Season 2 Episode 20

What Is and What Should Never Be

Aired Thursday 9:00 PM May 03, 2007 on The CW
out of 10
User Rating
1,224 votes

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Episode Summary

Dean is attacked by a Djinn... and finds himself in a new reality where his mother is still alive and a mysterious woman holds the key to everything.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Wonderfully written and acted

    I have just gotten into this show recently and enjoy each episode because even though there are demons and monsters, it's actually pretty light and in the end, all seems to work out. This episode, however, had a depth that I haven't seen before on this show. I felt as though I was there with Dean, feeling how he felt, from confusion to happiness to that sinking feeling of reality setting in. I thought it was very well written and I truly enjoyed how the characters interacted with each other. I know that I have many seasons to go with this show, but this episode is, by far, my favourite so far.moreless
  • Season Two pre-finale is one of the most accomplished ever.

    I can't stress enough how much I love this episode. It starts out like our usual Monster of the Week show and it quickly turns in an alternate reality episode that is both incredibly entertaining to watch and undeniably deep and meaningful.

    First things first, I have to say that Eric Kripke, at his first directing job, achieved a great result: the direction of "What Is and What Should Never Be" is smooth and sassy, frightening and subtly ominous from time to time, without forgetting a good, occasional humorous injection. Furthermore, being a huge fan of David Lynch, I was beyond pleased to see a clear homage to "Blue Velvet" (the picket fence with yellow and red roses), and even more pleased to see that the same poetic that was conveyed by the movie (the evil lurking beneath the shiny surfaces of the bourgeois, Mid-American lifestyle) was in the episode too, with Dean catching menacing glimpse of the dirt and malevolent forces that toss about under the outward appearance).

    The script - the last one wrote by the excellent Raelle Tucker - was incredibly deep and profound and it painfully shows how a normal life could be useless and pointless if you are not with the one you love the most, and Sam and Dean not getting along and being forced by the wish-verse to live different, separate lives was a sad anticipation of their division in "All Hell Breaks Loose". Seeing them reunite in the end was not only touching but also meaningful in terms of the overarching storyline: Dean has Sam's back, and we know this from a long time, but Sam has got Dean's back too and the two of them coming together is really powerful. Plus, the script raises an interesting moral question: what would you do if you can choose between the easy path and the hard one? Supernatural has always been a lay show, and this episode is a secular adaptation of a classical Biblical image, and the Djinn - at least in my opinion - is even a more effective gimmick to pose this question, because his mythical existence is basically a twisted version of what each and everyone of us had hoped for at least once in our lives: a genie able to answer our questions and fulfill our desires. In the end, I must say that Jensen Ackles delivered an outstanding performance throughout the whole episode, and particularly during the grave monologue (a mirror of another monologue Dean will pronounce in front of another dead, in "All Hell Breaks Loose - Part 2").moreless
  • Dean wakes up to find that his mother was never killed.

    People have written reviews or trivia that they think the the episode doesn't make sense, because Sam and Dean weren't close. Which is completely untrue. Dean wished that Mary was never killed. If that happened, the brothers' entire life would have changed. The wish wasn't that his parents were alive and the family lived happily ever after. The only wish was Mary never died. If that happened, then there would have been no hunting. The brothers bonded BECAUSE they hunted. Without hunting, Sam goes to school, meets Jess and the two of them live happily ever after. And Dean stays in Lawrence.moreless
  • Alternate reality.

    Right when Dean was placed into a reality that had him living a normal life without hunting, you already knew the outcome. The Jinn obviously did something or is tricking him into granting his wishes. Dean was going to of course choose the life of hunting for the better good of man kind. And you know what? By episodes end that's exactly what happened. The case isn't all that exciting nor original compared to other alternate reality episodes. Though it is the journey that really makes this such a great episode. How everything was structured, how excellent Sam's acting as an ignorant alternate reality character is. Basically the atmosphere was just extraordinarily done. And at the same time Dean played out his role extremely well, playing along with the new universe yet still being cautious. And the two worlds really presented a nice dilemma; it wasn't just a one dimensional choice, it was a multi layered decision that really had you thinking. One of the best alternate reality episodes period.moreless
  • The Djinn.

    In this episode Dean is alone down an ally and gets captured. Then we are in another world in which Dean has a girlfriend, a apartment and a normal job. It also turns out that Mary is alive and so is Jess.

    Sam and Jess arrive home for Mary's birthday and they reveal that they are engaged.

    Also a funny part is watching Dean try and mow the lawn.

