The title of “The Winchesters” third episode is the message of the episode as well: ‘You’re lost, little girl.” It’s about loss – of all kinds – and also about being lost and figuring out how to find yourself afterwards. And that does not just apply to little girls.
The Kids Next Door
The episode revolves around Mary’s neighbors, a young girl and boy (8-year-old Carrie and 12-year-old Ford) whose mother is a long haul trucker who is often away for days at a time. It’s the 70s, but it still seems really iffy to have kids this young at home alone for days at a time – I know, I know, shades of John Winchester later. How much did he learn from the Campbells and their neighbors anyway?
The little girl, Carrie, contacts her mother on the CB radio, saying she can’t find her stuffed bear Bernice anywhere, and asking her mother to come home. The mom says the family needs the paycheck, she’ll be home in a few days, she needs Carrie to be a big girl – which is all kinda heartbreaking and also once again reminiscent of John Winchester of the future asking his son Dean to step up and be a big boy long before he should have.
Side note: I remember CB radios from the time before cell phones (yes, I actually remember those times) – I once went on a cross country trip with my husband-to-be and he had a CB radio in the car and we made the whole trek going back and forth with all the truckers we were sharing the road with. When we stopped at the first truck stop for dinner, they were all amazed that we were “a four wheeler”!
Anyway, there’s eerie music, a thud thud thud, and then there’s a burlap sack on the table. Carrie opens it and Bernice the bear is in it. Yay? Not yay. No sooner does Carrie happily crawl into bed with Bernice than the sack starts wriggling and then a freaking creepy as hell hand comes out, nails like claws, and then we see Carrie scream as a giant shadow looms over the bed.
Now that’s an opener! Worthy of the mother ship and its horror show roots – and it’s scary because we don’t see the monster, we see Carrie and her terror instead.
Cut to the title card and our erstwhile narrator, Dean Winchester.
There’s no map to being a hunter, no playbook. You’ve gotta follow your gut, but that can only take you so far. Truth is, you can’t do it all on your own. You need other people to help guide the way. Your friends, your family. Otherwise, you just end up lost.
I guess that’s a theme of “Supernatural” too, from the pilot episode on, where Dean came to get Sam at school and said he couldn’t do it alone (Sam: yes you can. Dean: yeah well I don’t want to…)
Dean hasn’t forgotten that lesson, but apparently, Samuel Campbell is actually trying to do it alone, and it turns out there’s more than him being missing going on in Mary’s life. Her mother is also out of touch, no word from her and last Mary heard she was working with hunters in Minnesota a few months ago. Mary says sadly that she’s not even sure her mother knows her dad is missing.
Apparently, Deanna and Samuel are separated, which – what?! That’s a canon change I didn’t see coming (assuming it will make sense whenever things are explained in episode 13 if not before…but surely Deanna would be keeping tabs on her hunter husband even if they were separated?)
Mary says that nothing has been the same for their family since Maggie died, for any of them. I hope they explore that more – I could get behind the show going a little deeper into things like loss, which really can turn a family upside down. It’s such an inevitable part of a hunter’s life, this show could benefit from digging into it.
It’s Mary’s turn to be discouraged, John’s turn to be determined. Mary worries that maybe her father just wants to stay lost, especially because the last time she saw him, they got into a big fight about her quitting hunting. Guilt, such a big part of loss for so many.
Lata tries to reframe, saying maybe he’s trying to prove he can do it alone so she can leave hunting. Lata suggests that Mary needs a break, maybe seeing a movie, and John clearly thinks that’s a good idea, but Mary isn’t so sure. They’re interrupted by Carlos (it’s kinda adorable that Mary calls him “Losy”) with the news that cop cars are all around the Campbells’ neighbor’s house.
Mary runs to help, saying that when their mom is gone, she helps keep an eye on the kids. (Not very often, I don’t think, since she’s all over the country hunting, so maybe not the best choice…) John and Mary are interrupted by the local cop investigating the case, who turns out to be Betty – who we eventually find out was engaged to John before he joined the service.
