Supernatural: Yellow Fever
July 18, 2021 3:52 AM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Hell beckons again when Dean is stricken with a mysterious illness that frightens its sufferers to death within 24 hours. Bonus: This episode contains a clip of Jensen Ackles lip synching to "Eye of the Tiger".


Dean: [the Winchesters hand their badges to Jack Garland] Those are real. Obviously. I mean, who would pretend to be an FBI agent, huh? That's just nutty.

Mark Hutchins: Tyler and Perry. Just like Aerosmith!
Sam: Yeah, small world.

Mark Hutchins: Well, The Wizard of Oz was on TV the other night, right? He said that green bitch was totally out to get him.

Sam: Dude, you're going 20.
Dean: And?
Sam: That's the speed limit.
Dean: What? Safety's a crime now?

Sam: [upon finding Dean in the parking lot of the hotel] What are you doing waiting out here anyway?
Dean: Our room's on the fourth floor... That's high.

Dean: [Looks at the mill apprehensively] I'm not going in there.
Sam: I need backup, and you're all I've got. You're going in, Dean.
Dean: [takes a swig of whiskey] Let's do this. It is a little spooky, isn't it?
Sam: [hands Dean a gun]
Dean: Oh, I'm not carrying that. It could go off. I'll man the flashlight.
Sam: You do that.

Sam: [opens a locker; a cat that was hiding inside meows]
Dean Winchester: [gives a prolonged high-pitched shriek] That was scary!

Dean: I mean, come on, Sam. What are we doing?
Sam: We're hunting a ghost.
Dean: A ghost, exactly. Who does that?
Sam: Us.
Dean: Us, right. And that, Sam, that is exactly why our lives suck. I mean come on, we hunt monsters. What the hell? I mean, normal people, they see a monster and they run, but not us. No, no, no we -- we search out things that want to kill us, yeah, huh, or eat us. You know who does that? Crazy people. We are insane. You know, and then there's the -- the -- the bad diner food. And -- and the -- the skeevy motel rooms. And then the truck stop waitress with the bizzare rash. I mean who wants this life Sam? Huh? Seriously? I mean do you actually like being stuck in a car with me eight hours a day, every single day? I don't think so. I mean, I drive too fast and I listen to the same five albums over and over and over again and -- and -- and I sing along, I'm annoying, I know that. And you, you're gassy. You eat half a burrito and you get toxic. I mean, you know what? [throws car keys to Sam] You can forget it.
Sam: Whoa, Dean. Where are you going?
Dean: Stay away from me, Sam. Okay? 'Cause I am done with it. I'm done with the monsters and the -- the hellhounds and the ghost sickness and the damn apocalypse! I'm out. I'm done. I quit.


At the end of this episode, an extra clip was added after the producer credits, entitled "Supernatural presents: Jensen Ackles". The clip shows Jensen Ackles during what seems to be a take of one of the scenes in the episode, set to the song "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. However, the cut spans out beyond the scope of the original scene to an approximately 1 min long out-of-character performance with Ackles lip-synching to the lyrics, "performing" the song, complete with air guitar played on his leg, and the crew laughing in the background.

Jared Padalecki was the reason for the clip at the end of the episode where Jensen lip syncs & air guitars "Eye Of The Tiger". He decided to miss his cue to see what Jensen would do.

When Bobby replies to Sam in Japanese after Sam asks him if he reads Japanese, what Bobby says roughly translates into, "Since before you were born." According to his IMDb page, Jim Beaver speaks "rudimentary German and Japanese".
posted by orange swan (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't say the resolution of this episode makes much sense. A ghost was giving people "ghost sickness", and the resolution was to scare the ghost himself? I also hated that that poor innocent man, who was murdered in an unspeakably cruel way, was subjected to a second identical murder. I wish the solution had been to help him find peace and move on.

The normally fearless (or stoic) Dean freaking out over everything, and Sam's exasperation with him, was pretty funny, and the lip synch number was a lot of fun.
posted by orange swan at 3:54 AM on July 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Text alone cannot capture how funny Jensen's delivery of the "That was scary!" line was.

(I've been following these Supernatural threads, though not re-watching any of the episodes themselves, as I've got enough other shows on my to-be-watched roster and having made it through the entire 15-year broadcast run I think I need some years off before nostalgia can kick in enough for it. But it is tempting to revisit the comedy episodes, the way the show and the actors went all in on being total goofballs was an absolute delight.)
posted by oh yeah! at 6:26 AM on July 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

This show is perfectly capable of being very funny and balancing the humor with the darkness, even and sometimes especially when it's goofy as shit. But wow, the choice of slapstick for this was a mistake and the whole episode just makes me cranky.

Cannot believe we were deprived of the conversation where Bobby and Sam diagnose Dean with Ghost Flu That Only Dicks Can Catch. (Which didn't quite make sense and I think turned out to not even be right, and it was really about unresolved fear? but real talk a) Sam's a little bit of a dick, cmon and b) if Sam isn't a little afraid they're all in trouble. Also amidst all the agita about his powers no one seems to wonder if this might have more to do with him being immune to at least one other supernatural disease, the croatoan virus.)

