The Official Supernatural: “Don’t Go in the Woods” (14.16) Live Recap Thread


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Gotta admit that I’ve delayed starting this recap in large part because of the news on Friday that next season will be the show’s last. It’s not entirely unexpected (we are in season 14, after all), and we do still have 24 episodes left after this, but still. As Eva put it on last week’s discussion thread, there was some ugly crying going on in that retirement video.

So, let’s get to it and no, I won’t finish this tonight, but I will be done in time for this week’s episode. Which will be 24 episodes from the end. Yeah.

Recap of the season so far, basically, with an emphasis on those annoying teens from the 300th episode and far too much emphasis on Sam’s angst, the ongoing obsession about Jack’s powers and loss of soul, and nothing whatsoever about the fact that Dean was, just recently, possessed by an archangel. Or Billie’s books.

Cut to Big Creek State Park in Polk City, IA and a young couple making out in a car in that icky, ostentatious, PG-13-soft-core-porn, “Look! We’re teens having sex!” sort of way that makes you want them to be a slasher killer’s next victims. You know, all suction lips and pecking at each other.

Anyhoo, the girl (it’s always the girl, isn’t it?) gets nervous right before the ritual Shedding of Clothing moment and says she hears something. The boy, who of course is not thinking with his upstairs head, says it’s nothing, just the wind. She points out that eerie whistling outside ain’t the wind.

Great. I would decide to start recapping this after midnight.

The boy decides to go out and investigate, but when he opens the door, there’s a policeman right outside. Said cop turns out to be both the town sheriff and the boy’s dad. And he knows the girl, calling her “Barbara” as she buttons up her blouse. Awkward.

Barbara tries to sneak off while father and son have a tense chat about the son being out on his own, getting up to shenanigans. Barbara says she’s going to the bathroom and they let her. She thinks the bathroom is gross (it’s … basic in that somewhat isolated campground sort of way. But she ignores the flickering lights and sits down in a stall, anyway. Then she hears the whistling again. Inside the bathroom. She doesn’t really react until she hears something heavy crunch into the bathroom and reach over the stall. Then she screams.

Dad and son (named Tom) rush to save Doomed Teaser Girl. The dad sees something shambling off in the woods, but loses sight of it when he stumbles and falls over a tree root (of course he does). Then he hears his son shout and rushes to him. Tom has found Barbara. Her chest has been torn open and she’s dead. Guess her namesake was from Stranger Things, then.

Cue title cards.

It’s morning. Dean walks in on Sam sipping coffee and on a laptop. Dean suggests Sam is watching porn. Sam suggests that there might be other things on the internet besides porn.

Dean: Not my internet.

Dean has a point, not only because he’s caught Sam watching porn before (“Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”), but because Dean has never been as uncritically impressed by the internet, and spending a lot of time on it, as Sam.

Sam brings Dean up to speed on Doomed Teaser Girl. Turns out she’s not the only dead person in that park, though most of them go missing. Dean wonders if Sam isn’t up for her, since he’s still grieving and Sam insists he’s fine. Naturally, no one whatsoever asks if Dean is fine because hey, no big deal on being the Cage for a pissed-off archangel for a few episodes, amirite?

Sam wants to bring Castiel along. Dean says Castiel took off to do his own thing with … something. Sam wants to bring Jack, but Dean doesn’t think it’s a good idea. He mentions the security guard Jack accidentally killed, seeing as how Jack “has his mojo back” (and boy, I sure didn’t miss it). So, they go tell Jack they’re going on a hunt, without him, and Dean gives him a grocery list to tend to that involves a lot of beer. Jack is reading. How, exactly, is Jack able to read, anyway? Let alone languages besides English?

Of on the road the Brothers go. They talk to the sheriff, who is played by Adam Beach. If Beach looks familiar, it may be because he played one of the few sympathetic characters in the movie Cowboys & Aliens and is a First Nations actor who’s been in a bajillion Canadian productions.

Anyhoo, the sheriff is cagey and doesn’t see why the “FBI” should be involved in a local hiking tragedy. He claims that coyotes killed the girl. But they do get to intimidate him into letting them check out the body (Dean plays Bad Cop).

The injuries on the body are odd. Not only are her arms and neck slashed up, but she also has burns.

