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TV Review: Supernatural – “I Know What You Did Last Summer”

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Once upon a time, before there was an exciting fan convention in Chicago that completely dominated some of our lives, a somewhat epic and mind-boggling Supernatural episode aired. One that people in New York and New Jersey as well as other places (Mississippi?) couldn’t see until Saturday thanks to the NFL.

As I went back to write the review, I vaguely remembered the episode involved drunken Sam angst and hot demon monkey sex, but the rest was a blur. So I had to force myself to sit down and re-watch “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Yeah, that was tough. I’m back up to speed now and now that everyone has had a chance to see the episode, let’s review what we’ve learned.

Loved It!

I'm preparing everyone right now. I loved every bit of this episode. This will be a gush fest, especially over Jared's performance, the writing of Sera Gamble, and the directing of Charles Beeson, who can finally put one in the masterpiece category. It was all top notch and I'm about to tell you why, because that’s my job.

Sam focused episodes are always polarizing and get various factions of fans all in a twist. The problem is that Sam is a morally ambiguous character who often struggles with crossing fine lines. He’s not easily understood. Make him a completely broken and hopeless Sam whose repressed emotions are consuming him and stuff’s going to happen that ain’t right. That doesn’t make the drama any less compelling or fascinating to watch.

So, aside from Sam’s controversial, but sorely welcomed back story, what else made this episode so great? For one, the weaving between past and present events is brilliantly executed. The story is easy to follow and the pacing quick, so by the end I couldn’t believe it was over. Two, the introduction of Anna with her angel hotline and the visit from a demon earning the top executive pay grade upped the stakes of the apocalypse to scary new levels. Third, the story can’t go wrong with couple of vengeful angels thrown in at the end. We’ve got one very nasty situation and a frustrating “To Be Continued.”

There’s an incredible amount of detail in the directing this week which I’ll focus on in my full recap, but it’s noticeable from the opening shot. The long shot on Anna’s far away glare, looking upward, with just the right amount of light is almost angelic. I’m sure that’s the point. The tone set is anything but angelic though. It’s fearful, ominous and brilliantly done, and Julie McNiven deserves much credit.

If there’s a down side, Dean is pushed to supporting player. Normally I don’t like that, but considering it’s the first time that’s happened all season (compared to multiple times for Sam) and we get some great backstory, I’m letting it slide just like with “In The Beginning.” I loved Dean’s approach with Sam this time. He makes a heartfelt and rational plea to get Sam to talk after being his normal antagonistic self during the road trip. He calmly listens to Sam’s story and doesn’t get angry, with the only thing bothering him being Sam’s “too much information.”

Sam’s A Mess

Let’s cut to the chase. Sam’s spiral after Dean’s death is stunning, difficult to watch, and portrayed in devastating yet believable way. His scenes will be the bulk of the review, for they left the greatest impact.

How fitting that an argument in the Impala over Sam’s BFF Ruby triggers the first flashback? You know Sera’s writing this. Sam’s at the crossroads at his wit's end, digging a hole with his hand. His movements are uncoordinated and he staggers to get up, plus the whiskey bottle in his hand gives the not so subtle clue what sort of state he’s in. The camera moves to the overhead shot, and just like with Dean and the cross with "Lazarus Rising," we see Sam’s shadow along with the crossing post. He’s at a crossroads, literally and figuratively. In the few seconds that Sam waits, we see a full spectrum of emotions; despair, desperation, confusion, then anger and frustration. We even get the return of the puppy dog eyes!

Even the makeup team deserves huge recognition, for Sam looks awful. This mirrors the desperation that Dean had in "All Hell Breaks Loose Part II,” but Sam is edgier, angrier, and more out of control. He’s a time bomb ready to go off and his visit verifies the point Ruby makes later, he doesn’t want to live as long as Dean is dead.

His violent outburst at the man-in-a-suit Crossroads Demon (good thing Sam didn't have to kiss him) reveals the intense rage inside, and this is one of the fine examples of how much careful preparation Jared put into this. He lets out enough fury to scare us, but still managed some restraint. The Crossroads Demon tells him "We’ve got everything exactly the way we want it." I wonder what that means? In the meantime, Sam hits his worst case scenario when his proposed deal is turned down. The sound of the swiping knife as the shot fades back to the Impala hints he took out yet another Crossroads Demon in anger. Last time they’ll talk to him.

Another example of the great directing is when the hum of the engine and the sound of windshield wipers compliment Sam’s silent struggle to talk to Dean, all seen through the watery windshield. It’s a sobering way to close out the scene. As with last week, these brothers still can’t share their burdens.

The flashback scenes keep building from that, as no detail is held back in highlighting Sam’s descent. The camera is tilted when Sam staggers back from the crossroads, accenting his uneven frame of mind. We can only speculate what he'd have done to himself if Ruby hadn't shown up. Ruby threatens to kill him and he welcomes it, defiantly challenging her through his crazy eyes and open arms. I caught that glimpse of concern from Ruby just before she stabs the other guy. Even she feels bad for Sammy! I do question if she was really planning on saving Sam or makes a snap judgment at the last second. Right now that’s open for debate.

Sam’s barely functioning, proven by his vacant stare and red puffy eyes when driving the Impala. I hope the Impala isn’t coasting on fumes like he is. He’s not interested in Ruby saving him if she can’t save Dean. Still, he can't be too far gone for he forces Ruby to free the hot secretary she's occupying. Jared’s on fire so far and we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff.

Even when Ruby comes back occupying a freshly dead coma patient, we see how much Sam is hurting. Normally he’s reserved and doesn’t give away much emotion. Here, he’s letting enough slip where we see all that inner agony. You know, the glassy eyes, the rough edged voice, the constant sneers and the pissed off attitude. Sure he usually shows those things, but rarely at once. Again he has a lack of regard for himself when he  doesn't hesitate to use his "psychic stuff." Dean isn’t there, so his wishes don't matter anymore. All Sam has on his mind is revenge.

Umm, gotta pause here, because that pale blue undershirt that Sam put on when talking to Dean is just dreamy. He should wear brighter colors more often. Ahhh….

Anyway, when Sam fails in his first try to exorcise a demon, getting a debilitating headache and nosebleed in the process, I adored the brilliant back of the head shot of Ruby killing the demon, leaving the full focus on Ruby's bitter face. "Not funny." Aww, she does care for Sam.

Okay, here it comes. That controversial scene, the one that people don’t realize is Sam’s breaking point. If you carefully examine the detail, it’s a well done scene. Subtle shots from the camera catch the repeating elements; the devil’s trap scratched so Ruby won’t get caught, Sam dropping the shovel on the table, showing they just buried the victim. We can’t see Sam’s face until Ruby tells him it’ll get better, referring to his grief and not the powers. He turns around, chasing the aspirin with whiskey, and we see how bad he is. He can’t take anymore. His pain is now beyond bearable, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Ruby wants to help and mentions Dean, getting a sharp reaction. Again Sam has the rapid mood swings, going from sarcastic to evasive to angry to teary to fearful in thirty seconds. “Sam, you’re not alone.” I guess kissing him is one trick Dean’s never tried. At first Sam accepts it, but then he pushes her away. He knows it’s wrong. She follows him across the room, knowing that she needs to persist, for that’s the only way to get through to him. After all, a demon knows how to push the right buttons, and boy does she ever push them. The right touch here and there, and he caves.

Wow, whoa, woo, geez…that was so, wow. I need a few minutes. Demon sex is pretty animalistic and raw, isn’t it? Does it surprise us though that Sam likes it rough?

Anyway, back to the point. This is nothing more than a moment of weakness for Sam when he is most vulnerable. He desperately craves comfort and human contact, but mostly he needs the emotional release. He knows it is wrong, but he doesn't care. He wants to feel something again other than all the pain. What I want to know is if this keeps going or not, or if it is a one time thing. The motel scene in “Lazarus Rising” suggests there’s more and if that’s true, then Sam’s actions go far beyond one weak moment.

Sam’s relief is short lived, for the chance to get Lilith pushes him over the edge. It’s time for his kamikaze mission, and nothing’s stopping him. Ruby is dead on when she tells Sam his wish to get killed isn’t what Dean died for, but Sam with his usual temper slams her against the wall and puts the knife to her throat. In that state, I think he would have done the same thing to Dean (in “Salvation” he actually did). I guess were back to that inner rage thing. Man, he’s all over the map.

Luckily, there’s a turning point from rock bottom. Nothing like a trap to change your perspective. Ruby saves him, then Sam comes back and saves her, using his adrenaline high to kick in the Hand of Demon Doom (no, I’m not calling it the other thing). His head hurts and his nose is bleeding, and Ruby’s concern over his pain seems genuine to me. He’s okay though and the look in his eyes shows a fighting spirit that has been absent so far. Sam explains to Dean that Ruby got through. Um yeah, I’m not exactly sure Dean would have used the same methods Sam (quiet you slashers!).

What about Ruby? What are her motives? Does she truly care about Sam, or is this all a mind game? After watching the facial reactions, I’ve concluded she really cares for Sam. Granted, there still might be a greater plan at work and she might someday have to choose her loyalties, but if I didn’t know better, she has feelings for Sam. She’s obviously manipulating him, but for now, the motives stay unclear. Genevieve has grown on me. She’s getting better.

Other Thoughts

To be continued???? Damn you… er… Sera Gamble!

“Like in the Bible?” “Kind of. Same bottom line.” Thanks Sera for clarification that you guys are following your own way with the mythology.

Sam and Dean are hustling pool? Together? That’s the first time we’ve seen that and I like it.

The Impala looked awfully shiny for driving three days across country. So in the middle of an investigation, Dean took it to be washed and waxed?

The statue had bleeding eyes. “Bloody Mary” reference!

“Don’t you recognize me? Oh, I forgot, I’m wearing a pediatrician.” Great line from our new big bad demon, Alistair.

Sam and Dean jump through a glass window together. Cool! I’ve been dying to see that on this show. Jensen and Jared at the con mentioned that in real life if that had happened, they’d be far worse off than a little banged up.

You gotta love Sam’s ability to stitch himself up and his tricks for popping back a dislocated shoulder. Both Jensen and Jared were perfect in selling how much pain both were in. No sugar coating there.

You know, “six months earlier” and “five months earlier” are fine, but I only need it once. Repeating it during the same flashback after coming back from commercial wasn’t necessary. I got it.

“Now I feel dirty… Skip the nudity please.” Speak for yourself Deano!

I loved Dean’s half-assed apology to Ruby for saving Sam. “That was awkward.”

No grade from me! This is part one, and I just cannot judge it until I see part two. I’ll give Jared an A+ though. Playing a low, broken, nothing left to live for unstable drunk is not easy. Especially when Sera Gamble writes it (I kid, I love Sera’s ability to torture Sam). Clips for part two coming Wednesday.

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About Alice Jester

  • kate

    Yeah – need to see the second half but generally – WOW and OMG and GULP and other such things.

    Thought both guys played a blinder (Hmm, does that translate – knocked it out of the park) and the writing was great. Saw your question on youtube and certainly you got a great answer. This story backing up everything Jared was saying.

  • Sal

    I enjoyed this episode. But apperently I have to watch again and pay more attention. At least that’ll give me something to do during the hiatus.

    I’m really excited to see Alastair again. He seems like a great addition to the show.
    Genevieve still isn’t growing on me but I’ll let it slide this time like every other time. I’ve heard rumors though about the next episode…guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  • http://www.supportsupernatural.com Heather

    I liked the episode. I know there are a lot of fans out there that are up in arms about Sam and Ruby but I just think Sam was in such a state and the demon really took advantage of him. Our poor Sam!
    All in all a great episode in my book. Not the best but by far not bad at all!

