Route 666 is an interesting episode. It’s not a fan favorite, and the whole ‘killer truck’ thing doesn’t entirely work for me. Up until this point in Season 1, Supernatural had pulled off being pretty damn scary, and this episode tries hard with lots of the big truck looming out of the mist, but when it revs its engine and puffs smoke it just ends up looking a little silly.
That said, there’s a lot to appreciate in this episode. It tackles some serious themes that weren’t seen in media that often in 2005, calling out racism overtly and not within some sort of monster metaphor. That was a rare thing in 2005, certainly on the WB. It’s also one of the relatively rare episodes where one of the brothers has a relationship that feels real and understandable. I’ve often said that Jensen Ackles has chemistry with just about everyone and everything, but he definitely did with guest star Megalyn Echikunwoke. I wasn’t really in the fandom in Season 1, so I don’t know what the fan reaction was to Cassie at the time, though I’m guessing the idea of Dean Winchester being ‘taken’ in any way, shape or form was not a welcome idea. I’m also fine with the show concentrating on the brothers, but I really liked the way Cassie and Dean’s relationship was explored in this episode. Once again, it gives us a chance to see Dean’s vulnerability. Faced with the loss of the only other person who had shared and really understood his life when Sam went to college, Dean opened up to Cassie — and was reminded that most people would not understand the kind of life he lives. That must have made being on his own even harder. Knowing how hurt he was by the break-up, it makes his insecurity with Sam once they’re back on the road again even easier to understand.
The open is the scary truck chasing after a car in the dark somewhere in Cape Girardieu, the radio gone staticky. The driver, a black man, skids to a stop and suddenly the truck is right in front of him, ramming into the car, windows shattering, until it drives him right off the road in a fiery crash. The truck pauses for a minute, ‘breathing’ hard through its exhaust pipe, and then drives off.
I think it’s the anthropomorphizing that makes it not work for me – before that part, it was scary, and also disturbing as the guy is killed in a more realistic way than most of the deaths on Supernatural.
Cut to the Winchesters, Dean on the phone and Sam reading a map finding a route to Pennsylvania.
Dean: Problem is, we’re not going to Pennsylvania.
He says he just got a call from an old friend whose father was killed the night before, and that it might be their kind of thing. When Sam questions it, Dean says she never would’ve called if she didn’t need them.
Sam has good instincts already when it comes to his brother.
Sam: And by ‘old friend’ you mean…
Dean: A friend that’s not new.
Sam’s surprised to find out that Dean dated someone for more than one night, and Dean is evasive, uncomfortable with his carefully constructed devil-may-care persona being called into question, with Sam of all people.
Sam quickly figures out that she’s calling them and saying it’s their kind of thing because she knows what their kind of thing is, and then he’s angry.
Sam: How does she know what we do?
Dean doesn’t answer, but that’s answer enough.
SM: You told her. You told her? The secret. Our big family rule no. 1 – We do what we do and we shut up about it. I lied to Jess and you go out for a few weeks with a girl and tell her all about it?
Dean: Yeah, looks like.
He looks as unhappy about it as Sam does, regret written all over his face.
Sam has a strong reaction to finding out that Dean had a serious relationship while he was at Stanford, and probably a conflicted one. He’s happy to find out that his brother isn’t really all about just the one night stands like he claims, and he takes great joy in teasing his brother about his feelings for Cassie, but I think he’s also a little thrown by it. Dean changed, at least a little, while Sam was away; Sam wasn’t the only one evolving during those years they were apart. As hard as we see that be for Dean, this is a glimpse of how hard it is for Sam too. Dean was only about hunting and family, including Sam; this is Sam seeing a side of his brother he didn’t know, and realizing that Dean cared about someone else too, someone outside of their family.
They find Cassie at the paper where she works, her boss shutting down the article she wants to write, saying she’s too close to it. It’s clear as soon as they lay eyes on each other that there was something significant between Dean and Cassie, and Sam has a small smile on his face watching them. (Sam and Dean are forever trying to figure out each other’s love lives).
