Hi frands (friends and fans? I mean, Sprint coined “framily,” so it’s sort of a thing now. Right?). Anyway, frands, we’re back. Really. Sarah is wearing an engagement ring (so’s her fiance) and looking at venues; Dawn is kicking ass and taking names in Florida (after the misery of the move itself). So now here we are, and we are ready to spend a little quality time with our favorite hotties of the haunted, the Winchesters.
SARAH: I was born in Nebraska, land of corn, so you’d figure I’d be able to face a scarecrow without too much trouble, right? WRONG. Those things are terrifying. I don’t trust stuffed shirts, for one. They screw up everything. And pretty much the title tells us who the bad guy is, right? I’m guessing this scarecrow is going to axe murder a whole bunch of people. Will I be right? Probably. IT’S SUPERNATURAL. EVERYBODY DIES. OR GETS SCARED TO DEATH.
DAWN: John Shiban is proving to be hell on wheels when it comes to Monster of the Week episodes (which there are a lot of in S1, it’s true). This time, he takes on a rural horror trope — the scarecrow. Because those motherfuckers are CREEPY. I mean, think about it: Children of the Corn, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Jeepers Creepers. Scarecrows are no one’s friend; don’t even trust the one from Oz! They’re all shifty, I tells ya. Shifty! So did Shiban bring the straw-filled shiveries or was it all just old shirts and dead leaves? Read on, outlanders…
Season 1, Episode 11: Scarecrow
Written by: John Shiban
The Story So Far: Uh, nothing! Not a single flame. We open directly in Burkitsville, Indiana, ONE YEAR AGO. That never bodes well.
Sarah: I can already tell that someone is dead.
Dawn: (sniffle) My little baby SPN fangirl is growing up so fast.
An unusually attractive couple is giggling over their good fortune at getting lost in the Nicest Town in America. They’ve been gassed up, given directions, and even been handed a free homemade apple pie (which is probably poisoned, because this IS Supernatural, after all). The Nicest Teenager In America compliments Boyfriend’s tattoo. The couple is given directions back to the highway — “…turn right on Orchard Road” has probably never sounded so ominous before. Indeed, mere TV seconds later, it’s raining and the Unusually Attractive Couple (UAC) find their car sputtering and dying in the middle of nowhere. Along with their cellphone.
UAC find themselves on the edge of a creepy orchard. An actual freaking owl hoots in the distance. Deadshirt!Boyfriend (DS!B) suggests heading to a “house over there.” Deadshirt!Girlfriend (DS!G) is like, uh, no, totally not going. But DS!B is insistent: “We need help. We can’t just wait here.” In the giant metal thing with the locks on it. Which brings us nicely to SPN Life Lesson #30: Given the options “just wait there” or head into dark woods/dark alley/dark abandoned building of any kind, pick the former.
DS!G stupidly ignores her own feelings of fear and trepidation in favor of following DS!B and bringing us to SPN Life Lesson #31: Go with your gut, lest someone spew them all over the ground for you. For you see, silly DS!G, you CAN just wait there. But you won’t.
Dawn: (singing) Buona sera, signorina, buona sera. It is time to say goodnight to Burkitsville. Though it’s hard for me to whisper buona sera when I know that something’s coming for the kill.
Deepest apologies to Dean Martin. And all of Dawn’s dead Italian relatives who will likely be rising from their graves to haunt her ass for that one. Let’s continue.
So off they go, into the deep, dark, creepy yonder because SPN Life Lesson #25 taught us that no one on this show has ever seen a goddamn horror movie. And DS!B drives that lesson home like a Mack truck when they come across the creepiest scarecrow ever and he proceeds to make fun of it. So now it’s pretty much a guarantee that haunted scarecrow is going to ax murder UAC everywhere. But by all means, keep walking! You’ll totally reach safety before the opening credits roll!
DS!G looks back at Creepy Scarecrow, which moves. IT FREAKING MOVES. But rather than run screaming back to the car (i.e., the big metal thing with the locks on it), she just gasps, grabs DS!B’s arm a little tighter, and suggests that they “just hurry.” We are offended both as feminists (though admittedly, DS!B is coming off just as stupid) and as people with actual brains in their heads. And also we are not surprised when the crunch of footsteps comes next. Or the inhuman moan. They run. But really badly.
