February 9, 2017
THEN: “I hate witches. Always spewing their bodily fluids everywhere. It’s creepy. You know, it’s downright unsanitary!”
Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Running through the forest. Running through the forest. Running through the forest. Dean is in apex predator mode, pursuing a wounded man. It’s very Purgatory. Which seems a fine excuse to revisit the Dean Winchester Hierarchy of Inappropriate Hotness:
Unhinged, Murderous Mark of Cain!Dean > Purgatory!Dean > Grief Scruff!Dean > “The End” Thigh Holster!Dean
Please make a note of it. Moving on.
Dean finds the man crouched in front of a tree. He gloats that witches never learn. “Always trying to run.” The man turns and slumps to the ground. As he does, the sigil he’s marked onto the tree blazes to life. It explodes with purple light, knocking Dean off his feet and leaving him unconscious on the ground.
Dean comes to the next morning, still on the ground. There’s a bunny foraging next to him. For once, the rabbit didn’t get screwed in a witch’s deal. Dean painfully raises himself upright and greets the rabbit. Dean Winchester is a friend to the small things.
He gets his feet under him and clutches his head as he stands up. Whatever he did to feel this shitty, he really hopes he enjoyed doing it. Dean pats himself down and pulls his smashed phone from his pocket. He swipes at the cracked screen a few times just to be sure.
He lurches out onto the park path that’s just a few feet from where he was sleeping. He startles a Lululemon mom who pauses her phone conversation long enough to hand him a folded bill and tell him not to buy a drink with it.
He has better luck with the guy jogging by with his dog. The man reluctantly hands over his cell phone. Dean accepts it gratefully. He calls Sam and I’m impressed he knows the number. I can literally remember only two numbers – my own and my childhood landline number. And the Empire Today number. So three. Three numbers. And an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.
Dean gets his bearings and asks Sam how he feels about waffles. Sam is like, what in the who now? New number, who dis? Dean answers his own question. “What psycho doesn’t love waffles? I mean, they’re fluffy and got little pockets full of syrup you just cover ’em in whipped cream, am I right?”
Dean is on his second plate when Sam arrives. It looks like he started with banana and moved on to strawberry. He points at his temple and Sam hands him the travel bottle of aspirin. He sits down next to his brother with the weary but loving air of someone who’s done this before.
Sam asks if it was a rough night. Dean says a rough morning. He doesn’t remember his night, although judging by his hangover, it was epic. He guesses he blacked out. He also says it with the weary air of someone who’s done this before. Oh, Dean.
Sam pulls out his phone to text Mary and Cas to call him in case of emergency. He mentions Kelly. Dean frowns at him. Who? Sam reminds him – the mother of Lucifer’s love child? Of course. Dean remembers now. “The devil baby mama drama. Say that five times fast.” He chuckles and licks his knife. Then he licks his thumb, and yes, someone made a gif of it.
Sam stages an intervention. He says Dean isn’t 20 any more. Maybe he should pump the brakes. Dean calls shenanigans. “Okay one, the Rat Pack partied ’til the day they died, and B, I can still kick your ass.” Dean calls for more waffles and scoots his plate over to Sam as a group of girls come into the restaurant. One of them gasps when she sees Dean. As one does.
Sam declines the fluffy, syrupy goodness. He says the morgue opens in 10 minutes. Autopsy results? Dean is not familiar. Sam asks him if he’s still drunk. Sam leans in and sniffs him. Dean is like, ‘I smell like sunshine and candy and you love it’.
Sam again tries to jog Dean’s memory. Dead guy? Throat stuffed full of money? It’s all coming back now to Dean. Accountant. Barry Gilman. Sam thinks it was a demon, but when they went to Gilman’s apartment they got a whole bunch of jack and a little bit of squat. Dean says there’s no case. He suggests that Gilman was whacked by a mob guy with an ironic sense of humor.
Sam isn’t satisfied with that answer. He’s going to the morgue. He tells Dean to enjoy his alone time with the waffles. Dean reluctantly follows – after being reminded by Sam to pay the check. The girl walks up behind him as they’re leaving and says hi. Dean looks at Sam all like, ‘Waffles and a hot chick? This day is awesome!’ Until she slaps him hard across the face when he asks who she is. The blow spins him around as the girl stalks off.
“Yup! Epic night.”
Morgue. Gilman’s body is laid out on a steel slab. Sam reviews the autopsy report while Dean tries not to lose his waffles. He throws up in his mouth a little bit when Sam pulls the victim’s bagged innards out of an evidence box. This is actually a fairly consistent character trait for Dean. He’s seen a lot of terrible things, and more than his share of bodies among them, but the squeamish kicks in when the dissection kit has been at work.
At the bottom of the box Sam finds a small, red hex bag. Dean was saying about an ironic mobster? Dean makes a disgusted ‘ugh’ sound. “Witches.” But, he guesses it’s true what they say – “Mo money. Mo problems. Right?”
” … … I hope you’re still drunk.”
The boys walk out to the car. Dean flips through his key chain looking for the right one. The wigged out look on Sam’s face is kind of amazing. He realizes Dean wasn’t kidding about epic. He says it’s the square one. Dean starts the car, looks behind him, and drives forward into a row of newspaper boxes. Okay, the purple light is messing with Baby now. THIS AGGRESSION WILL NOT STAND!
Sam gives the tough love speech again some more while Dean stares off into the middle distance. Sam says his name twice, trying to get his attention.
The boys regroup at the motel. Dean insists he’s fine. Yes, he forgot his own name. “For a second … that was weird.” He scoffs at Sam’s suggestion that he’s been hexed. He says if a witch got a clear shot at him, he would be dead. He wouldn’t be freakin’ Dory.
“I’m not going to apologize for loving that fish.”
Sam’s bitchface slowly counts to five. He challenges Dean to name all the members of Bon Jovi. I’m surprised he didn’t challenge him with Zeppelin or Metallica, but it is worth remembering …
Dean laughs. Circa 1983? Done. He gets as far as … Bon Jovi … before drawing a blank and calling the exercise stupid. He’s fine. He feels great! He picks up items on the bed – this is a gun! This is a coat! He points at a lamp. “This is a uh, uh … uh … light stick.”
“Right! So close.”
Sam agrees not to call Mary or Cas. After sticking Post Its all over the room he calls Rowena. She’s delighted by the call, even if it is interrupting her magically rigged back room poker game. She asks if she’s in Sam’s contacts now. “Have I got my own ringtone?”
She says if Dean’s not drunk he could be suffering the effects of a memory spell. She asks if his hair has fallen out. Body hair, too. “From the neck down is he smooth like a Ken doll?” Sam doesn’t know and doesn’t intend to find out.
Rowena says the obliviate curse wipes the memory over time, but it’s intricate magic. To break the curse, kill the witch. Sounds good to Sam. He hangs up only to discover that Dean has wandered off. A quick search of the motel finds him trying to open the door to a room that isn’t theirs.
Sam tells him they need to retrace his steps in order to find the witch. He asks Dean what the last thing is he remembers doing. Dean holds up the ice bucket (labeled ICE BUCKET) he’s holding. He says he got some ice.
The go back to Barry Gilman’s office. It’s the last thing Dean kind of, sort of remembers from the day before. He knows they were looking for leads. He opens the box on Gilman’s desk and helps himself to a cigar. He calls it “douche tax”. Sam says Dean did that yesterday, too. He calls Dean’s attention to the photos on the wall of Gilman with his clients. Dean lingers on the picture of the man from the woods, but the bells in his head are like, ‘Nope! Nothing to see here. Please disperse’.
Sam says after they left the office he went back to the hotel to work the lore and Dean went to get a burger. They start checking burger joints, hoping something will jog loose in Dean’s memory. At their third stop, the Pickle Jack Shack, Dean spots the girl from the waffle place. She’s a waitress, which I hope means she’s older than she looks, because at the waffle place she looked like a high schooler.
Waitress is still angry. She says the slap was because Dean’s a dick, so now they’re even, good day. SHE SAID GOOD DAY! Sam flashes his badge. He says they’re FBI, Agents Moon and Entwhistle. She looks at Dean with disdain. The night before he told her his name was Springsteen. “Like the Boss.”
Sam tries again, this time using a version of the truth, saying he thinks his partner might have been roofied. Waitress doesn’t really buy it, but she relents long enough to fill in the gaps. She says Dean ordered burgers to go and knocked back four shots of tequila while he waited. Then he put some *air quotes* sick jams in the jukebox and hit the mechanical bull. She says Dean had the hots for Larry as soon as he walked in.
