So, literally right before I started watching the episode, I was accidentally spoiled that Sam would be the one to take the trials. And I am woman enough to admit, I was disappointed. I also leaped to some arguments as to why it would have made so much more sense were it to have been Dean instead. In my head, I mean. I didn't get a chance to talk about this with anyone as I pretty much got done with work, dealt with a good deal of family angst, got Mo Chuisle to bed, then sat down with my DVR.
I'm going to tell you my arguments for why I thought Dean would have been the better choice the the trials. I'm going to tell you because I've compartmentalized a lot of tough Real Life stuff today and I used our boys to distract me -- plus, I thought these reasons were pretty good and I need someone to hear them. But, I'm also going to tell you because by the time the show ended, these boys had totally turned my head around and I was once again firmly on board with the storyline. Just...if you're that Sam fan out there who is dying to nail me to the wall for my Dean-slant, remember I said that.
First, a purely baseline, primal reason: the trials are apparently going to be physically demanding and could be incapacitating as they're being completed -- and we've already had a season and a half with Sam quietly losing it while Dean soldiered on. When I write my fanfic stories, a lot of the time when Dean's hurt, Sam shines -- I like writing Sam shouldering the weight of his brother plus working to figure out the hunt. We've seen that in some of the earlier seasons, too. Like in "Faith," for example. Admittedly, I wanted to see that again. A self-proclaimed hurt!Dean addict, I wanted to see Dean surviving something physically demanding and having Sam support him and figuring out the hunt. I wanted Dean to not have to be okay all the time.
Second, I wanted there to be one Heavenly follow-through for Dean. He was the righteous man who broke in Hell and could have ended the start of the Apocalypse, but didn't get to Sam in time to stop him from killing Lilith. He was a vessel whose resistance to saying yes ultimately ended in his brother sacrificing himself and going to Hell. He's sacrificed himself time and time again for Sam -- literally dying twice to save him -- and I want Heaven to recognize that. I mean, he killed an archangel and survived, right? That should have meant something for his destiny. I wanted him to see his worth by having him be able to save the world. In Dean's eyes, all he's ever been able to do is save Sam (which, admittedly, is all he ever wanted to do). Sam is the one who saved the world. I wanted Dean to have that shot.
Finally, I wanted there to be a twist to the typical storyline. I said a few Rambles back that when the boys chose to stay together, they fell back into their comfortable habits, with Sam taking refuge in his 'little brother' role for a time. I liked it then, but when it seemed that once again we'd be getting Sam as the 'chosen one' -- the one with the visions, the one with the demon blood addiction and Force-like powers, the one who was soulless, the one who had a wall in his noggin -- and Dean as the protector who fought the good fight and stuffed it all down, I was struggling to find a way to spin the positive.
Now, all of that said? When the episode ended, I liked it -- I agreed with it. To keep me in their corner, though, I hope the writers avoid the third point I made -- and I think they can, too. It cannot be Sam going through this trial thing and his own personal Hell while Dean searches for a way to keep him safe. They've done that already. This needs to be just as Sam said -- Dean going with him on this.The first point? Well, shoot, even if Sam does suffer from the trials, Dean's going to bloody himself protecting his brother and taking the brunt of the hunts, so that could easily take care of itself.
The second point is what won me over. Dean's impassioned speech (which I can't wait to recount when I get to the recap portion of the Ramble) that opened Sam's eyes to how Dean saw himself, how he (de)valued himself, how he put Sam about it all, above everything...I rubbed my heart raw. I know Sam knew that before, but I think after all they've been through, after that year apart and Amelia and Benny and making a choice...I think Sam lost sight of how much he means to Dean, how much Dean needs him. And as he stood, listening quietly, taking the words like weight onto his shoulders, you could see it all sinking back in along with the realization that he needed Dean just as much, that there was a time he proclaimed he wasn't going to leave his brother alone out there in the world and that was the thing that pulled him (literally) back together.
