Sarah: I have no idea what this is about.
Dawn: I do. It’s a John Shiban, so that means Monster of the Week. And boy is this one is fucked, so let’s just get to it.
All gifs for this recap belong to Peter Capaldi. Irritated Peter Capaldi. Disapproving Peter Capaldi. Fuckity swearing fuck Peter Capaldi. YOU’LL SEE WHY. Also, swearing Peter Capaldi gifs might be our spirit animal, so expect a gif-heavy recap this time around. Go on and do it for us, Peter.
Season 1, Episode 15: The Benders
Written by: John Shiban
The Story So Far: Uh, nothing. Oddly, we get no background intro this time. Curious. But you know the drill. Two brothers, hunting monsters, dysfunctional relationship with Dad, salting and burning, shotguns, Impala, classic rock, blah blah blah. On to the ep.
Chyron says Hibbing, Minnesota. A young kid is sitting in bed, blankets pulled up to his chest. Growly noises are coming from the TV. We see a tiny Godzilla figure on the mantle, and so let’s go out on a limb and guess that the famous Japanese monster is responsible for the noise. Little horror movie kid is distracted by a squeaky engine and hops out of bed to play Peeping Tom. He sees a guy carrying garbage bags across a parking lot to a dumpster. Ominously. Like he’s a bad guy, but since this is SPN, he’s more likely a deadshirt. And a REALLY stupid one, at that. GarbageBag!Deadshirt hears something skittering in a dark parking lot, goes to check LIKE AN IDIOT, and gets dragged under a car, screaming.
Flash forward to a displeased mom-type telling two men that her son has already told his story to police, and that the more he says his presumably-crazy story, the more he believes that it’s true. Mom clearly does not think it is true.
Cut to Sam and Dean, looking super hot in some sort of police uniforms…ooh, STATE police uniforms. They doff their cowboy hats to the sound of exploding ovaries everywhere, and encourage Evan, the skinny kid from the previous scene, to tell them what he saw.
Turns out Young Evan heard what sounded like a monster. Aaaand he’d been watching Godzilla vs Mothra. This excites Dean, who loves GvM more than the original Sammy likes the remake. Really, Sammy? We are disappointed.
Still, though, it’s a beautiful bonding moment and a sweet, simple way for the writers to keep communicating how close these two really are. Well done on that bit, Shiban. Appreciate that compliment. because it’s probably the only one you’re getting this recap. But still, well done. Even Capaldi approves. FOR NOW.
So the story mom doesn’t believe but that Evan is pretty darn earnest about this: Evan saw a monster grab Deadshirt!Mr. Jenkins and drag him underneath a car. It had a whining growl.. That is apparently a BIG SUPER CLUE, and all the brothers need to hear.
Cut to Kugel’s Keg, where Sam does Homework while Dean plays darts. Sam notes that Daddy Dearest has marked the area in Scary Demonbits. Seems the whole place is a hotbed of missing persons, but they can’t tell if it’s their sort of gig. Sam wants to get to the Motel of the Week, which he saw five miles back. Dean wants another beer but decides to let it go, though not without busting his brother’s balls at least a little. Dean needs to take a leak, so “Grandma” Sam ventures outside. Alone. In the foggy dark. In a hotbed of missing persons activity. Way to go, Sammy. To the surprise of no one, he hears similar sounds to the ones Mr. Jenkins did. And, like Jenkins, Sam goes to investigate. Remember when Sam was smart?
But hey, no worries! It’s just a pissy ginger cat! Sam has a chuckle but his relief is short lived, which we know because the camera shows us his feet. Almost as if we are looking at them from underneath a car…
By the time Dean comes out of the bar, Sam is gone. Pissy ginger cat is there. Scary Demonbits is there. Baby is there. But no Sammy. Well, shit, son. Cue the ominous string section.
Sarah: VERY OMINOUS STRINGS is the name of my next band.
Dawn: Your first single should be Pissy Ginger Cat Knows Better Than You, Sam.
Dean is ever so slightly panicked, and is asking total strangers if they’ve seen his brother. No dice. He looks around (taking in some nearby security cameras) but sees nothing but fog. It’s clear he’s worried sick.
The next morning, Dean chats up a pretty police officer, still under the guise of his Alias of the Week. Frankly, we are amazed he waited until the next morning, but then he probably spent all night exhausting his own pretty impressive investigatory skills, so cops are the only option. He says he’s not there to investigate the Jenkins case. It’s his….cousin. Yah, his cousin, see? And they were out drinking and he disappeared, see?
Officer Skeptical thinks perhaps Sam is an alcoholic. Dean insists that Sam was taken. Officer Skeptical is actually Officer Helpful, and sits down with “Greg Washington” to investigate Sam Winchester. What she learns is that Dean is dead, according to medical records, and was suspected of murder. Dean nods knowingly, because that Dean Winchester sure was the black sheep of the family, doncha know. “Handsome though,” he adds helpfully.
Modest too. So nice that Dean keeps what’s really important in sight.
Officer Helpful née Skeptical does the usual checking of the usual databases. Dean wants to use the county traffic cameras to see who (or what) took Sammy. Officer HnS wants him to fill out a missing persons report. Dean’s not so down with that. He knows the county has a terrible track record with missing persons. Sam, he insists, “is coming back. I’m bringing him back.” His face is kinda inarguable. Look:
Dawn needs a moment, because Season 10 actually starts next week and Holy Mother of Sin, Dean looks so YOUNG in this episode. They’re just babies! Disturbed, dysfunctional, criminal babies.
Meanwhile, in what we can only presume is another part of Evillll, Minnesota, Sammy wakes up in an iron cage. He can’t stand fully upright and he’s in the dark. He shakes the bars a bit, determines that he can’t get out just yet, and looks around. He spots another unconscious prisoner — NotQuiteDeadshirt!Mr. Jenkins.
Also, it’s nice that Sammy looks a bit like, “Oh, a dark cage. Must be Thursday.”
Back in the light of day, Officer HnS has pulled the traffic camera reports, which show a rusty old camper with brand new plates. She and Dean agree it must have been involved. Just then, Dean spots a rusty old van making a terrible whining growl.
“I’ll be damned.” says Dean.
“I’ll be double damned,” says Sarah, who thinks she knows where this is going.
“mumblehhphdamnedseason10mumble,” says Dawn, because her hands are clapped over her own mouth and she doesn’t want to spoil, sweetie.
Come on, Sammy! Prove us wrong. Kick the shit out of that cage and be somewhere slightly less invested in the latest reprint of To Serve Man.
Sadly, Sam’s kicking only serves to wake the other cage-tenant, who turns out to be the missing Mr. Jenkins. Anybody want to place bets on his odds? Here’s a hint — bet low. Really, really low. Jenkins the soon to be deadshirt thinks we’re in the country, as “it smells like the country.” Of course it does.
Sarah: I HATE obligatory cannibalism episodes (OCE), ever since I watched the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. People in cages in the country and dudes driving around in rusty old cars with new plates are pretty much all I need to believe that I’m watching SPN’s OCE. I really fucking hate episodes like this. I hate cannibals as much as I hate zombies (see: Sarah’s Very Sound Reasons for not watching Hannibal OR The Walking Dead.). Look out, SPN. Now I’m rage watching you.
THE MONSTERS ARE MEN. WOMP WOMP.
Dawn: It’s still not going to be worse than The X-Files “Home.” Because nothing can be. Rob Zombie couldn’t make a more disturbing backwoods cannibal story than that. No one can. There is none more disturbing than that. SARAH IS NEVER TO WATCH IT. EVER.
Sarah: I could write a book filled with reasons I am never going to watch it. Ever. Not to worry.
Now that we are temporarily done venting, back to our boys. Sam and Jenkins confer briefly. It’s clear Sammy still thinks monsters got him. Jenkins is a fucking pessimist, and he should be, because he is the last lamb to the slaughter before the bad guys get theirs, mark our words. Cannibals or no cannibals, ain’t nothing standing up to Big Brother Winchester, not after they took his Sammy. No fucking way.
And here come the bad guys in their dark hoodies or hooded hunting jackets or whatever the fuck the fashionable backwoods cannibal is wearing this season. Sammy and Jenkins are given food. Ish. Sam is shocked to realize a) “they’re just people.” (NO SHIT, SAMMY — THANKS FOR CATCHING ON), b) he and Jenkins are fed once a day, and c) the cages unlocked electronically. Sam evidences some of that great big Stanford brain and starts to yank on the cables that connect the locks to the electronic lock box.
Dean and Officer Friendly are in her vehicle when she receives the news that Officer Washington isn’t quite who he claims to be. She wants to arrest Dean, who kind of tries to do Sam’s puppy dog thing. He has a great speech about being Sam’s protector and stuff. Officer Friendly is immune to the Winchester Charm — she still wants to bring him in. He’s left her no choice, she tells him. Then she looks meaningfully at a photo on her dashboard — herself, in happier times, with a man. She’s had someone go missing too, it’s clear. She buckles back in and tells him that she’ll have to take him in “after we find Sam Winchester.” YAY OFFICER FRIENDLY!
Back at the cages, Jenkins is giving Sam a reverse pep-talk (you can’t do it, there’s no way out, etc.) when Sam manages to pull a bracket from the electronic rig. Almost immediately, Jenkins’ cage opens. Sam cautions him to stay put but Jenkins thinks he’s on the way to freedom and suddenly is super optimistic. He’s going to get out and send help! (Nope, he’s going to die and be dinner.) Sam clearly also has seen that ep of The Twilight Zone where they cook people.
And sure enough, as soon as Jenkins has run outside into the rain, his cage locks. Sam is pissed. He knows Jenkins is a goner.
Out in the rain, Jenkins finds a knife that just HAPPENS to be lying in his path. HOW SERENDIPITOUS. And not at all a set up. He hears twigs snap and runs. It isn’t long before he’s clobbered by a yokel with a club. Now he knows he’s being hunted. Sure enough, the cannibals torture and murder him. Sam can hear this all the way back in the cages.
Sarah: May I remind you that I hate cannibals and am rage watching? RAGE WATCHING. This is going to end super disgustingly, however it goes.
Officer Friendly is the ep’s only redeeming feature. When Dean presses her, she reveals that her own brother, Riley, went missing three years back, under similar conditions as Sam.
Dean spots a turnoff in the road and wants to go investigate. He thinks he’s convinced Officer Friendly to let him come along but nope, she plays the oldest trick in the book (shake on it? Seriously, Dean?) and Dean ends up handcuffed to hear SUV. She heads into the woods alone.
Bad move, Officer Friendly. You’re probably going to be lunch. At least you’re kind of snarky about it.
Officer Friendly (ahem, Kathleen) walks onto the dilapidated property and it’s pretty clear about a minute in that she’s wishing she’d brought Dean. We can’t feminist fault her for this, because damn. We are pretty staunch about this kind of thing, but there are times when an experienced and violent hunter with a lot of weapons knowledge is just useful. Like when you are in a property that is a grim imitation of every haunted house ever. She knocks. Eventually, Missy, the world’s creepiest little girl, comes out. Her mom’s dead. No dad, either. She hasn’t seen Sam. Then she throws the most twisted little smile and everyone’s hearts go utterly cold and their skin wants to crawl off their bones. Seriously, just look at this kid:
When Kathleen asks her what’s funny, Missy just keeps smiling. “That’s gonna hurt.” Kathleen turns just in time to have one of the old dude cannibals hit her with a shovel. Oh, it’s Daddy Cannibal! Missy is unsurprisingly also a liar.
Back at the car, Dean is trying to break the radio antenna off the SUV — more urgently as soon as he hears the whining growl that means cannibals are en route to his location. As they approach the SUV, he picks the lock with the antenna and gets the hell out of Dodge.
Pop’s pissed, bitch the cannibals. “Never been followed by the police before,” one notes as they open Kathleen’s car and get ready to disappear it.
Oh, balls. Kathleen wakes up in a cage and sees Sam. She has just enough time to tell him that his “cousin” is looking for him…but is cuffed to her car…then they hear footsteps approach. Ominous music sounds, but it’s Dean! He looks around and smirks at the cages. He’s super glad to see Sam. Kathleen is surprised he got out of the handcuffs but grows less surprised by the second.
Sam sounds astonished when he tells Dean that the creepy freaks are just people, but it seems to make sense to Dean. They’re too erratic. Demons have rules and some sorts of patterns, but people? “They’re just crazy,” he says. PREACH IT, WINCHESTER.
Dean’s passed a junkyard of old cars on the way in to the cages. Kathleen asks if he saw a ten year old black Mustang. The confirmation of her brother’s demise weighs on both of them. Sam too, as soon as he realizes. If there is one thing these boys know, it’s loss.
Dean goes off in search of the key, which means exploring even more creepy parts of Camp Cannibal. He passes collections of souvenirs including glasses, and what we can only presume from his reaction are various body parts. Including some with teeth. “Yikes,” he says. Then he discovers the collection of polaroids of the hunters and their human prey. It’s pretty vomit-inducing. Dean is not happy. Neither are we. He sneaks upstairs. Very probably to kill someone. We don’t blame him one bit.
Old phonograph music plays as Dean sneaks around. He sees someone in the kitchen, working, and walks into a disgusting collection of jawbones. Seriously, Shiban, you are even pushing Dawn’s squick factor with this shit. The guy in the kitchen is butchering Jenkins, and it’s the most awful collection of sounds Sarah has ever heard on television.
Dean has found more disgusting things — teeth this time. And Missy’s just found Dean. And she’s a resourceful little sociopath, because she manages to pin Dean motherfucking Winchester to the wall with only one little pig sticker of a knife. She screams for Daddy. Soon, it’s one against two, creepy phonograph music playing all the while. Dean threatens, then takes a metal pot to the back of the head. Whoops.
