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Recap / Supernatural S 04 E 16 On The Head Of A Pin

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Recap of Supernatural
Season 4, Episode 16

On The Head Of A Pin

Alastair: And it is written that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in hell. As he breaks, so shall it break.

Written by Ben Edlund.

Directed by Mike Rohl.

Air Date: March 19 2009.

Someone found Lucifer's sword and is using it to kill angels. Castiel and Uriel have captured Alastair and ask Dean to use the torturing skills he learned in Hell to extract information from him so they can stop the murders. Sam is concerned Dean can't handle the job but Dean agrees to do it.


Alastair reveals to Dean that because he broke down in Hell and starting torturing, that that was the first seal, and he paved the way for the apocalypse. Castiel feels doubts as he listens to the screams from outside, and Anna—the angel-radio girl who got her Grace back—tries to convince him to disobey orders.

Sam enlists Ruby to help track down Dean. He drinks some of her blood too, because he needs the strength.

Alastair breaks free from the devil's trap and starts laying into Dean. Cas comes to his rescue, but Alastair starts sending him back to Heaven. Sam arrives and kills Alastair once and for all. Dean is hospitalized after his beating.

Uriel confronts Castiel, saying he is the one who has been killing angels, but only the ones who said no. He wants Cas to help him bring Lucifer back and start the apocalypse. Anna kills him before he can kill Cas.


Body count

For this episode = 3 humans, 1 demon, and 2 angels.

For the series so far = At least 301 humans (of which 5 were witches), 27 ghosts, 22 demons, 10 vampires, 6 changelings, 3 gods, 3 shapeshifters, 3 zombies, 2 angels, 2 werewolves, 2 dogs, 1 crocotta, 1 djinn, 1 rakshasa, 1 rawhead, 1 reaper, 1 rugaru, 1 shtriga, 1 siren, and 1 wendigo.


  • Action Girl: Anna is shaping up to be one.
  • Big Bad: Uriel and Alastair. Uriel is revealed to seeking to free Lucifer from Hell and tries to convert Castiel to his side, while Alastair spends the episode psychologically breaking Dean and then tries to Dean when he breaks free.
  • Big Damn Heroes: "Maybe. Maybe not. But there's still me."
  • Break the Cutie
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A rare example where the hero's the torturer.
  • Dies Wide Open: Alastair.
  • Exalted Torturer/Torture Technician: Alastair turned Dean into one downstairs. It's playing with both tropes, because Dean is the hero (which usually means Exalted Torturer), but what he does to Alastair is acknowledged to be really bad, and the reasons for him doing it turn out to be moot (since the demons aren't responsible for the murders) and cruel manipulation (since the orders aren't coming from who they're supposed to be coming from). Either way, Dean's general impassivity while torturing is one more sign that he's really not okay.
    Alastair: Now, it's your professionalism that I respect.
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  • Hannibal Lecture: Alistair, which is kind of awesome (if creepy as hell) because he's being tortured at the time.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Anna stabs Uriel through the neck.
  • Killed Off for Real: Uriel and Alastair.
  • Made of Iron: Uriel goes through a brick wall, gets up, and irritably brushes bits of masonry off himself.
  • Manly Tears
  • The Mole: Turns out? Uriel is working for Lucifer. Although the character was a Jerkass supreme, we had assumed that he was a WELL-INTENTIONED Jerkass supreme.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Dean is responsible for breaking the first seal, which paved the way for all the other seals to be broken.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Alistair beats Dean into needing to be hospitalized.
  • Not Me This Time: When tortured by Sam, Alastair insists that none of the demons are killing the angels, and that they don't know who's doing it. He's telling the truth.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Uriel turns out to be this, working for Lucifer in secret and killing angels that refuse to join him.
    Alastair: Lilith wouldn't kill seven angels! oh, she'd kill a hundred...a thousand...
  • Oh, Crap!: He doesn't say it, but Dean's expression shouts it when he realizes that Alastair has escaped the devil's trap.
    • Alastair initially laughs at the idea of Dean torturing him (particularly with holy water) but looks noticeably nervous when Dean fills a syringe it.
    • Alastair again when Sam says "Now I can kill."
  • Punched Across the Room: When the combatants are super-strong, this happens.
  • Tearjerker
  • Took a Level in Badass: Since becoming an angel again, now Anna can really kick some ass.
    • Sam can kill demons with his mind, not just exorcise them. Which he demonstrates on Alastair.
  • Torture Always Works: Double Subverted, Alastair resists Dean's torture, but cracks under Sam's.
  • We Can Help the Bad Guy Together: Uriel has been trying to persuade other angels into serving Lucifer, as he does. He killed the seven murdered angels because they refused.
  • Wham Episode: Angels are dying... and Uriel killed them when they wouldn't join with his real master, Lucifer. Anna kills Uriel. Dean was responsible for breaking the first seal, and is the only one who can stop the Apocalypse. Sam has been fueling his powers with demon blood, courtesy of Ruby, and can kill even white-eyed demons with a thought.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, whatever became of the Lucifer-loyalist angels after Uriel died? One would think that would have become a big issue in Season 5, but it's never even mentioned again. One possible answer could be that Uriel was the only one who knew who they all were, and when he was killed they reconsidered their choice. Or they all said no?
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Dean talks about how he dreamed about torturing Alastair, paying him back for hell. And then subverted as Alastair resists Dean's torture, gets in head, and delivers a horrifying beatdown leaving Dean thoroughly broken by the end.

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