Next: Supernatural S 12 E 21 Theres Something About Mary
Season 12, Episode 20:
Twigs & Twine & Tasha Barnes
Written by: Steve Yockey
Directed by: Richard Speight Jr.
Air date: May 4, 2017
Sam and Dean get a call for help from Max and Alicia Banes, whose mother Tasha has gone missing. Meanwhile, Mary discovers the secrets that the Men of Letters have been keeping from her family.
Body CountFor this episode: 3 humans (all witches) and 3 twigs and twines dolls
For the series so far: At least 1336 humans (of which 25 were witches), 1135 angels (2 of which were archangels), 194 demons, 78 vampires, 59 ghosts, 36 Jefferson Starships, 23 gods, 19 zombies, 19 werewolves, 11 hellhounds, 8 Bisaan, 7 shapeshifters, 7 skinwalkers, 6 changelings, 5 djinn, 6 reapers, 4 dogs, 4 ghouls, 4 Leviathan, 3 Khan Worms, 3 Thule, 3 twigs and twines dolls, 2 Amazons, 2 arachnes, 2 kitsunes, 3 rugarus, 2 vetalas, 2 zannas, 1 banshee, 1 cat, 1 crocotta, Death, 1 deer, 1 dragon, 1 fairy, 1 familiar, 1 lamia, The Mother of All, 1 nachzehrer, 1 okami, 1 phoenix, 1 pishtaco, 1 Purgatory creature, 1 qarin, 1 rakshasa, 1 rawhead, 1 shojo, 1 shtriga, 1 siren, 1 soul eater, 1 Titan, 1 wendigo, the Whore of Babylon, 1 wicked witch, and 1 wraith
- The Alcoholic: When Sam leaves the room, Dean pours his glass of wine into Dean's own.
- Ambiguous Situation:
- When Tasha gave away the location of the unnamed witch: was it her Fighting from the Inside to try to help her son kill the witch and save the rest of themselves, or the unnamed witch, impressed with Max's power, leading him to her through Tasha to make her offer?
- Doll Alicia doesn't remember her death and is confused by the blood on Max's hands, and Max tells her he'll explain later before he hurries her away. Will he really break the trend of Supernatural characters lying to each other, and tell her the truth of her new existence? Or as suggested by his destroying the real Alicia's body behind her back and the lyrics playing during the scene ("hiding Dark Secrets"), is he planning to hide it from her and pretend nothing happened?
- In using the unnamed witch's dark magic, did Max damn his soul to Hell as Dean did in Season 2? Or he is safely using his own powers as a natural witch? Fans are divided.
- Does Doll Alicia have Alicia's soul in addition to her memories, making it a true resurrection, or is Alicia truly dead and Max merely animated a look-alike with her memories? Depending on the answer to this and the above, the implications can get even more tragic.
- Artificial Human: The dolls the witch makes out of straw and twigs, who have human hearts and the memories of the humans whose hearts they have. While they usually act human and normal, they are subject to the whims of their creator and once the creator gives an order, become emotionless tools with glowing white eyes.
- Back for the Dead: Alicia Banes is killed in her first full appearance since her debut episode.
- Badass Family: The Banes, a family of natural witches and hunters. You can also count Asa Fox from the twins' debut episode ("Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox") as their Famed in Story daddy.
- Black Dude Dies First: Two of the three on-screen deaths of this episode were Tasha and Alicia, both black, with Tasha indeed dying right in the teaser as the first death of the episode; the third death was the villainous witch.note
- Blatant Lies: When Mary finds Mick's body, Ketch says he was killed by a werewolf.Mary: A werewolf shot him in the head?Ketch: (beat) It's not impossible.
- Blood from the Mouth: How Alicia dies, with blood leaking out of her mouth from internal abdominal injuries.
- Book-Ends: Mary watched Ketch interrogate a shapeshifter in her form near the beginning of the episode. It ends with the real Mary sitting in the same interrogation chair in front of Ketch and Toni.
- Break the Cutie: The Banes twins:
- Poor Max, happily reunited with his mom and looking forward to a night with a bartender, instead comes across his real mom's body, Mind Raped with images of his mom's death and resurrection as an Artificial Human, tempted with a Deal with the Devil to keep his family together which Dean then prevents, and then finds that his twin sister has been killed in his absence. This culminates in him resorting to dark magic with major Fridge Horror implications.
- Alicia as well, who is worried about her mom not calling. She is thrilled to find her mom's okay, but then is restrained by the Winchesters without explanation as Max yells at and seemingly tortures their mom with magic, leaving Doll Tasha twitching with sounds like her bones breaking. When Alicia finally gets back in the game to help Sam, she turns and smiles at the sight of her mom apparently unharmed - only to be betrayed when Doll Tasha kills her.
- Body Horror: Downplayed Trope with the dolls, who look human but are made out of twigs, resulting in injuries like broken fingers and broken necks they snap back into place without feeling.
- Bury Your Gays: Averted. Max, very much comfortable with his male-attracted orientation, is the only member of his family to survive.
- The Bus Came Back: The Banes twins, introduced near the beginning of the season ("Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox") and with only a voice-only cameo in a single episode since ("First Blood"). At the end of the episode, Lady Toni makes a surprising return to help Ketch with Mary.
- Max's devastation over losing his mother and then his twin sister in this episode mirrors Dean's devastation over losing first his father and then his brother in Season 2, complete with Deal with the Devil offers and doing anything to bring them back.
- Mary calls Mr. Ketch a "psychopath" like Toni did early in the season, which turns out to be light foreshadowing for Toni's reappearance at the end of the episode. Ketch had also previously told Dean that Toni hated him because they were former lovers. Part of the tension in the plot with him and Mary is that Mary had a one night stand with him and he wants more even though she wants less and less to do with him the more she knows about him.
- Mary appears to be set up for torture and interrogation at the hands of the Men of Letters, just as Sam was at the start of the season. To hammer home the Call-Back, Lady Antonia Bevell even makes a surprise return to oversee the situation.
- Character Death: Tasha and Alicia Banes (the latter gets better, though).
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Ketch uses this against a shapeshifter early on the episode, with Mary calling him out on how pointless it is. At the end of the episode, it appears to be her turn.
- Confronting Your Imposter: The shapeshifter at the beginning assumes Mary's and then Ketch's appearance while they interrogate it.
- Dead Person Impersonation: The dolls, though it is unclear if they are aware that they are not the people they are impersonating. Doll Alicia did not, but Doll Tasha hid breaking her finger from the others as though she knew she was not human.
- Deal with the Devil: The Villain of the Week is a witch who got her power from a demon deal and is now trying to loophole her way out of it before she dies. Tasha refused, but Max is more willing after the witch promises him Doll Tasha to keep his family whole. Dean shoots the witch dead before Max can accept the offer.
- Death Amnesia: Doll Alicia doesn't remember dying, instead feeling like she must've drank too much last night. Max hides her death from her by burning her real body.
- Destination Defenestration: Max magically throws one of the witch's minions out a window.
- Downer Ending: Mary is taken hostage by the British Men of Letters, Toni Bevell has returned, Tasha and Alicia are killed, and Max may have given into dark magic to bring back something that is arguably not even really Alicia in a fit of despair.
- Fake-Out Opening: The first scene after the intro credits is staged to look like Mary is being tortured by the Men of Letters for an unknown reason. It's actually a shapeshifter taking her form to try - unsuccessfully - to psyche them out.
- The Banes to the Winchesters. Father Asa was killed in a previous episode like mother Mary was in the series debut. Mother Tasha taught her children about witchcraft and hunting, as father John trained his children as hunters. Both families hunt as units and both remaining parental figures went missing while alone on a hunt, with one sibling worried enough to start a search and the other sibling thinking it's nothing. However, Dean views Tasha's loving relationship with the twins as the kind his family should've had, alluding to John's troubled relationship with his sons and the issues that've developed between him and Mary since the latter came back not as the idealized mother he remembered.
- Alicia and Max are paralleled with Sam and Dean, respectively. Done explicitly when Alicia explains she is not a natural witch like her mom and brother, which Sam empathizes with because he lacked the drive to hunt his dad and brother had in common pre-series. The parallels between the Banes twins and the Winchester brothers increase in the ending, which many fans noted was reminiscent of the events of the second season finale.
- With Toni's reintroduction, she may be considered Mary's foil, as both are Well-Intentioned Extremist blonde Action Moms who genuinely believe in the Men of Letters' mission to stamp out all monsters, as well as having been linked romantically to Mr. Ketch and had a falling-out with him. Whereas Mary is a heroic character despite her affiliation with the Men of Letters, dislikes torture even when used on monsters, and turns against the Men of Letters when she finds out the truth, Toni will not believe the truth about the Winchesters, committed Cold-Blooded Torture and rape against Sam, and remains their agent alongside Mr. Ketch.
- Foreshadowing: The Fake-Out Opening with Mary seemingly being held captive and tortured by Ketch becomes all too real by the end.
- Good Parents: Tasha Banes is noted to be this by Dean. She shares a very friendly, loving relationship with Alicia and Max, the kind Dean - missing his mom, whose resurrection hasn't resulted in the ideal relationship he would've wanted and whom he only ever communicates with in this episode by leaving and getting voicemails - openly wishes his family could've had with each other. Tasha herself sees Parents as People.
- Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: Good Natural Witch Tasha loses to the Bad Demonic Witch. Bad Demonic Witch also overpowered Good Natural Witch Max and would've won if not for the totally human Dean and his totally non-magical bullet.
- Gory Discretion Shot:
- The audience only sees Mary's reaction to Mick's corpse and not the corpse itself, which is for the best when one considers the mess his head and face would realistically be from the bullet and the time his body has spent decaying since his death.
- Max's removal of the dead Alicia's heart to animate her twig doll is depicted only through sound effect.
- Granola Girl: Tasha is implied to be one, as her children were trying to find her through vegan restaurants.
- Groin Attack: Mary pulls one on Ketch. With brass knuckles.
- Heart Trauma: The unnamed witch cuts out her victims' hearts and uses them to animate her twig dolls with their memories and personalities, though she can compel them to turn into ruthless killers on a dime. A thoroughly broken Max cuts out Alicia's heart after she is murdered in order to animate her twig doll and resurrect her in some form.
- Hope Spot: Mary beats Ketch and is about to escape the Men of Letters' base, only to get hit by a taser.
- Hot Witch:
- Internal Reveal:
- Mary learns that Mick has been killed and that the Men of Letters are plotting against her sons and the other American hunters. She is captured before she can reveal this to Sam and Dean.
- On a smaller scale, Sam, Dean, and Max only find out about Tasha's death near the end of the episode. The audience saw her die in the teaser, but an Artificial Human was masquerading as her most of the episode.
- It's All My Fault: Max laments that he could have saved his family if he hadn't blown off Alicia's worries from the start. If he had shared his sister's concerns and been more suspicious about Tasha not calling, he might've found out the truth sooner, kept Alicia from dying, and possibly prevented Doll Tasha from going homicidal and falling apart. On the other hand, it could well just be guilt talking and Max might not have noticed anything amiss with Tasha even if he had gone along with Alicia.
- Kill the Cutie: Alicia is hugely relieved that her mom is safe and sound and the Banes act like one big happy family, up until Doll Tasha stabs her to death.
- Manly Tears: Max tears up over finding his mom's corpse and then getting blasted with images of her murder, but finding that his twin sister has also been killed makes him break down and sob. He becomes a tearful stoic again afterward when Sam and Dean try to talk to him about disposing of the bodies and when burning Alicia's body.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Played with. Max, Sam, and Dean are the only survivors of the main plot, while Tasha, Alicia, and the unnamed female witch are the only characters killed on-screen, which would make this appear to be an Averted Trope. However, the male dolls get little attention or characterization in comparison to Doll Tasha, and Max's sister Alicia ends the episode with a resurrection of sorts, making it somewhat more even.
- Missing Mom: The Banes' mom Tasha hasn't contacted her kids for a few days the way she usually does, which worries Alicia enough to phone Mary for help finding her. She gets Sam instead, but he and Dean agree to help out and kicks off the main plot of the episode. It's implied that Alicia's concern for her Missing Mom reminds Sam and Dean about their Disappeared Dad in Season 1. Though the audience witnesses Tasha's death in the teaser, she reappears in the flesh soon enough without a mark on her and it turns out to be a witchcraft doll with her memories.
