Friday, October 7, 2011

"The Girl Next Door" Recap and Review

First impressions: It was a good thing I kept my expectations low for this episode, knowing they can't all be as good as the first two. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot to love about "The Girl Next Door," but it didn't have the same grab-me-by-the-throat effect. I was disappointed that Jewel Staite's role was so small, but very pleased that the rude, selfish edge Dean had in Jensen's directing debut was gone here. He did a great job, especially given that his screen time was greater. I think he has a future behind the camera. I just hope he doesn't pull a Ron Howard and do it for good!

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Watching "THEN," I feel like we've had a lot more than two episodes so far. This is a rich, meaty start to season 7. Just like the last two episodes, we start right where we left off. Dean's in the hospital, foggy until they set his leg, which jerks him into the ER. He wants to get out, but Sam's been sent up for an MRI, and they dope Dean before he can try to leave on that broken leg. Fade out on morphine drip...

...and fade in on Dean forgetting why he's at Sioux Falls General. Love the way he rips out his IV, but whoops! Down on the floor.

Bobby comes in. Dean's shocked he's alive. "Course I am," he scoffs, but I'm suspicious that it's not really Bobby. He doesn't explain (ever!) where he was, but he turns out to be the real deal.

Dean: "Hey, look, a monster broke my leg."

Bobby has very little sympathy for Dean's plight. I don't get why he has a full-leg cast for a tibial fracture. I'm sure there are some circumstances that warrant it. I've just never encountered them in real life. Anyway, Dean says he's a gimp, Bobby just hands him crutches and an encouraging smile and heads off to find Sam.

I kind of love the Leviathans. The surgeon takes his "job" so seriously. I mean, they're going to remove and eat someone's internal organs, but he still maintains sterility and lets the "nurse" hold his phone for him. But geez, these guys are gonna be tough. Dropping a car on them doesn't kill them. There's no lore, since they came before humanity, and were put away before us, too. And despite their extreme age and lack of exposure to technology, they've learned it fast. They know when the Winchesters are brought in to the hospital, and...well, let's not jump ahead.

Bobby takes over Sam with an entirely plausible "no insurance, shipping him to County" excuse, and Dean barely makes it to the ambulance in time to get away. Okay, the Leviathans are not invincible. They can't run faster than a vehicle. Good to know.

Now we're in Whitefish, Montana, three weeks later, in what we soon learn is Rufus's cabin. Sam's reading, Dean's watching a telenovella, and he and Bobby are totally hooked. Bobby has retrieved the Impala and gathered info from hunters, who don't know what the Leviathans are but have worked out what they do pretty well.

Bobby's saying the doctor and nurse never showed back up (moving the Big Bad to the background to leave room for other kinds of episodes) while Sam zones out for a minute. He strokes a thumb over the nasty-looking, shiny, puckered scar on his hand, his touchstone.

All Bobby's resources are gone, but he says he's going to go round up his old library. He's stashed copies of his one-of-a-kind books all over the place. Love Bobby!

Dean sends Sam on a grocery run and demands pie, then wants to talk to Bobby about "Girl, Interrupted over there." Bobby swears Sam's healing, but Dean just won't believe that. He's waiting for the other shoe, because that's how things always go.

Bobby: "Look. You sittin' there wringing your hands ain't gonna do nothin'. Maybe, he'll surprise you.

Whoa. Culture shock. The convenience store is way too bright, and way too colorful. I think they're on the wrong show here.

Sam pays with a credit card for Lenny Kilmister (Lemmy Kilmister is from Motorhead), which rings us to a customer service rep for a credit card company, looking for suspicious charges for a customer. He asks about "Mistress Magda," who was Chuck's phone sex operator of choice. (Man, I miss Chuck!) An alert for Lenny Kilmister pops up, and the guy calls the Leviathan supervisor. See? They somehow learned all their aliases and fake credit cards and can track them that way. Pretty advanced for ancient beings!

At the store, Sam spots a newspaper story about an icepick killer. Just the kind of thing that would trip their initial triggers for a hunt.

Sam gets back to the cabin, Dean asks how he's doing, he says "fine." If, of course, seeing crap that's not real is fine. He doesn't know if it's getting better, but he knows what's real and not—and fondles that scar again. And again.

Sam brought Dean cake instead of pie. Passive aggressive? I mean, by now Sam knows that no, it's not close enough. Sheesh.

Dean is asleep on the couch in a really uncomfortable-looking position. Sam pulls out the paper, and flashes back to Colin Ford yay! Young Sam doing research for Dean and Dad, talking to them on an early mobile phone.

Sam sneaks out as a (fake, cheesy?) promo for My Bloody Valentine 3D plays on the TV.

A sleazy drug dealer is about to take advantage of a strung-out girl when sirens scare them off. He's ducking through a skate park when someone tackles him. Blood sprays, and he's dead.

