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Though it had a few good moments, in my opinion as a whole, "After School Special" ranks with stinkers like "Bugs" as one of the worst episodes of the Supernatural series, second only in my mind to "Yellow Fever" which, coincidentally, was written by the same writers.

Supernatural has on occasion made some research goofs, like the pronunciation of Samhain or how cell phones work, but in general, they do a decent job of not stretching the audience's ability to suspend disbelief beyond the breaking point. In this episode, however, the writing was so bad that I have to wonder whether Daniel Loflin and Andrew Dabb bothered to do any research at all? Or did they think that just because they went to high school they knew how a high school ran? I come from family of teachers that range from grammar school, high school and special ed, all the way through vocational schools and college, and I cringed through the whole episode.

Columbine, Dunbar, numerous other shooting incidents and student/teacher scandals have caused some major improvements and changes in how the schools work today. These days Dean would need some *really* snazzy credentials, full blown identity theft at least, to pose even as a substitute teacher. Principals are more wary, too, so Dean would have been checked on at least a few times during his first days in the class room by one of the Assistant Principals, if not the Principal or campus security. And teachers are inquisitive; they like to find out information about the new guy in town. Will he keep discipline in his class room, or will behavioral problems spill over into the hall and other class rooms? And let's not forget that a good-looking teacher like Dean would have students and teachers buzzing about him all day.

As for Sam? He wouldn't have escaped his own share of attention as part of the janitorial crew, if for nothing else his height alone. Few things can make a teacher more miserable than a bad janitor. It really behooves teachers to make nice to the janitorial staff, and they do. The making nice nice and subtle bribes would have started almost immediately. So for Sam's teacher not to have recognized him in the end scenes as the tall janitor (who we saw walk directly in front of the teacher at about 9 minutes 50 seconds into the episode) just doesn't ring true.

Next is the whole pivotal mess with the bus. Bus drivers don't always drive the same bus and, as was shown, some one else may be driving it for a special event, so why would a bus driver leave something as personal as a Bible with a lock of his dead son's hair in the glove compartment and risk it being stolen or thrown out? And that whole bit with the road spikes? Egad! Yeah, let's put a whole bus load of innocent children at risk. Ever get a blowout tire while driving at country highway speed? Try four flat tires, then try to keep the bus under control. It is not reasonable that Sam and Dean would have taken that risk with young lives when there were more efficient alternatives. In the time it took the boys to get the road spikes, figure out the route the bus was taking, have the spikes in place in time for the bus without catching any other cars in their trap, they could have driven to the game or the school, gotten in the bus, searched it and burned the hair without anyone ever being the wiser. If nothing else, if they couldn't find the hair they could have stolen the bus and torched it with no one at risk. I mean they talked to Dirk's father during the day, and then they stopped the bus at night, Possibly late night, judging by the deserted road. They had more than enough time to do something more sensible and less risky; without a bus full of hostages/witnesses, never mind a ticked-off ghost with dozens of young bodies to ride. In short, there just had to be some more believable way to insert Sam's "I'm not evil" riff than this.

But given that they stopped the bus full of people, how did Sam immediately know who Dirk was inhabiting? Why did Coach just accept Dean's lame line and sit on his fanny with a busload of students he was responsible for? And why wasn't every kid's face and the Coach's face pressed to the windows watching what was happening? (Probably because if they were, and the Coach saw the gun, he would have been expected to take some action.) Once Coach *heard* the> gunshot he should have done something anyway, like, oh, get the kids to escape out the back, or close the doors!! And you know every kid on that bus has a cell phone to call 911. For that matter, why didn't Dean have everyone evacuate the bus once he couldn't find the hair so that they didn't get possessed? Which brings me to how did the possessed kid get out of the bus without Coach interfering (at first I thought it was the Coach, but with a subsequent viewing it's clear that it was not) and stopping him from going after the crazy men with the guns? No, the kid gets out of the bus with no fuss, no bother, not a sound, so he can surprise Sam and Dean. And how did Dean miraculously figure out that the > hair was in the guy's boot anyway, and not hidden somewhere else in the bus? Actually, why *wasn't* it hidden in the bus, behind a ceiling tile, or between the seat and the wall, or beneath the floor covering; or even split up, one hair here, one hair there? Any of those would have made more logical sense, from the Ghost's point of view at least.

After the whole bus-hijacking-at-gunpoint incident, following the blender and the drowning incident, it hard to believe that the the school was open the next day?!? And that assuming it was open, security was not upped and the staff were not on alert watching for any signs of these two very recognizable crazy guys. Heck, Dean was recognized and the Coach most likely heard the name Winchester as well and reported it to the authorities and to the school staff, and yet with all of that, Sam still manages to casually saunter into the school to talk to his old teacher, who not only is not alarmed but apparently totally oblivious to the events in his own school.

