There’s a new head honcho Crossroads Demon, and he’s got an offer the Winchesters can’t refuse: a surefire way to find Jack. He just needs them to do one little thing first….
Supernatural – “The Scorpion and the Frog”, Season 13, Episode 8
Airdate: November 30, 2017
Director: Robert Singer
Writer: Meredith Glynn
Created by: Eric Kripke
What You Should Know:
At the end of season 12 the former King of Hell, and once King of the Crossroads, Crowley, saw an opportunity to trap Lucifer in another world and he took it. But it cost him his life.
After accidentally killing an innocent man during a confrontation with a monster, Jack panicked and fled the safety of the bunker, Castiel, and the Winchester’s protection. For reasons unknown, no one has been able to find him since. This includes Asmodeus, the Fourth Prince of Hell, who has taken over the throne and captured both the newly returned Lucifer and Castiel in the process.
What You’ll Find Out:
At 7:45PM on a Friday, an unfamiliar woman enters a museum in England. With a few surreptitious glances around to make sure no one’s looking she sneaks downstairs, into an ‘employees only’ area. Coming upon locked door she extracts a piece of paper with a code written on it and types it in, but the code fails. When the code fails again she results in breaking the door in with force, then hurriedly moves past the stored artifacts on shelves and begins to shuffle through the drawers. She paws through rolled up scrolls and laminated parchments, looking for something specific. Eventually, she finds what she wants, two pieces of parchment which appear to be written in the language of the angels, Enochian. She takes them and slips them into her large purse. But as she’s doing this a guard enters the room and catches her.
Seeing an opportunity for an easier escape, the woman looks at him and opens her mouth. Black smoke pours out, revealing that the woman had been possessed by a demon all along. The demon takes possession of the guard and the woman’s body, likely deceased, falls to the ground. The guard takes the purse and exits the room.
In an alley behind the museum the guard, with the purse, meets up with a man in a business suit. He hands the Enochian papers over and eagerly asks the other man, presumably another demon, how much he thinks Asmodeus will reward them for this acquisition. The other demon takes the papers and promptly kills his companion. Then he pulls out his cell phone and calls Dean Winchester.
Dean, cleaning his gun for lack of anything better to do, and Sam is at the bunker, again discussing their lack of findings on Jack’s whereabouts. Sam mentions he’d recently spoken to Castiel with no luck. Dean’s phone rings, the caller ID labeled ‘Unknown’, and he answers on speaker. The caller is the demon in England, offering a proposition. He says he has a surefire Nephilim tracking spell, and he’s willing to give it to them if they’ll meet him at a specified location. Dean and Sam exchange looks, knowing enough about demons to know it’s a trap of some kind, but also know they can’t just ignore that kind of possibility. With Sam’s urging, Dean reluctantly agrees to the meet.
Dean and Sam make their way to the specified diner, Dean expressing his displeasure at the idea. He tells Sam that he’d decided after Crowley died, that they needed to be done with demons. Sam agrees but insists they need to hear the guy out. They step into the diner and find a well-dressed man, obviously the demon, sitting alone at a four-seater table with a plated slice of pie in front of him. The Winchesters take the seats across from him and the man slides the pie to Dean as a sort of peace offering. He introduces himself as Barthamus, or Bart, the new ‘Head of the Crossroads.’
Sam cuts right to the point, asking about the spell, and Bart pulls out one of the pieces of parchment and hands it over. But the boys are no amateurs dealing with demons, especially crossroads demons. There’s always a catch. And when pressured, Bart confesses that there is something he wants in return. He says the paper is only half the spell, and he’ll gladly hand over the second half if they do just one favor for him first. This raises Dean’s hackles and he asks why he shouldn’t just kill Bart and take the other half, or why they should trust him at all.
Knowing when to step out, Bart gets up and addresses Sam, saying since he’s the “smart one,” he should look into the spell to verify its authenticity. And when they find he’s right, they can give him a call to negotiate the terms for retrieval of the second half. He leaves his number and walks away before any more death threats are issued. Sam examines the paper and Dean watches Bart leave with a frustrated expression before turning forward, picking up the fork, and eating the pie. Sam gives him a mildly horrified look but Dean keeps eating because there’s no sense in wasting good pie.
Back at the bunker, Sam has done some research on the parchment and discovered that Bart seems to have been telling them the truth. As far as he can tell, the paper is one half of a larger spell created a long time ago by a jealous husband in order to keep tabs on his Nephilim wife, the legendary Queen Sheba. Bizarre as it is, everything points to this being their best chance at finding Jack. So, with extreme reluctance, Dean and Sam make their way to Bart’s location.
