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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. Just FYI.
Right. So, we start at the convent of the Holy Sisters of Malta. There is no such thing, though Malta has many convents of nuns and monks. To answer CC’s question from the previous episode’s discussion, the terms “convent” or “monastery” can be used interchangeably for monks and nuns. Also, double monasteries of monks and nuns were a big thing in the early Middle Ages, until they were banned more-or-less permanently by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. Some were even ruled over by abbesses.
But this is not one of those places. The man who sneaks out in the stone corridor after a small group of nuns passes by is in priestly garb (albeit somebody forgot to add the dog collar) and priestly confessors are allowed in convents for nuns.
He goes into a small chapel where a plain skull is on display in a glass case. Hmm, relics of bone are always in reliquaries that are exquisitely decorated with gold and jewels, as are often the relics themselves. This display is set up like a modern museum piece. I also get the impression that setting this teaser on Malta is intended to be a shout-out to the perennially (especially this year) popular Knights Templar via the film, The Maltese Falcon, while failing to realize that the crawl at the beginning of the film (based on Hammett’s own error in the book) is incorrect. The Templars no longer existed as a group by the 16th century and the military religious order that ruled Malta was actually the Knights of St John (the Hospitallers). More absence of pretty much any historical research on the part of this episode’s writers, Singer and Dabb. Not generally a good sign.
Anyhoo, predictably, he is caught out by a disapproving nun after smashing the case and grabbing the skull. Also predictably, he knocks her out (her groans emphasize that she is only stunned) and scarpers. In a double irony, he sarcastically asks for her forgiveness as he goes: As a nun, she can’t grant him absolution and he’s obviously not a real priest (the person who could). But I suspect he’s done far worse things than theft and beating down nuns, so I doubt it matters to him. He’d likely care a lot more if he knew Hell was real.
Cue title cards.
Cut to the Bunker, where we get the obligatory “Where are all the missing recurring characters this week?” wrap-up from Sam and Dean, with Dean taking in processing field reports while Sam does research. Sam can’t find anything about the Seal of Solomon. Dean says Castiel is in Syria, looking for a fruit from the Tree of Life (damn, was hoping we’d get an episode about that). Dean also reiterates that they can’t find Lucifer, so no archangel grace at the moment. That leaves the blood of a holy man on their dance card.
Sam figures they’re talking about a saint. Dean scoffs that this will be hard (try getting a knife and giving up some blood, dude; should work) while he eats cold pizza. Sam then infodumps about how many saintly relics (most of them likely fake) are being sold on the internet. He then mentions a possible seller – Margaret Astor. The Maltese Falcon shout-out No. 2: Mary Astor was the female lead in the film. They head to San Francisco (shout-out No. 3, as that’s where the film is set).
Margaret Astor is an elegant blonde who likes martinis (this is really more a Casablanca shout-out than The Maltese Falcon, but let’s roll with it). When the Brothers (in their regular rather than suits, for reasons I don’t quite understand) show up, she takes an immediate shine to Sam and blows Dean off pretty heavily. Dean rolls with it and Sam, after being initially startled, takes one for the team and flirts with her back. Margaret is flattered enough to ask what they need (even though she only usually takes personal referrals) and is surprised when Sam says they need “the blood of a saint.” When she asks him what that’s for, Sam is cagey, but says he’d be ever-so-grateful (while Dean tries hard not to gag next to him).
Margaret’s attraction to Sam goes just so far. She’ll only give them a name and an introduction to someone who might have some saint’s blood – a Mr. Greenstreet in Seattle. Shout-out No. 4, of course. Sydney Greenstreet played the main antagonist in the film. And, naturally, Mr. Greenstreet also turns out to be fat, like his sorta namesake, Kasper Gutman (Greenstreet’s character in the film). We meet him eating a donut.
For those of you wondering how the show can get away with this, it’s easy. Though the film may or may not still be in the public domain by now (technically, it should be as of two years ago, but it’s still a big moneymaker), it doesn’t really matter, since Warner Bros put out the film version we’re using here (Huston’s wasn’t the first, by far). While I’m pretty meh about the shallowness of historical research in the teaser, Huston’s version of The Maltese Falcon is one of my favorite films ever and Humphrey Bogart’s my favorite all-time actor. So, if the episode pulls this homage off, I’m pretty willing to be sanguine about all the silly history in a … shall we say … most holy way.
So, back to the show. The Brothers wisely put on suits to meet with the Fatman (sorry, Mr. Greenstreet). Dean introduces them as Sam and Dean Vaughn from Rhode Island. He asks them a question that catches them out about a fake family back east. He also calls them out on their cheap suits, especially when he finds out they want his sample of the blood of a saint, for which he paid quite a bit. This information is bought by Dean giving their real names, which Greenstreet doesn’t recognize. Considering the Brothers’ massive reputation in Occult circles, you’d think Greenstreet might have heard of them, but he shows no recognition. A hint that he is an ordinary villain and may not have what he says he possesses.
