In “Safe House” Supernatural brings back Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) and Rufus Turner (Steven Williams) when the Winchester brothers find themselves working on the same case the “Grumpy Old Men of Letters” were involved with years earlier. There are some great parallel moments as it becomes clear the case is more complicated that it initially appears. Just as Sam and Dean take on the case because they’re at a standstill in their efforts to fight the Darkness, Bobby is in the midst trying to help the boys stop the Apocalypse. This makes Rufus’s reminder that “you can’t save everyone” that much more poignant.
A woman tears the wallpaper down in an old house. Talking on the phone, she tells her wife, “I’m starting to see why it was on the market for so long.” It’s the fixer-upper from Hell. Her daughter Kat complains about her room being so cold. If you move into a house with cold spots, our advice is—GET OUT!
Kat is alone in her cold and dark room when her door suddenly slams shut. The smart little girl hides under the bed. She hears footsteps coming towards her door, and calls out questioningly, “Mama?” The footsteps don’t sound like a concerned mother coming to check on her, but the creepy kind of footsteps you never want to hear. She stares at the door as the footfalls come closer and watches as the door slowly opens. There’s no one standing on the other side of the door. Suddenly a ghostly claw-like hand grabs Kat’s ankle and pulls her backwards as the little girl screams.
Sam and Dean have been searching for signs of Amara or Castiel, but they’re having no luck. Sam finds a story about the little girl who is now in a coma. She has a mysterious handprint on her ankle, which sounds like their kind of case. Sam thinks they are due for a win and this case seems like a layup. Dean says, “Yeah, when’s the last time we had a layup?” We suspect it won’t be as easy as they hope.
They talk to the mom, Naoki, at the hospital, who tells them that no on else believes that it was an attack. She tells them, “Even the Internet thinks I’m crazy.” She tells them that her daughter had awakened screaming. Kat had heard footsteps and felt something bad was in the house. Naoki tells the Winchesters that Kat’s room was cold and the lights were out. They head out to check out the house.
The Elder Statesmen of Supernatural
As Sam and Dean walk up to the house, they’re stopped by the next-door neighbor who also happens to be head of the neighborhood watch. She wants to know why the FBI keeps coming back. It turns out that this was a case that Bobby and Rufus had worked on a handful of years ago, back before the Apocalypse almost happened.
We flash back to Bobby sleeping in his car outside of the same house. Bobby has been busy looking for a way to stop the Apocalypse, but Rufus needed his help on this case. Rufus tells him that they’re about due for a win, echoing the conversation between Sam and Dean. It also turns out that it’s Shabbat and Rufus needs Bobby to do most of the heavy lifting. It’s fun to see an example of this after hearing Bobby say that Rufus “always used to pull the old ‘can’t work on the Sabbath’ card whenever we had to bury a body” in the episode “… And Then There Were None.”
As they head towards the house, they’re interrupted by the same neighborhood watch woman that stops Sam and Dean. Bobby tells her that they are Special Agents Rigg and Murtaugh, making a Lethal Weapon reference. When she wants to know what official business the FBI has with the house, Rufus tells her, “It’s officially none of your damn business, Ma’am.” Bobby asks Rufus if he was ever nice, to which Rufus responds, “1985. The worst year of my life.” You gotta love these old guys.
In the present, Sam and Dean find a huge amount of EMF activity all over the house. Dean suggests multiple ghosts, but Sam tells him, “I don’t know, Dean. I mean the world is small, but it’s not that small.” Dean suggests they look through Bobby’s old journals and learn the history of the house.
In the earlier case, Bobby and Rufus interview the owner of the house. It’s a different woman than the current owner. Over tea she tells them that on their first night in the house her son called out for help, but when they got there he was unconscious. His room was cold, the lights were out, and he had a handprint on his ankle.
With Age Comes Wisdom—and Grumpiness
Sam and Dean manage to get the same room at the same Travel USA Motel that Bobby and Rufus had stayed in. Rufus wants to know why Bobby was sleeping in his car, but Bobby changes the subject. In search of a spirit, both Bobby and Sam find that there were two deaths at the house—one man choked on a chicken bone, and later another man murdered his wife.
Dean finds that Bobby’s journal only says, “Grand Rapids, Michigan—Possible ghost hunt with jackass.” Since Bobby never completed his journal entry they don’t know what steps Bobby and Rufus already took. That means they may have to dig up both the bodies, not being sure which bones Bobby and Rufus burned. Sam tells Dean that the case seems all too easy. As he heads out the motel door, Dean tells Sam, “C’mon, think Bobby and Rufus wasted any time arguing about this crap?”
The scene jumps to Bobby and Rufus standing outside their hotel room arguing. Rufus thinks they’re hunting a baku, while Bobby believes it’s a ghost. They bet a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Rufus’s favorite drink, on the outcome. Bobby tells Rufus, “The sooner we get to burning bones, the sooner we can get back to figuring out how to save the world.” As they head out, Rufus tells Bobby that his car smells like roadkill casserole. We hope that if our car ever smells like roadkill casserole, or even casserole, that someone will tell us too.