Bart and two of his henchmen are waiting in some kind of warehouse with a couple of desks set up and an old, portable board covered in photographs and various other papers. A makeshift office. As Sam and Dean walk up the two henchmen, unaware, grumble about getting bored waiting and how they don’t think the brothers will show. Barthamus assures them they will moments before the Winchesters enter the space.
Bart greets them and introduces them to his companions, a female with earplugs in her ears called Smash, and a male finishing off a second cup of presumably fast food soda called Grab. Dean repeats their names incredulously, to which Smash sarcastically assures him they’re not their real names. Bart clarifies that Smash is a human and Grab is a demon, and that Grab is an expert at finding the location of things – namely vaults and other such things – and Smash is particularly talented at breaking into them. It’s about at this time that Dean and Sam realize they’re being asked to help with an honest to goodness heist. Something they aren’t especially suited for, or comfortable with.
Drawing their attention to the board, Bart shows them a photo of a skinny, older man with a malicious face. He introduces the man as Luther Shrike and explains that Luther has something of his which he wants back very badly. The obvious question, of course, is why can’t Bart simply get it himself. And the answer is because Luther knows that Bart wants this item, which is locked away in a large pine box, which itself is inside a secure vault, and Luther has warded it very tightly. Bart looks squarely at Dean and declares that only a man – a human – who has been to Hell and returned can open that vault. And to emphasize his point he asks if Dean knows any men like that. Dean flashes back to a brief few of his memories from his time in hell before gathering himself but doesn’t actually answer.
Still not convinced this is a deal they should agree to, Sam and Dean try getting Bart to tell them what’s in the box, but Bart refuses. The most he will give them is that it is very important to him – that it’s personal. And that Luther is a genuinely bad human being, so they shouldn’t feel too bad about taking something from him. Seeing their hesitation, Bart pushes the envelope by reminding them the weight he has over them. He tells them that he, of course, made a copy of the first page before giving it to them. And that if they refuse he’ll simply hand over both copies to Asmodeus, stating that he only gave them the chance first because he hates Asmodeus more than them.
The brothers request a moment to themselves to talk over their options and step away. Neither like the idea of helping steal from a human on behalf of a demon. But both agree they really need that spell. Both also agree it’s almost certainly some kind of trap, and that in the end, Bart will likely betray them. Sam asks Dean what they intend to do about that likelihood and Dean says their best bet is to just kill Bart before he springs the trap. Sam agrees and the brothers return to Bart, agreeing to his terms. They’ll be taking Smash and Grab along with them after they devise a plan to even get into Luther’s place. Bart assures them Luther won’t even see them coming.
An unidentified demon warns Luther that Barthamus is coming. He implores Luther to work with Asmodeus. Luther leads the demon to his door, as if walking him, but walks him instead into a hidden devil’s trap. He declares he takes orders from no one and he is always ready as he performs a quick, flawless exorcism from memory, sending the demon back to Hell.
Sam pulls up to Luther’s gate in the Impala that night, telling him via the intercom that he’s the man Luther had spoken to through email regarding a family heirloom. Luther lets him in. Hidden in the back of the Impala, covered by a dark blanket, are Dean and Smash. Dean pokes his head out from the blanket to tease Smash about her ridiculous ‘90s shoes and she tells him to shut up. Since Luther’s property is huge, Sam stops in a dark area so Dean and Smash can sneak out to begin the search for Bart’s mystery box. Before they depart, Dean reminds Sam to stall Luther as long as possible, and also to “not get dead.” Once they’re clear Sam continues on to the large house, takes a plain box from the seat beside him, and approaches the steel door. It’s covered in protection spells from top to bottom and opens on its own. He slowly steps in, taking in the grand foyer entrance complete with devil’s trap. Luther calls to him from another room and Sam follows the voice to find Luther sitting behind a desk in a room boasting several relics.
Dean and Smash make their way to a barn-like building out of sight and Dean begins preparing a demon summoning spell. While she’s waiting Smash pulls out a can of soda, “Nerve Damage,” which has since gone out of circulation. Dean comments that he used to love the drink, insinuating this is due to the fact that it had something like ten times the legal limit of caffeine, so Smash offers him a can. He takes a long drink, seems to smile at the memory, before resuming his work and striking up more of a conversation. He tells her working with demons is a bad idea and she retorts that he’s working for a demon, too. He grumbles he has no choice and she gives him a pointed look. Dean pauses to ask if she’s in some kind of trouble, but instead of opening up further Smash urges him to finish the spell. He does so and Grab appears. Not wanting to waste more time, Dean immediately asks where the vault is, and Grab explains that he can’t tell because the vault is under a cloaking spell. Recognizing Dean’s frustrated expression Grab adds that Dean himself holds the answer in his blood, summarizing it as “you have it, the vault wants it.” He then casts a sort of guiding spell on Dean, which takes hold of Dean’s right arm, initially swinging it out and wide in all directions until finally settling on one, indicating the direction they need to go.
Sam compliments Luther’s collection, attempting to strike a bit of a conversation. Luther seems to entertain this at first, going so far as to draw Sam’s attention to one of his items, calling it a Basilisk fang. Sam examines it and cautiously explains that it’s actually not a Basilisk fang, but a Gorgon tooth, which is “still cool.” At this point Luther declares he’d rather focus on business, so Sam complies and opens the box, presenting the item he’s claiming to be there to sell. A one-of-a-kind demon-killing knife.
Trudging through the forested property with Dean’s outstretched arm in the lead, Dean demands to know how long it will take to find the vault. Grab absently replies it’ll take what it takes, aggravating Dean, who returns that nothing had better happen to Sam while they’re out in the woods. Grab comments that if Sam gets hurt it’s his own fault. Dean turns around, somehow temporarily overpowering the spell, with an angry and threatening “What’d you say?” But the spell takes control again, preventing any conflict, and guides them around a few more trees until they come face to face with an unlocked basement hatch. The spell releases Dean, indicating that they’ve reached their destination. Grab declares that he’s not going inside, as he’s already done his part, and tells his “Hand Puppet” to get moving. Dean turns around long enough to promise that he wholly intends to kill the demon before leading Smash into the basement. They flick on the light at the bottom of the stairs and find a door covered in more wards and an old lion’s head style mount at the center, its mouth open. Smash declares that Dean will probably have to stick his hand into the mouth to open the door.
Luther, pleased with the knife, asks Sam his price. Sam awkwardly says the price they negotiated in the email is fine. Luther accepts and pulls out a wad of money, but instead of handing it over declares that he knows it’s not the money Sam’s really there for. He picks up the knife, standing now, and says Sam is there to rob him. That Bart sent him. Sam steps back, raising his hands in defense, denying the accusation and claiming Luther misunderstands. But Luther attacks as he states that he doesn’t believe Sam, calling Sam a demon and going to stab him. They break into a fight, with the knife getting knocked sideways briefly. Sam is thrown to the ground so Luther goes for one of the guns he has on display. Sam’s able to avoid the shotgun blast, scoops up the knife, and while Luther reloads he rushes Luther and stabs him. Only to realize that Luther barely even bleeds. Luther looks him the eye and reveals a detail Bart had omitted: while he remains on his own property, he can’t die. Luther takes advantage of a stunned Sam to hit him in the head with the rock piece containing the Gorgon tooth, rendering Sam unconscious.
Meanwhile, Dean’s freaking out over having to stick his hand into a mysterious and likely booby-trapped hole where “there could be anything!” He has to take several deep breaths, and talk himself up to it before he can make himself slide his hand into the lion-faced mount on the door. When nothing happens he visibly relaxes, even turning to Smash as if to express his relief. But then the mechanism inside clamps down on his hand, holding him in place, and the panic resumes. He struggles, but can’t pull out, and his finger is pricked. A drop of blood falls onto a medallion inside the hidden system and Dean shouts at the sharp prick. Then his hand is released and he jerks it back, to find only a small drop of blood on one finger. His embarrassment is evident as Smash asks him “You gonna live?”
The vault door swings open, revealing a short hallway to the safe itself, and Smash steps forward to do her part. A single step on the warded tiles sets off a trap and Dean only barely pulls her out of the way of a flying projectile that might have killed her. Grab shouts down from outside to check on their progress but Dean ignores him in favor of finding out if Smash knew anything about these traps. Smash assures him she didn’t. Grab turns away in frustration, coming face-to-face with Luther in time to get stabbed and killed with the demon knife. Dean runs a hand down his face as he tries to figure out how to handle the “dollar store Indiana Jones crap” when Smash calls for his attention and he turns to find Luther standing at the bottom of the stairs, knife in hand. In a rush of panic, Smash flees, but Luther stays to deal with Dean.
Dean asks about his brother and Luther answers honestly, that he left him alive after realizing he wasn’t a demon. Dean spots the knife and pulls out his gun. He offers Luther the chance to surrender, hand over the safe and they can all be on their way, but Luther declines. Dean shoots him several times but only succeeds in slowing Luther’s progress. Sam, having rushed in from behind, shouts to Dean that Luther’s immortal. So Dean adjusts his grip on the gun and punches Luther with it, knocking him out.
While Luther’s unconscious Dean and Sam tie him to a post and when he wakes up Dean takes over the interrogation. He tells Luther to give them the secret to getting to the safe but Luther tells them they’ll never get past the ‘riddle,’ and if they try they’ll be struck with 1,000 darts. Each dart is silver tipped and filled with arsenic, holy water, and holy oil. Perfect for repelling any shifters, humans, demons, or angels. He laughs and wishes them good luck, so Dean slaps duct tape over his mouth to shut him up.
Smash makes it all the way to the entrance gate, constantly looking behind her to be sure Luther isn’t chasing her. But right when she reaches the gate – and her chance at escape – Barthamus appears on the other side. He asks what she’s doing and she breathlessly exclaims that the job went sideways, Grab is dead, and probably the Winchesters, too. He doesn’t seem to find this a good reason to be abandoning ship but she pushes, saying she’ll just do another job for him. Bart calls her “Alice,” her real name, adding that he won’t renegotiate her deal just because he likes her. She asks what he wants her to do.
Dean and Sam, leaning on either side of the entrance to the hallway to the safe, discuss their options. Sam explains that he thinks the floor works like a giant keypad and they have to step on the spaces in a very specific order, an order that only Luther – whom he refers to as Shrek – knows. Rolling with the new nickname, Dean agrees but points out that Shrek’s not talking. They go back and forth until Sam spots the item, a rolling wooden cart, which Dean had left the duct tape on. And declares he has a crazy idea. Having no problem with crazy, Dean helps Sam secure ‘Shrek’ to the wooden cart and roll it into position in front of the hallway. Still bound and duct taped, Luther has no way to resist. And still, on his property, he won’t die. So the brothers shove him forward, letting Luther trigger all the traps and take all the deadly darts. Then Dean ties him back up and the brothers step up to the safe. Only it’s an old style safe that neither of them has seen before. Needless to say, neither of them knows how to crack it.
Smash, aka Alice, arrives, declaring that she does. The brothers turn, surprised to see her, and Dean calls her out on running away. She snaps that she wouldn’t be there if she had a choice and Sam realizes aloud that she made a deal and sold her soul. Alice gives him a pointed look, replying she wishes she could take it back, but now she’s “gotta take care of me.” They offer to help her but she vehemently refuses and shoulders past them to crack the safe. She gets it open, Sam and Dean haul out the large wooden box Bart told them to get, and when they exit the hallway they find Luther has managed to escape his binds. But chasing him isn’t their priority, so they rush back to the Impala.
On the road, somewhere just beyond Luther’s property, Dean turns a corner and nearly runs head-on into a parked red pickup with Luther in the driver’s seat. His expression is that of a madman and it’s clear he intends to run them off the road with his truck. Dean throws the Impala into reverse, barely managing to keep from being creamed by the larger vehicle as Luther attempts to plow into them. After several long seconds, Dean angles the car around enough for Sam to lean out and shoot out one of Luther’s tires, ceasing his forward momentum. Everyone climbs out of their vehicles and Luther snaps at them that they don’t know what they’re doing. That Barthamus is evil.
Luther tells them the story of how he sold his soul many years ago. That his young son was sick and dying, so he sold his soul to Barthamus in order to save his son’s life. And his son got better, but in just two years’ time, his son drowned. That he’d gone to Barthamus in anger and Barthamus had callously brushed it off as a random accident that was out of his control. Luther went on to say that when his time eventually came and he was pulled down to Hell, he made a second deal with Barthamus. The deal which made him immortal so long as he remained on his property. Sam and Dean, surprised to hear that anyone could manage a deal after death, ask how he did it. Luther explains he pulled it off because he had leverage. He tugs a key from a chain around his neck and tells them to open the box they stole from him, so they can see for themselves. They take the key, pull the box from the Impala, and open the box to find a pile of old, semi-dusted bones. Barthamus’ bones.
Then Barthamus shows up, making his entrance by lopping off Luther’s head with a machete. He makes a taunting remark about how Luther should have known better than to leave his property before turning his attention to Sam, Dean, and Alice. With a smile he congratulates them on a job well done. He extracts the second half of the spell, as promised, and asks them to slide over the box. But Sam and Dean hesitate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kill a dangerous demon, and save the girl standing beside them. On the flip side, though, they really do need that spell.
Bart sees their hesitation and reminds them of how important this tracking spell is. Reminds them of their arrangement. When this fails to work he quickly snatches Alice, grabbing her by the throat. He assures them that even if they set his bones on fire, thereby killing him, he will have enough time to snap her neck before he dies. And they’ll never get the spell. Seeing no other choice, Sam and Dean slowly agree, on the condition that he let Alice go. They kneel down as if to slide the box closer, but Bart sends Alice to lock it back up. Alice makes a comment to them quietly, as if ashamed, in apology, to which Dean responds that he understands. She has to “take care of you.” He inclines his head and she looks into the box, seeing that he’s somehow slipped his lighter on top of the bones. She kneels down, pretending to reach up to grab the lid, but instead grabs the lighter, flicks it, and tosses it in. Bart realizes too late he’s been betrayed. His body goes up in flames moments after his bones, but seconds pass before it occurs to Sam to try and rescue the parchment. He manages to pull it from Bart’s burning grasp but fails to save it. The spell is lost.
Dean and Sam walk Alice to a nearby bus station to see her off and wish her well. She thanks them for helping her escape Barthamus and giving her a new lease on life. In return, as she steps onto the bus, Dean asks her to “stay weird.” She responds by sticking out her tongue at him.
Back home at the bunker, the brothers are sharing a beer as they absorb what happened. Sam admits that he’s frustrated and Dean points out the positive, that they did save someone, and that’s a good feeling. Sam counters that they’re back to “square one” in regards to finding Jack. Dean nods and says they’ll find another way. And if that way fails they’ll find another after that, and another, and another. That they’ll keep moving, keep fighting. Because that’s what they do. Sam smiles and says it’s good to hear him talking that way again.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
For starters, it obviously means no one is any closer to finding Jack. It’s beginning to feel as if Jack has been captured, possibly due to his general naivety about the world. Or perhaps it’s a subconscious effect of his power. In which case he will likely have to voluntarily return or reach out to the Winchesters.
This is also the first sign of discontent among the demons with regards to Asmodeus’ reign. Before now every demon has seemed to be happily following along – or quickly killed. This could be a hint of a larger faction which will help Lucifer escape, or at least flock to his side when rumor of his return spreads.
Mostly, though, the story was a sign of Dean’s resettling with himself. He’s seemed more himself since Castiel’s return, but also things have been rush-rush-rush with the ghoul hunt in Dodge City, the explosion of Jack’s vanishing, and the run-in with Ketch that followed. Here he was the Dean Sam was earlier trying to help him get back to. That was the point in the final scene, and a necessary step forward for the Winchesters to be able to face the threats looming ahead.
Final Thought: There’s a lot of what makes Supernatural so good in this episode. An unexpected, atypical case, a shady deal with a shadier demon, moments of moral importance, and plenty of interspersed humor to keep it all moving along. If there had been more of a real tie-in with the overarching plot of the season I could’ve rated it higher, but the ‘tie-in’ was pretty weak and ultimately a fail. In the best of ways, of course.
Let’s break it down some. First, Barthamus. Honestly, he did great. He seemed like a really good character to fill the void for the role of ‘head crossroads demon,’ whatever actual title that may be. Somewhat business-oriented, definitely still demonically shady and manipulative. But way less charming and witty than his predecessor, Crowley. I was a bit surprised that he was killed off in his debut episode. Not going to complain, he certainly had it coming, but definitely surprised. I think Sam and Dean showed a decent amount of growth in the way they handled Bart, too. While they’ve often approached a demon-heavy situation with caution, they’ve also frequently get caught up in it, too. Not uncommonly barely escaping with their lives, usually resulting in the lead demon escaping. This time they kept control through most of it, even when it came to sacrificing their endgame for the sake of an innocent life.
Do I think we’ll see “Smash,” aka Alice, again? Probably not. But it’s not impossible, either. I think the real takeaway here is the heavy sense of familiarity that we haven’t seen in a little while. Sam and Dean, another case solved, another life saved, walking the would-be victim to a bus station and the start of a new, safer life. Proof that they’d done good. It was a positive, a reminder of sorts. As if to say ‘so we didn’t find Jack today, but you know what, we did some good. There’s always tomorrow.’ Or, you know, next Thursday.