Supernatural has had a few really great ideas since original showrunner Eric Kripke left — but few of them have been more thrilling than the "Turducken Slammers" episode, "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters," last season. Writer Ben Edlund pulled out all the stops, and then built new stops so he could pull those out too. And it had a shocking conclusion, that still impacts the show to this day.
Want to know how quite that much lunacy made it to the screen? We've got an exclusive excerpt from Supernatural - The Official Companion Season 7, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show's seventh season, focusing on Edlund's "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters." We've also got the chapter on the seventh season finale, "Survival of the Fittest."
Something is eating campers in Hammonton, New Jersey – could it be the Jersey Devil? As part of their investigation, Sam, Dean and Bobby meet with Ranger Rick in a Biggerson's restaurant. The ranger is relaxed, possibly stoned, whereas their waiter is very agitated, but the important thing is Dean's Turducken Slammer sandwich is awesome. The hunters head out to the forest and find a dead ranger. When they call in Ranger Rick, he gets yanked up into a tree and eaten.
Bobby shoots the monster, but it's not the Jersey Devil. It used to be an obese man, but now he's a scrawny wretch with superhuman strength. Back at the abandoned house the hunters are using as their base, the "corpse" jumps up, and they have to shoot him half a dozen times to finish him off. They open up his stomach and find pieces of Rick, but also a pinecone, gum in the wrapper, and a cat's head. He was not a discerning eater – more interested in quantity than quality. Also, his adrenal gland is black and huge, which explains the super-strength. Dean couldn't care less; he just wants another Turducken Slammer.
Back at the restaurant, while Dean is eating, he starts acting stoned. Sam and Bobby notice that everyone else eating the sandwich is also acting stoned, so they take half Dean's sandwich home. It suddenly collapses, bleeding grey pus.
They follow a turducken supplier truck from the restaurant to a factory, where Leviathan Edgar shows up with the agitated waiter, who he locks up. The next morning, Dick Roman arrives. Listening in with a microphone, Sam, Dean and Bobby overhear a conversation between Edgar, Dr. Gaines and Dick Roman. The grey pus additive is addictive, and the result of a Leviathan plan to make people fat, dumb and easy-going. Dick is unhappy that the cannibalism side effect of Dr. Gaines' work has attracted potentially dangerous media attention, so he has a bib put on the doctor and makes him eat himself.
The Leviathan capture Bobby, who manages to look at some of Dick's files before the boys rescue him. During their escape, Dick shoots at them. Sam and Dean realize that one of the bullets has hit Bobby in the head.
Dean couldn't get enough of the Turducken Slammers, so how much did Jensen Ackles actually eat while shooting those scenes? "If I take a bite at the beginning of the scene, I have to choke it down," Ackles explains. "If I take a bite at the very end of the scene and they say, ‘Cut,' and it's still in my mouth, I can spit it out. So I'd say sixty to seventy percent of the time I'm actually eating everything. Luckily, we don't do a whole lot of takes -– I can get it in three or four takes -– but it's a lot of food sometimes."
At least, as property master Chris Cooper reveals, it's food Ackles likes. "Jensen and his wife buy a particular healthy veggie patty, so that was used in his sandwiches," Cooper says. "Then there were a couple shots where Dean eats half of the Slammer and Sam takes it away. For that one, our food stylist made a special patty with the same veggie breading to look like turducken, with the three different meats folded in together. Every detail we can think of, we're on it. For example, in the script the sandwich's description said it was on a wagon-wheel ciabatta, so the first thing we worked on was the bun. We have a bakery we deal with that our rigging gaffer's daughter owns. She's totally into helping us out and taking these things to whatever extremes. So we created a ciabatta with a wagon-wheel on top in darker bread. They're so cool. It's kind of silly to say, but I was so proud of those buns!"
The buns may have looked good, but their contents turned a small percentage of its consumers into hyper-adrenalized cannibals that the Mother of All Monsters herself might have been proud to have produced. In fact, her eggs were removed to make room for the things Gerald Browder ate, as the body the hunters autopsied was the same one that had been used in season six for Crowley's autopsy of Eve. "We just took the appliances that we had used on the stunt actor and placed them on a foam head and tacked them down with liquid blood," head makeup effects designer Toby Lindala explains. "The body cavity is actually a full fiberglass shell – it could be used as a chafing dish! It held all the bowls with the tapioca bubble tea pearls that we used as Eve's eggs. Then, in this episode, it held a lot of Methocel, liquid blood, and the cool items from props like the cat's head and the oversized adrenal gland."
The Leviathan factory where the gland-expanding turducken additive was developed was filmed at an abandoned building on Annacis Island in Delta, British Columbia. "We found that location originally for ‘Season 7, Time for a Wedding', when we were looking for a place to drop the chandelier," says art director John Marcynuk, "but I looked through it and said, ‘You know, this is going to work even better for ‘How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters'. We ended up shooting both there.
"We built Dick Roman's entire office at that location due to scheduling, and also for the visuals through the window as Bobby was watching the guy get ‘bibbed,'" Marcynuk continues. "I proposed that we have plastic on the floor when he gets bibbed, like in Lethal Weapon – I can't remember why they didn't want to go with that. It's a very nice office. The influences were Japanese architecture mixed with high-end office finishes that you see quite often these days. The material we initially selected [for behind Dick Roman's desk] was so shiny that we had to cover it all because we were seeing the reflection of the camera and crew."
The most memorable props from the office set are the two guns Dick Roman had on his desk, one of which he uses to shoot Bobby. "They were a chrome-plated set and we custom built that box," Cooper says. "The gun was a circa-1870 Colt that you have to open up – as opposed to rolling the barrel out to load it – which called for some manual dexterity on the part of the actor, because of Dick Roman's dramatic loading of the gun. It's the old single-action, where you have to pull the hammer, then pull the trigger. It's not a double-action, where you pull the trigger and the hammer cocks itself each time. So I was going to get James Patrick Stuart practicing with the gun, but it turns out that old guns are one of his hobbies! There were three shots there and it was all: pull the hammer, pull the trigger, hammer, trigger, hammer, trigger… and he did it like a master. It worked out perfect. That was magic."
Jensen Ackles enjoyed James Patrick Stuart's portrayal of the head Leviathan and feels Stuart did "a really good job" with the Dick Roman role. "He's great!" Jared Padalecki agrees. Executive producer Sera Gamble echoes the sentiment, and as the writer of ‘Survival of the Fittest' she particularly enjoyed playing Stuart off of Mark Sheppard's Crowley. "You want to make sure that your season finale has high stakes," she says, "and in this case, one of the aspects of this episode is that it is a very high-stakes poker game. It's a lot of people trying to figure out who's bluffing. What you'll find out by the end is the ultimate winner of this game in many ways is Crowley. So when we opened this episode, we thought it would be really fun to sit Crowley and Dick Roman opposite each other. They're our two best negotiators, and we put them head to head. That was really fun to write."
Gamble also took wicked pleasure in writing lines that related to Richard Roman's predilection for being called "Dick." "The temptation is always to write something that doesn't get past Standards and Practices," she admits. "We've gotten more notes from the good people who protect America's children from the dirty minds of our writers in the last couple episodes than probably the whole entire season combined."
Then there's the "righteous bone". Gamble claims that the idea for the weapon that sends a Leviathan back to Purgatory came from consulting producer Ben Edlund. "We were talking about what the ingredients would be that would be difficult to get together. We knew blood would be at the core of this weapon, and Ben threw out that it should be a human bone. There was some discussion about the fact that the Word of God was written before Man was created, potentially, but then, you know, God would know the future… Long story short, we had to figure out who the righteous bone would be." They went with Sister Mary Constant because you can't get much more righteous than eighty-three years of quiet, humble, nun-like goodness. "I think this solution works," Gamble says. "We found it entertaining.
"The ingredients that made up the weapon evolved over many episodes," Gamble continues. "The language is included in Ben's episode, and in Dan and Andrew's episode. We were interested in a couple of things. One was creating a difficult situation for Sam and Dean where they had to stay in collusion with Crowley. That's the most difficult of the ‘bloods.' Then, when it came time to figure out this righteous bone situation, I didn't actually see that as a big problem or a huge story issue. I thought, ‘We're just gonna come up with something fun. We're not gonna chop off one of the boys' arms or anything like that.'"
The issue of whether the nun's bone was the right one was left deliberately open. "That's yet more tension going into that final fight scene," says Gamble. "You're supposed to wonder if the weapon is gonna work."
Before they began to worry about whether the weapon would kill Leviathan or not, the Winchesters had to deal with someone who was already dead, when Ghost Bobby dragged the maid into the fight. Gamble says the actress who plays the maid, Larissa Gomes, "is just wonderful and game for anything. She has to throw Sam around a little bit, and it totally works. We always worry about that – six-foot-five-inches against five-foot – but somehow she hangs in there. When someone is ghost-possessed, they have a sort of zombie-like affect, but you still have to be acting, and she manages to be convincing."
