Dean has an argument with Sam that wants to say "yes" to Lucifer to trap him. However, they go to the Serenity Valley Convalescent Home where Pestilence is and they are defeated by the Horseman. Out of the blue, Castiel appears and gets his ring. Bobby sells his soul to Crowley to get the information of where Death is. Crowley recovers Bobby and makes him walk. Dean, Sam, Bobby, Castiel and Crowley head to Chicago to meet Death. Bobby, Castiel and Sam find that Niveus Pharmaceuticals will supply vaccines with the Croaton virus. When Dean sees Death in a pizzeria, the Horseman surprisingly proposes a deal to Dean; in return, he gives his ring to Dean.
Crowley tells Bobby he will give him the location of Death, the fourth horseman, in exchange for his soul. Sam and Dean confront Pestilence, but he unleashes a deadly virus upon them, so Castiel must intervene on their behalf. Dean has a meeting with Death to discuss Lucifer, and an unholy alliance is formed at a very high price for Dean.
The Winchesters reconnected with their resurrected half-brother Adam, only to have the angels take him away again. Cas helped them retrieve Adam by blasting himself to parts unknown, and he still hasn't returned. And, Gabriel left the boys a posthumous message telling them that Lucifer could be put back into his cage -- a cage unlocked by four keys, the four rings of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sam and Dean already have War's and Famine's. Now they just have to claim Pestilence's and Death's.
But Pestilence has a plan in motion: He used his demon, Brady (Sam's old best buddy from college) to push through a new vaccine to "counter" the growing swine flu epidemic -- a vaccine packed with Croatoan. But nobody has seen the vaccine, or knows if it even works. Worse, the only person who can help them find death is the Crossroads Demon Crowley, last seen offering said information to Bobby in exchange for his soul.
Lastly, Sam is thinking about saying yes to the Devil so they he can jump his body back into the cage.
In the sick ward of a rest home, an elderly woman lies in bed. The door to her room opens and she greets her physician, Dr. Green. She asks how his trip was. "Very productive," he says.
When the doctor sits down, we see it's Pestilence (Matt Frewer). He calls the woman, Celeste (Christina Jastrzembska), his favorite patient and asks how she's doing. She tells him she keeps feeling worse and worse. He tells her it's because she's suffering from a combination of the common cold, dengue fever and a nasty case of Japanese encephalitis.
Celeste is confused. Then he waves his hand across her face. It breaks out in a pox. She weakly asks how she can have all of those diseases at once, and he explains it's a proprietary blend the mixed up in a Petrie dish -- "The Petri dish being...you!"
Celeste asks if he's going to cure her. He says no, on the contrary, she's going to die. Moments later, she does, expectorating a puddle of green goo across his face as she goes. "Interesting," he says coldly.
After the bloody credits, we cut to Bobby's place, where Dean (Jensen Ackles) is reaming Sam (Jared Padalecki over his plan to say yes to the Devil so he can jump into the cage. Dean won't allow it. Sam says that's the consensus. "All right then, end if discussion," Dean says as his phone rings.
It's Cas (Misha Collins).
Dean is as surprised as he is relieved, until he hears Cas is in a hospital. Cas explains he was found unconscious and bloody on a shrimping boat off De La Croix, which upset the sailors. Dean tells Cas to zap there. Surprise, Cas can't. He's still in his vessel but sadly, he's feeling very human. He asks Dean to wire him some money for transportation, food, "and more pain medication, ideally." (Hmm, is this the beginning of the road that takes us to the version of Cas we encountered in The End?) Dean assures him Bobby (Jim Beaver) will take care of it, which is news to the elder hunter.
Cas adds he owes Dean an apology for saying no to Michael. "You are not the burnt and broken shell of a man that I believed you to be," Cas says.
Dean pauses, accepting this awkward compliment for what it is and replies, "Thank you. I appreciate that."