Nonetheless, he changes his mind and decides they are perhaps “not above a little chicanery.” He decides to hire them to get the stolen skull from the teaser out of the hands of a mob boss named Santino Scarpotti (a name Dean recognizes), who runs the Seattle mob. Dean asks whose skull it is. Greenstreet claims it’s that of St. Peter (yes, that St. Peter). The blood of the saint in question is that of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits).
Dean agrees, but all Greenstreet really has to offer is that the exchange of the skull between the thief and the mob occurs the following night. When Dean notes that this not a lot of info, Greenstreet serenely replies, “I have faith.”
Outside, Sam is complaining that they’ve been reduced to thieves (dude, you’ve always been thieves. And grifters. And murderers, too). Dean is unimpressed, pointing out that neither of them is “perfect.”
Dean: Look, this isn’t a perfect world and if I’m not perfect saving it, so be it.
We then get some classic music: “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” by Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers from 1944 film Here Come the Waves. Dean also meets a girl who is reading a book called “Guarded by Demons.” They’re hitting it off when Sam cock-blocks Dean by calling him over to talk about research. Damn, Sam. Bad timing, much?
But Sam’s just so excited about his research, you see. He’s found Mr. Nun-Smacking Teaser Guy, a small-time criminal whose name is Antonio Miele, and who’s staying at the Patricia Hotel. The hotel name sounds like a huge shout-out to something, but I don’t think it’s to The Maltese Falcon. I think it’s to the femme fatale, Patricia, in Bogart-inspired French New Wave classic À bout de souffle (Breathless).
As the Brothers enter the hotel, Sam accidentally runs into a shifty-looking dude as he’s coming out of the elevator. Not a real shocker, then, that when they get to Miele’s floor, they find his door ajar, his room trashed, and Miele dead.
As the Brothers try to figure out what’s going on, they are rousted by a dodgy detective (or at least a guy pretending to be a detective). But he has a gun, so they have to take his “suggestion” that they handcuff themselves to a radiator while he tosses the room. Even so, they make it pretty clear they’re on to his disguise. He snarks he’s going to “call it in” as he leaves. Sam then quickly pulls out a handcuff key to unlock their cuffs and Dean jokes that Sam is “like the Boy Scouts, always prepared.” No, Dabb and Singer, apparently you don’t watch your own show – Dean is the brother who is a walking arsenal, including lockpicks, and who once got himself out of a set of handcuffs using a car aerial. But thanks for forgetting 13 years of your own damned canon, sports.
On their way out, they pass the guy Sam ran into, lurking behind a newspaper. As they leave (and the police pull up, fortunately oblivious to the Brothers in their respectable suits), Sam and Dean compare notes and bring us up to date because … reasons, I guess? Anyhoo, they round the corner to where the Impala is and run into a bunch of Scarpatti’s men. Who insist on taking them to Scarpatti. In the Impala. Dean gives up the keys under extreme duress. The mysterious man watches them leave, looking worried.
Scarpatti is listening to opera (not an aria I recognize) and stroking a cat as the Brothers come in. Last time I checked, James Bond was not noir, guys. Pretty kitty, though.
So, Scarpatti gets up and is all proud of himself that he’s figured out the Brothers’ true secret identity as the Winchesters and that they’ve supposedly been dead for six years (try 13 for Dean, but hey, who’s counting, amirite?). But he hasn’t doped out their super-sekrit double-sekrit-probation identities in the supernatural world. So, he’s still as lame as any of the other villains in this story so far. Nice cat, though.
Anyhoo, he wants the Brothers to double-cross Greenstreet because he’s a good Catholic (who already had a collection of relics) and Greenstreet is a dirty, low-down dealer in the sacred. Dean cheekily calls him out on his hypocrisy, just to move things along (thank you, Dean, I was looking at my watch an awful lot). Scarpatti admits he hired Miele to steal the skull and paid him half up front. He claims he didn’t kill Miele and tells the Brothers he will pay them if they find the skull and if they don’t, he’ll kill them. Dean looks not even remotely impressed.
Back at the hotel, Dean is convinced the answer they seek is still in Miele’s room, but alas, it’s a guarded crime scene now. So, Dean starts pulling fire alarms. This motivates the cops to evacuate the hotel, giving a skeptical Sam time to toss the room. He does find a note, but then the mysterious guy whacks him over the head with a vase or something because … reasons. This story is as full of poor logic as it is double-crosses.
Anyhoo, the mysterious guy leaves with a box, looking furtive, but is followed by the “cop” in a scene that tries to be noir, but ends up looking more like the camp 60s version of Batman. The fake cop knocks him out and takes the paper.
Meanwhile, Dean finds Sam and wakes him up. Outside, as they’re looking for the mysterious guy, Dean makes a pretty funny crack about how Sam’s “Disney princess hair” acts as like a crash helmet to protect him from concussions. Look at it this way, Dean – at least Sam didn’t get tied to a chair this time.
They find the mysterious guy unconscious in an alley. When he wakes up, they drag him back to a room, rifle through his stuff, and interrogate him. He says his name is Lucca Camilleri. Dean susses out from his ID that he’s a priest and is after the skull.
Lucca says he was commissioned by the nuns to get the skull back. It turns out Miele was a local hood, so when he vanished at the same time the skull did, it wasn’t tough to connect the dots. Lucca has come to the States to buy the skull back. He has a fair amount of money in his briefcase, though it’s probably not enough. Too bad the fake cop didn’t look in there. Why didn’t he look in there, again?
Anyhoo, Lucca is downcast because how he has to go back to his parish and explain how he lost their major symbol that they’ve had for generations (obvious reference to the set-up for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is obvious). When Dean points out that the world isn’t perfect, Lucca goes into a rant about how you should try to help, anyway, since the world never will be perfect. This motivates Sam to impulsively offer to help Lucca get the skull back.
Dean asks for a short conference with Sam about how problematical this new quest is. Sam suggests they get the skull, dodge Scarpatti somehow, meet with Greenstreet, get the saint’s blood, and doublecross him. Somehow. Dean is not impressed by this hairbrained scheme, so Sam asks Dean what he would do if someone stole the Impala (well … again) and Dean goes into a scary, homicidal state: “Murder. I’d murder ’em all. There’d be torture, I mean, lot of torture, first, but then there’d, it would end up with death. If I can’t have it, nobody can.”
In the Impala, Lucca still can’t remember the face of the man who hit him, but he does remember the number on the slip of paper. It turns out to be a tracking number for a package from Valetta, Malta. Hmm.
Sure enough, Fake Cop shows up to get the package, but the Brothers and Lucca are already staking him out. They follow him to a dock where another car also pulls up. Out gets Margaret Astor.
Inside a warehouse, she and Fake Cop (who is carrying the package) walk in. Fake Cop wants a raise. She says no. Her intended client? Scarpatti, who is not thrilled to be having to pay again for something he already paid to steal.
So, it turns out Margaret killed Miele – or had him killed – and if Scarpatti doesn’t pay up, she will sell the package to the other bidder. This is, of course, Greenstreet, who shows up with his own goons. After Fake Cop opens the package and pulls out a black velvet bag, revealing a plain skull (actually, a relic like that would be inside a well-decorated reliquary and/or be heavily encrusted with jewels and gold, itself), Margaret then starts the bidding.
In the car, Lucca and Dean are having a conversation about God. Lucca trusts in God. Dean says he really shouldn’t, since he knows for a fact God doesn’t care and won’t help. Lucca says that no, he means that all good things come from God, like what Sam is doing now, which is pretty recklessly coming in with Lucca’s box of money. As soon as he says the words, “Let’s make a deal,” Dean and Lucca go in.
While Lucca creates a distraction (by saying so), Dean chokes out all the guards then goes in alone. Meanwhile, both Greenstreet and Scarpatti whine about how Sam double-crossed them. Margaret cuts this short by saying she doesn’t care. Sam’s cute and he has money, too. She then gives everyone a piece of paper to write down their best price. The best price gets the skull.
Sam doesn’t quite have enough, though he stalls as long as he can. Scarpatti puts up three million, but then Greenstreet throws a wrench into the works by offering Fake Cop a million up front to kill Margaret and sell him the skull.
Unfortunately, Margaret unwisely turns her back on Fake Cop, who does shoot her. This starts a general shoot-out as Scarpatti and his men pull guns, Sam ducks for cover, and Dean comes in, guns blazing. As Lucca prays a Pater Noster and we get Gregorian monk chant on the soundtrack (sounds like a Dies Irae), Fake Cop shoots Scarpatti, tries to shoot Dean, gets blocked by Lucca (who gets shot), and gets shot by Sam. It turns out Lucca was only grazed, so praise be and all that.
The only bad guy left standing is Greenstreet. It turns out his story about having saint’s blood was a porky. Dean punches him out and the Brothers shop him to the police.
Then they send Lucca off at the airport, but (in the least surprising twist of a rather dull entry) it turns out he is the saint they were always looking for. It seems Sam found out that the Pope called Lucca an Apostolic Protonotary Supernumerary and Lucca says it means the Pope thought he was “a most holy man.” Oh, golly (and stuff and nonsense, as Lucca is far too timid and ineffectual to be a saint).
So, of course, they get some blood from him and take it home. Because they are creepy that way.
Back at the Bunker, Dean is looking at the vial of Lucca’s blood (which is strangely still fresh without any anticoagulant in it), while Sam is having a mini-meltdown about how they can’t save everyone and is it possible for there to be a world without monsters. Dean says he doesn’t know, but “I have faith.”