Well, what a strange episode that was! There were more holes in the plot than Tremors had holes in the desert. Enough holes to trigger a person with trypophobia! More holes than my fishnets! (There were a lot of holes is what I’m saying.) And yet, I genuinely liked this episode. There were a lot of things besides the plot that really worked in this one, so I didn’t mind the glaring voids where plot should be. More on that later in the review. Speaking of more…I wrote my first novel tonight while making notes on this episode. It got a little out of hand, so I may skate on some of the more minor episode details so I can focus a little more on the analysis details. After all, you’ve all (ideally) already seen the episode. Okay, let’s get started!
The Road So Far:
Another episode without a season 1 callback, but very definite callbacks to earlier episodes to explore. Check out how Dean reacts to unnecessary fear in “Yellow Fever” (4.06) and have a laugh at the same time…until it gets very serious at the end anyway. (I call that the Supernatural special…laugh until you aren’t expecting it, then sudden gut punch of angst and tragedy and pathos.) Brush up on the Demon Blade which was introduced in “The Magnificent Seven” (3.01) and which passed into Sam and Dean’s possession in “No Rest For The Wicked” (3.16). That last one also happens to be the episode where Dean goes to Hell and you’ll need that info as well. The big one for this episode is “The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” (7.20). I also suggest you do a little bonus watching outside the Supernatural universe and check out Roman Holiday, a movie starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Not only is it a great 50’s RomCom, there’s a scene in this episode that is very reminiscent of a scene in that movie.
We start in England, and thanks to the “previously on” talking about Ketch, I thought that’s where we were headed, but instead we got museum theft. (That belongs in a museum!) I thought the thief was pretty strong knocking open that secure door, but that was explained when we find out she was a demon. Pretty fail-safe way to rob a place…be the thief until caught, take over the security guard and walk out with your prize. Demon security guard meets with DAVID CUBITT! I’m a fan and I’m excited. David Cubitt takes the pages and takes out the demon with an angel blade…is he a demon with the blade or an angel in disguise? Then David Cubitt calls Dean (yes! meet up! interact!)
We switch to the bunker where Dean is doing what he always does when
they want to make him look busy on-screen he is preparing in his downtime for the next hunt, cleaning his guns. Sam comes in from calling Asmodeus Cas (AsCas? What do you think?) and so far no one realizes Cas just isn’t himself these days. Just then Dean gets David Cubitt’s phone call. Seems he’s got something that can help them with Jack and they arrange to meet. (Yes! *arm pump*)
Okay, the boys are on their way to the cafe for the meet and walk past a barbershop called “Bang Town” in huge letters behind them as they walk by. Is the location scout promoting Wincest? I laughed. So apparently Dean is not into replacing Crowley with another demon just yet (d’awww!) and Sam is, of course, willing to give this guy a chance. Dean says fine, give him a chance, then kill him. Great start to this partnership already! They walk into the diner and see David Cubitt.
David Cubitt: “The famous Winchesters!”
Dean: “Some random demon!”
Turns out David Cubitt is actually Barthamus (but Bart’s fine) and he’s already trying to get on Dean’s good side by having pie ready and waiting for him. (Nothing for Sam, poor Sammy must feel so unwanted right now!) I was sure this was going to be one of those times Dean never gets the pie, either because he doesn’t trust the demon or ’cause they have to leave in a hurry.
Bart: “Natural destructors. We have that in common, you and I.”
Dean: “Yeah, we’re twinsies.”
OMG, I want Jensen Ackles and David Cubitt to play off of each other in every scene now, in this episode and beyond! And Dean is being so strong with his willpower right now, to not eat the pie and give Bart the satisfaction! Bart tells them he’s got a tracking spell that can find Jack for them. Bart took over Crowley’s position as King of the Crossroads and is looking to deal for the spell. Dean is a big nope to that, so Bart appeals to Sam to check out the first page of the spell, make sure it’s legit and get back to him. How does he appeal to Sam? “Sam, you’re the smart one.” Oooff! Rough one Dean! Does this make up for Bart not getting Sam pie?
