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Rowena is having a recurring nightmare in which it's Christmas morning and Crowley -- fully grown and wearing kiddie pajamas -- is excited about the gifts he's found under the tree. Rowena is wearing a red, blinking reindeer nose and reindeer antlers that apparently do not come off. Suddenly, Lucifer, dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, kicks in the front door and enters with a bag of "toys". When Crowley excitedly asks "What did you bring me?", Lucifer pulls out a large candy cane and stabs Crowley with it, killing him. At that point, Rowena tells "Santa Claus" that this is a recurring nightmare of hers, but he is not normally in it. Lucifer removes his fake Santa Claus beard and Rowena recognizes him.
In the cage, Lucifer tells Sam that the visions were all a set up, and Rowena willingly helped him trick Sam into the cage. Sam tells Lucifer that it was all a waste of time. He expects Lucifer to torture him to get him to say "yes", but he also believes that Dean will come for him. When Lucifer laughs and says to Sam "You're betting on Dean?" Sam replies. "I always have." Lucifer tries to convince Sam that he has misjudged his intentions, and that he can convince Sam that he needs him. Lucifer touches Sam's forehead and the two of them are taken back in time:
- First, a teenaged Sam is sitting at a park bench with a young girl. They appear to be studying together. She tells Sam that she didn't really invite him there to study, and young Sam is pleasantly surprised when the girl offers to kiss him. Sam kisses her. As the two teenagers kiss, Lucifer tries to convince Sam that the bold, decisive Sam that he used to be is gone.
- Next, Lucifer takes Sam back to Stull Cemetery, to the events of "Swan Song". Lucifer tells Sam that he doesn't like him, but he respects him for standing up to him and for being willing to do the hard thing if it meant saving the world. Lucifer tells Sam that he's gone soft, now.
- Next, Lucifer takes Sam to the back deck of the house he shared with Amelia. Lucifer says that leaving Dean in purgatory to stay with Amelia was the worst thing Sam had ever done, and that the bold, decisive Sam would not have done that; nor would he have let himself be talked out of closing the gates of hell. Lucifer says that Sam will do anything to save Dean and Dean will do anything to save Sam, and that is their problem. Lucifer says that Sam is so overcome with guilt about not looking for Dean that he can't stand the thought of losing him again, so they consistently choose each other to the detriment of everyone else. Lucifer also tells Sam that if the Darkness is to be defeated, Sam will have to be willing to die and to watch the people he loves die. He says that Sam is not who he once was, so he can't defeat the Darkness without Lucifer's help.
...Meanwhile, in hell, Crowley threatens to strangle Rowena for betraying him. Rowena tells Crowley that hell is Lucifer's kingdom -- not his -- and that she has been working with Lucifer since he came to her in a dream. Rowena tells Crowley that she allowed his goons to capture her on purpose as part of the plan she and Lucifer had devised. Crowley tries to convince Rowena that Lucifer is bad for everybody -- including humanity, demons, and Rowena herself. Rowena says Lucifer has changed, and that after he has defeated the Darkness, he will ascend to his throne in heaven and she will rule by his side. She also says that Lucifer defeated the Darkness before, so unless Crowley has god in his back pocket, she advises Crowley to stay out of the way and let Lucifer go ahead with his plans.
Elsewhere, Dean is driving toward the place where Amara was smote by the angels. He tries to call Sam and Crowley, but neither answers. As he's driving, his vision suddenly becomes distorted and he has to pull over to vomit. Castiel pulls up behind him and rushes to him. Castiel tells him that he has smiting sickness (leftover energy fallout from the angel smiting, that poisons the area around the site of the smiting) and that the closer he gets to the location of the smiting, the worse his illness will become. Cas says the last time there was a smiting of this magnitude, Lots wife turned to salt. Cas convinces Dean to let him go an investigate the smiting, since smiting sickness does not affect angels. Dean reluctantly agrees, and tells Cas to bring back Amara's body if she's dead, and run if she is not.
Dean returns to the bunker looking for Sam, and gets a call from Crowley telling him that Sam is in the cage with Lucifer. Crowley sends Dean to a warehouse in Kansas. Dean calls Castiel and gives him the address, telling Cas that he's going to hell. Inside the warehouse, Billie the Reaper confirms what she told Sam -- that if either Winchester dies he will stay dead. Billie says she is working with Crowley because these are "strange days" and after this, Crowley will owe her a favor. Then, she hands Dean a box (Dean doesn't know what's inside) and opens a back door that leads to a winding, stone staircase to hell.
Crowley meets Dean at the bottom of the staircase to hell. He tells Dean that trying to go up against Lucifer is suicidal, so the best plan is to use Rowena to return Lucifer to his cage. Crowley also shows Dean that the box contains a witch catcher -- a metal collar that renders the witch wearing a slave to whomever holds the tether.
