Supernatural: The Monster at the End of this Book
July 30, 2021 4:31 AM - Season 4, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Sam and Dean stumble across the discovery that an author named Chuck Shurley has been writing novelized accounts of their lives since 2005, and that the books have an avid cult following, and they try to figure out how Chuck could possibly be writing about them with such prescience and accuracy.


Chuck: I am... so... sorry. I mean, horror is one thing, but being forced to live bad writing?

Dean: [reading the Supernatural books] This is freakin' insane. How's this guy know all this stuff?
Sam: You got me.
Dean: Everything is in here. I mean everything. From the racist truck to -– to me having sex. I'm full-frontal in here, dude. How come we haven't heard of them before?
Sam: They're pretty obscure. I mean, almost zero circulation. Uh, started in '05. The publisher put out a couple dozen before going bankrupt. And, uh, the last one -– "No Rest For The Wicked" –- [turns his laptop towards Dean] ends with you going to hell.
Dean: I reiterate. Freaking insane. Check it out. There’s actually fans. There’s not many of them, but still. Did you read this?
Sam: Yeah.
Dean: Although for fans, they sure do complain a lot. Listen to this... Simpatico says "the demon story line is trite, clichéd, and overall craptastic". Yeah, well, screw you, Simpatico. We lived it.
Sam: Yeah. Well, keep on reading. It gets better.
Dean: [reading on the computer] There's Sam Girls and Dean Girls and -- what's a slash fan?
Sam: As in Sam-slash-Dean. Together.
Dean: Like "together" together?
Sam: Yeah.
Dean: They do know we're brothers, right?
Sam: Doesn't seem to matter.
Dean: Oh, come on, that... that's just sick.

Dean: I'm sitting in a laundromat reading about myself sitting in a laundromat reading about myself. My head hurts.

Dean: "Sam turned his back on Dean, his face brooding and pensive." I mean, I don't know how he's doing it, but this guy is doing it. I can't see your face, but those are definitely your brooding and pensive shoulders.

Chuck: Are those real guns?
Dean: Yep. And this is real rock salt, these are real fake IDs...

Chuck: There's only one explanation... Obviously I'm a god.

Dean: Okay, well then how 'bout this? I've got a gun in my pocket, and if you don't come with me, I'll blow your brains out.
Chuck: I thought you said I was protected by an archangel?
Dean: Huh, interesting exercise. Let's see who the quicker draw is.

Dean: Wait, this guy, a prophet! Come on, he's practically a Penthouse Forum writer. [to Chuck] Did you know about this?
Chuck: I might have uh, I might have dreamt about it.
Dean: And you didn't tell us?
Chuck: It was too preposterous, not to mention arrogant. Writing yourself into the story is one thing but as a prophet? That's like M. Night-level douchiness.

Dean: [about Chuck being a prophet] Him? Really?
Castiel: You should've seen Luke.

Dean: [to Sam] Behave yourself, would you. No homework. Watch some porn.

Chuck: I am the prophet Chuck!


Chuck's pseudonym "Carver Edlund" is a combination of the names of the executive producer and co-producer: Jeremy Carver and Ben Edlund.

When Chuck states that writing himself into his books as a prophet is like "M. Night-level douchiness", he is referring to director M. Night Shyamalan, who regularly appears in his own movies.

Chuck asks the brothers if they really had to live through the "bugs" and "the ghost ship" and apologizes for the bad writing of those chapters. Actual episodes "Bugs" and "Red Sky at Morning" (which featured a ghost ship) are widely considered by fans to be amongst the worst in the entire series.

Chuck, thinking that Sam and Dean are his fans, asks them if this is "a Misery thing". This refers to Stephen King's book (and later movie) of the same name where a writer's "biggest fan" kidnaps him, holds him captive in her house, and forces him to write another book for his finished series according to her liking.

This episode marks the first time Dean prays for help.

Sam and Dean find out the "Supernatural" book series have "slash fans", meaning fans that would like to see their characters in an intimate incestuous relationship. "Slash" is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on interpersonal attraction and sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex, while the characters are usually not engaged in such relationships in their original fictional universe. The Sam\Dean slash fiction is commonly known in the Supernatural fandom as "Wincest".

When Chuck says his latest book is weird Sam asks "weird how" and Chuck replies "Vonnegut weird". This is a reference to author Kurt Vonnegut who wrote several famous books that were considered weird by some. Probably his best-known novel is Slaughterhouse Five. When Chuck says his book is "Kilgore Trout-weird", he is referring to a fictional character that appears in several of Vonnegut's novels. Trout was an author and many considered him a alter ego of Vonnegut, so in a way Vonnegut included himself in his novels, just like Chuck has included himself in his Supernatural books.

The cover art on the first Supernatural book by Carver Edlund shows an illustration of the brothers re-imagined as male bodice-ripper romance models; the cover's shirtless version of Sam bears a strong resemblance to the romance-novel model Fabio.

While in publisher Sera Siege's office, she quizzes the boys as to their "fandom" of the novels, thereby establishing not only Sam & Dean's birthdays (and with help from other episodes), but also their ages, and the date of the fire. Dean was born January 24th, 1979 (he'd said he was four when he carried Sam out of the burning house). Sam's was May 2nd, 1983 since the series began in 2005, with the first few episodes always starting with a "22 years earlier" flashback, and Azazel ("Yellow Eyes") had said he'd come for Sam on the night he turned 6 months old. This puts the night of the fire (and Mary's death) at November 2nd, 1983. Sam and Dean's birthdates first appear on their arrest records in an earlier episode.

At the diner Kripke's Hollow, there's a plastic stand advertising their famous Buckeyes for $4.99 a box. This is a nod to the series creator who is from Ohio, also known as the Buckeye state. These are sweetened peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. They are popular in Ohio and neighboring states. They actually look a lot like the nut of the buckeye tree.

This episode's title is from the eponymous 1971 Sesame Street book written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin. In the book, the Muppet character Grover learns that he will encounter a monster at the end; he is terrified of the prospect and tries to prevent it, but finally learns that he himself is the monster at the end of the book. Likewise, in this episode, the Winchester brothers learn that they are characters in a book series, and they are powerless to alter the prophesied events of those books. There is also the implication (expanded on in subsequent episodes) that like Grover, Sam is the "monster at the end of this" story.
posted by orange swan (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I love this show's willingness to poke fun at itself and go full-on meta. The whole Supernatural series is the creation of a drunken douchebag sitting around in his bathrobe. And then there's the sideswipe they take at their fans -- "for fans, they sure complain a lot" -- and the publisher having the demon possession warding symbol tattooed on her ass. I've read that the Supernatural cast is surprised when any of the fans they meet turn out to be normal and polite.

Sam and Dean posing as their own fans to investigate the Supernatural series was some twisty meta shit.
posted by orange swan at 4:33 AM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

The meta stuff of seasons 4 and 5 is some of the most fun of the series imo.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:31 AM on July 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

I came to this series by skipping around and sampling episodes based on a "best of" list. I don't regret doing that (despite having lots of plot lines and characters' fates spoiled by the process) because it led me into a show that I would otherwise never have watched. The sole exception to that feeling centres on Chuck. I really hate being exposed to his overall character development and story arc. I would have much rather gone in blind to anything Chuck-related.

That said, I really, really enjoyed this episode. This show really is at its best when its poking at itself and at the genre. When Supernatural goes full-on meta, it is not just a palate-cleansing break in a throwaway episode, like it would typically be in other shows, but a key plot driver that tends to have repercussions that reverberate over time, and I admire the skill that involves.

