It’s been an exciting couple of weeks over in the Supernatural-writin’ wing of Head Over Feels. Sarah got engaged (it being the era of the internet, you can see the moment in its grainy glory here at 02:59:04) and Dawn headed off to Florida! Now that the dust has settled, so to speak, our ladies of Salt and Sass are back at it with Season 1, Episode 10.
Sarah: Welcome back, my similarly scared SPN sister-fans! I am getting hitched! (at some point! In 2015!) I spend a lot of time doing this:
Aaaanyway. I have yet to watch the second season of American Horror Story because I read that it takes place in an abandoned asylum and that (shocker) scares the crap out of me. On the other hand, I love ghost stories and stories of haunted buildings and hospitals and the like. So color me both terrified and intrigued by this episode.
Dawn: Forgive the lateness, my demons and angels — I spent the last two weeks dealing with an interstate move, and I swear it almost made me want to live in an abandoned asylum. Because I love me some abandoned asylums. Madness and the supernatural go together like me and Dean Winchester — a great combination that is entirely in my imagination.
Season 1, Episode 10: Asylum
Written by: Richard Hatum
We start our episode with the usual teensy recaplet, this time with descriptive title cards! So now we know for sure how old Sammy is. It’s like watching a movie trailer that isn’t, quite. Also no flames, and so we are kinda bummed. But bonus Baby, which is kinda cool.
Thanks to our ever-helpful chyron person, we know we’re at Roosevelt Asylum in scenic Rockford, Illinois. It’s abandoned, graffitied, and creepy as fuck, as all derelict asylums should be, and this doesn’t bode well for anyone. We meet Sgt. Exposition and his helpful partner, Clueless Rookie. Sgt. Expos comments that they just can’t keep those gosh darn kids out of said abandoned asylum. When his partner seems confused, he launches into an expository monologue that actually begins with the words, “That’s right, I forget, you’re not from around here.”
Sgt. Expos tells Clueless Rookie that as local legend has it, spending the night at Roosevelt Asylum will cause you to go insane…driven there, helpfully, by the spirits of its inmates.
Then they charge into the Asylum, announcing their presence. Because when cops on TV announce their presence, things always go well.
Sgt. Expos is really taken aback that this latest group of kids has brought bolt cutters with them. We consider that enterprising, really. And also practical, and proof that these particular teens believe in research and preparation.
Clueless Rookie treks down to the Boiler Room. It’s dark and ominous. Sarah nominates him for our Deadshirt of the night; Dawn thinks it’s too obvious. Meanwhile, Sgt. Expo’s creepy and dangerous situation turns out to be a McGuffin – instead of DANGER, he finds TEENS! Mission accomplished.
Back in the Boiler Room, though, Deadshirt!Rookie opens a door marked with a BioHazard warning he totes fails to notice. While he’s trying to figure out why his flashlight has gone out, another door opens behind him.
We cut immediately to teens driving off in a sportscar, overseen by Sgt. Expos. He radios for Deadshirt!Rookie, who appears, RIGHT BEHIND HIM. And is also now extra creepy.
So no winner yet on Deadshirt roulette. Both cops get in the car together and prepare to drive off – Sgt Expos is behind the wheel, and Creepy Rookie is creeping pretty intensely in the passenger seat. Also his nose is bleeding inexplicably.
Suddenly it’s Later That Night, and Creepy Rookie has creeped upstairs to his pretty blond wife.
Shit, there’s a new candidate for first Deadshirt of the night. Could be, especially because CR (actually named Walt) is reaaaaaaaaaallly methodically taking off his gear and emptying his pockets – gun, watch, etc. – while Blonde Wife apologizes for what is apparently not the first time tonight. He grabs his gun, and from outside the house, we see and hear two gunshots.
Oh, great, SPN. A murder-suicide.
Now we’re with the Brothers Winchester, who are bickering inside of their Motel Room-of-the-Week. Sammy wants to call the Feds to report their father missing. Dean is afraid of his wrath if they go that route. Sam doesn’t care…not after KANSAS, where he Should Have Been (and, we the audience know, Actually Was). The brothers continue to bicker while Dean’s we-love-the-mid-2000s flip phone rings and rings. He opens it and ZOOOOM goes the camera to reveal coordinates.
“I don’t believe it!” Dean says, “It’s a text message. Coordinates.”
Sam is not on board, as their father can “barely work a toaster.”
Dean thinks Something is Afoot, though, because the coordinates are for (surprise, surprise) good old Rockford, IL! Not only is Deadshirt!Rookie’s murder-suicide on Dean’s computer, he lets us know that Papa Winchester had previously earmarked Roosevelt Asylum in Scary Demonbits. Well, then. So we have a total of seven unconfirmed sightings and two deaths — well, four, now.
