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Supernatural Un-Book Club Entry: Croatoan & Hunted

Or ... in other words:

So Far and Yet So Close


Were you one of the ones that watched Crossroad Blues when it first aired in November of 2006 and screamed when it ended?  Your scream was not for the quiet final moment between Dean and Sam in the Impala when Dean chose to change the music from blues to rock instead of answering Sam’s question.  That was heartwrenching.  No, your scream was for the “SOON”.  That moment the episode ended, and, instead of having the screen settle to black with The Kripke and Robert Singer’s names flashed before our eyes as we tried to settle our thoughts, we were given an unexpected firey flash … SOON.

Instead of allowing our minds to absorb the emotional impact of Crossroad Blues’ ending, we were immediately thrown into a minute and sixteen second montage whirlwind of “preview shots” set to the music of Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog.  An extreme blend of scenes that thrilled and chilled us, culminating in “the question” – “Dean, what did he tell you?”  What we didn’t know at the time was that this preview was for two episodes – the next two episodes.  We just knew that whatever was coming … it was going to be big.

Then came … The Wait.

It was a month before we received the Christmas present of Croatoan only to find that, while the gift was awesome to behold and agonizing in its final moments, it would be another month before Hunted would air and we would be able to grasp the entirety of that single lakeside scene. 

In other words … we screamed again. 

I think The Kripke likes that.  I think perhaps it’s the man’s personal version of Monsters, Inc.  You know … the Disney movie.  The one where monsters scare little kids in their closets to get them to scream because the children’s scream generate the power that fuels the monster world. 

I think our screams generate the energy to fuel The Kripke’s twisted mind. 

I also think that, perhaps, I’m getting off topic here. 

Sorry.

Topic.  Right. 

The topic of this Un-Book Club Entry has been selected by me from the episodes Croatoan & Hunted.  Your assumption would probably be that I would plan to discuss the lake scene that ends Croatoan and begins Hunted.  Afterall, that is what most people look at when the two episodes are combined.  

It is a powerful scene.

It is a masterful moment.

Yet, it is not what draws me to looking at these two episodes as one unit in two parts.   Well, okay, not completely.  What draws me is the way these two episodes come together to form the perfect emotional transition for what became an explosive season, for us and for the Winchester Boys.  The twists and turns Supernatural has taken as it has moved from episode one to episode sixty, when we look back at them are incredible and daring in their magnitude.  Did I mention the total twistedness (it may not be in the dictionary, but when it comes to The Kripke I fully believe it is a word) of the man in charge of this show and the lives of our boys? 

As always, I can’t help but to look at the threads that weave the tapestry of this Winchester journey.  Let me see if I can point out the thread that moves through this two part episode that has seemed to have caught my attention. 

Although these threads can and do have their start back in the pilot, I’m going to simply begin with IMTOD and the opening of Season Two.  I’m going to begin with Dean, because Croatoan, in many ways, is the episode that Dean has been building up to since the moment of John’s death.  With John’s deal to save Dean’s life, and the added weight of “the secret” that he shared with his eldest, Dean’s foundation in hunting is shaken.  From the moment his father bent close and whispered those fell words in his ear, causing Dean to rear back and look at his father in mute shock, to the moment the crossroad demon confirmed his suspicions that his father had indeed traded his soul for his son’s life,

“’Cause you misery’s the whole point.  It’s too much fun to watch.  Knowing how your daddy died for you, how he sold his soul.  I mean, that’s gotta hurt.  He’s all you ever think about.  You wake up and your first though is, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’  You’re all lit up with pain.  I mean … you loved him so much.  And it’s all your fault.”

Dean’s personality seems to change – his cheerfulness is forced, his “womanizing’ is practically non-existent.  Dean’s outlook towards hunting, towards life in general, has become bleak.

Sam (from CSPWDT):  “You’re on edge, you’re erratic.  Except for when you’re hunting, ‘cause then you’re downright scary.  You’re tail-spinning, man, and you refuse to talk about it and you won’t let me help you.”

Croatoan … by the time Sam has his vision and the boys are led to Crater Lake, it is obvious.  Although the brothers are physically together, traveling the backroads, working the jobs they find, following in their father’s footsteps, it is obvious that emotionally they are as far apart as possible.  It is obvious that Dean, even though he did have a brief, heartbreaking conversation at the end of CSPWDT, has continued to keep Sam at arms length emotionally.  Afterall … in that roadside moment didn’t he question his little brother as what Sam could possibly say to make it all right?

Nope.  By the time we reach Croatoan, the boys may be traveling together physically but they are mentally far apart. 

Think about the conversation in the car as they head towards Oregon –

Sam:  “I saw a dark room, some people, and a guy tied to a chair.”
Dean:  “And I ventilated him?”
Sam:  “Yeah.  You thought there was something inside him.”
Dean:  “A demon?  Was he possessed?”
Sam:  “I don’t know.”
Dean: “Well, all your weirdo visions are always tied to the Yellow-Eyed Demon somehow.  So, was there any black smoke?  Did we try to exorcise him?”
Sam:  “No.  Nothing.  You just plugged him, and that’s it.”
Dean:  “Well, I’m sure I had a good reason.”
Sam:  “I sure hope so.”
Dean:  “What does that mean?”

Sam doesn’t reply – Dean looks at his brother.

Dean:  “Sam, I’m not gonna waste an innocent man.”

Again – Sam doesn’t reply.

Dean:  “I wouldn’t.”
Sam:  “I never said you would.”
Dean:  “Fine.”
Sam: “Fine.”

Sam’s lack of response to Dean’s vow that he would not waste the life of an innocent man speaks volumes, a silent questioning of whether Dean really is “following in Dad’s footsteps – saving people, hunting things … the family business” or whether Dean is simply responding to the code of “if it’s supernatural, we kill it.  End of story.  That’s our job.” that led to the boy’s parking lot disagreement and Dean’s fateful punching of his brother in Bloodlust.

Dean:  “I mean, something turned him into a monster.  And you know, if you would have taken out the other one, there’d be one less to worry about.”
Sam:   “I’m sorry, alright?  I hesitated, Dean.  It was a kid.”
Dean:  “No, it was an ‘it’.  Not the best time for a bleeding heart, Sam.”

Dean’s thoughts and emotions are warring inside of him and he is caught in an endless circle of playing the “what if” game with himself without finding an answer or any type of real relief.  Without telling anyone, or, more specifically, without telling Sam what John had whispered to him in the hospital, Dean has forced himself to carry the burden completely on his own and, by the time they reach Crater Lake, it has mentally and emotionally worn him out. 

The walls that have always guarded his feelings have grown higher and thicker, creating a distance between him and his brother that Sam doesn’t understand.  What’s worse is that Sam doesn’t know how to breach the wall. 

Sam:  “What the hell has happened to you?”
Dean:  “What?”
Sam:  “You might kill an innocent man, and you don’t even care!  You don’t act like yourself anymore, Dean.  Hell, you know what?  You’re acting more like those things out there.”

What Sam can’t/doesn’t see is that the walls – while thick and tall – are built on a foundation that is struggling to keep from cracking and crumbling.  The only thing that is keeping Dean from completely losing it entirely IS Sam.  Because no matter how many times he punches him, leaves him, locks him in a room, the one thing Dean knows he can count on is the tenacity of his little brother to keep coming back, to keep asking why, to keep trying to get through to his older brother, to continue to “stick around and be a pain in the a$$”.

Sam:  “You know I’m gonna ask you why.”
Dean: “Yeah, I know.”
Sam:  “So, why?”

Because of Sam. 

It is Sam’s affirmative that Beverly Tanner has succumbed to the demonic virus that gives strength to Dean to pull the trigger and end her life.  It is Sam’s protests that silently, in the depths of his mind, stay Dean’s hand from killing Duane Tanner out right.  And it is Sam’s possible/probable infection of the demonic virus that hastens the final erosion of Dean’s foundation. 

Suddenly bleak just isn’t a word that completely covers Dean’s outlook. 

How about if we go with desolate?
     Bitter? 
           Barren?  
               Gloomy?
                    Austere? 
                           Dreary? 

