This episode, the fifteenth of the show, was a departure from what Supernatural had been about so far – a look at just how terrifying and disturbing humans can be, never mind demons. Also, I’d forgotten that it takes place in Hibbing, Minnesota – all the sheriffs there really have their hands full, don’t they?
The opening is early seasons level scary, a young boy in bed, scared, clutching his blankets as he looks out the window of what looks like a trailer park. A man outside gets dragged under a car, screaming. The boy closes the window.
Cut to Sam and Dean (with State Police badges) asking the mom what happened and to speak to the boy. She’s reluctant, saying that the more he tells the story, the more he believes it.
He tells them he heard a weird noise that sounded like a monster, but he was also watching Godzilla versus Mothra on TV at the time.
Dean: That’s my favorite Godzilla movie! So much better than the original.
Sam gives his brother a look that’s somewhere between surprised and fond. The kid says that something pulled Mr. Jenkins underneath the car, and it made a sound leaving, like a whining growl.
It’s not much to go on, but the boys retire to a local bar, Dean throwing darts, as they discuss the case. Sam finds that their dad had marked this area, and that there’s folklore that a dark figure comes out at night. The town, it seems, has more missing persons than it should.
Sam: But I don’t know if this is our kinda gig either.
Dean: Let’s have another round.
Sam says no and heads back to the motel, Dean saying he’ll meet Sam outside, he’s gotta take a leak – and tossing a “You really know how to have fun, don’t you grama?” after his brother.
Sam hears something outside and gets down to look under the car with a flashlight. A cat hisses at him and he laughs at himself in typical horror movie trope fashion, and we see from the vantage point of under the car as Sam’s legs walk past, and something comes closer…
Dean comes out a few minutes later, walking through a creepy fog to find Sam not there and the journal on the ground. He looks around, while scary music plays, then starts freaking out, asking everyone he can find if they’d been outside in the last hour or so and calling “Sam! Sammy!” There’s no answer, but Dean notices a security camera.
The next day he goes to the Sheriff, saying his cousin is missing. Sam Winchester.
Sheriff: Like the rifle?
Dean: Like the rifle.
She asks if his cousin has a drinking problem.
Dean: Sam? Two beers and he’s doing karaoke, no.
For some reason that little detail is adorable.
She looks up Sam online, finding that his brother died in St. Louis and was suspected of murder.
Dean: Mmm Dean, black sheep of the family. Handsome though.
When the sheriff wants to take it slow and have him fill out a missing persons report, Dean pleads with her.
Dean: Officer, he’s family. I kinda look out for the kid, you gotta let me go with you. Any of your missing persons come back? Well he’s my responsibility and he’s coming back – I’m bringin’ him back.
Something about the look on his face convinces her. They figure out the truck that they caught on the traffic cam, and Dean recognizes the sound of the engine as what the boy described. Smart Dean, my favorite flavor.
Meanwhile, Sam wakes up. In a cage. That Jenkins guy is in the cage next to him and Sam says he was looking for him.
Jenkins: No offense, but this is a piss poor rescue.
Sam says not to worry.
Sam: My brother is out there looking for us.
His faith in Dean is already unshakeable, their bond has solidified that much.
Sam at first thinks they’ve been taken by monsters, but it turns out it’s just some very messed up people.
Sam: I’ll be damned. They’re just people.
Jenkins: Yeah, what did you expect?
He’s convinced they’re psycho hillbilly rednecks lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, but Sam says he thinks that’s the least of their worries.
Dean and the sheriff head out, searching the backwoods properties and their private roads where it’s easy to hide. She tells him she ran his badge number and just found out his badge was stolen. And there’s a picture of him. A black man.
Dean: Uh, I’ve got that Michael Jackson skin disease…
She threatens to arrest him, but he once again pleads with her.
Dean: You wanna arrest me, that’s fine. But first, please let me find Sam. Look into my eyes and tell me if I’m lying about this. Here’s the thing. When we were young, I pretty much pulled him from a fire. Ever since,I’ve felt responsible for him, like it’s my job to keep him safe. I’m afraid if we don’t find him fast… please. He’s my family.
Sheriff: Sorry, you’ve given me no choice, I have to take you in.
