Medication Time, Medication Time
by Sylvia Bond
Supernatural Episode Review – Season 5, Episode 11
The idea of characters going into a mental institution posing as patients to track down a killer is not new, and everything about it is familiar. You’ve got the overzealous nurse, the aggressive orderly, the doctor who doesn’t understand and is just trying to do his job, the Day Room filled with crazies, the Padded Room where one or more characters will be trapped and tortured and overmedicated for all the wrong reasons, the thin cotton clothes and slip-on shoes that everyone wears, and the creative lighting that makes everything that much more creepy. I mean, an episode or movie like that practically writes itself. As in, not original.
But you know what? Because it’s Sam and Dean, I’m going to give that fact a big huge pass. Not just because I love Sam and Dean (which I do, but that comes as no shock to anyone), but also because I love stories about sane people going into mental institutions. I love the tension created by a character being trapped and at risk, and searching for a way out, and all the while no one believes a word they say, even if they are telling the truth, because it always comes back to the fact that they checked themselves in. Then the doctor always says something like, “You need help, and you know it, that’s why you’re here,” and there’s no way anyone is going to sign off on their exit papers. It’s wonderful stuff. This time around, Dean and Sam walk right into the story like they knew what I had on my Christmas list, wearing the thinnest of white, short-sleeved t-shirts and looking just a little more (and deliciously) lost than I’m used to seeing them.
Here’s the basic plot. A Hunter pal of The Dad’s named Martin signed himself up for a little R & R at the Shady Rest Loony Bin (actually the Glenwood Springs Psychiatric Hospital in Ketchum, Not-OK), and now he thinks some kind of monster is killing the patients. Sam and Dean decide that the only way they can check it out is to have themselves committed. Although, if anyone will remember the first time we met Anna Banana, Sam was quite capable of forging the papers and posing as an orderly who had complete access to even the most violent of patients. So why couldn’t they do that here? Because it wouldn’t have made as good a story, that’s why! Anyway, Sam and Dean go in, and the rest is hilarity and fright, with a little bit of psycho-analysis thrown in. Because you know the boys still have issues, right? I mean, that hasn’t changed, no matter how long the hiatus was, thank goodness.
To begin with, Dean and Sam seem to have set up the plan that Sam would be the one to go in. Dean brings his brother down to the hospital, and seems to be on the Kindly Doctor’s side that what Sam is talking about isn’t quite right. But while he’s agreeing with the doctor, he lets it slip that hunting monsters is their thing and they need to get back to it, and the doctor decides to have them both in for a some quality time in the loony bin. Dean makes some small protestation, but perhaps it was the plan all along for him to go in with Sam. After all, little brother can’t go alone. So they both go in, which was like a two-for-one special for yours truly!
My favorite part about the scene in the doctor’s office is that Sam has no reason not to tell the truth, because it will automatically be seen as crazy, which is what they want. I was quite pleased with the way the truth tumbled from Sam’s adorable mouth, pouring out like water from a broken dam, as though he’s been waiting for this moment for ages and ages. He talks about starting the apocalypse, and killing Lilith, makes vague references to sleeping with that Skank Ruby, and confesses to making so many bad choices along the way, and how bad it makes him feel. If this had been a Catholic confessional, I think Sam would have been well on his way to feeling a whole lot better. (Because, as you might recall, I still think that if someone got mad at Sam and delivered what he felt was a just punishment, he could start to heal and move on from this painful mental state he’s been in for so long. But that hasn’t happened, and so Sam continues to brood and self-castigate.)
Then there’s the overzealous Creepy Nurse. I can honestly say I didn’t like her but then, I don’t think I was supposed to. At any rate, if her too-wide of a smile didn’t make her creepy, then the pink-on-mauve lipstick and blush, totally unsuitable for her skin and hair color, certainly would have. She’s all hands on in the examination room, like a Creepy Nurse should be, and Show slips in a couple of cute bits to make it funny and throw us off our guard.
For Dean, there’s the quintessential reference to One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest, not just because it’s a fairly famous movie about a loony bin, but also because it’s a movie that starred Jack Nicholson, who Dean fanboys about and quotes and imitates whenever possible. The other joke involves Sam taking his pants down in order to receive a prostate exam (or maybe it’s just a cavity search, take your pick), and the scene is played with just the right amount of squirmy TMI, because Sam is obviously uncomfortable, and the exam is unnecessary and meant to humiliate and subdue, in the grand tradition of Nurse Ratched.
