Wow. What. An. Episode. It sounds cliché, but it is also true: this episode made me laugh, made me cry, and became something of a part of me. So much happened, and all of it great, so let’s get started talking about “Inside Man,” in which Sastiel rode again, Crowley tried to work on his Oedipal issues, Dean looked at the man in the mirror (and asked him to change his ways,) and Rowena and Metatron were the King and Queen of the Anti-Winchester prom.
1. Singer Salvation
Dark room. Circular Table. Mystical symbols. Holding hands. It’s a séance. Must be Wednesday. Sam (who looks desperate) and Cas (who looks worried) are playing Three’s Company with a mystical dude who is chanting in Latin…why, exactly? It becomes clear soon enough when we hear “The Gambler” and know we are heading for another Weekend at Bobby’s.
Bobby, in his heaven, is reading when his old tymie-tyme radio goes all white noise before replacing Rogers with Winchester. “Obiwan Bobby we need your help…” says the voice. “Sam?” asks Bobby, and as we smash to the title card I rejoice. Because Bobby Frickin’ Singer is always wanted, dead or alive.
2. He Aint Heavy
It’s 24 hours earlier and sweet Sam is in bed (rrraaooowwwrrr.) He sleeps adorably until he hears Dean, screaming his name over and over. The Padahair swings gloriously as he wakes and runs to Dean, barefoot and armed (again, rrraaooowwwrrr.) Sam breaks into Dean’s room and is dismayed to see his brother groaning and shouting in his sleep, dreaming of Cain telling him of his inevitable, sibling-murdering path, clenching his Mark of Cained fist. It is awful, and I know they say not to wake people up who are in the grip of night terrors but I wish Sam would, for Chuck’s sake.
The moment is so raw and honest, painful and despairing, that it contrasts perfectly with the joking, lying brothers of the morning. Everything that they say is false: from Sam saying there aren’t any jobs so he’s going to go see a French film about a mime who thinks he’s a cockroach (wait, what?) to Dean claiming he needs me time, and that he trusts Sam to make good choices. And the biggest lie of all? Dean, saying he’ll stay out of Sam’s room. I mean, really. Does this look like the face of someone who’s telling the truth?
Dean does go in that room, first to butt-print his pillow (Recapper’s note: Sam’s bed is super squeaky. It makes the mind wander, does it not?) then to tape his phone down (Not sure how that’s a prank—his phone will still ring and when he picks it up he’ll see the tape, no? Up your game, Dean.) and lastly to rub Sam’s toothbrush in his armpit (I think the fact that we are supposed to think Dean smells gross may be the most farfetched thing about the whole episode.) This brief playfulness added so much to the story. To see Dean, for a moment anyway, forget the weight of the world on his shoulders and prank his brother like a twelve year old was so endearing. The love they share is so multifaceted, and backed by so much history, that sometimes we forget the kids they were in the midst of the mangst.
3. Sam and His Wing Man
Sastiel rides again! Sam takes the pickup (Dean may trust him to make good choices but he certainly doesn’t trust him to take Baby for an overnight) and meets Cas and the pimpmobile. They know things “end at the source” and the source of all info? Metatron. They’re going to visit him in his Heavenly clink. They go to the playground of the angels and see one keeping guard who refuses to let them into Heaven. When Cas gets cross, the angel leaves its host and another takes its place. And that angel? None other than Hannah.
The affection on Cas’ face as he “sees” his old friend (and kissing partner) is truly sweet. What is less sweet, however, is the fact that she (He? It?) can’t let them take Metatron, because he is too dangerous to release from his cell. Three more angels show up to block the door, so to speak, and that really pisses Cas off, especially after all he has done for Heaven and Hannah her (Him? I don’t know how to pronoun this anymore…) self. Sam leads Cas away, knowing they can’t fight four angels. They’re gonna go to plan B(obby.)