What the writers needed to do was spend more time on developing their story and keeping it consistent and believable. They could have done this by either spending more time on destroying the MotW, or by simplifying that event and and spending more time in the flashbacks. Because the flashbacks did not fit well into the story structure; Sam's were fine but I thought Dean's were disruptive to the flow of the story. I am not going to address whether the characterizations were right or not, I will leave that to the boards to hash out, but instead address how the flashbacks fit into the story flow. In "Something Wicked" the flashbacks were told from Dean's point of view, in "A Very Supernatural Christmas" it was clearly Sam's, as it was in "I Know What You did Last Summer". These previous episodes set up a convention for the series that when there is a close up of the character's face, it is that character remembering the events of the past. In the first flashback it's not clear who is remembering, though from the way it is edited and shot, I would almost guess it was Metallicar!! (On a side note I did think that the slow motion arrival was just gorgeous though, applause to the director.) Still, as the episode continues, it becomes clear that it is Sam's memories that we see and yet how can Sam remember Dean's passionate clinch with Amanda? So the whole structure of the flashbacks is poorly conceived and the writers would have been better off not including the Dean-centric bits at all or take the time to separate them out and show us what triggered Dean's memory and his feelings about them. Or they could have used the flashback time to tell us more about Sam and either his relationship with Dean. Its canon that Sam had a lot of resentment towards his father, but what did he really think of Dean at that time? His teacher said that Sam described Dean as quite a character? What did that mean, it would have been nice to have had that fleshed out more.

I don't wish bad things on anyone so my hope is that Kripke confines Daniel Loflin and Andrew Dabb to writing Ghost-Facer webisodes, until they take some writing classes, some logical thinking classes and learn how to do research.


Edit: After posting last night when I was too tired to adequately edit what I had written, I have to wonder if the writers made my mistake and sent the script to production when they were too tired to really judge their own work. Luckily I have had the chance to go back and with the help of a good friend re-edit and re-post before I suffered too much embarrassment.

Comments

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datenshiblue
Feb. 2nd, 2009 04:27 am (UTC)
Interesting points.

I'm also the child of a teacher, my significant other is child of a teacher, elementary school and junior high and high school respectively. I'm currently a teacher, of adults, not kids.

Neither she nor I had any problems with the things you did.

Some of them my mind put down to the school being a small one in a small town, but none of them intruded on my enjoyment.

I thought the flashbacks were from both boys points of view. They were both there, they both had memories of the place, Dean's playing off against Sam's.

The thing with the bus, yes, that could have been better handled. However for them to wait? The ghost had already been killing. I suspect they didn't want to wait and see who on the bus at that moment might end up dead before the trip was over, because they didn't stop the trip.

How did Dean figure the boot? He was searching the guy's body, frisking him. The boot was part of the frisk, if it hadn't been in the first one he'd probably have gone for the other and then something else. There's a joke that goes something like, why is the thing you're looking for always in the last place you look? Because when you find it, you stop looking. ;)

I didn't think it was an illogical hiding place. The ghost would want it near him, knowing the guys were looking.

I thought the writing was wonderful. This episode made me happy.

Which doesn't make you wrong. If anything, it just shows how every subjective such things can be.
zazreil
Feb. 2nd, 2009 06:01 am (UTC)
Hi Hi

The thing with the bus bothered me because I felt like they did wait - instead of going for the bus right away while it was empty at the game, they set up this elaborate way to stop it and have a confrontation.

I agree that Dean was frisking the guy's body and would check the boots but I didn't understand why Dean would immediately turn toward the guy instead continue to search the bus. To me it did not make sense why the Ghost would want the hair on a temporary host's body versus splitting up the lock of hair and hiding it better in the bus.

I agree though that different things can ruin an episode for different people. On some boards the episode is universally loved and shame if you disliked it. On others its hated for the characterization of Dean. For me I had less trouble with the characterizations than with the story structure itself. But I am glad that you and enjoyed it ^_^


I am temporarily hiding the post because I found embarrassing errors i want to fix first - but will probably go back up tomorrow

