I get it, not every episode can be an epic winner, especially with a 23 episode season, but really? When the show has so much momentum right now we get this?  In the words of Sheriff Donna, “You betcha.”   

I shouldn’t be so harsh though, because “Plush” was not a total waste.  Sure, the script was.  It was a total disaster.  Penned by writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, the script was littered with bad jokes, horrible dialogue, agonizingly slow pacing, and plenty of opportunities lost for anyone that loves the CSI classic, “Fur and Loathing.”   The things they could have done!  But yeah, instead we got a wimpy, mostly filler ghost tale about what happens when a grown man likes to dress in animal and clown costumes.  Bad things people.  Bad things.

The Good Parts  

If anything, “Plush” is a directing and editing achievement.  It’s one thing to have well designed creepy animal and clown costumes, but it’s another to use tricks like lingering camera shots for a few extra seconds on the masks, decorated with blood spatter and big bright eyes, and turn something so innocent and childlike into something very terrifying.  Tim Andrew found all the right beats to take something so weak on paper and deliver the intended horror through stunning visual cues.  Horror isn’t meant to be a quick “Hassan Chop!” and then the victim dies like so many teasers on this show.  It’s the psychological fear generated in the moment before that. This episode soared that department, giving it a true season one feel when the horror element was the main focus.  

Two scenes really stand out for me.  First is in the jail when Sam, Dean and Donna were staring down the demented bunny; motionless, expressionless, silently taking bad jokes from Sam and Dean (especially Sam, that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? reference was a stinker!).  No matter what they tried, the shot kept moving in closer and staying longer on that bunny face.  That extra-long pause near the end was just enough time to get hairs to stand on the back of the neck.  

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The second was Sam vs. demented clown in the elevator.  That could have easily turned into a meta parody, aka “Plucky Pennywhistle’s,” but no, they managed to take a well known comical Sam phobia and turn it into something truly scary!  It’s about freaking time.  It starts on a funny note, with the clown stepping into the elevator with Sam and Sam’s mortified face behind him.  But the clown turns around to face him, giving him that creepy blank stare from the mask.  Sam maintains calm on the outside but we can see that internal freakout as he realizes what’s happening when he sees the bloody scalpel in his hand.  That long pause is terrifying!  Kudos for the choice to lose the omnious score and use the elevator music to sell the scene for just the right amount of tension.  It takes a few seconds, but a frozen Sam evenutally pulls it together and the confrontation begins.  



The Okay

I love the character of Sheriff Donna and I’m glad that they’ve been finding ways for her to return.  Three outings now though and she hasn’t really been given a strong story.  If anything, her adventure in last season’s “Hibbing, 911” was much stronger that this week’s.  I’m definitely not okay with her having relationship issues with fellow cops each time we see her and Sam and Dean discussing these items with her like they’re all a bunch of school girls.  These are not the guys that should be giving relationship advice! 



Donna was given one big chance to shine though, as strangely surreal as it was.  While I really felt Donna’s remorse over killing the innocent 19 year old kid that was possessed by the bunny head, some of the impact was decimated by the fact that freaking creepy bunny head was sitting on the ground staring at them.  I kept screaming, “Burn the damn head already!”  I watch this show, it’s hard to enjoy a tender scene when you’re expecting the damn ghost to show up behind them and fling them across the field.  But hey, Charmelo and Snyder were nice enough to do that to Sam later with an even weirder deer head.   
  

I’m not a fan of “buffoon” comedy, aka acting like a total idiot around someone you like.  So I really didn’t enjoy Donna being all weird in front of Doug.  She wasn’t being herself!  Come on girl, stand tall and proud and show this man the kind of kick ass yet beautiful woman you are.  There, that’s the advice Sam should have given.  But I did love how Donna was welcomed into the official "hunter" club.  Yeah, three cases, she does deserve this.  You go girl!  

