Supernatural 8.15 Review: Sam, Dean and the Witch Dilemma

SupernaturalAlright, let’s all be honest.  That wasn’t a great episode of Supernatural.  It wasn’t the worst episode, but it wasn’t anything memorable.  The thing about stand-alone episodes is that this show can – and often does – have non-mythology episodes that are stellar and memorable.  In fact, I did a whole slide-show about stand-alone episodes, so that shows you that Supernatural can do them well.

Then there are the stand-alone episodes that are pure filler, which is sad but understandable.  They can’t knock it out of the park every single week.  We’ve had a run of five really solid and engaging episodes, so  we were kind of due for a more lackluster one.

Because of that, this review will be shorter than my reviews tend to be.  The truth is, there’s not that much to discuss, aside from some personal Winchester business we’ll get to shortly.  I think my biggest problem with the James story was that, in the end, it all came down to love.  Love is a huge and noble concept in this show, but I just didn’t buy it as Spencer’s justification to ruin James’ life here.  Maybe we just didn’t have enough time to get to know Spencer as a character.  Maybe we didn’t get to see enough of the whole “soulmate” thing between James and Portia to really believe it.  The trouble with love is that it is such an important motivation and such a tangible thing that it needs time to develop for an audience.  It’s difficult, sometimes, to jumpt into the middle of a story and just believe in a love that we didn’t see develop.  Or to believe in jealousy as a motivating factor when we don’t see enough of a character to understand why he’s really jealous.  The guest stars in this week’s episode seemed to get a bit more screentime than guest stars usually get and I can understand the need for that in terms of the story, but I still don’t think it was enough to really make me believe it. 

Of course, I have to mention the whole bestiality factor.  Technically it’s not bestiality for me since I basically thought of her as a woman who also happened to turn into a dog (I was trying to justify it in my head), but I know it’s a touchy subject.  In some respects, Dean was the mouthpiece for the audience on this topic, although he was occasionally heavy-handed with the mentions.  We get it, Dean.  We’re uncomfortable too.  But it’s also an aspect of the story that might have either been unnecessary or just felt like it needed more time to develop so that it wasn’t just uncomfortable.  I didn’t really understand why they ignored the taboos of their community to engage in a sexual relationship, but that also speaks to the whole love aspect. In the end, despite decent enough performances, I wasn’t crazy about the storyline for the episode.  But, you can’t win them all, I guess.  I did, however, like the fact that Portia was independent and self-assured.  This story could have gone in a bad direction had she been utterly submissive to her “master”, but her spunk and strong personality avoided that unneeded complication.

Of more interest is the fallout from Sam’s choice to do the trials.  Dean is concerned.  Dean has every right to be concerned, because these types of activities can, and often do, end in death.  But Sam hit on an interesting point in the episode: it’s not that Dean doesn’t trust Sam, it’s that Dean often doesn’t trust anyone but himself.  This is not a Dean-centric quirk.  In fact, this is a human trait.  Are there any among us who hasn’t – at one time or another – simply thought “this whole thing would go a lot better if I just did it myself”? Delegation is a difficult thing when you trust your own skills.  That’s not to say you think everyone around you is incapable, it’s just that you simply trust yourself more.  I liked the fact that Sam hit on that point rather than create further brotherly conflict by simply concluding that Dean didn’t trust him.

SupernaturalIn the end, however, Dean realized that the thing that’s gotten them through the miserable experiences in their life is really their ability to stick together.  It’s rare that any Winchester accomplishes a monumental task without assistance from someone else (usually their family member or close friend).  This is why I’m rarely bothered by claims that Sam or Dean gets preferential storylines, because I usually assume (based on past storylines) that they’re not going to accomplish the end goal without strong assistance. Dean helped Sam wrestle control over Lucifer in “Swan Song” which essentially helped save the world, for example.  And so Dean realized that putting faith in his brother was important.  “If you say you’re good, then that’s it, I’m with you 100%,” he declared.