I don't mind that the universe Supernatural inhabits is inherently an awful place. But the story goes out of its way to establish Luther as a decent enough dude who was treated unfairly (also maybe mildly a stalker, but we are supposed to think in a nice way I guess), who had a death so horrible that his agony and terror still manifest in total strangers decades later, and the solution to that is just to reenact his murder till his fear literally drives him out of existence, and it's nasty with no self-awareness in a way that I do not enjoy watching.

That this is how we get the reveal about Dean remembering Hell is WILD to me. I thought the previous five episodes established perfectly well that Dean was having some flashbacks or nightmares about Hell, but was telling the truth that he didn't meaningfully remember it, because that's how he was acting. A hallucination showing up to tell him(?!!) that this entire time he's been walking around with an extra forty years of memories of being tortured, longer than his entire life as a human, feels like something that got decided literally on the spot. A lot of this episode is even from his point of view, and we see him hallucinating about (1) hellhounds/dying and (2) Sam going evil, eg, his fears from right before and right after Hell, but nothing about the forty years he apparently fully remembers spending there, even the flashbacks we've already seen him have.

I was so confused by the whole thing I first thought he just remembered Hell at the very end as part of the ghost sickness, and I still kind of think that because it's such a mess I legit cannot tell. And I have to ask all of these questions while a little kid is standing over a sweaty flopping man screaming BABOOM over and over and oh my gosh I do not like this episode at all.

One thing I legit never got about this show is why getting out of Hell apparently voids all its prior claims on your soul, and if you and it make it out, you don't have to go back to Hell when you die again. They talk about selling your soul like this super scary ironclad magical/legal contract but it seems more like capture the flag, and absent any good reason why it seemed like too lazy an out to give themselves.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:00 AM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

The way Dean legs it out of there is about the best live-action depiction of Shaggy (from Scooby-Doo) fleeing from a ghost that I've even seen.

I never got the impression that Dean couldn't remember Hell. To me it was always obvious that he was lying to protect Sam.

The way they finally killed the ghost was particularly brutal and nasty, and as pointed out above, not really deserved, even if it was the only way to deal with the situation.

Yes, the actors are well committed to being goofballs, and they do a great job of it. That said, whlle Ackles may hop on top of Baby for an impromptu concert, I can't see Dean doing that. I was so conflicted watching that scene. Yes, it was funny, but my god, there is no way in Hell I'd climb up on top my little European jobbie (the lack of a solid roof notwithstanding)--or any of my cars for that matter. The potential for damage is just horrendous--scratches, dents, be still my heart! (The next episode is also a hard one to watch if you care about cars suffering needless damage.)

Look at one point I even physically pulled a drunken asshole university student off the roof of my car. In his state of intoxication, he thought it would be funny to walk to his destination by climbing on top of every parked car along the street. I told him strongly and repeated that he'd better not try that with my car, but he jumped from the hood of the car parked behind mine to the back of my car (which was a long, slanted fastback, so there was the potential for a lot of broken glass). From the back glass, he clambered up to the roof. At that point, I reached up, threw him to the ground and repeated and physically explained my point to him in a way that made an impression (without leaving him any lasting bodily damage). Seriously, don't mess with a woman's ride, especially when she explicitly tells you not to do so. You will regret it.
posted by sardonyx at 11:15 AM on July 18, 2021

If I had to speculate about the Hell contract clauses (which I also find problematic, especially with regards to children below the age of consent), I'd say it's a one-time deal: you agree to go to Hell, not stay there. If you happen to get out, you've reset the situation. Either that or since Castiel pulled Dean from the pit, Dean is now under his protection and can't be returned. As with a lot of things on this show, the details are a bit vague.
posted by sardonyx at 11:19 AM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I never got the impression that Dean couldn't remember Hell. To me it was always obvious that he was lying to protect Sam.

I definitely think that's what I'm supposed to get from it, but it makes the season leading up to now SO weird to me. I guess it partly depends how you read 4x01--I took it as Dean really having no idea how he got out of Hell because he didn't remember it. It's possible he does remember, but didn't understand enough to volunteer any details while they were trying to figure it out; he wouldn't recognize Castiel in Jimmy Novak's body, I'm sure the angels who came to get him never stopped to introduce or explain themselves, and I do think he believed it was Sam had done somehow. Again, to me he reacts to Castiel like someone he thinks he's meeting for the first time, not recognizing someone he saw before in a radically different context, but that's just an interpretation. Or it's possible we're meant to understand he remembers everything about Hell clearly except getting out. Other stuff--immediately remembering phone numbers and PINs and other details from forty years of torture ago, acting basically exactly like he did when he really was thirty years old and before he went to Hell--I'll handwave as implications they're not interested in exploring, but. gosh. GOSH.

If I had to speculate about the Hell contract clauses (which I also find problematic, especially with regards to children below the age of consent), I'd say it's a one-time deal: you agree to go to Hell, not stay there.

