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Retro Recap: Supernatural, “Wendigo”

“Saving people, hunting things. . . the family business.”

Just a heads up, if we ever go camping together and an unseen evil drags you off into the dark woods, I will not try to save you. I will not poke my head out of the tent flap and say, “Brad? I heard screaming. Is everything all right?” No. I will hide in my tent until the Winchesters show up to save me.

In Blackwater Ridge, Colorado, three bros, hence force known as Tiny Bladder, Plaid Shirt and Puka Shells, are camping, 21st century-style. They’ve got Gameboys, vlogging and zero sense of self-preservation. Oh, Tiny Bladder. Couldn’t you hold it until morning? Your kind is always the first to die. Hearing your screams of terror, Plaid Shirt sticks his vulnerable head out of the tent flap. Clearly, he is the brains of the operation. Too bad his brains are now splattered all over a nearby shrubbery. Puka Shells gets wise to the danger and attempts to hide. One of my favorite horror tropes is when a character tries to tone down their terror induced hyperventilation and they just end up making more noise. We end this fabulous foray into nature with Puka Shells screaming as he’s set upon by a clawed hand. Worst camping trip ever.

Back in Palo Alto, California, Sam is standing over the grave of Wonder Woman his girlfriend, Jessica. Poor Jessica. We hardly knew ye. Realistically, we will hardly know any of the women in the Supernatural universe. The only ones who stick around for more than one story arc are totally evil. [spoiler]And the ones you really get attached to will sacrifice themselves to save the Winchesters after being mauled by hellhounds.[/spoiler]

Sam and Dean are on the road headed to Blackwater Ridge, Colorado. The coordinates they found in their father’s journal lead them to the middle of nowhere. After giving Ranger Wilkinson a truly terrible cover story about being environmental-study majors, he inadvertently tips them off to the disappearance of our three doomed campers. Seems Puka Shells, also known as Tommy, has a sister named Hailey who has been pressuring Ranger Wilkinson to mount a search. Their party isn’t due back for a few days, but Tommy hasn’t updated his vlog, so Hailey is convinced that something bad has happened. Posing as park rangers, they track down Hailey. Since her parents passed away, she’s taken care of Tommy and little brother Ben. If the forest service won’t help her find her brother, then she’ll find him herself. She’s hired a guide to take her out to Blackwater Ridge and they’re leaving at dawn.

What better way to spend the evening before a grueling wilderness excursion than by pounding whiskey and researching scary things. Every 23 years see a spate of mysterious disappearances in Blackwater Ridge. Search parties turn up nothing and authorities eventually blame it on the local grizzly bear population. In 1959 there was one survivor, a young boy. The brothers interview the survivor, who is now a crotchety old man who passes the time by chain smoking in a dimly lit apartment. The Winchesters call BS on the man’s story of a grizzly bear attack explaining, “If we knew what we were dealing with, we might be able to stop it. What did you see?” The old man saw nothing. It was simply too quick and too cunning. His only memories from that night were of his parents’ screams as they were dragged into the wilderness. The thing left him alive, albeit with a nasty claw mark across his chest. The boys think that it might be a skinwalker or a black dog. [spoiler]Skinwalkers are to Supernatural what lupus is to House. It’s never a skinwalker.[/spoiler]

The next morning the Winchesters meet up with Hailey, her younger brother Ben, and their hired guide. As the series progresses, the Winchesters do a better job of crafting believable cover stories. Well, maybe not entirely believable, but they at least make an effort to look the part. Hailey doesn’t really understand why forest rangers drive an Impala and dress like Detroit hipsters. The hired guide, Roy, immediately establishes himself as a humorless jerk. Dean manages to smooth talk everyone into complacency, and they head off into the woods.

In a dimly lit cave we see Tommy and Plaid Shirt strung up and barely alive. A tall, grotesque figure makes its way through the cave towards Plaid Shirt. The camera pans in on Tommy, so we never really see what happens to Plaid Shirt. But there’s a lot of screaming. And chewing sounds.

