Humans tell the truth and die:
Only Sam can lie.
Cutting short a phone call with her sister to get back to work, mousy waitress Jane in Calumet City, Illinois said she just wanted the truth. Her co-workers and customers spontaneously began telling her ugly truths, ranging from how little they thought of her to horrible things they’d done or thought about doing. Fearing she was going insane, she called her sister again, only to hear her sister tell her she was a burden and should just kill herself. Taking out the gun locked in the cash register, she did just that.
Stealing a moment while Sam was buying lunch, Dean called Bobby, saying he was convinced after what happened in the vampire lair that Sam wasn’t his brother no matter what he looked like. Bobby protested they’d tested Sam in every way they knew how, but when Dean stayed adamant and threatened to act, Bobby cautioned him against shooting Sam, pointing out that if he really wasn’t Sam, they had no idea either what he was or how to kill him. Bobby ordered Dean to watch Sam and collect facts while Bobby searched for information on what he might be.
When Sam rejoined him, Dean said he’d been leaving another message for Lisa, who still hadn’t called him back. Sam succinctly said that sucked and, looking mildly concerned, asked Dean if he was all right. Dean said he was and asked the same question of Sam, who said he was great and then brushed off the inquiry to point out a newspaper story on a string of four suicides in two weeks in Calumet City, starting with the waitress. Despite his discomfort at even being with Sam now that he saw him as a monster in “Sam” clothing, Dean agreed they should check it out.
Posing as FBI, Sam questioned the waitress’s sister as Dean looked around the house for clues. Reading a tell in the way the woman pushed her hair back behind her ear as she claimed to have tried to cheer her sister up during their final phone conversation, Sam pressed her ruthlessly to admit she was lying. He looked triumphant when he forced her to admit that, instead of saying the supportive things she had wanted to say, she’d instead told her sister she was a burden and should kill herself. She broke down, saying she hadn’t been able to stop herself and questioning why she would have said such hurtful things. Showing no compassion at all for the woman’s shamed and confused grief, Sam simply looked pleased and satisfied at having been right, further adding to Dean’s skin-crawling dismay. As they left the house, Dean reported having found nothing, no hex bags, EMF, or other supernatural sign, and Sam reported only a tuba and a crocheting magazine. They discussed Jane having probably been depressed and borderline suicidal already, simply pushed over the edge by her big sister’s comments, with the question being why her sister had felt compelled to say them.
At a dentist’s office in town, while a local newscast played in the background, the male patient nervously watching the dentist arrange his instruments and a syringe of local anesthetic said he had to be honest and didn’t want to be there. The dentist, clearly also a friend, laughed that no one did. As he injected the anesthetic, the dentist commented that the patient and his wife should come over to dinner. The man shocked him by responding that he wasn’t into his wife any more because she was old. The patient went on to reveal he’d been attracted to the dentist’s daughter, and when she was at his house on a sleepover with his own daughter, said smugly it wasn’t that he couldn’t control himself, but simply that he knew he wouldn’t get caught – and he hadn’t. Enraged, the dentist shoved the drill into the man’s mouth and killed him with it, to the horror of his dental assistant.
Alone in their motel room, Dean called Bobby for an update, but Bobby said he hadn’t found anything that would fit and asked if Dean had observed anything else. Dean said his skin crawled when he was in the same room with Sam, and told Bobby he had to figure out what Sam was and soon, because he didn’t know how much longer he could stand to be with him. Bobby advised there was a worst-case scenario different than Sam being Lucifer in disguise: that Sam might simply be Sam. Refusing to concede, Dean told Bobby he had one more day, or Dean would handle it. Hanging up, Dean considered for a moment and then dialed Lisa, but hung up after one ring, not knowing what to say. Sam walked in on him, announcing the dentist’s murder of his patient and eagerly wagering he was part of the crazy. He said they should go question the guy, but Dean told Sam to go alone, saying he’d stay at the motel to do some research to try figuring out what they were up against. Puzzled by his uncharacteristic choice, Sam conceded the research was a good idea, and left.
