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27 April 2014 @ 08:19 pm
SPN Reviewed: BUGS  
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"Bugs"

Written by: Rachel Nave, Bill Coakley
DIR: Kim Manners

Blurb: After a construction worker is killed by insects burrowing into his brain, the brothers investigate a town's history and find that a new housing development is being built on sacred Indian land - with a curse attached.


Scene 01: We open the episode in Oasis Plains, Oklahoma at the site of construction in progress.

We join a pair of construction men for pointless conversation. As one digs, the other is marking property with spray paint. Our spray paint guy gets a puzzled look on his face. He bends down to feel the ground, and the camera gives us some mild jittering to show some tremor issues.

Meanwhile, Shoveler is yapping on. He's bit by the world's smallest [like invisible small], yet loudest insect in the world. There's a yell from offscreen and the sounds of a ground collapse.

Spray Painter has fallen down a hole in the ground and broken his ankle.


Scene 02: As Travis is off to grab a rope, Dustin starts to hear the creepy crawly sounds in his hole. [Wait, that sounded wrong.] He finds the ground around him to be swarmed by beetles and is appropriately creeped out.

Especially when he finds them starting to crawl over him, because beetles are icky up close.

Travis meanwhile is digging through the truck, while not raising the alarm because... reasons?


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It isn't but moments before poor, doomed Dustin finds himself covered in the ickies.


Scene 03: Over with Travis, he's still digging through the back of the work truck from something useful. He hears Dustin yell urgently for help.

The bugs are swarming over Dustin, as Travis is grabbing rope and rushing to the rescue.


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It's a bit too late.


Commentary: Now, that was a pretty great set-up and that makeup job was fantastic on poor, doomed Dustin. By the end of the episode... all of that great start up will have been wasted. Alas.


Scene 04: We hop over to a bar. Our Sam is sitting in Impala glancing over an article on the mysterious death of Dustin. Dean walks out smirking and waving some bills at him. Sammy complains that they could get 'day jobs' once in a while. Dean believes his day job is hunting... and the pay is crap.

Sammy whines about pool hustling and credit card scams and the whole dishonesty of it all. Dean says it's more fun than a responsible job, and points out they're good at it, as they've been raised for it. Sam sardonically says that the way they were raised was jacked.

Dean turns attention to their new gig. Sam brings up the weird death of Dustin who supposedly died of Mad Cow ... in about an hour's time give or take. That seems a bit quick, though off hand it's iffy on 'supernatural' cause. But Oak Plains is relatively close.


Scene 05: Car driving in the dawn hours across plains [with really weird color filters... let's lighten up on that, shall we?].


Scene 06: Arrival in town. First stop is Oklahoma Gas & Power Co.

The boys present themselves in the parking lot to Travis as Dusty's nephews. A little flattering about 'Uncle Dusty' talking about how great a guy Travis was, and he's all ready to spill everything that he knows... which is less than what we do.


Scene 07: Next stop, the site of the new home construction sub division. Our boys visit the sink hole where 'Uncle Dusty' met his doom [my attention is distracted by Sam's horrible hair].

There is some big brother to little brother "chicken talk" when discussion turns to one of them going into the hole to look for clues. Our Sam ends up going.


Scene 08: Sudden fade cut to the Impala motoring away. Sammy brought up a dead beetle and is staring intently at it. Dean doesn't get the big deal about a bunch of dead beetles in a hole in the ground.

[My attention is taken up by whatever the hell is going on with Sammy's window... is that PLASTIC OVER THE PASSENGER SIDE??]

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They go on to discuss the scant evidence that comes with a handful of dead beetles and the unlikelyhood of them taking out a full grown man. Sammy suggests getting more information on the area. Dean sees the 'Open House' model home for subdivision sales.


Scene 09: As they walk up to the model home, Dean expresses that he'd blow his brains out having to live in such a community with its manicured lawns, etc. Sam snits that there isn't anything wrong with 'normal'.

Dean assures Sam that he'd take their family over normal, any day.


Commentary: Future!Me suddenly says, "Oh, Dean... you poor honey."

He refuses to elaborate to me.


Scene 10: Larry Pike greets them and is quick to assure the Winchesters that the community accepts all races, creeds... and sexual orientation... into their neighborhood.

Dean squicks. Our Sam smirks. Dean quickly clarifies their relationship and Sammy follows on with a cover story of looking for a place for their Dad to retire to where he'll be comfortable.


Scene 11: Larry is the developer, so he goes into the sales spiel pretty immediately. Pike explains that the model home is actually his and introduces his family. Larry moves on to mingle, leaving his wife to charm the Winchesters. She's quickly supplanted by the head of sales though, a woman named Lynda who is also a home owner in the community.

Lynda gives the same spiel as Larry, including assuming that the Winchesters are gay. This time Dean tells Sam he'll go talk to Larry and pats Sam's ass while calling him 'honey' on his way out to Sam's shocked embarrassment.


Commentary: And Jensen and Jared are forever chagrined by J2 and Twincest fic. And, it's only the beginning for you boys when it comes to the gay-fic.

I want to be more sorry than I am, but I fell hard for the Dean/Castiel pair.



Scene 12: In the home, Dean is getting the tour of the house by Larry. Dean notices jars of bugs sitting on a side table and mentions it. Larry nearly rolls his eyes as he says with annoyance that they belong to his son, who is into bugs....


Scene 13: In the backyard, Lynda is going on about the steam shower wonder to Sam. As she's [I want to say blathering on] *describing* the virtues of the home, Sam catches sight of a tarantula crawling toward her across a picnic table that she's got her hand leaning against. In the background a brat is smirking at her back.

Sam "excuse me"s Lynda, kinda bumming her out, but his focus is on the spider, which he scoops up.

He returns the critter to young teen son of Larry and it becomes immediately clear that there will be father/son tensions which Our Sam can relate to because of his and John's problems with one another.

Larry and Dean return to the yard and Larry immediately focuses in on Matthew playing with his tarantula and "bothering" the potential buyer, Sam. He apologizes for Matt's bugs and forces him away into the house, even though Sam is all like "no bother, dude".


Scene 14: Sam points out the similarities to Dean, who is clueless. Dean insists their dad never treated them like Larry's obvs getting on Matt's case [on the back porch... you'd think he'd haul him off to his room before making a mini-scene]. Sam counters that he never got on Dean's case, since he was perfect kid, but he was always all over Sam's.

They have to agree to disagree about John's parenting [Future!Me smirks] and turns attention back to the actual case. Dean found out [WHY? How would Larry be brought around to talking about mysterious deaths relating to the property he's trying to sell? No wonder we missed that conversation.] that there was another death before they broke ground on the first house... a death by bee sting allergic reaction.

Seems pretty scant... but it did involve death by insect.


Scene 15: Later in the Impala, Sam is driving with Dean looking through John's books for clues into insects attacking people. They discuss and dismiss a haunting and turn attention to a Willard-situation, except with bugs. Sam offers it's possible that there is a psychic connection going on between a person and the insects in the area.

After [much too many] moments, Dean hits on Matt as a possible suspect due to his bug interest. Sam allows the possibility.

Dean then has Sam pull off the empty street onto the property of one of the empty homes so they can squat for a bit while the investigation continues.


Scene 16: We refocus our attention on a home elsewhere that is occupied. It is Lynda. She tries to unwind after the long day of being perky-saleswoman and turns on the tv as she sits on her bed for a moment. As she listens to the news broadcast talking about mandatory pesticide spraying close by to control the West Nile Virus, a spider suddenly crawls across her face, which she swats away with annoyance.

She decides to take a shower.


Commentary: This scene is... clumsy. Nobody but nobody has a spider that big in their hair without feeling it crawling around. And nobody but nobody would respond to a spider skittering across their eye with an annoyed swat and then move on. No -- you grab a something-or-other and you squish it! Or, if you're like me, you grab a plastic container with a lid and you scoop it up, so you can toss it outside.

You don't just ignore it crawling around and go off to take a shower. And, why did the production need to use a spider THAT big? It was just ridiculous that she was caught off guard only when it crawled down her forhead into her face.



Scene 17: Lynda gives us naked-back as she's in her steam shower. Behind her, at first unnoticed, a whole cluster of CGI spiders suddenly erupt from the shower head. It isn't long before Lynda realizes that she's being besieged.

Unfortunately for Lynda, she panicks. Her feet slip-slide as she tries to rush out and she ends up going through her shower doors of easily breakable glass, slicing herself up. Which means she can't get away when the CGI spiders start invading her.


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Commentary: So, yes, the 2005-era CGI is problematic but I actually want to compliment them on having Lynda basically bring about her own demise in this scene. It is far more realistic than the spiders getting her before she can just grab a robe and rush outside.