Back on the trail, a near miss with a bear trap and the reveal that an over-sized bag of peanut M & Ms is the only provision Dean has brought with him forces Hailey to confront the brothers. She knows they’re not forest rangers. Dean admits to the lie, and explains that he and Sam are just trying to find their father. She is surprisingly okay with being lied to and manipulated, so they trek on. Reaching the coordinates left in John Winchester’s journal, the forest becomes eerily quiet. After some exploration, the party comes upon the campsite of our snacktastic boys from earlier. There’s shredded nylon everywhere. And blood. Lots of blood. As the crew assesses the damage and searches for clues, they hear Tommy yelling a few hundred feet from the campsite. Of course it’s not really Tommy. The creature mimics Tommy’s voice in order to lure them away from their campsite. While they were searching for Tommy, it stole away with their equipment. No more provisions, no more satellite phones. They are completely cut off. [spoiler]This is why Wendigos should compete in the Miss America pageant. Mimicking the voice of a loved one to lure hikers to their doom beats baton twirling every time.[/spoiler]

Sam only knows of one creature that has the speed, cunning and scary manicure that they have encountered. A Wendigo. Once a man who became cursed after feeding on human flesh, over time turning into a humanoid creature with unimaginable strength and speed. This particular Wendigo is at least 200 years old. And there is only one way to kill it: with fire. When Sam surrounds the camp site with Anasazi symbols for protection, Roy is skeptical. Sam assures everyone that the Wendigo cannot harm them as long as they stay within the perimeter of the symbols. After a very touching moment between Sam and Dean, the crew hears a voice calling for help in the darkness. Seriously, Wendigo? I understand why they fell for it the first time, but what kind of moron would- oh look, there goes Roy. He makes it all of seven seconds outside the magic circle before being pulled head-first up a tree.

The next morning Hailey and Ben are trying to come to terms with the idea that there are supernatural forces in the world. Dean comforts Hailey and Ben by telling them that Tommy is likely still alive as the Wendigo stores its food to last long winters. Thanks, Dean. I’m sure it’s very reassuring to know that the evil creature that has their brother has a penchant for camper tartare. Following a trail of bloody claw prints on tree trunks, they try to track the Wendigo back to its lair. Of course, it’s a trap. The Wendigo just wanted to lure them away from the magic circle and into a clearing. Then our old pal Roy drops in for a visit. Okay, fine. The Wendigo drops his corpse from a tree top. “Drops in” sounded funnier. And I really don’t like Roy.

As they run through the forest, Sam and Ben get separated from Hailey and Dean. Sam and Ben hear Hailey screaming and find Dean’s torch abandoned and can only assume that they have been dragged away. The Wendigo’s claws must have torn a hole in Dean’s bag of peanut M & M’s, so Sam and Ben are able to follow the trail of brightly colored candies to an abandoned mine shaft. They find Hailey, Dean and Tommy still alive. The Wendigo is gone”¦ for now. Tommy is pretty badly injured, but he can still walk. Some flare guns are scattered among the stockpile of stolen camp gear. Hopefully they will dispatch the Wendigo, should it return. Which of course it does. Dean tries to lure it away from the rest of the group with a cry of, “Bring it on, bitch. I taste good.” (Dean Winchester: Wordsmith.) With Dean off trying to get himself eaten, Sam leads the three siblings towards an exit. The Wendigo catches up with them and Sam somehow manages to miss hitting a target that is roughly 18 inches from his face. Good thing Dean is there to save everyone. It’s okay. You can swoon.

Finished? Okay.

A flare to the belly ends the Wendigo, and the crew hikes back to the ranger station. Of course they tell everyone it was a grizzly. Far less paperwork that way. Hailey tells Dean, “I can’t think of a way to thank you.” He responds by giving her a look that says, “It rhymes with glow bob.” Clearly a more patient woman than I, she finds his immature sexual innuendo charming and they have this gross little moment. Thanking him again, she climbs into an ambulance with her brother. The brothers seem satisfied at having helped this family. They didn’t find their father, but they know he’ll turn up. They head out on the road again, no real destination. This time, Sam gets to drive.

Winchester Victory Jam:

By Brick Frog

I do neat things regularly!

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