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Supernatural 9.04 – Slumber Party With the SPN Family!

October 31, 2013
Property of Warner Bros/The CW

Property of Warner Bros/The CW

Happy Halloween, SPN Family! We loved this week’s episode – it felt like the quirky, zany, fun episode that we needed after the heartbreak of last week’s episode. We were swept along as the story played out, laughing sometimes and gasping at others, and though it wasn’t really scary, there was enough suspense to keep us on board as we went along for the ride. And really, a story about Oz and the Wicked Witch? Perfect for Halloween!

The entire set up of the episode encouraged a suspension of disbelief, so we had no trouble believing the Winchesters’ ready acceptance of Oz’s existence (when you’ve been shown that everything from the devil to the tooth fairy are real, why not Oz?). Yes, it was a little weird that Dean suddenly wanted Kevin somewhere else, but we put that down to Kevin being a bit stir crazy and Dean wanting some family time with his little brother. After all, he came home with Game of Thrones and take-out (nice nod to Jared’s real life affection for GoT). There are few things we love more than Winchester domesticity, and this episode delivered – Winchesters and Charlie binge watching GoT in Sam’s bedroom (talk about a scene right out of fanfic!), Dean being all house-proud about cleaning the kitchen, Baby in the amazing garage. Not to mention the theme that ran through all the storylines of this episode – the longing we all have for someplace to call home. We’re saying awww again just thinking about it.

It’s been bugging us, and a lot of other fans, that people keep insisting that the bunker is a home for Dean, but for Sam, it’s more a place of work. Sam’s reluctance to put down roots is understandable considering his past trauma. Every time he started to make a home, he lost it. He was uprooted, and people died. Endure that kind of repeated loss, and you start to think it’s safer not to want a home at all. Keep moving, and maybe that will minimize the tragedy. It’s understandable, but it’s also very sad. Of all people, Sam deserves a home, something he’s never had. We all do.

Luckily, the Impala has been there for most of Sam’s life, so – in the immortal words of Kripke – Sam and Dean were never truly homeless. But even she doesn’t allow them to put down roots, and we’ve seen Sam long for that more than once. The brothers themselves are the closest thing each has to home, which for all of us is defined as much by who we’re close to as where we reside. I think Sam does know he has Dean, that Dean has his back and always will. But allowing that sort of emotional dependence and vulnerability is difficult for Sam, since he’s had so much loss. Dean has been taken away from Sam more than once, and the hunting life means it could easily happen again.

Dean, too, has struggled with his desire for a home and his conflicting need to be independent and keep moving, keep on the road. After trying and failing to establish some permanency with Lisa and Ben, Dean seems to have realized where his place in life is, and who the family is that he wants around him. His brother, of course, and the others who’ve become ‘found family’ for Dean. It may not be the traditional family, but it’s no less important and validating. Many people can relate to the sense of ‘created family’, and have built the same sort of connections, the ones we all need to get through life. Sam, at the beginning of this episode, is still resisting that pull; he’s still afraid to count on what his brother is offering. And that’s heartbreaking.

By the end of the episode, Sam seems ready to take the psychological leap to calling the bunker home, and the emotional leap to acknowledge its value. When he turns to Dean, a soft smile on his face, and says “There’s no place like home,” Dean – and we – know exactly what he means.

As for me, as soon as Jared nailed that line and Jensen nailed Dean’s reaction, I turned to the screen and squealed, “Thank you Robbie Thompson!”

We’ve been eagerly awaiting this episode. It was filmed when we were in Vancouver, and we were able to watch them film some of the scenes that took place in the past. Of course we couldn’t share anything we saw until the episode aired — like many fans, we’re protective of Show (and slightly spoiler phobic too). The episode’s writer, Robbie Thompson, was there along with the director (the uber talented Bob Singer) and the director of photography (the amazing Serge Ladouceur) to work their magic. Every time we’ve been on set, the way the cast and crew kid around has clearly been what keeps the long days from being onerous, and that day was no exception. Nobody loses their sense of humor, even when a scene takes a lot longer than anticipated to shoot. In between takes, Bob and Serge would leave the ‘video village,’ where they’d been directing from headsets and monitors, to give the cast and crew direction. A few times, Robbie was called in too, to consult about dialogue. The video village, or ‘circus’, started out in the lab, then moved to the bunker’s kitchen – the crew is so fast and efficient that they picked up the entire thing, monitors, chairs, light poles, whatever, and just moved it down the hall to another room in a matter of minutes. Very impressive!

