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Stream of Consciousness, Episode 8.17

Our show went into the hiatus like a lamb, but came out like a lion. With only 6 episodes left this season, this one certainly packed a few punches...and added a few pegs to the Jenga tower that is the storyline. Just a warning: there might be a bit more ramble to this Ramble. Also, just a reminder that this is all just personal opinion and your thoughts (whether they agree or disagree) are always welcome. *smiles*


Sorry for the delay, folks. I hope you're still out there, ready to read and chat about this episode -- it was a LONG wait through that hiatus! I haven't taken time to see what others thought -- just wanted to take the limited time given me to watch and Ramble, so apologies if this goes over old ground that ya'll have already discussed. I can also see where some might love this episode while others cringe at it, depending on what you are watching for and/or hoping for with their respective favorite characters.

Honestly, I loved it. I go into these episodes looking for that escape, wanting to be entertained -- and both were offered to me today. I had some head-tilt moments that I'll get to, and did some hand-waving, but that's a given with the complexity of our show. But I loved the pop-cultural references peppered throughout the dialog and the sassy editing that illustrated so well both how Naomi was controlling Cas and how Cas could practically be in two places at once (celestial being and all that). I admired the fact that the editing didn't take away from Dean and Sam's POVs -- I still felt every moment of their confusion or pain.

The thing I'm rarely without when it comes to our show is the emotional impact -- and the often uncanny way that something I'm dealing with in life is reflected in the episode or in how one or both of the brothers react. Today, it was the eye-opening realization of how someone going through a personal change -- physical, mental, emotional -- is quite often unable to see how that change also affects those around them. Not only that, but the way they choose to deal with that change has a ripple effect through their loved ones.

Quick personal aside so that my thought process makes sense to you guys: I spent several days last week back in my hometown with my family so that my daughter could see her grandpa, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. It's Stage IV, and though he's undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the prognosis is not good. However, my father is fighting, as is his nature, and while I am glad of that, the way he's choosing to fight is by ignoring (as much as possible) the fact that he's going through this physical trial and working to live his life as if nothing has changed. You can see where that might be problematic for those around him. I've been frustrated with him and have wavered between playing along and calling him on it for several weeks.

But then Sam Winchester said, "I guess I just wanted to believe I was okay," and I caught my breath. You see, I've been frustrated with Sam as well -- since that first trial (as you can clearly see in my rambles), and I was still frustrated with him at the start of this episode. The blatant lying to his brother after all they'd been through, after he has lived through what lying to Dean does to both of them, was argh-worthy. But this episode had me sympathizing with him in a way I haven't in a long while.

And with that line, I realized that really, it had nothing to do with Dean. It was all about Sam and how he was coping. He wasn't hiding the truth from Dean because he didn't want Dean to think less of him or go off and kill a Hellhound to take Sam's place. He was actually, for all intents and purposes, lying to himself more than to Dean.

We all have that person in our lives who, when we tell them something -- anything -- it suddenly becomes real. We can pretend until we have to tell them about whatever it is, and then we have to live within the reality that their knowing creates. For Sam, that's Dean. If he didn't tell Dean, then he didn't have to face the truth that something was wrong with him. The thing is, when someone is going through something like this they literally cannot see how the situation is affecting the people around them -- nor can they see how their coping mechanism hurts those people even more.

Sam has been so wrapped up in the effort of hiding the truth that he hasn't seen how much it's hurting his brother -- to the point Dean prayed to an angel who hasn't been acting 'right' since his mysterious return from Purgatory. Sam hasn't meant to hurt Dean, but that's not really the point. The fact of the matter is, these trials are affecting Sam physically and Dean emotionally and both of them mentally. And Sam's actions have just been compounding the impact on Dean. Now that the truth is out and he sees what it's doing to Dean, I wonder how it will direct his actions; I wonder if he'll be able to keep his promise to be honest with Dean about what he's going through.

My thoughts on exactly what it is he's going through are starting to take shape, too. Castiel confirmed that Sam is damaged -- in a way that even he can't heal. But then he said he didn't know if it was lethal. The 'damage' was on a "sub-atomic level" and affected his electro-magnetic field (so...I'm thinking his spirit/soul in some way...since that's what EMF picks up for ghosts). It was said quickly and we didn't get to pay much attention to it, but that bit of information coupled with the glowy-arm thing that occurred after the first trial has me thinking that Sam's not so much damaged as changing. I mean, these trials were designed by God, and the spell spoken after the completion of them is in Enochian. To me, that means that if a human were to complete them, they wouldn't necessarily be completely human after all is said and done.

