Solitary Sam: I Can't Do This Alone


 
For months, Hallucination!Lucifer (Hall!Luci) had been working on Sam's fragile psyche.  Like water slowly eroding stone, Hall!Luci's stream of taunts, mockery and endless conversation were eroding Sam's hold on sanity. Yet, somehow, Sam continued to cling to control.  But then one day, in a quiet library, Sam broke the cardinal "No Speaking" rule by hissing an irritated "Shut up!" at Hall!Luci. The water had finally carved a new channel.
 
But what made that moment different?  Why, after pressing his thumb to his scar a million times, and months of exhibiting the stoic strength of Job, why did Sam finally let Hall!Luci in?
 
Simple. I think he was scared, lonely and desperately in need of company. 
 
Let's start at the beginning, with the lyrics of Cole Porter.  The musical genius put it perfectly - "Birds do it.  Bees do it.  Even educated fleas do it." 
 
Of course, Porter was describing falling in love.  But he could just as easily have been to referring to creating relationships.
 
Think of it.  Birds, bees and fleas can all be defined by collective nouns. We have a charm of finches and a murder of crows.  There's a swarm of bees and an itch of fleas.  (I invented the last one.  But I think it might have staying power!)  Even in the supernatural world, where Sam and Dean spend so many of their working hours, you'll find a coven of witches, a flight of dragons and a nest of vampires. 
 
Mother Nature abhors a vacuum.  I think she also abhors the number ONE, as in the single unit, the solitary individual.  To quote The GhostFacers:


ED: It's used to be just, you know, you and I taking on the cases -- just Harry and me. 
HARRY: Two lone wolves. 
ED: And two lone wolves need, uh...Other wolves. 
Exactly.  
 
At some point in their life cycle, almost all creatures - large and small, vertebrate and invertebrate - are part of a group.  The group might be a fleeting pairing, solely for the purpose of procreation.  Alternatively, they could be part of a mass gathering.
 
Take snakes for instance.  We don't really think of them as hanging out with the other vipers at the local bar. Usually, each is doing his/her own solitary slither through the tall grasses.  But in cooler weather, thousands of them come together to form a den. They congregate in a small space, like a cave, to share what little body heat these cold-blooded reptiles can generate.  However with the return of warmer temperatures, it's a quick "Fangs for the memories, and I'm outta here!"
 
In the animal kingdom, mammals may form groups that last for generations.  These warrens, herds, prides and colonies live together for many reasons.  A large group can better protect its vulnerable, and its' defenseless young.  It means improved mate selection, which leads to much needed genetic diversity. And a group is often more successful at finding, or hunting food.  Think of how packs of small predators work together to bring down much larger prey.
 
We humans established tribes, clans and nations because we recognized all those benefits.  But just as importantly, we continue to choose teams and families because we recognized something else.  We're healthier and stronger when we form an emotional bond with other people.
 
There is a reason solitary confinement is a punishment, even a type of torture.  We are social animals.  We crave the company of others. We seek the sound of another's voice so we can hear them speak their stories, and be an audience for our own.  We long to feel their flesh against our skin, be it a passionate kiss, or a compassionate embrace.    We thrive in the presence of those we love, and wither in their absence.

This is the situation Sam finds himself in during "Repo Man".
 
We have known since the very first episode, "The Pilot" that Dean wants a partner in the hunting life, and he wants that partner to be his
brother.

 
DEAN: I can't do this alone.
SAM: Yes, you can.
DEAN: Yeah, well... I don't want to.  
 
But it's also in Season One that we see Sam fight to keep Dean by his side.  When the doctor tells them that Dean is likely to die from the heart trauma he suffered during the electrocution in "Faith", Sam won't give up until he finds a way to save him.

 
DEAN: You're not gonna let me die in peace, are you?
SAM: I'm not gonna let you die. Period.
 
Neither brother will let something as mundane as Death separate them.  In "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2" Dean sells his soul to bring back his dead brother. When that deal comes due, and he is dragged to Hell, Sam becomes equally desperate.  He too attempts to bargain, with a Crossroads Demon, for the safe return of his brother.  Sadly, the Demon won't deal.  But the brothers are eventually reunited.  Several seasons and some episodes later in "99 Problems", Sam confesses that he too needs a partner in the hunting life.


