Supernatural 8.14 – Trial and Error

Trial and Error

Remember years ago when we learned about goofer dust? Keep that information on the tip of your brain, because according to the “Then” portion of the opener it’s gonna come in handy.

We’ll get back to that later. Right now, on Garth’s boat, Kevin Tran’s alarm is going off at the ungodly hour of 5am. The kid is running on a steady diet of hot dogs, coffee, aspirin, 2 hours of sleep and his own stench. It pays off though, Kevin hits his “eureka” moment. Right before his nose oozes blood and he passes out cold. Saving the world is a rough gig.

Over in Lebanon, Kansas, Dean is making himself at home for the first time in thirty years. It’s heartbreaking how happy he is to finally be able to put up his old Teen Beat posters. This type of thing is old hat to Sam, so he’s fairly unimpressed and slightly disrespectful of the immaculate condition of Dean’s room, complete with regulation, bounce a quarter off it, bed making skills. As Dean heads off to make them something to eat Sam catches a glimpse of the picture Dean has propped up on his desk. Dean and their mother, circa 1983. And, okay, Sam gets it now. Sam heads off to the main room, which may actually be where he sleeps, cuddle up with the books. He’s mind melding with the monographs when Dean saunters in and drops a plate in front of him. Homemade burger. Sam is impressed, and slightly wigged out, but judging by near the illegal reaction he has to the burger it’s possible Dean baked the bread himself. Unfortunately, Dean doesn’t get the chance to chomp into his burger; his phone rings and Kevin is on the other end of the call. Time to gear up and get going. Sam takes his burger with him, it’s that good.

The boys find Kevin, literally sick with exhaustion, revisiting all the hot dogs he’s eaten in the past month. The kid looks bad, so bad even Dean thinks some leafy greens and a dose pack of vitamin D would do him some good, considering the kid looks like he has self-induced renal failure. Kevin finds all this irrelevant. He’s cracked the tablet code. Which, it turns out, may be the easiest part of all this. To close the gates of hell one, JUST ONE, must endure the trials. First up, find a hellhound, drain it like a Satanist on Halloween and bathe in its blood. Well, considering Dean’s already cooking and cleaning back at home, he figures he’s the one that deserves a nice, warm, bubbly bloodbath. Dean leaves the two bookworms to scour the web for potential crossroad deals about to hit their expiration date while he heads off with a spring in his step to grab some goofer dust and something with actual nutritional value for Kevin.

The tendency toward insomnia and obsession is not new territory for Sam Winchester and he’s frankly worried about Kevin. Kevin, on the other hand, doesn’t have time to listen to concern or logic; he’s determined to get the gates closed STAT rather than ASAP. At least he finally showered. They’re interrupted by Dean, who is blown away by the maze of heirloom, cherry, vine, pear and grape tomatoes available, he’s gonna have to tweak his soon-to-be-famous homemade marinara sauce. He also comes bearing the gift of uppers and painkillers for Kevin. Let it never be said that Dean Winchester doesn’t know his way around a pharmacy. Sam and Kevin fill Dean in on a family they found that has some hinky sounding luck regarding their black gold, Texas Tea fortune. Mainly that they struck it rich in February of 2003 and that they live in oil-less Idaho.

The first person they encounter on the filthy rich Cassity estate is Ellie. She’s clearly not a Cassity because she’s doing manual work under the carriage of a tractor and has a Latino accent. Oh, wait, no, that’s not supposed to tip us off about that, so she takes it upon herself to tell them she’s the farm manager. Thanks for clearing it all up, Ellie! They also meet Carl Granville. Also not a Cassity. He is however married to one, Alice Cassity. So Ellie isn’t heir to the oil throne and Carl is kinda doofy, so the brothers clear them of being contract signers; no, their money is on Alice, but they need time to work that angle. On the plus side the farm is looking for stable boys and who better to help out than the two most unstable boys on Earth? Dean officially hates the grunt work and misses his room, good thing he has Ellie to hit on, that helps pass a few seconds of time.

Later that night, Alice and Carl are enjoying a romantic evening together. Roaring fireplace, glasses of wine and the sounds of spooked horses. Alice doesn’t like the sound of that and heads off to check on them. This gives the hellhounds the perfect chance to turn Carl into a chew toy. Ellie is taking the death the hardest, Alice is pretty ambivalent; neither is looking forward to the entire Clampett gang clomping in for the funeral.

Since it turns out that Carl did make a deal and they’ve missed their puppy play-date opportunity, Dean figures he’ll just have to summon a crossroads demon and threaten them into giving him the pet Dean was never allowed to have. Sam thinks this plan is stupid and dangerous and stupid, plus, Alice’s lack of caring at all and the fact that their happy union was exactly 10 years old means that even though Carl did make a deal, it wasn’t for the fortune of the family meaning there’s gotta be another contract about to go bloody. So they opt to wait it out and see whom exactly the demon Carl hooked up got poly-amorous with.

