Having played one of the most ridiculous and imaginative characters on the show (Gabriel/The Trickster), I imagine that Richard Speight Jr. (“To Appomattox”) felt right at home directing the eighth episode. “Just My Imagination” approaches the Pixar-esque with its glimpse into the world of children’s’ imaginary friends.
The episode opens with a young girl named Maddie (Jena Skodje, “R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour”) having a tea party with her imaginary friend, Sparkle (Everrett Shea, “Arrow”). Things quickly take a dark turn when Maddie leaves to go to dinner with her parents. While she is gone, Sparkle is brutally stabbed to death.
In the bunker, Sam (Jared Padalecki, “Gilmore Girls”) wakes up and heads down the hall to make coffee, all the while being stalked by a mysterious shadow. Surprise! The shadow turns out to be Sully (Nate Torrence, “Hello Ladies”), Sam’s imaginary friend from childhood, he only realizes after instinctually punching Sully. Dean (Jensen Ackles, “Smallville”) arrives at the sound of commotion but, since Dean can’t see Sully unless Sully wants him too, he is naturally concerned about Sam’s mental health. And when Sully does reveal himself, Dean is just concerned in general. Sully has to explain quickly that he’s a species called Zanna and that he came to the brothers for help because his friend was murdered.
Dean hesitates to help Sully because he doesn’t trust him, believing he may be evil. But Sam believes that Sully is truly his old imaginary friend from when he was a child, and there is lore on Zanna in the Romanian books to back up his story. Sam feels he owes Sully and needs to help him as a repayment for Sully’s help during his childhood. Dean doesn’t understand why Sam even needed an imaginary friend to begin with. Sam explains it’s because he was lonely. In a flashback, we come to understand how a young Sam (Dylan Kingwell, “The Returned”) felt left behind by Dean (Dylan Everett, “Open Heart”) and his father when it came time to go on hunts. We’re also treated to a new actor for a young Sam and the return of fan favorite Dylan Everett.
Sam, Dean and an invisible Sully visit the home of Sparkle’s child under the guise of trauma counselors. Mrs. Berman (Carrie Genzel, “Under One Roof”), Maddie’s mother, explains that Maddie won’t return to her room. Sam and Dean ask Maddie why she won’t go back. The answer: “All of the blood.” Once they reach the room, Sully appears to let them see the murder scene. Unfortunately, it means they get to witness the truly horrifying scene to follow wherein Mrs. Berman accidentally gets Sparkle’s blood all over her face. If the actress who plays Sparkle looks familiar, it’s because she was on the show ten years earlier in the Season One episode “Bugs.”
Elsewhere, a Zanna mermaid named Nicky (Ida Segerhagen, “Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce”) is stabbed in a pool while her child is at gymnastics. Sully learns of the murder through a Zanna-specific telepathic link, and the three arrive on the scene of Nicky’s murder. Sully mentions Nicky has a boyfriend and Dean decides they ought to question him after they bury her body. While they dig her grave, Sam remembers a time when he considered running away from the hunter life as a young boy and Sully supported him. Sully reminded Sam that he could go to school if he wanted, that he could be whatever he wanted to be.
Weems (Eduard Witzke, “What's Up Warthogs!”), Nicky’s Zanna boyfriend, is out in the backyard of the house of the child he's attached to, hanging up the laundry to dry, when he’s attacked by the murderer. He’s stabbed and left bleeding and calling out telepathically for Sully while the assailant drives off. Sam, Dean and Sully find Weems and patch up his wound while they explain the situation. Weems informs them that the murderer is female and drives a Volkswagon Bug. After Weems treats him to the coolest air guitar solo ever, Dean chases the car.
Weems is surprised to hear that Sam and Sully are back together because Sam “broke his heart.” It really hurt Sully when Sam decided to stay a hunter rather than run away with him — when he told Sully that he didn’t need him anymore. Sam apologizes to Sully for the way they ended things. Sully admits that when Sam went off to hunt he considered it a failure on his part, but he also admits that he was wrong. He’s proud of Sam and the person he has become. Sam discloses that he’s the reason the Darkness was set free, and he thinks that the answer to how to stop it may lie in the cage with Lucifer. Sam's scared. He is scared to go back there. Sully asks if Sam ever thinks about running away anymore. Sam says not anymore.
Sam gets a text from Dean telling them that he has found the killer. But, in fact, it’s the opposite: the killer has found him. When Sam and Sully arrive, Sully is shocked to see Reese (Anja Savcic, “Strange Empire”), a young woman he knew as a child. Sully was Reese’s imaginary friend, but also the imaginary friend of her sister Aubrey. Since she followed him out into the street and was hit by a car, Reese blames Sully for Aubrey’s death. Furthermore, she blames him for disappearing after it and leaving her all alone.
Dean talks her down. He explains that revenge won’t make her feel better. He promises that Sully isn’t a monster because when he wasn’t able to be there for Sam, Sully was. After Reese calms down and heads home, Sam and Sully say their goodbyes. Sully still knows just the right thing to say to encourage Sam to come to the correct decision and reminds him that sometimes the heroes are heroes just because there is no one else who will do what is right.
As Sam and Dean drive home, Sam brings up the idea of him visiting the cage once more. Dean shoots him down, promising, “there’s always another way.” But Sam wants to know what that other way is, and Dean doesn’t have an answer.