I’ll review “Everybody Hates Hitler” later, but for now I want to gush about the wonderfulness that was “Trial and Error.” What a terrific ride! Once again, “Then” goes back to the early (season 2) days of Supernatural, when we learned about crossroads deals and hell hounds and selling your soul.
Last week the Winchesters found their ultimate man cave, the stockpile of supernatural lore and relics where the Men of Letters apparently hung out. They’re calling it home, and Dean is making the most of it. He has his very own room, complete with a memory foam mattress (“It remembers me.”), and finishes decorating it with a picture of his mother and himself at age 3. While Sam is more amused than impressed, he does soften at the sight of the picture.
Contrast this happy home to Kevin’s lonely life aboard Frizzles’ Follies. He wakes at 5 a.m., plies himself with coffee and hotdogs (supplemented by aspirin), studies the tablet, accumulates notes, then falls into bed without changing clothes. After months of such an existence, he makes a breakthrough. And then has what may have been a small stroke.
The gates of hell can be closed with a spell spoken after completing each of three tasks. The tablet says the person completing the tasks should fear neither danger, nor death, nor getting your spine ripped out through your mouth for all eternity. Sounds like the Winchesters, yes? The first task is to kill a hell hound and bathe in its blood.
This sends the boys to Idaho, where a farming family named Cassity struck oil 10 years ago. It reeks of a crossroads deal. There they meet Ellie, the farm manager, Alice, the owner, and her husband Carl. While the boys follow Alice, believing she made the deal, the hell hound comes for Carl. Oops. (Shades of “Wishful Thinking,” nerdy boy idolizes pretty girl, boy supernaturally gets girl.)
Since crossroads demons often make deals in groups, Dean and Sam stick around while the rest of the family gathers for Carl’s funeral. They learn that Crowley himself visited the family 10 years ago, back when he was a lowly crossroads demon, and not the king of hell. So who made the oil deal? The family members aren’t particularly cooperative. (We learn later it was Margot, the youngest daughter, thinking the family would be happy if they were wealthy. She’s the hellhound’s next victim.)
Kevin calls to tell the boys the hellhounds can be seen only by the person who made the deal, or through an object scorched by holy fire. (We knew the former, but not the latter.) This is good news, as Dean has some holy oil in the trunk and finds two old pair of glasses in the Cassity garage. He lights the oil and passes the glasses through the fire. This is important only because 1) we get to see a hellhound, and 2) seeing both actors in nerdy glasses is fun.
Dean plans to go after the hellhound, and tells Sam to stay with the family and not come after him. Dean sees these tasks as another suicide mission. Knowing that the tasks will likely kill one of them, he plans to be the one to do them, since Sam longs for a normal life, and this is his best way of surviving.
As Dean looks for the hound, Ellie approaches him with a “one night only” offer of sex. Unlike me, Dean doesn’t realize this is probably Ellie’s last night on earth because she made the deal. When he finds her in her room later, enjoying good music and drink, she tells him. Dean protects her with a circle of goofer dust and heads outside to kill the hound with his demon-killing knife. The hound attacks, knocking Dean’s glasses off his face and the knife out of his hands. Sam, who ended up outside through no fault of his own, is able to grab the knife and slit the beast’s throat, getting soaked in its blood. So it’s Sam who’ll have to complete the tasks to close the gates of hell. This isn’t the happy ending Dean wanted.
“Trial and Error” may be the best episode so far this season. We got not one, but two revealing brotherly talks. Dean’s perfect ending is for Sam to live a long life with children and grandchildren. (We’ve seen this desire countless times. Dean purpose in life is to protect Sam. He doesn’t think he deserves a life for himself.) But Sam believes he can survive this ordeal, that Dean is so much more than he thinks he is, and that Dean can survive, too. For Supernatural, this is a happy ending.
[Photos credit Diyah Pera © 2013 the CW]