"Croatoan"
--Robin's Rambles by Robin Vogel
 
Another pivotal episode, "Croatoan" has one of the most difficult-to-watch brotherly scenes we had ever seen, at least up until that point in the series, or, ever, for some viewers. It also ties in heavily with the mytharc, as those who have followed along to "The End" are well aware. I love when a show's continuity exposes itself, especially that many years later. 
 
Dean, thinking Sam infected with the Croatoan virus, sends the other survivors on without him, even giving one, Sarge, the keys to his beloved Impala. He is going to die with Sam, possibly at Sam's hand. If not, he is going to kill Sam when he becomes violent, then kill himself. Either way, both brothers are going to die. Dean won't be talked out of staying with Sam, not even by Sarge, who says, "Your funeral."
 
This episode starts with Sam's horrible vision of Dean killing a tied-up young man who begs him not to. "It's NOT in me!" insists the young man, but Dean shoots him, anyway. When Sam and Dean find their way to the little town where this is to take place, they find the word CROATOAN carved into a tree. This reminds Sam of the Roanoke colony, which mysteriously disappeared in the 1500's, and which John Winchester felt might have happened due to demonic plague. ("That's not school, Dean, that's Schoolhouse Rock!") Either way, this episode immediately gave me the creeps, which never stopped coming, right until the end. When the brothers can't locate anyplace to dial out, find themselves unable to leave (love Dean doing the little "I don't swing that way" anti- homosexual dance with the guy who hangs onto his car as he goes into reverse and returns to town), and encounter the car with nothing in it but blood, I was in a state of high anxiety.
 
Add in the Tanner family scene witnessed by the brothers ("This isn't going to hurt, Mom,"), as Dad slices his son's arm and forces the blood to mix with his tied-up wife's, the son diving through the window and running off after the brothers' intervention, and Dean accusing Sam of being a bleeding heart for not shooting the son the way he shot the father, I felt even more uneasy. This is one episode that kept intensifying the suspense to levels I could barely tolerate!
 
When the Winchesters, posing as marshals, finally make their way to the clinic, the lady doctor tells them this virus has a sulfur component, which means a lot to Sam and Dean. When she tries to take Beverly Tanner's blood, she goes insane, and Sam knocks her out with an oxygen tank.  On the road, Dean and Sarge meet and aim guns at each other, trying to figure out if the other is infected. Sarge's neighbor, Mr. Rogers, tried to kill him. (Dean finds that amusing, natch.)   They return to report to the doctor that this is demonic germ warfare, biblical plague"”they have to get out and warn people. Sarge and Dean insists they also have to kill Beverly. Everyone else is aghast, but Dean, after asking Sam if he's sure she's infected and getting a yes, opens the door where they have locked Beverly in, and, despite her insisting she's all right, shoots her to death.
 
Sam and Dean get weapons ready. The nurse, Pam, is eager to leave. Sam agrees that they must let others know, but is concerned about being attacked out there, and suggests they create explosives out of what's handy in the clinic. Duane Tanner bangs at the door, wanting to come in. Duane is the young man from Sam's vision, so Dean asks the doctor to check him out. Duane asks about his parents, both of whom are dead. "Awkward," murmurs Dean. They notice Duane is bleeding and tie him up, sure he's infected. Speaking with Dean alone, Sam asks him not to kill Duane yet. You're supposed to struggle, insists Sam, it's testing your conscience. Dean locks Sam in one of the rooms while he goes to shoot Duane, and everything is exactly the same way it was in Sam's vision"”except that Dean finds himself unable to go through with it. 
 
Later, Dean and Sam are working on making bombs out of bottles of alcohol. The doctor comes in and lets them know Duane isn't infected and she wants to untie him. They agree. Sam asks his brother why he didn't kill Duane, but receives no response except, "We need more alcohol." That gives Pam, the nurse, time to lock herself in with Sam, sit on him, slash her arm and Sam's chest, and mix her apparently infected blood with his. The others race in. Dean shoots Pam in the back, killing her. "She bled on him," says Sarge, "he's got the virus." Sam and Dean look at each other, horrified.
 
Dean tells the doctor to check Sam's wound. Sarge insists they must shoot Sam. Duane points out how ready Dean was to shoot HIM. "NO ONE IS SHOOTING MY BROTHER!" insists Dean, which gave me chills all over. 
 
Everyone leaves Sam and Dean alone. Sam starts crying as Dean wishes they had a deck of cards, or foosball table. Sam tells him to get out; Dean refuses, and won't give Sam his gun and leave. Sam slams the table (making us think, for a second, he had turned crazy) and tells Dean this is the dumbest thing he's ever done. I don't know about that--remember that waitress in Tampa? asks Dean (which will be referred to in the ep with ghost sickness). Sam tells his brother he's sick and it's over for him, but doesn't have to be over for Dean"”he can keep going. Who says I want to? asks Dean--I'm tired, Sam. I'm tired of this job, this life, this weight on my shoulders, man. I'm tired of it.  Sam asks if he's just going to give up, lay down and die"”"I know this stuff with Dad has. . . "You're wrong," says Dean, "it's not about Dad, I mean, part of it is, sure, but. . . "What is it about?" asks Sam. 

 
The doctor returns to report the entire town is empty, everyone is gone. They stand outside the clinic, staring into the fog. (CREEPY!) Dean stares at "CROATOAN" etched in the tree. The doctor says after five hours, Sam's blood is clean. There's no sign of the virus in the Tanner blood samples, either. Sarge and Duane leave. The doctor plans to go to Sidewinder to try and explain this without any proof. Sam has no idea why all this happened"”why here, why now, why he's immune. Dean says this feels like this is the one that got away. Unfortunately for Sarge, it turns out Duane is a demon who, after they pull over, slits his throat and makes one of those blood-in-a-bowl phone calls and reports that no more tests are needed; the Winchester boy was immune and nothing was left behind. 
 
Sam and Dean drink beer by a lovely lake, hanging out on a fence (I was there, rubbing my butt on that very same fence). Dean talks of them taking a break, visiting the Grand Canyon, going to Tijuana, Mexico, and to Hollywood to bang Lindsay Lohan. Sam, puzzled, concerned, asks to help him carry the weight of whatever Dean's carrying on his shoulders. I can't, says Dean, I promised Dad. Then Dean looks at Sam and says, "Before Dad died, he told me something. . .something about you." "What, Dean, what did he tell you?" asks Sam, already freaking out. 
 
We had been waiting a long time for Dean to tell Sam the answer to that question, and we were to wait a bit longer. 
 
We learned from this episode that Sam was being put through a test in this episode, and he apparently passed because he wasn't infected by the Croatoan virus. Sarge was such a nice guy, it was a shame he had to die just so Duane could make his damn demonic phone call. How terrible is it that the demons would kill an entire town just to test Sam? All in all, brrrrr, on so many levels. Is anyone surprised they didn't kill the doctor, or do they feel themselves safe enough because there really isn't any evidence?     
     

 

Comments  

Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-02-18 10:31
I can only agree, Robin, this episode had one, if not several emotionally devastating moments, furthermore it had a supernaturalize d 28-Days-Later feel to it which was eerie and downright disturbing.

At that point when it was clear that Sam was supposedly infected, my heart sank (as it still does, whenever I watch this episode). I didn’t believe he was going to die, but I was afraid to see him go through some horrific ordeal or turn Dorian Grey or become some evil thing Dean would have to exorcize (killing somehow was out of the option. How wrong I was I learned at the end of that season when they actually killed Sammy)…

I believe it is a crucial episode in many ways – the first time we are being made aware that Dean is weary, if not somewhat suicidal, that a part of him actually wishes to die – probably the first really palpable signs of that dark veil which is going to envelop him as the show progresses. There is not reason for him to live if Sam dies. Even less if he has to be the one who has to kill him (to save him from becoming ‘one of those things’).

The despair already sinking in became evident as he bellowed at the Sarge about no one shooting his brother – all that hopeless anger venting. He even gave away his beloved car – no hope of ever driving her again. What else could he do? Did any one of us really believe, he was going to leave his brother? Hell, no. He’s Dean.

