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Supernatural – Episode 9.08 – Rock and a Hard Place – Review

Usually I try to stay away from reading too many fan reactions before I write these reviews, but this time I did, and with the heavy volume of hate for what seemed like a light, funny – if extremely shallow – episode, I started to second-guess my own reactions. So I got a second opinion.

As I rewatched, I did so with a friend who doesn’t watch the show, and who is very tuned into racism, sexism, and every other “ism” out there. She laughed during the Sam and Dean’s introduction to the APU “Abstinence Purifies Us” bond.  She laughed when Dean took his turn explaining why he came to the group meeting and thought he was really going anger the women. She thought it was overdone when the scene started turning it into a When Harry Met Sally skit, and that it took away from what could have been a very funny scene (so did I). After the sex scene with Dean and Suzy, I asked if she found anything offensive. Her surprised, “What??” answered my question. She added, “It’s a silly show,” (I concurred), and then she got up to play on her computer during the rest of the episode.

So my reactions were pretty much the same (except for wanting to drop the show in the second half). I loved Sam and Dean’s reactions as they pretended to be onboard to becoming born-again virgins to solve the case. Jared and Jenson have great chemistry, and these two do a fantastic job with comedy with the subtlety of their expressions. I loved that spunky Jody was back and finally got a chance to kill the bad buy (or goddess, in this case). The guests getting the kill has become a too-frequent habit, but in this case, Jody has earned it.

This was mostly very juvenile humor, and I’ll admit, and I rolled my eyes when I saw the promos and learned the theme was going to be virgins again. But I found the episode funny and thought it had an old-Supernatural feel to it (not a seasons 1-2 feel, but a seasons 3-5 feel). I was surprised to read reactions that that for some the show was sexist, racist (apparently because it poked fun at Mexican porn?), anti-virgin, anti-porn, and there’s probably more. Sexism and racism do occur and are much too prevalent in the media, but in my opinion this was just a silly episode.  Yes, Dean was objectifying women, but that’s Dean, and has been since season 1. It made sense that he would see being in a room full of virgins a challenge. Given how much time Dean spends with porn, it made sense that having an opportunity to recreate porn with a favorite star would be a fantasy come true. Suzy’s character was poorly written, but really now, how may guests on this show have much depth? So on to the review …

The Highlights

Sam’s sleepy. Very sleepy. He doesn’t feel like his battery is being recharged. The line of questioning that follows is interrupted by a call from Jody who has a case for them. People – we’re later to learn people who have taken a pre-marital chastity vow – are being dragged off by a super-strong being in a flash of blue fire.

With virgins and fire in mind, Sam and Dean assume dragons, but that turns out to be false. Great line from Jody: “Dragons are a thing?” Sam and Dean work the case, while Dean works Suzy (the hot, ex-porn star turned virginity counselor). Like the other victims, Dean and Suzy are taken away in blue fire after they’ve broken their chastity vows.

Jody and Sam’s research efforts, combined with Dean’s good-thinking habit of always having a second phone on him, lead Jody and Sam to the truth that the kidnapper is Vesta, the goddess of hearth and home, and the two are able to pinpoint Dean’s location for a rescue that hits some snags as Sam gets knocked out and Jody stabbed in the shoulder/chest area. Jody gets the kill in the end as Dean is forcing his way out of his prison with a, What did I miss?"

Before we said goodbye to Vesta, though, she told Sam that his liver is no good and that he’s being held together by duct tape and safety pins. This is the second monster of the week this season that has tried to eat Sam. Apparently Zeke has been slacking on the job, or has been up to something else. When Sam tells Dean that maybe it’s just him, and that he’s never going to be right, Dean starts to tell Sam the truth about Zeke when Zeke rudely interrupts. Zeke - you better watch it. It’s one thing to mess with Sam and Dean, but you don’t want to mess with the SPN fandom by interrupting revered brother moments.

The Good

As I said above, it was so nice to see Sam and Dean both getting to react naturally to a comedic situation. And the best part – Sam didn’t have to leave the room while Dean interacted with the guest star. In fact, Sam had more meaningful interaction with the recurring character. But despite the fact that Jody seems to be paired more with Sam, she doesn’t show favoritism, and Dean doesn’t have to awkwardly leave the room so that Sam and Jody can have a private goodbye.

Another good is that Jody was back with her moxie and down-home perspective. She was a character introduced before the convention of introducing cartoonishly silly recurring characters became popular with the writers – so it’s good to have her back. She brings a pre-season-6 vibe to the show.

The Bad

We had another mostly filler episode adding one more to a very long streak of fillers. Fans get impatient when there are so many in a row, and this can turn perceptions negative for an episode that might be better received if placed in a different part of the season.

I have a few nitpicky gripes. The first is Dean not answering his phone for Sam, although to give him the benefit of the doubt, it was bad timing, for all Dean knew, it might have been Zeke on the line, and Dean did listen to the voicemail at the first chance he got.

The second and third are connected to Jody and Sam’s conversation about church. The first is that when Jody was listing off events that made her want to seek out religion, I expected her son being brought back from the dead as a zombie and eating her husband to be on the list.

The second is that this was a missed opportunity to get some insight into Sam and his views on faith. Sam has always felt damaged, but he’s never up until now wanted to die (if this is where the show is going). Despite his feeling of being a freak, he was the one to see a silver lining and hope for his future when Dean has often felt trapped. Hearing when and if his views on faith changed could have been a step in connecting the many dots the writers still have left if they’re going to make a narrative that Sam is suddenly suicidal make sense.

The Speculation

So let’s talk about duct tape and safety pins. Exactly how long does it take an angel to heal a person? If angels have the power to raise the dead and bring someone back from Hell, do they not have the power to reverse what’s going on with Sam’s body?

I’m thinking at this point, Dean should just tell Sam the truth so that Sam can expel him. They can find a place where reapers can’t find them (maybe reapers don’t know about the bunker) until they can find another solution.

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