Guess who’s back? Back again? Jody’s back! With a friend! I know I’ve used that Eminem cadence before, but who can resist getting musical when two of my absolute favorite female characters are once again gracing my small screen? This singular plot episode (whew!) features Jody frickin’ Mills and the hilarious Donna Hanscum, bringing the heat to a sheriff’s retreat in an episode that is funny, nuanced, touching and solid, and, I would argue, a strong case for a far more successful SPN spin-off. When mysterious “animal attacks” threaten Donna’s hometown of Hibbing Minnesota, she and Jody odd couple it up and take on the case because as different as they are, they have something in common: when it comes to the law? Girls just wanna have guns.
1. I Got Mad Mills
I loves me a good Jody episode. Despite her limited number of appearances, Jody Mills remains one of Supernatural’s strongest characters, and that is directly attributable to her portrayer, Kim Rhodes. She plays Jody tough yet sensitive, all business but funny as hell, at once an independent loner and everyone’s mother hen. Jody is forced by her mayor to abandon her charge, teen angst Alex (which sounds like the most emo Barbie doll, like, ever), and attend a Sheriff’s retreat in Hibbing, Minnesota. Hibbing is the former home of the crazy, human hunting murderers in Season One’s “The Benders”. I bet you can guess where I am never going on vacation.
Jody calls adopted daughter Alex throughout the episode, trying to get her to stop throwing firecrackers, and having a kegger and…well…being the same kind of teenager Jody apparently was when she was riding some dude’s motorcycle that was so hot and smelled so good he apparently makes Jody bite her lip 20 years later. What I love most about Jody? Just because she threatens to use her mom voice, doesn’t mean she can’t be an eye-rolling, sarcasm dripping, vamp tripping badass. Which is both a complement and a counterpoint, in a lot of ways, to….
2. Prima Donna
I liked Donna Hanscum well enough in Season Nine’s “The Purge”, but I thought she was a little one-dimensional. I’m so glad that she got another episode to prove me wrong. Yes, Briana Buckmaster’s Donna is alarmingly positive and smiley. She says hokey things like “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks” and “You betcha!” and “Shut the front door!” She forces candy on unwilling recipients, and talks way too familiarly to them. She laughs at the corny names for police workshops with genuine delight (I adored Buckmaster’s delivery of “Preparing for a Riot. Why not try it?” chuckle “Why not? I don’t know.”) But Donna should not be dismissed so easily—she’s thoughtful, detail-oriented, sly and certainly not gun shy. Thanks to her winning disposition, everyone knows Donna and loves her, which makes it easier for her to negotiate red tape. She also has serious investigation skills and can handle the grisliest of cases. Say, for example, this one.
Sure—when she sees the body she says ”oofta.” But then she immediately gets rubber gloves, reading glasses, and a measuring tape and gets to work. On the surface? Donna’s the clueless ray of sunshine doormat and Jody is the pissy hardheaded loner. Underneath, just like all real women are, they are so much more.
That said? This picture pretty much tells the story of early Jody and Donna, and it cracks me up.
3. Family Don’t End with Blood
If Jody is Alex’s kind-of-mom, and is slowly becoming Donna’s sort-of-sister, it’s history repeating itself in the form of found family. Jody has always been motherly to the boys, Sam especially, and when she gets nowhere with the case they are the ones that she calls. Sam smiles deeply when she does, before telling her that Dean says hi. Jody replies, “You found him? Thanks for telling me!” causing Sam to be sheepish and apologetic, showing how easy it is for Dean’s welfare to distract him from his responsibilities. Dean asks about Alex, and the boys are stunned when Jody says she is just fine—captain of the cheerleading squad in fact—before Jody makes Dean chuckle by admitting she smokes grass under the bleachers. Sam good naturedly teases Jody about enjoying the forced death march of the retreat, and Jody smirks, responding “Screw you, Winchester,” making Sam laugh.
I love the way our boys love Jody. They have lost so much and so many, and having her around to hug and tease and worry about and partner with does my heart good. I think Mary would be grateful, hearing Jody offer to make a mean bowl of chowder for Dean if he ever needs to talk. It’s no PB&J with the crusts cut off, but it is the motherly concern and understanding that he and Sam deserve.
