Welcome to our newest guest post series! Head Over Feels are finally filling our SuperWhoLock quota with “Salt vs. Sass: Dawn & Sarah take on Sam and Dean,” a Supernatural recap-a-thon! We’ll learn all about the family business through the eyes of veteran fan Dawn and n00b Sarah. They’ll be posting weekly, so now is the perfect moment to queue up your rewatch or pop your SPN cherry. Want to speak fluent SPN fangirl? Check out this handy Glossary of Terms.
Take it away, ladies! –S
Dawn Ferchak is a long-term Dean girl who occasionally has trouble resisting the King of Hell.
Sarah Bisman is an SPN newbie and professional crafter of one-line bios.
Sarah: I hate bugs. HATE THEM. I live in Brooklyn. I’m sure you’re all pretty familiar with our native varieties of horrific, ranging from bedbugs to ubiquitous summer mosquitos to disgusting cockroaches. (I know. Every place has insects. You can hate yours, and I’ll hate mine.) I’m ok with nonpoisonous spiders for the most part (sorry Dawn) though I give them a wide berth. But as a general rule, I do not enjoy creepy crawlies. And neither, I fear, will I enjoy this episode.
Dawn: Oh holy mother of fuck, there are going to be spiders, aren’t there? I BETTER SEE A WINCHESTER WITH HIS SHIRT OFF.
Season 1, Episode 8: Bugs
Written by Rachel Nave and Bill Coakley
Mini recap is all about the brothers this time. No flames. Just something to make sure everyone is clear on brothers.
Our first deadshirt of the episode is named Dustin. Poor Deadshirt!Dustin falls in a hole created by a bunch of murderous insects and breaks his ankle. While his pal is off looking for a rope, Deadshirt!Dustin is set upon by the aforementioned murderous insects, who do the expected after crawling all the fuck over this poor actor.
Sarah: Ok. OK. I’ll do a lot of things as an actor, but I don’t think there’s enough cash in any show’s weekly budget to get me to go through what Deadshirt!Dustin just went through. I don’t want that many icky crawling things on my skin, even if they’re harmless. SQUICK.
Dawn: They went into HIS EARS AND NOSE. I have never been more glad that I am a writer and not an actor.
Anyway, Deadshirt!Dustin is bleeding from the eyes, ears, and mouth (BECAUSE THERE ARE BUGS INSIDE OF HIS ORIFICES OH MY CROWLEY EWW EWW EWW).
Now we’ve cut to a puddle outside a motorcycle bar. Music blares from inside. This is much better. Thank everything.
Sam is reading an article about a mysterious death. He’s reading this in an actual paper. Everyone of a certain age is suddenly feeling nostalgic for the Sunday papers our parents used to subscribe to so we’d know what journalism was all about. That journalism was not often about mysterious deaths attributed to mad cow disease, unless possibly it was the New York Post, but that’s what Sam’s paper is all about.
Dean shows up, laughing and counting some cash he’s made hustling pool. Sam DISAPPROVES, conjuring all the power of his mighty bitchface. He notes that the brothers could get day jobs, but Dean counters this: “Hunting’s our day job. And the pay is…crap.” (He’s right!) Sam wants them to be honest. Dean wants to have fun. Dawn is totally with Dean. Sarah tries to control her (not at all) shocked face.
Sam wants to go to Oasis Plains, OK, where a gas company employee (henceforth known as D!D) died suddenly of mad cow disease. In a bug hole. Like you do.
Dean wants to know if this is the same thing that was discussed on Oprah.
Sam and both of us have the same reaction to the news that Dean watches Oprah.
Dean is super skeptical but Sam doesn’t buy the mad cow diagnosis. D!D’s brain disintegrated in under an hour.
The brothers drive to Oasis Plains, and we have our Alias of the Week: Uncle Dusty’s sad, sad nephews, all the better to hoodwink D!D’s coworker Travis into coughing up a little intel. But Travis isn’t buying it, so Dean lays on some flattery, which gets him everywhere, because Winchester Charm. Travis isn’t sure what happened. Uncle Dusty was a-ok until he died. But the doctors say it’s mad cow, and well…
The brothers ask Travis for a tour of the scene and end up at the icky icky sinkhole. Somebody’s got to go down there, according to Dean, who wants to flip for it (or so he says) but basically just brother-bullies Sam into going into the sinkhole.
Props here to Jared Padelecki, who clearly would have fuck-all to do with a bunch of bugs, because we never see him go down the sinkhole. We just cut to the brothers Winchester driving along in Baby, discussing Sam’s craaaazy discovery of bugs. In the dirt. Oh, Sammy. Good thing you’re pretty.
Sam’s weirded out because there was no evidence of tunnels or other animals. He notes that some beetles do eat meat. Dean thinks it’s a stretch. Sam wants to INVESTIGATE. Dean spots an informational barbecue in this new housing development and is suddenly also all about the investigation. And the free food.
Dean is very uncomfortable among the “normals.” Sam yearns for it; Dean is dismissive.
