Time travel, a doomed submarine, Sam in close proximity to Lucifer (and not knowing it), Crowley being treated like a dog and the expansion of the Men of Letters history: that’s the Wednesday, Feb. 17 episode of “Supernatural,” 11×14, “The Vessel,” in a nutshell. Dean decides to go back in time in hopes of getting his hands on a weapon that can be used against Amara, while Sam is left back in the present, unknowingly with his tormentor.
So, remember how Castiel said yes to Lucifer because he thinks it’s their only chance to stop Amara? Well, when first seen in this “SPN” episode, Casifer is playing on a tablet on the throne, dismissive of his demon followers and treating Crowley like his pet, complete with calling him “doggie,” keeping him chained up in hell’s form of a kennel and petting him. But even down in that position, Crowley knows that Lucifer isn’t strong enough to beat Amara, not even with his weapons from storage. Fortunately, that’s when the Winchesters reach out, having found a possible solution.
Since they’ve been coming up empty in the lore, Sam turned to history for a possible solution and hit the jackpot: the Hand of God. Nazis got their hands on one of them, but it was stolen by a thief, Delphine, who killed one of the high-ranking officials and was referred to as a Woman of Letters. Thanks to letters between her and one of the Men of Letters from the bunker back in 1943, they figure out that she was supposed to transport it on a submarine. However, the USS Bluefin came under attack by the Germans, sunk, and nothing was recovered.
Casifer sees the potential in this lead and, with a devilish grin neither brother notices because they’re arguing over the plan, agrees to send Dean back in time to retrieve it. Dean argues that he’s the least valuable player on the board, that they can’t risk both of them in case something goes wrong, and Sam only agrees after turning to who he thinks is their friendly angel and insisting he stay by his side the entire time. That lasts as long as it takes to take Dean back; thanks to sigils warding the submarine, Casifer can’t make it past the hull.
Dean steals a sailor’s clothes and manages to track down Delphine pretty easily. Despite the fact that the point of the ease of this mission was that the submarine is doomed and he won’t change anything in history, when he’s caught by the captain of the submarine, Dean reveals he’s from the future and the sub is going to be attacked by the Germans. With the German ship on their radar, Dean is left to only be guarded by Petey, and it gives him and Delphine the chance to talk. He tells her that he’s fighting a biblical war in the future and needs the weapon she’s transporting, and thanks to that Men of Letters connection, she trusts him. The piece of the Hand of God she has is part of the Ark of the Covenant, and she warns him that no mortal can survive direct contact for long. Petey, meanwhile, is more focused on testing if Dean’s really from the future, and his questions just get more and more annoying as Dean and Delphine talk – until he asks for confirmation that they all die and when they win because he has friends and family fighting the war elsewhere.
While the crew is focused on trying to evade the German ship gunning for them, Delphine makes her way through the sub, destroying the sigils so Dean can get a ride home. However, the last sigil is on her body and spellbound to her heart. In order to destroy it, Dean has to kill her. That’s when the German ship radios in, with a message for Delphine from the man she thought she killed. He offers a deal for the captain and crew of the sub: turn over Delphine and her cargo or die. But these men are willing to sacrifice themselves to carry out their orders to protect her, and Delphine makes the choice to sacrifice herself by taking the Hand of God in hand. They’re supposed to die, she reminds Dean, so let them do it with a purpose. And as the Hand of God consumes her (which is a shame because she’s someone whom it would’ve been fun to see again), Dean picks it up just before Casifer shows up, sigils gone, and brings him home.
Meanwhile, it seems that the extent of Lucifer’s research into pretending to be Castiel was to deepen his voice, say “Hello, Dean” and think he was golden. As Sam focuses on trying to find a way to possibly get a message to his brother to get rid of the sigils or a way to bring him home, Casifer is indifferent at best. (He probably could’ve pulled out his tablet to play more games and it would’ve conveyed the same emotional response to the situation.) The more time Casifer spends with Sam, the more obvious it becomes that he’s not even trying to pretend to be Castiel. Sam finds a spell that requires the power of an archangel, and Casifer suggests they try it anyway. It gets to the point that Sam should notice something is off with his friend, but perhaps he doesn’t because having Lucifer right next to him isn’t something he’s even willing to entertain as a possibility. (And why would Sam and Dean think that Castiel would have even said yes?)
When Sam volunteers to let “Castiel” touch his soul to power him up to bring Dean home – the risk isn’t even on his radar with his brother in trouble because these are the Winchesters – Casifer can’t keep the façade up any longer and bursts into devilish laughter. Why is he keeping him alive, Lucifer wonders, comparing him to the girl who kept turning him down at prom. He’s fully on board with touching Sam’s soul, but in his plan, he brings Dean back to the place decorated with his brother’s guts and tell him, with Castiel’s voice “Dean, he knew the risks. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Again, that deep voice “Dean” seems to be all the studying up Lucifer cared about doing to be the angel.
But what Lucifer hadn’t accounted for was Castiel breaking through just enough to let Sam go mid-soul touch, and this gives the angel the opportunity to tell Sam this was his choice, that he wanted to be of service in this fight. And since Castiel can’t time travel, they need Lucifer. But as soon as Casifer brings Dean back, Sam tells him he’s not Castiel. While Casifer is distracted with the Hand of God – which apparently is only a one-hit wonder and was used up by Delphine – and Dean, Sam cuts his hand and draws a sigil on the wall to send him away.
So the new plan for the brothers is to hunt down Lucifer, trap him and save Castiel, but there’s one problem that Sam points out: Castiel may not come back willingly because he chose this. The question has thus become: What consequences will Castiel’s choice have for him? Because, let’s face it, there has to be at least one and not just that Lucifer’s now out of the cage.
“Supernatural” season 11 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 14 “The Vessel”?