Tear down the wall!  Tear down the wall!  Yes, that is from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, which I strangely chanted after poor Sam Winchester was left screaming his fool head off in the mid-season cliffhanger.  Kind of cruel of me I suppose, since much like that rock opera the crumbling of the wall means insanity for the main character, but I couldn’t help it.  Since when does Sam never scratch an itch? 
 
I can honestly say, only two episodes this season have left me completely breathless at the end; “You Can’t Handle The Truth” and now “Appointment In Samarra.”  It’s strange too, since both endings are very disturbing.  However, they both expose (in an extreme way) main character frailties.  â€œYou Can’t Handle The Truth” showed Dean’s meltdown and now we finally get one from Sam, something long over due.  
 
But wouldn’t you completely lose it if you were tied down and had something forced into you that throws you on a delicate edge forever?  That essentially kills who you are? By Death nonetheless? Sure, this isn’t the real Sam, but wow, it’s still tough.  Robo-Sam either had this option though or death. His primitive self-preservation instincts were too dangerous.  So the question remains for now, is Sam’s extreme agony worth the price of Dean not having to act on a horrible decision to kill his brother?  I say yes.  
 
But hey, I’m jumping into the analytical part too fast.  Let me just say I LOVED this episode.  My favorite of the season.  This entire review is going to gush over all presented and the deep character predicaments, not to mention the sheer awesomeness that is Bobby Singer.  It’ll give us plenty food for thought for the next seven weeks (now that part is what crushes me!).     
 
That’s it?  A Kansas song?  
 
Once again, this is a story that has both brothers at the brink. Desperate times indeed.  Throwing caution to the wind has never been a deterrent for Dean and there’s only one way to get hold of Death, by dying. I’d love to know how he managed to put together this plan, but it’s brilliant. You’ve got to admit, if any being on earth has a unique rapport with the almighty reaper of souls it’s Dean. One small nitpick of this episode happens right way, for another brilliant guest casting move is sorely underutilized.  Robert Englund makes the perfect illegal back room doctor, especially when he got to boast about his excellent “almost 75 percent” success rate with the risky procedure Dean came for.  His snarly assistant obviously didn’t notice the angst of the pretty boy on the table either, adding a funny quality to this entire scene.  I hope to see these two back for more at another time. 
 
I adore how early in the episode the picture is painted of how far apart the brothers are.  Dean’s farewell letter ends up going to Ben (who lives in Battle Creek, Michigan now?).  Even the doctor asks why he doesn’t have a message for Sam.  â€œIf I don’t make it back, nothing I say is going to mean a damn thing to him.”  No wonder Dean is taking this great risk.  Without Sam, he doesn’t have anyone left. He certainly knows by now death isn’t the worst thing that could happen to him.  
 
Speaking of brilliant casting, Lindsey McKeon (Tessa) and Julian Richings (Death) return in better than ever form, especially the latter.  Death made a huge impression in “Two Minutes to Midnight” and his expanded screen time here manages to make his grim character even more fascinating in the same unsettling sort of way.  I’m not sure why Dean got so lucky to earn Death’s favor, especially since Death constantly reminds him who is of greater power.  Their rapport again takes a new and expanded turn, setting up some great future possibilities.      
 
Why was Dean chosen to be Death for a day? Why didn’t Death just honor Dean’s request to get Sam’s soul out of the cage? Because even Death doesn’t pass up golden opportunities. Who better to put to the test than the guy who has spent the last several years thumbing his nose at fate?  Messing up the “natural order.”  Dean certainly hasn’t won a fan in Tessa the Reaper with his tampering.  â€œSo, all the times you messed with life and death, they just worked out for you. It was just a beach party every time.”  Oh yeah, both these reapers knew this lesson was long overdue. 
 
Of course Dean was going to fail in Death’s wager for him.  A man that has done nothing but tempt fate his entire life was going to play by the rules?  This long and coming lesson for Dean plays out brilliantly, aka, all actions have consequences.  He can’t mess with the universe and expect to come out unscathed. It certainly isn’t a Kansas song either. â€œWrecking the natural order is not so much fun when you have to mop up the mess, is it?”  Message loud and clear Death, loud and clear. 
 
Dean comes out of this with a new understanding that has escaped him until now, that there is such a thing as fate.  It’s not all free will.  Just as the free will of man has separated man from God, free will has consequences all around.  Like when Sam and Dean averted the apocalypse.  Now monsters are rising and Heaven and Hell are in civil war.  On a more personal scale, Sam is a sociopath now.  Dean certainly shows some amazing personal growth when he chooses to kill the little girl, even though the chain of events were already set in motion.  He knows from experience.  I’m sure Tessa’s words rang true. “She’s disrupting the natural order by being alive.  You of all people know what that means. Chaos and sadness will follow her the rest of her life.” Sounds a lot like the lives of the Winchesters don’t you think?  
 
