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6.15  The French Mistake:  We Matter To That World

Heaven's civil war
Puts bros in bizarro world
Acting out their lives.
Episode Summary
As a storm raged at night outside Bobby's house, Sam, looking for Bobby, learned from Dean that Bobby had gone on a supply run into town to replenish their stock of whiskey. With no warning, Balthazar appeared in the house and started ransacking it for the components of a spell - salt, lamb's blood, the bone of a minor saint - while warning them that Raphael, trying to draw Castiel out of hiding, had sent assassins against everyone who had helped Cass, including both Raphael and the Winchester brothers. Mixing the spell components, he drew a sigil on the window, and then handed Sam a key, telling them to run with it. Another angel, Virgil, appeared, flinging Balthazar aside with a careless gesture, and Balthazar shouted to the brothers to run, using his own power to blast them out through the window into the rainy night … and they landed, perfectly dry, amid candy glass on a padded mat on the floor of a soundstage surrounded by cameras and crew congratulating them on a good stunt and calling them "Jared" and "Jensen."

Totally confused, the brothers took stock of the absence of angels and their apparent safety while the TV crew were discovering that something had gone wrong with the signal just at the moment when the boys hit the glass, meaning they'd have to take 95 minutes to reset and then reshoot the scene - which wouldn't leave time for them to shoot a scene of the boys sitting on the Impala talking about their feelings - or use the footage up to just before the bad part, doing a freeze frame for the scene break, and cutting to black. Pressed for time and resigned to the situation - after all, it's season six - the director agreed and called for them to move on. An interviewer grabbed "Jared" to do a short on-set interview, to Sam's confusion shooting right in front of the set of Bobby's panic room, while a makeup artist whisked "Jensen" away to clean off the makeup Dean swore he wasn't wearing, only to discover he was. The interviewer, noting Sam had beaten the devil, lost his soul, and gotten it back again, asked what was next for Sam Winchester.
Reconnecting with Dean, Sam explained what he'd learned - that in this twilight zone world, their real lives were a television show that not many people watched, and their names were Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. Exiting the studio, they found themselves on a backlot. Dean was momentarily reassured to see the Impala parked outside, but when a crew member began spattering mud on it, he saw four others beyond it in various degrees of disrepair, including one crashed hulk, and admitted feeling sick, telling Sam he just wanted to go home. Dean prayed to Castiel, hoping the angel would get them home. Glancing through a doorway to a neighboring street set, they saw Castiel standing in the street and rushed to ask him what Balthazar had done to them. A little artificial in his focused intensity, Castiel told them Balthazar has cast them into an alternate reality to protect them from Virgil, a universe similar to theirs in many respects but dramatically different in others. After being momentarily discomfited by Dean concluding they were in Bizarro World, Castiel asked if they had the key, and when Sam handed it over and asked what it was for, Castiel said it opened a room containing every weapon Balthazar had stolen from Heaven. He said Balthazar had given it to them to keep it safe until he could reach them, saying with those weapons, he had the chance to rally his forces. Sam asked what the deal was with all the TV crap, and Castiel looked utterly befuddled as the brothers continued to riff on their fake names - then he looked down at the small booklet of papers in his hands, wondering in a lighter, higher pitched voice if they'd put out new pages. Snatching the papers from his hand, Den realized they were sides, a day's worth of dialogue from a script, and that "Castiel" was nothing more than an actor named Misha playing the angel. Sam took back the key and the brothers stalked off as Misha laughed about them having punked him and got on Twitter to share the joke with his followers.

Trying to get their bearings and figure out what to do, the brothers saw a fancy trailer with the name "J. Ackles" on the door, and walked inside to find an opulent layout featuring a massive aquarium, a large radio-controlled toy helicopter, a fake fireplace, a widescreen TV playing dailies of Jensen's footage, and copies of a magazine with their pictures on the cover. Sam found a laptop and proceeded to look up the Ackles identity, discovering he was from Texas and had been on a soap opera, pulling up footage of a scene from Days Of Our Lives with Jensen playing Eric Brady. Trying to figure out how to get back to their own world, Sam observed he didn't think their prayers were getting through to the real Castiel, and Dean agreed. He proposed reversing Balthazar's spell to send them back by getting the spell ingredients and drawing the sigil on the same window they'd crashed through before.
On the set, looking for components, they discovered that everything was fake. Observing them, the crew were bemused to see them talking, since the actors didn't. The brothers tried to leave the studio in the Impala, only to realize that the car, too, was a prop. They asked a production assistant how they were supposed to get out of there, and wound up in an SUV driven by a guy named Clif who asked where he should drop Jensen off. Dean said he'd tag along to Jared's place, and when Clif asked when they'd started talking to each other, the brothers covered by saying they had to practice acting. They drove past a sign welcoming them to Vancouver, and Dean realized they weren't even in America.

Jared's house turned out to be a palatial mansion with a tanning bed in the front room, narcissistic art on the walls, and an alpaca in the back yard - and with Ruby on the balcony, coming downstairs to give Sam a kiss and ask how his day had been. Shock gave way to realization that in this world, "Jared" was married to the actress who had played Ruby, who was on her way out to a charity event and sarcastically observed that "Jensen" had never even been in their house before.
Researching on the web, Sam located a saint's relic for sale in Mexico. Dean started planning their trip to steal it from the auction house, but Sam, having found Jared's obviously high limit credit cards, proposed just buying what they needed instead, and arranged to have it shipped to the airport the next morning. Dean sacked out on the couch while Sam wandered the house drinking a beer. When Jared's wife Genevieve returned from her charity dinner, he asked her if she remembered the earthquakes and disasters that happened the last year, and learned they'd only happened on the show. Telling him he'd been Sam Winchester way too long, she took him up to bed.

Early the next morning, driven by Clif, they picked up the package at the airport before it cleared customs, making Clif think they were into drugs. At the studio, their attempt to set up and run the spell was interrupted by the arrival of the crew for the day's shooting, and they learned their star status wasn't enough to get the set cleared and buy them time; instead, they would have to act. In a scene with Misha playing Castiel, the angel's dialogue explained that Balthazar was no hero, but he knew Raphael would never take him back. To the bemusement of everyone, the lead actors seemed to have lost any acting talent they ever had, blowing take after take and leaving everyone thinking they were drugged out. When the director finally stopped the shoot, the brothers began to set up the spell, using the window in the Bobby's house set, while the director called the producer to broadcast an SOS. Completing the spell, the brothers jumped through the window, and just crashed to the floor of the set.
Back in Jensen's trailer, Sam speculated that perhaps the spell hadn't worked because it couldn't. He said he'd been researching all night and there was no evidence the apocalypse had happened there, ever, and that monsters, ghosts, and demons were all just pretend. He wondered if this was a world with no supernatural, no magic, at all - no demons, no angels, no God.

Meanwhile, in a motel room set on a vacant soundstage, a red sigil twin to the one Balthazar had used glowed into existence on a window, and Virgil, the angel assassin, crashed through the glass to land in the soundstage.
Later, as the brothers tried to find their way around and bumbled into a brick tunnel set on another part of the soundstage, Dean nearly walked into Virgil, who reached out to kill him - only to discover he had no power. Dean and Sam began to brawl with the angel, only to be pulled off him by the stunt coordinator and a couple of stuntmen who'd been rehearing a fight on a green screen stage nearby. During the scuffle, Virgil snaked the key out of Sam's pocket, and then ran away. The local production team called down to the main office to report a red alert condition and asked that the show's creator be sent up to deal with the actors. 
That night, Virgil kidnapped Misha as he left the set. Meanwhile, realizing the key was missing, Sam went in search of it while Dean told the director, Bob Singer, that they weren't actors, but brothers; that they were the Winchesters, and mattered in their world. Singer thought he was having a psychotic break and continued to treat him as an actor. When Sam, unable to find the key, hurried back to say he thought Virgil had taken it, Dean announced that they quit, and the brothers left in search of the angel.

Virgil took Misha to an alley, asking rhetorically how he could live in a place where nothing mattered beyond himself, where there was no magic. Virgil slit Misha's throat and filled a cup with his blood, using the blood to power his prayer to Raphael. Unknown to Virgil, a homeless man was watching.
The brothers wound up back at Jared's house to discover Genevieve distraught because Misha had been found murdered in an alley. Checking it out, they overheard the homeless man giving his statement, saying the scary man killed the attractive crying man and then started to pray to Raphael. When they asked him about it, he said that after a while, he heard a voice out of nowhere answer, saying for Virgil to return tomorrow at the place he crossed over at the time of the crossing, and Raphael would reach through the window to take him and the key home. The brothers resolved to stop Virgil, knowing if he got back with the key Castiel would be dead and the apocalypse would happen again. 
Virgil, having discovered his lack of power, went to a sporting goods store and collected a handgun and a shotgun. Calling himself the weapons-keeper of Heaven, he knocked out the clerk and simply took the guns and ammunition, killing a random person who made the mistake of walking into the store while he was preparing to leave it.

Back on set, Dean noted that if they dropped Virgil and got the key, they might be stuck in the alternate world forever, since they had no magic to escape it. Sam said they'd figure out a way back, and Dean speculated that maybe Sam wouldn't be that broken up if they didn't, given all the good things in his life in this world and the absence of Heaven and Hell. Sam told him not to be stupid, pointing out their friends were back in the real world. Dean said there was no contest between their real lives, where the hits had been coming for Sam since he was six months old, and this one, where he was rich and married to Ruby, but Sam disagreed, saying Dean had been right when he said they didn't mean the same thing in this world as in their own. Sam said they weren't even brothers here, and Dean smiled a little and agreed they should get their crazy show back home.
Virgil showed up right after Eric Kripke, the show's creator, arrived at the backlot, and the angel began shooting everyone in sight between him and the motel set, killing Kripke, Singer, the assistant director, and the stunt coordinator, but missing the director of photography, who dodged bullets like a character out of The Matrix. Sam distracted Virgil to let Dean get close enough to tackle him, and the brothers managed to beat up the angel and grab the key just as a red sigil began glowing on the window of the motel room set. Seeing the glow and knowing Raphael would be reaching through, the brothers tried to run away, but a force yanked them backward through the window. 

They landed on pavement outside a real motel with a shattered window behind them and found themselves facing Raphael in a new human vessel, a businesslike black woman. She clenched her fist, making them collapse in agony. As she picked up the key they dropped, Balthazar appeared and said it would open a locker at the Albany bus station. He said he'd needed a modest decoy to make it more convincing. Raphael demanded the weapons, and Balthazar said they were gone, that Raphael was too late. He explained they'd been hidden so well even he had needed time to find them, and sent the Winchesters for a game of fetch with Virgil. Raphael advanced on Balthazar, intending to kill him, and Castiel appeared and told her to stand away from him. Castiel said he had the weapons now, that their power was with him, and lightning flashed to spread the shadows of his wings over the building behind him. Her told her id she didn't want to die that night, she should back off, and she disappeared. Balthazar wryly observed Cass now had his sword and told him to try not to die by it, and then he too was gone. 
Castiel walked to the brothers, gripping their shoulders, and they found themselves abruptly back in Bobby's house evidently only minutes after they'd left: it was still night and pouring rain outside, the remnants of Balthazar's spellwork lay scattered on the desk with the empty whiskey bottle, and the window they'd been flung through was still broken. Sam angrily asked if Castiel had been in on it, using them as a diversion, and Castiel noted it was Balthazar's plan, but he would have done the same thing. When Dean protested that wasn't very comforting, Castiel asked in exasperation when he would be able to make them understand that if he lost against Raphael, they would all lose everything. Dean angrily shot back that they knew the stakes, but that was about all the angel had told them. Chastened, Castiel apologized and said he would explain when he could, and then disappeared. 
Not quite trusting, Sam walked up to the wall of the room and struck it hard, reassured to discover it solid and real. Looking around, Dean agreed it was real, moldy, termite-eaten home sweet home chock full of crap that wanted to skin them, and observed they were broke again. Sam agreed, but pointed out that at least they were talking.


# Rose 2011-03-04 18:37
Mary, this review made me so happy as I read it that I want to go watch the show again - for the 6th time! I loved it that much too. It's definitely up there as one of my all time favourites along with Changing Channels and What Is And What Should Never Be.

I can add nothing more - you said it all and more. Thanks for pointing out the renamed studio to honour Kim Manners. I hadn't read that. What a lovely honour for Kim.

Thanks for a brilliant review!

Cheers, Rose
# Ginger 2011-03-04 20:31
Another great review, Mary. I love reading these.
# Marcia 2011-03-04 21:38
Lovely, Mary. I was of two minds about the episode. I'd been having some difficulty reconciling what I'd perceived as two different shows (the beginning and the end as one, and the middle as another). But your meta really helped to tie it together meaningfully. Thanks very much for your thoughtful analysis and exciting speculations!
# morganslady 2011-03-05 12:40
Lovely recap.. I was afraid of what this show would be,but am so glad they made it work.. The guys did a great job of 'not' being able to act..
# kimberjoSPN 2011-03-05 14:17
Beautiful review!! I totally agree...this is my kind of world and my kind of show :)
# BagginsDVM 2011-03-05 14:39
This ep is definitely one of my favorites! There was so much silliness & fun, but very sincere & serious moments too. I can't imagine my world without the Winchesters, & all that this show has given me, both in terms of entertainment & in friendship with fellow fans!
# Bevie 2011-03-05 15:34
Thank you Mary. I love your reviews, especially the behind the scenes information you let us in on. I never cared about that stuff for any other show before.

Loved the episode of course, the crew, the writers (Thank God for Ben Edlund), and the two awesome stars of this show, not to forget Bobby and Misha and all the great guest stars we have seen.

Watching the actors not-acting very badly was a hoot and a holler and I would wish for some outtakes on the next gag reel. :P

Glad you are here Mary and looking forward to your next review. :-) But not to the hateful hiatus. :cry:
# RGNYC* 2011-03-06 13:57
Perfect. Beautiful. I so agree with everything you've written, Mary! I think my favorite part was the attempt at acting. So hilarious and JP with his hand gestures and attempt at dialogue--laugh out loud funny! Also I am so happy to see the partnership relationship the brothers seem to finally have now! Thank you for reviewing!
# Nitewoman7 2011-03-07 12:04
Mary Wonderful review as usual. I've worked on TV and movies here in Toronto. The shots I loved the best were when I got to work on a set as to location. Like you I love anything behind the scenes. When I was on set it was MAGIC. Loved to see how everything worked.One of the best shots was "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues when I was witness to a scene with 3 gunshots and see just how much time is needed to produce a scene (especially with action) so yeah I'm a junkie too. Hilarious episode and grateful to cast and crew for sharing this with us. Have I mentioned I LOVE THIS SHOW!! J and J awesome acting at being god awful actors, too funny & shows just how great they are :D