Season 1, Ep 20
"Dead Man's Blood"
Writers: Cathryn Humphris & John Shiban
DIR: Tony Wharmby
Blurbing: Reunion. After an aging spook hunter falls prey to [edit - spoilery] he thought he had long ago destroyed, John Winchester joins his sons to battle [edit, because the opening of the episode is leading us to believe the bad guys are Shape Shifters] - and retrieve an unearthly gun they possess.
Sc 01: We open in Manning, CO outside of a small, divey bar. Inside, we join a man's hands as he flips through what appears to be a hunter's journal, like the one that John kept. But this isn't John, or his boys.
This is Dan Elkins[, and if the blurb is to be believed, we shouldn't get too attached]. The waitress, Beth, offers him another round which he distractedly accepts with thanks. Elkins has a local reputation for being a bit lonely and weird, but Beth likes him well enough. Anyway, as she's pouring him another shot of whiskey, Dan suddenly senses something.
Into the bar comes four ruffians. As they sit, Dan recognizes them as not the people they appear to be.
Beth goes to fetch a bottle for the ruffians, and tosses over her shoulder if Mr. Elkins would like anything else. But when she glances over, his untouched whiskey is sitting at the counter without him.
Sc 02: Dan has gotten in his truck to rush home to his cabin out in the boonies. He's obviously afraid, as he keeps looking over his shoulder while fighting to get the door opened.
He breathes a sigh of relief, but it's short lived. Behind him, he hears the creak of the floor, and when he slowly turns around - the chick-ruffian from the bar is walking toward him. It is obvious now that Dan and this woman have a history, and she tells him he's looking old, while she's very not. He responds with a quick knife-toss that gets her right in the chest. This does nothing. And, by-the-by, she's also wearing a large crucifix around her neck with zero unpleasantness.
All the while, her eyes flash in the light, like a Shape Shifter.
Dan tries retreating to his home office, which our girl finds amusing.
Sc 03: Dan tries to barricade the door to buy him some time. He goes to a hidden safe.
His goal is a Colt .45 hidden away. [Alas, and ridiculously,] He didn't keep it loaded, so he has to do that while girl-ruffian bangs at the door, knocking the bookcase in front of it. Dan's home seems really unfortified, and two of the male ruffians make use of a double set of skylights in order to drop in for a visit.
They do a cross-room leap in tandem [that was a neat shot, Mr. Director], tackling him before he can get the gun in play. We've yet to know why he thinks this gun would be more effective than the throwing blade. She-ruffian finally manages to knock over the blocking bookcase.
Dan is pinned to his desk by the two he-men, while she-ruffian slinks over to the dropped Colt and picks it up. She smiles at her minions and Dan. She tells her boys that they'll be eating in tonight.
As we pan out of the cabin, Dan yells out his doom.
We do not learn anything about this woman, how she knew Dan, why she wants him dead or why the ruffians want the Colt. [Except what the blurb has already spoiled.]
Hi, Credits doing your crediting thing.
Sc 04: Some time later, Sam and Dean are eating at a small diner. Sam on his laptop, again, while Dean looks over the local paper. They're looking for something to hunt, but it's all seeming quiet. Dean suggests they could head up to upper New York state again, and Sam could drop in on Sarah.
This is blown off by Sam, because "lot of work to do".
Dean, unusually, gives up rather easily. They move on. Sam finds the news report of Elkins being found mauled in his home. Dean recognizes Elkins, and when he double-checks John's journal, he finds a D. Elkins and a phone number. The phone number has a CO area code.
Commentary: Two small things here. One - I'm bummed that we don't see Sarah again, because I really liked the acting going on between Jared and Taylor. Two - I liked this way of Dean nudging Sam to get back to dating/sex, rather than the earlier writing that made him way too invested in Sam's sex life, and had him written like he was a boorish clod, to boot. This interaction was a lot better handled.
As to D. Elkins, I don't have any problem with Dean recognizing a last name in this context, because he's spent months pouring over John's journal. It's the one constant touchstone he has back to his dad.
