Supernatural "Man's Best Friend With Benefits" Review: In the Dog House

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Feb 21, 2013

Supernatural S08E15: “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits”

So that was, uh, interesting. Super sad to ditch the main storyline for a case-of-the-week that wasn’t even particularly great, but thems the breaks. There’s always one terribly awkward and vaguely problematic episode each season and I think we hit ours for Season 8 with “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits,” which sounded like a really bad idea from the title alone. Once it became apparent that the title wasn’t chosen solely for the giggles—it was an entirely accurate description of the episode—it was over. It was all over. The writers really should have stopped at the title. Then they should have stopped at the part where they put a dog collar on a sexy lady and had her refer to her loverboy witch-with-a-special-bond as “master.” It was like some sort of effed-up lost episode of I Dream of Jeannie. You know the part where doggie Portia slipped into the Winchesters’ motel room and all the blood drained from Sam’s face when Dean returned from his grocery run because he knew Dean would be pissed to find a dog camped out on the bed and all Sam could say was, “Oh no”? That was me.

Add in all the beastiality references and, well, this is why you can’t have nice things, Supernatural. Now go stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done. The rest of us are going to try to pick our jaws off the floor, dust them off, and try to find nice things to say about the collective stroke the entire production seemed to have this week.

But FIRST, despite the unified front Sam and Dean managed to develop in the wake of the Men of Letters/Batcave stuff, it appears that we’re back to keeping secrets and flaunting our trust issues. Dean was still fiercely against Sam taking on the God trials required to close the gates of Hell, but a little headtrip through their worst memories—courtesy of this week’s evildoer, Spencer—somehow inspired him to back Sam’s plan? Is that how this works? In what basically amounted to a revised version of his speech back in Season 5 when Sam decided jumping into Hell was a GREAT idea, Dean said he trusted Sam and would support whatever decision about the trials Sam made. Excellent. We’re all on the same page.

Then, LITERALLY TWO SECONDS LATER, Sam coughed up a wad of blood that was way too conveniently timed to NOT be somehow related to his neat glowing appendage trick from last week’s hellhound bubble bath. When Dean asked if he was okay, Sam pulled out his signature move: pairing an unconvincing “I’m fine” with the patented Sam Winchester Guilt Face. Oh no. HELL NO. I am not ready for this shit. I. AM. NOT. READY. FOR. THIS. SHIT.

Okay, okay, GOOD THINGS. They exist! They do! Wedged between James and Portia’s Bella/Edward romance-mind-meld-bondage-whatever and the admittedly semi-interesting world-building that explored the inner-workings of the witch community, there was that awesome confirmation that Dean’s trust issues aren’t so much about not trusting Sam as they're about a general inability to trust ANYONE who isn’t Dean. A lot of that stems from the fact that Dean’s been repeatedly burned by supposed allies, but I think that sense of unwavering independence is also something that's probably been drilled into Dean’s head since the Winchester family hit the road after mom got toasted on the ceiling. We know from flashbacks that John Winchester wasn’t around much, that his idea of taking care of his sons consisted largely of “Here’s some Spaghetti-Os and a shotgun. Don’t talk to strangers. TTYL.” Dean was entirely in charge of caring for Sam and himself. Later, his responsibility grew to include the whole freaking world and we witnessed him struggle over a similar case of the trust cooties leading up to Sam leaping into Hell. Back then, Dean’s protest was only slightly influenced by a lack of faith in Sam’s ability to overcome Lucifer. It was mostly fueled by the realization that he was no longer part of the equation. He was powerless to stop Sam, powerless to stop Lucifer and Michael, and for a guy who was raised to take charge of every situation, bred to be the “good soldier” and the “hero” and the one who got the job done, that was tough to accept. He clearly floundered through Seasons 6 and 7 in the aftermath, pinballing from Lisa to Bobby to Sam to Castiel, always reacting and never fully leading. Even the problematic Lisa-memory-wipe thing, as "bad touchy" as it was, was born out of the idea that no one but Dean could protect her, NO ONE, and unfortunately, Dean couldn’t be with her and Ben all day, every day. In a weird, awful way, Purgatory was probably a good thing for Dean in that it gave him back that confidence that we hadn’t seen for so long in his ability to fight and win, save himself, and even save others.

For that fleeting period between Sam’s speech about how BOTH brothers deserve happy endings and Dean's own monologue about accepting Sam’s invitation to come into the liiiiight, Dean had found that happy medium between being the self-sacrificing hero and being the reluctant binge-drinking damsel and for an instant everything clicked. This season has come so far in putting the Winchesters’ fractured team back together: first by having them actually CHOOSE to be together, then by revealing their complimentary legacies of hunter and scholar, and finally, by pointing them toward the season’s epic battle on an uncharacteristically positive note—victory without death, dismemberment, heartbreak, or... more death.

So I’m sure you understand my concern.The series has been riding a good, quality high since returning from hiatus, feeling more fresh and alive than it has in years... only to fall back into the same tired pattern of keeping-secrets-for-the-sake-of-perpetuating-trust-issues. And just to rub a little salt in the wound, it did it all on top of a generally lackluster episode.

But it’s okay, Supernatural. I’ve been braced for this inevitable stumble since Henry Winchester tumbled out of the closet and blew our minds with the shiny new mythology. It happened. It’s okay. Now pick yourself back up and go back to being awesome (and try not to take two whole seasons to do it this time.)

What did you think of this episode?


– Dumb Winchester Sighting: Are you telling me that Dean and Sam Winchester seriously don’t know what astral projection is? Even if they thought it was hokey (but why would they?), I would've thought they’d at least have a vague understanding of it, right?

– If you strip away all of the cringe-y details, Portia was actually kind of awesome, mostly for her refusal to indulge Dean’s awkward curiosity and the fact that she was ultimately responsible for saving everyone.

– Shep vs. Curly FTW.

– Dean (understandably) dislikes dogs and he’s allergic to cats. Guess there are no pets in the Batcave’s future, though I could see Dean getting really pumped about, like, an iguana or something.

– So coughing up blood, eh? You know, Sam, WebMD says you should go immediately to the hospital when that happens.

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  • santowestley Feb 26, 2014

    My Name is SANTO WESTLEY..I never believed in Love Spells or Magics until I met this special spell caster when i contact this man called Execute some business..He is really powerful..My wife divorce me with no reason for almost 4 years and i tried all i could to have her back cos i really love her so much but all my effort did not work out.. we met at our early age at the college and we both have feelings for each other and we got married happily for 5 years with no kid and she woke up one morning and she told me she’s going on a divorce..i thought it was a joke and when she came back from work she tender to me a divorce letter and she packed all her loads from my house..i ran mad and i tried all i could to have her back but all did not work out..i was lonely for almost 4 years…So when i told the spell caster what happened he said he will help me and he asked for her full name and her picture..i gave him that..At first i was skeptical but i gave it a try cos have tried so many spell casters and there is no solution…so when he finished with the readings,he got back to me that she’s with a man and that man is the reason why she left me…The spell caster said he will help me with a spell that will surely bring her back.but i never believe all this…he told me i will see a positive result within 3 days..3 days later,she called me herself and came to me apologizing

  • aquaquarius1 Mar 10, 2013

    I just totally love this episode. Dark mystique leaves me feeling a sense of awe...and this episode has plenty of it. Man's best friend with or without benefits feels like a lead in for a new series. Please let it be. I would love to see James and Portia battling evil every week.

  • LJPSaveSaveSave Mar 05, 2013

    Also, "Man's Best Friend with Benefits" episode completely blows, including the title. I can't even begin to list the reasons. Lose the melodrama, campy, filler, half-baked ideas thing. This isn't Twilight.

  • LJPSaveSaveSave Mar 05, 2013

    I agree that Sam and Dean would know what astral projection is. Considering Sam has been a psychic demon killer and all. I mean, that's like not knowing what sea salt is used for!

  • danharr Feb 25, 2013

    So this is what happens when the writers take fanfic and make an episode. Really a hot black chick with a collar. In the hotel and then chaining a man to a bed they really did waste the witch lore with this one.

  • RobTheMonk Feb 24, 2013

    Don't know why, but I enjoyed this episode.

  • InRedneckHell Feb 24, 2013

    If you have to give the writers credit for ANYTHING in this episode, it was showing restraint by not having Sam or Dean make a "doggy style" joke. I kept waiting for it.

  • brag0031 Mar 01, 2013

    Yeah, me too.

  • Tanbodfara Feb 24, 2013

    I just love Supernatural. The poor guy is pouring his heart out : "I trust you Sammy", aaaaaaaaaaaaaand guess what? He's still not telling you that despite the fact that he said he was fine, Sam is NOT fine and he didn't think that mentioning that he was coughing up blood was too important to mention. I mean when am I gonna learn to not be surprised and not get angry that they're still hiding things from each other like every other week.

  • LalaDrake Feb 24, 2013

    I never thought I would say this ever... "PLEASE let it be the last season" OMG
    I love you WInchesters, but what is the wrong?!!!

  • mcepin3 Feb 24, 2013

    Oh my god...I was thinking today about Supernatural and it hit me out of nowhere. If someone already posted this question,tell me,so I will go and read it(don't really wanna read all comments for "nothing" :D).

    Do you see irony with, which Supernatural has hit us?? Hint SAAAM :D

    Sam has DEMON BLOOD in him(I think he still has it in him) and he is doing these trials. Is Sam human? I remember at one point he drank so much demon blood,he got black eyes. Is that the reason he is coughing up blood? If he does these trials and completes them,will he go to hell...forever!?!?!?!? :D And if I figured this out,when will WInchesters figure it out?!?!

  • MikeMoser1 Feb 25, 2013

    im pretty sure the demon blood was cleaned out of him at the start of the fifth season when they get put on the plane, but ya it is ironic that the man who housed lucifer is going on a holy quest to seal hell

  • ragdollcomple Feb 26, 2013

    Yeah, but don't forget that AFTER that, he drank demon blood to kill famine (5x14) and then again to make himself ready to be Lucifer's vessel (5x22).
    We can say he detoxes both times, but Sam had one drop of it as a baby, and it never left his system, even 20+ years later. So can you ever really be free of it? That's the question, and they never really addressed it.

    I don't think the blood he's coughing up has anything to do with the demon blood, though. If it does, I'd lean towards it being more of a 'you're being purified to undertake these trials' thing than a 'you're going to Hell no matter what' thing.
    More likely, I see it as a sign that whatever happens, whatever will happen with the trials, it will take tremendous strain on Sam's body and endurance. My guess is it will kind of act as a 'time limit' incentive. Dean mentioned that Kevin is still fine tuning the translation of each trial, so we don't know the full Terms of Service, if you will. A ticking time bomb is a very good way to add an extra sense of urgency to the plot, as well as a way to hook the audience and get them invested in the plot. The show has spent so much of mid-season dithering about on MotW stories and plots that unrelated to the overall arc that they will need something force the Winchesters back to it--and with a drive to complete it that has been missing until now.

  • MikeMoser1 Feb 25, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

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