Supernatural ‘The Heroes’ Journey’ – Sort Of?


Last week’s Supernatural episode, the ironically titled “The Heroes’ Journey”, was one of those episodes that made me laugh at first, but then kind of disturbed me. Not simultaneously, luckily. I was tempted to just write up the things I giggled at when they were happening and try to shut off my higher cognitive functions to prevent any other feelings, but it turns out I’m just not built that way. So to everyone on twitter who advised me “not to think too deeply about it”, my apologies. Maybe just read the first part of this if you don’t want to think too much and just enjoy the amusing parts.

I really enjoyed the first part of the episode; I went into this one just looking to be entertained.  Most of us knew the premise was something about Sam and Dean having “normal people problems”, which sounds pretty innocuous and has the potential to be funny. After all, Jared and Jensen are gifted at comedy, so maybe this would be a chance for them to exercise those comic chops as well as a chance for me not to gnash my teeth. And for a while, that worked. My first tweet of the night was “OMG I’m loving this episode!”  Jared and Jensen were clearly having a good time with it, and just that is enough to make me happy too. They have always loved the humorous moments, and they play off each other seamlessly.

The beginning cage match sequence was unusual. It was impressively choreographed by the brilliant Rob Hayter, and the music and slo mo and direction were interesting. The problem is, it was three whole minutes long out of the 42 we get in an episode, and I don’t give a damn about whoever those two monsters are, so I got antsy even as I could appreciate the artistry of the scene. With less than 8 hours left with the Winchesters and company, I selfishly want every moment!

Then we’re following Dean to the Quik Mart with jaunty piano music that lets us know things are going to be weird (My guess is that the awesome Jay Gruska had alot of fun with this episode too). It’s clearly a terrible horrible no good very bad day as Dean’s Charlie-guaranteed credit card doesn’t work, he’s got a toothache that prevents him from enjoying his usual fare, and he gets a traffic ticket at his habitual spot. Meanwhile, Sam is cooking dinner for them at the bunker and burns the whatever in the oven and then inexplicably tries to pick up a pot of boiling pasta without oven mitts and spills it all over. Dean comes home calling for Sam, and Sam trips up the stairs to the kitchen. Then starts sneezing his head off, snot everywhere.

I mean, it was alot! Jared and Jensen cavorted through it looking like they were having the time of their lives.

Also, I love domestic Sam cooking dinner in the bunker’s amazing kitchen.

Gif jaredandjensen

Jared and Jensen pull this off like you’d expect, as in they’re hilarious, and I was amused – I thought it clearly must be a curse since it was so over the top, one thing after another and certainly far outside “normal”. Garth calls and asks for their help, and they start driving to his house – and Baby craps out. Noooooo not Baby! Dean, who it’s established knows how to take that car apart and put her back together again, seems to flood her and then doesn’t even look under the hood, which is….weird.

Me: I guess that’s part of the curse? Weird.

They get to Garth’s, and he and his wife have an older daughter and young twins (sort of like Ackles in real life!)  Garth hugs Dean, saying “you smell so good” (this nod to Dean’s attractiveness  seems like a bit of a meta commentary – since it’s what everyone who has ever had a photo op with Jensen Ackles walks away saying!)  It also ties into some of the more thinky thoughts I eventually let into consciousness about the episode.

Garth introduces Sam and Dean to his twins, Sam…. (“I named him for you, Sam”) and…. (Dean waits expectantly)…. Castiel.

What? That wouldn’t be part of the cursed thing, would it? Has Garth ever even met Castiel? He has always had a very strong bond with Dean, so it would have made sense to name a twin after him. That seemed sort of unnecessarily cruel to Dean, and his little hurt face made me sad faced too.

It didn’t fit with the ‘cursed’ idea and it also seemed like it was just there to hurt Dean’s feelings, so I squirmed a bit.

Awww, Dean. Garth does love you. Not sure everyone involved in the Show does, but Garth? He definitely does. Also, those babies are adorable and the behind the scenes photos of Jared and Jensen juggling babies are beyond adorable.

The next scenes were the most amusing ones of the episode for me. Bess gives Sam a secret concoction to cure his cold, which turns out to be mostly cayenne pepper, and we get treated to Jared Padalecki rolling around on the floor and licking his own shirt sleeves. He really commits to making us feel the pain of the pepper and it’s also over the top hilarious.

Older daughter: Mummy, the giant’s crying!

The babies start to cry, and Sam pauses to reassure them, “Big Sam is OK!”

That was a well written and enacted scene, so credit all around.

Meanwhile, Garth takes Dean to his basement dentist office and manhandles him into the chair.

Dean: You’re very strong…

(This is also a theme, stay tuned)

Dentist Garth diagnoses 17 cavities and puts Dean under with nitrous oxide – which means we get treated to a totally random but thoroughly enjoyable for me tap dance number with Dean and Garth decked out and dancing. I’d heard about this scene already, so I was expecting it, and maybe that’s why I could just go with it. I know there were quite a few people who found that scene either cringeworthy or just completely out of place, but I went with it. I mean, dreams are weird, right?

Jensen and DJ both apparently busted their butts to learn the routine in no time at all, so that the dance stand ins that they brought to set weren’t actually needed (except, I’m assuming, to advise). They both pulled it off seamlessly. I swear, Jensen Ackles can do EVERYTHING well. Including tap dance on the map table. It was a gif feast, seriously.

gifs jaredandjensen

Then it was commercial break time. So for the first part of the episode, I was going with it mostly, and even smiling. Clearly Sam and Dean were cursed with horrible luck by a pissed off Chuck and Jared and Jensen are making the best of it for some comedic excellence.

Supernatural style… Ouch.

Then there’s a discussion, Garth asking: Who did you piss off?

Sam: God?

Bess: I’m sorry, what??

Garth says he knows what’s wrong with them.

Dean: We’re cursed?

Garth: No. Normal.

Me: What?

That was exactly my face, too. Normal? This is the Winchesters being their normal selves??

Garth talks about how it sucks to be a hero, who would want to be the hero? Oddly, he uses as an example Fifty Shades, which he and Bess apparently love (nod nod wink wink …. ohgod no), which fits into those thinky thoughts themes we’ll eventually get to.

Sam (wryly): Who’s the hero in that?

Honestly, that was the best line of the episode. Jared delivered it perfectly and I literally laughed out loud, because GOOD QUESTION!

