At the labs of the Nevius pharmaceutical company, 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 is 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 though, 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 Nevius, 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 - the human it is possessing. Crowley tells Dean not to return to where Sam waits - he and Brady have 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, at 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.
Brady introduced Sam to Jess. Azazel was concerned that Sam was losing his potential and so Brady introduced Sam to Jess with the plan that her death would drive Sam back to hunting. It was Brady who killed Jess, on Azazel's instructions.
Sam is enraged, but Dean drags him from the room. Crowley takls to Brady, telling him that Lucifer will kill all demons 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 hitlist.
Suddenly a Hellhound appears - the demons have tracked him using a Magical Coin. Crowley disappears, and 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.
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.
Crowley: After 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!
Crowley: That night you broke into my house- our first date - my valet hid a tracking device in your car. A magical coin that easily traps you bags of bones. It allows me to hear things. And oh my - the things I've heard.
Crowley: I've sold sin to saints for centuries. You think I can't close one little demon?
Brady: You're doing your best? Well do the best of someone better.
Dean: [sees guards' corpses on the floor] You killed them?
Crowley: We're on a tight schedule. Come on. Now you're squeamish? Please.
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 going to rip it right out of your ass!
Crowley: What? It went like clockwork.
Dean: Not for me, you son of a bitch!
Crowley: That's what you get working with a Demon.
Brady: What did you do? Crowley: Went over to a demon's 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. Hello darling. So now death is off the table. Now you get to be on the boss's eternal torment list with little old me.
Dean: You're back?
Crowley: I'm invested. [Hellhound growls] Stay! Dean: You can control them?!
Crowley: Not that one. [pats his Hellhound which appears to be about 5 feet high based on position of his hand] I brought my own. Mine's bigger. Sick 'em boy!
Brady: What is this?
Dean: 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.
Dean: You see, Brady, we're the ones you should be afraid of.
Bobby: Get the hell off my property before I blast you so full of rock salt, you crap margaritas.
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 familair 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.
Dean: [wearing a surgical mask while at the hospital] 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.
The cookies Jess cooked the night she died
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.
The statue of the Virgin Mary weeping blood after Alastair's arrival.
Crowley: Fancy a fag and a chat?
In British jargon [and in this particular context], fag is slang for a cigarette.
Crowley: 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.
Crowley: What? It went like clockwork.
In this context [after Dean has been beat up by Brady and after Crowley has knocked Brady out after repeatedly hitting him with a crowbar], this could be a reference to the Stanley Kubrick movie A Clockwork Orange, which is famous for (among other things) this beating scene.
Crowley: I've done more with less. Let's just say when they're getting their Grammys, they shouldn't all be thanking God.
A reference to the cliche that musicians at the Grammys and other awards shows thank God during their acceptance speeches.
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 he had killed Jess himself, rather than Brady, albeit on Azazel's instructions. Although the vision of Jess had in 5.03 Free To Be You And Me , Sam had in said "I was dead from the moment we said hello."
Originally the studio bosses 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.
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.
The drug company Brady works for is called Niveus Pharmaceuticals. Niveus is a Latin word and means white or snowy.
A poster in the opening sequence is for "Herpaxia" the genital herpes advertisement from 5.08 Changing Channels. Which is made by Niveus Pharmaceuticals
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.
Crowley: This bit of carving will tie our friend her 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 one's painted on the walls through Crowley's house. Meg used a similar Binding Link to stay inside Sam. 2.14 Born Under a Bad Sign
Crowley reveals his meatsuit is a "moderately successful literary agent out of New York."
Before his meeting with Mitchell, Brady is reading a memo on his laptop which we briefly see onscreen. It reads:
URGENT INTERNAL MEMO Details About the NIVEUS 432 TM Vaccine Distribution Program PRODUCTION FAILS 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. Nevius 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.