Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Trust and Intuition

interview w husband

That post about Gordon Walker got me thinking about Sam’s intuition about people. We talk quite a lot about how empathetic Sam is. He has an intuition about people.

In the pilot, we see him interviewing Constance’s husband. The guy is upset. He comes across as the perfect grieving husband. He says only nice things about his poor dead wife. Sam starts to go to the car and leave, but then he hesitates. You can see him almost debating with himself. It’s like he knows there’s something not right about the guy. He’s read about how Women in White are often victims of philandering husbands. He turns back to the guy and starts grilling him. The guy never admits that he cheated on his wife, but Sam knows from his reaction that he did. This scene shows two sides of Sam with the way he coolly interrogates the guy at that point. Empathy be damned, he’s a tough kid.

As I mention in that last post, Sam knows immediately in Bloodlust (2.03) that Gordon isn’t to be trusted. He doesn’t buy the guy’s smarmy advances at friendship. Gordon gives him the “creeps” as I put it, and he leaves. He doesn’t want to be in the same room with him, but knowing that Dean is back at the bar with Gordon, he calls Ellen who warns him off Gordon. She tells him that people get hurt around Gordon, which confirms his initial impression of the hunter.

I’ve read some meta that asserts that Dean is gut instinct and Sam is cerebral. I think that over-simplifies things. They are both a mixture of each. The impression that Sam goes with his head is because Sam is shown to be the “intellectual” of the team. In fact, Sam uses his brain — knowledge and research — to confirm that intuitive feeling he gets from people. Consider how he grew up being dragged from town to town and school to school. He had to have developed a sense of people, the ability to read them as friend or foe, pretty quickly.

I think Dean did too, btw, but Dean has a different way of processing the information and responding. In Bloodlust, Dean’s intuition fails for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think that Dean hasn’t come to see humans as monsters in a way that he might later in the series. He is also emotionally distraught. He’s overwhelmed with grief and guilt over his dad, and Gordon masterfully plays on that to get past Dean’s defenses (in a way that Ruby will later play on Sam’s grief). Bloodlust is an important point in Sam and Dean’s relationship, not just because Dean begins to see that there may be gray areas with monster, but  also — because of Sam’s intuition — that humans can become monsters like Gordon.

Which brings us to Amy Pond — probably one of the most argued over characters and situations in the series. Sam met Amy as a teenager. They had a connection, were friends, shared a kiss. It turned out that she was a monster, a kitsune, but she killed her own mother to save Sam. Looking back, we can see why Sam might have had a different perspective on Lenore in the first place. Sam had concrete knowledge that monsters can behave in surprisingly sympathetic ways. They can act under altruistic, ethical or moral codes. They aren’t necessarily just “monsters” who want to kill humans.

Given Sam’s experience with Amy and his intuition, we can see why he believed that she wouldn’t start killing again. The only reason she was killing this time was to save her son’s life. She’d become mortician with the specific intention of having a supply of pituitary glands, and she isn’t just killing anyone, she’s targeting lowlifes — people who prey on other people. I would argue that if Sam and Dean had encountered Amy in this situation in S3, things would have turned out differently.

Let’s look at this conversation toward the end of The Girl Next Door (7.03):

Dean: Look, man, I get it, okay? You meet a girl, you feel that spark – there’s nothing better. But this freak?

Sam grabs his jacket and gets up from a chair at the table.

Dean: I didn’t mean –

Sam: Yeah, you did. Look, I see the way you look at me, Dean, like I’m a grenade and you’re waiting for me to go off.

Dean: Sam –

Sam: I’m not going off. Look, I might be a freak, but that’s not the same as dangerous.

Dean: I didn’t say –

Sam: It’s okay. Say it. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be normal, but come on. I’m not normal. Look at all the crap I’ve done, look at me now. I’m a grade-A freak. But I’m managing it. And so is Amy.

Dean: Is she? How?

Sam: She works at a damn funeral home so she doesn’t have to kill anyone, Dean. She’s figured out how to deal.

Dean: Okay, well, then explain the bodies.

Sam: She’s done. Her friggin’ kid was dying, Dean. Put you or me in her position, we’d probably do the same thing. Look, you don’t trust her. Fine. Trust me. Dean, please.

Dean: Okay.

Sam: Seriously?

Dean: Got to start sometime, right?

This whole conversation is heartbreaking. Sam knows how little faith Dean has in him, and so does Dean despite his protests. He knows that he’s lying to Sam when he says that he’s going to start trusting him. So, how did they get here and how do they get out of it? The obvious answer to how they got to this point is Ruby, but I’d argue that Sam never really “trusted” Ruby in the first place. We have to consider where Sam was after Dean went to hell. He was desperate, insane with grief and guilt. It surprises me how sympathetic many fans are to Dean’s guilt and grief after John sells his soul for him and then for Dean when he sells his soul to bring Sam back, but they don’t extend the same understanding to Sam when Dean goes to hell for him and he ends up teaming up with Ruby. Sam after all tried to sell his soul and in a sense he did.

Ruby really was masterful at luring Sam in, playing on his grief and need to avenge his brother. She convinces him that they share the same goals. He knows he’s making a demon deal, and he knows it could end bad for him, but he doesn’t care what happens to him. And after she gets him addicted to demon blood, she’s got him. One of the things that Sam has fought for in his life is control, and the demon blood makes him feel as though he is. Of course, that’s a false sense of control because the addiction actually controls him.

The thing about the conversation above is that Sam is absolutely right. In the same situation, he or Dean probably would do exactly what Amy had done. They’d kill human predators to save one another — hell, they’d kill almost anyone. They’d let the world burn. Later, Sam will kill Dean’s monster daughter Emma without hesitation because he sees her as a direct threat to Dean. But because of Ruby, Dean doesn’t trust Sam anymore, and if we look closely at their conversation in The Mentalists (7.07), we’ll see that it isn’t all that clear cut that Dean thinks he did the right thing:

The Mentalists

Sam:… Look, you know what? Um… You were right. About Amy. If she was… just any monster, I’m not sure I could have let her walk away. I don’t know. I mean, I’ll never know.

Dean: So, what are you saying?

Sam: What I’m saying is… I get why you did it. You were just trying to make sure no one else got hurt. But here’s the thing. You can’t just look me in the face and tell me you’re fine. I mean, you’re not sleeping, you drink for the record —

Dean: Oh, here we go.

Sam: Look, whatever. Last one to preach, I know. But… Just be honest with me. How are those the actions of someone who knows they did the right thing?

Dean: You want me to be honest?

Sam: Yeah.

Dean: I went with my gut. And that felt right. I didn’t trust her, Sam. Of course, ever since Cas, I’m having a hard time trusting anybody. And as far as how I been acting… I don’t know. Maybe it’s ’cause I don’t like lying to you. You know, it doesn’t feel right. So, yeah, you got me there. I been climbing the walls.

So what we have is Sam’s intuition, which he doesn’t completely trust anymore, and Dean’s gut instinct, which may be flawed due to trust issues. He’s had a hard time trusting Sam ever since Ruby, and since Castiel’s betrayal, he’s not sure he can trust anyone. Season 7 ended rather weakly, and I don’t see any resolution of these issues in it. In fact, it’s a nice set up for Season 8 if Carver hadn’t ignored Dean’s declaration that he didn’t like lying to Sam and it felt wrong. Instead we get a Dean returning from Purgatory with a monster friend who he keeps secret from Sam. He believes that Sam didn’t care enough to look for him, which only heightens the lack of trust.

I’ve tried on several occasions to unravel the convoluted mess that is Season 8, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because this has already gone long. I will say this, however, I think that Sam not looking for Dean was all about what happened with Ruby. Sam didn’t trust himself after what happened. We know he told Amelia that his world imploded and rained down around him. He was admitting that he had a kind of breakdown. Given what we saw of robo!Sam when Dean died in Mystery Spot and then when Dean went to Hell, it’s actually understandable.

Now, I’ve seen meta regarding Sam’s reaction to Benny that Sam was just angry because Dean was trusting a monster, which Sam saw as hypocritical, and I do think that’s true to an extent. When Sam declared that he would kill Benny if he caught him, he was doing what he felt Dean did with Amy. He would kill the monster because Dean couldn’t kill a friend. But Sam’s feeling went deeper than that. It goes to Dean keeping Benny a secret.

In Blood Brother, Sam sees Dean out in the parking lot talking on the phone with someone. Dean then comes in and gives a vague reason for leaving. He’s clearly not telling Sam something. Sam knows Dean well enough to know that he’s keeping something from him. Later, when Dean calls and reveals that he’s in a vampire’s nest, he says he’s with a friend. Now, think about that. Sam doesn’t know that Dean found out about the nest after leaving. For all Sam knows, a hunt with a “friend” was the reason Dean left. What this tells Sam is that Dean didn’t trust him to have his back. The fact that the friend turns out to be a monster just makes it that much worse.

Sam and Dean’s discussion in Citizen Fang is really telling:

Sam: Listen, Dean, we came here on a dead body. You asked for some time, and now there’s another dead body. Are we just going on trust here?

Dean: Yes.

Sam: Okay. Because we’ve killed for a lot less, and you know how these things turn out for us.

Dean: Yes, I do – too well. In fact, every relationship I have ever had has gone to crap at some point. But the one thing I can say about Benny – he has never let me down.

Sam: Huh. Well, good on you, Dean. Must feel great finally finding someone you can trust after all these years.

And that is the issue. Sam believes that Dean trusts a monster that he has known less than a year more than his own brother – the brother who sacrificed himself for him. It doesn’t matter whether that’s what Dean meant. What they don’t say to one another is as important as what they do say. For Dean especially, what doesn’t say is the thing that brings them to the chapel in Sacrifice (8.23) when Sam is willing to sacrifice himself again to prove himself to Dean, to make up for being the freak, for being the boy with the demon blood.

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