I have given up on understanding this season of Supernatural. Not that the plot is inscrutable or anything, but the structure of this season is very weird. It’s almost like they have a main plot they really like, but there aren’t enough episodes to fill the order. That seems to be the only explanation for all of the standalone episodes we’ve been seeing recently. Especially ones like “Between A Rock And A Hard Place,” which stay far from the main story except for a few small reminders off all the cool stuff we aren’t seeing. As annoying as that is (very), this episode is actually pretty good. We get to see Sam be uncomfortable (Jared Padalecki has always been great with those awkward moments), and Dean get too comfortable, all in the space of a plot that is by turns bizarre, funny, and a little creepy.
Sheriff Mills (remember her? She went on that date with Crowley and then there was blood and choking, and stuff.) calls the Winchester boys out to Hartford, South Dakota to investigate the disappearance of four born again virgins. Reports of the kidnappings involve blue fire and super strength, so the dudes are on the lookout for dragons. In order to learn a little bit more about the missing people, Sam and Dean go undercover in the chastity group. That first scene in the group meeting may well be the episode’s best moment. When asked why they’ve committed to an abstinence gang, Sam gets all nervous and mumbles his way out of it while Dean proceeds to discuss sexual encounters in detail because somehow all of the “touching and grinding” has made him a sad man. The reaction shots from the rest of the group are pretty priceless.
While the Winchesters investigate, we are shown the very creepy Saw-esque dungeon in which the virgins are being kept. A young lady named Honor provides all of the light with her stun gun. It creates a metallic light that eventuates the sheer angles and emptiness of the space. That lighting and a well done set come together to form one of the spookier moments in recent Supernatural history. The show has been short on fear of late. They’ve been going for shocks or threats to beloved characters, but not so much just cultivating a real sense of fear. This episode at least had some moments, so that was nice.
Of course, the episode wouldn’t be complete unless one of the Winchesters ended up in the dungeon. After the meeting, Dean walks the purity councilor home, where he discovers that she is a former porn star (credits include La Casa Erotica). Meanwhile, Sam figures out that this ain’t no dragon. It’s a monster that goes after virgins who break their vows. He tries to warn Dean, but obviously big brother has something else on his mind. He seduces the councilor. The door of her house explodes. Cue blue fire. Dean is in the trap.
What’s our monster this week? Why it’s Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth. They are really digging deep this season to avoid talking about the actual plot. She’s pretty upset about how in a post Jesus world no one forces virgins to keep her giant fire burning (that’s actually her issue, they quote the internet and everything). The obvious solution to this problem apparently is to join a chastity group and start kidnapping lapsed virgins. Sam and Sheriff Mills arrive, fight, rescue, everyone goes home happy. Happy that is until Sam starts wondering about what’s wrong with him physically and Dean almost breaks the news about Ezekiel. He doesn’t though because that would move the narrative forward, and apparently that is taboo for now.
All things considered this was a pretty fun episode, and I guess it fits into the ethos of the season. I guess last week’s did too, and I was misreading the structure. I just don’t think this season makes much sense. They reference the evangelical Christian possession plot, but don’t do anything with it even though they’re in a church dealing with devoutly religious people for the whole episode. I’m not sure what the goal here is, but hopefully it’s something. While the season as an entity continues to frustrate me, its component pieces seem to be improving. That’s not the worst situation in the world.