Imagine you’re Jeremy Carver, and you just got back from a long writer’s strike.  You’ve been told that you better get writing fast, for pre-production on four more episodes to close out the season needed to start yesterday and your next ep is up second.  

“Long Distance Call” may be the third to last episode of the season, but it was obviously conceived to be a filler episode to throw in before all the intense stuff played out.  Which never happened because of that $%#@ writer’s strike.  

Granted this is me speculating, but I think there wasn’t a lot of time to plot this one out creatively, so Jeremy Carver was likely instructed “Write it by the numbers.”  In other words, they pulled out the by the book checklist and Mr. Carver made sure he checked all the boxes.    There's rather compelling evidence.

  • Checklist item #1.  The mysterious death of the week.  Complete with blood spatter on nearby object.  Works every time.
  • Checklist item #2.  Some brotherly tension.  This is pretty great though.  It really sets the mindsets of both these brothers for this episode.  They’re both frustrated, but while Sam refuses to give up Dean is losing faith in the whole process.  It only took Dean five episodes (and one long strike) to tell Sam what Ruby said.  Sam should have known the risks of calling him out on it.  “You really want to talk about who’s keeping secrets from who?” This scene does include the patented "Sam Winchester extended ape arms of intense frustration."  Or whatever you call them.  I need to get a montage of all those together someday.  

  • Checklist item #3.  Put on the suits and talk to the victim’s wife.  By the way, Milan, Ohio is not this lush.  It’s a flat boring, non-scenic farm community on the way to Cedar Point.  Did I mention it’s very boring? 
  • Checklist item #4.  Talk to people at the phone company, where the trouble all began.  Introduce the setting where it’ll all play out. If there’s one bright spot to this episode, it’s the basement guy in the phone company, Stewie.  He’s hilarious.  Hey, it gets lonely in that basement.  Busty Asian Beauties seems like his style.  What a greasy lowlife.  Actually, he and Sam are competing for the most grease that can be in one person’s hair.  

  • I've said it before, I'll make a big deal out of it here.  Out of the 149 episodes that have aired so far, this is THE WORST episode for Sam Winchester’s hair.  Yes, it’s worst than "Wendigo."  There’s plenty of evidence. 

  • Speaking of Busty Asian Beauties, Checklist item #5.  Continuity for the fans.  Got to use something from the past that inspires a fan shoutout.  It also never hurts to use something that’s been registered by the show before.  Bustyasianbeauties.com used to go to Warner Brother’s site.  Now, it goes nowhere.  
  • Checklist item #6.  Sam and/or Dean must bond with the victim of the week.  This week it’s Sam.  I really miss this Sam.  He’s so distant with people anymore and doesn’t connect.  Sure, he’s barely trying to hold it together these days, but he was back then too.  At least back then he found time to smile.  Too bad the hair is such a hot mess.  It drowns out the smile.  

  • I'm not sure about you, but I'm loving Dean's black suit in this one.  Loving.  Why can't he wear this more often? Yes, slow, mediocre bad hair episodes make me prone for taking dips in the shallow end of the pool. 

  • Checklist item #7, wow the audience with a shocking development.  John Winchester calling Dean on the phone should do the trick.  Actually, this little twist ends up being quite clever.  The way Dean clings onto hope that John can help him out of the deal, it reveals how scared and desperate he really is.  He’s willing to believe anything.  It’s really sad.  
  • Checklist item #8.  More brotherly tension.  Sam and Dean don’t see eye to eye about John.  Gee, like that’s never happened before!  

  • Checklist item #9.  Some brotherly humor!  Dean does get in a pretty good line.  “Well, you know, you think a Stanford education and a high school hook up rate of zero point zero would produce better results than that." Sam's smile again is drowned out by bad hair.

  • Checklist item #10.  The quirky scene. I LOVE this tour guide.  She’s using the quoting fingers!  “We’re walking, we’re walking, we’re not touching that, and we’re walking...

  • I don’t care what Winchester it is, I'm splashing like a mad woman in that shallow end every time one of them is shown sleeping.  In bed.  Covered in a tacky bedspread.  This one has O’s all over it, to remind you they’re in Ohio.  It's also the best Sam's hair looks all episode.  
  • Checklist item #11.  The creepy/scary/spooky scene.  Actually, this one is pretty damned good.  Lanie seeing her mother touching her in the monitor reflection?  The computer turning itself on going “Come to me” over and over again?  DanaShulps lives!  
  • More brotherly tension.  They fight.  I have to admit, other than the fact that Sam’s hair looks atrocious, he’s acting out of character here.  I know Sam’s the practical one but, he just seems off.  First he doesn’t want to work on the case, and now he does?  He doesn’t seem that concerned about Dean after fretting over him all season?  I just have never been able to put my finger on it, and I stopped trying a while ago.  I also have a hard time taking Sam very seriously when he’s wearing his hoodie.  With bad hair.  Here he goes for the arms again, but they're only half arms.  You see, he is off!  

