The Things They Carried
Original Air Date: 03/18/2015
Ah, that old familiar territory: a man wants to save his brother and the futility felt about the undertaking. It certainly wasn’t a subtle theme in this episode, but the characters were all over the place with their sentiments about it.
Sam secretly researches a way to reverse the Mark of Cain’s influence on Dean.
Dean, on the other hand, has conceded and entreats Sam to abandon what, he is certain, is a lost cause. It’s reminiscent of Season 3 (after Dean made the deal with the crossroads demon) but with the absence of whimsey. Dean isn’t looking to cross anything off of his bucket list, or indulge in hedonism. Instead, he wants them to concentrate on doing the job together, while he still has a semblance of self-control.
DEAN: Sam when we work a case, there’s always that—that point where we have to face the truth, right? Even if we don’t like it. Well truth is, there’s no way around this. We saw what happened to Cain, okay. I’m not happy about it, but I gotta move on. So I’m gonna keep doing we what do… while I still can, and I’d like you to be there with me.
Sam is disheartened that he can’t find a way to save his brother; Dean thinks he can’t be saved. Okay, got it.
Rather than hole up within the Men of Letters’ headquarters that they co-opted, they take a case involving soldiers and some grisly cannibalism, but they quickly rule out known creatures based on the physical evidence and the lack of omens. It’s as though monsters evolve at an accelerated rate, or there really are an infinite amount of them out there that seasoned hunters can still cross paths with unplumbed monsters. Even the opening mnemonic scenes of the episode point out that many times Sam and Dean have no clue what they’re dealing with. Isn’t the paranormal fun?
Their best lead comes from interviewing the wife of the first monster’s host, Rick Willis. They eventually discover that a fellow soldier (Kit Verson), who was previously deployed to Iraq with Rick, is exhibiting the same erratic behavior and excessive thirst. Now, let’s talk about small worlds here—Kit is the childhood friend of Cole Trenton; you know, the guy that spent his life training so that he could one day kill Dean.
Good news is that they’re cool now. Bad news is that Cole is well aware of the machete brothers’ intentions, and he isn’t about to let them decapitate his buddy. As he says, “Kit needs help. He doesn’t need a bullet. He doesn’t need a knife.” But Sam and Dean are skeptics, and try to temper Cole with their experience – there may be nothing of Kit left to save.
Cole wants to save his friend. Dean and Sam – well, let’s just say they’ll explore their options once they track down Kit. Dean is consistent with his opinions and Sam is being a realist. Still with you guys.
Since Cole doesn’t trust the Winchesters to show compassion to his friend (he did witness Dean kill his father after all), he ditches them as soon as he can in order to track down Kit on his own at a remote cabin (always a good idea). It quickly goes bad for him, and Cole gets the baby-bird treatment when Kit regurgitates a worm into his open mouth.
Fortunately, Sam and Dean were able to follow Cole to the cabin, but not before he was infected with this beauty:
Kit escapes, and now the clock is ticking for Cole. The silver lining is that they realize the baddie is a parasite, and possibly a Khan Worm, which they faced once before in …And Then There Were None (Season 6, Episode 16), but there is a significant difference. Eve’s Khan Worm possessed consciousness, and took over the host completely, controlling thoughts, speech, and movement. In The Things They Carried version of the Khan Worm, the host doesn’t lose their sense of self; they are aware of who they and the people around them are, and they control their actions. They even know that what they’re doing is wrong, and express remorse, which makes this a more primeval worm driven by survival instinct—it needs to feed, or drink in this case, and causes the host so much physical distress that they cannot fight the urge to satiate, even if it means killing someone.
Sam goes after Kit, while Dean stays with Cole at the cabin. After electrocution fails, they determine their best bet is to starve the worm of what it wants most by rapidly dehydrating Cole. Sam is pragmatic, suggesting that there is only one surefire way to end this monster, but Dean is not prepared to go down that path just yet.
The cabin scene is pivotal for Cole and he realizes that. When Dean killed Cole’s father, it was because he was no longer human. His father was beyond saving, and Cole might be too:
COLE: I get it. Why you did it, Dean. My dad wasn’t my dad anymore. If I go down that same road, I want you to do that to me too.
DEAN: That road? That means giving up. If you think that’s where you’re headed, then you got it ass backwards. You’re gonna fight, harder than you ever have. You understand?
Cole realizes that some people can’t be saved. Dean thinks you should never give up, and Sam knows the easy way to end this is to kill them. What is happening???
Eventually, the sweat lodge approach works, and Cole vomits up the worm.
Sadly, it didn’t happen before Sam had to put a bullet in Kit’s forehead. Sam regroups with Dean and Cole at the cabin, and expresses his guilt to Dean that he couldn’t save this one. It felt a bit contrived, since really, how did he try to save Kit? He was ready to lop off heads way before his brother was. All that Sam did was tie Kit to a pole (and not very well, since he got out of it pretty easily), then waited for a phone call. All of Dean’s previous bravado dissipates. He shrugs and says, “You know, you can do everything right, and even still, sometimes, the guy still dies.”
Sam is dejected that he can’t save them all; Dean knows you can’t save everyone. So, we’re sort of back to the attitudes at the beginning of the episode, right?
I wonder if this episode might have been more effective with a shuffling of the characters that stayed at the cabin. The guilt Sam felt might have seemed more genuine had he been at the sweat lodge refusing to give up on helping Kit—an attempt to prove to Dean that no one is too far gone to save—then he’d suffer the crushing blow when his efforts failed. Though this would have sacrificed the character development of Cole, who finally understood why a hunter had to kill his father.
This episode also had me wondering about Cole’s future on the show. He is driven by duty and loyalty. It’s difficult to imagine him being aware of the evil lurking in the world, but not feel compelled to try and stop it. He said he hoped he never saw Sam and Dean again, but Charlie said the same thing in The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo (Season 7, Episode 20), and she was lured into the hunt. I could see Cole returning to the series in that role as well.
It might have felt less like a filler episode if the dialogue and character objectives were more consistent. Instead, it was a bit unsatisfying in moving forward the “brother’s keeper” element of this season. Only Cole seemed to progress as a character, but we don’t know if we’ll see him again—though, I hope we do.