“The Scorpion and the Frog”
September 30, 2017
“I’ve got this.”
Jack is still off the grid and Ketch has gone to ground, so Dean sits in the Bunker’s kitchen cleaning his gun. I really only mention it as an excuse for this:
Mmmm … Dean cleaning guns …
He gets a call from an unknown number. The man on the line has something he thinks Dean might be interested in – a way to find Jack. The man says word on the street is that the nephilIm has gone rogue. Dean wonders what street that would be.
“Hell Street. Hell Avenue. Just Hell, really.”
Sam holds up a finger to get Dean’s attention. He mouths the word, “demon?” Dean is like, ya think? Man, between this and “what was the Empty like”, I think those head injuries are beginning to catch up with Sam.
A meet is arranged at a diner. The boys debate the wisdom of showing up. It’s almost certainly a trap laid by Asmodeus. Dean says that after Crowley he told himself, no more demons.
If Liev Schreiber and Mr. Bates from Downton had a baby, it would look like the demon waiting for Sam and Dean. Barthemus is sitting at a table in the corner by the window. He stands to greet them. “The famous Winchesters.” Dean snarks back, “Some random demon.”
Bart invites them to sit and pushes a plate across the table to Dean. He ordered cherry pie. Dean eyeballs the plate but has enough restraint not to pick up the fork. Bart says he’s been following the Winchesters’ careers for some time. He calls them a real pain in the pitchfork – and the halo. Natural disruptors.
Dean steals another glance at the pie because he’s not made of stone.
Sam turns the conversation to business. Bart pulls a document from his inside coat pocket. He says it’s a genuine nephilim tracking spell. He explains that he’s a crossroads demon – THE crossroads demon after Crowley’s ascension – and he’s here to make a deal. He needs a favor from the Winchesters. They do a thing for him and they get the other half of the spell.
Bart leaves and Dean can finally eat the pie.
After some research-fu, Sam says the spell checks out. It’s written in Canaanite and was commissioned by King Solomon to keep tabs on the Queen of Sheba – who was a nephilim.
Dean is like, stalker much?
Sam knows trusting Bart is a terrible idea, but says if this is their chance to find Jack, it’s a chance they have to take. Dean also knows this is a terrible idea but reluctantly agrees.
They meet Bart in a factory. The demon is wearing a cunning plaid suit that is not an easy look to pull off. He introduces his two associates, Smash and Grab.
Uh huh. Cute.
He says that Smash can crack any safe built by man. And Grab is a demon, expert in bypassing supernatural security. Dean sarcastically wonders if this is a heist. Then he’s like, oh shit, this is a heist!
Hey, remember that time Dean cracked a safe in Season 3? I think Dean is reconsidering working with demons again.
Bart says their mark is Luther Shrike, a collector of rare supernatural objects – including something that belongs to Bart. It’s in a safe in a vault hidden somewhere on Shrike’s property. He declines to say what that something is, only that it is important to him and he would very much like to have it back. He says Grab can locate the vault room, but the only thing that can actually open it is the blood of a man who’s been to Hell and back.
“Tell me, Dean, do you know any men like that?”
Well, this episode is just bringing back all kinds of Season 3 feels.
It’s not just the blood that Bart needs. He needs them. There will be curveballs on this job, “and you boys, you tend to hit those right out of the park.”
Dean mentally gives himself an ‘attaboy’ tap on the shoulder. Sam balks when Bart persists in not telling them what they’re stealing. Bart reframes the deal. They can walk away and he’ll give the spell to Asmodeus. Bart made copies, obviously.
The boys step aside for a confab. Dean is like, I’ve seen this movie and we’re totally going to end up screwed. Sam counters – not if they screw Bart over first. They do the job, get the other half of the spell, and then they kill the demon.
Well okay then. Dean is on board with that.
Sam arrives at the farm posing as a seller. And I kind of call shenanigans that Shrike wouldn’t recognize the car. Talk about a feather in a collector’s cap. Dean and Smash are hiding in the backseat. Sam drops them off and drives up to the house. Shrike offers him a glass of bathtub gin and can’t resist showing off his collection.
He asks if Sam has ever seen a basilisk fang. Sam picks it up and manages not to yell (at least out loud) ONLY IN THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES WHEN HARRY USES ONE TO DESTROY TOM RIDDLE’S DIARY IN THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS.
Instead, he actuallys that basilisk fangs are hollow. What Shrike has is a gorgon tooth.
“Still really cool though.”
Once Sam has satisfied his bona fides, Shrike asks to see what he has. Sam unlocks a small wooden box to reveal Ruby’s Knife.
