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Open Couch - Unforgiven
Of course it was me!
Of course it was me!
This episode is hard to digest. And I have a feeling there will be more like this coming. Perhaps I should keep a bitter at hand, just in case. We are given another psychogram of Sam, the man without his soul and the one with it.
Sam, shooting the arachne victims unflinchingly, Sam not caring about his bleeding wound (â€˜donâ€™t bleed outâ€™ â€“ â€˜Yeah, thatâ€™s the planâ€™.), Sam not influenced at all by the pain in his arm, beating the deputy to the brink of death. Yes, he is â€˜as cold as they comeâ€™ here. He is. A strange sensation creeps up my spine â€“ this Sam we witness here is related to the Sam we encountered in MysterySpot and in episodes of season four after Dean was gone. In the past Sam forced himself to become hard-hearted, unbreakable, as unfeeling as possible (and he sometimes, like in MysterySpot, pretty much was cold, as he managed to suppress his moral emotions and rules that would keep him from e.g. killing an innocent to acquire their blood).
What he relied on in those days was not his compassion, his morality or his conscience. It was more or less dispassionate, purely rational intellect. The one entity that would guarantee his capability to go on. He would suspend his moral concept to be able to do what he thought was necessary â€“ to get Dean back from Hell, and, after that failed, to at least get a shot at Lilith, and then later to save Dean from breaking in the Apocalypse, as Sam deemed the traumatized Dean to be incapable of succeeding in the task assigned to him. In addition to that, Sam did like the power the demon blood gave him. We remember the conversation in GoodGodYâ€™all where Sam admitted to Dean that he missed the feeling, the power.
In this episode we are reminded of the life tasks of these two men â€“ Dean and his struggle to keep his family safe, Sam and his aspiration to redeem himself, in the eyes of John (for leaving the family), to atone for the potential evil he might become (the psychic period) and his acts in league with Ruby.
For now, though, it appears just like another day at the office. Dean bringing home some sort of lunch, Sam catching up, both discussing the case at hand and Mel Gibsonâ€™s downfall. Until a mysterious text comes in. Just like in the old days when John would send his boys coordinates. I have a feeling I wasnâ€™t the only one getting reminded of dad here. Deanâ€™s freaked out look allows me to assume that old memories came back. Sam, on the other hand, goes down a more rational road â€“ â€˜could be another hunter looking for backup on this case, who knows how many hunters I even met work with the Campbellsâ€™. He rejects Deanâ€™s considerable protests, â€˜we canâ€™t just ignore a bunch of missing girls, right?â€™
This scene reminds me of Playthings, actually. Sam, afraid what his psychic abilities could make him become, felt compelled to save as many people as he could to find some sort of redemption. This time the difference is a matter of personal definition. He knows he committed terrible deeds, and he needs to find ways to atone for that. He canâ€™t undo what he did, but he can try to change the fate of others in need. He has to try, itâ€™s the very essence of who he is.
â€˜Welcome to Bristol, Rhode Island â€“ Where Memories Are Made!â€™ Sam freaks out as he sees this sign (wonderful pun, writers, really â€“ memories surface where memories were made! Thanks for this moment of laughter in a dark episode). Something is coming back. He canâ€™t yet identify whatâ€™s happening. Itâ€™s enough, though, to put him in deep distress. He manages to put it aside to focus on the job, but The Buccaneer is not the safest place for that. In a town where he made some considerable history that restaurant is nothing short of a goldfish bowl.
While Dean takes a stroll to the Poop Deck (okayâ€¦ this is wonderfully camp, I love it!) and discovers the eminent â€˜Eat a whole 72 oz. surf â€˜n turf, get it freeâ€™ challenge winnersâ€™ wall â€“ and probably feels challenged (come on, if someone could eat that, it would be Dean, eh?), before finding a revealing polaroid, Samâ€™s past meets up with him.
He doesnâ€™t know the woman who walks up to him, her husband in tow, but she, yes, she remembers him. She has every reason to do so. They did it in a bathroom, perhaps even in this one, who knows, and it clearly was a satisfying experience for the lady. The memories hit home as she touches Samâ€™s shoulder. She obviously would like to relive those moments.
