The boys are back in town. After a month-long hiatus, Supernatural returns with a “Road So Far…” on the back of Bob Seger’s “Katmandu”. So often these musical mashups are so good that it’s hard for the episode to live up to the anticipation fostered by the amazing intros. Of course, it is Supernatural so I only expect the best and this week’s offering, the aptly titled “Torn and Frayed” came up aces.

Things start off in that horrible and bloody way that screams ‘is this really happening’. Semandriel who, from here on out will be known as Alfie, is strapped in a chair getting the business in a way we’ve only seen in ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’. While alone, he puts out enough juice to dial Angel Radio before Viggo, his torturer re-enters and quite literally applies the screws to him.

Sam’s still in Kermit, TX waiting things out in a dingy motel when he gets a knock on the door. It’s Dean and he tries to hash things out with Sam. They both get their digs in regarding the other’s faulty behavior until finally addressing the figurative Sasquatch in the room. There’s no trust between them and, in truth, there hasn’t been for some time. Dean wonders how they can fix things and Sam puts the onus on his older brother; can he stay away from Benny? Dean’s honest answer is that he doesn’t know and Sam’s silence is all the former needs to leave his brother and the situation.

What the hell is Naomi’s angle?

Dean holes himself up in his own motel but isn’t alone for long. After being snatched up by Naomi and given the “idea” to rescue Alfie, Cas shows up, startling the dozing hunter. He apprises Dean of the situation and the latter gets to work on laptop. There’s a bit of an awkward silence when Dean’s residual porn shows up on the screen (“You saw NOTHING”) After the less than stellar bonding moment, Cas gives Dean a general area to search—Hastings, Nebraska—and warning signs pointing to angel torture. They find what they’re looking for and when Cas asks for Sam, Dean shuts him down; they are going at it alone.

Still laying about in his motel, Sam’s time watching a riveting dung beetle special is interrupted by Amelia. Their conversation is of the awkward start/stop variety but the chemistry between the two is painfully obvious and it isn’t long before the undercurrents are on full display as the two former lovers strike out the ‘former’ aspects of their relationship with a bang. The afterglow isn’t hugs and puppies though, but nostalgia and regret. Despite her misgivings and hesitations, Amelia wants to be with Sam. She doesn’t say it in so many words, but he’s her soul mate but she’s not going to hang around forever. If he wants to be with her, he needs to be with her. But if he leaves, don’t come back again. Just like Amelia, Sam is torn and despite what his heart wants, he tells her they both should take some time, think about things before coming to a decision. They give each other two days to make the decision; meet back at the motel or be gone from one another’s lives for good.

On the Alfie front, Viggo really turns up the heat. After one particularly deep spike is screwed into Alfie’s brain, he starts chanting and a nearby bush explodes in a man’s face.  Dean and Cas get wind of the “ambush” in Geneva, NE—such a cheesy pun from Dean but so good—and Cas is able understand the portion of the chant, which is ancient Anokian. Knowing Crowley’s behind it they start searching the area, finally coming to an abandoned factory crawling with bad guy and warded against pesky angelic interference. Considering Dean has a bad ass knife and that’s it, they go to a burned out Kevin for some demon TNT. He’s frayed around the edges and Cas’s brutally honest “You look horrible” succinctly describes the disheveled prophet. After Cas takes off to gather the ingredients for the demon bomb, Dean’s left alone with Kevin. As he paces around (with Kevin ignoring him) Dean gets a call from everyone’s favorite vamp this side of the Salvatore brothers. Benny’s near the Catskills and in a bad way. Going underground and living on a bagged lunch, so to speak, has him at the end of his tether. Like a recovering addict in a 12-step program, he needs Dean, his sponsor, for support. Though he can’t drop everything now, Dean promises he’ll be there for Benny after the case. Not long after the call, Dean finds out that Kevin has streamlined his life, one that is consumed with the tablet, by kicking his mom to the curb. “She was a distraction,” he tells Dean and translating the tablet is the most important thing there is for him. It’s a simple remark but one that touches something in hunter.

