Sam and Dean Winchester have not always had good relations with the authorities. The Winchesters’ dealings with the law enforcement community have had mixed results. In thepilot episode of Supernatural, Sam and Dean pose as Federal Marshals and while talking to the local deputy, Deans makes the comment, “Well, that is exactly the kind of crack police work I’d expect out of you guys.” Dean is later arrested by the same Deputy. In “Nightshifter” (S02E12) Dean complains about the interference of police:
Dean: “Friggin’ cops.”
Sam: “They’re just doing their job.”
Dean: “No, they’re doing OUR job, only they don’t know it so they suck at it.”
Despite their recurring pretense as FBI agents or other officers of the law, Sam and Dean have been frequent fugitives and spent time in a cell or two. Sam and Dean had an antagonistic relationship with Special Agent Henriksen, up until the moment they were under attack by a group of demons and had to work together in “Jus in Bello” (S03E12). Sam and Dean have also collaborated with their share of law enforcement officers over the years, including Sheriff Devins (S01E03), Deputy Hudak (S01E16), Detective Ballard (S02E07), and others. The boys continue their complex relationship with the police as the eighth episode of Supernatural’s Season 10, “Hibbing 911,” takes place at a Sheriff Retreat. In attendance are Sheriff Donna Hanscum, who was inadvertently involved with Sam and Dean’s case in “The Purge” (S09E13), and the Winchesters’ friend Sheriff Jody Mills.
In a back alley of Hibbing, a troublemaking teen is spray-painting a smiley face. There is a hooded figure standing behind the graffiti artist. The dark and scary figure starts to beat the stuffing out of our young rebel—blood sprays, leaving a gory smiley face stenciled on the alley wall. Perhaps this will be a moralistic fable educating us about the dangers of breaking the law or hanging out in alleys.
Sheriff Jody Mills arrives in Hibbing for the Minnesota–Dakotas Sheriff Retreat. We first met Jody back in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (S05E15) when their fake FBI identifies were exposed when she called their “supervisor” and realized it was Bobby Singer (whom she had arrested several times) on the phone. Jody doesn’t seem enthused about the Retreat. As Jody struggles with her luggage, a bedraggled girl with a look of flower power comes by, Jody gives her a bill and tells her to get herself some lunch. Jody seems to have softened up since she’s taken caregiving responsibility for young Alex, a former vampire kidnapping victim from “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” (S09E19).
Jody enters the Sheriff’s retreat and is greeted by Donna Hanscum at the reception table. Donna is very friendly in her Minnesotan way. Jody is standoffish in what we can only assume is a South Dakotan way, but it’s hard to tell without a Coen Brothers film to inform our stereotypes. Are South Dakotans usually smug when dealing with Minneostans? Doug, Donna’s ex-husband, comes over to the reception table and is a jerk. He asks Donna for extra meal vouchers, which she gives him. Sure, it doesn’t sound that bad, but trust us, he’s s real jerk. Jody knows what we’re talking about, since she witnessed Donna’s humiliation.
Sam and Dean are going through the Men-of-Letters library to find something on the Mark of Cain. Reading may be a favorite pastime of Sam’s, being a Stanford man and all, but Dean much prefers magazines to books. The supernatural lore seems to make no mention of the Mark, but has all kinds of other references. Dean shares his frustration:
“You’d think these eggheads with all the crap they amassed over the years would have actually collected something important. Here… ‘He-wolf/She-wolf: A Study in Werewolf Transgenderism.’ Six hundred pages, Volume 1. But, not something important, like—I don’t know—maybe the oldest symbol known to man? That’s not worth our time. It’s not weird enough.”
Sheriff Cuse of Hibbing is the host of the Retreat. He is played by Fred Ewanuick, who we enjoyed as Hank Yarbo in the Canadian comedy Corner Gas. Cuse seems nervous and distracted, but we don’t know why. The Canadian accent just adds to the confusion, though this is set in Minnesota, so the accent isn’t that far off. A siren goes off, but it is just the ringtone for his phone. He gets the retreat started by telling the law enforcement audience to “find an officer from 50 miles outside of where you hail from and be a team this weekend.”
