Supernatural: After School Special
July 25, 2021 5:22 AM - Season 4, Episode 13 - Subscribe

Sam and Dean investigate a haunting at one of their old schools and are reminded of what high school life was like for them back in 1997.


Dean: Today, you will have the honor of playing one of the greatest games ever invented. A game of skill, agility, and cunning. A game with one simple rule... [picks up a red gym ball] Dodge. [pegs a student in the stomach at close range, causing him to bend over in pain] Sorry.
Kid: Uh, substitute Coach Roth?
Dean: Yes?
Kid: Miss Budroll never let us play dodgeball.
Dean: Well, Miss. B's in Massachusetts getting married, so we're playing.
Kid: She says it's dangerous!
Dean: [blows his whistle] Take a lap!

Dean: The whistle makes me their god.

Dean: We'd really like to pay our respects, Mr. MacGregor. Would you mind telling us where Dirk was buried?
Dirk MacGregor, Sr.: Oh, he wasn't. I had him cremated.
Dean: All of him?

Young Dean: I'm a HE-ro!


Young Sam wrote a paper about his family killing a werewolf the previous summer; Dean told the same story to Gordon in season two episode "Bloodlust".

At San Diego Comic Con 2015, when asked if the Winchester brothers would defeat their new enemy, Jared Padalecki replied "Yeah, because we're not the LOSEchesters," and in this episode, the bully who terrorized Sam and his friend Barry taunts Sam by saying, "Come on LOSEchester!"

Brock Kelly had not watched Supernatural prior to getting the part of young Dean Winchester. To prepare for the role he watched the pilot episode and "A Very Supernatural Christmas" several dozen times.

Cainan Wiebe plays a bully in "Wishful Thinking" and is the victim of a bully in "After School Special". The actor also had a small role in the episode "Faith".

Dean's alias as temp teacher is "Coach Roth", a nod to David Lee Roth, of the band Van Halen.

When Dean suggests to Sam that they pose as Swedish exchange students, he is making a tongue-in-cheek reference to Hanna-Barbera's brother and sister super duo The Wonder Twins.

When Sam tells Dean that he wants to talk with Mr. Wyatt, Dean says, "Yeah whatever. Go have your Robin Williams 'O Captain! My Captain!' moment." This is a reference to the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society.

Young Dean dates a girl named Amanda Heckerling in this episode. Amy Heckerling is a well-known Hollywood director known for teen movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless.

Dean refers to "Truman High, home of the Bombers"; Harry S. Truman was the USA president during WW2 and it was his decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan as a way of getting the Japanese military to surrender.

Jensen Ackles had quite a hand in Dean's gym teacher costume. He says he based it on a gym teacher from his high school, and described the bright red shorts to the costume department. When they came, the costume department then altered the shorts to make them even tighter. "The Red Shorts" have become a common Dean trope used by fans of the show.
posted by orange swan (6 comments total)
The age gap between young Sam and young Dean was so distracting. They didn't look four years apart at all. Turns out that the two actors were actually 11 years apart -- 23 and 12 at the time this episode was made. They should have found a younger actor to play Dean as Brock Kelly looked far too mature to be in high school. Young Sam was played by Colin Ford, who has appeared in a few episodes prior to this one, and who made a perfect young Sam in both appearance and affect, but he did not look like he was 13 or 14 as Sam would have been in 1997.

Also, Dean and Sam, who are four years apart in age, would also not have been in high school at the same time unless Dean failed a grade or Sam skipped one -- when Dean was in grade 12, Sam would have been in grade 8. Do U.S. high schools ever house grades 8 through 12?

I bet gym was the only subject Dean ever liked in school. It was hilarious how much he loved being a gym teacher. Hey, he even wore shorts for it. But I could have done without his comment, "Oh, and FYI, three of the cheerleaders are legal. Guess which ones." At least Sam refused to play along on that, saying, "No," and giving Dean a disapproving look. Sam and Dean are very good about only consorting with age-appropriate women throughout the series, and about never crossing the line of consent, but Dean is 29 or 30 at this point and shouldn't even be making lascivious comments about high school girls.

Ugh, I hate to think of Sam and Dean constantly having to change schools. They would hardly have had a chance to make friends. It's no wonder Dean never finished high school, and I don't know how Sam managed to get a full scholarship to Stanford under those conditions. I know I've said this before, but realistically Sam and Dean would be far rougher and less functional than they're shown to be, given their awful childhood.

How does Sam writing an essay about how John and Dean and he killed a werewolf fit with the family mandate that they don't tell anyone what they do? I have to think that was a one-time cry for help, that he wanted someone to know what his life was actually like. The teacher just assumed it was fiction (and it's no fault of his that he did), but it did get Sam some much-needed attention and encouragement. Also... what else was Sam going to write about that wasn't going to result in intervention by family services? Spending Christmas alone with his brother in a shitty motel room with presents Dean stole from another family for him?