That sequence of events led into Jim Beaver's final scene as Bobby Singer. "This scene was hard," admits executive producer Robert Singer. "We've seen ghosts go before, and we didn't want to send Bobby off quite that way, so we decided to do it off-screen. I found it moving this way. I was very happy with this scene." Gamble agrees, adding, "Watching [ghosts] immolate is such a horror movie thing, and we've developed it into such a gruesome thing. Fire comes out of their mouths! It's super fun to watch, but it's not respectful, and it looks very painful. [Ghost Bobby's death] is much more ethereal."
Bobby's heartfelt passing also had an impact on Castiel. "Cass has been really adamant that he doesn't feel like he can help them, so we had to show him change his mind. Watching them bravely set Bobby's ghost free is the beginning of that turning point for him," points out Gamble. "Also, he and Dean have this tremendous amount of unfinished business that's been carrying over all season, since he betrayed them opening up Purgatory in the first place. I didn't feel like they could go dashing in anywhere as a team if they didn't talk about it in some way. Structurally, it works out that you want to take a breath and have a scene where your characters connect before they go charging in for your climatic scenes. In this case, there were definitely a couple of matters at hand that they had to work through anyway, so we arrived at it pretty organically.
"One thing that's really refreshing about writing Castiel is you write these scenes where something emotional and important has to happen between him and one of the guys," continues Gamble, "and you get to that turning point – say, where Dean has finally come to a place where he's starting to forgive Cass for everything that came between them at the end of season six and the beginning of season seven – and usually this is something you try to not get too girly with, but Cass has no subtext. He'll just say, ‘You look glum, but, you know, glumness is a primary aspect of your personality, so I usually ignore it.'"
A primary aspect of Meg's personality is that she seems irritated with the universe that she's not the Queen of Hell. "The thing I like about Rachel Miner's interpretation of this demon is that she always looks so annoyed," says Gamble, citing as an example the scene where Meg arrives at Richard Roman Enterprises and the Leviathan shoot her. "‘Ugh, they're shooting me with bullets.' She always plays things like she's waiting for everyone else to catch up, which I find delightful."
However, Meg doesn't have Crowley's devilish way with words. "I love putting words like ‘kerfuffle' in that guy's mouth," Gamble says. "Mark Sheppard called me and said, ‘I did a little something I think you're going to like. Put a little word in there for you. Called Sam Moose.' He's right, too. I think that's among the better nicknames for Sam."
"Crowley has had a lot of digs at Sam's height," Mark Sheppard says. "I've called him Gigantor, Mop-Headed Lumber Jack, and Giraffe. My favorite one thus far was the ‘Where's your moose?' line from ‘The Devil You Know' – the fans really latched on to that one as well. I realized that in ‘Survival of the Fittest' I hadn't said anything particularly negative to Sam, so when we got into that final scene, I said, ‘Can I put Moose in it? Because I say Sam three times.' Dan Loflin was on set, and obviously Bob Singer was there, and I said, ‘It would be interesting to use Moose in a different way than we did before; rather than it just being a slur, but actually as a term of endearment.' The fans have actually taken the name ‘Mooseketeers' – Jared's fans are now termed ‘Mooseketeers'. So it was really nice to use the word Moose in a slightly different way. It's quite benevolent; it's kind of a loving version of the slur, let's put it that way. I enjoyed that a lot. The producers were really receptive, too."
Crowley does leave Sam alive at the end, after all, though maybe that's just because he has what he considers most important: the Prophet Kevin and, it's implied, any tablets that go with him. "The tablet was something that, as we evolved it in the writers' room and started talking about what the implications could be, we got really excited about, because it seems like something that could potentially generate more stories in season eight," Gamble says. "I remember having a conversation with Ben about how the Word of God as written on this series of tablets could be considered the ultimate series of launch codes. If, for example, Crowley had something stashed away and was just waiting for the right moment to spring it, then having a prophet on the board who could read those words can cause any number of bad things to happen."
"This is where Sera's left you," Singer concludes. With Crowley controlling a prophet, Sam all alone, and Dean and Castiel stranded in Purgatory. "Doesn't it feel weirdly logical, though?" Gamble asks. "Problems are good. Enjoy that."
a href="http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-The-Official-Companion-Season/dp/1781161089">Supernatural - The Official Companion Season 7 is out now from Titan Books.