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TV Review: Supernatural – “Yellow Fever”

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Like many other fans, I settled on the couch Thursday evening eager for the harrowing drama that this week’s Supernatural promo hinted was coming. I got my wish right away, for the first shot is Dean in a suit, running in the dark of night with full blown terror, the howling of hellhounds on his trail. Oh no, what happened, Dean? After warning a hobo of the danger that lurks, Dean’s eyes widen in terror as the creature catches up with him. The camera pans down, and the identity of the treacherous beast is revealed.

A Yorkie? With a cute pink bow? Dean runs, and the wide shot shows the little critter’s long scatter across the frame after him. I pause the TiVo to work in my fit of hysterical laughter, because comedy involving cute animals works with me and the joke is on me. They’ve pulled a prank and it’s a good one. A screwball comedy is coming, and what happens next is anyone’s guess.

That seems to be the mantra of season four — leave fans guessing. The first three seasons' stories, formulas, and overall construction followed a consistency that was entertaining, yet often predictable. None of that in season four. Each one of the six episodes aired so far has been structured and executed perfectly, managing to work in enough twists and heightened drama that has us a jittery mess until next week. Each episode supplies enough breadcrumbs for the trail to the next episode, and with the potential path fresh in our minds, it twists in another direction we didn’t anticipate. Best start to a season ever.

This Is Episode Six?

Even the traditional throwaway episode six, which from the last two seasons were the really bad “No Exit” and “Red Sky At Morning”, turned out to be a wild ride that had fans buzzing with delight until the end. Throw in a wacky ending montage, no thanks to Jensen and his study of old Survivor videos, and fans get a rare glimpse of the goofy fun that’s usually reserved for the crew during long days of filming. In other words, a major bonus for us.

“Yellow Fever” is one of those double meaning titles that took this episode into extraordinary territory. “Yellow” means cowardly, turning the normally bad ass Dean Winchester into a quivering mess thanks to a troubling ghost sickness. The other side of yellow is Dean’s greatest fear, Sam willingly turning evil, yellow eyes and all. One yellow was absolutely hysterical, the other absolutely frightening. Yep, this show keeps us on our toes.

This episode reminds me of “Bad Day At Black Rock” only in reverse, with Sam playing the brother in full control and Dean suffering from the misfortune of the curse. The switch is refreshing, for while we’ve seen several cracks slip in Dean's facade from a dramatic point of view, we’ve never witnessed such an intentional out of character turn like this. Only a strange supernatural disease could take one of the most undaunted hunters and turn him into a total pansy. Jensen proved he’s one of the rare actors who could sell such a switch.

The writing each week manages to challenge Jensen and Jared, taking their characters into adventurous yet plausible territory. The task is especially remarkable this week since “Yellow Fever” introduced two new writers, Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, to the Supernatural creative team. Boy, did they get it right. Considering many other writers have flamed out on this show, usually tasked with the throwaway episodes, it’s encouraging to see new blood do so well. Couple this great script with the always outstanding Phil Scrigga as director, and another memorable episode is born.

What Jensen Ackles did in “Yellow Fever” topped incredible, and this comes after a long string of episodes where he’s managed to top incredible each time. Since last season’s finale he’s done nothing but prove his versatility and showcase the fact that no challenge seems to be too great. As any actor will attest, one of the hardest concepts to tackle is comedy, especially when the actor must take his character way out of the comfort zone. Just follow the bouncing ball of Dean weirdness that flies out of control:

He becomes fearful of a group of congregating teenagers and walks the other way.

He fights for composure over a man’s pet reptiles, especially a pair of pythons named Donny and Marie. Donny’s harmless, but the large Marie slides along a petrified Dean because “she smells fear.”

He won’t go into the motel because the room is on the fourth floor.

He refuses to take his gun from Sam, volunteering instead to man flashlight.

In a shot that will be littering fan videos and icons for years to come, the tense reveal of a cat in a locker pushes Dean to a high pitched screech that outdoes any teenage girl in a bad horror movie.

He runs like the cowardly lion when the ghost appears behind Sam, leaving Sam to deal with the apparition alone, ducking behind the Impala to chug down what’s left of his whiskey.

He can’t sell the charade of him and Sam being FBI agents, almost breaking their cover. Considering Dean is one of the best liars in the world, this bizzaro world is fun.

He does the best diva hissy fit, putting Tyra Banks to shame, declaring in front of Sam their hunting life is insane and he’s done with it. He even throws the keys of his most prized possession to his flabbergasted brother and walks away.

He crosses paths with said homicidal Yorkie.

Once our sides are no longer cramping from all that laughter, Dean’s issues grow serious, as does the rest of the episode. It’s no surprise that Dean’s two greatest fears are being sent back to Hell and seeing Sam turn evil. When Sam and Bobby successfully eradicate the ghost causing the sickness and the fears go away, it’s interesting to see Dean’s terror over Sam still linger at the surface. His disturbing vision of Sam with yellow eyes at the end warns us that all is not well and more terror is yet to come.

That lingering fear makes sense. This episode was intended to be a logical continuation of “In The Beginning” and “Metamorphosis”, but the network changed the order of the episodes. “Monster Movie” should have been saved for episode six because the break disrupts the perfect flow between these three. Dean even told Sam at the end of “Metamorphosis” his powers scared him. Now we see how much.

Jared Padalecki wasn’t wasted in this episode either. In a season that has some fans scratching their heads over the lack of Sam, this episode restored that perfect Sam and Dean balance (excluding "Metamorphosis"). Sam got a very unfamiliar role as well, playing the calm, in control straight man that through determined focus and the saintly ability to tolerate Dean managed to save the day (with Bobby’s help). He never once lost his composure or got all weepy or panicky over Dean’s possible fate.

Usually detriment to Dean misguides a frantic Sam from his task, as we saw in episodes like “Mystery Spot” and “Time Is On My Side”. Not here and his numb approach, especially when he met with Bobby and left Dean behind ("he's home sick"), could be considered troubling. Considering he’s already seen life without Dean twice, maybe that isn’t the worst fate in the world for him anymore. Yes, Sam’s personality changes are subtle, but they’re there.

So why did the disease affect Dean and not Sam? Judging from Lilith’s statement, “you know why,” I imagine that’s a setup for a reveal in the future. The theory was the sickness preyed on those that motivate through fear. Despite Dean’s objections, Sam doesn’t act that way. With humans at least. Sam could also be safe because of the same reason he didn’t suffer from the demon virus in “Croatoan”. He’s immune. That possibility wasn’t explored though, but one thing we know for sure, it isn’t because Dean is a dick.

Other Moments Worthy of Mention

Agents Tyler and Perry! What’s better is the neighbor figured out that those names were from Aerosmith. That’s only the second time in the series that’s happened.

Bobby drove the Impala! He did so road-hauling a ghost nonetheless. Can he get more awesome?

Again, we see parallels between the monster of the week and Sam. A gentle yet misunderstood soul that was a victim of unfortunate circumstances. A freak.

The montage back and forth between Sam with Luther and Dean with Lilith delivered the right amount of tension, even though we knew Sam would get the ghost just in time to save Dean. Dean had to relive his nightmare and chances are it was enough to trigger all those memories from Hell. The return of the creepy little girl from the finale didn’t hurt.

“Eye of the Tiger”. That was worth every bit of the hype done by Warner Brothers with their clips over the last two weeks. Another moment we didn’t expect, and it was worth its weight in gold. Jensen rocks, that’s all I can say!

Speaking of Jensen, just look at Dean’s progression in the last six episodes. He’s resurrected from the dead only to find that he’s rescued by an entity he refuses to believe in, then learns he’s been rescued because there are signs of the Apocalypse, then is sent in the past to learn the truth about his parents and brother, then finds his worst fears about his brother are coming true. Throw in the requirement to play a Hollywood leading man in an old fashioned horror movie and then behave like the polar opposite of his familiar character, and I’m sure Jensen is wondering how it’s not the end of the season already. Well done!

We Support You, Eric Kripke!

As I was putting the finishing touches on this review, a press release from Warner Brothers came my way. A personal statement from Eric Kripke himself over some misguided fan reaction. Believe it or not, I wrote the above review before getting this statement. Here’s what it said (warning, contains a spoiler):

So I've never before responded directly to the fandom's comments about an episode, and I don't plan to make a habit of it, but I couldn't resist dropping in a thought about the episode "Yellow Fever."