Sam is annoyed that their dad wants them to work a job. Dean is just thrilled that there’s some sort of communication and is gonna follow those coordinates no matter what, dammit. Just so we are clear, Sam is the Rebel. Dean is the Good Son. Or at least the obedient one. Some are born to their roles. Some achieve them. And others find those roles thrust upon them. These two boys got all three.
Next thing we know, Baby is parked outside of The Terminal Pub.
Sarah: I sincerely hope that the locations department FINDS some of these pubs and that it’s not all just clever art dept. signage. Just saying.
Inside the Terminal Pub, Dean approaches Damian Gunderson (nee Sgt. Expos), who is, understandably, having a beer. He unleashes his alias of the week – Nigel Tufnel with the Chicago Tribune.
OK, Dean is out on a serious limb if he truly thinks that anyone Sgt. Gunderson’s age will truly never have heard of Christopher Guest’s infamous Spinal Tap character. But apparently, Spinal Tap is not a timeless classic in the SPN universe. It’s okay though, because Sgt. Gunderson is totally capable of calling Dean out for his asshole move even if he does believe his name is “Nigel.” And as soon as he does, there’s Sammy to the rescue, shoving Dean off the barstool and telling him to “show a little respect.”
So, this case kicks off with Sammy’s dreams coming true then. He gets to call his brother a “serious jerk” in service of a case. He calls it method acting, which Dean doesn’t get (and which makes Sarah wince). But the beer Sam bought Sgt. G pays off – he gets the goods on the Deadshirt and the Asylum.
It’s daybreak, and the brothers Winchester are breaking into Roosevelt. It looks like the aftermath of a terrible frat party. They land at the South Wing, which is where two kids died in 1972. Dean figures if it were truly something icky, the body count would be higher. Sam helpfully points out that it looks a whole lot like someone usually chains that shit up…though whether to keep something in or some other folks out, it’s hard to say.
Dean calls Sam “Haley Joel Osment” and it’s kinda the line of the night. Big Brother is trying to come to grips with Sam’s emerging talents, and it’s not going so well.
The South Wing is creepy as fuuuuuuck. The brothers are sort of 50/50 between spirits possessing people and spirits driving people nuts. After bickering about WHAT IT MEANS that their father isn’t with them, they find a door plate that says “Chief of Staff: Sanford Ellicott.”
Dawn: Dr. Stanford Ellicott just sounds like a creepy old mad scientist from a Hammer Horror movie or a Gothic novel.
Next thing we know, Sam is paying a visit to a Dr. James Ellicott, a local psychiatrist. Sam is playing a slightly AU version of himself – a “local history buff” – which is how he just HAPPENS to know that this Dr. Ellicott is related to the Dr. Ellicott who worked in the South Wing at Roosevelt. He tries to get Dr. E to talk about an incident in the South Wing, but today’s Dr. Ellicott isn’t biting – he reminds Sam that they’re on his dollar, and there to talk about Sam. Shockingly, Sam plays along, or tries to. He is spectacularly bad at talking about himself, though it’s pretty clear he wishes he were. He tries to drive things back to the South Wing again, and is challenged with a toss-off comment that is also A Clue — If Sam is truly such a history buff, he knows all about the riot, the doctor remarks, before telling Sam he’s avoiding the real subject: Sam. The doctor dangles info about the Roosevelt Riot in front of Sam, promising to tell him all about it if Sam can just tell him one true thing about himself.
Dr. James Ellicott is pretty damn good. We like him.
He wants to know how Sam feels about Dean. We don’t get to hear what he says, but it must have been quite something because when he meets up with Dean again, he’s full of info. And looking an awful lot more relaxed.
It turns out the South Wing is where the really, truly troubled patients were housed. Psychotics, the criminally insane, etc. One night in 1964, the inmates attacked the staff and each other. It was such a shit show that several bodies were never recovered – including that of Chief of Staff Sanford Ellicott.
Dean notes that a bunch of angry spirits and unrecovered bodies spells the kind of badness that they will totally need to investigate. But they won’t be the only ones at the asylum. A tall geeky guy has brought his date (a blonde, oh crap) to snoop around. She’s not thrilled that this is his answer to seeing a movie. He leaves her to “look around” — he is a Bad Date. He’s barely gone a minute when she hears footsteps behind her. Meanwhile, a door has closed behind him, and his flashlight flickers out. In the darkness, a woman appears and Gavin teases her about being too scared to stay where she was. She grabs him and kisses him, which he thinks is awesome…until his date starts calling for him. The mystery kisser backs off and Gavin looks terrified.
In another part of the hospital, Sam and Dean are firing up their gear – flashlights, an EMF detector, and a video camera. The EMF detector is having a field day, which Dean helpfully points out means the spirits are out and about, which makes Dawn want to sing “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and go ride the Haunted Mansion. Sure enough, a spirit crosses behind them immediately. They don’t notice it and continue walking down the hallway; we are the ones who see the spirit, straitjacketed, having what looks like a seizure.