4. The Queen Mother
Rowena sure has made herself at home, hasn’t she? And once again, a playful family moment distracts us from the inevitable pain and suffering as Crowley walks in on his mom wearing nothing but glyphs. Crowley is appropriately flummoxed, especially when she claims to be seeing a Biggerson’s manager (ha!) who is more meaty than a turducken slammer. When she tells Crowley he is so…firm…and Crowley begs her to stop talking? All of us adult children have been there, Crowley. We’ve all been there. Of course, Rowena is just trying to throw him off track about the fact that she’s going hunter hunting. It kind of fascinates me, wondering about Rowena’s end game. She is clearly selfish and manipulative and evil. But does she want to take Crowley down? Or help him so that she can be a part of the Royal Court? Ruth Connell plays her so well it is hard to tell.
I want to give a shout out to the costume department, because Rowena’s wardrobe has been utterly gorgeous. The lace dresses, the long cloaks, the velvet gowns—all of it has been so witchy and so classy at the same time. And bravo to the hair and makeup department, too, for making her look timeless such that her age cannot really be placed, and her era is mostly unknown.
And major props to the props department, too, man! I cannot tell you how much I wanted to root around in Rowena’s chest. So to speak.
5. Play Ball!
Dean’s foray into the pool hall was yet another compare and contrast of typical and epic. When he heads out for his usual, which of course includes this:
we see the perpetually hungry, bar dwelling, blue-collar guy we’ve loved for ten years doing what he does best: hustling some douche-canoes out of their (not) hard-earned cash and laughing all the way to the bankroll.
Later, though? We see how he wrestles with himself. How he is constantly fighting for control. How, when he looks at himself, he sees the demon he was and fears he once again will be, certainly in his mind and maybe even in the mirror.
Jensen Ackles is playing this with such finesse. He is at once goofy and dark, content and destroyed, a man trying to make the time he has left normal, all the while realizing that he is a singular monster struggling to keep himself together. It’s in the way he holds his face and body, the small looks he gives, the facial expressions, the catch in his voice, the smirk on his lips. He plays Dean as though he’s gonna live while he is dying, and somehow manages to make us laugh and worry at the same time. Where is his Emmy again?
6. Long Distance Call
Sam needs a psychic connection, so they go to Oliver Price, whom the Men of Letters were trying to train before they were “brutally slaughtered.” Although Price’s place has more “Keep Out” signs than Area 51, Sam and Cas make it inside. Price knows who Sam is (psychic—duh) but can’t read Cas which prompts the following fairly hilarious exchange.
Cas: I’m an angel.
Price: That…no. You can’t be!
Cas: Why not?
Price: Because I’m an atheist!
Sam: Not anymore.
(Recapper’s note: I like Price. In the spin-off in my mind where Bobby and Rufus hunt Grandma demons and cuss each other out, Price is the new Pamela. And no, I won’t let that go. Bobby+Rufus=4Eva.)
Price says he can only see colors when he looks at Cas, but the hippie? (Sam’s annoyance is adorable here. Swoon.) He’s getting some creep-ass, hobbit- looking fellow in a prison cell. Sam and Cas explain about Heaven’s jail and how they need to break someone out. They have an inside man, but they need help to reach him. Price wonders: what if he says no? Sam looks at him, darkly serious. “You’re the mind reader.” Price doesn’t hesitate. “I’ll get my crap.” Which brings us back to the beginning. Of the episode, anyway.
Listening to Bobby and Sam talk across dimensions was both beautiful and devastating. The warmth in each other’s voices, and the affection, well…even talking about it makes the lump in my throat come back. Bobby is hurt at the thought of all Dean is going through, but so happy to hear anything from his boys at the same time. Cas and Sam tell him the plan: find the exit of his paradise and open the door to Heaven so Cas can enter to grab Metatron. “Hey Sam?” Bobby says with a gentle smile. “Remember when this job was just chopping up some fang and tossing back a cold one?” Sam smiles, too, wistful. “I miss that.” Cas warns that if he does this, all the angels will be looking for him, because angels don’t like a soul wandering free. Bobby is nervous. He feels rusty. He’s been mostly drinking and reading the classics (STori Telling, of course, making us long timers grin a little.) Sam isn’t worried. He knows Bobby will figure it out. Because he’s all they got. And Dean needs him.
7. At a Bar, Picking Up Hex
Rowena finds Dean at the bar and Dean calls her a skank, which she finds complimentary because nice girls finish last. (Again, costumers: Rowena’s duds are bitchin’. Especially the cloak.) Turns out she has turned all of the “Abercrombie rejects” into bloody monsters like the prostitute of yore. Dean fights back, mentally reliving his gory days, afraid to give into his violence, worried it will become unchecked. He manages to subdue the college dudes via pool ball, prompting Rowena to muse, “Someone is tougher than he looks.” “You have no idea,” Dean tells her. Exasperated, she chants, her symbols glow and do….nothing. Which stuns her.
Dean pins her down with a knife. She says she is just there for her son, whom she confesses, with utter delight, is Crowley. She thinks he would be a King or a God if he wasn’t trying to please Dean all the time. Dean won’t let her go—makes to slit her throat. But Rowena knows his modus operandi. She knows he’s a hero, and since she is the only one who can remove her curse, she knows he will do the right thing. “What’s it going to be, hero?” she asks, brazen as anything, and Dean gives in.
Since she wasn’t able to kill Dean, Rowena needs to make him dead in Crowley’s eyes. She hacks herself up and tells Crowley Dean did it. She goes to Crowley, looking like…hell, actually. She tells Crowley she was trying to kill Dean for him but her spell failed. Crowley illuminates her: the MoC doesn’t want its host to die easy. “It’s just a curse,” she says. “The first curse, but still. It can be removed.” She says she will find a way. Crowley calls her stupid for engaging the Winchesters. She calls him weak. Blind. She warns of disrespect and revolt in his Kingdom and demands he do something. “Be a bloody king!” she wails, and Crowley seems to consider listening to his Mommy.
8. Fergus No More
Crowley goes to find Dean and ends up at the bar. “Squirrel,” he says, in greeting. “Boris,” Dean retorts. “Where’s Natasha?” (Hahahahaha! How long have you had that in your back pocket, writers?) The two end up drinking together (Again, props department, nice job with the pitchfork in Crowley’s drink.) and Dean calls Rowena a liar, snarking that it must run in the family. Crowley says Rowena can remove the mark. “I’m good thanks,” says Dean. “Who’s the liar now?” Crowley asks. Dean muses that he is playing Dr. Phil to the King of Hell. “Never saw that coming,” he admits. “Maybe we’re getting old,” Crowley says. “Never saw that comin’ either,” Dean replies, and it sucker punches me in the gut. Crowley says he is allowing Rowena tie him into knots because she is family. “A wise man once told me family don’t end in blood. It doesn’t start there, either,” Dean says. “Family cares about you. Not what you can do for them. Family’s there. For the good, the bad, all of it. They got your back. Even when it hurts. That’s family.” And that’s not Rowena.
Crowley goes back to Hell, all business. Rowena greets him eagerly, hoping Dean is now dead, but Crowley has a surprise for her instead. He wants her out.
Crowley says he put up with her because she was his mother, and maybe he’s lost his edge—but that ends now. Rowena cries and begs. “You can’t.” “I can. I’M BLOODY CROWLEY!” he shouts. “I’m the king of hell. I do what I want. When I want. And I don’t take orders from you.” Rowena’s lip shakes as she cries, and she warns him that what he has will burn. Bravo to Ruth Connell for so masterfully conveying her disappointment and rage as Rowena accepts that her reign as Queen Mother is over.
9. Bostiel: I Ship It
Back in Heaven, Bobby manages to let all of the Robert/o/a Singers out, and the alarms are blaring. Angels arrive to get them back into their Heavens, with NotHannah in the lead. “Oh yeah?” Bobby yells. “Well, who made you boss?” And in the background some guy shouts “Right?!” and I should have played that part. Then? The Bobbys start fighting back. An angel PA system makes the announcement: “All hands. We need all hands. They’re surly. I repeat: the Bobbys are surly!” And after I die laughing I decide my new band name is the “Surly Bobbys.” (Watch for our new album, Idjit Balls, this fall on iTunes.) Our Bobby Singer stays behind looking for door number 42 (nice Douglas Adams shout out there.) Bobby opens it. And on earth, Sam tackles the heaven’s gate guard angel and Cas leaps in to the portal and it is fairly actiony and awesome. Cas falls to the floor in Heaven at Bobby’s feet. Bobby asks after Dean, and Cas says he is sick. “Try again, “ Bobby demands. “Dean doesn’t know we’re doing this,” Cas says. “Well that’s a page right out of the Winchester play book, ain’t it?” (This is where my second cry of “Right?!” would go.) “Dean has given up,” Cas sighs. “And you idjits haven’t,” says Bobby. “Would you?” Cas asks. “Hell no,” Bobby replies.
Bobby and Cas go to Metatron’s cell. Bobby is dubious, at best. “This is the Scribe of God? Looks like a Fraggle.” “I’m going to take that as a compliment,” says Metatron. “That was an excellent program.”
Metatron tells “Asstiel” he is not interest in Dean using him as a personal punching bag again. “Don’t worry. Dean’s not involved. You’re gonna be my punching bag.” Ooooh! More like BadAsstiel, Metatron! Metatron agrees to go with them, to smell the sweet smell of freedom. Sadly? Bobby Singer cannot go too. (WHY?!?!?!?!?!)
Cas and Metatron emerge in the playground, and Metatron seems gleeful, saying things are “Samtastic!” (Recapper’s note: I think I just found my new favorite adjective.) Sam has his f…screw you face on, big time. Cas, similarly pissed, tells Metatron he is in charge, but Metatron thinks not, since he knows about the MoC. “It’s called leverage, boys,” Metatron says. “Live it, learn it, love it.” But then? BUT THEN?
After a quick nod from Sam, Cas cuts Metatron’s throat and steals his grace! Which was totally wicked. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! After that? SAM SHOOTS HIM IN THE LEG! In case you don’t get it, Metatron, these guys are NOT screwing around anymore. “We have your grace, Metatron,” Cas says, “You’re mortal now. So you will answer our questions or Sam will…um…what’s the phrase? Blow your frickin’ brains out. It’s called leverage, Metatron.” And Sam adds, “Learn it, live it, love it.” Awwwweeeesoooommmmeee. Viva la Sastiel!!!!! Metatron admits under duress that he doesn’t know how to remove the mark. “It is old magic, god level magic, Lucifer level. But you can’t ask him, exactly, can you?” (Recapper’s note: Awwww. I miss Mark Pellegrino. How weird is our fandom that we miss Satan?) Apparently the whole “river ends at the source” thing was made up by Metatron to buy time. Cas knows he is telling the truth and tells Sam to shoot him. Sam prepares to, but Metatron says that he does know about Cas’ remaining grace. He will take Cas to what is left. Sam leaves it to Cas to decide, and, in the end, we see Metatron taking a ride in the pimpmobile with Cas, who is once again the baddest angel in the garrison.
10. Bobby Just Wrote Me a Letter
Sam goes back to the HuntCave, where Dean is crunching his way through a bowl of cereal. They lie to each other again, Sam saying his movie was “French” and Dean saying pool was boring. Sam heads to his room (hopefully not to brush his teeth) and feels in his pocket for a folded piece of paper—a letter Cas gave him from Bobby. We see via montage Rowena leaving Hell with carpetbags and her head held high, Crowley musing on her departure all alone on his throne, Cas about to drive Metatron to Chuck knows where, Dean ever conscious of the MoC on his skin, and Bobby looking at a picture of him and his boys with love as three angels approach him, making us forget he is fictional and become sick with worry. Sam sits to read the letter, and as we hear Bobby’s voice read it, our hearts all break a little.
So, this is weird, huh? Look, I just wanted to say that Cas told me what you’re doing for Dean. And I’m not asking you to stop, but maybe going behind his back ain’t the best idea. Your brother—he can be stubborn, but I think he’d understand. And I know it’s the life, doing a little bad so you can do a lot of good, but sometimes the bad’s real bad. And the good—it can come at one hell of a price. I ain’t there on the ground. And whatever you do, I know you’ll make the right choice. You’re a good man, Sam Winchester. One of the best. And I’m damned proud of you, son. I was content up here. But getting that call from you? It’s the happiest I’ve been in forever. No matter what it costs. So stay safe. Keep fighting. And kick it in the ass.
And Sam cries an OPT, and that’s about 40,000 less tears than I am crying as we fade to black.
Just five episodes left, people! And the season finale is rumored to be one of the most intense yet! We have an extra week’s wait before we find out what Charlie Bradbury has read in Episode 18, “Book of the Damned.” See you then.