It isn’t just consequences of actions though.  Death gives Dean a few lessons about the resilience of the human soul.  After all, he does come to Death asking him not to only return Sam’s soul, but fix it from the damage that’s been inflicted.  â€œWhat do you think the soul is, some pie you can slice?  The soul can be bludgeoned, tortured, but never broken, not even by me.” Later Death tells Dean, “You throw away your life because you’ve come to assume that’ll bounce right back into your lap.  The human soul is not a rubber ball.  It’s vulnerable, impermanent but stronger than you know. And more valuable than you can imagine.”
 
Is that possibly a declaration of hope for Sam?  That despite the damage, he’s stronger than Dean thinks? Or is it simply a statement that souls cannot be spared from the cruelest of fates, no matter how much we want them to be. Probably both. Either way a battle over souls is waging.
  
Don’t Say “Herrreee’s Johnny!”  
  
On the other side is Sam’s story.  A soulless man really is nothing more than a wild animal fighting for self preservation.  Sam’s not doing much for the natural order either.  Dean does at least inform Sam of the plan, who reluctantly agrees with Dean, but he doesn’t really mean it. He just know he can’t stop Dean from fetching his soul so it’s up to him to find a way to stop him. This now becomes a battle for survival, to exist in his current form.
 
Enter Balthazar, or yet another great performance from Sebastian Roche.  This scheming angel on the run helps Sam only because he finds Sam could be useful working for him.  Just like Crowley.  What is it about Soulless Sam that intrigues these beings?  Is it the fact that with no soul he’s more dangerous than anything imaginable?  As the alpha vamp said, he’s the perfect animal. Sam’s certainly doesn’t hesitate in going with the brutal solution to keep his soul out of his body by scarring it. By committing patricide.  It doesn’t have to be his blood father, a figurative one will do. Oh yes, we see where this is going.    
 
Enter Bobby, who is tasked with the duty of keeping an eye on Sam while Dean is gone. Instead he becomes an unwilling participant in the game of prey vs. predator. It’s primitive and oh so wrong in human context.  But then again, Robo-Sam’s existence is wrong.  Lucky for us, Bobby has a few tricks up his sleeve, which are enough to buy him the time needed for Dean to come to the rescue.  A trap door by the closet?  He obviously installed that after being stuck in there a couple of times with no escape, like in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”  The ingenious things this man thinks of on his weekends off.  
 
Sam doesn’t even think twice about what he’s doing.  He stalks and tries to kill Bobby without regret or mercy.  He does take a moment though to be honest with Bobby after being trapped in the basement. Dean doesn’t care about him, he just wants his “Sammy” back.  This isn’t the first time Sam has referred to his souled self as another person.  It’s just another clever reminder to viewers that this isn’t really Sam.
 
Dean may have lost the wager with Death by taking the ring off, but his timing couldn’t have been more perfect in that he gets back just in time to save Bobby from Sam's strike of the knife. Another interesting twist of fate for Dean. He may have the ring off, but Dean isn’t done playing Death. He now has to decide Sam’s fate, especially since he failed to retrieve his soul. Knowing what he knows now about natural order, his agonized expression says it all. This version of Sam cannot live. 
 
Once again, as often happens in this series, both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki speak volumes with just nonverbal expressions. Not only is Dean’s struggle obvious, but enter one of the most bone chilling sequences ever done on this show. Dean peers through the panic room door at his handcuffed yet unconscious brother. Sam comes to and quickly spots Dean’s cold and hard stare.  Sam doesn’t flinch, giving a chilling stare of his own that is clear.  He isn’t Dean's Sam, nor will he ever be. He won’t hesitate to kill anyone, even Dean, if it means he survives. Dean doesn’t back off either, letting Sam know he won’t let this continue.  Oh yes, the brotherly relationship has clearly hit rock bottom.  
  
Oh, but time for another twist of fate. Dean goes upstairs to take a breather, let it all sink in. Imagine his surprise to find Death there with some bacon dogs and beer. Honest, what has Dean done to get Death to like him so much? Sure Dean learns gets the whole “moral of the story” but Death goes and gets Sam’s soul anyway. Turns out the Winchesters are needed after all. â€œYou and your brother keep coming back. You’re an affront to the balance of the universe and you cause disruption on a global scale. But you have use.  Right now you’re digging at something.  Intrepid detective.  I want you to keep digging Dean.” So was Dean essentially rewarded for making another hard but correct choice regarding Sam? Who knows, but its fun to imagine. Also fun, how the odds again are at 75 percent. 
 
I have always admired this show’s ability to push certain boundaries, and again they didn’t flinch in pushing another moral dilemma. I’ve read plenty of good debates since this episode aired on Robo-Sam’s right to exist. Were his rights violated? Didn’t he have a right to make the decision to take his soul? Having it forced upon his did seem very cruel, but one does have to keep in mind that Robo-Sam is a sociopath. How are most sociopaths treated in society? They are locked up. Dean and Bobby knew one thing about this Sam, they couldn’t lock him up. He’s too smart, too skilled in survival, and will surely escape one day. There’s no telling what he would do. That’s what Dean resigned himself to accept when Sam was locked in the panic room. He would have to kill Robo-Sam, there were no other options. Dean felt the huge failure on his part though, for death for Robo-Sam meant Sam’s soul still condemned to Hell, suffering. Kind of ironic, Sam being saved by Death. Then again, it really wasn’t saving. It was preserving the natural order. 

Sure, forcing Sam’s soul upon him is a violation. It’s horrible, cruel, and as many have said borderline rape. It had to be done though. Robo-Sam, right or wrong, was not meant to be. Of course neither is real Sam, but that’s another debate for another time. Sure Dean wanted his brother back but there’s a bigger picture there too, he had to protect society. Making a decision to kill Sam or soul Sam was not unlike killing the little girl. If he didn’t, the dominos would continue to fall and innocents would be harmed.
 
Other Thoughts
 
Kudos to Sera Gamble and Robert Singer, writers of this episode, for bringing up the fan concerns about Adam.  Dean asks for his soul too, but Death only allows one to happen, probably knowing full well that Dean would pick Sam.  I’m assuming this to mean that Adam in the cage is part of the natural order, while Sam being separated from his soul is not.  Plus, Adam wouldn’t be very useful in the “intrepid detective” part. 
 
Bobby got in some great quotes when being hunted by Sam. â€œI was born at night, but not last night,” and “Ain’t nobody killing me in my house but me.” The best though is what he said after Sam broke through the closet door with an axe and a wild eyed look. â€œDon’t say, Herrreee’s Johnny!”
 
My favorite parts tough are Dean’s fish out of water behavior as Death, quoting “Dust in The Wind” line to a guy who’s just died and wants to know what it means. â€œThat’s it? A Kansas song?” I do wonder if that’s an inside joke since “Carry On Wayward Son” is an anthem for this show. Also, I love when Dean tries to anticipate the hard questions he’s about to receive from the deceased. â€œWhat, like how did Betty White outlast me?” Or how about the robber killed in the convenience store shooting.  “Enjoy the ride down pal. Trust me, the sauna gets hot.”  Dean should know!    
 
I keep bouncing between a grade of A or A+ on this one, but I’ll go for an A for now. A+ to me is instant classic, and while this episode will have an impact, that impact remains to be seen.  I for one am very excited about the possibilities, for the brothers have a more defined purpose and mission now. Before they both seemed to be wandering, going where need be without any clear reason. Plus the emotional angst will be back. Maybe.  See you all January 28th to find out!
 

Comments  

nancyL
# nancyL 2010-12-13 16:22
Alice, can you read minds???
Sam had two choices at the end:take the soul or die.
Bobby is AWESOME :D
LOVE THIS EPISODE. :D

Dean is BFF with Death, is that cool or what? :-)

Dean has no one else to send his 'letter of goodbye' to then Ben (except Bobby). Sam wouldn't give a s@@t if Dean died, and Lisa would probably throw it in the garbage unopened.

Even Dexter has a moral code, the (former)Soulles s One has nothing, he is like Faith, 'I want, I take'. No right from wrong, no thought to the consequences.

I work Monday to Friday, so on the weekend, I relax and try to catch up on sleep, Bobby makes 'additions' to his house. AWESOME :D

If (former)Soulles s One would go after Bobby without a second thought, then you know that Dean is not safe. Dean could no longer feel safe with him in the same room, because Dean needs sleep, and RoboSam doesn't.

Even though it was painful for Sam, and just as painful for Dean and Bobby to watch, this had to been done. What a way to end the year. :D

While it was playing out, you could see that Dean was second guessing himself. He doesn't like his Sammy in pain, but he knew that this was not his Sammy and in order to get Sammy back, he would have to suck it up and try not to hear the screams of the (former)Soulles s One.

do the math:
(Soulless One + soul) X screaming = Sammy

Love this episode (did I say that already).
Alice, I agree, this may be my favorite one this season. I totally forgive Sera and Co for 'Clap'.

For those not paying attention: I LOVE THIS EPISODE.
:D :D :D :lol: :lol: :lol: :D :D :D
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-12-13 17:13
Alice, this was an awesome episode, very true! One I will re-watch a few times for sure. I agree that Sam had to be re-souled, but the manner in which it was done was hard to bear for me. But, being given the choice between death for Sammy and force his soul into Sammy, I think I might have been on team two. And that thought also startles me, because it collides with what I believe.

Having read my article, dear editor-in-chief , I don’t have to explain my point again. I am just astonished, again (and surprised that I still am astonished by it), by the impact it can have on the audience, in that case: Jasminka.

I just came home from watching it with a friend and it’s been even more terrifying (and thrilliing - what a great episode!!!!) than watching it alone for the first time and then while writing. But writing it, my analytical mind kicked in and kept the emotional turmoil somewhat at bay. Watching it without the ‘Oh, sheet of paper inspire me’ mantra to hide behind it had even more impact.

I am afraid of the angst and agony we’re about to get when the show comes back next year. But then again, that’s what I love about this show, old masochist that I am :-).

Thank you! Jas
Suze
# Suze 2010-12-13 18:01
Here was me thinking they'd lost the plot. That was brilliant. Death, Dirty Doctor Dubious, Bobby and his version of When DIYers Attack, all awesome. I thought Dean's dillema was very well done, too. Not so much fun thumbing your nose at proceedure when you get to clear up the fall-out as well!

The last scenes were excellent. I don't get what all the fuss is about though. I don't see that Dean had any choice but to do what he did ... He can't leave RealSam forever getting his wings pulled off in the pit and NotSam's a total loose cannon and a danger to all and sundry, obviously there's the strong possibility that his solution is going to back-fire and have dreadful consequences for all concerned but that's never stopped him before ... It's a terrible idea but all the alternatives are worse!

Anyway. Great episode. I'm sorry I doubted. :D
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-12-13 20:18
Alice, great review. Yes, Sam owes his life to Death. How ironic is that! I have no doubt that if Death hadn't helped Dean, for whatever reason, Dean would have killed Sam. He really had no choice. Remember John's warning to Dean, "If you can stop Sam, you will have to kill him". That thought went round in my head for a while. And as hard as it would have been, Dean really understood that this was not Sam, memories or no, this was not Sam. He would have killed him, and I'm glad we didn't have to see that as a cliff hanger!

When Dean looked in at Sam in the panic room and Sam looked back, I think that was the first time we really saw exactly what Sam was. That was the first time; Sam wasn’t lying or hiding his true self. He was a sociopath who would kill anything. He really didn’t fit into any ‘human’ description, so his soul being returned wasn’t a violation of rights. Human have rights, Sam wasn’t ‘human’. What he did get was a cure, and like any cure where without it means death, you take the cure. And as Dean would have been the one to have to kill Robo!Sam, it was his call to make. Hopefully Sam will thank him for it next episode.

As for why Death helped Dean, Dean is involved in something detective-like that Death wants Dean to continue, and Death gave Sam back as both a reward and an incentive to get Dean to continue ‘digging’ into whatever it is that interests Death. I’m looking forward to seeing what that is! It must have to do with Cass's civil war as Death really would have no stake in anything else.

Let's hope the writers don't drag the 'wall' out, or, even better, maybe just forget it completely. It wouldn't be the first plot line they just dropped, but the first one I'd agree with! Right now, they should just leave it alone for a while. I think they need to move on now to this detective thing and have Sam listen to Dean for a while. If he had done that earlier, like he agreed to, this whole thing wouldn't have happened at all.

Now if they just bring Sam's powers back, AS AN ASSEST THIS TIME, and the amulet, it might end up being a good season.

At least now I have hope!
Karen
# Karen 2010-12-13 20:39
Hi Alice
Love your review and agree with it all.
Bobby was awesome.
Just love Death’s and Dean’s chemistry together.

As for RoboSam I really don’t believe there was any other options.
He had gone too far, there was no humanity left in.
To be willing to kill Bobby without a seconds thought, he had to be stopped.
I couldn’t help but think of the irony of Sam’s words to Castiel in Caged Heat "You wanna help, prison fulla monsters, can't just leave 'em, can't let 'em go."

What other choices were there for this Robosam, other than be killed or be re-souled.
I know there are risks to having his soul re-entered but I believe Sam deserved to at least be given the chance. There is always hope things may turn out ok.
If things to start to crumble, Dean will be there to help anyway possible. And who knows maybe Castiel will be able to find a way to help.
drose_girl
# drose_girl 2010-12-13 21:07
I agree with you Alice! Great review! I was totally blown away with this episode! I was a great twist to the story, and helped tie things together better! loved it!
maggie
# maggie 2010-12-13 21:38
Great review Alice thanks, Im going to be waiting anxiously for your recap..

Yes this episode was wow I mean since the first scene when Dean goes with doctor Robert (and he knew John :-) ) to the final scene omg poor Sam and then the cliffhanger :o

mmh I have a question... in the scene (just before Dean and Sam are staring at each other) when Dean say: "I can't keep doing this Bobby" and then Bobby says that Sam is capable of anything then Dean watch the ring and ask to Bobby "what am I suppose to do?".... Do you think that maybe maybe when Dean was watching the ring Dean was thinking on using the ring on Sam?
well is just a thought what do you think?

Thanks again for the review Alice
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2010-12-13 22:22
Hot dog, that was a great episode! (I had another brilliant pun to use, and then forgot it. The danger of reading a review, and then rushing to attend your childrens' piano recital, is that you start merging the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Supernatural.. Wait.. Wasn't that an episode?)

Quick points because a lot of what I've been thinking has already been said...

I think Death likes Daan because of his attitude. After all this millenia, maybe He finds it a tad refreshing when someone trieds to push back. The action can't hurt him, and it does cause him extra work, but Death seems to find it intriguing, and offers Dean some grudging respect or admiration for even trying. It's kind of like the cute guy falling for the girl who doesn't fawn all over him. Her strength of character is the attraction. And Dean has shown his strength, perserverance and tenacity many times.

I wonder if Death wasn't also talking about Dean and his soul when he spoke of the strength and value of souls. Dean acknowledges the worth of Sam's soul, but his own, not so much. Dean has also suffered horribly and soldiered on. Maybe he's got some kind of SuperSoul now, by virtue of being to Hell and back, by helping to stop the Apocalypse, by his quest to save the innocents and by his servitude to Heaven. I know I sound like a bit of broken record, but perhaps it is the uniqueness of Dean's soul that holds the key this year, and that's why the Alphas and the monsters are so interested in him.

And is there a deeper reason for Balthazar to dislike him so much, other than just offering to fry him extra crispy? Perhaps that too is a clue.

I'd love to read the letter to Ben. I think it would say something about how much Dean liked being around Ben, and wishing he still could be... How grateful he was to both Ben & Lisa, and how Ben should listen to his Mom and take good care of her.

I'm glad the writers brought up Adam, but I'm sad that some people blame Dean for not being able to get him out, or for choosing Sam so quickly. That's another decision that will haunt Dean, but I don't think he could have done anything different. And he may have a SuperSoul, but he's not Superhuman. Even heroes pulling people from burning buildings and car crashes can't always save everyone.

Finally, as a parent, I find it a intersting that it was the death of the little girl that made Dean understand the "natural order", and the will and role of Fate. Nothing in the world is more painful, or UNnatural than your child dying before you do. (It's a wound that never totally heals.) It goes against the natural order of older dying first, and leaving the younger to grow and thrive. Tough lesson for Dean.

I am wondering if the season will wrap up with one or the other of the boys deciding to let (finally, after all these years) the natural order of things take over and rule the day. Although, if that happens, how do you get to Season 7?

Much musing to do....
Scullspeare
# Scullspeare 2010-12-14 01:25
I loved this episode and the fact that this ‘little horror show’ can generate such philosophical debates with compelling arguments on both sides.

Fantastic opening sequence. Add me to the list of those who want to see Robert Englund again. I saw a video clip where he said his wife has had a crush on Jared since his Gilmour Girls days. If that's the case, I think it's only right to bring him back and give him a scene or two with Jared, don't you? As a gift for his wife. :mrgreen:

Loved the cat and mouse with Bobby and Not-Sam, and, oh, every scene with Dean and Death.

That last scene, too, really packed a punch. After listening to Not-Sam’s protests (“You don’t know what this will do to me”) and seeing the terror in his eyes, I keep going back and forth between believing it’s simply Not-Sam acting the part and fighting for his very existence - I really liked the idea that he thought of himself as a separate person from RealSam - and the possibility he might know something more than he’s admitted to Dean (and to us). Can’t wait to find out which.

As for forcing the soul back on him, I tend to side with Dean on this one – because, in essence, he was acting in accordance with his brother’s wishes.

Way back in Playthings, Sam made Dean promise to kill him if he ever turned darkside. Not-Sam is darkside of a different shade, but killing him would leave Real-Sam’s soul trapped in Hell and, at least as far as Dean (and the audience) has been told, in eternal torment.

Would Sam, the rightful owner of this body, want to exist in this current psychopathic state, threatening Bobby’s and Dean’s lives, and those of other innocents, when they got in the way of the objective du jour? I think, and more importantly, I believe Dean thinks, not. Soulless Sam is, in effect, non-compos mentis and Dean is exercising the verbal power of attorney Sam granted him back in Season Two.

The J’s were stellar in this one – Jensen, Jared, Jim and Julian. Perhaps that’s the secret to shining in the SN verse – your name has to start with a ‘J.’

And boy would I love to see/read an interview with Julian Richings talking about his SN role. Great characterizatio n; amazing performance.

Great review, Alice. Thanks.
Alex P.
# Alex P. 2010-12-14 01:29
Great review!

After this episode, I can definitely say I am hooked on this show again.

It's a very different show than it was five seasons ago, or even two or three seasons ago -things have changed so much for the boys, so much "chaos and sadness" has followed them-I really hated the early part of season six, but in retrospect I think that's not because the S6 episodes were sucking (not totally sucking anyway...they did have some low points!) but because the season has been so dark, so changed and so damn sad.

I'm desperate to know what happens next, but sort of dreading it too. If dread can be good. Heh. ;-)

One other thing...this episode was really, really creepy and scary to me. Maybe it's just because I watched it late at night, but I seriously caught myself covering my eyes during a few scenes, especially soulless Sam chasing Bobby around trying to kill him. And any scenes involving Death. Eek.
pandora
# pandora 2010-12-14 04:43
@scullspeare

I agree with you re Sam handing over the power of attorney to Dean in S2 by asking him to kill him should he ever turn in to a monster. I think this a very important point to remember when debating if Dean should comply with Sam's wishes. The real Sam, the human Sam, soulSam has made his wishes very clear on what he would want.

I can't help but coming back to the ironic twist of fate we've had this season. We did in fact witness one brother standing by to watch his brother get turned into a monster, namely Sam watching Dean being deprived of his humanity and getting turned into a vampire.

And just as Sam asked Dean to kill him should he turn into a monster we got Dean asking Sam to kill him because he is now a monster. And make no mistake, the way the scene is set up, had Dean fed on blood by the time Grampa turns up with the knowledge of a cure, he would have been killed. Both Sam and Grampa have their machetes out while trying to determine if Dean can still be saved or not.
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-12-14 15:18
Good review Alice! Looking forward to your recap.

I see Dean's choices as very clear. Get Sam's soul back in his body, or kill the body. Personally, I had no problem with the last scene as I feel no sympathy for Robo/Sam as he is not Sam but just an unfeeling shell. He looks like our Sammy, but in no way is he that person. I saw no development of a soul in him at all, but mere imitating what he knew was expected from others. I felt more sympathy for Dean having to watch his pseudo brother suffer as he thought he was. But there was no other solution and no time to ponder upon a different one. Robo/Sam had just gone too far over the line to be allowed to continue. To me this was no more of a violation than the execution of Ted Bundy was, even though some would argue about that as well, I guess. I'm hoping that it works without too much trauma right away, though I'm sure in the coming episodes the cracks will be appearing. And the real Sam will have Dean there to help him get through the bad times. And there is no one who would know more about those times than Dean, who was there himself.

I really liked some other poster's (sorry, read so many posts lately that I don't know which one) comparison of Robo/Sam with Angela the zombie. She too was a thinking and reasoning entity that claimed to be a real person, but was clearly off the rails and a soulless body.

Love that Death has seemingly a soft spot for Dean. He must like to be challenged and able to deliver his lessons on the natural order. And Death is really cool, isn't he? That actor is fantastic!

Loved Robert Englund as the shady doctor and hope he can be returned to the scene in some way. Perhaps with a badly wounded Dean or Sam needing medical attention and not able to trust going to a hospital incognito. Hope they still get their credit cards in renewable names as I sometimes wonder about their finances. When has Dean, in the last 2 and a half years had time for pool or poker hustling? Geez! I miss those days. And yet they still have to eat and renew clothing that was ripped and bloody. :o

The hellatus will be our hell for a month. :shock: :-?
pandora
# pandora 2010-12-14 16:11
@Bevie

That was me. I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me in which way SoullessSam and ZombieAngela were different (apart from the decaying body). In every other way they are exactly alike IMO.
bookdal
# bookdal 2010-12-14 17:37
Alice,

I too am excited about the possibilities that the future episodes will bring, especially given the titles and summaries of episodes. I would actually lean towards an A+ for this episode, just for the probable ramifications of all the threads. It's a great tease; Sera was right-I do want to see the next scene. I imagine, given the great character writers that they are, that both Sera and Robert will throw a lot of emotion into the next step.

Great review, Alice. Thanks!
OliviaSky
# OliviaSky 2010-12-14 21:32
hi gang,

very enjoyable to read everyone's posts. after my first frustrated reaction to this episode, i've simmered down and can appreciate it so much more. i think it's the pale preview trailer that upset me so much -- i surmised from it that everything was back to normal and the sam-soul-in-hel l story was going to be dropped ... but clearly, that's not the case. (my initial reaction also stems from my frustration over the lack of sam POV episodes over the past few years.) anyway, i do think it was a first-rate episode and sera has no worries here -- i am very keen to tune in to the first frame of the jan. 28th show. it will be very interesting to see what creative choice they make on the backside of that cliffhanger.

also, i have been wondering if the first half of this season has been setting up a lot more for dean's character than would be suspected, which would be easy to overlook with so much emphasis on the search for sam's soul. dean now has seen behind the curtain (so to speak) with vampires, faeries and now, most potently the cosmic realm of death. me thinks something's up! also, death told dean to keep "digging" and the season 6 poster shows dean, sam and castiel positioned in front of a dug grave. hmm... perhaps there is a tie in, perhaps not.

regardless of my speculations i am very curious about how they are going to portray sam upon his ensouled return. will he remember anything of hell (but not feel it)? will he remember this past year and his actions of "killing innocents" ... his attack on bobby? letting dean get turned? or will his memory be completely wiped clean of the past year? lots of possibilities and of course i'm really, really curious to see how the writers will deal with the ever present time bomb in his head. darn the cw for the lonnnggg scheduling breaks they take. (must be a budget thing. the main networks are returning with new episodes right after the new year.)

also, both sera gamble and jim beaver have indicated the next episode contains some kind of major (i.,e. unexpected!) revelation.

finally, i want to express my appreciation to all of the editors who write and submit reviews to this site. your reviews are really terrific and i really enjoy them. so much intelligence, humor and thoughtful analysis. many thanks.

oh, bookdal, you mentioned excitement about titles and summaries of future episodes ... can you tell me where you've found this info? i have titles for some of the future episodes off IMDb but not any summaries. i would be curious to know where to look. thx!
oliviasky
# oliviasky 2010-12-14 21:35
i forgot to say on the dialogue about whether dean had the right to return sam's soul. yes. no contest.
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-12-14 22:51
It's been a while since I had time to catch the more recent Supernatural episodes. But I managed to watch "Appointment in Samarra" yesterday evening.

