Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.08: Rock and a Hard Place


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Sam and Dean get a case where members of an abstinence group go missing.


Recap: Recap of some weird stuff, like the time the Brothers encountered a group of humanoid “dragons” who were kidnapping young virgins as hosts for Eve (remember her?) in season six. We also get a recap of Sam’s angel-healing and the angel fall mytharc, Crowley’s blood junkie plot, and Jody Mills’ entire storyline up to that point (save for her involvement with Bobby).

Cut to Now in Hartford, SD. A young woman is coming out of a diner. It’s night. She leaves some food for a sleeping drunk, but as she starts walking home, she’s stalked by something unseen. No matter how she tries, she can’t shake it. She tries hiding under a car after she drops her keys (with a mini-TASER), but the thing chasing her is large and strong enough to pick up the car. It blazes out blue fire that encompasses her. Afterward, we see it drop her through a manhole in a cellar.

Cue title cards.

Dean comes into the Bunker kitchen to find Sam asleep at the table. Dean, as he eats breakfast, brings Sam up to speed on Kevin (who is translating offscreen) and Crowley (whose human blood addiction makes him vulnerable to the Brothers’ own mind games). This is right after Crowley told them that Metatron’s spell for expelling the angels from Heaven was irreversible and they’re still trying to confirm it.

At this point in time, it’s not entirely clear if Dean is aware of Crowley’s growing obsession with him, but already, Dean is coldbloodedly manipulating him through it. Dean gleefully talks about how they can use Crowley’s addiction against him. Considering the episode recap showed at least one of Crowley’s many, many victims (he nearly killed Jody just to get at the Brothers), it’s hard to feel sorry for him.

Sam is … uh … sleepy and can’t understand why he’s so tired all the time. Dean knows (Ezekiel healing Sam from his Trialberculosis from last season), but he, of course, ain’t talking.

In light of how ugly this gets down the road, I want to point out that Sam will be somewhat disingenuous later on in how he was fooled and lied to. I get some distinct subtext in this scene that Sam could very well see something is up and push the issue, but chooses not to explore it because he is okay with the way things are. I also have to say that as much as Sam tries at certain points in the show to be solicitous of Dean’s needs, he can’t nurture Dean the way Dean nurtures him. And nobody else can, either.

At this point, Dean gets a call from Jody Mills (damn, I’d forgotten she was in this one) because this is an MOTW, not a mytharc episode, and we’ve just worked our way through bringing the mytharc up to speed for the week. Say goodbye to the mytharc for now.

This being season nine, there’s still a bit of formality between Jody and the Brothers. She calls him by his first name, but introduces herself by her full name. He calls her “Sheriff Mills,” but Sam calls her “Jody” when Dean puts her on speakerphone.

Jody tells them about Doomed Teaser Girl and says a guy (probably the homeless guy the girl left dinner for) witnessed someone picking up an SUV to capture DTG. DTG is only one of four recent kidnappings. Behind Jody, as she mentions that usually the worst crime this little town somewhat outside Sioux Falls ever gets is cow-tipping, a tow truck guy tips the SUV back upright on all four wheels. Ha. I see what you did there, Show.

The Brothers agree that it’s strange and come on out. There’s a road trip montage to generic soundtrack rock in broad daylight. The Brothers arrive in FBI suits. Dean gives Jody a hug and mentions her bad date with Crowley. She laughs it off, but Dean then shows some concern that maybe she should wait a bit before getting back into Hunting. She demurs, saying more knowledge is better protection.

Then she gets down to business. The first person to disappear was a pastor. Another two were an engaged couple who were abducted from a locked house. DTG, a waitress, is the fourth. They were all members of Good Faith Church, a local congregation. Jody mentions in passing that her own church (which she joined after Crowley tried to kill her on their date last season) was horrified about it. No one wants to be next, I guess.

Sam speculates out loud to Dean that it could be angels, which surprises Jody. Turns out she wasn’t aware they’d fallen? Really? Didn’t the Brothers put out an APB about that a while back?

Inside the diner, Jody introduces them to the homeless guy from the teaser. He tells them DTG’s name was Honor. He’s shy and deferential. He tells them about the shadowy figure that lifted the SUV and the blue fire. Then, he says, Honor disappeared.

Dean gives him some money and thanks him, then they MOTW-speculate after he leaves. Not an angel, after all. Dean figures they should go undercover by joining the church.

