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12 May 2008 @ 08:11 pm
3.15 Time Is On My Side: We’re Trying to Do the Same Thing Here  

3.15  Time Is On My Side:  We’re Trying to Do the Same Thing Here


Immortal doctor

Tempts Sam with deal-breaking hope.

Bela meets her fate.


Episode Summary


Abducted from the parking lot of his health club, a plastic surgeon in Erie, PA later staggered into the emergency room of a local hospital, collapsed, and died, missing his liver.


Elsewhere, trying to learn who holds Dean’s contract, the Winchester brothers interrogated a demon only to learn that the demon was more afraid of the contract holder than of being exorcised and sent back to Hell, and that demons were looking forward to Dean’s arrival for some payback. Sam exorcised the demon and Dean buried the dead host. Intrigued by the report of the man with the missing liver, Sam posed as a cop and did some further checking, to discover that the man’s body had been covered in bloody fingerprints belonging to another man who had died in 1981. Sam presented the information to Dean as a possible zombie hunt, irresistible bait for Dean’s love of hunting, and although Dean didn’t entirely buy Sam’s explanation, given that Sam had been obsessively focused on saving Dean and a zombie hunt when Dean had only three weeks left didn’t ring true, the brothers headed to Erie and posed as detectives to interview the coroner. Discovering that the dead man’s liver had been surgically removed, not ripped out, however, put paid to any theory about zombies being involved. Finding a survivor of another organ theft whose wound had been packed with maggots and sutured with silk, medical practices common in the early nineteenth century, Sam pulled out John’s journal and pointed to the account of his hunt of Doc Benton, who supposedly discovered the secret to immortality in 1816 and had sustained himself by stealing replacement body parts when his own wore out. The brothers realized that although John had hunted Benton down and removed his heart, that evidently hadn’t been enough to terminate him.


As the boys started their hunt, Benton abducted another healthy, athletic young man, and extracted his heart. Not knowing about the latest victim, Sam narrowed the search down to a series of isolated cabins in the woods near a stream, Benton’s preferred location for a lair, but as they prepared to check them out, Bobby called Dean with the first lead he’d gotten on the whereabouts of Bela since she stole the Colt. A reclusive former hunter and occasional dealer in supernatural supplies named Rufus Turner in Canaan, VT had responded to Bobby’s feeler, reporting contact by a British woman using one of Bela’s known aliases. Dean immediately resolved to pursue Bela and the possible retrieval of the Colt, over Sam’s protest that she had probably sold it within days of stealing it. Sam pleaded with Dean to remain and finish the Benton hunt, admitting that he’d hoped from the start that Benton was involved and maintaining that the secret to Benton’s immortality could save Dean by making it impossible for him to die, thus negating the contract. Furious at Sam’s manipulation and adamant that he wouldn’t do anything that could be considered welching on the deal, given the clause that would forfeit Sam’s life if Dean reneged, Dean insisted on going after Bela and the hope that she still might have the Colt. Sam refused to go with him, intent on pursuing Benton, and Dean reluctantly struck off on his own, asking Sam to be careful.


Sam located Benton’s cabin, discovering the body of the involuntary heart donor and also a young woman who was still alive, her flayed forearm covered with maggots. Sam rescued the girl even as Benton arrived, and ran down Benton with his rental SUV when the doctor tried to stop them from leaving. On his own hunt, Dean forged an uneasy bond with Rufus Turner over a pricey bottle of scotch whiskey and obtained from him information on Bela’s past, which revealed that her parents had died in a suspicious car accident when she was fourteen, leaving her to inherit millions. Dean caught Bela by surprise in her hotel room and further surprised her with his knowledge, but searching her belongings failed to turn up the Colt, which she maintained she had sold across the world shortly after acquiring it. Dean was tempted to kill her, but as he held her at gunpoint, he noticed a strange herb tucked above the doorway, and walked out on her, declaring that she wasn’t worth it. Once he was gone, Bela smoothed out the hotel receipt that she had picked from his pocket, and then made a call, saying that Dean had found her as planned, but that Sam hadn’t been with him – but she knew where they were staying.


Driving back to Erie, Dean called Sam to report his failure, and learned that Sam had found Benton and escaped with his lab book, including the formula for immortality. Sam excitedly reported that, while he couldn’t understand it all yet, it didn’t seem to rely on any form of black magic at all; that it just seemed to be very weird science, and he really believed that using it could save Dean. While they were talking, however, Benton chloroformed Sam, and the younger Winchester woke up strapped to Benton’s operating table, his eyes taped open. Benton revealed that he knew who Sam was and what he owed the Winchesters, because he’d read John’s journal. Maintaining that he wasn’t a monster and had never done anything that he hadn’t had to do in order to survive, as witness that donors like his kidney patient had survived, he told Sam that his chances of surviving were very high – and then moved in to scoop out Sam’s eyes with a serrated melon baller. Dean arrived in the nick of time and shot him, but the bullets had no effect on Benton, who tossed Dean casually aside and then advanced on him. Dean stabbed him in the heart with a knife, but even that didn’t faze him – until Dean revealed that he had dipped the knife in chloroform, which was spreading through Benton’s body with every frenzied beat of his stolen heart. Benton collapsed, and woke up strapped to his own table. Begging for his life, he promised to share his formula for immortality. Sam wanted to use it to gain time to learn how to save Dean permanently, but Dean refused point-blank, saying that he’d rather go to Hell than become a monster like Benton. He vowed to deal with Benton, and Sam reluctantly cooperated. They buried Benton alive, chained inside an old refrigerator, with his lab book sharing his grave.


In Erie, Bela snuck into the boy’s hotel room at night and unhesitatingly shot the bodies under the covers in the beds, only to discover that they were blow-up dolls. When the room phone rang and she picked it up, she heard Dean on the other end in a reverse of their respective positions in Jus in Bello, when she had betrayed them to the police. Dean revealed that he had felt her pick his pocket and figured out what was going on when he saw the herb in her room, a protection against hellhounds, and checked the records of her parents’ deaths; he realized that she had made a demon deal that was coming due that very night. He guessed that she had stolen the Colt in an attempt to buy her way out, and she admitted that he was right, but the demon had changed the deal and wanted her to kill Sam. She told him that she knew about his deal because the same demon held their contracts, held every contract: Lilith. Dean told her he’d see her in Hell and hung up – and hellhounds bayed and growled in the Erie night.


Commentary and Meta Analysis


This episode contained an embarrassment of meta riches, from the differences between the brothers as Dean’s deal approaches to another glimpse at the hunter world to the juxtaposition of Dean and Bela. I’ll touch on all of them.


Brothers Down to the Wire


With only three weeks to go on Dean’s deal, we saw the stress on the brothers mount. The vicious demon interrogation at the beginning was telling and frightening. In contrast to his reluctance in Devil’s Trap, Sam was as invested and harsh as Dean, beginning the exorcism on a simple exchange of glances without even consulting a book or altering his casual posture. But when the demon professed eagerness to join his demon pals in looking forward to Dean’s arrival in Hell, Sam hesitated. Demons lining up for payback obviously meant more agony for Dean later, and Sam’s soft, Should I …? expressed his concern about making things worse. Dean’s reply – Send him someplace he can’t hurt anyone else – combined with the sick look on his own face that Sam didn’t see, said louder than words that he understood and feared what he was doing to himself, but that he’d rather accept the burden than chance having it fall on innocents. As Kripke said in LA, Dean is the hero.


Sam’s phone call after the exorcism subtly changed everything. Looking back, it’s clear that Sam was hoping from the outset that he was on the trail of Doc Benton. He led Dean to conclude that zombies were involved in order to get him invested in the hunt – not hard, knowing Dean’s delight in hunting anything film-legendary! – but clearly didn’t believe it himself, judging from the smile that crossed his face when Dean wasn’t looking. His delight in having his guess confirmed by the coroner and the kidney victim was palpable. Suddenly he saw a way to save Dean, and the potential costs and consequences were far from his mind in the rush of certainty that he had found an answer to the immediate fear of losing his brother.


Hope altered Sam’s behavior. Having hope lightened his step and made him more likely to laugh than we’ve seen him in a long time, certainly since Mystery Spot. The scene in the motel room where Sam deliberately tried to gross Dean out while he was eating was not just a delightful return to the brotherly teasing of earlier days, but a reflection of Sam’s newly restored hope.


When Dean got the phone call from Bobby that set him on the trail of Bela, everything abruptly fell apart. Dean immediately wanted to track down Bela and the hope of the Colt; Sam discounted the idea that the Colt might be reachable, and wanted to continue pursuing the nearby hope of making Dean immortal in order to defeat the contract. Dean immediately realized what Sam had done by deceiving him into the hunt and dismissed the idea that the Doc Benton solution could apply to him, reacting instead to the overwhelming fear that Sam was going down a prohibited avenue that would get him killed by having Dean weasel out of the contract by not being able to die. Sam proposing to take the same step in order to avoid that clause as well prompted Dean’s dismissive pop culture reference of the night to Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his junkie girlfriend Nancy Spungen, whose self-destructive mutual need relationship resulted in both of their deaths.


This episode saw the boys doing yet another character reversal, mirroring their respective positions in last week’s Long Distance Call. In Long Distance Call, Dean was the one desperately grasping at straws of hope extended by the sound of his father’s voice, while Sam stayed grounded sadly in reality and tried to let Dean down gently. Here, Sam was the one chasing hope beyond reason, again through a connection with John, while Dean clung to practicality despite its flavor of despair. 


The fight between the boys in the motel room with Dean adamant about leaving and Sam insisting on staying to pursue the Doc Benton hunt carried things to a new level. Dean ordered Sam to leave with him, and when Sam refused, came up against the realization that neither of them could force the other to do anything. They could guilt, tease, or dare each other into doing things, but it always remained the individual’s choice. Dean may have been able to force his will on Sam when Sam was younger, but he silently acknowledged here that Sam was a man, and his own man, and that Dean couldn’t make him toe the line any more. It also marked the first time I can recall that Dean walked away from Sam on his own initiative. Sam had left Dean before to go to Stanford in pre-show days, to hunt Dad in Scarecrow, and to hunt for his destiny in Hunted, but Dean had never been the one to initiate a walk-away, and usually gave in to Sam’s pleading puppy eyes. But not this time, not with his clock ticking down.


That entire exchange broke my heart with the realization of the maturity that’s grown between them as Sam has come into his own, and as Dean has admitted both that Sam can take care of himself and that Dean himself won’t be there to take care of him in the future.


Dean:  Now, you coming or not?

Sam:  I’m staying here.

Dean:  No, you’re not, because I’m not going to let you wander in the woods alone to track some organ-stealing freak.

Sam:  You’re not going to let me?

Dean:  No, I’m not going to let you!

Sam:  How are you going to stop me?  [beat]  Look, man. We’re trying to do the same thing here.

Dean:  I know. But I’m going. So if you want to stay, stay.  [opens door, looks back]  Sammy, be careful.

Sam:  You, too.


The flip side of that argument played out again when Doc Benton had been defeated and strapped to his own table. He offered immortality as his ransom, promising that he could help Dean, and Sam was the one begging Dean to consider it. Dean’s flat refusal shut Sam down with the realization that he couldn’t force Dean any more than Dean could force him. And while Dean has become more tolerant of some supernatural entities over time – as witness his helping Lenore’s vampire family – when it comes down to his own existence, he won’t willingly adulterate his own core humanity. If it’s stripped from him in Hell against his will, that’s one thing, but his willing surrender of it isn’t in the cards.


