When we last left the “Supernatural” universe, Sam and Dean were careening towards the Leviathan-infested hospital via ambulance—Sam was seizing with a head injury, Dean with bloodily broken leg, and Bobby presumed dead.
Slickly directed by series’ star Jensen Ackles, “The Girl Next Door” was thankfully easier on my fangirl heart. It began mere minutes after last week’s cliffhanger with the brothers arriving at Sioux Falls General. Dean, a fighter to the end, tried to climb off the gurney and find his brother. His doctor explained that Sam had “bashed his head quite seriously.” Forget the Leviathans; I think gross incompetence is Dean’s biggest concern. He was silenced with a super-sized shot of painkillers.
He awakened still thoroughly stoned and with a cast up to his thigh. Dean Winchester on morphine might be my favorite thing ever as he was rendered completely unguarded. His voice wavered with palpable relief when Bobby, thought to be flambéed by Leviathans, appeared to help the Winchesters flee. Bobby lovingly patted Dean’s cheek, assuring him he was okay. It was a sweet gesture, but it also made me instantly suspicious of Bobby’s behavior. Everyone escaped in a hotwired ambulance with an unconscious Sam on a gurney in the back.
They holed up in dearly departed Rufus’ old cabin in Whitefish, Montana for the next three weeks. Astonishingly, Sam seemed to be on the mend, reading a book while a tragically morphine-free Dean was engrossed in a telenovela.
Bobby stopped in to return Dean’s precious Impala, and update the boys on the Big Bad front: Leviathans are “like shape-shifters, only a lot more into eatin’ folk,” there could be sleeper cells of them holed up in hospitals across the country, and nothing that they know of can kill them.
During Bobby’s uplifting rundown, Sam spaced out, hearing Lucifer’s haunting voice, eyes flickering to horrors the audience can’t see. He eventually pulled himself out of his hell-haunted daydream by rubbing his scarred hand, which Dean had so powerfully instructed Sam to use that pain as his tether to reality in last week’s episode. It was an appreciated moment of continuity.
After Dean sent Sam on a food run, he voiced his concerns to Bobby, who was uncharacteristically optimistic about Sam’s recovery. The Bobby Singer I know is a cynical badass who stashes copies of priceless books across the country and builds panic rooms in preparation for doomsday. He is not the look-on-the-bright side softie telling Dean not to worry. I wondered if the Leviathan actually did catch his prey and was masquerading as the Winchesters’ surrogate father. The idea was too horrible to consider.
Dean was conversely pessimistic about Sam’s health: “Because that’s not how it works, Bobby, ever, especially with Sam. The other shoe is going to drop. It’s just a matter of when.” Yep, that's how hunters think.
The episode gained momentum some much-needed momentum with Sam’s trip to Whitefish’s Gas ‘N Sip, where he not only bought Dean cake instead of pie, but bought a paper that bore the headline: “Ice Pick Killer Strikes Again.” He paid for his loot with a purloined credit card (the name on the credit cardholder was Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister), which was red-flagged by a program at the credit card company written by a Leviathan posing as an employee. Apparently, these Big Bads are calculating and strategic. Since inhabiting Castiel’s vessel, they know exactly how the hunters operate, down to the credit card scams, and are now tracking Sam and Dean with man-made technology. Color me impressed...and a little nervous for our heroes.
Back at the cabin, Sam assured Dean that he was “managing” his hallucinations.
As Dean slept, Sam stealthily read the article. The scene blended into a sepia-toned flashback with adorable Colin Ford returning to play teenaged Sam. Flashbacks on “Supernatural” have always been an extremely tragic glimpse into Sam and Dean’s wretched childhoods, this one didn’t disappoint. Young Sam was exhausted and already had a wicked caffeine addiction. He was also actively hunting. Apparently there are no child labor laws for demon hunters. The Winchesters were tracking a kitsune—a demon that appears human except for retractable talons and its love of snacking on pituitary glands.
A fully grown Sam left a hastily-written note for Dean and left for Lincoln, Nebraska, taking the Impala with him. Dean reacted to Sam’s disappearance as I imagined he would. He called Bobby in panic that rivaled a new mother with a sick infant, hollering “other shoe!” and that he feared Sam was “road-trippin’ with Lucifer.” None of the older hunter’s placating could calm down a hysterical, overprotective big brother. Thus, Dean sawed his cast off and tediously re-traced Sam’s steps with a pronounced limp and mounting fury.