Back in the cabin, Dean awakes with a wildlife program on TV. He reads Sam's note: "Back in a few days. I'm fine."

Dean (on the phone to Bobby): "Other shoe."

He's pissed Sam took off. Bobby tries to tell him to calm down, give Sam a couple of days, they'll keep trying to reach him. He tells Dean to give it until he gets the cast off, and then hunt him down. Dean's not waiting. He takes a circular saw to the cast himself. Yikes!

Sam's at the morgue, asking a cop about the new dead guy. He clearly knows more than was revealed about the news story. He ignores a third missed call from "Lars Ulrich" (Metallica!) and heads in to check out the body.

In the meantime, Dean is driving a woody wagon (reminiscent of the wood-sided minivan in "Everybody Loves a Clown" in season 2). He stops at the store and finds the paper Sam saw. He's on the hunt.

Sam learns the body's pituitary gland is gone, and flashes back again. We get grown-up Sam setting up his board on the hotel wall (reminiscent of the pilot, and many of their "normal" hunts) interspersed with Young Sam doing the same research years ago. He sees a girl he likes, and we get lots of the awkward adolescent glances.

Adult Sam figures out the next target spot and sits in wait, as Young Sam finalizes his research (yelling "I said you stab it in the heart!" in the library), asks Dean how to talk to girls, and is instantly shot down before he even finishes saying hi to her. Colin Ford is so good. His subtle facial expressions convey his utter devastation at her rejection.

Two boys stride by in the background. They're clearly up to no good. And hey, isn't that one Nico McEown, who played Lucas in "Dead in the Water"?

Outside, Young Sam watches the boys follow the girl and of course he follows, too. And of course they're hassling her, and YES, that's Nico McEown, playing a bully. Sam makes short work of them, though one gets a hit on his cheek before running off.

Adult Sam stalks a clearly adult Amy through the woods. She's about to approach a drunk fumbling with his keys when Sam grabs her. Her necklace confirms her identity. She recognizes him, despite them only spending a few hours together, max, over 10 years ago, and despite "You got tall, huh?" how different he looks.

Amy insists she lives normally, and Sam doesn't believe her. Flash back again to Amy nursing his boo boo and asking how he's such a good fighter. She gets him a soda from a brain-filled fridge. They exchange life stories in five minutes. Both travel a lot and are freaks, though Amy owns the label while Sam rejects it. They bond, and Sam kisses her. Wow, fast mover, Sammy! But okay, "all the coolest people are freaks" is a kiss-worthy line.

In the present, she's trying to get Sam to believe she's not a killer, that she did what she had to and it's over. He can't believe her and apologizes for it. She apologizes too, right before she knocks him into a tree. God! Sam will never be okay if he keeps getting hit in the head!

Dean's hot on the trail, figuring out what Sam's hunting. Sam follows Amy home and is ready to kill her even if he doesn't want to, because she obviously killed again. She tells him he knows her. What kind of person she is. Back in the past, Sam tells Amy that he's been around enough bad to know good when he sees it, even though Amy believes her mother to be bad, which must make her bad, too.

Grown-up Sam won't back off, so Amy shows him her son, which does the trick. She feeds on the dead, working as a mortician, and it's too risky for a kid. Her son got sick, was dying, and needed fresh meat. She swears now that he's better, she's done. She pulls the "after what I did for you" card, and we see her hide Young Sam, who hears Amy's mother say that "a couple of pros in a piece of crap Impala" have caught up to them. So now he knows what he's dealing with. He confronts young Amy, and she understands what he is, too. She talks Sam out of killing her and tells him to run.

Adult Sam unlocks his hotel room door, and we get a spectacular sucker punch from Dean. Holy CRAP, poor Sam! Nice backward swan dive, Padalecki. :) I'd say thanks for the flash of skin, but that would be superficial.

Dean: "New rule. You steal my baby, you get punched." (Shades of "Hunted" in season 2.)

Their confrontation has some nice openness, and Sam tells about the past, when Amy's capitulation made her mother suspicious, and she was about to tear Sam apart when Amy killed her own mother to save him. He explains why he let Amy go now, and Dean still says they have to kill her. It's that simple. Of course, Sam says nothing in their lives is ever simple. When Dean uses the word freak, Sam's ready to walk out. But instead, he finally accepts that trying to be normal his whole life has been stupid. He's a freak, and it's okay. He's managing it. He begs Dean to trust him, and WHOA. Dean says okay. Gotta start somewhere.

A sign things are actually going to change?

Uh, not so fast.

Yep, Dean lies to Sam, leaves him at a hotel while he goes to the "candy store." My first thought is uh, oh, not a painkiller addiction! But no, his next look at Sam is all about subterfuge. Dammit, Dean!

He's in Amy's hotel room. Tracked her license plates. He tells her, not without a hint of compassion, that she is what she is, and she will kill again. She swears she won't, but he says the other shoe always drops...and he stabs her in the heart. With an apology. And then he turns around, bloody knife in hand, to face her son.

