I always get geeked out over an Edlund script. The guy is a master. I know what sort of thing I’m going to get and he rarely disappoints. There’s usually some outrageous dialogue, something pretty darned gross, and a story with well plotted twists and turns that exposes ramifications we’ve never considered before. Plus he is the master of pushing angst. â€œThe Third Man” didn’t disappoint and despite the new feel of the season, the classic Ben Edlund style is still present under that new facade. Welcome to the best written episode of the six season so far. 

Ben Edlund joked at Comic Con that they were essentially picking up where "The Bible" left off. This episode brilliantly showed what he meant by that comment. Heaven is in Civil War between those wanting order (Castiel) and those wanting the story to end the way it was written (Raphael). In the middle are angels that are in it for themselves, thanks to a new concept brought to Heaven by Castiel’s contact with humans. Free will. That has historically promoted chaos on earth and now Heaven has the same thing. It’s quite creative and very believable.
 
The return of Castiel is what makes “The Third Man” feel the most right. Things are still off, don’t get me wrong, but Castiel’s presence reminds us how much we missed him. How important he’s become to this story. How great he is with Sam and Dean, no matter how thrown off the brothers are now with their own situation. The same concepts are still there, he struggles awkwardly with every reference Sam and Dean give him. The best part is when he gives Sam an honest answer to Sam’s facetious question about Cas answering Dean’s prayer and not his.  â€œSo what, you like him better or something?” Cas acknowledges he and Dean do share a more profound bond, but wasn't going to mention it. Of course that had little to do with why he was there, it was Dean’s report of the biblical plague instead. This is classic Castiel and he’s never been better. He’s the same angel now with a whole set of new problems. He’s having trouble dealing. 
I’m sure several of you are wondering why we’re a few paragraphs in and I haven’t been gushing about Sam’s shirtless workout yet. Aside from welcoming Ben Edlund to the skin club, it’s all been said. Okay, in all honesty, that scene left totally speechless. However, that won’t stop me from taking a moment to fondly reflect…