This would follow with the way Sam has been the one to have the not-quite-human abilities all along: visions, demon-blood powers, Lucifer's powers, soullessness. Plus also, raise your hand if you think they are really going to close the gates of Hell in the next 6 episodes. Same here. I think that the trials are setting up the cliffhanger into the next season and the tablets and closing down Heaven and Hell will take us through another season. I just hope if I'm right about any of this, poor Kevin gets off that boat for awhile at least.

For me, this thought process also follows Dean's characterization as well. In a friend-lock post a few weeks back, I postulated that in every story, there is a character who is the plot's "through line." The plot is anchored to that character's journey and the people s/he impacts or who impact them along the way. It doesn't mean that the "through line" is always the central character or even the most important character. In fact, in many cases, the supporting characters are the more interesting, more integral ones (Han Solo or Samwise Gamgee, for example). The very word supporting indicates as such -- the plot and the "through line" character can't stand up -- are in fact empty and hollow -- without the support of those characters.

I've always thought of the brothers as joint main characters, but if I had to choose, I would say that Kripke started with Sam as his "through line" and Carver has continued it. No matter how many individual storylines they've teased us with for Dean (righteous man, Micheal's sword, Purgatory), Sam has been the character most impacted/changed by the over-arching plot devices and Dean has been the one to protect him. It's been Dean's 'one job' throughout the whole series. Now, before you throw rotten fruit at me, in my mind, this doesn't minimize Dean as a character one bit. I mean, would I love for him to have a unique storyline that showcased the skills and talent and friggin' value this character embodies? Hell yes.

I personally had high hopes for the Purgatory storyline -- I loved how they showed us the washed-out, bloody flashbacks and Dean's loyalty throughout that hellish year. I loved how we got the true layers of Dean as a character and additional layers as we saw him build a bond with Benny. I loved how he was walking wounded when he came back. But that storyline has (so far) followed the direction of the others they've given us for Dean because, I think, the core of Dean's character (Sam) was missing in Purgatory. I also wanted Dean to be the one to go through the trials for all the reasons I listed in that particular Ramble. That would have been enormously fascinating (for me) to see Dean's worth be put front and center all buffed up and shiny.

But for me, he's no less valuable as the person who carries Sam through the trials. In point of fact, he's critical to the storyline. Maybe not in the way that we Deangirls might like to see, but none-the-less, his value is there and is being showcased in the way that has been true to this character -- this very human, very loyal character -- all along. So many times we've seen other characters and/or situations peel back Dean's layers or break down his walls and each time the same shining center is revealed. He reflects back a strength of purpose -- the purpose being that he believes he doesn't exist for himself, he exists for others, most notably Sam, but in a broader stroke...family.

I suppose that could be looked at multiple ways -- sad that he doesn't see the individual worth of himself, noble that he's willing to sacrifice for himself, selfish that he thinks himself so important to survival of others, heroic that he takes the changes to save others. To me, it's noble and heroic, but that's because he's my hero. No matter who the "through line" of the plot might be, this is the character that caught my attention, held my heart, and enables my obsession. He's also the one I relate to most. His way of dealing with Sam's method of coping by playing along until he couldn't anymore...it hit me where I live. And the way he was able to 'find' Cas -- I need you -- broke my heart.

I have more to say about Dean's reaction in that scene, but I'll save that for the recap part. Give you some incentive to read on. *wink*

I found it both interesting and telling that Naomi's method for breaking down and brainwashing Castiel was for him to kill thousands of Deans in her angelic holodeck program. Dean has said to Sam before, the brothers keep each other human. But in a strange way, I actually think it's Dean who keeps Sam human, and Sam keeps Dean in the game by giving him a purpose. I think the 'profound bond' that Castiel has with Dean has been having that same affect on the angel -- humanizing him, showing him and teaching him compassion, exposing his heart. While Sam might be the one who's known to live with his heart on his sleeve, it's Dean's compassion that has saved him and others over and over, and subconsciously, I think Castiel gravitated toward that element of Dean's personality.

When Hester said that the moment Castiel touched Dean in Hell he was lost, I think she was really onto something. As long as he's been around, and as long as he's been observing humanity, Cas still hasn't really been able to pick up on human mannerisms and colloquialisms. But something about saving Dean from Hell anchored him to this man and showed him the heart of humanity in a way he's apparently not seen before. He has affection for both brothers -- that much is clear or else he'd not trap himself with Hallucifer in order to save Sam and make amends for breaking the wall in the first place -- but he truly loves Dean. And I don't mean that in any other way than one being connecting to another. Love is quite possible without the addition of sex.

Naomi clearly knew this, thus the conditioning of Cas to be able to kill Dean -- and no one else but Dean. She was banking on the muscle memory of Cas' vessel to be able to go through with it, and didn't count on Cas knowing Dean better than anyone -- better than even his brother, the one person in the world Dean was willing to sacrifice everything for. The moment Cas beat on Dean, breaking his bones, bloodying his face, sending him to his knees, was reminiscent of "Swan Song" and Dean's broken reminder to Sam that he wasn't going to leave him, he was there for Sam, he was willing to die for Sam.

With that same desperate loyalty, that same bloody, broken voice, Dean reminded Cas that they're family, they need him, but most importantly, Dean needs him. And that's the turning point for the angel. When God or Micheal or whoever it was gave Cas the responsibility of saving Dean, it changed Cas -- much the same way that John giving the responsibility of saving Sam to Dean changed the course of Dean's life. It's hard sometimes for me to remember this because there are times Cas' non-human behavior is actually distracting to me. I enjoy the additional level of complexity he brings to the storyline and I like how his friendship with the brothers exposes truths about them that we might not otherwise see, but this story is about the Winchesters. So there are times -- like in Season 7 -- where Cas just took away from that focal point for me.

But this season, I've liked his involvement. I've liked how his being in Purgatory gave Dean a mission: find Cas, get them all out alive. I like the internal struggle Cas has faced due to Naomi's puppet master routine. I like that Dean's the one to help cut those strings. And I even like the resurgence of his wayward, possibly misplaced, but somewhat intriguing affection for Meg.

There's a line from one of my favorite movies, Silverado, "Cobb says there's no telling what you're going to care about." I thought about that all through the -- slightly awkward -- "Megstiel" scenes (as Dean hilariously dubbed them). Thinking back, Cas was adamant about not working with her initially, but as she came through a few times for the boys, taking hits for them -- even though she also betrayed them a time or two, but really, who hasn't, Castiel included? -- it was clear he was softening toward her. The quiet, battle-worn flirtations between the two of them in this episode was much less awkward than the full-mouthed, against the wall, "learned that from the pizza man" kiss a few seasons back.

And while it could be argued that Meg was keeping an eye on Cas because of Crowley, the fact that she stayed with him while he was in the asylum with no clear benefit to her pretty much cemented in my mind the fact that no matter what Cas felt, Meg had a crush on an angel. Which had to twist up her panties but good. It's like the Universe's version of Romeo and Juliet with Meg calling him Clarence and Castiel tending to her wounds. I even thought her sly, "If we survive this, I'm ordering a pizza and we're going to move some furniture around," promise was amusing. Especially when Cas almost-smiled as the implication sunk in. After all, he did admit that he's aware of how to make a girl's "nethers quiver" -- though it usually doesn't involve cleaning wounds.

While we're on the topic of Meg, I'll say this -- for the first time since Rachel Miner replaced Nikki Aycox, I liked this Meg. Miner's portrayal of Meg has just...irked me. Her delivery of lines have been mumbled and she's been more irritating than anything. But this time, I sympathized with her and actually grew curious about her -- maybe it was the year of torture that softened her up...or the blonde hair. Who knows. But I found myself wondering what her human story had been. I mean, we knew Ruby had been a witch once. Do we know anything about Meg other than her name isn't Meg (since that was the name of the girl she inhabited when we first met her), and she's one of Azazel's children? For the first time, I find myself wanting to know. So, good on ya, Meg.

So, yeah, I can see why Dean telling Sam that he might not be able to complete the trials, but he can carry Sam through them, standing by his side -- in front of him, behind him, keeping the monsters away as best he can, and following through with his promise that as long as he was around, nothing bad was going to happen to Sam -- might disappoint some Deangirls because it puts Dean in the "supporting Sam" role once more. But for me? It's part of what makes this character so real and relatable and someone I can find myself falling for time and again.

Frodo would have died on that mountain, succumbing to the power of the One Ring and the weakness and fear inside of him, had it not been for Samwise. There's no way Sam is going to make it through these trials without Dean. He knows it, Dean knows it, and now they both know the other knows it. And with this latest burst of honesty -- Dean telling Sam he can't take anymore lies, from anyone, and Sam saying he'll be truthful from here on out -- we have another chance for the balance to righten itself between the brothers.

Like so many things in life, the storyline of honesty with these two is cyclical. At various times, both have been less than truthful. They'll lie, the truth will come out, they'll have a come-to-Jesus about "this" ending and needing to change, they'll promise to do so, they follow through...and then something triggers another lie and the cycle starts again. We've all seen a version of this cycle in life, so this is understandable to me. But right now, with the current threat they're facing, the unknown of the trials, the fact that Cas is in the wind and Crowley is on their heels, the cycle needs to not curve again for a long while. They need this balance -- Dean needs it for his strength, Sam for his survival.

And I'm ready to see it play on.

Things I loved:

- Though it was at the end, playing Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger" on the Impala's radio. I'm gonna be singing that song all night.

