This episode is written by Kathryn Humphris, who I wish had stuck around longer, and directed by Mike Rohl, who directed quite a few episodes of the show. It’s an episode that gave Jared and Jensen both some time off (because they weren’t in all the scenes together) and yet managed to be all about how close the brothers have become and how in sync they are at this point working together.
The recap reminds us just how badass Sam and Dean Winchester are, with their many disguises, and of the recent shapeshifter episode when Dean took the blame. Then we’re in Baltimore, Maryland, at the City Centre Motor Hotel as a SWAT team advances.
The motel capture in progress is interspersed with an FBI guy questioning someone – we don’t know who. We hear him say, “credit card fraud, breaking and entering, grave desecration….suspected of torturing and murdering a young woman…you supposedly died there”…
The SWAT team break down the door at the motel as he goes on, saying “you look pretty healthy to me.”
Meanwhile, the SWAT officer confronts Sam Winchester.
Agent Ballard: Goin’ somewhere, Sam?
Back to the interrogation, with Agent Sheridan (Jason Gedrick).
Sheridan: So now we know Karen Giles wasn’t the first person you murdered – but I guarantee you she’s the last.
The camera pulls around so we can see that the prisoner he’s interrogating is, as we suspected, Dean Winchester.
Clearly this episode is the brothers having a terrible horrible no good very bad day. Again.
Teaser over, Agent Ballard, who I keep wanting to call Linda Blair because she’s so recognizable as Linda Blair, brings Sam coffee. Sam is as much a smug bastard as his brother right now.
Sam: Okay, so you’re the good cop, where’s the bad cop?
Ballard: With your brother. He’s being held on suspicion of murder.
That makes Sam pay attention, and he looks both shocked and worried now that he knows Dean might actually be in trouble.
Sam: Murder? Who’s he supposed to have murdered?
Linda Blair just thinks he’s a good actor. She also knows he’s a pre law student and that his family moved around a lot but he still got straight A’s and a full ride to Stanford. That there was a fire a year ago.
Blair/Ballard: One fatality. Jessica Moore. Your girlfriend. You fell off the grid.
Sam: I needed some time off to deal. So I’m taking a road trip with my brother.
Ballard: How’s that goin’ for ya?
Sam’s dismissive, going for cocky.
Sam: Great. We saw the 2nd largest ball of twine in the continental US.
He straddles a chair, grinning.
Ballard tries to intimidate him with “possible hits” they got when they ran Dean’s fingerprints. When that doesn’t work, she tries to turn him against his brother. AS IF! This woman does not understand she’s dealing with Winchesters.
Ballard: You seem like a good kid, it’s not your fault Dean’s your brother, we can’t pick our family.
Ballard: Dean’s a bad guy. His life is over, yours doesn’t have to be.
Sam: You want me to turn against my own brother?
She says they already caught Dean red handed at the murder scene, and offers to make a deal for Sam if he gives them some information. Sam appears to consider it, suddenly distraught, then starts spinning a story for her – that is entirely fabricated.
His face goes into pure puppy dog eyes mode, the one that Dean always says will work on anyone. And damned if it doesn’t. I mean, look at those eyes, that floppy hair. How could it not?
As Sam is talking to her, saying that their dad and Tony Giles were old friends, we get a flashback that tells the real story.
Sam: Who’s Anthony Giles?
Dean shows him a newspaper headline about a man whose throat was slit without a trace, no DNA, no prints, nothing on the security camera. Sam wonders if it’s an invisible killer.
Eyelashes. Mmm. Sorry…
Anyway, Sam, invisible killer…
Dean: My favorite kind. What do you think, Scully? You wanna check it out?
Sam (mock affronted): I’m not Scully, you’re Scully.
Dean: (enjoying this way too much) No, I’m Mulder. You’re a red headed woman.
Back in the present, Sam insists Dean couldn’t have killed Tony since they weren’t in town at the time, and insists they went to see Karen to try to support her and be there for her.
Another flashback to what really happened, Sam and Dean posing as insurance agents investigating Karen’s husband’s death. Sam is empathic as always, saying he’s sorry for her loss. Dean, meanwhile, is not exactly managing empathy.
Dean: Did Tony mention anything, you know, unusual to you in the days before his death? Like, strange?
Dean: You know Karen, weird? Weird noises, visions, anything like that?
Sam pointedly clears his throat and gives Dean a cut it out look, quickly changing his expression back to concerned empathy whenever Karen glances at him.
Sam and Dean have an entire nonverbal conversation without saying a word, as they often do, and Jared and Jensen pull this off perfectly and it’s hilarious.
