Supernatural, Season 1, Episode 11
Written by: John Shiban, Story by: Patrick Sean Smith
Directed: Kim Manners
Blurb: If it only had a brain. Well, maybe it has! A malevolent scarecrow could be why strangers to Burkitsville, Indiana don’t get out of town alive.
Scene 01: We start at night in the small, homey town of Burkitsville, IN one year ago. From the local restaurant/bakery a woman comes out laughing with the proprietors. She’s offered a free pie for her trip and the woman offers that she and her husband should get lost more often and comments on how friendly everybody has been.
The townspeople behind her are all carrying rictus grins. After their car is filled up they’re given directions on getting back to the highway. One of our young women notices husband's arm tattoo and appreciates the artwork.
Scene 02: On the dark, lonely road out of town, the car of our couple breaks down suddenly. He reaches for the cell phone, but somehow it is dead, too.
Our couple find the breakdown has occurred right outside of an apple orchard, and look there - they can see a small house on the other side of the field. Our female doesn’t want to walk through the orchard due to creeps, but husband points out they’re not going anywhere without some help.
She sighs and follows.
Scene 03: In the orchard, they see what appears to be a man strung up. It’s a scarecrow, of course… and yet… it looks too solid to be some old clothes stuffed with straw. The effigy is creepy enough to cause the heebee jeebees -- but especially when our wife thinks she sees the head rotate to follow them. It’s eerie glare on her causes her to tell her husband to hurry to the little house ahead.
Commentary: And while this scene is nicely set up for the creepiness, I think it was a misstep for us to see the Scarecrow move its head. It’d have been better for us to not see what wife does immediately, although it also would’ve been better not to name the episode after the creature-feature so we weren’t immediately aware that this scarecrow would be animated, too.
Scene 04: As our couple hurries along the rows, they hear branches snap and what sounds like a long, raspy breath. Husband shouts a call to who is out there and they receive a moan in response. Both run for the little house, which is abnormally brightly lit… it’s like they filled the little cabin with klieg lights [and for once you can take it as a clue that our couple was being set up to be drawn out there, rather than the scene is just too damned brightly lit… unlike Asylum, this lighting makes sense in context]. Our couple run and somehow Vince disappears from thin air, leaving Holly frozen with confusion and fear.
She runs away from the cabin in the orchard back toward the broken down car but trips. She finds Vince lying at her feet, without the skin on his face. We see the Scarecrow step into frame in front of her and she goes on screaming as our POV switches back to the Scarecrow pole, where it sits empty….
Scene 05: We join the boys sleeping in a motel room in the present, where the cell phone is ringing. This is only moments before the ending of “Asylum” where we saw Sam answer this call.
Which he now does.
Scene 06: We see John’s mouth asking if this is Sam.
At the motel, Sam sits up in surprise. He asks if John is hurt.
Scene 07: We get a shot of John’s eyes, looking worn and tired as he tells Sammy that he’s fine.
Back in the motel room, Sam is going on with telling him how worried they’ve been over his disappearance.
We skip to John again who again assures Sam that he’s fine. But he also won’t tell his boys where he’s currently located. Sam guesses that John has found its trail… the trail of the monster that killed Mary… and Jess.
John confirms that it’s a demon and that yes, he’s sure of it.
Meanwhile, Dean is peppering Sam with questions - both of the boys now hyped up to get out there and help. But John tells Sam that his sons are not to be any part of this, even though John believes he’s closing in on the thing that tore their family apart. Sam can’t believe his ears, but John goes on to tell him to write down a list of names he’s about to give him.
Scene 08: We continue to swap scenes between Sam and John, while Dean demands the phone. John insists that he’s giving Sam an order -- he and Dean are to stop pursuing him immediately and do their job. Our Sam -- not one for blind following - makes angry faces at the phone, which causes Dean to finally just snatch it from his grasp.
As Sam looks angrily at his brother, Dean snaps to attention and starts writing down the names that John is giving him, apparently willing to follow orders like a good little soldier.
Commentary: I love that we’re revisiting the family dynamic in this short scene. The mystery of what John is up to is a running theme in this first season, so it’s nice when we actually see the character and this short communication perfectly sums up John, Sam and Dean’s relationships.
