A Great Big Beautiful Collaboration: Supernatural ‘Just My Imagination’


It’s taken me three days to write up this review, because there was so much to like about ‘Just My Imagination’. I’m not known for my ability to keep things brief when I have a lot to say, so I knew this review might get long. But now it’s a sunny Saturday morning on the East coast, and my Friday night rewatch is fresh in my mind, so here goes.

In case that wasn’t clear from the first paragraph, I loved it! Sometimes it makes me nervous to have a lot of anticipation about an episode – I felt that way about Robbie Thompson’s ‘Baby’ episode too, after hearing about it from Jared, Jensen and Robbie before hand. This time, I had the pleasure of chatting with episode director Richard Speight Jr. several times and with writer Jenny Klein too – not to mention, Jensen told me more than once how much he liked the episode and how excited HE was about it – so let’s just say, my expectations were high. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but in this case, I think my giddiness worked perfectly to make the first watch even more enjoyable.

I have to talk about the script first, because Jenny did a fabulous job. If you’ve read my in-depth interview with Richard, you know that he gives Jenny all the kudos for writing an episode that allows Supernatural to do what it does best – combine horror, humor and heartfelt all in one episode without losing the impact of any of the three. No mean feat, Show! Jenny did that, and did it flawlessly. I bit my nails at the opening scene when Sam is being followed by a large and shadowy figure in the bunker as ominous Jaws-like music plays. I laughed so hard over the “She’s got Sparkle on her face!” scene that I nearly spilled my drink. And I reached for the ever-present box of tissues more than once. Supernatural is one of the only shows that can pull that off and have all those emotional beats actually work – because of the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the editing, the music and the acting. It takes all of those being at the top of their game for such a complex episode to work, and this one did.

Writer Jenny Klein and director Richard Speight, Jr.
Writer Jenny Klein and director Richard Speight, Jr.

After hearing Richard talk about his journey to directing, I have so much respect for what he did in this episode. It felt like the Show was being directed by someone who has been directing television – directing Supernatural – for a long time. That’s the highest compliment I can give, and I know that Richard was worried that wouldn’t be the case and that his first-timer status would show through, but really, it didn’t. Instead there were moments of brilliance throughout, where scenes were blocked and shot in a way that added so much to the dialogue. The scene where Sam and Sully are lying across the hotel room beds, the perspective upside down for a bit as they play the “Ever Think” game. The first scene in the bunker when Sam wakes up and someone is looming in the background, and his long walk down the bunker’s hallways. The lingering just enough shots of the Legos and army men. The loving pan up Jensen Ackles as he gets out of the car…in a sweater. Thanks for that, Richard.

And then there was the carnage in the little girl’s bedroom and Sparkle’s unfortunate demise. When Jensen told me he was glad that Richard was directing this episode because he knows how to do comedy – he knows when a joke lands and when it doesn’t – he was so right! Richard shot the hell out of that scene, and Jared and Jensen and Nate acted the hell out of it too. Also, big kudos to that Carrie Genzel, who was great way back when in Bugs but was incredible here with her deadpan expression covered in sparkly blood. I keep laughing just thinking about it.

Thumbs up for #DirectingDick
Thumbs up for #DirectingDick

I don’t think you could pull off the humor in this episode without actors like Jensen, Jared and Nate Torrence. So much of the humor came from the nuanced facial expressions, the subtle gestures, the exchanged glances. They are all capable of subtle humor, and that’s my favorite kind. They are all also capable of breaking my heart, and they all did in this episode. Jared in his heartbreaking talk with Sully, apologizing for being a “jerk kid” and confiding in him about the cage and the Darkness. Nate with 9 year old Sam, letting him go because that’s what Sam wants; Nate with Reese, ready to sacrifice himself because what he does is what’s good for the kid. (I kept thinking, this is what most of my clients need – an adult to say I’m sorry, that sucks, you deserved better…) And Jensen with every subtly played break-my-heart-open look that says he wanted desperately to be there for his little brother when they were young and couldn’t. That he desperately wanted to be enough for Sam, and he fears he never was and never will be.

Where are those goddamn tissues?

Here’s what Richard said about Nate in our interview: “He’s just so good. He brings such a level to it that he enabled Jared and Jensen to play at their top level. You know, you can only play tennis with somebody who knows how to serve. If you get a guest star who kind of lobs the ball, you’re stuck with that. But if you get somebody who can fire rockets, then you can fire rockets back. The mundane becomes interesting. What could be ordinary becomes fascinating. And we were fortunate to get Nate on the roster, because he just crushed it on every level. From the comedic to the heartfelt, he was in the pocket.”

He was. They ALL were. Every exchange Jared and Jensen had with Nate was just about perfect.

Jared and Jensen with Nate
Jared and Jensen with Nate

Jenny wrote the words, the actors made them believable and emotional and effective, and Richard gave them the direction they needed to do that, bringing Jenny’s awesome script to life. I would be remiss if I left out the contribution of the other person who is instrumental in crafting an episode that works – the editor. As Richard said in our interview, a show is made in three parts – the writing, the shooting, and the editing. In this case, that is the work of Nicole Baer, and she did just as amazing a job as the rest of the people who made this episode so powerful. I know from seeing rough cuts of my friend Night’s films that the editor is as much a storyteller as everyone else who contributes to a film or television show. Nicole put these performances together into an episode that flows, visually and story-wise. The transitions, the conversations, the timing, the looks that held long enough to carry so much meaning – all of that made the episode effective and hard-hitting.

Is it clear yet that I liked this episode? Of course, I’m not going to say that it was perfect, because even the things you adore rarely are – and isn’t that part of the point of this episode, after all? But let’s run through the episode itself, and I’ll get to the few things that weren’t quite perfect, and the many things that came pretty damn close.

The first scene was delightful. The music, the cacophony of rainbow colors, the hippie Manicorn reading The Velveteen Rabbit! (One of my kids’ favorite books of all time; we all believed in nursery magic at one point, didn’t we?) I loved Sparkle, so his demise was instantly heartbreaking. And SPN casts children who can really act, which probably isn’t that easy to do – that poor little girl’s scream was better than a lot of adult actors can pull off!

And then we’re in the bunker, which makes me happy, and Sam is in bed, which makes me even happier. I’m not sure why Sam gets up at 6:30 am when they’re not on a case, but I guess it’s just part of that whole being-a-hunter identity. I wanted to say Sam, go back to sleep, you need your rest, you poor thing, but he never hears me when I yell at the screen anyway.

We get sleepy, rumpled, bedhead Sam navigating the long hallways of the bunker, which is also lovely. Unfortunately we also get me biting my nails because of that great ominous shot of someone looming in the doorway and following Sam. Well shot, Richard! Sam’s expression when he finally notices the array of rainbow-colored food is priceless. Well done, Jared! And props or set dec or whoever set up that amazing buffet! Was any of it actually edible?

Cap, crazysoulless
Cap, crazysoulless

As if all that isn’t wonderful enough, then we get sleepy, rumpled, bedhead Dean too – in the dead guy robe and old man slippers!! The comedy works right away, as Dean reacts to Sam’s unusual stance and talking to no one with “Did you have a stroke? Do you smell toast?”

I don’t think everyone could make that line so funny, but Ackles can do comedy. They all can. That entire scene, Sam flustered and trying to explain, Sully a bit affronted and trying to cajole a resistant Dean, and Dean indignant and threatening to go get his gun – it was all priceless. When Dean finally resolutely tied the belt on his robe and ordered Sam to the library for a family talk – and Sam shuffled off like a naughty little boy, all six foot four of him – I was laughing out loud. Literally.

Bedhead Dean
Bedhead Dean
To the library! Cap s_verasani
To the library! Cap s_verasani

And somewhere in there we got Ninja!Dean and a little bit of boxer briefs and bare thigh too, which I will never EVER complain about.

11.08 s verasni

The whole idea of the Zanna was inspired. It worked for me, as something the Winchesters hadn’t encountered before but is right there in the lore if you go looking for it. I love how it tied to the Winchesters’ backstory and allowed a glimpse of the boys as kids. I love the description, beings who take care of lost kids, who stay until the child is okay and allow them to move on with confidence. Maybe it’s because I’m a psychologist, but I just wanted to scream YES! So many kids are lost, so many need someone to tell them “you’re awesome”. So many need to hear “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you” so they CAN move on with confidence, and self esteem, and a sense of identity. So many kids don’t get that, and it messes them up every bit as much as poor Reese. I found myself wishing there WERE Zanna out there, and that I could assign one of them to hundreds of clients I’ve worked with over the years. For me, anyway, the episode had an important message in amongst the scary and the funny.

Dean’s reaction to Sully is complicated. At first, I was a bit “huh?” by his resistance to helping. After all, the Zanna are helping kids, and Dean Winchester is all about that. But he’s also protective – of his home, of his brother, of their shared history. Sully is essentially an intruder, it’s a home invasion even though it’s by the most benign of creatures. And I think, too, from the very start, he bristles because this is someone who helped Sam when he wasn’t there. Someone who was important to Sam when Dean wanted to be the most important person in his life – when he felt he SHOULD be the most important person in Sam’s life. It was his job to be there for his little brother, and Sully’s very existence means that on some level, he failed. That is something Dean Winchester takes very seriously. It’s core to his identity and self worth, and Sully reappearing to tell a different story is threatening to Dean on a deep level. Hence his reluctance, and his initial dickish behavior. Sam seems to sense this, because he goes very easy on Dean and doesn’t call him on much of it, other than a slightly exasperated “You didn’t have to come, you know” when Dean complains a bit too much.

Sam also knows, as do we, that there’s no way in hell Dean would not have come.

Btw, perceptive fans did notice that Sully sort of had Dean’s hair. Hmmm.


So despite his hesitation, Dean is in. And that means we get another visual treat – Winchesters in sweaters! Jenny tweeted that she didn’t know fandom would appreciate that so much, but I could have told her otherwise. Because holy shit, did Sam and Dean look good!

(Serge and Richard, at the very least, knew it – because we get one of those loving pans up Dean Winchester as he steps out of the car, from foot to calf and right on up to bowlegs and sweater and grumpy Dean. Yum yum and more yum.)

Sam looks equally adorable, and improbably the sweaters and slacks show off just how good Jensen and Jared look when they’re not bundled in the Winchesters’ multiple layers. Again, yum. Seriously. Yum.

11.08 dean guh

11.08 angry sam

Of course, we have to have Dean grumping about how they’re dressed like Bert and Ernie (who, as we know from previous canon, Dean believes are gay, so I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying about their cover. That same guest actress (Carrie Genzel) thought Sam and Dean were together last time too, come to think of it!)

I also had to reach for the tissues for the first time in the middle of this scene, though. Dean expresses, in his very Dean way, the emotions behind his reaction to Sully.

“What did you need Drop Dead Fred for? You weren’t lonely – you had me!”

Oh, Dean. You break my heart in a million pieces.

Then Sam finishes the job (of breaking my heart). We get the first flashback of the episode, to a 9 year old Sam left alone in a motel room, lonely and desperate to feel like part of the family, to be hunting with his brother and his dad. And we get surprise Dylan Everett back as young Dean on the phone, clearly upset as Sam begs him to talk to their Dad and let him join them. The first time I watched this, I was so busy going OMG Dylan is back that I somehow missed the clear cues that tell us that this is not Dean dismissing his little brother. The horn blares, the Impala’s engine rumbles in annoyance, as John lets Dean know he needs to get off the phone and get going. It’s not Dean wanting to leave his brother alone, it’s not Dean not caring about Sam. It’s Dean stuck in the middle, the “good little soldier” who has to obey his father, just a child himself – and the big brother who wants more than anything to “take care of Sammy.” You can see the agony on his face (thanks to Dylan’s amazing acting), when he has to tell Sam he can’t come. The guilt comes out in anger, as Dean lashes out at Sam for having an imaginary friend that is keeping John thinking he’s still a little kid (which he is!). I imagine he’s already feeling threatened by that too. When he’s not there, Sam has someone else. More than anything, Dean wants to be there for Sam. And he can’t.