Dean’s weird questions do let them find out that Tony was having nightmares about a woman standing at the foot of the bed before he died.
Dean: Did he say what she looked like?
Karen (looking at Dean like he has two heads) What the hell difference does it make what she looked like?
Dean: Uhhh, it’s just that…our company’s very thorough.
Turns out she was pale and had dark red eyes. Hmm.
In the present, Sam finishes his story, which Ballard does not believe, saying they have a witness who saw the Winchesters breaking into Giles’ office. Sam quickly – and oh so smoothly – revises his story, saying that they had a key from Karen and went back to get her some personal stuff.
Back into puppy dog eyed sincerity we go!
In reality, the next flashback shows Sam picking the lock to get in, police yellow tape across the door. They’re not sure what they’re looking for, but they find something strange – a bunch of papers with DANASHULPSDANASHULPSDANASHULPS printed again and again. Sam even finds the letters on the glass table when he breathes on it to make them show up.
Dean: Huh. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Sam: Wow, I’d say we’ve officially crossed over into weird.
They go through all the files, but don’t find anything with that name.
Dean (exasperated): There’s not a single mention of a Dana Shulps anywhere. There’s not a D. Shulps or any other kind of friggen’ Shulps.
Sam hasn’t found anything either, but thinks he can probably hack into Giles’ computer soon, “thirty minutes maybe.”
Dean looks at his watch, impatient already.
Dean: Awesome. So I guess I just get to…hang out… Awesome.
As Sam tries to concentrate, Dean fidgets and makes noises, clicking and raspberries and a bunch of other thoroughly distracting things.
Sam: Dude, seriously.
Dean is instantly relieved. He jumps up and announces he’ll go talk to Karen again about Dana Shulps.
Sam: (equally relieved) Great.
Dean: Keep going, Sparky.
He shines his flashlight on Sam to annoy him one last time.
All of us: Brothers…
In the present at the police station, Ballard insists to Sam that “your brother left you to go murder Karen” but Sam resolutely defends Dean, insisting he didn’t kill anyone.
In the flashback, Karen is at home, grieving, alone with the TV on when a dark figure looks in the window. It’s the stereotypical horror movie woman home alone in a dark house and the phone goes dead when she tries to call 911 but it’s well done and pretty scary. In this case, the fax machine (haha, fax machine…it’s 2006…) starts spitting out DANASHULPSDANASHULPSDANASHULPS.
Karen, terrified, finds a flashlight finally – only to illuminate a ghost with dripping red eyes.
She screams as we cut to…
Dean knocking on the door, asking Karen if she’s in there. He picks the lock when there’s no answer, searching through the dark house. He finds Karen lying on the floor dead, in a pool of blood. And the fax paper with its weird message.
Dean: Seriously, what the hell??
He notices her bruised wrists, and just as he’s holding up her hand, we hear:
Freeze, stay on your knees, hands where I can see them!
Dean looks like he can’t believe he got caught in such a compromising position as they yank his arms back and cuff him.
Poor Dean, wrong place wrong time.
Jump back to the present at the police station, Sheridan and Ballard frustrated because they’re not getting anywhere with either Winchester.
Ballard: Sam’s story matches Dean’s to the last detail.
Sheridan: Yeah well, these guys are good, I’ll give ‘em that.
Damn right – they’re not the LOSEchesters!
Sheridan thinks they have enough to convict Dean finding him at the crime scene with blood on his hands, but Ballard doesn’t – no murder weapon, no motive. Sheridan tries to convince her, bringing up the defense lawyer Tony who was killed, and Ballard agrees, suggesting they get back to interrogating.
Sheridan: No, you know what? Let them stew in their juices for a bit.
He kisses her, which is cringey because we already know he’s at least a little bit creepy. Come on Linda Blair, you can do better!
Meanwhile, both Sam and Dean are on the same wavelength still even though they’ve been separated this entire time. Sam is scribbling DANASHULPS as Dean theorizes that maybe it’s not a name. Sam starts writing it in different combinations as Dean keeps muttering to himself too, both of them trying to work it out and more concerned about saving people hunting things than the fact that they’re both in a police station facing big trouble.
I love how much this episode shows us about how far Sam and Dean have come in their working partnership – how smoothly they coordinate, how well they can predict each other, how they can send messages that no one else will understand.
Dean’s not-exactly-high-powered lawyer joins him, saying he’s his public defender.
Dean: Oh thank god, I’m saved.
I might have laughed out loud, Ackles’ delivery was so spot on. Gotta love Dean’s continued snarkiness even when he’s in handcuffs. He asks to borrow some paper, and as the lawyer starts going through the situation, Dean is furiously writing just like Sam is.
