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13 October 2008 @ 08:43 pm
4.4 Metamorphosis: I’m A Whole New Level Of Freak  
4.4 Metamorphosis: I’m A Whole New Level Of Freak

Flesh-eating monster
Is born human, then transforms:
Can choice defeat fate?

Episode Summary

Accompanied by Ruby, Sam interrogated a captured demon for information on Lilith’s whereabouts, but the demon just scorned him for slutting around with a demon and taunted him about what he’d done during the months that Dean had spent in Hell. Sam exorcised the demon with his mind, leaving the host injured but alive, and reported with delight that he no longer got headaches from using his ability. He didn’t realize that Dean, alerted to his location by Castiel, had been watching. Dean demanded an explanation, starting with who the girl was, and recognized Ruby when she greeted him. He attacked Ruby with the knife, but Sam wrestled it away from him and Ruby grabbed him by the throat, only backing off when Sam ordered her away. Ruby took the injured host away, presumably to the nearest hospital, and Dean walked out on Sam in disgust.

Hours later, Dean returned to their motel room only to start packing, telling Sam that Sam didn’t need him and he and Ruby could keep hunting demons together. When Sam tried to stop him and talk to him, Dean hit him twice, and asked him angrily if he even knew how far he’d gone. When Sam protested that he was just exorcising demons, Dean demanded to know what else he could do, and countered Sam’s assertion that he could send them back to Hell and that was all with the sarcastic observation that of course he had every reason to believe that, after Sam had lied to him. Sam tried to defend what he was doing by saying that most of the hosts survived his mental exorcisms, and that he’d been able to save a lot more people than the brothers had when they were working together, but Dean asked if that was what Ruby wanted him to believe and had used to trick him into using his abilities, and said that Sam was on a slippery slope. Sam argued that he wouldn’t let it go too far, but Dean maintained that it already had, saying that hunters would want to hunt Sam for what he had become. He asked Sam why, if what he was doing was so good, Sam had lied about it, and then asked why an angel would have told him to stop Sam, revealing what Castiel had told him. Before they could resolve the fight, Sam got a call from an old family hunter friend, Travis, asking his help in tracking down a man he thought was a danger in Carthage, Missouri. The brothers responded to the call.

On the way, Dean told Sam about his trip into the past, reporting what he’d learned about the Campbells having been hunters and sharing his new memories of Mary and John as happy, hopeful people, as well as the news that the Yellow-Eyed Demon had killed their maternal grandparents. When Sam asked why the demon had gone to all that trouble just to drip blood into his mouth – a little detail of knowledge that Dean hadn’t shared – Dean learned that Sam had known that part for a year and never told him, deepening his anger and distrust.

In Missouri, they discovered that Jack Montgomery, an otherwise normal and ordinary man, had developed an irresistible and bizarre appetite. They returned to their hotel room to find Travis, an older hunter they hadn’t seen for ten years, waiting for them. He told them that Jack was a rugaru, a creature that started out looking human but transformed once adult into a monster that ate human flesh. He maintained that the transformation was inevitable, that their appetite for people always proved irresistible, and that once they took their first bite of human, they changed. He reported that he’d killed Jack’s father by burning him alive after he’d killed eight people, and only learned afterward that the man’s wife had been pregnant at the time and had put her child up for adoption. He said he hadn’t had the will to hunt down and kill the child, but now that he was grown, he had to be killed before he killed in his turn. Jack, meanwhile, found himself peculiarly disturbed by his wife’s blood when she accidentally cut her finger. He fled to a bar, where he discovered, in facing off against a bully pestering a woman, that he had unusual strength and an urge toward violence.

Troubled, Sam did his own research, turning up stories of rugaru who had successfully fought off the final transformation by never eating human flesh. He insisted that they talk to Jack and try to persuade him to control his urges. Dean questioned whether Sam was identifying too much with Jack, seeing himself in a similar position, and Sam opened the floodgates, revealing that he considered the demon blood in him to be a disease he couldn’t escape, and that using his powers to do good was the only way he had found to try to bring something good out of his curse. Dean offered the olive branch of recognizing Jack as a man and agreeing to talk to him. They explained what they knew to Jack, but he tried to dismiss what they said as insanity, and threw them out when they revealed that his real father had been killed as they indicated he would have to be, if he turned.

Despite having tried to ignore them, however, Jack pondered what they had said, retreating from his wife to think. Seeing the woman from the bar undressing in her apartment, he felt the urges rise and started to act on them, triggering the boys into trying to save the girl, but he managed to exert control before actually following through. He returned home only to find Travis there, holding his wife, Michelle, prisoner. Travis chloroformed him and tied him up, and forced Michelle to reveal that she had told him she was pregnant. Travis apologized, but said he would have to kill them both, and started to spread gasoline in order to burn them alive. The fear for his wife caused Jack to tap into the inhuman strength of his rugaru self, and he broke free and tore out Travis’s throat, feeding on him. He released Michelle and she fled from him, having seen what he had done to Travis.

Sam and Dean arrived to discover Travis dead and mostly eaten, and Jack surprised them and knocked them out, locking Sam in a closet. Sam awoke to hear Jack contemplating eating Dean, and picked the lock on the closet while he tried to negotiate with Jack, learning that Travis had intended to burn Michelle alive but not learning why. Sam tried to persuade Jack not to kill, telling him that only what he did mattered, not what he was, but Jack charged him and Sam caught him with his flamethrower, burning him to death.

Afterward, Dean tried to reassure Sam that he had done the right thing and apologized for having been hard on him, admitting that Sam’s psychic abilities scared the crap out of him. Sam brushed off his apology and told him it didn’t matter, because he had made his own choice and wasn’t going to use his abilities again since using them was playing with fire.

Commentary and Meta Analysis

Supernatural has never been subtle about drawing the parallels between the external monsters the boys fight and their own internal demons. This is definitely ground we’ve covered before, and Metamorphosis might be dismissed as being simply a very heavy anvil retread of concepts already explored, sometimes more delicately, in Nightmare, In My Time of Dying, Bloodlust, Simon Said, Hunted, Houses of the Holy, and Fresh Blood, among others. We’ve dealt before with Sam’s fears about being a freak and having an evil destiny laid out for him by the demon, and with the question about whether creatures – vampires being a specific case in point – could successfully choose to act against their base natures and elect not to be evil, as an allegory for whether Sam might have the same ability to choose to evade the demon’s destiny for him. We’ve already seen Dean dealing with his hunter prejudices against non-human things and eventually setting them aside when they ran into either his love for his brother or his realization that what he’d always felt and assumed wasn’t necessarily true. In that regard, Metamorphosis does indeed revisit earlier themes, and in a blatantly obvious way.

I would submit, however, that it also takes us into new territory and advances the story of the Winchester brothers in important ways, because it gives us our first glimpse into what happened to Sam after Dean died, and lays the groundwork for understanding how much Sam has changed in the intervening time. Metamorphosis is only a small step along that path, but I think it’s an essential one, and that’s the point I intend to explore in this analytical discussion.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, And Deliver Us From Evil

When his powers initially appeared in the very first season, Sam was terrified by them. The dreams and visions brought crippling pain and forced him to ask why he could see such things, and why all of them involved death and destruction. He initially hid them from Dean because he knew Dean would be freaked out by them, and because he was afraid that Dean wouldn’t see him and love him the same way if he knew that Sam had abnormal abilities. When he did finally reveal them, Dean was freaked out, no matter how much he tried to deny it, but he didn’t love his brother any less, and was afraid for him, not of him.

When Sam learned at the end of the first season that the demon had plans for him and all the other psychic kids, he began to fear what those plans meant and to believe that they doomed him to some evil destiny he might not be able to avoid. That really was the theme of his quest during the entire second season, and played into what Dean told him about John’s admonition that Dean had to save Sam, and would have to kill him if he couldn’t save him. Both of the brothers wrestled with that destiny concept throughout season two, with Dean nearly losing his sanity before concluding that he would save Sam no matter what, and with Sam going through a phase in which he tried to do as much good as possible in order to stave off his fall. Ultimately, Sam learned at least the first part of the demon’s plans for him, and rejected it at the cost of his life; he chose not to kill Jake when he had the clear opportunity, and Jake instead killed him. Utterly defeated and bereft, Dean sold his soul to bring his brother back, and just reset the stage again.

In season three, Sam seemed to be free of his powers and to have stepped aside successfully from his purported evil destiny; the demons may have referred to him as the boy who would have been king, but he was secure in knowing that he’d dodged the bullet. With Dean facing a death sentence at the end of a year, however, Sam grew increasingly desperate to find a way to save him, and when Ruby ultimately dangled the reawakening of his powers as the only way to succeed, Sam was ready to accept them and damn the consequences. Only Dean’s adamant refusal to let him do it saved him from taking that step.

We learned in Lazarus Rising that Sam’s desperation to get Dean out of Hell left him open to considering anything that would work; he admitted flat-out to Dean and Bobby that he’d even tried to open the devil’s gate and to make a deal, but failed at the first and couldn’t find any takers for the second. His failure to free Dean clearly tormented him. We also saw what he hid from Dean: that he was consorting with Ruby and had learned how to exorcise demons with his mind, but that was all we knew.

Metamorphosis finally let both us and Dean see a little bit into Sam’s mind. In his fights with Dean in the motel and on the roadside, he finally revealed that he had been every bit as bereft as Dean had been when he had died, but that because he hadn’t been able to get his brother back as Dean had done, he’d been forced to go on alone and make decisions alone. Dean had charged him to keep fighting, and that’s what Sam had done. We still don’t know – and I very much look forward to learning – exactly how Ruby returned and became his companion, but we can guess that she persuaded him that he could tap into his powers without being ruled by them in order to save lives, and that without Dean refusing to let him consider it, he’d elected to try.

Dean clearly still has no conscious memories of his time in Hell. I believed him when he told Bobby in Lazarus Rising that he remembered being a hellhound’s chew toy, and then lights out, with nothing more until he woke up in his grave. I think that when he actually does remember more than just those flashing dream glimpses of terror and blood, he’s going to be overwhelmed by it with no way to hide what he feels, and it will probably come close to destroying him. For the moment, however, it’s as if no time has passed for Dean since his death; he died, he woke up, with nothing in between. Listening to Sam, I saw Dean comprehending for the first time just how much time had passed for Sam, and how hard it had been for Sam to be alone, especially carrying the guilt of his death and damnation. He had realized it earlier with Bobby and the liquor bottles, but I don’t think he’d really applied that knowledge to Sam until now.

I also saw Sam having rounded a corner in his own mind, because what he admitted was that he had dared to use his powers, and nothing bad happened. Working with Ruby, he developed his control and learned to exert himself without the pain he always used to experience. Ruby found the way to convince him that his powers could be used for good, and that led to him actively pursuing and practicing with them. This was a far cry from his initial fear of them, and from his active distaste at thinking about what the demon had intended for him. He had learned from sweet, innocent Andy’s example in both Simon Said and All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1 that developing the powers in small ways didn’t necessarily corrupt the spirit, at least not immediately, but he’d never really accepted that idea before; after Dean died, he bought what Ruby was selling, turning off the little voice that warned about what had happened when Andy’s brother Anson and Ava and Jake had all developed their skills to the point where they no longer suffered pain when using them. All that remained of his earlier caution and fear was the remnant of shame at considering himself a freak contaminated by demon blood, and his innate understanding that Dean would never agree that using his powers was right.

While the boys’ argument in the car about whether Jack could resist temptation echoed many other older debates, with Sam, as he had in seasons one and two, arguing in favor of treating Jack as an individual and giving him the benefit of the doubt and Dean reprising his attitude from seasons past of doubting that evil wouldn’t turn evil, I don’t consider it either just a rehash of issues or a retreat from the characters’ evolved perceptions. Sam had become more bloody-minded in season three, but saving people was still his rationale for hunting, so his defense of Jack rang true. Similarly, Dean didn’t insist that Jack’s redemption was impossible, as he likely would have done before his gradual conversion from single-mindedness during season two, but just made the argument that he needed to know where Sam would be if Jack did turn. The major change was that the fights in this episode constituted the first and only time I can recall, apart from their argument in Houses of the Holy, when Dean actually mentioned to Sam the possibility that Sam might be doing evil and need to be stopped. Every other time they argued about his putative destiny, Dean had always maintained that Sam had choice, that Sam wasn’t fated to become what he feared to be; this was the first time I can recall Dean asking Sam to think about whether he might be wrong and fail.

Sam’s announcement at the end of Metamorphosis that he wouldn’t use his powers again was thus something more and different than just his earlier fear and rejection of them. It wasn’t simply rewinding the story to an earlier point and repeating earlier decisions. Before making this decision this time, he had graduated to the point of using his powers expertly without fearing them, and even justified them because of the good they could do. He was well on his way to accepting them and losing both his fear of them and whatever residual distrust he felt for Ruby, and actively defended that position to Dean. It took hearing that an angel had told Dean to stop him, together with seeing yet another good person pushed over the edge by the pressure of evil, to make Sam decide that he had to set temptation aside. I do believe that Sam was in earnest in what he said, and was not trying simply to mislead Dean into thinking that he had changed.

His decision is also different than his earlier ones for another reason. Previously, even when he desperately decided to access and use his powers consciously despite his fear of them, he had never been able to because he didn’t know how; hence his total inability to oppose the Yellow-Eyed Demon when Azazel had taunted him and tortured Dean in front of him in Devil’s Trap, or to do anything actively to prevent Dean’s death in No Rest For The Wicked. I do believe that Sam told the truth when he told Dean than the only things he had learned to do involved holding and exorcising demons; otherwise, I think he’d have deliberately used the telekinesis he’d tapped unconsciously in Nightmare to open the closet door and stop Jack from killing Dean. I think that Ruby was constrained in training him to delivering only the forms of knowledge he was willing to accept, and that he hadn’t yet gotten to the point of being willing to do overtly non-human things with regard to anything but demons. I would guess that telekinesis had too often been a demon’s weapon against him for him to have felt comfortable in using it, especially knowing how using it had played out for Max in Nightmare.

Now that he knows how to access and use at least some of his abilities consciously, however, and that he can do so without automatically becoming overtly evil, I think he will have a much harder time resisting the temptation to use them in desperate situations. I suspect that his resolve will be tested when he and Dean come up against a demon who gets the upper hand, especially if Dean is in danger. I believe that what happened to Jack is a clear and very anvil-obvious foreshadowing of the principal danger to Sam: that if he’s pushed hard enough, particularly by a threat to the one person he loves the most, he may accept his power in order to defend what he most values, and that he might do it even knowing that his humanity would be the price. Had Travis not threatened to kill Michelle, and to do it horrifically by burning her to death, Jack might have remained human; we’d seen that he had the will to resist his urges, once he understood what they were. Saving Michelle, however, was his irresistible temptation, and delivered him to evil even as he tried to prevent evil to her. Dean accepted death and Hell to save Sam, and we know that Sam is more than willing to do the same to save him. And if using his powers hadn’t warped him yet, suggesting that, unlike Jack, he could take a bite without automatically condemning himself, holding to his resolve not to use them may be all the harder.

Loose Ends

On another note, Dean’s acceptance of Castiel as an angel and of the concomitant existence of God appears to be certain following his journey into the past. Dean referring to God and an angel so matter-of-factly – not to mention his having given his angel a nickname! – marks a major turning point for Dean. He may not yet have faith – he may still require overt demonstrations of power and specifically designated orders from a being that he can see – but he’s come a long way from the man and boy who’d bitterly dismissed in the aftermath of his family’s destruction his mother’s gentle promise that angels were watching over him. That Sam still believes was reflected in the look of loss on his face when Dean reported that Castiel had said that if Dean didn’t stop Sam, Castiel would; Sam still desperately wants to do good and had justified the use of his powers because he was saving lives and doing good, and hearing that an angel abjured him for it was a body blow.