Sam discovering Benton’s journal was quick to accept and be delighted by the idea that Benton’s formula for immortality contained nothing overtly evil, and to overlook the knowledge that even if attaining immortality itself wouldn’t be vile, maintaining it as Benton had would have been monstrous. In most instances, Sam has been the one to question easy answers and look deeper for truth – but whenever Dean’s survival has been concerned, that concern has gone out the window. Sam’s attitude here reflected his approach in Faith, where he didn’t want to look the gift horse of Dean’s miraculous healing in the mouth, fearing that something too good to be true might turn out to be hideous. When he learned that a stranger had died to enable Dean to live, he seemed less horrified by the idea than Dean himself was, because no matter how it had come about, he couldn’t regret that his brother was alive. Similarly, in In My Time of Dying and its aftermath, Sam wasn’t inclined to look too closely at Dean’s miraculous recovery even though it was pretty obvious that Dean’s life and John’s death were two sides of the same coin. Mystery Spot further showed us that the fear of losing Dean reroutes his thinking as nothing else could, and that includes clouding his normally acute moral judgments.


In the end, both brothers gave in to each other. Dean let Sam have his solo hunt, pursuing the quest for immortality even though he didn’t believe in it, and Sam accepted Dean’s refusal to consider immortality and reluctantly helped him bury both Doc Benton and the immortality formula in his journal. Sam also acceded to Dean’s plan for dealing with Bela.


Along the way, both brothers reacted differently to the hunts. Given Sam’s single-minded focus on saving his brother, Dean instantly doubted his motives for the proposed zombie hunt, but was happy to focus on the hunt as a way to gainfully occupy himself while also distracting himself from his impending fate. As soon as Bobby provided word on Bela’s location, however, Dean abandoned the seemingly random hunt in favor of trying to save himself, his uncharacteristic selfishness an indicator of his deteriorating state of mind. Sam, meanwhile, had only one interest in the Doc Benton hunt, but when he discovered the injured young woman, he reverted to Winchester form and rescued her with care and consideration for her pain and fear. Unlike the experience in Mystery Spot, his compassion for a stranger remained awake and intact despite his focus on his brother. And despite his own slipping moral course concerning wanting to make Dean immortal, his relief that Dean hadn’t compromised his own Winchester moral code by executing human Bela was tangible.


Finally, when speaking of the brothers mirroring each other, I couldn’t help but think of Hunted as I watched Sam having to listen helplessly to Dean fighting Benton, the same way that Dean had been forced to hear Sam’s fight with Gordon, neither able to see what was happening, both fearing more for the other than for their bound selves.


Rufus Turner – What Future Does a Hunter Have?


Dean’s encounter with reclusive former hunter Rufus Turner added another dimension to the world of hunters. According to Bobby, Rufus had been a hunter who was now mostly a hermit, doing a little selling on the side. Rufus had the customary cabinet full of guns, but there were also award plaques on the wall near his computer and bowling or discus trophies on his mantel with his cross. His security cameras scanning front and rear would suggest that those awards and trophies were part of his pre-hunter past, because his present was laced with the same paranoia we’ve seen in other hunters’ homes, and flavored with bitter anti-social messages discouraging any casual contact.


Rufus was a character I’d love to see again, a man who “knows things.” Somehow, he knew about Dean’s deal, at least that Dean had made one and that his time would be up in three weeks. He had contacts in law enforcement who were able to obtain Bela’s files from England; perhaps he himself was a cop before turning hunter, a hint of the talents Henricksen might have brought to bear, had he survived Jus in Bello. He held up another dark mirror to Dean, describing himself as Dean’s future, if Dean somehow managed to escape his deal. Folks like us, there ain’t no happy ending. We all got it coming. I’m what you’ve got to look forward to, if you survive. Which you won’t.  The world of hunters has been painted as a dark and lonely one, with no way out once you’re in. Bobby Singer, Pastor Jim Murphy, and Ellen Harvelle have been the most successfully socialized adult hunters we’ve met, and with the exception of Pastor Jim, even their social circles consisted mostly of other hunters. Most hunters in our experience have been very closed in, and not expecting to live to a ripe old age or be happy.


I have to wonder how much that image of a bleak future figures in Dean’s thoughts about his own lack of a future, and his speculations about what kind of life he could have if he did manage to survive. He never really seemed to think about his future until he no longer had one, and dreams now have no meaning beyond the desperate wish not to die and go to Hell.


Dean and Bela: Flip Sides of Demon Coins


We finally got Bela’s (excuse me, Abby’s) backstory in two very concise flashbacks. We learned that she had been born into a very wealthy family, was abused by her father, and had made a classic ten-year deal with a demon to have her parents killed when she was fourteen years old. Dean didn’t learn quite as much, not being privy to the abuse that led to her making the deal, but he learned enough to put a new spin on lines we’d heard or reactions we’d gotten from Bela along the way, including her We’re all going to Hell, Dean; might as well enjoy the ride comment in Bad Day at Black Rock, and her snide response to Dean’s What, did Daddy not give you enough hugs or something? comment in Red Sky at Morning. Looking back, Bela’s surprise at Dean’s agreement with her Hell comment made pretty clear that she didn’t know about his deal at the time of the rabbit’s foot incident.


To me, the most interesting aspect of her backstory is the way in which Bela provides a negative of Dean. Bela made her deal to destroy her family, while Dean made his to save his brother. Bela had everything material and nothing emotional, while Dean had nothing material, but love and to spare. Bela used the evil that happened to her as a child and the evil in her own response to it to justify doing more uncaring evil to others throughout the rest of her life, while Dean, however scarred by the evil that destroyed the happy life he had known, adopted a moral code that made saving others his highest priority no matter the cost to himself. Bela thought nothing of killing others casually in pursuit of her goal, while even at the last and despite his loss and loathing, Dean couldn’t bring himself to kill her in cold blood when she wasn’t directly posing an immediate threat to him or to Sam.


I would posit that family made a huge difference in their development. However much John’s choices and actions unintentionally injured his boys as he tried to juggle being a fumbling single parent while also becoming a hunter, there was no question that John loved his sons, and that John’s love and innate decency had a lot to do with shaping Dean into a strong and moral man who provided a capable second good example to his younger brother. The Winchesters had an advantage over Bela there, as well as in their heart-strong brother bond. What her father did to Bela, along with what her mother presumably failed to do to protect her, definitely affected who she became, particularly including her ability to trust and care about others.


I don’t consider that Bela’s past justified her subsequent actions, however. I don’t mean to trivialize child abuse and the impact it has on a developing individual, but I’ve always believed that nothing that happens to us excuses the choices we later make freely for ourselves. I can understand Bela without condoning her choices or her actions. She was very young and very damaged when she made her deal, when the demon first approached her with the seductive idea of being rid of her abusers. I can pity her for that. I can further pity her because it didn’t appear as if she had summoned the demon, but that the demon was being opportunistic and tempting her, like the one in Crossroad Blues who stayed at the bar and made more deals than just the one she’d been summoned to fulfill.


However, I suspect that once Bela grew old enough to really appreciate the enormity of what she had done at least in terms of putting a finite limit on her own life and guaranteeing that it would end in Hell, finding a way to alter her deal was probably what drove her to become a purveyor of supernatural artifacts. I would guess that she was always looking for information and artifacts powerful or rare enough to buy her more time or a different fate, and that while the money angle of it was enjoyable, the real driver was a calculated bid to escape her contract. She admitted to Dean in the end that stealing the Colt was a bid for escape, not for monetary gain; I suspect that many of her other acquisitions were the same. And in pursuit of that goal, she didn’t care whom she hurt. Poor pretty little rich girl, who ultimately cared only for herself and in the process came richly to deserve her poor and ugly fate. Knowing her own motives, she couldn’t accept that anyone else viewed the world differently; knowing herself damned, she couldn’t accept that other people weren’t, that they actually could be noble.


In the end, Bela and Dean effectively demonstrated Aesop’s fable of the scorpion and the frog, which posits that we can’t overcome our natures even when following our natures isn’t in our best interest. You know the story: a scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a stream, and when the frog hesitates, points out that it wouldn’t be in the scorpion’s interest to sting the frog along the way, because then both would drown. Nonetheless, halfway across the stream, the scorpion stings the frog, and when the frog asks why, sadly notes before they both die that it’s in his nature to sting.


Bela made a good scorpion. It was in her selfish and untrusting nature to lie, steal, cheat, and kill. In dealing with the Winchesters, her best interest would have been to tell the truth and appeal to them for help, as she eventually did in Red Sky at Morning when her plans went awry. As Dean noted, the bitch of it all was that if she had come to them, it would have been in the nature of the brothers to try to help her even at the risk of their lives despite all that she had done to them. Instead, she followed her nature, and made it impossible for them to help her by stealing the Colt and pursuing her own agenda to within minutes of her contract coming due. She stung them and she drowned, and because of her sting, they lost their best hope of saving Dean.


The sad joy of the situation was that Dean also stayed true to his nature by electing not to kill Bela even after he’d made up his mind to do so, to get revenge on the woman who’d tossed his last real hope of life away. Yes, he saw the Devil’s shoestring charm and calculated her probable fate, but even without that, I don’t think he’d have been able to pull the trigger on her when she wasn’t posing an immediate threat to him or to anyone else; it would have been too much a denial of his nature, even with as little time as he has left. Leaving her alive wasn’t in his best interest, as witness her subsequent attempt to murder both Winchesters, but killing her would have left him feeling soiled and guilty, and been a step toward making him think that he might deserve his fate.


But Dean had it right in Dream a Little Dream of Me. He doesn’t deserve to die, and he doesn’t deserve to go to Hell.


Bela deserved both.


Production Notes


I obviously loved this episode on many levels, but the silliest one had to do with Rufus Turner’s furniture:  I used to own his dinette chairs! No lie: they’re a dead match for the dinette set I bought new back in 1979, and donated to a secondhand thrift store in the late 1980’s. Given their cheap mass-produced nature, it’s unlikely in the extreme that the ones the Vancouver set dressers found were the actual ones I gave away in Virginia, but I laughed out loud when I saw them! The table was different, though – mine had considerably less, ah, character.


Sera Gamble’s script served up a tasty smorgasbord of creepiness, gore, laughter, just desserts, and angst. I thought it a particularly neat twist in her story that Doc Benton’s immortality formula – at least as much of it as Sam could understand – didn’t rely on black magic or evil at all, making the formula itself morally neutral. Hearing that from Sam over the phone actually made Dean consider it, if only for a moment, before realizing that the hideous price of maintaining it was the fly in the ointment.


I’m sure creator Eric Kripke was in transports of delight over the maggots, the heart extraction, and the melon baller threat to Sammy’s puppy eyes – he may have a new set of favorite scenes to trump even his “hand down the garbage disposal” from the pilot!


My one story note (we’ll ignore how Doc Benton found Sam, and how Dean figured out which cabin was Doc’s, okay?) was that I wondered why John, with his penchant for thoroughness, would have settled for heart surgery and not have dismembered, salted, and burned Doc Benton. And then I thought, maybe he did, and that explained all the railroad-stitched skin grafts on his face and the Frankenstein-attached fingers and hands, as well as why Dean didn’t bother with the customary salt and burn routine, opting for living burial instead.


Chris Lennertz did some fun things with the musical underscore to this episode. I bounced in delight when he reprised a musical theme from the pilot as Sam reported on his research, just before Sam pulled out John’s journal, which we first saw in the pilot and have long missed since. Nice continuity! The sound guys also get a happy Kripke mention for letting us hear why the nurse freaked out in the teaser opening, even though the Standard & Practices people probably wouldn’t under any circumstances have let us actually see the liver donor’s intestines squishingly hitting the floor. It appears that Doc Benton didn’t bother suturing up the donors he figured were goners anyway …


Both of the boys nailed their performances, as usual. We’re spoiled with the caliber of their acting; we expect them to be great, so it simply doesn’t strike us when they are. But watching Jensen Ackles convey the physical sickness of Dean’s fear during the demon exorcism, the reluctant pain and pride of his realization that he couldn’t force Sam to go with him, the sorrow and fear of arguing with Sam and leaving him alone, and the determination to remain true to himself no matter the price just reinforce the conviction that Dean is real. Jared Padalecki did equally well with Sam, conveying his initial deliberate deception, his repressed excitement and joy at the prospect of coming up with a way to save his brother, his increasing confidence, conviction, and relaxation with the developing idea that his plan could work, and then the crushing loss of realizing that it was all for naught. Oh, boys.


Lauren Cohen did beautifully with Bela particularly in her confrontation with Dean, refusing to show weakness by offering a reason other than greed for killing her parents, and in the last phone conversation, when she finally broke down in her fear and desperation. The look on her face as the hellhounds bayed was ultimate desolation and total loss. Dean can cling to his conviction that he doesn’t deserve his fate and to his knowledge that his father eventually escaped Hell; Bela had nothing, and Lauren made that real. I’ll confess that I won’t really miss Bela – I think she was unfortunately over-used, getting the better of the boys too easily and too often, and while I appreciated the character, I didn’t want to spend time with anyone so callous, arrogant, and self-centered – but I will miss the spark that Lauren brought to the role.


The guest stars did yeoman work, especially Steven Williams as Rufus and Billy Drago as Doc Benton (whoops – I almost wrote “John Bly” – shades of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.!). I hope that we will get to see Rufus again sometime; I’d love to see his deadpan reaction to Dean walking the earth after his contract came due (because I firmly believe that no matter what happens, Dean will survive somehow, or make it back again despite everything!), and I eagerly anticipate watching him split a scene with Jim Beaver as Bobby. I appreciated his “Mr. X” in The X-Files, but he seemed to really enjoy getting into Rufus. Billy Drago has his own patent on playing creepy characters, and a wonderful turn with delivering creepy humor: This whole eternal life thing is very high maintenance;  What part of “immortality” do you not understand?  And a special cheer goes to whoever cast the young Bela; the resemblance was amazing!


Sam’s line, We’re trying to do the same thing here, really did capture the essence of this episode. Sam and Dean were both chasing their own ways to keep Dean alive … and Bela and Doc Benton were doing the same, trying to preserve their own lives. The differences came in how they chose to try to accomplish their ends, and what they were willing to give up – or not.


Dean doesn’t deserve to die. He doesn’t deserve to go to Hell. But with the clock ticking down and hope in short supply, I fear he may do both.




This week, the third season will end with one last episode, number 16 instead of number 22. I can’t wait to see it, and don’t want it to be over; the season was too short. I understand why the writers felt the need to strike, and I supported their decision, but I regret all the things we lost as a result. Even though most of the lost episodes would have been of the stand-alone monster-of-the-week (MOTW) variety, we know that the thread of Dean's deal would have been woven through them all in little tiny moments that we would have treasured – seeing Sam hiding what he was doing, hearing throwaway comments about ideas that didn't pan out, seeing the steadily increasing stress in both of them about the days ticking off with nothing to show for them, feeling the ultimate dissatisfaction even with successfully concluding a hunt because it wasn't the hunt that mattered. Every MOTW episode always made reference to the overarching story, always – and I miss all of those moments and desperately wish we had them.


But I give earnest thanks for everything we got.

Current Mood: gloomygloomy
Current Music: "One Last Ride" by Molly Hatchet
Somewhere along the linesstare_at_walls on May 13th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
OH DEAR GOD. Amen to all. I do want to believe that DEAN WILL LIVE. Somehow. It's great that you've effectively summarized all my thoughts on the episode. :D

Also! BOYS. Jensen and Jared! Their acting skills are so good, really, and I think they give perfect life to the Winchester Brothers. Sam and Dean wouldn't be Sam and Dean without them, IMHO. :D

Good job. Thanks for sharing! :D
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
Thanks, and sorry it took so long for me to respond!

Tonight is terrifying me. I fear that Dean will die, or worse, and that I'll be going through the summer in emotionally suspended animation, afraid to move or breathe for fear of tripping some delicate balance!
(Anonymous) on May 13th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
What an eloquent voice you are for Supernatural. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
Thank you, Bunty!
writingpathways on May 13th, 2008 02:51 am (UTC)
One of the reasons John didn't salt, burn, bury or better rid the world of Doc Benton is, Benton was his first solo supernatural kill... It's in the comic Supernatural Orgins # 4.

He'd never killed a supernatural being before in his life before Doc Benton. He chainsawed him, took out the heart. When I heard the monster for the week I was like OMG the comic!

