1×06 “Skin”

As you might’ve noticed so far, I’m a Dean Girl at heart. I love the Impala, and I love Dean. I love Sam, but to a slightly lesser degree. If I had to pick? Here’s the equation. Impala = Dean > Sam. A corollary to the Winchester Family Mathematics? Cockroaches > John Winchester. But, that’s a rant for later.

Skin has, quite possibly, one of my least favorite teasers, but it’s also one of the best the show’s ever had. Iron Butterfly’s acid rock hit, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is the perfect surreal backdrop for what’s happening; a SWAT team comes into a house and finds a bloody, tied down girl in a chair, being menaced by a figure who’s face we never see. Once the girl is untied, she directs the SWAT team to the bedroom, where the kidnapper/murderer is trying to escape. As he turns into the SWAT team’s spotlights?

It’s Dean Winchester, covered in blood and holding the knife.

Skin also puts to good use the “One Week Earlier…” device, which a lot of shows use and abuse to make sense out of insane time cuts. This episode, however, has no more time jumps. It merely informs you that the action post-teaser is one week earlier, and it follows a very linear structure afterwards, and eventually catches up to the action of the teaser and it’s consequences.

When the real action of the episode starts, they use a very simple device to demonstrate the gulf between Dean and Sam; email. It’s something that all of us use every day; even their father John has an email address. But Dean is amused at and derisive of the fact that Sam is using his palm pilot to check his email, and keep in touch with old friends from his college life. Dean is a loner, and he likes it that way. Sam is clinging to his friends, lying to them about why he’s gone and what he’s doing, but he can’t quite let them go because without Jessica, they’re his last link to and hope for a “normal life.”

One of the emails he reads is from his friend Rebecca, who is writing him to tell him that her brother–and another of Sam’s friends–has been arrested for a murder that he didn’t commit. “Just thought you should know,” is how she closes the email, and Sam is determined that they are going to help her prove Zack innocent.

Fun Fact: Sam’s email address is lawboy@stanford.ca.edu Now, I have no idea if that’s the real Stanford extension, but if it is, and that’s a real address, I kinda feel sorry for whomever owned it because you *know* they got flooded.

And you know? I can’t help but be amused that we have *positive evidence* for the fact that Dean is a sucker for Sammy’s puppy dog face. How do I know we have positive evidence? Sam gives Dean THAT LOOK and when they leave the gas station? They’re going *back* to St. Louis.

Yeah, I admit it. Dean being a mushball makes me mushy for him.

Just as Dean said in the opening, we find Sam lying to his friend almost as soon as they arrive. Sam asks to look at the crime scene; they know he’s nothing but a student taking a semester off, but he tells Rebecca that “Dean’s a cop.” Just another in the string of lies that Sam’s had to tell his friends. Dean elaborates, saying that he’s not a cop, but a detective, from a small town in Arizona.

We see the creature–still disguised as Zack–trailing an Asian man and his wife, and in a second cut, we see that the Zack-creature has transformed to the Asian man, and has attacked the man’s wife. That clues the audience in on what this thing is; a shapeshifter. The brothers are still trying to figure that out.

Fun Fact 2: Dean Winchester is not a morning person, and he is just as addicted to caffeine as his portrayer, Jensen Ackles.

For all of Sam’s intellectualism, it’s Dean who makes the connections in this case; he who makes the connection that it’s a shape-shifter, and he who makes the connection of where the shifter is going after his murders; the sewers. Possibly because Sam is too close and too involved in the situation, but I tend to think–later episodes will prove this out–that Dean is better at thinking on his feet, and Sam is better at intellectualizing and putting the theory together on the houtside. Dean works on the fly, and Sam buttresses that. Together, they’re an incredibly cohesive team who complement each other.