There is one clear path we’re on though and it’s a divide between Sam and Dean.  I accept it is a setup for episodes to come, but I didn’t like the standard cliché of Sam presenting a problem and Dean shutting him down.  I thought they had gotten past that.  But “round and round they go” is one of the basic rules of filler, so here we are. 

Sam is really struggling with his visions of the cage and he should be.  He’s starting to wonder if it means that going back there is how they can stop Amara.  He can’t make any sense of it and Dean isn’t exactly helping with the, “We’ll deal with it ourselves” attitude.  I don’t believe he’s getting the visions from God either, but how is ignoring the problem helping?  Dean’s reasoning is correct, dealing with the cage is suicide, but how can Sam ignore what’s popping in his mind at random moments (except for this week)?  Dean should know better, Sam never listens to him.  He’s not going to let this go.  This isn’t ancient history either.  Has Dean forgotten what Sam did to get the MOC removed despite his objections?  For Sam’s own safety, Dean better stay involved.  I wonder if Dean would ignore the visions if the shoe was on the other foot.  He’d probably reach out to Castiel, which is EXACTLY what Sam should be doing right now.  

The Bad Parts

Well, that’s just about everything else, but it’s mostly the script.  Because of the serialized nature of this season (and the show in general), a show is not only judged on its standalone prowess, but it’s fit with the mytharc as well.  This episode failed on both counts.  Something I praised last week was immediately dropped this week, Sam’s new found commitment to save people.  I’m okay with Amara taking a break this week, but considering that Sam’s visions ended up taking a small focus this week, wouldn’t an actual vision been nice?  

The pacing of the story was awful.  There’s one thing that happens in rudimentary (or desperate) television scripts that just drives me nuts.  The long, drawn out, weepy expositional scene that tells the compelling story.  Except it ends up being a hack fest in terms of acting, it’s a waste of your main characters’ time because they have to just stand there and do nothing through all this, and the story ends up being horribly uninteresting and/or anti-climactic.  When that happened with the victim’s sister in the house, I had horrible flashbacks to the worst SPN expositional scene of all time, the vomit worthy racism tale in “Route 666.”  The VFX was even worse though on the bridge scene in this house.   

The tension triggers in the story were awful too and played with stereotypes  way too often.  For one, haven’t we resolved the weight issue with Sheriff Donna?  Come on, she’s been in three episodes now.  It made sense in the first episode since she was at a health spa but it should have died there.  By now, it’s very irritating and a disrespect to a good character.  Second, these shallow yahoos killed a guy because they thought that wearing an animal costume and interacting with their kids, which was basically his job, was inappropriate?  And the sister agreed because she has a kid too and what if they’re right?  What???  I’ve got a better idea to fix this problem.  Send the guy to Las Vegas for a Plushies and Furries convention so he can interact with adults of his kind.  Its better that way. 

Aside the fact that this sorry plot made these secondary characters faceless, shallow, and unsympathetic for no good reason, the concept was lost that if you’re going to flirt with the issue of pedophilia, don’t tip toe.  Either tackle it head on or just don’t go there.  Anything less is a total waste of our time. 

Then there’s just the little things you notice that make things very annoying.  The Sam Winchester head wound count just keeps going up.  In this episode, Sam was knocked out twice within a span of five minutes.  Time for more angel healings because how else is he not having neurological episodes?  How about the really bad jokes?  I mean REALLY bad.  I was half expecting someone in an animal costume to come out and hit them on the head with a rubber chicken (Monty Python reference).  Then there’s the return of “dumb brother” syndrome.  Since when does Sam do such a private moment as praying to God with his bedroom door open?  So the writers can get their awkward brotherly moment?  Sam isn’t that careless. 

Stray Thoughts



“Fat sucker Donna?”  Really Sam?  I wonder if when thinking about calling you, she says, “Hairy Jackass Moose.”  

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How in the world could Dean fire a shotgun in a police station and not be swarmed by officers in seconds?  Wow, those are some really deep budget cuts.  

