Dean and Claire are now connected by their unhealthy love of French fries smothered with ketchup, their insistence that ketchup is a vegetable, their troubling and noble personality traits, and their need for Daddy to help when they screw up big time as angry adolescents.  Anyhow,  Sam gets a lead.  Apparently Claire has a friend who’s aged out of the system and works at Weiner Hut.

And this brings us back to Claire and her newfound home with Weiner Boy and Fagin… okay Randy.  He’s happy to see her and disappointed that she didn’t bring him enough money to pay off the loan sharks that he borrows money from to give his “kids” a nice home, especially with the holidays coming.  This is such a load of bull that my eyes roll, but it seems to work on her because she is desperate for a father to replace Jimmy. Weiner Boy appears to be in on the con and together the two men manage to convince Claire to rob a convenience store at gunpoint. 

Now I understand that she is damaged and never recovered from losing her family,  especially her father… but seriously!  I can’t believe that she is so gullible. And the situation is comical. Randy is terrible at his job if he’s unable to con enough kids to pay off his debts.  And why is Weiner Boy still living there if he’s too old to safely bring in the real money.  Poppycock.  This part of the script is ridiculous.

Weiner Boy is on his way to work when he’s confronted by Castiel with both Winchesters as wing men. Comically Dean is still eating. It’s becoming obvious that he’s feeding his face in lieu of feeding the Mark.

Poor Weiner guy is lifted in the air by Cas who holds him against the wall by his throat and commands the boy to tell him where Claire is.  Dean stops eating long enough to comment “I’d do what he says.”

The next sequence intersperses scenes of Randy telling how to “safely” rob the store by gunpoint with scenes of Claire following his instructions despite being hesitant and unsure. His instructions show his true colors and again I don’t see how Claire falls for it; “Quick in, quick out. Watch out for the cameras. Be careful, wait till you’re alone, and hit that register jockey hard. Put the fear of god in him, you understand? You come back to me, you hear? You and Dustin, you’re the only family I got.” Sadly he has her hook, line and sinker.

Claire is trying to do Randy proud despite really not wanting to when Castiel stops her with a stern look, and corrals her out of the store where he confronts her in anger as Dean and Sam watch. Claire is furious despite the fact that Cas saved her from something that she didn’t want to do shouting, “Screw you!”

Dean is ready with a pop culture reprobation, “Hey, Miley Cyrus, settle.”  Claire is definitely cut from the same cloth as she responds with a quick witted “Eat me, Hasselhoff,” which is both a worthy retort and obvious dig at Dean. Dean is visibly surprised but quickly recovers.  Now I want to see a spin-off with Dean, Cas, Marie (“Fan Fiction”) and Claire.

Sam tries playing the concerned and earnest nice guy that he does so well.  He starts to introduce himself but is quickly cut off by her calling them out by name and reminding them that they’ve met before.  At this the brothers look thoughtful and Sam in particular looks a bit ashamed, perhaps because she met him at the height of his demon blood drinking days.

Castiel remains on point, incensed that she was going to commit robbery by gunpoint. Claire acts nonchalant, like it’s no big deal. So Castiel tries to explain to her that it’s wrong. And then things get very real as everything that Claire has bottled up comes  pouring out.  “You want to talk to me about wrong? You killed my dad. Is that wrong enough for you?”

Cas denies it of course but Claire is assigning blame where blame is due. Her father would be alive if Castiel hadn’t come a calling.  As Claire points out, she would have both of her parents if it weren’t for Cas. 

She’s angry enough to pull her gun on him and after he sadly tells her that she can’t hurt him she points it at Dean and Sam. Both take the threat seriously which is almost comical considering what they have faced without fear. 

Sam again tries to sweet talk her down, telling her to take it easy.  Claire’s having none of it.  “Why… like you don’t have it coming? You just stood there while this monster took my Dad.”  Obviously she is referring to both brothers though speaking to Sam.