Let me say right here that everyone the boys come up against seems to underestimate Dean’s intelligence. Now, I think this absolutely helps Dean be as successful as he is and this all works in his favour, but man are they all wrong! Yes, Sam is absolutely intellingent, no question, and everyone recognizes that, maybe because his intelligence is more “visible” with him getting the formal education, going to Stanford and scoring very high on his LSAT’s. (While there were demons all around him, watching and taking notes.) But Dean is equally as intelligent. As I like to frequently remind my two younger sisters, the eldest child is usually the smartest one. Dean may not have the formal education, but it was shown that when he tried at school, he did well (“Bad Boys” 9.07) and it has also alluded to the fact that Dean has read Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse Five”, on his own time. There are other such references and allusions if you look. Though he is good at planning some things ahead, Dean is usually the one better at thinking on his feet and coming up with a hunting strategy on the spur of the moment. In fact he usually does better by going in and reacting, letting his intuition guide him while hunting. Sam is the more logical one and Dean intuitive. Dean can also do (though he seems to hate it and tries to avoid it) the research needed in the beginning stages of a hunt. He also picked up some computer hacking skills from Frank pretty quickly back in season 7. What I’m saying is Dean is not unintelligent and their enemies underestimate him to their peril, as we’ll see later.
So Bart takes his leave and miracle of miracles DEAN GETS TO EAT THE PIE! Hallelujah! I can’t tell you how much pleasure it brings me to see Dean get pie once in a while.
Back in the bunker, Sam has checked out the first half of the spell and it seems legit. It’s apparently Canaanite and was written by King Solomon to track the Queen of Sheba who was rumoured to be a nephilim herself. Or as Dean puts it, the King “created a spell so he could stalk his girlfriend.” Seems some things haven’t changed all that much for women over the centuries! Because it seems the spell will work with the other half, Sam is ready to make the deal with Bart. Dean has finally learned that making deals with demons never works in their favour. (Who’s the smart one in this instance, Sam?) But Sam convinces him to go hear Bart out.
We see Bart in a room with 2 people(?) we haven’t met yet and they seem to be waiting on our boys, who walk in just as they’re asking about them. The two newbies are Smash and Grab, not their real names. (“Ya think?”) Smash is a human safe-cracker and Grab is a demon who specializes in supernatural security.
Dean: “What is this, a heist? Hold up, is this a heist?”
Dean seems a bit too excited about the prospect of a heist! It is a heist and the target is Luther Shrike who lives off the grid, is paranoid and collects rare supernatural objects. He also has something that Bart wants.
Dean: “What are we talking, your favourite My Little Pony?”
Love you Dean! What Bart wants is in a safe in a vault, somewhere on Shrike’s property. They get it for Bart, they get the other half of the spell. Seems the main reason he came to them was because he needs Dean to open the vault. Turns out the key is blood from someone who’s been to Hell. (Though why wouldn’t Sam’s work just as well? He also went to Hell, unless the Cage was different in some way from Hell proper. Or maybe it’s because Sam didn’t die and go there, he jumped in fully alive? Who knows.) We get a flashback to Dean in Hell and let me just tell you, that moment really freaked me out the first time it happened back in season 3. Seeing Dean, the strong one, who would never, ever admit he was scared, no matter what, being in a state of panic and terror and begging for help, calling for Sam…it just unsettled me. It stayed with me for a few days after even. I hated seeing Dean so powerless. Anyway, moving on.
Dean asks how Shrike gets into the vault and Bart explains Shrike is a human who has also been to Hell, so he uses his own blood. Bart tells them Shrike is a sadist and that he tortures and kills to add to his collection. Dean tries again to find out what Bart wants from Shrike, but all Bart will say is that it’s important to him. In order to “sweeten” the deal, Bart tells them that if they don’t take the deal, he’ll give it to Asmodeus. Why hasn’t he just done that already? Well, apparently Bart trusts Asmodeus even less than he trusts the Winchesters, which isn’t much. It turns out later that Bart went to them because he really needed what was in Shrike’s vault and Dean was his only shot at getting it.
The boys go off to a more secluded area to discuss whether or not to do the job. Dean is still against making any kind of deal with a demon. Especially if it involves a heist like this, as that never ends well in the movies. Sam wants to turn the tables on Bart before he has a chance to double cross the boys. Sam wants to do the heist, get the spell, kill Bart. Dean is all in on the “kill the demon” part, so he agrees to the heist part. They return to the new team and go over the plan. Shrike will never see them coming.
Demon: (to Shrike) “They’re coming.”
