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A perfectly healthy Dean is sitting up in bed with Sam standing by him. The doctor is talking, and I swear this guy is Dr. Hibberd from "The Simpsons." I mean, even the way he talks! The edema has vanished, the internal contusions have healed, his vitals are good. "You have some kind of angel watching over you." He does! A hot blue eyed one in a trench coat. Oh wait, season four. Dean isn't feeling so lucky. For a guy that was dead and now alive, he's looking rather grim.
"You said a reaper was after me?" Dean asks. Oh great, he got the memory wipe too. He wonders how he ditched it. Right, like Sam knows. Sam doesn't seem to care, for there's some happiness under that hideously bruised and scarred face. Where's Castiel when you need him? Sam asks if he remembers anything. "No, except this pit in my stomach. Sam, something's wrong." Yeah, it's called your Daddy has messed up the natural order, BIG TIME.
Speaking of Daddy, John is at the door, clothes on, arm in a sling. He must have just come from the boiler room. He looks relieved that Dean is alright. He asks Dean how he feels and Dean just gives him a "Fine, I guess. I'm alive." Yeah, Dean, don't get too excited. John thinks that's all that matters. Sam isn't being so nice though. His look goes back to anger and he wonders where John was last night. Trying to find something that will fix your face Sammy. Okay, that would have been my smart answer. John says he had to take care of some things. "Oh, that's specific," Sam says. What, like you were expecting an honest answer?
Dean doesn't have to "Swayze that mother" this time. He gives a "Come on Sam." Sam still has a stick up his ass. "Did you go after the demon?" John answers no, even though he doesn't want to have this conversation. Sam presses on. "Why don't I believe you now?" Gee Sam, isn't that kind of the pot calling the kettle black? Oh wait, that's future you. Never mind. Dean is mortified and John makes the best appeal he can without saying "Shut up you idiot I'm about to die!"
"Can we not fight? You know, half the time we're fighting I don't know what we're fighting about. We're just butting heads. Look Sammy I've made some mistakes. But I've always done the best I could." Dean is listening to that like something is really wrong. "I just don't want to fight anymore, okay?" John's eyes are a bit glassy and his voice cracks a little. Sam is staring at him now like he's looking at a stranger who looks like his Dad but can't be. "Dad, are you alright?" Sam asks. John claims he's just tired and then he...sends Sam for coffee?? Not even a goodbye hug?? You're about to say goodbye forever and you can't show some affection for your youngest son?? The one that you've spend your entire life trying to protect? Sorry, I still have a problem with that.
Sam and Dean share a look of confusion (they did that a lot even back then) and Sam leaves the room. Dean knows something is wrong and asks John "What is it?" Okay Dean, get ready for the speech. "You know, when you were a kid, I'd come home from a hunt and after what I'd seen, I'd be wrecked. And you, you'd come up to me and you'd put your hand on my shoulder, you'd look me in the eye and you'd say "˜It's okay Dad.'" John is fighting back tears here and dammit, so am I. Dean looks really scared now.
So John says the one thing that normally would get him outed as being possessed by a demon, but we know it's real because the special score music is playing. "Dean, I'm sorry." Dean has no idea for what. "You shouldn't have had to say that to me. I should have been saying that to you. You know I put too much on your shoulders, I made you grow up too fast. You took care of Sammy, you took care of me. You did that. And you didn't complain, not once." Now tears start streaming down John's face. "I just want you to know, that I'm so proud of you."
Dean remembers recent history a bit too vividly. "Is this really you talking?" John says it's really him. "What are you saying all this stuff?" A really freaked out Dean asks and rightfully so. John comes closer. "I want you to watch out for Sammy, okay?" "Yeah Dad, you know I will. You're scaring me." John tells him not to be scared and leans over to whisper something in Dean's ear. This part is just brilliant. It's all done with gestures and looks. The focus for most of this is on Dean's face and it stuns him. Dean looks at John like he just punched him in the gut. John deals with Dean's silent yet disturbed reaction with a teary look of confidence, like everything is going to be alright. Really? Sorry, but everything is so NOT going to be alright.
Of all of Dean Winchester's tragedies, I think only Sam's first death hurt him more than this. The one time he finally gets validation from the person he idolized the most and he finds out later it's because that man was about to die, trading his life for his. Survivor's guilt! Then, to add insult to injury, his Dad leaves him with a cryptic and horrifying message about his brother and the crap load of burdens that came with it. I'm sure this has been debated for a while now, but what in the world was John thinking by telling Dean this? Didn't he realize he was haunting his son for the rest of his life?
Sooo, an emotional John Winchester ends it at that, leaving his youngest son without a goodbye and his oldest with the creepiest farewell that anyone could possibly get. Ah, what heartwarming family memories. I swear to this day I don't know why Sam and Dean didn't go howling into that nuthouse. John goes into his room and tells Yellow Eyes he's ready.
God this next part kills me every time. An unsuspecting Sam is walking in the hall with that coffee he was told to retrieve. That coffee that prevented him from making peace with his Dad and giving him the proper goodbye. That coffee that created guilt which like a black cloud followed him wherever he went. Sam sees John lying on the floor dead. In some cinematic brilliance (again kudos to the director), the sound only being the dramatic score, we get the slo-mo of a horrified Sam dropping the coffee and in the foreground is the coffee crashing and splashing on the ground while in the background Sam is crouching down over John yelling for help. We can't hear his cries but can see the distress, thus making the emotional impact of this scene 80 times larger. I still marvel over this execution of Sam's haunting discovery.
The crash team is working on John and no surprise, he's not coming around. He's long gone. Sam comes back after fetching Dean and is holding his weakened brother in the hallway as they both watch in terror their father die. They pronounce John dead and...fade to black. Yep, when this first aired I suspect there was a little rumble, aka the sound of millions of fan girls screaming at their TVs. When I saw this the words that came to my mind were "Damn You Kripke!" but I think I was holding back. I'm sure others had something a bit more laced with profanity. Farewell thee John Winchester. We know you did your best. Too bad that ended up not being even close to good enough.