Log in

No account? Create an account
09 February 2009 @ 01:49 pm
4.14 Sex And Violence: You Two Have A Lot You Want To Get Off Your Chests  
4.14 Sex And Violence: You Two Have A Lot You Want To Get Off Your Chests

Siren’s lies force truths.
Accusations and anger
Spur violence, kill love.

Episode Summary

Coming home late, ostensibly from work, a young man picked a meaningless fight with his wife and then bludgeoned her to death with a meat tenderizer.

Dean awoke in the brothers’ latest motel room to hear Sam, in the bathroom, talking quietly on his cell phone about no storms or bad crops, then finishing off by saying he’d keep looking and telling the person on the other end to do the same. Dean pretended to still be asleep, and when Sam woke him, telling him about a new case he’d found – three men, all reportedly happily married, who had murdered their wives in Bedford, Iowa in the last two months – Sam mentioned nothing about the overheard phone call.

Posing as lawyers, the brothers interviewed the latest murdering husband, who admitted his guilt but maintained he didn’t know why he had done it, because he loved his wife. When they confronted him with a copy of his credit card bill showing thousands of dollars spent at a strip joint, he admitted that he’d become obsessed with a stripper named Jasmine, his perfect woman, who had come on to him at a friend’s bachelor party and had convinced him that if he would just kill his wife, the two of them would be together. She hadn’t been waiting for him where she’d promised to be after the murder, however, and in his remorse, he maintained that if the judge didn’t give him the death penalty, he’d just do it himself.

While Dean went on to interview the other two killers, Sam, now posing as an FBI agent, interviewed Dr. Cara Roberts, the town’s medical examiner and also an attending physician at the local emergency room. He found her saucy, intelligent, and very interested in him, to the extent that she totally ignored Dean when he arrived. She reported that the autopsies on the wives were unremarkable, but that the tox screens on the husbands had turned up extraordinarily high levels of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone produced naturally during sex.

Dean had learned that both of the other men had also spent large sums of money at the same local strip club, but that each of them had affairs with different strippers, whom they described as being perfect and everything that they wanted, up until the point where they told the men to murder their wives. Sam speculated that it sounded as if the men were under some kind of love spell that made them psychotic. At the strip club, Dean got nothing from the owner, who had no records on any of the girls. Sam reported that in his conversation with Bobby, they’d come up with a theory that they were dealing with a siren, a creature from Greek legend preying on men by enticing them to disregard all rational thought. He said that sirens could read minds and cloak themselves in illusion to be whatever the victim most desired, making her hard for the boys to find, since she could look like anyone. Meanwhile, at the club, a dark-haired stripper called Belle went home with a young man named Lenny, who lived with and took care of his elderly mother. Making love on the sofa – where a mirror on the wall revealed her true, monstrous form – Belle persuaded him to bash his mother’s brains in, and Lenny agreed. As he finished, Belle left.

Alone in the hotel room, Dean was tempted by the sight of Sam’s cell phone, forgotten on the table in front of him, and succumbed to curiosity, pulling up the record of recent calls. Finding an unlabeled number along with calls to and from himself and Bobby, he pressed the redial – and hung up when he heard Ruby answer. He said nothing when Sam returned and reported that Lenny was definitely another siren victim, having killed the woman he was closest to. Bobby called to report lore from a Greek poem saying that the way to kill a siren was to use a bronze dagger covered in the blood of a sailor under the spell of her song, a clue they interpreted to mean that the siren produced some kind of toxin that infected the men, and that her weakness was the infected blood of one of her victims. Bobby guessed that since the men in prison weren’t under her spell any more, their blood wouldn’t work, but Sam thought of getting the blood samples from Dr. Roberts, since those might have been drawn while the toxin was still present.

At the county medical center, they encountered Nick Monroe, another FBI agent. Conning him, Sam gave him a business card to have Monroe call their supposed supervisor – and Bobby answered the phone, reinforcing the boys’ cover. Monroe said that he had come to check out the blood work on the murderers, and when Sam said they’d already confirmed that was a dead end, Monroe offered his clue that there was something going on: the knowledge that all of the men had frequented the same strip club. He suggested that they check it out together, and Sam pressured Dean into going with Monroe and keeping tabs on him so that Sam would have a clear shot at getting the blood samples. Dean reluctantly agreed and took Monroe out to the Impala, where Monroe displayed a knowledge of and appreciation for classic cars that won Dean over. At the strip club, they continued to bond over Led Zeppelin trivia. Getting back to talking about the case, Monroe pulled out an evidence bag with a hyacinth blossom in it, reporting that the cops had been bagging it at the latest scene when he arrived and that when he checked back, there had been a similar blossom left at every other one of the crime scenes, like the signature of a serial killer. Dean realized that he had seen a hyacinth plant in Dr. Robert’s office.

Meanwhile, Sam and Dr. Roberts discovered the blood samples gone, and when they reviewed the video surveillance tapes, they saw nothing to indicate who had taken them. From discussing the case of men who loved their wives but murdered them, Dr. Roberts asked rhetorically whether Sam had ever been in a relationship with someone he loved, but still wanted sometimes to bash their head in, and went on to pour him a drink and talk about her former husband, saying that one day she had looked up and was living with a stranger, that people change. Sam ignored a call from Dean, responding to Dr. Roberts’ aggressive flirting, and they had sex in her office.

When Sam returned to their hotel room to find it empty, he called Dean, reaching him in the Impala. When he reported that he’d been with Cara and that the blood samples had been stolen, Dean, angry about Sam not having answered his phone, told him about the hyacinth flowers and his discovery that Dr. Roberts had been in town only two months, coinciding with the murders, and that her ex-husband had died of a supposed heart attack. He asked Sam if he’d slept with her, and when Sam lied and said no, Dean saw through the lie. Asking insultingly why Sam was always sleeping with monsters, Dean concluded that Sam was under the siren’s spell, and refused to accept his hunch that Cara wasn’t the siren. Sam asked to meet him and work things out, but Dean refused, saying that he had to take care of it himself, and hung up. Dean called Bobby and left a message that he thought Sam was in trouble and infected by the siren, and then he called Monroe to ask for help in locating Cara. Monroe found her at a pub, and when Dean joined him in the stake-out car, sharing a drink from his hip flask while speculating on how Cara could possibly have drugged the men, Monroe offered that it might have been saliva – and Dean realized, too late, that Monroe was the siren. Monroe told him that he should be Dean’s little brother, and that Dean couldn’t trust Sam and should kill him to get him out of the way.

Sam returned to the hotel and found Monroe in the room, and then Dean grabbed him and held a knife to his throat, cutting him slightly when Monroe ordered him. Monroe said that he’d given Dean what he needed, and it hadn’t been a stripper: it was Sam, a little brother who looked up to him, that he could trust. Monroe said that the feeling of devotion when someone will do anything for you, when they kill for you, was the best feeling, and that he kept wanting to fall in love over and over to experience it again, because he got bored. He spat in Sam’s mouth to infect him, and told the brothers that they had a lot to get off their chests, and that whichever one survived would get to stay with him, forever. Dean said that the Sam he knew was gone, and that it wasn’t the demon blood or the psychic crap, but the little things – the lying and the secrets, like the phone calls with Ruby, and whatever else he was hiding. Sam countered that he wasn’t telling Dean about hunting Lilith with Ruby because Dean was too weak to go after her, that Dean was holding him back, and that he was at better hunter than Dean, stronger and smarter, able to take out demons that Dean was scared to go near. Sam accused him of being sorry for himself, whining about the souls he had tortured in Hell – and Dean attacked. They beat each other until Dean tackled Sam right through the hotel room door and picked up a fire axe to kill him, egged on by Monroe. Bobby arrived just in time to stop the downswing of the axe, and he stabbed Dean with a bronze knife and threw the bloody blade into the siren’s back, killing him.

In the aftermath, Bobby gave them soda rather than beer to drink and observed caustically that it had only taken one call to find out that “agent Nick Monroe” wasn’t real, but then he asked if they would be okay and told the boys that they shouldn’t feel bad about the siren having got to them. After he drove off, Dean asked Sam if he wanted to say goodbye to Cara, but Sam said he wasn’t interested. He asked Dean if he knew that Sam hadn’t meant the things he’d said, that it had just been the siren’s spell, and Dean agreed that the same was true of what he’d said. The brothers, both lying, agreed that they were good.

Commentary and Meta Analysis

An underlying theme of this entire season so far has been the distance between the boys created by Dean’s death and Sam’s survival without him, and this episode brought it to the fore. It also provided another commentary on the increasingly important role Bobby plays with the boys, and set up a pointed comparison between Bobby and Dean.

We Used To Be In This Together; We Used To Have Each Others’ Backs

Even before the advent of the siren, we saw clear evidence in this episode of the growing rift between the brothers. From the beginning of the season, Sam had lied to Dean about using his powers. When Dean found out in Metamorphosis – not by hearing from Sam, but by seeing him together with Ruby and using his mind to exorcise a demon – he lashed out both verbally and physically, ending with his ultimatum from Castiel that if he didn’t stop Sam, the angels would. Sam announced his intention then to stop using his powers, but his resolve lasted only until his confrontation with Samhain in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester, when he turned to his mind to survive the fight and destroy the demon. He didn’t hesitate after that in I Know What You Did Last Summer when Ruby insisted that he had to pull Alastair as soon as he appeared; that he failed in mentally exorcising that particular demon didn’t detract from his virtually immediate acceptance of Ruby’s direction to try in the first place. And while Sam had put his collaboration with Ruby on hold after Dean’s revelations about what he had done in Hell and how badly the memory of it was affecting him, he resumed it during Criss Angel Is A Douchebag, after seeing and rejecting a graphic image of the bleakness of the Winchesters’ future. And when he resumed it, he did it without Dean’s knowledge, deliberately hiding it from his brother.

Sam’s lies and secrecy formed only part of the rift, however. Another part, just as big if not as obvious, was simply that Sam had learned to live without his brother, precisely because he had to. With Dean dead, Sam had become his own man, making his own independent decisions. Some of them reflected the changes he had deliberately begun to make in himself during the previous year leading up to Dean’s death, as when he admitted in Malleus Maleficarum to trying to become more like his perception of Dean – someone harder – in order to be able to survive and fight alone. More of them embodied what had happened to him when he failed to save Dean, watched him die, buried him, and then failed to get him free, all the loss and despair and finally grim resolve we saw in flashbacks in I Know What You Did Last Summer that drove him to accept Ruby and use his powers. We saw a little of that new independence and hardening in Lazarus Rising, with Sam taking the Impala without a second thought while Dean slept, and in Sam’s pragmatic brutality in Yellow Fever, when he road-hauled a ghost without displaying the slightest vestige of compassion we’d always seen in him before. Sam got ruthless and hard in order to survive, and most of that happened after Dean died; when Dean came back, Sam was very literally a changed man, and one very different from the brother Dean had left behind.

As much as Sam has changed, so has Dean. Dean had always been Sam’s cocky, strong, and confident older brother. Even as he approached death and learned to admit to his fear, he still faced his fate with courage and the grim resolve that Sam would be all right. The Dean who returned from Hell came back different in many ways, scarred by fear and guilt he couldn’t admit until they were wrung from him bit by bit in Yellow Fever, Wishful Thinking, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Heaven and Hell, and Family Remains. Post-Hell Dean became an alcoholic, needing booze to get through the day and to overcome the terrors of the night. Rescued by angels, he’s begun reluctantly to find his faith despite the resistance of his lifetime of angry and resentful disbelief. Sam found himself in the unaccustomed position of having to reassure and shore up his brother, while at the same time being unable to do anything decisive to help him.

