Tall Tales is one of those episodes that felt like FUN, despite some typical Supernatural monstrous happenings and, of course, people dying. But still, FUN. It was also a great episode to showcase Sam and Dean’s relationship as brothers. For better or worse! And, of course, it introduced us to Richard Speight, Jr. as the Trickster.
The ‘Then’ segment reminds us that Sam and Dean have pranked each other in the past, as brothers do, from Nair in the hair to Dean’s hand stuck to his beer bottle, Sam and Dean taunting each other with “That’s all you got?” and “Bring it on, Baldy!” And lots of calling each other ‘bitch’ and ‘jerk’ which at this point (rewatching the series after it has ended), just makes me tear up because we know now exactly what those words mean when the Winchesters say them to each other.
Sigh. I miss my Show.
This episode opens with a professor walking to his office building at night, encountering an attractive young woman hanging out waiting for him, inexplicably dressed in a little sundress even though it’s cold and other people have jackets on.
She shows off her legs and he doesn’t notice, and he initially does try to get her to come back during office hours. He’s reluctant to respond to her flirty advances and hero worship until she finally says okay, I should go, and turns to leave. Then he changes his tune, saying he understands what she’s feeling. He shows his true narcissist colors by saying it’s natural, since he’s “somewhat of a celeb around here”. I had to cringe on behalf of professors everywhere when he said that. Nice touch of what his latest book is about though.
He kisses her even as he says it would be wrong for him to take advantage of her, and then… her face starts to disintegrate. Because this is Supernatural. He recoils in horror.
Zombie woman: What, you don’t like me anymore?
Outside the building, a janitor played by Richard Speight, Jr. watches as the professor’s body falls from the window high above, head splattered on the stones in a pool of blood.
Of course at the time that was not newsworthy (the janitor, that is). But now, on rewatch, we all squealed because Richard has joined Supernatural! He will become an integral part of the SPNFamily over the next 15 going on forever years.
ONE WEEK LATER
Sam is researching, as a Joe Walsh song plays on the radio. He’s clearly annoyed at his brother, who’s munching on something on Sam’s bed.
Sam: Dude, you mind not eating those on MY bed?
Dean (as he stuffs more in his mouth and licks his fingers enthusiastically): No, I don’t mind.
Boys. I love how Supernatural always gets it so right. They are such brothers.
Sam is also annoyed that he doesn’t have his computer, and that Dean has the music turned up so loud. He asks Dean to turn it down, even saying please.
Dean (turning it up instead): Yeah, absolutely.
Dean is kinda a dick in this part, much as I love him.
Sam: You know what? Maybe you should just go somewhere for a while!
Dean retorts that he’d love to, but his car is all screwed to hell, and they start arguing that each had nothing to do with the other’s stuff being messed up, when Bobby knocks on the motel room door and interrupts them. I like the glimpses we get of their motel rooms too, this one grungy and dark but apparently with a little kitchen (and lots of empty pizza and takeout boxes).
They’re relieved he’s there, saying they need fresh eyes on the case they’re working, and Sam starts to tell the story of what happened.
Flashback to Sam in a college town bar talking with Curtis, wearing a jock jacket, and Jen, saying the professor who died was a big deal and maybe he didn’t kill himself. Curtis scoffs, but Jen says Crawford Hall is supposed to be haunted after a girl having an affair with a professor jumped from Room 669.
Jen: Get it? You turn the 9 upside down… Nobody lives to tell the tale.
Curtis (deadpan): Then how does the tale get told?
A+ writing on this one, by John Shiban. Sam goes to update Dean, and finds him with a woman knocking back drinks one after the other – purple nurples. (Fun fact: The first few Supernatural conventions all had the hotel bars serve purple nurples. They were actually not bad).
Sam tries to get Dean to come with him to check on the office building, but Dean says no.
Dean: Oh no no no, I can’t right now, got a feisty little wildcat on the hook and I’m about to zzzzzz reel her in. I’ll introduce you…
Sam tries to protest as Dean introduces Sam to Starla, drunk and smiling as she tries not to lose her drinks, giggling and wearing a short skirt and fishnet stockings and lots of makeup.
Dean: Starla, this is my shuttle copilot.
Dean to Sam: Hey, good news, she’s got a sister.
Dean and Starla grin at Sam encouragingly.
Sam is less than enthused.
At that moment in the present, Dean interrupts, protesting that’s not how it happened and that he doesn’t say things like feisty little wildcat and that her name wasn’t Starla.
Sam: What was it then?
