and away from your dad.
Dean: (even more indignant) What kind of advice is that? He should stay with his family!
The bothers glare at each other. The parallel is a bit heavy handed but somehow Padalecki and Ackles totally pull it off. Sam and Dean are so stuck and so wanting to play this out with each other, they latch onto parallels everywhere they find them. And take them personally.
Matt shows them insects swarming in the trees, that he’s been following as part of an AP science class.
Dean: You two really are like peas in a pod…
They find a large circle on the ground covered with swarming worms. Dean pokes it with a stick (literally) and realizes there’s something down there, then digs right down through the worms with his bare hand while all of us go EWWWW once again. He pulls up a human skull.
A quick visit to the local university so they can investigate, wondering if it’s pissed off spirits or something else. Sam and Dean aren’t done arguing about Matt’s (ie, their) family, though.
Sam: I know what the kid’s going through.
Dean: How about telling him to respect his old man?
Sam: (angry) You think I didn’t respect Dad? I respected him but no matter what I did, it was never good enough!
Dean: You think Dad was disappointed in you?
Sam: Was, is, always has been… In our whacked out family, I was the freak.
Dean: (going for a little levity) Kinda like the blonde chick in The Munsters.
Sam isn’t having it though. This is a long standing wound for him, and he’s still hurting.
Sam: Know what most dads are when their kid scores a free ride? Proud! The truth is, when we finally do find Dad, I don’t know if he’s even gonna wanna see me.
Dean (sighing) Sam, Dad was never disappointed in you, never. He was scared. He was afraid of what could happen to you when he wasn’t around. He used to swing by Stanford whenever he could, keep an eye on you, make sure you were safe.
Sam looks stunned.
Sam: What? Why didn’t he tell me any of that?
Dean: Two way street, dude. You coulda picked up the phone.
The musical score goes sad, and it’s an emotional moment for both of them. Dean is talking about his own hurt too, clearly, since Sam also didn’t pick up the phone to call him. Sam is realizing the narrative he has in his head about his father not giving a damn isn’t entirely correct.
They put their angst aside to portray college students again, the professor apparently having so ridiculously many students in his Anthro 101 class that he has no clue these are not two of them. (How could he not notice two guys who look like THAT though??) The skull, he tells them, is about 170 years old, Native American. The relocation of Native peoples was unfortunately common at that time.
The Winchesters meet with an elderly Native American man, who takes an immediately dislike to Dean, the smooth liar, as soon as Dean starts claiming to be something he’s not.
Man: No you’re not, you’re lying.
Dean: Truth is…
Man: You know who starts a sentence with ‘truth is?’ Liars.
I laughed out loud. The writing and delivery, and Dean’s affronted reaction, were perfect.
Man: You’re not students. (Looks at Sam) I like him, he’s not a liar.
He tells them (Sam) that the American cavalry came through “on the night the moon and sun shared the sky” and raped and murdered his ancestors, every man, woman and child. The legend goes that no white man would ever tarnish the land again, or “nature would rise up and protect the valley”.
Sam and Dean, smart boys that they are, figure it out – it’s a curse. And you don’t break the curse – you get people out of its way. The Impala screeches off, trying to save the day.
They first pretend to be someone else, but Larry sees through that and hangs up. Then they try to convince Matt to get his parents out of the house, Dean advising him to lie and say he needs to go to the hospital.
When they get there, though, the family is still there.
Matt: Sorry, I told him the truth.
Soon enough a telltale buzzing sound happens, the bug zapper starts going off, and everyone sees the swarm blacking out the sky.
They retreat into the house, trying to cover the windows and put towels under the doors but they’re surrounded by bugs and honestly that really is a nightmare. Dean finds a can of bug spray and Larry’s wife looks skeptical, but Dean says ‘trust me.’ When the bugs start coming through the fireplace they run upstairs, Dean using his lighter to make a mini flame thrower with the bug spray. Smart!