After talking to the dental assistant, Sam phoned in from the police station, reporting the dentist had hung himself in his cell before he’d gotten there but adding that, based on what the assistant had told him the patient had confessed to the dentist, he’d have killed the guy too. Dean observed it sounded as if both Jane and the dentist had been cursed to have people puke the truth all over them, and Sam concluded hearing the ugly truth made them go postal. Sam said he was going to the morgue and asked Dean to check out the dentist’s office. Shutting down his research into doppelgangers or other monsters that might take on another’s appearance, Dean reluctantly agreed.
At the dentist’s office, Dean found only two things of interest: a saxophone and a bill from Harry’s House of Horns, tying in with the tuba and a refrigerator magnet from the same place he’d seen at the waitress’s house. Talking with the store proprietor about both of them, he didn’t find anything else in common, but as he was leaving, the proprietor asked if the cops had learned anything yet about his stolen horn, a museum piece thought to be a thousand years old. When Dean fished for more information, the proprietor showed him a picture and recalled that it had gone missing on the same day Jane had died.
Back in the motel room researching the missing horn, Dean came across references to the archangel Gabriel’s Horn of Truth and invoked Castiel’s name, saying he had a possible angelic weapon on the loose. Castiel appeared instantly in the room, responding to the mere mention of the horn as he hadn’t responded to any of Dean’s many pleas concerning information on Sam. When Dean berated him, he said he hadn’t responded because he had nothing to offer about Sam. When Dean argued Sam might be nothing but gift wrap for Lucifer, Castiel – pouring him a drink as a peace offering – reassured him that he wasn’t Lucifer, saying the angels would have felt it if Lucifer had gotten free of the cage. Castiel said he didn’t know what was wrong with Sam and apologized, but noted he was at war and regrettable things were required of him now, replacing the veneer of humanity he’d worn with Dean before. Dean asked whether Gabriel’s Horn of Truth was a real thing, and Castiel asked excitedly whether he’d seen it, vanishing as soon as Dean said they thought it might be in town. Castiel reappeared mere seconds later saying he’d searched everywhere and Gabriel’s Horn wasn’t there. Disgusted, Dean turned his back on him to pour another drink. Castiel hesitantly said he didn’t know what was wrong with Sam but did want to help, and promised to make inquiries. He disappeared, and Dean dully wished him half-hearted, belated thanks.
Dean wound up in a bar, drinking whiskey and idly watching the local TV newscast featuring a pretty reporter – Ashley Frank, the newest addition to the broadcast team – offering her “Frank Talk” investigative segment and promising to get to the truth. Sam called from the morgue, reporting his discovery that the bodies of all the suicides other than the dentist had vanished. He said he’d found another woman’s death recorded as a car accident that tied in, because her body was missing too – and her death happened a whole week before all the others, making her the likely focal point of the curse. He told Dean to meet him at the woman’s apartment.
Hanging up, dreading having to be close to not-Sam again, Dean told the bartender he’d take her up on the drink offer he’d previously refused. Responding with compassion to his obvious discomfiture, she poured him one on the house and asked if he was all right. He admitted he wasn’t, not really. She asked if there was anything else she could get him, and he responded rhetorically that he’d just like the freaking truth. The bartender offered that she sometimes thought she couldn’t get pregnant because God knew her marriage was a sham. Astounded at herself, she asked why she’d said that, only to admit that she’d been snorting drugs all day – and Dean realized he’d been cursed. As he left the bar, a woman accosted him to admit she was trying to get him to look at her new breasts and said she needed a lot of attention; he wished her luck, but also ogled her appreciatively on his way out.
Walking to his car, Dean called Bobby to test whether the curse worked over the phone, and when Bobby began divulging unrequested details about his fan-worship of Tori Spelling, his passion for getting pedicures from a tiny Vietnamese woman, and saying Dean was his favorite but Sam was the better hunter, at least lately, he got more proof than he needed. He told Bobby he’d been cursed, but concluded it might have been the best thing to happen to him in a while. Hearing a plot hatching, Bobby asked what damn fool move he was about to make. Dean said he had to go, and cut off the line when Bobby started to say something about his first girlfriend. Getting in the Impala, Dean called Sam and left a voicemail saying he was on the way, but if Sam got the voicemail first, he should call back because there were some things Dean wanted to ask him.