Dean later makes references to having undergone the same treatment as Sam, but as usual, it’s Padalecki who carries the weight of the broad, physical comedy, rather than Ackles. Not that Ackles couldn’t do it, but his is the realm of the eye wince and the mouth twitch, the close up camera for facial humor, as opposed to the dolly-out, full-body humor of Padalecki’s. Do I have a preference? Are you actually going to make me choose? Don’t.
Once checked in, the boys look really, really good in those pale blue pj’s, not to mention the white t-shirts. The lighting made Dean’s eyes very green and his lips very ruby, and he was just overall delicious. (Sometimes the lighting guys are just doing me a personal favor, and that’s what I believe.) And then there’s Sam. He is also beautiful in the pale blue cotton, with the white shirt that looks so good against his skin. He’s wearing this little bathrobe half the time, and I’ll be honest I wanted him to take it off so I could watch the full length of his legs as he walks. He is so long legged and tall, and those muscles of his just pushed through the cotton like they were trying to break free. And his hair, ah yes, the Samhair, dark and messy and tumbled, it was a delicious dream of goodness. (He should not be so beautiful, it just is not fair.)
The first order of the day is for the brothers to have a hot little hallway dither while Sam attempts to justify to Dean why they are in a loony bin instead of hunting Lucky and stopping the apocalypse. Honestly, Sam’s argument wasn’t very substantial; to me there would be no contest. Hey, I’m not complaining, I’m just pointing it out, and I suppose I should give Show credit for at least trying to make it reasonable that Lucky is still roaming the corn fields and back roads as he leaves a swathe of dead bodies behind him, while the Winchester boys lollygag in their cute little blue outfits.
Then we have group therapy, which is typically a fairly benign exercise, but the fun part is that the Kindly Doctor puts the brothers into separate groups, and do you know why? Because he thinks they’re co-dependent. How long did it take him to figure that out, what, all of two minutes? The Kindly Doctor is brilliant, that’s all I can say. Equally as brilliant is the expression on the brother’s faces, a cross-between a “ha, ha, I don’t care,” and “oh, no, don’t leave me!” This is even more evident on Dean’s face than Sam’s; Sam seems more resigned, but Dean looks like his heart is breaking. Which is kind of ironic given how much he was lashing out at Sam in the hallway dither. My vote is that Dean needs Sam more than he lets on, or even realizes.
In the Day Room, Dean meets up with Sexy Therapist, who is just the kind of chick Dean likes, smart, sassy, and independent. The on-going interaction between them was one of the more clever parts of the episode. Sometimes, when you know the truth won’t be believed no matter what you do (in this case because everyone thinks you are crazy) there’s no reason not to tell the truth. So the Winchester motto of “We do what we do and we don’t talk about it,” becomes a moot point and Dean is free to ramble on about any old thing that comes to his head. So he talks to the doctor about hunting monsters, and it must be a relief to say it out loud, but what more appropriate place than in a loony bin, where the truth makes no difference at all?
Sam and Dean meet up in the hallway, and Dean is accosted by a female patient, who, without much preamble, kisses Dean. Now, I’m not one to begrudge the boy a kiss, nor was Dean complaining overly much. However, this does bring up one of my issues with this ep. While Glenwood Springs Psychiatric Hospital may or may not be state run, it is still a psychiatric hospital, and to my knowledge, these kinds of places are not co-ed. Sure, there might be a women’s ward and a men’s ward, but never the twain shall meet, not in Group, not in the Day Room, and especially not in casual interactions in the corridor. I suspect that Show needed a false trail to be laid down, and they chose this random kissing action. But instead of doing it in a more realistic way, Show backed down from having a male patient randomly kissing people even though they already had male on male kissing earlier in the season. (And hey, don’t tell me it’s just a TV show, I like my verisimilitude, and if you’re going to do it, do it right.)
More fun ensues when Dean and Sam sneak into the morgue to examine the body of the latest dead patient. A few things about this scene. I did like the fact that it’s Sam poking around in with the dead body, sawing the head off, and digging around in the de-juiced brains. Sam seems to have always had a strong stomach for this sort of thing, and I applaud the continuity. (The closeups of his face as he concentrates were just adorable. Not to mention those arm and chest muscles of his, pushing through his skin; I could barely concentrate on the dialog at that point.)
Then there’s Dean standing guard in the hallway. Dean has also lost his little robe somewhere along the way, and thusly, we see him, head to toe, thinly clad in a white t-shirt and pale blue cotton pants. Could he get any lovelier? But then they get caught by the Creepy Nurse, and in order to get out of it, Dean shucks his pants, and makes an off-color remark about pudding. Was it supposed to be funny or just uncomfortable? Why didn’t the boys just tell more of the truth, about how they were hunting monsters and stuff? All I could think of was this: boxers or briefs? Anyway.