SAM: Don't say that.
DEAN: Why not? 

SAM: Cause you can't do this.
DEAN: Actually, I can.
SAM: No you can't. You can't do this to me. I got one thing, one thing, keeping me going. You think you're the only one white-knuckling it here, Dean? I can't count on anyone else. I can't do this alone. 

Sam needs Dean.  Dean needs Sam.  That's the way they work.  Yes, there have been instances when they've fought, split in a snit, and been on their own for awhile.  But one of two things always happens.  In the first case, one brother takes the courageous and humble step forward, offers an apology and starts mending fences.  In the second alternative, one brother lands himself in a difficult situation.  The other brother finds out, puts aside his anger, and saves his brother.  Sometimes they discuss what lead to their separation.  Sometimes they just shove those issues under the carpet to take up residence with all the other emotional-dust-bunnies hiding there!  But, either way, they reunite. Like iron filings and a magnet, they're powerless against the forces pulling them together.
 
Yet, in some ways, Sam is always alone with his Season 7 hallucinations. After all, they are happening insidehis head.  Only he can see the visions, the chains, and the hellfire. Only he can see Hall!Luci.  But ever since the night in the warehouse, when his brother grabbed his hand, and dug his thumb into the still-bleeding wound on Sam's palm, Dean has been a crucial and integral part of the way Sam copes with all that internal madness.

 
DEAN: This is real.  Not a year ago. Not in Hell. Now. I was with you when cut it, and I sewed it up. Look! ...  This is different.  Right? Then the crap that's tearing at your walnut.  I'm different!!  Right?!! 
SAM: Yeah.  I think so"¦ 
DEAN:  .. I am your flesh and blood brother.  I'm the only one who can legitimately kick your ass in real time. You got away.  We got you out, Sammy.  Believe in that!  Believe in me, okay?!!  You gotta believe me.  You gotta make it Stone Number One, and build on it.  You understand?
SAM:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Okay. 
 
I think when Sam walked away from Dean in "Slash Fiction" his hallucinations were less frequent, less intense.  Pressing on his scar not only zapped Hall!Luci away, but actually banished him for a substantial period.  That's how Sam could function by himself for over a week.
 
But I think that changed over time.  I believe, like many medications and coping techniques, the palm press started to lose it effectiveness, most likely because the underlying problem continued to persist.  It's like taking an anti-inflammatory because your knee hurts. If the pain is coming from torn cartilage, the drug will help, but can never really heal the problem.
 
As well, until "Repo Man" Sam always had the help of others when Dean was in danger.  Until his untimely death, Sam could rely on Bobby's help, even if that help was coming over a phone line, rather than from the person sitting next to him.
 
In "Adventures in Babysitting", Sam was the kidnap victim, and it was Dean who tracked him down.  In "Time After Time", Sam knew where Dean was "“ 1944, who the enemy was "“ Chronos, and he had help "“ Sheriff Rhodes.  He wasn't alone.  In "The Slice Girls", Sam knew where Dean was "“ the motel room, and who the enemy was "“ Emma.  He just had to get back to him, and that was something he could manage.  And of course in "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie", it was Sam who was in peril.

 
But the pieces on the board changed dramatically in "Repo Man".  This time, Sam didn't know where Dean was.  He didn't know who the enemy was.  And Bobby is dead and no longer a phone call away. (Well, maybe just a Ouija-board away if the flask is nearby, but Sam doesn't know that.) This time, Sam was utterly alone.  To make matters worse, if he couldn't find or save Dean, he would be staring at a completely solitary future.  
 
Except"¦ There's this guy who's been hanging out in his head for months.  Sam doesn't trust him or like him, but he knows him.  In fact, with his sarcasm, quick wit, and a similar style of dressing, he might even remind Sam a little bit of the brother he is so desperately trying to find.
 
I think there is something else at play as well.  It's not inconceivable that Sam was suffering from some form of Stockholm Syndrome.  
Stockholm Syndrome is sometimes described as a type of traumatic bonding.  One definition states that it is characterized by "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other."  
According to one expert "In order for Stockholm syndrome to occur in any given situation, at least three traits must be present:
  • A severely uneven power relationship in which the captor dictates what the prisoner can and cannot do
  • The threat of death or physical injury to the prisoner at the hands of the captor
  • A self-preservation instinct on the part of the prisoner
As well, the isolated prisoner must believe (correctly or incorrectly) that he or she cannot escape, which means survival depends on obeying the rules set by the all-powerful captor."

It sure sounds like nearly two centuries in The Cage doesn't it?

Viewing a lack of abuse as an act of kindness is a survival mechanism, borne of fear. If you are forced to live and interact daily with an abusive kidnapper, parent, spouse or Archangel, it is perhaps the only way to cope.  It can provide hope that, one day, the abuse will end completely.  In some instances, it even (often inadvertently) reminds your captor of the fact you are a Person, with rights and dignities.
 
In "The Born-Again Identity" Sam questions Marin about the return of her dead brother.  He seems so knowledgeable about how she is feeling, what she is thinking. 

SAM: So, um, your brother "“ when did he pass? 
MARIN: Uh, last year. 
SAM: Do you see him?
MARIN: shakes her head no 
SAM: So... he just talks to you. I bet at first it wasn't so bad. You must have missed him"¦.. 
MARIN: Yeah. I mean, you're right. At first it's like... I knew I was crazy, but... I didn't really care. I did miss him. But then... he started saying he was lonely. And he started to get mad. And one day he started yelling, and I tried to run but the door was locked. And when I turned around, the whole room was on fire. I barely got out. 


I wondered at first, if Sam was remembered how he felt when Dean died and went to Hell. But then I started thinking he could be referring to Lucifer.  He spent a long, long time with Lucifer.  He became a constant in Sam's world.  As weird at it sounds, once he was topside, I suspect there were times he actually missed the Devil on his shoulder.  
 
As long as he has Dean nearby, he can push those feelings and memories away.  But in "Repo Man", Dean is missing. 
 
Sam tries to stay strong.  He marshals his resources and continues to ignore Hall!Luci. That is, until Hall!Luci uses his forked tongue to speak Sam's worst case scenario "“ that Dean is in mortal danger, and may already be dead.  
 
Sam is tired and terrified.  He reacts from the gut.  "Shut up" he shouts back, more at himself than at Hall!Luci.  Sam is really hoping to silence his own fears.
 
He is alone and lonely, and in need of help. But all of his allies are gone. All but one.  He is a formidable foe, but also a kindly captor.  And now Hall!Luci is offering Sam the information he needs to save Dean.  (Personally, I think the information was always in Sam's mind.  Hall!Luci just helped him connect the dots.)
 
So Sam does what birds, and bees and fleas have been doing for millennia.  Motivated by concern for his brother's life, he reaches out and makes a connection.  But it is a most dangerous liaison.  It nearly costs Sam his sanity, and his life.  Without the intervention of Castiel, it likely would have.
 
However, as we see in "Party On, Garth", the (temporary? permanent?) end of Sam's hallucinations is not the end of the problems for the Winchesters.  There are still Leviathans to destroy, and Dick Roman to vanquish.  And of course, they must eventually deal with the issue of Bobby's possible ghostly presence.
 
But now both brothers are exhausted, weakened by the external wars they've waged side-by-side, and the internal battles they fight in their own minds.  More than ever before, Sam will need Dean, and Dean will need Sam, in order to restore to full strength that rarest of collectives "“ a fraternity of Winchesters, a brotherhood of love.

Comments  

Eli
# Eli 2012-04-11 08:32
Interesting article! I like the way you look at how Sam became so isolated by the time Repo Man comes around. And now that he and Dean have gone through their most isolated period, they are starting to gather their extended clan around them again with Ghost Bobby and (although still in a mental ward) Cas.
milly
# milly 2012-04-11 10:27
I like so much your article. It's true that Sam is alone with his pain and his fear. I think that in this season Sam is more closed in on itself respect to the previous and I think you have explained so clear his isolation. Very good.
(I'm sorry for my mistakes but english is not my first language),
KELLY
# KELLY 2012-04-11 11:58
I like your article. I like to read different peoples takes on the characters, especially Sam and Dean. I HOPE HOPE HOPE that we still get a lot more inside of I Sam's head this season. He seems to have stopped keeping secrets for the most part, like he did the first 4 years. But I want them both talk more, even if its just a few important scene here and there.

