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This is just a repost of the review I submitted to blogcritics this week in case you didn't see it.  Something to tide you all over until I get the full recap up.  Happy reading!

Excuse me, do you know where the recruitment office is for Team Freewill? There's a few million of us ready to jump on board.

Wow, just another amazing epic classic from a show that routinely delivers amazing epic classics. This time, Sera Gamble and Nancy Weiner present a flawless script that pushes this show's already amazing actors and their director, Steve Boyum, to the limit. Like we had any doubt they wouldn't deliver.

Much like the Winchester's lives, this episode depicted a nasty situation that banded the family together in a fight that spun out of their control and ended in disaster. Anna, the wayward angel from last season, arrives in Dean's raunchy (and hilarious) dream. Of course it turns out her intent is to kill Sam and spread all parts of him over the globe so Lucifer would never find him. Her plan backfires when instead of Dean and Sam coming to meet her, Castiel shows. With his angel killing sword. Even though her plan makes sense to Castiel, he won't agree to it because Sam is his friend.  I'm touched! It's so nice to see a bond like that being formed with Sam and Castiel now. "Come near Sam Winchester and I'll be forced to kill you." He's even on board with the "there must be another way" train of thought now. 

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What's really interesting is Sam sees validity in Anna's plan too. He asks Castiel if she's right, if she kills him will that stop Lucifer. Castiel presumably (granted we're expression reading here) lies and tells him Dean's offhand reference to Glenn Close. Castiel's fierce protectiveness of the brothers gets better each time we see it. Here, it's the strongest yet. 

Anna goes to plan B, which is to kill John and Mary Winchester before Dean and Sam are even born. The choice of timeline, 1978, is interesting. I thought the motivation was to kill Sam, not negate both Dean and Sam. The timeline choice if anything makes the later conversation with Mary, Dean and Sam more interesting. This time Sam gets to go along with Dean's latest time travel adventure and what felt wrong about "In The Beginning" and "The End" finally seems right. Sam belongs there with his brother.   Since it is Sam's first time, this is the perfect setup for one of the multiple emotional zingers in this episode. Sam gets to meet his past parents, especially Mary, the mother he never knew. He stands in the background, flabbergasted and teary, while Dean does the talking. His reaction is simple, understated, emotional and just plain heart tugging.  

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It's a shame that Castiel couldn't join in on all the fun, but this is a family reunion after all and he'd end up being a party crasher. I like how being removed from Heaven is taking its toll and how much harder things are getting for him. Plus, Misha Collins plays angel in a coma really well. Left alone to fight Anna, the brothers bring what few tricks they have up their sleeves. Sam finally gets his turn at the angel banishing sigil and it's awesome. However, the real awesome part of the fight scene in the garage is Mary channeling her inner hunter and kicking some serious ass. You go girl! 

What I adore about the writing in this show is how they manage to work in those fun, priceless little moments that don't add much to plot but so add to our delight. There's no better example than the entire Winchester family in the Impala, John driving, Mary in the front seat and Sam and Dean in the back. Needless to say, John is very upset to now learn that monsters are real and the three passengers in his car fight them. He's especially bent when Mary admits she's been doing this all her life. Dean and Sam try to defend, but John sushes them all. "Not another word or so help me I'll turn this car around." The irony of this "awkward family road trip" is not lost on Sam and Dean.

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Luckily Mary has an isolated safe house that's been in the family for years, which is the perfect setup to get some emotional baggage out of the way while hunkering down for the big fight. It starts with John and Dean. John is ready to jump in and do whatever it takes to protect Mary, even though he's still quite upset about the whole monsters thing. He volunteers to draw the angel banishing sigils in his own blood, a fighting spirit reminiscent of the hunter John Winchester we know and love. Dean even smiles and tells John he reminds him of his Dad. 

Then, in what is the biggest Kleenex moment of the episode, Sam finally gets to have an honest talk with his Dad. Sure it's John of the past, but it's the one chance he has to unload all that regret that's been burdening him since John died. Young John doesn't understand how anyone could raise their kids in that sort of life. "The number it must have done on your head. "Um yeah, understatement. Sam defends his Dad, mentioning he died trying to protect him. He used to hate him, but now he understands he was doing the best he could. "You see, my mom, she was amazing, beautiful and she was the love of his life. And she got killed, and I think he would have gone crazy if he didn't do something. Truth is, my dad died before I got to tell him that I understand why he did what he did, and I forgive him, for what it did to us I do. And I just I love him." John's deeply affect by this, as if he knows Sam is really talking about him. What a gorgeous scene. Both Jared Padalecki and Matthew Cohen are just stunning.