Deanâ€™s notices her â€˜cougar-eyingâ€™ him while Sam tries to combine the pieces of this infernal riddle. What they donâ€™t know, yet, is that this woman will go missing, too, and very soon.
Sadly, Iâ€™m really annoyed that this idea of a â€˜cougarâ€™ even surfaced in our society. Itâ€™s just about as derogatory as the MILF expression. When men have a younger girlfriend itâ€™s considered almost normal, but when women find love with a younger man (or even just sex) it becomes a target for ridicule. Isnâ€™t it important that someone is able to find and feel love at all, and does it matter whether the other is younger or older, of the same sex or colour? Get a grip, Jas. Sorry, kind readers, diva moment over.
There are some interesting parallels to be found. Back when Sam and Samuel were working the case, men disappeared. Now women disappear. We will learn later that the arachne back then was female while this one is male, obviously these creatures have a preference of the opposite sex. A very spidery trait â€“ eat your partner after mating. Usually this applies to female spiders, but, well, itâ€™s Supernatural: take facts and give them a twist. Deanâ€™s right, itâ€™s a completely different m.o. (and he just wants to get Sam out of there), but Sam sees an unfinished job. A job HE has to finish.
â€˜This creature is walking around because of me. I let it go. Dad also said â€œYou finish what you startâ€.â€™ There is it again â€“ the spirit of John hanging over their heads. As mature and grown up as they are, John is always there. In their souls, in their minds, a part of their psychological moral compass.
Moral values are never neutral in regard to emotion. There is no such thing as a human being without emotions because reason and emotion are partners, they are at work when the mind is, sometimes in line, sometimes at odds. Emotions are the binding agent that unites our various thoughts. If we had no emotions we would be incapable of acting, actually, and wouldnâ€™t know what to think. Even psychopaths, and Sam was compared to those occasionally, have emotions.
Neurobiologists differentiate between sensation and sentiment. Sensations are, according to brain researchers, a complex play of chemical and neuronal reactions, similar in human and animal, more stereotype patterns. Sentiments or feelings, if you like, however, are a completely different matter. They are always accompanied by a part of our consciousness. They are personal. Sensations are controlled by neurotransmitters: acetylcholine (something like a trainer, transporting neuronal arousal between neurons and muscles), dopamine (a motivator, an important role in circulation), serotonin (a diplomat and intermediary, regulating blood flow, our circadian rhythm and stress) and noradrenaline (a race car driver, accelerating our reactions).
What we call emotions, however, emerges from a complex interaction of brain regions and chemical reactions and their meanings for the individual. And that meaning is determined by what a person is made of in terms of their consciousness, and, in addition, their unconscious.
The problem with unconscious issues is: you canâ€™t articulate them, as they are, well, unconscious. And there are therapeutic methods, like psychoanalysis, that are capable of finding words for them. Our perceptions are filled with unconscious impressions and feelings, as we are only aware of fractional parts of our environment, the rest goes straight to the unconscious. What we are made aware of, however, happens in accordance to our personal goals or needs.
In the light of this, Soulless Sam paid attention only to those elements that would bring him closer to getting what he wanted, be the perfect hunter or finding the alpha monsters. Now that Samâ€™s soul has been returned to his body, connecting his reason to his emotional part, how long will that wall Death put up hold?
If we look at it from a psychological point of view, and not only a philosophical, this wall represents the border between the conscious self and the unconscious. Such a wall often is built within a humanâ€™s psyche â€“ when something so terrible happened that the conscious self could not deal with it. We often find that with trauma survivors.
But that wall rarely holds for a lifetime. Behind that wall, pain, disappointment, rage, confusion, etc. are banging against its doors. That kind of wall would need to be of indestructible material to hold. A humanâ€™s essence is not indestructible. It can be broken, and so can a wall built within it.
Just recently I had a young male patient who had experienced â€“ most likely â€“ horrific things as a child. But he could not remember details. He knew, though, that something terrible had happened. But that vague idea alone produced so much stress that he was shaking so hard, he almost fell of his chair. Somehow he felt the horrors behind that wall were about to break through.
Sigmund Freud postulated that man is not his own master, but dominated by his unconscious and that we can become our own worst enemies â€“ how unconscious, symbolic reactions stimulated by experience cause pathological symptoms.