And boy, Dean is cold. He asks the kid if he has someone he can go to, then if he ever killed anyone. Tells him not to, or Dean will come for him. The kid makes a vow to kill Dean, and Dean says to come look him up in a few years, assuming he lives that long.

We end with the Leviathan goon "grabbing a bite" after confirming that they will continue tracking every name they have for the Winchesters. We end with the guy pouring hot cheese on the clerk and his gaping, horror-movie mouth coming at the camera.

Yeah, Supernatural has definitely returned to its roots.

Next is a gum commercial that really confused me the first time I saw it. This tiger shows up randomly with a clamp on its foot and asks if he rally has to holler? This time, though, I actually pay attention to the "eenie meenie miney mo" and get the joke. Tiger by the toe! Ahahahaaha!

The promo for next week leaves me full of !!!!!!!!. Dean's final farewell kiss to Jo, and Alona Tal is back! Gosh, I love this show. You never know who's gonna pop up, from important recurring guest star who died spectacularly to random kid playing a new random kid.

I really don't know how I feel about Dean killing Amy. They keep giving us all these little growth moments, with honesty and trust, and the boys are really trying to improve the way they handle things and interact. And then this happens. Dean was convinced Lenore ("Bloodlust" season 2!) could control her hunger, and Amy has even bigger incentive to stay on the straight and narrow—her son. Dean's cold disregard for the shades of gray feels like a step back. On the other hand, could he really let her go?

Part of my ambivalence is because I felt there were details glossed over that could have aided the decision-making, even by making it harder. They implied she was trying to kill scumbags, but she never used that as a defense. And when she swore she wouldn't kill again, why didn't either Sam or Dean point out that she'd obviously do anything for her son, so she couldn't make that promise? But then, leaving Jacob without a mother, especially the way it happened, almost guarantees he's going to follow his grandmother's path rather than his mother's.

So what are your thoughts? Like the episode? What could they have done differently?

How does this episode affect your feelings on the season so far?


Julia Phillips Smith said...

I'm really excited about Jensen's directing work - I hope we still get to watch him act, but I hope for his sake that it takes off.

I was definitely impressed with how this episode turned out, especially since Dean had a lot of screen time. As a person who prefers pie over cake, I howled at that whole mini storyline.

I found Dean's ultimate dispatching of the monster to be completely in character. When he was briefly turned as a vampire, he was fully prepared to die at the hunters' hands.

As for Dean-as-vampire-for-one-episode -

Dean is taking part in a Vampire Smackdown over at my blog, if anyone wants to vote:

Unknown said...

I love the leviathans, myself and the ending with the cheese was pure awesomeness for me. I laughed and laughed. I was a bit ambivalent on Jewel's story, liked the young Sam thing, but hated the oh-so-cliche-to-the core kid crap. That part of the story was lame. She should have been the one to get sick, "I was dying..." yadda yadda. Sam would have understood, they so didn't need the boy baggage. It did nothing for the story and left us with either a really stupid loose end or it was foreshadowing with a sledgehammer.

Other than that, I liked the ep. I especially loved seeing Jewel and Benito Martinez as the leviathan captain. He rocks and is also currently guesting on my other fave show, Sons of Anarchy.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Julia, I didn't find Dean killing Amy out of character, so much as overly black and white. It made me wonder if he's giving up on Sam, or at least heading down that path.

Melissa, the kid thing is cliche, but hard to argue with. If Amy had said she did it for herself, Sam wouldn't have hesitated to kill her, and there'd be no conflict between the brothers over it. Kids always make the stakes higher or more complicated, at least.

MJFredrick said...

After last year's carnival fiasco, the cheese part made me whimper. And did you notice the clerk was wearing a Batman: Under the Hood t-shirt when Sam went to the store?

I hated that Dean is back to black and white, and that he didn't think of the kid first, that he thought of the kid as a monster first, and not a kid. I have to say this one wasn't a keeper for me. The first two this season definitely are.

Somehow I missed the preview for next week :(

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Dang, I missed the shirt! LOL

Oh, well, they can't all be perfect episodes, right? I still wish it was next week already.

Anonymous said...

I missed the preview for next week too. I hated that Dean was so cold about killing her and how he dealt with the kid. He lost some humanity there, if you ask me. And Nat, I agree that it seemed like a slam against Sam. I'm also wondering if Sam will learn what Dean did any time soon.

kp said...

Do you ladies, as writers, think that 'homage' to Kill Bill vol 1 (with the "come find me, Kid) was just too easy?

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I never saw Kill Bill, so I can't say!

Theresa Meyers said...

Didn't really like that Dean was so cold, but on the other hand it's completely in character. I actually liked seeing younger Sam again, that was great. And passive-agressive pie was great!