Charlie Bradbury has traded in her crown for FBI digs and joined the Winchesters on a hunt, somewhat willingly this time.
Charlie’s been reading up on monsters and things since her last encounter with the Winchesters, and even came across the “meta-madness” that is Chuck Shurley’s Supernatural book series. Claiming she’d been in Kansas for a comic convention, Charlie arrives at the Men of Letters lair, bringing the brothers a case involving bodies found bursting with goo-ified guts.
Sam is in bad shape after the last trial, so Dean tries to get him to lay low until he’s better – or at least until he can manage to hit a target in the shooting range. Charlie happens to be a magnificent shot, so Dean forges FBI I.D. for her and takes her shopping for a suit. File “Charlie and Dean fitting room montage to the tune of ‘Walking on Sunshine’” under “things I didn’t know I wanted.”
Now Charlie looks the part, but real-life roleplaying is harder than being queen. In the coroner’s office, she looks terrified and pulls out her badge upside down (and we were all reminded on Cas). But regardless of her performance, she and Dean have hit a paperwork roadblock and aren’t granted access to the body.
Luckily, another body turns up (well, not lucky for the dead guy, obviously). Dean and Charlie find Sam at the scene. Unhappy that Sam is out in the field instead of resting, Dean takes off to break into the morgue. Sam and Charlie beat him there, but they’re all held up when the coroner, Jennifer, returns. Charlie manages to stall long enough for the brothers to find that the first body has already been burned, thanks to a paperwork error.
Back at home, the trio narrows the monster pool down to an old enemy: a djinn. And when Charlie excuses herself to go pick up food, but actually goes back to where she’d been staying, she finds herself face-to-face with the djinn – Jennifer the coroner.
Suspicious of Charlie’s behavior since her arrival, Dean had turned on the GPS in her phone, which comes in handy when he and Sam realize she’s missing. At her place, they find no signs of forced entry, so they know it was the djinn. They also find several forms of identification, and Charlie’s laptop open to a fund gathering money under her several identities.
Tracing the money first, Dean finds that it’s being spent to keep a woman named Gertrude on life support. Gertrude and her husband were hit one night several years ago by a drunk driver. The husband died, and Gertrude has been in a vegetative state ever since. Their daughter, who had been 12 at the time of the accident, got into some trouble and fell off the grid. Dean figures it out immediately – Gertrude is Charlie’s mother.
Looking into the coroner, whose faulty paperwork has gotten more than one body burned, Sam and Dean find that she owns an old warehouse. They find Charlie there, and kill the djinn quickly. But when they give Charlie the antidote, she doesn’t wake up, so they turn to African dream root to try to rouse her from the inside. Dean drinks the root and Sam knocks him out, sending him into Charlie’s dream world, which is a video game full of ‘50s super-soldier vampires.
But there are two things Dean didn’t know before diving into Charlie’s brain. First, this unlike other djinn who feed on happiness, this one fed on fear. So instead of landing in Charlie’s happy place, they’re both stuck in her recurring nightmare. Second, there was a second djinn, Jennifer’s son. Dean can only hope Sam will see him coming.
The game in Charlie’s head is based on a game called Red Scare that she had acquired before its release when she was 12. Charlie had stolen the unfinished game, inserted her own liberal politics, and released the game for free. She’d been tracked down, and that was the trouble she’d been in after her parents’ accident.
The game is on a loop, so after Charlie saves the patients, among whom are her mother and Sam, the level starts over, more difficult than last time. Dean figures out that to stop it, Charlie has to let go of the fear of losing her mother and stop playing the game. And Charlie – brilliant, brave Charlie – holds so much guilt, because she’d gotten scared at a sleepover, and her parents were coming to pick her up the night they were hit by that drunk driver. Her mother, who had read her The Hobbit when she was little, was the reason she loves all the things she loves. Letting go of all that isn’t easy. But as soon as she lowers her weapon and gives up the fight, the vampires disappear, and she and Dean wake up to find Sam had taken on the other djinn just fine.
As Charlie prepares to leave, she assures Sam that if anyone could complete the trials, it’s him. Sam leaves her and Dean to say their farewells, not just to each other, but also to the fears they harbored that had smelled so strongly to the djinn. Charlie goes to the hospital to say goodbye to her mother, reading her The Hobbit one last time. Dean goes back to Sam and doesn’t reprimand him for not taking it easy anymore. He simply hugs him, and they get ready to go find Kevin.
But as Sam’s condition continues to deteriorate in next week’s episode, how long will Dean be able to keep that fear under control?