John lies about what they’re doing – a Winchester tradition that will extend far into the future – saying he and Mary are enrolled in the local community college and are in a study group. John hasn’t been returning Betty’s calls.
Betty: All I wanted to say is glad you got home safe, Johnny.
Johnny, huh? Hmmm.
Ford confides in Mary what he didn’t tell the police about the thing that pulled his sister into a sack and disappeared, and Mary promises him they’ll get his sister back.
We get little glimpses of Mary’s childhood when she tells John that they also have a CB radio, that her dad taught her to use as a kid.
Mary: Sometimes I’d fall asleep listening to the truckers. Made me wonder what it’s like to have a normal life.
Mary is very much her younger son Sam in this episode.
John asked her what she dreamt of being, saying he wanted to be a catcher for the Kansas City Athletics.
Mary: My parents never let me dream like that.
Being a hunter was her only option, she says, and again, I wonder just how much John Winchester was channeling the Campbells in his later life – he seems to have raised Sam and Dean much like Samuel raised his daughter (though it clearly wasn’t what Mary wanted for her kids).
John says when he was a kid he made a list of all the places he was going to go to look for his dad – and that once Mary finds hers and leaves hunting for good, she’s gonna need a new list.
Mary and John put up hex bags to protect Ford in his house while they go look for his sister. Ford may as well be a Winchester big brother, feeling responsible for not taking care of his little sister and wanting to come with them to search for her. He also figures out that the monster was real, so Mary surprisingly tells him the truth – that monsters are real, and “my friends and I, we take care of things like you saw.”
Ford: Like a monster club?
John: Absolutely like a monster club.
Ford wants to be in it, which is why all that seems like a terrible idea to me honestly. Of course, he wants to be in it! I also question their first rule, that Monster Club is a secret. Every parent knows that you tell your kids NOT to keep secrets, and adults who ask you to are….sometimes not the best adults. Mary still seems like a kid herself, so maybe it felt a little different, but still not a good idea.
They also don’t give Ford very strict instructions not to answer the door or walk outside, so sure enough he too is lured out and sucked into a sack and disappears. Oops.
Meanwhile, Carlos and Ada go on a stakeout, leaving Carlos terribly bored while Ada works on what looks like a “zen gardening project”.
Carlos finally says he’d rather go bust the door open, and a demon throws open the door and says “great idea” before tossing Carlos onto the ground.
Carlos: Muchas gracias for ending my pain, amigo – allow me to start yours!
The holy water pistol doesn’t work well, but they toss the demon into the back of the truck that’s warded so he can’t get out – hello, familiar devil’s trap!
Ada is kinda scary in this episode and I am here for it.
Ada: Let’s take him someplace quiet, so we can… talk…to him first
The demon taunts Ada about her pathetic dreams of becoming a witch, while she mixes a potion and calmly notes that demons can possess non-human living things too. Like the bonsai she’s holding.
Carlos: She can put you in a plant?!
Ada is once again scary as hell.
Ada: That little thing can live for 100 years, imagine, unable to scream or fight or get out…
The demon tells them that the leader of the Akrida is hiding inside a human woman, but Ada traps it in the bonsai anyway. Pretty nifty!
Ada: We send him back to hell, he tells them about us. Now we know exactly where to find him.
Carlos: You are a deep mystery, Ada Munroe, and honestly, I kinda dig that about you
They even take the host to the hospital. Someone commented that The Winchesters is a lot less dark than “Supernatural” in that people are not dying left and right in this show, so far anyway.
Also meanwhile, Lata identifies the fabric swatch that the monster helpfully left behind as Indian from not far from her birthplace, but over 1000 years old.
John: So, not something you’d find in a Woolworth’s catalog…
Me: OMG Woolworth’s!
