Caged Heat, by Elle2
If any of this episode is real besides what so many of us had already surmised which is that Crowley did not have the ‘juice’ to pull Sam’s soul from the cage, then I’m beyond disappointed.
Supernatural has always killed off its characters so it is no surprise that Crowley was not a permanent addition; what surprises is that there seemed to be no real purpose or conclusion other than, hey, you can’t get Sam’s soul so poof you’re gone.  Really?  That’s a bit of a letdown.  When Azazel died, it was the ending to a two-year hunt that culminated in the devil’s gate being opened.  Alistair’s death showed us the extent of Sam’s powers.  Lilith’s death ensured the final seal was broken and Lucifer could rise.  When Ruby was ganked (that’s the word she deserves) it was because her two-year manipulation had finally been revealed and it allowed the brothers to reunite in her slaughter.  Uriel died after revealing that he was working to raise Lucifer and brought us the angel killing knife, whoever wields it kills angels.  Zachariah’s death occurred as Dean rebounded from his self-sacrificing journey to say yes to becoming Michael’s Muppet.  Crowley’s death seems a bit of an afterthought and very, very convenient.  Also, there is no answer to why he wanted purgatory, other than he was greedy for more territory.  There is no explanation for how the alphas would actually help him to find purgatory for as we saw, he had plenty and none of them knew what he wanted; I think it’s an illusion.
Frankly, I’m hoping just about all of this episode was an illusion, it’s fairly forgettable to me.  I have the usual little nits but then I get to some bigger characterization nits – which are rarely small for me – and there are some things I liked, but few.
Enter Meg:
I like the Meg character and Rachel Miner is decent in the part.  She doesn’t bring the full weight of darkness and snark that I’d like but she does bring her own fresh take to the role so it’s palatable for me.  I do hope to see her again, and that’s frankly a decent compliment, I think, for an actress/character.  It makes sense that she’d be on the run from Crowley and I do like that she’s showing the grit I expect from her, she’s going to take the fight to Crowley; good.  She’s got her own band of demons with her, although as Sam rightly surmised, one wasn’t all on board with the plan.  
I like that once she discovered she couldn’t escape she decided she’d better join up, as the only one able to see the hell hound she was the logical choice to stay and fight and I like the parallel to Abandon All Hope.  Her kiss to Castiel was more than over the top for if she had said to Castiel, “I need your blade because that’s likely to work.”  He would have given it to her.  The kiss was simply to give the fandom something to oooh and aaah, over and Misha something to tease the fandom with.  To me that’s lazy writing, there was quite a bit of it here.  Also, since it was already established that Castiel could wing his way inside the fortress it stands to reason he could have whisked all of them from harms way; having the angel running through the prison chased by hell hounds again is lazy. 
By the way, just what powers did Meg use to torture Crowley and where did she get them?  We’ve never seen any evidence of Meg having that ability before, nor did Ruby wield such power; both are black-eyed demons thus both should have similar abilities.  I don’t mind new things being shown but they mustn’t exceed believability.  Dean having a sniper’s rifle buried in the trunk is all right; we’ve not seen everything in there.  Meg having the power to torture a demon higher on the chain of command does not work.
Castiel the Convenient:
I dearly hope that in the second half of the season we get into what is going on with heaven and Castiel’s angst and war.  Thus far there have been delicious little crumbs strewn about because so much else has been going on and I’ve been fine with that.  However, when these little crumbs end up affecting and damaging the characterization, I draw the line.  Again, I think this is the blame of the newbie writers on this one and poor oversight of this particular episode.  Castiel is a full-fledged angel again, to have him arriving at Sam’s beckoning only to find that he’d been tricked and then stay simply because Sam (or any human) threatens him is out of character.  Call it a bad day if you want, I say bad writing.  Castiel showed he was willing to help out when he saw how deep Dean’s pain was in You Can’t Handle the Truth so to have him not respond when he does know the depth of Sam’s non-suffering makes no sense.  
I like a good laugh, I do and Castiel’s line of “We’re not supposed to talk about it.” was funny and I did laugh. Unfortunately that was the whole point of the line, to elicit the laugh.  It worked but it damaged the character.  This isn’t Season 5 Castiel where he is slowly becoming more human as the separation from heaven increases.  Castiel is full angel again, akin to Season 4 with the wisdom of Season 5 under his wings.  Why are Sam and Dean tirelessly doing research while Castiel is sitting in front of the TV watching porn?  Dumb, shameless, poor writing.  Since Sam and Castiel don’t sleep and Dean does, it would make more sense to have the angel working right alongside the brothers in order to speed the research process.
Castiel was convenient and the writers need to ensure they hit all of Misha’s contracted appearances, whatever the magic number may be, and while I love the Castiel character and Misha portrays him brilliantly, here he was given a confusing arc to play from fooled angel to threatened angel to porn watching angel to vengeful angel.  The only one I liked was the ending when he poofed Crowley (that is bada**) and then wearily agreed to take care of the monsters in the building.
