So, what does it mean to “purge?”
We're all familiar with the word. It's said often enough in our everyday lexicon. We purge our closets. Retail stores purge their backrooms. We purge our email in-boxes. In the news, tragically, it is often connected to genocide or ethnic cleanses. Sadly, the most famous use of the word is connected to those that suffer from the eating disorder, bulimia. But what does it really mean? The dictionary defines “purge” as “to rid of whatever is impure or undesirable; cleanse; purify.” Essentially, it means to purify ourselves---mind and body.
If purging means to cleanse, that can take the form of cleaning one's home or office. It can mean cleansing ourselves of stress inducers. It can mean to purge our bodies of toxins or to trim our waistlines.
In the case of “The Purge,” it can mean trimming the fat from our relationships---as Sam and Dean begin to do.
The most obvious example of physical purging in “The Purge” is that of the monster of the week. Let's examine that case. The creature, a pishtaco, sucks the fat out of its victims in order to feed. This doesn't have to be fatal, and therefore it can be a purifying experience for those that visit the spa, Canyon Valley. They are purging people of the unwanted weight and cellulite that plagues them.
This type of purging is prevalent in our obesity epidemic conscious culture. It's on the news, it's featured in ads, it's in magazines, it's in books---and it's what TV shows are made about, such as The Biggest Loser. It's all about purging ourselves out of being fat---of cleansing ourselves from the junk food that got us to that and more. Purging has become a competition as everyone strives to reach smaller and smaller sizes and weight totals.
The current winner of The Biggest Loser (ironically from Stillwater, Minnesota) has faced criticism for perhaps going to far, showing that while purging has its good qualities it can perhaps turn dark---as it does in “The Purge.” The pishtaco that is feeding on these people are taking their “purgings” too far. It's killing its victims by sucking far too much fat out.
After the hot dog eating contest, we see our first example of this---although we don't know it. The 300-lb plus winner gets into his car and is reduced to 90-lbs before our very eyes. A woman that is trying to lose weight in preparation for her wedding is reduced from 180-lbs to 74-lbs. This is the downside of purging told in metaphor.
This first purging is also what brings Sam and Dean to the scene. They want to find out what could possibly shrink such a large man down to such a small size so rapidly. At first they think witch---and we're introduced to the runner up's wife---a practicing Gypsy who has a putsi bag that the brothers think may have put a hex on the victim.
That's not the case, and as they dig deeper they discover Canyon Valley. The advertisement on their website is enticing. It exemplifies everything about why we choose to purge in our lives. After all, we'll be better for it in the end---and it will be quick and easy. In our instant gratification age, this is appealing. They tell their clients that they won't have to adhere to strict diets or extreme workout regimes. Instead, they are inviting their clients to come and purge themselves of unwanted fat and weight all the while being pampered in luxury.
The brothers arrive, trying to nudge their way into the spa. As neither of them fit the clientele profile, they instead try to get hired as personal trainers. Only problem is that only one can be hired---leaving the other one with kitchen duty.
Sam's the lucky personal trainer---and as he conducts a yoga class he realizes that every victim has the same mark found on both dead victims. Their backs are riddled with strange suction marks that simply shouldn't be there. Considering that Sam believes this to be how the monster is killing its victims, it seems they may have indeed found ground zero.
None of the clients seem to be dying at Canyon Valley, however.
The sheriff the brothers met in Stillwater has decided to come to the spa for her own treatment. As we watch, what Sam suspects is confirmed. The marks on those client's backs are indeed suction marks---mixed in with actual cupping marks to hide it. Donna is lying defenseless on the massage table, and we see the pishtaco in all its glory for the first time. This time, though, it isn't to kill. Maritza, it seems, is merely feeding enough to get by while purging Donna of her unwanted weight.
As she later tells Dean, “We could help people lose weight, and I could feed. It was a win-win.”
Purging here is good. She's not hurting her clients nor is she killing. She's merely making it so she can survive and they can get what they want---a healthier and thinner body.
The problem, however, is that like most fad diets, quick weight loss plans or pills, and the medical equivalent of the pishtaco, liposuction, is that none of these methods come with the hard work necessary to make the weight loss or purging a sustainable result. “The Purge” shows us that our instant gratification addiction doesn't give us what we really want or need. We may lose this weight quickly---ten pounds in a day as Donna does---but it won't last and we'll be back for more.
