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Thoughts on Sam, Interrupted

What the last nine weeks have taught me is that I'm deeply dependent on Supernatural to maintain my sanity. During the holidays, it was easier to not notice the Hellatus, what with the food poisoning and last minute shopping to contend with. But as school started up again and I find myself immersed in my last, most stressful semester of university.  I've missed Supernatural terribly, the way Sammy missed his fix I'm sure. When the doctor and woman first appeared on screen with the tell-tale faded tones of the Winchester saga my breath caught and by the time the pulsing Supernatural logo bled onto my television set, relief settled over me and it was like coming home after a long, painful journey. And what a homecoming it was. As Supernatural episodes go, this episode was a pretty decent and well-rounded new chapter.

The psychologist at the beginning of the episode dealing with the distraught woman struck me as not soothing enough in tone and in fact, a little mean. It seems to me like he should have taken what she was saying a little more seriously "“ not necessarily believing that there was an actual monster (cause that's just nutty!) but concerned at least that the she admitted to seeing her dead son whom she knew to be dead and then describing the monster as something different.  Now, I personally have no firsthand experience with psychologists (well, I suppose a professor or two, but none as a patient) so I can't say how accurate that read is, but it's there nonetheless. (Maybe Jas can share a thought?) The opening scene after the credits is one of my favourites from this episode. Watching Sam telling the I-started-the-apocalypse tale and then watching as it dawns on the good doctor that in fact both brothers have a role in this "delusion" - priceless. It was fresh and snappy and I just thought it played out very well. Some nuggets from the exchange that will stick for a long time include:
-          "I don't know. I don't own any elephant books."
-          "You mean like an angel on your shoulder?" "No, no, his name's Castiel - he wears a trench coat."
-          "There was this other demon Ruby, she got him addicted to demon blood. Near the end he was practically chugging the stuff. My brother's not evil, he was just...high" complete with Dean's hand expressions as Sam nods along earnestly.

The doctor's analysis of the brother's relationship as dangerously co-dependent seems more accurate of an earlier time than now. Back when Dean was trading his soul for Sam's life and Sam was single-minded in his determination to save Dean's soul "“ yes, I'd say that was apt. But at this point, while I still wouldn't nominate Sam and Dean for the Healthiest Familial Relationship Ever award, I think they have learned to function apart and do what is best for the most people as opposed to what's best for each other i.e. they're less dependent on one another than they used to be, certainly in the wake of season four.

The issues that played out with Dean were interesting to watch. I suspected the brunette doctor wasn't quite right - she seemed a touch frank with Dean about things. A red flag was her inquiry about Dean's father right off the cuff - because of course I can't imagine he put "issues with daddy" in his fake file from Dr. Barbar. Of course, I thought the she-psychologist was a wraith not an apparition. Either way, the questions she raised as a figment of Dean's mind give us insight into his mind. Back in Asylum, the last time our boys were in an institution, we were left to wonder just what Sam disclosed to the doctor. This time around, we're wondering what Dean said (even if he said it to an illusion).

For me Sam, Interrupted worked on several levels. To begin with, the humour in this episode was spot on. This crazy of Dean's was done better than Yellow Fever (even if I did love that episode). In fact, I enjoyed the funny bits by both boys immensely. In particular was high-Sam. I always loved the drunken exchange between Sam and Dean in Playthings ("you're mean. And short.") and this scene was equally enjoyable. Dean said it best of Sam "“ "you always were a happy drunk." This episode felt fresh in some ways, and the jokes were one of them. I didn't hear the word "douche" or "gank" anywhere and to be quite honest this was very welcome. Additionally, the range of guest characters was especially fun. From Wendy the kissing nut ("he's larger") to the shrink who was a figment of Dean's delightfully twisted psyche to the dilapidated and broken-minded hunter, Martin "“ I enjoyed them all. The touch on the death of Ellen and Jo could have been expanded on but at the same time, it was very characteristic of Dean to avoid the topic like the plague. It was equally characteristic of Sam to point this out to Dean. Even as Dean was saying he was "fine" and would prefer not to talk about it, I couldn't help but think right, because that worked so well when John Winchester died - shall we ask the Impala for some input on this subject?

The last scene between Sam and Dean gave me pause. It has taken me a few views to form an opinion on what took place here. From Sam's side, it's a major break-through that he's acknowledged his internal anger that fuels him to the point where he's single-minded and undeterred in pursuit of personal goals. The way Sam hissed at Dean to "˜back off' suggested early in this episode that his control was slipping and now he's able to at least recognize this in himself. However, Dean's point was not without merit. It is true, they are in the middle of a battleground and a time-out is not an option. For Dean, he has spent his entire life submerging his feelings, whatever they are, and doing what needs to be done. In some ways this makes sense because if we were never able to put aside (not ignore completely that is) some of our problems in the face of larger issues "“ say, the end of the world as we know it - humanity would be quite a mess. Dean's advice to Sam is the modus operandi that, to his mind, has always worked. Now, we the viewers know this truly isn't the case because Dean, for all his hunter expertise, is a severely emotionally dysfunctional individual and when he snaps, boy does he snap. I except as many have suggested that Sam's suppressed anger has a part to play in the final show-down and only time will tell how it will skew the advantage. Logic suggests it will be more in Lucifer's favour, but given that Kripke is at the helm of this ship I wouldn't count anything out.