My brain started to kick in around this time though, stuck on ‘wait, they’re not cursed, this is supposed to be… normal? This is Sam and Dean as they normally are? Not knowing to use oven mitts or look under the Impala’s hood?’  Is that supposed to mean their skills were just Chuck all along and not them? What does that do to fifteen years of canon?

Hurt werewolf dude wakes up and Sam turns the puppy eyes on him to get him to tell them what happened.

Werewolf dude: Wow, look at those puppy eyes. That never actually works for you, does it?

gifs jaredandjensen

Sam looks so hurt (it’s a theme of this episode, hurt the Winchesters), and Dean looks shocked.

By this time I was getting more and more alarmed, because is Show really trying to tell me that Sam isn’t even capable of using the puppy eyes he’s used forever without Chuck making it work on people? That was never Sam being a skilled interrogator? (And a natural with the puppy eyes, which he’s probably been using on his dad and Dean forever)

Despite their new “normalcy,” Sam and Dean insist on going after the monster fight club without Garth, since he has a family to take care of, though Garth is worried about “normal” Sam and Dean being able to do – well, anything. And rightly so, since apparently now they are beyond helpless and have retained none of the skills that John taught them or that they’ve used to save the world a time or two.

As  helpless and bumbling as they’ve been rendered by evil writers, however, the Winchesters are still hanging onto their courage.

Dean: This is our job, it’s what we do.

Sam: What he said.

gif jaredandjensen

Those are the sort of things that Sam and Dean have said before, and I love it when they say them, but it started to not ring true in the context of this episode. Is it what they do? Or is it what Chuck has made them do – or even worse, what only his added powers allowed them to do?

At least this still works….

gif rainbowmotors

Dean eats seven grilled cheese sandwiches and then doesn’t think to take all the weapons in the trunk into the monster haven because apparently a lot of the Winchesters’ smarts were also just Chuck pulling the strings and suddenly this is not nearly as funny as it was.

Dean does have a bit of fun with the grenade launcher, which I did enjoy – mostly because I bet Jensen Ackles enjoyed it too. I’m grateful for those moments, and again, gif bonanza!

gif bennylafitte

Sam’s exasperated face though. Honestly, I’m laughing just looking at Ackles and Padalecki in these screencaps and the faces they made in this episode!

But then as soon as they walk in Sam trips over a bucket. Really? After all the times we’ve seen them sneak around seamlessly, silently and efficiently, communicating with just hand signals and being totally badass? Something I LOVE about them? You want me to believe that was Chuck and not them? That without him manipulating them like puppets they can’t make it across a warehouse floor?

Then Dean gets sick and just drops his weapons and runs off to find a bathroom. Dean who has kept on fighting bloodied and broken and half dead, but now he’s sick to his stomach and he runs away?

Without Chuck, he’s… lactose intolerant?? Even that was manipulated?

I’m with you, Sam!

So they get caught — because apparently they would always have been caught if not for Chuck. The fight club proprietor says they’ll fight the Mighty Maul, but together.

Guy: I don’t wanna break up the team.

He says this sarcastically, and it comes off like a jab at fans, who sometimes complain when the Winchesters are separated. This is a meta episode, after all.

There’s an ad for the fight between Maul and the “merciless Winchesters,” which was creatively done.

But apparently the merciless Winchesters can no longer even pick a lock.

Me: WTF??

Dean: I broke a nail!

Me: No really, WTF? Who are these people?

By this time, my amusement had faded, as you can probably tell.

Sam: Could we ever pick locks, or was it just Chuck all the time?

As both Winchesters sit there looking glum, Dean breaks out one of his inspirational pep talks. Again, it played very differently than it usually does in the context of both the meta and the current reality the Winchesters are living in – in which it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense the way it usually does.

Dean to Sam: Not everything we did was because of Chuck. It was us. The blood, the sweat, the tears, man. That’s us. We’ve been doing this our whole lives. We’re the best in the world. So I say we go out there and kick some ass!

Sam’s little brother worried face, wanting to believe what his big brother is saying, breaks my heart.

It’s the kind of thing Dean Winchester has said many times – and because this is a fantasy genre show, we believe it when he does. We are meant to believe it. They are the best in the world. That’s part of what makes this show so powerful and so inspiring to real people who count on that in this messed up world. But by telling us that actually the Winchesters are not capable and competent and highly skilled – that they are not the big damn heroes we believed them to be, and they are far from the best in the world – Dean’s speech falls flat. We don’t believe it – why would we? We’ve been shown that they’re not able to succeed without Chuck. They don’t even know how to use oven mitts! Sam nods, but he clearly doesn’t believe it either.

The family theme, Jay Gruska’s brilliant iconic musical score that I love beyond measure and have written entire book chapters about, plays in a weird guitar variety – and it doesn’t land. It almost seems like a parody of what that theme usually means and the emotions it usually evokes. And that kinda broke my heart.

The main event is announced, the Mighty Maul versus – “You know them, you don’t like them – the Winchesters!”

Proprietor guy: Oh, and boys? Shirts off!

Another meta nod at the fandom, who often clamor for Sam and Dean (and Jared and Jensen) to show some skin. It could be an affectionate poke, but at this point it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like the writers are tired of hearing about how much we love (and lust?) after them, and how unrealistically perfect and heroic they are.  That’s for sure what Freud would say if he was looking over my shoulder right now at any rate.

Although that meta moment did make me think about another cage match for money with ‘monsters’ – and a shirtless Ackles. That put a smile on my face despite what the episode’s intent might have been. My timeline was apparently thinking it too.

Gif rainbowmotors (from Dark Angel)

Garth arrives just in time to save the day, and breaks Sam and Dean out of their cages.

Dean (again): You’re so strong! So strong…

So in case you didn’t get it clearly enough: without Chuck’s extra added mojo, the Winchesters are comparatively weak, and they are not the heroes here. They are not the strong ones here.

Garth blows up the entire warehouse, which was surprising to me. I mean, he’s a werewolf and Sam and Dean and all of us are okay with him living. He’s a werewolf who’s a good guy. Where is that nuanced understanding when it comes to the other ‘monsters’ in there? I don’t have any great fondness for anyone who thinks cage fighting is a great way to spend an evening, but apparently they were doing it voluntarily for the money, including Bess’s cousin. So why blow them all up? What if she had other cousins in there? Did they have humans in there being held against their will (other than Sam and Dean, who walked right in to shut it down)? I guess I will assume that they did but we hadn’t been shown that, so I was a bit surprised. I thought they were going to take down the organizer dude but not blow up the monsters fighting (and probably being taken advantage of) because they needed the money.

Sam and Dean look shocked by the explosion too. lol

Anyway, Mighty Maul survives. Dean can’t remember his name and calls him all sorts of names that start with M and it reminds me of all the times we couldn’t remember the name of that random young woman from the tunnels who inexplicably became the leader of the AU hunters. Another fandom call out? I’m sure it was annoying on some level that we did that, but I seriously could not remember who she was from episode to episode, or figure out how her leadership made any sense.

Maul tosses Garth across the parking lot, and Dean and Sam face off against him. My heart went out to them – nearly helpless, proven ineffective and weak without Chuck, and yet they’re still standing there, fists up.

Dean: Sam, did you believe me when I said we could win this thing?

Sam: No.

Dean: Me neither.

Me: Ditto. And I hate that nobody believed it – including those of us watching, who are supposed to believe it.

Sam and Dean are woefully outmatched, ineffectually punching with no effect. Dean gets kicked in the nuts and choked (and tries to tap out, which actually works!) Ackles made that moment funny, and my guess is that was an adlib. At least Jared and Jensen were clearly enjoying being able to make fun of themselves in this episode. I’m enjoying the gifs ans screencaps outside of the context of what was actually happening.


Finally Garth saves the day — again — and kills Maul.

Dean grabs his crotch and waddles away: Does my voice sound higher?

Back at the house, Sam and Dean hold Garth’s adorable babies, Dean saying that “this Cas keeps looking at me weird.”

Sam: So kinda like the real Cas.

That baby has a gift for conveying all sorts of things with just a look, gotta say.

Sam adorably waves goodbye to the kids, and Garth walks them out.

gif: Adaav

In case you needed it spelled out again:

Sam and Dean: You saved us, Garth. That’s being a hero.

Garth: I guess I learned from the best.

Me: Apparently not! These guys are apparently not the best after all.

The episode pivots 180 degrees from starting at established canon to the end, from the Winchesters being the strong, capable, irresistibly attractive heroes who smell great and look even better (and get the girl whenever they want), to now Garth being the strong, capable hero who gets the girl (and even gets kinky) and it’s now acknowledged even smells great (as Dean comments).  And I love Garth, and in real life I’d probably be all about a guy like him (though perhaps not a werewolf), but I don’t need to the see the Winchesters taken down for Garth to be lifted up and this isn’t real life.

Sam and Dean decide to go to Alaska to look for the cure for bad luck, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense after the episode kept telling us that they were not cursed with bad luck, but just reverted to their normal selves sans Chuck help. Which is it, Show?

They look back to see Garth and Bess dancing to “Werewolves of London” in their kitchen, which was a nice sendoff for DJ Qualls and one of the memorable characters Supernatural has brought to life.

Dean: I always thought I could be a good dancer if I wanted to be.

Sam (thoughtful): You were awesome at the Macarena.

They drive away….sort of… as the Impala craps out again.

Dean: Sonofabitch!

I did like parts of this episode, and I really wanted to just enjoy all of it. After all, I’m one of those people who has liked the so-called meta episodes in the past – and the ones played for laughs. I adore The French Mistake, I liked Changing Channels, I think some scenes in Bad Day At Black Rock are laugh out loud funny (Sam setting the motel room on fire, anyone? I lost my shoe?) Jared and Jensen are gifted at comedy. And some of this episode, particularly the earlier parts where we didn’t know yet what the apparent explanation was for what was happening, made me laugh too.  But here’s the thing — there’s a big glaring difference between those episodes and this one. While they all in some way traded on Sam and Dean being laughably incompetent, it was in the context of another universe or another reality entirely. It was an AU, or it was a rabbit’s foot curse, or it was a Trickster setup. We could laugh at our heroes being temporarily bumbling idiots without feeling uncomfortable about it, because in their own universe (the one we’re invested in too), they remained utterly competent and heroic.

That is not what happened in this episode, and that’s why it eventually didn’t work so well for me. Instead, the Winchesters were rendered incompetent in their actual world – and as a result, their past competence and heroism was recoded to be not something real, but instead something that Chuck manipulated them into. It wasn’t their years of childhood training and hunting experience that made them the badass heroes we love them for being – no, it was just Chuck handing them their successes on a silver platter. Making it easy for them. What does that do to every heroic thing they’ve done? To every time they went up against all kinds of monsters and managed to prevail? Even worse, what does that do to Sam and Dean being the inspiration for real people in real life to “always keep fighting” like the Winchesters? All that is in jeopardy if Chuck was just making it happen.

The meta episodes of the past also worked so well because they stepped outside the universe of the show somehow to comment on it – The Real Ghostbusters was a fan convention, but for the book series Supernatural not the television show, allowing that distance so all the meta commentary could be made. Same with Hollywood Babylon – they could comment on the business and the show from within the make-believe film set and show. In this episode, there was no displacement – this was Sam and Dean, in their usual environment. Just as incompetent people.

At first glance, the premise for this episode seems pretty witty – call Sam and Dean out for being unrealistically quick at picking locks or defeating five monsters when there’s only two of them or driving across the country at light speed. Or having perfect white teeth and always gorgeous hair even when they’re living out of the Impala for days on end. The problem is, we all know the show is not realistic – this is a fantasy genre show, after all. But you mess with that from within the canon of the show, and what does that leave you? A tattered suspension of disbelief, which is what allowed you to be inspired by the show and the characters to begin with. Nobody thinks it would be a good idea to examine Luke Skywalker and Han Solo’s realism on all those insane flight runs because that would have destroyed their heroism that we agree to buy into when we fall in love with a show like this one (or that one).

If we really go along with what this episode seems to want us to believe, nothing about the Winchesters (or their dad or their mom or Cas and their other friends) is special. Without Chuck pulling the strings, they’re too stupid to use oven mitts or know how to drive the car they’ve rebuilt from the ground up (because clearly that was just Chuck’s knowledge). Even Sam’s puppy eyes aren’t his own brilliant invention – that’s Chuck too. Everything that made them heroes is Chuck’s, not theirs.

Making Garth the hero who has to save the rather bumbling Sam and Dean is also a risky undertaking. It’s almost like the goal is to knock down these preternaturally heroic and handsome main characters that everyone is crazy about (in real life). (It’s totally what Freud would say about this episode’s underpinnings). Hah! They’re not really so special, that was all Chuck. Instead it’s Garth, the not preternaturally handsome or physically imposing man, who turns out to be the strong one, the victorious one (both in the fight and in getting the girl). I like Garth and love how DJ Qualls plays him, and I enjoyed him in this episode, but that puts Sam and Dean in the stereotypical position of the jerk of a football jock who ends up being shown to be kinda pathetic and who we’re all supposed to hate (or laugh at) while we cheer for the Garth-esque character.  There are countless movies with this exact plot. The problem is, I don’t want to feel that way about Sam and Dean – they are the GOOD guys. I’m uncomfortable watching them be ‘taken down a peg’ like this. And I honestly wonder if we can put them back up where we had them before.

But I’m going to. And here’s how I’m going to do that. This episode would have worked fine if the boys were under another curse, similar to Bad Day At Black Rock. It could have been hilarious without the undercurrent of disturbing. Chuck could just leave them in a perpetual state of having a ‘no good very bad day’ and the results would have been the same – but it wouldn’t have negated the entire basis of the show so far. I’m going to head canon that this is exactly what’s happened. Chuck didn’t take away his bestowed skills and good fortune – that was all the Winchesters – instead, he cursed them with constant bad luck. So now they have to deal with that and STILL be the badass competent hunters we know them to be. They’ve never had it easy – they’ve learned everything the hard way – so that would totally work. I’m going with it for now, that Chuck wanted them to think they were reset to “normal” and that all their successes and skills so far have just been granted by him.

What has always been inspiring about the Winchesters is that they are ordinary human beings who have managed to do incredible things because they’re well trained since childhood, extremely competent and skilled, and they always have each other’s backs. That’s the whole point of the show and why it has been so powerful for so many people. I’m not walking that back and I really hope I never have to.

And who knows, maybe that’s what Show is eventually going for anyway. Sometimes they like us to tear our hair out and gnash our teeth, only to find that the worst case scenario isn’t what actually happens. Fingers crossed!

Let’s just smile at this…

And now I’m just gonna go watch that tap dancing scene a few more times. We have less than 8 hours left to spend with these characters, and I want to enjoy every second that I can.

– caps by @kayb625


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64 thoughts on “Supernatural ‘The Heroes’ Journey’ – Sort Of?

  • I didn’t know if I liked it after watching it once. Twitter had a lot to say. Mostly people choosing to find it hilarious and dismissing any negative comments as haters.

    I disagree that it messes with canon though. One episode does not 15 years negate. Our boys are my heroes and yes they smell so nice too. I too put this episode into the meta category and I’m happy to have it reside there. I think the writers were giving us humor before utterly destroying the fandom with an ending Jensen was not ok with I heard he had to talk it over with several people before he could put it in perspective and so is now ok with it.

    I’m not ok. With only ten episodes left of my Show, I need distraction and humor.

    Garth is not the hero of Supernatural. Sam and Dean are. Today, tomorrow and forever

  • Interesting review as always. I agree with you on some points but not others.

    I didn’t like this episode right from the beginning. To me, there’s a difference between comedy and making the boys look stupid. Taking something out of the oven without gloves-stupid.
    Getting a cold-sort of funny except that Sam has been sick before. He’s also broken his wrist, arm and dislocated his shoulder. No one ever said that Sam and Dean couldn’t get ill. So, what was that all about?
    Everybody knows that Dean would never let Baby get in bad shape and let her plugs foul up. Stupid.

    This wasn’t a funny episode. It was mean spirited. It basically said that everything that happened before was a lie. The boys, the car, their brains. I disliked-no hated -parts of this episode.

    It makes me very worried about the final shows.

  • How do we walk back from this indeed. It’s actually worse than taking them down a peg it means no matter what has come before or what will happen in the future the Winchesters lives will always be a lie…or a fabrication of Chuck’s. They were protected by plot armor this entire time. Going to Alaska to get that “magical horseshoe” reinserted will only work if Chuck writes it that way. Until Jack returns to save the brothers like Garth just did the Winchesters story is going to be deconstructed until we no longer recognize them. There is no free will or agency. There is only Chucks gospels…and his puppets.

    • The gospels… Back in season 4 we were aware that every. single. move. the brothers made was written by Chuck. (Remember Sams brooding shoulders?) Every time they tried to change something, they found it had been written that way first by Chuck. That storyline, canon, whatever you call it was never thrown out. Even tho they called themselves ‘Team Free Will’, was it ever actually established they were out from under Chuck’s pen? As I said last week, no canon is sacred with these writers lately. I din’t like this episode, and I agree there were just plain stupid actions/reactions from the boys. Meh, I don’t even want to think too much about this episode, I’ll just hope someone in LA saw the light, and next weeks is better, and we never discuss this again. God forbid we tune in to watch the boys not even get past the border on the way to Alaska, and the Impala impounded.

  • So, I actually had a little bit of a different take on this episode, as far as the “normal” goes. I don’t think, without Chuck, they were reverted to normal and are no longer capable. I think it’s still Chuck manipulating things. I think Chuck has purposefully *written* them as overly normal, and what started out as a little bit of bad luck (because they’re just used to things working out) turned into self-fulfilling prophecy. The more they thought they weren’t able to do their job, the worse they got at it. And I don’t think Garth was there to take away the spotlight. In fact, I think he was there as a highlight. Chuck doesn’t care about Garth, doesn’t pay him any mind (as far as we know). Yet, despite that, Garth was able to do his job, and do it well (other than the explosion, which I agree with you on). I took it as a nod that they can still save people & hunt things, even without divine intervention on their side.

    Though, I’m sometimes an optimist to a fault, so I’m not sure if anyone else will agree with me!

    • That’s an interesting take. I might (maybe) watch it again to see if it is a mind over matter thing.

    • I don’t think the boys were working without Chucks “help” they still have their skills. Chuck is just throwing a monkey wrench into the works to screw with them.

