Travis (Ryan Alexander McDonald), a nervous, sweet-faced man, checks into a motel. He’s arranged for a specific room. He walks down a hall ominously shot with Kubrick-style camera angles. When he goes into room 214, he fingers the antique ring he wears on a chain around his neck and tells himself that what he experienced when last he was there wasn’t real. But then he encounters a vision of himself as a child, and we learn that his scary memories are horrifyingly real. So begins this week’s episode of Supernatural, “Drag Me Away (From You)”.
BEWARE: This post is super-charged with spoilers so if you care about such things, do not pass this paragraph, step away from the candy machine, and make sure you’re not wearing any antique jewelry.
A drive down memory lane
The Winchester brothers are in for a long drive when we learn that they’ve received a call from a childhood friend, Caitlin. She has invited them to her brother’s funeral. Castiel texts Dean (Jensen Ackles) and asks him if he’s told Sam (Jared Padalecki) about Jack’s fate yet. Dean doesn’t answer him. When they arrive at the motel, we get the first of a series of flashbacks from Sam and Dean’s childhood, arriving at the self-same motel. Teenaged Dean (Paxton Singleton) discovers that Sam’s got a college guide stashed in his jacket and makes fun of him for thinking college is even possible for kids like them.
When young Sam (Christian Michael Cooper) unpacks, we get what may be one of the saddest scenes out of his past. He unpacks his duffle to reveal the college book on the bed next to a knife and a gun. This is the heart of the Sam we met in the very first episode of the series; he is sad but determined to have a different life. In the meanwhile, Dean is at the vending machine, scamming candy without paying. He meets a couple of other kids, Caitlin (Elle McKinnon) and Travis (Liam Hughes, one of the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen). Caitlin proves her cool cred by IDing the make and model of the Knight Rider car.
The truth of the matter
Grown-up Dean and Sam meet Caitlin (a sparkly-eyed but rather deliberate Kelsey Crane) in the motel coffee shop. Turns out they’ve missed the funeral. She’s asked them there because she thinks Travis’ death wasn’t the suicide that the coroner insists it was.
Flashback to young Travis trying to scam the vending machine the way Dean did. A decrepit hand reaches out from the machine and grabs his. Travis sees a scary old lady in the machine trying to pull him in. When Caitlin and Dean find Travis, the woman in the machine lets go and he is terrified. Honestly, that would scare the pants off me and I’d swear off of vending machines forever; freaking creepy.
Young Dean believes Travis’ description of what he saw. He glances quickly at Sam and Sam nods, so Dean tells Travis and Caitlin about their being hunters. When he asks if anything else weird is going on, Caitlin tells Dean about three kids who are missing.
Adult Dean and Sam are doubtful that Caitlin is right about Travis’ death. Dean believes he killed the thing that grabbed Travis; besides, he reasons, the scary woman only preyed on kids.
Young hunters hit the books
Young Sam, Dean, Travis and Caitlin research the three disappearances. It turns out that the kids all disappeared near an abandoned cannery. Young Dean goes to investigate, telling the other kids to stay put.
Dean gets to the cannery, and as he picks a lock to break in, Caitlin shows up. The cannery is predictably creepy. After some exploration, they discover a pile of clothes, a mitt, a motel key with a bike half covered in canvas. When Dean pulls the cloth aside, he finds a dead child.
Back at the motel, Sam and Travis are playing Boggle when Travis is attacked by the scary woman. Dean, arriving just in time, slices off her fingers and stabs her. She disintegrates, leaving only the ring she wore.
A monster from childhood
Adult Dean encounters a hallucination of his teenage self, who nearly persuades him to knife himself when Sam interrupts. Now Dean believes Caitlin; he didn’t kill the scary woman when they were kids after all. But now they know she can transform herself to look like others. Sam and Caitlin learn about what Dean saw back then: the nest with the missing kids in it. Sam chides Dean for not telling anyone, but forgives him. “We used to keep a lot of secrets from each other,” Sam says. Watching Dean’s face, it’s clear that he’s not done keeping secrets from Sam yet.
Sam and Caitlin retreat to Caitlin’s hotel room to do research and figure out what this creature is. Dean goes to the motel diner to grab some food. As he waits for this order to be ready, Billie (Lisa Berry) shows up and chides him for working a case. She’s come to tell Dean that Chuck (a.k.a. God) has finished destroying his other worlds; he’ll be returning to Earth any day now. She also tells Dean that she’s given Jack her final instructions. All Jack wants, she says, is Dean’s forgiveness for killing Mary Winchester. Billie used that guilt to make Jack do what she asked. She doesn’t specify what she told Jack to do, however. Lastly, she tells Dean that he’s got to inform Sam of the fact that Jack will die as part of her plan to oust Chuck and his sister Amara. Dean is not happy.
“This is the last time you’ll see me again, until the end. According to Chuck’s book, I’m not in this part of the story. So, this is on you, Dean.”–Billie
Dreams and visions
With research, Sam surmises that they’re dealing with Baba Yaga, who feeds on children’s fears by using hallucinations. He also discovers that her power lies in the stone of the ring she wears—the ring that adult Travis wore on the chain. His mother, who had been on the motel cleaning crew, found it after young Dean killed the scary woman and gave it to him. The stone was broken; it had taken Travis years but he’d had the stone fixed only a few weeks before his death.
Caitlin, still having her brother’s personal effects from the hotel, goes to retrieve it from her car. An apparition of her brother appears, brandishing the ring. He attacks her.
When Dean returns to the room with their food, he learns that Caitlin has disappeared. Sam tells him about Baba Yaga. They decide to split up and search for her.
Dean opens the door to room 214, where Travis died, and suddenly finds himself in the cannery again. He returns to the site of the nest he found when he was a kid. There, he discovers a similar pile of clothes, but also young Sam, his dead eyes wide. Visibly shaken, Dean turns back, only to encounter Baba Yaga in the guise of adult Travis. Travis tells him that he usually prefers to feed on children, but after all the years that had passed before the ring was repaired, he’s starving. He attacks Dean.
Sam discovers Dean struggling with Baba Yaga in her true form in room 214, Caitlin sprawled unconscious on the bed. They struggle until Dean is able to grab the ring and destroy it. Baba Yaga disappears in green flames.
Secrets and lies
Problem solved, Sam and Dean say farewell to Caitlin. Dean admits, when Caitlin asks, that he was scared during their hunt; “Always am,” he says. She says he’s changed; that young Dean would never have admitted that. “What do they say about getting older,” she asks. “You tell the truth more because you know that lies don’t make anything better.” Dean gets the message.
On the drive home, Dean tells Sam about Billie’s visit. He also confesses the truth about Jack’s fate to Sam, and that Castiel told him well before they left the bunker. Sam is furious that Dean held the information back, and he’s incredulous that they’re just supposed to knuckle under and accept Jack’s death. Dean is clearly distraught about the prospect of losing Jack, but his coping mechanism is anger, so he lashes out at Sam, insisting that if this is the only way they can kill Chuck then it’s what they have to do. When he tries to apologize to Sam, Sam is having none of it. “Just drive,” he says. And that’s what Dean does.
The end is nigh
With the end of Supernatural ever closer, we get the last flashback episode showing us young Sam and Dean. And this time out, we get new young actors portraying our heroes in their youth. It’s got to be hard, stepping into someone else’s shoes in roles so iconic, but Paxton Singleton and Christian Michael Cooper find their own approaches to Dean and Sam respectively. Singleton takes Dean into obnoxious teenager-hood with all the bravado and concern about cool that any kid that age might have. Cooper finds Sam’s vulnerability, and he also shows us the seeds of Sam’s determination to be his own man. I thought they did well.
This episode was all about family and honesty, and I suspect that those themes will continue to be at the fore as we get closer to the series finale. I look forward to seeing how vulnerable Dean will allow himself to be, and how Sam’s inner strength will play as the end draws nigh.
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Janna Silverstein is a writer and editor, an all-round professional nerd living in Seattle with two cats, a really big TV, and lots of books. She likes jewelry but clearly not as much as Baba Yaga.