"Remember that time...?"
Misty, Water-coloured or Painted by Someone Else?
"I can't recall the specifics..."
It's the experiences we live through that shape the people we become. But the way we remember those events also plays a huge role in the way we define ourselves, and the identity we create.
One of the fascinating elements of The Great Escape was the memories that came rolling off Sam, like the heat waves generated by his dangerously high fever.
He remembered a strange symbol he'd seen during a course at Stanford. The symbol ultimately leads them to Metatron.
He remembered Dean reading to him as a little boy (confirming what fanfiction writers have theorized for years). That memory was heartbreaking for Sam to share, and for Dean (and all of us) to hear. Sam had always felt different. He felt dirty and like he could never be pure enough or good enough. Even as a child he could sense the taint of the demon blood.
And he remembered a trip to the Grand Canyon when he was 4 and Dean was 8. Dean rode a farting donkey, which means he had a farty ass!! (Ha! That pun was too good to resist Of course, this should be our first clue that something is amiss. It's Sam who is supposedly toxic after half a burrito!!)
This particular memory has fans scratching their heads. Hang on, we thought. Towards the end of Croatoan didn't Dean say "All this driving back and forth across country, you know I've never been to the Grand Canyon?"
The Great Escape was written by the very talented Ben Edlund, who is known for his ability to tie things together, and the way he remembers and respects the boys' history. But it is true that even the great among us can have a brain fart, or a memory lapse. So, perhaps the continuity checkers weren't quite as thorough as they should have been. (Remember they forgot to apply the scar from Cass's hand to Dean/Jensen's shoulder for a rare shirtless scene. Then they had to go back and explain that when Cass saved the pretty at the end of Swan Song, he also erased the scar.)
Or, is it possible that referring to the Grand Canyon was an intentional lapse of total recall?
Perhaps Sam had a memory implanted. Or perhaps Dean has had a memory erased.
The subject of memories, and tampering with memories was suggested by almost everyone in this episode. Crowley was playing with Kevin's mind through the use of Fake!Dean and Fake!Sam. In fact, he referenced having to scrub Kevin's short term memory several times. Luckily, Kevin's long-term memories stayed put and gave him a point of reference. It was through being able to compare his memories of Real!Dean and Real!Sam to the demon versions that he was able to recognize he was being conned.
Over in Naomi's torture office, she told Cass how many times she had wiped his memories clean. She reminded him she had deleted his memory files over and over and over again. Yet some of those recollections and remembrances have obviously left an impression. He has always been a rebel, always the spanner in the works, always the one to admire and emulate the courage of a friend who says "Bite me". Cass has always been the one to see the value, strength and beauty in humanity.
This emphasis on memory, and how easily it can be corrupted got me remembering Jeremy Carver's comments at the beginning of the season about perception, and how maybe all was not as it seemed"¦ is not as it seems.
With all this memory-wiping going on, I'm wondering if the brothers are having/ have had their memories wiped, or at least tampered with on several occasions.
We got a hint of this with Cass giving Dean a different interpretation of their escape from Purgatory. Dean was certain that he had failed Cass, that he had not held on tight enough and that it was his fault Castiel did not come through the portal. Then Cass reappears, taps him on the forehead and gives him a different interpretation. In this one, Cass actively resists being pulled into the portal with Dean and chooses to stay behind.
As well, this season we've seen the return of a handful or actors from previous seasons. Think of Ty Olsson as Eli the vampire in Bloodlust coming back as Benny the vampire who helps Dean in Purgatory. Victor the psychotic hunter in Freaks and Geeks was the pediatrician/shritga in Something Wicked. One of the alternative-Kevin prophets was the shop owner who sells the wreaths in A Very Supernatural Christmas. And based on next week's sneak peek, a key witness from a Season 1 episode (Wendigo) comes back in a pivotal role.
Some of the recasting could be do to the fact many of the actors are drawn from the Canadian talent pool in Vancouver, where the show is filmed. Seems plausible. After all, it's not like it hasn't happened before. The actor who played Dean's Amazon daughter Emma in Slice Girls was Missy Bender in The Benders. But still, there are so many this year.