  • The pacing of this episode is now down to a sluggish crawl as the next item on the list is addressed.  Checklist item #12, the dashing and daring Winchester rescue!  As fun as it was to see Sam snatch a kid from the oncoming truck just in the nick of time, it was just a wee bit predictable, right?  I was waiting for the kid to run away in fright without a thank you, like the kid in Groundhog Day.  
  • "Dean, warning, it's Crocatta.  Dean, double warning, I have to face this thing on a bad hair day."

  • Crocatta still has my vote for one of the worst MOTWs ever.  Checklist item #13, Sam and/or Dean gets captured by the MOTW, and has to endure some monologuing while they work their chance for escape before imminent death.  Poor Stewie though.  Dying where you work sucks.  
  • Checklist item #14, bloody death for the villain.  Sam’s got that covered. 

  • Dean’s scene was far more captivating and shocking.  Dean faced one of his more raw foes ever, a raging Dad.  It was a pure street fight.  Yes, my heart broke for Dean in a million pieces when he realized it was all a trick.  That realization was more emotionally powerful than all of season seven.  
  • Only one more item on the list, the brotherly bonding chat!  I thought this scene fell flat the first few times I saw this, but after watching again, it’s quite good.  It has the right mixture of snark and sincerity.  I love their reunion.  “I see they improved your face.”  “Right back at ya.”  But Dean finally coming clean that he was scared, while they were on the edge of the beds having a beer, that my crushed heart.  It would have been crushed to a pulp if he hadn’t decided their conversation wouldn’t end as a click flick moment.  

Dean:  Deep revelation, having a real moment here, that's what you come back with? And me?”
Sam:  Do you want a poem?


Up next, another Carver classic.  “In The Beginning.”   A new take on Back To The Future

Comments  

KELLY
# KELLY 2012-09-25 02:28
I just didn't get this monster at all. It made no sense. "Come to me". And then it had to go collect them at the morgue after? I didn't know when I originally watched it that it was based on a Twilight Zone episode by the same name. That was a LOT more scary. A grandma luring a kid into committing suicide so they could be together. Extremely creepy.

That's where they got the kid on the playphone scene. But this plot makes less and less sense every time I watch it.

I think you hit all the high points, such as Stewie and the fight between Dean and the dad. And especially Dean's reaction to John's phone call and that last scene between the brothers. Dean finally admitting his fears was really poignant.

But none of those are enough to save the episode I'm afraid. It's his worse one and on my list for worst episodes ever.
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-09-25 06:55
I laughed at your review. You must have really not liked it, what with the Sam hair references...an d, yes, his hair was awful. Here's why I didn't dislike the episode, though.

The episode played with the theme life after death -- a question that everyone has questioned.

The "mother" talking to the daughter through new technology, the computer. That was really, really creepy. Also, I think throwing in a scene about the anonymity encountered when one uses the Internet kind of reminded me of how people react in that environment. So many users, when encountered with an attack from an opinion expressed, don't know what to do, get mad, and slam back. In this case, the daughter is terrified, and rightfully so. BTW, I think the MotW, the Crocotta, was just made up.

Dean flips out, but before he does, we get to see him build up to it. The fight scene was brutal with both the grieving, devastated Dad, and Dean in a death match. There hasn't been many of these really good fight scenes in the show, and I want more of them. Mostly, though, this was an episode of Dean terrified and in a moment of weakness, and that was something new. Dean was going to kill a human (even though he thought it was the demon that held his deal). If he had not realized that something was wrong when the dad stepped out of the devil's trap, he would have condemned himself to Hell, and not because of a deal he made for Sam's life. And I go back to the fight scene, when he repeatedly kicks and kicks the guy. Dean falling apart is a scary thing.

Sam in caretaker mode. I love that Sam, when he's all worried about Dean and has to play caretaker to keep Dean from going off the rails (Blood Lust, Yellow Fever, How To Win Friends). I much prefer that Sam, rather than demon blood sucking, soulless, jerk Sam...and we don't get to see that side of Sam often. I'm hoping that's the Sam we see in S8.

Even Stewie gave me the creeps in this one.

I'll swim in the shallow pool with you. Yes, the black suit. JA films so well in bright sunlight.
Bevie
# Bevie 2012-09-25 14:43
I agree with your post Ginger, except for the Crocotta, who is a real monster in folklore. (not REAL, but is a mythical monstfer). I believe they modernized it for the show.

Can't see the bad hair, and agree that the Sam in this episode is much preferable to blood drinking RoboSam. I too hope to see this Sam in season 8.

The fight was awesome and Dean's realization that it wasn't his dad rescuing him but just another deceiving monster was so heart breaking. Jensen just delivers the goods every time. Sob!

This is on my top ten along with the 100 others there! :D

And this was a masterpiece compared to the majority of season 7 episodes. :zzz
suzee51
# suzee51 2012-09-25 20:07
Quote:
I'll swim in the shallow pool with you. Yes, the black suit. JA films so well in bright sunlight.
Having spent most of the last seven years wallowing in the shallow end of the pool, let me just add: JA does indeed film well in bright sunlight. And in black & white (have you seen him in Monster Movie?). And through the lense of a video recorder being filmed (The Usual Suspects). And in over saturated color (It's a Terrible Life). And when there is no light at all (The Pilot).

OK, let's just skip the rest of my litany and get to the bottom line. Ginger - I agree with almost everything you said, with one minor change:

JA films so well. (Period!) :lol:
PaintedWolf
# PaintedWolf 2012-09-25 09:19
Ginger, as far as I remember, the Crocotta is real. I think when they were putting the episode togther, they had an idea of what the MOTW needed to do, but they didn't know what it was and apparently Crocotta, as obscure as it was, was the closest they got.
I actually went to look it up just for fun and according to Wikipedia, it's some kind of dog-wolf that was able to mimic human voices to lure people to their deaths, among other things.
I actually think they've never really made anything up on the show. I think Kripke might've had somewhat of an "it has to exist somewhere in folklore" rule!
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-09-25 17:31
I was speaking more to the SPN interpretation of a Crocotta and SPN's take, or representation, of it.. In that respect, the Show uses the word for the MotW more than what it actually was supposed to be.

Pliny mentions it in his "Natural History" as some kind of a hybrid between the hyena and other animals and associates grave robbing with it. Other ancient writers associate it with a hyena and imitating the human voice to lure its victims. SPN version is, of course, a human form that is using modern technology in this case, and that's where I think it got very fanciful, but it worked for me.

I agree with you that they use legends, sometimes obscure ones, for their stories and do their own thing with them. (Not sure about the rugaru, though ??)
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-09-25 12:41
You make a great point about this episode. It felt like filler, especially in such a great season. I guess there are so few in season 3 that it's very noticeable when one of them stinks up the joint. Although this episode has one redeeming point, and it's the little tête-à-tête that Sam & Dean have at the end. It let us into Dean's mindset about going to Hell. So, good one for Jeremy Carver, but definitely not a winner.
Grace232
# Grace232 2012-09-25 16:05
I actually was okay with this episode, but your review was great, just the same. "Sam Winchester extended ape arms of intense frustration" - I laughed so hard I cried!
LEAH D
# LEAH D 2012-09-25 18:51
Not my favorite ep. but the recap was extremely entertaining. Tell us how you REALLY feel about Sam's hair in this episode!! Funny. And the comments about "Sam Winchester extended ape arms of frustration" and "half arms" made my day.

I, along with everyone else it seems, also enjoyed the final scene. I love it when Dean shows his vulnerability and Sam is there for him. And visa versa as in "Heart". Of course they had to de-chick flick it but it was still lovely.
E
# E 2012-09-29 10:13
Not my favorite ep either, but I think I liked it more than you did Alice, but not by much. I have to agree with you about Sam in this ep though. I found him unsympathetic in a way that was OOC and very annoying. He seemed impatient with Dean and didn't even seem to react that to the fact that it was John on the phone. There should have been something there right? I mean, it's THE DAD for crying out loud. I also felt like he didn't really listen to Dean or his concerns, he didn't recognize Dean's fear and that he was humoring him in an impatient way that was irritating and condescending. Now Sam can be condescending with the best of them, and he can be bitchy and impatient too (see Tall Tales, for a bitchy Sam that works), but there was nothing in the writing of Sam this time that indicated why he was being such a pill, no insight that explained his impatience, so he just ends up looking like a grade A asshole.

I also agree that the pacing of the ep overall was SLOOOOOOW. The characters even moved through the staging in a slow way that dragged everything down. And regarding Dean, the things I liked about his storyline are also the things I couldn't stand, if that makes any sense. Dean hearing from his dad was a real shocking turn of events, and I really felt bad for him and his desperate hope that he could be saved from his demon deal. On the flip side though, I wanted to smack him upside the head. We see finally that he's afraid of his deal when he's talking with dead John on the phone and that he really wants out of his situation. And yet "HELLO!" there's little brother right across the room whose been killing himself for months to try and save you if you'd only let him, but you won't cause you don't talk to him. UGH. It's another chapter in the 'Dean will talk to anyone at all about what he's going through, except Sam the one person who is willing and able to help him,' book of emotional suppression. It is redeemed at the end of the ep when Dean FINALLY talks to Sam in a real way and indicates he will accept help. It's too late though, only they don't know that.

One last thing... you don't like the Sam Winchester Brown Hoodie of Emo? Really? Oh, Alice...Most of his best emo moments have happened in that hoodie, I love it.