The second episode of Season 2 starts out with a bang – or rather a tick tock tick tock. The haunting lyrics ‘Tick tock tick tock time has come today…’ mark the recap montage and remind us of the great loss that has just happened to the Winchesters. As the ticking of the clock slows down in the song, we hear “Time of death, 10:41 am…” and then the last word of the song, ‘Time.’
Not on the Winchesters’ side.
And then: NOW
In Medford, Wisconsin, kids enjoy an old fashioned fair and carnival that’s come to town, laughing at a sword swallower and fire breather and some clowns.
A very relatable dad: God, I hate clowns, they always creep me out.
All of us watching: SAME.
A young girl (though not young enough to be acting the way she is, actually) sees the creepiest looking clown in the history of ever, and for some unknown reason happily waves back at him. Then it disappears.
I guess I’m glad the show didn’t hire five year old actors to be traumatized for life by being in this episode, but that girl was definitely old enough to realize there is something very off about this clown! (Interestingly, she was played by Nicole Munoz, who returns as an adult guest actor in the final season)
Driving home, she looks out the window and sees the creepy clown standing on the side of the road, and all of us watching start exclaiming ‘child, you’re old enough to know that’s just weird!”
Alas, she does not. Instead she wakes up in the middle of the night and sees the creepy clown outsider her window, smiles and goes downstairs to let him in. What the hell??
Intro over, we switch to our boys, and instantly I’m emotional.
One of the most memorable and heartbreaking scenes in the series is in this episode, as Sam and Dean give their father a hunter’s funeral. Sam is sobbing, tears rolling down his face. Dean is stoic, eyes shining with unshed tears.
Sam: Before he… before he… did he say anything to you?
There’s a long beat. We know he did, though we don’t yet know what.
Dean: No. nothing.
A single man tear rolls down Dean’s face, and breaks all our hearts.
This is a Phil Sgriccia directed episode, and it shows. The shots are gorgeous, and full of emotional impact, with early seasons Supernatural trademark close ups on strikingly beautiful Sam and Dean (ditto young Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles). Director of photography Serge Ladouceur once told us that they were so attractive that he could light them like he would light a beautiful woman, and this episode really shows just how true that is. The close ups allow the emotion to come through loud and clear, and director Sgriccia is as talented at showing us what the brothers are feeling as Jared and Jensen are at showing it.
The episode was written by John Shiban, who came from the X Files along with Kim Manners (Mr. Cooper in this episode was also a character from that show, which many Supernatural crew members also worked on).
That scene hits harder now than ever, after having to watch Sam Winchester build a similar pyre for his brother in the series finale. There’s something in my eye now and it isn’t smoke…
One Week Later.
As Three Dog Night sings about the road to Shambala and what the Winchesters would give anything for right now, to ‘wash away my troubles, wash away my pain…’, Dean works on the broken Impala. The brothers can’t fix that their father is gone, or that the demon is out there, so Dean works on what he can.
Throughout this episode, the Impala stands in for so many things, and if we all didn’t realize she was special to us before (we did), we would have known with this episode.
Sam offers to help, but Dean pushes him away – and not just physically.
Dean: You under the car? I’ll pass. Stop asking if I’m okay. I’m okay!
Sam doesn’t believe it, nor does he take the bait of Dean trying to piss him off so he’ll go away.
Sam: We’ve been at Bobby’s for a week and you haven’t brought up Dad once.
But Dean refuses to go there, perhaps worried that if he does, he’ll lose that fragile sense of composure that he’s desperately hanging onto. Instead he makes a joke of Sam’s concern, pushing him away again.
Dean: C’mere, I wanna lay my head gently on your shoulder. We can cry, hug, maybe even slow dance…
Sam hears it for the distancing that it is, but refuses to back away from his concern for his brother.
Sam: Say something! Aren’t you angry? Don’t you want revenge?
Dean snarks back, his helplessness and anger spilling out.
Dean: Sounds good – got any leads on where the demon is? And, oh wait, the Colt’s gone… We got nothing, Sam. The only thing I can do is work on the car.
Sam, however, has been busy. He tells Dean that he cracked the voicemail code on their dad’s old phone, and heard this message: “John, it’s Ellen. You know I can help you. Call me.” Sam ran a trace on the phone number and got an address – because, as I’ve said many times, the boys are smart and competent in the early seasons. And I am here for it!
He hands the (ancient) cell phone to Dean to listen.
Even in the state he’s in, Dean can tell that’s important – and maybe for both of them it offers a chance to be a little less helpless.
They borrow one of Bobby’s cars, which turns out to be an old van that lurches up to what we now know as the Roadhouse.
Rewatching now, after the series has wrapped, I had a much more emotional reaction to seeing the Roadhouse than I did before. It looks pretty much the same as it does in the finale – Jerry Wanek and crew did a wonderful job of reconstructing it. It only existed for a short time in the show, but it had resonance, evoking the feel of the early seasons when Supernatural really was a road show. Having it be part of Dean’s heaven has given it even more resonance now though.
This episode has so much of what I love about early Supernatural – it looks and feels like another time, another world almost, with its dingy dilapidated buildings and beat up phone booths in the middle of nowhere (with that weird star thing on top). It’s the Winchesters’ world, and it’s not the city or the suburbs and it’s not manicured. It’s dusty and it’ll get your feet dirty as you walk through it, or the car’s wheels muddy as you drive.
Dean: I feel like a friggen’ soccer mom.
The place looks deserted.
Dean: Did you bring the…
Sam: Of course.
In sync as always, he tosses the lockpick to Sam and they break in. It’s dark inside, a neon sign buzzing the only sound.
There’s a guy asleep on the pool table.
Dean: I’m guessing that isn’t Ellen.
The next thing he feels is a shotgun at his back.
Dean: Ohgod please let that be a rifle.
(Yes, early seasons were a lot more homophobic; it was 2006, not that that makes it okay).
Jo: No, I’m just really happy to see you.
Dean quickly gets the gun away from her, only to lose the upper hand again when she punches him in the nose.
Dean: Sam, need some help here.
Sam (with a gun to his back also) Sorry Dean, can’t help right now, a little tied up…
Woman with a gun on Sam: Sam? Dean? Winchester?
The brothers nod, and the woman grins and lowers her gun.
Ellen: Hey, I’m Ellen, that’s my daughter, Jo.
Dean: You’re not gonna hit me again, are you?
I liked Jo and Ellen from the jump. Smart, competent, troubled, dealing with trauma just like Sam and Dean. Ellen especially is not the sort of woman you tend to see on CW shows, which was refreshing. Samantha Ferris plays her to perfection.
(One of our very first interviews for our books on Supernatural was with Samantha. It was so long ago we had to drive to multiple offices to find a phone with a working speaker so we could record on our little handheld audio recorder. Samantha was beyond patient – and already blown away by the fan response to the show.)
The brothers ask what she was offering to help John with, while Dean holds a bag of ice to his probably swollen lip. Just sayin.
Ellen: Well, the demon, of course. Heard he was closing in on it.
Sam and Dean are gobsmacked that someone else knows about the demon; she says that John was like family once. (Which was also a revelation, because John apparently never told his sons anything about most of the other hunters, even though they could have been useful).
Ellen: John wouldn’t have sent you if…
The realization dawns, and you can see it in her face. Samantha Ferris does such a great job with Ellen, making the character instantly memorable and relatable.
Ellen: He didn’t send you. He’s all right, isn’t he?
Sam: No, no he isn’t. It was the demon we think. Got him before he got it, I guess.
Ellen: I’m so sorry.
She’s sincere, but Dean bristles, once again pushing away any kind of sympathy or comfort.
Dean: It’s okay, we’re all right. Really, lady, I’m fine.
Fake smile and charm all in place.
It’s rather shocking that John never told Sam and Dean about the network of other hunters who are clearly out there, and who he clearly knew. I’m guessing that was his paranoia, wanting the brothers to trust only each other, but it sure could have been helpful sometimes.