Neither brother was prepared to deal with the changes in the brother he remembered. It’s clear that, while he spent forty years in torment, Dean clung to his memory image of Sam as his beloved kid brother, and didn’t expect to face an independent and often harsh reality different from his cherished memory. Similarly, Sam didn’t know how to deal with Dean’s fears, uncertainty, and drinking. Confronted by unexpected differences, Dean tried to force things back into the pattern he remembered while Sam – who’d always been the one Dean had taken care of – tried without success to reverse their customary roles in order to find ways to help his brother. That attempted role reversal was on subtle display early in this episode when Sam called Dean “kiddo,” a diminutive we’ve never heard him use before.

All of the emotions the brothers have been dealing with have further clouded the issue. Sam had never asked Dean for the sacrifice he made, and never would have; he was as appalled to learn of Dean’s deal as Dean had been to learn of John’s. Sam wound up feeling guilty not just that Dean died for him, but for having failed to find a way to save him from dying or to get him out of Hell after his inevitable death. Learning just what unendurable torment Dean had been subjected to in Hell only made that guilt worse. That much guilt can’t help but lead to resentment. It’s only human; when guilt overloads us, we begin to resent what makes us feel guilty. In Sam’s case, all his guilt for Dean stemmed from Dean’s own decision to sell his soul to get his brother back from death, when Sam would never have wanted him to do that; Sam couldn’t help but come to resent that Dean made that choice and put all the guilt and consequence on Sam’s shoulders. When Dean came back emotionally crippled and finally confessed to all the guilt he carried from what he did in Hell, his unfathomable guilt just exacerbated Sam’s, and further deepened the pool of resentment. I’m not saying here that Sam doesn’t care about Dean and his feelings; quite the opposite. I’m saying that Sam cares too much, and that he shut down because he can’t deal with the overload from that excess of pain. If we’re in the least empathetic, nothing hurts us more than seeing someone we love suffering while we are utterly and completely unable to help them, and Sam has been helpless to assuage any of Dean’s pain and guilt from Hell. Ironically, Sam’s response to his helplessness has been to hurt Dean more.

Dean for his part hasn’t been able fully to accept Sam as his own man. He’s been learning; witness his listening to Sam in Metamorphosis and realizing how much time and pain had passed for Sam in the months that he was dead, and his easy acceptance and assumption of Sam’s competence as a hunter in Monster Movie. But in Dean’s mind, at least to some extent, Sam will always be his little brother, the one he raised and protected, the one he’s responsible for, the one he has to take care of. That got in the way of Dean telling Sam what had happened to him in Hell both because he didn’t want to hurt Sam by burdening him with guilt about his pain, and because he was ashamed and afraid that Sam wouldn’t look up to him and love him any more if he knew how Dean had broken in Hell and turned into a sadistic torturer of others. In another irrational move, I think that some of Dean’s anger at Sam’s choices doesn’t credit that Sam made them, but goes back to it being Dean’s self-perceived fault that the burden of choice came to Sam in the first place precisely because Dean had left him alone and vulnerable by dying and going to Hell. And that, I think, has complicated things for both of them, because Sam in his pride resents not being judged as a mature decisionmaker at the same time as Dean struggles between blaming himself and seeing Sam as a man capable of making his own decisions. If he accepts Sam’s right to choose, even to choose wrongly, he both judges his brother and hurts himself. It’s a facet of Dean’s damaged character that he desperately needs to be needed, and the perception that Sam doesn’t need him and can be just fine without him is corrosive to his self-image even though he logically and lovingly wants Sam to do well on his own.

You Know I Didn’t Mean The Things I Said Back There, Right?

When the siren called on them to get things off their chests, it’s no wonder that both Dean and Sam had a lot of negative things to say to each other. I would even hazard to say that all of them were true statements of part of the way they felt, but only part. Dean attacked what Sam had done – lying and keeping secrets – while Sam attacked what Dean appeared to be<i/> – weak, scared, and too caught up in feeling sorry for himself to be effective. Both of them absolutely meant what they said, even though they would never have said it the way they did without the spur of the siren’s spell. They spoke only the most negative and hurtful things, but there were hard truths at the core of the words.

Sam making decisions that he knows Dean wouldn’t endorse and then hiding those decisions from him undermined Dean’s ability to trust his brother. To Dean’s mind, it would be better for Sam to make his decisions out in the open and for the brothers to fight about them the way they always clashed in the past over what to do and how to do it. For Sam, however, I think that this decision is more personal and frightening precisely because Dean’s loathing for his use of his powers and for whatever else he may be up to with Ruby comes perilously close to Dean loathing him, and that would hurt Sam more than almost anything else. Knowing both that Dean would disapprove and that using his powers is the only chance he sees for success, Sam chose to try avoiding the otherwise inevitable fight and possible loss of love by hiding what he was doing.

It’s all the worse because no one has ever provided a complete and cogent reason for why Sam shouldn’t use his powers. The implication has been that because the powers are demonic in origin, using them is bad and Sam is on a slippery slope, but no one has told Sam flat-out that using the power definitely will corrupt him and turn him evil. He’s had ample demonstration that evil can result, from Max Miller in Nightmare to Anson Weems in Simon Said and Ava and Jake in All Hell Breaks Loose, but he also saw sweet Andy Gallagher from Simon Said and All Hell Breaks Loose, who used his power without ever losing his sunny, unspoiled innocence. Ruby demonstrated that he could use his powers to exorcise demons while saving the lives of their hosts, which had to be a powerful inducement to continue when Sam was so desperate to do good and to succeed while hunting alone, without his brother at his back. Human psychology dictates that we’re going to be more persuaded to change our action if we’re given a reason to do so, and that we’ll give more weight to the reason based on how valid it appears to be. Being told that God and angels don’t want him to use his power is pretty empty when they don’t also give him a reason why, especially since he has what appear to be very good reasons to continue. Vague fear isn’t enough of a reason to outweigh the satisfaction of winning. And while Sam has definitely changed from who he used to be, the cause of the change isn’t clear; we don’t know whether using the power has made him more arrogant and hard, or whether hardening his heart in order to survive is what let him use the power effectively.