To explain his theory, Freud developed the concept of a three-part psyche: three entities determine a humanâ€™s inner life: the Es (id), the Ich (Ego) and the Ãœber-Ich (Super-Ego).
Id corresponds with the unconscious, the instinctive element, hunger, libido, envy, hatred, trust, love, etc. The basic drives. The mind of a baby is regarded as entirely ridden by id. And we found it in Soulless Samâ€™s behaviour, too. In many ways, bereft of his other psychological entities, he was like a new born child and all he knew was to follow the commands of his id.
Its opponent is the Super-Ego which embodies all the ideals, rules, roles, conceptions of the world, principles, moral concepts, laws, etc. that are established by education, breeding and nurture.
In between we find the Ego, which is more or less a poor lad, really, triturated by overwhelming adversaries. It is basically trying to satisfy three masters: the id, the Super-Ego and the social surroundings in which that person lives.
The Ego is the entity more or less correspondent to the conscious thought of everyday life, common sense, self-consciousness, it mediates between the demands of the Id, the Super-Ego and the social community to dissolve and harmonize psychological and social conflicts. With this train of thought (to simplify a very long and complicated thread), Freud claimed that the primary motivation of human behaviour emanates from an unconscious conflict between the basic drives and the human conscious mind.
The unconscious existed long before our conscious did, and it collects all our automatic, peripherally noticed, traits, abilities etc. and is therefore a strong power we can hardly (if at all) control. It also stores memories, in particular those weâ€™d like to forget, the painful ones. We canâ€™t really control our memory into forgetting something deliberately.
At this point Sam knows, theoretically, that having spent time in hell means to have suffered horrifically. But he doesnâ€™t (at first) remember. He will fight to remember. We know Sam. The man with the intensely inquisitive mind.
â€˜Youâ€™re afraid Iâ€™ll stroll down memory lane and Iâ€™ll kick this wall in my head so hard, hell comes flooding through and all of a sudden Iâ€™m some drooling mess on the floor.â€™
â€˜Itâ€™s not a joke.â€™
â€˜Okay, I know. But listen. Whatâ€™s happening here right now is because I messed up, somehow, in some big way, so every person who gets taken, every person who dies, thatâ€™s on me. I have to stop it, And youâ€™d do the same thing.â€™
Dean actually did the same thing. This conversation very much resembles the moments when Dean decided to say yes to Michael. He was driven by a similar pressure â€“ if the Apocalypse happened and the planet got destroyed, it would have been on him, because he could have done something about it. He believed it back then as much as Sam believes it now.
If you like, those are the moral issues their Super-Egos consist of, implemented by their dad and ripened by their own personal moral compasses and experiences, a deep sense of justice, honour and personal responsibility.
To follow their plan, they split up. Dean finds out about Samâ€™s â€˜loud and athleticâ€™ relationships with the missing girls (which is more evidence for Soulless Sam being driven by the Id during that year and a half), while Sam investigates â€“ or tries to â€“ the role of the cops. Well, the guy he beat to a pulp survived and is still in service â€“ and recognizes him in a flash. Heâ€™s not amused. Yes, Sam, â€˜itâ€™s a misunderstandingâ€™ and â€˜I donâ€™t rememberâ€™â€¦ well, thatâ€™s what they all say. The cop doesnâ€™t believe him, and why should he.
But the sheriffâ€™s wife who works there cares, she needs to find her missing husband Roy. And she knows about what Sam really does. Another flashback hits Sam and he remembers how Samuel and he spoke with Brenna and Roy Dobbs about their secret job. Unfortunately Soulless Sam was not one to linger on manners or tact of any kind. Governed by Id, remember? Such issues as manners belong in the Super-Ego and Ego department.
The difference is evident in Samâ€™s consternation. He sees himself in that flashback, but knows that it wasnâ€™t entirely him. The compassion he feels now was gone. And Brenna responds to it finally. People respond to authenticity and honesty, they do. Even a grieving wife who at first wanted to lay all the blame she had on Samâ€™s shoulders is willing to listen. Itâ€™s not only the puppy dog eyes (and we get a lot of those in this scene), itâ€™s his trustworthiness that is palpable to her. Thatâ€™s enough for her to do something illegal â€“ letting Sam out and making it look like a breakout.