1×15 “The Benders”

Aaaah, The Benders. Because every good horror show needs a Texas Chainsaw Massacre episode. I have to admit, this is one of the episodes that absolutely creeps me out the most, and has some of the most… *weird* imagery ever. And some of the best Dean-whumping and Sam-whumping ever.

… so I’m a fan of the whumping. Sue me.

We have a surprisingly fast teaser, which unlike most of the other episodes to this point, does not really show us what’s going on–granted, after you watch the episode, then go back and watch the teaser? The answer’s right there in the middle of your screen, but you don’t *notice* it unless you’re looking for it.

The episode proper starts with State Police officers Sam and Dean talking to the young boy who witnessed the “abduction.” …Can I be shallow for a moment and point out that both Sam and Dean look amazingly handsome in the officer uniforms and I firmly believe they should try that disguise more often.

ANYWAY.

Okay. Here we have a little demonstration of something that I pointed out in Nightmare–Dean knows this kid for all of five seconds and he’s already bonding with him over Godzilla Vs. Mothra. The kid plays no further part in the episode; Dean’s just helping make the kid comfortable enough to talk to them and tell them what he saw, but the rapport there is something really amazing. It’s another amusing little factoid, though, that Dean is an original Godzilla fan, and Sammy’s a remake fan. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere.

Later, we find Sam and Dean discussing the case over a couple of beers at the local bar, trying to decipher the kid’s story, the newspaper accounts, and decide if it’s their type of gig or not. Dean’s almost convinced that it isn’t, until Sam points out that their father had marked this place in his journal as the possible hunting grounds of a phantom attacker. Dean then agrees they need to talk to more people tomorrow, feel the situation out.

At Dean’s agreement, Sam’s ready to pack up and go back to the motel they saw “five miles back” but Dean’s ready to have another round and stay out a while longer. Sam prevails, and Dean promises to meet Sam outside after a trip to the men’s room. (See, Dean? This is where you and Sam should institute the Buddy System. It works for us girls! We go to the bathroom in groups and we *never* lose a member of our party. I’M JUST SAYIN’.)

Sam carries around a pocket flashlight. Am I the only one who finds that hilarious?

Okay. I don’t know about you people, but I know the rules. You know, The Rules. And one of the rules is, if it’s just a cat, run for your life. Apparently, Sammy’s never read The Rules.

Dean comes out of the bar, ready to meet up with his brother at the car, only Sammy is nowhere to be found. Only their father’s journal, and the papers they were looking at before, which Sam had stuck on the back of the car as he checked out the cat–the very same cat that was sitting on the back of another car grooming itself.

This is actually one of the few times I actually notice the music–the composed music, not the mullet-rock soundtrack–and it works amazingly well with the situation. It’s frantic, and it’s building, and it’s pitched *just right.* It’s not too bright or too high-pitched to be womanly, but it’s not base enough to be macho. It’s pitched at the perfect range to be Dean-ish, and it perfectly underscores how desperate Dean is to find his brother in that parking lot.

And it’s a very striking image, seeing Dean alone, after you’ve seen him with Sam for so long. I mean, they’re not exactly joined at the hip, but still. Seeing Dean stand in the middle of the empty, dark, cold road calling out his brother’s name? It’s really striking. I can’t think of another word to describe it, other than *wrong.* Dean should always have Sammy nearby.

Bright and early the next morning, Dean is at the Hibbing County Sheriff’s Department, posing–again–as a state police officer, Officer Washington, (which makes me wonder what name Sam had. Adams?) reporting his “cousin” Sam missing.

Because I’m swell like that, I’m gonna link to a couple screencaps containing pertinent information. One screencap is Sam’s birthdate, height, and weight. The second is Dean’s birthdate (and death date, thanks to the shape-shifter in Skin), height, and weight. I find it slightly hysterical that Sam and Dean are listed at the same height, when Jensen Ackles is obviously three to four inches shorter than Jared Padalecki.

Back to the episode, I like the officer dealing with Dean. And I like the way Dean deals with the officer. For once, he doesn’t try to charm his way into her pants or anything like that; he’s serious and up front with her; Sam’s missing, he’s family, and he’d do anything to get him back. I think this comes into play later, the fact that he’s as honest with her as he is, and we as the audience know how important this is to him because there’s never been a woman that Dean’s failed to hit on–until now. Sam comes before anything else, even his downstairs brain.

Finding Sam in a cage upsets me. I know it’s all just television and make-believe and all that, but Supernatural is one of those shows that can make me suspend my disbelief. I invest myself in Sam and Dean every week because I care about them, and I don’t like my Sammy being caged up like an animal, though as we find out during the course of the episode, that’s exactly what they’re wanting you to realize is happening.

Dean sitting helplessly on the park bench waiting for Kathleen–that’s the lady cop–to come out with the photos from the traffic camera is another one of those images I hate, but can’t really take my eyes off of. He looks… alone. And I reiterate, Dean should never look alone. If Nightmare was Jared Padalecki’s turn to make Sam shine and give us insight about Sam, then The Benders is Jensen Ackles’ turn to make Dean shine.

The editors that cut this episode together are genius; the cuts between Dean and Sam are done perfectly, with perfect timing. Each revelation one brother has is perfectly timed to fishtail into a scene change, and works very well to actually build the tension the storyline requires.

Sam’s desperation to get out of the cage makes me realize that if it were Dean who’d been caught, it’d been a hundred times worse. Because Sam… Sam’s not meant to be caged up, but it would drive Dean insane, I think. Because for all of his things about following orders from their father, he’s been incredibly determined to do things his own way. Caging Dean would be like putting a leash on a tiger; good luck with that.

His realization that his captors are just people is as surprising to the audience as it is to Sam himself; we’ve come to expect demons, ghosts, shapeshifters, telekinetics, poltergeists, and evil spirits. Not… people. As soon as he figures out they’re just people, Sam starts working on an escape plan, finding out how often they feed his companion–the Jenkins man from the teaser–and looking for a way out of the cage.

Meanwhile, Dean and his police officer friend are still searching for Sam. They’re riding together in the squad car, until a dispatch comes over the police computer; the badge number for Greg Washington was reported stolen, and the picture that went along with the stolen badge is an older, built-like-a-brick-wall black man. The gig is up; Kathleen knows Dean is a phony.

But here’s where I think Dean’s honesty saves his ass; he flatly tells the officer that if she wants to arrest him, he won’t fight her, so long as she helps him find Sam first. When she protests, Dean tells her when they were young, he pulled Sam from a fire, and from then on, it’s been his job to protect Sam and take care of him. And he admits to being scared–something he’d never do to anyone else, but he’s scared that he’s going to lose Sam forever if they don’t find him fast.

That’s a side of Dean Winchester we’ve never really seen before, but you can’t be surprised by it. That he’s vocal about it is what’s surprising to me, but in a way, he has to be. This police officer is the only one who can help him find Sam in time to save him, and probably will never see Dean again; it’s okay to open up to a stranger.

One of the moments that actually amuses me in this episode comes when Sam is trying to pull down one of the metal cables to get his cage to open. Jenkins–the man in the other cage–asks what Sam’s name is, and Sam tells him. And then Jenkins calls him Sammy. Which enrages Sam to the point that he’s able to pull the cable down. Nobody but Dean gets to call him Sammy!

As soon as the cable comes down, the other man’s cage opens, and despite Sam’s warnings, Jenkins runs out, promising to send help back for Sam. It’s only when we follow the “escape” that we realize that Sam’s warning is right, and we find out exactly why he and the other man have been captured; they’re game.

Two rejects from the inbred hall of fame track Jenkins through the woods on their property, and they end up capturing and we find out later, killing him. Sam hears the gunshot back in his cage, and pounds helplessly on the side, rattling the bars angrily. It’s another one of those images; the Benders is full of those.

The next morning, Dean and Kathleen are feeding their caffeine addictions before going back out to search in broad daylight. Dean asks why she’s helping him; Kathleen tells him that her brother Riley disappeared three years ago, saying that he was a lot like Sam–which leads me to believe that Dean spent the night telling Kathleen all about his brother–and that she knows what it feels like to feel responsible for someone and never have them come back.

