Then: Werewolves. Casifer. Reapers. Billie. \o/ Winchesters dying.
Me, to The Kid: "Someone's gonna die."
Now: Sam and Dean are in some kind of cabin, in a very brutal fight with a couple of werewolves. Two victims are tied up, watching. For some reason, Sam is using Dean's gun, and it gets knocked out of his hand (bungee cords, guys; it's been suggested before and it's not a bad idea). One of the werewolves picks it up and points it at Sam. Dean manages to stab the werewolf to death, but not before the gun is fired. And as Dean watches in horror, Sam falls to his knees (spoiler alert: this episode is going to be hard on Jared's knees) (spoiler alert: and my heart) and then hits the floor in beautiful slow motion.
The Kid: "Looks like it's Sam."
Somebody really needs to find a gif of this scene for me
Felled by his brother's gun. I didn't even notice that the first time. I was a wee bit distracted.
Swirly title card of darkness!
Damn. This is how you open an episode, people.
Cut to 48 hours earlier. The Winchesters are sitting in the bunker, doing some sad dark ineffective research, when Sam reveals he's found a hunt. Like last week, Dean thinks they should concentrate on Amara and Cas. Sam insists "we'll get them back," and Dean just says "how?" But more like "how." Like it's not really a question, it's just putting it out there that he knows Sam doesn't really have any ideas. And we'll get back to this later. Again, like last week, Sam says they need to get out and go work a case, and so they do.
Back to the present. Sam is writhing on the floor, wounded and bloody and grey and in pain. And part of me is thinking, I should be offended. These people are obviously pandering to the deeply disturbed and fairly inappropriate tastes of a certain contigent of their viewers, and it's so transparent; they think these viewers be bought so easily. But on the other hand, these people are pandering to my deeply disturbed and fairly inappropriate tastes AND I LOVE IT. I CAN BE BOUGHT SO EASILY. The tied-up couple, Michelle and Corbin, remain tied up as Dean frantically opens a first-aid kit. Wounded bloody grey suffering Sam tries to wave him away to take care of them (of course), but Dean's going to work on Sam first (of course). He tells them to "hold tight," which is funny, because they can't move anyway. Oh, Dean.
At least he didn't tell them to "hang in there."
Dean's in a hurry to get the bullet out, and I'm not sure why. Getting shot in the gut is an awful, slow, painful way to die. But it's slow. They've got time. I don't know that removing the bullet is going to help anything. For all we know, it might even dislodge something that causes more bleeding. But whatever (happily handwaves anything even remotely resembling a quibble about this episode). He briefly runs his instrument (a hemostat? big tweezers?) through the flame of his lighter, as if that's going to do anything, gives Sam a roll of gauze to bite on, and starts digging. This scene makes my toes curl, and not in a good way, so I'm only going to watch it a few more times. For research. (Damn, we're less than five minutes in and these two are KILLING ME. DAAAAAAMMMMNNNNN.)
Dean also finds it all pretty disturbing.
(Also? Since that was Dean's gun, and Dean knew he was hunting werewolves? That would be a silver bullet. And silver is so soft, that bullet would have flattened as soon as it smacked into Sam and it would torn a huge hole; it would have caused so much damage. Gleefully handwaving this too.)
(ALSO also! Many kudos to everyone involved in this scene. Direction, makeup, sound effects, acting - SO MUCH LOVE.)
Dean retrieves the bullet and says they'll save it as a memento, have a laugh about it later, which is all part of his usual reassuring-injured-Sam patter. (Writing, I forgot to mention writing. SO. MUCH. LOVE.) And you figure they've been in this position so many times - Sam, obviously scared out of his mind, and Dean, convincing him it's going to be okay, and Sam deciding to believe him even though that flies in the face of all other evidence because DEAN.
Corbin, meanwhile, calls for Dean again, and Sam says "I got it," so Dean hands him the supplies and lets him bandage his own wound. Which he does, with his bloody shaky hands, because he's determined to break my goddamn heart tonight.
I know this isn't significantly different from the other screen caps of Sam on the floor but I literally CANNOT STOP.
Dean explains to Corbin and Michelle that the bad guys were werewolves, and Michelle's all "I knew they were monsters," and Corbin's all "Yeah, baby, you were right," but in that almost condescending way that means "You're talking crazy talk, but I'm going to humor you because you're hurt and scared and because I love you." Aw. There's no cell service in the cabin, and no landline, so Dean decides to go back to the Impala, a couple of miles away, where he had service. Dean keeps reassuring Sam he's going to be fine, and it's only a very tiny bit more believable than when they were both on their knees in the mud and Dean kept telling him "it isn't even that bad," but Sam seems to agree with him, and Sam's died a lot more than I have, so I guess he'd know.
Dean's "You're gonna be fine" (oh crap, I don't think you're gonna be fine at all) face
Meanwhile, Corbin is patching Michelle up, and I'm concerned about her injuries. Some of them look like they could be caused by werewolf bites. No one else seems to notice, though. On the other hand, she's concerned about him, and says "Are you okay? I thought, yesterday..." But she doesn't get to finish that sentence, which (spoiler alert) was probably going to be "I thought yesterday you got bitten by a werewolf." Hindsight is 20/20, guys.
Dean gives Sam the gun and tries to take off, but Corbin insists they're going with, because "the others" are still out there. Others? Yes, other werewolves.
Sam's "other werewolves?" face.
So Sam pulls himself up and Dean supports him and crap, we are only six minutes into this episode. So much good stuff has happened before we even got to the writing credits. Good on you, Berens/Dabb. The first six minutes of this episode are already better than the one with the wrestling, whose name I've already forgotten.
Flashback to earlier... the guys are talking to a bartender who knows nothing about the missing campers, Dean's discouraged, and there's a weird guy with a ponytail watching them. The bartender suddenly remembers some cabins where missing people might hole up, and Ponytail Guy watches them leave in a not-at-all suspicious manner.
Back to the present. Sam's having a really difficult time making his way to the car, and Dean spots a building, which seems to be some kind of park ranger station. They hope to find a radio or a phone, but the phone is inconveniently dead. (Foreshadowing?) Dean does find a lantern and matches, though. Sam collapses in pain, and Corbin, who I suddenly despise with the heat of a thousand suns, says "We gotta keep moving. Those of us who can." As he gives Sam a significant look. Oh, Corbin, you do not know who you're dealing with. Corbin says Michelle still has a chance but Sam is slowing them down. I don't know if Corbin really thinks Sam's dying. If he does, that makes his upcoming actions a little more understandable. But it's just as likely that he figures Sam could survive, but they'll have a better chance if they abandon him to the werewolves. Either way, it's irrelevant, because of course Dean isn't leaving Sam anywhere. Even though Sam tells him he should. Dean goes to gather wood to build a litter to drag Sam to safety and Corbin looks at him again. DO NOT LOOK AT SAM, CORBIN. YOU DON'T DESERVE TO.
Bartender Chick and Ponytail Guy show up at the cabin, survey the damage, and announce they'll have to clean up the earlier werewolves' mess. Uh oh.
Back at the station, Dean is gathering wood and freaking out a little and gathering more wood and freaking out a little more (and telling himself "okay," which is like the Winchester mantra for when things are not okay at all) and little does he know that he actually should be freaking out a whole hell of a lot. Because Sam is trying to sacrifice himself, telling Corbin and Michelle to find Dean and escape, but Corbin has figured out one very important thing about Dean Winchester: he's not going to leave his little brother alone to die. But, maybe if he's already dead... "He won't leave you," Corbin says. "And we won't last out there without him."
It really is a shame that so much of Jared's expressive face is lost in the darkness of this ep.
And then, as Michelle sleeps, Corbin clamps his hand over Sam's mouth and nose and wait, what? This is it? This is how Sam's going to die? No. No.
Oh, well. Apparently, yes. (Spoiler alert: maybe.) And note that, in one of many instances of badassery during this ep, as he's being murdered, Sam notices a bite mark on Corbin's arm.
So, here's the deal. If Corbin really thought Sam were dying, or even that it was extremely likely that he'd die, I could understand him doing what he had to do in order to save Michelle. We all know Dean would have done the same thing - he would have let someone else die if it meant he was able to save Sam, or even have a chance to save him. He's already done it, in fact (waves to Adam in Hell). It would have been like the overloaded lifeboat ethics case study, where you have too many people to survive and you have to decide who to sacrifice. And if you don't sacrifice anyone, they all die. (Just like "nobody's killing any virgins" in Jus In Bello, so now I'm not so sure what Dean's stance would be. He was willing to save one woman even if it meant everyone else would probably die. But that wasn't a Sam vs One Other Person scenario. What do you think?) But on rewatch, I've concluded that Corbin didn't believe Sam was doomed. He was too defensive about his actions.
Dean comes back, having seen a truck of Other Vampires outside, and says they need to go. Corbin and Michelle are standing awkwardly over Sam's body. As Dean rushes to check his pulse, Corbin says "he just went." As sad piano music plays, Dean realizes Sam is dead, and you know, it seems like he'd freak out more. It also seems like he'd work harder to get a pulse, that he wouldn't let go of hope so quickly. But he immediately goes into "let the world end" mode, like he did in All Hell Breaks Loose, and he's ready to kill some werewolves or (preferably) die trying. However, lying murderer Corbin begs him to save his lying ass once again, so Dean promises Sam that he'll come back for him (sob) and says "okay" a couple more times (soooob) and leaves. Sam's position here, head to the side, is not only reminiscent of AHBL, but also of last week's epsiode, where Dean had the vision of dead Sam in the soul eater nest. Interesting that in all my speculation about foreshadowing, I did not actually speculate that dead Sam was the answer.
Don't go into the light just yet, Sammy.
Flashback. Sam is chipper (and alive), Dean is grumpy.
Back to the present. Michelle suspects Corbin did something, and he says "I saved us... I can't lose you. I did what I had to do." There's some foreshadowing, for the end of the season, my friends. Someone's going to do what they have to do in order to save someone they can't lose. I feel this coming.
They're finally at the road, and Dean flags down a deputy. He tries to dump Michelle and Corbin on him because he's got to get back to his brother, and he ends up punching the deputy and getting tased. He wakes up in a clinic with broken ribs and a concussion. Meanwhile, lying murderer Corbin tells the deputy that Sam died and "that guy" saved us and it's interesting that he hasn't used Dean's name at all. Michelle is still suspicious and guilty and not all that happy to have survived. The doctor insists on examining Corbin, much to his chagrin, and seems antsy about him. (SHE SHOULD BE.) She finds the werewolf bite and asks how he feels, and he says he feels "good." Good about murdering the man who saved you, you lying liar who lies? And murders?
Michelle checks on Dean and tells him she's sorry, and it's just now that I realize Dean's wearing his unlucky (unlucky for him, lucky for us) red shirt. The Red Shirt of Bad Decision-Making. I wonder if he's going to make a bad decision? (Spoiler alert: that's a rhetorical question, right? I mean, this is Dean Winchester we're talking about. And his brother is dead.) Michelle says her mother used to say "death is not the end," and no one knows that better than Dean, but for some reason this gives him an idea. He breaks into a storeroom, where narcotics are kept in a ridiculously non-secure glass-front cabinet, and says he needs to talk to a "scary crazy death machine." And to do that, he simply has to die. On first watch I didn't catch that he calls the scary crazy death machine "she," and I had forgotten how prominently Billie featured in the "then," so I wondered who he was going after - Crowley? Lucifer? But in my defense, Sam was dead, so I assumed if anyone would be talking to Billie, it would be dead Sam.
