Ever since last week’s promo showed Sam clocking Dean—let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to do that at one time or another—I have been looking forward to the moment when I could fall into this episode of “Supernatural” with the maturity and resolve of a five-year-old waiting for Santa Claus. It would mean that not only would I get to spend an hour watching Sam and Dean Winchester saving people, hunting things and looking hot doing it, but also that we all survived one of the ugliest and grueling elections in this nation’s history, and at the very least, the inescapable political ads and robocalls would be a thing of the past. My fellow Americans, we have made it!
Astoundingly, “Southern Comfort” was a sleeper-hit of an episode, deftly weaving the case-of-the-week with the drama between Sam and Dean, while reminding the audience that some wounds, like the grief of losing a bourbon-guzzling surrogate father, don’t ever go away. Pretend I’m standing behind some complicated diagram of “Supernatural” characters and facts and slurring my words like Diane Sawyer, and allow me to break it down, election coverage style.
Sam and Dean have a classic "this-is-not-our-case" argument on their way to their what is indeed a “Supernatural” incident, and forgive me while I swoon, because it feels like season 2 again in all the right ways. Sam and Dean look fabulous in their FBI costumes, and they're showing their badges in sync. It's all perfection until the Barney Fife on duty is shocked that his town's (that's Kearney, Missouri) murder has attracted both the FBI and a Texas Ranger...and the boys find Garth (an iffy DJ Qualls) dressed in a suede fringe jacket and 10-gallon hat workin' the case. If you remember from previous encounters in season 7, Garth is a strange, scrawny little hunter with an unusual affection for sock puppets, '90s hip hop, and hugging other men. Basically, he's the anti-Winchester. They are both horrified to learn that Garth has taken over Bobby's role as a hunter customer service with his own...um, unique flare. “Bobby belonged to all of us, not just you and Sam. I'm just taking what he showed me and trying to do something with it,” he explained in a chin-trembling moment of candor. Garth grows on you like a barnacle, doesn't he?
The case seems confoundingly normal, even a bit boring, at first. A hacked off wife, apparently livid over discovering her husband’s infidelities crushes him with his own car and then drives over him, which definitely left more than a mark. Sammy, ever the law student, figures she was temporarily insane or had some kind of medical problem until Garth literally steps in (and tastes) a sizeable puddle of green ectoplasm—a byproduct created incredibly angry, impressively powerful spirits. After questioning the distraught and handcuffed wife, they learn that Alcott, the name the husband-killing wife gouged into his chest with fingernails, wasn't the name of his mistress, but some girl he'd taken to prom 37 years earlier, the case was obviously stalled. At least until there is another murder, which is caught on a surveillance camera. According to Bobby's journal, green ectoplasm is left by spectres—ghosts that forced one to act on their betrayals—and are usually awakened by grave desecration. A grave in Kearney had been disturbed just a few days before the murder. So the trio of hunters set out for an old school salt and burn. The only problem? It grave is the Confederate Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the civil war, and it's guarded by a ceremonial guard. "Burn a confederate soldiers bones in a town full of rednecks? Suuure," Sam gripes. For the record, the real tomb is in Biloxi, Mississippi.
They manage to burn the bones without being tarred and feathered by the toothless townies, but the murders only escalate—a cop blows away his boss for treating him poorly; his arresting officer then tries to kill the umpire from his pick-up baseball game at the town hospital. While Dean tried to stop the deputy, Sam and Garth discover that the myth behind the Unknown Soldier is that two brothers on opposing sides of the civil war met each other on the battlefield, and one killed the other. A helpful librarian with a fierce coif tells the tale, “Vance swore vengeance on his brother with his dying breathe. Years later, the corporeal dug his brother up...and brought him home." Vance's spirit is the spectre and he gets his ghostly kicks from punishing betrayers. I am definitely stunned by how much this episode ties into the snowballing tensions between Sam and Dean over Benny, Amelia and Purgatory, and everything else, they haven’t talked about in their lifetime. Some fans hate it when the brotherly drama, but I covet it. I have a feeling their throwdown will be bloodier than that doomed christening on the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”