When Dean comes to, he’s face to face with the father, who gives the expected “I hunt people because it makes me feel so powerful” speech. He sees his life as traditional and good, and any moral qualms are quashed because his victims get a weapon and a “fighting chance.” He’s outraged that Dean’s brought the law down on him and his family. Let’s be clear on that — HE is outraged. Capaldi, save us.
Daddy the Self-Righteous Cannibal interrogates Dean, forces him to choose who gets hunted next, tortures Dean, and then tells his son to kill Sam AND Kathleen, because he’s trying to protect his family. Dean looks more scared than we’ve ever seen him. People are too unpredictable. He doesn’t know what will happen next, but none of the options are good. He tells Papa Gross Cannibal Guy that if anything happens to Sam, he’s going to kill every member of Camp Cannibal. Right on, Dean.
Brother Cannibal heads into the barn to carry out Pop’s orders. Sam hits him with the bracket. GO, SAMMY. So it’s Winchester 1, Cannibal 0. But he did manage to squeeze a couple of rounds off before Sam knocked him out. Inside the house, Papa Cannibal is bellowing for his son. He orders his other son to head into the barn with him and tells Missy to watch Dean, which apparently means playing with a knife near his eye.
Dawn: Missy may be the scariest goddamn thing I have ever seen on this show. And I am up to date with the current season, so I have seen some shit.
In the barn, Pop sees Lee in a cage. He tells his other son to turn on the lights, but Kathleen and Sam have blown the fuses. Now the cannibals are in the dark, literally and figuratively. They sweep the barn. Sam’s hiding pretty effectively but Kathleen makes a noise and Brother Grimm empties his rifle into the cupboard where he thinks she’s hiding. She leaps down onto him and tries to choke him to death. Sam manages to duck at just the right moment, causing Brother Grimm to shoot Pop in the arm. They get Brother Grimm in a cage and Sam goes off to find Dean.
Kathleen tells Pop that he killed her brother. She asks why. He says it’s fun, and she shoots him. WE ARE SO OK WITH THIS.
When she meets up with the Winchesters (Missy having conveniently been locked in a cage), she tells the brothers that Pop was trying to escape. Everyone knows, and no one is going to say anything, though this makes Sam a little sad. THIS, Sam? REALLY?
Sometimes we worry about Sam.
Kathleen radios for help, then orders the brothers to GTFO and quick. Dean offers his condolences. Kathleen notes that it isn’t actually any better knowing what happened to her brother, despite her believing that it would be.
And the brothers walk and snark. Somehow it’s not so funny this time around.
Sarah’s Final Thoughts: I have many. Starting with OH MY GOD I HATED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS EPISODE EXCEPT KATHLEEN. Watching it was the polar opposite of fun. I hate cannibals. Monsters and urban legends are fun scary. Anything having to do with actual people actually hurting each other for fun is gross. I hate it with every fiber of my being. I hated the cannibal episode of Torchwood, too, which basically was this episode exactly, only Welsh. For that matter, I hate any media where humans torture other humans for funsies. I hate torture porn, and I hate that shit movies like SAW and HOSTEL end up so popular that those films get sequels. I have friends who love this stuff and I don’t get why. I find myself judging the people who think it’s worthwhile. I can’t help it. I do. I don’t get it. People out here in the real world are terrible enough to one another. Do we really need to dream up even worse scenarios? Yes, people are worse than monsters. Thank you for over explaining that in gory detail for 45 minutes. I hate that SPN did an OCE. I hate it so much. I hate the nightmares I will have about this. Currently I also hate John Shiban for writing this. This episode was like a mini torture porn hell. Shit like this is why I have avoided horror for so many years. I hope SPN sticks to the mythos and monsters.
So, TLDR: This episode sucked. It kind of broke me. And screw you, Shiban. You’re gonna have to earn back my admiration. All my nightmares are your fault. Pardon me, I’m going to puke now.
Dawn’s Final Thoughts: I am slightly, SLIGHTLY less traumatized than Sarah, but I am also not a fan of torture porn. It’s a lazy excuse for horror writing and while I get the point of a “the real monsters are people” episode in a horror series, they could have done way, way better than this. This was tropey and unnecessarily gross. When The X-Files did “Home,” — still widely considered the single most disturbing hour of network television ever, and I agree — it was HORRIFIC, but somehow it worked. This, not so much. Yeah, yeah, the lengths Dean will go to in order to save his brother, got it. He’d have gone just as far, maybe even farther, if it was a monster. (And in fact, he will, but that’s for later). Missy was genius, I have to admit, but that’s about all I got this time around. I’m going to need to watch all the Trickster episodes in order to cleanse my SPN palate now.
NEXT WEEK (and seriously we will try to actually make it next week): HOLY CRAP, FAMILY DRAMA. That hot Daddy Winchester returns, and shit gets real. Again. Well, unreal. You know what we mean.