I maintain it's an odd choice for SPN to create whole new characters for a backdoor pilot, when they've done such a good job creating recurring characters that have our love. Case in point, this week they're back in Sioux Falls, and that means they're in Jodi Mills' town. Jodi was introduced as one of those characters that comes around on the boys and their stories of monsters, and by the end of her first episode she was killing zombies with the best of them. She's been back a few time since, but this week is her week.
It's a pretty straightforward and arc-free episode. A waif shows up at the sheriff's office, fast pursued by a vampire who's come to get her back and take her home. But the Sheriff's in town, and she's packing an axe. Tally: one saved damsel and one downed small town vamp to Mills' tab..
She calls Sam and Dean because of the conversation she overheard that made it sound like there were more. Research reveals that she's been missing for eight years, Annie Jones, abducted from her grandmother and renamed Alex in the meantime. Sam finds scars on her neck which leads them to think she's a "blood slave" who might very well be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, which would explain why she won't give up the location of the nest.
It's her choice, she said. They brought her food, so when they couldn't find anyone else to drink from, she let them feed from her. Family, she says. But now she wants to move on, which she didn't think through—once an SPN vamp gets your scent, they can track you anywhere.
Which makes Jodi's decision to take her to a faraway cabin without any backup kinda dodgy, wouldn't you say? But the boys are off to track down the nest and hopefully kill everyone there before they can find Alexanne.
Meanwhile, the pack is doing tracking on their own—Cody, the first to get killed, had snuck out to find Alex without telling anyone she'd gone, but now they're all aware a few of them have gotten as far as threatening a bus station employee for details. Also, it seems, for fun.
Dean and Sam work out where the nest lays its head and soon tie up one of the bros, who looks exactly like Clay from Bitten. Is it him? Really similar. Dean is on his torture roll, but the vampire is pretty chatty anyway.
That's how they learn there's a mother vamp who turned four boys, but refrained from turning the girl, no matter how bratty she got. In the meanwhile, Ann (that's what she's calling herself during the honey trap) functioned as a lure, hanging out in bars getting guys to follow her to where her family is going to eat.
Now that everyone has cell phones and battery life is good, SPN seems to have chosen "I was in the other room and it was on vibrate" as the excuse for non-communication. That's why the boys can't tell her that Alex will probably choose vamps over humans, since she's done so many times before. By the time Jodi gets to the phone there's only time for her to hear half the story—vamps have tracked her down to the cabin. Alex gets grabbed before Dean and Sam can get there, but Jodi only gets a bit banged up. She insists on going with them to rescue Alex, and insists that she is not a monster, and not on the kill list.
Back at the lair, Momma Vamp realises that there's a simple cure for this teenaged crisis of conscience—remove the conscience. Strip her of her humanity by turning her into a vampire, after all these times. Since Alex has admitted she loves her "mother" but she just can't deal with the family dinners, Mom's eager to address omission. And from what we can see, this just might be with Alex's consent. By the time Jodi (of course) finds her, she's already fed on vamp blood and is halfway through the turning process.
Sam and Dean get captured soon enough. Sam is tied up for draining, and Dean is left lying unconscious on the floor as the angry vampire does not seem flattered that it was the Winchesters that killed his brother. He's down for another equal trade like the episode before and they set up to drain Sam for snacks to go as they leave to find another lair.
Picturesquely, Mamma offers up Jodi as the human blood that's going to seal the turning. They have a mother off (which involves taking a fair amount of beating on Jodi's part) as Alex is reluctant to feed and Jodi encourages her not to. During this, Jodi works out that Alex has been a replacement daughter for the vampire, that's why she let Alex grow up and kept her human. Now they're talking on the even footing of parents who have lost children, and it sets Mamma off so hard Jodi gets another beatdown.
Dean turns out to have been faking unconsciousness and jumps up and takes out both the vampires holding them. In a scene creepily reminiscent of fanfic sex scenes, Dean insists the vampire looks him in the eyes as he finishes him off, his ferocity visibly disturbing Sam. Dean is unrepentant and unapologetic about having enjoyed himself.
Alex can't go through with it, can't let Jodi be killed, and stabs her Mamma with one of the syringes of dead man's blood among the equipment taken off Jodi. As she paralysed, Jodi grabs her hair, tells Alex to look away, and snags her second head of the episode. Poor Sam. I don't think he's killed anyone today, and he's been ducttaped to a chair for his trouble.
Jodi admits her unfulfilled maternal urges clouded her judgement on this case, but we're also very clear that mothering Alex is what got her to turn her back on her vampiric mother figure. Unsurprisingly, Alex ends up detoxing at Jodi's house, and they have a heart to heart about losing families.
So, family huh? It's never not the topic when it comes to Supernatural, but between this and the Garth werewolf episode, we've had a lot of humanising the monsters with family instincts, and I think this is both to throw Sam and Dean's family issues into relief (Dean snarks "I know, you wouldn't have done it for me" to Sam as he unties him after saving him from the vamps.") and to set up the backdoor pilot next week, which involves monster families running Chicago (Originals, Illinois?).
As a standalone, I liked the episode, and I'm always happy to see Jodi alive and victorious. But it's episode 19 of 23, and the pacing of the season arc looks even more erratic after last week's episode. What's Crowley doing? Abaddon's soul factory? Castiel and his flock? Metatron and his incipient Judas Gadreel? I don't know why the fraternal rift gets a mention in the episode and none of the life-threatening issues get lip service.
Not every episode has to be an arc episode. But a non-arc episode with no mention of arc components belongs earlier in the season than this. And are they going to put arc in the pilot next week? I'd be impressed.
Special shoutout to the makeup crew this episode. Those women looked messed UP, as well they should. They never play this much with the moneymaker faces...