The only supernatural episode in which Dean Winchester is not (and why)

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There is no Supernatural without Sam and Dean Winchester… except once. Knowledge of the supernatural is packed with colorful characters of all kinds – angels, demons, Lucifer’s children who became gods, etc. Despite the likes of Bobby Singer, Crowley and Castiel, all of whom have earned the status of fan favorites, the Winchester brothers are undoubtedly the beating heart of the Supernatural. Even in episodes where Lebanon’s most famous sons are not in the spotlight (see “Wayward Sisters” in season 13), Sam and Dean are never too far from the action.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki appear in every episode of Supernatural. For 15 seasons from 2005 to 2020 (there will be 327 episodes in total), no actor misses the hunt. In cases rarer than Castiel’s successful pop culture reference, “Supernatural” focuses on one brother rather than the other, but both main characters always somehow appear, even if only in one scene. For example, “At the beginning” of the fourth season of Supernatural, Dean and Castiel are almost completely shown traveling through time, and yet Jared Padalecki still briefly shows his face in the first moments.

There is no episode of Supernatural without Jensen Ackles, but there is one story in which Dean Winchester does not appear: the 14th season of Stranger in a Strange Land. Dean Winchester reluctantly makes a deal with Michael from The Apocalypse World in the season 13 finale of Supernatural, agreeing to serve as an archangel’s vessel in exchange for enough power to kill Lucifer. According to these tragic terms, the season ends with Michael completely occupying Dean’s body (and doing a regrettable cosplay on “Sharp Visors”, but the less said about it, the better). Then the 14th season of Supernatural begins with “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and Jensen Ackles plays only Michael throughout the episode. Dean never looks through the divine appearance, which gives “Stranger in a Strange Land” the unique honor of being the only episode of “Supernatural” out of 327 attempts in which Dean Winchester never appears.

The beginning of the 14th season of Supernatural without Dean was a bold creative move… but shrewdly effective. Owning Michael was the first time Jensen Ackles properly played another Supernatural character besides Dean, ignoring short one-off scenes and parallel universe options. The opening of the 14th season of Supernatural, without the slightest hint of Winchester’s older brother, fully showed the audience the seriousness of his situation with Michael. For the first time in more than a decade, one of the leading “Supernatural” duos skipped an entire episode, immediately signaling that the scoundrel Michael had a case in mind, and allowing Ackles to make the most of his angelic character change.

Dean Winchester remained Michael’s host until the end of the second episode of the 14th season of Supernatural (“Gods and Monsters”), where Jensen Ackles resumed normal, pie-loving ministry in the final act. As Dean returns to his normal self just a week after his no-show, “Stranger in a Strange Land” remains the only full episode of “Supernatural” without a single scene with Dean.

Despite the (justified) reputation of being possessed more often than his brother, Sam Winchester actually appears in every episode “Supernatural.” Even when Sam hosted people like Lucifer or Gadriel, he either pierced his inmate for a short time, or the obsession did not last the entire episode. Only Archangel Michael managed to accomplish the impressive feat of keeping Brother Winchester completely subdued for the full 45 minutes of “Supernatural.”