Sixth episode overall, from October 18, 2005.
The teaser gives us a proper tease: a SWAT team carefully moving into a house with blood plenty visible, discovering a young blonde woman bound and gagged to a chair, covered in blood. As they rescue her, she frantically points to the other room: “He’s in there!” Moving in, the SWATties see a man trying to get out through the balcony door in the darkness. As they shout the usual things about getting down and complying instantly, the flashlight of one catches the man turning – and it’s Dean, with blood on his face and a knife in his hand. Fade to black.
Backing up, we get “One Week Earlier”, where Dean is talking about their plans for the upcoming drive, and Sam is reading email on his phone. Dean sneers about Sam’s “college buddies”, and lectures him that you can’t have friends when you’re a hunter; Sam disagrees. One of his friends says that her brother has been arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend. This seems odd to Sam, as Zach was a pretty level-headed guy, and he insists that they go to St. Louis, NOW. Rebecca meets them at the door, and is pleasantly surprised by Sam’s appearance there. Her folks are in Paris, so she’s staying with her brother at least until they get home, so he has some support.
Zach says he came home, found his girlfriend tied to a chair, badly beaten and not breathing, so he naturally called emergency services. The police arrest him, citing a video they have showing him arriving home around the time she was killed; Rebecca insists that he was with her, having a few beers until at least an hour and a half later. The boys claim Dean’s a detective from somewhere, and offer to have him come through and look at the crime scene.
Sam breaks out the puppy eyes, and convinces her. Dean remains skeptical.
The house is trashed, covered in bloody handprints, but no signs of a break-in. One odd thing: about a week earlier, someone had broken in and stolen some of Zach’s clothes, but the police think it was a homeless person or something. A dog next door is all barky and excited, which is apparently unusual for it, and it started around the murder. Dean is starting to wonder, and conveniently Rebecca has stolen the video that apparently shows Zach entering the building.
Cut away, and we see Zach standing outside an apartment building, watching an East Asian man kiss his partner goodbye, hearing them mention that he’s gone for a couple of days. Zach makes notes. As he watches her walk back into the apartment, Zach grins a little, and then his eyes flare bright white.
Back looking at the video, and Zach can be seen entering the place at a little after ten, half an hour before her time of death, and the tape’s been authenticated as untampered. Sam gets Rebecca out of the room so he can point out the eye-flare to Dean. They theorize it might be a doppelganger of sorts.
Cut away again, to the East Asian man returning home, saying his client cancelled at the last minute. Growing concerned when she doesn’t answer him, his fear spikes when he sees a bloody handprint. He finds her, bound and gagged and covered in blood, but when he frees her, she begs for him not to hurt her anymore! Warily checking the apartment, he meets…himself? With the eye-flare. And, unfortunately, a baseball bat. Lights out.
Sam and Dean pull up at the first scene the next day, with Sam pointing out that the killer didn’t leave by the camera-watched entrance, so he reasons there should be a trail from where he did leave. They do find some blood, but before tracing it further, they notice an ambulance, and follow it to the second scene. We see the police arresting the East Asian man.
Dean discovers that the arrested man was driving home from a business trip at the time of the attack, and that he claims to have encountered himself inside. The police are…skeptical, and take him away.
The idea of a shapeshifter comes up – every culture has a story of them, but apparently they don’t fly. Sam’s picked up a trail running away from the scene, but it just stops. Right by a sewer access hole, so down into the stink they go. Dean discovers a pile of truly horrible glop, slimy bloody flesh, which he speculates is a shed skin. On the good news side, silver is a reliable antidote to shapeshifters.
Rebecca has discovered that Dean’s not, actually, a cop, and wants the boys to stop helping, before they make anything else worse for Zach. Not even SVPDE can help this time. Dean, inevitably, gets his I Told You So on.
Down into the sewers they go, finding more glop near an apparent nest. Suddenly – eye-flares! Sam gives chase, but the shifter books, and after they split up to search, Dean comes back to meet up with Sam, and says they should head to the car. Behind Sam’s back, though – eye-flare. Dean isn’t Dean.