Scene 09: On the road later, the boys review the names that John passed onto them to investigate. It turns out there have been at least three couples, all on cross-country road trips and none of which were heard from ever again. What’s more suspicious, is how each couple’s route took them through a specific area of Indiana and all of them went missing during the same week in April each year.
Dean sits and admires his dad’s research work to find the pattern, while Sammy drives. Our Sam gets an extra dose of bitch-face and pulls over to the side of the road. Sam tells Dean that they’re not going to Indiana, but to California where the caller ID indicated the Sacramento area. Sam insists that if their father has located the demon that murdered their mother and his girlfriend, then they’ve got to be there. And he doesn’t care about John’s lack of interest in their help and he sure doesn’t care about any “orders” that he imperiously issued. Dean is only interested in doing as their father commanded and tries to sympathize with Sam over how he’s feeling, but Sam is pissed. He implies Dean barely remembers their mother, being only four when the fire happened - while he lost Jessica only six months ago. Dean again tries to tell Sam that their father knows something they don’t and if he says to stay away, they should. It’s the last straw for Sam who questions Dean’s unquestioning loyalty. When Dean’s response is that it’s about being a good son, Sam gets out of the car.
Sam grabs his stuff from the trunk while Dean accuses him of being a selfish bastard. Sam tells him he’s going to California - period. Dean threatens to leave him there, but Sam won’t back down. After several moments of a staredown, Dean gets back in the car and leaves while Sam continues walking back the way the car came.
Commentary: I love this scene for the dialog and Jared’s and Jensen’s acting opposite each other. They do some great work being on opposite sides of the John question and again, we can see very clearly that Our Sam has always been the mature one ready to go his own way and make his own decisions, while Dean is the one concerned with being loyal and following instructions.
This is also a powerful scene when we know that Dean has missed his brother like crazy and didn’t want to go on alone even before his dad vanished in the pilot episode. To see them separate like this over John Winchester, especially after that crap in “Home” is hard to understand - for me, especially on Dean’s part.
Scene 10: In the early rainy morning, Dean rolls into Burkitsville. He considers calling Sam’s cell, but changes his mind. Dean starts by questioning the local café owner about the missing couple, whom Scotty claims not to have seen. Something in his manner turns off Dean.
Scene 11: Out on the road, Sam is continuing to stubbornly hike. He’s on a desolately empty stretch of road, when he turns around to spot a girl with her own hiking gear sitting with her back to him.
He startles her and they share some banter. A white van comes along at that moment to offer a ride, but only for the girl, not the behemoth. She gets in with a smile.
Scene 12: Back in town, Dean is continuing to wander the tiny downtown. In the general store, they also claim not to have seen the couple until their teen girl says the opposite. General Store Owner suddenly does remember the newlyweds and claims that they weren’t there more than 10 minutes for gas and were sent back toward the highway. Dean asks for the same directions.
Scene 13: As Dean is driving his way back toward said highway, the supernatural detector starts going off in the back seat. He pulls over to take a look around.
Scene 14: Dean strolls through the Haunted Apple Orchard. He comes along the solid-looking scarecrow hanging and calls him ‘fugly’. He notes that something looks off about the thing, like its more of a body than a straw man and grabs a ladder for a closer look. The scarecrow’s arm contains the tattoos that were on the missing husband.
Scene 15: Dean returns to Burkitsville. General Store Daughter is standing out front of the local garage as he pulls up. Emily and he get into some general chat, where we learn that she’s not actually a local but was sent there when she was thirteen due to a car accident to live with her aunt and uncle.
Dean asks about the town and how everyone seems nice and Emily goes on to say that she loves it there, despite it being in the boonies. She tells him that the towns all around Burkitsville are suffering from economic misfortunes, but their little town seems to be blessed.
He casually mentions that creepy scarecrow off the interstate in the orchard and she admits it gives her the creeps. She doesn’t know who owns it, as it has always been there. Dean notices an SUV with the hood propped up and Emily tells him some customers were having car trouble… a couple as a matter of fact.
Commentary: Ehhh… this isn’t nearly as bad as the info-dump in, once again, Asylum but it does have some clunky parts. Dean comes off as being too nosy and his witness as too cooperative to be entirely believable and Jensen has a bad habit in this scene of looking Emily up and down that should have her thinking he’s a creeper, instead of willing to blab everything he needs to stick around a bit longer.