I realized during that speech that the biggest reason I had wanted Dean to do the trials was because I needed Dean to see his worth, know that there's more to him than a blunt instrument and most of all -- that others see that, too. That Sam sees that. And what better way for Sam to convince Dean of that than for him to take on this mantel -- not to save the world, not to get revenge -- for Dean. So that Dean could see that he's so much more than a 'grunt' and that someone believes in him. He's worthy of this. And, not only that, but where Dean was insistent that he would be doing the trials alone so as to keep Sam safe, Sam wants Dean there with him -- needs him there, in fact, to do what he's always done: protect him.
That's where the 3rd point comes into play. The writers have a chance to do this really well (at least IMO) where Sam goes through the trials and Dean's right there with him every step of the way -- fighting, bloody, vital -- and they both survive so Sam can show him that yes, there is light, the world isn't all tunnel. Or, they could go the route they tend to go where Sam hides his suffering from Dean, not letting him in on whatever under the guise of protecting Dean from whatever. I am hoping for Door Number One.
But before I get too worried about that, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that the Sam I love -- the one who makes Dean's sacrifices worthwhile -- is back in the game, and in retrospect he really has been since he chose not to go back to Amelia. Though it seemed painful for Dean to hear -- primarily because any kind of praise or compliment is hard for Dean to swallow -- the gift of words Sam gave his brother was something I, personally, have been waiting to hear for awhile now. They were the perfect countermeasure to Dean's torpedo of inevitability.
Now...all Dean has to do is believe it. Which is not going to be easy after so many years of believing himself to be nothing more than a weapon. And especially since it seems he's fully embraced the concept that he's supernatural cannon fodder, ready to die -- really die -- when the time came.
Not only that, but once I got past my desire to see my hero be tested in this manner, I was able to see that there's a bit of poetic justice in it being Sam. He was the one who opened the Gates in the first place back in Wyoming, and he was the one who raised Lucifer. While he's said that he no longer carries the guilt of those things -- having had it burned out of him in the Cage -- I can see it being truly satisfying for him to be able to at least make the attempt to close them for good.
And one last thing -- if Sam is the one closing the Hell Gates, playing on the idea of poetic justice, I wonder if Dean -- as the righteous man and Micheal's vessel -- will be able to play a role with the angel tablet. They don't even know about them, though, and it's taken Kevin a helluva long time (no pun intended) to translate the demon tablet, so if he does have a role this season with the angel tablet, the actual angels will probably have to come into play. I do think it would be a great balance and way to keep the forward momentum of their character growth.
I'll be honest about something else -- because that's the kind of night it's been, I guess. Outside of the trials and the boy's speeches, the hunt itself felt a little...clunky. I'm not sure what it was -- maybe that the first couple Hellhound deaths didn't seem that scary? I mean, when the HHs came after those people back in "Crossroad Blues" I was clutching my pillow. When they ripped Dean to shreds, I was crying (but, that's a given). The ones that came after Ellie were a bit jarring because we actually got to see her hallucinate Dean into a ghoul, but before that it was oddly fast and not quite scary. Or maybe it was the Cassitys. I almost didn't care if the Hellhounds ate them. *laugh*
Lastly, I'm starting to get anxious about Castiel. It's not so much that I miss seeing him, though he's always entertaining when he's onscreen. It's more that we know he and his puppet master, Naomi, are connected to the tablets, we're starting to get some translations now, and with these trials -- designed by God, for goodness sakes -- now upon the boys, Heaven is going to have some skin in the game.... What will that mean for Castiel? My prediction? He's going to resurface during one of the trials and either help or end up pulling Dean away at a critical moment. I just hope he's back soon so we can start getting down to brass tacks with the Naomi storyline. Plus, it might be nice for him to see that his meddling (bringing Sam back to help save Samandriel) paid off.
Last thought before I get to it - this episode really, really made me want to write a missing scene/tag. Really.
Things I loved:
- Dean's room. All of it. And his pleasure at actually having it.
- Three words: Led. Zeppelin. Album.
- Dean nesting.
- This line: "I'm gonna feel dirty saying this, but you might want a salad."
- Dean's eyes as he's listening to Sam's speech at the end -- heck, his whole face, the way he drank in the words and fought to deflect them at the same time.
