Sometimes, to truly master something, we must in turn teach it to someone else. Underneath the masks and ghost possessions of “Plush,” we see just that.

The Winchester brothers have been hunting all their lives, living by the credo of “saving people, hunting things, family business,” but it is only recently that they have chosen to truly adhere to Sam's plea that they save all the people once more. With this case, we see the passing of a torch---for like one candle lighting another, Sam and Dean now light the hunter's path for Sheriff Donna Hanscum. In turn she reminds them the true meaning of “saving people,” too. It is a declaration that they are indeed heroes, and an affirmation that they are truly committed to their cause. Sometimes, the only way to gain fresh perspective is to see ourselves through outsider eyes. This case with Sheriff Hanscum has certainly done that for the brothers---and more importantly gives them hope they can cling to when they may feel there is little to be had, too.

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The case itself is simple---a man was killed and has come back to possess people through objects important to him in life. Chester had been a children's performer accused of pedophilia---and without actual evidence to corroborate that accusation, it can be argued that he was as much a victim as anyone else surrounding the case. He was condemned first by other parents and then by his own sister. His chosen profession and the way he conducted himself gave rise to their suspicions wrongly. Because he was so attached to these costumes, Chester tried to exact revenge on all of those people---the ones that had not only caused his brutal death but had forever tarnished his name with such false allegations.

In the end, it mattered not that his death was an accident---the fact that they lied about his supposed crimes and then the manner of his death did to Chester's spirit.

Sheriff Hanscum called Sam and Dean because she found the circumstances of this case strange. Confronted with a silent killer wearing a plush bunny head that didn't come off---she feared quickly that she was in over hear head. This wasn't the usual criminal activity in her jurisdiction, and it became apparently immediately that this might be beyond the normal authorities grasp. Sheriff Hanscum realized quickly that she needed experts and for her, no one else was more expert at this type of weird than the Winchesters themselves. She tells them, “For the most part been tater tots and lemon drops, except for this doozy. I mean, when you get a call about a killer Easter Bunny, you don't know what to think”

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In doing so, Sheriff Donna Hanscum shows great trust in them. Her job is on the line for going against protocol. After all, Sam and Dean illegally pose as federal agents---knowing that they do so makes her an accomplice. And yet, she must do this if they have any hope of stopping the killings. Her trusting them not only helps them solve this case, however. It is in trusting them that she can truly learn how to become a hunter herself---and thus serve and protect her jurisdiction in a whole new manner.

Working this case, however, comes with its own challenges for the sheriff. While she may be the authority, by working against rules and regulations to let Sam and Dean do what they do best, she learns how difficult a tight rope it is hunters walk. At every turn, Sheriff Hanscum has to cover for the strange occurrences, and the suspects that seemingly slip away. It's all for a good cause---and she knows it---but it doesn't mean it's any easier to handle that difficult challenge. In some respects, she knows it must make her look at best suspicious and at worst incompetent. Not wanting to simply risk letting this supernatural killer run rampant, however, the sheriff follows Sam and Dean's lead and does what it takes the solve the case.

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After the suspect gets away at the hospital, Sheriff Donna knows just how risky it is to be a hunter. She knows she has to cover yet again for this fresh escape, and forlornly remarks, “I'm so losing my job.”

Unfortunately for her partner, Officer Doug, the brunt of her frustrations land squarely on him. His first strike happens to be his name, something she points out to Sam when she remarks, “He is! But he's a cop... named Doug. I mean, clearly, I have a type, but no, thank you, ma'am. Won't be once bitten, twice Doug'd.”

Nevertheless, the brothers are patient in teaching her the hunting ropes. They assess the suspects, ruling out demons quickly. After the second attack and the second masked suspect, they test a second theory: ghost possession. Sheriff Donna Hanscum is stunned, exclaiming, “Oh for jeez, ghosts can possess people?”