Dean admits he doesn’t know but insists she was a classy chick, a grad student in anthropology and folklore talking about local ghost stories.
Bobby looks from Sam to Dean like WTF is going on?
Back to the flashback, this time from Dean’s pov. Now Starla’s in a classy black cocktail dress and much less inebriated.
Starla: My god, you are attractive.
Dean: Thanks, but no time for that now. Tell me about this urban legend. Lives are at stake.
Starla: Sorry I just can’t concentrate, it’s like staring into the sun…
They kiss as Sam walks up, with what would become the famous Sam Winchester bitch face in evidence. (Also fun fact, in the early days of SPN fandom, we all used the phrase ‘it’s like staring into the sun’ to describe Jensen and Jared. For obvious reasons.)
Sam (demanding): Dean, what do you think you’re doing?!
Dean: Sam please, if you wouldn’t mind, give me five minutes here.
Sam: Dean this is a very serious investigation. We don’t have any time for your blah blah blah blah…Blah blah blah blah…
Dean kisses Starla as Sam keeps blahblahblah-ing (hilariously, all the props to Jared Padalecki’s comedic genius)
And then Sam interrupts in the present.
Sam: I don’t sound like that, Dean!
Dean: That’s what you sound like to me…
Bobby is confused, asking what’s going on and accurately pointing out that they’re bickering like an old married couple.
Dean: No, see, married couples can get divorced – me and him, we’re like Siamese twins…
Sam: It’s conjoined twins!
Dean: See what I mean?
Classic Sam eyeroll!
They say they’ve probably just been on the road too long, but Bobby’s not so sure.
Sam goes back to telling the story, that they figured out that it might be a haunting and went to check out the scene of the crime. The janitor aka Richard shows them around, asking what the heck the EMF meter is for. Sam says it’s to find wires in the walls. The janitor notes that it’s not gonna do the professor much good since he’s dead, which… point.
The janitor also says that he saw the professor with a young lady in his office, and that it wasn’t the first time – that “Mister Morality” brought lots of girls up there, getting “more ass than a toilet seat.”
Meanwhile, Dean starts eating some nuts out of a bowl. A lot of nuts. He ends up with his mouth as full as a chipmunk gathering acorns for the long winter and it’s frankly hilarious. Poor Jensen, making that choice for Dean to be a bit of a glutton and then having to stuff his mouth with all sorts of things over 15 seasons haha.
Back at the motel, despite their bickering, Dean still pops open a beer for Sam and puts it down in front of him. Sam opens his laptop to research and accuses Dean of being on his computer, since it’s frozen on BustyAsianBeauties.com. Dean considers, looks a little guilty, then walks out of the room.
Sam: Dean, would you just – don’t touch my stuff anymore, okay?
Dean: Why don’t you control your OCD?!
Bobby in the present: Okay, but did you dig up anything on the building or the suicidal coed?
When they say no, Bobby says it’s not a haunting, and Sam and Dean actually agree on something – that the case got pretty weird from there. Which is, actually, an understatement.
The next flashback is told by Dean, as the jock guy Curtis relates how he walked across campus at night and got suddenly pulled up in the air by a beam of light.
Bobby (incredulous): Aliens?
Bobby is skeptical, but the brothers say they still had to talk to the guy. Flashback to Curtis in the bar as Dean encourages him to try some purple nurples and Sam asks him what happened. Curtis is traumatized, saying they won’t believe him, and that if he talks, it has to be off the record. We see what he remembers – lying on an examination table with aliens bending over him – stereotypical little green men no less.
Sam: Then what?
Curtis: They did tests on me, and uh…they…huh… they probed me.
Sam tries not to laugh as Dean repeats incredulously, they probed you?
Curtis: Yeah, they probed me. Again and again and…again…and again… And then one more time.
Sam and Dean share a sympathetic look.
Curtis: And that’s not even the worst of it.
Dean: How could it get any worse? Some alien made you his bitch!
He tries to look more serious as Sam glares at him, like empathy, man.
Curtis: They…they made me slow dance.
We hear ‘Lady in Red’ as Curtis dances with a snuggling alien and Sam and Dean share a look, speechless.
In the present, Bobby says either the boys are exaggerating or the frat guy was just nuts, but Sam and Dean say they’re not so sure.
Flashback again, and they find a circle of scorched ground that looks like it was made by some kind of jet engine.
Dean: What the hell?
Sam: I don’t know.
Dean: Seriously dude, what the hell?
Sam: I don’t know!
They talk to another college student who knows Curtis, Dean telling the story. In his version, empathic Sam is overcome by his own empathy, saying he knows this has to be so hard.