On the matter of secrets, it’s clear that there are still things that the brothers are keeping from each other. We know that Dean shared a lot of information concerning his trip to the past, but we also know that he had deliberately withheld the information that the demon had fed Sam demon blood. I would bet that Dean was trying to protect Sam from that specific piece of knowledge, understanding at least a little how he would feel about it and not wanting to admit himself how much it revolted him. Learning that Sam already knew and had been deliberately hiding the knowledge from him for a whole year just damaged the trust between them further. We don’t know whether Dean told Sam all of the rest, particularly that Mary made a deal and that she had made it to bring John back to life; we only know for certain from what was said in the car that he told Sam that the Campbells had been hunters, and that the demon had killed them as part of its plan.

Sam still hasn’t told Dean how Ruby came to be working with him, or any of the specifics on what they’d been doing together. I suspect that at least some of Dean’s rage and disgust at discovering Ruby was recognizing her as the girl who’d been in Sam’s hotel room in Lazarus Rising, with the intimation there, deliberately cultivated by both of them, that they had been sleeping together. I suspect that wasn’t actually the case – I do think that Sam would draw the line at sex with a possessed host, or at least, I devoutly hope he would – but the idea was inescapable. And given that Sam lied so fluently and easily about not using his powers, it will take time for Dean to be able to trust his word again, even when he is telling the truth. Facing that constant skepticism will doubtless breed resentment in Sam, opening another dangerous potential for a rift between the brothers.

Finally, the situation with Travis opened up some interesting issues. The story established that Travis hadn’t seen the Winchester brothers for at least ten years, since they’d been boys hunting with their dad. How Travis got Sam’s phone number, and why he would have sought out Sam rather than some other hunter to help in his rugaru hunt while he dealt with his broken arm, are niggling questions, although I could guess that Travis might have called Bobby for help and been referred to Sam and Dean, since they were relatively close and he already knew them. More interesting, however, was Travis’s clear ignorance of Dean’s death and resurrection, which suggests that the hunter world at large is not generally aware that Dean had died, much less gone to Hell and been subsequently resurrected. I had wondered about that. Bobby had clearly told Pamela, the psychic, since he needed her help to find out who or what had brought Dean back, but the question remains whether either Bobby or Sam had told any other hunters what had happened to Dean. That Travis had once been a friend but didn’t know suggests that neither Bobby nor Sam had spread the word, even to others who had known and might have mourned Dean. I was wondering whether Dean might become the subject of hunts given the unnatural nature of his return, but it would seem that, unless demons have been talking to hunters out of turn the way one did to Gordon about Sam, Dean won’t become a target for other hunters simply because they don’t know he was dead. I do wonder whether any others who had really been close to the boys – and I’m specifically thinking about Ellen and Jo here – or who had a peculiar penchant for knowing things, like Rufus Tanner, might have been told or found out that Dean was dead, and whether we’ll ever learn their reaction. This hadn’t been as much of an issue in my mind with respect to Sam’s death precisely because so little time had passed before Dean had gotten him back, but given that Dean had been dead and buried for months, I had expected that other hunters would have known about him. Surprise.

Production Notes

For one brief, shining moment, I thought that the Powers-That-Be had finally restored the spotlights to the Impala; then I realized that editor Anthony Pinker had just used an old piece of footage from one of the first two seasons to briefly extend the driving scene before the argument at the side of the road. Sigh. I really want her spotlights back!

Eric Kripke had to be delighted at what he got past the network Standards and Practices people on this one: the level of gross was phenomenal, and the scene of Jack ripping a chunk out of Travis’s neck and chewing was amazingly graphic for television. Pardon me as I go, Ewwww!

Cathryn Humphris’s script for Metamorphosis was heavy-handed on the obvious parallels between Sam and Jack, but what worked in the script was having the boys specifically referencing those parallels and using them as the springboard for the discussion that had to happen between them. I’m personally glad that this happened so early in the season, because getting the rift out in the open means we’ll get the chance to see how they deal with their trust and truth issues, rather than having to wait to see how they would eventually explode. I’m also very curious to see what happens next between Sam and Ruby, given Sam’s announced decision, and whether Sam’s intent may affect whether Castiel might appear to him as well as to Dean the next time he shows up. The only specific detail that I really didn’t like in the script was Dean’s line in the motel fight about using the knife; it set up an artificial difference to let Sam claim superiority in using his powers over the brothers’ traditional methods. Since the boys always preferred to use a straight exorcism – which also left the host alive, providing the demon hadn’t hurt the human too badly – and used the knife only in combat when speed was more vital, it didn’t make sense to me that Dean would have talked about using the knife rather than using an exorcism.

Precisely because it was such an obvious allegory, the Jack and Michelle story was less than entirely satisfying. On the one hand, we needed to spend the time with them to establish Jack’s essential humanity, the reality of his loving relationship with his wife, and the hideous strength of the transformation that was occurring within Jack, so that we would care about them as people and appreciate the tragedy and the irony of Jack being pushed over the edge by Travis. I appreciated the performances by Dameon Clarke as Jack and Joanne Kelly as Michelle; I thought they sold the characters, and I liked Jack and Michelle both as individual people and as a married couple with both stresses and love. On the other hand, precisely because this is a horror show, I predicted from the outset that Jack was doomed, and thus wanted to spend more time with Sam and Dean than to try investing in Jack and Michelle. Accordingly, I think that the story structure damaged the effectiveness of the guest characters. I know that I’ll probably fast-forward through most of their scenes when I watch the episode in the future.

I loved all of the scenes between Sam and Dean, especially Dean walking in on Sam and Ruby, their two fights in the motel and on the roadside, and the moments in the car when Dean shared his memories of their young parents. It was a real shock to see Dean, after a night evidently spent thinking and probably drinking, packing to leave Sam; that more than anything else showed how deep the loss of trust had cut. We’d seen Dean drive off in Scarecrow when Sam insisted on going his own way against Dean’s orders from John, but we’d never seen Dean of his own will choose to leave Sam. Sam was always the one who left: for Stanford, in Scarecrow, in Hunted. Dean was always the one who stayed. Seeing him deliberately hit Sam – twice! – to drive his anger home was something I hadn’t thought I’d see again, not after the way Dean had beaten himself up for hitting Sam back in Bloodlust, but nothing else would have fit in that moment, and his later assault on the motel room when he felt he had to hit something but wouldn’t hit his brother again really brought it home.

Kim Manners excels at pulling emotion out of both Jensen and Jared without either of them going over the top. Their anger in both fights was palpable, and felt both real and consistent to me. Jensen sold both Dean’s fury and his very gradual softening as he watched Sam fighting tears both in the motel room and in the roadside dispute and began to empathize with Sam’s pain, and Jared conveyed Sam’s desperation, loss and dedication to doing good, together with his bewilderment and uncertainty at being challenged by an angel, with quiet conviction. Dean’s attempt to apologize and Sam’s somewhat self-absorbed dismissal left wounds still unhealed in both of them. I’m sure some fans were disappointed, wanting a more blatant and complete reconciliation, but I thought Jensen’s and Jared’s restraint in their conclusion made the emotions all the more powerful for being subtle, especially since the rest of the episode was anything but subtle. The brothers can hurt each other more than anyone else can hurt either of them, and there aren’t easy fixes for human emotions no matter how great the love between them; this uneasy and incomplete resolution felt like a realistic step along the path to me, especially since Sam, who had managed to convince himself of the rightness of what he was doing through months of positive action, had his entire rationalization so thoroughly upended. It leaves a lot of issues still open, but gives the brothers the chance to create a little breathing room for each other and let the deepest cuts scab over before they start picking at them again.

In terms of the shooting style, I liked Kim’s use of mirrors and reflections in his choice of shots: Jack brushing his teeth in the bathroom and then collapsing in pain as the first hint of transformation rippled through his body, and later first seeing himself in the bar mirror and then having his eyes reflected in the window glass as he resisted temptation were very effective at both conveying his introspection and showing him becoming the reverse of what he was. Best of all, however, was the shot of Sam looking out the Impala’s window and announcing his decision. Especially on the heels of Dean’s quiet promise that he didn’t have to deal with the demon blood thing alone, focusing the shot purely on Sam and his reflection gave the lie to Dean’s line; the power is within Sam, and ultimately he alone will determine whether he uses it or not.

Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: "For My Brother" by Blue October
historylover29historylover29 on October 14th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
As always, I so love your commentaries.

Sam might believe that he can just stop using his powers, but I don't think he'll be able to do so. It's going to be almost an addiction to him. Ruby is an addiction to him.

What do you want to bet that she's pulling his strings? It almost seems like she's the one picking out these demons for Sam to exorcise. Her competition, perhaps?

There are a lot of debate whether or not Dean should have hit Sam. I personally cheered when that happened. It might not be right, but it's real. These aren't guys who will talk it out over coffee. This is a serious trust breachment, one that will have to be mended.

The guest recapper on TWoP noticed that since Dean got out of Hell, Sam has been wanting to get the hell away from Dean. And I don't think that's going to stop anytime sooner.

Just my own observations.

Plus, this was probably the grossest Supernatural episode EVER! I was already grossed out by the raw hamburger (and I'm not a vegetarian by any means!) that Travis' death didn't really bother me. It was still "Ew!" worthy, though.

I also knew Travis was a goner the moment I saw him.

Thanks for the superb recap and commentary as always!


bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC)
Thanks, Kat!

I think addiction might be a good way to describe Sam's relationship with his powers now ... to borrow Dean's whiskey and alcoholic's analogy for Jake, Sam's going to be swimming in the temptation to use his powers, because he knows they work. And if he's ever disarmed and Dean's on the brink, Sam's going to go over.

That's a neat idea, that Ruby was picking out the demons for Sam to hone his powers on. Makes me wonder ... was she regulating the power levels he was taking on, too?

I agree that Dean hitting Sam was a real response. Right or wrong was immaterial; all that mattered was what they were feeling.

Man, I LOVE this show!!!
(Deleted comment)
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)

My point on Ellen and Jo was just that the boys had gotten pretty close to them after John had died, when the boys met them for the first time in their memory. Sam and Dean had more contact with Ellen and Jo throughout the second season than they had with anyone else except Bobby, and while things were left awkwardly with Jo after Sam's possession by Meg, they connected again solidly with Ellen at the very end of season two. I suspect that they didn't share even with Ellen that Dean had sold his soul to bring Sam back to life, but then again, having heard Jake in the cemetery claim to have killed Sam, she might have winkled it out.

Man, I can't wait to see how this story is going to progress!! I love this show ...
galathea_snbgalathea_snb on October 14th, 2008 08:51 am (UTC)
Excellent review, Mary! :)

I too thought that while the episode touched on many issues that were addressed in earlier episodes already, it took the confrontation between Sam and Dean a level further and hence was absolutely worth the watch. While the rugaru plot was too anvilicious and becomes boring after the first watch, the plot between the brothers excels every heavy handedness in the MotW plot for me.

We’d never seen Dean of his own will choose to leave Sam

Not quite. Dean leaves Sam behind in 'Time Is On My Side'. Granted this time was under even more shocking circumstances, still, leaving Sam behind, realising that he can't force his brother to follow him, was the first time he chose to walk out on him.

I was wondering about Travis ignorance towards Dean's resurrection as well. Especially since Dean mentioned in Long Distance Call that they exhausted every possible resource in order to break Dean's deal and I would expect that word got out about that in the hunter's community. I wonder if we will see a confrontation between the Winchesters and the hunters in the future concerning that topic.

Uhm, btw the name of the MotW victim is Jack Montgomery and not Jake. :)
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
Arrgh! Wouldn't you know, after getting Jack right, all it took was talking about Jake - as in, the Jake who murdered Sam - to make me thereafter refer to Jack as 'Jake.' Thanks for the correction; I've made the edits!

And you're right about Time Is On My Side, too; yep, one other time Dean left Sam. And I even commented at the time on Dean realizing and acknowledging then that Sam was his own man, and no longer someone he could order and expect to obey. Duh. I'm losing my touch! *grin*

So, thanks for two very correct corrections, and a lot of other nice comments to boot!
(no subject) - andromakhe001 on October 16th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
Danipinkphoenix1985 on October 14th, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
brilliant! I agree with you on everything!
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks! You can agree more since I corrected my Jack/Jake boo-boo ... *abashed grin*
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on October 15th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
and all I hear is silence and all I feel is tiredathenaswirls on October 14th, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
I really liked your review! I didn't mind the heavy handed comparisons between Sam and Jack. It seems like Sam needed that perspective, that sense of what road he could go down. It really does seem like Ruby is a huge influence on Sam & he is trying to justify it. He strikes out in anger when it's mentioned. Meg's ghost and the demon in this episode. He reacted in such a violent way. Yikes. Hope he isn't sleeping with Ruby. That is a huge moral plummet in just a few months time.
I thought Dean was so great this episode. After his initial anger and hurt, and Sam's betrayal of Dean's last wishes had to hurt, he reacted by trying to reach out. He is first and foremost a parent and brother to Sam. It hurts him to see Sam so lost and hurting. I wonder, thou, will he let Sam drive the impala anymore? Or at least have reservations? The trust just isn't there. This season rocks! Is it Thursday yet?
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I agree that Sam really needed the blatant pointer; it worked for me that the obvious connection was there and that Dean rubbed his nose in it, and also that Sam appeared not to notice it until Dean pushed it on him. Denial is a pervasive thing, and when we really don't want to see something, we get very good at overlooking it.

I'm betting that Dean will let Sammy drive - that may be the one way in which he can start showing trust with risking too much, even though in other ways he's going to be fact-checking and suspicious!

This season really does rock! I'm looking forward to the fun that promises to come on Thursday - given how totally depressed and defeated Sam was at the end of this episode, I suspect that Dean will be doing his level best to find ways to cheer him up. You're right: Dean always bleeds when Sam hurts, and he's going to be looking for band-aids ...
raputathebuta: Dean & Sammy tatsraputathebuta on October 14th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
Dude, that's the second time Sam has prevented Dean from taking out Ruby.

Did anyone else wonder about the possible consequences of Sam's exorcisms? He told New!Ruby that he wasn't getting headaches anymore, but later in the hotel when the boys are arguing (when Travis called), Sam seems to be having a headache similar to the ones that used to accompany his visions. I suppose it could be from getting punched in the face (twice!), but still...

I really wish we would have gotten more of the conversation about Dean's trip to the past. I would've LOVED to have seen Dean's approach to even beginning that one!

Boy, oh boy am I happy that Sam let slip about the YED's blood feeding! It's about time that little bit of info came to light!

Great review as always, Mary!

bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:11 am (UTC)
Hey, Rap!

I didn't see Sam's reaction to Travis's phone call as an indication of a potentially post-powers headache; I saw him under tremendous stress, emotionally raw, just really not wanting to take a call at that particular moment, but feeling that he had to - and yet thinking both that he might be losing the opportunity to resolve things with Dean, and that he might be escaping having to resolve things with Dean. Whew, I think I gave myself a headache!
(Anonymous) on October 14th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)

Thank you!

I've seen so much reviews that were dismissing the episode as "been there, done that." You review helps me to articulate why I do not think it is the case.

This episode made me realize that even though I've enjoyed the first three episodes, I've missed the focus being on the brothers. Even if there were fighting in this one, I still felt that they were finally seing each other, and that was a good feeling.

I have no problem with the fact that there is no full reconciliation there. In fact, I would say that a full reconciliation would have seemed rushed. But of course, I will be happy to see the reconciliation happening!

See you!

bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
Thank you, and you're welcome!

I loved this episode for giving us our first real glimpse inside Sam, and I look forward to seeing more of him - and to watching Dean see more of him.

I love our show!
whimsywinx: SN-SamTiarawhimsywinx on October 14th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
OK, granted, Dean had just come back from a hard couple of days, but I really didn't like him hitting Sam like that.