Samuel, Samuel, who is the real Samuel:
There are many twists and turns with Samuel Campbell’s character this season.  Why was he brought down, what keeps him here, does he trust Sam, will he hurt Dean and the list goes on and one.  It is a twisting and turning ride but frankly I’m bored with it.  Samuel seems to have one focus and one only, find Mary.  All right.  We’ve seen that before with John’s single focus to find the thing that killed her which led to Sam and Dean adopting the same focus to varying degrees.  I think just about everybody guessed that it was Mary’s picture that Samuel hid away back in Family Matters so this was no big reveal, just confirmation.  That’s fine.  I like answers. 
I’m at a complete loss though with the whole idea of why Samuel is here though because it goes back up to what was/is Crowley’s real purpose.  Why did he resurrect a long-since deceased hunter rather than simply tapping some current hunters?  It makes little sense.  I hope (and believe) there is more to it.  We know there are more hunters besides Sam, Dean and the newly resurrected Samuel that Crowley did not seem to bother with so why these three.  I don’t know what to do with Samuel until the true purpose of why he’s back is revealed and I don’t think that it has been.  Furthermore, the parallel between Samuel wanting Mary and Dean wanting Sam’s soul is forced and designed to directly pit these two against each other.  I would think Samuel, having apparently been in heaven and long-removed from Mary’s presence, would have some loyalty to her two sons and would rather she live on through them.  Similarly, I remain unbelieving that Crowley could get up into heaven and yank Samuel down, much as I do not believe he could resurrect Sam’s body but not his soul, especially since both went together into the pit.  This is a loose thread that continues to beg to be pulled.
Sam’s Mutilated Soul:
I don’t mind at all that Sam doesn’t want his soul back for at least it is because of a palatable reason (somewhat).  Rather than not wanting his soul back because he doesn’t want to suffer as he sees Dean suffer, he doesn’t want to be damaged; I can understand that.  I understand Dean’s determination to charge ahead because he is in denial that he can’t ever have Sam back, frankly I think Dean is still grieving from the events of Swan Song.  He watched Sam tumble into the pit and Sam has yet to return.  I also like that the sides have been picked and the brothers have that out in the open, from what I understand the next two episodes deal quite directly with it, at least next week’s does and I surmise so does Episode 12 but we’ll have a long wait for that.
There is something I’m not excited about but I’m really, really trying to remind myself that after five and a half seasons the writers have never directly done this, so I must be calm:  While we the fans have often pitted brother against brother and tried to build up one brother whilst tearing down the other or perhaps more gently have chosen one brother’s story as more compelling or more traumatic than the other the writers have never done that.  Over the seasons there has been plenty of role reversal activity but it has always come with a twist so that it is unique to the character and does not diminish what happened to the other; my concern is thus far is that there is a build up to make Sam’s time in the pit so much worse than Dean’s time in hell.  If that’s truly where this goes, I may finally find myself in the camp that says, whoa, why does Sam’s story have to diminish Dean’s?  
I’ve never thought that in the past, and that’s even with Adam/Michael telling Dean he was no longer a part of the story, because I never believed that to be true; without Dean’s arrival in the cemetery and willingness to sacrifice himself bloody, Sam would not have had the fortitude to take back control.  I never felt Dean was diminished in Swan Song.  However, if Dean’s time in hell is made to be a cake walk while Sam’s time in the cage is the worst ever, I may pull the cord and have the Supernatural train stop so I can leave.  This is a journey I’ve always said I am on voluntarily and willingly, no one is holding me hostage here.  I have few expectations for any episode, other than no one calls me (unless it’s a crisis) so that I can enjoy the time.  But, stray across the line and make such a direct comparison that both brothers went to hell and now it’s Sam who is damaged irreparably while two seasons ago it was Sam calling Dean weak and darn near useless, and boo hoo and all, then it’s time to stop the bus so I can say thank you for the ride but you’ve reached my destination.
There were some other minor nits to this episode, notably this:  I don’t mind that Sam used his own blood to draw a devil’s trap (and whew, that’s better than anything else I conjured during the commercial break) but how did he actually get the drawing up on the ceiling; it’s kind of high.  Also, that’s a lot of blood that he’d need in order to draw that thing, and I would think he’d be a bit fatigued, not to mention, well, bloody.
In the end this episode answered very little of consequence, revealed little of consequence and ended perhaps permanently a truly engaging character and did so in a way that was so anti-climatic.  I’m going to go full-bore here and say that, since we are told time and time again that nothing and no one is to be believed this season, that this episode is not to be believed either. 
Bring on next week’s that is written by Sera Gamble and Robert Singer; they better bring their A game too because after that it’s a long, long, long wait until January 28th.
Thanks for reading, Elle2