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"We're not Catholic."
"Defending Your Life," may have featured an Egyptian God, but the guilt contained within is clearly of the Catholic variety.
Dean is put on trial here, by Osiris, who will then weigh his guilt. Dean carries an awful lot of it around indeed, but most of it is misplaced and excessive---the definition of Catholic Guilt. Only one event truly condemns him: the killing of Amy Pond in the episode prior. It is the single thing that is eating away at him the most as the episode begins---especially after Sam thanks him for trusting him to let her go. It's not so much killing her that is making him feel guilty. It is the hiding it from Sam, the breach of trust that is making him feel guilty. 

But before he ends up in chains before his judge, jury, and executioner, the Winchesters seem to have found an ordinary and black and white case. This episode, still early in the season, is yet more set up for what will come down the road. Most of Sam's cards are on the table---his hallucinations of Lucifer, his memories of Hell, and such. Dean's cards are slowly being laid on the table and turned over one by one. 
It is obvious that they have no intentions to leave the case with Amy Pond twisting in the wind or forgotten---which is good. To make the event so significant only to drop it would have been a mistake. As it kept hitting Dean through the episode, it seems this might be something we see resolved by the mid-season finale perhaps. 

This episode also evokes episodes such as season 4's episode "Are You There God, It's Me, Dean Winchester," with the raising of the witnesses and season 2's "Crossroad Blues" as they try to protect a man from the approaching Hell hounds.  We also see parallels to "No Rest for the Wicked" and "Yellow Fever," with Dean facing a ticking time clock---although this one is far less defined. It's a nice touch bringing in darker and deeper currents into what originally appeared to be a routine salt and burn. It's also nice to see twists on older moments weaved through the current story.  It still has that early season feel, refreshing and not overly complicated while giving us information for what is yet to come within the season later.
Each person that is killed by a ghost turns out to have killed someone. A man is run over on the tenth floor by a car---because he had backed over a ten year old little girl ten years earlier. A man that ran a dog fighting ring is killed by a spectral dog. They try to protect the last man from the ghosts of the two people he murdered in 1981. By law, he has served his time in prison and has paid his dues to society, but it turns out that he still harbors an intense guilt. It is his undoing---at Osiris's hands.

This is a classic example of the so called Catholic Guilt. Each person involved in this case has extreme and excessive guilt. The man who ran over the little girl, possibly while drunk, has made it a point to not forget that and went out of his way to turn his life around with the help of AA. He can't take back or forget what he did, but he shouldn't allow guilt about it to fester. The man that ran the dog fighting ring turned his life around as well, giving far more back and becoming a huge volunteer at the shelter. He may have started it at court order, but he most certainly seems to have learned and grown from the experience---and yet he too holds onto guilt for the crime he committed. And then there's Warren, who parallels Dean's own guilt most. He killed, in his youth, two store owners in an impulsive moment. He has never let that go, despite spending thirty years in prison. He lets it eat at him every single day. 
The lesson guilt here is clear: guilt eats and festers, tearing a person apart. It is much better to learn from a mistake or wrong doing than it is to turn it over and over, further condemning one's self---especially after making amends or attempts to atone for past sins. It is a lesson Dean MUST learn. 
As they investigate the case, it can't go unnoticed that Dean is struggling even more. His drinking is getting Sam's attention, even if he's uncertain of how to stop it. He appears to be going through the motions. They come back from the original salt and burn on the case, and Dean is exhausted. He asks Sam to take the first shower---but Sam is busy researching the next victim of the case while reading the paper. It is obvious that not only is Dean struggling with extreme guilt, he is also dealing with being in the life and questioning if it is what he wants to do or should do any longer. He feels hopeless and trapped, knowing that his attempts in the past to leave hunting behind has only brought him death and heartache---a lesson he most certainly learned the hard way with Lisa and Ben especially. 

He is also grieving, albeit inwardly, for his angel friend Castiel, who has gone unmentioned deliberately by both brothers. 

Once Sam realizes they aren't done with the case, he tells Dean to "suit up." Dean is stunned and manages to get Sam to ask if he's alright. In true Dean fashion, he stifles his distaste and exhaustion and does as his brother requests. Despite telling Amy Pond in the previous episode that people cannot change, Dean has obviously done so and is having a difficult time picking up old patterns and behaviors. He's trying to put forward the typical Dean Winchester facade, but it is crumbling quickly around him. He feels that he must do the expected, and therefore he makes the quips and does the investigation, but it's not the same as it once was to him. He goes skulking for chicks, but his heart isn't in that, either. Not if he has to do a pep talk. It is expected of him to sleep around and drink. And so, Dean does it in an attempt to keep his brother from asking him questions about how he's doing. 
Sam, on the other hand, seems eager. Too eager. Too at peace with the life. Sam is in the eye of a hurricane, waiting for it to crash ashore and wreak havoc. We know the storm is still swirling each time Lucifer manages a whisper and Sam shoves his thumb ruthlessly into his healing palm. He may have accepted his lot in life, but he is far from being adjusted. The proverbial shoe Dean mentioned will drop. It's only a matter of time before the hurricane revs up and starts to tear Sam apart. 

At the bar, Dean encounters the pretty bartender. As he starts to drink, he lets it slip that he feels guilty for killing Amy behind his brother's back---in generic terms of course. She tells him, "Now you feel bad? Well, Dean, if you had to, why feel guilty? That doesn't make any sense." 
While this might not entirely apply to what Dean did to Amy, this is a lesson he must learn. It also ties into the guilt that he harbors and is revealed in his trial later on. Unfortunately, his confession isn't simply told to the bartender. Osiris, trolling for his next victim, has also heard and plans to make Dean his next mark. 
Meanwhile, Sam investigates the apple orchard, tracking the dirt left behind at each crime scene. The fact that this is an apple orchard harkens all the way back to the season 1 episode "Scarecrow." Bobby calls him on the phone to tell him what the case is about, letting him know that it is Osiris and that he targets the guilty. He says to Sam, who is well aware of Dean's struggles despite his elder brother's attempts to hide it, "This guy hones in on people who feel guilty. Who does that sound like to you?"

