First, Sam feeling despondent over Dean's future— and Dean finally getting that Sam has a right to feel that way— was a nice moment. It doesn't necessarily mean that Sam was ready to give up on saving Dean, just... sometimes you get discouraged, you know? Sometimes it all feels hopeless, and when that is all Sam can think about right now and Dean's not even helping him (is denying the whole thing all the way), there are times it's going to eat Sam alive. Making Dean see what that really feels like for Sam was a good thing, in my book.
Delving into Bobby's background was interesting— his feelings shown more than spoken in how he reacted to his dead wife, and to his own feelings of guilt about it. As he told Dean, in his usual man-of-few-words way, most Hunters start someplace. As we've seen from the Winchester family, Tamara's history, Gordon's and Bobby's history, that someplace is usually a tragedy that brings the reality home. I like the thought that he did love once, clearly very deeply, and that him being a loner now is probably more about being a one-woman-man or about fear of going through having another wife become possessed than because he's no good at the dating thing.
Bela was the most "off" part of this episode for me. Why the hell call her— they don't have any other contacts for magic herbs and such? My husband wanted to know why she was there, and the only answer I could give was that the show must still be working through the "babe and T&A quota" the network suits want. She didn't belong, she wasn't necessary, and she's already appeared far too much this season. Every time she puts one over on the boys they look like idiots all over again, and how exactly did Dean so easily get over her giving them up to Gordon? Her attempt at apology wouldn't have swayed me. Sam's dream felt like a nod to the network and not much else— why Bela of all people?— and then there's the awkwardness of him being trapped in a chair by a hard-on, which is totally TMI for Sam's character more than Dean's. The whole scene bothered me— its insertion in the episode felt forced.
That Dean's dream started out with a fantasy about a romantic picnic was kind of fun— and totally embarrassing! "I've never dreamed this before, I'm telling you!" Lisa professing her love for him was the ultimate capper, though it shouldn't surprise us that Dean's subconscious might occasionally long for someone to really want him and for a place to call 'home.' That's not the larger truth of who he is, but there have got to be fleeting moments.
Now, the Dean vs. Dean part of the dream was very meaty to me. First he tries to shine himself on with bravado, then to deny what the "inner" Dean is saying, and finally explodes in an epiphany of resentment. I don't think Dean feels those things ALL the time, or even very consciously when he does, but he's earned some of that anger. That he ultimately decided Sam's life was worth more than his— and not only that, but that it was worth going to Hell to bring Sam back— is probably his own doing more than John's, but I don't think he can separate that out for himself very well. Dean is a consumate Daddy's boy, and there are times when I think it's impossible for him to tell where his own will and his father's wishes divide. He wanted so badly for so long to please his father and do what John wanted that all of John's goals became part of Dean's own motivation. They're as deep a part of him now as John ever was.
I don't think that with Dean's dream the show is saying that Dean is worthless, less than Sam, etc. But that is what Dean fears within himself, usually buried so far down he isn't even aware of it. I think it was good for him to confront those aspects of his own thinking, and to flatten out the extremism of some of them. In essence, he was fighting against himself and FOR himself. I certainly can't argue with his conclusion at the end.
Did anyone else have qualms over Sam bringing Jeremy's father into the dream to drive the kid off? I don't think Sam had a choice there at all, but it disturbed me on some level because that terrible man was WHY the kid wound up as he did. It's one of those areas where the show makes you ache with there being "no right answer" to the situation. Which I also kind of love.
Other random love:
* The opening song and its "good times" mood are SO very different from what Sam's feeling— nice surprise.
* Dean telling the grad student that this could go on her "permanent record." That phrase is like magic doom to so many people. ;)
* Jeebus, the wrongness of the motel room decor. Peacock green and blue wallpaper that clashes with the room art, and in the hallway a peacock picture just to tweak us with the awful. Last week's 3D orange-colored stucco was bad enough. I'm continually amused by what the art department on this show does with the motel rooms— it's a running gag of inside jokes, and they're still coming up with new ideas (remembers the "birch" room in S1 and the Oh my eyes '60s psychedelic room with the black-and-white weirdness).
* Sam drooling in his sleep.
* Bobby's dead wife appeared to be wearing the White Nightgown Of Doom— does no-one learn?
* Dean spazzing out in the car on his excess caffeine and yelling at Bobby and being a total freak in general while Sam and Bobby grit their teeth and roll their eyes.
* I'm not actually sure whether I love or hate that Dean tried to place didgeridoos in Africa. Oh, Dean— sometimes the details are just 'noise,' aren't they?