The next day the Cassity clan arrives and they are a classic slice of the American dream. J. Howard Marshall Jr. who was respectful enough to leave his new Anna Nicole Smith at home, a daughter that gives us a glimpse of where Britney Spears would be if she hadn’t gotten her act back together and the necessary baby of the family, the daughter that ran away to Paris. Their lives are hard, man. After Ellie tells the brothers the dirt on the family she fills them in on their duties for the night: Sam will be the house servant, Dean will be the grill master. Dean’s got it easy, all he has to do is flip some steaks and get sexually harassed by his new boss. Sam, however, is stuck with the most dysfunctional family since his own. Cindy can’t get enough booze in her, Margie used to be fat and slept with Carl before he married Alice, Alice still doesn’t care that her husband is dead and their father? Drunker than Cindy, which is highly impressive. Sam can’t figure out why Ellie stays, she says it’s because she loves the farm.

The family is reminiscing about the last time they all sat around together for dinner. It was ten years ago, they remember because it was marked by a traveling salesman stopping by. Very charming, the sisters swoon. English accent, suave demeanor, weird name. Corky? Corey? CROWLEY. That’s it. Sam practically drops the plate he’s washing.

The brothers cannot seem to catch a break; that is until Kevin calls. He’s found a way to make hellhounds less invisible, hellhounds can be seen by the damned or by an object scorched by holy fire. Seems that the Winchesters are not quite damned enough, but they do conveniently have a jug of Jerusalem oil in the trunk and two pairs of glasses Dean lifted from the wood shop out back. While Dean’s busy scorching the specs, Sam is off trying to keep a drunken Mr. Cassity and a lovelorn Margie from getting hurt while they head off to avenge Carl’s death.

Dean goes from getting his geek on to nearly getting his freak on when Ellie catches him at the barn. She’s into him and he’s into her, but he’s also kinda busy at the moment. He tries to easy Ellie’s embarrassment by asking for a rain check, but Ellie tells him this is a one night only offer. The meaning of that sails right over Dean’s head.

Meanwhile, Sam and his billionaire morons are trekking through the woods, they think they’re wolf hunting, Sam lets them. Right up until a hellhound rips Margie’s throat out. Time for the brothers to come clean about who they are and why they’re their. The family is ornery, indignant and less than forthcoming. The Winchester’s handcuff the remaining members of the Cassity family to the furniture in the living room and goofer dusts the doorways. Sam wants to know the plan; the plan is Dean goes out to hunt Krypto the Superdog while Sam camps out with the crazy family. Sam is not down with this plan on multiple levels, most of all the fact that Dean is going it alone, he doesn’t get why.

You wanna know why, Sam? Well, Dean’ll tell you.

1) The only job Dean has ever steadily held is the position of protecting you.
2) Dean’s going to do these trials and die trying. He’s okay with this.
3) Dean wants Sam to have the life that Dean feels he should, this includes a blender mix of every sit-com husband/wife team Dean’s ever watched on Nick at Nite.
4) Dean has crap self-esteem, which apparently Sam had forgotten and needed to be reminded of.

Dean heads out into the rainy night, hipster x-ray glasses firmly in place, but he’s stopped by the sound of the Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” playing in the distance. It’s pretty much a siren’s call. Dean walks in on Ellie drunken dancing with herself. She’s thinking he’s come back to cash in that rain check. Dean’s more concerned than that. He tries to warn her about the hellhounds, knowing that he sounds insane. Or not. Ellie totally knows what he’s talking about, because it’s coming for her. Ellie traded her mother’s health for 10 years. Except Crowley neglected to tell her about the 10 years part, but Ellie’s a bright girl, she figured it out.

Back at the main house, Sam stands guard in his magic glasses and manly stubble, so intent on watching for the hellhounds that he doesn’t notice Alice wriggling her wrist out of the handcuffs. He catches her as she runs down the driveway. Alice finally fesses up to making her deal.

Ellie is spilling her feelings all over Dean when the hounds start howling, this triggers the hallucinations and we’re treated to a contorted, decaying version of Dean Winchester. It’s really creepy to see someone that pretty look so gross. Dean tries to keep her calm, despite how his moneymaker is looking. He makes a circle of goofer dust and tells her to get in and stay there. Track record of people listening when a Winchester tells them to stay put and stay safe ain’t good. Dean goes after the hellhound, but it attacks, knocks his glasses off and his knife away. Sam is there in the clinch though, shotgun and salt-rounds at the ready. While the pooch is recovering from the shot, Sam dives for the knife. Sam and the hellhound struggle, but Sam’s the more determined son-of-a-bitch of the two and guts the hellhound before it can eat through his jugular. Gravity, of course, is everyone’s worse enemy and the hound’s blood drenches Sam.