Scene 16: While Dean and Emily are chatting, Sam is in a bus depot. He’s SOL as busses are few and far between this far out and he’s got an all night - all next day wait for another bus headed westward bound.
He sighs and grabs his cell. He’s just about to force himself to call and check in with his brother despite himself when who should be there but Meg, also waiting. They get to chatting again and she ends up also trying to get to California, but seems a lot less urgent about it than he is, obviously.
Blonde Girl introduces herself finally as Meg [which Family Guy has completely ruined, because all I can hear now is “Shut up, Meg” in Peter’s voice]. They share flirty grins.
Scene 17: Back in our Haunted Town of Disappearing Couples, our soon to be disappearing couple is being served some homemade apple pie on the house. Clearly the apples are from our haunted orchard.
Dean comes in. He orders a cup of coffee and a slice of pie from Scotty and tries to strike up casual conversation with our road-tripping couple. Scotty is very clearly unpleased by Dean’s business. He ignores the shopkeeper and continues his conversation finding out that our couple stopped for gas and the attendant noticed a break line leak… what a lucky break! And the SUV will be ready to go right about sundown. Dean suggests this seems like a long repair and offers to fix it for them and have them underway in an hour, but they’re feeling uncomfortable and decline.
He tries to give them some unsubtle warnings about the road out of town at night, which flies about like a lead balloon. As our couple try to ignore him, he mutters about them having bought into it all if only Sam were there with his puppy dog eyes.
Moments later, Scotty greets the sheriff and thanks him for coming by. They share a short exchange and then the sheriff is leaning over Dean.
Commentary: Ugh. This scene is almost painful, but I think it was meant to be to show that Sam is the trustworthy actor in their duo while Dean has too much of the bad-boy vibe to not be off-putting. And it completely worked, if it was deliberate because Dean was creeping me out with his lame attempt at small talk, his creeptastic attempt to be ‘helpful’ and his constant staring at this couple’s plates of food.
No wonder they were wishing he’d disappear - so did I, and I know what is going on!
Scene 18: Sheriff’s dialog merges into a siren and we soon cut to the Impala being followed by the Sheriff’s car with full lights and sirens to escort him out of town.
Scene 19: Back at the bus depot, [Shut up,] Meg and Sam are getting chatty over vendor machine food. Meg’s story pretty much reflects Sam’s opinions of his father’s overbearing desire to be in control of his kids and what they do… conveniently….
Sam mentions that is how he’s feeling about his brother, which is why he had to ditch him [but actually Sammy, this is more about John than Dean].
Commentary: So, I could go ahead and post this complaint about how convenient Meg’s showing up to flirt with Our Sam is but it would be a bit wasteful and silly. I’ll just spoiler now that Meg is up to something, so this isn’t a weakness in the script. I’ll also say that the first time through, I didn’t realize that this was some kinda game by her, but I didn’t trust her either for some reason and didn’t want to see Sammy being sucked in. I thought that she was a con artist and setting him up as a mark and it annoyed me that Sam seemed to be falling for it, considering that living under John should’ve had him more suspicious of just about everybody… which is actually a decent point. Y’know, I am still annoyed at him for buying this contrivance that her story closely resembles his and John’s relationship.
Scene 20: After nightfall, Impala roars Dean back into Burkitsville limits.
Scene 21: Cut to the weirdly lit Orchard of Doom where our female of the duo is complaining that they just had the car fixed as she and male clomp through the fallen leaves. They hear something move behind them as we see the Scarecrow cross the screen.
As both look around in panic, heavy gasping is heard. Male shouts out the typical “who’s there” which is answered by the Scarecrow walking out of the trees. He’s holding a curved blade usually used for cutting corn stalks, which we saw him holding when he was strung up. Our couple run for their lives.
Commentary: Okay seriously, y’all need to control that lighting for the night scenes. I understand we need to see what is going on, but for crikey’s sake - the moon would have to literally be plowing into the Earth for it to be this bright out in the middle of nowhere.
Scene 22: From down the path in the direction our couple is running, steps Dean with a shotgun in hand. He sends couple back to their car while he lines up a shot. This does nothing useful.
