Category Archives: Season 9

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.11: First Born


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I have 53 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 20 for the final (15th) season that starts on October 10. That’s 73 total by next April. I currently have 144 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi. If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down past this review to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.


[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Dean is sidetracked from his revenge quest for Kevin’s death by Crowley asking him to hunt down a weapon that can potentially kill Abaddon. Meanwhile, Sam talks a reluctant Castiel into a reckless plan to track down Gadriel.

Recap: Pretty standard recap to this point of the season so far, with extra Sam whining and blaming himself for Kevin’s death, while somehow still managing to push it all off onto Dean.

Cut to Jasper Springs, MS in 1863, at night. A man in a Confederate uniform is riding hard toward a cabin. There’s a huge windstorm going on. He dismounts and rushes inside. Two other Confederate soldiers at an inner door of the cabin stand up and grab their rifles.

The man tells the other two, “He’s coming!” then adds that “the Knight must be protected!” The cabin shakes around them from the wind.

Suddenly, the two men at the inner door spot something that makes their eyes go black – they’re demons. They grab their rifles. The rider turns around, only to be lifted off his feet, one-handed, by a tall, bearded newcomer in civilian clothes who smites him with glowing red fire. He snaps the demon’s host’s neck to boot, before dropping the body.

The other two demons fire their rifles, but though he’s knocked back slightly by the bullets, the man is otherwise completely unhurt. With a low growl, he approaches them.

The scene cuts to outside the cabin. Red glow and the screams of dying men blast through the windows. Cut back inside to the demons dropping dead to the floor and the newcomer stepping over them toward the inner door. He pulls out an ancient knife that looks like the jawbone of an ass.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Dean at the bar where we previously saw Metatron waiting for Gadriel. Dean has tracked Gadriel here. This is pretty clever of him, actually, since Gadriel left no known signs of his destination after vacating Sam, but he has apparently lost the angel’s scent.

He looks really rough compared even to how we saw him at the end of last episode (and he wasn’t looking too good in “Road Trip,” either). He’s rocking some serious scruff. Despite the fact it’s also pretty clear he hasn’t showered in a while, he looks ridiculously hot. You’re probably wondering how Jensen Ackles could possibly look better than he usually does. Just trust me on this: He looks even better rode hard and put away wet.

The camera slides past a suspicious-looking guy in a dirty baseball cap and a rather muscular waitress who is exchanging a smile with Dean as she passes behind him with a tray (guess she approves of the scruff). Dean turns back, to his surprise and annoyance, to find Crowley sitting beside him.

Crowley tells him that Gadriel is long gone and the waitress a walking STD. The (ex)King of Hell shrugs it off when Dean goes for Ruby’s Spork and reminds Crowley that the last time they saw each other, Dean promised to kill him. Crowley instead goes into salesman mode, babbling on about a weapon that could kill Abaddon – the First Blade. Crowley really does lack the gift of fear, doesn’t he?

Dean: You wanna hunt … with me?
Crowley: I do love a good buddy comedy.

As Crowley blathers out a story about his henchdemon Smitty, who was tracking a protege of Abaddon, who claimed to know about the Blade, but then got grabbed by John, a weary Dean puts the Spork back in his coat (because even he’s not so feral as to kill a demon right in front of a bar full of civilians) and pulls out John’s journal. He knows this is gonna take a while and that Crowley will be spinning him some long, apparently random yarn in order to try to manipulate him into doing Crowley’s bidding. Dean knows Crowley well at this point. Crowley has, after all, spent quite some time in Dean’s dungeon and the trunk of Dean’s car.

Dean is very subdued compared to even last episode as he pulls out John’s journal (yes, he does have it in his coat) and finds the entry. As he does so, Crowley turns his head to his left and drops the cheerful act, indicating he sees something there that worries him or that he doesn’t want Dean to notice.

Dean finds the entry, but says that it only confirms what Crowley said before. Crowley notices some numbers on the side of the entry and asks about their significance. At first, Dean just grumps, “None of your business,” but then he reluctantly admits they’re numbers for John’s Magic Storage Locker, which we haven’t seen in a while. When Crowley asks Dean what the ‘T’ beside the numbers means, Dean claims he doesn’t know. Well, maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t.

Crowley gets impatient and “suggests” they go to the storage locker. When Dean asks how he’s supposed to know this isn’t a trap, Crowley just says he doesn’t and that’s why it’s fun. Then he leaves. With a rather disgusted sigh at himself, Dean does, too. They are followed by none other than the guy in the greasy baseball cap who is, you guessed it, possessed by a BED.

Cut to Castiel in the Bunker, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and looking disappointed, as Sam comes back from a supply run. Castiel admits to Sam that while he can “taste every molecule” of the sandwich as an angel, he enjoyed the taste more (it was less overwhelming) as a mortal human.

It turns out he has been giving Sam regular healings in stages. They’re almost done, but when he does this one, he stops, puzzled. When Sam asks him what’s up, Castiel pretends it’s “nothing.”

Sam: You’re a terrible liar.
Castiel [indignantly]: That is not true! I once deceived and betrayed both you and your brother.

Sam gets Castiel back on track from his flight of literalism and asks him, “What’s wrong?”

Rather hesitantly, Castiel admits that there is still something “resonating,” something “angelic,” inside Sam’s body. Three guess where that came from. Castiel’s first thought is to call Dean and ask him for advice. Notice how, even when Dean is gone, and has been for a while, he’s still TFW’s de facto leader.

Sam’s still mad at Dean, though, and doesn’t want to bring him in from the cold. Sam insists that Dean decided to leave, so he can stay gone (if Sam knew what Dean was currently doing, of course, and with whom, he’d be on that phone so fast, Castiel’s head would spin, but he doesn’t and hubris is the ultimate engine of Classic Tragedy, anyway). Wiser than Sam, Castiel has obvious misgivings, but doesn’t push it for the moment.

What Dean is currently doing is bringing Crowley into John’s storage locker, hooded and bounded by anti-demon sigils on the floor. Crowley snarks once Dean takes the hood off, but pushes too far when he talks about being Dean’s family. Slamming him into a shelf, Dean tells him coldly, “We’re pretty friggin’ far from family,” before going into the back for John’s files.

There, he discovers an account of John’s side of what happened to “Smitty.” John and another Hunter, named Tara (the T in the journal), exorcised Smitty. There’s a black-and-white photo of Tara, whom Dean says he doesn’t recognize. Though Tara is clearly attractive, Dean makes no comment about it or reacts in any way. She’s just a lead and as they head out, he says they’ll go find out if she’s still alive.

Back at the Bunker, Castiel has found an account in Enochian that says that angels leave behind a kind of “fingerprint” that contains grace. He then pulls up a paper called “On the Inner Workings of Angels” by James Haggerty. This is a Robbie Thompson Easter egg – Haggerty was the surviving Man of Letters from the flashbacks in “Slumber Party,” also written by Thompson, from earlier in the season.

Castiel says the paper devised a method of using grace extracted from a former vessel (with a specially designed and scary-looking hypodermic needle) to track angels. Thing is, they were never able to find a “guinea pig” to test it. Sam says they have one now. He’s all for tracking down Gadriel and killing him.

A much-older Tara is running a pawn shop. Dean and Crowley come in. She immediately pegs Crowley as a demon and assumes Dean is possessed, too. Seems she has a trick knee, since an injury in 1992, that alerts her of a demon’s presence. She’s confused, though, when she splashes Dean in the face with holy water and nothing happens. When Dean mentions he’s John’s son, she betrays knowledge of his and Sam’s existence when she asks which son he is and comments, “Well, didn’t you grow up pretty.” She asks if he’s still in the “Family Business” and Dean replies, “Born and raised.”

Dean explains that he’s working with Crowley (Crowley unhelpfully supplies the info that he’s the King of Hell and they are “besties,” which Dean firmly denies). Tara isn’t much impressed, even when Dean says he’s looking for the First Blade (turns out John was, too, for a while), until Dean tells her that a surviving Knight of Hell has popped up: Abaddon.

Cut to Tara showing Dean her journal. She and John didn’t believe Smitty, so they exorcised the demon with extreme prejudice. Then they “had a lovely weekend together.” Boy, does that bit of TMI get Dean’s startled attention. Tara also admits that she looked for the First Blade for a long time, which is how she wrecked her knee. All she found was a tracking spell, but she’s missing one important ingredient, Essence of Kraken.

Crowley insists that he can get them Essence of Kraken immediately. After Dean reluctantly vouches for him, Tara even-more-reluctantly, breaks the devil’s trap to let him go get it.

In the minute or so that Crowley is gone, Tara points out that buddying up with the King of Hell is a bad idea. Dean allows this, but desperate times: “Abaddon? Way worse.” He assures her that he will take care of Crowley in due time. When Tara points out that his father used the same tone when he said he’d call her again, Dean looks nonplussed. She has, after all, been hitting on him from the get-go.

Crowley pops back in with the final ingredient and then watches in rapt fascination as the two Hunters mix up the spell in a bowl. They then pour it on an old-timey-looking map of the United States and Dean sets it on fire (this is basically the same type of location spell as the one Ruby used in season four to locate Dean in “On the Head of a Pin”). Once the fire dies down, it leaves the state of Missouri, with a glowing ember in the middle. The Blade will be there.

Crowley [to Tara]: Care to join us?
Tara [nodding at Dean]: Him? Any time. You? Never.

Dean thanks her and Tara wishes him good luck, adding (with a pat on the shoulder) “You’re gonna need it.”

Off to Missouri the Impala roars. Dean and Crowley arrive on a misty, overcast day at a remote farmhouse. When they get out, Crowley insists he feels “something dark.”

Dean [sardonically]: What, darker than you?

Crowley nods in the direction of a man approaching them past an old-style beehive. He’s wearing a full beekeeper’s suit. But Crowley insists the man is “not a beekeeper. He’s the Father of Murder.” With a little prompting from Dean, Crowley clarifies that he means Cain.

Shivering melodramatically, Crowley insists they need to leave. But as he turns, Cain appears behind them, telling Crowley he’s not going anywhere and calling him by name.

Cut to a really nice stained glass window of a beehive inside Cain’s house. His living room, to be exact. Dean and Crowley are sitting on the couch. Crowley is all fidgety. After some hedging from the wiley demon, Dean quickly dopes out that Crowley hasn’t abandoned him simply because he can’t teleport out. Seems Cain has a way of preventing Crowley from leaving. As he gets up to case the room, Dean racks Crowley for more info on Cain. Seems that Cain, after killing his brother Abel (yes, he really did that), became a demon and “killed thousands.” Crowley calls him “The best at being bad,” but then he suddenly disappeared and everyone “hoped” he was dead.

Cain comes in with a tray of tea and honey. Dean, who has been looking at a live display of a hive in glass in the room, stands up with a very intent stare at Cain. Cain rhapsodizes a bit about bees, “noble creatures,” how they’re dying out (and that their disappearance will also kill off humanity – bit of an exaggeration, there, Robbie), and the greatness of honey.

Crowley’s hand shakes as he takes his tea cup, pinky up. Dean watches this intently and then takes his own cup. They all sit down.

Cain: So, What are the King of Hell and a Winchester doing at my house?
Dean: You know who we are?
Cain: I’m retired. I’m not dead.

Cain then demands (politely but firmly) to know why they are looking for him and how they found him. When Crowley starts in with his usual bullshit, Cain literally shushes him so that Crowley can’t speak. Impressed, Dean asks Cain to teach him that spell.

Cain repeats his question to Dean. Actually, come to think of it, it was really aimed at Dean the first time. Dean takes a breath and gives the spiel: He and Crowley weren’t looking for Cain. They were looking for the First Blade (hence, allegedly, why Crowley was so upset that they found Cain, instead) that the “archangels used to kill the Knights of Hell.” A Knight of Hell is on the loose, Abaddon, and Dean wants to kill her. Dean does not miss how Cain’s hand tightens into a fist at that name. Or the elaborately carved ring on Cain’s finger.

Dean allows that he and Crowley understand that Cain is retired. They just want the Blade so they can go kill Abaddon.

When Cain asks if anyone else knows they’re there, Dean says, “No.”

Cut to Tara. Yeah, this is gonna be bad. She’s coming out of her storeroom in the back when her trick knee nearly brings her down. And in comes the dude with the baseball cap, from the diner at the beginning. Warned by her knee, Tara pulls out a shotgun (salt gun?) and shoots him. But her demon trap is useless after she shot it to let Crowley out, so will a shotgun blast to the face be enough?

Back at Cain’s, the Father of Murder is ready to see his guests out. Dean demurs, insisting on leaving with the Blade. Cain comments on Dean’s bravery and that his (no doubt considerable) reputation precedes him. Brushing off the rather sarcastic flattery, Dean says he’s not leaving. Abaddon is a threat and he’s taking her out. Why should Cain care if Dean has the Blade or not?

Cain says that if Crowley could talk, he’d tell him that Cain was the one who “trained” the Knights of Hell and built that entire organization. Dean is irritated that Crowley kept this information from him. Cain then adds something no one else but Abaddon has known – the archangels didn’t kill the Knights. Cain himself did. When Dean asks why, Cain says he’s going into town and doesn’t expect them to be there when he comes back. “Goodbye, Dean Winchester, never return,” he says on his way out.

As they leave the farmhouse, Crowley says it’s best if they get gone. Dean says no. They’ll just wait until Cain leaves, then come back and case the house for the First Blade (“and take what’s ours”). Ah, Dean. Bless yer larcenous little heart.

Back at the Bunker (sigh, this B story again), Castiel is trying to figure out Sam’s current headspace. He asks why Sam didn’t go through with the Trials. He points out that Sam and Dean chose each other at the end of them. That’s why Sam didn’t go through with the final Trial (curing a demon, namely Crowley).

Sam admits this, but then claims that with Dean gone, it’s all now on him. He’s going to find Gadriel and “settle” his “debts.” Sam wants to expiate his own guilt with a reckless experiment involving a ginormous old-timey hypodermic needle. Don’t get too excited, though. Sam’s gonna find a way to blame this all on Dean, because Sam is still a big man baby at this point in the show. Crowley’s got nothing on him in the melodrama department.

Cut back to Dean and Crowley (the far, far more interesting A story) sneaking back into Cain’s house.

Crowley: This is, by far, the dumbest idea you’ve ever had!
Dean: Yeah, well, it’s early.

I legit laughed out loud at that little exchange.

They start looking around. Crowley wants to bail, but Dean tells him to “sack up and start looking.” As Crowley goes into another room, Dean sees a very old sepia photo (a daguerrotype, maybe? Doesn’t look like an ambrotype or tintype) on the mantle of a dark-haired woman. The name “Colette” is written across the bottom. Staring at the woman’s ring, Dean has a flashback to Cain twisting his own ring, which is similar. Yes, Dean is a very observant person.

Cut to greasy Baseball Cap Demon Dude rolling up in a car near Cain’s house. He’s sporting a massive shotgun wound to the face (well … as massive as the show could get away with on network TV) and telling someone on the other end of his cell phone call to “send everybody.” So, I guess Tara didn’t make it. That sucks.

Cut back to Sam and Castiel (ugh, now?). Castiel is inserting the ginormous hypo and extracting glowing grace from Sam’s neck. It really hurts and causes a lot of flashbacks to late season eight and early season nine.

Worried, Castiel removes the hypo and explains that Sam’s body is “regressing” to its condition before Gadriel’s possession. Which, as you all may recall, was not good. Sam asks if Castiel has enough grace, yet, for the finding spell. Castiel says no, so Sam tells him to keep … sticking.

Back at the house, Dean shows Crowley the photo. Crowley comments that the woman is “plain,” but doesn’t otherwise see the significance. Dean spells it out for him – she and Cain are wearing similar rings, wedding rings. Dean figures Cain “went off the reservation” those many years ago because he fell in love and got married.

When they try to leave, though, the doors are locked and Cain pops up, none too thrilled (Crowley hands him the photo, lying that he thinks Colette is “lovely”). Even so, he has a not-quite-reluctant admiration for Dean’s obstinacy and keeps commenting on Dean’s “bravery.” There’s something going on here between these two that’s a bit more complicated than Cain wanting to pull a Garbo.

This exchange is interrupted by Baseball Cap Guy revealing his presence outside, now that he’s got some reinforcements. He claims he tortured Tara into giving up Cain’s location by skinning her alive. This may … or may not … be true, since Tara struck me as quite resourceful, broken devil’s trap in her shop or not, and Baseball Cap Guy ain’t the sharpest tool in the Evil Dead shed. But either way, we haven’t seen her since this episode, so let’s roll with “She’s dead.”

To back up the idea that BCG is a definitely stupid, his “offer” to Cain is that he’ll leave him alone as long as Cain gives up “The Winchester” and Crowley. I don’t think anybody here quite understands what Cain is capable of, yet. But they, and we, are about to find out.

Dean starts barricading the doors, asking Cain if whatever he used to lock them can hold. Cain shrugs and says, “For a while,” but he’s more irritated that Dean and Crowley have accidentally brought demonic company to his doorstep.

“Boo-hoo,” Dean snaps back and Cain comments once again, almost admiringly, on Dean’s bravery. Honestly? I don’t think Dean cares at this point.

Cain, setting down his groceries, says he’s happy to cook them dinner if they “survive.” He’s about to disappear again, so he’s feeling magnanimous.

Back at the Bunker [sigh], Castiel tries to talk Sam out of trying to get him to shove the hypo in more and says “Winchesters” (in this case, Sam) are “pig-headed.” Cas, just pull the damned glowing needle out, already.

Sam deliriously mopes about Kevin, so Castiel reluctantly sticks the needle in further and Sam screams.

Back at Cain’s, Dean has barricaded the house and orders a compliant Crowley to go hang out in the living room. In the kitchen, Cain is sedately husking corn (like the bees, a nod to the myth, where Cain was a farmer and Abel was a hunter) for his dinner. Dean gets pretty sarcastic about this and says it’s not like Cain to run from a fight.

Cain: Since when does the Great Dean Winchester ask for help? Well, that doesn’t sound like the man I’ve read about on demon bathroom walls. Maybe you’ve lost a step. Let’s find out.

He snaps his fingers and the back door opens, pushing aside Dean’s fridge barricade as if it’s nothing. Two demons enter the kitchen, one of them Tara’s killer, BCG himself. He’s with a blonde woman in a jeans jacket and jeans. As a nonplussed Dean whips out the Sparkly Spork o’ Doom, a Neanderthal-looking demon (played by Jensen Ackles’ stunt double Todd Scott) in jeans and a plaid shirt smashes through the glass doors between the dining room and the kitchen. He spars with Dean before knocking him onto Cain’s table. Dean rolls across it right into a fight with Tara’s killer, whom he quickly dispatches after a few blocks and swings. So much for moving up the ranks for that one. Tara is quickly avenged.

Neanderthal Guy and Blonde Girl grab Dean from each side, kick his feet out from under him, and fling him onto the table. Cain calmly proceeds with making dinner, saying “You’re doing great” to Dean.

Dean manages to kick BG across the room and spars some more with NG, beating the crap out of him and knocking him down. He turns to see BG confronting him with the Spork. Grabbing a dish towel (yes, a dish towel), Dean uses it as a sling, as she charges, to grab her around the neck. He tosses her into the fridge and a cabinet.

NG gets up, briefly. Dean kicks him in the gut and brains him with a pan. NG grabs a knife from a block on the counter as he crawls to his feet, and Dean and BG scuffle off-screen (this is seen over Cain’s shoulder as he watches Dean with masked, but keen, interest). NG turns around to see Dean with BG in a headlock. Glaring at NG over her shoulder, Dean stabs her in the gut with the Spork. Two down.

In the living room (the bees have been safely packed away), the front door opens, thanks to Cain. A young, athletic-looking demon enters. Crowley is unimpressed at first, but gets a roundhouse kick to the head that knocks him down. Putting up a hand as if to surrender, he says, “You’re good … but I’m Crowley!” He stabs the demon to death with an angel blade.

Crowley then watches as Dean engages with NG, the one surviving demon. NG is proving very tough, which translates to Todd Scott getting some fun onscreen time playing his own character for once. At one point, the demon throws Dean, sliding, across the room, into the oven (one story has it that Ackles did this stunt several times; the first few takes, he bounced up, insisting he was fine, but he started to get up a bit more slowly after that). Dean gets up, looking pissed and winded, but as they engage again, he’s able to get the kitchen knife out of NG’s hand. Then he’s able to fling him down onto the table and stab him in the throat, right in front of Cain. The face he lifts toward Cain over the dying demon is shadowy with pure rage and killing lust.

Cain drinks a beer, considering, as Dean contemptuously yanks out the Spork and rolls the host’s dead body off the table. It’s a brief reminder that behind every redshirt BED with no lines, there’s a complete horror story about some poor human who got possessed and then dead.

Dean [pissed]: So, what was this supposed to be – some kind of test?
Cain: I felt connected to you from the very beginning. Kindred spirits, if you will. You and I are very much alike.

That admission is huge from such an ancient and powerful being, but Cain says it calmly, almost with satisfaction. I’ll bet he hasn’t felt this intrigued since he lost Colette.

Dean is unimpressed. “Yeah,” he retorts. “Except I didn’t kill my brother.”

“No,” Cain admits. “You saved yours. Why?”

Dean: Because you never give up on family. Ever.
Cain: Where’s your brother now, then?

Nice burn, considering the hows and whys behind Dean’s current hunt.

Dean’s suicidally defiant shell finally begins to crack in confusion. He realizes he is in some kind of deep water he’s never swum before. Hate, hostility, contempt he’s used to, especially from demons. Not respect and understanding. And not from this very unexpected source. Floundering, he backs away from the implicit offer of kinship and demands the First Blade again.

Cain gets up, looking disappointed, and turns away as he admits that he doesn’t have the Blade, anymore.

Back at the Bunker, Sam has a big old nosebleed. Glancing ruefully over at his pb&j sandwich, Castiel realizes what he needs to do. With a bit of warning to a semi-conscious Sam, he pulls out the needle. Then he heals him completely.

Sam wakes up upset. Castiel says they’ve got some grace, but it may not be enough. Either way, thanks to Castiel’s final healing, Sam now has no more grace inside him. Castiel says that being human has taught him about more than sandwiches. Now he can relate to Sam and other humans with actual empathy. He knows how they feel and hurting Sam to extract grace felt wrong.

Castiel: The only person who has screwed things up more consistently than you is me.

Castiel says that he understands Sam’s guilt now. Before he’d been human, he would have just “kept going … because the ends justify the means.” But if “angels can change, maybe Winchesters can, too.”

Or not.

Back at the house, Crowley is not responding well to the news that the Blade is gone. Why would the spell bring them here if it’s somewhere else?

Cain says that the Blade takes its power from him. He’s the source, so the spell led them to him. He rolls up his sleeve. There is a mark on his arm, like a stylized, Ancient Mesopotamian, raised tattoo in the shape of an ass’ jawbone. When Crowley genuflects at the sight, Dean is disgusted.

Dean: Really? Now?
Crowley: It’s the bloody Mark of Cain!
Cain: From Lucifer himself. The Mark and the Blade work together. Without the Mark, the Blade is useless. It’s just an old bone.
Crowley: Bone?
Dean: The jawbone of an animal. The jawbone you used to kill Abel. Because he was God’s favorite.
Cain: Abel wasn’t talking to God. He was talking to Lucifer. Lucifer was gonna make my brother into his pet. I couldn’t bear to watch him be corrupted, so I offered a deal: Abel’s soul in Heaven for my soul in Hell. Lucifer accepted, as long as I was the one who sent Abel to Heaven. So, I killed him. Became a soldier of Hell, a Knight.

Dean correctly guesses that Lucifer then made Cain create new Knights (though these, it seems, were notably weaker and did not bear the Mark). Cain confirms this guess. He says that he and his cadre of Knights wreaked destruction everywhere they went. Dean then also correctly guesses that this stopped when Cain met Colette (Ackles mispronounces her name as “Culotte”).

Looking bewildered, Cain says that Colette “forgave” him, knowing full well who and what he was. “She loved me unconditionally.” Well … she did have one condition. Crowley then guesses what her price was: “To stop.”

Cain explains that the other Knights took his retirement … poorly. They kidnapped Colette, so Cain took up the First Blade (“and it felt so good”) on the way to rescuing her and slaughtered them all. Except, as Dean notes, for Abaddon.

As Cain bares his teeth in barely suppressed rage (before looking down in apparent shame), we get another sepia-toned flashback that continues from the episode’s teaser. After killing the last demon soldier in the outer room, Cain enters the house’s bedroom. He finds Colette, but she is possessed by Abaddon. Gloating and acting like a jilted lover, Abaddon forces Colette’s neck in awful directions, causing her mortal injuries and making her scream in pain. When Cain, enraged, attacks her with the Blade, she smokes out just in time, leaving poor Colette to take the blow to her stomach. Devastated, Cain lowers her to the floor, apologizing and swearing retribution on her behalf. But Colette’s final wish as she dies is that he retire, instead. So, weeping, he does. “I buried her and I walked away.”

In the present, Dean points out that Abaddon is still killing people (he doesn’t mention that one of her victims was his own grandfather). It’s his mission to kill her. When Cain demurs and turns away, Dean grabs him and slams him against a wall, threatening him with the Spork. Unimpressed, Cain tells him, “You never give up on anything, do you?” and when Dean snaps back, “Never!” he’s shocked when Cain says, “Well, I do,” and uses Dean’s hand to shove the Spork into his own chest. As with Castiel when Dean first met him, the blade comes out with no blood and Cain is not at all hurt. What kind of demon is he?

Cain disappears, while more and more demons arrive, pounding on the windows and doors. Dean shouts after him, but it’s no use. Crowley says he’ll try to “stay as long as I can” and Dean is sarcastic in response. Not that Crowley can leave, anyway.

Cain has not gone far. He’s kneeling beside Colette’s grave (is this the same house? It’s much larger than the cabin in the flashback and is on more open ground. I guess he must have taken her home to bury her). He tells her that he’s tried to see himself the way she saw him, but he can’t. He knows she still watches him from Heaven, “but I need you to look away now.” Leaning down, he kisses the grave.

A moment later, he’s back in the house. Dean turns from the window to see him. Irritated, he demands, “The hell, man? You in or are you out?! I’m getting head spins!”

Cain then makes Dean a startling offer. He will give Dean the Mark, too, so that Dean can go use the First Blade to kill Abaddon.

Cain: The Mark can be transferred to someone who’s worthy.
Dean: You mean a killer like you?

No, Dean, I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly what Cain meant – that there is far, far more to being “worthy” of bearing the Mark of Cain – but Cain allows that’s at least part of it. “But you must know the Mark comes with a great burden. Some would call it a great cost.”

Dean: Yeah, well, spare me the warning label. You had me at “Kill the Bitch.”
Cain [grabbing Dean’s arm in a handshake]: Good luck, Dean. You’re gonna need it.
Dean: Yeah, well, I get that a lot. Let’s dance!

Cain grips Dean’s arm as the Mark bloodily transfers over to Dean. Dean nearly falls from the pain and Cain is also in agony, but neither one lets go until it’s done. Crowley calls Dean’s name and Dean quickly recovers, insisting he’s okay.

Cain then tells Dean that he threw the Blade “to the bottom of the deepest ocean” because otherwise, he’d never have been able to resist its power and it can’t be destroyed. He tells Dean to get the Blade and go kill Abaddon (to which Dean, obviously, agrees), but he has another condition. He also wants Dean to find him and kill him with the Blade. When Dean asks why, Cain just says, “For what I’m about to do” and he snaps his fingers.

The whammy on the doors and windows snaps off and the demons pour in. But before they can get near Dean and Crowley, Cain sends them both back to the Impala (either distracted or unable to see them, the demons run right past them into the house). The last we see of Cain is as he rolls up his sleeves (still bearing his own version of the Mark), surrounded by demons. The doors and windows are once again shut.

Outside, Crowley comments that the demons are trapped inside. As pink light and demon screams blast through the windows, Dean adds, “With him!” The two of them flee in the Impala.

Cut back to the Bunker, where Sam and Castiel are doing the Men of Letters finding spell with the angel grace. Unfortunately, there isn’t quite enough grace and the spell isn’t successful. Sam appears to take it well and hugs Castiel, which means he’s probably lying like a rug.

Castiel re-prioritizes things by reminding Sam that Metatron is the real Big Bad. He’s the one who ordered the hit on Kevin, so Castiel will go find him. He points out as he leaves that they need all the help they can get (i.e., Call Dean), but Sam just says, ambiguously, “We got this,” when they clearly don’t.

The Impala pulls up near a dock across a bay from a cityscape (which is probably the Downtown West Side of Vancouver in real life, but is some nameless city in the episode). Dean is driving, Crowley in Sam’s usual seat, riding shotgun.

In the scene in the house where Cain makes Dean stab him, Cain’s face is in normal lighting, while Dean’s (and even Crowley’s) is in a harsh, blue lighting that is sinister and almost deathly. That lighting continues in this coda scene, though there is now some faint normal lighting on Dean’s face that fights a losing battle with the blue. We saw a similar contrast in the coda in the last episode, with Dean in blue and Sam in orange, more natural-like lighting. Dean’s nature is changing.

In the coda, Crowley is saying that Cain was right – Dean is “worthy.” Dean isn’t impressed, not even when Crowley points out that “your problem, mate, is that nobody hates you more than you do. Believe me, I’ve tried.”

Dean cuts right to the chase. They need to find the First Blade. Crowley says Dean can’t search the ocean, but Crowley can (with all that salt? That’s gonna be tricky). But as the smarmy ex-King of Hell gets out of the car, self-satisfied with a plan in motion and a pawn on course, Dean closes his eyes, momentarily overwhelmed by the shame of how far down the supernatural rabbit hole he’s gone, and finally shows his cards. One of them, anyway.

You see, all episode, we know that Crowley has been playing Dean. And we also know that Dean probably knows that Crowley has been playing him, too. That’s always what Crowley does, or at least tries to do. Crowley plays games. He makes deals. He is the King of the Crossroads, after all. But Dean needed a way to kill Abaddon, so he took that carrot.

What we didn’t know, up until this moment, is that not only did Dean know Crowley was playing him, but he knew exactly what Crowley was doing and, a lot of the time, how Crowley was doing it. In point of fact, Dean has been playing Crowley as much, or even more, as Crowley has been playing him.

Dean tells Crowley that even as he was fighting for his life in Cain’s kitchen, he saw Crowley kill the demon in the living room and then stand by, watching Dean fight. He cites Crowley’s exaggerated fear, such as the quaking tea cup in Cain’s living room, as part of Crowley’s act. He guesses (correctly) that Crowley already knew the whole story about Cain and Abaddon and the First Blade when he first showed up in the diner to “recruit” Dean (something Cain himself pointed out back at the house while Crowley couldn’t talk). He even noticed that Crowley gave away their location so that Abaddon’s minions would track them to Cain’s house. He’s got the who, what, when, where and how figured out. He wants to know why.

Crowley admits that Cain would not have given up the Blade (and it’s not as though Crowley could have used it) to him. He needed someone … well … worthy. He needed Dean. And he also knew that he needed a way to prove Dean’s worth, quickly, to the Father of Murder: “You, plus demons, equals Fight Night.”

When Dean points out, almost plaintively, that Crowley and his plan got Tara killed, Crowley is dismissive. That’s just the price of business. You can’t make an egg without breaking omelettes.

Crowley then gets quite a shock when Dean punches him – and it really hurts. Hmm. Dean’s rage comes roaring out like a blowtorch: “After I kill Abaddon, you’re next!”

Crowley shows a strange vulnerability for the first time (“You don’t really mean that. We’re having too much fun!”). As Dean turns away in disgust, Crowley says they’re going to need more than the First Blade. They’ll need allies. When Dean just tells him, “Go find the Blade,” Crowley acts confused by Dean’s “drama” (he couldn’t care less about Tara) and vanishes.

Left alone, Dean looks down at his arm and pulls up his sleeve. The Mark is still there. And from the look on Dean’s face and sucked-in breath, it really hurts. The rather strange incidental music during his conversation with Crowley (a lone, sarcastic oboe) morphs into creepily ethereal xylophone-type chords, like ice cubes running down a fleshless spine. Something wicked this way comes.

Credits

Review: I’ll readily admit that I lingered a bit more on this one than I might on others. It’s an entertaining watch with a lot of subtextual meat on the bones, especially in the directing and acting. And it’s far more important to the overall series than you might think.

“First Born” is one of those episodes that didn’t seem terribly important at the time of its first release. Sure, it was fun and suspenseful, with muscular direction from veteran John Badham (his first go-round with the show, but by no means his first TV rodeo) of a reasonably tight script from Robbie Thompson. Timothy Omundson was a revelation as conflicted, but sympathetic, antihero Cain. Rachel Hayward as Tara was cynically entertaining for the thirty-some-odd seconds we got of her. Anna Galvin ably navigated the lines between Colette and Abaddon, also for a hot minute. Mark Sheppard got to have some serious fun delivering snarky lines like “You’re good, but I’m Crowley.”

Last, but definitely not least, Dean had one of his most iconic fights of the show, involving a vicious and exceedingly violent setpiece against three demons. Jensen Ackles has commented that this scene was especially difficult to shoot, since his stunt double, Todd Scott, was also playing a character and could not provide his usual backup.

But none of that was especially new. We’d seen Dean fight two demons quite ably right out of Purgatory in the season eight premiere. We’d seen him pick up potentially life-altering conditions and weapons that were dropped by the end of the episode or completely forgotten a few episodes later. The show’s had many memorable villains and antiheroes (though admittedly, Cain was way up there). And there wasn’t even any classic rock. Like, at all.

Still, I would argue that “First Born” is the most important MOTW episode in the entire show. Note that I didn’t say mytharc. I said MOTW. There are plenty of game-changing mytharc episodes, but while MOTWs may have sequels and follow-ups, they are notable for being self-contained. Things that happen to Sam and Dean inside an MOTW may continue an ongoing mytharc dynamic, but they do not change the entire dynamic between the Brothers themselves.

Yet, this is precisely what “First Born” does and so far (with only one season left), that shift has been permanent. This is the episode where Sam and Dean pass each other in opposite directions on the human/supernatural continuum. In this episode, Sam finally and fully becomes human, eight and a half seasons after beginning the show tainted by the supernatural. Dean, though he has always been a denizen of the supernatural world since age four, and has picked up and dropped many supernatural weapons and attributes over the years, has always been coded by the show itself as human.

In this episode, however, Sam has the final vestige of supernatural taint (in the form of residual grace from Gadriel) removed, while Dean receives the Mark of Cain, which will now taint him forever. Castiel doesn’t realize it when he says it, but this episode demonstrates that a Winchester can change — permanently.

It’s interesting that the show’s halfway point will now have been season eight’s watershed episode “As Time Goes By,” in which evil Knight of Hell Abaddon was first introduced — or “Trial and Error,” in terms of episode number for the entire show. We could acknowledge that extra half an episode to the true middle and pretend “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits” ever existed, but let’s not. What an irony that at the time, many fans believed that seasons seven, eight or nine were either the last seasons, or very close to the end.

Yet, even though these episodes are technically the halfway point, “First Born” is where we meet Abaddon’s creator (at least, as far as making her a Knight) and get a hint who will end up being her nemesis. If “As Time Goes By” (or “Trial and Error,” where Sam co-opts Dean’s attempt to take on the Hell Trials, with ultimately disastrous results that resonate still in “First Born”) is the literal halfway point, “First Born” is the thematic halfway point where Dean’s new mytharc starts to take off and pay off for real.

Dean is playing a very dangerous game here, as Tara warns him. He’s literally working with the devil he knows (or at least doesn’t hate quite as much) against the devil he doesn’t (or just hates a whole lot more). As his look of shame in the Impala indicates, Dean is well aware of this and as such, feels a lot of guilt over Tara’s death as one he “let” happen on his watch. He said about Kevin’s death last episode that he was “poison.” Now someone else has died.

What Dean doesn’t seem to understand is that he is playing the game at such a high level, with such major players, that even an experienced Hunter like Tara is in extreme danger working with him. That might be a surprise to the viewer, but only on first watch or if you’re not really paying attention.

Dean’s affect in this one is leaden, except in those moments when he is provoked into violence and his demeanor flashes over into sheer rage. If Sam is projecting his anger, Dean is internalizing all of his and it’s slowly killing him.

He looks deeply and severely depressed. He hasn’t shaved. It doesn’t look as though he’s showered or changed his clothes. He’s eating at the beginning of the episode, but it’s almost by rote. Kevin’s death hit him hard, but now that it’s sinking in, and he’s not getting the immediate satisfaction of finding Gadriel and “ending” him, the guilt and shame and pain and grief are getting worse, not better.

At first, it seems that Crowley’s mockery of him is correct, that Thompson is genuinely writing Dean as stupid (sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time). But it quickly becomes clear that the opposite is the case. Dean is playing Crowley even more than Crowley is playing him. Crowley is far more emotionally compromised than he thinks, certainly more emotionally compromised than Dean, who coldly manipulates him on the one hand while fielding Cain’s unexpected and almost fatherly interest on the other. The critical observation here is that while Dean may have no personal self-esteem and a whole lot of self-hatred, he is keenly aware of the transactional value of his body and soul, and sometimes even his knowledge and experience. We’ve seen him haggle like a horse trader over those.

So, are the decisions Dean is making reckless because he is depressed and suicidal, or is he, as always, running it close to the bleeding edge, using his own body as collateral for a goal he may not live to see? Both sound good.

Dean is almost literally sleeping with the enemy at this point. His speech to Sam at the end of last episode now sounds a bit like Bogart’s “Where I’m going, you can’t follow” speech at the end of Casablanca, except that Sam’s response is not nearly as positive and supportive as Ilsa’s. Dean doesn’t want Sam (or Castiel) involved in his plan because he’s going down a mighty dark path.

It’s also a path in which he is working with extremely powerful supernatural beings as an equal, or even leading them. Crowley wants to be his “bestie.” Cain calls him a “kindred spirit.” Abaddon’s demons refer to him as “The Winchester.” There’s also Sam, of course (as Castiel keeps pointing out in the B story), but Cain makes it pretty clear that Dean is the one demons are writing about on bathroom walls.

It’s not a real surprise that Dean isn’t impressed by all of this blatant attention, and is even a bit disgusted by most of it. He’s already seen the lifelong tongue bath Sam got from Lucifer and his minions, especially Ruby. He has no intention of letting Crowley snow him the same way and really, we’ve never seen Crowley really get the upper hand on Dean since the time he tricked Dean into working for him, under the impression that he controlled access to Sam’s soul in season six.

Further, Dean’s most recent experience with a Knight before Cain, Abaddon, was her sleazing over his looks and threatening to possess him, so you can’t really blame him for expecting more of the same from her former teacher. He’s quite shocked to discover that he and the Father of Murder share a bond and we see that he doesn’t know how to feel about that. We also see (though it won’t become clear until later) that Dean has finally bitten off more than he can chew and acquired a supernatural power (or array of powers) that he can’t just drop once he’s done with it.

Crowley insists he’s on top of things, and even seems to think so, but this episode demonstrates his blind spots – namely, his inability to understand selfless love. I know he has been turned partially human since the end of season eight, but that subplot doesn’t overtly crop up here. What we get instead is his casual misogyny (he struggles to grasp Dean’s immediate realization that Colette is the key to Cain’s psyche and couldn’t care less about Tara’s horrible offscreen demise), with the subtext that he really wants to replace Sam in Dean’s life … or even more.

This is the episode where it starts to become obvious that Crowley is gay for Dean and that Dean is starting to learn how to play on Crowley’s romantic obsession to get what he wants out of the (ex)King of Hell. It really amuses me that all the Dean-hating stans who claim Jensen Ackles is a homophobe and the show is queer-baiting, because Dean isn’t bi for his brother and has never kissed Castiel, completely missed his years-long, bitterly one-sided relationship with Crowley until recently. Y’all, this episode was way back in season nine. What took you so long?

Mark Sheppard has stated in the past that he didn’t like the “human blood” storyline. He liked it best when Crowley was “the smartest one in the room.” I don’t really think Crowley ever was the smartest character, but I also don’t think that was a good idea, anyway. It made Crowley boring and one-note. Crowley as a frenemy was better than as a Big Bad (he was severely underwhelming as a Big Bad), but in order to be a frenemy, he needed more depth than just to be the EVOL thorn in the Brothers’ sides. Otherwise, he’d just have been a male Ruby and that character went down like a lead balloon with the fandom. Sam and Dean are a lot of things, but stupid isn’t actually one of them.

Personally, I found Crowley’s obsession with Dean quite interesting and very noirish. Dean was Crowley’s weakness (even demons commented on this), a femme fatale to Crowley’s anti-hero, and likely the number one reason Crowley could never hold on to his crown for very long, even in season six. Yet, Dean never seemed to inspire Crowley to become a better person (not that Dean ever tried).

As a demon, I don’t think Crowley had the capacity to be a better person, even hopped up on human blood. In this episode, Crowley provides a strong contrast to Dean and Cain that highlights how Cain is more different than other demons than he is alike to them because Cain can love and love quite strongly. And that love is both deep and selfless. In addition, it is portrayed as more of a strength than a weakness. Cain is more like a human with superpowers than a demon. Demons do have emotions – we’ve seen this many times – but they are either negative emotions or twisted versions of what would normally be positive emotions.

I was rather less thrilled with the way both of the main onscreen female characters get fridged to motivate the men (the waitress and the female fighting demon are briefly entertaining, but they don’t even get any lines). Somewhat in defense of it, they are interesting characters in what little we see of them, but other than that, the episode is a bit of a sausage fest.

I also wasn’t hugely impressed by the way Abaddon was written while inside Colette. It wasn’t the actress’ fault (she juggled the two characters very well and distinctly, and was only playing what she was given in the writing). It’s just that after Abaddon’s being portrayed for a season as the baddest Alpha bitch who ever bitched, it was a little head-scratching for Thompson to give her this strange backstory where she was Cain’s vindictively Sub ex. That’s … not really how Abaddon was ever written, either before or after this episode, so I’m not very surprised the other writers never followed up on it.

Elsewhere, we get the not-so-hot B story of Castiel trying to talk Sam out of getting himself killed finding Gadriel. I get that this is supposed to be the mirror image of the despair that Dean feels when he decides working with Crowley is a grand idea, but it just plain doesn’t work. It’s all surface, no subtext (well … no appropriate subtext), with on-the-nose dialogue from Sam announcing over and over that he feels bad about Kevin and how Dean should just stay gone, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, Castiel is saddled with equally on-the-nose dialogue in which he bemoans the suicidal tendencies of the Winchester clan, and finally just gives up and heals Sam to end the situation. Shakespeare it’s not.

I think this B story is intended to make Sam sympathetic, even as he is flailing around, declaring that he and Castiel can manage perfectly well on their own without Dean. Even if this were true (they’re pretty damned useless without Dean), it comes off as harsh in contrast to what Dean is getting himself into right in that moment. If Sam were there in that farmhouse, would Dean have said yes? Hard to say, but Sam’s obliviousness to the cost his brother is taking on right at the same time Sam is basically projecting all his guilt onto Dean is not flattering to Sam.

That telescope in the library is still really nice, though, so there’s that.

Next time: Sharp Teeth: Garth comes back (stop groaning out there in the Peanut Gallery) and he has a Big Secret that could tear the Brothers apart. Oh, whatever could it be?


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.10: Road Trip


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Dean recruits TFW to get Sam out of his angel-possession in the wake of Kevin’s murder.

Recap: Medium-sized recap of Dean’s deal with Ezekiel/Gadriel (leaving out entirely the part where Dean promised Gadriel a favor, so don’t expect to see that brought up again. Ever) to save Sam from Trialberculosis, the whole Fallen Angels plot, Castiel regaining temporary angelhood via some stolen grace, and Gadriel killing Kevin last episode. We end on Dean’s plaintive “Kevin?” to Kevin’s dead body.

Cut to Now, where a stone-faced Dean is burning Kevin’s body … alone. Returning to the Bunker … alone, to find Kevin’s stuff and cell phone (with a wallpaper photo of himself and his mom on it) on the table where he left them. And having a massive nervous breakdown to Bob Seger’s “The Famous Final Scene” in which he tosses the cell phone and papers all over the place. And the lamp. And the chair. At the end, he looks completely lost and confused, as if he just came out of a fugue state – and devastated.

Cue season nine title cards with burning angel wings. Have a feeling those will be more-than-apt this week.

Cut to a rock star named Corey in a full-black shiny-leather suit walking down a hallway before a sold-out concert with his handler (this is where Amazon Prime’s thumbnail for this ep comes from and as you’ll see in a minute, it’s wildly misleading). She’s telling him his song lineup as he enters his dressing room. He’s supposed to keep it clean.

Gadriel is in there, still wearing Sam. When the rock star sees Gadriel, he sends the handler packing with a slurred “Bitch, did I stutter?” Charming.

Inside, Gadriel calls the angel wearing the rock star “Thaddeus” and Thaddeus recognizes Gadriel. No love lost there. Seems Thaddeus was one of Gadriel’s guards up in Heaven and enjoyed his job a wee bit too much. It even seems he tortured a close friend/lover of Gadriel named Abner.

Thaddeus is cocky and trash-talks a lot as he goes for his sword. Too bad Gadriel’s a lot smarter than Thaddeus gave him credit for and already found it in his guitar case. Thaddeus tries a last-minute heel-face turn and apology, but Gadriel kills him in the middle of begging for his life. Enjoys it, too.

Back at the Bunker, Dean is packing everything for all-out war when Castiel shows up. Being, as ever, a little slow on the subtext count, Castiel mistakes Dean’s smile (which has as many teeth as a Megalodon shark), and comment on Castiel’s reclamation of the trenchcoat, as warm and welcoming. Then he sees the smashed lamp and papers on the floor – and the absence of Kevin – and clues in that something is very wrong. Note that Dean didn’t clean any of that up.

Over a drink (when not?), Dean spills completely about his deal with Gadriel to heal Sam, and how it resulted in Kevin’s death. Unsurprisingly (in other news, the ocean is really wet), Dean blames himself completely, while wanting “Ezekiel” dead, deader, deadest. Castiel is sympathetic, but honestly? His response is a little too tepidly “I could have to you so” (since he never actually did) and therefore less-than-helpful.

Castiel does point out that if Dean kills “Ezekiel” (they don’t yet know Gadriel’s real name or backstory), he kills Sam. Dean allows that he knows that, but killing Sam is better than letting a possessing angel burn him out.

What little control Dean has over all that internal screaming starts to falter as he faces this hard reality. He starts to verbally flagellate himself, calling himself “stupid.” Castiel gets him to stop spiraling for the moment by pointing out that he was “stupid for the right reasons” (i.e., that he went with what limited options he had). This is actually pretty kind and it gives Castiel an idea – what if they could get inside Sam’s head and get to Sam directly? Then Sam could kick “Ezekiel” out.

Dean wonders how they could possibly do that with “Zeke” in charge. Castiel brings up Alfie (without mentioning that he’s the one who killed him) and what Alfie told him about “the demons” (i.e., Crowley) who were able to access his angelic programming. Oh, and guess who they currently have downstairs, chilling in the dungeon?

Dean and Castiel visit Crowley. They get straight to the point about what they want from him, in exchange for human blood (from Dean, to feed Crowley’s addiction), but that doesn’t mean they’re terribly forthcoming on anything else. Crowley has to guess from their ominous silences and the odd blurted-out statement from Castiel that Kevin is dead, Sam is in the wind, and a whole lot has been going on while he’s been stuck in the Hole (and he doesn’t even know yet that none of it has anything to do with Abaddon). As usual, he fields it all with a cocky smile as if he’s the smartest man in the room. But even though the script has Dean and Castiel act a bit plot-stupid just to get Crowley up to speed quickly, Crowley’s Smartest Demon shtick is already wearing a bit thin at this point in the show.

Case in point: When Crowley snarks that the reason Kevin is dead is because no mere human ever survives very long around Dean Winchester (and that he tried to warn Kevin to run), the pretty obvious subtext is that of late, the reason for that has been that Crowley’s the one who murders ’em. The pained scoff Dean makes indicates that even though the dart hits home emotionally because he’s so raw, intellectually he knows Crowley’s full of shit.

Even so, Dean’s patience is thin and he cuts the banter short, agreeing to a deal – Crowley can go on the road trip with them to find Sam, albeit in cuffs. But of course, “Zeke” has the Impala, so Dean has no car (um … what about the cars in the Bunker basement?). Fortunately, Castiel still has his wheels (a 1978 Lincoln Continental – a pimpmobile), which ran out of gas a few miles down the road. They head there with a gas can and as a suspicious looking woman and her dog watch from the sidewalk, they get in. Since the show is not subtle with its classic car/rock call-outs, they ride off to “The Royal Scene” by Dude Royal (thanks, Tunefind!), Dean driving, Castiel and Crowley bickering in the back. By the way, Crowley still has no idea that the angels have fallen or lost their wings, so he doesn’t understand why Castiel has a car. And neither Castiel nor Dean chooses to enlighten him.

Metatron is having a martini in a place where Gadriel’s former vessel is tending bar. The nameless vessel does a double-take when Gadriel walks in, wearing Sam, and Gadriel stares back at him uneasily. Metatron comments on how odd it is for an angel to encounter a “former vessel, like looking in a funhouse mirror.”

Gadriel gives him a bag containing the Angel and Demon tablets, and Metatron looks pleased. He claims that he gave Gadriel the assignment to kill Thaddeus because he knew Gadriel would enjoy it, so Gadriel doesn’t question it. Gadriel is more hesitant about having followed the order to kill Kevin. Metatron is all mellow as he says he turned off the mechanism in Heaven that creates Prophets, so no new ones with Kevin gone.

His mellowness evaporates when he finds out that Dean is still alive. Andrew Dabb wrote this script and his clumsy writing shows in this exchange. Upset, Gadriel rightly points out that Metatron never said anything about killing Dean. Metatron whines that “sometimes, you have to kill your darlings” and that Gadriel should have “shown some initiative” to prove he deserves to be Metatron’s second in command, but this makes Metatron look careless. The fact that Dean Winchester is still alive is clearly such a problem that it makes the other (quite large) things Gadriel has done already for Metatron pale in comparison. But if Metatron had wanted Dean dead that badly (and we’ll see later that he really did), he should have said so. There simply is never a good reason given in the story for why he was so coy and left it to chance like that, so it becomes a big plothole.

Needless to say after this display of ungrateful petulance from Metatron, Gadriel is not at all thrilled to hear he has to go kill someone else. But he’s already in too deep and he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, either, so Metatron’s guilt trip works on him. He can’t course-correct now.

Back at the house where Castiel’s car broke down, the woman who saw TFW leave has predictably been possessed by a demon. We see her lift a bowl of dog blood (ugh, Show, what is it with you and killing off cute little dogs?) to make a call to Abaddon. Alas, she isn’t terribly observant, only saying that “Crowley is on the move” and not noting the demonic handcuffs that were under his coat or anything like that. Or that Dean and Castiel were with him.

In the foyer of a business called Waldroff Financial, Crowley is sitting on a bench between Dean and Castiel, and bickering with them. He tells them that he has a plant there named “Cecily” who is a demon. Also, the firm is a front for the NSA. Cecily uses their listening devices to find marks for the CRDs.

Cecily is willing to see only Crowley, who walks into her office (hiding his cuffs), while Dean and Castiel are forced to wait outside. In the office, Cecily demonstrates immediately that she recognizes both Dean and Castiel (which makes you wonder how safe it was for them to enter an NSA front). She considers Castiel “hot,” but only now he’s an angel again. Crowley is taken aback. Once again, he’s brought up short by how behind the eight-ball he is. She tells him about how Castiel stole new grace and angeled up again, aside from not having wings. She also claims that she’s not a fan of Abaddon, who doesn’t care about anything but fire and brimstone. Crowley seems to buy it, which is rather odd.

Outside, Castiel is trying to listen in, but the room is warded. Cecily is telling Crowley that she learned what she did from finding a satellite to “tune into angel radio.” Don’t worry – we won’t hear about any more of that after this.

After trying to talk her into breaking his cuffs off (she says only a key will make it happen), Crowley finally gets down to business and asks about the Impala’s location. He also finally figures out that she’s playing both sides. Chagrined, she admits it, but gives him the info, anyway.

Crowley comes back out to tell Dean and Castiel that the Impala ran a red light in Somerset, PA. Off they go as Gadriel arrives in that town to kill his next target. That man turns out to be the vessel for Gadriel’s old friend Abner. Abner is playing the father to Alexander’s family. The vessel wasn’t a good dad, so Abner is making up for that. When his vessel’s little daughter comes out, he introduces her to Gadriel as his old friend (apparently, Thaddeus’ insinuation was just a homophobic insult). Then he asks Gadriel to come back later after the daughter and her mother go out.

Later, they sit in the living room. Abner has changed. He used to be angry and “petulant,” but since falling to earth, he’s gotten over it. He clarifies that the amount of time he spent in Heavenly prison was seven centuries, which doesn’t jibe terribly well with the whole “Garden desertion” storyline, but I guess he was imprisoned a lot later than Gadriel. Or something. Dabb’s not good with timelines.

Abner tries to tell Gadriel that he can use being on earth for a new start and Gadriel appears to think about it. But when TFW arrive at the house later that night (Dean looking relieved and upset to see Baby again), they find Abner dead on the floor with his throat cut. So, Gadriel made his choice. Again.

Gadriel is in the kitchen, washing Abner’s blood off his hands, when he senses Dean behind him. Dean has an angel blade. Gadriel is arrogant enough to tell Dean that he shouldn’t have come after Gadriel spared him. Dean coldly tells him that he shouldn’t have expected to kill Dean’s friend and walk off inside Dean’s brother, and not expect Dean to come after him.

Gadriel TK’s Dean into a bookshelf, knocking him out, but of course it’s a trap. Castiel is standing on Gadriel’s other side. When Gadriel turns around, Castiel cold-cocks him.

Back at Cecily’s office, she is telling Abaddon about her talk with Crowley and spilling everything. Cecily unwisely admits that she is playing both sides, so Abaddon kills her with an angel blade. Dead dog, dead cheeky female ally. Sounds like a Dabb script.

Somewhere in an abandoned building, Gadriel wakes up, chained to a chair. He is defiant, at first, and claims he can rip Sam apart from the inside. He even claims he has Sam locked in a happy dream of being on a hunt with Dean. He suggests Dean can just end this by putting an angel blade through Sam’s heart. Instead, Dean calls Gadriel out on betraying him and Kevin (Gadriel looks ashamed), and has Crowley stick big needles in Sam’s head.

Dean watches for a while, but then has to leave. Castiel follows him out. Dean admits that he’s struggling with watching Crowley lobotomize his brother and begs Castiel to talk about anything else. Castiel gives him the short version of how he powered up again. Dean apologizes to Castiel for kicking him out of the Bunker. Castiel apologizes to Dean for believing Metatron. Dean asks if that means they’re “dumbasses.”

Castiel: I prefer the term “trusting.”

At that moment, Crowley calls them back in. He twirls a needle and a catatonic Gadriel starts speaking Enochian. He says his name. Castiel recognizes it and realizes that he didn’t recognize Gadriel before because Gadriel has been imprisoned “since the dawn of time” for “letting Lucifer into the Garden.” Dean guesses he means Adam and Eve (even though Eve in this story is the mother of monsters), but it’s more likely “Garden” means “Creation.” But who knows? It’s a mystery. And a Dabb script.

Castiel gets mad at Gadriel and shakes him, but Dean pulls him off. Twirling another needle, Crowley wakes up Gadriel, who is still defiant. He claims he can hide Sam from them for years, if necessary. Dean’s next idea is to have Castiel possess Sam, too, but Castiel can’t do it without permission. Crowley points out that demons don’t need permission. Crowley renegotiates for his freedom, so Dean has Castiel burn off Sam’s anti-possession tattoo. Dean threatens him and then Gadriel threatens him, but Crowley is cocky about his chances. He blows red smoke into Sam’s mouth after Dean gives him his and Sam’s secret “go word – Poughkeepsie.” Castiel asks Dean what will happen if the plan doesn’t work. “It’ll work,” Dean says, with more determination that he seems to feel.

Inside Sam’s head, Sam is in the Bunker, researching a case. “Dean” is in the kitchen, getting beer. Sam is shocked when Crowley shows up, even more so that Crowley knows the Winchester safe word. Crowley tells him he’s been possessed by an angel and that in possession, even though the angel has Sam locked away in his mind, he can remember everything. Sam then has a quick set of flashbacks that ends with killing Kevin.

Crowley tells Sam that he has to cast the angel out. Unfortunately, Gadriel (in the form of his first vessel, the bartender) shows up at that moment and proceeds to kick Crowley’s ass. But not until after a big rant about how he’s going to be the Hero who leads the angels back to Heaven and demons like Crowley will always be cowards. Crowley stands his ground and punches Gadriel to gives Sam time to get up to speed.

Sam interrupts Crowley’s ass-whupping by attacking Gadriel. There’s a fight that Gadriel at first appears to be winning (pointing out that Sam might die if he leaves), even as Crowley exhorts Sam to cast him out. Abruptly, Sam gets the upper hand by clobbering Gadriel with a statuette and gives him his marching orders. Gadriel is forced to leave in white, glowing smoke and returns to the bar where Metatron is waiting and his vessel works. His vessel gives verbal consent again and is repossessed as all the glass breaks in the bar. Metatron recovers from his surprise to ask, “Let me guess – Winchester trouble?”

Back at the monastery/warehouse/whatever-it-is, Crowley blasts out of Sam, as well, and back into his usual host body (which looks dead without him). Castiel and Dean fuss over Sam, prompting Crowley to snark that he’s “fine; thanks for asking.”

There are headlights outside as Abaddon and several demons show up in a fleet of black cars (why didn’t they just teleport?). Crowley tells the rest of TFW to run while he holds her off. Dean makes it clear he still doesn’t forgive Crowley and will kill him on sight should they meet again.

Crowley: Yes. I know. I love you, too.

Yes, he really did say that. Yes, we know now he really did mean it, even if Dean didn’t know (then) or care (pretty much ever).

When Abaddon shows up, Crowley plays on the hesitation of her minions to attack him on her orders. The results are mixed, with Abaddon coldly telling him that Hell doesn’t care what he thinks. They can duke it out for the throne, if he likes.

Crowley disagrees. He says it’s more like a campaign for “hearts and minds.” He figures that many demons followed Abaddon because their King was missing and she’s strong (“and immortal, for the moment”). But he also thinks she’s stupid and he has a feeling Hell won’t all go her way with him back on the board. He then snaps his fingers and disappears, leaving Abaddon highly annoyed.

On a misty dock, Castiel heals Sam’s surface wounds and tells him it will take some time, and stages of healings, to fix the rest of his internal “burns.” Dean, who has been standing nearby, then approaches Sam and lets him cut loose.

And, unfortunately, Sam does. He’s a big ball of pissy manpain about being “tricked” and having had his body used to kill Kevin, and how he was ready to die half a season ago. He shows no sense whatsoever of how Dean might be feeling (at the very least, he should notice that Dean had to burn Kevin’s body all alone).

So, he’s a little discomfited when Dean cuts his rant off at the knees and repeats Crowley’s words about how he (Dean) is responsible for Kevin’s death, that he’s toxic to those around him, that anyone who gets close to him dies and horribly. He’s going to hunt down Gadriel and kill him, but it’s better if he does it alone. All of Dean’s self-loathing pours out and it upsets Castiel, even if Sam is pretty stony about it all.

Sam tells him to go, but cryptically says that’s not why … why what? Why Dean is leaving? Why Sam is mad at him? Don’t expect an answer because once again, it’s a Dabb script and it’s just there so Sam can be an asshole as Dean walks away and drives off in the Impala in the rain.

Credits

Review: “Road Trip” was originally the spring premiere after the Christmas hellatus for season 9, following on the cliffhanger of the Christmas “midseason” finale. The writing is somewhat better for this episode than “Holy Terror,” but that’s admittedly a pretty low bar. It suffers from all the usual problems that are now front and center with Andrew Dabb (who wrote the episode) as showrunner and even at this point in the series, it was clear that Robert Singer was phoning it in as director. The kindest word you can give for either the script or the direction is “workmanlike.”

Character arcs within the episode are often poorly set up. Gadriel and Sam’s actions and dialogue in particular frequently make no sense. Metatron doesn’t seem to know what he wants, even as he’s laying out his big manifesto lines (he’s an awful Big Bad). And Dean and Castiel are handed the Idiot Ball a few times in a lazy attempt to get Crowley up to speed. Abaddon is also … not quite as scary-impressive as she usually is. “Perfunctory” is the word that comes to mind for her practically-a-cameo two scenes. The show almost forgot her the last several episodes in its obsessive focus on the fallen angels storyline, which rapidly went nowhere.

What saved this episode was the acting (particularly Jensen Ackles and Mark Sheppard) and what makes it still important is that it’s the prequel to the really major mytharc plot that is launched the following episode. But yeah, “First Born,” it’s not. The hand-off from one mytharc (Sam’s angel possession arc) to the next (Dean’s grief and revenge quest) is clumsy and incomplete. It is there, though, especially on second watch.

Speaking of second watching, it’s fairly easy to miss on first watch (while you’re trying to get the plot points, and chuckling at Crowley and Castiel’s mutual sniping) how close to the bleeding, screaming edge Dean is in “Road Trip.” Sure, there’s the obligatory breakdown to a mournful tune by Bob Seger, but that is actually the high point of Dean’s stability in this episode. At the end of his burst of rage, he looks lost and devastated. It’s a brief of moment of clarity before he disappears down a rabbit hole of corrosive self-recrimination that ends in his going off on his own to take (continuing) brutal revenge on Gadriel after Gadriel has been forced out of Sam.

Internalizing Crowley’s nasty jibe earlier in the episode about being responsible for Kevin’s death (because Hell forbid Crowley ever take any responsibility for his own horrible actions), Dean says he’s going off alone because he is “poison” to everyone (everyone human, anyway) around him. But there’s got to be the factor in there that at that moment, he really can’t bear to look at the face of the person who killed Kevin, even if that face is his brother’s and Sam wasn’t in the driver’s seat. He’d never admit. It’s doubtful he can even think it, consciously, but that’s how his PTSD-driven reliving of Kevin’s death would work.

I said before that I wasn’t thrilled by how the show fridged Kevin to motivate Dean – and I’m still not. But it’s mitigated somewhat by how, even though Kevin was translating the Tablets for the Winchester Brothers, he also had his own special destiny, and his own storyline, as a Prophet. And Dean’s role in that storyline, up to when Kevin died, was the same as his role in Sam’s mytharc plots – to be the wind beneath Kevin’s wings. He essentially stepped into Mama Tran’s shoes and took care of Kevin – cooking for him, cleaning up after him, tending to him when he was sick, protecting him. So, it makes sense that Kevin would grump and chafe at Dean’s “smothering” the way he did with his own mother, yet ultimately trust Dean so completely that he never saw Gadriel coming. The Bunker was safe because Dean was there – until the moment it wasn’t.

And it therefore also makes perfect sense that Dean would blame himself for Kevin’s death, even though it came out of left field and Dean already knew how long the odds were for Kevin’s long-term survival. In that sense, Dean as a character was about supporting Kevin’s story and not the other way round. It wasn’t until Kevin died that Dean was left floundering, grasped onto rescuing (or being forced to kill) Sam from Gadriel, and finally went after Gadriel for revenge. So, aside from the legit complaint that PoCs usually get stuck with supporting and guest roles, rather than lead roles even in their own stories, the story is pretty solid in not following the usual fridging cliches for those two.

Dean didn’t grieve for Kevin because Kevin’s death bruised his ego (as usually happens with fridging, where fridged characters are something that the Villain takes away from the Hero, rather than people in their own right). He grieved for Kevin because they had a friendship in which Dean was protecting Kevin. Because you grieve for someone close to you when they die, especially through violence and especially right in front of you while you can’t do anything about it.

The same cannot be said for Kevin and Sam. Sam expresses a lot of upset about having his body used by Gadriel to commit murder, but that’s about the extent of his giving any size of a rat’s ass about Kevin. In making it all about his own manpain over being “forced” to kill Kevin (even though no one – literally no one, not even Crowley – in Sam’s vicinity is blaming Sam for it), Sam shoves Kevin right out of the story of his own death. It becomes all about Sam, not all about Kevin, and it’s quite irritating.

It’s not really that big a surprise. Sam has never been especially close to Kevin. He did abandon him for a year between seasons seven and eight, after all. I think Sam’s ditching Kevin and his own brother to unknown fates so he could “retire” for a year made it pretty clear to Kevin that whenever push shoved, Sam would always rank his own needs over Kevin’s safety.

Part of the problem is how half-assed Dabb is about the question of how much Sam was aware all season. Up through last week, the assumption was that Sam was aware most of the time and that the only time we saw Gadriel fake being Sam was right before he knocked Dean out to go kill Kevin. But the way Dabb writes (and Singer directs) the montage of Sam remembering being possessed by Gadriel, it indicates he’s been off in Gadriel’s dream world this whole time, since the hospital in the season premiere.

That sounds overly complicated. We’re supposed to believe that Gadriel, an angel so out of the loop for so long that he should have almost no clue how to deal with humans aside from the memories he’s gotten from his two vessels, was able to mimic Sam so well as to fool Dean from the jump? I don’t buy that. And I don’t think it’s great storytelling to have had Sam so completely absent for nearly half a season, either.

Regardless, neither Sam being usually aware or Sam being off with the fairies for ten episodes justifies his pissiness at the end of this one. I get that he’s shell-shocked and trying to get up to speed (a bit like Crowley earlier on in the episode), but acting as though Dean set him up to be magically violated (in future episodes, there are even hints it was like rape) is right out of bounds. There isn’t any evidence that Sam suffered from Gadriel’s possession until he kicked him out. And I think Dean having to juggle everyone else’s needs for ten episodes, being forced to watch Kevin murdered by his own brother’s hand (if not by his own brother), and then having to chase Gadriel down and neutralize him/rescue Sam by forcing him out are way beyond sufficient punishment for having “tricked” Sam into saying yes to an angel to save his life.

Then there’s Crowley. I was a bit surprised to find that Crowley’s obsession with Dean caught fire this early. I mean, yeah, there’s next episode and yeah, he was always more focused on Dean than Sam (he’s in rare form this week ragging on Sam the “Big Baby”). But it was less clear earlier on, more like his usual banter, which was quite harsh in, say, season six. We even get a bit of this early in the episode, when Crowley claims that people die around Dean.

But that line is also an indication of the transitional nature of Crowley’s relationship with Dean in this episode (as is Crowley’s snark at Abaddon that she’s immortal but only for now). Crowley wants Dean to himself. Trying to call shotgun on their road trip (so he can sit beside Dean), bickering with Castiel, the jibe about Kevin (whom Crowley himself tried to kill, because Crowley wants Dean for himself), and covering TFW’s retreat (ostensibly just to bait Abaddon and sow dissension in her ranks, but there’s far more to it than that) all bring attention to his desire to be around Dean, to be respected (if not loved) by Dean, even when it’s not the smartest decision at that moment. But this is really the first time Crowley gets out on a limb for Dean. Yeah, he’s desperate to get out of that dungeon, but still.

And it’s not really unwise for Dean to let him go, either. Crowley being out there, giving Abaddon trouble, is a good thing for TFW right now. Hell being distracted by a demonic civil war means a Hell that’s not at full capacity to wreak destruction on earth – and we already have a taste of how destructive Abaddon is. If Crowley’s willing to do that, then it’s not necessary for now to neutralize him again. Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.

Now, I know that Mark Sheppard wasn’t thrilled by this new human blood storyline, as he felt it made Crowley weak. And it did. Dean became Crowley’s weakness. But I disagree that it was a bad storyline. Stuff that can be fun to act isn’t always good for the story. Crowley being a one-note villain who snarked at everyone and pretended to be the smartest person in the room (because he never actually could be within the context of the show) wasn’t good for the story. He was a weak villain on his own in season six and the story had to resort to his killing off (usually female) friends of the Brothers to stay a relevant threat.

That got old. If they wanted to keep him around, the writers had to do something different with him. This was it. And it worked because it gave him more dimensions and made him less predictable. It gave him growth (or decay, depending on your point of view). A Crowley who wasn’t always for Crowley, but who also had no idea about a healthy relationship or healthy boundaries, was a more interesting Crowley than the original version.

The irony here is that Crowley seems to believe that by helping Dean, he will win Dean’s trust and favor, if not yet his love and devotion. But Crowley has framed his help as a quid pro quo deal. The problem with quid pro quo deals is that they leave the relationship in the same position as before the deal – in this case, with Crowley still an enemy who murdered the Brothers’ friends, tortured Kevin, and once blackmailed Dean into working for him.

Crowley already negotiated the benefit he would get from the deal (his freedom) and it did not involve Dean liking or respecting him in any way. So, of course, Dean didn’t. He didn’t renege on any part of the deal (he did let Crowley go). Crowley had unrealistic expectations, whether because his mind was clouded by his human blood addiction from the Trials or because, as a demon, he’s just that narcissistic.

Technically, it’s canon (or it was while the archangels were in charge, Heaven had angels, and the Apocalypse hadn’t happened yet) that demons can only unleash their full powers with a deal. Azazel made this claim to Dean about Dean’s deal to save Sam in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” and Crowley posited it to Bobby in season five. But it doesn’t change the fact that Dean’s agreement with Crowley was still a deal, so from Dean’s point of view, no gratitude was expected or likely to be given. Dean can certainly be treacherous and cunning, especially if you back him into a corner, but he played it straight with Crowley this week, just as he played it straight with Gadriel for nine episodes. That’s why he’s pissed.