- The whole 1st edition of 'Voluptuous Asian Lovelies' scene -- from Dean admitting to maybe knowing what it would go for on eBay to his part lacivious, part childlike (how does he do that?!) grin when Sam gives him 10 mins with the mag.

- This line: "Y'know, I can hear you both; I am a celestial being." And the boys' joint whoops grimaces.

- The pop-cultural references, like: "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" and "I didn't give them the Glengarry leads." and "I saw you Zero Dark Thirty that demon."

- The fact that the first question Dean asked Meg was about her blonde hair.

- Dean & Sam telling Meg to 'shut up' in unison -- not once, but twice.

- These lines: "Cas...it's me...we're family...we need you...I need you."

- Dean calling Samwise the "Rudy Hobbit" -- primarily because that is the way I was able to convince my hubs to see LotR with me in the first place: it had Rudy in it! And I have yet to watch Rudy without crying when he takes the field in the final *sniff* game.

Things I liked:

- Using the rock alias (Jeff) Lynne and (Richard) Tandy from ELO. The only reason that's not up in the 'love' section is because it took me forever to place them.

- The super-cool peel-out of the Impala as the boys were escaping Crowley.

- Cas' almost-grin when he got Meg's flirtation about the pizza man.

- Dean calling Sam Doc Holiday even before he found the bloody rag in the basket.

- Meg calling Castiel her unicorn.

- Dean taking a beating from Cas while trying to save his friend. The gasping, choked, blood-thick voice just killed me. And also, yes, fed the h/c addict in me.

Things that were meh:

- Sam questioning Dean about praying to Cas. I get that it was to expose how worried Dean was for Sam, but it seemed weird to me that Sam was all "you prayed to him" like they hadn't been doing just that for weeks now. I mean, back a few episodes Dean was climbing the walls because Kevin hadn't found anything and Cas wasn't answering...so, why was it a problem for Sam now?

- Crowley insinuating that he and Naomi had a fling back in "Mesopotamia." How was Crowley in Mesopotamia? When they found his bones and threatened to burn them I got the impression he'd only been a demon a few hundred years -- Dark Ages, maybe. But Mesopotamia?? Did you guys think that was odd or am I just remembering Crowley's timeline wrong?

Things to add to my list of questions:

- I get why Cas has to protect the angel tablet from Naomi, but I'm really curious why he has to protect it from Dean. Is it simply because he's afraid Dean will translate and use it and it risks eliminating Cas along with the other angels? Or is there something more there that we've yet to see -- something that will have to do with Dean's continuing story? (Yes, okay, so I always have hope for more even when I am happy with what I have. Hush.)

- Why couldn't Cas just heal Meg? Why did he have to clean/wrap her wounds? Was it because the body she inhabited was really already dead?

- Was the "Spear of Destiny" something in SPN cannon? I'm getting my shows/stories mixed up. I remember a show back in 1997 called Roar with a young Heath Ledger and, ironically enough, Sebastian Roche where Roche played Longinus, the Roman soldier who stuck a spear in Jesus' side when he was on the cross. He was cursed with immortality and that spear -- the Spear of Destiny -- was the only thing that could kill him. I can't remember if we've heard of the Spear of Destiny in our show before this or not. Anyone?

- Is Meg really dead? We didn't see a full-on flame out, so I'm in the "not dead yet" camp, but I have to wonder. What do you guys think?

THEN

Basically recapping the important stuff those not paying enough attention might have forgotten over the hiatus, like who Meg is, Naomi controlling Cas, the angel tablet, the Gates of Hell, and Dean praying.

NOW

Probably the most jarring opening scene we've had for awhile -- Dean stalking stealthily through a seemingly abandoned warehouse only to be coldly and cruelly killed by Cas. In merciful moments we see that it's Naomi's angelic holodeck meant to train Cas to betray and murder his friend and that she's been at it for awhile: the floor is strewn with literally thousands of dead Deans, all in various manner of gruesome.

Shift to the Batcave and Sam is at his laptop, which is situated on the world's largest game of Risk, and Dean is going through MoL boxes -- which is where he finds the Spear of Destiny, not to mention a few other odds and ends.

Dean: Would it kill these asshats to label these boxes in something other than hieroglyphics?

Sam isn't really listening to him, brushing him off with a yeah, yeah, fascinating stuff, write it in your journal comment. He coughs into a napkin and Dean steals a sidelong glance at him, calling him Doc Holiday and asking him if he's okay. Sam, of course, is a lying liar who lies, but the nickname gave us (and Sam, if he were listening) a clue that Dean has been paying close attention to his brother this past month(ish). Just then, Dean finds a 1st edition of "Voluptuous Asian Lovelies" and his grin is friggin' priceless. I want to put an image of that grin above my computer so when work is wearing me down, I can glance at it and smile back.