The 'through the shower door' was a bit wonky; maybe just having her go down the flight of stairs in her rush would've been better - but at least she didn't just stand there screaming and waiting endlessly for the spiders to swarm over her.

So, the scene is a bit clunky -- but it could've been worse, is what I'm saying.



Scene 18: The following morning, Sam bangs on the bathroom door of their squatter house. Dean has obvs been in there forever enjoying the steam shower he was so excited to try out. Sam is impatient as he was monitoring the police scanner and has now heard about Lynda's being found dead three blocks over.


Scene 19: That three blocks over, Lynda's body has been bagged and is being rolled away when the boys arrive. They run into Larry, who breaks the news about Lynda, though he doesn't have details yet about what exactly happened.

Sam and Dean plan their entry into Lynda's house to look for signs of another bug attack.


Scene 20: This is accomplished via a second story window, which leads conveniently into Lynda's bedroom where the evidence is located.

[Sam stands on Lynda's tape outline! Ugh... creepy and... disrespectful? I don't know; I had a gut reaction to Jared stepping onto the outline and not moving. It's just WRONG.]

Dean finds Lynda's towel with dead spider bodies. He targets Matt, again, while Sammy continues to not be sure.


Commentary: I feel like they're trying to set up Sam as identifying too much with Matt to think clearly, while Dean is being too quick to rush to judgement over the 'weird kid', but it's so low key that it's not actually an issue and the entire Sam/John comparison to Larry/Matt situation is actually moot.


Scene 21: The boys drive toward Larry's and eye-spy Matt getting off the school bus. But he's walking in a direction that isn't toward his home. The boys watch Matt wander into the forest near the development, and decide to recon.


Scene 22: In the forest, Matt is fascinated with a stick bug, because anyone should be -- they're weird and wonderful.


Commentary: I also feel like I need to interject here that there is some pacing issues with this episode. We're around the 18 minute mark here, and the Winchesters haven't come up with anything leading to an explanation yet. Worse though, is that the entire episode is suffering from a lack of energy or urgency to find the supernatural of the week that is causing the bug related deaths.

The non-attack scenes feel ... casual and low key... like there isn't any rush to solve this thing.



Scene 23: The brothers roundabout accuse Matt of having something to do with the bug attacks, especially when he already seems to have put the same clues together as they have that something unusual is going on. He denies it, but he does tell them that something is happening in the area with the insects. Matt offers to show them something.

As they trudge through the woods, Our Sam bonds more with the kid over their mutual troubled relationships with their fathers. He tells Matt to hang in because in two short years, he'll escape to college. Dean side-eyes Sammy a lot during this, and tells Sam that Matt should stick with his family, not run off somewhere. They share mutual stares laden with underlying tension.


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Scene 24: When they reach the destination, it is a clearing. All around them is the sound of a bazillion bees among the treetops. Matt says that he's been keeping track of insect populations as part of an AP course and as far as he can tell, nearly every insect population has exploded - as if they're congregating.

Sam points out a large mound and wonders what it is. There's only one way to find out, so Dean leads them over to it.

It's a mass of earthwarms creating a dome over a hole in the ground. After reaching in, Dean comes up with a human skull.


Scene 25: Next stop is the local college with a box of skulls from the unmarked grave in the clearing. It leads Dean back to the idea of a haunting. While carrying the skulls to Professor Whoever, Dean asks about Sam's advice to Matt to ditch his family. It leads to an argument about Sam and John's relationship. Sammy feels that John was never proud of everything he accomplished because he didn't want to be just like him. Dean offers that John was proud, but he was always scared of what could happen to Sam if John wasn't there to protect him. He tells Our Sam that John would swing by Stanford whenever he could just to check on him... all without Sam knowing.

Sam wonders why he never heard any of this from John, but Dean points out that Our Sam could've picked up the phone at any time. He seems to think Sam and John's problems were more of a 50/50 deal.


Commentary: I like this scene for the look into the background of Sam and John, but I don't particularly like Dean's viewpoint here. I stated above that he looks at this as a 50/50 issue -- but I'm not sure that's accurate. In the beginning of the conversation, he seems to hold Sam more liable for the arguments than John, but then slowly seems to give Sammy some slack. It'll be really interesting in Future!Episodes, as we watch Dean's opinion of John and their childhood do a complete 180, while Our Sam ends up sympathizing with his father more. But in these early episodes, it feels to me like John WAS and IS clearly at fault for the hard feelings between he and his son and that Dean is so enamored of his father, that he's just as guilty of putting undeserved blame on Sam's shoulders for wanting different things.

