I need to stop doing that. Or bring tissues in my carry-on bag. Or stop being so dang sensitive. Take your pick. Also? Apologies for the weird font in this one. I was posting from my work computer.
There are a number of ‘themes’ our show has carried through each of its eight seasons so far – family, normal life, good vs evil – but the one constant theme that I feel thrumming through it every year is sacrifice. I don’t always realize I’m seeing that theme; sometimes it’s cleverly masked as duty, obligation, fighting the good fight. But it hit me between the eyes in this episode that so much of this season has been wrapped up in the theme of sacrifice.
The shifts have been who is sacrificing for whom, what is being sacrificed, and at what cost. I am going to make an attempt to ramble a bit about what I mean; these aren’t fully-formed theories/thoughts. That’s why this is called a “stream of consciousness.” I’m more or less working this out as I go, but maybe you can find some truth in it even if it’s Gaelic is eight kinds of crazy.
As I talk through this, try to refrain from throwing anything at me until I get to the end, because I know it’s going to look like my Dean flag is flying high (and isn’t it always?) but I am trying to look at this from all angles. I’m going to try to start high-level and explain my thoughts, then dive deeper into each character that I feel the theme is touching upon in this episode. The recap portion of this Ramble might be a bit shorter because of this approach. Here goes.
The last line that Captain John Miller says to Private James Ryan in Saving Private Ryan is, “Earn this.” All the men who gave up their lives just to get Ryan out of the war and back home to live his life and carrying on his family’s name, Miller wanted Ryan to live a life worthy of such sacrifice. As I watched the events of “Taxi Driver” unfold, that line echoed for me.
If you take the events of the Winchester’s history (what we’ve seen, primarily, and what we know, secondarily) their destiny is wrapped up in sacrifice – and as I see it, the focus of the sacrifice is for Sam. And I’m using the word both as something willingly given and something forcibly taken.
Leaving Dean out of it for a moment, Mary was sacrificed by Azazel so that he could get to Sam. John gave up his soul to save Dean, which was the defining moment for me with their relationship (and on a personal level, something that means a lot to me right now), but when I look at it through this lens, I could argue that he made that sacrifice because he knew that Dean was the only hope for saving Sam. I think John knew he wouldn’t have been able to make the impossible decision or choice he put on Dean’s shoulders (save Sam or kill him) with his last words.
And then there’s Dean. This guy’s been sacrificing for his brother since he was four years old: his childhood, his youth, his future, his safety, his innocence, his soul, his life…his friends. He gives it all, willingly, for the sake of his brother, so that his brother could live, and in many instances, so that his brother could save the rest of us. Or, y’know, the us that exist in this ‘verse.
See, although I say that the focus of the family’s sacrifice is for Sam, it’s not as if Sam hasn’t sacrificed himself. He’s given up his dream of ‘normal’ – not once, but twice – he’s given up his body, he’s given up his own life. But where I see the family sacrificing for Sam, I see Sam sacrificing for the greater good, for the sake of the world. I honestly don’t know if he’d make the same sacrifices for his family that his family – namely his brother – have made for him…primarily because he’s never been given the choice. He never asked them to sacrifice for him. He never wanted Dean to give up his soul to save him, to give up his life to keep him safe.
And yet, there it is. It was given and I think Sam has been living with an unspoken, “Earn this,” his entire life. He’s made his sacrifices to save the world so that he can be worthy of what other people have given up for him his entire life. I think sometimes he forgets – I mean, as human beings we have the capacity to get used to almost any situation. And we also have the capacity to take any amount of sacrifice for granted, particularly when it’s basically a way of life. So, yeah, I think he forgets what’s been given up for him especially when he never asked for it in the first place.
But when he does remember, I will say he lives it. He bears that weight like Atlas and he goes the extra mile to make their loss, their cost worth it. He fights to earn the terrible gift of their continued sacrifice. *rubs heart*
I think, subconsciously, it’s one of the triggers for him to fight to be the one to take on the trials. Dean was not going to sacrifice for him again, not if he could help it. And the trials themselves – God designed them to be a sacrifice. The Bible is riddled with parables and messages about sacrifice – and to segue into real life for a miniscule moment I can say as a believer that God made the ultimate sacrifice. In this ‘verse, these trials are tests to see how much the person going through them is willing to give to accomplish the ultimate goal of closing the Gates of Hell once and for all.
But it’s still the same thing for Sam – not to take any of the nobility from it, but he’s going through all of this to save the world, not to save his brother. And Dean is going to continue to make sacrifices to keep Sam safe. It’s their apparent lot in life.
It also makes me worry a bit about where they’re going to end up when all is said and done…but no more than I usually worry about that. I don’t want Dean to be right; I don’t want it to all end bloody. I want Sam to show Dean the light at the end of the tunnel and for there to be a chance for both of them to be happy…for Sam to go to school, for Dean to have a home, just like John said so many years ago.
But…I can also see how this theme of sacrifice will carry them through to a big Butch & Sundance exit that leaves us speculating if they got out of that one and are still roaming the States kicking ass and taking names, or if they are finally at peace.
Before I go there, though, let’s bring up the nose of the plane and focus on this particular episode, shall we? Starting with Kevin.
Talk about sacrifice. This kid was ripped from his Advanced Placement life and shoved into a nightmare of angels and demons, giving up his home, his family, his freedom, and now, it looks like, possibly his sanity. The boys seem to take this sacrifice in stride after all they’ve seen and given up themselves: “Hey, we had nothing to do with you being a prophet, but since you are, suck it up and get ‘er done, man.”
They need him and his powers, and while there are moments of sympathy and care, there is no way either of the brothers are letting him out of this mess now. Perhaps, had Dean never returned from Purgatory, Sam would have left Kevin to his own devices and he might’ve been able to forget about the fact that he is a prophet of the Lord, who knows. But…I would hazard a guess that if that had happened, his powers would have evolved much like Chuck’s where he was having visions of the evil in the world, predicting the future and knowing the truth. Not sure he would have written books about it, but…, well, there you go.
I am currently going with the theory that Kevin bailed. We already knew he hid the tablet; I think he finally (and understandably) cracked under the pressure. He’d been having hallucinations of his body parts being chopped off – it’s not hard to make the leap to Crowley finding him and telling him that his mom was dead. Worst fears and all that. I think he had that hallucination, grabbed his stuff, and vanished. He’d stayed hidden and off the radar for a year…pretty sure he’s able to do it again. That would explain the missing materials and the fact that the windows were intact when the boys returned to the boat. I could be wrong – it’s been known to happen – but that’s my theory.
The problem is they’ve still one trial to go, the tablet is hidden and the only person who knows where it is has pulled a David Copperfield (the magician, not the character from the Dickens classic). That leaves our boys up a certain creek, totally paddle-less.
This brings me to Sam. The look on his face was inscrutable when Kevin revealed what the second trial had to be. I mean, his Hellish experience was decidedly different from his brother’s – we don’t really know if The Cage was actually in Hell – but the fear that flashed across his features tweaked something in my heart. I will admit that the moment the Reaper told him that the path to Hell was through Purgatory, I wanted Sam to walk away from that experience with an appreciation for what Dean went through. I wanted him to have the realization that Bobby vocalized – the fact that Dean survived a year in that place is nothing short of a miracle.
I liked that Bobby took for granted that Dean’s year of fighting to survive must have been hell on Sam, not being able to get him out. No matter the effort I take to see things through Sam’s eyes and understand his thought processes and choices, that is one choice I still can’t reconcile and I appreciated Bobby calling him on it – calling it a “non-agreement” – because Bobby knows what Dean went through trying to find out how to get Sam out of the Cage while he was living with Lisa and Ben. Bobby knows what it was like keeping the fact that Sam was (technically) out a secret from Dean, how it hurt both of them. And Bobby knows – more than anything else – that if Sam had vanished in a blast of black goo along with the head Leviathan and an angel, Dean would have turned himself inside out to find his brother.
Sam’s quiet refusal to elaborate was in line with how he’s been approaching that period in his life all season (and keeps my ears perked up to the chance that there’s more to that than anyone is telling us) but I appreciated the momentary contrition on his face when Bobby called him out on his choice.
I did think he was being a bit naïve thinking that Bobby would be in Hell and simply accept that Sam was really Sam and had shown up to rescue him. I mean, it was Hell…I kinda expected Sam to assume that Bobby wouldn’t initially buy it. But that’s not really important.
What’s important is that Sam was able to ultimately see two things: the reason Dean trusted and had a friendship with Benny, and the continued lengths his brother is willing to go through to save him.
It says so much to Sam that Dean was willing to ask his friend to go to Purgatory and save someone who literally wanted him dead – simply because this person was vital to Dean, and for no other reason. It says that Dean hasn’t stopped being willing to give it all up for his brother and it also says that Dean is the kind of man people are willing to go to great lengths for.
If that doesn’t add a bit of weight to Sam’s burden of earn this, I don’t know what would.
I was exponentially relieved when Sam told Dean that he got it…he could see what Dean saw in the vampire. He was able to look past what Benny was to see who he was. It makes sense that Sam would need something like Benny’s sacrifice to finally see his worth (though I still kinda wish he’d been able to take his brother at his word).But he sees it now and through that, he sees another layer of Dean: how life has shaped and honed his brother in the kiln of tribulation and he’s able to now live inside some of the grays of life. And I think that appreciation will help keep their relationship from dipping back into the distrust and manipulation it’s fallen into before.
Leading me to Benny. I honestly think that if Sam had trusted Dean, had never put Martin on Benny’s trail, the vampire could have lived out his life working at the diner with Liz until his non-aging became an issue and he relocated. I really think he could have had a shot at life once more. I think his turning point was killing Martin and tasting fresh blood once more. From that point, his hunger was triggered and life became a living hell for him. He had clearly been suffering as he kept his promise to Dean, following through on his end of the deal that got him out of Purgatory, but it had not been an easy road once his bloodlust was revived and he lost the only friend he had in the world.
I don’t blame Dean for making the choice he did to call “end of the line” with Benny. We all have to make tough choices, and sometimes our priorities cannot be our friends. It kills us a little inside, but sometimes we have to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be the one to keep you on your feet right now…you have to find the strength inside you to do it yourself.” But that said, the palpable relief in Benny’s voice when he heard Dean’s voice again broke my heart. It was clear he’d been hanging on by his fingernails and it was almost as if the loneliness was the worst element currently eating away at his resolve. Dean’s voice was like a life-line to a drowning man.
I think it had to be this way. It had to be that life ‘top-side’ was killing Benny a little bit every day because Dean would not have been able to live through the guilt of not only losing another friend, but being the cause of it. Having Benny effectively commit suicide-by-hunter took the weight of ‘blame’ from Dean (or should, anyway…I’m sure Dean will carry the guilt of it no matter what). And this duel sacrifice – Dean giving up his friend in a much more final way than just saying “goodbye,” and Benny giving up his life top-side – was a pretty effective way to send a profound message to Sam.
I can almost visualize the writers in the writing room concocting this season – I would probably have started with the trials, then worked backwards trying to figure out how to make each work. To make the ‘innocent soul to heaven’ work, with a trip to Hell via Purgatory, we’d of course have to already be familiar with Purgatory. And what better way to make Benny’s journey and devotion to Dean come full circle than to have him save Sam, showing Sam that he misjudged the man, and therefore, in a way, his brother.
I doubt we’ll get this level of ‘ah-ha’ in the last four episodes, but what I would love to see is a visible or vocal understanding from Sam that he has a new appreciation for what Dean had to survive for a year in Purgatory leading us to the reasoning (or truth) behind Sam’s choices for not searching for his brother. I mean, he’s already letting the reason Dean trusts Benny (I won’t say trusted because they left that door open) soak in. He’s well on his way to seeing his brother in that new light, so I think that possibility exists….
Taking me to Dean. Quite frankly, I thought it was pretty ballsy of him to call Benny for help after he’d told him goodbye – and I think he thought so, too. It was clear in the choked sound of his voice on the phone, the near-breathless-with-guilt way he spoke to Benny in the alley, and the way he was barely able to keep his emotions in check throughout every moment from Benny agreeing to this ‘favor’ until Bobby’s soul went to Heaven.
However, I couldn’t help but think how hard this trial had to hit Dean, in particular. Sam had fear, flashes of the Cage no-doubt shooting through his mind, but Dean had been to Hell. Hung on rack, tortured, and taken apart. He’d broken there. And his little brother was going to purposely walk into that place.
Not only that? But Bobby – his mentor, his surrogate father – was there. He had been in Hell all this time. Talk about an emotional double-punch. Add to that the fact that Sam had to do this on his own – that Dean had no choice but to step aside. He couldn’t be there. He wasn’t going to be able to see Bobby again, wasn’t going to play a part his Bobby’s rescue…I mean I actually hurt for him.
Being sidelined in a general sense is hard enough, but being sidelined when it’s Bobby? Are you kidding? That’s its own brand of torture. Add to that the manipulative reveal from Naomi (and I’ll get to her own brand of evil in the recap) that the way to Hell was through freakin’ Purgatory and you have yourself one wrecked Dean. Not only was Sam on his own in Hell, but Purgatory.
I am purposely ignoring the petty Deangirl inside of me that says, “Really? Even Purgatory can’t be all Dean’s story?” because it still was Dean’s story – he’s the one who survived it and it was because of that survival he was able to play a part (passive, yes, but essential) in getting Sam out of there. And there’s something to be said about using different tactics to get Sam to see what Dean’s been through and is willing to go through.
So, the overwhelming suffocation of what if understandably pushed Dean to make that ballsy move and call Benny. I loved Benny’s reaction – surprise, appreciation, admiration, acceptance…almost in that order. After the shock of the favor sank in, there was relief in his blue eyes (even as his body tensed to receive the blow).
Dean’s emotions, though…there was a moment – when he said, “It’s not exactly like I’ve been there for you lately,” – where he looked so vulnerable, so young. He reminded me of Alec from the Dark Angel episode “The Berrisford Agenda.” I don’t know how JA does that, but that whole scene felt real and raw – and, incidentally, was the moment that had me surreptitiously wiping tears before my seatmate on the plane noticed.
The tension and high-emotion reverberated through Dean and from him – nearly popping off the screen at times – until he was able to find Sam in the Maine wilderness. Because there’s no way he’s forgetting that spot anytime soon. That hug…the way he grabbed Sam so close to him he looked like he actually hurt his brother…that just said it all right there. All the sacrifice was worth it because of this. Seeing Sam safely out on the other side of Purgatory, relatively unscathed, flooded Dean’s face with so much relief my knees went a little weak.
I know that in real life it’s not healthy, this living only for the sake of another, but it sure does make for good, angsty TV.
Dean’s barely-controlled emotion when Sam had to tell him – with genuine regret in his voice – that Benny didn’t make it out of there had my chest tight. But after a quick, stuttering breath, I could see he already knew. He’d known in that alley before he’d released Benny from the goodbye hug. He knew Benny wasn’t going to fight to come back. Doesn’t mean Dean wasn’t going to find a way to rescue him and get him on a right track once more, give him another try at that second chance that Sam (in a way) took from him. But Dean knew that this was a one-way rescue mission for his friend.
And now we have Sam worn down even further by the 2nd trial – and I still contend that they’re changing him in some way. Not sure what way, but I don’t think they’re killing him, I think they’re altering him. We have Naomi playing her angel games. We have Bobby finally up in Heaven smashing all the rocking chairs he can find. We have Kevin and Castiel in the wind. And we have Crowley getting more and more pissed off (and I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a Very Bad Thing).
Right now? Dean’s pretty much the only hope our heroes have of getting out of this season in one piece. Too bad we have to wait two weeks (until April 24th) to see what happens next.
Things I Loved:
- The hug. Need I say more? *sniff*
- Dean’s expression – most notably the fact that his heart was in his eyes – the entire scene with Benny in the graffiti alley.
- Benny’s sad, blue eyes and molasses-and-whiskey drawl.
- This line: “That’s my pie.”
- This line: “When Dean Winchester asks for a favor, he’s not screwing around.”
- Sam telling Dean he can “leave the door open” when it comes to Benny. Better late than never.
- Dean dealing with his inability to take action in Trial #2 by handling the care and feeding of Kevin.
- The way Dean stood up to Naomi on the boat – initially taking a step back, but not giving an inch until she sucker-punched him with Purgatory and then unable to stop the honest horror from crossing his face.
- Sam using his watch to mark the portal out of Hell. Clever boy.
- Sam’s method for convincing Bobby he’s really Sam.
- The Reaper’s whole, one does not simply walk into Hell demeanor when the boys found him.
- This line: “Pizza? It has extra anchovies.” Primarily because it was said in reaction to a surprise visit from the King of Hell. Hee.
- Finally finding out that Crowley’s half of the tablet has the “acknowledgments and about the author.”
- Crowley’s “Oh, come on!” reaction to seeing Naomi in the woods.
- There were quite a few ‘well, that’s convenient and a little too easy’ moments with the whole to-Hell-and-back trip. Like the fact that Bobby was the fourth soul/cell Sam encountered and they only ran into one demon and one fake-Sam on the way out (even though the Reaper told Crowley that's where Sam was headed). Or the fact that Benny found them almost immediately upon their returning to the Reaper’s pre-appointed position, and the fact that apparently that spot was barely a hike from the human portal (when it took Dean, Cas, and Benny the better part of a year to find it before). And the fact that Purgatory suddenly has a gateway to Hell (and back), but Crowley was looking for the doorway to Purgatory all Season 6.... BUT! I can *hand wave* because we only had 50-ish mins to have a lot happen and to apply logic to those scenes (even SPN-logic) could have drawn this one episode out into, like…four episodes. At least.
- Dean telling Kevin that “it’ll never be over.” That didn’t feel like it resonated with the way he was talking about the kiddie-hunters from the previous episode where he basically insinuated they would have nothing to worry about (aka, nothing to hunt) if the boys got the Gates of Hell shut. In one episode, he made me think they thought that closing the gates would rid the world of all baddies, not just demons; in the next episode, he made me think that they thought there would always be something to hunt…just not demons. So…yeah. I don’t get it. Someone needs to come out and say to me, “This is what closing the Gates of Hell will do. Period.”