He’s the brother who will search for words in the end to tell Sam what John left him with, who will plead with his baby brother to listen to him, to help him, although feeling utterly helpless himself.

I addition to that we were given some early proofs of Sam’s ‘other nature’, that he was different than ‘normal’ humans, being immune to some ‘weirdo demon virus’. And his devastation at realizing that something is terribly wrong with him.

He must have been scared and scarred to the bone with those news – and then the information he was about to get (in the follow-up episode) about dad’s last words to Dean rubbed it in: he was a freak. Even dad thought so. Not that John used that term, but I bet Sam felt that way. And he already knew that he could not run from that (as he much later shouted at Dean in Metamorphosis), but had not come to terms at all with that fact. It’s a miracle he did not lose his mind right there.

And – pffffffft – just like that, the town is emptied, the virus gone, to return much later… One spooky thing. I used to think upon first watching this episode: what will they do with that story. There’s too much to it to throw it away, and, boy, I never thought of something like TheEnd. I could imagine, though, that we will hear some more of Croatoan, and perhaps how that virus came to pass…. I hope so, I’m ever curious, occupational hazard….

Thanks, Robin, for re-telling this amazing episode so pointedly. Love Jas
Randal
# Randal 2010-02-18 11:12
Ah yes, easily one of my all-time favorites (I seem to say that a lot): Manly Men of Manliness action (with more than a nod to Carpenter's version of The Thing), a stellar supporting cast (the Sarge, the Doc, Stepford family), the creep factor of a barren town, blood, and of course, all that brotherly angst.
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2010-02-18 11:26
Yeah, one of my faves too for sure. And the brotherly moments are really, really good, fantastic even. Angsty and sad and devoting and have that "I would die for you" -vibe. I love that vibe. And I love this ep, it's quite epic, and like Crossroad Blues, start something essential. It has everything. Layered with intense creepiness. I really like the 28 days later -shades. I agree it's really intense.


Ps. You touched a little on my fave exchange here. I do the biggest gigglesnort every single time, when Dean and Sarge have the "You have a neighbour named mr Rogers?"- "Not anymore." HA! It's like the line pair from Jus in Bello "I shot the sherif!"-"But you didn't shoot the deputy" TOO awesome ;-)
Evelyn
# Evelyn 2010-02-18 11:42
Yes, this is an epic episode, especially now that we have the knowledge from 'The End'. Does anyone else also think that we catch a glimpse of 2012 Dean when he shoots the infected woman in cold blood?

I loved the scene between Dean and Sam in the clinic. Dean won't ever leave Sam and you really see his devotion to his brother and we start to get a true sense of the weight that he carries (which is only the beginning and only gets worse for our beloved Dean. Ah Poor Dean.) :cry:: The thought that he will kill himself if he has to kill Sam, is truly heartbreaking. WOW! What devotion-it gets me every time.

This episode also has one of my all time favorite Metallicar scenes. I love when Dean is confronted by the Croats and he has to slam the car in reverse and turn it around while trying to escape. I LOVE that scene and have to replay it several times whenever I watch this episode.
Júnior
# Júnior 2010-02-18 14:15
Watching this episode from now, I keep wondering if this was the moment Azazel was sure about Sam being Lucifer's vessel.

I don't know, it seems like Sam was the only psychic kid that was 'tested'.

Great review, by the way.
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-02-18 14:40
Another one in my bulging top five.

Love the devotion of Dean for Sammy and knowing that it is the end for the both of them, giving up his baby so easily proved that he had no hope of them surviving. Really needed the tissues for this one.

And the funny too. "I don't swing that way", and Mr. Rogers the neighbour.

Then Dean's struggle to not tell Sammy the secret with Sam practically begging to share the burden. Then leaving us hanging until the next episode, when
telling the secret backfires on Dean. No wonder the guy keeps things to himself as opening up has never been good for his well being and just brings more suffering to him.

I too love the scene as he escapes the Croats in the Impala. Go Dean!
ElenaM
# ElenaM 2010-02-20 09:54
A favorite for me, too--so scary and effective. John Shiban's best stuff for Supernatural (IMHO), along with Tall Tales