Ignoring calls from Dean and Bobby, Sam continued his investigation. In production that spoke of Ackles’ talent as a director, Sam’s past neatly paralleled to the present tied together with clever transitions. Young Sam instantly bonded with Amy because they both moved around a lot, harbored understandable disdain for their parents, and felt like freaks. Young Sam (who I would have been crushing so hard on in high school) kissed her after she confessed, “Sam, you are a freak, but so was…Jimi Hendrix and Picasso. All the coolest people are freaks.” I did wonder why Young Amy had a fridge full of brains if they only ate the pituitary glands, but I just attributed that to creating a bit of stomach-turning imagery...or a snack for later.
Presently, Sam accosted an adult Amy (played by “Firefly's" Jewel Staite) as she prepared to kill another victim. Amy is my favorite kind of monster, like “Bloodlust’s” vampire, Lenore, she has morals, only feasting on the brains of drug dealers and drunk drivers. She's like the demonic version of "Dexter," and I'm fine with it. She evaded Sam by smashing his head into a tree trunk, but he recovered and tracked her and discovered Amy Pond (the name of a character on the British show, "Doctor Who") became a mortician so she could continue to feed without taking lives. To further complicate an already muddy hunt, she revealed that she had a son who got sick and “fresh meat” was the only cure. Amy convincingly promised that she would never kill again, and reminded Sam that she had murdered her own mother to save Sam’s life. He returned back to his hotel room to get sucker-punched a fuming Dean. “New rule, you steal my baby, you get punched.”
Sam tried to convince Dean that he was right by not killing Amy, and revealed that he had the chance to run away with her. “You’re a hunter. So you’re supposed to kill me and I’m supposed to kill you?” Young Amy asked. It was all so "Romeo and Juliet" with a sci-fi twist.
Dean was sympathetic, but still believed that Amy was still freak. Sam bristled at the term, and came to this depressing realization: “I see the way you look at me. Like I’m a grenade and you’re waiting for me to go off. I’m not going off…I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be normal. But I’m not normal. Look at all the crap that I’ve done. Look at me now, I’m a Grade A freak, but I’m managing it and so is Amy…Her friggin’ kid was dying. Put you or me in her position, we’d probably do the same thing. You don’t trust her, fine. Trust me.” Jared Padalecki’s portrayal of Sam’s cavernous sadness will never not break my heart. Sam’s acceptance of his freakdom was an important step for the troubled character.
Dean agreed to leave Amy alone. If it felt too easy, it was. With Sam stashed another motel, Dean found Amy Pond and killed her, empowered by the belief that “the other shoe will drop. It always does” and that she would kill again. This scene, that had me cussing in outrage, was almost as hard to watch as a soul-free Sam allowed Dean to be turned into a vampire in last season’s “Live Free or Twi-hard.” Dean had not only murdered a mother in front of her child, giving him an valid excuse to want to eat evil humans. He also proved trust Sam’s judgment (admittedly, he had good reason not to) by killing someone who had been special to him behind his back. If Sam finds out, the fallout will not be pretty.
Thankfully, “Supernatural” couldn’t end without a little dark humor. I did learn something new about Leviathans. A Big Bad informed the doomed clerk at the Gas ‘N Sip that “plain old people taste fine, but everything is better with cheese.” I love my junk food swimming in scalding hot nacho cheese, too.
Ultimately, I found this episode to be disappointingly lackluster especially when compared to the awesomeness that two that proceeded it. Sam and Amy’s teenage flirtation, while cute, felt clichéd and redundant—seriously, Sam is in love with another monster?!—and the near absence of Sam’s much-hyped hallucinations was a definite letdown. I loved the brilliance of Lucifer invading and twisting Sam’s reality, and was shocked not to see him at all. I also hoped for more action at the hospital. Fortunately, I was engaged by the brothers’ ever-changing relationship, and can’t wait to see how life on the run and these new villains will put it to the test.
What did you think of Sam’s decision let Amy go? Do you think Dean should have killed Amy? Are you even more worried about Dean's state of mind? Share your thoughts in the comments section.