Season 01, Episode 14
Writers: Sera Gamble, Raelle Tucker
DIR: Phil Sgriccia
Blurb: The brothers pose as priests to gather information at a house visited by sudden death - a death Sam saw in a dream. But precognition may be just the start of preternatural powers Sam suddenly possesses.
Scene 01: After our previouslies on, which includes a recap of Sammy informing Dean of his occasional prophetic nightmares, because that is what this episode focuses on, we join a car with loud music tooling through an otherwise quiet, suburban neighborhood. It is not the Winchester Impala.
The car pulls into your typical suburban garage. Behind the wheel is a middle-aged dad type. We see Michigan plates, which seems very important to our POV camera. Perhaps because the “MF” is some sort of vanity reference? Or just to establish location?
Anyway. Our dude is puzzled when the electric garage door closes itself while he’s still looking for the remote. But that’s nothing next to his not-automatic door locks closing themselves and the not-automatic ignition key twisting on its own.
As our “MF” tries to escape desperately confused and now scared, the garage fills with toxic carbon monoxide from the exhaust. He tries to twist the key back off, but it snaps in half, stuck in the ignition. He next tries to kick out the side window, but it won’t even crack.
Our “MF” succumbs to the exhaust.
Scene 02: Meanwhile, elsewhere, Our Sam is snapping awake from a dream in which flashes of the man’s fate are in his mind’s eye.
He shakes Dean awake and runs around the room like a dervish, shoving stuff into his bags. As Dean tries to rouse himself, Sam tells him they have to go.
Scene 03: In the Impala of Wonder, Sam is playing police to call in the ident on the license plate that he saw in his dream. Dean tries to downplay his obvious agitation, suggesting it’s just a nightmare. Dean’s left bewildered and not thrilled and Sam is left vibrating with energy when the license plate not only turns out to be real but there’s a name and address to go with it in Saginaw, MI.
Scene 04: But the boys are several hours away still. At the house meanwhile, the Staties are already at the scene. It’s much too late for “MF” Dad. Which our boys see when they pull up outside of the residence in question.
Jittery Title Jitterbugs
Scene 05: Sam and Dean blend into the crowd of onlookers for an inconspicuous closer look. They find a talkative neighbor and find out the death appears to be a suicide. Meanwhile, a police officer is talking with MF’s Wife and Son on the porch.
Since they’re of more import, let’s call them Alice and Max Miller.
As neighbor woman fills in more details, including putting a knife in Sam’s conscience by informing him that he was just an hour or so too late to save him, Alice and Max are joined by another man, who offers what comfort he’s able.
Seeing Alice’s grief causes Sam to storm away, angry at himself for not being in time to save this family from a tragedy, despite the forewarning.
Scene 06: Dean tries to comfort him that they arrived as soon as they could, but Sam is focused on what good his premonition is, if it comes too late to help anybody. Our Sam turns attention to what happened, and poo-poos Dean’s suggestion of just a garden variety suicide.
Sam tells him he saw it happened and the man was trapped in the garage by something but he didn’t see what. He’s filled with frustration and confusion… and Dean’s side eye looks at him isn’t helping.
Dean calls it a night and assures Sam they’ll start investigating in the morning.
Commentary: I just to give a kudo to the cinematography and lighting for this scene. The misty-rain evening must’ve been real fun to film around while keeping the images crisp and clear and it looks marvelous. I also really liked Dean’s continued discomfort around Sam’s emerging powers and how even Sam is obviously afraid of what is going on with himself.
The dynamic between Jared and Jensen once again really helps as their natural chemistry together engages the viewer. Overall, it’s a great opening to introduce more about the changes happening to Sam Winchester and hinting at the strain that they may cause between our two leads.
Scene 07: The following morning, a finger pushes the doorbell for the Miller home. We pull back to see a tight close up on Sam looking a bit exasperated. He tells Dean that this has to be a new low for them.
The reason for this becomes apparent when Roger Miller answers the door. He’s the deceased’s brother.
Sam and Dean have acquired Priest’s wear, looking a tad more like strippers in costume though at least Sam is trying to appear pious… or sympathetic… or constipated; It’s hard to tell.
Scene 08: Inside the home, Roger is not buying the whole “God has a plan/Can be a source of comfort at times like these” deal, but Alice is more appreciative that the “junior priests” have stopped by to offer guidance.
She offers them coffee. When she’s served and gone to place the pot back in the kitchen, Dean goes right for the cocktail weenies. In addition, Sam tells him to tone down the “Father Church talk”.
