Secret societies are just popping out all over the place lately. This week, we add not one, but two more to last week's Men of Letters.
The story begins with a Nazi camp in Belarus during World War II. The Nazis are all sitting around, feeling superior, until an absolutely huge man breaches their security and kills just about everyone there. He seems pretty indestructible, so the commandant of the camp works some kind of magic spell to escape from the place.
Cut to the present day, when Sam and Dean have found the secret hideout of the Men of Letters. It's long abandoned, but the accommodations inside are still pretty sweet. Dean lusts over the stash of swords while Sam geeks out over all the books, just in case you had any doubts as to where the hunter/bookworm line was going to be drawn. Sam comes across a file on a European organization called the Judah Initiative, who were like the Men of Letters, but with yarmulkes instead of fezzes. Their last member, Rabbi Barney Miller, recently died when he spontaneously combusted in a crowded bar. Sam and Dean take on the case and retraces the rabbi's last steps.
This brings them to a college library, where Rabbi Barney Miller has hidden a secret Nazi ledger that was thought to have been destroyed that night in Belarus. They also meet the rabbi's grandson Aaron and the living-clay golem his grandpa bequeathed him. He is the giant of a man we saw in the teaser. He is also extremely crabby, barking at Aaron to take control. Alas, Aaron is completely out of his element and ignorant of much of his Jewish/magical heritage. This leaves the golem vulnerable when that Nazi commandant shows up, having aged not a day, and takes the scroll from his mouth. Just before he can write his name on the scroll and this take control of the golem, the Winchesters manage to kill him. Their problems are just beginning, though, because the commandant was only one of untold numbers of Nazi necromancers called the Thule Society.
At the end, Aaron decides to step up and take control of his golem and pick up where his grandpa left off. The Winchesters have a new library full of stuff they can sit around reading aloud to us, as well as the ledger which exposes the Thule Society's secrets. Are you ready for all the exposition that's to come? Are you? Stay tuned for the full recap. P.S. The only Hitler in this episode is in the title.
THEN! Henry Winchester traveled from 1958 to 2013 and met his grandsons, Sam and Dean. He was probably like, "Holy crap, men sure are taking good care of themselves in the future!" Henry came from a long (and heretofore unknown) line of Men of Letters, a secret society dedicated to sipping tea and chronicling the supernatural. To Henry's initial disappointment, his grandsons ended up hunters. He was entrusted with a secret key and lost his life to a demon named Abaddon while protecting it. In his last, symbolic act, he passed the key on to Sam.
That brings us up to speed for this week, which begins in Vitsyebsk, Belarus in 1944. Sometimes I forget that countries outside the US exist on this show, so it was quite a shock seeing this. We follow a man on a motorcycle to an ivy-covered estate that would make a pleasant little B&B, if not for all the Nazi flags and SS cars parked outside. "Heil Hitler," the motorcycling Nazi greets the guard. "You're late," the guard says in German. After learning that his fellow soldier has been spending time with a lady, he wishes for him to get the clap. Oh, he's about to get a lot worse than that, don't you worry! The motorcycling Nazi wanders off towards the security post. As the guard tries in vain to light a cigarette, the sound of very heavy footfalls gets nearer. The guard looks up, and up some more. He screams.
The motorcycling Nazi glances up from his post just in time to see the guard come flying through the window, bloody and broken. A man or something like it lurks in the shadows beyond. The surviving Nazi sounds the alarm.
Somewhere inside, an SS officer pours a jar of melted redcurrant jam into a metal bowl. He looks more than a little bit like Henry Winchester, but it's apparently just an accident of casting and not a sign of something sinister in the family history. He seems none too pleased to hear the alarm. How is he ever going to finish his Berliner recipe with all these distractions! Several other men are in the room with him -- manning a radio, jotting notes in a ledger and so on. They all look like they're about to drop some bratwursts in their shorts. "The thing won't go down!" says the one at the radio. "It broke through the line at the east gate!" Frantic screams and prolific gunfire can be heard coming from outside. One man takes the ledger and locks it in a briefcase. The radio operator shouts, "Commandant, it tore Richter in half!" Andy, nooooo! "My God, what is it?" asks one man. "It is coming to kill you, soldier," says the commandant. "I suggest you ready your weapon." Three soldiers upend a table, crouch behind it and aim their firearms at the door. The commandant continues on with his recipe, sprinkling a little nutmeg and cinnamon into the bowl to accentuate the flavor. "Damn you, sorcerers of Abraham," he says. The soldiers give each other looks like, "Commandant is cray-cray." They hear the heavy footfalls approaching and gape at the door. The commandant lights a candle and chants in Latin over the bowl.