Sarah: Maybe they were distracted by the traffic light that directed them to run in circles. Red, green, it’s practically Christmas.
DS!B disappears somehow, leaving DS!G to wonder where he is, breathe heavily, and run some more until she trips. Over the skinned corpse of Deadshirt!Boyfriend. More screams and the suspicious sound of straw moving as the camera pans back to show that INDEED, The Scariest Scarecrow of Scareland has slipped its bonds. So he’s probably the one making all the terrible murder sounds while DS!G screams her head off. Roll opening credits.
Cut to Our Intrepid Winchesters! Hello, boys, we’ve missed you!
Sarah: Hi, sleeping Winchesters. How do you manage to do that? Sleep, I mean. Given your line of work and all?
Dawn: Dean sleeps shirtless. DON’T QUESTION THE BOY, SARAH. JUST LET HIM SLEEP.
We have picked up exactly where left them — sleeping in the Motel of the Week with Dean’s adorable little retro flip phone ringing away. Sam answers and holy fuck bananas, it’s DAD. Camera cuts back and forth between the boys (Sam on phone, Dean eventually waking and looking Very Concerned) and really, really close shots of bits of John Winchester’s face (proving to us all that Jeffrey Dean Morgan can rock the scruff like a motherfucker). Dad is not forthcoming with details, which pleases Sam not at all.
Their tender conversation quickly becomes the tensest thing ever as Dad refuses to tell Sam where he is or what he is doing (going after the demon that killed their mother and Sam’s girlfriend) and orders the boys to stop looking for him. Sammy is irate. Dad issues orders. Dean grabs the phone and does what Dad says — write down a set of names, which are three different couples, all from different states, who all went missing. While Dean is dutifully jotting down some names their dad gives him, Sammy is giving his jaw muscles the workout of the century. It’s actually amazing he’s still able to speak given how hard he’s clenching that shit. Because Sam doesn’t give a crap, regardless of the strange coincidences and the pattern that emerges from said coincidences. He just doesn’t give a flying fuck. He wants to go to California to find Dad. Dean wants to listen to Dad, because that’s what Dean does — he follows orders. ignores and Dean follows. Sam doesn’t get it and things get even more tense as the following conversation occurs:
SAM: I don’t understand the blind faith you have in the man. I mean, it’s like you don’t even question him.
DEAN: Yeah, it’s called being a good son! (Sam gets out of the car; Dean follows) You’re a selfish bastard, you know that? You just do whatever you want. Don’t care what anybody thinks.
SAM: That’s what you really think?
DEAN: Yes, it is.
SAM: Well, then this selfish bastard is going to California.
DEAN: Come on, you’re not serious.
SAM: I am serious.
DEAN: It’s the middle of the night! Hey, I’m taking off, I will leave your ass, you hear me?
SAM: That’s what I want you to do.
DEAN: Goodbye, Sam.
For the record, variations on this conversation will happen quite a few times over the next nine seasons. Make a note of that.
By morning, Dean is in Burkitsville, debating giving Sam a call on the Cutest, Oldest, Wee-est Flip Phone ever. But no. He heads for Scotty’s Cafe instead, where he introduces himself to Scotty as “John Bonham.” THANK ALL THE THINGS that Scotty responds, “Isn’t that the drummer for Led Zeppelin?” Way to go, Creepy Townsperson. Way to go.
“John Bonham” is looking for his pals, the UAC. Scotty is having none of it. They “don’t get many strangers around here,” he says, though he forgets to add “because all our visitors die horrible deaths by Scarecrow.” Hey, look, sometimes things slip your mind, you know?
Meanwhile, Sammy wanders down a highway, like you do, and comes upon a hot blonde chick, like you do. Could it be road love? Probably not, because a) you’re watching Supernatural and b) she takes off with a Shady Van Guy who refuses to let Sam tag along. That might have been a mistake, Shady Van Guy. Blondie looks tough (in utter defiance of SPN Life Lesson 24, wherein being a blond lady on this show is a terrible idea — we suspect she’s going to buck the trend). And also we’re not real sure about her intentions towards our Sam. What say you, Lafayette?
