“To the pain.” The phrase will be familiar to any fan of the movie The Princess Bride, but it is most appropriate for the Supernatural episode “Red Meat.” Rather than taking everything but the ears as Westley threatens Humperdink in the movie, we see each character tested in their own ways. In many ways, the series has ran as a long marathon of “to the pain,” but this episode in particular takes it to new heights and uses it to explore the season as it stands and perhaps where it may be going. It also draws on key parallels from the season two finale, “All Hell Breaks Loose I and II” to convey its ultimate story. Everyone---from Michelle and Corbin to the Winchesters themselves---are tested. They're pushed to that moment when it is “to the pain”---and some are even pushed to the brink of being “mostly dead” to realize it. What does “to the pain” mean in Supernatural, then? What are the thresholds? How does it shape the story going forward? What are its lessons?

First, let's look at the case that brought Sam and Dean on the scene.

It is supposed to be a werewolf case. The brothers already know what they're hunting, how to kill it, and where to start looking. Sam suggests that they take it on simply to get out of the Bunker and away from the drudgery of a research rut. When they get to the scene, they find the missing hikers, the werewolves, and fight them to the death. It is a rather open and shut monster of the week in that regard.

Until the moment one of the werewolves shoots Sam in the stomach, that is. At that point, the episode becomes a test of “to the pain,” for everyone involved.

spn1117 0036
As Sam drops to his knees, Dean kills the werewolf that shot Sam in the first place. He rushes to his brother---instead of the two victims still tied up and in distress. Dean is frantic, knowing that he has to remove the bullet and quickly. With quick hands and a little bit of humor--- “Okay, there we go. There we go. Look at that, huh? Hey! Well, you know what? We're gonna keep that one. That one's gonna be a little memento, we'll laugh about it some other time. ”---Dean succeeds. Sam is dismissive of his wound, trying to get his brother to help Corbin and Michelle, the people they came here to originally save. He knows his wound is bad, but they are the reason they do this and they are the reason they came here. Sam wants them saved first and foremost.

Once they're freed and a little first aid is administered, Corbin warns that they can't stay in the second cabin they've found for much longer. There are other werewolves waiting to hunt them. If they stay here, they shall die. So, they must get on the move and fast. He's driven to protect and save Michelle. His remark, “We gotta keep moving---those of us who can. Michelle's real sick, but she's gotta chance. Him? He's slowing us down. If they find us. It's three lives versus one,” draws scorn from Dean. There is no way he will lead these two people out of this wooded area without Sam. This is an impasse that will test Corbin and Dean. It will push them to do drastic things.

spn1117 0482
The trek through the dense woods had been a slow crawl anyways. Sam had stumbled a few times, the wound in his stomach agonizing. His attempt to brush that pain aside, “I told you that roadhouse chili was a bad idea,” meant to assure his brother does the opposite for Corbin. It only fuels Corbin's worry, tearing at his psyche and pushing his threshold to the point of breaking. He can clearly see that they won't survive this at this pace and they cannot get out on their own. Once they arrive in the second cabin, Corbin has already made his decision---he has already been pushed “to the pain” and it has broken him completely.

Dean tries to gather supplies and to make a land-line phone call---one that fails with the phone line dead. He is determined to keep them moving, but he clearly needs to catch his breath as they're walking wounded in more ways than one. He will not leave his brother behind. He will not give up now. Sam's stomach wound is ghastly, but he snaps at Corbin and Sam, “I'm going to go outside and I'm gonna find some wood and build you a litter and we are gonna carry him the rest of the way. It's only a couple of miles.”

spn1117 0809
After he leaves, Corbin makes his move. He knows that Dean will not leave his brother behind and he cannot allow them to be caught by the remaining werewolves. He must take action now if he is to save Michelle. For Corbin, his “to the pain” break is the thought that she could die. He cannot lose her and he will not lose her. Whatever it takes, no drastic measure is too far. Corbin realizes that Sam is weakened enough that he can make the debate a moot point. As he nears Sam, he remains nonthreatening until the last moment when he quickly wrestles the younger Winchester to the floor. He squeezes Sam's nose shut and holds a hand firmly over his mouth in a hope to suffocate him quickly. The action is one of desperation. He will do this for Michelle. He will do it so they can live. He tells Sam as he does it, “He won't leave you and we won't last out there without him.”

