Open Couch to You Can’t Handle The Truth

Or

Be careful, what you ask for
 
Oscar Wilde once said ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. Indeed. Neither are the answers this show has finally begun to give after throwing its audience into turmoil. Well, it put my emotions in a meat grinder more than once and just when I think it can’t get any worse, they go and prove me wrong. 
 
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In Illinois Veritas… After watching the episode for the first time, the title described pretty much how I felt – that I wasn’t able to handle the episode, more or less. Now I’ve calmed down a bit, but still wonder: how am I going to write anything coherent about it? 

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… great… Most of us believe that it’s important to be truthful to each other, especially to people close to us. But sometimes we forget how terrible a weapon truth can be. People have lied and murdered for the truth or for what they believed to be true. Used with purpose, truth can be the foulest aggression that can drive people to kill themselves (like that poor waitress).
 
Unfortunately, there never is ‘one real truth’. Truth is, mostly, dependent on the viewpoint of the one claiming to tell the truth. That standpoint gives any truth its colour, often tinted with moral, religious or social shades, accompanied by emotions that also influence the description of it. If three people witness an accident, their accounts will diverge. Though seeing the same scene, their experience of the moment is different, according to their state of mind and soul. 

If I had to swear to tell the whole truth someday, I doubt I could do that, as I don’t trust my account of whatever situation would be the whole truth. I could attest to what I believe to be true. 

With Veritas in town, I might even say more than one unpleasant thing. 
 
We lie often in our everyday lives, don’t we? Sometimes a neighbour might come over at a moment we wanted to be alone and yet we say ‘nice to see you, come on in’ (well, I assume most of us who have been brought up to be polite, as I have, would do that). A friend asks for our help with some work in the garden, and though we’d rather stay in and watch a film, we reply ‘sure, happy to be of assistance’, if a good friend is terribly in love with a guy we can’t abide, how often do we say ‘oh, he’s so nice’ before we (hopefully, if the relationship is close enough) say ‘I think he’s a bastard’, if we don’t like the children of our friends, we still cheer ‘oh, how sweet they are’. 
 
These might be what people call white lies, but – bottom line – we are not being honest. Not entirely. I don’t think this essentially wrong. A truth told at an inappropriate moment can hurt more than we could deal with. 
 
We see the effects of unconditional truth thrown into our faces in this episode. The young waitress hears all those nasty things that others think about her, and she finally rings her sister for help – only to hear it rubbed in by the one person who should be at her side, eh? Well, she does kill herself already, then, and BigGerson’s is not a happy place this time (by the way – I love the reference of the show to the wonderful Bad Day at Black Rock).
 
The art of lying

Dean, just as his brother, is a master at the art of lying. It’s the branch they excel at. They are con men. And Dean does here what he does very well – he lies to his brother, yet again, continuing the old Winchester tradition of lying to one another (this time, however, to bring him down). Mostly the purpose of those lies has been protection of the other. Protection from bad news, from fear, from horrors experienced. And we somewhat admired the Winchesters for it, as it meant that they took on the burden of knowing of unspeakable things on their own shoulders, keeping it lighter for the other.
 
Those are the kind of lies we allow, don’t we? We accept the notion that sometimes it might be better to tell a strategic lie when the truth could cause harm to another. 

The Winchesters have also always been experts at bluffing – another kind of lie. With a bluff we try to make someone else believe that we have a goal, a skill or an idea we don’t actually own. Gamblers use this tactic. Athletes do so, too, like pretending they’d run to the right when they plan to take a turn to the left. 

Another field of their expertise is the kind of lie you’d call jocose that means lies told in jest, and everyone present is supposed to understand those (hopefully). We’ve seen Sam and Dean shine at teasing and sarcasm. Plus they have also lied by omission more than once, that is: leaving important information out. 

We, as fans, have never really protested against those. I think because we, ourselves, use those kinds of lies sometimes. I know I do. I can be very sarcastic, and I haven’t told the truth to protect others, too. 
 
But what happens now in our show is very much Machiavellian. In his book ‘The Prince’ the Italian noble claims ‘never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception’.  It’s the true art of war: deception.

And, our favourite characters are at war. Again. This time with each other – or, well, it seems like Dean is in a state of mind very much on the verge of a serious battle. Sam lied to Dean before in this season about his condition because he still doesn’t know what’s going on and how to explain it all.

Dean, now, deceives Sam to find more information about what he might be while secretly planning to kill his brother in his sleep, as he later admits to Veritas. He’s freaked out, and I can’t blame him. But this way he distances himself even more from his brother. 

From a psychological point of view there are three main reasons (among others) why people lie: Fear – of possible consequences involved when the truth came out, also to escape punishment. Harming others – tell a lie to attack someone else, indirectly, by telling lies about them. Self-Image – boost one’s own image in the eyes of their peers or friends/families to get closer to the limelight, often to be replaced by embarrassment when the truth is revealed. 
 
Dean probably is governed by fear. And fear is, as we know, the sister of aggression. It will lead Dean to handle this more and more aggressively in the course of this episode. You could also call it desperate. Bitter. He assumes Lucifer came back in Sam’s skin. Who wouldn’t behave as irritated as Dean does? 

He’s playing various roles at present: the caring brother, the industrious FBI agent, the loving partner (who actually doesn’t dare to speak to Lisa)… thankfully, he’s had some training in pretending since he’s been a kid. He does it convincingly. 

Sam’s FBI guy seems a bit menacing, though. He detects with perfect clarity that the woman they’re asking about her suicidal sister is lying. On the other hand, anyone who read Ekman’s ‘Emotions Revealed’ might have done so. There is a short moment of satisfaction on his face. But basically they have no idea as of yet what’s going on. 

They will learn of the Marathon Man sequence later (one of the grossest scenes in Supernatural history, to my taste. Any dentists out there: never put Frank Talk on the tv in your practice. In fact: don’t have any tv screens there at all. You never know what obsession might befall your patients. On a second thought: that perv touched the doc’s daughter. I can’t say I can’t understand why the dentist loses it).


 
‘Maybe it’s just Sam.’

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Dean gives Bobby a day before he wants to handle this himself? How do you want to do that, sweetie, since you can barely handle yourself? Drinking too much again, being nervous to the point of exhaustion… too afraid to clear things with Lisa… pretending to be all eager to do research…which is not entirely false: he does research. On possible variations of Sam. Lucifer? Doppelgänger? Who knows what else, but finally follows Sam’s wish to check out the dentist’s office. The idea he gets there doesn’t help him much. An antique horn? Too much of a coincidence.
 
Alas, it is not Gabriel’s Horn of Truth. Castiel is sure of it, as he tells Dean after finally answering his prayers. I get the impression that Cas is not exactly fond of being called down like a dog, especially not by a man who’s had too much to drink, again. And – he has nothing to offer about Sam. Knowing how much Dean might need another drink at the revelation that it’s not Lucifer, he pours him some more whiskey. A very human gesture. 
 
Dean, dear, why don’t you accept the fact once and for all that the universe is not evolving around you and your brother? Castiel tells you repeatedly that he’s at war. We don’t know what’s happening in Heaven, but we can assume it’s not fun. He might have to choose his priorities. And those might not involve the Winchesters. When you finally take this possibility into account, it will not hurt you as much when Castiel doesn’t pop in right away at your request. 

But you can’t, can you? You are torn again… And at present there is so much anger there (and booze and depression) that it clouds your judgement. Cas will help, making inquiries. That’s a huge concession given the current state of Heaven and the missing angelic weapons. 
 
But Dean is not in a mood easily cheered up. He goes for yet another drink (when you think that he in all likelihood already had at least half a bottle of Bourbon) to a bar and ends up in the atmosphere of tv’s Frank Talk. Just the kind of entertainment you need these days when you’re carrying your heart on your sleeve, demanding the ‘freakin’ truth’.

And Dean will get it. More than he asked for. 

At least the moments in the bar point him to the right direction while Sam has been investigating all day and closing in on the truth some more. 
 
‘How is it that half the time you clean a mess you end up dirty?’
 
At last some lighter scenes here – thank the gods of Supernatural for that! With Dean looking at that girl’s boobs and Bobby spilling the beans about his secret pleasures… and pampering Dean’s ever low self-esteem with the ‘you’re my favourite’ remark. We’ve all known about the special bond between these two, and it might be a consolation for Dean to hear it for once. They have always been closer than Bobby and Sam. And Bobby knows exactly how Dean’s twisted mind works. Yes, he will do something crazy. Doesn’t he always?
 
He figured out something about him makes others tell even ugly or embarrassing truths about them – and he will use it on Sam who is closing in on the background of the suicides, finding a hex box, lacking his usual empathy and warmth. How I miss that Sam, oh, how much…
 
But I don’t get time to sigh over Sam some more, since Dean is getting Lisa’s opinion pretty candidly. Who would have thought that she assessed his state of mind so well and with fine-tuned senses? She understands him better than he probably expected, and it comes with considerable pain to him, as he needs to defend himself with ‘hey, you knew what you signed up for’. Come on, Dean – it might be true, but is it not allowed to utter some criticism? How often, do you think, Lisa bit her tongue and kept quiet when she saw you drink that fifth? How often did she swallow her concern? Now, because you actually shoved her kid and under that ugly truth spell, she opens her mouth.
 
She can’t take this anymore. This is a mother protecting her child.
 
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I hope this won’t be the last we’ve seen of Lisa or Ben. I know she’s not very popular among the fans, but I like her. A woman who surely had to fight hard for her money, deal with all kinds of difficulties as most single mothers do. (let’s forget for a moment that she lives in the kind of house she would not be able to afford in real life, creative license anyone?)

I admire how she managed to still give Ben a happy life and to remain a nice, life loving person. Because you pay a price for a life like that, and you so often find the signs of it in the faces of single mothers, well, I see that with those mothers I know. It’s not an easy task. It’s also not easy to let someone in which Lisa did. And not Mr Perfect, but a man with severe and unfathomed guilt and grief issues. She offered Dean a home when he most needed it. And for this alone I will always be grateful.
 
And Dean…? Oh, dear… he doesn’t get the answer from Sam he expected. Sam does a fine job of lying to his brother who believes to hear the truth. Defending himself with another lie, thereby attacking his brother’s conscience: ‘Do you really think I would let something like this happen on purpose? You’re my brother! How would… how could you-‘ 

Full marks. This hits Dean’s soul with the deadly precision of a sniper. He didn’t expect to be wrong about Sam. And he isn’t, he just doesn’t know it yet. 
 
That’s a bit much to swallow right now. Lisa breaking up, Sam making it clear to him that he’s innocent in the department he’s accused of. 
 
No time to dwell on that. They have found Veritas, the ‘attention whore’ who needs to be worshipped and they follow her to her stately mansion, decked out with various sculptures of cats… I am not surprised that she might be allergic to dog’s blood. Hope Sam didn’t bleed out that Doberman we’ve seen before. That dog suffered enough having his ears cropped (when will people learn?!).

And, yes, Dean’s hunch was dead on. That tv woman is indeed who they are looking for. Welcome to my parlour, said the spider to the fly… However, for a goddess who’s so in tune with cats her place is fairly dirty. Cats are some of the cleanest animals around. Well, no goddess is perfect, right?
 
Another pagan goddess depicted in a fairly unpleasant manner. This show loves to do that, doesn’t it? How is it that pagan gods are quite easily killed? You dip your dagger in some kind of blood and – poof. I would like to see then take on the God that’s been screwing with their lives all along. But perhaps not even Supernatural would go there. 


 
‘I’ve seen liars before. But you two – Gold Standard.’
 
The lady has a point. They make a living on lies, deceit, subterfuge and everything else in that neighbourhood. Were we ignorant of their – usually – dear, warm natures, we’d probably not want to call them friends. 

And a life based on lies is pretty much destroyed by truth. She’s right, isn’t she? In particular when the truth is exceptionally nasty. Dean’s face speaks of it. And it seems, he doesn’t like the truth at all, no matter how much he claims to demand it. He didn’t like what Lisa said to him, he didn’t like what Bobby poured over him in an earlier episode. His toleration for criticism is very thin. He might want the truth – as long as it does align to what he believes and wants to hear. 
 
‘Hey, Dean, I’m curious: what do you really feel about your brother?’

‘Better now. As of yesterday I want to kill him in his sleep. I thought he was a monster. But now I think… (…) he’s just acting like me.’
‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s the gig. You’re covered in blood until you’re covered in your own blood. Half the time you’re about to die, like right now. I told myself I wanted out. That I wanted a family.’

‘But you were lying.’

‘No. But what I’m good at is slicing throats. I ain’t a father. I’m a killer. And there’s no changing that. I know that now.’
 
My God… I stopped breathing when I watched the episode. I can’t breathe now. Who said writing about it might be easier? 
 
We’ve been here before. For more than one season Dean was convinced that Sam was a monster. He was not able to see anything else, using that notion to hurt his brother beyond expectation, too. Now he’s there again. How must he feel? He’s been doing everything, literally everything for this family – and still he ends up in situations that seem hopeless. He can’t save his brother. He must have known it for a very long time now, but avoiding accepting it. 

He also wasn’t able to see that he’s not made for family life. Not in the ‘normal’ sense of the word, anyway. He wasn’t happy with Lisa. 
 
From my point of view, Dean is incapable of feeling happy. It’s just not a trait he’s familiar with. He keeps orchestrating moments to prove it to himself.  Don’t get me wrong – this happens unconsciously. People do that quite often when they’re not aware of the driving forces of their lives. Dean went to Lisa (he promised Sam) and still didn’t find any peace. He chose to go there. He could also have chosen to go on hunting on his own. He might have been a tad better off, as the emotional attachment would not have occurred. But he would not have been happy, either. The man is in serious need of therapy. Well, both Winchesters are. (hey, boys, there is a nice, comfortable couch nearby… sorry, kind readers, couldn’t resist)
 
Early in his childhood he adapted some important beliefs and feelings about himself – among those being the need to sacrifice his own needs in order to help his family (or others); the belief that his primary emotional needs will never be met by others (raising him as a boy soldier, his father rarely tended – as far as we have been shown – to the emotional needs of Dean); the belief that he is internally flawed and that if others got really close, they would realize this and withdraw (he kept a lot of his pains from those he loved and probably never let any of the girls he loved, including Lisa, really in); the belief that he is isolated from the ‘normal’ world, different from most other people, not part of any community. I could go on. 
 
So, basically, he must look at himself as some kind of freak, incapable of leading a normal, apple-pie life. He didn’t let Lisa in on this notion about himself. He was protecting her, but he was also protecting himself from the possible look in her eyes telling him she couldn’t accept that part of his nature. I think he was afraid of that. But now he might never know. Lisa could have taken it, still. How do soldiers’ wives to that? They know when their men go out to war that they will be committing atrocities of various kinds. That’s what war is about. They know, their men will be killing, perhaps even innocents, perhaps torturing, too. Benjamin Franklin once said ‘there never was a good war or a bad peace’. Everyone loses. 
 
Dean didn’t give Lisa a chance to honour it. There’s too much in his soul that drives him insane with guilt and pain.

With that installed in him, how could he ever let go of all the tension and allow himself to be happy? Personally I think happiness only happens for a short period of time, like when you fall in love, get a gift you’ve always wished for, pass an important exam and so on, but it doesn’t stay. What I’m rooting for is contentment. It might not burn as hot as happiness, but it provides a fire that doesn’t go out that easily. And even that would be something Dean can’t invite in. It would be the utter opposite of what he believes to deserve. 
 
He falls victim to what most of us know well – avoidance. By not permitting himself to be happy or content, he also avoids triggering those beliefs about himself. He avoids facing his presumed faults. The year without Sam has even perfected that demeanour. Instead, at this point in the story, he will focus on being wronged by his brother. From a psychological point of view he protects himself by doing that. His anger at himself is being externalized and finding another destination and thereby another target. Which might explain the viciousness of it to some extent.
 
‘How do you feel about the band getting back together, hm, Sam?’
‘Look… (clears throat)… what we do is hard. But we watch out for each other. And that’s what’s important… and that’s it. That’s the truth.’

Now, I’ve watched this scene over and over. To see when exactly Veritas feels betrayed. While Sam speaks of how hard it is and that they watch out for each other, she listens with care and calm. I reckon, because that is still true. Even when Sam let Dean get turned, he did it because he believed his brother could handle it. Had he thought Dean would die, he would not have gone that far. I don’t believe it. He didn’t take into account the side effects of the whole ordeal. 

Veritas begins to flip when Sam claims that ‘that’s it’. Because it’s not. There is more to the story. And she feels that this is a blatant lie. Sam doesn’t say how he feels about them getting back together. He stops right there. 
 
‘You’re not human!’
 
There it is. Again. Sam’s old fear. The kind of terror that has been harassing him ever since he found out about being fed with demon blood. As Veritas says this to him, there is an expression of hurt and confusion on his face. 

I believe there is an answer to why Sam didn’t go to Dean as he came back from hell. Apart from being a better hunter, he also felt that something was wrong with him. An echo of fears past. He sacrificed everything to make it right, to atone for the demonic part of his. And now he is back from hell, still feeling that something is entirely wrong with him. I’m beginning to understand why Sam wasn’t able to come back. I can’t say that I would not have acted the same way. 

And Dean reacts in exactly the kind of way Sam probably expected. ‘You’re not my brother! What are you?’

Dean is ready to kill Sam at this moment. This thing, in his mind, is not his brother. And he will do what he’s best at: slice his throat. Sam knows this. He knows his brother well enough. Nothing, except the truth, might stop him now. 

‘She’s right. There’s something wrong with me, really wrong. I’ve known it for a while. I lied to you, yeah, and I let you get turned by that vamp. Because I knew there was a cure, Dean. And we needed in that nest. And I knew you could handle it!’

‘Handle it? I could have died! I could have killed Ben!’

Sam’s plan had been to keep Dean confined, not let him out. He didn’t count in the possibility of Dean escaping and running home to Lisa. 

And that – I assume – begins to trigger that entire wrath in Dean’s heart. Not only the fact that his brother betrayed him, but that he almost killed Ben and as a result lost Lisa. He holds Sam responsible for this (though Sam didn’t make him go there. Dean himself did. Another externalization of the blame he puts onto himself.)

‘And that should stop me cold. But it... I just don’t feel it.’

‘You what?’

‘Ever since I came back… I’m a better hunter than I’ve ever been. Nothing scares me anymore. Cause I can’t feel it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’

Now – all of you who claim that Sam is devoid of all emotion – I have a different opinion. At this moment he’s pretty scared, I’d say. This really looks and feels genuine. 

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What Sam’s actually saying is: that he doesn’t feel the kind of fear he is used to in a hunting situation. That he doesn’t feel the compassion he usually would, the kind that would stop him cold before allowing anything to happen to his brother. He lacks those emotions that have been essential to him (and, well, to all of us); those that made him the person I and many other viewers fell in love with. His kind heart. His care, his empathy. For me, those are the traits I miss most at the moment.
 
But he has been feeling other emotions – we’ve seen him be confused, content, angry, surprised, aggrieved and hurt in this season. To me, that is a man still in possession of some emotions. Only those that would stop him cold in a situation like the one referred to are not there. 

