It all started off so well.
The basic elements of this episode’s Monster of the Week story were strong. In the opening (after briefly picking up from last week’s Sam Hell memory induced seizure) we’re in a school lab as the janitor is cleaning up. There’s a giant Visible Man type figure in the lab, and suddenly his eyes turn to look at the janitor. Legitimately creepy! Stuff gets paranormal, the janitor’s head opens up in a gash from nowhere, and we’re off to the races.
Dean thinks this sounds like a good case for the brothers, to help get Sam’s mind off his Hell memories. They begin doing the investigation routine, and all is going well for us at least - there’s some humor, the mystery is creepy and then a second killing occurs. This time it’s a blank white mannequin doing the killing. Again, spooky! I like. Very much.
But bumps appear in the road. All throughout the episode Dean has been ignoring calls from Lisa, his girlfriend with whom he shacked up for a year while thinking Sam was dead. Dean finally picks up and it’s her son, Ben, saying something is terribly wrong with his mom and she won’t come out of her room. Dean takes off for Lisa’s (which I think is in Michigan), leaving Sam behind to deal with the case.
On the case front we learn that the victims both worked with this girl who disappeared some time before. It turns out that four dudes who worked at a factory with this shy girl tried to play the world’s dopiest, least funny prank on her - they convinced her she had a secret admirer and had her come to some apartment, which they set up for a romantic date. Except when she arrived she found only a mannequin waiting for her. Good one. I don’t even get the actual humor aspect of this prank; it isn’t that it’s mean, it’s that it makes no sense and feels like the writers arrived at the prank after coming up with the idea for the monster.
Anyway, she accidentally gets killed during the prank (really, really stupidly), and Sam realizes it’s her ghost that’s causing all the trouble. He saves one of the douchebags (the fourth guy never seems to show up again), and goes to burn her bones, which the douches buried in the woods.
Meanwhile, Dean learns that Ben was ‘Parent Trapping’ him - Lisa is about to get serious with another man and Ben doesn’t want a new Dean in his life. Dean and Ben have a heart to heart, the upshot of which is that Ben says that Dean is walking out on his family. It’s an interesting reversal, because so much of Dean’s reasoning to remain a hunter is about family. But after meeting the dreadful Campbell side of his family and now this can he keep using that excuse?
There’s a truly ridiculous montage, which is obviously just padding out the episode. It’s set to some generic music, and at first I was like, “Man, they can’t afford classic rock ever anymore” and then the next scene is Surviving Douche going home, which happens to be above a bar which is blasting Love Hurts by Nazareth, which really should have been over the shitty montage.
Anyway, it turns out Surviving Douche lives with a fucking Real Doll as his girlfriend, and wouldn’t you know it, she comes to life and kills him. Looks like once again burning the bones is not enough to take care of a ghost.
So Sam goes to the missing girl’s sister to see if she has anything from her, and lo and behold: she has her sister’s kidney. This is actually an interesting twist, but the show opts to do nothing with it. Dean has returned, and as he and Sam powwow about how to deal with the Haunted Kidney, the ghost possesses the Impala. This is actually pretty funny, as Dean protests that the ghost only possesses sex toys.
The Impala tries to run over Dean, but he tricks it into crashing into some kind of convenient shack. And then, out of nowhere the sister shows up with a huge shard of glass in what I’m assuming is her kidney. I don’t know how she got so injured, as it seemed like she and Sam were not near the accident. Shit luck, I guess. Anyway, when she dies so does the ghost. The stupid end.
Back at Bobby’s place the boys have a heart to heart and who cares. The episode started so strongly, and the mystery seemed to hold real promise. For the episode to end with yet another gruff ‘woe is us/I got you, dude’ talk is a complete bummer.
The Lore: I’ve never liked the way Supernatural deals with ghosts, and I appreciated that this episode seemed to be tackling that subject. On the show you must burn ALL of the earthly remains of the ghost, which seems really daunting. A fingernail, a lock of hair, a sperm sample on ice could all be enough to keep a ghost around and marauding. When the Haunted Kidney showed up I thought ‘Ah, they’re having fun with their own overly complex rules, and they’re giving Sam and Dean a moral conundrum.’ Except they don’t, and by removing the decision from Sam and Dean the entire episode ends up feeling rote and pointless. All the more so because the guys the ghost was killing were total dickheads (and because the fourth guy never showed up anyway, so we never felt he was in danger).
Dean’s return to Lisa’s house was obviously a ploy to get Dean back in the ladies market - we’ve seen that Lisa has moved on and now it’s okay for Dean to do the same. I like what young Ben had to say, but this whole segment is out of place here. The return to Lisa should have happened last week, when Sam was dealing with his own past. Having both boys sift through the rubble of Sam’s missing year at the same time would have made sense and would have been thematically appropriate. Instead Dean gets wrenched out of the story for no good reason except that the mystery couldn’t really support both of them at once.
Not as bad as last week’s all-time low, Mannequin 3: The Reckoning falls apart at the end, dodging any interesting moral quandaries for a quickie wrap up that makes no actual sense. Hopefully this week’s reflexively meta episode will bring a spark back to the show.