THEN: Jack's uncontrolled powers. People come back from the dead. What gets burned stays dead. Ha ha no it doesn't. Dean (and apparently only Dean) shows up to find not-Dead Cas. Wow, this was a really long "then," guys.
NOW: I expect the "now" to start right where the "then" left off, but instead, we're in a cemetery in Dodge City. Dean is hunting with someone who is neither Sam or Cas - it's a guy in a cowboy hat. They hear "him" messing with them, which suggests they might be hunting a person and not a monster. Cowboy Hat is pulled into a tunnel by a mysterious hand, and Dean is annoyed.
48 hours earlier. Okay, now we see Dean (and eventually Sam) meeting up with Cas at the phone booth. Dean asks if it's really him, and Sam says "no, you're dead," which seems like an odd thing for Sam to say. Like death is supposed to be permanent. Pffft. Cas tells them he "annoyed an ancient cosmic being so much that he sent me back." Hugs all around. He tells them he was in the Empty, and he thought they had done something to get him out, and Dean says "No, we didn't even think we could bring you back" and oh, that's interesting. So leaving someone for dead - because you think they're dead - is apparently okay now. It wasn't okay in S8, and it wasn't even okay in S11 or S12 or whenever the hell Sam last apologized for doing the same thing, but it's okay now. Good to know.
(Sigh. Things I would have done different, number 1)
He tells them Chuck has no power in the Empty, and Sam concludes it must have been Jack, and that's the end of this reunion scene. I don't know what I expected, but it was more than this. I guess I should just be happy that Sam finally ended up being part of it.
And that it was pretty.
Bunker! Jack is tapping away at a laptop and doesn't even look up when the Winchesters arrive, just casually asks how the hunt went. I guess it's supposed to show how much he's assimilating, but it feels off. (number 2) He does immediately recognize Cas when he walks in, even though he's wearing a completely different tie now. He's surprised to see him alive, since they burned his body, and according to Dean, what's burned stays dead. Oh, Jack. You know how Dean told you last week that Sam's plans don't always work? Well, Dean's "truisms" aren't always true. Sam tentatively asks Jack if he brought Cas back, and he's shocked to find that just wishing it might have made it happen. Cas and Jack have a nice hug.
Jack is wearing a white shirt. Does it mean anything?
Jack then proudly shows off his ability to move a pencil. Dean looks disturbed, which makes sense. Sam looks concerned, which makes less sense.
But do I like it anyway? Oh, you know I do.
And Jack has found a case involving zombies. He proudly tells Cas that he knows what zombies are now. (Guys. I'm really worried about Jack. This kid is too sweet and charming and pure and something bad's gonna happen to him. I feel it.) Now, does it make sense that Jack understands humans enough to detect and understand a case? Eh. (number 3)
Dean's not interested in the case at all until he learns it's in Dodge City, Kansas. For those of you not familiar, Dodge City is famous as a one-time "wild west" frontier town, so naturally it's going to stir Dean's cowboy-loving little heart. (It was the setting of the TV series Gunsmoke, as well as the movie Winchester '73. Hee.) Sam suggests it might simply be a grave robbery, but Dean insists they should check it out, because Dodge City is awesome. So, after no transition time at all, no time for Cas and Jack to get to know each other, no time for Cas to get used to being alive again, they're off on a case. Remember after Sam cured Dean of being a demon, and they had a little down time? That was good. That felt like something they would do. I liked that. Should I bother to keep counting things I would have done different? (number 4)
Dean solves my dilemma of what to call the guys by proclaiming them "two salty hunters, one half-angel kid, a dude that just came back from the dead again - Team Free Will 2.0!" (Kudos to fanspired, who suggested TFW 2 earlier.)
TFW 2.0 shows up at a cheesy themed hotel, carrying dry cleaning bags (wha???), and checking into "the best room in the joint" - the Wild Bill Suite. It's a huge room, with swinging saloon doors, that red leather couch that shows up fairly regularly, and photos of famous gunslingers, each of whom Dean gleefully discusses in detail. And now I have a headcanon that at some point, they stayed at a house that had the entire Time-Life Old West series. I'm surprised there isn't a portrait of John Wesley Hardin, so mean he once shot a man for snoring too loud. Anyway. Dean's in his element.
Apparently the Wild Bill Suite only has two beds, because Jack offers Cas the couch, saying he doesn't sleep much. "Well, I don't sleep at all," Cas says, and then he looks confused. Is he still befuddled by being brought back to life? Is he remembering that he did sleep in the empty? Is he recovering from Dean's cowboy trivia? Is it just a weird acting choice on Misha's part? I know what I'm guessing. Anyway. Jack and Cas are cute here. And note that they kind of match here, with their white and tan and their puzzled little faces.
We are so confused.
As Sam and Dean hang up their clothes, Sam comments on Dean's good mood.
You've been having a rough go. It's good to see you smile.
Well, I said I needed a big win. We got Cas back. That's a pretty damn big win.
Yeah. Fair enough.
Wait, what? What does this mean? What's with the weird cynical look on Sam's face? Why does he sound like he's not sure it's a pretty damn big win? Is he questioning whether Cas is really Cas? Or is he not in full agreement that getting Cas back is a win? Is this going to come up later, or is it a weird choice like Dean not being able to wake Sam up in the car last season that will turn out to mean absolutely nothing?
We leave TFW 2.0 and watch a deputy investigating an abandoned truck and getting for his trouble when something yanks him under his car. Hey, remember a few years ago, when we saw someone getting yanked under a car, using pretty much the same shot?
Oh hi, S4 Sam. I miss you.
Back at the hotel, while the Winchesters sleep, Cas and Jack have a nice little conversation that I didn't think they were ever going to have, given the way this episode is going. Cas tells Jack how Kelly believed he'd change the world for the better, and Cas is sure she was right. No pressure, kid. Then something pops up on Jack's laptop and he runs to tell Sam and Dean, ignoring Cas's warning. He ends up with Dean's under-the-pillow gun pointed in his face, but it's played for laughs and not as PTSD, so I guess we're okay with it. (Yes, I've stopped counting.)
And we get sleeping Winchesters, single layers, and grumpy morning Dean, so okay.
Since the deputy was found with bite marks all over his body, Sam decides that Dean and Cas should visit the crime scene, and he and Jack will go to the graveyard. Aaaaand... it's time for the inevitable cosplay scene. Dean and Cas arrive at the scene of the crime. Dean parks the Impala right smack dab in the middle of the road, tries to make Cas's ridiculous cowboy hat look slightly less ridiculous, and instructs him on how to blend in with Dodge City law enforcement.
Look, just act like you're from Tombstone, okay?
The movie! With Kurt Russell? I made you watch it!
Yeah yeah, yeah. The one with guns and tuberculosis. "I'm your huckleberry."
(Tombstone is one of The Husband's favorite movies, so he was delighted. "Guns and tuberculosis" sums it up pretty well.)
Dean does look pretty good as a cowboy, but he needs suit pants that are cut to wear over boots.
They blend slightly better than he and Sam did in "Frontierland," but not by much. Especially since Cas calls himself Val Kilmer, to go with Dean's Major Russell. They claim to be Texas Rangers tracking a grave-robbing fugitive. The officer investigating the death is Sergeant Phillips, and he happens to be the uncle of the deputy who was killed.
Meanwhile, we see a cute undertaker, with victory rolls and giant headphones, hard at work. Sam introduces them as Agents Elliott and Paxton, in another nod to Tombstone. The undertaker's name is Athena, and she gives Agent Paxton the side-eye, but Sam explains that he's a trainee at the top of his class. Trainee Paxton jumps right in, asking about cold spots or strange smells, and I love that he's just latched onto that, even though they're ostensibly hunting zombies and not ghosts. Athena lives on the premises, but the graveyard is also on the premises, and that confuses me. I've never actually seen a mortuary that had its own graveyard. How does that work? Do you have to use both, or can people who were embalmed at a competing mortuary be buried in the graveyard too? (These are the burning questions, folks.)
Once again, pretty backlit Sam.
Jack detects a lot of EMF activity, but Sam explains that it's because they're in a graveyard. I'm not sure about that. You'd think most of those people would just be quietly dead, not running around throwing off EMF. They discover a giant hole in the disturbed coffin. Sam jumps into the grave and finds a loose bone - pelvis? scapula? - with bite marks.
Back at the hotel, Dean examines the bone. It looks like a ghoul, according to Sam. And hey, Sam would know all about ghouls. Remember in "Jump the Shark" when they tied to him to a table? That was awesome. (To those of you who may be new here: Hi. I have a problem.) Jack gets a little lesson on ghouls, Dean is tired of fighting "things that look like other things," and it looks like Athena is being stalked by the ghoul but wait! Jack found a traffic camera picture of him, and Dean recognizes him. Because he's wearing the face of Dave Mather - "cowboy, outlaw, one of the Dodge City Gang." And his picture happens to hang in the Wild Bill Suite. Dave Ghoul (no relation to Dave Grohl) (I'm sorry, that was really bad) is actually Athena's boyfriend, and he gives her a letter telling her she's been accepted into a makeup/special effects school in LA. He doesn't want her to go; he wants them to stay in Dodge City together. Aw, school in California breaking up the family. Brings back memories. Athena casually mentions her visit from the FBI, and the weird questions about strange smells and cold spots, and Dave somehow immediately recgonizes those questions as something a hunter would ask, even though he's a ghoul and not a ghost so they wouldn't apply to him. (Am I going to have to start counting again?)
Now that they know what Dave Ghoul looks like, Jack remembers seeing a picture of him in the mortuary, so off they go. They tell Athena they're looking for her boyfriend in connection with a murder, because that's what you do when you're chasing a suspect. She tells them Dave went to the bank.
Cut to the bank, which is being robbed by Dave. He gets the money (to go to LA? what a great boyfriend) and leaves the teller and the security guard safely behind. But when he gets outside, Dean's waiting for him with a shotgun. Dave calls the Dave-suit his favorite, and says he likes to keep a little piece of Dave with him, to gnaw on. Oh, god. Just don't. Then we hear another gun and the rest of TFW 2.0 is off to the side. Sam tells Dave to come with them so they can "make this quick and quiet," like that's going to be Dave's first (or even second) priority. Sure, you can kill me, just make it quiet, please. Dave draws and shoots first, and Sam and Dean suddenly have the shooting skills of your average stormtrooper. I mean, it's ridiculous. But they can't shoot Dave, because if they did, what happens next wouldn't happen. And I can't tell you all how much I hate it when characters lose their abilities simply to move the plot along. (Yes, I can, and I've already done it more than once, so let's carry on.)
Jack jumps up to stop Dave, and at the same time, the security guard comes outside. Dave shoots Jack, which does nothing other than make him bleed. Jack then uses his power to throw Dave around, but the security guard gets caught in it too, and is slammed against a pole. Dave runs off, chased by Dean, and suddenly Dean can't run very fast either (how convenient), so Dave escapes. And the security guard is bleeding from the back of his head.
Jacks asks Cas to heal the guard, and Cas touches him, but says "I can't." Then Sam pronounces the guard dead. So, why couldn't Cas heal the guard? Our possibilities are:
1. Cas has lost his angelic healing ability.
2. The guard was already dead, and Cas can't heal you once you're good and dead. Gadreel could, even at reduced strength, but Cas can't.
3. Cas is lying, and he just doesn't want to heal the guard.
4. Jack's deaths are deader than most and Cas can't undo them.
5. He's not really Cas.
(Do I see a poll question here? Yes, I do.)
Back at the hotel. Sam explains to Cas that it's the first time "he's hurt someone who didn't get back up." Dean decides Sam and Cas need to take Jack back to the bunker, since the cops are going to be looking for him. Dean will stay and hunt the ghoul on his own. Well, that's just great. That makes perfect sense. Yep.
Dave shows up at Athena's with his bag of stolen money, and also casually confirms that he's the grave robber, and that he killed the deputy. He tells her "we need to get the hell out of Dodge," which I'll grudgingly admit is a good line, and then they see headlights in the window.
Outside, Sergeant Phillips arrives a couple of minutes before Dean does. Sarge tells him about the bank robbery/shootout, and they agree that they're going to kill Dave. "Aim for the head," Dean says. Heh. I wonder if that will come in handy later.
And now we're where we were in the open, with Dean and Sarge wandering through the cemetery, and Sarge getting dragged into the tunnel. "Aw, hell," Dean says, before diving into the tunnel. At first I didn't understand why he went head-first, but Dean knows more about ghoul tunnels than I do, because once he gets inside, he has to start crawling, just like Bruce Willis crawling through the ducts in Die Hard. "Sure," he says, "Come to Dodge City, we'll have some laughs" and I have to again grudgingly admit that it's funny.
While this is happening, the rest of TFW 2.0 is driving back to the bunker. I'm sure something is going to happen to them, something that wouldn't have happened if Dean were with them. Because otherwise, we have to accept that TPTB split them up and sent Sam away from the hunt for no good reason. So, I'm waiting for the good reason. Cas tries to reassure Jack that he, too, has killed people who didn't deserve it, including friends and people he loved. Cut to Sam, who's probably thinking "Really? Um, should we discuss that some time?" I mean, what does Sam know about Cas's big adventures? I don't remember if the Winchesters know he killed Balthazar, for example. (Also, we all kill people we love, but it gets easier isn't much of a pep talk, I gotta say.) Sam tries to tell Jack they still believe in him, but Jack won't listen. Well, yeah, I can see why that conversation absolutely couldn't have happened if Sam had been back at the cemetery with Dean. This makes perfect sense, right here.
(Things I would have done different: infinity.)
Back at the mortuary, we see a metal door high up on the wall, and then Dean tumbles out of it. So... the ghoul tunnels led to this door? What's the purpose of the door in the first place? Is it there for ghoul tunnels? Do mortuaries normally have a door to the cemetery, even though mortuaries aren't normally attached to a cemetery? I... I got nothing. I don't get this at all.
Anyway. Athena is tied to a chair, and Sarge is wounded on the floor. I'm actually sure Sarge is the ghoul at this point, but I'm wrong. Dave Ghoul shows up behind Dean, and Dean and Sarge have a little bit of wordless conversation before he turns around. Dave points a gun at him, and monologues for a little bit. He notes that Dean doesn't have a gun, but it wouldn't matter if he did. "You ain't fast enough."
"No, but he is," says Dean, and he motions to Sarge behind him. Sarge still has his gun for some reason, and he blows Dave's head off.
What the fucking fuck. That should have been Sam. This scene was made for Sam. Or it could have been Dean getting the shot, with Sam in front of him. Either way, they yanked Sam out of this scene and had Dean hunt with a one-shot character for no reason at all. Dean didn't even get to kill the guy, but he was involved. He was there. WHY on earth did they do this?
Aftermath. Dean and Sarge get their stories straight. Dean returns to the bunker, apparently leaving his stolen car right outside. Jack's still despondent, and Sam tries again to make things okay but it doesn't work. Jack thinks they're afraid of him, and he's a monster. Dean tells him he's not, but we all have blood on our hands, so if you're a monster, we're monsters. Jack says he can't even do one good thing, and if he stays with them, he'll end up hurting them - "all of you" - and they're all he has. So he uses his power to fling them across the room, which seems like a good idea if you're trying not to hurt them, and then zaps away.
So... I'm honestly feeling kind of angry about this one. Did I get spoiled because we had a few episodes that showed us what was going on in Sam's head? Where Sam was actually part of the story and wasn't interchangeable with a one-shot character? Apparently.
Let's hear what you thought! And remember, no spoilers in the comments, please.