They all cower in the attic, Dean trying to hold them off with the makeshift torch, trying to make it to sunrise. There’s screaming and buzzing and lots of bees that in real life were stinging people, Jared and Jensen included (See Tyler’s behind the scenes story about who got stung. And where.)
Just as it looks like the bees will win, dawn happens very suddenly.
As Sam and Dean look up toward the roof, the bees all retreat through one of the gaping holes in the roof.
The next day, Sam and Dean come by to say goodbye. Larry shakes their hands, saying he’s put the development on hold while they investigate the bones – he swears he’ll make damn sure no one lives there again.
Larry: Biggest disaster of my career, but somehow I really don’t care.
He smiles at his son, who smiles back, hinting at a new understanding between the two after their shared trauma. Matt is throwing out all those bug cages.
Sam to Dean: I wanna find Dad.
Dean: Yeah, me too.
Sam: I just… I gotta apologize to him.
Dean: For what?
Sam: All the things I said to him. He was just doing the best he could.
Dean: Well don’t worry, we’ll find him. And you’ll apologize and then within five minutes, you guys will be at each other’s throats.
Sam: (with an almost smile) Yeah, probably. Let’s hit the road.
It’s a new sense of understanding between the two of them, that anger and contentiousness that’s been simmering no longer present. It’s not like they’ve figured it all out, but each saw the other’s perspective a little more, and they’re even able to talk about it.
Some great classic rock plays as the Impala peels out, blasting “Rock me like a hurricane”.
A bug crawls across the screen as we fade to black.
See what I mean? That was an excellent episode!
BONUS: Behind the Scenes with Guest Stars Tyler Johnston and Carrie Genzel
I chatted with Tyler Johnston, who played Matt in this episode, when he returned to Supernatural as Samandriel about what his time was like on the show in this Season 1 episode.
Lynn: So going back to your first episode, Bugs, did you know anything about Supernatural, being a Vancouver actor? What was the atmosphere on the set? What were the cast and crew thinking at that early point, about where it was going and how long it would be on the air?
Tyler: Well, it was 10 years ago, and it was actually my first time as a guest star appearance on a television show… it was very early on in my career, and I was happy to be there. You know, it was a CW show, actually a WB show at the time… And I was 17 years old, and I got to meet Jensen and Jared, two guys in their 20’s who had solid careers up to that point. They were very welcoming, genuine guys, similar to what they are now. And it was a big production. I hadn’t really been a part of anything like that. Here in Vancouver, we may do movies of the week or small episodic shows, but nothing like… I mean, this is a big, American production. And it was nice to step onto set and fully immerse myself. Like they built an attic for the attic scene where we were being harassed by those bees! Just the scale and the production was very cool to step onto…As far as going on into the future, they really didn’t know how the show would do. Back then, the show was a lot darker, even the cinematic photography, it was darker and more edgy than the current episodes.
Lynn: It was, definitely.
Tyler: Obviously, the show has had a few transitions throughout the years. Now it’s sort of elevated in its characters, and its energy. In Season One, it was still sort of grounded. And I had a blast!. I remember I was working for my father – he owns an auto glass company here in Vancouver – and I had graduated high school and I was out working with him, lugging around windshields, and then I got a call that I booked Supernatural as a guest star. And I called my mom, and she came and picked me up that day right from work. So my dad will never let me live that down. He’s like, “One phone call and you quit on me.”
Lynn: (laughing) I’ve got a few books out on Supernatural that have chapters written by both the actors and the fans, all about how the show and the fandom have changed lives, been a support system for people, actors and fans alike. It’s extraordinary, what this show and this fandom have done. I don’t think any other show has this kind of reciprocity, it’s unique.
Tyler: It is unique. And it starts with Jared and Jensen being the guys that they are. They are just solid friggen’ dudes, humble and down to earth guys, and they make it easier for everyone else to trickle down that same energy.
Lynn: I guess when you filmed ‘Bugs,’ you didn’t really know them…
Tyler: But I wanted to be their best friend, I remember that! (laughs) I might have tried to invite them to dinner or something like that. I was so young, I was trying not to be that annoying kid, you know? I thought I was like doing them a favor, like if you guys need to know where to eat, let me know, I’m from here. I think they probably had that covered though.