As much as I’ve brought it up and pointed it out, I never quite realized until now how much Dean empathizes with people, and what a benefit–and detriment–that can be. It goes as far back as Wendigo and as far forward as Something Wicked, but Dean has a knack for finding ways to relate to people. In a way, he’s almost better at it than Sam, because Sam does it through personality; he ingratiates himself with people, and Dean does it unobtrusively, with real feelings and relating to situations.

When they find the turn-off onto private property that the truck took, Dean is out of the car and heading down the muddy trail before the officer can stop him. She tells him to wait by the car, but he refuses, pointing out that she’s going to need backup. She tries to argue, then finally makes him promise to follow her lead, and to shake on it. When he does, she handcuffs him, and then cuffs him to the squad car’s driver’s side door handle. Dean’s reaction? “I gotta start carryin’ paper clips.”

Kathleen goes to investigate and finds a run-down house straight out of the backwoods. Her knock on the door brings a young girl–teenaged, but I can’t be sure–to the door, named Missy. Missy is apparently the only woman of the house, cause her mother is dead, and all she’s got left is Dad and two brothers, who also look like inbred rejects. Seriously. You could wade across this gene pool and not get your feet wet, because obviously this family tree does not fork.

Kathleen shows the girl a picture of Sam, asking if she’s seen him, and gets a shovel to the head for her trouble courtesy of Inbred Daddy. Dad sends her to fetch her brothers, and Kathleen gets taken to the cages.

Meanwhile, Dean is trying to extricate himself from the handcuffs with little luck until he notices a small antenna on the back of the car. This brings some very nice eye candy and some very nice grunts and body contortions, but he finally gets the antenna, and picks the handcuffs to free himself. (This shallow moment was brought to you by Kel’s Amazingly Huge Crush On Jensen Ackles.)

And none too soon, because just as he’s reaching for the antenna, the Inbred Brothers are on their way to the end of the road, looking for the police car and moving it before they raise any suspicions as to why a cop car is parked there on the side of the road. Barely freeing himself in time, Dean hides, and makes his way back to the farmhouse alone.

When Kathleen comes to, she finds herself in the cage across from Sam Winchester. She verifies his identity, and then tells him that his “cousin” is looking for him. When Sam asks where he is, she admits she left him cuffed to her car, and Sam’s noticeably but understandably disgusted.

Before they can say anything else, however, the door to the barn where they’re being kept open and a pair of black-booted feet in blue jeans–wait, that’s Dean!

The reunion is brief, but heartfelt. Dean sees Sam in the cage, and the first thing he wants to know is if Sam’s hurt. When he finds out that his brother’s okay, there’s obvious relief flooding him as he slams the side of the cage. Damn good to see you, he says, and you can tell it is; even Sam is smiling broadly because he’s glad to see Dean.

This is what Supernatural is made of, and that’s the Winchester brothers. The show picks up from here, because they’re *back together* even if they are separated by the cage, but it’s okay. Because all is now right with the world. It’s so right, they’re back to their old banter. Dean wants to know if Sam’s seen them, and Sam tells him “Dude… they’re just people.” Dean answers back with, “And they jumped you? Must be gettin’ rusty there, kiddo.”

Oh, you have no idea what a relief it is *to the viewer* to hear that banter again. You don’t realize how much it was missing until that very second.

Sam points out the locking mechanism from his cage, but when Dean tries to open them, he realizes there’s a key that he has to have, and he leaves Sam and Kathleen to go look for it. He makes his way into the house, which has been decorated by Dead Animal Bones Incorporated, only they’re not exactly animal bones; they’re human bones.

The first place he looks is the basement, where he finds pickled body parts, preserved… things, glasses hanging on the chicken wire fence, and Polaroids of every “kill” they’ve made, pre-butchering. The newest picture they have? Jenkins.

When the basement doesn’t yield anything, he heads into the main house to search. The decor of the main house looks like Condemned Building Meets Leatherface, and the father is busy in the kitchen, butchering an unseen meat. Personally? I’ve always thought it’s what’s left of Jenkins he’s butchering, but nobody ever confirms that.

Dean arms himself with a pike, but before he can go on the attack, he sees the tin full of keys on the table, and gets distracted by the large jar of human teeth. When he turns around, he finds himself confronted by the girl, Missy. He tries to calm her down, tell her that he’s not going to hurt her, but she stabs at him with her knife, pinning him to the wall as she screams for her father.