Well crap, so much for secrecy. Asmodeus has sent an envoy to Shrike, asking him to call when Bart comes around. Seems Shrike isn’t willing to work with Asmodeus and he sends the demon packing back to hell, saying he’s ready for Bart.
Back with the boys, Sam is rolling up to Shrike’s place, having previously arranged to come sell Shrike a new item for his collection. Smash and Dean are hiding in the backseat. Halfway up the suuuuuper long driveway, Sam stops to let them out before continuing on up to the house.
Sam: “Don’t get dead.”
Dean: “You too.”
D’awww! *sings* “Can you feel the love tonight?” Sam goes up to the house in order to keep Shrike busy with the sale. Sam walks in the front entry to a devil’s trap on the floor. Seriously Shrike, if you were expecting demons, why take the carpet off of the trap so they can see it and avoid it? And it wasn’t so he could watch from the other room to see what happened, because Sam clearly stepped in the trap, then stepped back out again, yet Shrike later still thinks Sam is a demon. There is no good reason that symbol should be uncovered there.
Back to Smash and Dean sneaking into a barn on the property to summon Grab. Is the purpose of summoning him to get around the anti-demon warding on the property? If so that seems like too easy of a work-around. And how did Asmodeus’ demon get in if the place was warded, did Shrike let him in? Doesn’t seem likely. Or maybe it’s just warded against Bart and there was just no room for Grab in the car? I have questions about this whole warding/summoning situation. While preparing the spell, Dean and Smash bond over “Nerve Damage” which seems like some version of Red Bull that was discontinued for being a health hazard. So, yeah, Red Bull. No wonder Dean wants to drink it. What thing that is bad for him does Dean NOT put in his mouth? Grab gets there and spells Dean so they can find the warded vault. The spell will unite like with like so Dean’s blood will want to find the vault.
Dean: “So you’re saying I’m some sort of vault compass?”
Grab: (To Smash) “And you said he was just a pretty face.”
See, they underestimate Dean! (He is totally a pretty face though, they did get that part right.) Grab casts the spell and…nothing…nope, there it goes. Aaaannnd we’re off. Dean and physical comedy is always a great combination and this is no exception. Jensen Ackles really doesn’t get the love he deserves as an actor.
Back in the house, Shrike is playing the host and offering Sam some homemade gin. I really thought this was a ploy to get some Holy Water into Sam, but nope, because even after Sam drinks it with no effect, Shrike still thinks he’s a demon, so it must really have been homemade gin. Lost opportunity Shrike, and what exactly was the point of that writers? Sam geeks out a bit over Shrike’s collection (wonder if they go back to look through his stuff later?) He especially had some fun explaining to Shrike that his Fang of the Basilisk is really a Gorgon tooth because Basilisk fangs are hollow and this one isn’t. “Still cool though.” Sam, making a play to waste some more time, asks Shrike to show him the rest of the collection, but Shrike wants to get straight to business. Sam opens the chest he brought to show Shrike the object and it’s Ruby’s knife aka the Demon Blade. I can see how this whole transaction with Sam may have actually fooled Shrike if he hadn’t been warned they were coming.
Back to our gang of thieves where Dean is still Mr. Homing Pigeon. He’s wondering how much longer he’ll have to play that part. (Until you find the vault Dean, duh. No one knows where the vault is so how could they possibly know how much longer it will take to get there? Here I’ve been defending you as being smart, don’t let me down now!) Dean’s just worried about Sam getting caught if they take too long. (D’awww!) Grab then makes the following mistake:
Grab: “If Sam’s too stupid to do his part, then that’s on him.”
Dean, of course, is having none of that. No one calls his brother stupid (except Dean of course) or is so cavalier about Sammy’s safety. Double whammy, Grab! If the spell hadn’t kicked in just then, Grab would have probably been laid out by a Dean Winchester cross. They continue on and find the vault in a root cellar. Grab is all “nuh uh, I did my part” and stays topside while Dean and Smash go into the vault.
Grab: (to Dean) “This is on you hand puppet.” (Ha!)
Dean: “I will kill you.” (Yeah you would.)
I just wish Dean had gotten a chance to throw down with Grab before Shrike got to him. Ah well, you can’t have everything.