- Dean in glasses. Srsly. Also? He reminded me of James Dean. See:
- The boy's twin innocent smiles after Dean says, "He's right. We're swell."
- Dean's whole speech starting with, "I need you to be safe, Sam. That's what I need."
- Sam's whole speech starting with, "I want to shut Hell down, too. But I want to survive it."
- Dean's Hellhound wound. Don't judge me.
Things I liked:
- Dean closing his eyes as he said 'no' to Ellie's blatant advances. It's been a long time for the guy....
- Sam's totally oh shit look when the Cassitys revealed their dinner guest had been Crowley.
- Sam's little smile when he takes a look around Dean's room.
- Sam taking the burger Dean had made for him before heading out after Kevin.
- Sam saying, "We're not summoning a crossroads demon," the exact same way he said, "You're not going to poke her with a stick," back in "Playthings."
Things that were meh:
- The Divinyls? Really?
- The Cassitys. Unimpressed.
- Ellie's advances...about as subtle as a bullhorn. Though, that was kind of the point. So this is only a partial 'meh.'
- Was it weird that the guys never changed clothes -- even when 'working' on the farm, mucking stalls and such?
Things to add to my list of questions:
- So now that Sam's arm lit up like a Christmas tree, I wonder if anyone in Heaven or Hell has been supernaturally alerted to the fact that the trials have begin?
- How will Castiel come into play - and how soon?
- What kind of search engine does Sam use anyway?
- I honestly can't imagine they will actually close the Gates of Hell...something is going to stop them or slip out and be trapped on Earth with them, because otherwise, what will they fight in Season 9? And if they don't, how is what Sam is going through going to impact them moving forward?
Crossroads deals, Hellhounds, goofer dust, the key, the Batcave, Kevin and the tablets. All caught up? Good.
We get to see how poor Kevin has been spending his time. Up at 5am, coffee, aspirin, translation, hotdog, coffee, translation, aspirin, translation, bed by 2:45am, back up at 5am...day after day after day after -- well, you get the picture. We kill January and are churning through February until suddenly -- breakthrough! However, the moment he realizes what it is he has, Kevin's nose starts to bleed and he passes out. Not good, Kev.
Back at the Batcave (okay, that's never not going to be funny to me - *love*), the Impala is parked out front (they really need a place to park her that's hidden). We go into Dean's room. His own room. He's got a record player with a box full of vinyls -- including Led Zeppelin. That made me inexorably happy, I can't even tell you. He's mounted his multitude of guns on the wall around the room. And after decorating with weaponry, he takes out a old, faded picture of himself (at about 4) with Mary, her arms around him, her face grinning sunnily up at the camera.
Dean (with a small, sweet smile): Hey, Mom.
He props the picture up on his desk, under a lamp. Sam shows up in the doorway, impressed.
Dean: I haven't had my own room...ever. I've got kick ass vinyl, and a killer mattress. (He sinks down on it.) Memory foam. It remembers me. (Sam smiles and takes out a piece of gum.) And it's clean! No funky smell, no creepy motel stains.
As I'm growing mushy over Dean waxing sentimental over having his own room for the first time, Sam tosses his gum wrapper toward the waste basket and misses, the trash landing on the floor. Dean looks at it, then at his brother.
Sam (holding hands up in mock surrender): Sorry. (He picks it up.)
Dean: I'm going to fix us some grub.
After Dean leaves the room, Sam takes another look around at the guns on the wall, the neatly tucked blanket, and the picture of Mary. He gets a small, sweet smile on his face that gives us a glimpse of where his mind is when it comes to his big brother.
A bit later, Sam's at the table in the Batcave library, books spread out around him. Dean comes in carrying two plates of food ans asks him what he's reading.
Dean: Good. Someone is going to have to dig through all this & it ain't gonna be me.
Sam looks at the burger on his plate -- which looked pretty tasty, I'll say -- and then looks at his brother asking if Dean made those.
Dean: We have a real kitchen now.
Sam: I know. I just didn't think you knew what a kitchen was.
Oh, c'mon, Sam. Who do you think fed you all those years when John was gone, huh? He knows his way around a stove.
Dean: I'm nesting, okay? Eat.
He watches as Sam takes a bite and smiles all you're welcome when Sam basically groans in the pleasure only a good burger can bring. Before Dean can take a bite, his cell phone rings and he hears Kevin utter a strangled, "Dean, come quick." Then the line goes dead. So...off they go. Except Sam pauses, turns, and grabs the burger on his way out. Yeah. It was that good. *grins*
The guys get to the boat, enter with guns drawn, cautiously calling Kevin's name. Dean finds him in the back, throwing up every hotdog he'd ever eaten. They get him settled into a chair, hand him tissues for his bleeding nose and stare down at him concerned. Dean asks him if he's sleeping or eating.
Kevin: Hotdogs mostly.
Dean: I'm gonna feel dirty saying this, but you might want a salad. And a shower.
Kevin says he's had headaches, nosebleeds, and thinks maybe he had a small stroke, but it was worth it -- he figured out how to close the gates of Hell.
Dean (big grin): C'mere you smell son of a bitch!
He gives Kevin a big hug, but then backs away, his face crinkled up in retaliation to how bad Kevin apparently smells. Kevin goes over to his wall-o-translation and hands Dean a card with a spell on it, says it's in Enochian (Dean: Oh, here we go.) and that it has to be spoken after you finish each of the three trials.
Sam: Like Law & Order?
Kevin: More like Hercules.
Yikes. Also? LOL on Sam picking Law & Order. *grins*
Kevin tells them that the tablet says something like 'whosoever undertakes the trials should fear not danger or death or...a word that means getting your spine ripped out through your mouth for all eternity.' Yikes again.
Dean = head tilt
Kevin: Basically, God built a series of tests and when you've done all three, you can close the Gates.
Sam: So, what, God wants us to take SATs?
Kevin: Uh...He works in mysterious ways?
Dean's ready to get going, but Kevin's only been able to crack one so far: they have to kill a Hellhound and 'bathe in its blood.'
Dean (in a rushed bravado that with him usually means he's ignoring a deep-seated fear): If this means sealing all demons, I've got no problem gutting some devil dog and letting Calgon take me away.
Kevin wants to know where they're going to find one. Dean says they'll just find someone who made a crossroads deal ten years ago and when the HH comes for them, the boys will be ready. Easy.
Kevin: Doesn't sound easy.
Sam: It's not.
Dean waves them off and tells Sam to get on the net and see what he can dig up (with his super-special search engine) and says he's going for supplies like goofer dust and to get Kevin something to eat that's not ground up hooves and pigs anuses.
Dean: Not that there's anything wrong with that.
*insert adorable wink/grin here*
*watch Gaelic melt*
While Sam is 'on the net' Kevin showers, returning feeling refreshed. He starts in on the coffee again and Sam suggests he get some rest, go outside. Kevin's like, nuking Hell is how I get home. He goes on to lament how he hates it there -- and he can't leave because every demon on the planet wants to peel his face off (which makes me wonder, do they have some anti-demon charms/sigils on the boat...I didn't see any).
Kevin: I need this to be over.
Sam: I know. I do. But...this whole saving the world thing? It's a marathon, not a sprint (someone's been watching Zombieland). Take better care of yourself.
Dean comes back in proclaiming his surprise at how many tomatoes there are and Sam tells him he found something in Shoshone, Idaho.
Sam: The Cassity's struck oil in '03, which is weird because geological surveys --
Dean: You had me at weird. Thinking deal?
Clearly Sam is, so they plan on packing up and going to see the Beverly Hillbillies. Dean tells Kevin to work on trial #2 and says if he comes across anything relating to HHs, drop a dime because between the claws, the teeth, and the whole invisibility thing, those Bitches can be, well, real Bitches.
He gives in a bottle of aspirin and a bottle that he says is for 'pep' - then tells him not to O.D.
Sam (aside): You sure about that?
Dean: Sam, we are on the one yard line. It's time to play through the pain.
So much for a marathon.