I have to say, I think casting the actor they did as Chuck is a big part of the character's success. I'm unfamiliar with him, but he's a great fit for not just the character, but the supporting cast.
posted by sardonyx at 7:06 AM on July 30, 2021

I just did some googling regarding Rob Benedict to see if I could get a sense of who he is in real life. His social media accounts are all business-like promotional tweets and goofy selfies -- nothing very personal or revealing. On November 6, 2020, he posted to Facebook, "My spellcheck keeps changing “election” to “EJECTION” — foreshadowing??? #spellcheckgetsit", so I think we can infer he's at least not a Trumper. He writes and produces his own work, and is also very musical, so he seems like he might be an interesting and intelligent guy, and he seems to be excellent friends with some of the other supporting members of the cast.

In October 2013, while at a convention in Toronto, he had a stroke at the age of 43 (yikes). Quick action on the part of Richard Speight Jr. (they are close friends) and convention volunteers saved his life, and he made a full recovery over the course of the next year.
posted by orange swan at 10:11 AM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

-Chuck's whole deal takes some of the enjoyment out of this for me personally, but I deeply love what a big and weird swing it is. (I know the title of this episode could not possibly be a very, very patient joke based on Chuck being God and God being the big bad, I don't think that plot even existed for several more years, but it was a good title then and it's better now.)

-But gosh the bits about him saying he's a cruel capricious god who's put them through terrible things for entertainment is so weird now depending whether you think he knows that's literally true. It's hard for me not to see this Chuck as a semi-real person distinct from God for at least a period of time, rather than being God who's just messing with them all along (and also giving himself prophetic visions alone in his house, sure), though I do think the latter retcon is how I'm supposed to understand it. But I think I feel that way because I watched it in real time; I have no idea what I'd make of this coming in knowing Chuck's deal.

-That this episode goes for such a weird reach and largely makes it work, and that it happens in the same episode where Lilith pretends that making a deal with her means you have to have sex but it's okay, luckily the woman whose body she stole is extremely interested in sex with a total stranger at this particular moment, is some top-shelf CW nonsense.

-Also I have no idea if it's age or PR or what, but the long weird road of this show's attitude towards its fan base changes so much from panting obsessives dropping trou to the high school musical.
posted by jameaterblues at 5:14 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Cute episode, and speaks to the show's success that they have the confidence to meta/ mock themselves this way. I remember getting a real kick out of this one, the first time around.

I'm sure there have been pixels spilled over why the next episode is entitled 'Jump the Shark' and not this episode?

The role given to Keegan Connor Tracy (Sera Siege) feels like they wanted to cast Anna Paquin, another 'True Blood' alumna following Heyerdahl (Alistair) and Parrack (the Siren) but couldn't for whatever reason.
posted by porpoise at 7:29 PM on July 30, 2021

I don't have any experience with how this show reacted to and with fans when it was in production, so I can't comment on that. What I can say is that I found Dean's and Sam's reactions to finding out that the books had fans who criticized the stories and shipped the brothers together pretty realistic, especially given that this happened more than a decade ago.

Just the other day, I found my self in the position to explain something involving online fandom and reactions to something that was happening in the news and in the online world (it was the Batman pussy comment for anybody interested) to somebody who is only a handful of years older than Dean and who is pretty well grounded in DC media properties, but who has never been exposed to online fandom and fan fiction in particular. His reaction to the whole thing could have easily been transcribed and inserted as dialogue [with stage directions indicating how to react] into this episode. And I say that as somebody who has only viewed online fandom as something on the distant horizon, which means I'm aware generally of how it can respond but I've never been caught up in anything myself to have personal insights.
posted by sardonyx at 8:22 PM on July 30, 2021

Yes, very realistic reactions from Sam and Dean, especially given that Dean isn't someone who spends a lot of time online. He didn't know what slash fiction was.

Online fandoms are crazy, and the fans for this show are about as crazy as any I've ever seen, though fandoms for individual actors can be just as nuts. The Wincest thing is really gross, and then there's the shipping of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki themselves, with people insisting their wives are really beards and that they're secretly a couple. What the fuck.