We know now, watching the trailer for the upcoming episode, that Sam came back without a soul (well – did he? Castiel is the one giving that information. Before we know his angelic agenda, I’d be careful of believing him. Since he is the only one capable of detecting a soul or the lack of, I am, as of now, wary. I haven’t learned to trust this new Castiel. And – the producers might just twist our hearts again by revealing that Cas is now, indeed, evil. Anything is possible in this show right now.). I am indeed curious how they are going to explain that. At this point – it means that Sam came back without that part of his nature that makes him a warm human being. 
 
If the writers intend to actually have Sam bereft of all emotion, then Jared indeed needs to change some aspects about his acting style here. He is showing emotions. 
 
‘I think I need help.’

This also sounds genuine to my ears. He can’t explain what happened to him. He welcomed this state of mind that made him a better – an alpha – hunter, but he had no answer to the why. And, I assume, this freaks him out. He hasn’t been prepared to talk about it so far. Now, with Dean confronting him with a knife he is indeed ready to use, Sam has no other choice. If he wants to gain any chance at all of winning back the trust and love of his brother (whose eyes speak of nothing but anger, disappointment and decisiveness at this point), he has to open up.
 
From the beginning, he has been avoiding the confrontation with this issue – he somewhat relished being such a good hunter, effective, fast, strong. It surely put his mind off the issue of hell. 

I still believe that Sam knows everything that happened to him in hell. Taking on this role as the non-hesitating hunter, he didn’t have to think so much about it. But what happens at night? In the nightmares that surely torture him? 
 
I, myself, have been questioning Sam’s motives and felt my love for him seriously rattled. For allowing Dean to get turned by vamp Boris I said he deserved a good thrashing, and he did. But what ensues here, is too much of a good thing. For me, a damn good slap would have sufficed. It’s not the pain that counts, it’s the degrading gesture. But that’s just me.

You need help, Sammy? Okay, I’m gonna help you! The look on Dean’s face is terrible. I don’t see any compassion for his brother there. He’s beyond that point by now. Here we go again, eh? You need help? Yeah. That’s doesn’t make it alright… Thought like that might race through Dean’s head at the moment, and it hurts me physically to follow the changing nuances in his face. At least he puts the knife down. Perhaps he knows that he was ready to actually kill Sam, if he lost control. 
 
There’s a flash of hope and relief in Sam’s expression, as he is probably counting on his brother’s care for him. Hoping Dean would try to understand and help him, eventually. 
 
We see Dean looking for words, but there aren’t any. He can’t find them. What he finds then, sadly, are his fists. Dean beats his brother up to a point others might have been seriously injured or dead. He doesn’t stop even after Sam is long out, he goes on a few more blows while I want to reach into my tv set and grab his arm to stop him. This… this is uncalled for. 
 
And it is so unlike everything Dean ever did. 
 
This is unparalleled malicious, vengeful, vicious, brutal fury. We actually witness Dean become a monster here.
 
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His face, as he keeps hitting his unconscious brother, is devoid of any humanity at all, or, well, it’s full of the trait that makes human beings despicable : uncontrolled rage. He becomes what he hates. Finally he stops himself, a thought kicking in – What am I doing? It’s there, just a heartbeat before the screen turns black. 

At this moment Dean is, in Shakespeare’s words ‘as black a hell, and dark as night.’ I can’t breathe. This show goes on shaking me up in ways I don’t know how to handle. If they plan to bring the brothers together again – and they have been promising that for quite a while now – they’re doing their best to make it even worse. And worse. And worse. 

How will the brothers go on, now? I have no idea. At this point, the bond of two brothers I’ve grown to love from the very beginning is shattered. Beyond repair? It might seem so. I live in hope, but I hate what this show is doing to me. Personally, I need something of it restored – and not in the end of this season. I doubt that I’ll be able to handle the terrible truths undeniably about to come up. 
Our show has become more aggressive altogether. In the sideblows to popular vampire franchises or the present administration, and the like. In the way it goes about the relationship of the brothers. In the lack of remorse in the minds of the hunters we’ve met this season.

So, I’m praying, to all the gods responsible for the minds of ye damn writers – do something about it, soon. I don’t want to find myself a stuttering, pathetic, crushed mess after every episode.