But let's actually talk about the episode, shall we. I took notes this evening to help me remember, because I watched the show on the east-coast feed and then took off to see Hawksley Workman's play The God That Comes for the third time - because I really like that play, you guys. So, tonight's LJ cut lyrics come from the play...
We start off this episode with boys playing hide and seek in the dark. Before you start making jokes about how they're just asking for horrible things to happen to them, I would like to point out that my absolute favourite game as a child was Hide and Seek in the Dark. Mind you, we only played it inside... and we'd also have to stop five-ten minutes before we expected Mum home, because she would flip out if she drove up to the house and all the lights were off and then she'd yell at us that people were going to think no one was home and break in and then kill us all or something. Uh...I've gotten off topic. I think my point is that Hide and Seek in the Dark is all fun and games until someone gets gored by a tractor.
That being said, the dude DID threaten to belt those boys, and I hardly think that was kosher.
Cut to the bunker! Where Sam accepts a call for D-Dog... and it's Sonny for Dean. Sam learns that the time Dean disappeared when he was 16 wasn't because he was lost on a hunt, it was because he was at a boys' home after getting caught stealing. And he was stealing because he lost their food money in a card game. John apparently knew where he was, but left Dean there to teach him a lesson about losing the money... so, this isn't exactly the level of neglect we get from most fics, where John just doesn't leave enough money - he technically did leave money and then it was Dean that lost it. BUT, it is John being pretty hard about the punishment for such a thing... which is a LITTLE hypocritical, because I'm pretty sure it was John who taught the boys to play cards/pool in order to make cash in the first place. Anyway, we'll get back to John's questionable parenting in a bit...
Let's talk instead about the fact that Dean and Sam didn't know what a damn Rugaru was until S4!!! Ugh, for an episode that was otherwise pretty perfect on the continuity, this thing was the one flaw. I really need to finish my secret-SPN-project, which I keep putting on hold because it's goddamn time consuming... but yeah, it's HOPEFULLY a piece of meta that will make sure writers don't make these sorts of mistakes when they're trying to write canon-accurate.
ANYWAY.... let's have more show and less of me complaining about minute details like a nerdy-nerd.
I liked Dean asking Sam if "Everyone is okay with them going to the Catskills" and Sam is like "I'm everyone." Haha, Dean, you are not being subtle.
They take off the catskills and arrive at the house - and Dean sees the old couch and has a flashback...
To sitting there in cuffs being told that his father left him to "rot in prison" for stealing. Ouch. And we learn that he was stealing bread and peanut butter...which of course immediately gains him the sympathies of Sonny, the guy in charge of the boys' home. The kid they have playing Dean is SO GOOD you guys!! I thought he did a marvelous job throughout this whole episode of being Dean through and through. Seriously, well done, kid.
We learn that Dean gave the cop a black-eye, and it could have possibly been Sonny that taught Dean how to unlock cuffs with a paperclip! We also see that Dean's arms are covered in bruises... Sonny asks him if his father left them, and Dean just flat out tells him that it was a werewolf, knowing that it'll be taken for sass rather than truth. This is a bit of continuity they got right! We know from S2 that Dean hadn't seen a werewolf since they were "kids" and more to that, we also know from S2 that Dean shot and killed something with a silver bullet when he was around 16, and that's when he "embraced the life" - now, of course, this episode isn't so much about him embracing the life as it is about him quietly resigning himself to it - but I think Dean actually enthusiastically resigned himself to it, and the story about enjoying the werewolf kill and thinking that his life was awesome was probably a good story to tell himself in order to feel happy. We all have things like that.
Meanwhile, at the boys home, they go investigating - and Sam finds Dean's former bed upstairs, judging by the protective symbols carved into the bed posts. I loved Sam peeling back the layers upon layers of tape to find his brother's name. I feel like there's a metaphor in there somewhere - and I just love that after all these years, Sam can still discover new things about his brother, still find new understanding... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Sam overhears the head matron (I don't know what else to call her, and I work in historical residential schools so I'm using the term I'm most familiar with) and almost stabs her! But no, she's just praying because she knows that it's a ghost haunting them and she thinks it's some dude named Jake who wanted revenge on Howard... seems like a legit story to Sam...
But meanwhile, Dean's in the barn meeting adorable Timmy, who has a weak handshake that Dean takes time to correct... and an action figure that fights monsters... and yeah, nothing much happens there.
So, Sam and Dean burn the bones that they think are the culprit and then take off - stopping at a local diner first. The diner was filmed at the Tomahawk restaurant in North Van. They took down all the totems from the outside, but they left the insides just the same - only they took out the booths and just used the tables. Also, I know from the Location Tour at VanCon that the gave burning scene was actually filmed on the same day as the Tomahawk scenes and they just built a fake grave in the parking lot around the back. Fun stuff!!
Dean's there for a reason and it's apparently to reconnect with the waitress named Robin. Dean's embarrassed and upset when she seemingly fails to recognize him. But we learn that her mom used to give guitar lessons at the boys' home...does this mean that Dean might know basic guitar?! Please let that be a thing, even if he just knows the standard three chords. The waitress continues in the tradition and also teaches guitar at the boys' home to this day.
Dean leaves in a huff though, because she didn't remember him... and we get another flashback....
This time, Dean and Sonny are out for pancakes and Sonny is congratulating him on doing well in school and doing well on the wrestling team... and we really start to see the way Dean's intelligence and skills would have made him flower had he been able to have a stable childhood. Sonny also has questions about the symbols carved in the bedposts, and whether or not Dean is in some sort of gang - telling Dean of his own gang-past and how it wasn't really family, it was just trouble. Dean's not talking though, insisting that it's the family business and a secret.
Meanwhile, the matron is getting murdered in her very lovely claw-footed bathtub. Sonny calls Dean to come back, and Dean does.
Dean goes to talk to the kids and finds them bullying Timothy.
Sam accompanies Sonny to his office to go over their records, and on the way spots Dean's wrestling champion certificate... dated for April 1995, which fits in with Dean's age too! This makes it a year or two before After School Special, and 3.5 years after A Very Supernatural Christmas.
And then the two bully-boys are mowing the lawn and something gets caught in the blade.... and I spend the whole scene cringing. Well, first I yelled. "THEY'RE NOT ALLOWED TO KILL CHILDREN!" closely followed by "BUT I THINK THEY CAN MAIM THEM! OH NO!" and THEN like two minutes of cringing until I had to say, "Yeah, maiming, I was right." Guys, always unplug your lawnmower before touching the blades...and then only touch them with a stick...while surrounded by a salt circle. Anyway, we see that it's in fact Timmy affecting things to cause the deaths, but it's not Timmy himself, it's some mysterious grotesque figure attached to him.
So, Sam puts it together that it's Timmy... possibly ghost-possessed. Sam goes to the barn to try to find the kid and instead discovers a pictograph history left by the kid to explain his life, in what I called "the attic of the barn" when my friend walked in from the other room and asked what she had missed. I obviously do not spend a lot of time in barns.
We get another flashback of Dean, this time learning guitar with an also 16 year-old Robin. We learn that, like Sam, Dean doesn't actually want to go into the family business, but he's resigned himself to it and is enjoying it just because he knows it's his only choice. He'd rather be a rockstar, or, more seriously a mechanic...because cars are like puzzles, and when you finish fixing them, they go away and aren't your responsibility anymore. And MAN, isn't that a kick in the heart, because Dean is nothing if not completely crushed by responsibility 24/7 and probably has felt that way since he was 5 years old and trying to protect his infant brother.
We also get Dean's first kiss, which he denies is his first kiss... now, I'm not actually sure what the canon is on that. Let's see if I have any info in my unfinished SPN project...Nope, but that's not a definitive answer, since the project is unfinished. But man, I LOVE the kid acting this scene, I could totally see Jensen playing the scene exactly like the kid did... so, yeah, good job.
We've also now seen BOTH Sam and Dean's first kisses. Sam's, appropriately, with a monster, in a kiss that he initiates, and Dean's, also appropriately, with a guitar-playing diner-waitress with big dreams who happens to initiate the kiss herself.
In the present time, Dean of course has discovered Robin is there to give Timmy a guitar lesson and he tries to get her to leave, telling her that she has to trust him - and she fires back something about "why the hell would I trust YOU!" to which Dean replies. "You DO remember me!!" Hahahahaha, oh Dean, I love you.
And sure enough she does remember him...Dean had asked her to the dance, and then bailed right before it - leaving town in the dead of night just like always, or rather, what would become always.
