The ep gives us a little more background to their lives when they were younger - one of these is Dean as a teen into girl hunting and I'm thinking Sam still in elementary school if he was dumped at this restaurant... 9/10 and 13/14, possibly? There's not a very wide window. Dean at twelve would be too young to be gallivanting after girls and Sam at 12 would be too old to be dumped or let himself be dumped at a restaurant. There are a couple more insights on their childhood scattered through the ep that I'll try to point out as we go.
There are many awesome scenes as well. I wouldn’t have rated this ep awesome if I didn’t think every single scene was enjoyable, but especially the one between Dean and the young boy dumped there by his mother, Sam's interrogation scene, which is unfortunately one of those I cannot watch without getting all red and embarrassed, and OF COURSE all of Sam jumping out of his skin every time he sees a clown,running in terror chanting “If it bleeds I can kill it,” the clowns dissolving into a ton of glitter in the end, and the last scene between Sam and Dean.
Let's get started!
The ep starts with Sam running through the street - running from a clown. He crouches down behind a car and reassures himself saying, "If it bleeds, you can kill it." From past watches, we know that that is what Dean told him at the beginning of this case when he made Sam go to Pluckies. (If you’re a fan of Predator, you know it is a line from that movie as well - I didn’t. That info is from Superwiki).
We can recognize this beginning as very similar to Yellow Fever. Actually, just as Yellow Fever deals with Dean's fears about Sam, we might also find that this ep deals with something more than just Sam's fear of clowns... Like Dean said at the end, "facing your fears" ... possibly his fear for himself, Lucifer inside his head? The episode in Season 11 that also deals with clowns also had the theme of Sam facing his fears - and specifically Lucifer, aye? Very interesting parallel! Sam kicks the door in to a warehouse, locks the door and piles things in front of it to keep the clown out, but suddenly there is a clown in front of him and after a big bang, the other clown behind him. Sam is looking desperate. Aaaand, cut to title.
Season 7 is probably the one with the most number of interesting title sequences. We are probably not going to see anything like it until the one in Season 10. The last different title sequence was Season 7, Time for a Wedding, and now this one with the sparkles and colors mingling with the black ooze.
This ep uses a system very similar to the previous Time After Time ep - going from present, to past and then to present again. This time though, they use the method used by "24" in the past scenes, with the ticking clock and everything except for they start 60 hours earlier… which is like 2 days and a half? The whole ep is done carefully with a sublime sense of humor.
As the clock ticks, we see Dean at a payphone, calling Frank. Frank seems to have told them to call him from a payphone to be safe, but unfortunately he doesn't have any news on the Leviathan except which famous people have now been taken over.
Sam is waiting a few paces away, laughing a bit at the code words “I am the eggman.” Dean comes and tells him that there is nothing new, and asks about the Amazons (Wonder women). Sam has nothing on them either. He's given up on getting them until they surface again.
Sam: So, we got dick on Dick?
Dean: That's a vivid way of putting it.
Sam tells Dean he has a case in Kansas, and Dean’s like sure, but no more babies, no more hot chicks. Sam's like, you're kidding, right?
Dean: Hey, you spawn a monster baby and see how quick you want to dive back in the pool.
As they arrive on the scene, they first hit the morgue as usual, and find a guy covered in suction marks of a giant octopus. Dean unfortunately is not well versed in Octopuses and needs some help from the mortician/technician with regard to the size of the octopus. We will find later that he is much more versed in Sharks... and I'll talk about that then. They find out however, that it is not the suction that actually killed the guy, but the bite on his neck, which seems to have drained him of blood. Here a scene where Dean tries to figure out the name for the monster...
Dean: So what are we looking for? Octovamp? Vamptopus?
(And Sam's lovely bitch face :D)
And they decide to go and visit the widow. She is not a very nice lady. She's jealous of her husband and suspects him of having an affair with the baby sitter, when there seems to be no such thing for one, and she is quite secretive - possibly just being protective of her daughter - but all in all comes across as a rather weird lady to me, and I guess the boys as well. They decide to keep an eye on her just in case. When Sam suggests he talk to the babysitter while Dean keeps an eye on the wife, though, Dean’s like nope, I’ll go talk to the babysitter.
SAM: I thought you said no hot chicks.
DEAN: We don't know that she's hot.
And Dean has a funny little grin on his face like he’s thinking “I got out of that one pretty good” :D So, does that mean he’s pretty much gotten over that incident? He just said that at the beginning to make it sound like he was being conscientious?! LOL Love the look Sam gives him :D
When Dean talks to the babysitter, he finds out that the daughter is the one that was pissed at dad for staying for only a few minutes on her birthday party at Plucky's - which itself is more for lazy parents than for the kids themselves. AND, the little girl also believed she had a monster in her closet. OOooo! *includes octovamps in list of closet monsters for vid* Dean quickly phones Sam so that he can possibly talk with the girl.