Lynn: And how was it working with all those bugs?
Tyler: I was never really interested in bugs as a child. I grew up not really afraid of spiders and snakes and things, but I didn’t mess with them the way some other kids did. I had no interest in playing with them. So when I get to set, and I know that I have to be playing with a tarantula — they send me over to this white van – that’s not creepy at all – and there were all these bugs…And this guy – he was the bug wrangler – and he had me hold onto a tarantula that climbed up my arm onto my head..
Tyler: He made me comfortable with them, and that was a pretty interesting experience, being someone who never really messed with them in the first place. And then we were put up into the attic for the finale of the episode. And I’m sure the boys have told this story, but Kim Manners, the director, came into the attic and took his protective suit off too and was just in there in his regular clothing like the rest of us cast, and it was one of those moments when the director was definitely on our side. He let it be known that he was there for us and he was a team player. Because me and Jared and Jensen were all there in the attic with just regular clothing on and there were 50,000 bees buzzing around, you know? They did a sting test on us to make sure we weren’t allergic or anything before we went in there. And then Jared sat on a bee and it stung his butt, which was quite hilarious.
Lynn: Ouch. I can’t believe you didn’t get stung more!
Tyler: I know, I was kinda petrified. But all the bees went to the light. They all just kept flying toward the light. Which made it difficult for the crew, because there were no bugs in the frame and they were all covering the light. So now the lighting had to be adjusted and they had to insert CGI bugs in the final shot.
Lynn: Bees aren’t very good actors.
Tyler: No. They weren’t getting paid the big bucks… But you’ve just gotta commit. If this production is gonna put a tarantula in my hands, I think there’s some accountability that comes with this so I’m just gonna trust them.
Lynn: Though it must take a while to get over the instinctive reaction to having a tarantula on your head.
Tyler: Yeah, and it was hairy and it was nasty.
Lynn: This is why I’m not an actor.
Tyler said that when he returned as Samandriel many years later, he was shocked that Jared and Jensen remembered him.
Tyler: I was excited to go back but I had no idea what I was in for. I hadn’t followed the show and didn’t realize the level of fandom, but I was very excited, because I knew it was a success and a hit. I showed up and they put me in a silly weiner outfit, and I shook Jensen’s hand when he came up to say hi. And Jared came up to say hi and said ‘oh yeah, you worked with us before, right? Season 1?’ So Jared actually remembered me, and I was like god, you must have met 50,000 people since that day! Maybe someone hinted him off, I don’t know, but it made me feel very welcome and part of the team in a sense. Because you go into shows 8 seasons in or even 2 weeks in, you feel like a bit of an outsider and you just want to stay under the radar and do your job and not ruffle any feathers, you know? Not really an outsider, I don’t want to be dramatic, but it’s like going to a new school or a new job. You don’t know anyone, you want to get to know them, so you lay low and try to assimilate naturally. But Jared and Jensen both came up to me right off the bat and shook my hand and welcomed me back to set and I was like, screw it, I’m here.
Lynn: I’m not surprised. I’ve interviewed so many people who have guest starred on Supernatural and they have all said something similar. I guess it is unusual when the leads of a show really try to help the guest cast feel comfortable.
Tyler: It’s 15 seconds of their time and it makes a huge impact on everyone else’s day.
I also spoke to guest star Carrie Genzel about her experience filming this episode back when Supernatural was so new, and also what it was like working with all those spiders. She gave me lots of behind the scenes insights – but possibly nightmares as well! Here are some excerpts from my chat with Carrie, looking back on this episode as she returned to film the Richard Speight, Jr. directed ‘Just My Imagination’.
Carrie: When I did Season 1, I don’t think the show was really an immediate hit right out of the gate. It was really different from what was on at the time.
