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Thoughts on Swap Meat

Swap Meat was one of those rare Supernatural episodes that left you feeling a little “meh” by the end. Not horrifically bad, nowhere near top quality. When the DVDs of season five hit, Swap Meat will be one of the episodes I choose when I only want ear-TV as a soundtrack to something else that has my full attention. Going in with quite low expectations, I was quite pleased to discover the humour and a better plotline than I’d anticipated. That said I wouldn’t nominate this episode for any awards. More than anything, it was humorous filler with zero overall plot advancements or character developments.

I am going to heap some love on Sam in this review, because he was absolutely hysterical to watch and it was a good break from the heavy, remorseful Sam we’ve seen extensively this season. Take for example the fabulous introduction of the episode. Here we have “Sam” happy just to be and without his cloud of angst and very much unSam in mannerisms. This exchange at the bar goes down as one of my favourite Supernatural funny bits  – Jared was in top form. Another scene that stands out is the breakfast table exchange with Sam and Gary’s parents. I don’t know why Jared thinks comedy isn’t his thing because he had me rolling. Sam slurping his banana daiquiri with the twirling pink umbrella as he fumbles with the straw and confirms, “Are we talking about sex?” – oh yeah, comedy’s his thing.

I enjoyed the boys reconnecting with this babysitter and her family, even if it was brief. It was nice to see that the boys have some connections left to their childhood – even a homey memory or two tied to this babysitter. The family was refreshing in their belief and acceptance of Sam and Dean’s “job” – I expected the husband to be the skeptic as he entered the background, but no, he was on board too. Along this vein, a number of other small things were done better than expected in this episode. To begin with, kudos for a better plot than I thought – I was convinced it was simply that Gary wanted nicer packaging and ‘cooler’ life and even when Gary’s friend asked him about Dean – I thought he wanted to body-switch with Dean -  but it was better than that! The idea that the underworld sent out psychic fax sketches of Dean and put a bounty on his head – I like. This was similar to Zachariah and his goons reaching out to the “fringe” Christians. Additionally, the actress playing the possessed teenage girl was incredible. She did a great job and for a while there I wondered if the demon that had been summoned wasn’t Meg. The other little treat in this episode? Latinating! It’s been far too long – I love when the boys are exorcising. And it appears Dean has finally memorized the exorcism ritual, too!

One of the biggest nitpicks with this instalment is the obvious lack of Dean’s awareness that something is off until very late in the game. I kept waiting for Dean to suggest (in a way that was only evident to us viewers of course) that he knew it wasn’t Sam and hint that he had a plan of some sort – whether it was the classic purposefully using the wrong name or something more clever. Given that the last time Sam was out of character, his body had been hijacked by Meg and Dean ended up with a nice bullet hole in his shoulder; Dean should have tied Sam to a chair at the first inkling of a personality transplant. By the way, the “first inkling” should have been Sam not knowing how to drive. In fact, that should have been the only indicator Dean needed. Sam would never back the Impala into a dumpster (unless it was in some way related to hunting a la the pilot episode in which Sam drives the car into the house). Aside from Sam’s blatant not-Sam actions, I don’t believe Dean didn’t notice his cell phones, at the very least his own personal cell phone, was missing for as long as he did. This soon after what happened with Ellen and Jo, with the pale rider top-side and Lucifer angling to get up inside Sam and the boys aren’t in constant touch with Bobby at command central or Castiel? I don’t buy it.

Dean wasn’t the only one who seemed off. I was surprised that Sam got into the police car – did he really believe that Dean called out the police to find him? Didn’t the change of clothes throw up a red flag? And why did Sam go to school and stay in the house? Why not just take off and get to the motel to Dean the same night the cops brought him “home”? Okay, so the plot required Sam to root around Gary’s room and figure out what was happening – that witchcraft was at fault here. However, I have a big issue with the execution of this: no way do I think Sam, having discovered he’d been body switched would head to bed and wait for the next morning to discover whose body he was in and start investigating said body’s owner. Nope, the Winchesters, especially Sam, love their research and they are nothing if not thorough.

Was this the greatest episode of Supernatural ever? No, certainly not. But it was entertaining if you overlook the flashing character continuity issues. However enjoyable the last two episodes were, I am ready for a return to the meatier (no pun intended) apocalypse storyline as well as a nice long helping of Bobby and Cas. Previews for next week suggest we’re heading back in the direction. This season has done a good job of balancing the old Supernatural formula with the big Satan-is-among-us storyline, but as we head into the back end of season five, I want to see apocalypse full throttle.


