When the Levee Breaks is a very rare episode where we get a glimpse into the hearts/minds of both Sam and Dean. There is nothing redeming about this episode - especially on a rewatch. We know exactly what is happening with Ruby and how right Dean is about Sam being manipulated but we also know how Sam has always felt about the evil demon blood inside of him - how he has always felt like a freak, how much he hated people calling him this, and how he clings to the belief that "it's what you do and not what you are that matters" - that he can turn the evil around for good. Killing Lilith is the way he can do this. It doesn't matter that the angels said it was Dean's job, it doesn't matter that there is no reason why he needs to kill Lilith.
There is no music for this episode - no songs anyway. But thanks to casey28 I recognized Dean's theme at the end so here is a link for that. Dean's Family Dedication Theme
The episode is also named after a song by Led Zepplin so here's that - When the Levee Breaks
The previous episode ended with Sam being locked in the panic room by Bobby and Dean and we start there again, with Sam begging Dean to just open the door. He's sorry he lied. Dean tells him it's not his fault he lied over and over again. Dean recognizes that Sam is addicted to the blood from how crabby Sam was when he didn't have the juice in the previous episodes. Sam should know it too, but he has convinced himself that he is doing it all to kill Lilith and maybe has accepted the addiction as a necessary evil.
SAM: I'm not some junkie.
Dean, I'm not drinking the demon blood for kicks. I'm getting strong enough to kill Lilith.
Killing Lilith is what matters. Or are you too busy being self-righteous you forgot about her?
(I've skipped Dean's returns)
Dean leaves after telling Sam that Sam's just going to be sitting out the apocalypse because Bobby and Dean were going to kill Lilith.
Sam starts to have hallucinations. The first of them is Alistair. Which makes me think that Sam has been imagining what Dean went through in Hell with Alistair after Dean told him about it, aye?
Dean and Bobby are taking some whiskey as they listen to Sam scream and worrying how much more Sam will be going through.
(sorry - such a beautiful image I had to include that :P)
DEAN: How long is this going to go on.
BOBBY: Here let me look it up in my demon detox manual. Oh wait, no one ever wrote one. No telling how long it'll take. Or if Sam will even live through it.
Bobby takes a call from Rufus (actually hangs up on him rather rudely at first :P) and finds out about a whole bunch of seals breaking.
Samis talking to his 14 year old self.
KID!SAM: I thought we were going to be normal.
KID!SAM: It's all we ever wanted. We were so close. You got away from Dad. You quit hunting. You were going to become a lawyer and get married. Why'd you blow it?
KID!SAM: If you hadn't run off with Dean, if you'd been there to protect her, she'd still be alive.
SAM: We were never going to be normal. We were never going to get away. Grow up.
KID!SAM: Maybe you're right. Maybe there's no escape. After all, how can you run from what's inside you?
The cool part of these hallucinations is that all of the things these people say are either what Sam thinks of himself, or what he thinks they think of him so we can really see inside him and see all of his insecurities like we saw with Dean in Dream a Little Dream. We can see here that he blames himself for Jessica's death (still), that he recognizes already here that what made him feel like a freak was not his family or the work they did, but the demon blood inside of him.
Dean and Bobby are feeling overwhelmed by all the seals breaking. Why aren't the angels stopping them? What can they do? Bobby suggests that maybe it was wrong for them to lock up Sam when he had the power to do something. And Dean's reply reminds me of a line by Sam in Season 9.
BOBBY: I'm just wondering. The apocalypse being nigh and all,is now really the right time to be having this little domestic drama of ours? I don't like this any more than you do, but Sam can kill demons. He's got a shot at stopping Armagedon.
DEAN: So what? Sacrifice Sam's life, his soul, for the greater good? Is that what you're saying? Times are bad so let's use Sam as a nuclear warhead?
BOBBY: I know you hate me for suggesting it. I hate me for suggesting it. I love that boy like a son. All I'm saying is, maybe he's here instead of on the battlefield because we love him too much.
Bobby is expressing the possibility that Sam might be right here... maybe he should be using his powers, seeing it's the end of the world. And we as viewers too - at least I was unsure at this point on first viewing. Maybe Dean was being too protective and disapproving - thinking too much in black and white. This unsure-ness on the part of Bobby is maybe why he "lets" Sam go later when he could have stopped him.
Sam, in the meantime, is getting a visit from his mom. This is a very touching scene first because it shows how much Sam wants validation for what he is doing, but also because it shows just how much he missed not having a mother as he grew up. Dean, at least, had the memory of her - but Sam's first memories are all from after Mary died, and how hard it must have been for him with both Dean and dad both hurting and unable to talk of mom at all. First he is unsure whether his mother accepts what he is doing. Maybe she thinks it is bad too. But then he grows surer through his hallucination that mom would have understood.
MARY: You're doing the right thing Sam. What you're doing is brave. You're not crazy. You're being practical. Sam, I'm so proud of you.
SAM: But.. But Dean...