- Near-Villain Victory: As much of a Downer Ending as it was, it could've been just that much worse. The unnamed witch has broken and manipulated Max into accepting her offer to give him her powers so that he can keep his family together through Doll Tasha. Dean stops it by shooting the unnamed witch dead before Max gets the unnamed witch's magic ring, sending the unnamed witch's soul to Hell. Had Dean not done so, Max would have returned to find that Doll Tasha killed Alicia anyway in addition to him now being damned to Hell with no real family left, while the unnamed witch would have gotten off scot-free.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Mary and Ketch's fight.
- No Name Given: The witch who kills Tasha (and others) is referred to on IMDb as "Demon Borrower Witch," which is actually more specific than what the other characters call her.
- Offing the Offspring: The Tasha doll deals the fatal blow to Alicia, Tasha's daughter, under the unnamed witch's control.
- Parents as People: Doll Tasha discusses this trope with Dean, saying that part of growing up is children realizing that their parents aren't the strong, smart, perfect people their children thought they were. Especially as it was coming from someone Dean saw as an exceptional mother to her kids, this may play a part in how Dean's occasionally-rocky relationship with Mary develops.
- People Puppets:
- Playing with Fire: Max uses pyrokinesis to burn the real Alicia's body in similar fashion to a traditional hunter's pyre. The last shot of the scene shows the fire continuing through the window, possibly indicating that he left it to burn down the house, which would also take care of his mom's body and the bodies of the others.
- Posthumous Character: The real Tasha is murdered in the episode teaser. The Tasha we spend the rest of the episode with is actually a doll endowed with her memories and controlled by the villainous witch.
- Properly Paranoid: Tasha hasn't called the twins the fourth night of her hunt the way she usually does. While Max insists she's fine, the audience knows that Alicia is right to be concerned enough to call for help - as we already saw Tasha be murdered in the teaser.
- Prophet Eyes: The dolls' eyes turn completely white when the witch activates her control over them.
- Purple Is Powerful: Tasha's and Max's usage of magic manifests as bright purple light.
- Running Gag: The grenade launcher in Baby's trunk comes up again, and is once more passed over.
- Series Continuity Error: Continuing from this particular error from "Bloodlines", the captured shapeshifter morphs from Mary's form to Ketch's without shedding its Mary skin, teeth, and nails as shapeshifters were previously established as needing to do. Only the Alpha Shapeshifter is supposed to be able to shift without this, and he was killed back in Season 6.
- Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: Subverted in the interrogation of the shapeshifter by Mr. Ketch, who is not at all bothered by it taking his or Mary's form.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: More clearly shown in this episode with Alicia and Max, with Alicia as the responsible, expressive, Properly Paranoid twin to Max's unconcerned attitude and enjoyment of good times. Alicia is also the girl twin who didn't inherit witch powers from their mother and Max is the boy twin who did.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Doll Alicia leaves without remembering her death or realizing her dead human body is next to her on the bed. It helps that she never found out the secret about the dolls and resurrections before she died, otherwise Max's bloody hands and demeanor might have tipped her off.
- Torture Always Works: Subverted. Mary objects to the brutality of the torture used in interrogation on the shapeshifter, and points out the "end justifies the means" mindset of the Men of Letters doesn't mean much in this case when the shapeshifter still didn't give them the information they wanted.
- Unexplained Accent: The shapeshifter whom Ketch is torturing takes Ketch's own shape, but speaks in a Southern US accent rather than a British one.
- Wicked Witch: The Monster of the Week is a witch who had sold her soul to a demon to gain her powers. She makes servants out of the people she's killed by ripping out their hearts and infusing their minds into twig dolls. She can take away any free will they may have in an instant and force them to kill for her. Now nearing the end of her life, she is trying to escape Hell she knows she will go to in death by convincing someone else to take her powers.
- Witch Species: Max and his mother Tasha are natural witches, in comparison to the villain of the episode (and of most witch episodes), who made a Deal with the Devil for her witch powers. Surprisingly, Alicia reveals that she did not inherit the same magic powers her twin brother and mother have, and has never really understood magic.