Back at the factory, Viggo shows Crowley his accidental discovery. It doesn’t take long for the Lord of Hell to realize they’ve hacked the angel’s hard drive and the deeper they dive into Alfie’s skull the more interesting aspects of the angel’s base programming come to fruition.

Dealing with his own problems and the impending decision about Amelia, Sam’s dragged into the case by Cas. The

Cas is in a world of disarray

brothers reluctantly work together, though not without a “Stow your crap” mandate from Cas. Arriving at the factory, Cas tells the Winchesters to destroy four Anokian symbols that prevent him from entering the premises. They enter the building and split up to cover more ground. Per the usual, one brother saves another from being fricasseed by a black eyed demon (Sam being the victim this time) but they accomplish the mission. Cas teleports in but is severely weakened by the remaining sigils still littering the walls. They’ve reached Alfie but can’t break down the door as his screams cut into Cas, the former Most High cowers in a corner as distant memories invade his consciousness.  It’s a race to Alfie as Sam and Dean assault the door while Crowley anxiously tries squeezing more information from the trussed up angel. Before they can break the door down, Alfie spills about the existence of an angel tablet. Finally breaking through, the brothers kick some demon ass—sans Crowley—while Cas gets Alfie out of the building. As Viggo unsuccessfully pleads for Dean to spare him, after all he does know stuff, Alfie tries telling Cas about the information he’s learned. Namely, that he’s given up series information and, maybe even more important to Cas, they are being controlled. But he doesn’t get further than that as Naomi collects Cas. Pissed and desperate at keeping secrets hidden, she tells Cas exactly how vital the information Alfie gave up was regarding the angel tablet and orders him to kill Alfie. Cas does so and, when Sam and Dean arrive, spin a half-assed “he was compromised” story before flitting away, his own eye bleeding from an unknown injury.

The brothers return to Dean’s motel and, after angel-proofing it come to the conclusion that Cas is bagful o’ cats messed up. Just how much and what’s wrong they still don’t know but they have to keep watch on him. After Cas-talk ends, Dean tells Sam to go back to Amelia. He sees Sam’s chance at happiness and doesn’t want him to miss it. Echoing Amelia’s earlier words to Sam, Dean expresses to his brother that, no matter what he decides—Amelia or the hunt—he has to do so with both feet in, no more half-assing it. Sam takes off, needing some time to himself and Dean makes a call to Benny. He thanks his friend for being there but it’s the end of the line between them; no more brotherly bonding. Dean’s visibly heartbroken but it’s something he has to do.

Back at Sam’s motel room, Amelia slowly opens the door and is dejected, though probably not surprised to find it empty. Sam is back with Dean, the two of them watching TV and sharing a bit. The unspoken communication between the two is a start to slowly rebuilding the wreckage of their once impeccable bond.

I’m not sure an episode fell more in line with its title than “Torn and Frayed”. Every character and relationship examined had been gnawed and worried as if chained in a five-by-five cell with a band ravenous honey badgers and wolverines. Sam and Dean’s relationship has been going down hill for the past two years, Cas’s own condition since the Leviathan set up shop inside him had left him scarred and depleted, Alfie’s physical torment was beyond words, not to mention Amelia and Sam’s soap opera story and the NSA-like angel chief Naomi’s own experimentations on Cas, and Benny’s struggle staying off the juice, no one present has been spared from the carnage. But like any good episode after an extended hiatus, “Torn and Frayed” provided the answer to some questions (namely, the brothers slowly coming back together) while at the same time introducing more mysteries (what is Naomi doing and is she the one Alfie hinted at who’s controlling them?) The season’s only halfway done and where some doors have been closed—I will miss Amelia and Benny—others are wide open and hint at the direction the second half of the season will take.


Next Week:  RenFair with Felicia Day!