We’re big fans of Serge, who’s responsible for making Supernatural look so gorgeous, so watching them film in black and white was a treat. The bunker is so beautiful, with amazing architecture that casts intricate shadows, that it lends itself perfectly to black and white. The VFX guy engineered the fade to color for the present day shots on the spot, which was surprisingly complicated and took some time. It was a beautiful effect in the finished episode. Some of the scenes were challenging to shoot. In the scene where Jenkins is killed, props wizard Robyn had to keep stepping in between takes with a tube of the fake blood the actors love so much (not…) and bloody poor Jenkins up. It was also rather amusing to see him walking around between takes with a knife sticking out of him. Ouch! The close up shot of the witch’s hands breaking the leather belt binding her was only seconds long in the episode, but took far longer to film. The leather belt proved a lot tougher than expected, so scoring it with a razor just enough was a challenge. Also, the witch’s nails? SO gross. We ran into the actress in the hallway and told her so, which prompted her to wave them in Lynn’s face and protest “Oh come on, they’re awesome!” Which prompted Lynn to run away. She would so fail as a hunter.

What really was awesome, as everyone has said, is the bunker itself. You can literally get lost roaming around its hallways and into its many rooms, and the level of detail is amazing. Lynn was excited to find an actual Psychopathology text from 1939 on the library’s shelves, and there were cans of pumpkin pie filling on the shelves in the kitchen. We think Dean must have been cleaning up the kitchen after baking one of his favorite things, right?

Other fun facts – Dorothy dragged the witch (in a body bag) all the way down the stairs, though they didn’t end up using the footage. And there really was a (heavily padded) stunt woman in the bag. Ouch! Lou Bollo stepped in to choreograph the fight scene between Jenkins and Haggerty, which also took quite a while to get right. It’s strangely intimate to watch that kind of fight scene, the two men very close up on one another, frozen there for long seconds and tangled together, and the scene very emotional. We found ourselves reaching for a tissue a few times as Jenkins died again and again and again. Poor Jenkins!

Warner Bros/The CW - cap homeofthenutty

Warner Bros/The CW – cap homeofthenutty

With SPN, the reactions of the rest of the ‘family’ when an episode airs are as important to our experience of the Show as the episode itself. It’s becoming a tradition for the cast and crew and fans to all jump on Twitter and watch the show together, adding to the feeling of family.

Robbie Thompson tweeted: This episode shot during VanCon – it was great to meet SPNFamily there!

The actors joked back and forth with each other the same way they do on set.

Felicia Day: I love how @Jarpad plays Sam so earnestly and serious, and then he’s always so fun laughing off camera.

Jared joked back: Tattle-tale!

Robbie gave us little bits of ad libbed dialogue: That little “got it” and the “voila” were added by Jensen and Jared.

Jared tweeted: I love the tension between the brothers when one is lying to the other.

Writer Adam Glass responded: Oh, that’s what’s going on? Wish someone told me before I wrote three episodes!

Felicia Day tweeted like a fangirl (and that’s our highest compliment):

Felicia: OhGod, I forgot how you guys kept making me crack up about that “In tents” joke hahaha. SO STUPID.

Felicia: freeze frame and Charlie has a porn square. Hehe hehe

Felicia: There was actual porn in that box and I was like “WHOAH THIS IS PORNY 70S PORN!”

Felicia: In the script it was BeckyWinchester69 hehe

(Robbie, you naughty boy, you. No wonder we love you!)

