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I read Jasminka's wonderful Open Couch on "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning" and started writing a reply.  And it grew into this, so thank you Jas for the inspiration!  
It's just that"¦ Sigh...  "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning" is haunting me.  It's not because of creepy dolls, and the dual-tragedy of Rose and Isabelle's sad deaths.  I know many people will say the Monster of the Week, was weak.  But I don't think so.  I think many deaths are that much more tragic just because of their mundane nature. That her idiot co-workers thought up such a cruel stunt was bad enough.  But, to have her be accidentally killed was even worse.  Then, when Rose finally gets a chance to make a statement about the way she'd been treated her whole life, it all backfires.  She kills the one person, Isabelle, who truly loved her.  Sam and Dean obviously have much in common with Rose and Isabelle, but I'll let someone else write about that. 
What's really haunting me is Dean.  Yet again, he sacrifices love and possible happiness for The Job, for Sam, and because of his own subzero self-esteem issues.  I just feel SO bad for the guy.
I thought Lisa was wonderful in this episode, and very well-written.  She was honest, about what she felt, and what she really wanted - him!  She told Dean how much she loved him, but that she couldn't live with the uncertainty of his life, and the likelihood of his early death.  I think it was very courageous for her to say that, and put it out there.  Now Dean knows it.  And he acknowledged it, with the gentle whisper of her nickname "Lis"¦" when she expressed her concern that when the phone rings, there's tiny chance it's him calling, and a much bigger chance it's Sam alerting her to the news Dean is dead.  

He got a glimpse of just how important he is to her.  It's a profound moment when you realize just how important you are to another person.  Most of us can recall in detail, the first time we exchanged "I love you" with our partners.  It's a pretty wonderful experience.  But it really shouldn't be tinged with as much sadness, regret, and sense of loss as Dean and Lisa's was. The knowledge of her love for him will no doubt have an impact on Dean, but the extent has yet to be determined.
I firmly believe Dean was trying to say "I love you" back to Lisa. He used the example of dropping everything to come to them as proof he cared.  When he said "I almost called you 100 times", he was admitting she's always in his thoughts.  After all, he's a "show, don't tell" type of guy!  And then, Dean openly admitted it to Ben when he said "Just because you love someone, doesn't mean you should stick around and screw up their life".   I took that declaration of love to be directed at both Ben and Lisa.  As further evidence, just look at how his whole body rebels at the notion, as suggested by Ben, that he hates Lisa.  He flinches, shakes his head, says quite a vehement "No!"
I'm not sure why he couldn't say "I love you" to Lisa.  Fear of rejection perhaps.  And I think that's why he also didn't return any of the 6 calls she made to him.  Their last conversation was so bruising to him, and felt so final to him, that I don't think he had the strength to hear anymore from her.  I don't think he ever entertained the idea that she might be phoning to say "I'm sorry" or "Could you just come back so we could try again?"   If he'd had an inkling that she had kind words for him, I think he would have spoken to her, any time, anywhere (except maybe when he was busy playing Death and trying to retrieve Sam's soul).
I really appreciate that we never got Dean's answer to her very astute and perceptive question "What do you want from us Dean?"  I think it is such a rare occurrence for Dean, to have someone ask him what he wants, that he was completely taken aback.  I don't think he had a response ready, because he never sees himself as worthy of giving an answer.  He is so used to repressing, and denying his own wishes that he almost believes he doesn't have any. 