Speaking of Dean, he’s still not acting quite right, is he?  He’s still way too edgy for me.  There’s a theory floating around that he’s soulless and trying to cover.  A topic about that was started on our Discussion Page.  If you have an opinion on this, do share!  

http://www.thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com/lets-discuss/dean-and-his-soul


Overall grade, a C.  It goes to prove with the right direction and costumes, a story can be lifted with a terrible script.  Coming up next, a funny episode written by Jenny Klein (whose biggest influence is Ben Edlund) and directed by Richard Speight, Jr.  Next week is a Thanksgiving week break though, so check out some of the gems we’ve already gotten this season.  I plan on giving “Baby” another watching or two.  What’s your Season 11 favorite?

 

Comments  

AlyCat22
# AlyCat22 2015-11-20 02:04
My problem with Dean blasting the Harlequin full of rock salt was Dean shooting the Harlequin full of rock salt. BOOM! Girl falls over, spirit leaves, costume head falls off. Dean just shot her in the chest which is now duly peppered with chunks of salt and after she comes to its all "Where am I?" No "OMG MY CHEST!!! WHAT HAPPENED!!!" Now granted she may have been a might bit shocked initially but afterwards while she's sitting at the officers desk is she concerned about her burning wounds? Nope, nary a wince. She must be of strong stock like Jenna, I mean that girl handled the sewing up of a gaping wound in her side with not much more than a sharp intake of breath and then proceeded to lug infant Amara and her diaper bag about as if she were a mother gorilla with her babies! Please. I guess Dean was just a huge wimp when Sam shot him back in the asylum... Big wussy. ;)

As I pointed out elsewhere, I think Dean remembers Cains words in regards to just who Abel was actually talking to and how he was deceived. I think he's freaked and scared for Sam over that as well as freaked and scared and confused and ashamed over Amara and her hold over him. I think Dean will keep an eye out on Sam and that he knows Sam feels praying is something he needs to do. He's still going to speak up about how he feels while at the same time he knows he can't stop Sam from doing it. Sam gets comfort from the idea, Dean doesn't. How much of that is because of the connection to Amara or simply Pavlovs conditioning from being screwed over so many times by higher beings...is yet to be seen. But I thought Dean telling him that they need to rely on each other to get it done - reminding him they're a team was good. And if you think about it, it falls in line with Vision!John saying "God helps those who help themselves." The one thing that bothers me though is Hunter Dean who has lived through a myriad of scenarios over all these years knows better than most that you never can tell where they might find a clue or where or in what fashion help may turn up, or on the flip side, bite them in the ass to simply ignore something this important. Dean's not only ignoring his common sense but his spidey one as well. Disconcerting.
vince
# vince 2015-11-21 04:12
Pretty sure the padding in the costume was meant to take the brunt of the buckshot.
sylvia37
# sylvia37 2015-11-20 09:25
Hi Alice. I don't completely agree with you this time, but you are right in that there were some lame choices made with the script and the action. I think part of the problem with the script is that Sam actually had lines that sounded more like Dean. The reference to Donna for instance. Sam is more likely to say Sherriff Donna whereas Dean is more likely to remember the case and say "fat sucker" Donna in reference. And the "Fwaimed" comment was also more in Dean's wheelhouse. Sam goes more for straight faced sarcasm although I suppose one could argue that he did make the "You wuv hugs" comment from season 4. Maybe he just has a Elmer Fudd fetish for substituting "W" into words :).

As for the action, aside from what AlyCat was saying about the rock salt to the chest, there was also the fact that Dean somehow did not have the salt container in his hand right after he poured the salt line around the victims. I actually yelled "rookie move" at the screen when he rushed the ghost. Really? How long have you been hunting again? And I would argue that the loooong speech by werewolf Kate about her sister getting turned takes the cake as far as boring and soul sucking in the exposition department. At least this actress was good.

I don't know what's going on with Dean. I think his dismissing of Sam's visions is kind of typical of his head in the sand style, but after last season, you would think he'd have actually learned something. The reset of his character after the MOC has been jarring and odd. I hope it has something to do with the Amara thing and maybe soulessness , because I don't like to think that it is Jensen's acting.

I'm still liking this season. And I would choose "Thin Lizzy" to watch again.
vince
# vince 2015-11-21 04:16
That was the point of Sam making the Roger Rabbit reference, that he's kinda terrible at terrible jokes.

Dean used up all the salt to make the circle for the mom and kid, and then tossed the bottle. He did however have the iron railroad spike in his hand, and that's why he rushed the ghost.
Barbara Maake
# Barbara Maake 2015-11-21 08:33
I agree. Dean had just made his own rabbit reference, so I think Sam simply decided to join in. The unexpectedness of this, as well as the fact that it was an awful impression, is what made it hilarious. We rarely ever see the goofier side of Sam anymore, so I thoroughly enjoy it when we do.
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-11-21 19:30
I agree. Sam knew it was a bad joke that's why he made it. And how about Sam's summer of love comment to Dean!! ;)
Barbara Maake
# Barbara Maake 2015-11-20 09:47
I really liked the ep, Alice for the reasons you stated at the beginning of your article and for many other reasons. I had a different take on all of the aspects of the ep that bothered you. One in particular is the death of the brother (whose name keeps escaping me!). I thought it seemed pretty clear that they didn't intend to kill him. They had told the sister (whose name also escapes me!) that they just wanted to frighten him, and it looked like that's what they were doing. When he kept struggling as they dangled him over the bridge, they appeared to get a little frantic and they told him to stop struggling, presumably because they didn't want him to fall. And the sister clearly stated that she thought they were only trying to scare him. It would have bothered me if the sister had been on board with her brother being murdered but I don't think that's what happened here. I found everything about her situation and her speech at the end to be sympathetic, and I think it beautifully parallels the main story arc this year. Honestly, I thought her speech (and the acting) was excellent, unlike the long exposition by the babysitter in Thin Lizzie, which dragged on for too long. The past couple of years, I think the show often has failed at fleshing out the one shot characters enough to give us any investment in them and their troubles, something that the show excelled at in the earlier seasons. But this year I've found the opposite to be true- from Jenna to Len to this sister (whatever her name is:)) and others, these characters have felt less like cardboard filler characters, which has been one of the many reasons I'm loving this season. Hopefully you'll enjoy the next ep more than this one Alice!
love2boys
# love2boys 2015-11-20 11:25
After reading the review and comments, I guess I was lucky Wednesday evening. I had no TV, internet or phone service due to a thunderstorm (I think) and didn't get it back until so late yesterday that by the time I downloaded the episode I was SO sleepy that for me the episode went by like this: zzzzzz..... OMG creepy ass rabbit "snuck" up on Dean from inside a cell! zzzzzzz...... OMG creepy ass clown is on the elevator with Sam! zzzzzzz..... The end zzzzzz.... :)

Now I'm not sure I want to re-watch it! Those may have been the highlights. Watching more may ruin the episode for me! ;)
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2015-11-20 14:07
You should probably give it a chance and try not to let negative or positive opinions sway you. It wasn't all that bad really and for a stand alone MOTW it was creepy and scary (specially if you have a phobia with creepy masks). There was plenty to like about it. Certainly not the worst episode of SPN ever. Certainly not the best. It was good.

But I do agree with Alice just not a well placed episode in the season. I don't like momentum killers either.
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2015-11-20 11:45
Nice review Alice; this was a mediocre episode, particularly the writing. I gave it a C+ only because the director did a very good job with what he was given to work with.

I hope the lazy writing in this episode isn't an indicator of things to come; why would Sam pray with his bedroom door open? That's just inviting snide comments or ridicule by Dean. I'm waiting for Dean to fire up one of his oldies but goodies and call Sam a freak. Dean has been off this season; not soulless-off but something isn't quite right with him. At least Castiel and Sam are aware something is going on. And that exposition scene lasted forever and the entire setup was flimsy at best; if you're going to tackle such a sensitive topic, a little more care and effort needs to be put in to it. You only need to look to last season's The Werther Project to see that they are capable of pulling it off.

No clue where they're going with Sam's visions, though all roads do lead to the cage. Are they from God, Lucifer, Michael, Amara? Does Lucifer have a "link" to Amara like Dean does and is Amara trying to trick Sam in to releasing Lucifer from the cage? Or is this going to play out like Abel where he thought he was talking to God but it turned out to be Lucifer? Just not sure yet. if the show's history is any indication, whatever conclusion or decision Sam comes to will be the wrong one.

Finally, enough with the unconscious Winchesters; I think the fans need to chip in and get Sam a drool bucket for Christmas.
Nogadamo Bhiitia
# Nogadamo Bhiitia 2015-11-20 12:49
I enjoyed this episode because Donna is such a ray of sunshine in the bleak Winchester world and a strong character in her pre-Hunter life. Her weakness for ex-hubby Doug did not get in the way of her sheriffing. This episode was a return to first season rescuing civilians, bookended by BM scenes, and I reveled in it. Sam's fear of clowns, vengeful ghosts, creepy objects-it had everything I liked about early SPN.

As for Sam's Roger Rabbit reference, I thought he was consciously trying to be funny. He's done that from time to time, and has never been very successful. He isn't a very light-hearted fellow after all.
FuntimeSally
# FuntimeSally 2015-11-20 14:55
Honestly, I didn't really hear any fat references, only a reference to the monster "the fat sucker". Still, since they've worked with her since, and in a more intense hunt, you would think Sam would reference the last case and not the first. So, in the end, lazy writing did nothing to add to the episode. Masks and ghosts are cool, but the pacing was slow. It felt like there wasn't enough dialog or action and it needed to be filled in with "tah dah" camera work. It didn't help.

At this point in the Carver administration, I've lost hope that there will be interesting answers and logical conclusions to stories. I think we'll get more answers in the next episode about who is talking to Sam but I hope it's not God or Luci or Mike or Gabe. I'd like to see something imaginative. There are many guesses out there about where the story is going, but as I said, I don't think the direction and details are as thought out as we wish they were.

But, I actually did like that Sam left his door open. I've wanted him to get to the point where he doesn't need his brother's approval. But, of course, that is not why he left the door open; it was just a way for the BM scene to begin and in that regard...clunky.

Still, watching beautiful intelligent strong men get knocked around, knocked out and tell bad jokes really makes it all worth it. Um....no. But I do like Donna, she perks up the scenes, is naive but won't take crap. And the performances all around were great, it was nice seeing Bruce Blain again too.
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-11-20 17:20
Quote:
I get it, not every episode can be an epic winner, especially with a 23 episode season, but really? When the show has so much momentum right now we get this? In the words of Sheriff Donna, “You betcha.”
Yep. As I said before we got such a great sequence of episodes and we crashed right into a filler :P Ah but it wasn't too bad.

Quote:
Then there’s just the little things you notice that make things very annoying. The Sam Winchester head wound count just keeps going up. In this episode, Sam was knocked out twice within a span of five minutes.
Should of been possessed by the deer head if you ask me. What a let down!
sylvia37
# sylvia37 2015-11-20 19:22
I do have to add that I really hate those comments about Sam's love life. I don't find them particularly funny and I think it's just another aspect of his rather tragic life that so
many of the people that he's cared about have died because of who he is to the bad guys.
BoGirle
# BoGirle 2015-11-20 19:54
They do that to Sam as a character a lot. Many of the aspects of his life and personality are played for laughs rather than taken seriously; his love life, his visions, his fear of clowns. It drives me nuts when what is insinuated to be a major component of Sam's life is so callously used for humor.
BoGirle
# BoGirle 2015-11-22 13:48
Hi Alice. Sorry for the late reply. I just wanted to say that I really agree with your assessment of this episode. It's been a while since we've had such disagreement on an episode, with some reviewers and fans really enjoying it and others really not. It's made for some interesting discussions! I'm in this not category with you. It wasn't the worst episode ever written certainly, but it was dull, a bit nonsensical and I feel a return to the formulaic writing that services the plot before the characters that we'd seemed to have gotten away from so successfully so far this season (with the exception of one other episode!). Is it my imagination or do Sharmelo's scripts and Ross-Leming/Bru ckner's scripts seem very similar? Both pairs of writers use the same tricks, the same tropes, and neither pair seems to get the character's very well in the same way. Sam's "Fat sucker, Donna?" line was just so un-Sam like it was positively jarring to hear him say it. I think the writers thought it was supposed to be "funny" and had Sam say it even though Sam would never say such a thing. Dean might, possibly, but that line seemed insensitive even for Dean who tends not to be as touch feely as Sam. We're they attempting to remind us who Donna was with a bad bit of expository writing? Well, they needn't have bothered, we know who she is and didn't need such a callus reminder. And I also agree that the whole pedophilia plot line was a poor choice. If they wanted to be ambiguous as to what the ghost may or may have not done, they could have gone in almost any other direction than picking such a hot button topic and then tip toeing around it as though they were afraid to have Chester be completely innocent or completely guilty. And why did it need to be ambiguous anyway? So that the ghost could feel justified in his vengeance? Since when does a ghost need to feel justified? They do what they do and justify it for themselves even if they were originally evil. Ghost's don't need a real world reason for being angry, it comes with the territory. And for me, the sister's viewpoint and her confusion over her brother and decisions about what to do about the situation made ZERO sense to me. How was it possible that the woman "who spent her whole life defending her brother" would not even bother to talk to him first when confronted by those bigoted, backwards, reactionary boobs who were telling her things she knew in her heart weren't true? Why wouldn't she ask her own son? Nope. Poor plotting, and lazy, illogical characterizatio ns. The actress was pretty good though, she almost managed to sell it, but I kept going "huh?" as the story components continued not to make much sense, at least not to me. I did think that the episode was mildly creepy; the masks and the way the people stood so completely still while wearing them until they attacked that is. I loved Sam's "I was fraaaaamed!" line. I didn't think it was especially Sam-like either, but it set up nicely the attack on Dean at the jail bars.

And I was a bit disappointed with Donna this episode. Yes, she was toned down a bit, which was nice, but she was kind of unpleasant, to Sam and especially to sweet Doug #2 and all the while I kept thinking, why are we even seeing this? Why is this important to the hunt? It wasn't and I could have done without any of it. And wasn't she pithy with all of the colloquial sayings this time around? Boy, she uttered nearly every single"okie, dokie's" and "ya sure, you betcha's" the writers could think of, oh, and a fair number of poop jokes as well. Ugh. It was like a cliche of Fargo without the originality. And did we really need to see that whole "you don't think a woman can do the heavy lifting?" scene at all? Donna was so defensive and acerbic around Doug and I couldn't understand why when the vibes he was giving off were so warm and smitten.

And I for one had a huge problem with everyone letting all the inadvertent murders go. Yes, they were innocent victims and didn't even remember what they did, but what about the victim's families? What about the children that are now orphaned because everyone feels sorry for the killers? How do you think they are going to feel every time they see the person who killed their loved one walking around free? Maybe they'd like to see some justice for their murdered loved ones? Or don't they deserve it because of the way the people the ghost killed were? It's mitigating the actions of certain characters to direct how we should feel about things, something that happened over and over again last season with Dean; basically telling us that those people deserved to be killed, so we won't hold Dean responsible. I hate that kind of writing; it's manipulated and slanted a certain way to guide what we should and should not be feeling. Why not give us the facts and let us decide for ourselves? I know that the story isn't about that, and we aren't supposed to consider such things, but I do and have trouble with it. It's just another part of the plotting that didn't work for me and an aspect of the story that I am sure the writers are hoping we will ignore; and maybe many people can, but I can't.