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SUPERNATURAL Recap: The Oldest Rule of Hunting


Season 11, Episode 16: “Safe House”
Written by Robbie Thompson
Directed by Stefan Pleszczynski

[photos: Diyah Perah/The CW]

If you have read any of my recaps, you will already know that I loved this episode. And for two reasons: one is that Bobby (Jim Beaver) is back, if only in flashbacks, and that it’s sentimental. It could not have been done without the long history that the show has built up.  I also liked the new way that they told the story. At least, it’s new to me. I’ve never seen anything like it, that I can remember. But it will make it difficult to recap.

It’s not a Baku, you Idjit!

For almost every scene with Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), there’s a flashback scene to Bobby and Rufus (Steven Williams) doing something similar. There are times when they are very similar, and times when there’s a contrast between the way our boys handle things and the way Bobby and Rufus handle things. Rufus and Sam have the same role: Bobby and Dean have similar parts.

There’s a frustrated mom stripping wallpaper. Her little girl is in her bedroom, very unhappy about having moved to the house. The lights go out and her door slams shut. She hides under the bed. A creepy hand grabs her by the ankle and drags her away.

Sam and Dean are having a familiar argument. Sam wants to hunt because they haven’t found anything about the Darkness; Dean isn’t sure that they should take their eyes off the prize. (Just go, Dean. It’s always really a case and someone always needs to be saved.) The little girl is in a coma, which is a surprise and relief since we saw her dragged away. They find out immediately that Bobby and Rufus were here because they run into a neighborhood watch lady when they go to the house and she said FBI agents were there a handful of years ago, and they were the rudest men she’d ever met. So we get a flashback of Bobby and Rufus being rude. We also see that Bobby thinks they should be working on the apocalypse problem but Rufus wants to hunt.

Sam and Dean find the same cheap hotel they used and get the same room, for luck. They find Bobby’s journal entry. It mentions the case but no details. Two people have died in the house. Dean is still hoping it’s a ghost and burning the body that Rufus and Bobby didn’t burn will do it. (And how long has it been, Dean, since that worked?) Sam suspects it’s something else.

Bobby hopes it’s a ghost. Rufus says it’s a Baku and bets Bobby a bottle of Jim Beam that that’s it.

Apocalypse thenish?

Sam and Dean go dig up the graves. We see Rufus and Bobby digging up a grave. Bobby confesses he’s been burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to keep the apocalypse from happening. He is worried about his boys. HIS boys. Rufus says the oldest rule of hunting is that you can’t save everyone. He also says that if they do stop the apocalypse, not everyone is coming home on the bus. Sacrifice, the greater good, all of that. It’s a bit poignant because neither of these two characters are alive in the show at this point. They didn’t come home on the bus.

Sam and Dean find that Bobby and Rufus have already burned both bodies and they dug up the graves in vain.

The mom gets got by the hand. She also goes into a coma. We flashback to the mom of the little boy in Rufus and Bobby’s case going into a coma. A doctor from then says their vitals were fading, but they just woke up one day, no idea why.

Dean and Sam talk to the mom who recovered from the coma a handful of years ago, and she said the two FBI agents told her not to change the wallpaper in the kitchen. She also describes a dream when she was in the coma: her house but not her house, a vision of her husband, dead, and spirits. We then have a montage of both sets of hunters hitting the books. Bobby and Rufus decide it’s a soul eater. It grabs people’s souls and takes them into their nest, which exists outside of space and time, and keeps them. Bobby used a Celtic sigil at a different hunt, which he now realizes was also a soul eater, and trapped it. It can’t be killed. Sam and Dean come to the same conclusion, but the Men of Letters info tells them it can be killed with a modified symbol. The catch is that it has to be painted on the inside and outside of the house.

Second verse, same as the first?

Dean loses Rock-Paper-Scissors, and is the one to let himself be grabbed by the soul eater and dragged to the other world. Sam starts work on the symbol on the wall. In the past, Rufus works on the artwork while Bobby is inadvertently grabbed by the soul eater. Both Sam and Rufus paint excruciatingly slowly. Dean just slaps it up on the wall, working on the sigil from the inside. Dean sees the little girl in the coma, Bobby sees the boy they came to save. Dean also sees Sam, dead, but knows it’s a vision. Bobby sees Sam and Dean, dead. Both Bobby and Dean’s bodies get taken over by the soul eater and attack Rufus and Sam respectively. They fight them off and finish the symbols. For a brief moment, Dean sees Bobby and Bobby sees Dean.


The girl and the mom wake up in the present day and are fine. Sam and Dean drive off to go to Bobby’s other old hunt and kill the soul eater there. Bobby drives off alone but Rufus has left a bottle of Jim Beam for him because Rufus was wrong about what it was.


Thoughts: The storytelling was unique and very cool. The narratives parallel each other until they hit one tiny point where they intersect — then run parallel again. There is no sepia tone, no reference that this is in the past, because it’s not. It’s present day for Rufus and Bobby. And they fall back into their roles wonderfully. They do some great work on this show.

The soul eater was terrifying, especially because little kids were in danger. The nest — the house within a house — was spooky. The visions were frightening, and so like bad dreams. The silent victims whose bodies were dead in the real world were also frightening.

Questions: The big question is whether or not the boys saved Bobby from their position in the  future. Bobby and Rufus couldn’t understand how Bobby and the mother and son came out of the nest when the soul eater was trapped in it. Sam and Dean couldn’t understand why the mother and son recovered in the past (they didn’t know about Bobby). I think that Sam and Dean saved Bobby, the mother and son from the past, the mother and son from their time, and the other souls when they killed the soul eater. The fact that Bobby and Dean saw each other means that they coexisted in the same time line. Or point. Or something. Best just to get a beer and never think about it again.

Also, were the visions of the dead a scare tactic or premonition? Sam and Dean both died after that point in the story, I think. They came back.  The woman’s husband did not die. But next week’s previews show Sam dying and a reaper that doesn’t want him to have any more second chances.

New info: None. Unless the soul eater and the killing of it have something to do with Amara. They both eat souls.

The irony of this episode is Rufus talking about how the oldest rule of hunting is that you can’t save everyone. In this episode, one of the very few, they save everyone. He might as well have said that there are days where everyone lives!

Supernatural airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on the CW.


Teresa Wickersham

Teresa Wickersham has dabbled in fanfic, gone to a few conventions, created some award-winning (and not so award winning) masquerade costumes, worked on the Save Farscape campaign, and occasionally presents herself as a fluffy bunny or a Krampus.

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