  • Huppy

    I didn’t like the episode when it first aired on Thursday, mainly because of the sex scene, but I have since watched it several times and I now like it a lot.

    Sera (and Kripke) went to a lot of trouble to make sure when Sam did have sex with a demon, there was no innocent girl trapped inside. And also Sam’s mental condition was a vulnerable point. Sera and Kripke wanted the viewers not to condemn Sam for that sex.

    I don’t know if Sam continued to have sex with Ruby or not (it was implied in LR), but I believe that the sex surely did not continue once Dean returned.

    Alastair seems like a great villain. It was good to see Castiel and Uriel again, and also see the other two bodies that Ruby inhabited. And of course, I am so looking forward to part 2 this coming Thursday.

    Alice, I didn’t put a comment in to your Chicago convention reports, but I read each one of them. I am so glad you were able to ask a question, and also have Jared and Jensen autograph a copy of the article you had written, which they had both read. (squee!!)

    One question about the SN cons in general: who are Steve Carlson and Jason Manns, and what is their connection to SN that they appear at the SN cons? I am not trying to be snarky or anything; I am honestly puzzled and would like to know. Thanks.

  • vichi

    Hi Alice,
    Great to have your point of view about this episode. I was one of the people who liked it first time, loved it the second time and I am sure I will appreciate more if I will watch it again, thing that I will do in about 15 minutes:)…my collegues want to see it so I have my excuse to see it again and again and again…well you see the point!
    I actually love Dean, he is my favorite character and I think that Jensen Ackles is my first big celebrity crush but Jared is a perfect Sam, so it will be impossible not to like his character.I read all your reports about the con and I love to see that the boys really are amazing, that’s how they do this wonderful job with Sam and Dean.

    I kind of understand the sex scene, Sam was in pain and Ruby knew what to do to distract him, but I think i would like to know that it was just once.But, hey, I love the show and trust the writers and I know that Supernatural will never be a love show (except for the amazing brotherly love) so no need to worry about that. Beside, I read somewhere that after tomorrow episode, Ruby may gone forever and Genevieve only was contracted for 5 or 6 episodes. Maybe Genevieve goes (I too kinda liked her in this episode)and Ruby stays in another meatsuit…

    So Dean, I liked the way he acted with Sammy, he really wanted to understand why Sam trust so much Ruby and he really listened and tried not to judge. I loved that he didn’t seem disgusted by Sam and Ruby sex adventure and that helped Sam a lot. Sam already sees himself as a freak, the Angels and demons for the first time agree about Sam and I think if Dean had the same attitude, poor Sammy wouldn’t resist anymore. So Dean reacted mature and I love him more for that. Plus, I think Dean was not a saint in hell, no pun intended, and probably in the next episode we will see what he did during his summer break down there. Alastair knew Dean pretty well and Dean keeps a secret from Sam. There are moments when you can really see that Dean has some remorse. He really did something to be ashamed of, that’s why he has so low opinion about himself. The problem is when he did that, while he was young or in hell. We will see!
    I also wanted to say that the romanian network who airs the show here, did something extraordinary, we didn’t expect it. Monday was the last episode of the second season and we already got used to think that the next season will be in a year (that’s how the things stay here) but last night I had the shock of my life when I saw the first episode of the 3rd season. Si I guess they finally realised that this show has a lot of fans here and gave us what we wanted.
    Once again, thanks for all your efforts!

  • elle2

    Hi, Alice,

    Great review, thanks for getting it together so quick after the Con.