Lynn: Yes it was different – and it definitely wasn’t a hit right away [remembering those early years where we all bit our fingernails to the quick waiting for the renewal news]
Carrie: When we were shooting it, because it was just starting to air, everyone was like ‘we’re not really sure if this is going to fly or not…’ It was really dark, even the way they shot it was really dark.
Lynn: It was, especially that first season.
Carrie: At that point there wasn’t social media at all either, but over the years people had reached out to me and said oh, I loved you in Bugs, were the spiders real? You know, the normal questions.
Lynn: The normal questions for Supernatural, for sure. You also had that iconic scene where your character assures Sam and Dean that you welcome people of any sexual orientation. I think I heard that Dean slapping Sam’s ass as he walks away was adlibbed.
Carrie: Oh, that was ad libbed! Jensen did that. When you see Jared’s reaction, that’s his real reaction!
Lynn: No wonder it came off so well!
Carrie: Completely. That was not in the script. I was like, that’s so awesome. I remember we laughed really hard. I remember Kim Manners directed that episode, and when he yelled ‘cut’ we all burst into laughter. It’s funny, because we had done a few takes of it and it was okay and then Jensen turned around and just smacked him on the butt and it was great.
Lynn: Your deadpan reaction and that happening spontaneously right afterward just made the scene.
Carrie: Yeah, it did, it did. And I’m not sure if that was the first episode that people were speculating that they were a couple.
Lynn: It was a constant theme in the early seasons.
Carrie: Just before that, I can’t remember the actor, but he says the same thing to them and then I repeat it, it’s like a line from the real estate company. So I’m not actually the first person to say it, I’m actually the second in the episode, but I know that somebody reached out to me and said it was the first episode where that happened. Though I don’t know for sure. But I know people send me lots of screen shots from that scene because they’re like, I love that scene!
Lynn: And you were directed by Kim Manners. I’m so sorry that I never got to meet him. He wasn’t there the first time we were on the set, and then by the time we were back, he had tragically passed away.
Carrie: He was incredible. When I went in to audition for that episode, I’m trying to remember what I knew about the show going in -but I know that when I went in to audition, I remember having to do that particular scene. And I remember afterwards Kim leaning in and saying “Carrie, so I’m gonna need you to have live tarantulas on your head and your body…’
Carrie: And in the scene, and here’s what’s so wonderful about Kim. I mean, he directed how many iconic X Files episodes, you know? And he’s like ‘what I need in the shot is, I’m gonna have you laying down on the ground, and you’re dead, and I’m gonna pan the camera down your entire body….And I’ll have the spiders crawling on you, and I want your mouth open…
Carrie: And I got so pulled into his vision and how he was explaining it, that I just said ‘yeah, I can do that’. And he stopped and he goes, “good.” Then I walk back to my car and go ‘What the hell did I just agree to?’
Carrie: It was like he put me under a spell! I hated spiders, I was terrified of spiders. And I went okay, well maybe I won’t get cast, maybe they’ll cast somebody else. And then I was like OMG I have to really do this! It ended up that I spent a couple of hours with the bug wrangler before we even shot, just to make sure that I was comfortable and they kind of went over the do’s and don’ts. So I learned a lot about tarantulas. I learned that they’re actually really fragile and I realized okay, at first I was like, Kim said he wants my mouth open – that doesn’t seem like a good idea…
Lynn: THAT SEEMS LIKE A HORRIBLE IDEA!
Carrie: [laughing] I know. But they’re like, actually it’s fine, and I was like, really? Why? Because they don’t like damp places so they’ll start to go there but then they’ll like turn around because they’re not gonna like this wetness. And I go, ‘okay so I’m gonna lick my lips A LOT before hand’ So as we’re having this conversation, she put a bunch of them on my head and my face to see if I’d freak out. And I mean, I was nervous but I was like, I’m gonna do this! I felt like I was on Fear Factor! And as we’re talking, one of the tarantulas goes into my ear…
Carrie: And won’t come out.
Lynn: Oh no way. No way.