Down in the vault, Smash and Dean encounter a door with a “lock” in the middle straight out of Roman Holiday. And sure enough, Dean’s gotta stick his hand in the beast’s mouth just like they do with the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) in the movie. Okay, skip the next paragraph to avoid spoilers for Roman Holiday.
In the movie, Gregory Peck as Joe comes across Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann pretending to be Anya. He knows who she really is, but in order to keep his job, he’s promised his editor an exclusive interview with Princess Ann. So, he spends the day with “Anya” while she takes the chance to escape from onerous royal duties to do things she’s always wanted to do. One of the things they do is visit the Mouth of Truth where the legend is that if you are prone to lying, and stick your hand in, the Mouth of Truth will bite your hand off. Watch the scene here. Joe is trying to get a rise out of the Princess for his article and she seems pretty nervous to put her hand in the mouth. She tells Joe to do it first, so he obliges, then screams out in pain like his hand was bitten off, but only to prank “Anya”. In this episode, Dean is both the one scared to put his hand in and he’s also the one who does put his hand in and totally (and hilariously) overreacts to it. Now, Dean isn’t trying to get a rise out of Smash, but she certainly is hiding who she is from him, like the Princess was with Joe.
We’re back to Sam in the house with Shrike and he and Sam are about to conclude their “deal” and Shrike gets Sam’s money for the knife, but then Shrike lets Sam know that he knows Sam has only been there trying to stall him while others are robbing his vault. Now, why would Shrike even go through the charade of buying Sam’s item if he knows it’s a stall tactic and time matters? If it was to get his hands on the knife, he did that already, he should have just grabbed the knife as soon as the box was open and attacked. If it’s not about the knife (did he even know what the item was Sam was bringing? Or just a vague something for his collection?) then why not attack as soon as Sam was inside? Shrike’s plan here makes no sense to me. Shrike finally attacks Sam here and thinks he’s a demon. When Shrike loses the knife, why go for the gun? That wouldn’t even slow a demon down? Why not start the exorcism we know he knows? So many plot holes! Sam gets control of the knife and stabs Shrike and…nothing. Uh oh. Apparently Bart forgot to tell them that Shrike is basically immortal on his own property. First indication Bart may not have been totally honest with them. (Though you’ve gotta expect that from a demon I guess. Whether you can temporarily trust him or not just depends on what info he holds back.) Shrike then gets the jump on Sam and knocks him out with his
Basilisk Fang Gorgon tooth. Apparently nobody likes a pedant, Sam.
So we jump to Dean again (Noooo, what’s happening to poor Sam?) and Dean’s pretty hesitant to stick his hand where there might be spiders and other things, and spiders. (I hear you Dean, nuke all spiders from orbit I say. It’s the only way to be sure.) Smash could care less about Dean’s arachnophobia. Dean psyching himself up to put his hand in the mouth is hilarious. Dean’s (over)reaction to what amounted to a blood glucose test is priceless. The vault opens and Smash goes to walk in to the safe and oops! The floor is booby trapped. Dean’s able to pull her back to safety in time. Grab yells down to find out how things are going. (Not well Grab! And maybe don’t yell in the middle of a heist?) Smash and Dean just ignore him, leaving him to grumble before turning around to find the pointy end of the Demon Blade in his soft and squishy midsection. Bye Grab!
Down in the vault, Dean is pissed about the “Dollar Store Indiana Jones crap” only for Smash to direct his attention to Shrike’s arrival. Smash, bless her heart, is able to react quickly and kicks Shrike’s leg to let her slip past him and run away…but that leaves Dean alone to deal with Shrike. Bad Smash! Dean of course asks about Sam first and foremost. We learn he left Sam alive after discovering he’s a human and not a demon. (How? Sam doesn’t say anything later about being cut or stabbed, so Shrike clearly didn’t use the demon blade on him. Sam was knocked out, so I doubt Shrike stuck around until he woke up to ask him, not when he knew there were others there robbing his vault. Holy Water? Why not use that earlier, like with the gin? Was it just the fact that he was able to knock Sam out with a rock? So many plot holes! And if Shrike is such a sadist and killer, why leave Sam alive? For a midnight torture snack? Or maybe this is the second indication that Bart wasn’t telling them everything.) Dean sees all Shrike has is the knife, so not knowing Shrike is effectively immortal, Dean pulls his gun and tells Shrike he shouldn’t have brought a knife to a gun fight. Then he tells Shrike to hand over what he wants and they can all get home to watch Game of Thrones. Much like me though, Shrike is more about the books and lets Dean find out just how effective his gun is in this situation. Right about then, Sam runs in to tell Dean Shrike is immortal. Yeah, think Dean figured that one out already Sam. As Dean says, fortunately for them, the immortal Shrike has a glass jaw and Dean is able to lay him out with one punch.