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Rather than reacting with frustration or anger at her skeptical sounding shout, the brothers each take turns explaining the basics. Sam states, “Yeah, so, Ghosts 101: somebody's spirit can attach itself to an object or a bunch of objects left behind. In this case, masks.” Dean further explains, telling her, “They hate iron and salt, so all we gotta do is spook the spook with a little salt and, uh, maybe we could pry it off.”

The exchange is gentle despite the awful circumstances that led to the young woman sitting in the jail cell wearing the jester's costume. Sam and Dean want Sheriff Hanscum to know exactly what they are dealing with and precisely how to respond. In that way, if anything like this should arise in her county, she can handle it as a hunter herself. Eager to help them, Sheriff Hanscum opens up her fanny pack and reveals a small salt shaker. She tells them, “My diet secret. One bite of desert and then I dump salt on it. Kills the craving.”

While it may not be exactly what they mean, it shows she understands their reasoning. Dean pulls a shot gun out, blasting the spirit with rock salt instead---showing her yet another tool in the arsenal.

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While Sheriff Hanscum learns the inconveniences of hunting under the radar, she also learns its harsher truths. She is shown just how tragic these cases can become first hand. After all, there are still people dying. The killer may be unconventional in her view point, but the results are the same. Innocent people are dying and this needs to be stopped.

What makes it worse for Sheriff Hanscum is the thought that their suspects are as innocent as anyone else related to these crimes. Not only are people therefore dying, those that are killing these people know not what they do. This terrible truth is illustrated tragically when Sheriff Hanscum and Officer Doug try to transfer the bunny masked killer to a squad car. Under the ghost possession, the young man is heavy and extremely strong. Lifting him out of the wheelchair is no easy feat---and while we may laugh at Sheriff Hanscum as she rants, “Hurt myself? I do CrossFit. Just gotta engage the core, and lift with the knees. Watch and learn.”---there's still a present danger in the silent killer.

While Sheriff Hanscum is on the phone with the brothers, the ghost makes his move to attack. He knocks her aside. As the man prepares to kill them, Doug shoots the suspect in the chest, causing him to fall to the ground dead. Only then will the bunny head come off and reveal the face underneath. It is a nineteen year old man---and it is here that Sheriff Hanscum recognizes the saddest truth in hunting.

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This young man may have killed someone brutally in their home, but in actuality his actions were not his own. His body was not in his control. Considering the girl in the jester costume later on, it is possible this young man, Mike, never remembered even doing the terrible deed. Chester, so driven by his own needs to punish those who sullied his name and killed him, has dragged Mike down with him. In his revenge driven mind, he has cursed Mike to death with him---an innocent man that didn't need to die.

Sheriff Hanscum, already driven to stop these killings, is pushed to her emotional breaking point. She knows they have a duty to stop these killings just as law enforcement would stop any other crime, and yet this seems to hit harder. She states to Sam and Dean as they prepare to burn the bunny mask, “A nineteen year old kid is dead---that kid was innocent. I mean, if the mask was cursed then, he was just a puppet, right? He was a victim, too.”

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This statement is the very thing Sam and Dean needed to hear. Their commitment to “saving people” has been large in their minds throughout this season, but here they are confronted with it in its purest form. This person had killed someone while possessed by a supernatural force---and for that he now lies dead. They couldn't save him from this and now they must do more to save everyone else involved with the case to prevent anyone else from meeting the same tragic end.

Sam offers the matchbook to Donna, and simply states, “No one else dies---not like this.”

Sheriff Hanscum didn't simply remind Sam and Dean of why they save people or hunt things, however. She also reminded them about how much enjoyment they get from doing this job---no matter how difficult it may seem. From the very start, Dean is joking. He's making funny quips about “wascally wabbits” and asking “what's up doc?” He's enjoying making bad puns to Sam's disappointment. He proudly states, “Yeah maybe. I'm just still not 100% sure this is our kind of a case, but if you got a wild hare... See what I did there?”

