Oh, no, wait. That's not the Then.
Here's the real Then: Amara is bigger than Lucifer. Amara gets her ass smote. Cas lends Lucifer his vessel. Lucifer is mean to Crowley and kills Rowena. The Hand of God is a super weapon that can only be used once (alas, Tiny Angry Demon, we hardly knew ye). And Dean thinks Cas wants to be saved, although Sam brings up the possibility that he doesn't.
Now! Somewhere in the middle of the dessert in Saudi Arabia, Crowley appears in a tend and tears up a soul contract in exchange for Joshua's Horn, which is a Hand of God. Then he kills the owner of the soul and, when the man's guards aim their guns at him, he forces them to shoot each other instead. This, this is the Crowley I love. Completely in control, and evil just for the hell of it (heh heh).
Title card of swirly darkness!
Now Crowley is out in the rain, on the phone with Dean, who is decidely not excited to hear from him, even if he does claim to have the answer to their mutual problem. But he does agree to meet him at the post office in St. Louis. Notice the poster behind Crowley (apologies for the blurry cap; it's the best I could get).
Where have we seen this DJ Sam poster before? Oh, yeah. In "Exile on Main Street." You know, the one where Dean thought Sam was dead. And it turned out he was alive, more or less.
Remember this. There will be a quiz later.
Next we see Amara, still recovering from her smiting. And who is healing her? Well, to the surprise of anyone who didn't notice Ruth's name in the credits, it's Rowena, who is conveniently not dead after all. Turns out she has some kind of magical thing inserted under her skin that brings her back to life when it senses her "life force ebbing." Well, isn't that convenient. I know a few people on this show wh could use such a thing. (Also, it not only brings her back to life, but it also fixes her broken neck. Very convenient, that.) There's some exposition about Amara and God and Rowena wanting to be her right-hand witch and blah blah blah.
Oh. That explains a lot.
For some reason, the post office in St. Louis is abandoned and cobwebby, and I think Sam maybe wipes some cobwebs off his hand onto Dean's back.
Crowley's back to his more recent version, petulant and whiny, and the Winchesters are kind of mocking him (okay, not "kind of") and I don't really like it. I miss bad scary Crowley. Maybe they have to make him less scary in order to make the real Big Bads look more big and bad? Anyway. He's willing to give them the latest HoG if they help him remove Lucifer from Castiel's vessel and return him to the cage. Now, why does Crowley care if Cas is involved in this or not? Wouldn't he be just as happy if Lucifer were sent to the cage snuggled securely inside Cas? The brothers point out that they can't open the cage without book the Book of the Damned and his mother, and then learn that Rowena was "killed" by Lucifer, and well, that's would make things difficult, wouldn't it? Like, maybe impossible.
Cut to Heaven, which we recognize from the episode with the surly Bobbys, and an angel is using some kind of mechanical device to check on souls, because of course Heaven is mechanical. Casifer kills that angel and then meets with a bunch of others. He mocks their failure to defeat Amara and points out how much they need him, reminding them of the horrible things humans have done and calling his own reputation as evil incarnate "marketing." Oh, and after he locks her up, he plans to hang around and become God. I'm shocked to realize he's actually growing on me at this point. Either Misha has calmed down, or I've recalibrated my expectations, but he's really not as awful as he was at first.
Also, the lighting in this room really highlights his blue eyes.
Back at the post office, Dean tells Crowley they'll work with him, but they have to let Lucifer defeat Amara before locking him up, because if Amara is loose, nothing else matters, and he's the one one who can stop her. And oddly enough, they've forgotten what Crowley just told them, about Rowena being dead which would make it impossible to open the cage again. (Maybe they were distracted by the lap dance Casifer gave that angel when we cut away to Heaven.) Oh, and also, Dean says, they're going to exorcise him from Cas first and get him a new vessel. And Sam is all, what? And this is a WTF moment for a couple of reasons. Because they really don't have time to mess with that, but mostly because, wait, you're going to find some poor sucker and make him Lucifer's vessel? Sam reminds Dean that it's a strong vessel, Dean is offended by the word "it," and Sam points out, again, that Cas chose this. Dean responds with "Sometimes i want to get slapped during sex by a girl wearing a Zorro mask. That don't make it a good idea."
And Crowley thinks "Oh. Good to know." Or possibly "Oh, yes, I remember that."
Sam says Cas's choice deserves to be respected, and Dean says "Even if it kills him?" Crowley interrupts them because he's tired of the bickering and because he wants to spend a little alone time with his thoughts about Zorro masks, but yeah, you and I, we're gonna talk about this later. The bottom line is, if they don't do it Crowley's way, he won't give them the HoG.
Back at Rowena's lair, there's some more boring talk as she tries to make herself useful to Amara, and Amara decides try out her recently-healed powers. So she yells "hear me" and both Heaven and the St. Louis Post Office hear her and feel her, and everyone pees their pants. Casifer uses this to his advantage, reminding the angels that this is evidence of Amara's anger at them, and that God doesn't care what happens to them. Rowena also looks terrified, and then she does her weird little vision thing to spy on Crowley's conversation with the Winchesters and hears that they're planning to lock Lucifer away. Since this is something she very much wants to happen, she lies to Amara and then sends a message to her son telling him she's back.
Have I really not capped the brothers yet? I'm so sorry. Here you go.
And then I guess we skip a lot, because now we're at a church, and Rowena is there, and they're painting a demon's trap and/or some other warding on the floor. Crowley informs us that the trap and the holy fire won't hold an archangel very long. I guess holy fire ain't what it used to be - seems like it held Gabriel and Raphael just fine back in the good old days. Dean reads the summoning and Casifer appears and oh, Sam's face, and his little frightened swallow. One of the few good things about this episode.
And the light of a good holy fire is even better than the nice ambient light in Heaven.
Casifer smirks and taunts a little bit, and we should pay attention to what he's saying and what's on the screen when he says it. More on that later. Dean cuts his hand and activates another sigil, which apparently forces Cas up to the surface (Dean calls him "Castiel," so you know this is some serious angel shit). When Cas appears, he's confused, and Dean doesn't really get a chance to talk to him before Lucifer regains control. Dean tries to tell Cas to expell Lucifer, and Lucifer's all, "Nah, he's happy, so give me the weapon or I'll take it." Then the wards start to fail and Crowley sees licking floors in his future , so he takes things into his own hands and possesses the vessel.
He then shows up inside Cas's mind. It's the bunker, where Cas is sitting in the kitchen, and the TV says "Is it going to be all right? It's going to be all right!" So, that's hopeful. Cas doesn't know or care what Lucifer is up to; he's just hanging around waiting for the battle. Crowley tells him the Winchesters are trying to get him to expel Lucifer so they can lock him back up, and he says "That doesn't sound like a very good idea," but he's open to the possibility that Dean "may have a more objective view of the situation." But then Mark Pellegrino shows up and the whole thing goes to hell (hee) and now I hate Misha's Lucifer again because Pellegrino is SO. DAMN. GOOD. He does that simmering, faux-casual but very threating thing that Misha simply can't grasp, and I love him.
I love you, Dark Lord Satan.
There's a battle inside Cas's mind, which Cas completely ignores. Lucifer is winning, but Crowley manages to call for help by burning "help me" onto his own forehead, and that's kind of cool. Sam grabs a giant cross and starts Latinating, and that's VERY cool.
dirty Latin to me.
Dean throws holy water on Cas, for some unknown reason, because Lucifer isn't a demon so it's only going to hurt Crowley, isn't it? Does it help expel the demon somehow?
Crowley pours back into his own vessel (and sweet Sam is concerned about him, aw) and tells them Lucifer's hold on Cas is too strong. When the holy fire dies and the sigils fade, Lucifer yoinks the HoG out of Sam's hand. Rowena hides, Crowley zaps out, and Sam and Dean are left alone and unprotected with the unleashed Devil, which should be a lot more frightening than it is.
But at least scary enough to get these faces, so that's a good thing.
He immobilizes them and does some weird twisty thing that I guess is going to kill them, but Amara shows up to save the day. Turns out she was tracking Rowena. Guess you screwed up that alliance, Rowena. Casifer hits Amara with the power of the HoG and it does... absolutely nothing.
Well, it does blow Sam's hair nicely. I'll give it that.
Amara puts her hands on his face as if she's going to eat his soul, says they need to have a "nice long chat," and yoinks him away. Dean calls out for Cas, so there's one for the shippers who were apparently trying to insert him into last week's episode. Rowena trots off, and it's interesting that she has enough magic to bring herself back to life, but not to transport.
Back at the bunker, there's apparently been a lot of beer involved in this conversation, or else they haven't cleaned up in a while, because is on the floor under the table picking up beer bottles, and Sam is carrying a couple of empties to add to the pile on the table. Seriously, I don't know what is going on here. But I know I like it because Sam is oh so pretty and he's touching his hair. (ETA... They are BOWLING with BEER BOTTLES. Thank you, Tumblr. This ep just got a tiny bit better.)
LET ME DO THAT FOR YOU
They have this conversation:
Apparently archangel plus God power doesn't trump God's sister.
But if the thing has to be used by God's chosen, then maybe an archangel who got the boot doesn't qualify.
I don't remember anyone actually saying it had to be used by "God's chosen?" Did I miss that? Anyway, then there's this:
Listen. I know I came down on the side of wanting Cas to deal with Amara, so...
Well, that's what he wanted though, right? Besides, didn't we say we were gonna swear off of getting in the way when one person makes a choice the other one doesn't agree with?
Yeah, um, yeah, we did say that.
Okay. So, that's our policy.
Which sounds damn good. Let's go find that idiot and bring him home.
I don't remember them coming up with this policy either.
And then Casifer tries to convince Amara to be his ally. That can't be good. She says "As God's favorite, his first son, you may be the one thing in all of creation that he still cares about. The one thing that could finally make him show himself." Then she zaps him painfully, presumably to get God's attention. But since when is Lucifer God's "first son?" Michael called him "little brother." Michael and Lucifer being older and younger was part of the Dean/Sam analogy.
Oh well. That doesn't matter. What does matter is this:
First, I've been so wrong about what Sam has been saying about Cas. All along I thought he was reminding Dean that Cas chose to be the vessel because he wanted to warn him that it might be difficult to rescue him. But no - he's disputing that Cas should be rescued at all. Because Cas made this choice and it should be respected and oh god, this is Sam still trying to deal with the repercussions of not finishing the trials and Dean not letting him die and tricking him into accepting Gadreel and it breaks my heart. (And Sam, maybe I didn't get it because you keep telling Dean "we'll save him," which is such a mixed message, so can you blame me?)
Completely unspoiled speculation ahead:
Second, the end of the season is all falling into place. We've got three episodes in a row where someone appears to be dead, but really isn't. Now, either Safe House and Red Meat were warming us up for Rowena's return (oh god I hope not), or all three are preparing us for someone who's going to appear to be dead later, in a more important way. The fact that two of the people who appeared to be dead were Sam cannot be a coincidence.
We've got all of these big red flashing signs pointing right at Sam. There's the DJ Sam poster, which we saw in "Exile on Main Street" when Sam appeared to be dead but actually wasn't.
We've got the scene where Casifer is summoned and he says "Wow. There it is. Powered up by Dad himself." And the shot we see when he says that isn't the HoG. It's this.
And as Sam is still on screen, Casifer says "Well, that bad boy, plus me. That ought to take her out, all right." Sam is the bad boy powered up by Dad himself. Sam and Lucifer are going to take her out. Sam's going to make that choice, and Dean's going to feel forced to support him, because he said he would and because he's said for a long time that only Sam can defeat Amara. Not just because Dean is bound to her, but because Sam is God's chosen.
God's choice, my choice...
And Dean's going to think Sam is dead and there will be tears and feels!!!!!
And Rowena's little bag of tricks is going to come into play and bring him back to life!!!
So, back to this actual episode. I wasn't a big fan. Awkward writing, so much exposition, blah blah blah. Not just in comparison to last week, though that certainly didn't do it any favors. But it was better on rewatch. It's odd that this season, the episodes dealing with the mytharc are more likely to be boring to me, and the one-off MoTWs are kicking it.
I've been reading some interesting meta on Tumblr about Sam being a Christ figure in Red Meat, here and here and here.You ought to give it a look, and then tell me (IN A COMPLETELY UNSPOILED WAY) what you think about all of this!
And because it bears repeating, no spoilers in the comments, please!
(Also, I didn't realize until it was too late that the filter I used on my screen caps looked good on my phone but made everything a little blurry at larger sizes. Sorry.)