As is often pointed out, Dean is very sensitive and compassionate.  And that's why I hink admitting, out loud, what he wants from Lisa and Ben might would be very difficult for him.  Because I think deep down he knows the answer.  He wants from them, just what they were getting from him - love, trust, acceptance even when you're being a dick!, that glimpse of special normalcy we all get when we're around the people we care about.
I also found the whole conversation with Ben to be spot-on.  Kids are incredibly perceptive, and when they tell you the truth about yourself, it can be very illuminating.  Until Ben said "You're a liar Dean.  You say family's so important, but what do you call people who care for you, who love you even when you're a dick?! You know you're walking out on your family, right?"
I don't think Dean had ever stopped to consider that he was just as important to Lisa and Ben, as they so obviously are to him. Again, he was taken aback.  You could see it in the multitude of expressions that played across his face "“ everything from surprise to shock to acknowledgement to regret.  And then, of course, he almost started to cry.  The single manly tear was forming!!  We just didn't get to see it drop.
No doubt intentionally,  you could hear the echo of Bobby's famous sentiment from NRFTW, "Family don't end with blood." in Ben's impassioned speechIn that moment,  Dean suddenly realizes he has two families, but there is no way he can have them both.  And that no matter what decision he makes - stay with Lisa & Ben or go back to Sam - he will be abandoning people who need him, and his protection.  Those are the driving forces in his live "“ to be needed, and to be the protector, the guardian.  Learning just how completely he was filling that role for Lisa and Ben, and then to leave them, is not, unfortunately going to make him feel better about himself.  Instead, it's going to make him feel like a failure yet again. It is going to eat him up.  The fact that information came from Ben, who he loves as much as if he carried 23 Winchester chromosomes (I still think he does) is yet another huge cut to his heart.
This episode once again put the focus on Dean's abysmal lack of self-esteem.  He doesn't see himself worthy of love, or deserving of happiness.  I think he knows Sam loves him, but it's as if he believes Sam's love is due to all the experiences they've shared, not because of who Dean is as a person.  It's clear again, some more, that Dean doesn't see himself as others do.  
Just look at this exchange:
Dean: "I think my job turns me into somebody that can't sit at your dinner table"¦ And if I stayed, you'd end up just like me."
Ben:  (echoing his mom from earlier in the season) "Why do you say it like you're so bad?"
Dean:  "Trust me.  I'm not someone you want to aim to be"
Ben:  "Don't I get a vote?"
Dean: "No.  You don't."

Ben and Lisa both obviously see many good qualities in Dean.  In fact, Ben worships him, and Dean is right that Ben wants to be like him.  But what's so wrong with that? When Ben looks at Dean, he sees a father figure - a kind, compassionate, strong guy, who listens to him, spends time with him, keeps him safe, and makes him feel good about himself, a man who is so loyal and devoted, and who will sacrifice himself again, and again for those he loves.  But when Dean looks in the mirror he sees none of that, he sees only the bloodthirsty killer that he described to Veritas.
This episode really reminds me of WIAWSNB, right down to the pep talk Sam gives Dean at the end.   The motivating factors are very similar.   In WIAWSNB, it was the cryptic command from John, about Sam's possible fate, that was driving Dean actions.  Granted it's a good thing he chose to stab himself, because he would have died otherwise.  But, he wasn't really acting to save his own life.  He was acting to save Sam.  It's the same motivation in M3TR.  It's the fear of what might happen to Sam if the Great Wall falls, that is now driving Dean's decisions. 
In Bobby's salvage yard, Sam's tells Dean the same things he told him all those years ago in the motel room.  And they're still true.  They'll win some, and lose some, but what they do is important, and he has Dean's back.  Dean looks relieved to hear that, and like he believes it.  But I thought I saw some regret and wistfulness there too.  I don't think he'll ever hear those words from Sam, and not hear the echo of Soulless Sam saying the same phrase.  And I think Dean will always wonder what might have been, with Lisa and Ben, if Soulless Sam had not let him be turned into a Vampire.  Because until that night, Dean believed he could live with one foot in the hunting world, and one in the "apple pie" world.  Now, he is completely convinced that is impossible.  

I'm not sure how to interpret the montage of Lisa & Ben moments as Dean was driving away.  Obviously, he's remembering the good times, and reflecting on the bad.  On any other show,  he'd have pulled a squealing U-turn, driven back to Lisa's and with a swell of violins in the background swept her into his arms, kissed passionately, and fade to credits.  But in this one, he stills driving away, as lonely and tormented as ever.  Even more so because he realizes just how much he is hurting two people he loves, and who he now knows, love him back.  I'm not so sure it's the final goodbye though.
I know many people believe (and fervently hope) this is the last we'll see of Lisa and Ben. But, I have another idea. This whole season has been about family, and many different families - the Winchesters, the Winchesters plus Bobby, the family Dean made with the Braedens, the Braeden family without Dean and the choices Lisa makes to protect her son, the Campbell clan, the monster families, the dysfunctional Heavenly family descending into civil war, and now the Mother Of All.  
This season is also about the emotional and physical damage that hunting causes hunters.  Sam literally lost his soul.  Dean (as suggested by Sera Gamble) is losing his soul in the figurative sense because of the toll it takes on a person to do a job that requires you to risk your life every day, and to kill, and kill, and kill and then just for a change of pace, shed some more blood.  
I think Ben's line You know you're walking out on your family, right? is foreshadowing.  I think it's going to come back and mean something, perhaps something in connection with the natural order.  Maybe Dean will have to let Ben or Lisa, or even Sam die.  Maybe Dean himself will die (again, some more) and we'll see Sam making that fateful phone call to Lisa.  In my opinion, that line from Ben is far too powerful a statement, especially in relationship to Dean's character, for it to be just a throwaway line. I think, now that we're in Episode 14, the threads are starting to come together, and I think this is a biggie.
But to end on a positive note, I know many don't like the Lisa, Ben, Dean unit.  I do.  He's a 30+ year old man.  It's actually a good sign for his character, and his growth and maturity as a person, that he was able to form such a long, and loving bond. (TV or real life, a year is a substantial relationship.)  I know many think Lisa was weak for giving up on Dean, and not sticking it out.  I think she was just being realistic.  She knows, that no matter how much he cares for her, or loves her, she can't compete with the sense of responsibility and loyalty, and love he feels for Sam, and for "saving people, hunting things".  So, she's being very strong and offering them both a way out.  
But, in my world, when the show ends, it will turn out that although Lisa had a decent relationship with Dr. Matt (who ironically has to save Dean's life at some point, after Dean has saved his), she and Dean (who has finished hunting because every last monster, venegeful spirit and other thing that goes bump in the night has been destroyed) will run into each other again, and finally get to live happily ever after.  She's may not be perfect for him, but she is strong, independent, accepting and she loves him!!! And Lisa helps Dean find peace, and the guy could sure use a double scoop of that.


