Thursday, February 6, 2014

Supernatural: Season 9, Episode 13: The Purge

Somewhere in the middle of Minnesota (I’m not going to bother checking where, these places are all fill in for “middle-of-nowhere” America which is Supernatural’s bread and butter –or blood and gore anyway).

It’s a hot dog eating competition; after which the winner gets in his car and something happens to him. The large man is deflated, almost drained until he withers – then something gets out of the car. What a shame, the man had a “Bacon Makes Everything better” bumper sticker – he was clearly a wise and informed soul.

At the Winchester cave it’s time for the morning routine with a little extra tension – a lot of extra tension (and a little pouting) – and Dean has dug up the mission to find out what happened to the mysteriously wasting man.

Time to impersonate Federal agents because no-one ever checks these things after Bobby died, and ask the super-nice police woman about the case who describes how all his internal organs were sucked out while eating doughnuts. He did have a rival, Slim Jim, on the competitive food eating circuit. Yes circuit. Apparently competitive food eating is a big thing in that area.

Despite his air tight alibi they go interview Slim Jim (eating lettuce in training…) and poking around his house reveals his wife is superstitious – and Romani. They actually take a step to point out that she doesn’t like “gypsy” because it is a slur, before her non-Romani husband informs everyone how wrong she is, but on the plus side he does so in such blatantly ridiculous terms as to make it pretty clear who is actually wrong.

Back at their hotel room they research that the bag is a Putsi bag which they say is used for curses, when they’re interrupted by said wife who wants her bag back (anyone else notice how bling Dean’s gun is?). She didn’t kill the other man, she loved him and was actually having an affair (Dean is bemused since the dead man was fat and her husband is called Slim Jim for a reason but she counters the idea that fat is inherently unsexy). She points out that Putsi bags can be used for blessings

Time for victim number 2 – a woman trying to lose weight for her wedding is bludgeoned from behind in a gym and then is drained and shrivelled. More investigating and this time they find the suction mark where the fat is drained out. They split up for questioning different people, Dean choosing the option that lets him question attractive women because a) he’s Dean and b) he says Sam is awkward around women (with more tension snark about “honesty”). As Dean questions the woman, he notices she has a suction mark as well.

Some investigating and they find out the trainer with the suction mark had also lost a lot of weight lately after going to spa called Canyon Valley that guarantees weight loss without diet, exercise or surgery.

Time to investigate by trying to get hired as personal trainers at the spa and being interviewed by the spa’s owners – husband and wife team Larry and Maritza where she apparently helped him lose weight in Peru. Dean does not impress with his aggressive talk; Sam becomes a personal trainer, Dean becomes kitchen staff. Exposing Dean to health food is never a good thing and yes he eats the pudding. Which is drugged

Meanwhile the nice sheriff has also booked into the spa for a treatment – and Maritza introduces her to cupping – but after several cups are placed and she falls asleep, Maritza opens her mouth and out comes a nasty proboscis tube which she them uses to suck on the sheriff’s body.

Sam is rather ineptly leading yoga when he notices more suction spots – but when class ends he is spotted by the nice Sherriff who greets him as an FBI agent; thankfully she’s sufficiently zonked for Sam to pass it off before getting a bemused and even more out of it call from Dean needing rescuing from the drugged pudding. Of course he’s not in any immediate danger so Sam leaves him and intimidates a chef into finding out what’s the in the pudding – apparently “supplements”, which Dean identifies as roofies.

Time to talk to the super nice Sherriff who reveals she has lost 10lbs in one day – and no, she really doesn’t care how; and she’s checked in here after a pretty awful ex-husband caused her to “guzzle” her pain. She also describes the cupping – including that she had a big bowl of pudding beforehand, hence the sleepiness

Meanwhile the spa owners have twigged that Sam and Dean are hunters and are a little panicked – especially when they learn about the dead people in the city – yes, it’s news to them. Maritza goes to destroy jars of… ewww, pausing to try and suck down one of them when Dean arrives with his very very shiny gun.

He ties her up and she talks – she’s not a killer, she’s a pishtaco, a Peruvian fat sucker. She doesn’t hurt people – she helps people lose weight and feeds at the same time. And no, she didn’t kill the two in the city, that was probably Alonso – her brother, the surly chef.

Larry is busy confronting Alonso which is probably unhealthy. Alonso blames Larry for “starving” him. Larry decides to make Alonso leave – which doesn’t go well for him.

Sam and Dean tell Maritza who cries and describes how she brought Alonso from Peru hoping he could learn to control his appetite like she does – but he was already on kitchen duty after he nearly killed a client. She insists she’s on the Winchesters’ side – so Sam asks how they kill Alonso.

Long tense hunting scene as they stalk Alonso, in the dark until he pounces. Lots of manoeuvring in the dark where he reveals fat makes him stronger. Lots of battling in the dark by torchlight – and Dean cuts off Alonso’s proboscis. Which is apparently how you kill a pishtaco.

Sam offers sympathy to Maritza and Dean wants to kill her before Sam talks him out of it.

And finally Sam and Dean talk out their issues; Dean doesn’t see the issue with saving Sam’s life, that’s what he does – the right thing. Sam objects because Dean always casts himself as the saviour and continually thinks he’s doing the right thing – but where’s the upside of Sam being alive given how many have died. Sam was ready to die – he considered Dean saving him a selfish act. Dean claims Sam would do the same thing – but Sam says he wouldn’t; which hurts Dean rather badly.

This episode could have been so much worse.

Seriously, this is Supernatural and has the character of Dean Winchester – and it’s an episode with Romani and fat people. This could have been a trainwreck of awful.

But we have the Romani who ISN’T the source of dark and evil woo-woo (and even a weak challenge of “gypsy”).

Then fat people… without a whole lot of making them the butt of jokes. We have an open acknowledgement that, yes, fat people can be attractive, even compared to thin people. And the way the Sherriff talked about her husband and the dark place she was in was a pretty sensitive and gentle way to explain one of the reasons why people don’t always have a healthy relationship with food.

The Winchester’s dispute is finally hitting at the core of their relationship and how they see each other – and showing they see each other in dramatically different ways

Dean has always been the older brother, ever since John’s failed parenting basically left him to raise his little brother who wasn’t that much younger than himself and creating a massive co-dependency issue. It also reflects on how the Winchesters have traditionally taken on hunting – they fight the monsters. Yes there are negative consequences and sometimes the world is at stake and they occasionally have friends along the way, but at the core it’s those 2 against the monsters – you fight and you have each other’s back. End of. Dean is a soldier of that war – far more than Sam who has had far more hits and experience of a “normal life” than ever Dean has (and despite his often ground zero of the various things that have gone wrong, he’s also not faced the same level of trauma Dean has).

Which casts Sam as both the perpetual little brother AND the only reliable ally Dean has in an eternal fight for their life – in both situations Dean will have Sam’s back, even at the expense of everything else and certainly against Sam’s will; because Sam will always come first. And we’ve seen that – whether it’s love interests, Benny or even Castiel: Sam > everyone. And several times that has worked to Sam’s advantage – the raising from dead, getting his soul back, facing off satan etc etc.

Now turn to Sam who is much less of a soldier than Dean and likely less damage. Which means a) he actually expects a relationship between adults with his brother, the kind of thing that Dean hasn’t had but that he has. And he doesn’t put their relationship on a pedestal or expect it to be a priority – or consider Dean to be the overwhelming priority: and we’re not just talking about life-and-death, the-world-is-at-stake here. For just as Dean has blown off even close, profound friendships for Sam, Sam has pursued love interests and tossed aside Dean.

Which ultimately hurts Dean to realise that while Sam is the most important thing in his life and he will always have Sam’s back, the same is not returned – Sam will not always have his back, not only as Sam has said but also as we have seen: when Dean was in Purgatory Sam… left him there.

The brothers approach their relationship – their lives, their missions – in dramatically different ways to an extent that they probably aren’t even capable of understanding each other. But now we’re actually touching on that, there’s chance of some real depth behind the perennially Winchester fall out.