There are times where a show driving off the reservation is a good thing. No matter how interesting a major story arc is, it can’t go strong for 22 episodes without some sort of break thrown in there. And yes, even when the primary arc is scarcely mentioned, there may be room for character development and some ‘mindless’ fun during those filler episodes. This week’s ‘Supernatural’, an aptly titled mouthful in “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” falls into that category. But is it fun or just vanilla mindlessness?

In a scene reminiscent of season four’s “Yellow Fever” where a terrified Dean fled from vicious Yorkie, Sam flees in a panic. His pursuers? Dreaded and insidious clowns. Yes, the surprising phobia of many people is one Sam can relate to. Even as he is trapped, the shaky hunter whispers “They can’t hurt you” as Bozo and his brother close in.

Flash back to 60 hours earlier…

Dean talking to Frank...bring that crazy guy back!

Waiting for a call from a payphone, Dean picks it up and the show’s resident paranoid bi-polar genius curmudgeon Frank is on the other line. They talk shop on Dick Roman; Frank has zero information regarding the Leviathan. After he cuts the line and the brothers determine the trail for the Amazons (from last episode) has gone cold, Sam suggests another potential case to investigate. They make their way to the coroner’s office and see the victim’s body who just happened to be “suckered to death” by a thirty foot octopus as well as a vampire-type bite in the man’s neck.  The Winchesters question the wife who can offer nothing but pointing a disgruntled finger to the nanny, who was there when he died, as a possible source of information. Dean volunteers for the case despite his earlier claims to swear off women for awhile (having a full grown daughter within 36 hours of sex who came to kill you may have had a hand in that). When Sam lightly questions his brother’s motives, Dean’s grand slam reply is “We don’t know if she’s hot.”

Well, said nanny is hot and is a bit more helpful in the case than the wife. She had taken the victim’s daughter Kelly to Plucky’s Magical Menagerie. In addition, Kelly had told the nanny there was a monster in her closet. Dean relays the information to Sam who then briefly talks to the little girl before the mother interrupts. She tried to warn her dad the monster would get him to no avail.  When Kelly’s mom hustles her away, Sam is left to the drawing on the sidewalk; a monster whose attributes matches her father’s wounds.

Soon after, a man is running in his pajamas through a field where, after hiding behind a wall, gets run through by a unicorn (so much for them being peaceful). The scene quickly flashes back to the present and Sam getting his ass handed to him by Krusty the clown and his chuckling companion.

Flash back to 34 hours and some change.

Surrounded by the promise of clowns, Sam's not too comfortable

Investigating the latest victim, Dean finds out that both kids were at Plucky’s. He tasks Sam to check the place out while he talks to the kid of the latest victim. When Sam hesitates, Dean teases his brother, knowing Sam’s fear of clowns has reared its ugly head. After a mirthful reminder that 99.99% of clowns can’t hurt him, Sam acquiesces. At Plucky’s he runs across the Wall of Fear; a wall where kids draw their biggest fears and Plucky is supposed to chariot that fear away. With a brief scan of the wall Sam realizes just what’s going on; the fear these kids are drawing are coming to life and attacking the parents. A maintenance worker passes by Sam and admits to knowing something but before he can relay any information, he gets chomped later that night by, thanks to Dean’s shark week knowledge, a 20ft shark. Returning to Plucky’s, the brothers investigate with Sam interviewing the employees as the “bad cop” and Dean scoping out the situation from the floor.

Dean chasing down the cowardly...meth tripping lion?

Dean runs into Tyler not long after his attempts at a rainbow slinky are dashed (no cash is accepted here!). He bonds with the kid who has to come to the Menagerie and do his homework after school as his mother works there. Dean senses the kid’s anger and suggests he take it easy on the mom, she’s working hard and is trying her best. Their conversation is interrupted when Lion Guy flees Sam and the interrogation room. The brothers chase him down and he confesses knowledge about a meth lab though goings on at Plucky’s are not known to him, except for the weird sounds he’d heard from the sub-basement. Finally the brothers have a lead.

Dean checks out the boiler room basement and finds quite a few drawings that were missing from the Wall of Fear as well as some serious magic books. The perp, Howard, is one of the employees passed up for the manager gig. His anger at the snub as well as the “horrible” parents are his justification (he kills the maintenance guy because he was going to talk). But like  all psychos, he has his own fears. A terrible villain, Howard explains to Dean just how everything is done—using the picture as well as something from the potential victim as a homing beacon. Dean uses the knowledge against him, throwing a picture of the Howard’s younger brother into the fire. It conjures the dead brother who, at a touch, causes the crazed Plucky employee to drown. His death breaks the spell and Sam’s attackers disappear in a storm of glitz and glitter.

Dean has quite the chuckle when Sam returns, glittered out. Sam tells Dean that his fear of clowns has been abated. After he provides Dean with a rainbow slinky, the elder Winchester gives Sam his very own clown action figure. Despite his revelation moments before, Sam’s not quite ready to embrace clowns and leave said action figure in the road as they ride off to the next case.

Though there were several bang up moments of good old fashioned snark and wit between Sam and Dean, the rest of this episode was a complete letdown. It’s not like I had hopes of it being any good but something more than we saw would have been acceptable. Even the sub par effort of “Time After Time”  introduced a very well thought out Eliot Ness. Last week’s “The Slice Girls”, while not great also provided the potential for a recurring character(s) in the Amazon tribe. “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” provided none of that. All it did was offer a mouthful of a title and continue the streak of Leviathan-less episodes. There’s no real rush to things as we still have nine episodes left but if they aren’t careful by the time things pick up, ‘Supernatural’ may have lost all momentum it picked up after Bobby’s death.

The Good

  • The dialogue between Sam and Dean continues to remain fresh and witty. Geeks everywhere have no recourse but to love the pop culture inundations the Winchesters’ conversations contain.
  • It was interesting to have the primary antagonists from the previous episode mentioned. Is that foreshadowing to the Amazons making another guest appearance before the season’s out, maybe in the employ of Mr. Roman? Doubtful but still, the possibility’s there.

The Bad

  • Similar to “Time After Time”, this was a filler episode with nothing interesting of note aside from a handful of interactions between Sam and Dean. The villain was lame as was the conjuring of monsters, of which we only saw a—yawn—unicorn and two fight club clowns. I will pass on any future viewings…

The Supernatural

  • It’s never explained just how our friendly neighborhood villain Howard got the mojo or the books to do his thing. It wouldn’t have made much difference in the overall story; maybe Dean took the books to later use against that Dick Roman character…again, probably not. Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot of supernatural fun going down.