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Recap / Supernatural S 04 E 21 When The Levee Breaks

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Recap of Supernatural
Season 4, Episode 21

When The Levee Breaks

Dean: How long's this gonna go on?
Bobby: Here, let me look it up in my demon-detox manual. Oh, wait, no one ever wrote one.

Written by Sera Gamble.

Directed by Robert Singer.

Air Date: May 7, 2009.

Dean and Bobby lock Sam in Bobby's panic room so he can detox from the demon blood. However, as Bobby sees more seals are being broken, he tells Dean they should let Sam out to help them fight the impending Apocalypse. Dean disagrees and goes to Castiel for help. Dean confronts Castiel, who says he should serve God in order to save Sam. Dean accepts. Meanwhile, Sam escaped from the panic room (with Castiel's help) and has met up with Ruby. After giving Sam a dose of her blood, Ruby reveals the reason she's been incognito for the past few weeks. She has been tracking down Lilith, and has found one who she calls Lilith's "personal chef". Cut to two nurses in a maternity ward discussing another nurse who stole two babies. One of the nurses' eyes turn black, and she remarks that the babies look delicious, answering the question of what Lilith eats. Later, Dean tracks Sam to the motel he is staying at. Sam and Dean have a blowout confrontation.


Body count

For this episode = Everybody Lives. On-screen, anyway.

For the series so far = At least 311 humans (of which 5 were witches), 28 ghosts, 26 demons, 10 vampires, 6 changelings, 3 gods, 3 shapeshifters, 3 zombies, 2 angels, 2 ghouls, 2 werewolves, 2 dogs, 1 crocotta, 1 djinn, 1 rakshasa, 1 rawhead, 1 reaper, 1 rugaru, 1 shtriga, 1 siren, and 1 wendigo.


