Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” Joke’s on you Chuck. Our hearts have already been ripped out… multiple times. You know what, saying that out loud makes me nervous for what this week’s episode, written by Steve Yockey, has in store for us, but my fears aside this week saw the first of two season 15 episodes directed by Mr. Richard Speight Jr., as well as a return of a Monster-of-the-Week.
The episode opens in Black Forest, CO with three new college graduates on their annual camping trip, when a “really big deer” decides to interrupt the fun and kill two of the three girls. What kind of deer do you all have in Colorado?! The title card transitions us into the bunker where Sam is checking his numerous texts to Castiel, all unanswered, until Dean waltzes in with Ghost Pepper Jerky. That went down exactly like you would imagine: Dean, the stoic big brother, rips into the snack and immediately regrets his decision, though he won’t tell Sam that. Naturally, Sam subtly teases his brother by bringing out a bottle of water that is promptly stolen and guzzled, and like any slightly embarrassed sibling will do, Dean quickly changes the subject to the case at hand, which is now up to five victims. “Oh, sweet mother” is right.
Dean goes to prepare for the case as we move through the bunker halls, coming upon Sam donning a white suit…THE white suit. As Dean quietly approaches with the Colt in hand, “Sam” looks straight ahead and smirks until the trigger pull sends a bullet through his head. After mere seconds, he sits up straight saying, “we both knew it had to end this way,” before causing Dean to burst into flames. At least he wasn’t on the ceiling? A passing horn grants us a reprieve from Sam’s nightmare and brings us back to the real world, where Sam and Dean have set out for Black Forest. Fish and Wildlife agents Ford and Hamill, or should I say Salmon Dean, head into the local sheriff’s office for more information on the attacks; the working theory is either a mountain lion or a psychotic bear, but luckily, witness Ashley Monroe may be able to help pinpoint which of the two is more accurate.
At the hospital, Sam and Dean begin to question Ashley, giving us a brief flashback of her running through the woods, chased by a man in flannel. The young girl is clearly apprehensive about discussing that night with medical personnel in the room, so Sam asks to speak to him in the hall, giving Dean the opportunity to step into the comforting “you can tell me anything” role (this side of Dean always feels a lot like the Jensen I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, something about his energy is calming). She admits that it was a man that killed her friends, but believes she was hallucinating in remembering that “he had claws and fangs.” The scene ends on another quick flashback revealing the identity of the man responsible for the attack, a local by the name of Andy May, a pure blood werewolf (claws and fangs equal werewolf, no full moon equals pure blood).
The boys pull up to a cabin owned by Andy and his brother Josh and launch right into questioning the two men, with the older of the two giving short, calculated responses to each inquiry. When Sam asks Josh to write down a good number for them, he stared at the silver pen on a pad of paper before stating they don’t have a phone. Just as the door closed, Dean gets a call from Ashley, seemingly requesting their presence, but we stay with Andy and Josh, discovering that Josh was the one that killed the girls while Andy let Ashley go. In our momentary stay with the brothers, we learn that one is steadfast in his loyalty to a deceased father, while the other rebels. Oh boy, these parallels are aplenty. It also raises a few questions: in our earlier flashback, Andy had chased down Ashley and said, “you saw what we did to your friends…” with emphasis on the “we,” but when Ashley retold the story to Dean, she described only one man; why? The second question is why was there no hesitation from Dean in telling her that monsters are real? Why did he so freely tell her who they really are?
We jump back to Sam and Dean entering their hotel room with Ashley, as she asks not to be left alone, presumably out of fear, given recent events. Things get a little odd here: Sam sort of just disappears for a bit (we learn later he went out for food, but in the moment there was no explanation), leaving Dean and Ashley to have the episode’s meaningful conversation, with Ashley asking, “wouldn’t it be great if everything was just planned out for you… if it was all just already decided?” “No, not really.” This line from Ashley was the moment I began to question her. Up until this moment, she had seemed mostly believable. She was nervous, and she seemed traumatized, but this line seemed to come from left field. Sure, we’ve seen people in the past ask about the life the brothers lead, but that’s always where it ended. It almost never came close to some divine plan.
The camera pans to the small clock on the table between the beds, and we see time slowly elapse before panning back over to Dean, who’s fast asleep in one of the beds. Sam had re-entered the room, shoving his brother back into consciousness, leading to our discovery that Ashley is no longer there, and there’s only one reason she’d be gone and the door left wide open. Sam and Dean rushed back to the cabin, easily (almost too easily) finding Ashley tied up in a back room with the fur brothers nowhere in sight. As they make their way towards the door, Andy and Josh launch an attack. It’s Sam versus Andy, and Dean versus Josh. In the midst of grappling, Andy created some separation, grabbing the gun Dean had dropped in his own struggle. He stood there, gun pointed at Sam, as he glanced over at his brother. In a clear crisis of conscience, he yelled out for his brother before ultimately pulling the trigger and killing Josh. “He was my brother, and he promised, but he was never gonna stop. And he turned into a monster. And I’m a monster, too.” With tears streaming down his face, Andy turned the gun on himself. “That was — that was weird.” That seems like a massive understatement, but I honestly can’t find a better way to describe it.
A traumatized Ashley slowly moves away from the bodies lying on the floor, ultimately becoming one of them when she pulled away from Dean with a bit too much force, landing on the discarded antlers used in the fight. As Sam, Dean, and we, as viewers, stared silently at the young girl’s impaled body, we suddenly hear, “well, this is a bitch.” Excuse me, ma’am, you’re supposed to dead. The true identity of our oh so poor victim becomes obvious when she rolls her eyes roll back and says, “Aw, Sam. You don’t remember little old me?” Lilith is back…yay. As luck, or Chuck, would have it, she was brought back to retrieve The Equalizer, which for obvious reasons, the brothers won’t give up. “If God wants his little toy back, he can come get it himself.” In typical Winchester fashion, they opt to fight their way out of the situation, only to be sent flying (and yes, Sam went head first into a wall, receiving his millionth concussion). As Lilith stalked towards Sam, Dean agrees to take her to the gun so long as she leaves him alone. We know, just like the last time she was on Earth, she can’t kill the brothers but she can find ways to make them “beg to die.”
When we return from commercial break, we’re once again living in Sam’s nightmare as he battles a version of Dean we haven’t seen in years: Demon!Dean (the clothes are an immediate giveaway that the Mark of Cain is back in play). Dean easily throws Sam around the room (because even in his dreams Sam can’t catch a break), eventually pinning him to the wall with a chokehold and stabbing him with the First Blade, thus waking Sam up. Back in the real world, Sam steals a truck to get back to the motel, but in the meantime, during a short scene in the car with Dean and Lilith, we hear what is possibly the most important line of the episode from the latter: “…and it always ends the same — one brother killing the other.” As an aside here, personally I loved that it was a fairly short, concise moment. Having her drop the foreshadowing bomb on us with very little extra context really served to heighten its effect in the best way.
Once they’re back at the motel, Sam bursts through the door firing a Devil’s Trap bullet into Lilith’s forehead, but it doesn’t have its intended effect for long. Sure, it held her in place long enough for the boys to get out of the room, but before they can make it back to the Impala, they’re the ones stuck in place. Through deductive reasoning, Lilith determines the gun was never in the motel room (they had run out too fast to grab it), and it wasn’t at the bunker (they might need it), so that left only one place: the Impala; the one thing that is always with the boys. Lilith struts over to the car, looks around for a second then opens the glove box, retrieving the gun. “You know what? Go ahead and take it. We’ll get it back.” Unless she incinerates it in her hand, like she’s just done.
Our final scene has Sam and Dean back at the bunker drinking beer and discussing Chuck. Dean says, “Lilith said that Chuck only likes one ending — you kill me or I kill you.” The realization is obvious as it washes over Sam, connecting the dots between this new piece of information and his nightmares. “What if I’m somehow seeing Chuck’s endings?” He points to his shoulder which still contains the bullet, or at least part of it, from The Equalizer. The Winchesters really should’ve just checked Twitter. We figured that out weeks ago. The camera slowly pans outward, backing between the opened curtains. Are Chuck’s puppets making their curtain call?
This episode was full of little Easter eggs and we want to know what your favorites were! Let us know in the comments below!