Rather, the message is that if one is to purge, one will have to put in the work---the real work. If one wants to truly purge---to cleanse or purify---one will have to endure the growing pains and the difficulties that come with it. They will have to endure the heartache, and the ups and downs. They will have to struggle and fight for every inch---or none of their purging will have any meaning. It means not taking the easy road---no matter how tempting.
Unfortunately, Alonso doesn't see things the same way his sister, Maritza, does. He, too, is a pishtaco. Unlike his sister, he doesn't see feeding only to get by as good enough. As Sam points out, he's no friend of “portion control.” After he nearly killed a client, he's been demoted to kitchen duty---and this causes Alonso to rebel. Wisely---although not far enough away---he's chosen to kill outside of Canyon Valley.
Alonso doesn't see their life at Canyon Valley as “a better way, a more civilized way. One where we weren't monsters.” Instead, he sees it as starvation. It's too hard to hold back or to feed in moderation. Much like the clients that Canyon Valley serves, Alonso would rather be able to feed to his heart's content and not have the consequences that come with it---in their case it's extra weight and in his it ends with a victim dead. He would much rather take the easy road---while his sister is trying to teach him the virtue of the difficult road that can give long lasting and satisfying results.
Once Maritza tells the brothers everything they need to know about her brother and where he could be---especially after Alonso's killed her husband, we see them pursue him in the darkness in the basement. Silver can hurt him. Just as Alonso's about to kill Sam, Dean kills him.
It is a devastating result for Maritza as she tells Sam, “I lost my whole family today.”
If Alonso had just listened to his sister---and tried to adhere to her methods for purging clients in order to make a better life---perhaps this wouldn't have been the result. If he had followed her example, he may have been able to feed and be satisfied---but he found purging and reining in his monstrous side to be too difficult and it cost him his life and his sister everything she had.
So, what about Sam and Dean and their relationship? Throughout “The Purge” we see them struggling with their own issues and with their difficulties after being reunited in “Sharp Teeth.” How, then, do they go about purging---or as the pishtaco does to its victims, trim the fat?
Let's first look at Dean.
Dean returned with his brother at the end of “Sharp Teeth,” knowing Sam's terms meant they would be hunting partners---but not to expect more. In some ways, this is more than he could have hoped for, and so he'll take what he can get. He tells Sam in the beginning, “Oh, about that we're not supposed to be brothers?” It's part of his defensive mechanism---hiding his hurt under a flippant line that closes down discussion quickly.
This is certainly something he must purge from his relationship with Sam if they are to grow past and learn from their mistakes.
While Sam says, “I was just being honest,” we can't help but wonder if perhaps Dean is misinterpreting or taking what Sam said a bit further than it was intended. Perhaps this is another thing Dean must purge in his relationship with Sam. What Sam says and what Dean hears might not be the same thing---and this can lead to the misunderstandings that cause friction between the brothers. Those misunderstandings have certainly lead to great heartache for both Sam and Dean over the years.
Dean must also learn how to understand his brother, too. When he is indignant and tells Sam that if situations were reversed that Sam would have done the same and Sam replies, “No, Dean, I wouldn't---same circumstances, I wouldn't,” he can't simply stop at hearing, “I wouldn't.” That's not what Sam is saying at all. Instead, Sam is telling him that he would respect Dean's wishes---even if he didn't agree with or like them. Dean must see through the words that cut deep and see the true meaning---Sam loves his brother enough to let him go if that was what Dean wanted.
Sam may have told his brother that he wouldn't have done the same thing---but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to save his brother ever. In “The Purge,” when Sam receives the distress call from Dean, we see him become nearly frantic as he rushes towards the storerooms and once he finds his drugged brother he's not simply concerned or angry---he's downright furious. Sam actually pins the cook against the wall in his fury, demanding that he tell him what has happened and what was in the pudding. He needs to know now, and he won't take no for an answer.
Much like learning how to respect Sam, Dean needs to know that Sam would respect him in kind. It's about building trust and respect on a level playing field, that it's about the brothers finding their proper footing that will allow them to avoid future misunderstandings as they so often have.
But that's only one part of the equation. Dean may have punished himself for what happened with Gadreel and Sam---even going as far as to banish himself for what had happened---but what does he really think about what happened?
For Dean, we've seen him---since the age of four---driven to protect Sam at all costs. It's his job. It's what he does. It's who he fundamentally is and always has been. That drive was only intensified after he was told by his father that he will have to save or kill Sam. In Dean's mind he's only ever seen one option: save Sam. It's become his prime directive.
In some cases this prime directive has been an asset. It's allowed Dean to save Sam countless times. It's allowed him purpose and given him drive to see things through---especially when he sees what Sam could become if he says “Yes” to Lucifer as he does in “The End.” He will not walk away from Sam and let him become the monster he's feared becoming. It's that drive that allowed him to go to Stull and be with Sam---even if it means he'll have to let Sam go there.
But sometimes, Dean takes this drive and does things with it that have consequences that he doesn't see coming---ones that ultimately and usually effect Sam. One of these is getting Sam's soul back. Soulless Sam knew that it wasn't to save him. It was to save Sammy---and Dean was warned that it would be battered and broken. It could even kill Sam, but he put it back in anyways. It led to the Wall---and when it crumbled it led to Sam enduring frightening hallucinations.
With the current situation, we see Dean take what Sam said at the beginning of the Trials---namely that he saw a “light at the end of the tunnel” and that he wanted to “kill a hellhound and not die”---before he had even undertaken a single one and had it change him---and ignore what Sam said about finishing them in the church or what Sam said to Death. For Dean, it's taking his father's command and stripping away the “or kill him” clause all over again. It's just not in Dean's make up to kill or let Sam die. He may have done so at Stull, but he told Sam that he had looked into finding a way to bring him back anyways.
For Dean, saving Sam is the right thing to do. It's been drilled into him for so long that it's become a fixture of his character. He doesn't know how to quite let that go or how to purge this aspect. It's not exactly bad that Dean feels this way, but his drive to save Sam truly isn't the problem anyways. Dean's problem is that he sees it as right no matter the circumstances. It matters not how it's achieved---or if he's confirmed that's what Sam wants, too. The ends justify the means---as it did here with allowing Gadreel to possess his brother.
Essentially, Dean must purge some of this drive. No, not all of it. It's an essential part of who he is---what he is. To take all of this away would be to make him unrecognizable. Instead, what Dean needs to learn is the difference between saving Sam or respecting Sam's wishes. Anything that ends in Sam's potential death is seen as part of the “kill Sam” clause and therefore inherently bad. Dean must learn, instead, that if Sam desires to be let go or to die that he must respect that---just as Sam would if situations were to be reversed. Basically, Dean must trust Sam---even if he doesn't agree.
Trust. He must trust in himself and he must trust in Sam. It's the only way he can trust in them as brothers. This is what Dean must learn most.
This is key for Dean to learn here because it's how he will purify his portion of the relationship he shares with Sam. It's also why Sam has banished him to “hunting partner” status. If he can earn his way to being a trustworthy hunting partner, they can use that as a foundation in order to build their way to being the brothers they can be and should be---equal.
Dean isn't the only brother, however, that is in need of purging.
Sam may have purged his feelings about their current situation in this episode, telling Dean in no uncertain terms what he sees the problem being---and yet, Sam can't quite see his own problem. He asks his brother, “Please tell me, what is the upside of me being alive?” In this context, it is clearly a rhetorical question---but under the surface we can tell that Sam wants Dean to answer. He needs to know what good can come from him being alive.
We can sympathize with Sam here because we understand his reasons. Kevin is dead, Crowley isn't cured, and Hell is still open. People are still being possessed and killed in a war between the King of Hell and new Queen of Hell. And they're no nearer to finding a solution to putting the angels back where they belong---including Gadreel. Some of these terrible things were done while Sam was possessed---so even if Sam didn't commit the act, his body did---and thus Sam feels responsible for it. For the younger Winchester, there's a lot of darkness surrounding his being alive.
And yet, Sam is taking too much of the burden upon himself. Much the way Dean tries to carry Sam and save him at all costs, Sam will take the world's problems upon his shoulders and try to fix them all. This goes back to his letting out Lucifer---but Sam should realize that not everything that has happened is his fault as he is willing to believe.
Sam had nothing to do with Metatron causing Heaven's implosion. He wasn't the one working with the Scribe to make it happen---even unwittingly. That problem isn't his fault by any means. Castiel did---and has owned up to that.
Closing Hell may have been a boon for humanity---but then again in light of the expulsion of the angels from Heaven one has to wonder if he had followed through if the results would have been for the greater good. Crowley may have been cured and demonkind may have been banished, but would that have been the only result? Or, could closing the Gates could have left some demons not in Hell trapped on earth? As the Trials were never completed, we don't know the results. And yet Sam is willing to take the blame for any demonic mischief.
As for Kevin's death, we know that what Gadreel did while inside Sam's body has left the younger Winchester scarred, but we can't help but wonder if Kevin's death was inevitable. Certainly it wouldn't have happened the way it had without Gadreel's possession, and yet it's likely that Metatron would have had Kevin killed at some point no matter what. He wanted the Prophet out of the way; he wanted the Tablets in his possession. If Kevin had gone to Branson or another place to get away from the Bunker for a few days it's not impossible to think that perhaps Metatron would have found a way to rid himself of Kevin another way.
Sam, however, is too close to the situation to see that. He only sees what happened---and it's no wonder that he is riddled with guilt over it.
Sam must start to see what good he's bringing. He might think he should have died in the Trials---or in the period after they were stopped---but he still brings good to the world. He did so in “The Purge” by letting Maritza go. She was innocent in all of this, and he knew that she shouldn't be punished for what has happened. In some ways, he even acknowledged the fact that what Gadreel had done while possessing him hadn't actually been his fault---evidenced by the fact that he tells Dean, “What if I had crossed paths with a hunter back when I was possessed by Gadreel? I could've ended up dead, too. Would I have deserved that? Would I have deserved to die?”
And as Sam has decided to continue hunting we know he's still out there saving people, hunting things. He's giving back that way---and as he searches for ways to undo what Metatron did, we know that he'll continue to bring even more good to the world.
Much like Dean, though, Sam must also look at himself. What Dean did by convincing Sam to allow Gadreel to possess him has clearly hurt him---and clearly didn't respect Sam's wishes---but the truth is he still decided to go along with his brother. He chose to stop the Trials and he chose to say yes to Dean's plan even if he didn't know what it was. Sam chose Dean and chose to live in both cases. He must acknowledge this as much as Dean must acknowledge what he did wrong in the situation.
And just like his older brother, Sam must find a way to relearn his brother's language again. He, too, misinterprets both Dean's words and actions at times. He is hurt and angry by what Dean has done, but he must reexamine these words and deeds to see why Dean did them. Sam isn't wrong when he tells Dean, “You didn't save me for me. You did it for you,” but much how Dean only heard, “I wouldn't save you,” he's simplifying some of Dean's motivations.
Dean saved Sam because he values Sam's worth and life. Certainly, he does so because of the drive already discussed, but it's also because he knows that Sam is a capable and worthy hunter that can save others. He knows that if Sam wasn't around many more would die---many more would suffer. This is what Sam must hear and read between the lines when he looks at these recent events. Sam must purge some of the negative connotations that they bring. No, he must not simply forgive and forget, but he should take a step back and see them from a new light.
Dean's response to his question about being alive, “You and me -- fighting the good fight together,” is a simple statement---and yet it conveys a profound message: the world is better for Sam being in it. Now it's up to Sam to receive that message---and believe it.
In another layer of “The Purge,” however, we can see that while the brotherly relationship is rocky right now, it's not completely ruined. There's great hope if one watches carefully. The brothers both said things they needed to get off of their chests---but watch them closely and see how they mirror one another. They sit the same way in the motel facing the gypsy, Mala. They stand close to one another at the spa as they get the story from Maritza. Sam teases Dean, “Wait, you told that waitress the other day you were 29.” They may be strictly partners at this point in time, but we can tell that things can be repaired just by how they interact on a body language level. They're often in-sync in how they move. It's clear that they're not completely in other worlds from one another.
Purging is a long and painful process, however. It's not always easy, it's not always fun, and it's not always quick---nor should it be. Sam and Dean both need to trim fat from themselves and from their relationship in order to make their brotherhood everything that it can be. Otherwise they'll end up right where they were at the end of “Road Trip”---or worse.
In the end, if they stick to it, they'll be even stronger for it---they'll be real brothers again.
