Supernatural, S9 Ep13 – The Purge

supernatural, s9 ep13--Dean in hairnet and Sam in shorts

So, another forgettable Monster of the Week, with a fat-sucking fish taco from Peru or something, but none of that matters. If you watch this episode for one thing, it’s the scene at the end. Sure, there were some funny brother moments, but most of their time together was filled with that awkward feeling of two co-workers who just ended their office romance but have to keep working in the same department. Dean is back to substituting sleep with drinking and Sam might be ripped but he’s acting like a real dick. Things are looking bad for the brothers, and it just got worse.

Sam teaching yoga

Let’s just focus on Sam’s arms here instead.

Once again, the theme of family was highlighted with a none-too-subtle parallel made between Sam and Dean and the case of the week, but it was a tenuous connection that I promptly forgot in the sudden mix of depression and rage I experienced after watching the final scene. After their uneasy interactions for the entire episode, Sam confronted Dean and laid nine seasons of truth on the table: Dean saved Sam out of selfishness, because Dean doesn’t want to be alone. Sam and Dean’s co-dependency is far from new—it’s how everyone and their sacrificial goat describes the brothers. It’s only one of their unhealthy traits, but it’s the one that has probably caused the most damage over the years. Dean’s refusal to let Sam die back in season two led to Dean selling his soul, which put Dean on the rack in Hell and in place to break the first seal, knocking down the first domino on the way to the apocalypse. And Dean saved Sam because he couldn’t bear the thought of living without him. Dean was selfish, we know, we’ve always known. His love for Sam was too much for him to keep going by himself, so he selfishly sold his soul to give his brother what Dean felt he himself didn’t deserve—a second chance. Dean thinks very little of himself, and that’s why he clings so much to Sam, because Sam is the center of his world, and without Sam there is no world (or as it was aptly put by Gadreel-as-Dean earlier this season, “There ain’t no me if there ain’t no you”). In Dean’s quest to keep Sam alive at all costs, he doesn’t often stop to think things through, ignoring how it might affect others or himself, and in this case he ignored how it might affect Sam.

But Sam didn’t just point out the co-dependent elephant in the room. He took things one step further by saying that he wouldn’t have done the same to save Dean. He would have let Dean die. Harsh, but is it true? I’ve seen chatter online of fans who think that there must be something wrong with Sam to be saying this, but I don’t think that’s the case. Maybe Gadreel left something behind—or took something—when he was forced out, but I think the simplest explanation is that Sam really feels this way. Not that he doesn’t love Dean, but he’s never been as invested in their relationship as Dean has. Sam is everything to Dean because Dean always had to take care of Sam and put his needs before Dean’s. Dean is so wrapped up in making Sammy happy that when Dean hallucinated an alternate life for himself in season two’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” he imaged Sam being successful and engaged to Jess, but he was estranged from Dean. Meanwhile, Sam’s dreams of a happy life have never seemed to involve Dean. Sam wanted to get away from hunting, to be normal, and part of that was leaving his family behind. He obviously loves his brother, he did after all try to sell his soul to save Dean from Hell, and his greatest nightmare was living in an endless loop where Dean died again and again on a Tuesday (thanks, Gabriel), but Sam has let Dean go before. What he did when he was soulless in season six doesn’t count, of course, but he didn’t bother to look for Dean when Dean disappeared after killing Dick Roman—he might not have known where Dean went at the time, but he could have tried to find out.

Dean looking sad in a hairnet

How can you say “don’t save my life” to this face?

Sam has always been the one trying to get out of hunting, while Dean sees no way out except through death. Maybe he’s being more mature in thinking that it’s time they start letting go instead of selling their souls again and again to re-spawn one more time. But Sam is also being selfish when he says he would have let Dean die if their situations had been switched. At this point, I think the only thing keeping Sam hunting is Dean, so without Dean, Sam can leave for good. And perhaps he resents that, along with feeling guilty over Kevin’s death. Sam has every right to be angry that Dean tricked Sam into letting an angel possess him, but is it really a good idea to tell a man who drinks his feelings and is holding onto life by one six-foot-four, plaid-wearing thread that their relationship doesn’t matter as much to him? Sam still clings to material ideals and dreams that are long gone, while Dean has always understood that the most important thing is to be with people you love and who love you back. Dean’s co-dependence is dangerous, but so is Sam’s disregard for family. Without family, Sam would probably be dead by now, or possibly ruling the world as Lucifer’s prom dress.

Sam needs family just as much as Dean does, but he’s not willing to admit it because family has also been responsible for some of the worst things that have happened to him. What Dean did was wrong, and Sam deserves some time to vent, but if he’s going to turn his back on Dean forever because of this then he’s the one being selfish. They’re both selfish dicks and always have been, giving the world the finger and focusing solely on each other until things spiral out of control and they’ve started another apocalypse. They might cause a lot of harm together, but they’re also stronger together and ultimately better with each other than alone (Sam was alone when he started drinking demon blood, remember). Dean needs to learn that there are other things in the world besides Sam, but Sam also needs to learn that he still needs his family to ground him. Without Dean, Sam loses his humanity. Without Sam, Dean loses his life. They need to find a balance, and that has always been their problem; they’re either all in or not at all.

Will they ever figure this out? Who knows, but the next episode doesn’t air until February 25, and it looks…weird. And that’s saying something.