Sam looks chastened while Dean appears to be taking it all in.  It’s a through the looking glass (darkly) moment where our heroes recognize that their actions and choices cause great harm as well as great good.  They live in a hard world after all.

Claire continues, “I used to pray to you Castiel, every night. I would beg you to bring him home safe.” Castiel’s compassionate response that he knows, garners an anguished look from her, as if everything she once believed in has been shattered.  She tells Cas, “You know. My father was a good man, what messed up world does he die and you get to live?”  Once again Cas tells her that he’s sorry.  Claire is quick to correct him, “No. You feel guilty. There’s a difference.”

This moment has been a long time coming.  One gets the feeling that Dean is well aware that he is dangerous to be around and that people suffer and die despite his best efforts to save as many as he can.  One doesn’t get the same vibe from Sam or Castiel. 

Castiel feels bad when he really messes up.  He atoned long and hard for his Godstiel massacres in season seven and for disappointing Dean. 

Sam seems to be able to lose any guilt he has with a shoulder shrug.  Forget leading Lester to sell his soul… What about the innocent wife?  How could he leave her unprotected with a certain death sentence?  How could he believe no one died because he wasn’t hunting when he was shacked up with Amelia?  It’s not heroic and his seeming lack of guilt is pretty scary.

Sam tries to tell her that Chez Randy is not the answer and Cas tells her the obvious, that Randy is using her. She won’t listen, especially to him, because “(Randy) was there for (her), when things got bad… and they got real damn bad… he was there when no one else was. He’s my family. And you’re just… you can go to hell.”

She struts off, all anger and indignation. For some reason Dean is closely watching Claire while Sam can only stare at the ground.  Okay then.  It’s nice to see Sam feeling guilty.  Dean I think recognizes his similarity to Claire as well as the truths in her words.

Yawn.  We’re back at Crowley’s grubby throne room where he’s finally granted Rowena an audience.  She’s laying it on thick.  First she establishes herself as his mother by refusing to call him anything other than Fergus. Then she starts to play mommy, telling him that she’s proud of what he’s accomplished, whilst Crowley whines about the fact that she abandoned him at eight FOREVER, after telling him that she would be back in a flash. She blames the locals and emphasizes that they’re together now. 

Anyone that still doesn’t understand that Crowley is truly different since the cure should study his face when she tells him of course he has a father (such hope); unfortunately he was conceived at a winter solstice orgy and Rowena wasn’t taking names.  Crowley remains hard towards her and accusatory, but let’s her cluck and fuss.

She focuses on the fact that he still yearns for a family, “We have a second chance. We could be a wee family again, Fergus.”

He rejects her again by refusing the name she gave him, and tells her that he has a family.  She scoffs because she thinks he means the demons and tells him that they “would stab you in the back if they thought they could get away with it.” Crowley silently agrees asking “And you wouldn’t?” Rowena plays the family card indicating that she would never hurt him, “We’re family; we’re blood.”

Of course we know he is thinking of Dean when he says family; maybe even Team Free Will since he saved Castiel with stolen grace.

Rowena hasn’t shut up yet, “You can trust me. And I can help you… I understand you’re angry. I understand that you hate me, and if you want to keep me locked away, then so be it. But know that I’ll always be your mother, and I’ll always love you.” And with that wee bit of blarney she kisses the top of his head.  Poor needy Crowley.  Don’t fall for her act. You are better than her.

Apparently that tense scene with Claire wore the menfolk out. Dean, Castiel and Sam walk into a bar…  no joke.  It’s a silly Hawaiian themed bar.  Somehow I am not sure that getting Lei’d will help… LOL. You know that’s why they put the leis in the scene.

Castiel doesn’t know what to order so Dean orders whiskeys all around. Sam pats Cas on the back telling him not to beat himself up… of course he does; Sam is great at not beating himself up.  However Castiel was listening to Claire, “She was right. Who am I to tell her how to live her life?” I ask myself who were he and Sam to tell Dean how to live his life in “Soul Survivor”.  Dean’s a big boy; he made his bed and was happy to lay in it.

Dean was listening to Claire too; “Somebody needs to. It’s not like we’re talking about mother Teresa here. The girl just about knocked over a Gas ‘N Sip. She’s got issues.”  This is hypocritical since they effectively support themselves with credit card fraud and theft when corpses are carrying cash.  The Winchesters are not squeaky clean.    

Dean also remarks that Cas wearing her dear daddy’s meatsuit probably did not help the situation. This news is patently obvious and something that Cas should be aware of because of their meet and greet. Somehow the comment is too harsh for Sam “The Purge” Winchester.  Hey buddy it’s not your profound bond.

Poor Cas actually thought he could make things up to Claire; however as Sam notes, “I don’t think you can… Jimmy was her father, and to some people, that’s everything, you know.”

Of course Castiel doesn’t know.  He never met his heavenly father.  So he asks Dean if he loved his dad.  Dean answers quickly, “With everything I had.” Sam sorta, kinda agrees, “Yeah… Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t always easy, but yeah.” This prompts Dean to note that John Winchester wasn’t going to win any “Number One Dad” awards.

Mention of John reminds Sam of New York prompting him to ask Dean to tell the story.  Apparently Dean ran off to CBGB one night (kudos to Dabb for remembering that Metatron gave Castiel a pop culture download). He was picked up by a bad crowd that drugged him.  To his horror his father in all of his awesome glory saves him only to be “thanked” by Dean’s complaints.  However John was cool because it’s not his job to be liked; his job was to raise his boys right. Dean seems to agree with this, while Sam who canonically has had issues with John seems to bristle, implying that John’s idea of raising kids right isn’t his. Anyhow the point is that John the father saved Dean the child from his stupid choices.  Nice use of Winchester canon.

Cas recognizes that John saved Dean and wonders if Claire is in trouble.  Dean, Mr.  Matter-of-fact this episode, replies “She’s hanging out with a guy named Randy. She’s in trouble.”

Dum dum dum…. Claire is very much in trouble. She runs into Chez Randy and sees him tied to a chair surrounded by the loan shark’s goons. She pulls out the gun, is quickly disarmed and then spits in the shyster’s face.  Surprisingly he likes this and after he has her removed from the room he makes a deal to excuse Randy’s gambling debt for Claire.  Randy hems and haws that she’s family but sells her nontheless for his benefit.  It’s pretty gross. Chose your friends more carefully Claire.

Crowley and Gerald have escorted Rowena back to lockup.  I am not sure why Crowley bothered to come except for plot convenience.

As Gerald begins to chain her up again Rowena blurts that she knows who is smuggling demons topside.  She accuses Gerald of the offense once she has Crowley’s attention and her demon cell mate concurs. 

Gerald is livid, calls her a liar, and starts choking her to death; refusing to stop even though Crowley tells him twice to do so in a surprisingly blase voice.  The third time’s a charm!.  Crowley wearily tells Gerald to stop a final third time and punctuates the sentiment by stabbing him in the back of the head wirh an angel blade.

Rowena collapses against the wall and offers her son a weak, heartfelt thanks.  As Crowley walks out he turns his head and asks Rowena if she’s coming.  Rowena slyly smiles in victory. As she leaves, her cell mate reminds Rowena of her promise to get her out if she lied about Gerald.  Rowena smiles and says, “I will darlin’.  I’ll be back in a flash.” This is exactly what she said to her eight year old son before abandoning him.  Ha! That demon backed the wrong horse.

So, has Crowley been bedazzled by his mother’s coos and lies.  Hard to say at this point.  He clearly wasn’t fond of Gerald in the first place.  Of course his awakened human emotions may lead him to a world of pain at his mother’s hands.  Hopefully he’s more interested in playing her like the pro he is.

