300 Episodes from the little show that could, and I am laughing and crying (oh, yes, I am crying) just as hard as ever. There’s something to be said for a show that can still cause that 14 seasons in. And that something? Is “thank you”. Strap into your seats, kids. This one’s a long one.
Sing it with me now! “Anointed dove’s blood, and pearls that grant wishes, (to hope Dean no longer will sleep with the fishes), fire from dragon’s breath burns and it stings, this pawnshop is filled with their favorite things…” Turns out this seemingly run-of-the-mill pawnshop is packed to the brim with stolen occult curiosities (what does that teddy bear do when you pull its string, I wonder?) and Sam and Dean have come to collect.
Of course, the pawnshop owner makes to burn and kill them, but, in a moment I just loved, Dean shoots him dead as a monologues, saying, “They always talk too much!” (Ha!) The only logical place to safely store these objects? The geographical center of the USA—Lebanon, Kansas.
Rumor Has It
We get a taste of the reputation of the “Campbell brothers” as the teens of Lebanon talk about them and whether they are mysterious and murdery as one says. I must say, I loved that one of the kids, Eliott, referred to Cas as “the psychic in a trench coat” and Jack as being a kid with a “weird Bambi look on his face all the time.” That about sums that up! But no one extolling their handsomeness? Even the teenaged girls that only have eyes for each other should be able to see that from a country mile.
Sam and Dean stop in the local liquor store where they are immediately recognized, natch. Sam talks to Dean as the store owner gets their hooch, listing the stuff they, um, liberated, and included amongst them is the Baozhu, an ancient Chinese pearl that “gives you what your heart desires”, which Dean immediately thinks is Michael, out of his head. Before they can think too hard on it, however, Baby is stolen by one of the smitten teenaged girls, Max, to impress the other (Stacy) and thus? The pearl, (and John Wayne Gacy’s cigar box, amongst other dangerous things) are stolen with her.
In an effort to find Max, Sam tries to impress local post office clerk Martha to tell him where Max lives, to no avail because apparently, Martha’s a Dean girl. All it takes is Dean’s hand on hers to get Martha to fold like it’s laundry day. (Sam’s consternation and exasperation is hilarious, too.) The boys find Max’s mother and co-worker at the local pizza joint (where I am sure they have used many illegal credit cards) and get a tip off as to where the truant teens are spending the day. Unfortunately for the teens, the ghost of John Wayne Gacy’s coming to the party too, clown costume and all.
Send in the Clowns
So, how much do we love Ethan? The kid who saw the clown ghost and just immediately ditched the party? I love him a lot. Anyway, the boys go FBI on the party and discover the open cigar box and Dean is hilarious as he says, “A serial killer clown. I mean, this is like the best worst thing that’s ever happened to you, you know, ‘cause you love serial killers but you hate clowns.” Sam struggles to set the cigar box on fire and Dean gets tossed by Gacy, but just as Gacy begins to go up in flames Eliott, Stacy and Max burst back into the house to see it all. And they are bugging out.
Sam and Dean give them the talk, and the kids agree to keep things to themselves, agreeing that most people would “lose their freakin’ minds” if they knew the truth. And therein lies the most unbelievable part of the episode. Teens? Keep a secret? LIKE THAT? Maybe they make ‘em differently in Lebanon.
Back at the HuntCave, Dean holds the pearl, concentrates, and the lights flicker and dim. In the dark, something, someone, fights the boys to the ground, cocks a gun, and whispers in a voice we know all too well, “Don’t you move.” The boys lie there, stunned, as the lights come on, until Dean is able to say, “Dad?” And I cannot explain the joy I feel in my heart, knowing that John is there, with his boys, no matter how crazy the circumstances are.
Hearing John whisper their names and ask Sam if he’s supposed to be in Palo Alto? My heart was pounding. John still thinking it’s 2003? No wonder he is confused at the sight of Sam. But they were together. TOGETHER. And for me? That was all that mattered.
Say My Name
The boys catch John up the Winchester way, over a glass, and he’s stunned at all that has happened, but you can see the pride in his eyes. They get to tell John a bit about Henry, and them being legacies because of him, which pleases him. John wishes he had been there to see it, but is fine with the fact that he went out taking out Yellow Eyes—the thing that got Mom.
And before they can even tell him of Mary’s return he hears her voice, searching for her boys as she enters the Bunker offscreen, and man, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s FACE. They way John collapsed in relief and love at the sound of her voice—they way he said her name—slaughtered me. Everything was right there. And when he took her into his arms and they kissed? Well, I’d be hard pressed to name a kiss more wonderful that has taken place on my television screen.
Proceed with Caution
Of course, Dean is beyond thrilled, and while Sam is too, he’s Sam, so he’s worried about the implications of messing with time, and what it could mean for all of them. Dean wants none of his concerns—what he wants is a family dinner, with all of them present. Because that’s all he’s wanted since he was four years old.
Sam talks to John about the Bunker, and John can’t stop smiling at Sam. Mary’s going to make “that casserole of hers”, Winchester Surprise, and my heart is positively thumping with joy, even though I know this can’t end happily. John admits he screwed up with Sam a lot, and Sam tries to brush it off, but John won’t let it go. Eventually, Sam says that for him their fight was a lifetime ago. And when he thinks about him, and, he says, voice breaking, he thinks about John a lot, he doesn’t think about their fights. He thinks about John on the floor of that hospital and never getting the chance to say goodbye.
