Supernatural‘s Dean and Sam aren’t afraid to have a good cry on occasion. So naturally, Thursday’s 300th episode fully embraced the waterworks as the brothers and their mother Mary had an emotional reunion with patriarch John (returning guest star Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
The Winchester get-together is made possible by a magical pearl that Dean and Sam acquire after taking down a pawn shop owner with an array of supernatural artifacts. Sam thinks the pearl, which grants what your heart desires, could be the solution to Dean’s Michael problem. Because what Dean really wants is to get the archangel safely out of his head, right? As Dean makes his wish, the lights in the Men of Letters bunker go out and a mysterious figure appears, promptly taking down both brothers. When the power comes back on, a stunned Dean looks up at his attacker.
“Dad?” he says in shock and awe. John, too, is confused because Sam should be in Palo Alto, seeing as how it’s 2003 for Papa Winchester. Dean and Sam fill dad in on everything — angels, Lucifer’s child, his Men of Letters heritage, his death — over a drink, because can you imagine doing this sober?! Then Mary walks into the bunker, and John’s face crumbles as he realizes that his longtime love is alive in 2019. (If Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s emotional, teary “Mary…?” didn’t gut you, we need to have a talk.) The two kiss so passionately that Dean and Sam awkwardly leave the room.
Tearfest No. 2 is delivered by John and Sam, who have an overdue heart-to-heart about their troubled relationship. Sam doesn’t really want to talk about it, because for him, “that fight was a lifetime ago,” he tells his dad, who acknowledges that he messed up. “When I think about you — and I think about you a lot — I don’t think about our fights. I think about you on the floor of that hospital, and I think about how I never got to say goodbye.” (At this point, I became a little worried that Jared Padalecki was going to drown in his own tears.) John and Sam apologize to each other before Sam reassures his dad, “You did your best. You fought for us and loved us. That’s enough.”
Dean, too, gets his moment with John, who admits that he thought the fight would end with himself and the Yellow-Eyed Demon. “I guess that I hoped, eventually, you would get yourself a normal life, a peaceful life, a family,” he confesses to Dean, who replies after a thoughtful beat, “I have a family.”
But unfortunately, this family reunion is not meant to last: Dean and Sam discover that the timeline is starting to change. Because John was plucked from 2003, Sam never joined the family business and is now a kale-loving lawyer, while Dean is still a hunter, albeit a Most Wanted one. And eventually, Mary will fade away, so as far as John’s concerned, there’s no choice to make; he must go back to his time. In a surprising turn of events, it’s Sam who seems a bit reluctant to send John home and erase this happy moment from his memory. But if they send him back knowing everything, “who does that make us?” Dean wonders, adding that he’s good with who he and Sam are. “Because our lives, they’re ours, and maybe I’m just too damn old to want to change that.”
So after the first-ever (and last?) Winchester family dinner, Dean, Sam, John and Mary exchange their goodbyes. (Yes, there are even more tears.) “My girl. I miss you so damn much,” John says to Mary, and you can really feel it in his words. To Dean and Sam: “I am so proud of you boys. I love you both so much.”
Then Sam crushes the pearl, barely able to look at his dad as he does it, while Dean jerks at the sound. With that, John fades away, waking up in the Impala circa 2003. “I just had one hell of a dream,” John says when Dean calls him. “It was a good one.” So how does what John experienced fit into the show’s mythology? Does he actually recall what happened in 2019?
“I think it would create some problems for us, time travel-wise, if he remembered everything,” co-showrunner Andrew Dabb tells TVLine. “He thinks it is a dream. And it didn’t change him, it didn’t change our history, but I would like to think it did, for maybe just a small amount of time, soften him toward Sam [and] Dean. The John we see in Season 1 is very much not the John we’ve talked about who existed before Sam went away. That John was much more hard-edged… And I would like to think that, possibly, this dream, this experience that happened, marks that turning point.”
Elsewhere in the episode:
* As a result of the timeline-tampering, Zachariah temporarily returns, with a Season 4-esque Castiel in tow. Long time no see, buddy!
* The hour actually starts with Dean and Sam making their way through the town of Lebanon, where the local kids whisper about the mysterious Campbell — nice touch — brothers. One of the boys thinks there’s something off about them, as well as “the weird sidekick with the trench coat” and the “kid with the dumb Bambi look on his face.” Ultimately, he’s proven right when three of the teens stumble upon Dean and Sam fighting a serial killer clown ghost and learn the truth about monsters.
Supernatural fans, what did you think of the Winchesters’ big family reunion? Grade it via the poll below!