The look on Dean's face as he stood in the shadows, watching Sam exorcise a demon with nothing more than the power of his mind, was one of bleak despair giving way to rising fury, and it made me realize all over again how responsible for his brother Dean feels. In a pattern that started when they were both children, Dean often acts parental toward Sam, and when he finally had it out with his brother about what he and Ruby have been up to, he reminded me for all the world of a father who has just been called at 2:00 AM to come pick up his wayward son at the local police station. He felt angry, hurt, disappointed, and even betrayed, but he was also scared, awash in love for Sam, and, I think, asking himself how he had managed to fail his little brother so completely that Sam could think the things he's been doing are okay.
Dean had his say in the motel room, and his words destroyed Sam. They hurt far more than the two hard punches that Dean delivered and Sam just took. Even the shattering news that God Himself wanted Sam to stop couldn't equal the pain of hearing Dean say, "If I didn't know you, I would want to hunt you." In response, Sam just nodded at first, as if somehow he knew it would come to this all along, and both boys' eyes filled with tears. And as Sam tried to explain, we saw for the first time the true depth of his loss when Dean went to hell, and the terrible, hidden price of Dean's deal. Sam was lost, beyond lost, and in trying to make sense of his life without Dean, a life that he had to somehow make worth the trade for Dean's own, he decided to use the part of himself that was born of demon's blood to do good. Oh, Sam, a noble effort, to be sure, but a misguided one, I'm afraid. I have to agree with Dean, a slippery slope indeed.
The boys were interrupted there by the phone call from Travis, but Sam finally had his own say later, by the side of the road, where he exploded first in anger and then in anguish as he tried to make Dean understand what it means to live under the curse of what happened in that nursery so long ago. His outburst, and the desperation behind it, finally made Dean listen, and in that moment his anger was snuffed out, and what was left was only compassion, and sorrow. I was stunned by what Sam said. I don't think I ever truly appreciated what has been going on inside of him, what has haunted him, maybe ever since he first realized he was having visions, but certainly from the moment he found out his father was prepared to kill him. I wonder if that's why they picked that particular setting, on a riverbank, for this conversation: to remind us all of the beginning of Hunted, when Dean revealed the words that John whispered in his ear right before he died?
Compared to the emotional scenes between Sam and Dean, the MotW story that made up the rest of the episode just didn't captivate me. There was an important message to be gleaned from it, of course, but the parallels between Jack Montgomery and Sam Winchester were so heavy handed I felt like I was being bludgeoned with them. Give us a little credit, show, and use some subtlety next time.
The rugaru was definitely one of the grossest monsters I've ever seen, and I had to both shut my eyes and put my hands over my ears during some scenes just to get through them. But I think that was the point. Because Jack Montgomery was a symbol in this episode, a symbol of what Sam fears he will become, and what preys on Sam's imagination is something truly horrific. He's afraid there is an uncontrollable monster inside of him, one that will inevitably emerge to kill those he loves best, or be killed by them. And he has to believe that monster can be saved.
Travis was obviously a stand-in for Bobby in this allegory, although Bobby would never have ended up the victim. He would have torched the monster while he was still passed out from the chloroform, and then quietly but effectively convinced his wife to terminate her pregnancy. He certainly wouldn't have waited around to explain his actions and apologize! Remember what he said to Dean in AYTGIMDW (*snerk*)? "If you're gonna shoot, shoot! Don't talk!" And even if you agreed with Travis that the fetus had to be destroyed, burning the mother alive was just a bit of an overkill, don't you think?
I think the most interesting parallel to be drawn from Jack's story was how Travis himself was instrumental in making the rugaru's transformation complete. I think we're being told that maybe Dean needs not to push Sam too hard, but rather give him a little space to figure out how to follow his own path, rather than the one Azazel had in mind for him.
That first scene with Sam and Ruby creeped me out a little bit. I gloried in watching Sam use his power in the season opener (in that episode it was the last eight and a half minutes that left me reeling, in this one it was the first eight and a half minutes, almost exactly), but this time it was kind of disturbing. He was exorcising in anger, it seemed, and reveling in it a little too much. And both he and Ruby (especially Ruby) looked turned on by the whole thing. Ewww. I like the new Ruby well enough, but this time around, maybe because she's in a different body, I can't stop thinking about the girl she's possessing. That's just not right.
I need to talk about the performances this week, from Jensen and especially Jared, but I know my words can never do them justice. I've said this before, but I continue to be amazed not only by what these boys are capable of doing onscreen, but also by what they're willing to share with us. They reach inside themselves to the deepest corners of their souls, and then pull the secrets to be found there out and put them on display, just to entertain us. Dean's fury was palpable in Jensen's hands, as was his torment. And Jared just broke me, into a million little pieces. I've never wanted so badly to climb inside my television set and give a fictional character a hug. Oh, Sammy, I believe in you.
Random thoughts: I missed my hot angel. And what was with Dean calling him Cass? Did he not hear the part about showing him a little respect? I suppose that means he would call Gabriel Gabe? *rolls eyes* Whose favorite shirt is that, Sam's or Jared's? :) I may never touch raw ground beef again. Yuck. Sam was a mathlete! \o/ If anyone is going to use the word "dick" on this show, I would prefer it be Dean, okay? How funny was it when the boys busted into that girl's apartment? LOL! And the line I couldn't believe I heard? "He keeps it under his mattress, right next to his K-Y." Oh, now they're just messing with us! hee!
I couldn't help but think of Madison as I watched this episode, and I wondered if Dean was thinking of her, too. Now that it's Sam who might be the monster, is everything different? Or is Dean even now steeling himself for what he might have to do? This situation is far from resolved, and I think Sam feels very much alone, despite Dean's assurances. I am fully invested in this story, and I can't wait to see where Kripke takes us next, but after the emotional intensity of these past four episodes, I welcome the comic relief that the promo for next week promises. Bring on the Dean snark and the Sammy bitchface; I'm ready for the boys to make me laugh.