    Like you I loved the Sam flashbacks, broken suicidal, beyond caring about anything. I wrote on another site my take on ‘The Scene’ where some were upset by it (no, not TWOP, I don’t go there) and I related it the same way you did. There was a fascinating character study movie several years ago: Monsters Ball, the one Halle Berry won an Oscar for, and they use sex, although significantly more carnal, raw, dare I say animalistic) but the purposes is the same; the character needed to feel, something anything, affirm they were still alive.

    I thought it was perfect and well done. Jared was superb. I love that he’s getting a chance to play tougher, more mature, individual this season and this episode highlighted it for all the reasons you wrote of.

    Genieve still has not grown on me, she’s flat, boring and wooden in almost all her scene, she has flashes of decent such as the knifing and the ‘not funny’ bit, and yes, she’s athletic *cough* but other than that I’m hoping some rumors I’ve read about come true. We’ll see (I’m counting, 27.25 hours to go. :-)

    As for the timing, that’s the only part I take issue with. I’ve watched it twice and to me Ruby appears at the 6 month mark, that makes me wonder at just how ‘tortured’ she was in hell by Lilith.
    My preference would have been to see Sam at the crossroads at the 6 month mark but then have Ruby appear at the 5 month mark. It would make better continuity with the comments he made in LR, crossroads demon and trying to open the devils gate etc.

    Still, that’s a minor point [and Kripe & Co., if you’re reading, you can correct it easily by the next showing]

    I loved the new dynamic between Sam and Dean, Dean not wanting to push a fight but wanting some insight and the first aid scene and the pool hustle were great at showing that despite all they’ve been through they have reconnected and work with, through and around each other doing what needs to be done.

    I’m eagerly awaiting Part 2 and seeing how the whole package comes together.

    :-)

  • http://www.SupportSupernatural.com LindsayW

    Alice, I am with you! I’m totally blown away! This episode got even better the second time I watched it.

    24 more hours till the second half of this two-parter! Dang, I hate it when they are TO BE CONTINUED!

  • Elle

    Alice, first, I have to say I LOVED your SPN-Con posts. It’s so excellent that you got your article signed AND that the boys knew about it prior to – that must have been such a fantastic moment. Loved your question too – watched it on Youtube and I wondered if that was you and then it was!

    Okay – IKWYDLS was a fabulous episode! Jared knocked it out of the park – I felt so horrible for him. Poor Sammy! I just wanted to give him hug. I didn’t mind Ruby 2.0 in this episode, I even felt The Scene was appropriate, given the grief and emotion that same was choking on and Ruby being the only, err, person who could he felt could understand.

    I really felt Dean’s reaction demonstrated that he heard what Sam was saying back in Metamorphesis. He didn’t judge, he just wanted to understand and that was a great brother moment, while still remaining true to Dean’s character with the nudity comment.

    Anna and Alastair – LOVED them both. I have a feeling Anna may be short lived….but I hope not. Can’t wait to see the flip side of this already-outstanding coin and learn what Dean was up to in Hell and what secret he has that everyone keeps refering to.

    Thanks for the review and the con posts Alice!
    You rock!

  • shelby02

    Thank you for the great review and for your focus on Jared’s brilliant performance. His broken and grieving Sam brought me to tears. Great episode.

  • Donna

    my favorite SPN episode ever. I’ve never seen Jared act so beautifully – Sera’s script brought out the best of what he can do.

    TWOP? Seems like a lot of people avoid that place. I know I do. It seems awfully one-sided to me.

  • http://www.jesterz.net Alice Jester

    You know, driving several hours in the vast Indiana wilderness (nothingness on both sides for miles) forces the mind to wander and look deeper into an episode than what was on the surface. Either that or go insane. :)

    IKWYDLS goes in the line of “Faith”, “Heart” and “Croatoan” as an intense character study which underlying points were missed because people were caught up in other details. I loved this one more than those others though because it went darker with the character exploration.

    Thanks everyone for the insightful comments! I saw so many negative reviews on this one, and then went on the boards today and found so many agreed with my positive one. I’m thrilled that there are others that see what I saw.