Another painful moment was when young Dean gives Amy a few details about his living conditions/family life, and she responds with compassion. He was so invested in being brave, in seeing his father as a hero who is always right and embracing the life that he has, and so lacking in any experience of what a normal life is like, that he had never even realized how sad his life actually was, and her pity did not sit well with him. Good call on making young Dean's behaviour even cockier and more inappropriate than adult Dean's behaviour, though. He was bound to have reined himself in at least somewhat with age and experience by the time we meet him at age 26.

Sam's face would have been much more battered up from his one-sided round with the student wrestler possessed by Dirk's spirit than it was in his scene with Mr. Wyatt, but I suppose going to see his former teacher looking beaten up would have made for a different kind of conversation.

Sam's face when Mr. Wyatt asks him if he's happy.... He's so consumed with the work he does I don't think he's ever even asked himself that. I don't know if he's unhappy exactly, but I think if he could wish things were different, he'd wish for things not to be as hard as they are. Just a lightening of the load he carries would be good. As he put it in "Wishful Thinking", if he could have a wish granted, he'd wish for Lilith's head on a platter.
posted by orange swan at 6:03 AM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also appreciated the nuance of the back story provided for Dirk. He was a bully because he'd had a tough time at home, taking care of his cancer-stricken, dying mother on his own at the age of 12 while his father worked three jobs to pay their living expenses and medical bills. Bullies usually come from homes that are troubled in some way, just as Dean's disrespectful behaviour towards his teacher and the girls he was involved with was a sign of his problematic upbringing.
posted by orange swan at 10:17 AM on July 25, 2021

This one isn't high on my list, for a variety of reasons, but the distractingly visible age difference between Sam and Dean doesn't help. It was like they wanted to keep Colin Ford (sure, good call) but also a lot of TV shows cast people in their twenties as high school kids, and they just went with both. That said, if Dean were visibly sixteen The Dean Show would be an even tougher sell. (No shade, there are worse coping mechanisms in the world than channeling Redneck Fonzie, but I hope Amanda went off to college and met great people to date there.) But I do get how you would see some of the best and realest parts of himself that Sam gets, and decide Dean could be a good guy to get to know.

The Truman Bombers is a pretty messed up joke.
posted by jameaterblues at 5:20 PM on July 25, 2021

But I do get how you would see some of the best and realest parts of himself that Sam gets, and decide Dean could be a good guy to get to know.

I keep thinking about the Dean vs. Sam thing in a "Ginger vs. Mary Ann" kind of way. One day in my early twenties I went around to all the guys on the project team I was working on and said to them, "Ginger or Mary Ann?" To this day it amuses me that none of them either had to ask what I meant, or needed to take any time at all to think about it -- they all laughed and then answered promptly with the name of the woman they preferred (for the record, the results were a roughly 50/50 split). But when it came to Dean vs. Sam, I did have to think about it. If I were a character in the Supernatural universe (and also attractive enough for them to be interested in me), which one would I prefer?

And the answer isn't as simple and definitive as one or the other. I wouldn't have any interest in Dean if he was just some cocky jackass in a bar who approached me with one of those bullshit pickup lines of his, but if I had the chance to get to know him and see what a good man he truly is under his superficial bravado and rough manners, I would find him attractive. But even then I probably wouldn't have much in common with him. I could relate much better to Sam's value system and approach to life. So I think my answer is... Dean for a night if I had a chance to get to know him first; Sam if it's for longer than that.
posted by orange swan at 5:54 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

TV shows cast people in their twenties as high school kids

TXF was notoriously terrible about this (I recall finding at least one actor >30 cast as a HS student).

The "regular" "non-hot" highschool kids looked HS aged. The wrestling team on the bus at night looked teacher-aged, though.

I thought it was an anachronism, but Dean's 1997 cell phone appears era-appropriate (if on the expensive side).

re: bullies

It rings true, but my experiences were a lot different. The 'trouble at home' kids growing up (and generally poor) might be a bit rougher, but were generally pretty good guys. Couple examples where they were very good guys. Prone to get into crime, but tended not to be bullies. The bullies were from affluent families, some of them from very obviously racist families, and trended dumber than bricks.

I didn't pay much attention to the girl bullies' demographics.
posted by porpoise at 6:59 PM on July 25, 2021

Current research is that bullies are second tier popular kids using bullying as a social stratagem. But the difficult home life bully was the accepted story at the time this was filmed.

The gym teacher scenes still make me giggle. It would be such a great job for Dean who is actually pretty good with kids.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:47 PM on July 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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