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Roundtable Discussion on Supernatural 11×8 “Just My Imagination”

Welcome to this week’s Supernatural Roundtable for Episode 11×8. “Just My Imagination” was written by Jenny Klein and directed by recurring guest star and fan favorite, Richard Speight, Jr. Participants include Jackie Bojarski, Debbie Bach, Tracy Miller, Stacy Miller, and Michele Villery. As always, we appreciate your comments, so feel free to join our discussion below!

Topics:

Imaginary Friends:

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Tracy: Supernatural excels at taking risks in telling a story. We’ve seen the show feast on meta and break the fourth wall with classic episodes like Hollywood Babylon, Changing Channels and The French Mistake. Perhaps these episodes were a harbinger for introducing imaginary friends to the Supernatural landscape. The skilled writing mind of Jenny Klein coupled with directorial genius of Richard Speight, Jr. gave us the treasure of Just My Imagination. The imaginary friends presented in this episode were colorful and unique. I liked how they not only had a role in assisting children with the challenges of youth but they also were depicted as having lives of their own. They had romantic interests.

This episode successfully walked that delicate tightrope from gore to humor, pausing to allow the viewer to get a glimpse into how Sam’s childhood experiences shaped and continue to impact his heroic destiny.

Stacy: “Just My Imagination” was a study of the importance that having imaginary friends plays in the growth and development of a child’s life. Childhood can be a challenging and sometimes difficult road to take. It is often filled with disappointments and frustrations. Many times, children find it hard to express these feelings to adults, especially their parents. Creating imaginary friends is their way to have someone to talk with that can offer them support and guidance. These imaginary friends can take the form of another child. This usually happens when the kid in question is an only child. As in the case of Supernatural’s imaginary friends, they took the form of outwardly creatures. I believe imaginary friends are an important coping mechanism for children and shouldn’t be belittled.

Michele: I loved the premise of this so much. The boys have been through a lot in the 11 years we’ve known them. In between these years, we’ve gotten glimpses of both Sam and Dean as children to show us what it was like having a hunter for a father and being young hunters themselves. It’s not an easy life. Being left alone in hotel rooms, moving from town to town, different schools. We’ve seen both boys yearn for a normal life. If an imaginary friend helped Sam get through some of the difficulties of that life, I’m for it.

Debbi: I loved this ‘monster’! I love the idea of them being real and helping children get through rough times when they otherwise feel alone. I so wish I’d had one! Additionally, I think it was brilliant of the Showrunner and writers to establish that Sam had an imaginary friend as a child. There was no one more alone than he was at times and even after he learned about the existence of monsters and began training, Sam would have still felt like the outsider in the Winchester family. He was one wishing for normal, wishing to run away and yet idolizing his brother and wanting to be exactly like him. Neither John or Dean would have had the patience that Sully did to help Sam figure out what it was he wanted. Even if in the end, it wasn’t Sully.

The whole idea of an imaginary friend network where they have Zahenna (sp?) radio to keep in touch with one another is genius. I loved that when faced with the murder of one of his posse Sully knew who to turn to for help, that he kept tabs on his charges as they grew. Where the concept of guardian angels has been pretty much smashed to bits by Supernatural’s angel canon, the Zahenna pick up the slack to serve and protect vulnerable children.

All that said, the murders of the Zahenna were just a subplot for Sam’s exploration of his own past and the decisions he made as a child and again as an adult to commit to the family business.

Jackie: This episode brought Sam’s imaginary friend into the picture with surprisingly heartwarming results, in my opinion. On the surface, the introduction of imaginary friends into the show seemed silly and goofy; however, the episode handled it in such a way as to make it heartfelt as well as insightful. For starters, I thought that the revelation that imaginary friends were actually Zana, benevolent supernatural beings akin to guardian angels whose purpose for existing is to help make lonely kids feel better about themselves. In the real world, imaginary friends are often the product of a lonely child’s vivid imagination, so this revelation from the show didn’t feel that far removed from reality.

Of course, the fact that Sam must have been so lonely and so lost as to require the assistance of a Zana is heartbreaking. But I’ll get into that later!

Sully:

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Tracy: Sully was a great character. He allowed us to be privy to the lonely childhood of Sam Winchester. While Sam was burdened by the nomadic, heartbreaking existence of the hunter lifestyle, there was an ironic undercurrent in that he was often treated as an outsider by his own family. Sam was confined to motels, a second class Winchester in a sense not considered equipped to handle being a hunter. For all the viewers have seen of Sam escaping the family business, young Sam didn’t want to be discarded by his family. Sully was the confidant, the comforting influence to Sam’s chaotic youth. Arguably, Sam felt safe and appreciated by his friendship with Sully.

Stacy: The character of Sully was a great imaginary friend to Sam. He listened to Sam’s feelings without judgment. I think Sully was the father that Sam wish he had in John. The other imaginary friends shown in “Just My Imagination” seemed to be more about the fun and playing with the children, whereas Sully was Sam’s confidant. Also, Sully took his duties very seriously. When he was willing to sacrifice himself without a second thought stating “It’s about doing what’s right for the children,” that elevated him above the standard buddy/playmate. He WAS a parent, he loved his charges more than himself.

Michele: I loved the character of Sully! Nate Torrance did such a fabulous job as Sam’s imaginary friend. There were some hysterical moments like playing “air guitar!” and also some somber moments when Sam needed advice on going back into the Cage. Sully was truly proud of Sam and what he had accomplished. He understood why Sam in his younger years made the decision to choose his family over running away. Sully was so loyal to his friend that he was willing to sacrifice himself to do what he thought was right. He’s selfless and probably one of the best friends the youngest Winchester could ever have.

Debbi: Once again the casting people at the show found the perfect actors to portray Sully and the other Zahenna. Nate Torrance was outstanding. He gave us a Sully that was kind, funny and compassionate with wisdom that he was able to communicate to a child. Almost a child in an adult body. It was impossible to dislike him. Nate and Jared had great chemistry together, as did Nate and Dylan Kingwell. My heart broke for Sully when Sam suddenly grew out of his need for him as he decided to hunt with his family. I wanted to hug Sully when he remembered Audrey’s death and when Reese told him how abandoned she’d felt after he left. I wanted to cry when Sully tells adult Sam how proud he is of him and confesses that he nearly made a mistake in trying to steer him from the hunting life. Nate Torrance did an incredible job with a great script and a great director behind him.

Jackie: I first want to say that Nate Torrence was brilliant as Sully. He brought all sorts of nuances to the character without turning him into a happy-go-lucky cartoon character that you might find in a Disney movie. As far as new characters, he is definitely one of my favorites. I especially appreciated the fact that Sully helped Sam see that he could make his own choices in life. Hopefully, we see more of him!

Dean:

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Tracy: We saw classic Dean in this episode. The elder Winchester didn’t believe that Sully existed, but once he saw Sully with his own eyes, he became the hunter we all have come to expect.

Stacy: The personality of Dean beckoned back to the early seasons. He teased his brother over Sam’s “geekiness” in having an imaginary friend. His disbelieving about the imaginary friends was classic Dean. “I believe what I can see”. Once Dean was shown they were real, he shifted into hunter mode. I would have liked an exchange between Sam and Dean in which Dean questioned Sam about his need for an imaginary friend. I half expected Dean to say somewhere in the episode “You had me”.

Michele: This was classic Dean. The one liners, the initial denial over Sam having an imaginary friend and why are what makes him Dean Winchester. However, it wasn’t until Sully gave both Sam and Dean the ability to see his friend’s bodies that Dean realized that imaginary friends are actually are a part of supernatural lore. I do, like Stacy, just wished we had Dean and Sam talk about why there was a need for Sam to have an imaginary friend.

Debbi: Jensen Ackles is a master of facial expressions and he once again steals just about every scene he’s in with the looks on his face. In the kitchen when he first meets Sully he is able to convey surprise, suspicion, amusement, confusion and irritation all without speaking a word. Dean’s assertion that Sam didn’t need anyone other than Dean in his life is classic, narcissistic Dean which echoes back to earlier seasons. Later in the episode, as Dean gets to know Sully and begins to see the relationship between his brother and the Zahenna, the more world-weary and grown up Dean is able to thank Sully for caring for Sam when he couldn’t. This is a huge step for Dean, who has always been able to convince himself that everything he did for Sam was the right thing. Understanding that at times Sam needed more than he could give will actually bring some balance to the relationship between the brothers and will ultimately make them stronger.