When they all reach the road, Impala is there waiting. Dean turns around to fire again, but Vince-Scarecrow is nowhere to be seen.
Scene 23: In the bus station, Meg is resting nearby while Sam is on the phone. Dean is filling him in on the killer scarecrow in the rows… um… apple orchard.
Dean tells Sammy that he can’t handle the case without him. He also tells Sammy that it’s not just a spirit in the fields, but one of the pagan gods. He goes on to explain how he’s deduced this and it makes sense. He hints strongly that Our Sam should come back to help him figure out which one is the mischief maker but when Sam half-jokingly tells him all he has to do is ask, Dean says he’s not asking and that he understands that Sammy needs to be on his way. He tells Sam that he needs to live his own life. Dean admits to Sam that he admires him for always being able to stand up to the old man, and he nearly says out loud that he wishes he was more like him in that way. Finally, he just tells Sam to call him if he finds John.
Commentary: This scene is wonderfully acted by both Jensen and Jared and I love that it is continuing to build on the family dynamics. It is so interesting to me [I didn’t remember that the following started so soon] how after presenting Dean as the brash super-enthusiastic hunter in “Pilot”, we’re seeing that stripped away to reveal that there is a part of the elder Winchester who wants other things, he just doesn’t have the spine to go after them… he may even not be sure what exactly he wants outside of hunting monsters. You almost get the sense that he’s recognizing just how much of a clone he’s allowed John to make him throughout the years and that he actually needs Sam to act as a voice of opposition to help him overcome John’s -- almost-programming. It’s unexpectedly deep and our two actors handle their respective parts in this conversation very well.
Scene 24: Meg wakens and sees the look on Sam’s face. She asks about his phone call. Sam takes the call as being a good-bye of sorts between he and his brother and is obviously upset about it.
Scene 25: At the local community college, Dean is meeting with a professor of anthropology to try to figure out what sort of pagan entity would have some sway over the area. The Cigarette Smoking Man tells Dean that Illinois isn’t exactly a bastion of pagan worship and never had been but Dean asks about the immigrants founding Burkitsville, which leads to Norsemen, which leads to Dean asking about Norse godlings who are fond of orchards.
Scene 26: As they flip through a book, Dean spots a full page reproduction of people toiling in a field being watched over by a scarecrow on a cross. Dean reads all about a Vanir. He reads about how some of the fertility rites to guarantee crops production were accompanied by human sacrifice.
Dean further reads about how the Vanir’s power could be derived from a sacred tree and wonders if torching said tree might not slay a god. Professor has a look on his face like Dean might be a little too into the legends.
He shakes the Professor’s hand and leaves, but when he opens the office door, Sheriff is there waiting to butt his face in with his rifle.
Commentary: I’ll admit that was a good moment. I was half expecting the professor to grab the phone as soon as Dean closed the door; I was not expecting the Sheriff to be there with a face smash!
Scene 27: Meanwhile standing in the rain, Scotty is making sure that General Store owners and Emily’s uncle and aunt understand that their first responsibility is to protect the town. Uncle seems more upset than Aunt but Sheriff is there too and he warns them that it has to be done.
Uncle calls this sacrifice different, as the murder it is and points out how he’s the one who always has to send the doomed to their deaths and how all of them have been guilty of closing their doors and pretending they don’t hear the screams of the condemned. But Aunt tells him that the Vanir is angry at them for not providing the proper sacrifice this year and insists that the trees are already dying. She warns that this is the last night when a sacrifice will be valid. Uncle is fine with giving Dean over to the pagan deity, but he can’t understand why everyone is willing to sacrifice “her”…
Commentary: Oh, for goodness sakes. Does anyone not realize they’re talking about Emily? This isn’t a mystery people -- who the hell else would Dean be paired up with but the only young, single woman to have any amount of screen time?
[Anyone who answers Sam gets a slap.]
Scene 28: In the very next scene, Emily is begging for her aunt and uncle to stop what they’re doing, but she’s forced into a ground pit with the recovered Dean. Auntie Hardass tells Emily that this is for the common good.