Back to Dean, who is at the gas station run by the Nicest Townspeople In Town, who are clearly actually the opposite of that as they are lying flatly about meeting UAC the year before. Too bad for them, they are caught out by their daughter, who recognizes DS!B’s (who was actually DeadShirt!Husband, our bad) neat tattoo. Ooopsie!! OF COURSE they remember UAC! The Nicest Liars in all of Liarsville happily point Dean in the same direction they once pointed the UAC.
Dean drives Baby down the creepy highway of doom. And he’d have gone right past the scene of the crime if it weren’t for that meddling EMF detector going all kinds of crazy. So off he goes into the orchard from hell, where he spies the a Scary Scarecrow of Scareland hanging on its pole. This thing is super freaky nightmare stuff, even in daylight. In fact, kinda worse in daylight. Which is it’s a fucking TERRIBLE IDEA for Dean to climb up for a better look, though he does so anyway. All the better to make fun of SSS, but Dean gets away with that because he’s Dean fucking Winchester. Plus it gets us a classic and oft-quoted SPN line: “Dude, you fugly.” And that’s when he spots Deadshirt!Husband’s tattoo. “Nice tatt,” he says, and BAM! Blackout. Which made Sarah do this:
Sarah: I jumped like four feet.
Dean and Baby return to town and also to Sweet Blonde Emily, who, it turns out, is the niece of the Nicest Townspeople and not their daughter at all. He flirts, she smiles, and he learns that she came to town when he was 13 after losing her parents in a car accidents. She assures him that “everybody is nice here” and that she loves the podunk little place, calling it “blessed.”
Dawn: As our official longtime watcher and alleged show expert, I feel that this would be a good time to remind everyone out there in SPN land that this show’s primary focus is on Judeo-Christian mythology (with occasional forays into Pagandom), so calling anything “blessed” is not a great sign.
Emily has also seen the scarecrow, but she can’t tell him who owns it – it’s just ALWAYS BEEN THERE and really, Dean, shouldn’t that be a fucking clue to run? Except then there’s be no show. Dean also asks about the red truck behind Emily. They’re having car trouble, she reports. A couple. A guy and a girl. We know from the look on Dean’s face that he is remembering what Daddy told him, because good little soldiers always remember the words of their commanding officer. Oh, Dean.
Sarah: I’m just going to take a break right now and guess that this is some Wicker Man shit.
Back to Sam! Who is in a bus station, being told that the next bus to Sacramento isn’t until tomorrow morning. Sam is having a rough night. He’s about to spend many hours in a bus station. He thinks about calling Dean and decides against it. But wait! There’s the hot blonde girl from the side of the road! Who is is also going to California. “No way!” “Yeah!” “Me too!” (Seriously, that’s the actual conversation.) How serendipitous! Blondie’s name is Meg. We suspect that she is trouble.
Dawn: I don’t trust how she said she “cut off” Shady Van Guy. Sam should have asked her which parts she meant.
Back to Dean! We’re clearly going to keep bouncing back and forth between Sam and Dean, a plan that Dawn finds rather delightful, truth be told. Anyhoo, Dean has wandered back into Scotty’s Cafe, where Scotty is busy pressuring another UAC into eating a slice of Free Apple Pie. Last meal? Probably. They’re also drinking apple cider. HAS NO ONE READ SNOW WHITE??? Everything about this screams sacrifice. Dean chats with UAC 2.0; they tell him that Helpful Townsperson at the gas station “saved [their] lives” when he found their leaking brake line just as they were getting ready to leave town. How serendipitous! Maybe he knows Meg!
Dawn: Can you hear the lambs, Clarice?
Sarah: I can practically hear them bleating.