Cap proudidjit
Cap proudidjit

My rewatch of that scene necessitated many more tissues than my first watch, because all that emotion came through and made sense. Sam’s heartbreak, Dean’s heartbreak. Their father has put them both in a horrible position, and neither can change it. Both are helpless, hurting, lonely. That was never Dean’s fault – that was John’s. I feel so much for Sam, as Dean hangs up the phone and Sam is left waiting, alone. But I feel just as much for Dean, torn apart by having no choice, his loyalty to his father deeply ingrained, unquestionable. I understand why some fans felt at the end of their rope as far as Dean’s story line goes. He has sacrificed so much, and suffered so much, but he often is portrayed as overwhelmed by guilt for not having been perfect. For not being there 24/7 for Sam. For not being the perfect hunter that John wanted. For going to hell, for coming back, for letting people down. But we, as viewers of the whole story, know that guilt is undeserved! Dean was a hurt child every bit as much as Sam; in some ways, perhaps more. Sam had Dean to comfort him and tell him it would be okay, at least sometimes; Dean had no one. Why was there no Zanna for Dean, who was every bit as lost as Sam and just didn’t know it? It’s frustrating that Show doesn’t acknowledge this explicitly; that Dean never gets to hear from anyone that he too is awesome. That he too saved the world. That he did the best he could for his little brother in an impossible situation. When is someone going to tell Dean that??

Good thing I left these tissues right here.


We actually got some of the ‘Americana’ theme during those flashbacks, which maybe was Show’s way of telling us that they too realize the importance of family and being a Winchester to Sam. Thanks, Jay Gruska, for doing an awesome job on the music for this episode. Of course, that only made me need more tissues.

Anyway, then we get Sam and Dean as trauma counselors, and breathtaking closeups (thanks, Serge and Richard).

cap, capturingdean
cap, capturingdean

And we get Dean realizing that the deceased is both a man and a unicorn, which allows him to coin one of those words he loves so much. When the bewildered mom agrees with his “So a manicorn, then”, Dean’s childlike expression of glee is the best thing ever. It’s like a glimpse of Season 1 and 2 Dean, when he looked about five years old whenever he was happy about something.

A significant portion of fandom, myself included, could not help but think of this famous (infamous?) manip, which Danneel once delighted in showing to Jensen. I mean, manicorn, right?

11.08 manicorn2

The next scene is my favorite of the episode – and one of the funniest scenes ever on Supernatural, I think. It’s right up there with The French Mistake “acting” scene, which I still cannot watch without doubling over from laughter.

Sam and Dean and Sully’s horrified faces as the mom walks through the carnage, practically sitting on poor dead Sparkle, and then wipes her face with her sparkly bloodied hand? OMG I was dying. Jared, Jensen and Nate are all so damn talented when it comes to this kind of comedy – all three of them were perfect, and so was the guest actress and her deadpan expression. By the way, that’s Carrie Genzel, whose brother, Kevin, is one of the Show’s artists! (Thanks Mark Meloche, for that interesting tidbit) SPNFamily, literally!

11.08 face

Kudos to all the actors – and Jenny, and Richard, because that scene was awesome!

Dean’s suggestion of a family hot shower as he gets carried away with “The family that showers together…” was also priceless. And will undoubtedly result in either some fanfic or some fabulous gifs.

Cap, nothingidputbefore
Cap, nothingidputbefore

Dylan Kingwell and Nate both got a chance to shine in the flashback scene of Sam and Sully playing “Ever Think” which was shot so brilliantly by Richard. I loved the scene, but at the same time, I started to get a pit in my stomach as soon as Sam mentioned thinking about running away. I don’t WANT Sam to run away! I’m immediately plunged into Dean’s headspace, thinking about how much that would devastate him. I want the Winchesters together and always will, so Sam going down that road – and Sully encouraging him – upset me even as I knew it probably made sense. We know that Sam eventually did run away, so I’m sure he thought of it a lot. And what 9 year old left all alone in a hotel room wouldn’t be pissed as hell and think about running away, if only to punish the parent who left them there? But it still hurt. And I couldn’t help but question Sully’s wisdom in encouraging a little kid to “run away” with only an invisible friend to help him out. Where were they going to go? Were they headed to the foster care system or what? I’m still not sold on that being a good idea at all. That’s as bad as John leaving him alone in the first place.

Shout out to Jenny Klein for some awesome continuity in this episode, btw. It’s always a risk going back to the past, with the potential of not getting canon quite right, but I thought Jenny did a good job. The license plate on the Impala was the one that appeared in After School Special. When Sam talks about thinking he could fly until he broke his arm, we all know that’s the story Dean told about him being Superman and Sam being Batman and jumping off the roof (and being taken to the hospital on Dean’s bike handlebars…). And for young Sam gathering up the Legos and army men that we all recognize instantly as the things that will eventually save the world, stuck in the vents of the Impala for all time. I teared up just seeing them, they mean so much to me.

Cap, sunshinesamwinchester
Cap, sunshinesamwinchester

I know there were some quibbles about Sam not being Colin Ford (who looks anything but nine these days), and about the timeline being so close to the Christmas episode, but those were minor glitches for me. I really appreciated Jenny’s attention to continuity, especially those emotionally significant Winchester moments.

We cut back to Nicki the unfortunate mermaid and Weems the not-quite-as-unfortunate air guitar player – and I have to give kudos again to Richard and to Nicole, because the episode never felt like it jumped around too much, or in an inorganic way. I loved every single one of the Zanna, and the guest actors were all top notch, but I really loved Weems. He reminded me of Ash with his mullet and slacker persona, and I loved that he was such a gentle, caring being in his Zeppelin lyric-ed tee shirt.

Nice job on the horror movie vibe that you had going in that scene, Richard – especially the stab through the sheets! And the Winchesters reluctantly impressed by Weems’ air guitar was also spot on.

The last flashback scene was my favorite, though it was also hard to watch. Sam finally gets the call, and he’s off to be a Winchester, to join his dad and Dean. Is it wrong that I cheered? I wanted Sam to go, I wanted him to be with them, to be a Winchester. Even if, on some level, it’s not what he wanted. My heart broke for Sully though, especially as he was so graceful and unselfish in bowing out of Sam’s life. Ouch.

