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(This is the review I posted on blogcritics yesterday.  This should not be confused with the full recap, which will be posted tomorrow or Wednesday.  Enjoy!)

Geez! Will poor Sam Winchester EVER catch a break? You know you're completely doomed while starting your new life when your dead girlfriend keeps showing up in the middle of the night, tells you things are hopeless and she was dead the second you both said hello. Or when hunters stop by and force feed you demon blood so you'll go back to your demon killing with your mind ways. Or when the dead girlfriend is really Lucifer who is ready to be fitted with his own Ginormotron meat suit. Even Dean doesn't want Sam back, although taking on the task of trying to get a fallen angel laid isn't as easy as it sounds.
Besides the fact that the plot twisting I just described will make anyone not familiar with the show go "WTF?" "Free To Be You and Me" so far is the best episode of season five. Considering Sam and Dean didn't have a single scene together, that's saying a lot. Again just like last year's "In the Beginning," Jeremy Carver delivers a well plotted and balanced script that ups the stakes for everyone (yes Mr. Carver, you still own me). J. Miller Tobin ("Born Under A Bad Sign", "A Very Supernatural Christmas") is back to direct and manages to bridge the two very different settings seamlessly. 
For both Sam and Dean, the hope of finding a way out of their grim destinies is getting slimmer. While both are still hidden from those forces that pursue them, the inevitability of becoming vessels for opposing foes in the greatest war ever told brings to question just powerful the free will of man can be.  Castiel too is hitting some major bumps in his quest for God and the quest for his own faith. All in all, epic doesn't begin to describe it.    
What a better way to chronicle the brothers' parting of ways than with a brilliant montage set to "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I'm getting really spoiled by three episodes in a row of great classic rock setting the mood for the story. Sam is in Garber, Oklahoma and Dean is in Greeley, Pennsylvania. Sam takes a job as a busboy at a bar while Dean is hunting "twilight." Sam burns his fake ids, Dean shows them. Sam carves up lemons, Dean carves up a Vampire. Both settle into their cheap motel rooms and their separate lives are set.
The light moments of the episode prove to be a perfect balance to the heaviness of the rest of it and they all come from Dean and Castiel. The sudden entrance of our fallen angel, who had to call Bobby to find out where Dean was, starts with a reminder from Dean about personal space. After noticing Sam is missing, Castiel pleads for Dean's help. There are signs in Maine that Raphael, the archangel that killed Castiel, is there. Dean must help for two reasons, the angels won't kill Dean and no one else will help Cas. Yep, those pleading angel eyes got to me too. Castiel goes to zap them there but Dean objects. "Last time you did that I didn't poop for a week. We're driving." TMI Dean!
Castiel gets a harsh lesson in how to play a fake FBI sidekick. Lying isn't in his nature, but at least he's dressed for the part. Cas plans to tell the officer the truth, angels and demons are fighting, and doesn't understand why that won't be met with disbelief. He doesn't even know how to hold the FBI badge right. L uckily Dean is convincing by now and they find out where the Raphael's vessel is. Castiel goes to Jerusalem ("How was it?" "Arid.") and retrieves some holy oil that will trap Raphael. They'll confront the vessel at dawn. Dean will survive, Cas likely won't, so Castiel has just opened himself up for one of Dean's whims. Dean won't let Cas die a virgin. Enter whorehouse.
Okay picture a two thousand or more year old being of purity in such a place of depravity. Yes, it's as awkward as you think. Funny too, especially when Cas tries to comfort his "companion" by telling her it wasn't her fault her dad left, he hated his job at the post office. She has a fit he and Dean leave before being tossed by bouncers. Dean realizes something during his resulting fit of laughter outside. He hasn't laughed like that in years. So, Sam gets another knock against him.  
Speaking of Sam, just when you think things can't get worse for this guy, they do, big time. A waitress at the bar is enamored by the mystery behind the fine package, especially when Sam hammers out a New York times crossword in the blink of an eye and hits the bullseye every time in darts. She doesn't even know he's in his motel looking for apocalyptic signs in a bible written in Latin. Sam won't give up the mystery, but after telling her he hurt a lot of people, she figures out he has an addiction. "No one has ever done anything so bad they can't be forgiven, they can't change." Once she sees the truth later, her mind probably changes. You see Sam has alerted Bobby about those demonic omens in the area and three hunters that know Sam show up essentially blowing his cover.
The story bounces between Dean and Castiel's summoning of Raphael and Sam's run in with some pissed off hunters. Dean scores the best line of the night after he and Cas send a message   through Raphael's vegetative vessel. "Just out of curiosity, what is the average customer wait time to speak to an archangel?" Considering my frequent run in with tech support lines recently, I laugh my ass off. 
Raphael does appear to them later and they trap him in a ring of fire. Raphael proclaims God is dead and the angels got tired of running the universe on their own. They want paradise now. So do I buddy but I'm not about to start an apocalypse to get there. Raphael promises Dean he's more “creative” than Zachariah in getting Dean to agree to be Michael's vessel and has a new theory as to who resurrected Castiel. Lucifer. Castiel leaves Raphael in the burning ring, not worried about his threats of retribution. "Maybe one day, but today you're my little bitch," an angered Castiel says in parting. "What he said," a lost for words Dean adds, for it's obvious his tag line has been stolen by his angelic bud.
Sam in the meantime is confronted by the two surviving hunters of the demon attack who learned everything about Sam from a demon. Yes, they're bothered by it and demand to hear the truth from Sam. They hold his waitress friend at knife point so Sam confesses, he started the apocalypse. Pissed off hunter #1 breaks out a vial of demon blood and both men force it into Sam's mouth after a struggle. They want him to hulk out and do his demon killing thing now to avenge their buddy. Sam gets up, spits out the blood at them and goes into crazy eyed killing mode, besting them both in a fight but stopping himself short of carving them up with a knife when he sees Lindsay's horrified stares. He chases the hunters off instead, and the cat's of the bag. Great, now hunters will be on him all the time too. 
Ah, but the two final scenes are what's meant to get us and they do. While Dean and Castiel ride in the Impala, Dean tells Cas to go with what he believes, not with what Raphael said. Castiel believes that God is out there, so Dean encourages him to continue his search. As for Dean, he's happy for the first time in a while because he's not with Sam.   "I've had more fun with you in past 24 hours than I've had with Sam in years and you're not that much fun. It's funny you know I'm so chained to my family but now that I'm alone, hell, I'm happy.” Ouch!! Castiel disappears and fans are left to chatter "What the hell Dean?"
That isn't even the shocking part, for now it's time for Sam's worst nightmare. Jessica appears to him again, but this time Sam believes people can change and there's reason for hope. â€œNo Sam, there isn't,” she replies and morphs to Lucifer! Sam is rightfully freaked. Even though they're talking, Lucifer isn't really there and can't find him. Then he admits his vessel Nick is plan B and can't hold him very well. There was a reason Sam was in that chapel. Sam is Lucifer's true vessel. WHAT??? A devastated Sam declares that will never happen, especially since Lucifer's an angel and needs his permission to take over his body.  Lucifer boldly warns that when he finds him, he will consent. â€œI know you better than you know yourself.” Sam promises to kill himself before that happens, but Lucifer will just bring him back. Wow, that's same pickle Chuck found himself in last season. Now both the Winchesters are indestructible too! 
“Why me?” A heartbroken Sam asks. He gets the EXACT same answer Ruby gave him in last season's finale. â€œBecause it had to be you Sam. It always had to be you.” That's not answer! That's Kripke messing with us some more. Lucifer leaves a shaken Sam in tears and me too. 
Discussion Points
There's definitely a price in being "free to be you and me" for Sam and Dean. It's free will vs. destiny. It's confirmed now, they're destined to fight one another as vessels for Michael and Lucifer. A brotherly standoff is something this show has setup as an inevitability for most of the series. There have already been devastating consequences when the brothers were separated, aka the apocalypse.   Only together can they fight that destiny, but their human hurt and pride has divided them and made them vulnerable. This isn't a story of good vs. evil, its average men fighting against impossible odds. Kripke and his lieutenants have talked about those themes plenty of times before in interviews. Still, that doesn't prepare us when it all plays out. Wow.
Was Dean telling the truth about being happy without Sam? Is he misinterpreting his current feelings of relief? Yes and no. It goes back to “The Magnificent Seven.”  He was in denial about dying then, lost in the temporary relief. Chances are his "vacation" will get weary in no time. Like tomorrow.   
The revelation that Sam is Lucifer's true vessel certainly clears up some plot threads dangling from season two. It makes sense now why there could only be one man left standing among Azazel's children. It makes sense why they had to make sure he survived the Croatoan virus. The person had to be strong enough to not only kill Lilith and break the final seal, but the handle Lucifer as well. Only one being can lead the demon army and it's Lucifer in one pretty suit.
Interesting how Lucifer uses the dead lover trick with Sam like he did with Nick and goes with sympathy and honesty to wear down the will of his victims. I'm dying to know how he plans on getting Sam to change his mind. Same for Dean. How "creative" could Raphael have been? Throw in Castiel and his mission and the possibilities are huge.
We know Lucifer didn't save Castiel, Sam, and Dean in the season premiere. Lucifer told Sam he was supposed to be at the convent to become his vessel so I doubt he would have let them go. I wonder how long it'll take for Castiel and Sam to connect and share that tidbit.
Overall this episode earns a high A from me. The best of season five so far. Next week, it's the Supernatural version of 28 Days Later. It's written by Ben Edlund, so hold on for something big. Watch live too, the ratings have been pretty disappointing so far.


