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The Only Supernatural Episode Dean Winchester Isn’t In (& Why)

As the beating heart of Supernatural, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki enjoy a constant presence, but there’s one episode Dean Winchester skips.

There’s no Supernatural without Sam and Dean Winchester… apart from that one time. Supernatural lore is jam-packed with colorful characters of all specimens and species – angels, demons, children of Lucifer who become gods, etc. Despite the likes of Bobby Singer, Crowley and Castiel all earning fan-favorite status, however, the Winchester brothers are undoubtedly Supernatural‘s beating heart. Even in episodes where Lebanon’s most famous sons aren’t the main focus (see season 13’s “Wayward Sisters”), Sam and Dean are never too far from the action.

With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki feature in every single Supernatural episode. Across 15 seasons between 2005 and 2020 (that’ll be a total of 327 episodes), neither actor skips a hunt. On occasions rarer than a successful Castiel pop culture reference, Supernatural has focused upon one brother over the other, but both leading men always appear somehow – even if only for a single scene. Supernatural season 4’s “In The Beginning,” for instance, almost entirely comprises Dean and Castiel traveling back in time, and yet Jared Padalecki still shows his face briefly in the opening moments.


Related: Jensen Ackles’ Supernatural Revival Show Is A Genius Idea

Supernatural episode without Jensen Ackles doesn’t exist – but there is one story where Dean Winchester fails to appear: season 14’s “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Dean Winchester reluctantly strikes a deal with Apocalypse World Michael in Supernatural season 13’s finale, agreeing to serve as the archangel’s vessel in exchange for enough power to kill Lucifer. As per those tragic terms, the season ends with Michael fully occupying Dean’s body (and doing a regrettable Peaky Blinders cosplay, but the less said about that, the better). Supernatural season 14 then opens with “Stranger In A Strange Land,” and Jensen Ackles only portrays Michael throughout the entire episode. At no time does any glimpse of Dean poke through the divine exterior, giving “Stranger In A Strange Land” the unique honor of being Supernatural‘s only episode out of 327 attempts to never feature Dean Winchester.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester Michael in Supernatural

Supernatural‘s Dean-free season 14 opener was a bold creative move… but a shrewdly effective one. Michael’s possession marked the first time Jensen Ackles properly got to play another Supernatural character besides Dean, ignoring brief one-off scenes and parallel universe variants. Opening Supernatural season 14 without a sniff of the elder Winchester brother completely sold the gravity of his Michael situation to the audience. For the first time in over a decade, one of Supernatural‘s leading duo skipped an entire episode, immediately signalling that the villainous Michael meant business, and allowing Ackles to make the most of his angelic character change.

Dean Winchester remained Michael’s host until the end of Supernatural season 14‘s second episode (“Gods & Monsters”) where Jensen Ackles resumed normal, pie-loving service in the final act. Because Dean goes back to his usual self only one week after his no-show, “Stranger In A Strange Land” remains the only full Supernatural episode without a single Dean scene.

Despite a (justified) reputation for getting possessed more often than his brother, Sam Winchester actually does appear in every Supernatural episode. Even when playing host to the likes of Lucifer or Gadreel, Sam would either pierce through his occupant for a short spell, or the possession wouldn’t last an entire episode. Only archangel Michael managed the impressive feat of keeping a Winchester brother completely subdued for a full 45 minutes of Supernatural.

More: Why Katie Cassidy Left Supernatural After Season 3

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