In Sam’s cell: Anagram maybe?
Dean: I think it’s an anagram.
Lawyer: A what?
Both Sam and Dean are furiously writing different combinations of letters.
Sam and Dean simultaneously: Maybe it’s not a name.
Me: I love it when they talk at the same time.
Dean asks the PD to see if he recognizes any of the words he’s written down.
Lawyer (incredulous): Do you understand how serious these charges are?
Dean: I’m handcuffed to a table – yeah I get it, humor me.
The lawyer reluctantly does, recognizing that Ashland is a street name near there. The lawyer goes back to asking questions, but Dean writes something else and interrupts, handing the lawyer the paper.
Dean: Can you get in to see my brother?
Lawyer: Mr. Winchester, you could be facing the death penalty here.
Dean: Hey thanks for the law review, Matlock. But if you wanna help me, I need you to see my brother.
Meanwhile, Ballard is starting to get a clue that something is fishy with this case. She’s typing up a report when her typewriter suddenly starts typing the same words over and over. You guessed it – DANASHULPS. She looks freaked out, blinks and it’s gone.
Dean’s lawyer brings Sam the paper: “Hilts – it’s a street. Ashland. – McQueen.”
Lawyer: I hope that’s meaningful, but I’d like to discuss your case now.
Sam: Sure thing, Matlock.
Lawyer: You two really are brothers, aren’t you?
Me: SUCH brothers. SO brothers.
Ballard interrupts to say they need the lawyer “with the other one,” saying that Dean has decided to confess. The beleaguered PD tries to say that’s not a good idea, but Dean entertains them all as he looks into the camera and makes his “confession”. Which sounds more like a dating app ad. It’s a sequence that’s a popular meme in the fandom that most fans can recite verbatim.
Dean: My name is Dean Winchester. I’m an Aquarius, I enjoy sunsets, long walks on the beach, and frisky women. And I did not kill anyone.
Dean’s got some puppy dog eyes of his own sometimes.
They don’t work on this Sheridan guy though.
Instead of confessing, Dean lays out what he’s figured out about the case so far – that Tony Giles and Karen saw some kind of vengeful spirit and that it’s trying to warn them of something, maybe about an Ashland Street.
He holds up the DANASHULPS paper and Ballard suddenly looks shaken.
Sheridan, however, is outraged.
Sheridan: You arrogant bastard! Tony and Karen were good people and you’re making jokes.
Dean: I’m not joking, Ponch.
He insists that it wasn’t him who murdered the young woman in St. Louis either, but a shapeshifter, and smiles at the camera.
That face though.
Sheridan is not nearly as impressed as me by Dean’s charm. He loses it, grabbing Dean by the collar and hauling him up out of his seat, slamming him against the wall.
Tough job, actor who plays Sheridan.
Sheridan: Lock his ass up.
He summons some guards and Dean is shoved against the wall, still managing to look cocky as hell.
There are alot of gifs of this, as you might imagine.
The cops return to Sam’s interrogation room to find it empty, an open window four stories up without a fire escape making his escape seem unlikely – if you underestimate the Winchesters.
Ballard: These two guys…
(I feel like she’s as impressed as we are, though).
She hands Sheridan the note.
Sheridan: Hilts and McQueen?
Ballard: Hilts is Steve McQueen’s character – in The Great Escape.
Like I said, they are not the LOSEChesters. I love love love these episodes when Sam and Dean are so effing smart and competent and working in perfect sync. Mmm. Linda Blair gets it.
Ballard goes to the bathroom and the lights start to flicker and we all know what that means, except poor Ballard. The water comes on by itself, steaming up the mirror as all the faucets turn on, clouds of steam rising and then DANASHULPS appears on the mirror. Ballard wipes it away and sees the ghost with a cut throat behind her, trying to communicate with her.
Ballard is genuinely freaked out now, so she goes to Dean to find out more, saying “let’s pretend you’re not entirely insane…” Dean is snarky until he sees her bruised wrists, similar to what he saw on Karen. He tells her it probably has something to do with the spirit, created by a violent death.
Dean: I know you think you’re going crazy, but let’s skip that part, shall we? Because the last two people who saw this thing died pretty soon after. You hear me? You need to go to Sam. He’ll help.
Ballard is shocked that Dean is giving up his brother, but Dean continues.
Dean: Go to the first motel listed in the Yellow Pages and look for Jim Rockford. It’s how we find each other when we’re separated. Now you can arrest him if you want – or you can let him save your life.
