In “Plush,” Supernatural gives us a fun yet heartbreaking episode with a clown, a giant killer rabbit, a court jester mascot, and a threatening deer. It’s fun not only because it plays on Sam’s clown phobia, but because Briana Buckmaster returns as our favorite Minnesotan, Sheriff Donna Hanscum. We first met Donna in Season 9 when Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) were investigating a pishtaco. Then she returned for the Season 10 episode “Hibbing 911.” After the serious, plot-advancing story in “Our Little World,” did Supernatural do well to give us a costume drama set in the land of 10,000 lakes? You betcha!
“Plush” brought us back to the giant Teddy Bear of the Season 4 episode “Wishful Thinking,” but we got a ghost instead of a curse, and a final admission of truth from Sam instead of Dean. Though costumed killers and accented Midwesterners make for an entertaining story, it’s the sad tale of sibling mistrust and betrayal that makes “Plush” such an interesting episode.
Outside of the Winchester’s own complicated family history, the erosion of Rita’s faith in her brother when others cast aspersions on him may be one of the saddest stories we’ve heard on Supernatural. Seeing Max’s grief over his beloved uncle really accentuated the tragedy. Events inspire Sam to open up to his own brother about his visions of the Cage. Sam attempts to bring the two of them together by being truthful, but Dean’s dismissive response ultimately pushes the Winchesters further apart.
Dean continues to be scornful of Sam’s prayers and visions. This narrative replays some of the conflict we saw between the brothers in Seasons 1 and 2 of Supernatural, though it appears that the brothers may be reversing roles in a potential showdown between good and evil. Yet there are too many unanswered questions about the source of Sam’s visions and the motivation of the Darkness to understand where each brother stands in the moral spectrum. The theme of spirit-controlled puppets also plays into the season story arc: is Dean being controlled by the Darkness? Is Sam being manipulated by Lucifer, God, or someone else?
The costumed killers in “Plush” were fantastic. Sheriff Donna was right about how scary the giant rabbit was, with the writers riffing on the theme of terrifying Easter Bunnies. Sam and the clown with the bloody knife in the elevator is destined to become a classic Supernatural scene. The deer head was an unexpected costume that reflected the manner in which poor Chester was hunted down.
Well, that’s no ordinary Rabbit
“Plush” opens with a disturbing scene of a woman, Fran, trying to get her football-focused husband to help with the garbage while a man with a giant toy bunny head stands outside her window. The menacing creature doesn’t attack the woman when she takes out the trash, instead using the opportunity to go into the house to attack the TV-watching husband with a broken beer bottle. Poor woman, wasn’t she punished enough having that husband?
At the bunker, Sam catches Dean praying to God. Sam’s praying old-school, kneeling alongside his bed and speaking out loud. Sam probably should learn how to pray more quietly because Dean finds him prostrate and isn’t pleased. We first discovered that Dean hates it when Sam prays way back in Season 2 in the episode “Houses of the Holy.” Since then the Winchesters have learned about the existence of God and Heaven, yet Dean continues to think praying is a waste of time, recently scolding Sam in the episode “Baby” for praying to God. Dean doesn’t believe that Sam’s visions are meant to fight the Darkness. Dean is still pretty bitter about God not stepping up during the Apocalypse, telling Sam, “Don’t count on God, okay? Count on us.”
Sheriff Donna Hanscum calls the boys about the giant killer bunny she is dealing with in Minnesota. Sam and Dean arrive in Larsen County, and get big hugs from Sheriff Donna. Donna tells them that they got the “wild hare” into custody with the help of a whole team, but the giant bunny head won’t come off. She introduces them to Officer Doug Stover (Brendan Taylor), and they introduce themselves as Agents Savage and Elliot. There seem to be some sparks between Sheriff Donna and Officer Doug, but Donna isn’t interested in someone with the same first name and job as her ex-husband. Not sure that we blame her.
Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide. It’s a killer
She brings the boys to the cell where the bunnyman is being held. She tells them, “Only thing we do know is he’s Caucasian, roughly 18 to 25, and terrifying.” The silent man with the giant Easter bunny head is unsettling to say the least. Dean tries to “question” the man, but the freakishly strong rabbit man manages to grab Dean’s head. Sam pours holy water on the rabbit, but it has no effect because it’s not a demon. Once Sam gets Dean out of the creature’s grasp, Sam notices a clue—the rabbit man has a tattoo that says “Kylie Forever.” This isn’t the Winchesters’ first rodeo.
They track down the rabbit man’s girlfriend Kylie. The couple went costume shopping the day before, and once Kylie’s boyfriend Mike put the bunny head on, he started acting strange, then disappeared. Kylie claims to have no idea who the victim Stan Hinkle is, saying that Mike would never hurt anyone. Really, what else would she say? But we believe her, and so do Sam and Dean.
Sheriff Donna and Officer Doug are transporting the rabbit-headed man to the hospital to try to remove the bunny head. It’s not clear how his huge bunny costume head will fit in to the back seat of the car, and we never find out if it does, because even though he’s heavily tranquilized, the bunny man attacks Donna and Doug. Doug is forced to shoot in order to save Donna. When they look at the body, the costume head has rolled off and it’s the young man Kylie had described. The creepy bunny costume head lies nearby, further bloodied. As if it weren’t terrifying enough.
Sam, Dean, and Donna meet later that night with the bunny head. Donna’s not feeling great about a 19-year-old boy dying because of a cursed costume. She points out that he was just somebody’s puppet. Sam tells her they have to make sure no one else dies. They burn the smiling rabbit head, only increasing the dreadfulness of the object.
At a school gym, student Brock Buckner is working out under the supervision of Coach Phil Evans. The coach goes into his office to work. While Brock is busy admiring his own form, the gym becomes cold—see-your-breath cold. Never a good sign. Someone in a court jester costume surprises the coach in his office. Lucky for coach, the nearest rescuer, Brock, spends like 90% of his day working out, so he’s able to knock out the attacker and keep his coach from being killed.
Donna, Doug, Sam, and Dean arrive at the scene to investigate. When Doug starts to ask questions about multiple costume killings, Donna suggests it’s a copycat killer. Sam and Dean talk to Brock, who notes that the court jester is their school mascot. What kind of school names their team the Court Jesters? Yet Brock has no idea which student plays the mascot since he’s the quarterback and all. They do get some valuable information from Brock about the temperature drop at the gym, cluing them in that it’s a ghost possession.
They take the jester back to the station. The boys tell Donna iron and salt will help dispel the ghost. Salt is Donna’s diet secret, so naturally she has a salt shaker in her fanny pack. That’s right, she has a fanny pack. But Dean has other ideas, and uses a rock-salt-loaded shotgun to shoot the mascot. Once he does, they see the spirit, and the mask falls, revealing a confused teenage girl. The girl tells them that the costume was donated to the school.
Sam and Dean track down the woman who has been donating the costumes—Rita Johnson. Her brother Chester, who was a kids’ party performer, jumped off a bridge a few months ago. Sam looks at pictures of Chester in his costumes and sees one was a clown, so he puts it down quickly. Rita’s son Max wanted her to keep his uncle’s costumes, but they made her sad so she donated them. Sam asks where Chester was buried, and Rita tells them he was cremated. They’re always cremated! Dean asks if he ever had a falling out with Stan Hinkle or Phil Evans, but Rita says she doesn’t even think Chester knew them.
The only way to stop the ghost is to get rid of all the costumes. Donna has sent Doug to collect the other costumes. Dean leaves to talk to Stan’s widow, and Sam goes to the hospital to check on Coach Phil. Before Sam can get to the coach, a clown with balloons and a very sharp scalpel gets there first. The clown slits Phil’s throat, then heads for the elevator.
Sam, who has a clown phobia, finds himself in the elevator with the clown. As if it wouldn’t be bad enough for Sam to be trapped with a clown normally, this clown is possessed by a killer ghost and is holding a bloody knife. Jared Padalecki is pretty hilarious in this scene. The clown turns around to look at Sam, freaking him out even more. Sam finally gets up his nerve and attacks the clown, managing to expel the ghost. A confused and angry older man takes off the mask, asking Sam, “Who the hell are you?”
Donna and Doug meet Sam at the hospital. Donna tells Doug the killer clown is a copy of a copycat killing. Doug clearly doesn’t believe her. Sam has a lot of opinions about Donna’s treatment of Doug, asking her, “Is it that you’re treating new Doug like old Doug, and not even giving him a chance?” Donna thinks it’s none of Sam’s beeswax. Probably true.
Dean is following up with Stan’s widow Fran. It turns out that Phil and Stan had an issue with Chester. They believed Chester crossed the line with their kids. They didn’t want to go to the police, so they went to his house to accuse Chester. When Chester wasn’t at home, they confronted his sister Rita. Chester was dead of a suicide a few months later.
Dean goes to talk to Rita, who had earlier denied there was a connection between her brother and the victims. Her son Max invites Dean to come in and wait for his mom. Max has been practicing magic tricks learned from his uncle. He tells Dean about his uncle:
Max: “He was cool. I miss him.”
Dean: “He sounds like a good guy.”
Max: “He was. What those men said about him wasn’t true.”
Fear cripples you
Sam and Dean tell Rita they need to know the truth, saying that maybe Chester was murdered. Dean points out that Max could be in danger. She finally admits that Phil and Stan came to the house and claimed Chester had been inappropriate with their kids. She defended her brother and told them to leave:
“They didn’t have any evidence. But then, I started to have my doubts. I mean, as much as I wanted to defend my brother … what they said really … got under my skin. Chester was always a little … Off. Only got along with kids. That’s why he became a party performer. I spent my whole life sticking up for my brother. But what if I couldn’t see him for who he really was? And he and Max were so close. I mean … What if he was hurting him, and I didn’t know? Chester was my brother, but … Max is my son.”
Instead of talking to Chester about her concerns she called Stan and Phil. One day she told them where he was, and she figured they would just scare him. They claimed his death was an accident, and she didn’t know what to believe. She wanted to go to the police, but Stan said they would all go to jail, and Rita didn’t want Max to lose her after losing his father and uncle. She tells the Winchesters:
“Fear cripples you. Makes you do nothing. Or worse … it makes you do something that you regret. I should’ve trusted my brother.”
Donna calls to say that they’ve tracked down all the costumes. Dean asks about the costume Chester was wearing the day he died—a deer costume—but Donna didn’t find one. A possessed Max comes out of the bedroom wearing the deer head and attacks his mother. Dean manages to expel the spirit, then tosses the costume deer head to Sam to take outside and burn. Meanwhile Dean gets some table salt and tells Rita and Max to stay in the salt circle, telling Rita, “Wrongful death spawns a vengeful spirit.”
After knocking out Sam, the spirit of Chester comes inside and begins attacking Dean. When Max yells to his dead uncle to stop, Chester pauses for a moment but returns to going after Dean. When Sam finally burns the deer head costume, poor Max has to watch his uncle’s vengeful spirit burn. Like this kid hasn’t been through enough.
Rita’s eroding trust in her brother, resulting in her betrayal and his death, is a particularly sad story. The grief Max experiences in losing his uncle is played very well by Logan Williams (who also plays young Barry in The Flash). It made the story that much more heartbreaking.
With their case closed, Sam and Dean say their goodbyes to Sheriff Donna. She tells them, “Here’s hoping somethin’ less murderous brings you back to Minnesota. Like Prince or Cheese Curd Fest.” Let’s hope it’s Prince. A demon-possessed Prince, or perhaps he’ll have a cursed purple object. They designate Donna a true hunter now that she has three cases under her belt, resulting in a big hug.
After the Winchesters leave, Donna apologizes for being so tough on Doug and he points out that he’s got baggage too. Doug suggests that Donna call him by his middle name—Lonnie—but she’ll stick with Doug.
Sam and Dean head back to the bunker in the Impala. Sam is inspired to try a little sibling honesty:
Sam: “I keep praying to God because if it is God, and I know you think it isn’t, but if it is He’s showing me something I don’t know what to do with.”
Sam: “The Cage.”
Dean: “Lucifer’s Cage?”
Sam: “Yeah. What if He’s telling me I have to go back? What if He’s saying that’s where the answer is to beating the Darkness?”
Dean reminds Sam that anything to do with the Cage is suicide. Dean tells his brother, “So no … just not going to happen.” Sam responds, “Great,” but he doesn’t seem to mean it.
First off, what other cage could Sam be talking about? Secondly, stop being a jerk, Dean! Sam’s honesty isn’t reciprocated by Dean, who has a secret connection with the Darkness. Maybe the Darkness is the new Ruby. It’s not clear if Dean’s continual dismissal of Sam’s visions is because that’s just Dean’s go-to response when it comes to visions—or is it his way of trying to protect the Darkness from Sam?
Supernatural gave us a bloody but fun romp in “Plush.” It also reminds us of what can happen when sibling mistrust starts to grow. Watch out, boys!
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