Now: It is night is Portsmouth, RI, in 1925. A beautiful and terrified young blonde woman in flapper clothes is being dragged by crimson-robed men into a temple-like room filled with candles, sigils and chanting. It looks like some evil Satanic ritual, but the emblems on the robes and wall are not the expected inverted pentagram, but the Men of Letters symbol. The panicked woman struggles vainly as she is chained to a marble table as the chanting continues. One man stands over her, holding up a crystal talisman. A purple lights shoots out of the crystal, opening a rift above the table. A long dark tentacle squirms out of the rift, and the captive screams.
We're now in modern day Kansas because the next scene opens with Sam sleeping on a table in the bunker. Dean is happily attaching rude post-it notes to his back like "Dum-Dum" and "Kick Me." Sam wakes and is suspicious of Dean's overly casual demeanor but dismisses it to focus on the fact that they've found barely any info on the Seal of Solomon, also called the Jewel of the Cosmos. They have the blood of a holy man and fruit from the tree of life, but in order to find the Seal of Solomon, they will have to check the archives again. A dark door opens; a light reveals a utilitarian research room with metal bookshelves. Dean is not happy with all the research ahead of them, but they have no choice but to pore through the voluminous tomes. Books and records pile up on the table between them. Time passes. When Sam takes a break, he sees in the mirror the notes Dean has stuck to his back. He can't quite reach them to pull them off. "Are you serious?" He is annoyed with Dean, but Dean has found something: a reference from the Men of Letters to a powerful crystal. The Winchesters realize that the Men of Letters had found the Seal of Solomon, and it was at Capitulum 7, a chapter house in Portsmouth, RI. "There it is . . . jinkies!" says Dean. Sam doesn't appreciate that either, but Dean, pleased with himself, isn't planning on stopping his Scooby-doo references anytime soon.
The Impala pulls up outside an old brick building. In the foreground is a rusted-out car covered in vines. They walk through iron fencing, but, "where's the door?" Then Sam sees a man-hole cover covered in arcane symbols with a keyhole. He pulls out the bunker's key and inserts it. We view from below as the cover is lifted; light falls in first, along with a swirl of leaves like petals or golden raindrops. Then the brothers drop down inside. Flashlights on, they begin to explore. They find the lights which dimly illuminate a hallway that looks a lot like the bunker, except for an engraved symbol on the wall. They find a study room: "Great. More books," states Dean. His eyes follow along a wooden card catalog and then on a table with old, black-and-white photographs. He picks up one of a lovely flapper - Sandy Porter is the name written on the back - and he admires her; we recognize the captive girl from 1925. Meanwhile, Sam has discovered a file that says Solomon 1917, but before they can read it, they hear a desperate call for help. They hurry down a hallway and break down a door and enter a temple with a girl chained to a marble slab - a living girl. It's Sandy Porter, born in 1923.
Ketch has come to see Asmodeus, but Asmodeus won't see him. A henchman tells him to wait which Ketch refuses to do. He makes his way past the less-than-observant guards into Asmodeus's throne room to see him extracting grace via a needle from a wretched-looking Gabriel, dressed in rags, hunched at the Prince's feet on the steps. Asmodeus inserts the needle into his own body, sighing in ecstasy at the shot of grace. Gabriel flinches and whimpers, unable to speak because his lips are sewn shut. His eyes are huge in his damaged face, and they are desperate, wounded, and lost. Ketch tells Asmodeus that he doesn't like to be kept waiting. Asmodeus doesn't care. He walks him back to his seat in the hallway where Ketch once more sits and waits.
Sam and Dean have given Sandy a plaid flannel shirt to wear over her silver gown, which, while exquisite, is also sleeveless and not very warm. They explain to her that it's 2018. She is baffled and confused, mostly stunned. They take her to a diner, where a teen boy flirts with a cute young waitress and an older waitress jokes with a silent chef who stares as the Winchesters enter with Sandy. The waitress is sassy with Sam and concerned about Sandy, wondering when the last time was that she ate. The chef makes a call; there's a tattoo on his arm. It looks like a MoL symbol. A woman answers; she's in the temple of the chapter house. "We have a problem." "Yes, we do."
Sandy doesn't understand how she's still alive nor why the men with her aren't more freaked out that she's still alive. They can't really explain why this is nowhere near the weirdest thing they've encountered. She says she remembers a guy saying he knew of a secret club. She thought it was a speakeasy - the Men of Words? "You're safe now," says Dean. "We'll protect you." There's a quick flashback of the chanting MoL in the temple as Sandy shares her memories: she describes something like a "rip in the air" and says they were using her to feed the monster. Upset at her memories, Sandy leaves for the restroom. The chef sprinkles something on the food the Winchesters have ordered and pulls out a knife from behind some kitchen utensils. This knife isn't typical of most diners: it's curved and marked with sigils.
Ketch appears before Asmodeus who says that the Winchesters are gathering ingredients for a spell. Ketch said he knew Castiel had returned with some from Syria which annoys Asmodeus who wonders why Ketch didn't tell him. "You didn't ask," replies Ketch. "I shouldn't have to to ask," says Asmodeus. As he speaks of the portal that Sam and Dean are trying to open, Gabriel listens from inside his barred cell. Asmodeus says that they need to stop the Winchesters who still need archangel grace; however, he's the one who's got an archangel - "my juice box." Ketch doesn't like being treated like "the help." "You pay me. I do what needs to be done," says Ketch. Asmodeus disagrees: "I OWN you." He viciously slugs Ketch who tries to stand only to be struck again. Asmodeus uses a combination of demonic power and physical strength to brutally beat Ketch down to show him who's really in charge. Asmodeus is disgusted at the blood spatter on his immaculate white suit while Ketch lies on the floor at his feet.
Back at the diner, the Winchesters are confused as to who or what Sandy is - she's passed their standard monster-revealing tests that they've surreptitiously done - and they wonder what the MoL wanted with her. They haven't missed her reference to a rift, and they wonder who's been keeping her back there in the temple. Sam wants Dean to stay with Sandy while he goes to check out the chapter house, but Dean says there's no way Sam is going back there alone. Sam's healthy food - including kale - is brought out first, and he begins to eat. The cute boy who'd been flirting with the young waitress goes to leave the diner only to see spooky figures, robed and hooded, standing outside. The Winchesters look through the blinds to see more approaching, but Sam can't focus. The world around him starts fading in and out; then he collapses on the table. The lights go out, and the mysterious cloaked strangers enter. The chef attacks Dean who fights back. Each time he defeats one opponent, another jumps him. Sam rouses, but two assailants put a bag over his head and drag him out of the diner. In the kitchen, Dean is losing his fight when a blade pierces through the robed body about to strike him. Sandy has stabbed the figure, saving Dean, but Dean is focused on something else: "Sammy?" His brother is not in sight, and the robed figures, who've retreated from the fight, still stand menacingly outside. Dean starts swiftly and silently making Molotov cocktails in the kitchen. The waitress panics when she realizes that the phone lines are down. They can't call the police. Sandy pulls back the hood on a body on the floor of the diner; it IS the police. If the police are among the frightening, cult-like attackers, from whom can they expect rescue? Dean is ready to head out: "They took my brother. I'm gonna get him back."
Sam, hands tied behind his back, is on his knees in the woods facing the chef and a robed woman. They want back what he stole. He's confused. He tells them that he's a descedndant of the MoL, and they respond that they are too. Their great-grandfather had returned from World War I and gone psycho. After seeing the mess humans could make of the world, he decided to call forth a god from another dimension for a do-over here on earth. Again, we get a flashback of the attempted sacrifice as the MoL's descendants describe how a creature from another dimension invaded the girl and ate everyone there. Sandy is the monster, the god that came through the rift. In the face of this disaster, the Men of Letters closed the chapter house; they've been guarding the place ever since.
Asmodeus is shooting up again and mocking Ketch for thinking he's so high and mighty. According to Asmodeus, Ketch is actually worse than monsters and demons. Ketch, sitting helplessly on the floor with a battered face, says that at least he has a soul, but Asmodeus responds that souls are messy and confusing. He tells Ketch that the Brit thinks he's living up to his code, but, in truth, Asmodeus sees "fear, regret, and pain." You want redemption, he says, but like me, you'll never get it so all you can do is spread your pain around. There is no redemption. Gabriel watches from his cell as Asmodeus reminds Ketch, "You're MINE."
At the diner, the waitress wonders if the scary strangers are gone. Reluctantly, the teen boy goes outside to check.
The MoL descendants tells Sam that all this creature wants to do is eat and breed. They've been keeping her locked up, but if she eats, "we're all dead."
The boy looks around the parking lot and sees robed figures dead on the ground. Sandy approaches behind him, then a tentacle shoots swiftly and viciously toward him. He never has a chance.
Ketch groans as he pulls out a tooth and spits. Gabriel is watching him. Ketch isn't one to be kept down especially since Asmodeus hasn't bothered to leave a guard. Ketch grabs a blade and opens Gabriel's cage, but the archangel shrinks away from him, whimpering. Ketch pulls him out, stabs the demon guard in the hallway, and drags Gabriel down the hallway.
Sam and the guardians of the MoL chapter house go back to the diner, but Dean's not there. They see the dead bodies and realize that the monster has had food. Next, if she's fed, she'll want to breed.
Dean wakes up chained to the marble table back in the MoL chapter house. He realizes that this isn't Sandy; he's talking to the "Star of Madness." She says it's foolish for humans to open doors when they have no idea what's on the other side. Her greatest grief all this time is that she alone came through the rift, leaving her lover behind. Together, they had nearly consumed most of their universe. Now Dean can be her lover's host because our world looks delicious! She holds up the crystal and beings to chant as the purple rift opens above Dean, chained helplessly below. A tentacle shoots through the gap, and Dean lunges a few inches to the side to avoid it, only to have to do it again with another tentacle a moment later. Sam and the other guardians burst through the door. Dean desperately uses his knife to pick the lock on the chain while "Sandy" is distracted. As soon as he's free, he snatches the crystal from Sandy and tosses it to the robed woman. The groping tentacles flail around the room, latch onto Sandy, and pull her into the rift. It closes.
When the Winchesters explain that they need the Seal of Solomon to get their family back, the descendants of the MoL agree that they should use it but warn them that the rift only opens for 24 hours and you never know what's on the other side. "We'll be ready," they reassure them.
Back at the bunker, the Winchesters realize that the last ingredient they need is an archangel's grace. How in the world will they get that? Well, Ketch is there, and he comes in peace . . . with a gift. Ignoring the guns the brothers are pointing at him, he pulls Gabriel into view. Sam is stunned - they saw him die! - and Gabriel freaks out when he hears that they need grace. But somehow Ketch already has a small vial of it, no need for any more violating extractions. He'll give them that and an archangel blade. Sam knows there's a catch, but Ketch says that all he wants is protection. Sam wants to refuse, but Dean immediately puts down his gun and says yes. He wants to rescue mom and Jack. This is the only way.
While Sam carefully snips the threads sewn through Gabriel's lips, Dean has been gathering supplies - "Let's do this!" Sam wonders if they should wait, but Dean has waited long enough. They have the supplies; he should go. He, not they, because he's planning on going alone. Ketch says he'll go with him. Sam doesn't like this at all. He wants them to go together, but Dean says that he has to stay with the damaged archangel and he is their backup in case they need to be rescued. They prepare the spell, Sam says the magical chant, and the rift appears in the bunker. Dean pats Sam's shoulder, then heads toward the rift. He gives him one glance, then steps through. Ketch follows him into the rift. Sam looks on, worry written all over his features.
Questions - they're a mix of both serious and trivial. I'm ready to talk about this episode!:
- If this creature is so devastatingly powerful, shouldn't the guardians of the chapter house have put up a couple signs warning would-be rescuers that all was not as it seemed?
- If you had been isolated from society in the 1920s and awoke to today's world, what would confound you most?
- What is your take on the way the Men of Letters have been revealed to be: first as remote observers, intellectual librarians with the occasional wild card like Cuthbert Sinclair who was disbarred; then, as viciously heartless, power-hungry megalomaniacs (at least on the British Isles); and now as foolishly involved in summoning powerful beings from other dimensions to "cleanse" our world? Are the MoL good or evil or, like much of humanity, are they flawed and multi-dimensional and complex?
- Will Ketch and Dean succeed in AltWorld? Will Sam need to rescue them? What role will Gabriel play?
- Do you agree with Asmodeus that some people are beyond redemption? If so, what acts would place someone beyond redemption? If not, what can someone do to "deserve" redemption?