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Admittedly, when I saw the trailer for this episode I was unsure what to expect. Clowns, while not a fear of mine, are kind of creepy and I just generally don't like them. The other episode featuring clowns, "Everybody Loves a Clown" isn't on my all-time favourite list so that gave me pause when coming to Plucky. I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised and in fact, loved this episode. 

Plucky was classic "Supernatural" from start to finish and a brilliant standalone in the company of "Bad Day at Black Rock."  It's surprising that Ben Edlund didn't have a hand in writing this episode, because his style came through at some moments. Throughout the episode, opening moment to end credits, I never stopped laughing. 

So, what exactly made this episode so great? It set a good pace, kept up some of the suspense (but we knew Sammy wasn't in really danger from those clowns, it was just great to watch them pummel him with flower-seltzer and glitter) and had some pretty creative monsters. 

Vamptopus, Unicorns and Sharks, Oh My!

We open the episode on Sammy running from clowns and, after a technicolour exploding ink title card, flashback to 60 hours prior, where Dean is crammed into the world's smallest phone booth communicating in ridiculous code with Frank. Maybe it's because I haven't been in a phone booth in over 10 years, if not more, but that was small, no? I just kept imagining Sam wedged into that thing - he'd never have escaped!  After the phone call, there is a brief follow up from last week with Dean and Sam wondering about the location of the Amazon tribe and finally deciding to take a case in Kansas when there are no leads left. Dean is a bit gun shy about women, boos and bars after last week to Sam's amusement. 

A quick comment on Dean's statement to stave off the alcohol: Dean was in high spirits through this episode and genuinely happy at points. Even Sam acknowledged this (though not to Dean) at the end when Dean was laughing at Sammy's sparkly outfit. It was good to see him this way and maybe, just maybe, he learned a bit of a lesson last week. Who knows how long it will last, but it is certainly refreshing to see him so happy. 

In Kansas we have murder by vamptopus and another by a unicorn. Finally! The Supernatural writers were able to bring us a unicorn in a non-jump the shark, my pretty pony way. I love the rainbow coming out the unicorn's ass too, a throwback to Dean's line in Houses of the Holy: "There's tons of stuff on unicorns to, in fact I've heard they ride on silver moon beams and shoot rainbows out of their ass." Hats off to the makeup department for the suction marks on the first victim because that is something we've never seen on Supernatural before and it was very well executed.  Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall in the pitch meeting for this episode?  "Okay, so we have this guy who was killed by a giant octopus and the next guy, he's gonna get smoked by a rainbow-pooping unicorn. Then Sam is going to be glitterfied by some clowns. Questions?" 

The boys begin to investigate the victims and it isn't too long before they wind up at Plucky Pennywhistle's Magic Menagerie, the Supernatural answer to Chuck E. Cheese, and various other incarnations of kid's play world. Personally, the idea of setting foot in a place like makes me nauseous, not only for the seizure inducing sounds and colours; but also because large groups of yelling children makes me want to jump off the nearest ledge (it's not that I don't like children, I just don't like many of them in a confined space hopped up on sugar and making noises like dying cats). So, I can appreciate Sam's aversion, as well as Tyler's, to such a place.

The extra characters in this episode were all equally colourful, from the little octopus drawing girl to Tyler's mom to Howard. I feel more and more the episodes of this season are harkening back to past years where the characters of the week were characters that I came to like/know in the forty-two minute window. 

Sam vs the Clowns 

This is not news but Jared Padalecki deserves major kudos for his comedic efforts. The expressions he pulled when Dean told him to stake out Plucky's, the look on his face at the clowns in Plucky's and the interrogation scenes with staff were epic. It takes great talent to actually have the viewers feel the blood drain from their faces just because Sam is faced with the task of going to that child-haven, adult hell. 

The writing in this episode was perfect as well. If I didn't know better, I could have placed this episode in season three very easily. All the characters felt right and the dialogue was tight. I admit I struggle with the idea of Dean dropping Sammy at one of these places to "troll for chicks" simply because it seems very out of character with what we know about young Dean (especially after the whole shtriga incident) but that was a minute focus, so I won't dwell. 

Many of the things Sam did this episode had tears running down my face. One of my favourite moments was toward the end. Sam goes to get out of the car, tough hunter expression on his face only to see a clown standing in front of him; suddenly his expression is unabashed terror - so funny! 

