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Supernatural - Plush - Review

2 Dec 2015

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Supernatural, “Plush,” was written by the team of Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder and was directed by Tim Andrew. The episode features the return of Sheriff Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster) who was created by Charnmelo and Snyder in “The Purge” and directed by Andrew in “Hibbing 911.” The first episode pre-dates the Fargo television show, but I have to think that the success of Fargo has to be a contributing factor to bringing back the Minnesota-based, you betcha sheriff. Not that I object to that as Buckmaster is charming enough to be on Fargo – one of my current favorite shows on television. This episode marks another solid episode that returns to the show’s roots with a good old ghost possession! It was great to see the salt and EMF reader back!

The episode begins in the traditional way with the introduction of a super-creepy monster – a human with a huge rabbit head costume. We get the usual fake out where it looks like the poor, put upon wife, Fran (Victoria Bidewell), might be the victim, but it turns out the Rabbit is after Stan (Kirt Purdy) – her lazy husband. I loved the blood splash across the Rabbit’s face! Such a great juxtaposition.

Our first shot of Sam (Jared Padalecki) is of him kneeling beside his bed praying. It’s another nice juxtaposition of childhood with the horrors of adulthood. Something we’ll also see in the next episode, not coincidentally, also with Sam. Dean (Jensen Ackles) stops at Sam’s open door to tease him about praying. Dean is and always has been uncomfortable with Sam’s beliefs, though Castiel (Misha Collins) did seem to alleviate his aversion to praying for a long time. Still, I suspect it’s the kneeling by the bed like a little kid that is the fodder for big brother teasing here more than anything. And really, if Sam wanted privacy, he should have shut the door!

Dean wants to know why Sam thinks God will pay any attention now. Sam points out that the Darkness is His sister – good point! Dean cautions Sam not to count on God who has let them down in the past. He tells Sam to count on them – though that hasn’t always worked in the past either! We get a shot of all the pre-biblical lore that Cas was able to gather – It’s not much and they haven’t found anything in it.

We return to the first scene conversation in the final scene in the Impala. This is also a familiar formula. Case of the week sandwiched between two scenes that touch on the season mytharc. Sam tells Dean that he’s been praying because wherever the visions are coming from, and he’s still betting on God, he doesn’t know what to with them. He tells Dean he’s been having visions of Lucifer’s cage. Sam even suggest that that might be where the answer to the darkness is.

Dean is adamantly against this possibility. He points out that they’ve been down that road, and Sam of all people should know that anything to do with the cage is suicide. The reference to suicide is also a nice toss back to the case they’ve just worked where Chester’s (Adrian Glynn McMorran) suicide was anything but. Dean is clearly freaked out by Sam’s revelation, and Sam agrees that they shouldn’t go that route, but the final shot of Sam’s face clearly shows he’s still worried and thinking about it. Dean says ok, but his face also remains skeptical of Sam’s capitulation.

It was nice to see the brothers drop everything to head to Larsen County Minnesota when Donna called them. I loved the huge hug she gave the two of them, and it’s clear she’s made it into the inner circle by their willingness to let her! If you’re keeping track, their aliases Savage and Elliot have to be a reference to Def Leppard. As seems always to be the case with Donna, there’s a bit of fun to be had with the case. Dean has great fun with lines like “You’ve got a wild hare,” and “What’s up Doc?” And of course, when Sam tries it with “Let me guess, Roger, you were framed?” it earns him a glare from Dean.

Dean immediately picks up on the fact that Officer Doug (Brendan Taylor) is interested in Donna. While she sees it, the fact that he’s also a cop and named Doug like her idiot ex-husband has her dismissing him out of hand – and treating him pretty badly. I love all of Donna’s little verbal ticks – an exaggeration of the mid-west, but adorable anyway. Things like “Shoot a hoot if you need me,” and “Darn tootin’.” In some ways, she’s also trying to keep Doug out of the loop to protect him. After all, once you know about things that go bump in the night, you’re stuck with that knowledge.

After the rabbit attacks Dean, they see that he has a tattoo and he’s wearing a Minnesota State t-shirt. One has to wonder how Donna and Doug missed the tattoo, but there it is. They find the Kylie (Megan Peta Hill) of “Kylie Forever” and she identifies the rabbit as Mike Hooks (Pavel Romano). She tells them they found the costume in a thrift store and that’s when Mike went all weird.

Meanwhile, Donna and Doug attempt to take Mike to the hospital to get the head off. Donna gets impatient with Doug when he’s going to lift Mike into the cop car because he’s drugged and dead weight. She’s having none of it, insisting that even as a woman she can do it! When she falls and Doug goes to help her up, Mike attacks them – there’s a fantastic shot of just the ears coming into the frame as he stands up. To save Donna, Doug shoots and kills Mike which releases the spirit and the rabbit head falls off.