The door splinters inwards. On the threshold is a man roughly the size of a Jeep. The soldiers shoot, but their weapons have no effect. The giant picks up the radio operator and squeezes his head just out of frame. Blood courses down the front of his uniform. The remaining soldiers open fire. Up until now, the giant's shirt was pristine despite having been shot by untold numbers outside. "Tell your masters this is far from over," says the commandant, switching back to German. He glances at the briefcase, just out of reach, and drops the candle into the bowl. It and the entire room are almost instantly engulfed in flames. The commandant vanishes. The giant scowls, his mission incomplete. Supernatural!
In the present day, the Winchesters are still in Lebanon, Kansas. They drive up to what looks like another abandoned factory. It looks unimpressive to them, too. "When was the last time someone was in this place?" Dean wonders. "I dunno, 65... 75 years ago," Sam says. They find a thoroughly unremarkable door that they then open with the secret key given to them by Grandpa Winchester. This is the place into with old Larry Ganem advised Sam to throw the key and walk away. How would they then re-lock the door with the key thrown inside? For that matter, how was Abaddon -- even with the key -- supposed to get inside if it was "warded against all evil"? Was there only one key that all the Men of Letters had to share? That seems impractical. We're not even five minutes in and I'm already accumulating a stack of questions. This can't be good.
Anyway, the brothers make their way inside. As the slender beams from their flashlights cut through the darkness, little slices of the interior are revealed. There's a hint of Art Deco metalwork, mid-century furnishings and the highest high-tech communication devices the 1950s had to offer. "This was their nerve center," Sam says, awed. "Henry did say they ran dispatch on their own team of hunters," Dean says. So, basically, it's like an older but fancier version of Bobby's and Garth's setups. Dean finds a table with a chessboard in mid-game and coffee cup with a thick stain that seems to indicate its contents evaporated over time. "It's like whoever was manning the hub left quick," he says. He flips the switch on a circuit breaker. Surprisingly, the lights come on. Sam gets his first real look around and makes a face like puppies and kittens and rainbows made of candy hearts just appeared before him.
He walks as if in a daze across the main dispatch room and into a stunningly lovely library. If he had looked at Amelia with a tenth of the love he's showing here, their romance might have approached believability. Dean is impressed as well. "Sammy, I think we found the Batcave."
In no time at all, they've each settled in, in their own ways. Sam immediately gets his nose in a book while Dean avails himself of a shower. Sadly, we only see the aftermath the latter, which is that Dean pads around in slippers and flannel robe, extolling the virtues of indoor plumbing. Sam and I both wonder how they even have running water or electricity, but Dean's too happily clean to care. Dean peers at the books Sam has laid out on a table. "Listen, little brother, let's not go all 'geek' on this stuff," he says. An instant later, he's geeking out over a scimitar he finds atop one of the bookcases. Still, he tries to keep his enthusiasm in check, saying it's not like the Men of Letters knew anything they don't know. Sam points out that they were a secret society. They knew all the secrets, except the secret to survival. I, for one, would like to know why all of Sam's shirts lately have diamond-shaped buttons. It's up to Sam to argue the virtues of a place like this, because the show wants to make it absolutely clear as to who's going to be the Man of Letters and who is to stay the hunter. Dean looks thoughtful, but says nothing. Sam scoffs and glances down at Dean's new outfit. "You gonna take off the dead guy robe?" A thousand "Wincest" fans get the wrong idea and faint dead away.
Meanwhile, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a white-haired Barney Miller hobbles into a library. He's greeted by a snitty librarian. "Well, well. So late. I didn't expect you in at all," he says. "Three times I had to transfer the bus lines to lose him today," says Barney Miller. The librarian doesn't believe him, nor does he really care. Barney Miller asks for a particular manuscript and has apparently been working his way through the whole section for some time now.
He settles into a quiet corner to examine the case he's been brought. He takes off his fedora while leaving his yarmulke in place. Inside the case is the ledger from the teaser. It's a bit singed around the edges, but otherwise intact. Judging by his stunned reaction and the swelling of ominous music, this is what he's been looking for. "Dear God," he says in Yiddish.
He rushes back to the librarian as best he can, begging him to protect the book. "This thing they put on me, he's too close," he says. "