Dean wondered in “Repo Man” when they would arrive on a case and end up running into some “big mouths.” Well, here it is.
The case starts off simple. A ballerina dances herself to death, and the brothers pick up on it in a news story. They arrive in town and discover that it is a cursed object—and that the store “Out with the Old” has sold other objects like it to other unsuspecting individuals. It seems rather cut and dried, and the “monster of the week” case is easily put to rest as the cursed objects are returned to their locked boxes ready to be transported to another location safely stored away.
Unfortunately, the brothers don’t realize that their big fish is in town, and that the simple case that brought them on the scene will force them to cross paths. In fact, as the brothers leave the police station carrying the ballet slippers to the car, they pass the Leviathan in town. Neither pair takes notice of the other until much later.
The monster of the week was merely a decoy to hide the true story in the episode in a brilliant bait and switch. It is a strange blend, then, of “The Mentalists,” and “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.” “The Mentalists” focuses on a true standalone story with focus on the brother discourse at that point in the season, while “Out with the Old,” shows the brothers working as a single unit on a monster of the week case—discussing Sam’s issues openly several times. To further parallel, the case centers around an antique store, not unlike the pawn shop in “The Mentalists.” In “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters,” the monster of the week is simply the Leviathan all along—initially hidden behind the notion that it could be the Jersey Devil. It’s even mentioned when Frank says, “By the way, they opened another Biggerson in Butte.”
Scott, the shop owner’s son, is selling cursed objects after his mother has been bought out by a real estate agent—one that happens to be a Leviathan. The real estate agent, Joyce Bicklebee, is also buying up all of the other storefronts on the main street, and those that refuse her offer end up killed. To cover up her murders, she then has her assistant, George, make each death look like an accident so none is the wiser to the Leviathans amongst them. Scott’s mother was one of these, as he reveals to Sam and Dean, “I don’t know. You know, this real-estate lady kept coming around, and then one day, just like that, mom says okay. Then she had that accident, never even got to enjoy the money.”
Throughout the case, Sam is obviously feeling the effects from “Repo Man.” Surprisingly, he seems much more functioning than expected—and yet it is obvious that he is teetering on the edge. More than ever before, Sam has become a shark, and he never stops moving throughout this case. He doesn’t sleep, and while Soulless Sam could get away with this, Sam with his soul cannot. He refuses to sleep because Lucifer’s taunting and presence becomes stronger—but by not doing so he is endangering himself and others. Not unlike Dean’s heavy drinking earlier in the season, Sam mirrors it with his own vice: coffee. Dean expresses his concern by asking, “What, are you going for, like, the Guinness record of caffeine consumption? That’s like your fifth this morning.”
Sam is open with Dean about his issues, up front and direct. Dean asks him what Lucifer is doing at the moment, and he says, “He’s singing “Stairway to Heaven” right now. “ When Dean makes that he approves of the song choice, Sam retorts that it’s not so much fun “50 times in a row.” Sam is trying to outrun and outgun his hallucinations, and it simply does not seem like it will work—not like it did before he allowed Lucifer back into his orbit. It is no more apparent than when he nearly runs himself off the road and into a semi’s path—a harken back to season 1’s closer, “Devil’s Trap” when the semi smashed Baby into a twisted metal frame.
Just in time, Sam realizes what is about to happen and jerks himself awake to pull away from the inevitable. It is a scary moment, and it makes us take pause in the midst of a case and Leviathan situation that it will only be a matter of time before Sam’s total and irrevocable breakdown occurs. His tactics and methods are no longer working to hold Lucifer at bay, and he must either find a new manner to handle his head buddy or face dire and tragic consequences. No doubt, he will have to endure a difficult time before he can crawl back from the precipice he is clearly standing on.
Meanwhile, Dean is keeping in close contact with Frank, feeding him the information about the Leviathan sighting and the company buying out the town. They are collaborating and trying to piece together what it is exactly that Dick Roman is up to, yet seem a few paces behind their quarry. Frank admits to Dean that he truly has no idea what the Leviathan are doing up in Wisconsin, but he does know that it’d be best for Sam and Dean to get out of town before they’re found out.
Unfortunately, it is too late and they’ve been spotted. George, while getting coffee for Joyce, sees Sam doing the same and tracks him back to the store. Ironically, Sam is ordering the same thing he ordered as a young man: a triple red eye. It is further evidence of Sam’s attempts to stay awake at all costs. George, meanwhile, begs Joyce to let him eat Sam, but she nixes the idea on the principal that it won’t be easy to sell to Roman without definitive proof. Instead, they cook up a plan and set a trap for the Winchesters, forcing the shop owner to call them in a panic over yet another cursed object—albeit one made up this go round.
Once the brothers arrive, they realize too late that they have been snared. It seems like a lost cause and a vicious fight that the brothers might not walk away from until George turns on Joyce. He tells Sam that there is some borax in the bucket and that if he hurries they can disarm and “kill” Joyce. Sam shoves his head in the bucket, and as she advances on Dean, he picks up the sword pointed out to him by George and quickly lops her head off.
Instead of then turning against the brothers, George starts divulging secrets. He tells an angry and determined Dean that the Wisconsin site is being built into a research facility—all in the name of curing cancer. Both brothers are shocked by the revelation, and we later see them shake their heads in befuddlement. Is George telling the truth? Is he lying? Is a cure for cancer their way of making humanity a pure food stock or something even more sinister? It’s another layer of mystery surrounding the new monsters on the block.
Judging by the experiments they were doing at the Biggerson’s with the TDK Slammer, the curing cancer is a front to get the public to support them. Dean expresses, “Monsters cure cancer. A sentence I never thought I’d say. Why does it make me so nervous?” His instincts tell him that it is likely this is a trap, and that while George may have seemed helpful in divulging this secret it is quite possibly his way of hiding Roman’s tracks all the more. Either way, it can’t possibly be, as George put, “‘Cause we’re only here to help.”
The brothers, toting the cursed objects behind their loaner truck, head towards Frank’s hide out. Dean again demands that Sam get some sleep, and he again brushes his brother’s concern aside. It would seem that Sam is adamant about not sleeping no matter the cost. That concern is placed on the back burner as the brothers arrive at Frank’s. It is eerily quiet, and even after Dean bangs on the door and shouts, Frank does not answer. They enter the small trailer and find blood smeared on the floors, walls, and monitors. It is obvious that a struggle has taken place.
The question becomes, then, what of Frank? Have they killed him? Did they simply abduct him? Judging by the replacements of Dr. Gaines, Richard Roman, and Joyce replacing a client to sign their name in this episode, one begs to wonder why they simply didn’t clone Frank and trick the brothers? Judging by the amount of intel that Frank possessed on the Leviathan—accurate or not—he would be a threat on some level to them, and as an ally to the Winchesters, a valuable hostage. Keeping him in some place would give them insight into just what Sam and Dean know—and what they don’t.
Mary Page Keller played Joyce and reminded me a lot of Bebe from Fraiser. She was demanding, insolent, and snarky. It is no more evidenced by her pinching her fingers together in George’s face to silence him or her demands that he fetch her the proper paperwork or coffee. Joyce wanted things her way and only her way, and she had no problem running over people in her path. Her admittance to George that he was her fifth assistant proved that she is a difficult one to deal with. Keller relished in her role, and presented a dark and snarky villain that gave us more insight into the Leviathans as a monster. Her ill treatment of George gave rise to his betrayal, and it is no shock that the Leviathan have no problem turning on one another. After all, while imitating the Winchesters, Leviathan!Sam admitted that he had once eaten one of his brothers.
What her character revealed is a hierarchy that is almost as rigid as that of the demons and the angels, and yet has its own flavor. The demons changed leaders often—Azazel to Lilith to Crowley—demons seem to jockey for power and have coups when they see fit. The angels followed Michael until his fall and then squabbled between Castiel and Raphael, only to see both fall. The Leviathan have one and only one leader, and it would seem that all of them are afraid of Dick Roman. Joyce proved this when she remarked about “Dick doesn’t like to make the papers.” It is no shock that they would probably all know about Dr. Gaine’s demise—and the threat of “bibbing” is ever present—and yet they have no problem turning on one another and jockeying for a closer place to Roman. They fear him, swear allegiance to him, but have no loyalty in many ways to one another.
Bryan Cuprill gave us George. He showed that Leviathans, while largely a chameleon monster, have their own distinct personalities. He was very awkward and submissive towards Joyce as his superior, and yet he had no problem or qualms about throwing her under the bus. His mousy behavior made him seem skittish, and Cuprill played it just right to foreshadow without tipping the hand that George might not be as timid as he seems. He was being brought to the edge, and when he saw an opportunity to rid himself of Joyce, he took it. He exuded relief upon her exit, and expressed gratitude to Sam and Dean for doing it for him. In the end, while he broke rank, it can’t be helped but think that he tried to throw the brothers off of Roman’s tracks—thus showing his loyalty to the ultimate Leviathan while backstabbing his direct superior.
If Joyce’s character showed the Leviathan’s adherence to hierarchy, George shows how Darwin they are. They are a survival of the fittest species, and they will eliminate those who are weak or are perceived as weak among their ranks. George states that he is tired of cleaning up “Joyce’s messes” indicating that he felt that her tactics and behavior was setting him up for trouble with their big boss. They are not leery of the kill or be killed scenario—and yet it would seem that both Sam and Dean and George walked away from this confrontation, unless of course they did chop his head off before leaving the shop.
The shop owner was out of his depth, and the actor that portrayed him showed us that well. He was skeptical but unsure of what was really going on—wanting nothing more than to move on with his life after his mother’s death and the selling of the shop. He exhibited remorse at selling dangerous objects that killed others. It was heartbreaking seeing the Leviathan use him as bait to lure Sam and Dean, knowing that they had helped him in the past with his other serious supernatural mess. He ended up mixed up with this unknowingly, and it seems right that he manages to get away from it before he’s pulled in too deep.
Kevin McNally continues to bring Frank to life with such sarcasm. He gets some of the best lines, and seeing him call Dean various nicknames is a treat. McNally has Frank hang up on Dean with flair befitting his crotchety character. And yet, when Dean says, “Frank, hey, I don’t mean to double-dip in your crazy sauce. No offense.” he is easy with the response, “None taken, fudge pop.” Frank may be hard to put down and figure out, but he is helpful. He also expresses his own backhanded concern when he says to Dean, “Fine. Call me if you don’t die.” He may be a survivalist and a hermit, but he does have actual concern for the few people he’s allowed into his orbit. Hopefully, with the ending of the episode, this isn’t the last time we’ve seen Frank.
Jensen brought out Dean’s determination and drive to solve the case, seemingly a bit more rejuvenated after dealing with a demon in “Repo Man.” He makes the mistake, in the midst of saving the little girl that had put on the slippers, by touching them himself and ends up facing the curse. Thankfully, it is put back under lock and key and he is alright as long as they’re either locked up or destroyed later. Ackles brought out Dean’s concerned side for Sam in small gestures and glances. His insistent pestering demonstrated his concern and care through tone of voice alone. Ackles then turned that towards their victim, and while frustrated at times, he seemed to be Sam’s foil in this case. He didn’t blame him for the cursed objects or opening them—at least not deliberately, and he made it his goal to save him from the hoodoo affixed to them. His most touching moment was when he told Scott, “Hey, a little tip. Uh, feeling guilty ain’t gonna bring ’em back. Best you can do is live your life the way that you think would make her proud. Or at least not embarrass the crap out of her.” It would seem that Dean is slowly turning a corner in his own grief, and that is encouraging to see. Long after the episode ends, this line lingers, demonstrating how powerful it truly is.
Upon realizing that Leviathan are in town, Ackles shows how Dean’s drive kicks into overdrive and he is quickly manning research and phones to put it together before they can be caught unawares. It is lucky that he found out, considering the trap they do step into later. Ackles shows a Dean that is not willing to simply accept George’s story about “curing cancer,” and his quip about it shows how skeptical he really is. Ackles shows Dean’s cogs clicking together, trying to piece it together as he also turns his attention towards his struggling brother.
Jared Padalecki showed us a struggling Sam. The shark was back in full force, and Padalecki showed it in movements, facial expressions, and tone. In scenes where they are just simply talking with police or looking at evidence, he never stops moving or looking around or blinking. He twinges every so often, an indication of the turmoil brewing under the surface. Padalecki sells the overtired act well, yawning and nodding off behind the wheel. Even with knowing that the semi was coming towards him, the anxiety for Sam built based just on his performance of falling asleep behind the wheel. It is only the bright lights from the semi, a shout out to both “Devil’s Trap,” and then “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” that brings Sam back to reality and allows him to avert a tragic crash. Padalecki surely knew how to show how tired Sam was also in his dealings with victims. Usually the more openly caring and sympathetic of the two, instead he is forceful and irritable. He pushes into others spaces, and Padalecki almost snarls his questions towards those involved in the case. It is no more stark than when he goes to confiscate the gramophone. Padalecki gives Sam a rough edge that brokers for no argument from those in the room, and they keep their distance lest he lose his temper fully. And yet, Padalecki also knows how to show the softer side of Sam in his admissions to Dean about seeing Lucifer. When talking about that, a sadness and resigned undertone tinges his voice, and we can tell that while he has accepted his lot, he is not pleased that it has come to this. More than anything, we can feel the exhaustion roll off of him in waves as he struggles with things. Judging by the previews, this is probably the best Sam will feel for awhile.
Speaking of the preview, who is ready to see just what Castiel has been doing since “Hello Cruel World?” Will the angel resume his involvement with the Winchesters—and oddly Meg?