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Another reason Bobby has such a different relationship with Sam and Dean is Bobby didn't have to raise these boys, didn't have to put up with teenager Sam or toddler Dean.  Surely he was around during those times, but it's not the same thing as living with a person every day.  I mean, look at how angsty Sam is as an adult.  As a teen, he must have been a nightmare.  And you just know that Dean was one of those kids who puts everything in their mouth that can possibly fit in there.  John and Mary probably knew the number for poison control by heart.  Bobby got to be the gruff but loving uncle to these two, a wholly different adult presence than what they were used to with John.

In the aftermath of John's death, it makes perfect sense that Sam and Dean would turn to Bobby for support, emotional and physical.  They stay at his house for a few weeks at least, and we aren't shown it but he must have tried to help them in any other way he thought would work.  It must have been devastating for him to see how upset they were and not be able to do anything about it because they just weren't that close yet, and Sam and especially Dean just weren't in the right frame of mind to accept his help. 

I do think, though, that it was during these weeks when Bobby really learned what kind of men Sam and Dean had become and figured out just what kind of relationship each of them needed.  Because we all know that Bobby loves both Sam and Dean with all his heart, loves them like they were his own sons.  But as much as that is true, he has very a different relationship with each of them based on what they need from him.  And this is absolutely my favorite thing about Bobby: he took the time to figure out what kind of relationship Sam needed versus what Dean needed and acted accordingly.  He didn't try to mold them into what he thought they should be, didn't try to make them change their behavior to accommodate him.  He let them be themselves, offering guidance and support to each in the way they needed it most.

Growing up, the person Sam looked to for reassurance and support, for everything, really, was Dean.  John wasn't around very much, leaving the boys alone for days at a time.  Dean was always there for Sam, and parented him just as much, if not more, than John did.  Sam just isn't used to looking to his father or father-figure for anything.  He had Dean to tend to him and protect him, and Dean was always there for him.  So with Sam, Bobby is more hands-off.  Sam just doesn't have that need for approval or the need to be needed that Dean does. So, Sam's relationship with Bobby feels more like one of equals than like a father/son relationship.  Sam knows Bobby will always help him whenever he needs it, but he just doesn't need Bobby like Dean does.

Nowhere is this fact more evident than when Sam cuts Bobby out of his life after Dean goes to hell.  Dean was the strongest influence in Sam's life, and when that influence is gone, Sam is set adrift.  Because he was never in the mind-set to look towards the older adults in his life for support and guidance, he ignores Bobby's attempts to contact him and strikes out on his own, trusting to his own judgment to see him through his grief.  Ruby exploits this, of course, and Sam starts on his slippery slope to demon-blood addiction. 

Now, even though Sam did not want to be found and was probably actively hiding his activities from Bobby just like would from Dean, for fear of rejection, Bobby is an excellent hunter in his own right and could have found Sam if he really wanted to.  But Bobby knows that Sam is more independent than Dean, knows that Sam will make contact again when he's ready.  Notice, too, that although Bobby could have certainly used Sam's presence and support while he was dealing with the pain of Dean's death, he never once tried to use that against Sam to force contact with him.

What Sam needs the most from Bobby is for him to just be there for Sam when he needs him.  That's why when the demon possessed Bobby in "Sympathy for the Devil," the demon knew that the most effective thing it could say to Sam to hurt him was "I want you to lose my number."  He didn't say, "I don't want to see you again" or " stay away from me."  He specifically told him to lose his number, to not contact him anymore for any help or information or anything.  Sam was naturally crushed by this, but he was blaming himself for starting the apocalypse and didn't expect anything better.  He was hoping Bobby could forgive him, could see past what he had done, but he didn't expect forgiveness.  That's why the scene at the end of the episode when Bobby is in the hospital was so spectacular.  Sam obviously hadn't broached the subject again and was going to respect Bobby's request and leave him alone.  But Bobby reached out to him, told him exactly what he needed to hear: "I ain't cutting you out, boy.  Not ever."  And Sam is just so, so relieved to hear him say that.

Bobby's relationship with Dean is, again, shaped by how Dean interacted with his father when he was growing up.  We've come to know Dean as a brash, charming, sociable, at times intense man whose fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants attitude and instinctive attitude towards hunting are in sharp contrast with the more cerebral approach of his brother.  Dean is fun and sweet and deeply insecure.  At least, he is when he's by himself or when he's with Sam.  As soon as John shows up, Dean transforms into a completely different person.  He tenses up, quiets down, and just waits for this father to give him instructions or orders to follow.  He's not Dean around his father.  He's the Dean he thinks his father wants him to be.  He does what he's told without question and trusts his father empirically.  In contrast, when Dean is around Bobby, he is completely himself.  This is the most important part of their relationship, I think: Dean can just be Dean around Bobby, and he knows that Bobby loves him just as he is.

Bobby also realizes that Dean is just more needy than Sam when it comes to his family, more reliant on their affection and their approval.  Dean's never been very comfortable with people singling him out with any kind of attention, good or bad, so Bobby often has to find more subtle ways to show Dean how much he means to him.  Mouthing off is something Dean is good at, so Bobby teases him right back, and their banter is wonderfully affectionate.  Can you imagine Dean doing something like that with John?  He looked like he was going to throw up the few times he contradicted John and expressed his own opinion.

Bobby knows a lot of hunters and surely must know someone who lives close enough to contact in times of emergency.  But he has Dean listed as his emergency contact partly because he knows that Dean will drop everything if Bobby is in trouble and partly because he knows this will make Dean feel needed, feel like an important part of Bobby's life.  And he is an important part of Bobby's life, as we've seen time and time again.

The best example of just how important Dean is to Bobby is in "All Hell Breaks Loose II," starting when Dean brings a reincarnated Sam to Bobby's house and continuing through Bobby's rant at Dean about his deal.  As soon as Sam and Dean show up on Bobby's doorstep, Bobby just knows that Dean did something monumentally stupid to get Sam back.  The knowing looks he keeps shooting Dean are woeful, and Dean can't manage to look him in the eyes.  Sam remains blissfully unaware throughout the whole exchange, but you can just see that Bobby is trying to figure out some way to get Dean alone so he can rip into him.  He's happy to see Sam alive again, of course, but he's extremely leery of what it cost Dean.

And rightfully so, as he finds out in the next scene, and it's all kinds of heartbreaking.  Bobby is just so angry and upset at Dean for making the deal, for not valuing his own life at all.  He just hates that Dean has so little regard for himself when he has so much regard for Dean.  And I just love that he's grasping at his jacket and shaking him, trying to physically jar some sense into him.  And, oh, when he puts his hand on Dean's face and just sort of gives in?  That right there is Bobby saying, "I hate that you did this, but I know how much you love your brother, how you'd do anything for him.  So I'm here for you, no matter what happens next."

Bobby gets just as much out of the relationship as they boys do.  He doesn't have any children of his own, so they're the sons he never had.  They give him a sense of purpose, a higher meaning to his life than just being a hunter.  As many times as Bobby has saved their lives, they have saved his, too.  Sometimes Sam and Dean take him for granted, but he never holds it against them.  He can't hold a grudge because he needs them just as much as they need him.  But the best thing about their relationship, the reason why Bobby has become so important to them and why he's like a father to them, is that their faith in him has always been rewarded.  He has never let them down when they needed him, has always been there for the boys, and always will be for as long as he's able.

Comments  

Karen
# Karen 2010-03-29 09:18
Hi Ardeospina

Loved the article and what you had to say.
I don’t know how anyone could not love this character.
What a wonderful friend, mentor and lifeline he has been for Sam and Dean.
I am starting to get really fearful for Bobby and his state of mind.
Although Dean has expressed how important he is to them and has tried to give him much needed pep talks. The fact is they are not there all the time… Bobby is alone most of the time and that gives more time to dwell and for depression to set in.
And with this last experience, this will also start setting in resentment.
I can’t help think what Pamela had said to Sam when she was dying, cursing Bobby for introducing her to the Winchester. I hope Bobby is able to stay strong and be there for the brothers.
Thanks again for this wonderful article.
Julie
# Julie 2010-03-29 10:57
Thank you so mush for this wonderful article.
How could anyone who knows anything about this show not love Bobby Singer.
I think everyone should have a `Bobby` in their life, I certainly wish i did. You just know that you could totally rely on him always, even to give the advice you really dont want but do need.
Like you I loved the scene in the yard in AHBL 2 it breaks my heart when he holds Deans face in his hands every time I see it, but the scene in Lucifer Rising with the wonderful rant when he apologises for hurting princess` feelings and then tells Dean he is a better man than his father ever was is just awesome. i have never loved Bobby more than at that moment!
Yes, I too am worried about where he is at the moment but surely nothing can happen to Bobby, could they be that cruel to us? I guess going by past records, yes they could, I just desperately hope they are not.
Just a word about Jim Beaver. it takes a very special man to play such a wonderful character and that he certainly is. I would urge anyone to beg steal or borrow his book as, although it is by no means an easy read, it is absolutely inspirational. At some point everyone in their life will have to go through tragedies of their own, and the way he is able to share the lessons he learned coping with his own will prove invaluble, believe me.
elle2
# elle2 2010-03-29 12:17
I really enjoyed your insights into Bobby, especially the part where he took the time to learn about Sam and Dean individually and acto accordingly. Great analysis.