Sc 05: After a drive, Sam and Dean arrive at Dan's cabin. While Dean moves to Elkins' office, Sam notes a ring of salt at the front door. He asks his brother if he thinks Elkins "was a player", meaning a fellow monster hunter. Dean has found Elkins' journal, so he knows he definitely was in the trade.
In the meantime, outside, we have a stalker.
While inside, both brothers are intently studying the scene. Dean notes scratches on the floor, and grabs a piece of paper and a pencil to rub at them to see if they're more than unusually complex death-throe scratchings. Which, of course they are. While Dan was being mauled, he managed to sketch a PO Box into the floor through his blood. Sam recognizes a mail drop, and Dean mentions how it's just the way that their dad does things.
Sc 06: They both go to the local post office. They find a letter posted to J.W. and another PO Box.
Later in the car, Sam jumps to the conclusion that J.W. could be their father. Dean wonders if they should open it, when they're startled by a knock at their car door window. And lo and behold: John Winchester is there in the flesh!
Naturally both brothers are shocked to see their father again. John explains that when he read about Dan's death, he rushed there as fast as he could. It was he we saw stalking the cabin outside earlier, and when Sam asks him why he didn't come in, John tells him he knows why. While the boys were covering their tracks and leaving the cabin, John was making sure they'd not been followed by anyone or anything. John explains that he knew Dan enough to know him as a good guy.
John tells the boys that he and Elkins had a falling out, but the man had taught John a lot about hunting monsters before that. The elder Winchester takes a look at Dan's last letter, and discovers that something John had been looking for -- the antique Colt -- was in Dan's possession this whole time. He urgently asks the boys about seeing it, and Dean has to report that they found a case, but it was empty. John tells them they need to pick up the trail of Dan's killers to get that gun back.
Commentary: Let me just say, that I was very glad to see John make a return, and I like the way that he's given a very real reason for showing up with the boys. Despite the fact that he and his sons shouldn't be in the same places right now, due to Meg and whatever is going on with the demons, this Colt is more than a McGuffin [though, for this episode, it is one too]. It plays an important role later, so I like the way this is all handled.
Sc 07: John leaves, and tells the boys to find the trail of that gun, explaining that it is important. Sam offers they don't even know what they're hunting, yet. John tells them that Dan had a specialty: vampires.
This comes as news to the boys, because Dean thought they weren't real, but John explains that he didn't have anything about them in his journal or mentioned them when the kids were young because he'd thought that Dan and the earlier hunters had driven them to extinction. It appears he was wrong.
Sc 08: Elsewhere, we see our bad guys hanging out in the woods. John's voiceover gives us the rules for the SPN-verse vampires, which basically disregards previous lore [allowing SPN to separate itself from other shows dealing with them, which is fine, if bothersome for my BTVS-SPN shared 'verse].
Our vampires are waiting by the side of the road for a late night driver, because - as John explains, the need for fresh blood is true.
And along a road comes a couple driving toward the monsters.
Our couple are waylaid by a vampire lying in the road, nearly getting himself run over. Obvs, our samaritans get out to check on what happened to the "poor guy", and are obvs not long for this world.
As our male checks on the 'dead guy', his eyes open. And instead of his mouth sprouting fangs, he spouts a mouthful of shark's teeth. Our driver gets a gasp and short yell.
Commentary: Uh. Our vampires will be sporting CGI teeth. It's... unfortunate. And I think our female vampire is of the overacting breed, which is also unfortunate.
Sc 09: At a motel, Sam and Dean are sacked out. John is listening to the police radio quietly, when he hears the report of the abandoned vehicle on that lonely road, where a 9-1-1 call had originated reporting a hurt man.
He gets the boys up, outlines the 'sitch he heard on the radio, and tells them it's the vampires.
Sc 10: At the scene, where nobody has been found, Sam complains to Dean about John handling the cops by leaving them standing a fair distance away. Dean asks Sam not to start already. Sam doesn't know what he means [we do -- Sam & John can't be in the same room for very long, before there is friction].
John tells them their monsters are headed west. Sam asks how he's sure, and refuses to simply take John's word for it. His father pulls out a tooth he found at the scene was able to snag. He looks pointedly at Sam and asks him if he hasn't any more questions, in that hard tone he uses when he's not used to being questioned by his sons.