- What the hell is up with Naomi? Clearly Dean doesn’t trust her as far as he could throw her, thank goodness, but what is her end-game? She’s a manipulative, powerful lying liar who lies, that much is plain, but I can’t tell if her one and only mission is to get the angel tablet, or has something more to do with Dean (and/or the brothers). Is she just turning her logic-twisting prowess onto Dean in hopes that if Cas does come back to him, Dean will turn his friend over to Naomi? If that’s what it is, she’s got a thing or two to learn about Dean Winchester.
- What do you guys think happened to Kevin? Do you think my theory holds water?
- Was anyone else out there half-thinking we’d hear the famous, “I’m walkin’ here,” line? Just me? Okay then.
- Who out there thinks we’ll get the 3rd trial before the end of the season? I’m kinda…50/50. *smile*
Dean learns about Naomi, human portal out of Purgatory, Sam hates Benny, Dean says goodbye to Benny, Sam is the Trial Master, Kevin needs it to be over.
Kevin is losin’ it. The pressure of the tablet translation is sending him over the edge and he’s hearing Crowley’s voice in his head and hallucinating/dreaming that Crowley’s chopping off body parts. I don’t blame him…at least Chuck had the books to write to keep the visions he was seeing about what Sam and Dean were doing contained in some way. I’m a little confused, though, why it’s taking Kevin so long to translate – I thought the whole purpose of his being a prophet was that he could read Enochian. He read the Leviathan tablet pretty darn quickly; why is the demon tablet taking so long and wearing him down so much?
The boys show up to check on him – due to his 911 call – and patiently try to convince him that Crowley is not in his head. He doesn’t know what Kevin knows; Kevin is just dreaming. Kevin tells them that he translated the 2nd trial and Dean’s all yay! but Kevin is freaking out that Crowley already knows (which, no, Crowley doesn’t – he suspects that something is afoot, but doesn’t know).
Kevin: An innocent soul has to be rescued from Hell and delivered unto Heaven.
Dean (with a decided *gulp* expression): What?
Kevin: Unto. It’s how God talks.
While the boys look rattled at the concept, they quickly figure out that the way to find out how one walks into Mordor – er, sorry, I mean Hell – is to trap a Crossroads Demon and interrogate-slash-torture the information from him. A Holy Water bath does the trick – as long as they promise to kill him as soon as he gives up the goods…the demon fears Crowley more than death – and the boys find out that there are Rogue Reapers (which Sam quickly dubs ‘Hell Coyotes’) that will take people into Hell for a price.
They get the name of one such Coyote Reaper – Ajah, I think…it was hard to pick up with the background plane noise – and find him hanging out by his taxi. Turns out this is the same reaper who took Bobby’s soul…to Hell. So, he tells them that they’ll owe him one big-ass favor and as soon as Dean learns that it’s Bobby’s soul they’d be rescuing, he wants two tickets down, three back. Sam, of course, is all no, man, I gotta do this myself, and Dean is Not Happy. He has to stay back by the cab while Sam follows the Reaper down a heavily graffitied alley after the Reaper tells him that Sam will be back in exactly 24 hours.
The alley has a painting of a door at the end and as Sam’s looking around nervously, the Reaper tells him to take his hand so that they end up looking like a gigantic male version of the come play with us, Danny twins from The Shining.
Sam: And…it gets creepier.
The walls began to appear like they’re dissolving, bending twisting, all toward the painted door and then BLAMMO – sucked into Purgatory. Which, Sam is understandably unhappy about.
Sam: I booked the Hell tour!
Reaper: Winchester, detach!
Hee. I’m going to have to remember that one.
He gives Sam directions to a portal to Hell and says he’s bailing because, “gate-crashing a Winchester into hell seriously blows.”
I kinda dig how everyone knows who they are and fear them on some level. Heh.
He tells Sam to be back to this spot in exactly 24 hours and then sees Sam’s Demon Killing Knife and tells him it’s a good thing he brought that – it’s not an easy place. Uh, thank you, Captain Obvious.
Meanwhile, top-side, Dean brings carryout burgers and fries to Kevin – who is hiding in a sigil-protected closet. Poor kid. I really liked, though, that Dean returned to take care of Kevin for a bit. Not only because Kevin needed it, but because Dean has to have someone to take care of, y’know? One way or another.
Dean coaxed Kevin out of the closet with a burger and when Kevin reiterates that he needs this all to end, Dean matter-of-factly tells him that it’s not going to end (and I’ve already covered why that gave me a head-tilt in the lists above). He hooks a hip on the edge of the table and talks with him quietly, seriously, like an uncle or…an older brother. Kevin says he can’t take it.
Dean (quiet voice, dead-serious face): Yes, you can. Look at me. This whole thing sucks, but you suck it up and push through because this is what we do. When you get on board with that, the whole thing is a lot smoother. (Face relaxes, voice brightens) French fry?
Kevin gathers up a tray of food and heads to his closet saying to call him when there’s a good day. Dean watches him go.
Dean (forlornly): That’s my pie.
Elsewhere, our Coyote Reaper climbs into his cab and is startled to find Crowley hanging out in his back seat. Crowley, you see, has spies everywhere. Turns out the creepy Rastafarian-looking guy that neither the boys nor the Reaper had noticed watching them earlier was one of Crowley’s minions. The Reaper offers Crowley pizza. Hee. Crowley – in his very Crowley way, all clever and British with the dialog – wants to know what the Reaper was doing with the Winchesters. The Reaper’s tells him that Sam wanted to get into Hell.
Crowley: My Hell?
Ha – that cracked me up. As if there was another Hell. Reaper confirms, yes, that Hell and he’s supposed to pick him up in 17 hours...which, of course, seals his doom. Crowley kills him where he sits.
Back in Purgatory, Sam is skulking his way through the trees when he’s jumped by a – I don’t know, vamp? Maybe? It’s hard to tell when we only get a flash of them and all the monsters are human-like in appearance. But whatever it is, it’s a monster and Sam beheads it. He walks on and shortly comes upon the rock configuration the Reaper told him about. Pulling one of the rocks free, he sets loose a vacuum-like force.
Sam: The rabbit hole. This is nuts.
And BLAMMO – sucked into Hell. He takes off his watch and puts it above the entrance – which I thought was quite clever. Making his way down a long, Romanesque-pillared hall, he can hear the cries and wails of the damned all around him. He passes a woman who is burned crispy and red – beyond recognition – changed to a wall wailing that she’s innocent. Another man reaches out from a cell with what looks like a brand on his face. A young, beautiful, complete unblemished girl clutches her bars and says, “You came, I knew you would…I’ve been praying for it forever.”
Sam backs away from her with a sick, sad expression and keeps going and comes upon Bobby’s cell. Bobby’s back is to him at first ad when he turns around he looks worn out, exhausted, like he’s literally gone this whole time in Hell without rest or respite. First thing Bobby does is punch Sam in the face, telling him to, “get outta here, you black-eyed son of a bitch.”
Sam: Bobby, it’s Sam!
Bobby: Yeah, and I’m Elvis.
Sam finally wises up and finds a way to convince Bobby that it really his him by reminding him that Sam knew of Bobby being a fan of Tori Spelling and the life-changing experience of the pedicure he got at the Mall of America.
Bobby hugs him in initial relief – “You’re the 200th Sam I’ve seen today. Endless Sam’s and Dean’s all wearing the same black eyes.” – but then worries what Sam is doing there. Sam tells him that he’s there to get him out.
Elsewhere, Crowley is dressing down one of his minions because he’s quickly losing his grip on this race to the gates. He’s putting the facts together – Hellhound killed, Jumbo-sized Winchester breaking into the Mothership, the prophet madly translating away. 1+2+2+1….
He wants his demons to find Kevin Tran like yesterday.
Meanwhile, Dean is cooking breakfast for Kevin – thinking him still in the closet – but Kevin’s already had a busy morning of tablet-hiding. Dean tries to demand that Kevin tell him where the tablet is, but Kevin shuts himself back in the closet – right before Naomi shows up under the guise of being afraid of what might happen with Castiel being in the wind with and angelic hydrogen bomb and needing Dean’s help.
Dean, thankful, doesn’t trust him, but the way she twists reality and the truth, playing up on the different versions of Castiel that Dean has seen, the way Cas has lost it in the past, the way Cas hasn’t been himself (thanks to Naomi) since he got out of Purgatory…she gives him just enough to possibly plant a seed of doubt. Then she drops a bomb of her own, telling him about Purgatory, and Dean looks gut-punched.
Back in Hell, Sam is leading Bobby out and they run into a demon which Bobby stabs with the Demon Killing Knife, and then a fake Sam shows up, trying to beckon Bobby one way while the real Sam tries in the opposite direction. Bobby stabs the demon one and Sam’s like, “You…could tell…somehow, right?”
Bobby: Took a chance. Figured I had a 50/50 shot.
They find the portal, go through into Purgatory.
Dean shows up at the Reaper’s cab at the appointed time and finds the Reaper dead, his face falling as he realizes what this means: Sam (and Bobby) is stuck in Purgatory. And Dean knows what that is like. He has to do something now. He does the only thing he can do – he calls the one person who has yet to betray him, who has yet to give up on him, who has stood beside him, saving his life repeatedly, no matter what.
Dean (on phone to Benny): Thought it might be better if I didn’t call.
Benny (in his truck, looking and sounding like someone just handed him a million dollars): Good to hear your voice.
Dean: How ya been?
Benny (roughly): I get by.
Dean: I know I let you down.
Benny: I’m happy as hell to hear from you.
