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--Robin's Rambles by Robin Vogel
Taut, thrilling, an immediate ass to the edge of my seat episode, "Nightshifter," starts with what appears to be a bank hostage situation. There are helicopters above, police cars, ambulances, newscasters below, and someone is bringing out one of the hostages. My jaw drops"”it's Dean Winchester! WTF?
A day earlier, it's business as usual. Sam and Dean are posing as FBI agents, with Dean convincing a pretty young thing who works in a jewelry store that his job is dangerous and lonely so she will give him her phone number. There have been two strange cases involving loyal employees suddenly going rogue, a woman stealing from the jewelry store where she has worked for years, a man robbing a bank where his friend, Ronald Reznik, insists was not him, not really Juan.
Sam and Dean meet up with a lot of characters in their line of work, but Ronald is endearing as well as unique. When the brothers pay him a visit, they realize he's a nerd in the truest sense of the word; his home is filled with stuff straight out of Conspiracy Theory Central. Ronald insists that the man he let into the bank was NOT his friend Juan, he's sure of it! Turns out that, while the cops took all the security tapes from the bank, Reznik had made copies, so Sam and Dean have an opportunity to watch them with Ronald, who points out Juan's laser eyes. He's a mandroid, insists Ronald. Sam and Dean recognize the creature as a shapeshifter. When Ronald insists he's going after the mandroid himself, Sam turns very FBI-stern and tells Ronald there are NO mandroids, only people"”JUAN stole the money! Furious, Reznik orders them out of his house.
Dean kids Sam about being too good a Fed, but Sam feels it safer for Ronald to remain in the dark about shapeshifters and stay alive. Using a map of the sewage system adjacent to the bank and jewelry store that had been robbed, the brothers figure out which bank is the next likely target"”the Bank of Milwaukee. Posing as security guys checking on the bank's camera system, Sam and Dean are escorted to the monitors by a cheerful guy Dean likes because he says "Okey dokey." Observing everything on the monitors, Dean looks at pretty women's derrieres, Sam finds the bank manager is their shapeshifter, and Dean sees Ronald, armed, enter the bank and padlock it so no one can come in or out. 
A crazed, nervous Ronald enters the main room of the bank, shoots the ceiling a few times and announces this is NOT a robbery. He orders everyone down. When Sam and Dean join the others, he says he knew they weren't FBI"”are they Men in Black? Working for the mandroid? When Sam tries to reason with him, he tells him he doesn't like him, exactly what Dean had told Sam earlier. Ronald has another hostage pat Dean down.  A knife is found in an ankle holster and Ronald discards it, upsetting Dean, who wanted some kind of protection on his person. 
Dean assures Ronald, "I believe you--keep me as your hostage and let the rest go." He tells him the "mandroid" is the bank manager. Ronald decides to put the others in the safe, including Sam. Sherry, a bank employee, gushes to Sam how brave Dean is, something Sam isn't thrilled to hear.
Ronald and Dean explore the bank. Ronald falls on something slippery, which turns out to be the discarded shapeshifter skin. While Ronald thinks this is really cool, Dean's upset to realize their prey now has taken on yet another form, and explains to Ronald exactly what they're dealing with"”not a mandroid, but a shapeshifter. Reznik is very happy after Dean's explanation; he was right after all!  Dean finds a couple of silver letter openers, which will kill the shapeshifter. Everything goes dark; the cops have cut all the power in the building. Dean is worried, aside from their being surrounded, this means they can't see the camera glare in the shifter's eyes, so identifying it will be that much more difficult.
Everyone in the vault is growing tense, but Sam's getting tired of Sherry talking about Dean's bravery. Dean himself comes over and lets Sam out. They talk about what a bad spot they're in"”Dean is wanted by police, and once this is all over, Ronald will be arrested and so will they. How can they possibly escape? This whole situation makes Sam very angry, and he blames Reznik for the bulk of it. Dean hands Sam a letter opener and leaves him alone with Ronald. Sam opens the vault to give the people inside some fresh air. The security guard is complaining of chest pains, and a black man holding onto him wants to escort him outside for medical assistance. 
The phone rings. Despite Sam's vehement objections, Ronald answers. HANG UP! orders Sam, but Ronald assures them this isn't a robbery, he's more of a crime fighter. Thinking the guard is the shapeshifter and faking a heart attack, Sam takes the phone and demands they send in a paramedic. 