They arrive at the front door and are immediately mistaken for a couple. Sarah would have given the show way more props if they’d played it that way; Dawn assures her that hoyay will arrive soon enough. They explain immediately that they’re brothers and are looking for a house for their dad, who is “getting on in years.”
That really should have made the elder Mr. Winchester appear immediately to register his outrage at being passed off as an old dude, but no.
Developer Guy (aka Larry) introduces the brothers to his blonde wife Joanie (will she survive the episode? Odds are not in her favor, because SPN Life Lesson #24.) Linda Bloom, Head of Sales is next and also mistakes the brothers for a couple. This time Dean rolls with it, and Sarah is more impressed with the writers room immediately. Check the ass slap:
Dean is inside getting the tour from Larry, and notes, “Whoa. Someone likes bugs.”
Outside, Linda Bloom, Head of Sales, is giving Sam the hard sell about her steam shower. Sam is super uncomfortable until he notices that a creepy teenager has set a big ol’ tarantula on a path headed straight for Linda (Bloom, Head of Sales). He excuses himself, scoops up the spider (way to go! Eek!) and confronts the kid. The kid, Matthew, turns out to be Larry’s disgruntled teenage son. Who likes bugs.
Sarah: My vote is that he’s summoned some bug god made of bugs and everyone is going to die of grossouts.
Dawn: JUST TELL ME THE SPIDER IS GONE.
Also long-time watchers might recognize the actor, because he show up again in Season 8, playing a totally different character. That’s all we can say, because
Sam tries to make Matthew feel a little bit better about not fitting in with his folks, but before he can say much, Angry!Larry is stalking towards his son with murder in his eyes. He apologizes for his kid and sweeps him off to the patio, where he starts in on him.
Sam totally relates to Matthew because Sam wanted to play soccer. Dean had a very different growing up experience because bowhunting is a useful skill.
ANYWAY. A year ago, one of the development surveyors died of bees.
Back in Baby, the brothers try to Basil and Cecil their way to a supernatural reason that people are dying by creepy crawly. They decide to squat in an empty house. It’s Dean’s idea — he wants to try that steam shower. Dawn is very disappointed that we don’t get to see that.
We cut to Linda (Bloom! Head of Sales!) in her house. She’s watching a news report about an insecticide spraying, so she’s basically done for as a living person. Deadshirt!Linda is sitting on her bed when a spider crawls over her face. She brushes it off and gets in the shower, where she is promptly killed by terrible CGI spiders that freak her out, causing her to fall into her glass shower door. She bleeds out while spiders (looking significantly less CGI and significantly more OMG WHAT THE FUCK) crawl on her face. And this is Dawn:
We pause so Dawn can collect herself while Sarah gives thanks that she’s unlikely to be asked to do a shower scene at all, let alone with the cast of Arachnophobia.
Ok, we’re back.
Sam drags Dean away from the steam shower of his dreams so they can look into a death that’s just come in over the police scanner. Dawn would like to punch Sam because SHIRTLESS!DEAN and that door was not nearly open wide enough goddamnit. They arrive in a potential downpour, which slightly mollifies Dawn because Wet Winchesters, and they pretend to have wanted another look at the neighborhood. Larry lets them know that Linda (Bloom! Deadshirt of Sales!) has passed away in the night. He’s ferklempt because he had to identify Linda’s body. Dean and Sam let him excuse himself. They want in the house, anyway.
Upon inspection of the bathroom, they find a bunch of dead (and really fake, thank Crowley) spiders. Dean thinks maybe it was SpiderBoy! Sarah helpfully points out that he will probably be this episode’s red herring, as we’re only 18 minutes into the episode.
The brothers spot Matthew on a walkabout in the opposite direction of his house and trail him into the woods, where he’s communing with a praying mantis. He immediately pegs them as NOT wanting to buy a house. The brothers question Matt, because he tried to scare Deadshirt! of Sales with a spider the day before. He points out that his prank doesn’t explain the bees or Deadshirt!Dustin.
Matt is our Clued In Guest Star of the Week! His dad won’t listen, even though Matt has been trying to warn him that something weird is going on.
Sam super-sympathizes with Matt and tells him to ditch home as soon as he can for the green fields of College. Dean is having none of this because SPN Life Lesson #1. Matt takes them to a wooded area, where bugs can be heard, pretty loudly. Matt (our guest Basil too!) has been tracking bug populations for his AP science class. Bug populations have been gathering in this wooded area. Matt can’t figure out why.
Dean pulls a skull out of a giant pile of writhing earthworms and we cut to commercial so Sarah can go puke.
We catch up with the Winchesters, who have found a bunch of skeletons in this unmarked grave. They take a walk with skulls under Sam’s arm and chips on their shoulders. The have a fight about their father and his relationship to each of them. Sam feels like the family disappointment for wanting to be normal. Dean notes that he’s like the blonde chick in The Munsters. Which he totally is!