But first! Timmy's backstory! Before Dean can get Robin out of the house, the ghost attacks! Sam's put together the story from the pictographs - Timmy's mom pushing him out of a crashed car before it's engulfed in flames that end up killing her...Timmy fills us in on what happens next. (I have to admit that as cut as Timmy is, the actor doesn't quite get the level of emotion that I think the scene requires - but he's a cute little actor and is doing his best and I think he did a good job anyway!)
Apparently Timmy cried and pleaded for his mom, so she came back... and has been protecting him ever since.
Dean and Sam think the ghost is attached the action figure that Timmy has, so they burn it - but that's not the case...and now I'm sad that they burned the only gift that Timmy still had from his mother. :(
Instead, Dean tries to talk TImmy into letting his mother go...because it's either that or they kill the kid, I suppose. Dean tells Timmy that sometimes you have to do what's best for yourself, even if it hurts the ones you love. And it's an interesting tie-in to make to Dean's backstory, because on the one hand it sounds like Dean's telling us that he did what was best for himself and in the process hurt Robin, who he loved...but it could actually be the opposite of that - that Dean is telling us that he never did what was best for himself and only ever made sure not to hurt the people/person he loved the most, and maybe he should have chosen differently...not that I think Dean would ever entertain that idea, but you have to wonder...you have to wonder if Dean knows full well the potential that he gave up for his family. I think he does. I think he knows exactly what he's sacrificed and while I don't think he regrets it, I think he wishes that it could have been different.
Anyway, Timmy remembers Dean's lessons on confidence and he tells his mother to leave, and that he loves her.. and she turns beautiful again and then vanishes in a REALLY COOL VFX effect! Day saved.
Sonny is going to look after Timmy (assuming the state lets him keep him, considering there's been two deaths and one underage maiming on his property in the past week.) And Robin and Dean discuss their failure to escape the lives they swore at 16 that they didn't want...turns out that Robin LIKES running the diner. (Me and my friend found this storyline really amusing, because the Tomahawk is currently owned and run by the grandson of the original owner - it really is a family business!) And Dean, meanwhile, IS kind of a rockstar of hunting. :)
Sam and Dean go to get on the road, and Sam tells Dean that he had thought that staying at the boys home was the worst time of Dean's life, but he's realized now that it was the best.
And then, we get one more flashback to the night that John came for Dean...and it's horribly heartbreaking, and once again brilliantly acted by the young Dean. Dean's all dressed up for the dance, the first one he's ever gone to...only Sonny says. "about that" and we hear that John is outside waiting for Dean - and told Sonny to tell Dean that he "had a hunt" and that Dean would know what that meant. Dean immediately gets upset, because he DOES know what that means - it means John needs someone to look after Sam. Sonny offers that if Dean wants, he'll make a fuss and refuse to give Dean back, that Dean can stay with him... and Dean goes to the window and just looks at Sam in the backseat of the impala, playing with a pretty damn cool toy fighter-jet, and man... Dean smiles through his tears at seeing his little brother again, and he thanks Sonny for everything, but he has to go... and we know it's because of Sam, more than Dean's loyalty to his father...it's always because of Sam.
And Sam understands that too, now that he's seen all the pieces of the puzzle... and he THANKS Dean, because Dean could have just left him with John. Dean's response, of course, is "I don't know what you're talking about," because Dean will only tell you he loves you if he thinks he's about to lose you...and even then, it's only a 50/50 chance.
Man, that ending flashback kills me... it's a real mixed bag of emotions too, because it's great to see the love that Dean has for Sam so tangibly, so palpable... but at the same time, I can't help but think that a lot of kids/people in abusive homes won't leave for fear of leaving their beloved siblings/other-family behind to suffer the same as they did. Now, I'm not saying that John was horribly abusive, of course, but they WERE living a hard life that neither Sam nor Dean particularly wanted, and Dean stayed for Sam...stayed to keep Sam safe, because he believed it was the best way to do so... and he COULD have escaped. Granted, not for long, he was still, after all, the Michael Sword.
Anyway, really great episode.
So, let me know in comments what I missed, or anything you want to particularly talk about in more detail!
PS: If you're wondering why there were no rewatch posts last week, it's because I had to work all weekend. I'm behind on everything hobby-related now. So, rewatches MAY have to wait until December to start up again, we'll see. I might have to work this weekend too, and then I'm going down to the Seattle area for American Thanksgiving weekend.