Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review of "Sam, Interrupted"

I have a confession.  Maybe it was the super-long hiatus and my avoidance of spoilers.  Maybe it was the intensity of my work and family obligations over the holidays and through January.  But coming into this week, I was afraid I’d lost my obsessive love passion for this show.

Some of it might have been the promo for this episode, which focused so much on insanity and had the kind of horror movie vibe I avoid unless Jared or Jensen are involved.

So the show started in an insane asylum, an unsympathetic doctor trying to convince a paranoid schizophrenic that the monster she saw kill her roommate wasn’t real.  Then the boys are in the same office. Dean’s checking Sam in. Sam earnestly explains that he’s a little depressed because he started the apocalypse…and all the love came rushing back.

There are two ways to look at this episode: a masterful combination of the classic and the current, or a rehashing of old ideas.  To me, it felt more like the former, mainly because of a high level of humor, an exploration of the boys (both physical AND mental), and superb acting by everyone from the patients to the doctors.

“Sam, Interrupted” follows a pattern established by “Folsom Prison Blues” a couple of seasons ago.  An old friend of Dad’s* calls for their help, so they get themselves checked in to the asylum, in a hilarious sequence where Sam and Dean get to be uniquely honest.  Forget exposition—this may be the best incorporation of a post-hiatus recap ever.  Not that we needed to be reminded that Sam started the apocalypse but it was really Ruby’s fault.

After their…ahem…intimate intake physical, they find Martin, Dad’s old friend.  This requires a little tolerance, since the early seasons established that the boys were not aware of the extent of the hunter network.  The guy at the prison was okay, he was an old military buddy. But then there was Travis, and now Martin, and it’s always an old friend they owe everything to.

But that’s a small flaw.  Martin’s awesome.  Messed up because of whatever happened in Albuquerque, he still has the hunter instinct.  Sam and Dean get the info he’s gleaned, then break out of their cells and start searching.  They’re moments too late to save the next victim, but Sam does a brain autopsy and finds it sucked dry, so Martin figures out it’s a wraith.  It can appear as human, of course, so now they have to check reflections to see the being’s true form.

Dean first thinks it’s the main doctor, the guy in charge, and that doesn’t surprise because he was so harsh.  But when they go after him, he doesn’t react to the silver letter opener Sam slashes him with.  It’s early in the show, so again, we’re not surprised. Then they think it’s Wendy, a patient who kissed Dean, then switched to Sam, because “he’s larger.”  But they find Wendy under attack by the real wraith, who turns out to be the nurse who first checked them in.  Battles ensue, Dean finally defeats her, the boys escape.

The episode followed a common trajectory.  It frontloads the funny—I couldn’t stop giggling all through their intake interview.  Then there was Dean’s reaction to Wendy’s kiss (joining in enthusiastically) and Sam’s opposite reaction (full resistance, complete with bitchface), and Dean getting “thraped.”  And who of us will ever forget, when they get caught in the morgue, Dean pantsing himself, throwing up his arms, and yelling “Pudding!” 

Then things get more serious as the episode goes on.  Dean gives real answers to his shrink’s questions, and she takes note of the humongous weight of his burden, whether it’s real or not. When the wraith’s poison, designed to bring on the crazy (and the apparently very tasty surges of hormones and chemicals), starts to effect both the boys, things get painful.  None of it’s new stuff, but it’s nice that they’re alluding to it.  It’s realistic that Dean is struggling with the burden of having to save everybody, and Sam is full of rage, and they’re both trying to deal with those things in the same ways they always have.  Sam wants Dean to confront his feelings, Dean wants Sam to bury his.

One of the things I liked in this episode was snipping loose threads.  The nurse/wraith talks to Sam (mmmm, restrained Sam…) about knowing Martin’s a hunter, but he’s a mess, and they blabbed about hunting monsters, which made them easy targets.  Otherwise, I’d have been rolling my eyes that she went after them immediately, when Martin and other patients had been there a long time without being targeted.

One loose thread I kind of hope they get to revisit someday: Albuquerque.  Whatever happened there was bad, bad enough that Martin didn’t think he could overcome it, until he had to.  (I hope Kissing Wendy survives!)

Bottom line: Not an amazing episode, but a solidly done one that I’ll enjoy revisiting next time we have an unendurable hiatus!

A note about next week: How bummed am I? How can they have a body switching episode where Sam switches with some random teenager, and not with DEAN?!  I curse misleading teasers. *pouts*

So, what about you?  What did you think of this episode?  What did you like or dislike, especially about parts I missed or forgot to mention?  Hit the comments!


MJFredrick said...

I liked the interview scene but the rest was meh. And Sam has gone from someone who wants a bucket when he has to reach down a vampire's throat to someone who can cut into someone's brain? I had my eyes covered--how did he know the hole went all the way through to the brain?

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I knew you'd feel that way. :)

He knew it went all the way to the brain because he took a really long cotton swab and pushed it into the hole and it went deeper...and deeper...and deeper...and then it squelched.

Don't forget how much Sam changed in "Mystery Spot" when Dean was dead for three months, and then when he was in hell for four, and then hopped up on demon blood...of course he's less squeamish.

Anonymous said...

"Pudding!" will forever be a classic moment.

I liked the episode because the boys were so honest about their feelings, problems, dysfunction. They were open in a way they've never been.

I also loved the lines: "the relationship you have with your brother seems dangerously codependent" and "And you’re my paranoid schizophrenic with a narcissistic personality disorder and religious psychosis."

And Sam's mushy-gushy med scene was funny.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

And you’re my paranoid schizophrenic with a narcissistic personality disorder and religious psychosis.!

YES! But I didn't want to search for it to get it exactly right, so I didn't mention it. LOL

Poppycole said...

My feelings on this episode were also "meh". Like MJ I enjoyed the intake interview. But I more perfer veiled references to our heroe's suffering rather than blatant in your face, this is how it is effecting them.....because really what's the end game? How does one recover from this? And that...that's plan depressing. So I think the "God" (not meant as an insult, just not sure still how this alll going to play out, they find him/her/it/etc). better have a damned good a brain wipe with a happy life or something. I mean really these boys can only take so much.

Oh! Gravity's on Fire said...

you can't forget about the awesome face of disgust that Dean made when he snapped the nurse/wraith's pointer/feeder thing off her wrist...

Claire Kaplan said...

Are you sure the brothers don't switch bodies? I got the impression there was inter-Winchester swapping as well as what was advertised in the trailer, from a spoiler or two I've heard.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

No, I'm not sure, Claire. I jumped to conclusions when I saw the first line in Ask Ausiello, but then in hindsight realize it doesn't say the boys do it, just that it happens. I saw one hint that they might, but based on the premise of the episode and the trailer at the end of last week, if Sam and Dean do swap, I'm expecting it to be for a very small period of time. That kind of bums me out. But now I'll be super-happy if I'm wrong. LOL