SAM (on phone): I got a 20 on her right now.
DEAN (on phone, V-O): Can you get to her without tripping the AMBER Alert?
SAM (on phone): I'll try.
He gets to talk to her only a little bit before mom comes out and calls her inside. Kelly, the little girl, was able to tell him though that her mom was angry at her for telling the police that she had warned her dad that the monster was going to get him. Well, we rewatchers know that Kelly had no way of knowing that the octovamp would actually come and kill her dad. We also know that the monster in her closet wasn’t real either (at least it wasn't this monster :P). But it is obvious that she felt somewhat responsible for her dad’s death because of what she had told him. Too bad Sam wasn’t able to talk to her more! He does get a look at the octovamp, which she drew on the sidewalk. He notices the teeth, which look very much like vampire teeth.
Then we jump to the next parent death, which is by unicorn. Love that they bring out the unicorn after Houses of the Holy and Dean telling Sam that there was no such thing :D Of course this unicorn is not real either, just the result of a spell, but it has a rainbow flowing out of it’s rear just like Dean describes there, which means that's what little Billy believed and drew as well. Poor dad though gets pierced from behind- the horn goes right through a thick wall.
Back to the present with Sam being accosted by clowns. Telling himself again that if it bleeds he can kill it, he points a gun at one of the clowns and shoots it.
Little bits of glitter shoot out from the clown with a twinkling sound, but the clown doesn’t die. It reminds me of the Leviathan a bit, but I’m thinking more and more that we are supposed to equate it with Sam’s mental state - and not being able to escape Lucifer. I’m reminded of that first scene of Sam running again, and how it not only reminds me of Yellow Fever, but also of a future episode where Sam is actually running from Lucifer in his head. This is part of Sam’s fear - that just as these clowns can’t be killed, he can never escape from Lucifer in his head. He is helpless.
36 hours 36 minutes before that...
We see Dean looking through that hole, and I’ve told you this before but I just love these shots of them peering into holes and openings!
He talks with the mom and finds that it wasn’t the boy’s birthday but the thing he has in common with Kelly was that he was at Plucky’s just like she had been. Dean decides to ask Sam to check out the restaurant while he talks with Billy the little boy.
I love how Jared plays Sam in these scenes. The hesitancy with which he agrees that he did remember the restaurant, and how of course he’s not scared. He’s just fine! We find out here that Dean used to drop him off at this restaurant while he went “trolling for chicks” The place smelled of puke and the food was gross (as we also find out from different sources later) and he hated it. Dean seems to have thought Sam liked it though. Which is interesting. I can’t think that Dean would have ever thought Sam liked the place if Sam begged him not to take him, you know? So Sam’s reluctance must have been subtle. He agreed to be dropped off because he felt sorry for Dean. And he kept his fear of the clowns and hate for the restaurant as well as his loneliness of having to be dropped off there to himself for Dean’s sake - because Dean always had to take care of him. Dean never got to be a kid. And Sam saw that. He knew that. So he wanted to give Dean some time off… Which leads to the ending scene… I see room for a fic here, I really do.
ANYWAY… Dean kind of teases Sam into going to the restaurant and Sam can’t refuse because he doesn’t want to admit how terrified he is of those clowns. He wants to seem strong and capable, not weak and vulnerable. It’s a guy thing, yeah, and a younger brother thing, but I also think it’s a Season 7 Lucifer ridden Sam kind of thing as well. He’s been trying to show Dean all season that he has everything under control so that he wouldn’t be a burden to Dean. This is of course where Dean tells Sam -
DEAN: If it bleeds, you can kill it.
So, Sam goes and finds out quite a bit. He talks to the manager, who seems to be a nice lady. And finds that the kids drew out these creatures of their fears at the restaurant.
MANAGER: Personally, I think it's a load of hooey, but they say that if these fears run wild, then it affects kids long into their adulthood.
SAM: Yeah, I've – I've – I've heard that.
Awww... poor Sammy... His fear ran wild :( And I guess that part really wasn't Dean's fault, but had to do with their job a bit.
Sam also finds out that the pictures by those children whose parents died by these mysterious creatures were missing. He finds out from her that Billy’s dad made a scene at his friend’s party and embarrassed him in front of all his friends.
He also talks with the janitor who seems to have some information but is scared to say it in the open. He tells Sam to come back after hours.
