Dean is happily nesting at his and Sam's new digs when Kevin calls to tell them he's finally translated the tablet. To close the gates of Hell, they have to complete three trials. Nobody seems especially worried that Kevin only has half a tablet. What if he got the translation wrong? What if it really says they have to complete thirty-three trials? Or maybe at the end, it says, "By the way, it was Opposite Day when I wrote this! Love, Metatron." Anyway, the first trial requires killing a hellhound and bathing in its blood. By an enormous stroke of luck, the Winchesters find some rich ranchers who made a crossroads deal and are due to pay up. All they have to do is wait for the hellhound to show up.
The problem is, they don't know who exactly made the deal. To thoroughly scope out the situation, Sam and Dean take on jobs as ranch hands. They soon discover that more than one person in the family made a deal. First the husband dies, then his sister-in-law when she shows up to pay her respects. The hellhounds are still on the prowl, waiting for a third victim, but who could it be? There's the old geezer who married a young lingerie model, the talentless daughter who became a pop star, and the decent, hard-working ranch manager named Ellie who has the hots for Dean. Naturally, it's Ellie, who traded her soul to cure her mother of Parkinson's.
Without discussion, Dean takes on the responsibility of completing the trials. When he finally explains his reasoning, it's depressing as hell. Basically, he feels it's a suicide mission. Sam is the smarter one who deserves to live and Dean is the "grunt" with nothing to live for. It's a good thing the show just got renewed for another season, because we need the extra time just to work out Dean's self-esteem issues. Anyway, when the hound comes for Ellie, it's Sam who ends up killing it. Since he's the one who killed it, he's the only one who can complete the trial. Dean wants to start over and find another hound so he can martyr himself, but Sam stands firm. He's going to close the gates himself. He says it's not a suicide mission, and that he plans to survive and that he's going to spread some of that optimism to Dean. That's probably going to be the most difficult trial of all. Stay tuned for the full recap.
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THEN! The Winchesters learned about crossroads demons. People made deals with these special demons in exchange for their souls, which were then collected by budget-friendly invisible beasties called hellhounds. Sam called them "demonic pit bulls," which is hardly fair to pit bulls. (Sadly, they do not show us the time that hellhounds dragged Dean to Hell. Remember how intense and suspenseful and emotional that was? Remember how horribly beautiful? It seems odd they wouldn't bring it up at all, doesn't it?) They also learned at some point that Crowley could control the hellhounds, which makes sense, since he was a crossroads demon himself, once upon a time. The show also wants to remind us of a bit of anti-demon hoodoo called "goofer dust," so that the brothers don't have to engage in endless exposition about it later on. A bit more recently, Kevin Tran holed himself up in Garth's house boat and got to work on translating his half of the demon tablet. The Winchesters, too, found themselves some new digs, in the form of the Men of Letters' abandoned (but well-appointed) hub. Larry Ganem, a former Man of Letters himself, called it the "supernatural mother lode," and spoke in awed tones of its amazing power.
NOW! Kevin Tran wakes to the sound of his alarm clock beeping. He's still on Garth's house boat, which is still not remotely a house and only barely a boat. Kevin's clock says it's 5:00 AM, which is kind of weird, given how bright it is outside. He rolls out of bed with a grunt and crosses the day off on his calendar. We're two weeks into January at this point. He pours himself a cup of coffee and sits down to stare at his tablet chunk. As usual, it warps and wobbles before his eyes, because God forbid God makes anything easy to read. Stumped, Kevin fries himself up a hotdog. He gets back to work, stares some more at the chunk, downs an aspirin with a swig of coffee. His stomach lining can be heard faintly but plaintively wailing. When he finally collapses into bed, it's 2:45 AM. The days continue like this, as the regular intake of aspirin and hotdogs increases. So, too, grow the stains on Kevin's shirt and the fuzz on his chin as he systematically ignores his own body. He jots down notes, pins them to a board, repeats the process again and again. The calendar is now filled with marks to the middle of February. Every morning seems depressingly the same until, at last, he stands before his board full of notes and has an epiphany. "Holy crap," he whispers, nearly giddy with relief. "Holy crap!" Feeling a spot of wetness at his nostril, he reaches up and touches blood. He sways on his feet and drops to the floor. The next morning, Kevin still lies bleeding and unconscious, oblivious to the insistent droning of his alarm. Supernatural!