Sam becomes a little suspicious when Dean asks him for the car keys, and tries testing him on their shared history – but Not!Dean passes. Flipping him the keys, Sam moves away while Not!Dean opens the trunk, excited by all the toys. Suddenly, Sam’s back, pistol up, and asking where his brother is. Sam noticed that the real Dean had hurt his shoulder, and wouldn’t have been able to catch the keys left-handed. Not!Dean gets the drop on Sam, and fade to black.
Waking up, Sam’s tied to a post in the sewer, and Not!Dean is claiming that Dean is dead already. Not!Dean demonstrates that he can tap into Dean’s memories, using it to build some animosity between the boys, before heading off to see Rebecca. She’s skeptical, but lets him in. Not!Dean tells Rebecca about the shapeshifter, and gets touchy about her sneering at the idea of sympathy for the monster.
Back in the hole, Dean turns out to be also tied up, and the boys get around to untying themselves. Dean points out that they can’t exactly call the police and put out an APB on, well, him, so they have to go rescue her themselves.
Not!Dean is still trying to get Rebecca to feel sorry for him, and creeping her out by being too forward. Not!Dean takes her down, and starts his usual routine – but SWAT arrives, as per the opener. Not!Dean attacks the SWATties and gets away, but is wounded, leading to a really grody shapeshifting scene, replete with groans and peeling skin and just a lot of ick.
The APB does get put out after all, and Dean’s the most wanted man in St.Louis. Sam points out they have no weapons, but they reason out where the Impala is…only to find the cops were sitting on it. Sam distracts the cops and is arrested, so Dean can get away and (inevitably) go into the sewer by himself. Searching, he finds Rebecca, badly hurt and tied up in the nest.
Cut away to Rebecca’s house, where clean and tidy Not!Rebecca is talking with Sam about his arrest. When his back is turned, she smashes a bottle across his head, and eye-flare, in case we didn’t know. Untying the trapped Rebecca, Dean helps her out of the sewer.
Back in Rebecca’s house, Not!Dean has Sam tied up, and says he’s going to kill him, as Dean, to make sure that Dean will always be hunted. Sam breaks out, and he and Not!Dean fight, fairly evenly, trashing Rebecca’s house. Just as Not!Dean gets the upper hand, Dean shows up, and silver-bullets the shifter into Purgatory for good.
Sam reports that the cops are convinced this “Dean Winchester” guy did the murder, and probably the others, and that the video had obviously been tampered with. Zach is released, and we get some more bad matte work on the driving broment.
Despite the matte work (ugh!), the makeup effects in this one are really strong – the shapeshifter extended transformation scene is disgusting and creepy,
I quite liked Rebecca in this episode – she’s decisive when she needs to be, quick to accept that Dean is not Not!Dean, and her delivery of the creepiness of Not!Dean hitting on her at such a terribly-chosen time was spot-on. Quite a small named cast in this one – Zach, Rebecca, Emily (Zach’s partner), and the boys are about it. If the middle couple got names, I didn’t hear them.
If the episode is missing anything, it’s a stronger sense of the violation it would be to have someone steal your very shape. At least for me, that ties into a strong reaction to body-horror, which makes the episode better; it’s a horror series, after all.
Next up is a classic legend, Hook Man, and another early-season favourite for me.
(cue guitars and credits)
S1E6: Skin: 4 Pentacles
4 Pentacles from me again on this one: another solid early-show MotW episode, introducing another important piece of the show’s lore, about shapeshifters and their vulnerability to silver.
Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: Still being good boys, yet. 0.
Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: I count only two named women in this, Emily (the first victim), and Rebecca. So we’re at ½.
Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 50%. Yikes!
Objectification by Dean: Some, around Rebecca, but among his milder expressions of same.
Misogynist slurs: Actually, I don’t think there were any I caught.
Aliases used by the boys: None this time, as the vic was someone who knew Sam already.
Hint o’ maple: I didn’t catch a single trace of maple goodness on this one. Small cast meant they didn’t get much with accents, and a fair bit of tight shooting kept the background pretty clear of Canadiana.