Meanwhile, in the most boring B story ever, Jack is finding out that the minimart grocery store is closed when those assholes from the 300th episode show up, even as the boy is streaming the Ghostfacers (remember them?) and their theme song.

The kids try to chat Jack up, who at first completely blanks any ideas about the supernatural and tries to walk away. They follow after him. Wow, these kids really are obnoxious, aren’t they?

So, remember the brunette who was always encouraging others to do larceny? Turns out she has keys to the mini mart. So, she can help Jack out with his problem if not being able to get into the store.

Over in Iowa, the sheriff gets a visit from his son. The kid is having flashbacks to seeing his girlfriend dead. He wants to talk to Barbara’s parents. The sheriff tells him that’s a bad idea. Tom believes it’s his fault. His dad tells him that’s not true and that everyone just needs some time.

Cut back to Jack … shopping. Which is as dull as it sounds. The two girls are speculating that Jack must be lonely hanging out with some “old dudes” (please, Show, lose the goddamned ageist jokes before you go out, ‘kay?). Meanwhile, their Boy Friday is geeking on Jack and Hunting. The girls suggest a movie night. Jack says he does movie night with the Brothers. Dean always picks the films. After lying that he’s 22 and not 2, Jack gets carded. Aren’t these kids supposed to be teenagers? So, why card him when it’s not even legal for them to sell him beer in the first place?

Meanwhile, Sam thinks he’s found the MOTW (oh, thank God, a horror plot!). It’s a “Kohonta.” Basically it eats humans, partly by “spitting up stomach acid” on them.

Later, at night, a young couple is hiking (and another age joke). Then they hear whistling. The man suggests they head back, but when he turns around, he sees someone shadowy lurking in the shadows. When she turns her flashlight on it, it has a wormy-looking face. She screams, and both she and her boyfriend run. Unfortunately, he gets his ankles grabbed and he’s knocked flat. Then the monster appears above him. It drools acid on him and eats him.

Cut to the sheriff, looking through the folder that holds Barbara’s crime scene photos. Tom wants to go after the “animal” that killed her, while the sheriff tries to figure out what he saw that night. A deputy comes in and tells the sheriff about the hiker couple.

Meanwhile, the Brothers are interviewing the girl, who made it back to civilization and she tells the about the whistling. Her boyfriend is still missing.

The sheriff shows up and pulls everyone out, claiming he’s not going to go in after a “rabid coyote” (actually, hunting down a rabid coyote before it bit anyone else would be a major priority, but that’s some bad hat, Harry). The Brothers try to persuade him to “let” them go in to investigate and he insists no one goes in without his say-so (don’t you love it when this episode’s writer, Davy Perez, makes zero effort to do more than the most basic research on things like emergency medicine and law enforcement procedures? I sure do). The Brothers just nod their heads and you know they’ll just go in, anyway.

Back to the two girls (who are in high school because one of them is studying for her SATs). They flirt and giggle, but their bud would rather they do it in another room. Jack arrives with a bunch of books about monsters. Pretty sure Sam and Dean would object to that. Heartily.

Jack asks about the music they’re listening to and says he likes The Who. The girls make condescending noises about this and when Jack notes that Dean always says newer music “sucks ass,” they make yet another age joke at Dean’s expense, which also leads to a home schooling crack from one of the girls.

Show, if you are trying to get the audience to like these kids as potential cast for a spinoff, you are doing a piss-poor job of it. Also, the constant cutting away from what is turning out to be an old-style, very creepy MOTW plot to this dreck is making the pacing of the episode suffer horribly.

The boy asks Jack a question about demons and Jack explains that demons are black smoke that possesses people. The girls are smugly curious, so Jack shows them an angel blade. Jack demonstrates some moves, not all of them good, and the girls are even more smug. Seriously, does anybody really like this new and unnecessary group of redshirts?

Back to the MOTW, the Brothers are in the woods at night, trying to figure out how the find the MOTW and also how to kill it. The sheriff gets the drop on them, but only temporarily. After asking him about the Kohonta (and his denial), Dean disarms him.

Aaaaannnd we are back to Jack trying to demonstrate throwing and angel sword like Dean. Unable to do so, he resorts to TKing it. I’m sure this will end well. The kids are impressed at first, when Jack starts whipping the angel blade around, but then they start yelling at him to stop and the brunette (Lord, she really is a moron, isn’t she?) runs right into it while attempting to flee. The blonde screams at Jack to get away from her, even after Jack heals her. Then they all run away after yelling at him some more to stay away from them, including geek boy.

I really hate these brats. I hope they don’t come back. I’m afraid they probably will, though, since they’re in the same town. Ugh.

Back to the Brothers (gee, I hope we’re sticking with this storyline now). The Brothers are asking the sheriff about the Kohonta. He says he thought it was just a local legend until Barbara died and he saw the thing. Cue a cheesy flashback. The sheriff says there was a white family that came in early in the Colonial period. They had a bad winter. Only the son survived – he ate his family and then went after the sheriff’s Native American tribe, whistling. So, the tribe cursed him to eat or have his body eat itself, and forced him to be confined to the woods. But since then, people have forgotten about the curse and now wander in the cursed woods.

The Brothers give the sheriff the Talk. His first reaction is anger that they’ve kept monsters a secret from the world. He thinks they should go public. Dean says it doesn’t work that way. Sam tells the sheriff that even when people know about monsters and how to kill them, they still often end up dead.

At that moment, the sheriff’s son calls him, saying he’s going into the woods to hunt the “coyote.” The sheriff begs the Brothers for help and the three of them go looking for the son, hoping to find him before he finds the MOTW. Well … that’s not quite how that goes.

The kid is investigating an old cabin when the MOTW knocks him through a door and knocks him out. The sheriff goes after it and fights the monster, but gets bitten instead. Sam shoots it, but is also attacked. Dean rescues the sheriff, then discovers that the MOTW really hates his flashlight. Dean lures it out onto the porch, where the sheriff stabs it in the heart. It then … uh … melts.

The sheriff checks on his moron of a son. Sadly, the kid is still alive. They have a brief heart-to-heart and the sheriff reassures his son (who is being carried off in an ambulance) that everything’s fine.

The sheriff talks to the Brothers and Sam tells him he should give his son the Talk. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll turn out well. Dean doesn’t think so. Sam thinks they should be honest with Jack. Dean says Jack said he was “fine.” Sam gets pissy (some things never change) and says that they as kids always told John they were “fine” and they were lying. Except that Wee!Sam never exactly held back about his negative feelings with John.

Anyhoo, after they return to the Bunker, they explain to Jack that they wanted to wait before taking him out on a Hunt until he had control back over his powers. Jack is honest about why he couldn’t get the beer (no legit ID), but lies to Sam about using his powers while they were away (Dean has gone to get beer). There’s an ominous whoosh on the soundtrack as we go to black.

Credits

Ratings for this week were a standard 0.4/2 and 1.46 million in audience. That’s rather low compared to past seasons of the  show, but it’s downright fabulous compared to the rest of the network. The CW’s gonna miss this show.

The promo and synopsis for tomorrow night’s episode are here.

Review

With the announcement that the show was ending coming right after this episode came out, I had mixed feelings. I’ve been watching this show a long time (my first, and nearly last, first-run episode was “No Exit” waaaaayyyy back in season two). I’ve been commenting on (season three) and reviewing it (season four) almost as long as that. That’s over a decade of being an active saltgunner. I can’t say I’m ready to let it go right this moment. Maybe by this time next year, when we’re a month away from the end of the show real, I will be (Lord knows I’ve got other things in life to do), but not right now.

So, I will continue to do these recaps and reviews until the end (and if there’s a spinoff, I will at least try it out with recapping and reviewing). And I will catch up on the retro recap/reviews of seasons 9-12. I’ll try to get the Codices for the rest of the seasons out by the time the show ends (at least on Kindle), but a lot depends on how much time I’ll have between now and then. Gotta feed the kitties and pay the bills.

It’s kind of funny that people still want to see these. When I started out doing these live recaps on IMDb, practically no one was recapping shows (reviewing, sure, but only the first few seasons and not with blow-by-blow action). Now, recaps are a standard thing. Thanks for sticking by mine and I’m glad you’re enjoying them so much.

But back to the review.

As I said above, getting the announcement on top of this episode gave me a lot of mixed feelings. This show’s biggest weakness has always been its writing and I mean that at the showrunner level: character arcs, pacing, pointless retcons, dropped plots, that sort of thing. That’s been true of every showrunner. Sometimes, the writing is great. Sometimes, it’s terrible.

This season, it’s been all over the place, as though no one is really at the wheel. We had a great, thrilling and satisfying mytharc episode (“Nihilism”) just six episodes ago. “Don’t Go in the Woods” had the potential to be a great old-school Supernatural MOTW, even if the MOTW in question was basically a fake, localized version of a Wendigo. From Iowa.

I did quite like how the episode took Adam Beach’s character (the sheriff), acknowledged the actor’s Native American background in the script, and incorporated it while avoiding Vanishing Native American or any Angry PoC tropes. The sheriff narrates the arrival of the Colonial family over a century before as new neighbors who happened to be European, who had a really bad winter, and who had a Bad Seed who attacked the locals already there after killing and eating his own family.

The sheriff also acknowledges that it maybe wasn’t the best idea for his ancestors to give in to their desire for revenge and curse the guy to a horrible immortality as a sort of monster-ghost rather than just kill him. In their defense, though, they were a thriving community at the time and couldn’t have known that their culture would crash so badly within a few generations that important knowledge about the dangers of those woods would be lost and discredited.

Sadly, every time the episode built up a little creep, it cut back to the utterly stupid bilge that was the B plot involving Shiny!Powers!Baby!Jack and the kids nobody ever needed to see again from the 300th episode. Now, I get that early MOTWs of the show had equally rushed and flat backstory (go rewatch, say, “Bloody Mary,” for example) and one-shot characters whose motivations didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But that was 13 seasons ago and the show has improved on that score quite a bit. The only excuse for the lack of background here was the “necessity” of shoving in a mytharc-y B story in a minor key. Said subplot had a completely different mood from the A story, that also utterly ruined the pacing of the entire episode.

These kids … dear Lord. Perez isn’t a very good writer in the first place (his side characters are paper thin, his characterization of the Brothers is dated and awful, and he can’t be arsed to do a lick of actual research), but the way he and new writer Nick Vaught write these kids sets a new low.

I get the impression the show is trying to portray these three as worthy successors to Sam and Dean, by showing them as low-level grifters. Unfortunately, while younger characters like Alex, Claire and even Kaia had reasons for stealing and lying to get by, these kids don’t. They have comfortable homes and lives. The two girls live on Planet Lesbos where no homophobia exists in their version of the Midwest. Meanwhile, their geeky male bud just sits nearby and complains about their making out instead of avidly watching. Is he gay, too? Who the hell knows? The show doesn’t seem to know or care, either.

So, their stealing the Impala, mocking Jack and the Brothers, making ageist jokes, and sitting around getting drunk in an abandoned house with all the amenities just makes them look like entitled little sociopaths. Someone sure has a big grudge against teens, while trying to write them at the same time. Ugh.

Another problem here is that the episode clearly wants to set up a debate between whether it’s better to lie or to be honest about unpleasant truths, then come down hard on the side of brutal honesty. The sheriff’s story with his son, Jack lying to Sam, Sam complaining to Dean about lying to Jack, these all point to that conclusion with their unpleasant consequences and bleak implications.

But then you have the kids’ reactions to Jack showing off his powers. In the first glow of discovery, they eagerly pump Jack for info about the super-secret underground lair he lives in with the Brothers. And in the first glow of finding friends who at least look his age, Jack happily obliges.

Then, as they lose interest, the girls become mocking bullies, while the boy (Eliot) grows ever more geek-obsessive. Finally, when the reality of the dangers of the supernatural world sets in, they freak out and reject its representative (Jack) – blindly and violently. Sure, this is an obvious lift from the Creature’s story in Frankenstein. But it also flatly contradicts the message of the rest of the episode, instead supporting Dean’s ongoing assertion that most people cannot handle the fallout from the Talk.

There’s a line from “Ghostfacers”  that’s very appropriate, considering the kids are practically mainlining Ed and Harry’s videos early in the episode. With Sam leading up the lesson so his brother can tee it off, Dean tells the Ghostfacers at the end (when they still want to sell their story as a TV show) that the only thing telling the world about the supernatural gets you is “a straitjacket. Or a punch in the face. Sometimes both. “

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence from the script for this episode that the writers intended this kind of twist or ambiguity in their subtext. We really are supposed to believe that honesty is the best policy, just as we are supposed to believe that the Brothers’ Secreth and Lieth will lead to Jack’s going darkside. Except that it’s too much honesty and his own naivete that get him rejected in the first place!

