Phew. I’ve just emerged from a vortex of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.  When I wasn’t at work I was playing the game and now must remind myself that I’m not an assassin in 16th century Rome.  How disappointing.

But what better way to reacquaint myself with the modern world than with an episode of Supernatural.  And during this holiday season where we give thanks for a variety of things, I raise a forkful of turkey and cranberry sauce and praise the writing genius of Ben Edlund.  I forced my father, who was visiting for the holiday, to watch the episode with me.  For a Supernatural virgin, “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” was a good standalone episode.  Humor was abounding, with just a smattering of dark undercurrent, and there was little show mythology that I needed to walk him through.  I’m not sure I converted him into a weekly viewer, but he heartily enjoyed it and laughed often.

“Clap Your Hands If You Believe” was a splendid interlude between this season’s very dark episodes.  An episode in which Sam’s lack of soul provided many comic moments rather than the usual stomach-churning wrongness we’ve come to expect.  An episode in which Jensen Ackles proved, yet again, that he has impeccable comic timing and delivery.  An episode that took supernatural creatures made beloved by Disney and turned them into tiny monsters.  I’m not sure I can bring myself to buy my niece anything related to Tinkerbell. . .ever.

Yet in an episode filled with notable moments, the ultimate was the opening credits.  For an X-Phile like myself, when the credits rolled I let out a giant cheer and actually clapped.  (A bit embarrassing since my Dad was there to witness it.  I’m the only geek in the family.)  Supernatural owes a great debt to the X-Files, and was lucky to snag Kim Manners, who served as a director and producer on the X-Files from 1995-2002, and then on Supernatural until his far too early death last year.  In addition, the funniest Supernatural episodes have always reminded me (in the best possible way) of episodes written for the X-Files by Darin Morgan and Vince Gilligan — “Small Potatoes,” “Dreamland” (I & II), “War of the Coprophages,” “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.”  In many respects these shows are siblings, with the older one paving the way for the new.  I would think that Manners would have been rather pleased with the opening homage.

The entire episode has an “I Want To Believe” theme running throughout, whether that belief is in alien life or fairies.  Robert Picardo was a fantastic guest star, pretending to be alien hunter Wayne Whitiker Jr. (in a folklorist vein, rather than literal), gathering the stories of those who had “encounters.”  Mulder would have loved him.  Most people in town seem to be leaning towards alien abduction; the local sheriff thinks it’s nothing supernatural and that he’s dealing with disturbing, but run-of-the-mill, kidnappings; and then there’s the somewhat ditzy older woman who excitedly relays that of course it’s not aliens but fairies.  This leads to a great cut-shot of Dean looking shocked and bemused simultaneously.  Sam then berates the woman for her beliefs, basically accusing her of drinking the crazy kool-aid.

Question: Sam without a soul has no empathy, which makes him mean?  Or is it the darker side of Sam manifesting because he has no soul to quash it?  I find slightly apathetic Sam amusing, but the cruelty a bit disturbing.  Is this Sam’s suppressed rage finally surfacing?  When he finally regains his soul will he go back to being emo Sam?  Or will it give the writers the opportunity to invert the Sam and Dean character, with Dean now taking on the mantle of emotion while Sam will be bringing the snark?

Regardless, in the meantime, Dean will serve as Sam’s conscience during this time of soul absence.  Or as they put it:
Sam: “So you’re saying. . .you’ll be my Jiminy Cricket?”
Dean: “Shut up.  But yeah you freaking puppet.  That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

It is clear that something is amiss when the boys talk to Mr. Brennan, the father of Patrick, one of the abductees.  He doesn’t want to talk to them, is clearly hiding something, and once they leave talks to an invisible presence asking if he did okay.  Sam remains behind to watch the shop, while Dean heads out to the corn field where Patrick was taken.  This leads to one of the best scenes in the episode.  As he’s talking on the phone to Sam, Dean hears something in the field.  A bright light appears, shaped like a UFO.  Dean takes off, screaming “UFO, UFO” and “close encounter, close encounter.”  Soulless Sam listens in, with little concern.