    • You‘re so, so, SO right…
      I‘m not sure why the showrunners want us to shut down our brains (or suppose us not to have one?), other than showing us the arrogant „take that, fandom“-attitude they‘ve let us feel before, that is.
      I guess/hope you‘re right about Chuck being behind their bad luck (honestly, it‘s the only explanation that makes sense at this point).
      „What has always been inspiring about the Winchesters is that they are ordinary human beings who have managed to do incredible things because they’re well trained since childhood, extremely competent and skilled, and they always have each other’s backs. That’s the whole point of the show and why it has been so powerful for so many people. I’m not walking that back and I really hope I never have to.“
      What you said, Lynn…

    • That’s pretty much what I came to also, Chuck was purposely making them far less capable than “normal”. I didn’t think about Garth as the reminder that you can still be a hero without Chuck’s machinations – he is, after all, a werewolf so not exactly normal either. But I hear what you’re saying, and that helps a little.

    • I’m choosing that too, to believe it’s Chuck making things much worse than “normal”. Whatever that is.

  • Thank you for this, Lynn. You’ve articulated a lot of what I couldn’t put into words myself. Personally, I loved the dance sequence, and the Winchesters holding babies, but that was about it.

    You’re absolutely right that the other meta and comedy episodes worked because they were either not the ‘real world’ or some sort of curse or something. I realise that this was a deliberately ‘meta’ episode, but it was SO self-aware and, bizarrely, over-acted, that it felt like a pantomime.

    Or that it was us watching Jensen and Jared aware that they are in an episode of TV and hamming it up for laughs, rather than Sam and Dean living their lives. It was jarring and odd and apart from the dream sequence, which worked because it was a dream, none of it rang true.

    I also get frustrated when the score in any show or film intrudes into my viewing consciousness and hits me over the head and says ‘HEY nudge nudge wink wink: this is a funny scene’. And I felt the music in this episode did that and made it all even less believable.

    Part of the magic of Supernatural is that with all the crazy, fantastical enemies and things that happen, the Winchesters anchor it because they are real and believable and authentic. And we root for them because they are so human and imperfect and fight impossible odds anyway and that’s what makes them heroic.

    Random thoughts:
    – Good point about the naming of the babies. Didn’t really make sense except to pull the rug out from Dean. And same for the puppy-eyes scene with Sam.
    – And I was pretty horrified with the whole blowing up the whole fight club thing, too. I thought we had established that monsters are not always bad…
    – Your point about the length of the fight at the beginning is a good one, too. I felt the same about the fight ‘commercial’ as well, to be honest.
    – I am all for just chalking this up to a curse. Excellent idea!

    I get that the writers (and director and editors) wanted to give us a fun episode, but this one, unfortunately, didn’t work.

    • I hated the music too. Can’t stand it when they use the zany time to laugh cues. They’ve done it with other episodes and I hated it then.

      • The music this season has been HORRIBLE. Unoriginal, heavy handed, and obvious. “You should feel sad now, so we’ll play REALLY sad music too loud so that you KNOW you’re supposed to be sad!” “You should feel happy now, so we’ll play REALLY happy music too loud so that you KNOW you’re supposed to be happy!” Dabb is even trying to ruin the magnificent history that music has on this show, not to mention the lighting and the sets by making everything bright and bland. He’s trying to burn the *whole* thing to the ground.

    • Yes, yes and yes. And that’s it, the Winchesters anchor us in the story because they are real and authentic. Take that away and we’re unanchored – and that doesn’t work.

  • Right from the open it was unsettling, even a bit mean-spirited. But I read it as Chuck manipulation, pure and simple. I believe him to be trying a new angle, torture doesn’t work so let’s undermine everything they are or think they are, stamp over their confidence and make them do something rash. Making Garth who is endearing but inept at time the hero, the all round perfect man was a stroke of genius on Chuck’s part, how better to sell the illusion of your own failure and ineptitude than by using a friend against you( he did the same with Eileen) but Garth being the kind, caring, decent man he is made it all seem real, kept the Winchesters doubting themselves, perpetuating their lack of belief in themselves.
    But do you know what, I see what you’re doing Mr Dabb, you want us to believe it too. But Nope, not buying it The Winchesters were still hero’s, the were there for Garth when he called, they were there for each other, they stood tall and went to the job regardless of their run if bad luck , they were still fighting the good fight.
    The stand out moment for me , which set me thinking, was Dean’s quiet unashamed open admission to Sam was his belief he could have been a dancer, not that he would necessarily want to do tap, but it was a flame of belief in himself that he has capacity to be something more, be something different. That in itself is a great big huge deal just hidden away unobtrusively. The last time I checked, Dean was struggling to believe what was real, why things had a point, historically he’s always said he wished he could be something else, other than a Hunter, but it was too late ( before he was 30) now he has a belief he can. Way to go Dean Winchester, I’m proud of you.
    Oh and Jensen, you killed that routine, sheer elegance and class. Kudos.

    • He definitely did kill that routine, that’s for sure. He’s got a sizzle reel now for just about anything he wants to do next – including Dancing With the Stars!

  • I have been looking out for your review every day as I was desperate to see what you thought as for the first time in 13 years I actually fast forwarded parts on a first watch. I absolutely hated it and it still makes me feel like crying for all the reasons you and others have given i.e. this is Sam and Dean being normal!!!! I have invested enormous amounts of time in this story and “fandom”, as with others it got me through some really bad times, I would watch and rewatch especially the earlier seasons and now I feel like it has been taken away from me. I know it has been my choice to spend my time on Supernatural and I have been withdrawing a bit as I can’t get really get into this season and the fact that it is the last one makes that even worse. I read enormous amounts of fan fiction and that has been my comfort over the last few years almost in place of the series itself. I struggle to understand how people could have enjoyed this, normally I can see even though I didn’t enjoy an episode how others could – here no not at all.

    • I can’t say it was perfect and it’s hard to explain, but I didn’t hate it because stripped back without any of the skills or luck or whatever you want to call it, I saw the heart and courage of the Brothers stepping into the hunt knowing they were incapacitated, knowing they were fighting the odds as they have always done, in fact their implicit trust in each other restored my faith after last week’s fiasco. They have so much heart, never once did they break character they stayed true to their principles. Was it well presented? IMHO it could have been done differently it was jarring, but I think the show wanted us to feel and see through their eyes how jarring it was for them.
      I’m sorry it upset you that much and I don’t know if my ramble helps at all , but please don’t let this episode spoil what you have, if you can, try to put it aside as a not so good very bad episode.

    • Fanfic makes everything better, doesn’t it? I’m going to be forever grateful that we have it to find solace in! I’m just hoping that the show walks this back and makes this more a temporary curse than truly a depiction of ‘normal’. I’m hanging onto a little optimism to get me through – and just remember, both the fanfic and the fandom will still be here for quite some time. Sending hugs!

