And what of Mary? As Penelope, who for three years warded off the long siege of her suitors and thus, the destruction of her house, through the brilliant deception of continually weaving and unthreading a burial shroud for Laertes, Mary, too, wished to protect her children from the war she knew was raging in the shadows by keeping silent about the truth. But, like virtually everything in Supernatural, that choice had a tragic denouement.
This mission, quest, thing
"He's gone, no sign, no word of him; and I inherit trouble and tears - and not for him alone, the gods have laid such other burdens on me."
- Telemachus, The Odyssey, book I
Sam was willing to assist his brother in searching for their father, all but playing chicken with a very important date, his "entire future on a plate." When the case that John begun had been solved and their father again disappeared, Sam was more than eager to go back to his girlfriend and his education; his home. Other burdens were required for Sam to join the Quest and just as Telemachus was finally pushed by the suitors' dark cloud slowly engulfing his home, Sam was pushed by Jessica's death, his surrogate domicile literally and figuratively burnt to the ground.
"The son is rare who measures with his father, and one in a thousand is a better man, but you will have the sap and wit and prudence - for you get that from Odysseus - to give you a fair chance of winning through."
- Athena, The Odyssey, book I
"We've got work to do."
The Impala roars down the road, fueled by a set of coordinates and years of training, experience and not a little bit of vengeance. John, being a military man like Odysseus, knows to use the tools at his disposal to make contact, albeit limited, with his sons, and these coordinates direct them to cases in more than one episode. The crucial difference that they are even able to remain in touch over vast distances certainly places this Quest in our day and age, but one can be sure that if the Greek hero had had a way to alert his son without having Poseidon hear about it, he most certainly would have. He was, after all, trying to get back home. As is John.
So where is he? As Sam pointed out in Dead in the Water, the trail was getting colder but in the next episode, they believe they've caught a break when Jerry Panowski mentions just how he got in contact with the brothers in the first place. Of course, it turns out to be another dead end, and remember the words of Dean a few episodes down the road: "I'm telling you, I don't think dad wants to be found." In time, we'll get a most tantalizing hint as to why.
In spite of Sam's reply to Jerry that he's not quite a match for his father yet when it comes to the business of hunting (a sentiment that Dean silently shares about himself as well, externalized in one aspect through a willingness to acquiesce to his father's directives when he's proven to be a capable hunter in his own right), just as Telemachus was not quite ready to assume the mantle of king and hero, Supernatural inverts and dramatically enriches the father/son(s) relationship by adding tension between both parties. And it certainly helps that there's a second son to further explore this dynamic through its familial and militaristic aspects. But through it all, Sam finds out in Bugs that his father was indeed looking out for him, in his own way:
DEAN: Sam, Dad was never disappointed in you. Never. He was scared.
SAM: What are you talking about?
DEAN: He was afraid of what could've happened to you if he wasn't around. But even when you two weren't talking, he used to swing by Stanford whenever he could. Keep an eye on you. Make sure you were safe.
SAM: Why didn't you tell me any of that?
DEAN: Well, it's a two-way street, dude. You could've picked up the phone.
Good advice, some that the brothers wished John would have followed in Home, the pivot point of the entire season and arguably, the series. In the process of searching for his father, Telemachus journeys from court to court and hears from Nestor and Menelaus and his wife Helen tales of his father's exploits of bravery and, above all, cunning. Jerry recounts such a success to Sam (I love that movie, too, unseen employee) and in this episode, the mechanic at the garage where John was once employed does the same:
OWNER: Well...he was a stubborn bastard, I remember that. And, uh, whatever the game, he hated to lose, you know? It's that whole Marine thing. But, oh, he sure loved Mary. And he doted on those kids.
"How can you say we'd let a fight go by,
ever, at any time when we Achaeans
against the Trojans whet the edge of war?
If you will make it your concern you'll see
the father of Telemachus in action,
hand to hand in the enemy's front ranks.
Your bluster is all wind!
- Odysseus to Agamemnon, The Iliad, book IV
Nope, no similarity there.
In book XI of Homer's second work, Odysseus follows Circe's advice and journeys to Hades to speak with the dead, who will be able to direct him towards the proper course home. Inversion appears again, for does not Sam, the son, speak of a sort with the dead through his visions? These visions are the product of demon blood, the ichor of beings that are, for all intents and purposes, denizens of the underworld.
"Yet, it is true, each day
I long for home, long for the spirit of home."
â€” Odysseus to Calypso, The Odyssey, book V
After many travails and close brushes with death, Odysseus was soon the captive of the nymph Calypso and one readily sees a parallel with John where he was held captive by the memory of his wife, of what he had and subsequently lost and the desire to avenge her death and the breaking of his home. But first things first: