Ever since Bobby was offed halfway through this season, Supernatural has been trying to fill a void. Though Bobby's death was given two full episodes, it never felt like he got a proper Viking's funeral. He just sort of... left. Short of killing Sam and Dean in an actual permanent way and not "Mystery Spot" sort of way, killing off Bobby is about as serious a move as this show can make. So you'll have to excuse me if thinking about Bobby's unceremonious death is followed by sighs of disdain.
Friday's Supernatural, "Party On, Garth," approached the Bobby situation splendidly and confirmed what we had expected based on clues that have been sprinkled since Bobby's death: he's dead, but not DEAD dead. But before we get to that, we have to talk about a really fun episode that showed Supernatural at its best.
Semi-competent hunter Garth (guest DJ Qualls) made a return after being properly introduced for the first time in the atrocious "Season Seven, Time for a Wedding." Perhaps it was the stink of that episode that still clung to him, but going into "Party On, Garth" expectations were incredibly low for him. We'll call his first time on Supernatural a result of the "Becky Larson Effect" (everything is worse with Becky), because this time around Garth stole so many scenes that he should be locked up.
Garth is a dork. He's also endearing, and for him to win over us AND Sam and Dean, he had to get great material and Qualls ran with it. It's his obliviousness to his ineptitude coupled with his passion for the hunter lifestyle that make him a character to root for. And though it would have been easy to send him bumbling into situations, he actually proved to be quite useful. But without a doubt, his biggest contribution to Supernatural canon is the introduction of Mr. Fizzles, a sock puppet that has a way with kids. Plus he (Garth, not Mr. Fizzles) got drunk off one beer.
While Garth provided laughs, the case itself was downright frightening thanks to the tried-and-true horror creature "creepy woman ghost with greasy black hair and bad posture." A ghost had been haunting the family members of the co-owners of a microbrewery, killing off loved ones by ripping their guts out. She was a Shojo, a Japanese ghost that was attached to a bottle of cursed sake. And the Supernatural twist: she can only be seen by people who are drunk! Sure, why not?
This leads to plenty of boozing, a bunch of disembowelings, a katana-blessing outside of a sushi restaurant, and a sock puppet. And really, isn't that all we really want out of Supernatural? This episode did scary and funny like popcorn and chocolate do sweet and salty (try it, it's great!) for an irresistible combination. Sticking with the Japanese food theme, "Party On, Garth" has four of the five basic tastes that round out great episodes of Supernatural: we had legitimate frights, funnies, strong characters, and good story, but it wasn't until the closing moments that we got the fifth taste, the umami of the show known as heart.
Dean's final fight with the Shojo involved a bit of wizardry when the katana blade flew into his hand after being out of reach. How did that happen? Garth had been insinuating all episode long that Bobby's spirit might still be with the boys, and Sam admitted to trying to communicate with Bobby after that beer mysteriously drank itself several episodes ago. But Dean had been the hard one to convince, and his plea to Bobby to show him a sign that he was Casper-ing them was a big deal for the character. Ultimately, it's only the audience that saw ghost Bobby, looking rather dead-ish, standing in the hotel room trying to get Dean's attention. And even though Bobby seems incredibly frustrated and tortured that the boys can't see him, it's oddly comforting for us to know that he's still with Sam and Dean in some capacity.
"Party On, Garth" was an outstanding episode of Supernatural because, like most of the Season 7 episode we love, it reminded us of the good old days.
– I love the classic horror movie cold opens that Supernatural does, and telling ghost stories around a camp fire certainly fits that bill.
– The scene with the janitor/illegitimate kid of the brewery owner being stalked by the Shojo was hilarious! Imagine being him and having a bunch of drunk guys one after the other trying to save you from a ghost that you can't see. And then one of them starts wielding a samurai sword?
– Little girls getting drunk is always funny. Always!
Supernatural Season 7 Power Rankings
With its perfect blend of horror and comedy, "Party On, Garth" goes straight towards the top of the list. But I'll place it just short of the absurd creativity of "Plucky Pennywhistle." These two episodes stand well ahead of the rest of the pack.
1. "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie" (Episode 14)
Sam and Dean investigated mysterious deaths around a kid's pizza-and-games party house. Unicorns farting rainbows, ball pit sharks spraying blood, and octo-vamps giving fatal hickeys made this a fun episode.
2. "Party On, Garth" (Episode 18)
A Japanese ghost can only be seen by drunks, Garth returns, and Mr. Fizzles the sock puppet! But we finally learn the truth about what Bobby is up to in the afterlife.
4. "Death's Door" (Episode 10)
Bobby fought for his life and delved into his past as he tried to deliver a message to Sam and Dean from beyond the plane of the living.
5. "The Mentalists" (Episode 7)
More standalone fun as the brothers investigated murders in a town full of psychics.
6. "Meet the New Boss" (Episode 1)
Castiel got all righteous on those who didn't respect The Good Word, and it was great.
7. "Repo Man" (Episode 15)
The brothers visit a man they saved from a murderous demon four years ago, and Lucifer blabs Sam's ear off.
8. "Born-Again Identity" (Episode 17)
Sam ended up in a mental hospital after too many chats with mind-Satan, and Castiel returned to smite and then get left behind.
9. "Adventures in Babysitting" (Episode 11)
Sam and Dean coped with Bobby's death and met a fellow hunter's young daughter.
10. "Out With the Old" (Episode 16)
A tale of cursed ballerina slippers became a story about a Leviathan real estate agent.
11. "Slash Fiction" (Episode 6)
Two Leviathans disguised themselves as Sam and Dean and took off on a cross-country shootin' spree!
12. "The Slice Girls" (Episode 13)
Dean had a one-night stand with an Amazonian lady, and Sam took Dean's Daddy card away.
13. "Hello, Cruel World" (Episode 2)
The Leviathans set up a buffet at a hospital after spreading into the water supply.
14. "Time After Time" (Episode 12)
Dean traveled back to 1944 and battled the God of Time with Eliot Ness.
15. "How To Win Friends And Influence Monsters" (Episode 9)
Hyperadrenalized cannibals and stoner sandwiches! Dick Roman's plan was sort of unveiled! And Bobby got shot!
16. "The Girl Next Door" (Episode 3)
Via flashback, we saw Sam's first kiss... with a monster! Then Dean killed her.
17. "Defending Your Life" (Episode 4)
Dean went on trial before Osiris because of the guilt he carries. Jo came back to blow him up!
18. "Season 7, Time for a Wedding" (Episode 8)
Too. Much. Becky. Larson.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom