Kevin is now living on a boat and he has a life that consists of getting up, studying the tablet, going to bed, getting up, studying the tablet, going to bed. Sounds like law school, only I drank far far far more coffee. Until finally he looked at his notes and almost elated gasps *holy crap* (I felt the same way finishing jurisprudence), then his nose starts bleeding and he faints (yup, definitely jurisprudence).
At the Winchester Cave, Dean is setting up his room (including with a picture of his mother) and we have one of those awesomely subtle Supernatural moments when Dean says he has never had his own room. And it’s clean and not a motel – and did Sam just drop a wrapper on the floor? Oh you did not! And he goes and cooks. In a real kitchen –they have a real kitchen and Dean can actually cook (even Dean remarks that he’s “nesting”). Domestic bliss is interrupted by Kevin’s call for help.
They arrive at his boat – guns drawn – and find Kevin being sick in the bathroom. The question him on his lifestyle and in an earthshattering moment Dean says “I’m going to feel dirty for saying this, but you might want a salad.” But he has found out how to close the gates of hell – a spell in Enochian to be said after the three trials are completed.
Trials? Yes there are three major tests that you have to undertake, like the trials of Hercules. The first of which is to kill a hellhound and bathe in its blood. Dean’s all for that – to close the gates of hell there’s no limit to the ickiness he’ll endure (I like this – he’s been tortured in Hell, he’s not going to draw the line at grossness) they just have to find someone who made a deal with the crossroads demon and kill the hound that turns up to collect. Easy – well, Dean says easy, Sam not so sure.
While Dean is out shopping (and being awed by the tomato variety out there), Sam talks to Kevin about how he’s living. Kevin is driving himself – almost to death – because he hates his life, hates being isolated, hates the fact demons are hunting him and he wants it to be over. Sam understands but fighting evil is a marathon not a sprint. But when Dean returns he gives Kevin headache pills and pep pills and advice not to OD. Sam protests but Dean points out they’re “at the 1 yard line” so it’s time to play through the pain (also a wonderful comment on how the two work – Dean has always fought to the edge of self-destruction).
They find their potential deal maker – a family of poor famers, the Cassitys, who struck oil on their land, against all geological knowledge. They head there and find the ranch manager and GASP SHOCK she’s a woman! And she’s working on fixing a tractor! I’m kind of depressed that it seems we’re supposed to be surprised by this. Sam and Dean are hired as farm workers and given a room – much to Dean’s sadness (he misses his room). A quick assessment of the situation finds the ranch manager, Ellie, having little motive, Carl husband of one of the Cassitys is just too nice leaving Alice Cassity who has already established herself as a piece of work.
Sam and Dean resolve to follow her for a while (since she’s unlikely to confess if confronted) and that night there is eerie spooky howling that worries the horses – Alice goes to calm them down, watched by Sam and Dean. And while she’s gone, a hellhound chews on Carl.
The police arrive and everyone is very shocked. The police tries to blame wolves but Ellie won’t have it. She reveals that the whole family is flying in. Sam tries to offer support for Alice Cassity in the stable but she’s find – which she finds confusing because she loved Carl, so why would she feel fine? At least she thinks she loved him, she never used to, he had a crush on her and she made fun of him. But then Valentines Day 2003 (oooh look 10 years ago) she suddenly fell in love with him.
Sam smells a deal and goes to tell Dean, nixing his plan of summoning a crossroads demon and then threatening it until it delivers a hellhound (a suicidal plan). Since Carl sold his soul for Alice, someone else sold their soul for the oil.
The family arrives and Ellie introduces them: Noah, 71 year old patriarch and his 20 year old underwear model wife. Alice the oldest daughter; Cindy, a country music singer whose career is crashing due to her drinking; and Margie the youngest, lives in Paris. Cut to the night with Sam serving table and Dean manning the grill (Ellie “I do like a man who can handle his meat.” I am stealing that line).
At the dinner table Alice is silent, Margie comforting and Cindy taking pot shots at her father for his young wife. The banter gets more and more cutting and culminates in “get cancer and die, old man” “you first sweetie.” Awww, family. They reminisce about the last time they had a family dinner together – and it was back before they made their money when a charming English salesman came to visit. Crowley. At this point sensible people pick a new crossroads demon and run, run for the hills.
Sam tells Dean but they think Crowley’s probably just sending his hellhound to collect since collecting souls is below the king of hell’s paygrade. But Kevin has some good news – you can see hellhounds through an object scorched with holy fire – like holy oil – so a scorched pair of glasses. While Dean arranges that, Sam sees Noah and Margie going off wolf hunting in the middle of the night (baaad idea) and quickly joins them when he sees he can’t talk them out of it. And Dean’s night is even more ruined by Ellie approaching Dean with a very simple pick up line “want to come to my room and have sex” which he has to refuse. And she won’t go for a raincheck either.
On the wolf hunt, the group easily get split up – until it’s just Noah and Sam – and Margie being attacked by a hellhound. Sam runs in and shoots the invisible critter but Margie is already dead.
Time for a family meeting where Dean explains about demons, Crowley and hellhounds. Naturally there’s lots of not believing but Dean demands to know who signed on the dotted line. No-one will admit it so they seal them in with goofer dust and Dean stares down the patriarch and makes him sit down. They handcuff them so that the hallucinations the hellhound causes won’t make them hurt themselves.
Dean wants to go looking for the hound – and Sam needs to stay and watch them. Sam doesn’t understand until Dean says he’s keeping him safe. Every time they’ve set up a big confrontation – Lucifer, Roman, etc one of them dies (they come back! Eventually). Dean’s setting it up so it won’t be Sam. Sam asks why Dean should be the one to die, Dean says Sam has the brains and he has hope – he sees a light at the end of the tunnel which Dean doesn’t (it’s out on the table, Dean’s self-destructive lack of hope). Sam can have a life, can become a Men of Letters, can find a wife and kids and grandkids –but Dean doesn’t think he can. This is Dean’s happy ending – Sam having a happy ending.
Sam listens to the family snapping at each other (I love how completely lacking in illusions they are. Cindy accuses Noah he sold his soul to get a young wife “she likes money and I’m rich!” he accuses her over her singing career and she responds with “auto-tune!”) and Alice reveals Margie thought them being rich would make the family happy; so she was the one who made the oil deal.
Sam sees hellhounds through the glasses (nifty) and Alice makes a break for it. He runs after her and drags her back then follows the Hound.
And Dean finds Ellie, in her room, drinking and dancing to “I touch myself”. Dean warns her there’s something evil out there and to lock down – but she already knows. It’s coming for her. When Crowley arrived she made a deal with him to cure her mother’s Parkinson’s disease. She doesn’t regret the choice – but Crowley didn’t tell her about the 10 year ticking clock, only that, when she died, she wasn’t going to heaven. Dean is surprised she didn’t run – but where would she run to? All she wanted was one last meal, some good music and… well, Dean said no. The hellhound howls and she begins to hallucinate – he makes a circle of goofer dust and tells her to stay inside.
Dean goes out and confronts the hellhound but it quickly knocks him down, gashes him and he drops both glasses and his knife. He’s about to be eaten when Sam intervenes and shoots the hound, twice. The hound leaps for Sam and he cuts its throat – bathing himself in the hounds blood. He did the first trial, not Dean
Ellie thinks Dean, with his injuries, should go to a hospital but he’s had worse (I love how Sam confirmed that). They plan to make Ellie a hex bag so she can run and hide from Crowley – until they close the gates of hell and her soul is safe. Dean tries to use the spell for the first trial, but it doesn’t work. He decides they need to track another hellhound for him to kill (hey wouldn’t be a bad idea anyway, redundancy and all), but Sam refuses. Sam says it’s a suicide mission for Dean but not for Sam because he intends to live. And Dean has reasons to live – friends, family, his own room. Sam sees light at the end of the tunnel and he wishes Dean could too –but he’ll take him to it. He praises Dean as being far more than an ignorant grunt and the best hunter around.
Dean gives Sam the spell and he says it. After some fancy glowy stuff, it’s done.
Dean and his room. Dean being houseproud of his room. Dean being even giddy about the memory foam mattress and it not being a motel. His being able to cook and having a hidden skill at it. Him being interested in shopping after his previous disinterest. That, right there, does more character building and has more information about Dean’s childhood and lack of home than any amount of lamenting and angst filled monologues.
And whoa did we rip the lid off Dean’s issues this episode. Dean no longer seeing hope of any kind, his only happy ending is Sam having a happy ending. I don’t think we’ve ever had such an overt label of the damage hunting has done to Dean. We haven’t had this for a while and I love it.
I don’t know why they had Crowley not tell them about the 10 year deal – he always has before and he even made a big thing in a previous episode about crossroad demons having to be “ethical” and keep their bargains – if people can’t trust their deals they become worthless.