With that, the boys are off... to Serenity Valley Convalescent Home, better known as the Lair of Pestilence. They ease their way inside and take out the security guard monitoring the camera feed, and watch the monitors for hours. Everyone looks virtually the same -- sick -- until they see a tall, thin man who makes the video feed squiggle and snow whenever he walks by a camera. They assume they have their guy.
We rejoin Pestilence in the first scene, as he's checking on Celeste, only this time the boys are making their way down the halls. As they walk by a room, a nurse seems to sense who they are. She heads in to warn Pestilence the Winchesters have arrived, her eyes going demon dark as she does so. She tells him they should go.
"They have a track record with Horsemen," the nurse reminds him. He reminds her that she's talking about his brothers.
Pestilence isn't too keen to retreat. In fact, he decides the only sensible thing to do is take out his anger out on their healthy young asses. The demon gently adds they're under strict orders not to harm the vessels.
"Well," Pestilence says, starting out calmly before building up steam, "if Satan wants them so bad he can GLUE THEM BACK TOGETHER!" He calms down again and opens his arms to the nurse demon, who cautiously moves in for a hug. He embraces her and, with his arms behind her back, turns his ring.
Immediately all of the patients in the convalescent home become deathly ill. A doctor vomits the same green sputum as Celeste. A nurse breaks out in pox and chokes.
Meanwhile,Sam and Dean's vision becomes blurry and they start coughing. Soon they can barely walk. It's all Dean can do to remain upright. Sam's a bit stronger and, by the time they get to the room where Pestilence waits, he's the only one who can stand. The demon nurse opens the door for them, and Sam pulls out his knife, but dizzily waves it at her as she cheerfully says, "The doctor will see you now."
She steps aside to reveal Pestilence, who greets them with, "Sam! Dean! Mmm...you boys don't look well. Might be the scarlet fever. Or the meningitis. Or...the syphilis."
(Again with the STDs.)
The boys are face down on a floor now, writhing. and Pestilence kicks away the demon knife and takes the opportunity to monologue. He tells them as bad as they're feeling now, they're about to feel worse. He goes on to extol the pure, single-minded purpose of disease, which is to divide and conquer. He says it's humans which are chaotic, yet disease gets the bad rep.
"You have to wonder why God pours all his love into something so MESSY!" Pestilence seethes. "And WEAK! It's ridiculous. All I can do is show him he's wrong, one epidemic at a time. Now, on a scale of one to 10, how's your pain?"
That's when Cas bursts into the room, explaining he took a bus. But as soon as he steps past the door's threshold, Cas doubles over too. Pestilence is amazed -- he can tell the vessel is still occupied, but without a speck of angel in it! He leans in to gloat. Cas swiftly grabs the knife and chops off Pestilence's ring finger.
"Maybe just a speck," Cas growls. Pestilence howls in pain. Cas turns to dispatch the demon nurse.
Dean leaps up and grabs the ring. Pestilence softly tells him, "Doesn't matter. It's too late." Then he vanishes.
The boys reconvene at Bobby's, confused about Pestilence's final warning. "We're just a little freaked out that he might have left a bomb somewhere," Dean says, adding they could use some good news.
Bobby doesn't have it. He tells them Chicago is about to be wiped off the map by the storm of the millennium, setting off a chain of disasters. Three million people are going to die.
"I don't understand your definition of good news," Cas deadpans. Bobby gets to his point: Death will be there to kickstart the storm. If they can get there before he does to stop him, they might save the city and bring his ring back.
Sam is suddenly curious as to how Bobby put all of this together and he haltingly explains he had help. The boys hear someone pouring a glass of whiskey in the other room. It's Crowley (Mark Sheppard) . "Don't be so modest," the King of Crossroads demons tells the old hunter.
Dean and Sam are alarmed when they realize Bobby has sold his soul for the information to locate Death. Then Sam rises to a new level of horror. "Did you kiss him?" he asks.
"No!" Bobby declares after a pause. Crowley pulls out an incriminating shot on his camera phone. Indeed, Crowley and Bobby did indeed seal the deal with a smooch.
