Another Season 3 episode which doesn’t seem to get much love is Long Distance Call: only 17 mentions on this site and no comments at all on Alice’s review of the episode. Actually, maybe now I’ve read Alice’s review I don’t need to rewatch this one. My personal problems with it are that while I never like to see either Dean or Sam being fooled, I find it especially painful to see Dean being fooled into thinking that his dead father is making telephone calls to him. ”Not liking to see Dean or Sam being fooled” may not just be a personal foible of mine, but one which is more widely shared, and which explains some of the Bela and Ruby hatred. (Did I say something earlier about digressions? I did? That wasn’t a digression, was it? Ahem. Sorry. Back to business.)
Time is on my Side (34) (mentions on this site at the time of writing, that is) is an episode I have just rewatched, purely for research purposes you understand. It’s clear to me why I’ve tended to skip over this one as the creep factor is massive: repeated vivisection of the victims in the cause of Dr Benton living forever as a Frankenstein’s Monster, all depicted in very considerable and effective detail. Watching the proximity of Sam’s eyeball to a melon-baller is off-putting, too, as is the idea of being buried alive while living forever.
But Time Is On My Side also an interesting part of the mytharc, especially in relation to Season 5. It introduces Rufus Turner, who reappears in Good God Y’All. Sam hides from Dean his hopes that finding Dr Benton might be a way to save Dean just as he later hides his dealings with Ruby. Dean’s response to Sam’s plan is much the same as his response to the idea of using the Trickster to fight Lucifer in Changing Channels: “you want to buy him a freaking beer” in Time Is On My Side and ”you want to be Facebook Friends with him” in Changing Channels. Dean even mentions shooting hell hounds with the Colt, which he finally gets to do in Abandon All Hope. And the boys split up for a while, as at the end of Good God Y’All. And all this happens in the space of an astonishing 3 minutes of Sam and Dean in a motel room. Later on in the episode, Dean makes the choice of going to hell rather than living like Dr Benton. It’s a measure of his character that if Dean had to make that choice again, knowing it would lead to forty years in hell and the start of the apocalypse, he would surely make the same decision. But at the same time, the clear distinction Dean makes here between human and not human is one of the things which helps drive him and Sam apart in Season 4. So rewatching this episode now has considerably increased my respect for it - I really need to get over the creep factor and put this episode on my essentials list.
No Rest for the Wicked I do rewatch, but again I make sure to pair it with Lazarus Rising, to avoid that evil end of season cliffhanger. The end of No Rest for the Wicked is another reason to be cheerful that I only found Supernatural during Season 4.
Family Remains (50) is one episode in Season 4 that I haven’t been back to much. I think it is spoiled for me by the denouement. I take it as a tribute to Show that it can tell stories that make supernatural explanations as believable, or even more believable, than the human failings that we read about in the newspapers.
Sex and Violence (46) is the only episode that until writing this article, I hadn’t rewatched so much as once, and I had to steel myself a bit to do so. This one starts with Sam and Dean lying to each other, when Dean pretends he didn’t overhear Sam’s early morning call to Ruby which Sam then denies, and goes downhill from there. The victims are all innocents, but so are their killers, turned into unwitting murderers by the Siren, just as the killers in Bedside Stories were turned into killers by the spirit of the little girl. Dean gets fooled by the Siren into thinking he’s found a friend at a time when Sam is being evasive. Sam puts himself at risk of being fooled by Dr Cara – and refuses to take a phone call from Dean while doing it. In the end Bobby saves the day, but whatever Dean and Sam say at the end of the episode, hurtful things had been said under the Siren’s spell and no, they’re not good. And there are four innocent guys in prison for murders they didn’t choose to commit. Technically, Sex and Violence is a good episode. Emotionally it’s full of negatives. I haven’t changed my mind on this one: it’s had its outing and now it’s back for a long stay in the episode orphanage.
The sadness of the almost complete breakdown in the brother’s relationship in Lucifer Rising is something I also find hard to rewatch, particularly the trickery of the changed phone message (please, Dean and Sam, for the sake of my continued good health, never get fooled like this again). If I do rewatch this one, I try to follow my usual tactic of following it immediately with the first episode of the following season, in this case Sympathy for the Devil. Although in Sympathy for the Devil, I do tend to find myself skipping over the scenes where Lucifer tempts Nick, as I don’t like watching someone being fooled by such false logic and specious arguments, with such disastrous results.
The first half of Season 5 has been pretty amazing, despite the almost universally downbeat endings to each episode. (I suspect The Real Ghostbusters might turn into Season 5’s comfort episode for me, partly because of its rare hopeful ending.) Fallen Idols (22) (plus 24 for “Fallen Idol”) is the Season 5 episode I’ve rewatched least. In fact, I only rewatched it at all in order to try to make sense of those difficult “conversations” between Sam and Dean. Trying to make sense of them did at least have the benefit of starting off the ideas which formed the basis of the “Tactics and Strategies” article. I’m a bit happier with the episode now I think I understand it better – or possibly, now I’ve been able to impose my own understanding on the dynamics of the brotherly relationship which it reveals. So I suspect Fallen Idols is destined for the unloved episode orphanage for a reason which is more to do with the idea behind the “monster of the week”: a monster which manifests itself through speechless waxwork dummies just doesn’t make for a sufficiently engaged opponent to hold our attention. The victims of the monster aren’t particularly engaging either, and there’s not much sense of danger for Dean and Sam, even when tied (unconscious but upright) for the benefit of a monologuing Paris Hilton.
So what are the conclusions I’ve drawn from this exercise? Well, I’ve devised a method for dealing with the end of season cliffhangers, and sprung one episode, Time is On My Side, from the episode orphanage. I’ve left enough episodes in there that they won’t get lonely, though. On the whole they are episodes which don’t contribute to the overall story arc, and which have a monster of the week, and victims of that monster, that I find unengaging. So far so normal. I don’t have a problem seeing Dean and Sam being in danger, or being physically hurt in a standard biffing-up, but I’m not too keen on more specialist tortures such as the melon-baller. And I really dislike watching anyone being made a fool of, but have a particular problem watching Dean and Sam being made fools of over their emotions. This is possibly not so normal. Maybe I should have seen Jas before writing this article, after all.
Now I’ve shown you mine, will you show me yours? What’s your own personal list of orphan episodes? Which are the episodes you don’t rewatch, or which have you hiding behind the sofa in psychic pain? Or perhaps you always rewatch every episode in strict order, from the Pilot to Abandon All Hope. Which may of course reveal a whole ‘nother pathology of its own. Over to you, Jas?