Good on Dick Speight, Jr., for taking on this crew and turning out a sweet, occasionally funny, nostalgic episode. For me, this one was...well, basically vanilla. And I like vanilla. It didn't cause me to have any major, notable reaction either way, and it blended well with the strong palates of the creepy bunny head episode before it and the previews of what awaits us next week for the mid-season finale.
The Xana were funny and touching, Sam's expressions of confusion at the beginning had me in stitches (as did Dean's "I'm gonna get my gun" reactions). And his contemplation as he remembered how lonely he'd been during the time of his life when he 'met' (even though he thought he made up) Sully was both sad and sweet. Thinking back to their childhood, I find myself typically thinking of Dean being left alone to care for Sam, or Sam alone with John when Dean was in that boys home. But even though Dean was with Sam as much as he could have been, there were logically times that Sam was alone and lonely. Same was probably true for Dean, but he clearly found ways outside of Xana to cope.
To be completely honest with you guys--because, these don't really work otherwise--I actually thought the Xana-killer was going to be Amara. If it had been Amara, I had this whole theory worked out that she was adding to her Crimes Against Humanity, damaging already emotionally at-risk kids by killing off their one (imaginary) friend and leaving a bloody, trauma-inducing scene behind that only they could see. It wasn't enough for her to have soulless!humans wandering the Earth, she needed to break them young.
I could actually see that scenerio tying into everything, and when Dean went in pursuit of the "terra firma" of a "chick in a car" I fully expected to have another Amara encounter to further the exploration into the hold she has over him. When it turned out to be a regular girl--angry and traumatized in her own right--I admit that I was a little disappointed and had to adjust my compass a bit to feel the appropriate emotion that would align to her situation.
Isn't it funny what our expectations can do to us?
I was intrigued by the lore of the Xana (am I even spelling that right? Kinda going from 'Xanadu'...and now you're trying to get the image of Olivia Newton John in leg-warmers out of your head aren't you?). I liked that they came to kids who truly needed them--because they were lonely, or because they (like Fletcher and Sam) had absentee-ish parents--and gave them reasons to be happy and to believe in themselves. Gave them the confidence they needed to get to the next phase in their life. They took care of these kids; they were big ol' marshmallow-filled guard dogs.
My kiddo has a very active imagination--as those who have met us can attest. She's had certain stuffed animals since, basically, birth who 'talk' to her, and quite often we go on car trips with her imaginary pet dragon, Casper, (who has a whole history of having been a Water Dragon and then sacrificed himself to save his friend and came back as a Ghost Dragon as his reward...hey, it's Mo Chuisle's pet, not mine) accompanies us, though I make him ride on the roof, because, really, who has room in their car for a dragon?
Anyway, the hubs and I have never discouraged this play and, when necessary, play along. However, Mo Chuisle is now 9 years old and vacillates between being a little kid and being a "big kid." The little kid still sleeps with the stuffed animals; the big kid tells me with fearful eyes that the animals don't talk to her anymore. We had a discussion where the animals could 'overhear' us and decided that she needed them to talk to her until she told them it was time to go. They couldn't just leave on their own. Apparently, that settled everyone down.
I was caught by the fact that Sam was 9 when he met Sully. Let's just look away from the fact that John left his nine year old in a hotel room alone. I mean, I get it, hunter's life, too dangerous, doing the best he can, yadda yadda yadda. But gah, nine?! No wonder Sully zeroed in on the kid. I was also caught by the fact that Sully was encouraging Sam to be his own person--to run away from the hunting life. I had to think about this one a bit because at first blush, it doesn't really appear to do much to further the plot. However, taking into account what Sam's been struggling with this season (more on that in a second) and the reason they are in their current predicament, this episode further solidified the "family/sibling" bond theme we've been seeing.
Sam--at a very vulnerable point in his emotional development--was left alone (again) when John and Dean went hunting. Sully shows up and shows directed interest in him as a person, telling him that being Sam is awesome and he could do anything. And yet, the moment John calls and says "get on a bus and meet us here", Sam couldn't get packed fast enough. What I take from it is that we're supposed to be reminded that Sam really wants to be with his family.
Even though he ran away as a teen and lived on his own (with a dog) in Flagstaff for a while. And even though he left for school at Stanford. And even though he walked away from Dean and hunting. And even though he had a brief 'normal' life with Amelia. I think we're supposed to see that Sam's true grounding is with and for his family, because even with all of those examples, he came back. He stuck with his family even when he was encouraed to leave, to focus on what he wanted outside of hunting, to give his own life a chance. And so when faced with another "all or nothing" decision, he will choose family. I could be way off, but I was trying to see the layered meaning to the flashbacks.
What spoke to me more than the flashbacks, though, were the real, vulnerable moments between Sam and Sully when the truth about Reece's sister came out and both admitted to making some pretty serious mistakes that they have tried to recover and come back from. That, and Dean registering and then accepting that Sully genuinely cared about his brother and that realization shifting his dismissive attitude toward the Xana in general. I always like seeing Dean being willing to accept that there are other ways of looking at the world.