Zaz.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 2nd, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
You are SO right! The entire bus scene was ludicrous to the point of idiocy. Whether or not the school was in a small town the new teachers and janitors would have been seriously monitored because even in a small town there are parents to answer to. And you forgot the part about how, in a high school that has existed for what? 50 years? 75 years or more? ...the only kid who has killed himself (the red herring) and the bully who became the actual ghost, were both up-close personal acquaintances of a student (Sam) who attended the school for a total of one month. There is coincidence, and then there is *amazingly* convenient plot contrivance. Yes, there were some sweet moments, some good parts and many thinky thoughts to be gleaned, which have been mentioned in other metas, but overall this was the worst episode since Hookman and I don't care to see these writers ever again. Sorry for the anonymous post -- I really need to join LJ, but this was the first comment I have ever felt compelled to post.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 2nd, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
You're taking the episode WAY too seriously.
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
Chuckle - but I didn't comment on colors in the episode, or even go into roses - giggle

This is just WAY to funny. We're the Supernatural fandom of course we take our show too seriously

Zaz
(no subject) - bowtrunckle - Feb. 3rd, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
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mikeneko
Feb. 3rd, 2009 07:08 am (UTC)
These days Dean would need some *really* snazzy credentials, full blown identity theft at least, to pose even as a substitute teacher.

Hmm? Why? I've subbed in three consolidated districts in the same state where this episode was set. The only requirement (other than filling out the application) for short-term subbing is a photocopy of a college transcript showing 60 hours of college credit; however, requirements can be (and are) set even lower by districts with severe sub shortages. Actually, I'm not entirely certain what you're envisioning. The tiny size of that gym class indicates a small district. Security in the rural consolidated schools is much the same as it ever was -- you check in at the office.

Principals are more wary, too, so Dean would have been checked on at least a few times during his first days in the class room by one of the Assistant Principals, if not the Principal or campus security. And teachers are inquisitive; they like to find out information about the new guy in town.

Heh. I only recall one principal ever dropping by while I was subbing, in a tiny middle school. In the high schools, they give you the room number and directions, and you're on your own until the bell rings at the end of the day. Teachers completely ignore subs unless you're parked in their lounge or you're supervising a lunch or recess with them. (We won't count that teacher who chased me down when I was booking to get to a gym class on time -- to demand my hall pass because my shorts and sneakers meant I was a student.) Subbing, a glamorous lifestyle.

Bus drivers don't always drive the same bus

Actually, that'd be another thing that depends on where you live. Here, if they have somewhere to park them, drivers keep their regular buses at home. As I recall, the bus I rode all through high school had photos of the driver's kids taped all over the wall beside her seat.

Edited at 2009-02-03 07:36 am (UTC)
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
I would say that 10 years ago I would agree with you, with how Subs were handled by schools, but as I can only refer to areas where my family and friends have worked, which would be portions of IL MN and FL, I have to concede that I really don't know what quieter rural areas are like.

The other teachers weren't nosey? Listening to my family and their friends it has always sounded like they were checking the subs out and found them excellent gossip fodder. They were mighty suspicious and critical too. You have to be careful when criticizing a colleague's teaching style but a sub is fair game. Then Dean had a student injured in his class and that would always attract attention, but to be fair, whats a bloody possibly broken nose compared to death by swirly or food processor?

Driver's Keep their regular buses at home?!? boy I would think zoning and neighbors would go ballistic, not to mention the owners of the buses and those agencies that are responsible for making sure that they are properly serviced

Zaz
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a teacher's point of view - etoile444 - Feb. 3rd, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
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zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
If you are so religious that you take your bible and son's hair to work, why would you leave it in the bus when you are not at work or not driving?

Considering the elaborate set up that they used, the information and equipment that they had to set up, and the length of an average high school game, going to the game finding a lock of hair and burning in the parking lot is both faster and less risky than their very elaborate set up. They could have had the fight with the driver in the parking lot if they needed a fight scene for dramatic purposes.

But how did Sam see the ectoplasm? Its dark beside which he approached the driver when his back was turned....

If the flashbacks gave any indication that they were Dean's as well as Sam's by their reactions or facial expressions in the present time I would agree, but they didn't, mostly the Sam focus was indicated
(Anonymous)
Feb. 3rd, 2009 08:57 am (UTC)
Honestly, I think this is just nitpicky to the point where I'd be surprised if you ever enjoyed an episode of the show again. I don't just say that because I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, but because this level of "analyzation" is pretty ludicrous. What more realism could you want from a fantasy show where demons and ghosts are the norm? So... should they be more realistic in having a '67 Impala on the show, and have it break down every few weeks, especially considering the bazillions of miles they put on it? Should Sam's hair be less perfect from episode to episode, and should the boys have heart problems, considering the crap they eat on a day-to-day basis?

You said it yourself that you have to suspend disbelief when watching the show. And really, even if the writers had "done the research," how else should this episode have happened? It would have ended before it was started, if it was going to be even halfway realistic.
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
If I was really nit-picky there was so much else wrong in the episode I could be writing for days, I just picked those things that were the most jarring for me.

How could it have happened realistically? The boys could have both been janitors, health inspectors, cops, grievance counselors (though that probably would have required more ID too). We wouldn't have gotten Dean in nut-huggers but the story could have gone about the same way.

Instead of having the bus run over the spike - Dean and Sam could have gone to the game - fought the bus driver by or in the bus, and if they wanted to add tension, school security could have come over to investigate or a nosey parent.

And they could have spent more time on Sam in the flashbacks or making it clear what was Dean's memories and how he was reacting to them

episode would have been just as long

Zaz
blackjedii
Feb. 3rd, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
Can't commenton the sub part because I don't really know that much about it but as for the bus driver issues - for my school district (which is small, I want to say the high school had about 600 people at the most) the bus drivers did have their "own" bus that they drove each day. One of my neighbors down the street actually kept his bus in his yard (he was very good at backing up!!) and I'm about 80% certain that the other bus drivers likewise kept their vehicles in their own yards.
Dean's POV moments didn't bother me because I didn't get the feeling that this was Dean According to Sam or likewise School According to Sam. I have to give a lot of leniency for on-film POV's simply because there is no narrator per se except the camera or a voiceover.

Other plotholes definitely excisted, but this is SPN. SPN is like Swiss cheese in that way. ;)
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
Maybe in some areas that is the case but this school area was large enough that instead of a sub bus driver and bus, we got a different driver for the same bus, and during the day Sam and Dean were able to investigate the empty bus which suggests that the buses are stored in some central area when not in use

Zaz
patita_fea
Feb. 3rd, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
I can forgive a show with a name like "Supernatural" a whole lot of tomfoolery and a pretty loose grasp on reality.

But this episode was really pushing it. Ordinarily I don't notice Show's plot holes until, say, an hour after the episode, when I'm standing in front of the fridge thinking, "But why didn't they...?"

This time, I was yelling at the TV screen, "Why the hell are you morons just sitting there on the bus while these crazies attack you? Doesn't anybody have a cell phone? Come ON!"

So for me, the problem was that human characters failed to act like human characters. At the point where viewers are too distracted by plot holes to pay attention to Sam and Dean are saying... well, the episode falls down.

Mileage will vary, of course. Some people will appreciate the info and characterization provided by the flashbacks, and that will be enough to make the episode a winner for them.
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Wow that was a great way of stating what I was thinking but not articulating. I agree, they had some nice bits that I enjoyed in the episode but I get being yanked out of the fantasy. For some the nice bits will be enough

Zaz
janissa11
Feb. 3rd, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
Excellent points. Just about everything in the bus scenes bothered me -- there is no way those kids would have just sat there like lumps, unless this is Stepford High School. I very much doubt Dean would have been substitute material, even with lax organization (if such happens) -- I could buy Sam as janitor a lot faster.

"Yellow Fever" was definitely a nadir episode. While this one wasn't quite the abysmal low point set there, it wasn't anywhere near what it could have been, with better writing and at least a modicum of real-life research. Sure, it had some rather funny moments (Dean as gym teacher WAS funny, albeit WTF-crack), and some insights here and there. But overall, too many eminently preventable problems.
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for commenting - I agree

And I love your icon

Zaz
(Deleted comment)
fangirlsays
Feb. 4th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
Fingerprinting, criminal background check, interview with the school's resource officer, definitely the vice principals popping into my classes -- which they still do, actually, not just with me, but with all subs, during the day. Am I saying this is par for the course in all schools? Absolutely not. Am I saying your arguments are valid, because what you're describing is true for quite a few schools? Yeah. The first thing I said upon finishing watching was, yeah, sure, that was fun, but legally dead people with such heavy criminal records being able to sub so quickly and easily? Not so much.

These are guys who pose as FBI and Homeland Security agents on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure they could come up with faked substitute teacher credentials.
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muffaletta
Feb. 3rd, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this episode definitely hit all my wrong buttons. (And I DETESTED "Yellow Fever" too - I actually like "Bugs" better because at least that episode had some good brother moments.)

I just don't understand why Kripke would hire two more comic book writers. At least Edlund's had experience in scriptwriting and the workings of television: these two don't seem very proficient in writing multi-dimensional characters and fleshed out plots, imo. I kind of doubt that their previous experience has prepared them all that well for the complexity of this show. My own take is that these guys focused on one theme - Sam was unhappy in his childhood- and everything else (Dean, the ghost story, high school) were just thrown in as filler. I noticed a couple of the plot holes you mentioned but not all. I really enjoyed reading your perspective as someone in the know.