Dean: You might change your mind about that….
Benny: Why? Whatcha mean?
Dean: I gotta ask you a favor…and it’s a big one.
Back in Purgatory, Sam is leading Bobby to the place where the Reaper is to meet them, catching him up along the way. Bobby is saying that in their fight to close the Hell gates, he’d be pretty good to have around, but Sam tells him, sadly, that for this trial to be completed, he has to go to Heaven. Plus, they burned his bones (and the flask). There’s nothing left to tie his spirit to Earth. Bobby says he always thought that the hunter’s funeral would be the end of the line. Imagine his surprise.
Sam: If I’d have to pick eternity, I’d pick Heaven over Hell.
Bobby (sarcasm dripping from every word): Yeah. ‘Cause there’s nothing screwy going on up there. I’ll do my part, but I ain’t exactly the retiring type, so if you find a way to spring me….
Sam quickly realizes that the Reaper isn’t where he said he’d be and that means they are in Very Big Trouble.
Back in the painted alley, Dean is meeting with Benny. Don’t know where Benny was, but it had to have been pretty darn close, unless vamps are using portals these days. Dean’s leaning against the Impala, watching his friend with wounded, careful eyes. Benny is standing in his pea coat and sailor’s hat, hands shoved deep in his pockets, unable to really stand still. He’s pacing in a slow, tight pattern, his blue eyes reflecting the sorrow and loneliness he’s been feeling since Dean’s goodbye sent him off alone in the world.
Dean: If you want nothing to do with this, I completely understand.
Benny: When Dean Winchester asks for a favor, he’s not screwing around.
Dean: Sending you back there is the last thing I ever wanted to do.
Benny (softly): I know.
Dean: But my little brother is stuck down there.
Benny (with a slight grin that doesn’t light his eyes): This would be the little brother that wants to kill me, right?
Dean: You got access to the place.
Benny: By ‘access’ you mean…getting beheaded.
Dean (looking vulnerable, and heart-breakingly young): You’re right. It’s too much. Not exactly like I’ve been there for you lately.
Benny: What? C’mon, Dean. You know I love a challenge.
Dean (near-breathless): You serious?
Benny: He’s your brother. I say let’s do this.
My heart twisted a bit in this moment, a painful lurch in his chest. Dean meant enough to Benny that what mattered to Dean, mattered to Benny. Benny knew his friend would have killed himself and gone after Sam himself if there was any way he could get there. And he knew Dean wouldn’t have asked Benny to do this if he had any other options.
Dean: I owe you.
Benny: You don’t owe me nothin’. Truth is…I could use a break from all this.
Dean: Has it been that tough?
Benny (eyes sad and weary): I’m not a good fit, Dean. Not with the vamps, not with the humans. I don’t belong. After a while…it starts to wear on you. (weak laugh) Cry me a river, like you need to listen to this.
Dean (choked up): When you get back up here, we’re gonna fix all that, okay?
Benny (tears in his eyes): When I get back?
Dean: Find a portal and ride it out with Sam like you did with me. Soon as I send you back, I’m gonna haul ass to Maine and I’ll be waiting when you get topside.
Benny (swallowing his emotion): Sounds like a plan, chief. Get on with it.
Dean: You sure about this?
Benny: Not my first rodeo, man.
Dean gets out his machete, holds out his hand, and Benny takes it, pulling Dean into a hug. Both of them are choked up as Dean breathes out, Thank you.
Benny (taking a breath and bracing himself): C’mon, you whimp.
Dean steels himself and WHACK. Guh. Just…*rubs heart*
Down in Purgatory, Bobby is marveling that Dean survived a year in that place.
Sam: Running and fighting. Every day.
Bobby: Must’ve been hell on you not being able to get him out all that time.
Sam looks away.
Bobby: You did…try….
Sam: Dean and I had an agreement, Bobby.
Bobby: I know that agreement. I taught you that agreement. It’s a non-agreement. I get the feeling a lot must’ve happened while I was gone.
Sam doesn’t get a chance to confirm or deny beyond that point because they’re attacked by three vamps. They kill the first easy, fight the other two. Just as Sam kills the one he’s fighting with, Benny shows up and rips out the throat of the third – with his mouth. Bobby starts to go after Benny, but Sam stops him, then turns and demands to know what Benny is doing there.
Benny (with his fangs still out and blood running down his chin): Dean sent me.
Bobby (indignant): Not my Dean.
Sam: He’s a buddy of Dean’s.
Bobby: A buddy?
Benny (grinning, the blood making it a bit macabre): A good buddy.
Bobby: A friggin’ vampire? You two really went off the rails when I was gone.
Back up in the alley, Dean puts the machete in his trunk (and I think Benny’s body, too, though that’s a guess based on the fact that Dean says he buried Benny). Crowley’s spy watches him go.