“You rode Larry?”
Dean isn’t sure who Larry is, but he seems fine with it either way. He asks Waitress if he was any good. Waitress eyefucks Dean and slowly says he … was … amazing. Sam full body eye rolls. Waitress says they talked … blew off some steam … and then the bartender saw Dean run out of the bar like his pants were on fire. On fire you say? Maybe he should seek treatment.
Waitress says they were supposed to meet up after close, but he never showed. The roofie story suddenly seems believable and Waitress becomes the picture of concern. She apologizes for taking advantage of him. Dean is like, apology accepted … in my pants. He hates though that he has no memory of her. “First action in I don’t know how long. It’s like it never even happened. Figures.”
Sam and Dean review the bar’s security cam footage. They watch as recorded Dean follows a man out of the bar. They have a brief confrontation. Live Dean leans into the computer to try and read his lips. “Now salsa you mittens.”
“You can’t read lips.”
“I can’t read lips.”
The man mojos Dean off his feet. He runs and Dean fires after him. Dean doesn’t remember any of this. “It’s like watching myself on Netflix!” And! He knows how to shoot a gun!
They walk out behind the bar and Sam finds the shell casing. He says, yup. Witch caught a bullet.
“Wait. Wait, wait, wait wait. There are witches?”
Sam finds himself giving his brother ‘the talk’. Witches are real. Vampires, witches, werewolves – they’re all real. “And we kill them.” Dean sits with this information for a moment before breaking into a huge grin.
“Awesome! That’s awesome!”
The boys walk through the woods. Dean is taking in stride a revelation that generally leaves civilians slack-jawed. He’s delighted by it and the fact that he’s a hunter. “Best job ever!” Sam’s like sure, if you like greasy diner food, crappy motel rooms, more than one apocalypse …”
Dean thinks they kind of sound like heroes.
“AND!” He slaps Sam in the shoulder. “Our best friend’s an angel!
They press on and soon find the witch. Dean confirms with Sam that yes, he’s looking at a dead body. He declares it cool. Sam is concerned. Killing the witch was supposed to be the cure. “So why aren’t you … you?”
Sam hastily snaps photos of the glyphs on the tree and the witch’s body to examine back at the motel room. Dean looks at the laptop over Sam’s shoulder. Is that a dead guy? He’s never seen a dead guy before. Sam tells him that he has. Trust.
There’s a knock on the door which Dean answers without a thought. He doesn’t recognize Rowena. She bustles right past him. Sam complains that he wanted intel, not a house call. She ignores him and begins an examination of Dean. He plays with her hair. He says it’s so bouncy!
“Do we have to fix him?”
And can we talk about what a delight this light, goofy, loosey goosey version of Dean is? And then can we curl up into a ball in the corner and sob quietly knowing that this is the person Dean would be if he weren’t weighed down by a lifetime of loss and pain and regret and guilt and responsibility?
Rowena says the glyphs are an archaic form of Celtic used by the Druids. They called it the Language of the Trees.
“Wait, wait. Now the trees are talking?”
Sam asks Dean if he remembers HBO. No? Cinemax? Yes. Skinemax. Dean is familiar. Sam sits him down on the bed. Rowena winks at him. Dean says, “live Skinemax?”, but that thought quickly flits into the ether when Sam turns on Scooby-Doo.
Rowena says there’s only one family of witches versed in this kind of magic. One she believed had all been wiped out by hunters. Sam’s photo of the dead guy confirms the rumors that some of them survived. She identifies their witch as Gideon Loughlin. There’s a hint of animosity in her voice, but she shrugs and mildly says she only knew him a bit.
She tells Sam that Gideon and his siblings, Boyd and Catriona, are like three rotten peas in a pod. And with Gideon dead, they’ll need the family’s powerful spell book of Druidic magic, the Black Grimoire, to help Dean. Sam is surprised that Rowena can’t break the spell. She says she can, but undoing witchcraft that complex takes time – more than Dean’s got.
“He’s already begun to forget himself. Everyone he’s ever known, ever loved. Even you.”
Rowena says that soon Dean will forget how to speak. How to swallow. Eventually, “Dean Winchester’s going to die.”
Dean has been listening and offers his opinion. “Sucks for that guy!”
Sam looks crushed. He takes Dean into the bathroom for privacy and tells him his whole life story. Dean can’t believe that after everything, this is what’s going to kill him. Sam puts on a brave face, refusing to give up hope, but Dean tells him he can feel it. “Slipping out of my head …” He looks scared. Overwhelmed. He rubs his eyes and scrubs a hand over his face. Sam says they’ll figure it out.
He leaves Dean alone and sits down on the bed. He looks scared and lost, too. Sam tells Rowena that he’s seen his brother die, “but watching him become … not him … This might actually be worse.”
Dean splashes cold water on his face, squares up, and looks into the mirror with a confident expression. He says his name is Dean Winchester.
Sam is his brother. Mary Winchester is his mom. And Cas … he falters on the angel’s full name, but powers through. Cas is his best friend. Dean takes a deep breath and starts again.
“My name is Dean W … … Winchester. ”
The rest slips away from him. He searches his mind for the names of the three people he loves most in this world, but they’re gone. He fights to remember his own name, but soon enough Dean realizes that he’s lost himself, too.
Jensen Ackles y’all. Killing us softly with a single look.
Sam says that Gideon’s address was in the accountant’s file. He’ll go and ask the dead witch’s siblings to please translate the correct spell to save Dean. He doesn’t want Rowena anywhere near the grimoire. She fully cops to the book being the reason she’s helping. Also, “it never hurts to have a Winchester owe you one.”
Rowena prepares her mise en place for the spell. She slaps Dean’s hand away and tells him to stop touching everything. Dean is always and forever nothing if not tactile. He spins around in a slow circle and ooh, shiney! Rowena ughs and snatches the bottle away from him. She hands him a doll and a pin cushion. Dean happily pokes at it while she tells him a story.
You have to wonder if there’s some witch somewhere screaming his or her fool head off in pain and not knowing why.
Rowena tells a sad tale of a beautiful witch’s persecution by the BMoL and rejection by a family of witches. Rowena says she only wanted a safe place where she could hone her magic, but they threw her out like common trash. “Said she wasn’t up to snuff!” Dean says these witches sound like Richards.
“I think you got plenty of snuff.”
Even Dean’s voice sounds lighter, not growly and gravelly. Rowena looks at him with fresh eyes. She says it’s a gift not to recall the things you’ve done. Dean looks at her with concern. What has he done?
“Oh, you’re a killer Dean Winchester.”
Dean is flummoxed. He kills people? His voice goes up an octave with the question. Rowena emphatically says scores. And though it pains her to say the words out loud, she reassures him that everything he’s done, he’s done for the greater good. Dean doesn’t think that makes it okay. Rowena says she wouldn’t know. Dean helps those other than himself … and altruism isn’t exactly her thing.
Rowena says she’s done horrible things. She told herself it was fine. It was the price of power, and power’s what matters, right? But then she met God and His sister, the two most powerful beings in the universe, and she thought if they can’t be happy, or at least satisfied, how can there be any hope for her?
It’s the look on Dean’s face when she says God and His sister that makes this scene poetry.
His shock fades into confusion. Why is Rowena telling him all this?
“Because I know you won’t remember.”
Sam calls from the Loughlin house. Rowena and Dean listen as he walks right into a trap. Catriona knew he would come. He’s a hunter. She casts a spell incapacitating him. Sam covers his ears, clutches his head, and bellows in pain. Dean calls out his brother’s name.
I’m reminded of a line from the Buffy episode, “Anne.” “He remembered your name years after he’d forgotten his own.” Dean has been carrying Sam through the fire since he was 4 years old. It will take more than a witch’s spell to burn the memory of that love away.
Dean wakes up in the front seat of the Impala. His knees are not up under his chin, so general consensus is that Rowena used magic to drive, because seriously.
But wait, Sam drove the car to the witches’ house. I guess Rowena really did use magic to get them there. Anyhoo, there’s a note taped to the windshield. “Your brother’s been kidnapped by a witch. Found your stupid car and left you here.” Dean looks around him. Stupid? Another love no hex can easily erase. He turns to the door only to find another note. A single word –
Catriona leaves Boyd to kill Sam in a resurrection ritual while she checks on a noise downstairs. Rowena is waiting for her in the foyer. She says the years have not been kind to Catriona. The burn loses most of its sting when Catriona has to be reminded who Rowena is.
She calls her Raggedy Anne, recalling the sad, flea-bitten girl who showed up on their door step. She mocks Rowena for thinking she was worthy of Loughlin magic. How she groveled and begged when they threw her out.
Rowena shrugs it off. “You know what they say. Nothing heals old wounds like opening fresh ones.” A wave of her hand sends Catriona flying through the air. She crashes into the wall and shatters a mirror. Shards of glass fall around the witch as she tumbles to the floor.
Dean regards the STAY note and ignores it in favor of checking out the trunk. A Post It from Sam says, OPEN ME. Dean makes a guttural noise of delight. He sees another note – NO! – stuck to the grenade launcher.
Next to it are two more notes. THIS GUN! and WITCH KILLING BULLETS. And okay, this seems like as good a time as any to talk about Dean’s gun … AND THE FACT THAT IT SHOULD BE IN THE POSSESSION OF THE US SECRET SERVICE. Everything Sam and Dean had on them at the end of “LOTUS” should still be back at the Block Ops site. This isn’t like “Folsom Prison Blues” when they knew they were going to be arrested and planned accordingly. Yet another reason those “LOTUS” and “First Blood” just make me cross and vexed. Vexed I say!
Anyhoo, after striking the first blow Rowena finds herself pinned to the wall. Catriona flings a shard of glass at her and misses. The witch says she never was very good at darts. She picks up another piece and hears a click behind her. She looks at Dean with pity. A gun? Does he really think that’s going to work? He holds up the Post It.
WITCH KILLING BULLETS
Yeah, he kind of does.
Upstairs Sam and Boyd fight fight struggle fight. Boyd makes a break for it with Sam close behind. They come down the stairs and stop short when they see Dean. He points his gun from one to the other. He goes from confident hunter to wide-eyed confusion. WHO DOES HE SHOOT? WHO DOES HE SHOOT? Sam points to himself and then to Boyd. BROTHER! WITCH! Dean doesn’t hesitate. He drops Boyd with a shot.
Sam waits anxiously. Purple light fills the house and then fades. Rowena comes downstairs clutching the Black Grimoire to her bosom. Dean follows behind her. He gestures at Sam.
“Who’s this hippy?”
The wave of emotions that cross Sam’s face. Oof! My heart! The laugh wheezes out of Dean. He says the look on Sam’s face is kind of like that time he ate all of Sam’s Halloween candy. Remember that? Classic. Sam swallows hard and fights back the happy/angry/scared tears.
Dean doesn’t know how close his brother came to losing him. Again. And if he does remember, that feeling of himself slipping away would be too big to deal with in any way other than a joke.
They go back to the motel to see their unlikely ally off.
“I can’t believe you called Rowena.”
“I can’t believe you rode Larry.”
Dean says he was awesome on that bull. Like a god. Rowena tells Dean that if the odd memory or conversation should come back to him to let her know. Dean tells her it’s blank mostly.
Rowena gets in her taxi, but she’s not fast enough. Sam looms in the open car window. The book. She hands it over with a sigh. He’s no fun! He says they owe her one. A small one.
He asks Dean how he’s holding up. Dean admits the spell kicked his ass. Sam chuckles and says he was a little jealous at first. Seeing the weight gone … Dean looked happy. Dean shrugs and says maybe – probably – it was nice to drop the baggage.
“But it wasn’t just the crap that got lost, Sammy. It was everything. It was us. It was what we do. All of it. So, if that’s what being happy looks like, I think I’ll pass.”
The episode closes with a montage of Dean the broomstick cowboy riding Larry like a boss and putting down the weight, if only for a few minutes.
Supernatural airs Thursday at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) on The CW.
Whitney is also watching Hawaii Five-0 (when I remember to) and Timeless. Follow her on twitter @Watcher_Whitney.
3 thoughts on “‘Supernatural’: If that’s what being happy looks like”
I would be happy if the series ended on a similar note, with somehow the boys’ memories being selectively erased so that they can live out their lives with the weight lifted off their shoulders. But I’m sure it won’t be anything that happy.