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'Supernatural' Recap: Winchesters, Divided

November 8th, 2012 9:46am EST

Supernatural Ever since last week’s promo showed Sam clocking Dean—let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to do that at one time or another—I have been looking forward to the moment when I could fall into this episode of “Supernatural” with the maturity and resolve of a five-year-old waiting for Santa Claus. It would mean that not only would I get to spend an hour watching Sam and Dean Winchester saving people, hunting things and looking hot doing it, but also that we all survived one of the ugliest and grueling elections in this nation’s history, and at the very least, the inescapable political ads and robocalls would be a thing of the past. My fellow Americans, we have made it!

Astoundingly, “Southern Comfort” was a sleeper-hit of an episode, deftly weaving the case-of-the-week with the drama between Sam and Dean, while reminding the audience that some wounds, like the grief of losing a bourbon-guzzling surrogate father, don’t ever go away. Pretend I’m standing behind some complicated diagram of “Supernatural” characters and facts and slurring my words like Diane Sawyer, and allow me to break it down, election coverage style.

The Case

Sam and Dean have a classic "this-is-not-our-case" argument on their way to their what is indeed a “Supernatural” incident, and forgive me while I swoon, because it feels like season 2 again in all the right ways. Sam and Dean look fabulous in their FBI costumes, and they're showing their badges in sync. It's all perfection until the Barney Fife on duty is shocked that his town's (that's Kearney, Missouri) murder has attracted both the FBI and a Texas Ranger...and the boys friend Garth (an iffy DJ Qualls) dressed in a suede fringe jacket and 10-gallon hat workin' the case. If you remember from previous encounters, Garth is a strange, scrawny little hunter with an unusual affection for sock puppets, '90s hip hop, and hugging other men. Basically, he's the anti-Winchester. They are both horrified to learn that Garth has taken over Bobby's role as a hunter customer service with his own...um, unique flare. “Bobby belonged to all of us, not just you and Sam. I'm just taking what he showed me and trying to do something with it,” he explained in a chin-trembling moment of candor. Garth grows on you like a barnacle, doesn't he?

The case seems confoundingly normal, even a bit boring, at first. A hacked off wife, apparently livid over discovering her husband’s infidelities crushes him with his own car and then drives over him, which probably left more than a mark. Sammy, ever the law student, figures she was temporarily insane or had some kind of medical problem until Garth literally steps in (and tastes) a sizeable puddle of green ectoplasm—a byproduct created incredibly angry, impressively powerful spirits. After questioning the distraught and handcuffed wife, they learn that Alcott, the name the husband-killing wife gouged into his chest with fingernails, wasn't the name of his mistress, but some girl he'd taken to prom 37 years earlier, the case was obviously stalled. At least until there is another murder, which is caught on a surveillance camera. According to Bobby's journal, green ectoplasm is left by spectres—ghosts that forced one to act on their betrayals—and are usually awakened by grave desecration. A grave in Kearney had been disturbed just a few days before the murder. So the trip of hunters set out for an old school salt and burn. The only problem? It grave is the Confederate Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the civil war, and it's guarded by a ceremonial guard. "Burn a confederate soldiers bones in a town full of rednecks? Suuure," Sam gripes.

They manage to burn the bones without being tarred and feathered by the toothless rednecks, but murders only escalate—a cop blows away his boss for treating him poorly; his arresting officer then tries to murder the umpire from his pick-up baseball game at the town hospital. While Dean tried to stop the deputy, Sam and Garth discover that the myth behind the Unknown Soldier is that two brothers on opposing sides of the civil war met each other on the battlefield, and one killed the other. A helpful librarian with a fierce coif tells the tale, “Vance swore vengeance on his brother with his dying breathe. Years later, the corporeal dug his brother up...and brought him home." And Vance's spirit is the spectre and he gets his ghostly kicks from punishing betrayers. I am definitely stunned by how much this episode ties into the snowballing tensions between Sam and Dean over Benny, Amelia and Purgatory, and everything else, they haven’t talked about in their lifetime. I have a feeling their throwdown will be bloodier than that doomed christening on the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

The State Of The Union Isn’t Strong

A case involving two dueling brothers not only has echoes of the fantastically bleak apocalypse plot, where Sam and Dean were poised to be vessels Michael and Lucifer’s biblical smackdown, but the supernatural possession element smacks of the kill-happy “And Then There Were None” and “Sex and Violence,” where Sam and Dean gamely attempted beat the hotness out of each other. I’m not sure if Dean will gank Garth for imitating Bobby’s personality or if Sam will bludgeon the righteousness of his brother, but I can’t wait to find out.

Dean intercepts the spectre in the body of the deputy, and gets his ass handed to him. The fight gets disturbingly creepy when the man grabs Dean by the throat and sniffs him like he’s a bouquet of roses. “The spectre likes you,” he coos and shoves the cursed object—an old penny from a necklace taken from the Unknown Solder—into Dean’s hand, thrusting him under the spectre’s spell.

Back at the hotel, a murderously calm Dean, ectoplasm dripping from his earcocks his gun and seethes, “You should have looked for me when I was in Purgatory.”

Suddenly, Sam is on trial for every mistake he’s ever made. Dean, with Garth as a witness, runs through ‘Sammy’s greatest hits: drinking demon blood, being in cahoots with Ruby, not telling me you lost your soul, letting me think you were dead while you were doing all kinds of crazy.” I rarely miss a chance to praise Jensen Ackles’ acting, because there’s not much he can’t do, but Jared Padalecki has been on point during this entire episode, playing Sam’s pain as if Dean’s disapproval and his damanged demeanor is drawing out years of pain out of the deep, dark place he’d shoved it in. When he lunges for his brother, it’s an explosion out of anger, but more of our fraternal preservation. It’s a good move from Padalecki and the writers’ to show that Sam and Dean have been in this situation before, and Sam, while upset, isn’t falling victim to it again. Unfortunately, he does fall through a coffee table and curls up, hurt, weaponless on the floor as Dean advances.

I could take or leave DJ Quall’s Garth, but he provides a much-needed moment of comedy as reluctant mediator to years of familiar unrest, especially when Sam mentions Benny. Ever the hunter, Dean goes in for the emotional kill before the physical one: “Benny’s been more of a brother to me this past year, than you’ve ever been. Cas let me down, you let me down. The only person that hasn’t let me down is Benny.”

Garth tries to convince Dean to fight the ghost possessing him, but he finally has to deck him, causing him to drop the evil penny, thus breaking the spell. This scene was so intense I was actually gritting my teeth through the entire showdown. And it’s not over.

After Garth, the man who killed the Tooth Fairy, shoves some advice down Dean’s throat, Dean has to face Sam, who manfully sulking in the bathroom. The episode features more flashbacks with Sam and Amelia. I keep hoping there’s more to this story, that maybe she was a hunter or she knows about the life—something to make it bigger and well, more “Supernatural,” but this arc is all about the small, intimate things that Sam has coveted for his entire life and he’s finally getting. These little moments both buoy and distract him while he’s on the hunt. Amelia lost her husband in the war, and she fled until she met Sam and then she just “let herself go”—another recurring theme of his episode. Sam finally admits that “lost my brother a few months ago. It felt like my world had imploded and came raining down on me, so I ran, like you.” It’s poetic and almost perfect that their mutual losses have helped them find love.

There isn’t enough spark between Padlock and Leanne to toast a marshmallow, but it’s overdue to see Sam open up about Dean and fight for what’s blossoming between him and Amelia.

Those memories and maybe Dean’s ass-kicking jumpstarted the defiant, strong-willed Sam I love, and he finally pushed back. “Her name’s Amelia. She and I had a place together in Kermit, Texas. You and I both know you didn’t need a penny to say those things. Own up to your crap, Dean. I told you where I was coming from. You had secrets. You had Benny. You jumped on your high and mighty and you’ve been kicking me ever since you got back. But that’s over. So move on or I will.” Dean earnestly agrees, and it seems like the happiest ending “Supernatural” could ever muster. After eight seasons, I know better, so I just wait. Sam then decides that he “might be that hunter that runs into Benny that day and ices him.” He just laid down a gauntlet to kill Dean’s fanged boyfriend ally and as much I like Benny, I cannot wait for him to make good on his threats.

This episode was a rollercoaster of emotions that feels like a true turning point for a season that’s been disjointed and unfocused.

Grade: From A to F, “Head On A Pin” to “Long Distance Call,” this episode was a solid B+.

Did you cheer when Sam finally told Dean off? In an election for the President of Hunting, who would you vote for, Bobby or Garth? Do you think Sam will actually kill Benny? Hit up the comments section!

Next week, Dean is haunted by an certain angel, and Kevin Tran is back!

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