Croatoan is the point in which Dean hits bottom.  The possibility of loosing Sam to the demonic virus completely takes away his will to continue … continue to hunt, to help, to do anything.  Essentially, it takes away his will to live, something that Sam simply doesn’t understand. 

Sam:  “Dean, I’m sick.  It’s over for me.  It doesn’t have to be for you.”
Dean:  “No?”
Sam:  “No, you can keep going.”
Dean:  "Who says I want to?”
Sam:  “What?”

Sam is truly and completely shocked.  Remember what I said?  Physically together yet mentally apart? 

Dean:  “I’m tired, Sam.  I’m tired of this job, this life.  This weight on my shoulders, man, I’m tired of it.”

The looming death of his little brother has cracked the foundation, the wall has been breached and with that comes emotional honesty, Dean Winchester style.  And … true to persistent little brother form … Sam takes advantage and questions, trying to understand.

Sam:  “So, what?  So, you’re just gonna give up?  I mean, you’re just gonna lay down and die?  Look, Dean, I know the stuff with Dad …”

Oh, Sammy … you don’t really know.  You know part, but not all.  Just wait. 

However the time wasn’t right, the clinic wasn’t the right setting and … most importantly … Sam wasn’t dying. 

(Okay … admit it, at the time we originally watched this episode, Sam’s NOT being infected and NOT being sick was actually the genuinely scary part that caused many of us to, along with Dean, loose sleep over.  Go ahead.  Raise your hands.  Admit it, I’m right.)

Then came … The Scene.

The idyllic lake, placid and calm behind them as the sun shone golden as it heralded the coming twilight … two young hunters taking a moment’s respite from the world around them and simply enjoying a beer and each other’s company. 

Physically together … and … mentally …

Sam … persistent puppy that he is … takes out the bone that he had been tossed in the clinic and begins to gnaw at it … pulling and tugging … insistent … pushing through the wall he had breached earlier and got what he wanted.

Or did he?

Reluctant honesty is finally given, questions are finally answered, burdening weight has been lifted from one brother and settled onto the other.

Transition.  From one brother to the other.  From one half of the season to the next.

Did I mention this was a masterful scene?

The focus of the previous nine episodes has now been shifted from Dean’s carrying the weight of John’s secret to Sam’s knowledge that his father believed he needed to be saved and, if he couldn’t be saved, he would need to be killed. 

By his brother?? 

Talk about a foundation being rocked! 

Have you ever been somewhere quietly working, or reading, or talking, or … something … and you suddenly, for no explicable reason, felt this complete and overwhelming urge to scream, or to jump up and run, this feeling that you were simply going to burst if you didn’t do something … anything … quickly?

That’s what I imagine for Sam at this moment.  The relief that washes through Dean at the unburdening of John’s words is the exact opposite of the feelings surging through his little brother.  Dean needs to stop … he needs to think … but Sam … well, he can’t.  He’s got to DO something. 

So he does.  He decides to leave his brother and head out to find answers. 

Because that always has worked out so well in the past.  Hello?  Sam?  Can we talk about meeting strange girls in bus stations for a moment???

Where Croatoan was Dean’s tale of despair and hitting bottom, Hunted became Sam’s beginning to search for salvation.

In order to do this, he leaves.  Sam thinks he needs to physically distance himself from Dean.  

Ellen:  “Sam?  I’ve gotta call Dean.  I’ve gotta let him know where you are.”
Sam:  “Ellen, I’m trying to find answers about who I am.  And my brother means well, but he can’t protect me from that.”

Sam is searching for answers.  Problem is … Sam’s stubbornness has him leaving the safety of his brother’s protection.  In true “little brother style”, he barrels ahead.  He finds Ava … and he finds some information … and he finds trouble. 

Sam is so much like my little brother it’s not even funny sometimes.  I’m not kidding.  My little brother is so intelligent.  Seriously.  He is one of the smartest men I know.  And you could fit the amount of common sense he has in a thimble.  (You just KNOW that THIS will be the time that my little brother decides to peek in and read what his big Sis has been writing about lately.  *sighs*)  Still … it’s true.  The same is true for Sammy.  The boy has this great foundation of knowledge.  He is Dean’s “Geek Boy” intellectual little brother.  And you could fill a thimble with his basic common sense, some days. 