I did have a random thought though. Depending on what Cas transferred to himself. He could have better idea of what Sam went though. And since he doesn't have Sam's filter, we learn more about Sam through Cas.
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-04-11 13:29
I really, really want to know what goes on inside Sam's head, but I really, really want to hear it from Sam NOT Castiel. I want Sam to tell his own story, not have it told by someone else.

Good Lord, we are already being reminded with every flashback that Sam brought his insanity on himself "You let me in" as opposed to being the result of trauma and having Castiel break his wall. The last thing I want is the guy who broke that wall explaining Sam's mindset. That would not sit well with me.
KELLY
# KELLY 2012-04-11 14:31
I think I said that badly. What I meant was that Cas could bring up something that forces Sam to talk about what is going on, since typically hides his pain. But if something was brought to the surface. Maybe Dean would force him to talk about it. Wasn't trying to start anything just a random thought.
nancyL
# nancyL 2012-04-11 14:12
We knew from day one (the Pilot) that Dean needed his brother. But as you mention, it isn't until 'Faith', that we are told that Sam is just as dependent on Dean.

Poor Sammy, I agree that as long as he knew where Dean was and/or had someone he could trust, then he was ok, but take away Dean and he is 'up the creek without a paddle'. As long as he had 'stone number one' he was ok, but take away that stone and take away any one who could help and he was ripe for the picking by Lucifer. If Sam didn't have Jodie in 'Time' to help him out, then he may have listened to Lucifer than, wouldn't you agree?

Dean has always been open with his love for Sam, he reaches for Sam, or just looks at him to make sure Sam is there. Sam on the other hand, isn't as open, he loves Dean as much as he is loved, but keeps it to himself. He waits until Dean is hurt (Faith, IMToD) to show Dean how much he loves him.

But we all saw what happened to Sam when Dean is not around, in 'Mystery Spot', Sam just shuts down emotionally and becomes Soulless Sam with a soul. :lol:
The Hugs speak for themselves:'Mys tery Spot', and 'Like a Virgin', Sam grabs onto Dean and will not let go. (Love that you included the pic of The Hug)

I agree that they will need each other in the remaining five episodes of this season. The brother bond, even though it is not as strong as it once was, is a lot stronger than it was in seasons four, five and the beginning of six. Maybe this season will end with them ok, but then every season has ended with one or the other died or hurting.

Loved your article.
Sharon
# Sharon 2012-04-11 14:26
Having Sam so closed off and Dean so obvious is what has hurt Sam in the long run and is still hurting him.
digyd
# digyd 2012-04-11 14:40
This was just what the doctor ordered, Pragmatic Dreamer. Kudos to you. You got to the heart of the matter and reiterated why we love these guys and this show. And since Sam has always been the one to keep his feelings on the quiet side, it's nice to see it all laid out this way. Nice touch with the final picture. I love to see Sam return the affection from time to time.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-04-12 12:08
Thanks Pragmatic Dreamer for reminding us all why it is we love this show. Whether the fans agree or not on the direction SPN has taken these past two seasons, the brotherly bond is what keeps it all together. I for one hope it goes on for a few more seasons. I will never tire of it.
NOLANOLA
# NOLANOLA 2012-04-13 04:59
WOW, THIS IS A DEEP ARTICLE. THIS IS WHY I LOVE THIS SITE SO MUCH.

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME---WHAT A TAKE. THIS MAKES PERFECT SENSE! NOW I HAVE TO PONDER FOR AWHILE =)

THANKS PD FOR A FRESH OUTLOOK. LOVE SPN !!!!
Mickey
# Mickey 2012-04-13 10:27
Great meta! Lots of really interesting insights.

"Neither brother will let something as mundane as Death separate them." That pretty much describes it all in a nutshell. :)
Birgit Säberg
# Birgit Säberg 2012-04-14 03:44
Loved this!

And I agree with this comment:

(Personally, I think the information was always in Sam’s mind. Hall!Luci just helped him connect the dots.)

I think Sam was so stressed and frustrated that he couldn't think straight and then asked Hall!Luci for help. BIG mistake!
saumya
# saumya 2012-05-03 06:56
awesome write up.. just love the way you actually took pains to look into the matter so deeply and intriguingly..! !