Ellen and Jo say they can’t help, but Ash can, gesturing to the guy who’s been asleep on the pool table.
Dean (skeptical): That’s Ash?
Jo: Uh huh. He’s a genius.
Dean: You gotta be kidding me.
They say he looks more like a Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie, which Ash takes as a compliment. Chad Lindberg makes Ash an iconic character even in one episode – I’m so glad he came back for at least a few more episodes, but I wish it was more. John Shiban makes Ash such a unique individual, someone who might not ‘fit in’ to regular life or might be bullied for who he is, but who is a valued member of this subculture – and who earns Sam and Dean’s respect. I don’t know what the character would have been like if someone other than Lindberg was cast, because Chad brought Ash to life so vividly that I can no longer imagine anyone else playing him!
If you’re curious to hear Chad’s behind the scenes stories of playing Ash and working on Supernatural, as well as his experiences with fandom, check out the chapter he wrote in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. It’s titled ‘The Magic of the Mullet’ because of course it is.
Ash checks out John’s notes and is skeptical himself.
Ash: C’mon, ain’t nobody can track a demon like this.
Sam and Dean (voices filled with pride): Our dad could.
Ash is impressed, and agrees to try to track the demon, warning that it will take time.
Ash: Gimme…. [mental calculations ensue] … 51 hours.
Dean softens by this time.
Dean: Hey man, by the way, I dig the haircut.
Ash: (tossing his head as Chad Lindberg makes the character an instant fan favorite): All business up front, party in the back!
Jo and Dean have a little conversation, with a hint of flirtation because in this episode the show was considering having Jo and Dean be a thing. The fandom was not down with that at all, so they quickly gave it up and made Jo more of a little sister than a romantic interest, which I think worked better anyway, with always a hint of longing there too. Jo says that her dad was a hunter too, and also passed away.
Dean: So, we got 52 hours to waste, maybe tonight we should…
Jo raises an eyebrow; Ellen is probably also listening.
Dean: Never mind, wrong place wrong time.
Jo: I thought you were gonna hand me some pickup line.
She complains about the jerks who think they can just get in her pants, and Dean scoffs (no matter that he’d been thinking the same thing).
Dean: What a bunch of scum bags.
Early seasons Dean was all about gettin’ some whenever he could, which was sort of appealing and sort of not, but fit with who Dean Winchester was at the time. In this episode, though, you can tell he’s just going through the motions as expected, too mired in grief to be genuinely interested in anything other than a diversion.
While they wait for Ash to figure out where the demon is, Sam notices some intel on a current case that Ellen has tacked to the wall and she gives them a run down, so they head out to pursue that case – of a killer clown!
(Also, single layers….)
Dean: I know what you’re thinking, Sam – why did it have to be clowns??
In the car, the boys banter about Sam’s fear of clowns; Sam retaliates with Dean’s fear of flying. Dean protests.
Dean: Planes crash!
Sam: And apparently clowns kill!
Classic line, iconic Supernatural right there. Mixing in bits of humor with dark horror and intense grief and loss. I could watch that little clip forever – and have sometimes been stuck doing just that for far too long.
The boys in the Impala in the rain at night, on a paranormal scavenger hunt. Also classic Supernatural.
The show seems timeless now, set in a time that was palpably different – Sam reading a paper map in the car by flashlight. There will forever be a ‘Supernatural’ feel for me that I recognize in other stories.
They’re not talking about their dad’s death but they are talking about their dad’s death.
Dean: You were awfully quick to jump on this job.
Sam: I just think, taking this job is what Dad woulda wanted us to do.
Dean (skeptical): What Dad wanted?
Sam: Yeah, so?
At the fair that Sam and Dean are headed to, a dad takes his son through the haunted house, the kid more interested in his tablet until he sees a clown waving at him
The dad: Don’t be afraid of clowns, they’re your friends…
Oops, wrong thing to say, Dad.
Later that night, the dad and mom are asleep when the son wakes him.
Boy: Dad, dad, you were right, he is my friend.
He’s standing by their bed, holding the creepy clown’s hand.
The Dad screams.
None of us blame him.
Meanwhile, Sam and Dean arrive at the carnival.
Me watching: Ooh there’s a Zipper! My favorite ride! (Sorry, off topic, but true. I probably wouldn’t chance a ride now, but teenage me and my best friend spent all our money riding this thing again and again, watching the sky and the ground trade places as we somersaulted through the air…good times)
There are clowns everywhere, including bumping into Sam.
Dean (grinning and enjoying the teasing far too much) Did you get her number?
This episode plays a bit uneasily in 2021, but most of the episode makes fun of Dean as he protests being mistaken for prejudiced, instead of making fun of anyone in the carnival.
Sam and Dean decide they’ll have to blend in, and see a Help Wanted sign, which gives them an idea of how. They come into an office looking for the guy in charge, and ask a man who’s throwing knives.
Dean: We’re looking for Mr. Cooper, you seen him around?
The guy (who unbeknownst to Dean is blind) turns around, angry.
Guy: That some kinda bad joke?
Dean is flustered, not knowing what to say. Sam stifles a laugh, enjoying his brother’s discomfort.
Dean: Little help here?
Another carnival employee comes in and asks what’s going on.
First guy: This guy hates blind people.
Dean: No I don’t! It’s nothing, it’s just a little misunderstanding…
Second guy (who is a little person) LITTLE? You sonofabitch!
Sam is laughing full on by that time, enjoying his brother’s predicament like any younger sibling would.
Dean gets back at him by taking the only actual chair in the office and leaving Sam to sit on a seat that’s in the shape of a clown.
Sam scowls at him, trying not to actually make contact with the clown at all.
(Director Sgriccia, well known for making sure the Supernatural gag reels had plenty of fodder and giving Jared and Jensen plenty of room to ad lib, let Jensen ad lib the leap into the other chair according to the SuperWiki).
Mr. Cooper gives them a rundown of how things are going at the carnival.
Mr. Cooper: Apparently displaying the deformed isn’t dignified – so they went to rotting in asylums – progress I guess. This place is a refuge for outcasts, folks who don’t fit in nowhere else.
He looks at Sam and Dean, wrongly judging them as not outcasts themselves.
Mr. Cooper: But you two should go to school, find a couple girls, live regular.
Sam: Sir, we don’t wanna go to school and we don’t want regular. We want this.
Dean side eyes him. Later, when they’ve gotten the jobs, Dean confronts Sam.
Dean: That whole, ‘I don’t wanna go back to school’ thing. Were you just saying that? I thought once the demon was dead, the fat lady sings, you take back off to wussy State.
Dean’s trying to be casual about it, but it’s his worst fear, and he doesn’t dare let himself hope that Sam won’t do just that.
Sam says he’s having second thoughts.
Sam: Dad would’ve wanted me to stick with the job.
Dean can’t leave that alone, always angry when they’re talking about whether Sam stays or leaves, and repeatedly trying to push Sam into doing the thing Dean is afraid he’ll do just to see if he really will do it.
Dean: Since when do you care? You spent half your life doing what he didn’t want!
Sam: (shouting) Since he died, okay? You have a problem with that?
Dean: (shouting back) No I don’t have a problem with that!
Sure, neither of them sound like they have any problem with this whole conversation. Right…
The Winchesters pick up trash in their cute little red jackets while they look around, Sam checking out the haunted house with an EMF meter. The scene is filmed in a very interesting way, and as someone who is mostly terrified of haunted houses, it was scary! Kids walk through laughing, unaware there might be something real life scary happening.
They touch base on the phone and Dean resumes teasing his little brother about his fear of clowns.
Dean: Whatsa matter, you sound like you just saw a clown!
The brothers ponder about a spirit being attached to its own remains, and the knife thrower overhears them, warning them that the carnival is a tight knit group who don’t like outsiders and take care of their own problems. Sam and Dean come up with the cover story that they’re writing a book about ghosts instead of hunting them, Dean trying to use all his charm to make that believable.
Meanwhile, a little girl keeps telling her mother to look at the clown, which the mom can’t see.
Sam and Dean notice (early seasons, smart Winchesters) and follow the family home and stake out the house.
Another word of appreciation for the amazing set dec for this episode – how terrifying is that ‘fun house’ with the clown’s gaping mouth? Even if I didn’t have a fear of clowns like Sam does, that would be downright terrifying!
We get a little glimpse of Winchester everyday lives as Dean passes out in the driver’s seat during the stake out, secure enough to sleep knowing his brother is keeping watch.
The little girl invites the creepy clown into the house; Sam and Dean rush in and Dean shoots the clown as the little girl screams, but the creepy clown gets right back up and jumps through the window.
Little girl: Mommy, daddy, they shot my clown!
I had to laugh in the midst of the dark and creepy scene.
Sam and Dean ditch the old car they were driving, Dean muttering that he hates this friggen’ thing anyway.
Yes, I included this screencap for reasons.
The brothers walk along a path through the woods in what has become an iconic scene from the show. Where they are is so beautiful, and looks so empty – it just evokes so much of that open road Midwest feeling that characterized the show in its Kripke era, and it paints Sam and Dean as so much a part of that, carrying their duffels with everything they own in the world and brushing shoulders as they walk. They look alone in the world, just the two of them and their knowledge of what’s really out there.
They agree they’re not dealing with a spirit, since the rock salt they shot it with hit something solid.
Sam: You think Dad and Ellen ever had a thing?
Dean: No way.
They wonder if maybe they had some kind of falling out, and realize that John Winchester had a falling out with just about everyone. A little more data in the fandom’s endless surmising of what John was really like and whether he ever did do any A+ parenting.
Sam confronts Dean again about repressing his feelings about the loss of their father.
Sam: This strong silent thing of yours is crap. This is Dad, I know how you felt about him. I don’t care how you deal with it, but you have to deal with it, man. I’m your brother, I just wanna make sure you’re okay.
But Dean is still not having it.
Dean: I’m okay! Next one who asks me that, I’m gonna start throwing punches…
He turns the tables on Sam, questioning his sudden obedience.
Dean: You picked a fight with him the last time you ever saw him. Too little, too late. I want you to be honest with yourself about this. I’m dealing with Dad’s death – are you?
It’s painful to watch them both struggling to cope and unable to let each other grieve in the way that feels right to them. Not everybody grieves a loss the same way, which can often put family members at odds – the show is realistic in this, even if it’s hard to watch.
And as hard as their conversations are, it doesn’t tear them apart either. They argue, they struggle with the ways that they’re different, but they always come back together. It was the central tension in the early seasons, and it was incredibly compelling. And at the end of the day, it was always the two of them, sometimes against the world.
Even emotionally overwhelmed, the boys remain unfailingly smart. They figure out they’re hunting a raksasha, that feeds on human flesh and lives in squalor, sleeping on a bed of dead insects. (Eww). They can’t enter a home without being invited, like vampire lore, and they have to feed every thirty years, which I guess is fortunate it’s not any sooner!
Sam goes to check out Mr. Cooper, looking for a bed of insects. Dean goes to check out the knife guy, looking for a dagger made of pure brass to kill the raksasha. He finds a large trunk, and inside is the clown suit. The knife guy comes in and Dean turns around, eyes wide.
Dean barely escapes, and runs into Sam outside in the dark. The two of them go after the raksasha.
It’s invisible, but smart Sam lures him into the haunted house. It’s scary for real this time as we see their shadows walking through the fun house while manic laughter rings out and creepy organ music plays.
The bad guy separates them, which elicits familiar protests of shouted “Sam!” and “Dean!” because damn it, the Winchesters do not like to be separated! And nothing good ever comes of it either.
Sam breaks off a brass pipe from the steam organ even though it burns him because he’s Sam Fucking Winchester and they need something brass to kill the thing. Dean eventually gets pinned by knives, calling out for Sam. Knives fly through the air as the brothers frantically try to figure out where the raksasha is when they can’t see it, and then smart Sam pulls the fire alarm. The steam lets them finally see him.
Dean: Sam, behind you!
Sam stabs him with the copper pipe and kills him.
Dean: I hate fun houses.
Me: Me too, Dean.
Back at the roadhouse, Ellen congratulates them on doing a hell of a job, saying their dad would be proud. Jo sends Sam a purposeful smile, intent on talking to Dean – alone.
Sam: Oh, I gotta go… uhh, over there…right now…
Jo: Am I gonna see you again?
Dean: Do you want to?
Jo: I wouldn’t hate it.
Dean: Can I be honest with you? Normally I’d be hitting on you so fast it’d make your head spin, but these days, I don’t know…
Jo: Wrong place, wrong time? It’s okay, I get it.
It’s another indication of just how much Dean is struggling with his dad’s death, and his persistent feeling of guilt about being a cause of it.
Ash joins them, saying that he’s been tracking it and the demon is nowhere he can find right now.
Ash: But if the ugly bastard raises his head, I’ll know.
Sam and Dean: Where’d you learn to do all this?
Ash: MIT, before I got bounced for fighting.
Sam and Dean (incredulous): MIT?
Ash: It’s a school in Boston…
I love Chad Lindberg’s Ash with a fiery passion. One of the best, most memorable characters on the show. He’s also got the guts to push Dean Winchester’s hands off his laptop – and Dean listens.
Ellen: Hey listen, if you boys need a place to stay…
Dean: Thanks, but no. There’s something I gotta finish.
The episode ends in Bobby’s salvage yard, as Dean goes back to working on fixing the Impala. Singer Salvage is such an apt metaphor for Sam and Dean’s life right now, battered and broken and abandoned cars strewn around, with Dean in the middle doggedly trying to fix one of them and Sam doggedly trying to fix himself and Dean.
Sweaty, in just a tee shirt and worn thin jeans, Dean looks vulnerable. (And really really good.)
Sam joins his brother, similarly single layered and looking really really good.
Sam: You were right. About me and Dad. I’m sorry that the last time I was with him I tried to pick a fight. I’m sorry I spent most of my life angry at him. For all I know, he died thinking I hate him. So you’re right. What I’m doing right now is too little, too late. I miss him, man. And I feel guilty as hell. And I’m not all right. Not at all.
Sam looks at his brother as Dean keeps working on the car, listening but saying nothing.
Jared Padalecki does an amazing job as Sam here, his voice wavering and his eyes shining as he goes on, being honest with his brother – and with himself.
Sam: But neither are you. That much I know. I’ll let you get back to work.
He leaves, and Dean looks at the car, Jensen Ackles conveying so much emotion with the set of his jaw, the tension in his shoulders, like he’s about to crack open at any second. He looks like a powder keg, on the verge of an explosion. And he is.
Dean picks up a crowbar. And then, to our absolute shock, brings it down on the Impala, smashing her windows.
There’s no music, just the sound of that crowbar smashing the hell out of Baby’s trunk and windows, Dean going batshit on it, so much anger and anguish, the amulet smacking him in the face he’s swinging so wildly.
It’s shocking, because we know how much Dean loves that car, how much it means to him. The depth of his rage and grief feels overwhelming, too much to contain. He’s breathing hard, barely holding back tears.
The camera focuses on his face, as a little clip of music starts to play, its sadness pulling even more emotion from the scene.
And once again I’m left in awe, that these writers and directors and actors can do so much. That this little show can make me feel so much.
At the time, I wondered how these broken brothers would ever heal, and I hurt for them. So much pain, so much loss, and they still aren’t able to lean on each other to get them through, despite how close they’ve become. It breaks my heart, even now.
Funny how it’s just as compelling watching now fourteen years later, maybe even more.
The episode was dedicated to Peter Ellis, who directed the Season 1 episodes Bloody Mary and The Benders and passed away in 2006.
Stay tuned for our rewatch of 2.03, the episode that made me a Supernatural fan for life.
Breathtaking caps by spndeangirl!
You can read all the behind the scenes stories
from the Supernatural actors in Family Don’t
End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You
Are Done – links here or at: