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Bobby's reappearance is a stunner, and is overwhelming emotional---even if it is a brief moment in time. It reminds us of what Bobby said himself so long ago: "Family don't end in blood, boy."
There are also several key clues and shout outs to Bobby's history on the show hidden throughout this episode. The monster is a Japanese monster---and each episode that has featured one in some way has also featured Bobby: "Yellow Fever," "Weekend at Bobby's," and now "Party on Garth." Jim Beaver can speak fluent Japanese---and so can Bobby. The monster of the week being an actual alcohol spirit refers back to Bobby's self-proclaimed history as being a "mean old drunk." Randy Baxter tells Sam and Dean that he has no kids---other than his partner Jim's---another shout out to Beaver himself as a father and to his character Bobby"”who is not. Baxter says, "Just Jim's. They'd borrow my car, raid my fridge." Bobby adopted John's sons as his own, and there's no intention of him letting that go---even in death.
The clues are sprinkled throughout---only truly readable after the reveal. The spirit is invisible. In "The Born-Again Identity," Sam helps Marin put her brother to rest. He, too, was invisible. Just because Bobby hasn't shown himself to the brothers---or is incapable as the last scene suggests---doesn't mean he's not with them. He's also connected to his flask---as Marin's brother was to the bracelet. In terms of "Party On, Garth," the "Then" segment provides the viewers with the writers tipping their cards if only momentarily. The second victim's death is very much like Ranger Phil's in "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters." Garth is stunned that his salt and burn didn't stop the killings, but it's suggested that perhaps she is attached to something else---as Bobby himself is to his flask. It's hinted at again as the brothers discuss the clues that imply Bobby's presence. They've been alluded to before and have teased at the edges of episodes since "Death's Door," making it easy to dismiss until the final moments. It is a brilliant play at keeping such a surprise hidden---as Bobby has been throughout the back half of season 7.
DJ Qualls reprises the goofy and sweet Garth. He might not know what he's doing half of the time, but he tries so hard. Even when it seems like what he's doing might only blow up in his face, he manages to surprise, too. Qualls gives the character a loveable quality that makes him, as Dean says, "grow on you." He's ridiculous and boneheaded. Qualls showed both his ineptness and his sweetness throughout the episode. Even though he's not good at fighting the monster---and ends up missing most of it yet again---he at least tried. His heart is in the right place. Qualls connects well with both Ackles and Padalecki. His farewell scene hugging first Dean and shaking Sam's hand only to go in for the hug is full of delight. His character is a hunter, but he just doesn't have the rough edges or hardness that marks the others seen in the show. Instead, he is socially awkward. Qualls brings his own distinctive flavor to the show, and his scenes are a delight for the comedic timing he provides.
Ackles gave us many sides of Dean in this episode. He was frustrated, tired, silly drunk, and desperate. He played an excellent straight man to Qualls's Garth---especially in the sock puppet scene. His eye rolls and muttering, "Mr. Fizzles is going where the sun don't shine" made the scene even funnier. His disbelief that Garth managed to get the little girl to talk also made it delightful. When Sam and Dean later on go to see the surveillance and get caught drinking, Ackles plays up Dean's silly side. He is giddy and joyful, pouring more booze into his glass. His childish "Me likey," is funny---and it only gets better once they're caught. Much like a little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar, Ackles has Dean spit the booze back out into the glass. Later, once he has slain the monster, Ackles shows just how desperate Dean is in wanting Bobby back. His eyes roam and search, his body tenses, and his eyes grow soft with unshed tears. His most powerful scene is only one glance---when he returns to the hotel room to retrieve the beloved flask. Ackles has the viewer convinced for a moment that he, too, sees Bobby. His eyes glisten, his expression relaxes into one of relief, and his voice whispers almost in joy, "There you are." Once he approaches and grabs the flask, all while ignoring Bobby, we can see how Ackles conveys that Dean has yet to learn that Bobby is indeed still with them.
Jared Padalecki fell into a more normal role for Sam in this week's episode. He researched and helped Dean as partner. Padalecki conveyed Sam's skepticism well about working with Garth---and yet we could see him warming up to him. Sam's smug smile on passing Garth onto Dean as partner at the hotel is hilarious. Just as Ackles showed Dean's embarrassment at getting caught, Padalecki shows just how uncomfortable Sam is in these situations. His shoulders hunched and he stuttered trying to find words to talk himself out of it. After as many awkward situations as Sam has been in, it's endearing that he still has this quality. Padalecki's best scene was at the motel room, discussing the possibility of Bobby still being with them. His facial expressions conveyed Sam's pain, and his voice Sam's frustration. He wants Dean to be right---but he just can't accept it because it hurts.
Jim Beaver closes out the episode. He is a welcome sight. Beaver may be in the episode for a short scene, but it is packed with power. He conveys Bobby's desperation to be heard with a simple line, "I'm right here, ya idjit." We see his hope and love for Dean on his face. We also see his heartbreak at being stuck as a spirit. Beaver puts it all in simple facial expressions and body language. He is tense until his shoulders sag in defeat and he mutters his iconic, "Balls." The only thing Bobby wants is to be with his boys---and Beaver shows it in the way he looks at Dean. Tears spring into his eyes and in turn into ours. It is a simple scene---and yet it has huge impact. More than any scene in the episode---and perhaps season---it is powerful and emotional seeing Bobby stare back at Dean in joy at possibly being acknowledged. It is a testament to the current that runs throughout this show's foundation: love.
Judging by the preview for the next episode, we'll get to see much more of Bobby---which is more than welcome.
If you should happen to pick up on any others I might have missed, share! I tried to pick up and point out as many as I could. They gave us all the pieces to put the puzzle together. It's a neat thing.
I don't really know if it'll come down to them having to destroy the flask. Bobby hasn't gone super angry like Marin's brother, so I'm hoping Dean's right about "Instant Swayze." He is helpful and sane, which indicates to me that they'll do something different than put him to permanent rest.
As for the clues, it just went off like a light bulb when I heard the line, "No, just Jim's." Then it all fell kinda into place bit by bit.