channel changers

The Ten Types of Supernatural Episode:  an Illustrated Guide.

1.  The Generic:

This is the kind of episode fandom veterans fondly refer to as “Old School Supernatural.”  Features a 70s rock soundtrack, a classic (yet in hindsight, relatively nonthreatening) ghost or monster, comically bad special effects, and body horror.  Probably from season one. 

Examples:  “Wendigo,” “Bloody Mary,” “Bugs.”    

2.  The Classic:

Not to be confused with the Generic, the Classic is the kind of episode that everybody remembers and everybody loves.  It’s infinitely quotable, carefully toes the line between hilarious and absurd, and is still frequently blogged about even if it came out 7+ years ago.  Almost definitely features Gabriel. 

Examples:  “Tall Tales,” “Mystery Spot,” “Changing Channels.”

3.  The Life Changer:

Once you see this episode, you will never be the same.  Whether it introduces a beloved character, kills them, or raises them from the dead, the Life Changer is the episode that either sends you into a downward spiral of unhealthy obsession, or merely accelerates it.

Examples:  “Lazarus Rising,” “Abandon All Hope,” “Lucifer Rising.”

4.  The Black Comedy:

Though much of Supernatural revolves around a unique cocktail of horror and humor, the Black Comedy is almost impossible to miss.  From famine-induced cannibalism, to a would-be antichrist, to a killer pagan Santa Clause, the humor of these episodes is darker than Batman’s worst nightmares and probably at least twice as depressing, yet manages to be oddly magical all the same.

Examples:  “Yellow Fever,” “My Bloody Valentine,” “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”

5.  The Crack Fic: 

These are the episodes whose only real purpose is to make you wonder if Supernatural is some kind of elaborate fever dream.  Neither advance the plot nor provide much further insight into its characters, but still entertaining in terms of pure absurdity. 

Examples:  “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits,” “It’s a Dog Dean Afternoon,” most of season seven.  

6.  The WELL-WRITTEN Crack Fic:

Despite having the same brand surreal absurdity of the Crack Fic, the WELL-WRITTEN Crack Fic not only serves to further character development, but will also tug at your heartstrings, make you laugh, and very likely make you cry. 

Examples:  “Monster Movie,” “Sam, Interrupted,” “Hunteri Heroici.”

7.  The Meta Fiction: 

Some shows break the fourth wall, but this one comes at it with a sledgehammer.  From directly addressing the fandom and its terminology to the show itself, the Meta Fiction episode is usually surprisingly enjoyable and well-done, if you can get past the sheer mindfuck of it.

Examples:  “Fanfiction,” “The French Mistake,” “Don’t Call me Shurley.” 

8.  The Tearjerker: 

This one specializes in one thing and one thing only, and that is emotionally destroying you.  May disguise itself as other kinds of episodes, like the Crack Fic and the Meta Fiction, before swiftly and efficiently moving in for the kill.

Examples:  “the Rapture,” “After School Special,” “the Man Who Would be King.”   

9.  The Tragedy Porn:

Do you enjoy watching your favorite characters suffer and die horribly for no particular reason?  No?  Well in that case, you picked the wrong show, my friend.  From the heart wrenching pain of Dean being forced to kick a newly-human Cas out of the bunker, to the soul-destroying injustices that were Kevin and Charlie, the Tragedy Porn is an episode that exists for no other reason than to make you want to crawl into a hole and die.

Examples:  “I’m No Angel,” “Dark Dynasty,” “Rock and a Hard Place.”

10.  The Grand Finale: 

The Tearjerker, made ten times worse with the addition of “Carry on my Wayward Son” and a cliffhanger ending.  Specializes in metaphorically ripping your heart out, making you sob like a pre-adolescent girl, and psyching you up for the next season, no matter how emotionally exhausted you may already be.

 Examples:  “No Rest For the Wicked,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Swan Song.”  

One day, one rhyme- Day 760

*Prompt- write about the item immediately to your left*

Oh almighty channel changer
And entertainment arranger,
I love that you’re easy to use
But alas, easier to lose.
Consistently you assist me
With media dependency,
And when we first met in that aisle
Your classic minimalist style
Appealed to both my heart and soul:
Apple TV remote control.

Ocean Electricity, Carry Me.