Guy: Um, not so much…
Sam: But I want you to know I’m here for you, you brave little soldier, I acknowledge your pain. Come here, you’re too precious for this world…
Sam wraps the guy up in a hug as Dean gives him an apologetic look.
And then Sam interrupts in the present.
Sam: I never said that!
Dean: You’re always saying pansy stuff like that.
It’s 2006, and Supernatural is sometimes both misogynistic and homophobic and unfortunately that’s one of Dean’s favorite ways of trying to put Sam down. Interestingly, Sam never takes the bait or does the same, either less homophobic or more comfortable with himself in terms of sexuality throughout the series.
Back in the flashback, the guy says that Curtis actually had it coming, that he was a sadistic pledge master who put them through hell, so now he knows how they felt. Sam and Dean realize there’s at least one connection between the victims – they’re both dicks.
As they leave, in spite of their ongoing squabbling, Dean grips Sam’s shoulder reassuringly.
More props to Padalecki for those amazing faces!
And then we get to another fun part.
Sam accuses Dean of taking his laptop, which is missing.
Sam: Okay, hilarious, where did you hide it?
Dean: What, your computer?
He seems truly clueless, but Sam can’t imagine who else could have done it, since they keep the door locked and don’t let any maids in.
Dean: Looks like you lost it, Poindexter.
Sam (pissed): Dude, you know something? I put up with a lot from you!
Dean: What’re you talking about, I’m a joy to be around.
Sam describes his dirty socks in the sink, his food in the fridge, and Dean asks what’s wrong with his food?
Sam: It’s not food anymore, Dean, it’s Darwinism!
They keep arguing, and Sam asks how would Dean feel if he screwed with the Impala?
Not good, clearly.
Back in the present, Bobby asks the obvious question – did Dean take Sam’s computer? Dean insists he didn’t, though it would serve him right.
Then they tell Bobby the story of one more victim, who was a researcher doing animal testing.
Dean: Yeah, you know, a dick. Which fits the pattern.
A little shout out anti animal testing, yay Supernatural!
The guy sees an expensive watch in the sewer as he’s walking across campus and tries to reach it through the grate, which is always always a bad idea in a horror show so we all start going oh no oh no even though we all know what’s going to happen.
Suddenly something grabs him from below, the guy screaming as blood splatters up from the sewer.
Later the boys break into a basement lab to investigate what happened to the guy, the scene lit only by flashlights. I love when the Show does that.
They uncover the guy’s body, ripped apart.
Sam: Looks like something was hungry.
Smart Sam discovers what looks like a belly scale embedded in the victim – like from an alligator. An alligator in the sewer. Another classic urban legend that has never been proven real, just like alien abduction.
They decide to call Bobby, but split up to search the sewers anyway.
Bobby in the present: Did you find anything?
Dean: Yeah, I found something, just not in the sewer.
In the flashback, Dean pops up from the sewer to find the Impala with four flat tires, and Sam’s money clip engraved with SW on it lying beside the scene of the crime (which honestly does not seem like something Sam would have at all, but whatever).
Dean confronts Sam back at the motel, but Sam insists he didn’t go near the car.
Dean: Oh yeah? Huh. Then how’d I find this?
He holds up the money clip, and Sam realizes it’s not in his pocket and demands that Dean give him back his money. Dean refuses, saying it’s for reparations, for his emotional trauma.
Sam: Very funny – give it back!
Sam tries to grab it, Dean pulls away, and Sam tackles Dean, the two falling onto the bed and getting into an epic wrestling match which is one of the most popular gifs in the Supernatural fandom. Jared and Jensen killed it, going all out and their faces alone making me laugh every single time I see it.
Bobby: I’ve heard enough. I’m surprised at you two.
He says Dean didn’t take Sam’s laptop and Sam didn’t touch Dean’s car, much to Sam and Dean’s surprise.
Bobby: And if you two bothered to pull your heads outta your asses, it woulda been pretty clear what you’re dealing with.
Sam and Dean: Wha?
Bobby: You got a trickster on your hands. It knows you’re onto him and it’s been playing you two like fiddles.
Dean: I knew it!
Sam: You did not know it!
The Trickster joins Supernatural lore, a demigod who’s immortal and can create things out of thin air and make them vanish too. They target the high and mighty and knock them down a peg, often with a sense of humor.
The brothers, back in hunting mode, realize that the one human who’s been at ground zero this whole time is none other than the janitor.