Once the deed is done, there is a shift in Corbin clearly seen in his face. He is calmer---and yet haunted all at once. He is stunned by how far his “to the pain” threshold has pushed him. It is clear that he was not this type of person before they came to this forest. He wasn't the type to murder someone before werewolves kidnapped and severely injured his wife. Now, however, faced with the loss of Michelle he sees no other option or choice in the matter. In the wake of his shock, it is also clear that he is relieved that Sam's burden has been lifted. After all, he can tell himself that the werewolf that shot Sam was his real killer. He can cover it up and simply report to a distraught Dean that he “just died.”

spn1117 1390
It is the beginning of Corbin's transformation. His “to the pain” threshold may have been the loss of Michelle. Now, it will be the loss of his humanity. During that struggle, Sam noticed the tell-tale bite wound that marked Corbin as in transition. He would become a werewolf soon and therefore would turn on everyone---and in the end it is possible he may have eventually turned on Michelle, too. At the hospital, however, Corbin keeps his focus strictly on Michelle. He hovers over her as the doctor examines. He's patient and overjoyed, telling her, “Michelle, we made it.”

It isn't until the doctor forces him to submit to his own examination that the transition becomes clearest. He is aggressive in his refusal. In part, this is is due to his reluctance to leave Michelle's bedside. On the other, it is due to the shifting emotions inside him. The transition is slowly stripping him of his humanity, replacing it with the might and aggression of a werewolf. She spots the wound and questions if he feels fine or not. Corbin confirms that he feels fine---in part to get rid of her attentions and in part because he truly is starting to feel powerful.

spn1117 1992
It isn't until he's left alone in another room that he can take in the truth of what is happening to him. He was pushed to the brink in the forest. He had faced his “to the pain” moment, and he had won. And yet, Corbin can clearly stand in as a warning. He was driven to murder for Michelle. He was driven to lie about it. His fear of losing her made him do desperate yet heinous things. The outward manifestation of his change from man to werewolf is a clear metaphor for how far he was pushed. It is a clear illustration of his “to the pain” threshold being met and smashed to pieces. For in the moment that he killed Sam, Corbin became a monster. It is not his werewolf nature that makes him one. It is his actions that make him so. And it is this that marks him as a warning. While his claws and fangs emerge and his body becomes powerful and heals swiftly, it is what is in his own heart that has shifted the most. It is clearest in his brutal attack of the doctor and then the bloody murder of the deputy.

Corbin may have suffocated Sam to save Michelle. Now he kills for its pure pleasure and has embraced the monster his actions have made him become. Meeting his “to the pain” threshold has utterly broken him and replaced him with a clear monster that cannot be left to fester. In a mirroring of his earlier murder of Sam, Corbin assaults Dean, strangling him and trying to suffocate him with his bare hands. He can overpower Dean now with his growing werewolf strength. His adrenaline will fuel him. As he nearly triumphs, it is brutally cut short by a bullet to the back.

Sam, the man he believed he had killed once to save his beloved Michelle, has killed Corbin to save his brother, Dean.

spn1117 0311
In the process, Michelle also had to face her “to the pain” threshold. As they made their way from the forest and as they went from cabin to cabin, she has to watch the man she loves die right before her eyes. Long before that fatal shot, she knows that the Corbin that she married is slowly ebbing away. It is a tortuous loss. It is first seen in his ingratitude towards their saviors. He is crass in his demand that they abandon Sam. Corbin is off putting as he becomes belligerent about their chances and that they must keep moving even if it means one of those that risked everything to save them is sacrificed along the way. It matters not to him---and she can clearly see that this is the first step on a slippery slope.

After the murder, she knows the truth long before he states it. He tells her that Sam simply died. She knows better. It is written all over his face that this was not the case. She didn't see the actual deed take place, but she knows that her husband somehow “helped” Sam along. There's little she can say or do about it. She knows why he did it. As they make their way towards salvation, she manages to get him to tell her, “I saved us. You're hurt bad, and I love you Michelle. I can't lose you. I did what I had to do.” It is a confirmation for what Michelle already knows to be true: her Corbin is disappearing.

spn1117 1324

This is her “to the pain” threshold being met. It is being ratcheted up and pushed to the brink in a slow drip. Corbin has gone from words to actions. It is only the beginning of the end for him. All Michelle can truly do now is watch it happen and hope against hope that somehow she's wrong. Somehow she won't lose the man she loves to the monster that is creeping over him. She has to have that hope because to think otherwise is to lose and succumb to her “to the pain” test.

Michelle makes her apologies to Dean. She knows what her husband did was wrong and she knows why he did it, but she can recognizing in Dean the very pain she's feeling now. She can see that Dean is broken by what has happened to Sam. It's why she visits him. It's why she makes sure that he's recovering and takes that time to thank him for what he's done. She carries the burden of truth, too. The monster that took away her Corbin took Sam away from Dean---and that is something that breaks her heart the most.

As she watches Dean's desperation---confused by his drive to talk to “an evil, scary death machine”---she can clearly see Corbin in this strange man that saved her, too. He will go to such lengths, take such risks---and even go as far as to take a life, in this case his own---all to hopefully save Sam. It is a scary event to witness---and yet she understands. She recognizes that Dean is also facing his own “to the pain” and she knows that he is breaking under its weight. She helps in the ways that she can. If she unable to help Corbin from what he's becoming, perhaps she can do something for the man that helped save her.

spn1117 2798
Confronted head on, however, by the Corbin that has replaced her husband, she must now face her “to the pain” to its conclusion. He is before her, bloody and transformed into a vicious monster. He has killed the doctor and he has now killed the cop. He pleads with her that she'll understand---and his drive to keep her with him goes to a new level when he calmly tells her that she'll join him soon. Dean interferes and she is forced to watch the battle to the death. Her husband, one that must have been loving and kind and generous, has now been replaced by a violent and ruthless killer.

Even so, that fatal shot breaks Michelle. She screams out “No!” as Sam pulls the trigger and Corbin falls, dead. In the aftermath, she tells Dean, “No I won't... They said I could leave an hour ago, but where am I even supposed to go? After everything we survived together, I watched the man I love die. There's no normal after that.” Her “to the pain” was the same as Corbin's---losing her love---and yet unlike Corbin she does not allow it to turn her into a monster. She is broken and shattered by what has happened. Michelle must now live with the reality that the supernatural is out there and that is has taken everything from her. Now that she has been put to the test, she must now learn how to cope with its results and to move forward. She must answer those questions she posed to Dean and figure out where it will lead her. Will she learn from Corbin's loss to his “to the pain” test or will she break as he did? Will she grow and prove Dean right---that “she's strong, she'll be alright”?

Not only did Corbin and Michelle have their “to the pain” tests, the Winchesters did, too.

01
Dean hadn't wanted to take on this hunt in the first place. He had told Sam they could put someone else on it and that they should stay on the research hunt for ways to stop Amara and save Castiel. In many ways, Dean's “to the pain” test starts long before they end up in that cabin. He's twisted up about Castiel and the fear that he will succumb to the Darkness. He's struggling with their lack of traction on that front---and so he's already feeling somewhat boxed in.

When the gunshot happens and he watches Sam drop to his knees, the test begins in earnest. Dean knows that they're racing a clock now. He knows that Sam needs him and that this could turn ugly quickly. The bullet must come out and he does his surgery quickly. If it will save Sam, Dean will do it. Whatever it takes. He is emotionally tested by Sam's wound. In every gesture, we can see the pain ratchet up for Dean. His concern is written in his body language and in his facial expressions. The little boy that we all know trapped inside Dean emerges as he is forced to watch Sam suffer so much pain yet again. So fresh from the sight he saw in “Safe Houses,” it isn't far from Dean's mind that his brother could die again---leaving him to pick up the pieces or break apart himself.

spn1117 0706
After he snaps at Corbin, Dean goes outside to gather materials to build a litter for Sam. They will carry him to safety. They will do whatever they must to get out of this forest and finish this hunt he never wanted to take on in the first place. Alone, the first crack in Dean's armor appears. His “to the pain” is twisting him in knots and fueling his fears. He yells to the darkness, “Get off me!” He's shouting at no one in particular---he's simply trying to find the release valve on some of his pain before he must return to Sam and put on a brave face.

And yet, when he comes back inside, he finds that he is too late. Dean is confronted by his dead brother on the floor. Shattered inside, he kneels down and touches his brother's face. The action is one of disbelief and desperation. He convinces himself that it'll be just like the image he saw in the soul eater's nest. It's a mirage. It can't be real. As the reality settles in, the “to the pain” threshold that has never been mastered begins to break Dean anew. His brother is dead and the monsters are coming. Corbin killed his brother---something he doesn't learn until later---in order to get Dean to save them and abandon Sam. In this moment, Dean returns to the first time his brother died. He says grief-stricken and defeated, “Let 'em come.”

spn1117 0941
It is a stunning admission to both Corbin and Michelle. Dean had had so much fight in him until this moment. Now he seems to welcome the end. Roused by Corbin's words that “You stay, you fight, you die, and so do we. Look, he's gone. I'm sorry, but he's gone. Help us. Please,” Dean finds it in himself to save them and guide them out of the woods. He isn't doing this for them, however. He's doing this to keep his word to Sam---something that is unspoken but clear. He is holding fast to their pledge to “saving people, hunting things, family business,” with the emphasis on “saving people.” He knows that it is what Sam would want and he will not let his brother down. Even if it cuts him to shreds inside, Dean will rise up and meet this challenge. He must push aside his own “to the the pain” test for the moment and help these people. It is a heroic effort.

After they've found civilization back, Dean tries to rush away from the cop he's found. He hands over his charges with the intent of returning to Sam and finding a way to save him next. Unfortunately his curt words do not impress the deputy. He doesn't help himself by slugging the cop, either. Just as he is about to make his way back to the cabin---the burden of possibly losing Sam yet again heavy on his shoulders---the cop tasers him and he is left to wake in a hospital hours later and broken by the likelihood that it probably too late for him to save Sam now.

spn1117 1458
Regardless, Dean will try. After Michelle tells him, “I-I just wanted to see how you were doing... and to tell you th... I'm sorry. You saved our lives and... well my Mom used to say, um, I didn't believe her then, but I-I think I do now. She used to say, 'death -- it's not the end.' ” it occurs to him that he can perhaps bargain for Sam once more. The lengths Dean will go to save his brother prove that this is a raw wound that never heals for the elder Winchester. No matter how many times he's lost Sam---no matter how many times they've been burned by deal making or bargains or magic cures---Dean turns to them as the “to the pain” threshold he faces pushes him too far beyond the limit. It is too much to bear and he refuses to stop until he can say with certainty that Sam is safe.

He tells Michelle, “Okay. After I do this, go get the doc and tell her to, um, tell her to bring me back if she can. If not, no hard feelings, okay? ” What he is doing is risky. What he is doing is going to push him even further. After he ends up on the floor seizing from the amount of barbiturates he's taken, Dean is faced with Billie the Reaper. She is there to take him to the Empty. Dean pulls out his last card to play, telling her that Sam is the key. “You know the Darkness is out there, and the world is gonna burn. And once she gets started, that's the end of everything, including you. Sam's the only one that can stop it. ”

spn1117 2176
It's a bluff. Billie sees through it immediately. Sam doesn't have any way to stop the Darkness. And yet, driven yet again to the brink as he is, Dean knows that Sam is key. He's the key to keeping Dean from giving into the Darkness. It is the two of them together that will help clean up the mess they made together. Take Sam away and leave Dean behind and he knows that he will most likely give up. He may even go willingly to the Darkness at that stage.

She tells him, “That's what I thought. It's cute though, you pretending to save Sam for the greater good, when we both know you're doing it for you. You can't lose him. But even if Sammy could win the title bout, the answer would still be 'no.' The answer will always be 'no.' Game's over Dean, no more second chances, no more extra lives. Time to say bye-bye to Luigi, Mario.”

11.17 normal Red meat 450
Dean has done this to bargain with her. He knows that she has the power to bring his brother back and that if he must sacrifice himself to do it, he will. To his surprise, Billie tells him the truth. “I'm not here to bargain with you, kid. I'm here to reap you. And the kicker is, Sam's not dead. But you are. Or will be, soon enough. Trust me, if the big W bit it, I'd get a call.”

In that moment, hope sparks in Dean. His brother is alive. It is precisely what he's wanted. Unfortunately, Billie isn't so willing to let him go. She extends her hand and tells him, “The Empty. It's waiting.” Before she can take him, however, somehow Dean revives. It is a mysterious resurrection. How much of it is Dean's will to live now that he knows Sam is truly alive? How much is it another power interfering on his behalf? Whichever. Dean no longer cares. With relief, he tells Michelle, “He's alive.”

It is this statement that Dean clings to. As he makes his way out of the hospital, he means to call Sam. Instead, the phone rings and it is Sam calling him. He puts all of his love into the single word, “Sammy.” His brother is alive---and while his last ditch efforts aren't the reason, he is elated.

spn1117 2603

And yet, Dean must look to these actions and address them. His actions while facing his greatest “to the pain” test prove that he must look to Corbin's fall for fresh understanding. Corbin was cut from much the same cloth as Dean himself. He was so driven to save Michelle at all cost and in doing so lost himself and his humanity---and in the end his life. Corbin is a warning for Dean. He is a mirror---a foreshadow---of what Dean could become. It is this “to the pain” threshold that Dean must face if he is truly going to emerge over the Darkness and to overcome the raw wound that seems to never heal. Perhaps it is always so raw because fresh salt seems to be rubbed into it on a regular basis.

Afterwards, as he talks with Michelle, Dean realizes the horror of what has happened. He is faced with the pain she feels. It is raw within him, too. She may tell him, “Must be nice,” about Sam's recovery, but he gets it. It's written all over his face as he hears her say, “I watched the man I love die. There's no normal after that.”

spn1117 3040
Dean knows this feeling all too well. He loves his brother so much and he has never seen normal again since his brother died in his arms all those years ago. It is not lost on him that this case echoes so much of the first death Sam ever had. It is written explicitly on his face as he faces it in that quiet moment with Michelle. In the car, he tries to brush it off, joking about redecorating Sam's room. About Sam being dead or alive, he remarks to a skeptical Sam, “What I, uh, I knew you weren't dead.”

In his efforts to put this latest “to the pain” test behind him, Dean wishes to bury it. He can't and he shouldn't. He must face it in the near future. He must realize it before he becomes Corbin.

Sam also had his own “to the pain” test. His may have seemed explicitly physical in the episode, but it is clear as one looks deeper at his journey that Sam was being tested emotionally, too.

spn1117 0085
It starts before they've even taken on the case. Sam knows his brother well enough to know that they're stuck in a rut. He wanted to take on this case to keep them moving forward. Their researching endlessly only fuels Dean's obsession, and Sam is concerned that he'll lose his brother to this just as much as he would have to the Mark of Cain or to the now looming threat of the Darkness. Anytime they've talked lately---when not on a case---it has been about how to stop her. They're searching high and low for a new Hand of God. They're trying to find any new information in any of the vast lore books. It is a tiring process that seems so fruitless at the moment and Sam knows it will drive his brother to the brink if he doesn't step in and say something.

Sam also knows that Dean is struggling with Castiel being Lucifer's vessel. He's pushing himself so hard to find a way to save the angel. Sam recognizes all these ominous signs and knows they must take a step back. If not, they'll simply dig themselves into a deeper hole of frustration and that could be just as dangerous as anything else they're facing. Sam is gentle in how he brings it up and how he pushes Dean to accept it. He tells Dean, “We'll get him back. I don't know, but we'll figure it out. Meantime, we got to get out of here. Clear our heads. I mean, this is a case. Let's do what we do. Let's work it.”

As they prepare to go into the woods, Sam seems eager and relieved to be back on the job. He's joking with Dean. His posture seems relaxed and comfortable. He's at home with the Impala's trunk open, gathering up their weapons, and preparing to do the job. In a subtle way, Sam's trying to remind his brother that this is what it's really about for them. He doesn't care if they're researching the latest big bad or the next monster of the week. Sam has come to terms with his enjoyment of the life---and that means as long as he's doing this with his brother, he's happy. It's why he jokes, “You know, we always talk about taking a break, going camping. This could be like camping. It could be fun.” When Dean retorts that it can't be fun to be “freezing our nuts off,” Sam replies, “Yeah, that part.” He wants his brother to remember the fun of this---that it's just the two of them doing their job and sharing one another's company.

spn1117 0177
It all changes, however, when they've managed to destroy the pack holding Michelle and Corbin captive. It seems like their ambush had gone in their favor. All the werewolves had been wrestled down or killed. All that would be left is clean up. That's until Sam turns and one of them points a gun, firing. The bullet sears into his stomach, instantly bringing the younger Winchester down to his knees. Suddenly, Sam's now in the thick of a new “to the pain” test. It will take unexpected turns. It will push him to limits. It will also drive him to fight tooth and nail to get back to his brother---sometimes literally.

