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Supernatural: After School Special

Mr. Wyatt: "The only thing that really matters is that you're happy. Are you happy, Sam?"

Ah, yes. High school as hell. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, how I miss you.

I liked this one. It explained what impelled Sam to rebel against John and the family business, and go to college. At a high school that meant nothing to Dean, Sam got one of those life-changing teachers who took an interest in him and gave him some good advice. Yes, Sam is stuck and unhappy as a hunter, but he does save the lives of people like his friend Barry, who wasn't as lucky.

Most of us felt alienated and alone in high school. With their bizarre upbringing, Dean and Sam experienced a level of alienation even more extreme. Sam dealt with it by literally and figuratively keeping his head down and staying off the radar. Taking on Dirk the Jerk to save Barry was something Sam tried to avoid and really didn't want to do. Yes, you could see it coming a mile off, though. And I did love seeing little Sam take down a bully twice his size.

(I didn't quite buy the revelation that Sam turned Dirk from a bully into a victim, though. Someone that nasty, who became such a vicious, vengeful ghost, was actually a good guy? I don't think so. But okay, necessary to the plot, moving right along.)

Enlightenment for Sam. Nothing for Dean. Interesting that the teenage Dean, a handsome, sexy, self-assured monster hunter who already thought of himself as a hero like his father, came off as limited and trapped and someone to be pitied. I did like that he still took being Sam's substitute father very seriously, though. I suspect that deep down, Dean knows how tragic and empty his life really is. And maybe he knew, even as a teenager. He just wouldn't acknowledge it, because he didn't see any other choices in life.

The flashbacks took place in November 1997, eleven plus years ago. The producers made the right decision retaining the young actor who did such a great job playing Sam before (Colin Ford, who deservedly got first billing), while recasting the teenage Dean (Brock Kelly). Definitely more Dean-like, but not dead on; he couldn't pull off calling a teacher "sweetheart." And he felt a bit too old for the part, while Ford felt a bit too young. (The actors are 12 and 23.)

But logically, it sort of worked. Dean was 17, and Sam 13. (Or 18 and 14.) It's very possible that Sam, even though he's uber tall now, was small for his age then and jumped ahead a grade at some point. Or Dean was left back. Whatever. I would not be unhappy with more episodes about the boys as teens if they use these two particular actors. Especially if they do stories this good.

Bits and pieces:

— They carefully didn't show John. Which is fine. The story wasn't about him, anyway. I liked how they used the Impala to link the flashbacks with the present.

— Teenage Dean was wearing the necklace Sam gave him in "A Very Supernatural Christmas" and that he still wears as an adult.

— Cuisinart scene. Much like the garbage disposal thing. Ick.

— Dean loves dodge ball. There was a rather unnerving dodge ball scene in an episode of Buffy called "The Pack." Sorry, I have Buffy on the brain lately. Probably not all that applicable.

— I particularly liked the shot during the opening credits of the hospital (or prison, or prison hospital) where April was incarcerated. The angle of the shot and the reflections on the glass made it look like an empty, eerie facade. Very effective.

— In this week's Most Obvious Symbolism, Wyatt's class was reading The Outsiders. I thought that applied to Sam not once but twice: in his life as a hunter among normal people, as well as his desire for a normal life outside of the family business. Dean is comfortable with his role in life. Sam will never truly fit in anywhere.

— This week: Fairfax, Indiana; Truman High School. Sam was a health care whatever as well as a school janitor, while Dean got to be a substitute assistant coach.

— Note from later: In 2017, I wrote an article entitled "Kid Winchesters" about the enormous number of young actors that have played Dean and Sam in thirteen seasons. Link here.


Dean: "So what's our cover? FBI? Homeland Security? Swedish exchange students?"

Sam: "Having fun?"
Dean: "The whistle makes me their god."
Sam: "Right. Nice shorts."
I don't think we've ever seen Dean in shorts, much less bright red ones. In the second episode of the series, Dean said, "I don't do shorts." No, wait; there was lederhosen once.

Dean: "I had to break into the principal's office to get this. And oh, FYI, three of the cheerleaders are legal. Guess which ones."
Sam: "No."

Young Dean: "Dude, she wants me to meet her parents. I don't do parents."

Mr. Wyatt: "You know this assignment was non-fiction, right?"
Young Sam: "Yes, Mr. Wyatt."
Mr. Wyatt: "So you and your family killed a werewolf last summer, huh?"

Dean: "Go have your Robin Williams oh captain my captain moment and make it quick."
Dead Poets Society.

Dean: "Look. Martha Dumptruck, Revenge of the Nerds and Hello Kitty, they all rode the same bus." Martha Dumptruck was a character in Heathers. I didn't even have to look that one up.