Down in Purgatory, Benny is leading them to the portal.
Sam: Benny…I know you saved my brother’s ass down here a few times and I respect that….
Benny: And now I’m trying to save yours. I’m a disgrace to my own people.
He says that they’ve reached the spot, then reminds Sam what he told him. Sam nods and turns to Bobby.
Sam: Bobby, we get to Earth, and I release you, there’s no time for goodbyes. It’s an express straight to Heaven.
Bobby: Already said goodbye to you once, Sam. Didn’t seem to take. No reason I won’t see you again somewhere down the road. If they give me a rocking chair up there, I’m raisin’ hell.
*grins* Atta boy, Bobby. And, man I wish Dean had been able to have that moment with him, too.
Bobby cuts his arm, Sam cuts his arm and Latinates and Bobby’s soul goes into Sam’s arm just like Benny’s went into Dean’s at the beginning of the season. Sam turns to Benny…just as three more vamps show up, looking for Benny. Probably some of the group he killed when he was going after Andreah.
Benny: Time for you to go, Sam. Go on, it’s me they way. Just…make sure you tell Dean I said goodbye. I was never any good up there anyway.
Sam calls after him and tosses him a weapon before he climbs into the portal, looking back once to see Benny fighting before he’s sucked back to Earth.
Dean is in the Maine wilderness, heading to where he knows they will show up. There’s a bright light and Sam comes stumbling out of the trees. Dean grabs him and hugs him so tight, Sam winces. Dean is visibly trying to swallow his emotions as he reassures himself that Sam’s okay.
Dean: Purgatory, right? Real garden spot. You get ‘em out?
Sam (with genuine regret): Only Bobby.
Dean (eyes wounded, face crestfallen): What? I mean…that’s fantastic about Bobby….
Sam: Dean, Benny, he…he got us out…a bunch of vamps showed…he used himself as bait.
Dean, his eyes wet, looks away.
Sam: I have a feeling that even if that didn’t happen, he didn’t want to come back. I’m sorry.
Dean (voice shaking, straightening up a bit): You’re probably right. So, uh…Bobby (voice breaks)…how’d he hold up?
Sam: Good, all things considered. Ornery as hell, of course.
Dean: As he should be. Let’s put that old man where he belongs.
Sam Latinates and cuts Bobby’s soul free and it floats upwards all brilliant and pearly-blue until, skreeech! It’s caught by none other than Crowley, who showed up, thanks to his Spy Guy, in time to trap Bobby’s spirit once more. The boys advance on him and he flicks his fingers, flinging them backwards and pining them to two big trees, mid-air.
Crowley starts to pull Bobby’s spirit down to Hell when it’s stopped – by Naomi.
Crowley: Oh, come on!
She breaks down the situation – boys trying to set an innocent soul free, Crowley throwing his toys and saying no – and call’s Crowley “dear” like he’s a naughty school boy. They trade a few more barbs and Naomi takes violent exception to being called a “bureaucrat” – angel-power blasting Crowley…away. Not sure where, but he’s gone. The boys are released and tumble to the ground and Bobby’s spirit continues up to Heaven.
Just before she whooshes out, Naomi looks at Dean and says, “Told you you could trust me.”
Sam’s all WTH? Dean’s like, glowy-arm thingy first, angel explanations second. So, Sam finishes the trial spell and collapses in pain just as he did before, his arm glowing painfully. Dean hovers over him, face knotted in worry.
Back on Kevin’s boat, he hears Crowley’s voice, then the windows with the sigils on them blast apart and Crowley shows up, telling Kevin that they tortured and killed his mother to get Kev’s location. In probably the one time Crowley has ever sounded truly scary – and I am thinking that’s because it’s not really him – Crowley growls at Kevin, “You people are flitting blips of light and I. Am. FOREVER!”
We cut away on Kevin’s screams.
The boys are in the Impala, heading back to check on Kevin. Sam looks a little pale and a lot spent, though he answers Dean’s concerned question with an, I’ll live.
Dean: I buried Benny, but I didn’t burn his bones. Didn’t seem right. I know you got no use for him, but –
Sam: No, I get it. I do. He’s a little different from what I thought. Leave that door open if you want.
Dean doesn’t quite smile, but his face relaxes with that from Sam. They head to the boat to see if they can get Kevin to tell them where he stashed to tablet, only to find it empty – Kevin gone, and all of his notes with him.
So, here we are, four episodes left, one trial to go, and no clue how to close the gates or what the angel tablet might offer. Thank goodness we have Season 9 already greenlit or I might actually be a little worried.
Thanks as always for reading! Would love to hear what you think. See ya’ll after the next one on the 24th!