It makes Sam call Dean repeatedly, trying to make certain that his brother is safe. Dean doesn't answer his phone. The bartender does. After he meets up with her and hears what happened, he rushes to the barn to save Dean. 
This is where the true guilt of this episode sets in. Osiris is aware that Sam is present and calls him out into the courtroom where he has put Dean in chains. He is not pleased and demands that Sam leave---until Sam steps forward to be Dean's lawyer. This is the glimpse of what Sam could have been if he hadn't been pulled back into the life---feeding Dean's Catholic Guilt Monster. He is quick on his feet and argues effectively. 

The first witness is a hard one to swallow: Jo Harvelle. She died in the hardware store, giving them time to hunt down Lucifer only to fail in making a kill shot with the ineffective Colt. It is something that wore heavily on both brothers---but Dean in particular. It is a sore spot, too. It's not hard to imagine that he feels guilty for her death, and Osiris is ready to feed upon that.
Dean's guilt is highly excessive here and has been long nursed. He saw her as a little sister, even if she had when alive wished to be more to him. Because he saw her as a younger sibling, her death proved to him that he was once again a failure at being a big brother---the true kernel of guilt here. Dean didn't light the fuse. He didn't rip her guts out. What happened in the hardware store was not truly his fault and to hang onto such guilt not only gives Osiris what he needs to condemn him, it also eats at Dean's psyche needlessly.

Sam stands up to question her, asking, "So why'd you start? To impress some loudmouth ass you just met... Or 'cause you wanted to be like your dad?" 
Jo answers immediately, "Daddy issues. Definitely."

This is not the answer Osiris wants to hear.  He was expecting Jo to blame Dean, to condemn him for her death. Instead, she brushes that charge aside. Hunting is dangerous, and any case could end a hunter's life. Any one, even one that seemed as green as Jo did, knows this about "the life." He makes her disappear and calls his next witness: Sam himself. 
It may seem odd that the Egyptian God would call a living person to the stand, considering he uses the dead to do his bidding, but here it makes sense when one goes beneath the surface. This trial may have ended with Dean's conviction, but that was not its point or goal. Osiris was teaching Dean a lesson about himself and his life. The trial was meant to expose to Dean---and in part to Sam---Dean's excessive guilt. He meant to teach Dean the lesson that there are things that just happen and are out of one's control---another hot button issue for Dean. Being in control is crucial for him, and it is something he doesn't feel he has or has had for some time. His guilt for things such as Jo's death is highly misplaced and Osiris is trying to point that out to Dean. It's the only reason to bring Sam to the stand. As he can read the guilt in a man's heart, he also knows what causes that guilt in the first place. 

Osiris alleges to Sam, "But were you or were you not happily out of the family racket until Dean showed back up in that gas guzzler? Ah-ah. The truth, now."


# Alice 2011-10-17 01:35
To be perfectly honest, this one reminded me a lot of season three's "Sin City." Just the formula and how a long drawn out scene exposed some of Dean's inner issues. Plus they had the same director in Robert Singer.

Also, I actually got a little emotional when Dean told Sam before he was leaving, "Do you want me to kill her again?" Sam had to stop and hold back his frustration, the remind Dean he didn't kill her the first time.

There were some really great moments in here, but the overall episode didn't flow well for me. I do wonder how this sets things up for the future.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 06:15
Now that you mention it, it does have a Sin City feel. Dean is more or less trapped for a good portion of the episode, unable to run from the issues being thrust into his face.

I felt bad for him most of this episode. It hurt to see him try and shoulder blame for things he didn't do---such as killing Jo. What killed me most was when he said that he had never had a chance to be a kid. We've known that about Dean for a long time now, but it's one of the first times we've seen him actually say it.

As this is a set up episode and such, I always find it hard to judge those until I see how things play out further down the line. It could have had some tighter writing over all, but a lot was thrown in that will hopefully come with big pay off down the road.
# Susie 2011-10-17 02:28
Great recap! I loved getting back to more of a "Saving people, hunting things" vibe this episode. Got to see some old friends - salt circles, the EMF meter, burning bones, Jo. Loved the scenes with Jo and Dean, very funny, sad, moving, the gamut of emotions. Enjoyed Counselor Winchester too. Another great episode!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 06:17
I liked how this episode had a lot of the old nostalgic feel but kept pushing the story along in terms of bringing Dean's guilt up. I just hope they can get Dean to let go of things like this guilt and get him back to enjoying his job of "saving people, hunting things."
# Nancy 2011-10-17 03:08
I enjoyed your recap. I've read all the reviews I can find to help get a good take on this episode. In my opinion, Dean doesn't feel guilty about killing Amy. He feels bad & he feels guilty about keeping it from Sam, but he knows he did what had to be done. Just because she was killing only "bad people" doesn't give her a pass.
Thanks for taking the time to share your views with us.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 06:33
Oh, I think Dean kinda does feel a little guilty for killing Amy. Most of it is about hiding it from Sam, but I think he also feels bad that her son is now like him, forced to grow up so fast and now without any parents. I don't think he could have left Amy alive, but he does feel some guilt for having to do it, which is excessive and more of that Catholic Guilt eating him up.
# Ginger 2011-10-17 08:13
Excellent analysis. You bring out something I have really enjoyed about this season, and it is the intelligence of the scripts.

I got from last week's episodes that, in Dean's mind, he was a monster and Amy was a metaphor for him, but you define his Hell experience much clearer than I've seen it described before. I still think Dean was 100% right in killing Amy. I also hadn't caught the significance of Sam's ending talk to Dean as well as you did. Great insight there.

More importantly, I had been hoping that Dean would be taken 'off the rails' this season -- more playing up how...not crazy -- but more out of the mainstream than any other character on the show has ever been. From your write-up, I am appreciating the more 'personal story' that is being told. I guess if they had taken the Mean Dean route, it would have been what they did in S2. Personally, I like Mean Dean, but I can live with this Depressed Dean if, in the end, Dean gains value for himself and what he is does. I don't think we will ever see the fun side of Dean again, and I mourn that, because that is something that made his character so endearing. TPTB better conclude this Depressed Dean story, though, or I'm going to be ranting.

Anyway, I liked this episode and your write-up made me appreciate it more. I now hope that Jo is dead and gone forever, even though Alona did an excellent job. My favorite scene was the bar scene between Dean and Mia, and I contrast how mature she was (and Jamie in Monster Movie) as compared to Jo, and that is why I have always found Jo lacking as any perceived or implied relationship with Dean. I am glad that they stayed with the Jo crush, instead of love interest, here.

I'll say again that I thought the acting in this episode was top notch. I don't know if Sam will have further Hell issues or not. I hope not, as I don't think that story has a lot of mileage, and I am rather liking this grown-up Sam. Guess we'll see when (and if) that hand ever heals.

Your take on this episode was really well-thought out. Thanks for sharing.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 16:08
Thanks for the comment.

I liked this episode for bringing these issues up about Dean. I think Dean is spiraling down fast and furious and its a matter of when he truly hits rock bottom. I'd like to see Sam have to help him somehow with that in some way when that point is reached---if not before.

I think Dean's story is very personal. Sam may have been hand picked by destiny to be Lucifer's vessel and all that, but Dean has never had a choice in his life, either. He was raised by John to want what John wants, do what John says, like what John likes. I like that he's recognizing the fact that he never had a chance to be a child himself. I'm hoping we see him work through finding his own identity.

I don't think we've seen the last of Dean having fun. He will never be that carefree man we first met in season 1 and hasn't been that man for years. I'd like to see him be able to get a spark in his life to remind him, though, of why it is he does what he does. He's so focused on the bad and not on any of the good that it brings.

As for Jo, I've always liked her. I liked that they largely kept the love interest thing one sided. She was a little sister figure to Dean despite what she wanted, but I think it gave a bit of depth to Dean that he wouldn't have had otherwise. She idolized Dean a lot and it was, I think, much the way Sam might have done in his youth before he started fighting with John a lot.

I don't think Sam's story about his time in the Cage is over or run out of mileage. I'm not sure how else they intend to show what happened down there and how it changed him, but it is a big reason why he's behaving so much more grown up than he ever has before. It'll be fascinating to see how he struggles down the road, too. He has a lot of issues to work through and by working through them he can help Dean work through his own, which is great to see as a potential story line for the season.
# Sylvie 2011-10-17 08:52
Kudos on another great recap. I've watched the episode twice and will watch it another time to get all the nuances. I was brought up Catholic and I watched my father wither under the guilt that he had his whole life. I'm convinced that everything he did, alcoholism, not being there for his family and eventually suicide, all stemmed from Catholic guilt. I felt for Dean, I've said this before, but the guy carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. I liked the fact that Sam stepped up to be his lawyer, I think he would have been a pretty decent one. And yes, I agree that Osiris seemed to be there to teach Dean a lesson more than anything, even though he did condemn him to death in the end anyway. The fact that it was Jo just made it that much harder on Dean. And does anyone believe that Sam is really doing as well as he says? Granted, his stay in Hell was more punishment than Dean's, but I think he still has some very "hellish" moments coming his way.

All in all I did enjoy this episode, but I don't think it will become a favourite. I went back and watched "Everybody Loves a Clown", and man Dean is not dealing well in that one either. This beautiful man needs a much deserved break.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 16:11
I'm sorry you had to see your father go through that. It's not fun.

I happened to pick up on it the second go round, actually. Osiris didn't seem intent on killing Dean as much as trying to get him to see how his guilt was crushing him. He said that it wasn't his decision if Dean should be found guilty or not, either. That was the major tip off for me, but it made me think about why that is and this is what came out. Dean carries guilt needlessly and he most certainly has to take a long hard look at that guilt and why he carries it around the way he does. I'm hoping that we see that evolution as we go through the season.
# purplehairedwonder 2011-10-17 11:07
Dean is seeing, first hand, what someone looks like after they've been tortured. It makes him think of and remember what he was downstairs, carving into other's souls and what it made him become. Sam is a walking and talking reminder, hallucinating Lucifer and seizing from the effects. It tears at Dean's psyche, thrusting such terrible and dark issues into his face repeatedly.

My thoughts exactly. This is what I've been thinking about most in terms of Dean's guilt. Sam's Hell issues are just a gamut of guilt issues for Dean. He's always seen his life's most important mission as protecting his brother, yet he gave Sam the OK to jump into the Pit to stop Lucifer. Obviously that's been eating at him for a long time. Now he has guilt because he can't help Sam with his memories. And Sam's a representation of the horrors Dean inflicted on others in Hell--his little brother who he loves more than anything.

And that is the exact reason these boys need to have some kind of talk about Hell. Sam has to be the one to pull Dean out of his spiral of guilt--he's at the center of so much of it, after all. I'm going to be very interested to see what Sam does going forward, now that he's aware of just how deep Dean's guilt wounds are.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 16:14
I really hope we get to see that Hell Talk between them at some point. They can't just shove it aside in the Winchester way and pretend that it's alright and lollipops.

I realized that Sam's struggling with his Hell memories had to be a reminder for Dean about what he did while in Hell himself. Sam seems to have been only a victim while in the Cage at this stage, but I'll wager that they had him inflict pain on someone in some manner be it a conjured Dean to abuse or Jess or someone else. I think it'd be interesting to see if that happened or if he was simply the victim. Dean still hates himself so much for that and it's really wearing on him here.