Dean and Sam are sitting in a grave, out of breath. Dean says, “There’s got to be an easier way to dig graves.” The scene switches to Bobby using a backhoe to dig the grave.
Rufus wants to know why Bobby was sleeping in his car earlier. Bobby has been burning the midnight oil looking for a way to stop the Apocalypse. Bobby’s concerned that “his boys” are caught up in the middle of it. Rufus reminds Bobby that even if they manage to stop the Apocalypse that it’s possible that not everyone will survive, “Sacrifice, greater good, all that jazz.” Rufus tells Bobby, “Oldest rule in hunting, Bobby. You can’t save everyone.” Let’s hope Supernatural isn’t preparing us for a major loss.
Sam and Dean find that Bobby and Rufus have already burned both the bodies, leaving them to realize they are hunting something besides a ghost. Back at the house, mom Naoki has returned home and is grabbed by whatever creature is in the house.
At the hospital Sam and Dean meet Dr. Richards, a retired doctor who worked on the previous cases of unexplained coma and handprint. In a past scene Dr. Richards tells Bobby and Rufus that the patients’ vitals are failing and they may not survive. In the present, Dr. Richards tells Sam and Dean that the previous patients suddenly woke up the next day.
Sam and Dean go to talk to Mary Henderson, the mother who went into a coma previously. Over tea she tells them that when she woke up, “One of the FBI agents told me to never touch the wallpaper in the sitting room.” When she was in the coma she experienced what she thought was a dream. She was in the house, but it wasn’t quite like the house, it was dark and everything looked faded. She saw her husband dead, and spirits. The Hendersons eventually abandoned their home: “Anything to get away from that damn house.”
Sam and Dean go back to the house to look around. Sam touches the wallpaper! Didn’t he hear the warning about not touching the wallpaper? There’s a Celtic symbol painted behind the wallpaper. The new homeowner broke the seal when she started tearing down the wallpaper. Dean asks, “What the hell are we hunting?”
We get a research montage to the tune of Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” when Sam and Dean, as well as Rufus and Bobby, hit the lore. Bobby and Sam each identify the creature they’re hunting as a Soul Eater: “An undead creature that feeds on souls, hence the name. They exist in a place between our world and another. Soul Eater moves into a house, and once it does it makes what the lore calls a nest.” The nest exists in a place outside of time and space, but the Soul Eater can pull its victims into the nest. The bodies of the victims wither and die, but the Soul Eater keeps the souls in the nest in order to continue feeding during lean times.
According to the lore, Soul Eaters can’t be killed, but Bobby may know how to trap one. Bobby tells Rufus that another Hunter, Harvey, called him for help on a case like this one. In the present, Dean reads the vivid description from Bobby’s journal about the Tennessee case: “He goes into the house, buckshot, guns blazing—” Then we switch to Rufus telling Bobby, “No, no, no, no, no! Do not tell me how you tell it. Tell me how it really happened.” Bobby tells Rufus that you could feel the badness as soon as you walked into the house. He found Harvey on the floor and heard footsteps. Bobby had an old Celtic sigil that he used to trap the creature. Once he finished painting the sigil the house went back to normal. Bobby tells Rufus that Harvey never did wake up. Rufus replies, “Oldest rule, Bobby. Oldest rule.”
When Naoki redecorated she broke the seal, allowing the Soul Eater to escape. They aren’t sure how the Hendersons got out of the nest once the Soul Eater was trapped. Sam decides to do some research in their Men of Letters database.
Sam: “You know, it’s too bad that Bobby and Rufus aren’t around to see all this stuff. They’d have been great Men of Letters.”
Dean: “Yeah—grumpy old Men of Letters, but yeah.”
It turns out that the Men of Letters found a way to kill a Soul Eater. It’s a sigil that must be painted on the house, as well as inside the nest of the Soul Eater. Dean quickly calls, “Not it.” But dibs isn’t good enough for Sam, who insists they Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. Perhaps Dean thought his luck (or is it skill?) had turned after winning Rock, Paper, Scissors for the first time in “Love Hurts” (S11E13), but as usual Sam wins. Dean mutters, “We are never settling anything with that stupid game again, ever.” They come up with a plan for Sam to paint the symbol on a wall of the house, while Dean paints it on the other side of the wall from inside the nest.
Showdown with a Soul Eater
Rufus begins to paint the Celtic symbol on a wall. Bobby warns that things are going to get bad. They hear footsteps. Bobby heads upstairs. In the present, Dean can hear the footsteps too, and says, “Come and get me, you son of a bitch.” We switch back to Bobby, who says, “Stay away from me, you son of a bitch.” They’re both pulled into the nest.
In the nest, Dean sees Sam dead on the floor, but realizing it’s not real he closes his eyes and the image is gone. Bobby sees Sam and Dean dead and gets visibly upset. He closes his eyes and their image disappears. Young Will Henderson shows up. Bobby asks if he’s seen anyone strange. Will asks, “You mean the sad people?” Bobby can’t see the sick looking people, but assures Will that his friend is going to help them get out of there. Strange to hear Bobby refer to Rufus as his friend.
