First of all, as returning episode goes, I think this one is better than last season's equivalent "Family Remains" (my tiny gripe ranted here). In fact, with subsequent viewings, I liked it even better.
I'm embarrassed to admit that at first, I missed an important twist where Dr. Erica Cartwright turned out entirely imaginary. Don't get me wrong, I -knew- she said: "I'm not real." And I -did- get that she wasn't there in the hallway when she laid into Dean how everything was his fault because he wasn't good enough. What I -didn't- get however, was she was never there to begin with.
Besides the blunt admission, there was actually another subtler clue earlier -- when Dean and "she" stood there talking under the security mirror, Dr. Fuller walked by. As he sailed pass Dean, the good doctor merely acknowledged "Eddie" (Dean's alias). Now if Dr. Cartwright was really standing next to Dean, there's no way Dr. Fuller would completely ignore his own colleague as if she wasn't even there. This scene was what finally clued me in later.
With this realization, Dr. Cartwright's seemingly standoffish unprofessional demeanor took on a new light. Of course she seemed off as a psychiatrist, she was only a manifestation of Dean's inner self! All of a sudden, I'm not so miffed at her when she disparagingly called Dean a "paranoid schizophrenic with a narcissistic personality disorder and religious psychoses". Instead, my heart ached a little seeing that's how Dean sees himself deep down, readily agreeing with all the negative opinions from outsiders' superficial views.
But that's nothing new. The show has had on numerous occasions called on Dean's self-worth issue. What's interesting to me was the "religious psychoses" comment at the end here. We knew unlike Sam, Dean's faith in God was questionable in the past. But has that changed since Dean and Sam each became Michael and Lucifer's potential meat suit? Here, this diagnosis from the head!Doctor suggests the doubt is still there, despite the fact they are knee deep in the middle of the Apocalypse. In other words, I think Dean doesn't see what's happening around them in the biblical sense. Deep down, he knows Angels are not much better than the Demons, and the fight between them are not as simple as good vs. evil. Since he's scoffing at the whole religious aspect, I can see why Dean has been so unwilling to say yes to Michael, the archangel who supposedly is the ultimate agent of God in banishing the Evil.
Dean's conversations with Dr. Cartwright are of particular interest to me because they are essentially conversations Dean had with himself. From the rapid back-and-forth Q and A in the beginning, the show canonically acknowledged that deep down, Dean was aware he was sleeping too little (3 or 4 hrs every couple of nights) and drinking too much (7 to 8 drinks per day). To me, this is a nice bit of continuity follow through where Dean's post Hell PTSD is alluded to once again.
Dean's other known issues also surfaced during his encounter with the head!Shrink: to start with, it didn't take long at all for "Dr. Cartwright" to bring up Daddy. Then there were the questions of why and how was Dean shouldering the overwhelming responsibility of saving everyone. Dean's turmoil finally came to a head when he was outright blamed (by himself) for Jo and Ellen's death, his failure to end Lucifer with the Colt, and his inability to stop Sam in time from breaking the last seal... These issues Dean had worked hard to bury, and we have only seen glimpses of each now and then. But here, they all came out at once. And what a disaster that had been since that was the time Dean started losing grip with sanity, began to question himself constantly. Fortunately he had Martin there to remind him to stay focused. Nevertheless, we saw Dean's ability was compromised. It was only through Martin's assistance, add in sheer luck and Wraith's own weakness that Dean was able to kill the monster.
I'm not saying it's healthy to shove aside one's emotions. But there's something to be said about keeping a stiff upper lip, and that's precisely how Dean operates. Hence the advice he gave Sam at the end. Some may argue that's a terrible advice, but I think that's exactly the type of things he should say to Sam.
Sam does have a propensity to over think, and I don't mean it as a bad thing -- I have a soft spot for over-thinkers (i.e. my devotion to one Lee Adama). But when there's no timeout allowed on a battlefield, there comes to a point when one just has to suck it all up and march forward.