Dean is a damn good judge of people. And once again, I love how this episode shows us how the brothers work together so well, even when they’re not actually together. It’s brilliant!
Ballard is freaked out enough to listen to Dean. She finds the motel and knocks, and Sam – to his credit I guess – lets her in. She’s still conflicted, but who else can she go to for help?
Ballard: I must be losing my mind – you’re a fugitive! I should be arresting you.
Sam: You can arrest me later, all right? After you live through this.
That’s the Winchesters – always putting helping other people ahead of their own needs. (Happy sigh) Sam is matter of fact about it when she questions how he accessed photos from crime scenes.
Sam: (shrug) You have your job, I have mine.
Ballard is able to identify the ghost who was trying to talk to her as Claire, who Sam finds out was arrested for dealing heroin in the past. While Ballard doesn’t remember arresting her, she does say that both she and her colleague Pete (the creepy guy) worked narcotics before homicide.
Conveniently, they know that Claire was last seen entering a building on Ashland Street, so Sam and Ballard head there to try to find her and burn her bones.
Sam: That’s the only way to put her spirit to rest.
Ballard: Of course it is.
Have I mentioned that Linda Blair is excellent as Ballard? She nails the subtle comedic moments as well as she nails the fear and the creepy she was known for in The Exorcist. The two search the dark deserted warehouse by flashlight, and as soon as they split up, the ghost of Claire startles Ballard again.
She calls for Sam and tells him she was reaching out to her from over by the window, so Sam moves some shelving and investigates. As soon as the shelves are moved, sun streams through the window, which is labeled ASHLAND SUPPLIES on the outside. The shadow cast on the wall is the slightly garbled backwards letters of DANASHULPS the ghost was writing everywhere, which is honestly pretty cool.
Smart Sam pulls out the trusty ol’ EMF meter and it goes off around one brick wall, so Sam takes a conveniently available sledgehammer and starts demolishing it, putting his flashlight through the opening when it’s large enough, and then breaking through more when he realizes there is definitely something in there behind the wall.
Sam: This is bothering me.
Ballard: Well, you are digging up a corpse.
Sam: No, not that, that’s pretty par for the course actually.
What doesn’t make sense, though, is why a vengeful spirit would want anyone to find her remains. They pull out the body, which luckily for them (and us) is wrapped up.
Sam cuts the ropes tightly wound around her wrists, and both Sam and Ballard realize that her wrists would be bruised just like Ballard’s are. Then Ballard notices something even more striking – the corpse is wearing a custom made necklace just like one she has. From (creepy) Pete.
I knew he was creepy!
Sam realizes that Claire is actually a death omen, trying to warn them and get justice for her murder – who is probably Ballard’s creepy partner. She puts two and two together, remembering some heroin that went missing from lockup, obviously a cop. Claire was probably the dealer who fenced that product, and when something went wrong, Pete killed her.
Just as we know that Pete is a bad guy, we jump to said bad guy driving a transport van – with Dean in the back.
When Ballard calls, they tell her that he said the prisoner had to be transferred and just took him and now he won’t answer the radio. That can’t be good.
They weren’t counting on Smart Sam, though, who will stop at nothing when someone has his brother.
Sam: He took a County vehicle? Get the Lojack turned on.
Meanwhile, Dean knows this can’t be good.
Dean: Being extradited to St. Louis, huh? And you just decided to transfer me yourself, 800 miles? At 2 am? This can’t be good…
It isn’t. The van stops in the middle of nowhere. Dean is still sassy.
Dean: Pee break, so soon? Might wanna get your prostate checked.
He curses as Sheridan stalks around to the back of the van.
Dean: Sonofabitch… Hey I’m cool in the van, you go do what you gotta do…
Sheridan drags him out and tosses him, cuffed, to the ground.
Sheridan: You’re a cocky sonofabitch.
All of us watching: Mm hmm.
He pulls out his gun and points it at Dean, saying he’s gonna die trying to escape.
Dean tries to stall for time, saying let’s talk about this, you don’t want to do something you’ll regret later.
Sheridan cocks the gun.
Dean: Or maybe you do…
Just then, Sam and Ballard arrive and she tells him to put the gun down, that she knows about Claire. He insists he had no choice, that Claire was going to turn him in, that Tony had helped him scrub the money but then wanted to come clean and told his wife all about it.
Sam and Dean exchange a loaded look, Dean shaking his head, warning Sam not to put himself in danger, protective big brother even cuffed on his knees with a gun pointed at his head. But he’s right, now Sam is in danger too.
Sheridan tells Ballard that “this Dean kid is a friggen’ gift” and the whole thing can be pinned on him, “just one more dead scumbag.”
