What Is And What Should Never Be is the 20th episode of Season 2. It premiered on May 3rd, 2007.
A devoted girlfriend, a regular job, no knowledge of the supernatural, and a loving mother in a house that didn't burn down: A run-in with a djinn gives Dean the life he would have had if the demon Azazel never entered his family's life.
Road near Joliet, IL (presumably): First shot is of the Impala's front license plates, changed from the Kansas KAZ2Y5 to Ohio CNK80Q3. Dean is driving, on the phone with Sam (who is back at their motel room). Sam peers out through the motel curtains nervously, telling Dean that there is a cop car out front. Dean reassures Sam that there's "nothing to worry about" since they ditched the Impala's license plates and all of the credit cards. Sam's not so sure the life of a fugitive is what he'd had in mind, but shifts to the current hunt asking Dean if he's found anything.
Dean scoffs, saying that Sam has him sifting through 50 miles of real estate. Sam wanders back to a large stack of books and tells Dean that he's figured out that they're hunting a djinn. Dean's wry grin echoes through his voice as he asks Sam if he thinks the "freakin' genie" can actually grant wishes. While Sam goes to the Quran, Dean muses about Jeannie (as in I Dream of…) being hotter than Samantha (from Bewitched). Trying to keep Dean focused, Sam tells him that djinns usually "flare up" in ruins – "bigger the better." Dean remembers a likely place a few miles back and ignoring Sam's request to pick him up first, he hangs up, a suddenly serious expression on his face.
Ruins: Dean is walking through what looks like an abandoned warehouse. He has a flashlight in one hand and blood-tipped knife in the other. Carefully moving through the damp, empty corridors, Dean slowly shifts his grip on the knife, then turns suddenly as if he heard someone or something behind him. Nothing. As he continues to walk through the warehouse, we see the figure of the djinn hiding in the shadows. Getting the jump on Dean, the djinn slams him against the wall, one hand on his throat, causing him to drop the knife. As Dean struggles against the djinn's grip, the djinn raises its free hand, electric blue light bouncing and crackling along its palm and fingers. It presses its hand on Dean's forehead. Dean gasps, his eyes roll up, and the screen goes black.
House on Barker Avenue, Lawrence: From Hell It Came is flickering in black and white awfulness on a TV next to a rumpled bed. Dean suddenly sits up, shirtless, confused, blinking with honest shock at the scantily-clad, naked dark-hair woman sleeping next to him. He stumbles out (fully-dressed) into a comfortable-looking living room, digs out his cell phone and calls his brother.
Sam is surprised to hear from him. Dean misses that in his confused state and tells Sam that he doesn't know where he is – the djinn attacked him. Sam asks him if he's been drinking and Dean, frustrated, reminds him of the hunt, says it puts its hand on him and he woke up next to some hot chick. Sam asks him if he means Carmen and Dean is appropriately baffled. Sam tells Dean it's late, go back to sleep, he'll see him in the morning and hangs up on Dean's spluttering.
Setting the phone down, Sam returns to the books he had been poring over when his brother called: Criminal Law and Procedure.
Now thoroughly confused and more than a little freaked out, Dean begins to recon the room. He sees a stack of mail on a nearby table and with a muttered "What the hell?" sees that they are addressed to both this Carmen that Sam mentioned as well as himself – with a Lawrence, KS, address. Just then, Carmen herself emerges from the bedroom, sleepy and wondering why he's up. Dean makes up an excuse and promises to join her in just a minute. She buys it, kisses him, and returns to the bedroom. Dean begins to look around the living room at all the pictures of the two of them together. Glancing across the room, he sees another picture and a look of horrified disbelief crosses his face. He crosses the room, picks up and examines the picture, drops it, and tears out of the room.
Winchester Childhood Home: The Impala rumbles to a stop - even it sounds distressed - in front of a familiar house and Dean runs up to the door and rings the bell. The door opens and Mary Winchester is standing there looking sleepy and wrapping her robe around herself. Dean's face is a display of shock, hurt, and hope. He says "Mom" and she asks him if he's okay. With a very honest "I don't know", he allows Mary to pull him inside.
She walks into the living room, saying that Carmen called, worried because he had just run out of the house. Dean, being Dean, asks his mom to prove she is who he hopes she is by asking what she told him before she put him to bed when he was a kid. With a small smile, Mary replies that she told him angels were watching over him, passing the test. Dean gathers her up in a hug and almost gleefully roams the room looking at the pictures. He discovers that not only had John once belonged to a softball team, but that he'd died in his sleep of a stroke earlier that year.
His mother thinks he's been drinking, and says she's going to call Carmen to get him. Dean assures her that he's as sober as a judge and says he just wants to stay there. He sits on the couch and, as Mary touches his cheek and kisses his forehead, his face relaxes for the first time since Dead Man's Blood. He sleeps on the couch, waking up the next morning with a start. The first thing on his mind is Sam. Calling him, he reaches his cell phone.
KU: Sans trusty geekboy-sidekick, Dean heads to the University of Kansas and manages to talk his way into the anthropology professor's office to gather more clues on the djinn. When he asks the professor if the djinn can really grant wishes, the professor assumes he's been drinking. Ruefully, Dean confesses that everyone has been asking him that, but the answer is no. Finding out that mythology states the djinn could grant wishes, and wondering what, if that is true, is in it for the djinn, Dean heads back out to a rainy campus street.
He looks in the Impala's trunk, which is empty except for a few trivial bits and pieces, and murmurs a bemused "who'd have thought it, baby, we're civilians" before shutting the trunk and catching sight of a decidedly out-of-place young girl in a white dress. He starts to cross to her and nearly gets creamed by a red car, breaking his focus on the girl. When he looks back up, she's gone.
Winchester House: Dean is happily inhaling what he declares to be the "best sandwich ever" (one assumes, because it was made by his mom), and talking to Mary, who, for her part, is wondering why he wasn't at work… at the garage. Covering easily, Dean says he had the day off, and getting up to look out of the window, offers to mow the lawn. More than a little amused by her son's apparently recent desire to hang around her house and do chores, Mary teases that he's acting as if he hasn't mowed a lawn a day in his life. Which… he hasn't.
Obviously unsure as to the proper handling and steering of a lawn mower, Dean is undeterred as he treks back and forth in front of the yard gnome, waving to the neighbors and very nearly whistling with actual, genuine happiness as Joey Ramone's Wonderful World accompanies him.
Lawn manicured, Dean sits on the front steps relaxing with a beer when Sam and Jess pull up. He is so happy to see them – Jess in particular as she is alive as well - that he practically runs up to greet them. He wraps Jessica in a fierce hug until she gasps that she can't breathe. Dean is overjoyed to see Sam, and to see Sam with Jess. Sam speculates aloud that Dean's been drinking (and this time, it's hard to deny as he has beer in hand), and Dean is puzzled by Sam's apparent stand-off-ish-ness. He wonders why they are there, and Sam asks with obvious exasperation born of several years of dealing with a wayward brother if Dean has forgotten Mom's birthday. Again.
Fancy Restaurant (probably in Kansas City): The family is gussied and gathered to celebrate Mary's birthday. Dinner is served and Carmen proves how very well she knows Dean when she leans over and asks him if he wants to go for cheeseburgers later as he stares in horror at a dinner that is better dressed than he is. "Oh, God, yes", he replies and she smiles. Mary's birthday joy is made complete as Sam and Jessica announce they are engaged. Everyone congratulates them, and Dean's smile is genuine as he tells Sam he is "really glad he's happy". His joy is short-lived, however when he catches sight of the girl in white that he'd seen on campus. He pushes past Sam and crosses the restaurant, but by the time he gets to her, she's gone. He's left with his whole family staring at him confusedly.
Winchester Home: When the group returns home, Mary goes to bed and Sam suggest that he and Jessica do the same thing. Dean wants to go out and celebrate more, and Sam excuses them from the ladies, pulling Dean aside and revealing what had been obvious to everyone but Dean up to this point: the brothers don't get along. Not only that, they aren't close. Sam reveals that Dean not only once stole his ATM card, he stole his girlfriend and slept with her. On prom night. Sam's not mad about it anymore – and he doesn't expect Dean to change – he just doesn't really want to have anything to do with his brother.
Sam is gone before he can see the heartbroken look that flashes across Dean's face.
Barker Avenue House: Dean is in comfy clothes: flannel shirt and jeans. Carmen brings him his favorite brand of beer (El Sol) and he confides in her that he is upset he and Sam don’t get along. Carmen says that they just don't know each other is all. Dean replies that he feels like he's been given a second chance – and he's not going to waste it. He's going to fix this thing with Sammy. Wooed by Carmen's concern, care, and the fact that she knows him so well, Dean falls into a very easy, very comfortable, very hot kiss. Carmen pulls away after a bit saying that he can't do that to her; she has to go to work. She appears shortly afterwards in scrubs. Somewhat impressed with himself that he is respectable enough to date a nurse, Dean bids her adieu and slouches back down on the couch to veg for the night.
A report about the anniversary of the crash of United Britannia Flight 424 comes on the news. Sitting forward in shock, Dean mutters "we stopped that crash". This realization draws him to the computer where he discovers to his increasing horror that everyone he, Sam, and John had saved from evil had died. All of them.
Glancing up quickly from the devastating information facing him from the computer screen, Dean sees the girl in white out of the corner of his eyes and jumps up to follow her. He ends up back in his bedroom where he is very shaken by the sight of two decaying, emaciated skeletons hanging by their wrists in his closet. He sees the girl once more before both she and the skeletons vanish, leaving Dean trembling.
Lawrence Cemetery: Dean stands staring down at his father's tombstone. He's working to keep the tears at bay, but too much has happened. His throat working convulsively, he begins speaking:
“All of them... everyone that you saved, everyone Sammy and I saved… they’re all dead. And there’s this woman that’s haunting me. I don’t know why. I don’t know what the connection is… not yet, anyway. It’s like my old life is coming after me or something, like it doesn’t want me to be happy. Of course, I know what you’d say. Well, not the you that played softball, but you’d say, Go hunt the djinn. It put you here. It can put you back. Your happiness or all those people’s lives... no contest. Right? But why? Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero? What about us, huh? What? Mom’s not supposed to live her life? Sammy’s not supposed to get married?
"Why do we have to sacrifice everything, Dad?"
Wiping the tears from his face, Dean swallows, nods, and turns to walk out of the cemetery. John may not have been alive, but he'd directed his son all the same.
Winchester House: Sam wakes in the dark next to Jessica, tensing at a sound. Grabbing a bat, he creeps down the stairs and confronts the crouching figure bent over Mary's china cabinet. The figure barely needs to move before it disarms Sam, sweeps him off his feet, and plants him firmly on the floor, one hand on his chest. Sam blinks up with an astonished "Dean?!" in a nice homage to the series premiere.
Sam demands to know what Dean's doing skulking around in the dark, and Dean makes up a story (believable to this Sam) that he owes money to a bookie and was going to pawn some of Mary's silver. After taking one knife and slipping it into his pocket, Dean apologizes to Sam for everything that happened between them over the years, asks his brother to tell their mother that he loves her, and then starts to leave. Dean pauses at the front door for one last, wistful look around before walking away from his deepest wish forever, leaving Sam alone to gasp and flail about the living room in confusion.
Impala: Dean is sitting at the wheel, apparently gathering his will, when Sam drops neatly in the passenger seat. Not at all happy about this turn of events, Dean demands that Sam "Get out of the car!" Sam's having none of it, insisting, "Whatever stupid thing you're about to do, you're not doing it alone, and that's that". With that, Sam raises eyebrows that clearly say, so there. "I don't understand," Dean protests. "Why are you doing this?". Sam sighs and primly admits, "Because you're still my brother". Dean's eyes hood themselves a little bit and he mutters, "Bitch". Sam is baffled when he replies, "What're you calling me a bitch for?" Dean, says, "You're, uh, supposed to say, 'Jerk.'" "What?" Sam shoots back. "Never mind," Dean mumbles, throwing the car into gear.
The Road: Sam demands answers. Dean is reluctant to provide them for obvious reasons. Sam's knack for digging to the bottom of things persists when he discovers a plastic cup full of lamb's blood. He pales, swallows, and pulls out his cell phone and Dean calmly removes the phone from Sam's fingers and tosses it out of the window. He tells his brother that he's not crazy, that there are bad guys out there, and it's their job to get rid of them. Sam face is a canvas of doubt and not a little fear.
Abandoned Warehouse in IL: Sam is sleeping and jerks awake when Dean stops the Impala in front of the djinn's lair. He demands to know where they are and Dean quips that they're not in Kansas anymore. Sam follows his brother through the abandoned warehouse, trekking nearly the same path that Dean followed earlier. Dean has the silver knife soaked in lamb's blood and is on high alert. Sam is freaked out. Dean demands in a low, careful voice that Sam stay behind him and stay quiet. Sam's reaction is to slide his eyes around as if he expects the boogeyman to jump them at any moment.
The boys turn a corner off the corridor in which Dean was initially attacked to find the two dangling skeletons from Dean's closet. As they stare in horror, Dean sees the empty hospital blood bag still hooked up to the neck of one of the skeletons. Next Dean sees the girl in white that he's been seeing all around town. She moans and asks in a weak voice for her father. Before he can do anything, though, the djinn appears.
The djinn uses its electric blue light of wish-granting and sleep on the girl, subduing her, then drinks some of the blood from the bag attached to her jugular. Dean has managed to get Sam behind some stairs, but when Sam sees this, he is unable to keep his gasp silent. The djinn turns at the sound, and approaches, but Dean gets them out of danger. The djinn leaves, and Dean approaches the girl, realizing that she hadn't known where she was – she thought she was with her father.