She looks at a photo hanging in her car, and pauses.
Sheriff: After we find Sam Winchester.
I think we sometimes tend to think of early seasons Dean Winchester as not very forthcoming, repressing his feelings, aiming for ‘no chick flick moments’. But it’s not really how he is, at least not all the time. He’s being incredibly open and vulnerable with Kathleen here, so much so that she hears the sincerity and remembers her love for her own brother.
Sam keeps trying to get out, and Jenkins tries to tell him it’s no use.
Jenkins: Give it up Sammy there’s no way out
Sam: Don’t call me Sammy!
(I will never ever get tired of that line in this show)
The door to Jenkins’ cage mysteriously unlocks. Sam immediately knows that was way too easy, and tells Jenkins to just stay in cage, but of course he runs anyway. It’s a disturbing scene, Jenkins running outside in the rain in the dark woods. He finds a knife (conveniently) and takes off, hearing eerie whooping sounds in the woods as the Benders pursue him. They toy with him like a cat with its prey, beating him with sticks and then letting him run again, terrified in the fog and rain, the eerie whoops pursuing him. They slice his leg and let him keep staggering away, wounded, before finally stabbing him to death.
In the cage, Sam hears his screams.
For some reason, the fact that it’s humans doing this makes it a lot more disturbing.
Dean and the sheriff continue looking, and Dean can’t resist asking why she’s helping him out instead of locking him up.
Sheriff: My brother disappeared three years ago. A lot like Sam. We searched for him, but nothing. I know what it’s like to feel responsible for someone and for them to…
They understand each other. Not enough for Dean to insist he’s coming with her, though, and not enough for her not to trick him into getting himself handcuffed, rather brilliantly.
Sheriff: All right, you promise you’ll let me handle it? Shake on it.
Snap go the cuffs.
Luckily for us, she cuffs him to the door handle of the car and then goes to investigate, which means we get treated to the sight of Dean stretching that long lean body out to try to break of the antenna wire to get out of the cuffs.
There are a lot of gifs of that scene, let’s just say.
The Sheriff sees the camper from the surveillance camera and knocks on the door. The very creepy little girl Missy answers.
Sheriff: Is your mom home?
Missy: She’s dead. And that’s gonna hurt.
Boom. Her dad knocks her out with a shovel. Meanwhile, her brothers are about to find the sheriff’s car that Dean is handcuffed to.
He manages to free himself just in time before they get there, because BADASS. And competent. Mmm.
Sheriff Kathleen wakes up in the cage next to Sam and lets him know his “cousin” is looking for him.
Sam: Thank God!
I love Sam’s instant relief, he almost sags with it, so strong is his faith that his brother can save them.
Sam: Where is he?
Kathleen: I handcuffed him to the car…
Someone walks in, still in the dark, and then we hear: Sam?
The smile on Sam’s face is blinding.
Dean is so overcome with relief that he forgets he’s sneaking around and bangs on the cage bars, an instinctive reaction that was probably a combination of Dean and Jensen understanding his character so well.
Dean: You hurt?
Dean pauses, the brothers just staring at each other, relieved.
Dean: Damn, it’s good to see you.
Sam: How did you get outta the cuffs?
Dean: (grinning) I know a trick or two.
(I also can’t watch this scene without thinking about the gag reel moment, when Jensen and Jared ended up saying ‘I love you’ and ‘I miss your musk’ instead of the scripted dialogue because they will always quote their favorite movie lines to each other if given the chance.)
Sam lets Dean know that his captors aren’t monsters, they’re “just people.”
Dean: And they jumped you? Must’ve been getting a little rusty, kiddo.
He can’t resist the brotherly ribbing, but they also agree that this is actually scarier.
Dean: Our usual playmates, there’s rules, patterns. But people, they’re just crazy.
Well said, Dean Winchester.
Kathleen asks if he say a black Mustang outside, about ten years old, and Dean says yes.
Dean: Your brother’s. I’m sorry.
Dean goes off to try to find the key, roaming around the truly disturbing house.
Jerry Wanek and crew really outdid themselves on the set dec, photos on the walls of their trophy kills, posing with dead people like big game hunters, a glass full of teeth, scary things in jars. Dean makes his way through the dark house with a flashlight, bumping into bones made into mobiles hanging from the ceiling.