Sam and Sully’s heart to heart in the present, as Sam has the courage to say he’s sorry and Sully the courage to accept that and move on, pointing out that maybe he was wrong, was also fabulous. Jared and Nate knocked it out of the park.

Sully: It worked out. You’re a hero. You saved the world!


Damn right. God, that was a great scene! I loved them both, the honesty and openness with which they talked to each other. Why can’t Sam and Dean talk like that, openly? It hurts that there’s so much between them that they often can’t. Winchesters saying “I’m sorry, I was a jerk” to each other? It’s what they need. It’s what I desperately want. Please, writers? Carver? Bueller?

I’d also give anything to hear someone say those same words to Dean. You’re a hero. Someone who he could believe when he heard it.

Anyway, kudos to Jenny Klein for getting that scene so right.

I loved Jared’s performance as Sam too, in that heart to heart with Sully scene. His conviction, his hope, as he assures Sully that “Dean and I, we’re gonna fix it.”

Sully: Ever think about running away?

Sam: Not anymore.

I like hearing that, right out, explicit. Sam doesn’t think about leaving, and he doesn’t think about running away. The Winchesters are well and truly in this together. (Even if they are probably still capable of doing things on their own that they think are for the best…)

The climactic scene was incredibly powerful, and guest actress Anja Savcic was also fabulous. We get Dean overpowered (perhaps too easily) by a young woman, and tied to a pole, which allows us some gorgeous close ups because getting hit over the head and tied to a pole always looks good on Dean Winchester.

Cap, s_verasani
Cap, s_verasani

And then we get Nate being so effing good, showing us a heartbroken and regretful and guilty Sully who is willing to die for the mistake he made and how much it messed up the child in his care. His tearful “I’m so sorry” absolutely broke me. And Reese’s reaction, when she gritted out “I’m still so mad!”, was one of the most realistic depictions of the rage that childhood trauma can leave behind that I’ve ever seen.

While some felt the change in Reese happened too easily, to me was spot on. If you’ve never seen the power of validation and apology, maybe it would seem that way, but it’s more powerful than just about anything. Reese, in those few moments, was validated and apologized to and forgiven – and it made all the difference. Maybe – probably – okay, for sure – the Winchesters wouldn’t have let her go if she was killing humans. And it was still tragic and horrible and not okay. But I could accept that they let her go because she was changed. It was like three minute intensive therapy and sure, in real life, that doesn’t happen in three minutes. But it does happen.

What happened between the Winchesters during that scene was equally moving. Dean finally freeing himself, and instead of trying to overpower her physically and take the knife, he decides to speak. And he’s every bit as genuine as Sully is. Dean Winchester knows a thing or two about revenge, and what it gets you and what it doesn’t. He also models the same sense of responsibility that Sully does, essentially apologizing to Sam for not being there – and finally able to express gratitude that when he couldn’t be, Sully was. That is huge for Dean, and it’s clearly huge for Sam too. Look at his expression; he’s focused on Dean the entire time. Dean is talking to Reese, but he’s also talking to Sam. That whole scene, after all, was all about siblings and how much losing them impacts us. If there has ever been a Supernatural theme, that is it. And this season has been all about the sibling relationships.

I started to cry as soon as Dean said “When I wasn’t there for my little brother, Sully was.” Jay Gruska’s iconic musical score started to play and I sobbed harder. There were tears in Dean’s eyes, and Reese sobbed too, and that whole scene left me way more emotional than I expected to be. Kudos, Show. All of you, kudos.

Sully’s parting words to Sam and Dean were so well done. Seriously, Jenny, you outdid yourself with the dialogue.

Heroes aren’t perfect. Sometimes they’re scared.

And Sully to Dean, saying some of the things I always long for Dean to hear: Thank you for looking out for Sam. You’re not a germ at all.

Dean plays it off, in true Dean fashion, but those words must sink right into his heart, because that is what Dean Winchester needs to hear more than anything else. That he HAS looked out for Sam. That he IS okay – not a failure, not a fuck up, not a bad big brother. I wish Sully had gone so far as to tell the other Winchester brother that he too is a hero who has saved the world, that he too is “awesome”, but this is a step in that direction. And a lot more than Dean usually gets to hear!

Dean’s “you’re a good weird” back is both typical Dean and actually a really nice thing to say. I would consider that a lovely compliment, personally. Pretty sure that’s the theme of ‘Fangasm! Supernatural Fangirls’.

We end the way we always should, in my humble opinion, with the brothers in the car driving off into the night. But oh, their conversation leaves me filled with dread.

Sam’s going back to the Cage, isn’t he? With or without Dean.

Dean, typically, gets protective and tries to shut the possibility down.

“Not happening. Good talk.”

Sam’s not having it though. He pushes, challenges Dean, who keeps saying they’ll find another way, there’s always another way.

Sam: Then tell me, what’s the other way?

Dean can’t answer. And that says so much.

11.08 barbaramsd

And here is where I dissolved into inappropriate giggles.

Me: Well Sam, if Dean just turns the car around, to the left, you’ll see that there actually is another way…

Impossible to have watched the boys’ gag reel moment of going off script and turning the Impala around while director Richard let it happen, and not start laughing at that moment. Sorry, Jenny, I know it was a serious scene full of impending doom. But damn, that little vid was funny!

Here’s what Jensen had to say about filming that:

Jensen: I had a line that was something like “There’s always another way,” but I messed up and said “There’s another way.” Jared and I, we know each other so well, not a lot of people can do that, but when we mess up, the other one just goes back and feeds the line again.

Apparently Jared threw him the line again, Jensen messed it up again – -and again – and then Jared was just like ok, now we’re gonna make it a bit.

Jensen: We do that a lot… It was during Richard’s episode, and he didn’t yell cut – probably because he was like, what are they doing?? – and then it was just us being stupid. That also happens a lot.

Thankfully! Richard said that he knew they were cooking up something, so he let the camera roll – and we’re glad he did!