Cut to the janitor lounging in his apartment, cheesy music playing, reading the National Enquirer where all his deadly pranks could be pulled from the headlines, and hugging his cute little dog. He’s got on red boxers and a white tee shirt, surrounded by a table full of treats and sweets and a glass of champagne. He conjures two beautiful women in lingerie to feed him the food.
The next day, he lets Sam and Dean into the building again, saying he’s dragging ass a little, wild time last night.
Trickster: Lots of sex, if you catch my drift.
Dean: Yeah, hard not to.
Sam suddenly says he forgot something in the truck and goes to get it, pulling out a lockpick and going through the lockers in the basement. He finds a copy of Weekly World News with the headline “Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders”.
The next thing we see is Sam and Dean arguing outside the building.
Dean: You probably missed something.
Sam: I don’t miss things!
Dean: Oh right, cause you’re Mr. Perfect.
Sam: What? Are you really still pissed at me cause of what the trickster did?
Dean: You’ve been a tight ass long before that tricktser showed up.
They glare at each other – as the Trickster watches from a fourth story window.
Sam finally goes to check out the trickster’s place, telling Dean to stay there, Dean agreeing with a reluctant and exasperated “Okay!”
We don’t realize that this is all a very well acted ploy, as Dean waits a while and then says ‘ah screw this’ and goes inside, climbing the stairs with his flashlight and carrying a big wooden stake.
Suddenly, incongruously, he hears Barry White music, walking into an auditorium to “We’ve shared love and we’ve made love…can’t get enough of your love, baby” and two scantily clad women on a big round velvet bed.
They crawl towards Dean, saying they’ve been waiting for him. Dean tells them (and himself) they’re not real.
Ladies: Trust me, sugar, it’s gonna feel real…
He looks a little flustered to be honest, as one of the women offers to give him a massage.
The Trickster enters, saying they’re a peace offering – that he knows what Sam and Dean do and that the victims got what was coming to them anyway, hoisted on their own petards. He suggests that the brothers treat themselves, giving him time to get away.
Dean: Yeah, I don’t think I can can let you do that. Can’t let you keep hurting people.
The two face off, the Trickster saying he doesn’t want to hurt Dean and Dean admitting that he likes the Trickster’s style, slow dancing alien, etc. But still, he can’t let him go.
Trickster: Too bad, I like you. But Sam was right, you shouldn’t have come alone.
Dean agrees, and Sam walks in with Bobby, armed with stakes. The Trickster realizes their fight was staged, and has some grudging admiration for their trick. Meanwhile, I’m not sure why Dean gave away the element of surprise that they set up so carefully. Hmm.
A rather epic fight ensues, the Trickster conjuring guys with chainsaws while the lingerie-clad women beat up Dean, one dragging him up and the other tossing him back and forth while they laugh rather delightedly. Can’t actually say I totally blame them as Dean’s shirt rides up and shows off some belly – not the beating him up part, but the having Dean Winchester between them? Not so bad.
The Trickster also enjoys the show from the comfort of his seat in the auditorium.
Sam and Bobby fight the chain saw guys while the Trickster watches, eating a candy bar and clapping when the ladies throw Dean into the seats near him.
Trickster: Dean, Dean, Dean…I didn’t want to have to do this…
But Sam and Dean pull off the last trick, Sam tossing a stake to Dean and Dean stabbing the trickster.
Dean: Me neither.
The women and the chainsaw guys disappear, the Winchesters and Bobby leave and the Trickster falls into a seat, seemingly dead.
Dean laments that the Trickster had style, then groans and stumbles outside.
The brothers say their goodbyes to Bobby, thanking him for his help. Sam and Dean pause at the car, looking at each other over her roof as they often did at the end of episodes in the early seasons. The ‘BM’ as it’s described in ‘Fan Fiction’. No, not that – the Brother Moment (TM).
Sam: Look Dean, um… I just wanna say that I’m…umm…
Dean: Hey. Me too.
They exchange a look, full of emotion.
Bobby: You guys are breakin’ my heart, can we please just leave?
Back in the auditorium, the Trickster’s body is still there, but another identical trickster walks up and the body goes away. Another conjured trick. Smiling, the Trickster takes a bite of his candy bar…
And happily, yes, we did see him. And Richard Speight, Jr. Again.
And the Winchesters’ relationship is back on track, as they climb in Baby and drive away.
Stayed tuned for more Supernatural as our rewatch continues!
Beautiful caps by spndeangirl
You can read chapters by Jared, Jensen,
Misha, Richard Speight Jr., Jim Beaver
and many more in Family Don’t End With
Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You
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