[How a single tooth points the way the vampires are headed is a minor issue, but let's just accept John is right and move on.]
John tells them they need to get moving. As he's headed for his truck, John tells Dean to get the Impala a touch-up before it gets rust. He tosses over his shoulder that he wouldn't have given Dean the damn car, if he thought he was going to ruin it. Dean's face says it all: Any disapproving comment by John strikes him deeply.
Commentary: I really liked this. Yes, John's a bit of a jerk, but it's consistent with his one-track mind and his treating his sons as extensions of his mission. And it also reminds us easily and organically of the contentious relationship he has with Sam and the unquestioning/uncritical hero worship that Dean carries toward his father. It's a short interaction, but it cleverly re-paints the family dynamic for us since John had been missing in action again.
Sc 11: In the car, following John, Dean reviews the information Elkins had collected. There is a chance that the vampires have kept the waylaid couple alive to slowly bleed them over time, so there is the chance of a rescue.
Sam says that is probably what they're father is thinking. He then tosses out that it would be nice if their dad just shared what he's thinking. Dean looks over at Sam and confirms that "it" is starting again. Sam denies anything is starting again, before voicing his frustration with the way their dad barks out orders, doesn't share information, and expects them to just fall in line. Sam complains that they've been through too much, and they're not children anymore. But Dean is willing to follow the old man, whatever he wants or needs from them to do the job. Sam is appalled by his willingness to salute.
Sc 12: That night, our vamps are partying in an old, abandoned barn. Our couple is still alive. One of our skeevy vamps offers the male a swallow of beer, because he claims he can taste it in his blood, but it's declined. He next turns to the woman, and she accepts it, despite the pervy feel to the whole thing and her obvious terror. And then she spits it in his face [which is awesome, and I love her], with contempt.
He goes to back hand her with a fist, but he's ordered by female-vampire to wait for someone named Luthor. Where we thought that she-vamp was the leader of the crew, it turns out there is a bigger bad in this band of creatures. Bo struggles to stop himself from beating the woman for humiliating him, but the possibility of Luthor's anger is enough to stop him.
By coincidence, Luthor arrives. He keeps the woman alive for later, but our male is given to the gang of ruffian-extras to eat immediately. Luthor makes out with she-vamp.
Commentary: Ugh. The casting. Okay. So, sorry to Warren but he is not at all an intimidating presence. His current IMDB page shows a man who could've been cast properly for this part, but back in 2006? He looks stringy and doesn't make an effective threat.
Sc 13: While male is being torn apart and female cries in horror, she-vamp leads Luthor to a makeshift bar. On it is a wealth of items taken from Daniel's cabin. She proudly reports that she'd found his old enemy and made him suffer. But Luthor isn't as pleased as she expected. He tells her that she shouldn't have done that. She's confused, as she did it as a gift to him, but he explains that there are more like Elkins and they'll recognize the signs that she left behind, and come for them.
Luthor's attention is grabbed by the Colt. She-vamp [whose name keeps vanishing from my mind right after it's said] disparages Elkins for thinking a gun would work on them. But Luthor worriedly tells her that this is no ordinary gun.
Sc 14: Cut to Dean in the car on his cell with his father ahead. Dad's orders were to pull off at the next exit. Sam resentfully asks why, and Dean reports their dad thinks he's gotten a bead on their vampires. Sam, not unreasonably but still pissily, asks how he could, but Dean - of course - didn't ask questions. Sam's response is to press hard on the accelerator, instead.
Sam, not thinking clearly because of his constant irritation with anything involving John, pulls ahead of his father's truck. He sharply turns the wheel and hits the brakes, squealing to stop and blocking John's truck.
There is a confrontation with John ignoring Sam's questions about why he needs their help, after telling them it was too dangerous for them to be together too long and why this gun is so special. John orders him to get back in the car, and Sam says no. John repeats that he said to get back in the damn car, and Sam says he heard and he's still said no. Dean tries to step between them to play peacemaker, reminding them both that they don't have time for this, and they're all tired and cranky. He tries to tell Sam that they can deal with questions after the vampires are dead.
