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Throwback Thursday - Supernatural - A Very Supernatural Christmas

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

Merry Christmas to all!  When this round of Throwback Thursday started, I specifically picked this week so I could celebrate one of my favorite holiday episodes of all time, A Very Supernatural Christmas.  No TV show has ever captured my heart, soul, and attention quite like Supernatural did 15 years ago, but few people in my real life ever watched it.  Therefore, when I knew someone was on the fence about whether to watch or not, I always recommended that they start here.  This episode encapsulates all that is Supernatural to me.  As a mostly standalone episode, you don’t need much background knowledge to jump in but it also provides that mixture of horror, comedy, and drama that Supernatural did so well in its early years.  Plus, it oozes with great brother moments.  If you have never tried Supernatural, I urge you to check out this episode and see what all the early hype was about.

A Very Supernatural Christmas

Episode 3.08

Original Airdate - Dec. 13, 2007

Written by Jeremy Carver (before he tore out my heart - urgh)

Directed by J. Miller Tobin

Starring Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Colin Ford, Ridge Canipe, Merrilyn Gann, and Spencer Garrett

Eschewing the normal title card, this episode starts with an awesome callback to the 70’s and 80’s after school special, a bit of nostalgia for those of us who remember them all too well.  What’s not so awesome is the cute little moppet greeting his visiting grandad - so not going to end well.  Sure enough, as Pops dresses up like Santa to keep the Christmas magic going for his grandson, evil comes down the chimney and hauls Pops up.  All that is left is a bloody boot.  Ugh!  Supernatural, scarring kids for life since 2005.  Still, the exploding Christmas ornament was brilliant!  In Michigan one year later, the Winchesters are on the case as another man goes missing.  It’s been awhile since I’ve revisited season 3 and both Jensen and Jared look so young here...and as handsome as ever.  (Forgive my fangirling moment.  For the record, I was left practically drooling over the Impala as well.)  

Dressed in typical FBI garb, Dean interviews the wife while Sam finds a tooth up the chimney, which leads to research.  I love me some Research Sammy.  He would make a mighty fine librarian in another life.  Dean:  "So was I right? Is it the serial killing chimney sweep?" Sam: "Yep, it's actually Dick Van Dyke."  Ha!  I get the reference, Sam, even if Dean doesn’t.  Sam ups the weird with Anti-Claus lore.  Sam:  “It’s gonna sound crazy.”  Dean: "What could you possibly say that sounds crazy to me?" Sam: "Um…evil Santa."  Dean:  “Yeah, that’s crazy.”  Bwaaah!  Jensen’s delivery cracks me up every time.  Dean:  “So this is your theory, huh?  Santa’s shady brother?”  Sam:  “I’m just saying that’s what the lore says.”  Dean:  “Santa doesn’t have a brother.  There is no Santa.”  Sam:  “Yeah, I know.  You’re the one who told me that in the first place, remember?”  Awww, poor Sammy.  You deserved to hold on to one piece of normal for as long as you could.

The brothers’ research leads them to the saddest excuse for a Santa’s Village known to man.  The employees are bored, the place needs paint, and there’s no snow.  That doesn’t keep Dean from waxing poetic over Christmases past though.  He wants to celebrate for the first time in years.  Sam does not.  Dean:  “We’ll get a tree, a little Boston Market - just like when we were little.”  Sam:  “Dean, those weren’t exactly Hallmark moments for me, you know?”  Dean:  “What are you talking about?  We had some great Christmases.”  Sam:  “Whose childhood are you talking about?”  Oh Sammy, you really did get screwed.  As he stares at a creepy-eyed reindeer, he flashes back to a motel room in Broken Bow, Nebraska in 1991.  It’s every bit as depressing as his current location.  A wee Sammy wraps a present for his father, courtesy of Uncle Bobby.  (I miss that idjit-loving, trucker hat-wearing miracle man.)  He’s full of questions about his dad and why they move so much but Dean is no fountain of knowledge.  WeeSam:  “Nobody ever tells me anything.”  WeeDean:  “Then quit asking.”  Ha!  That’s a big brother answer if I ever heard one, but Sammy keeps pushing.  WeeSam:  “I’m old enough, Dean.  You can tell me the truth.”  WeeDean:  “You don’t want to know the truth.  Believe me.”  I adore how Dean is trying to protect his brother from the knowledge that weighs on him, but it clearly frustrates Sam, who brings up their mom.  This sets Dean off, who storms out and not to the therapist he so desperately needs.