The cold, hard reality is that this storyline is a massive snooze button slapped for random reasons in a random spot in the season on the entire Dean!Michael storyline that was going somewhere scary like a freight train … until suddenly, it wasn’t. But the state of Jack’s soul is not really all that up in the air. Obviously, he still has a hefty chunk of it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have gotten into this mess in the first place and it wouldn’t have left him with hurt feelings.

You can’t have it both ways, Show. Either Jack has enough of a soul left to feel pushed to the dark side by rejection or he doesn’t have a soul and therefore, doesn’t give a hoot. And if it’s the latter, then this already-crappy B plot was completely pointless.


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The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

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Season 10

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The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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5 thoughts on “The Official Supernatural: “Don’t Go in the Woods” (14.16) Live Recap Thread”

  1. Would have been more interesting if Jack wasn’t able to resurrect the Townie Teen but still burned up some soul in the process. Are they ever going to learn that they can’t write teens worth a damn. Seriously. This episode could have been so much better. Plot A while predictable was a welcome old time hunt. (And Adam Beech! Yay! Windtalkers anybody?) Plot B was a horrible painful mess. I like Jack but he is starting to wear thin. Partly because of the way they’ve been writing him lately and partly because I resent that they gave the Michael Arc to him. Stripped it from Dean in such a crappy way and handed it to him. If I’m perfectly honest with myself – something broke in me when I watched that episode. We of the “Oh No Dabb Didn’t!” Club. Do it again that is. Ruin another Dean storyline that had SO MUCH POTENTIAL. Crank up the excitement and terror with Michael possessing Dean once more and the threat of the Malok Box and then… like you said Paula – it’s as if it never happened. I’m so disgusted. So I’ll watch. But I won’t get my hopes up or expect anything else for Season 15 other than more of the same Lamborghini wreckage by Dabb. Jensen and Jared deserve more. So much more. So do we.

    1. Adam Beach is very underrated. I wonder if his character might come back.

      I worry those kids might be coming back. Between Dabb and the Nepotism Duo, nobody seems to know how to plot a season, anymore.

      Remember this scene from The Birdcage? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITbHVOlM2Mo

      There are so many times I want to tell Dabb and the writers, “Try more gum!”

  2. I still can’t quite believe we’re getting boring dreck like THIS when a Michael!Dean story was so perfectly set up by the midseason return. The structure of this season is just baffling. Even if Michael circles back around by the finale, we’ll still have wasted a bunch of time on the boring misadventures of God-powered Nougat Boy instead of an actually compelling story that was RIGHT. THERE. I just don’t get it. The stakes are completely gone. We’re just twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the inevitable point when Jack goes over the edge and something finally HAPPENS again.

    Could the abrupt shifting of gears have something to do with the series ending? I’m not sure that would adequately account for the complete whiplash between 14.10 and 14.14, though.

    1. I know, right? But even if they knew beforehand that the show was ending (it sounds as though Ackles, Padalecki and Collins actually told the crew first), why would the writers give us this undercooked tripe?

      I like Jack, but I hate his superpowers. His superpowers are extremely boring and they turn Sam and Dean into spectators in their own story. The thing with Michael, whenever he was obsessing over Dean, was that the Dean!Michael story put the Brothers front and center in that story. Dean struggling with Michael changed his whole relationship with Sam. And Sam got (forced) to do stuff he’d never had to do before, like lead other Hunters.

      Jack with sparkly powers is All About Jack and only a minority of the fandom is, I think, okay with that. Surely, the show learned a decade ago from having to depower Castiel that having a major recurring character with more than low-level, or highly problematical (with huge consequences for their use), powers doesn’t work. It lowers the stakes drastically and there is only so much you can do with a superpowered baby, anyway.

      The writers need to regroup and give some hard thought over the break how they are going to do the final season. I sure as hell hope it won’t be All About Jack or, worse, ignoring the main characters in favor of setting up a new spinoff. I’m fine with a spinoff, but a final season should blow the doors off the Winchesters’ story, since this will be its final hurrah.

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