When Alice returns, Dean turns to the information gathering by asking if her husband had suffered depression but Alice claims not. She also says they had their ups and downs like every marriage, but they were happy. She weeps with confusion over why he did what he did [well, except we know he didn’t].
They find out from Alice that Max, the victim’s son, found the body and Sam excuses himself to speak with him.
Commentary: I want to comment on the acting as everyone is doing quite well, but what I want to mention here is Jared. He is excellent as a comforting presence and he has a mastery over “sympathy face” in this scene.
‘Sam’ is doing a terrific job in connecting with this family and I’m really liking how Jared is carrying this scene. ‘Dean’ still looks like he’s about to rip the shirt off and get to dancing on the table… which he should absolutely do at a more appropriate time, maybe back at the motel room. YES, DEAN -- YOU SHOULD DO THIS.
Scene 09: While Sam is off to glean information from Max, Dean is left with small talk that is really about finding out if anything odd has been going on around the home. He’s looking for signs of ghost activity, while trying to make it casual.
[Quite the trick, since a wake is hardly the time to bring up cold spots, strange noises, etc, etc.]
Alice tells him that they’ve never had problems with the house at all and everything has been perfect. Dean asks for the restroom and excuses himself.
Scene 10: Sam is speaking with Max, where the young man is full of confusion and anger, as you’d expect. Sam sympathizes with losing a parent when you don’t have all the answers.
Scene 11: Upstairs, Dean is giving the house a once over with the ghost scanner he brought. He’s nearly caught, but it turns out to be Sammy.
Dean reports no ghostly tracks.
Scene 12: That evening at the hotel, Sam reports that he’s found nothing bad happening in the history of the Miller’s house, property or anywhere nearby to explain the suicide as anything but… except for his dreaming it.
Dean is cleaning the guns. Sam wonders if Mr. Miller could’ve really killed himself and his dream about it is just a coincidental freak occurrence. Dean tells him he doesn’t know, but there isn’t anything supernatural going on in the house.
Sam tries to come up with an alternative explanation for what else may be happening, but he’s interrupted by a horrible sudden-onset migraine.
Scene 13: As Dean tries to get Sam to tell him what is happening to him, Sam is getting a flash of Roger Miller returning to his apartment. As Roger opens a beer and tries to drain it in one gulp, a shadowing figure moves unnoticed across our view.
He starts putting bread away from his grocery bag when the window to the kitchen slides open of its own volition. Rog is “huh” about that and re-closes it, making sure to latch it shut while looking out toward the fire escape for a probable burglar.
As he fiddles with more groceries, the window latch unlocks itself and the window opens again.
This gets a bit more than a “huh” from Roger… after he drains another large gulp of beer [priorities people, it’s always about priorities]. This time when Rog tries to close the window, it’s stuck open. He, unwisely, turns over and sticks his head out of the sill to look up at the outside window casement and see if he can figure out why it’s stuck [like being off-track, presumably]. The window gives itself a nice slamming and Roger is decapitated.
Bright light shows the end of Sam’s vision. He reports that something is going to kill Roger Miller.
Scene 14: Metallicar races through the rain slicked night as Sammy, looking like hell warmed over, gets Roger’s street address [making one wonder just where Dean was supposedly rushing to at the wheel].
Dean worries over Sammy, hiding it by joking if Sam is going to hurl on his upholstery he’ll pull over but Our Sam insists he’s fine. Despite looking like shit… he’s fine.
Sam tells Dean that he’s getting scared about these visions coming when he’s awake and their growing intensity. Sam asks Dean if this isn’t freaking him out, and after a pause Dean puts on his “everything will work out” voice and tells him it’s just another unexplainable thing like they face everyday. He’s not freaked out; His expression seems to indicate otherwise.
Scene 15: Outside of Roger’s apartment building, they spot him heading in with his bag of groceries. He’s less than welcoming of the “local priests” stalking him.
After Dean clumsily parks the car, they try to run Roger down to warn him of his danger, but the Saginaw Manor apartments has a locked lobby door. They rush around to the back, where Dean kicks in an alley gate that will lead to access to the fire escape.
They rush headlong up the metal stairs [and I laugh as I suddenly hope the director made them re-do that shot 20 times]. They’re barely half way up when they hear the sounds of Roger’s neck being pinched off of his shoulders [with a small FX-sound fail… that sounded a lot more like a blade falling through flesh than a window frame; Speaking of which, I don’t think the frame could cleanly behead a person -- it’d be more like crushing the throat].
Too late for another Miller family member.
Sam is left again frustrated and guilt-ridden, but Dean is thinking on his feet. He gives Our Sam a rag and tells him to start wiping down his fingerprints so the cops don’t know they were there. While Sammy is busy with that task, Dean slips inside of the newly deceased’s.
