The episode begins as many this season did: Sam and Dean have a brief chat about why they're not currently working on their Hell Gate problem and then quickly move on to the week's filler plot. Not every episode has to be about the "mytharc," but come on. We're at the 20th episode here! Anyway, the week's filler takes the form of Charlie Bradbury, who brings them a case. People have been dying under mysterious circumstances and leaving behind corpses with liquefied innards. Since Sam's trialberculosis is worsening, Dean decides to leave baby bro at home and take Charlie out in the field in his place.
Charlie proves to be even worse at the fake FBI thing than Castiel was, and a coroner named Jennifer balks at letting them take a gander at the latest corpse. Like many of this season's baddies, Jennifer pretty much telegraphs her villain status right from the start. Eventually, Dean and Charlie break into the county morgue and learn that the body -- along with all the others -- has been cremated to stop the spread of any possible contagion. The only evidence left behind is photographs, one of which shows a blue handprint on the victim's arm. Returning to the Lair O' Letters, Charlie and the Winchesters figure out that they're dealing with a special kind of Djinn that feeds on fear. Charlie makes some excuse to leave the LOL so that she can go get herself captured by the Djinn.
The Winchesters are left to wonder why Charlie is in Kansas in the first place. They then track down her apartment and find through her computer records that she's been sending money to a woman in a local hospital. This turns out to be her mother, who's been in a persistent vegetative state for the 17 years since a tragic car accident also killed Charlie's father. The Winchesters figure out that coroner Jennifer is the Djinn and that, like most of the show's villains, she owns an abandoned warehouse/factory. Seriously, is there some kind of discount for monsters? Anyway, by the time they get there, Djinnifer has trapped Charlie in an endless loop of unconscious fear. Killing Djinnifer doesn't immediately cure Charlie, so Dean downs some of that "dream root" potion and enters her dreaming mind.
What follows is what the promos tried to make look like a video game, but is actually Charlie's nightmare about a video game. To break the endless loop, Dean has to make Charlie realize that it's time to let go of her mother. In the waking world, Sam learns that there's a second Djinn -- Djinnifer's son -- and that's why Charlie wasn't cured. Or... something. He manages to kill the kid, even in his weakened state, and brings Charlie and Dean back to reality.
In the end, Charlie lets go of her mother and Dean lets go of Sam. Where he's been in no hurry to find Kevin and let baby bro complete the third trial, he now realizes that the time has come, as it always does in May, to get on with the business of the family business. Stay tuned for the full recap.
THEN! "Carver Edlund" wrote a series of books all about the Winchester brothers taking off their shirts all the time. (Also, what in the hell is "Dean" doing on the cover? Adjusting his travel pillow? Toweling off after a a trip to the spa?) In other meta news, Charlie Bradbury ruled over a LARP kingdom called "MoonDoor," which Sam and Dean crashed during a recent case. Already suffering from his first Hell Gate trial, Sam completed a second one that involved springing Bobby Singer from a slightly grungy closet. The Lord's Loopiest Prophet, Kevin Tran, fled with the Demon Tablet when he thought Crowley was invading his dreams and/or houseboat.
NOW! For a welcome change of pace, we begin not with rainy night, but with sunshine. In what looks like a U.S. Army office, a man sits slumped over his desk. With a startled gasp, he lifts his neatly pomaded head and casts a confused gaze over his surroundings. Why, it's none other than Dean Winchester, wearing an officer's uniform and tidy lab coat! He sees a photo of President Truman on the wall behind him. "The hell?" He looks down at himself and notices his odd attire for the first time. He strips out of the lab coat, because you don't put Dean Winchester in a snazzy uniform and not show it off. In the background, Big Band music is playing. Dean takes the needle off the record, but the music plays on. Curiouser and curiouser. As he looks around a bit more, he sees a table that's been turned on its side and shoved up against the door. Recognizing that this is pretty much the universal sign for "there is some bad shit going on out there," he stomps off one of the table's legs and wields it like a club as he ventures outside the office. A dozen or more bodies lie on the floor, blood staining their uniforms from the neck down. Dean picks his way carefully down the hall and finds a newspaper clutched in a dead nurse's hand. "Truman Denies Military Experiments," proclaims the headline, right next to the 1951 dateline. Dean finds an elevator, but no sooner has he pressed the buttons than something snarly sneaks up behind him. All we see is its long, misshapen shadow. Is it Sam? Maybe it's Sam. We'll have to wait to find out, as its identity is concealed by the exploding flames of this season's title card.