Dawn: I don’t think I want him in my Doom Buggy.
Sarah’s feeling thoroughly terrified, because as this recap was being written, our Sarah was home alone and jumping at every apartment-like noise her apartment made. Dawn, who was in fact a mere 15 minutes from Disney World at the time of this recap, was not really feeling the Happiest Place on Earth because this shit is genuinely fucking creepy. And we’re only at the halfway mark.
And then there’s Sam, also looking distinctly discomfited as he peers through his camera’s viewfinder and is suddenly accosted by a bloodied spirit. She looks at him plaintively; he calls for Dean to blast her with rock salt. After she’s gone, though, he seems a mite remorseful — she wasn’t trying to attack him, not even a bit, and that seems odd to him.
Our boys soldier on, and shortly pick up Katherine-call-me-Kat, Gavin’s blonde girlfriend. She’s been cowering behind an old bed in the corner of a patient room. Gavin brought her to Roosevelt, she explains. She thought it was, you know, pretend, because she clearly hasn’t read our helpful SPN Life Lessons — #18: It’s always real.
Kat has seen a bunch of freaky shit and heard Gavin scream. When Dean offers to have Sam lead her out, she refuses. It’s dangerous, and she is gonna help find Gavin, thanks. Kat is bad ass. Take that, blonde SPN cliches!
Dean asks her if she’s seen a lot of horror movies. She guesses yes. He get his second line of the night with this priceless and valuable advice: “Do me a favor. Next time you see one? Pay attention. When someone says a place is haunted…don’t go in.”
We’re pretty sure Kat will take that advice, if she lives long enough. Because just as she passes by an open window, something crosses in front of it on the other side.
Sam finds Gavin passed out on the floor and wakes him. Gavin tells Sam about being kissed by a girl with a “messed up face” who also tried to whisper something in his ear. He doesn’t know what though, because he ran like hell. Gavin has no idea how he passed out or why.
Back with Dean and Kat, Dean’s flashlight flickers, which means spirits afoot per SPN Life Lesson 14. As he goes to grab his lighter, Kat complains that Dean is hurting her arm…except he’s not the one grabbing it. Kat gets thrown into an exam room and the door slams shut. Kat is understandably fucking terrified. Sarah isn’t doing so great herself, but at least she isn’t being visited by Mr. Crazy Psych Patient Ghost Man, like poor Kat. Her situation gets a little worse when Sam and Gavin show up, and Sam insists that Kat face the ghost, that she’s “gotta listen to it.” We love Kat for shooting back “YOU FACE IT,” which is far more polite phrasing than we would have used, were we trapped in the exam room of an abandoned asylum with the bloody-faced ghost of a criminally insane patient.
Dean is not used to this sort of insane troll logic from his brother. Kat is not really looking forward to this, but she is indeed bad ass. She looks at the ghost, who whispers in her ear and releases the door.
Kat, we salute you, girl. You are officially this episodes BAMF.
BAMF!Kat tells the guys that the ghost whispered “137.” While Dean ventures off in search of a room 137, Sam prepares to take Idiot!Gavin and BAMF!Kat to safety outside. Something tells me it won’t be that simple. Our awesome BAMF asks how Sam and Dean know all about this stuff, and Sam tells her it’s their job. She asks why anyone would want a job like that, and in the best line of the episode, Sam tells her, “I had a crappy guidance counselor.” They try to escape but aren’t able to leave. Kat thinks it was the patients but Sam knows what’s keeping them trapped. “Something else.”
We’re starting to get a pretty good idea of what, too, and sure enough, when Dean finds room 137, the door has been barricaded from the inside. It was definitely one of Dr. Ellicott’s rooms. Dean finds the doctor’s briefcase and the patient journal inside. It looks terrifying — like Scary Demonbits is probably Babar by comparison. Inside the journal is lots of experimentation and saws. He settles in for a really unsettling read. Also, we’re pretty sure the Doctor is in. Dean hears something and looks to the side.
Back with Sam, Kat, and Gavin, Sam’s cell phone rings. It’s Dean (or is it?) on a terrible connection. He says he can see something coming at him and it’s in the basement. Sam prepares to leave the lovebirds behind, and asks if either of them can handle a shotgun. Gavin is practically offended, but BAMF!Kat is all over that shit, thanks to a couple of skeet shooting expeditions with Dad. Sam gives her a crash course in spirit deflection and heads to the basement. He passes the fateful “boiler room” sign, which tells us pretty definitively that it wasn’t Dean making that call. He notices the biohazard sign on the mysterious door but enters anyway. Almost immediately, his flashlight blinks out.
