Sam enlists Rowena's help when a witch causes Dean to lose his memory

By Samantha Highfill
February 09, 2017 at 10:00 PM EST
Dean Buscher/The CW
S12 E11
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To cut to the chase, I absolutely loved this hour of Supernatural, and I don’t think it could’ve happened on a show in its first, second, or fifth season, which is to say that the fact that this show has existed for 12 years is why both the writers and the actors have such an intricate understanding of who these characters are. That understanding leads to a comfort level, out of which they can create both hysterical and heart-wrenching moments with the simplest of ideas: Dean can’t remember things. It’s certainly not one of the “crazier” things the show has tried, and yet their execution made it, if nothing else, memorable.

We start with a scene in the woods: Dean is chasing after a man, whom he’s clearly shot. But when said man turns out to be a witch and blasts Dean with some sort of spell, the oldest Winchester brother is knocked out cold. By the time he wakes up the next morning, he gets to experience what it’s like to be mistaken for a homeless person by a very judgmental mother. Thankfully, he also gets to experience what it’s like to have a jogger lend you his phone, so Dean calls Sam and sets up a date for waffles — or the pie of breakfast, if you will.

Over breakfast, Dean explains that he can’t remember anything from the night before, which in his case, probably means it was an epic night. But when he can’t remember the “devil baby mama drama” or the case that he and Sam are currently working, it’s clear something’s off. And then there’s the woman who just slapped him in the face for not remembering her.

However, Sam still doesn’t quite realize the severity of the situation. Going back to working the case, Sam and Dean head to the morgue, where a man quite literally choked to death on money. (“Mo’ money mo’ problems,” as Dean puts it.) But dollar bills weren’t the only thing in his stomach. There was also a hex bag, which, of course, takes us back to witches. And the moment Dean forgets how to drive Baby — and then forgets his own name — Sam realizes this is more than just a bad hangover.

As much as Dean loves Dory — don’t we all? — when he can’t remember all the names of the members of Bon Jovi or the word for “lamp,” Sam calls Rowena for help. She’s currently in the middle of a poker game, but if the spell is what she thinks it is, she tells Sam that the key to fixing it is to kill the witch. So, as long as Sam can keep an eye on Dean, they can hopefully fix this “Memento crap.”

Retracing their steps, Sam remembers that he and Dean split up when Sam went to hit the lore and Dean went to grab a burger. And by the time they find the bar where the woman who slapped Dean works, they know they’ve found the right place. It seems Dean spent his night drinking tequila, riding Larry — the mechanical bull — and hooking up with the waitress. (And it’s a shame he can’t remember such a great night.)

At the end of the night, the waitress tells Dean that he apparently left the bar in a hurry, and thankfully, the bar has security tapes. In what might be my favorite moment of the episode — though there are many — Dean tries to read his own lips on the security tapes. He gets as far as “now salsa you mittens” before he remembers that he can’t read lips. Oh, also, Dean knows how to shoot a gun?!

This then leads to one of the other best parts of the hour: After Sam recognizes the man Dean was chasing, they head into the woods, where Sam has to give Dean “the talk.” The supernatural? Yeah, it’s all real. And the Winchesters? Well, they kill monsters. Dean’s response: “Awesome.”

For starters, it’s incredibly true to character that Dean instantly believes in all of it and, even more than that, that he thinks they have the best job ever. And did he mention that their best friend’s an angel?! To quote Dean: “Whaaaaaat?!”

Another great (much smaller) moment? Jensen Ackles’ delivery of the line, “That’s a weird name” when Sam mentions Rowena. This show really does know how to have fun, doesn’t it?

NEXT: Dean saves the day

But there’s also bad news: When Sam and Dean stumble upon the witch who hexed Dean and find out he’s already dead, Sam asks Rowena to come to Arkansas. They need help (especially considering the dead guy, Gideon, has two witchy siblings who want to bring him back).

Rowena, luckily, knows the family they’re dealing with the instant she sees the archaic form of Celtic used to hex Dean. They came over from the old world about 100 years ago and possess a powerful spell book called the Black Grimoire. For years, witches would live with them and study their secrets, until their family was nearly wiped out by hunters. Rowena thought they’d all died, but now, they need to find the Black Grimoire in order to fix Dean, who currently is rediscovering his love for Scooby-Doo. (Bonus points to whoever had the idea for Sam to start labeling everything with Post-It notes.)

According to Rowena, as the spell continues, Dean will eventually forget how to swallow, and then he’ll die. As Dean puts it, “Sucks for that guy!”

Before Sam heads off to find the Black Grimoire, he tells Dean their whole life story one final time. As he tells Rowena afterward, “I’ve seen my brother die, but watching him become not him? This might actually be worse.”

And this is where the show beautifully balances out the comedy with a scene that will surely rip your heart out. Dean stands in front of the bathroom mirror reciting, “My name is Dean Winchester. Sam is my brother. Mary Winchester is my mom. And Cas is my best friend.” At least until he forgets even his own name. And the moment he realizes that, the look on his face becomes one of pure panic.

Sam hits the road leaving Rowena to give us a bit more of her backstory: It seems she was run out of her homeland by the British Men of Letters, after which she went to live with the very people they’re currently hunting. Only, they also threw her out when they felt her magic wasn’t “up to snuff.” Getting a bit more real than usual, she then talks to Dean about how seeing God and Amara bicker made her wonder if there was any hope for her. (Why’s she willing to open up? Because she knows he’ll never remember it.)

But Dean and Rowena’s heart-to-heart is interrupted when Sam calls. He’s made it inside the house, but before he can save Dean, Katrina and Boyd — the dead witch’s siblings — tie him up. Apparently, they want to swap Sam’s soul for his in order to bring Gideon back, and all I can say is, WE’VE ALREADY DONE SOULLESS SAM AND WE’LL NEVER GO BACK.

With that, Rowena sticks Dean in Baby’s passenger seat and makes her way to rescue Sam. Only, it’s Dean who really ends up saving the day. After he discovers the trunk — the grenade launcher has a big “NO!” Post-It on it — he gets some witch-killing bullets and saves Rowena’s life. He then kills the other sibling as well, but only after Sam identifies himself as the “brother” and not the “witch” in that scenario.

Rowena is then able to fix Dean and hit the road (without the Black Grimoire, thanks to Sam). As for the brothers, Sam admits he was a bit jealous of Dean at first for the fact that he didn’t have to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But losing the bad meant losing the good, so if that’s happy, Dean will pass.

But I’ll tell you all what happy is: It’s this show having such an in-depth understanding of what it is that it can create moments of pure joy, which, in this case, is watching Dean ride a bull and reliving all the amazing scenes we just had the pleasure of watching.

Altogether, this was a hilarious and, at times, incredibly emotional episode that reminded me why I love this show so much. Also, it was nothing if not a showcase for both the comedic and dramatic acting abilities of Jensen Ackles.

(I’d also like to give props to Jared Padalecki, particularly for the moment at the end when he thought Rowena had failed to fix his brother. THAT FACE.)

Episode Recaps

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.
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