THEN: Jack's gone. Lucifer's annoyed. Asmodeus is Asmodeus. Ketch is alive. All caught up?
NOW: Cambridge, England. 7:45 pm on a Friday. (Oh, wait, is this an episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia?" I love that show.) Documents are stolen by a demon who thinks his partner is on Team Asmodeus, until his partner kills him (and why do demons always use angel blades now?) and then makes a call to Dean Winchester, saying "I have something you might be interested in."
Moments earlier, in the bunker. Dean is cleaning his gun. Sam comes in and says "I think she's clean," which means (1) Dean's been working on that gun for a long time, and we know he cleans his guns when he's upset, and (b) Sam and possibly Dean refer to their guns as female. Aw. That's touching for some reason. Sam hasn't found anything on Ketch, and he says he's talked to Cas, who hasn't found anything on Jack. Which means Asmodeus is still pretending to be Cas on the phone. Don't give up any secrets, Sam. He says they'll have to either find something in the lore or wait for Jack to make a mistake, and Dean says Jack making a mistake is exactly what he's worried about, which means he's not worried about Jack getting hurt or used, he's worried about Jack hurting others. So many meanings to interpret in this little scene. ;-)
Dean's phone rings with an unknown number, and he's immensely pleased with himself when he tells the caller they're happy with their cable provider. "What about your nephilim?" Duh duh duuuuuhhhhh!!!
Word on the street is, he's gone rogue.
Yeah? What street is that?
Hell Street. Hell Avenue. Just, Hell, really.
At this point Sam mouths something that I had to use closed captioning to interpet. It turns out he's saying "demon." Dean looks annoyed, but I don't know if it's annoyance that a demon has his cell number, or annoyance that Sam thinks he hasn't figured out this guy is a demon.
No shit, Sam, ya think?
The demon gives them a meeting time/place and disappears into the foggy Cambridge night.
Next we see the Winchesters walking down a city street, and it's a busy street in a bustling city so it couldn't possibly be Lebanon, Kansas, population 218. But I like this scene so I'm not complaining. "After Crowley," says Dean, "I told myself no more demons." Which kind of sounds like the beginning of summary of a Dean/demon fic. After Crowley, Dean told himself, "no more demons." But a hot new pair of black eyes might just make him change his mind. Anyway. Dean's pretty sure this demon is going to be bad news, but Sam wants to hear him out anyway, because damn, Sam just really wants to find Jack. "And after that, we kill him" says Dean.
This scene gives me a Taxi Driver vibe, and I've never even seen Taxi Driver.
They meet up with the demon at the ridiculously-named Smile Diner.
The famous Winchesters.
Some random demon.
Oh god, I laughed so hard at that, even the second and third time around. The random demon's name is Barthamus, which I'm most likely spelling wrong, but they can call him Bart. Trust me, dude, Dean would have called you Bart whether you suggested it or not. Bart seems to know the Winchesters pretty well, right down to an order of cherry pie for Dean. He shows them the document stolen from the museum in Cambridge - "a genuine nephilim tracking spell" - and claims he's willing to give it to them because he's the new crossroads demon and "helping people is what I do." This is only half the spell; the rest will come once they've provided something for Bart. Dean insist the spell is probably fake, and they don't work with demons anyway (or, um any more), so Bart tells Sam that since he's the smart one, he should look into the spell and see if it's real. Bart leaves, and Dean digs into the pie, and I'm all, Dean, that's demon pie. Do you just eat anything a demon hands you?
The light in this diner is very flattering. And I'm trying to figure out who Bart reminds me of. Is it David Beckham? A little around the eyes?
Back at the bunker, Sam has determined the spell is probably legit, something about King Solomon using it to track the Queen of Sheba, who was a nephilim, and I wonder why the angels allowed a nephilim to not only survive, but to bang King Solomon. I mean, if all nephilim are dangerous... eh, never mind. Sam found references to the spell but not the spell itself, so they've still only got half of it. And the only way to get the other half is to work with Bart.
Look, whatever game Bart is playing, I don't want to play it, but...
Sam, you know that these things don't usually go our way.
