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Supernatural - Episode 1.01 - Pilot - Retro Recap and Review

Note - I wrote this during season 6. So many things have changed about SPN - the plot, characters, focus. The music (sadly). One thing has not. I liked Supernatural from the pilot, obsessed over it from Dead in the Water, and it is still my favorite show on TV. No other show grips me so completely in the plight of its characters. Thanks Supernatural cast and crew for being can't miss TV for 6 years. I look forward to spending a seventh season still enthralled by you.

Oh, and it's impossible for me to separate 6 years of Supernatural destiny at this time, so hints are bound to creep in. Plus, I'm watching this on iTunes with their crummy new soundtrack so I can't talk about all the great music either. Trust me, get the DVD's. They are well worth it if only for the music alone.

In Lawrence, Kansas 22 years ago, John was not a jerk and Mary was still a saint. Oh, the times they have a changed. The Winchester family spends their last night with the adjective happy attached to their name. Enjoy it while you can kids; it's all downhill from here. Mary and Dean say goodnight to baby Sammy as Dean solemnly proclaims Sammy too young for football. Good thing he's old enough to jump start destiny. Plinking nursery music intertwines with a duhn duhn of doom. The baby monitor squawks and a tired Mary gets up, only to see John with him. She fixes a flickering light as the doom music increases volume. Yep, that's John asleep in front of the TV, so who's standing over the baby? Mary rushes up and John awakens to her scream. I fully expected a stalker's knife at her throat, but when John rushes in…nothing. He makes sure the baby's okay and blood drips on his hand. Mary's sliced open on the ceiling and bursts into flames. At this point, I was stunned. Little Dean runs into the hall and John hands baby Sammy to him. "Take your brother outside as fast as you can. Don't look back. Now, Dean. Go!" And 2 children's lives change forever. John goes back for Mary but it's a lost cause. Dean tells Sammy it will be okay, but we all know that's not true. As the family, minus one member, looks on the burning house, nothing will ever be fine again.

At Stanford, 22 years later, a pretty blond dresses as a nurse. Apparently the picture in Mary's bedroom got through the fire as it now sits on Sam's table. The blond is excited about the party; Sam is anti-Halloween. Right there with you, Sam. It's my least favorite holiday too, and yes, people complain about my attitude also. Baby Sammy grew up very, very smart. He scored 174 out of 180 on his L-Sat, Harvard Law School level, although Sam prefers a Stanford scholarship. However, home must not be rosy since he doesn't tell his dad or brother about his scores. His zombie-dressed friend asks why. "Cuz we're not exactly the Bradys." Who is, Sam? Zombie agrees, "And I'm not exactly the Huxtables." I however am now nostalgic for classic TV. Pretty Blond is Sam's girlfriend Jessica and let's go on record saying she's Mary Poppins - practically perfect in every way. She supports Sam through his doubts. "Hey, seriously, I'm proud of you and you're gonna knock them dead on Monday and you're gonna get that full ride." Sam realizes how lucky he is and asks what he would do without her. Jess: "Crash and burn." You have no idea, honey!

That night, Sam wakes to someone thumping into their apartment. Why don't you ring the doorbell too, burglar? It's dark and floors creak as a shadow goes by. The intruder and Sam fight but I can't see it because the WB (forerunner to the CW) forgot to pay the electric bill. I squint as arms fly fast and furious. Hey! That's no burglar. That's a grown up, but not-so stealthy Dean. "Whoa, easy tiger!" Sam wonders why Dean's there, Dean wonders where the beer is, I wonder why Dean didn't knock, and Jessica wonders what is going on. Either Sam hasn't shared with his family or his relationship is new since Dean and Jessica have never met. Dean leers uncomfortably at his brother's girlfriend and my stomach plummets. Enter the dreaded love triangle every single TV show must have these days. Triangles have become my least favorite shape. Dean: "I love the Smurfs." Jessica looks down to realize she's not wearing much. Dean goes for silky smooth but detours at creepy stalker. I'm glad he needs to talk to Sam alone.