They roll up through the gates of the Cassity Farm and it is schwank, ya'll. I've never seen a farm so pretty. And I grew up around them. They pull to a stop near a very, very shiny John Deer tractor and Dean pulls out his demon-killing knife and gives Sam the look for someone acting like they have a HH on their trail speech, then tells him to get that person clear and Dean will "spike fido."
They get out and come up to someone on a back dolly working under the tractor with what sounded like a torque wrench. Dean calls out, "Hey, Pal, who runs this joint?" And a pretty, Native American-looking girl (Ellie) rolls out -- as if she hadn't heard the Impala approaching from down the road -- and says she does. She manages the property and guesses they're there about 'the job.' Dean rolls with it -- as good a cover as any.
She asks them if they've worked on a farm before and Dean's like, Definitely. She looks doubtful.
Sam: We're quick learners.
A portly man named Carl Granville (I think) comes up and introduces himself. His wife's family owns the place -- he's just a 'trophy husband.' He tells Ellie that they seem like swell guys.
Dean: He's right. We're swell.
Boys = twin grins
Ellie takes them to the bunk house -- which is small, cramped, and looks like many of their motel rooms -- and says that breakfast is at 5, dinner at 8, and between that, they were hers.
Dean (looking forlornly into the bunkhouse): I miss my room.
Sam: We're good.
She tells them that it's crap work -- and apparently means that literally as the first job they have is mucking out stalls. They see Ellie arguing with Alice Cassity about feeding the animals organic food.
Alice: My land, my cattle, my money, my way. End of story.
Well, ain't she a ray of friggin' sunshine.
Ellie says to Dean that Alice is the boss, so what can you do. Dean gives her a flirtatious smile and suggests they drink. Ellie smiles back, but walks further into the barn. Once she's out of earshot, the boys rundown the options. Dean says they're going to have to go stalker on this one. So, that night, while Alice and Carl are holding hands and enjoying a nice dinner by the fire, the boys lurk outside the barn. They hear a wolf cry and the horses get stirred up. Alice says she's going to go check on the horses and while the boys are following her -- since she owns the place that struck oil, they think it has to be her -- and while they do, a Hellhound attacks and kills Carl.
Later, the sheriff is covering up the body, saying Carl 'died bad' and the boys are standing near Ellie.
Dean: Sorry, Ellie. Carl seemed like a good guy.
Ellie: The best.
She says that this was no wolf and that the whole Cassity clan was flying in for this. The sheriff wishes them luck and the boys walk away.
Sam: What do you think?
Dean: I think Carl signed a deal and now he's dog food. The HH is gone and we were too busy chasing a pile of jack to stop it.
He wants to grab their stuff and get out of there; Sam goes into the barn to grab his gloves he left there and sees Alice Cassity standing next to a horse cross-tied outside it's stall. She looks...lost, a bit. Says she's fine and is slightly troubled by that. She said Carl grew up around there, was always mooning over her. She used to make fun of him. But then Valentine's Day 2003, they were at a party and suddenly he was cute, sweet, funny, and they'd been happy for 10 years. Now, he's dead and she's not sad, not angry, just...fine.
Sam returns to the room and before he can say anything, Dean is asking him if they have grave dirt and yarrow.
Sam: No, Dean. No. We are not summoning a crossroads demon.
It's Dean's Plan B -- trap a CRD and get her to call in a pooch. Sam points out that if Crowley finds out they're dialing up Hell, he'll send 100 Hellhounds.
Sam: That's not a plan, Dean. That's suicide.
Dean: You got a better idea?
Sam tells him they should stay there -- Carl's deal wasn't for oil, it was for Alice. There were more deals made and the whole family is coming in.
Dean: You want to scope them out.
Sam: I want to kill a Hellhound. And not die. How 'bout you?
There's a moment where Dean just stares at him, his eyes empty of answers, full of emotion, everything about him tense. Then he kind of sags, gives in and says they have 2 days, then they do it his way. Sam's face is pouty, but he agrees.
