‘Supernatural’ Season 14, Episode 6 Recap: “Optimism”


Jensen Ackles and Alexander Calvert in ‘Supernatural.’ Image courtesy of The CW.

This week’s episode of Supernatural gave us some real goodies. We got to meet a brand new never-before-seen monster, we discovered more about AU!Charlie’s backstory (and her heartbreak), and we watched Jack learn about courting at Dick’s.

“Optimism” was written by Steve Yockey and directed by Richard Speight, Jr. And in beloved Speight style, this episode had intrigue, humor, and excitement aplenty. So let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead!

The episode opens in McCook, Nebraska, as a young woman makes her way through town to the library where she works. Her name is Harper, and as she is shelving books, her coworker Winston appears and confirms with her that their date for later that night is still on. Harper says that she is looking forward to it, and Winston leaves with a smile. But as he is walking down the street (to the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” playing in the background), someone — or something — grabs him from behind a wall of bushes, and the scene ends with the sounds of Winston’s screams.

Next, we see Jack and Dean in the bunker kitchen, drinking coffee. While Jack is adorably pouring too much sugar into his cup to make it more palatable, he informs Dean that Sam met up with Charlie to investigate a case. Jack, longing for a chance to participate in a case on his own someday, laments that they are “probably doing something really exciting.”

The scene cuts to Sam and Charlie, outside of Memphis, Tennessee, sitting in a beat-up pickup truck on a stake out of an empty bus stop. They look positively bored to tears.

Back in the bunker, Jack tells Dean that Sam is worried about him. And then he echoes what Sam said to Dean in the final scene of last week’s episode: that no one blames Dean or holds him responsible for the things that happened when Michael was in control. Dean replies that he blames himself anyway.

Images courtesy of The CW.

Jack recovers from a short coughing spell and then tells Dean that he is aching to join a hunt. He says that Sam has instructed him not go out on his own alone, but he tells Dean that he and Cas have been working cases. Dean says that he appreciates his enthusiasm, but he should listen to Sam, because “he’s a smart guy.”

The scene again cuts to Sam and Charlie, in the same pickup truck, on the same stake out. Sam is now enraptured by a fidget spinner. He gleefully spins the toy while giggling. Charlie is not amused.

Jack shows a news story to Dean about the death of Winston (the “Staying Alive” romeo from the beginning of the episode) and suggests that they check it out because of the presence of human bite marks found on Winston’s body. Dean says that he will check out the case on his own, but Jack begs him to let him tag along because he is going stir crazy in the bunker. He cannot forgive himself for not killing Michael when he had a chance and when he had his powers. He says that he cannot sit in the bunker all day and think about how he let everyone down. Dean reluctantly agrees to bring Jack with him, and he calls Sam to let him know.

Dean and Jack make their way to McCook and pull into the parking lot of Dick’s Red Rooster Diner. (Hi, Speight!) The diner was Winston’s favorite breakfast spot, so they interview a waitress to learn whatever they can about him. Dean and Jack ask questions… Well, actually, Dean asks the questions while Jack takes meticulous notes about literally every word that is spoken. The waitress then gives them the name of ‘Harper Sayles,’ who Winston had been courting. After interviewing local townsfolk about Harper Sayles, Dean and Jack learn that she is a reclusive bookworm who has had a string of bad luck in the dating department: literally everyone she has dated in her adult life has left her in one way or another, and Winston is just the latest to do so. Dean and Jack hatch a plan to meet her and determine if she is cursed or some sort of monster.

Images courtesy of The CW.

At the bus-stop stake out, Charlie notices that Sam seems worried about Dean. Charlie reassures him that Dean will be fine and asks if Dean has any other friends that can check on him. Sam says that Dean used to have a “pretty damn good wingman,” and when Charlie suggests they have that guy check on Dean, Sam clarifies that the “wingman” was actually [our] Charlie. Charlie seems surprised that her AU!parallel would be an experienced hunter’s wingman. Sam tells her that he is absolutely not surprised that she survived her world’s apocalypse. Charlie disagrees with his assessment of her.

Charlie goes on to explain that, in her world, she was just a programmer at Richard Roman Enterprises, living with Cara, the love of her life. Charlie talks about Cara and how she ran a bakery outside of Chicago and loved making cupcakes. She then talks about the start of the war, about how Michael and Lucifer destroyed all technology in North America with an EMP. Eventually, people ran out of food and water, and mobs began stealing and pillaging. Charlie says so many people died in the devastation, including her Cara. She has become resigned to the belief that all societies end up the same way: collapsed and broken. Sam tells her that his world — our Charlie’s world — is not collapsed and broken. “Not yet,” Charlie says in response.

Dean enters the library where Harper works to ask her some questions about Winston. He flashes his F.B.I. badge, and when Harper makes it clear that she does not want to answer any questions, he becomes pushy and rude. This is confusing to see, until Jack enters the library to save the day. He tells the “F.B.I. agent” to leave Harper alone and that he does not have the right to harass her or him. In a hilarious back-and-forth that probably should have been better planned out (for Dean’s sake), Dean says to Jack, “Why don’t you back off, kid?!” Jack improvises, “No. You back off… old man.” Dean is clearly offended by being called “old man,” but Jack is very proud of himself for continuing to play his role. Dean agrees to leave the library, and Harper is extremely grateful to Jack.

Harper tells Jack that she has the perfect book for him waiting back at her apartment. As they’re leaving, her coworker, Miles, takes some trash to the dumpster around the back of the building. Meanwhile, Dean has been parked outside waiting for Jack, and as he starts to follow Jack and Harper, he hears Miles scream. He runs to the area behind the building and sees Miles dead on the ground from a brutal attack.

At Harper’s apartment, Jack tries to inconspicuously check the surroundings for any signs that Harper is a monster. He lays a piece of silver on the ground and douses his hands with holy water. However, Harper passes both of those tests by picking up the silver and touching his hands with no ill effects. So Jack tries his final idea: he says “Christo!” as he fakes a cough. Test #3 has been passed by Harper.

In Memphis, Charlie has found something of interest in her research. She asks Sam about a musca, which Sam explains is a hybrid between a man and a fly. He also mentions that no one has ever seen one in real life. Charlie mentions that every few hundred years, there is a “bad egg,” where a musca fails to find a mate and abandons his community to venture into the “real world” to find humans’ bodies for nesting. It is at this point that a strange, hooded, human-like… creature dressed all in black walks up to the bus stop that they have been staring at for hours and sits down next to two women. When the frightened women walk away, the creature also leaves.

Images courtesy of The CW.

Back at Harper’s, Jack sees a picture of her with a guy and asks her if the guy in the picture is her boyfriend. She says that he was, but he left her when she refused to leave town with him. She says that was the beginning of her bad luck, but that she tries to stay optimistic. Jack confides in her that bad things have happened in his life as well, and that trying to stay positive can be difficult. Harper then asks Jack if he believes in love at first sight.

This seems to confuse (and scare) Jack, so he runs into the restroom to call Dean. His intentions at first seem to be to provide Dean with an update about Harper not being a demon or monster, but Jack immediately begins asking Dean for love advice. Dean tells Jack to forget about the possibility of love with Harper and to focus on the case at hand, because he just found Harper’s coworker dead in an alleyway. But while they are talking on the phone, something rushes Dean, and the phone call is disconnected.

Images courtesy of The CW.

Dean shows up at Harper’s apartment a few minutes later, being chased by whatever was in the alleyway. While the monster is beating on Harper’s door, Jack explains to her that Dean is not to be feared and that they are friends there to protect her. Dean sees a picture of the guy that Harper used to date and asks her how he died. Harper seems surprised by that question and says that he — Vance — currently lives in Connecticut. Dean says that Vance is now undead and is the one currently trying to break down her door. Dean finds some silver knives and gives one to Jack, as Zombie!Vance finally breaks through the front door. He and Dean get into a scuffle, and Jack takes Harper out of the apartment to safety.

Back at the darkened bus stop, Charlie and Sam see their hooded creature return and sit next to a man. A bus pulls up to the stop, blocking their view, and when the bus pulls away, they see the creature dragging the man behind a fence. They both jump out of the pickup truck and follow the creature to an abandoned building. They are nearly overcome with the stench, and the large warehouse-style room is filled with flies. Coils of flypaper hang from the ceiling.

Charlie locates a pile of bodies in a corner while Sam finds a pile of rags soaked in chloroform in another location. She sees the man who was at the bus stop and notices that he is still alive. But suddenly, the creature pops out of the darkness and grabs Charlie, throwing her to the ground and briefly knocking her unconscious. Sam hears the scuffle and finds Charlie… and the creature. As the creature attacks Sam, Charlie wakes up and stabs it. Sam then is able to grab his gun and shoot it, killing it. Both Sam and Charlie are covered in goo but unharmed.

Images courtesy of The CW.

Jack and Harper have reached the library and run inside to hide. Meanwhile, Zombie!Vance has left Dean in the apartment and has started tracking Harper and Jack. While they’re hiding behind a table, they see Zombie!Vance pacing outside. Harper gets up and lets him into the library, confusing the heck out of Jack (and viewers). Harper kisses Zombie!Vance and explains to Jack that he gets jealous sometimes. He also needs human flesh to maintain his body, so Jack will be his next victim.

Jack hides from Zombie!Vance in the stacks, and Dean eventually shows up to help. They want to bring out Zombie!Vance into the open, so Jack shows himself and begins telling Harper that he, in fact, does love her. While he is talking, Zombie!Vance locates Jack and charges him, knocking him to the ground. Dean shoots Zombie!Vance with a shotgun to stun him, but he immediately gets up and starts to chase Dean. By the time Zombie!Vance has Dean backed into a corner, Jack runs over to handcuff one of his hands while Dean handcuffs the other. With Zombie!Vance secured, Dean goes to get Harper, but she has escaped.

Sam and Charlie are driving back to the bunker and once again touch on the tragedy that Charlie faced in her world. She had mentioned previously in the episode that she was planning on never taking part in another hunt, and that she wanted to leave all of civilization and live on a mountaintop, “…as long as it had really good wifi.” Sam tells her that she did a lot of good saving the man from the bus stop and that even though a hunter’s life is filled with tears and sadness, the good that they do can outweigh the bad. People need people, Sam tells her, and to move away from everyone would be a mistake. Charlie considers his words and admits that she will think about staying in this new world.

We see Harper at a diner, somewhere outside of Nebraska, writing a letter to her love, Jack. In it, she thanks him for giving her the courage to leave McCook. She also apologizes for having to kill him one day to give to Zombie!Vance, but that it’s for the best. She ends the letter with, “See you soon!” and seals the envelope, which is addressed to “Jack Smith” (the name he gave her), in care of the Lebanon, Kansas post office.

Back at the bunker, Dean tells Jack that he did well on the case. Jack wants Dean to promise that he will take him out on future cases. Dean doesn’t do that, but he instead tells Jack that when Sam returns, they will discuss letting him tag along on more hunts. This pleases Jack very much.

And then suddenly, Jack is overcome with another coughing spell — one that produces more blood, causing Jack to collapse on the floor, unconscious.

Images courtesy of The CW.

Because next Thursday the 22nd is Thanksgiving Day, we have to wait two weeks for a new episode. So keep an eye out for “Unhuman Nature” which will air on The CW on Thursday, November 29, at 8/7c.

Margaret has been a writer and editor for Nerds and Beyond since 2018. She loves Grogu, Doctor Who, and The OA. And she's still salty about #WaywardSisters. Find her on Twitter and TikTok at @MargNation.

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