I had not watched this one in a very long time. It was slower and more sweet and sensitive than I remember. I give ALL the credit to Colin Ford. His young Sam was FLAWLESS. Perfection. Sweet, tough, standing up for the underdog, full of self-doubt….so so so good. I was always less impressed with the job that teen Dean did. I guess maybe not the fault of the actor…Dean is so full of subtlety and it makes sense that he tried to put on even more of a stereotypical macho persona in high school…but I didn’t like it. We saw teen Dean very much the same way the other high school girls saw him; all bravado and nothing of depth when we know that Dean is the exact opposite.
But Sam. Young Sam broke my heart and to get a glimpse of him becoming popular after standing up to Dirk (though even THAT is all layered with complexity as we find out that, of course, the bully had been bullied – maybe after he was the bully first – but he had struggles too) – then having to leave. But he had a glimpse of how good school could be for him; he was the hero for a moment, not the freak. And he barely got to enjoy it.
I LOVE it when Sam takes Dirk down. You KNOW Sam had been trained and could probably kill another human at that point and so you know that Dirk is playing with fire and I love it when Sam just GOES for him. In defense of someone else. To have a teacher encourage Sam to follow his own heart and how heartbreaking it is for him to come back later and not be able to say he’s happy now. UGH.
The ghost possession part of the story was much less interesting to me, but it was okay. And I also liked the classic SPN sprinkling of humor; gym teacher Dean (and people STILL dress up like that for cons and photos!)…Dean commenting that the last ghost-possessed jock that attacked Sam and then collapsed on him was giving Sam “the full cowgirl”. It had everything a good Supernatural episode has.
But on rewatch it was so touching to me. All thanks to Colin Ford in this one. Probably my favorite child actor ever.
Another excellent glance at Sam and Dean’s childhood or formative experiences in this case.
As well as a great glimpse at the hell of high school life with all the usual characters from bullies to freaks, but with a SPN twist.
So many wonderful layers here as you say, JBB, ESPECIALLY for Sam and Colin Ford is amazing in making us feel all the ups and downs.
Sam writing a “non-fiction” essay about the werewolf hunt was really telling to me. On the one side he knew no one would believe it so why not tell the truth. He believed the grade he would get didn’t matter because he wouldn’t stay around long enough for it to make any difference (and by extension, I guess, he grades were/ could be always faked to something needed when entering the next school? Yeah, yeah….John loves his boys and would do everything for them including faking school papers. LOL.). In a way it’s almost like Sam dared for someone to question it or look deeper into his background? Not to actively get away from John and Dean, but he does say that “more than anything” he doesn’t want to get into the family business. He’s just tired of being dragged around without say and without ever getting to stay anywhere long enough to make any difference.
I disagree with you, JBB, on the way Dean is portrayed here. I DO like it as it is equally telling to me. And I thought the actor did a fine job with it.
Dean is the polar opposite of Sam at the beginning. He feels superior coming into the new school. He is sure of his worth, knows he’s a hero, not JUST to his little brother. He lays it on THICK with the teachers and the girls. I can buy that from a cocky teen-aged Dean. However, I also always thought that Dean is very aware that Sam suffers from the constant change of schools and circumstances and that part of his bravado is put on for Sam’s benefit…..kinda showing his little brother how to deal with it all.
Dean’s behavior is clearly laid out to work for a specific time period. He gets in “charms” his way through a couple of weeks, impresses the girls and then plans to be out before making any longer term gestures like meeting parents etc. He says himself “he doesn’t do parents”. Being there longer than expected totally throws his plans akimbo.
On top of THAT Sam all of a sudden doesn’t seem to need his protection anymore – at least not in school. Sam stood up for himself (and Gary) and asked Dean to step off wanting to deal with it himself.
So we have a really interesting shift in the dynamic here. Sam suddenly feels seen and valued while Dean is pitied and discounted. A novel experience for them both. Sam is growing into himself and Dean’s normal M.O. is leaving him hanging for once.
Dean’s reaction once he is found out about kissing girl# 2 in the janitor’s closet and then told by Amanda that she feels sorry for him because his cool crap is just a facade is heartbreaking to me, too. She says that she thought that there is more to Dean because of the way he is with his little brother, and we, the audience, know that she is RIGHT, that he IS so much more than what he puts out for the world to see!!! So him lashing out at her and embarassing himself by shouting that he’s a hero etc is really painful to watch, but it’s also a rare glimpse at him being caught off guard and giving a raw reaction.
I thought all that was terrifically done.
And it obviously left an impression on them both as we see in the scenes that play in the NOW. After they salt-n-burn Gary Dean says that he’s amazed how many people Sam remembers from the school and that he was glad they got out of that town because he hated that school. If he didn’t remember his humiliation there he probably wouldn’t even recall details about their stay there, I would venture. Sam on the other hand laments that he wasn’t there to possibly help Gary further and maybe keep him from killing himself. And then Sam finds out that the nickname he gave Dirk stuck around and got Dirk bullied thereafter, probably making him feel a little guilty.
It is sweet and sad, but also shows an important short period in Sam’s and Dean’s development and characters.
Really good episode in my book.
PNP – okay, yes, I did love the “swap” where Dean comes in “cool” and leaves completely thrown off his game since he was there long enough for girlfriend #1 to see right through all of his bravado. Sam comes in apprehensive and leaves “cool”.
Dean calling the teacher “sweetheart” is so cringe-worthy! Utter disrespect (which kinda surprised me coming from being John’s son…but he was trying to show the class he didn’t give a shit about authority). Loved it when Barry said, “Your brother’s so COOL!” and Sam replies, “HE thinks so.”
Dean WOULD like to step in and defend Sam, but he also questioned Sam at first as to why he didn’t fight back because Dean knows that Sam knows how to.
I just did not like the job that Brock (the actor) did with Dean at that age. Maybe he was trying to imitate Jensen TOO much (but later teen Dean did a much better job in the one about the boy’s home, so it’s possible to research and try to imitate and do it well). It’s hard to explain. Like, I am so used to how subtle Jensen is as an actor. I feel like Jared’s subtle qualities were PERFECTLY replicated by Colin Ford, somehow…stellar casting? Colin seemed too young to have done a lot of “research” but maybe not! He did it perfectly. I completely bought that we were looking at Sam when young. I did not buy that we were looking at Dean. I liked the STORY of Dean’s experience way back when at that school; it was very well-crafted and there was definitely character development in story. I just could not buy Brock as Dean. He DID have the Dean eyelashes!
The more I think about this one the more I love the heartbreaking complexity. It’s so black and white in school. Villain and victim. Weak and strong. Then you listen to Dirk’s father talk about him and how he cared for his dying mom and what a great kid his dad thought he was and you realize how complicated it is and life is all gray areas.
The interaction with Sam and his teacher. I wondered if his story was a bit of a cry for help, but he would never really want to leave Dean and his dad. Not then. BUT, to have someone value what he’s interested in; school, writing, skills outside of hunting, he could not have helped but to have wanted to perhaps dream about the possibility of a different life. A teacher who actually took an interest in him and how he felt; not in how good his hunting skills were or how well he could fly under the radar and stay out of trouble…that had to be new for Sam and Colin played him as happily hopeful and surprised when the teacher told him he was getting and “A” on his story.
I did not remember how touching this episode was. It was really good.