Cut to the Brothers being interviewed by the person in charge, Bonnie. She’s all perky. When Sam expresses some mutual reservations he and Dean have about joining, regarding the disappearances, she reassures them that security has been beefed up, so not to worry.

Dean asks her if she was close to the people who disappeared. She says yes. They were all part of the same chastity group, APU (Abstinence Purifies Us). When Sam asks if they can sit in on it, she says it’s church members only. Dean is horrified when Sam volunteers them for it and the church.

As Bonnie goes to get the paperwork, the Brothers quietly speculate whether virginal members are being kidnapped by dragons (per season six). When she comes back with a Purity Pledge, though, they’re a bit flummoxed. Dean points out that you can only be a virgin once (coughthat’snotwhatyousaidbackinseasonfour’s”MonsterMovie”Deancoughcough). After an uncomfortable pause, she says that you can still pray to God and renew your vows of chastity to become a “born again” virgin until marriage. Well, alrighty-then. The Brothers sign. She then pronounces them “both virgins.”

Down in the tunnel, Honor is using her Taser to light her way around. It turns out she’s in an old nuclear fallout shelter. She hears noises and whips around with the Taser, begging them to stay away from her.

At the group, the Brothers are the only men there. The group has a mix of women, ranging from gorgeous and dressed up to plain and dressed like nuns on holiday. The leader is a beautiful blonde whom Dean can’t seem to stop staring at. Bonnie is also there.

A girl named Tammy stands up to overshare her poem about abstinence, but the leader gently steers her away from it. She suggests that they instead hear from the new members  – Sam and Dean.

Asked first, Sam says he’s looking for a fresh start, since none of his relationships ever turn out well. “He ain’t lyin’!” Dean agrees, with a snort. We know, of course, that Sam means his girlfriends always end up dead, evil, or both.

When asked about “what set you on the path away from sin?” Dean goes into a roundabout explanation of how he just loved sex, especially all the foreplay to orgasm, but he’s all done with that now because it was “too sticky.” In the process, he (inadvertently?) brings all the women in the room to orgasm without even touching them, much to Sam’s disgust. Barbara also shakes her head in disgust.

Afterward, Barbara tells Sam that she’s worried about Honor, who was her “favorite.” As soon as Barbara goes to chastise an overweight member for stealing cookies from the refreshments table, an indignant Tammy insists that Honor is not what Barbara thinks she is. But as Sam eagerly follows this lead, it soon becomes clear that Tammy’s standards for sin are rather low, namely that Honor didn’t bake her own cookies for the bake sale and is therefore going to Hell.

Meanwhile, Dean, who has told Sam he thinks Suzy (the lead counselor) looks familiar, talks to her. She insists they’ve never met, but offers to get him some books on how to stay true to one’s chastity vows from her house. Dean points out (correctly, albeit with ulterior motives) that it’s not safe to be out alone right now for the members, what with some of them disappearing. So, he chaperones her on home. Let’s just say that Suzy doesn’t protest much.

Back at the motel, Sam tells Jody one bit of info he did get from Tammy – Honor and the missing pastor slept together. Jody has some info, too. The betrothed couple got it on, as well, albeit together. Later, the girl was crying about it, while the boy assured her that it didn’t count because it only lasted 30 seconds.

Jody also says the witness (the woman’s mom) later heard a crash and saw a flash of blue light. Sam figures that at least dragons are now out of the picture. Jody is surprised that dragons even “are a thing.”

Later, Jody admits that she started going to church because she felt lost after the past few years, what with losing Bobby, and her husband and son. You could say Crowley was just the last straw.

Sam allows that people need to look for comfort. Jody points out that he and Dean have each other and Sam looks uncomfortable. This is not a point in the show when Sam is willing to admit any real emotional connection to Dean, let alone dependence.

At Suzy’s house, Dean is in full-on seduction mode, not helped when she takes off her jacket, revealing a skimpy wifebeater/camisole underneath. He is, though, nonplussed when she starts to cry out of worry for her friend and asks for him to pray with her (which he does as best he can), and when she piles a bunch of books about chastity into his arms. But it’s when he’s in the middle of finally answering a call from Sam (he’s been dodging them) that Dean spots some old porn tapes in a top drawer that feature Suzy and he realizes how he knows her.

When she comes back out of her office, Dean tries to hide his discovery and doesn’t seem to know what to do with his face. Lines (in Spanish) from her film keep slipping out of his mouth. At first, he seems a bit smarmy, but when Suzy drops the Holy Counselor act and looks ashamed, he reassures her that no one knows who she is in Hartford and she has nothing to be ashamed of. She says the girl she was back then was “horrible.” Dean insists (with absolute sincerity; I mean, look at his life) that he’s seen many horrible things and her films (and body) weren’t one of them. To him, she was one of the “good dreams.”

Suzy is pretty turned on. Validation is a powerful thing and we know that as wolfy as Dean can be, he’s not just feeding her a line. He genuinely appreciates her work and doesn’t see her as a slut for it. She comes on to him and Dean sure doesn’t say no, in Spanish or any other language. They get it on to a mariachi band on the soundtrack. Sadly, it cuts off right after Suzy jumps Dean’s bones.

Down in the monster’s lair, Honor finally locates a lamp and lights it. She finds the pastor she’d slept with and the two fiances. The latter are pretty cranky, saying they’ve been starving to death. Also, the boy, Neil, is a selfish dick. They’re interrupted in their squabbling by the hatch opening and blue fire. Once it’s gone, the hatch has closed and the pastor has disappeared. They hear a scream overhead. He’s being eaten.

At the motel, Sam (correctly) realizes that people are being taken because they are violating their vows of chastity – and that if Dean has been gone an hour, it’s because he’s making time with Suzy. Sure enough, at the apartment, as Dean and Suzy are rather regretfully leaving (Susie admits she really missed sex), they are attacked by blue fire and knocked out. Sam and Jody don’t get there in time to rescue them, but Sam does find Suzy’s porno video and realizes they’ve been kidnapped.

In the cellar, Honor gets some more lamps lit, but the girl fiancee is so thirsty that she scratches the brick walls until her nails are raw and bloody, then licks her fingers (this scene is pretty nasty). They hear the hatch open up again, then find Suzy and Dean. Susie wakes up, then shakes Dean awake. Dean climbs up into the hatch and questions everyone while trying to get it open. Neil is singularly doom and gloom. Dean looks exasperated.

The MOTW took Dean’s phone, but he has another one and is able to make a brief call to Sam. Suzy suggests to Dean, ashamed again, that maybe they’re getting what they deserve from God. Dean reassures her that whoever or whatever is doing this, it’s not God.

Neil tries to suggest that they give up Honor (who has a sprained ankle) next time the monster comes to buy them time. Dean slams him against a wall and suggests they give up Neil instead. This shuts Neil up and wins an impressed smile from Honor. Later, Honor and Susie share a rueful moment over being only human, and Honor helps Dean with his attempts to open the hatch by supplying some scissors as a makeshift screwdriver.

Back at the motel, Jody finds their MOTW: Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth. She was always wreathed in blue fire and she killed those who broke their vows of chastity. The historical Vestal Virgins (who were buried alive if they broke their vows) get mentioned. Oak stained with virgin’s blood will kill her.

Jody and Sam visit Tammy, who goes on a big rant about “devil worship” while refusing to help. Impatient, Jody punches her in the face, giving her a bloody nose, and then gets the blood with a handkerchief. When Tammy threatens to “call the cops,” Jody retorts, “I am the cops, lady!”

After Dean’s call, Sam tells Jody he heard a train whistle on Dean’s end. They locate an abandoned farm outside Hartford. Inside the barn, they look around, very quietly. Not quietly enough, though. Right after he finds the hatch to the fallout shelter and calls down to Dean, Sam gets caught by the MOTW and tossed across the barn. He’s knocked out.  Jody gets caught by the MOTW, but not knocked out. Vesta turns out to be Barbara.

Jody smart-mouths Vesta/Barbara and gets punched a lot, then strapped down to Vesta’s makeshift altar. Seems Vesta has come down in the world since “that hippy from Bethlehem” spoiled her game. She likes livers and normally “weaker” ones than Jody’s. When Jody tries to stab her with the oak weapon, Vesta takes it away from her. But just as she’s about to stab Jody, Sam wakes up and attacks her from behind. Jody still gets stabbed in the shoulder, but not fatally.

Vesta attacks Sam, but realizes that his liver is “no good.” She wonders out loud how he is even still alive (this sure is news to Sam). Her distraction proves fatal when Jody stabs her from behind.

Meanwhile, Dean has been breaking his way out of the cellar and manages this just as Sam and Jody finish with the MOTW.

Later, back at the motel, Jody is in a sling (they sure beat her up a lot). Hugs all round and then she leaves. Afterward, Sam wants to know what Vesta meant about there being “something wrong with me.” Sam worries that he will never be “all right,” despite Dean’s attempts to reassure him.

Dean finally starts to cave and confess to Sam, but Ezekiel comes out and warns Dean not to tell Sam and risk Sam rejecting the angel. Though Ezekiel casts it as a friendly warning, it comes off as sinister. Dean is forced to lie to Sam when he comes back and tell him vaguely that everything will be fine, somehow. Sam doesn’t really believe him and leaves, looking suspicious. Alone in the room, Dean looks conflicted.

Credits

Review: This one caused a brief kerfuffle when it first came out. There was a rather large “debate” about the seduction scene between Dean and Suzy, and whether or not Dean “sorta raped” Suzy by “ignoring” her boundaries. Other than that, I don’t recall it being terribly memorable.

Rewatching it, I found it a mildly intriguing MOTW with some icky subtext, paper-thin characters, and rushed pacing – all par for the course with a Jenny Klein script. This is the same writer who gave us Meg’s clitorectomy scene in “Caged Heat” back in season six. She’ll give us “#Thinman” later in season nine, then three more in seasons ten and eleven before mercifully going on to other shows. It’s unfortunate, because the episode does have several female guest stars. It just doesn’t do very much with them.

Regarding the infamous seduction scene, I agree with those who say it’s set up more like a parody of a porno (specifically, the show’s Casa Erotica porn series) than anything realistic. We even get bad Spanish, terrible Mexican stereotypes, and mariachi music on the soundtrack. But that’s where I get off the noncon bus (though I sure wondered about Neil and his girlfriend; didn’t sound as though her first time was much fun).

What little we get in the writing (especially the scene between Suzy and Honor) indicates that Suzy is actually pretty conflicted about her new life and new pledge. Granted, the episode itself is so busy sending up the Abstinence Movement, with its mean-spirited message and attendant stereotypes, that Klein does little to fill out the female characters and their motivations. But Suzy does have some. And they appear to be that she actually still quite likes sex. She just doesn’t like being shamed over it. So, when Dean finds out her past and reassures her that she’s an “artist” not a slut, she’s quite happy to jump his bones and has no real regrets immediately afterward.

If anything, I’m a bit bothered by how having so much of her story be from Dean’s POV (male gaze) obscures what a lousy abstinence counselor she is. By no means do I think that anyone deserves to be sexually assaulted for what they wear or how they act (nor do I think Dean would have done so, anyway). But from Suzy’s POV, she’s basically doing the sex equivalent of waving a bottle of liquor under a newly dry alcoholic’s nose. Taking off clothes, walking around in a skimpy camisole, leaving her porn tapes out in the open? How’s she supposed to think that Dean, who’s just confessed to still being really attached to sex, isn’t going to go out and have a one-night stand or at least masturbate after all that?

Even though we know that Dean is just going undercover, and has no intention of honoring his “pledge,” Suzy doesn’t know that. And having her act like that on top of Dean’s speech at the group meeting (in which he unconsciously makes it pretty clear he’s a great lay) is suspicious, to say the least. If she’s not seducing him, then having (very brief) second thoughts when he finds the DVDs, just what in the hell is she doing?

I’m guessing that once the Brothers gave the surviving group The Talk about monsters, Suzy instituted a certain loosening of restrictions in the Church. Most of the reason they were following them was fear of God’s wrath and shame about sex.

But that’s a big part of the problem with this episode. We get more resolution about Jody’s new war wound (boy, this show loves to beat her up) than we do about the group of civilians she and the Brothers just rescued. I would also have liked to have found out more about Honor. She was quite scrappy, despite her sprained ankle, and left behind a sympathetic witness due to her generosity. That may have saved her life. But nope. The show couldn’t be bothered to wrap any of that up.

Jody’s in a weird spot in this episode. It’s still fairly early on in her relationship with the Brothers. They’re friends now, but at the same time, still a bit formal with each other. There’s probably more they could have done with her relationship with Sam in this one, besides her having turned out a bit religious after her near-death experience thanks to Crowley. Alas, Sam falls down the angel possession mytharc hole in this one and it’s never even properly explained why he feels so exhausted.

One odd note – aside from the Chinese god in season five’s “Hammer of the Gods,” whom Dean kills, all of the pagan gods have been killed by Sam or a guest/recurring character. This week, Jody got the kill.