Finally, there was Castiel. I wish he’d had more to do before Dean went on walkabout, but I guess there was infodump to drop and mytharc to move forward. The demon crush thing was cute, but went nowhere due to her being killed off immediately after. I was hoping to see some exploring of Castiel’s human adventures with Dean, but even though Dean did explicitly ask Castiel to bring him up to speed, the writing itself didn’t dwell on it for very long. After that, Castiel mainly served as sidekick and Greek Chorus. I felt Dabb could have written him better, but hey, at least he was sympathetic in this episode.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.09: Holy Terror


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Castiel is captured by one of the angel factions and tortured, while Kevin hits a major milestone in his translation of the Angel Tablet.


Recap: Quick recap of Metatron’s spell to cast all the angels out of Heaven, which includes taking Castiel’s grace and turning him human. We also get a quickie of Dean’s deal with “Ezekiel,” Kevin working on the Angel Tablet, and the boring plotting of the fallen angels to take over the earth and get back to Heaven. Or something.

This is a Nepotism Duo episode, so buckle up, because it’s gonna be a rough (and frequently tedious) ride.

Cut to Now. A bus load of Gospel singin’ girls from the Melody Ministry Glee Club roll up to a roadhouse full of bikers in Caribou, WY. When they enter, the bald leader of the bikers is upset, saying “You shouldn’t be here.”

“We have as much right to be here as you do … Brother,” the obnoxiously pert blonde leader of the glee club sneers back. Both sides are angels. Angel blades come out and there’s a big fight. The glee club wins, massacring everyone in the biker bar, then leaving, covered with blood and all perky. They sing, “I’m Gonna Let It Shine,” as their bus rolls out.

Cue title cards.

In the Impala at night, Dean is driving and asking Ezekiel about Sam’s condition. Ezekiel claims that Sam is better, despite the reveal last week by Vesta that he was barely alive without Ezekiel’s angelic support. Dean is losing confidence in Ezekiel’s weekly progress reports. Ezekiel is unhappy that they are investigating “angel business” (the Doomed Teaser Bikers), but Dean points out this is the Family Business. If they don’t investigate it, Sam will get suspicious.

Grumpy, Ezekiel goes back into dormancy with a flash of eye light. When Sam comes back out, he’s confused that they’re so much closer to their destination. He says he’s getting a lot of missing time lately. Dean, of course, tap-dances that Sam is still recovering from nearly dying at the beginning of the season. Sam doesn’t quite buy this, which, to be honest, kind of puzzles me. We know Dean is lying, but the Trialberculosis was supposed to be inevitably fatal. Why doesn’t Sam buy the idea that it’s going to take him a while (less than half a season so far) to recover?

Anyhoo, the Brothers arrive at the biker bar, dressed as FBI agents. They are surprised to find Castiel there, also dressed in a suit, among the real law enforcement officers. Castiel had heard the news and feels obligated to help. The Brothers think that’s a bad idea (for various reasons, not all of them questionable), but Castiel is just too happy to see Dean (sorry, Sam and Dean) again to notice their reservations. And Ezekiel waits until Castiel has walked off to give Dean an angelic version of Sam’s bitchface.

There is speculation that the angel hit was by Bartholomew (one of the leader)’s gang, but someone else could be involved.

Cut to a scruffy guy named Malachi meeting with Bartholomew’s obnoxious top aid in an empty parking lot. Malachi is not pleased to hear that Bart didn’t bother to show up. The glee club girl is with Malachi and the hit on the biker bar was a hit on Bartholomew’s gang.

Malachi says that Bartholomew will live to regret demonstrating disrespect by not showing up for the meet. He punctuates this by killing Bartholomew’s team with an angel sword.

At a local bar, the Brothers are hanging out with Castiel. Sam is happy to see Castiel, Dean apprehensive. Castiel tells the Brothers that April (the Reaper who tortured and stabbed him to death during the last Nepotism Duo entry) told him Bart’s plan was to gather together as many angels as he could, reverse Metatron’s spell, and go back to Heaven. This triggers a creepy mutual reverie between him and Dean about how “hot” April was. Because of course it does. These writers are so inappropriate.

As Castiel goes off to get more beers, Ezekiel pops up and chews Dean out for letting Castiel hang out with them. This time, Dean really pushes back and challenges the angel on why he has such a problem about Castiel being there. Ezekiel calls Castiel a “beacon” to other angels (despite now being human) and that when Ezekiel agreed to help Dean with Sam, he “chose sides.” This now makes him unpopular with “certain angels.”

Dean shrugs this off, saying that Castiel’s now hated by every angel, but he’s still in there, helping TFW. “So, what makes you so special?”

Castiel interrupts this by coming back with the beers. Ezekiel stiffly says he’s going to “get something from the car,” but he’s really fleeing outside for some air and to think. Too bad that as soon as he does, he encounters Metatron, who says Ezekiel is an angel, all right, but he’s not Ezekiel. Ezekiel looks pretty horrified.

In the bar, Castiel says he noticed that Sam looked uncomfortable and asks if Dean has told Sam why he made Castiel leave the Bunker. At this point, Dean (who clearly has been having reservations about trusting “Ezekiel”) comes clean to Castiel about the angel deal he made and the real reason he’s keeping Castiel at arm’s length.

Out in the alley, Metatron calls “Ezekiel” by his real name, Gadriel (no, I’m not using the show’s spelling, “Gadreel,” because that’s the only time it uses the Arabic spelling convention instead of the Hebrew and that’s dumb). Gadriel gets all tense when Metatron asks him why he’s pretending to be Ezekiel. Gadriel says it’s because Ezekiel was a “good and honorable” angel and Metatron immediately points out that’s the opposite of how Gadriel is perceived.

It turns out that Gadriel was deep inside a heavenly dungeon (and had been for a long time) when he was cast out onto earth with the other angels. Metatron twists the knife when he details Gadriel’s crime – he was supposed to guard the “Garden” (the earth) and not let “evil” (probably Lucifer) enter it, but he failed.

Gadriel looks really distressed, so it’s probably not good that Metatron tells him about his big plan to let a few angels back into Heaven (because Metatron is lonely alone up there) and he wants Gadriel to help him. Yeah. ‘Cause that worked out so well for Castiel.

Back at the Bunker, Sam (now back in the saddle) tells Dean that the biker gang were born again Christians and hooked up with Bartholomew’s group. There’s a new angel gang in town and they’re worse than Bart’s.

At a campfire at night, Malachi’s smug glee club lieutenant is recruiting new idiots for vessels. But as the bodiless angels mass above, she’s stabbed from behind, and the vessels all smote, by a sneak attack from Bartholomew’s forces.

Underneath a bridge in daytime, Metatron is bemoaning about having lived (i.e., hid) among humans for so long. Gadriel practically talks himself into following Metatron by calling Metatron the new God. Metatron only somewhat demurs.

Somewhere in a cabin, Castiel is kneeling down (and assuming other positions) to pray to someone unspecific for help. He gets no answers. Hours later, he has to give up.

When he goes to turn on the TV, he hears a voice from outside telling him to plug it in. When he opens the door, he finds a short, blonde woman in a Park Ranger outfit. She is an angel named Muriel. She heard his prayer. At first, when she recognizes him, she wants to turn away, but he manages to talk her back inside, pleading with her for information.

At the Bunker, Kevin has hit a dead end. He thinks there may not be any information about the spell Metatron used to clear out Heaven. Kevin runs across a section that Metatron appears to have hidden in an indecipherable code, even from Prophets.

When Sam comes back (from having been used as Gadriel’s vehicle to go talk to Metatron), Dean tells him about the campfire attack, which was in Utah. Dean also found a witness who saw the glee club angel and her bus leaving the biker bar.

At the motel, Muriel is skeptical about Castiel’s claim that Metatron set everything up for the angels’ fall and Castiel was an unwitting participant. Despite her caution, she’s surprisingly forthcoming with Malachi’s name, since both Malachi and Bartholomew are rounding up unaligned angels and torturing them into submission or killing them if they won’t. Too bad that in the middle of their chat, Malachi’s henchangels show up. They beat up both Castiel and Muriel, and bring them to Malachi’s dungeon, where Malachi tortures Castiel himself.

Malachi doesn’t believe Castiel when he says he has no useful intel, so he has him tortured some more, then has Muriel killed. Damn. Muriel’s about the only new character I liked in this mess. Figures these loser writers would kill her off.

Afterward, Malachi claims he’s just following Castiel’s “example” of killing other angels. One of the names of the angels he claims died in the Fall is Ezekiel. But Malachi, being an “anarchist,” is too stupid to see the wheels suddenly turning in Castiel’s head. He leaves him with the henchangel who killed Muriel.

However, when Castiel asks for “a quick death,” the henchangel instead wants him to contact Metatron in order to be raised back to Heaven.

Castiel appears to play along, totally channeling Dean Winchester at his wiliest. He gets himself unchained. It doesn’t really matter if this is just another form of torture because Castiel is playing the other angel and gets the drop on him. He then cuts the henchangel’s throat and steals his grace, before smiting him as his first re-angeled act.

Whistling “I’m Gonna Let It Shine,” Malachi comes downstairs to find all of his henchangels in the dungeon dead (and poor Muriel still a doornail).

Dean talks to Kevin in the Bunker, while looking for Sam. Kevin says Sam went out. Kevin comments that Sam has been “doing that a lot” and we see the wheels turning in Dean’s head as he wonders who is doing that, Sam or “Ezekiel”?

Dean then gets a call from Castiel, who tells him he’s escaped Malachi and angeled back up (however temporarily). He also outs “Ezekiel,” saying that he’s dead.

Dean comes up with a plan quickly, hitting a sleepy Kevin up for a spell that can suppress an angel long enough to talk to the vessel (and let the human expel the angel), but not telling Kevin what it’s for.

Meanwhile, Gadriel, unaware he’s been outed, is meeting again, in broad daylight, with Metatron. He agrees to be Metatron’s second in command. Metatron blows some sunshine up Gadriel’s ass and Gadriel tries to believe it. But he’s not too thrilled when Metatron gives him the name of an enemy who must die first as a test, a name on a piece of paper. Gadriel balks, but he does take the Post-It note and looks conflicted.

Back at the Bunker, Kevin has cobbled together a spell from the Angel Tablet and some research he dug up in the Men of Letters archives. Now they’ve been drawing angel suppression sigils all over the walls. When he asks Dean what’s going on, Dean says he can’t really tell him and to trust him. Kevin grumps that that always bites him in the ass (but, in all fairness, Kevin’s been very volatile and unhelpfully unpredictable in his reaction to negative news in the past).

Sam comes back and Dean asks him where he’s been. Sam says he was on a beer run.

Dean quickly uses one of the sigils (which does work because we see it smoke and burn) to suppress “Ezekiel,” then tries to fill Sam in on the deal he made and that Ezekiel lied to him. Sam gets mega-pissy about it and clocks Dean one, knocking him out. Then he goes out into the Library where he … smites Kevin in the middle of Kevin worrying that Dean is “off” somehow. Dean rushes in in the middle of it, but can’t stop Kevin dying. Gadriel slams him up against a post.

Gadriel then proceeds to monologue about how he overheard Dean and Kevin talking, then “altered the spell” (to do what, exactly, since it did do something?). He faked being Sam and says that Sam is gone. Rubbing salt in the wounds, he says Kevin would have died sooner than later, anyway, and drops the Post-It note Metatron gave him on Kevin’s chest. It has Kevin’s name on it. He also takes the Angel and Demon tablets. After a little hesitation, he leaves Dean behind, alive, to call Kevin’s name, mournfully. But Kevin, his eyes burned out, is quite dead.

Credits

Review: Some mytharc episodes remain relevant on rewatch years later because they have canon that’s still in active effect, or they introduced important recurring characters, or they had some great lines/storylines/characters that are memorable and beloved by fans.

Then there are episodes like “Holy Terror.” The only reason at this point to watch “Holy Terror,” really, is because it’s the episode that kills off Kevin Tran. Every angel character in it besides Castiel is dead and gone for seasons now. The whole storyline has been wrapped up and rendered pretty pointless, since the surviving angels returned to Heaven. The war between them over who got to go back to turned out to be mainly just a cruel and manipulative con by Metatron. Yeah, that’s a bit spoilery. Oh, well.

The Nepotism Duo (Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming) are in their usual smug, California liberal mode here, thinking they’re being so woke when they’re instead condescending, misogynistic and pretty borderline racist. Three female angel characters get fridged in this episode, three, and two of them we only met this one time. Granted, I only liked one of them (Muriel), but that’s part of the problem. Not only do these female characters exist solely to motivate male characters (Bartholomew, Malachi and Castiel, respectively), but two of them are so thoroughly obnoxious that I pretty much guarantee you won’t mind they die only a few minutes after they show up. And I’m sure y’all won’t be too surprised to hear that the only sympathetic (or even interesting) one was the one fridged to motivate Castiel – Muriel.

And then a fourth character gets fridged this week. It’s Kevin, of course, and he is killed off to motivate Dean. As if Dean needed any more motivation, but the idea is to send Dean off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge:

Now I quite like Dean’s RRoRs, which are always full of “bloody satisfaction,” but I quite dislike when the show fridges women and people of color to put him in that mindset. This one is especially egregious because the intent is also to make Dean look bad.

The idea here (spelled out by Kevin’s claim that trusting Dean “always” backfires on him) is that Dean doesn’t protect Kevin sufficiently from “Ezekiel” and that’s why Kevin dies. The general idea in the first half of season nine is that the deal Dean makes with Ezekiel (i.e., Gadriel) is a bad one and poisonous to everyone around him. But that would only be true if Gadriel were an evil character.

Gadriel is a lot of things that aren’t so great (notably, gullible and selfish). But when he acts ashamed over his backstory and hesitates over killing Kevin, we realize that overall, his intentions are, if not strictly honorable (would he have ever left Sam willingly? One wonders), at least relatively benign toward Dean and Kevin up to that point. He really doesn’t want to kill Kevin and he ends up not killing Dean, even though that really would be the smart thing to do. It’s not as though Dean is just going to let this go.

Up to this episode, the worst thing Gadriel has been doing has been forcing Dean to force Castiel to stay away when Castiel really needs the protection of Dean and the Bunker the most. And Dean really has no choice in this matter. Granted, it sucks for Castiel, but then, if Castiel hadn’t been so gullible with Metatron, Gadriel would still be in prison and the other angels would also still be in Heaven. So, Castiel is not exactly innocent in this whole situation, just because he’s now human. Dean’s dealing with the situation Castiel dropped on him as best he can. But also, Dean’s decision isn’t bad in and of itself. When it turns bad is when Gadriel is corrupted by Metatron, which is not something Dean had any information to predict. That comes right out of left field for him.

Another thing that seems unfair about Kevin’s accusation is that, aside from the fact that he’s really not that good at protecting himself and being out on his own, Kevin himself is toxic to his loved ones. It’s not him, personally, but his role as a Prophet that kills his girlfriend and her roommate and his mother (at least, apparently she’s dead) and even the angels that were supposed to protect him on earth. Kevin is not safe to be around. He could only be protected by someone as high-level as the Brothers Winchester and even then, all three of them knew his lifespan wasn’t liable to be long. Yeah, they have him working for them, but they’d have taken him in, anyway, or found him a safe place to stay. They’ve done it for others.

Sam is practically nonexistent in this episode, even though Jared Padalecki is in more of it than Jensen Ackles. In fact, Sam is practically nonexistent for a lot of the story in the first half of the season. We’re supposed to be sympathetic toward his plight, but he comes off as so clueless about his condition, and not especially interested in exploring what’s going on, that it’s hard to sympathize with his over-the-top outrage when he finally finds out. Which, despite the initial tone of Gadriel’s fakeout near the end, does not actually occur this week.

The show wants to blame Dean because it Tells us that Sam would never, ever, ever want to be possessed by an angel, and that it’s a violation akin to rape (a topic on which these two writers are exceptionally tone-deaf, as the example of April the Reaper makes clear). Except that Sam never has any such traumatic experience to that effect. He remains oblivious for so long because it’s not an awful experience at all and Ezekiel does heal him up a fair bit. What Sam will end up feeling guilty about is his body being used as a tool in Kevin’s death and that’s not the same thing as rape. Especially when that “guilt” becomes just another way for Sam to blame Dean for not letting him go (ie., die) at the beginning of season nine.

Yes, from a philosophical point of view, Sam would hate the idea of being possessed by an angel again after the whole Samifer deal. Yes, Dean’s is a reckless act, with consequences. No, it’s not the smartest thing he’s ever done. But for much of the season, when Dean is scrambling to keep Gadriel happy and everyone else safe, he is out on a limb. But he’s also, when under duress, forced to do things he wouldn’t otherwise do because his loved ones are being held hostage.  It’s hard not to feel empathy for that. It’s harder to feel empathy for Sam acting as though he had a lobotomy half the time and being in LaLa Land.

I have to admit that Gadriel isn’t my favorite role for Jared Padalecki. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Tahmoh Penikett, I thought he did well in the role. Penikett played him with a sort of desperate earnestness. Padalecki somehow didn’t take that up. His version of Gadriel seemed stiff and prissy, instead, and I found that distracting.

Weirdly enough, I found him more convincing in Gadriel’s scenes with Metatron (who is a whole other kind of dumpster fire this season) than in his scenes with Dean. Go figure.

Finally, there’s Metatron. Oh, dear. When we first encountered him in “The Great Escapist” in season eight (Ben Edlund’s final episode for the show, at least so far), after a couple of mentions in previous episodes since season seven, he seemed like a puckish and spunky, if rather frail, old man. A bit like later Prophet Donatello, except that in Metatron’s case, it’s a mask, a con job, and not just because he’s an angel.

This does not make the desperate gullibility with which angels like Castiel and Gadriel choose to believe him look sympathetic. Their blindness is too willful, their excuses too ludicrous, the damage they cause in his name too great. True, Bartholomew and Malachi are no better, but the fact that the angels are willing to slaughter each other (and hapless humans) in their name, as much as in Metatron’s, simply because that would-be leader is an angel, doesn’t make any of the three choices look smart. And it’s not as though joining a faction increases your angelic lifespan.

Metatron is actually quite ambitious and vindictive. In fact, despite his professed love for their stories, he doesn’t really like humans and looks down on them. Nor does he give a hoot what his grand Bond villain schemes do to any part of the SPNverse, let alone Heaven and Earth, and certainly not what they do to individual angels and humans. When he orders the assassination of Kevin Tran, there’s nothing personal in it. He’s just tying up a loose end.

But once his plan exceeds his wildest dreams, he becomes even more ambitious. Initially, it appears he wanted revenge on the angels when he cast them out of Heaven. Now he wants their worship and adoration (having found revenge to be more empty than he’d anticipated). In this episode, he hesitates to aspire to wanting to be like God, but give him time. His ego can encompass that, too.

Fun Lines:

Kevin [to Dean] I always trust you. And I always end up screwed.

Dean: Oh, come on – always? Not always.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.08: Rock and a Hard Place


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Sam and Dean get a case where members of an abstinence group go missing.


Recap: Recap of some weird stuff, like the time the Brothers encountered a group of humanoid “dragons” who were kidnapping young virgins as hosts for Eve (remember her?) in season six. We also get a recap of Sam’s angel-healing and the angel fall mytharc, Crowley’s blood junkie plot, and Jody Mills’ entire storyline up to that point (save for her involvement with Bobby).

Cut to Now in Hartford, SD. A young woman is coming out of a diner. It’s night. She leaves some food for a sleeping drunk, but as she starts walking home, she’s stalked by something unseen. No matter how she tries, she can’t shake it. She tries hiding under a car after she drops her keys (with a mini-TASER), but the thing chasing her is large and strong enough to pick up the car. It blazes out blue fire that encompasses her. Afterward, we see it drop her through a manhole in a cellar.

Cue title cards.

Dean comes into the Bunker kitchen to find Sam asleep at the table. Dean, as he eats breakfast, brings Sam up to speed on Kevin (who is translating offscreen) and Crowley (whose human blood addiction makes him vulnerable to the Brothers’ own mind games). This is right after Crowley told them that Metatron’s spell for expelling the angels from Heaven was irreversible and they’re still trying to confirm it.

At this point in time, it’s not entirely clear if Dean is aware of Crowley’s growing obsession with him, but already, Dean is coldbloodedly manipulating him through it. Dean gleefully talks about how they can use Crowley’s addiction against him. Considering the episode recap showed at least one of Crowley’s many, many victims (he nearly killed Jody just to get at the Brothers), it’s hard to feel sorry for him.

Sam is … uh … sleepy and can’t understand why he’s so tired all the time. Dean knows (Ezekiel healing Sam from his Trialberculosis from last season), but he, of course, ain’t talking.

In light of how ugly this gets down the road, I want to point out that Sam will be somewhat disingenuous later on in how he was fooled and lied to. I get some distinct subtext in this scene that Sam could very well see something is up and push the issue, but chooses not to explore it because he is okay with the way things are. I also have to say that as much as Sam tries at certain points in the show to be solicitous of Dean’s needs, he can’t nurture Dean the way Dean nurtures him. And nobody else can, either.

At this point, Dean gets a call from Jody Mills (damn, I’d forgotten she was in this one) because this is an MOTW, not a mytharc episode, and we’ve just worked our way through bringing the mytharc up to speed for the week. Say goodbye to the mytharc for now.

This being season nine, there’s still a bit of formality between Jody and the Brothers. She calls him by his first name, but introduces herself by her full name. He calls her “Sheriff Mills,” but Sam calls her “Jody” when Dean puts her on speakerphone.

Jody tells them about Doomed Teaser Girl and says a guy (probably the homeless guy the girl left dinner for) witnessed someone picking up an SUV to capture DTG. DTG is only one of four recent kidnappings. Behind Jody, as she mentions that usually the worst crime this little town somewhat outside Sioux Falls ever gets is cow-tipping, a tow truck guy tips the SUV back upright on all four wheels. Ha. I see what you did there, Show.

The Brothers agree that it’s strange and come on out. There’s a road trip montage to generic soundtrack rock in broad daylight. The Brothers arrive in FBI suits. Dean gives Jody a hug and mentions her bad date with Crowley. She laughs it off, but Dean then shows some concern that maybe she should wait a bit before getting back into Hunting. She demurs, saying more knowledge is better protection.

Then she gets down to business. The first person to disappear was a pastor. Another two were an engaged couple who were abducted from a locked house. DTG, a waitress, is the fourth. They were all members of Good Faith Church, a local congregation. Jody mentions in passing that her own church (which she joined after Crowley tried to kill her on their date last season) was horrified about it. No one wants to be next, I guess.

Sam speculates out loud to Dean that it could be angels, which surprises Jody. Turns out she wasn’t aware they’d fallen? Really? Didn’t the Brothers put out an APB about that a while back?

Inside the diner, Jody introduces them to the homeless guy from the teaser. He tells them DTG’s name was Honor. He’s shy and deferential. He tells them about the shadowy figure that lifted the SUV and the blue fire. Then, he says, Honor disappeared.

Dean gives him some money and thanks him, then they MOTW-speculate after he leaves. Not an angel, after all. Dean figures they should go undercover by joining the church.

Cut to the Brothers being interviewed by the person in charge, Bonnie. She’s all perky. When Sam expresses some mutual reservations he and Dean have about joining, regarding the disappearances, she reassures them that security has been beefed up, so not to worry.

Dean asks her if she was close to the people who disappeared. She says yes. They were all part of the same chastity group, APU (Abstinence Purifies Us). When Sam asks if they can sit in on it, she says it’s church members only. Dean is horrified when Sam volunteers them for it and the church.

As Bonnie goes to get the paperwork, the Brothers quietly speculate whether virginal members are being kidnapped by dragons (per season six). When she comes back with a Purity Pledge, though, they’re a bit flummoxed. Dean points out that you can only be a virgin once (coughthat’snotwhatyousaidbackinseasonfour’s”MonsterMovie”Deancoughcough). After an uncomfortable pause, she says that you can still pray to God and renew your vows of chastity to become a “born again” virgin until marriage. Well, alrighty-then. The Brothers sign. She then pronounces them “both virgins.”

Down in the tunnel, Honor is using her Taser to light her way around. It turns out she’s in an old nuclear fallout shelter. She hears noises and whips around with the Taser, begging them to stay away from her.

At the group, the Brothers are the only men there. The group has a mix of women, ranging from gorgeous and dressed up to plain and dressed like nuns on holiday. The leader is a beautiful blonde whom Dean can’t seem to stop staring at. Bonnie is also there.

A girl named Tammy stands up to overshare her poem about abstinence, but the leader gently steers her away from it. She suggests that they instead hear from the new members  – Sam and Dean.

Asked first, Sam says he’s looking for a fresh start, since none of his relationships ever turn out well. “He ain’t lyin’!” Dean agrees, with a snort. We know, of course, that Sam means his girlfriends always end up dead, evil, or both.

When asked about “what set you on the path away from sin?” Dean goes into a roundabout explanation of how he just loved sex, especially all the foreplay to orgasm, but he’s all done with that now because it was “too sticky.” In the process, he (inadvertently?) brings all the women in the room to orgasm without even touching them, much to Sam’s disgust. Barbara also shakes her head in disgust.

Afterward, Barbara tells Sam that she’s worried about Honor, who was her “favorite.” As soon as Barbara goes to chastise an overweight member for stealing cookies from the refreshments table, an indignant Tammy insists that Honor is not what Barbara thinks she is. But as Sam eagerly follows this lead, it soon becomes clear that Tammy’s standards for sin are rather low, namely that Honor didn’t bake her own cookies for the bake sale and is therefore going to Hell.

Meanwhile, Dean, who has told Sam he thinks Suzy (the lead counselor) looks familiar, talks to her. She insists they’ve never met, but offers to get him some books on how to stay true to one’s chastity vows from her house. Dean points out (correctly, albeit with ulterior motives) that it’s not safe to be out alone right now for the members, what with some of them disappearing. So, he chaperones her on home. Let’s just say that Suzy doesn’t protest much.

Back at the motel, Sam tells Jody one bit of info he did get from Tammy – Honor and the missing pastor slept together. Jody has some info, too. The betrothed couple got it on, as well, albeit together. Later, the girl was crying about it, while the boy assured her that it didn’t count because it only lasted 30 seconds.

Jody also says the witness (the woman’s mom) later heard a crash and saw a flash of blue light. Sam figures that at least dragons are now out of the picture. Jody is surprised that dragons even “are a thing.”

Later, Jody admits that she started going to church because she felt lost after the past few years, what with losing Bobby, and her husband and son. You could say Crowley was just the last straw.

Sam allows that people need to look for comfort. Jody points out that he and Dean have each other and Sam looks uncomfortable. This is not a point in the show when Sam is willing to admit any real emotional connection to Dean, let alone dependence.

At Suzy’s house, Dean is in full-on seduction mode, not helped when she takes off her jacket, revealing a skimpy wifebeater/camisole underneath. He is, though, nonplussed when she starts to cry out of worry for her friend and asks for him to pray with her (which he does as best he can), and when she piles a bunch of books about chastity into his arms. But it’s when he’s in the middle of finally answering a call from Sam (he’s been dodging them) that Dean spots some old porn tapes in a top drawer that feature Suzy and he realizes how he knows her.

When she comes back out of her office, Dean tries to hide his discovery and doesn’t seem to know what to do with his face. Lines (in Spanish) from her film keep slipping out of his mouth. At first, he seems a bit smarmy, but when Suzy drops the Holy Counselor act and looks ashamed, he reassures her that no one knows who she is in Hartford and she has nothing to be ashamed of. She says the girl she was back then was “horrible.” Dean insists (with absolute sincerity; I mean, look at his life) that he’s seen many horrible things and her films (and body) weren’t one of them. To him, she was one of the “good dreams.”

Suzy is pretty turned on. Validation is a powerful thing and we know that as wolfy as Dean can be, he’s not just feeding her a line. He genuinely appreciates her work and doesn’t see her as a slut for it. She comes on to him and Dean sure doesn’t say no, in Spanish or any other language. They get it on to a mariachi band on the soundtrack. Sadly, it cuts off right after Suzy jumps Dean’s bones.

Down in the monster’s lair, Honor finally locates a lamp and lights it. She finds the pastor she’d slept with and the two fiances. The latter are pretty cranky, saying they’ve been starving to death. Also, the boy, Neil, is a selfish dick. They’re interrupted in their squabbling by the hatch opening and blue fire. Once it’s gone, the hatch has closed and the pastor has disappeared. They hear a scream overhead. He’s being eaten.

At the motel, Sam (correctly) realizes that people are being taken because they are violating their vows of chastity – and that if Dean has been gone an hour, it’s because he’s making time with Suzy. Sure enough, at the apartment, as Dean and Suzy are rather regretfully leaving (Susie admits she really missed sex), they are attacked by blue fire and knocked out. Sam and Jody don’t get there in time to rescue them, but Sam does find Suzy’s porno video and realizes they’ve been kidnapped.

In the cellar, Honor gets some more lamps lit, but the girl fiancee is so thirsty that she scratches the brick walls until her nails are raw and bloody, then licks her fingers (this scene is pretty nasty). They hear the hatch open up again, then find Suzy and Dean. Susie wakes up, then shakes Dean awake. Dean climbs up into the hatch and questions everyone while trying to get it open. Neil is singularly doom and gloom. Dean looks exasperated.

The MOTW took Dean’s phone, but he has another one and is able to make a brief call to Sam. Suzy suggests to Dean, ashamed again, that maybe they’re getting what they deserve from God. Dean reassures her that whoever or whatever is doing this, it’s not God.

Neil tries to suggest that they give up Honor (who has a sprained ankle) next time the monster comes to buy them time. Dean slams him against a wall and suggests they give up Neil instead. This shuts Neil up and wins an impressed smile from Honor. Later, Honor and Susie share a rueful moment over being only human, and Honor helps Dean with his attempts to open the hatch by supplying some scissors as a makeshift screwdriver.

Back at the motel, Jody finds their MOTW: Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth. She was always wreathed in blue fire and she killed those who broke their vows of chastity. The historical Vestal Virgins (who were buried alive if they broke their vows) get mentioned. Oak stained with virgin’s blood will kill her.

Jody and Sam visit Tammy, who goes on a big rant about “devil worship” while refusing to help. Impatient, Jody punches her in the face, giving her a bloody nose, and then gets the blood with a handkerchief. When Tammy threatens to “call the cops,” Jody retorts, “I am the cops, lady!”

After Dean’s call, Sam tells Jody he heard a train whistle on Dean’s end. They locate an abandoned farm outside Hartford. Inside the barn, they look around, very quietly. Not quietly enough, though. Right after he finds the hatch to the fallout shelter and calls down to Dean, Sam gets caught by the MOTW and tossed across the barn. He’s knocked out.  Jody gets caught by the MOTW, but not knocked out. Vesta turns out to be Barbara.

Jody smart-mouths Vesta/Barbara and gets punched a lot, then strapped down to Vesta’s makeshift altar. Seems Vesta has come down in the world since “that hippy from Bethlehem” spoiled her game. She likes livers and normally “weaker” ones than Jody’s. When Jody tries to stab her with the oak weapon, Vesta takes it away from her. But just as she’s about to stab Jody, Sam wakes up and attacks her from behind. Jody still gets stabbed in the shoulder, but not fatally.

Vesta attacks Sam, but realizes that his liver is “no good.” She wonders out loud how he is even still alive (this sure is news to Sam). Her distraction proves fatal when Jody stabs her from behind.

Meanwhile, Dean has been breaking his way out of the cellar and manages this just as Sam and Jody finish with the MOTW.

Later, back at the motel, Jody is in a sling (they sure beat her up a lot). Hugs all round and then she leaves. Afterward, Sam wants to know what Vesta meant about there being “something wrong with me.” Sam worries that he will never be “all right,” despite Dean’s attempts to reassure him.

Dean finally starts to cave and confess to Sam, but Ezekiel comes out and warns Dean not to tell Sam and risk Sam rejecting the angel. Though Ezekiel casts it as a friendly warning, it comes off as sinister. Dean is forced to lie to Sam when he comes back and tell him vaguely that everything will be fine, somehow. Sam doesn’t really believe him and leaves, looking suspicious. Alone in the room, Dean looks conflicted.

Credits

Review: This one caused a brief kerfuffle when it first came out. There was a rather large “debate” about the seduction scene between Dean and Suzy, and whether or not Dean “sorta raped” Suzy by “ignoring” her boundaries. Other than that, I don’t recall it being terribly memorable.

Rewatching it, I found it a mildly intriguing MOTW with some icky subtext, paper-thin characters, and rushed pacing – all par for the course with a Jenny Klein script. This is the same writer who gave us Meg’s clitorectomy scene in “Caged Heat” back in season six. She’ll give us “#Thinman” later in season nine, then three more in seasons ten and eleven before mercifully going on to other shows. It’s unfortunate, because the episode does have several female guest stars. It just doesn’t do very much with them.

Regarding the infamous seduction scene, I agree with those who say it’s set up more like a parody of a porno (specifically, the show’s Casa Erotica porn series) than anything realistic. We even get bad Spanish, terrible Mexican stereotypes, and mariachi music on the soundtrack. But that’s where I get off the noncon bus (though I sure wondered about Neil and his girlfriend; didn’t sound as though her first time was much fun).

What little we get in the writing (especially the scene between Suzy and Honor) indicates that Suzy is actually pretty conflicted about her new life and new pledge. Granted, the episode itself is so busy sending up the Abstinence Movement, with its mean-spirited message and attendant stereotypes, that Klein does little to fill out the female characters and their motivations. But Suzy does have some. And they appear to be that she actually still quite likes sex. She just doesn’t like being shamed over it. So, when Dean finds out her past and reassures her that she’s an “artist” not a slut, she’s quite happy to jump his bones and has no real regrets immediately afterward.

If anything, I’m a bit bothered by how having so much of her story be from Dean’s POV (male gaze) obscures what a lousy abstinence counselor she is. By no means do I think that anyone deserves to be sexually assaulted for what they wear or how they act (nor do I think Dean would have done so, anyway). But from Suzy’s POV, she’s basically doing the sex equivalent of waving a bottle of liquor under a newly dry alcoholic’s nose. Taking off clothes, walking around in a skimpy camisole, leaving her porn tapes out in the open? How’s she supposed to think that Dean, who’s just confessed to still being really attached to sex, isn’t going to go out and have a one-night stand or at least masturbate after all that?

Even though we know that Dean is just going undercover, and has no intention of honoring his “pledge,” Suzy doesn’t know that. And having her act like that on top of Dean’s speech at the group meeting (in which he unconsciously makes it pretty clear he’s a great lay) is suspicious, to say the least. If she’s not seducing him, then having (very brief) second thoughts when he finds the DVDs, just what in the hell is she doing?

I’m guessing that once the Brothers gave the surviving group The Talk about monsters, Suzy instituted a certain loosening of restrictions in the Church. Most of the reason they were following them was fear of God’s wrath and shame about sex.

But that’s a big part of the problem with this episode. We get more resolution about Jody’s new war wound (boy, this show loves to beat her up) than we do about the group of civilians she and the Brothers just rescued. I would also have liked to have found out more about Honor. She was quite scrappy, despite her sprained ankle, and left behind a sympathetic witness due to her generosity. That may have saved her life. But nope. The show couldn’t be bothered to wrap any of that up.

Jody’s in a weird spot in this episode. It’s still fairly early on in her relationship with the Brothers. They’re friends now, but at the same time, still a bit formal with each other. There’s probably more they could have done with her relationship with Sam in this one, besides her having turned out a bit religious after her near-death experience thanks to Crowley. Alas, Sam falls down the angel possession mytharc hole in this one and it’s never even properly explained why he feels so exhausted.

One odd note – aside from the Chinese god in season five’s “Hammer of the Gods,” whom Dean kills, all of the pagan gods have been killed by Sam or a guest/recurring character. This week, Jody got the kill.

Finally, the MOTW had potential, but she didn’t fit well into the American Gods-inspired straitjacket the show has for pagan gods. Lindy Booth (of Warehouse 13 and The Librarians fame) does her best to give Vesta some bite, but mostly, the goddess is a dud. The research on her actual mythological background is okay as far as it goes, but the show fails to do anything creative with it and the discovery of what kills her is tacked on at the very end of a rushed expositional scene.

Especially confusing was what kind of humans Vesta actually preferred to eat. She talks about eating virgins back in the day, but Vestal Virgins only got buried alive if they broke their vows and the people she targets in the episode also broke vows of purity. Yet, she’s focused on virgins. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Fun Lines:

Bonnie [when Sam signs him and Dean up to join her church]: Well, I’ll be a squirrel in a skirt!

The Group: Stay strong. Stay pure.

Suzy: And you, Dean? What set you on the path away from sin?

Dean: Uh, hard to say, exactly. Yeah. Sex has always felt – I don’t know – good, you know? I mean, really, really good. Uh, but, uh … sometimes, it just makes you feel bad, you know? You’re drunk. You shack up. Then, it’s the whole morning thing. You know, “Hey, that was fun.” And then, “Adios,” you know? Always the “Adios.” But, you know, when you get down to it, what’s the big deal, right? I mean, sure, there’s the touching and the feeling all of each other, my hands everywhere, tracing every inch of her body, the two of us moving together, pressing and pulling … grinding. Then you hit that sweet spot, and everything just builds and builds and builds until it all just … [splooge noise from Dean. Sam gives him a dirty look]. Yeah. Uh … but the whole thing was just a little too, uh … sticky. So, uh, I got my “V” card back! The end.

Suzy: What am I supposed to say, “Oh, hey! I used to be a porn star! Let’s pray”?


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.07: Bad Boys


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: It’s a blast from Dean’s misspent youth when a man who runs a boys home seeks the Brothers’ help.


Recap: Quick recap of Dean’s miserable childhood and the season nine storyline with Ezekiel to that point.

Cut to two teenage boys running from someone who is “right behind us” at night on a farm in Hurleyville, NY. They run into a barn and hide. A younger boy in glasses comes in and tells them to come out. He says the barn is “off-limits” for playing hide-and-seek. But he runs out of the barn when an older man comes in with a flashlight, looking for the boys and saying they’re missing curfew.

The man is cursing them under his breath and shouting at them that he’s going to use a belt on them, when his breath fogs up. Then he’s run over and impaled by heavy machinery that turns on by itself.

Cue title cards and Sam in the Bunker, looking for Dean and Kevin. He doesn’t find them. Just when he’s settling down with a book in the library, Dean’s phone buzzes. Sam answers it and claims there’s no one there named “D-Dog.” Dean comes in right then and grabs the phone from Sam. He tells the person on the phone (“Sonny”) that he will be there as soon as he can and hangs up.

When Sam asks him what’s up, Dean mentions a time they were in New York as kids while John was on a rougarou hunt. Sam remembers that Dean “disappeared” and that John sent him (Sam) to Bobby’s for a few months. When Dean reappeared, John said Dean had been “lost on a hunt.”

Dean now admits that was a lie. What got lost was the Brothers’ food money in a card game and Dean then tried to “buy” Sam food at a local mini-mart by stealing it. Caught red-handed, he was sent to a boys home on a farm in Upstate New York. It was run by Sonny, who knows about their profession and had Dean’s number on speed-dial. Turns out Sonny may have a problem of their kind that they can solve.

When Sam grumps about not knowing about this until now, Dean says he was 16 and has tried to forget about it.

Probably looking like a nut to Sam, Dean asks if Sam is too tired to come along and if “we” are okay with going to the Catskills. Puzzled, Sam says he’s fine (while rubbing his neck and yawning) and wonders why Dean keeps saying “we.” We the audience, of course, know Dean is talking to Ezekiel inside Sam’s head. Apparently, Ezekiel is okay with it because he makes no appearance.

The Brothers arrive at Sonny’s Home for Boys (a handmade sign by the road announces it), which is the large farmhouse in the teaser.  As they get out, Sam is confused about how John could have “lost” Dean for two months. Dean says that he didn’t. He found Dean immediately, but then decided to leave him there because Dean had lost the food money. Sam notes that Dean was only 16 and “made a mistake” and Dean tells Sam not to pile on John. Boy, times have changed a bit, haven’t they?

As they sort-of argue by the car, they’re watched by the kid in the glasses from the teaser.

When Dean knocks, a stern-looking woman wearing a honking huge cross answers the door. When Dean introduces them as “old buddies” of Sonny’s, she coldly and judgmentally asks, “Prison buddies?” Sam looks uncomfortable, while Dean says no and repeats his request to talk to Sonny. She lets them in, but insists they take off their shoes, first, because she just mopped.

As soon as she leaves, Sam snarks about Sonny being an ex-con and Dean notes that they are hardly ones to judge. In the living room, Dean seems to realize it hasn’t changed since he was there. He has a rather depressing flashback to being 16 (in 1995), in cuffs, being talked about in the third person by an asshole local cop about being caught shoplifting.

It’s possible the cop is less-than-sympathetic due to Young!Dean having punched him in the eye. He says that when they called John, John said to “let him rot,” but the judge is on vacation and they don’t want a teenager in “county,” so they brought the kid here. Just in case anyone was still thinking that John was somehow even within shouting distance of halfway decent as a father.

This line is especially relevant in light of the 300th episode, but also Dean’s recent comment that whenever Dean irritated/rebelled against him too much, John would “send me away.” And people wonder why Dean was so noncommittal about John’s half-assed apology in “Lebanon.”

Anyhoo, the cop leaves and Young!Dean practically blows him a kiss out the door. But Sonny (who is rocking the most awesome pornstache since Gabriel in Casa Erotica) points out that the cop took the handcuff key. But no matter. He knows another way to get them off.

As he’s unlocking Dean’s cuffs, Sonny notices bruises on Dean’s arms. When he asks about them (strongly hinting that Dean may have been abused by his father, or even the cop), Dean casually says it was a werewolf (referencing Dean’s story to Gordon about “embracing the life” at 16, in season two’s “Bloodlust”). Sonny doesn’t buy this, but he doesn’t push, either.

Dean asks Sonny what the place is and Sonny says it’s a home for wayward boys. They work the farm and learn useful skills. Young!Dean scoffs at this, but doesn’t outright disagree.

Back in the present, Dean smiles.

Sonny comes out. His long hair is now pulled back into a ponytail and the pornstache is graying. He hugs Dean enthusiastically and warmly welcomes Sam. When Dean says the farm looks great, Sonny admits it’s seen better days. The county prefers to incarcerate wayward boys now instead of reform them, so he only has a few there.

Dean quickly suggests that they talk alone, so Sonny asks the stern woman, Ruth, to go check on the boys. She doesn’t look thrilled (and Sonny rolls his eyes a bit at this), but she goes. Sonny then fills the Brothers in on Doomed Teaser Guy’s death. He says he’d never really believed the “mumbo-jumbo you boys are into,” but odd things have been happening of late – flickering lights, scratching in the walls, and so on.

Dean tells him they will investigate. He tells Sam to check the house while he goes out to the barn. Sam looks at the boys’ dorm and spots something familiar – what looks like a pointed star on a bedpost. Pulling several layers of tape off the bedstand, he finds “Dean W.”

He hears an odd whoosh and looks up. Pulling out a ginormous knife, he follows the odd noise to a whispering and finds Ruth kneeling by a bed, praying. Ruth says she knows why they’re there and says she was praying for the “ghost that haunts this farm to leave.”

In the barn, Dean checks out the killer tractor (which Sonny says wasn’t working even back in the day 18 years before when Dean lived there).

Dean hears a strange noise like sobbing and follows it. He enters a part of the barn with a low-hanging bulb that appears to be swaying by itself. When he stops it and turns around, he finds himself confronting the little boy from the teaser, the one with Coke-bottle glasses. They talk, as Dean literally gets down to his level by crouching and shaking hands with him. The boy, Timmy, has a superhero toy that “fights monsters.” After a bit of discussion about what little he remembers of Jack (Doomed Teaser Guy)’s death, which boils down to only remembering that the barn got very cold, Timmy gets concerned and says he has to finish his chores or Ruth will get mad. Dean lets him go. But now he has more confirmation that the MOTW is a ghost.

Back in the house, Ruth is telling Sam some history of the place. She says she worked for (or visited) the owners before Sonny, Howard and Doreen Wasserlauf. Howard was fond of corn liquor, which made him paranoid. One day, he decided that Jack (who already worked at the farm) was sleeping with Doreen and attacked them. Jack escaped, but Howard killed Doreen with a meat cleaver and got life in prison. He died a year ago and is buried in town.

Cue the Brothers digging up Howard Wasserlauf. Sam tries to probe Dean more about his time at Sonny’s. Dean claims he doesn’t remember much, but that no one abused him, so it’s all good. They dig down to Howard and light him up.

Back at the house, Ruth is having a bath to the sounds of “Ave Maria.” We start to realize that perhaps the Brothers have salted and burned the wrong vengeful spirit when the lights flicker and the mirror ices up. Ruth finds her breath fogging right before the shower curtain rips itself off the bar and lands on her. After a pretty nasty struggle (with Sonny trying to break in to help), Ruth smothers under the shower curtain.

At Cus’s Place, Dean is eyeing the waitress, a brunette thirtysomething named Robin, and trying to explain to Sam why he picked this place for a burger. Cue another flashback to Young!Dean and Sonny at the same table. Young!Dean is thanking Sonny for getting the charges against him dropped. Sonny says that stealing because you’re hungry doesn’t make you a hardened criminal, especially if you only do it once. He notes that John has vanished, so Dean can stay at Sonny’s as long as he likes. He’s doing well in school and has made it onto the wrestling team.

Sonny then asks Young!Dean about whether he’s into Satanism because he carved an Occult symbol into his bedpost and puts salt all around his bed at night. Young!Dean also happens to be wearing his horned amulet pretty prominently.

To get Dean to open up, Sonny tells him about his own misspent youth. He was in a gang and his loyalty then ended up getting him 15 years in the penitentiary. He tells Dean that a man should be able to stand on his own two feet and be himself, not just a part of some group. At that moment, teenage Robin shows up at their table and Sonny introduces her to Young!Dean.

Back in the present, Robin comes over to waitress the Brothers. She claims not to remember Dean when Dean tries to jog her memory (though it’s clear she does), then gets called away to another table. Upset, Dean leaves, even as a curious Sam is asking him all sorts of questions. Hmm, some bad blood, there.