The creepily cheerful employee Howard is beneath Sam’s notice. All he does is ask the guy for the manager at the very beginning. Howard though notices that Sam is scared of clowns by the way Sam cringes every time he sees one. The clowns here by the way are super creepy, even though I’m not scared of clowns. Especially that clown by the door that talks. Bleh. On a side note, Pennywhistle, according to Superwiki, could have been named after the clown monster in It, who’s name was Pennywise. So the creepy clowns make sense, even though I’ve continued to wonder every rewatch why they’d have such creepy dolls in a kids play area.
Another thing that Sam doesn’t notice, and we notice more on a rewatch is the boy and mother/employee in the background. We see his dislike of having to be there, and how he puts up with it in a fashion because of his mom’s job. We can sort of equate him with how it might have been for Sam.
WOMAN(Libby): I just need you to stay sane for three more hours. Okay? Here. Finish your homework.
YOUNG BOY: Like I can concentrate in here.
So, Sam gets back to the motel and tells Dean his findings. He shows Dean some of the other drawing samples he got from the wall -
DEAN: Well, can't argue with this. Leprechauns are deadly.
And we are reminded of that awesome ep <3 *love*
Dean also has had some luck. He got Billy to draw his monster, which was a unicorn. Of course, until now they did not know that the killer had been a unicorn. The only evidence had been hoove marks.
SAM: Wait. So now unicorns are evil?
DEAN: Yeah. Obviously.
Love this exchange. Awww. poor Sammy <3
Meanwhile, at the restaurant, the Manager and janitor are closing up. Janitor thinks he’s all finished and is about to clock out when the Manager stops him. It seems someone puked in the ball pit and he has to clean it all out before he can go home. I tell ya. What kind of Manager is this? Couldn’t she have said something a bit earlier and not waited until he was almost out the door? The janitor is not happy, but it’s his job and I guess he gets overtime, so in he goes again. While he is cleaning the ball pit with this vacuum, a shark kills him (according to Wiki, also reminiscent of the first kill in Jaws). The scene is … I can’t watch it. I hate Jaws. BUT, we find out that Dean loves sharks… as opposed to octopuses.
DEAN: And, uh, judging from the radius, I'd say a 20-footer, at least.
DEAN: "Shark Week," man. How do you not watch that?
He has no idea what size octopus would do the damage they saw in the morgue, but when he sees the bites on the poor janitor, he knows exactly the size of the shark that would do that damage, because, who misses Shark week?! I like that insight into Dean’s interests as a kid ;D My kids love national geographic and other animal programs too - the boys anyways. I also love how Sam looks at him after that little input of knowledge. Oh and a cute scene right before that too - I mean cute Sammy of course ;) Dean is totally a tease this ep.
DEAN: Cops have a theory?
SAM: Yeah, they think the ball washer did it.
DEAN: The what?
SAM: The... ball washer.
SAM: The ball – *bitch face*
Well, now they not only have mean or embarrassing parents on the menu, but also people that might have “blown the whistle.”
In the next scene, we see that parent and child again.
Mom has to drop little Tyler off at the bus stop… or maybe at the parking lot of the restaurant? I’m not sure - because she’s late to work and doesn’t have time to drive him all the way to school. He has to go by bus. She gives him the bus money and tells him to “stay out of trouble.” That’s not the kind of thing you should be saying to your kid when they go to school in my opinion, but she is obviously stressed and so wrapped up in her own problems that she is unable to see what she is doing to him. Tyler leaves his picture of a robot with lazer eyes in the seat of the car. And I’m thinking, if he’s drawing this creature outside of the restaurant as well… he has some serious stress issued himself.
But anyway, back to Sam and Dean. The clock is ticking at “04:34:12 Earlier.” They are researching back at the motel. Dean has John’s journal, and Sam’s at the computer. They consider a tulpa, angels, neither seems a possibility. Sam finally decides he’s just going to go and play bad cop at the restaurant and see if anyone takes the bait. Dean’s job is to wait in the restaurant and watch the employees as they come out of the room.
DEAN: Well, what's my cover?
SAM: I don't know. Just hang back. Act normal.
DEAN: Yeah, yeah. Guy in his thirties hanging out at Plucky's alone – that's normal. That's not pervy at all.
The next scenes by Sam are awesome!! But as I said earlier, they are hard for me to watch because they are funny in the embarrassing sort of way. It’s hard to explain. As he explained to Dean, Sam really “leans into” the employees and acts like they might be hiding something, or that their alibis are excuses for what they were really up to.
First up is the Manager. Interesting thing about the manager - we find out that she just got the new manager job and probably got it because of her essay writing skills - since she “went to college.” We know on rewatch that Howard wanted this manager position as well, and he was acting up and killing these people partly due to the unhappiness from not getting the position.
During the manager’s interrogation, Dean sees one of the kids carrying a big slinky and suddenly wants one very badly. This is something that reminds him of his lost childhood. Something he never got to have when he was little and he wants one NOW. So he goes to the exchange and finds Howard there. Howard tells him without blinking that he needs to EARN the slinky. He can’t buy it with money. Only with tickets. Love Dean’s expression there.
Dean goes and tries his hand at one of the machines - maybe the one that Howard told him was double ticket day. Just as he gets a long round of tickets from getting the object into the hole, the manager Jean comes out of the interrogation room and he has to go follow her to see what she does and misses getting all the tickets.
She goes out the door and takes a puff from a cigarette. Obviously not their “guy.” But Sam’s sure doing a good job scaring folks.
Next up is Howard. Sam cuts the chatter short and starts in on him. Howard is extremely confident after the interrogation though, and maybe that should have tipped Sam and Dean off a bit. We know that he’s probably just thinking that he’s going to get back at Sam with his little spell. It makes him happy and cheerful and as soon as he comes out of the room he’s back to talking with the kids and asking them their names.
Meanwhile, Dean goes back to the machine and finds this fat bully like kid cheating at the game and trying to get a bunch of tickets. Tyler is there telling him off but of course, Tyler is small and doesn’t have much of an impact. Dean goes in and supports Tyler and the bully runs off.
TYLER and DEAN (together): Jackass.
That little scene there is super cute. It reminds me of The Children Are Alright - Ben. Dean, in that sense, must have been a super older brother to Sam too when they were small. Yes he had to take on the role of a bully but he always did it to protect the weaker. Tyler takes to him right away.
Just then, Tyler’s mom comes up with some pizza. Tyler is not happy and he complains at her until she sighs and turns back to her work.
DEAN: Hey, why don't you cut her some slack?
TYLER:What do you care?
DEAN: Because I've been where you are.
TYLER: Your mom made you camp at a stupid Plucky's after school?
DEAN: Y– no. No, but my dad, he... hauled me places. Besides, she's working a tough gig.
DEAN: You know? She's exhausted. You should take pity on the old. And, hey, free grub.
TYLER: That stuff tastes like butt.
DEAN: What? Come on, it can't be that bad.
DEAN: Let's see here.
DEAN: Ah...That is butt.
So Dean has experience both with dumping a kid there and with being “hauled around places.” He can both sympathize with the mom and also with the kid for their plights. But mostly I think he is seeing it from the kid’s side. I bet he told himself to cut his dad some slack - he’s working a tough gig and he’s tired - you know? And, he’s probably starting to feel a tad bad for having left Sam there, not knowing how sucky it was.
Can I just say again that I don’t like Dean spitting (or rather dropping) things out of his mouth? Still, it sure made Tyler happy that Dean agreed with him that the pizza tasted like butt :D
This is also where Dean notices Tyler's drawing of a robot with lazor eyes (which reminds us of Ronald in Nightshifter).
Then, one of the employees with a bear costume on comes running out of the interrogation room and Dean has to chase after him.
Sam follows, stopping to let a clown pass on the way (awww).
Dean tackles the guy and they go down hard (man that must have hurt…)
...and when he interrogates the guy, they find out that he was just scared about some other small crimes he had committed and had nothing to do with the case at hand. However, he did have some new information - that this restaurant had a basement, in which weird sounds could be heard when he was busy smoking something or rather with Saul the janitor (all Saul’s fault of course) there.
They go back into the restaurant and Dean finds that Tyler and his mom are about to leave. Tyler though is complaining that his picture is gone.
Dean gives him the look “Remember what I said?” and Tyler looks at his mom, makes this sweet little face and just let’s it go. The surprise and relief the mom feels when suddenly she doesn’t have to deal with the constant complaining, and the way she genuinely thanks Tyler for that - the scene is just too sweet. Dean is happy that he could help one unhappy family, but realizes that he may have been a bit too late. Tyler’s picture has been taken, which means that the killer might have it and Tyler’s mom might be next on the list. Dean explains the situation to Sam and they decide that Sam would go and keep Tyler’s mom safe while Dean would go to the basement and see if he could find the killer. Love this -
SAM: Oh. Oh. Uh, Dean, hey, uh, any idea what he drew?
DEAN: Yeah, about the size of a house. Shoots destructo beams out of its eyes.
SAM: At least I'll see it coming.
We then see Dean in the basement, finding all of Howard’s stuff. His drawings of his brother drowning and him unable to do anything, his little clay dolls of clowns, Tyler’s robot picture, a fire burning in the middle of the room… Howard comes in then and makes Dean throw away his gun. He tells him to kick it over, but smart Dean kicks it to the side so that Howard can’t get it without coming closer and Dean also has a chance to get it later.
(Can we just enjoy Dean's pretty expressions here for a minute? ;P )
While they are talking, Dean finds out all about the Managerial position and the spell fuelled by fear. Dean takes the opportunity to throw something at howard and grab at the robot picture and rip it up so that it can’t be used to kill Tyler’s mom, but Howard has already burned a picture of a clown and something of Sam’s so that clowns will go after Sam. I love the look on Dean’s face when he hears this.
(Another extra gif just to look at Dean and his shiny eyes :D)
His brain starts spinning again and taking one of the clown dolls of Howards and the picture of his brother dying, he activates the spell toward Howard. Howard realizes and tries to shoot Dean so Dean dives to the side and gets the gun. He’s about to shoot back when Howard stops shooting.
In front of him is the figure of his dead brother, holes in his chest from the gun bullets, which gradually close up. Then Howard begins to choke on the water inside him, like in Red Sky at Morning.
Seriously, this is very sad. I think deep down he actually blamed himself for his brother’s death you know? Seeing him die right before his eyes and not able to stop it… He seriously needed some guidance/counseling. Not only did his parents not listen to him as his brother died (this of course could have just been that they could not hear him or understand him), they also neglected him afterwards which is even worse. This situation Howard was in sort of reminds me of Sam at the end of Season 7, being left all alone, wondering if he could have stopped Dean from being “killed” and maybe blaming himself for it. Anyway, I’m reading too much into this probably :P
While all that is happening, of course Sam is running from the clowns.
The clock disappears and instead we have the words, “RIGHT FRIGGIN NOW!” Which is said to have been added by Robert Singer. Love the touch. We see the past couple of scenes over again, and just as Sam is about to be killed, Dean burns up the doll and clown and the spell clowns disintegrate into glitter. I love seeing the clown's tooth go flying when Sam bonks him so here's that scene first -
Sam spits out some glitter that got into his mouth and it’s the best scene EVER. Which is why probably everyone has seen a gif of this scene. I made one long ago, but here’s a new one.
I guess it’s important to note that Sam himself was unable to overcome the object of his fear here. He was saved by Dean. This sort of forshadows the fact that Sam will not be able to withstand Lucifer on his own, and that he will be saved by others - Dean and mainly Cas who took over the sickness, sort of like Howard suffered his own fear in Sam’s stead. Opposite of this is Sam dealing with the clown in Season 11 and how he also is able to say no to Lucifer himself. Although it is interesting to also think of the fact that just as Cas takes over Sam’s sickness in Season 7, Cas also says yes to Lucifer in Season 11 instead of Sam… I’m just coming up with all kinds of comparisons this ep.
Dean’s waiting by his car as Sam drives up, shows himself to Dean and waits for Dean to make fun.
He’s not disappointed. I’m actually thinking that despite the scare, the fact that he was able to get out of the situation put him in a good enough mood that he thought it was kind of funny himself.
Dean obliges him and Sam makes this quizzical face… that makes me think that he’s surprised and glad to see Dean laughing. Dean has been in such a low place the whole season and especially after Bobby, that Sam has been really worried for him. I don’t think he minds at all that he is the brunt of Dean’s humor. Dean does come out and apologize to Sam for what he put him through when he was younger.
DEAN: Ohh. That's... Sam... I'm sorry for... psychologically scarring you.
SAM: Which time?
DEAN: Shut up. Seriously. You know, me – me ditching you when we were kids, that was a dick move. You know, the whole clown thing–
SAM: You know what, man? Honestly... getting my ass kicked by those juggalos tonight was, uh... it was therapeutic.
DEAN: You faced your fear.
SAM: Exactly. And now what else could a clown possibly ever do to me? I feel good.
And Sam brings out the slinky as a present to Dean and tells him that they EARNED it. It’s like Sam’s all of a sudden the older brother, getting Dean something that he’s always wanted and making him happy. It not only symbolizing his forgiveness but also shows Dean that he knew that Dean had missed his own childhood for taking care of Sam. And finally, Sam being glad to see Dean laughing, even at his own expense.
Dean has a toy for Sam too...
Silly Dean has probably got that clown just to tease Sam again and despite wondering whether that wasn’t a cruel thing to do - after all he just finished apologizing for traumatizing him and here he is again, seemingly fueling it for his amusement - but maybe he thought it would be therapeutic for Sam to finally be able to destroy a clown himself and “kill it.” :D
As Sam and Dean drive a way, we see the disembodied clown doll lying in the street.