Scene 16: Later, back on the street, Dean tells Sam that again there were no signs of ghostly or demonic activity to explain Sam’s vision and Roger’s death. Sam tells Dean about the dark shape he saw crossing his POV in his vision and suggests that something not connected to the house is stalking the family. They start listing possibilities off the top of their heads and decide maybe Roger and Jim had gotten involved in something heavy and drew down a curse on the family.
Sam worries about Max.
Scene 17: The following day, the “priests” are back at the Miller clan’s. Max is the only one there and he explains his mother is in bed, pretty much a wreck. He says that everyone kept bringing by casseroles until he finally told them to go away. He mentions the oddness of everyone thinking a tuna casserole is the thing to take grief away.
Sam starts probing into the pasts of Roger and Jim as brothers to Max’s slight consternation over the weird questions. Dean asks if there was anything unusual between the brothers when Max was a kid and the brothers lived next door to each other. Max wonders at the questioning, but he also clearly becomes upset about something. He says that they were just a normal and happy family when he was a kid [but, I don’t know about that… there is something going on in his eyes and demeanor as soon as Dean brought up the past].
Scene 18: Outside, Dean tells Sammy that nobody has had a perfect childhood and Sam brings up how scared he looked when questions about the old house were brought up.
They decide to investigate the Miller’s past a bit more, specifically their former living spaces.
Scene 19: They track down the neighborhood and find another talkative neighbor. From him, they find out that Max’s tales of a “normal, happy childhood” with his father and uncle was crapola as expected. Chatty Neighbor tells Our Boys about all of the temper tantrums Jim threw while drunk and the way he beat Max regularly. He goes on to say that Uncle Roger was just as likely to take a swing at the boy. But the thing that really grated was how the stepmother, Alice, would just “check out” and not lift a finger to help the boy.
Before we can wonder just what Neighbor Man did to help, he mentions calling the police seven or eight times but nothing ever came of his attempts to intervene. Dean asks about Max’s actual mother and Neighbor Man thinks she died… maybe a car accident.
Further questioning is hampered by the return of one of Sam’s killer migraines.
Scene 20: Sam’s vision goes blurry and bright and then we’re with him seeing into the Miller household. Alice is cutting up celery [uh… don’t you have a HOUSE FULL of food already].
She’s telling somebody that she doesn’t know what they mean and says that whoever knows that she didn’t ever do anything. A voice… Max’s voice… replies that she’s right. She didn’t do anything to help him when he needed her. As he’s confronting her with angry, teary face, the knife starts jittering on the cutting board.
He backs her up against the wall and threatens to put the knife through her eye for all of the times she didn’t lift a finger to stop the beatings.
She tries to apologize, but he doesn’t believe her, telling her that she just doesn’t want to die. He sends the knife blade through her skull.
Commentary: Like I stated previously, everyone has been handling their roles well and the casting did a good job of filling out this episode. But it’s really here that I was impressed with Brendan Fletcher. He’s absolutely magnetic with his intensity in this scene and heartbreaking in his angry pain that is driving him to vengeance.
It’s also a great scene to telling us why Our Sam and The Millers are connecting. Sam’s unusual powers are just beginning to manifest and we still don’t know anything about them [except for whatever happened to him in that crib]. I immediately wondered if they were hinting that the same thing happened to Max or if they were just connected because both have psychic powers. But either way, this was a great way to move along the “what is going on with Sammy” subplot arc.
Scene 21: Once again the Impala is sent racing to the scene to try to help Our Boys stop an imminent Miller death. In the car, Sam tells Dean that their killer is Max.
Sam is bothered that maybe they connected like they have because they’re just like one another in that they’re both psychic, apparently. But Dean won’t have any of that. He insists that Max is a monster, but Sam is more sympathetic to his wanting vengeance on those who’d abused him so badly. Dean tells Sam that Max has to be ended, shocking him into open-mouth gasping. Our Sam refuses. Dean points out the problems that come with trying to bring a telekinetic to justice, starting with their claims to the police that he’s killing with the power of his mind. But Our Sam won’t kill a person.
Dean promises to follow Sam’s lead in trying to talk Max down from hurting anyone else, but also brings his gun in case talking doesn’t work. Sam’s not happy, but Dean gives him determined glare.
Scene 22: In the house, Alice is just finishing her “I never did anything” declaration that isn’t really helpful to her case. Max is in ugly cry-anger face.
Dean and Sam bust in, to Alice’s utter confusion over the priests busting down her door. Our Sam asks for Max to join them outside for a moment to discuss something private, while Max is obvs trying to figure out how to get back to punishing his step mother. Alas for the calm resolution of all of this, Dean’s gun is showing in the foyer mirror.
