Friday, December 8, 2006


Eric Kripke is trying to kill me.


From the previews, tonight's episode seemed to promise zombies. Instead we got something entirely different.

Penned by John Shiban (The X-Files, Enterprise), "Croatoan" (and yes, that's Croatoan, not Croatian, as both IMDB and my DVR are trying to convince everybody) proved to be a taut, claustrophobic episode reminiscent of "Ice," from Season One of The X-Files. People are being infected, going crazy, and slaughtering each other in a small town in Oregon. The Winchester boys' only clue is the word "Croatoan" carved on a tree. Sam recalls this as the only clue left behind after the disappearance of the Lost Colony at Roanoke . Dean doesn't make the connection because apparently everything he knows, he learned from Schoolhouse Rock. (I will not judge. I passed my US Constitution test in Jr. High by singing, "We the people...")

Theorizing that the insanity is being caused by demonic germ warfare, the boys try to control the situation. Dean responds by shooting down half a family in near-cold blood. They're infected, so they're not human, so they die. He doesn't even think twice. Sam confronts him--Dean is crossing the line, he says, not thinking enough about what he's doing. This leads to a confrontation over the fate of one Duane Tanner (Da-wayne in Dean-speak...), who was originally brought to us courtesy of Sam-O-Vision. Sam argues against killing him until they're certain he's infected. Dean argues in favor of killing him before he becomes dangerous. In the end, Dean stays his hand, and Duane proves not to have been infected.

Then the unthinkable happens. Sam is exposed. And we find out what this episode is really about. While Sam puts on a brave if tearful front, offering to kill himself so Dean doesn't have to, Dean settles in to meet their shared fate. He won't leave Sam, no matter how much Sam begs:

Sam: You can keep going.
Dean: Who says I want to?

Dean is tired. And broken. Dean gives up his car (his car!) to save the others so he can stay with his brother. In this beautifully underplayed scene, a tearful Sam confronts Dean about the changes he's seen since their dad's death. But Sam, of course, doesn't understand that the weight on Dean's shoulders isn't the job, isn't the death of their father, but is instead the knowledge John passed to Dean before he died. And Dean promised John he wouldn't tell.

Five hours later, Sam's blood is still clean, and the town is completely deserted. The Tanner samples are clean now, too, now that time has gone by. Dean is more angry than relieved, because they don't understand what's going on. This sudden resolution of the Monster of the Week seems anticlimactic--but that's because we haven't gotten to the actual climax yet.

Elsewhere, Duane is on his way out of town, with one of the other townspeople. He says has to make a call. But there's no phone service... And before you can say Yellow-Eyed-Demon, Duane bleeds Sarge, just like Meg did the trucker back in "Scarecrow", and makes his "call" with the silver chalice. No more tests are necessary, he says. The Winchester boy is immune as expected, and nothing has been left behind. So the destruction of the town was a setup by the Yellow-Eyed Demon and his cronies, specifically to test their demonic virus and whether Sam, as one of the Favored Children, would be immune to it. But what exactly were they up to? Would the Tanners have returned to normal if Dean hadn't shot them, or would they have been disappeared by the demons like the rest of the town? Was Duane, after all, the only person Dean should have taken out? Or would it have made no difference? If Dean had shot him, the demon probably would have just body-switched to someone else. And why did Dean finally back off? Was he truly questioning his own judgment, or did the demon manage to comple him not to shoot?

In a quietly emotional denouement, Sam prods Dean again about what's bothering him. Dean's assertion that they should take a break, go to the Grand Canyon, try to bang Lindsay Lohan, is made all the more poignant by the fact that we know they won't. (Especially that Lindsay Lohan thing, cause... eww.) And finally Dean drops the bomb. That before he died, John told him something about Sam. With Sam's pained demand to know what, the episode ends.

And the show won't be back until January. Will Dean even spill the secret then? I have a feeling he will, because Dean's way to avoid answers is to just clam up, and once he starts to talk, he generally finishes. So, with luck, will get some answers in...gah...three or four weeks?!

I really hate cliffhangers...