I never expected anything from the comic to hit the actual show.
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
How the heck did that slip my mind? I guess I was too focused on my reaction to the comic's mistaken origin of the Impala to recall Doc Benton ... Thanks for filling in my senior moment! (And let me say that Peter Johnson did nicely correct things in the graphic novel version of the comic!)
(no subject) - writingpathways on May 16th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Diagonally Parked in a Parallel Universe: Waiting Blowsriverbella on May 13th, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
I loved this episode, but, as usual, you have shed some new light and perspective on it that make me love it even more! The scorpion and frog analogy was very well put.

I know a number of people who commented on this episode were unhappy with the boys splitting up, but for my money, the "Sammy, be careful" "You, too" moment (and the beautiful acting therein) more than paid for the separation.

I would love to see more of Rufus, too. And, hey, at least he survived the episode! You were tickled about his furniture. I was very amused by the shout-out to X-Files in the form of Sam's rental car--Lariat!

I am so torn about the finale--anxious to see it and sorry the season will be over and terrified of what might occur. It has just turned Tuesday as I write this, but Thursday seems a long way off.
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
You, me, and the terror ... we're all friends here, and tonight may drive us all to the bottle! (Okay, I'll confess I'm drinking a zinfandel at the moment, appropriately enough named "7 Deadly Zins" ...)

I had missed the [i]X-Files[/i] link to Lariat; it's been too many years, and I never obsessed over [i]X-Files[/i] the way I do with [i]Supernatural[/i]. Thank you for reminding me!

The separation between the boys worked so well here, and really needed to happen; I loved this episode!

I think I'm going to be absent for a while after tonight; it's going to take some time for me to process and recover from whatever is going to happen, I'm certain. See you on the far side!
Danipinkphoenix1985 on May 13th, 2008 08:35 am (UTC)
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
galathea_snb: s&d togethergalathea_snb on May 13th, 2008 08:59 am (UTC)
Absolutely excellent! As always a delight to read! I had a lot of similar thoughts about this episode, glad we agree! Thanks for analysing Bela so thoroughly, very good job. I was so glad that she was finally killed off, that I couldn't be bothered to look deeper into her character! *g*

Looking back, it’s clear that Sam was hoping from the outset that he was on the trail of Doc Benton. I LOVED how they played that part! At first I was irritated as to why Sam was so damn happy in the first part of the episode, but when it became clear that he had ulterior motives right from the start, I went back to watch that part again and it was all there in Jared's acting, only I didn't recognise it for what it was! I love when the show does that to me! :D

Also, I love how you draw the parallel to the Aesop fable here! Well done!
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Thank you, and glad you enjoyed!

You know, I really like the [i]idea[/i] of Bela, and I enjoyed Lauren's performance. Had she been used more sparingly like other recurring characters, only appearing where she truly made logical sense, I would have appreciated her more. Mind you, I would never have [i]liked[/i] Bela (simply because I find people like her emotionally exhausting to be around), but I would have enjoyed seeing her interact with the boys when their paths did occasionally cross, had she not been forced to trump them too often. Sigh.
yourlibrarianyourlibrarian on May 13th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, I definitely agree with the contrast you have between Dean and Bela. This made me think further about Sam and Dean in this episode:

However much John’s choices and actions unintentionally injured his boys as he tried to juggle being a fumbling single parent while also becoming a hunter, there was no question that John loved his sons

I would argue that it is less what John actually felt and more what his sons perceived that made the difference. I think that Dean and Sam took different lessons from John's examples. For whatever reason, Dean always had trust in John even when John failed him, and Sam didn't (which is likely one reason why Sam turned to faith and Dean didn't). Each believed the other was loved more. And that feeling made Dean constantly try to please his father and made Sam stop trying. And of course John did treat them differently, putting more of a burden on Dean, but always with the idea of protecting his sons, something Bela certainly didn't get. Which led me to disagree somewhat with the following:

But Dean had it right in Dream a Little Dream of Me. He doesn’t deserve to die, and he doesn’t deserve to go to Hell. Bela deserved both.

Both Dean and Sam had something Bela didn't, one another. As far as we can tell, no one ever looked out for Bela, not the people who should have been doing so, and presumably no one else around her. She was always forced to do things for herself, and to be as ruthless as Dean and Sam have been for one another. However much responsibility Dean had to take that shouldn't have been his, John was ultimately there for him too. Bela had no one. Perhaps she could have had, but we don't know how many other betrayals she faced.

we’ll ignore how Doc Benton found Sam

I fanwanked it that he tracked down the license rental plate ;>

and Bela and Doc Benton were doing the same, trying to preserve their own lives.

Oh nice, yes, I haven't seen anyone mention those parallels yet!
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:39 am (UTC)
[i]I would argue that it is less what John actually felt and more what his sons perceived that made the difference. I think that Dean and Sam took different lessons from John's examples.[/i]

I think you're right on point with that one. The boys did have very different images of John in their minds, and different understandings of how John viewed them. But while each seemed to feel that John favored the other more, I do think that both boys got the [i]saving people, hunting things[/i] ethic from John, and the core of that was that John was a decent man who loved his boys and did what he could for them. Dean cut him more slack than Sam did, but when Sam was forced to think about things during season two, he came to realize that he'd taken more from John than he'd thought, and that a lot of his knee-jerk reactions hadn't given John enough credit.

Dean and Sam definitely had two advantages over Bela, in that they had a father who loved them and cared about them and a brother who would always stand at their side. But I'm constitutionally incapable of granting Bela a free pass just because she had to stand on her own. She could have decided to help other people with the wealth she inherited, to try to make life better for other abused girls like her: from everything we've seen, she didn't. We all make choices; Bela made hers, and not only did they doom her, they isolated her. I pity her, I do, but I can't help but think that she ultimately brought her doom on herself by putting herself first.

I enjoyed your fanwank!!!!
(no subject) - yourlibrarian on May 17th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
raputathebuta: hexed Deanraputathebuta on May 13th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
Isn't it amazing how Big Daddy still comes through loud & clear?! How he still influences our boys? Oh boys!!!

This was a great episode. As usual, you've nailed all the points.

I know other people have probably said it, but I remember positing the idea that Bela perhaps had Lilith as a client for the Colt. I just didn't know why.

I would love to see Rufus again. Since Kripke didn't kill him off, I'd say the possibility of Steven Williams reprising his role might be really, pretty good.

Doc Benton...GAH!!!! Billy Drago was phenomenal as the MotW. Delightfully creeptastic. I think I would've buried him door-side down though. There's always the slim chance of escape!

The scene where the boys seperate just broke my heart. Oh Dean! Oh Sam! OH BOYS!!!!! *smishes them*

In regards to Benton finding Sam, I'm gonna go with he followed him. He was probably able to follow the "scent" of the female victim. He had to be able to "sense" if they had what he needed, right? I mean, how else would he know who to kidnap? I would assume that our Hero!Sam took her to the hospital...then Slicey McHacky tracked Sammy from there to the motel.

Extra fun points to Sammy for running Doc Benton over with his rental! W00T!
I wonder if he signed up for the damage insurance?!

No points for Gratuitous!Maggots! Yuck! I can handle all the blood, guts, & gore that Kripke can throw at me, but not maggots. Blech.

I can't believe we're down to the last episode. We are so screwed.
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:41 am (UTC)
And I am so scared ...

See you on the far side, [b]Rap[/b]!

(What have you got against maggots? I've enjoyed them ever since seeing [i]Sharpe's Eagle{/i} ... *grin*)
whimsywinx: SN-HappyEndwhimsywinx on May 13th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
It hurt so badly to see both Sam and Dean's despiration throughout the episode. Although, I have one question: Did Sam think far enough ahead to figure out how to make Dean mortal again? I believe he pitched this idea to Dean as a way to gain more time to get out of the deal.

I'm happy that the writer's found a good resolution to Bela's storyline. I'll miss Lauren. She did an excellent job in a tough role to play. I do wish the writers hadn't had quite so much fun with her, but who knows what we might have been shown in those missing 6 episodes.

(x-posted at TVG)
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
The boys' desperation is nothing compared to mine! (Or yours, sweet!)

Sam definitely didn't think ahead. All he saw was, "If Dean can't die, he can't go to Hell" ... and I'm not at ALL sure that's right. I can unfortunately imagine any number of scenarios in which Dean would be in Hell right on Earth, starting off with any outcome in which Sam either (a) goes darkside or (b) dies ...
zofia27zofia27 on May 14th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
Great review Professor!

I don't have much to add other than I really liked the way they wrapped up Bela's story and how Dean stayed true to his convictions and refused to become immortal, both because of his fear for Sammy as well as how it would have taken away his humanity.

And as always, kudos to Jensen and Jared for their acting and to Lauren who did a good job with what she was given.

I can't wait until the finale!
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
I can't wait either, although it also terrifies me ... and it's only 15 minutes away now. Trying to distract myself by finally responding to all my comments isn't working too well!
chemm80chemm80 on May 14th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed revisiting this episode here very much.

Dean’s dismissive pop culture reference of the night to Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his junkie girlfriend Nancy Spungen, whose self-destructive mutual need relationship resulted in both of their deaths.

I'm glad you explained this. I had no idea what this was referring to.

Rufus had the customary cabinet full of guns, but there were also award plaques on the wall near his computer and bowling or discus trophies on his mantel with his cross.

I didn't look too closely at the award plaques, but immediately got the impression that he was probably a cop before he was a hunter. (Didn't notice the furniture, though. Hee.) I did notice that the house was neatly kept and fairly well organized, especially for a man living by himself, for whatever that's worth. I agree that Rufus will make a nice recurring character and I'm sure we'll see more of him.

dreams now have no meaning beyond the desperate wish not to die and go to Hell.

I've thought all along that it's not the dying part he should have a problem with so much as the latter part of the deal. Dying a heroic death and going off to Valhalla or wherever, or even dying in place of your brother, is a very different thing that suffering eternal torment, especially at the hands of beings that are already particularly pissed off at you.

Dean didn’t bother with the customary salt and burn routine, opting for living burial instead.

That was pretty cold, I thought. Even to do to a monster.

That entire exchange broke my heart with the realization of the maturity that’s grown between them as Sam has come into his own,

And yet I thought the writers did a good job of showing the connection that remained between them throughout the episode. I usually dislike it when they're separated, but interestingly they felt more connected in this one than they have in some time even while physically spending a lot of time apart.

I agree - the acting is always so good, but the exorcism scene (Dean looking sick), the "parting of the ways" scene and (perhaps oddly) Sam in the gross-out part, were all some of my favorites.
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
Thank you for coming by, and for commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself here!

Fourteen minutes and counting, and I am bloody terrified ... Hope to see you after the finale, whenever I manage to get my blog up (after doubtless crying my eyes out and screaming a lot ...)
Killing threads since 2000 CE: John profilegwendolyngrace on May 14th, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Doc Benton was introduced in Issue #4 of Supernatural: Origins and John vivisected him with a chain saw before cutting out his heart, which another hunter then burned.

But then, in the comic, Doc Benton decidedly did not achieve immortality through "weird science" but by ingesting the organs in order to regenerate them, so there's some canon continuity issues.

But we'll take show over comics any day!

I agree with everything, but I also think that the "How are you going to stop me?" is an excellent example of the Mystery Spot effect, wherein Sam is much more prepared (if not happy) to hunt by himself than he was before that nine month stint in Trickster-induced limbo.

