We have a young woman with very positive lefty bumper stickers stop for petrol in a small town, middle-of-nowhere truck stop full of creepiness. There’s lots of waiting for something to kill her but she manages to get her petrol with minimal fuss. We do learn her name: Wendy Hanscum. Which makes her a relative of Donna’s.
If you hurt Donna, our lovely sunshiney Donna, we’re going to… do nothing. Because nothing we can do will remotely compare to the epic pain she’s going to serve up. She has a flame thrower.
But when she drives she finds her car has been sabotaged - and she is kidnapped.
Donna, naturally, calls Sam and Dean. Even though it isn’t a supernatural problem, of course she reaches out for help and equally of course Dean accepts without one tiny second of hesitation.
Donna’s grief and worry is really well done here, it’s palpable. She’s joined by Doug the small town cop she’s dating who is very out of his league. More awkwardly she’s also joined by an actual FBI agent so Dean can’t pull his usual “I’m an FBI agent don’t check my credentials” thing so instead says he’s offduty and Donna’s cousin (which Doug is a little suspicious of). The FBI agent is, surprisingly, happy to have them help because he’s dealing with a serial killer known as the Butterfly who has been active for decades, preying on people who he thinks will not be missed. He has a whole board and files full of the investigation and a whole lot of evidence
And wouldn’t there be more people? I mean I get cold cases being abandoned and all that but this is a serial killer who crosses state lines repeatedly, doesn’t appear to have one set pattern of victims and is STILL ACTIVE. It’s not a cold case. He’s not only still active but quite prolific since he has snatched someone else shortly before Wendy.
Sam is leery working with the real FBI since they are actual fugitives even if they have faked their deaths. Also a conventional human serial killer isn’t there thing. Dean has no time for this - Donna asked for help, Donna is one of them; he is not saying no. This is also part of Sam’s ongoing funk of bleakness since Mary and Jack were lost in a different world and Kaia died saving them
Time to do some investigating, with then fixating on a road preacher red herring. He’s quickly dismissed following Donna’s excellent skillfull questioning and the logic of pointing out a serial killer who hasn’t been caught for 12 years doesn’t leave a blood stained t-shirt where it can be easily found
While this shows Donna’s skill it also presents the old ploy of “if you want a lawyer it will take several days and in the meantime we’re going to lock you up in a dangerous place where you will be abused” which police shows like to play with and presents it as a GOOD THING and reasonable tactic rather than a bitter indictment of the injustice of the system and police not only not fighting against such injustice but actively preying upon, encouraging and exploiting it
Not having a lawyer for 2 days and having deeply unsafe prisons and using that fact to terrifying a man into waiving his basic human rights isn’t a clever tactic. It’s a brutal, unforgivable violation which our media tends to celebrate
Dean uses the CB radio to find a trucker beset with guilt because they didn’t pick Wendy up, she gives them more leads at the truck stop and Dean smacks the cashier around until he shows them a website
A website where you can bid on the body parts of the kidnapped people which are then removed - while the person is still alive - and shipped out. The cashier identifies people who won’t be missed to inform the person who runs the website
Everyone reviews it, Sam is squeamish, Doug disturbed (and he is getting a lot more questions about Donna’s life) and they need to track down the source of the website. For this they need real FBI skills and call upon their new FBI friend who, of course, wants to be part of the action
Time for the fight scene - turns out that the cashier is actually a vampire and no-one thought to test this. He bites Doug -turning him -and then has a big scary stand off with Dean. Which is interrupted by Donna shooting him in the leg and threatening to do more because Donna doesn’t posture or look all sexy and intimidating with a knife. Donna Gets Shit Done. Vampire tells them all before dying since his choices are die talkative and fast or die silent and slow.
Thankfully Dean knows a good vampire cure so Doug will be fine since he hasn’t bitten anyone yet.
Our real killer is FBI agent guy, I assume he is a real FBI agent as well, but this is his business as he explains to a captured Sam. Basically there are 10 squillion more monsters out there than anyone knows - the only ones the Hunters see are those too foolish or violent or incapable of passing compared to the many more who live relatively normal lives. But have dietary requirements/preferences. And here he steps in - providing human flesh. He even tries to present himself as saving people since all those thousands of monsters aren’t hunting but coming to him. Yeah Sam doesn’t buy it either.
Naturally Sam is a hot commodity and the bidding starts - and is stopped by Dean and a gun and an unwillingness to let the bad guy being human for once to stop him from being a monster that needs to be shot.
Of course, the suggestion is that all those monsters are going to start hunting now.
In the aftermath Donna has to explain everything to Doug… but Doug can’t face it. He understands what they do and why Donna can’t stop, but he can’t do this. They’re heroes and he… isn’t. It’s sad and tearful but very real acknowledgement of his limitations. Sam does… not offer comfort. He gives Donna the harsh reality that everyone around them will be driven away or hurt. It actually falls to Dean to be comforting
In the car driving away Dean pokes Sam and his big depressive “it’s all hopeless” funk. But Sam had gone full angsty - everyone around them is hurt or dies, Kaia’s death is their fault and there’s only one way this ends for them - a bloody, violent death
Dean doesn’t argue this point. In fact (given Supernatural’s ability to have whole conversations with facial expressions) his emotionless face doesn’t change at all. After all, I think Dean has known this for some time, he’s never been one exactly hopeful for a happy ending. It’s why he tends to be the one to sink into bleak despair and not Sam. but he keeps on going, keeps on fighting and doesn’t let the certainty that everyone around him will be lost bring him down usually. I think part of the worry here is this isn’t Sam; Sam is the one who convinces Dean it’s worth it to keep fighting, Sam is the one with the hope and positivity. Dean keeps going - but it’s not exactly hopeful persistence, it’s defiant stubborn persistence. He keeps going because he doesn’t give up and can’t stop fighting - Sam keeps going because he sees the good and the hope: and he gives a side of that to Dean and continually pulls him out of the abyss. I don’t think Dean has that - that tie to normality, that hope, that positivity, to pull Sam out of the same black place he virtually lives in. There’s not enough room for two hopeless depressives on this team