The opening of this episode, with Sam cowering behind the car and reassuring himself that "if it bleeds, you can kill it" was Sam's answer to Dean vs the yorkie back in "Yellow Fever," but even better. I imagine this episode will be likened to "Yellow Fever" in a number of ways, not the least of which is playing with people's fears as a way to kill them. Now, I liked "Yellow Fever" a lot but this episode was much better. Where "Yellow Fever" took us to a place of near ridiculousness with Dean's fear, Sam was much more subtle and specific in his fear, and for that reason all the more fun to watch. Particularly because Sam is so often (to quote Jared from Nashcon 2012) "the straight one" to Dean's "swashbuckling" antics. Sam doesn't often take the pratfalls, but when he does we are in for a great show. 

Also like "Yellow Fever," the victims of the imagination-deaths in this episode were "bullies" in one form or another. I can appreciate that these parents who yell at their children or neglect them at a particular instance may appear bad to the casual observer, one can only imagine how frazzled some of them are, or overworked, etc. So in this instance, "bully" is loosely applied by the crazy worker Howard. Interestingly, like Dean in YF, Sam became a target because he wasn't a nice guy during the interrogation. 

This episode reminded me of a "Charmed" character (I'd say episode, but he was involved in a few) known as Barbas, the demon of fear, and when the episode began I wondered if it was the adults whose fear was being played against them. Somehow it was better that it was the children's fears, because they were so much more irrational. Seriously, what child is afraid of a unicorn with rainbow-butt? I wondered too if Sam would have to get over his fear and by fighting back, he'd defeat the clowns and render them powerless. I like the sparkle explosion even better though. 

Giant Slinky

Dean got to play the role of creepy 30-something guy watching the children while Sam played "bad cop" interrogator. Any chance to watch Dean interact with kids is great, because he's so good with them. He's also a giant child himself, as evidenced by his pursuit of the giant slinky. I enjoyed when he scared off that kid from the skeet ball game Tyler wanted to play. This kid reminded me of a Ben meets Todd amalgamation.
There was a nice moment between Dean and Tyler where he explained things from a non-kid perspective about his mom: she was overworked and stressed out, not simply being mean. Dean said he could relate to Tyler because John dragged him around a lot as a child. Hmm. Kinds of apples and oranges there, but it worked well enough. This kid seemed fairly intelligent but nevertheless laserbeam-eyed robots were his nightmare. And giant robots at that. Ah, Ronald Resnick - you and your mandroid theories would have gotten on well with this child. There was a nice moment toward the end when the child apologized to the mother for his behaviour (after some prompting by Dean) and the mother lit right up. It's nice to see a family moment not laden with gore and horror on "Supernatural" for a change.

Dean was a different person this episode. For the first time in a while, there were no shots of him tipping back a drink (maybe coffee) and they ate something other than burgers this time around too! Overall, Dean was lighter; joking about spawning an evil child and having a lot of fun with Sam's clown fears. It was good to see him smile and make snarky remarks throughout the episode - old Dean, hello! 

So, while Sam was being, and I use the term lightly, tortured by green-haired, red-nosed, floppy-footed monsters, Dean had the task of dealing with Howard, whose primary issues stemmed from his brother drowning when he was a child. That is a long time to harbour a grudge and believe your parents were responsible for the drowning of their child because they, allegedly, didn't listen when Howard yelled for help. These are either the worlds coldest parents or Howard is very damaged. Given that he paints little clown statues I'm going with the latter assumption.  

When Dean tossed the clown and Howard's picture into the fire and Howard's brother appeared, I wondered Howard had actually been using a ghost, inadvertently, to get the killings done. I'm pretty sure it was magic, but the appearance of the brother certainly gave me pause. On that note, the one other issue I have with this episode (again it's a tiny one) is how did Dean break the spell? Did he let insane hoodoo working Howard die by drowning? And did that end magic because he was the one doing it? Did he tip the fire pit thing over? I'm a little fuzzy on how exactly this came to pass, but it's hardly a major thing in this overall fantastic episode. 

Laughter All Around

So, we end the episode with Sam ready to blow out of town having faced his fear. He tells Dean that clowns couldn't possibly do anything worse to him than has already been done, so why fear them at all? We have a good brotherly scene here, where Sam takes pleasure in seeing Dean genuinely laugh (it made me think of Free to Be You and Me when Dean said to Cas he hadn't laughed like that in a really long time) at his sparkly clown encounter and then presents him with a giant slinky, to Dean's everlasting delight. Dean of course had a gift for Sam too - his clown fear sobriety chip - a creepy doll. Judging from Sam's expression, he's not entirely over that clown fear either. 

