Dean learns a lesson from Death, and it give Sam back his life -- we hope.

By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated March 31, 2015 at 04:16 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/The CW

I can honestly say that as last night’s episode of Supernatural progressed, it looked less and less like there would be significant progress in the search for Sam’s soul. Dean was killing people (because he was acting as Death), and Sam had hopped aboard the crazy train in his effort to remain soulless (destination: E-ville). Then, Dean failed his mission. Bleak. The surprise? Death came through anyway, and in a blast of white light, Sam suddenly had soul again.

Join me in a big, fat, joy-filled “Woah!!”

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: The pace of this season has been outstanding. I very much expected this no-soul thing to continue until season’s end (which would have been agonizing). So I was pleased as a piece of diner pie (Dean’s favorite) that this is where we found ourselves midseason. I think it’s a sign of good things to come creatively.

That said, I felt like this episode was rather short — even though my Tivo promised me that it was 42 minutes as always. I think I get this feeling every time the boys are the case of the week rather than a group of strangers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, that often produces the most monumental episodes — but it does make for a strange episode to reflect upon.

Take Dean’s plot for instance.

At the beginning, we found Dean rolling up to a butcher shop in China town that was almost as plentiful in dead animal carcasses as it was in health code violations. In short: disgusting. But not too gross for Dean to go seeking some back alley medicine courtesy of a doctor who specialized in hunter care (played by the man responsible for 90 percent of my childhood nightmares, Robert Englund.)

For what looked like at least a few hundred bucks, the doctor agreed to kill Dean for three minutes and then bring him back. If he was unable to be revived, obviously, he’d be dead for good. Yeah, that sounded dangerous even to Dean. So he handed the doc a letter for Ben (aww) and told him to mail it if something went awry. That’s when the doc noted the same thing I did: Nothing for Sam? No, said Dean. “If I don’t make it back, nothing I say is going to mean a damn thing to him,” he said. (Dean, dear, it’s getting very tiring playing this tiny violin.)

That’s actually the whole reason Dean was going on this journey to the dead. It was his latest move in the Save Sam’s Soul campaign. The plan was meet up with Death and use Death’s ring (that they took last season) as leverage to convince him to get Sam’s soul back. But once confronted with the deal, Death was less interested in getting his ring (because he claimed to know where Dean had hidden it) and more interested in getting Dean to walk in his shoes. So he made him a deal: If Dean could be death for 24 hours, Sam would get his soul back. The caveat was that if Dean took the ring off before the 24 hours were up, he’d lose.

NEXT: Dean puts a ring on it.

Originally, Dean had tried to get Adam out of hell, too, but Death made him pick between Sam’s soul and Adam. Dean naturally chose Sam’s soul. If nothing else, it was a nice reminder that Adam had not been completely forgotten by the brothers. (Erm, I know I had.)

Dean also asked Death if he could trim the dark and twisty part off of Sam’s damaged soul — as if it was a piece of burnt toast that just needed the black junk scraped away — but Death explained that it wasn’t so simple. Instead, he offered to “put up a wall” that would block those parts out of Sam’s mind. The disclaimer was that if the wall came crashing down, there’d be a flood of not-so-good memories, and Sam would “be done.” The ominous tone that Dean used when saying the latter line sent chills through my bones — and not the type of happy shivers I usually get seeing him on screen.

Dean decided it was a risk he was willing to take, but Sam, not so much. Back at Bobby’s (long time no see), where Dean had hidden the ring, Sam bitched because Dean was messing with his life, and he wanted to make his own decisions. It was very season 1, with Dean taking charge because he was older, and Sam dragging his feet the entire way. I can’t decide who should have won in this instance, but I’m leaning toward Sam. Of course, that’s not what happened because Dean is kind of bratty when he doesn’t get his way. So Dean left to go be Death for a day.

Much of the burden of Dean’s deal fell on Tess, who had to escort Dean’s (cute) newbie ass around as he played Death, a role that didn’t provide as many surprises as you might think. Dean’s first kill was an armed robber, and he had no problem sending the douche downstairs. Second was a pizza-loving man who was playing chicken with a heart attack. The heart attack won. And his third was a little girl with a heart condition whose number was up.