I would definitely say I'm a fan of certain shows and of certain actors, and I've entertained my share of silly fantasies about them for the fun of it, but I find I'm careful to set boundaries, and the general rule I try to follow is that my fangirling has to stay within the confines of my head. There's an actor I've had a huge crush on for eight years, and I have never told anyone his name -- I haven't even joined in any discussions of the movies/tv shows he's been in here on FanFare. And I've never been a part of any fandoms. While I might lurk on fan sites occasionally, I have never joined nor posted to such sites. They're just too cocoa puffs and I don't want to interact with such people. I would never write fan fiction or make fan art -- I can't bear the idea of spending that kind of time creating something that's just derivative. While I might draw on my favourite shows or celebrity crushes as source material or for inspiration, I would be sure to make whatever I was creating different/distinct enough that it would stand alone. And besides buying the occasional DVD, I try never to spend money on the people/entities I'm a fan of -- no posters, calendars, t-shirts, or other merch. I'd certainly never go to a fan convention, as it's both a huge expense and would involve me having to interact in person with Those Fans [shudder].

As I've said before, I am so glad to have FanFare which makes it possible for me to discuss the shows I enjoy with other reasonable people in an in-depth but rational and appropriate way. I've never had this kind of outlet before -- a place where I can be a fan, and explore my interest in a show in the way I normally do in my head, without having to deal with Those Fans, or to have to feel like I'm one of Those Fans.

Oh -- one more note on fan merch. I will say that there was that time I put together a Sherlock fangirl kit for a Christmas present for my sister -- I made her a Sherlock Holmes doll, and ordered a Sherlock notebook folder and calendar for her online -- but that was for a gift for someone else. I'd never even consider doing anything like that for me.
posted by orange swan at 9:42 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not into Wincest or the J/J RP-slash-conspiracy, but, pre-Castiel there wasn't really anyone else for the shippers to pair them up with since the writers pretty consistently kill off any recurring female character, so, while the squick factor kicks in for me personally, I do get it. And I think probably there are J/J shippers for whom it's just another form of fictional speculation and a way to bypass the incest taboo. The problem is that every fandom has a certain percentage of utterly batshit fans, and the bigger the fandom the more noticeable that segment is, and Supernatural got big enough that the tin-hat brigade was significant.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:11 AM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh I started out with bindlestitch in Due South and then earned my stripes in boybands, so wincest, Rule 34 and dead doves are basically catmint for me. Fandom contains multitudes, ymmv.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:02 AM on July 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

Now Chuck, they always did very interesting things with. A top episode for me. I loved "I am the prophet Chuck!" back in the day.

There's only one explanation... Obviously I'm a god.

Oh, foreshadowing! I always wondered how they justified this. I can only assume that original Chuck was kind of one of those "I become a human for a day...or decades" sort of stories and I dunno, temporarily didn't know his godhood?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:00 PM on July 31, 2021

The best theory I’ve seen is that he really was/is a prophet named Chuck and that it’s not until later episodes that the actual switch happens, much like an Angel possession except more terminal. This means there is a very nervous Chuck Shirley getting drunk in a corner of heaven and trying not to run into anyone Winchester related.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:44 PM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I strongly disliked Chuck's eventual identity; he should've turned out to be like a prophet assumed directly into heaven rather than... that. It messed with the continuity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:27 PM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Dean praying for guidance is such a defining moment, but it's one that is just pretty much glossed over in the grander scheme of the episode, and I kind of like that approach. There is an episode (I'm not sure where it is in the run) where Dean is shocked to find out that Sam says grace before a meal, so Sam has always believed. Dean never has. Which makes his eventual relationship with heavenly beings that much more unexpected. His prayer in this is just a last-ditch, nothing to lose, and desperate attempt at making something go their way, and it comes across as (again) a very realistic and believable reaction to me.
posted by sardonyx at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2021

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