At the labs of the Niveus Pharmaceuticals, lab technicians are testing a flu vaccine when a demon disguised as a security guard injects them with the Croatoan virus. Sam and Dean visit a clinic, but find only people with mild swine flu. They have been chasing Pestilence but are one step behind - a call to Bobby gets them heading east after more omens. Suddenly Crowley appears in the Impala, he knows the boys are searching for Pestilence and the rings of the Four Horsemen. Reluctantly, Sam and Dean accompany Crowley to the house where he has been staying. He has been in hiding since Lucifer knows he gave the Colt to the Winchesters in an attempt to kill him. Crowley reveals he had a magical coin planted in the Impala and has been tracking and eavesdropping on Sam and Dean. He knows a demon who works for the Horsemen and thinks they can get him to help them. As they ready to go, Crowley refuses to let Sam come with them. Dean hesitates, but decides to go with Crowley to get the demon.
The demon is a man known as Brady, who is in management at Niveus, and he communicates with Pestilence through a Goblet of Blood. Pestilence is keen to get the virus released soon. While Dean and Crowley are out, Sam calls Bobby and asks him how he took control of his body when he was possessed by a demon in 5.01 Sympathy for the Devil. Sam suggests he wants to try consenting to possession from Lucifer and then try to take control of his body in order to trap him in Lucifer's Cage. Bobby angrily dismisses the idea, saying they had just talked Dean out of consenting to possession by Michael. He also says what he did was a million-to-one, and notes he was possessed by a demon, while Sam would be under control of Lucifer. Using Dean as bait, Crowley manages to capture Brady. In the Impala he carves a binding link into Brady's chest. The binding link will stop the demon leaving its meatsuit. Crowley tells Dean not to return to where Sam waits - he and Brady have a history. But Dean refuses and returns to the house.
When Sam and Dean confront Brady, he reveals that he was a close college friend of Sam's from Stanford. During his sophomore year, during the Thanksgiving break, he was possessed by a demon. When he came back to school he "went off the rails," partying and dropping out of pre-med. Sam tried to help him. Azazel had been concerned that Sam was losing his potential and so Brady introduced Sam to Jess and subsequently murdered her, with the plan that her death would drive Sam back to hunting.
Sam is enraged, but Dean drags him from the room. Crowley talks to Brady, telling him that Lucifer will kill all demons, but it doesn't persuade Brady to betray his masters, so Crowley leaves to work on another plan. Sam locks Dean in the bathroom, and confronts Brady, but doesn't kill him. Crowley returns - he's killed some demons, spreading the word that he and Brady are "lovers in league against Satan." Brady will now be on Lucifer's hit list. Suddenly a hellhound appears - the demons have tracked Crowley using a magical coin. Crowley chucks the coin and disappears. Dean scrambles to hold off the hound. Suddenly Crowley reappears with his own, bigger, hellhound. As the hounds battle each other, Sam, Dean, and Crowley escape, taking Brady with them. Brady finally reveals Pestilence's whereabouts and then Sam kills him using Ruby's knife. Bobby is on the phone with Rufus Turner, trying to find out where Death will be. Crowley appears at Bobby's house and tells Bobby he can give him Death's whereabouts in exchange for Bobby's soul, temporarily. Crowley tells him that it will only be for a short while and that he will give Bobby back his soul.
Fancy a fag and a chat? You're upset. We should discuss it. Not here, but--
Sam: You want to talk? After what you did to us?
Crowley: After what I -- what I did to you?! I gave you the Colt!
Sam: Yeah, and you knew it wouldn't work against the Devil!
Crowley: I never!
Sam: You set us up. We lost people on that suicide run -- good people!
Who you take on the ride is your own business! Look, everything is still the same. W-we're all still in this together.
Shut up, the both of you! Look... I swear... I thought the Colt would work. It's an honest mistake. It's all part of the learning process. But nothing's changed. I still want the Devil dead. Well... one
thing's changed. Now the devil knows
that I want him dead. Which, by the way, makes me the most buggered son in all of creation.
Dean: Holy crap. We don't care.
They burnt down my house! They ate my tailor! Two months under a rock, like a bloody salamander! Every demon on Hell and Earth's got his eyes out for me! And yet... Here I am... Last place I should be -- in the road, talking to Sam and Dean Winchester, under a friggin' spotlight! [destroys street light
] So come with me. Please. Do you want the Horsemen rings or not? Yes, I know all about that. Shall we?
Sam's not coming.
Sam: And why the hell not?
Crowley: Because I don't like you... I don't trust you... And -- oh, yes -- You keep trying to kill me.
There's no damn way. This isn't gonna happen!
Sam: I'm strong enough.
Bobby: You ain't. He's gonna find every chink in your armor, Sam, and use it against you -- Your fear, your grief, your anger. And let's face it -- You're not exactly Mr. Anger Management. How are you gonna control the Devil when you can't control yourself?
Crowley: Please. I've sold sin to saints for centuries. Think I can't close one little demon?
Brady: See... War and Famine, even if I could cram the rings back on their bony fingers, I doubt it would do much good. They're withered husks right now -- fetal position on the floor -- all thanks to you. So I don't want the rings. What I want is retribution. And I'm gonna rip it right out of your ass!
Crowley: I begged Dean not to come back. We should be miles away... from you. He replied with a colorful rejoinder about my 'corn chute.'
God. The day I've had. Good news. You're going to live forever.
Brady: What did you do?
Went over to a demons' nest -- had a little massacre. Must be losing my touch, though -- Let one of the little toads live. Oops. Also might have given said toad the impression that you left your post last night because you and I are, wait for it, lovers in league against Satan.
All those angels, all those demons, all those sons of bitches -- They just don't get it, do they, Sammy?
Sam: No, they don't, Dean.
You see, Brady... We're the ones you should be afraid of.
Bobby: You're Crowley?
Crowley: In the flesh -- of a moderately successful Literary Agent out of New York.
Trivia & References
The episode title refers to the saying "better the devil you know than the one you don't" which means that it is better to go with a familiar if imperfect choice, than an unknown one. It is also the name of an album
by the band Heaven and Hell which is made up of members of Ronnie James Dio-era Black Sabbath
. 4.10 Heaven and Hell
was also the name of an episode in season 4. There is also a dance pop track called "Better the Devil You Know"
by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue.
Hey, check it out. I look like the King of Pop.
- A reference to the late Michael Jackson, and the fact that he was known for wearing surgical masks out in public.
Dean: That's the same time those statues started crying.
- A crying statue is a supernatural religious phenomenon in which a statue begins to weep tears of blood, oil or scented liquids. Weeping statues are most often of the Virgin Mary, and are often followed by claims of Marian apparitions. A statue of the Virgin Mary crying blood was seen in 4.09 I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Well, now... I don't know where pestilence is... Per Se. But I do know the demon who does. He's what you might call the horsemen's stable boy. He handles their itineraries, their personal needs. He's who you want -- believe me. He'll tell us where Sneezy's at.
- A reference to Pestilence using the character of Sneezy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The story and character of Snow White were previously referred to in 3.05 Bedtime Stories.
Go get 'em, tiger.
- This is a direct line from the Spider-Man comic books, TV shows and movies. It is a phrase of encouragement by Peter Parker's girlfriend/wife Mary Jane Watson. Dean said a variation of this line to Castiel in 5.03 Free to Be You and Me.
Not here. But you want them, you'll come with me -- nice and civil -- we'll get out of your little Batcave here, and we'll discuss a transaction.
- The Batcave is the secret base of operations for Batman.
Brady is similar to Patrick Bateman
, the lead character in the novel and movie American Psycho
, although there are no references to the character, novel or movie in the episode.
Your ignorance and misinformation -- I mean, completely authentic. You can't fake that. What? I-it went like clockwork.
- Something going like clockwork is an idiom for when something goes according to plan. It may also be a subtle reference to A Clockwork Orange, which is famous for (among other things) this beating scene.
I've done more with less. Let's just say when they're getting their Grammys, they shouldn't all be thanking God. It's worth it, Bobby. Think.
- A reference to the cliche that musicians at the Grammys and other awards shows thank God during their acceptance speeches. Crowley is obviously implying some of them sold their souls to him as part of a deal.
A poster in the opening sequence is for "Herpexia," a medicine which is made by Niveus Pharmaceuticals
to help prevent the spread of genital herpes. In 5.08 Changing Channels
Sam is forced to make a commercial for Herpexia.
During the drug company board meeting, Brady
is holding a copy of the same newspaper and the same front page story shown being read by the store clerk in the closing scene of 5.19 Hammer of the Gods
Before his meeting with Mitchell, Brady is reading a memo on his laptop which we briefly see onscreen. Including spelling errors, it reads:
URGENT INTERNAL MEMO
Details About the NIVEUS 432 TM Vaccine Distribution Program
PRODUCTION FALLS SHORT OF EXPECTED PRODUCTION
Initial supplies have been prioritized for distribution to the selected health care providers who have favored status to Nevius International. It has also been prioritized for Preferred Status Insurance Companies with direct investment roles associated with Nevius International and its associates. Niveus believes this targeted distribution approach, using providers who are associated with Nevius, is the most effective way to ensure the fiscal stability of Nevius International.
This bit of carving will tie our friend here down. No zapping off, locked in the meat suit. An important part of our bargaining strategy.
- The symbol Crowley carves into Brady's chest appears similar to the ones painted on the walls throughout Crowley's house. Meg used a similar binding link to stay inside Sam in 2.14 Born Under a Bad Sign.
The cookies Jess cooked the night she died
It is revealed in this episode that Brady killed Jess. In 2.21 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part One. Azazel had revealed to Sam that he was responsible for Jess' death" "The cost of doing business, I’m afraid. I mean, sweet little Jessica –- she just had to die. You were all set to marry that little blonde thing, become a tax lawyer with two kids, a beer gut, and a little McMansion in the suburbs. I needed you sharp on the road, honing your skills. Your gifts."
Sam, and fans, had assumed that Azazel had killed Jess himself, rather than Brady on Azazel's instructions. Although the vision of Jess Sam had in 5.03 Free to Be You and Me said "I was dead from the moment we said hello."
Originally the network execs wanted Kripke
to write Jessica as an ongoing character, but Eric just thought it wouldn't work, and he suggested to kill her off, which they liked. Then the studio urged Kripke to make Jessica an evil demon
character, who was planted into Sam's life with purpose, and whose betrayal drives him on the road as he realizes, demons are closer to him than he thought.S1Com, p. 13
. The development in this episode revives a version of this idea.'
Crowley reveals his meatsuit
is a "moderately successful literary agent out of New York."
Sides, Scripts & Transcripts
- 5.20 The Devil You Know: You Want The Horseman Rings, Or Not? by bardicvoice (May 2010); archive link, spn-heavymeta
- Bond, Silvia. 2010. Oh, My Word, Would You Look At Sam's Hair!: "The Devil You Know" Season 5, Episode 20. Pink Raygun, May 4; archive link, spn-heavymeta
- Chan, Suzette. 2010. Supernatural Talk: Tarts talk about SPN 5.20: The Devil You Know. Sequential Tart, June 14; archive link, spn-heavymeta