Osric Chau joined in the episode’s gender-norm defiance with this tweet:

Osric: On my wish list — Let Kevin take a joy ride in any of those cars. Or those shoes for that matter.

We love Osric!

The cast and crew like to tweet their admiration back and forth too, which is pretty damn heartwarming.

Robbie gave Jared props for his acting when Becky was mentioned.

Robbie: Sam’s reaction to Becky…epic…a great example of Jared taking what’s on the page and making it 100 times funnier.

Jared also congratulated the VFX crew on their amazing effects. And we admit to cracking up at this tweet:

Superwiki: So its official – Sam and Dean are Friends of Dorothy!

LOL

And Tumblr gave us this fabulous depiction of the straight-out-of-fanfic scene:

by yelloweyedcrowley on tumblr

by yelloweyedcrowley on tumblr

We agree with Felicia, who tweeted that Dorothy was a kickass character – Amelia Earhart meets Indiana Jones. And she wasn’t dressed in Daisy Dukes and a midriff top either! It was great to see a couple of female characters who are fleshed out and gutsy and real – and who get to save the Winchesters’ asses for a change. It was the men who were possessed and the women who had to save them. YES! The episode subverted gender roles, with Dean cooking and cleaning, and Dorothy riding a motorcycle and kicking butt along with Charlie. The partnership and the flirty vibe between the women, instead of the tired old women-always-catfight trope, was refreshing. And Tiio Horn was perfect. By the way, is this one of the few times SPN has met the Bechdel test?? If so, an extra cookie for Robbie Thompson.

“Batman voice?” was Felicia’s favorite line. We have to admit that we cracked up when that happened, partly because of the nod to how fandom often teases about Jensen’s low-pitched Dean voice, and partly because Sam and Dean looked so damn robotic and sounded so damn funny. Hopefully that was intentionally funny – if not? Sorry, boys!

Another special thing about “Slumber Party” is the way it blurred the lines between Show and fandom in a unique way – the episode was essentially Wizard of Oz fanfiction! It was literally a “transformative work” in every definition of the word, a work that adds new meaning and messages to another person’s story (just like the book and musical Wicked did too). How cool is that?? (Thanks to @Heidi8 for the insight – love how fandom discussion of an episode expands our understanding of it in so many ways!)

No episode is perfect. There were a few things that made us cock an eyebrow a little. Sam’s quip to Dean about reading books that don’t have pictures was one of them, since it’s been established that Dean reads Vonnegut and Sam has spent a fair amount of time trying to convince Dean that he’s smart. But the brothers love to poke at each other, so we put that down to Sam doing the little brother thing of trying to get a dig in. Dean having an angel in his pocket (again!) could easily get old, and we still love Charlie but hope she doesn’t get so perfect that she’s veering dangerously close to being Charlie Sue (we’ll never get enough of her fangirl ways though, which are essentially Thompson’s positive and normalizing comments on fan practices like fanfic, collecting and cosplay — keep doing that!). The eyebrow cocking moments were small things compared to what was most important.

What matters to me is that at the end of the episode, I had a smile on my face, a tissue in my hand, and a warm feeling all over. AC/DC was playing “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You,” Charlie and Dorothy were headed for adventure together, and Sam and Dean were exchanging a fond look – in their home.

Warner Bros/The CW

Warner Bros/The CW

That’s what it’s all about.

Jared tweeted an alternate title card for this episode which read: “This is for the SPNFamily whose dedication and love drive us to continue creating this wonderful world keeping up the Family Business.”

xx 9.045

Maybe Maya Angelou (as quoted after this episode on Tumblr, of course) said it best: The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

For many fans, that’s exactly what SPN Fandom is. It’s what we wrote about in “Fangasm” and “Fandom At The Crossroads”. It’s what we’re passionate about.

For more Supernatural behind the scenes adventures, you can order our new book “Fangasm” with the link at the top of this page. Happy Halloween to our own ‘found family’, the SPN Family – there really is no place like home!

21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2013 11:19 pm

    Agree, the “Dean calling on Ezekiel to get them out of a jam” thing is getting a bit played out…but Jared changing character on the fly like that was incredible.

