At first blush, this was another episode of Supernatural in which the boys deal with a case of the week, while a half-dozen subplots keep humming along. Castiel's budding romance, Crowley's crisis of leadership, that Cole guy, etc. etc. But unexpectedly, this episode proved that Supernatural still has some decent tricks up its sleeve.
In "Girls Girls Girls," the main plot is pretty simple. Dean hooks up with a cute girl via a dating app, but she turns out to be a sex worker — who gets paid in souls, rather than money. Demons have set up a bordello that accepts payment in souls (what do repeat customers pay with?) until they get shut down by a witch named Rowena. She takes two of the surviving sex workers under her wing as potential apprentices, but they soon realize she has no regard for human life — including theirs.
The surprises come in all the ways the subplots weave in and out of all this. Cole, the guy who blames Dean for killing his father back in 2003, shows up after being missing for a few episodes, and tries to kill Dean just as Dean gets the drop on Rowena. She gets away, and Dean and Cole fight — with a predictable outcome. But then Dean (who doesn't even flinch when Cole throws holy water on him) has the chance to shoot Cole, and instead gives his gun to Cole and asks for just five minutes of his time. During which Dean gives one of this best ever speeches (see above). Especially the "that was your story. I got one of those too" part. Really neat stuff.
So Cole goes home to his family (maybe), but Dean is left having to explain the "I'm past saving" stuff to Sam. Hey, it was just a figure of speech! Dean meant "I'm past daylight savings," because it's late November! Whatever, Sam. It'll be fine. Really.
The other big surprise in the Rowena storyline, of course, is how it winds up intersecting with the demon thingy — after she gets away from Sam and Dean, she's caught by demons seeking payback for the bordello massacre, and dragged to Hell. Where she's face to face with Crowley. Who stares at her and finally says, "Mother?" Did not see that coming.
And then there's the Castiel subplot, which doesn't cross paths with the others in this episode at all. This time around, you think it's heating up the romance between Castiel and Hannah, especially when she takes her clothes off in front of him and just stares at him before announcing she's going to take a totally unneeded shower. But then there's a curveball, because her human vessel has a husband, and he shows up. Hannah is forced to make out with Castiel to get rid of hubby.
At this point, I still thought we were heading towards "deepening romance" because that kiss might have sparked something — but instead, Hannah unexpectedly grows a conscience and decides that instead of exploring these strange new human feelings, they should put the humans first. She decides to stop treating the humans like disposable meatbags, and let her vessel go. This is the sort of ethical issue that Supernatural almost always skates over, and in fact this turn of events causes Castiel to think of his own vessel, Jimmy Novak, who hasn't been mentioned in years.
If there was a theme to all this, it seemed to be "reclaiming your humanity," or maybe preserving it. The one sex worker who runs away from Rowena seems to be making a choice to stay human instead of going down the risky path of becoming a magic-user (or maybe just Rowena's next "attack dog.") Dean urges Cole to hold on to his humanity at all costs, and in the process maybe Dean regains a tiny sliver of his own humanity. And then there's Hannah, giving her body back to the human who originally owned it.
In any case, this was one of those episodes that feels like it gives a show a shot in the arm, by making it a universe where anything can happen and people aren't mostly set in their ways after a decade on screen. Of course, one way it did this was by having a ton of barely plausible coincidences, but that's okay. It still worked just fine.