(Wipes drool from chin) Right, review. 
My New Sam Theory   
Welcome to PTSD Sam Winchester style. I’ve read reviews and many comments all spouting theories as to why Sam is so different. In “The Third Man” though, his actions became obvious to me and got me thinking. Maybe what’s happening with Sam’s personality isn’t some supernatural phenomenon after all. This is a man fighting hard for control. All his actions, his arrogant behavior, his inability to care are signs of someone suffering from post traumatic stress. 
I’m sure the Sam Winchester of old thought about hiring a hooker to meet his needs but didn’t because his moral compass knew it was wrong. He was often silent too with what he was thinking, although his facial expressions told you he was thinking something snide. Now he’s not holding back. He’s saying what’s on his mind, no matter if it offends. The best example I can think of was when he asked Dean about what Lisa thought about him bailing. After Dean answered surprisingly well, Sam coldly tells him “Better for everybody.” He’s no longer going with “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” He either doesn’t see the point, or can’t control that impulse anymore. 
Someone suffering from PTSD can fight with issues of behavior control. The workout in the morning, which I bow to the feet of Sera Gamble, Robert Singer, and Ben Edlund for making it happen, is Sam’s way of fighting for that control. He must stay strong physically. He must keep working and stay focused on the case and job. He has to keep his head in the game. Hunting right now is the only thing that matters. It’s the only thing keeping him sane. Everything that mattered to him before, aka family, isn’t a priority anymore. Sam’s arrogance with Castiel is something he would have never done before. He would have kept all those feelings of anger and contempt inside. He had a right to be angry, but Sam before has always swallowed that anger unless provoked. I believe Jared said in an interview that Sam wasn’t going to take anymore bullshit. I’d say he was right there.    
Sam wasn’t lying to Dean at the end when he said that they were different. That is very much true. Both are reacting to their traumatic times in Hell in different ways. PTSD is rarely textbook and never the same for all. Dean doesn’t think Sam cares anymore. Sam does I think, deep down. He just can’t let it show. If he does, those feelings will derail that pinpoint focus on hunting that has kept him going that last year. We’ve seen this behavior from Sam before. Sure, it was the alternate universe in “Mystery Spot,” but that was the real Sam in that situation. Closing himself off is his only chance. Sam is wrong though when he said he was okay. I think he is telling himself that and has been for a while.  He can only blame it on the non-stop hunting for so long.  
I’m also pulling from Buffy here, the second season, when she started that season not right after dying. Everyone thought she was under a spell or something but as it turned out, she was just traumatized over her death and resurrection and acting out. I’m starting to believe this is the case with our young Samuel and the mystery surrounding his return is smoke and mirrors as far as Sam’s behavior is concerned. The question is now, will Dean be able to break through? If not him then who? Now I question whether one reason Sam didn’t get in touch with Dean for a year was because he knew Dean would open up old wounds. Hunting with the uncaring Campbells made it easier for him. Since he’s been in contact with Dean, Sam has grown more unstable. Dean might be triggering something inside and he’s losing that control he’s fought hard to maintain. For those that think that Ben Edlund can’t write Sam’s character well, I think what he did with Sam in this episode is sheer perfection. He’s exposing a different angle that we didn’t consider before.   
Dean
Dean played man in the middle of all this, the keeper of the sanity while Sam and Castiel were struggling with their extreme circumstances. It’s nice to see Dean back in action trying to be the grounding force. It’s what he does best. I love how he’s still involved with Ben and Lisa, even lecturing Ben over the cell phone while working a job. He hasn’t lost his snark though, especially his knocks on Sam’s car. The car becomes a great setup for a Dean moment.  Castiel and the other angel go out the window in a spectacular stunt while a stunned Sam and Dean watch from above. They look down at the damage below, Sam’s beloved Charger has been destroyed (I honestly liked the car). We wait for the Dean Winchester zinger, the one we’ve grown to expect. â€œOkay, silver lining.” Bitchface from Sam. Ha! Another classic. 
Dean had many great lines too, adding a consistency to his character that we’ve grown to expect . He really is getting back to his old self. He thought about the kid first, the only one that really cared. His quick thinking with the holy oil is enough to secure the kid’s future, which is consolation over the fact he couldn’t stop Castiel’s painful torture (with Sam’s full support) of the kid earlier. That holy oil scene also led to my favorite line of the night, coming from Castiel. â€œI believe the hairless ape has the floor.”  
Dean knows something is up with Sam. He knows his brother isn’t right. Now we’re left to wonder what is he going to do about it? He won’t be able to let things go forever and I sense that this is all a setup for one major collision course between the two. That might not be a bad thing. That might be the best way for these two to work things out. I’m enjoying the setup even though it has been quite painful to watch. These brothers can’t be perfect together right now.  They’ve been through too much. Luckily, there are signs. The teasing about each other’s cars, Dean racing Sam, that familiarity is getting there (“Still driving the plastic piece of crap, huh?”  “What’s your mileage again?”)  It’s just going to be slow.  
Other Thoughts
I absolutely loved Balthazar. Sebastian Roche is another amazing coup in casting for this show. I like it when Ben Edlund gets to introduce a character because he goes all out (see Crowley). Balthazar has it all right. After all those years of mindless obedience, he’s free. He can run wild and do what he wants. All he has to do was steal some artifacts and fake his own death. He also has a perfect line to describe this new age for angels. â€œThis morning I had a ménage a, what’s the French word for twelve?” Angels are getting to live it up now. No wonder Castiel has his hands full. I hope to see more of Balthazar in the future. I’m already dreaming of him and Crowley sharing a bottle of fine scotch in one of their luxury mansions scheming world dominance. They seem to be so much alike. 
“Do you have any idea what souls are worth.  What power they hold?”  So, what do you think this comment from Balthazar means?  Could that be a major clue for the big mystery this season? Chaos in Heaven and Hell has led to a fight for souls? Possibly we’ll learn more next week as Bobby fights for his with Crowley, but maybe this turns out to be extremely important. Or it could be nothing.   
I've read a lot of backlash about Castiel ignoring Sam's prayer and mentioning his bond with Dean.  I suggest to anyone that thinks that, watch that scene again carefully.  The "bond" is not the reason Cas answered.  He mentioned it awkwardly because he was answering Sam's question literally, missing his point.  It's actually quite funny.  I laughed at this scene many times.  Elle2's Review has the dialogue in that scene written out.  It's hilarious.  

I do have one criticism and that is Raphael. I was hoping he would be more of a menace. He did get to kick Castiel’s ass, which was quite appropriate considering all that happened (and strangely satisfying to me), but there just wasn’t enough time for him to do more than that. That’s the disadvantage I guess of a loaded episode. I’m also sad they salted his vessel. He’ll be back, but in what form? I like the Demore Barnes vessel.

Plenty of more Dean Winchesterisms.  Aside from the ones mentioned above, â€œGotta be some sort of link between skid mark and bubble wrap here.”  "What is Chuck Heston’s disco stick doing down here anyway?"  â€œI was expecting more Dr. No, less Liberace.”  â€œPeace out douchewad.”  

How about Castiel too?  â€œIt was used as a dominance display against the Egyptians as I recall.”  â€œI have spent the last year as a multi-dimensional wavelength of celestial intent.”  Wow, that last one is clearly an Edlund line.  No one else would even go there.  
I wasn’t sure what to make of the episode at first, but then again I watched it a day after it aired in a hotel while in between events at the Salute To Supernatural convention. My head wasn’t in it. Upon careful re-watch, I’ve concluded this episode is brilliant. It’s definitely one of those episodes that has far more underneath the surface and requires special attention. My full recap will cover a lot of those nuances, but in the meantime, “The Third Man” gets an A from me. 

 

Comments  

Bevie
# Bevie 2010-10-12 13:12
Great review again Alice! Love your enthusiasm for the episode. Loved the return of Dean's snark.

Only quibble -- Please. Equal time for Dean in bed with Lisa. Pictures please. A litte sompthin' sompthin' for me please? :-?
Riverbella
# Riverbella 2010-10-12 13:22
I agree with you about the depth and intensity of this episode. Saying Ben Edlund (who is obviously almost frighteningly intelligent) can't write Sam is like saying Jared Padalecki can't play Sam. I think he's doing a brilliant job playing against the character he has been for five years and yet letting us still see little flashes of the Sam we know. Something is off, but he's still Sam. I'm not sure what theory I espouse about it yet--although the missing soul theory kind of appeals to me. On the other hand, in some ways Sam's behavior mimics the rather cold pragmatism of many of the angels. But you make a good point about the callback to Sam in "Mystery Spot". I'm happy to wait for what comes. I've trusted these folks for five years and they haven't let me down yet. I'm thrilled with Season 6. It is exceeding even my high expectations.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-10-12 13:52
Alice, apart from saying that I love your recap, as it is a marvellous read, I would like to congratulate you on your assessment of Sam’s psychological condition.

From the moment he re-appeared I saw the tormented, deeply traumatized guy, and it’s breaking my heart to see how well Jared plays it out. Considering that time in hell runs differently, we can assume that Sam experienced a long time there (perhaps not decades, but long enough to damage him permanently). When a person is exposed to traumatic experiences for a long time, their personality can change, their behavior changes significantly.

We witness this development with Sam. Having experienced total loss of control (having been imprisoned in Lucifer’s cage) he needs to sense that he can control something. And that is hunting. He is an expert here. It gives him security, I’d say.

People in situations like this often cling to factors in their lives that provide some sense of security and stability. Plus: he avoids emotional attachment. Hookers instead of ‘regular’ girls some kind of bond could happen. Probably never calls a hooker twice. Putting warm emotions away, as they make him vulnerable. That barrier he’s holding up desperately is barely secured. His ‘arrogance’ , his blunt words work as his fort.
Of course he will externalize it all - Dean is the one suffering, while he, Sam is not. Oh, Sammy. Of course he is. He just has to make even himself believe that he isn't. I doubt that it's working. And he knows it.

When you look at the last scenes of Wishful Thinking, as Dean admits that he remembers everything from hell, his behavior is different. You feel his despair. There has never been this sort of detached treatment of others as Sam shows. And that’s good, as they are different men. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Sam’s head is a mess of pain, anger, blood.

I just recently had a patient who told me of unspeakable horrors his own parents did to him. And he had these dark fantasies of truly bloody scenes that were a manifestation of his helpless anger – as he didn’t know how to get rid of the memories that kept torturing him.
With Sam it will be a similar case. He is barely holding up, I think. It’s hard to like this Sam – his behavior is made to push everyone away, to shield him from the pain raging inside, I’m sure. And yet, all I want to do is offer him a hand and show him that it can go away… Can’t the Edlung write some nice therapy sessions for the boy? He could use some help from someone he doesn’t need to protect.

I feel an article coming on, to look behind Sam’s dark colours…

Thanks for this, Alice! Best ever, Jas
Suze
# Suze 2010-10-12 14:00
Loved it. Particular plus points for getting us all steamed up with the manly muscles and the flexing and the nakedness and then cutting straight to Mr. Ooozy 'n' Disgusting putrifying away in his squad car. Pure class.

I'm also chuffed to bits by the torrent of top quality snark, it's great when everyone ditches the angst in favour of loads of waspish sniping. Gives me a little warm glow. :D

The PTSD theory makes a lot of sense ( more than my own personal Sam-Sold-His-Ha ir-To-Satan effort, anyway ... ) Watch out for incoming hospital corners, guys ...
Tigershire
# Tigershire 2010-10-12 14:29
Alice,
I think my favourite Cas line was "I think we can rule Moses out as a suspect." HA!! Too funny!

This was a great episode. I don't think I had realized how much Season 5's story line was getting to me. I hardly rewatched the episodes last season at all (Changing Channels being one exception). But this season, I've re watched each episode 3 or 4 times each. I am loving S6 so far.
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-10-12 21:54
I enjoyed reading your review of "Third Man". :-)

I'm think that Sam's condition is linked to some "supernatural" element (i.e. that is it solely due to PTSD). PTSD may be a factor, but I think there is something else afoot.

One shining moment (and there were quite a few in "Third Man" :-)) was Castiel's statement that he felt ashamed of his brothers. For some reason, I found that statement to be profoundly sad - I thought it had similarities to the way Castiel thought he lost faith in God at the end of "Dark Side of the Moon".
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-10-12 21:58
Oh yes, I forgot to add - I would love to see Bathalzar, Crowley and Gabriel in the same room sometime. :-)
9Tiptoes
# 9Tiptoes 2010-10-12 22:39
Oh, there's a review here isn't there. I got stuck on the pictures of Sam's workout. Now I have to go back up and read. ;-)
elle2
# elle2 2010-10-13 00:46
"I think we can rule Moses out as a suspect."

Delivered with Misha's dry wit...is another one of those fab lines that Ben Edlund serves up and the actors spike over the net...this episosde was loaded with them!

Love your review and especially your take on Sam. There is so much about him that is 'soulless' as one conversation has it but yet on the other hand there are moments (and Jared is playing them so subtly but so perfectly) when you can see the Sam of all the past seasons peeking out...bitchface , snarky come back to Dean, concern for Dean/happiness to see him, wondering at who he is and what is up going on with him and more.

It is a great season so far as we get to enjoy these well-known characters in new ways and watch them find their way down a new path that is unfolding before them and us and we have no idea where we're going.

Thanks for the review, Alice. Well done!
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-10-13 02:30
Incidentally, is Castiel still holding on to the piece of the Staff of Moses (that Aaron had) ? If so, it might prove useful against whatever vessel Raphael takes in the future. 8-)
Evelyn
# Evelyn 2010-10-16 23:27
Alice, I am in total agreement with your assessment of Sam. I think he is masking and pushing all his pain and angst so far down within his soul so that he doesn't have to feel it at all, which is why we are experiencing such a different Sam so far this year.

It's interesting how you talk about control. When you have experienced a trauma, which has affected you in so many ways, and destroyed your sense of self to some extent, you grasp on to anything to keep sane. And so you try to control as many things involved in your life as you possibly can. So, Sam knows he can control the hunter thing, because by doing so, not only will it help him keep his emotions boxed down tight, but it also keeps his mind and body busy. I know from my experience, my trauma, I have recovered, but there are still aspects that I have an almost obsessive thing about making sure I still have that control over myself or my surroundings. Because in certain circumstances if I find that I give up that control just a little bit, I will start to experience a little anxiety or panic attack. So I do everything I can to make sure that I do not relinquish that control. The same principle applies to Sam. He stays away from any kind of emotional situation that might even hint at bringing up his pain so that he can continue to have the control. It's a very important thing, especially when your trauma involves a situation where you had no control over yourself or your circumstances and Sam is displaying this behavior perfectly. As Jas said, his continuous hunting, this control, gives Sam the security he needs to help him deal with the war that is being waged inside of himself.

At the beginning of the episode when Dean calls him saying how far he is away from the compound and Sam averts him to PA. Dean comments to him that they are hunting a lot and Sam says he likes to keep busy. After thinking about this, this is another form dealing with PTSD. And then I remembered back to Family Remains in Season 4. This was the episode right after Dean reveals to Sam what he did in hell. At the beginning of that episode, it is night, Sam is sleeping in the back of the car and Dean is searching for a new hunt, after just having finished their previous hunt a couple hours ago. Sam comments that Dean has had them working nonstop ever since Dean told him about his hell experiences. Well, flash forward two years and Sam is now doing the exact same thing. I hope Dean recognizes that and is able to find a way to gently break through Sam's facade that won't damage his psyche too much and get Sam to open up and start healing. And if Dean can help Sam start to heal, then maybe Dean can help himself heal from his own experiences in hell.