Mom's on a hunting trip, and she hasn't been home in a while.

By Sara Netzley
May 04, 2017 at 11:39 PM EDT
Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes
Credit: Dean Buscher/The CW
S12 E20

Hey, remember how cool and interesting those twins from “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox” were? Yeah, hope you weren’t too attached to them.

As always, curse you, Supernatural, and the blender you put our hearts into every time you bring back characters we loved.

The action kicks off this week when Alicia Banes calls Mary to ask for help in locating their mother, Tasha, who’s on a hunting trip and hasn’t checked in recently.

Mary left that particular phone in the bunker, and the call interrupts Sam and Dean hoping they can fix the melted Colt and rehashing how Lucifer’s baby sock-puppeted Cas the night before. Dean’s worried about the faith Cas has suddenly placed in the Luci-tot. And worse, Dean says he didn’t recognize the man staring back at him when he looked into Cas’ eyes the night before. (Plus, Cas returned that mix tape, so.)

Needing a break from these worries, Sam agrees to meet the Banes twins in Rock River, Wyoming, even though Max is certain that Alicia’s just overreacting; he’s more interested in pursing the waiter at Rock River’s vegan restaurant. But of course, it’s more than just a distraction that the Winchesters are seeking when they agree to assist two siblings whose parent disappears in the middle of a hunt. Who would the Winchesters be if they didn’t go help?

Before they head out, Dean places a call to Mary and leaves the most vulnerable voicemail ever, telling her that things have gone sideways for him recently and he’d just like to talk to her. Part of me wants to mock him for leaving a voicemail like it’s 2003, but the other part of me wants to hug him and assure him that his mom really does love him.

But Mary can’t come to the phone right now because she’s strapped in a BMOL chair being tortured by Ketch. Psych! That’s just a shape-shifter who’s taken her form. The real Mary’s watching in disgust as Ketch enthusiastically works over the shifter. Yeah, never trust a guy who’s this excited about torture.

The Winchesters meet the Banes twins outside of Rock River, where they explain that Tasha was hunting a borrower witch, who got her powers from a demon. As Max and Dean check out Baby, Alicia and Sam bond about being the odd sibling out. Max and Tasha have magic; Alicia doesn’t. Dean and John had hunting; Sam didn’t. And then there’s Mary, about whom Alicia delicately says, “She doesn’t seem like much of a hugger.”

Similarities and differences settled, the quartet arrive at the Mountain Slumber Boarding House, where Tasha was staying. A disheveled man in a tie emerges from the cellar adjacent to the house, catching everyone’s eye, and then Alicia pulls a knife and charges inside to find…

… their mom! Alicia hugs her, Max introduces her to the Winchester brothers, and Tasha invites them all up to her room for wine.

Now, this is all curiouser and curiouser for the audience, who earlier watched Tasha exchange pointed words at the boarding house with a mean older woman wearing an ugly ring and knitting. Tasha then performed a spell that lead her to a cellar, where she took a knife to the stomach. So even though it looked like she’d be dealing with a nasty case of tetanus at the least, here she is, whole and healthy and delighted to see her children.

Tasha says her customary every-four-days check-in with her children must’ve slipped her mind, and everybody accepts this explanation even though hunters are creatures of habit who understand the importance of those kinds of routines. But whatever, Tasha’s got wine! The group starts imbibing while she surreptitiously examines a finger she broke on the corkscrew. When she snaps it back into place with ease, it furthers the feeling that Something Isn’t Right Here.

Speaking of things that Are Not Right, Ketch tries to talk Mary into a little post-torture delight, and dude, no. Mary feels the same and reminds him that was a one-time thing. Then they disagree over whether noble ends justify cruel means; Ketch says yes, Mary says no. He ends the argument by dickishly telling her to call Dean so he won’t think she doesn’t love him.

The man in question sips his wine (and Sam’s wine, which he dumped into his glass when the tall Winchester left to pick up their carry-out vegan dinner) and compliments Tasha on how well she raised her kids. “It’s good. They’re happy,” he says, wistfully watching Max and Alicia tease each other. Tasha reminds him that every family’s complicated, particularly when you grow up and realize your seemingly perfect parents are actually just people.

Now back to Mary, who’s listening to Dean’s plaintive message that ends with, “It’d be good to talk to you.” Then, from the hallway, she overhears Ketch on the phone with another BMOL, listening off the lot number of a “package.”

Another Dean call vibrates her phone and alerts Ketch to her presence, so she pretends to want to check her email on the computer. When she does, she finds a message from Mick, whom she’d just been telling Ketch had stopped responding to her. So, you know, that’s convenient. (She also has three emails from Dean and one from Sam, if you’re counting.)

She finally calls Dean back, but he’s busy drinking wine. In her voicemail, she apologizes for not being there for the two of them and says she wants to be, but she needs to “finish this.” Poor Dean, getting screened by his mom, missing her calls, and all the while watching the loving Banes family and thinking about what’s missing in his life.

But the Banes family won’t be happy for long. Sam returns with the food and a missing person flyer for the guy they saw emerging from the cellar, so the Winchesters go exploring and find the bodies of the missing man, the innkeeper … and Tasha. Yes, we all saw it coming, but it’s still awful. All three had their hearts ripped out.

Before they can form a plan, Max, who was on his way to meet the vegan restaurant waiter, spots the light in the cellar and joins them. Sam and Dean aren’t able to keep him from seeing his mother’s body, and Max drops to his knees, weeping.

Elsewhere in the boarding house, mean knitting lady’s building a huge, human-shaped figure out of sticks. Um, that can’t mean anything good, unless they’re going to burn Nicholas Cage in it.

At the BMOL HQ, Mary prowls through a storage room and discovers that the “package” is Mick’s body. Further exploration reveals electronic dossiers on herself, her sons, Garth, Claire, and Eileen, complete with surreptitious audio recordings. She immediately calls Dean and leaves yet another voicemail, this one telling him they have a problem. But when she tries to slip away, Ketch catches her.

They fight, and neither pulls punches. She does some damage to his arm, and he reciprocates by throwing her across a desk. Her Winchester fighting spirit really kicks in when he brings up her sons; she defends their decisions not to murder everyone, human and not, who crosses their path, while Ketch scoffs at their decency. Mary’s brass knuckles and knee to the groin lay him out, but he has the last word with a Taser gun to her back.

Man, I hate that guy.

In Rock River, Max charges into Tasha’s room, demanding to know what the impostor did to their mother. His eyes glow purple, and he forces her to choke out, “The room in the hall up the stairs.” That’s mean knitting lady’s room. Realizing what’s happening, she sends her minions after the hunters. Max magics the missing man out a window, and he and Dean kick open the witch’s door, while in Tasha’s room, the impostor Tasha twitches in a crackly way on the floor while the innkeeper attacks Sam.

Knitting lady explains that her life is coming to an end, and in order to keep her soul from ending up in hell, per the details of her demon bargain, she’s looking for another witch to accept the burden of her magic. Tasha refused with her dying breath, so knitting lady put Tasha’s heart into a twig figure, imbuing it with Tasha’s memories. “It’s her, mostly,” knitting lady explains.

She warns Max that her death will mean the end of her twig creatures, then compliments his power and offers him her magic so he can keep his twig mother with him, forever. Dean begs Max to say no, but knitting lady uses her magic to silence him and restrain him in a chair.

In Tasha’s room, Alicia helps Sam fight the innkeeper, but when she turns around, the Tasha creature stabs her in the stomach. Meanwhile, Max is clearly tempted by knitting woman’s offer of her ring and her power, but before he can give in, Dean frees himself from the restraint spell and shoots the woman. She dies, and her creatures fall to dust.

By the time Dean and Max answer Sam’s calls for help, Alicia’s dead. Poor Max. For the second time in an hour, he’s hunched over a dead family member. Later, the Winchesters find him outside, silently grieving. They assure him that it’s going to hurt, but eventually the pain will pass. When the Winchesters offer to burn the bodies, Max says he can do it and asks the Winchesters to go. His wild, bloodshot eyes probably should’ve warned them about what’s to come.

Still, they leave, and Sam assures Dean that he did the right thing in saving Max. “Yeah, he seems super saved,” Dean replies. Dean admits that he was envious that the Baneses had the kind of happy family he and Sam should’ve had. Yet happiness didn’t protect them from tragedy.

As Sam reiterates that Max will be fine, we watch Max do what we all knew he was going to do: He takes up the witch’s ring and uses the magic to put Alicia’s heart into a twig figure. His twig-sister wakes up confused about what happened, and Max gently leads her from the room, then turns and uses his magic to burn Alicia’s real body. It’s a perverse and heartbreaking take on the traditional hunter funeral, and I have a sense that we’ll see the twins again someday.

Now, finally, Dean checks his voicemail and hears Mary’s apology, and then her message stating that they have a problem.

And they sure do. Mary wakes up in the same chair where her shape-shifter double was restrained at the top of the hour. Ketch sneers that she had her chance to give up her conscience and join the BMOL, but now it’s too late. As her phone vibrates with Dean’s incoming call, the dreadful Lady Toni Bevell enters, stage left.

Like the other two episodes writer Steve Yockey penned this season, “Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes” relies on character history and tight plotting to sock the audience in the gut. Tonight reminded the Winchesters (and us) that no matter what kind of family you have, the hunting life will come to collect.

Bunker musings

  • Dean drinking wine like a Neanderthal is everything.
  • I adore the lowercase-s supernatural show trope of how new technology is the worst when it’s applied to monster hunting, which relies on old books and folklore and handmade weapons. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, the Initiative tried a modern approach to slaying and failed badly. Likewise, the BMOL want to regulate and computerize and bureaucratize everything, which presumably will end badly by the season finale. Long story short, don’t trust new tech to hunt old monsters.
  • Oh, Supernatural, how you love to kill off your lady characters. But I beg you: Leave Jody alone. Eileen, too.
  • What do you say, Supernatural fans? Were you glad for a break from the Luci-drama? Do you hope the Winchesters show no mercy to the BMOL when they rescue Mary? How much are you anticipating/dreading the Winchesters’ next encounter with Max and Tree-cia? And does anybody leave more voicemails than the Winchester family?

Episode Recaps

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

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