Earlier in the season, Sam had criticized Dean for lying about not remembering Hell. It took time and pain, but Dean eventually came clean, confessing even the things that most shamed him and that he feared would make his brother look at him differently. In this argument, Sam no longer had that weapon – the flip side of Dean’s own attack on openness and trust – and had to turn to something different. Anger made him cruel. He used exactly what Dean had handed him, but not the way that Dean would have expected. Instead of reviling Dean for having tortured others and enjoyed it, Sam scorned him for being weak, for not manning up and putting the experience behind him. He pulled out the feeling of intellectual superiority that’s always been a part of Sam’s character and made his powers part of that overall package to validate them, touting that they made him a better hunter able to take out demons others can’t touch. He asserted his independence and perceived superiority, the things that would take him outside his big brother’s long shadow, and threw them in Dean’s face. That much was a classic younger brother’s response to always being dominated by his senior. A lot of it, Dean had heard before, and some he would even admit was true; he’s clearly always been proud of Sam’s intelligence and his research skills, even though he’d never concede his own dominance as a hunter. But the allegation that he was weak and holding Sam back from being able to hunt when all he really wants to do is protect Sam even from himself was enough to finally make him snap.

Both of the brothers said things that were real and that mattered to them, and both spoke from their own sense of righteousness: Dean from having been wronged by being lied to, and Sam from having been criticized and belittled for trying to use his full potential to the best of his ability. What the siren’s spell didn’t let them do, however, was to caveat and resolve those things, and they both shied away even from acknowledging them in the end: for both of them, the fear of loss and pain was too great to take on just then. I think they both feared that the things they said and the things they did might just be unforgivable, this time, and that they needed a little time and distance to find their way back home to each other. My fear is that, as happened after Asylum, when Sam said potentially unforgivable things to Dean and similarly tried to disavow them afterward, the next events might drive a wedge between them before they get the chance to sort themselves out. All it would take would be one more thing to tip the balance, like John’s phone call in Scarecrow, and we might see the brothers going their separate ways in anger before having the time to reflect on and restate what really matters. The brothers have always been able to hurt each other far more than anyone else can hurt them.

The positive thing is that they can also heal each other from the wounds that they inflict, even though they can’t always heal the wounds inflicted by the world outside. I think it’s also undeniable that the love between them is far deeper than all the resentments they voiced, especially since even those resentments have their roots in love. Given time, even though they’re far from good now, they can be good again, even as happened by the end of Scarecrow. Their home will always be in each other.

That It Got To You – That’s No Reason To Feel Bad

Bobby’s parting advice is something the brothers need to hear and pay attention to, not that they will for a while. Both of the Winchesters constantly beat themselves up for their perceived faults and failures. What Bobby pointed out is that no one is perfect, no one can win all the time, and when you run up against something that’s too big to handle or that has the advantage of size, terrain, or surprise, it’s no shame to stumble or fall or be hurt or need help. What matters is that you pick yourself up and go on afterward.

I got the feeling that his words went to a lot more than just the siren. The siren got to the boys and turned them on each other, but long before that, their lives had done the job. Both of them gave in to despair in the past when confronted with each other’s deaths, and both did things with hurtful consequences as a result. But they won’t start to heal from those things until they acknowledge them and take steps to move on.

There was a very interesting little wrinkle to that final scene that said something about Bobby having taken positive steps of his own to move on after a fall. I’d noticed a little earlier in the season that something about Bobby had very quietly changed, but in this episode, it became pointed. Back in Lazarus Rising, Dean had noted the collection of empty liquor bottles scattered on the desk in his study, and Bobby had just quietly acknowledged that the months after Dean’s death had been hard. Ever since then, however, unless I’ve missed something, Bobby has never taken a drink of alcohol. Even at the end of Yellow Fever, he declined a beer when Sam offered him one to share. We know that Bobby wasn’t a teetotaler; he quaffed whiskey from a flask in Devil’s Trap, the first episode when we met him, and we’ve seen him drinking beer more than once, notably in Born Under A Bad Sign. In this episode, however, the drinks he shared at the end were soda, much to Dean’s surprise.

I think that Bobby used booze to get through the pain of Dean’s death and Sam’s estrangement in much the same way that Dean has been using it this season as a crutch to help deal with his memories of Hell. I think despair got to Bobby, but now he’s got the boys back – and he’s left the alcohol behind.

Bobby’s not one to preach, but he’s got his own quiet way of making himself heard.

Production Notes

Writer Cathryn Humphris seems to be competing with Sera Gamble for the title of writer most likely to inflict angst on the Winchesters, and she served it up well here in what had to have been one of the most difficult scenes to write this season – the boys attacking each other verbally before escalating to the physical. This script and the way it was shot also did a very effective job of playing the shell game to hide the identity of the siren. Director Charles Beeson used some interesting techniques throughout, including blocking the shots in Dr. Roberts’ office always to include the hyacinth plant in the frame, and using very tight, fragmented shots on the first murderer’s face during his interrogation by the boys to emphasize his discomfort and disconnection from reality. And having Dean’s eyes, while canvassing the club in the company of Monroe, linger speculatively and with suspicion on a beautiful woman bearing a passing resemblance to Cassie from Route 666 – a type the siren might have chosen if it was targeting him – was a clever way to divert attention from how uncannily well Monroe was reading and responding to Dean.

