Boys, boys, boys. Oh how you crush me so. Last week I went on a wee bit (yeah right) of a rant about how I was dying for movement in the whole angel thing. While the episode itself was well constructed, my overall sentiment was a rinse, lather, repeat type attitude. I’ve seen this with Sam and Dean. I’ll give “Rock and a Hard Place” credit for one thing. I haven’t seen this before.
I’ll tell you who else was really awesome. I loved Dean in this episode. My sense of humor has always been very dry. I tend not to like silly scenes or anything too over the top when it comes to humor and admit it fandom, attempts at humor has often failed in this show. However, I laughed my ass off at the scenes with Dean in this episode. Sure the group therapy thing was funny, but what really had me howling was the whole foreplay scene between Dean and Suzy, complete with cheesy “Casa Erotica” dialogue, over the top flirting, and cheesy mariachi music. Ole! indeed. Come on, who didn't double over in a fit of laughter after, "Why don't you ask me that in Spanish?" Also, my imagination is now running a bit wild over the taco scene.
Dean finally got to live out one of his porn fantasies, and it was every bit as hilarious as I imagined this moment would be. He and “Carmelita” really hit is off, don’t you think? I mean come on, Dean hasn’t been laid since season seven! He was long overdue, especially after that year in Purgatory. Leave it up to Sam though to get in the final zinger when he found the DVD after Dean and Suzy disappeared. “I think he crossed someone off his bucket list.” Indeed he did, and how fun it was for us to be a part of that. Thank you writer Jenny Klein for making that moment so perfect. Happy Dean makes me very, very happy!
My biggest criticism of the episode was the MOTW story itself, but I won’t dwell on that too much. The people in the bunker were just too off and not very interesting. I didn’t feel their terror and felt more annoyed by their behavior than creeped out. It kind of had me rooting for the bad guy. Except for the lady with the bloody fingernails. That was pretty gross and ideal bit of horror. The roman goddess Vesta did nothing either and was kind of predictable, but turns out her true purpose wasn’t to scare us. It was to rattle Sam. And man did she do her job.
Sam and that quest for normal
We’re a bit overdue to talk about Sam and the post impact of the trials on him. This episode for me anyway triggered a lot of those lingering thoughts that I’ve had since the season opener about poor Sammy. It’s been eight episodes now, and not since the season premiere have we had a good look at what’s going on inside Sam, and I’m not talking about that new inner blue glow. What played out this episode was truly heart crushing for Sam, and it had greater impact on his psyche that any of us may realize. It’s another crushing blow to a lifelong desire that he can never let go. The quest to be normal.
Going back to last season’s “The Great Escapist,” (and something that has been swept under the rug since then), Sam believed the trials were purifying him. That was never clearly defined, but I took it to mean it was washing away the evil inside of him. As we learned though, the burning in his arms from the trials ended up cooking his insides and damaging him beyond repair. He was supposed to die. That’s because in the bible, fire is the true purifier. It burns away sin and evil. So, whoever took the trials would in a sense die from internal fire, but they would be purified as they moved into the next life.
The problems is, Sam didn’t die. Although, the true Sam right now is dead inside. Does this mean that Sam in his current state is now fully pure? If that’s true, then how will being possessed by a being of light change all that, or will it?
Not much has changed since the season premiere. He isn’t getting healed, and is still feeling bad. Is it possible that’s because Zeke isn’t powerful enough to heal him? Or maybe he can’t heal him because of the type of damage caused by the trials? Can an angel undo the damage of purification? I still remember Castiel telling Sam he couldn’t heal him in “Goodbye Stranger.” What makes Ezekiel different?
On a side note, could it be that Sam’s illness and fatigue in this episode isn’t from the trials, but from the fact that the angel possession is making him sick? His vessel can’t contain the stress and is beginning to falter? If that’s true, we have another huge complication here. Let’s keep that open though for future episodes.
It’s important to look at the dialogue from the ending scene. It just kills me how much being normal matters to Sam. It’s everything, the whole ballgame.
Sam: “What if there is something wrong with me. If there is something really wrong.”
Dean: “You’re just crapped out man, you need some rest.”
Sam: “No, it’s more than that. I mean Vesta said I was practically dead inside.”
Dean: “Oh, and she’s in the circle of trust now?”
Sam: “Why would she lie?”
Dean: “It’s probably the trials, ok, probably some sort of after effect. It’s not like you’re bouncing back from a flu here. I mean, you were glowing with freaking trial juice.”
Sam: “I don’t know.”
Dean: “Well, what else would it be?”
Sam: “Why does it have to be something else? It’s always something else. We’re always scraping to find some other explanation when maybe it’s just me.”
Sam: “Oh, come on Sam.”
Dean: “I’m a mess Dean. You know it. And sometimes I feel like maybe I’m never gonna actually be alright.”
Dean: “You will. Alright, because whatever it is, we’ll figure it out.”
Sam: “Or this is just the way I am.”
Let's set aside the debate of Dean not being able to tell Sam about Ezekiel for now (my honest opinion is Zeke won't let him no matter how much he tries). Sam is realizing that he’s been changed irreparably by the trials. Once again, he’s a freak of nature. All these strange happenings, it’s no different than his psychic visions or when he had his demon powers. He’s losing faith and starting to accept he’s never going to get better, he’s never going to change.
This comes after the trials restored his hope that being normal could finally happen. Remember his speech to Dean in “The Great Escapist?” Here’s a refresher:
Sam: Knights of the Round Table. Had all of King Arthur's knights, and they were all on the quest for the Holy Grail. And I remember looking at this picture of Sir Galahad, and, and, and he was kneeling, and— and light streaming over his face, and— I remember... thinking, uh, I could never go on a quest like that. Because I'm not clean. I mean, I w— I was just a little kid. You think... maybe I knew? I mean, deep down, that— I had... demon blood in me, and about the evil of it, and that I'm— wasn't pure?
Dean: Sam, it's not your fault.
Sam: It doesn't matter anymore. Because these trials... they're purifying me.
The lingering hurt of having that demon blood in him and the realization that he always felt different, even when he was very young showed us how deep that trauma goes with Sam. The teary revelation that the trials were purifying him was something we all wanted to be desperately true for Sam. We wanted to believe that he could be healed of the horror that Dean could never truly understand. It’s not that Dean hasn’t been sympathetic. He’s just never been able to truly understand that feeling and Sam knows it. That’s comes up countless times through the seasons in their conversations (see “Metamorphosis” as an example).
No wonder Sam looked very dejected when he left that room in “Rock and a Hard Place,” not getting comfort from Dean’s comment that it’s not his fault. He walked out without waiting for Dean. Sam knows it’s not his fault. He’s heard it before. That doesn’t change that crushing feeling of being a freak. It never will. The question is, what happens when Sam finds out it is an angel that is keeping him alive? Will that change anything in his mind? Would that make Sam normal like he desires?
We know that Dean will fight for life no matter what the cost, but what about Sam? He didn’t want to die in the premiere, but he was willing to let go and stop fighting because Dean didn’t have a plan and there was nothing left to fight for. Would he have said yes to Dean if he was told he would go back to life as being a freak? I’m thinking the answer would be a very certain no. Perhaps that’s the question he’ll have to ask himself when he finds out there’s an angel inside him and what the costs of healing will be.
When all that falls out, will Sam ever be able to have that feeling of normal? That feeling of knowing that he will be alright, and there’s nothing wrong with him? Sam believed in that light at the end of the tunnel and a chance at a normal life in the beginning of season eight without being pure. Can he ever get there again after what happened to him with the trials?
Notice too how the episode closed on Dean’s face, not Sam’s. Dean’s issue is guilt. I do wonder if he thinks that once Sam knows the truth he’ll be alright again. Is he possibly forgetting how much Sam values being normal? Do you think he believes that Sam would just carry on and adjust like he always has if he doesn’t get to be normal inside but gets to live? Will that be one of the unintended consequences of his actions?
Hee, I just threw a lot at you, didn’t I? I’m sure there will be some answers to these questions as things progress, but the mere fact that “Rock and A Hard Place” triggered such a thought process makes it a worthwhile episode for me. Now it’s your turn. What do you think about the plight of poor Sammy?