Dean’s stubborn, he tries to chant the chant even though he’s not the one covered in dog blood. It doesn’t work. But Sam, Sam has a speech of his own to give now. He gets that Dean has the worst self-image ever, but Sam thinks the world of his big brother and he’s going to close the gates of hell and show Dean just how good life can be for the both of them.

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  • Katy

    I just wanted to hug Dean when he gave that speech to Sam. It really was so very sad.

    • After Dean’s speech I wanted to hug him and then smack him over the head. The boy does not realize how freaking smart, capable and IMPORTANT he is. I mean, hello, EMF meter out of a walkman. And rebuilding the Impala? That’s not something a dummy can do. Thankfully, Sam DOES realize these things about Dean.

  • “She’s into him and he’s into her.”

    OMG guys he was so into her, like, I haven’t seen him so interested in a while… /sarcasm

    • Um… ?

      I’m not sure how to take this comment. Care to elaborate? Thank you.

  • One

    I do think Dean liked Ellie. Why not? she’s cute and smart and interested in him. But you don’t really have to have sex with every person you’re attracted to, for many reasons.
    He was in the middle of a hunt, she was drunk and scared of her inminent death, and probably wanted to have fun in her last night (I think Dean is better than that). Plus, Dean has never been the same about sex after his time with Lisa, and the last time he had casual sex, he ended up having a monster daughter that almost killes him.

    I think it’s just natural his attitude toward sex is not as open as before, even when a pretty girl is obviously interested in him.

    • Agreed and agreed and agreed. I think it’s been since s5 in general that Dean seems a little more reserved in regards to who, why and how often he beds down a woman while drifting through town. I think there’s several factors to it as well; Lisa, stress, time constraints, maturity, etc.

      I also think that Ellie being the aggressor in this situation threw Dean off his game. The hunter being hunted, y’know?

  • C

    I think this would have been the perfect episode to bring back the amulet – right when Sam says he needs Dean to believe in him (or whatever it was he said). I kept waiting for him to pull it out and offer it to Dean but sadly, that didn’t happen.

    • I hadn’t thought of that! That would have been an interesting way to bring that full circle.

  • Alex

    I don’t think Dean was into Ellie at all (I mean, look at his face!), if he was he would have found the time (it’s not like it’s never happened before), but he didn’t, what he did was reject her. I’m sure the writer had his reasons for writing him that way, hopefully it’ll be explored in the next episodes.

    • Interesting interpretation. Dean does check her out early on and then clumsily asks her out for a drink, do you think that maybe he was turned off by her being the more aggressive pursuer? I could see the writers exploring the possibility of Dean maybe being celibate due to self-esteem issues or because he’s had casual sex lead to a evil teenage daughter.

      • Peter J

        Dean flirts with her casually, when it’s harmless. As soon as she makes a move on him, he stops her, twice, and for the rest of the episode, even when she’s leaving and he might never see her again, he makes no indication of desiring her or wanting another chance to get to know her. He keeps it professional and distant. I don’t think he had any interest in her besides concern for her well-being. The last scene with them was where I most noticed the detachment.

        I think Dean has lost interest in most relationships and especially in being seen as just a hot time. I’m mostly interested in why this was aired right after the episode where a guy flirted with him, and if that’s a coincidence.

        • Hmmm… I would venture to say since both encounters were a bit throw away that it’s a coincidence.

  • C

    Interesting. I read it totally differently. He was definitely interested but it was the wrong time and place. Obviously his first priority was to find and kill the hellhound which he could hardly do if he was in the sack with her.

  • Elis

    I don’t really think Dean was into her either. He, of course, can appreciate a good looking person, but I don’t he even thought about having sex with her until she came to him and asked him. And he turned him down. Now there are many reasons for that probably, but I doubt it was all about him being in the middle of a job, yes it was certainly one big reason, but I doubt he had had sex with her even if he hadn’t been. We have seen his libido hasn’t been the same since he came back from Hell, but his sex drive was especially low in season 7 plus now all the purgatory crap, it all comes down to depression – low sex drive is one of the symptoms after all.
    There are other reasons, too, though. Like, Dean wants something else than just one night stand, maybe he wants relationship – he is not S1 Dean after all, he has grown and matured. Not to mention Ellie was commenting his apperanace, not his personality (well she didn’t know him) like Aaron in 8×13 (when he implied Dean seemed to be interesting), and even though, nothing happened between him and Aaron, Dean seemed way more frustrated by Aaron not actually being interested in him than not having time to have sex with Ellie.

    • Well, I mean, he definitely wasn’t planning a future with her or anything, but I did detect a passing interest on his part. It’s interesting to see other people’s interpretations of scenes, TV is great that way.

  • Chris

    I am so terrified for Sam, as I’m sure Dean is. Their experiences have shown them that there is always a higher price to be paid than it seems on the surface. It can only end in blood (if they are lucky).

    Ellie was awesome!! I hope she gets into hunting to learn more about what her deal could possibly entail from here (and shows up again in season 9? Yes!).

    Hot damn, they’re kicking it into high gear now!