  • Back from the Dead: Subverted with Alastair, who is not really back. Sam is just hallucinating. By the time Mary appears, it's apparent to the audience that she's also a hallucination. Though Sam intuited in the preceding scene that he was hallucinating, he still talks and reacts to her as if it's his real mom.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Ruby is lying in bed with Sam and watching him when he wakes up and notices her. We're not told how long he was asleep or how long she watched him, but it calls back to Stalker Without a Crush behavior in early Season 3, only now with a Crush. Demons don't sleep and the context is a fair bit of Squick, but there is likely some degree of romantic intent to the scene, given that both Eric Kripke and the actors for Sam and Ruby believed the characters to be in love.
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  • Berserk Button: Sam's sensitivity over being called a freak or monster, fueled by a fresh dose of demon blood, causes him to beat up and choke Dean.
  • Big Bad: Ruby splits the brothers apart by corrupting Sam with her demon blood.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: A nurse's eyes turn black as she leers at the NICU during a discussion about kidnapped newborns. The implications are unpleasant.
  • Cain and Abel: Sam and Dean. They only speak briefly until the end, but the conflict between them is the heart of the episode. Sam is the younger (Abel) and Dean is the older (Cain). In an interesting subversion, it is not nearly as black-and-white as it typically is. Withdrawal-suffering Sam has an unnatural addiction he got into thanks to an Ambiguously Evil demon from Hell and is willing to attack his loved ones in ways that could have seriously injured or even killed them to finish his mission, while teary-eyed Dean is aligned with Light Is Not Good angels, unwilling to try to reason with Sam until it's too late, and would rather Sam die than risk him turning evil. Both brothers love each other, want to protect each other, and have understandable and even sympathetic motives for why they're opposing each other on this, though both skirt the side of evil in coming close to killing each other.
  • Call-Back:
    • Dean once again makes a deal to try to save Sam, but this time he pledges his allegiance to the angels instead of selling his soul to the demons.
    • Lilith had mentioned drinking baby blood in "The Monster at the End of This Book".
    • Dean's parting words to Sam are to say that if Sam walks out, to never come back; in Season 1, these were the same words their dad had said to Sam when he left to go to Stanford. It works just as well as it did the first time.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Sam thinks a returned Alastair has tied him down to inflict this on him. It turns out to be his first hallucination of the detox.
  • Cold Turkey: Dean and Bobby lock Sam in the panic room to break him of his demon blood addiction.
  • Deal with the Devil: Inverted: in this episode, through an angel, Dean makes a deal with God to save Sam.
  • Death of a Child: No children die onscreen, but the trope is still averted by the clear hints dropped about Lilith's preferred treat. At least two babies are suggested to have been recently kidnapped and eaten offscreen by Lilith with the help of her chef, and considering how very old and evil Lilith is, and the fact that her demands are such to even require her own "personal chef", likely means there have been an unthinkably high number of infants fed to Lilith.
  • Dying as Yourself: If worst comes to worst, Dean is willing to let Sam die in the panic room so that he at least doesn't become the monster they've been dreading.
  • Eats Babies: This episode introduces Lilith's "chef" and implies that in addition to possessing little girls, Lilith likes to eat infants.
  • Fan Disservice: Gratuitous pan over Ruby's body? Nice. Sam cutting her arm open to suck out her blood? Ugh.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: The choice between Dean and Ruby for Sam. Now that his Dark Secret has been exposed, he wants Dean to join them in hunting Lilith, but Dean is deadset on killing Ruby now that he's realized she got him addicted to demon blood. Sam won't let him do it because after working with her for so long, he has come to believe she's vital to tracking down Lilith and helping him kill her. After burning his bridges with Dean, Sam chooses Ruby.
  • Hero Antagonist: Dean is the antagonist of the episode, but he wants Sam to overcome his demon blood addiction.
  • Hemo Erotic: When Sam reunites with Ruby, she reaches to touch his face, he throws her back on the bed, and they have an intimate moment. Sam runs his hand down her thigh to grab a knife from her boot and cuts her arm to start feeding again, while Ruby makes an expression of pleasure. In the next scene, Sam wakes up to find himself in bed with Ruby.
  • Ironic Echo: Dean's last lines to Sam in the episode are just like what John said to Sam before the latter left for college.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: When Sam stops screaming, Dean and Bobby realize something's wrong. They walk in to find him getting flung around the room by his own telekinesis.
  • Like a Son to Me: Sam is like a son to Bobby.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Dean steps off an elevator into a hotel corridor just as Sam walks out.
  • More Hero Than Thou: What Sam and Dean's argument essentially boils down to.
  • Noodle Incident: Bobby's brief conversation but colorful conversation with Rufus. It's possible that he's referring to Sam's problem, but it's so abrupt, unclear, and inexplicably funny in an otherwise very tense episode that it comes off as this.
    Bobby: Hello. (beat) Suck dirt and die, Rufus. You call me again, I'll kill you.
    Dean: What's up with Rufus?
    Bobby: He knows.
  • Psycho Serum: Demon blood. Withdrawal causes Sam to experience a number of hallucinations. Now that Dean knows Sam has been drinking it, he concludes this is why Sam has been acting unlike himself for the past season and even claims he'd rather let Sam die than keep drinking it and keep turning into something he's not.
  • Put on a Bus: Castiel finally arrests Anna even after she saved his life. She will not appear again until more than halfway through next season.
  • Super-Power Meltdown: Alluded to. When Sam's own powers start turning against him, Bobby is afraid that they'll end up killing him if the detox continues.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Sam's hallucination of his younger self has these, referencing the fact that he has Azazel's demon blood in him as well as Ruby's.
  • Tainted Veins: Sam sees the veins in his arms go black. As he screams, it spreads to his face.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: Sam's demon blood addiction is addressed and portrayed almost entirely as a drug habit, complete with withdrawal-inducted hallucinations.
  • Villain Protagonist: What Sam has become.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Bobby and Rufus, in a single, three-sentence exchange we only hear one side to.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Anna to Cas after he lets Sam free.
  • You Don't Want to Know: Ruby says that to Sam about what the demon girl is cooking.
  • You Monster!: Dean calls Sam a monster. He doesn't react well.


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