    Thanks for your insight. I’m a new follower and have only dipped my toe into the fandom but I’ve loved the show for years and enjoy getting other people’s perspectives.

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:44 pm

      I’m just hoping it won’t get used too often – so far so good, and I like that Zeke himself is warning of the risk of overuse. And you’re so right, Jared’s acting is amazing — the “Samzekiel slide” from character to character is brilliantly done.

  2. November 1, 2013 12:25 am

    I normally agree with you but this time, I just can’t. this episode was ridiculous and not worthy of the writers, the actors nor the fans. I hope they get back to chasing people, hunting things and stop this drivel. I love this show too much to see it become THIS. That being said, the Boys, as always, looked fabulous and Charlie is always a great addition.

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:45 pm

      This seems to be one of those polarizing episodes that fans either loved or hated, perhaps because some people crave a break from the angst and tension at times (I know I do, though at other times I’m impatient to ‘get back to it’). And yes, Charlie rocks and the boys looked fabulous, we totally agree on that!

  3. November 1, 2013 12:40 am

    This episode made me so happy. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Whatever tiny flaws I might see are also flaws of episodic hourly TV. But as with most of Supernatural it rises above those. The concept of home is a deep thread in Supernatural and the journey to home and understanding and accepting of home for Sam and Dean was played so beautifully on this episode. And the inclusion of great female characters who also talk to each other was brilliantly done. You have said everything so beautifully. Thank you.

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:46 pm

      You’re welcome! I love the layers of meaning surrounding the concept of home for the Winchesters, and for Cas and Kevin and Charlie too. And it was SO wonderful to have two well written female characters interact the way women do IRL (go figure!)

  4. Emily Prem permalink
    November 1, 2013 1:19 am

    Jared has been doing an amazing job of switching back and forth between Sam and Ezekiel! Job well done. And while I will always love Supernatural, I’m a little concerned with the story arc this season. In episode 3 Cas dies, is brought back to life by Zeke (who is still healing Sam but can cure the dead on command), then the very next episode Charlie dies and is broght back to life by Zeke, (again- having a hard time healing Sam but can cure the dead within seconds). These are favorite/major character deaths and it’s upsetting. Is it for ratings?

    And when did Dean start trusting everything that the angels say. We all know why he did it, but I’d be looking to my friend Cas who might be able to shed some light on his angel/brother problem. But he can’t because he kicked him out of the bunker seconds after Zeke told him to. This seems out of character for Dean.

    Lastly, when are the boys going to realize that lying to each other always gets them into trouble. The lying seems cliche now and I feel like we’re going down the same road again. While I have been largely enjoying the episodes, I hope the writters can swerve Baby out of the ditch. 🙂

    Wow, I don’t entirely know where that all came from? Sorry for the rant but I do feel slightly better. Thanks ladies for all the incredible works that you do. I love your live tweets from the various cons and your episode recaps. And I’m still reading your book! Keep on truckin’ and thanks for providing a safe place for me to let off some steam!

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:49 pm

      You’re welcome – thanks for your insights! I’m not sure Dean does entirely trust Zeke — I know most of *us* don’t! As for the brothers lying to each other, that seems to be one of the themes that the show explores, and even though it’s definitely frustrating for us to watch, it’s also part of who the Winchesters are and what their father taught them, unfortunately. I do love the way Jensen is playing the guilt that Dean feels about it though, that it’s not brushed under the rug as not taking a toll. I empathize with the dilemma he’s found himself in.

  5. November 1, 2013 7:57 am

    I really enjoyed the episode and I love how all major players atm where shown or at least were mentioned. Of course Kevin had to take a break from the bunker, or better from Crowley. Sam and Dean know better than to let Kevin wander around the storage rooms again. Sam did question Dean about why Cas had to leave and of course Dean knows that the longer Cas is around the more likely the beans get spilled. Trying to re-program the table to help Cas and then finding a computer only Charlie can handle – to me that’s quite plausible. There had been farther stretches in the past that just served the plot for plot’s sake. Dean lying to Sam again? Well, even Winchester’s don’t always learn from past mistakes and how could Dean possibly explain that he actually tricked Sam into saying yes (because that’s what’s going on since Jensen confirmed that it was Zeke saying the “there is no you…” line). To all the other points in this wonderful review I can only add: This!

