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Thoughts on "The Devil You Know"

Season five of Supernatural has been quite a mixed bag of episodes ranging from the phenomenal to the low-level mediocre and everything in between. For me, The Devil You Know fell about smack dab in the middle of those two, perhaps a little closer to the phenomenal than the mediocre, but just a smidge. I enjoyed the episode, I enjoyed the guest acting and I liked the reveals. That said, there was a lot of wait-time packed into the episode too.
The opening scene featuring our boys decked out in surgical masks should have been humorous - it was meant to be - and while it was certainly interesting that they chose to do a scene where most of the actors faces where obscured, this wasn't the strongest opening we've seen, not by a long shot. The tie between Pestilence and the Croaton virus is slowly being made. He infects the people with a flu-like bug (swine flu in this case) and the vaccine that his well placed demon minions circulate is actually the Croaton virus, which turns people into bizarre demonic zombies fighting to infect the rest of the population. Maybe I'm slow or I've missed something, but even in The End I was a little fuzzy with the purpose of Croaton virus. Why bother? If I'm the only one asking that question, well, bully for me. I'm not criticizing this element of the plot - just waiting for that "aha!" moment to hit me.
"That's what you get working with a demon."

Crowley pops into the Impala and Sam stakes the upholstery - blasphemy! I do love Crowley though. From the first time we met him, brief as it was, this is one demon that left a distinct impression - in a good way. Certainly, he's evil but Crowley is up front about this fact, something that's appreciated given the extreme demonic manipulations we've witnessed in the past. Of course, for all we know, Crowley has assumed the undercover role that Ruby once occupied - so deep undercover that only the head honcho himself is in on the plan. While I fully except to eat these words later, given that it is Kripke we're talking about - I just don't think that's the case.

"I've sold sin to saints for centuries. You think I can't close one little demon?"

The demonic Brit is a wonderful element to the storyline and it only makes sense that the other creatures who enjoy existing on Earth as we know it right now would be opposed to the Heaven and Hell showdown that the angels and Luci are gearing up for. Regardless of which side wins, they are screwed. This was the main attraction that brought the gods together last week and what drew Crowley to help Sam and Dean in the first place - which is why I believe what he says, fork-tongued though he may be. I've heard a number of people questioning why Crowley can pop in and out like an angel - theories have included that he is such a creature in disguise. We've seen that there is something of a hierarchy to demons and crossroad demons (which Crowley is) have in the past popped out of thin air to appear before their summoner to collect a soul, so this just makes sense.  Not since Azazel has a demon been so charismatic and out-and-out evil - I love it.

Crowley and Dean were like the two stooges in their ploy to get the right hand man of the Horsemen. Well, Dean was anyways. Crowley was mostly himself. Dean - when will you learn - attempting to make a deal with a demon is never a good plan. Ever. In this case, it resulted in a thorough beating. Dean's having a rough couple of weeks here - first Cas and now Brady. Hope the aspirin bottle is well stocked. Still, Crowley's ultimate plan, of which Dean knew nothing, worked perfectly.  He even proved to be salesman of the apocalypse, ultimately convincing Brady to fess up to where Pestilence was. Who didn't love the story he manifested about him and Brady being "lovers in league against the devil"? Fantastic! And, he has his own Hellhound! I think Sam and Dean should have their very own hellhound - a good sized one. What a help that would be!

"Do the best of someone better!'

Brady. Oh boy. To borrow from the Winchester brothers - what a douche. Not once did the cocky self-important air saran-wrapped around this character break - even in death. The actor responsible for this incarnation, Eric Johnson, ironically the same actor who played Flash Gordon (From Alice - also Whitney in Smallville) - a hero, had superb chemistry and the perfect smirk for this character. The elements of season one being drawn back into the plot line, however miniscule, effectively bookend the over-arching plot that has run between season one and now. We haven't seen the chalice phone call (anybody else made nauseous by the bubbling blood and flies? I have a thing about bugs in that I strongly detest them, so maybe it was just me) since Meg back in Shadow - way to bring it back, dear writers! Even Jess (down to the cookies that awaited Sam at the end of the Pilot *sniff*) and Stanford have played a significant role in the apocalypse and for me; the idea that Azazel inserted someone into Sammy's core college group is diabolical and makes perfect sense. Sam was/is too important to the grand plan to risk something going wrong.
"What if you guys lead the devil to the edge and I jump in?"

Jared, once again, demonstrated some killer acting chops in this episode. The unadulterated rage as he realized how badly he'd been played and that Jessica was set up to as a linchpin from right from their first meeting - oh Sammy. The Lucifer-in-Sam plan intrigues me. Only on Supernatural would something as seemingly off the radar as how Bobby took back control of his body be the possible solution to the whole apocalypse. It's also evident that Sam, despite the alcohol, heard what Bobby was saying about his rage-control issues and made a concerted effort to get them in check. Most chilling two words of the episode? "Interesting theory." So cold, Sam! It's nearly Arctic!

The parallels between this season and last season are quite strong - with reversed Winchester positions- and grow more evident with each episode. This time, we have Dean trusting, or at least going along with the demon element with Sam vehemently opposed to any sort of alliance. Dean's thinking, I imagine, is that they've only got one tiny shot in hell (excuse the pun) in this thing ending in their favour, so at this point what's to lose?

It was good to see Sam and Dean trusting each other again - Dean had faith in Sam by bringing Brady to him and Sam reinforced this by not out-and-out killing the bastard. Good, concerted team effort, guys. My favourite scene in this entire episode is one of the shortest. Dean, Sam and Crowley take Brady to an alleyway and lock him in with a salt line. Crowley buggers off and Sam and Dean stay to take care of Brady. During this time, they have possibly one of the greatest bad cop-bad cop brother moments ever:

All those angels, all those demons, all those sons of bitches, they just don't get it, do they Sammy?
Sam: No they don't, Dean.

Dean: You see, Brady, we're the ones you should be afraid of.

This brief dialogue gave me chills. The boys are sick to death of being pushed around like pieces on a chess board and now they're just pissed. Especially since learning just how deeply team-YED injected itself into their lives (well, mostly Sammy's life - but that's more likely to make Dean angry than if the con had been played on himself). If there was any doubt that the final showdown wasn't going to be exhilarating and unbelievable, these three sentences washed it away.

Bobby - how can I put this delicately? Don't do it, idjit! Good rule to live by: just say no [to demons]. It will save us all a lot of grief and trouble in the long run. Somehow, I suspect were in for some grief and trouble in the last two hours of the season. Well, if that's the case, put a big check in the sold-soul column of each and every Winchester male, including the honourary Winchester one Robert Singer. Apparently, they don't learn by example.

The one glaring ommission from this episode for me - where in the world is Cas? Not even a mention about looking for him. I miss that blue-eyed, poor example of an angel. Wonder what he's been up to since zapping himself into smithereens? The Devil You Know will, without question, be on my list of rewatchable episodes when the DVDs are released. Between Crowley and the Sam and Dean moment at the end, the character elements will bring me back. Only two episodes left in this season and then Hellatus again. Holy crap, where has the year gone? Just yesterday Sam and Dean were being zapped onto an airplane after killing Ruby and now they're gearing up for the final showdown. Hold on tight, I'd say we're in for a crazy ride!  


# Bevie 2010-05-01 14:00
Hi Elle

Your thoughts are very much my thoughts. Good analysis of this episode.

Dean, Sam, Bobby and Crowley were all great in this one. And the bad cop=bad cop exchange really was chilling, but good to hear the boys on the exact same page after all this time apart.

The last time we saw the chalice phone call was at the end of "Croatoan" in season two when the kid Tanner slit the sergeant's throat and supposedly called Azazel to report that Sam was immune to the virus.

I too missed Cas. There are only two episodes left so there is little time to cherish him if next season the angels are all missing in action. I can only hope that somehow he will be back next season, and please please let Bobby survive too.
# faye 2010-05-01 16:04
Took me a while to think about this one. Like everyone's saying, it's a setup episode, so no real major plot resolution, leaving it unsatisfying, but I think at the end of the season, we're going to say yeah, wow, that's when it all started happening.
I think Crowley is a real scary dude, and the boys better watch out, but that little moment you mentioned "we're the ones you should be afraid of", the one Crowley didn't see, that's the moment. I think the boys are going to play them all, angels and demons. It reminds me of when Sam won the poker game, control is not what anybody expects of Sam. I think he's going to surprise them.
# AndreaW 2010-05-01 16:14
Does anyone remember what Dean told Sam back at Sympathy for the Devil? 'I don't think I'll ever trust you again', or something like this. Well, if he agrees to let Sam go ahead with his scheme now, it will be the greatest proof of trust he'll ever give to Sam. :!:
# Suze 2010-05-01 17:43
I know Crowley looks for all the world as if he's being set up for another Ruby moment ... Trust me, trust me, trust me ... Ha-ha, Gotcha! But there's a little teeny bit of me that's wondering if he's actually on the level. Mr. K likes Neil Gaimen, he namechecks American Gods as one of his influences in thinking up the SPNverse, and in the fab Good Omens which Gaimen co-wrote with Terry Pratchett the apocalypse is not so much foiled as sort of confused to a standstill by a motley crew of two rubbish witchfinders, a rebel angel and, guess what ... A rogue demon called Crowley. Hmmmm, think on't, chaps ...

( This is probably complete cobblers as I've had a really long day so you can all feel free to laugh at me in two weeks time when he stitches our heroes up like kippers and dances on the bits ... )
# daraobriain 2010-05-02 05:54
Sam and Dean working together was the best part of this episode!

"The boys are sick to death of being pushed around like pieces on a chess board and now they’re just pissed. "

I really liked that scene too! Dean actually letting Sam have revenge on Brady was actually pretty cool, showing that he trusts him!

I don't trust Crowley as far as I can throw him, but he is fun. So was Brady. But I'm really worried for Bobby now.

"The one glaring ommission from this episode for me – where in the world is Cas? Not even a mention about looking for him. I miss that blue-eyed, poor example of an angel."

Yes, me too! I couldn't fully concentrate on the episode because I was thinking about Cas. I hope the boys welcome him back properly!

Bring on Pestilence!
# Jasminka 2010-05-02 16:15
Elle, thanks for your 'thoughts' - this is going to be a hell of a ride, indeed! One the one hand I'm scared like hell, ahm, pun intended I guess, on the other I want to see the guys stretch their acting muscles. I agree that Jared gave us some more testimony of his remarkable talent.

And Crowley... what a fantastic baddie!

Actually, I think Sam's plan is brilliant (even if it's stupid, really), THE logical reason for him to say yes to Lucifer. And Bobby, I have no doubt that he will go for Crowley's offer. Even if it goes wrong, he will get rid off this damn chair he's chained to...

Not meaning to sound pessimistic, dear, I am just excited about the acting possibilities here...

Take care, Jas
# biggsy 2010-05-02 18:35
I think what I love best about Crowley....evil as he is and turncoat that he may yet turn out to his absolute Britishness. When he told the boys they need to have a "fag and a chat" I nearly died laughing