Commentary: Okay, first -- Dean is looking awful good for somebody who just took a rifle stock to the face. Second - if Emily’s identity as the sacrifice was going to be in the next scene, why play a mystery about her identity when Uncle was waxing guilt-ridden about her. Third - well, I’ve found the actresses outside of P. Lynn Johnson as Aunt Stacey to be… questionable… and I’m not buying that Emily wouldn’t be a hell of a lot more hysterical than she’s acted in this scene. Finally, we didn’t really need this short scene at all and it would’ve worked better if we’d found out that Emily was the sacrifice after she’d already been tied up in the Orchard -- of course, that would’ve needed more female characters who could’ve been the chosen for that to work. Really, the script should’ve just not pretended it was a mystery who the female paired with Dean was going to be if they weren’t going to twist it in some way.
Scene 29: At the bus station, Meg tells Sam that they need to catch their bus, but he’s on the phone not reaching Dean. He regretfully tells her that she should go ahead and leave but he’s got somewhere else to be.
[Shut up,] Meg tries to convince Sam to ignore his worry about Dean not picking up a phone call and come to California with her instead. He declines.
Scene 30: In the holding cellar, Emily is trying to wrap her mind around what Dean has just stated is the reason for her imprisonment. Dean goes on to tell her that they need to find the revered tree and Emily shares that there is supposed to be one in the orchard that was planted by the original settlers of the town, brought over from the home country during their journey. But she doesn’t know which one would be The First Tree.
They’re interrupted by daylight as the door is opened for their retrieval. Auntie tells them it’s time.
Scene 31: After being secured to trees to await the Vanir’s animation of the scarecrow, Dean asks the Sheriff how many people he’s killed. This goes nowhere.
Scene 32: Over at the other tree, Uncle Harley is struggling with what they are going to do for the town to their niece. Even Aunt is upset, but she explains to Emily that there isn’t anyone else to play this role since their chosen sacrifices escaped. She explains that sacrifice is about the good of the many over the one [OH MY GOD, THAT BITCH DID NOT JUST CORRUPT SPOCK’S VULCAN PHILOSOPHY --- uhm… sorry about that… geek-outrage, *ducks head*].
Uncle looks pissed and I half expected him to suddenly hit Aunt in the head with his own rifle stock to swap places with Emily, but he doesn’t. He marches angrily out of the fields with the others following.
After they’re gone, Emily asks Dean what the plan is and he assures her that he’s working on it.
Scene 33: Sometime well after dark, Emily glares over at Dean. She accuses him of not having a plan, he snarks that he’s working on it. He asks her if the effigy is moving yet, but she can’t see it from her vantage point.
Suddenly they hear footsteps crunching the leaves and Emily starts to freak out… but this turns out to be Our Sam. Dean laughs that he takes back all of those words of support for Sammy leaving. As he’s untied, he warns Sam to watch the scarecrow for animation, but Our Sam asks him what scarecrow he’s talking about.
When Dean looks, the pole is empty of its resident.
Scene 34: Moments later, the trio are jogging through the orchards as Sam has obviously been caught up on what they’re facing and the importance of the sacred tree. Sam suggests finding and burning, while Dean states that’s a task for daylight.
Their escape is stopped by the townsfolk with their guns encircling them. When the sound of a heavy breath is heard, Emily begs her uncle and aunt to let them go. Uncle tries to explain to Emily that it’ll be over quickly and that she needs to let the pagan god take her for the sacrifice to work.
But apparently the Vanir isn’t all that picky. Uncle suddenly gets a pointed jab right through the rib cage from back to front. He falls dead to Auntie’s screams of horror.
The Vanir grabs her around the shoulder and drags her off into the orchard, while also snagging the body of uncle and dragging him away with his hand scythe/whatever that is named… and Auntie doesn’t seem all that sanguine about “giving herself for the greater good”.
As the townsfolk retreat, the Winchesters and Emily also do but probably more to find that sacred tree.
Commentary: Okay, that was a nice twist in the story and I liked that since Emily and Dean aren’t actually together-together like the other sacrifices, the Vanir would go for an actual couple instead.
Now, if only the moon wasn’t smashing through the treetops over on the right hand of the screen to kill the entire planet….
Scene 35: Our trio stop when they hear the sound of the heavy breather nearby again. They look for any sign of the Scarecrow, but don’t see anything and Aunt’s screams have stopped.
