Well, idjits, how great was it to spend time with Uncle Bobby again thanks to some old-school flashbacks?
The scares begin when a family moves into a new house in Grand Rapids, Mich., and start experiencing cold spots and flickering lights. Eerie but manageable — until a gray, clawed hand grabs the little girl, Kat, by her ankle and yanks her violently out of view. Oh, hell no.
When Sam and Dean get wind that the girl ended up in a mysterious coma, they decide to take a break from their fruitless hunt for Amara and Castiel and check it out, not knowing that Bobby and Rufus battled the same monster a few years before.
At the hospital, the mom, Naoki, frets that no one believes her child was attacked. “Even the Internet thinks I’m crazy,” she says, so you know her story’s out there.
When the Winchesters roll up to the house to investigate, a nosy neighbor accosts them, wanting to know why the FBI keeps coming back. She says two of the rudest agents she’d ever met visited the house a few years ago, and when Sam confirms that they were elder statesmen, the boys get their first inkling that this isn’t a new case.
Aaaand flashback to a handful of years ago at the same house. Rufus wakes up Bobby, who’s asleep in his car — a beat-up Baby when she was going through her rust-and-mismatched-panels period. (UPDATE: A few commentors have pointed out that this is actually Bobby’s car. Sorry! Blame it on my bad eye for car models and a desire to see even more symmetry in this episode than there actually was.) They introduce themselves to Nosy Neighbor as agents Riggs and Murtaugh. Snerk.
In the house in present time, Sam declares the world not small enough for this to be a former Bobby/Rufus case. Dean goes to dig up Bobby’s old journals, but it only refers to “possible ghost hunt with jackass.” This isn’t much help for Sam and Dean, but flashbacks show that an identical series of events brought the Lethal Weapon team to the house the first time: cold spots, comatose kid, mysterious attack, worried mom.
Naturally, in an episode with this much symmetry, Sam and Dean are able to check into the same motel room that Bobby and Rufus occupied, and both pairs ascertain that two deaths occurred in the house over the years.
We get another present/past interwoven scene as the Winchesters disagree about how to proceed, and Dean growls, “You think Bobby and Rufus wasted any time arguing about this crap?” Even though we knew it was coming, it was still amusing to watch Bobby and Rufus fight over whether it’s a ghost or a baku. They bet a bottle of Johnnie on the outcome because they are men who know about the finer things.
Sam and Dean agree to dig up the graves of the two house-connected bodies, only to discover that the bones have already been burned. Exhausted, they wish for an easier way to dig. Aaaand cut to the elder statesmen using a backhoe on the same graves as Bobby admits he’s running himself ragged because he’s looking for ways to stop the apocalypse. “I’m worried about my boys.” (Clever little bits of writing keep the flashback timeline vague while still letting us hunt for clues. “Apocalypse” isn’t particularly helpful for pinning down a year, though, is it?)
Rufus points out that even if they stop the apocalypse, it’s likely that not everyone will make it out alive. “Sacrifice, greater good, all that jazz,” he says, busting out the jazz hands to illustrate. “Oldest rule of hunting, Bobby. You can’t save everyone.” If there’s a better three-sentence description for this show, I’d like to hear it. (Okay, other than, “Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.”)
Back in our time, Naoki’s at the house to get a toy for Kat when that gnarled hand appears again and drags her away. Nope. Hell, no.
Now Naoki’s in a coma, and a doctor tells the Winchesters that it’s almost identical to a case from a handful of years ago, when a woman named Mary went home to get a toy for her comatose son and ended up in the same state. Mary and her son both survived, but the doctor’s worried because Naoki and Kat’s vitals are fading rapidly.
This sends the Winchesters to find Mary, who says when she and her son woke up, the FBI agents told her to never touch the wallpaper in the sitting room. (Um, nice of her to leave a warning for the next occupants.) She also says that in her coma she had a nightmare that was set in a bizarre version of her house, dark and faded, where she saw her husband dead.
When the boys head back to the house, what’s the first thing Sam does? That’s right. He touches the wallpaper in the living room. Idjit. There’s a seal with a broken edge where Naoki was stripping off the wallpaper, which explains why the Lethal Weapon case returned.
A montage then shows the two pairs of hunters chowing down and studying the lore until Bobby announces that he found something: a soul eater. Both duos learn that a soul eater moves into a house and makes a nest, which is a place that looks like the actual house but exists outside of time and space. The victims’ souls are pulled into the nest while the meat suits in the real world wither and die. The visions of dead loved ones keep the souls vulnerable (and tastier, I guess).