Finally, the MOTW had potential, but she didn’t fit well into the American Gods-inspired straitjacket the show has for pagan gods. Lindy Booth (of Warehouse 13 and The Librarians fame) does her best to give Vesta some bite, but mostly, the goddess is a dud. The research on her actual mythological background is okay as far as it goes, but the show fails to do anything creative with it and the discovery of what kills her is tacked on at the very end of a rushed expositional scene.

Especially confusing was what kind of humans Vesta actually preferred to eat. She talks about eating virgins back in the day, but Vestal Virgins only got buried alive if they broke their vows and the people she targets in the episode also broke vows of purity. Yet, she’s focused on virgins. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Fun Lines:

Bonnie [when Sam signs him and Dean up to join her church]: Well, I’ll be a squirrel in a skirt!

The Group: Stay strong. Stay pure.

Suzy: And you, Dean? What set you on the path away from sin?

Dean: Uh, hard to say, exactly. Yeah. Sex has always felt – I don’t know – good, you know? I mean, really, really good. Uh, but, uh … sometimes, it just makes you feel bad, you know? You’re drunk. You shack up. Then, it’s the whole morning thing. You know, “Hey, that was fun.” And then, “Adios,” you know? Always the “Adios.” But, you know, when you get down to it, what’s the big deal, right? I mean, sure, there’s the touching and the feeling all of each other, my hands everywhere, tracing every inch of her body, the two of us moving together, pressing and pulling … grinding. Then you hit that sweet spot, and everything just builds and builds and builds until it all just … [splooge noise from Dean. Sam gives him a dirty look]. Yeah. Uh … but the whole thing was just a little too, uh … sticky. So, uh, I got my “V” card back! The end.

Suzy: What am I supposed to say, “Oh, hey! I used to be a porn star! Let’s pray”?


The Kripke Years

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Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

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The Dabb Years

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6 thoughts on “Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.08: Rock and a Hard Place”

  1. Well, Sam and Dean ‘went’ there to investigate the chastity group so ‘that’ is why the episode focused on the chastity group. If it was somebody killing people who used the church soup kitchen the episode would’ve focused on ‘that.’

    Honor was a truly good person. I like that she treated the drunk homeless guy with respect while she gave him food.

    I like how Dean was in command of the situation, and if Vesta had not shown up he would’ve had the hatch open tout suite.

    1. I’d have liked to have seen more of Honor. She seemed like a kind and resourceful person. No wonder Tammy hated her. There are a lot of Tammys in the world.

      FYI, I got your note in the mail and many thanks.

  2. Most non denominational churches are evangelical, in culture, if not in name. I suppose there are some exceptions.
    That the church offered nothing else by way of culture or life for its members, is more the fault of poor writing. Paper thin characters, paper thin church. It doesn’t have to be that way. The church in 99 problems had a rich portrayal.

    1. I know. There are a lot of articles out there that talk about the (not necessarily big) differences between Southern Baptist and Non-Denominational. But there still can be some pretty large variations simply due to the lack of hierarchical leadership, even in small denominations (think Jim Jones or the Branch Davidians).

      I agree about the rest of it, though. Basically, the only thing these people were doing in terms of “worship” was keeping their knickers on and their legs closed. And yeah, in light of that, it was pretty damned odd to have a mixed-gender group (hell, even Suzy’s wardrobe was highly questionable in that context). Granted, that was entirely part of Vesta’s plan for more tasty livers, but other congregations would have noticed and disapproved.

  3. I never thought there was anything inadvertent about Dean bringing those women to orgasm. I suppose it might have endangered the hunt, which is out of character for him. But winding up people who are a little too full of themselves is not. Especially if it’s Sam.

    I don’t think the writer knew much about the way a group like that would work in real life. Judging by the name, the church that hosts it is either evangelical or fundamentalist. Groups like that would be strictly segregated to reduce temptation. (Not much thought is given to homosexuality.) Sam and Dean would never have been allowed to join, but would have been encouraged to find male mentors or join a men’s group for accountability. And even though Vesta herself wouldn’t care, she would have wanted to keep her position.

    Also, I doubt Suzy would make much headway in loosening restrictions. If her tryst became known, the church would most likely expect a full repentance or else encourage her to leave. Fear of God’s wrath and shame about sex don’t go away that easily.

    1. I think Klein was going for a Non-Denominational church, in which case, it would depend on the members. They didn’t seem to have a whole lot besides the purity group.

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