# Karen 2010-01-31 11:17
Hi Elle
After having a second watch, I found I still liked this episode, it had some good moments but definitely not one of their best.
I had the same issues that you and everyone else had about Dean not realizing it wasn’t Sam right away.
He knew Sam was acting strange, but seem to be a little slow on putting two and two together. He might have been thrown off because he knew Sam couldn’t be possessed. Maybe he just figured Sam was just going thru a rough time after their Asylum visit.

I think this episode would of worked better for me if they kept Jared as Sam, playing Gary’s character and Colton James to still be Gary, but acting as Sam.
I really enjoyed the bar scene with Sam being all enthusiastic about ordering a drink and showing off his ID and his reaction to being picked up. I can just picture how Jared would of played out the Impala scene, looking sheepish at Dean after going into reverse by mistake. And the basement scene all excited about having a gun.
And Colton doing all the Sam mannerisms, the bitch face and the rolling of the eyes when his mother called on him for breakfast.
I found the way they filmed it got confusing at times.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
# Jasminka 2010-01-31 16:14
Yeah, finally, Dean has learned his exorcism! I agree with many of your thoughts, here, Elle, the inconsistencies were somewhat blatant… In favour of Dean not noticing #Sam#’s strange behaviour – for a while I thought: perhaps Dean is playing along to find out what all this is about, but the scene in the basement when #Sam# gets thrown to a wall and he reacts genuinely worried, calling ‘Sam!’, that idea went out of the window.
And Sam staying at the house… interesting point –why didn’t he leave right away to look for his brother? I have not idea.

All in all I liked the episode. The comedy was hilarious, and – you’re absolutely right – Jared did a great job. He is actually very funny, but I can understand, though, why he was heard to say that he thought not to be really good at comedy – it’s much, much harder than tragedy. I hope the man does believe by now that he is good at both!

I thought of the fourth season’s gag reel and Jared complaining about his ‘stellar looks’ not being such a blessing. Well, if he really thinks that, he did his best to make fun of himself.

Although this episode did not much to the storyline of the apocalypse, horsemen, Lucifer & Co., it still feels like a built up to horrors to come – does Lucifer just need Sam’s meat suit or is Sam’s soul indispensable? A prize on Dean’s head? Well, are we to expect infernal head hunters? Or will it indeed be moronic humans to bring Dean down? Isn’t Dean protected by the archangel Michael (just as Chuck is by some other archangel), so he can’t be harmed no matter what?

We have only ten more episodes to go. I can’t believe we are already past half time…

Thanks, Elle! Take care, Jas
# Dianeuk 2010-02-01 05:46
I just watched this episode (I know, what can I say...I'm in the UK!!) I liked it. There were lots of "looks" and "faces" from both boys, there were laughs and sad bits, there was interaction and there was a friendship that has been lacking recently. REMEMBER its TV, not real! AND Dean liked and connected with this Sam! It was it like that!
# Jasminka 2010-02-01 06:07
Oh, Diane, you had to wait this long to watch the episode? My most heartfelt sympathies! ;-)
It's cruel,indeed, that the fans in Europe (just like you and me) have to wait till we get it online...
Best, Jas
# elle 2010-02-01 08:24
Hi guys,
Thanks for the comments! I want to clarify that I did enjoy this episode, thoroughly because I can overlook the gaps and it was a hilarious stand alone that's for sure. For a change though, I wanted to do a thorough analysis of the episode, nothing held back. ;-)
# Sablegreen 2010-02-01 09:46
I really enjoyed this episode. Not that there weren't holes, but it wasn't that I couldn't find ways to justify them....not like some episodes when there was absolutely no good reason why the writers had the boys acting screwy. I also would have prefer they do it more Quantum Leap style, but It was good none the less.
# Lisa 2010-02-01 12:29
It really only took Dean about a day to figure out that it wasn't really Sam. If you think about it that's really not that long. I would have enjoyed the episode so much more if it would have been Jared we were seeing with Gary inside him. It just wasn't believable when Dean was looking at Sam/Gary because he was looking down. I am so ready for an episode that focuses on the big storyline!
# Suze 2010-02-02 10:18
Only just seen this ( pity us poor eurotypes, sniffle ) and I'm pretty much with the rest of you guys ... It started off a bit clunky but perked up toward the end when the demon bounty story-line surfaced and it would have been so much better if they had swopped the mannerisms rather than the actors!