Instead of the father, both of her brothers come, and we get to see Dean kick some serious inbred ass as he manages to hold his own in a two-on-one, until the father whacks him over the head with either a shovel or a frying pan and ends the fight.

Dean comes to tied to a chair and listening to the brothers talk about hunting him. He realizes that’s what’s happening; “Is that what you yahoos do? You hunt people?” and yet, he can’t resist being a smartass about it. Even when he’s burned by a hot poker to the shoulder, he’s irreverent until they threaten to gouge out an eye and make him choose which one of the caged people is going to be hunted, the boy or the girl.

Thinking they’ll do what they usually do and give their prey a fighting chance, Dean chooses Sam, and nearly kicks himself to death trying to get away when the Dad orders him shot in the cage, and the woman after. Dean is panicking when he hears that, realizing he’s probably just killed his brother.

When they open the cages, Sam is ready. Using the bracket he got from pulling down the metal cable, he is able to beat the crap out of Inbred Brother #1, but the gun goes off twice.

Back in the house, Dean is screaming as he’s tied to the chair that if they’ve hurt his brother, he’s going to kill them all. …Y’all, this is why I hate this episode, I think. It’s good, as far as it goes, but it just… there’s some seriously heartbreaking imagery involved, too. This is one of ’em. Not that I ever really *forget* that it’s just an actor, but… if I wanted to? I could. Because Jensen and Jared are *just that good.*

Inbred Dad leaves Missy (as in Missing A Few Necessary Gene Forks) to watch Dean–she keeps him under control by a knife to the eye–while he and Inbred Brother #2 head out to the barn. By the time they get to the barn, Sam and Kathleen are gone, IB#1 is locked in one of the cages, and the fuses to the barn are yanked out, meaning the hunters are now the hunted.

ID follows Sam up into the haymow, and IB#2 stalks Kathleen down in the tractor shed. IB2 gets the drop on Kathleen, but before he can shoot her, Sam bursts in, leading Dad straight into the crossfire of his own son’s gun. IB2 shoots Inbred Dad, Sam pops up and beats the crap out of IB2 and shoves him in the other cage, and he goes to get Dean, leaving Kathleen with the gun and Inbred Dad.

Inbred Dad tries to threaten her from the ground, and she wants to know why did they kill her brother. When Dad answers, “Because it was fun,” Kathleen shoots him–off-screen, of course, because by then we’ve switched to Sam and Dean coming out of the house.

When Kathleen and the boys meet in the yard, we find out that Missy’s been stowed in a closet, and that Dad’s been shot trying to escape. Dean accepts this because he knows the truth, and Sam figures it out pretty quickly, but doesn’t say anything. You can see the fight not to, though, as it dances across his face.

In the end, Kathleen lets the boys go, but not until she and Dean have a Moment. Kathleen is one of the few female characters of the week that I’d like to see more of–Hayley from Wendigo being the other. Dean had great rapports with both women, and I think Jensen Ackles had a great working chemistry with them.

It’s amazing how bright a smile Jared Padalecki has; even from the far-off shot, when he smiles you can see it. Because Dean is grumping at Sam; “Don’t you ever go missing like that again.” And when Sam smiles? It seriously lights up the whole frame. “You were worried about me!”

It wraps with Sam and Dean walking off together, bantering and teasing each other, and the balance is restored. Amazingly happy ending for such a creeptastic episode!

Best Lines:
Dean: Sam? Two beers and he’s doing karaoke.

Dean: If you want to arrest me, that’s fine. I’ll cooperate, I swear. But first… please. Let me find Sam.
Kathleen: I don’t even know who you are. Or if this Sam person is even missing.
Dean: Look into my eyes and tell me if I’m lying about this.
Kathleen: Identity theft. You’re impersonating an officer.
Dean: Here’s the thing. When we were young, I pretty much pulled him from a fire, and ever since then I felt responsible for him. Like it’s my job to keep him safe. I’m just afraid if we don’t find him fast… please. He’s my family.

Kathleen: How’d you get out of those cuffs?
Dean: I know a trick or two.

Dean: I’ll say it again. Demons I get… people are crazy.

Dean: Eat me! No, no… wait. On second thought, you actually might.

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One Response to “1×15 “The Benders””

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