Throughly enjoyable. :-)
ChristopherH
# ChristopherH 2010-12-14 23:07
Wonderful review ... hmm ...

I keep thinking of how one meta-narrative of this season--natural order vs free will--is a logical extension of what happened last season with Dean, Sam, et al stopping the apocalypse. One could boil the backdrop and context of the first half of this season down to it being a reflection on what happens to the natural order of things when you mess with the natural order of things. The apocalypse was ^supposed^ to happen = natural order. Sam and Dean stopped it = NOT natural order ... And look what has happened as a result. Civil war amongst the angels, uppity demons trying to plant their flag in purgatory, dark creatures of all types not behaving like themselves. It seems to me that what we're witnessing is an entire cosmological system that was thrown out of wack by Sam and Dean's intervention trying to right itself ... to achieve a new homeostasis. Right now, I can't tell if that meta-narrative is going anywhere, but I think that is what Death was hinting out when he told Dean to keep on keeping on as an "intrepid detective".

Death's motivations are an interesting quagmire. When we first met Death, he told us that he PREDATED Lucifer's fall. He detested, if I recall correctly, the fact that Lucifer had him on a leash. And yet, I wonder if Death looks around and wishes that things would calm down ... just a little. Does he want to see the apocalypse happen after all? I don't know. He does tell us that souls are very valuable. If the apocalypse HAD happened, Death would have been one very busy puppy. But he wouldn't have gotten to keep all of those souls would he? All in all, it seems to me that Death recalls and possibly speaks for a natural order that precedes Lucifer's fall.

The other part of all this that keeps bugging me is that Chuck/God hasn't reappeared yet. Chuck certainly isn't the watchmaker God of the Enlightenment philosphes, and he isn't a "personal" God either. But this was his "watch", so to speak--and now it is missing some gears in a serious way. I'm sure he's out there watching everything that has transpired. What is his game?
Evelyn
# Evelyn 2010-12-15 11:44
Always love your reviews Alice. So many thinky thoughts involved in this episode and I love your points and look forward to watching it again with all these thoughts roaming around in my brain.

I loved this episode and it ended perfectly. From articles and comments that I had read from Sera and others, I didn't think Sam was going to get his soul back, so I was happily surprised to see Sam get resouled at the very end.

But I think the most powerful scene in this whole episode was the scene near the end when Dean is looking at RoboSam through the panic room door. Dean's look at what is NOT his brother. You can almost see the wheels grinding in his brain and what thoughts might be going through his mind. And then Sam comes to and the things that are said between these two without any words being spoken. Wow! What a scene. I knew right then and there that Dean had decided that he could not let this Sam live. He knew he HAD to kill him and made his decision to do it. And closing the door on Sam and going upstairs for a "breather" was his way of gathering himself for what he knew was an inevitability. I'm just glad we didn't have to witness that. It would have been hard for Dean to kill this Sam, even though he knew it wasn't his Sam, it still would have been hard for him, and would have scarred him for life. But, Dean would have done the deed. I am grateful, though, that we didn't have to see the show get that far.

I loved Death and with all his cryptic clues, I can't wait to see what happens and also hope that we get to see him again. He was, by far, the best horseman out of the four (and they were all excellent).
Galina
# Galina 2010-12-15 23:19
Thank you for the review, Alice!

Since I already said my say about the “natural order” and RoboSam’s plight in my comments to Jasminka’s article, I’ll jump straight to the rest.

As I was watching it struck me for the n-th time this season how isolated and claustrophobic the show has become. Now and again we are reminded that “normal” people do exist, but they are here either as cannon fodder, as learning material or a mirror to our heroes. There are no more characters like Andrea from 1.03, or Missouri Mosley from 1.09, or Leila from 1.12, or the Ghostfacers, or Madison from 2.17, or Agent Hendricksen, or Ron (of mandroid fame), or the three magicians from 4.12 etc. To Bobby’s supreme annoyance, I’m sure, the SPN universe truly revolves around Sam and Dean. :shock:

And it tends to showcase their less than admirable side.

I have come to expect Dean to not value his life at all, unless it is his brother begging him to reconsider. His inability to form a deep lasting relationship with anyone beside Sam takes away from him as a human being and a hero, IMO. The letter to Ben was nice, but actively trying to mend things with Lisa would have been much nicer (and more mature). I still hold some hope it might happen by the end of the season.

I’ve also come to view Dean as one of the worst cases of “Do as I say, not as I do!” If he’s not working with shady characters, he’s making deals. The only reason things with Death didn’t end up as bad as with the cross-road’s demon was that Death has a (maybe) different agenda. Dear old Dean has not learned much, has he? :roll::

What would have really impressed me would have been him honouring Sam’s last wish as soon as he found out RoboSam was just an empty shell. Of course, had he killed the soulless revenant, the show would have ended… on an extremely tragic note. But at some point one has to accept one’s human nature and stop disembowelling the universe every time misfortune strikes.

What I did like about Death’s lesson was that Dean put the lives of strangers over his own personal needs. I am ready to gather gold stars for his character wherever I can find them.