Carrie: It was one of the smaller baby ones, and I said, I think there’s one in my ear… And I was like, I’m not gonna be the girl who screams and runs away, I’m gonna do this. And he looks and goes oh yeah, it’s really in there. And he starts looking around on the desk and he goes, just a second, and he pulls out a Bic pen and he pops the lid off it and goes okay, hold on. And he takes the end of the pen and he puts it in my ear and like scoops out the spider!
Carrie: And he looks at me and goes, yeah, you’re gonna be fine.
Lynn: Except for the nightmares you’re clearly going to have.
Carrie: He was like, if that didn’t freak you out, you’re gonna be fine. And because of that he said, when we shoot I’m gonna put earplugs on you so they can’t go in there.
Lynn: Well gee thanks.
Carrie: And so we shot that scene and Kim shot it exactly how he explained it. He had me on a track on the ground and the camera was literally so close I could hear it. And he panned down and the spiders were crawling all over me and whatever. They did it twice just to be sure, and then it took 30 minutes to get all the spiders off of me….
Lynn: Okay, forget YOU having nightmares – I’M gonna have nightmares!
Carrie: [undeterred] …Because they’re so fragile they had three people – with plastic spoons from craft service – and they’d scoop them up one at a time and put them back. And I’m like buck naked lying there and people are scooping with plastic spoons… I mean, looking back, I can see why they were so excited I was back. Because we shot the shower scene and I was in that shower for the better part of a day. Initially they wanted to use real spiders and it just didn’t work because of the water, so they had to do it with visual effects. But we covered that shower scene from every conceivable angle, I mean it was ridiculous. And at first they’re trying to give me some little pasties and stuff so I could have a little modesty, but like when you’re in the shower for seven hours, it just doesn’t matter anymore, you’re just like, this is it, guys.
Lynn: At that point, it’s like being in labor, you’re just like, I don’t care who the hell is standing there watching.
Carrie: Exactly. I’m like, you’ve seen all this before, it’s nothing that everyone doesn’t have. But the best part is, so we’re doing all of those shots and we have this scene where I fall out of the shower through the door, and it was a shot of my feet and I scream and kind of jump around a little then I have to fall out of frame and they throw glass and blood in. And so for me to fall out convincingly, they had a big crash pad there and a stunt man laying on the crash pad who was there to catch me! He’s fully dressed, I’m soaking wet and not wearing anything, and I had to fall like …
Lynn: Like, ‘Here I come!’
Carrie: [laughing] And he had to put his hands out to brace me, like to make sure I fall out, like into his hands, and we did it, many times to get it right.
Lynn: Well, he got to know you very well.
Carrie: He was soaking wet at that point, and so eventually I was like, so what are you doing later? But the crew was like, you rock! I know all the guest actors, and I know Jared and Jensen had to work with those horrible bees, but everyone had to work with some sort of bugs, and some of the guys were freaking out with these bugs. And apparently the crew was like, are you shitting me, did you see what Carrie is doing? And you guys are wearing clothes!
Lynn: So they were excited for you to come back because you’re basically able to do any damn thing! I think Jensen said he got stung by a bee.
Carrie: Oh yes, and some of them got into the soundstage and for a long time, some of them were in there apparently. Then that reminds me – there’s this scene where I’m watching the news and a spider comes out onto my forehead and I wipe it away.
Carrie: Well that was a whole ordeal too, because you can’t train spiders. So they had the bug guy laying on the bed behind me, and they fed a tube up through the back of my costume up through my hair to the front of my hairline and then they would put a spider in my hair with the tube, and then he would blow through the tube to make the spider run…
Lynn: OMG what?!
Carrie: The spider would just run willy nilly so we had to keep doing it over and over again until it like ran in a place that looked good. But because of that, because he’s laying there blowing into this tube, you get it full of spit, it’s like coming down my forehead…And then I had to like swipe the spider off in a very specific way so I didn’t hurt or kill it, so it was pretty awkward. They were like, you have to scoop…but again, they were like, Carrie you’re a superhero!
