Kevin Tran is awake, with an Enochian post it note on his face, on the good ship SS Prophet. He looks like hell, and only rises because there is a tremendous pounding on the door. It is Dean, who has forgotten the secret knock. “It’s me,” Dean growls. Kevin super-soaks him with holy water. “Now it’s wet me,” he deadpans. An extremely cheerful and healthy looking Sam peeps in, only to get blasted, too. “We got it!” he says, with a huge, energetic smile, and that’s how we know—these are fake Winchesters.

What they have is the second half of the demon tablet. Kevin is stunned. Faux Sam and Dean offer to dig up the other half that Kevin has hidden, but he gestures to the wall, covered in notes and crazy, and tells them they don’t need to. “So, Special K,” Sam says, cheerfully, “You keep your nose to the God stone, we’re gonna drive out and make a lot of noise away a long way from here. Keep the safe boat safe for ya.” Yeah. So. Not. Sammy. Faux Sam and Dean leave the engrossed Kevin behind and emerge from the illusionary SS Prophet—into Crowley’s lair. They are actually two cute young demons in Winchester clothes, and they report about to the watching Crowley. Crowley rebukes Fake Sam about his patois. “Patois?” asks Faux Sammy. “Your slang. ‘Special K.’ ‘Nose to the god stone,’” Crowley clarifies. That’s the way Dean talks. Not the more…basic…Sam. The demons agree to watch it. “I was born to direct,” Crowley sighs.

Back at the HuntCave, Dean has prepared John Winchester’s famous “Kitchen Sink Stew” for Sammy, who looks like hell and hasn’t eaten in three days. Sam is uninterested. “You want me to do the whole airplane thing with the spoon?” asks Dean, who makes me think of possible little Winchester babies and I sigh with adoration and volunteer as tribute. Dean tries to take Sam’s temp. Sam is sick of being treated like a baby, but Dean doesn’t care. Sam just wants to finish the third trial. “I wouldn’t let you start a moped!” Dean says. He just wants to take care of Sam, and keep him alive. Sam admits the trials are changing him, and that is just part of the package.

They are interrupted by an email from Kevin, who looks even worse than Sam does. It is an automatically triggered message that appears if a password is not reset, and since Kevin didn’t reset it he tells them it means he must be dead. Kevin freaks out a little about this, while the boys look on, upset. “Crowley must have gotten to me, and the one thing I know is I won’t break this time,” he says, despairingly. He tells them he has uploaded his files and now the boys are on their own. His voice quivers, and tears fill his (and my) eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I know it was my job, but I…but I couldn’t…I’m sorry.” Oh, Osric Chau. You just slayed me. The screen goes blank, and Dean turns away. “DAMN IT!” he screams, and sweeps a table of its contents. He walks away, devastated, as Sam looks on, defeated and heartbroken.

Later, Dean is on the phone, looking for Garth who is MIA. No other prophets have come forward, either. Sam is looking through Kevin’s research. “We should have moved him here,” Dean says, referring to the HuntCave, and I wonder why, in fact, they didn’t. It had to be safer than the SS Prophet.

We cut to Castiel, in a Biggerson’s, praising the coffee being served to him by a friendly waitress. “I remember when you first discovered it. Before you starting brewing it,” he tells her. “You’d just chew the berries. Folk tale is true, by the way. You learned it from the goats.” She looks at him strangely, and lets him know he needs to order food to keep the table. He orders the special, which is not, thankfully, a Turducken slammer, but the “Smart-Heart Beer Battered Tempura Tempters.” And there it is. The most unrealistic thing of the episode. Not angels or demons or prophets. But that beer battered anything could be healthy. Before Cas gets tempted, as it were, bright lights and whining let him know: arch-angels are on the way. He fades away, surprising the staff.

One of the angels, Ion, reports to Naomi. He tells her that Castiel is (genius that he is) using the sameness of Biggerson’s to evade them. We see Castiel rotate through Biggerson’s from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. He admits that there are just so many Biggerson’s it is nigh impossible to catch Cas. Fine, says Naomi. Then let’s make him stop.

In the HuntCave, Sam and Dean are still reading. Sam notices a symbol that Kevin says is Metatron’s, who is the scribe of God, and he uses as a signature. Sam remembers it from his time at Stanford. “They taught ‘Word of God’ at Stanford?” asks Dean. No, says, Sam, but they did teach an overview of Native American art, and he thinks the symbol is a petroglyph. They research and see that the symbol meant, apparently, “messenger of God” to a tiny Native American tribe in Colorado. Sam wants to go there. Now. He argues his point ferociously until Dean concedes to try, and then reminds Dean he is not really supposed to call them “Indians.” Nice to know Sam can still be a little sanctimonious even when he’s dying. Adorable. I’m sure all Dean heard was, “Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.” “There he is,” Dean acknowledges, not without affection.

Cas continues to flash through Biggerson’s until, horrifically, he comes to one where everyone has been slaughtered. We see that nice server from the beginning, bleeding, her eyes burned out of her head. “You have stop,” she whimpers. “They said you have to stop.” Cas begins to cry, and tries to heal her, but he is stopped by Ion, who holds an angel blade to his throat.

On Route 34 in Colorado, Sam and Dean stop at an empty Native American hotel and (somewhat pathetic) casino. The stoic, silent desk clerk fails to reply when Dean tries to rent a room, but hands him a book to register. Sam hears a ringing in his head, and things go blurry. Dean hears nothing, and lies to the skeptical totem pole of a desk clerk  that the wobbly Sam has the flu.

Back at the Biggerson’s of Death, the server is still moaning her mantra. Naomi comes and snaps her neck, coldly. “Can’t hear myself think,” she mutters. “We were supposed to be their shepherds, not their murderers,” Cas sighs sadly. Naomi reminds him of the Bible story of the slaughter of first borns, door to door. “I wasn’t there,” Cas says. “Oh, you were there. You just don’t remember it,” replies Naomi. The banter back and forth angrily, until Naomi lays it out. “Where is the angel tablet, Castiel?” she seethes. “In the words of a…good friend…” Cas replies, “Bite me.” HA! Meg would be so proud. (Moment of silence for Meg, please.) “Oh, we’ll bite,” Naomi threatens. “Don’t worry.” She tells Ion and friend to search all the Biggerson’s locations and find the tablet.

Back on the Faux SS Prophet, Kevin needs food. He sends Sam and Dean to two locations for a barbecued rib dinner and pad thai. The boys cheerfully agree, which, of course, they wouldn’t. Crowley watches with his production crew, saying if he wasn’t so busy he would have played Dean himself. I’d pay big bucks to see that. What a two-fer.

At the hotel, Sam looks AWFUL. Dean tells Sam that no one has stayed at this hotel since ‘96, which is weird. Sam replies by telling a rambling story to Dean about going to the Grand Canyon with Dean when he was four and Dean riding a “farty donkey” and generally sounding nutballs. Dean says he is going to check out the local museum and trading post. Sam says he is going to follow “Dr. Scowley Scowl,” the hotel manager. “He’s like a villain from Scooby Doo.” Dean tells him to rest. “Yeah, I can do that, too,” sighs Sam, and he passes out cold on the bed.

At the trading post, Dean gets the skinny. Apparently the land is the home of the “great spirit’s sacred messenger.” The people gave him sacrifices of “stories.” Dean sees Dr. Scowley Scowl in an ancient picture, and figures out what the tribe’s blessings were.

Back at the hotel, Sam is a mess. He looks worse than we’ve ever seen him, and his head is ringing deafeningly. He sees the hotel manager leaving yet another box of books outside a particular door. He manages to stagger back to the room to call Dean, but passes out cold before they can speak.

Back at Biggerson’s, Ion decks Cas, who is beaten and bloody. They can’t find the tablet, and Naomi asks Cas why he is doing this. He needs to protect it. “From all of us,” he says wearily. Naomi threatens to tear Castiel apart, until a gunslinging Crowley shows up and shoots Ion and and friend. Surprisingly, they go down.

At the hotel, Sam is freezing. Literally. He emerges from an ice bath, gasping, to Dean, who tells him he was burning up, and Dean needed to cool him down quickly. That’s okay, Sammy. I’ll warm you up if you need it. You too, Dean. I’m generous like that. Sorry. Where was I? Right. Metatron. Sam tells Dean he is here, and he is linked to him. Sam tells Sam about the book delivery. “Stories,” Dean whispers, making the connection.

In the Diner of Doom, Crowley tells Naomi how he attacked: he melted an angel blade and forged bullets from it. CLEVER! “How dare you!” spits Naomi. “I’m the daringest devil you’ve ever met. Love,” he says charmingly. True. Naomi tries to white-eye him, but he holds the gun up and she disappears. Crowley shoots and takes Cas, who sees that Ion has been working for Crowley all along.

On the Faux Prophet, Kevin lies that he does need the other half of the tablet after all. He sends “Sam” and “Dean” out to fetch it.

Crowley begins his interrogation of Cas. Cas says he will never tell. “I know Cas,” Crowley says soothingly. Apparently, Crowley has figured it out. Cas is storing the tablet in his own body, a fact that Naomi has somehow missed. Crowley grins, reaches in, and pulls it out, nearly killing Cas in the process. Apparently, it is Crowley’s week. That is, until the Faux Winchesters report Kevin faked them out, and they are now devil’s trapped. “You’re ruining my streak!” hisses Crowley.

Sam and Dean stagger down the hall, looking for Metatron. Sam confesses that he has been remembering things so clearly. “You used to read to me, when I was little, I mean, really little, from that old classics illustrated comic book, do you remember that?” he says urgently to Dean. Dean does not remember. But Sam does, telling him it was the story of the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the holy grail. Sam remembers the picture of Sir Galahad, and the way he was bathed in light. “And I remember thinking I could never go on a quest like that. Because I’m not clean,” he says, sad, ill and upset. Dean’s face falls. “I mean, I was just a little kid,” Sam says. “But do you think  maybe I knew? I mean, deep down? That I had demon blood in me. And you know, the evil of it? And that I wasn’t pure?” And it breaks my heart, and now I want Jared Padalecki up for an Emmy, too. Dean assures him things aren’t his fault. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” says Sam, eyes filled with tears, gaunt face smiling. “Because these trials? They’re purifying me.” And there is is. Why Sam is doing this. It is his apology and his penance, and he believes he will be redeemed.

They get to Metatron’s room. The books are gone, but the room is open, filled with a labyrinth of stacks (aka: my version of heaven.) Metatron pulls a gun on them, and I feel compelled to point out that Metatron is played by Booger, from Revenge of the Nerds, and that is awesome. “Who are you?” Metatron asks. “This is Metatron?” Dean asks, skeptical. Sam’s head is blaring, and he shouts that they are the Winchesters. Metatron has no clue who they are. “You really haven’t heard of us?” bellows Sam. “What kind of angel are you? We’re the friggin’ Winchesters!” RIGHT?!?!? Nope. Metatron is out of the loop.

Back at Crowley’s, which, it should be noted, is in an attorney’s office, (ha!) Cas asks Ion why he did this. They talk about how they have been manipulated. Used. And they don’t even know the mission of God anymore. Cas preaches free will, but Ion ain’t buying. Cas reaches inside himself and pulls out the angel bullet, looking at Ion, face serious.

Crowley, meanwhile, busts in on a smug Kevin Tran, who is happily eating ribs and clearly waiting for him. “You little prat,” he hisses. “Screw you,” says Kevin. Kevin figured it out when Dean forgot the secret knock. Plus it was the way they acted. “I don’t think on their best days Sam and Dean would go into town and get me a barbecued dinner. Not when there are leftover burritos in the fridge.” Fair. “So,” Crowley asks, “My demons were too polite?” “Yeah,” admits Kevin. “Well, I’l be the son of a whore,” says Crowley, dumbfounded.

Dean and Sam are trying to get Metatron up to speed: they imprisoned Michael and Lucifer in the “deep fryer” and Gabriel and Raphael are dead. (Moment of silence for Gabriel, please. Raphael can suck it.) “HEY, CAN YOU TURN THAT DOWN?” Sam pleads. Metatron gets it. Sam is resonating. And that means he has undertaken the trials, and is pretty far along, too. When you get that far along, you resonate with the Word, or, at least, its source on the material plane, which is Metatron.

Metatron tells the boys that he is not an arch-angel, he was essentially God’s scribe. Then God left, and Metatron went on the run when the arch-angels started to scheme. They wanted to take over the universe, but couldn’t without the word of God. Dean is kind of pissed.

Meanwhile, Ion tells Cas they all have been suffering, and he is just trying to do his job. Cas takes him down with the bullet, and Ion blurs to white.

Okay, Dean is really pissed. Metatron tells of witnessing the “raw, wild invention of God’s naked apes” with glee, and the Winchesters look like he’s kind of a douche. Metatron tells them he loves human storytelling, and how storytellers are mini gods themselves. Sam and Dean couldn’t care less. “You know what?” snarls Sam, determined. “Pull the friggin’ trigger.” Dean is surprised. “Pull the friggin’ trigger, you cowardly piece of garbage. All the time you have been hiding here, how much suffering have you read over? Humanity’s suffering? And how much has been at the hands of your kind?” he shouts. Dean attempts to calm him. “You want a story?” Dean says. And he tells the sad story of Kevin Tran, and admonishes Metatron for not protecting him, and holing up to read books. He says “books” like it is a curse word. Be cool, baby! Books are our friends. Sam concludes Kevin’s story. “He’s dead now,” Sam barks. “Because of you.”

Back on the faux boat, Kevin taunts Crowley, who is furious. Kevin has the upper hand and he knows it. Crowley snarls that he has the angel tablet, and he doesn’t need Kevin anymore anyway. He pins Kevin to the wall in a choke hold, killing him. Then the whine comes, and the bright light, and Kevin Tran is touched by an angel. Metatron, to be precise. Crowley is thrown. Literally. And burned to boot.

Metatron brings what appears to be the dead Kevin back to the hotel, and revives him. Clearly, Metatron is rethinking his abstention from the apocalypse. “How did you get past Crowley’s angel ward?” Dean asks. “I’m the scribe of God,” Metatron says. “I erased it.” That’s a cool trick. Dean asks if Metatron gets it now. “I saved the boy, didn’t I?” he says. “But are you in? With us?” Dean asks. “You really intend on closing the doors of hell?” asks Metatron. “Seems like the thing to do, don’t it?” Dean replies. Metatron tells him it is their choice, but that they should weigh it against the sacrifice it will take to do this. And what will the world be like when it is done.

Kevin comes to, and Sam and Dean are relieved and happy. Also, apparently, Kevin came with a gift with purchase: he stole the second half of the demon tablet. And he didn’t even tell Crowley anything. So what is the third trial? Sam wants to know. “To cure a demon,” says Metatron. “Yeah,” agrees Kevin, puzzled. “Who are you?”

In the Impala, Dean is raging about the third trial. All he wants is for Sam to get better—you can see that the gates of hell don’t really even matter to him much any more. Sam is just pleased to have some direction now. “We’re heading somewhere,” Sam says, fortellingly. “The end.” Dean looks at him, concerned, until he glances back at the empty road, that is no longer empty. Cas is lying in it, bleeding and broken. “A little help here?” Cas grunts, and we fade to black.

Next? The penultimate episode, “Clip Show,” where we see some old faces and Metatron joins Team Free Will. Just two more to go, folks, before a Winchester undoubtedly dies again. Hold me!

 

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

 

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