  • Dabb wrote this episode himself, so anyone who thinks he likes these characters, or understands these characters, or isn’t trying to destroy them as heroes because he’s a jealous little toad who can’t stand how devoted fans still are to Sam and Dean, despite his best efforts last season to make Jack the center of attention – here is all the proof you need. Also, the amount of hate – outright hate – I have seen for Jensen over the dance sequence, as if he personally demanded this season be about showcasing his many, many talents for his reel, and from people who claim they are all about the brothers’ relationship, is seriously making me rethink this fandom. Dabb wanted to take Sam and Dean down about 50 pegs in a “funny” way, only he doesn’t actually understand comedy, so it just shows how petty and mean spirited he is. Especially “Sam and Cas.” Dabb needs to join a support group to deal with his unnatural hatred of Dean. It’ like writing Dean in any kind of favorable light gives him ulcers. At least the Js had fun. That’s really all I have to say about this incredibly insulting episode.

    • Actually that’s not all I have to say about the episode. Maybe Dabb was trying to make a point about all of Sam and Dean’s talents being “God-given,” as the saying goes, and what they might look like if Chuck took those away, but if that was the case, he completely missed what “God-given” talents are. Which doesn’t surprise me, since judging by his showrunning for the last four years, Dabb clearly has no God-given talents – or if he does, they do not include the ability to write.

      God-given talents are things you’re inherently good at. Some people are born with beautiful singing voices, or magnificent grace, or an intrinsic understanding of mathematics or science that allows them to build rockets that will take us to the moon or vaccines that will prevent serious illnesses, and some people can learn these skills, but it won’t be the same as people who are *born* with the innate ability, to which these things are effortless. Look at Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby in the closing number of White Christmas for a perfect example of this. Crosby does just fine with all the (simple) dance steps in “Back in the Army,” but Kaye moves like liquid, like it’s effortless and requires absolutely zero thought at all for him to remember the choreography, while Crosby is very clearly concentrating on counting the beats of the grapevine. The things Sam and Dean are good at they may have *some* natural talent towards, but what he took away from them were all LEARNED skills. Skills that they were literally forced to learn at the expense of having any kind of childhood. No one is born knowing how to pick locks. They might be light fingered and quick, but they have to LEARN it. No one is born knowing how to shoot a gun. They might have excellent aim and amazing eyesight, but they still had to LEARN it. No one is born knowing how to take apart and rebuild a car. They might be mechanically inclined, but they still had to LEARN it. That last one, and what Dabb did with Baby, was the most insulting to me on a personal level, as my brother is a mechanic who learned how to work on cars rebuilding my dad’s ’69 Mustang when he was a teenager. The number of hours he put into that car, which he still owns and takes to shows all over the country, and the skills he learned while working on her are not things one simply forgets about, even if “God” decides to take away the talent He’s given. For Dabb to reduce *everything* Sam and Dean ever LEARNED from John into “magic plot armor” was appalling. Then again, I’ve yet to see evidence that Andrew Dabb is good at anything, so maybe he just can’t grasp that concept. Either way, it’s again really very telling of how jealous he seems to be of Sam and Dean (and to an extent Jared and Jensen) for him to write an episode like this and try to pass it off as just light-hearted comedy. It’s also extremely insulting to the audience’s intelligence, which seems to be the theme of this season.

      • Good points. Although considering all the negative comments about this episode, and Dabb in particular, the fans aren’t as stupid as some people think.
        I think maybe Sam’s talent for spells and Latin could be “god given”?

      • I definitely think an affinity for learning languages and an ear for it can be innate. One of my best friends is a French teacher who speaks Spanish and Italian as well – none of which she started studying until she got to college, way past the age where it’s still easy for someone to learn a new language, never mind three. Sam’s ear for languages and ease with spell work is probably a natural gift, just as Dean’s mechanical skills are innate, not only in taking care of Baby but all the way back to season one when he built his own EMF meter – one that *worked* – out of a Walkman. That requires some pretty specific engineering and not everyone can do that. But even being inherently good at languages or mechanics, they would still have needed to be taught Latin or the way engines and electronics work, whether they naturally took to it or not. No one comes out of the womb knowing how to splice DNA, even if their mind is inclined towards the sciences. It’s Dabb taking away them being good at everything they needed to *train* for, regardless of how easily it came to them naturally, that left me with such a foul taste in my mouth over this episode, because it implies they didn’t have to work damn hard to get as good as they are at what they do when we *know* that they did, and have made huge sacrifices for the sake of the job.

      • I agree. Giving Chuck all the credit for the boys hard work belittles everything. It diminishes the boys, the show and the fans.
        I’m dreading the ending, as I’m afraid it isn’t going to be as great/heart wrenching as it could be.

      • I honestly don’t know if the distinctions here were just missed, or ignored. Because that’s an important distinction too, the years and years and years of accumulated knowledge taken away. I honestly don’t know what to expect from the next episode, or whether it will make it better or worse! (And I didn’t realize people were attacking Ackles for the dance sequence, which I did enjoy just as minute of entertainment)

  • Although I enjoyed the humor and loved the dance, I, too, was left extremely uncomfortable by the implied premise that Chuck had been responsible for their competence all their lives. Just… no. Those aren’t my Winchesters. (Lose Chesters?). I couldn’t sleep thinking about it and how all kinds of wrong it was. I could easily accept Chuck messing with them. A comment in a review in TV Guide seemed to suggest that interpretation, and I decided I would let it go and see what happens next. Please, Show, don’t screw this up. Meanwhile, I’ll bask in Jensen’s final pose after the tap dance. As far as I’m concerned, Jensen and Jared are heroes.

  • I also believe it is Chuck as the puppet master in the background. Manipulating the circumstances to make it seem like he is, and always has been, the one controlling everything. I am just not happy with god as the big bad. I LIKED Chuck in his prior incarnations. If I believed in god, that is the god I would believe in. But this Chuck is not for me. And you know when the pressure is on, people try too hard. The pressure is really on the writers and it has resulted in some of them trying too hard. I just watched the last episode of Arrow last night, and I must say, they knocked it out of the park.

    • Glad to hear that about Arrow – I’m so hoping we feel satisfied with the ending we get too. Also, I’m with you about Chuck :/

  • I didn’t find the episode funny. I found it cringey. The humor didn’t hit. Chuck’s (Dabb’s) script wasn’t funny.