This week's villain was a little bland, I'll admit. But that's only as a villain; the nurse was great in other areas - such as her inane chipperness and her "thorough" examination of the Winchesters. Like her, I also thought it was a touch sloppy of the boys to come into a hospital where they know something is lurking and then go broadcasting that their hunters. A twist in the story here or there and, you know, not telling everyone that you're hunting might have been a better way to go. Ultimately I don't believe this episode was about the MOTW but instead about character development and setting Sam and Dean on a course that will carry us through the remainder of season five. In that respect, I'd say this episode was successful. Ruby made the comment back in Lucifer Rising that 'it' was in Sam all along and we've been left to wonder at the particulars of that statement. This episode may be the first step on the road to discovering the complex inner-workings of Sam Winchester. Sam has many reasons to be angry - his mother was murdered, his girlfriend was murdered, his brother was murdered, HE was murdered, his surrogate mother was murdered, his father was murdered, etc. So the reasons are there - at least the obvious reasons - but if Sam can't pinpoint the source of his rage, I suspect it runs deeper than even we can speculate.

As far as the Hellatus fast-breaker, it is my opinion that we were given a solid episode in Sam, Interrupted. The elements of a good Supernatural episode were all there (MOTW storyline, some quality lines and delivery) plus, while the apocalypse story line didn't technically advance we did have some seriously significant seeds planted to that end. So, all in all, Sam, Interrupted isn't a bad platform from which to launch the remainder of season five. It's official - we're back! Next week brings us the long-anticipated body-swap episode. I urge everyone who has not yet seen the Con footage of Jensen demonstrating how he would play Sam in a body swap episode - it's hilarious.


# Jasminka 2010-01-23 18:40
Elle, what a great review, as always. Thank you! I guess we were all quite taken in by this episode, eh?

As you wonderfully point out, apart from the story it delivered, it was the end of a very long hiatus and thus something special. Homecoming… wow, what a thought. Well, we do love our show… and now we’ll be able to enjoy it (until the next hiatus, that is).

You ask whether the account of those scene with the shrink dealing with that woman (and later with our brothers?) was accurate. I have little objections here. He was being factual. We don’t know why she was committed to that facility, perhaps there had been more severe symptoms, why the doc probably just added another hallucination (the dead son, the monster) to the already listed symptoms and treated them as he had those she had displayed before.

It’s always a dangerous line with a psychotic patient. You can’t be too soothing; they often need a lot of guidance and coaching, and most importantly meds. Psychosis cannot be cured by psychotherapy alone, unfortunately, you need – sometimes heavy – medication.

Personally, I have a very compassionate nature and sometimes I have to control myself to not get too comforting, because I feel a lot of sympathy for the patients in my care, they have often been through so much.

I can’t really explain it, it’s something you just learn by dealing with patients – where to be soothing and where not so much. It’s something that is transported in the atmosphere when you speak with each other.

They depicted that very well, here, as far as that is possible, and the personnel was for the most part quite realistic… But – of course, as Robin mentioned in her ‘ramblings’ – it is next to impossible that no one looked after the patients properly, especially after there have been suicides. The whole ward would be on alert to take care of potential ‘copycats’. No way that woman would have been left screaming in such a situation. And, by the way, if any of our nurses would call a patient ‘Sugar’, well, there’d be some discussion…

Dean’s shrink, Cartwright, was nicely depicted. As she started firing away his issues at Dean, I actually thought this might be Meg, in another body, but still Meg.
Did anyone else think of that? I was pretty surprised that she turned out to be a hallucination.

I can hardly wait to see how this will go on… This episode was great, a very fine start into the second half of the season. The only line I would have liked to cut out was that absolutely unnecessary Tom-Cruise remark. What was that for.

Thanks, Elle, and isn’t it just great that you will have Supernatural to accompany you through this stressful semester (and, as we all hope, beyond). And, hey, you don’t have to skip classes anymore… It keeps getting better.

:-) Jas
# Sablegreen 2010-01-23 19:07
Nice review elle. When Sam snapped at Dean I knew he was not at all himself. I suspected the 'crazy' had already started to affect him.

I have to admit thought, I never caught on to the female doctor until Dean did. DUHHH I knew he was going 'crazy' too, just never put two and two together.
# Deborah 2010-01-23 19:34
Thanks, Elle. And I agree, if anyone has a right to be angry, it is Sam Winchester. In addition to the deaths you mentioned, he learned in the last year that even before his birth his mother had made a deal with Azazel for him that led to him being fed demon blood when he was just six months old. He is raised to be a hunter, but manages to escape that life, only to be drawn back into it when Jessica is killed like his mother. Later he finds out that he has visions and other powers that he doesn't want, and that Azazel "has plans for him and the children like him" and that his father, and later his brother, kept this fact from him for a time. Later he is killed, mainly because he makes the decision not to do what Azazel wanted and lets Jake live, thereby dying on his own terms and with a clear conscience, only to have Dean sell his soul and bring him back, in the process making Sam the reason that his beloved brother goes to hell despite Sam's best efforts and maybe because he did what Dean wanted and did not learn to use his powers earlier to save Dean from hell. While Dean is in hell, after trying everything to rescue him, he falls prey to Ruby and her promise to help him get revenge on Lilith. And then the angels get involved, and everyone is conspiring to get him to kill Lilith, which he thought would keep her from raising Lucifer but it turned out they all knew that killing Lilith was actually the last seal that raised Lucifer.

My heart breaks for both of the Winchester boys. But Sam - he's been trying so hard for so long to do the right thing -- to lead a *normal* life, to fall in love and get married, to remain true to himself and not do what Azazel wanted him to do, to save Dean and later to avenge his death, and to save the world by killing Lilith, only to find that he started the apocalypse. And then, to top it all off, he finds he's destined to be Lucifer's vessel. Yes, if anyone has a right to be angry, it's Sam. I'd be worried about him if he wasn't angry. He just needs to channel that anger in the right way to defeat Lucifer, and I believe, with Dean's help, that he will be able to do that.

My 2 cents! Thanks again, Elle, for your thoughts.
# elle 2010-01-23 21:22
Thanks all!

What's great about this episode is how much discussion it has inspired!

Jas- I TOTALLY thought of Meg too!!!
# elle2 2010-01-23 21:25
Great job, Elle.

I too thought Sam was a bit 'sharp' with Dean ..."Back off, Dean!" but like you it was telling of how the situation was affecting him -- delusions an d all and yes, at the end his realization that he is angry all the far from S1, The Pilot when Sam appears so happy.

Great analysis that it's Sam who is unable to cope with the hunting lifestyle and thus is not coping as well. I can't blame him, if it were me, I'd be stark raving mad all the time.

It is a good platform from which the remainder of the season will be launch...bring on the next eppie.
# Supernarttu 2010-01-24 02:45
Nice exploration Elle, of this great eppie :-)
It was a very thought provoking -one. I had my own suspicions about the monster. Ofcourse the obvious one was the doc but I started to think it might be Deans doc and was quite suprised when it was revealed that she wasn't real. That was quite the twist, and I liked it.
I liked her as a character too, it would have been cool if she was real, Dean really needed that. He could have made some progress knowing that he shared a little to someone outside of this whole Apocalypse/supe rnatural -mess. I felt so sad when she turned out to be just an illusion, that Dean was alone yet again. He really has never been able to share with Sam (he's supposed to be the strong one, in his own mind) and well, since Sex&Violence I think it will take him some time to do it again (even if Sam wasn't completely himself at that time). And well, he knows Sam has his own issues...
But then again it felt hopefull that Dean did say those things aloud, even if it was to himself. He does see what's happening, ignoring, supressing it as he tries to, he knows the issues. Now he just needs to work through it... But with the Apocalypse breathing down your neck, who has time right? Yeah, things are grim to say the least.

And Sam... Yay, for him to really get his own issues out in the open but not-so-yay for the bury-it-down -advice. That won't work (when does it ever?!) and I agree, the Impala would have something to say about it too. But Dean, he's barely holding it together (he said that in S1 Salvation so I guess that "barely" is like a half a hair nowadays) and he just can't be taking on anymore, so he uses what "works" for himself, denial... I have a feeling the shit is gonna hit the fan big time. Detroit is REALLY starting to scare me.
But I have faith in Sam & Dean, so BRING IT! 8-)
# Tigershire 2010-01-24 02:49
Sam certainly does have plenty of reason to be angry. But I also wonder if the rage is really his? We don't know what that blood from Azazel really did to him, do we? Some comments here and there, like "better than Ovaltine" but nobody really said for certain what the point was of it all.

What if the drops of blood were the foundation for the rage he needed as part of the prep for him to be Lucifer's "meat suit"?
# Randal 2010-01-24 06:44
Great review, elle. (everyone's on an immediate roll, post-Hellatus). To me, the Yellow Fever/Sam, Interrupted lunacies are a bit of apples and oranges, and the submerged catalysts of the apocalypse actually starting, revelations of information, and even more deaths of loved ones (with a little help from the MOTW) pushed Dean in a darker psychosis.

I'm wondering and speculating and all that jazz that Azazel's gift was merely another form of catalyst, simply turbocharging what was already there. Take the inherent personality, add tragedy, demon bloody psychic powers et voilà, road rage, hospital rage, hotel rage, etc. For the first time he knows (he *knows*) and Dean does too, and that is to their, albeit small, advantage. You know, until the master manipulator shows up.
# Lisa 2010-01-25 15:28
Thought the episode was ok. Sometimes I just feel like they need to move on with the story and this was one of those times. Of course I still love the show and will continue watching no matter what happens. I don't know, maybe I am judging this season to unfairly with the awesomeness of season 4.
# Tigershire 2010-01-25 20:03
Acutally, the nurse looked very familiar to me and sure enough, she played Holly in Scarecrow (S1E11).

I new I had seen her on the show before. GRIN