Bobby tells Rufus he faced a soul eater in Tennessee when another hunter called him for help. He busted out a monster-trapping Celtic sigil that hadn’t worked before, and what do you know, it stopped the Tennessee soul eater. The other hunter never woke up, though, and Rufus reminds Bobby of the aforementioned oldest rule.
In our time, the ever-resourceful Sam finds a Men of Letters-approved method to actually kill the soul eaters: Paint a slightly different sigil on the house in blood at the same time one’s being painted in the nest. So who volunteers as tribute? Dean tries “Not it!” but Sam demands rock, paper, scissors. Dean loses. (“Good old rock! Nothing beats that!”) Also, they both agree that Rufus and Bobby would’ve been excellent Grumpy Old Men of Letters.
NEXT: Dean and Bobby share a missed connection
More cross-timeline shenanigans as Rufus paints the trapping sigil while Bobby explores upstairs (“Stay away from me, you sonofabitch”) and Sam paints the killing sigil while Dean explores upstairs (“Come and get me, you sonofabitch”). The soul eater takes both Bobby and Dean from their different timelines.
Dean wakes up in the nest, which is indeed a bleak alternate version of the house, and sees Sam dead on the floor. Then we see Bobby wake up, and of course, he sees Dean and Sam, dead and bloody, in this bizarre version of the Mirror of Erised.
Nest Bobby’s quietly freaking out when Mary’s son approaches him and says he hasn’t seen his mom but he has seen the sad people. “They’re right behind you,” he tells Bobby. HELL NO. They’re the ghoulish, hollow-eyed, black-mouthed victims of the soul eater. They are horrifying.
In our time, Sam works on the sigil while Nest Dean does the same on the opposite side of the wall. Kat finds Nest Dean and says she can’t see her mom because it’s too crowded in there. The room looks empty to Dean, but Kat assures him, “You’ll see them soon enough” HELL. NOOOO. No more sad people!
The soul eater makes its move then, placing a hand on Nest Dean and Nest Bobby, which causes their meat sacks in the real world to wake up, eyes white and occluded, to threaten their partners.
Sam and Rufus fight off their possessed companions, Rufus with sarcasm and a rock salt gun and Sam with earnestness and a chair to the head (let’s assume he picked up that sweet wrestling move in the previous episode).
Both men finish their sigils, and Dean comes to in the nest, where the trapped souls disappear one by one. As he walks through the house, he and Bobby spot one another before they both are pulled back into the real world. This brief connection is perfect, isn’t it? It’s too short, but it’s still lovely, particularly because only one of them knows how precious this moment is.
We cut to the past, where Bobby’s hanging wallpaper over the sigil, and all I’m saying is, none of this would’ve happened in our time if Bobby had picked less hideous wallpaper — one that didn’t force Naoki to peel it off. Rufus calls from the hospital to say that Mary and Will are awake, then pushes Bobby to admit what he saw in the nest.
“My boys, both of ‘em. Both of ‘em dead,” Bobby confesses. Then he continues, saying he didn’t know what he saw next — the real Dean, presumably.
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In our time, Naoki and Kat wake up, and they’re joined by Naoki’s wife, who’d been out of town, just as Mary’s husband had been years ago. They all agree that they’re selling that damn house.
In the flashback, Bobby waves to Nosy Neighbor as he leaves, discovers that Rufus left him a bottle of Johnnie in Baby’s passenger seat, and takes a call from Dean on his flip phone. Dean tells him they’ve got a lead on Lilith in Maine but that they’re working a case in Reno first. “Idjits,” Bobby says as he fires up Baby and drives off to the Allman Brothers.
Okay, who’s been able to figure out exactly what season/episode/year this was given those clues? Lilith could be season 3 or 4, but Maine and Reno and when Dean stopped driving Baby (one of the times the feds were after them?) are trivia beyond what my brain has retained.
Anyway, as Bobby’s beat-up version pulls away, we flash to our time, where the Winchesters get into the fresh and clean version of Baby. They discuss what Dean actually saw, and Sam points out that, theoretically, he and Bobby could’ve been there at the same time. This timey-wimey train of thought blows both of their minds until Dean suggests, “Let’s get drunk and not think about this ever again.” Always with the dispensing of wise life advice!
Rather than take up the Cas hunt again, Sam suggests they go to the house in Tennessee where Bobby trapped the soul eater and finish it off. Dean agrees, but only if Sam goes into the nest. Sam, meanwhile, is amused at Dean’s vision. “How messed up are our lives that you seeing a vision of dead me is actually kind of comforting?”
And they drive away to the same Allman Brothers song.
Oldest rule of hunting, guys. Plus, we have it on good authority from the reaper earlier this season that when the next Winchester dies, he stays dead. If any or all of that is foreshadowing, it’s certainly ominous — although with a season 12 renewal, it’s unlikely, right? Idjits.