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TV Review: Supernatural – “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester”

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Standalone episodes are always a mixed bag with this show. You'll usually find an equal number of fans telling you that episodes like "Wishful Thinking," "It's A Terrible Life" or "Hollywood Babylon" were totally brilliant or a big mess. I thought they were all brilliant, but then again, I'm hardly an impartial fan. "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester" falls in that polarizing category of "brilliant-if-you-got-it." This is easily one of the more unique episodes on this show and it offers so many gems.

One major gem comes from the performance of Chad Everett as the 80-year-old Dean Winchester. He must really watch this show for he had Dean down perfect. Every last detail, the mannerisms, the griping, the flirting with the ladies, it's all down pat. What's funny is when all those Dean Winchesterisms are done by an 80-year-old version, it goes from sexy and swooning to cute but pathetic. But that's me getting the joke.

It isn't just Dean's mannerisms though. Chad's chemistry with Jim Beaver is just awesome. Sam might have joked "grumpy old men" but that's exactly what they were — two cranky old guys trying to out bitch one another over who's in the more pathetic circumstance. It's brilliant. In the end, the audience wins.

Speaking of poor Bobby, it's his despair that starts this whole mess. He's obviously not coping well with his new handicapped lifestyle, hinted at when Dean first asks on the phone how he's doing. "Well, I'm just weeping in my Haagen-Dazs, idgit." I would have dismissed that as Bobby being his regular cranky old self too. It's his desperate act of finding the poker game where the chips represent years instead of money before Dean that proves how not alright he is.

Then there's Sammy Winchester, that sly dog. Sam is tasked in a sense to clean up Bobby and Dean's mess and in the process we see a new side of Sam we didn't know existed. He's quite the scheming shark. Not that we're all that surprised either. Sam's always been a quick study and a great liar.

A Curious Case Indeed

Things get rather twisted when Dean goes back to the poker game and bets 50 years, instantly trading in 25 to get Bobby back to normal. Predictably, he loses, and enter 80-year-old Dean, who much to his dismay can't eat those bacon cheeseburgers anymore. The three crusaders in Bobby's new handicap equipped van (I'm going to miss the Chevelle) track down Patrick, the 900-year-old witch with the very sexy Irish accent, played brilliantly by Hal Ozsan. He won't let aged Dean or Bobby play for the needed 50 years to get Dean back to normal. He'll only let Sam do it. Dean and Bobby are both vehemently against the idea since it's perceived that Sam is by far the weakest card player of the three. Sam of course does nothing to correct this perception.

There are a couple of tear-jerking moments, and one comes in the middle of this episode as they strategize what to do next. Bobby wants to play, for his life doesn't matter anyway. He tearfully confesses he's useless and if he wasn't such a coward, he'd have put a gun to his mouth and pulled the trigger the second he got home from the hospital. I adore Chad Everett's heartbreaking reaction to Bobby, because that's exactly how I'd picture Jensen doing it. Sam is a bit more controlled, firmly declaring Bobby will not play and he'll find a way out of this.

Sam enters the game only after Dean and Bobby have a spell to try, thanks to Patrick's unhappy girlfriend. All they need to do is fetch the necessary artifacts while Sam plays. That sets up the very amusing graveyard scene, where an older Dean must dig out a grave since he's the more able-bodied of the two. Yep, it's pitiful. All he does is complain about his aching body while Bobby fires off insults about him being a whiner. It's here that Bobby gets his new nickname, Ironsides. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Dean has a way with pet names.

Sam is tasked while playing poker to get some of Patrick's DNA for the spell. The way this game unfolds is exceptional plotting. Patrick is a highly perceptive old witch and he uses that to get a read on Sam. That's a good indication that he wins because he has a knack for spotting the weaknesses in his opponents. Sometimes he has a heart though, like when he gives an old man 13 years even though he clearly has the better hand. The man just wants to live long enough to see his granddaughter's bat mitzvah.