Part of my hospital chaplaincy duties is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

I have a difficult time moving on after each visit. And really, shouldn’t I? You know, like when you see a two minute video on Facebook about a national tragedy a thousand miles away, and then you scroll down to your friend’s vacation pictures of the Eiffel Tower or something; I can’t flip the page that fast. I’m not a channel-changer. I can’t quickly transition from videos of a war-torn Syria to a breakfast bagel. That doesn’t make me “morally sensitive” or anything, but I really, physically can’t do it.

I think of Tim O'Brien’s The Things They Carried, about the mementos that each soldier carried with them in the Vietnam War, things like a girlfriend’s pantyhose or dental floss, but really “the things they carried” were each other’s burdens, and maybe their nap-sacks got lighter as the war went on, but inside they were sinking without a life-vest. Their mementos eventually became each other, until the person next to them was the thing they carried.

I leave each room carrying that patient with me for a while, and I’m reminded of this time I almost drowned in the ocean when I was a kid. My friend’s dad took us out on a boat into the middle of vast nothingness, and my friend and I decided to swim, but a current carried us off and we were inhaling huge gulps of sea water. My friend is a better swimmer, so he grabbed me up and swam us both back to the boat.

Sometimes, chaplaincy is like that. Here’s this patient trying to find themselves amidst doctors and diagnoses and complicated medical terms, a thirty-ish patient just learning the name of his ten new medicines, a forty-ish patient who came in for chest pain learning that she needs new lungs, a kid with an amputated foot learning about prosthetics and phantom pain—and for a second, I try to help that patient swim a little, and their arm pushes me down momentarily, but we need to stay afloat to find the boat, and occasionally we don’t find it, but I just swim with them in that turbulent roaring ocean for half an hour, and that was enough for another gulp of air.

It’s this weird, floppy dance in a storm, and I never forget how much that patient clung to my neck for dear life. I can feel their arms slung over me, right now, some resisting, some desperately squeezing, and mostly they’re just wanting to know they’re not alone in this horizonless abyss. I can’t forget that look on their faces, and as crazy as it might be, part of me doesn’t want to. It’s like I have to hold them here in my head-space or I’m not honoring them somehow. And whichever part of me that feels grief is also the same part that carries compassion, so I can’t shut down one without the other. Maybe, I think, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If grief is watching your life float away while the tide is burying you, then I’m trying to swim towards the grieving person in the encroaching tide. I can only do that if I’m actually in the current with them, and I’m glad to do that.

We talk about “managing grief” a lot, but maybe that’s not something I always need to do. I let it hang out a bit. The patients see it and they’re equal parts startled and comforted that I’m right there with them. Like, do you remember the scene in Forrest Gump, when Lieutenant Dan is yelling in Forrest’s face about destiny, and he asks Forrest, “Do you know what it’s like not to be able to use your legs?” And very timidly, Forrest replies, “Y…yes, sir, I do.” Lieutenant Dan is taken aback, just for a second, and soon he’s disarmed of anger. They both connect there, like static electricity.

Maybe for this reason, I get along really well with criminals and ex-convicts in the hospital. I’ve been trying to figure this out, and after talking it out once, I think there’s a dark possibility that I also feel the same turning of the key: a prisoner to my own past, to a voice of condemnation, to a cell in my own head. I know that’s probably a self-indulgent thought, like I’m making it too much about me, but in fact, getting to know this haunted hurt I carry has helped to better serve others in the same kind of situation. Our prisons have different names, but the same narrowness chokes our guts.

I was talking to this patient Darrell, who was both a prisoner and was dying of cancer, and we connected like we were long-lost brothers. I went to see him at least three times. We seemed to practically speak the same language, like the Lieutenant and Forrest, built-up friction from a lifetime that released a charge and met in the middle. That’s the thing about static shock; both people have to feel the sting, or they miss each other.

I still can’t figure it out, completely, why we got so close like that. But I dug into his hopelessness and his regret over his past choices and his fear about the future, I mean, close enough to weep. I wept over his questions. When will the cancer stop eating up my insides? What will the judge say at the next hearing? What will my hometown say when I’m released? When I leave the prison, will the prison ever leave me?

There was one prayer where we gripped hands like we were arm-wrestling, a sort of overly masculine gesture of two men making a pact, and even though Darrell was drained from all the chemo, he held on like I was a plank in this dark, terrible ocean. But I knew I wasn’t the only plank. He might not have known it, but he was keeping me afloat, too. I don’t think he knew the strength he had or the progress he had made or the kind of gifted person he really was. I only hope I helped him to be a little more free that day, to un-turn the key, just a little. There we were, in a sea of grief, lighting each other up.

J.S.