We now check in with our gullible ingenue Claire who has been locked in the bedroom whilst the men folk sort out their business. She looks scared, especially when she hears  foorsteps outside.  The shyster comes in and creepily tries to sweet talk her, telling her she’s pretty as he paws at her face.  His seduction technique sucks.  She reacts with revulsion and kicks him in the groin.  He reacts with violence and anger.  Soon he’s trying to rape her on the floor. It’s not supernatural horror but it’s true horror nonetheless.

Luckily for her Cas and company have arrived.  Cas uses angel telekinesis to blow the door open and throw criminals around. He demands to know where Claire is, hears her screams and blows the door open surprising the child rapist; thereby enabling Claire to break free and kick the bejeesus out of him brutally. Cas has to pull Claire off of him to take her away.

They go downstairs where Dean and Sam are holding the goons at bay at gunpoint. Claire manages a heartwretching “Randy”.  Of course he can’t met her eyes which should tell her everything she needs to know.  Dean tells Cas to go, and then Sam; however before he can follow the goons start to go for him.  He tells them not to be as dumb as they look.

Unfortunately for one and all, the shyster rapist comes downstairs, shuts the door and hits Dean hard in the back of the head.  Dean falls and there’s blood on his face.

We see a series of brief images of Mark related violence ending with demonic Dean. (He’s still demonic I tell you).  He looks at the men with those cold, cruel eyes; the ones that we haven’t seen since “Soul Survivor”. Demonic Dean where have you been hiding? Please come out to play!

Dean is still trying to save the human trash in the room.  When shyster rapist moves to attack him again, Dean utters a clear warning, “Y’all don’t want to do this.” Of course the men just laugh because one man is no match for an armed goon crew.  Shyster Rapture brutally kicks Dean in the head.

Castiel, Claire and Sam make it to the car safely and climb inside.  Claire is nearly in tears and allows herself to be comforted by Cas’ strong arms around her.  Almost immediately they start to hear noises from the house: screaming and multiple gunshots.   Sam is shown reacting with fear to the audible mayhem in slow motion.  They race to the house.

We see Dean on his knees, knife in hand and covered with blood.  His eyes are all stone cold killer as he surveys the room, appraising what he’s wrought and looking for someone else to kill.  As the camera pans across the room we see images from  his dream which was apparently prophetic.

The number of bodies and their placement is the same.  The scene is essentially the same aside from the lighting, color balance and decorative trappings.  However Dean looks very different. In the dream he was pained by what he had done.  In reality he is owning it; that is until Claire’s scream of horror shakes him out of his murder fugue.  He quickly replaces the face of a

demonic killer with that of a dazed, confused human Dean. 

Cas buries Claire’s head in his coat and surveys the room with sadness and horror.   Sam is horrified as well and panicked about Dean’s status. Sam starts screaming as he grabs Dean’s head and looks into his eyes,  “Dean, tell me you had to do this.” Dean can barely talk, “I did…I didn’t mean to.” Sam needs more, “No. Tell me it was them or you.” 

I am confused because Dean is injured and considering the gunshots Sam heard, Dean was clearly needing to defend himself.  I guess Sam is questioning whether every man in the room needed to be summarily gutted.  But seriously Sam… these men were bad to the bone.

Dean doesn’t answer.  Sam is just done in by this major, in your face revelation that Dean is not well.  Castiel escorts Claire away from the carnage.

Additional Thoughts:  So I was very hard on Andrew Dabb in the beginning of this review.  In actuality there is some very nice writing in the episode.  The Destiel scene was glorious. 

The  book ended structure of the opening and ending of the episode was lovely; it managed to keep the tension high throughout the episode despite the mundane subject matter. 

Also there was some really excellent dialogue between Dean and Castiel and Claire and Castiel.   I also liked that Claire was mirrored with Dean.  In fact this might suggest that Cas will be key in solving the Dean dilemma; and if not Dean a father figure of sorts.  Although I believe they are leaning towards keeping Dean Marked,  locked and loaded;  if they change their minds they can play the God card as they have to save the Winchesters from Lucifer in the season five premiere, and to resurrect Castiel presumably.  