I do have a slight issue with this whole scene, though; I do think the Violin Strings of Poignancy were overkill.



Scene 26: The Winchesters present themselves as former class attendees of Professor Anthropology who tells them that their skulls appear Native American. Now supposedly there were no indigenous tribes where the boys found the remains, but for the time period that the Professor is guessing the skulls originated, it was common for Native populations to be forcibly relocated.

Sam asks about local legends or oral histories; Professor Anthropology sends them to a tribe about 60 miles away to see if they know anything more.


Commentary: This scene was weirdly shot with a lot of lingering stares between Dean and Professor Anthropology that didn't seem to indicate anything in particular. I expected Dean to say that he'd gotten a vibe that the Professor was hiding something or for a shot of Professor staring after the boys suspiciously after they walked out of the room, but nothing like that happened.

It was an oddly filmed sequence.



Scene 27: Next stop: Joe Whitetree, who immediately pegs Dean as a liar when he tries to spin the "we're students" story.

Sammy, who is not in the habit of spinning smooth cover stories, just straight out asks Joe for information. Mr. Whitetree respects this and shares the story his grandfather told him about the Otoka Valley massacre of people by the colonists of the time.

The Chief, as he lay dying, placed a curse upon the land to pay back the whites for wiping their atrocities.


Scene 28: As they're walking back to the car, Sammy figures out why the sudden deaths are occurring, which is due to the curse activating every year on the Spring Equinox. Before, it came and went with no one noticing because the area was empty of people. This year, of course, there is a whole subdivision going up on the spot.

Sam wonders how they can break the curse, but Dean counters that there is no breaking a curse - you just get out of the way. He tells Our Sam that they need to get Larry's family and anyone else in the neighborhood out before sundown.


Scene 29: Sometime after sundown, Matt is in his backyard surveying the bugs in the trees. He hears odd noises and looking, finds a neat hole in the back lawn. A flood of roaches comes up from the hole, freaking him out.


Scene 30: In the Impala, Dean is talking to Mr. Pike on the phone, trying to convince him that he's Travis Wheeler from the power company reporting a gas leak and asking him to vacate for approximately 12 hours as a precaution. Alas for Dean, Pike knows Wheeler's voice after having seen him over the past year during the construction phase of the project. Dean hangs up in frustration. Sam next turns to calling Matt's cell instead.

Sam tells Matt about the bugs coming - which Matt is ready to believe because of the flood of cockroaches filling the back lawn. Sam suggests that Matt get out of the house with his family, but Matt points out that his dad doesn't listen to him. Dean grabs the phone and tells Matt to tell his dad that he has a sharp pain in his right side and wants to go to the hospital.


Scene 31: When the Impala carries our boys to the Pike's, they find them not gone. They march up toward the front door, but Larry meets them and demands they leave the property or he'll call the cops.

It turns out that Matt, rather naively, went with the truth.

There is argument. As they're trading yelling, the thunderous sound of buzzing fills the night air above them and the bug zapper starts going crazy with strikes. Larry is suddenly ready to believe the crazy... but it's a bit too late. From the woods, millions of bees swarm up into the night sky headed straight for the sub.

Everyone retreats to the Pike residence. Larry states that, conveniently, they're the only ones in the neighborhood.


Scene 32: In the house, Mrs. Pike asks about what is going on, but now the swarm noises are surrounding the place. The phones are knocked out when Joanie tries it, and the power soon follows. Everyone dashes around trying to close up the windows, block the spaces under the outside doors, etc.

Larry goes for his cell, but apparently bugs blanketing a house is enough to interrupt 2005 service. [Hmmmm?]

There are lots of concerned looks and excitement-music going on.



Scene 33: Dean dashes into the kitchen and finds bug spray under the sink. Sam offers the family that they just have to make it until dawn... he thinks....


Scene 34: When he returns, Joanie sees his one can of spray and rightfully doubts its effectiveness. The house is suddenly filled with a new noise... the sound of the bees trying to get in through the fireplace flue.

Dean orders a retreat upstairs.

Before anyone actually moves with this plan, the bees get in and begin mass stinging. Dean lights up a spray of bug poison to drive a space for them by burning the little buggers.

Somehow, one small gout of spray fire is enough to convince all of the bees to stop stinging until they can retreat... y'know, instead of the ones behind Dean turning their ire onto the back of his neck and head.