The big bad can’t be far behind. Like, for example, behind that door in the wall that’s just swung open to reveal a terrifying room of terrifyingness. It’s like all of your scary haunted asylum nightmares. Sam sees something pass behind a sheet in the corner, but when he pulls it back, nothing is there. He’s checking out everything from behind the barrel of another rock-salt-loaded shotgun. When he whirls around, the spirit of old Dr. Ellicott grabs him by the head and tells him he’ll “make it all better.” While applying electroshock with his HANDS. Something tells us he missed the part of the Hippocratic oath about “doing no harm.”.
Blackout. Even Dawn feels relieved by this, because holy fuck.
Back with BAMF!Kat and Idiot!Gavin, she’s just told him that if they survive this, they are TOTALLY breaking up (good call Kat!) when they see something coming around the corner. Kat pretty nearly rock-salts Dean, who wants to know why they’re still there and where the heck Sam is. Because, of course, he did not call Sam to the basement. Dean grabs his gun and heads downstairs to the basement, where a Creepy!Sammy appears. Something has lured him to the basement, he tells Dean, but he hasn’t seen anything.
Dean starts to fill Sam in on the super horrific shit that Dr. Ellicott was doing to his patients. Sam protests – it was the patients who rioted! Dean tells Sam that Ellicott was experimenting with “extreme rage therapy,” thinking it would cure his patients. Instead, it just made them angrier. Creepy!Sammy thinks this all sounds crazy (of course he does), but Dean is all about finding Ellicott’s secret procedure room, figuring that it makes a world of crazy sense that the inmates would drag Ellicott down there to do some experimenting of their own. And really, who could blame them? Not us, that’s for sure.
So now we know that Dean is close to the truth and Sam is freaking homicidal. When Dean discovers the seam of the secret door and Sam pulls a gun on him, we are at this point unsurprised. Dean notices Sam’s nose bleeding, and we are pretty sure he’s caught up on who’s been hanging out with Sam as well. And those suspicions are confirmed. Sam shoots Dean with a rock salt rifle. No good for killing, but it hurts like hell.
Dean flies back onto the floor of Ellicott’s sekrit evil lab and Sam tells him how angry and fed up he is. He calls Dean Dad’s “good little soldier” and adds insult to injury by throwing on a “pathetic.” Whereas Sam, we are informed, hates taking orders because he has “a mind of [his] own.” Dean manages not to roll his eyes at this supernatural tantrum, opting instead to hand baby brother a real gun (a Smith & Wesson 4006, for those keeping track; Dawn’s guessing the 9mm model) instead of the rock salt loaded one. Sam takes it; Dean asks if he’s really going to kill his own brother. Sam pulls the trigger, but it’s unloaded. Because SPN Life Lesson #29: Never give your possessed brother a firearm loaded with actual bullets. Dean reminds Sam of this and punches him, then knocks him cold. Now it’s time for some Doc hunting.
Dean doesn’t notice Ghost Dr. Ellicott walking around behind him, but he *does* see a tuft of hair peeking out of a metal cabinet. He opens it up to reveal a mummified Ellicott who, judging by Dean’s grimace and immediate backward scramble, smells simply delightful. As Dean preps for Salt and Burn, Ellicott appears and attacks. Dean being Dean, however, was able to snag his lighter and set the bones on fire even while being electrocuted with spirit juju, because that’s what good little soldiers do. Take that, Sam. Dr. Ellicott lets Dean go, and then goes on to the great beyond. Where we sincerely hope he is treated to an eternity of old-fashioned ECT and perhaps also some Bedlam-era psychiatric treatment. With extra pointy bits.
In the light of day, Sam and Dean bid Kat and Gavin farewell and drive off in Baby. Sam insists he didn’t really mean those awful things he said to Dean, and wants to talk about it. Dean does not.
Another morning, another motel. Dean is fast asleep when his phone rings. When he doesn’t wake up, Sam answers.
Sarah’s Final Thoughts: My taste in terror has not changed overmuch with the years. What freaks me out the very mostest (next to urban legends writ large and gory) is man’s inhumanity to man. So, ghosts of people who tortured patients sticking around to torture trespassers ranks pretty high on my list of shit that will keep me up for a while tonight. I liked that Kat was the plucky and competent member of her relationship. I like that no matter how shitty his father had been, Dr. Ellicott the younger actually seemed sane and compassionate. I like that we got to see some ghosts who weren’t malicious – they were looking after the living. But I’m still terrified and won’t be sleeping easily tonight.
Dawn’s Final Thoughts: Asylums are scary as shit. Haunted abandoned ones, even more so. Great scare factor on this episode, and I agree with Sarah on the compassionate ghosts angle; that was well-played by the writers. Plus we got some insights into Winchester Family Dynamic, which will pop up again and again as the series continues. Plus we got a badass blonde who not only survived the episode, but ruled it for a while. All in all, I am good.
Next up: Even Grosser Horrifying Shit. And also scarecrows.