I also hope that now Sam knows the guilt hanging over Dean that he can get through to him and get him to see past it. Hell, Sam wouldn't even be whole right now if it hadn't been FOR Dean and that says something about all the bad.
# purplehairedwonder 2011-10-17 22:31
I've been thinking on it and I feel like we would have already gotten some kind of indication from Sam's hallucinations had he been forced to turn the tables in any capacity. Lucifer would have loooved to lord that over him. But I haven't noticed anything of the sort.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 16:21
I think you're right. Lucifer loves to go for the throat immediately and toy with his prey. I just wonder if perhaps as we go deeper into Sam's story we'll see more than just taunts or vague firey visions.
# LordAniline 2011-10-17 22:49
While it makes sense that Sam is a living reminder of Dean's tenure as a torturer and the souls he carved up,I just didn't see it as what is tearing Dean up while watching the episode. How did you pick up on it? Is it because I'm a guy that I need these things spelled out onscreen?
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 16:25
I've picked up on it throughout the first four episodes, really. Every time Sam would get caught up in a hallucination, Dean would get really upset. It's fair to say that's because it's Sam, but I also think he's seeing what he did downstairs right before his eyes and finding it hard to reconcile that. They haven't necessarily explored that fully on screen, but it's a subtlety I picked up on right away.

The biggest tip off that I had about this is their conversation about pain being different in Hell than it is on Earth. Sure, it was his method to get Sam to see he wasn't in Hell any longer, but it had to have made him think about his own trip downstairs and the pain he both endured and inflicted.
# MiggyMom53 2011-10-17 12:19
I really enjoyed your view on this episode, and I enjoyed the episode in general. My only thought was that, seeing how it began-with Sam's "thank you" it would have really been driven home if Sam had answered in the end that it was mainly because of Dean's trust that Sam is finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the season is young and I will anxiously wait to see where it all leads. It's certainly been great so far.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 16:16
I think you're right, but I have a funny feeling they're waiting for Sam to say something to that effect later when the guilt finally makes Dean spill his guts and they hash things out perhaps. This season is very young and I'm pleased with what we've seen so far. It's very hard to judge a season, at least for me, at this stage without seeing where it ended up to know if it did the set up work right.
# Jasminka 2011-10-17 13:30
I have to admit, I’m so glad to find a review here that is focusing on the positive aspects of this (to my mind) marvellously acted and multi-layered episode. Thanks for that, Far Away Eyes.

A little thing though – I think you'd like to be a tad more careful with the term Catholic Guilt. Being a Catholic myself (and a very critical one when it comes to the dealings of the Catholic church), I came into contact with the design of guilt (of course), respectively sin and atonement…I fear you could get a lot of flak from highly evangelical or strict Catholics (should they ever find their way here :-* ).

Even though one might find Dean's guilt quite Old Testamentarian, I think he takes it to a more extreme level than even the Catholic Church does...Because, according to the catechism, a Catholic can find redemption and atone for his sins - while Dean probably believes none of that is in store for him.

But he needs help with his guilt issues, oh dear (a seat on my couch is on constant stand-by for him)! I stated that often before, so forgive me please for not being redundant in repeating it, and it seems it has only become worse.
Though his guilt reaches the heights of an extreme level, I believe its seed was the idea Papa Winchester planted in young Dean’s soul – Dean’s conviction of how he needs to be in order for John to love him, in order to be ‘alright’. To be the man worthy of daddy’s love (and, in the wake of that, of his brother’s love) and, to take it to another extreme, to gain a right to exist.

We know that feelings of guilt are born from the (conscious or unconscious) notion that we did something wrong, often accompanied by humiliation and disgrace and fear, and those emotions often blur into one another.
I believe Dean probably can’t truly differentiate anymore which of those emotions is the one causing the most pain. It’s become a conglomerate within his soul, producing the described guilt-driven reactions on an almost every-minute-ba sis. Which probably also means that he can’t trust his own reasons as to why he does certain things. It may well be that Dean, in the silence of a nightly motel room, doesn’t sleep but assesses his deeds instead: Approving of them (or seeking approval from his inner harsh judge), regretting them, seeking alternatives… To me Dean looks like a man captured on an internal, existential battlefield.

Personally, I’d like to see more of how he deals with it in future episodes. There isn’t much light left in his soul, is there? He is spent. Among other scenes, it became heart-breakingl y evident when he feared Bobby might be dead (after finding his barbecued house) or the moment he fished Castiel’s coat out of the lake. And now, here, in his face in almost every scene. Oh, Jensen, I salute you – again I have nothing but praise for this splendid, gifted and unbelievably handsome actor.

Essentially, Dean is alone. He is incapable at present to let anyone in, it seems, to establish a real connection to those closest to him. Like a man on a deserted island who sees the coast somewhere out there, but has no idea how to build a boat to reach salvation. Instead he finds reminders all around him, reminders of everything he did wrong.

Or, rather, what he perceives to have been wrong. It’s primarily his interpretation that needs to change. The largest part of Dean’s guilt complex is self-made. It’s what he believes to be guilty of. And I can only hope that Sam and Bobby (and perhaps Castiel – though we don’t know how he will be back) can help him see himself in another way. Because if he doesn’t find help… I fear we could eventually witness a highly suicidal Dean.

So sorry for my long-winded rambling! Cheers, Jas
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 16:25
I'm glad I could give you a positive review here.

As for the Catholic thing, I'm Catholic myself. I know that it could really offend some that are very staunch about their faith, but I also know it's tended to be a generic description more or less, too. I just noticed that Dean made that "Lent" comment and Sam snapped back, "We're not Catholic" and it clicked for me that Dean's guilt was excessive in what people would term "Catholic Guilt."

I think you found the root cause of Dean's issues---someth ing I think they couldn't truly delve into as easily as they couldn't get JDM for whatever reason to reprise John. John's orders to Dean were always ALWAYS about Sam. Sam was number one son, the most important figure in both John and Dean's lives. Dean was always left to be a second class citizen more or less in his own family and I think his behavior concerning his guilt is reflection of that. He's drinking himself to death to punish himself. He is not far from practically beating himself silly if you ask me. He feels he deserves it because he failed Sam in so many ways---in his own mind. And I think he can hear John berating him in his mind for just that thing.

I think now that his guilt has largely been exposed, I'm hoping we'll see them move forward to him getting past it and how. Sam is key, I think. He is the center for a lot of Dean's guilt, which is not his fault by any means, but he can and should help him through it. If they would only talk about Hell!

I also think Castiel weighs heavily on Dean, as John's death did. Instead of dying for him in a deal the way their father did, Dean feels like he failed Cas by not stopping him and his "death" is dragging on him as yet another failure to go up with letting Sam jump in the pit or Lisa and Ben be used a chess pieces.

Dean will end up doing something extreme, and I think Sam has to be there to stop him. He's already suicidal if you ask me. It's just a matter of when he tries to pull the trigger and who's there to stop him.
# Jasminka 2011-10-17 16:36
I would certainly understand Dean, if he did look for a trigger to pull... :sad:
# percysowner 2011-10-17 23:40

I think you found the root cause of Dean's issues---something I think they couldn't truly delve into as easily as they couldn't get JDM for whatever reason to reprise John. John's orders to Dean were always ALWAYS about Sam. Sam was number one son, the most important figure in both John and Dean's lives. Dean was always left to be a second class citizen more or less in his own family and I think his behavior concerning his guilt is reflection of that. He's drinking himself to death to punish himself. He is not far from practically beating himself silly if you ask me. He feels he deserves it because he failed Sam in so many ways---in his own mind. And I think he can hear John berating him in his mind for just that thing.
I have to disagree that Sam was the number one son or that John was concerned about Sam as a person. Some parents are able to make each of their children feel they are the best loved. John had the ability to make both of his children feel like they were failures and disappointments . John may have told Dean to take care of Sam, but he didn't put any personal effort into taking care of Sam himself. One does not abandon the number one son by telling him never to come back if he wants a different life. A parent also does not order the murder of his favorite child.

Dean totally believes John loved Sam more, but I never saw that. John and Dean were more closely bonded. John rejected Sam's dreams and who Sam was for much of his life. He believed Sam would become an evil that had to be put down.

I know that Sam was one of the most important figures in Dean's life and Dean was one of the most important figures in Sam's life. I honestly believe that the only important figure in John's life after Mary died was the YED. Both of his children were less important than his revenge. Dean's sense of responsibility led to his devotion to Sam and it was encouraged by John and used by John, but I believe that this was because it was convenient for John that Dean be responsible, not because he had any real focus on Sam.
# LordAniline 2011-10-18 00:35
Dean's sense of responsibility led to his devotion to Sam and it was encouraged by John and used by John, but I believe that this was because it was convenient for John that Dean be responsible, not because he had any real focus on Sam.
I have to agree with Percyowner. Sorry, FAE, for once I disagree with you. I could never get past John telling Sam to never return home when he dared to pursue his own life. What father leaves his son to the wilderness without means of support? Sam was on his own and had to clothes, feed, and shelter himself.

I have to believe that John loved his sons deeply, he just have a god awful way of showing it.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 16:20
John loved them, I think, he just let the chase of the YED consume him so much. It scarred both brothers. And yeah, I don't think Sam was necessarily the "favored son." I mean to include that Dean believes that or something and I didn't. Sorry about that!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 16:18
I should have been a bit more clear here and I'm sorry for that. I absolutely agree with you. I guess Dean's thinking has gotten in my head, too! I should have said that in Dean's mind Sam was considered John's favorite, not that it meant Sam truly was. As you pointed out, yeah, no father would ask their other son to execute their "favorite" or stomp all over their dreams like college and their own lives.

I agree with you that YED was John's top priority. It's reflected in the way that he ditches the brothers through season 1 especially in order to chase him down---even in Faith when they're pleading for him to come to them and help. I think he loved his sons at some level, but he was so obsessed and driven to kill Mary's killer that he just didn't see his sons for who they could become, but as weapons to train and unleash later on.
# Ginger 2011-10-17 14:31
Jas: Although Far Away Eyes can speak much better for herself than I can, I just wanted to comment on your warning about Catholic Guilt.

I too am a Catholic and I only took this reference to mean that Dean acted outside of what he has always believed is right or what he personally believes to be right. Dean hasn't gotten to the atonement part yet (let's hope that is where he is headed this season). The three deaths, I believe, showed that even though the victims had atoned for their errant ways, they had not given up the guilt. It could be said that Dean's atonement has been all the people he saved, but he doesn't see that.

In that respect, Dean believes he is a failure because his Dad died for him by giving up his life-long search, Sam died despite his efforts, he couldn't save Jo, he endangers the two unmentionables, and on and on. Mostly, he is horrified that he turned into a torturer and liked it. As you said, his guilt is self-made, as is his belief that he is everyone's protector (because that is the role John gave up to him). So, in this respect, I rather liked the Catholic Guilt analogy.

I might add that growing up, I saw a lot of Catholic Guilt in friends and family members. One has to accept that guilt, and I never did, but lots of Catholics do, despite the atonement of confession and penitence and the promise of love and grace.

No arguing...just expanding a bit.
# Jasminka 2011-10-17 15:35
Hi Ginger, I guess I was not entirely clear, sorry about that... I didn't object to the Catholic guilt analogy, alas, over the past few months I have encoutered (in private as in my line of work) astoundingly many reactionary Catholics, and their deeply fundamentalist points of view came somewhat as a shock to me (though I know I shouldn't be)... Those experiences have made me wary in certain ways, and I truly believe should any of the people I'm referring to read this...I can easily imagine their arguments...

Our dear Dean has, most unfortunately, accepted his guilt... I do hope, just as you, that he will be ready for atonement. And the consolation it is able to provide...

We're quite on the same page... :-) ,Jas
# Ginger 2011-10-17 16:02
It does run deep, doesn't it? It always surprised me when I encountered it and, just like the waitress tried, it seems there is no amount of logic that gets through. Totally irrational (and destructive).
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 17:13
I'm related to some of those Catholics. I know their arguments already before you even mentioned them. It is what it is, and I accept that about them.

I'm Catholic and can't see myself being anything else, but that most certainly does not mean I have to agree with the Church on everything, either.