Dean hustles Sam back toward the car, but Sam can't resist tossing out over his shoulder loud enough for John to hear that this is why he left in the first place for college. John tells Sam to repeat that, and Sam tells him he heard him just fine. John explodes at Sam for leaving the family when he was needed, and Sam points out that John is the one who closed the door on him by telling him not to come back. He accuses John of not being able to handle that he can't control him, anymore. Dean gets physically between them now, pushing Sam back and shouting at both of them that he's had enough of this ongoing argument between them.
Surprisingly, Dean tells John that he meant him, too. Sam angrily gets back into the Impala, while John marches back to his truck, leaving Dean in the middle of a barely contained storm.
Commentary: Whew. I loved this scene for the acting. Jared and Jeffrey both rocked this confrontation. And I loved the way Jensen was putting his all into his facial reactions to this fight between the two. Great acting!
Sc 15: Back at the barn of trash, Luthor and she-vamp are making out vigorously. They turn their attention to female victim. Luthor has decided that instead of killing her, they're going to induct her into the family. He slices she-vamp's wrist, and she takes a mouthful of her own blood. She then forces a vampire blood-tinged lesbian kiss onto female victim, infecting her.
Sc 16: After daybreak, Skeevy-vamp returns from some unspecified night run. Luthor welcomes him home. All of this is watched by the Winchesters. Dean is still shocked that they can be out in sunlight (though it's obviously overcast), and John tells them that direct sunlight hurts like a sunburn, but otherwise only beheading will kill a vampire. He also warns that while they sleep during the day, like in the myths, they can and will wake up when under threat.
While the Winchesters are unloading their choice of weaponry, John has thought on Sam's demands to actually know stuff. He offers them now to tell them the rumors about the Colt that makes it such an object of interest.
Back in the 1830's Mr. Colt himself made a gun while Halley's comet was overhead. This gun was especially made by the master gun maker for a hunter - on horseback, but doing the same job they're doing now. With this gun, was struck thirteen bullets. That hunter used it a half dozen times, before disappearing, along with this Colt. It was lost, until it somehow came into Daniel's possession. Rumor has it that the Colt can kill anything. Anyone.
This gives the Winchesters a new impetus to find this legendary gun, because it may be the way to kill the demon that murdered Mary and Jessica.
Commentary: I liked this small scene, too. Not only because John actually opens up about something directly due to Sam's challenging him, but I liked the way that the Colt was given special weight as we see flashbacks to its manufacture.
I don't need to know how Daniel managed to find a lost heirloom, so I'm glad the script didn't labor to explain how it was recovered. It's enough to know that John has a special reason to show up in this episode beyond a hunter-he-used-to-know being dead. And I like that the main overarching plot of finding the demon from the pilot is being brought forward by introducing this weapon.
Sc 17: After some time to let the vamps settle down for their sleep, the Winchesters slip into the barn through a loft door. [Okay, I would like to know how they managed that one without any noise.]
While sneaking through the barn space, avoiding waking the vamps while they look for the Colt, Sam comes across our female half of our victim couple. John finds said Colt hanging from the headstand of the bed that Luthor is sharing with she-vamp. He tries to stealthily get close enough to slip it from the holster it's hanging in.
Sc 18: With Sam and Dean, they find that in addition to the female victim tied to a post, there is a cage of humans being kept for slow feeding. Dean sets to freeing them. Sam is untying female victim, when she stirs. Sam urges her to be quiet, and informs her that he's there to rescue her. But she's already been turned, and she roars a warning to the family.
Sc 19: With Luthor and she-vamp, they're awoken by the roar of warning to find John Winchester standing over them. John is distracted by the racket for a moment, which allows Luthor to react. John is tossed across the room, body slamming into a wall. As the vampires mobilize, John uses an empty bottle lying on the floor to smash open a window in the barn, causing a distraction of his own. He shouts for the boys to retreat.
Sc 20: Dean and Sam are able to get outside and back to the woods, leaving the vampires unwilling to dash out into the "sunlight" [clearly, it is still overcast - the weather not cooperating with this week's script]. They turn and Dean shouts for John, but he's not behind them.
Tense moments later, John rushes into the woods, too. The boys go to run, but John tells them that the vampires won't follow. He warns that they've gotten their scent, so they'll wait for nightfall. And that once a vampire gets a scent, it's for life. Dean wonders what they'll do now. John tells 'em that they need to find the nearest funeral home.
Sc 21: Back at the motel, Sam is pacing. He complains that this is taking too long, and he should've gone with him. Over at a desk, we see John sitting before a mound of papers working. He tells Sam that Dean has this errand well in hand.
John takes this opportunity to tell Sam that when he and Dean were born, he put away a $100 in a college savings fund for each of them, and he made regular contributions every month until Mary died. He never planned to be a hunter, and he didn't want this to be his sons' lives. Sam questions his anger when he decided on college, then. John admits now that after Mary died, all he saw was evil - everywhere. And he was so busy wanting to make sure that his boys were safe and prepared for the worst, that along the line, he stopped being their father and became their drill sergeant.
John explains that his anger came from fear that when Sammy left, he'd be alone and vulnerable. John tells Sammy that he just couldn't accept that they were so different. This strikes Sam's grim funnybone. He tells John that they're not different anymore. After mom and Jessica, they've probably got more in common than just about anyone.
Sam asks after the college funds, but John chuckles that he spent it on ammo.
Commentary: I'm ready to call it: The vampires have actually been boring me. I keep waiting for them to be exciting, but they're just not. But the real strengths of this episode are the character moments, and our actors are taking full advantage of the opportunity to play off of each other. I'm very happy with our two leads and our main guest star. There is some really good stuff going on here.
Sc 22: Dean makes his return, complaining about the security just to protect a bunch of corpses. John asks if he was able to get it, and Dean pulls out a jar of blood. John makes sure the boys know what to do with it.
Sc 23: That evening, Dean is "checking Impala's engine", where he's found by Kate [A-HA! Finally, I remembered she-vamp's name!]. She flirts that she could give him a lift, but Dean good-naturedly declines as he's not into necrophilia. This gets him a backhand, that easily knocks him to the ground. Kate is joined by another member of the family. Kate chin lifts Dean off the ground. He grunts out that he usually doesn't get this friendly until the second date [liar, you don't date in the classic sense, Dean].
Kate, of course, doesn't just snap Dean's neck. She actually decides they could have fun together, laying a long kiss on him. But he tells her that he doesn't usually stay with a chick long-term, and definitely not for an eternity. This [dull] banter is interrupted by dayplayer-vamp and Kate being shot by crossbows. Kate tells the approaching John that it barely even stings, but he smart-assedly tells her to give it a little time, calling her sweetheart.
He informs the vampire that the bolts were soaked in Dead Man's Blood, which has a poisonous effect against her kind. While Kate is loaded up by the boys, John beheads the dayplayer-vampire.
Sc 24: A bit later, Kate has been tied to a tree. John gives Dean a pouch of various plants to burn, in order to create an ash that they'll dust their clothes with. It'll act to block their scents, so they can approach the nest. Sam questions if the vampires will really come looking for Kate, and John assures him that vamps mate for life. Luthor will care more about getting Kate back safely, than he will having the gun.
The plan is to send the Winchester sons to save the captives, while the bulk of the nest is hunting down Kate and John. He tells them that after they've gotten the humans rescued, they're to take off out of the area. In the meantime, he'll be using Kate as hostage to bargain for the Colt.
Sam questions if they'll meet up afterward, but very quickly figures that John is going to vanish on them again to go after the demon alone. He complains about John's habit of treating them like children, but John points out that they are his kids. He intends on keeping them safe. Even Dean points out that he's full of some crap [it is hard to argue "safe", when John sends them cryptic coordinates that put them in danger all the time on other hunts].
This takes John by surprise, and Dean points out what I just did, that they're hunting -- some of the monsters John sent them after himself. They're not being kept safe. But John tells them that this demon he's after is much different than just a monster. And he doesn't expect that he'll make it out of this fight in one piece. Dean argues that they're stronger as a family and should confront the demon together. John orders them to save the hostages and get out of the area. He adds to Dean that this is an order.
Sc 25: Back at the barn, Skeezy-Vamp arrives again, this time from looking for the not-returned Kate. He reports that Hank has lost his head, and Kate wasn't found.
From the highway comes the sound of a truck, and Luthor senses/smells that Kate is in it.
Sc 26: In John's truck, Kate is slumped in the passenger seat, sickly due to the temporary affects of the tainted blood. Behind John, bright headlights suddenly appear as Kate's nestmates come after her -- as to plan.
Sc 27: In the meantime, Skeevy-Vamp is left behind to hold down the fort. This gets him a beheading, courtesy of Dean.
Sc 28: On the road, John's truck is being caught up to by the chasing vamps, but their headlights suddenly disappear.
Sc 29: At the barn, Dean rouses the captives. Meanwhile, on the road, John comes around a corner to find Luthor and the ToothSquad waiting, having known the side roads to get around in front of him and cut off his flight.
John is ordered out of the truck, which he complies with. Luthor asks after his "friends" and is informed that they're cleaning out Luthor's nest. When asked after Kate, John pulls her out by a rope and holds a knife to her throat. He offers a trade: The Colt for Kate.
Luthor is carrying the Colt, because he was shown to understand its significance. He's ordered to put the gun on the ground, or Kate is the first to go. Luthor scoffs that he'll never be able to shoot all of them before they kill him. When John tells him that he intends to use the Colt against something else, Luthor agrees to the trade. John gets the gun for a moment, but as he had warned the boys, the affects of the tainted blood are limited and Kate suddenly rallies. She double-fists John to the face, knocking hard against the front of the truck, and the gun gets dropped to the road.
Luthor then takes a turn at backhanding John, sending the man flying into the door of his truck, smashing the glass and leaving him in a heap.
It looks like John is about to be hamburger, when a crossbow bolt comes from offscreen to take down female minion-vamp with more dead man's blood. Sam and Dean have made their return from the barn just in time. The battle is still close though, since it takes time to reload and things turn to melee combat.
Luthor gets ahold of Sam and threatens to break Sam's neck, if Dean doesn't put the machete his wielding down. Luthor rails at Dean for not leaving them alone, demanding a right to live. From behind him, John tells him he doesn't have a right to exist. Upon spinning around, Luthor gets a Colt special bullet to the forehead.
This leaves Kate devastated, but female-victim-now-vamp rushes her into a car to speed off instead of risking charging John.
Commentary: I like the special effect for the gunshot, but its really drawn out a bit too much for this first real reveal. Luthor just stands there too long, before he finally collapses. And I don't like the fact that in the meantime, Dean and the recovering Sam aren't stopping Kate and female-victim from running off to kill again/rebuild their nest. The episode feels incomplete, just so the Winchesters can gawk at John's cool-action-pose with the Colt.
Sc 30: Later, John confronts the boys on ignoring a direct order by coming after him. There doesn't seem to be too much apology for that. And John doesn't demand one. He tells Dean that he was right, and they're stronger as a family. So, despite it scaring the hell out of him, John decides that they'll face the demon together....
The Good: First, I want to kudo Jared, Jensen and Jeffrey for this episode. All three actors are on their game, especially during their arguments with one another. And I really liked the quiet scene between Sam and John discussing the past.
I also like the idea of the special Colt, and putting a limitation on the number of times it's good to use.
The Bad: Our bad guys were dull. Really dull. Everytime we cut away from the Winchesters, my interest lagged.
Other Thoughts: I know it was the early 2000's, but the way that the vampire lesbian kiss to infect the victim was filmed was supremely badly done. I don't know why it was included. If it was meant to titilate, it was a failure. I even doubt that the two actresses had actually kissed, because of the awkward way it was blocked.
I'm not crazy about Daniel's demise. For being specifically an expert in eliminating vampires, he sure wasn't prepared for the eventuality that maybe they'd not been extinctified.
I wish we'd gotten a more rough-trade, imposing Luthor. It would've helped with the vampire scenes if he looked like somebody that we should fear.
I liked that short stunt scene of John being knocked into the truck door. It looked and sounded as painful as it should've been to knock the wind out of John.
Finally, John's nearly superhuman tracking abilities are more than a bit suspect for the script's convenience.
The Score: The real strength of this episode is the Winchester dynamic, and the actors involved. The rest of the episode though, is meh.
3.50 out of 5 stars