In our interview with Richard, he talked about how Supernatural is this incredible collaboration. That, as a first time director on the Show, he felt like they all linked arms to provide a safety net for him so he could succeed. That’s the thing that’s so special and unique about this Show, especially after eleven seasons on the air. The writing, the acting, the cinematography, the art direction, the costuming, the music, the editing – it all came together.

Sunset tweet during filming by @anjasav
Sunset tweet during filming by @anjasav

And when the episode aired, the SPNFamily was there to support them.

Other guest actors tweeted their congrats. Even Ben Edlund and Eric Kripke took to twitter to tell Jenny and Richard how proud they were.

Kripke: I knew the ep would be nutty; didn’t count on it being so touching and true to the boys. Well done. Proud of you.

Not gonna lie, that made me tear up. Getting the creator’s blessing is a big thing. SPNFamily, y’all.

Jensen and Jared tweeted a photo of their frowny faces from set: Guess who’s NOT watching…because they’re MAKING Supernatural? These guys!

11.08 jensen tweet guess whos not watching bc making

John Barrowman: But I’m watching.

Me: Oh this is awesome!

I guess I should stop writing now – told you this would be long! Thanks to everyone for this great big beautiful collaboration that is my favorite Show.

Read more about Richard’s experience directing the episode in yesterday’s post here. And stay tuned for our chat with Matt Cohen, and more from the last convention at Pascon!

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52 thoughts on “A Great Big Beautiful Collaboration: Supernatural ‘Just My Imagination’

  • This ep was so, so good. You touched on a lot of things that stood out to me as well–why didn’t Dean have a Zanna? When will he get to hear that the’s a hero, that he is worthwhile, that he’s done good? This ep was a step in the right direction for some of those things, but it also left me aching for more.

    This is an ep I can see myself watching again and again, a perfect blend of humor and emotion that Supernatural does so well.

    • I assumed Dean didn’t have a Zanna because he wasn’t lonely? Maybe wee!Sam was enough for him? Dean respected John Winchester and probably liked being his hunter partner. So between Sam, John, and the girls he scored with, Dean wasn’t lonely or feeling like freak/outsider.

  • “And I couldn’t help but question Sully’s wisdom in encouraging a little kid to “run away” with only an invisible friend to help him out. Where were they going to go? Were they headed to the foster care system or what? I’m still not sold on that being a good idea at all. That’s as bad as John leaving him alone in the first place.”
    Although your quesetions are valid, my interpetation to “runnng away” was encouraged by Sully as a way to be independent, to be what ever Sam wanted to be. Simple, young 9-year-old terms. Sam has always “run away” to be his independent self (going off the college) as well as running away to be less of a burden to Dean. He also “runs away” to think things through when they get overwhelming. So when Sully asks adult Sam about ever thinking of running away, Sam’s answer is very mature. Through the 10 plus season Sam has grown up. Dean is the first born and even when he gets those compliments, he is not going to accept them. I’m not saying Dean hasn’t matured during the past 10 seasons but his character was formed and solidified in the first first season.

    • I think that was the intention, and that psychological encouragement makes sense, even if it did give me butterflies. But Sully had his rucksack ready to roll and seemed to be saying ‘let’s go’ physically, which confused me.

  • I’ve seen a lot of flak on Twitter about how “easily” Reese overpowered Dean. Balls, people she explained it. “I’m still so mad!” (I broke out in a cold sweat at that line.) She had rage, and fear, and adrenaline fueled by cruelty and desperation. Wasn’t done easily at all.

    • Excellent point. Anja did such a fabulous job portraying all that rage and pain, which is quite alot of adrenaline-fueled power when you finally get the chance to let it out!

  • Great review. I have heard nothing but complements for this episode .

    I thought the episode was outstanding all the way around. I was so glad to see Sam have someone who finally told him that he was a hero and that he saved the world. Someone who said “wow” when they found out who he was instead of the “boy with the demon blood” or that kid who let Lucifer out.

    We’ve had more than one episode where Sam gets outsider POV that gives him insight into Dean’s childhood, so it was really nice to have it reversed.

    Sam has told him Dean he’s a hero, that he’s a genius and just last season when Dean was going to kill him, he told him he would never be anything but good. Dean had Charlie tell him she loved him, he’s had Castiel as his angel, he had Bobby who admitted that Dean was his favorite, so it was kind of nice to see someone for Sam. And I think Dean hearing thank you from Sully was fabulous because you could tell by the end of the episode how much Dean respected him. I tear up just thinking about it.

    And I did love the comedy so much. Jensen’s lines were great and Nate’s “She’s got Sparkles on her face” had me rolling.

    I’m loving Season 11 so far.

    • Me too! And yes, absolutely Sam has told Dean he’s a hero (if only Dean could truly believe him). I guess I wish he’d had someone tell him he was awesome when he was a kid. then maybe he would have grown up thinking it – it was a wonderful gift that Sully gave Sam. I’m glad Sully said what he did though. What a fabulous character Jenny created in Sully! And oh yes, absolutely, I’m so glad he reminded Sam that he saved the world. it’s kinda a big deal 🙂

  • What a great review. It was so in depth and insightful. I have only minor quibbles with this episode, young Sam’s hair was too short, ending was rushed with Reese, but otherwise very good. I think I’m heading over to Amazon to buy your book now.

    • Well that makes my day! Please be sure to come back here and let me know what you think if you read it 🙂

  • I imagine that Dean didn’t have a Zanna because he didn’t need one. If he wasn’t hunting with John then he was with Sam so he was never alone, while explains why he is so reluctant to be left alone now.

    Sam tells Dean that he’s a hero, that he has done good, that he’s worthwhile the whole time. Castiel has also told Dean that frequently.

    I’ll be honest, I find the idea that Sam can only be a Winchester if he joins with his father and brother to be disappointing. I thought the show had grown beyond this ‘comply or get out’ mentality, that Sam has to be a hunter to be a Winchester. If, at some stage, Sam, or Dean, decide enough is enough and they want out then are they no longer family? Imagine how crippling that would be. It raises the question as to why the person is staying in the first place.