Sadly, Sam says, "No, whatever you want to say you can say it in front of her." At first I felt this showed great support for Jessica. Now I think he uses her as a shield against whatever Dean would bring up without her there. Dean says their dad is missing and Sam brushes it off. "So he's working overtime on the Miller time shift. He'll stumble in again sooner or later." Yikes! John didn't take Mary's death well. Dean nods and states John is on a hunting trip. Those words change everything and Sam follows him outside. Dean wants Sam to help him find their father. Sam mentions poltergeists, devil's gates, and the thing under the bed. It's fair to say they did not have an easy childhood and for that, I blame John. He exposits that they were raised as warriors in their father's obsessive hunt for what killed Mary. Dean's okay with that; Sam is obviously not. Sam pulls the mom card and Dean scoffs at Sam's college life. Yep, John, you win father of the year. He kicked Sam out when he went to college. Fabulous! The brothers banter about their screwed up life until Dean says John is in trouble. Dean: "I can't do this alone." Sam: "Yes, you can." Dean: "Yeah, well, I don't want to." And there you have it folks. The entire 6 years summed up in 3 sentences. Yes, maybe they can do it alone, but they won't and heaven help anyone or anything that gets between them.

Sam asks about the hunt and we get our first look in the Impala's trunk. This baby is beautiful on the outside but incomparably awesome on the inside. Knives, hatchets, and guns of all sorts are neatly attached. She's a traveling arsenal. Sam wonders why Dean wasn't with John but Dean was in New Orleans on a voodoo thing. Sam: "Dad let you go on a hunting trip by yourself?" Dean: "I'm 26, dude." For some reason, I always laugh at this line's delivery. Dean exposits that over 20 years, 10 men have gone missing over the same 5 miles of highway in Jericho, CA. 3 weeks ago, John checked it out since it was happening more frequently. He sent Dean a voice mail the day before: "Dean, something big is starting to happen. I think it's serious. I need to try to find out what's going on. It may be….. Be very careful Dean. We're all in danger." We interrupt this recap for some theorizing because in summer 2006, this little message caused a huge debate. Why? Mostly because it was the first hellatus after a massive cliffhanger and you can only say KRRIIIPPPKKKEE! and curse his name for leaving you like that for so long before you have to find other ways to occupy the time. But also because answering the question, "Why did Dean stop at Stanford?" causes slight changes in how we perceive the characters, especially John. Let's presume that Dean finished his voodoo hunt and was driving to Jericho to meet with his dad. He's worried he hasn't heard from him. He has not talked to Sam in awhile. Maybe he's in the shower or going to the bathroom or John chose to go straight to voice mail, but he hears this message and races toward….Sam? Why? (To rejoin the recap, ignore the next two paragraphs.)

The original theory - Dean is scared for his dad and doesn't want to be alone. There is merit to this theory because it is what Dean said and we know Dean needs family. We learn throughout that Dean does NOT like being alone and he is uncomfortable when he doesn't have his family with him. So the question is why get Sam now when they haven't spoken in 2 years? The assumption is that Dean is terrified something happened to John and he doesn't want to face that alone. First off, Sam told us earlier that John was often by himself for long stretches of time. Dean might worry about no contact but it doesn't seem unusual. John did talk about something big and there is EVP on message. Still, Dean worships his dad and thinks he's the best hunter around. I doubt a creepy woman's voice makes Dean panic and the "big thing" would make him more anxious to meet his dad again. Plus, Dean knows John was alive 1 day ago. It seems more likely that he would race to Jericho to make sure John was okay or at least get a clue about what was happening before going to Sam. The theory is plausible but it always seemed weak to me.