Add to that there have been many echoes of seasons past, of characters past. Dean's speech to Sam in Southern Comfort, where he lists Sam's choices and/or mistakes is reminiscent of the verbal and physical fight the two had in Sex and Violence. The difference this season is that it was only Dean under the influence of something supernatural.
The mother/son Djinns in Pac-Man FeverÂ¸ are a little like Amy and her son in the Girl Next Door. They're not exact replicas. In PMF the son had just started to hunt, and Mom was helping to clean up his mess. In GND, the son wasn't hunting yet, but he needed what his mother hunted. However, in both cases, the child sees the parent killed, or the parent's body. Wow! What 2 brothers have been in a similar situation?
Of course, Trial and Error had massive callbacks to Season 2's Crossroad Blues, right down to baying hellhounds and goofer dust.
There have been so many subtle nods to the past through this season. But perhaps the most obvious was the beating Cass gave Dean in while they searched for the angel tablet in Goodbye Stranger. It was so very reminiscent of Luci!Sam beating Dean in Swan Song. Everything from the shooting angles, to the bruising was similar. It was also akin to the beating that Dean received at the hands of Alistair in On The Head of a Pin.
Dean's face in On The Head of a Pin
Dean's face in Swan Song
Dean's face in Goodbye Stranger
Coincidence? Maybe. Director's choice? Maybe. But, I'm a tiny bit suspicious that what is actually happening is that Sam & Dean's memories are being twisted ever so slightly. Jumbled up a little. Given a stir. I'm starting to wonder if all those memories, those incidents and people are like chess pieces. They're being moved around a giant game board for someone else's strategic advantage.
Playing with memories and words reminds me of a course I took in university. It was the Bible as Literature, and it was absolutely fascinating. The professor was fluent in many languages including Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He was also quite proficient in ancient Aramaic as well. He had spent countless hours studying in the Vatican Library, comparing original texts to their translations through the centuries. I remember one lecture, watching with amazement as he started with a verse from our present King James Version and then moved backwards through the translations to end up at the original text. But the problem was that the original text didn't actually say what the translations did. Through the many scribes and authors, a key piece of punctuation and an accent which dramatically changes a word's meaning had been lost, and added. One simple, small error in translation and the entire meaning of a phrase changed.
The same is true of memory. Blur the edges a little here. Insert a little extra detail there. Suddenly the memory is entirely different.
I used to watch "Quantum Leap". It was a great scifi show about a physicist named Sam Beckett who travelled through time trying to right wrongs. He saved innocent people by rewriting history. But all those leaps left holes in his memory. He referred to it as making Swiss Cheese of his memory.
Is it possible that Sam and Dean have Swiss Cheese memories from all their time travel, and their many deaths and resurrections? Or if not Swiss Cheese, maybe someone or something is turning their memories into fondue. Maybe their perception of events this year is just a tad off, or a little skewed or being manipulated on purpose.
The basic facts remain true, and mostly accurate. Dean had spent a year in Purgatory. Sam is still doing the trials. They've foundthe Men of Letters bunker. But behind the scenes someone is tampering with their memories, giving them a cleaning here, a rewrite there, all to push the Winchesters forward, or to pull them back.
Memories are crucial to our survival. In order to read, write, drive a car, even walk and talk we have to remember all the steps that make those actions possible. In the case of physical things, they become a muscle memory. Do it enough times and your body takes over, even if your brain can't. We saw evidence of that in A Terrible Life when Dean Smith and Sam Wesson could still fight even though they weren't hunters.
But more than that memories are what makes us, us. They are how we learn from experience, or why we fear having the same thing happen again.
Good memories give you the courage and strength to either move forward, or to stop and reconsider and maybe not do something. (For instance, rethinking closing the Gates of Hell) A bad memory can cripple you with fear and hold you back, or make you charge ahead blindly in the hope the outcome will be different this time (Like maybe failing to consider the consequences of closing the Gates of Hell).
Sam and Dean's memories of love and loss are the bond between them. Those memories fuel their desire to make the world a better place. But they're also what causes them to act recklessly, and drives their hunger for revenge. (However, experience suggests this hunger can never really be satiated).
If you were a supernatural entity with the ability to shape, control and manipulate the memories of the Winchesters, imagine how powerful you could be.
I seem to remember I had more to say, but now I've forgotten just what it was.