Next day, JR Ewing -- er, well, Noah Cassity, but seriously, it was JR Ewing...and I think I'll just call him JR because it's easier -- shows up with his other two daughters, the middle daughter, Cindy, a failed pop star and a drunk, and youngest Margo/Margie (I couldn't tell which), who lives in Paris. Ellie and the boys stand off to the side and Ellie gives them the breakdown about the family, saying she worked on the farm since she was 13. She tells them that tonight she's going to need one of them inside serving dinner and pouring drinks -- lots of drinks -- and one outside at the grill. Sam gets inside, Dean gets grill.
While Dean is grilling, Ellie comes up and checks out his work.
Ellie: I do like a man who can handle his meat.
Dean = *blink* *blink*
Inside, Sam's pouring wine -- lots of wine -- and the Cassity's are being awful toward each other. I mean, biting conversations, insults, just...ugly. I am not even going to bother recapping it. Just think of the worst family dinner you've ever been to, then multiply that times a billion.
Sam heads to the kitchen for more wine and Ellie's there. He asks her how she can stand to work there and Ellie tells him she loves the property and the animals. That was when I realized she had made a deal -- I wasn't sure if it was for the oil or something else, but I suspected her in that moment.
While he's in there, Sam hears the family talking about the last time they were all together for dinner was 10 years ago when the British traveling salesman was visiting -- Crowley. Sam about swallows his tongue and goes out to tell Dean. While he's there, Kevin calls.
Kevin: Good news. I think. Kinda.
Dean: Don't oversell it.
He tells the boys that the Hellhounds can only be seen by the damned or through an object scorched by Holy Fire. He suggests they use glasses. Dean says he has some "Jesus juice" in the trunk and tells Sam to keep an eye on JR and the gang.
Sam (to the phone): Kevin, you did great, man. Get some sleep.
We see Kevin contemplate rest for all of one second before he opens the bottle of "pep" pills. I have a feeling Kevin is going to implode at a very inopportune time.
Sam sees JR and Margie out walking with rifles and runs out to try to stop them. First, I thought it was weird they just accepted him when this was the first time they'd ever seen him -- and second, it was just weird that they were out searching for the 'man eater' for Carl without any back-up or help or...anything. Sam sticks with them, though, which I thought was a bad-ish idea since he had no way to tell Dean where he was, but whatever.
Margie hands him her rifle and pulls out a handgun when Sam says that yeah, he knows a little about hunting.
Dean finds some safety glasses in the garage and does the scorching thing. He tries them on -- looking like James Dean -- and sees Ellie approaching. She says she likes the "Clark Kent" (okay, sure, we can go with that) look and he hurriedly tucks that glasses away. She steps up to him, close, her intentions clear even before she just lays it out there for him.
Ellie: I think you're really hot. You want to go to my room and have sex?
Dean (strangled sound): What?
Ellie: Sorry, I don't usually do this. I guess I'm feeling my oats.
Ellie (freezes): What?
Dean = closed eyes
Ellie steps back, embarrassed. Dean tells her that he wants to, believe him, and asks for a raincheck.
Ellie: This is one night only, sorry.
Back in the woods, Sam hears something and branches off from JR and Margie -- which was another bad-ish idea. How do you protect them if you're nowhere near them? He tracks the sound, but instead of finding a Hellhound, gets a rifle barrel in the face and pushes it away. It's JR, but Margie isn't with him. Suddenly, they hear her scream and a wolf howl and Sam is able to shoot the HH, but it's too late for poor Margie. At the table we heard that she used to be fat, so I at first assumed she'd sold her soul to be thin. Wouldn't be the first time that's happened....
The boys round up the rest of the family in the living room and tell them that a Hellhound killed Carl and Margie -- no more pretense, they're done messing around and Dean is in full-on do not eff with me mode.
Dean: See, when you sell your soul to a demon, Hellhounds are the one that come and rip it out of you.
Those who speak from experience usually tell it best.
He wants to know who signed, but JR says he has to be insane.
Cindy: They're obviously insane.
Sam: Don't play dumb.
Cindy: I didn't sell my damn soul!
Dean: Well, somebody did. Sooner that idiot owns up, the sooner the rest of you can go.