MARY: Your brother doesn't understand. I was raised a hunter. From a long line. We understand that there are going to be hard choices. We do what we have to to get the job done. Yes our family is cursed. But you have the power to turn it into a gift. You can use it against them.
SAM: For revenge?
MARY: No for justice. I know how scared you are.
SAM: What's in me, mom, it's...
MARY: Evil. And you know it.
SAM: What if it's stronger than me? Look at me. What if Dean's right?
MARY: Dean can never know how strong you are. 'cause Dean is weak. Look at what he has done to you. Locking you in here? He's terrified. He's in over his head. You have to go on without him. You have what it takes. You have to kill Lilith.
SAM: Even if it kills me?
MARY: Make my death mean something. I'm counting on you Sam. Don't let anyone or anything get in your way. Not even Dean.
Naturally, these arguments by Mary are the thoughts in his head. The things that he wants to believe. He's telling himself he's not crazy, that he is being practical and brave and that he can use the evil against "them" for justice. He decides that he has to go on without Dean and kill Lilith even if it kills him.
Mary curls Sam's hair behind his ear and gives him a kiss.
The expression on Sam's face and how he leans into that empty space where his mother had been in the end shows his strong yearning for love and acceptance and for his mother and is just beautiful and heartbreaking. (bigger versons are attached if you want to enjoy those<3)
While that's going on, Dean is shouting for Cas. He's been shouting for two and a half hours when finally Cas appears.
Dean asks about what Cas had wanted to tell them before being taken back to heaven. And Cas tells him he can't say anything. I don't know if Dean realizes that Cas has been stopped from telling Dean something very important at this point. He should, if he remembers Cas from The Monster at the End of This Book. And he shouldn't have taken anything Cas said here as worth a grain of salt. But he feels he has to do something to save Sam, and if there is any way he can take the burden off of Sam, he'll do it. Knowing what Cas knows here, what he says is so mixed up with truths and half truths - just like what Ruby tells Sam later. This apocalypse is not only on Ruby and her manipulation of Sam, but also the angels/Cas and their manipulation of Dean. Actually, even the way Cas made Dean wait seems similar to how Ruby made Sam wait, aye?
DEAN: Can he do it? Kill Lilith? Stop the apocalypse?
CAS: Possibly, yes. But as you know, he'll have to take certain steps.
DEAN: Crank up the hell-blood regimen.
CAS: Consuming the amount of blood it would take to kill Lilith would change your brother forever. Most likely, he'd become the next creature that you'd feel compelled to kill.
There is no reason that this will have to come to pass Dean.
We believe it is you, Dean, not your brother.
The only question for us is if you're willing to accept it. Stand up and accept your role. You are the one that will stop it.
DEAN: If I do this, Sammy won't have to?
CAS: If it gives you comfort to see it that way.
DEAN: You're a dick these days. Fine I'm in.
And Dean swears himself in.
Sam is experiencing some different effects of the detox as Dean and Bobby talk about what Dean did with Cas.
Bobby can't believe that Dean trusted the angels. He is actually quite harsh with Dean here. He must be getting quite confused as to what is the right thing to do - just as first time watchers would be.
BOBBY: You willingly signed up to be the angels' bitch? I'm sorry, you prefer sucker?
DEAN: What other choice do I have?They come on like shady politicians from planet Falcan.
What other option do I have. It's either trust the angels, or let Sammy trust a demon?!
Sam starts having fits and flying around the room and they have to tie him to the bed. Bobby has to shout at Dean to get him to move, and we can see how worried Dean is about Sam.
Then we have Sam halucinating again. This time about Dean. We don't know that at first, it almost seems like it's real Dean.
But real Dean is up with Bobby...
BOBBY: Are we absolutely sure we're doing the right thing?
DEAN: Bobby you saw what was happening to him down there. The demon blood is killing him.
BOBBY: No, it isn't. We are. I'm sorry. I can't bite my tongue any longer. We're killing him. ... If he doesn't get what he needs, soon, Sam's not going to last much longer.
DEAN:No. I'm not giving him demon blood. I won't do it.
BOBBY: And if he dies?
DEAN: Then at least he dies human!
Hallucination Dean tells Sam how Sam drinks the blood so he can feel strong, but more importantly because of how he has felt different all his life. Not because he was lonely or because of his family, but because he was a monster.
HALLUCINATION DEAN: You were always a monster. And you only feel right when you're sucking down more poison, more evil. ... You are nothing to me.
We have some truth here. We know from later episodes that he did feel different because of the demon blood - like he was evil. And we also have his fear - of rejection by Dean. That maybe Dean didn't truly love him at all. That it was all an act. This fear could be from his withdrawal - something he would not have felt if he was not in this particular situation.
Then we hear what Dean really feels as he talks to Bobby.
DEAN: I'd die for him in a second. But I won't let him do this to himself. I can't. I guess I found my line. I won't let my brother turn into a monster.
Suddenly, Sam feels his cuffs come undone and the door to the panic room opens. He can't believe what is happening, but when he finds out that it is not a halucination, he gets out of the room and goes to find a car so he can make his getaway.
