Ah, “Tall Tales.” This isn’t one of those episodes where critical analysis provides any value. It’s a breath of fresh air after a string of very intense episodes. But it’s so much more than that. This is a series classic that has become one of the most popular episodes with the fandom. Not convinced? Just look at what this episode brings to "Supernatural" history.
“Tall Tales” is the introduction of an iconic fan favorite character in “Supernatural,” The Trickster. It brought “Supernatural” convention staple and master of ceremonies Richard Speight, Jr. into this one crazy family. He not only went on to star in multiple episodes, but directed a few as well. Sure, The Trickster was definitely neutered quite a bit when he was revealed in season five to be the archangel Gabriel instead of a trouble making Loki, but until then his episodes were very popular. He was a villain you rooted for. Turns out, it is a hoot to watch one super powerful being on a sugar bender screw with people that totally deserve it in the most outrageous ways.
Thanks to “Tall Tales,” everyone knows now about purple nurples. They’ve become staples in hotel bars at cons.
Busty Asian Beauties made its debut and has not only made multiple appearances throughout the series, it gets numerous mentions in fan fiction and by fans online.
One of the most popular fandom gifs/screen shots among the fans is Dean with his mouth stuffed with caramels.
The Weekly World News became an "Supernatural" cultural phenomenon as well, so much so we named our weekly news segment after it.
And don’t get me started on what this episode has done to “Lady in Red.” Funniest…scene…ever.
Just your typical haunted campus, alien abduction, alligator-in-the-sewer gig.
The writer is John Shiban, who came up with something wildly different in the construction of this script. I always like storytelling that isn’t linear, but it’s not the easiest format to pull off. It has to be done right in order to keep the audience engaged and not totally confused. The shifting POVs in the storytelling between Sam and Dean is what changes this ordinary monster story into a complete surprise. Are siblings going to tell the straight story when they are completely annoyed with one another? Of course not! The embellishments are priceless.
Differing views of the same incidents has been done before, heck even “The X-Files” did it (in which John Shiban was a producer), but this time the result isn’t so black and white. Most of the time when this scenario is done, the audience gets the full story about an incident from one person and then from others, until the detective is able to deduce from clues whose story is right. The most recent example I can think of that I loved was the brilliant animated film “Hoodwinked.”
In "Tall Tales", the clues aren’t meant to reveal who is telling the false story. The clues end up being the little exaggerations in each story the brothers use about each other. Who was right isn’t important, although wouldn’t it have been fun to know? It was a brilliant move to take those embellishments in the stories and use them for comic relief rather than giving any real clue to the audience about what was happening. Luckily, we had Bobby Singer for that. How inspired was it to put Bobby in the role of detective? He got to listen to each side of the story and could easily see past all the Sam and Dean foolishness to figure out the culprit. He was not your prototypical impartial detective. He thought both of them were being “idgits” to say the least and didn’t play favorites. They were both wrong.
Just look at the way everything unfolds. It gets crazier and crazier. The teaser starts like all "Supernatural" openers do, an encounter with the MOTW that results in somebody’s gruesome death. There’s no indication that this is going to go sideways until the flashbacks start when Bobby arrives. That’s when the true tall tales begin.
There’s Sam’s Starla,
vs. Dean’s classy Grad student (whose name he doesn’t remember):
This is a very serious investigation.
We don't have any time for any of your blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah Blah!
Sam’s version of Dean snacking while talking to the janitor about the case:
Dean’s inner voice coming out loud and clear on how he views sympathetic Sam:
Sam: I never said that!
Dean: You’re always saying pansy stuff like that.
Of course, there was that one time their stories were in line and this resulted in one of the most iconic scenes in “Supernatural.” Okay, maybe it’s just iconic for me. There have only been a few times I have laughed so hard that I’ve hurt myself:
Suicidal teddy bear in “Wishful Thinking"...
Bad acting in “The French Mistake"...
Alien slow dance in “Tall Tales"...
The entire alien abduction scene was no doubt an homage to several of the crew, who previously worked on “The X-Files” along with writer John Shiban. They were able to have fun with an "X-Files" type alien abduction yet still put aliens on the “bulls**t” list in terms of “Supernatural” lore. I’m also impressed that the show managed to respect that "no alien" rule through the entire series, even with Ben Edlund flirted with the encounter in season six’s “Clap Your Hands if You Believe.”