4. On the Road Again
Dean is nothing if not restless. Research on the Mark of Cain is not going well, and, apparently, the 600 page “He Wolf, She Wolf: A Study in Werewolf Transgenderism, Volume One” is not holding his interest. He needs out. Sam is worried, of course. Worried that Dean is pushing himself too hard. Worried that the MoC is still affecting him. Worried about…hell…everything. (Including hell, actually.) In the end? They say if you love someone set them free, and Sam agrees to take a ride. The boys jump in that beautiful car and head off to play Feds.
Baby, looking just grand it must be said, pulls into Hibbing to the tune of “The Weight” by The Band (which is undoubtedly another fandom nod, since we know that Jensen Ackles has sung that song live at conventions and made us all swoon.) The boys open the door at the same time, natch, find Jody and hug it out, and it is wonderful to see them smile.
Before they can even get into the lack of meat of the case, as it were, the boys hear “Fat Spa Donna” call, “Jodio, you take sugar?” (Side note: I love when Donna calls Jody “Jodio” or “Jodes”. I’m sure Jody does not share that with me.) Donna remembers the boys immediately, and it is hella convenient that they are packing their Agents Frehley and Criss badges, because it sure would have been both confusing and embarrassing if they had to introduce themselves to the other locals as Agents Spears and Aguilera again. Before she can ask too many questions, they distract Donna like this:
What? You’re telling me double Winchester grins wouldn’t work on you? Lies. LIES, I say.
5. The Boys Get Kink…os
After Jody agrees to babysit Hanscum and keep her away from the onsters-may, the boys talk to Hibbing’s Sheriff Len and his “Deputy Douche.” Dean is less than amused when said smarmy deputy snarks about Feds coming to Hibbing and ending up finding nothing. “Sure is cute to watch you try, though,” he adds, completely pissing Dean off and making him call him out. Sam later reminds Dean to be “a little less defensive of your pretend job,” causing this improvised moment of hilarity.
Dean: “You know, this badge means something.”
Sam: “I made it at Kinko’s.”
Dean: “Yes you did. Be proud of that.”
After ten years together it’s clear why improv works so well for these two. Chemistry + confidence + talent + a willingness to be silly= Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, and thank Chuck for that.
Bonus eye candy? Dean Winchester crinkle-eyed smile. And you thought I wasn’t getting you anything for the holidays. You’re welcome.
6. Girls with Guns
As Jody and Donna bond, they realize they have a lot more in common than they thought, which is evident as they get into gear. The condescending weapons dealer tries to be funny, offering them a look at a petite gun, telling them they can take it to lunch, or when they get their nails done. The girls are unimpressed, even when he shows them something bigger (not a euphemism.) These ladies of the law are not so different after all. They are sharp, shrewd investigators who keep their wits about them and do the job as good or better than any man in the force. If I had a daughter? I’d show her these two. Since I don’t? I showed my sons. They need exposure to admirable female characters just as much as any young lady. And these two fit the bill.
7. Doug the Dick
Dean called it—he said Doug was a dick back in Season Nine, and it turns out he was underplaying it. Doug, it turns out, likes doing things like referring to Donna’s six pound weight loss as “1/4 of the way there” and talking about getting her extra meal vouchers since “you won’t be using ‘em.” Donna tries to laugh it off, but it’s clear it hurts, especially when Doug starts doing the shopping cart shuffle with a comely, soon to be eaten fellow sheriff. “Doug seems like kind of a dick,” Jody observes. “But he was my dick,” Donna replies sadly, and hey, is it Season Seven around here or something?
Later, Doug teases Donna about being a wolf in sheep skin.” “Thank you,” she replies, undeterred. “Wolves are majestic creatures.” A bemused Doug tells Donna he is using CuffLinks, a dating website for cops, before patting Donna’s side and asking if she is still getting in date shape. Donna tries to make light, but Jody? She’s done. Jody calls Doug out as a fat-shamer, interjecting to Donna that she is so not fat, by the way. Jody then calls Don a douche, causing him to slink off. Donna, to Jody’s amazement, is pissed. She reminds Jody they are divorced and she can’t change Doug now, and she should zip it until she knows what it’s like to deal with a husband. Of course, we know that Jody does. Or did, anyway.
