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Supernatural 8.06 "Southern Comfort" Review: The Truth Hurts

            Supernatural “Southern Comfort” provided anything but comfort for the Winchester brothers. There was much to like about this episode, which delivered some dialogue that I’d been waiting to hear for literally years, in addition to such great lines as Dean saying “When is decapitation not my thing?” It had a decent monster-of-the-week plot to act as a catalyst and was written by Adam Glass. The episode marked the return of Garth, and unlike many fans, I’m not a huge fan of the character, though this may be the least annoying he’s been in an episode. In fact, I spotted at least one other actor who has been on the show before... did you?
            I enjoyed Sam’s flashbacks a lot in this episode. Liane Balaban as Amelia is really winning me over, and my greatest wish at this point is that we get to see Amelia actually meet Dean. After all, Sam has now met Benny. Her backstory makes sense and I like it even more because it isn’t supernatural in any way – at least not that we know of. But it also parallels Sam’s relationship with Dean. And for me, Sam’s confession that he’d lost his brother and the inference that Sam just couldn’t stand to be reminded of him by still being in the life was also very realistic and rang true for me. When Amelia confesses that all she could see “was judgment and pity and this constant reminder everywhere” of Don, it was easy to see how Sam would feel exactly the same way. I’m curious to see whether Sam ever confessed to her about his real life and how he explained losing Dean. If he said that he was also killed, that could get pretty awkward.
            I feel like we are going to have to lose both Amelia and Benny going forward. I don’t see how either of them can actually fit into the Supernatural universe as we know it. That said, I think both characters are currently serving pivotal roles in Sam and Dean’s development. However, I don’t see Amelia accepting or adopting the hunter lifestyle. Given her history it seems unlikely that she will want to suffer the anxiety of knowing the kind of danger Sam is in constantly. I doubt she would want to put herself through that kind of long distance worry even on a weekend basis. As for Benny, it just seems inevitable that some hunter somewhere is going to kill him. And given how things usually fall out in the Supernatural universe, that hunter is most likely going to be Dean.
            Garth has never been my favorite character. He did grow on me in this episode, however. Glass wrote “Party On, Garth”, so he had some experience with the character, and Tim Andrew directed “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding”, the other Garth episode as well as “Grave Importance”, a Bobby-centric episode, so he had experience with Jim Beaver’s delivery of such important lines as “Balls” and “Idjit.” One of the nicest sequences in the episode is the sudden jump back of three days to track the penny making it to Dean, all set to some nice classic rock. The sequence in itself is a nice way to tie up the loose ends, but it also heightens the tension of the final confrontation.
            I do have a few quibbles with the plot. It seems as if by this time, Dean and Sam would have run into a Spectre before or the topic of green ectoplasm might at least have come up. In addition when the Spectre is in the deputy and reading Dean, instead of referring to itself as Vance – the soldier it once was, it refers to itself as the Spectre and that seemed awkward to me. I’m also not sure why Sam would be so convinced that Dean remembered what he’s said when it was clear that the other possessed victims didn’t remember what they’d said and done.
            My problem with DJ Qualls portrayal of Garth is that it doesn’t ring true to me. The best comic relief is played seriously or straight. If the actor doesn’t take the part seriously, the audience won’t, and I’m always left thinking he’s mugging a little too hard for the camera. And I just can’t believe Sam and Dean would ever let him lead on a case. That said, I will point to two scenes which I thought were particularly well done: the scene where Garth tells Dean that Bobby belonged to all of them and the scene when Garth reveals he was a dentist and killed the toothfairy. I also enjoyed watching Dean slowly warm up to the idea of Garth filling Bobby’s shoes in the hunter world by providing support to other hunters. The final scene with Dean in which Dean symbolically crowns Garth with Bobby’s baseball hat as Bobby’s successor is a nice touch with Garth finally getting both idjit and balls right.
            It’s Bobby who helps Garth break the case when he finds the entry on the Spectre in Bobby’s journal. There’s also a nice reference to Garth getting Bobby’s hat when Bobby had left it in Garth’s car when they were hunting a rugaru together a few years back. At the end of “Swan Song” after Sam has jumped in the pit and Dean has gone to Lisa to try to fulfill his promise to Sam, there is a reference to Bobby being off hunting a rugaru. It seems like this is a tip of the hat (so to speak) to that very hunt. The basic premise of the episode centering around the seminal brother versus brother conflict of the Civil War was a nice parallel to our own brothers. Like the Civil War, what was said between the brothers has been building for a very long time.  
            The episode opens with Dean catching wind of the case, and Sam forcing him to talk. Sam immediately throws Amy in Dean’s face. Dean then mentions that they let the werewolf chick go – in episode 8.04, “Bitten”. Sam is sceptical about accepting that people change, but Dean insists this is the case. The final two scenes with Dean and Sam are sure to bring out strong feelings in fandom. Dean finally calls Sam on all the betrayals and choices that Sam has made over the years from drinking demon blood to choosing a demon over him to not telling Dean he was soulless. Sam insists these are simply mistakes not choices. Dean points out that he never betrayed Sam or left him to die. Sam seems to be willing to try to talk Dean out of shooting him until Dean begins to say that Sam abandoned him for a girl. As soon as the discussion turns to Amelia, Sam completely loses his temper and tries to take Dean down. Garth has to step in, and he points out that Dean has been protecting his brother all his life and shouldn’t stop now. Garth’s words are a contrast to Dean’s remarks just before that Cas has betrayed him and Sam has betrayed him, but Benny hasn’t. I kept hearing an unspoken “yet”. I’m waiting for Dean to be disappointed by Benny too. I hope it isn’t going to happen because Dean really has been let down by everyone in his life – with the possible exception of Bobby. So once again, having a Bobby-substitute in this episode is important.
            The final scene has Sam on the defensive again and going after Dean. Dean has always forgiven Sam and put Sam first in the past, and Sam knows exactly the buttons to push. Sam calls Dean on keeping Benny a secret when he’d been completely open and honest about Amelia. Except this is the first time Dean is hearing Amelia’s name and Sam said he didn’t want to talk about her – so while he hasn’t quite kept her a secret, he hasn’t been as open and sharing with Dean as he states here. Given Sam’s reaction and his threats to kill Benny, Dean would appear to be justified in keeping him a secret! Then, Sam plays his strongest card and tells Dean that if he doesn’t stop giving Sam a hard time and move on, Sam will. Move on. Abandonment has always been Dean’s greatest weakness and this would be no different. Sam is always the one to leave Dean. Dean says fine, but he looks hurt and wary. Sam also threatens that he just might be the hunter that has to put Benny down. Dean keeps a relatively emotionless face when he tells Sam that they’ll just have to cross that bridge when they come to it. Dean still seems conflicted over Benny. On the one hand, he considers Benny to be a friend and an ally, but on the other hand, I think he feels guilt and shame about bringing a monster back from Purgatory. I also think that Dean is also still hurt that Sam didn’t try to get him back, and unless I missed it, I don’t think Sam has actually apologized for leaving Dean there for a whole year.
            I know there will be camps forming to defend both the brothers. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are headed toward more conflict while they work out their feelings. This discussion is far from over. They’ve said time and time again, that they can’t hunt together if they don’t trust each other, so I’m interested to see if that’s going to be an issue in going forward. I think these are things that the brothers need to say to each other in order to move forward, and I, for one, am really enjoying how Carver and his team are unfolding the season.
            What did you think of the episode? Please try not to get caught up in simply hating on one of the brothers, but let me know what you thought of the episode and where you think we’re going. And by the way? Mrs Lew in this episode was also Mrs Tanner in “Croatoan.”

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