Max goes into Carrie mode and correctly calls them out on not being priests. Dean pulls the gun, but it’s yanked telekinetically from his hand and across the floor. Max picks it up to fondle. Alice asks what is going on, and gets a telekinetic shove that sends her headfirst into the kitchen counter, knocking her out cold.
Max demands to know who they are. Sam is still trying to talk him down, but he’s not listening since they brought a gun and lied about their identities and why they were there. He’s borderline unhinged, obvs and now waving a gun at Our Boys. Sam tells Max about seeing what he was doing before he did it and Max tells him he’s crazy but Sam counters with his plans to put the knife through his step mom’s eye.
Our Sam tries to get Max to let Dean and Alice go so they can just talk but Max Miller is very damaged and isn’t ready to let anyone out of his sight. In the meantime, the house starts to quake around them. Sam asks for five minutes, and Max allows Dean to help Alice upstairs as long as they don’t try to leave. Dean is unhappy with the Sam-alone-with-the-killer plan but complies to Sam’s determination to end this peacefully without any more deaths.
Commentary: This scene was really great. Everybody handled their roles really well here and I’m left just wanting to hug Max and help him through this, despite his technically being our bad guy. The stunt with Alice’s head against the counter was well done as well.
I really liked Jared and Brendan’s acting with one another here and Jensen’s got some great reactions to the tense situation. Everybody was really into the scene, so kudos.
Scene 23: After Dean and Alice are out of the way, Sam tries to talk Max down about not letting what happened in the past turn him into a monster now, while Max continues playing with objects with his mind.
Sam tries to get Max to understand that he has to let Alice go and stop this cycle. But this isn’t about what happened to Max as a child. He shows Sam what his father did last week… and for the bruises still showing, it must’ve been one hell of a beating.
Max goes on to tearily and angrily confess to killing his abusers and tells Sam what it was like to grow up with someone who hated him so viciously, and still had hated him enough to use him as a punching bag when he drank. Max tells Sam that his father blamed him for his mother’s death, and that he did so… BECAUSE SHE DIED IN HIS NURSERY WHILE HE WAS IN HIS CRIB!
Obvs, Sam gets “OH, SHIT” face to that tidbit. As Max goes on about the fire that took her life, the color drains from Sam’s face. The topper is when Max tells Sam that his dad used to yell at him drunkenly that his mother was killed pinned to the ceiling.
Commentary: WHOO-HOOO! This scene is fabulous! I got the same goosebumps as Sam when the revelations started being spilled and now it is obvious that there are others out there just like Our Sam. And Brendan is once again rocking the acting in this scene.
Scene 24: Sam tells Max about their similarities, right down to Max’s powers manifesting out of the blue about 7 months ago. Sam tells him about his and Dean’s attempts to find their mother’s killer and how it could provide answers to both of them about what happened to them and why they suddenly have these abilities.
He tries to get Max to let them all go, including Alice. For an achingly long moment Max looks like he’s interested enough in finding out about what happened to him as a baby to do as Sam wants… before he shuts down again and refuses.
Sam tries to tell Max that he doesn’t have to go through it all by himself anymore and that he doesn’t need to hurt his stepmother to stop being afraid. But he’s just too damaged and lost in his rage and fear to stop now. Sam is telekinetically shoved into a closet and the door blocked to hold him there.
Scene 25: Upstairs, Alice’s bedroom door creeps open on Dean wiping her head wound with a wet rag. Max comes in. He sends Dean flying into the wall with force enough to knock the wind out of him.
Max pulls out Dean’s gun from his pocket and holds it on him. He TK’s the gun and points it alternately at Alice and Dean. He tells Dean to stand back, but Dean’s not going to let Alice be gunned down in front of him. He threatens that if Max wants to kill her, he’ll have to go through him. The reply is “okay” and a gunshot right through Dean’s forehead.
Dean is left on the floor, very dead.
Scene 26: [As if.] It turns out though that this is a vision of Sam’s of what is about to occur [I know. You’re shocked].
Sam gives a big “NOOO!” which also activates another talent in him. He telekinetically shoves the blocking dish cabinet from the closet door.
Scene 27: Upstairs, the scene is playing itself out from Sam’s vision.
Sam bursts into the room between Max saying “okay” and killing Dean. Sam tells the frozen Max to stop what he’s doing as it won’t ultimately fix anything. He tries to get Max to believe that they can help him, but Max is a tableau of pain.
He does believe one thing though: Nothing will ever fix anything.
