Before the break, Casifer lost his favorite pet, Crowley’s in the wind, and Dean and Sam are spinning their wheels in their search for Amara and Cas. It’s been a minute – refresh your memory on episode 15 here.

The dreaded mid-season hiatus is over and we’re hitting the ground…not running, exactly, but walking at a brisk pace. It’s been two weeks with no sign of The Darkness or our poor possessed Castiel, and Sam and Dean are no good at sitting still. How do the writers compensate for this lack of main plot advancement? BRING BOBBY AND RUFUS BACK!

Well, not back, back. While not totally outside of the realm of possibility (this is Supernatural, after all) we’re instead treated to something like a double episode, watching the two duos try to make sense of the same ghastly creature, “a handful of years ago”. It’s a charming schtick that grows a bit wearying in some places, but it’s nice to see old faces again. There’s even a surprise reunion of sorts, the kind that sweetly reminds us that the ones we love don’t leave us, not really – and especially not in the SPN-verse. Let’s jump in.

Grand Rapids, MI – a young family has just moved into a fixer-upper, and one of the moms is trying to rid the living room of some terrible wallpaper when she scratches the corner of a sigil that’s been painted onto the wall. There’s a telltale shriek from the floor above, letting the audience know that whatever the sigil was keeping out is now definitely in. When the mom, Naoki, rushes upstairs to comfort her daughter, she is calmed until alone again, at which point a shrively, rotted hand grabs the child around the ankle and yanks her to her doom, presumably. And that is exactly why I used to run to my parents’ room at night when I was scared. No thanks.

Sam and Dean are on the case. Kat, the little girl, is in a coma, with red handprints around her ankle. Naoki’s wife is flying home (!!! every whiff of diversity on Supernatural is still really exciting for me) and thus far, everything points to ghost: power outages, cold spots. The coma thing is weird, admittedly. The boys go to the house to investigate and are stopped by the neighborhood watch patrolwoman one house over, who demands to know why they’re there. “Why do the FBI keep coming to this house?” They press her, and she explains that awhile back, some of the rudest men she’s ever met came by to poke around in the same house. Rudest men she’s ever met? Hmmm. Sam and Dean:

Sure enough, it’s our favorite deceased curmudgeons, Rufus and Bobby. They took on the same hunt in a period of downtime as well, but back then, they were between battles during the Apocalypse – y’know, the good old days. Bobby thinks it’s a ghost, Rufus thinks it’s a baku (or he’s just being contrary, one of his primary character traits), but either way, they both think they’ve got it in the bag. It’s a pleasure to watch them interact, with all of their gruff ‘n’ tough manly hunter affection. We’re reminded several times of how deeply Bobby cares for Sam and Dean, who he refers to as “my boys”, but the tender moment is somewhat broken by Rufus reminding Bobby of ‘the first rule of hunting’: you can’t save everybody. Given how repetitive this line becomes over the course of the episode, you would think we were being set up for a death, but maybe it’s just a reminder of why Rufus and Bobby behave the way they do, why Dean is slowly but surely becoming curmudgeonly himself: they’re so toughened by all of the loss they’ve faced! Or maybe it’s an honest-to-god death-knell for one of the boys, as referenced in the promo for next week’s episode.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here.

Dean and Sam are frustrated by the lack of notes in Bobby’s journal on the creature they now know he hunted years ago. What gives? Seems like a simple salt and burn, but obviously, these things can never be as simple as they seem. When Naoki encounters the same malevolent force and winds up in a coma right beside her daughter, the boys seek out Mary Henderson, the woman who moved out of murder house after undergoing the same drama years ago, with the help of Rufus and Bobby. Her son was taken first, and it was the same deal: cold spots, wonky electricity, and then the creature got her. She had a nightmare while she was out, where she was in a shadowy house like hers but that wasn’t hers, where she saw her husband, dead, and was surrounded by spirits. Needless to say, once she woke up, they walked out on their mortgage and never looked back. “Anything to get away from that damn house.” Girl, I ain’t mad at ya.

The boys go back to the house and inspect the broken seal. And we finally get a name for our nefarious not-ghost: Soul Eater. True to its name, it steals souls from human hosts, leaving their bodies emptied and dying while it takes the souls back to its nest, which exists in an alternate dimension, outside of time and space. It keeps the souls as snacks in case it gets trapped for a while, kind of like how I keep half-eaten bags of chips in my purse for long subway trips. It cannot be killed, but it can be trapped, which is evidently how Bobby and Rufus stopped it all those years ago. But when Naoki tried to scrape off their hideous wallpaper, she broke the seal, effectively releasing it to cause the same soul-snatching mayhem all over again.

Here’s the kicker: years ago, Bobby and Rufus saved Mary Henderson and her son from the nest by painting the seal on her wall and trapping the Soul Eater in Neverwhere. But prior to that, Bobby attempted to save a friend of his whose soul was taken in the same way, but sealing the house didn’t bring his soul back. The question is, will trapping the Soul Eater once more somehow force Naoki and Kat’s souls out of the nest? Or will it keep them in there with the other lost souls…forever?

Only one way to find out.

Someone has to be the one to go into murder house and paint the seal, and Dean immediately declares, “Not it”. Genius move, in my opinion, but Sam decides that isn’t gonna cut it (because he’s salty he didn’t think of it first orrrrr?) and initiates a round of Rock Paper Scissors.

Oh. It’s like that???

If you’ll recall, Dean FINALLY broke his lifetime losing streak very recently, in the basement of Sonja The Witch’s hair salon in episode 13. It was a truly momentous occasion, this long-awaited realization of his mastery in an inane game of finger formations, for so long a distant fantasy, now a triumphant reality. Can he retain the crown? With grim determination, he raises both hands. The audience watches, our collective breath held. Rock. Paper. Scissors. Shoot.

Dean loses.

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No, I don’t know why I’m so invested, okay? Leave me alone.

So yeah, it’s Dean’s job to re-paint the seal, thus attracting the demento-uh, Soul Eater to snatch his soul and whisk him away the nest. Years ago, when Bobby and Rufus were undertaking the same task, Bobby was the one to get similarly abducted, so we watch as he and Dean live parallel experiences in the Nest – outside of space and time. Naoki and Kat are there, and Dean sets to work painting the same seal on the wall of the shadowy house, hoping to entrap the Soul Eater and get its most recent victims out before it’s too late. There is also a dead Sam lying on the ground, but it’s season 11. Dean basically yawns at the grisly mirage and keeps it moving.

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More worryingly, Bobby sees Sam and Dean dead on the ground, which, if we’re sticking to the timeline, was much more of an immediate threat. (Remember when we thought the show was ending after season 5? Remember Camp Chitaqua?!) At any rate, it’s just nice to see someone who loves the boys this much. Poor orphaned babies.

It would appear that the longer you’ve been in the Nest, the more disconnected you become to the real world. When Bobby and Dean are first taken, they can only see the most recently snatched souls (Mary Henderson’s son; Kat). But soon, they’re seeing the other lost souls, and eventually, the Soul Eater itself. It lays some sort of juju on them and suddenly, it possesses their bodies in the real world, making it much harder for Sam and Rufus to continue painting the seal where their partners left off. They get smacked around a bit, but Team Righteous once again saves the day, finishing the seal, busting the victims out and closing the vortex so that the Soul Eater is trapped once again. It would appear that if a soul hasn’t been trapped for very long, it can be freed with the protection of the seal. Hurrah! High-fives all around.

Right before they leave the nest, however, Dean and Bobby spot each other. It’s a confusing moment, but Dean later sheds some light on the improbable meeting: if the nest truly isn’t beholden to the laws of time and space, and they were both in there at some point, isn’t it possible that they might see each other? And Sam is like, “I thought I was supposed to be the nerd.”

Oh, and the reason Bobby couldn’t do a proper write up of this case, and thus save Sam and Dean half the time they spent chasing loose ends? The minute he sat down to write out what happened, Dean called and demanded him to high-tail it to them, if he was done “sitting on his ass”. Lord, Dean. It’s almost enough to make me stop feeling bad about him losing Rock Paper Scissors. Almost.

Next week: Our new reaper, Billie, is back, and if one of our boys dies, she’s reaping that ass – for real. Even if it’s mid-season, apparently. *puzzled-face emoji*

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.