I'm sure you're asking, why recap "Salvation?" Easy. "Devil's Trap" and "In My Time of Dying" have always been high on my list, but it just didn't feel right doing those without covering the first episode in that trilogy. Sure it's not as good as those other two, but it's important! So on with recap.
As I'm sure many of your remember, "Salvation" was actually the first episode to feature "Carry On Wayward Son" as the opening montage. It wasn't until season two that it became reserved just for the finale. "Salvation" in a sense though is part one of the finale so that'll work (just ignore the "All Hell Breaks Loose" example). The song goes on to show a great summary of all that happened in season one, which is they're picking up where Dad left off. You know, saving people, hunting things, the family business. They're trying to find John, they're killing things, Sammy has these visions, and the Winchesters are reunited. Then there's Meg. Why not start with Meg?
Blue Earth, Minnesota. It's a nice quaint little church, something you'd expect for rural Minnesota. A pastor reads the bible and suddenly a breeze flickers all the candles on the altar. In walks Meg. Oh yeah, some bad shit is going down. She tells the pastor she needs to talk. Don't do it! Run you bastard! Nah, he talks with her. She does the whole "I've done some bad things" chat. I'll say she has! The pastor claims there's always forgiveness. "Salvation was created for sinners." Yeah, but Salvation wasn't created for evil demon whores. Oops, sorry, I'm jumping ahead.
Meg goes on, admitting she's lied, a lot, she's stolen, she lusted (with our Sammy nonetheless!) and then she met a nice guy who's throat she slit and ripped his heart out through his chest. "Does that make me a bad person?" She shows the black eyes. So the pastor says, "Oh, you're a demon, that's all normal. Move along." Um, no. He freaks out, telling her she can't be there for that's hallowed ground. I guess that rule doesn't work with super bitches like her. Go figure. The pastor runs downstairs to his office and he has one cool arsenal down there. I guess he's had his run-ins with things like this before.
Meg kicks open the blocked door. He throws a knife at her and she catches it easily. Come on dude, judging by the weaponry you have I'd think you'd be smarter than that. "You throw like a girl," Meg says. The pastor now decides to ask her what she wants. The Winchesters of course. Even back in season one the Winchesters seemed to attract trouble wherever they went. The pastor claims he hasn't spoken with John Winchester in a year. Even if he did know where they were, he wouldn't tell her. She knows, which is the perfect reason to slit his throat. To think, he's one of the early ones in the body count!
So, what are the Winchesters up to? They're still in Manning, Colorado. There's a cool scan of all the weird shit up on John Winchester's wall. He has some strange decorating tastes. Must be a pattern thinker. He tells Sam and Dean that's everything he knows about the demon. He explains there's been nothing on the demon they've been hunting all this time until a year ago when, you know, he took off, Sam's girlfriend was baked on the ceiling and Sam started having all those headaches and nightmares. That's probably not a coincidence.
The demon is going after families all over the US just like it went after them. Sam asks if they're families with infants. Yep, night of their six month birthday. Sam is shocked to find Mary was killed on the night of his six month birthday. Um, Sam, didn't you and/or Dean do the math by now? That's an obvious one. Sam is in too much of a pissy mood to care about the semantics of time, for he's concluded that Mary and Jessica's deaths were all because of him. Dean isn't ready to make that conclusion, so Sam jumps down his throat about it. "Oh really, because I'd say we're pretty damned sure Dean!" Dean firmly points out whatever happened to them was not his fault. "No, it was not my fault but it's my problem!" Sam shouts. I love that line, because it's so true! This is exactly how Sam treats his misfortunes all the way until the season five finale. He may not be the one to blame, but he's the one that has to do something about it.
So then Dean says "It's not your problem, it's our problem," and that too takes us all the way to the end of season five. Dean was there right next to Sam the whole time. I so love continuity it this regard. I get all giddy! Back to the story, John breaks up the brotherly fight, so Sam goes back to being rational. He asks what does it want and how do they find it? John wishes he knew for he's always been one step behind it. Liar!! You do know what the demon wants!! You're only partially telling the truth. Sneaky Winchester. Be careful, one of your sons might end up doing that! Oh, wait...
John is brutally honest about how he's never gotten there in time to save people. That does break him up. His sons with one stare dually note that pain. So, how do they find the demon? There's signs. Ones that have taken John a while to figure out. Cattle deaths, temperature fluctuations, electrical storms. Dean figures it out, those signs happened in Lawrence. John confirms that to be true, a week before Mary died. They happened in Palo Alto too. There's cattle in Palo Alto? Really?
Now the signs are in Salvation, Iowa. Next shot is John's truck and the Impala on the road. The rainy road. Go figure. The sign says they're leaving Salvation, which is kind of weird. Why would you tell people you're leaving a town? Of course since they're going the opposite direction it means they're entering the town. The saying on the sign is cool. "Are you reading for Judgement Day?" JW 2:27. Someone's having fun with us!! My answer is JW, "Does it matter?"
The truck pulls over and the Impala follows. John's a bit upset. Pastor Jim is dead. Oh, so that's who that was! His throat was slashed. They found traces of sulfur. A demon. Or is it "the demon? Dean asks. John isn't sure, it could be Jim got careless and slipped up. Ding, ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! It also could mean the demon knows they're getting close. They've got to act as though every second counts. There's two hospitals in the county, they'll split up and get names of all the infants that are going to be six months old in the next week.
Sam surmises that could be dozens of kids. How do they know which is the right one? Why your super Sammy psychic powers, that's how! Darn, getting ahead of myself again. John concludes they'll have to check them all. Sam and Dean don't like that, so John wants to know if they have better ideas. Ooh, I know, how about Sammy has a psychic vision? Oh, that's right, John doesn't know about that yet.
They go to leave, but John takes a moment to have a slight meltdown. He's pretty broken up over losing Jim. Too bad you haven't met angels yet, they could fix that problem. John is determined to end this, now. "I'm ending it. I don't care what it takes." Right. Sorry, you're about 83 episodes too early for that.
John pulls up to a hospital and gets out one of his many fake badges. Sam is alone at another place going over birth records. Dean is at another place, but he's flirting with the clerk instead. Now for the fun part! Sam is walking out of the hospital, reading a book strangely, and he gets a flash. Oh no, clowns! Why did it have to be clowns! Crud, there I go jumping ahead again.
A woman is in the nursery with a baby. A train goes by. This is an important clue. Back to Sam who's clutching his head in agony now. He tries to shake it off but more happens. Lights are flickering and the woman looks out the window. Sam is now clutching his aching head with both hands. Lucky for him, he has a handy dandy map of the area and looks to find the train tracks. Check! He walks a bit while reading the map and is hit with another big flash. He walks forward and spots the house in his vision. Then he sees the mom in his vision walking her baby. Wow, good job Sammy! That saves a lot of time and effort.
Sam goes over to help the mom and talks about how gorgeous the baby is. You're so good at faking small talk Sammy. He gives a line about moving in nearby. She's Monica, the baby is Rosie. Sam notices how good the baby is and mom says she never cries. She spends a lot of time staring at people. "It's like she's reading your mind." Hmm, the next generation of psychic kids, huh? Were you like this as a kid Sam? Through small talk he finds out Rosie is six months old today. Sam gets all sad and wants to try and warn her, but realizes that is not wise. He tells her instead to take care of herself. Oh, poor Sam. Some really deep wounds are opening up here, aren't they?
Monica and Rosie walk away and then Sam really gets pelted with stabbing head pain. This time we get the whole vision, which is actually long and drawn out. They must have been hurting to get in enough time on this one. It's the same story. Nursery, baby, demon, mom sliding up wall, flambeed mom on ceiling.
Sam is back at the motel, clutching his aching head, and John is having a real hard time with this one. "A vision." Dean is sitting next to John patiently listening. Sam says his vision shows that woman burning on the ceiling. John wants to know why he thinks this will happen to them. Well duh, because all visions come true like this. Dean takes over the explaining because he's the cool overprotective big brother. "They started out as nightmares, then he started having them when he was awake." Sam, with a voice tinged with pain, explains the closer they get to the demon the stronger his visions get. Aww, poor Sammy, come here, I'll make the headache all better.
Sam and Dean might be all casual about this, but John looks like he's going to blow a gasket. "Alright, when we're you going to tell me about this?" Sam and Dean both look at him with disbelief. Dean says they didn't know what it meant. John chastises Dean now, telling him when something like this happens he needs to pick up the phone and call. Ha! You've got to be kidding. What do you know, Dean feels the same way. "Call you? Are you kidding me? Dad I called you from Lawrence, alright. Sam called you when I was dying. Getting you on the phone I've got a better chance of winning the lottery." To think John, this is coming from your obedient son. Imagine what Sam would be telling you if he wasn't in so much agony right now.
John humbly accepts Dean's words. He apologies, even though he doesn't like Dean's new tone. It's called having balls John. You do have sons, remember? Sam for once breaks up the confrontation because vision or no vision the demon is coming tonight and this family is going to go through the same Hell they did. John assures they won't, which makes for perfect timing as Sam's phone rings. It's about time they had some trouble.
No shocker, it's Meg. Sam mentions how the last time they saw each other she fell out a window. Wow, way to bring up fun memories. She claims that hurt her feelings. Sam is surprised that's all it hurt since it was a seven story drop. Gee Sam, you really didn't know demons couldn't be killed like that? He does learn the hard way, doesn't he? Meg gets over it and wants to talk to John. Sam tries to play dumb, but John standing next to him motioning for the phone changes his mind. Meg tells John she did in Jim Murphy and today she's in Lincoln. She has Caleb. She brings up the colt but John plays ignorant. She responds by slashing Caleb's throat. Remind me never to be a friend of this guy.
Meg goes on with her evil over the phone taunting. Since John has the gun he's basically declared war. The shot of a dead Caleb makes her point that war has casualties. John swears he'll kill her, but we know he doesn't. Anyone want to take bets on whether Castiel did? Nah, she's got to still be alive and more pissed off than ever. Anyway, Meg promises to kill anyone that ever helped John if he doesn't hand over the colt. John agrees. You mean to tell me you have friends and acquaintances left? She wants him in Lincoln by midnight. John claims that to be impossible but Meg doesn't care. He also has to come alone. I don't get it. If the yellow-eyed demon was attacking Rosie that night, wouldn't she want John to bring Sam and Dean? My guess is there are some communication issues in the demon chain of command. See, demonic upper management has the same hangups!
Oh, so now Sam concludes that Meg is a demon. Took you long enough! John says she's either a demon or it's a possessed person. Your concern to save that innocent girl trapped inside is so heartwarming John. John's plan is to find an old colt at an antique store since only they and a few vampires know what the gun looks like. Dean sees where that is a lousy plan, for if John hands over a bad gun they'll take it out of John's ass. John only wants to buy a few hours. "You mean for Dean and me," Sam cleverly figures out. He makes sure the plan is clear, John wants them to stay there and kill the demon by themselves.
"No Sam, I want to stop losing people we love. I want you to go to school, I want Dean to have a home. I want Mary alive. I just want this to be over." You know, this is really really sad, especially when you see what progresses over the next few seasons. For one, it's never over. Sam ends up fulfilling a dark and brutal destiny that's about the farthest thing from going back to school. And Dean, he gets that home finally, but at a massive cost. Everyone that ever mattered to him is dead. It's pretty freaking tragic when looking at it from this angle. Plus John disappears in a trail of gold fairy dust. That is so wrong!
We see the organized weapons in John's trunk and wow, Dean did not inherit any of those genes. How does Sam tolerate it? Dean pulls up to the same bridge we see in "The End" when he and Sam reconcile. Dean gives John a pretty decent replica and warns his dad its a trap. John knows but claims he can handle it. He has a whole arsenal. Liar! For some demented reason, the song "Be Prepared" that the goat sang in Hoodwinked comes into my head. He was prepared! Sorry, me and my strange flashes.
"Dad, promise me something," Dean says. "If this thing goes south, just get the hell out. Don't get yourself killed, you're no good to us dead." "Same goes for you," John replies. Right, what did you expect John to say to Dean? "Be reckless, get yourself killed. It's what us Winchesters do." No, John instead reminds them they only have four bullets left for the colt. Make every shot count! Then he gives a speech that is the most intense foreshadowing for the rest of the series. "Been waiting a long time for this fight. Now it's here and I'm not gonna be in it. It's up to you boys now. It's your fight, you finish this. You finish what I started. You understand?" How eerie, for that's exactly what ends up happening.
Both brothers nod in agreement, but they don't like it. John hands Dean the colt. "We'll see you soon Dad," Sam says. Aww, remember the days when Sam was an optimist? Season four Sam would have been giving John his final farewell. John says he'll see them later and leaves, Sam and Dean somberly watch. "Later," Dean says.
At this point there's a lot of back and forth. I'd warn you to try and keep up, but it moves at a snail's pace so you should be alright. John arrives at the warehouse and looks around, working out his tactical strategy. It's really cool when I can sum up three minutes in one sentence like that. Next Sam and Dean sit out in front of Monica and Rosie's house waiting for the shit to hit the fan. Sam want to try a gas leak scare, but Dean knows that would never work because it never has. Sam then suggests the truth and they both conclude that's a dumb idea. They're only move is to wait for the demon to show up. They of course wish John was there.
Back to the warehouse, Meg arrives. She looks around and there's no sign of John. That's because he's hiding. She's a demon right? Can't she sense where he is? We'll assume he's got an amulet or something that helps. The pace of this episode is really at a crawl right now otherwise I might not think of such things. I guess they all can't be action thrillers, although this is a very normal pace for season one. John opens up a tank of water, pulls out a rosary, recites some latin and then drops it in. Now that part is cool.
Back to Sam and Dean outside, and Sam is doing the whole "it's finally here and it doesn't seem real" speech. That's because it isn't! Dean is treating this like its a normal part of the job. I like Dean's perspective at this point in the series. He's practically the only rational one. Then Sam goes into the whole thanking Dean speech for having his back, wanting to let him know just in case. Dean, rightfully so, doesn't want to hear any of this crap. "Nobody's dying tonight, not us, not that family, nobody." Except the demon, but we know that doesn't end up being the case. Ah well, at least Dean was partially right.
John comes out from the shadows and Meg compliments him on his looks but thought he'd be taller. Enough of the small talk already! Now a turtle is outpacing this episode. Meg gets to business. John wants to know how he'll get out of this if he hands over the gun and proposes he shoots Meg instead. Meg claims there's more where she came from and sure enough another demon dude comes out of the woodwork. Meg demands the gun by throwing out more threats, John gives it to her, she gives it to demon dude. He tests it by shooting Meg! Hee, I like that!
It doesn't kill her but man she won't stop bitching about it. Since she is bitching though, they know the gun is a fake. John's in trouble now! Meg and other dude converge on John and he claims he didn't know because he never shot the gun before. He points out to Meg she should be glad it wasn't real but that only pisses her off more. Temper temper. She of course promises to do him some big harm so John runs. He takes them through the warehouse and opens the tank of holy water when they get close. That keeps Meg and demon dude back.
Back to the Impala. Dean tries to call John, but we know he's busy. Then the static comes on the radio. The wind rustles, the lights flicker, they know what that means. Back to John who's tires are slashed. Drive away anyway John! Bend the rims, this is your freaking life! Back to Sam and Dean who enter the house. Better be careful boys, they'll think you're a burglar. They're attacked by the Dad with a baseball bat because he thinks they're burglars. Sam and Dean try to assure him that they're trying to help but Dad stupidly warns Monica to get the baby. Sam of course shouts to stay out of the nursery but what mother is going to listen to him? That's her baby in there!
Monica goes in, sees yellow eyes and now she's pinned against the wall. She slides up, Sam runs in, sees the yellow eyes and fires the colt. Oops, he's too late! Yellow eyes disappears in thin air, Monica drops from the ceiling, Sam ushers her out and Dean grabs little Rosie a split second before the crib bursts into flames. Interesting, why would the crib do that? If yellow eyes didn't get to bleed into their mouths the baby had to die? It likely means nothing but that's interesting.
Back to John who's running, and...he gets caught. He goes sliding up against the wall screaming in agony. Dun, dun, duh! Leaving in the truck with flat tires seems like a good idea now, doesn't it? Back to Sam and Dean and the nursery explodes into flames, blowing out the window. Sam, Dean, Monica and Rosie all make it outside, and Dad wants to rip them a new one but Monica tells him they saved them. Dad's too upset to thank them but Monica does. An upset Sam looks up at the fire and sees yellow eyes up there. Now he's positively livid! He rages, all eager to go back but Dean won't let him, holding him back. He tells Sam it's suicide. "I don't care!" Sam shouts. "I do!" Dean shouts back. They then watch yellow eyes disappear. Wow, that's how you ratchet up the tension!
Oh boy, this is my favorite season one scene. Yes, favorite out of all of them. It's even one of my favorite brotherly scenes in a long line of many. Sam and Dean are back at the motel and a worried Dean is trying the cell phone again. No answer. Sam is sitting on the edge of his bed totally despondent, looking downward and not saying a word. Dean hangs up and realizes something is wrong. He doesn't like Sam's non-answer. "You hear me, something's happened."
Sam is still stuck on missing out on the chance to kill yellow eyes. "If you just let me go in there. I could have ended all this." Dean has a good answer. "Sam, the only thing you would end is your life." Sam looks up at Dean now angry. Oh heck. Let's just go through this next bit with the full transcript.
Sam (angry): You don't know that.
Dean: So what, you just willing to sacrifice yourself, is that it?
Sam (still angry): Yeah. Yeah, you're damn right I am.
Dean: Well that's not going to happen, not as long as I'm around.
Sam: What the hell are you talking about Dean? We've been searching for this demon our whole lives. It's the only thing we've ever cared about.
Dean: Sam, I want to waste it, I do, okay? But it's not worth dying over.
Dean: I mean it. If hunting this demon means you getting yourself killed, then I hope we never find the damn thing.
Sam (upset): That thing killed Jess. That thing killed Mom.
Dean: You said yourself once that no matter what we do, they're gone and they're never coming back.
Sam (loses it and slams Dean against the wall): Don't you say that! Don't you. Not after all this. Don't you say that!"
Dean: Sam look, three of us, that's all we have. And it's all I have. Sometimes I feel like I'm barely holding it together man. And now you and dad-
Sam (Lets Dean go and comes to his senses): Dad. He should have called by now. Try him again.
Oh, I just love that exchange! Sam is so crushed, this events of the past year finally taking its toll and poor Dean, we get to see that vulnerable side that so rarely surfaces, at least in that season. All he cares about is keeping his family together, preserving what little he has left. Nothing else matters. For a guy that has seen as much trauma as he has in his life, that's a pretty healthy perspective. It's one his father and little brother need to take.
Following Sam's request, Dean calls and this time Meg answers. Dean demands to know where John is. Meg assures he'll never see his father again. Dean freaks, Sam freaks, TO BE CONTINUED??? Damn you...oh never mind. It's the next episode on the DVD. Bring it on!
Although we don't know it yet, John HAS met the Angels and one (Anna) of them tried to kill both John and Mary and did kill Sam. Then Michael cons John into being his vessel. Sadly the Angels would have been no help whatsoever. Poor John was just as screwed as Sam and Dean from the word go.
Verily, thou that leaveth Salvation leaveth the Lord!
I get that they wanted Pastor Jim to have a suitably bloody death to push the Winchesters' collective button an extra time, but it always bugged me that someone so well versed in what's going on wouldn't have a devil's trap at the threshold of his bat cave. Not like he'd freak the nuns out any less with the arsenal in the room.
I love how in the Sam-Monica scene it's coming down pretty hard. Not as bad as in What Is And What Should Never Be, but this might be the only time (outside of Sam and Dean of all people) we see one of those.
And of course the baby had to die, it's what demented demon mofos do. What a fine, fine episode.
Personally, I've always found it a little difficult to watch (and rewatch) "Salvation" (and also "Devil's Trap") because they were so intense emotionally.