Unfortunately, Sam isn’t good.  He’s suffering some terrible side effects from the trials that are only beginning to manifest themselves (currently in the form of coughing up blood).  It’s clear that God had no intention of making the trials to close the Gates of Hell easy.  The problem is that Sam has a huge dilemma. He should come clean with Dean, because we know that secrets never, ever, ever end well for this family. But if he tells Dean, then he’s probably right to assume that Dean will insist he take on the trials himself (since it’s unlikely Dean will insist they simply walk away altogether).  And, really, what will what accomplish?  That Dean will cough up blood instead of Sam?  Would that be any better?

It would be better if Dean could help Sam with the trials and this problem instead of trying to protect him by insisting he do it, but I see the latter as Dean’s instinct in this case.  His instinct is to protect and to take on the big problems himself.  It’s a big brother trait, especially for Dean who is a protector at heart.  I can see that Sam really has no choice but to keep this a secret even though he – and we – know this is surely going to come back to bite him in the future and it’s just going to make things worse.  It’s an impossible position to be in and I wouldn’t envy Sam the inevitable fallout from this when Dean finds out.

The biggest and most obvious problem is not only the side effects, but the potential mistrust that might stem from Dean if Sam becomes visibly worse and still refuses to tell the truth.  The probability for brotherly conflict grows higher in that case, although this is the kind of conflict we are familiar with.  That’s not to say it’s good – because it’s not – but it’s familiar, and, frankly, it will hopefully result in more concern than actual conflict.  Although the concern could quickly become conflict if Sam continues to keep it a secret, so here’s hoping that he’s forced to be honest (or chooses to do so because it’s the right choice) sooner rather than later.

Next week’s Supernatural Greek god episode looks quite interesting (watch a preview).  It’s possible that, given the subject matter, next week’s stand-alone episode can best the one we were treated to this week.  I suspect it will be easier for the audience (or, at least, for me) to relate to the gods because they’re more familiar concepts and characters.

Visit our Supernatural page for sneak peeks, spoilers, photos and more.


  • Loli(“v”)

    we got Sam questioning Dean’s motives & trust again, got Dean to feel crappy about it again, got Dean apologizing for his “Supposed” mistrust and “supposed” wrong motives about Sam again, we got Dean telling Sam he’s better for the job and that he believes him again, then we got Sam lie to his brother even after assuring him that he trusts him..again.. What else is new? X/
    Also, what is this CRAPPY material that’s given to Jensen to work with. It should be a crime giving him all these lame lines and scenes Gosh it’s utterly annoying. the writers must be changed next season if they want to end the show on a high note!

  • tens1822

    It wasn’t the greatest episode, but it was far from the worst. I thought the issue about trust between the boys was very reminiscent of the lead up to Swan Song. Sam was worried that Dean didn’t trust him,but realised that wasn’t the case. Dean’s the type of person who worries for the safety of others (particularly Sam).That protective streak rares its head when Dean feels like situations are out of his control. He feels as tho in order to protect others, he has to have control of the situation. Personally, I know that feeling all too well. It pretty much goes hand in hand with being the eldest sibling and being family focused.

    Sam brought it up to Dean, not to make Dean feel bad, but to let him know that he knows it’s nothing personal against Sam. Just like in the lead up to Swan Song, Dean realized he needed to trust in Sam’s strength and ability. He realized that they’ve always gotten through things together.

    I also noticed that Mary was brought up again,where Dean is concerned. The first time was when Dean was setting up his bedroom. He pulled out a picture of him and Mary and put it on his night stand. Tonight, two of his three memories centered on Mary. He first saw her smiling at him. Then we saw his memory of SEEING HER DIE (many have speculated that he witnessed her death, I think his memory tonight confirmed that).His final memory was of being on the rack,screaming for Sammy. I don’t think Mary being brought up via Dean is coincidental. I think there may be a storyline upcoming with her and Dean.

    We also saw Sam’s memories. We saw his dive into the cage with Adam and his being burned alive. Could these memories come into play during his trials?

  • Mar

    That whole thing was dull and stupid. And do we really have to go through the lying/distrust thing again??? effing hell.

    “Sam really has no choice but to keep this a secret…” No, wrong. If Sam lies, it’s Sam’s choice to not trust Dean. It’s not Dean’s fault, that Sam can’t tell him, which is unfortunately implied in that comment.

    Carver is vomitting out the same old same old.

    • Clarissa

      Actually, no. That’s not what’s implied in the statement because I literally explained my issue with the lying thing, so there’s no implying to be found on my end.

      It’s got nothing to do with Sam not trusting Dean for me. I specifically said that, in this case, the situation is about how Dean would react to finding out about the side-effects and would likely want to take on the trials himself.

      If you think Sam doesn’t trust Dean, that’s fine, but that’s not what I implied *at all* because it’s not what I feel about the characters. I went on to explain that I hope Sam tells him the truth and it becomes a situation of concern and help rather than conflict (although any anger on Dean’s part is justified, because even if I understand the underlying reasons for the lying that doesn’t mean I think it’s *good*). Taking one tiny sentence out of the entire section that lists my reasoning is taking it completely out of context.

  • SPNGirl

    Love your review. I totally agree with everything you said about this episode. It really left me feeling very ‘eh’. It has been the first Supernatural episode in ages now that I’m not eager to rewatch as soon as possible. I think you covered all the reasons for that fact for well and like you said, after all the great episodes lately, we were kind of due for a so-so one.

    Here’s my thing too, I LOVE Dean AND Sam, adore both of them, so, so much. But it was hard for me to invest emotionally in that last scene. I felt like I should have been emotional over Dean’s willingness to trust Sam, but knowing that Sam was hiding the stuff from him and knowing that it will be revealed to Dean sooner or later that Sam was hiding stuff from him, which will most likely lead to more angst between the brothers, just left me feeling ‘blah’. I love that they have such a deep bond and are willing to do anything for each other and are protective of each other. I really do love it, but at the end of the episode, I was just left with a feeling of “haven’t we been here before?”

    Or maybe I’m just cranky from the lack of angel. So many episodes in a row without Cas and with barely any mentions of him…*sigh* It ain’t always easy being a Cas-girl.

    • Clarissa

      I get what you’re saying. It’s hard to feel something in the end because while Dean is saying he trusts Sam, there’s obviously secrets. I did like that Sam made it more about Dean trusting himself rather than not trusting him because I think it’s a valid thing to say about most people. I hope my feelings on the matter were clear: that I don’t like the deception here even if I sort of understand why Sam is doing it. I think that last week’s conversations between them were a far better representation of their bond because it lacked deception. This is a difficult situation for both of them to be in and I really hope that it doesn’t end in disaster. I guess we’ll have to see.

  • Marie

    After four really good episodes in a row this season, I literally cannot say enough bad things about this episode. From the sexism (a woman implores them for help and all they can do is reduce her to her looks in response? really??), the racism (probably goes without saying, but a black woman with a Master, that they later reveal is actually enslaved to him? …oh), to the squicky bestiality jokes, to the horrible writing (how on earth, in that opening sequence, was it the logical conclusion to jump from “I’m worried the spell won’t work” to “no, you’re worried about me!” ….what?!), to the rewriting of canon (so Dean watched Mary burning on the ceiling now? even though in the Pilot we saw him in the hallway when John handed him Sammy?), to–the icing on the cake–that horrible decision to have Sam guilt trip Dean about not trusting anyone else…and then turning around and having Sam lie to him???

    The more I think about this episode, the more angry I get. I’ll be casting this one into the pit of I Wish I Could Unsee along with Swap Meat, Hammer of the Gods, and Time For a Wedding.

    • Clarissa

      I wasn’t crazy about the episode, but I wanted to talk about the Dean memory thing since you brought it up. I actually didn’t take that “memory” to mean that Dean saw Mary burning up because, like you said, we know that Dean was out in the hallway. It’s been a long time since I watched the pilot so I would have to go back and check how much Dean might have seen of the room, but didn’t he also later picture Lisa dying on the ceiling in the same manner in a djinn hallucinations? And he saw Jess on the ceiling because he saved Sam from his dorm room.

      In this case, I don’t think he actually *saw* Mary burning on the ceiling. I think it was a sort of “fasle memory” in that he *was* remembering the death of his mother but he sort of super-imposed her on the ceiling in his head because he’s seen someone die like that before. There was no other way to show the audience the death of his mother than replaying that iconic scene, but I think for Dean it was about his mother’s death and not specifically about seeing her in that position (just that he sort of put her there in his mind). Does that make sense?

  • Dot

    This is the first episode all season where I haven’t wanted to rewatch and where I felt it was skippable. It had a few interesting moments and talking points, but otherwise left me flat. I liked Portia and James, and despite my iffiness on some things, Portia had a lot of agency, and I enjoyed how the story of the guest stars reflected back on the regular characters.

    I’m disappointed that after compelling growth for Sam and Dean individually and in their partnership, this ep seemed to mire again. People and families can get caught back into old patterns, but SPN has gone to the same place too many times. 8.14 was incredibly promising in how it examined Sam and Dean’s roles and each of their issues and their brother relationship. But the follow-up worries me, if we’re back to a) Sam keeping secrets b) Sam with nosebleeds and something wrong with Sam while he hides all that from Dean and c) Dean’s main role continues to be worrying over Sam. It makes the brother dynamics a lot less engaging to watch, and they need to move forward–I hear you on the Sam v Dean, it’s not a contest, but this is bad for both of them and for the relationship and the show. S8 had made a point in particular of Dean being more than what his self-image tells him is all he’s good for–why would the show itself keep sticking him there?

    I’m still feeling that this trials story will be more than it appears, but hope 8.15 doesn’t set the pace for how this is going go. There is a lot more of season 8 to unfold.

  • Lia

    “But if he tells Dean, then he’s probably right to assume that Dean will insist he take on the trials himself (since it’s unlikely Dean will insist they simply walk away altogether). And, really, what will what accomplish? That Dean will cough up blood instead of Sam? Would that be any better?”

    IMO it doesn’t matter what it would accomplish or that it wouldn’t make anything better. Dean made it a point to tell Sam that he does trust him. Fully. 100%.

    It is NOT okay for Sam to turn around and lie to Dean now, IMO. After all that has happened between them (i.e. Sam not trusting Dean about Ruby), to have Sam not trust Dean after Dean fully placed his trust in him, is wrong.

    Sam was beyond angry at Dean for lying to him about Benny. Sam needs to not be a hypocrite with Dean now when Dean has asked Sam directly about his well-being. It’s not about the trials themselves, it’s about trust between brothers.

    Overall, I thought the episode was rather boring and quite frankly, very offensive in many ways. A black woman/DOG! who refers to her white lover as “master”? Give me a break.

    • Clarissa

      I don’t actually think that the lying is a good thing and I made that clear. I simply said that I understand Sam’s mindset in lying. I thought it was clear when I said this type of behaviour always ends in disaster that I don’t approve of the lying. I WANT him to tell the truth, but I can see why he’s not. Understanding someone’s behaviour isn’t the same thing as condoning it.

  • Kim

    I thought this episode was ok. I liked James and Portia, more so her because of the strenth and confidence you mentioned. I had major issues with a black women wearing a color and calling a white man her master. My first reaction to seeing these scenes were..WTF is going on with Supernatural. First Nazis, now this craziness. In my opinion there has not been 4-5 good episodes in a row. I really hated Larp and the Real girl episode. I would rate Larp the wosre episode in the entire series. All in all I would rate this episode 2 1/2 stars.

  • Jessica

    Hi Clarissa. I agree that this wasn’t the greatest Supernatural episode of all time or anything, but I rather enjoyed it for the most part. I agree that the whole bestiality thing totally creeped me out. It was just weird, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

    As far as the bits between the Boys about Sam taking on the trials, I agree with you to a certain extent. I would just like to add that it seems odd that Sam doesn’t understand Dean’s concern. Their whole lives Dean has always been more willing to sacrifice himself than sacrifice Sam. So I really don’t understand why Sam is turning it into a trust issue. It may be that Dean trusts himself more than anyone else to accomplish the task, but as far as Sam is concerned that’s not really the heart of it. It really boils down to the fact that protecting Sam is hardwired into Dean’s DNA. His past experiences have taught him that this is, in all likelihood, going to be painful and will result in death. He doesn’t want that for Sam, and after everything the Boys have gone through, I can’t say that I blame him.

    • Clarissa

      Jessica, excellent point. It’s not necessarily a trust issue for Dean (although I would argue that he’s often quick to take on these kinds of dangerous tasks for anyone because he does have a hero complex and trusts his own skills), but you’re right: it’s hardwired in Dean to protect Sam. He wants to spare Sam the pain of going through this, particularly if it ends in disaster.

      Although, I would also argue that he’s eased up on this protective instinct a little bit since the end of season 5 when he knew that respecting Sam’s decision to sacrifice himself was the right thing to do. I wouldn’t say that it’s gotten rid of that instinct entirely though.

      I think there’s a combination of reasons here as to why Dean would prefer to do the trials himself, but I honestly don’t believe any of those reasons consist of “Dean doesn’t trust Sam”.

      • Jessica

        I suppose Dean has lightened up on the protective instinct some, but it’s never going to completely go away. I’m the oldest in my family, and even though my siblings and I are all adults now, I still have to talk myself back from big sister protective mode when I find out they’re in trouble. Given everything that the Winchesters have gone through, I would wager that Dean’s protective instinct is even greater than mine.

        In reference to your S5 comparison, my counterargument is that Dean didn’t so much choose to respect Sam’s decision because it was the right thing to do so much as they were just out of options. They had done all they could do, and Sam’s choice was the only card they had left to play. That’s not the case here. Dean can still see a way out of this without Sam making the kind of sacrifice he’s going to have to make if they stay on this track. So while I do think that Dean has been making more of an effort to treat Sam like an adult, this isn’t like the end of S5. However, I do agree with you that there are multiple reasons Dean would prefer to do the trials himself.

        Just as an aside, Dean’s willingness to sacrifice himself for others is one of the things I both love and find frustrating about him. I love it in the sense that he displays his love to those around him by putting himself in harm’s way to protect them. The truth is, the only real way that he’s able to find value in himself is in his ability to protect the ones he cares about. That’s what I find frustrating about it. Dean’s self-worth is so defined by his ability to save those he loves that he ends up feeling like a failure far more than he should. Which also means that he’s unable to see his value outside of his ability to protect his family. Which means that he’s more willing to sacrifice himself. It’s a vicious circle.

  • Clarissa

    I didn’t say Sam had no choice to lie, I just said that I understood WHY he lied. In his mind, telling the truth won’t make this situation better. But my conclusion is that Sam should tell Dean the truth and hopefully Dean will want to help rather than simply take on the trials himself, because doing that wont actually accomplish anything.

    • Sasha

      We don`t know that, Dean might actually be better equipped to do the trials. Just because Sam does not think Dean has it in him whereas Sam of course harbours no such doubts about himself means I have to share the same belittling opinion of Dean. I believe he would have fought his hardest to do them successfully.

      And when the lying comes out, I do hope Dean calls Sam on his hypocrisy and childishness. The character of Sam will never learn and grow if his flaws/mistakes are constantly either ignored or blamed on Dean in a roundabout way.

      • Clarissa

        Why is this devolving into a Sam vs. Dean thing when that’s not the point of anything I wrote? I believe it’s right to point out when either brother is doing something wrong but this tireless Sam vs. Dean debate doesn’t accomplish anything. The fans just go around and around in circles and no one is happy in the end. I didn’t say that either Sam or Dean could do it better. Suggesting that Dean would be “better equipped” is like saying that maybe Dean won’t suffer from coughing up blood (unless that’s not what you’re saying, in which case I would ask you to clarify it). It’s clear that whoever does these trials will suffer side effects because it’s meant to be a *challenge*. If it was easy for anyone to just close the Gates of Hell, then someone would have done it before.

        Maybe Dean would do something things differently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he would do it any better or worse. Also, can people please stop saying that Sam doesn’t think Dean “has it in him”? Sam didn’t say that. Sam just doesn’t want Dean to treat it as a suicide mission, which was the purpose of his entire speech at the end of the episode. He wasn’t belitting Dean’s skills, he was simply saying “I don’t want you to think that the only way to do this is to sacrifice yourself and if that’s what you think, then I’d like to show you another way.” Sam isn’t lying right now because he thinks Dean would fail at the trials. He clearly has something to prove because of his prior manipulations by Hell and he also clearly wants to protect his brother and maybe there’s a bit of stubbornness thrown in there.