Which is this: Dean is not a dick.

None of the writers, or anyone on the creative team of Supernatural, think Dean's ever been a dick, past, present, or future. He's a hero. Dean did NOT contract the ghost sickness because he's a dick. Victims contract the illness because they use "fear as a weapon." Dean asks Lilith at the episode's end, "why did I get infected?" And she cryptically responds, "you know why. Listen to your heart." We, as the writers, probably should have emphasized this mystery more, I take responsibility for that omission. But the point is: the reason he was infected is because of a SECRET he's keeping. A dark secret that will be revealed in Episode 10. And not at all because of any dickishness, implied or otherwise.

Thanks, gang. 

This message makes me both appreciative and angry. I adore Eric Kripke for caring so much and feeling the need to defend a creative decision. At the same token he shouldn’t have to, and those few overzealous fans who raise such issues need to lighten up and see how things play out. If history with this show has proved one thing, there’s always a big payoff. Patience people.

This silly controversy is no different than Dean’s “gay” comment in “Bedtime Stories” or the never-ending “Dean is dumb” arguments from last season. I do my best to avoid poisonous attitudes on the boards because they are always limited to a select few, but when it spirals out of control like this, even I hang my head in shame. I picked up on the clues that Dean was carrying a secret so if others missed that there’s the true benefit of the fan boards, a place for constructive discussion and clarification, not griping and backstabbing.

No need to apologize or take blame, Mr. Kripke. You and your creative team did nothing wrong. Everyone is doing a fantastic job and fans will be back eagerly next week and the weeks after that to see what you have in store for us. You’ve never let us down before and we know you won’t in the future. As me and most other fans have declared before, “In Kripke We Trust!”

Coming in a few days, I have three clips for next week’s Halloween themed episode, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester.” It looks like another great one, and no show does Halloween better.

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About Alice Jester

  • Tigershire

    I too was surprised to see a statement from Kripke on the whole “dick” issue. I assumed it was Sam taking a juicy opportunity to tease his brother as Dean seems to get the lion’s share of those moments.

    But other than that, what a great episode. And I will NEVER ever hear Eye of the Tiger and think of the 80’s again. Jensen owns that song now! Laughed until I cried.

    It may be very ‘green’ of me to recycle words over and over (like amazing and awesome) but honestly, it’s because I just can’t find words that do this show, the actors, the creator and team, and crew, justice. They are all just so….awesome. :)

    Thanks again for a wonderful review Alice.

  • Vichi

    Hi, Alice, nice to read this. Thank you and I just want to say I loved this episode. Wasn’t the best but it was funny and scary and reminded me of BDAHR, that I loved. Jensen and his representation of “Eye of the tiger” was awesome and just because of that scene my roommate fell in love with Jensen and want to see the show. She was hysterical. So was I:)

    About that note from Mr. Kripke, it’s a shame he had to do it. He is the creator of the show and he should not justify his choices, he can’t make everybody happy. I never thought that Dean is a dick and I found the dialogue amusing so I was very surprised when I read about that press release. Then I went to some boards where some fans were toring apart the episode, the writing, and everything and keep insisting that this episode is worst than Red Sky at morning (???) and I left those boards full of negativity. I can’t understand those fans, really. Why that hate and why do they have to be so mean with the person and crew that gave us the most amazing show ever.
    I trust Kripke and I love and respect his work and I just hope he will never have to justify his work/choice again:

  • Cindi

    Thanks for this typically awesome review, Alice. You reiterated everything that I’d been thinking, both about the episode, and Mr. Kripke’s unnecessary apology to the fandom.

    I’m so pleased that you commented on Sam’s yellow eyes at the end of the episode. Most recappers failed to notice this, and those that did shrugged it off as Dean having a flash-back from the sickness. I agree with you; there’s much more to that brief glimpse, and now Dean knows that Castiel is entirely right.

    For me, this episode was one of the best ever, which is saying a lot, effortlessly combining some of the funniest and scariest moments in Show’s history. Jensen’s excellent and versatile acting ability continues to blow my mind.

    This whole season is so mindblowingly fantastic so far, and just keeps getting better. My knuckles are white from hanging on so tight, and I have a knot in my stomach for what’s to come next. I really appreciated being able to laugh so much during Yellow Fever, since I think that the laughs are about to die down right quick from here on out.

  • Ali

    I don’t know, I’ve seen a few of these “shut up and don’t point it out when something doesn’t make sense” reactions against fans, and I just don’t get it. I’ve read several reviews of the ep (TV Guide, BuddyTV, SignonSanDiego, iFMagazine), and every single one of them took the dick explanation at face value, whether they thought it made sense or not. No one picked up on the Lillith thing. While I think it’s great that you did, if 80% of the reviews missed what was supposed to be an important point in the episode, I think Kripke was probably right to issue a clarification.

    And also, his response was to those online reactions, correct? I didn’t hear anything about people writing to his office or something, so the only thing fans could’ve done “better” is to have pretended, even in our discussions online, that everything in the episode made total sense. But why have discussion at all, if it has to be unalloyed praise regardless of how you really feel? I trust in Kripke, and I think he’s given us a marvelous show. That doesn’t mean everything always makes sense at first blush, and if I have to pretend it does even when I’m just talking with other fans, that’s crazy. That would prevent me from ever figuring out what the show REALLY meant, because sometimes talking with other fans is how I do that.

  • Joan

    I am so in love with this show that it is not funny.
    My obsession with all things Winchester borders on an unhealthy obsession, but I don’t care. :-)

    Alice, I love your reviews! They are always thought provoking and absolutely wonderful.

    This episode was really good. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. Jensen screaming at that cat had me howling. I was crying I was laughing so hard.

    I love the interplay between Jared and Jensen.
    Week in and week out they never cease to amaze me. It is so obvious they have a bond which spills over onto the TV screen. You can’t buy that kind of chemistry. I heart Sam and Dean.

    I honestly wish this show could find a wider audience because it deserves it.

    On another note: Just when I think I couldn’t love Jensen anymore he plays air guitar with his leg!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!!! Swoon…Smishes him.

    That was so freaking hilarous. And, Jared laughing in the background….priceless!


  • Reggie

    While I don’t share the enthusiam for the writing side of this episode – to me it showed very much that those were newbie writers and I’d hope for a better outing if they do it again – I will say the acting was very much excellent.

    Generally, I found the mashing of comedy and drama much less successful than say Mystery Spot and the fear-response to be very generic and less character-based, not to mention at some points quite overdone.

    Concerning Kripke’s message, it surprised me because there have been numerous wanks before and he never adressed them so obviously something about this was dear to his heart. His choice either way as I believe it would give him little credit to think him so weak and terrified of online fandom he jumps at their whims. And while I didn’t buy the dick explanation – considering how dickish Sam acted in this very scene, it would have been a schizophrenic explanation.

    So to me, I appreciate his gesture but never did or would demand such a thing. However, I will reserve my right to analyze episodes critically and state if I didn’t like one, as in this case.

  • Patty

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. While I could tell it was written by new writers, they did a fair job seeing as the who has been around over 3 seasons. Jared and Jensen again hit the ball out of the park. I am excited to see how strong Sam gets these next few weeks and how Dean handles it. It wont’ be pretty but it will be good!

  • elle2

    I’m posting this here since the post I tried to do on another site didn’t take because I’m not registered and didn’t have time to do so.

    Alice, as you so correctly stated, patience, people, please. As for you, Mr. Kripke, when it comes to all things Supernatural, in you I trust.

    Below is my post in response to EK’s generous and to me unnecessary statement.

    Hey, Mr. Kripke,

    Thanks so much for not only creating this awesome show, but listening, truly listening and responding while at the same time never wavering from your orignal vision — a difficult line to walk.

    I never though it implied that anyone thought Dean was a dick and also loved the scene between Sam and Dean regarding this. The part at the end w/Dean asking Lilith why he was infected and her cryptic reply was to me a pointer to the future as you folks generally do not ask the same question twice in an episode without it having significance (or have a character make a double reference as in CSPWDT, What’s dead should stay dead; or in Nightshifter, We are so screwed.)

    I’m looking foward to the reveal.