Patrick thinks he has Sam down easily. He's there even though big brother doesn't know and asks Sam hold long he's going to allow them to treat him like the baby brother. Sam's scowl lets Patrick believe he's right, which essentially allows him to follow his game plan. Sam plays a slow conservative game where he loses a lot, tricking Patrick into thinking he's really in over his head. Sam gets his chance to grab one of Patrick's toothpicks and give it to Dean while taking a break. Patrick's onto Sam though and makes sure he takes a clean toothpick, thus causing Dean and Bobby's spell to fail. The only thing preventing Patrick from choking Sam to death for cheating is Patrick's girlfriend, who confesses she gave Dean and Bobby the spell. Sam has no choice but to finish out the game and this is where Sam's dirty little secret is revealed in brilliant fashion. He's a real master of the bluff.

After Sam wins a key hand through bluffing, he's warned that Dean doesn't have much time, which is Patrick's chance to push the game to his advantage. As the fatal heart attack kicks in for older Dean, Sam plays the panicked brother and goes all in. Patrick plays his hand ready for the kill, two aces, thus giving him a full house. Sam plays up his defeat well, even comforting the crying girlfriend, then calmly shows his cards. Two fours. Considering two other fours are on the table, his four of a kind wins. Sam actually had his head in the game the whole time and took advantage when he could, thus beating Patrick at his own game. That impresses Patrick, who lets Sam cash in his chips for Dean's years back.

I'm still giggling over Dean coming out of the hotel, overjoyed by being back to normal, capping it off with a high-kicking happy dance. I really hope Jensen enjoyed all his time off during the filming of this episode, for he looked rather refreshed doing this hilarious scene. What else made me chuckle is Sam's claim to Bobby he got lucky. Yep, his secret is still safe. Of course Sam has to run off to get that booster shot for the unfortunate case of the clap Patrick gave him earlier as punishment for breaking into his room. So, he didn't come out of this unscathed after all.

There have been many great scenes between Dean and Bobby throughout five seasons, but the closing one in this episode ranked up there as one of the best ever. Dean's predicament showed him what happens when his body starts failing him, not unlike Bobby's recent paralysis. Having that insight gets him to appreciate Bobby's situation more, but he doesn't let Bobby use it as an excuse to quit. This time, Dean gets to talk some sense into Bobby, which is quite a switch from the end of last season. "You don't stop being a soldier cause you got wounded in battle. No matter what shape you're in, bottom line is you're family. I don't know if you noticed but me and Sam we don't have much left. I can't do this without you, I can't. So don't you dare think about checking out. I don't want to hear that again." Sniff! Again, I bow to Jensen and Jim. Bobby agrees and he plays it cool, but the closing shot on his emotional face says it all. It feels good to be needed.

The Other Stuff

The return of the Weekly World News! It's so sad that isn't published anymore. I love how that's the only publication that knows the apocalypse is here. That mirrors Men In Black.

I knew this was a Sera Gamble script as soon as the jokes started flying. They tend to be, in her case, dirtier. What's shocking is one of those big dirty jokes ended up coming from Sam. As they go into the brothel looking for the missing old man, they're expecting a gooey corpse. They hear screaming and come in finding instead a younger man being serviced by two women. "It's gooey," Sam says. Whoa, did Sam say that? I've been accusing the scripts lately of not switching things up and here Sera delivers.

Plenty of funny old people humor. Like the old man turned young. "What's an Xbox?" Or the maid that Dean hit on. "You're just like my grandfather. He hits on anything that moves." Then she gives him an "aww" when he says he's dangerous. There's Sam's initial reaction to older Dean. Dean guesses Sam thinks he looks like the old chick in Titanic. "I was gonna say Emperor Palpatine," Sam answers. Dean can't climb a flight of stairs without getting winded and Sam doesn't hesitate to point that out. Oh, but the kicker — older Dean can't read the numbers on the safe. "It's more like ‘Mission Pathetic'," Sam gripes. Older Dean even pulls a "people our age" line to Sam when trying to talk some sense into him. "Dean, you're thirty."