Amanda P.
# Amanda P. 2009-09-29 01:16
I totally look forward to next week's episode. I absolutely love 28 days later so seeing Dean in place of Jim ruining away from hobo looking infected people was just awesome.
This week's episode was awesome, all the laughs, jaw dropping moments were just great. :D
# Suze 2009-09-29 05:00
I didn't like this one much first time around but after a couple more gos and a decent download ( cheers, Narcissus! ) I'm starting to warm to it ... In their own seperate ways all three characters are just twisting in the wind. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose ...
# Sablegreen 2009-09-29 09:41
Sam would have been Lucifer's vessel in the chapel if Dean hadn't been there. And Dean wasn't supposed to be. Dean pulled Sam away, brought Sam out of his 'trance' if you will. Sam was just standing there awe-struck by Lucifer. That is the control Lucifer will have over Sam in person. In this episode, it was a dream, not the same as being in Lucifer presence.

The way they have the storyline so far, Sam will agree to be Lucifer's vessel, unless the the boys start acting like brothers again. Hopefully Kripke will start to turn things around soon. The show really needs something to boost the ratings.
# elle 2009-09-29 13:36
I love your review, Alice. I agree with you that this was the best episode of season 5 so far. I wasn't sure about people's reactions to it, given the brotherly divide, and thought I might be the only one who loved this one - glad that's not the case!

I can't wait to see The End - the previews have me hooked. Sadly, I won't be able to watch live. However, since I am in Canada, my viewing live wouldn't count anyways *sigh*