On the other hand, I'm really proud of Sam for acknowledging his shortcomings here, in this case, his anger issue. I've seen several people commented this seemingly came out of nowhere. But I think it has been hinted from the beginning. Back in Season One's "Asylum", we already got a taste of Sam's deeply seated anger which Dr. Ellicott's ghost effectively exploited. By the time we got to Season Four's "On the Head of a Pin", Sam specifically told Dean he should get angry instead of mourning Pamela's death. By then, it was obvious Sam had used anger to fuel him; and in the previous episode "Abandon All Hopes", Lucifer directly encouraged Sam to keep the fire burning because such emotion ties in with the choice he's destined to make later on. This makes sense because I think anger can be a by-product of pride. And we all know pride is commonly known as the reason for Lucifer's down fall.
Like Dean, when Sam's issue came to surface, he was all but rendered ineffective. In Sam's case, it was even more so since he was tied down completely without any recourse to save himself let alone aid his brother. This seems to suggest that as many issues as Dean has, Sam's was more debilitating, more severe. But unlike Dean, Sam is the one more willing to confront and deal with his issue head on. This gives me great hope that Sam would persevere in the end in his resistance against Lucifer.
Besides these overall impressions, I've also enjoyed this episode in moments. Here are several of my favorites:
Funniest Moment: This goes hands down to Dean's "PUDDING!" scene. That was so unexpected, yet natural, my jaw hit the floor at the same time as my bottom -- Yes, I laughed so hard I actually fell off my couch. By the way, I learned (thanks to my know-it-all friend who watched the episode with me) the scene is a reference to the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Nest".
Best Brotherly Moment: I lost count the many times I rewound and watched Sam's "Boop!" on Dean's nose. At here, I should declare that I have a thing for protective!Sam. This scene pushed that button of mine in all the right way. Why? Because one just don't pinch another's nose like that unless s/he finds that person adorable and should be cherished (for what it's worth, I've done the exact same thing to my son many times). Dean's reaction to Sam's out-of-character gesture was sublime too. From the screencaps I made (see below) one can see the headshots of [Jensen's] face were almost identical between when he objected Sam calling him crazy and after Sam pinched his nose. But whereas in one scene his gaze was sharp, in the latter it softened significantly, as if he can sense the truth behind Sam's words: "You are my brother, and I still love you."
Amazing Acting Moment: I really dig the scene of Dean in Martin's room where Dean figured out "Crazy is the clue." Dean here was so unlike his usual cocky and confident self. At one hand I could see his brain is firing at 100 mph, at the same time, I could also see he was really loosing his shit. The actor Jon Gries, who played Martin was fantastic as well.
Eye Candy Moment: Turns out I have a thing for the boys in white v-neck t-shirts and loose fitting hospital pajama bottoms. How strange. \o/
Well, I think I've said enough here. Good thing I don't have much to say about the episode that follows this -- I'd rather pretend that one never happened. ;-)
Here are the screencaps I made:
Hint: Click the images for larger pictures. The whole set of 1280 x 720px logo-free Dean-centric screencaps can be downloaded here.
Dean: "Don't worry Sammy, you'll be fine..."
Okie dokie sugar... Wait, what did you just say about nurse Ratched? I was too busy staring at your face.
Dean: "That nasty Silkwood shower..."
Dean: "Don't head shrink me!"
Dean: "Sam and I are codependent?"
Dean: "Bye, Sammy..."
Dean: "I win!"
Paranoid schizophrenic with a narcissistic personality disorder and religious psychoses.
Dean: "Quid pro quo, Clarice."
Dean: "I sleep 3 and 4 hours. Every couple of days."
Dean: "I just got theraped!"
Gratuitous white tees #1
Gratuitous white tees #2 + the look
Gratuitous white tee #3 *whistle*
Double the (viewing) pleasure? ~ my show loves me ~
From sex-on-legs to simpleton -- in a blink of an eye!
Hunters at work...
Dean: "That Wraith is a fugly sonavobitch."
Dean: "It's my job (to save everyone)."
Dean: "I'm not crazy."
Sam: "Hey, hey! Look at me. You are my brother and I love you!"
Sam: "Boop!" (Gotta pinch that cute nose)
Sam: "Haha!" (Sam is very pleased with himself)
Dean: "Sammy..." (melts under that gaze)
Dean: "I'm going crazy..."
Sam's head!Dean is pretty
Dean: "What's happening?"
Dean: "Can't step on the cracks"
Dean: "Gotta stop the Wraith and save Sammy!"
Dean: "Are you with me, Sam?" (Good! Carry on...)