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Supernatural 9.08 "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" Review: Have a Little Faith

    This week’s episode of Supernatural “Rock and a Hard Place” was written by Jenny Klein and directed by Johnny MacCarthy who also directed “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” and who is the first assistant director of even-numbered episodes of the show. Like Kevin Parks, the other first ad on the show, he brings a wealth of knowledge to his directing duties. Klein has also written a number of other episodes, including one of my favorites, “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester.” My first reaction to the episode is that it was another solid monster-of-the-week episode and that Carver is really getting the hang of these after a somewhat uneven start last season. Also – I was SO happy to see the wonderful and super talented Kim Rhodes back on the show! Yes! And more please, show! On reflection, the episode is actually delightfully crafted and carries a number of themes throughout. The title itself is a fun pun on reclaiming one’s virginity, but is also a reflection of where Dean is: trapped between keeping his brother alive and lying to him.

    The major theme in the episode is one of faith. Vesta is the virginal, Roman goddess of hearth, home and family. This certainly resonates with the central theme of the show and in particular the episode subtly focuses on the bond between Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki). According to mythology, the sacred fire of Vesta could only be lit by the friction between two pieces of wood – or perhaps two brothers? The fire is also a symbol of home and links earth to Heaven.

    Vesta or Bonnie (Lindy Booth) presides over the Good Faith Church. Jody (Kim Rhodes) tells the brothers that her church group in Sioux Falls has been in a tizzy over this new group. At which Dean says “I didn’t peg you as the churchy-type.” Sam follows this up when he asks Jody if she’s “born again.” She says no, but her brushes with Crowley and Bobby’s death left her needing something to believe in and to draw comfort from. She says she understands that he might not get it because of the special bond he shares with Dean. Sam looks puzzled but she says it’s something special. Sam’s reaction is interesting as he looks a little troubled. I wonder if this is an indication that he knows something is up and he’s having trouble putting faith in his brother because he suspects Dean is keeping something from him. Perhaps he’s not drawing the comfort from the relationship that she thinks he is. In fact, it’s clear that Dean has always found his comfort in home and hearth – which is Sam for him – while Sam has struggled on a more independent path. As we know, this has lead to Dean making questionable calls – at least to Sam – in the past.

    Susie (Susie Ambromeit) also relies on her faith to help bring her comfort. She asks Dean to pray with her for the missing people and she suggests that they end up in the pit because God is punishing them for failing their vows. Honor reminds her that she needs to have faith that God will help them.

    The final scene has Dean appealing to Sam to have faith that they will be able to solve whatever it is that’s wrong with him. It’s interesting that it is Vesta that points out that Sam is virtually dead inside and this reminded me strongly of the scene in “You Can’t Handle the Truth,” in which the goddess Veritas reveals that Sam is soulless. Zeke makes an appearance to stop Dean from telling Sam the truth. Dean is clearly at the breaking point. He’s being tortured by having to lie to Sam, and he is quickly losing faith that Zeke is telling him the truth. I suspect that Dean realizes that the longer he lies to Sam the more he is endangering his relationship with his brother and Sam being able to have faith in him in the future. Dean is also being tortured by what this is doing to Sam. Sam is losing faith in himself. He clearly believes that he may never get better and possible even deserves not to. We definitely seem to be coming to a turning point in this storyline – especially if you’ve seen the scenes for next week!

    Aside from the serious story threads, there were a lot of great lighter moments in the episode too. Ackles, as always, nails the comedy when he agrees to become a born again virgin and then in oversharing his thoughts on sex in the group meeting. Padalecki completes the scenes as the consummate straight man. Anybody else love Dean calling Sam, Kato – the Green Hornet’s right hand man (valet)? Anybody else surprised when they signed the purity pledge with their own names?

    Dean is sure that he recognizes Susie, which Sam thinks is a line. True to the way their love lives run and that they’ve just revealed in the session, Dean goes home with Susie while Sam is stuck with the poetry writing Tammy. Of course, Dean realizes that he’s recognized Susie from Casa Erotica, the porn series that has appeared countless other times on the show. The role-play between Susie and Dean is hysterical – and did anyone else flash to the tacos in “Mystery Spot” when Dean mentioned that scene with the tacos? Loved that the scene ended with an Ole! On a more serious note, however, the scene is juxtaposed with Sam and Jody’s discussion of where she finds comfort, and I think that is a telling gloss on Dean’s attitude toward sex: he finds comfort in the physical – whether it is sex, food, or the feel of the Impala roaring down the highway.

    Finally, a few words about Kim Rhodes. Did I mention the show needs to have her on a lot more – and soon?! Jody Mills is a terrific character and Rhodes plays her quiet courage perfectly. When Dean asks if she’d ready to get back in the fray after she almost died, she responds that these wackadoos just keep on coming – so she’s just going to learn as much as she can to fight them. It’s clear that she’s bonded a little more with Sam – her hug with him is just a little longer. No doubt this is because she and Sam keep having to work together to save Dean and they’ve spent more time alone together. I love the way she just pragmatically wades in and does what needs doing – from punching the virgin in the nose to get her blood to pulling the stake out of her own chest and killing Vesta. Vesta calls Jody a hunter, so I think that is a good indication that we will – and should! – see more of her. I adored her smart-mouthing the goddess. Rhodes also always nails the comedy – “Dragons are a thing?” So, Powers That Be? Let’s have Jody move to Chicago and star in that spin-off you’ve promised us, ok?

    Lindy Booth did a wonderful job as Vesta and Bonnie – Bonnie was creepily naive and Vesta her complete opposite – I loved the look on Bonnie’s face when Dean says you can’t unring the virginity bell! Did anybody else think ET when she held her glowing finger up to Jody?

    A very enjoyable and generally well-written episode. I had a few quibbles. I didn’t feel the action in the pit was as harrowing as it might have been if we’d been able to bond with the captives a little more – an hour show just isn’t long enough! Having Barb drag her fingers down the wall until they bled seemed a bit gratuitous, until you realize that Neil’s reaction to just turn away from her is a stepping stone to his wanting to offer Honor as a sacrifice. And where did that first aid kit come from? And why is there some sort of tunnel system beneath a barn? Why was Crowley and his blood addiction in the preview? Am I thinking too hard about this stuff?

    What did you think of the episode? Have you changed your thoughts on Zeke? How happy were you to see Kim Rhodes back? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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