Jody is on the phone with Alex, assuring her that she is capable of not throwing a kegger while Jody is out of town. Donna sees that Jody is still on her own, so she comes over to partner with her. While looking at the schedule, which includes topics such as “Preparing for a Riot—Why Not Try It?”, Donna and Jody learn that a body was found in Hibbing that was eaten by something. The theory is that the body was eaten by a bobcat or some other animal, but Jody knows better.
Jody calls Sam, who is happy to hear from her. He tells her Dean says “hi.” Jody is surprised, because Sam apparently never told her that he found Dean. Sam asks how Alex is, and Jody tells him she’s head of the cheerleading squad. In surprise, he asks, “Really?” and Jody responds, “No, Sam; she smokes grass under the bleachers. But at least she’s not luring men to their deaths.” She tells Sam and Dean about the body. Based on her description, they don’t have any idea what might have caused the death, but they do rule out vampires because the throat wasn’t ripped out. Jody assures Sam and Dean she has it under control and that she’ll call if she needs help. Back at the bunker, Dean convinces Sam to leave the piles of books in order to go check out the case. Actually, it didn’t take much to convince Sam. As much as we find the bunker fascinating, it’s always good when the boys are out on the road on a case.
At the Hibbing morgue, Jody shows up saying she wants to see the body. The morgue attendant is not cooperative, reminding Jody she is not part of the Hibbing Police Department. Donna comes in and has a friendly conversation with the morgue attendant, Shelley, whom she knows. Donna also offers her help and asks to see the body, which Shelley is more receptive to. When Shelley asks what the deal is with Jody, Donna responds, “Oh, Sheriff Mills? Might say she left her manners back in Sioux Falls…. But she’s with me.” From his chest down, the graffiti artist is chowed down to the bone. After looking through his effects, Jody notices that his belt seems to be missing. Donna says she doesn’t recognize the type of animal bite, and Jody mutters, “I was afraid of that.”
At the backyard of a house, a man is taking the garbage out. He sneaks out to smoke, despite his wife telling him not to. His last cigarette is broken, so he throws the pack in the trash. He hears a noise, goes back to check it out and gets pulled into the trash bin. Guess he won’t have to worry about quitting that nasty smoking habit now.
Donna and Jody sit with Sheriff Cuse at the bar. He seems a bit stressed. They ask him about the body and he tells them Animal Control is looking into it. Deputy Graham comes up to Sheriff Cuse, telling him that there is a problem with the “raffle.” He seems suspicious. Cuse walks away with the Graham to talk. Donna sees her ex, Doug, dancing with another woman, Sheriff Goodhill. Dejected, she leaves the area so she doesn’t have to watch. Jody walks over to confront Cuse, and he admits they found another dead body. He asks her not to spread the news so as not to spoil everyone’s good time. It’s not clear that anyone is having a good time. Jody acknowledges that Cuse may not want too many cooks on the case with a hotel full of law enforcement officers.
Jody is out in the parking lot on the phone with Alex, who appears to be using firecrackers. Donna comes out and overhears Jody’s conversation with Alex. Donna is sympathetic. Jody talks about Alex a bit. It seems like very forced female bonding. The writers on Supernatural are clearly used to writing for men, or sheriffs just aren’t very good at bonding.
The Winchesters drive up in the Impala as The Weight by The Band plays in the background. They walk into the Sheriff Retreat and greet Jody warmly. Sam and Dean have already been to the morgue and found that the second victim also had his flesh devoured. Jody asks if anything else was missing, and Dean tells her the victim’s wallet was gone too. As they are talking with Jody, Sam sees Donna and recognizes her.
Jody: “You know my stalker?”
Dean: “She nearly blew a case for us last time.”
Jody: “Yeah, I haven’t been able to shake that ray of sunshine since I got here. She’s actually been pretty helpful, but, you know, it’s just tough keeping her out of this nightmare stuff, you know?”
Donna sees Sam and Dean and excitedly says, “Agent Frehley? Agent Criss?” We love it when they use classic rock names. When she asks what they are doing there, Dean tells her they can’t talk about it. Jody takes Donna away to go check out some guns.
Sam and Dean talk to Sheriff Cuse and Deputy Graham. Graham scoffs at the idea of the FBI investigating animal attacks and gets into a little confrontation with Dean. Sam asks Cuse if he has any surveillance footage of the attacks, and he says there wasn’t any. Graham makes a face as they are talking, which Sam and Dean take to mean that he thinks Cuse is lying about something. Cuse and Graham leave. The brothers decide that Sam will hack into the police server while Dean tries to get Deputy Graham to share what he knows.
Sam: “Right, but this time, try to be a little less defensive of your pretend job.”
Dean: “You know, this badge means something.”
Sam: “I made it at Kinko’s.”
Dean: “Yes, you did. Be proud of that.”
If nothing else, Sam should be proud that the badges have lasted for 4 years, since Kinko’s changed over to Fed Ex in 2010.
Donna and Jody are looking at firearms. The salesman is being patronizing, and in response the women show off their knowledge of guns a bit and mock him. This scene was really wasted, as they could have done something much more interesting, or at least had better lines. Jody, who is normally interesting in a serious cop sort of way, has become a bit caricaturized in this episode. The awkward attempts at portraying female bonding, by focusing on Jody’s challenges in adjusting to parenting a trouble teenage girl and Donna’s struggle with her ex-husband, doesn’t really work. Exploring an unexpected side of Jody worked well in an episode like “Sacrifice” (S08E23). Yet in this episode, using the roles of ex-wife and new parent in such a shallow manner only serves to alienate us from the characters, rather than helping us connect to them.
Doug comes over to the firearms table and ends up being a jerk to Donna. Unable to silently watch Doug’s mistreatment of Donna, Jody proceeds to tell him off. Doug acts genuinely hurt and leaves. Donna gets angry and says to Jody, “’Til you’ve actually lost a husband, you keep your mouth zipped about mine.” Jody flashes back to “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (S05E15), remembering how her son returned from the dead, became a zombie, and killed her husband. Let’s not forget that Sheriff Jody Mills has experienced some seriously horrible things in her life. Seeing Jody’s reaction, Donna realizes she has gone too far. Donna goes out to get some air.
With a new strategy, Dean approaches Deputy Graham in order to get more information about the attacks. By leading the Deputy to believe that the FBI may be looking his way, Dean is able to find out that Sheriff Cuse has changed the password on the traffic cameras so he was the only one who could see any footage of the attacks.
Donna is standing outside the retreat getting some air after the disagreement with Jody. Using her keen police skills, she notices blood on the ground and follows it down a path a short way. Looking down the hill, she can see Sheriff Cuse crouching over the dead body of Sheriff Goodhill, the woman that Donna’s ex, Doug, had been dancing with the night before. Cuse looks at the body and suddenly we see his teeth appear—he’s a vampire! For all of the Corner Gas fans, this was a bit of a shock. Donna is super freaked out—as she should be. Cuse looks up after hearing a noise, but before he can see her, she hides around the corner, breathing heavily in fear. Cuse looks panicked and runs off, leaving the body. Cuse does not seem to be the fastest or most graceful of vampires.
Jody is with Dean and asks how he is doing. As always, Dean claims to be fine. Jody tells him that she’s always available to talk. It’s like she’s the new, softer, kinder Bobby—one who is actually willing to emote, unlike Bobby, who once said: “Now, we done feelin’ our feelings? ‘Cause I’d like to get outta this room before we both start growin’ lady parts.”
Sam arrives and tells Jody and Dean that he was able to hack into the traffic camera server and found that the files had been deleted. Sam is a super nerd—loves to read, can hack into computers, and hangs out with Charlie Bradbury. He is probably a secret Brony too. Of course, the stereotype is blown every time he unreservedly kills monsters and dates hot demons.
Donna walks up to the group and asks to talk to Jody alone. They go the bar and Donna tells Jody what she saw with Sheriff Cuse and his teeth.
Donna remembers that she had seen Sheriff Cuse go into one of the hotel rooms earlier. When Sam does not answer his phone, Jody and Donna decide to check the room out on their own. Once inside the room, they find a bunch of tubes of sunblock, a pad of paper, and that’s about it. Donna traces the pad of paper with the old pencil rubbing trick. Jody and Donna are startled as someone starts to open the door—only to find it’s Sam and Dean also checking out the room. Jody tells Sam and Dean that Sheriff Cuse is a vampire. Despite having seen his teeth, the news of Cuse being a vampire is still a bit of a shock to Donna. Dean says to Jody, “You want to give her the talk?” It’s about time Donna was initiated into the not-so-secret hunter club.
Donna gives Sam and Dean the address that she was able to get from the pad of paper. The address is an old farmhouse outside of town. It’s never a recently built duplex or a beautifully renovated Craftsman-style house—monsters love the old farms with their scary barns and old outbuildings. Donna wants to go in with them to check out the farm, but Sam and Dean say no until Jody insists, “I said she’s good,” similarly to how Donna told the morgue attendant, “She’s with me.”
Once they get to the farm, a machete is procured from the back of the Impala and Dean hands it to Donna for purposes of vampire decapitation. He tells her, “If you’re gonna swing, swing hard. With vamps, head’s gotta roll.” The initiation is complete.
Sam walks up to the old building, with the others behind him. He looks inside and sees Sheriff Cuse. When he looks back Cuse is standing on the other side of the window and telling him to run. But it’s too late—a nest of vampires has surrounded them and they get knocked out and tied up. They always get knocked out and tied up.
It turns out the leader of these vamps is the hippie flower girl, named Starr, whom Jody gave money to earlier. Apparently she was turned by Sheriff Cuse, who taught her to use all the parts of their victims when they used to run together back in the day. They are environmental vampires, apparently, even reusing the leather their victims are wearing. Sheriff Cuse claims he has been straight for some time. When Donna challenges him on killing Sheriff Goodhill, he explains that he’s been on bagged blood, but when he found Goodhill, his fangs came out when he smelled her blood. Cuse left the nest after developing a conscience about all the killing, but his flower girl protégé is trying to bring him back into the fold. She tells him they will kill everyone in Hibbing if they have to. Cuse tells Starr why he left:
“Prey that begged for their lives. It was like even if I used every part, like I taught you, I mean, it’s still wrong. … I tried to protect people. After so many years of … gutting them. That’s why I’m here.”
Starr tries to make Cuse kill their human captives. When Cuse refuses and makes it clear he will not join them, Starr cuts off his head with one of the Winchesters’ machetes. All this back and forth between Cuse and Starr has given Dean and the others time to work on getting free. Winchesters are never tied up for long. Dean gets loose and starts killing vampires. Just before Starr is able to kill Jody, Donna, who also escaped her bonds, chops off Starr’s head. Though we knew it was coming, it was still fun to see Donna vanquish the flower power vampire. You could almost hear South Park’s Eric Cartman muttering “damn hippies” in the background.
They are all outside by the Impala. At the same time that Donna and Jody are talking about the vampire experience, Sam and Dean are talking about the Mark of Cain. The Winchester Brothers’ theme music begins to play in the background.
Dean: “You know. for the first time I’ve been back, I didn’t feel like the Mark was pushing me.”
Sam: “First time?”
Dean: “I felt like me again.”
Sam: “All right. So, that’s … good, right?”
Sam: “Okay. Well, let’s go with that.”
We have been missing the BM of Supernatural the last few episodes, so we appreciated this conversation, no matter how brief. As they get into the car, Dean rubs the Mark on his arm. We like that a Mark of Cain discussion bookends this episode because it remains a serious concern and perhaps hasn’t been given the priority that it deserves until now. We continue to dream worry that Demon Dean will reappear.
Supernatural gets a lot of criticism for being sexist, despite its overwhelmingly female audience. The writers and producers have sometimes complained that when they attempt to integrate female characters on the show, the audience often hates them. Focusing on Jody, who is a great character, is a good idea. Partnering her with Donna at a sheriff retreat, even better. Though the actresses Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster played their roles well and had a natural chemistry, we would have liked to have seen stronger writing to better showcase their skills. An example of excellent writing for female characters was “Fan Fiction,” an episode in which actresses Katie Sarife and Joy Regullano shined. We aren’t complaining that women need to be seen more often on Supernatural, but when they are, the writing should be more consistently smart, tough, touching and funny—all the things that make the dialogue on Supernatural so outstanding.
Next week we are hoping to learn more about the impact of two powerful female characters. The preview indicates that Castiel will come back into the fold, and we are interested to see how he is recovering from the loss of Hannah. We are also chomping at the bit to see how Crowley’s recognition of his mum, Rowena, will impact them both. We are excited to see what Ruth Connell will bring to Supernatural, as we could all use a little more things Scottish in our lives.