Scene 36: The next morning, our trio return with a gas can. They find the original tree - marked by a pagan carving in the trunk, which Our Sam soaks in gasoline. Dean lights the torch, but Emily wants to be the one to torch it. Dean points out that the whole town will die when the god isn’t there to give its prosperity blessing to it. But Emily just says it’s a good thing.
Scene 37: Later, the boys are back at the bus station seeing Emily off to wherever. Sam brings up how unsatisfying it is that the rest of the town won’t be brought to justice, but Dean offers there’s the consolation that they’re going to watch their town wither away.
He asks Sam if he needs him to drop him off somewhere. Sam tells him he’s staying and when Dean asks why, he tells him that he still wants to find their father but who knows where he is by now and he has also realized that he needs to start letting go of Jessica. He tells Dean that they’re the only Winchesters together and they should stay that way.
Dean jokes that Sam’s monologue was beautiful and he wants to be held by him. They share a smirky laugh and Sam tells him that he should be kissing his ass as he was dead meat out in the orchard. Dean assures him he had a plan.
Scene 38: Elsewhere, a van is driving along down a dark road. In the passenger seat is Meg, having obviously not gotten on the bus after all. Van Driver asks where to and Meg suggests that they pull over for awhile.
Scene 39: On a dirt side road, Driver does just that and readies for some young sex. Meg has other plans and reaches into her backpack for a silver goblet with intricately designed demonic faces howling and scowling.
She tells Van Driver that she needs to make a call and he offers her his cell. She replies it isn’t that kind of call and pulls a blade from inside the cup. She slits his throat in a sudden movement.
As he bleeds out and gasps for air, she collects his blood in the goblet and thanks him for the ride. When he’s dead, she stares into the goblet of blood and swirls it around with her finger, while chanting.
She asks the Goblet Entity why she wasn’t allowed to just kill the Winchesters instead of allowing them to slip free. We don’t hear the Goblet Entity’s reply, but we do find out Meg is speaking to her father….
Commentary: And this was a nice twist on the slightly annoying Meg, so I was happily surprised to see that she is definitely up to something demonic. And you have to wonder if this isn’t about whatever John is doing and the mystery of what killed Mary and Jessica since Sam specifically brought up their names. So, it’s also a good to see that arc taking another step forward.
The Good: I really liked the scene where Sam is talking to John for the acting and I loved the scene where Sam confronts Dean on his unquestioningly following orders and choosing to leave his brother if he won't come with him to seek out their father.
Once again Jensen and Jared do some great acting work and I loved the scene where Dean is talking to Sam over the phone about the case but also telling him to go and live his own life. Since they're not even in the same scene together, you'd think that it would be a bit awkward to act but they both really do some wonderful work.
Speaking of acting, I also want to compliment P. Lynn Johnson and Tom Butler as our ultimately doomed aunt and uncle.
I liked the twist of the Vanir going after the real couple, rather than the intended sacrifice.
The Bad: I really hate the lighting in this episode and I think this series is the only time when it has bothered me so badly that I can't overlook it. The crane lights are so fricking obvious!
I also found the resolution of the Vanir threat really anti-climatic.
Other Thoughts: I like that the scarecrow isn't really the monster, but just the suit for the real threat but it's also a little disappointing in its appearances. The realization that the male victims are destined to be hung up and used is chilling but it actually doesn't do much of anything with the main baddies actually being the regular townsfolk instead. It doesn't even take a moment to slap around one of our boys.
Meg, as a character is an issue for me. She's not as charming as she thinks she is and is really dull until the final reveal, but even then, she's still flat and uninterestingly performed.
I liked that we're given a real reason for why a Scandanavian god would be hanging out in America, let alone small town Indiana. It's more than we usually get for why all of these damned European old gods keep coming over here to cause trouble.
The Score: I enjoyed this one and it was well filmed outside of the too obvious, bright lighting issues. There are some good moments between our Winchesters and the mystery of the scarecrow was mildly interesting. It could've been better though, with more of a physical threat to the boys and the Meg side plot was hampered by being dull, using a dull character to hide that there was more going on than we were seeing at first.
3.75 out of 5 stars