Route 666 – its all about the brothers (monster truck? Cassie? What you talking about?). It’s important to place this episode in the season - we’ve seen the boys have conflict, separation and resolution in Asylum and Scarecrow, and Dean nearly die in Faith. We’ve established that they love each other, would do anything for each other, and (at least for now) are staying together.
Where we pick up in Route 666 is the boys really starting to get to know each other. During the season, almost every episode has had a moment where Sam finds out something new about Dean. Sam is learning not only who Dean is now, but more about why he is who he is. And while Sam learns a bit more about Dean in this episode, there is one major aspect he is still to understand.
We start with Sam’s surprise at Dean having had a relationship. Is it surprising that after 6 months together, Dean has never mentioned this? No, despite Sam’s occasional chick flick moments, these two are such blokes.* Sam is also taken aback that Dean told Cassie about the hunting, and this marks a point about Dean that Sam will continue to fail to understand. Dean told Cassie about the hunting because he wanted her to be part of his life and that is his life. For Sam relationships are part of “normal” life (NL), which is kept separate from the “hunting” life (HL). Obviously the reason Sam didn’t Jess about his HL wasn’t because it was a family rule, he didn’t tell her because he didn’t want her or his NL contaminated by it.
Sam’s attitude to finding out about Dean’s relationship with Cassie is interesting. He probes; he wants to know what went on. But on some level it obviously really challenges his perception of Dean, and I think this is why he has that sort of amused “gee this is funny” bratty younger brother approach during much of the episode. Part of him is a bit amused at seeing Dean out of his comfort zone; it’s really only at the end when he has appreciated the depth of Dean’s feelings that is he more serious.
Sam is pretty perceptive at picking up non-verbal clues. He notices that Dean and Cassie look at each other when the other isn’t, and a lot of what he learns from Dean is gleaned entirely from Dean’s facial reactions. The scene next to the car is a brilliant piece of acting from both Js, and just shows how attuned Sam is to Dean. I have to add that we see here, despite Dean’s seeming reluctance at speaking, that he does want to confide in Sam. Dean could’ve just said “you’re wrong, she was just some chick and I dumped here”. But Dean – actually not good at hiding the feelings or lying. He wants Sam to know this.
Again the difference between Sam and Dean’s view of HL - Sam says he occasionally misses boring and “… conversations that didn’t start with this killer truck.” While there is no doubt that Sam does enjoy a lot of what they do, it’s not his passion in the same way it is Dean’s.
In the final battle with the killer truck, Sam is very much his father’s son. He hatches a (dangerous) plan and directs Dean through it without giving Dean any information about why or how it is meant to work. (Hello? Pot meet kettle.) It works, and partly because Dean follows orders his instructions without question.
When Dean is kissing Cassie goodbye, Sam looks slightly uncomfortable, a strong contrast to Dean’s “that’s my boy at the end” of Provenance. I initially thought Sam’s look was a younger brother thing, and maybe some discomfort on Dean’s behalf, because he knows this will hurt Dean. Watching it again I also wonder if it isn’t bringing up memories and grief for him about Jess.
So final scene. Sam gives Cassie his approval, and asks Dean whether he ever thinks hunting is worth putting his life on hold for. Dean doesn’t answer. Because for Dean it’s the wrong question. His life isn’t on hold. For Sam this is how he sees it – NL is waiting (wasting?) while he does this. For Sam, hunting means his missing out on life, for Dean it is life. At this point neither of them really understands this fundamental difference between them
*Sorry to use an Australian term here, but it fits them so well. Over here “bloke” refers to all the characteristics we see particularly in Dean – a working class guy, with masculine interests (rock, cars, chicks), who’s loyal, would always be there for his mates, would never talk about or show his feelings, and would mask any pain with wisecracks. Remember the two guys who were stuck down a mine in Tasmania for 2 weeks – they were blokes.