When next we see Dean, he is standing in the hallway, monitoring the mirror where he expects to see the true reflection of the wraith, which is the monster that’s been killing people. I like how he goes right into hunter mode; once he figures out that you can see the wraith’s real reflection in the mirror, he’s willing to stand at an intersection of two corridors and just watch. Watch and wait, as hunters are wont to do. He goes about this very calmly, unconcerned with the flow of human traffic, not caring about the fact that he’s basically locked in, with no sense of claustrophobia or loss of control. Just Dean doing his job.
Then the Sexy Doctor comes up and starts up a conversation where she asks him why he’s the one who has to hunt the monsters, why can’t someone else do it. And Dean says, “Can’t find anybody else that dumb.” And then the doctor expresses some very much needed sympathy when she says, “Monsters or no monsters, that’s a crushing weight to have on your shoulders,” and some other kind stuff.
So this is two parts cool. One because the doctor doesn’t believe Dean, but at the same time, she’s understanding because he believes, and her sympathy is entirely with his imaginary job. That’s some good and compassionate shrink work if you ask me; it’s trust building. And second because the doctor is a complete figment of Dean’s imagination. We learn this later when she’s saying nasty things, and you think she’s a demon or something, but it turns out, she’s a figment of Dean’s imagination, a composite of a sympathetic doctor, possibly brought about by the wraith’s sweat. Not that Dean needs a doctor (at least not in his mind) but that I think from time to time he likes to have the difficulty of what he does acknowledged. Even heroes need a little nod once in a while as they go about their brave deed doing, and it attests to Dean’s strength of mind to dream up a sympathetic ear of a person who has no vested interest in any of his doubts or struggles.
Eventually Dean thinks he’s found the wraith, disguised in the body of the Kindly Doctor. I knew it wasn’t the doctor because I thought that was too obvious. The boys and Martin meet up, and Sam hands out silver-plated letter openers with which to stab the beast. Or maybe it’s nail files, but never mind that just now, up comes my second issue with this ep. And that is, how on earth are these guys allowed to wander around at will throughout the hospital at all hours of the day and night?
Okay, they have lock picks and can get through any locked door, they’re good with their hands, I get that. But even in state-run hospitals, nurses’ stations aren’t grab bags of opportunity to abscond with impromptu weapons. Nor are the corridors a freeway to adventure. Places like these have controlled doorways and hallways and stairways and everykindofways, and eagle-eyed orderlies who make sure you get where you’re going and on time. I mean, I like watching the boys scamper through the half-shadowed hallways as much as the next fan, maybe even more; it’s the lack of control and barriers to bar the boys’ way that annoys me. But, oh well. They’re on the hunt, and they sure are pretty when they run.
In spite of my complaints, the boys head out to hunt the monster. I was mollified by the fact that it was Sam who got to be the one to find the Kindly Doctor and be on the attack, his nail file firmly clutched in his manly hand. And I’m pretty certain that the Hair Lady did Sam’s Samhair up perfect just for me, because it whips around Sam’s face with just the right amount of artistic license, and Sam is a whirlwind of legs and arms and bravado and I’d just hate to be the one in his sights when he’s intent on killing. But sure enough, the Kindly Doctor is another false trail and after Sam realizes this, the nail file drops from his grip and the Guilt sets in, and he falls apart as only Sam can do, all guilt and remorse, even though it’s too late for anything, and he’s totally yummy when he looks sorry like that.
Later, Dean comes to visit Sam in his room. (His private room, right? Yeah, uh-huh, sure.) Anyway, it’s a pretty cool scene because it gets all up close and personal. Dean’s tightly wound as a clock. Sam’s sprawled in the bed, all splayed thighs and messy Samhair. But more, because Sam pumped with stuff is like Sam drunk, and a drunk Sam is a more honest Sam. This is a particularly nice flavor, because when Sam is honest, he calls it like he sees it.
And then he pulls Dean in close, with his mouth pouting and his forehead all scrunched up with concern and worry. And then he says that he thinks Dean’s been acting crazy since or even before his visit to Hell. I like hearing him stay that out loud, almost as much as I liked seeing their faces that close, or the fact that Sam grabs Dean’s shoulder, and in spite of Dean’s obvious discomfort says, “That’s okay, you’re my brother, and I still love you.” I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard them say “I love you” on this show. Not the expression of love, heck, not even the word, but at last we have it here.
Except, with Sam pronouncing that last word as the more casual “ya” instead of a full out “you,” it wasn’t a perfect moment. To me there is a crucial difference, in that the “ya” takes off part of the gravitas of saying such a thing aloud, and in doing so lessened the remark made between two brothers who haven’t connected very well since Dean made his deal. They want to be connected and I want them to be connected, and it’s so past the time that this should have happened. It’s not just me that wants this to be more about the brothers, is it? Who cares about the apocalypse already! Why not just have Sam say it, just say it, for crying out loud? The clearest messages are often the simplest.
But Show is afraid. Show takes “I love you,” the most powerful set of words in the English language (or any language, if you’d care to take up the translation), and turns it into “I love ya.” “I love ya” is what guys say when they want to express affection but make it jokey so they won’t get taken seriously, in case it gets misconstrued. So to have Sam, who loves his big brother, say less than what he means? Show has just demeaned him, and demeaned what the brothers feel for each other, peed all over everything, and nullified it by about 50%. Not to mention that it’s out of character for Sam to pull back like that, especially when he’s doped up. He’s doped up! What would he care what he’s saying? (And don’t complain that I misheard him. I know what I heard, and everything else he was saying was as clear as a bell on a winter morning.)
Back out in the hallway, Dean encounters the Sexy Doctor, and as she hurls Dean’s own insecurities back in his face, this is the point where we find she’s a figment of Dean’s imagination. It’s a very creepy scene, and very well done, as it slices in half to show us that Dean is talking to the air, and the orderly only sees Dean becoming agitated. As for me, I supposed I should be feeling badly for Dean, but the fact of the matter is that up close, Dean is beautiful. His eyes are all glittery and his mouth is so…soft, and I keep asking myself, when in the heck did freckles get so gorgeous? When will I tired of looking at that face? I really can’t say, to be honest. Maybe never, so deal with it.
Anyway, as Dean starts to see wraiths in every mirror, his psychosis sets in. And, yeah, I did enjoy watching Dean fall apart. There’s a fragility wound together with his very strong inner core, and I like seeing his world come apart, and watching him cower in the corner, and hide against the walls as the world unravels around him. Because afterwards, when he’s bound himself up together again, I still know it’s there; you can practically see the scars and patches. Characters like this, three dimensional, imperfect, flawed, are more real and more interesting than anything.
At some point, the Kindly Doctor comes to visit Sam in his room. Sam, being more himself at that point, is abjectly sorry and apologizes in the way that only Sam can. I love the moment when Sam tells the Kindly Doctor that he tried to kill him because he thought he was a monster. The Kindly Doctor says, “I know that, the question is why.” Of course, the answer as to why Sam thought the Kindly Doctor was a monster was because his brother told him so. His beloved brother Dean, and while I didn’t expect Sam to give Dean up, I was still pleased when he didn’t. There’s the love that you speak out loud, and then there’s the love like this, like the shake of Sam’s head and his quiet indrawn breath, and his refusal to peach. Would it have helped Sam to have given Dean up? I don’t know, I just know that I appreciated that he didn’t.
And, for the record, Dean can’t hardly resist an Sam in apology mode, and the Kindly Doctor doesn’t seem to have that much resistance either. Except, in this scene the doctor regards Sam as his patient rather than a brother he loves. So he’s able to lay it out like he sees it, which is that Sam has anger issues, Sam can only express things through rage, because it was rage that the doctor saw in Sam’s eyes, rage and nothing else. This isn’t a new idea, we’ve seen Sam bubbling with it in this ep and in many others, but it’s gratifying to hear it out loud that Sam is an angry mess. Because he is, with his eyes ablaze and his teeth bared and those muscles in his shoulders bunched and ready for action; testosterone at its finest.
Sam is allowed by the Kindly Doctor to visit the Day Room, where Dean lays into him as though he’s been waiting for this moment for ages. Except this is actually Sam’s psychosis that makes him believe he’s having a huge argument with an imaginary Dean, about how he screwed everything up. (Dean’s actually in the corner, having a shaking fit.) Sam ends up fighting off a hoard of imaginary people ganging up on him, first the patients, and then the orderlies. They’re all in a circle around him and then he starts swinging. And he’s got such a long and powerful swing, that it was like watching one of those martial arts movies where the bad guys go down, and more of them keep coming.
Trouble is, Sam comes across as crazy, because he’s fighting air, even as he’s screaming for them to leave him alone because he didn’t do it. Didn’t do what? Kill anyone, or be indirectly responsible for anyone’s death? Sorry Sam, but by my tally sheet, you did and you are, and boy do I hate saying that out loud, in spite of my joy at watching your Samhair spin and fly. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is each boy’s opportunity to come apart in a relatively safe environment, and when was the last time they got to do that? Maybe never.
Sam gets dragged off by some VERY strong orderlies, and gets locked up in a padded room in four point restraints. Yeah, I looked it up. Four point restraints include shackles for your wrists and ankles; five point restraints add a shackle for your neck. And yes, they still do this, for violent patients. Which Sam apparently is.
Plus he’s screaming and struggling and sweaty and tied up, and just. Guh. You know it’s Thursday just by that alone, right. I pretty much think that Thursday will be forever stamped into my night as being Supernatural-and-Sam-is-tied-up night. People know not to call me, even when it’s hiatus time. (But they still do; I’ve learned not to answer the phone.)
As to the wraith hunting in the halls of the loony bin, the wraith touches crazy patients, which brings out more of the crazy in them, and then the wraith punctures a hole in the patient’s head and sucks out the juice of their brains. As monsters of the week go, I thought this was pretty inventive, because the monster is being smart about its hunting grounds. I mean, even if a patient does survive and live to tell the tale, who’s going to believe a lunatic? (The wraith turns out to be the admitting nurse, which was fairly obvious, even to me that it was going to turn out to be her.)
The wraith catches up with Sam in the padded room, and of course she’s going to suck out his brains. Wraiths prefer the flavor of crazy, and she did go on and on a bit about her methodology, but she seemed she was completely unappreciative as to how pretty Sam looked all tied up there, though so maybe she’s a little crazy herself.
In spite of falling apart, Dean manages to rescues Sam from the padded room, they are both able to escape the loony bin. Again, it was just too easy. I feel pretty comfortable that various passageways throughout the institution are locked and it requires that you have a pass key to get through them. But Sam and Dean pick locks, you say, there’s no locked door that can withstand them. Still. With the amount of time it would take Dean to rescue Sam, and even though the bells go off before they even get outside, it’s just not a long enough time. Plus, did nobody see them rushing through the hospital? Where are the orderlies on night duty? Yes, okay, it’s just TV, and perhaps my standards are a bit too high for this particular medium, but that’s what I think, and I’m sticking by it.
And then there’s my last issue, on top of all the other ones, which is the question as to what happened to Martin? Remember him? He did have himself admitted, true, and maybe he still needs help. But Martin was caught red-handed in a room with a female inmate who had been attacked and was bleeding pretty badly. Once Sam and Dean are gone there will be no one there to defend Martin and swear that it wasn’t him, and that he’s innocent. Whatever happened to the “no man left behind” motto? I feel pretty confident that Martin is going to feel the sharp edge of the Kindly Doctor’s wrath and that his treatment will not be fun, but Sam and Dean give him not another thought, and that just feels wrong and out of character to me.
Once outside, it is raining, of course, because all good escapes take place in the rain. Dean’s beloved Impala is waiting by some trees, and Sam and Dean are about to pile in and make their overly-easy escape. And Sam stops. He has a little speech to give, like Dean often does, and I’d say it’s about time, even though I have a beef with the fact that the speech is tacked on the last three minutes, like it always is and not really integrated with the ep itself.
But I do like the fact that Sam starts to talk and Dean gives Sam his full attention, and even not doped up, Sam is honest. The doctor you see, gave Sam a piece of his mind that Sam has anger issues. He can’t contain his rage and he takes umbrage when the world doesn’t go his way. Does this come from him being the youngest, or from never having a normal life? We don’t know, because Dean recommends that Sam just take all that rage and stuff it down and forget about it and keep going. Except that that’s Dean’s way of dealing, and I don’t think it’s going to work very well for Sam for long. There’ll be an explosion at some point down the road, and I hope there’ll be a way to put Sam back together afterwards.
The ep ends at that point, with Sam and Dean driving off. In the rain. But there’s no connection, no closure, and I’m leery of the fact that the next ep will bring more of the same. I’m done with the angels and demons and I want the brothers to start healing and start hunting. The way they used to. In the old days. Is that too much to ask?
Sylvia Bond is a ten-year technical writing veteran with too many degrees under her belt to count. She lives in Colorado, but does not ski, preferring instead to spend her money and time at the annual Great American Beer Festival, taking road trips across the United States, and reading historical fiction from the comfort of her fluffy green arm chair. She has been involved in fandom since 1993 and been writing fanfic since approximately 1993. What she finds most amazing about fandom (besides the open heartedness of fans and the sheer amount of creativity) is how visible fandom has become. “In my day,” she says, “we had to hide behind P.O. boxes to get fanfic. But nowadays, people wear t-shirts that shout their affiliation and share their shiny toys on the internet.” It’s a wonderful world.
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