THEN:  Lucifer steals Jack's grace.  Various scenes of Michael, Jack, Lucifer, and AU Charlie.  As the images end, we hear Dean in a voiceover:  "It's all on me -- it's my fault."

NOW:  Old-timey, upbeat piano music plays as the scene opens on a statue in the town of McCook, Nebraska.  A slim young woman with long blonde hair and big eyes walks cheerfully down the street, greeting people, then unlocking the glass doors of the library.  Wearing a demure white blouse with a thin black ribbon tie, she is putting books away when she is startled by a hand on her shoulder.  It's Winston, a serious, earnest young man in a sweater.  He wants her to go on a date.  She's reluctant.  Suddenly, another man appears around the shelf of books; he's holding up an open stapler like a weapon.  He's ready to defend the young woman against Winston, but the librarian is annoyed by his intense dramatics.  She sends him off and commiserates with Winston about "nothing ever happens in this town," never a smart thing to say in a horror movie or in Supernatural!  Finally, with a sigh, she agrees to meet Winston for dinner.  He leaves, ebullient, while the upbeat strains of "Staying Alive" begin playing.  He almost dancing down the street, balancing on the curb like a gymnast, full of excited anticipation, until a hand snakes out of a tall row of hedges and snatches him into the greenery.  We hear a scream.

SUPERNATURAL title card and title of the episode:  "Optimism"

Jack is drinking coffee in the bunker's kitchen.  Dean eyes him askance as Jack pours gobs of sugar into his cup.  Nothing's tasted right to Jack since he's become totally human; he's trying to get the right taste back.  Meanwhile, Sam and Charlie, who's behind the wheel, are on a stakeout in Tennessee, watching a bench outside a warehouse advertising a pest control business.  They look bored.  In the bunker, Jack says that Sam is worried about Dean and adds that no one blames Dean.  This has no effect on Dean:  "I blame me," he says flatly.  He notices Jack's cough.  He also comments that Sam is a smart guy.  We immediately switch locations to TN where Sam is mesmerized by the fidget spinner he's twirling in his hand, looking like anything but the smart guy his brother just declared him to be.  Charlie gives him a side look, and he puts it away.

Jack desperately wants to hunt.  He's found some strange deaths:  he pulls up a website on his tablet to show Dean.  It has Winston's picture.  He's been found dead with bites.  There have been other cases in that town too.  "We can be hunting buddies!" declares Jack.  That's not a term Dean wants applied to him ever again, and he's reluctant to put Jack in harm's way.  Jack is frustrated by the fact that he could have killed Michael before, but he'd let himself be distracted and Michael got away, now free to wreak havoc.  Dean reassures him, and Jack continues to passionately advocate his going on a hunt until Dean reluctantly agrees.  

Inside the stakeout vehicle, Sam is hanging up the phone.  He tells Charlie, who's just returning from some reconnaissance,  that Dean is going to check out some suspicious activity with Jack.  Charlie shows him a jar of goo that she's found.

On the screen appears the cheerful, folksy Red Rooster diner which is then eclipsed by the front of the Impala pulling into the parking lot.  Jack and Dean enter, both dressed in suits and ties.  This was a favorite place of Winston's to eat, which Jack observes is an unusual thing to put in someone's obituary.  When someone dies young, people have a hard time knowing what to say about them, Dean remarks.  They approach the dark-haired, no-nonsense young woman behind the counter, telling her they're FBI and have questions about Winston.  She tells them that he's dead and there are no more details.  Jack is seriously writing down this superfluous information in a notebook.  Dean shuts that down in a hurry and wins over the reluctant witness by handing her some cash.  Then she's willing to dish.  She comments on Harper, the library lady Winston was courting.  Jack wonders what courting means.  It comes before dating, they tell him.  "And that comes before the SEX!" he adds, eager to share the knowledge he has and not realizing his awkwardness.  OK, now - this Harper Sales.  They want to hear about her.  Several people share their opinions:  poor girl, she's so unlucky in love, reads all the time, all she cares about is books.  Dean and Jack sit side by side, staring at their witnesses pouring out all the small-town gossip.  

Sam is chewing his nails, worrying about Dean and Jack.  Charlie tries to reassure him.  He says that Dean did have a good wing man once - "You!"  "Not me!" corrects AU Charlie.  She starts to describe her life.  She'd been a programmer for Roman Inc., and she'd lived happily with Kara, her girlfriend, a baker, until Lucifer and Michael brought on the apocalypse.  First, they fried all technology.  People thought someone would save them, but no one ever did.  Food ran out, then mobs took to the streets.  There was stealing and death.  Kara died, she adds emotionally.  "It all falls apart," she mourns.  "Not here," Sam replies, shaking his head.  "Not yet," she retorts.

