The Olympics are over and Supernatural is back – with a few familiar faces! Sam and Dean return to their Heavenly predicament, while a request from a fallen friend forces the Winchesters to take responsibility for the loss of life that their quest has resulted in.

In this week’s episode, “Captives,” written by two-time (so far) Supernatural scribe Robert Berens, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) are paid a visit by a ghostly Kevin Tran (Osric Chau) who, like much of humanity’s recently fallen, are left without a Heaven to enter. When “ghost chatter” leads Sam and Dean to a make-shift prison hidden inside a storage facility, a discontented pawn of Crowley’s (Mark Sheppard) begrudgingly stands in the way of the Winchesters rescuing the once-forgotten Tiger Mommy (Lauren Tom). Elsewhere, Castiel (Misha Collins) stumbles upon some angelic allies, while Bartholomew (Adam Harrington) reveals his grand plan to track and defeat Metatron (Curtis Armstrong).

Supernatural season 9 is now well over halfway through and Metatron’s takeover of Heaven has already put everyone – Sam, Dean, Castiel, Crowley – through the wringer, so to speak. More importantly, it resulted in the death of Kevin Tran – a prophet – by the hand of Gadreel while under the protection of Sam and Dean. As a shocking lead-in to December’s holiday hiatus, Tran’s death served its purpose well – unfortunately, that’s all it accomplished. This time, however, Kevin returns for a “second farewell,” and his death, as fans always hoped, proves to be more than a plot device used to get you to tune in again one month later.

Forcing Sam and Dean to confront the matriarch of the Tran family about her son’s death establishes a real connection to the name, face and life of the friend they lost. To Sam and Dean, Tran was a prophet, and he had the ability to do everything they feasibly couldn’t in order to save Heaven and Earth; to Linda, he was her son, whom she loved, and no divine intervention, or calling, will ever be as powerful. As such, Sam and Dean are held accountable by her for his death – but not before Sam watches a piece of her die inside as he breaks the news to her.

Supernatural, as well as most shows on television, often overlook any type of accountability for actions for the betterment of the story at hand and, for the most part, the series is better off for it. Now that Supernatural is aging, however, an earnest attempt is being made by producers to bring the series back it roots, and one thing that’s also returning to Sam and Dean is responsibility – to themselves, each other and those around them. Sam’s admission to Dean that he wouldn’t have saved him, as Dean did to him, was the beginning, and thankfully Tiger Mommy continues the theme this week.

Admittedly, these scenes are not as powerful as the “Sam falls in love with a werewolf” episodic storyline fans will fondly remember from early-on in the series, but juggling a storyline which impacts core character development with what’s essentially Castiel building an army is difficult, and Berens’ script is successful at continuing to progress the story while doing maintenance work on two brothers who have long since become numb to the deaths of others.

Now that Castiel has an army and Sam and Dean are figuring out their own paths in this chaotic life, Supernatural has sowed the seeds for two important plot points that will more than likely pay off in the end of the season and series, respectively.

Next week, the Ghostfacers return – so enjoy your Supernatural holiday!

Supernatural returns next Tuesday with “Thinman” @9pm on CW. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: