This week we find the boys first battling a poltergeist, but honestly, that’s the least of their worries. When a local teenager named Gary, who’s been practicing dark arts and communing with demons, recognizes the Winchesters, he decides to use magic to swap bodies with Sam. The goal here is to get close enough to Dean to kill him, since he has a huge bounty on his head (Now, if I remember correctly, this is the first time this bounty has been mentioned, but I could be wrong. However, based on Sam’s surprised reaction, I don’t think I am).
Anyway, what at first might seem like another stand-alone episode becomes really anything but, as the episode gently slides in the apocalypse — which is great — and goes from being seemingly a monster of the week episode to something that fits into the larger mythology as a whole. Unlike last week’s episode, "Sam, Interrupted," I liked a lot more about this episode than I disliked. Let’s look at the positives first.
If there’s one thing Jared Padalecki does well, it’s comedy. He’s proven this time and time again in episodes like "Tall Tales," "Bad Day at Black Rock" and others, and here his comedic mettle shines once again. Within the first few minutes of watching Sam, you knew something was amiss (even before he said his name was "Gary"). First, he was ordering alcohol. Second, he called it "an alcohol". Third, he ordered a girly drink. Forth…he flirted with a woman! Yeah, this is not the Sam we know and love, but Gary inhabiting Sam’s body. Later, when Gary was checking himself out in the mirror in Sam’s body, you could totally tell Jared was hamming it up, and it was hilarious. I also think Colton James did a great job with his role as Gary.
Personally, while again, the Dean-Sam swap would’ve been great, I really liked how this episode turned the body-swap concept on its ear. There’s a slight downside to this that I’ll get to in a little bit. I also really liked how they fit the mythology and apocalypse into the episode. First, we learn about the bounty on Dean’s head, which is a nice new wrinkle for the boys that I just adore. Second, we see a demon try to tempt Sam, with Gary inside, to meet Lucifer and say yes to him.
Now I have to admit, this is something I didn’t even think of nor see coming, and I LOVED it. As soon as that became clear that Sam didn’t need to be in his meatsuit to say yes to Lucifer, I began screaming at my TV…in a good way. 😉 I didn’t even think that Sam’s soul had to be in his body or not to accept Lucifer, and that gave me a nice bit of tension through the third act. I also really liked that Dean has also now memorized his exorcism. The join exorcism with Dean and Gary was pretty cool. I also thought Sarah Drew, who played Gary’s friend Nora, then an unnamed demon, did an excellent job.
As for Sam in Gary’s body, I thought this gave Sam a great insight into a possible childhood he never had. Sam got to see what a so-called "normal" childhood/life was like, and amazingly found it wasn’t for him. Hell, just a few years ago I think he would’ve killed for a chance at that kind of life, but now, with all that’s happened, even he said it’s not for him anymore. Character growth is one of the things I love about this show. I also liked how Sam was impatient and annoyed the entire time which was totally understandable.
I also liked little things, like Sam/Gary in the mirror, and the obvious delay between the two of them. It’s like they didn’t even try to sync up the two actors perfectly to add a bit to the cheese factor. Also, when Sam found Gary’s Star Wars shirt and murmured "virgin," I nearly died of laughter.
As for what I didn’t like, there honestly wasn’t much. When Gary’s friend Trevor was killed by this week’s demon, I was sad they didn’t show more of it, because if there’s a douchebag that needed to die graphically, it was that guy. Also, Gary backed up the Impala into a dumpster. I REALLY hated him then. NO ONE hurts the Metallicar, and I so wanted to punch him when that happened. Thankfully Dean took care of that later in the episode.
Now, one thing a lot of folks didn’t like, but I’m understandably neutral on, is the fact that it took Dean so long to figure out Sam wasn’t really Sam. Now, in body-swap movies or TV shows, I’ve noticed that characters need to be dumbed down a little, it seems, so that they won’t figure things out too quickly and end the episode/movie too soon. While this may be perceived as a downside, it’s also something of a necessity I think.
However, in this case, I tried to put myself in Dean’s shoes. Sure, on the screen, WE saw Gary, but Dean saw Sam. Sure, "Sam" was acting off kilter, but after all that’s happened, I think that’s bound to happen to anyone once in a while. I honestly wasn’t bothered that it took Dean a certain amount of time to figure it out, because I found it at least believable enough that it didn’t take me out of the episode. A few more moments might’ve stretched credibility, but I think they did alright with this.
Overall, some niggles aside, I really liked this episode. It wasn’t only funny, but it was dark, tense, brooding and heck, a little apocalyptic. It felt like after the throw-away episode of last week, the show is finally getting back on track. And with ten episodes left in the season to fulfill this whole apocalyptic storyline, I sincerely hope it stays on track.