# rmoats8621 2011-02-22 00:57
This was a great article. Everything you wrote was so right! If Dean would just listen, we could definitely fix him up and have him live "happily ever after". That goes for Sam, too. Why do some men have to be so pig headed? :lol:
# Marisol 2011-02-22 01:19
My goodness, I just loved your article!

You are spot on as far as I am concerned. I think, and hope, that the Dean and Lisa/Ben story isn't over because that relationship so completes Dean's character. They don't even ever have to be in the show again as long as they are somewhere in his life.

Like you, I felt that a door was left open for Dean and he might just get his family in spite of himself. What Ben said about family was too true and powerful for Dean to ignore and I do hope that it figures in the story line somewhere in the future.
# Vicks 2011-02-22 01:30
Ehh i didnt really like lisa happy she is gone
# Vicks 2011-02-22 01:32
I didnt really like lisa happy she is gone Dean needs a women who will hunt with him and put up with the risks,his self loathing,his dependence on sam and the job
# CitizenKane2 2011-02-22 01:34
I enjoyed reading this. :)

I really liked the way the Liza/Ben/Dean story was written - and although I wished that things worked out for them, I'm not sure many (if any) would dare write such a permanent love story like that into Supernatual, which could potentially (adversely ?) affect / dilute the focus on the brothers' relationship.

Of course, I hoped to be proved wrong on this, and I do personally think that adding a stable family unit like Lisa and Ben would actually add to the brothers' relationship rather than detract from it. For example, I would have love to see "uncle" Sam interacting with Ben :P
# Melanie 2011-02-22 01:35
Not immediately, but I could picture the writers using Ben again in the future -- when he's a bit older and does emulate Dean -- I do believe that the Lisa storyline is finished. I think the montage was goodbye.
# Yirabah 2011-02-22 01:51
Thank you Pragmatic Dreamer for putting my thoughts so eloquent down in an article.

The only thing you forgot though is that in case something should happen to Dean Sam very likely would inform Lisa sooner or later about it. And then it makes no difference to her if they had a close relationship or if she started a new life with someone else it will still pain her.

I also think/hope that this is not the end of Ben and Lisa and I do believe that we will see them again.
# KatieV 2011-02-22 06:01
Great article & I am with you in wishing that Dean could find happiness with his 'other' family.
I must admit I find the rabid Lisahaters a bit odd and can only put it down to a strange 'dog in the manger' attitude - i.e. if I can't have Dean then no one can.
# Ginger 2011-02-22 07:07
I'm a rabid Lishater, yet, there is no doubt that Lisa/Ben are forevermore riding in the back seat of the Impala. If, in the end, Dean ends up with them, I'm burning every box set of SPN that I have.

Sera chose to go with the love story in the guise of Dean 'growing up.' The thing is, I don't watch SPN to see the two heroes go from being heroes to going through nothing but emotional trauma to get to normal, everyday life. I watch to see heroes overcome normal and be...well...her oes. I could turn on any daytime soap and see what I have seen of Dean this season. And, I have to add, I've questioned all season whether these two are heroes or just pathetic characters. I'm just saying, compare what we have seen of Sam/Dean with the one Bobby/Rufus episode.