They tie Shrike up and try to get him to tell them how to cross the vault floor. Shrike, predictably, won’t say. He does mention that the darts are all tipped with silver and full of arsenic, Holy Water and Holy Oil. Smart Shrike, something in there for everyone. Shrike is feeling pretty confident they won’t get any further. But why did they even get this far Shrike? Aren’t you curious about how they opened the door that needs blood from someone who’s been to Hell and come back? You don’t even mention it! You can be sure I’d be trying to find out what the flaws were in my previously thought to be perfect security measures!
Wow, Smash is fast, she’s run all the way back to the entrance gate already at Shrike’s estate. Bart’s waiting there outside. (If they could summon in Grab, why not Bart? This demon warding makes no sense.) She tells him the job’s gone sideways and Grab is for sure dead and the Winchesters are highly likely to be dead by now as well. (Yep, more underestimating, both of the Winchesters this time.) Bart really doesn’t care what’s happened, he wants Smash to go back and finish the job or die trying.
In the vault, Sam and Dean are trying to figure out how to proceed in the footsteps of God or something. Nothing they are thinking of seems likely to work, so Dean wants to just jump in and wing it, which, no Dean. “These aren’t like the lasers in Entrapment.” Sam points out. So the boys take a few minutes out of this stressful situation to relax and discuss how Dean’s surprised Sam has watched Entrapment and Sam explains he watched it because of Catherine Zeta-Jones and both boys take a minute to appreciate Catherine Zeta-Jones’ talents as an actor (I presume). Bonding moment over, Sam comes up with a “crazy” plan. Dean’s all in. (Of course he is, he lives for wacky plans!) Fast forward to Shrike tied up and taped to a rolling cart/chair they push across the booby trapped floor to activate and clear all of the darts. Smart plan Sam! Or, “Awesome!” as Dean would say. Of course, Shrike can’t die, but all the darts seem to hurt a bit when they go in, so payback for knocking out Sam earlier.
The boys get to the safe and now what? It’s a safe neither of them know anything about, and they have no tools as Smash ran off with them, Fortunately, this is the exact moment where Smash comes back. They finally find out that Smash is working for Bart because she made a deal and sold her soul to him a long time ago. As long as she keeps working for him, Bart never collects on the original deal, taking her soul to Hell. Of course the boys offer to help her get out of it, but she brushes them off and says she needs to take care of herself, so she gets to work on the safe. They get the chest they need and head out, discovering that Shrike has escaped in the meantime. They keep going anyway, just focused on getting away and it seems like they’re home free until they run into Shrike out on the road, blocking their way. (At this moment, I knew Shrike was a dead man, because he left his property. And why? Surely it would have been easier to block their way in his own driveway. More plot driven nonsense!) Dean spins Baby around so Sam is free to shoot out of the passenger window and take out Shrike’s tires. Shrike’s truck comes to a halt and they go and get him out of the truck. No idea what the plan is here, was Sam going to kill him? Why not just drive around the truck and get out of there? There was no reason for them to get out and go confront Shrike except that the plot demanded it. Bad plot!
In the ensuing conversation, they come to find that Shrike wasn’t actually a bad guy. (At least originally, there’s still a chance that in his quest to build his collection and fight off Bart that he really did become the murdering sadist Bart said he was. We’ll never know I guess.) Turns out Shrike sold his soul to Bart to save the life of his dying son. Bart made the deal and saved the son, only for the boy to die in an accident a few years later. Bart was like “that’s not on me” and Shrike was angry. He apparently went out studying demons at that point because when his ten years were up and Bart collected on his soul and took him to Hell, Shrike decided to renegotiate the deal. His leverage? He had Bart’s bones. (Again, bad plot hole. Shrike was in Hell, the bones on Earth. What could Shrike do with them? Even if they were just hidden somewhere that Bart couldn’t find them, that actually works in Bart’s favour as no one else would find them either, or even know the significance if they were found later. Shrike would have had to have an accomplice for this who was ready to torch them if Shrike didn’t come back by a certain time. But who would that have been? Why not threaten Bart before he took Shrike to Hell? Then he skips Hell entirely and doesn’t need a non-existent accomplice…but then they don’t specifically need Dean and his Hell and back blood, so Shrike must make it to Hell too. Ludicrous plot holes! Aarrgh!)