Back to the ranger station, where we pan up Sam's beautiful dead body (and I should feel a little icky about this, shouldn't I?) from his feet to his legs to his bloody hands and torso and his face and he suddenly gasps back to life. And is confused. Me too, because it looks like he was suddenly brought back to life, as we've seen before.
Dean has a pile of "anything with barbitol in the name" and it looks like we're going Romeo and Juliet here. Next I guess Sam's going to show up at the clinic, find Dean dead, and kiss him to kill himself with the residiual "anything with barbitol" on his lips. Dean asks Michelle to get the doctor afterward and tell her to try to bring him back. And if she can't, no hard feelings (I love that he washes the pills down with Pedialyte).
Sam clutches his even bloodier abdomen, pulls himself to his feet, and calls for Dean. (He also falls to his knees again - is this 2 or 3 times so far?) Then he hears a truck and sees the Other Vampires arriving, so he makes his way into the basement. As he stumbles and falls down the stairs, Dean collapses to the floor.
Sam's bleeding harder, and Dean's convulsing.
And in a bathroom in the clinic, Corbin removes his bandages and notices his werewolf bites are healing. Is that a thing? Didn't Madison still have the bite mark on her neck long after she was bitten?
Ponytail Guy bursts into the ranger station and, being a werewolf, can smell lots of tasty Sam blood.
As the doctor tries to save Dean, everything freezes and Billie appears. (Yay! Billie!) She says she never took him for the suicide type because of his "martyr thing," and he's all, whatever, I want Sam back. "You got him, I need him, let's make a deal." She's not interested, and Dean tries to convince her that the Darkness will destroy everything, including her, and Sam's the only one who can stop it. "Hmm," she says. "How's that?" Dean has no answer, just like Sam had no answer earlier when Dean asked how they were going to save Cas and defeat Amara. See, Dean? You need to have faith in your brother just as you expect Billie to have faith in your brother. She's not fooled. She knows Dean wants to save Sam just because he wants him back, not for the "greater good."
But look at him, Billie. All beat up and adorable. How can you say no to this face?
She says she'd say no even if Sam could save the world. "Time to say bye bye to Luigi, Mario." (OH GOD I LOVE THAT.) Dean begging her to bring his brother back is so very, very much like Sam begging Gabriel/Trickster to bring his brother back in Mystery Spot. And his face as he realizes she's not going to do it, that his world is basically over right now, is very, very much like before he kills Cain in The Executioner's Song.
Don't make him release the Single Perfect Tear, Billie.
He asks her to take him instead of Sam (which is odd because as far as he knows, she gets both of them, so why would she give one up?) and she says not only is she not here to bargain with him, but "the kicker is, Sam's not dead." Because she'd know if "the big W" bit it. (hee!!!) As she beckons him to accompany her to the empty, the action starts in the background again, and the doctor injects something into Dean's chest and he comes back. (Or he comes back because he knows his brother is alive. You know.)
Back at the ranger station, Ponytail Guy finds the puddle of blood where Sam bled all over the floor, so he knows he's down here somewhere. But Sam, being a BAMF, sneaks up on him and stabs him, and then also takes care of Bartender Chick AND has the foresight to snatch her keys because he's JUST. THAT. AWESOME. SAAAAAMMMMMMM!!!!!
Dean's back on his feet and tries to go get Sam, but the deputy wants to keep him under arrest and have the doctor sedate him, after he just OD'd. Michelle grabs some scissors and I don't know how those are gonna work on handcuffs but they do. (handwave!!!)
Sam gets out of Bartender Chick's truck and he's made it to the Impala. He stumbles out of the truck and lands on his knees again and makes his way to the Impala.
This scene's going to spawn a lot of NSFW art. Just saying.
He checks his phone and sees he finally has a signal, so he calls Dean. Who is so adorably surprised and relieved to hear from him. Dean tells him where he is, but they lose the signal again before Sam can warn him about Corbin.