The abduction scene was a technical marvel, selling the entire encounter with clever lighting, some wires to hoist the victim, high powered fans blowing around to make it look like a ship was there, and even the burned out crop circle on the ground, without ever showing a ship. By the time this part happened, we were really fascinated by where this story was going. I was with Sam, Dean and Bobby, this can’t be happening, yet it was! What is going on?
So what happens when Sam and Dean interrogate the traumatized witness? As the story gets crazier, everyone is in on the joke except for the poor victim. Sam even has to turn away to laugh before resuming his sympathetic face.
Curtis: They did tests on me. And, uh... they, uh... They probed me.
Dean: They probed you?
Curtis: Yeah, they probed me. Again and a...again and -- And again.[takes a shot] And again and again and again... And then one more time.
Curtis: And that's not even the worst of it.
Dean: How could it get any worse? Some alien made you his bitch?
Curtis: They... They made me... slow dance.
Tears man…tears. Side hurts too much…can’t get up off of floor.
The kicker though, the final clue, was the damage to the Impala, aka Dean’s breaking point. What happens to bickering siblings in close quarters when they've finally had it with each other? How do they solve it like men? Wrestling, of course! Every sibling has done it, just most of us stopped doing that by ten years old. Seeing two grown men go at it like children brings back all those fond memories for any of us who have siblings. Fighting it out is the only way.
Even at the end, when the brothers were wise to what was happening and the story takes a straighter path, the laughs continue with the altercation in the theater. How priceless is it to watch Dean Winchester get the crap kicked out of him by two busty lingerie clad beauties on a red velvet round bed with hanging disco ball to the tune of Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe”? Perfect in every way! The Trickster certainly nailed Dean’s fantasy life! It was a perfect scene to setup the supposed “end” of The Trickster, while opening up the door that this might not be the last we'd see of this crafty villain.
This goes to prove what despite what Jared and Jensen have said, they are brilliant comedic actors. Both ran with their off character twists perfectly, giving us clues as to who was telling the story just by the sheer absurdity of their actions. Comedy is very hard, yet they made it look seamless.
Other Random Thoughts
For those who wondered (I’m sure there are like two of you), here’s the recipe for a purple nurple:
This episode also had the clever promotional tie-in with the now defunct Weekly World News. The fact that the Trickster got trick inspiration from that tabloid magazine just added to the whole urban legend theme this show was based upon. The magazine even did a fake interview with Sam and Dean to promote this episode! It’s a shame the magazine didn’t make it. The stories were a hoot!
At Richard Speight, Jr’s first “Supernatural” con in Chicago in 2009, I got to ask him a question during his panel about the theater scene. This is from my panel report:
What was it like doing the scene in "Tall Tales" in the auditorium when Jensen was getting beat up by those gorgeous women? He said it was the easiest scene he'd ever worked on because he just got to sit there and watch. Jensen was the one getting thrown into walls by the stunt people, and he did his own stunts in that one. It was a very long scene to choreograph, but it was a lot of fun. The only downside for him was he had to eat a lot of candy bars, but he couldn't feel sorry for Jensen either, since he was getting handled by two gorgeous women. He felt like clapping after watching all that mayhem, and then found out he could because it was in the script, so he did.
Here’s a few more of my favorite lines:
Bobby: No, come on. You're bickering like an old married couple.
Dean: No, see married couples can get divorced. Me and him, we're like, uh, Siamese twins.
Sam: It's conjoined twins!
Dean: See what I mean?
Girl: My god, you are attractive.
Dean: Thanks. But no time for that now. You need to tell me about this urban legend. Please. Lives are at stake.
Girl: Sorry, I just... can't even concentrate. It's like staring... into the sun.
Sam: Dude, you know something? I put up with a lot from you.
Dean: What are you talking about? I'm a joy to be around.
Sam: Yeah? Your dirty socks in the sink, your food in the fridge.
Dean: What's wrong with my food?
Sam: It's not food anymore, Dean! It's Darwinism.
Overall grade, an A. Series classic. Up next, perhaps one of the weaker installments of season two, but one I still enjoy putting on my rewatch list nonetheless. “Touched by a Winchester,” aka “Roadkill.”