So, the item Sam and Dean were sent to retrieve was the chest with Bart’s bones. Ding! Way to kill Bart coming right up! Of course, the minute they
get all the information they need to have to advance the plot find the bones, Bart shows up and predictably kills Shrike. The boys get on Bart’s case for letting Shrike’s son die, but to be fair, unless the deal was for Bart to keep the kid alive for a specific time, Bart held up his end of the deal. He did save the son from dying in the first place. And it’s not like Bart came back and killed the kid later, it was an actual accident. Life killed that boy, or maybe Atropos since the boy missed his first death. It sucks, but I don’t see how that’s on Bart really. And again, Bart says Shrike deserves to die, so again I wonder if what Bart said was true and Shrike was a murdering sadist. Was he always that way, or was he twisted after Hell, or was this just him doing what he needed to do to go after and/or protect himself from Bart, much like hunters do what they have to do to protect people from demons and such? There is no telling, but they play it like Bart is totally in the wrong and Shrike was totally in the right and I think they missed the mark on this. Playing it as a grey area is almost always the most interesting way to go and this case is no exception. Letting the boys sit with the ambiguity would have been a great choice here. Yes, exorcise the demon if you can, kill it if there’s no saving the meat suit, that’s pretty much a given in this world. (So, does the meat suit have to die with the demon when you torch the bones? I thought it just got rid of the demon [spirit] that’s posessing the person, not the meat suit itself, like when they torch a ghost. Just another unexplained bit.) But letting them wonder if Shrike deserved his death, or leaving Shrike alive after establishing for sure that he really was a mudering sadist, then leaving it to Sam and Dean to determine his fate…this is all good TV. Shrike is right, Bart’s wrong isn’t very interesting at all and is actually a bit frustrating here. Ah well, that ship has sailed.
So Bart gets out a roll of cash to pay Alice for her part in the heist. (Her name’s Alice? Okay, her name is Alice now.) More plot service. I thought Alice’s payment was Bart not collecting on her demon deal. He doesn’t seem the type to pay out employee bonuses. The only reason this is here is to give her a reason to move closer to Bart so he can get her when the time comes. Which would be perfectly acceptable if he was doing that on purpose, but no, this is just the writer moving pieces on the board. He also pulls out the second page of the spell for Sam and Dean as their payment for the completed heist. So far (other than not telling them everything about Shrike) Bart actually seems to be holding up his end of the deal and not trying to swindle the boys. It’s the boys who hesitate and Dean, knowing what he wants, checks in with Sam to see if they’re on the same page in this. This is actually kind of rare. Usually Dean takes the lead and never checks with Sam. I mean, apparently Sam usually agrees as he makes no noises of protest about it and seems perfectly fine taking second seat to Dean most of the time, but this has occasionally lead to tension between them in the past. So good on Dean for checking with his brother before going back on this deal and possibly losing out on the second half of the spell they need. Instead, they go to burn Bart’s bones, but thanks to that nonsense with the money, Bart is able to grab Alice and threaten to kill her in the time it will take the boys to set his bones on fire. The boys back down and Bart tells them to slide the chest over towards him. Dean does (And we’ll see he does something else right now as well. Again, Dean is smart and quick on his feet. STOP UNDERESTIMATING HIM ENEMIES! How great would it be to have an enemy who absolutely gives the boys their due and respects their skill/smarts/talent and plans accordingly, yet the boys are still able to beat this competent bad guy, showing off just how amazing they are? It would be so great!) Bart tells Alice to grab the chest and she apologizes to the boys for having to do Bart’s bidding and Dean says “You gotta take care of you.” while showing her the zippo in the chest. Alice, no slouch, catches Dean’s meaning and when she goes to get the chest, is able to set Bart’s bones on fire herself. (I do appreciate the notion that Alice is the one who saves herself and doesn’t depend on the boys to do it, but that kind of gets lost in some of the oddity of this bit of the episode.) Now, this scene is cut really strangely. Not sure if this was an editing problem or directing problem or what, but it stood out because the rest of the episode was great. It just seemed like it took forever for Alice to light up the bones, plenty of time for Bart to attack. Then, once they’re on fire, Bart starts to go up in flames and that also seemed to take a really long time. Plenty of time for Sam to grab the spell out of his hand. But Sam doesn’t act until the spell is on fire and flutters our of Bart’s grasp. Now comes the worst plot silliness this episode has seen yet: SAM BLOWS ON A PIECE OF PAPER TO PUT IT OUT! You know what feeds fire Sam? Oxygen! Why not roll over on top of it? On your back? You had 3 layers of clothes on, the chance of you getting burned through all of those layers is very small! How badly did you really want that spell Sam? Cause it seems like your really need it. Jack is currently the most powerful being in the world until Chuck and Amara come back. And he’s out there on his own, not able to really control his powers and he has accidentally hurt people with those powers and even killed one person. And he’s being hunted by Heaven and Hell and it would be a disaster if Jack fell into either of their hands. So, yeah, maybe put in a little effort instead of doing the worst possible thing you could do? Sam is not this brainless, this is plot required foolishness. Sooooo, yeah, Sam blows on the burning paper, thus making it worse and burning the entire paper to ash.
Afterwards, the boys take Alice to the bus station so she can get on with living the rest of her life and between the Dean and Alice “bonding” and the heist nature of the episode and then the bus scene at the end, this episode is reminiscent of “The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” (7.20) and brings back memories of Charlie for sure. Especially when she flashes them the peace sign.
After Alice is on her way, the boys head back to the bunker where Sam is upset because
HE BLEW ON BURNING PAPER TO TRY TO PUT IT OUT, WHICH ENDED UP BURNING IT FASTER! they lost the second half of the spell. Dean tries to cheer Sam up by pointing out how they saved Alice, but Sam is still worried that they still have no idea how to find Jack. Dean’s all Pollyanna about how they’ll just keep trying things until they find something that works, ’cause that’s what they do and Sam is all “feels really good to hear you talk like that again” and Dean is all “I’ll drink to that!” Because of course he will. Because just three episodes ago, everyone was talking about how Dean was in the worst depressive episode of his life. Now, they did get Cas back, which was a huge win, but Jack is missing and could be dangerous. Especially if Heaven OR Hell get their hands on him. Ketch is back and in the wind somewhere, they just lost their best shot so far at getting Jack back and they weren’t able to save Shrike (though maybe that was a good thing?) Things are even worse than they know right now with Lucifer back, him and Cas captured and Otherworld Michael on his way. Yet Dean is all better now! Without talking about his feelings, without working through any of his issues, so of course Dean is ready to drink to him being “better” because the drinking is part of how he represses the bad feelings and gets better! Dammit! Let Dean go through some ACTUAL healing at some point! Please?
And Sam, you’re partly to blame here. You were so lost 3 episodes ago when Dean was falling apart and you were trying everything to get him back to the strong, confident, determined leader he usually is in your dynamic. Sam is always able to explore his feelings and fall apart in order to put himself back together in better shape because Dean is always there giving him the space to do so. Dean holds down the fort so Sam can afford to have weak moments. Maybe you should step up and take control for a while Sam so Dean can have the same permission and space to not always be strong and confident and in charge. So he has the ability to work through the darkness and on through to the other side. Let’s let Dean break down so he can also put himself back together in better shape than he was before. I really feel very strongly about this one and will be very upset if he never gets this chance before the end of the series.
Well, overall, there were plot issues as far as the eye could see in this episode. Yet the heist was fun, we saw Smart!Dean and Smart!Sam at various points. The pace was good and physical comedy Dean and “Yellow Fever”(4.06) levels of fear Dean is also a lot of fun to watch. I feel like the writer, Meredith Glynn, got the characters well, even if the plot took a hit, and some of the plot issues I’m sure have to do more with what the writer’s room is arranging for the season and not so much with this one episode. So it kind of evened out for me and I enjoyed the episode even as I screamed at some of the plotting. However, I can see where this episode might not work for some people.
There were other ways to deal with Alice at the end that didn’t so deliberately call back to Charlie. That one hurt. If they wanted a Charlie they shouldn’t have killed off the original in the first place.
I really hope they don’t draw out the “we keep talking to Cas and can’t figure out it’s not really him” thing for too long. It makes the boys, who we have established are actually smart, look incompetent. (Though really, why don’t they have code words for fork’s sake!)
David Cubitt was fantastic in the role. It’s a shame they had to kill him off as I’d sit and watch him and Jensen Ackles play off of each other for years without getting sick of it.
Stop underestimating Dean, people!
Finally, the title of the episode is from a famous fable. Read it here. I wonder in this episode, who was meant to be the scorpion and who the frog? It’s really easy, as we’re used to seeing the boys as protagonists, to see them as the frog here. They hesitate to deal with a demon, knowing it’s in their nature to try to rig the game in their favour each time. Bart is absolutely poisonous as a demon and he doesn’t come off well in this episode. He let Shrike’s son die, even when Shrike had already sold his soul to save him once before. It’s possible Bart would have found a way to double-cross Sam and Dean on their arrangement before everything was said and done if Sam and Dean had actually followed through on the deal. He was also basically using Alice as slave labour.
It’s also possible to see that Shrike and Bart are the animals here. Bart could be the scorpion as he let Shrike’s son die because that was his nature to stick to what was in the deal and no less, but certainly no more either. Then he still collected on Shrike’s soul because that was also the deal. But, it’s also conceivable that Shrike could have been the scorpion because it was his nature to fight back after what he felt was the unfair nature of his deal with Bart. It was his nature to keep the bones for insurance and to keep fighting Bart every step of the way, which brought us all to this episode. It may also have been his nature to torture and kill people along the way, we’ll never know if Bart was truthful about that or not.
Finally, it’s also plausible that the boys are the scorpion here. To demons, the Winchesters are absolutely dangerous, yet Bart made a deal with them because he needed those bones and Dean was the only person who could get them for him. He trusted that their need for the spell would be enough to get them across the river safely. But Sam and Dean, as is their nature, couldn’t just let Bart walk away after everything, so they sank them all instead. Given their past, you could definitely say it’s Sam and Dean’s nature to renege on deals and shaft demons and kill them whenever possible, even if we see that as a good thing.
It’s possible that all of the characters are frogs and all scorpions in their own way. However you choose to view the alliances and deals in this episode, it’s certain that everyone was acting as their natures dictated and that no one but Alice got what they wanted in the end here. So like I said, a strange little episode. It’s depressing and yet fun, well paced but poorly plotted but with great character work. I liked it overall though what did you think?
The Road Ahead:
- There’s a lack of discussion in the comments section right now. I know part of it is the Saturday post for a Thursday show, but is there anything lacking that you want/need to get a conversation going? Anything I can do to fan that flame? Do you need me to blow on you?
- How annoying do you think Luci is being in his cell right now?
- Will it be annoying enough that Cas tries to immediately kill him as soon as they’re released?
- Did this heist story work for you, even with the plot nonsense?
- How long until the boys figure out Cas isn’t Cas? Should I call him Not!Cas, just Asmodeus or AsCas?
- Where is Ketch holed up and licking his wounds do you think?
- Will we see Alice again?
- Should we see Alice again?
- If they wanted a new Charlie, they shouldn’t have killed off the last one. Agree or strongly agree?
- The next episode is titled “The Bad Place” how great would a crossover between Supernatural and The Good Place be?
- Did you enjoy David Cubitt as much as I did? (I loved him on Traders)
- How great is Jensen Ackles? It takes real skill to do the hand flopping about, pulling you around thing, while playing it straight, and not look ridiculous.
- Will they ever deal with Dean’s depression and other issues or will he just be a fat alcoholic by the end of the show from stuffing himself with food and booze?
- Who was the frog here and who was the scorpion?
- When you exorcise a demon, it gets sent back to Hell where it can (eventually) escape and come back to Earth. (This used to be much more difficult, but since 3.01 demons are just coming and going willy nilly even without an open Hell Gate.) Is it better to exorcise a demon and save the human, knowing the demon will just come back and harm/kill more people? Or is it better to sacrifice one life to make sure the demon can’t come back (Demon/Angel Blade, Colt or burning the bones) and do more damage?
Tell me what you think. Give me your take on the episode, answer a question or two. (Or all of them if you feel like it!) Until next time, be good to each other! XO