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This side of Dean has been absent for awhile. He's been so focused in on getting rid of the Mark, in saving Sam after the trials, in stopping Abaddon, in whatever crisis they've been embroiled in at any given time that it has been hard for him to simply enjoy the moments of a case. Dean hasn't been as playful or as comfortable in ages---and in large part this comes from taking someone like Sheriff Hanscum under his wing.

The Sheriff has a jovial personality, which helps. She's enthusiastic and that rubs off on Dean wonderfully. While Sam may roll his eyes at his jokes, she will laugh and smile, making Dean feel all the more comfortable on the job. Even when Sam tries to join in on joking, his distaste for it is just as playful---the expression states simply not to step on Dean's toes. He's the one that makes the bad jokes. Sam's supposed to be the straight man in this duo, after all. Sheriff Hanscum, being an outsider, can get away with it because he's trying to teach her desperately how to do what they do without losing her mind.

Simply put, Dean knows that they must laugh a little and cut all the tension if there's any hope of doing this without drowning. It's a lesson that Dean needs to relearn, too. It is easy for them to be sucked into crisis mode and to struggle for answers. After all, they've dug little up on the Darkness since their encounter with her---and most of the lore Castiel left splayed on their table is written in a language neither of them can read. Rather than letting that---or Sam's new habit of praying to God---drag on him or make him sour while working on the case, Dean has chosen to return to a more playful form, allowing himself to loosen up and enjoy the work he so loves.

It's the first step for him to really remember how to do this---and to truly master the art of “saving people” again.

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But it's only one step for Dean. He must also reclaim his patience. He teaches this to Sheriff Hanscum, too. They have to work diligently for answers while not spooking the other authorities too much. It means letting Sheriff Hanscum help them and urging her to work through the case without jumping to conclusions. Dean never loses his temper with her. With the girl in the jester costume, for instance, he pushes that they let her go. After all, this young woman hadn't killed anyone---not really. She was simply another victim, just like Mike. He knows it's a risk for Sheriff Hanscum. He gently tells her, “Yeah, it was a drifter, overpowered you, escaped.” It may draw ire from Donna in her quip, “Well there's some female empowerment for ya,” but in truth Dean's simply teaching her that sometimes they have to make themselves look foolish in order that someone may live. It's something they must endure patiently so that they may adhere to the “saving people” portion of hunting things. Rather than worrying about losing face, it is more important no one else die.

That patience is rewarded in kind. Dean takes what he's taught Sheriff Hanscum and reapplies it to himself. This is seen best in his interaction with Max and his mother. Dean, ever the one to connect with children, instantly becomes patient and gentle with the boy. He inquires about the cards---and when Max reveals he's working on a magic trick, he replies, “Yeah, you were pretty close to him, huh?” He knows that they need to discover the truth about Chester---that these men did this to Max's uncle under false accusations. Dean doesn't want to alarm or frighten the boy. He doesn't want to hurt him. He simply wants to talk so they can stop the ghost from killing anyone else---and he knows if they don't now, it's a matter of time before Chester threatens the boy, too. And so, he presses gently, saying, “He sounds like a good guy.”

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Once Max's mother comes home, Dean remains just as calm and patient with her---and being backed up with Sam's equally gentle pressure helps matters. He knows that she didn't tell them everything, but that's not going to help them now. Now they need to know the truth. She tells them the horrifying truth about the accusations and her complicity in what led to Chester's demise. In the process, Chester possesses Max as he puts on another of the masks. Driven by his vengeance, Chester makes her own son attack her and they're forced to stop him.

Rather than kill him, however, they use iron to force the spirit to manifest itself. Dean knows it wants to go after Max and his mother, so his first thought is to put them in a salt circle and take the spirit head on himself. He's driven to protect them. It matters not if he is hurt as long as they make it out of this. No one else will have to die from these masks or this ghost.

Once the spirit is vanquished, Dean is gentle with them once more. He knows that they've endured something terrible and that the aftermath is simply starting to settle in---and yet this is a victory in the end. He also knows that the actual spirit in this case was as much a victim as anyone else, something Dean needed reminding perhaps. While they may have had to destroy Chester's spirit, he can also hope now that perhaps they've released him from the torment of his death, too. For as long as Chester remained around, the more he would suffer, too. Not only had they saved the living, then---they had also rescued the dead.