He tells Sam to seal them in with goofer dust -- it'll keep the Hellhounds out for awhile. JR demands to know for how long.
Dean: Long enough for me to stab it in it's throat.
JR: You can't do this!
Dean (pulls gun out and looks dangerous): Yeah, I can. Because it's what I do. And buddy, I'm the best. I gut Old Yeller out there and maybe you walk away. I don't? You're meat. So, sit down, shut up (pulls out handcuffs) and put these on.
Sam cuffs them to the tables and ironically says they're there to help. He tells them that when the HH gets close, they could start hearing things, hallucinating, so the cuffs are there so they don't hurt themselves. The thing is, we never saw Carl or Margie see things. *shrug*
Dean tells Sam to watch the family while he goes and scouts the grounds.
Sam: I'm coming with you.
Dean: No, you're not.
Sam: Why? They're on lockdown and you need backup.
Dean: I need you to be safe, Sam. That's what I need.
Sam: When am I...when are we ever safe?
Dean: This is different.
Dean: Because of the 3 trials crap. God's little obstacle course. We've been down roads like this before, man. With Yellow Eyes, Lucifer, Dick Friggin' Roman. We both know where this ends. One of us dies. Or worse.
Sam (working up a head of steam): So, what? You just up and decide it's gonna be you?
Dean (eyes soft, honest, raw): I'm a grunt, Sam. You're not. You've always been the brains of this operation. You told me yourself that you see a way out. You see a light at the end of this ugly-ass tunnel. I don't. I tell you what I do know. (He smiles a little, looking almost happy, at peace with this knowledge) I'm gonna die with a gun in my hand 'cause that's all I have waiting for me. I want you to get out. I want you to have a life. Become a Man of Letters, whatever. (Sam swallows hard, his eyes almost swimming, saying nothing) Have a wife and kids and grandkids, getting bald and chugging Viagra. That is my perfect ending. It's the only one that I'm gonna get. So I'm gonna do these trials. I'm gonna do them alone. You stay here. I'm going out there. If land shark comes knocking, you call me. If you try to follow me, I'm gonna put a bullet in your damn leg.
He walks away and Sam rotates to follow him with his eyes, looking all of five.
Outside, Dean puts on the glasses, looks around the grounds, but then hears..."I Touch Myself." Coming from the barn. He follows the noise.
Inside, Sam is wearing his glasses and listening to the family snipe at each other. He realizes that Margie was the one sell her soul for the oil -- thinking if they were rich, they'd be happy. There seems to be a gap in timing or logic there from Sam realizing Margie had been the one they thought they were waiting on the Hellhounds to attack and the HH's actually going after Ellie, but I'm hand-waving. It's probably just me anyway.
Dean follows the music to Ellie's room and finds her drinking and dancing. He turns off the music and she walks up to him and kisses him. He gently sets her back and tells her that she needs to stay inside, there's something evil out there. She says she knows; it's coming for her.
Inside, Alice breaks free of her cuffs and runs out of the room. Sam chases her to her car and sees the shadowy form of a Hellhound through his Super Specs, rushing Alice back inside quickly.
In the barn, Dean is listening to Ellie's story -- she sold her soul to cure her mother of Parkinson's. Her mom is living happily in Florida, now, so she thinks it was worth it.
Dean: Stupid move, Ellie.
Ellie: I did it for my mom, Dean. What would you do for your mom?
That gives Dean pause -- especially considering he did the same thing for Sam...and got less time. He finds out that Crowley didn't tell any of them of the consequences beyond going to Hell. Ellie tells Dean she doesn't want to die just as a howl is heard outside. She looks back at Dean and sees his face all evil and twisted and ghoulish -- to the point I actually gasped when she first saw it. Dean says that whatever she's seeing isn't real, it's the HH. He puts a circle of goofer dust on the floor and tells her to stand inside of it and not leave, no matter what.
He heads outside, glasses on, and finds one HH in the barn.
Dean: So you're Crowley's Bitch. I guess pets really do look like their owners.