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Scene 35: They retreat to a corner of the attic. The bees take an inordinate amount of time to follow.


Scene 36: In the attic, dust rains down from the roof as Matt guesses the termites are stripping away their protection.

A hole in the ceiling drops out and the bees resume their assault. Sam and Dean fight being stung to place up a metal panel from the air blower up to the hole and hold it with a wooden beam. Hundreds of bees are already in the confined space, however.

Dean also fights what he can with his fire bugspray.

This little bit of relief is short lived, as another hole drops out of the ceiling and the bees flood in again seconds later.


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The situation only degrades from there and soon the whole attic is filled with stinging bees intent on murder.


Scene 37: Now, with no protection but their jackets, everyone is stung to death over the next six hours and their bodies are found days later by Travis Wheeler at the power company.

Or wait, no. Instead, there is a time-warp and it's morning... HOOORAY!!


The awful-killer-awful-looking-CGI-bees exit with the curse's end for another year. Everyone is saved... with like 6 obvious bee stings... HOOOORAY!


Commentary: Yeah. Ugh. The only way to deal with such ridiculousness is to retroactively declare that the Yellow-Eyed Demon intervened to protect Our Sam for future storytelling. Or Michael ordered a save so Dean and Sam could play their parts later in the Heaven Drama.


Scene 38: Later that morning, the Pikes are packing up. Dean and Sam talk to Mr. Pike who is just fine with the financial disaster since he has his family and especially a new appreciation for his son... blah-blah-vomit.


Scene 39: Sam goes to talk to Matt, who is throwing out all of his insect paraphernalia.


Commentary: Okay! God, there is so much cheezy grinning and nodding and sharing amused looks... go away, already!


Scene 40: At Impala, Dean looks on as Our Sam returns to the car and Larry and Matt talk to one another. Sammy tells Dean that he wants to find John. Sam wants to apologize to John for all of the angry things he said at him during their seperation. He tells Dean that he realizes their dad was just doing the best they could.

They get in the Impala and roll away as rock tunes play... and a bug buzzes over the end credit.


Commentary: Again, in retrospect it's interesting about Sammy's evolving view of John's parenting because the more we see the more difficult it will become for me to justify John's neglect. And, by the latter seasons, Dean's view of John will be so much harsher than even Sammy's starting view of him.

Also - I hate killer insect flicks -- now the back of my neck won't stop itching.




The Good: Very nice makeup effect on Dustin and it's hard to go wrong with a real swarm of insects on somebody, no matter how innocuous the in-stunt-sects are.

The discussions about John were nice, since the boys are supposed to be focusing on locating him. I also like the tensions between them over their differing views of their childhoods.


The Bad: Ouch to the color filter over the Impala driving down the morning road. No more of that, please.

Lynda's entire death scene is problematic - it just starts unrealistic, and then gets CGI-diculous, before ending with her killing herself in the most clumsy way imaginable. The whole thing was just badly done.

The entire timeline is really jacked up for this episode. Night seems to fall much faster than it should between the time that the Winchesters are leaving Whitetree and when Matt is in his backyard in the dark. But far more aggregious is the timewarp that happens between the bees and termites attacking the survivors just after midnight and the sun rising 20 minutes later. The continuity is awful.

Jensen Ackles with a can of bugspray flame against thousands of bees is about the most ridiculous image I've yet seen on this show. And, of course, it's completely ridiculous that this would save them for even 5 seconds.

Please -- no more 2005 CGI-insects. They don't work.


Other Thoughts: I was really miffed at Dean's exclamation that they'd never make it out of the subdivision when the bees were gathering above the woods. It seemed to me that the Impala was far more secured, closing air vents and continue to drive the few blocks out of the area, than trying to barricade everyone in the house all night. That just didn't seem to make any sense.

Also... bee bodies can block a cell phone signal??

How do bees manage their way through a metal flue guard??

The pacing is a bit weirdly handled on this one -- with the hunt for the answer about the deaths being really casual and kinda slow.


The Score: The episode wasn't as bad as I remembered it being, but it does have some real problems in its (non)resolution. The best parts of the episode was actually the discussions between Sammy and Dean about their father and upbringing. Killer bugs can work, but this episode really botched up the whole presentation, so while not awful... I have to score it as less than average, despite its favorable score on IMDB. I can only present it with:

2.50 out of 5 stars



--end--