Dean:  “Close encounter, close encounter.”
Sam:  [calmly sipping his beer] “Close encounter? What kind? First? Second?”
Dean: [running and yelling] “They’re after me!”
Sam: “Third kind already. You better run man. I think the fourth kind is a butt thing.”
Dean: [still running] “Empathy Sam! Empathy!”
Sam orders another beer.
Sam: “They still after you?”
Dean gets taken by the bright light. Sam hangs up the phone, grabs his new beer, and checks out the ass of the hot waitress.

At this point I turned to my Dad and explained that old Sam would have been running out the door.  The scene would have been more discomfiting it wasn’t so damn funny.

Sam eventually does check out the field, finds Dean’s phone, and ends up at the makeshift tent city where people, led by Whitiker, are awaiting the arrival of the aliens — in RVs decked out with alien paraphernalia that would be at home in Rachel, Nevada, playing music from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  Attempting to try and garner information, Sam is frustrated to discover that Whitiker doesn’t actually have much information — but he does discover a hot hippy chick, Sparrow, that he beds instead.

Dean, who is returned to the same field, guns blazing, heads back to the hotel to find Sam in bed with Sparrow.  She gathers her clothes and leaves, but not before asking Dean what “they” were like.  “They were grabby, incandescent, douchebags, good night.”

One of the recurring images I’m enjoying this season is that whenever Dean gets upset, whoever is in the room with him pours him a drink.  The boys discuss the abduction, which they still believe to be alien related.  However, as they are leaving a restaurant, Dean notices a disheveled, creepy man staring at him from outside the window.  A man that Sam cannot see.  Clearly, because of his encounter, Dean can now see the things they need to fight.  Dean has now seen inside the world of vampires and their mental messaging system, and he can now see inside the world of fairies.  Even though these insights come with physical and mental trauma, Dean is gaining advantages that the other hunters don’t have.

Seriously, I could detail every scene in this episode because they are so hysterical, but I’ll refrain.  Except for this one.  Sam is that the library trying to find information on UFOs, while Dean is at the motel doing online research.  (This leads to a great aside about books having proper punctuation — yay grammar!)  To the strains of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Dean hears sounds similar to those from the cornfield.  Lights outside, door flies open, but this time Dean can actually see what’s stalking him — and as he stares closely at the tiny flashing light he says incredulously, “nipples?”  And then gets slammed in the face.  After bouncing off the wall, and getting his butt kicked by a tiny fairy, he traps her in the microwave, turns it on, and blows her up.  (This wasn’t even as disturbing as the Target commercial that aired at the break.)

However, Sam cannot see the blood and guts in the microwave.  “You don’t see the ecck? It’s right there.”  When Dean describes the creature (which is such an amazing scene that you just need to watch it), Sam excitedly realizes that they are chasing fairies, or, as Sam explains, “ultra-terrestrials.”  The boys end up at the house of the lady who believes in fairies — sprites, gnomes, goblins, leprechauns, trolls — they are all fairies.  She tells them that only people who have been to the other side — the realm of the fay — can see them — and they only take first born sons.  She also clarifies some lore for them.  Fairies are drawn to cream, hate iron, burn when touched with silver, and if you spill sugar or salt in front of them they must stoop to count every grain.  That’s a nice yoking together of Supernatural tradition and the episode “Bad Blood” from the X-Files, where if you spill seeds a vampire must pick up each piece before attacking you (a tactic Mulder employs rather effectively).

When the boys see Brennan filling his car with cases of cream, they know something is up.  Turns out Patrick was bounty.  The fairies promised him a successful business, but there would be a required payment — that payment was his son.  As the crazy fairy lady said, it’s very Rumpelstiltskin.  Dean breaks into Brennan’s workshop and discovers that fairies are creating and fixing all of the clocks and watches.  Nice use of fairy tale lore.  Sam confronts Brennan to see if he can get him to confess to Patrick being used as trade.  Turns out Brennan cast a spell to get the fairies to help him with his business, as he was suffering from Parkinson’s.  He just wanted the fairies to fix his hands, but the leader, a leprechaun, promised him that they would save his business, making him more profitable, and all they wanted in return was a place to rest, to live off the fat of the land.  The fat, as Brennan was soon to discover, was his son — and other first born sons in town.  Sam works out that they can cast a spell to banish the fairies, but it involves acquiring the spell book that the fay are closely guarding.

While this is happening, Dean finds himself stalked, again, by the creepy man.  Leading to yet another epic scene.  Completely freaked out and trying to escape the man, Dean is rushing (but not quite running) down the town’s streets.  The creepy man is always close behind.  Dean finally turns to confront and attack his stalker.  Unfortunately, by the time he does that, the fairy is gone and instead he attacks a dwarf, who just happens to be the district attorney for Tipton County. And he does it in front of the man’s family.  Once he realizes his error, he tries to pass it off as a joke, but is summarily arrested.  Sam and Mr. Brennan arrive in time to witness this and in response to Sam’s plea of “What am I supposed to do?”, Dean yells “Fight the fairies! You fight those fairies.”  This of course makes him sound like a bigot.  Closing the scene, we see Dean, inside the police car, yelling out the back window, “Fight the fairies!”  So awesome.

In jail, the sheriff tries to figure out exactly what kind of hate crime Dean committed.  It’s a situation that Dean can’t really talk himself out of.  Meanwhile Sam and Mr. Brennan arrive at the workshop to fight the fairies.  Fairies who are all drunk on cream, because it apparently “hits them like tequilla.”  Before Mr. Brennan can complete the incantation he is stabbed through the heart by the leprechaun — who is, naturally, Mr. Whitiker.  Sam and Mr. Whitiker begin their confrontation.  Whitiker explains that once the fairies arrive, they come to stay.  Two interesting things:  1. Whitiker states that Dean is now marked — he belongs to them now.  A very similar sentiment to the one expressed by the alpha-vamp. 2. Whitiker knows that Sam is soulless — apparently supernatural creatures can just feel and/or smell that about him.  However, he explains to Sam that his soul is within Whitiker’s reach — that Lucifer is not the devil to the fay, just to humans.  He will make Sam a deal — he will get his soul back — he will make him a real boy.  Sam’s response: shotgun blow to the chest, which, unfortunately does little to Whitiker.

In his jail cell, in the dark, Dean is confronted by the creepy man, who appears next to him on the cot.  We then get intercut shots of both Sam and Dean getting the crap kicked out of them by fairies.  When it looks like things are at their worst for the boys, Sam opens up a shotgun shell filled with salt and pours it out on the floor. While Whitiker sits and counts the grains, Sam casts the spell that banishes them back to their own realm.

Closing scene, by the Impala, on a road in the cornfield that looks like it’s straight out of Smallville.  Dean asks Sam if he thought Whitiker really could have brought his soul back, and if so why Sam said no.  Sam, saying something that Dean should recognize as true, asked when a deal has ever been a good thing.  It’s actually a very rational response, but Dean’s concern is that Sam has changed his mind about getting his soul back.  Sam, of course, says that he hasn’t, but I’m not sure that’s the same answer his face gave.

Question:  How long do you think Sam will go without his soul?  Will it be the season-ender?  And does it become more difficult for him to consider life with a soul as each day passes?  He’s definitely living a more carefree life, and since he can’t feel concern, Dean’s suffering doesn’t really bother him.  Does every season hinge on Sam making the right choice?

–Random aside: I had to do a search and replace on this review because I kept titling the episode “Fight the Fairies.”  That’s the phrase that stuck with me.