Jackie: So, here comes my only bone to pick with the episode. When I watched it for the first time, I loved it, but something felt off to me. Upon watching it for a second time, I realized what it was: in order to provide the right atmosphere for Sully to begin visiting Sam, they had to have Dean, and by extension John, do some pretty out-of-character things. Let me explain.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that Sully began visiting Sam about six months after the Christmas episode, “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” In that episode, Sam finally learned the truth about hunting and we see Dean do everything in his power to make Sam feel better about being lied to. With that it mind, I found it hard to believe that Dean or John would leave Sam alone, unprotected, in a motel room for days at a time, given how protective they were over him. It would be more believable if Dean and John had dropped Sam off at Bobby’s or Pastor Jim’s. While I understand that there were probably times where Dean had to leave Sam and help John on hunts, I just can’t see either of them just leaving him by himself, without any training. It just doesn’t feel like something they would do.

Then there is that phone conversation. During the phone call between young Dean and Sam in which Sam begs to be included in the hunt, I got the impression that Dean was lying to Sam regarding talking to John about Sam being on the hunt because he wanted to keep his little brother out of hunting for as long as he could. That was my impression, at least, and it would explain the way in which he abruptly ended the call, thereby making it clear that Sam being on the hunt and being trained wouldn’t be happening.

I do want to add that I thought Jensen was hysterical in this episode. His humor and snarkiness were on point, and his admission that he couldn’t always be there for his little brother was heart-wrenching. Stellar acting on Jensen’s part!

Sam:

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Tracy: Sam has always been a soulful character. His emotions define him. He feels deeply. This cornerstone of his personality was illustrated in this episode. Young Sam wanted to belong, even in his own family. He may not have wanted the hunting life, but what seemed to hurt him even more was to be left behind. He wanted to be perceived as strong and capable just like John and Dean. Jared Padalecki tore at viewers’ heartstrings with his poignant portrayal in this episode. When Sam revealed to Sully about his fears of returning to the Cage, our hearts ached for him.

Stacy: “Just My Imagination” was a great episode to delve into Sam’s childhood psyche. Viewers got to see how lonely and uncertain Sam really was as a child. It was interesting that he wanted to join Dean and John for a hunt as I thought he hated the family business and would do anything not to be a part of it. But I guess in Sam’s mind it was more about fitting in with his family. Being kept in the motel room while Dean and John hunted probably made Sam feel like he wasn’t good enough to be a hunter. It may have also felt to Sam like unless he hunted, he wasn’t a real Winchester. Sam just wanted to belong, Dean and John weren’t perfect but they were his family. I enjoyed adult Sam’s conversation with Sully about current events i.e. The Darkness and The Cage. He still needed Sully to help him decide what to do. The innocence of Sam’s character has always been the perfect counterbalance to Dean.

Michele: It was both funny and touching to see Sam in this episode. Despite this being a show of two great leads, it’s rare that we get Sam’s POV. In this episode we got to see why Sam needed Sully. He was lonely and despite him saying he didn’t want to be in the ‘family business,” he actually chose his brother and his father over his friend. All Sam wanted to do was to be included. When he got that, his daily need for Sully was gone. I loved that after all of these years, he still asked for Sully’s advice on dealing with The Darkness and The Cage. It was such a deep and thoughtful moment that I couldn’t help but cry over. Jared  Padalecki killed it in this episode!

Debbi: I loved Sam in this episode and Jared Padalecki was outstanding. His heart to heart with Sully in the garage was perfect and I admit that I cried. I love that Sam, turns again to Sully for advice and almost, but not quite for comfort, as he wrestles with his visions and his fear. I think that the flashback memories that Sam had of growing up were absolutely necessary for him as he decides what he’s going to do about Lucifer and the cage. Sam needed to remember that despite wanting to walk away from the Hunter life just moments, maybe hours earlier, he is thrilled when he is called to join his father and brother for his first hunt. I think that this memory is the thing that will convince Sam that despite his fear and reservation about revisiting the cage, that he will go and he will face his fear, because he’s a Hunter and that’s what they do. They save people.

Jackie: Jared was brilliant in this episode, in my opinion. He was able to tug on my heartstrings on more than one occasion, as he so often does through his portrayal as Sam. I loved Sam’s scenes with Sully because Jared and Nate had such amazing chemistry, and I loved that Sam continued to be so open with Dean about his theories in regard to the Cage. I’m still not 100% sure that Sam’s visions are coming from God, but I do agree that Sam needs to continue investigating what they mean.

