Thank you Ben Edlund! If anyone could take on the task of pulling the fandom out of its soulless blue funk right now, it’s the veteran writer with the warped sense of humor. Hmm, did I say warped? More like blissfully deranged.  Whatever it is, he’s got us pegged. 
 
“Clap Your Hands If You Believe” made me as happy as a…um...happy as uh…a pig in shoes, until the somber ending that is. It was a slap in the face reminder for those of us lulled into a false sense of security that things still aren’t right. Then again, Ben Edlund has never been what we call an optimist. Who can forget how totally screwed the brothers were at the end of “Nightshifter,”  Sam’s vicious slaughter of Brady at the end of “The Devil You Know,” the brothers being screwed over by Bela at the end of “Bad Day At Black Rock,” Sam’s painful detox and Dean’s despair at the end of “My Bloody Valentine” and what a heaping mess Dean was at the end of Edlund’s best episode to date, “On The Head of a Pin.” However, this for all intensive purposes is a screwball comedy episode. Just ask Jeremy Carver, do those end well either?
 
There I go jumping ahead though. The fact remains, we needed a good laugh. We needed to see soulless Sam as a funny jerk, not an irritating one. We needed some Dean angst that didn’t sway the way of undeniable horror. Plus, you just can’t go wrong with a spoof of “The X-Files” especially since "Supernatural’s" tone was built by a few prominent people involved with that show. I would expect nothing less than perfect in that regard and we got it. 
 
So, where do I begin? So much goodness in one episode.  When I was interviewing the cast and producers at Comic Con in July, Ben Edlund had apparently just pitched the ideas of fairies that week.  Eric Kripke couldn't wait to tell us about it.  He loved the idea.  I'm not sure how fairies and leprechauns evolved into Dean experiencing an alien encounter, but I love it.  The entire abduction sequence, from Dean’s capture to his return to the motel, is top notch humor.  So often these things look great on paper and don’t translate well to the screen. Most of the credit for pulling this off (other than the script) falls on director John Showalter and Jared and Jensen themselves. It’s all about capturing the perfect moment.
 
I just love how every bit of this episode was put together.  The strife for Dean starts when he investigates the crop circles and a chase pursues.  That might seem standard but he calls Sam during the chase.  Since Sam is an uncaring soulless jerk that's having beers in a bar while tailing their suspect and hitting on waitresses, now there's a setup for some great comedy.  He's finding Dean's ordeal more amusing than jarring, especially when Dean shouts "Close encounter!" into the phone.  "You better run man. I think the fourth kind is a butt thing."  Dean still finds time in that moment to coach his wayward brother.  "Empathy Sam! Empathy!"  Dean disappears in the beam of light and Sam has another beer.  Yep, I'm watching another Edlund classic.  
 
It just gets better there, like the entire Sam scene at the alien hunters camp. He’s over his brother’s abduction, for he’s had a whole half hour to take it in.  Soulless Sam now gets to carry on his investigation without a filter.  "So you've been hunting UFO's for three decades and you have zero data and no workable leads.  Have you considered the possibility that you suck at hunting UFO's?"  There is also an opportunity to get friendly with a hippie chick, for you know, it's not like there are any leads on Dean at that time.  You knew what was going to happen when Dean returned later that evening.  I died over Sam and hippie chick's happy reaction that Dean was brought back while they're naked in bed, coupled with Dean’s very bothered reaction.  Again, the expressions sell this wacked out scenario perfectly.  






Hippie chick:  What was it like? 
Dean:  They were grabby, incandescent douchebags. Goodnight.
Hippie chick:  Too soon.  
 
Oh they're killing me!  But then it gets better, for Sam at his brother’s request earlier is pretending to care. He even brings Dean whiskey and touches his leg in support. â€œSafe room.” Ha! Did he watch too much Oprah that afternoon? However, the most hysterical part was Dean’s recollection of the ordeal, how it went from being deeply shaken to pride. â€œI had a close encounter Sam and I won.” He also needed a shower.  The next day Dean takes it upon himself to coach his clueless brother on the idea of not having sex with a chick while his brother has been abducted by aliens.  The entire dialogue (which can be found in Robin's recap of the episode) is every bit as wacky as can be imagined.    
 
However, in revisiting my list of Top Ten Supernatural’s funniest moments there’s a new entrant.  Dean’s showdown with Tinkerbell becomes an instant classic.  As he stares into the golden ball of light in front of him, coupled with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as brilliantly timed background music (how did this show afford that?), Dean engages in a brawl with the bouncy pixie.  His quick thinking results in a hilarious trapping of the creature in the microwave.  There's an explosion, Dean giving a growl of triumph and the perfect off screen “ping” to cap a gruesome demise by microwave (the second time in this show’s history that’s happened).  The entire way that scene was shot was exquisite.  Considering the VFX that had to be worked in, Jensen still had us believing a tiny fairy with nipples was right in front of him. Even the aftermath, with Sam’s deadpan “I’m not supposed to laugh, right?” is too damn good for words.
 
So, what else can you to do an already howling audience?  Why of course throw Sam and Dean into what was essentially a tea party talking about fairies.  It doesn’t get more absurd than that, especially with tactless little brother around. Actually, Dean screaming “Fight the fairies!” in public while being hauled away tops the absurdity list. However, the tea party was good enough to find out Dean was singled out because the fairies only want first born sons and it gave Sam the information he needed to defeat the Leprechaun. You have to admit, it’s pretty funny that Sam had to endure quite a beating before it sank in that it was the non-violent way, pouring a round of a salt pellet on the floor, that would allow him to reverse the spell. You should have done that earlier indeed.  It would have also spared Dean his own trouncing by the red cap fairy.  
 
Even better is the return of the lines! So much goodness this time and mostly from Sam. A definite role reversal indeed. Let’s go through several of them:
 
-          Sam: What, are flying saucers not insane enough for you? Ok, If you wanna add glitter to that glue you’re sniffing that’s fine but don’t dump your wackadoo all over us. We’d rather not step in it. The only thing you’re missing is a couple dozen cats, sister.

-          Sam: You know Jiminy, I was on my own for a whole year. I did fine without you.
           Dean: I don’t want to know your definition of fine.

-          Dean: I was abducted by aliens and you were banging Patchouli. 
           Sam: I didn’t think she smelled that bad.

-          Sam: So you’re saying suffering is a good thing.
           Dean: I’m saying it’s the only game in town. 

-          Dean (staring into the fairy light): Nipples?

-          Sam: You were the one who Pizza Rolled Tinkerbell. I’m just doing the math.

-          Sam: Dean, did you service Oberon, King of the Fairies?

-          Sam:  It looks like Sedona, Arizona took a crap in here.

-          Dean: It’s on me. I feel like I’ve got the crazy on me!
           Sam: No, you did sit in some glitter though.
           Dean: It makes me want to believe in UFO’s again.

-          Dean: Fight the fairies! You fight those fairies! Fight the fairies!
 
I'm sure if you haven't seen the episode and are reading this, a major "WTF?" is spinning in your head right now.  In other words, Ben Edlund delivered another one for the ages.  I was hooked through it all until the end scene. I should have been excited over the brotherly chat over beers on the Impala, but any excitement was quickly killed when Sam refused the beer. He was drinking them left and right when alone earlier but can’t have one with his brother. I suppose from a critical viewpoint that move is brilliant. It shows us things are not good between them still and they are not connecting. As a fan though, it’s just another depressing reminder over how much I miss these two being there for each other. Sure it’s possible that means when the connection happens it’ll result in a bigger reward for us, but for right now it’s a bit deflating. It also confirms my theory that Sam was lying to Dean in the ending scene last week. You don’t know how much I wanted to be wrong about that. It’s looking more like that’s the case though so now we’ve got to wait and see what Sam’s true motives are. I know, waiting is hard.
 
Overall grade, an A-, points taken for the last scene. Was it executed well, absolutely, but after all the heaviness this season I didn’t need a mood killer. I’m still rating “Weekend at Bobby’s” as the best of the season. 
 
More Season Six Analysis
 
We had our candid “chat” last week, and I was ready to leave the issue of season six and it's creative direction alone. However, it’s pretty darned hard to avoid especially now that we’ve gotten Soulless Sam, the Ben Edlund version. He’s quite different than the Soulless Sam by the other writers.  
 
There in lies the problem before this episode. Characterization. The idea is intriguing but the execution, not so much. Ben Edlund managed to capitalize on “Supernatural’s” version of Pinocchio in the best possible way.  Soulless Sam can be very funny and entertaining.  I would expect nothing less of a writer of his stature. Last week’s version of Sam though pissed me off. The week before got a bit weary. The two weeks before were jaw dropping and compelling (not to mention heart crushing).  This notion of “what will Sam do next” can be embraced as a fascinating situation or inconsistent characterization. So far, I find fans that have given input are split down the middle. Even I’m not entirely sure which way to fall. 
 
As I said in my rant of frustration last week (and yes, I feel better now thanks for asking), the heart of this show has always been the brotherly bond.  It’s what makes it special and unique.  With Sam’s soul gone, the soul of the brother’s relationship is as well.  I’m not saying that the choice to mess with that dynamic was a poor one, for I usually applaud risk taking, but I see now why I was so upset last week and not so much this week.  If you’re going to take such a risk it must be done right.  Brian Truitt of USA Today said this on Twitter after “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” aired and I can’t think of a more perfect analysis.  â€œI think Edlund can write soulless Sam as entertaining. In other hands, not so much.”
 
Soulless Sam is an intriguing idea that’s grown a bit weary.  It’s also an extremely risky move. Like it or not, fans come to this show with expectations. It is the sixth season.  How many stewed over the entire Summer Hellatus envisioning that Sam would come back an emotional wreck over his ordeal and Dean would have to be there to pick up the pieces? How about the others that were hoping for that return to the season one basics, two brothers in it together fighting this new upswing in monster activity?  What about those that decided not to expect anything and see what we were given?  Come on, even the last group had hopes for the brotherly bond to return by now.
 
I keep remembering Sam’s words in “Family Matters.” â€œYou’re stuck with the soulless guy.”  Then I remembered (and re-read) an article I wrote back in July where I defended all the creative decisions thus far, like Ruby, Sam in season four and Dean in season five, not to mention "Swan Song."  There was frustration over what was happening back then and it resulted in something, so we are being asked to trust again.  Sure many fans are holding out hope that we’ll get the old Sam back soon or the brothers connecting, but until then we’re stuck with the soulless guy, just like Dean. So how does a fan, especially one that’s emotionally involved, accept this new Sam each week?  Ben Edlund helped us by making him funny.  The next two episodes two are supposed to be dramatic showdowns that address the issue and might also be a great diversion for what we’re missing.  We might also be in for a case of "be careful what you wish for."  What happens when (I'm also still going with if) Sam gets his soul back?  It might not be pretty.  
 
I highly recommend those struggling with this season read (or re-read) Reality Check: Showrunners Want To Listen To Their Fans But Can't.  I had to remind myself that patience is a virtue.  Let's see how it all plays out.  That's the very least we can do.  
 
 

Comments  

Zakko
# Zakko 2010-11-23 01:16
First, sorry for the long long long post.

I had to watch this episode twice. The first time, it just pissed me off. I have grown to truly hate this Sam. Yes, he was snarky and witty and horny, but it was like this constant slapping across my face by the writers with "we don't really know what the hell 'soulless' means so we just rewrite the rules as its suits us each week." He's emotionless, except when he isn't. His behavior is all over the place. I want to say its the writing, and not Jared Padalecki's performance. I think he's doing the best he can with highly inconsistent material. By the time Sam closed his phone on an abducted Dean with a shrug, I had close down on this episode. He "cares" enough about Dean to hulk out on the monster that attacked him two weeks ago, but this week, meh.

I sat thinking, "why is Dean in this season? He has no other purpose than to remind us something is wrong with Sam and we should care about that even when its growing difficult to." By the time the "big damn serious talk on the Impala" rolled around, I was ready to wash my hands of my favorite show.

I rewatched it two days later, and through it all I just kept saying "shutoff all your expectations." I found it to be funny in many places. The characterizatio ns off and inconsistent with most of season 6 and in Dean's case, the whole series.

Herein is my trouble. In the linked story "Showrunners Want to Listen to Their Fans but Can't," the example of Ruby is mentioned. Season 4, while very important in the mythos, I just can't watch most of. Why? As simply as I can put it: They tell us Sam is super smart, full-ride to Stanford, but never once learned that trying to make the ends justify the means never works. Season 4 Sam is just so wrong with everything we learned about his character. The Demon Blood plot line has never and will never work for me. It never made sense to me. Soulless Sam is shaping up to be that as well.

I enjoyed Season 5 considerably more. I had issues with "he who began it shall be the one to end it" funneling down to "he who began it will drive the Deus ex Machina to the place where it will end." But I wanted to overlook all of that.

Why?

I wrote this earlier this week for another project:

Heroes are the fuel of the myths that define our collective understanding. We tell of them in bed time stories, in history classes, in books and movies. Heroes are presented as the pinnacle of human existence. What we fail to teach, to include in our lessens and stories, is the extraordinary price these individuals pay to become heroes. Without exception they lose something precious and deeply personal, the cost charged to save or better or secure all the rest of us. To be a hero is to have the most sacred of all you have destroyed, by your choice, to purchase the greater good. It is to be painfully diminished, that he or she may be, in turn, exalted. That is, after all, why we call them heroes.

Sam and Dean Winchester are very much heroes. They have sacrificed more than any fictional characters I can think of. They deserved something for their struggles and agony. They deserved, in some way, to be exalted. What they got was more abuse.

I know that as writers they want to keep the tension high. They want the drama. I get that. But I can say, with absolute conviction and certainty, that they could have the drama without more abuse of our heroes.

Is there some payoff looming out there? I sure as hell hope so. The biggest question the writers have left me with is: can they resolve all of this without shattering the finely constructed mythology they spent five years building? Example: the cage. We have all sorts of creatures capable of mucking about with it, when it was very concretely laid out earlier that the cage was tamper proof, only openable by breaking 66 seals.

The inconsistencies , the precarious playing about with the mythos, and frankly the abuse of the two characters we have grown to love have left me very leery of what they are doing. Can they pull it off? Realistically? I would put the odds at 90:1 against. Do I desperately hope they do? 100 percent.

Am I being too harsh and critical? I don't really think so. My expectations are pretty consistent: Play by the rules set up in a show's universe. Characters should be fully realized and behave in coherence with their established personas. When characters I love suffer, at some point, reward them.

I am saddened that Supernatural is no longer living up to those expectations. Even more so, I am saddened by the continuing decline in the ratings. I will try to watch with diminished expectations, but the fact that I have to do that, tells me something is wrong. It may just be that creatively, my favorite show is taking a road I can't follow. I would really hate that. So, I'll continue to hope, for now, for that payoff.
Nitewoman7
# Nitewoman7 2010-11-23 01:29
I totally enjoyed this episode with the wackiness, great lines, humor, great comedic skills and acting by Jensen and Jared. I've loved this season. I love how they have made this season like S1 with TMOTW and yet totally different. I love Soulless Sam and I believe with all my heart that we will get Soul Sam back but dramatically changed..how could it be otherwise, for heaven's sake Sam has been to hell with Lucifer pulling his chains. I have loved every season, yes some more than others but it's still the best show on TV now or ever! :mrgreen:
deepthi_india
# deepthi_india 2010-11-23 03:59
I love spn & d only way i get to watch this show is thru internet. I(used to)totally admire the logic and the precision in the show , but am getting a little tired with the latest season as nothing seems to be in place....
1)LOGIC(thrown out of the window with 2 & a 1/2 men) :roll::
2)BROTHERLY ?(sam's soul crap is going too far, killing all the excitement)
3)MONSTER A WEEK(I ?ed the show coz of those weekly monsters n their lore)
Suze
# Suze 2010-11-23 07:27
I thought this episode was great, laugh out loud funny. I didn't mind the kick-in-the-tee th ending, either, as it makes sense from RoboSam's current point of view - Feelings, pfff ... Who needs them?

Sam, writen for laughs, is a neat inversion of the Dean's old Kill-Em-All-And -Let-God-Sort-E m-Out attitude and random lustfulness, it's almost like Dean lecturing a dark version of his former self.

That said, I reckon going back to the Sam's-All-Wrong -Again storyline was pretty lazy, even if it is a proven fan-baiter, which is what they want, after all.

I think you've just got to put up with plot lines that don't push your buttons, you can't please all of the people all of the time. I thought the paint came off S5 fairly thoroughly by the end and Swan Song itself was pants, but loads of you guys loved it so each to their own ... It's still very watchable, even if you don't love every minute of every show!
elle2
# elle2 2010-11-23 07:47
Great review, Alice,

A nice blend of the 'critical analysis' and the 'emotionally-ve sted analysis, kudos to you on that!

I agree, patience is a virtue but it comes at a price of (yep, you guessed it) being patient. Argh!

Sitll, I believe there is a big payoff coming (soon, please, please!)

I'm not sure if Sam was lying at the end of last week's episode about wanting his soul back or if it was more a case of this seems like a really good idea because I want my brother to stick around with me. However, upon some additional time to think about it as well as Dean's oh-so-helpful (NOT) characterizatio n that having a soul equals suffering I can see Sam having some second thoughts. He tread a fine line here with the ambiguity (as did Ben) in that making a deal with a leprechaun is a bad idea and that his logical brain still works. The fact that he did it without thinking too hard is also easily explained by the fact that Sam lacks emotions so things are either black or white with him, get a soul and suffer, remain soulless and an awesome hunter...for Sam who has suffered plenty as well as has often considered himself 'the least' this is tempting indeed.