Sam and Dean are both painting the sigils. Dean sees Kat, who tells him she’s not supposed to talk to strangers. She can’t see her mother, telling Dean it’s too crowded in the house now. Dean can’t see anyone, and she tells him, “You’ll see them soon.” Scary warnings are that much creepier when delivered by kids.
Suddenly Bobby can see the sad people. The Soul Eater puts its hand on Bobby’s chest, which allows him to take possession of Bobby’s body in the outside world. He stops Rufus from working on the sigil. The Soul Eater wants Rufus to come into the nest. Rufus responds, “Why? So you can show me a bunch of messed up stuff in there while my fabulous body rots out here? I don’t think I want to take that ride.”
Dean has finished painting the sigil. Kat doesn’t like it in the nest, and who can blame her? It’s empty, dark, and full of sad souls with blackened eyes. Dean tells Kat that his brother is painting a sigil as well, and when he’s done they’ll leave. Dean can suddenly see the sad people too. Then the Soul Eater possesses Dean’s body just as it did Bobby’s.
The Soul Eater tells Sam, “I can’t let you finish that finger painting, boy.” It tells Sam if he comes into the nest it can keep him safe from the Darkness. So all the evil creatures seem to know about the Darkness. Sam begins to fight with the Soul Eater-possessed Dean, just as Rufus does with Bobby. The Soul Eater tells Sam, “You know your brother wants to go to the Darkness. He needs to go. But I can keep him safe—both of you—forever.” They continue to fight.
After knocking out Soul Eater-Bobby, Rufus finishes painting his sigil. In the nest, Bobby’s soul comes back to consciousness and he hears a thundering sound. Sam finally knocks out Soul Eater-Dean. When the brothers fight, Sam is more often the victor, whether one of them is possessed, angry, or just their normal selves. Sam always seems more brutal when he’s punching someone. He’s scary in a fight. Sam finishes his sigil, causing the Soul Eater to come out of Dean’s body and disappear.
In the nest, Kat is standing with her mother Naoki. Kat tells Dean, “They’re leaving.” Haunting music plays as the souls all begin to disappear as they’re freed from the Soul Eater’s nest. Dean sees Bobby standing on the stairs, and they look at each other for a minute before they both disappear and wake up in their own times. Rufus helps Bobby up. Sam holds Dean and tells him, “All right, I got you.”
Back to the Apocalypse
Bobby is wallpapering over the sigil. Rufus calls from the hospital to tell him the Hendersons are awake. Bobby doesn’t understand how they all escaped the nest: “It was a trap spell. We should be trapped too.” Rufus tells him to take the win, but when Bobby still seems discontent Rufus asks him what he saw in the nest.
Bobby: “My boys, both of them. Both of them dead. Then I saw—hell, I don’t know what the hell I saw.”
Rufus: “Yeah, well, forget the oldest rule, Bobby.”
Bobby: “You getting soft on me, Rufus?”
Rufus: “Yeah, soft this [hangs up the phone].”
Sam calls Naoki to tell her that the house is safe now, though it may need a little remodeling. When the Winchesters get into an altercation, there’s bound to be some damage. She tells them that they’re selling. Good call. Sam and Dean leave the house.
Bobby leaves the house, waving to the nosy neighbor. He finds a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label on the front seat of his car with a note from Rufus that says, “Fine, you ass, you win for once. Enjoy.” Sitting in his car, Bobby’s about to update his hunting journal when Dean calls. Dean complains that he’s left three messages and tells Bobby, “Look, I got a possible lead on Lilith in Maine, but we’re on a case in Reno. I texted you the address. So if you’re done sitting on your ass….” Bobby mutters, “Idjits,” and drives off as “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band plays on the radio.
Sam and Dean also wave at the irritated neighbor. Like Bobby, they have questions about what happened. Sam wonders if it really was Bobby that Dean saw in the nest. Dean points out, “If Bobby did go into the nest back then, and you said that the next exists outside of space and time, then, theoretically, couldn’t he and I have been there at the same time?” Sounds sort of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. They decide it’s best to get drunk and not think about it ever again. But first they have to stop in Tennessee to take care of Bobby’s old Soul Eater case, now that they know how to kill one. Dean tells Sam that he can go into the nest this time.
When Sam asks Dean what he saw in the nest, Dean tells him that he saw Sam dead on the floor. Sam chuckles and asks Dean, “How messed up are our lives that you seeing a vision of dead me is kind of comforting?” Guess it’s a relief that Dean saw his brother, and not Amara. It reinforces what we already know: that Dean cares about Sam above all others, just as Sam and Dean were the most important people in Bobby’s life. As they drive away, “Midnight Rider” comes on the radio.
In “Safe House,” Supernatural gives us everything we love in a Monster of the Week episode, with the bonus of having Bobby and Rufus in the episode. Beaver and Williams were outstanding in the episode, delivering this strong script with just the right amount of warmth and crankiness. The parallel between the two time periods reminds us that the boys have faced tough odds before, which they overcame by relying on family. Though if the hunters’ oldest rule tells us anything, defeating Amara may come at a great cost.