Even though the MoW was rather boring, I loved that we got so many brother moments. Not just all the stuff in the Impala, but the digs Dean just couldn't stop himself from making as well. Poor guys! After a year of worrying about his destiny, then thinking he was safe, Sam is going to be terrified again. As is Dean, who's spent the last 2 years worrying about Sam, his destiny and his humanity. They must be exhausted. No wonder Dean's sleeping so much this season.
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
Hi, Whimsy!

Dean zonking out fully clothed has been a pattern, hasn't it? Makes you wonder about narcolepsy following an escape from Hell ...

I really loved all the brother interaction! And while I don't approve of belting siblings, I can appreciate what drove Dean to that point. I'm glad that he stopped using Sam as a punching bag, though, and took out his last physical frustration on inanimate things instead!
sothereyougo: You so messed with my laptopsothereyougo on October 14th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
I always read your episode reviews on Supernatural.TV and now, having started on LJ, have taken to reading the comments here that follow the reviews. First of all let me join the chorus of praise for what a great job you do in summarizing the episode and then in thoughtfully and evenhandedly analyzing it.

I agree with your overall point of view and just wanted to add a few thoughts and questions.

Totally OT, I found it amusing that the MOTW was named "Jack Montgomery," since that is the name of a long-running character on All My Children/ where the character also has a brother that happens to be named "Travis". As you recall, AMC was the show Sam and Madison watched together in Season Two during 2.17 Heart. It would be even better if both episodes had the same writer, but Heart was written by Raelle Tucker. I still think that the names here could very well be another shout-out to AMC. If not, still a fun coincidence.

Back to your review: about Dean hitting Sam twice in the hotel room, I think it is possible that Dean was partly trying to get Sam to hit him back so that they could have the catharsis of a brotherly knock-down drag-out. I have nothing to base this on except intuition and that Dean is a very physical person. When he trashes the room instead of hitting Sam a third time, I think it shows that he still feels the need to physically express his anger and frustration. What do you think? I don't mean that Dean wanted to fight instead of talking to Sam about everything, just that he was so angry that he wanted to let it out physically.

Show is really building up the tension and anticipation about revealing how exactly Ruby reconnected with Sam and convinced him to try using his powers. I think there is a strong alternative possibility that Sam, in desperation, summoned Ruby to see if he could somehow use his powers to get Dean out of hell.

As to whether or not Sam and Ruby have slept together, I'm with you. I think that either they haven't or that Show has a trick up its sleeve that would try to justify it morally. Even so, they will really have to come up with something good other than that Ruby has told or, hopefully, proved to Sam that the host of the meat suit is dead because that is still nasty, nasty necrophilia. Further, we have seen with Meg that, even though her body had sustained mortal injuries that caused her to die almost immediately after the demon was exorcised, she was still aware of what the demon made her do while it was in residence. That would mean that the host could still be conscious of Ruby having sex with Sam against the host's volition. Just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sorry for the lengthy comment here, but I have nobody IRL to talk to about my theories who wouldn't suggest therapy. As a former grad school literary geek, I would think that they would be used to me obsessing by now, but maybe they just can't understand that a stellar television show is worthy of the same attention as a written text. Thank you again for your great reviews. I so look forward to reading them each week. *cheers*
sothereyougosothereyougo on October 14th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the massive italicized post. I screwed up with the "end italics" code like a major doofus. *blushes in shame at failure to proficiently utilize the interwebs*
(no subject) - bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sothereyougo on October 20th, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
zofia27zofia27 on October 15th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
I know there's been mutterings about Dean hitting Sam but I don't see how else it could have gone down. For Dean to start packing was a very strong indication of the depth of feelings on the matter. I also agree that it looked like he was waiting for Sam to hit him back and when he didn't he took his frustration out on the hotel lamp. I also liked that the fight was interupted by Travis' phone call. This allowed for the emotions they were feeling to be portrayed through their expressions, especially their eyes. I don't know what kind of words would've been able to have the same impact.

I don't know where Kripke's taking this but I'm pretty sure that we have not seen the last of Sammy's powers. I agree that he'll be forced into a situation where either Dean will get hurt if he doesn't use them or he uses them to save himself...maybe even subconsciously like in Nightmare.

Great job Mary!
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:31 am (UTC)
One hundred percent agreement, Zofia!

I remain immensely grateful that we have these two young men playing Sam and Dean, because they are both so skilled that I never see Jensen and Jared when I'm watching the show the first time through: I see Dean and Sam. It's only on a rewatch, where I set myself to see technique, that I can perceive the actors as actors. And that makes me appreciate them, and all the people behind the scenes, all the more.
(no subject) - zofia27 on October 16th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on October 15th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
As usual, an enlightening commentary. Thank you. I was especially interested in your take on the final reflective window shot of Sam announcing how he would deal with his demon given powers. I hadn't considered it as giving the lie to Dean's line that Sam didn't have to deal with this issue alone. My understanding is that Dean has a very active role in Sam's use, or abuse, of his powers - Castiel, alone, has made it so. If Dean was forced to choose between his demon-tainted brother or the side of the Angels, Dean would still be there for Sam. I just saw that reflective shot of Sam as further evidence of his self-absorption, his belief that this was his problem alone, without considering the impact on his brother. So you've opened my eyes.

