Wayward Son: Sam in “Salvation”
I find it telling that the montage to “Carry On, My Wayward Son,” finishes with Sam’s determinedly uttered, “Yes, sir.” John Winchester's wayward son is temporarily back in the fold.
In the opening scene John is briefing the boys. Dean questions while Sam stands back and listens. “I was six months old that night?” he asks, at one point. Interesting that he hasn’t made that connection before. However, he shortly concludes that his mother and Jessica were killed because of him, and starts to react to that. Dean has to reassure him that it’s ‘not your problem, it’s OUR
problem,” which pacifies him, at least temporarily.
You can see the tension in Sam – he’s still listening, but he’s strung out. The news that the signs of the Demon’s coming were going on in Palo Alto a week before Jessica died does little to relax him. He’s the one that asks where the next advent will be, and it’s plain that he’s invested in the destruction of the demon.
Sam’s reaction to the news of Pastor Jim’s death is tellingly greater than Dean’s. He’s almost hyperventilating in the background as Dean asks about the circumstances, leaning against the car looking totally devastated. One assumes that Pastor Jim took care of Sam rather more than Dean when he was a wee one and that the blow is greater,
although we know how Dean shows emotion, don’t we?
He seems to have lost his analytical abilities as he tries to deal with the shock. John tells them they need to check all the kids coming up to six months old to find the right one, and Sam says, “How?” as if he’s completely clueless, and admits he doesn’t have a better idea than checking them out individually. He looks and sounds defeated here.
He seems to have recovered a little when we next see him. He’s researching, back in his comfort zone, and gives the librarian a grateful smile as she brings him the materials he needs. It’s as he’s emerging from the hospital that he begins to have a vision. The visions obviously are accompanied by a good deal of pain, and they confuse him enough that he’s unable to move. When it passes, he’s seen enough to have found the location of the next victim. Identifying that on a map, we see him head in that direction. A few minutes later, with the vision happening intermittently still, he’s found the house, and sees the mom and baby coming down the street. It’s raining, and he’s getting wet, but he’s too focused to care about it. You can see him wondering what the heck he can do right now, and he dives in without apparent thought, proving that Dean isn’t the only impulsive Winchester by any means.
He holds the handle of the buggy while the baby’s mom folds her umbrella away, and introduces himself as someone who has just moved in. “She’s gorgeous; is she yours?” he gushes, and then, “Well, hi,” to Rosie, the baby, who is suitably underwhelmed by this creepy, twenty-something man that apparently notices babies!
[Actor meta note: I’ve often wondered if those lines gave Jared trouble.]
Introductions continue. Monica is the mom’s name. Sam observes in tones of wonder that Rosie is “Such a good baby.” That would seem to be enough to warm Monica to him, and she begins confiding to him that Rosie never cries, just stares at everybody and that sometimes it seems as if she’s reading your mind. (There’s an implication here that the children targeted by the demon are special in some way, before the Demon does his thing.)
Sam carries on his probing. “What about you, Monica? Have you lived here long?” Monica happily divulges that they moved in just before the birth of the baby, and that Rosie is six months today. Sam looks horrified. She babbles on for a moment and then catches the vibe. Sam is starting to try and tell her something, while she looks on confused. He evidently searches for words that won’t come, and ends up telling her to, “Just take care of yourself, okay.” Monica still seems a little confused as he takes his leave. As Sam watches them greet Daddy, who has just returned home, the vision strikes him again.
When we next see Sam, he’s back in the hotel room with dad and Dean, and telling John about the visions he has. It looks as though he’s still having one as the scene begins. He seems a little shocked as John asks when they were going to tell him about the visions. He’s still a little out of it, and it’s Dean who blasts John for his words. Sam doesn’t take part in Dean’s outburst, indeed he makes an attempt to head off a possible battle of wills between Dean and dad. “Look guys, visions or no visions, we know this thing is going to happen tonight, and this family is going to go through the same hell that we went through.” At this point he appears calm, reasonable and not particularly affected by the mini-squabble.
When Sam’s phone rings, and it’s Meg, Sam doesn’t quite realize who it is at first, unsurprisingly, since they left her for dead. Sam expresses surprise when he finally identifies her. “Just your feelings? That was a seven story drop.”
Meg wants to speak to John. Sam says he doesn’t know where he is, but then as John approaches him, he hands the phone over, looking mildly sick. He looks utterly astonished when John, who has just listened while she killed Caleb, says he’ll give her the colt. Later, when John has told them what happened, Sam puts two and two together. “So you think Meg is a demon?”
John says they need to go to Lincoln to meet her. Sam remonstrates. “Dad, the demon is coming tonight, for Monica and her family.” He’s met Monica and Rosie, and his thoughts are obviously with them; they’re real to him in a way that they aren’t to John and Dean. It suddenly dawns on Sam, when John says he wants to buy a little time that he and Dean will get to go up against the demon alone. “You want us to stay here and kill this demon by ourselves.” He seems a little overwhelmed at that thought.
He’s silent when John is ready to take off to Lincoln alone with the fake Colt. When Dean is telling John that he’s, “No good to them dead” Sam’s face tells it all. He’s scared for John, but you can see that he’s determined he and Dean will finish the fight, and he tells John, “We’ll see you soon, Dad,” he murmurs, but his face tells us that he doesn’t believe it.
Sitting in the car, watching outside the house, Sam suggests that they tell Monica and family that there’s a gas leak, and when Dean asks him how often that’s worked, he suggests tentatively as an alternative that they could always tell them the truth. There’s a beat, and then they both agree that’s a dumb idea. He frets about what’s going to happen, frets about what could be happening to his father, and is increasingly nervous, while Dean is his usual, laconic self. It’s a telling scene, beautifully understated by both actors, showing us how each of the Winchester boys deals with nerves.
“This is weird. After all these years, we’re finally here. Doesn’t seem real.” As showtime gets closer, Sam begins to get fired up with enthusiasm. As he says, “Yeah, but this isn’t like always,” he smiles in a “bring it on,’ sort of way. He starts to thank Dean - “You’ve always had my back. Even when I couldn’t count on anyone, I could always count on you,” and the way he does it makes one think that he really doesn’t expect to survive. Dean can’t handle the idea that they might fail and takes him to task. Sam looks slightly relieved as he hears the familiar protestation from Dean, of, “Nobody’s dying tonight.” It’s as if when big brother says it, it’s got to be true.
They attempt to call John, and Sam tries to find reasons why he isn’t answering. “Maybe Meg was late. Maybe cell reception’s bad.” He’s the first to notice that the demon is coming, and he’s visibly scared as they leap out of the car. Inside, the man of the house attacks them, and Sam tries to reason with him. “Mr. Holt, please…” Dean takes the man as Sam high-tails it up the stairs. Monica is already on her way up the wall as Sam confronts the demon. He shoots it, but it seems to dissolve before the bullet hits it. Sam gets Monica out, while Dean grabs Rosie.
As they’re watching the house burn, Sam sees the demon in the flames and tries to go back. “It’s still in there.” Dean stops him, and tells him it’s suicide. Sam says he doesn’t care and Dean tells him, “I do.” Once again, Big Brother’s words ground him.
In the hotel room later, Sam is still brooding, sitting sullenly as Dean tries to call John. “If you had just let me go in there. I could’ve ended all this” “The only thing you would’ve ended is your life.” “You don’t know that.” “So what? You’re just willing to sacrifice yourself, is that it?” “Yeah. Yeah, you’re damned right I am.” “Yeah, well that’s not going to happen. Not as long as I’m around.” “What the hell are you talking about, Dean? We’ve been searching for this demon our whole lives. It’s the only thing we’ve ever cared about.”
He’s incredulous when Dean says it’s not worth dying over. “That thing killed Jess. That thing killed Mom” When Dean gives him back his own words. “They’re gone and they’re never coming back,” Sam breaks, and there is a reverse of the scene in the pilot, with Sam throwing Dean up against the wall and getting into his face. “After all this, don’t you say that!”
This scene is so compelling, even though Sam doesn’t say anything further. His emotions are written on his face – he appears somehow relieved that Dean has broken, even though he can’t bear to hear it. It’s as if he had to verify that Dean actually cared. He strokes Dean, tries to soothe him as he resonates with Dean’s pain.
Once he’s verified that Dean does still care, he’s able to think about other things again, and Dad’s predicament is given some attention.
All through the episode we see that Sam depends on Dean for reassurance rather than on his father, and that when Dean isn’t showing emotion Sam is uncomfortable. At the climax of the show he goads Dean until he breaks, and it’s only then that he’s able to settle himself and carry on.
We see throughout the episode that Sam is still apparently testing things out, most especially the bonds between himself and Dean. He’s growing up – and the last scene as he pushed Dean into his breakdown let me see just how much Sam loves his brother. His impotence and his love both shine through. We can also see that he's impulsive and hot headed.