Sam Winchester's Safe Place
There are all sorts of reasons why scenes are written, but the way they are staged often is outside the boundaries of authorial intent – practicalities come into play, such as budgetary restraints and actor availability.
In Road Trip, we had a very wonderful scene set inside Sam Winchester's head, a scene in which he found the strength to take back his agency. I'm going to think of him as being in his safe place, and while we don't know for sure if Gadreel locked Sam away in there or he did it himself, I want to think the latter is true, because I feel his choice of safe place sheds such insight into who Sam is – and that's something we haven't seen for a while.
Once upon a time I would have thought Sam's safe place might be sitting in the shotgun seat of the Impala, his "home on wheels," tooling through the heartland with his brother at his side on the journey to the next hunt. But this episode showed us that his safe place is something different. It showed us Sam in the Men of Letters library engaged in research and surrounded by books, by centuries of knowledge. I feel it was such a perfect callback to what I believe Sam is at heart: a scholar, a thinker who would prefer to use his intellect to fight the ongoing battle against evil rather than use brute force – with all the collateral damage that accompanies violence – to fight it. Not so very different from wanting to find a way to expel or even cure demons without killing the host.
It made me think of how Sam always felt like an outsider in his own family because he wanted more than the hunt. It made me think about what the showrunners commented on in pre-season interviews – about Sam finding that he wasn't an outsider, that he did belong by virtue of his legacy as a Man of Letters, like his grandfather, Henry Winchester, before him. It also made me think of Sam's own claim that the bunker was simply a place of work and not a home. Yet here we see it as his safe place, where he can be that scholar and thinker he is, with evil barricaded outside. It's something he tried to do when he escaped to Stanford to follow his dream of doing more with his life than having it end bloody and sad.
To come full circle, it may well be that this wasn't authorial intent, that it was to do with those practicalities referenced above – they needed a venue for a fight scene, they only had Jared, Mark Sheppard and Tahmoh Penikett on the roster that day.
But I really do want to think that there is more to it, and that we might see Sam recover and find a middle ground where he can flourish as a hunter and a scholar, and leave his own legacy as a Man of Letters.