Dean: Kon'nichiwa.

He brings the mag over to Sam and says something about what it would go for on eBay. Sam doesn't know, does Dean?

Dean: No...maybe. Shut up!

*laugh*

Sam tells him about a hunt that's their thing: dead bodies with wounds in the hands, back, chests, burns on the face, and eyes and internal organs liquified. Dean thinking power tools gone rogue, maybe a Maximum Overdrive situation, but whatever it is, they have to check it out. But first, Sam gives Dean 10 minutes with 'Miss October.' Hee.

As he leaves, though, Dean glances down into the trash and sees the bloody rag. Hrm.

They head to Missouri and the location of the last dead body, Ann Norton. In their FBI personas, they interview Ann's husband and find out that Ann was weird before her death -- obsessively digging holes 10-15 feet deep and bringing bags of dirt back to the house to hang over a to-scale model of the town she built in their basement. He says she was looking for an old orchard that was there and that when he finally confronted her about it, her eyes turned black. The boys head out, knowing what they're dealing with at least.

Dean: Someone is killing demons. We should send a card or flowers. What kind of flowers say 'thanks for killing demons'?

Sam: Why would a demon possess someone and then go all Beautiful Mind and start digging in the dirt?

They decide to go talk to the last person who spoke to Ann Norton. They show up at a a woman's house and she's a bit flustered to be caught by two handsome FBI Agents with her hair up in curlers. She's probably the least threatening person ever, with a shy smile, timid eyes, and nervous hands that seem to gravitate to a non-existent button at her collar. She tells them she's a PhD candidate and is doing her dissertation on the town, which had been wiped from the map by one of the 100 year floods. Ann had asked her for the location of the orchard and Ms. PhD Candidate (didn't catch her name) had one of the only maps of it's location.

She never got to talk to Ann, though she was currently waiting for her assistant. Just then, there's a knock at the door. Ms. PhD Candidate opens it up to reveal three demons who instantly attack. One grabs the map and bails while Dean takes down the other. Just as Dean's going to kill it, though, it body-jumps into PhD. Sam's getting his ass handed to him by demon number three until Cas shows up out of nowhere and kills it, tying up PhDemon in the kitchen.

Post-fight, Dean tries to give Sam an icepack for his neck, but Sam tosses it away saying he's fine. He wants some answers from Cas, starting with where the hell he's been.

Dean (quietly): You heard me, didn't you?

Sam (surprised): You prayed to him?

Dean looks chagrined and uncomfortable, but doesn't answer. Cas says that yes, he heard him, but that wasn't why he was there. So, basically, he told Dean he was ignoring him, which had to have stung. He says he's been hunting demons and Sam clues in that the trail of bodies they picked up on were all Cas. Castiel tells them that Crowley set out demons to find Lucifer's crypts -- and here's where the cool editing becomes a bit problematic for this recapper, because whenever Cas is in a scene, we cut between Cas with the boys and Cas with Naomi and it's seamless and immediate, but dang hard to recount. So...just go with me on this.

Cas lies to the boys per Naomi's orders that the demons are looking for a parchment -- something that will allow Crowley to decode the other half of the demon tablet sans prophet. Cas wants to tell them everything -- says they would be of more help if they had all the information, but Naomi orders him to lie. So, Cas tells the boys he's going to see if the "strange-haired demon in the kitchen" (ha!) has more information than the others.

He steps out of the room and the boys glance at each other.

Dean: He puts the 'ass' in Cas.

Sam: Yeah, he's definitely off.

Dean: Off? He hasn't been right since he got back from Purgatory. We still don't know how he got out of there.

Sam (clearly resisting the urge to cough): If he's so sketchy, why were you praying to him?

So, yeah, this bothered me. Because, haven't they already been praying to him? And also, Cas is really the only friend Dean has (or is allowed to have, anyway) and he's been rattled by this trials thing...why shouldn't he pray to him? But this is what I mean about Sam being so wrapped up in what's going on with him that he's clueless as to how it's been affecting Dean. He's only just getting how scared Dean's been, how worried, by the knowledge that his brother prayed and the sad, guilty look Dean shoots him when Sam calls him on it.

Cas: Y'know, I can hear you both; I am a celestial being.

Boys: Whoops.

They join Cas in the kitchen where PhDemon is tied up. Cas gets right to the torturing, wanting to know who told it about the crypts. The demon screams that they have a hostage -- one of Crowley's pets. She tells them where the hostage is stashed and that this hostage knows where all the crypts are. She's just about to give Dean the intel that they're not actually looking for a parchment when Cas (on Naomi's orders) kills her, then whooshes out of there.

The boys high-tail it out of there, trying to get to hotel where the hostage is being kept before Cas does (ha! fat chance). They get there in time to see Cas kill the last guard demon and the boys open the bathroom door to reveal an extremely battered, extremely blonde Meg.

Meg: Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?

They get her out and she's sitting on the bed, still all bloody. Dean's first question is, what's up with the hair? Sam's like dude, really? But Dean's shrug is like, what? Like you weren't wondering the same thing. Meg tells them it was Crowley's idea and is just another reason she wants to stab him in the face.

She's been telling the demons where the crypts are -- she saw them all during her time with 'Yellow Eyes' (made me head-tilt that she didn't call him Azazel) -- but she's not been giving them the Glengarry leads. She's just been getting them close-ish. She tells them she's been lying to buy herself some time to maybe escape.

Sam: So, a bunch of innocent people died so you could buy yourself some time?

Meg's like, hello, demon, and besides, the demons didn't kill those people -- Cas did. Unless we're now going by the theory that once a demon possesses you, you're toast, which is plausible (though, clearly not always cannon as Meg reminded us of her time 'inside' Sam) and also helps with the ease in which the boys now kill the demon-possessed humans.

All the crypts have been empty thus far and Meg knows Crowley's just going to keep sending more because he's hell-bent on finding--

--here we jump to Cas telling Naomi that Meg will tell them the truth and asking if he has to kill her. He sounds so...well, like he's pleading. He really doesn't want to kill Meg, but Naomi tells him working with a demon is 'unclean' (and apparently she should know). Cas talks her into allowing him to use Meg to find the crypt, much like Crowley did and we jump back to Meg revealing--

--the angel tablet.

Both boys look at Cas with an are you friggin' kidding me expression and Cas plays dumb (terribly, I might add) with an this is all news to me, the demons...they lied!!

Dean (totally not buying it): I saw you Zero Dark Thirty that demon. You were more than persuasive.

Meg's like, dudes, they're digging in the wrong place, but will be back, so who's for fleeing? Using the scale model map at Ann Norton's house, she shows them the right place, though the town's built up around it. Sam does some google-fu to find which building they need to go to while Cas tends to Meg's wounds in another room.

In yet another craftily subtle display of their base personality traits, Dean is pissed that Cas lied to them (again) while Sam says he gets why -- if a demon tablet can close the gates of Hell, what could an angel tablet do?

While Sam is searching, we get a bit of, as Dean calls it, Megstiel were Meg essentially (though not with so many words) confesses to having feelings for Cas and Cas tells her his 'noodle' is fine and he remembers everything -- even the "pizza man" moment, and it's a good memory. Meg says she misses the simplicity of the Apocalypse, where she was bad and he was good -- and I have to say that I kind of agree with her there. She says everything is messy now; she's kinda good, which sucks, and he's kinda bad which is all manner of hot...and I have to say...I kind of agree with her there, too. Dangit.

Meg: If we survive this? I'm gonna order some pizza and we're gonna move some furniture around. You understand?

Oh, Cas understands all right. The boys return -- because even if they don't exactly trust their other-wordly teammates, they don't have much of a choice. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Crowley's demon guy has to confess to their group failure.

Crowley: Let me get this straight. You can't find a hole in the ground, your co-workers have met with an untimely demise, and you've lost my favorite chew toy.

Yep, that about sums it up. Crowley dispatches the poor doomed demon dude in a very apology accepted, Captain Neda manner.

So, the foursome approaches the abandoned warehouse Sam found over Meg's crypt-keeping location.

Dean: Cas and I'll head in and get our Indiana Jones on; Sam, you stay outside with Meg.

Sam: I'm not letting you go in there alone!

Cas: He won't be alone.

Sam: That's not what I meant. Meg can hang here and watch our backs.

Dean: Oh, now you trust Meg?

Meg: I got you this far.

Dean & Sam: Shut up, Meg.

Dean: I saw your bloody rag in the trash can, Sam.

Sam tries to continue to protest, but Dean just stops him, his eyes big, his face serious. He has that look -- the one that says you are crushing me from the inside out.

Dean: Sam, we don't know what's in there. You almost let a demon get the best of you back there.

Sam: I'm fine.

Dean: No, you're not! You haven't been fine since the first trial. That's why I called Cas.

Meg: Trial?

Dean & Sam: Shut up, Meg.

Sam: Dean, I'm telling you, I'm okay.

Cas: No, you're not. Sam, you're damaged in ways even I can't heal. Dean's right. You should stay here and protect Meg.

Dean's face falls for a moment -- he knew he was right, but he didn't want to be and he certainly didn't want to hear that Cas couldn't heal his brother -- and Sam's breathing changes, gets a bit more rapid with this news.

Meg: Since when do I need protecting?

Cas: Since you were held captive and tortured for over a year.

Meg: Touche.

Sam looks pissed. Dean has that going to war, resigned expression. He hands Sam the demon-killing knife and Sam hesitates before taking it. Dean says they'll be back and he and Cas head inside. Cas tells Dean that Sam's 'damage' is on a sub-atomic level and says something about his electro-magnetic field but says he doesn't know if it's lethal -- and that's about as far as they get about Sam before they find the hidden room.

Meanwhile, outside, Sam and Meg are decorating the building with anti-demon sigils (which is funny that Meg can do this, but whatever *hand-wave*). She wants to know why Sam didn't look for her. Get in line, sister. He's got a brother still wondering that. She and Sam have a bit of a heart-to-heart about his wanting a normal life and Meg having been inside him, so to speak, so she's 'Team Sam.' Sam tells her about Amelia and Meg is impressed that there was a girl that could make him give up hunting.

Meg: That's one rare creature. Tell me...how'd you meet this unicorn?

Inside, Dean and Cas are in the crypt and Cas finds the box -- it's the only one warded against angels. Calls tells Naomi he found it, but he doesn't want to kill Dean to get it. Dean gets it out of the box, but instinctively keeps it from Cas -- Cas says he'll take it to Heaven and Dean's like, you mean to Kevin, to translate it and Cas is a lying liar who lies all sure, yeah, that's what I meant. Dean says he and Sam can take it -- he's backing away from Cas, holding the big stone with the tablet inside it.

Cas: I can't let you take that, Dean.

Dean: Can't or won't?

Cas: Both.

Dean: How'd you get out of Purgatory, Cas?

Cas is begging Naomi, saying there has to be another way than to kill Dean and Naomi's all kill kill kill.

Dean: Just tell me how you got out of Purgatory. Be honest, for the first time since you got back, and this is yours.

It all comes down to that moment for Dean -- the moment he'd been fighting for all that whole year surviving Purgatory, the moment Cas let go because he felt he deserved to stay there. Dean knew it was about that moment, that place, and it broke my heart how badly he needed to hear this truth. Instead of telling him, Cas drops his angel sword from his coat sleeve and Dean's like oh, shit.

Back outside with Sam and Meg, Sam's finished his story and Meg's like, wait, so you hit a dog, why did you stop? Sam's like, all I told you and  and that's what you focus on? But I loved it -- I was like, yes, thank you! Finally we're getting somewhere with Sam's story! I've been wondering that myself. We don't get an answer from Sam, though -- which makes me wonder even more if there's a reason in that moment we haven't heard/seen yet, or if I'm just making more of a deal of it because I really want to know Sam's reasons for stopping, for not looking.

Meg: I understood the rest. Fell in love with a unicorn, It was beautiful then sad, then sadder. I laughed, I cried, I threw up in my mouth a little. And honestly...I kinda get it.

But before Sam can get more out of her, she tells him they have company.

Inside, Cas has basically shut off and is attacking Dean. The Cas in Heaven is coming apart. The Cas with Dean is cold, hard, and dangerous. Dean -- while trying to avoid Cas' swings -- hears him say 'Naomi' but before he can say anything, Naomi in Heaven is screaming at Cas that the blood all over Heaven is on his hands and that she fixed him. She demands that he allow his vessel to do the job she trained him for -- the job he's done thousands of times: kill Dean.

And here again...I have to wonder if it's kill Dean because Cas cares for Dean and Dean keeps him real...or if there's more to it than that? If Dean is somehow connected to the angel tablet's destiny/future? I just can't help but wonder if there's hope for the fact that Dean's storyline as the righteous man and Micheal's sword and that he was the only human to survive Purgatory might come into play with the angel tablets.... *digress*

Outside, Meg and Sam are fighting demons. Inside, Cas is beating the crap out of Dean. Dean drops the angel tablet rock thingy and the tablet falls out of the rock, sending a shock-wave of power through everyone and summoning Crowley. Inside, Cas breaks Dean's arm, driving him to his knees, and repeatedly punches the left side of his face, the angel sword in his grip to make the impacts more damaging. His face a broken, bloody mess, Dean gasps out, "You want it? You're gonna have to kill me. C'mon, you coward. Do it."

In Heaven, Cas argues with Naomi while he beats Dean on Earth. It's "Swan Song" all over again with Dean's broken, raspy voice trying desperately to break through while he takes the hits, unable to fight back against such an inhuman strength, but unwilling to cave when his family is on the line.

Dean (gasping, voice filled with pain): Cas, this isn't you...(harsh breaths as Cas hits him again) I know you're in there...I know you can hear me....(voice choked as Cas hits him again) Cas, it's me. We're family. We need you. I need you.

Naomi tells Cas that he has to choose: us or them.