Unfortunately for Sam, he finds out that Dean is right. Friends are a hazardous thing to have in their “profession” because Rebecca finds out that Sam lied to her about who Dean is, and she turns on him. He tries to convince her that they are just trying to help, but she refuses to listen, and Sam is crushed. Dean gives him the gently sarcastic I-told-you-so that you would expect from him, but then teases Sam into a smile. “Hey man… like it or not, we are not like other people. But I tell you one thing; this whole gig… it ain’t without perks.” And he hands over a 9mm pistol loaded with silver bullets.

I don’t know about you, but carrying a 9-mil like that? Is one hell of an attractive perk.

Another little emerging note: nobody seems to notice three full-grown men emerging from a steaming sewer grate, despite the fact that there’s quite a few people milling around the park in the background. God bless extras casting.

When the brothers meet again, after searching for the shapeshifter, they reunite empty-handed. But when they get separated crossing the street, we find out something terrible–and something that seriously explains the confusion of the trailer–the shapeshifter has taken Dean’s shape!

This is the episode that will firmly turn you to a Dean fan, if you aren’t already. The longer the shifter is in a person’s shape, the more of their memories he accumulates. After capturing Sam, he’s forced to stay in Dean’s shape for quite a while, and many of Dean’s memories and feelings, usually kept under tight lock, are inflicted on him.

The shifter outlines them for Sam; I won’t go into them here because there’s no way that I could do them justice without transcribing the whole scene. But hearing, almost from Dean’s whole mouth, that he knows he’s a freak, and is afraid that everyone will leave him… it’s heartbreaking. You don’t doubt for a moment those are actually the things Dean fears, or thinks about himself. But you also know, even though the shapeshifter doesn’t, that those aren’t the things that rule him. What rules him is Sammy, and his love for his father and his brother.

A return of music to the episode, a different song this time, marks the return to the teaser, and we see the Dean-shaped shifter kill a SWAT team officer, and escape into the sewer, leaving Rebecca alive. Then we’re treated to one of the most icky scenes in the series, but one which demonstrates the very odd sense of humor that the series creator and writers share.

Jensen Ackles is a very attractive guy, and there’s more than a few of us who’d like to see him take his shirt off. Well? Mr. Kripke gave it to us.

And then some.

Because not only does the Dean-shaped shifter–played obviously by Jensen Ackles, since he plays Dean–strips off his shirt. And a few fingertips and fingernails. And his teeth. And his ear, ripped off and dropped in a bloody pile on the ground. And then most of the rest of his skin. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “So you want Jensen’s skin? HERE YOU GO!”

Because of the shifter, Dean is a hunted man for the remainder of the episode, because the SWAT cops saw him, enough to create a composite sketch, and it was broadcast on the local news channels. Sam and Dean, after watching the broadcast, are determined to kill the shapeshifter. The “Best Lines” for this episode come from that scene.

Once Sam makes it to Rebecca’s house, we find that the shapeshifter has assumed her shape, and quickly recaptures Sam. Dean finds the real Rebecca in the sewer, and while they are on their way to help Sam, the shapeshifter has shed Rebecca’s skin and has resumed Dean’s shape.

Sam proves to be in little need of Dean’s help, however, as he is able to free himself and fight the shapeshifter off with an impressive display of self-defense skills that I didn’t think he actually possessed. But it’s obvious that he does; although shifter-Dean says that Dean always beat Sam as children, Sam more than holds his own, taking a beating of his own and giving one just as serious. It seems as though knowing that it is not truly Dean helps Sam, because he is able to fully fight the creature off, as opposed to hesitating as he did before.

As the brothers leave St. Louis, they have as close a heart-to-heart talk as they will ever have; Dean truly is sorry that Sam can never be Joe College and Sam admits that he knew he never really fit in at Stanford, and that he was a freak. Dean, with a slightly wistful look, agrees that Sam’s a freak, but admits that he is a freak too, and he will be with Sam “all the way.”

God, I love this show.

Best Lines:
(about the Dean-shaped shifter)
Dean: First I want to find that handsome devil and kick the holy crap out of him!

Dean: Ugh! The thought of him driving my car!
Sam: Let it go.
Dean: It’s killin’ me!

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