I don't know if I just didn't watch the previews last time or if the tryptophan in that Thanksgiving turkey just erased my memory of seeing them, but I didn't realize that we'd be getting two of my favorite female characters back in the same episode. This was a delight. I mean, it wasn't grab-you-by-the-throat, kick-you-in-the-gut dramatic and there weren't any Walking Dead-worthy tears shed (really pretty sure they're saving both of those for next week's mid-season finale), but it certainly didn't suck. No pun intended.
Decent MotW, great supporting characters, and good forward movement on the brother's storyline with the Mark of Cain. I call it a win. Okay, so lists! Let's have at it!
- Jody freakin' Mills. We need more Jody in our lives. In the boys' lives. Especially Sam's. Because, he grins. And that makes me happy.
- Donna Hanscomb. I have decided I adore her as well. I have to go back to the pishtaco Ramble to see what I said, but I'm really pretty sure I adored her then.
- Jody talking to Alex on the phone (twice) and referring to her as "her kid" -- seeing the continuation of Jody taking care of a teenager.
- The boys back at the bunker -- haven't seen them there since Dean was cured! -- and actively searching for something, anything on the Mark of Cain in the Men of Letters lore (finally).
- The friggin' grin on Sam's face when Jody calls. I just wanted to pinch his dimpled cheeks.
- The way Dean grinned and ducked his head when Jody says that Alex is smoking grass under the bleachers (like a regular teen...y'know, rather than luring men to their deaths).
- The fact that Sam's first question when Jody mentions the body that was found in Hibbing is, "Was the throat ripped out?" Only a Winchester.
- Dean giving Sam puppy eyes so that they can follow up on Jody's potential hunt. I mean, seriously, folks. *totally melts* *so does Sam* (Which is why they head to Hibbing instead of reading more about transgender werewolves.)
- Donna and Jody checking out the body in the morgue. "Ate the whole kit and kaboodle."
- "Shut the front door." Very Kate Beckett of you, Donna.
- Donna and Jody bonding over jerk exes and out-of-control teens. I love moments when women are just...women. Talking about life. Finding a common thread among the awkwardness and protective walls strong enough to make a tenuous connection.
- Donna calling Dean and Sam by their Agent aliases. Hee.
- THE WEIGHT! <3 One of my favorites. And didn't Jensen sing that at a Con once? I thought I remembered a YouTube vid....
- Jody's hugs. She hugs them like she knows they need it more than she does and she's ready to hang on longer if necessary.
- Dean: "The FBI doesn't do cute."
- The subdued, comedic timing of this exchange just had me rolling:
Sam: "Try to be less defensive of your pretend job."
Dean: "This badge means something."
Sam: "I made it at Kinkos."
Dean: "Yes, you did. And I'm proud of that."
- "You call this a big one? I hope you drive a Porsche." (Bonus points to Kim for pronouncing it "porsh-uh".)
- Jody checking on Dean and offering him a listening ear if what he's dealing with ever becomes more than he can handle. He needs people like that in his life. He needs to know that there are people like that out there for him.
- Donna confiding in Jody about seeing the "shark teeth" on the Sheriff Len combined with Donna freaking out about finding out what Len is. "What the cuss?! Vampire?!"
- Jody vouching for Donna. And we all know that when it comes to the Winchesters, what Jody wants, Jody gets.
- The silent communication between Dean and Sam when they are trying to get free of the Hippie Vamp's ropes.
- Len's final resistance, though it meant his demise.
- Dean killing two vamps like a BAMF followed by Donna beheading the Hippie Vamp before she could bite Jody. "That's what I'm talking about."
- The duel exchange at the Impala between the girls and the boys: Donna and Jody's relieved, congratulatory, and sobering; Dean and Sam's revealing, settling, and worrisome.
- Kinda wish Doug had ended up a victim (thought that would have wrecked Donna). He was a total assbutt. Sad thing is, there are actually people like him in the world.
- Jody's flashback. I get that those viewers who may not be as obsessive as me might not remember Jody losing her husband and son in such a gruesome manner, but I wish they'd let us just play off of Jody's devastated expression. Kim Rhodes can do a very believable destroyed look and it would have been enough to see that and know she'd been through hell. I mean, Donna picked up on it and she didn't see the flashback. I'm a believer that flashbacks have to be really needed -- showing us something we haven't seen before but is part of the character's story. But that's just me.
- Sam and Dean both get knocked out by the vamps? What the french toast? C'mon, boys.
- Once more, Dean was unconscious yet tied to a post while standing up. He couldn't have woken up, all groggy, tied to a post and, I don't know, been propped up sitting on a barrel? I don't know about you, but I have a very hard time standing while unconscious. Or so I've been told. I wouldn't really know, would I? Being unconscious.
- Okay, so am I the only one who didn't realize that vamps would literally eat an entire human being? That was a new one for me.