Bobby was his usual awesome self. Here is a man who learns from his mistakes! I want to know what his most recent misadventure with the soulless revenant will conjure. Probably a lion pit somewhere in his boundless basement… :mrgreen:

The looks RoboSam and Dean shared through the panic room’s bars send a chill down my spine. The pretence was broken, the patience was gone, something was going to finally give…
I loved it! And five minutes later the real Sam was entering the story once again. o/

Sammy is back! I would so much love to have a few episodes from his point of view after the hiatus. I want to know what he now thinks, how he feels about RoboSam and Hell, and Dean and Death, and Bobby and and ... :D :D :D
Suze
# Suze 2010-12-16 04:42
Sam's back, Yippee! :D

I reckon it's not so much Dean himself who has trouble forming bonds outside his family, rather that all the weird sh*t that follows him around scuppers things before they really get going ... He was doing okay with Ben and Lisa before his old life came along and bit him in the bum ( I'm talking Campbells and Djinn here, before anyone gets the wrong idea ... )
Ellie_444
# Ellie_444 2010-12-16 10:34
Great Review Alce thank you.
Sams back now lets see the Sam we have got back?.Overall loved the episode .
faye
# faye 2010-12-16 23:08
I loved this episode, and there were a couple of things I particularly liked about how it was put together, especially the compare and contrast of Sam and Dean's deals.

We know that while he thought Sam was in hell, Dean read "hundreds" of books, trying to find a way to get Sam out of the cage. How long did he know how to summon Tessa? To me, this was his Hail Mary play, the last thing he wanted to try. He worked for Crowley instead, for Pete's sake! And yet the trade (the ring for Sam's soul), was a no go from the beginning. Why did Death come? He obviously doesn't need the ring for himself, people have been dying just the same as always. To teach Dean about the "natural order"? How much did Sam and Dean really mess with the natural order? Dean traded his life for Sam's, just two lives involved, not much in Death's grand view of life and death. The Angels, on the other hand... Well, who kept bringing them back? Time and time again: angels and demons!

My son pointed something out that when Dean was actually playing Death, that nobody else seems to have mentioned. That nurse was going to die anyway, not matter what Tessa said (and she wouldn't let him look at the list). If Dean had made the little girl die, the surgery would have been canceled and the nurse still would have died.

I believe Death put Dean in a very controlled situation, fully aware of what Dean was like and how he would react. He was trying to show him the angels are upsetting the natural order, why, I don't know. I guess that is part of the mystery.

Now, Sam's deal, that isn't really a deal either, is strange. Why does Balthazar say he'll help him, and not want anything but for Sam to be under an obligation to him? The whole patricide to scar your vessel line? Sam needs to have his vessel scarred more? He housed Lucifer! He drank gallons of demon blood! He broke the last seal! He was in hell! Could there possibly be a vessel more scarred than Sam's?

I think maybe Balthazar is the new BigBad. I think he planned on laughing at Sam when he came back with his mission accomplished. Did he really know how to keep Sam's soul out of his body? I don't know but I don't think he had any intentions other than to drive soulless Sam to further acts of, well, what ever he could think of. What difference would it make to him? He was probably pretty sure that Dean would never get Sam's soul back anyway.

And, by the way, when I'm saying Sam here, I mean RoboSam, Sam is just shorter to type. And I'm not passing judgment on Sam by mentioning that his vessel is already scarred by the horrible things that happened to him, I'm just pointing out the likelihood that Balthazar is just yanking his chain.

To me Soulless Sam most resembled Anna, before she was re-souled (or graced). The other angels were totally disgusted by her. I think Dean has much the same reaction with Sam. And I'd like to point out that Dean and Sam were there when Anna got back her grace, and it didn't hurt, and she didn't lose her sense of self. We could argue that she didn't do the awful things that Sam did when he had no soul, but to the angels, she did. She disobeyed, the greatest sin. I think what soulless Sam did, the senseless killing of innocent people, is probably comparable. My point with this is, Dean had no way of knowing that returning Sam's soul would be invasive or painful, or frightening, and let's face it, he didn't have much control over how it was done. I still like to think that Dean would have "persuaded" Sam to take back his soul, if it had been left up to him.

Wasn't Sam's soul bright and pretty, like Anna's grace? That's what made me think of the similarities between the two.
AndreaW
# AndreaW 2010-12-17 06:19
Sammy's soul was sure bright and pretty, and 'innocent looking' like Enchanter Tim mentioned. :-) Darling Sammy, welcome back. Oh my, why is it not January yet??

I'm a total Samgirl but I have to defend Dean here. There was nothing else he could have done and he did it out of his liove for Sam. Besides, he wasn't having the time of his life about the experience. Take a look at his pained expression while Sam screamed.I daresay it was as much painful to him as to Sam.
nancyL
# nancyL 2010-12-17 19:22
It was either resoul Sam or kill him, there was no third choice. It was just as John said that it would be.

You are right AndreaW, it was killing Dean, hearing Sam scream in pain, but it had to be done.

RIP Soulless One, with your Charger. :D
Welcome back, Sammy in the Impala. :D