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Supernatural - Episode 3.08 - A Very Supernatural Christmas - Recap / Review

Previously - there were no previouslies but there was a sweet throwback to 70's after-school specials.

Seattle, Washington (one year ago) - In a typical suburban home, little Stevie gets the door. He doesn't look to see who it is before opening it, obviously not raised by John Winchester. Stevie asks grandpa if he brought presents, but Grandpa goes coy, spouting about Santa Claus. It's nice to see a grandpa who isn't creepy on SPN. Later that night, Grandpa puts on his Santa outfit and rings bells, sending little Stevie scurrying to the steps like Grandpa wanted. A noise comes from the roof. Little Stevie thinks reindeer and Santa. Grandpa sees soot coming from the chimney and in a spectacularly stupid move, checks it out. Grandpa gets sucked up the chimney by Grinch hands, leaving behind only a bloody boot. Poor Little Stevie will be scarred for life. A Christmas ornament is blown out and we end up with a blinking no-tell hotel sign as the title card. Awesome!

Ypsilanti, Michigan (present day) - {I like the place cards. I miss them this season.} A sad little girl watches her mom explains her husband's disappearance to FBI Dean. The police think he was kidnapped but there's been no ransom. It's all sad and it's only 3 days until Christmas. Meanwhile Sam finds a tooth in the chimney. Dean reminds Sam that no one fits up a chimney (I guess Dean doesn't believe in Santa) and Sam agrees. "No way he fits up in one piece."  Back in the green and red motel, Sam looks up the Krampus, who needs an image consultant because his name sounds more like an medical condition than a monster. Dean brings in groceries. "So was I right? Is it the serial killing chimney sweep?" Sam: "Yep, it's actually Dick Van Dyke." Aww Dean, you don't know Mary Poppins? Now I feel sorry for you. Dean exposits another victim and Sam has a crazy theory. Dean: "What could you possibly say that sounds crazy to me?" Sam: "Um…evil Santa." Dean agrees that's crazy. I love the brother banter in this episode. Sam gives us a crash course in anti-Claus, Santa's rogue brother who's more into punishment than cookies. Dean has a problem with the "Santa's shady brother" idea in that there is no Santa, therefore no brother. Aww, Sam - I hope you were at least 6 before Dean told you there was no Santa. I waited that long to tell my brother.

Sam agrees it's nuts but both victim's went to Santa's Village before being taken. And suddenly we are at the world's crummiest holiday attraction. The employees are bored. The decorations are sad. Still, Dean wants to celebrate Christmas with a tree and Boston Market (nice product placement CW). Sam says no as Christmas brings up bad memories for him. Dean calls him Grinch and Sam flashes back to Broken Bow, Nebraska Christmas Eve of 1991. (Please bring back the place cards, Sera.) Sam's 8 and Dean's 12. I love the Weechesters. Sam wraps a present in newspaper for the yet-again absent John Winchester. Dean claims he stole it, but Sam says Uncle Bobby gave it to him. "It's real special." No doubt - I'm surprised it didn't come with a warning label. Dean reads a copy of Hot Rod magazine that looks suspiciously like the ones in my library. Hmmm. He promises John will be back for Christmas (yeah right) and vagues about John's "business". WeeSam: "Nobody ever tells me anything." Try being a SPN fan through hellatus, kid. Dean's solution - "Quit asking." But Sam's made of questions so he keeps pushing, bringing up the forbidden topic - Mom. Dean tries to protect Sam from "the family business" but storms out of the room when Mary is mentioned. I prescribe counseling, John, and perhaps you could engage in your kids' lives. I hate John.

Back in CrummyTown, Sam exposits that Anti-Claus walks with a limp and smells like candy. That narrows it down to anyone mall shopping around Christmas. Or as Dean puts it, "A pimp Santa." The candy smell attracts kids, but since only adults have been taken I'm not buying this. Still, CrummyTown's Santa is all-out creepy instead of jolly and a smart parent pulls her kid away quickly. Skeevy Santa is suspect #1, which means he didn't do it. Elf Girl gets suspicious when Sam says they "only came here to watch", and suddenly they are the creepy ones. If I were a parent, I would demand my $10 back. Skeevy Santa walks by with a limp, smelling of Ripple, but the Winchesters check him out anyway. Stakeouts are boring and they're out of coffee, so Dean tries to un-Grinch Sam. "I admit it. We had a few bumpy holidays when we were kids, but that was then. We'll do it right this year." Sam doesn't want to be involved, but says Dean should. Sam, I don't think you can really do Christmas alone. That's sad.

Skeevy Santa looks suspicious in his wife beater. Dean: "What's up with Saint Nicotine?" I can't help it. I laugh at this every time. They hear screams from the trailer and race over, guns at the ready. Sam laughs that Dean might have to "blow away Santa," which might kill the Christmas mood. Of course, breaking in on an alcohol-swilling, porn-watching Santa could do that too. Umm, Santa…if people can hear your porn one house away in a car with the windows and doors shut, it doesn't matter if you pull the curtains. Your neighbors don't want to hear that. BWAH!!!! Dean starts signing Silent Night with Sammy joining in - it's offkey, painful, and completely hilarious! They can't even remember the words. Thankfully, Santa's already drunk and doesn't question why they broke into his house to carol.

In a suburban house, a correct version of Silent Night plays, warning us that screaming will commence. A curly-headed moppet wanders down, hearing something at the chimney. I fear for his sanity. Skinny, leather-clad Santa is covered in blood and growls like an animal. Perhaps this is the wrong time for me to eat peppermint ice cream. And the screaming starts. Dear old dad's in the sack and he ain't coming back, kid. Santa takes a cookie and no amount of therapy is going to help this kid. Scarred for life.

Dean and Sam question the new victim's wife, but she can't help because Santa cold-cocked her. Ouch! Dean commiserates and Sam asks about their wreath. I was with Dean the first time - Huh? Great reactions all around. Sam reveals that the other victim had the same wreath. Tangent cleared up. Back at the hotel, Bobby calls them "morons" - Love you Bobby even just as a voice in Sam's ear - and says the wreaths are made with meadowsweet. Dean's less than impressed, but Sam exposits it lures pagan gods to their victims. He then crushes Dean's view of Christmas by saying that many Christmas traditions started as pagan lore. Dean: "Christmas is Jesus' birthday." Sam: "No, Jesus' birthday was probably in the fall. It was actually the winter solstice festival that was co-opted by the church and renamed Christmas…." Dean: "…What are you going to tell me next…the Easter Bunny's Jewish?" So, pagan gods are tonight's winner (specifically Holdenacar) and the wreaths basically invite them in for a human snack. Hence I no longer have a wreath on my door. The Winchesters track down the wreaths while Bobby tracks down a way to kill pagan gods. Hopefully it will be easier than it was on Buffy. In a Christmas specialty store, Dean sets Sam up about the wreath. Sam: "It was yummy." Dean and Sam act like they are 8 in this episode and it really works for them. Owner: "Well aren't you a fussy one." BWAH!! I love you cranky shop guy. He tells them Madge Carrigan made them and didn't charge him for them. He of course turned a profit on every one. Still loving you.

The brothers head back to the hotel agreeing that Madge is suspicious. They move in tandem and Dean speaks fondly of a wreath made of beer cans he stole one year. Dean wants one this Christmas. Sam calls Dean out on the whole Christmas thing and Dean admits he wants to do it right because it's his last year. That's why Sam can't do it. He won't celebrate knowing Dean will be dead next year. It's poignant and sad and reminds me of why I love this show. Thus far, in 20 minutes, there's been gore, comedy, and now, if I was the crying sort, I would be bawling.

Flashback - Dean returns with beef jerky and Funyons for Sam. How did the boy get enough nutrients to grow that tall? Dean has a pistol under his pillow and I hate John Winchester more than ever. But Sam, tired of unanswered questions, goes straight to the source - John's journal. I don't know why he left it in the hotel if he didn't want Sam to read it. In fact, I'm not sure why he is on a hunt without it. If he's on a bender somewhere I loathe him even more. Sam asks if monsters are real. Dean begins to shield him but decides he should know. "I swear if you ever tell dad I told you any of this, I will end you." Dean says John is a hero and "the coolest dad in the world." Sam wonders about monsters under his bed, but Dean says John already checked it out. In fact, almost everything is real..except Santa. Sucks to hear the cold hard truth. Now Sam is worried that monsters will get John just like they got Mary. Dean tries to console Sam but learning that scary things are real is too much for an 8 year-old. It would be hard for me. Dean promises things will be better in the morning. With their life, he shouldn't promise anything.

The Carrigan house is tastefully decorated for the holidays . Dean: "Can't you just feel the evil pagan vibe." Love the sardonic face, Dean. Merrilynn Gann opens the door. The first time I saw this I was shocked and then started laughing. I don't think you can truly appreciate this role without having seen her as Rose Abbott on Everwood. Even the syrupy voice heightens my love for this character. "Oh, fudge!" Madge tells Dean and Sam that she doesn't have any more wreaths. Edward, Madge's husband, does his best Mr. Rodgers impression and offers them peanut brittle, which Dean wants to accept but Sam stops him. It's like the Donna Reed show…with bloody massacre.

Back at the motel, Dean whittles enough stakes to take out Sunnydale and Sam is in research mode. The Carrigans leave a trail of Christmas bodies wherever they go and decorate with vervain and mint, a pagan version of boughs of holly. "So what, Ozzie and Harriet are keeping a pagan god under their plastic-covered couch?" They break into the Carrigan house with its holiday décor and plastic covered couch - good call Dean. However the basement is not so cheery, decorated with blood and grisly body bits. Welcome to Christmas, Supernatural-style. It's enough to make you vomit. Sam checks out a hooked bag and my brain screams, "Bad idea…bad idea." And then it moves. My heart races while the Carrigans pin the brothers down. Madge commiserates, "Gosh I wish you boys hadn't come down here" before smacking Sam into oblivion.

The Winchesters awake, tied up in the kitchen. "So I guess we're dealing with Mr. and Mrs. God. Nice to know." Sam's expression always makes me laugh. The Carrigans join them and the dialogue here makes them my favorite one-shot villains of all time. "Oh and here we thought you two lazybones were going to sleep straight through all the fun stuff." Dean: "Miss all of this. Nah, we're partiers." Edward: "Isn't he just a kick in the pants, honey?" After the group plays "I Know Your Secret Identity", Sam calls them on eating humans, but Edward tells him not to "get all wet", as they have cut back dramatically on the number of tributes they take. Dean and Sam make 5 for this year. Madge readies the brothers to be sacrifices, donning an apron and putting a napkin in their laps. I pause the DVD because I am laughing so hard. Dean isn't impressed with their restraint, but Edward demands some respect.

Before the human feast, there's a checklist of things to do. "Oh, we're just sticklers for ritual." Meadowsweet starts the ritual off, and Dean snarks, "Aw shucks, you're all out of wreaths. I guess we'll just have to cancel the sacrifice, huh." Madge: "Oh don't be such a gloomy Gus." Madge decorates the boys with boughs of meadowsweet and pronounces them "just darling." while Edward says they are "good enough to eat." I can't breathe I'm laughing so hard and this may be the 100th time I've seen this episode. I love the banality, the Donna Reed-ness of the Carrigans' evil. Kudos to all involved. This episode gets better every time I watch it.

Until this part..ugh! The ritual begins by slicing Sam's arm. Dean protests, but the Carrigans want some sympathy. They've become obsolete in 2,000 years, so they "assimilated". Apparently playing a little bridge cancels out the tendency to eat your neighbors. Madge cuts Dean's arm and he curses at her. That kind of language is not welcome in Mrs. Pagan God's house. Dean owes a nickel to the swear jar. "Do you know what I say when I feel like swearing…fudge." Apparently the brothers should feel honored at being sacrificed but Sam's more concerned about what Edward is doing with those pliers. OK, everyone say it with Dean. "You fudgin' touch me again, I'll fudgin' kill you." Classic! Madge approves of the language but cuts him anyway. In the worst scene of all, Edward pulls out Sam's fingernail and I cannot watch. How can all this gore and violence coincide with all this humor and holiday music. Oh right…it's Supernatural..that's how. Madge and Edward stir their Winchester concoction and realize "Oh Sweet Peter on a popsicle stick, I forgot the tooth." Oh joy. My stomach cannot handle this. "Merry Christmas, Sam." Right back at you Dean. Next time, I'd like something a bit more warm and fuzzy. You know, zombie attack, werewolf bite, serial killer.

Edward goes after Dean's tooth. Thank goodness for the doorbell. "The two of you going to get that? You should get that," Dean slurs with the wrench in his mouth. It's the Carrigan's super-peppy neighbor with the baby voice, handing them fruitcake and inviting them caroling. If I were a pagan god, I would start with her. They politely turn down the invite and wave her off, eyes rolling as they return to the kitchen. I actually empathize with them here. But the Winchesters have escaped and trap the Carrigans in their kitchen. Only evergreen can kill them and luckily the Carrigans have a tree. Got to wonder how these pagan gods lasted so long. I wouldn't keep the only thing that can kill me in the front room. Plastic trees are improving every year. The Carrigans get out and Edward goes after Dean, while Madge scolds Sam about ruining her tree. "You little thing. I loved that tree." Sam takes out Madge while Dean stakes Edward twice. Ugh! Sam: "Merry Christmas." Let's hope they get some "holly jolly" after the pain and gore. My Christmas seems so tame; I love it.

Flashback - Dean wakes Sam, saying John stopped by with presents. Only Sam slept through it all. I hate John. Sam opens his gifts, a Barbie doll and fringed baton, and calls Dean out on his lie. Dean robbed the presents from a nearby house, not knowing they had girls. Sam wonders if John is still alive, but Dean reassures him, saying that their dad would have been there if he could have. I hate John. In a moment that makes my Grinch heart grow 2 sizes, Sam gives Dean the gift he was going to give John. Dean refuses but Sam insists. Awww, it's the amulet, the one Dean never takes off. It's awesome. It gives me sniffles. I love the Weechesters! Did I mention I hate John?

Back in the present, holiday music plays and Sam surprises Dean by decorating for Christmas while Dean is out buying beer. There's a tree, eggnog, and a banner hung around a picture frame. It's like a Charlie Brown special - perfect. Dean approves of the eggnog and breaks out presents. Both brothers shopped at the gas mart so there's porn mags, shaving cream, candy bars, and oil to go around. "Merry Christmas bro." Things get a bit awkward and you can tell Sam is wants to talk about Dean's last year. But in the biggest Christmas present of all, he asks if Dean wants to watch the game. No chick flick moments. We pan out with the brothers enjoying each other's company and the satisfied feeling of an episode well done.

There is a reason this episode landed as #1 on the SFX's Top Sci Fi Christmas episodes of all time. In fact, it sums up Supernatural as a whole. There is gore to make your stomach turn and family issues to make your heart ache. Laugh-out-loud humor is followed by ramped up action. There's new mythology, mention of the mytharc, a phone call to Bobby for information, and absolutely everything is grounded in the brother relationship. All in all, it's a perfect Supernatural episode and one of my personal favorites.

Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas. May it be nothing like this one, except filled with the love of family and friends. Cheers!

Screencaps from Screencap Paradise.  My other recaps here.

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