    In this paralell universe where dead people are alive and Dean's life seems normal apart form the fact that Sam and Dean apparently don't like each other is that Dean keeps seeing what appears to be a ghost around town. He can't remember that he hunts ghosts so doesn't know what to do. Slowly everything comes back, well the hunting part does and he takes Sam with him to see the Djinn. Dean figures out that even though this would have been a great life that it isn't real. He apologizes to Sammy and then stabs himself. We then go back to the real world and Dean in hooked up to a needle where it is draining his blood and Sam is there. Also the 'ghost' that Dean kept seeing in his other life is there too, in the same position as Dean.moreless
Michelle Borth

Michelle Borth

Carmen Porter

Guest Star

Kwesi Ameyaw

Kwesi Ameyaw


Guest Star

Melanie Scrofano

Melanie Scrofano

The Girl in White

Guest Star

Samantha Smith

Samantha Smith

Mary Winchester

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Trivia: New license plate on the Impala. Ohio CNK 80Q3

    • Dean uses a sterling silver dinner knife when trying to kill the Djinn. Most sterling silver dinner knives have steel blades, since silver is a soft metal and isn't suitable for significant cutting use.

    • The Djinn gives its victims what it wants to be happy. Fantasy-Mary says that "It's everything you wanted." Also, the "fantasy" responds to Dean as his reactions change, which is why everyone appears to him at the end. However, Fantasy-Sam is rather cold and disinterested toward Dean's overtures of friendship, despite the fact that Dean clearly wants to be friends with him. If the fantasy is "everything he wants" to keep him enraptured, Sam should react the way Dean wants him to from the start. Everything else in the fantasy reacts the way Dean wants it to, so fantasy-Sam not reacting the way Dean wants him to doesn't make sense.

    • "Djinn" is misspelled "Jinn" in the close-captioning throughout the episode. The book Sam reads uses the word "Djinn" so clearly that was intended as the correct spelling.

    • Trivia: Carmen is the model in the El Sol beer ad that Dean looks at in the magazine at the end. El Sol was the beer the fantasy Carmen offered him earlier.

    • There are several "goofs" that occur in Dean's new life which may be Goofs, or may be his subconscious efforts to indicate something is wrong. They include
      1) When Dean watches the TV in the middle of the night the KJLT timestamp says it's 9 a.m. central;
      2) the newspaper headline about the one-year anniversary of the airplane crash says it's December 5, 2005, but Dean is seen earlier mowing the yard; and
      3) the lawnmower Dean uses to mow the lawn has no blades.
      4) When Dean wakes up in his mother's house we get to see photographs of their family. Young Dean in the photographs does not look anything like the kid that played him in other episodes.

    • Trivia: In Dean's fantasy, the Impala has a new Kansas license plate number: RMD 5H2

    • During the scene at the cemetery, twice you can hear Dean talking but his mouth isn't moving.

    • Trivia: Dean's address in his fantasy is #53 Barker Ave, Lawrence, KS, 66044.

    • Trivia: During Dean's fantasy, he is wearing a silver necklace, rather than the amulet he normally wears.

  • QUOTES (23)

    • (Dean stabs himself and is instantly released from the Djinn's fantasy)
      Sam: Dean! Dean. Oh, God. Come on. Hey, wake up. Wake up, damn it.
      (Dean moans)
      Sam: Hey, hey.
      Dean: Oh, Auntie Em. There's no place like home.
      Sam: Thank God. I thought I lost you for a second.
      Dean: You almost did.

    • Dean: But it's not real. None of it is.
      Mary: It's still better than anything you ever had.

    • Dean: You should have seen it, Sam... our lives... you were such a wussy.

    • Dean: Ever since Dad... all I can think about is how much this job has cost us. We've lost so much; we've sacrificed so much...
      Sam: But people are alive because of you. It's worth it, Dean. It is. It's not fair, and y'know it hurts like hell, but it's worth it.

    • Dean: You had Jess. Mom was gonna have grandkids...
      Sam: Yeah, but Dean, it wasn't real.
      Dean: I know. But I wanted to stay.

    • Sam: What's in the bag?
      Dean: Nothing.
      Sam: Nothing?
      Dean: Yeah! Nothing!
      Sam: Fine! (reaches for the bag and pulls something out)
      Dean: You don't want to do that!
      Sam: Oh really? (sees the blood jar) What the hell is this?!
      Dean: Blood.
      Sam: Yeah I can see that it's blood, Dean, but what the hell is it doing in here?!
      Dean: You don't really want to know.

    • (Sam has just told Dean they don't get along)
      Dean: We don't? Well, we should. You're my brother.
      Sam: "You're my brother."
      Dean: Yeah!
      Sam: You know, that's what you said when you snaked my ATM card, or when you bailed on my graduation, or when you hooked up with Rachel Nave.
      Dean: Who?
      Sam: Uh, my prom date. On prom night.
      Dean: (under his breath) Yeah, that does kinda sound like me.

    • Sam: You're having some kind of psychotic breakdown.
      Dean: I wish.

    • Professor: Son? You been drinking?
      Dean: Everybody keeps asking me that. But, uh, no.

    • Dean: See? Nothing to worry about.
      Sam: Yeah, being fugitives. Freakin' dance party.
      Dean: Hey, man, chicks dig the danger vibe.