:-)
Britt
# Britt 2010-03-29 12:44
Wow, I just stumbled across this fansite today, but I'm a huge fan of Supernatural. This article has really helped me to understand more about the relationship between Bobby and the Winchester brothers and about Bobby in general. I didn't much like Bobby at first, but after watching so many of the episodes and then reading this article, I gotta say... he really is an intense and interesting character. I understand his characterizaion a bit more, now, and well... this article has changed my perspective of him.
Freebird
# Freebird 2010-03-29 17:53
Love your article, Ardeospina, thank you for sharing it!

Bobby is one of my all time favorite tv-characters. I would really, really hate if he got killed. The deaths of Ellen and Jo have been devastating enough, but Bobby getting killed ... no, no, no, that is not acceptable! Ardeospina, you described him so well, I have nothing more to add.

Jim Beaver I haven't seen in any other show besides Supernatural, but Harper's Island, and I watched that one only because of him. I certainly will catch up on Deadwood, Jim points his role in that show always out as being one of his favorites. I'll be watching every show/movie he's in, and if I get lucky also theater play. Because he's an awesome actor!
Randal
# Randal 2010-03-30 08:52
This kicked all kinds of ass, covering every facet of his strength, his importance. I have to second elle2 on the psychoanalysis bit. There's a hell of a lot going on underneath that filthy trucker cap.

I suppose I'll have to forgive you for rooting for the Steelers. 8-)

I still want to know what form the lie took in Devil's Trap. "Sure, officer, it's not *that* out-of-the-ordi nary to find a battered, broken corpse in one's home."

Can one really earn enough of a living from salvage to afford such rare books? Maybe the creepy, Central European dealers need their Yugo fixed. :D
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2010-03-30 19:16
Thanks for all your very kind words, everyone! It was quite a process for me to write this since it's so different than what I usually do, but it was fun, as well, and I'm glad you're liking it.

Dany, that's very sweet of you to say! And isn't Deadwood fantastic? Loved Jim in that so, so much.

Karen, I'm worried for Bobby's state of mind, too. I really hope he can tough it out, but I'm curious to see where his journey will end up, too.

Julie, I completely agree that everyone should have a Bobby in their life! How handy would that be? Maybe we can talk to someone about cloning...

Elle2, thanks! I figured the difference in relationship had to be a decision by Bobby and not just a writer's whim, right? :-)

Britt, welcome to the site, and thanks for posting! I highly recommend you poke around in the archives because we have a lot of fantastic writers here who have done some amazing work, and it's really fun to read. And I'm so touched that my article helped you understand Bobby more and come to appreciate him. Thanks so much for posting that, and I hope to see you around the site more often.

Freebird, if Show does something horrible like killing off Bobby, we'll have a crying party together because I'll be a mess. Must. Not. Happen.

Randal, thanks! I have a very high opinion of your work, so I'm really pleased that you liked some of mine! And yeah, he could really use a new trucker hat that's not so grungy. Maybe for season 6!

And don't hold it against me that I live in Pittsburgh! I grew up in Cleveland, so I'm a total Browns fan and always root for them. I will root for the Steelers when they're not playing the Browns, though, since it's kind of hard not to in this town. Still, go, Brownies first and foremost! And if you still can't forgive me for rooting for the Steelers just a little but, too bad!
;-)
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-03-31 10:14
Fantastic! Bobby is one of my favorite characters and you depicted him beautifully. Great article!!!

For what it’s worth, Bobby maybe down, but not out. He, above all, won't let the devils get to him. I just hope he is around after the apocalypse.

Thanks so much for the article.
Randal
# Randal 2010-03-31 13:59
Ardeospina, I don't buy your excuse. Would a Liverpool fan root for Manchester United even if he/she lived in Manchester? C'mon, English SPN fans, back me up here. :D
Julie
# Julie 2010-04-01 16:02
Randal the answer to that question is NO!!!!
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2010-04-01 16:27
Randal, you had to go and bring real football into it, didn't you? Fine! I'll admit it: it's much easier to root for a team that actually, you know, wins sometimes. But the Browns will be better next year... says I every year.

Also, go Arsenal!
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-04-08 15:52
Ardeospina, thanks so much for this great article on our beloved Bobby. He is as awesome a character as it gets, and Jim is indeed a great, great actor to bring all those nuances across you captures so beautifully. I was happy to read this, as Bobby is one of my all-time fave guys on this show, and finally someone took to writing a piece about him. Kudos to you, and thank you again!
Hugs, Jas
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2010-04-08 20:19
Thanks, Jas, and you're welcome! I do love Bobby something fierce!

Hugs back!