    Further, if anything, I figured it was partly an inside joke on the fandom ’cause certainly you knew there was going to be a lot of head spinning out here in the fan universe over this and you and your talented and hardworking team could have a good guffaw at it but that you took the time to address it is even more awesome.

    Thank you. Laurel

    And welcome to the two new writers, this was a daunting episode to write and both pulled it off in an excellent fashion.

  • Alice Jester

    Thanks everyone for the upbeat and good comments about the episode! For obvious reasons I’ve only skimmed the boards this week, and I enjoy hearing positive feedback about the show we love.

    There’s a reason why my reviews come out a day or two later than other critics. I do at least one or two rewatches of the episode, and seek out all the small clues. 17 years in Information Technology forced me to be thorough, so I approach TV criticism with the same scrutiny. I want to be absolutely sure I got the message right. I was shocked to read many other reviews (most coming out Friday) and all the things missed. Usually viewers of this show are more attentive than that.

    I have no idea what prompted Eric Kripke to send that statement, but I assume it was confused critical reviews and bad behavior on fan boards. There is a particular board that I won’t mention that gets very negative fast and causes a big stir, but often times ANY hint that Dean is something bad and fans get very worked up. Some people don’t take time to read between the lines and give benefit of the doubt. Kripke has mentioned numerous times he likes messing with fans, so something else must have struck a nerve. Fan uproar is nothing new.

    No matter what the reason, it was a great episode, and if people didn’t like it, that’s okay. Dissenting opinions are welcome and allowed, but I draw the line at angry fan attacks and biting complaints. This show has delivered too many good moments to have one misunderstanding gloss all that over.

  • Emma

    I agree. I am at a loss as to why the ‘dick’ comment has become such a big thing that Kripke felt he had to release a statement. I got that there was another reason and took the exchange as a joke. Sam inadvertantly called Dean a dick and didn’t appologise for it just continued with “it’s not just that”, that’s funny.
    I have even heard fans turn this into a Dean vs. Sam- who does Kripke love more debate as some are not amused by the fact he addressed the Dean situation and not the Sam and Ruby possibly sleeping together situation- he was ‘no comment’ on that.

    There is no need for any of it, and as you pointed out Alice, if there’s one thing we can expect from Supernatural it is a payoff…. In The Beginning, anyone?

    Well that’s my two cents.

    Love Em

  • Em

    It’s obvious why he issued the statement. The professional reviews(Ali above mentioned at least 4 of them, and there were more) which took the “dick” explanation at face value showed him it wasn’t just crazy fans looking for trouble who were thinking the show meant that.

    Kripke hasn’t issued statements for the usual wanks about misogyny and rape and racism because clearly most people get what is really going on with those things and know no one is misogynistic or homophobic or whatever. This time, the episode clearly fell down on making the real meaning clear because people other than troublemaking fans got it wrong.

    Kripke issued a clarification based on the fact that lots of people, even non-fans, totally misinterpreted their intention.

    That means, like it or not, that the episode failed to get something of major importance across. Everyone makes mistakes.

  • Andrea

    Frankly, I think Kripke was right to issue a statement to clarify things and to accept responsibility for the fact the script wasn’t as tight as it should have been. The real reason for Dean being infected had to do with some “secret” he’s keeping, according to Kripke. So that scene with Lilith was an important clue which spins into a future episode. Since so many reviewers, and viewers, bought the “he got sick because he’s a dick” crap (apparently because Sam said so and anything that comes from the mouth of Kripke’s personal Marty Stu must be taken as gospel) and totally missed the point of the Lilith scene, Kripke was right to speak up. Course, it shouldn’t have been necessary but since he let something that sloppy get by, then he has a responsibility to clean it up. Maybe he’ll pay more attention in the future.

    The only bright spot in that mess for me was Jensen Ackles. The man can do anything, but frankly I’m rather tired of the writers’ attitude that they can saddle the man with any level of crap because “Jensen will make it work” (a Sera Gamble quote). Just because he can, doesn’t mean he should repeatedly be expected to turn sows’ ears into silk because the writing is lazy.