Back to the present, Dean asks,  “What are we looking for again?”  Sam:  “Um, lore says that the anti-Claus will walk with a limp and smell like sweets.”  Dean:  “Oh great, so we’re looking for a pimp Santa.”  Bwah!  That’s better than the current Pervy Santa.  I don’t blame that mama from pulling her child away.  Nor do I blame the employee from being skeeved out by the Winchesters.  No childless adult should be in this place without getting a paycheck.  As Pervy Santa walks by, Dean thinks he smells candy but Sam assures him it is Ripple.  Ha!  They stake him out anyway, which leads a coffee-less Dean back to their Christmas discussion.  Dean:  “Why are you the boy that hates Christmas?”  Sam:  “Dean…”  Dean:  "I admit it. You know, we had a few bumpy holidays when we were kids.”  Sam:  “Bumpy?”  Dean:  “But that was then. We'll do it right this year."  Sam:  “‘Look Dean, if you want to have Christmas, knock yourself out.  Just don’t involve me.”  Yikes, that’s just sad, Sammy.  Dean’s hurt but drops the subject.

The brothers watch as Pervy Santa draws the curtain.  Dean: "What's up with Saint Nicotine?"  Bwaaahhh!!  That line gets me every time.  It’s not so funny when the screaming starts.  The brothers rush in, only to catch Pervy Santa’s terrible porn.  ( “Mistle my toe?”  What does that even mean?)  Seriously man, what good is it to close the drapes when you can hear your porn down the street in a car with the windows rolled up.  Buy some TV headphones!  Still, it leads to the world’s worst caroling as Dean and Sam launch into their own unique version of Silent Night and I gasp for air as I roll with laughter.  It’s hard to believe, after hearing them sing for real, that they can sound this truly awful.  It’s not so funny when the sound turns to a professional Silent Night version and another cute moppet appears.  Yeah, that’s another bloody boot and another kid scarred for life.  This town is gonna hate Christmas.  

In FBI mode, the brothers question the new victim’s family when Sam starts asking about a wreath.  Dean and I give him a side look.  Huh?  But score one for Sam, who realizes that she has the same wreath as the previous victims and that means a call to Bobby.  Sam:  “Well, we’re not dealing with the Anti-Claus.”  Dean:  “What did Bobby say?”  Sam:  “That we’re morons.”  Ha!  I love that honorary Winchester.  Basically, they’re looking for pagans.  Sam:  “Pretty much every Christmas tradition is pagan.”  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: “How do you know that?  What are you going to tell me next…the Easter Bunny's Jewish?"  Guess you shouldn’t have ruined Santa for Sam, Dean.  Payback sucks.  They head to where the wreaths were sold and enter one of my favorite one-scene characters of all time.  Sam describes the Christmas wreath in detail as the shop owner gets increasingly puzzled.  Owner: "Well aren't you a fussy one."  Ha!  He exposits that a local woman named Madge gave him the wreaths for free, which he sold for a great profit.  “It’s Christmas.  People pay a buttload for this crap.”  Gotta love the honesty!

Back at the motel, the brothers sit in unison (aww) and Dean brings up Christmas again.  Sam:  “All right, dude, what’s going on with you?”  Dean:  “What?”  Sam:  “I mean, since when are you Bing Crosby all of a sudden?  Why do you want to do Christmas so bad?”  Dean:  “Why are you so against it?  I mean, were your childhood memories that traumatic?”  Sam:  “No, that has nothing to do with it.”  Dean:  “Then what?”  Sam:  “I mean, I just...I don’t get it.  You haven’t talked about Christmas in years.”  Dean:  “Well yeah, this is my last year.”  Sam:  “I know.  That’s why I can’t.”  Dean:  “What do you mean?”  Sam:  “I mean I can’t just sit around, drinking eggnog, pretending everything’s okay when I know next Christmas you’ll be dead.  I just can’t.”  My heart breaks for them.  I can see both sides and it’s equally tragic.  This episode has so many great brother moments, including the flashbacks.  Twenty minutes in and I’ve run the gamut of emotions already.

Flashback - WeeDean returns to the motel room with a less than nutritious dinner, only to learn that WeeSam read his father’s journal and now knows about the things that go bump in the night.  Urgh, John!  I still can’t stand you!  Also, since when does John leave his journal behind?  At first Dean denies their life, but in the end he can’t lie to Sam anymore.  WeeDean:  “Yeah.  Monsters are real.  Dad fights them.  He’s fighting them right now.”  WeeSam, losing more innocence by the sentence:  “But dad said the monsters under my bed weren’t real.”  WeeDean:  “It’s because he’d already checked under there, but yeah, they’re real.  Almost everything’s real.”  WeeSam:  “Is Santa real?”  WeeDean:  “No.”  This proves too much for a kid Sam’s age and he starts to worry that monsters will kill them all, just like they killed his mom.  Dean, however, has full trust in John, which makes me want to Gibbs-slap the absentee parent all the more.  WeeSam:  “If they got mom, they can get dad and if they get dad, they can get us.”  WeeDean:  “It’’s not like that, okay?  Dad’s fine; we’re fine.  Trust me.”  Dean assures Sam that John will be back for Christmas (a bet I wouldn’t take) but Sam just wants to cry himself to sleep, his world shattered.  This episode breaks my heart, even after the hundredth watch.  They had such short childhoods and I feel for them anew.

Back in the present, the Carrigan house looks ultra suburban.  Dean: "So this is where Mrs. Wreath lives, huh?  Boy, can't you just feel the evil pagan vibe?"  I love sarcastic Dean.  Madge and Edward Carrigan cme to the door looking more like Ozzie and Harriet meets Pleasantville than human-sacrificing pagans.  Edward even offers them some peanut brittle before Sam swipes Dean’s hand away.  Try to not take candy from strangers, Dean.  Sam’s hunch is right.  The Carrigans have a shady past with even shadier decorations, but a good evergreen stake to the heart will off them.  How convenient.  They  break in that night, finding a plastic couch and a locked basement.  Nothing good about either of those, especially since housekeeping obviously skips the basement.  It’s filled with strewn out people bits as the horror portion goes into overdrive.  Yuck!  Sam inspects a filled bag which starts moving, scaring me to death.  The non-human faces of the Carrigans are less than pleasant too, as they knock Dean and Sam out cold.

Sam wakes first.  Sam:  "So I guess we're dealing with Mr. and Mrs. God. Nice to know."  Bwah!  The Winchesters are tied in chairs, back-to-back.  Madge:  "Oh and here we thought you two lazybones were gonna sleep straight through all the fun stuff." Dean: "And miss all of this. Nah, we're partiers."   The Carrigans rationalize that they only take a handful of tributes each year now instead of thousands but the Winchesters are unimpressed.  Meadowsweet, blood, and Dean snark start off the ritual.  What follows is some of the most fun evil banter this side of Buffy.  These two guest actors were perfectly cast.  With the “Sweet Peter on a popsicle,” “gloomy Gus,” and “alrighty roo” phrases, human sacrifice has never sounded more 50’s saccharine.  Edward:  “Hear how they talk to us, to gods?  Listen pal, back in the day, we were worshipped by millions.”  Dean:  “Time’s have changed.”  Edward:  “Tell me about it.   All of a sudden, this Jesus character’s the hot new thing in town.  All of a sudden, our...our altars are being burned down and we’re being hunted down like common monsters.”  Madge:  “But did we say peep...oh, no, no, no, we did not.  Two millennia, we kept a low profile,we got jobs, a mortgage.  What was that word, dear?”  Edward:  “We assimilated.”  Madge:  “Yeah, we assimilated.  Why, we play bridge on Tuesdays and Fridays.  We’re just like everybody else.”  Bwaaah!  Yet another reason to avoid learning bridge.

Edward takes blood from Sam while Madge goes for Dean, who swears.  Madge is taken aback by his rough language.  Madge:  "Oh, my goodness me.  Somebody owes a nickel to the swear jar.  Oh, do you know what I say when I feel like swearing…fudge."  Dean:  “I’ll try and remember that.”  More pain later and then comes the Dean classic:  "You fudgin' touch me again, I'll fudgin' kill you."  Best line of the night!  Things get worse from there as Edward yanks out one of Sam’s fingernails.  Ugh!  Then he remembers he also needs a tooth, but Dean gets saved by the doorbell ringing.  Dean, with the pliers in his mouth:  “Somebody gonna get that.  You should get that.”  While the perkiest bridge partner this side of the Mississippi distracts the Carrigans with unwanted fruitcake, the Winchesters escape but their evergreen stakes are still in the basement.  Where oh where could they find evergreen at this time of year?  They look at the Christmas tree while I groan.  Seriously, you are pagan gods.  Why would you put literally the only thing that will kill you in your living room?  Even in the early 2000’s, there were great plastic options.  Madge isn’t thrilled with the Winchester tree tipping and a fight ensues.  Two evergreen boughs through the heart later, and that’s 2 less pagan gods to worry about.  Merry Christmas indeed, Sam!

Back in Flashback Nebraska, Dean may have killed the Santa myth for Sam but he’s desperate to keep his brother’s faith in their dad.  He wakes Sammy, saying that he just missed their dad who stopped by with presents.  Sam is all excited until he opens a Barbie doll and baton.  Oops.  Dean admits that he stole the presents from the house down the block, not knowing they had girls.  WeeDean:  “Look, I’m sure dad would have been here if he could.”  WeeSam:  “If he’s alive.”  WeeDean:  “Don’t say that.  Of course he’s alive.  He’s dad.”  So not a fan of John here as Sam’s faith in him dies a little too.  He hands Dean the present that he originally got for John, but Dean protests.  WeeDean:  “No, no, that’s for Dad.”  WeeSam:  “Dad lied to me.  I want you to have it.”  As Dean opens the gift, it is the amulet Dean has worn since season 1.  Awww, I adore this backstory; it’s heartwarming and gives extra meaning to why Dean always wears it.  You can see how moved WeeDean is by the gesture.

Just like AdultDean is by Sam’s present day gesture.  While Dean goes for a  beer run, Sam decorates the motel for Christmas.  It’s so sweet.  He’s got air fresheners hanging from a pine bough in a paint can and a fishing bobber on a Merry Christmas sign.  Like they say, it’s the thought that counts and boy, does this count.  Sam is still struggling with Dean’s imminent death but he puts those feelings aside to give his brother what he really wants most, a great memory.  It’s a selfless gesture that means the world to Dean and warms my heart.  They toast with some alcohol-soaked eggnog and exchange gas station presents (porn, shaving cream, motor oil, and food) but Dean’s grin is the big present.  He knows how hard it is for Sam and appreciates the gesture.  Even more so, when Sam looks like he’s going into discussion mode but then turns on the football game instead.  No words are needed.  They have each other for at least a while longer and isn’t that what Christmas is all about, being with your loved ones in whatever way you can?  As the camera slowly pulls out, I sigh in contentment.  No matter how many times I watch this, I too feel grateful for the Winchesters and their brother bond.  It’s gotten me through some hard times and rewatching this episode is my Christmas gift to myself.

No matter how or if you celebrate this season, I hope you get time to share with your loved ones.  Whether they are near or far, in person or virtual, may you be blessed and comforted by your memories of them as you make new ones too.  Merry Christmas, SpoilerTV friends.  I wish you peace, joy, and hope for the new year.



Best Reason to Watch - the brother bond
Best Sight for Sore Eyes - Baby, my beloved Impala

Best Expressions - Sam

Best Line - "You fudgin' touch me again, I'll fudgin' kill you."
Worst Dialogue - the porn movie gems, “Mistle my toe.”  “Roast my chestnut.”  
Best Guest Star - sorry Weechesters but this one goes to Merrilynn Gann for me, who played it so differently in Everwood

Most in Need of a Hallmark Makeover - Santa’s Village

Most Skeevy - Pervy Santa

Most Cringeworthy - Edward pulls out Sam’s fingernail

Biggest Laugh / Most Embarrassing - the Winchester version of Silent Night

Best Mystery Solved - why Dean wears the Samulet

Biggest Huh? - when Sam starts talking about the wreath

Biggest Aww - Dean tries to get Sam some Christmas gifts, but they end up being girl toys.  Then, Sam gives Dean the amulet.

Best Staying Power - It’s been 10 years to the day since I first reviewed this episode for SpoilerTV.  It still warms my heart, grosses me out, makes me roll with laughter, and moves me just shy of actual tears.  It’s also still the episode I recommend to those who want to taste a bit of Supernatural before they jump all in.  I maintain that it is the best episode to showcase the various genres that make up Supernatural, even if it isn’t my favorite.  Top 25 for sure though.

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