The morning after the events at the Roosevelt Asylum, Dean's cell rings, and Sam answers to hear his father’s voice. John expresses sympathy at the murder of Jess, and for the first time reveals that he knows that what killed Mary and Jess was a demon. John tells Sam that he must stop looking for him and he starts to give Sam details of a new hunt, but Sam argues that he wants to help John hunt the demon. Dean grabs the phone and takes the details from John. Each year in the second week of April, a couple on a cross-country trip has gone missing near Burkittsville, Indiana.
As they head towards Burkittsville, Sam argues with Dean, and declares that he wants to go after John, who he knows from the phone call is in Sacramento. Sam stops the car, and gets out of the driver's seat. He argues with Dean that he's going to Sacramento. Dean threatens to leave and go on without him, but Sam is set on finding his father instead of following orders from him. Dean shuts the Impala's trunk, gets in the car, and drives away, as Sam walks off down the road. Whilst trying to hitch a ride, Sam comes across another hitchhiker -- Meg. They chat briefly before she manages to get a lift with an unsavory looking guy driving a van.
In Burkittsville, Dean hands around the photo of the couple who went missing the previous year, to no avail. He follows the route they took out of town, and when his EMF meter starts reacting, he stops to investigate an orchard. He finds a scarecrow and discovers it bears the same tattoo as the last missing man. Dean returns to the township and speaks to Emily, who lives with her aunt and uncle. He finds out that a young couple are at the diner while their car is being fixed. Suspicious, Dean joins them and tries to encourage them to leave the town in daylight, until the Sheriff arrives and orders Dean to leave town.
Meanwhile Sam has reached a bus station, where he finds out it is a day’s wait til the next bus to California. He encounters Meg again, who is also traveling to California, and they start talking, comparing stories of dealing with family expectations.
The young couple’s car has broken down, and as they wander through the orchard, the scarecrow has climbed down from its perch and starts to pursue them. Dean arrives and shoots at the scarecrow to deter it, which allows him and the couple to escape. The next morning Dean and Sam speak on the phone. Dean describes the incident with the scarecrow and speculates that the couples are annual fertility sacrifices to a pagan god. He concludes by telling Sam that he has always been proud of how he goes after what he wants, and wishes him well in his search for their dad.
Dean goes to visit a local professor to investigate local lore, and finds out about the town was settled by Northern Europeans who brought their Norse gods with them. Vanir, fertility gods, can keep a town thriving if they're appeased by a sacrifice of a man and a woman once a year. They derive their power from a sacred tree, so Dean speculates torching the tree would kill one. As Dean goes to leave, he is knocked out by the Sheriff. When Dean regains consciousness, he is locked in a cellar with Emily. The townsfolk, including her aunt and uncle, have decided that they will be the sacrifice this year, to replace the couple who Dean helped escape. Emily tells Dean of the First Tree, an apple tree brought over by the first immigrants and revered by the town. Back at the bus station, Sam gets worried when Dean doesn’t answer his phone, and despite Meg encouraging him to stay, decides to go after Dean.
The townsfolk tie Emily and Dean to trees in the orchard, leaving them for the scarecrow. As night falls, Sam arrives and frees them, but the scarecrow is already after them. The townspeople try to thwart their escape, but instead the scarecrow takes Emily’s aunt and uncle. The next morning Emily, Sam, and Dean return to the orchard and burn the First Tree. The boys take Emily to the bus station -- she is returning to Boston. Dean offers to drop Sam somewhere, but Sam tells him he has decided to stay with him, and that they should stick together.
On the side of a highway, Meg hitches another ride. Along the way, she tells the guy to pull over, whereupon she slits his throat and collects his blood in a goblet. After making an incantation over the goblet, she speaks to someone she calls Father, clearly indicating that the Winchesters are known to them.
You’re after it, aren’t you? The thing that killed Mom.
John: Yeah. It’s a demon, Sam.
A demon? You know for sure?
Listen, Sammy, that’s why I’m calling. You and your brother, you gotta stop looking for me. Alright, now, I need you to write down these names.
Sam: Names? What names, Dad—talk to me, tell me what’s going on.
John: Look, we don’t have time for this. This is bigger than you think, they’re everywhere. Even us talking right now, it’s not safe.
Sam: No. Alright? No way.
Dean: Give me the phone.
I have given you an order. Now, you stop following me, and you do your job. You understand me? Now, take down these names.
Dad said it wasn’t safe. For any of us. I mean, he obviously knows something that we don’t, so if he says to stay away, we stay away.
Sam: I don’t understand the blind faith you have in the man. I mean, it’s like you don’t even question him.
Dean: Yeah, it’s called being a good son! You’re a selfish bastard, you know that? You just do whatever you want. Don’t care what anybody thinks.
Sam: That’s what you really think?
Dean: Yes, it is.
Well, then this selfish bastard is going to California.
I love my parents. And they wanted what’s best for me. They just didn’t care if I wanted it. I was supposed to be smart. But not smart enough to scare away a husband. It’s just…because my family said so, I was supposed to sit there and do what I was told. So I just went on my own way instead. I’m sorry. The things you say to people you hardly know.
Sam: No, no, it’s okay. I know how you feel. Remember that brother I mentioned before, that I was road-tripping with? It’s, uh, it’s kind of the same deal.
And that’s why you’re not riding with him anymore? Here’s to us. The food might be bad, and the beds might be hard. But at least we’re living our own lives. And nobody else’s.
The scarecrow climbed off its cross?
Dean: Yeah, I’m tellin’ ya. Burkittsville, Indiana. Fun Town.
Sam: It didn’t kill the couple, did it?
Dean: No. I can cope without you, you know.
Sam: So, something must be animating it. A spirit.
Dean: No, it’s more than a spirit. It’s a god. A pagan god, anyway.
Sam: What makes you say that?
The annual cycle of its killings? And the fact that the victims are always a man and a woman. Like some kind of fertility right. And you should see the locals. The way they treated this couple. Fattenin’ ‘em up like a Christmas turkey.
'The Vanir? The Vanir were Norse gods of protection and prosperity, keeping the local settlements safe from harm. Some villages built effigies of the Vanir in their fields. Other villages practiced human sacrifice. One male, and one female.' Kind of looks like a scarecrow, huh?
Professor: I suppose.
Dean: 'This particular Vanir that’s energy sprung from the sacred tree?'
Professor: Well, pagans believed all sorts of things were infused with magic.
Dean: So what would happen if the sacred tree was torched? You think it’d kill the god?
Professor: Son, these are just legends we’re discussing.
Oh, of course. Yeah, you’re right. Listen, thank you very much.
I don’t understand. They’re gonna kill us?
Dean: Sacrifice us. Which is, I don’t know, classier, I guess? You really didn’t know anything about this, did you?
Emily: About what? The scarecrow god? I can’t believe this.
Well, you better start believing, cause I’m gonna need your help.
Dean: I hope your apple pie is freakin’ worth it!
What made you change your mind?
Sam: I didn’t. I still wanna find Dad. And you’re still a pain in the ass. But, Jess and Mom—they’re both gone. Dad is God knows where. You and me. We’re all that’s left. So, if we’re gonna see this through, we’re gonna do it together.
Dean: Hold me, Sam. That was beautiful.
Sam: You should be kissing my ass, you were dead meat, dude.
Dean: Yeah, right. I had a plan, I’d have gotten out.
I’ve got to make a call.
Van Driver: I’ve got a cell phone you could use.
It’s not that kind of call. [Meg slits the driver's throat]
Thanks for the ride. Tire quiero patem me a di. It makes no sense. I could’ve stopped Sam. Hell, I could’ve taken them both. Why let them go? Yes... Yes... Yes, father.
The urban legend of this episode (immigrants bringing their old gods to worship in a new country) seems to be influenced by the plot of the Neil Gaiman
sci-fi novel American Gods
, in which the deities of ancient mythology (Odin, Loki, Thoth, etc) are remanifested and recruited to fight the New American Gods. Kripke has said he is an avid fan of Gaiman's work.
This episode is supposed to have taken place in Burkittsville, Indiana. The horror movie "The Blair Witch Project"
is supposed to have taken place in Burkittsville, Maryland. One of the creators of that movie Eduardo Sanchez
would later direct five Supernatural
Check it out. If I only had a brain...
- A reference to the Scarecrow character from The Wizard of Oz book and film. All the main characters in Oz lack something they wish for the Wizard to give them; in Scarecrow's case, it is a brain. The line itself is from the famous 1939 movie musical, in which Scarecrow and the others sing "If I Only Had a Brain..."
Yahtzee. Can you imagine putting together a pattern like this? All the different obits Dad had to go through? The man’s a master. What are you doing?
- Yahtzee is a dice game made by Milton Bradley. Saying "Yahtzee!" has come to mean something good has happened.
uses the name "John Bonham" when questioning about the missing people in Burkittville. John Bonham is the late drummer for Led Zeppelin
Sweetheart, that’s what sacrifice means. Giving up something you love for the greater good. The town needs to be safe. The good of the many outweighs the good of the one.
- Possibly a reference to lines from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
- Spock: Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
- Kirk: Or the one.
Let’s just shag ass before Leatherface catches up.
- Leatherface is one of the family who wears a mask made of human skins and likes wielding a chainsaw in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, stars of the eponymous 1974 movie by Tobe Hooper (remade in 2003). The family’s home is decorated with furniture and items made of human skin and bones. This interior design style is later referenced again in The Benders.
The story takes place the second week of April, but the farm shows apples being harvested. Apples are harvested during autumn in the northern hemisphere.
says "We're not going to Indiana," it seems clear that they are not yet in the state. If they stayed where they were after the previous job, they are in Rockford, Illinois.
Dean's cellphone includes the numbers for at least Bren, Carmelita, Christian, Curtis, Dad, Donny, Robin, Sam. Of these, other than Dad and Sam, of course, the names seem to be art department crew members from the show: Bren Moore (Costume Set Supervisor), Carmelita Fowler (Property Assistant), Christian "Chris" Sneddon (Construction Coordinator), Curtis "Curt" Maze (On-Set Dresser), Donny "Don" McGill (Assistant Property Master) and Robin Stooshnov (Assistant Property Master).
The apple trees in "Scarecrow" were actually hazelnut trees.S1Com, p. 64
Burkittsville was originally settled by Scandinavians, which connects the scarecrow to the Norse Vanir