Dean sits down in the diner with Jack, whom he calls "Mighty Mouse", to enjoy some pie.  Jack asks about courting; Dean says he'll give him "The Talk" later back in the bunker.  They need to talk to Harper.  Dean enters the library.  He's met with a smile from Harper, but as he identifies himself as FBI and wants to ask questions, she grows reluctant.  He insists, then Jack enters, no longer in his suit.  "You can't make her talk to you," he defends her.  "Back off, kid," warns the FBI man.  "You back off, old man," returns Jack.  Dean blinks a bit at "old man," then resumes their charade.  Jack successfully drives off the invasive fed, proving his heroism to the librarian who's eyeing him with stars in her eyes.  Pretty music begins to play as she gazes at him appreciatively.  She offers to get a book for him, but it's at her apartment.  As they leave the library together, Miles, the stapler-wielding coworker, questions her judgment, but she blows him off.  Dean's been on stakeout, and he follows them surreptitiously.  Miles takes the garbage to an alley to put in a trash can.  There's a strange noise.  A scream echoes from the alley.  Dean hears it and turns, watching as some trash spills out onto the sidewalk.  He approaches, gun drawn, to find Miles on the ground, bloody and still.  As he inspects the crime scene, someone is eyeing him through the fence.

In TN, AU Charlie confides that she hates hunting.  Sam tells her that she's awesome at it.  Who wants to be a hunter, she asks.  It's a lot of tears and death.  This is her last hunt.  She wants to go away, find a quiet mountain somewhere.  Sam's taken aback by her decision.

Harper ushers Jack into her apartment.  She has a large red heart on the wall as well as the word "AMORE" in wooden letters.  She's afraid she's being weird and doesn't want Jack to think she's coming on to him.  Jack doesn't understand.  When she steps away to get the book, he drops something silver on the ground and washes his hands in holy water, but, when she returns, she's able to retrieve his fallen item and touch his hands without any reaction.  So he sneezes, "Christo!" but still nothing happens.  

Charlie thinks the people disappearing in TN are the victims of a musca, a human/fly hybrid.  She shows Sam the chapter about muscas in the book she's been reading, but Sam knows the information already.  "I've read all the books," he says simply.  "Nerd," she teases.  Once in a while, a bad egg comes along in the musca community.  They leave their group and strike out at humans, finding bodies to serve as incubators.  Their discussion of lore is cut off as they see an unusual figure approach:  a black clad person with a huge, hood-covered, veiled head.  It sits on a bench near two women who quickly leave.  Shortly after, the black-gloved mysterious figure gets up with a briefcase and walks away.  

Harper is sharing some of her life story with Jack.  She's grown up in this town, but now she's the last one.  Jack sees a picture on display of her with a young man. She dated him before, but now she declares herself perpetually single. That was her high school boyfriend, but he wanted to leave town while she was content to stay with her books.  So he left.  "Without YOU?" Jack asks.  Harper says that she tries to stay optimistic, and Jack earnestly shares that bad things have happened to him too, but he tries to stay positive.  Their eyes lock, only to be interrupted by Jack's phone buzzing.  Harper pushes it away.  "Do you believe in love at first sight?"  Jack seems about to answer, but all he says is that he needs to use the restroom.  In privacy, he takes Dean's call.  He reassures Dean that Harper passed all his tests, so she's not a monster or demon.  She's in love with me, he states as he sits on the closed toilet lid.  Dean denies that possibility and adds that Miles has been found freshly dead.  Suddenly, there's a thump and a yell.  The phone call ends.  Jack exits the bathroom.  He seems unsure, definitely not ready to rush to Dean's aid.  But then Dean rushes into the apartment, turning back to lock the door.  Harper is angry, but he tells her that he's there to save her.  "Save me from what?"  "From that!" he exclaims as something bangs on the door and roars angrily. 

Dean has been chased by Harper's old boyfriend Vance.  Jack and Dean discuss what he could be; he must be a zombie.  Then he bursts in, a red-haired young man with dead-white skin and scary eyes, wearing a red letter jacket.  Dean calls him Archie and slices him with a blade.  The zombie retaliates by throwing Dean into a bookcase.  Jack and Harper flee.  Dean grabs a chair to use against the walking dead boyfriend, but he turns and leaves.  Jack and Harper arrive at the library; she fumbles to unlock it, but Jack remembers that she'd left it unlocked and was going to come back and lock it.  Her temper flares as she explains that she'd forgotten it while they were running from her deceased but ambulatory former boyfriend.  

Sam and Charlie watch as a man sits on the bench they've been surveilling.  Sam tells her that she shouldn't isolate herself because people need people.  It's not easy to walk away, and he should know because he's tried, but Charlie defends her right to make her own decisions because it's her life.  The creepy, square-headed figure in all black sits on the bench too, but then their view is obstructed when a bus pulls up.  When it drives off, the bench is empty, but they catch a glimpse of a man's legs as he's dragged into an alley.  When Sam and Charlie follow, they find no one, but there is goo on a door handle.  Charlie is leery about going inside since they're not really prepared, but Sam tells her they'll get creative.  They enter a warehouse filled with the buzzing of flies and the stench of rotting meat.  Guns and flashlights at the ready, they head in different directions.  Sam finds a suitcase with chloroform, but Charlie finds the victim.  As she's checking him over, a hand reaches up from under the platform where she's standing, grabbing her wrist.  She manages to get away, but stumbles and falls, knocking herself unconscious.  Sam runs to her, putting his gun on the ground, not noticing the fly-headed figure rising up behind him.  It attacks, squirting goo on Sam.  He struggles against it; then Charlie stabs it in the back.  It staggers back, and Sam grabs his gun and shoots it in the head.  Goo explodes, spattering Charlie.  "Well, that was creative!" she observes.  

Jack and Harper peek over the edge of a table toward the glass door.  They realize Jack didn't fully lock the door so Harper goes to lock it when the zombie appears on the other side of the glass.  Harper opens the door and lets him in.  He hands her a book.  This is her boyfriend; every relationship has their weird little things they do.  This zombie thing is theirs.  The fact that he needs to eat flesh isn't really that important.  The zombie heads for Jack who flees into the stacks.  Harper grabs the intercom to apologize to Jack.  She's a necromancer; she can raise the dead.  Vance was her first love, and when he wanted to leave town, she killed him, then raised him; now he's all hers.  She's chipper about Jack's impending demise.  She picks up a romance novel to read while waiting for her zombie boyfriend to finish him off.

Jack is hiding in the rows of books from the zombie stalking him, when a hand covers his mouth.  It's Dean.  They need to get Vance in his grave and drive a stake into his heart.  How will they do that?  He'll convince him with his shotgun.  Jack steps out of the stacks, approaching Harper.  He looks at her with large, serious eyes.  "I'm not afraid to love you."  This lures out the zombie who lunges at him, shouting, "She's mine!"  Dean shoots him, but that doesn't slow the undead creature down, who grabs the shotgun and flings it aside.  Dean backs away, explaining that this isn't a great relationship:  "You have to eat people -- is that romantic?"  The zombie keeps stalking him until suddenly Jack and Dean pounce at just the right moment, handcuffing him on both sides.  He's caught.  Harper runs.

It's night, and Sam and Charlie are driving back to the bunker, relieved that they got the victim to the hospital where he's recovering.  Sam feels bad for the musca; he could've been happy if he'd stayed with his people.  Charlie knows what he's trying to say.  As they talk, we see a group of black-clad, hooded, veiled figures enter the warehouse with a stretcher, gathering around the fallen musca.  Lanterns guide their steps as they respectfully place him on a stretcher.  Sam is telling Charlie that not all people are good,  but if they can help people, then maybe those people will help others.  It's worth it, even with all the tears and death.  Charlie smiles.  She'll consider staying.

Music plays in another diner where Harper sits writing a letter to Jack.  She can't wait to find him.  She plans to kill him and then bring him back.  He'll be her perfect undead boyfriend.  She addresses the letter to Lebanon, KS, where he'd told her he lived.  She carefully and serenely closes the envelope, then sips her coffee.

Jack is sipping coffee in the bunker.  Dean tells him he did good.  Jack says he was right; he can handle a hunt.  Dean tells him that it's how you handle mistakes and how you learn from them.  "And how you don't beat yourself up for those mistakes?" Jack responds.  Dean acknowledges his point and says he'll talk to Sam about Jack getting more involved in hunting.  Jack is pleased but stops to cough.  "You need some cough drops!" says Dean.  "It's all part of being human," Jack says smiling, just before he coughs up some blood, then collapses, bleeding from the nose as well.  Dean frantically kneels next to him, calling his name.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Did you suspect Harper?
  2. What team do you like best:  Sam and Charlie, Dean and Jack, or Mary and Bobby?
  3. Would Sam and AU Charlie have left the musca's body behind?
  4. How were both Sam and Dean portrayed as successful mentors in this episode?
  5. What's wrong with Jack?
  6. How does optimism play into this season's plot?
  7. what did you think of the monsters this week - a human/fly and a necromancer?