Brianna Buckmaster's performance as Sheriff Donna Hanscum brilliantly shouted out to Fargo, and she did so with fun flair. The accent, the look, and all the mannerisms made her an amusing addition---all without going over the top. It gave her character a bit of charm. Buckmaster's scene in the police station with the donuts was delightful and funny---especially when paired with Ackles. When we see Donna again at the spa, we see Buckmaster flush her out as we learn her story. Under the Fargo-tribute, we see a real woman and it's all in how she delivers her lines here. The accent and the slang are still there, but it's almost understated in this scene. There's such heartbreak as she tells them, “Whoever said you eat your pain? Not me. I guzzled it ” Buckmaster may have played a small role in this episode, but she enriched it by giving us Sheriff Donna Hanscum.
Annabelle Acosta played Maritza, the pishtaco. There's a charisma we see in Acosta's character when we're introduced to her in the spa video. She's convincing and exotic in a way that makes us want to go to the spa. The video does exactly what any good advertisement is designed to do, and it's partly due to Acosta's performance as Maritza. When we see her at the actual spa, she's just as charming and captivating---but as we see her start to do a treatment on the Sheriff, we start to feel a bit uneasy. She's almost too calming as she tells Donna about the treatment---and as we see her finish putting on the cups to feed, we're instantly suspicious of her. Yet, when it's revealed that she's not actually the one responsible for the murders that brought Sam and Dean to the spa, Acosta makes us feel sympathetic for Maritza. She's simply trying to make a better life here and trying to feed without hurting people. We believe her when she tells them that she wanted to be more civilized---and that she wanted to teach her brother how to do the same. Acosta also breaks our hearts when we see her alone after both Maritza's brother and husband are dead. The way she delivers the line, “I lost my whole family today,” seals that emotion.
Jensen Ackles continues to show both sides of Dean expertly. On one hand, he conveys all of the elder Winchester's exhaustion, frustration, and devastation. It's in his body language, in his voice, and written all over his face. When Dean feels heartbroken, we feel heartbroken. When he feels as if he's been punched in the gut, we, too, feel punched in the gut. It's all how Ackles shows these reactions in Dean---as shoulders sag and his expression darken in sadness. Ackles knows just how to make us connect with the elder Winchester with just his subtle performance. Yet, Ackles also excels at comedy in this episode, showing us just how multi-faceted Dean can be. There's delightful humor when Dean eats the donut, getting it all over his face---his boyish enjoyment of it makes us laugh. He also amps this up when we see him oversell their qualifications as physical trainers. Ackles wisely makes this funny---all the while connecting the comedy to the drama. We can tell that part of his oversell here is because he's hurting. Again, when Dean's drugged, we see comedy and drama collide, giving us reason to laugh and reason to feel alarm along with Sam. It's a brilliantly presented scene. In the end, however, Ackles really makes us feel deeply for Dean, all in that final expression. We can't help but connect on a fundamental level with his character here---all on how Ackles conveys that final pain with just a single dejected expression.
Jared Padalecki presents a guarded Sam well. Throughout the episode, we see him perform a delicate balance of keeping Sam and Dean at arm's length---all in how he carries himself and delivers his lines. There's a tiredness that comes through in some of these scenes, too. Padalecki shows us that Sam wants to keep things strictly business and that he means it. That being said, he also shows Sam's concern about his brother extremely well when he receives Dean's phone call. Worry etches its way across his face, telling us everything we need to know. As he searches for Dean in the kitchen, we can tell that he's frantic and fighting his anxiety---and as soon as he learns what has happened and why, we see Padalecki show Sam's fury well. The treat in this episode, of course, is seeing Sam in his yoga trainer outfit. It's a shallow moment, no doubt, but here it works well. Padalecki takes the shallow moment and makes it funny in how over-enthusiastic Sam is about his “students.” He also shows us that Sam's enjoying his turn in the outfit---all in how Padalecki delivers the line, “You're not the only one who's dated someone bendy.” Padalecki connects well with Acosta as he shows Sam's empathy in their final scene. It makes us feel deeply for both characters and we feel his sympathy deeply when he says, “I'm sorry.” That final conversation between Sam and Dean tugs at our heartstrings---in large part because Padalecki makes us feel deeply with Sam. We understand and sympathize with him here as he delivers his lines with a subtle sorrow. It's a gut wrenching performance here that lingers long after viewing.
Best Lines of the Week:
Dean: Yet another reason to stay away from salads.
Sam: You’re not the only one who has dated someone bendy.
Sam: Wait, you told that waitress the other day you were 29.
Looks like when the show comes back Sam will finally learn what a Snooki is.