- I like that they brought up the Mark of Cain again with the lore search (which, unfortunately, yielded nothing) and Dean mentioning it at the close of the episode, but I wonder if I was supposed to pick up more in the previous episodes than I have. I felt a bit like Sam as he replied, "First time?" when Dean told him killing the vamps was the first time since he'd been back that he hadn't felt the Mark pushing him. I mean, sure, we could surmise that the extra shots put into the shape-shifter were Mark-induced (even though Dean shrugged it off because he didn't want to face the truth), but he reined it in when fighting Cole and even let Sam kill most of the baddies since he's been cured. What I take from that now, looking back, is that Dean's been resisting the push of the Mark -- consciously -- this whole time, until tonight when he felt like himself. But then, if that's the case, what was that look of concern on his face there at the very end, just before he gets into the car? Was it me, or did he grab at his arm like it pained him? I'm not sure what to think about the Mark at the moment. I believe Dean is Dean again -- fully cured, no longer a demon -- but I don't know how to think about what the Mark is or isn't doing to him as a human. I have to wonder if Dean feeling like himself is Dean giving in to the Mark's effect. I have to wonder if Dean knows how he's supposed to feel anymore. What does feeling like himself mean when he's been branded by Cain, died, returned a demon, been cured of demon-ness, and still carries Cain's mark and its effects?
So, the overall storyline was simple enough: hippie chick vamp creates vamp family, Len has enough of killing, runs off to become a cop, gets found by vamp family as he's leading a sheriff's retreat for the first time, and doesn't give in to his dark side. Dies for the honor he's claimed in going clean. Taken at face-value, it's a pretty basic MotW, even if the hippie chick being the baddie was a dead give-away the moment she randomly tin-cupped for money from Sheriff Mills. The main thing it had was some familiar overtones for Jody Mills' adopted daughter's history.
However, layer it over the Mark of Cain storyline and Dean's comment about feeling like himself, and there's a bit of worrisome foreshadowing. We've had Dean talk about doing things right because he's gotten so much wrong, we've had him say that he's beyond saving and knows how his story is going to end, and we have him confessing that the Mark has been pushing him -- killing vamps to save his friends and his brother the first time he's felt...well, right.
He sounded pretty frustrated back in the bunker when they couldn't find any lore on the Mark from the MoLs. I wonder if Len's story could be mirroring where Dean's head is at right now -- more willing to die with the honor of doing the right thing than living with the burden of following his "nature." Whatever that is now. It was interesting to me, the exchange with the cocky, young deputy. Dean has always been a bit brash, some might say tactless, when it comes to dealing with authority or, heck, regular people in general. Sam has always had to step in, smooth things over, be the good cop to Dean's bad cop. It's just how they are.
But when the Deputy smirked at their Fed threads and all but challenged them to find something, Dean's defensiveness made me anxious and wonder if he was going to lash out MoC-style, or if he was just being Dean. I could see that worry flash across Sam's face as well as he stepped in to ask about surveillance footage. There's enough doubt been planted now about Dean's reactions and reasons that I find myself on edge about his state of mind even when there's apparently no reason to be.
I am loving the way the boys are connecting right now, though. Like Dean taking Sam's gentle chiding about his reaction to being a Fed in stride -- and with humor -- or their non-verbal communication in the barn when they were tied up. You could practically see the words can you get to your knife stamped in the air. And I love how Sam checked on Dean as they were putting their weapons away. For so long it's been the other way around, Dean making sure Sam's in one piece, mentally, emotionally, physically. Dean making sure Sam is dealing with whatever troubling trouble has wrapped around him.
But just a simple, "You okay?" at the trunk with a careful sweep of his eyes to see if Dean's reply is countered with something only Sam would notice -- a tensing of his muscles, a flinch of his eyes, a flex of his jaw, a tremble of his hand -- was very nicely played. As was his acceptance of Dean's affirmation that his feeling like himself was a good thing. I loved his, "All right. Let's go with that." He's got Dean's back and I think Dean's actually starting to believe it. Maybe even believe he deserves it, simply because he's Sam's brother.
Which scares me to death, storyline wise. Because this is usually when the writers rip my heart out Once Upon A Time-style and threaten to crush it. Slowly.
I also enjoyed that we have been able to keep Jody Mills alive. I love Charlie, but Jody is my favorite (still living) female character and I want her to stay in the boys' lives. I want Dean to take her up on that clam chowder chat. I want her to make Sam grin again. I like that she has Alex and now that Donna is hip to the big, dark truth about what's out there, she has another friend. Especially since she offered to coach Donna on the ins and outs, what kills what, and all that.
Donna's story made me a bit sad. She is such a beautiful, delightful woman. Capable, sweet, knowledgeable, and tough. But she had the clear misfortune to fall for a man who only had eyes for a certain size of woman and made her feel like she was less and less of a person because of her weight. And, boy, if she is fat, I don't even want to know what Doug the Douche would have to say about me. It made me sad that amazing people like Donna are crushed because of small-minded people like Doug. In the world, I mean.
I love that in this story she was able to learn the truth and save Jody. I know they were trying to protect her from the crazy truth, but empowerment like that will only serve to strengthen her self-worth, so long as she doesn't go up against a monster with the wrong weapon. Maybe she needs to stick a machete in her Kevlar like Jody (also, no wonder Jody kept her jacket on while inside...more places to hide her uber-knives).
I am probably missing something profound, but that's where you guys come in, right? Telling me the nuance or layer that you saw and I did not, helping to make the viewing experience complete. All I know is, I'm braced for next week. Anyone know how long the mid-season hellatus will be?
Thanks for reading, ya'll. Looking forward to hearing from you!