Swap Meat was one of those rare Supernatural episodes that left you feeling a little “meh” by the end. Not horrifically bad, nowhere near top quality. When the DVDs of season five hit, Swap Meat will be one of the episodes I choose when I only want ear-TV as a soundtrack to something else that has my full attention. Going in with quite low expectations, I was quite pleased to discover the humour and a better plotline than I’d anticipated. That said I wouldn’t nominate this episode for any awards. More than anything, it was humorous filler with zero overall plot advancements or character developments.
I am going to heap some love on Sam in this review, because he was absolutely hysterical to watch and it was a good break from the heavy, remorseful Sam we’ve seen extensively this season. Take for example the fabulous introduction of the episode. Here we have “Sam” happy just to be and without his cloud of angst and very much unSam in mannerisms. This exchange at the bar goes down as one of my favourite Supernatural funny bits – Jared was in top form. Another scene that stands out is the breakfast table exchange with Sam and Gary’s parents. I don’t know why Jared thinks comedy isn’t his thing because he had me rolling. Sam slurping his banana daiquiri with the twirling pink umbrella as he fumbles with the straw and confirms, “Are we talking about sex?” – oh yeah, comedy’s his thing.
I enjoyed the boys reconnecting with this babysitter and her family, even if it was brief. It was nice to see that the boys have some connections left to their childhood – even a homey memory or two tied to this babysitter. The family was refreshing in their belief and acceptance of Sam and Dean’s “job” – I expected the husband to be the skeptic as he entered the background, but no, he was on board too. Along this vein, a number of other small things were done better than expected in this episode. To begin with, kudos for a better plot than I thought – I was convinced it was simply that Gary wanted nicer packaging and ‘cooler’ life and even when Gary’s friend asked him about Dean – I thought he wanted to body-switch with Dean – but it was better than that! The idea that the underworld sent out psychic fax sketches of Dean and put a bounty on his head – I like. This was similar to Zachariah and his goons reaching out to the “fringe” Christians. Additionally, the actress playing the possessed teenage girl was incredible. She did a great job and for a while there I wondered if the demon that had been summoned wasn’t Meg. The other little treat in this episode? Latinating! It’s been far too long – I love when the boys are exorcising. And it appears Dean has finally memorized the exorcism ritual, too!
One of the biggest nitpicks with this instalment is the obvious lack of Dean’s awareness that something is off until very late in the game. I kept waiting for Dean to suggest (in a way that was only evident to us viewers of course) that he knew it wasn’t Sam and hint that he had a plan of some sort – whether it was the classic purposefully using the wrong name or something more clever. Given that the last time Sam was out of character, his body had been hijacked by Meg and Dean ended up with a nice bullet hole in his shoulder; Dean should have tied Sam to a chair at the first inkling of a personality transplant. By the way, the “first inkling” should have been Sam not knowing how to drive. In fact, that should have been the only indicator Dean needed. Sam would never back the Impala into a dumpster (unless it was in some way related to hunting a la the pilot episode in which Sam drives the car into the house). Aside from Sam’s blatant not-Sam actions, I don’t believe Dean didn’t notice his cell phones, at the very least his own personal cell phone, was missing for as long as he did. This soon after what happened with Ellen and Jo, with the pale rider top-side and Lucifer angling to get up inside Sam and the boys aren’t in constant touch with Bobby at command central or Castiel? I don’t buy it.
Dean wasn’t the only one who seemed off. I was surprised that Sam got into the police car – did he really believe that Dean called out the police to find him? Didn’t the change of clothes throw up a red flag? And why did Sam go to school and stay in the house? Why not just take off and get to the motel to Dean the same night the cops brought him “home”? Okay, so the plot required Sam to root around Gary’s room and figure out what was happening – that witchcraft was at fault here. However, I have a big issue with the execution of this: no way do I think Sam, having discovered he’d been body switched would head to bed and wait for the next morning to discover whose body he was in and start investigating said body’s owner. Nope, the Winchesters, especially Sam, love their research and they are nothing if not thorough.
Was this the greatest episode of Supernatural ever? No, certainly not. But it was entertaining if you overlook the flashing character continuity issues. However enjoyable the last two episodes were, I am ready for a return to the meatier (no pun intended) apocalypse storyline as well as a nice long helping of Bobby and Cas. Previews for next week suggest we’re heading back in the direction. This season has done a good job of balancing the old Supernatural formula with the big Satan-is-among-us storyline, but as we head into the back end of season five, I want to see apocalypse full throttle.