Hunting 101 – Watch. Your. Back. 

Wait!  Better yet, don’t leave your brother behind … bring him with you so that he can watch your back while you hunt for information.  Because, Sam, if Scott Wexler was “like you” and he was stabbed in the chest in a dark parking lot, don’t you think that that’s a bit of foreboding that something/someone might be out there that would also like to … oh, I don’t know … hurt you? … kill you???

Luckily Ellen didn’t keep her mouth shut, Dean’s arrival is well timed and, although Gordon is able to get off a couple of rounds, his plan of eliminating Sam is foiled. 

I have two favorite scenes in Hunted … one of them is when Sam and Ava investigate the roof from where the shots were fired at them.  Upon discovering the shells left behind, he didn’t hesitate.  He simply pulled out his phone and called Dean.  This was a quintessential little brother move.   Even though he left his brother behind, even though he knew that Dean would be angry (and hurt) at his leaving, he never hesitated and he never wavered in his knowledge that if he called, Dean would respond.  That big brother would do everything he could to protect. 

Unfortunately, Dean was a little tied up at the moment.  Literally. 

Still … in true Winchester fashion … afterall, these are the boys who locate each other, if separated, by going to the first motel in the book and asking for Jim Rockford … they have a “funky town” code word that translates “someone’s got a gun on me”. 

Physically they may be apart, mentally they may be struggling to come together, however years of traveling and hunting has honed the basic instinct that trumps anything else:

Ava:  “You are walking right into my vision.  I mean, this is how you die!”
Sam:  “Doesn’t matter.  It’s my brother.”

There it is in two words, the heart of the tapestry … the main thread of the story that The Kripke is weaving … “My Brother”.  Strip away everything else from the Supernatural story and through it all there is the bottom line … brothers.  They may not always like each other, they may disagree, they may flat out argue.  They will hide things from each other.  They will fight for each other.  They will protect each other. 

They will love each other. 

These Winchester boys may never say it, but what’s the saying about “actions speaking louder than words”?  Dean and Sam prove over and over, what the words “family” and specifically “brother” truly mean.   

Gordon … Mr. Black vs. White – Evil vs. Human … believes he has learned “the truth” about Sam and has decided that he needs to be eliminated.  Doesn’t matter that Sam is a hunter, doesn’t matter that his conscience has him double thinking, double checking before killing.  In Gordon’s mind, Sam will become a monster and must be killed. 

Scary, isn’t it, the correlation between Gordon’s intent on killing Sam and Dean’s intent to kill Duane Tanner?  However, that is an entirely different blog, at a different time.  I’m already running long once again. 

My other favorite moment in Hunted is after Sam arrives and, after defeating Gordon, comes in and unties his brother.  Dean is frantic in his need to touch, to see how his little brother has fared and Sam, clasping his brother’s shoulder briefly, silently let’s his brother know he is alright.

Dean is once again the impetuous brother, needing to “take care of” Gordon, only to be quietly stopped and turned by Sam, who has taken care of the problem of Gordon in a fine, upstanding way that will also protect his older brother. 

Sam:  “Dean, no.”
Dean:  “I let him live once, I’m not making the same mistake twice.”
Sam:  “Trust me.  Gordon’s taken care of.  Come on.” 

The boys have been apart physically, by Sam’s choice, however the need to take care of each other, to protect each other, to be together ultimately wins out and common sense prevails.  They are stronger together, than they ever could be apart.  The ending of Hunted proves that they have realized and accepted this fact.  Dean has been honest with Sam and Sam is now sharing the burden.  Sam is fearful of what is to come and he is filled with bravado at the need to face it head on, but he can do it because Dean will be there to watch his back. 

The season’s transition is complete.  The boys are not only physically back together, traveling & hunting, but they are also communicating (atleast for now).  The secret is out.  Now comes the part of the tapestry where Sam moves towards his “destiny”.  You know the one … the destiny that Dean refuses to believe in and will do anything to stop. 

However, that’s a completely different story … a completely different un-book … a completely different report.

Tags: supernatural, un-book club
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