There’s an old phonograph playing while one of the Benders sharpens his knives.
Dean: I’ll say it again. Demons I get, people are crazy.
Dean grabs the keys and then sees Missy there.
He’s temporarily fooled by the fact that she’s a little girl, saying he won’t hurt her, but she lashes at him and calls for her father. Dean holds his own in the fight for a few minutes, warning “I’m gonna kick your ass first, then yours…” when BOOM, another Bender hits him from behind with a frying pan.
In the gag reel, it looked more like this though.
Dean wakes up tied to a chair, confronted by the Benders.
Daddy Bender: This one’s a fighter, be fun to hunt.
Dean (all bravado tied to a chair): Oh you gotta be kidding me, you yahoos hunt people?
The dad gives a truly disturbing speech about hunting all his life, deer and bear “but the best hunt is human, there’s nothing like it, holding their life in your hands and seeing the fear in their eyes just before they go dark, makes you feel powerful.”
They ask if Dean’s a cop.
Dean: If I tell you, will you promise not to make me into an ashtray?
He gets slapped across the face for that, as they ask again if any cops will come looking for him.
Dean: Oh eat me, no no wait, you actually might!
Then they threaten him with a hot poker – to the eye. (Which makes me have to close my eyes) and demand he pick who they’ll hunt, Sam or Kathleen. He refuses and they burn him, then hold it up to his eye again, holding him in place rather brutally.
There are reams of meta written about the Winchesters and bodily autonomy, and both Jared and Jensen do a consistently amazing job of showing us Sam and Dean’s horror when that is taken away from them. It’s sometimes oddly sexualized, this being one of multiple times when the man or woman who has him immobilized is way up in Dean’s space in a disturbing way. Ackles is fearless in showing us Dean’s fear and disgust, and it’s hard to watch.
They threaten him that next time they’ll take an eye, holding him immobilized as the glowing hot poker comes within inches of him.
Dean: Okay, okay – take the guy.
But instead of hunting Sam, the dad orders the sons to just shoot him in the cage, and the sheriff too. The realization shocks Dean, who thinks he’s just signed his little brother’s death sentence. He knows how competent Sam is, knows he would have had an excellent chance of escaping if he was released into the woods – but this is different. Dean has been all tough guy smartass bravado, even when faced with a hot poker to the eye, but he’s instantly devastated at the thought that he might have put Sam in danger or god forbid might get him killed.
Dean: You hurt my brother, I’ll kill you, I swear! I will kill you all!
Protective Dean, and damn, I would be scared if I were you, Bender family.
Luckily Sam is totally badass too. He manages to get free and pulls the fuses so it’s dark, because smart Sam.
He and the Sheriff team up, her luring them and then leaping on top of one guy while Sam takes down the other, locking them in cages. Kathleen says she’ll watch the dad, he should go find Dean. As soon as Sam is gone, she confronts the dad.
Kathleen: You killed my brother. Just tell me why.
Dad: (sneering) Because it’s fun.
She shoots him.
The three leave the house, Missy locked in the closet, Kathleen reporting that the dad was “shot trying to escape.” Sam and Dean give her a knowing look.
Kathleen: State police and FBI will be here within the hour. They’ll wanna talk to you. I suggest you’re both gone by then.
Dean: Thanks. Catch a ride?
Kathleen: Start walking.
Sam: Sounds great to me.
Dean stops to tell her that he’s sorry about her brother.
Kathleen: Thank you. It was really hard not knowing what happened to him. I thought it would be easier once I knew the truth, but it isn’t really.
It’s relevant to Sam and Dean and their dad too. Sam and Dean walk away into the night, as melancholy music plays.
Dean: Don’t ever do that again!
Sam: Do what?
Dean: Go missing like that.
Sam: You were worried about me.
Dean tries to shrug it off.
Dean: All I’m saying is, you vanish like that again? I’m not looking for you!
Sam: You got sidelined by a thirteen year old girl, huh?
Dean: Shut up.
Me: Brothers, man.
I love that ending.
Stay tuned for our next rewatch episode – one of my favorites in Season 1, Shadow!
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