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THEN: Dad's on a hunting trip, and he hasn't been home in a few days.

Shit, you guys, they're taking us back to the pilot. It's a risky move, showing this particular scene, because it reminds us of how awesome the show was back in the day. This scene has always been one of my favorites, with Sam blowing off Dean's concern and then Dean repeating what he said but adding the oh-so-telling information (though we didn't know it at the time) that Dad was on a hunting trip and Sam not breaking eye contact with Dean as he quietly asks/tells Jessica to excuse them for a minute and damn. I love this scene.

Anyway. The rest of the "Then:" hot witch twins, Ketch wants to know the secret behind Sam's shiny hair, Cas, the Colt.

NOW: A lovely woman who looks way too young to be Max and Alicia's mother drives up to an inn in a large old house, where she encounters a nasty older woman with a big ring and a big attitude (although I did think "what a delicate constitution you must have" was clever). She offers to cleanse her aura, saying it looks "a little muddy," and I suspect this is a witch's version of a southern woman saying "well bless your heart" - they both translate to "why don't you fuck off and die?" The younger woman is Tasha Banes, here on both business and pleasure (but probably ending up with neither). She does some witchcraft using the order "reveal," and ends up in an apparently very malodorous cellar, where she's quickly stabbed through the abdomen. Like I said, neither business nor pleasure is getting accomplished here.

Title card!

Sam and Dean are in the bunker, freaking out about Cas. (Also, they're both proving my point about Dean being the better dresser, since he's wearing a nice solid grayish-greenish shirt that probably does things with his eyes when he's not in a dark bunker, while Sam's in an unflattering blue and red plaid.) Dean's venting and chewing on his nails, which almost never happens. Sam's quietly trying to figure out how to fix it. Dean says he's always been able to forgive Cas's missteps in the past, which, well, okay, maybe not but let's move on. "But last night, I did not recognize the guy staring back at me." Like that's a first. Like Godstiel and Leviathan!Cas never happened.





Winchesters in distress. I like it.

Sam decides this conversation isn't depressing and in fixable enough and unwraps a bundle on the table in front of him. It's the remains of the Colt. There's actually more remaining than I thought -it seems like most of the damage was the destruction of the barrel. Dean asks if he can fix it, and Sam answers "I hope so." That's actually kind of encouraging. I thought it was gone for good. I'd love to see Smart!Sam figure out how to rebuild it.

We hear the sound of a phone vibrating against a hard surface, but Sam checks his pocket anyway (insert your own hard surface joke here) and declares it not his. It's not Dean's either. It's an abandoned phone, hidden on the table under a book, and apparently it's one of Mary's. I'd really like to know where the characters on Supernatural get these phones that hold a charge for weeks at a time (or, in the case of Bobby's old phone in "Ask Jeeves," years).

The caller is Alicia Banes, and let's not ask why she called Mary instead of Sam in the first place because it makes me unhappy and I don't want to think about it. They do a very cute thing where Max disputes half the things she says because he thinks she's making a mountain out of a molehill. (Considering that we've already seen Tasha Banes get stabbed, I don't think it's a spoiler to point out that he's wrong.) Alicia is worried about their mother because she was hunting a witch and hasn't checked in as usual.


I had to stop the Show here to discuss Alicia's cute outfit with The Kid. I did not notice, until now, that it looks like they may be stopped at a crossroads. Coincidence?

To everyone's surprise, Sam tells her that he and Dean will meet them in Wyoming. Dean thinks they should be concentrating on Cas, but Sam points out that there's nothing they can do about that right now, Jody's put out an APB, and rather than sit around banging their heads against a wall, they should get out there, blah blah blah, and then he says this: "Their mom's on a hunting trip, and hasn't been home in a week."



Dean can't believe Sam is using that line on him. I can't believe that's the only reason they reminded us about it.

We get a few extra, quiet seconds of Dean looking... Sad? Undecided? Anxious? Is he thinking of John? Cas? Mary? Apparently it's Mary, because he takes out his phone and calls her. She doesn't answer because she's... strapped to a chair in the BMoL bunker. With huge screws sticking out of her chest?


Well, that was unexpected!

Her phone is buzzing, and Ketch throws water in her face to wake her up. "Please be a dear," he says, "and shut that bloody thing off." I spend a second or two wondering if I missed something in the last episode, but then we see Actual Mary in the background, holding the bloody thing. So, the one in the chair is a shifter. Okay then. With her gray clothing, being strapped down by the BMoL, and having water thrown on her, I'm getting a real Sam-in-the-basement vibe. (And don't forget the screws in her chest. Insert your own getting screwed joke here.) Despite his use of the word "please," Ketch angrily makes it clear that he wants her to not answer it, so Dean leaves a message. He tells her about the hunt, says he'll text the info in case she can help, and then does the lip thing and asks her to call back even if she can't help. Because there's some stuff going down and it's got him "spun out" and he just needs to talk to his mama, dammit.



Dammit.

Ketch continues to torture the shifter (and it turns out the things in her chest are spikes, not screws, but my point still stands) and assures her that looking like Mary ain't gonna make the torture any less torturous. In fact, I think Mary and I are thinking the same thing, and that is that he really seems to get into hurting someone who looks just like Mary. Also, he's asking for the location of the shifter's family (pointedly correcting Mary, who calls the shifter he, by referring to it), obviously intending to torture and kill them as well, so. Good luck with getting those answers. He must have learned his interview technique from Toni Bevell. But he promises that the pain will end when the shifter answers his questions.

Shifter Mary laughs at him and says "That eye of yours twitches when you lie." He responds that his eye twitches all the time, which is probably true, and then punches her. The physical contact allows her to take on his own form, which throws him a little bit. But what really throws him is when it says, in a very non-Brit drawl, "Well then. I guess I know all about you." Guys. Ketch is not really British.

He reaches for more spikes, but we cut quickly to the Impala, and then Sam and Dean meeting the Banes twins at a scenic water's edge somewhere. It must be the next day, because Alicia isn't wearing her cute outfit, and Sam has changed into an even more unfortunate plaid shirt. Dean's wearing the Red Shirt of Bad Decisions (and now that I've seen this name on Tumblr, I want to claim credit for it), so hopefully something awesomely bad is going to happen. Alicia says that their mother was hunting a "borrower witch," and Sam explains for the audience that this is a witch who gets their power from a demon deal. And in case we forgot Max is a horn dog, he tells us he got the phone number of the bartender at the only vegan restaurant in town.

(Sidebar: I know of people were excited about Sam/Max, and I've read some fics in this vein that I found quite enjoyable. But honestly, I don't trust him. Sure, he's sweet and he's hot and he seemed to be into Sam but he told us he used his witchy powers to seduce men. And if that means "to make myself look hot so men will be attracted to me," that's okay. But if he means "to make men want me," or "to make men think they want me," that's a little too close to Toni Bevell for my taste, and I would prefer that he keep it away from my precious Sammy. Also, he seems to be kind of a player, and I'm not slut-shaming, but I don't think a booty call is what Sam wants or needs.)

(Yes, I do spend a lot of time thinking about what Sam wants and needs. Does that surprise you?)

But I digress. Max compliments the car (because, witchy powers or not, Max sure as hell knows how to work a guy) and Dean takes him for a tour of the trunk. There's yet another shout-out to the grenade launcher. Those guys really need to use the damn thing this season. It's funny to me that Dean casually discusses their need for witch-killing bullets in front of a witch. I mean, yeah, they're hunting a witch, but it would be like Max showing Dean his new hunter-killing spell. It's just awkward to me.



"Is that a grenade launcher, or are you just happy to see me?"

Sam and Alicia stand around looking beautifully windblown and discussing how their lives are parallel. Max and Tasha are "natural witches," so they're extra close, while Alicia has "no magic." Except artificial witch magic, I guess. Sam tells her that Dean and John had the same bond, with hunting. Alicia asks about Mary, and I expect Sam to say "well, she wasn't around to bond with when I was growing up, because she was dead," but I forgot that Alicia knows her as the hunter who is in the here-and-now. Instead he says "she gets into a case and just.. vanishes." (Just like John, huh?) Alicia comments that Mary's a great hunter, so I guess they've done some hunting together? Is that why she called Mary for help? She doesn't think she seems like much of a hugger, which Sam doesn't dispute, even though I'm pretty sure their first hug (since her resurrection) was initiated by Mary.



I would hug you, Sam. Just give me the opportunity.

Team Banechester shows up at the inn and spots Tasha's car. They also spot a peculiar looking guy next to the cellar doors. Max speaks for everyone when he declares him "not weird, at all" and Sam gives him an adorable awkward little wave, which is not returned.



Maybe it's that shirt, Sammy.

Dean instructs the twins to "stay behind us" and Alicia says "yeah, sure" but I don't think she means that because she brandishes an engraved blade and storms inside. She's greeted by the same kindly clerk who checked Tasha in, and then by Tasha herself. Duh duh duuuuuhhhh!!!! Alicia is thrilled, Max is smug, and Tasha announces they can all hang in her room because she has wine.

Up in her room, Tasha says the witch hunt was a bust. And her phone hasn't been charging, which is why she didn't respond to Alicia's frantic texts and calls. Alicia questions why she ignored her protocol to always call on the fourth day of a hunt, and I was under the impression Tasha was a witch and not a full-time hunter. (And do her hunts always take longer than four days?) Tasha struggles to open the wine while apologizing, and then something weird happens and she makes a face. She asks Sam to pour the wine and then turns away to straighten her broken finger. And remember that, because we're going to talk about it later. So Alicia puts on some make-out music and Sam pours wine and a million fanfics are started but we'll have to pause that, because as Dean adorably sniffs at his wine, Tasha announces she ordered vegan takeout and Sam offers to go pick it up. He pats Dean on the leg and instructs him to drink, so Dean empties Sam's glass into his and it's very, very cute.



AO3 tag of the day: Dean plus wine plus a trio of hot witches equals a fun time for all.

Cut to the weirdly futuristic BMoL bunker. Having finished his torture session, Ketch is "pumping with adrenaline" and would like to work some of that off with Mary. She shuts him down and says they'd agreed it was a one-time thing, and if she's referring to the conversation they had when we saw her re-dressing and him cocking his leg out from under the sheets in an unappealing way, I don't blame him for not getting that. Because I didn't get it either.

She's mad because his little torture session didn't get them any intel; "that shifter was never going to be betray his family." (Hmmm... I wonder if a Shifter!Mary refusing to betray family is going to mean anything.) Ketch is convinced that pain still works sometimes. "For example," he says, in his fake Brit accent, "seeing you in pain made me want to have illicit hotel sex with you." No, he doesn't, but you know that's what he's thinking. He actually says "Anyone who tells you torture is never the answer? They have never been under the knife." (Mr. Ketch, may I introduce Sam Fucking Winchester?) Mary's still disgusted that he enjoyed it so much, and says she hasn't seen that side of him (which is a relief, because I hope she won't hang around long after seeing it) and he points out that she's not going to become the Jiminy Cricket of the BMoL, because they don't need a conscience. (Sidebar: Jiminy Cricket reference reminds me of Dean being Soulless Sam's Jiminy and aw. Soulless Sam. That was awesome for a bit, wasn't it?) They believe the ends justify the means. Speaking of the means, he snarks that she should feel free to call Mick and write him up, but she hasn't heard from Mick - he's not answering his phone or sending emails. Ketch reminds Mary she should call Dean, lest he think Mummy doesn't love him. Oooh, burn.

Dean's staring at his phone thinking exactly that. Tasha joins him on the couch and he tells her what a great job she did raising her kids. She says she just got lucky, and asks him about his own childhood. She then gives us this motto: Parents seem smart and perfect, but when you grow up, you realize they're just people. I guess that's why Sam went to pick up the food - so Dean could hear this little speech.



Contemplate that one for a while, Dean, since your contemplation face is so pretty.

In the BMoL bunker, we see Mary listening to Dean's sad message. But before she can call him back, she hears Ketch on the phone. He says "I can't just send him Economy Comfort" and then refers to a package with a lot number, and apparently Mary deduces the package and the "him" are the same thing, because she looks pretty distressed about it. Her phone then buzzes, loudly, with a call from Dean. Ketch hears it and looks suspicious, because quite frankly she's acting suspicious. If she'd answered it, as if she didn't care who heard and had nothing to hide, he might have thought she'd just now arrived at his door. It turns out he's actually in Mick's office, and she wants to use the computer to read her email. Ketch rudely stands behind her and watches her log in.

She has messages from Dean (hunt-related but also one that could go either way and another where he's openly "just checking" from in yesterday, aw, poor baby) and Sam (apparently hunt-related) and oh, look, a message from Mick that just arrived today.


How convenient.

Oddly enough, the new message from Mick is flagged, just like the messages from Biggerson's and Online Games. But she's outwardly satisfied with Mick's message, saying he'll be stuck in London for a few more weeks.

Back at the inn, Sam shows up with the food and then gives Dean a significant head tilt, which is not all that subtle but I still love the way they respond to and respect each other's signals. Like, it didn't even occur to Dean not to meet Sam out in the hall. He leaves his phone on the end table, which will probably matter later.

Sam shows Dean a flyer he picked up at the restaurant - it's a missing person flyer, for the unfriendly guy they saw at the cellar door earlier that day. The guys head for the cellar, but we don't. We head up the stairs to the room where the nasty woman from the lobby is humming along as she creates a person-like structure out of twigs, with a big opening where the heart would go. Hmm.

In the BMoL, Mary calls Dean, but he doesn't have his phone on him. She says she's been hunting with Ketch, and apologizes for not being there for them. But she will be, as soon as she finishes this. And she misses and loves them. He'll probably be happy to have that message someday. Let's just get out of order and carry on with her story. She sneaks into a storage area and finds a trunk with the lot number Ketch mentioned on the phone. It's not locked or anything, so she lifts the lid and discovers Mick's body. Which would be in an unpleasant state of decay at this point. Ew. She leaves that room and sees Ketch coming, so she tries to get into a couple of different rooms, but her handprint doesn't allow her access. Finally someone leaves a room and she slips in while the door is open. On the wall are several computer monitors, showing various information about several hunters: Garth, Claire, Eileen - and her, and Dean, and Sam.


It's amusing to me that the photo they use for Dean is security camera footage of Demon!Dean.

She touches the Dean screen and plays a sound file of the conversation they had right after Ketch bugged the bunker, about how much they don't trust him. She calls Dean again and leaves a message, telling him they have a problem. When she opens the door to leave, Ketch is standing there. He cheerfully tells her that her handprint didn't work on the door because she's not meant to be there. She asks why Mick's body is in a box, and he blames an "unfortunate werewolf mishap." She calls him a psychopath (and when two of your exes call you that, it might indicate you have a problem, Mr. Ketch) and asks if he killed Mick. He goes all evil villain and says Mick was weak and wasn't "one of us." Mary punches him and they fight, while he continues with the evil villain monologue and brags about killing the federal agents and "a psychic girl they thought was human." Ketch says it's the end of the American hunters, but he can keep her safe. She declines the offer and punches him in the crotch with the magic brass knuckles. Unfortunately, he has a taser, which trumps brass knuckles every time.

Back at the inn, Sam quickly picks the lock on the cellar door (I like that Sam tends to do the lock picking when they're together) and the Winchesters are assaulted by a foul odor of death. There's a cute, realistic brother moment where Dean tries to get Sam to go downstairs first and Sam refuses. So, as Max leaves for his date with the hot bartender, Sam and Dean make their way down into the cellar and find the bodies of the missing guy and the cheery inn clerk. And another body, under a tarp. Oh snap, it's Tasha. Their hearts have all been ripped out. Unfortunately, they turned on the light, which attracted Max's attention. He comes downstairs and they try to block him from seeing his mother's body, but it doesn't work. Oh, poor Max.

Next Max is in Not!Tasha's room, throwing Not!Tasha against a wall and asking what she is. The Winchesters busy themselves holding Alicia back while Max does a "reveal!" spell and Not!Tasha tells him to go to the nasty lady's room. Nasty Lady feels this, snaps her fingers, and the desk clerk's eyes glow white. Missing Guy shows up in the hallway and Max magically tosses him out the window. As Not!Tasha spasms on the floor and Alicia freaks out, the desk clerk shows up and starts punching and tossing Sam, magically repairing himself when Sam breaks his neck.




Speaking of necks, here's Sam's. You're welcome.

While this is happening, Dean and Max burst into Nasty Lady's room. She recognizes Max as having magic and says maybe he'll take the deal that his mother declined. She glues him and Dean into place and shows them Tasha's death. She explains that, since she sold her soul for power, when she dies her soul will go to Hell unless she can find someone to take over her magic. You know, that doesn't sound like a deal a demon would make. I don't know why they'd give you an out like that. Since Tasha refused, Nasty Lady cut out her heart and put it into one of her stick creatures, making it come to life with the power of her ring. "That doll has all of your mother's memories. It's her, mostly." She tells Max that if he kills her, all of the dolls will fall apart. But if he takes her power, Not!Tasha will stay around forever.

The kindly desk clerk chokes Sam, as one does, and Alicia leaves Not!Tasha's side to save him. But then Not!Tasha's eyes glow and she gets up and stabs Alicia with her own engraved blade.

Max is clearly considering the offer. Dean tells him "your mother is gone; it's awful and it sucks -" and he's interrupted by a finger snap from Nasty Lady that immobilizes him. And really, who is Dean Winchester to give this particular speech anyway? She takes the ring off and offers it to Max, but while she's not wearing it, Dean is able to shoot and kill her. As she falls to the floor, the dolls attacking Sam and Alicia collapse into dust. Sam runs to Alicia's side and says "we're going to get you some help" and if that reminds you of Dean saying basically the same thing to Sam as they knelt in the mud at Cold Oak, it's probably for a good reason.

Dean tells Max that touching the ring would have bound him to a deal with a demon and he would have lost his soul, and then we hear Sam's panicked call and mmmm, panicky Sam, I like it. By the time Dean and Max arrive, Alicia is dead, and again, if Max crying over the body of his sibling/hunting partner/best friend gives you Cold Oak feels, you're not alone.



And I should feel bad about it, but I'm torn, because it gives me this.

Aftermath! Max tells the Winchesters he could have saved his mother and sister if he'd just taken Alicia seriously. Sam tentatively offers to "get supplies" and Dean comes right out and says ""we've gotta burn the bodies, Max" because yeah, that worked so well on you, didn't it, Dean? Max tells them to stop talking and go away, and he'll do it.

We see the Winchesters in the Impala, with Sam telling Dean he did the right thing. As Dean muses that he didn't save Max at all, and their loving family is gone, we see Max picking up the ring. Because of course Dean left it right there on the floor. Seriously, you told Max that touching the ring would you bind you to a demon deal, and you left it on the floor? What the fuck, Dean? Or maybe that part wasn't an accident after all, because as we watch Max put his sister's body on the bed next to the twig doll the witch made, Dean says "we do terrible things all the time to save each other. I mean, that's what you to for family? Who am I to stop him?" Sam thinks Max will be okay, but Dean, well, Dean knows this side of the equation better than Sam does, so he's not so sure. And he's right, because we see Max cut out his dead sister's heart and put it in the twig doll. Then he's helping Not!Alicia get dressed and telling her they have to go, now. As they leave, we see real Alicia's body on the bed. Max takes the witch's ring and spell book, and magically sets real Alicia's body on fire. Aw, Max.

Back to the Impala. (This is a long aftermath, guys.) Dean looks over and sees Sam sleeping.



And godDAMN, sleeping Sam is pretty. So is driving Dean.

He sees he has two messages from Mary on his phone, so he plays them; first the one about how she misses and loves them, and then the one about there being a problem. Ominous music plays, and Dean tries to wake Sam up, but Sam doesn't wake up and Dean tries harder and the music gets more ominous and I don't understand what's happening here. Is something wrong with Sam?

We cut away very quickly to actual Mary, strapped into a chair just like Shifter!Mary, getting a face full of water. Ketch is disappointed that she wasn't as ruthless as he hoped. Mary's phone buzzes, and a familiar pantsuit-with-an-accent enters and declines the call. She tells Mary she's an asset, sits down with her familiar notepad and pen, and says "let's begin." Yes, Posh Spice is back!

Okay, first, let's talk about Not!Tasha. Did she or didn't she know she wasn't real? Because when she broke her finger, she didn't freak out. She turned away, so no one else could see her, and fixed it. So did she know she needed to stay undercover? And what does that mean about Not!Alicia? She doesn't seem to have a clue what happened to her. And yet, if she has all of Alicia's memories, she's going to remember being stabbed, just as Tasha should have remembered that.

And now let's talk about Mary and her complete lack of subterfuge. For someone who went out of the country to hunt, leaving a toddler at home, she's certainly bad at hiding her thoughts now. When you're locked in a small room with a psychopath, you don't say "Hey, I know what you're up to, and you're a pyschopath." You pretend to go along. You say "Yes, dear, I understand what you're saying about my sons. Maybe we should discuss that later, after some illicit hotel sex. If you'll excuse me, I need to go get the fuck out - I mean, I need to go powder my nose." You don't ask about the body with a bullet in its head. You don't let on that you know things that will cause the psychopath to want to kill you. You just don't.

And what about all the parallels? Max lost his parent/role model and his sibling/partner/best friend and made an awful, soul-condemning deal to not be alone. Mary watched Ketch torture her mirror image in an attempt to get information about its family, and now he's doing the same thing to her. Toni is about to work Mary over just as she worked Sam over. The Colt is unusable but might be made usable again. And Cas is doing the whole Godstiel thing again.

But the thing I can't get past, to no one's surprise I assume, is Sam. That was such a weird little bit at the end. Like, if nothing's wrong with him, and he was just slow to wake up, they hit it way too hard. And if something is wrong with him, they didn't hit it hard enough. It's driving me crazy. So you know how I feel about spoilers, but I'm going to make an exception. And I don't want actual spoilers. I just want you to answer one little question, based on either spoilers or the preview for next week's episode (sadly, if you're reading this on Dreamwidth, I can't post a poll there, but feel free to come over to LJ and answer).

Anyway. This episode had a lot more packed into it than I expected. It didn't have enough Sam (what episode does?) but, according to the Twitter of the actress who played Tasha, Jared's latest baby was born during or right before filming, so I assume he had some time off. And I'm cool with that. But I need you back next week, Jared. Do we only have two episodes left? Is this a 22-ep season? Or are there three? You can answer that question, and you can answer my poll question. Please please please do not provide any other spoilers or information about anything past 12.20. Thank you!
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caranfindel

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