I particularly liked the relationship between Beeson’s direction and the acting by both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki because of the way it captured and emphasized the subtleties of the boys’ performances. Small moments that particularly stay with me include Dean waking up in the first motel room and automatically turning to check on Sam the instant he was fully conscious; the way Dean eyed Sam’s cell phone, clearly battling his temptation to check up on his brother, and then the look on his face when he heard Ruby’s voice and realized that his suspicions were true and Sam had been lying to him; Sam’s subtle reaction to Dean pointing out that he’d forgotten his phone, with the expression crossing Sam’s face clearly wondering how much Dean trusted him and whether he’d checked out the phone before handing it back over; and the whole interplay between the brothers in both of the scenes they shared with Cara, especially their second meeting with Dean reacting to the obvious flirting between Sam and Cara much the way that Sam has always reacted to Dean coming on to a woman. Topping the list of silent reaction moments were the brothers’ expressions in the hotel hallway when the siren was killed and they realized just exactly what they had said and done to each other; there are simply no words to describe what we saw on both Sam’s and Dean’s faces, and all of that was sterling work by Jared, Jensen, and Beeson. Dialogue would have been superfluous.

I also loved the continuing use of mirrors to reveal truth and to yield unsettling images, and particularly how Beeson used them to maintain the uncertainty of the siren’s identity. Showing the reality of the siren’s appearance in mirrors was a continuation of a device the show has used often before – The Kids Are Alright comes immediately to mind – but the really satisfying image moment came when we saw Sam, angered by Dean’s unilateral assumption that he’d been infected by the siren, hurl his cell phone at the wall. While he’d been talking, we’d been seeing Sam’s face directly, but as the call ended and we saw his reaction, it played out in the mirror, and that subtle reversal of the image of Sam’s face contributed to the red herrings being sown about whether he might have been altered by the siren. That was a really nice touch. The reflected image of Sam’s face also made me wonder about where he went and what he did right after that call, given that he had changed clothes and left the hotel before coming back to encounter Monroe and Dean. Did he do something more to further his collaboration with Ruby?

One small thing that gently irritated me was the conversation between Bobby and the boys on how to kill a siren. The early lines questioning what the poem language meant just didn’t ring true, especially not as the conversation teased apart the metaphor and made the meaning absolutely plain. But griping about only two lines means I didn’t have much in the way of criticism to offer. I did enjoy the concept of how to kill the siren, although I would bet that the metal of the knife really wouldn’t matter; it just spoke to historical accuracy that the lore would refer to a bronze knife, since bronze would have been the chief metal in use in weaponry back when the legends were created. And I loved the clear implication of the scene that Bobby reads Greek! Major chuckles came from all the culture references scattered throughout the script; I think this one may take the record for name dropping, including naming all the strippers after Disney cartoon heroines!

The set design people win kudos on this one for the wallpaper in the hotel room and for the name, the Lion’s Pride Hotel. The wallpaper design of heraldic lions in opposition to each other and the use of “pride” in the hotel name were both brilliant echoes of the main themes of the episode. The design crew and the writers also win for the hilarious bank of phones on the wall at Bobby’s house, each carefully labeled Fed. Marshal, FBI, CDC, Police, and Health Dept., covering the boys’ most frequent cover stories. One wonders how many hunters use Bobby as their cover reinforcement! I loved that we saw that phone bank more than once, with the first time – the call between Bobby and Sam – just having the phones casually in the background to establish that they were there. We never saw them before that I remember – they definitely didn’t appear on that wall in Lazarus Rising – so maybe they were meant to suggest that a stronger link between Bobby and the boys has developed since Dean’s resurrection. And whoever put Bobby in a “kiss the cook” apron deserves a kiss of their own! The bridge location at the end of the episode (was that Queensborough Bridge?) was also sterling; that shot of the boys and the Impala against the Vancouver skyline was positively iconic.  (Speaking of which, thanks to agt_bush  for the icon!)

On the not-so-full-of-win technical side, however, were the two inset shots of Sam’s cell phone display, both of which indicated that the date was Friday, August 8. August 8 was a Friday in 2008 (it’s a Saturday in 2009), but I don’t think we’ve gone back in time! The earlier shot, when Dean looked at the phone and called the unlabeled number, showed the time as being 05:58; the later shot, when Sam called Dean from the hotel room in the night, showed 05:56. Um, oops? Or are the production crew just having fun with us to see how closely we pay attention to irrelevant details? *grin*

Having a hiatus between this episode and its resolution is going to be brutal, because we all know – no matter what they said – that the boys are most definitely not OK after the things they got off their chests.

Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: "It Only Hurts" by Default
and all I hear is silence and all I feel is tiredathenaswirls on February 9th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
Yay!! As always, so glad to read your reviews. I love how you see Sam as hurting so much as his reason for being so distant with Dean. It's been hard not to dislike Sam for a lot of his choices and lack of concern this season, but remembering he's the same little brother that left in Scarecrow only to come back...

Thanks so much for your perspective.
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really don't buy that Sam is a bad guy; neither of the brothers is, no matter how often we'd like to smack one or the other of them (or both!) upside the head for being emotional idiots from time to time ... like their decision to be guys at the end of this episode and just pretend they weren't hurt either by what was said or by realizing that they said it. Duh. It's the things you turn your back on that bite you in the ass ...

I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but I still do trust that they'll get better. Family love and ordinary human heroism seem to be Kripke's touchstones, so I do believe they will be integral to the way the story plays out.
Danipinkphoenix1985 on February 9th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
brilliant! yeah, I think that we're in for some painful times before the boys realize that they're better off together
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks! At least I do believe that they will admit the truth eventually. Guys. Sigh.
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on February 9th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ali888ali888 on February 9th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you mentioned the Cassie lookalike. I've not seen her mentioned in other reviews and I began to think I was the only person who'd noticed her.
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
Heh - for me it was wondering, just for a second, why did that girl catch Dean's eye? Was it her intensity, or just that her eyes crossed his, or ... geez, you idiot, look at that hair, it could almost be Cassie! Is Dean wondering if he's seeing a real girl, or if it's what he would see when he looks at the siren because Cassie is still the only one he ever used "love" with and meant it? And then I thought, Beeson, you sneaky, crafty man; did you and your casting director do that on purpose? *grin* Here's hoping he claims it was intentional, just in case anyone ever asks!
harriganharrigan on February 9th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
So many people posted meta after this episode, but I decided I wanted to percolate my own thoughts before reading any. I also decided to rewatch all the episodes from day-1 during this mini-hiatus, fast-forwarding to the meta-moments between the brothers, watching them evolve.