As he readying himself for the attack, he suddenly realizes there's one behind him. He moves too late and it swipes him, claws out, laying him open across the ribs. The force of the blow slams him to the ground, knocking his glasses off and the knife from his hand. He's bleeding, and tries to get up to get to his knife, but the HH is right there in front of him -- he can see the air from its blowing nostrils. Just as the creature growls as if to strike, it's blasted by a shotgun from the doorway.
Sam rushes in, grabs the knife from where Dean dropped it and grabs the HH by the throat, holding it off of him long enough to slice the creature open, black blood splashing all over his chest. He lays back, arms falling at his sides and looks over at Dean, who is holding his bleeding side, grimacing in pain. Dean drops his head back, and Sam watches him, realizing what this means.
Back at Ellies, she's patched Dean up, saying he needs a hospital, but he says he's had worse -- which Sam agrees, he has had worse. He's moving slowly, stiffly, his hand at his side, clearly still in pain. Sam has black HH blood all over his shirt. Dean tells Ellie that they'll make a hex bag for her and she starts running. If Crowley can't find her, he can't sic another mutt on her.
Ellie: No going to Hell?
Dean (tremulous smile): Not on my watch.
He asks Ellie to give them a moment and she leaves. Sam pointed out that even if Ellie avoids Crowley, when she dies her soul is still ear-marked for Hell.
Dean: Not if we shut it down first.
He pulls out the spell
Sam: It's not gonna work for you, Dean.
Dean reads it anyway, but nothing happens. He says it doesn't matter; they'll track down another one and he'll kill it. Sam's like, no.
Dean: I didn't pass the test.
Sam: But I did. And I'm doing the rest of the them. Closing the gates. It's a suicide mission for you.
Dean: Sam --
Sam: I want to shut Hell down, too. But I want to survive it. I want to live. And so should you. You have friends up here. Family. Hell, you even got your own room now. You are right; I see light at the end of this tunnel and I'm sorry you don't. But it's there. And if you come with me, I can take you to it.
Dean is listening to him, but it's painful. He doesn't want to hear him -- doesn't want this to happen. He doesn't want Sam to be right, for logic to win out. He had good points and he still believes them and this way he has no control -- once again, Sam has to walk into danger and all he can to is try to keep everything else besides what Sam is facing away from him. He can't save him from it; he can only save him from everything else.
All of that washed over him as Sam smoke and lingered, heavy in his eyes.
Dean: Sam, be smart.
Sam: I am smart. And so are you. You're not a grunt, Dean. You're a genius! When it comes to lore...you're the best damn hunter I've ever seen. Better than me, better than Dad. I believe in you, Dean. So, please, please, believe in me, too.
Dean has to look away a few times as Sam is talking, not able to swallow fully what Sam is offering him. And I think that Sam was not only saying, hey, I can do this, trust in me, he was also saying, hey, I can't lose you anymore than you can lose me; you almost died tonight, let me do this to try to keep you safe.
Sam may have saved Dean's bacon tonight, but in the long rung, I think Sam knows that the odds of survival are decidedly in his favor if he has Dean watching out for him and I think he doubts the same would be true for Dean if the situation were reversed.
Dean has a hard time breathing -- the rise and fall of his breaths are visible in the motion of his shoulders -- but he gives in and hands Sam the spell.
Sam reads it and instantly curls in with pain. He half turns from Dean, catching himself with his right arm on the floor. Dean moves toward him, calling his name, clutching at his wounded side with one hand. Sam's right hand flashes bright, the veins visible for a moment -- much like Dean's arm when he transported Benny's soul out of Purgatory -- and then it's gone. Sam stands, facing his brother, catching his breath.
Sam: I'm good. I'm okay. I can do this.
Dean's face is a tapestry of fear, uncertainty, pain, and regret.
So...I'm not sure where they'll go with this. As I said at the start, they won me over with the brotherly pleas shared and I'm on board, excited to see where it goes next. I'm hopeful we don't get a replay, that we keep the balance we've achieved thus far this season, and that both brothers play a part in this mission to rid the word of demons -- and/or of wars between Heaven and Hell.
Thanks, as always, for reading. Watching our boys and writing this was a much-needed distraction for me.