But back to Sam's current struggle--I feel like I missed something somewhere. Was this episode the first time we heard anything about Sam going into the cage and talking to Lucifer?? When he dropped that little nugget like it was common knowledge I did a double-take. I remember that he had a vision of the cage at the end of "Our Little World" -- but as far as I remember, it was just a vision of the Cage. Sam saying that he thinks God is telling him that he is supposed to go back into the Cage and talk to Lucifer felt like the visions plot had taken this giant leap...unless I totally missed something in my great 3-episode binge.
And there, I have to say I'm in Dean's "this is crazy talk" corner. I mean, yes, I get that Sam needs to have faith, needs to believe in something. I get that the visions started after he prayed when he was at the end of his rope. I get that we're dealing with God's sister, so it's possible that the visions would be sent from God as a way to balance the power since this is something beyond pretty much every being on Earth's comprehension. I get all of that. And I'm totally on board with them exploring the meaning behind the visions. But if they seriously explore Sam going into the Cage to have a sit-down with Lucifer, I gotta toss a flag on the play.
The Bible (if we can even use that as a source in this 'verse) defines faith as the 'subject of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.' I am all for that being what drives Sam. But when it comes to the direction they're heading, I think I'm more on Dean's "show don't tell" thought process. In all of their struggles from Zachariah to Lucifer and Michael to Stull to Hell to the Cage to Purgatory to Cain, the God of this 'verse has been MIA. I think they need a little more concrete proof--MUCH more than Sam feeling contemplative because he remembers ditching his imaginary friend to join his family on a hunt after said friend encouraged him to go his own way--before they start exploring some way that allows Sam to talk to Lucifer.
I'm dying to find out how Sam thinks that would work, too. I mean, it's not like he can die and come back--Billy the Reaper told him next time they died, it was a boot into The Empty. Are we thinking...spirit walking? random portal? I'll reserve my judgement until we see where this storyline is going, but right now I'm in head-tilt mode.
Buuuut...none of that really has any direct meaning to the actual story we saw in "Just My Imagination"-- which was, ultimately, about a damaged girl driven to murder...and the only reason she got a hug and hang in there instead of jail time was because the victims were Xana, not humans. So, there's that. Still, there were multiple moments of merriment in the viewing of the episode, which I'll capture for you here.
- The fact that the manicorn was reading Where the Wild Things Are.
- The whole opening scene with the boys from Sam's permanent WTF expression when he sees all the sweets to punching Sully in the face in instinctive reaction to Dean's early morning utter befuddlement.
- Dean + bed head + bathrobe = happy Gaelic
- "Are you having a stroke? Do you smell toast?"
- Bravo on that smooth cut from Dean not seeing Sully to Dean seeing Sully. Well done.
- Dean calling Sully "Mork from Ork." I remember I used to love Mork and Mindy.
- "Come on! This...mother.... You and me. Library. Now."
- Sam walking obediently, shoulders hunched, as though he'd been scolded.
- OMG the sweaters. The. Sweaters.
- Using Dylan Everett again as young Dean. He is the quintessential young Dean, you ask me.
- Loved their cover story as trauma counselors w/ child services. Clever boy, Sammy. Although, I do have to question the mother not even asking for some kind of credentials before letting them into her daughter's bedroom. *shakes head at mother*
- "That kid is going to see all the shrinks."
- "She's got Sparkle on her face! Somebody's gotta say something...somebody's gotta say something!!!"
- "I gotta stay strong for Sam." Yeah, he kinda got me with that one.
- "My fat saved me!" "Fat is the best." I have to say it -- I love these guys.
- Weems playing air guitar like Hendrix.
- Sully telling Sam he saved the world. "You did really good, Sam." Aw, man. Now you're gonna make me get all mushy.
- Dean getting knocked out and tied up. Oh, stop. 90% of you are just like me and watch hoping for moments like that, you know you do.
- "Trust me - revenge doesn't make you feel better. I have seen my share of monsters. Real monsters. Bad. These guys are Sesame Street Mother Theresa's. But...when I wasn't there for my little brother, Sully was." Aw, Dean. Endless, endless guilt. You were a kid, too, btw. You were there for him every moment life allowed. And beyond.
- "Heroes aren't perfect."
- "You're a good weird."
- Basically the whole end conversation about Sam going into the Cage and Dean saying they would find another way as if that was actually a viable option. As if that might be their only option. Why weren't they instead trying to figure out more about the visions? I kind of wanted Dean to return Sam's "okay, tell me what that other way is" demand with a "what's your plan" rejoinder. I just think we're going from weird, Sam't getting visions again, wonder what that's about to Sam is on a mission from God that involves jumping into the worst place imaginable to try to save the world again.
- How did Reece get into the first house to kill the manicorn? While we're at it, she was, what, 100 lbs soaken wet? How the heck did she drag an unconscious, dead-weight Dean from the car into that barn and prop him up against the pole to tie his hands? Are we sure she's 100% human? (just kidding. kinda.)
- Is Castiel still living at the bunker? Seemed weird to not have a mention of him binge-watching something.
- Is it just me, or does the fact that they use the same set for hotels crack anyone else up?
- All of the same questions I had last Ramble apply here as well because we haven't gotten any answers yet, but that's okay because we're only at the Mid-Season finale, so. Questions are totally appropriate.