It was actually the characterizations that just put the final nail in the coffin for me. Out of respect for your post, I won't go into that either other than to say that a more balanced, nuanced interpretation of the brothers would have been nice, imo. But I think that's expecting too much. I guess I'll stick to good fanfic for that.

And I don't even want to get started on how this episode pretty much destroyed my belief that the brothers were really close up until Sam left. It's changed my entire opinion of their relationship and what I imagine happening should both brothers survive at the end of the series. I always thought that their bond was the cornerstone of the show but now?. The dynamics of their relationship-yes. Their bond-not so sure.

The only thing I can honestly say I enjoyed was Colin and Brock's acting. Despite my problems with the script, they really did an outstanding job.

Anyways, thanks for posting this critique. It made for a very interesting read!
etoile444
Feb. 3rd, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
My 12year old students loved the scene in Yellow Fever where the cat in the locker scares Dean. I thought it was the worst scene in Supernatural ever.

Maybe Kripke thinks he's making this show for the "kiddies". That's one way to drop the ball on plot integrity and research.

Still, I liked "School" because the characterization was strong.
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bowtrunckle
Feb. 3rd, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
I was a little flummoxed by the fact nobody on the bus was helping or panicking as Sam and Dean tussled with the bus driver and the student. Angry ghosts can cause objects to move as seen in "Are you there, God", so it would've been terrific if the ghost had slammed the bus door shut (and locked the emergency exit), trapping everyone but Sam, Dean, the driver, and that last possessed student on the bus. Then there could've been a shot of everyone on the bus standing up and pounding on the windows with the coaches trying to keep order. That would've required no extra time as both shots could've been incorporated into long shots or cut in as 1-2 seconds clips.

Having the flashbacks from both Sam and Dean's POVs doesn't break the narrative structure. In the past, they were told from one of the boys' perspectives, but they can also be done in both as the Show itself is told in an omniscient POV whereby we, the audience, see everything the writers want us to see. We follow all the characters without having Sam or Dean or Sam and Dean being present; the "NOW" segments with the VotW (victim of the week) are good examples of this.

Perhaps these two new guys just needs some time to settle in. In the past writing teams (Gamble and Tucker) have given us some excellent material. I'm hoping this second "package deal" will find their groove soon.

Edited at 2009-02-03 10:13 pm (UTC)
zazreil
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:48 am (UTC)
Um Because rumor has it they are friends of Ben?

I think the flashbacks didn't settle with me because we would start with a close up of adult Sam, see both Sam and Dean's stories including parts Sam couldn't know and invariably end up back with Sam to see his reaction to his memory. So how adult Dean reacted to his memories we didn't see.

I sure hope that they find something soon. They have good moments but over all they are weak. Maybe they need to split them up and pair them with more experience writers instead of letting them work together

Zaz
yourlibrarian
Feb. 4th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
They had more than enough time to do something more sensible and less risky; without a bus full of hostages/witnesses, never mind a ticked-off ghost with dozens of young bodies to ride.

Yes, plus the show could have saved money on a bus full of extras and a stunt. My guess is that it was done to add an "action" scene to the episode.

And that assuming it was open, security was not upped and the staff were not on alert watching for any signs of these two very recognizable crazy guys.

Yes, I thought the whole issue of school security in the present day scenes were eyebrow-raising. Of course there was the whole issue of no suspensions for fighting either.
zazreil
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
Oooo good point about the suspension thing, And is there any modern food processors that will even work if the lid is off?

Thanks for replying

Zaz
(Deleted comment)
zazreil
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
Part of the reason SPN has worked for me in the past is because it wasn't set that far from reality. We have to accept some basic ideas like Monster's and Supernatural beasties exist, you can desecrate graves with out ever getting caught and no one ever seems to hear gun shots, but Supernatural has also accepted that you can't do the things that Sam and Dean do with out picking up a legal trail and having it catch up to you. Sam and Dean can bluff in situations where their credentials are not checked but in every situation where credential checks are done, their false identities break down, starting right in the pilot. So subbing at a school and getting away with it does not fit in with the rules of the universe that the show has established.

Hope that makes sense

Thanks for commenting
amothea
Feb. 4th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
I did substitute teaching and at no time during gym was I left alone with any of the students. Gym always had at least two adults to monitor the large class sizes. Also, I had to get a background check and etc...

So I was pretty much wondering how Dean got a school uniform so quickly (I wasn't given one) and got hired on to that particular school? Because I subbed at various schools in the district.
zazreil
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:55 am (UTC)
Wow more good points

Thanks for posting

mary
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