They find out that Cassie’s father was scared in the days before he died, seeing things like an awful looking black truck that he thought was following him. There was a new dent in his car like it had been slammed into by something big, and one set of tracks leading to the edge of the cliff he went over. Not only that – his best friend was also killed in a similar way, which makes it all pretty suspicious.
Cassie admits she’s still “skeptical about this ghost stuff” though.
Dean: If I remember correctly, you said it was “nuts.”
Cassie: That was then. I can’t explain it, so I called you.
The tension between the two of them is palpable.
The next day, there’s another ‘accident’ and Cassie tries to convince the mayor to close the section of road where the accidents are happening, but he insists that accidents do happen.
Cassie: Would you close the road if the victims were white?
Mayor: I’m the last person you should ask that.
When she asks why, he just says why don’t you ask your mother.
The plot thickens.
Sam is as interested in figuring out his big brother’s dating history with Cassie as he in the case, pointing out that the two of them never really look at each other at the same time. He looks at her when she’s not looking, she checks him out while he’s not looking.
Dean bristles, but Sam says he’s just making “an interesting observation in an observationally interesting way” and asks if he hit a nerve.
Which, obviously, he did.
Sam also points out with a grin that “I bet she kicked your ass a couple times.” Sam is extremely pleased about this probability.
The boys don their fed suits and talk to the latest victim Jimmy’s friends, asking if he’d had any hallucinations or strange experiences or ever mentioned seeing a big black truck.
(Dean donning his fed suit here is worth a cap, right? Right.)
One of the guys they’re talking to (who’s white) just says no, but the guy he’s playing chess with (who’s black) nods in recognition.
Guy: I’ve heard of a truck like that.
Guy: Not where, when? Back in the sixties, there was a string of deaths – black men. The story goes they disappeared in a big nasty black truck. Never found them. Not sure they even really looked. There was a time this town wasn’t too friendly to all its citizens.
The white guy he’s playing chess with looks as clueless as anyone with long-standing privilege ever has, and the whole scene is pretty powerful for 2005.
We get a moment of Winsync in suits, which means all of us doing the rewatch yell out “Winsync!” in the zoom.
Smart boys figure out that it could be like the Flying Dutchman, the haunted ship – an evil spirit inhabiting the truck reenacting past crimes, somehow connected to Cassie and her family. Meanwhile, Sam is still trying to figure out what went down with Dean and Cassie, who he can tell have serious unfinished business.
Sam: What is going on between you two?
Dean finally admits that maybe it was a little less casual than he suggested, that maybe they were more involved.
Dean: Maybe… and I told her the secret and I shouldn’t have. It was stupid to get that close, and look how it ended.
Sam sits there grinning at this brother at this revelation.
Dean is annoyed.
Dean: Would you stop? Blink or something.
Sam: (still looking extremely pleased) You loved her.
Dean: Oh god.
Sam: You were in love with her but you dumped her.
Dean doesn’t answer, averting his eyes. Sam and Dean have grown close enough again that Sam can read the nonverbal fluently.
Sam: Oh wow. She dumped you.
Dean: Get in the car. Get in the car!
Sam definitely hit a nerve that time. It’s a further glimpse into the complicated character that is Dean Winchester. At what must have been a difficult time for him, Sam away at Stanford and Dean trying to hunt on his own, he found someone to confide in – and it blew up in his face. No wonder he was feeling so insecure by the time John went missing and Dean shored up the courage to ask Sam to come with him.
Dean goes to see Cassie at her house that night. She’s working on an article on the man who died, trying to find the words. Jimmy was the paper’s first black editor.
Cassie: Where’s your brother?
Dean: Not here… why’d you ask?
Cassie: Nothing, it’s not important…
Dean: Because it’s just you and me, with Sam here it would be easier? Fine, we’ll keep it strictly business.
Cassie: I forgot you do that. Whenever we get…close…anywhere in the neighborhood of emotional vulnerability, you back off and shut the door.
Dean: I’m not the one who slammed it behind me.
Cassie retorts that the guy she’s dating told her he professionally pops ghosts and has to leave to work with his father – and she just thought he wanted to dump her.