I'm happy that since we've already entered these 'do I or don't I want my soul back' waters that we're not wasting any time with diving fully in since the new clip for Episode 10 shows the brothers engaged in that immediate conversation. As troubling as the story line is keep it front and center and resolve it, don't backburner it, please, please.

I'll hang on without too much difficulty since Jim Beaver, who loves to drop tidbits and mess with the fans' minds but also comes through with goodness, has tweeted several times for us to be patient, good things are coming. Well, good things (in my mind) have already come aplenty so I'll take more goodness, no worries there.
Alice
# Alice 2010-11-23 10:27
Ugh, this is what happens when trying to write a review during a weekend when the family demands are so high they won’t give me five seconds to form a good thought, let alone five minutes. I totally glossed over the Leprechaun’s proposal with Sam. I had some big thoughts on that!

In my opinion, Sam didn’t take the deal because he doesn’t want his soul back. When Dean asked him about it at the end, he said exactly what old Sam would say, “Since when has a deal ever been good?” He doesn’t mean that. This Sam would take a deal. I think he said no because he’s already made a deal with Crowley or someone else. He knows how to get his soul back but he’s stringing Dean along. I’m wondering if this is all a big setup for the next two episodes.

BTW, I was so happy to see Robert Picardo in this. I absolutely loved him in Star Trek Voyager. His character, The Doctor, was the most earnest character in that show and he wasn’t even human. He was the Commander Data of his show, who I’ve compared Robo-Sam to before. The big difference, I found Commander Data and The Doctor fascinating each week. Robo-Sam, it’s wearing thin. Still being patient though (rainbows and lollipops, rainbows and lollipops…)
Suze
# Suze 2010-11-23 13:39
!!! That's who he was!

Snotty Holo-Doctor was far and away the best thing about Voyager ... Apart from him it was a toss-up who I hated more, prissy bossy-boots Janeway or that elfin twit-girl who dressed like a lamp-shade ( Parris was a git as well, and that annoyingly serene Native American bloke with the thing on his face ... Aaargh! AND the short-arse alien who looked like an oven-ready hair brush ... Oh God, it's all coming back to me now ... Where's my emergency Firefly discs ... )
Bree
# Bree 2010-11-23 14:21
I loved this episode and mostly enjoyed every episode this season. I really appreciate that this Sam arc is threaded through every episode, its a consistency that show has never had with regards to Sam before, even though I do agree that there was are inconsistencies with how Sam is behaving from episode to episode but I find that I can handwave it due to enjoying RoboSam so much. I also love that this storyline is giving Jared the chance to show us how good he is, he is doing a wonderful job despite some uneven writing.

Considering that Sera has taken her time revealing Sam's story arc and addressed it in some way every episode I have real faith that the second half of the season will properly address the aftermath of Sam getting his soul back. If it doesn't then that will naturally affect how I feel about the first half of the season but at this stage I am giving Sera props for really keeping me interested.
Melanie
# Melanie 2010-11-24 02:07
I'm still loving it! I'm not the least bit impatient - I think Robo!Sam is like a breath of fresh air -- finally - one of the Winchesters at least is out from under the weight of the world -- a weight that IMO dragged on the whole show through S5. Sure, without his soul at all, he's swung that pendulum wa a a a y over in the other direction, but still. And of course he doesn't want his soul back -- without it - happily banging the hippie chick, with it - suffering alone in the dark. Its a cake or death question.
I'm thinking that the other shoe hasn't dropped yet. What is Sam really doing? I don't have any idea. And I love that about this season.
This episode was probably my favorite so far. I'm wondering, since its still Sam's brain if he always thought the comments he's saying now, but didn't say through politeness? Because soul or not - that was funny.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-11-24 17:36
A bit late to the party, Alice, so sorry - I loved your review and have to say I did enjoy this episode so much. I want a t-shirt saying 'I microwave fairies' and a couple of those tiny tea cups just to prove to myself that those do exist.
Cheers, dear. Jas
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-11-25 11:26
I finally managed to catch 6.09 - "Clap Your Hands ..."

I have to say it was quite an enjoyable episodes - there were many hilarious moments, and I thought the overall pace of the episode was superb. :-)

And strangely (surprising even for myself), I kinda liked the interactions between Sam and Dean in this episode - it does remind me of Dean teaching Castiel how to be "human". :P