But as much as Sheriff Hanscum taught Dean to reclaim the “saving people” aspect of their work, she also taught Sam, too.

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Sam is just as patient with Sheriff Hanscum. He calls her out for her treatment of Doug by stating, “Or is it maybe that you're treating new Doug like old Doug and not even giving him a chance? ” He knows that Donna is struggling to keep everything together. Sam also recognizes that Donna's struggling with the duplicity required with a hunting job. She's more wigged out by the case than she is really about her new partner having the same name as her ex. He's just the scapegoat. Her anger at him is her attempt to hide her fear about this case---and Sam can clearly see it. He may call her on this with this statement, but he's not vicious nor is he harsh. Instead, it's a gentle reminder to calm down.

Prior to this conversation, Sam could have certainly used that same kind of reassurance. Trying to make sure their second victim isn't attacked, Sam is in an elevator when one of his worst nightmares enters: a clown. Sam stands stiff and anxious as he faces the clown head on, his coulrophobia threatening to take over completely. The clown has already dispatched their victim, however, and now Sam must stop the clown from killing anyone else---and in particular Sam himself.

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Sheriff Hanscum's words from earlier about the young man, Mike, being innocent seem to ring in Sam's ears. He is freaking out by having yet another clown attack him, and yet he doesn't hurt the man under the mask. The man isn't attacking him---the ghost possessing the mask is instead. It is key that Sam remember this as the clown starts to choke him violently. Sam slaps and punches at the man's hands, but he won't draw a lethal weapon. Instead, he pulls a piece of iron from his suit pants and dispatches the ghost---thus saving the man from Chester's vengeful spirit.

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This moment took great courage from Sam. In some respects, simply killing his attacker out right would have been a faster route. For expediency, he could have done just that. After all, it'd be collateral damage on a case, nothing more nothing less. Others may not even condemn him for doing so---after all, he told Sheriff Hanscum that Officer Doug had only done his job. Killing this old man to save himself would be classic self-defense from most perspectives. Sam knows differently, however. To kill this old man, simply wearing the wrong costume at the wrong time, would make him no better than what they hunt. He'd be lowering himself to their level---a bad habit he's been trying to break all season long.

His choice in not killing this man is affirmed when Sam tells Dean and Sheriff Hanscum, “Yeah, uh, name is Steve Buress. 60 years old, retired G.P. Apparently, he was playing dress-up with his grandson, and the next thing he knew, he... Doesn't even know how he got to the hospital.”

In the aftermath, Sam can check off two victories---he faced down his clown phobia and rose above it once again, and he managed to save another person while on the job.

In this manner, Sheriff Hanscum has taught Sam to keep his head in situations---to remind him of what the real stakes are and what it all means. It's a lesson he already knew well, but here is a fresh and new reminder that he can draw upon while they face all the other crises yet to come.

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Unrelated to the case, Sam had been praying for direction. The visions he's received thus far have baffled and frightened him. Seeing his torments in Hell, the Cage itself, and being confronted with a younger version of his father, telling him, “God helps those who help themselves,” has left Sam floundering a bit. He admits to Dean, “Yeah. What if he's telling me I have to go back? What if he's saying that's where the answer is to beating the Darkness?”

What if, for Sam, he must face this fear just as he faced his coulrophobia? What if it means facing not only its literal reality but the scars it has left behind so that he may truly save all the people? If that is possibly the case, then Sheriff Hanscum has truly helped Sam in so many ways---ways he might not even know just yet. She's reminded him that there's hope---and to face things head on in order to save people.

Once the case is over, she turns to the brothers and states, “I-I don't know how you two do this, day in, day out. Figuring out who's possessed, who isn't. Your life's one big poop storm, isn't it? ”

In truth, that statement has validity---and yet working with Sheriff Hanscum has proven to the brothers that what they do not only has merit and value, it is their life's purpose. Dean replies to her statement, “Spoken like a true hunter.” Her glee at being declared a “hunter” confirms this more than anything else. They managed to save these people---Max and his mother---and they managed to not kill anyone during the case.

In the end, Sheriff Hanscum taught them that it is truly possible to save people and hunt things. It doesn't always have to come with collateral damage---and sometimes when it is at its most difficult, hunting can be its most rewarding. Sam and Dean can now return to the road knowing that they've left far more good in their wake than bad. After all, they managed to escape with the minimal deaths and none of those who died were killed by either brother. They've also left behind a fresh hunter in Sheriff Hanscum that will allow them to build their network. Not all the jobs will have to be on their shoulders alone. These are all good things to leave behind as Sam and Dean return to their hunt for how to stop the Darkness.

Most of all, Sheriff Hanscum taught them that they can do this---as long as they are a team.
 

 

Comments  

SueB
# SueB 2015-11-29 14:12
I love your take on this episode! The teaching angle is perfect. And yes, I think this is JUST the kind of case Sam and Dean needed. It's not like they make these cases up, these things happen. But they can come in and fix it, and show someone how to do a bit of fixing themselves.

And I felt a lot of validation for them when Donna remarked what a poop storm their lives are. It occurred to me, however, that this isn't the first time the horrors of their lives have been commented on. Jenny (?) from the premier made a similar remark. I wonder if that is a theme. In any case, I think Donna's glee at being called a hunter is proof that despite the crap, it's also very rewarding.

Again, REALLY liked how you stepped thru the teaching moments. There was a lot there I hadn't picked up on and I like your perspective.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-11-29 16:17
Thanks for the comment---and I finally replied to your other one on the previous review!

I'm glad you liked this angle. It just seemed that they were working with her as mentors rather than just trying to get around the law enforcement or get the job done. It was more about passing things on and I'm glad you liked how that came across.

I also think it's interesting that Donna did make that comment. I think she realizes just how hard it is to do what they do. She knows her job comes with a lot of difficulties, but what Sam and Dean do with little to no recognition or thanks has to be very hard. It was very nice to see that acknowledged. And yet, I think she totally wanted to be one of them, too. That was the best part for me. She saw how hard it was and yet she accepted its burden along with them so they're not alone. That's what makes it so beautiful here.

Thanks again.
sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2015-11-29 14:28
AMEN TO THAT.....;)


I always love the little lessons show sneaks in ......and there were a few in this one......a big one being fear and trust....

I think another important teaching moment came from Chester's sister as she noted :"fear cripples you" and " I should've trusted my brother"...I thought is quite significant that camera panned on Dean's face when she said that. I think the lesson here is that Dean, who's fear of the control Amara has over him, is crippling him from facing it and in turn trusting in Sam enough to talk to him about it.

I had said it before, but I saw the confrontation between sam and the clown in a locked elevator as a parallel to sam being trapped in the cage with Lucifer.....I think the lesson for sam is, that he overcame his fear of the clown......thus his belief that he needs to go to the cage and his extreme fear of facing Lucifer is something he can overcome..so that he possibly can get the answers they need regarding beating the darkness.

The boys need to trust in ea. other to be able accomplish this...Trust must trump fear....

I think along with your take, this was another lesson that the boys need to learn.

hope everyone had a great holiday. :)
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-11-29 16:21
Thanks for the comment.

Absolutely. The need to throw off fear and trust in yourself and your partner was clear here. It's a lesson they both need to learn and use to beat the Darkness. Dean may not be holding back his encounter with Amara on purpose. I think he's either still struggling with her hold over him or is cripled by his fear about what it means. I just hope that he'll find the words to share it with Sam and continue their open conversations.

Sam must face the Cage regardless of the fact that it is scary or dangerous. I think it's clear this is part of his path this season and I like that the metaphor of the clown in the elevator and Lucifer and the Cage is a clear one here. Hopefully we'll see more of that as the season continues.

Thanks again.