Final Thoughts

After ending on such a high note, I don't even have to see the preview to know it's all going to hell next week. Having seen the preview, it's all that and more. As a standalone episode, this was fabulous: it was entertaining, sharply written and well acted. No complaints from this happy viewer! 

What did you think fellow viewers? 

Bonus question
: what irrational fear did you have a child? Mine was bizarre and stemmed from my parents love of Star Trek: TNG which gave me nightmares about green (don't know why, don't think they were green in the show) Ferengi dissecting my family.


# kazkriz 2012-02-11 22:24
great review... :)
After this epi I felt so happy for them... I mean from the unicorns (what a call back to HOTH!!!) to that priceless ending I felt totally amazed.
It was so good to see Dean laughing again I felt like back in season one... and sammy was so pleased to be the reason of his smiling... oh boy! it was A GREAT BROTHERLY MOMENT!

lol to the unicorns!!!! I can say if I had been alone at home I would've laugh soooooo hard ...( my mom was there..she doesn't understand I did not have the chance to enjoy this episode the way I'd love to... but oh hell!!!! it was AWESOME!!!!) I was crying!!!! LOL

I really loved this episode... and I lost it when the RIGHT FRIGIN' NOW tittle appeared!!! Poor sammy and clowns.. like Dean said What in the world did they do to him :D I have to say I cried at the end... not because of happines but cuz I felt so bad for them.. can't they just have a break once in a while...
I want them to have a little happiness sometimes. So I was totally devastated when I saw the next week promo... I knew Sammy was gonna get "nuts" by Lucy... but ..but I thought (or I wanted to believe so bad) it was gonna be until episode 17.... apparently no... it's gonna start next week....

I LOVE this episode .. I don't know if it was Dean laughing again... or sammy with glittler ... or those damn clown .... All I know is it was so good to see them have at least a good week
# elle 2012-02-12 14:03
The episode was such a refreshing burst of light in a pretty heavy and dark season. Like you, I loved this episode. Everything about it made me laugh till I cried.
# francie1 2012-02-11 22:45
Hi Elle,
I agree this was a really funny episode for the same reasons you mentioned. Especially the unicorn with the rainbow coming from it's ass! While i'm really glad that Dean is laughing again, I was a bit surprised at how quickly his mood turned around from last week. Not complaining though.
I also liked Yellow Fever at least as much or more than Plucky. Yes, Dean's fear was way over the top, but Jensen nailed it and I never stopped laughing!
No "irrational" fears, just the usual kid ones. Spiders, etc.
I admit I never did like clowns. Not fear, just don't like them. Have you ever noticed how mean they can be in circuses? The big ones are always smacking on the little ones.
Loved your article. Great job!
# elle 2012-02-12 14:02
I too was surprised by the quick mood change. But then I read Alice's review of The Slice Girls, and she had some really good points about how last week was about Dean on the road to recovery.

Yellow Fever is great too, this one was an entirely different approach. The over the top stuff worked in YF the same way the outlandish children's fears worked in this one. Ah, I just love this show! So creative!

Clowns are creepy. Dolls too for that matter, which makes clown dolls the absolute worst thing.
# rmoats8621 2012-02-11 23:27
Great review. I liked this episode a lot. This episode will definitely be added to my watch over list... It was so good to see Dean laugh so heartily. Like you said, it's been a long time...all the way back to "Free To Be You and Me" in Season 5. The writers that wrote this episode also wrote "Yellow Fever" and some of that was sprinkled throughout this current episode. "Yellow Fever" is one of my favorites! However, like you said, I believe that Edlund had his hand in this too, not just Dabb and Loflin. Anyway, Dean needed that laugh. It's been a LONG time coming and definitely the best medicine ever for him...and Sam! Oh...and poor Sam! At least he's been able to get a handle on his phobia of clowns. I wouldn't say he's cured, but I think he'll be able to cope, just like Dean. I mean, Dean was able to fly all the way to Scotland and back last year and that was one major feat!

It was also nice that the guys got the win! No one got away or beat them. This was so needed! They've had so many losses lately. Nice to see them on top for once! Good Guys - 1; Bad Guys - 0... It needs to happen a lot more often.