It's great that the music this week is a great cool jazz piece as they are tracking down Patrick. I like seeing something that we normally don't get work like that.

As usual there are great sound bites. First there's Dean's cover for their uncharacteristically prompt arrival as CDC agents. "A new administration. A change you can believe in." There's also a great line as older Dean is griping at Bobby. "You may be in a wheelchair but I've been to Hell, and there's an archangel there waiting for me to drop the soap."

I really did like the scene with Patrick and his girlfriend as she gave back all her years in chips. She couldn't take immortality anymore after watching her daughter die from old age. It's so well done and I love how this show continues to get such great guest acting. The troubled girlfriend is played by Pascale Hutton. I've seen her in a lot of things, but the one that I remember is Smallville.

My overall grade on this is an A. It's well written, has great pacing, and all the acting, especially guest stars Chad Everett and Hal Ozsan, is top notch. In the end, it's an hour of good fun. That's all I need to come back each week.

I should mention that I have already seen next week's episode thanks to a special preview by invitation only from Warner Brothers. "Changing Channels" is a must see and easily the best episode of the season. It is a mytharc episode and being caught in TV land is a plot that plays out a lot like season three's "Mystery Spot." There's a stunning reveal at the end that cannot be missed. So, I implore if there's an episode you should watch live it's this one. That's all for now! Prepare for an absolutely glowing review next week.

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About Alice Jester

  • Jasminka

    Alice,
    what a funny and moving review – thanks a lot!!

    Like you, I love this episode. Sera Gamble did it again: give us a multi-faceted story that holds the fine balance of being hilarious and deeply saddening and touching… The woman is a master. It is very much a Bobby-episode, as it is a Dean-episode and a Sam-episode.

    I’m glad we finally get some more insight into Bobby’s mind-set. I’ve been wondering what might be going through his psyche. It’s been six episodes since the guy got stuck in that damn wheel chair. It was about time to see some of his soul here. Bobby has yet to realize that hunting is something that he does, not something that he is… not being able to run anymore does not change his personality, his character, his heart. But that is probably the hardest part to see, when he is so much identified with his self-image of being a hunter, which makes it next to impossible to find another calling. I love Bobby. Have I mentioned that I love Bobby?!

    And Jim Beaver gives a remarkable performance. I had not expected less. That scene in the beginning, when he hangs up on Dean with that Haagen-Dazs joke, has depression written all over it – his flat voice, the broken down body language, the missing light in his eyes…

    Zachariah’s words are still ringing in my ears: ‘Say no, and your friend Bobby will never walk again’… I wonder how heavily that sits on Dean’s shoulders. Had he said yes to Michael early on, Bobby would not walk through that pit of suicidal darkness. Are they both aware of that? Or are they suppressing it?
    Although Dean would have gotten to that poker table in a heartbeat no matter what, I believe there might also be some kind of guilt in a corner of Dean’s brain that make him trade his years for his surrogate father.
    Their relationship deepens even more through the course of the episode. From the ‘grumpy old men’ banter to their quiet, yet heartbreaking conversation in the end… Bobby is hardly able to talk… Again, Mr Beaver gives the kind of endearing performance that breaks my heart: you know how it feels when tears begin to well up, and you know that if you uttered merely one word, you’d be crying your heart out? There it is, wonderfully depicted by the wonderful Jim Beaver.

    I agree completely with you… there are so many gems in this episode… Wonderful Chad Everett… yeah! Great actor! There isn’t a second I wouldn’t believe that he is Dean. It all fits. And the Irish witch Hal Oszan is just adorable, a fair guy with a slight twist, which is a nice change from the bad, bad witches we’ve encountered on planet Supernatural.

    Sam gets some great one liners here for once… from ‘mission pathetic’ to ‘emperor palpatine’… and, actually, I wasn’t really surprised by the fact that Sam is a fine poker player. I wouldn’t be surprised, either, if the writers sat him down at a chess table (which arises from my heartfelt wish of wanting to engage Sam in a game of chess…). I liked that he won the game fair and square (even though some fans thought this lame and unrealistic). He kind of Forrest-Gumped his way through this poker game.

    There is indeed more to the man than meets the eye. But we have known that from the first episode, haven’t we? Can’t wait to find out what else is to be found beneath that handsome exterior.
    Plus… he got to save Dean for a change, and thereby Bobby. Who knows what both grumpy old guys would have tried… (did you notice that Dean’s first and last word when the heart attack hits him is Sam?).
    Perhaps Sam’s capability of bluffing might get useful in the future course of the season, who knows? Perhaps he will end up playing chess in the end… there’s a song by Chris de Burgh ‘Spanish Train’ and a line in it ‘and far away on some recess, the Lord and the Devil are now playing chess. The devil still cheats and wins more souls, and as for the Lord, well, he’s just doing his best’ … kind of reminds me of Sam/Lucifer every time.

    The more controlled reaction to Bobby’s death-wish Sam showed is required. He is the only one left who can do something to change the situation, as both other guys are too old to get into a fight (of fists or of wits). He needs to be functional, controlled. Panic would not help. It’s very much my kind of reacting: when a situation gets out of hand, I usually remain controlled in order to get it solved somehow. The panic kicks in later. Useful in a crisis.

    What also struck me were the various tragedies we meet in this episode. There’s Bobby’s impossible situation. Dean learns the hard way how it feels getting old, including acid reflux and bad sight. Sam, again, almost loses his brother.
    And then there is the classic tragic love story of the witch and his woman. It’s like Dracula and Mina…. He will have to stare down immortality alone. That really touched me. Couldn’t hate him, after all ‘I am a nice guy’…

    Can’t wait for the next episode. From what I’ve read about it, one part of me is freaked, and the other keeps asking ‘is it Thursday, yet?’, though for me watching online in Europe it will be waiting till Friday…

    Gosh, again, this got so long… So sorry. Thanks a lot for reading. Blessed be, Jas

  • Elle

    Another fabulous review, Alice! I agree with everything you said – this is one of my favourite episodes to date. All the elements worked really well to make a fantastic installment.
    I am very jealous that you’ve previewed this weeks episode, especially since I won’t be able to watch it live. Now, during the lecture I have Thursday night – instead of paying attention, I’ll be agnonizing over what is happing in SPN world. This Thursday night class thing? Pure torture, I tell you!

  • Sablegreen

    Hi Alice,

    Loved the review. Too bad we can’t get a video of Dean’s happy dance. Maybe CW will release that some day. That was great! I was kind of disappointed that the boys hadn’t address more of Bobby’s issues before this. I just assumed that had done before now. Guess you can never ASSUME any thing with Kripke.

  • elle2

    Finally, I found time to jump over here and read your review…just in time for the next episode (with about 24 hours to spare)

    I did like this one quite well, that is after I watched it the second time. I’ve learned not to dismiss this show without a good chance to rewatch and simmer and for me that’s what this eppie needed. I went from ho hum to whee hee after the second time.

    Chad had great chemistry with Jared and Jim and he played his scenes exactly how I would see Jensen playing them so it didn’t seem like a different character at all.

    At first when they were casting this I wondered why they wouldn’t simply age Jensen, makeup can easily do that…of course that was before Jared had a large chunk of an episode off thus finally affording Jensen an opportunity to get some rest.

    With casting like this, I have no issues with either of the leads getting some rest, they do fab. work.

    So often this show uses other people and/or situations to mirror one of the regular’s situation and this ep. was no different, it took Dean’s instant aging to show in effect what Bobby was going through. The sudden, change your life forever impact of being well and whole and strong to suddenly weak and hurting and (in Bobby’s case) incapacitated was shown quite well through old/Dean and gave him some much needed insight into what and how Bobby was feeling and handling it.

    This will join all those other polarizing eps that I continue to love…but then I love each and every episode (even Red Sky, Mag 7 and Bugs get rewatches from me)

    Thanks, Alice.