Dean's relief to hear from Sam; it makes my life worth living.
Speaking of Corbin, he's gone full-blown werewolf in the bathroom. He kills the doctor and deputy (and okay, the deputy, I'm cool with that, he was a dick) and tries to tell Michelle that things are going to be great, she'll understand, because she's going to be a werewolf too. They do a thing here where we see the deputy suddenly and violently die, and he falls away to reveal Corbin behind him. Dean jumps him and tells Michelle to run, and then Dean and Corbin fight, and since Corbin likes choking people, he tries to choke Dean instead of using those nifty new fangs and claws. As he's doing that, we hear a shot and Michelle screams and Corbin falls away just like the deputy did to reveal COMPLETE AND TOTAL BAMF SAM WINCHESTER behind him. Dean says "it took you long enough" and then Sam's legs give out and he collapses to the floor and Dean is SO relieved and help me baby Jesus. This is good stuff.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sam Fucking Winchester.
Something else I'll watch a few (thousand) times. Thanks, Tumblr.
Later, Dean and Michelle talk, and Dean explains for the audience that the doctor thinks when Corbin choked Sam, he went into shock, and his breathing and heartbeat were so slow that he was just "mostly dead." I like this combiation of The Princess Bride and Romeo and Juliet. They have this conversation:
Corbin wasn't a killer. He did that for me.
Michelle, this is gonna be very hard, but you will be okay. And eventually... eventually you'll get back to normal.
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.
Closeup on Dean, who's thinking: "Same."
The guys leave the clinic, where Sam apparently only needed some stitches and two quarts of O negative. This is my only real beef with this episode. Sam would have been hospitalized overnight. He would have been on IV antibiotics. (Waves hand cheerfully at it.) Sam asks "So what did you do? When you thought I was dead, what did you do?" Dean tries to joke his way out of the conversation, then lies and says he knew Sam wasn't dead. Sam doesn't believe him. Which he shouldn't, because you know at some point, Dean must have said "I thought you were dead," or how else would Sam have even known to ask that question?
This is not the face of a man who knew his brother wasn't dead.
So. Wow. I'm kind of knocked speechless by this one. ("Not exactly," said anyone who read all 4000+ words of this recap.) This season I've been avoiding others' reaction posts until after I write my recap, because I don't want to be influenced by anyone else's opinions. But I browsed Tumblr after I watched the episode last night (Tumblr, I can't quit you!) and either the whole fandom loved it, or everyone I follow is a Sam!Girl, because my whole feed was celebrating. Not just this ep, but the entire season so far. Yes, in this one, Sam was horribly injured, twice, and still managed to kill the bad guys and save his brother. But he's been the hero of his story so often throughout S11 and it's just been magical.
Now, let's talk foreshadowing again.
First, Sam's "death" in 11.17 is almost an exact duplicate of his "death" in 11.16 - Dean walks in to find him dead (and that's one of the saddest things about his death in this one, if it had been real - that he would have died with Dean there, and Dean would never know what happened), laid out on the floor with his head to one side. Is that where it ends, or is there another incident on the way where Dean walks into a room and finds Sam on the floor? And then there's Michelle's "After everything we survived together, I watched the man I love die. There's no normal after that." Could they BE any more obvious? With the zoom in on Dean's face??? I suppose this could be referring to the multiple times Dean has already watched Sam die. But I don't think so.
Second, we've got Sam saving the day again. And Dean admitting to Billie that Sam is the only one who can defeat the Darkness. Now, it could be that they're setting me up for a fall; that they want it to look like Dean is going to be helpless against Amara, and then he'll somehow be able to destroy or trap her. And that would be pretty damn disappointing. So my completely unspoiled prediction is that Sam is going to stop the Darkness, and be killed (or "killed") doing it, and Dean will have to rescue him from the Empty.
What are your thoughts? And remember, no spoilers in the comments, please!