At the first victim’s apartment, talking to her sister, Sam explained the investigation by saying her death hadn’t been a car accident, but suicide. The sister admitted she’d wondered, reporting that Corey had been going through a hard time at school and her cat had just run away, but the biggest thing was she’d suspected her boyfriend was cheating on her. She said Corey couldn’t find any evidence because the guy was really good at covering up his tracks, which just made Corey obsessed with finding out the truth. Sam checked out her room, eventually finding a box hidden under the bed containing spell components, including the skull of her cat.
As Dean pulled up outside the apartment building, his phone rang with the long-delayed call from Lisa. He answered it reluctantly, telling her it was the worst possible time to talk, but Lisa insisted, noting both that he’d shoved her son and that Ben wouldn’t talk about it at all. He found himself unable to explain the complex mess of his life. She asked if he wanted to hear the truth. He acknowledged he probably didn’t, but listened as she said he had so much buried in there and constantly pushed down, and asked if he honestly thought he could go through life like that and not freak out, that he could just drink half a fifth a night and be good. He retorted that she knew what she’d signed up for when she took him in, but she countered that she’d never expected Sam to come back, saying she was glad he was okay but as soon as she saw him she knew it was over. Observing that he and Sam had the most unhealthy, tangled up, crazy thing going she’d ever seen, she said as long as Sam was in his life, he wouldn’t be happy. Shocked by her own words, she said apologetically it had come out so much harsher than she’d meant it to; Dean, understanding perfectly well what was going on because of the spell, told her it wasn’t her fault. She clarified that she didn’t mean he shouldn’t be close to Sam, noting she was close to her sister, but said if her sister got killed, she wouldn’t try to bring her back from the dead. Dean admitted he and San had issues, but when he started to say something about Lisa and Ben, she interrupted to say that she and Ben couldn’t be in this with him. She apologized, and then hung up on him, leaving him devastated.
Dean ran into Sam on the staircase up to the apartment, and said there were a few things he wanted to ask Sam and Sam was going to tell him the truth. Jarred, Sam asked if Dean had been cursed, and Dean affirmed he’d asked for the truth and been getting it. He asked straight-out why Sam had just stood there when the vampire attacked him. Hesitantly meeting his eyes, Sam said he hadn’t; he said he just froze. When Dean noted incredulously he’d been the Terminator ever since he got back, Sam said he didn’t know why he’d frozen, suggesting shock, and saying by the time he’d recovered, it was too late. He said he felt terrible about it, and then pointed out that he couldn’t lie here, asking if Dean really thought he could let something like that happen on purpose and protesting Dean was his brother. Confounded by the discrepancy but believing Sam because he knew the curse compelled the truth, Dean apologized, offering the explanation that he’d thought he’d seen something but must have been wrong. He admitted it had been a really, really bad day, and Sam gripped his shoulder and promised that he had Dean’s back and always had. Shaken, Dean thanked him, calling him Sammy.
Back at their motel, Sam pulled up research indicating the components inside Corey’s box were the ingredients for a spell to summon Veritas, a goddess of Truth. Once summoned, he guessed she had stayed, so anyone in town who asked for the truth invoked her. According to lore, she gave them what they asked for brutally and relentlessly until they killed themselves and then collected her tribute, which the brothers speculated involved dining on their corpses. Sam observed they had to take her out or Dean would be on the menu. He found dogs listed as her Achilles’ heel. Analyzing her reported pattern of coming down publicly to speak truth to the masses as indicating she wanted worship, Dean proposed investigative TV journalism as the contemporary equivalent to her legendary approach. That pointed toward reporter Ashley Frank, whose tenure on the local news team began shortly after Corey’s death.
Dean bribed a guard at the TV station to let them take away a computer loaded with digital editing footage of Ashley Frank’s broadcast clips. Playing through them all night and into the next afternoon, Sam stayed intently focused on the task while Dean took breaks for meals and sleep. Sam finally caught a segment filmed on location where she reacted uneasily when a Doberman barked wildly at her. Dean had him zoom in on the image, and they saw her eyes flash vertically slit cat-pupils when she nervously looked sideways toward the dog.