That said, since Lisa/Ben have now been made more important characters than Bobby, I have no doubt they will abruptly show up again.
# Brynhild 2011-02-22 08:42
I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry for you, since you seem incapable to see heroism in family life. Family can be a very powerful motivational source for heroism, but I figure you just can't see it. All you see is a "pathetic" character, instead of a grown up man who is able to care for someone, who is trying to handle an emotional heavy issue the best he can. Sometimes it takes more courage to do this, than to fight the things in the dark.

And this... this is what makes SPN believable to me. That makes Dean and Sam believable characters, "real" characters, in which I can recognize myself. This human and emotional and psychological quality of the show that put it above the average action-packed, flat-characteri zed, two-dimensional "heroic" fictions for tv and cinema.

SPN is not just an "action movie" or a thriller: SPN is above all a character-drive n drama. Sometimes an epic drama, like the good war or fantasy or sci-fi movies, sometimes an emotional and psychological drama, sometimes a family drama. The spn elements are just a way to put characters under extreme circumstances, demanding extreme choices or deeds from them. But in no way emotional or relationship issues are less demanding.

Not seeing this IMO is falling flat on the understanding of the dephts and multi-layered and multi-faceted quality of this show.
# Ginger 2011-02-22 10:27
I would just respond, don't underestimate me. Throughout my life, I (and I am sure everyone else) have seen hero after hero in everyday people, and I personally understand what family and friends can mean when going through traumatic life experiences. As you say, many enjoy seeing the emotional and psychological drama. I prefer the characters driving the plot, instead of the plot driving the characters. JMO, but when a show reduces itself to the point where the focus is on the emotional trauma of one or both characters to the exclusion of telling the overall story, it is on a downhill slope. And I really don't know what the overall story is supposed to be this season. Dean's love story has ended (sort of) and Sam's soulless story has ended (sort of). My understanding is now we go to a meta episode, a western episode, and then into the Heaven civil war story and somewhere along the way the crap for Purgatory, the Campbell backstory, and perhaps Heaven's WMD will be tied in.

Yeah, it's all just perspective and what one likes in storytelling. I'm hoping S7 will get back on track, because I do love the show, just not S6.
# Jasminka 2011-02-22 07:51
Pragmatic Dreamer, I am honoured to have inspired you to write this. Thank you.

I can’t say much more right now. Your thoughtful comment here has hit home with me in a way I had not expected and saddened me more than I believed possible.

I think, in part, the journey of this family is also mine, sometimes there are no words and all you can do is simply go on.

Love Jas
# faye 2011-02-22 12:16
Loved your article. Like you, this episode spoke to me. I always found Dean's relationship with Lisa and Ben to be pretty realistic, and I was surprised at how long she actually tried to make things work. But she's a mother, and Ben had to be her first priority.

Is anyone else creeped out by the thumbs up/down on the new commenting system, or am I missing some vital part of the online culture? Personally, I think it's pretty mean to "thumbs down" someone who took the time to actually think about and write an opinion, pro or con. Am I wrong about this?
# Alice 2011-02-22 14:30
I do have to agree with you on the thumbs up/thumbs down thing. That was an option when I implemented the new comments system and I thought I'd give it a trial run. I don't like such things myself but hey, other sites do it. If anything, it was a chance for people to applaud well written posts.

Sadly, posts recently are being bashed instead for having different opinions. So I've taken it away for now. I might bring it back with only a thumbs up (if the code can be easily modified). Thanks for speaking up about it.
# faye 2011-02-22 23:17
Wow! Squeaky wheels! I guess that means I wasn't alone in feeling that way...

Sure, some people put things a little forcefully. Strong opinions run rampant here, that doesn't mean we can't play nice :roll:
# Bevie 2011-02-22 14:22
Loved your article and loved this episode.

Love Lisa and Ben and sincerely hope when the show ends that Dean can finally be happy with the two of them. And that Sam can perhaps get back with Sarah, who was another exceptional woman.

I don't want the series to end with Dean killing Sam. That would be unbearable after all these years of following the Winchester saga. I love them now like loving real people! :sigh:

Ideally they can live next door to each other in the future with their own families, don't care how cheesey that is. :P
# magichappening 2011-02-22 20:20
Well, you just broke my heart. And I just fell in love with Dean Winchester all over again. Thank you for writing such an amazing, insightful article.