Even so, Sam doesn't want to be a hindrance or a burden. This is seen in his struggle to convince Dean to leave him at one of the cabins. He's realized that he's a liability to them all at that point. He puts Corbin and Michelle first. As they make their way to salvation, Sam knows he's slowing them all down. He knows that they can't make it with him so wounded. Each step is excruciating. Each breath makes his wound worse. His knees buckle too often. He's wobbly and weak. At their current rate, Sam knows that they'll be caught all too soon by the other werewolves.

spn1117 0865

As he's cornered by Corbin, however, Sam will fight back. He knows he may be a liability, but he will not leave Dean behind, either. He will fight hard to stay alive. He struggles to push Corbin's hands away, to pry them from his nose and mouth, and to find any purchase to shove his assailant away. Due to the nature of his wound and the physical strength he's in, however, Sam loses the battle. Corbin's done it. He's murdered Sam, leaving him cold on the floor.

spn1117 1666
After his brother has left, Sam revives to find himself alone. His gasp of new life is oddly familiar---it has an echo of his first revival and Sam, in his confusion, is left to wonder just what might have happened. It is this moment that becomes his first true “to the pain” test. He has one goal in mind---get back to Dean. It is a slow crawl with his wound still fresh and exquisite. Each step sends sparks through him and he must find the strength to power past this physical “to the pain” to achieve his goal. After all, it isn't just about getting back to Dean. It's about saving Dean perhaps, too. He saw that Corbin had been bit. It was yet another reason he had fought so valiantly when Corbin suffocated him. Sam knew that his brother was in danger. One of the charges they went to rescue could at any time become the enemy. Sam had to push himself before it would be too late.

Unfortunately for Sam, however, time is not on his side. The werewolves that they were sure were on their trail have caught up to him. He must sneak his way into a downstairs and lie in wait to strike. He knows they're coming. As one follows his obvious blood trail and scent, he emerges from the murky shadows to stab the werewolf in the heart. As the other one, Rose, follows him into the basement, Sam dispatches her, too. He has no time for a drawn out affair. Not only does he have a serious wound in need of medical attention, he has a brother that needs him. He will not allow them to take him away a second time.

spn1117 2569
He steals their car and makes his way back to the starting point of this hunt. There, he climbs out and is elated to find the Impala waiting. His sheer relief at being home lifts his spirits and anchors him to the hope building in his chest. Now that he's come this far, Sam knows he can make it the rest of the way. He's passed so much of his “to the pain” test---and while he still has farther yet to go, there's a chance. Coming home to the Impala is what he needed to keep going.

Sam calls his brother, pleased that there is a signal. It is confirmation that he's not too late and that perhaps he can warn Dean of the threat looming. Sam pushes through his own anxiety and physical pain to do it. He knows there's little time. As the signal cuts out, however, it is clear on Sam's face the determination he has to return to Dean before the worst can happen. Sam is unaware of what Dean has recently done. He doesn't know that Dean has also had his own death and revival. All he knows is that his brother is in danger and that is a “to the pain” threshold he will not face again. After all, Sam has taken that test too many times in the past. He knows how awful it can become---and just how fast. That test is one that he will prevent---even if he's in physical agony while doing it.

spn1117 2830spn1117 2838
He manages to arrive in the nick of time. Just as his brother is struggling against Corbin's newly enhanced strength, Sam pulls the trigger. His expression as the body drops is one of chilling satisfaction---another echo of yet another expression fresh on the heels of his first revival. He wasn't too late. He hadn't had to take the full “to the pain” test this time. He was able to save Dean from this brutal attack---or from the same fate Sam himself had had to face. In the immediate moments afterwards, however, the physical “to the pain” test reasserts itself and Sam drops to his knees with a pained shout. He had made it and now his wound becomes the primary concern.

spn1117 3089
In the aftermath, as they make their way home to Baby's bench seat, Sam knows that his brother has faced his own “to the pain” test. He knows that Dean wouldn't have left him at that cabin alone unless he had believed the worst. He also knows his brother too well. Dean had done something during that period. He knows that his brother would have been pushed too hard and too far. As Dean tries to talk his way out of the heart to heart, it is written all over Sam's face. He knows his brother is shirking this. He also knows to push when it is too fresh and too raw is to court new walls between him and Dean.

For now, Sam will allow Dean to skirt this “to the pain” test. He knows that they will have to face it sometime, but not today.

After all, they had already faced enough of those for one day. It is one they both must face---together---before they can truly defeat Amara and Lucifer. That is the season “to the pain” test that will make or break them all. Together, they can. Even apart, as they were in this episode, they won together. It is always together, as Sam and Dean Winchester, that they will win.