Provenance is the last episode before the three episode arc that finishes season one. I see it as part of the set of three episodes that followed Shadows – along with Hell House, and Something Wicked. In these episodes Sam and Dean are as close as they have been during season one, and in some ways life approaches normal by Winchester standards. In Shadows they have made some sort of agreement to not pursue John, to wait and hear from him about the Demon, and so they fall into a rhythm of ‘the family business’. And we start to see what life could be like for them, the sort of life Dean wants – hunting evil, having fun and sex and the occasional prank war.
Through these episodes, and culminating in Provenance, Dean has been trying to get Sam to re-engage with life – to challenge the assumption inherent in Sam’s statement at the end of Route 666 that implied hunting involved putting your life on hold.
Dean doesn’t separate life from hunting. Hunting is his job and in some ways he has a pretty normal life for 26 year old. He works, he drinks and plays pool, loves his car and his music, and loves quite a few women. Sure he mightn’t have a great track record in the relationship department, but he wouldn’t be the only guy for whom that was true.
Provenance opens with Dean in a bar chatting up chicks. I love this side of Dean – not just flirty Dean, but playful Dean. There has been much discussion about how at times Dean is emotionally still a four year old, and in some ways I see this in his playfulness. When
Sam :…are we rock stars? Are we army rangers?
Dean: Reality TV scouts looking for people with special skills.
No way have those girls believed that but hey someone who looks like Dean wants to tell bad lies and chat me up? Fine by me. Threesomes – you got it!
I think Dean has a capacity to enjoy life – Demon aside – Dean could enjoy his life.
In these episodes we see Dean trying to re-engage Sammy in life - having a drink, getting interested in girls, and its not just ‘be like me’. As we saw way back in Scarecrow when Dean said to Sam “You’ve got to do your own thing. You’ve got to live your own life.” Dean wants Sam to live – however that may be.
I think months later, Dean is worried that Sam recognises the danger of Sam’s concentration on hunting to the exclusion of everything else. How glorious it was to see Sam laughing in Hell House. After all those years with John I think Dean can smell unhealthy obsession a mile away. And that whiff will prove right as we see in the last couple of episodes of this Season. And by thinking about Sam’s situation, Dean gains insight into himself and recognises that what motivates him to remain hunting is very different than the vengeful obsession that drives Sam and John.
And we see that Dean has been listening to what Sam has said to him (how the hell would you know how I feel from Scarecrow) when Dean sensitively broaches the subject with Sam:
know seriously Sam, this isn’t about just hooking up, okay? I mean, I think this Sarah girl could be good for you. And I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’m sure that this is about Jessica, right? Now, I don’t know what it’s like to lose somebody like that but I would think that she would want you to be happy. God forbid, have fun once in a while. Wouldn’t she?
I think this speaks to Dean’s insight and care for Sam in buckets. Then Sam reminds him of the other bit of the equation Part of this is about Jessica. But not the main part. The main reason being
the fact that Sam loves Dean above all others Sam’s guilt and fear that he is responsible for the deaths of Jess and his mother. But when Dean asks What’s it about? (cue look from Sam) Yeah, all right, I think Dean is thinking – we are in the middle of something that is dangerous – not being around Sam is dangerous. Because as Dean states in Salvation – he sees this as a family problem – not something Sam is responsible for.
And of course Sarah proves to be a good choice – Dean approves of this girl who reacts to what they do probably the way Dean hoped Cassie would have.
Finally when Sam does kiss Sarah goodbye, Dean responds with a pleased That’s my boy. And it is apposite at this point to consider Sam’s provenance. He was raised by both John and Dean – at the end of this episode he does indeed appear to be Dean’s ‘boy’, but in the last episodes of the season we will see how much John’s son Sam is.
The question of Sam’s true provenance may yet to be determined.