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The next Kleenex moment starts with just Dean and Mary. She demands to know the truth and Dean is finally pushed into admitting he's her son. He and Sam came from 2010, brought there by a much friendlier angel. One who's still unconscious in a seedy motel room somewhere BTW. He gets her and all of us crying by bringing up how she used to feed him tomato rice soup when he was sick and sing him "Hey Jude." Mary is mortified, wondering how she ended up raising her boys as hunters. Dean explains how she's killed by the yellow-eyed demon and John becomes a hunter, thus raising them in that life.  He warns her about November 2, 1983 again, telling her to take Sam and run. Sam comes in though and points out the flaw in the plan. The yellow-eyed demon will find her and him. There's another way. Mary must leave John. That way, the brothers will never be born, a plan both Sam and Dean have no problem with. Mary won't do this though, insisting there must be another way. Hmm, so that's where Dean gets it from.   Mary has another good reason, she's pregnant. Given that Dean was born on January 24, 1979, she should be.

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John interrupts the emotional discussion, for the sigils aren't bloody anymore and the oil has dried up. In comes Uriel, recruited earlier by Anna, and the trouble making angel herself. A fight ensues and yeah, it goes badly. Uriel kicks the crap out of Dean, John gets flung outside, and Sam's left to defend Mary. Anna in very graphic fashion follows through with her vow to kill Sam. I know Winchester deaths are kind of cliche anymore, but Sam's death this time is shocking and disturbing. Impaled by a lead pipe, he struggles for a few seconds in full view of a frantic Dean before sliding down, his corpse left to waste on the ground in a growing pool of his own blood. Yikes!

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Anna goes for Mary next and divine intervention strikes again. But this is better than just another angel visit. It's THE angel, the archangel Michael. Wearing a freshly minted John Winchester suit he smites Anna into ashes and zaps Uriel away. He assures Mary John is fine just before giving her the angel fingers of sleep. That leaves him and Dean alone to talk, but Dean is more concerned about his dead brother on the floor. Michael wants to talk first and I absolutely love how Matthew Cohen here is able to switch gears so well going from John to the arrogant, superior, yet very charismatic Michael. He and Jensen Ackles blow us away in this scene.   

Sure, Michael reiterates what Zachariah, Lucifer, and Gabriel have said before, but his message is so much more powerful. He doesn't want to kill Lucifer, a brother he practically raised (another parallel to Sam and Dean) but he has to. Lucifer betrayed him and their father. It's called being a good son. He points out all the random acts that happened for John and Mary to meet, fall in love, have Dean and Sam, and so forth. It's all part of a plan that's playing out perfectly. That's why Dean will say yes.  What's really significant about this conversation though isn't the pre-destiny talk, but the reveal that it's John's bloodline, going all the way back to Cain and Abel, that makes Dean the perfect vessel for him, but not the only one. John said yes to him because he promised to save Mary.  

Dean, still defiant, believes that he gets to choose what to do with his "unimportant little life." They end at an impasse but Michael gets the final word, very confident that Dean will say yes. He even promises to not leave him the "drooling mess" his brothers do their vessels when he's done "wearing" him. Ditto for John, plus he's going to do one better. He's going to scrub their minds, make sure they don't remember Dean, Sam, or any of this. That way Mary gets the happy life she wants. Sure, she still walks into that nursery, but that was always supposed to happen one way or another.  With one zap he sends dead Sam back to the future breathing and then does so with Dean before promising to see him again soon. The crushed look on Dean's face before he goes tells it all. He's powerless again to save his family.

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Back at the motel in 2010 and might I comment, the peach and multi-colored polka dot walls are fabulous! They mark the triumphant return of the over-the-top motel room. Castiel appears and they grab him just before he passes out again. While Sam and Dean share a drink, Dean makes a joke of the dire situation. "Team Freewill. One ex-blood junkie, one dropout with six bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatose over there." The harsh reality sets in that with the right motivation, like saving their mother, they'll say yes to Lucifer and Michael. If that wasn't unsettling enough, the pitch perfect ending goes back to Mary and John, in Dean's nursery with a very pregnant Mary. The very happy couple marvel over a cheap artifact Mary found at a garage sale, a small figurine of an angel. She can't put her finger on why she likes it and assures her kicking baby, "Angels are watching over you." Crud, I'd run out of Kleenexes by that time.

So, with that, we're left with so many questions. For one, the bloodline is Sam's too. So that's the answer to Ruby's statement in last season's finale, "It always had to be you."That's scary. Does that mean Nick is related to the Winchesters? I also wonder what it would take for Dean to say "yes." Dean seemed truly affected by Michael's words, as if he saw his point. He refuses to believe though that he has no control over the future. In "The End," Dean saw what could happen if he didn't say yes, but concluded that particular future happened because Sam did. How much longer before what the angels tell him goes beyond "annoying” Will they be able to get through to him, considering all that he knows about the past and future? Since it involves killing Sam, I can't imagine they would be able to use Sam as the reason. What happens if Sam says yes first? Also, what about poor Castiel? How much longer before he ends up becoming a mere mortal? He's getting weaker all the time. 

My overall grade, an A+. Say what you want about Michael showing up and mentioning the same thing that's been said over and over again, but I just found his take more fascinating. Up next week, The Edlund ruins Valentine's Day. 


# Evelyn 2010-02-09 13:45
Great review Alice, thanks. Loved this episode and all the family moments were beyond expectation. I would now love to see a flashback of the young John and Mary with a little Dean and baby Sam in the back seat. That would be priceless. Would also love to have a future episode where 'Hey Jude' is one of the songs featured. Now that it has been mentioned, TPTB have to put it in somewhere.

All the actors did a marvelous job in this episode. Can't give them enough kudos. This should be an episode they put on their Emmy reel when the time comes.
# Randal 2010-02-09 13:56
Given that Michael is numero uno, and that Matthew Cohen absolutely knocked the home run cliché out of the park (one really did get the feeling that he could fuck anything up something fierce if he wanted), I didn't mind more destiny stuff. It didn't seem long-winded and since it came from him instead of the unbelievably non-trustworthy Zechariah, it has a bit more gravitas, and resonance for Dean.

I still hope the brothers go Nancy Reagan on 'em all. 8-)

Just a little bit more Cas, and you'll be a real boy.
# Suze 2010-02-09 14:25
Lovely episode ... Well, loads of woe, angst, violence and despair but you know what I mean! :lol:
# bevie 2010-02-09 15:08
That was great Alice!

Exactly how I felt about this episode. Sera exceeded herself with this one. A top 5 A+ all the way!

Especially loved the way Matt channelled BDW and made me believe he was a younger version of the same guy.

# Supernarttu 2010-02-09 15:19
A great review Alice. Total agreement on everything! It was an epic and one of the best in S5 and the entire series for sure. I was crying my eyes out with Sam & John and Dean & Mary. All of them had such incredible chemistry. It was over too soon, like all the great ones.

On a side note, an interesting thing is if Anna had contacted Sam straight away, he would have gone along with the plan A... But then again, where would all the drama be?!
# Anene 2010-02-09 15:42
I disagree with you there Alice. Yes, even though the threat of each other dying won't work as a persuasion tactic to get either brother to say yes because they would rather die anyways but i do think the reason they would ever consider saying yes will most certainly have to do very much with each other. I don't know how or what, but that is something i see as a possibility. After all, that was the question and idea that was tossed around. Especially that last question Sam asked Dean. I think it would be something just as important to the brothers. Something they badly want.

If it isn't too much to ask Alice, do you think maybe you can start and article that involves brainstorming about all the possible reasons the Winchesters could ever be persuaded to say yes against their better judgement. I think that is what the season boils down to. Although, i feel like the angel brothers are sneakily using priming to get the brothers to say yes. After all, if you hear enough time that you're going to say yes, you might just say yes or in my case, i would say yes just to stop the annoying chant.
# Jasminka 2010-02-09 17:17
Just when you think the acting on this show can't get any better, they go and do THIS.
I'm in awe. Again.

Alice, thanks for posting this here. I wish I could check out your blog on blogcritics more often, alas I am in dire need of choosing my time-eaters well. I haven't had so much work in a long time as I do now. it's like this year people are getting sicker (or they just come to me more...), and I am swamped. So, I'll keep sticking to our site here and - unfortunately - ignoring most of the others.Which is no belittling of your exceptional quality of being a wonderful writer.

And now, I'm off to bed, trying to sleep.
Sweet dreams everyone, Jas
# Jasminka 2010-02-09 17:20
Just when you think the acting on this show can't get any better, they go and do THIS.
I'm in awe. Again.

Alice, thanks for posting this here. I wish I could check out your blog on blogcritics more often, alas I am in dire need of choosing my time-eaters well. I haven't had so much work in a long time as I do now. it's like this year people are getting sicker (or they just come to me more...), and I am swamped. So, I'll keep sticking to our site here and - unfortunately - ignoring most of the others.Which is no belittling of your exceptional quality of being a wonderful writer.

And now, I'm off to bed, trying to sleep.
Sweet dreams everyone, Jas
# Jasminka 2010-02-09 17:21
there goes the evidence that I need sleep, double posts. quod erat demonstrandum. :idea:
# Ash 2010-02-09 18:23
I really enjoyed the episde as well..
But am having issues with the mythology as a whole now...
Azezal just picked random childern to be 'special'.. the didnt need to be male or female or the younger one or the older one... In Andy's case, he fed them both... So was it simply dumb luck, that one kid 'happened' to be Sam, who was a descedant of Cane and Abel and had a rebelious streak and had an elder brother who was a good son to an absent father?
It seems very convinient....

Also, if the whole breaking of the seals, is Dean the true vessel for Michael because he was the first one who broke the seal or because of his bloodline and relation to Sam, or was he always destined to break the seal and it had nothing to do with him being righteous??

*sigh* .. I confuse myself sometimes...
# Sablegreen 2010-02-09 19:48
Alice...GREAT REVIEW. I agree d thanks for the screencap of the 4 of them in the impala. Never did I ever think we would see that.

I also glad they are starting to deleve into John's bloodline. AND that Michael admitted there were other vessels, Nick being one I'm sure. The boys being the best choice because they are brothers and the angel can use that a leverage to get the fight under way.

Ash, many are having issues with the mythology now...and to make it more confusing, according to Alistair in On The Head Of A Pin, he tells Dean John was supposed to break the first seal, not Dean. Dean was second choice.
# Ash 2010-02-09 20:50
I know!.. and we will be on hiatus again! So many questions so few answers.....
# Sablegreen 2010-02-09 20:59
That keeps us tuning in! We still have 9 episodes this hopefully all will be answered. :shock:
# Jasminka 2010-02-10 03:57
Should we get a sixth season, I doubt they will answer all questions. I'm sure they will bring this story arc to a conclusion, but they're surely leave us hanging some more.

Perhaps in season six (yeah, I'd love to have that, just about as almost everyone watching, I guess. Parting with the show would not be anywhere in the neighbourhood of sweet sorrow) there might be room to reveal some secrets. I'm still dying to find out about Dean's dark secret that made his eyes bleed in BloodyMary. Maybe they will concentrate more on Dean? Ah, I'm just a humble fan. The writers have all the power.... Where's that magic wand when you need it!
:-x Jas
# Sablegreen 2010-02-10 08:38
Hi Jas, yea THAT'S another unanswered question....and not one tied to the mytharc. That could really be interesting to explore.
Robin Vogel
# Robin Vogel 2010-02-13 15:11
Excellent job, Alice, but you have always blown me away with your pity, amusing and well-thought-ou t reviews. Remember what Sam asks Dean? John said yes to housing Michael in order to save Mary's life. Sam asked his brother if he would do the same? I have always maintained that the only way either Sam or Dean will say yes is if they believe they are saving each other's lives. Or--putting it out there just for the hell of it, what if it turned out that Ben IS Dean's son and part of the Winchester bloodline? Imagine the possibilities!

Unless they can find a way to say NO no matter what is presented to them, I see no way out.

By the way, Alice, for some reason, I found Sam's scene with John sadder than Dean's with Mary. I cried more at the first. And I was also crying hard at the end, with the now-evil sounding "Angels are watching over you." (And they all want your body and soul, poor baby!)