Your point about the MOTW really struck me. I had not thought about the tragedy of the mundane, but rather was looking at the lack of drama and (to me) flaws in execution. Thank you for getting my focus back on what is important again and rather than concentrating on what is not working for me, look for what is. I think I have been veering too close to armchair TV critic and forgetting that what I truly love being is a fan of this show and the story of the Winchesters.

I love also that you pointed out that two people unrelated to Dean told him that they loved him. A woman and a child. That is huge, and looking back at those scenes it did take him completely by surprise. Just as Bobby’s declaration did in NRFTW. But now that Dean knows they love him, he has to deal with leaving them behind and not being there in the way they want him to be. Of course, he is not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but your point about him being asked what he wanted and his not knowing what to say as he is never asked that, made MY soul hurt.

Someone once said it is easy to die for something, living for it is the hard part. Dean did it for Sam, when Sam went to Hell. He went to Lisa, and lived, despite everything in him wanting to go after his brother. And because of that hard choice he found something good - a new family. Stability and a home. Something he has not had since he was four years old.

And that first home was ripped away in one night. No wonder Dean is so determined to keep this ‘home’ safe. Even from himself. I think the vampire episode horrified him. As you pointed out ‘until that night, Dean believed he (might be able to) live with one foot in the hunting world, and one in the “apple pie” world. Now, he is completely convinced that is impossible’. To think that because of his job and his wanting to say goodbye he threatened this home and this family. I think that devastated him. I wish he would share that with Lisa. Maybe he did.

Alice made a good point in her review asking why these guys get up in the morning. Your point ‘I don’t think Dean had ever stopped to consider that he was just as important to Lisa and Ben, as they so obviously are to him’ perhaps helps with that. As perhaps does the way he looks for the pleasure he can get out of his day. His almost childlike enjoyment of things like the anatomy model, plus food, beer, music, women and his off-colour humour. But more importantly he has his love for Sam (still the cornerstone of his universe), Bobby and now the Braedens, and his dedication to the Hunt (‘saving people, hunting things’). And like the Real Ghostbusters said: To wake up every morning and save the world. ‘To have a brother who would die for you. Well, who wouldn’t want that?’

But as you said: ‘It’s clear again, some more, that Dean doesn’t see himself as others do’. I was thinking. You know how people with an eating disorder have body dysmorphia? When they look in the mirror they do not see what is actually reflected there, but a distortion of reality that exists in their mind. It is like Dean has soul dysmorphia.

I think Sam got through that at the end of the episode and Dean heard Sam. I think Dean also ‘heard’ Lisa and Ben. Three people, old and new family, saying they love him. I do hope Dean can hold on to that, as he continues with living, not dying. He is a good man, and as comments above have pointed out, heroism exists in the every day as well as in the extreme. And Dean Winchester has demonstrated both, again and again. He deserves some happiness. They both do.
# InkSketch 2011-02-23 02:50
I too am in almost total agreement with your article. However, I think, that the end of Supernatural will not be a traditional ending that we are used to in TV land, because it's not a traditional show. I do like your ending though. Dean does deserve some peace. As for Sam, I feel that with the numerous changes his character has been through, it's almost impossible at this point to predict how his journey will end.
# BagginsDVM 2011-02-23 22:50
Wonderful article!
You point out why this episode has "haunted" me so much this week: I've nearly forgotten about the MOTW already, but the family stuff - Dean & Sam, & Dean with Lisa & Ben - that's what stays with me.
# FMJemena 2011-02-24 01:21
Lovely. Lovely.

I second what Jasminka and magichappening wrote.
# Vicki 2012-06-13 21:39
You are so incredibly spot on with Dean, I almost cried. Almost.
I've always loved Dean as well as his character since the beginning of the show, since season 1. Throughout the series, it becomes obvious how he perceives himself as opposed to how others see him, and no matter how much those other people tell him they appreciate him, he simply disregards it or doesn't believe.
I personally liked Lisa. She was extremely good for Dean and while he was living with her, I half expected it to really work out for him for once. But the other half knew that that is not how it works in his real world. Lisa and Ben were strong about everything and she was right to put her foot down and say what she needed to say, what Dean needed to hear. She really didn't want to put up with the constant thought that every time the phone rang, there was a percentage that it was good and a larger percentage that it was the worst news she wanted to hear, and why should she put up with it? That, as we saw, puts a strain on everything. Dean was also right to walk away from it. He had his time with her and it was time well spent, but a new chapter was beginning in his life and he didn't have the ability to take his "family" with him.

Anywho, bravo on this post. I love it. Carry on (: