Billie says, "We're playing a big game here."  She tells the Winchesters, "This is your destiny. You are the messengers of God's destruction."  

THEN:  Amara tells Dean she's giving him a gift.  Mary appears in the dark woods.  Dean asks how Jack will destroy: will he go "full smite?"  They discuss how if the world is out of balance, it will end so Jack needs to kill both Chuck and Amara.

NOW:

A bland collection of brightly colored peas, carrots, and beans plop down onto a white ceramic plate, followed by the splat of a spoonful of mashed potato.  Young women are serving the needy in a shelter.  A small older woman, face ravaged by her experiences, wanders around the room.  Wearing a wool hat and voluminous blanket-like coat, she looks dirty and smelly.  One helper quietly mentions to her friend how she is "one of God's weird, creepy-ass creatures."  She tells a young man in a pink sweater that he needs to do something about it.  After all, they have a rule about being clean in order to eat there.  The young man reluctantly walks around the serving table to approach the bag lady when he is stopped by a 40-something, black haired man with a beard and tattoos.  The young man is clearly a bit intimidated; the older man tells him that we have rules but we also have spirit too.  "Be compassionate with this one," he adds.  "Yes, Pastor," replies the young man.  He brings some food to the old woman who eyes him a little suspiciously, but the pastor watches with a smile.  

The young man heads home down a dark sidewalk, wearing a coat over his pink sweater.  Heat vapor rises from sewers and manholes.  Suddenly, he hears a voice calling him.  Confused and reluctant, he heads down a wide alley as the voice calls out again:  "Down here - I need yoru help!"  Then, "Hey!" from behind him.  He spins, but there is nothing there.  He slowly backs up, then trips and falls backwards, striking his head against the ground.  He sits up slowly to stare in disbelief as what he tripped over:  a well-worn teddy bear in a red shirt and blue overalls.  Suddenly, its mouth moves, and it says, "Hey, Conner."  While he sits there, a noose is suddenly slipped over his head and he is dragged off backwards.  

***SUPERNATURAL***  Title - "Gimme Shelter"

In the bunker, Dean approaches Sam who is sitting at a table looking at a laptop.  "Got anything?"  Sam mentions that there was a body found in an alley, but it's not particularly compelling.  Dean is more interested in the fact that there was a blackout in Atlantic City.  Amara could be there!  After all, she likes keno.  They know that because Chuck told them.  Chuck could have been joking, Sam offers.  "He's not that funny," Dean tells him.  "She's a player."  "It's pretty weak," Sam demures.  "Weak is all we have," Dean responds.  He's excited about Atlantic City because they have an all-you-can-eat prime rib buffet. Cas enters.  "Just in time," Dean remarks.

Cas wants to go with the brothers, who are now geared up and ready to head out.  He's concerned that they're just charging in blindly, but Dean says they're not, adding that he and Amara used to have a thing.  Jack asks about the alley guy, and Dean suggests that he and Cas go check it out.  "Really?" asks Jack with interest.  "What?" growls Cas in annoyance.  "You can stay busy," explains Dean.  He raises his eyebrows and widens his eyes, trying to hint at Cas that this is for Jack's benefit.  "With a MURDER investigation?" Cas questions, annoyed.  He looks at Sam, but the younger brother says, "Dean's not wrong."  "Go Highway to Heaven that bitch!" declares Dean enthusiastically.  "I'll get my suit!" Jack exclaims.  "Can we wear matching ties?"  Based on his expression, Cas does NOT want to do this, but he agrees.  Blue is a good color on Jack.

Jack and Cas walk up to the female sheriff.  Cas shows his badge like a convincing FBI agent, but Jack comes off as awkwardly over-eager.  The sheriff comments that Jack is greener than baby Yoda.  They ask if there were bags of chicken bones, sulpher, or cold spots.  There weren't, but a message was left:  the word LIAR was carved on his body.  In addition, his fingers had been cut off one by one and his fingers shoved down his throat.  She shows them her tablet with a picture of a strange item found at the scene:  the teddy bear.  "Marvelous Marvin - the Talking Teddy!" exclaims Jack.  "I have one of those . . . for my SON!" he adds hastily.  The sheriff tells them that speakers had been put inside the bear and in another spot nearby.  Nearby cameras also caught a figure in a mask.  "It's almost demonic," remarks Jack.

Cas and Jack are at a crossroads at night.  Cas is placing items in a box and burying it while Jack sits crosslegged in the back on the pickup truck they're driving.  He's following Sam's advice:  "When in doubt, try social media."  Cas says he tried that, but there were so many pictures of cats!  Jack is creating a profile, pausing to tell Cas that he needs parental approval.  Cas gives it.  

A man dressed in black appears, eyes flashing red for a moment.  "Shop's closed; no more deals," says the demon.  "Why is he talking like that?" asks Jack.  "Because Zach has style," answers the demons.  He's intrigued that angels are solving people-crimes now, like Highway to Heave only with murder.  "I would watch that show."  When they mention the man killed in the alley, Zach says it's just some whacko.  "Humans - am I right?"  They've not been making many demon deals lately; after all, Rowena says people end up where they belong.  The only problem with this is that Zach doesn't know who he is anymore.  "You're a damned soul corrupted by hell," Cas tells him bluntly.  Zach clarifies that he was referring to more of a work-life balance; he doesn't have a purpose.  He seems so bored that he offers to drive Cas and Jack, but they don't accept his offer.  They decide that it seems like this killing was committed by a human, but Cas says they're going to stay; they're going to help.  This makes Jack happy.

A serious-faced, plainly-dressed woman exits the pastor's office, then glances at the donation box.  Opening it, she steals some money, but as she exits the building she hears a voice call her name.  "Valerie!  Over here!" She stops, confused, in front of the Patchwork Community Center, then pulls out her phone.  But as she turns, she nearly bumps into a figure.  All she sees is the smiling plastic of a vintage mask, a girl with blonde hair.  

Cas is on the phone with Dean as the WInchesters drive through the dark letting them know that Rowena has hell on lockdown.  "How's Jack?" asks Sam.  "Focused," reports Cas.  Dean warns him to be careful of those hallelujah types.  Some of them think feds are agents of the Deep State.  Cas will be continuing to be an FBI agent while Jack will pretend to drink the Kool-aide and join the group.   But when Cas starts to ask him about their plan on their search for Amara, Dean answers curtly and hangs up.  Sam tells Dean that it's been two days.  He gets not wanting to talk about it, but, if they find her, they have to set her up for her own death.  Dean acts unconcerned about this:  "We knew there was gonna be a catch.  At least this time it's not you and me."  

The pastor stands with some people, telling a man he appreciates his moving testimony about Conner.  Jack enters and approaches the dark-haired girl who'd been serving food earlier.  "Where can I find the Kool-aide?" he asks.  She looks confused so he backtracks.  "I mean I want to join to help."  He holds out his hand, but she puts a clipboard in it and tells him to fill out the paperwork.  She explains that they've just had a prayer dedication because one of their members passed away.  "Were you close?' asks Jack.  "You can find me when you're done," says the girl and walks away.  Cas enters the room, giving a surreptitious nod to Jack.  The pastor prays for a man then hugs him.  Cas approaches:  "I'm Agent Swift."  The pastor knows about Conner, but Cas informs him that Valerie Jones never made it home last night.  

The new scene opens on Valerie, jacket gone, tied up in a chair with a hand towel in her mouth as a gag.  Her left hand is strapped to a strange contraption that holds each finger separately.  She glances around the cluttered old shed she is trapped in and sees the money she'd stolen on a counter in front of her and the plastic mask hanging nearby.   Written on the wall in red is the word GREED.  She starts to scream through the gag.  A TV screen turns on.  The words "thief - thief - thief - thief" start to play across the screen.  The one part of the machine moves.  A blade swipes down, chopping off the end of one of her fingers.  She screams in agony as the screen starts a countdown from three hours.  Hidden above the TV is a video camera.

The dark-haired girl is working the food line with the other young woman who eyes Jack and says, "He's hot."  She approaches him to invite him to work with her handing out food and drink.  They used to hand out Bibles but not anymore.  Jack mentions Conner and the first girl walks away.  Sitting down nearby, she wipes away tears.  Jack apologizes.  "I'm no good at this," he says.  "You're OK," she replies.  She explains that she and Conner dated years ago, sort of.  They watched old movies.  They were kids.  He was always there for her.  "I lost someone too," Jack tells her.  "My mother."  His expression is earnest and empathetic.  "My mom died three years ago.  Now it's just me and Pastor Joe."  "The pastor's your father?" asks Jack.  She tells him that he's a better preacher than he is a dad.  Jack tells her that he has more dads than most, but he feels like he's letting all of them down.  "You're sweet," the girl tells him.  "Trust God; not people."  

Castiel has joined the pastor in his unassuming office.  There is a figurine of praying hands in the foreground.  Cas is asking the pastor about his church, but the pastor tells him that he avoids that word because it has a lot of baggage for many people.  He uses the term "faith-based community."  He mentions that they did have a member leave not long ago - Brother Rudy.  He did AV and tech for them.  He simply wanted to worship somewhere else.  His daughter opens the door.  "Dad?" "In a minute!" he tells her abruptly, his focus on the FBI agent.  She leaves unhappily.  "You have kids?" asks the pastor.  "It's complicated," says Castiel.  "It always is," replies the pastor.  Cas remarks that he really cares about his people.  The pastor says he does.  His wife grew up at this church.  It was hardcore back then.  People believed in God's will until they realize -- Cas breaks in to say, "That God doesn't care."  The pastor says, "That we care for each other." Now he preaches the Gospel of love and service to our neighbors.  All faiths and backgrounds are welcome as long as they wish to serve others.  Conner was welcome too, as a gay man who wanted to believe in a tolerant God. After all, a saint is a sinner who keeps trying.  

Dean and Sam are outside a gas station filling up the Impala as snow falls gently.  Sam wants to know if Dean wants a snack, but Dean says he has a process.  He's saving himself for the buffet; it's just four hours away.  "Try six," corrects Sam, checking the traffic online.  Dean looks annoyed and frustrated.  "Pork rinds?" asks Sam.  Dean nods.  But as they turn, Amara is standing there.  "Miss me?" she asks calmly, as snow falls onto her flowing brown hair.  "Headed somewhere fun?" Amara asks as the Winchesters stare at her dumbly.  "I smelled your distinctive musk.  And noticed Cas's angel APB."  Dean tells her they want to talk.  "First, lunch," says Amara, eyeing a nearby billboard advertising a deli.  "Pierogis?"  "I like new earthly experiences," the Darkness tells them.  

Back in the torture chamber, the countdown switches to zero.  The woman's second finger is sliced off.  She cries desperately into her gag.  

In the community room, the pastor stands in a circle of eight or so people including his daughter and Jack.  He is addressing God by many names - Allah, Krishnu, Buddha - "God, you go by so many names, but it doesn't matter what we call you but how we love."  He then welcomes Jack, who holds up his hand, gives a beaming smile, and says, 'Hello."  But then the pastor asks him to give a testimony about his journey.  Jack looks concerned and doesn't speak, and Castiel, who has entered the room, comes to his rescue by offering to share instead.  "My name's not important," he says. "I know what blind faith is.  I did terrible things.  I never looked beyond the plan.  But then I was lost.  I had no purpose.  But one day something changed.  I found a family.  I became a father.  I rediscovered my faith and who I am."  As he speaks, he looks at Jack who looks reflective.

Jack is serving food.  As the pastor approaches, Jack asks him how he's brought all these people together.  "It's not what you believe, but what you do.  We're God's hands; each of us is a finger for Him to use."  Suddenly across the room, a TV turns on. It shows a countdown approaching zero, then switches to Valerie, bound, helpless, and bleeding.  Then she's screaming as another finger is cut off.  "You can't save her," say the words on the screen.  Jack tries to unplug the TV, but it keeps playing.  Then he finds a plug in attached to the side and removes it.

Amara calmly eats her pierogi as Sam and Dean sit, tense and intense, across from her.  "We want to take your brother down," Dean tells her.  "We need your help."  Amara isn't interested.  Sam points out that she refused to help Chuck when he asked her to help him, but she says that refusing to help isn't the same thing as betraying him.  "You don't care?" asks Dean.  "It doesn't matter," replies Amara.  "There's nothing you can do."  "I will be stronger," insists Dean.  "We can trap him, but we can't do it without you."  Amara looks interested, but tells them no, saying that they just don't understand.  They see a woman; they see Chuck as a squirrely weirdo, but in reality they are powerful creatures - they are the same, born at the same time.  Sam says that Death said she was born first, but Amara tells him that Death told him what he needed to hear.  Truly, they are twins - creation and destruction, light and dark, balance.  When they split, all this was created.  "The big bang?" asks Sam.  "When HE betrayed you and trapped you?" asks Dean.  "I believe caging me hurt him," muses Amara.  "For me to do that to him would be an agony.  I can't help you."  

Jack burst through an old door into a dim, grimy apartment followed by Cas.  This is Rudy's apartment.  They find Rudy, tied to the bed, body burned and long dead.  The word LUST is scrawled on the bedroom wall.

Inside the diner, Amara is paying the bill.  The Winchesters are in the Impala ready to leave when Dean turns the car back off and determinedly walks back inside and sits down.  "Why?"  Amara looks at him with a tiny question mark between her eyes.  "Why did you bring her back?"  He's referring back to when she brought Mary back to life.  "Yous said you wanted to teach me something?  Well, your little experiment came to a not-so-happy ending.  My  mom is dead.  What was the point?"  "I needed you to see that your mom was just a person," Amara tells him.  He didn't need to be chasing the myth of a better life if only she hadn't died.  The real, complicated Mary was better because she was REAL.  NOW is always better than then.  she also thought he would finally accept his life.  Dean looks away, reflecting on what she said, but, by the set of his job, it doesn't look like he's totally accepting it.  Secondly, Amara thought it would release him, put that fire out, stop his anger.  "You're just another cosmic dick.  I'm furious!" Dean tells her.  "I'm just a hamster on a wheel?  I'm trapped.  We're all trapped.  And you're doing nothing to stop it.  Chuck is destroying universes and living in a dream world.  "Can I trust you?" questions Amara.  "I would never hurt you," Dean tells her.  She stares at him, then concedes that she'll think about it.

The two young women are sitting outside the community center.  The pastor's daughter is crying, but her friend is excitedly posting about the tortured woman on social media and laughing at the responses she's getting.  "I believe!" hisses the daughter.  "You never did."  She swiftly stabs her in the stomach and rushes off.  

Moments later, the pastor is holding a cloth to the woman's wound.  Spectators are gathering.  An ambulance is being called.  Seeing his daughter, the pastor calls out, "Sylvia!' and rushes after her.  He walks through a door and into the horror of the kidnapped woman.  His daughter was standing in the shadows and grabs him and holds a large knife to his throat.  Jack, who'd followed, watches helplessly.  Sylvia rants how her mom wouldn't go to a doctor but trusted God to heal her and then says her dad changed everything.  "They don't worship God; they worship YOU," she accuses.  Jack says, "Let me help you!"  "You're nothing!" she snarls.  "A scared little boy trying to make your dads happy."  She lunges toward him and plunges her knife into his chest.  He doesn't move.  The wound heals.  Unnoticed to everyone, Castiel had entered.  He grabs Sylvia, easily disarms her, and holds her against him with an arm around her throat before swiftly putting her to sleep.  He releases the injured woman, tells Jack to get the police, and then holds his hand over the deadly machine where the woman's hand had been imprisoned.  His hand glows and her hand heals.  In amazement, she flexes her fingers, still coated in blood but intact.  

Shortly after, the pastor, Jack, and Castiel are reflecting.  "You're an angel," the pastor states quietly.  "Not a very good one," Cas tells  him.  Sylvia is led past them.  She's in handcuffs and holding a cross between her hands.  The pastor says that she won't be alone.  No one sees that Zach is behind the wheel of the police vehicle; for just a moment, his eyes glow red.  The pastor says that he'll find a place where Sylvia can find help.  He'd spent his life taking care of other people when it should've been her.  

Later that night, Castiel and Jack are driving back to the bunker in the truck.  Cas asks Jack about not giving a testimony at the community center.  Was there something he was afraid to say?  Jack is shouldering a great burden, but he doesn't have to do it alone.  "Yes, I do," Jack says.  "I've been lying to you."  Cas is concerned.  Jack continues, "I'm going to die.  When I kill Chuck and Amara, I'll die too."  "What?" exclaims Cas. "Billie's spell is turning me into a bomb," Jack explains.  "I won't survive.  Don't tell Sam and Dean.  This is the only way they'll ever forgive me."  "No!" exclaims Cas.  "I watched you die once.  I won't do it again."  Jack puts his hand on Cas's shoulder.  "It's not your choice."

Dean is in the bunker, wearing a dark gray robe over a t-shirt.  He spots a bottle of whiskey and drinks straight from the bottle.  Cas crosses the room as if headed out.  "Where are you going?" asks Dean.  "Where's Jack?"  "In his room," replies Cas.  He tells Dean that they solved the case, and Dean tells him that he thinks Amara is on board.  Cas is grimly purposeful:  "I am going to look for another way.  I have to.  In case something goes wrong, if I don't make it back, there's something you and Cas need to know."

THE END

Only five episodes left after this!  I have so many questions!  Let's start discussing!

  1. What is Cas about to tell Dean?Is Dean lying when he says he would never hurt Amara?
  2. Why is Amara now acting so differently from her original characterization.  If she is darkness and destruction and Chuck originally caged her because she wanted to destroy his creation, why is he now the one blasting worlds into oblivion?
  3. As for Sylvia, was she demon-possessed all along or is Zach simply stepping in to take advantage of her?  If she wasn't demon-influenced, how else would she have known about the speakers, the finger-chopping machine, the video recording?  Why did she accuse Conner of lying?  Why does her belief lead her to kill while her father's beliefs lead him to serve?  Or does her father lack belief?  
  4. Why did you think Dean was still asking Amara about Mary?  What did you think of Amara's explanation of why she brought Mary back?
  5. Do you agree with Amara that NOW is always better than THEN?  


Read more of Emberlast's amazing episode recaps and speculation questions! Visit her Author Page to get Episode links! Recaps for seasons 9 to 13 can be found on Bookdal's Author Page!