Shrike lets the deal play out a bit longer, but then snatches up the knife. He knows Bart sent Sam to rob him. Asmodeus gave him the heads up. Fight fight struggle fight. Sam stabs Shrike with the knife. It has no effect on the man. Did Bart not tell him? As long as Shrike is on his property he can’t die. He picks up the gorgon tooth and bashes Sam in the nugget.
Dean and Smash slip into a barn. Dean mixes up a summoning salad to get Grab past the farm’s wards. Smash pulls a soda out of her bag and cracks it open. Dean notices the brand and reacts with delight. Nerve Damage! 10 times the legal limit of caffeine. He says he used to live on it when he was a kid. He didn’t know they even made it any more. Smash tells him she got it on Ebay.
She considers a moment, and then reaches into her bag for another can. She offers it to Dean. He takes a swig. Mmm. Tastes like childhood neglect. They discuss the relative wisdom of working for demons – and how neither feels they have a choice. Dean wonders what kind of trouble led Smash to this barn. She shuts that down with a quickness and Dean doesn’t press.
He casts the spell and Grab appears. He doesn’t know where the vault is. He says it’s hidden under a cloaking spell, but not to worry. He’s got this. Or rather, Dean’s got this. He says Dean’s blood is like a dowsing rod. The vault wants it. Like attracts like. Dean calls himself a “vault compass” and Grab is impressed by the analogy. He elbows Smash. “You said he was just a pretty face.” Smash shushes him.
Grab recites an incantation and I feel like Dean should be more concerned that a demon is Latinating at him. Grab completes the spell … and nothing happens. Dean is unimpressed. Grab looks a soupçon concerned. And then with a grunt of surprise, Dean watches as his arm jerks out in front of him. I thought for a moment his hand was actually glowing, but it’s just the flashlight. A glowing hand would have made an already silly scene absurd.
Smash and Grab follow Dean’s hurky jerky path as he lurches across the property. The spell finally leads them to the entrance of the underground vault. There’s no visible lock on the doors. Dean sarcastically says that’s a good sign. Neither Dean nor Grab seems eager to be the first one in. Smash heaves an exasperated sigh and pulls open the door. Grab says he’s not going in. He’s already done his bit.
“This is on you, hand puppet.”
Dean enters the outer room of the vault, followed by Smash. They’re confronted by an iron-bound wooden door marked with sigils. A tusked boar’s head protrudes from the center of the door. Smash says he’s supposed to put his paw in the boar’s mouth. Dean is like, ‘I put my what in the who now?’
He stares into the stone maw. His brow is furrowed with anxiety. He worries at Smash there there could be anything in there. Spiders. Spiny blade things. Snakes. Anything! It’s a funny little character quirk that Dean has developed. He’ll fight monsters all day long, but the unknown – a dark hole in a cemetery, a boar’s gaping mouth – give him pause.
Dean bends down again and huffs out a few breaths, psyching himself up …
… but he can’t do it. He spins around to Smash and offers an alternative. What if he just cuts himself and puts the blood on a little piece of paper and they just wad it up and throw it in. Would that work? It’s worth a try, right? RIGHT?
Smash takes him by the shoulders, turns him around, and gives him a gentle nudge back towards the door.
Dean approaches the boar a third time. He cringes as he extends his hand and waits for the spiders covered in spiny blade things to swarm his flesh.
The clockwork mechanism inside the door whirrs to life, pinning his hand into place. For a moment I feared Dean was about to lose several fingers and I may have run the Tivo back to make sure Shrike had all his digits.
Dean jumps with surprise, startling Smash.
Dean begins desperately trying to pull his hand free. More whirring and clicking from the door as a needle shoots forward and pricks the tip of his middle finger. Dean squeals.
A single drop of blood falls onto the locking mechanism. Dean snatches his hand back. He sucks on his finger as the door swings open. Smash asks if he’s going to live.
She walks past him into the vault room. She steps on one of the hexagonal floor tiles and there’s a click. A dart flies out of the mouth of another stone beast, just missing her as Dean pulls her back. There’s your curveball.
Dean rubs his eyes and complains that it was just supposed to be a safe, not some “dollar store Indiana Jones crap!” Smash redirects his attention. Shrike is standing behind them in the doorway holding Ruby’s knife. Smash kicks him in the ankle with her floral Doc Martens and makes a break for it. She’s met by Grab’s dead body on the ground outside.
After checking on Sam’s current condition – alive as far as Shrike left him – Dean pulls out his very clean gun. He suggests Shrike hand over the safe and they can all be home in time to watch Game of Thrones.
See, that’s funny because
Shrike says he’s more of a book guy.
Dean unloads his clip into Shrike. Sam runs into the room and yells that Shrike
can only be killed with dragonglass or Valerian steel is immortal. Dean punches Shrike in the face with his gun, knocking the man out cold. “Well, good thing he’s got a glass jaw.”