It doesn't matter. Jack is out there, in the world. And he's alone and he's scared and he's dangerous, and if this is our chance to find him... we have to take it.
While Dean's first concern is what Jack will do, Sam's is obviously that Jack is alone and scared, and that breaks my heart.
Having no other options, the guys meet Bart at his factory lair (I guess no abandoned warehouses were available.) They meet his creatively-named associates. Smash is a snarky young woman who can crack any safe, and Grab is a demon who can bypass supernatural security. Their target is Luther Shrike, collector of supernatural objects, including the object Bart says belongs to him. A mahogany trunk hidden in a safe hidden in a vault on Shrike's farm. Sam asks why Bart and his associates can't get the trunk themselves, and Bart reveals that not only is the farm warded against demons, but the safe can only be opened with "the blood of a man who's been to Hell and back. Tell me, Dean, do you know any men like that?"
Well, Dean knows two men like that, but apparently only one of them counts, because it's all Dean here - the conversation, the Hell flashbacks, none of it touches Sam at all. In fact, it's so obvious that it makes me wonder if something will go sideways, and Sam's Hell-exposed blood will be needed to save them from disaster. Otherwise, it seems so weird not to say "I need the blood of a man who's been to Hell and back, so either of you will do." Why focus so strongly on the need for Dean's blood if you're not setting us up for a twist that uses Sam's blood? (And this isn't my inner Sam!Girl talking. I'd have felt the same way if they acted like Sam was the only one who had the necessary Hell exposure and ignored Dean's history.)
(Your "inner" Sam!Girl? Who do you think you're kidding? Your Sam!Girl couldn't be much outer if she tried.)
(That's a fair cop.)
Anyway. Dean suggests Bart just take some blood and be on his way, but Bart also wants to involve the Winchesters in case of curve balls. Sam asks how Shrike gets into his own safe, and I like that Sam is asking some smart questions. It turns out Shrike has been to Hell too. Interesting! He's not a demon, but he's "a sadist, a murderer; a man who'll do anything and everything to add to his collection." I don't know if the guys are thinking about Magnus Whatshisface, the MoL collector, but I am. Bart refuses to tell them what's in the trunk, so Sam calls a halt to the whole thing. I don't know if this is a bluff - if it's important enough to work with a demon, does it matter what's in the trunk? But Bart call it as one and says fine, I've got a copy of your half of the spell, I'll just give it to Asmodeus. (I'd like to see Asmodeus look at this Xeroxed copy and flay Bart alive for obviously giving the original to someone else.) He'd rather work with the Winchesters, of course, since he mistrusts them less than he mistrust Asmodeus, but if he has no other options... well, what's a demon to do?
I'd rather work with them too. I really would.
The brothers go a few feet away to confer "in private," which means they're having a conversation within hearing distance of the guy they're talking about. I mean, he's a demon. This reminds me of "Goodbye Stranger," where they're talking about Cas when he's in the next room, and he's all, "I'm an angel, I can hear you." But let's assume Bart can't, because (spoiler alert) we don't end up seeing any evidence that he does hear them.
(Sidebar: You know what would be cool? A scene where we have an entire conversation made up of significant looks and code words. With subtitles, so we know what's really going on. Like, an eyebrow goes up and the subtitle says This guy is lying, and Sam says "Sure, this would be just like Phoenix" and the subtitle says Remember in Phoenix when we told the demon we'd work with him, but after we were done, we killed him? I'd love that.)
Dean's sure Bart will screw them over, and Sam says "not if we screw him over first." Sam thinks they should do what he wants, get the rest of the spell, and then kill him. Guys, he's been studying you. He knows what you do. You think he's not going to be prepared for that? They tell Bart they'll do it, but they're going to need a distraction while Dean is breaking into the safe.
Meanwhile, at the old Shrike place, a demon informs him that Bart is coming, and all they want is for him to let Asmodeus know when he arrives. Shrike exorcises him instead. He's got a nice devil's trap inlaid into his wooden floor. If I had an unlimited amount of money, I'd get me one of those, just for the hell of it. But the important thing here is that Shrike is ready for anything.
Team Black Bart shows up at the old Shrike place, with Sam driving and Dean and "Smash" hiding in the back. Sam informs the security camera that he's "John Dortmunder," which is so ridiculous that it must be a cultural reference I don't get. (Ah, so it is.) He's there with the "family heirloom" he emailed about.
Come on in, young man. I'm very interested in your family
After passing through the gate, Sam determines it's clear, but I don't know how he knows that, because I'd assume a place like this is under pretty thick surveillance. Dean and Smash get out, and Sam tells Dean "don't get dead." "You too," says Dean. D'aw. Their subtle little versions of be careful and euphemisms for I love you get me every time.
Sam rings the doorbell, wooden case in hand. The door opens but no one is in sight. He walks inside, crossing over the inlaid devil's trap, which is no longer covered by a rug. Shrike calls him into a nearby room and pours him a drink of his homemade gin. I guess it would be rude or suspicious not to drink it, but again, guys, don't just eat or drink everything the bad guy hands you. (Spoiler alert: it doesn't matter.) Sam tells Shrike he's impressed by his collection, so Shrike brags a little about his basilisk fang. Sam checks it out but says "Actually, that's not, um. So, whoever sold this to you had it wrong. Basilisk fangs are hollow. This is actually a gorgon tooth. It's still really cool, though." Things I love about this: (1) Sam is clearly geeking out over this gorgon tooth, and (b) smart Sam!!! Writer Meredith Glynn may have forgotten Sam went to Hell, but she remembers he's smart, and I'm blowing kisses at her.
Sam would like to see more of Shrike's collection (and this is probably true, but he's also killing time) but Shrike wants to get down to business, so Sam shows him his family heirloom - the demon killing knife. Shrike pulls a wad of money out of his desk, but then says "We both know you're not really here for this." Ruh roh! He takes the knife and says "Bart sent you. You're here to rob me, right?" I'm waiting for Sam to point the single finger and say "Don't," because I love when he does that, but he just says "you got it wrong" and Shrike says "I don't think so, demon" and attacks. Well, a demon intent on robbing you would be pretty stupid to bring you a demon-killing knife (I mean, yeah, I know they got it from a demon, but still), and Sam did walk right over the devil's trap by the front door, but maybe Shrike didn't see that. They fight, and Sam ends up regaining the knife and plunging it into Shrike's chest.
I know these are awful, blurry caps but I had to use them because look at Sam's hair! It's like the return of baby Sam's bangs!
To Sam's surprise, Shrike isn't affected by being stabbed. "Bart didn't tell you? As long as I'm on the property, I can't die."
Shrike then picks up the gorgon tooth and hits Sam in the head, knocking him unconscious.
While this is happening, Dean and Smash enter what looks like an unlocked barn. While Dean begins a summoning spell, Smash pulls an energy drink out of her bag. Nerve Damage was also Dean's favorite drink when he was a kid (mine is Monster. I wonder why Dean doesn't drink Monster?), so she pulls out another for him (and it's factory-sealed so I'm going to stop worrying about it), and they bond. He learns that she's working for a demon because she has to, not because she wants to. So much in common. Grab is summoned, neatly bypassing the wardings. He tells Dean the location of the vault is cloaked, but Dean's blood is like a dowsing rod, and he recites a spell. It starts with sanguis infernos, and I don't know much Latin but I know that sounds like blood and fire and this seems like it could be very, very bad. But it just makes Dean point to where the vault is, and the episode abruptly turns comedic. They stumble around for a while, and Dean complains about how long the whole thing is taking.
If something happens to my brother while we're out here dealing with this crap -
Hey, a little respect. It took years to perfect that spell. If your brother's too stupid to do his part, then that's on him.
What the hell did you just say about my brother?
Sam and Dean seem extra concerned with each other's safety in this episode, and I know it's not a conscious decision on anyone's part. I know it's just that some writers hit that harder than others. But I love it, you guys.
Dowser!Dean eventually leads the trio to another apparently unlocked building. This one's underground, and Dean and Smash carefully make their way downstairs into the vault. There's a big sigil-marked door with the head of some kind of fanged gargoyle. That, says Smash, is where Dean's hand goes.
Dean is, of course, reluctant. "There could be anything in there, there could be spiders, there could be spiny blade things, snakes... spiders." I kind of love badass hunter Dean Winchester being afraid to stick his hand in the gargoyle's mouth. He finally psychs himself into doing it, and nothing happens at first. Then we see the mechanism inside the gargoyle - something clamps down on his hand, and as he panics and tries to escape, a tiny needle makes a tiny needlestick and a tiny drop of blood drips down onto an engraved plate, causing his hand to be released and the door to open.
But I'm sure it was still very scary.
The open door reveals sigil-marked tiles on the floor, and a safe at the other end of the room. Smash steps forward, but Dean drags her back just before a dart fired from the side wall strikes her. Ah, it's the curve ball!
Grab calls out to them from the top of the stairs, and he really should have gone down with them, because Shrike has a demon-killing knife now and he knows how to use it. He goes downstairs next, catching Dean and Smash. Smash makes her way past him and runs upstairs, finding Grab's dead vessel. Dean asks Shrike where his brother is, because that's what we're doing in this episode (\o/) and he says he's "alive, far as I left him." Dean sees he has the demon knife and pulls his gun. "Guess gun beats knife," he says. "How about you hand over the safe, and we'll all be home in time to watch Game of Thrones." Y'all, the writers really like Game of Thrones, if you haven't noticed. Shrike's more of a book reader, and he heads toward Dean, completely ignoring the way he gets shot multiple times. Then Sam shows up behind him and says "Dean, he's immortal!" which means punch him in the face instead of shooting him (shrug). The bullets did nothing, but the punch knocks him out. "Well, good thing he's got a glass jaw," Dean says, neatly hanging a lampshade on this oddness.
Next we see Shrike conscious and tied up. He is, of course, declining to divulge the secret code to get to the safe, which means that anyone who tries to cross the floor will "find yourself on the business end of a thousand tiny darts, each tipped with silver and filled with arsenic, holy water, and holy oil." I'll give him this, he's very prepared. With no useful information forthcoming, Dean slaps duct tape over Shrike's mouth.
(Sidebar: Did you know that if someone's going to put duct tape on your mouth, you should lick your lips first, so it won't stick to them? Or so I've heard. Someone try it and let me know how it works.)
Cut to Smash running toward the gate, where she's met by Bart. She tells him everything went wrong, and he tells her this job is still part of her deal. And that her name is Alice. (Well, she knew that. He tells us that.) She says she'll do another job, he just needs to tell her what to do, and he smiles like this was all part of the plan. You know, I like Bart. He's the least boring demon we've seen this season. I wouldn't mind seeing more of him. (Spoiler alert: sigh.)
Back in the vault, Sam explains that they probably have to walk on the tiles in a specific order, which only "Shrek" (heh) knows. Dean suggests they "wing it," and Sam's all, no, these aren't like the lasers in Entrapment, and I never saw Entrapment, but I do remember the ad with Catherine Zeta-Jones seductively making her way around a bunch of security lasers, and I guess there's no reason to hope we'll see Sam and Dean doing the same thing. Then Sam gets the brilliant idea (hello again, smart Sam!) of taping Shrike to a rolling platform (where did it come from? don't know, don't care) and sending him to the back of the room, triggering all of the darts. They won't kill Shrike, since he's immortal. And apparently (hopefully?) they have to be reloaded after one use, so the room is safe now. Yay Sam!
Clever, clever boy.
With the room clear, the boys can get to the safe, but don't know how to open it. Luckily, Alice does, and here she is! There's more discussion about the fact that she's working for a demon against her will, and smart Sam guesses that she sold her soul. Bart won't send her to Hell as long as she keeps working for him. Sam tells her they can help her, which is awfully nice, Sam, but you weren't able to save your brother from a demon deal, what makes you think you can save Alice? She brushes them off, saying "I gotta take care of me," and gets to work opening the safe. Sam and Dean get a small wooden trunk out of it and head out. However, Shrike has escaped from the post he was tied to. You guys really need some help with the restraints lately. They decide to leave anyway, and load the trunk into the back of the Impala.
As they drive away, they're blocked by an old red truck driven by Shrike. Dean furiously backs down the road, much like in "Croatoan" (which is on my mind because I saw it on TNT last week, what a great ep) and says to Sam "you wanna handle this?" "On it," Sam replies, and Dean spins around so Sam can shoot at Shrike and it's a very good scene, I've got to say.
Even though this driver is obviously not Jensen, which is a shame, because we've seen Jensen pull some pretty good stunts behind the wheel.
Sam shoots Shrike's tire and then yanks him out of the truck at gunpoint. Shrike lectures the Winchesters on working for a demon, and tells them he sold his soul to save his sick son. A few years later, his son drowned, and Bart said there was nothing he could do. Which... doesn't sound wrong to me? I mean, if you make a demon deal to cure your son's illness, that's not the same thing as a deal to prevent all premature death. Bart still kept his end of the bargain as far as I'm concerned. Shrike says that when the hellhounds came and dragged him to Hell, he was able to negotiate a new deal because he had leverage. His leverage is the contents of the trunk - Bart's bones. Okay. How exactly did this work? We know Shrike went to Hell, so he would have re-negotiated once he was down there. But how did he have access to the bones when he was in Hell? Why didn't Bart just say "ha, sorry, you can't get to those bones anyway, sucks to be you?"
Anyway. Shrike tells the guys "you're on the wrong side of this, boys. You've gotta ask yourself if you can live with that."
Well, it's not the first time they've been on the wrong side of something like this. But I do like their conflicted little faces.
And then Shrike's head flies off. Well, that escalated quickly. Bart comes up behind him, holding a machete. "You never should have left the house." Hmmm. What would have happened if he'd been beheaded while on his property? Would he still be alive, but headless?
Dean has apparently decided Bart is a bad demon after all. "You let his son die." Well, yeah. Like I said, he followed the terms of the contract. Bart gives Alice something that must be a roll of cash, and pulls out the second half of the spell to give the Winchesters. But they decide not to go through with the deal. Like, what, you're going to go lock the bones back in the safe? Take them with you and expect this demon to just let that happen? I think the time to back out of this deal has passed. Bart provides me right by grabbing Alice and threatening to kill her if they don't turn over the bones. The brothers back off, and he sends Alice to get the bones. She apologizes, and Dean says "that's all right; you've gotta take care of you, right?" He repeats take care of you, and when she gets close to the trunk, she sees Dean's lighter inside. Girlfriend catches on quickly, because she picks it up and sets the bones alight. Unfortunately, as Bart bursts into flame, he's holding the document with the spell. It drops to the ground and Sam blows on it but Sam, that's not how you put out flaming parchment. Slap those big mitts on it, son. But the spell ends up being completely destroyed. (Although Sam did get a good look at the entire spell, when Bart held it up. I wonder if he'll remember any of it. I wonder if hypnosis could bring it back.)
Aftermath! The brothers put Alice on a bus, she says thanks, and Dean tells her to stay weird even though she never did anything weirder than wear Doc Martens and look at her phone a lot.
Evening, back in the bunker. Dean's wearing a henley! He was probably wearing it through the entire episode, but now we can see it!
Damn you, atmospheric bunker shadows!
Sam considers it a bad day, because they're back to square one with Jack, completely ignoring that his head injury is healed so I think that makes it a good day. Dean says they'll keep trying, because that's what they do, and Sam says "it feels good to hear you talk that way." And it has been good. I would have liked for Bart to survive - we're always going to have demons, and he had a lot more personality than we often see. But we've got old Dean back. We've got smart Sam back. We've got a MoTW episode again. Protective brothers. Lots to like here.
So, let's talk about the title. The scorpion and the frog refers to a variety of fables that involve an innocent (the frog) carrying or warming a dangerous create (usually a snake in the ones I've seen, but a scorpion in this one) and being killed because he ignored what he knew was a danger. Who was the scorpion and who was the frog in this episode? Bart seems the obvious choice for the scorpion, but we have no reason to think he was going to harm the Winchesters as long as they did what they said they were going to do. Basically, he picked them up, knowing they were lethal to demons, and ended up dead. Sam and Dean, on the other hand, plotted all along to go with his plan and then kill him. Looks like Bart was the frog and Sam and Dean were the scorpions. Interesting!
As always, please help me keep the comments spoiler-free. Thanks!