Supernatural delivered a swift kick to the gut earlier this season when Sam was forced to kill Rowena (Ruth Connell) in order to save the world. This week's episode, titled "Golden Time," honored her heartbreaking sacrifice with an emotional hour that saw Sam (Jared Padalecki) fully lean into magic, while Cas (Misha Collins) took on a case by himself, and an old friend returned in dire need of the Winchesters' help.
If you weren't sure about Dean's (Jensen Ackles) state of mind before, this episode made it perfectly clear that he's essentially given up on life — but in the best way. Dean binge-watching Scooby-Doo in hot dog pajama pants while mainlining cereal was about as adorable as The Good Place's Chidi (William Jackson Harper) cooking Peeps in his chili while going through his own existential crisis.
While out on a jog, Sam ran into someone he didn't expect to see: Eileen (Shoshannah Stern), who was now a ghost. Like Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), she wound up in hell and escaped with the other ghosts after Chuck's (Rob Benedict) big power flex. Sam, in serious need of a win, pushed to help her avoid Tran's tragic fate. Dean suggested making her a special soul trap and Sam agreed to cast the spell because this episode was determined to wreck our emotions. Before he could perform magic, however, he needed to hit up Rowena's apartment for supplies. Dean would have gone with his younger bro if he didn't have more important things to do like... buy milk? Sound the alarm, Dean's in crisis mode major.
Elsewhere, Cas returned after spending several weeks MIA (renting a cabin and fishing, apparently) to help a worried mom find her missing teen. Taking a page out of the Winchesters' playbook, Cas posed as a special agent but needed help to convince the town's sheriff that his credentials were real. That meant calling up Dean, who scolded Cas to "check [his] damn messages" while pretending to be Cas's superior. Shoutout to Cas's angry 'I'm still so upset I could spit' face, which elevated the entire scene.
Meanwhile, Sam and Eileen made it to Rowena's apartment, which was hexed to kill all who entered except for him. A witch learned that the hard way earlier in the episode and now lay dead on her floor. On high alert thanks to her fresh corpse, Sam and Eileen found a secret room filled with Rowena's potions and journals. Eileen observed that Sam deeply cared for and misses the late witch, and Sam, with a heavy heart, confessed to killing Rowena in order to save everyone. Sam then revealed that Rowena was working on a spell to bring their mom back but was never able to finish it. However, he believed he could complete the spell and bring Eileen back. Sam tapping into his witchy abilities to help a friend? Love to see it.
Of course, this is Supernatural, where things are never easy for the Winchesters, so we were overdue for a complication. That setback came when Sam was ambushed by other witches while loading up the Impala and then taken to their coven. A blonde, Scottish witch with purple eyes not unlike Rowena's (played by Keegan Connor Tracy, who also portrayed Chuck's publisher earlier in the series) revealed that Rowena's hex didn't just exclude Sam — the late, fiery-spirited witch also left all of her possessions to the floppy-haired Winchester. As the only person able to walk into her apartment and live, Sam was the perfect hostage in their effort to steal Rowena's ingredients for a powerful spell that would bring back their dead friend.
While Sam tried to reason with his young captor, a witch named Emily, Cas put his hunting skills to good use and found the missing boy. In a coincidence only Chuck could have written up, the sheriff — who was revealed to be the monster of the week — appeared and shot Cas, not realizing bullets wouldn't be enough to stop the pissed off angel. Still viscerally upset at what had happened over the past few moments, Cas snapped in a violent stabbing fit that scared both the mom and teen boy. Someone could use a therapy session or 50. Terrifying outburst aside, Cas healed the teen boy and subsequently decided to jump back into the hunting game. There's work to be done.
Dean also returned to action and showed up at Rowena's in time to leverage the blonde witch for Sam. However, he was taken down by the ghost of the dead witch, who was then knocked down by Eileen, who delivered the second-best line of the episode: "Not today, bitch." During a struggle that saw Dean kill Emily, whose mom then tried to kill him, Sam cast a spell to put the blonde sorceress down for good and ripped our hearts out with this zinger: "I learned from the best."
With their witch problem handled, Sam had one more task left. Using Rowena's ingredients and an enviably large bathtub, Sam cast the spell to resurrect Eileen and it worked. Who else lost it when Eileen hugged him?
Back at the bunker, Sam brushed off his heroic deed as luck, but we all know it was skills. After all, he had an excellent teacher in Rowena. Dean also opened up about his lack of helpfulness, admitting that he's still struggling with not knowing if what he's doing is the result of free will or Chuck's pen. Sam pointed out that while they might not be able to control their circumstances, that doesn't mean they should give up. They're the guys who break the rules, and he can't do this alone; he needs his brother.
Hopefully those piercing words get through to Dean eventually.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.
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