Last week we watched Dean nearly get wooed by a sassy GILF, Sam finally come to terms with his past mistakes, and Casifer fumble around in the hopes of defeating The Darkness. Clearly, Luci isn’t as hip to Amara’s game as he made us believe. Will Dean escape Amara’s dark clutches, or he is totally lost in the sauce? Only time will tell.

We open on a familiar scene: a young couple in a parked car, exchanging flirty small talk before proceeding to swap spit. A malevolent force approaches, closer and closer, and finally the unknown creature yanks the driver side door open and drags the unsuspecting young man out of the car, pressing a blade to his throat. The vicious monster? Claire. Yep, Claire, the orphaned daughter of Jimmy and Amelia Novak, Cas’ unofficially-adopted ward. Last time we saw her was season 10, episode 20 (“Angel Heart”) when she was on her way to Jody’s home for Wayward Daughters, along with ex-vampire siren Alex. And now she’s threatening what seems to be a scared-shitless civilian, demanding that he reveal his true identity to her. Uh, Claire, u ok?

Bunker, sweet bunker. Dean enters the kitchen bearing a brown paper bag that contains a donut burger, which is as diabetes-inducing and vile as it sounds: a burger, yes, but with donuts for buns. Donuts. For. Buns. After an episode that centered so beautifully on mortality and the pleasure in aging, why Dean would think this gastric disaster is a good idea is beyond me. Sam, ever the culinary voice of reason, blankly refuses to indulge. “Dude, I’m not gonna survive hundreds of monster attacks to get flatlined by some double donut monstrosity,” Sam remarks. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Marshall High School, dismissal time. Alex is barely recognizable here: hundred-watt smile, self-confident air, surrounded by admiring friends. She’s even friendly with Mr. P, the kind-faced teacher whose exam she’ll be taking in eighteen hours. If you’ll recall, the last time we saw her was in season 9, episode 19 (“Alex Annie Alexis Ann”), beginning the long road to recovery after her harrowing separation from her ‘family’ of vampires she had lived with for years. Jody took her in, in the hopes that she would be able to build a somewhat normal, functional life for herself, and from the looks of it, she’s batting 100. Jody remarks as much, clearly proud of the progress she’s made, and tires not to choke when she glimpses a pack of tiny pink pills poking out of Alex’s backpack. A bit too much progress, as it were. I don’t blame Jody for biting back whatever comment she wanted to make. You have to pick your battles – and when the battle has stakes this high, you pick them after you’ve had a chance to strategize.

They arrive home to find Sam and Dean in their living room, which, sadly, is rarely cause for celebration. “I didn’t put up the bat signal,” Jody tells a confused Alex, but when Claire speaks up, it quickly becomes apparent that she is the one who reached out for help. Rather than corroborate her suspicions that something is afoot in Sioux Falls, however, Jody and Alex explain to the boys that Claire has the unfortunate tendency to see monsters in the shadows and terrorize innocent people, in not as many words. There is a profound wall of resentment between Alex and Claire – not surprising, but definitely disappointing. Claire knows what Jody and Alex think of her, but sticks to her guns, citing strange incidents that have taken place over the past few weeks, trying to goad Sam and Dean into action. Her frustration and indignation are palpable, but they are unconvinced.

Dinnertime! The boys are so thankful for a well-balanced, home-cooked meal that they have forgotten all of their manners. Claire, undeterred from the rousing chorus of “hell no, we won’t go” she received earlier, wonders when they’re going to hit the road, gank this son of a bitch, yadda, yadda. She is denied once again, shut down by Jody, who brings up the fact that Claire has racked up “a string of assaults” and would be in jail were it not for her position as sheriff. Alex tries to get Claire to shut up about monsters already, because hello, we’re eating here!

Bad choice. Claire retaliates by letting it ‘slip’ that Alex and Prom King boyfriend Henry are planning on making use of Jody’s cabin to make the beast with two adolescent backs. Damn. Claire, remind me to never get on your bad side. Jody admits that she did sneak a peek at Alex’s birth control pills, and poor girl is trapped. “I’m just…trying to be prepared,” she mumbles, embarrassed. Now, I have a small daughter, and can understand Jody’s maternal concern and dismay, but I also really appreciate that Alex is taking her reproductive health into her own hands and thinking ahead. Jody seems bolstered by Alex’s sense of responsibility, but reminds her of the importance of additional protection. “No pulling up the drawbridge early,” she warns, and rightly so – pull-out is risky business, indeed. Sam and Dean, meanwhile, are finding their food absolutely fascinating, and steadfastly ignoring the pleading looks Jody is throwing in their direction. Way to drop the ball, guys. Toss the poor woman a lifeline!

Turns out they’re better one on one. Post-meal, Jody gives Dean the real low down Claire: although she enrolled in college, she has since stopped attending classes, choosing to spend her time obsessing over potential cases, always seeking the next hunt. No friends, no hobbies, just crime blogs and supernatural lore. I suppose when your life has been upended as violently as Claire’s, buffeted about in early childhood by supernatural forces you don’t understand, it makes sense that only hunting would bring her comfort. I’m sure Cas would want to be there to counsel her now, but I’m not sure he’s right person for the job. Dean assures Jody that he’ll have Sam talk to her, since he’s “better at the talky thing.” I agree.

Sammy therapy session: he opens by establishing their connection in awful room decor. They’re all about the nomadic life, so what’s the point in making your living space look nice? Waste of time. Small talk thus concluded, Claire is ready to suit up and head out, but Sam is all, honey, wait. Stop.

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Puppy dog eyes: 1. Claire: 0. Soon she gets to the root of the problem: she’s feeling like Blonde Girl #2 in the Jody and Alex Show. She wonders if she shouldn’t just run away to hunt on her own, and Sam sighs a deep, sympathetic sigh. How many times is he going to run into various versions of his past selves in these young women? His words are gentle, but starkly true: the monsters will always be there; the hunt will never end. But the shot at a real life, school, family, and chicken dinners? Fleeting. Need I quote Hamilton? You know where I’m going this.

The following day, Alex and Henry are ready to bound into school for a day of fun-filled learning when they’re stopped short by an unexpected sight: dead Mr. P, hanging upside down from the flagpole, mouth duct-taped. Pretty soon Sheriff Mills, Dean and Sam are doing their felonious thing, exchanging grisly notes about the case. Claire pops up, practically brimming with grim satisfaction, demanding information. “You can’t be here!” Jody whisper-screams at her, to which Claire saucily counters, “Oh, but the fake FBI can?” and we’re like, when will Claire’s chill return from the war???

It’s time for Dean to play bad cop. Everything that Sam tactfully skirted around in their talk, Dean hammers home with little patience and all of the pent up regret. It’s interesting to watch the boys’ different approaches to how they attempt to appeal to Claire about taking advantage of a normal life. Sam is the baby: sheltered, cared for, protected. Dean is the stand-in dad: the provider, the shield, the one who’s made decades of sacrifices for Sam. If there is anyone who understands the value of appreciating a good education, loving family, and calm stability, it’s Dean. Precisely because that last time he even had a shot at those things, he still had his baby teeth.

Their talk is interrupted by Alex, who is off to spend the day ‘hanging out’ with Henry, since school is canceled. Dean gives Henry his best stern dad glare, which has little effect, but only reinforces our need for more opportunities for Dean to dad. Please, SPN, make it happen. The people need it.

The only witness to Mr. Phelps’ murder was the school custodian, Garrett, who is clearly loopy during his interview with Jody and Sam. He appears totally unfazed by the dead body on the flagpole, which sends up warning flags. “I was passed out at The Blind Donkey,” he admits, when Jody asks for his whereabouts earlier that morning. A charming, upstanding member of the school community, without a doubt.

Outside, the young couple wander into the woods so that Alex can angst to Henry about the girl she used to be. She speaks of not recognizing herself in the mirror, of how checkered her past is. “I don’t care,” Henry soothes her, in what should be a comforting tone. It makes me vaguely nauseous, but Alex is clearly into it.

Lab results have come back: there was asbestos around the flagpole where Mr. Phelps was found hanging. Garrett is a suspect – his alibi checked out, but his social security number belongs to someone else. More importantly: Claire was right, Claire was right, Claire was right. Something evil actually was afoot, after all. She only reminds everyone of this fact twice, showing a truly admirable amount of restraint, considering all the judgment that was thrown her way at the beginning of the episode. Naturally, she’s raring to go find the perp, but Jody reminds her that the only thing she’ll be finding that evening is her way to the college registrar’s office. Sam and Dean are on the case.

Jody and Claire don’t make it further than the garage, however, because creepy janitor is lying in wait, and launches an attack on the unsuspecting women. Turns out, he’s a vampire. Awesome! Jody manages to call Dean and shout her distress before they’re dragged away. After some digging, the boys realize that Garrett is not Garrett, but rather, Richard Beesom from O’Neill, Nebraska. If that sounds familiar, it’s because O’Neill is where Alex was living with her now-deceased vampire nest. Dean calls Alex and warns her about Richard, ordering her to stay where she is so he can come get her. She agrees, but soon discovers that dear old Henry is not about to let her get away so easily. Oh, and: he’s a vampire, too.

Abandoned building, closed due to asbestos: this is where Richard has been keeping his victims, the missing persons Claire has been hollering about for weeks. Jody and Claire are bloodied and bound, waiting for Henry to arrive with a terrified Alex. Richard finally enlightens us with the whole story: years ago, back in Nebraska, he noticed Alex being hassled by a guy outside of a bar. He chased her off and gave her a ride home, not at all suspecting to be directed to a nest of hungry vampires that didn’t particularly care whether he was a hero or a villain. Rather than killing him, however, they turned him, and when he went home to tell his wife all about his crazy day, the smell of blood was so strong he couldn’t control himself. He killed her, then turned on their son. And then vowed that he would one day avenge himself on the heartless girl who knowingly led him to his doom.

I mean, I would be pretty pissed too, let’s be honest.

Where does Vampire Prom King come into play? Richard recruited him to Team Fang just for his help in turning her life from drab to fab: pretend to be her boyfriend, help her become popular, make her feel like she was fitting in. All so that one day, when retribution came, it could be complete: everything she had built and loved – her teacher, her boyfriend, her family – gone, like some chopped n’ screwed version of the plot of “Mean Girls.”

It’s looking dicey when Richard begins snacking on Claire, but the boys finally arrive and get to work. Claire is bleeding, but alive, when Dean dispatches Richard, and there is a beautiful moment of solidarity and girl power when Alex punches Henry in the face right before Claire beheads him. Great. I never liked that guy anyway.

It’s the morning after, and poor Jody is on crutches. Again. Claire and Alex appear to have buried the hatchet (ha) and have teamed up to cook breakfast. They finally seem to have their priorities in order, and thank Jody as best they can for taking them in and putting up with their various iterations of PTSD. Jody sums it up nicely when she responds, “That’s what’s scary about family – gives you so much to lose.” The more you invest in others, the more you put yourself at risk. But what is life without connection? How can we expect to go on living if we have no one share our lives with?

Dean and Sam stop by to grab some take-out for the trip home, but before they go, have a brief chat with the girls. Claire is excited to report that Jody plans to teach her how to properly conduct an investigation. And Sam is happy to hear that Alex, while shaken, still wants to attend school, lead a normal life. It’s fascinating to watch how alike they are: Claire, like Dean, can only imagine herself as a hunter, and is totally committed to ridding the world of evil, one monster at a time. And Alex, similar to Sam, cannot drum up the same level of enthusiasm for the endless gore, preferring the quiet, civilian life, normal and undisturbed. Everybody has their coping mechanisms, and while the girls’ views of happiness appear totally different, I think theirs will be another partnership for the ages.

“As long as everybody wears a condom, I’ll be fine,” Jody sighs. Ah, yes. Spoken like a true mom.

Next Week: It’s Valentine’s season, and Supernatural never fails to deliver up the bloody goods. Be ready to eat your heart out.

(Image Credit)

carla bruce-eddingsCarla is a writer, teacher, and proud Slytherclaw. Her work has been published in The Toast, McSweeney’s, Potluck Mag, and Luna Luna Mag. Follow her @carlawaslike for more Supernatural rants and desperate dispatches from the middle school trenches.