Donna helps the brothers burn the rabbit head. She’s troubled that if the rabbit head was cursed, that means Mike was innocent and a victim too. However, when there’s another attack – this time it’s douchebag coach Phil (Bruce Blain), they realize it’s not just a cursed object. I loved the blood spatter on the kettle ball in this one! This time it’s the team mascot who’s the killer. It didn’t actually make a lot of sense that Chester would have had the mascot costume, but let’s ignore that…

With Michelle (Cate Sproule) safely in the jail cell, Dean and Sam explain ghost possession to Donna. It was great to see the “old lore” again! Dean has the EMF reader out – it’s screaming. And they explain that everything has a weakness. For ghosts, it’s salt and iron. Dean has his salt rounds, and Sam has an iron spike. I really liked the addition of the iron spike to their arsenal! Here’s a new weapon based on the lore we know and love that actually makes sense! It fits easily in a pocket and is certainly better than relying on every ghost-infested house having a fireplace and an iron poker! It still needs a bungie chord as evidenced by its flying out of Sam’s hand when he’s attacked by Chester, but still – I like it!

I also loved that Donna immediately pulled a salt shaker from her pocket. Her diet secret! One bite of dessert and then she dumps salt on it! Works on everything but salted caramel… You betcha… Donna is quick to embrace a lot of the hunter philosophy. Like Mike, she sees that Michelle is also an innocent victim in all this who doesn’t deserve to be locked up. Dean coaches her to say it was a drifter in the costume and that he over powered her and escaped. I loved Donna’s response – “Well, there’s some female empowerment for you.” She’s clearly had a hard time being taken seriously by her male peers.

They trace the costumes back to Chester and go to interview his sister Rita (Brigid Brannagh) and her son Max (Logan Williams). She initially lies, saying Chester suffered from depression and committed suicide. She also says he didn’t know Phil or Stan. Once they hear he’s cremated, Dean tells Donna they usually burn the bones to get rid of a ghost, but in this case, they know it’s the costumes so they just have to track them all down. The three split up. Sam goes to the hospital to interview Phil, Dean goes to see Fran, and Donna goes to start rounding up the costumes.

At the hospital, we see another costume gone rogue, and this time it’s a super-creepy clown. I loved the use of circus music in this scene and the blood spatter on the monitor. There's also a nice use of a mirror - like a funhouse mirror - to track the clown walking down the corridor. Naturally, it’s Sam alone in the elevator when the clown gets on. He simply turns and stares at Sam. Padalecki is hilarious in this scene! Luckily, Sam still has the iron spike in his pocket and is able to win the fight by getting rid of the ghost.

The clown was just a retired GP, playing dress up with his grandson, so of course they let him go. Donna is sure she is going to lose her job over the case. When Doug shows up, he wants something more than Donna’s “Killer clown!” She tells him it’s a copycat of a copycat, and then gets a bit harsh with him. Sam calls her on it, and she tries to excuse it by saying she can’t have insubordination. Sam asks her pointblank if she’s just treating new Doug like old Doug. She tells him to mind his own beeswax, but she knows he’s right.

Dean interviews the widow and finds out that Stan and Phil had accused Chester of crossing the line with their kids. Dean goes back to Rita’s and Max lets him in, telling him that he misses his uncle and that he was cool and taught him magic tricks. Sam arrives with Rita who is not happy to find Dean in the house. She admits that she lied, but that it was an accident when Stan and Phil were trying to “scare Chester straight” by holding him off a bridge and they dropped him. While I liked a lot of the throwbacks in this episode, I found myself really missing when this storyline would have gotten a darker treatment and wouldn’t have been played for laughs. Putting Chester in the ridiculous deer costume and having Phil and Stan simply look like naughty children when they dropped him takes away from what could have been a truly dark story.

Rita excuses not going to the police by saying that if she went to jail, Max would have had no one. I did like her telling them that “fear cripples you. It makes you do nothing or worse. Something you regret.” Is this a warning for how Sam and Dean are dealing with the Darkness? Naturally, the deer head is the one thing that Donna and Doug aren’t burning when Sam calls.

Max returns, wearing the deer head and proceeds to throw Sam and Dean around until Dean can get the iron spike and Chester smokes out. Dean gets Rita and Max in a salt circle while Sam tries to burn the head. Chester shows up and knocks Sam out before attacking the others in the house. It was nice to see Max momentarily get through to him. In the end, we get the great ghost-flameout special effect just before Chester can throttle Dean.

The brothers take their leave from Donna, who says, “Your life’s one big poop storm, isn’t it?” Dean tells her, “Spoken like a true hunter,” thus really welcoming her into the family – and probably sealing her fate. Sam confirms it, “With three cases under your belt, you’ve earned it!” Now let’s see her team up with the wonderful Sheriff Mills – Kim Rhodes – again real soon – you betcha!

After two more monster bear hugs, the brothers are gone, and Donna finally apologizes to Doug – for being tough on him. He says, “for treating me like a punching bag? It’s ok. I’ve got baggage too, Donna.” It looks like we may see Doug again too…

All in all, this was a reasonably satisfying light-hearted monster of the week episode. I’m always happy to see Briana Buckmaster guest star, but I’d like to see her in a more serious episode – I’m betting she’s more than up to the challenge! Once again, it’s great to see the show really reach back to the lore it established so well in the early seasons. What did you think of the episode? Favorite scene? Favorite line? Favorite costume? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The X-Files, Defiance, Bitten, Killjoys, and a few others! I'm active on the Con scene when I have the time. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.
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