Max spins the gun on himself and pulls the trigger to Sam’s horror….
Scene 28: Later, Alice dully tells the officer about Max threatening her with a gun. The officer asks about the Winchester brothers and Alice lies that they’re family friends. She claims that she called them as soon as Max arrived because she was scared of her stepson. She reports that they tried to stop him.
Meanwhile, Sammy is standing there with no emotion… numb. Dean concernedly watches Alice spin her story, hoping she holds it together enough that they won’t be detained.
The officer asks where Max managed to get a gun. She sobs her way through saying that she doesn’t know, but he showed up with it. She sobs that she lost everyone and the officer finally lets the Winchesters go.
Scene 29: Outside, Sam is still preoccupied with how everything didn’t work out. Dean tells him that Max was too far gone to be saved by them or anyone else.
Sam surprises Dean by telling him that they were lucky they had their dad. He points out that things could’ve gone a whole different way after their mother’s death, as shown by Max’s family.
Scene 30: Back at the motel the boys pack up for their next road trip. Sam ponders on what the demon or monster or whatever wants by killing their and Max’s mother and Jessica. Sam wonders if it was coming for him and Max, but Dean points out that if it wanted them, it would’ve taken them. He tells Sam that whatever is going on isn’t his fault and it isn’t about him, it’s only about the monster that tore apart their family and they’re going to find it and kill it and that’s that.
But Sam counters that there is one more thing: He tells Dean about the telekinetic force that opened up the closet. This creates an awkward moment between them and Dean pulls out a motel room spoon and tells Sammy to bend it.
Sam explains that he wasn’t in control of it, that he saw Dean die and it was like an adrenaline thing… like a punch leaving him to hit the china cabinet. Dean offers that he’s sure it won’t happen again.
Our Sam is worried that this is leading to him becoming like Max, but Dean poo-poos that notion. He tells Sammy that as long as he’s around, nothing bad is going to happen to him. He then shares that he has an idea about where to go in regards to Sam’s premonitions. VEGAS!
Sam bitch faces him.
This dispels the tension between them, but as Dean turns out the motel light and after Sam gets in the car, his face tells us just how worried he is over what his happening with his brother.
The Good: The acting was exceptionally good in this one from the whole cast. But of special mention, I want to give kudos to Jared, Brendan and Beth Broderick as Alice.
The cinematography, lighting and set designs were all really good for this episode. The behind-the-scenes crew did excellent jobs of keeping everything looking good and 'real' for the actors.
I loved the emotions on Dean's face that lets us know everytime he's saying something for Sam's benefit that he isn't quite believing himself.
I really loved the acting in the scene when Sam is trying to talk Max down, and fails. And the acting in the scene when Alice, still reeling from shock, spins her tale for the officer. You can imagine she's had a lot of practice with spinning tales to hide what is really happening from the authorities or neighbors.
Absolutely loved the revelation that Max was exactly in Sam's position, and that there is something greater going on around Sam ... and not only him.
The Bad: Nuthin'
Other Thoughts: Okay, the death of Roger Miller is a bit... clunky. One, it seems like if a window you just closed and locked suddenly opened by itself again while you were standing there, that would provoke a stronger reaction than a swig of beer and sticking your head under it. But also, of course, the decapitation was way too cleanly done for a wood window sill. There must've been a better mode of death that could have been used, or they could have simply forgone the fake head falling into the flower pot gag and implied a messier situation via keeping most of it off-screen instead.
Once again, we have a chatty neighbor... two even... who provide info dumps. The first one is natural and expected but the second one with all of the details about Max's abuse feels like clumsy scripting again. It's a bit blatant too by not having Sam and Dean using their police or priest cover identities in the scene. Either of these would give an excuse to our chatty neighbor to spill the missing details to let Sam and Dean know what is actually happening. Why they didn't make sure to include this detail before they had the actors questioning the day player, I can't imagine.
The only weakness I really had was the number of times that the Impala is rushing to somewhere or another, only to be a bit too late. I get why it was done because we had to wonder if Alice's save was going to arrive too late too, only to later find it was actually Max's save that wouldn't arrive. But it was just a bit... a bit... repetitive with the shots of driving around.
The Score: This was a great episode, with a nicely hidden bad guy and a great tie in to the mystery of Sam Winchester. None of the actors were weak and the plot was dark and tense and Brendan Fletcher really got to me as an entirely sympathetic antagonist.
[Okay, I might have been a bit distracted when he lifted up his shirt to actually focus on the point of the scene, but otherwise the episode was also filmed really well.]
4.0 out of 5 stars
Next Up: BTVS, Season 10, Issue 15