So can Dean. A brake line is an easy fix, he assures them, and offers to get them up and running, but only succeeds in creeping them out. He adds one more thing, half to himself: “You know, my brother could give you this puppy dog look, and you’d just buy right into it.” He’s probably right. Puppy Dog Eyes is Sam’s mutant power. Just look at it:
Nicest Townsperson is not impressed. So not impressed, in fact, that it seems he called Johnny Law on our boy, who shows up and actually runs Dean out of town, sirens and all. Good job, Sheriff! That boy totally seems the law-abiding type. You definitely won’t be seeing him again!
Back in eighth grade, err, umm, the bus station, Sam and Meg are chatting away. They’re bonding over beer and vending machine snacks. OMG, no way, they both had to get away from their families! It’s not exactly the same, of course, but aren’t all the family dynamics strikingly similar? It’s totally road love! Or, you know, a little too unusually coincidental.
But we can’t worry about that now, because just as Dean is indeed driving Baby back to Burkitsville, UAC 2.0 are enjoying a nice walk in the deep dark woods, aghast that their car has broken down. Just as they are about to become sacrificial snacks for the scarecrow, Dean appears with shotgun at the ready, He fires and orders them to get back to their car (the big metal thing that locks!) Unfortunately, rock salt (or possibly actual shotgun shells) doesn’t phase Scary Scarecrow, which freaks the fuck out of Dean. He wisely runs. And shoots. And keeps yelling for UAC 2.0 to GO GO GO! When they reach the edge of the orchard, Scarecrow is gone.
Apparently, this is enough to let bygones be bygones, and Dean calls Sam. We get the convo from Sam’s end, who is still in the bus station, with Manipulative Meg dozing in the background. It’s no spirit, Dean tells Sam. A god, he suggest. A pagan god, at least (We can both hear all our pagan friends howling in anger over this characterization. Sarah doesn’t really blame them. Dawn is both Hedge Witch and folklorist to know Dean’s evidence is sound, and also she has seen more episodes and isn’t as annoyed. Now, anyway.) Dean’s theory is that the town is sacrificing a man and a woman each year in order to keep their prosperity, so Dean is going to head to a local college professor (because that guy totally won’t be in on anything shady). Sam and Dean have some brotherly feels on the phone (Hush, Win-cesters! That’s not what we meant!), and Dean almost admits that maybe Dad isn’t right all the time and maybe Dean should try standing up to him every once in a while, but he doesn’t quite manage it. He does say that he admires Sam for doing it, though, and that’s almost the same thing. As soon as Sam hangs up, what do you know! Meg is miraculously awake! She asks who it was, as if she doesn’t know, but Sam is too lost in feels to tell her much. Good. Go away, Meg.
Dean is at the college and DUDE! It’s the Smoking Man from The X-Files! THAT CAN’T BE GOOD, DEAN.
Sarah: I dig you, Supernatural, but this man is so Canadian, he probably bleeds maple syrup. I do not buy him as a denizen of Indiana, not for a second.
Dawn: Hey, I once had a college professor from Spain. When I was at school in New Jersey. Maybe they offered him tenure.
But more importantly, he’s the effing Smoking Man. This dude is undoubtedly in on the plot with the town. Also he’s giving Dean some serious side-eye, even as he lets Dean discover the legend of the Vanir, including one particular Vanr (not a typo) whose power is connected to a sacred tree. It would be problematic if one were to, say, set said tree on fire. Sarah is in Brooklyn and I am in Orlando — can someone remind us what apples grow on? It’s not a tree, is it? Surely not.
Oh, hey, the sheriff is on the other side of the door! Waiting to clobber Dean with the butt of his rifle. THANKS A LOT, SMOKING MAN. We experience sudden and grim satisfaction from being right. And also, we remember, Mulder! TRUST NO ONE.
Hey, we’ve cut to someone who isn’t Sam or Dean! Several someones, who are gathered under umbrellas in the pouring rain. It’s The Nicest Townspeople, who are torn between their responsibilities to the town and their individual (and very questionable) moral codes. Some of which draw the line at murdering Dean. But they are overruled. Also Emily is headed to a cellar in the orchard. So much for family ties. The “common good” is more important.