Cas drops the sword and Dean's broken arm and Dean cries out in pain, his breath rattling scarily as Cas reaches down and picks up the angel tablet -- his touch of it sending light through Heaven and inside the crypt -- and breaks the connection with Naomi. As Dean's breath rattles in the quiet of the room, Cas approaches him. Dean shrinks back, saying, "No...Cas, no...." as Cas reaches out for him. That just broke my heart. He's been so strong for so long, taking this terrible beating from his friend -- a friend who has beat him up on more than one occasion, let's not forget. And he just watched Cas pick up the tablet that he'd been trying to keep from him.

For all Dean knew, that was the end -- Cas was about to finish it and he reacted on instinct: no, I want to live...no, don't kill me...no, I risked everything to find you, to save you in Purgatory...no, don't do this. His gasp and cry of pain as Cas touched him and healed him had my inside shaking a bit. That whole scene was both fantastic and hard to watch. As Dean's staggering back -- reeling from the dizzying rush of being healed -- Cas looks and sounds remorseful as he apologizes to Dean.

Outside Crowley is being his usual self, telling Sam he has a bone to pick with him for what he did to his dog. Meg tells Sam to go -- save his brother and her unicorn. She faces off with Crowley, not flinching in the slightest when Crowley tells her the boys mean to close the gates of Hell and kill them all -- she's fine with it if it means Crowley will join the ranks of the dead.

Inside, Dean is getting the 411 on Naomi and her control of Cas. Cas says he has to protect the tablet from Naomi...and from Dean. Before Dean can find out what he means, he whooshes out and Sam shows up. A part of me kind wanted Sam to get there just a few minutes earlier -- I wanted him to see what Dean had been through, the beating his brother had taken to save his friend. I know...it's sadistic, but, well, there you go.

He tells Dean they have to go, now. They get to the Impala and look back in time to see a once-more severely battered Meg get stabbed with an angel sword by Crowley -- but, like I said, we never saw her completely flame out, though her spine got all glowy. I'm not sure if I believe she's really dead....

Inside the crypt, Crowley and Naomi confront each other (which means Naomi found out where it was -- so why didn't she just come down and get the tablet herself? -- and Crowley figured out a way to break the sigils). Crowley says Cas is in the wind, but Naomi argues that he's doing exactly what he's supposed to -- protect the tablets. Save face at all costs, I guess. Crowley insinuates that they had a romantic interlude in Mesopotamia and she calls him a cockroach -- it really is hard to talk with ex's isn't it? Crowley wants to make a deal, but Naomi whooshes out before he can get down to brass tacts.

Crowley: Tart stole my move.

Inside the Impala, Sam's getting caught up about Naomi (though I doubt Dean told him that Cas nearly beat him to death).

Dean: Cas is off the reservation with a Heavenly WMD.

His posture as he's driving is stiff, alomst pained. He's focused on the road, one arm straight on the wheel, his jaw set and his whole being just radiates STRESS.

Dean (not looking at Sam): Listen, man. I can't take any more lies. From anyone.

He gives Sam a brief, sidelong glance and then returns his attention to the road. Sam is watching his brother, looking uncomfortable and apologetic.

Sam: I'm sorry. I should have told you. I just wanted to believe I was okay.

Dean: You heard what Cas said. That first trial hurt you in ways that even he can't heal.... You gotta be honest with me from here on out, man.

Sam: You're right. I will be.

Me: He gosh-darn better be.

Dean: I may not be able to carry the burden that comes with these trials, but I can carry you.

Me: As he's done all his life.

Sam: You...realize you just kinda quoted Lord of the Rings.

Dean (frowning): Yeah, but it's the Rudy Hobbit. The Rudy Hobbit always gets a pass. Shut up.

He leans over and turns on the radio. "Goodbye Stranger" fills up the empty spaces in the car and Dean returns to his tense posture, not even really seeing Sam's half-grin at the 'Rudy Hobbit' line. Dean just looks like he's been pushed too far, too many times and he's not going to give, not this time. Sam's smile slips from his face and he looks forward, growing serious in the unnatural quiet that suddenly surrounds Dean.

In the Heavenly Office Space, Naomi's assistant comes in and shakes her head -- which I take it to mean that they can't find Cas. Castiel, meanwhile, is getting on a bus with the tablet. If he's on a bus, the angels can't track his celestial movements, I suppose. And I'm not sure where he's going, but it's apparently far away from Dean. The music fades off into eerie silence as we track the bus into a tunnel.

And thus wraps another piece of this season's puzzle. With six episodes left, I can't wait to see how it's all going to come together just to leave us hanging in May. I look forward to your thoughts! Thanks for reading.

Slainte!

Tags: episode review, ramble, stream of consciousness, supernatural, what do you think?
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