Dean: Let’s not forget who dumped who.
Cassie: I didn’t meant to hurt you. I’m sorry.
Dean: Yeah, me too.
At this point, they’re close enough to touch and both are emotional, and their argument turns into a passionate kiss and keeps going from there.
We don’t get a lot of sex scenes on Supernatural, so this one is notable – it’s a full on music montage, and Cassie is very much the one in charge and that’s … very interesting. (And yes fandom has spent a significant amount of time comparing and contrasting the Winchesters’ different styles of lovemaking because of course fandom has.)
She strips off his jacket, throws him down on the bed and gets on top, kissing down his chest while he’s open mouthed and breathless. The lyrics of the song playing in the background are “sometimes I get a feeling I just can’t control…” and the cinematography (and Dean’s back) are lovely.
Meanwhile, the mayor sees the truck threatening him. He tries to avoid it in his car, eventually getting out and desperately trying to outrun the monster truck, but it pursues him and runs him over, leaving him dead on the ground.
Dean and Cassie wake up, agreeing that “this we were good at; it’s the other stuff, not so much.”
Dean insists he tried, telling her who he really was, which was a big first for him.
Cassie: It scared the hell outta me. I thought you were nuts, dangerous even.
She admits though, that “Maybe I was looking for a reason to walk away.”
Dean: In my work, I see things that can’t be explained, and I deal with them. But working things out with you?
Cassie: I’m a scary one all right. Usually things get worked out if you really want them to.
They’re both being pretty honest here, and they both sound hella ambivalent.
Dean: I’m still really involved with my dad’s work…
They agree to be real, no more excuses, and then the phone rings. Of course it’s bad news, because this is Supernatural.
Dean meets up with Sam, who of course wants to know how it went
Sam: Where were you last night? I’m guessing you guys worked things out.
Dean: We’ll be working things out when we’re 90.
On one of our fan pilgrimages to Vancouver, we managed to find the place where Sam made that phone call (or so we were told) – the Britannia Heritage Shipyards. There are an endless variety of fascinating places in Vancouver, all of them with such a unique look – and all of them somehow looking like they’re made for filming. I’m going to miss seeing beautiful Vancouver on my TV screen on Thursday nights for a very long time.
The brothers ponder the newest victim, who doesn’t fit the pattern since he’s white. Turns out the Mayor bought the property that the wealthy Dorian family owned (who also owned the paper). Cyrus Dorian vanished back in 1963. Recently the mayor knocked down the old place – right before the first killing happened. Hmm.
The truck comes for Cassie that night, and this scene really is scary, the truck outside her house in the dark and the mist, its headlights pointed at the house as she frantically tries to shut curtains and shutters. It barrels right up to her house to the front door, its lights beaming through the glass in her front doors.
She calls Dean, frantically yelling his name into the phone.
Sam and Dean realize that whoever is controlling the truck, they want you afraid first. They rush to the house and finally talk to Cassie’s mother about her husband’s death.
Dean: If you know something, now would be a really good time to tell us about it.
Mrs. Robinson admits that her husband thought that the truck he was seeing belonged to Cyrus Dorian, but “he died forty years ago.”
The Winchesters are smart and question how she knows he died, since the paper just said he went missing. Turns out she dated Cyrus but was also seeing Cassie’s dad, Martin – in secret because, as she says, interracial couples didn’t go over too well. When she broke it off with Cyrus, she tells them, his hatred overwhelmed him. There were rumors of people disappearing and a big black truck, but nothing was ever done. On the day the Robinsons were to be married at a small church, they decided to elope – and someone set fire to the church.
Mrs. Robinson: There was a children’s choir practice in there. They all died. The truck came for Martin and Cyrus beat him something terrible, but Martin got loose and beat Cyrus.
They ask why she didn’t call the cops, and she stares at them like they’re idiots, saying that was forty years ago. They put Cyrus’ body in the truck and rolled it into the swamp and they all kept the secret for all those years. The Mayor was a young deputy back then who figured out what had happened and did nothing, because he also knew what Cyrus had done.
She’s sobbing by the time she’s done relating the story and Cassie looks stricken.
Cassie: Why didn’t you tell me?
Mrs. Robinson: I was protecting him. Now there’s no one left to protect.
Dean: Yes there is.
He looks at Cassie.
Sam and Dean go outside to make a plan, and have a conversation leaning against the Impala about how weird their lives are, Sam lamenting that his life was so simple before, just exams, papers on polycentric cultural norms…
Dean: Guess I saved you from a boring existence.
Sam: I miss conversations that didn’t start with “this killer truck…”
The brothers are very much on the same page, the awkward conversations and admissions nevertheless bringing them closer. They share a laugh, knowing they’re gonna have to drag that body out from the swamp.
Dean tells Cassie to stay inside and she bristles.
Cassie: Don’t go getting all authoritative on me.
Dean: Don’t leave the house, please?
They share a kiss and Sam unabashedly watches, grinning.
Dean: You coming or what?
They drag the truck up from the lake, drag the disgusting looking corpse from the front seat and burn the body, their (very pretty) faces lit by the fire.
Sam: Think that’ll do it?
The big black truck appears, smoke pouring from its exhaust and revving menacingly.
Dean: I guess not. Now it’s really pissed.
There’s no time for much of a plan, so Dean jumps in the Impala to lead it away from Sam and Cassie, while Sam…figures something out.
Sam: How am I supposed to burn a truck, Dean?
Dean: I don’t know – figure it out!
Dean drives off with the truck in pursuit, the Impala speeding down a dark twisty road, Sam frantically reading through their dad’s journal, on the phone with his brother.
Sam: You gotta give me a minute.
Dean: I don’t have a minute, what are we doing?
Sam: I’ll get back to you.
Dean probably says something colorful and keeps driving, and Sam finally calls him back, asking where he is.
Dean: Middle of nowhere, with a killer truck on my ass!
Sam says he needs to know exactly where, as the Impala skids all over and barely stays on the road.
Sam: Turn right up ahead, now turn left! Go 7/10 of a mile and then stop. Exactly 7/10, Dean!
The lack of GPS is a real inconvenience, but Dean has his trusty odometer. He watches it as he keeps driving, then slams to a stop, the Impala spinning around. He faces the road, and the truck comes at him head on.
Dean stays still; he trusts Sam.
Dean: What do I do?
Sam: Just what you are doing – bringing it to you.
The truck bears down on him, full speed. Dean clenches his teeth, stays motionless, muttering “Come on, come on…” while Sam listens on the phone, equally terrified.
There’s a flash on impact and then the truck disappears in the mist, and Dean’s alone in the car in the dark. He looks around, shocked.
Sam: Dean, you still there? Dean?
Dean: Where’d it go?
Sam: (relieved) You’re where the church was, the place Cyrus burned. It’s hallowed ground. When spirits cross over they’re destroyed. I figured maybe that would get rid of it.
Dean (incredulous): Maybe? Maybe?? What if you were were wrong?!
Sam: Huh. That honestly didn’t occur to me.
They hang up, and Dean glares at the phone, muttering “I’m gonna kill him…”
Both Jared and Jensen can bring those little comedic beats to a scene that wasn’t even funny and do it perfectly so that I end up with a smirk on my face.
Dean says goodbye to Cassie, saying that maybe this time the goodbye will be a little less permanent.
Cassie: You know what? I’m a realist. I don’t see much hope for us, Dean.
Dean: Well, I’ve seen stranger things happen. Helluva lot stranger.
They kiss goodbye while Sam once again unabashedly stares and smiles.
Dean gets in the car and Sam drives, music playing, into the night. Dean looks out the window.
Sam: I like her.
Sam: You meet someone like her, makes you wonder if it’s worth it putting everything else on hold, doing what we do?
Dean doesn’t answer, just turns to Sam and smiles; that’s answer enough.
He puts on his sunglasses, tells Sam to wake him up when it’s his turn to drive.
The Impala races down the road toward the horizon.
Me: Damn, I love this Show.
Stay tuned for more of our Supernatural from the start rewatch, coming up soon!
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