Outside, Dean’s brooding is interrupted by a phone call from Sonny about Ruth’s death. They come over and Sonny tells them he couldn’t get through the door. Thing is, it wasn’t locked. “There are no locks on the farm.” Also, Ruth’s rosary is missing.

The Brothers quickly realize the ghost wasn’t Howard. Dean goes to talk to the kids, while Sam stays with Sonny. Dean finds Timmy being bullied in a depression against a cellar window by the two older boys who were hiding from Timmy in the teaser. Intimidating them with his fake FBI badge, he gets a little bit more information out of them about Ruth (even if it’s Captain Obvious that she was a “bible thumper” and a hard task master) and warns them off going after Timmy again. He then helps Timmy out of the hole and tries to give him some advice about how to stand up to bullies.

Inside the house, Sam is surprised to find a “hall of fame” for the house on the wall. Up there, Sonny points out a county wrestling championship for Dean from 1995. Sam is impressed.

Outside, the two older boys are mowing and raking the lawn when Robin shows up with a guitar (Dean had previously mentioned she used to come to the farm with her mother to teach music lessons). One of the boys makes a gross remark to the other about how he’d tap that. The other one makes a gross remark about how she’s too old to be attractive. Charming.

The lawnmower starts making funny noises, so the first gross boy turns it off and flips it over. Ruth’s rosary is caught up in the blades. He starts pulling grass out to get at the rosary as the other boy watches. Timmy, clutching his action figure, watches them from an upstairs window, as he did when the Brothers arrived.

This is a rather tense scene, as you just know that lawnmower is gonna start up at at the worst possible time. And it does. Blood and screaming ensue. But Dean later tells Sam that Gross Boy #1 only had to have a bunch of stitches. Damn. Was hoping for at least a missing limb. No matter. You won’t see either of them again in this episode.

Anyhoo, Sam has been digging into Timmy’s past. Timmy was found in a warehouse all by himself a year ago and has been running away from foster homes ever since until Sonny took him in.

Dean suggests demon possession, but Sam thinks it’s actually possession by a ghost. Dean’s unhappy about the idea of shoving salt down a little kid’s throat.

The Brothers go for another search. Dean tells Sam he’s taking the barn this time. Out there, Sam finds a hatchway up to the barn attic. There, he finds a small hiding place Timmy made. It includes a helpfully detailed, albeit childlike, cartoon strip of Timmy and “Mom,” Timmy and Mom in a car accident, Mom burning up, and Mom pushing Timmy out the window.

Inside the house, Dean finds Robin tuning her guitar and has another flashback to taking lessons from Teen!Robin. She’s asking him where he’s been. Young!Dean says his dad travels a lot for business and wants Dean to go into it, but he doesn’t really want to. He wants to be a “rock star” or a car mechanic. Dean calls cars “a puzzle” and that “when you’re done, they leave and you’re not responsible for them, anymore.” Dayum, that’s sad.

Young!Robin admits her father wants her to run the diner after he retires, but she wants to become a photographer and “see the world.” She then impulsively kisses Dean. This startles Dean, who tries to cover it up by claiming he’s kissed lots of girls before. Robin sees through this and suggests they keep practicing.

In the present, it turns out Robin is there for Timmy’s music lesson. Dean tells her that’s been canceled. He tries to warn her that she needs to get out of the house and she needs to trust him. When she scoffs, he realizes that she does remember him. She’s just mad at him for leaving her.

Cue some more flashback teen kissing to Journey’s “Stone in Love.” Robin worries that Dean will ditch her. He insists he’s not going anywhere and asks her out to the school dance. She accepts.

In the present, Dean tries to explain why he left, instead, then admits there’s no time for it. Grabbing her by the hand, he tries to get them out out the door, but it slams violently in their faces. Timmy appears with his toy and says he can’t “stop it.” Then a vase smashes against the wall behind them as Dean calmly asks him what he’s talking about. More stuff starts smashing around them, so Dean yells at Robin to run into the kitchen. Let’s just say Robin’s sure looking like a believer now.

Sam comes in the back door, but doesn’t realize what’s going on in time (even as Dean is yelling at him not to let the door shut) and gets locked in with them. The Brothers put a ring of salt around Robin and tell her not to leave it. She’s asking Dean what’s going on.

Timmy comes in and now says that he can’t stop her. Sam correctly guesses he means his mother. As Dean stares intently at Timmy, Sam asks the boy what happened. Timmy says there was a car crash in the woods. His mom pushed him out of the car to safety, but burned alive as the car exploded. He ran to an empty building and cried for his mother. She came back and she protected him, but she was different now. She was a ghost.

The Brothers zero in on Timmy’s action figure as being the object tying his mother to the earthly realm. It was a gift from his mom for his ninth birthday. But then a female ghost, covered in burns, shows up and knocks Sam across the room when he tries to get the action figure away from Timmy. Dean manages to grab it (Timmy lets out an anguished cry, since it’s the only thing left he has from his mother) and then burns it on the stove. But though the figure laughs in a sinister way as it burns, its destruction doesn’t free the ghost.

Robin has grabbed Timmy to pull him to safety inside the salt line, but then the ghost begins to blow the line away. Sam correctly guesses it wasn’t the action figure, so it must be Timmy. The Brothers have a quick discussion that maybe Timmy’s mother is trying to protect him, but she can’t recognize what is a threat and what isn’t.

At this moment, Robin snaps and runs out of the room. Dean chases after her, but she then runs smack into the ghost. The ghost slams Dean into the doorjam. Then she apparates into the kitchen and grabs Sam, who is trying to talk to Timmy. Dean runs in and, even though the ghost is also pushing him through a wall, continues Sam’s talk to get Timmy to figure out how to send his mother away.

Dean explains to Timmy that his mother’s spirit heard Timmy’s cry for help and came back to him. But being stuck on the earthly plane is “driving her crazy.” Timmy has to tell her to go away, to let her go. Dean tells him that sometimes, you have to put yourself first (something, of course, Dean would never do, but Timmy doesn’t know that).

Timmy stands up and, with some encouragement from a slowly suffocating Dean, gets the attention of his mother’s ghost. She turns around and holds out her arms to him, but he tells her she has to go away permanently. He promises he will be okay. As the char and rot flake off to reveal the original, human form of his mother, he tells her he loves her, too. Smiling through ghost tears, she vanishes in a haze of light. Timmy runs through the space where she had just been to Dean and cries in his arms. Robin comes in and sees it.

Later that night, as Timmy watches them from the front steps, Robin gets The Talk from Dean about The Family Business. Dean admits that he never became a rock star. Robin allows that she thinks he’s still “pretty rockin’.” She also admits she never thought she’d like staying a small town girl, but she’s actually pretty happy. She gives him a kiss goodbye and then goes in the house with Timmy.

Sonny hugs Dean and says he’ll miss him. Dean says he thinks Timmy will be fine with Sonny. As Sonny leaves, Sam asks Dean how he knew telling Timmy to tell his mom to leave would work. Dean says he didn’t, that it was a “total Hail Mary” (ironic, considering Ruth’s death to “Ave Maria,” on top of the intentional irony involving Dean’s deal with Ezekiel).

Sam admits that going into this case, he thought they would be exploring the “worst part” of Dean’s life, but instead, “it was the best. Why’d you leave?”

Dean hedges a whole lot, calling it only “two months.” He claims that it wasn’t “right” for him, but the longing gaze he gives the house after Sam gets in the car sparks another flashback.

This one is to the night of the school dance. Young!Dean is getting dressed up in a shirt and tie for his date with Robin. Sonny comes in and compliments him. But Sonny has news. John is there to pick Dean up, but he won’t wait. He says there’s a “job” and Dean knows what that means.

Sonny says the home turned his life around and it could turn Dean’s around, too. He’ll fight for Dean (against John, it’s implied), if Dean wants.

Outside, John honks the horn. Sniffling, Dean looks out the window to see Sam in the passenger seat. He turns back and thanks Sonny, but he has to go back to his family.

In the present, Dean finishes staring at the house, at what could have been, and gets in the car. A pensive Sam thanks Dean for always being there for him. Sam admits he’s been a jerk at times. Dean puts on a smile and pretends not to know what Sam means. He starts up the car and they roar off into the night.

Credits

Review

I’ve avoided this one for a while, since watching it the first time. I could say I don’t know why, since it’s actually quite a nifty old school salt-and-burn-and-angst episode, but I do. I think I’ve said before that I’m not really a huge fan of the episodes that flash back to the Brothers’ childhoods. These stories are invariably depressing.

Yes, Dylan Everett is good as Young!Dean (though I liked him better in “About a Boy”). Yes, the fact that Dean was able to reconcile with his first love Robin (Cassie who?) was sweet. Yes, I liked Sonny and could never figure out why he never came back. But this was still a tragedy without catharsis because we all knew Dean would always make the heroic sacrifice and go back to his family. And that’s depressing to watch.

I just shake my head at the fans who try to justify John’s behavior by saying “He did his best.” Of course he didn’t, people. He admitted that himself many times. He invariably put his obsession with Mary ahead of the welfare of their children. This was not some compulsion or dropping too many balls that he was trying to juggle in protecting his boys. He intentionally put his children into that life because it fit better with his plans for revenge. He could have done it very differently, and I’m sure his regrets were real, but he created that situation quite deliberately.

Ironically, the same fans who rush to give John every possible excuse didn’t seem nearly as enthusiastic about giving Mary a pass, or even any consideration, when she came back to stay at the end of season 11. People talk a good game about hating the genre trope of fridging female characters, but they don’t respond so well when that trope is negated or even reversed.

By no means am I arguing that the writing for her since she came back has been consistently stellar, but come on, people – there was plenty of crap writing for John, even when JDM was playing him back in the day, that made John even less sympathetic than he needed to be.

But Mary is the parent I see as actually having tried to do her best and that’s why I think her importance on the show rises above the inconsistent writing. She belongs there now, not least as a stinging rebuke to the way her husband and father put her up on a pedestal after her death and used a whitewashed plaster saint version of her to excuse terrible sins against her children. The only people who have (with justice) escaped that rebuke are her sons, who simply didn’t know her any other way.

While her bailing on them immediately after she came back was not the greatest response ever (let alone her misguided sojourn with the psycho LoL), it was very human and did make sense from a psychological point of view. She was confused. She had a lot of trouble connecting with these two strange men and connecting them to the babies she’d been torn from so violently. And she did come back.

She didn’t abandon them or let them down when they were children – she freakin’ died, people. She was murdered. She did let them down as grown adults, but since then, she’s tried to make up for it. So, what we’ve had since the end of season 11 is an actual relationship being (re)built with her sons.

We have seen her attempts to balance her Hunting life with her desire to have a “normal” life as far back as season four. They weren’t entirely successful, but her desire to protect her family from her old life was a real example of “doing one’s best.” Sure, it failed, but the point is that her goals were benign and relatively pure. She was putting her family first. Her keeping secrets was part of that.

John, on the other hand, always put his obsession with revenge over the raising and protection of his sons, and made it clear to them that they were part of the machinery he was using to find the Yellow Eyed Demon and kill it.

It’s interesting, then, that we have two analogues to both John (Sonny) and Mary (Timmy’s mom) in this episode. Sonny, of course, is the contrasting analogue: the Good Dad who praises Dean and gets him interested in healthy pursuits, who encourages him to go after his dreams, and who is solidly behind him 100%. Sonny exists as a foil for John.

Timmy’s mom, of course, has parallels to Mary. She dies in a fire (like Mary) and heroically pushes her son to safety. As a ghost (like Mary), she defends him and watches over him. And Timmy worships her, just as Dean worshiped his own dead mother. She’s even blonde.

But, as with a lot of Adam Glass scripts, the writing isn’t nearly as clever as the author thinks. Timmy has been in the child services system for a year. He says that he was on his way home with his mother when they had an accident and she died in a fiery crash. Everything we learn about him and his mother indicates that they were middle class. He never mentions his father, so his mom appears to have been a single parent.

Even so, Timmy was clearly well-loved and appears to have had a normal life before the crash. So, where are the relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers and coworkers who must have been looking for him and his mother after the accident? He didn’t run away that far – why did no one recognize him when his picture was put up on the internet (and probably on television)? Why weren’t he and his mother reported missing in the first place?

Then there’s Dean. One could argue that the only people who didn’t know where he was, and would be looking for him, weren’t human. But this would require ignoring Sam’s part of the story – that he was sent to Bobby’s for a couple of months. By bringing Bobby into it, the story not only tarnishes John’s character, but also Bobby’s. Supposedly, Bobby just calmly accepted the arrival of John and Sam, without Dean, and didn’t go looking for him. I’d like to have heard that conversation.

Similarly, I found Jack and Ruth’s characters to be so thinly developed that their deaths provided little more than a red herring and a bit of the show’s usual gore. They were stock “mean” characters. Why they were so bitter and hostile toward the kids was never clear. Also, if Ruth’s story is any indication, they should have been around in the flashbacks, if only by mention (Sonny even mentions Jack with familiarity to Dean in passing), yet there’s no sense of recognition from either Ruth or Dean when she meets him in the present.

Jack’s death I could understand, in that he was chasing the kids around and yelling at them. But even irrational ghost logic didn’t explain Ruth’s. If anything, Ruth’s theory that the ghost was the former owner would lead away from Timmy and his mom, so why did Timmy’s mom’s ghost feel threatened?

I liked the young actors in the story (well, the main two – Dylan Everett as Young!Dean and Sean Michael Kyer as Timmy). Kyer didn’t have to do much besides look cute and pensive, and cry, but he did it well. Everett got a lot of Jensen Ackles’ mannerisms and much of Dean’s snarky, outlaw sense of humor. Both Everett and Ackles had good chemistry with Blake Gibbons (Sonny).

The rather perfunctory (but cheerful) love interest (retconned into Dean’s first), Robin, got short shrift in the writing. Erin Karpluk and Sarah Desjardin (as Young!Robin) still managed to establish her as someone Dean would fall in love with and still hold a torch for decades later. If Karpluk looks familiar, that’s because she previously appeared in season one’s “Salvation” as the new mom the Brothers saved from burning alive on a ceiling. Similarly, Timmy’s mom was played by two women – Alika Autran under the burn makeup and Jen Oleksiuk as the memory of the “human” version of her.

There’s a whole lot of “What could have been” in this one. It’s a fairly important piece of Dean’s past, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Sonny again. But the episode itself has a lingering touch of melancholy and pain that doesn’t make it a favorite.


Fun lines:

Sam: So, Sonny’s an ex-con, huh?
Dean: What, and we’re angels?

Dean [about his time at Sonny’s]: I don’t really remember. Nobody bad-touched me. Nobody burned me with their smokes or beat me with a metal hanger. I call that a win.

Robin: Who are you?!
Dean: Right now, I’m the only thing keeping you safe.

Dean [to Timmy]: Sometimes, you gotta do what’s best for you, even if it’s gonna hurt the ones you love.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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The Official Supernatural: “Damaged Goods” (14.11) Live Recap Thread


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap to this point of post-Lucifer Nick’s revenge storyline for his wife and son. Which has not gone quite in the direction he or anyone else in the story expected, even if some of it was quite predictable to the audience.

We also get a quick recap of Dean’s caging Michael last episode and Death’s revelation that there is now only one way Dean can stop Michael from using him to destroy the world.

Cut to Now and Nick torturing a CRD who used to run with Abraxas. He infodumps that he found out from another demon he killed (he has an angel blade) that Abraxas had been captured and imprisoned by a Hunter. He wants the Hunter’s name.

The CRD wants to make a deal, but Nick won’t deal. After some false bravado, she gives up a location. The Hunter is in Hibbing. You know … Donna’s neck of the woods.

For a moment, it looks as though Nick will spare her (even though we know he won’t). Then he stabs her in the eye. There’s screaming offscreen and black goo.

Cue title cards.

Cut to someone researching angels in the Bunker library. My personal favorite is Maria Prophetissima Historia Achengeli (The History of Archangels by the Highest Prophet Mary), right between Engineering Chemistry and something in Greek.

It’s Dean. He takes the book and also a power sander, some welder’s goggles and such, and wraps them all in a duffel bag. He’s not sneaking out the door (he goes to see Sam, next), but he is sneaking that stuff out the door, if that makes sense.

Sam is in the main part of the library, looking through The Book of Jubilees for stuff about angels. He asks offhandedly how Dean is feeling and Dean shrugs it off.

Sam reassures Dean that they will find something to deep-six Michael permanently. Dean doesn’t look reassured. Sam then suggests Dean dive in along with him, but then Dean drops a little grenade on him. Dean says he wants to go off on a road trip, by himself, to see Mary at Donna’s cabin. Sam, trying mightily not to give Dean all kinds of side-eye, especially after Dean firmly turns down his offer to come with, says sure. When Dean hugs Sam from behind and tells him “Take care,” you can see all the red flags popping up and all the red lights and klaxons going off inside Sam’s head. As well they should. This is Not A Good Sign.

So, of course, as soon as Dean leaves, Sam calls Mary. Mary says Dean cast it as a “supply run,” but she’s fine with any excuse. Seems Bobby has taken off for a bit, unable to deal with having his son’s death dredged up again by the djinn hunt a few episodes ago. Mary is cleaning guns while she talks, indicating she is downplaying this and giving  a signal example of where her eldest got it from.

Mary tries to reassure Sam that maybe Dean just needs his space. Sam appears to agree, even as he’s wandering into the room where Dean was and seeing that two books are missing – the aforementioned two about archangels and engineering.

Dean is in Hibbing, eating burgers with Donna and asking about Jody and the Wayward Sisters. Donna gives him a brief overview (Alex just killed two Vetala on a hunt), but she’s not fooled. She knows something’s up. She wades her way through a little flurry of questions from Dean about her life to try to figure out what Dean is doing there.

Dean is a little horrified when Donna explains that Sam has been oversharing (jeez, Sam, will you ever learn?) about Dean’s having been possessed by Michael – twice – and now doing a time-share/solitary thing with said archangel in his own head. He takes it pretty well, though – “What, does he got a freakin’ newsletter?!”

Dean shrugs off all the concern and then gives Donna a big hug. She looks concerned when he’s not looking. He looks unutterably sad, but pastes on a big smile as soon as he pulls back.

Off he goes to Donna’s cabin, where he hears shooting. It turns out to be Mary engaged in shooting practice.

Mary hugs him, all smiles, and Dean asks if he can stay a few days. Mary says sure, Bobby’s out on the road, maybe Sam can come by? Dean demurs, saying he’s “greedy” and just wants his mom to himself. He also claims to be “hangry” from being on the road (despite having just seen Donna and done synchronized burger-eating with her) and asks Mary to make him the one thing she’s actually good at cooking – Winchester Surprise.

Mary is a little surprised and horrified that Dean remembered she ever served it to him and John. Apparently, it’s so greasy that it’s a “heart attack on a plate.” Dean says sure, but it’s very tasty. So, she drives off into town to get the ingredients, calling out as she goes that yes, she will get pie (she almost takes a hedge out with that big pickup as she leaves the driveway).

But despite his loved ones’ concern, Dean is extra good at being sneaky. So, as soon as Mary leaves, Dean’s eyes fall on the barn nearby. And that is not a coincidence. He quickly goes to the trunk, gets out his duffle bag, and heads to the barn.

Inside, he sees two posters of half-naked cowboys and makes a comment about how consistent Donna’s taste in men is, with totally unconscious irony (really, those two should just bang like bunnies, already). As soon as he’s in the door, he gets a migraine attack from Michael beating on the Cage and screaming (I guess they must have done a bunch of takes with Ackles in costume to use over the next few episodes).

After he recovers, he notices an old 8-track tape and puts in a little The Guess Who (“No Time Left for You”). Frankly, I’m amazed that 8-tracks still play. Those things used to wear out like crazy.

We then get a montage of Dean welding, putting together … something shady. Rumor has it on Twitter that Ackles learned some welding just for this scene because of course he did.

A kid named Joe working at the store helps Mary put groceries in her car. He comments that she doesn’t normally buy food: “You usually only pick up whiskey, pumpkins and crossword puzzles.”

“Well,” Mary snarks, “Crosswords usually get better with whiskey.”

I legit laughed, though it would be nice if we saw some of Dean’s cooking skills again.

Later, poor Joe gets accosted by Nick, acting shady in a creepy, blue child molester’s van. Nick asks Joe where he can find Mary’s house, but Joe senses the danger vibes rolling of Nick and plays dumb. Then he makes a phone call.

Later that night, Nick gets stopped by a cop – Donna. She’s been looking for him.

Donna apparently doesn’t know who Nick is (though she does do a fingerprint check on him using a handy-dandy scanner), so I guess Sam’s newsletter could be more informative. She does know he was looking for Mary and that Nick’s van is stolen.

Unfortunately, the script calls for Donna to act stupid (and Nick to have a paper clip that gets him out of cuffs) and turn her back on him. There’s a fight after she gets the ID. She appears to get the upper hand, but then Nick uses her own taser on her. Ugh. At least she’s not dead.

Mary arrives at the house after dark, despite having left the store while it was daylight. Um … okay. Anyhoo, Dean comes out of the barn and acts casual when Mary questions why he was out there. He takes two bags from her and they go inside.

Dean says he has a surprise for her. He has set the table and suggests that maybe “two terrible cooks” can make something for dinner. This strikes me as downplaying his own skills considerably. So, guess who’s bringing out the Winchester Surprise casserole in the kitchen while Mary is out of sight on the stairs, talking to Sam, who fills her in on the missing books and other stuff from the Bunker?

Mary says she doesn’t know what’s going on, “but something is going on.” Sam wants to come right away, but she asks him to give her some time to talk to Dean. Sam says sure and as he hangs up, we see he’s in a car, speeding toward Hibbing. Ah, Winchester Secreth and Lieth. Where would this show’s plot be without ’em?

At dinner, Dean tells Mary (who isn’t hiding her concern very well) a story about how he and Sam tried to recreate Winchester Surprise on a hot plate in a motel room, with horrific results that freaked John out. Mary has an epiphany (which she expresses out loud) about how much of her sons’ lives she missed and how much their childhoods sucked after her death. Dean tries to fake sunny after that, but it’s hard and he chokes a little on the facade. He still manages to get across that he’s glad she’s back and alive, warts and all.

Mary tries to get Dean to open up, but Dean just says, “Everybody keeps asking me how I am. And how I am is I don’t want to talk about it. Please.” He doesn’t say it in a rude way, but it’s pretty final.

Later, Mary sneaks back down the stairs and past a snoring Dean on the pull-out couch. Out to the barn she goes, where she discovers an odd framework and the plans Dean is using. What she finds horrifies her. But when she leaves the barn, she immediately runs into Nick, who kidnaps her. Y’know, I like Mary, but I swear this show has her get kidnapped more times than Timmy on Lassie. It’s a bit embarrassing for an older female Hunter who’s supposedly one of the best there ever was.

Meanwhile, Dean is getting a call that wakes him up. Then he gets another call from another phone (this bit of continuity confused me). It’s from Donna, who just woke up in her cruiser from her tasing. Even though she doesn’t know who Nick is, she knows his name.

Dean rushes outside, gun first, and hears a sound. He spins around to find Sam. So much for Sam hanging back and letting their mother handle things. Sam has some explaining to do before Dean, methinks. But first, Dean explains that Mary is missing.

In his creepy candy van, Nick infodumps to Mary how he used demons to track her down. The demons are terrified of Mary and her sons, so they’ve taken to being anywhere the Winchesters are not. He also says he knows that Mary had an encounter with the demon that killed his family, Abraxas, after Abraxas and his partner (whom Nick killed in the teaser) killed most of a Girl Scout troup. Mary saved the lone survivor from Abraxas.

Mary says Nick could have just asked her, but he says she would have lied, anyway. She says she killed Abraxas and he says she just lied to him (though personally, I’d have lied to him, too, so I can’t fault here there). So, she admits what she actually did was trap him in an Enochian Puzzle Box when it appeared she was losing the battle. And yes, she knows where the box is.

So, Mary has Nick drive to her version of John’s Storage Locker, which is in Grand Rapids (Donna later claims it’s about half an hour away from Hibbing). The security guard is curious as they drive in.

Meanwhile, Donna shows up at the cabin to tell them she has an APB out on Nick that said he and Mary just arrived at Mary’s Storage Locker. She apologizes to Dean for letting Nick get the drop on her. Dean tells her it wasn’t her fault. Sam admits it was his (technically, didn’t Nick bail on the Bunker on Castiel’s watch? Albeit while Castiel was trying to juggle a bunch of stuff with Jack?). Anyhoo, Dean doesn’t look too thrilled with Sam, but they’re too busy going off to Grand Rapids to get into it.

Nick shoves Mary inside the locker and has her guide him around. She steps over a trip wire with a shotgun. Unfortunately, he notices it. She says the box is in the nearby lockers with sigils all over them. She won’t open them, so Nick starts doing it himself with a hammer. The very first one has a pickled head in a jar in it, the second a creepy doll in plastic. Mary looks unrepentant at Nick’s disgust.

The third one has the curse box. Nick wants Mary to open it, but she says it won’t do any good. A demon needs a host to talk with humans. Obviously, it can’t be Nick and it can’t be her because she has an anti-demon tat. Nick says ominously, “So, we’ll improvise.”

Meanwhile, Donna is racing, Code 2 (lights), with Brothers right behind her in a thunderstorm. Inside the Impala (Dean driving), Sam prods Dean into a rant about Nick (“He’s not a project; he’s not a freakin’ puppy!”) and how much Nick’s being possessed by Lucifer for so many years messed him up.

Sam tries the “That could have been me” defense (pretty sure Dean remembers just fine how you choked him half to death and ran off with Ruby, Sam). Dean is not impressed. Among the many anvils raining down about Dean’s own storyline with Michael, Dean yells that Sam has to learn when to let people go “when they’re past saving.”

In the storage locker, Nick has caught and tied up the poor security guard on top of a devil’s trap. Mary claims she doesn’t know how to open the curse box and Nick says, “I don’t like you.” She tries to jump him, but it doesn’t go well. She’s forced to watch as Nick can’t make out the puzzle, so he uses a drill on the box. Eventually, the box breaks, releasing the demon, which enters the poor security guard.

Abraxas immediately recognizes Mary, but doesn’t recognize Nick. At least at first. When he realizes who Nick is, he’s surprised Lucifer doesn’t have Nick “on lockdown” and isn’t especially upset to hear the Devil is dead.

However, Abraxas won’t say why he killed Nick’s family until Nick tortures Mary to death in front of him. Nick, being pretty far gone at this point, is about to do it when the Brothers and Donna come in.

Dean goes to untie Mary’s hands, but Sam isn’t quick enough to stop Nick from grabbing an angel blade, like a moron, and breaking the devil’s trap (after Nick has no good answer for why he kidnapped Mary and such).

The demon freed, he does what demons do. He breaks free of the chair, TKs everyone to the floor and monologues. His reason for killing Nick’s family? The really, really, really obvious one – Lucifer ordered it done to soften Nick up to say yes. Abraxas claims that Nick was a nobody, just a name in the phone book. We know for a fact from season 12 that there was more than that (since almost no human besides a Campbell can house Lucifer), but I guess that’s the best we’ll get now.

Why? Because after Dean starts saying the Rituale Romanum (and gets slammed into a shelf for his trouble), Nick just walks up behind the underwhelming Abraxas and stabs him to death. Inside his poor, innocent, terrified host.

Afterward, Nick gets a little wild-eyed as Mary and Sam close in on him, so Donna shoots him in the kneecap after Nick takes a swipe at Mary. Mary punches his lights out.

Donna drags a limping, handcuffed Nick out to her patrol car (better get his paper clip, this time, hon), while Sam follows. Dean takes Mary aside and asks her if she’s okay. She says yes, but, using her Mom Voice, tells Dean that he needs to talk to her and Sam about his science project in the barn, or she will tell Sam herself.

Sam asks Donna to let him talk to Nick. When he asks Nick why he did what he did, Nick says it was for revenge and insists Sam would have done the same thing. Sam doesn’t have a terribly good answer to that, except to tell Nick that he’s sorry he couldn’t help him. Nick is insulted, saying he never needed to be “fixed because I was never broken.” Sam begs to differ. He tells Nick that Nick hurt a lot of people and will see their faces every night for the rest of his life (from some bitter personal experience). “You can burn,” Sam concludes.

Back at Donna’s she shed, Dean shows Sam what he has wrought in the course of a stolen afternoon. He calls it a “Ma’lak Box” and it’s no coincidence that it looks like a coffin. He says it can contain anything, “even an archangel … especially an archangel.”

Sam is surprised, not because he’s never heard of one (he has), but because supposedly, no one could make it. Well, Dean figured it out.

Sam is horrified by Dean’s plan to be “buried alive.” Dean says that, no, he has to take it further than that. He’s going to take a boat way out into the Pacific and gets dumped off into the deep, inside the box.

Sam protests that there has to be another way. Dean tells him that if Michael gets out, the world is toast, and confesses that he can already feel the door inside his head giving way. After some bugging from Sam, he mentions Billie’s “visit” and says she gave him the “recipe” for the box.

Kinda making the same mistake Nick called him out on (making someone else’s tragedy about him), Sam is most upset about Dean saying goodbye to Mary and Donna, but not him. Oh, Sam. Some days, there just are not enough facepalms for you.

Evoking the time Sam motivated him to kill Death (and how well that didn’t work out), Dean says he was afraid Sam would talk him out of it and he refuses to be talked out of it this time. He says that Sam can either let him do this alone or help him. Sam, very quietly and very reluctantly, agrees to help.

Credits.


Ratings in the overnights (the finals aren’t out yet) for the episode were steady at 0.4/2 and 1.41 million, which tied the show for second in demo (with ArrowRiverdale and Roswell) and brought it in second for audience this week.

The promo for next week is up, as are the synopsis and photos.


Review

Usually, after a powerhouse episode like last week’s, Supernatural does a bit of a crash-and-burn, especially coming back from Christmas hellatus. But this one was reasonably good. Not on the level of last week’s (the direction was meh and Perez still struggles with basis stuff like continuity issues), but a reasonable coda that explained what Death told Dean, and how he responded.

It was also Deancentric and Dean-heavy, which was surprising after the workout Jensen Ackles got last week. I guess, now, learning how to weld is taking it easy in the acting department for him. Speaking of that montage to The Guess Who, that is never going to get old. Dayum, son.

And my biggest problem with his interactions with Mary were that they were too short. I mean, we finally see them hang out for the first time since he was inside her head in season 12, and then she gets kidnapped. Not that I’m overly thrilled with how they have Mighty Hunter Mary get her ass kicked all the time by gormless dudebros. That storyline can fade away as of now.

There was also some less-than-stellar worldbuilding with the demons. Abraxas was underwhelming (I did feel sorry for his very unwilling host; that was quite cruel of Nick), though his partner in the teaser was interesting. However, she wasn’t written or portrayed very canonically. She’s dressed in the teaser like a CRD, in the little black dress, and is eager to make a deal with Nick, but she’s a BED (her eyes are black). Also, CRDs didn’t used to hang out with BEDs. Is this a hint that Hell has gone to, uh, Hell in a handbasket and is completely chaotic and leaderless now? Or did Davy Perez just fumble CRD canon, big time?

I can’t say I was hugely impressed by how Nick’s Roaring Rampage of Revenge saga concluded. I will readily admit that I was (apparently one of the few fans) hoping to see Nick again since the season five premiere and was perky about the idea of finding out what happened to his wife and baby. Too bad the show went the easiest, cheapest, and most linear route possible with that.

It’s not just that it was freakin’ obvious to anyone Not Named Nick that if a demon had killed his family, Lucifer ordered it. I mean, duh. Nick spent years being ridden by Lucifer and was well aware of what Lucifer was capable of, how much control he had over Hell (think about it – Lucifer got Lilith to commit suicide-by-Sam while he was still in the Cage).

Why Nick even needed to ask Abraxas about the demon’s motivations, let alone put everyone in the room in danger and even be willing to kill Mary, just to get a text from Captain Obvious, I don’t know, but it made him look stupid. Nor did the offhand “Your name was in the phone book” comment explain how Nick was chosen if he wasn’t a Campbell. Which, apparently, he’s not. Like, really? Why does that even need to be a loose end at this point?

Part of the problem was that the Show of Nick’s motivations (that he was a gullible, damaged moron) was belied by the Show of Nick’s increasingly sociopathic plotting and killing spree, not to mention the epic amount of Plot Armor that got him from the Bunker all the way to Mary’s Storage Locker before being brought down by a shot to the knee from Donna. And don’t even get me started on how he was willing to kill everyone in his path, basically for jollies, but just stuck Donna back in her cruiser while she was out. I mean, I love Donna and I’m glad she didn’t die (especially at Nick’s hands), but that could have been plotted better.

Speaking of better plotting, what was up with the two cell phones and Dean waking up to find Mary gone and Donna calling him? That whole sequence was a hot mess.

The other part of the problem was that, instead of filling out Nick as a tragically damaged character who stumbled into a revenge spree after being frozen in time as a vessel for years, they gave him some weird dark side from Lucifer that turned him into a serial killer. A very enthusiastic, albeit slightly guilt-ridden, serial killer.

Regarding the question of whether Nick was a serial killer or a spree killer, serial killers have “cooling off” periods. While Nick was on his rampage, he did seem to take an awfully time at it and confessed he liked killing. So, it’s probable he’s currently a mix (having killed more than three people, already), but would evolve into a full-fledged serial killer if left unchecked.

Now, I get that the Anvils of Parallel Analogies have been falling thick and hard all season regarding Nick and Dean. And, at least in theory, I don’t have a problem with the probability that they are setting up a post-Michael storyline for Dean, already, after this one (which probably won’t resolve until the end of the season).

But there was no need to make Nick so one-dimensional and unsympathetic. Nick began as a sad sack. Having him kill his way through a bunch of Hell’s Not-So-Finest to find his wife and son’s killer – or better yet, through a bunch of scumbag humans and find out the killer was human – would have introduced some moral grayness to his quest that would have compelled at least Sam (Dean has been a little distracted all season) to examine how he has justified killing people like the possessed nurse he drained of her demonized blood near the end of season four, over the years. I mean, where’s that fine line?

I could even sorta, kinda handwave the neighbor due to Nick’s grief. But once he got to the cop and realized the cop had been possessed, and he killed him anyway, he was pretty much off the trail in terms of being sympathetic. Fine line? Try a canyon with Nick sailing over it without even looking down. And having him kill people who weren’t any threat to him at all, let alone possessed, was just gratuitous character assassination.

The writing seemed to want to make him a parallel of the Winchesters (Sam’s trying to explain himself to Dean in the car, for example). And he’d somehow picked up some things from them, even tracking demons, while remaining dangerously naive in other areas. But in order for it to work, he needed to be, well, less of a whiny, bloodthirsty git. And also, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for Nick to be like that when Sam wasn’t, even though he, too, had been possessed by Lucifer and, technically, for a lot longer. Yeah, Sam failed Nick this season, but the writing made us so not care.

It didn’t help that Pellegrino’s version of Nick wasn’t terribly different from his version of depowered Lucifer last season (or even earlier). Nick wasn’t originally like Lucifer, but now he’s practically indistinguishable from him in mannerisms? How does that work? Look at Dean and Michael – they are radically different. All Ackles has to do is blink or smile, and you know which one he’s playing, even if the way he carries himself hasn’t already given it away.

Now, Pellegrino is a fine actor, and quite capable of doing distinctly different characters – just look at him on The Closer. And as I said above, Nick was originally a distinct character from Lucifer, even with just a few minutes of screentime. So, did someone tell him to play Nick that way and if so, why? And, please Chuck, don’t let it be because Lucifer never died or is returning or yaddayaddayadda, because please, no, to bringing that played-out character back.

Since Nick isn’t dead, I have a sneaking suspicion he might end up the one in that coffin, harboring Michael. And he might even like that. Because that’s the one part of the parallels between him and Dean that really worked.

Nick misses being an archangel’s vessel. Really, really misses it. He misses the power-by-association, the way Lucifer apparently tapped into his dark side (even though, previously, vessels were supposed to be just along for the ride and lending their bodies to the angel) and gave him the freedom to indulge it. He’s completely lost without his former master. Really makes you wonder what kind of fantasies Lucifer stuck him in over the years.

And the thing is, this isn’t all that unusual for a person, in a way. An angel’s vessel is effectively immortal as long as the angel inhabits him or her. They don’t age or suffer from physical harm. I’ve seen a lot of arguing against this point, but it’s true. It was true for Nick when he was possessed and for Sam. And now it’s true for Dean. You can’t kill a vessel unless you kill the inhabiting angel or force that angel to leave. And both are mighty hard to do.

Why does this work for Dean as a tragic storyline when it didn’t, particularly, for Sam, let alone Jack? Well, most of the time, when we think of immortality, we have a very limited view of it. It basically boils down to not ever having to face death. People then subconsciously pack in a lot of conditions they assume would go along with that, such as eternal youth and perfect health (and, of course, you’re totally hot). That’s the big appeal of the sexy type of vampire, after all.

While there certainly have been stories that explored what it felt to be immortal (usually just for centuries), it’s actually pretty hard to conceive of how it would feel to have everyone you know die, then their descendants, and your culture, then your species, and then even the entire natural world as you recognize it.

I mean, think about it – billions of years from now, if Dean’s plan goes through – the oceans will boil away and the Sun will gobble up the Earth, and that coffin will pop out like a grape. Dean and Michael will still be alive inside it. It sounds like a horrible fate when you put it that way.

But most people (at least on this show), faced with the immediate thought of living a few extra years without ageing or getting sick, are only thinking about not ever having to worry about dying. Not about how human (or sane) they’d be a few billion years from now. It’s just an inconceivable thought to them. Just look at someone like Rowena.

So, you look at someone who makes a demon deal, or says yes to an angel, or turns into a monster, or becomes a witch and steals other people’s souls to stay young, and someone like Nick is the norm on the show for human beings. That’s the kind of person who would say yes to being a vessel and wouldn’t put up a whole lot of resistance.

Even Sam, who quickly found reasons to have big issues with having said yes, was all for it before he did. Remember that when Sam put this same dilemma to Dean near the end of season five, and twisted Dean’s arm to go along with it, they still had other options, especially if neither said yes.

But Sam was sure he could control Lucifer (and look how that turned out). There was a part of Sam that wanted to be Lucifer’s vessel. Whether due to his demon blood programming or his daddy issues or just because Sam can be mighty pig-headed and prideful all on his own, sometimes, he actually saw that as something he’d be okay with. And we even saw Lucifer allow Sam to indulge some revenge fantasies on the demons who had manipulated Sam’s life, which Sam, to his shame got pleasure from. There was a part of Sam that craved the sensation of power, even if it was an illusion, at least for him.

Conceivably, Dean could still fly with Michael’s wings, and use an archangel blade and smite and use TK, just as we saw him do when he was in the driver’s seat in the season finale. It was made clear then that a vessel can use the powers of the angel or archangel inside him or her. It’s just that the angel is usually the one in control of the vessel’s body. But when the vessel is in control, they both can use the angel’s powers.

It’s that “both” that’s the problem. If Dean were to use any active powers (and even if he sustained a mortal injury that required a lot of healing), he’d be making a crack in the door that holds Michael. This is a clever way for the show to have Dean “be” an archangel, but still be active on hunts and not a total deus ex machina. For example, this week, Dean was using the Rituale Romanum (which hopefully would have saved the poor host) rather than smiting or TK. He’s accessed those powers before and could probably still use them, but the use would almost certainly let Michael out.

And that’s the difference with this storyline. This has never been a power trip for Dean; it’s been an ongoing nightmare. Dean is not okay with any of this. Dean said yes to Michael under extreme duress, not pride or craving power. He used Michael’s power to save his family. He locked Michael inside his mind to protect the world, not to exploit Michael’s power. He doesn’t want to lock himself into a coffin with Michael and get tossed into the ocean, even if all Michael ended up doing (admittedly, it’s unlikely) was stick him back behind that bar in a weird version of Heaven and not torture him for the next few billion years out of sheer rage (more likely).

And it’s not because he’s suicidal, as Sam accuses him of being, because it’s not suicide at all. It’s something far, far worse. It’s compulsory immortality. It’s living forever with his very worst enemy, inside a tiny box. Billions of years – and then the Sun pops you out of the disintegrating Earth like Dark Phoenix.

The one character who’s been hoping for an early, bloody exit all along is now staring down the barrel of possibly surviving the end of the universe, either by locking himself inside a tiny box and waiting it out for a few billion years, or stalling until the world-busting monster inside his head breaks out, takes over, and ends the world right now. It’s a horrible choice, but it’s Dean, so of course he’s going inside the box. It’s why Death trusted him enough to give him that book.

And because it’s Dean, because he’s not expendable (even in an in-verse, non-meta sense, and not that Jensen Ackles leaving the show would kill it at this point), because everything goes a bit haywire even when he’s gone in Purgatory for a year, the storyline will either break him out of that box or not put him in it, in the first place.

Remember the other parallel with Nick’s storyline – curse boxes are really strong, but they are intended to keep powerful things in. It’s not nearly as difficult to break those poisonous things inside them back out. That’s why Dean is having the coffin taken out and dumped in the ocean in the first place. He wants to take away any possible temptation, especially from Sam (who has an absolutely horrendous track record on this score).

Finally, there was Sam. Though not in this episode a whole lot, Sam got to deal with the consequences of his juggling too many balls this season and they were pretty major. Somewhat in Sam’s defense, Nick actually bailed when Castiel was there, but Sam had also left Castiel with a lot on his plate. Sam didn’t delegate as well as he could have in his first real leadership role and Nick was that one dropped ball that turned into a festering problem. That killed people.

Dean did not screw around in pointing this out to Sam. Nor did he hold back later on when Sam regressed a bit and whined that Dean was going to leave without saying goodbye (well … Dean did hug him). Sam came perilously close to reprising his mean-spirited speech from the end of “The Purge” in season nine. But a lot of water, and a dead Death or two, has gone under the bridge since then and Dean wasn’t cowed this time.

Dean didn’t bother to point out that Sam’s view of him as a selfish, suicide-obsessed madman who had to be watched like a hawk to keep him from harming himself was unfair (though it was and Sam was quickly forced to back down from that position. This time). He just cut to the chase – that he knew for a fact, thanks to Billie, that there was only one way he could keep Michael from escaping his control and using him to destroy the world. That he couldn’t afford to indulge Sam’s attempts to sabotage him with the world literally hanging in the balance. Yes, his sanity was involved, but it was about so, so much more than that.

So, Sam was, finally, forced to admit a part of his codependency he had always put on Dean and, eventually, agree to help. We’ll see how that all pans out this week, or for the rest of the season if the Nepotism Duo don’t manage to bring it all to a terribly messy and cliched conclusion on Thursday.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.06: Heaven Can’t Wait


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Castiel is trying to fit into “normal” society as a newly minted human, with Dean’s help (yeah … I know), but this is complicated by the arrival of another fallen angel with a unique and deadly power. Meanwhile, Sam and Kevin try to get info about the Angel Tablet out of Crowley.


Recap: Recap of the season so far, with angels recruiting sleazy evangelicals to get hosts, Castiel becoming human, the resurrection and ascendance of Abaddon, Crowley being captured and turned partially human during the Trials in season eight, and Dean being forced by “Ezekiel” to make Castiel leave the Bunker, lest Castiel recognize him as an angel.

Cut to Rexford, Idaho at night. A man inside a shack is hanging up on a woman at a suicide hotline center. He goes to the drawer and gets out a gun. But when he sees a photo of a woman with a child on the mantel, he can’t do it. He puts down the gun.

He hears a noise and turns around. A shadowy man in a long coat, with a cross earring, enters the room. The first man thinks the hotline people sent him, but the second man only says, “You did.” He raises his hand over the other man’s head and a pink glow lights the first man’s face. As he screams, there’s an explosion and blood spatter covers the windows.

Cue burning angel wings season nine title cards.

Cut to daytime at a quickie mart (the Gas n’ Sip) where Castiel is working. He’s closely observing two dudebros making coffee, discussing sports, and high-fiving each other over tossing their coffee stirrers into the trash. He tries to imitate them. Predictably, this doesn’t go very well.

The newspaper delivery guy comes in and leaves, and then an attractive blonde woman who appears to be Castiel’s co-worker or supervisor comes in late (yes. the red lights frequently conspire against me, too). She appears to flirt with Castiel a bit (or at least, compliment him on his work ethic a whole lot) and Castiel is charmed.

After she goes into the back of the store, Castiel takes out the newspapers. The main headline shows a photo of Doomed Teaser Guy, who is “presumed dead” and is the fourth such disappearance that week. Hmm, could be a job for the Winchesters.

Cut to the Bunker, where Kevin the Prophet has had a breakthrough … of sorts. He’s trying to translate the Angel Tablet, but so far, he’s only been able to do so into an extinct language called “Elamite” (a pre-Alexandrian language “isolate” from southwestern Iran). And he’s only been able to determine one phrase, “falling angels.”

Dean is all “ugh” about having to read 24 volumes of an encyclopedia about dead languages, so guess how thrilled he is when Castiel calls him. Castiel is trying to fix a slushie machine, which is overflowing on him, when he calls, so he only gets out the basics before he hangs up. This is quite enough for Dean to pack up and head his way, acting shady with Sam about why Castiel left the Bunker in the first place and snarky with Kevin, who whines that Dean is “bailing on doing research.” Kevin, honey, that’s kinda your job, anyway.

At the quickie mart, Castiel is trying to hide from his boss that he’s basically homeless and not doing a very good job of it. Poor Castiel. He’s pretty awkward as a human, isn’t he? He’s going by the name of “Steve,” by the way.

She then appears to ask him over to her house for a date for the next night. Castiel says yes, but is rather confused by the request and goes back to trying to fix the HVAC in the ceiling.

Dean is on the scene, playing a cop and talking to the sheriff. The sheriff fills him in, first of all, that the “missing” people are all now confirmed dead. He tells him about DTG, who was chronically suicidal, a woman before him who had agoraphobia, and a married couple before that who were a slow-burning, acrimonious murder-suicide waiting to happen. All people who were very unhappy and had been for a long time.

After putting on some booties and gloves, Dean enters the house with the sheriff to find CSI people scraping a pink mist off of … well, everything. The sheriff says that if the tests come back like the previous crime scenes, it will turn out to be disintegrated human. Not just blood, but organs, skin, bone, even the clothes they were wearing. Neighbors were only able to report that they saw “a pink flash.” So, probably not suicide, unless these victims found the most novel way to check out, ever.