Back to the episode, yeah, I think Dean has accepted his guilt. Now it's destroying him from the inside out. I do hope we see him reach that stage where he can forgive himself. He's a bit black and white on things in a lot of ways and especially himself.
# BagginsDVM 2011-10-18 16:16
Great review, although I must admit that as I began to read this essay, my eyebrow arched slightly & I thought, oh, oh, will I need to defend my faith when you mentioned Catholic guilt, but I think you are right about how Dean feels.
I find myself often worrying over my actions & inactions at the end of a long day, & even have caught myself joking about "being Catholic, so I'm supposed to feel guilty about this or that". I'm not even sure where all that came from, for I certainly do believe in redemption & forgiveness.
Dean definitely needs to find a way to believe in those things if he is ever going to stop idling in this lack of self-worth. And he's got to start with forgiving himself.
I like how you always look for the positive in an episode. I do too, especially in my favorite show, or I wouldn't want to keep watching it! Like others have mentioned, I was disappointed to not see Castiel in Dean's flashbacks during the trial or to hear him mentioned, but it makes sense that the guys are deliberately not mentioning him. The grief is yet too near, & we know how Dean bottles that up anyway.
At this point in the season, I just want to take Dean's face in my hands, look him straight in those gorgeous green eyes, and tell him that he is a GOOD man. I know he wouldn't believe me yet, but a girl can hope for the future!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 17:32
I know I went for controversy when I latched onto that line, but I mean it in the generic terms.

I do like to focus on the positive. I think if I were to sit down and nit pick what I didn't like I'd end up disappointing myself and I'd not want to watch anymore. I feel that I did that to other shows I've liked in the past and so I'm trying to pull the good here and let the rest be.

I don't think they're ready to bring Cas in---either the brothers or the writers. I get the sense that the writers are really trying to get back to the boys being the absolute center of the show and so really no room to bring up Cas nearly as much as they might have in the past.

And yes, I really wanna shake Dean, tell him he's a great guy and that it's because of him that Lucas from so long ago is alive, that it's because of him that Danny from Family Remains is alive, that he saved so many lives through out oh so many hunts, that because he was brave enough to fly Crowley was forced to return Bobby's soul. There's so much good Dean's done and yet he's so focused on the bad. We gotta get someone to point that out to him!
Lynn E
# Lynn E 2011-10-17 17:38
Far Away Eyes, I didn't like this episode. I thought it had great potential, but fell short. I did however like your review. I wish all the things you brought up were explored better. The contrast of Sam's experience in hell to Dean's is a view I hadn't considered and you really brought that out. I only hope that is where they are going with this guilt thing and not just a rehash of the same old. Thank you for such an enlightign view of the episode.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 17:45
I agree that it could have been much tighter, yes.

I like to look at what was offered and explore it and I do think they are intending on getting to those Hell stories. They certainly bring it up a lot from week to week, and that makes me happy. Sure this episode lacked in some places (and I leave that for others to really speak about) but I find set up episodes without the pay off tend to annoy, too. I'm glad I could bring something out of it that you liked.
# Marilyn 2011-10-17 19:39
Far Away Eyes, :lol: Thanks for another great review. You always seem to pull out the most positive aspects of the show. I can be a pretty glass half empty person and I was disappointed in this episode. Osiris was not "godly" like Kali, he was more of a trickster and not very fear-inducing.

I read a lot of hype about this episode and expected Dean to maybe have a real cathartic moment.I really enjoyed seeing Jo again and I think her actions and Sam's pointed comment about not being able to see the future might have opened a tiny wedge in that fortress of guilt.

How sad that Dean's self-esteem is so low that he feels he is 90% crap, but at least now he realizes he was never allowed to be a kid.

I agree with everyone that Dean and Sam need to sit down together and talk Hell. (Remember, not only did Dean go from victim to torturer, but in so doing he also broke the first seal that lead to the Apocalypse.)

Again, thank you for helping me to see the many positive things about this episode. I am Catholic, too, and had no problem with the Catholic guilt remark. ;-)

Jasminka, glad to read your comments again. You always have a unique and insightful perspective. :roll:
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 19:47
I much rather focus on the positive, take what the the story is telling me and go with it.

I don't think Osiris was supposed to be as frightening, which is why I described him as being rather tongue in cheek. He only ended up condemning Dean after he refused to let go of the guilt if you ask me.

And you know that they had to have Osiris put back to sleep, sooo hence the guilty verdict, too.

If anything, I hope the set up of seeing Sam and Dean explore their now shared Hell experiences is the pay off. Back in season 4, Dean told Sam that couldn't understand since he hadn't lived it and shut his brother down. Now that Sam has gone through his own version, they need to hash it out and that's what made me happy with this episode most---that they will do that at some point within the season.

I think you nailed it. If Gabriel was still alive, I could see him doing this role in weighing Dean's conscience. But it wasn't meant to be, I guess.
# Jasminka 2011-10-18 13:49
Thank you, Marilyn.Hope you're well. Sending blessing... :-) Jas
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2011-10-17 21:19
Hi Far Away Eyes,

Thanks very much for your review of Defending Your Life.

I have to say I really liked this episode. Were there some problems? Maybe. But I was too caught up in the wonderfully nuanced acting to notice. That, and the fact my imagination has a tendency to fill in the blanks the writers, editors or network might leave behingd.

Like I wrote in "The Limits of the Lead Friggin' Box", I think much of Dean's guilt goes back to his childhood, mainly because he didn't have one. It ended the moment Sam was placed in his arms after the fire. He became responsible for his brother, and that made Dean, in Dean's mind, responsible for anything that happened after that.

Also, although John loved his sons, but he didn't exactly nurture them. I think BDW judged Dean on a regular (daily?) basis and so that's how Dean learned to view himself too. I love Jasminka's analogy of Dean lying in bed each night, looking at the mistakes he made each day and condemning himself for them. The man should have been a monk with a hairshirt and a cat'o'9 tails!

I confess that watching my kids run around and play and be goofy, while having Dean's sad admission that "Hunters are never kids. I never was" rattle around my brain certainly has my muse working overtime! (I'm drafting an article about that now.)

For me, the whole point of the courtroom scene was to show Dean the amount of guilt he's carrying, and get him to question whether or not he really is responsible for all the bad stuff that happened to the people he loves. Like we've all said before, the key person Dean needs forgiveness from is himself. And right now he is threatening to be his own judge, jury and executioner.

I think he is looking to die, either actively by his own hand, or passively at the hand of a monster. I don't think he really wants to die. He just wants a break from the burden he's been carrying for nearly 30 years. Like he said in Croatan "I'm tired of this life, this weight on my shoulders."

I also think the comment "I'm 90% crap. If I let go of that, what else is there?" is incredibly poignant, and telling. We're all used to seeing ourselves in one way -- usually tilted more towards the negative. It's scary and disorienting and feels downright strange to actually try and look at our more positive qualities.

I think, while growing up, Dean somehow let Sam know that Sam was smart and capable and had a good heart. Even though Dean is also clever and compassionate, I don't think he ever received any praise or recognition of those traits, so I truly don't think he believes he has them.

What I think is really scaring him is that he knows he puts up the jerk and loudmouth ass facade. If he lets go of the 90% crap he's carrying, what if he discovers that he really IS a jerk underneath it all? I think Dean is absolutely terrified of finding out who he really is, and that's another reason he's drinking, depressed and looking for death.

Speaking of Death -- can you imagine how pissed off he'd be if Dean successfully killed himself and somehow needed to be resurrected again? (Wait. Perhaps I've stumbled on a plot line!)

Other quick thoughts (because I haven't been quick so far) is that I'm intrigued by your comment that Dean sees all the souls he tortured in Hell in Sam's current suffering. I'm mulling over how different their torture and abuse experiences were, and whether Sam's was really worse, just because it was longer. A bit heretical, I know.

And I don't think Sam is as fine as he says he is. How could he be? But at least he's finding ways to deal and cope, and he seems to have hope. And what I find encouraging is that Dean still has enough hope to be curious about how Sam deals with his experiences. It's a good sign that he's still asking questions.

Whew! That was long. Sorry.

Pragmatic Dreamer
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 22:08
Thank you. Like you, I find myself focusing on the positive. I don't look at each episode as a stand alone piece, but more as a part of an overarching whole and if it advanced the story for me in any way it worked for me.

I do think that Dean's comment that he was never a child is really the true root of his problem. Hell is another one of those problems he carries. I think you're absolutely right. We see Dean tease Sam a lot, but he also makes sure that Sam knows that he's smart, caring, kind, has a good heart, ect. We never really get to see Dean receive that from anyone in return. John's words were always ALWAYS about Sam. Keep Sam safe. Watch out for Sammy. Dean, at four, became a father more or less and he never got the chance to be that little boy we briefly saw in Sam's bedroom before the fire. It's so sad.

I also think you're right, he is hiding from himself more and more. He uses the jerk facade to keep people at a distance, but we know he's got the big heart. I wish Sam would bring up the "And Then There Were None" confession that Dean had. He absolved everyone at Rufus's grave---all but himself. I think it's another reason why Sam is handling things better, too. He might have been incomplete, still with the Wall at that time, but I can see him remembering that, too.

I feel for Dean. I really do. He struggles and scrapes for everything he has from his car to his brother to simply exist. I think he cares much more for Baby than he does himself, really. We know he values Sam more than he does himself---hence his deal.

I don't think Sam's time in Hell is worse or Dean's time is worse. I hate when people try to make one or the other seem like they endured more. Sure, Sam was with Lucifer, but I think it's just different. They only reason I bring up Sam's experience here besides the vague hallucination hint we saw is because I can't help but think Dean's thinking "I did something like this to someone. I could have done that to Sam." It's not necessarily the right thing for him to judge himself that way, but he does.

I think Sam, as I said in my review, is in the eye of his own hurricane. It's calm right now, but that's a misnomer. The winds will pick up and start to rip him apart again. It's only a matter of time. I just hope that along the way before it starts to ramp up for him again that Dean will get some help from Sam on his own issues. More than ever before both brothers have to rely on each other and they must heal together. To me, that's a great story waiting to be told.

As for Dean succeeding in killing himself, I think Death might have some words to say to him that wouldn't be very pretty. He's chosen Dean to do this for a reason, and I don't think you can cheat Death. He'll make you do this or else. He's Death. He could make Dean immortal if he chose, really. I do hope that Death will factor some more in Dean's story, too. He likes Dean and I think he could impart some wonderful wisdom to him.

Never fear being long winded. I like discussing things. It makes the show that much more fun!
# MetamorphicRocks 2011-10-17 23:08
Good review. So many have already said so much, that I don't want to be redundant. I do have a few remarks, though:

First, I, like many others, really embraced the feel of the "old SPN" in this episode. On that same note, I am so sentimental about this show, that I loved the flashbacks and couldn't seem to help myself saying "Aww," outloud several times, so much so that my husband was laughing at me! I do think they could have added a quick flashback with Castiel, it would have made the Cass fans happy. I know there is the argument between fans about whether or not Dean feels any guilt about that, but in an interview Jensen did say that Dean feels responsible for not getting to Cass soon enough to help him.

Second, though I thought alot of important issues were brought up in the trial, for me, the execution was lacking a bit. Specifically, I thought the conversation between Sam and Dean regarding Dean coming to get Sam from school could have been a lot more powerful and dramatic, but maybe the writers weren't going for that during this scene. It would have just been my personal preference!

Finally, regarding Dean's line of "I'm 90 percent crap," It sounds like alot of people are interpreting that to mean Dean thinks he is 90 percent crap as a person. Even though we all know Dean has extremely little self-worth, I interpreted that a bit differently, based on the line directly after that... "I get rid of that, what then?" To me, Dean is saying he is 90 percent about carrying around all that crap, so who would he even be without it all? Then, Jo seems to challenge him to find out by stating "You really want to die not knowing?"

So maybe this challenge will bring about some introspection on the part of Dean, and he will try and let go of some of the guilt while he asks himself, who am I, if not this guilt-ridden guy who's purpose is to protect my little brother? That's just where I think this might be headed, but who knows?
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-17 23:27
I like your thought that Dean is afraid to let go because he's afraid of who he'll become. It's a nice interpretation that a lot of his issue is that he shoulders it because he doesn't know how to let go. It's hard to know who you really are when you've allowed such stuff to pile up.