Dean: "Do you mind telling us where Dirk is buried?"
McGregor: "He wasn't. I had him cremated."
Dean: "All of him?"
I immediately flashed on Giles asking Cordelia, "Have you ever actually heard of tact?" Like I said, Buffy on the brain lately.

Dean: "He's giving you the full cowgirl." Yes, this is what fighting evil gets you. On the side of the road with a huge possessed unconscious guy on top of you.

Good one. Rather poignant. Three out of four stars,

Billie Doux adores Supernatural which is a good thing since apparently, it's eternal.


  1. I adored this ep, Billie, and would give it four our of four. For some reason, it had me sobbing throughout the episode, for Sam in particular, but for Dean, too. They led such sad, wandering lives, no roots, friend, no home except the Impala. And when Mr. Wyatt asked Sam, "Are you happy?" apparently seeing the truth in his eyes, well, my waterworks exploded and broke. I couldn't stop crying for quite a whole. These boys SO get to me! Love, Robin

  2. I got the bully thing because quite often people who are mean are mean for a reason and kids who are different often feel they only have two choices, be a bully or be bullied. I'm not saying that "bad" people shouldn't be responsible for their choices and actions but it sometimes helps to understand why they might make thoses choices or why "good" choices might have been harder for them. Dirk was a very angry child, for good reasons, who just kept getting angrier when he could have found other ways to deal with his pain - of course society didn't give him a lot of assistance either. What might he have been like if he had had someone to talk to or kids around him who were more gentle and caring? Just saying :) Sandy

  3. Even though there were a couple of funny moments (Dean as a gym teacher), I found this episode very sad and melancholy. You really felt how the boys were at the mercy of their Dad's "job" and their fate was not their own. As a kid who grew up in military schools - I really related to this one. Great review too.

  4. This was a fine episode but they seem to be on a string of single story episodes that don't focus on the arc of the season. It reminds me of season three of Veronica Mars or season four of Alias where most of the episodes can be watched without knowing what's happening that season.

  5. A good episode. I love that kid that plays young Sam! He does such a fantastic job. As you said, Billie, they did the right thing getting him back for a flashback episode. I wasn't real crazy about the kid playing young Dean, pretty much for the reasons you noted. He couldn't pull off the "sweetheart" remarks and he was too old. Especially compared to Sam.

    The thing about this episode that bothered me the most was that everyone just stayed on the bus during the confrontation with "Dirk." You're telling me that all these sports kids and their coach are just going to sit on the bus when two guys show up and start shooting people? And then they just let the one guy get off. Crazy! I had trouble suspending my disbelief for that part. Perhaps I overestimate the willingness of high school boys to run to the rescue.

    But overall, I loved the focus on young Sam. Such sad lives the boys lead. I wonder if they'll just burn out young, like they discussed last week, or if we'll ever get to see them finding true happiness at some point. Probably the former.

    And Billie, I agree with you on the Cuisinart scene. I could have done without that. Mental note: don't try to catch up with Supernatural while eating lunch.

  6. If the producers are faithful to their vision, I fully expect Supernatural to end tragically. Dammit.

  7. Retroactive observation. As I'm catching up, I noticed that the actress who was Young Dean's girlfriend in this episode was played by Candice Accola. She is now Caroline on "The Vampire Diaries". In both roles, she plays a young ditsy blonde who actually is highly observational. I loved how in this episode she completely told Young Dean (and us, the audience) how things really were for him. He didn't believe it with his line of "i'm a hero" but it cemented her role of a truth-teller for me.

  8. Really good and I even liked it more this time around. It really helps understand why Sam rebelled and why he is taking on demons with Ruby now. He wants control of his life.

  9. I love the flashback episodes because I like knowing what makes people the way they are. This one was very touching - especially with Sam. Loved how he was fighting his upbringing even so young.

    And I loved seeing young Dean making out with Caroline. All I could think about was what older Dean would do if he knew he had snogged a vampire in high school!

  10. This is for anyone reading it, but Topher Darling was the one who mentioned it. I don't think there are any 'filler' episodes in the entire show, because even when the plot doesn't touch on the overall arc, Sam and Dean are always growing both as individuals and as brothers. This is especially noticable in flashback episodes.

    I personally thought Young Dean was as perfectly casted as Colin Ford, but that's just me.

  11. Colin Ford is Young Sam and he is the best. I loved every time that Colin was on the show. Re the filler label: To me it applies when a show does a lackluster episode with a boring plot, uninteresting guest stars and it leaves me with no desire to ever watch it again. "The Chitters" is one that definitely qualifies. I don't think that it is fair to call something filler just because it is not a super exciting epic episode. I'd never say that this ep is filler. I love the glimpse in the young Winchesters lives. I'm enjoying reading your comments, PJ.


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