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'Supernatural' Recap: The Third Wheel

November 29th, 2012 10:07am EST

Supernatural One of the estimated 19 million things I admire about “Supernatural” is the delicate touches it puts in themed episode like "Hunteri Heroici"—a daffy ode to classic Saturday morning cartoons. To say that the writing and production departments go underappreciated is like saying that Dean Winchester merely likes beer. From Castiel overzealously stepping into his new profession as a hunter and "bad cop" to Dean climbing inside of a black hole, this week's episode of "Supernatural" was one ACME stick of dynamite away from cartoony bliss.

For anyone worried that Castiel would the third wheel to Sam and Dean's dynamic duo, the writers found the perfect balance between Castiel's eccentric, clueless angel and Sam and Dean's natural chemistry as long-time partners and brothers. Angels might be able to smell bladder infections from a corpse (ew!) and tune themselves to the frequencies of police scanners, but they don't have the intuition to suss out when their victim was having an affair and they don't have the instincts to know when to bust out the "bad cop" routine (or in Dean's case, the "whip out the hunting knife and threaten certain death" routine. It's still my favorite one).

Unfortunately and hilariously, even Sam and Dean's combined years of hunting experience had them both at a loss for what supernatural baddie was committing such strange murders in Oklahoma City—a man's heart beat right out of his chest at the sight of his current infatuation; a guy stepped off a building, floated in mid-air only to plummet to this death the moment he looked down; and a security guard was crushed by an anvil. With the help of local police, Sam was able to link the general zaniness to the patrons of a nursing home, where they found Fred Jones, a psychokinetic friend of their dad's back when Sam was "the scrawny one," not the behemoth who has to bend at the waist to kiss his woefully made-under girlfriend or shake her even shorter father's hand (Fun Fact: Amelia’s father was played by Brian Markinson, who played a friend of John’s in season 1’s “Phantom Traveler”). He's zonked out at the nursing home, hiding within the cartoonish dream world of his own creation rather than facing a life of growing old, and he's unaware that the doctor was using his incredible power of bending reality to mimic the cartoons he obsessively watches to steal from his patients and inadvertently kill others.

Dean and Castiel aren't sure how to stop Fred ("Providence's" Mike Farrell). They can't kill him as he is merely an person with supernatural powers succumbing to old age but they can't let him continue to hurt others with the "collateral weird." But it's Castiel and Sam who get 'er done while Dean engages in the world's weirdest stand-off between good and evil. "You brought a gun to a gag fight!" No, actually Dean brought an anvil, a psychokinetic and an angel, sucka!

Castiel beams them into the animated abyss he lives in now in what is probably the most ambitious and flawless feat of special effects ever attempted. It definitely makes up or the cheesy Purgatory portal in the last episode. Emo-Sam with those kicked-puppy eyes brings it home with good ole angst: "It can be nice living in a dream world. I know that. You can pretend all of the crap out there doesn't exist, but you can't do that forever. Eventually whatever it is you're running from, it'll find you. It'll come along and punch you in the gut...and trying to keep that dream alive will destroy you, it will destroy everything." Even with the Sam and Dean's world of two-bed motel rooms and decades of pop cult references that Castiel doesn't understand, he wasn't a third wheel, Sam was.

In his glossy flashbacks during his year away from Dean, Sam and Amelia are moving in to an actual house. Sam seems happy, even when he finds Amelia's wedding album to Don (her husband who died in combat) lovingly packed away with other books. Sam nervously meets Amelia's father, who like no father in the history of the world, takes offensive to the super-tall, Stanford-educated dreamboat who’s dating his daughter. It takes him a few seconds to realize that Sam is more of a mess than his daughter, but he sees that Sam and Amelia want to "messes together," so he tries even though he think they're just clinging to each other rather than facing reality and the grief.

The actors offer as much as they can with scenes feel clichéd at times. However, if you're a long time fan, it's so bitter and so sweet to see Sam wearing normal clothes, washing the dishes, and nursing a glass of wine instead of diving face-first into the bottle. He looks good and yet he doesn't quite fit in the house, in the sweater, in that world. But he's trying. Whether he loves Amelia or loves the idea of her, God help him, he's going to do this. And then the phone rings and Don's miraculously alive, and I don't even need to see the image of the love-filled heart breaking into pieces and crumbling into dust because you can feel it. This development feels like a complete 180 from the season premiere that showed Sam sneaking out of their bedroom with Amelia in it, but time will tell how these two incongruous scenes fit together or if it was the writers curbing an unfavorable plotline. Despite my barely warm feelings towards Amelia, I still wonder what she’s doing now and who exactly was lurking outside of their home when Sam left. Was it Don? Was it Benny?

Back at the bank, Fred finally takes control and forces the bad doctor to shoot himself in the face with his own gun. That's all folks! He also agrees to an angelic lobotomy, which essentially replaced his powers with classical music.

After another clandestine visit to heaven’s administrative offices, and Naomi, Castiel learned that he was cut off from Heaven after the devastation he’d caused in season 6. It appears that Castiel was doing the avoidance dance too by trying to be a hunter. When Dean asked him how he was adjusting to life after…the afterlife, Cas admitted that if he saw “what he’d made of [Heaven], I might kill himself.” It was a quiet and heavy scene that was thankfully buoyed by the silliness of the case-of-the-week. I sometimes struggle with the role he plays in the brothers’ lives, but I never do with anything Misha Collins does in front of a camera. He brings so many layers to Castiel, and this profound pain is a beautifully dark one. Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Collins definitely showed their chops with the dizzying highs and lows of this episode. Padalecki, Ackles and "Supernatural" more than earned their People's Choice Award nominations!

I did wish that Castiel could have taken Fred to Heaven, but in the end, it seemed that Fred brought Heaven to him. He was at peace in his mind, and Castiel shared it as he sat with him, opting to leave the hunting to the hunters. What he’ll do, we’re not sure. Until we see him again, I’ll imagine him crawling around the nursing home, trying to break that cat.

Grade: From A to F, “Jus In Bello” to “Bugs,” this episode was an animated A-.

What’d you think of this episode? Did you find Amelia’s father as insufferable as I did? Do you wish that Don comes back possessed by a demon? How much do you want to attend a slumber party with Dean, Castiel and Sam’s hair? Were you happy that Dean was back to bringing snarky back? Sound off in the comments section!

Next week, it's the mid-season finale, and it looks like a bloody good time!

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