    The Winchesters were dopey & dumb in this episode and I didn’t recognize them like I did in the episodes like The French Mistake or Changing Channels. In prior “meta” episodes, I never failed to recognize the Sam & Dean we all know and love. There were always there and still present. There was always a line or a look…in this episode? Not so much..

    It literally felt like Jared & Jensen were told to play cartoon versions of Sam & Dean. Everything was so over-the-top exaggerated that I couldn’t even squint to find our Sam & Dean.

    What really got me was that it wasn’t just the brothers skills that were removed. It was their intellect was as well. Like, for the most part, I felt like it looked like Sam & Dean were fumbling around the episode high on something.

    I also feel like Garth saving the day and being the hero in an episode titled “The Heroes’ Journey” was another jerk jab at a fandom who is often left frustrated by the guest stars being propped up (and saving the day) at the expense of the Winchesters. Too many times, Sam & Dean have been dumbed down so some guest star can look smarter or more capable.

    While I’m still seeing some fandom folk holding onto to whatever glee they can get from this season (& blocking out all the negative), I’m mostly seeing the fandom folk I follow just expressing their disappointment and sadness and plain tiredness with this season.

    I never imagined we’d be halfway through this final season and all just be so collectively defeated.

    • I desperately want to find the good in this season and enjoy my last moments with these characters who have meant so much to me, but the Show sure is making it hard sometimes! I have always hated when the Winchesters are dumbed down, and this episode really set a new standard for that :/

  • I think most of y’all missing the point of this season storyline. I remember one of the writers said in SDCC that they’re gonna make Sam and Dean go through THIS. They’re gonna make them question what’s real, what’s not and what’s Free Will. In this season Sam and Dean will reclaim all their victories, everything they’ve done, every soul they’ve saved.
    In my opinion, this wasn’t just a filler episode; it’s still tied to the major plot of this season. And because this characters became so real to us, that we even celebrate their birthdays, put us in the same journey they’re in; So we’re gonna have the same doubts the boys are having(Although I’m 100% sure Chuck CURSED the Winchesters.). So If we start doubting the past 14 years of our lives and the Winchesters’, then the writers are doing their job.
    Everything became clear to me when Sam, the one who lost his hope last episode, said even their ability to pick the lock was because of Chuck. After what happened to Sam, him saying that made sense. Unlike Sam I still believe in the boys that’s why Dean’s speech had its same influence on me.
    In this point, and the way the show is going, having both feelings the boys are having-hope and doubt- is OK. Having either of them gets you in the story and makes it THIS real to all of us, the SPNFamily.

    • I see what you’re saying, and I’m hoping that was some of the intention, but the execution fell pretty flat at some points.

  • I loved this review article. It’s a super chill assessment of all the moments I both loved and took issue with.

    You wrote, “But you mess with that from within the canon of the show, and what does that leave you? A tattered suspension of disbelief, which is what allowed you to be inspired by the show and the characters to begin with.” I want to add to this. Garth said, “See, the hero never sweats the small stuff. It slows down the story,” but this isn’t actually the contract between storyteller & listener. We don’t believe the hero never sweats the small stuff just because we don’t see it in the story. We aren’t fictional solipsists: we don’t watch under the impression that these characters/their universe/etc. pops in & out of existence under the whims of the creator/storyteller. Rather, the contract is that we understand how, for the story to be told at a decent pace, the storyteller must omit irrelevant & normal activities of their fictional characters & universe. Nobody watches anything believing what we’re shown of a hero’s story are the only moments of *existence* for the hero. That’s ridiculous, right? And yet Garth’s exposition was spoken, acted, and framed as though this was reasonable, and Sam+Dean were experiencing the fallout of this kinda dumb and inaccurate storyteller-listener ‘contract’ shattering. So, I don’t know. The whole premise was jarring to me because it was just so… off-course with like standard storytelling 101 stuff.

    Besides that though, I was mostly in the shallow end of the pool watching this episode and enjoying it. Your headcanon that this is simply what Chuck wants them to believe about themselves is a fantastic idea and what I’m gonna go with too now. And who knows, maybe it’ll turn out to really be the case!

    8 hours of canon left to go. I wasn’t thinking about it like that and now I’m dying inside a little bit, you monster! 😂

    Thank you for such a great episode review! ❤️️

    • Yes, that’s it exactly. We KNOW what our contract is with the storytellers, and that is not it. Does the Show really think we’re that stupid?? Ack. Also, apologies for the 8 hours reminder… *sobs*

  • You can’t see me, Lynn, but Please know I’m giving you a standing ovation for this honest review. You nailed it! I agree with you on all points.

    The prior episode broke my spirit so I didn’t think there was anything else in me left to hurt but now I just have to assume the rest of the episodes are going to be terrible barring some miracle. I have to ask if Dabb has really hates the show, its legacy and fan base. It seems like he’s doing everything in his power to destroy it. I don’t understand how this is being allowed. Where is Bob Singer in all this? What do J2 really think of some of these scripts? I know this is just a TV show but I’m terrified how Dabb is going to end it and it kills me because J2 and the rest of the cast and crew deserve better. We as fans deserve better! Normally an episode like this can be brushed aside with hope for something better next week but the clock is ticking down. We’re getting close to the goal line and Dabb is fumbling the ball!!

    I hope someone from the show reads your reviews and rights the ship because there’s an iceberg dead ahead and we’re going to hit it. I can already hear the band playing “Nearer My God to Thee.”

    Yes, I’m being dramatic but I, like so many others, have invested my heart and soul into this show.

    Is there any hope at this point?

    • I have to agree with you Dawn. and I am standing beside you with that ovation for Lynn. I think that Dabb is a petty, jealous, incompetent small man. I am also so scared where he is going with the ending.

      • Even if someone in charge was reading Lynn’s reviews, it’s clear that Dabb’s ego is so large that short of firing him halfway through this season, there’s nothing that can be done to stop him. He must have *outstanding* blackmail material on someone to have kept his job. I knew the show was in serious, serious trouble when they didn’t fire him halfway through last season.

        And Ismay with Titanic really is the perfect metaphor for what Dabb has done to Supernatural. “Boost the engines! Who cares about icebergs? I want to get to New York a day early and retire with a bang because it’s all about ME!”

