"How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters," shows the latest plans the Leviathans have for human kind. They have designed a sandwich that will infect people, turning them into cattle for the Leviathan to feed. Their boss, Dick Roman, wants nothing to make the papers, but unfortunately it does, creating a problem for their new plans to subjugate the planet.
This isn't unlike Lucifer's plans to wipe out humanity with the Croatoan virus. The difference here, however, is that yielded a handful of murderous zombies. Lucifer wanted to create violent zombies that would then eliminate one another. The Leviathan wants them to be food. Complacent food. This brings Dick Roman to the research lab to see what happened and to stop it.
The Winchesters, however, have also picked up on the case. They head towards the epicenter, and start to put pieces together about a so called "Jersey Devil" attacking campers. They follow their normal routines, questioning the park ranger and canvassing the town to decipher what is going on. Unfortunately, Dean walks right into the Leviathan's trap. He eats the sandwich, in this case a Turducken Slammer, and starts to experience its effects.
While the Leviathan have plans to turn humans into their personal food farms, what happens while Dean is under the sandwich's effects reveals much deeper story lines that have impacted his character all season. The sandwich doesn't start with making people into zombies---in fact only a small percentage end up as frenzied cannibals. Instead, it makes them apathetic and complacent. It works in much the same way that the demon Sloth does---making its victim hungry and lazy.
Dick Roman tells Dr Gaines what he had expected from the sandwich in his admonishment, "No. See, I asked for complacency. Not complacency and a 0.03% margin of hyperadrenalized cannibalism."
As they stand outside the study lab, the family inside eating the sandwiches are apathetic to a death in the room as well. The scene recalls the house the brothers stumble across in "The Magnificent Seven." Each member of the family is eating the sandwich, watching television mindlessly. None realize that grandma has died, and even if they had it seems none of them would care. The sandwich has turned them into mindless zombies only concerned with eating more.
Similarly, Dean has been roughly apathetic for a good portion of the season. He almost refuses to confront Cas in "Meet the New Boss," he has no real interest in hunting in "Defending Your Life," as his behavior is highly fatigued. Dean expresses, even before the sandwich has gotten to him and amplified it, "That's just great. This is stupid. Our quality of life is crap. We got Purgatory's least wanted everywhere, and we're on our third "The World's Screwed" issue in, what, three years? We've steered the bus away from the cliff twice already."
Once the sandwich takes its toll on Dean, he says, "Are you kidding? I'm fine! I -- I actually feel great. The best I've felt in a couple months. Cas? Black goo? I don't even care anymore. And you know what's even better? I don't care that I don't care."
Dean has been hunting largely without a reason for some time now. He's aware that he can't have a normal life. He had tried to live with Lisa and Ben, and it had ended in disaster. Once he had gotten back into hunting with Sam---soulless or otherwise---the door had closed upon Dean's chances of ever leaving it behind.
In many ways, Dean has felt trapped. He hunts because that's all there is left to him, but his head is largely out of the game. He hasn't lived by the credo of "Saving People, Hunting Things, Family Business," for some time. There have been flashes, as he protected Melanie in "The Mentalists," and his reaction to the Leviathan's making it personal by impersonating the brothers in "Slash Fiction," but he has been drifting without a purpose.
This episode shows us this stark reality encapsulated within its dark humor. As humorous as he was stoned, Dean must find his purpose, his reason to hunt, or he will end up killed. As apathetic as he's been, it can also be argued that his behavior has bordered on suicidal. Several times it would seem that his reckless behavior has not been to entirely save someone as much as it has been to end his own life. Sam experienced a similar problem in season 2, when he felt he couldn't save anyone at all. All of these things have triggered alarms in both Bobby and Sam.
Sam expresses to Bobby, after Dean has crashed to shake the sandwich's effects, "Yeah. Yeah, I kind of mean more like, uh... more like ever since my head broke... and we lost Cas. I mean, you ever feel like he's -- he's going through the same motions but he's not the same Dean, you know?"
Dean is not the same Dean he was before those events, no, but these issues have been festering far longer than this. Dean had been thrust into the life of a hunter with no real exit since he was four. He has been wrestling with this issue since as early as season 2's "Croatoan," where he expressed his fatigue to Sam. Now it has blossomed completely and threatens to consume him.
Bobby gives it to him straight, saying, "Come on, now. You tried to hang it up and be a person with Lisa and Ben. And now here you are with a mean old coot and a van full of guns. That ain't person behavior, son. You're a hunter, meaning you're whatever the job you're doing today. Now, you get a case of the Anne Sextons, something's gonna come up behind you and rip your fool head off. Now, you find your reasons to get back in the game. I don't care if it's love or spite or a ten-dollar bet. I've been to enough funerals. I mean it. You die before me, and I'll kill you."
Given what the Leviathan do next, Dean may have his reason forced upon him. While they stake out what the Leviathans are doing, Bobby is abducted and delivered to none other than Dick Roman. Instantly, both brothers jump into action, suicidal or not, and storm the warehouse armed with heavy duty cleaner. They spray the borax chemicals on the Leviathans inside, making their way towards where they've held Bobby.
When the Leviathans burned down Bobby's house in "Hello, Cruel World," Dean was ready to commit suicide right then and there if Bobby hadn't been alright. The Winchesters do not have many things---or allies left to them. Bobby is the only one really left. It is apparent that Dean is drifting without a purpose, but he's largely had one underneath his nose all along. It is that of family---Dean's reason for existence since the very beginning more or less.
Bobby, in the meantime, steals some information off of Dick Roman's desk and flees the office with one of the guns Roman had bragged about. Just as the boys manage to escape the building, and Bobby gets into the van, trying to slam the door closed, Dick Roman catches up and fires his weapon at them. It looks like they have managed to get away from the Leviathans largely unscathed.
It isn't until Sam holds up the blue ball cap Bobby had been wearing and sees the bullet sized hole that it becomes apparent that maybe they hadn't gotten away cleanly. The Winchesters, (and the audience!) are left to wonder what will happen next and if another heart breaking goodbye is once again in order.
Guy Bee directed a stunner of an episode written by Ben Edlund. The use of lighting in this episode either enhanced or contrasted nicely with the story. The hide out they were using to dissect the zombies was dark, creepy, and fit the gravity of their situation perfectly. It also masked enough of the zombie to provide the viewer with as much imagination as they could use to fill in the gaps. We had our share of gruesome and grotesque with the camper's death and later Ranger Phil's remains, but it was nice to see it scaled back here for the zombie.
Showing the guys living situation, not simply through Dean's complaints, but the poor lighting, highlights how bad it has gotten for them to be on the run. Bee presented this fact subtlety and brilliantly here. As they are unable to make moves that put them on the grid, the Winchesters have to make do with what they can find more than ever before. They've squatted in abandoned houses in the past, but this one was more decrepit than before. The paint was gone or peeling, the wiring was exposed and bad, the wood looked rotten, and the brief flash with the lights on exposes the truth about their squalor living conditions.
If anything, the Winchesters must get the upper hand on the Leviathans or have an even lower quality of life expectation!
In contrast, Biggerson's was bright and bold in color to contrast the dark conversations taking place with in it. Splashes of yellows and reds and having it brightly lit brought what was happening out from the darkness in many ways. It was a nice touch to see Bee include the green rubber ducky as a shout out to the fans and Duck Nation. As alarm bells rose for both Bobby and Sam about Dean, the diner seemed that much more colorful and cheery. Everyone that had fallen under the Turducken spell, as the camera spanned around showed the extreme contrasts of the situation to its location.
A lot of heart and emotion tugged in this episode, as Dean was confronted repeatedly about his struggles to find his reasons for hunting, why he should care about the world, and how to go about it. Both Edlund and Bee blended their talents together here brilliantly to give us the viewer the best of both the script and what the actors could provide. The last twenty minutes"”right to the fade to black with Sam and Dean desperately pleading for Bobby---was gripping and left my heart racing.
James Patrick Stuart is becoming an outstanding edition as the evil Dick Roman. He pulls off the sleek business man hiding the vicious monster inside extremely well. Roman seems darker and evil because of his cultured behavior in front of the cameras, the way in which he goes about his plans with business man style, and his slickness. It is because of his slickness that we know not to trust Roman, and Stuart rips that mask off of Roman effortlessly when he confronts Bobby. He retains his polite and business man style while taunting him, but he takes on a particular sinister edge that sends shivers. It is hard to say exactly what Roman's goals entirely are at this stage, and Stuart keeps us watching his portrayal of the villain to figure it out. On one hand, it might seem he would like to finish what Lucifer had intended to start with Croatoan, but on others it looks like he'd like to farm humans"”or perhaps he has an even more sinister plan yet waiting to be revealed. His ease with which he recovered from the chemical attacks and his nonchalance made him frightening. It would seem that the power and influence of the human he's taken over has also fed into his ambition. Hearing his line in the video footage about how a "shark has to eat," really stuck with me as being both a dig at Wall Street/capitalism and a meta nod to the Leviathan's natures.
