Somebody blast the Katy Perry, because by the end of this episode? The Winchesters made me feel like I’m livin’ a teenage dream. Dylan Everett, who blew us all away with his portrayal of a fourteen-year-old Dean in Season Nine’s “Bad Boys” is back, channeling his 30-something alter ego with such finesse I almost didn’t miss Jensen Ackles. (I said almost. I’m not insane.) Sam and Dean are the brothers grim as they investigate a series of disappearances that turn back time, facing off against a hungry witch, Hansel with a hex bag, and, most horrifying of all, PUBERTY! Let’s get started—unlike Dean, were not getting any younger.
1. Study Session
After the MoW pre-credits, we head right to the familiar place we always want to go: the HuntCave. As we hear Cain’s eerie confession/prophecy wash over Dean (“I felt connected to you right from the beginning. You and I are very much alike.”) we can see that it’s not just Dean that’s a mess. The homey room-of-his-own is a disaster. His sad, lone-pillowed bed is unmade and covered in books. There are food wrappers and empty cans everywhere. And the guy who once complained about a gum wrapper on the floor and a witch infestation that trashed his clean kitchen doesn’t seem to notice. It seems that Dean’s the bookworm now, adorably reading (as he often does) with his lips moving, refusing to leave his “three hots and a cot” and venture toward the innocent people he might beat to death. Sam lets him know there’s a case, and that Dean needs to forgive himself as Charlie did and help him solve it. He believes Dean can beat his violent side, so to speak. “You also believed in the Easter Bunny until you were twelve,” Dean reminds him, deadpan. Sam denies it. He was eleven. “And a half,” Dean adds, and I am in love with this episode already. So much is said with that little teasing remark. Dean talking of Sam as though he was his father, making us wonder for a moment what Easter was like for them as kids, picturing a 15-year-old Dean shoplifting a stuffed bunny and a basket full of chocolate to make Sammy smile. I love Cas and Crowley, and I love Misha and Mark. But having a couple of brother focused episodes? It does a fangirl good.
2. I Refuse to Believe
One of the reasons our boys have been so successful as faux Feds is because they are willing to talk to and accept the accounts of those that other cops wouldn’t even question, even if, sometimes, that testimony includes a description of flowers as “flowery”. I always love when the writers slip in a reference to a past episode, so it was something of a treat to have the homeless witness offer a theory.
HW: Look. We all know what’s going on here, okay?
Dean: Don’t say it.
Dean: He said it.
Sam: Yeah he did.
I am a huge fan of the Season Six episode “Clap Your Hands If You Believe,” so to hear them mention the possibility of a new fairy infestation made me grin. Granted, I’d rather not think about a “couple of green dudes and a bucket of lube” but I do enjoy thinking about seasons past. So for me? It’s kind of a lose/win.
3. Get In The Zone
The boys focus on JP, the last vic. Sam suggests scouting out his apartment while Dean investigates the bar where the dude was last seen. Sam sees his concern and offers to stick together, but Dean reminds him that dive bars are his comfort zone. He heads in, bolts down a shot and proceeds to meet the non-hunting, female version of himself, a woman named Tina who knows the same skeezy motels he does. They compare crappy childhood notes, with stories of fathers who left them to fend for themselves. Tina knows how to live on rice and TicTacs. Dean knows 101 ways to make mac and cheese, including adding ketchup for spice, tuna, hot dogs, and (barf) fluff marshmallow mix, which little Sam thought was “exotic.” (And another flashback for me at the thought of young Dean preparing dinner for young Sam, this time to the excellent “A Very Supernatural Chirstmas” from Season Three.) Tina is kind, and she makes Dean smile (and a hearty thank you for the crinkle eyes from all of us, Tina) but when their trip down memory lane is interrupted by a call from Sam she leaves “before Dean falls helplessly in love with her.” Which he actually might have, since they had pretty good chemistry. Opportunity missed, Dean.
Sam is calling from JP’s apartment, an apartment he was about three days from getting evicted from. Prompting the first hilariously disturbing brotherly exchange.
Sam: His landlord said the guy blasted Neil Diamond 24/7. And that his bathroom was, quote, “like staring into the devil’s butt.”
Dean: That’s vivid.
Sam: And accurate. I saw it.
Dean: You saw the john or, uh…
Listen, Dean, I don’t know what happened, specifically, in Lucifer’s cage, but something tells me that that joke? Even five years later? Too. Soon.
4. Everything Young is New Again
Tina leaves the bar and is followed out by a creepy looking old dude with a necklace that looks less new age and more old magic. Dean follows, and hears her disappear in a flash of light. As he investigates, the light blasts him too, and he ends up saying “Son of a bitch” in a decidedly more youthful tone. Dylan Everett is so different from his performance in “Bad Boys.” His voice is gruff, the tension in his jaw tight, the way he carries himself is more confident, and his facial expressions are dead on. This is no pre-Dean, this is current Dean in a “dewier package.” All I can think is Everett’s young Dean and Colin Ford’s young Sam, with a hint of Matt Cohen’s young John sprinkled throughout? There’s your sequel, right there.
Also a fantastic young actor? Madeliene Arthur, who played a similarly youth-enasiaed Tina, now entrapped in the next cell over with teen JP. When she tells Dean who she is, he tells her to stay calm, leaving her to quip, “Stay Calm? I’m a friggin’ tween and you look like some One Direction reject and we’re in some freaky serial killer basement.” Jeez. Tina and Dean really would have been perfect for each other. Dean assures Tina he won’t let anything happen to her. Well, not anything else, anyway. “This is crazy,” she says. “How are you so calm?” And her prison companion says, brow furrowed just like we know it will be in twenty-plus years, “Practice.” Dean and Tina are both fed dry cake by their scarred and burly guard. Tina muses that it is probably poisoned while Dean shovels it in before (and it must be said again that Everett sounds exactly like Ackles here) making a very current face and saying, “Right. Obviously.” Dean busts a pole on the bed (not a euphemism) and says he is getting them out of there. And young Tina? Looks like the illustration for the dictionary definition of the word “Swoon”.
Tina thought he was just another drunk. Dean prefers to be called what he is: a “Functional alcoholic.” “What are you?” Tina asks. “That,” Dean answers, “Is a long ass story.” (True. But not long enough yet for my taste. Bring on Season Eleven!) Tina the Brave agrees to keep Hansel busy when he comes so Dean can escape and go for help. She knows Dean will find it. And of course, we do too, probably in the form of his now eleventy-feet-taller-than-him brother.
5. “Where is my BROTHER?!”
Sam goes back to the bar where he last saw Dean, calls his cell, and hears it ringing behind the bar. He asks the scummy bartender where he got the jacket and the guy tries to quip that he got it at his barmitzvah (I see what you did there, dude.) Sadly for him? Dean is in trouble, and the no longer little brother becomes even bigger. He slams the dude on the counter, asking him, “Why don’t you try that again?”
Sam’s the calm brother. The rational one. But when it comes to Dean? He’ll slam first and ask questions later. He may have legendary puppy eyes, but when it comes to the person he loves most in the world, his bite is way worse than his bark. Finally, the bartender tells him the jacket was near the dumpster in the back. Sam looks and awwww! Look at that! Dean’s lost his shoe this time! More telling? Dean’s lost his favorite gun. And the grip is covered in flowery flowers.
6. Young Boy, Get Out of My Mind
Back at the motel, Sam is studying transfiguration spells using the not all that flowery flower, actually, Yarrow. He hears a knock on the door and is greeted by a baseball cap wearing, hoodie clad, kick footed kid who says with a grin the words we love so well, “Hiya, Sammy.”
Jared Padalecki claims he can’t play humor well, but his stunned face alone proves that wrong as Sam figures out how Dean has grown down. The body formerly known as Dean storms past, loading his gun and answering questions with “uh huh” and “no clue” and “don’t know, don’t care” exactly as he has been for two decades. He doesn’t know why he woke up “looking like Bieber” and he doesn’t really want to talk about it until Sam tries to insist. “Really Sam? Now?” he barks. “I got no grass on the infield and a girl’s gonna die. Sorry if I’m not in a chatty mood. Look. You wanted me back in the game? I’m back in the damned game.” And it is another little-bit-creepy-but-also-hilarious-perfectly-Dean moment and I seriously want that sequel.
They leave the motel, and Dean, ever eager to prove that Abaddon may be dead but chivalry is not, picks up a woman’s dropped hotel keys. “Your son is so polite!” she tells Sam, who can’t think of anything to do but thank her. They head for Baby and Dean, natch, takes the driver’s seat, which he now has to adjust to reach the pedals, driving Sam into a near fetal position, both making me laugh heartily and long to offer Sam a leg massage. The figurative and literal boys agree that it’s probably better to let the long-legged drive, and they set off to find the fountain of youth.
7. Without a Mark on Him
Sam can’t stop staring. Again, Everett perfectly encapsulates Ackles’ Dean as he describes his hormonally new state to Sam, ultimately deciding “It’s freakin’ weird, dude.” He admits that he heard a Taylor Swift song, and he liked it. He really liked it. “And my voice is weird and I’ve got like nine zits. And I have zero control over this,” he says, inspiring creepy laugh #3 by pointing to his lap. “I mean, it’s up it’s down, it’s up for no reason.” Sam reminds him—that’s puberty. “Yeah,” Dean sighs. “Which sucks. Again.” The only good news? He’s got his pre-MoC body, and he’s not sure he wants to give it up, especially “If it’s a choice between being a ‘psycho rage moster/borderline demon’ or a teenager.” (Recapper’s note: some would argue that’s the same thing.)
Sam looks horrified, and we know that at least part of that is that he has never, ever imagined himself as the older brother. Dean tries to cheer him up by telling Sam he he has a virgin liver that they can take for a test drive. Sam reminds him he can drink…in seven years. “That’s not funny,” young Dean says. “It’s kind of funny,” Sam says with a chuckle. “That’s not funny,” Dean repeats. “Come on,” Sam says, “It’s kind of funny.” Everett even pulls off the brotherly banter with Padalecki. It is delightful and I want this episode to last forever and ever, except I kind of don’t because Jensen Ackles’ face? Needs to be on my TV. Weekly. At least.
8. Size Matters
One of things I have missed so much in current seasons that this episode has in abundance is the brothers being brothers in a way that doesn’t involve weeping over the other’s dead body. The cracks, the jibes, the practical jokes that cause them to glue beer bottles to each other’s hands (Oh, Season One. How innocent we all were then.) So when Dean reopened the still mostly barred basement window and gestured for Sam to crawl in, he made creepy but perfect joke #4, and I laughed out loud.
Sam: Dean, I’m way too big to fit into that.
Dean, grinning: First time you ever had to say that, huh?
Sam: Big talk coming from the dude wearing underoos.
(Dean pauses. Tries for a comeback. Concedes with a nod.)
Dean: Okay. Good one.
I know, I know. I keep saying it. But Dylan Everett? Was current day Dean Winchester there. And as he proceeded through that dark basement, steadying his gun hand with the hand holding the flashlight, he kept that amazing performance up throughout.
Apparently, the time turner is none other than Hansel of the fairy tale, and he works for the witch, who made him eat his own sister. Dean’s enthusiasm returns at the thought of barbecuing a celebrity until they talk of his current, pubescent state. Sam, on the other hand? Is decidedly less moody about the whole thing.
He wants his big brother back. Now. And he is willing to kill the “candy coated bitch” to do it. “You cannot kill her,” Hansel says. “You are just men. “We’re more than that,” Sam says coldly, and my heart races. “We’re hunters.” (Suddently it’s not just Young Tina who is swooning.) Hansel seems impressed. And whether Dean wants it or not, it’s a deal.
9. The Oven and The Coven
The witch, Katja, is actually scary, if something of a caricature. It turns out that Hansel? Not so much victim as fellow diner, who also orders off the kiddie menu. Katja turns adults because, due to Amber Alerts and milk cartons, people notice when a kid vanishes. Dean sasses her as only he can while Sam tries to cut himself free, even delivering his trademarked, sarcastic “Awesome.”
It turns out that Katja isn’t just there on a culinary tour. She was sent by the Grand Coven to chase Rowena. The boys make it clear they know Crowley’s mum, and the inevitable fight ensues, and, also inevitably, Sam is threatened. (Recapper’s note: people ask why Sam, who is a strong fighter and hunter when he needs to be, is often the one hurt in fights and Dean is often the one to save him. My theory is that in Dean’s presence Sam reverts to his role of being the little brother that Dean takes care of, maybe even subconsciously knowing that he doesn’t have to be as conscientious when Dean is there to fix it. They have been fighting together so long it is clear who the Alpha brother is. And that’s why Sam is so scared to take over the role. Your thoughts?) When Dean sees Sam is about to become Colin Ford again (I am telling you: sequel) Dean cut’s off Hansel’s magic bag and turns himself back, making me sigh with loss and cheer with gain at the same time.
In a truly gruesome scene Dean stabs Hansel, crams the hex bag in the witch’s mouth, choking her, and throws her in the oven to burn alive. All while still wearing that super cute hoodie. Rrrraaaooowwwrrr.
After, Tina asks if they do that all the time. “All the friggin’ time,” Dean says. “Not all the time,” Sam sighs. The boys can’t turn her back via hex bag, but Sam offers to try to reverse engineer the spell. Young Tina says no thanks. She was a crappy adult and thinks this is her second chance, and we see a hint of longing in Dean’s eyes as he (maybe) still wishes for the same. They offer to give her a ride somewhere and she agrees, and, hoodie and kicks be damned, Dean tells Sam in no uncertain terms: “Gimme the keys.”
10. “’Cause the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…”
The boys give Tina all the cash they have and, after a chaste kiss on the cheek for Dean and a fond farewell, she boards her bus. They discuss Rowena, and Dean says the Grand Coven sounds like an 80’s hair metal band, complete with a lot of keytar. Sam, to Dean’s annoyance, doesn’t laugh, acknowledging the biblical elephant in the room: the Mark of Cain is back. Dean tries to explain—Sam was in danger and… “And you pulled a Dean Winchester,” Sam says, grateful. Sam admits he was glad 14-year-old Dean no longer had the MoC, but he also really wanted current Dean back. And they will figure it out. They always do. “Damn right,” Dean says, and there are my united boys, still working together, still making us all feel fulfilled at the sight.
Dean lovingly takes the driver’s seat and reaches for the radio as Sam smiles, content. He turns it on with a twist and, in a coincidence cheerful or repulsive (depending on which Winchester you are channeling,) Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is the song of the hour.
Sam gives Dean almost the exact same comical face as he does when Dean mouths along to “All Out of Love” by Air Supply in Season Seven’s episode, “Slash Fiction.”
Dean looks back, hesitating, before he decides to own it and embrace his inner Swiftie. (And yes, I know it’s weird to know what her fans are called as a woman in her early forties but I don’t care because I dig her too. I know there has been some decisive irritation in the fandom at the inclusion of this song in the episode, but you know what? I thought it was light and silly and adorable, and the lyrics, in a weird way, kind of fit.) Dean swerves the Impala out with a very manly screech, hitting the road to the decidedly girly beat, driving his again little brother to wherever the MoC will lead them.
So, okay. I loved this episode. Kudos to the casting department for finding Dylan Everett in the first place, and thank you to Adam Glass for writing an episode that brought him back. I hope, somehow, he returns for a hat trick of awesomeness and, seriously, guys? Give that spinoff some serious consideration, ‘kay? See you next week, when Dean attempts to gain his Freshman Fifteen, in episode 13, “Halt and Catch Fire.”