Jensen Ackles’ performance was nuanced throughout.  It’s clear that he believes ever accusation that Claire made was true; he also understands her mindset and anger to some extent.  He appears to recognize that his father’s strong arm saved him from her fate or worse.  Unfortunately she really has no one… except of course a lost mother that no one is trying to find!  Ahhhh!!!

I am especially glad for Ackles’ excellent physical acting in the last scene.  Dean is sooo not normal.  The demon killer remains inside him.  He knows it. him I know it. The look on his face immediately post slaughter is chilling.

I suppose it’s possible that there are two Dean’s:  a human one and a demonic one; however, I think that this option is unlikely.   Remember, he’s not vomiting, etc. when he doesn’t kill, and he’s been very tight lipped about what he does know about the Mark. He’s knowingly hiding a lot from Sam and Cas.

Of course there was some convenient plotting.  I already mentioned the fact that Crowley wouldn’t escort prisoners to the dungeon.  Claire’s entire story was trite.  It was like a bizarre, happy, candy coated version of a Law and Order: SVU story. And how convenient was it that Castiel decided to look for Claire at exactly the moment she was in crisis and about to become a nasty statistic.

So what is the deal with making a midseason finale center around the very human Claire’s sad tale and everyone’s parental issues?  I certainly hope there’s more to it then generating compassion and sympathy for Crowley who clearly had a horrible mother and a terrible life as a child. 

Let’s face it.  Rowena makes Crowley boring and I certainly didn’t learn anything new. Crowley has been humanized, is bored with hell, is disdained by demons for his new interests, and he craves personal relationships.  Rowena is a selfish witch, a bit of a byitch and a terrible mother.  She will use Crowley and discard him if he lets her.

Are we to infer Mark of not, demonic or not, that Dean will end up fine because he was raised right.  And what about Sam who sometimes makes bad decisions because of his hubris and core self-serving attitude.  He was okay with a virgin sacrifice to ensure his, and Dean’s safety in “Jus in Bello”, and he served up Lester and his wife on the demonic altar to make a bloody phone call earlier this season. Is he the way he is because of the early demonic taint or because he rejected his father and family at an early age.

Furthermore, can someone who is fundamentally not selfless actually save another person.  Dean’s selflessness as well as his deep love pulled Sam back from the brink multiple times.  Now it is Sam’s turn.

The final scenario that cones to mind is in regards to Castiel and the angels.  Why include Castiel in the list of fatherless sons if we aren’t meant to wonder where God is in the story. I still can’t help but think that all of Metatron’s antics, and his dedicated attempts to injure Dean and, Castiel were designed to anger God enough to come forth by attacking his chosen favorites; the two members of Team Free Will that were able to exercise the free will to say NO to the plan and stop the Apocalypse.

The good news is that everyone that worries about Jimmy can relax now.  He’s dead because his body was destroyed and he died.  It has always made perfect sense to anyone with rudimentary logic who doesn’t require spoon feeding of the obvious. 

Well, apparently the show has been listening.  The writers have been trying to put fans’ restless minds at ease all season.  I just wish they would care less about the online noise and more about logical world building, great stories, building suspense and horror, and give the characters logical storylines… oh and CANON!  

I remain unconvinced that given the current circumstances surrounding Cas’ status as well as Dean’s, that Castiel would choose to follow Hannah around on a mission that he disagreed with only to latch onto her next fetish, caring about the well being of their vessels and their vessels’ families. 

I just can’t buy that Cas chose to do these things in lieu of helping Dean or solving his grace problem.   Frankly fan speculation that Claire has residual grace that Castiel could use to find whatever remains of his stolen grace was a far more promising avenue to connect Cas to Claire. It’s brilliant really and exploits established canon (probably why the writers didn’t think of it themselves).

I am not sure that the family oriented subtext is worth the cockeyed plotting.  Oh well… onwards.

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