Following her home from the TV station that night, they found her living in an elegant mansion with multiple cats. Following a cat downstairs, they discovered an altar with the original of the mosaic image of the goddess they’d seen in their research. Going through another door, they found all the missing corpses showing signs of having been partially eaten, with only the corpse of the dentist as yet untouched. Veritas appeared in the doorway behind them and with a flick of her hand flung them across the room to land unconscious in her drained spa.
The brothers woke tied to the spa guard rails, with Veritas saying Dean would be next on the menu. Unnoticed, Sam slid a knife from his sleeve into his hand and started surreptitiously sawing through his bonds. As she extracted the dentist’s tongue and began to eat it, Veritas said the tongue was the tastiest part because that’s where the lies rolled off, and she couldn’t wait to eat theirs because they were the gold standard for liars. While Sam continued to cut at his bonds, she told Dean it was time for him to spill a little truth, and coyly asked him what he really felt about his brother. Dean said he felt better now, but reluctantly admitted that as of yesterday, he’d wanted to kill Sam in his sleep because he thought Sam was a monster. He continued that he now thought Sam was just acting like him. Dean said it was the gig; that you were covered in blood until you were covered in your own blood. He admitted he’d told himself he wanted out, wanted a family. Veritas assumed he’d been lying to himself, but he disagreed. With resignation, though, he confessed what was he was good at was slicing throats; he said he wasn’t a father, but a killer, and knew now there was no changing that.
Observing erroneously that Dean must have been relieved when Sam came back into his life, she turned to Sam, asking how he felt about the band getting back together. Sam said what they did was hard but they watched out for each other and that’s what was important, that was the truth. Veritas backed away from him in shock and surprise, saying it wasn’t the truth and demanding to know how he could lie to her. Saying it wasn’t possible, she asked both him and Dean what he was. When Sam claimed he didn’t know what she was talking about, she said she doubted anything that came out of his mouth, and stated flatly that he wasn’t human; when Dean, dumbfounded, asked what she meant, she observed she believed that he didn’t know. In that instant, Sam finished cutting his bonds; skidding the knife across to Dean, he dove for the dog-blood-coated knives she had taken from them and shut away in a drawer. As Dean struggled to free himself, she knocked Sam to the floor and the knife out of his hand and began to strangle him. Dean got loose, grabbed a meathook, and impaled her with it. As she turned from Sam to Dean, half-transforming into something catlike, Sam grabbed the knife and stabbed her in the heart, killing her.
With the goddess dead, Dean snatched up a cleaver and advanced on Sam, saying he wasn’t his brother and demanding to know what he was. Sam maintained desperately he was himself, and when Dean asked why he should believe anything Sam said, Sam urgently offered what he claimed was the truth: the goddess was right, there was something really wrong with him, and he’d known it for a while. He admitted he’d lied to Dean and let him be turned by the vamp, but said he’d done it only because he knew there was a cure, they needed someone inside the nest, and he knew Dean could handle it. When Dean snarled that he could have died or worse, killed Ben, Sam admitted that should have stopped him cold, but said it didn’t because he couldn’t feel it. He claimed that since he’d gotten back he’d been a better hunter than ever before because nothing scared him, because he couldn’t feel it. He said he didn’t know what was wrong with him, and concluded, pleading, that he thought he needed help. Dean studied him in silence, his face a study in conflicting emotions as he considered what to do, and slowly set down the knife. Sam exhaled in relief, and Dean, without warning, unleashed an uppercut that knocked Sam off his feet, following up with a rapid-fire series of vicious punches, brutally beating Sam unconscious.
Commentary And Meta Analysis
Okay: call this episode part two of at least three. While I had some small quibbles with the script, this episode blew me away in terms of both where it took the characters and how Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki delivered on their performances as Dean and Sam. This discussion is all about Sam and Dean, truth and lies.
You Know What Happens When You Base Your Life On Lies, Right?
The Winchesters have always lived on lies told to the outside world, but the lies they’ve told to each other whether by commission or omission have always dwarfed in effect the cover lies they’ve told the universe. Every time they’ve lied to each other the consequences have been bad, and when the truth finally came out, it hurt all the worse.
