My first response to “Heartache”: how in the heck did Jensen Ackles direct AND appear in this episode and do a great job as both actor/director? Written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, the title “Heartache” becomes blazingly obvious after a runner gets his heart ripped out and assumed eaten. Scene two finds Dean and Sam disagreeing on their course of action. Kevin and his mom have disappeared and rather than twiddle their hands, Dean wants to hunt, Sam wants to enjoy organic apples. The two-story lines emerge straight out: our monster of the week(MOW) Cacao and the differences of heart between Dean and Sam. Hunting is breathing for Dean, Sam desires to live a normal life. This division has started fandom bickering which always indicates a good storyline! My recap and thoughts follow!

The Mayan god Cacao worked well as the MOW. Living in human form for generations, he only required two heart sacrifices yearly to stay young, strong and competitive in the sport’s world. This would’ve been cut and dry except that the current Cacao body, Brick Holmes, commits suicide and donates his organs for the good of mankind which translates to two sacrifices times eight transplants! Dean identifies the strange murders while he and Sam are searching for Kevin and his mom. 

Alan Ackles guest stars as a snarky detective responding to Sam and Dean’s inquiries about a suspect with “Forgive me if I didn’t take him out back and shoot him”. FYI: this is a Texan thang! The boys interview the rotund suspect/runner who backs up Sam’s healthy living and causes Dean to gag(which he does perfectly) at the nasty green goo the health nut drinks. During the interview, it turns out that this guy experienced a scare within the past year hence the quest for a better life. 

Dean identifies another case involving a cop who’s gone cuckoo. The cop also has had a transplant, an eye which he later tries to cut out. The cop’s babbling leads Dean to purchase a phone app that translates languages, handy for these guys! The babbling doesn’t register but Dean is still excited to have it!

After schmoozing the cop’s Dr. Kashi for some help, the guys drive and talk. Dean is bubbly, Sam is just not. Dean says “I’m at my best, right here, right now.” Sam agrees but adds “I’m not”. A major theme for season eight. Dr. Kashi calls with leading info: the legendary Brick Holmes had died and donated his organs which links the murders. Onto the next organ recipient’s town which happens to be close to Brick’s home. Sam’s past year involved sports apparently when he not only knows Brick but rattles off his stats like a machine.

The Winchesters meet Eleanor, Brick’s mother, who blows them off. Returning later to search her house, it’s odd that Eleanor’s closet is in Brick’s bedroom. Dean discovers a hidden closet which holds hundreds of years of sports paraphernalia. He also finds letters which he and Sam read later, finding a special recurring woman, Betsy. Sam researches to find Brick’s face appearing for ages as a sports god.

Sam figures out that Brick’s mom and Betsy are the same person. Eleanor comes clean about the whole Cacao sacrifice. She informs them that Rhanda received Brick’s heart and to destroy the heart is to destroy the curse. The Winchesters enter a strip club with Dean smelling it all in. Rhanda the stripper confronts them but she has two other bodies with her who prove to be fairly strong. Rhanda straddles Dean(!) as he is being held down, intending to rip his heart out and eat it while he watches. Thankfully Sam recovers, releasing Dean with enough wiggle room to stab Rhanda through her heart, thus ending Cacao’s life and essence.

Our only flashback comes during a Sam and Dean discussion. Sam is walking his dog Riot, yelling for Amelia, his love interest for the past year. Riot runs off and Sam finds he and Amelia, sitting on a blanket with a picnic. “Haven’t you ever had a birthday cake?” Amelia asks. This scene is reminiscent of Dean’s flashback of Lisa and a picnic. Sam emotes youth and freedom and is so very normal, the crux of the flashback.

This stand alone episode reiterates the bigger seasonal picture, Sam and Dean’s opposite life desires. For Sam, organic apples aren’t a huge issue but walking through a market, eating fresh food is a massive issue. Sam mentions twice that he’s hanging it up when the doors of Hell are forever closed. Sam has also shared his phone number and used Sambora as an alias, both actions that Devereux has warned the boys against doing.

Dean is bubbly. Way too happy for me. Almost to the point of waiting for the other shoe to drop bubbly. After Purgatory, Dean embraces his inner killer, he loves to hunt and his happy place is doing just that, with Sam.

I love the two ‘boys’ being grownup, talking, sharing. This episode reiterates emotions we’ve heard since season one, their differences but it feels real now because they’re men and not boys. Considering Supernatural is all about two brothers hunting together, I’m not sure where this can go with any hope or no pain. Thanks again cast and crew for giving us meat to chew on and you know we will! Til next week, stay supernatural…..

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