Lata explains that the monster seems to be Bori Baba, or Father Sack, who she thought was just a story. It lures its victims by tempting them with something they lost that’s meaningful to them, and then the sack appears and traps them in its maze, taunting them before eating them alive.
They begin to suspect something is going on that’s connected to the Akrida – as Mary puts it, “so many wayward monsters”.
Wayward shout out?
John suggests Lata ask her folks about it, but Mary tells him that her parents died years ago. Interestingly, we later find out that’s not true.
The Plot Thickens
Betty comes by the house to talk to Ford just as John and Mary discover he’s missing. While Mary is searching upstairs, John tries to put off Officer Betty.
Betty: You and Mary take this study group pretty seriously…
John: Big exam coming up…
Betty says she’s here to check on Ford, and John says you just missed him, Mary took him on a snack run.
Betty: Her car is right there…
Drake Rodger is actually really good at subtle humor, and it worked well with Officer Betty. She says she knows things didn’t end perfectly for them, but she’s here if he wants to talk, and they part friends.
John searches for Mary and she contacts him over Carrie’s CB radio, saying the monster took Ford. John has a bad feeling about this as Mary goes on.
Mary: We don’t know how to get people out of the sack – but we know how to get in. You think of something you lost, and the sack appears. I’ve got plenty to choose from.
John: Mary don’t do this. You’ll get stuck in there forever!
She insists she’ll kill the monster and John will get them out of the sack.
John: I don’t know how! Just wait, we’ll find him together. Please, Mary!
Mary: You found me once John Winchester, you can do it again.
There’s static on the CB – John sprints across to the neighbor’s house, over fences – the houses are pretty damn far apart and have nice big yards – because Mary has time to close her eyes and concentrate and the sack appears. Inside is Samuel’s hat, and then the shadow comes out and poof, they’re gone. John is too late.
(At this point there was an ad for Prime Video, so suddenly “The Boys” was on my TV and it seemed like Jensen Ackles was everywhere…) Speaking of Ackles, Mary wakes up next to a bottle with a face on it that looks weirdly like Dean Winchester, which of course fandom did not miss (I missed it, but other fans clearly are looking much more closely!). She puts on Samuel’s hat, determined. Symbolizing not walking away from hunting perhaps?
One of the things that didn’t quite work for me about this episode was just how distraught John becomes when he thinks he might lose Mary. Upset, sure, I totally get that – but he doesn’t know her very well at all at this point. He says to Lata that hunting is the first time in his life that anything has made sense – and that makes sense to me too.
He ran off to enlist because his life didn’t make sense, thinking that would help, and when it didn’t, it left him feeling extra lost. And Lata understands too – literally facing one’s demons is cathartic and therapeutic. But what John says next struck me as too much for where John and Mary are right now.
John: I can’t lose her. None of this works without Mary. I need her!
Emotional music plays to make it even more dramatic, but that felt off to me. It was likely a deliberate call back to Dean’s famous speech in “Supernatural” about Sam, the ‘I need him, he needs me’, but that worked because that was a decade into the show and a relationship that was a lifetime (literally) for the brothers. Does John really feel that strongly about Mary after this short amount of time, that he not just likes her, but needs her? I need you to show that to me first, Show, not just tell me.
No More Monster Club
Inside the monster’s lair, strewn with once-beloved stuffed animals and toys and looking a bit like if a monster decided to make a gigantic play fort with every blanket and curtain it could find, the kids run from the Bori Baba. I really liked the early part of this episode where they strategically didn’t show too much – it was truly creepy and scary – but now we get to see the whole monster, in broad daylight, and it looks less scary and more oh-what-now?
Mary abruptly cuts off its arms and then its head from behind, and I had the sudden image of that Knight from Monty Python continuing to fight as part after part of it is sliced off, which didn’t help get the scare factor back. The Bori Baba collapses and there’s Mary wielding the knife, wearing Samuel’s hat.
Ford has gotten wise though and I am here for it.
Ford: Monster Club sucks.
Mary: Tell me about it.
The monster regenerates and they hide, while Lata gets some intel on the phone and says to tell her mother (who is apparently not quite dead, if we’re still on a Monty Python kick) that she’s safe. Hmmm. Lata finds out the monster is vulnerable outside the sack; if the sack gets destroyed, it does too. Its victims are trapped by the things people have lost and can’t let go of.
Implausibly, John gets around the no-cell-phones-in-the-seventies fact by taking a very unlikely chance that there will be a working CB radio in the Bori Baba’s lair and calls to Mary. I will say that John admits it’s a longshot, but whoa, that is a longgggggggggggggggggg shot.
John: Am I crazy for thinking this would work?
He tells Mary they all have to willingly let their lost objects go. Carrie, wise beyond her years, immediately rips her beloved Bernice bear in half – I kinda love Carrie and Ford, who follows suit with his item. They are zapped out of the lair and back home, but Mary struggles to light her dad’s hat on fire, her own ambivalence apparently her worst enemy.
John suggests that what her ambivalence is really about is her fear of what comes after she finds her dad – and quits hunting. As the monster reaches under the door, Mary opens up to John with very questionable timing, saying that hunting is all she has and if she gives it up, she doesn’t know who she is.
It was a bit hard to buy that revelation in the midst of a monster grabbing her leg, but I do like her realization because it does ring true. John empathizes, saying it’s scary to dream about what’s next, but she just needs to take that first step.
Finally, the hat burns, and Mary tearful. It’s not that easy though – after Mary zaps back, the monster pursues her, but John stabs it and Carrie stomps on it for good measure.
I like Carrie.
Their mom comes back home finally, hugs all around. John sticks to his made-up story for Betty, and we find out that they were engaged when she gives John back the ring and speaks some very Supernatural truth.
Betty: Happy endings aren’t always part of the job.
I like Betty!
John: We’ll always be friends, Bets.
John doesn’t show Mary the ring, and Mary goes to the movies to see The Omega Man without him, saying yes when another guy flirts with her because they’re two people who go to movies alone, and they decide to go alone together.
There’s a suitably ominous ending once again, as the rest of them acknowledge that the Akrida leader is disguised as a human – and powerful enough to terrify demons.
And we find out who she is too, as we hear “This is Rockin’ Roxy comin’ at you with a new dark and dangerous sound, guaranteed to bring the rarest of hellraisers to our beloved Lawrence…” The vintage song “Spooky” plays as Mary has fun at the movies. Lata stares at the phone, keeping secrets. Ada cuts off a piece of the bonsai, presumably torturing the trapped demon. Carlos watches, worried. John burns what’s left of the monster in a bonfire.
(Those final scenes, especially John holding the lighter, alone in the dark, felt more like a scene from “Supernatural” than most of the series has felt so far, the sense of danger palpable. A monster scurries away in the dark.)
I really liked that little montage at the end and wish we hadn’t seen the spider crab monster thing up close when it scuttles up to Rockin Roxy and her mysterious pink stuff sucked into a vial in the next and final scene.
Less is sometimes more, so give me more of those moody dark scenes like we saw in the end, or the creepy scary monster shadows we saw in the beginning. Those feel a lot like “Supernatural,” and I really enjoyed them.
I also enjoyed the humor threaded throughout, especially Drake and Betty, who were truly amusing together. And kudos for the guest casting of Carrie and Ford, who were sympathetic and believable – which I’m sure is extra hard when you’re casting kids!
I still fear they’re going too fast pushing John and Mary together, counting on what will be their eventual relationship because we know that’s where it’s heading, or portraying it as long-established like Sam and Dean’s when at this point that doesn’t make sense.
I am intrigued by some of the things we found out in this episode – the darkness in Ada, the mystery that’s Lata’s history, and Mary’s identity crisis. Hopefully, we’ll find out more next week with “The Winchesters” 1.04 Masters of War!