    • I do think Dean needed a Zanna – not because he was alone, but because he was most certainly “lost” himself (like Weems’ charge, who was also not alone but definitely needed a friend). It’s true that Sam has told Dean that he’s a hero (as i said above, if only Dean could really believe it), but he could have really used some positive reinforcement as a kid. It was a wonderful gift Sully gave Sam, “you’re awesome.”

      I hear you – in real life, it would be disappointing for sure. But for these fictional characters on a television show, I’m invested in Sam and Dean being hunters. It would be a very different show otherwise! But if they were real people, I’m with you 100%. And certainly neither Dean nor Sam has ever held each other to that standard – they will be family no matter what. That was just me rambling about what I want from the Show 🙂

  • THANK YOU for doing this episode review justice. Sometimes it feels like you and I share a brain. In case that is true, I need to borrow it back next Tues from 3-4pm (if that works for you). Kthx.

    Anyway, lovely job recounting all the nuances. And I really appreciate your professional POV on Reese. Next time you see Jenny or Richard, however, please let them know a throw-away line about later cleaning up the Sparkle crime scene would have gone a long way. I mean SERIOUS CHILDHOOD TRAUMA… and it’s gonna smell eventually. So… I’ve made my own head canon that between Nikki and getting the call from Weems, they doubled back to clean up Sparkle. *sigh*

    And excellent episode and an excellent review!

    • I’m going to adopt your head canon and decide that they definitely went back and cleaned that up – otherwise, you’re totally right!

  • just a quick note…awesome review by the way….but Sam has told Dean that he’s awesome….a few times…..in fresh blood sam told dean he’s been looking up to him since he was 4 yrs old. In trial and error, Sam gave Dean a speech about him not being a grunt, telling him he’s a hero….Sam told Dean again in brother’s keeper that dean would never hear Sam say anything except that dean is good. It’s not that Dean hasn’t heard from Sam how much Sam admires him and thinks he’s a hero….it’s that Dean can’t seem to believe it himself.

      • There was the conversation with Cas last season (10×09) when he said “I’m not exactly a role model” and Cas told him that wasn’t true. He scoffed and moved on fast, of course.

        But yeah – I was also struck with how Dean really could have done with his own Zanna. Then again, maybe he’d have been too preoccupied with trying to impress his dad to have acknowledged one if it was there…

      • Bobby did too, if I recall? In S6, in the Veritas episode, he admitted Dean was his favorite.

        I think both brothers are frequently positively reinforced, but it’s the little voices inside their own noggins that speak the loudest, most times. 😉

    • Yes, very true. I think Dean has trouble believing it because he never heard it when he was younger. I’m so glad Sam had Sully to tell him “you’re awesome” at a young age.

  • Wonderful review. You said it all. I feel like the psychology of this episode was spot on. I am in no way a psychologist. But I have worked with homeless traumatized adults and children for 7 years. I totally saw the nuances as possible, whereas others on twitter had their gripes. But not going there. Enjoying the squee of S11 and its awesomeness!

    I did love the comment on Sully’s hair. Reinforces what I read in another good review that Sully was kind of a combination of Sam/Dean. LOL

    It was just such an incredible episode from the laugh out loud humor, which I did, to the tears that rolled down my cheek later. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried over a guest character before. Usually it’s a Sam and Dean scene or long time character’s death. But that scene with Sully and Reese just got to me too. They did such a great job. Sully was certainly a surprisingly touching new character and I hope we see him again. And the actor was superb as they all indicated.

    Well, can’t add anything you haven’t already said. Just DITTO, DITTO and DITTO.

    • I’m glad it rang true with you too, with your experience. I totally agree. And OMG, were the guest cast ever awesome in this episode! They brought their A game, and allowed Jared and Jensen to do the same – and all of us to benefit 🙂

  • Great review, especially the end because I was getting emotional at the car scene until the gag scene flashed in my head and I kept giggling also.

  • I understand what you’re saying about Sully encouraging Sam to run away but I didn’t see it as encouragement but more like validation, maybe. That’s probably the wrong word as well. I think Sully was saying “whatever you decide, I will support you and I’ll be there”. He was letting Sam think it through and Sam using Sully as a sounding board. Sully acted like his job wasn’t to tell Sam what to do but to be there in whatever he chose. Unconditional love.

    • Unconditional love for sure – he showed that when he left Sam with a heartfelt wish for him to have a good life. *sniffles*

  • One other thing about the flashback phone scene. And I have to note this is an element someone else pointed out first, so no credit to me.
    A lot of that conversation was probably Dean trying his hardest to keep Sam innocent and a child for as long as possible. We’ve seen during the Xmas episode how he didn’t want Sam to know about monsters for as long as possible. So how much more would he have needed to keep Sam away from the actual hunt as long as possible too.
    I can’t imagine John would have needed all that much persuasion to start taking Sam along – -he was always more protective of Sam, but not that much– and it probably didn’t take that long for Sam to start asking to come.
    I can imagine Dean walking that line, telling Sam that of course I’ll ask dad, and he would bring it up to John because he wouldn’t want to lie, but asking in such a way as to make sure that John would say no. Rationalizing to himself, Sammy’s probably lonely all alone in the motel room but it’s better than him being out on a hunt. So the first time Sam came along was also probably something of a failure for Dean, in his mind.
    Ugh, tears again.

    • Oh no, where did I put those tissues??? I can absolutely see that being the case, absolutely. Oh, my heart… (Thanks for that lol!)

  • I enjoyed the episode a lot, but Dean’s reaction to Sully and some of his lines throughout the episode felt downright mean to me. Not just funny or grumpy, but I was thinking, “Damn, dude, you’re being kind of an asshole right now, what’s the matter with you?”. There’s this theory on Tumblr that Dean is soulless, and during that episode, I was inclined to believe it. The ending made it better, though.
    Another thing that irked me a bit was the giant plot whole that Twitter has come to call #WheresTheAngel. I get that Cas can’t be in every episode (Misha having scenes apart from J2 so that the boys have more free time), but they had him essentially move into the bunker at the beginning of the season and now it’s like he never existed. Earlier episodes did a good job of just giving a line here and there where he is and what he’s doing, but this felt like sloppy storytelling. Maybe a line got lost in editing?
    Other than that, I loved the episode. I’m always a sucker for Wee!chesters scenes and flashbacks, so that was lovely. And Sully is just the best – what a great character, phantastic actor!

    • I’ve seen that theory too, and I do agree that Dean has been written as verrrrrry grumpy this season – borderline mean sometimes. I’m not sure why that is, since I don’t think he’s soulless, but perhaps it does have something to do with Amara and her hold over him. Hmm. I felt like he softened as the episode went on, though, realizing himself that he was too far on the side of being a dick. And yes, no mention of Cas was weird, now that he’s actually at the bunker where the episode began.

  • I couldn’t agree more with your review, I am sometimes a bit uncomfortable with your reviews as you are so close to the people involved, which is not to say that I do not think they are very good! I loved this episode but as you said it would be so nice to have Dean be validated as a good brother and as having saved the world too. I have to let that sort of frustration go as otherwise is just builds up and it stops me enjoying the show. I look forward to seeing your e mails come up and reading all about your con visits etc.

    • Yes, I let that kind of frustration go too (once I’ve vented here lol!) Nothing really stops my enjoyment of the show, though I never want my reviews to be just oh yes great great loved it loved it. If I did, I’m going to scream it, but if I didn’t, I’m going to be critical. At least for the moment 🙂

  • Great episode! Thank you again, Richard!

    Memorable scene that I will NEVER forget: Dean, Sam, and Sully are forced to walk into the Manicorn “death room” with the child’s mother, who can’t “see” the horrible carnage. What follows is a masterpiece of comedy. Seriously, I laughed so hard my dog barked at me!

    Welcome to SPN’s directorial ranks; you truly deserve to be there. Best wishes for the future!

    [Preceding review covers episode very well! Thanks for taking time to write it!]

    • I so agree – that scene ranks up there with the one of the funniest in the entire series. Masterfully directed, written and acted! hehehe

  • I think for a lot of fans who’s heart lean more towards the sam side of the spectrum, hearing those words out of sully regarding sam being a hero was a long time coming and validation for what they/we have always known to be so. For the record, both boys are heroes in my eyes and the both boys were pawns and the real cause for the near Apocalypse were the angels/demons. That being said, show has often shown, in quite a few episodes, most recently s9, that Sam was in fact the one responsible for the near Apocalypse. That wasn’t really fair because Dean was just as responsible. It took them both to break the seals…like I noted, they were pawns. I think though that regardless of this fact, Sam was basically the scapegoat. It was pointed out a few times, even by Bobby when possessed by the demon. Dean knew he played his part, he knew he started it, but there were many times when Sam got blamed, that Dean remained silent. He let Sam take the heat. He never admitted to anyone that he was just as responsible. So a lot of the fandom over the years tired of Sam taking the heat alone. Even after he jumped in the pit and saved the world….show would bring up the Apocalypse and Sam’s part in it. A story we thought was laid to rest, still being brought up as part of storyline which was to lead Sam down the road he took in s8. I get why the writers did it….and it made for an awesome storyline….but alas the frustration from the Sam fans grew and grew…..So when Sully pointed out that what Sam did was in fact heroic and saved the world….I think a lot of these fans finally felt that they and sam had what was long due them. In no way does that take away from the fact that Dean is a hero….to Sam, his fans, and the world as well……it’s just that Dean has always been blatantly portrayed as a hero….it’s very important to him to be seen that way as we saw back in after school special….he kept saying how his father was a hero…..Dean’s primary goal has always been to save people….and most importantly be a hero in his brother’s eyes…..and he is seen as a hero in his brother’s eyes….and I think they’ve come across quite a few along the way who have praised him and thanked him for what they do….I think what dean really craved his whole life was validation from his father…..but that’s a whole other psychological discussion….LOL..

    as I see it….Both boys are and always will be heroes in my book. 😀

    • I couldn’t agree more! And I should say that I was THRILLED to get more Sam pov in this episode, which I complained about being lacking for several seasons. It’s so good to get inside Sam’s head, see the world through his eyes. We’re getting more of that in S11 and it’s making the whole story better — not just for the character of Sam, but for Dean too. And for all of us watching!

      I too am very grateful that Sully was able to remind him that he truly is a hero — he really did save the world, and he needs to remember that now more than ever.

      ps – I agree with you about what Dean craves, which is why it often makes me sad that he didn’t get that…

    • “Dean knew he played his part, he knew he started it, but there were many times when Sam got blamed, that Dean remained silent.”

      That part always disturbed me about Dean, and also Cas as well, especially since the latter was the only one who KNEW who the last seal was and never fessed up his part in knowingly starting the apocalypse. In my eyes it made Dean (and Cas) look rather cowardly and I felt like I’ve lost deep respect for them while my respect and admiration for Sam went through the roof, and I didn’t start out a Sam fan.

  • Dean’s pre-coffee grumpiness was adorable! Also I definitely got the feeling that Dean and Sully had maybe exchanged insults through Sam (very) early on: it didn’t really feel like the first time calling each other “germ” or “dumbass!”

    I’m not sure Dean would have been as open to accepting an imaginary friend as Sam was: I just don’t see Dean admitting easily at that age that he needed help, or that his life wasn’t the greatest ever, or that his family wasn’t all he needed, or even that not everything supernatural was evil. Even if all those things might be true, Dean threw a lot of himself into pretending they weren’t. He was also very practical about living the life in front of him, so for me all that’s why I don’t think he necessarily would have been open to having an imaginary friend of his own, even if it might have been good for him!

    On another level, it kind of makes my heart hurt to ponder the extent to which the fabulously epic fucked-upedness of the Winchesters’ lives reached out and traumatized Sully and Reese as second and third degree associates. That is some epic intensity, y’all.

    I really take for granted that the boys must do a lot of cleaning up bodies off-screen, so omitting Sparkles was less surprising than getting to see them bury the mermaid! Though it’s hard to picture what the returning family would think of a fresh-dug grave in their yard.

    Maybe Zanna magic glossed it over for them.

    Thanks for this review and all the other awesome write-ups you’ve been doing, every single one is a great read, and I love all the thinky thoughts!

    • You expressed far better than I managed to, why Dean may not have been receptive to his own Zanna – thank you!

      Also, great point about the ripple effect of the Winchester family dynamic!

  • Great review, for a great episode. I’m not always such a fan of Klein’s episodes, but this was fantastic. And a big thumbs up to Directing Dick, for a fabulous debut!

    I know a lot of people were put off by Dean’s attitude at the start, and yeah, he really was being a dick. But I pretty much expected that. Just musing on the synopsis in advance – the very idea of Sam having – needing – an imaginary friend? Of course that is a knife in the belly to Dean. Of course that would make him think the worst of himself. And of course that would make him lash out and act like a dick.

    I was so, so happy when he made the speech at the end… they all needed that, Dean as much as Sam and Sully!

  • I’ll likely forevermore refer to this episode as “The One where Sam’s imaginary friend tells him to nut up and go to Hell.”

    I’m late to the party, so I’ll try – really! – to keep this brief.

    First of all, I agree with the review so much, and most of what I was thinking is expressed elsewhere in the comments. (The glorious straight man performance of the mom covered in Sparkle’s blood, however, is just so amazing I need to say it again. And Sam getting teary-eyed and somehow looking like a little kid despite his massiveness while talking to Sully about what he’s done, the way Jared was able to manipulate his posture and speech to achieve that … I’m not one to cry during a show and I got misty at that. Jenny Klein’s script was incredible. And Nate Torrence in general, and … )

    Okay, I’ll stop before I just relist the greatest hits. Because this thing was spot on amazing.

    There is one thing that’s nagging me, though. I really, truly want Sully to be a Winchester ally. I do. Partly because seriously, they just need more of those, and also because as I said – and everyone has said – Nate Torrence nailed this and I want to see more of him on the show. But, isn’t it just a tiny bit suspect that this supernatural creature befriended a hunter’s kid and then encouraged that kid to quit hunting? And not just a hunter, but John Winchester, a man so tied to the Apocalypse that he was brought back from the dead in 1973 and at one point was Michael. Wouldn’t the Zanna get that in his notes? (Since again, apparently the entire supernatural realm is set up like a cubicle farm.) Even if Sully somehow didn’t know that, there’s no way he wouldn’t have known about the demon blood Sam had running through his system as a kid. There are references in the show to Sam smelling different or tasting different to the creatures that have snacked on him. Furthermore, if all the other deities knew about the Winchesters brothers and their place in the Apocalypse (as in Hammer of the Gods) then, wouldn’t it make sense that Sully might know that, too? So, was Sully trying to get Sam out of the way for Sam’s good, or for some other agenda? Clearly Sam was on a path that one way or another he was going to grow up to be an enemy either of the world in general or of the Zanna and all other creatures that he could potentially hunt. Was Sully trying to curtail that destiny either for the betterment of the world or the protection of his own kind? Sully didn’t leave his “take yourself out of the game” talk in the past either. He is actively telling Sam to jump in the cage in his cajoling imaginary friend way, and he was doing that at the point of the episode where Sam is obviously at his most vulnerable.

    Like I said I really want Sully to be an ally, but this seems like it could be set up to go the other way.

    This could also address why Dean didn’t get a Zanna. Also, what exactly are the requirements for a Zanna, and should my kid’s imaginary bat being freaking me out?

    • That would be a nice twist wouldn’t it!! But I agree I would rather Sully be an ally. Laughed my ass off during the Mom walking through Sparkle scene. Everybody was just spot on!!

    • My sense is that Zannas are only focused on the kids, who have limited world views so the Zannas’ world views are limited too. Like if Hobbes was Calvin’s Zanna, then Hobbes’ only concern is Calvin, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Sam’s demon blood is irrelevant because that doesn’t define Sam, it’s not the child’s fault that he was infected with DB, or that his mother is a drunk on “grown up juice”. All that is required to get a Zanna is loneliness or being lost. Sam was a lonely child and a lost soul.

      Most supernatural creatures on the show didn’t know or didn’t care that the angles got too big for their britches and tried to jump start the Apocalypse, they carried on with their lives and killings. I don’t recall the vampires give a flying fig about the antics of angels or demons, until the Leviathans came along and challenged their food supply.

      I saw fans point out that Zannas are completely opposites of the angels on this show.
      While angels are arrogant, judgmental, humanity-hating monsters who tear families apart when they take vessels while trying to manipulate events through threats, torture, and overriding people’s free will, Zannas are kind, gives unconditional love and support, non judgemetnal, and guide children toward confidence and independence. In other words, Zannas are what angels are ideally supposed to be in our pop culture. Zannas and angels are even on the opposite ends of the alphabet set.

  • I’m afraid this is one of the few eps where I see no redeeming qualities. I was bored throughout the ep, the flasbacks bored me so much I had to FF through them and the only other time I’ve done that was with the awful songs in Fan Fiction. The zannas were pretty annoying and when Sully went on about Sam saving the world I just rolled mycket eyes. And why didn’t Dean who arguably would’ve needed someone on his side as a young kid get a Zanna? That was very weird how that was glossed over. I also hated that they made Dean thank Sully for being there for Sam when Dean weren’t, as if Dean was somehow at fault for sam being alone. And again who was there for Dean? No one. I didn’t buy that John would leave sam alone either, not when his mantra was watch out for Sammy. Sullys advice was awful. A young kid should run away? Sam needs to go to the cage because he is the only one who has the balls? Please. The plan is the stupidest plan ever. The they topped it off with the sister who killed all zannas being one of the worst actresses they’ve had on the show. The whole ending was eye rolling but at that time I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention anymore. I really wanted to like it because Richard was directing but there was just nothing to like about that script.

  • Lynn, just caught this wonderful review just now, funny enough Lynn happens to be my middle name. Thanks for the shout out, this really was such an incredible episode to be a part of from the script, to Richard, to of course, the SPN cast and crew, and yes, my brother is included in that list, he is a VFX artist on the show. Loved your review, SPN forever!

    • Hi Carrie – I was SO impressed with your performance! I have no clue how you kept a straight face throughout that insanity 🙂 If you’d like to chat about your experience on Supernatural, we’d love to do an interview with you for Fangasm. And I totally agree — SPN forever!

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