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Roundtable Discussion on Supernatural 11×16 “Safe House”

We’re back! Welcome to this week’s Supernatural Roundtable for episode 11×16 “Safe House” which starred two returning favorites, Jim Beaver and Steven Williams. This week’s episode was written by Robbie Thompson. Participating in this week’s Roundtable are Jackie Bojarski,  Debbi Bachman and Michele Villery. Here’re this week’s topics:

 

Bobby and Rufus:

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Debbi: I LOVED seeing these two again and really enjoyed seeing them working a case together ‘back in the day’.  There is just something so sweet and almost nostalgic about seeing a true MoW episode that focuses on hunting and the culture which has sprung from their unique circumstances.  It was also cool to see Bobby out of the salvage yard working a case – still worrying about ‘his boys’ – and not just sitting around on call as a researcher.  Jim Beaver and Steven Williams have great chemistry and are truly the epitome of ‘grumpy old men’.  That said, they show that they are still kick ass hunters and don’t let anyone forget that!

I am just slightly disappointed that we didn’t get a ‘balls!’ out of Bobby, but that doesn’t diminish the episode in any way.

Jackie: Seeing Bobby and Rufus again was my favorite part of this episode, even if it was only flashbacks. Steven Williams and Jim Beaver are always a delight to watch on-screen, and I really do wish that the writers could find a way to bring them back permanently. Having them in this episode reminded me of how much I miss the hunter community that used to feature prominently in the show, and now that I have a taste of it again, I want more. Sadly, however, I don’t think I will get it–so I guess I’ll just have to savor this small reminder and make it last!

Anyway, Williams and Beaver have a unique chemistry that’s part-Cranky-Old-Men and part-Buddy-Cop-Comedy, and that chemistry shown brightly in “Safe House.” Despite their issues, the two of them obviously care for each other and will go out of their way to help each other, not unlike Sam and Dean. And not unlike Sam and Dean, they are also dedicated to the cause and will do whatever it takes to protect innocents.

In regard to the case, I particularly liked that the boys used Bobby’s journals to solve this case as opposed to their father’s (in fact, I haven’t heard them mention John Winchester’s journal in years). It provided another point of connection between the two duos who were separated through time. But I was left wondering: did Rufus keep any hunting journals? And if so, where are they? I think it would be interesting to see the boys collect these manuscripts not only to consult but also to protect so as to keep each fallen hunter’s legacy safe. But maybe that’s just me…

Altogether, I loved each and every one of their scenes, especially since their dialogue was snarky and on point. One example: Bobby asks Rufus, “Were you ever nice?” and Rufus replies, “1985. Worst year of my life.” I sincerely hope that the writers revisit this duo in the future because those two characters together is a goldmine of writing potential!

Michele: Can Rufus and Bobby have more episodes? Bring on the Grumpy Old Men of Letters! Steven and Jim’s chemistry are off the chain. I love their partnership. These two have a lot of stories that we need to see. We still don’t know why Rufus was so angry at Bobby years ago. I also loved the Neighbor Watchwoman. (That scene cracked me up). I really enjoyed the flashbacks. Plus how about that Johnnie Walker whiskey at the end? That was also in S7’s “Time After Time”. So great continuity there. I hope there is a way to bring them back permanently. These two should star in the spinoff.

 

Sam and Dean:

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Debbi: Sam has really stepped up in a leadership role this season and the fact that Dean allows this says volumes about how they’ve matured.  Yes, they are still brothers and there is still some echo of the kids (and young men) they were which was evident in the classic Rock, Paper, Scissors method of decision-making, but once decided they both fall into their assigned job with intent and determination.  I love this ‘grown up’ dynamic that they’ve developed.  It definitely allows them to utilize all the tools they have at their disposal to maximum effect.

It is both heart-wrenching and comforting to see that Dean’s biggest fear is losing his brother and I have to believe that Dean feels that way as well.  It’s clear that Amara is never very far from the front of his mind.  Sam has been Dean’s rock/touchstone as he deals with his uncontrollable attraction to this big bad.  Losing Sam at this time would almost render Dean helpless and would certainly make him feel hopeless.

As always Ackles and children are a home run combination.  There’s almost no one in their world better with kids than Dean and he once again is able to comfort and provide courage to a lost little one.  I think that it’s easier for Dean to confront his own fears when he has to be brave for someone else be it his baby brother or another child.  Lilith knew what she was doing when she appeared as a child to attempt to scare Dean to death in Yellow Fever.  Nothing would be more heart-breaking for Dean or more capable of breaking his iron grip on his sanity.

Jackie: I want to commend Robbie Thompson for continuing this season’s trend of honesty and openness between the brothers. It is honestly refreshing after the last few seasons in which the brothers seemed to constantly be lying to each other–even if they were doing so to save each other. In order for the boys to be a successful team against Amara and Lucifer, they have to be on the same page at all times, and that includes telling each other when something is wrong and sharing their feelings.

In this episode, we see Sam taking charge of the case in a lot of ways. He selects this one because he thinks it will be an easy win for them, but it turns out to be much more complicated than they both thought. (I’d like to point out that Rufus chose this case for him and Bobby to solve for the same reasons, and faced the same complications). Over the course of the investigation, both brothers come face-to-face with their greatest fears: Dean’s greatest fear appears to be Sam dying while Sam’s seems to be Dean wanting to go into the Darkness. With this in mind, it’s understandable that Sam would be a little comforted by Dean seeing him in the visions and not someone else.

All in all, Sam and Dean’s interactions in this episode felt very natural and true to character, for which I am grateful. Hopefully, we’ll continue that trend for the rest of the season!

Michele:  I’m seeing Sam this season taking on a leadership role. I loved seeing him do research and seeing him and Dean look through Bobby’s journal. Looking to see if there was something that Bobby and Rufus may have missed was excellent. Seeing the brotherly moments again just emphasizes that the boys are stronger together than apart. Period.

Soul Eaters:

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Debbi: I appreciate the fact that after 11 seasons of episodes that the writers are still able to come up with new and very scary monsters for the guys to battle.  I’m sure the demon/supernatural world has far more baddies out there than Sam and Dean have encountered so far and I have to also believe that some are perhaps mutations of other monsters.  In this case a Striga with the ability to remove its victims from time.  That is really scary stuff!  Throw in the fact that they warehouse their prey for lean times and you’ve added a soupcon of Wendigo to the pot.  I am in awe of the writer’s abilities to stay consistent to the world they’ve created and build monsters that seamlessly fit into their lexicon.

Jackie: I’m kind of on the fence about the introduction to Soul Eaters in this episode because they seem like they are simply a fusion of different aspects of already established monsters. For example, like Djinn, they trap their victim in a dream-like state designed to render them vulnerable, although Djinn dream-states are usually happy whereas Soul Eater dream-states are not. Like strigas, they drain the life force from their victims. The most intriguing part about them was the fact that they place their victim’s consciousness in a dimension outside space and time–which allowed Bobby and Dean to have their brief but emotional run-in. Other than that, however, the Soul Eater wasn’t really anything new. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the scenes with the Soul Eater–I did. I just wish that they had been a little more original.

Michele: My first thought was that this was a different version of a Djinn because of how Djinn’s prey on your worst fears through dreams. I liked the Soul Eater. This is a new thing that we haven’t seen in the Supernatural universe before and to me if you can still do that after 11 years, hats off to you. I liked their introduction.

 

Parallels:

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Debbi: This for me was the best part of the episode!  Robbie Thompson wrote an amazing script.  The switches between the Bobby/Rufus story and the Sam/Dean story were seamless and while this could have been jarring, the changes were invisible as one scene flowed into the other very naturally.  The fact that not only was the house/monster the same for both stories, but some of the key players as well, added to the verisimilitude. The mirrored dialog between the two time periods also provided continuity as well as a dose of humor in some cases.

That said, the contrasts between the two cases were also well handled.  The scenes of the research at the hotel is where this is particularly evident as the hunters now and then research in very different – but not so different – ways to determine what they are facing.  I love that Sam has been working to get some of the MoL information online and searchable from anywhere, that is just such a Sam thing to think of and then do, it makes perfect sense. This again shows where Sam has stepped up into, if not a leadership role, then a role equal to Dean’s.

Since the nest exists out of time and space the door is opened to all kinds of mind twisting questions as well as providing the very poignant scene on the stairs between Dean and Bobby.  A friend of mine asked me last night if, since time didn’t exist in the nest, was Sam the savior of everyone trapped in the nest?  It’s a great question and one that is guaranteed to bring on a quantum sized headache if you think about it long enough, however, it just might be possible.  Where’s Sheldon Cooper when you need him?

Jackie: This episode used several different methods to accentuate the parallels between Sam/Dean and Rufus/Bobby. One method was mirrored dialogue; for example, both Sam and Rufus present this case to their respective hunting partners by saying that it will be an easy win for them. In addition, both duos are facing insurmountable conflicts in which they feel powerless. I found it notable that one of the things that kept being accentuated throughout this episode was that “you can’t save everybody”. Dean, in particular, is struggling to accept this, just like Bobby is, which makes me wonder if Dean will have to make a tough decision regarding sacrifice in the future.

In reality, everything from the choice of camera angle to the music to the wardrobe of the characters served to emphasize the parallels in this episode, which made it very engrossing as well as thought-provoking. Moreover, the parallels made the points at which the two storylines intersected–the journal, the brief run-in in the Soul Eater’s dimension–that much more meaningful and poignant.

Michele: The parallels in this episode were the BEST part. Seeing Sam/Dean go through the same things as Rufus and Bobby was great. From the dialogue to the action, I know that’s hard to execute. Kudos to all of the actors and also to Robbie for even writing the script in this manner. It was fantastic.

One of the most poignant moments for me was when Bobby referred to Sam and Dean as his boys. At the time, he was concerned about the apocalypse coming and how tracking down Lilith (among other things) was affecting them. He may not have wanted to be a dad, but Bobby was definitely their adopted father. It was sweet. Also, Bobby and Dean seeing each other between dimensions was another great moment that was beautiful.

 

Predictions:

Debbi: I can’t really draw any solid predictions from this episode.  Although Amara and Castiel are mentioned there’s not enough information given here to build on anything I’ve predicted in the past.  I watch on Hulu and don’t see previews for the next episode so I don’t even have any guesses there – lol.

Jackie: Most of my predictions come from the promo for the next episode, so bare with me: I think that Sam is going to be severely injured in the next episode and that this will inspire Dean to either seek out Amara or make a deal with Billie. I also think it’s possible that Sam could go to the Empty, although I hope that doesn’t happen.

Michele: Since this episode really didn’t push any ongoing storylines forward, my predictions are for next week. Billie is back and since she wants Sam to go into the Empty, I think another deal is made of some kind. I do also wonder if Billie is also the “new” death.

 

Overall Score:

Debbi: Scary monster, great writing, unique juxtaposition of time/space and stellar performances all the way around.  This is a solid ‘A’ in my book.  Well done all.  This season is building up to be one of the best.  That’s something special for a show that’s been running for 11 seasons.  Bravo!

Jackie: I would give this episode a solid A 🙂

Michele:  Solid A from me. Great episode from the performances to the writing. It was fantastic.

 

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