Lynn: I have so much respect for you right now.
Carrie: You know it’s that thing of, like this is an incredible show. Even in its first season, like this is a show that I would watch. And Kim, it’s Kim Manners, I mean, you do it, right?
You do if you’re Carrie Genzel.
You can read Carrie’s chapter about being on Supernatural and her personal journey in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, along with chapters by Jared, Jensen and many more Supernatural actors. Available at the links on this page or at peacewhenyouaredone.com!
Stay tuned for our next episode rewatch, one of my favorites – ‘Home’. And follow Carrie (@Carrie_Genzel) and Tyler (@tylerjbjohnston) on social media for all their latest roles and projects!
Caps by kayb625
13 thoughts on “Supernatural Rewatch – With Some BTS Insights on ‘Bugs’!”
” I could sit here and listen to their brotherly bickering and banter all damn day. I miss it so much it makes my heart ache.” Same, Lynn. Same 🙁
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I never disliked the episode like some people did but I think it was because of the conversations the brothers were having during it. Sam finding out that John stopped by Stanford occasionally to keep an eye on him (I did get the impression that Dean was a bit jealous of that -but maybe not) was an important detail I think. Sam started seeing things a bit different (about John) after.
I have watched Eric Kripke and Robert Singer talk about this episode and have to say, you’re wrong Mr Singer- bugs ARE scary. LOL Carrie was a trooper!!. I’ve seen the footage from conventions when Jared and Jensen were talking about this episode. The bee wrangler telling them that they’ll be ok as long as they don’t piss the bees off. Jensen then having to torch them. The stings. And after all that fun and games, they had to CGI the bees. Story wise, it was a good episode. FX wise, not so much.
I always liked it for the evolution it showed us in the brothers’ relationship and Sam’s understanding of his father – but yes, the poor actors!
Watching this episode I feel the show was still finding its feet, and the whole curse thing didn’t really work well in my opinion, the climactic scene I felt was anti-climactic with dawn coming way too convenienly soon, and bang! it’s all over. Also, what property developer is going to walk away from that sort of investment because of bugs? But the interractions between the brothers, the whole couple bit was hilarious to watch, Dean’s joy in camping out in an empty house (new, not decrepit) and the steam shower was great to see, and the heart to hearts about John pulled us all in that bit further. I think this episode is underrated over all.
If you really timed out the hours that would have had to pass, dawn did come sort of ridiculously fast and suddenly, didn’t it? But the rest of it, definitely.
Bugs, in general, don’t bother my too much as long as they keep their distance. I can understand why many fans would skip over this episode, but then they would miss out on some very important brother moments. I view those conversations as big turning points in their relationship. As you pointed out, they see and understand each other’s perspectives a little better.
I agree, this is actually a pretty important episode for understanding Sam and Dean and where they are in their relationship. Just close your eyes for the ‘ewww’ parts!
‘Bugs”has a rather unfairly earned reputation. It’s a layered ambitious story with a lot going on and that’s where the problems lay. There was so much story to tell that the ending doesn’t land as it should because they just ran out of time to present the events of the final night of the curse with a real feeling of time passing enough. Other than that and the minor issues of real bugs not registering great on camera, it actually has so much to recommend it.
Firstly, so much day time action we get to appriciate Jensen and Jared in daylight, in contrast to many prior episodes of artistic gloom which gave a nice, unique feel to this story which was a good counterpoint for the through line of the lives the Winchesters never got to have, they lived so much of their lives in the night-time and in the shadows.
The story also makes a very genuine attempt at being inclusive in the choice of referencing wrongs perpetrated against poc and does not excuse or glorify the initial acts or the acts of revenge. The casting was excellent giving gravitas to the plight of the Native American people of that time period. This was a valiant thing to do within the confines of a horror show back in 2005, the sort of truth and representation still being called for now.