I just rewatched Asylum and Scarecrow and that made me feel ready to read someone else's thoughts, and I was gratified to see you bring those episodes up. This definitely isn't a new twist, for either of the brothers to resent the other, to say hurtful things while under a supernatural influence (rooted in truth but overemphasized), to refuse to talk it out afterward and claim that everything is okay - only to find out later that everything is really even worse.

I agree with you that when all is said and done, Kripke will reward us. As you said, "Family love and ordinary human heroism seem to be Kripke's touchstones, so I do believe they will be integral to the way the story plays out."

But it won't be as quick a turn-around as Asylum to Scarecrow. We are in for a bumpy ride, aren't we? *g* But it just makes sense - what is more important that destroying the yellow-eyed demon, more important even whether either brother lives or dies? Their love for each other - that's the big climactic issue that is going to carry us to the end of the series.

bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I've only now been playing catch-up, reading other people's take on this episode, and yipes - it's a scary world out there ...

I definitely agree that this time, it will take a lot more time than just an episode or two for the wounds the boys just clawed into each other to heal. Things are so much more complex now than they were in season one, and all of the stakes are so impossibly high. But I'm looking forward to the ride, no matter how painful or bumpy, because I love these brothers and I believe the resolution of their story is going to be worthwhile.
smilla: dean&Sam black&whitesmilla02 on February 9th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
Your meta for the episodes are as usual a great read. I don't comment often (and for this I apologize) but I'm always looking forward to see what caught your eye.

I can't but strongly agree with this:

The positive thing is that they can also heal each other from the wounds that they inflict, even though they can’t always heal the wounds inflicted by the world outside. I think it’s also undeniable that the love between them is far deeper than all the resentments they voiced, especially since even those resentments have their roots in love. Given time, even though they’re far from good now, they can be good again, even as happened by the end of Scarecrow. Their home will always be in each other.

Even though I believe that hard times, harder possibly than the rift in Scarecrow - considering the apocalypse and the angels and the demons - that it is coming to terms is still possible. It may look hard and maybe Dean and Sam have to confront old resentments and hurts to get there, but they can get back to that unit we've come to love.
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Whether you comment or just read, thank you; I'm very glad you enjoy this stuff!

I think we're in for a much deeper and longer rift than we experienced in season one, but I refuse to give up; I won't surrender my belief in the power of the heart-deep love between the brothers. Nothing is black and white in Kripke's world except one episode of his show, and even if the brothers are being set up as pawns on the cosmic chessboard to appear to be on opposite sides of the conflict, I firmly believe they'll find a way to blend back into each other.
(Anonymous) on February 9th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Mary, for being able to expose both brothers'sides in a clear and reasonable way!

And I also knew I could count on your optimism. Some of the review I read were just so bleak and pessimistic, with people wondering if the brothers still loved each other and seeing this fight foreshadowing a brother vs brother battle at the end of the season (and I don't even mention the Sam bashing that's going on... sometimes reading review is dangerous for my blood pressure^^). I know that they still love each other - as you said, their resentment is mostly born of love - and I don't believe that they will end in opposite sides of the war (I still need to be convinced that Sam is turning evil, because I don't see that much evidence of it - harder? yes, definitely; evil? not really), but this episode was so emotionally painful that I needed someone level-headed to explain it to me with in rational language (my studies in philosophy made me a sucker for it). You were the one!

Ok, I'm calm now. I would have of course be more happy if we had a new episode this week (damn you, hiatus!), but I'll live. See you!


bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Elsa!

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see this season play out to a Sam versus Dean conflict, but I don't believe the series will end there. I'm betting that things will get a lot darker before the dawn, and that we'll be in for multiple episodes of increasing strain - even outright fracture. But bone can heal stronger for having broken once. And I don't see how anyone could doubt that these brothers love each other, no matter what comes out of their mouths sometimes. If they didn't care, why would they be so hurt? Both of them have to fight for what they feel is right, and both of them have valid points and arguments to support their respective stands; I wish more fans would be willing to see that, and not be so quick to bash either character. We're predisposed to mistrust Sam because his powers came from evil, and perhaps it's true that he's gradually being seduced by them into arrogance that may blind him to the truth; but who's to say that things are fated to end that way? Choice has always been a theme in Supernatural, how we choose and why, and to my mind, that still leaves all doors open.

And the show has already played with the power of redemption.
(Anonymous) on February 9th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for another great review. I was that you gave something to be hopeful and positive about in an episode that was both sad and scary. These boys love each other, but are in for some rough time before they realize it and come together as family. I believe no outside force could keep them from that. They been through to much together for there to be any other outcome. I also loved your comment about Dean needing Sam, but also wanting him to succeed on his own without him.
Isn't that the way all parent's are. We want our children to stand on their own and succeed, but we don't them to ever stop needing us for advise, support and just to be there for them. As usual, I'll watch this episode again. I always do after your review because you always bring things to my attention that I missed the first time.
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 9th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And cool point about the parental aspect of Dean's relationship with Sam; you're right, that ties in nicely with the way Dean needs to have Sam need him.

I believe in love and family. As this show has amply demonstrated, family can be Hell - but family can be Heaven, too.
fannishliss: haunting thingsfannishliss on February 10th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
One of the best things about this show is that we have not one, but two heroes to follow through their odyssey, and I feel certain that both Sam and Dean will make it through. I think it's very interesting that they were staying in the Pride hotel, seeing as Pride has been Sam's iconic weakness and was certainly a big feature of his cruel words to Dean --and also since they seemed to be going up against Lust, a big foible of Dean's, which then did not turn out to be the weakness the siren exploited.

It's a very uncertain moment -- since Show has not yet been renewed for a fifth season -- but I loved this episode for the depth of emotional response it provoked in all of us. I think they're doing a really great job keeping us engaged with both Sam and Dean's along this most perilous journey.

Thanks for another great and clearheaded discussion!
coug80 on February 10th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
This was an intriguing, disturbing episode!

It’s all the worse because no one has ever provided a complete and cogent reason for why Sam shouldn’t use his powers. The implication has been that because the powers are demonic in origin, using them is bad and Sam is on a slippery slope, but no one has told Sam flat-out that using the power definitely will corrupt him and turn him evil.

I'm so glad you spelled this out, Mary. I haven't understood exactly why it's so terrible for Sam to use his powers against evil, especially when he can usually save the life of the host. It's not that I blame Dean for his tunnel vision on this subject, especially after all he's been though, but he has always been Mr. "Save Lives at All Costs", except where it comes to his brother using his powers. How is he so certain that Sam's power didn't ultimately come from God? There is no consideration of anything other than Sam will turn evil if he continues to use these powers that could be such an asset in this war against Lillith.

All is not well in the Winchester universe, which makes my universe very unsettled as well. I agree that things will most likely get much worse before they get better. But I also agree that love and family will utimately triumph in the end.
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
raputathebuta: brothers gotta hugraputathebuta on February 10th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
I HATE that Sam continues to lie to Dean. Surprisingly, Dean has been pretty forthcoming this season. He didn't hesitate to tell Sam (& Bobby) things, but Sam...I just..I really want to reach into the tv & shake that boy sometimes!

if we’re in the least empathetic, nothing hurts us more than seeing someone we love suffering while we are utterly and completely unable to help them.

This. Exactly.

I missed the Cassie look-a-like...guess I have to rewatch! Also? Someone on another blog said they thought that Kim Manners made an appearance in the strip club as well, seated at a table behind & to the side of the boys. If it's him, that makes this episode even more bittersweet. *sigh* Our dearest Kim.

Another great analysis, Mary!
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
Kim possibly in the background? Now I'm going to have to watch it again!

I can understand why Sam hasn't been open - how many times do you have to open your mouth and have your brother kick you for what you say before you just shut up? - but I really wish the two of them could sometimes NOT be such guys and actually talk. It might at least smooth out a bit of the emotional peaks and valleys!

Thanks, Rap ...
yourlibrarianyourlibrarian on February 10th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
For Sam, however, I think that this decision is more personal and frightening precisely because Dean’s loathing for his use of his powers and for whatever else he may be up to with Ruby comes perilously close to Dean loathing him

Yes, well put.

I think despair got to Bobby, but now he’s got the boys back – and he’s left the alcohol behind.

That is a great observation! You're right, that little bit had to be there for a reason. It's interesting to ponder, too, that Dr. Roberts is apparently a heavy drinker, but she doesn't tempt Sam into even a glass, it seems.

And having Dean’s eyes, while canvassing the club in the company of Monroe, linger speculatively and with suspicion on a beautiful woman bearing a passing resemblance to Cassie from Route 666

Ooh, good observation, that. I'd noticed the speculative look, but I hadn't made the connection to Cassie.

And I loved the clear implication of the scene that Bobby reads Greek! Major chuckles came from all the culture references scattered throughout the script; I think this one may take the record for name dropping

I think it might! And yeah, one might chalk another language up to Bobby.

Your comment about the lions in opposition made me think I'd love to see a fanfic someday of Sam and Dean as Secondhand Lions.

One thing that's also interesting is how both Benson and Roberts seem to be set up to mirror Dean. I notice Benson says to them that he'd killed his wife for doing nothing more than making plans without consulting him. And in the end Dean is about to kill Sam for essentially doing the same. Cara has the markers of having lost her connection to her husband, drinking too much, being seductive and having a live for the day philosophy. Makes me think a little differently about Dean's question to Sam at the end of seeing her again.
(Anonymous) on February 10th, 2009 04:36 am (UTC)
Amaizing review. You summmed up everything I thought and more. You and Alice are just the best when it comes to this. It is great how easily you seem to get into both brother's heads and explain why they feel and think the way they do. Showing their human flaws without well going crazy. Thanks for the great review.

(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 12th, 2009 12:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mimblexwimble on February 10th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - yourlibrarian on February 10th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
jo_anne8jo_anne8 on February 10th, 2009 06:34 am (UTC)
I have been eagerly waiting your review for this tremendous episode. I knew that you would give a solid, in-depth, explanation to what was bothering me and I thank you.

When I heard Dean's words to Sam: Why was Sam lying, why was he talking with Ruby, what other secrets does Sam have, to me, these comments, even in anger made sense. They were worries, concerns of Dean's. No real lashing out, no off the wall hurtful insults just thrown Sam's way. But, when it was Sam's turn, he calls Dean weak and tells him to stop whining about hell. Ironic that Sam called Dean weak when he was virtually an alcoholic mess after he buried Dean. Whining about hell? Unless they had deep conversations about it away from our eyes and ears :) Dean talked about hell in about ten minutes. This was something that Sam had wanted Dean to let out as part of the healing process. Now under the siren's spell, he calls it whining?

My comments above are NOT Sam vs. Dean or Dean vs. Sam - I love them both. It is just that what Sam said to Dean was venomous. Meant to hurt as much as possible, while, imo, Dean was looking for answers as to what is going on with his brother.

Your comments that Sam is definitely not the same Sam he was before Dean died, and your wonderful detailed explanation as to why, helped me understand Sam's hurtful, hit him while he's down, words.

Your point about resentment that just builds, especially when it follows overwhelming guilt, well, that hits home as well. I have had instances in my life where a person I know has something they are feeling guilty for and suddenly anger and resentment show up. Sort of like, "Hey! Why should I be made to feel bad?"
Sam's tremendous guilt for, most importantly, not being able to save his brother in the year before he died or even after he died, topped with Dean's revelations about just what exactly happened to him in the pit, has built up resentment in Sam. Resentment he has been keeping to himself until now.
I just keep thinking of Metamorphosis and Sam trying to convince his older brother that he is trying to do the right thing, only to have the brother he looked up to tell him that if he didn't know him, then he would want to hunt him. And that hurtful comment was without the help of any siren.

Thank you as always for covering every detail to perfection. I happen to love Cathryn Humphries' writing. She has given us "Born Under A Bad Sign," "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and this masterpiece.

I will cling to your hopeful words that, "Their home will always be in each other." As much as I know Sam and Dean have a hard road ahead of them, I truly hope in the end they will come together again. :)

Thank you again so much!

JoAnne :)

bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:51 am (UTC)
Thank you, JoAnne!

I have to cling to hope; sometimes it's all we have.

It occurred to me, as I finally got around to reading other people's meta on this episode, that Dean has often spoken his mind to Sam - he never held back on telling Sam when he thought he was being selfish or forgetting the mission. (Mind, he also tried to support Sam as much as he could; I'm not implying that this was all negative.) Sam would tease Dean, and he would almost tearfully plead when he was shut out too long, but he rarely attacked or insulted him unless something else was in control to turn the venom loose. So what came out here from Dean was mostly just factual hurt - you're hiding things from me - because he'd often already laid into Sam about the things he feared (think that brutal confrontation in Metamorphosis). Sam had a lot more that he'd never said to Dean's face about the things festering in his buried resentment, except when his subconscious was dragged to the fore (as in Asylum), and he had almost nothing factual left to attack with, since Dean had confessed what he'd previously been hiding. So what boiled out from Sam was much more savage that what emerged from Dean.

Hmm, not sure that made a lot of sense. (I'm really tired ...)
(no subject) - snwicked on February 11th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 12th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
mimblexwimblemimblexwimble on February 10th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this review. It really makes me feel that, despite everything, someday they will heal. :)
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
Thank you! We live in hope ...
galathea_snb: scenery sex and violencegalathea_snb on February 10th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading this review, Mary. You have always such a wonderful way to depict the development of the characters over the complete season/show. ♥

However, this time I have to actually disagree with you on one point: In my opinion Dean is far from being an alcoholic and I find that this term is often used too loosely in fandom. Especially since we have yet to see Dean drunk in a context that is not supernaturally influenced. Yes, Dean drinks a bit more than usual lately, using the alcohol as a short-term coping mechanism when anxiety hits him, but alcoholism is a chemical dependency, where the person loses any control over their drinking habits, experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking over any extended period of time and they continue to drink in spite of social or interpersonal difficulties caused by drinking. Nothing of that can be seen in Dean. There's no doubt that Dean's increased reliance on alcohol could eventually lead into alcoholism, but I really don't see it at the moment.

Edited at 2009-02-10 08:43 pm (UTC)
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
You're absolutely right to call me on the alcoholic comment; what I should have said was that Dean was seriously abusing alcohol in an attempt to cope with his memories of Hell by drowning them in booze. It's really troubling that we've seen him reach for the bottle whenever he wakes up out of dreams, and drink in situations when he never would have before - that flask in the car just wasn't the Dean we used to know.

I mourn. And I hope he finds a better coping mechanism soon.

(no subject) - galathea_snb on February 11th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
historylover29historylover29 on February 11th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
Beautiful analysis, as usual.

When I first saw this episode, I was bored. With everything except Bobby, Smart Dean, the fight and the ending. I think it was the mood I was in, because I watched it again, and I loved it. One of the best episodes this season.

I definitely think the guys meant what they said to each other, although they wouldn't have said it like that. Or if at all. And they're not alright. They will keep everything bottled up until it explodes. Their love for each other is deep, but trust isn't. They will always love and care about each other, but their trust is fractured, and it will never come back like it had been. Maybe they'll get to the point where they trust each other, but there will ALWAYS be something in the back of their minds--"What if?"

Poor boys.

bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Thanks, Kat! The loss of trust between the boys is bitter grief, and it hurts to know that there's likely more and worse to come before anything gets resolved.

But I wouldn't change this show for the world. I really want to take the journey that it's unspooling in front of my feet ...
(Anonymous) on February 11th, 2009 10:08 am (UTC)
I've been reading your reviews ever since they appeared on supernatural.tv for the first time and I loved them all. You always give me a more detailed insight on the boys and mention things I didn't even notice.

This time I thought I have to comment, though, because I was totally crushed after the last episode and I could just not understand where Sam's words came from. However, you gave me a new perspective on what's going on in Sam's head and I thank you for that. And if that's really where it's coming from then I'll feel even more for Sam then before. Because I know he loves Dean more than anything.

And thank you for mentioning Andy in your meta. I've read other comments for this epi and they all said that Sam's supposed to go darkside, because all children went darkside after using their powers and I was like not that's not true because Andy used it and it never showed any dark effect on him. I even believe that Kripke had him there for a reason, to show us that even Ava, Jake, Max and Anson Weems went darkside, there are people that don't go evil. So I think there is still hope for our Sammy.

Even though I think the brothers have some dark times ahead of them, I believe that in the end their love for each other will win.

So thank's again, Dani
bardicvoice: Bridge Impala by <lj user=bobbinrob>bardicvoice on February 12th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
Thank you, Dani! I'm very glad you've been enjoying my reviews, and I'm doubly glad that you let me know!

I'm happy that my take on Sam's thoughts helped you provide a context for the fight. And I couldn't not mention Andy; as you noted, he was so unique that he has to mean something!

I hope to see you again along the way as our ride continues ...