        Sam is making a mistake by lying. I don’t dispute that. I wish he would tell Dean the truth and that Dean would respond in a way that doesn’t involve him just sacrificing himself because I wouldn’t want to see him die again. But it’s not a Sam is better vs. Dean is worse thing. Sometimes there are other factors involved that have nothing to do with saying one brother is better than the other.

  • Dee

    Another great review. I am with you and many of the other commenters on the bestiality, but was perhaps a bit more amused than you were by some of Dean’s awkwardness. Dean not knowing about familiars though – WTF? It’s a pretty abrupt switch from Sam telling him he’s a genius to him not knowing something basic about witches. (That was one of two WTF interactions. The other was Sam’s conversational leap from Dean not trusting the witch-killer to Dean’s level of trust regarding Sam and the tablet trials.)

    Regarding Sam: I hear what folks are saying about Dean holding out an olive branch and Sam then turning around and immediately lying. However, two things struck me. First, it seemed like it was among the first times Sam had that cough and he might feel that right now it isn’t bad enough to hamper him, and be hoping that it doesn’t get worse. In essence, he’s indulging in his own protective instincts regarding Dean (as opposed to deceiving him), so Dean doesn’t worry needlessly. IMO, if he does feel that way, and it gets worse, he has a window of time to come clean without Dean freaking out about being lied to (assuming he explains his reasoning as part of admitting the problem).

    Second, that cough? Dean could hear it. It was not an “I swallowed wrong” dry cough. It was a wet-sounding cough that signals potential trouble (i.e., it sounded like bronchitis or pneumonia). Experienced parents know this, and Dean was, for many intents and purposes, Sam’s parent. So Dean has a heads-up that all’s not well. He has a real reason to watch Sam carefully, (to prepare himself to hear about it, or not, from Sam), and to proactively try to figure out what to do to ease Sam’s symptoms.

    So, anyway, long way of saying that I’m not yet ready to say it’s a problem of deceit or a betrayal of trust, though I get where people are coming from…

    • Clarissa

      Thanks! I’m with you on this, Sam hasn’t really been lying for that long. I mean, he saw that strange light go into his arm and kept it quiet, but this is really the first time we’ve seen him suffer other side-effects. I do sort of wish he had told Dean right away last week instead of keeping it a secret, but I also think there’s a protective instinct involved. Like I said, if he tells Dean then Dean will just insist that he take on the trials and Sam knows that Dean will treat it as a suicide mission (which was the whole reason Sam wanted to do it in the first place: to show him that it didn’t have to be like that).

      It’s entirely possible that Sam will come clean and will have learned from past experiences that secrets don’t end well for this family. On the other hand, it’s also possible that he’ll choose to keep it a secret for the reasons we’ve both brought up. I’m curious to see what path he will choose. I don’t think the lying is a good thing, but I can understand it from Sam’s POV. I just hope it doesn’t turn out badly for anyone.

      • Dee

        Oh, interesting point about Dean not seeing the light in his arm. Did he really not see that? It wasn’t clear to me, but I’d believe it.

        Also, thinking back on it, did the light show remind you of Benny taking up residence in Dean’s arm? That did strike me but I don’t remember anyone mentioning it. (Apologies if you did and I forgot!)

        • Clarissa

          The way the light scene looked to me is that Sam had turned his back to Dean when it happened and then paused when Dean was all “are you ok?” so that Dean wouldn’t see it. And the light show was sort of familiar to the Benny situation (but no, I didn’t mention that until you did). It’s interesting, because I’m curious WHAT that did to Sam. Was it like taking on a piece of Hell into himself after activating the first trial? Or was it just a sort of “committing to finish the quest” thing?

          Another point I hadn’t really considered is that if that spell essentially tied HIM to closing the Gates now, then maybe there’s actually no way Dean can just take over even if he does kill a hellbound and say the spell. We don’t know if there can be only one person who has to die or see it through or whether you can just have multiple people trying. I’m leaning towards the fact that Sam has essentially bound himself to this quest and Dean *couldn’t* actually take on the trails no matter what unless Sam dies. But until we know more, that’s just my best guess.

          But I assume that whatever went inside of his arm when he said the first spell is what’s causing the side effects right now.

          • Dee

            Good points! I bet you’re right that Dean couldn’t take on the trials right now if he wanted to.
            About what the light show did, is the last time we saw Sam’s forearms when he was serving wine before they ganked the hell hound? If so, hmmmm…

          • Shannon

            I agree that the lights after the spell probably mean Sam is the only one who can complete the trials (unless/until he dies). I was also trying to figure out the connection between the trials and Sam’s cough and my theory is that there is a time limit for completing the trials. The cough will get worse and other symptoms may develop until he starts the next trial, or completes all of them, or something along those lines. I could be completely wrong about that, but its the only plausible reason I could think of for Sam’s cough. Otherwise I’m guessing it’s completely unrelated to the trials and is a “normal” serious health problem, which is why he stopped hunting while Dean was in Purgatory (which is actually my preferred option, because I’m still a bit upset he didn’t try to find Dean).

            Hopefully Sam will tell Dean, or Dean will notice something is wrong soon, so it doesn’t turn into a big trust issue. It was pretty ironic that immediately after Dean talked about trusting Sam, Sam hid something from him. And hopefully they’ll let Dean be smart again in the next episode because this one made him seem like an idiot. Best part of the episode–Sam’s leg getting stuck in the laundry basket!

          • Dee

            It’s a while past Wednesday at this point, and this wasn’t even a great episode, so I’m not sure if Clarissa or anyone will see this but…

            The previous comment said, “…I assume that whatever went inside of his arm when he said the first spell is what’s causing the side effects right now.” I was reading another review and a commenter said that maybe Sam’s affected because of the demon blood he might still have in him. (I will look and find the comment again, if you want the reference.)

            That struck a chord with me. I mean, it seems like cheating to make the person performing the trials get sick (not that angels/demons/etc. never cheat, but still…). Simply making the trials harder and harder seems more reasonable. But think about this: Once the gates of hell are closed, what happens to the demons that are topside? Maybe they self-destruct. Maybe THAT is what is going on with Sam… the destruction process is starting in anticipation of the gates closing. The closer to closed, the worse he and other hell-spawn will feel. Just another theory!

            Also, Sam did have his sleeves rolled up when he was in the bathroom before the dog came into the room, so there’s no little helper hiding in Sam’s arm. :) Now I’m thinking, as you guys do, that the light-show was somehow a binder for the person doing the trials.

    • Jessica

      Just a quick point about Sam’s cough. I think that was more Jared than Sam sounding like that. Jared said that he was sick while they were filming this episode, so I think that cough was all him. However if Sam continues to cough like that, then I agree that Dean should catch on pretty quickly that all is not well with Sam.

      • Clarissa

        Honestly, I think you’re right. I think that if Sam is really going to have physical symptoms like the coughing our the blood that there’s really only so long he can hide something like that from Dean. After all, they basically spend all of their time together. Dean would essentially have to be blind and deaf not to notice that kind of stuff after a little while.

        I think it might be less of a trust issue going forward and more of a concern issue. Dean will obviously be concerned about Sam’s health and how these trials could affect him and Sam will probably want to see it through and hope that it gets better (although, that sort of flies in the face of his “no suicide missions” thing, even if he couldn’t have predicted this would happen). It will be interesting to see how much he’s affected and, frankly, what it means. Why is this happening to him? Was it all part of God’s plan/instructions to close the gates? If he achieves the goal, will it simply go away or is he changed forever? So many questions!

      • Dee

        He was really sick? Poor guy! It did make for a really good coughing sound, though, so I suppose that’s a bit of a silver lining. I wonder if they recorded more of him coughing, for later ADR?

        You know what I liked about the last scene with Sam coughing up blood? It was sooo restrained! Having just a little bit at the corner of his mouth was all the more powerful to me because Supernatural splatters blood, collects blood in giant goblets, shows puddles of blood, etc… the restraint with it in that last scene felt really ominous somehow.

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