Back to Sam and that bitch, we mean Meg. She is all hey our bus is ready, but Sam does not car about wheels that go ‘round and ‘round. He hasn’t been able to reach Dean. Meg tries to play it off, all “You’re running back to your brother? The guy you ran away from? Why, because he won’t pick up his phone?” But it doesn’t work because Sammy knows SPN Life Lesson #1: Always protect your family. And he leaves to do just that. Ha! Suck it, Meg. But unfortunately we are probably not getting rid of her that easily.
Back in the cellar, Dean clues Emily in on her charming little town. She is understandably shocked, but manages to roll with it, and even thinks she knows the tree they need to find — The First Tree. But she doesn’t know exactly where it is. Before they can try to puzzle that out, though, the door opens. It’s time.
Dean snarks at the sheriff. Emily begs her aunt and uncle. No one is moved. This important exchange happens, given the tone of the brothers’ relationship this episode:
EMILY: I’m your family.
AUNT STACY: Sweetheart, that’s what sacrifice means. Giving up something you love for the greater good. The town needs to be safe. The good of the many outweighs the good of the one.
The townspeople leave Dean and Emily trussed and ready. And Dean gets in a great, very very Dean line:
Aww. Bless. That boy does love him some pie.
Dean has no plan. Emily realizes this when night falls and he still claims to be “working on it.” Crap — footsteps. Emily starts to freak but hooray! Sammy to the rescue! He stole a car to get there — this thrills Dean no end. The joy is short-lived, however, because when Dean warns his brother to “keep an eye on that scarecrow,” Sam respond, “What scarecrow?”
Crap. Time for a jog through the orchard! And Dean gets to don the Basil Exposition hat briefly so he can get Sam up to speed. Unti they bump into those damn townspeople, who are not on board with escaping sacrifice-ees. And friend. Emily begs again; her uncle tries to convince her that there is no choice. Just as he really gets going a no-doubt heart-warming speech on sacrifice, Scary Scarecrow shoves a scythe through his chest from behind, then drags him away, along with Aunt Stacy, Way to go, Scary Scarecrow God! The boys and Emily wisely GTFO.
Come morning, they find the tree and gasoline the motherfucker. Dean reminds Emily that this will destroy the town. Emily is SUPER GOOD with that. She torches it herself.
They boys put Emily on a bus to Boston. Hopefully she won’t bump into the male equivalent of Meg on her way. Dean offers to drop Sam somewhere, but no — Sam is back in it for the long haul. Even though Dean is “still a pain in the ass.” Also, he still wants to find Dad. But he knows that ultimately, it’s the two of them. Always. Sam has made his peace with Things. In truth, it’s actually very sweet, but SPN Life Lesson #3 is “no chick flick moments,” so it doesn’t last long. And we kinda like it that way.
“Hold me, Sam. That was beautiful,” Dean snarks.
“You should be kissing my ass,” his brother responds.
Whew. We’re back. Cue electric guitar.
But wait! It’s Meg, and another Shady Van Guy! She smiles and tells him to pull over. He totally thinks he’s getting some. But she has to make a call. With a silver cup. And a whole lot of Shady Van Guy Blood. WE TOLD YOU SHE WAS BAD NEWS.
Mega bad news. Demon bad news, actually. But an obedient little demon, with some serious daddy issues of her own. “Yes, father,” she says. Roll credits.
Sarah’s Final Thoughts: This week, I learned to add these fears to my Anxiety Lexicon: fear of nice people in small towns proffering pie; fear of kindly mechanics; fear of scarecrows (watching the Wizard of Oz will never be the same); fear of hot blond ladies in bus stations; and fear of Old Gods (just kidding – have had that since reading American Gods, thanks a billion Neil Gaiman). Look, folks, if I can’t have fun with my anxiety issues, what can I have fun with?
Dawn’s Final Thoughts: Shiban brought the creeps and did a great job with a horror trope — Malachi would have been proud. Dean was on top form with his snark this week and we got to see more evidence of just how pissed off Sam and John can make each other. Important character and mythos stuff was introduced herein, and credit goes to the writer for doing a great job with overall arc and the monster of the week. Also, fuck scarecrows, and TRUST NO ONE. Mulder+Scully 4EVAH!