    I love this show, but that doesn’t mean I will turn my brain off when the opening credits roll and verbally masturbate over all things Kripke, just because. Critical thinking is a good thing. It’s not a threat and Kripke is human, which means he’s not perfect (anymore than his writing staff). I would never personally attack real people over a tv show, but critiquing the work they present for my consumption? That’s fair game. I’ll praise it when it deserves praise (which it has for most of this season with the exceptions of “Metamorphosis” and this recent effort), but I won’t hesitate to call a steaming pile exactly that when the stench is so overwhelming it makes my eyes water.

  • Julie

    I so agree with you about how Kripke shouldn’t have to explain himself to the fans. I, like many others, did take the idea of Sam saying that his brother was a dick just cuz he wanted to mess with Dean since he was already getting paranoid and all. There’s always a reason for everything and there’s a reason why Dean saw Lilith right before his time was due… again… I trust Kripke and the cast and crew all the way and I know that every questions will be answered at due time…. unless sending that post online and telling us that we should get an answer at episode 10 is one of his ways to play with our minds again (which wouldn’t surprise me!).
    Awesome performance once again by Jensen! If that guy isn’t nominated for any kind of awards soon Im gonna throw in a fit or something! He’s been remarkable during the past 6 weeks, not stopping at any challenges that the writers bring him! Seeing Dean scared out of his wits after that kitten got out of the locker isn’t something that all actors can play out at the same level as Jensen. Jared did an awesome job too! Sam’s evilness is growing inside him, there’s no doubts about that, but seeing Sam as the hero brother for once sure was a great change, seeing as Dean always saved his butt before.

    This episode will be on my top 5 for a while now! I know we’re only 6 episodes in this season and that it keeps getting better and better each week so I cannot honestly say how long it will be until it drops in my ratings. But right now it’s on top!

    Awesome review again Alice. I enjoy and agree with what you write every week!

  • Elle

    I just had to laugh when I heard that Kripke issued a statement about Dean and his lack of “dickness”. I too thought Sam was just teasing Dean and that the “fear as a weapon” thing was clear. I assumed Sam wasn’t infected because of immunity he’s previously demonstrated. Given that Dean asked the question “why did I get infected” again after, technically, already having the answer – the whole “dick” thing became superfulous for me. Also, having watched/studied/obsessed over the show (and a die-hard Dean-fan), I know that Dean has depth and is more than the “jerk” or whatever.

    Great episode- absolutely hysterical. The yorkie, the cat (“That was scary!”) Also, that treasure at the end – awesome! On Friday, I made a ton of people at work watch Eye of the Tiger and my family was showing it to people at their office too. I think I’ve watched the clip about 100 times to date.

    Thanks again for the great review Alice!

  • Baronius

    I dunno…I accepted the reason for the infection. Dean is a bit of a bully.

    Alice, I wish you’d flagged the spoiler about episode 10.

    As for the overall episode, I thought that the plot was weak. A gentle guy who becomes the embodiment of fear? Scaring a ghost to death? And there wasn’t any suspense in the final battle. I did miss the moment when Sam’s eyes went yellow though. Thanks for mentioning it. The last scene seemed pointless to me, having missed that.

  • vacelts

    This episode was absolutely hilarious. It’s definitely one of my favorite episodes. It was a nice fun episode that let us get of a glimpse of Dean if he wasn’t his usual fearless badass.

    My favorite scene was when Dean screamed after the cat was discovered. What was your favorite Dean freak out moment?

    Next week should be good. After all it’s the Halloween episode!

    You can view the outtake video here.

  • Rene

    Love your review as usual. It is too bad that Kripke felt he had to make that statement.

    This episode was surprising, I love how Dean behaved, Jensen was right on with his acting as usual. He comedic time was great as was his emotional impact when he was uneasy and upset.

    My favorite scene was him clutching the bible. Maybe he is beginning to believe or looking for something good to come out of all the things going on with them.

    Can’t wait to see the next episode, thanks.

  • Heather

    The “outrage” over Dean being called a dick was ridiculous and I roll my eyes at that part of fandom.


    Jensen has been so versatile this season it’s really amazing. Boy seriously needs that Emmy nomination.

  • Christi

    This is my favorite SN ever. Though I adored this season’s “Switching Channels” and while I’ve read lots of reviews of Yellow Fever, yours is among my favorites because of how deep it delves. Some fine writing too.