‘Supernatural’ Review: “Rock and a Hard Place”
‘Supernatural’ season 9 summons its eighth episode of the year in “Rock and a Hard Place,” as Sam and Dean investigate the disappearances of several youths within a purity group, working with Sheriff Jody Mills (Kate Rhodes) on the case.
Last week’s ‘Supernatural’ episode, “Bad Boys,” saw Dean returning to a boys’ home he spent time at as a teenager, now haunted by a vengeful ghost, so what does the eighth season 9 episode bring? What strange and unexpected challenges will the Winchesters face next?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 8, “Rock and a Hard Place”!
In Hartford, South Dakota, a young woman named Honor closes up shop at a restaurant, leaving a meal for a homeless man before heading to her car. After dropping her keys under a truck and crawling to retrieve them, the woman is astonished to see a figure wreathed in blue flame lifting the truck, only to knock her unconscious, and toss her in a pit elsewhere. Meanwhile at the Men of Letters base, Sam notes how he seems unable to “charge his battery” with sleep, while Dean fields a call from Sheriff Jody Mills about the mysterious disappearance.
After the boys arrive, Mills informs them that the girl’s disappearance is one of several related to the Good Faith Church group, which she herself has attended after experiences with Bobby and Crowley. After talking to the homeless man about Honor’s disappearance, Sam and Dean visit the church and infiltrate a purity group the victims all attended, agreeing to become born-again virgins with the group’s leader Bonnie. Meanwhile, Honor awakens underground and explores her dark surroundings, as figures move about in the dark.
Sam and Dean attend the purity group’s meeting, though Dean predictably over-shares his sexual prowess, and finds something inescapably familiar about the group leader Susie. Sam questions another girl from the circle, Tammy, though finds no information of value, while Susie invites Dean back to her house to borrow some books about reclaiming his purity. Sam returns to the hotel with Mills, where the pair realize that those kidnapped had broken their purity vows, rather than remained virgins, ruling out Sam and Dean’s theory about dragons as the culprit.
Dean attempts to set the mood over at Susie’s house, but winds up saddled with a load of books instead. A bit of snooping reveals the source of Dean’s familiarity with the woman however, who used to appear in some of Dean’s favorite porn films. Susie claims to have put the life behind her, but when Dean espouses his love for her work, the two decide to break their purity vows together. Awhile later, the pair leave the home, but wind up taken by the same fiery blue villain.
Dean and Susie are thrown into the underground room with Honor, as well as the other past victims, who have been deprived of any food and water. Meanwhile, Sam and Sheriff mills realize what happened to Dean and Susie when they find her apartment trashed. A bit of further research reveals that the culprit is most likely Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, who frequently had virgins sacrificed in her honor, burying them alive should they break their vows.
Dean manages to call Sam with broken reception, though the sound of a train in the background gives Sam and Mills a clue to their location. Borrowing a bit of virgin blood from Tammy for a weapon to defeat Vesta, Sam and Mills arrive to a train-adjacent farmhouse, where Dean and the others have been kept below ground. Before they can free the group however, Vesta attacks, revealing herself as the purity group’s organizer, Bonnie.
With Sam unconscious from the fight, Mills attempts to taunt Vesta over her lack of followers in the modern day, to which Vesta explains how she’d adapted by eating the livers of lapsed virgins, the purest remaining parts of their bodies. Sam wakes up and attacks, accidentally hitting Mills with the stake, though when Vesta goes to cut out his liver, she points out the poor condition of Sam’s body. Before Vesta can react however, Mills stabs her through the heart, killing her just as Dean managed to free the group from underground.
After the boys say goodbye to Sheriff Mills, Sam wonders if his body has been permanently ravaged by the trials. Dean finally breaks, preparing to tell his brother the truth about what happened, before Ezekiel interjects and claims he’ll only need to remain within Sam’s body for a short while longer. Sam regains consciousness, to which Dean changes his tune and urges his brother to have faith for the moment.
Last week, we espoused the virtue of "Bad Boys" for taking what might have been an otherwise-retro 'Supernatural' story, and adding just enough twists of new and nostalgia to craft an entertaining hour amid the current non-starter narrative. Sadly, the same can't be said of "Rock and a Hard Place," which follows the all-too-familiar season 9 formula of Sam and Dean expositing the reasons for Kevin and Crowley's absence before being called away, and investigating a case with more camp than kick. Cue an ending action sequence, an expository appearance from Ezekiel, rinse, repeat.
If nothing else, Jensen Ackles once again proves himself the star comedic player of the season, getting plenty of mileage out of Dean's more devious behaviors amid an overtly ludicrous assembly of supporting players. Nothing much about the purity group, or the telegraphed villainy of Vesta really registers (did the previously-on segment really remind us of dragons' sole season 6 appearance, for the lone purpose of understanding that misdirect?), much as Sheriff Mills' reappearance adds relatively little to the proceedings, save for a few brief snippets of nostalgia.
"Dog Dean Afternoon" seems to have broken the bank for season 9's filler quota, even as some would espouse its tongue-in-cheek tone to have been a high-point of 'Supernatural''s more comedic aspects, while here it becomes all the more apparent when an episode like "Rock and a Hard Place" splits the difference between humor and horror. Our only real ties to the increasingly thin season 9 narrative came at the end of the hour with Dean's willing admission of Sam's true state, though once again Ezekiel emerges to stall any development for the time being. Had we spent more time with Zeke as an independent character to begin with, the brief asides could potentially carry a more menacing weight, though for now they remain a symbol of season 9's labored wheel-spinning.
All in all, a few chuckles to be had, with some intriguing visuals here and there (Honor's taser torch being a particular standout) though very little of substance to digest heading into the midseason finale next month.
Well, what sayyou? Did you get your fill of scary ‘Supernatural’ action? What did you think about “Rock and a Hard Place”? Give us your take in the comments, and join us again December 7 for an all-new recap of ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 9, “Holy Terror,” on The CW!