"Why'd you take a picture?" Bobby moans. Crowley saucily answers, "Why'd you have to use tongue?"
Crowley goes on to explain this is a special situation -- Bobby's soul isn't sold, but pawned. He tells the boys he's keeping it for insurance: As long as he has it, Sam won't kill him. He swear he'll return it when this is all over and he can walk safely away.
The boys cowboy up by the Impala. Sam pulls in Dean for a talk. Sam tells him he agrees with Dean about the plan to take on Lucifer. He knows how screwed up he is -- he says he's the least of all of them, but he says he's also all they have. He says he doesn't know what else to do except to try to do what's got to be done.
"And...scene," Crowley says, crashing the party. He shows them a newspaper article about Niveus Pharmaceuticals shipping out their new vaccine, and Crowley reminds them Niveus is the company where Brady worked at the VP of distribution -- Brady being Pestilence's right hand man. Dean puts it together: Pestilence was spreading the swine flu, but that was just step one. Step two is infecting the vaccine meant to stem the outbreak with Croatoan virus.
"Simultaneous countrywide distribution," Sam says, shaking his head. "Quite a plan."
"You don't get to be Horsemen for nothing," Crowley adds. "So you boys better stock up on ...well, everything. This time next Thursday, we'll all be living in zombieland."
While they contemplate that, let's smash cut to a street in what is purportedly Chicago, shall we?
A gaunt, elegant figure pulls over to the curb in a long white classic Cadillac. Stepping out, he smoothly glides down the street, casually swinging a walking cane. He wears a white ring.
Men and women don't notice him as he blends into the stream of pedestrians, until a businessman on a cell phone bumps his shoulder. The businessman snaps at the elegant man he should watch where he's going. The elegant man stops for a beat and gently brushes off his shoulder where the businessman touched him. The moment he does that, the businessman suddenly collapses to the ground, dead.
Oh, Death (Julian Richings). You are more cold-blooded than Rick James.
Team Winchester decides to break off into two groups: Cas, Bobby and Sam are going to take the distribution center at Niveus before the vaccinations head out on trucks. Dean and Crowley are going after Death.
Cas stands by a van, packing it with supplies. He asks Bobby if this is what they mean by the Eleventh Hour. Bobby says yes. "Well, it's the Eleventh Hour, and I am useless," Cas sighs. He looks at the sawed-off shotgun in his hands and wonders what to do with it.
"Point it and shoot," Bobby says. Cas begins to whine about what he used to be, and Bobby stops him.
"Are you really going to bitch to me?" Bobby says. He wheels toward him and tosses him a bag. "Quit pining for the varsity years and load the truck." Cas does what he's told.
The boys meet up one last time and wish each other luck. Sam pauses for a moment and says, "Remember when we used to just hunt Wendigos? How simple things were?"
"Not really," Dean says. Sam tries to hand off Ruby's demon-killing blade to Dean, but Crowley steps in and tells Sam his brother's covered. He produces a rusty sickle -- Death's own. Kills demons and angels and rumor has it, Death himself. Cas asks where he got it and Crowley explains it away by saying he's the King of the Crossroads. Then Crowley turns to Bobby and asks if he's just going to sit there.
"Naw, I'm going to Riverdance," Bobby growls. Crowley then reveals he threw a little something extra into Bobby's bargain. "What can I say? I'm an altruist." He again asks the old hunter if he's just going to sit there. Sure enough, Bobby wiggles his toes and stands up from his wheelchair. Everyone is in shock. (Side note: If this isn't a prelude to a gigantic screwing from Crowley, we should all be amazed.)
Bobby thanks the demon, and they head off on their separate missions.
Mission #1: Niveus
Bobby, Cas and Sam are driving the van to Niveus. Sam and Bobby fill Cas in on Sam's mad plan to beat the devil. Sam tells Cas he's ready to hear him say it's the worst plan he ever heard, and Cas tells him if that's what he wants him to say, he will.