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:51 pm

      I really do empathize with Dean’s dilemma right now, even though the way he got there was hard to watch. Jensen is portraying his guilt so acutely, while Jared is doing a great job of going back and forth between characters, and portraying Sam’s increasing suspicion and confusion. Such good actors, our boys!

  6. Sandra Ward permalink
    November 1, 2013 12:21 pm

    I agree that lying always leads to bad outcomes, but Dean’s decisions are based on his protecting family. If he tells Sam the truth, the very real possibility that Sam will choose death is something Dean cannot deal with. Dean’s choice of saving Charlie over banishing the witch (the choice Ezekiel posited for him) again is understandable. Family is important above all, and the boys (and girls) always find a way to banish the threats. That Ezekiel said he could not continue to bring people back from the dead limits his abilities to be the magic bullet. Just how he is affected by these miracles will be interesting to see. The writers, no doubt, know too much miracle healing is a bad thing, as they continually had to find a way to limit what Cas could do in the past. The episode was fun and funny. I loved it.

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:52 pm

      Agreed – Zeke warning about his healing powers not being a magic bullet is a good sign that everyone is on the same page about the perils of overuse. I too have a great deal of empathy for Dean’s dilemma at this point. What horrible choices he keeps having to make!

  7. Teresa permalink
    November 1, 2013 4:59 pm

    After the debacle of 903 – I just couldn’t get into the light and fluffy mood of 904. It was as jarring to the feel as the continuity issues were last week. That said – as much as I like strong female characters, Charlie saving the day has become trite. Additionally, her dying (especially in light of Sam and Cas dying already this season) makes light of what the Winchesters have gone through. Dorothy talking about how you’re not a hunter until you die once is a break in continuity. The brothers not staying dead is what set the hunting community against them.
    I think you being there when they filmed it may have skewed your objectivity in writing about this episode.

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:55 pm

      That is possible, since it definitely colors the way I look at an episode. I also think that fandom reacted in one of two ways to the emotional stress of 9.03 — either by wanting a light and fluffy episode to recover, or by finding it impossible to go along with a light and fluffy episode when the previous one was anything but. Both reactions make sense, and may be contributing to the divergent reactions to 9.04. (Of course when the writers planned the sequence, they didn’t know just how emotional the reaction to 9.03 would be).

  8. bjxmas permalink
    November 2, 2013 4:18 am

    Robbie Thompson is my fav Supernatural writer and I love that he is so imaginative and daring. I love the concept of an Oz episode and I loved the execution! Reading others’ concerns on plot points, I can see their concerns, but for me, I just go with the awesome ride they give me. This was fun and unexpected and I totally bought into it. I loved seeing more of the bunker and the transitions from past to present, from black and white to color, were brilliant!

    I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at Sam’s comment about Dean not reading. The whole idea of it gets old and yet, that is how brothers relate, how they tease and poke, so I let it pass without too much worry that it means anything substantial. Sometimes I just wish they didn’t rely on the expected there and surprised me with something new and different that we haven’t already heard.

    The notion of Zeke being able to consistently raise the dead and yet not being able to heal Sam had never occurred to me and yet it makes perfect sense, which means Zeke’s hold over Dean doesn’t… I hope Zeke is what he appears to be, the nice-guy angel helping out. Still, I’d like Dean to be more suspicious and not so easily led into doing what Zeke says he must. I get that he is scared for Sam, but I’d like to see more of the fighter in him, questioning and standing up to Zeke like he first did with Cas. Strong, defiant Dean is a fav flavor, even as he is set back on his heels by the powerful beings he is sparring with. I’ve always loved his interactions with Cas in S4 when they were first coming to terms and also his bold talks with Death.