“Sam, son,” John says, in tears, too, “I am so sorry.” “I’m sorry too,” Sam says, acknowledging that he knows John fought for him and Dean and loved them. And that’s enough. Both Morgan and Jared Padalecki acted the hell out of that scene, and it was one of many times that I was brought to tears, mostly of the joy of knowing that Sam finally got to say what he needed to say to John all along. It was beautifully done, and, like so much of this episode, I needed and loved it more than I can say.
Of course, when you mess with time, things change. And what has changed is, well, everything. Dean is wanted for murder (“a lot of beheadings”) and Sam? He’s an annoying, Ted-talking, lawyer who believes in sole focus on work over family and eating a lot of raw kale.
(My favorite line? Dean’s “I’m still cool, but you’re…echhh.”) Time is self-correcting and if the boys don’t fix this, they become those other versions of themselves. And also? Snotty little Zachariah is back and Castiel, who no longer knows them, has reverted to soldier mode and wants to kill them in the name of God. (Side note: I still miss badass Cas. I wish there was a way to bring a little bit of that back to the Cas we now know and love. His reveal, so reminiscent of Season Four, was a magnificent reminder of how intimidating he once was.)
Cas kicks the boys’ asses, Dean pleading for him to know them. The boys survive the fight by Sam killing Zachariah, and Dean outlasting Cas until Sam could throw the angel banishing sigil and send Cas away. Then it’s back to the Bunker to make things right. The bad part? The boys have to tell Dad. The worse part? They have to tell Mary.
Mary has gone all out, setting the table (Winchester Surprise will apparently be served with wine and bread and salad), and Dean is explaining the situation to a still smiling John. He tells John that if he doesn’t go back the worst change will happen—Mary will never be revived. “Okay,” John says, calmly. “Me versus your mom, that’s not even a choice.” CHUCK PLEASE, STOP BREAKING MY HEART.
And I guess that’s not gonna happen because Mary is learning the news from Sam, and her beautiful smile is gone in a puddle of tears, because she is losing the love of her life all over again. Samantha Smith adds to the incredible acting of this episode. I just wanted to hug Mary, and cry with her. (Side note? I hope Mary and John at least got a little reconnection time while Sam and Dean were out shopping, if you know what I mean. They both deserved that.)
Dean hears the timer for the casserole and goes to give Mary a hand, but before he can, he gets his own little moment with John, who tells him he never meant for Dean to take up the hunter’s mantle. Never meant for him to take on his fight. That said, he is incredibly proud of him. He just wanted him to have a normal, peaceful life with a family. “I have a family,” says Dean, and Jensen Ackles kills it, and me, as usual.
The Last Supper
The meal begins with everyone quiet—devastated—until John says, “All right, near as I can tell we have two choices. We can think about what’s coming or we can be grateful for this time that we have together. Now me? I choose grateful.” And he kisses Mary’s hand and I am dying with love for all of them. “So to whatever brought us together? We owe you one. Amen.” And the family chimes in with amens all around and Bob Seger’s “Till it Shines” plays as they toast each other and connect and laugh and I am about as happy as I have ever, ever been with this show and the four amazing people portraying these beloved characters. Dean gets his normal family dinner, and so do we. And it’s so beautiful.
The whole thing is unbearably touching to watch. Haven’t all of us wished we could have just one more meal—one more moment—with someone we loved and lost? I know I have. And that’s why this episode is so relatable. So meaningful. Because we’ve all felt those things.
Over washing dishes, another touching normal moment to see, Sam muses how unfair it is that they get this (especially John and Mary) and they have to throw it all away. But Dean doesn’t wish them to be different. Doesn’t want their lives to have to change. “I am good with who I am. I’m good with who you are. ‘Cause our lives? They’re ours. And maybe I’m just too damned old to want to change that.” And as heartbreaking as all of this is, I agree. Oh, never change, Winchester brothers. We’re counting on you to never change.
Goodbye, Cruel World
“I hate this,” says Mary, as John takes her hand. “Me too,” he admits, his gruff voice heavy. The boys look on, sad for them and for themselves. John says okay with a sigh, looks at Mary with such love and wistfulness again, and says, “My girl,” and I am shattered. “I miss you so damned much.” “Me too,” Mary says, and they are both crying and I can’t take much more.
But take it I will, because John they kiss and embrace and my face echoes the boys’.
“You two—you take care of each other,” John says. “We always do,” says Sam, reassuringly. “Good to see you Dad,” Dean says, and all of their FACES ARE KILLING ME. John tells them he is so proud of them, just what they needed to hear, and he hugs them and tells them how much he loves them and I am emotional wrung out dishrag.
Sam, wiping his tears. Dean saying “Love you, too.” Mary, looking on, broken. All of it superbly acted to the point that I am a mess.
“Okay, I’m ready,” John says, trying to smile and taking Mary’s hand one last time. “Sammy?” he asks, and looks at him with that loving, confident nod that Sam brokenly returns. Sam crushes the pearl and Dean flinches hard, and John disappears in a white light and Mary’s hand is empty again.
Lebanon slowly reverts to what it was. Everyone knows them again. Posters disappear. Cas comes home, wondering what happened. “Well, there’s a story,” says Dean softly.
And back in 2003 a flip phone rings. John awakens in Baby, having had “one hell of a dream”, to Dean calling him. He tells Dean he’ll see him soon, and we cut to black, empty, but somehow full at the same time.
I don’t know about you but I found that wholly satisfying. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And I’ll see you in March, when Supernatural returns, for episode 301, “Ouroboros”.