Sam is practically begging that they leave, but Dean is starting to get it. He's slammed by a disorienting, dizzying flash of himself, hanging in that very room by his wrists, pale, dying, with his blood being slowly drained from him to provide sustenance to the djinn. Sam, frantic now, promises Dean that he believes – he will believe anything if they can just go. But Dean knows he's not going…
Lifting the knife, he scares his already terrified brother further by raising it toward his own chest declaring "die in your dreams, you wake up, right?" Sam bellows "Wait!" but his plea is ineffectual. Dean is prepared to plunge the knife forward when Mary's voice stops him. Trembling, Dean looks slowly to the side and sees his mother walking toward him. Not the mother from the birthday dinner, but the Mary from his memory, with the unlined face, flowing hair, and white nightgown.
"Why'd you have to keep digging?" Sam asks, a bit sorrowfully, and no longer freaked out. Dean's eyes shoot to him, not in shock, more in disappointed realization. Carmen steps up behind Sam. "Why couldn't you have left well enough alone?" Sam continues. Jessica appears, and Sam gently argues, "You were happy". Dean counters that none of it was real, but he is slowly buffeted by the gentle waves of argument from Jess ("You wouldn't have to worry about Sam anymore..."), Carmen ("We could have a family of our own..."), and his mom ("Get some rest...").
Dean knows that if he chooses to stay, to live inside this happiness, he'll be dead in a matter of days, even though it will feel like years to him. Listening to them, wanting the rest, wanting the happiness, but knowing that he had to do what is right, Dean looks directly at Sam, whispers, "I'm sorry," and plunges the knife into his chest.
Djinn's Lair, Reality: "DEAN!" Sam bellows in the dim, grey light of the warehouse when he sees his brother hanging, pale and still, by his wrists. He launches himself over to Dean, apparently unsure where to touch that won't cause more harm. Repeatedly begging Dean to wake up, Sam is finally able to rouse his brother who bleats a weak "Auntie Em" followed by "there's no place like home." Sam carefully removes the needle from his brother's neck confessing that he thought he'd lost him there for a sec. Dean replies "You almost did."
Sam begins to cut Dean down when Dean catches sight of the djinn lunging at his brother from behind. Calling out a warning, Dean begins to haul on his still-bound wrists while Sam struggles with the djinn, getting knocked around in the process. Sam is pinned to the stairs with the djinn's electric blue hand of wish fulfillment and sleep hovering above his forehead when the djinn suddenly arches back in pain and shock.
Sam darts his eyes over to see Dean standing behind the djinn, twisting the knife in its back to finish the job. With a non-verbal check to make sure they were each okay, they head back to the girl in white, where Dean discovers that she is still alive and whispers for Sam's help to cut her down. Catching the girl in his trembling arms, Dean whispers to her that they are going to get her out of there, get her safe.
Motel: Sam is on the phone with the hospital and turns to Dean to assure him that the girl they rescued from the warehouse is going to be okay. Dean is looking through a magazine that features an ad for El Sol, in which "Carmen" is smiling up at him. Sam sits on the other bed and asks gently if Dean's okay. Dean recounts briefly what he'd seen, what he'd wished for, but what he hadn't had. He had Mom alive, but he and Sam had never gone hunting, so they'd never learned how to be brothers.
Sam watches Dean closely and says, "Yeah. Well, I’m glad we do. And I’m glad you dug yourself out, Dean. Most people wouldn’t have had the strength. They would’ve just stayed". Dean's unconvinced of the wisdom of his actions. "Yeah, lucky me. I got to tell you, though, man... you had Jessica. Mom was gonna have grandkids". He stands and walks across the room to lean on a dresser and looks back at Sam. Sam argues that it wasn't real.
"I know," Dean says before confessing, "But I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay so bad. I mean, ever since Dad… all I can think about is how much this job’s cost us. We’ve lost so much. And we’ve sacrificed so much." The raw emotion and utter heartbreak on Dean's face is too much for Sam who argues, "But people are alive because of you. It’s worth it, Dean. It is. It’s not fair, and, you know, it hurts like hell, but it’s worth it.”
Dean lifts doubtful eyes and rests them on his brother. And the screen fades to black.
"What A Wonderful World" by Joey Ramone "Saturday Night Special" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Dean's Amulet is not present in the Djinn's fantasy world for Dean. Instead he wears a medal with silver chain. In this fantasy world, Sam and Dean are not close and do not get along. It may be that Sam never gave the amulet to Dean when they were children either because their father never became a hunter and would have been present for Christmas or that they never knew Bobby. The amulet is seen worn by Dean again at the end of the episode in the current reality.
Dean: You've got to work now? Carmen: I told you. I've got the night shifts on Thursday. Dean: You work nights at the, uh... hospital. I'm dating a nurse. That is so... respectable.
- Finnish: Salaperäinen nainen (A Mysterious Woman)
- French: Comme dans un rêve (Like in a Dream)
- German: Wie es ist und wie es niemals sein sollte (How it is and how it should never be)
- Polish: Co jest a co nigdy nie będzie (What is and what will never be)