Since the episode was just rerun, here comes:
R&R: John in Hell House
After briefly meeting up with the boys in the last episode, John once again is physically absent in this episode.
One notable thing is the playful interaction between the brothers here who, maybe for the first time, behave like they not only love but also like each other and could be genuinely good buddies.
After the much talked about "Talk"-scene and the general angstiness of Shadow
it could seem a little jarring. Yet it oddly makes sense once you throw Dad into the equation.
John has always been the biggest point of contention between the brothers IMO, even their different viewpoints on the hunting life can be traced back to Dad as the one who started it all.
So could Sam`s more relaxed attitude here being attributed to not only seeing his Dad after four years of no contact but making a little bit of peace with him? Is this a weight of his chest that now allows him to be a little lighter, a little bit more laughing and playful with Dean?
Of course the one thing Hell House
will always be famous for, Yeah, yeah, APART from Sam in a towel
, is the prank war between our brothers.
By Sam`s recollection, and the facts here haven`t been exactly debated by Dean, we know John Winchester hasn`t been big on things he probably saw as needless distractions, for example soccer, from the hunting life and training for it, i.e. bow-hunting.
Yet we now know there were prank wars when they were younger. And judging by Sam`s line here: "We`re not gonna start this shit up again. It`s stupid and it always escalates."
, it certainly sounds like it was more than a one-time deal.
Out of financial necessity and for security reasons I`m guessing the family always lived in close quarters, be it them sharing a single motel room or living in small rundown apartments.
Even if the boys waited to play their pranks until John was away on a hunt, it would be kinda hard to explain for example why Sammy was suddenly "Baldy." John may have been pre-occupied with the hunt but he would have noticed this. :)
And I can`t imagine him not figuring out what was going on there, even if the boys might have thought so and made it part of their little game.
Also I`m of the opinion if he really
wanted the prank-wars to stop, he could have made that happen. Dean would have obeyed him if he made himself clear enough. Hell, a bit of "Soldiers don`t fool around like this." guilt would have done the trick.
And since I kinda see Dean as the one initating the prank wars, with him out of the game, Sam wouldn`t have much reason to carry on either.
So, that leads to the conclusion John either turned a blind eye to it, possibly even having his own fun by playing along to the notion of the boys fooling him or he openly supported it, if only with a: "you boys handle this on your own."
Either way it would have served several purposes.
For one considering the unorthodox lifestyle of the Winchesters - and even if they were more stationary I`m betting it was still a hell of a lot weirder than most people`s - for the kids the prank wars would have been a stress relief. Something they had control over and something where they could play with reckless abandon.
And maybe John was glad to see the boys claiming that little bit of normalcy and childish innocence. I can see him smiling wistfully at a screeching Sam because Dean put bubble gum in his math text book or vice versa at a Dean screaming bloody murder because his little geek brother told all the cheerleaders at school his older brother still wets the bed.
Even if he acted all gruff and put-upon about it, inwardly I can see him enjoying it, possibly even admiring a particularly good prank by either boy.
On the other hand the pranks too can be seen as a training exercise. Trying to outsmart your "enemy" teaches strategy, perceptiveness, ingenuity and sneakiness. All of these would be valuable assets for a hunter. It`s not uncommon to let children learn things through certain games and I wouldn`t be surprised if John perceived the inherent benefits of the situation.
Anyway it tells us one important thing: life in the Winchester household under Dad wasn`t Guantanamo Bay 24/7. There was room for pranks and laughter, for childhood joys and normal sibling rivalry.