At least once they grew up, Dean clearly was never able to hide the truth from Sam for long; lying to people he loved was the hardest thing for him to do, as we saw all the way back in Route 666. After the brothers reunited in the pilot, the only time he successfully lied to Sam for any length of time was in the first half of season two when he deliberately hid John’s disturbing last words, and that ate at him so badly he nearly went mad until he laid it on the line in Hunted. He revealed the truth of his deal as soon as Sam called him on it in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2, and unveiled the reason he wouldn’t try to weasel out as soon as Sam started exploring that option in The Magnificent Seven. I believed him in Lazarus Rising when he said he couldn’t remember Hell, apart from knowing he had unexplained flashes and nightmares of terror and pain. Very shortly after he clearly remembered Hell in Yellow Fever, however, he admitted remembering to Sam in Wishful Thinking even though he refused to talk about it, and his full confession of his experiences followed quickly in Heaven And Hell and Family Remains. He couldn’t hide himself from Sam for long, not ever.
Sam, on the other hand, very successfully hid truths from Dean for long periods of time. Back in season one, fearing Dean’s rejection, he hid his prescient dreams until the events of Home. He learned about having been fed demon blood as a baby in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1, but never admitted it until Dean tripped him up with that truth in Metamorphosis, over a year after he’d learned it. He hid having voluntarily begun drinking demon blood – something that evidently happened not long after Dean died in No Rest For The Wicked – until he did it in the heat of combat during The Rapture. He hid his return to life for a year after Swan Song, letting Dean continue to believe he was dead and lost in a cage in Hell. Once he revealed himself in Exile On Main Street, he still pretended everything was normal even though he knew nothing about him was. He lied his way through this entire episode up until Veritas ripped the covers off and made it plain he was lying.
I particularly liked the conceit in this episode of a curse compelling people to tell the victim the truth, and I enjoyed the way it both pointed up the wrongness in Sam and emphasized Dean’s hidden, heart-deep desire to be proven wrong about doubting his brother. The subtle clue Dean should have picked up even before Veritas accused Sam of being inhuman was that Sam – unlike Bobby, the bartender, and the breast implant woman – never spontaneously spouted random truths to him. Dean’s failure to notice that telling absence of truth-compulsion and his ready willingness to doubt his own memories and discount the evidence of his own eyes when Sam professed innocence told me that Dean, no matter what he’d said to Bobby earlier, desperately wanted Sam to be Sam, not the monster he’d been thinking was pretending to be his brother. Sam calculatedly told Dean exactly what Dean most wanted to hear, and in the face of that, believing Sam couldn’t lie to him because of the curse, Dean resolutely cast aside distrust and was ready to accept Bobby’s other worst-case scenario: that Sam was still Sam, still his beloved brother, however changed by his experience in Hell.
I think that brief acceptance and belief made Dean’s discovery that it was all a lie ever so much worse. When Sam finally confessed his lack of feeling, Dean had no way to judge whether it was truth or just another opportune, convenient lie tailored for his ears. Sam had played Dean all along like a virtuoso plays his instrument, knowing exactly what keys to stroke and how to tune his strings to bring out his desired harmony; he plucked at Dean’s emotions without ever engaging any of his own. When Dean beat him unconscious, I think it was fury, rage, grief, loss, and betrayal all coming to the fore, augmented by Veritas’s assertion that Sam wasn’t human and by Dean’s own realization that in following Sam, he’d lost everything he’d had, including any forlorn hope of a different, positive life with Lisa and Ben. But I think all that was still moderated by Dean’s desperate wish and need to have his brother back. If Dean hadn’t had some thought that his Sam might either still be in his body or have a chance to return to it, he’d have used the cleaver instead of his fists and killed the monster he saw in his brother’s place. Instead, he beat him unconscious and stopped, because whatever else he felt, what he saw was all he had left: the image of his brother.
Even if what Sam finally told Dean was the truth – and his seeming inability to feel does track with what I saw and guessed from his actions and reactions right from Exile On Main Street – it definitely wasn’t the whole truth. His inability to empathize and to feel shouldn’t have hampered his logic, and Sam had ample examples from the whole sequence of events over the past two seasons demonstrating the folly and likely consequences of lying to Dean, using him, and deliberately concealing things from him. So the question remains why Sam did things he knew intellectually to be wrong and unwise, particularly since he no longer had his previous excuses of feeling fear that Dean would reject him if he knew the truth or of feeling he would somehow be protecting Dean by hiding burdens from him. That’s a truth we still don’t know.
