Man, I missed these guys! And it was only a week! *dreads the holiday hiatus*
The best part of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button?
“What I think is, it's never too late...or, in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be...There's no time limit, start anytime you want...change or stay the same...there aren't any rules...We can make the best or worst of it...I hope you make the best...I hope you see things that startle you. Feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you challenge yourself. I hope you stumble, and pick yourself up. I hope you live the life you wanted to...and if you haven't, I hope you start all over again."
The best part of The Curious Case of Dean Winchester?
I’ll get to that.
Before I start the ramble, I wanted to work through some immediate thoughts. Well, this whole thing is rather immediate, but you know what I mean. I thought the premise of this episode was fantastic. The temptation to walk on the dark side—to be seduced by the easy pleasure it offers—is never far from our heroes. We’ve seen Sam give in, and we’ve seen how it led him down a twisted path of self-destruction, believing the entire time that he was somehow justified in his actions. That what he was doing wasn’t really bad if it ended up being good in the end.
It’s therefore a fascinating study of human need and weakness for the current patriarch—Bobby—to give in to the very same desire. Even if it was more gray side than dark side... To have him look for the easy way out. To accept the gift of power. Even though he knew the giver was a witch. Even though he knew that there could be a price to pay. Even though he’d seen what had happened as a result of similar choices.
I have, thankfully, never been that desperate. Though, this past year has tested me in ways I never knew I could be tested. I can’t sympathize with someone’s life being so completely changed that they would try anything to get back to good. I can empathize with it, as both Dean and Sam tried to do. I can say, I’d imagine it’s horrible. But I can’t really say I know what that desperation feels like. However, I do know helplessness. I do know impotent frustration. I do know powerlessness. I do know the gutted loss you feel when something you want, something you need, something you worked so hard for is taken away or denied you.
I know that rather well, actually. And through that alone, I could say that given the right circumstances, I’d make the same choice as Bobby.
We jump right to it, and thank goodness for that. They needed every one of their minutes to get through this one, man. I thought the touch of “Weekly World News” was nice, with “The Apocalypse is Here” splashed across the front page. Mainly because no one believes those tabloids anyway. And yet, here? It’s true.
We see a woman reading the paper (seemingly in the dark) and her hubs dashes in, heads upstairs to the bathroom, and in a matter of minutes he ages and dies like the German dude in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He chose… poorly.
Posing as CDC Agents, the boys arrive to figure out WTH. The coroner questions them as really being CDC because they’re a day early. The ever-political writers get another slip in with Dean’s, “New administration… Change you can believe in” line. Is it me, or is it usually Dean who makes all the politically-laced cracks?
Can’t say he’s not up on current events.
I thought this episode was filmed with a grayer cast to it. Could be my tired eyes, but everything looked slightly worn, faded, shadows shifting so that one brother stood out from the other at different times. Mainly Sam, in this episode. He was vivid.
Checking out an elderly-looking corpse, the boys find out that the deceased was actually born in 1984. It immediately struck me that he was younger than Sam. And then it struck me that I knew the show well enough to immediately know that. *chuckles*
As they’re walking away from the morgue, Dean’s on the phone to Bobby, and I have to pause in my ramble to say… I love the way that man walks. Those bowed legs are somehow so flippin’ sexy, even in a suit. I mean, I prefer denim, but I’d just watch him walk. *sighs*
Moving on. It turns out that Bobby gave them the heads up about this case and Dean is validating the fact that it’s actually a hunt. He pauses in the intel dump to ask how Bobby is doing. Like, really doing. Bobby, gruff as usual, brushes off the attempt at casual concern with an, “I’m weepin’ in my Hagen Daas… ijit.”
Following Bobby’s suggestion to look into missing persons, they come across a man who has been missing for a couple of days and interview his elderly wife. Sam looks at a picture of the man and sees a tat – possibly Navy? Looked like an anchor – on his arm. Very distinctive. Making an excuse to use the restroom, Dean starts to poke around and finds a receipt for something called the Golden Palace.
Now, I think I missed something tiny here, because when they show up at the by-the-hour motel, breaking into a room to find a young guy with two (busty Asian beauties) ladies in the bed with him, they realize by his tat that it’s the husband. Only, the wife had said he usually worked late on Tuesdays, and when Dean found the receipt he muttered a “working late, my ass” comment.
Was the husband going to the motel on Tuesday’s as an old guy? And if so, does that creep anyone else out? Just me? Okay. I can deal with that.
Just to back up slightly, Sam made a comment as they were approaching the room that they wouldn’t live to old age. Dean agreed. This isn’t the first time they’ve touched on that subject. I hope they’re wrong. But… I can also see where they might be right.
So, after busting in, seeing the tat, and calling out the hubs for who he is, they send the girls on their way (with a roguish wink from Dean) and begin to question the (rather hot) young husband.
Hubs: “It was a game.”
Sam: “Like… Xbox?”
That totally got me laughing. Granted, I haven’t slept in four nights (apparently letting Mama sleep isn’t in Mo Chuisle’s Tonsillectomy Recovery Plan), but still. The innocent question mark on Sam’s face was hilarious. The hubs goes on to say that it’s a poker game, only you play for years. He describes the gambler as 35(ish), Irish accent (yay!), goes by the name of Patrick. And, by the way, he finds you.
Guess Tat Man was a good poker player. Or got extremely lucky.
As they’re leaving, Dean gives hubs a once over and says, “Stay classy.” I couldn’t help myself. I totally went right to Will Ferrell in Anchorman. *is laughing again*
Dean calls Bobby again to catch him up and Bobby affirms that there is definitely lore on a gambler witch guy who deals in time. I don’t know if I was looking too deep, but the fact that Bobby sent the boys on this hunt and what happened later totally made me think that Bobby had been instigating this all along. Sitting alone (*sad*) in his house, trapped in his wheelchair, with nothing to do but read ancient lore books (and apparently rig up a car that works solely by hand), I can totally see him coming across this witch, and simply hoping…
Bit of a coincidence, sure, but, well, there you go.
The boys split up and search for clues in every bar in town. Searching for a poker game. Sam’s got bupkis and Dean sends him for food while he tries one more bar. He tells the bartender that his friend Ben thinks that the bartender knows something about a poker game. I was so slow on the uptake on that one. I didn’t get the “my friend Ben” reference until he slid the $100 bill across the counter. Duh, Gaelic.
But, the bartender caved and directed Dean to the back of the bar, where he runs into none other than… Bobby. Who, honestly, already kinda looked like crap. Dean’s all, what the hell? Bobby says yes, he found the game. No, he didn’t get the witch. Rather, he played the game. And he lost.
Dean. Is. Pissed. And there’s this look he gets in his eyes when he’s scared and helpless and scared that he’s helpless and needs a moment to figure out how not to be helpless because he always. Has. To. Fix. It. Especially when it comes to family. Bobby tells him that he lost 25 years, and begins to age before Dean’s eyes.
Dean’s got a fire inside of him and he turns on his heel, out for blood. We see a dark-haired man with an Irish accent looking like he’s charming the pants off of an old guy and his young trophy wife. Turns out Trophy Wife (I never got her name) was part of the grift to get the old guy into a poker game, but Dean interrupts them and pulls Patrick off to the side.
Dean wants Bobby’s years back. He tries to threaten with his gun, but Patrick is nonplussed. He smoothly demands that Dean play for the years. Bobby’s shown up by this point looking gray and faded and tries to tell Dean no.
Throwing Bobby’s own words back at him, Dean snaps, “They’re my years. I can do what I want.”
The game begins. Patrick says the pot is 25 years. Dean makes him up it to 50, then pushes 25 back and demands he return them to Bobby. Patrick whispers some Gaelic and as the chips turn to ash, Bobby comes back to himself. And now, Dean has to win back 50 years.
Before we go too much further, I just want to roll in that for a moment. Recognizing that I’m a Deangirl, and how this is going to sound, I’m going to simply say that I love how self-sacrificing this character is. Whether it’s simply the way he’s put together, the way he was raised, the way life shaped him, he has shown repeatedly the lengths he’s willing to go to sacrifice of himself for his family. Even family not connected by blood.
Yeah, he’s crass, outwardly arrogant (though it’s a brash front that covers a deep-seated insecurity no amount of honest praise could overcome), loose with women, and completely un-PC. The man isn’t a saint, even if he has been selected to be a vessel for an archangel. But he never hesitated. When he found out what Bobby had done, there was no question in his mind what he should do. I’m sure he was confident that if someone like Tat Man could win, then surely with his mad skillz he’d give the Irish gambler a beat-down. Even if Bobby—whom one assumes was even better than Dean—had lost.
But it doesn’t matter. His life has been about sacrifice. Not necessarily for the great good. But for his family. Sacrificing small, like his childhood, or big, like his life. I love that about him.
We see the game begin, and the next thing we know, Sam’s returning to the motel with the food, sees an old guy walk out from the bathroom and draws his weapon. I have to say—while I missed resting my eyes on Jensen’s Dean, Chad Everett did a great job as OldDean. He had the facial expressions of humorous/cocky Dean down pat. He worked the vocal tones and slipped in the wise cracks. I was thoroughly entertained. I didn’t even mind that Chad’s eyes are that striking blue—we never really got close enough to his face for it to matter.
The exchange between the brothers when Sam sees OldDean had me laughing.
“Have you seen you? You look like—“
“I know, that old chick from Titanic.”
“I was going to say Emperor Palpatine.”
First? Dean goes with Titanic? HA! And second? Sam is such a Star Wars geek. I love it. THEN, though, Bobby comes in with his, “I see you’ve met John McCain.” *Gaelic spits out her wine* I love it when they have fun, y’know? Just fun.
Bobby and OldDean go at it, grousing back and forth, OldDean calling Bobby an idiot, and Sam’s watching, bemused. He breaks in with, “It’s like Grumpy Old Men.”
“Shut up, Sam!” they fire back at him in unison.
In a scene that foreshadows one that is more serious, OldDean gets on Bobby’s case about wanting to turn back time, and says that while he hasn’t been paralyzed, he has been to Hell. Then he says, “and there’s an archangel there wanting me to drop the soap.”
An archangel there? As in, an archangel in Hell? *is confused* Or was he just talking about Michael?
Anyway, they decide that it has to be about the chips because Patrick (the manwitch… hee) mumbled some Gaelic on them during the game. I’ll admit to being a little, oh, boys, really, about that because HELLO. He whispered a spell over the chips. Wouldn’t that kinda make you think that he gave the chips power? But, oh, well, it made for a good chase.
As they go to leave, a cute housekeeper gives Dean a “you remind me of my grandpa” line and calls him adorable for trying to hit on her. Chagrined in the wake of Bobby and Sam’s grins, he’s like, “can we just go?”
Bobby drives. I just find that remarkable. That the writers have enough confidence in their creation that we’d accept that Bobby would have the means to create a car he could drive while paralyzed. Plus? They all shove into the front seat when Bobby drives. Why that’s so cute, I don’t know. Sam’s riding bitch, too. With those long legs, that had to be hell.
They follow Patrick, see him get hit and killed by a car, watch him get up and steal the car that hit him. Dean is grinning. He likes the guys’ moxie, apparently. They continue to follow him to a high-rise apartment and wait until Patrick goes in and then comes out and drives away. I’m really not sure how they figured out what floor and apartment was his simply by sitting outside and watching, but whatever. They go inside and the elevator’s out of order, so Bobby’s benched. Taking the stairs, though, about does 80-year-old Dean in.
They break in and look for the chips, finding a safe that Dean should have been able to crack and that Sam is able to, and start to steal the chips They’re caught by Trophy Wife from the bar and she reveals that she, too, is a Witchy Woman by flinging out her hands and bringing the pain. Patrick appears out of nowhere (thanks for the cell phone warning, there, Bobby) and stops her, saying the boys are harmless.
He tells them to take the chips if they want. They’re just chips. The magic is in the 900 year old witch. (duh!) He says if they want the years back, they’re going to have to play a little Texas Hold’em. Dean’s all, bring it! But Patrick, see, has principles. He’s not a murderer, and Dean doesn’t have enough years left. Plus, his eyesight is bad and his memory… yeah…
Sam wants to play, but Dean stops him, suddenly panicky. Patrick’s like, your loss. Then ominously says that Dean should have taken better care of his heart… As they’re leaving, Patrick tells Sam he can’t let him leave without a parting gift, then claps his hands three times. The boys are like, whatever, freak and head outside.
On the way out of the apartment building, though, Sam starts squirming and Dean’s like, “Dude, that hewitch gave you the clap…” Sam snarls and Dean grins, appreciating the humor. The next morning, in a parking lot somewhere, the three hunters square off. Sam still wants to play Patrick to get Dean’s years back. The issue has long since ceased to be there’s a witch playing with people’s lives that we need to kill and become Dean lost 50 years to save Bobby from losing 25 and we have to get them back. I don’t know that they even cared if they were going to eventually get rid of Patrick. It was almost like they couldn’t think past the issue at hand.
Dean tells Sam that he’s not good enough. That Dean is better and Bobby is way better, and they both lost. Sam’s like, so I don’t get a say? Dean tries the, when you’re our age play, but Sam calls him with a, “You’re 30, Dean, and I’ve watched you hustle hundreds of games.” He knows that you don’t play the game, you play the player.
The thing I think both Bobby and Dean were forgetting, too, is that Sam? Is an excellent liar. While I believe he’d not lie to his brother again, not now, he did for a year. And he did it well.
Bobby says it should be him—he’s played him and knows his style. Dean argues that Bobby doesn’t have enough years. And in an emotional explosion of words that it was high-time Bobby let fly and the boys heard, Bobby says that he feels useless. His voice chokes up and his eyes fill. *sniff*
“I ain’t a hunter no more. I’m useless. If I weren’t such a coward, I’da stuck a gun in my mouth when I got home from the hospital.”
OldDean looks as if he wants to say something, but he can’t come up with the words. And, truthfully, I’m glad they didn’t go there yet because while Chad did a great “light” Dean, the emotional exposure of Dean’s heart had to be Jensen’s. Sam says that Bobby’s not going to play, and that he’s going to figure a way out of this… And they let him leave. Which, I found curious since he’d been so adamant that he wanted to play Patrick and they’d been so adamant that he not.
But, Sam is his own man, not the little brother. Dean takes Bobby back to the motel where Trophy Wife Witchy Woman is waiting. She hands Bobby a spell, says it will reverse everything Patrick’s done—to those who are still living, anyway—including her. She fingers a locket and says she has her reasons, but they need to hurry because she and Patrick are pulling up stakes tomorrow.
Patrick is playing an old man (who I thought he called Ash, at first, but I think it was actually Hash). He can see the reflection of the old man’s cards in the man’s glasses. The old man is up 13 years and Patrick folds, letting him go, saying he’ll get to see his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah. Sam is there, in the shadows, and sees this. I think it’s because of this side of Patrick that it became okay that they didn’t vanquish this evil – that the epi became more about human frailty, and choices than about the hunt. Because Patrick had compassion. And, as he said, he wasn’t a murderer… directly. If the losing player died as a result of his gamble, well… you play the hand you’re dealt, right?
At first, I was worried that Sam was going rogue and playing Patrick even after Bobby and Dean told him not to—that we were going down that road again. Bobby and Dean are in a cemetery, Dean digging, of course, and the two of them at each other like… well, like Grumpy Old Men. Dean is hurting all over and having trouble digging. Bobby has no sympathy for him.
Meanwhile, Patrick is giving Sam a smooth-talking, “armchair psychology” treatment as they play. Sam keeps eyeing the toothpick Patrick is alternately chewing on and lying down beside his whiskey shot glass. Patrick plays with his chips, asking Sam if his big brother knows he’s there. He speaks confidently, almost as if he can see inside of the Sam we’ve seen before—not, thankfully, the Sam we know today. Sam is down several chips. Trophy Wife walks in and gives Patrick a lingering kiss. Patrick proposes a break and suddenly Sam is rushing out the back of the bar and handing Dean a toothpick with “hewitch DNA” on it.