    • I think that’s a large part of why I can’t be blase about episodes that don’t work, knowing how little time we have left with these characters and their story. I am still hanging onto some hope, but episodes like this make it difficult!

  • Excepting “The Rupture” and “Atomic Monsters,” this season’s been a disappointment so far, in large part because the writers insist on making the show be about writing, when it should be about the characters and the story that 14 previous seasons have created. Frankly, none of the “meta” plots has been worth its shotgun-full-of-salt since the Gamble era. With the original staff writers having moved on to other things and Kripke on the outs with the CW, the initial inspirations for Chuck aren’t even there to keep his character in perspective. Kripke was careful never to take Chuck TOO seriously, and Gamble generated in-universe outsiders via genre shifts and interdimensional travel, but later writers seem to think that they can provide some kind of valuable meditation on the creative experience. Personally, I’d rather see the brothers’ meditations on their established identities, skills, and messed-up relationships.

    • It’s episodes like “The Rupture” and “Atomic Monsters” that make me think why can’t the rest of the show be like this. There’s still potential. On another note, I remember Jensen saying he hoped they’d be able to get back some of the old writers for this season which is very telling. It’s too bad he didn’t get his wish. My wish is that the current staff would just step up to the plate.

  • Did I laugh out loud during this episode? Yes. Did I scratch my head and ask myself WTF was going on? Yes. Of course I’ve been having a hard time with most of this season so I might be bringing a bit of apprehension and WTF to each new episode.
    I agree with what you said in your review although I tend to not react as strongly to perceived meta attacks or slights against the fandom. I am happily oblivious.
    What I did take away from “The Heroes Journey” was that Sam and Dean are heroes. However that by stripping them of their “badassery” Chuck is firstly showing them what life could have been like had they not been born under the perfect set of circumstances which allowed them to become the gifted hunters they are and secondly he’s trying to wear them down same as he tried to do to Sam in “The Trap”. Same song, new dance. He is trying to destroy their hope, their ability to persevere against all odds. If he takes away their belief in themselves, their free will, he can control and make them fulfill his storyline. When they believe in themselves, they think for themselves and go “offbook”; and tell everyone to shove destiny where the sun don’t shine. If he can convince them that they never actually were thinking for themselves, he wins and they will succumb to fulfilling their destiny (as he has written). They still have theIr abilities but he’s gaslighting them so to speak. It’s crazy making and makes you doubt everything you have ever said and done. However it doesn’t mean that what that person is telling you is true. (Chuck’s gaslighting takes one epic proportions). For my own personal mental health, the Winchesters will ALWAYS be my heroes, they saved my life. Fuck Chuck!

  • Dabbs day dream: Thinking about his great master plan that he’s been following all season. So subtle. The finesse. Smiling to himself. Relishing how he has been able to stir up the fandom. Yet he is far from done. More rocks to throw at the hornets nest. He’s not worried tho. He knows all will be forgiven once we get to the finale. Jensen thought being Bacchus King was a big deal? Wait until we see the brilliant unexpected twist in store! How brilliant? All fandom will look back in shock and awe at his cleverness. We will want to crown him! For years we will dissect and discuss the way he managed to keep us off balance. Fooled us while all season leaving crumbs and clues like an evil Hansel. A peanut M&M here, another there… Dabb feels like God… Watching us, observing us shaking our heads in confusion wondering why things aren’t quite right. Reading the reviews, feeling our collective tension and frustration. And then? *Ackles voice* “START YOUR ENGINES!!!!” No, wrong daydream…. “BOOM!!!” All wrapped up in a bow. Shows ended. He can hear it now… Jared and Jensen who? The cheers! The women throwing themselves at him! Bringing him KrispyKreme donuts. All of Supernatural Fandom praising how clever he is. The greatest showrunner of all time. Allll the accolades! His place in the history of Supernatural assured…

    Reality: Fandom gets so bored and tired of seeing their beloved show being destroyed that most stop watching before the finale.

  • Lynn,
    I really appreciate your review. I think Garth was an unreliable narrator. They were cursed, not ‘normal’. And I believe Chuck cursed them and then peaced out for a while. So I don’t think he specifically caused their lock picking skills to fail at the moment they needed them, I think they were cursed with BOTH aggressively bad luck,some sort of brain fog, and a few mean-spirited ailments. I know “brain fog” isn’t probably a medical term but there were some signs they weren’t thinking clearly (no oven mitts?). Stumbling. That’s all a physical effect. A person does not develop 17 cavities overnight – that’s not bad luck They don’t suddenly become lactose intolerant. Something was DONE to them. It was a curse.
    In sum – they have those skills they always had, something Chuck did gave them both bad luck and knocked them off their game. They were susceptible to Garth’s explanation and that made us susceptible too.

    Now on the wisdom of this storyline, that’s another topic. I do think the writers are experimenting with the audience – having US – who are already so empathetic with the Winchesters – suffer WITH the Winchesters. I’m not sure this is wise on their part. And the ratings feel like they are sliding faster than normal.

    My optimism: I’m confident the Winchesters will get their EARNED mojo back and remove Chuck’s curse. I think the season will start to uptick in March in terms of enjoy-ability.

    • I eventually came to that conclusion too, and luckily it wasn’t proven wrong by the next episode – but I’m still annoyed that this episode was so misleading, whether intentionally or unintentionally!

  • I enjoyed the episode. I laughed. I snorted. But, like you, then my brain kicked in and I started to think. And yeah… that ruined a lot of the enjoyment. Then I decided that Chuck might have made them “normal” – but when all the hero’s luck they have been getting from Chuck went away, “normal” came back with a vengeance – so they are getting all the “normal” of a whole lifetime all at once. That’s why Dean got so many cavities at once, and Sam keeps tripping, because a lifetime of moving around in dark abandoned warehouses without tripping, is catching up on him.
    There are still a lot that doesn’t make any sense – I almost shouted when Dean didn’t even look under the hood the first time the Impala breaks down – but my head canon of “all the bad stuff of being normal is catching up fast” – makes it easier to watch the episode

  • Supernatural has always had a problem of not explaining itself properly. This is one of those episodes.

    I completely agree with you about what we were told in this episode. Sam and Dean are the heroes. They have to be. This is their show after all. The writers need to explain this as not, “They’ve been made normal”, but as, “God is messing with them.” He took away their coolness, their hero factor, and to Garth it looked as if they were made normal, but that’s not the case. It can’t be, and I hope the show clarifies.

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