Imagine you’re Jeremy Carver, and you just got back from a long writer’s strike. You’ve been told that you better get writing fast, for pre-production on four more episodes to close out the season needed to start yesterday and your next ep is up second.
“Long Distance Call” may be the third to last episode of the season, but it was obviously conceived to be a filler episode to throw in before all the intense stuff played out. Which never happened because of that $%#@ writer’s strike.
Granted this is me speculating, but I think there wasn’t a lot of time to plot this one out creatively, so Jeremy Carver was likely instructed “Write it by the numbers.” In other words, they pulled out the by the book checklist and Mr. Carver made sure he checked all the boxes. There's rather compelling evidence.
- Checklist item #1. The mysterious death of the week. Complete with blood spatter on nearby object. Works every time.
- Checklist item #2. Some brotherly tension. This is pretty great though. It really sets the mindsets of both these brothers for this episode. They’re both frustrated, but while Sam refuses to give up Dean is losing faith in the whole process. It only took Dean five episodes (and one long strike) to tell Sam what Ruby said. Sam should have known the risks of calling him out on it. “You really want to talk about who’s keeping secrets from who?” This scene does include the patented "Sam Winchester extended ape arms of intense frustration." Or whatever you call them. I need to get a montage of all those together someday.
- Checklist item #3. Put on the suits and talk to the victim’s wife. By the way, Milan, Ohio is not this lush. It’s a flat boring, non-scenic farm community on the way to Cedar Point. Did I mention it’s very boring?
- Checklist item #4. Talk to people at the phone company, where the trouble all began. Introduce the setting where it’ll all play out. If there’s one bright spot to this episode, it’s the basement guy in the phone company, Stewie. He’s hilarious. Hey, it gets lonely in that basement. Busty Asian Beauties seems like his style. What a greasy lowlife. Actually, he and Sam are competing for the most grease that can be in one person’s hair.
- I've said it before, I'll make a big deal out of it here. Out of the 149 episodes that have aired so far, this is THE WORST episode for Sam Winchester’s hair. Yes, it’s worst than "Wendigo." There’s plenty of evidence.
- Speaking of Busty Asian Beauties, Checklist item #5. Continuity for the fans. Got to use something from the past that inspires a fan shoutout. It also never hurts to use something that’s been registered by the show before. Bustyasianbeauties.com used to go to Warner Brother’s site. Now, it goes nowhere.
- Checklist item #6. Sam and/or Dean must bond with the victim of the week. This week it’s Sam. I really miss this Sam. He’s so distant with people anymore and doesn’t connect. Sure, he’s barely trying to hold it together these days, but he was back then too. At least back then he found time to smile. Too bad the hair is such a hot mess. It drowns out the smile.
- I'm not sure about you, but I'm loving Dean's black suit in this one. Loving. Why can't he wear this more often? Yes, slow, mediocre bad hair episodes make me prone for taking dips in the shallow end of the pool.
- Checklist item #7, wow the audience with a shocking development. John Winchester calling Dean on the phone should do the trick. Actually, this little twist ends up being quite clever. The way Dean clings onto hope that John can help him out of the deal, it reveals how scared and desperate he really is. He’s willing to believe anything. It’s really sad.
- Checklist item #8. More brotherly tension. Sam and Dean don’t see eye to eye about John. Gee, like that’s never happened before!
- Checklist item #9. Some brotherly humor! Dean does get in a pretty good line. “Well, you know, you think a Stanford education and a high school hook up rate of zero point zero would produce better results than that." Sam's smile again is drowned out by bad hair.
- Checklist item #10. The quirky scene. I LOVE this tour guide. She’s using the quoting fingers! “We’re walking, we’re walking, we’re not touching that, and we’re walking...
- I don’t care what Winchester it is, I'm splashing like a mad woman in that shallow end every time one of them is shown sleeping. In bed. Covered in a tacky bedspread. This one has O’s all over it, to remind you they’re in Ohio. It's also the best Sam's hair looks all episode.
- Checklist item #11. The creepy/scary/spooky scene. Actually, this one is pretty damned good. Lanie seeing her mother touching her in the monitor reflection? The computer turning itself on going “Come to me” over and over again? DanaShulps lives!
- More brotherly tension. They fight. I have to admit, other than the fact that Sam’s hair looks atrocious, he’s acting out of character here. I know Sam’s the practical one but, he just seems off. First he doesn’t want to work on the case, and now he does? He doesn’t seem that concerned about Dean after fretting over him all season? I just have never been able to put my finger on it, and I stopped trying a while ago. I also have a hard time taking Sam very seriously when he’s wearing his hoodie. With bad hair. Here he goes for the arms again, but they're only half arms. You see, he is off!
- The pacing of this episode is now down to a sluggish crawl as the next item on the list is addressed. Checklist item #12, the dashing and daring Winchester rescue! As fun as it was to see Sam snatch a kid from the oncoming truck just in the nick of time, it was just a wee bit predictable, right? I was waiting for the kid to run away in fright without a thank you, like the kid in Groundhog Day.
- "Dean, warning, it's Crocatta. Dean, double warning, I have to face this thing on a bad hair day."
- Crocatta still has my vote for one of the worst MOTWs ever. Checklist item #13, Sam and/or Dean gets captured by the MOTW, and has to endure some monologuing while they work their chance for escape before imminent death. Poor Stewie though. Dying where you work sucks.
- Checklist item #14, bloody death for the villain. Sam’s got that covered.
- Dean’s scene was far more captivating and shocking. Dean faced one of his more raw foes ever, a raging Dad. It was a pure street fight. Yes, my heart broke for Dean in a million pieces when he realized it was all a trick. That realization was more emotionally powerful than all of season seven.
- Only one more item on the list, the brotherly bonding chat! I thought this scene fell flat the first few times I saw this, but after watching again, it’s quite good. It has the right mixture of snark and sincerity. I love their reunion. “I see they improved your face.” “Right back at ya.” But Dean finally coming clean that he was scared, while they were on the edge of the beds having a beer, that my crushed heart. It would have been crushed to a pulp if he hadn’t decided their conversation wouldn’t end as a click flick moment.
Dean: Deep revelation, having a real moment here, that's what you come back with? And me?”
Sam: Do you want a poem?
Up next, another Carver classic. “In The Beginning.” A new take on Back To The Future.
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