Meanwhile, at the site of the angel smiting, Castiel finds a huge crater where the event actually happened. The entire sky is dark as if it's night time. As Castiel examines the area, he encounters another angel named Ambriel (a statistician from heaven), who was sent by heaven to investigate the smiting. They agree to investigate the smiting together. As they talk, Ambriel tells Castiel that his reputation among the angels is not good, and that they are both expendable. She says that Castiel "helps", but Sam and Dean Winchester are the real heroes; and that there is nobility in doing a good job even though neither of them is very important. Later, Ambriel finds Amara lying on the ground and thinks she's dead. Suddenly, Amara grabs Ambriel by the throat. Castiel rushes to the scene in time to see Amara eat Ambriel's soul. When Amara stands up, all the surrounding darkness is drawn back into her and the sky is sunny, again.
When Amara sees Castiel's angel blade she taunts him. She tells him that he is afraid to die, and that he reeks of fear and self-loathing. She also says that Castiel is weak and expendable, and not worth killing, so instead of killing him, she burns a message into his chest -- "I am coming"-- and sends him back to the warehouse where Billie is waiting. The effort weakens Amara, and we see her stagger and appear to be ill.
Back in hell, we learn that Rowena planted a hex bag on Crowley, which allowed her to overhear his conversation with Dean. We also learn that Crowley poisoned Rowena's tea. This temporarily weakens her, allowing Dean to slip the witch catcher around her neck. Apparently, the device forces a witch to do what she is told, as Crowley demonstrates by making her hop on one foot. Rowena prepares a spell that will return Lucifer to his cage, but the spell will take approximately five minutes, and if Sam gives in before the spell is cast, it will not work, because Lucifer will have a vessel that anchors him to Earth. As they are talking, Castiel appears and shows them the brand on his chest from Amara.
Meanwhile, inside the cage, Lucifer is still trying to convince Sam to agree to being his vessel, but Sam stands his ground and says "No". Lucifer tells Sam that Gabriel and Raphael are dead, god is out of the picture, and Michael has been incapacitated by imprisonment, so he is humanity's only hope against the Darkness. Sam still refuses, standing up to Lucifer and telling him that even if he defeats the Darkness, which is doubtful, he will re-start the apocalypse. Sam also says that whoever wins -- Lucifer or the Darkness, creation loses. He tells Lucifer that he has faith in his friends and his family, and that they will find a way to defeat the Darkness, and that he is ready to die and to watch the people he loves die. Enraged, Lucifer hits Sam.
In a nearby room in hell, Dean, Castiel and Crowley hear Sam being beaten. Dean rushes to the cage, and he and Castiel are drawn inside by Lucifer. As Castiel attacks Lucifer, Dean rushes to Sam. Lucifer tells Castiel that he is an angel and can defeat the Darkness, but Sam and Dean are only human, so they can't. On the other side of the cage, Dean tells Sam that they only have to last for a few minutes against Lucifer. As Rowena is working her spell, Sam, Dean and Castiel try to fight Lucifer, but they are losing badly. Finally, Lucifer grabs Dean by the throat and tells Sam that if he does not say "yes", Dean will die. Castiel attacks Lucifer, who release Dean. But then Lucifer attacks Castiel, eventually beating him to the ground. Lucifer asks Castiel if he has any "last words", and begins to glow, as Rowena completes her spell. When the glowing stops, Lucifer is gone and Sam, Cas and Dean are in the cage alone.
Sam, Dean and Cas leave the cage and Crowley tells them to leave hell. We see the three of them exiting the warehouse where Billy was earlier. Dean offers to give Cas a lift, but he declines. Inside the Impala, Sam and Dean are talking. Sam wonders if Lucifer was telling the truth. Dean says that having to battle Lucifer AND the Darkness would be a nightmare. Castiel watches the Boys drive away.
Back in hell, Crowley asks Rowena why she hates him so much. She says he reminds her of the woman she used to be before magic -- when she was poor and lowly. She also says that Crowley is the reason his father left her and returned to his wife, She says if she didn't hate Crowley she would love him, but love is weakness and she refuses to ever be weak again. As they are talking, Castiel walks into the room. By his mannerisms, Crowley suspects something is different. In a flashback to the scene in the cage, we hear Castiel ask Lucifer if he can really beat the Darkness. Lucifer says "I can", so Castiel says "yes" -- agreeing to be Lucifer's vessel; so we see that Rowena's spell didn't work.
Castiel-Lucifer flings Crowley across the room telepathically and pins him to a wall. He walks over to Rowena and removes the witch catcher from her neck. He talks to her and pulls her close as if he plans to kiss her. When he asks if anyone else besides her can open the cage, she says "just me" and he breaks her neck, killing her. Then, he turns to Crowley and says "Let's talk."