Sam doesn’t think their father will even want to see him when they do manage to track him down. Dean tells him that even when they weren’t speaking, his dad parent-stalked him at Stanford to make sure he was safe. Jensen Ackles really sells the moment, and how Dean always wants to take Sammy’s pain away:
Unfortunately, Sam isn’t convinced, and more kudos to Jared for bringing that with one simple expression:
They make their way to a Department of Anthropology where Alias of the Week #2 is Anthro 101 students. They show a random professor the bones, which he figures are about 170 years old and Native Americans. (He’s also Joe the Watcher, from Highlander: The Series, so we sort of trust him and also figure he’ll turn on our heroes eventually.) He sends them to a nearby reservation to get their questions answered.
We head for the reservation. Cue the pan flutes. REALLY? Really. Pan flutes and vaguely new-agey music. Ok. The brothers find Joe White Tree, who doesn’t buy their bullshit. He totally calls Dean out, earning cheers from both Sarah and Dawn: “You know who starts a sentence with ‘the truth is?’ Liars.”
Joe (who is portrayed admirably, even though he is forced to skip a few words here and there, in what was clearly a very white writer’s very white caricature of Native Americans) tells the brothers that 200 years ago, over the course of a week, the US Cavalry raped and slaughtered the tribe living on the land that’s now Oasis Plains. As he lay dying, the chief of that tribe vowed that no white man would live on that land undisturbed. (and fucking rightly so, say we).
As Sam notes, that basically means that anyone living in Oasis Plains is in danger at this time of year. “Larry built his neighborhood on cursed land.” Sam wants to break the curse. Dean notes that you can’t — you can only get out of its way. Dean has clearly seen Poltergeist. Off they speed to try and save Larry and family.
It’s already creepy and moonlit out. Matt sees some super creepy bug stuff happening in the yard outside. A mound of dirt explodes into cockroaches. Sarah leaps three feet and tries not to barf, while Dawn bats imaginary bugs off her own legs. Really, writers?
The underscoring is now very freaky. Dean is on the phone with Larry trying to convince him to leave the house for the night owing to a “gas leak.” Larry doesn’t buy his terrible impersonation of Travis. Sam gets on the phone with Matt on a separate call. Matt’s freaked because his backyard is a giant pile of roaches. Sam tells Matt to let his father in on what’s going on, but Dean has a far, far better plan: fake appendicitis.
When they pull up to Casa de Larry, it’s pretty clear that Matt has unwisely told the truth. His dad is a rage monster and Matt’s kind of heartbroken that his dad never listens. Especially now, when they’re all about to die of bugs. Before the Winchesters and Matt can convince Larry of anything, they spy a swarm of locusts — literal locusts — on the horizon. Everyone flees inside and starts trying to bug proof the house.
The bugs chew through the phone and power lines. The bugs blanket the house in what is a pretty good approximation of any sane person’s worst fucking nightmare. At this point in our story, everyone just wants to last til sunrise, when Sam hopes the curse will end.
Because bugs all over the house aren’t nearly enough trauma for the viewers, now a swarm of bees floods in through the fireplace. Dean takes the opportunity to test drive his home-made bug blowtorch, which Dawn thinks is a fantastic idea because KILL IT WITH FIRE. It works pretty well, but there’s still a lot of yelping, screaming, and panicked running. The family takes refuge in the attic, where termites are busy at work eating through the wood of the roof. Dean fires up the bug torch again with limited success. Bugs keep attacking the family as termites chew entry holes in the roof for the bees and their friends. Everyone is getting stung. Dawn, who once had a swarm of bees chase her down a street, is trying not to lose her fucking mind. Dean and Sam battle them off. Then, suddenly, sunrise comes really, implausibly early and the bugs flood out of the house. Curse averted! Achievement unlocked.
The next day, Larry and family are packing up. Larry is surprisingly zen about the biggest fiscal loss of his career (it’s pre-2008 so it seems a lot less permanently horrible, I guess). He is Getting Along With His Son, and that makes it all better. Matt, for his part, has abandoned the bugs. They weird him out now.
Sam and Dean have a touching moment on the hood of Baby. They both want to find their father, but Sam wants to apologize for being a giant dick to his dad. Dean doesn’t think the fighting will end there. Sam agrees.
The brothers pile into Baby and hit the road.
Sarah’s Final Thoughts: BUGS ARE GROSS AND SQUICK AND APPARENTLY CANNIBALS. NOW I’M GOING TO HAVE THE EXTERMINATOR COME EVERY FUCKING DAY, THANKS SO MUCH ERIC KRIPKE. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. (Note: this episode did not terrify me. It grossed me the effff out forever, but I wasn’t terrified.) I was also grossed out by the racism. This episode was written and filmed in 2005. Leaning on a tired, old, and frankly racist interpretation of Native Americans, especially just for the sake of narrative convenience, is more disgusting than all the bugs. Which were, as we have noted, entirely disgusting. Boo that. New times, new tropes. I hope SPN gets way better about it.
Dawn’s Final Thoughts: Dawn Final Thoughts: Great exposition on the brothers and their relationship. Everything else, however, was a lot of horror movie tropes (including the really damn tired mystical Native Americans trope) and a lot of traumatizing the fuck out of me because fucking spiders, and also I once WAS actually chased by a swarm of bees. And I didn’t even get a fully shirtless Winchester for my troubles. Uncool, Rachel and Bill. Uncool!