Dean calls the Bunker, where Sam tells him he and Kevin have nearly finished reading through the encyclopedia. Unfortunately, it didn’t tell them anything useful. Dean suggests they talk to Crowley (who is currently chained up in the dungeon), but not let him Hannibal Lecter them into any stupid deals.

Dean fills Sam in on the case, saying he has yet to find any EMF or sulfur, or anything else “normally” supernatural. Sam suggests spontaneous combustion, perhaps even the Nazi Thule, but Dean says the bodies were “vaporized” not burned.

Concerned, Sam suggests he should go out and back Dean up, but Dean quickly shuts that down, saying everything is fine. After he hangs up, he watches Castiel from the parking lot. He looks pensive.

Cut to a young girl walking out of a high school behind a bus. In tears, she tells a friend on the phone about how her dirtbag of a boyfriend just dumped her, publicly, in the cafeteria. At one point, she says, “I could just die!”

The shadowy man (no longer shadowy) from the teaser touches her shoulder, startling her, and says, “I can help with that.” As she screams, he raises his hand over her head and disintegrates her in a pink light.

Back at the quickie mart, Castiel is wishing a middle-aged woman luck on her lottery ticket with a little too much solicitude. He’s surprised and discomfited to see Dean next in line. Dean points out that Castiel called him.

Castiel insists that he is doing just fine as a “sales associate” at the quickie mart. He gets a little salty about Dean having asked him to leave the Bunker when Dean snarks a bit about his new job. Understandable, but Dean is also right that Castiel called him. There’s a Hunt afoot.

In the Bunker dungeon, Crowley is trying to deal. He claims he can read Elamite, but what’s in it for him? Sam tries to appeal to Crowley’s new-found humanity from his blessed blood cure at the end of season eight. Crowley’s not too impressed and snarks back at him.

Sam drops the compassionate act and cuts to the chase. He says that the only reason they’ve kept Crowley is alive is because Dean thought he might be “useful.” If that’s not going to be true, they might as well give him to Abaddon.

Pricked, Crowley asks for the paper with Kevin’s notes, but then he crumples it up and tosses in Sam’s face. So, Sam locks him up again and leaves.

At the quickie mart, Castiel is trying to explain to Dean how much more fulfilled he feels as a human sales associate than he was as a “failed” angel. Dean’s not buying it. When Castiel’s boss, Nora, tells him there’s a clean-up in the men’s room, she also mentions their “date” and Dean realizes Castiel is sweet on her. Dean snarks about his own propensity for strippers (since we’ve seen multiple times that he doesn’t actually pay to go with prostitutes), but seems to think it’s sweet.

Dean then gets a call and it’s about the Tragic High Schooler. He suggests Castiel come along. Castiel refuses at first, pointing out that he has no powers. Dean points out that he’s never had powers (oh, my, is this actual foreshadowing?) and calls Castiel a “Hunter-in-Training” when Castiel points out Dean is better qualified due to being a Hunter. Castiel then says that Dean said he “sucked” at Hunting the last time they went. Dean demurs, saying he said “there was room for improvement.”

The upshot is that Castiel agrees to go because his shift ends in five minutes and his date isn’t until seven, but first, he must clean the men’s room.

At the scene, Dean does a double-take at the pink mist on the bus and goes to interview the dead girl’s friend. Seems the friend was in the cafeteria when the incident occurred and found out when everyone rushed to look out the window.

It takes a little coaxing (and some odd attitude from her, considering it’s not actually a strange question from a cop) from Dean to get out of her that the girl had been upset over getting dumped and therefore, “bummed.”

Dean leaves her to go find Castiel, who has had a horrified revelation looking at the pink spatter and is bending over the Impala nearby, looking sick.

Castiel tells Dean he knows what happened. The killer was a type of angel called a Rit Zien (“hands of mercy” in Enochian). This is a type of battle medic angel that can heal other angels. But if the Rit Zien can’t heal, he/she will mercy kill.

Castiel notes that Rit Zien “hone in on pain” and speculates that this one is killing humans who are suffering now that he is stuck on Earth. When Dean points out that the teenage girl was only momentarily upset, Castiel replies that the Rit Zien can’t (or just doesn’t) differentiate between temporary and long-term suffering.

Dean says they have to take out the Rit Zien, to stop his killing spree.  Castiel says he can’t go along. Dean realizes Castiel is “scared” and also realizes that now Castiel is human, he feels helpless against the other angels. Dean gently tells Castiel to go on his date and live happily as a human. Castiel asks him to drive him back to the quickie mart because he doesn’t have a car.

At the Bunker, Crowley is starting to cave. He agrees to help, but he wants to make a call. To Abaddon in Hell. Sam and Kevin debate whether to allow it. Kevin’s against it, thinking Crowley will team up with Abaddon, but Sam thinks (probably correctly) that those two hate each other too much.

But first, they want to make sure Crowley can do what he claims he can do. They give him one paper of signs, which Crowley identifies as ingredients for a spell. He correctly identifies them as the ingredients for the spell Metatron used to cast the angels from Heaven. So, he’s legit. But he won’t go any further until he gets his phone call.

That night, Dean drives Castiel to his date with Nora. Dean insists Castiel prepare at least a little for it, getting him to lose his quickie mart vest and undo a few buttons on his white shirt. Dean then tells him to always open the car door for her, ask her a lot of questions (“because they like that”) and if the woman insists on going Dutch (i.e., paying her own way), “they’re lying.”

Dean then watches Castiel go up to the door (calling Castiel cutting a rose from her own bush a “nice touch”) and then drives away. But not before Baby is cut off by an old pickup truck pulling up and nearly backing into her.

This is an early Robert Berens script, his first. Unfortunately, it’s pretty obviously written by a guy and Berens writes Dean as more of a horndog than he normally is. It’s about to get worse.

Because once Castiel gets inside, he finds out Nora didn’t ask him out on a date. She asked him to babysit.

Now, single moms are usually pretty damned clear about whether they are asking a man to babysit or go on a date. Really. And Nora was not clear before. She made it sound like a date. A supposedly caring mother like Nora would not create such a misunderstanding and then leave her baby daughter with a guy she barely knows so she can go out with some other guy. It really undercuts Nora’s characterization so far and is a tiny bit misogynistic. Not cool, Berens. Not cool at all.

It doesn’t help that before she leaves, she tells him that the baby will sleep just fine, but then the baby starts crying. It’s not Baby’s fault – turns out she’s sick. Nora didn’t see that? Hmm.

Anyhoo, Castiel is able to calm the baby by rocking her and singing the theme to 80s show The Greatest American Hero (“Believe It Or Not”). Pretty cool, though also random. It’s never explained how pop culture- naive Castiel knew the song.

On the road, Dean gets a phone call and a very important bit of information from the sheriff – when they analyzed the DNA on the dead couple (the first victims), it turns out that they only found the wife’s DNA.

“The husband’s still out there,” Dean says, hanging up. He’s the vessel for the Rit Zien.

Back at the Bunker, Crowley demands that they use Kevin’s blood instead of Sam’s for the call, claiming that he’s already had Sam’s and wants to try something different. Kevin balks at first (because he still believes at this point that Crowley murdered his mother, on top of all the other horrid things Crowley did to him last season), but then abruptly agrees. Of course, this removes the concern about anyone realizing Sam has an angel inside him, which only Dean knows at this point.

However, when Crowley makes the call, he’s put on hold.

At the Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff explains that the husband was a religious nut who was obsessed with Buddy Boyle (the preacher in cahoots with a cadre of fallen angels this season), while his wife was “a hardcore atheist.” This pushed the marriage over the edge as her husband kept incessantly proselytizing her.

Dean gets a shock when he finds a photo of the couple in front of the husband’s truck, which is the same one that was blocking him when he was leaving Castiel off at Nora’s. He hurries back to the house.

Castiel commiserates with the baby on being a new human, but then realizes she’s feverish. He leaves a call on Nora’s cell phone before deciding he needs to take the baby to the hospital. But as he starts to leave, the Rit Zien shows up and blocks him from doing so.

Castiel calls the Rit Zien “Ephraim.” Ephraim is younger than Castiel and looked up to him in Heaven. But here on earth, Ephraim is obsessed with “cleansing” it of suffering – which means killing his way though the human population, basically. Castiel won’t let him pass to hurt the baby, but Ephraim says he’s actually there for Castiel.

In the Bunker, Sam is growing impatient, while Crowley is angry and humiliated at this obvious show of how much power he’s lost to Abaddon. He refuses to give up on his quest and, at the last minute, Abaddon calls back. We get a quick cut to her in an alleyway with a large knife and a very dead guy with a cut throat nearby (for the “call,” which requires blood in a chalice).

While talking to Ephraim, Castiel strips the thorns off the rose he picked before, cutting his hand and making a banishing sigil when Ephraim backs him up against a door. Ephraim goes on a big old rant about how earth is full of suffering and he has to stop it. When Castiel tries to tell him that earth is more complicated than Heaven, Ephraim says that Castiel is more in need of his services than he’d thought, that Castiel is hiding from giving aid to the other angels and that he’s had more failures than successes. It’s … well, it’s a rather tedious and disjointed rant, full of pride and madness.

Unfortunately, he catches Castiel in the middle of trying to slap the banishing sigil and tosses him across the room. Then continues to monologue. Ugh. Dean busts in with an angel blade, but gets slammed into a wall.

Abaddon’s conversation with Crowley is more fun. She horrifies him by telling him she managed to double his “projections” on souls reaped into Hell. How? She called in his CRD deals early. As far as she’s concerned, Crowley is just a “kennel dog” now, the “Winchester’s bitch.” She doesn’t care when Crowley tells her it will all “backfire” on her. She wants to watch it all burn.

Crowley abruptly ends the call by pushing the bowl away. Then he asks for the symbols, saying he keeps his bargains (implying that Abaddon doesn’t). When he reads out the spell and comes to the end, he brings up one big wrinkle – the spell is irreversible. They can’t put the angel genies back in the Heaven bottle.

At Nora’s house, Dean slowly comes to as Ephraim is getting ready to kill Castiel. Ephraim’s big beef with Castiel is that Castiel is choosing to be human, which means he must have already “given up.”

“You chose death,” Ephraim says, raising his glowing hand, just as a groggy Dean tosses the angel blade to Castiel, who stabs Ephraim, killing him. O the irony.

Afterward, Castiel apologizes to Nora for “overreacting” about her baby’s fever, that “a friend” (i.e., Dean) gave him a tip about using low-dose Acetominophen (um … you’d still need to go to the doctor or at least contact the parent about giving a baby drugs). Nora tells him the date didn’t work out, anyway, and that “the part that ‘overreacted’ is the part that makes you special.” Damn, Nora, you sure have a low opinion of men.

Castiel comes out to the Impala, looking sad. When Dean asks him where he wants to go, Castiel just looks even more morose and gets in the car. Dean looks taken aback.

Dean is upset when Sam calls him and tells him Metatron’s spell is irreversible. Surely, Crowley is lying. But Sam doesn’t think so. Yeah, that’s not depressing, or anything.

As he’s washing out the summoning bowl they used to call Abaddon, Sam realizes that one of the vials of Kevin’s blood is missing. Going down to the dungeon, he sees Crowley injecting himself with it. Crowley’s now hooked on human blood.

Dean takes Castiel back to the quickie mart. He apologizes for telling Castiel he had to leave the Bunker. Dean compliments him for “adapting” to human life.

Castiel thanks him, but worries about what Ephraim said about helping the angels. Rather than tell him the spell is irreversible (which is partly on Castiel for being fooled by Metatron last season), Dean spares him by saying that the angels aren’t his job to save, anymore. He’s human now. Dean and Sam will take care of it (the irony that Dean and Sam are human – okay, mostly – is glossed over a bit here).

Castiel goes into the quickie mart to open it up for the day. On the TV, an announcer is talking about the “meteor shower” that’s still puzzling everyone. Castiel looks sad and pensive as he stares out the window.

Credits.

Review: I didn’t much care for this one when it first came out. I found it forgettable and mildly annoying. It’s a bit better on rewatch, especially knowing what came later in the season, but a lot of the same writing problems remain.

This was an early script by Robert Berens when he first came to the show (his first of three for the season) and that’s pretty obvious. While some of the plot points about the Rit Zien are intriguing (particularly the battlefield medic aspect), they are shallowly introduced in a perfunctory, paint-by-numbers manner and never mentioned on the show again.

That MOTW never quite comes alive, despite a relatively high body count (and some very creepy, if understated, kill scenes). It quickly becomes impossible to empathize, either with the angel or his inhabiting human, after it turns out he said yes to an angel who then used his body to murder his wife, an atheist whom he had been emotionally abusing with religious fundamentalist beliefs. Yikes, that’s bleak.

The main performance is a bit underwhelming, too, but Ashton Holmes doesn’t get anything to do but rant disjointedly on the same two or three themes, anyway. And he barely gets any scenes. Tough for an actor to stand out under such conditions.

The main focus of the A story, of course, is on Castiel and how he is adjusting to being a human. I found it dull on first watch and depressing on recap rebound. Castiel is clearly unhappy with being human (and let’s face it, what we see of his human life sucks spectacularly in a stereotypical Rust Belt way).

His central conflict is also weakened by his being fully human. A large part of Castiel’s character conflict stems from his attempts to balance his perceived (and enforced) responsibilities to his heavenly kin with his newly found obligations to humankind, as evinced by his devotion to one specific human – Dean. Making him fully human takes away a lot of that tension and having other angels want to kill him doesn’t bring the stakes back up.

The flipping of tables from Castiel being the supernatural creature to human Dean, to Castiel being the human in the relationship and Dean being the supernaturally influenced, not-so-human-now Hunter who has to save Castiel from supernatural threats has potential. But aside from a few sad-sack exchanges between Castiel and a guilt-ridden Dean, the episode doesn’t explore this at all. And experience with the rest of the season tells me this is about as much as we’ll get. They will pull the trigger on not-so-human Hunter Dean down the road, but Castiel won’t be the same human character he is in this episode by then. That renders a lot of this episode’s conflict moot.

I also didn’t like the way the episode used his new-found human status to woobie Castiel. It’s not just that the show has always pulled this emotional and metaphorical switcheroo when it comes to humans and the supernatural. The Tell is that being human is a great thing and humans are special snowflakes of the SPNverse. But it doesn’t match the Show that humans are basically cannon fodder and food sources for the larger supernatural side of things. Humans don’t rate highly on the SPNverse ladder at all.

So, any episode that praises a supernatural creature becoming human as an upgrade in SPNverse status is a bit of an eye-roller. It only works with a demon like Crowley, since demons and most monsters are ex-humans and therefore actually lower in status than living humans. For the rest, not so much.

About the only thing humans get to do is go to Heaven at the end of their lives – assuming their souls don’t get demonized, monsterized, angry-ghostized, or eaten, first – where they are warehoused for eternity in their nicest memories. It’s not nearly as bleak as The Good Place ‘verse at this point, but the show’s hardly the rousing hurrah for humanity it claims to be.

But the real problem is that the episode has Dean feeling guilty about pushing Castiel out of the Bunker (at “Ezekiel”‘s insistence) and kicks Dean in the head for it, when Castiel’s being human has nothing to do with Dean’s choices, good or bad. The episode even touches (pretty hard) on the fact that Castiel feels responsible for the angels falling because he is responsible. Or at least partially responsible. Metatron tricked him into helping to create the spell that threw all the angels (except for Metraton) out of Heaven. That’s why Castiel is human in the first place.

Castiel’s becoming human has nothing to do with Dean expelling him from the Bunker (a bit like God expelling Adam and Eve from Paradise, innit?). It has everything to do with Castiel’s poor choices (which Dean even warned Castiel not to make last season).

In addition, Castiel has spent the entire episode moping about how he can’t be around angels because he’s afraid of them now and he’s poison to them. And he has a point (which Dean knows full well is true). So far, every encounter he’s had with angels this season has gone horribly awry. Not only have (what, four, now?) angels tried to kill him since he turned human, but in the process, they have all ended up dead. And it’s not as though there are tons and tons of angels out there in the first place.

It doesn’t help that out of the four angels who’ve attacked Castiel to this point, he’s ended up killing three of them personally (Dean killed the two Reapers). Yes, it was self-defense, but still. Castiel helped create a situation that nearly destroyed his people and also led to his becoming human, but also resulted in it being dangerous, for him, to be around angels.

So, even if Dean thought he could persuade “Ezekiel” to relent and let Castiel back into the Bunker, he couldn’t guarantee Castiel’s safety around “Ezekiel.” And if he warned Castiel about “Ezekiel” on the lowdown, Castiel would feel too uncomfortable about being around another angel to stay. So, there was no way for Dean to get Castiel back to the Bunker and have everyone be/feel safe.

Also, while it definitely looked harsh to Castiel that Dean had cast him out (and it appeared in the story, at least on the surface, that Dean had chosen Sam over Castiel), the more complicated reality is that Castiel put himself into this position of great danger (and harmed his own people) by working with/being duped by Metatron. There is a further angelic irony coming down the road that partially exonerates Castiel, but we’ll leave that one for a near-future review.

This makes more understandable why some fans of Dean would argue that Berens at least started out bashing Dean a tad gratuitously to make Castiel look better. This becomes even clearer when we look at the character of Nora, who also gets thrown under the bus to make Castiel look … well, not so creepy, I guess.

Nora is a classic case of dudebro writing. In simplest terms, it’s how guys frequently write women because they’ve never been women and how women often write women when they’ve internalized misogyny so much in a male-dominated field that they pitch mainly to an audience of men.

Think of the second part of the film, Death Proof. Now, Death Proof has a whole lot of issues with the way the female characters are written (and Tarantino doesn’t write dialogue for women nearly as well as he and his fanboys think he does). The one that stuck out for me, though, was in the second part when the second group of women leave one of their buds (who is passed out drunk) alone with a creepy mechanic who clearly has unpleasant designs on her person.

One could certainly argue that groups of women abandon each other to worse fates all the time and that’s true. But when they do, it’s intentional. They know perfectly well what they’re doing. We women are taught from a young age to be acutely aware of sexual threat in our surroundings. This is because society (and I’m talking globally, here) has a gnarly way of always managing to blame us if we get attacked (amirite, girls?). Men aren’t aware in the same way because they aren’t raised with the idea that someday, they may just “tempt” some member of the opposite gender to rape them – and that it will be all their fault.

So, the reason that scene made me go “Nahhh” wasn’t because the other girls left her to go test the car. It was because they didn’t even give it much thought. A real group of women, written by a woman aiming at a female audience, would have given that decision some serious thought, with dialogue to match.

Nora is a similar “Nahh” character. Not only is she a single mother, but she’s an attractive woman, still relatively young. Further, she spends a lot of time complaining to Castiel about how men are constantly hitting on her and seeing her only for her looks, by way of talking about how he’s “different.” So, it’s not as though she’s unaware of sexual threat in her surroundings. Seems to me she’s very aware.

Such a character would therefore be very, very clear about her intentions and boundaries around men, especially regarding inviting them to her house at night. That goes double for asking them to babysit a baby and triple for the baby being a daughter (sadly, some pedophiles prefer little girls that little). If Nora were a loving and conscientious mother, which most signs in the episode point to her being, she would never ask a guy, employee or otherwise, to babysit for her and make it sound like a date. Yet, in the episode’s dialogue, she is very unclear. And that made me go “Nahhh.”

I mean, I get why Nora doesn’t want to ask Castiel out, regardless of how nice she really thinks he is. He works for her. Dating him is totally inappropriate, probably against company rules, and would be a pretty big power imbalance on her part, considering she could fire him if it ended badly.

Then again, that’s also a good reason why she shouldn’t have him babysit for her, either. He may well risk his job by refusing, especially with Castiel not understanding the gray areas of consent in human interactions. He’s used to situations where you follow orders or you end up a pile of cinders on the floor.

But instead, Berens plays this as Nora friendzoning Castiel (which is a pretty misogynistic view of poor Nora) and then segues into Dean allegedly giving Castiel condescendingly chauvinistic advice. Except that Dean’s advice is really just “Treat her like a lady” and giving Castiel basic guidelines to follow (Dean knows from the whorehouse visit in season five how clueless Castiel is about dating rules). Even allowing for the outtakes in which Jensen Ackles got quite dirty in a (successful) attempt to make Misha Collins laugh, Dean’s not demeaning Nora. The writing is, through the entire set-up and humiliating downbeat payoff for Castiel. But Dean, as a character, gets made the scapegoat for it.

So, yeah, Berens didn’t start out well in this department and fans did notice.

Finally, let’s wrap up with the B story about Sam and Kevin dealing with Crowley and Abaddon. Now, I get that they needed something to do. Sam certainly couldn’t be left without a story all episode. Even so, it felt stuffed into an A story that both lagged and felt underwritten.

It’s too bad because Crowley got some nice lines and there was quite the tense confrontation between him and Abaddon. They could have done an entire episode on this cat-and-mouse game.

It’s probable at this point in the show that only Crowley was in denial about how little power he had left and how Abaddon saw him as no competition at all. But he still needed the wake-up call. So to speak. Also, Abaddon crackled with menace in her every scene, including this one. No redemption storyline for that Evil Queen.

I’d forgotten how irritating Kevin’s Nervous Little Dog shtick could be. It’s kind of a shame they never let  him grow out of it, since Osric Chau could have done a lot more layers with the character. Ah, well.

Sam was a little confusing, albeit it was nice to see Smart!Sam, no chaser all episode. The resolution of this B plot was that Metatron’s spell was irreversible and then everybody just sort of moved on with that. But in light of the fact that Ezekiel was inside Sam, watching the whole time, can we be sure that was true? Unfortunately, we never found out because Berens completely ignored that bit of possible subtext. Sam was all Sam this week.

All in all, not the best freshman script ever on the show.


Fun lines:

Dean [to Sam about talking to Crowley]: Just be careful. Don’t fall for any of his “Quid pro quo” crap.

Dean: So, you went from heavenly battles to nuking taquitos.
Castiel: Nachos, too.

Sam [to Crowley]: Our last encounter with Abaddon, she was pretty terrifying. Scarier than you’ve been in years.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Supernatural: Season 9


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Here are all my live recaps and reviews, from here and from Innsmouth Free Press, in one, handy-dandy spot, for Season 9.  I will add to them as I go along until the season is complete, then compile them in a Codex. Since I’m doing this on my own time, the more donations I get on Patreon or Ko-Fi, the faster I can do the recaps and reviews.


Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.01 (Season Premiere): I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.02: Devil May Care

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.03: I’m No Angel

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.04: Slumber Party

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.05: Dog Dean Afternoon

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.06: Heaven Can’t Wait

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.07: Bad Boys

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.08: Rock and a Hard Place

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.09: Holy Terror

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.10: Road Trip

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.11: First Born

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.12: Sharp Teeth

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.13: The Purge

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.14: Captives

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.15: Thinman

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.16: Blade Runners

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.17: Mother’s Little Helper

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.18: Meta Fiction

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.19: Alex Annie Alexis Ann

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.20: Bloodlines

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.21: King of the Damned

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.22: Stairway to Heaven

Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.23 (Season Finale): Do You Believe in Miracles?


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.