The second theory - Dean is scared for Sam. For me, everything hinges around one little word, "All." When John says they are in danger, he doesn't say both; he says all. Now, maybe that means all people or the hunting community, but Dean didn't know about them at this time. He knew some of John's contacts, but that's about it. To Dean, that "all" had to mean their family - John, Dean, AND Sam. Meaning Sam was in danger. We know how riled up Dean gets when he thinks Sam's in trouble and it makes sense for him to stop by Stanford first. Dean has two potential targets: Sam and John. What better way to make sure both are safe than to take Sam along to find John. This theory makes the most sense to me, but does it really matter? In the big scheme of things, no. It does mean that Sam was a first priority even during their estrangement and it sure means that John knew something big was going on and that Sam was involved in it to. I think his message was clearly designed to put Dean and Sam back together. After all, he knew Dean would never let something happen to Sam if he could help it.

Dean plays the message and Sam recognizes EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). After GoldWaving it, a creepy female voice says she can't go home. Dean guilts Sam: "You know in almost 2 years, I've never bothered you, never asked you for a thing." It works. Sam's going, but he has a law school interview on Monday. Dean is not impressed but to Sam, "It's my whole future on a plate." Kripke's future would have been easier had they not added that scene for in it lies the infamous 2-year versus 4-year debate. The Great Kripke himself admitted it was a writing mistake, but it's a canon problem now. Sam took his L-Sat and is interviewing for scholarships, which implies he's in his 4th year of school. However, Kripke implied that Dean and Sam had not talked since Sam started at Stanford. Herein lies the conundrum. Either Sam has only been there for two years or he and Dean talked in his first two years. With the first, Sam is extremely smart but he also spent 2 years between high school and college hunting with his dad and brother. That has never even been hinted at. With the later, it means something else caused a rift between the brothers, not Sam's fight with John. Again, never mentioned. In the end, neither makes sense and it completely bugs me. So much so that part of my joy with the pilot is diminished.

Luckily, Sam's freaking, wickedly cool blade distracts me. I really wish they used it. Jessica is concerned that Sam is suddenly leaving for the weekend, but he puts her off by implying John's drunk at a hunting cabin. Jessica has more patience than I do and wants to make sure Sam's okay. After all, a brother she never met dropped by in the middle of the night to say Sam's father, whom she has never met, is missing. I wouldn't ask gently; I'd demand he talk before he took another step. Sam patronizes her and promises everything will be okay. Winchesters should never promise anything. Sam gives her a lame kiss on the check and walks away as she shouts questions. For the love of romance Sam, you're leaving for the weekend. Kiss her like you'll miss her. Speaking of boyfriends, back in Jericho a teen, Troy, explains to his girlfriend Amy that he can't come over. Work beckons in the morning but I guess scantily clad women standing on the highway beckon more. He hangs up with Amy and pulls over. As the radio gets all staticky and the woman's voice is slightly echo-y, I believe Troy is not long for this world. Since Troy's looking down her dress and enthusiastically accepts the offer to go to her place, I'm not too bothered by this. They arrive at a decrepit house and the woman vanishes, leaving a ghostly handprint on the windshield. Troy, who apparently hasn't seen a horror movie, gets out of the car to find her. As he steps on to the porch, we see a picture of the woman and her kids. He leans in and…a bird flies at him. I JUMP every single time! Troy skedaddles quickly, only to see the woman in the backseat. He freaks and drives the car through a sign onto a bridge. Screams erupt and blood splatters. Bye Troy!

The next day Dean fills up the Impala, when I hear something weird from my screen. (Huge sigh) Oh iTunes, curse you and that evil thing we call music rights that keeps Ramblin' Man from my listening pleasure. Dean's breakfast consists of whatever's near the checkout counter but Sam's not going there. He asks how Dean paid for it. Answer - credit card fraud. "Yeah well, hunting ain't exactly a pro-ball career." I love this plausible explanation, something other shows gloss over. Bert and Hector Aframian are financing this trip. Sam's concerned about the scams but more worried about the music. "I swear man, you've gotta update your cassette tape collection." Dean: "Why?" Sam: "Well, for one they're cassette tapes. And two, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Metallica. It's the greatest hits of mullet rock." Aww, Sammy, don't be trashing the classic rock. Everyone say it with me, "House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole." Oh yeah, it's Supernatural as it should be! Sam protests the Sammy moniker but Dean turns the music up. I mentally substitute in Back in Black for what comes on.

Sam explains that John is not at the hospital or morgue as they arrive in Jericho. Cops are at the bridge where Troy bit it, so Dean pulls over. He breaks out his box of badges while Sam looks dumbfounded. I'm worried about what happens if they get pulled over. Shouldn't they be in the trunk instead of the glove box? Divers dredged the river looking for Troy's body and the car is amazingly sans blood. Ghost woman has a great future in janitorial services. A cop says everything is spotless - no fingerprints, no footprints, nothing. His daughter is Amy of the phone call. Dean flashes a Federal Marshall badge and another cop says they seem young. Tell me about it. Watching season 1 is like looking at family photos; they are so youthful. Sam asks about their theory but they have no clue. Dean: "Well, that is exactly the kind of crack police work I'd expect out of you guys." Sam kicks Dean and I would too. How does that attitude help, Dean? Getting police riled up can't be good in your profession. They tend to look more closely at you then. Walking away, Dean retaliates by slapping Sam upside his head. They argue and Dean says that the police cannot help them. On that, I do agree. They stop when the sheriff with two FBI agents walk towards them. Dean makes their excuses and calls the FBI, "Agent Mulder. Agent Scully." The sheriff looks on with suspicion.

The brothers head to town where Amy hangs missing posters. Posing as Troy's uncles, Dean introduces Sam as Sammy and Sam groans and shakes his head. They stumble around each other as Amy's friend joins them. Both rock the anti-cop's daughter, pseudo Goth look or Hollywood's version of it. They all head to a café and when Dean asks if they've heard anything, Amy and her friend exchange a look. Score, we get our first brothers in tandem moment. Both: "What do they talk about?" Amy's friend tells a local legend of a murdered woman who picks up hitchhikers. The brothers glance at each other. They have a lead. At the local library, Dean searches in a news database. He has no luck and Sam pushes his chair out of the way to try himself. "Dude, you're such a control freak." You're one to talk Dean. I like small brother moments that remind me of time with my brother. Sam reasons it wasn't murder but suicide. Yahtzee! Constance Welch is the winner. She jumped off a bridge in 1981 after her kids drowned in the bathtub. It's the same one where Troy died.

The brothers explore the bridge at night and Sam reminds Dean of his Monday law interview. Dean scoffs at Sam's ability to have an "apple pie" life. "Does Jessica know the truth about you? I mean, does she know about the things you've done?" Sam vehemently says she never will but Dean counters that hunters don't do normal. Sam: "No, I'm not like you. This is not going to be my life." Dean cites their responsibility but Sam counters that John is obsessed and he didn't know Mary. "And what difference would it make? Even if we do find the thing that killed her, Mom's gone and she isn't coming back." Sam's right, but he hits a nerve. Dean shoves him and fights for control, "Don't talk about her like that." They step away from each other and Dean notices Constance on the bridge. She jumps and they race to that side of the bridge. All of a sudden, Metallicar's engine revs but Dean still has the keys. Yikes! She's Christined Metallicar. The brothers run as the Impala guns for them. They jump and Sam manages the hold on to the side. Dean's not so lucky; he crawls out of the river as Sam calls his name. Dean checks out his baby and pronounces her undamaged. Another first alert - Dean yells "B****" at Constance for poltergeisting his beauty. The brothers don't know where the trail goes and Sam tells Dean, "You smell like a toilet."

They head to a hotel and the clerk mentions that Bert Aframian rented a room for the month. Sam breaks into his dad's room and hauls Dean in backwards. I can't help it, makes me laugh every time. The room does not. John hung articles, pictures, etc. on the walls. I wonder what will happen if a maid walks in. It surprises me that he uses such an obvious system. Dean finds a rancid hamburger and realizes John's been gone for days. The place has salt lines and cat's eye shells, letting Sam know John worried about something getting in. The brothers examine the walls, but the victims only have gender in common. Sam stumbles upon John's woman in white theory and it's the winner. Dean calls the victims "sly dogs." They exposit "salt and burn" for the first time, but don't know where Connie's buried. Time to interview the husband. Dean tells Sam to find an address while he showers, and Sam tries to apologize about his Mom comment on the bridge. Dean: "No chick flick moments." At this moment I knew I would watch this show the following Tuesday. I LOVE THIS LINE! Sam replies, "Jerk." and Dean responds, "B***" And another SPN classic is born. As Dean walks into the bathroom, Sam finds a picture of the family when they were young.

Sam checks his voicemail and hears Jessica's message from the night before. Dean leaves to get food ("Aframian's buying."), when he notices the cop from the bridge. He calls to warn Sam, who is instantly worried. The cop knows Dean lied about being a Marshall and about the credit card scam. He sends his partner in the motel as Sam heads out the back. Dean's all attitude as he's slammed on the police car's hood and cuffed. His "here we go again" look amuses me. At the station, he says he's Ted Nugent (first music alias) but the sheriff isn't amused. Dean: "You talkin' like misdemeanor kind of trouble or uh, squeal-like-a-pig trouble?" Bwah! In an episode of classic one-liners, this one is at the top for me. The sheriff tells Dean he is a suspect in the missing people case. Dean: "That makes sense because when the first one went missing in '82, I was three." Ha! Not seeing that logic either, but the sheriff says his partner, the older guy, started it. Dean's eye roll and handcuffed shrug is a clear "Whatever." His sarcasm's silenced though when the sheriff pulls out John's journal. John left a page with coordinates and Dean's name. What? Your phone die, John? The sheriff calls the journal "9 kinds of crazy" and warns that Dean won't leave until he explains. He's a Winchester. Good luck with that sheriff.

Meanwhile, Sam interviews Joseph Welch. Hey! It's Steve Railsback, better known as Duane Barry from The X-Files. I love him! He recognizes John from the family photo Sam brought. John posed as a reporter and asked where Connie was buried. She's buried behind their old house. He never remarried because he loved Connie so. Sam gets a weird vibe when Joseph claims he and Constance were happy. As they part, Sam exposits the woman in white tale, in which a woman kills her kids when she finds out her husband cheated on her and then kills herself. "Boy, I don't care much for nonsense." Great line! Joseph flips out but admits he cheated. He kicks Sam off his property. It is a great scene with phenomenal acting by Steve Railsback.

Back at the station, Dean tries to sell the coordinates as his locker combination. The sheriff loses his patience when a deputy tells him a 911 call reported shots fired at Whiteford Road. Sheriff: "You have to go to the bathroom?" Dean and I are puzzled. He handcuffs Dean to the table. OK, I get it. Dean sees a paperclip in his dad's journal, smiles, and is out of the handcuffs before the sheriff and his men leave the station. Impressive! He calls Sam. "Fake 911 phone call, Sammy. I don't know; that's pretty illegal." Sam: "You're welcome!" Ha! Love it. Sam recaps about Constance but Dean interrupts to say John is gone. Sam clues us to how important the journal is and Dean talks coordinates. Both are stopped when Constance suddenly appears in the middle of the road. I didn't notice it, but Connie is played by Sarah Shahi, who stars on Fairly Legal. Dean freaks but not as much as Sam and I do when Constance is in the back seat. Sam refuses to drive her home, so Connie possesses Dean's poor baby again. Metallicar gets screwed in the pilot. Sam realizes Connie is afraid to go home, as she skanks out on top of him. Sam reminds her that he is faithful to Jess and thus Connie can't kill him. She whispers, "You will be." Seriously, Connie, overconfident much. Surely, someone has resisted your charms, especially since you've been dead for 24 years. She forces Sam to kiss her, and when he goes for the keys, she claws his chest. She's not pretty in ghost form.

Luckily, Dean shoots through the window to distract her. Well, lucky for Sam, not Metallicar. Sam drives her through the house as Dean runs after them. Dean drops the gun to help Sam out of the car while Connie looks at the family photo. She's all mopey from the picture of her kids, but pouts at the brothers. Angrily shoving a chest of drawers at them, it looks like they're in for a supernatural beat down when the lights flicker. Water runs down the stairs and her creepy ghost kids whisper, "You've come home to us, Mommy." A supernatural beat down is coming, but not for the Winchesters. Ghost kids hug Mommy ghost and she screams as they all flicker and goo out and completely unnerve me. Possibly the best special effects SPN has ever had. Too bad they blew the budget in the pilot. The brothers glance at each other as Constance fades to an inky blue water spot on the floor. They recap for anyone dim enough not to understand why Connie is no more. Dean congrats Sam on finding her weak spot and then slaps Sam's weak spot, the place where Constance clawed him. Sam pain-laughs and shoots off his own barb, "Yeah, I wish I could say the same for you. What were you thinking shooting Casper in the face, you freak?" Dean claims he saved Sam and then threatens, "I'll tell you another thing, if you screwed up my car….I'll kill you." Actually, you're lucky Metallicar likes you two. Possessed twice, shot at, and used as a battering ram in one episode. I wouldn't be surprised if she stranded you on some back road for not taking better care of her. She deserves better.

They head out while Sam tells us John went to Black Water Ridge , CO, about 600 miles away. Dean wants to go but Sam is adamant about law school. This was a one-time thing. Dean's visibly upset but says he will take Sam home. At Stanford, Sam talks about meeting up again and Dean says they made a good team. Sam watches as Dean drives away. He calls out for Jess in the middle of the night, which the neighbors must love. The shower runs and Sam smiles as he eats a cookie Jess left out for him. As he collapses on the bed, blood drips on his forehead and the music of doom commandeers the orchestra again. Are you kidding me? Sam opens his eyes to see Jessica sliced on the ceiling before she bursts into flames. I CANNOT believe they're killing off the love triangle. Sam screams No but after my initial shock, I chortle with glee. Dean kicks in the door and manhandles Sam out. As the flames shoot higher, I am totally overwhelmed. This show rocks! Fire engines and personnel swarm the neighborhood as spectators gawk. Dean finds Sam with the Impala's arsenal trunk wide open. Probably not a great idea with emergency people on hand. The brothers look at each other. Sam tosses a shotgun into the trunk and slams it shut. "We've got work to do." And I have a new show to talk about and watch. I may not be obsessive at this point but it will come quickly. My heart beats overtime, my mind races, and I realize this show has guts. It's not afraid to make hard choices that may um, come back to haunt them. I cannot believe they killed Jessica but I am vastly glad they did. The second Supernatural has a love triangle, they should all close up the set and go home.

One last controversy before we say adieu to one heck of a pilot. Why did Dean come back? This caused a lot of grief in summer 2006. One side felt that Dean had supernatural trouble sensing powers never to be shown again. How else would he know to turn around? Others thought he drove back to convince Sam to go with him and then heard Sam yell. Interesting thought, but Dean kicked in the bedroom door, not the outside one so he was already in the house. Albeit, he snuck in a lot more quietly this time. Still others claimed it was a writing oversight. In the end we were all wrong. The problem - the WB budget for the show. Yep, same problem different netlet. It was a deleted scene. Apparently, as Dean drove away the radio went staticky, a sure sign of the supernatural. He raced back in the house (without making noise?) right as Jessica burst into flames. Good timing no matter what.

I loved the pilot when I first saw it. I think I love it even more now that I look back on it with nostalgia. It's not in my top 20 greatest Supernatural episodes of all time, but it is in my top 20 pilots. I love the action, brother moments, and especially all the great one-liners. It's funny and still one of the scariest episodes in Supernatural's history. Plus, it gave us Metallicar's theme song, AC/DC's "Back in Black." How can you go wrong with that?

Screencaps by Screencap Paradise and Supernatural Caps
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