As you might have guessed, Dean — ever the softy for the short bunch — couldn’t bring himself to kill the girl. But his resistance caused a disorder in the universe, and kicked off a slippery slope of death, starting with a young nurse whose entire life was ahead of her. Seeing the error in his ways, Dean tried to right the wrong by saving the woman’s drunk driving husband, but ended up having to take off the ring to do so. Wah-wah. The only surprise here was that after taking it off, he voluntarily put it back on so he could go kill the young girl — as he realized he should have done from the beginning.

Meanwhile, Sam was searching for a way to prevent Dean from shoving his soul back in him, so he called upon Angel Gordon Ramsay (Balthazar) for advice, despite having told him during their last encounter that he wanted to “fry his wings extra crispy.” (Sam, why must you burn bridges?!) Balty, who was delighted at the thought of Sam being indebted to him, told Sam that the key was ingredient he needed for the blocking spell was the blood of his father, “but the father needn’t be blood.” (Oh, Bobby. He’ll never stop paying for being a good man, will he?)

NEXT: Let there be souls!

So Sam tried to attack Bobby, but ninja Bobby sensed it and got a smack on Sam first. (A hunky hairline injury, of course.) The problem was that Sam disappeared into the darkness of Bobby’s cave before the elder hunter could tie him up. Luckily, Bobby lives in a carnival fun house with trap doors and secret levers, so he was able to trap Sam in a room with a titanium steel door. The nut still found a way out, though — but not before Bobby and Sam got a chance to have a heart-to-heart about Sam’s predicament. It had been a while since we’d seen the two of them bond over more than an awkward game of cards or a quick beer. Would have been even sweeter had Sam not tried to kill Bobby again.

He almost succeeded, too, but Dean returned from role playing Death just in time to tie his butt up and stick him in the panic room, which at this point can probably just be called Sam’s Room.

Weary from the day’s work, Dean found himself at a loss for answers — until Death showed up with a greasy meal and some information.

I loved this scene for a few reasons, but Death’s assessment that the death ring was, “heavier than it looks,” was such a great line for the moment because it applied to every aspect of the brothers’ present struggles. And you could tell in Dean’s face that he felt the same way. He told Death that he knew that some things were meant to be, and that his experience from the day made him wish he had killed the little girl to begin with, instead of trying to mess with the “natural order.”

Death told him the day had been a lesson about exactly that: the way things were meant to be. So he agreed to give Sam’s soul back (with the wall) because it’s how things were supposed to be. “You’re digging at something, the intrepid detective,” he told Dean. “I want you to keep digging…it’s about the souls.”

With that, Sammy got his soul back, with a warning, “Don’t scratch the wall because trust me, you’re not going to like what happens.” Then Sam’s screams pierced my soul.

Ugh. Emotional! And it appears that while the episode felt short, it was really packed.

So what did you think, readers? Were you a little off-put by Dean letting the robber suffer? (Press “1” for “yes,” “2” for “bastard deserved it.”) Did Robert Englund feel underused to you? How cool was the Dean-Sam stare-off while Sam was in the panic room? How great were Jim Beaver’s fatherly interaction with the boys in this episode? Were you as pleased with Tess and Death’s returns as I was? And what’s next on this soul train? And what does “scratching at the wall” mean? What’s the bigger picture here?

In questions of the I-watch-too-closely variety, did you notice that Dean alternated between using capital letters and lower case? (That question has no point, but I just found it to be a funny character trait.) Did the sight of that gross butcher shop make you itchy? And did you, too, want to give Dean a better upper lip shave the entire episode?

Don’t forget, Supernatural returns Jan. 28, a.k.a. way too freakin’ long from now.

QUOTEABLES

Dean: Well, you know, I’m no germ freak but…

Dr. Robert: Rent’s cheap.

“Nothing lasts forever. Well, I do.” — Death

Sam: So is this the part where you pull a gun on me and lock me in the panic room?

Bobby: Do I have to?

Balthazar re: Sam’s soul: Michael and Lucy are hate-banging it as we speak

Tess: When people die, they might have questions for you. Well, not you but death.

Dean: You mean like, ‘How did Betty White outlast me?’

Man: Wait, will you tell me what it all means?

Dean: [Pause] Everything is dust in the wind.

Man: That’s it!? A Kansas song?

“Don’t say ‘Here’s Johnny.'” — Bobby as Sam smacks through a door with an ax

“Ain’t anybody killin’ me in my house but me.” — Bobby

On Twitter: @EWSandraG

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