"But that's not what I think," Cas says. "You and Dean have a habit of exceeding my expectations. You resisted Michael. Maybe you could resist Lucifer." He goes on to say there are things they need to know. One, Michael has found another vessel in Adam. Two, saying yes to Lucifer and then failing means the fight will happen, and the collateral damage would be immense.
Three, there's the demon blood issue. To take in Lucifer would be more than he's ever drunk. It strengthens the vessel. The guy Lucifer is riding now, Cas says, is drinking gallons.
"And how is that not the worst plan you've ever heard?" Bobby finishes.
They table it once they get to the shipping center of Niveus, and at daybreak, the trucks are already loaded and ready to go. Bobby goes over the plan again: take out the demons, get the humans out of there and blow the place with C4. But before they can take the time to get properly situated, Cas sees a truck already leaving.
"Balls!" Bobby yells. "OK...new plan."
Cas stops the truck at the gate by surprising the driver, knocking him out with the butt of his gun. The man hits the horn with his head, alerting the demons inside the warehouse. While Cas smashes the gate lock, effectively blocking other trucks from leaving, the demons close the garage doors and get ready to welcome Sam and Bobby with a special treat.
Sam and Bobby get to the door on foot, but it's already locked. Sam shoots the lock and lets a group of screaming people out. But another group isn't so lucky. The demons already have infected a few of them with the Croatoan virus, and they're crouched over their co-workers, chomping away. Suddenly, the infected turn their red-ringed eyes on Sam and Bobby and charge. Sam steels his gaze and uses his sidearm to pick them off methodically with headshots while Bobby blasts away with his shotgun.
They hear cries deeper in the warehouse. Sam hands Bobby Ruby's blade and tells him to wait by the door. He heads into the stacks as Bobby takes out a demon with the blade.
Sam finds a woman trying to climb a ladder to escape a zombie and shoots her attacker. He brings her and another man to the door, and goes back for more people. Bobby watches Sam in awe of his bravery.
Bobby takes out one more demon as Sam returns with the last of the civilians -- all clear. But before they can set up the explosives, a zombie jumps Sam and starts strangling him. Bobby's out of ammo, and Sam is having trouble fighting him off. Sam is on the verge of unconsciousness when Cas steps in with the sawed-off and blows the zombie's head off.
"Actually, these things can be useful, " Cas says, looking at the gun.
"Can we commit our act of domestic terrorism already?" Bobby says. "Let's go!"
Mission #2: Death in Chicago
Dean and Crowley amble up on a warehouse where Death is supposed to be and, judging by the swarm of Reapers, Crowley can see surrounding it, it looks like they have the right spot. But Death isn't there. Dean is angry at Crowley, thinking he's tricked him, but the demon assures Dean a Crossroads deal is iron-clad and he's obligated to fulfill it. He tells Dean they should get out of Chicago before Death smites it.
Dean and Crowley are in the car when the storm of the century begins to kick up. Dean wonders whether he should call in a thousand bomb threats to empty the city when Crowley suddenly disappears from the passenger's seat.
Dean looks around, then sees Crowley peeking into the window of a restaurant across the street. Crowley turns around and points at the door, saying something. When Dean says he can't hear him, Crowley zaps back into the car and repeats what he said -- he's in there.
Yes, Death is in a pizzeria. Dean squints for a moment, then asks Crowley if he's coming. But Crowley already has disappeared.
Dean slowly opens the door to the pizzeria and sees nothing but dead bodies all around -- waitresses, patrons, all slumped over. Everyone but an elegant, gaunt gentleman sitting at a table, enjoying a slice of deep dish. (From the looks of it, we're guessing Lou Malnati's.) Dean slowly tries to sneak up on him with the sickle, but it suddenly glows red hot in his hand. He drops it.
"Thanks for returning that," Death says coolly, without even turning around. Dean looks again at the spot on the ground where he dropped the sickle, and it's gone. Somehow the man has made it appear beside him at the table, and he keeps eating. He invites Dean over to join him. "The pizza's delicious."
Dean, now looking like he's trying not to crap his pants, slowly moves over the table and sits down. Death tells Dean it took him long enough to find him. Dean understandably has mixed feelings about that.
"So, is this the part where you kill me?" Dean asks.
Death looks him in the eye and informs him that he has an inflated sense of his importance. "To a thing like me, a thing like you...well," he says, pausing for a sip of soda, "think how you would feel if a bacterium sat at your table and started to get snarky."
Outside, lightning flashes and the rain is coming down harder, as Death continues, "This is one little planet, in one tiny solar system, in a galaxy that's barely out of its diapers. I'm old, Dean. Very old. So I invite you to contemplate how insignificant I find you."
Death reaches over to the pizza and serves Dean a slice, sliding it in front of him.
He tells Dean to take a bite, and Dean does, with great trepidation. But nothing happens.
"Good, isn't that?" Death says. Death takes another bite of pizza, and Dean asks how old he is. Death tells him he's as old as God, probably older, he doesn't care anymore. "Life, death, chicken and egg...regardless, at the end, I'll reap him too."
Dean's shocked to hear God will die one day. "Well, this is way above my paygrade," Dean gasps.
"Just a bit," Death replies, and gets down to business. Death tells Dean that Lucifer has him bound to him by a spell. And Death resents that. "I'm more powerful than you can process, and I'm a slave to a bratty child having a tantrum." He tells Dean he wants his help to take the bullets out of Lucifer's gun.
Death brandishes his ring. "I understand you want this," he says.
Dean pauses for a moment, then says, "....Yeah?"
Death informs Dean he plans to give him the ring. Dean asks about Chicago. Death thinks for a moment, then says it can stay. "I like the pizza."
He pulls the ring off of his finger, but before he places it in Dean's hand he tells him he has conditions. Specifically, Dean has to do whatever it takes to put Lucifer in his cell. Whatever it takes. Dean tells him that's the plan, and Death corrects him -- there's no plan yet. He reveals Sam is the only one who can put Lucifer in his cage, so he needs a promise he'll let Sam jump into the fiery pit and do nothing to stop it.
"Do I have your word?" Dean softly stutters out something that sounds like a yes.
"That had better be yes, Dean," Death says, staring hard at Dean. "You know you can't cheat Death."
He drops the ring into Dean' s hand. "Now," he says. "would you like the instruction manual?"
The group meets back at Bobby's, and Dean discovers when all four rings are together, they seem to magnetically click into a shape. Bobby interrupts and reveals he's been walking up and down stairs for no reason. He's sore, but he said it feels so good, he's scared it's a dream.
"But, then I remember that the world's dying bloody so..." he hands Dean a beer. "Drink?"
Dean shows Bobby the trick with the rings and says he knows how to operate them. "It's nuts," Dean says. "Of course, I've got bigger problems now."
"What do you think Death does to people who lie to his face?" Dean asks.
"Nothing good," Bobby tells him. "What did you say?"
He told Death he's OK with Sam's plan to try to drive Lucifer back into Hell. Apparently Death thinks Sam's idea is a good plan, but Dean is taking that endorsement with a grain of rock salt, since Death works for Lucifer. Bobby points out on the other hand, he's Death -- which means he may have a bird's eye view on the situation.
Dean is shocked Bobby seems OK with Sam's plan, but Bobby points out maybe they've been riding Sam too hard, they don't have enough faith in him. He tells Dean at the warehouse, he watched Sam go back for innocent people over and over again without a thought. He reminds Dean that Sam's been running into burning buildings since he was 12.
"Look, Sam's got a darkness in him. I'm not saying he don't," Bobby says. "But he's got a hell of a lot of good in him too...So then, you know Sam will beat the Devil, or die trying. That's the best we can ask for."
"So," Bobby finishes, "I gotta ask, Dean: What exactly are you afraid of? Losing...or losing your brother?"