    But back to Robbie’s fun romp! I loved Dorothy and the idea that she was a hunter and the story of her life in the Oz books isn’t what it actually was. Loved her talk with Sam and the idea that they can write their own story. True for their characters and also a subtle (or not so subtle) reference to the Supernatural writers writing their own story. I hate the idea of fans dictating where the story goes, I’d much rather be surprised and delighted by their quirky minds and boisterous spirit and refusal to be contained in the normal storytelling that most shows follow.

    I most want the writers to never be satisfied to simply sticking to what has worked in the past. I want them to expand the universe and take the Winchesters in new directions. Never abandoning the core of who they are, what they want or the struggles that will forever haunt them, but giving us more in addition to what we already know. Episodes like this give me that hope, that the inspiration is still there, that new concepts are forming and we have yet to see the end of this awesome ride!

    What we saw of Oz was glorious, the VFX were outstanding and while it is all fantastical, they sold me on the very existence of a magical key that can turn any door into a portal to Oz. Even the lore of the Wicked Witch and Dorothy’s sacrifice to bind her rang true enough for me. Maybe I wanted to believe, but believe I did and it made for a very enjoyable time with Sam and Dean and Charlie!

    Thanks again, ladies! Always a pleasure to share thoughts and hopes and dreams for our Winchesters.

    B.J.

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:57 pm

      I do think Dean has suspicions, he just feels very stuck in a position where he doesn’t dare give voice to them until Sam is no longer vulnerable. And I’m more suspicious of Zeke than ever….time will tell where that’s going🙂

      I love that the writers are still so excited about this show, and the actors and the crew are too. They still come up with innovative ideas like this one, and they still aren’t afraid to mix things up and take some risks, while still loving the characters and who they are. I think that bodes well for the next few years (hopefully)!

  9. Linda Lou permalink
    November 2, 2013 8:40 pm

    I LOVED this episode! I love that Supernatural takes the audience into THEIR world. Enjoy the ride! And I have to say I totally cracked up at Sam’s line to Dean about books without pictures because that is EXACTLY what I tease my sister about and when they said it we just looked at each other and said “NO WAY!!” and laughed our heads off. Like I said – enjoy the ride. I love “our boys”!!

    • spnfans permalink
      November 4, 2013 2:58 pm

      Haha, that’s how I saw the jab at Dean about not reading books without pictures too. We all know Dean is smart — Sam knows it, for sure — but that doesn’t stop the brotherly teasing.

  10. November 5, 2013 8:30 am

    This episode was definitely perfect for this Halloween and that witch certainly needed a manicure lol And yeah, Ezekiel can’t keep bailing Dean out, but this is I guess building up to a point where Dean will eventually break. It’s too much for him. He can’t shoulder everything. This recap was informative and I enjoyed your perspective. Thanks!🙂

    • spnfans permalink
      November 7, 2013 5:34 pm

      You’re welcome! And we agree, Dean is reaching his breaking point — we’re holding our breath to see what happens next (and possibly quaking with fear too, lol)

  11. Scarlett permalink
    November 10, 2013 2:15 am

    The line about books without pictures – that didn’t read to me as Sam making a more-literate-than-thou dig. I think he considers his brother to be as intelligent as he, maybe not quite as scholarly in some matters, but he’s no half-wit.

    Consider a quick visual inventory of Dean’s room. There are files, and ye old tomes scattered about, but those are more tools than something one would read for pleasure.

    What is the *only* reading material in Dean’s room remotely intended to be read for pleasure and relaxation? (Hint – it’s definitely richly illustrated.)

    There’s the retort to Charlie “Don’t judge me.” The whole conversation when Cas first met “The Pizza Man” about the unspoken rules applying to The Wonderfully Awkward World of Porn.

    Dean’s fond of his “paper dolls” and Sam, not so much. I took it as Sam teasing his brother about the magazines. He *has* done it before.

    I could be wrong. But hey, nobody issued me a syllabus at the start of the season, so #TeamFreeWill all the way, right? : )

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