Supernatural 9.04 – Slumber Party With the SPN Family!
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!
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!
And Tumblr gave us this fabulous depiction of the straight-out-of-fanfic scene:
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.
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.”
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!