I adored the young Sam scenes! They were endearing and heartbreaking and altogether perfect for this episode. Although I thought that the writers choosing to have Dean and John leave Sam alone for days at a time was out of character for both of them, I do believe that there were probably a lot of times where they were away from Sam. In this episode, we got a glimpse at how lonely Sam must have been and how desperately he needed someone to keep him company while his dad and brother were hunting.

Predictions:

Supernatural -- "Just My Imagination" -- Image SN1108A_0322.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Jared Padalecki as Sam and Nate Torrence as Sully -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tracy: With the mid-season finale slated for next week, the dramatic stakes will be inevitably raised. The promo revealed a return of the marvelous Mark Pellegrino so the Cage will figure predominantly in the plot. Further, Amara, Crowley and Rowena will likely take center stage as Supernatural bids adieu to 2015. Of course, one or both of the Winchester boys will probably be placed in jeopardy.

Stacy: It’s looking like Sam is going to try to take that trip to Hell’s furnace a.k.a The Cage. He discussed this with Sully and also with Dean. I think Sam feels this is unavoidable. I would love to have Sully pop up again and perhaps accompany Sam on his Hell trip.

Michele: Time for Sam to take a trip down to The Cage! I’m so excited for the mid-season finale…for one main reason…LUCIFER! Mark Pellergino is one of all time favorite actors. I’m looking forward  to seeing what he says or knowing “Luci” over the years it’s also, what he doesn’t say. Either way, it’s not looking good for the Winchester Brothers as Amara makes her return.

Debbi: Sam is going back to hell, Dean is going to pitch a fit about it, but Sam will go and do what needs to be done. It’s clear that regardless of who is sending the visions, the solution to the problem of Amara lies in the cage, with Lucifer. As God’s first, Lucifer was instrumental in locking Amara away and he was the original bearer of the MOC. I don’t feel like Lucifer will be let out of the cage again permanently, but he may to bargain for some time above ground which will prove to be an interesting negotiation.

The story Death told of the battle with The Darkness says that God and Lucifer were not the only beings necessary to lock Amara down. The other Archangels were instrumental in the battle as well. I will go out on a thin limb here and say that I believe it is possible that using a spell in the Book of the Dead, the Demon Tablet, or a combination of both, that the other Archangels could make a reappearance before the Amara crisis is resolved. It stands to reason that if the Book of the Dead and/or the Demon Tablet come into play that we will also need Rowena and Metatron respectfully to work the magic.

Jackie: Sam’s going to go to the Cage, y’all! That’s definitely a certainty, and for that reason, I hope the writers do the Cage justice and don’t meddle with the canon surrounding it. I also think that we will learn more about Dean’s bond with Amara, and that Sam will go to either Crowley or Cas for help in getting to the Cage.

Overall Score:

 

Supernatural -- "Just My Imagination" -- Image SN1108A_0472.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Jared Padalecki as Sam and Director Richard Speight Jr. -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tracy: Stellar writing by Jenny Klein, bold directorial choices by Richard Speight, Jr. and acting excellence by the main and guest cast were the recipe for a winning episode. My overall grade is an “A”

Stacy: I give “Just My Imagination” an A+++! It was a fabulous episode. The script by Jenny Klein was a classic throwback to the Ben Englund era of Supernatural. The lines were phenomenal and perfectly set the mood of the episode. Richard Spreight Jr’s directing was brilliant. This episode will go down as one of my top Supernatural episodes proving that the show is getting better with age.

Michele: I loved “Just My Imagination”. It had the right mix of humor and touching moments. Jenny Klein did an amazing job writing this episode and kudos to Richard Speight, Jr for some amazing direction. A+ from me.

Debbi: Richard Speight did a remarkable job in his first outing as a Supernatural director and Jenny Klein wrote a beautiful script. This season (11!) has easily had the longest run of outstanding consecutive episodes, ever. Everything in this episode gelled and everyone was on top of their game. The only false note in the episode, and it can’t really be considered a criticism, is that Colin Ford should have been playing young Sam. It’s impossible of course and Dylan Kingwell did a very good job, but Colin set the bar high enough that it is untouchable. I give this an ‘A’ and am looking forward to the mid-season finale next week.

Jackie: I’m going to give this one a B+ because, although it was a great episode, it had some OOC moments that didn’t sit well with me.

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