I, too, liked the old school feel of the episode. I liked that it started out so simple with a regular looking case that became a bit symbolic for me of how complex the story has become over the years.

I think it'll be interesting to see how they make Dean move forward. I feel that he's idling here, stuck in one gear and unable to shift into drive more or less. He has no true direction. Sure, he needs to protect Sammy, but from what exactly? His memories from Hell? The Leviathan? Demons? Himself? Dean? He doesn't know what could be threatening Sam and without a clear directive on keeping him safe he's floundering. He's kinda a man without a purpose. Sam's pretty much grown up now, more than ever.

I really hope this week's hunt starts getting Dean's blood boiling and him shifting into finding out how valuable a hunter he really is----more than killing and slashing throats---someo ne who saves others from being killed. He needs to revive that "Saving People. Hunting Things. Family Business" motto somewhat and remember that he DOES save people---and not just Sam.

And while I know we have witches, I know really little about them for this week, so no hype to make me build things up. I look forward to it. Besides, Dean absolutely HATES witches. Might be his kick in the pants, you know?
# Sylvie 2011-10-18 08:42
You're absolutely right, Dean needs some cathartic moment to bring him back to the fighting spirit he had in seasons 1 and 2. I've been watching those two seasons, and boy, I feel so bad for him. Like you said, Dean hates witches so much, maybe he'll wake up a little. And yes, we've all said it many times, and TPTB better listen, we need to get Sam & Dean's heart to heart about their experiences in Hell. They were tortured mentally & physically, but came out different on the other side.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 16:27
I'd love to see Dean go all medieval on the witches, actually. I don't know how lethargic he'll be this week when it comes to the actual hunt. We'll have to wait and see on that. I just know he needs a kick in the behind to get going again and nothing like witches to maybe do it.
# Marilyn 2011-10-18 19:10
Far away Eyes,

I so hope you are right and taking on a "skeevy" witch brings the hunter out in Dean and reminds him of the simpler "saving people, hunting things" days. :-)

Something has got to give or I am afraid Dean is just going to blow up.I am pretty sure there is a point at which a human being can't carry any more guilt or anger inside. At least it looks like Sam is in a better place to pick up the pieces. :-?
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 20:03
Some of my favorite hunts are witch hunts, simply because Dean gets all riled up. They, more than even demons or angels, seem to piss him off the most. And besides, after what that HeWitch Patrick did to him, I'm sure he's ready to kick some witch butt.

And yeah, Sam can help Dean so much here. I know he can and it's time that they let him be the rock for Dean.
# Brynhild 2011-10-18 20:40
Apart from your review, that I agree with thoroughly, I'm very curious about the "catholic guilt" concept.

Being myself a Catholic, usually what was told to me was that I had to confess my wrong deeds, feeling truly contrite for them and asking God's forgiveness through confession sacrament, and surely he would forgive me, giving to me a "new heart and a new spirit". With that, I would have to right my wrongs, if possible, or to do something for others if not possible, but that's it. It never should become a guilt to carry like a cross. Moreso, if I still should feel crushed by the guilt, it would be and insult to God's mercy and goodness: if God forgave me, who am I for not forgiving myself?

In fact, what I usually heard against catholics from anti-catholics or atheists and such, is quite the opposite than the "catholic guilt": i.e. that for catholics "it is enough to tell their sins to the priest and they think to be good with God and with what they did, they think they have a clear conscience".

So the idea that for someone there can be something so crushing like the "catholic guilt" of which you are talking is quite new for me, and I wasa asking yself if it's just a matter of me being lucky enough to be raised by parents and priests and religion teachers not so obsessed with the "sin and guilt" thing, or if it's a matter of living in Italy, where maybe the Catholicism is more "relaxed" (or just more human) in its views and takes on people...
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 21:21
I've heard it mentioned often growing up, but was never really forced to adhere to it. My household is a bit more liberal.

I know that it's typical considered an excessive guilt that is usually unnecessary. Yes, the other side of the sword is that Catholics confess before they die and are absolved. Usually, I've seen people who adhere to the guilt version as using the "you'll go to Hell for that" card---mostly to make one feel guilty for something that really isn't worth that type of guilt.
# Ginger 2011-10-19 11:30
The people I have seen carry this kind of guilt around were life-long Catholics who were doing things they felt in their heart was against church teachings or were contrary to what they felt the church would approve of. And, even though they went to confession, they continued to do those things.

In the case of this episode, the victims had done their penitence and genuinely changed their ways, they continued to carry great guilt in their hearts for their wrong doings. They weren't thinking about offending God by not accepting forgiveness; they were still trying to atone.
# subwoofer 2011-10-18 21:02
um... yeah!

Heh, anyways- good spin on an episode that could have been so much more. The baddie- the Egyptian god- le sigh- that could have been half the season, on top of the Leviathans. One of my favorite trilogies is Masquerade of the Read Death and the books go into detail about Egyptian gods and early civilization. Anyways- that ship has sailed.

Catholic guilt... does this mean if Dean says a few Hail Mary's and Our Father's his guilt is forgiven? I think it is up to Dean to be able to forgive himself. What he has to find forgiveness for is beyond me. Dean has been to hell. Dean's seen stuff, he's saved the world several times... basically the guy's paid his dues, IMHO there is nothing to be guilty about.

I dunno, we all experience stuff, go through hardships, ups and downs, those experiences are what shapes us and defines our character. Folks that deal with the hardships have depth to themselves. Folks that don't handle it so well, cart it along with them for the rest of their lives- baggage. Dean needs to get rid of his baggage by knowing he did what he had to do and he did his best. That is all anyone can ask.

As for this episode pointing that out- yes, its a start. Lets see where it goes now.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-18 21:25
I didn't think they'd make Osiris into a big bad counterpart really. I like the Egyptian mythology, too.

And no, Catholic Guilt doesn't work with a few Hail Marys, really. Mostly, Dean needs to learn to let his guilt go and realize that he's not that "90% crap" he thinks he is.

I do hope that Dean can find a way to unload his baggage, too.