Dean takes it with a breathy, “Sammy? Don’t lose…” and as he turns away (but not where Sam can see), he grabs his left arm in a flash of pain. Uh-Oh… DAMN those cheeseburgers with extra bacon!!
Bobby and Dean are pulling together the elements of the spell while Sam continues to play the game. Bobby reads in Gaelic (yay!), they toss the toothpick into a blue flame and… nada.
Back at the game, Patrick pulls out another toothpick and reveals that he was onto Sam. He doesn’t like cheaters. At all. He does an (eerily familiar) air hand grip and appears to be choking Sam with The Force when Trophy Wife breaks in and stops him saying that she gave them the spell. Patrick is shocked, devastated. He wants to know why. She fingers the locket again saying, “you know why.”
Patrick turns to Sam and with a shaking voice says, “Keep. Playing.”
OldDean and Bobby surmise that the only thing that went wrong with the spell was the toothpick, so they need to go back to High Rise Apartment and get DNA – which means… more stairs. And after the arm-grab, I was worried that Dean’s “ticker” wasn’t going to take another climb.
Sam’s face is impassive as they keep playing. I was rather impressed, actually, with how outwardly calm he appeared. Sam bets it all, Patrick yammers that he shouldn’t have done that because blah blah blah, thinks he’s gifting Sam with more time by saying, “I fold,” then guesses that Sam has a “set of ladies.” Sam lays down a 3 and a 5. NICE bluff!
But then Patrick crushes Sam’s heart by saying, “Your brother’s gonna be dead soon. And when I say soon… I mean… minutes.” Sam tries to get up, but Patrick forces him (with witchy powers) back into his chair saying, “It’s not over until I say it’s over.”
Dean’s in the apartment, searching for DNA, sees a wine glass, and just as he turns the camera pulls in sharp on the wine glass, blurring out the figure of OldDean collapsing as he gasps out, “Sam…”
Sam is playing faster. Patrick taunts him. “So, when it’s about your brother you get so emotional your brain flies right out the window.”
Well… yes and no. I don’t think Sam is capable of not thinking. But when it’s about his brother? You’re damn right he gets emotional. Sam goes all in as Dean lays on the apartment floor, gasping and twitching weakly.
“I can’t leave until it’s over? Fine. It’s over. Where’s my brother?” God, I loved Sam in this moment.
“There’s poker, and there’s suicide,” Patrick counters.
Bobby’s yelling for Dean into the cell phone.
Dean’s air is sllllloooowwwlllyyy escaping as he lies wide-eyed on the floor.
Sam and Patrick are in a stare-down. Patrick turns his cards over. He has three Aces. Sam nodes, then looks over at Trophy Wife, who is crying.
Sam smiles, somewhat sadly, “For a witch, you’re so nice it’s actually kinda creepy. It’s okay. It was a good hand… Just not as great as four 4’s.”
Dude!!! I shot my hands into the air. That. Was. Awesome. That was Paul Newman, finger along the nose, tip of the fedora awesome.
“Cash these in for Dean, please,” Sam says, sliding his winning chips forward. *CLAPS* That was just… very effing cool.
Bobby is almost having a heart attack himself as he calls for Dean in the cell phone and then he looks to his right and sees Dean—OUR Dean—heading out of the apartment building at a lope. Dean spreads his arms wide with the biggest shit-eatin’ grin on his face. I wanted to hug him. He does a little jig and Bobby shakes his head with his adorably predictable, “Ijit.”
To wrap up the witch hunt that’s not a hunt, we have a nice little moment between Patrick and Trophy Wife where they play for her years. She opens her locket and shows a baby on one side, and an elderly woman on the other—both, apparently, her daughter. When she signed up for this immortality gig, she didn’t really think about the loss. There’s always a price to pay. Patrick is truly devastated and doesn’t think he can go on without her. She wins, in the end, though, by losing her hand.
As the guys are all packing up to leave, Bobby’s amazed that Sam actually beat Patrick, no tricks. Dean walks in—EATING A CHEESEBURGER *sigh*--and Sam says, “I’ll see ya’ll guys later.” Hello, Texas. Hee. He reluctantly says he’s going to a “brewster shop.”
Yeah, I didn’t get it. Maybe I heard him wrong?? Anyone? ETA: Early morning (or late night, depending) readers helped me out... and now? The line is MUCH funnier. Sam says, "booster shot." Y'know, thanks to Patrick's parting gift. His point at Dean with a "not a word" toooootally makes sense now. Sorry, all! That's what I get for rambling immediately after one viewing. Some stuff sticks, other stuff, when rattled off in a Texas-thick accent... not so much. *smile*
Dean and Bobby are left alone and Dean clears his throat and squares his shoulders, trying to apologize for what he’d said to Bobby when he was a Grumpy Old Man. Bobby tries to shrug him off, saying that if Dean were in his shoes he’d never stop complaining. Dean gives up on the you’re right, I’m wrong approach and sits down across from Bobby, blocking the older man’s escape.
The best part of The Curious Case of Dean Winchester?
“You’re not useless, Bobby. You don’t stop being a soldier because you got wounded in battle. No matter what shape you’re in, bottom line is, we’re family. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but me and Sam, we don’t have much left. I can’t do this without you. I can’t. So don’t you dare think about checking out. I don’t want to hear that again.”
*lump in throat*
All the man has ever really wanted (aside from a cold beer, a willing woman, and his baby) is for his family to be safe. To be around him. To be whole. And he fights so hard to keep it that way. And Bobby knows this. It’s just… good to be reminded once in awhile. That you matter. That you matter more than you could have ever thought. That you are vital. Everyone needs to hear that. Once in awhile.
Bobby nods with a gruff. “Okay.”
Dean’s shoulders relax and he replies, “Okay. Good.” And then he does this thing that kills. Me. Dead. Every time. His lips move as if words are still there, still pushing forward, but he’s forgotten how to release them, and then he looks down so that his lashes cast shadows. With Dean’s eyes still down, Bobby says, very softly, “Thanks.”
Dean looks up and there is so much emotion in that brief glance that I felt almost ashamed for saying Chad played a decent Dean. There is no one who can play Dean Winchester with the kind of heart that Jensen Ackles brings to the table. In that one glance, Dean’s eyes were full of honesty, and then, as Bobby continued with a gruff joke about getting out of there before they grew girl parts, the emotion dissipated and easiness slipped in, letting Bobby off the hook.
Dean stood, picked up the cheeseburger, and dropped it back into the bag. FINALLY! Take care of that ticker, Dean!! Although… It did kinda make me think about Jeff Goldblume’s character in Independence Day… he got drunk and said we should start polluting the planet even more so that the aliens wouldn’t want it anymore. Made me think a bit about Michael wanting Dean’s body…
Get in line, pal. *wink*
Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he glances back at Bobby with a, “Let’s go, Ironsides.”
“Oh, that one’s sticking, huh?” Bobby replies, but after Dean leaves the room, the camera pulls in tight on Bobby’s care-worn face. He… needs a moment.
I’m too tired to be too philosophical, but I am just continually appreciative of how a show that is superficially about things that go bump in the night can show us such deeply personal glimpses of ourselves—as individuals and as a race of people.
That? And I love how Sam Sam was and how Dean Dean was—especially when he was back to OUR Dean. I truly enjoyed seeing a very human, vulnerable, scared Bobby. Seeing him need as much as he was needed. I just felt very easy with them, like the conflict of the very recent past just wasn’t there in the face of this hurdle. That they had started to figure out a way to set it aside for the sake of the moment, knowing it was still there, knowing they’d still have to deal with it at points along the way, but able to reach out through the muck that is life and grab on to what really mattered: family.
“I hope you stumble, and pick yourself up. I hope you live the life you wanted to...and if you haven't, I hope you start all over again…”
Next week – the Trickster is back! I love that guy!