We see Cas close the door and lock it.
Then we see Cas doing something strange again.
He calls Anna out and gets her arrested. He keeps telling her, "You shouldn't have come" like he is apologizing.
We know that something is wrong with Cas. Why has he let Sam go? After all that with Dean? and then Anna... we really have to wonder whether the apocalypse would have even happened if Cas had not been reprogrammed by the angels upstairs. Yes, he feels guilty. Like he is doing something wrong. I think he is struggling like he was in Season 8. But he is being controlled from the inside and cannot break free.
Bobby finds Sam as Sam is outside getting a car and tries to stop him, but it is halfhearted. Of course he could not have shot Sam, but he could have easily knocked him out. Sam was weak from the detox.
Instead, Bobby lets Sam take his rifle and knock him out.
Later, Bobby and Dean check out the panic room to see how Sam could have gotten out. They see that all the devils traps have been broken (Cas would have done that to avert suspicion) and think that it may have been Ruby that got Sam out.
Sam is in a honeymoon suit, shaking from withdrawal. Ruby comes in all cheery. She doesn't want to know who got him out.
Sam asks her why she didn't come when he had called and she gives him the excuse that she was looking for Lilith - and Sam believes her. Maybe he just can't wait to get at the blood aye?
She reaches up to curl his hair around his ear (like mom did...) and he sweeps her up and slams her on the bed. We see Ruby grinning. She is very happy with Sam's voracious appetite.
After the meal, Ruby tells Sam about the seals breaking. And there is only one left.
RUBY: Seal 66, it can't be broken by just any demon. Apparently, only Lucifer's first can do it.
(We know that Ruby knew this from the start and has been preparing for this the whole time.)
SAM: If Lilith is the only one who can break the final seal, if I get to her in time...
RUBY: ...then Lucifer never busts out of his cage. Exactly.
(What is the difference between Ruby and Cas here? Nothing.)
Then we have a scene introducing the "demon gourmet nurse."
DEMON NURSE: just delicious!
Bobby and Dean are tracking Sam. Dean knows Sam pretty well and knows which car, which motel room to look for. They connect Sam with a city, Cold Spring, which is lighting up with demon signs. Ruby just told Sam he had to feed on more demon blood to prepare for killing Lilith... which is the reason for all the demon signs where they are.
Important conversation here by Bobby and Dean:
BOBBY: Us finding Sam, it's gotta be about bringing him back. Not pushing him away.
BOBBY: I know you're mad Dean. I understand. You've got a right to be. But, I'm just saying, Be good to him. You've got to get through to him.
It doesn't take Dean long to find Sam. He waits until Sam is out of the room, then goes in to try to kill Ruby, but Sam comes back and stops Dean.
DEAN: She's poison Sam. Look what she did to you. She up and vanishes weeks at a time - leaves you cracking out for another hit.
SAM: She was looking for Lilith
DEAN: That's french for manipulating your ass ten ways from Sunday.
SAM: You're wrong Dean
DEAN: Sam, You're lying to yourself. I just want you to be OK. You would do the same for me. You know you would.
Sam tells Dean about the lead and asks Dean to come with them. Dean refuses as long as Ruby is with them. Sam tells Dean that he is weak, and that Sam is the only one who can kill Lilith. He's being practical. He's doing what needs to be done. (All sounds very familiar) Dean doesn't know how to get through to Sam. He turns around and tries to stay calm...
SAM: Look, all my life, you take the wheel. You call the shots. And I trust you because you're my brother. Now, I'm asking you,
DEAN: No. You don't know what you're doing Sam.
SAM: Yes, I do.
DEAN: Then that's worse. Because it's not something that you're doing. Its what you are. It means...
SAM: What? No. Say it.
DEAN:It means you're a monster.
Dean here I think is reminding Sam of Sam's own motto : "it's not what you are, it's what you do" - saying that by drinking the demon blood knowing what it is doing to him, he is giving into the monster inside of him rather than holding that part of him in check and choosing to do the right thing.
A tear spills from Dean's eye (its been a while since we've seen this).
But after that hallucination of Dean, I think Sam has a hard time separating the real Dean with the Dean in his head.
Sam's anger explodes (maybe he sees Dean sneering in his head...) and he punches Dean. Dean goes flying across the room. Dean fights back, but Sam's gotten stronger - maybe because of the blood - or Dean is not giving it his all and it ends with Sam strangling Dean. As he releases Dean, Sam spats out...
SAM: You don't know me. You never did. And you never will.
Dean's theme starts... and Dean says those fateful words.
Those words that dad said to Sam all those years ago. The words that kept Sam from going back. Why? Dean was obviously hurt and disappointed and frustrated that he could not get through to Sam. But, it seems to me that he would not have used those words in particular if he didn't either want Sam to think back to that time or feel the similarities in those two moments himself. Maybe he felt he understood his dad at this point. The kind of feelings dad was going through when he said those words to Sam.