Oh.. and Dean likes something other than cheeseburgers! He's quite handy with the chopsticks AND Sam was eating it too. Also, Dean gave up the alcohol at least for this episode. Definitely another win! His poor needs a break!

The cast and crew did an amazing job and Mike Rohl is such a talented director. I look forward to his episodes. I hope we're able to see the outtakes from this one. I bet some of them were priceless! The clown squirting Sam/Jared. I understand that Jared was actually soaked by that gag during one of the takes. And the scene where Dean/Jensen is laughing at Sam/Jared covered in glitter....I bet that took several takes to get through it.

As for a personal phobia of mine....I still don't like open closets in a dark room or dark rooms....Boogey man fear! I especially don't like them in hotels for some reason. I always keep the bathroom light on and the closet doors shut....Oh..I also have nightlights everywhere at home! Silly, I know, but oh well.....
# elle 2012-02-12 14:00
It has been a long while since the boys had an honest out-and-out win, hasn't it?

They entire team behind this episode was fabulous. These writers always make me laugh.

Closets and dark rooms are kind of creepy, especially in an unfamiliar location. I can't sleep with any light, but in an empty dark house I will turn on all the lights as I go through to avoid being in any dark hallways....too many episodes of Supernatural!
# tigerlily2 2012-02-11 23:36
(but we knew Sammy wasn’t in really danger from those clowns, it was just great to watch them pummel him with flower-seltzer and glitter)

Really? I thought he absolutely was in danger from the clowns. They were his phobia made real, strong and invincible by Howard's spell. They actually did beat him with wrenches and throw him through the windshield of a car. Had Dean not figured out how to turn Howard's spell on him and kill him with it, Sam would have died like the other victims.

After all the build-up about how damaged Sam is, watching him beaten wasn't that hilarious to me. There were funny moments in the episode, (ball washer, lol) but not that.
# elle 2012-02-12 13:57
Hi tigerlily2,

It wasn't the beating that was funny to me, the whole situarion of it was. Even Sam made fun of it later, talking about the flower squirting thing.

I also knew Sam wouldn't die, so maybe that's why I didn't focus on the beating so much.

Ah well, to each his own :-)
# sweetondean 2012-02-12 00:01
This was such a fun episode, I love that the show seems to know when we're all in need of a break and a good giggle! I enjoyed it so much and Dean's hearty laugh was so wonderful to hear. We need to hear them laugh a bit more often!
# elle 2012-02-12 13:56
Wasn't it great to see the boys smile geuinely? Such a treat.
# Mickey 2012-02-12 00:20
Great review! I adored this episode! I kept laughing in total glee and delight throughout the whole thing.

It's funny, I was sure it was written by Ben Edlund until I saw the writer credits after. Well done, Nabb and Loflin!

It's also funny you talk about Sam's facial expressions, I was thinking the same thing in the last two episodes. Jensen excels at comedic timing and physical humour, but Jared has really stepped it up with the facial expressions. A perfect example is the exchange at the end of Slice Girls, Jensen's timing is amazingly spot on when he pauses in the middle of "You're just...bigger" and then jumps in without a nanosecond of pause when he comes back with "I don't know." If he were singing, every music critic would be praising his phrasing.

Whereas Jared in that same scene just did incredible things with his expression when Dean says "You're just...bigger" like every single one of his facial muscles is going WTF?!?

As for the spell, the clowns vanished in a puff of multicoloured glitter (how cool was that?!) at the precise moment Howard died, so I guess no magic-maker=no magic.
# elle 2012-02-12 13:55
The puff of glitter was excellent. I suppose Howard died at the end, ending the spell, you're right.

Jared does brilliant things with his face, I'm always amazed by his performaces in the comedy. Jensen can pull some faces too, but I think the faces Jared makes hit more extreme ends of the spectrum. They're both hilarious to watch.
# Beverly 2012-02-12 13:47
Looking at the pictures in this review, I just had a strange random thought. Can you imagine the owners of the car that Sam "borrowed" when the police return it to them?

The owners talking to a friend. "Yeah the police found the vehicle. The only thing that has me scratching my head is the glitter . . . yeah, glitter. It is all over the car and we'll be cleaning it up for days, even weeks." ;-)
# elle 2012-02-12 13:52
LOL that is a hilarious thought!
# anonymousN 2012-02-14 11:39
A very good episode overall..As far as Dean trolling for chicks we do not know how exactly they were in their teenage mostly after Sam became 10 years of age..even in after school special it was more about how Sam and Dean interacted with the students..