I have immense respect that they tried to be inclusive, something that does crop up repeatedly in the show throughout with poc getting stronger roles and great characters, for example Victor Hendricksen. In the other infamous episode from this season that falls into the category of “less popular” Route 666, we get one of our lead characters, Dean, in a serious relationship with Cassie Robinson a strong independent women of colour whose credentials read as more educated and sophisticated than the lead character himself. Cassie is a career woman of social standing Dean could barely aspire to from his point of view.
Dean falls for her big time based on her heart and soul.
Speaking of Dean ( because those of you who visit here often know I always do) we get to witness most of his life from age around four in an already somewhat broken home ( John actually left Mary and we know that the marriage was unhappy from Dean himself) until his premature end. With hindsight, we know now this is all the time he would get, so every episode, every story is important.
Dean’s outside the norms of society from a very early impressionable age, his only reference points being John , Bobby and the TV, he does his best to protect and shield Sam, but he wasn’t really protected, consequently he doesn’t really “get” suburban life or the niceties if it, how to observe the conventions expected, but he’s drawn to it like a moth. Fascinated by all the things he doesn’t have which give him immense joy that others take for granted, like a clean place to stay, a power shower. A little boy lost in a grown up world who’s having the time of his life.
Dean’s ability to make the best of things does sometimes blind him to his own situation and he’s often over the years miscommunicated with Sam because of that. Dean genuinely doesn’t feel in these early seasons as if his life was all hardship, so when Sam challenges their upbringing, Dean’s not only at first defensive, he just plain doesn’t understand because he doesn’t see it the way Sam does ,they are such different people.
Dean does not understand Sam’s problem with their lives he sees the value in what they do, in the lessons John taught, he doesn’t view the negatives at all, perhaps by choice, perhaps because he just doesn’t have that many expectations, but in this episode he actually handles it well, he listens to Sam, he advocates for John with truth, pointing out without being too accusatory it does take two to make an argument and that John did care enough to make long journeys to see Sam was ok.
Dean does some stunning mediation work, considering he is a man of few words, reminding Sam talk is a two way street. Also quietly underneath he hears Sam pain and confusion, validating him by affirming John was always proud, but there’s a tiny crack, a fleeting expression that says ( with the benefits of hindsight) Dean is thinking about his own failure with the Shtriga. Even that early on, his own perceptions are that Sam is the success and he’s the failure, Jensen gets so much nuance into the way the discussion about Dad goes that you can see Dean’s mind working on so many levels as he imparts his knowledge to Sam. This may also be the first chink in the armour Dean built for himself, the moment he starts to question things, asking himself was Sam right ?
Season 1 is a happy time for Dean in so many ways Sam has yet to realise, he’s lighter and brighter just for having Sam there because he’s not lonely, his best friend is back and he can keep an eye on him. I bet anything you like Dean too made that journey himself to sit outside Sam’s dorm more that once. Just having him present and there , Sam is allowing Dean to be free to be himself and have fun. It’s a beautiful thing to see a secure confident worry free Dean.
Sam also gets some benefits from this adventure, he gains understanding and perhaps a degree of patience seeing how things play out through Matt and his Dad and by listening and absorbing Dean’s knowledge and validation, he comes away more positive himself having had the opportunity to offload some of his own emotional baggage. As the brothers drive away things take on a very hopeful feel and even though they are still seeing things differently, the Winchester boy have opened lines of meaningful communication.
What a beautiful commentary on where Dean is psychologically at this point in the series, thank you so much for sharing! I agree a thousand fold. And I am beyond blown away by both Jensen and Jared’s ability to be so nuanced in their acting and allowing so much vulnerability that their characters have already taken on enough depth that we as viewers can discern these truths about the Winchesters. It’s astounding, truly.
Also agreed about the representation and respect in this episode – 15 years ago! When we put together There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, we wanted diverse voices in the book and we wanted to look at diverse characters over the year’s and the show’s evolution. One fan writes about Indigenous characters over the years from his own similar perspective – this episode could have fit right in!
The work done in this show is incredible and the cast, crew, writers and show runners have left a catalogue of work, some way ahead of its time, to be immensely proud of.