With the Winter Olympics bobsledding into that great competition in the sky for another four years, it's time for "Supernatural" to continue its angst-filled scare-a-thon.  The appropriately titled "Captives" found Castiel assuming a very different, yet familiar position and our favorite prophet returned to yank on everyone's heartstrings like Quazimodo does cathedral bells.  

Grab your lockpicks and let's dive in, shall we?  

Angel Watch

I’ve actually missed Castiel over the last few episodes, so it’s good to see him back in the fold even if his scenes tanked the momentum of the episode.  I honestly had to do some googling to remember the backstory behind the angel war because after the holidays and the Olympic hiatus, I didn't remember the key players.  But it takes about three minutes of Castiel and Bartholomew chatting in his slick office to recall that I've grown a bit weary of the businessman-as-a-villain trope.  I prefer my villains gingerly, fabulous and nuclear with rage.  (Where for art though Abaddon?)  After a quick reunion, where we discover that Castiel was once Batholomew's commander in battle and while Castiel found glory and purpose, Barthomolew reveled in the chance to torture and kill under the guise of following orders.  

Bartholomew wants Castiel to join him to team up against Metatron and Malachi, the radical leader of another faction of angels all vying for power.  "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," and all that.  It's an intriguing notion until Bartholomew decides to torture another innocent angel for information.  Castiel takes a decidedly non-violent stance, standing by while another angel is eventually killed.  He even passes up the chance to kill Bartholomew, which actually made me roll my eyes.  But Castiel is no longer the bright-eyed and bushy-winged angel he used to be.  When Bartholomew tries to kill him a second time, he wastes no time returning the favor.  His prize: he inadvertently becomes the new leader of a new, non-violent faction of angels.  Maybe they can hug Metatron and Malachi to death.

The State Of The Brotherhood

Unfortunately, no time has passed in the "Supernatural"-verse so Sam and Dean are still in square one.  Sam is cold and angry and Dean is guilty, bereft and self-destructive as indicated by Dean's sexy scruff and the fact that he's listening to music on an iPod not on cassette, which means his emotional state is at DEFCON 2 at the very least.  Thankfully, Kevin's ghost pops through the veil to break up the melancholy.  The lights flicker, coffee cups shatter and Sam and Dean are on the prowl.  Sam even brandishes a sword!  The energy stems from a coffeemaker, so they take turns watching it.  Dean tries to coerce the spirit out but he feels ridiculous talking to an appliance as if that's the weirdest thing he's ever done.  He turns his back to it and pours his heart out.  "Kevin, I'm sorry. You did not choose this life.  You busted your ass, you lost everything and everyone you've loved and you're reward: getting killed on my watch. It was my fault and there' was nothing I could do to make that right," Dean confesses.  Nothing to see here, just Jensen Ackles stomping on our hearts like he does every week.  Bravo! Dean seems almost relieved that Kevin's ghost appears so he could unburden himself. 

Kevin flickers into view.  He explains that EVERYONE who dies is stuck in the veil because "Heaven's closed for business."  When he's not haunting the bunker, he's trying to track down his mother who we last heard was dead.  He's learned through a series of ghosts, that his mother is indeed alive.  She was last seen in Kansas by a ghost named Candy.  The boys are tasked with tracking down Candy's ghost for more information.  The brothers are headed to the site of her death.

Sam and Dean gear up for a séance and a night in the cold woods.  As much as I'm frustrated by the prolonged tension between them, I do enjoy how snarky Sammy has become.  When Crowley refuses to answer Dean's messages, Sam shoots back "Maybe he's just not that into you" with gusto.  It reminds me of the golden days of yore when Soulless Sam got the best zingers ever.

Candy's ghost finally is able to make staticky contact through a radio, and that's only a little creepy.  What ups the creep factor threefold are her scenes from her captivity.  She was kept in a dark concrete box with a corrugated metal door along with Mama Tran.  The scenes depict brutality.  She's dirty, malnourished and eventually escapes because she's lost so much weight she could slip through her honest-to-goodness manacle on her ankle.  She flees only to be killed by an unseen figure.  One of her captors, the boss, was Crowley.  The killer is never identified.  

So Sam and Dean are left to check out storage facilities throughout Kansas.  After many misses, Sam and Dean hit the jackpot when they wonder into a storage locker managed by some short, bespectacled twins.  Sam and Dean split up and of course, we all know that spells doom.  Sam actually finds Mama Tran inside one of the units only to be locked inside while trying to free her.  Meanwhile Dean is knocked unconscious by Evil(er) Twin and tied up.  

Sam frees Mama Tran, who takes over her own rescue—thank you very much—and immediately asks Sam about her son.  Sam plays along, hoping to keep her calm and focused until the danger has passed.  But he can only bear so much.  He doesn't have to utter the words, but she can read it on his face.  She allows herself only a second of grief before saying "You will take me to my son" and ordering Sam to hold up the flashlight.  I’ve always loved the dynamic between Sam and Mama Tran, and this was heart-wrenching and perfect. 

Dean, on the other hand, has to deal with a "young vital" demon who's being denied his demonic rights because he’s stuck in a job with duties that include "feeding the apes, washing the floors and hosing out the honey buckets for zero credit" and he's not allowed to slaughter anyone!  And you thought your job was rough.  He slices into Dean a little, just because he can and for that he must die.  As much as Sam is hurt and second-guessing his brotherhood with Dean, he doesn't take too kindly to anyone hurting his brother.  He barges in and knocks the demon out with one punch.  

Did anyone catch that the fact that Crowley and Candy were left with the Doublemint Twins because Sam and Dean captured him and held him captive?  That stings. 

Back at the bunker, Kevin's mother wants to take him home despite Dean's warning about how violent spirits can become.  Kevin may be dead, but he deserves this reunion no matter how tenuous it may be.  He rebuffs Sam when he tries to apologize, confirming that he knew Sam didn't kill him.  He just wants Sam to avenge his death.  He also asks the brothers to make do one more thing for him:  “Can you two get over it?  Just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean I couldn’t see you.  The drama and the fighting is stupid.  My mom is taking home a ghost.  You’re both still here,” he wisely advises.  

Sam and Dean promise a little too awkwardly and a little too quickly.  Sam was just saving face because as soon as Kevin leaves he vanishes into his room and Dean resumes brooding in his like a troubled teenager (playing Billy Squire’s “Lonely Is The Night" no less).  And it all so deliciously sad I can't take it.  I can’t blame Sam for being angry, but I would like more insight into his grief over Kevin's death.  He needs to talk to Dean, not about his faults, but about how he felt learning about the possession.  But time heals all wounds, and to be fair, this one is a doozy.

Ultimately, “Captives” was easily captivating and refreshing twist on the monster-of-the-week case it seemed to be.  It also included some highly visual direction thanks to production designer's Jerry Wanek's seamless direction. Admittedly I was disappointed that there still wasn’t any movement on the Mark Of Cain arc, however, it was worth it to get some closure in the Mama Tran's disappearance.  I was also relieved that we did not have to watch the decompensation of Kevin's ghost like we were forced to do with Bobby in season 7.  

What did you think of this week's episode?  Do you hope to see Mama Tran again? How metal was it that she killed her captor?  Are you stressed out by the Sam and Dean tension?  Hit up the comments section below.  

Next week, the Ghostfacers are back.  Yay?