    • Dean: My god, Barbara Eden was hot, wasn't she? And way hotter than that Bewitched chick.
      Sam: Are you even listening to me?
      Dean: (clears throat) Yeah.

    • Dean: The Djinn, it attacked me.
      Sam: The gin, you were drinking gin?
      Dean: No, ass-hat, the Djinn, the scary creature, remember?

    • Carmen: What do you say later we get you a cheeseburger?
      Dean: Oh God yes. How'd I end up with such a cool chick?
      Carmen: I just got low standards.

    • Dean: I'm dating a nurse? That is so... respectable.

    • Sam: I thought it was supposed to be this perfect fantasy.
      Dean: It wasn't. It was just a wish. I wished for Mom to live. Mom never died, we never went hunting, and you and me just never... ya know.
      Sam: Yeah. Well, I'm glad we do.

    • Sam: (to Dean, about to stab himself with knife.) Look, this isn't a dream, all right. I'm here with you, now, and you are about to kill yourself, Dean.
      Dean: No, I'm pretty sure. Like, 90 percent sure. But I'm sure enough.

    • Dean: Sam, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that we don't get along. I wish to hell I could stay to fix this. But I gotta do this. People's lives depend on it.
      Sam: Dean, what're you talking about?
      Dean: Nothing. Forget it. Hey, just tell Mom I love her. I'll see you, Sammy.
      (Dean leaves the house)

    • Dean: (staring down at John's tombstone) All of them. Everyone that you saved, everyone Sammy and I saved. They're all dead. And there's this woman haunting that's me. I don't know why. I don't know what the connection is. Not yet anyway. It's like my old life is, is coming after me or something, you know? Like it, 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. Hey, it put you here, it could put you back. Your happiness for 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?

    • Carmen: What's gotten into you lately?
      Dean: This isn't gonna make a lick of sense to you. But I feel like I've been given a second chance.

    • Sam: You know, I'm not asking you to change. I don't know. I guess we just don't really have anything in common, ya know.
      Dean: Wait, whoa whoa whoa. Yes we do, Yes we do.
      Sam: What?
      Dean: Hunting.
      Sam: Hunting? I've never been hunting in my life, Dean.
      Dean: Yeah, well, then we should go sometime. I think you'd be great at it.

    • Dean: (looking out the window) That lawn looks like it could use some mowing.
      Mary: You want to mow the lawn?
      Dean: Are you kidding me, I'd love to mow the lawn.
      Mary: Knock yourself out. You'd think you've never mowed a lawn in your life.

    • Dean: Let me ask you a question. When you put me into bed when I was little, what did you always tell me?
      Mary: Dean, I don't understand.
      Dean: Just answer the question!
      Mary: I told you angels were watching over you.
      Dean: I don't believe it.

    • Sam: Look, whatever stupid thing you're about to do, you're not doing it alone and that's that.
      Dean: I don't understand, why are you doing this?
      Sam: Because you're still my brother.
      Dean: Bitch.
      Sam: What're you calling me a bitch for?
      Dean: You're supposed to say "jerk."
      Sam: What?
      Dean: Never mind.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Music: What a Wonderful World by Joey Ramone, Saturday Night Special by Lynyrd Skynryd

    • The idea for Sam to not know about hunting and think that Dean has lost his mind came from the original draft of the "Pilot" episode. In the original script, Dean was a hunter because of a feeling that something supernatural had killed his father when he was young and Sam had long ago estranged himself from the family.

    • Injoke: In the scene where they have returned from Mary's birthday celebration and Sam asks the girls for a moment alone to speak with his brother, Sam gives some examples of what stunts Dean had pulled on him in the past. Including the fact that he "hooked up" with Rachel Nave, his prom date, on prom night. Rachel Nave was co-writer of the Season 1 episode, "Bugs."

    • The movie on Dean's TV when he wakes up is From Hell It Came (1957).

    • International Airdates:
      Denmark: May 20, 2007 on TV3
      Australia: June 18, 2007 on Ten
      Portugal: July 23, 2007 on AXN
      Germany: May 6, 2008 on Premiere Serie
      Italy: September 2, 2008 on Rai2
      The Netherlands: April 19, 2009 on NET5
      New Zealand: June 12, 2009 on TV2


    • Title
      References the Led Zeppelin song "What Is and What Should Never Be" off of the album Led Zeppelin II released in 1969.

    • Sam: I guess they're powerful enough, but not exactly like Barbara Eden in harem pants.
      Referencing the 1965-1970 CBS sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, featuring Barbara Eden in the title role as Jeannie the Genie, who ended up with astronaut Tony Nelson as her "master."

    • Dean: Well, we're not in Kansas anymore. (Later in the episode) Dean: Auntie Em, there's no place like home.
      Both are references to the popular 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Judy Garland, who plays Dorothy, is famous for delivering the lines "I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," and "There's no place like home." Auntie Em is Dorothy's aunt in the film.