    Also thanks so much for the positive feedback on the con reports. It was a fantastic experience, but I’m still drained from it all. The full recap on my website is still delayed, because there’s so much detail in the ep and I haven’t had much time this week. There will be a nice long hiatus to catch up though.

    Huppy, to answer your question, Jason Manns and Steve Carlson are musician friends of Jensen’s and have carved a loyal following at these cons. Both of their concerts at the cons sold a good number of tickets, so they have appeal among the fans that gets them coming back. I personally have never heard of their music.

    Part 2 coming in 40 minutes. Can’t wait!

  • http://bardicvoice.livejournal.com Mary

    Glad to see that you loved this episode as much as I did, Alice!

    I’m counting down the minutes to 9:00 … just 17 minutes to wait!

  • Erika

    Thank you for the wonderful review. I do think the episode could be graded as is, since the next episode will be another contained unit. I only hope that Sam will be treated well. This season has been so disheartening as a Sam fan. And Kripke clearly doesn’t seem to care how we feel about anything.

    Nonetheless, I really loved this episode. I loved Jared. And I really enjoyed Ruby. If GC leaves in this next episode, I hope we still get Ruby back again.

    I thought Jared was a charismatic, masculine power house in this episode, and yet he so brilliantly captured Sam’s weaknesses, vulnerability, rage, and grief. It is so sad that the sex scene distracted so many people from Sam’s true pain, and Jared’s great work as an actor. Some people only want to see the negative in Sam and Jared, and it breaks my heart. Jared Padalecki is a beautiful, sweet, open, talented young man who has huge potential as an actor. I’ve spent most of this season lamenting the fact that Kripke doesn’t seem interested in promoting Sam or Jared in public, that Sam’s story gets buried season after season for the spotlight to fall on Dean. And how funny is it that Jared Padalecki can impress Peter O’Toole but leave so many Dean fans cold? Whatever. Jared Padalecki is an impressive actor, and this in this episode, he did not fail.

    I thought Sam’s descent into his worst and weakest self was portrayed with a sympathetic and sensitive touch. Sometimes, I don’t really like Sera Gamble’s writing, and sometimes I love it. I am so glad for the way she handled some difficult and delicate material, for humor that didn’t jar me out of the episode, and for taking great pains with establishing that Ruby was an independent spirit in that girl’s body – nobody else was in there, the body was not dead. People can play with semantics, but the body was fresh and Ruby is it’s life support system.

    This has been a hard season for Sam fans to deal with, but episodes like this make the agony of waiting for real payoff and real fall out and real characterisation worth while.

  • Huppy

    Thanks so much, Alice, for answering my question.

  • Noni

    I find the Ruby in-love part is incredulous. It’s just that, demon or angel, if they exist, they are no longer in flesh (material world) form. Female/male flesh attraction (which is totally human-flesh thingy) is very unlikely to happen for this non-sexual creature.

    It seems that Ruby had been carrying out an assignment from whoever was cooking the end-game (could be the yellow-eyed demon Azazael). If Sam was meant to be the Anti-Christ (the last human soldier with demonic-blood alive on earth), somebody must train him to be up to this task, right? Actually, Azazael had been preparing the training by himself as seen in season 2 episodes, but he was shot by Dean at the end, and had to go back to hell for a while. So, Ruby was likely to replace him as the trainer starting from season 3, at least until Sam’s demonic ability is awaken, and he can control the ability.

    And who knows that Ruby was really what she said she was, a particular female-demon? Nobody can see (or sense/smell) the soul inside any of the body that a demon occupied, let alone recognize it. So, it could be any demonic soul (non-sexual) occupying a female body, introduced herself as Ruby to Sam, and do whatever was needed to accomplish its assignment, including to have sex with the human soldier to get through and gain trust. Afterall, evil is called evil, because of all the lying, manipulating, and betraying characteristics.

  • Anna

    Anybody knows what’s the scene music? The Sam and Ruby scene…