As a parting note, I was surprised, given the depth of suffering the possessed Meg Masters revealed to Dean in the previous episode, that Dean did not raise demonic possession of innocents with Sam regarding Ruby. For all the good Sam may think he's doing, he appears unfazed by Ruby's possession of an innocent for weeks, if not months. Perhaps,somewhere along the line dialogue on this matter was been edited out, or maybe I missed it. Just a thought.
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I don't know what Kim intended in that reflective shot; I just know what I drew from it. I am convinced that Dean has a critical role to play in how Sam deals with his powers, and will do everything he can to help and support Sam, but in the end, only Sam can choose what he does with his mind. We're all alone inside our heads, and we both relish and fear that.

I expect that Dean hasn't had his last word on Sam consorting with Ruby yet, and I would bet that Ruby possessing some innocent girl - even if it turns out that her current host might not have been so innocent, just in case she uses that as her excuse - will be something Dean throws in Sam's face, if Sam continues to cooperate with her. I'm confident that we haven't seen the last of Ruby; but I really want to see what happens next with Ruby, Sam, and Dean!!
(Anonymous) on October 15th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
Thank you for this well-thought out analysis. Like you I felt it heavy handed the parallels between the MOTW and the boys' issues but it worked not only because it was heavy handed but because this time the boys openly addressed the parallels, not once, twice, three times but four!!! (I'm pretty sure it was four, hmm, may have to watch again, ah, the sacrifices I make)

Thank you for pointing out that never before have we seen Dean LEAVING Sam and because of that pivotal moment we realize clearly how bereft Dean is. Yes, he was a chew toy, lights out and then wakie wakie in the pine box but this is a real insight not just to Sam at the extent of the betrayal but to Dean who realizes...hey, there's something going on here that I absolutley do not understand.

By the end of the eppie he's giving Sam a lot more credit for being his own person but he's also giving same the similar 'useless' but heartfelt line Sam gave Dean in Long Distance Caller. At that time Dean realizes and openly voices that the only one who can get him out of this deal to hell and the terror to come is himself. Sam's determined utterance of "and me" does nothing to help Dean 'cause only Dean is facing hell and Sam's lie was as evident there as Dean's is now -- well, the lie isn't so much from the boys as it is in the circumstances.

I'm hoping at some point this season we will get a clearer discussion between the two when Dean points out what I've been thinking all along and you have as well, thank you for including it in your analysis, that Dean is afraid FOR Sam, not OF Sam; it's a critical difference that hopefully will be stated.

So much was aired out and while it will be fascinating to watch these two move together and apart and together again repairing, tearing anew and learning more of just how much can change in four months this episode showcased what this show and these characters do so well...tear each other apart with guilt and betrayal and anger and fear and then in the next moment come together for a hunt and even protect each other from not only physical threats, but perceived emotional or intellectual threats (as when Dean covered a bit for Sam's preoccupation with researching the Rugaru and moving Travis off being upset or irked with Sam for not taking his word on the MOTW) Brothers and their bond even when sorely tested remain very strong.

Thank you for your fabulous insights.

bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
Re: methamorphosis
Thank you, Elle2!

galathea_snb quite correctly pointed out that Dean also left Sam in Time Is On My Side, so this wasn't quite the first time, but it's definitely true that he's done it only in extremity. Wow.

I agree definitely that the lie isn't in the boys, but in what surrounds them. They will ALWAYS try to carry each others' burdens, even when it's neither physically nor emotionally possible. It's one of the main reasons why we love them so much.

I love this show!
ErinRua: Hunterserinrua on October 15th, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
I love your brain. That is all. :-)

~ Erin
bardicvoice: Formybrother by <lj user=Cakehole_Cat>bardicvoice on October 16th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
Thank you! I love your friendship!
(no subject) - erinrua on October 16th, 2008 04:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on October 16th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
All this discussion about Dean hitting Sam! I saw it as a little old fashioned. A few decades ago it would have been ok for parents to knock some sense into their children if they veered too far off the right track. As long as this wasn't a frequent occurence such parents were not considered abusive. Children were expected to accept this and understand that beatings had been administered out of love and concern. I'm not saying this was right, just that the hotel room scene reminded me of stories I've heard about the 50's because Sam accepted both punches in a very understanding way. That was my initial take, but now I also like the idea of Dean wanting Sam to fight back so that they could vent physically.

I think it very likely that Sam summoned Ruby to see if she could help him get Dean back. But if you remember in the first episode of the season Sam says when he couldn't get Dean out, he started trying to hunt Lilith and get some payback. I would suggest that the knife wouldn't have been very effective and that Sam would have learnt that from the end of season three. That maybe why he'd been developing his powers in relation to demons specifically. So that he could take on Lilith and her cohorts.

I think it's great that your analysis provokes thoughts beyond "oh he's so hot" (although that's true too!) and I really enjoy reading the comments posted here.

Oh, and just a final thing. You're explanation for Sam and his mirror image is great! Originally I thought that the reflection was indicative of deception (as it often is in cinema). I don't think Sam was lying, but we as an audience know that we haven't seen the last of his powers at all. The reflection was putting the lie to his words so to speak.

yourlibrarianyourlibrarian on October 20th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)
That's a great point about whether or not the hunter network is aware Dean had died. As you mentioned, Rufus had already known about Dean's deal. Dean had managed to break someone else's deal before, so his death wasn't inevitable, but it certainly was likely. It'll be interesting to see how they react to talk of angels since some, like Gordon, are likely to be hostile to anything supernatural, whether evil or not.