Dean, investigating empty rooms in the bank, notices a loose ceiling tile. When he nudges it with a coat tree, a dead, naked body falls down"”the black man all too willing to escort the stricken guard out of the building. Dean orders the black man out of the vault. The latter runs away. Dean notices a red circle on Ronald. For the next several moments, there isn't a sound. "GET DOWN!" is silent and Ronald is pierced by a bullet where the red circle was. More bullets strike him and he falls to the floor, blood dripping from his mouth. Sam joins Dean on the floor, says he's going after the shifter. Dean says a few words of praise over Ron, who helped them crack this case to begin with. You can tell he feels just awful that this ordinary shlub, who they tried to protect, ended up dead. I feel pretty badly about it myself. Ronald meant well. He was one of those characters who made a great impression and I'm sorry to see him go.
Dean releases the ailing guard, his face on clear display amongst the glaring lights from the helicopter, police cars, and media trucks.
FBI Agent Victor Henriksen takes over for the annoyed police force, explaining that Dean Winchester is the monster in that bank! 
Dean urges all the hostages back into the vault.   "I thought YOU were one of the good guys," she bitches, angry because he's not holding them prisoner. He asks her name and tells her his, the perfect gentleman, then assures her it will all be over soon. 
Dean gets a most unwelcome call from Henricksen, who not only knows all about him"”the stuff that went down in St. Louis and Baltimore"”but John as well"”White supremacist, Timmy McVeigh, to-may-to, to-mah-to., dragging them all over the country. He calls Sam Bonnie to Dean's Clyde. (Always the woman, Sam!) "You don't know squat about my dad," insists Dean, frustrated by everything happening at once, alarmed by Henriksen's knowledge.  Henriksen gives Dean an hour to make a decision, but orders SWAT to go in there in five minutes, given that Dean is the greater risk to the hostages.
Sam finds blood dripping onto the floor in one of the rooms, then Sherry, wearing only her slip and underwear. Her throat has been cut. When Dean goes to the vault and offers to let Sherry go, she refuses, then relents. He instead brings her to the room where Sam stands over "Sherry's" seemingly dead body, and she promptly faints.  Dean straddles the completely dressed Sherry and is all set to stab her, but Sam points out that fainting wouldn't help it survive. Dean kneels over the other body, which abruptly opens its eyes; this one is the shapeshifter! Sam grabs the real Sherry into his arms and takes her out of the room. Dean and the shapeshifter fight wildly, with Dean slashing at her constantly with the silver letter opener. She gives him a couple of kicks to the cojones and he manages to tear the skin off one of her arms (gross)! Sam single-handedly fights off three SWAT men. 
Dean finally subdues and stabs the shapeshifter, then kneels in front of her. A SWAT man enters the room and stands there.
Henricksen and some of the cops are touring the bank, the FBI agent furious because it appears the Winchesters have disappeared again. They find the dead black man and the shapeshifter (one man insists he walked her twin sister out just moments before), but no sign of the Winchesters. Then they show Henricksen two unconscious SWAT officers missing their uniforms. 
Out in the parking garage, two SWAT men jump into a black 1967 Chevy Impala as the opening strains of Styx' "Renegade" play: "Oh momma I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law. Lawman has put an end to my running and I'm so far from my home." The men reveal their faces:  Sam and Dean. "We are so screwed," says Dean, gunning the engine, running the stop sign as they race away. Sam nods in agreement.
"The jig is up, the news is out
They finally found me
The renegade who had it made
Retrieved for a bounty
Never more to go astray
The judge will have revenge today
On the wanted man."
Was there ever such a perfect ending for an episode of this show? A more perfect song? I felt sorry for Ronald, for Dean because I knew he felt badly for the way things turned out for Ronald. Henriksen, a villain who just doesn't KNOW, doesn't get it, and if he did, everything would be different. The way he baits Dean about John, so cruel, and we know it's going to get worse, because Henriksen isn't done with the Winchesters, not by a long shot. 
The shapeshifter is such a nifty villain too, no feelings, no concern, just doing what it wants, which seems to be making humans miserable. It didn't want the money or jewels, it just wanted to wreak havoc in the lives of seemingly happy people. The poor woman in the jewelry store wasn't hurting anyone and the other employees were her family, so the shapeshifter murdered that relationship and her. Juan wasn't harming anyone, but the shapeshifter just ruined his life for no particular reason at all. What do you think a shapeshifter's reason for existence is?
They always seem to have Dean fighting women. Do you like that? It's very rare Sam fights a woman, perhaps because he's so big and it just isn't fair. Yet all women kick Dean between the legs, poor man. Ouch! Doesn't that usually incapacitate a guy?
If I were rating episodes, this one would get an A+. Exciting, funny, a character to root for besides our two regulars, a villain(ess) to hate, and a bonus villain to boo, what more could a faithful fan ask for?


# elle 2010-02-24 00:58
Great review! This is one of my all time favourite episodes for just the reasons you mention. The ending of this episode blew me away - so perfectly executed - moreso than anything I've seen before or since. Chill-inducing, really.
# Supernarttu 2010-02-24 07:59
Hi Robin. What a lovely review!

I love this eppie, it's -again- one of my faves, and mostly for the reasons you said.

I really liked Ronald too, he was such a sweetheart and adorable with his mandroid -ramblings. And he didn't like Sam, that's a rare thing :-) But Sam was a very much FBI-like, I got chills too lol

I like the little exchange with SamnDean when Dean lets Sam out of the vault. Sam is SO pissed, I love it! He screaming "Are you insane?" and "Understatement !" makes me snort every time. And Dean is Mr. Cool cat 8-) "But right now crazy is the only game in town" *smirk*

But then later when Henricksen talks about John on the phone, you can see that Deans hurting. I love that scene, Jensen (and Jared respectively) can do so much with just little facial expressions. Truly wonderful. Alice isn't lying when she says these guys can deliver truckloads without actual words spoken.

And then the end, oh the end. I still remember the first time I saw that with the Renegade. When those last drum beats morfed into darkness, I was all excited, it was like the eppie hadn't even begun :-) Awesome, one of the best rockmusic scenes for sure. And a truly remarkably awesome episode. One of Ben Edlunds finest, but then again, what isn't? ;-)
# Randal 2010-02-24 08:31
Great review Robin, and I don't have anything to add beyond what a monstrously brilliant, entertaining, tension-filled, lunatic of an episode. Henriksen is so damn cool, that getting knocked off a year later was of course the only possible Supernatural outcome.

Ronald! Okie dokie!

Oh, one more thing, yes, getting kicked there would certainly incapacitate a man. Maybe Dean learned that it's safer to go hunting while wearing a cup. ;-)
# Evelyn 2010-02-24 11:45
Love the review - LOVE this episode. There are so many classic moments and this is just such a fun episode. Loved how Sam becomes so "Feddish" with Ronald. Loved how Dean seems to take delight and surprise in Ronald's theories. Loved "oakey, doakey". Loved the whole brother exchange while fighting the shapshifter. Loved how Dean says "We are so screwed" after letting the guard go. Loved Dean sticking up for his Dad when talking to Henricksen (and Henricksen, what can we say about him except that he is so CLUELESS). And finally, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the ending with the boys escaping in SWAT uniforms to the tune of Renegade. Is there a more classic and perfect ending ever out there? I always loved that song, but after hearing it in this ending - how can you help but not totally appreciate the song and smile whenever you hear it. "We are so screwed". What a perfect ending to a perfect episode.
# alysha 2010-02-25 08:33
Great Review of one of my favorite episodes and the first Supernatural I ever watched! It has all the elements of great Supernatural: nasty creature, boys as FBI, boys as the hero, but misunderstood as the villian, Sam's birch face, Sam going bad*ss on the SWAT team, Dean's humor and compassion, and the best use of song ever!