You’re Not Human
What makes us human? Veritas was able to compel truth from humans, and her inability to compel Sam convinced her he wasn’t human. We had Castiel’s assurance that he wasn’t Lucifer, and he seemed to have all of Sam’s intellect and memories along with his physical appearance, so – what makes a human, human?
I don’t pretend to understand yet how it works, but Supernatural appears to accept the concept that the thing within us that makes us relate to other people – our ability to empathize with others, to feel what they feel and choose to act compassionately in ways designed to make them feel better so that we also feel better – is the thing that makes us truly human, rather than simply a bipedal animal with an intellect and the ability to reason. Anyone lacking that capability – someone we would generally term a sociopath – wouldn’t be human in Supernatural’s terms. Having a human body and mind thus wouldn’t be enough to make us human; we need another spark.
Call it soul.
Stripping that away from humans is evidently what Supernatural’s Hell does in order to create demons from human souls. But Sam isn’t a demon. He’s lost touch with what he feels and what others feel, but there’s no desire in him to inflict pain on others the way demons delight in doing. Sam is simply empty, which makes me hope that what filled him once could fill him again.
At the climax of Swan Song, Sam surrendered himself body, mind and soul to be able to trap Lucifer in Hell. He gave himself up freely to do that one thing. In effect, he made a deal – all of him in exchange for the world – and he committed himself to it, holding nothing back.
Balthazar observed there was great power in souls, which made them valuable commodities. I wonder if Sam’s soul is still doing exactly what he gave it up to do: imprisoning Lucifer.
And I wonder who freed his body and mind and set them loose without his soul, knowing what effect it would have on him.
The script was by Supernatural first-timers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder from a story by the two of them and David Reed. Charmelo and Snyder are a young team, with only a limited series called ‘Til Death Do Us Part and a couple of TV movies on their resumes. David Reed worked as a writers’ assistant on Battlestar Galactica and came on board Supernatural as a script coordinator during season four. His one previous story credit was Hammer Of The Gods. I definitely preferred this god outing to his previous one, although Supernatural does seem to have a fixation on gods eating humans as a means to up the gore factor – that’s been a recurring theme since our very first “little-g” god encounter in Scarecrow, followed up by such episodes as A Very Supernatural Christmas, Fallen Idols, and Hammer Of The Gods.
I love the way the stories this season have all been tied very tightly together; it reminds me very favorably of the strong narrative arc that ran through season four. Each episode – even this seemingly standalone “monster of the week” one – has carried forward the story of Sam’s strangeness and Dean’s conflicted heart while gradually adding in the storylines of the alpha monsters, the Campbell family, and the war in Heaven, and each episode has generally tied in at least two of those overall themes. My hat is off to the planning that went into all the plotting thus far. I also salute the challenging material all the writers have given Jensen and Jared.
I do have one little quibble with the script. From what we saw, the dentist should not have been tribute for Veritas. The curse was supposedly invoked by anyone asking for the truth, but the dentist never did. Instead, his patient apparently invoked a variation on the curse by saying he himself had to be honest, after which he couldn’t tell anything but the truth and felt compelled to share it. In contrast, everyone else cursed by asking for the truth wasn’t compelled to deliver it in their turn; they got it from others, but weren’t forced to give it back. For example, the curse didn’t obligate Dean to tell Lisa what had happened during his vampire visit; he was able to divert her question simply by saying it was complicated. Dean’s compulsion to admit his desire to kill Sam because he thought Sam was a monster came only when Veritas specifically put the burden of truth-telling on him and asked him the question.
If other people like the dentist’s patient were compelled to tell the truth simply because they said they would, I couldn’t help but think that the court system in the town must have experienced a wild couple of weeks as every witness on the stand swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that should have shown up on the brothers’ supernatural happenings radar. Just an amusing thought. *grin*
With this episode, Jan Eliasberg made history as Supernatural’s first female director. [ETA: I stand corrected; she was the second female director, the first having been Rachel Talalay on Hunted. Thanks to mercuryblue144 !] She’s definitely not new to the game, though; I’ve appreciated her work for a very long time, dating back to episodes of Miami Vice. Her resume also includes Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, L.A. Law, Party Of Five, and Dawson’s Creek, among others. I enjoyed the way she laid the groundwork for understanding the key role played by the reporter who turned out to be Veritas; in every scene where the truth curse was invoked – the restaurant, the dentist’s office, the bar – an Ashley Frank broadcast was playing recognizably somewhere in the frame, establishing the link between the truth reporter and the truth curse. She and editor Tom McQuade also did a lovely job of making sure all the little details we needed to notice were clear, including the Sam-related things Dean was researching on the laptop and Sam noticing where Veritas put the dog-blood-coated knives. I particularly loved the rich visual use she made of the spectacular location that served as Veritas’ mansion. According to Russ Hamilton, the Supernatural location manager who spoke at the 2010 Vancouver Creation convention and conducted the location tours, that mansion was on the same property (Rio Vista, off South Marine Drive) as the separate pool house they had used in Playthings, and ranks as his best and favorite location. In part because of that elegant, expensive place, he said this particular episode went $375,000 over budget, but offered the opinion that going over budget to get the right visuals had been the right choice. He also noted this episode was shot out of order before Live Free Or Twi-Hard simply because some of the locations they wanted to use in the two episodes came with scheduling constraints attached.
Speaking of locations, it was fun to recognize the backlot as the home of the police station, Harry’s House of Horns (I laughed to see Rinascita Pizzeria, the restaurant where Dean dined with Death in Two Minutes To Midnight, through the window across the street from Harry’s!), and the bar where Dean invoked the curse. The Biggersons restaurant and kitchen in the teaser was the redressed Corvette Lounge from the Oasis Hotel, which had also served as the Elysian Fields hotel restaurant and kitchen in Hammer Of The Gods and as the interior of the bar/diner where Sam worked in Free To Be You And Me. On the location tour, Russ explained that building a set the size of the restaurant would have cost around $200,000, while leasing and redressing the real restaurant (and returning it to its proper appearance afterward!) cost only about $50,000. Big difference!
Kudos to the art department for many things, not least of which was the newspaper story Sam held up on the rash of suicides. I laughed when I caught the bit about one of the suicides having been a man obsessed with believing his family originated question marks and was due royalties for all the years they’d been used as punctuation marks, who hung himself in the library stacks while doing research. The crew on this show definitely believe in having fun doing their jobs!
Serinda Swan made a lovely and creepily compelling Veritas. The role was a fun departure from her first appearance on the show back in season one’s Salvation, where she played the wholesome, pretty clinic receptionist who asked if she could help Dean, bringing forth his “Oh God, yes!” response, almost the only lighthearted moment in the entire episode. Cindy Sampson continued to deliver a complex and layered Lisa, and I really do hope the phone call in which she told Dean she and Ben couldn’t be with him won’t be the last we see of her.
The highlights of the episode, however, were Jared and Jensen. Watching Jared’s Sam switch gears effortlessly between pretending to appropriate emotion and flicking the switch over into machine was chilling; just watch his face at the end of the scene when Sam first lies to Dean after the curse is in effect. Facing Dean, Sam was all earnestness, sincerity, hurt feelings, and reassurance, but the moment he turned away, all the emotions simply turned off and his face went into blank neutral. That was brilliant! His confession to Dean at the end was another tour de force, projecting feelings he didn’t feel to play on Dean’s emotions. Jensen made us feel every ounce of Dean’s loathing for a thing pretending to be his brother; the full weight of grief, loss, and utter desolation first when Lisa cut him off and later when he admitted his belief that he could never be anything but a killer; his acceptance of Sam’s professed innocence; and finally, the bitterness of betrayal, devastation, and resulting rage when he learned Sam had lied to him, used him, and then had the temerity to appeal to him for help in the expectation of acceptance and forgiveness.
Thank God it’s Friday, and time for more answers.
Sorry this is so terribly late!!!