Between ‘A Rock and A Hard Place’ – and it hurts! Supernatural 9.08
Rock and A Hard Place was a great title for this week’s episode, full of double meanings and a dash of innuendo, in keeping with the theme of the stand-alone plot. That is most certainly where Dean is right now, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see him there. Sam too is stuck between a rock and a hard place – he just doesn’t know it. Double heartbreak!
Before I talk about Sam and Dean and where we are in the main story arc (which is invariably what captures most of my attention), a few tidbits about the standalone part of the episode. Writer Jenny Klein pulled off the sort of wild veering between funny and terrifying and heartwarming and heartbreaking that is one of the hallmarks of Supernatural. I never thought I’d hear anyone pronounce Sam and Dean Winchester virgins, and the premise gave the brothers a chance to fall into their familiar patterns of teasing each other, with Dean being a horndog and Sam rolling his eyes with affection and trying to keep his brother in line. I can’t imagine a worse temptation than Sam and Dean Winchester being plunked into the middle of a purity group!
Awkward Dean is one of my favorite flavors, so I liked that part of his interaction with Suzy, as he tries to read her signals and go along with what she actually wants. I found that rather endearing. Also, seeing Dean Winchester hoist a girl up like she weighs nothing while she enthusiastically wraps her thighs around his slim hips? That was a damn nice image. Though I’m trusting that Jenny Klein tried to make a case for Dean taking his shirt off at least. We got a sex scene where he didn’t even take off his overshirt, for godsakes! Tell me you tried, Jenny!
I admit to being a bit confused about Suzy’s motivations, especially when she switched on a dime from determined abstinence to seducing Dean. She seemed to switch back and forth between sincerely wanting to step away from a past that she didn’t want to define her (which is perhaps not very funny) and sincerely wanting to jump into bed with Dean Winchester (which is perhaps not very difficult to understand…) I guess I’m going with the assumption that Suzy’s experience making porn wasn’t as much of a traumatic experience as it often is for women in real life – she had the DVDs in her top drawer, after all.
Dean’s excitement when he realized who Suzy was became almost a fanboy moment. Dean has never made any secret of his love for porn, or any of his hedonistic escapes – it’s the way he copes with a life that offers few pleasures, and he’s always taken the moments he could get and enjoyed them thoroughly. Dean’s glorification of her porn star past might not be based on reality, but it’s probably in character (and SPN, of course, isn’t reality). Dean is a ‘bad boy’. He’s a flawed character for sure, but Dean has never been portrayed as perfect. He’s also not likely to think about the sociological implications of porn from the perspective of a woman starring in it, in any sort of real life context. For Dean, porn is a welcome respite, an escape from the stress and violence of his life. There’s no ‘adios’ afterwards, something that Dean struggles with, if the hitch in his voice when he talked about it is any indication. Suzy is a fantasy figure for him, which made for an odd parallel – since Dean Winchester himself is a fantasy figure for so much of fandom (and stars in plenty of not-quite-G-rated art and fiction and vids). I just hope he didn’t leave Suzy with even more shame than she seemed to be carrying around already. (Yes, I worry about fictional characters, don’t mock me.)
Maybe Suzy got a chance to talk to Sheriff Mills for a bit, which I suspect could set her straight about the waste of time and energy that shame really is. How awesome was it to have Kim Rhodes back? I love that Jody is comfortable with both her spirituality AND her sexuality – YES! Thank you, Jenny Klein! While the people in the purity group were clearly still struggling with that combination, and resolving it in rather black and white ways, Jody has gone through hell and come out on the other side as a woman who knows herself and what she wants and needs. How refreshing.
She and Sam have incredible chemistry together when they’re working a case. They had some excellent lines too:
Jody: “Dragons? That’s a thing?”
Sam: “Too many things are things.”
Ain’t that the truth!
Kim strikes just the right notes as Sheriff Mills, part mother figure for the boys and part fellow hunter. She’s strong and smart and sexy, and she’s badass enough to pull a friggen’ stake out of her shoulder with her bare hands. She’s one character who I hope returns again and again (though I can’t seem to jump on the shipping bandwagon for her and Sam, I just get too many mom vibes. Sorry, Jody…Millchester is an awesome ship name though, gotta say…)
Also, I had to giggle that Suzy’s character in the Casa Erotica film is named Carmelita. That’s the name of one of the props buyers who we had the pleasure of meeting on set – in fact, she appears in our new book, Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls! Hi, Carmelita!
One minor plot point did niggle at me. I can handwave a lot of the potential problems with the Dean/Suzy scene, but I struggled mightily to handwave Dean not picking up the phone when it’s Sam calling – in the middle of a case, no less. But, like I said, that’s minor. Because there was a lot to like about this episode.
While there was plenty of humor in this episode, the humor wasn’t overplayed, and the music I hate with a fiery passion (that stupid music that broadcasts “something funny is about to happen, oh boy”) didn’t come on too often, so yay. But damn, in between the comedic moments, the episode was freaking SCARY! Kudos to Jenny Klein for writing the gory and the suspenseful and the frightening, and to director Johnny Mac for bringing it to life in a way that made me scream out loud – that’s exactly what SPN should be! When the girl was hiding under the car in the first scene, just barely pulling her feet in? AAAAHHH! Starving to death, buried alive, trapped underground in the dark….all the ingredients of an episode that made my stomach twist and turn with anticipation of something truly BAD happening. And the poor girl scraping her fingers bloody and then desperately licking up her own blood? OMG nice touch, so disturbing I could barely watch it. Jenny has been with the show since the Kripke era, and I have to say, I think Kripke would be proud of that moment. The VFX team did amazing work with that crazy blue fire, and the lighting worked perfectly to make the scenes in the dark a thousand times scarier. Nice work, Serge.
As usual, what grabbed me RIGHT IN THE FEELS about the episode was what’s happening to Sam and Dean. This episode definitely did not disappoint in terms of emotional resonance. From the quiet early scene in the bunker, Sam fallen asleep next to his bowl of cereal and Dean trying desperately to stay in denial that something is wrong, to the last scene that broke me, the episode delivered emotionally.
The scream-out-loud fear during the scenes with Vesta was nothing compared to my terror about what’s happening to Sam. With every episode, I become more and more terrified that all our suspicions about Ezekiel are being gradually proved right. When the goddess looked at Sam in horror and said, “You’re all duct tape and safety pins inside, how are you alive?” I gasped out loud. (And may have yelled at the television, “What the hell does that mean?”) The poor television takes a lot of abuse on Tuesdays at 9 pm.
It’s not that I ever trusted Zeke, but I was hoping against hope that at least he was healing Sam, no matter what his end game happened to be. That line, combined with Sam’s obvious fatigue in the opening scene, filled me with trepidation. How is it that this Show can still do that, after all these years? I still care about these boys that much, and I know this Show can put them through hell. Literally and figuratively. I ache for Sam, for how much he’s been through and how tired he is. For how much he always blames himself, no matter how many people he saves and how much good he does. He never feels truly okay or truly whole, and it breaks my heart to see that. I think it breaks Dean’s too, more than anything else. That’s why the last scene broke me.
The way Sam slumped down on the bed, every bone in his body just broadcasting defeat and weariness. The resignation in his voice, so quiet and small for such a big strong man, when he told Dean that maybe it was just him. Padalecki nailed it, all of Sam’s exhaustion and sadness right there, written in every line of his body, every expression. “Maybe that’s just who I am.” Oh, Sam.
I can’t imagine anything worse for Dean than watching his little brother hurting, and feeling so damn bad about himself, and Dean not being able to make him feel better. The look on Dean’s face when he heard that, when he saw how much pain Sam was in…oh, my heart! With the two of them looking so sad and broken, it’s a no brainer that I had to reach for the tissues. There’s no way Dean could stand that, hearing Sam blame himself. And then you could see Dean come to a decision; Ackles sets his chin, straightens his shoulders, and you know that Dean is gonna do it, and you WANT him to. You hold your breath, hoping against hope that he’ll get the words out in time.
“I can’t let you take this on yourself…”
SAY IT, DEAN! TELL HIM! (That was me, screaming at the television again.)
Then BOOM, Zeke was there, with the perfect threat to tie Dean’s tongue. Sam won’t survive; Dean is stuck. Between a rock and a hard place.
That ending left me shaking. Like, for real. Which means that Jenny Klein did a damn good job.
Favorite line in the episode?
Jody: After Bobby, after Crowley, I was looking for comfort I guess.
Sam: I guess we’re all looking for that.
Jody: Except those that got it.
Sam: (looks up questioningly)
Jody: C’mon, you and Dean, that’s something special, don’t you think?
Why yes, Jody, I do. It’s what makes this Show something very special too.
Excuse me while I grab a tissue. Okay, better.
Some of the usual suspects watched along with fandom on Twitter, adding their own spin to the episode, which I’ve come to love. When the brothers signed Sam and Dean Winchester (for some reason I still can’t quite fathom), Jared tweeted:
“First time EVER signing our REAL names on camera…for a chastity pledge!!!”
To which VFX guru Ryan Curtis promptly replied:
“Pssst Jared, those aren’t your real names…”
I laughed out loud when I read it.
Guest actress Lindy Booth tweeted that the “boys spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to sign their names,” adding pointedly, “Important acting decisions!!”
And Kim Rhodes tweeted props to Ryan Curtis for the “stake stab” and then to Jared when he switched from Sam to Zeke:
“Husband and I both out loud, in sync, said, “Nice!” at the transition. You’re awesome. Thank you, always always always.”
Man, this cast. Both their affectionate ribbing and their support of each other never fails to get me all wibbly. #SPNFamily, everyone.
Let us know what you thought – and if you’re a Supernatural fan and still making up your holiday wish list, be sure to include Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls — click through the link at the top right of this page to order!