SUPERNATURAL 7.09 ‘How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters’

The Winchesters and Bobby go hunting for the Jersey Devil, but something unexpected instead...

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters"

Writer: Ben Edlund

Director: Guy Bee

Previously on "Supernatural":

Ever since the apparent death of the angel Castiel (Misha Collins), Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) have been on the run from Leviathans; creatures which emerged from Purgatory during Castiel and Crowley's (Mark Sheppard) attempt to use their souls for power. The Leviathans possessed human forms and developed a healthy appetite for human flesh as well. Not only were the Leviathans seemingly impervious to permanent harm, but two of them also assumed the form of the Winchester brothers and went on a cross-country murder and crime spree using their names and faces.

The Winchesters' mentor, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) accidentally discovered that the Leviathans could be slowed down and burned by sodium borate; which is found in common cleaning solutions. But with the Leviathans wise to all of the Winchesters' aliases and able to track their credit cards, the trio of hunters have been forced to lay low while planning their next move.

Story:

In a New Jersey forest, an older couple named Mitchell (Gabriel Patrich) and Leann Rayburn (Nancy J. Lilley) go to sleep inside their camper, oblivious to strange movement outside. When Mitchel wakes up, he finds himself hanging upside down from a tree inside of his own sleeping bag. As he calls out for Leann, something begins eating him alive. Elsewhere, Sam, Dean and Bobby attempt to make a desolate shack livable while they continue to hide from the Leviathans. Sam and Bobby are also a little disturbed by Dean's increasingly callous attitude towards saving the world again.

Sam notes the recent so called Jersey Devil incidents (including the one that claimed Mitchell's life) and he suggests that they all investigate. While posing as FBI agents, the trio meet Ranger Rick Evans (Jason McKinnon), who seems strangely unconcerned by the disappearance of his partner, Phil or the mysterious deaths. Dean grabs a Turducken Slammer at the  Biggerson's Restaurant and he raves about the taste. The trio also encounters a rude waiter named Brandon (Sean Rogerson), who insults them and then quits his job. Some time later, the trio hit the woods and reminisce about the times Bobby took them hunting when they were kids.

They soon find Phil's body in a tree, partially eaten. But when they call Ranger Rick, he takes his partner's death way too calmly. Suddenly, a creature grabs Rick and begins eating him alive from the darkened tree tops. Bobby shoots it out of the tree and seemingly kills it. But it's too late for Ranger Rick. Once they get the creature back to an abandoned house, it springs back to life before they kill it again. They also find a wallet on the creature which suggests that it was human before transforming into its current state. Dean's behavior also becomes increasingly bizarre.

Upon Dean's insistence, they all return to the Biggerson's Restaurant. Bobby and Sam notice that Dean and the rest of patrons are ravenously eating the Turducken Slammer as if it is the only thing that matters to them. Sam yanks it away from Dean and they return to the cabin, where the Turducken begins oozing a disgusting goo. Even Dean is slightly freaked out as they realize that whatever changed the man they killed came from the meet. While Dean sleeps off the effects of the Turducken, Bobby and Sam stakeout Biggerson's to figure out where the meet is coming from. As they do that, Brandon emerges from the forest fully transformed into one of the creatures, but he is knocked out by Edgar (Benito Martinez), a Leviathan. 

The Winchesters and Bobby follow the supply truck to a warehouse and they witness Edgar arriving with Brandon as his captive. Inside, the Leviathan known as Dr. Gaines (Cameron Bancroft) tells Edgar that he is still refining the formula that he put into the meet to make humans fat and docile. Gaines even seems proud of the failures like Brandon until Edgar warns him that their leader, Dick Roman (James Patrick Stuart) is coming to check on their status. Then Gaines instantly orders Brandon and the other captured transformed humans to be destroyed.

In the morning, the Winchesters and Bobby watch as Dick Roman arrives and they recognize him as a motivational speaker and businessman with billions of dollars to his name. Inside the building, Roman is impressed by the positive results of Gaines' food additive. But he doesn't let Gaines get away with the failures that he tried to hide. As Bobby spies on them from the side of the building, Roman forces Gaines to eat himself before Bobby is discovered and captured. Dean and Sam quickly realize that their mentor has been taken and they spot a conveniently arriving industrial cleaning van. 

Bobby awakes in Roman's office, where he finds that Roman hasn't even bothered to have him tied up. Roman doesn't even seem to bother interrogating Bobby before telling him that he plans to eat him. In the lobby, Dean and Sam begin spraying Edgar and the other Leviathans with the cleaning fluids. Their screams catch Roman's attention, so he leaves Bobby alone in the office. Bobby takes the opportunity to steal files of the Leviathans' plans and the matching pistol that Roman boasted about winning in an auction. Bobby fights his way past Roman's female assistant while Sam and Dean find that Roman isn't as easy to dispatch as the other Leviathans,

After shooting Roman in the back, Bobby and the Winchesters try to flee the building in a van. Bobby is the last to arrive at the van when Roman emerges from the building firing his own gun at them. The brothers speed away in triumph… until they realize that Bobby has been shot in the head.

Breakdown:

As a cliffhanger, leaving us with Bobby suffering from a bullet wound to the head is pretty effective. But to get there, we had yet another episode with the lamest of all "Supernatural" villains, the Leviathans.

Seriously, these guys are the Poochie of supervillains. Every time "Supernatural" tries to convince us that the Leviathans are worthy adversaries, they come off as less and less threatening. When a bucket of industrial cleaning fluids can hold off your "big bads" then maybe its time to go back to the drawing board.

I kind of wanted to like Dick Roman after the ridiculous promo-advertisement for him that was placed within the show. That was a very Ben Edlund moment and his episodes of "Supernatural" tend to be some of the funniest. This time around, Jensen Ackles looks like he had a blast playing the slightly stoned version of Dean. Watching Bobby and Sam react to Dean's bizarre behavior was really amusing. And I kept expecting Dean to mutate like the other victims and turn into Jersey Devil himself.

The primary problem of this episode is that it spends half of the time with the Winchesters and Bobby on the hunt for the Jersey Devil and the other half with the Leviathan nonsense. I can give Edlund credit for making the Leviathans' appearance a surprise. It just wasn't a very pleasant surprise.

The first half of the episode was superior, thanks in part to the decision to keep the Jersey Devil out of view for the first twenty minutes or so. The rest of the episode never quite lives up to the teaser scene in which the camper is hung upside down from a tree and eaten while inside of his sleeping bag. But even with that terrific build up, the revelation that the Jersey Devil was just a transformed human was a little disappointing. When the first Devil fell from the tree, I thought it was just going to be a fake out, with the real creature still loose. I don't mind being wrong, but the Jersey Devil I pictured in my mind was more imposing than what we eventually saw onscreen.

Also, it was difficult to buy the Winchesters and Bobby hiding out in an even more desolate cabin than before just to escape the notice of the Leviathans. If this was right after Sam and Dean were framed for murder, that it would have been understandable. But after the last two weeks of business as usual, it didn't seem to make a lot of sense.

On a side note, it was pretty funny watching the Winchesters attempt to deal with an extremely rude waiter and there were a lot of funny touches in the show for the first half hour or so. This was pretty far from a bad episode of "Supernatural," but it wasn't quite up to the usual standards of the series. The creative direction of the seventh season seems to be floundering and I hope that the upcoming midseason finale is the first step in correcting that course.

Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.