Remember back in season 2 when we learned that fearless, badass Sam Winchester was scared of clowns? Judging by the way he’s running from Bozo the meth-toothed clown, well, as the adage goes: the more things change the more they stay the same.
But wait, let’s rewind 60 hours and find out why Sam is running from John Wayne Gacy.
60 hours prior, Sam and Dean were still trying to get a lead on last week’s Amazonian patricidal procreators, but the trail is cold. I’m pleased to see that the main plotline of the season, the Leviathans, hasn’t been forgotten. No, that gets a whopping few seconds via a paranoid payphone call from Frank Devereaux that requires Dean to Lennon/McCartney his way to information. Information that Fred Savage is now a Leviathan. Poor Ben Savage, even Leviathans overlook him for his brother. Always, in the shadow, huh, Ben?
Aside from that, there is no new info on the Leviathans or Dick Roman, but before there’s a chance to be disappointed that this arc is floundering, Sam sums up the issue with “so we got dick on Dick?” and makes it all better. Sam has also managed to find something else for them to chase. Dean is fine with them picking up a new case as long as there are no baby mommas, cocktail lounges, martinis, or hot chicks that like to take control involved. He’s been hurt before, y’know.
Suits, morgue, victim. You all know the drill, right? This week’s first vic is a man covered in suction welts. No, he wasn’t having deadly fun with his vacuum attachments; he was attacked by an octopus. Yes, octopus. A vampiric one, apparently. They go question his widow, but she’s less than forthcoming with information, but makes sure to slide in that her deceased husband was with the babysitter the night he died. Her daughter is eavesdropping from the top of the stairs, looking incredibly Omen. Dean decides to go question the babysitter, Sam reminds him that he’s sworn off being in the immediate presence of attractive women, Dean’s counterpoint is that they don’t actually know the babysitter is hot.
She is, of course.
Dean questions her and finds nothing unsavory about her and the victim. She’s bluntly honest; she was around a lot because both parents were neglectful of their daughter. The mother is gone a lot, the father works a lot, so much so that he bailed on her birthday party at Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie.
She also mentions that the daughter, Kelly, is highly preoccupied with her closet, or more specifically the monster she believes lives in the closet. Dean calls Sam and tells him to focus on the little girl. But not in a creeper way. Sam tries to talk to the girl as she draws on the sidewalk with chalk; however, she’s not giving up much info because her mom got upset with her the last time she over-shared to the police. Just then the mother calls her away and Sam is left alone to ponder the evil looking octopus the girl drew on the concrete.
Meanwhile, there’s a man running through a meadow being chased by something with hooves. I personally am not pleased by this sound. And with good reason, those hooves are seemingly connected to a white horse which is chasing the man down. He hops a fence to safety and leans against it to take a breather. His relief was premature. He sags against the fence and gasps for air mere moments before he’s impaled. By a horn. That’s attached to a unicorn. As the unicorn gallops off a rainbow shoots out of its ass. Unicorns are just horses with horns. Clearly evil.
The episode flips back to the present where Sam has managed to trap himself with Captain Spaulding and Sweet Tooth. “If it bleeds, you can kill it,” he reminds himself as he takes aim and fires his gun at one of the Killer Klowns, but it doesn’t bleed, it does, however, emit a puff of glitter. Then both clowns thoroughly kick Sam Winchester’s ass.
Back at the scene of the unicorn impalement we discover that it is approximately 36 hours before Sam’s double dose of Coulrophobia. Dean is investigating it, but he’s baffled by the killing. One thing he does learn is that the deceased had a son, a son who attended a birthday party held at… you guessed it, Plucky Pennywhistle’s. Dean calls Sam to tell him to go check the place out, Sam is resistant, not only do clowns creep him out, he also has less than fond memories of Dean using Plucky Pennywhistle restaurants as nannies for Sam while Dean let his hormones run free.
Sam sufficiently puffs himself up to go in and is immediately face to face with clown after clown after clown and his face might as well be a neon sign flashing “PANIC ATTACK AHOY”, but he holds it together and notices the wall o’ fear display. While he’s scoping that out the manager comes up, introduces herself, and explains how the wall is full of placemat drawings by kids to encourage them to face their fears. Sam notices that pictures are missing. The pictures belonging to the two kids whose fathers were recently killed. Sam asks the manager, Jean, if she remembers Billy, the son of the latest, she does. Easy for her to remember because the father had made an ass of himself when he came to pick Billy up. While there Sam sees an employee trying to parent on the job as she tells her son to behave and do homework while she finishes her shift. The boy, Tyler, looks frustrated and annoyed, Sam seems to empathize with the boy.
(sidenote: I’d like to thank the SPN writers for using “full-frontal douchebag,” not only does the phrase roll off the tongue, it is far superior to MTV’s I Just Want My Pants Back’s toss in of “full-metal douchebag.”)
Sam takes this all in and is about to head out to brainstorm with Dean, when he’s beckoned over by the custodian, Saul. Saul tells him he has intel, but now is not the time; the clowns have eyes, y’know. He tells Sam to come back after closing.
Back at their tiki torch motel room, Dean unpacks Chinese take-out while Sam explains the terror wall, how Kelly and Billy’s drawings are both missing, and how both dads pulled dick moves while at Plucky’s for all to see. Dean backs up Sam’s growing theory by showing him the drawing Billy did for him when Dean went to talk to him. Except unlike Sam’s idea that the drawing was of Billy’s dad riding a horse, Dean shows him a lovely rendition of a unicorn mid-gallop with a man kabob’d on its horn, complete with rainbow flatulence.
It’s closing time at Plucky’s, Jean is counting the till as Saul heads out, she stops him, tells him a kid ralphed in the ball pit and as soon as he sanitizes that thoroughly he can go. Saul is not amused on any level, but goes off to do it. As he’s wading through the balls, sucking them into his vacuum sanitization machine, something underneath lunges and attacks. He reaches to inspect his leg and his hand comes up bloody. As he panics, the balls undulated around him, a mass of them circling closer and closer until the unseen thing pulls him under and tears him apart, blood splatters against the clear wall that encases the balls.
Sam and Dean pull up to Plucky’s expecting to rendezvous with Saul the Informative Custodian only to find the place swarming with police and medics. Sam talks to Jean while Dean takes a quick look at the body. Sam comes back with the info that the Jean was the one who found the body and that the current police theory is that the ball washer did it. Dean makes Sam repeat “ball washer” for his sheer enjoyment, he gets two and a half say-overs out of Sam before his younger brother catches on. Dean, still pleased with himself, lifts the victim’s sheet to show Sam the body. Using the knowledge gleaned from Shark Week, Dean declares the wound to be a shark bite. This requires more investigation. Into Plucky’s After Dark they go. They deduce that since Saul wasn’t an asshole parent, whoever is running this bizarre scare show can send out fears at their leisure.
Thrown back to the present we’re locked up with Sam and his evil clowns. Me? I’m not remotely coulrophobic. I mean, I don’t like clowns giggling in my face because I just don’t find them funny or entertaining, but I rather like clown figurines and such. Of course, I can see why they freak some people out, not knowing who’s behind the makeup and all, plus I understand how potentially scarring Gacy and Pennywise can be. However, blasé aside, even I have to admit that these clowns are more than a bit disturbing. And annoying. And strong. And resilient.
Time rewind. Sam and Dean are researching at the motel, sifting through and eliminating possibilities. Tulpa and divine intervention of the angelic persuasion are both ruled out. They’re getting nowhere fast so Sam devises a plan to go play bad cop and press the employees of Plucky’s, in the hopes that someone will crack and spill some secrets. Dean’s job is to hang around the Magical Menagerie and act normal, and by “normal” they mean try to figure out how to not look like a chester while hanging out alone in a kid’s party joint. He’s not doing the best job in my opinion, especially given that he’s quickly distracted by a kid walking past him playing with a giant rainbow Slinky. Dean wants one! He’s always wanted one! He runs up to the toy counter and tries to buy one from the overly chipper counter worker. Denied. Dean’s money is no good here. Literally. He has to pay with hard earned tickets, but don’t worry Dean, it’s Double Ticket Tuesday at the skee ball machine.
Am I the only one that went, “of course it’s Tuesday”?
Sam uses all 6 foot forever of himself to tower over Jean as he leads her into a back room for questioning. Accusatory tone in place, Sam questions her, but all he finds out is that Jean is new to the managerial position, she won the “How to be a Great Plucky Pennywhistle Shift Manager” essay contest. Sam lets her go and Dean tails her outside, but she’s not conjuring big mojo, she’s just taking the edge off with a quick toke.
While Sam pulls a Brenda Leigh Johnson on the happy! happy! happy! toy counter worker, Dean spies Tyler trying to stop a bully from cheating at skee ball, just as the bully is about to lunge for Tyler, Dean intervenes. Dean can tell Tyler is an unhappy kid and tries to console him, telling him it’s not that bad and that his mother is doing the best she can with what she’s got. Dean also notices that Tyler is killing time by drawing a giant robot with laser beams on one of the beat your fear placemats. Not good.
Next on the interrogation list is Plucky’s lovable lion mascot, Cliff. Given that Plucky Pennywhistle’s is a mirror for Chuck E. Cheese, I really loved that the writers chose a lion for the mascot, it made me think of Aesop’s fable “The Lion and the Mouse.”.Unless, of course, that was a complete coincidence and I was reading too much into that…
Anyway, Sam makes Cliff take off his lion head and starts to lay into him, but it seems this isn’t Cliff’s first law enforcement rodeo. He chucks his costume head at Sam and makes a break for the door. A quick fumble with the doorknob (fluffy costume paws and shiny metal knobs don’t mix) and he’s out the door. He’s fast, but Dean and Sam are on his tail, Dean takes a flying leap and tackles Cliff to the ground. Cliff, in a panic, starts rambling on about meth labs and genetically impossible feats, however Dean and Sam don’t care about any of that. Cliff realizes they’re there about the sub-basement shenanigans. Cliff doesn’t know much, but he does know that when he and Saul took a mushroom spin in the ball pit they heard some creepy noises coming from the room and he doesn’t seem to think it was the psilocybin messing with him.
The boys make their way back through Plucky’s where they notice Tyler and his mother; his mother’s wit’s end is fraying fast and Tyler is gearing up for a good dig at her when he spots Dean giving him the eye. Tyler remembers what Dean told him and deflates. He even apologizes to his mom and she visibly softens at this. They leave contently for the time being. Unfortunately, Dean notices that Tyler’s laser-eyed robot drawing is missing from the table.
The brothers split up, Dean to the boiler room and Sam to follow Tyler and his mom. In the boiler room Dean finds drawings, photographs, a fire pit and Howard the chipper toy counter employee. Dean pleads his case for the exhausted mom with the attitude, but tells him he’s not letting her off, she’s just backburnered while he deals with a bigger bully, Sam Winchester, bad cop semi-extraordinaire. See, Howard palmed Sam’s business card, noticed his… issue with clowns and now has all his fear playing components on hand.
We’ve now caught up to where we started from. Sam’s getting his ass handed to him by clowns and Dean’s still dealing with Howard. Turns out Howard’s essay didn’t test so hot with Plucky Corp.’s vetting system and he was passed over for that promotion. Dean’s carefully pulling info from Howard; Dean’s smart, he knows you don’t taunt a fear conjurer — it’s tacky. Dean spies a photo of a young Howard and his brother as well as drawings of water and drowning. He puts it together and despite Howard’s begging he tosses it all into the fire. Up manifests Howard’s brother, dripping wet and menacing. He stares down Howard as water begins to bubble up from inside of him. Howard drowns from the inside as the fire burns. In that exact moment Sam’s clowns explode into oblivion leaving nothing but a dense film of glitter in their wake.
Sam goes back to Plucky’s to pick up Dean. He’s a sparkling princess of a mess, but he’s nice enough to let Dean laugh at him heartily and even presents him with his very own giant rainbow Slinky. Dean takes this opportunity to apologize to Sam for ditching him at Plucky’s all those years ago and gives Sam a present also, a clown doll. Sam is not okay with that. They drive off, brotherly bond in place, clown doll let behind on the asphalt.