Sheridan pleads with Ballard, saying he still loves her, and she lowers her gun. He thanks her and turns to shoot Dean, but Ballard shoots him instead and Dean rolls out of the way.
Ballard: Then why don’t you buy me another necklace, you ass?
He fights back, though, and manages to get the gun again – but then Claire is there, bloody and grinning at her murderer.
Ballard gets another shot off, and this time it kills Sheridan.
Ballard is shaken, but Pete’s confession is enough for her to say that she thinks she can get Sam and Dean’s cases dismissed, though she can’t help with the St. Louis murder charges.
Ballard: Unless… I just happened to turn my back and you walked away. I could just tell them that the suspects escaped.
Sam: Wait, are you sure?
Dean: Yeah, she’s sure, Sam!
Sam is endlessly empathic, worrying that she could lose her job, but Ballard is sure.
Ballard: Look, I just want you guys out there doing what you do best. Trust me, I’ll sleep better at night.
Dean asks about the car and she says it’s in an impound yard but “don’t even think about it”. Sam smoothly assures her they won’t, knowing all the while that they absolutely WILL steal her back. And he does it so well!
She warns them to watch their back and sends them on their way (to find the Impala at the impound yard.)
I love this ending, Sam and Dean walking off down the road together.
Sam: Nice lady.
Dean: Yeah, for a cop. Did she look familiar to you?
Sam: No, not really, why?
Dean: I don’t know. Anyway, are you hungry? For some reason I could really go for some pea soup…
Nice little shout out to Linda Blair’s most iconic role.
They shove each other playfully as they walk away, and I end up with a big smile on my face. Those are my boys, doing what they do out there to save the world, and even Linda Blair knows it.
I love the way Mike Rohl directed this episode, cutting back and forth between what’s happening with Sam and what’s happening with Dean, amping up the suspense and showing the symmetry between the brothers even when they’re separated.
Stay tuned for more of Supernatural Season 2 rewatch coming up!
Beautiful caps by spndeangirl.
You can remember Supernatural in the
actors’ own words in Family Don’t End
With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When
You Are Done – links on the home page
7 thoughts on “Linda Blair Allies with the Winchesters in ‘The Usual Suspects’ – Supernatural Rewatch”
Great review Lynn, thanks for all the pictures too.
This was such a good episode, populated with so much life it could have taken place in our world, rather then the fantasy world the show moved to. The gritty reality made this episode so strong and quite creepy.
Linda Blair shone like the star she is and we were so lucky Eric Kripke was able to get her to take part in what was a very young, obscure show by writing her such a magnificent strong part. It was a shame Diana wasn’t seen again. Couple of fun facts, Linda was born in St Louis and she appeared in Airport 1975 alongside Erik Estrada who played Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello, which is the nickname Dean gives her partner Pete.
We get treated to smart Dean and smart Sam both doing their thing in a way that shows their individuality and their respective strengths, which equals a very happy audience! It cleverly took all the groundwork done in all the preceding episodes as the brothers grew and evolved as brothers and men, the skills they built up without their Dad and ran with it showing them as professional, competent and caring forcing those outsiders around them to re-examine their preconceived notions. Season 2 is filled with such good episodes and are a joy to revisit with clever storylines, a realist world full of detail that really engage and entertain.
I had no idea there was that little backstory connecting Linda Blair and ‘Ponch’! I agree she was fabulous in this episode, and from the bts photos out there, she seemed to really enjoy herself too. Which, not surprising!
This episode is definitely one of the classics. So well written, casted, acted, and directed. I recognized Jason Gedrick immediately as Pete. He’s a really good actor I remembered from the show Murder One from the 90s, which I loved.
And I loved how you highlighted all the great brotherly moments here. They are the core of my love for our little show!
Jason did such a great job of being smarmy in this episode – made the character memorable.
I love how smart the boys are in this episode! It was interesting to see how they planned ways to find each other in an emergency. It was cool to see Linda Blair. I loved her in “Roller Boogie” when I was a kid. I was able to meet her about five years ago at a local con. I had her sign my Supernatural coffee table book, but told her how much I loved “Roller Boogie.” It was the best of both worlds for me!
This was a strong episode but I have it ranked at number 16 for season 2 (behind Folsom Prison Blues and ahead of Roadkill). It seems like a low ranking but season 2 is just that good. The worse episodes of the season would rank very high during a Dabb era season.
Totally agree, this entire season is amazing. There are no episodes that aren’t excellent, and some are near the top of my list of all episodes. I love when fandoms collide like that – glad you were able to tell Linda you appreciated her in both!