It's so weird because giving up your soul and going to Hell are sometimes synonymous and sometimes not, and sometimes when someone sells their soul the new owner does other things with it. But also, yes a thousand times that the details are vague and not something anyone involved is committing super rigidly to.
posted by jameaterblues at 3:06 PM on July 18, 2021

I think you've explained it above: Dean remembers everything about Hell and his life in Hell. He just doesn't remember how he got out of Hell. Whether that's because Castiel put an angelic whammy on him, causing him to forget or whether humans can't cope with the horrors of being torn from Hell (because we weren't designed to go through that, while we were designed to remember the experience of going to Hell because that's part of the punishment) is the only part that is up in the air for me, and honestly, I'm fine with either explanation. (Plus, as you said, he wouldn't recognize Castiel's meat suit, not to mention the fact he didn't believe in angels or think they existed, so he would have a hard time interpreting what happened to him, even if he could remember it.)

I think we need to see this season as the brothers lying (by omission) to each other. Dean doesn't tell Sam about his memories from Hell because he's carrying guilt for his actions. Sam doesn't tell Dean what he has been up to with Ruby because he's carrying guilt for his actions. Both of them are trying to prevent the other from being hurt: Dean doesn't want Sam to feel guilty for not saving him and for coming to realize that Dean was too weak to withstand the horrors of Hell without breaking. Sam doesn't want Dean to feel guilty about the actions Ruby is encouraging him to take to not just survive without his brother but be strong enough to continue the fight without his brother--a brother who sacrificed himself so Sam can live. It's just a whole big ball of guilt and shame and hiding those feelings and their accompanying actions.
posted by sardonyx at 5:30 PM on July 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

"Spleen juice" isn't a thing.

SPN mythology is loosey goosey (ie., steel vs. "iron chain" here - how much carbon does there have to be to make iron no longer iron?). I don't have a dog in the game, but Dean's lack/ degree of expressed trauma suggests to me that he only imperfectly remembers his time in Hell, with his behaviour in this episode largely influenced by the hallucinatory effects of the ghost sickness.

The other option could be that Dean's brain, like his body, came back pristine. Trauma manifests as improper (in the context of being a member of a functional society) synaptic connections caused by experiences. Maybe coming back, his synaptic connections have been reset, similar to the promises of beta-blocker and psychedelic therapies for C/PTSD, etc. and that he does remember perfectly, but the brain mis-wiring has been "fixed."
posted by porpoise at 6:04 PM on July 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm glad somebody else brought up the iron vs. steel thing. I planned to post about that issue at some point, but yeah, this has always bugged me.
posted by sardonyx at 7:09 PM on July 18, 2021

It's just a whole big ball of guilt and shame and hiding those feelings and their accompanying actions.

No that makes sense, I think your whole point here is super well said.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:25 PM on July 18, 2021

Do you have any specific thoughts about iron vs. steel?

Cold iron, iirc, was from a bit of poetry and the phrase was taken up in superstitions. Pure elemental iron is brittle and has no practical use. Wrought iron is low carbon, but has a lot of other impurities, but the traditional "cold iron" (horseshoes, fireplace pokers, etc. notably, not steel swords - is tempering the conditional vs. iron purity?).

Modern mild steel would be the equivalent, and superior in purity, but a poor material especially for chains (which are typically made from high carbon steel and also tempered for high intensity use like in mills).

What material are the body panels (hood, bumper, etc.) of the 67 Impala made from?
posted by porpoise at 9:43 PM on July 18, 2021

Again, I'm saying this with no personal experience with Chevys of that era, but with American cars of similar vintage, the body panels (hood, quarters, etc.) would typically have been steel. The bumper and other shiny parts would have been chrome over steel. One of the common procedures that restorers do is rechrome bumpers, mirrors, door handles, etc., depending on their budgets. Here's an estimate for rechroming an Impala bumper. In contrast, the bumper (what little of it there was) on my classic European convertible was stainless steel, not chrome, although when it was all polished up, it would be hard to tell the difference just looking at it.

I don't know enough about mythology to fully understand how differently steel would affect supernatural beings versus how iron is supposed to affect them, but I figure it's probably significant enough that it's mentioned. Otherwise, every adventurer would just be able to run every fairy through with the sword hanging in their scabbard. As to how chrome-plating over steel affects magical beings, I couldn't hazard a guess.
posted by sardonyx at 2:56 PM on July 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I keep watching Jensen Ackles' "Eye of the Tiger" performance and thinking how good it is, at how well Ackles did at acting out the lyrics and improvising with props (i.e., popping his shirt collar, using his leg as a guitar, using the Impala as a stage), how he went all out with his body language and facial expressions to the point that even when he stops to scratch his forearm it's almost part of the act. He starts out raising a fist above the dashboard where everyone can see it, perfectly on beat, then plays air drums, then sits up slowly to the words "rising up, back on the street", then maneuvers himself out the car window without looking the least bit awkward or unrehearsed. The performance gets more dramatic as it goes, with bigger arm gestures and more intense facial expressions, then with his moving to the roof of the car, playing air guitar, and finally standing on the roof of the car with arms outflung, and his closing leap down from it. Then of course there's his big delighted grin at his own performance and at everyone else's appreciation as everyone else cheers and applauds. And it was all just some spontaneous goofing around. Say what you will of Ackles, there's no denying he's a natural at comedy.
posted by orange swan at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

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