The boys stand at the threshold of the vault room and contemplate the booby-trapped floor. Sam scoffs when Dean suggests they just wing it. He says this isn’t like the lasers in Entrapment. There are infinite combinations and one wrong step will release tiny darts, each tipped with silver and filled with arsenic, holy water, and holy oil.
Dean is like, Entrapment? You saw Entrapment?
Sam shrugs. “Catherine Zeta-Jones.”
And then Sam gets an idea. He warns that it’s a little crazy. Dean says he’s good with crazy.
They duct tape Shrike to a chair and place the chair on top of a large wheeled cart.
And then they push.
Shrike is peppered with tiny darts as the cart rolls across the pressure triggered tiles. When the cart finally rolls to a stop Shrike looks like a pin cushion. The boys are both delighted and slightly stunned that it worked.
But there’s still the safe to crack. Sam guesses no one has seen one like it in over a hundred years.
Sam realizes she made a deal. Smash says if she could take it back, she would, but she can’t, so here she is. As long as she keeps working for him, Bart never collects. The boys tell her they can help, but Smash shuts them down. “I gotta take care of me.”
She pulls out a stethoscope and goes to work.
After only a few minutes, she spins the handle and pushes open the door. Ta-dah! Smash suggests they grab the goods and go instead of standing around gawping. When they exit the vault room, they discover that Shrike has slipped his bonds and escaped.
Okay, so it’s just canon now that the boys are shit are securing prisoners, right?
Sam shoves the box into Baby’s back seat and they take off. The farm’s gate is either open or they magically transmogrified through it because there’s no damage to Baby’s front end. Anyhoo, Shrike is waiting for them on the road.
Dean throws Baby into reverse. Shrike follows, just feet from Baby’s bumper. Dean is like, LITTLE HELP, SAMUEL? He hits the brakes and spins Baby so that’s she’s broadsides to Shrike’s truck. Sam aims, fires, and blows out one of Shrike’s tires. The truck comes to a screeching stop, blocking the road.
Sam pulls Shrike out of the truck. The man spits that they’re whoring themselves out to pure evil. He tells them he made a deal with Bart. He traded his life for that of his sick and dying son. His son got better – but then drowned a few years later. Shrike says Bart told him then, “Accidents happen.” When the hounds came for him and dragged him to Hell, Shrike negotiated a new deal. He tosses Sam a key and tells them to look in the trunk. It’s filled with bones.
Shrike tells them they’re on the wrong side of things. They need to ask themselves if they can live with that.
And then Bart decapitates Shrike from behind.
Bart is a businessman and he honors his deals – more or less. He pulls out the second page of the spell. He says they earned it, but the boys have decided which side they want to be on. Also, they just don’t like Bart. Smash tries to hide her smile and nods her head in approval.
The boys put their guns away which, what? That’s just dumb. They’d already decided they were going to kill Bart. They’ve got Ruby’s Knife with them. Why wouldn’t they be packing devil’s trap tipped bullets as well?
Writer Meredith Glynn has them drop their guard so that Bart can put hands on Smash and threaten to snap her neck. His bones for her life. Smash whimpers and Dean folds. Bart releases Smash and nudges her forward to pick up the box.
He waves the page at the boys, taunting that they could have had it, but they just couldn’t make it easy, could they? Smash sniffles and apologizes. Dean tells her it’s alright. She’s gotta take care of her, right? He glances down meaningfully at the open box. His zippo is sitting on top of the bones.
Smash – Alice – flicks the lighter and drops it into the box. Dean pulls her back as the contents go up like kindling.
HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE BURNS? PAPER. PAPER BURNS.
Too late the boys realize that Bart is still holding the spell. It falls from his hand as the flames consume him. The bottom is singed and one corner of the page is merrily burning away. Instead of stomping the fire out, Sam crouches down and blows on it.
Hey, you know what a fire needs to burn? Oxygen.
STOP DROP AND ROLL, DUMMY! STOP DROP AND ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!
The boys drop Alice at the bus station and walk her to her bus. She says she’s going to be good and thanks them for helping her. She says she’ll see them around … but really, she means Dean and she hopes she’ll see him in her pantaloons. As she boards the bus Dean tells her to stay weird.
She’s no Charlie, but I like Alice and I hope we see her again. She can stay.
Back at the Bunker, Sam is brooding over their lost opportunity to find Jack. Dean and his single layer charcoal henley of hotness choose to focus on the win. They saved Alice. He says that felt good. He tells Sam they’ll figure something else out. Another way to track Jack. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll move on to the next things, and the next.
“We just keep working, because that’s what we do.”
Sam says it feels good to hear Dean talk like that again. To know his brother has got his swing back. Dean tips his beer bottle to Sam and they clink. He’ll drink to that.