This scene is so important—this whole episode is. It features complex female characters, supporting each other even while they battle, having full, rich lives that are more than complicated and personalities that have multiple levels. Bravo to Jenny Klein and Phil Sgriccia for writing a story that more than passes the Bechdel test. I repeat: what does a sistah have to do to get a spin-off with these two ‘round here?
8. Panic? Attack!
Can we just take a moment to applaud Donna Hanscum’s reactions to the whole “monsters are real thing”? When she sees what turns out to be Vampire Sheriff Len she does what any normal person would. She has a panic attack. And it is pretty much the most realistic reaction ever.
She presents her case to Jody so tentatively. She knows what she saw, and she knows it involves a mouth full of “shark teeth”, but she still tries to play it off as silly in case Jody thinks she is a freak.
Later, after “the talk”, she gets herself back together, and tells a skeptical Dean Winchester “Stuff you!”—letting him know in no uncertain terms that she is going along on the hunt for the vamp nest. Jody tells the boys Hanscum’s good to go, and she is. Maybe they weren’t in quite the right order, but Donna has passed through the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and she grieves for a simpler worldview no more.
9. Don’t Lose Your Head
Hippie vamps? That’s new. Once Donna has absorbed that Sheriff Len is a vampire, she gives her only clue to the boys, an impression on motel note paper with an address to a location on “Cripple Creek” road (another nod to The Band, which is good for them but bad for me as one of my college freshman roommates used to sing “Up On Cripple Creek” nigh constantly and it took me over twenty years to get it out of my head. Now it’s back. Thanks a lot, show.) The gang of four head there to confront the Sheriff, hoping they won’t have to behead the deputy.
Sam peeks into the window of the barn. Len is there, but he warns them to run. Of course, everyone gets got. There is a particularly eerie and cool moment showing what Sam Winchester sees after a two-by-four to the head. Dean out. Jody against the wall, vamp showing his teeth. Hanscum in a headlock. And a hippie girl, crooning, “Well hi there, sunflower.” Of course, Sam passes out and ends up tied up. Must be Tuesday.
There is a lengthy back and forth, then, about hippie vamps that eat the whole animal, and somehow, apparently, Dean knows what kombucha is. Dean finally retorts, “Okay, Mufasa. Enough with the ‘circle of life’ crap.” Apparently Len’s gone clean, and the hippies want him back, and he won’t go and blah blah blah, Len’s dead. Wait. What? Oh. So that happened. Anyway, Donna pulls out her trusty reading glasses (go, presbyopia!) and breaks them, using the glass to cut what is a very thick yet very flimsy rope. So flimsy, in fact, Dean rubs it on a nail a few times (again, not a euphemism) and breaks his too. Dean slaughters most of the vamps, and, just when she-hippie is about to eat Jody, Donna cuts her head off, muttering, “Hakuna matata, lady.” Which is freakin’ awesome. Dean thinks so too, saying to Donna, with a smirk, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” Prompting Donna to look at him like this.
Donna and Dean? Deana, if you will? I ship it.
10. “Let’s go with that.”
The job is done. Time for talk. For the girls? It’s adorable. “I just chopped off a vampires head,” Donna says, awed. “You were great at that!” Jody says, prompting them both to giggle. Jody promises to fill Donna in on what kills what, and help her navigate her new, darker world. “I’d like that,” Donna says. For Sam and Dean? It’s mangsty, natch. Dean tells Sam this is the first time he has felt like himself since he’s been human again. That it’s the first time he just did the job without being driven by the MoC. “First time?” Sam asks, confirming that his brother lies about his state of mind. (Duh.) Dean says yes, and they agree that’s a good thing. Sam nods, unconvinced but willing to look away. “Let’s go with that.” Sam says, getting in the car. And as Dean joins him, he rubs the mark, frustrated, and we know that this is far from over.
Next week? Mid-season finale, baby! Undoubtedly, we’re gonna get something good, and I deeply suspect it is not a cup of holiday cheer. Join me next week, as we explore whether there is any truth in the title, “The Things We Left Behind.”