It's true that it's a pivotal moment, the moment where Dean, perhaps for the first time, realizes that he can no longer play the "older brother" card to manipulate Sam. Sam has always been more independent, but he has never actually flouted Dean to his face before. The dynamic must have felt to both of them much like some of Sam's arguments with John, when he refused to "toe the line" just because Dad said to do so.

Oh, boys. I'm lucky that I'm not going to work on Friday (although I do have a long drive!) because I definitely anticipate that I will be unable to do much after 10 p.m. except jump around manically screaming "OMG!"

(Well, and pack. I'll put that manic energy into packing. Yes, yes, I will, precious.)
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
Thank you for coming, and for reminding me of the comic appearance of Doc Benton (well, it was [i]in[/i] the comic, rather than [i]being[/i] comic, but you know what I mean ... I'm incoherent with the imminence of the finale ...)

Ah, nice shot on pointing out the link to disputes with Dad. Missed that one!

I'll be manic in my little universe, too. Ten minutes and counting ...
M: SPN Dean won't go to hellspankulert on May 14th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Great catch on the theme of the ep - to preserve life. Bela trying to escape her deal, just like the boys are in their own way, and Benton prolonging his. Really edgy about tomorrow's finale, but I still have a feeling Dean won't go to hell. With only one episode left, I doubt they could cover all that in 37 minutes or so.

I suspected for a while that they'd have Lilith hold the deal, and to me this all seems a very handy way to be able to tie everything together, and gives them a lot of possible outs when it comes to the deal. Personally, I suspect Sam might do something he really shouldn't, and the ramifications will be at the center of next season.(I'm totally unspiled here, so just speculating)

Jared did such an excellent job of portraying Sam's eagerness to save his brother, and how he's on the cusp of some very dubious choices to do so. It's very much like the Sam we see in some fics, and I recognised it instantly. Yes, yes. There may have been squee.

I'm kinda sad to see Bela go, in one way. She really was a great character, such a shame that they wasted her potential by using her unwisely. The scorpion thing is such an apt description btw! I'm really pleased with the new hunter, and suspect he'll be reprising sooner or later. Not like Show has too many minor characters left to pull out of their hat ;)
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
Thank you, and thanks for coming by!

The finale terrifies me, which maybe explains why I'm finally responding to comments ... *grin* Here I am, distracting myself from rampant speculation ...

See you on the other side, I hope!
goofang: Deangoofang on May 15th, 2008 01:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the insightful analysis, Mary. I've just discovered your articles and I really enjoy reading them. I think I've found what will help me through the long and painful days of waiting for season 4 - watching old episodes then reading your thoughts about them. Kind of like a first aid kit for 'SN withdrawal'.

I'll miss Bela. Not only she was a great character, her name cracked me up every time I heard it. Bela (Béla) is a male only name here in Hungary. When she first appeared the fans on all Supernatural forums here went like 'What? Bela is a chick?'. The name itself is quite old-fashioned and sounds a bit lame (I don't know a good analogy, Humphrey maybe?) which made it even more funny.

Call me evil if you want but I'd really like to see Dean going to Hell. I'd rather not take fully literally what Meg and Ruby said about it ('prison made of flesh and bone and blood and fear' and 'there's real fire in the pit'). Hell has to be something personal to be real scary. Think about Dean's encounter with himself in Dream a Little Dream of Me, or the Hell scenes in the movie Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (the one with the Easter Bunny was hilarious). Character revelations, flashbacks, lots of opportunities there. So yes, I'd like to see more of that stuff even it'll be heartbreaking. After all that's what good drama is about, the worst possible thing that can happen to a character should happen to him.

Sam has lots of secrets lately. I'm sure he has a good plan, he's a smart guy. But the boys cannot break the deal, if they do Sam dies (assuming that we can believe demons about this). Lilith cannot be defeated yet, that wouldn't be fun. I mean we hardly know her. So it looks like that in the end Sam has to lose Dean. That's the worst possible outcome for him.

If I were him I'd find a way to hell. Must be lots of ways getting there, entrances, gates besides the one we've seen in the cemetery in All Hell Breaks Loose. Caves, labyrinths, interesting rock formations, holes in the ground, sinister looking trees etc.Can a demon summon a human? Can someone be summoned to hell? I don't know but I know that sooner or later Sam has to come to terms with his demonic heritage whatever that may be. Maybe he'll use his powers to open a gate?

I'm not worried about Sam using his powers. I think he's strong enough not to go darkside. Having/using certain powers doesn't make you evil, using them in certain ways or for certain purposes can. Think about Andy and his evil twin (Andy was a good and underused character, I really miss him).

Anyway, these are just my speculations.

I can hardly wait to see the next ep.

bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 16th, 2008 12:59 am (UTC)
Thank you, welcome, and I hope you enjoy what you find here!

I found it very telling that even in the midst of his desperation in [i]Mystery Spot[/i], Sam apparently never even once attempted to trigger the psychic (and possibly demonic) powers that had been so much a feature of both seasons one and two. Did he truly lose them? Did he simply deny them even in his extremity of loss and terror? Or are they something that rely on the involvement of a demon - and could Ruby trigger them?

Dean wouldn't want Sam to become something he wasn't - something Sam himself feared throughout season two - in order to save his brother. That would be Hell on Earth for Dean.

And mabe Sam's Hell would be choosing NOT to wield demonic power, knowing that Dean would prefer death and Hell to seeing his brother become something he wasn't, something Dean would have to destroy.

Uh, can you tell that I am babbling incoherently with incipient terror? The finale starts in one minute, and I am so totally gone!

Hope to see you on the other side!
angieb5: supernatural episode reviewsangieb5 on May 16th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Nobody does meta like you do, and your Scorpion & Frog analogy is spot on.
bardicvoicebardicvoice on May 29th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm only sorry it took so long for me to get around to responding again ...