THE ROAD SO FAR: So. Much. Stuff. Happened. Dean Winchester made it back from Purgatory, resumed being a Hunterus Heroicus, pulled a Braveheart, was a dream-y military doctor, made a new best friend in B-b-b-Benny who’s a Vamp, killed a crap ton of monsters and hugged…everybody. Sam? Well, Sam loved Amelia. Until he didn’t. Then he began the Trials listed on the Demon Tablet, and shit got real. He ganked a hellhound and bathed in it’s tarry blood, he saved Bobby from the depths of Hell and sent him to Heaven (to Bobby’s dismay) and he and Dean found Metratron, the scribe of God, who told him that the third and final trial to close the gates of hell forever was to cure a demon. The downside? If they don’t stop performing the Trials, Crowley is set to ice absolutely everyone our boys ever saved, beginning with Wendigo Tommy, Cupcake Jenny Klein and the utterly beautiful Sarah Blake. Plus? Castiel was manipulated by God’s paper-pusher Naomi *and* began the Angel Trials with Metatron, Kevin Tran almost stroked out trying to translate faster, Abaddon (the Knight of Hell) killed the Men of Letters, Charlie was an action hero and an embezzler, the HuntCave was friggin’ awesome and GAH!!!! My head’s going to explode.

NOW: We open on our favorite woman in law enforcement, none other than Jody Mills! With a cute new haircut! Sheriff! So good to see you! Uh oh. Why are we seeing you? We are seeing you, apparently, because you are on the blind date from hell. Literally. Crowley is posing as “Roderick” her charming, worldly, utterly empathetic date. Except he’s not, of course. He’s not there to sex her, he’s there to hex her. Sadly, Jody falls for him (I mean, who wouldn’t?) and ends up in the ladies room bleeding out, but just before Crowley can finish the job, Dean calls. He tells Crowley he and Sam are willing to deal. He will give Crowley the Demon Tablet, if Crowley hands over the Angel Tablet, because Crowley’s a “…douchebag, and no douchebag should have that much power.”

The next day, our boys meet Kevin Tran, who is digging up his half of the Demon Tablet, conveniently buried under a billboard featuring a devil. The two halves are made whole once more. Clearly there is a plan here. Dean gives Kevin the key to the HuntCave, warning him that there will be “No keggers!” Kevin quietly responds, “I don’t have any friends.” (Heartbreak #1.) Dean reassures him that closing the gates of hell is the ticket to returning to normal life.

Cas and Metatron are outside a bar waiting for their next trial to begin. Cas asks what God is like, and Metatron describes him. “Pretty much like you’d expect. Larger than life. Gruff. A bit of a sexist. But fair. Eminently fair.” That is pretty much what I would expect, actually. Anyway, the next trial is to retrieve Cupid’s Bow, and since the barkeep is next on Cupid’s list, this is where they need to be. Cas is relieved there will be no killing for this one.

Meanwhile, Dean pulls his Baby into none other than Singer Salvage Yard, still burned and abandoned. (Heartbreak #2.) He and Sam get out to meet Crowley, who has his usual lengthy contract waiting. The two sides show each other their stones (no, really!) and Dean goes to sign. “Nice try, squirrel,” says Crowley. “Moose is doing these trials. Moose signs.” Dean refuses, until he reads the fine print, and he and Sam bicker a little while Crowley banters.

In Heaven, an angelic lackey tells Naomi that Castiel has been found. And he’s not alone. In fact, he’s with “Him. The Scribe.” Naomi is intrigued.

Back at Singer Salvage, Dean is reading the contract and his lips are moving, a trait I used to find abhorrent in a man but now see is actually incredibly adorable. (SP&C founder Nanea Hoffman reminds me: “Anything Dean does with his lips is cute.” RIGHT?!?!?) Sam comes forward to sign, and he and Dean exchange knowing looks and nods. And then, just like that, my fantasies come true as Dean demon-cuffs Crowley to his own wrist! The cuffs are such that Crowley can’t teleport. Also, says Dean? There is no deal. Crowley punches Dean, who socks him right back, saying “I can do this all day! ‘Cause you know what? DAMN that feels GOOD!” He tells Crowley that his demon ass is about to become a mortal ass. Crowley looks to Moose for clarification. “You’re the third trial, Crowley,” Sam says, with tired but triumphant eyes. And that. Is. AWESOME!!!!

Back at the bar, Cas is still trying to hook the barkeep up. He is reading personal ads, and wastes no time asking the dude, “Would you say you are looking for a partner in crime? Or someone who is into nurse roleplay and light domination?” “Brother, it’s ten AM on a Tuesday,” he replies, suspicious and weary. Fair. I know I prefer my light domination to be practiced after lunch. Anyway, Metatron interrupts, chastising Cas for his lack of subtlety, but before he can say more, Naomi and her goons come for them, hurting the bartender who tries to stop them with a shotgun. Interestingly, Naomi takes off with only Metatron, who pleads with Cas to not make things worse. Yeah, right. Has he met Cas? Cas kind of specializes in making things worse.

Dean and Sam take Crowley to an abandoned church, i.e.: consecrated ground. They plunk him in a Devil’s Trap, natch, and I wonder if they can spray paint those with their eyes closed at this point. Probably. Crowley is also chained up with demon shackles and ain’t going nowhere any time soon. Dean starts to help Sam with supplies, asking him how he feels. “Honestly? For the first time it feels like we’re gonna win,” Sammy says with a wan smile. “I’m good.” The next step is for Sam to purify his blood for the ritual, and that can only be done via confession. Sam has only done that once, as a kid, and doesn’t know what to say. Dean offers to make a list for him, and Sam seems happy for the help. At first. “Ruby, killing Lillith, letting Lucifer out, losing your soul, not looking for me in Purgatory for starters…” Dean says, and Sam looks sad, tense and agitated. “Thanks,” Sam interrupts, taking the supplies and silently walking with very slumped shoulders to the church. (Heartbreak #3.) “Hey, how about what you did to Penny Marko in the sixth grade?” Dean asks. “That was you,” Sam says, confused. “Carry on,” Dean barks, face considering that fact and deciding yeah. That sounds like him.

Sam goes inside the church, and into the decrepit confessional. “Hey. Anybody who’s listening? Here goes,” he says. We cut away to Dean, gathering bullets in the trunk. Cas arrives and says that he needs Dean’s help—Naomi has captured Metatron, interrupting the Angel Trials. “The what?” Dean asks. Cas explains they can shut it all down. Heaven. Hell. All of it.

In Heaven, Metatron awakens and finds Naomi has bound him to a chair. She’s going to “de-brief” him, which, as we have seen, involves a drill and looks pretty brutal. She is wondering why Metatron has suddenly appeared, and what does he want with Cas? “Of the blessings set before you, make your choice and be content,” Metatron says, quoting writer Samuel Johnson. (Fun fact? Johnson has been described as “arguably the most distinguished *man of letters* in English history.”) Naomi doesn’t get it. “Not a big reader, are we?” says Metatron, in a snotty voice. Naomi responds by aiming her drill.

Dean and Cas are still talking Angel Trials. Cas needs Dean to come with him. Dean wants to help, but he won’t leave his brother. “If anyone needs a chaperone while doing the heavy lifting, it’s Sam,” he says, to the dismay of Sam, who has appeared behind him. (Heartbreak #4.) “You should go,” Sam says quietly. Dean tries to argue, but Sam reassures him he can handle it. “If you guys can lock up the angels, too? That’s a good day,” he says, smiling. Dean wants to send the angels back to heaven, “Just ‘cause they’re dicks,” but he knows the demons are on them. He tells Sam to start the ritual, and, if he’s not back in the eight hours it will take, to finish it. “No questions, no hesitation.” Sam promises he will, and Cas spirits Dean away.

Sam begins the ritual, injecting a skeptical Crowley with his human blood. At first, it seems to do little, if anything. “You’re miles out of your league, Moose,” Crowley purrs, and Sam looks doubtful. His forearms flash as they have been doing, flowing with the…God-power? I guess?…causing him pain.

Back at the HuntCave, Dean and Cas have brought the Angel Tablet to Kevin Tran to decipher. In six hours, not six months. Kevin says he can’t—he won’t. He even pours himself a drink and mentions his dead mom, Linda Tran. (Heartbreak #5. Also? I refuse to believe she is dead. At all.) Anyway, Cas gets pissed and grabs him by the shirt, roughly, demanding he perform his job as prophet of The Lord. Kevin weakly tries to protest, and Dean to interfere, but Cas won’t be budged. “Do it,” he demands, and he and Dean leave to perform Trial number two, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

At the church, Sam is still forcibly injecting Crowley on the hour. Only this time, Crowley grabs his arm and proceeds to give him world’s bite-iest hickey. “What the hell, Crowley?!” Sam shouts, punching Crowley in the face. “Biting? SERIOUSLY?” Crowley’s totally going to the time-out chair. Oh, wait. He’s kind of already there, isn’t he? Sam storms out to get bandages and Crowley spits a huge mouthful of Sam’s blood into his hand and uses it and some Latin to try to summon a demonic A-Team. “This is your king. Send help. Immediately,” he growls.

Back at the bar, Cas still can’t find a female for the bartender to love. Sadly, he has only found a tranny. Dean would be more upset about this, but the bartender is giving him free drinks since he thinks Cas saved his life. Cas flashes the bartender a very Misha Collins-y peace sign, and asks, “Do you really think it’s wise to be drinking on the job?” “What show you been watching?” Dean deadpans. Ha! Dean asks if Cas is sure he wants to do this. Doesn’t he think the angels will kill him? “They might,” Cas admits. “So this is it. ET goes home,” Dean says, sadly.

A female keg deliverer, Gail, interrupts the somber. It’s showtime. She and the bartender exchange pleasantries, prompting Dean to say, “Holy crud. This is like the first five minutes of every porno I’ve ever seen.” The bartender introduces her to his male customer, and she pats both of them on the shoulder. “I’ll be seeing you both,” she smiles, and leaves. And then, to the strains of Gallery’s “It’s So Nice to Be With You,” a song I have not heard in thirty years but will now never get out of my head, the bartender falls in love with his male customer. Dean’s face is priceless.

Back at the church, Crowley taunts Sam. Then, BE STILL MY BROKEN HEART, he sings. SINGS! “Changes” by David Bowie. I may have rewound this a few times. If by a few, you mean a few dozen. Mark Sheppard, you are a golden god. His totally awesome voice is interrupted, however, by Abaddon, who has come to rescue him. “They told me you were dead,” Crowley says to Abaddon. “So not,” she says coolly, and I note she has finally freakin’ fixed her smeared makeup. Abaddon proceeds to kick the crap out of Sam, throwing him out a stained glass window. Crowley is pleased—until he realizes she means to unseat him. Literally and figuratively.

Outside Brokebar Mountain, Cas demands Gail’s bow, threatening her with his Angel Blade. She’s the Cupid, obviously. “Woah! Woah! Hey!” Dean says. “Talk first. Stab later.” Gail is willing to give the bow to Cas, if he really wants to fix Heaven. He does, so she does. Angel Trial 2 complete.

Abaddon decides to transfer her ass-kickery to Crowley. She is some pissed that somehow he has become King of Hell, and now it’s his destiny to be the King of Pain. Abaddon wants to talk regime change. “You little whore,” Crowley manages to spit. “I AM YOUR K…” Before Abaddon kicks him into unconsciousness. When she looks up, however? Sam is there with Holy Fire and lots of it. As her meatsuit burns, her demon self exits stage mouth and swirls away into the dark, leaving Sam staggering, having now added contusions to his list of physical issues.

In Heaven, Metatron looks like blood-eyed crap. “Why are you doing this?!” Naomi hisses. “This?!” Metatron tells his story for a change. He was aching when God left, and then crushed when Naomi and her co-horts ran him from Heaven. “Did you really think you could do all that to me and there’d be no payback?” he demands. She glares—and disappears. Metatron looks at her drill and grins, evilly.

Back at the church, Crowley is trying to bond with Moose since “they” just defeated Abaddon. It cuts no ice—Sam will inject him yet again. Sam repairs the Devil’s Trap as Crowley babbles on and on about how they have shared a foxhole and where is Sam’s loyalty and didn’t he ever watch Band of Brothers on HBO? And speaking of HBO, how about Girls? (Seriously—this is Crowley asking, not me. Which should show you he’s breaking.) “You’re my Marnie, Moose,” Crowley pleads, to Sam’s consternation. “And Hannah? She needs to be loved. She deserves it. Don’t we all? You? Me? We deserve to be loved. I DESERVE TO BE LOVED!” Crowley shouts. “I just want to be loved,” he adds in a pitiful whisper. Sam stares. “What?” Sam asks, finally, and Crowley seems to realize—he is falling apart.

Sam looks at his watch some time later. It is time for another injection. Sam looks terrible, now. Weak. Sick. Like he is dying. (Heartbreak #6.) But he is still determined to finish what he started. He draws another vial, as a somber Crowley talks. “Would it be possible, Moose, I’d like to ask you a favor,” he says slowly. “Sam,” he says softly, his voice serious, and we know things have changed. Crowley’s eyes are full of tears. Sam approaches him with the hypo, wary and curious. “Earlier, when you were confessing back there. What did you say?” Sam waits. “I only ask because, given history,” Crowley says, voice rough, tears finally falling, “It raises the question: where do I start? To even look? For forgiveness? I mean…” (Heartbreak #7. Mark Sheppard owns this scene. Owns. It.) Sam holds up the needle. “How about we start with this?” he asks, his voice firm, but not unkind. His hands shaking. Crowley tilts his head willingly to the side, and allows Sam to inject him with no struggle. Crowley, it seems, is becoming more man by the moment.

Back at the HuntCave, Kevin Tran is confused. The tablet is about the Angel Trials, all right, but there is nothing about killing a Nephilim or getting Cupid’s bow. “Oh, come on, Kev! We’re on the one yard line here!” Dean barks. “And I should have mentioned this six months ago,” Kevin says, “But the sports metaphors? You want to motivate me? Magic Cards! Skyrim! Aziz Ansari!” “What?” Dean replies. “Yeah, I don’t know what those words mean…” (If Dean wants to motivate me he can try getting naked. With bacon. Just sayin’.)

Naomi appears, pleading for peace with Castiel. She tells him that Metatron is a liar. He doesn’t want to fix Heaven—he wants to break it. She’s been in his head, and she knows. Of course, and rightfully so, Cas doesn’t trust her and calls her on her “lies.” Dean, however, wants to hear more. Apparently, Metatron wants to cast the thousands of angels out of Heaven, and send them to earth, which will be, at best, problematic. Dean seems to believe her, though Cas does not. Naomi reinforces Dean’s trust in her by telling him what else she saw in Metatron’s head: if Sam completes the third trial he will die. God’s ultimate sacrifice. Naomi says she will return to Heaven where Metatron has been neutralized. She promises to listen to Cas if he wants to talk. After she flutters away, Dean demands that Cas take him to Sam.

Back at the church, the ritual is almost complete. A pale, trembling Sam manages to speak the Latin to a muttering, pained Crowley. Sam cuts his glowing palm to deliver the final step, smearing his purified blood into Crowley’s mouth. Dean arrives, ready to storm in, but Cas needs to bail. “I need to save my home,” he says, and is gone before Dean can blink. As Sam goes to deliver his blood unto Crowley, Dean bursts in, shouting “Sammy! STOP!”

Cas reaches Heaven. Naomi is dead by her own drill. Metatron appears, holding Cas at blade point and says, “She told you I lied. You should have listened to the bitch.” Uh oh. Holy Booger really has gone rogue!

At the church, Dean is trying to talk Sam down. He explains that Metatron lied—that Sam will die if he completes the ritual. Sam, his face urgent and frantic, simply asks, “So?” (Heartbreak #8)

In Heaven, Cas is restrained. He has screwed it up. Again. And he knows it, but still feels so betrayed (Heartbreak #9.) Metatron slits his throat and drains him of his angelic grace. “These were never trials, Castiel. This is a spell,” Metatron explains. And Cas’ angel mojo is the last component. Metatron heals Cas’ wound and tells him something wonderful is going to happen for both of them. “I want you to live this new life to the fullest. Find a wife. Make babies. And when you die and your soul comes to Heaven, find me. And tell me your story,” Metatron says with a smile. “Now go,” he says, and transports a mortal, vulnerable Cas to God knows where.

In the church, Sam is confused. Angry. He tells Dean to look at Crowley and see how close they are to ending this. He doesn’t want anyone else to die. Dean pleads with him to consider their new knowledge. They can save souls from hell. Kill hellhounds. Cure demons. They can turn the tide. “But I can’t do it without you,” he tells Sam. “You can barely do it *with* me,” Sam says, stunned, laughing ruefully. “You think I screw up everything I try. You think I need a chaperone, remember?” Dean tries to demur, but Sammy knows what he meant. “You wanna know what I confessed in there? What my greatest sin was?” Sam asks, painfully. Broken. “It was how many times I let you down.” (Heartbreak #all of them.) He starts to cry. “I can’t do that again.” Dean tries to stop him, but Sam needs to say it. “What happens when you decide I can’t be trusted—again? I mean, who are you going to turn to next time instead of me? Another angel? Another (and it kills Sam to say this part)… another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother…” he tries to finish, shaking with upset. (And Jared Padalecki has never been a better actor than he is here. Never. It’s breathtaking.)

But Dean has something to say, too. “Hold on! Hold on!” he interrupts. “You seriously think that? Because none of it—none of it—is true.” Sam, in agony, shakes his head, not believing. Dean knows they have had their problems, but come on. Dean goes on to remind Sam of his love for him. How he killed Benny to save him. How he is willing to let every demon who killed their mother walk—including Crowley—so he won’t die. “Don’t you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you!” Dean says, urgently. Sam is torn. He wants to believe it, but he can’t. Because he doesn’t think he’s worthy of a love like that. “I need you to see that. I’m begging you,” Dean pleads passionately. After a long, devastating pause that is just crushing, Sam asks, truly scared, “How do I stop?” “Just let it go,” Dean says calmly. Sam, glowing and bleeding and falling apart, tells Dean, “I can’t. It’s in me, Dean. You don’t know what this feels like.” Dean takes out a bandana, and wraps Sam’s bleeding hand, smiling at him like you would to soothe your frightened child. “Hey. Listen to me. We will figure it out, okay? Just like we always do,” he says softly. “Come on,” he says, taking Sam into his arms and holding him tight. “Let it go, okay? Let it go, brother.” He pats him soothingly, and I am crying like crazy because this? This is why I am so loyal a fan. This is what this show has always been about. Siblings that are soulmates. These brothers, who break and lift our hearts with the way that they love each other. The monsters? The mayhem? The magic? Incidental. Supernatural is really about loving someone so much that it can defy heaven and hell and everything in between.

At first, Sam seems clear. The glow dissipates, and Dean is pleased. But it is too good to last, sadly. Sam collapses, crying out in pain, and Dean drags him to the Impala, through the rain, reassuring him. “I got you, little brother,” he says, and I would laugh at the site of Dean trying to lug the six foot eleventy Sam to the car were I not so worried that my Sammy was going to die. Sam collapses outside the car, gasping for air, as Dean screams for Cas. “Where the hell are you?” he mutters, leaning over Sam, worried.

Castiel, it seems, is in the woods. He comes to, slowly. And a montage, sadly not one as fun as Charlie trying on clothes, begins.

…Kevin Tran in the HuntCave, watching all of the machines come to life, klaxon horns blaring

…Sam, trying to breathe, collapsing with pain, as his brother watches

…Crowley, cured? Not? Looking toward the celling, foggy and bloody

…Castiel walking out of the woods, looking into the changing sky, lost

And finally Dean, looking up and seeing meteorites raining from the clouds by the hundreds. Except these aren’t pieces of space rock. These are angels. Hurtling toward Earth. One crashes into a nearby lake and Sam recoils harshly. “What’s happening?” Sam manages to grit through his teeth. “Angels,” Dean says, stunned. “They’re falling.”

Wow. What a season. After a shaky start, I think it’s safe to say we got our show back. Sadly, it’s 137 days until Hellatus is over (but who’s counting?) Until then? We can content ourselves with re-runs and Netflix. I will see ya’ll in the fall.

Barbara Sirois Doyle is a writer for Sweatpants & Coffee. She salts and burns first and asks questions later.

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