As it seems the Winchesters lose things through this season, the Leviathans are losing members, too. First Chet and now Dr. Gaines. Cameron Bancroft reprises Dr. Gaines here, trying to save his own neck from Dick Roman's "bibbing." It's a shame to see him go, even if he is one of the bad guys. Bancroft gave us such a cocky and detestable doctor. Considering how successful, despite the few that went rogue, his formula had actually been, who knows what other evil thing he could have cooked up for humans given the chance. If anything, there is a definite way to kill a Leviathan, as strange and gruesome as that method is, we know now that you can make them eat themselves. Having heard other conversations, we know they're a cannibalistic species, too.
Seeing Benito Martinez reprise Edgar was a nice way to give us the clue that the Leviathans were behind this latest mess. Edgar seemed to know they were there when he hesitates at the door going in to meet up with Dr. Gaines before Roman arrives. He seemed to not be fazed by Dr. Gaines's bibbing, either. Edgar seems to be the last original Leviathan that we met left standing. It'll be interesting to see what Edgar does next and if he should, too, run afoul of their boss.
Olivia Cheng gave us a creepy Susan, assistant to Dick Roman. She seemed determined to stop Bobby from reaching the boys, and while slowed down by the head wound, in retrospect her wound could almost be seen as foreshadowing what happened to Bobby! She seemed confident, smug, and assured in her position, which makes me wonder how long she'll actually be around considering. Or will she stick close to the Leviathan boss and stay alive far longer than some of those we've seen already gone.
Jim Beaver gave us one of his most powerful performances on the series. Ever the teacher and father to the boys, he gives them the support and advice they need, rather they want it or not. Bobby is the one character that has been through everything with the boys from their childhood to now. Bobby's speech to Dean in the van moved me to tears, even before the heart stopping episode end. His gruff deliverance of the line "If you die before I do, I'll kill you," tugs on the heart and makes us see just how much Bobby truly treasures his surrogate boys. Similarly, his conversation with Sam showed just how close he is to both brothers. His shock at hearing that Sam thought others had it harder than him was stunning for me, too. Judging by Beaver's expression for Bobby, we know Bobby isn't buying that Sam's fine, either. Beaver showed us Bobby's cunning and courage in the face of Roman's threats. He might have said that the brothers wouldn't do something suicidal like trying to rescue him, but even he knew that it was a lie and in Beaver's subtle body language he tipped Bobby's hand to that. Bobby knows the boys would do something exactly like this. Seeing Bobby hesitate and Beaver give us those hints that something is wrong with his harsh breathing indicates that more is wrong with Bobby than what Dick Roman did at the very end.
Jensen proved once again that he could do comedy, this time instead of playing the straight man, he played the fun house version briefly in this episode. His stoned Dean had the right body language, movement, and expressions. It never went over the top, staying right at the level for it to remain funny and yet push story along. His dopey expressions while high were spot on and a delight. Once the Turducken wore off, Jensen gave us the contrast in Dean's current mental state with his tense frame and hard facial expressions. Despite Dean's despondent and apathetic tone towards the world at large mentality, Jensen showed Dean's true caring nature when Sam and Dean jumped into action to fight the Leviathans back to get Bobby out. The sound of his shout at the very end of the episode after it faded to black was heart breaking.
Jared played off of Jensen exceedingly well. Despite Dean's altered behavior due to the sandwich, it seemed very much like the older episode chemistry between the two. Jared's Sam expressed his disgust upon sniffing the sandwich and dissecting the zombie perfectly. His concern for his brother came through in the way Jared's voice grew softer talking about him with Bobby. He gave us a matter of fact Sam, accepting his fate and acknowledging that others have it worse. Sam, since the start, has always been an extremely stubborn character, and we see it in the way Jared carries himself, how his facial expressions reflect his character's emotions, and in the way he speaks. This episode gave us the chance to see Sam not only care for Dean and talk with Bobby, but to show his concern for Bobby himself, fighting alongside his brother.
Here's hoping that as we enter Winter Hellatus after this next episode we're not worrying as much about Bobby as we are now!