If you haven't figured it out yet, "Supernatural" is not a sci-fi fairy tale where the hero rides in on his trusted steed, kills the monster and saves the princess.  No, in this realm, the princess is immolated on the ceiling and our heroes are doomed to be tortured in hell, purgatory or both.  They do have a pretty badass steed, though.  This week, "Supernatural" returned from its hiatus with an angst-ridden, gut-wrenching stunner of an episode that bid farewell to a fan favorite, severely tested one of the show’s most celebrated ships, and made us all remember why it hurts so good.

Grab some tissues and a stress ball, and let's dive in, shall we?  

“Goodbye Stranger” opens with a stealthy Dean being attacked by an unseen force.  What big bad is kicking Dean's ass?  A wendigo, another hellhound, a revengeful spirit?  Nope, it's a stone-faced Castiel, who wastes no time brutally stabbing him with an angel blade.  Naomi and her Hilliary Clinton pantsuit struts into a massive warehouse at Heaven's administrative offices, and compliments his efficiency, proclaiming that he's ready.  If you're not disturbed enough, the camera pans up to reveal the corpses of thousands of slaughtered Deans.  This is nearly as horrific as a possessed Sam snapping Dean’s neck with his shoe in season 5’s “The End.” 

Thankfully, the real Dean is alive and giddy as he finds the first edition of his favorite exotic skin mags, "Voluptuous Asian Lovelies" back at the bunker.  He distractedly asks Sam if he's okay when he starts coughing.  He relays the details of the current case:  people in the Midwest were found killed with in some pretty heinous ways that include "liquefied organs.”  As Sam leaves to grab his gear, Dean notices the bloody tissue and stares knowingly at Sam.  The secret is finally out, and I'm so glad it is.  Nothing good ever happens when Sam and Dean keep secrets from each other.

They start investigating one of the victims, and it only takes an interview with her widower to realize that Ann had been possessed before she had died.  She was also "obsessed" with digging holes all over town and scouring the city as if she was searching for something.  It was enough to terrify her husband and that was before her eyes had turned black.  Sam confirms that the rest of the victims exhibited the same strange behavior before they died.

A local PHD candidate who had the misfortune of being interviewed by two gorgeous FBI agents with a head full of curlers, explains that she was recreating the maps of the city that had been destroyed centuries ago by a flood.  She runs to answer the door as Ann's "assistant" was stopping by for the map Ann never collected, and is attacked by a brood of demons.  Dean corners one but it smokes out and invades poor Ms. Curlers, who flees into the kitchen.  Meanwhile, a weakened Sam is being bested by the other demon.  Just as it raises his hand for another brutal blow, the room explodes in the telltale divine light of a smiting.  Yes, Castiel has arrived to save Sam, even though he was killing hundreds of doppleganger Deans just minutes before.  

The Winchesters are instantly suspicious of Castiel's mysterious disappearance and sudden arrival.  This begins one of the many mirco-manipulations Castiel has with Naomi.  On earth, things are happening in real time, but it seems that the angel can slip out of the conversation, ask Naomi for answers and slid back in the space between seconds.  She orders him to tell an amended truth, so he explains that he killed the victims Sam and Dean were investigating and he wants to find Lucifer's crypts because it contains a special parchment that explains how to read his half of the demon tablet before Crowley does.  He never mentions the angel tablet.

Castiel slinks off to interrogate the "strange-haired demon" and plays the baddest of cops, torturing the demon with the now sagging curlers until she spills that Crowley has a hostage, a tortured demon who knows the location of the crypts.  As soon as the Winchesters mention the parchment, Castiel, acting as Naomi's proxy, kills the demon before she can tell the entire truly, and vanishes into the ether.  It's an awkward moment when two incredibly smart hunters--one a Stanford-educated Man Of Letters--attempt to race a celestial being across town.  At least Cas did the heavy smiting.  The hostage is Meg, who was kidnapped by Crowley in last season's finale.   She's bound, beaten and blonde.  Rachel Miner is not the first actress to play Meg, but she is my favorite.  Miner has a unique way of speaking those acerbic one-liners so it sounds like she's almost singing.  It's oddly relaxing and a very bizzare contrast to her battered face and ratty blonde hair.  

As much as she hates it, Meg is steadfastly on the side of good as much as a demon can be, at least.  She's been giving them general information, but concealing the true locations to get some time away from her demon handlers to try to escape.  She tells the Winchesters about the angel tablet and Castiel dissembles as badly as Sam and Dean's fake acting in "The French Mistake," claiming that he knew nothing about it.