Supernatural: Jump the Shark
July 31, 2021 4:23 AM - Season 4, Episode 19 - Subscribe

The Winchesters learn that they have a younger half-brother named Adam Milligan, whose mother has vanished, along with a few other people in the town in which the Milligans live.


Dean: You know, I finally get why you and Dad butted heads so much. You two were practically the same person. I mean, I worshipped the guy, you know? I dressed like him, I acted like him, I listen to the same music. But you were more like him than I will ever be. And I see that now.
Sam: I'll take that as a compliment.
Dean: You take it any way you want.


The expression "jump the shark" is a term commonly used to describe the point in which a TV show has clearly passed its peak, and the beginning of its downhill trajectory is often considered to be marked by the addition of a character who is poorly received by the audience, or by a particular ridiculous plot point. The term originated from a Happy Days episode in which Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli performs a stunt in which he literally jumps over a shark while water-skiing. When Sam and Dean enter the diner, a poster for the "Fonzarelli Water-Skiing Championship" can be seen on the wall.

The Winchesters meet Adam at Cousin Oliver's restaurant. This is a reference to the character "Cousin Oliver" in The Brady Bunch. Cousin Oliver was brought in during the final season of the series in an attempt to inject some young child cuteness into the show, as all the original cast had gotten much older. Many fans consider this to be when The Brady Bunch itself "jumped the shark", and this is a sly reference to the fact that a new younger Winchester brother has been introduced to the cast.

When Dean and Sam determine who is going to go down the floor vent, they play "Rock, Paper, Scissors". Dean always throws scissors and Sam knows this and always throws rock.

A display card in the boys' hotel room advertises happy hour at the Sonny Buono lounge and features a pic of a mustached Kim Manners. Kim was a much-loved producer and director from the show, who died in January 2009.

Dean identifies himself as Agent Nugent, after hard rock's Motor City Madman Ted Nugent.
posted by orange swan (5 comments total)
Adam doesn't look much like John, but I guess the idea is he takes after his mother, except for his height, in which he is definitely a Winchester, as his mother is short. Also his choice of ride: he drives a pickup, like John did after he gave the Impala to Dean. That wouldn't be a typical choice of vehicle for a pre-med student.

In the last two years, neither Adam nor his mother have tried to call John even once? Dean had kept his father's phone and would have received any messages they left. My guess is John may have called Kate and/or Adam before he died, or possibly had made a standing request of one of his friends that they would let Kate and Adam know if he died, and that they did know John was dead, but the ghoul who had assumed Adam's form was pretending not to know. Hmm, does Bobby know about Adam?

Adam's age was never given, but Jake Abel was 21 when this episode aired, and Adam says his father had known of his existence since he was 12, which would have been circa 2000, seven years before John died, and Dean and Sam would have been 21 and 17 at that time. It's incredible to me that John never told Sam and Dean about their half-brother in seven years. I think John must have been ashamed of his own actions, though he may have told himself that he wasn't going to tell Sam and Dean about Adam in order to keep Adam out of the hunting life. Control is dependent on the controller maintaining a moral high horse, and he wouldn't have been able to be so self-righteous about Sam's "leaving the family" to go to university as 17-year-old Sam was on the verge of doing if Sam had known that John had gotten a woman pregnant during a one-night stand and (unwittingly) left her to raise their son on her own. And as we've said in previous threads, John never really talked to his sons or told them much to begin with.

Dean's feelings towards Adam are complex: a mix of shock that his hero dad, who wore his wedding ring for the remaining 22 years of his life after his mother died, was not a saint who had remained faithful to his mother's memory; a refusal to believe that Adam is really their brother or to accept him as a brother; resentment/jealousy that Adam got the kind of indulgent, birthday-celebrating, baseball game-attending parenting that he and Sam never got from John as well as a normal, secure childhood; a desire to respect what he sees as his father's concerted effort to keep Adam out of the hunting life; and his own desire to protect Adam. It's all there in the writing and in Jensen Ackles' performance, which is no mean feat.

It's true that Sam is actually more like his father than Dean. There was a telling moment in an earlier episode where Sam hands a baby to the baby's young sibling and tells the child to take the baby outside and run as fast as they can, using exactly the same words and the same tone as his father did to Dean on that fateful night in November 1983, even though he would never even have heard his father's words quoted. We haven't seen Sam be controlling like John was (which may be only because he has never been in authority over anyone), but at the same time Sam has an intolerance for being controlled that is a flip side of the same coin, while Dean acceded to their father's demands and criticism in a way Sam refused to do. And when Sam has a chance to nurture a younger family member for the first time in his life, he immediately takes a tough love approach and begins to make a warrior of him just as his father did with him and Dean, while Dean wants to shield Adam as he tried to shield Sam.

This the first time we've seen ghouls so far in the series. They are deeply unpleasant creatures.
posted by orange swan at 6:23 AM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

It was an interesting concept to throw in a half brother, but they really didn't do too much with it after this, to the point where it looked bad that they were ignoring the character.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:56 PM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Poor Adam! They never really met him until later episodes when things were much darker. They meet the ghoul version only. Someone proposed an au where they take ghoul! Adam along with them unsuspectingly and he keeps trying to kill them but gets foiled constantly, which makes me giggle.

The way they approach being big brothers to a stranger is totally separate, yes. The show likes John too much to fully commit but when they do go into the realities of what his awful parenting did to them, and the parentification of Dean, it can be so good.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:42 PM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

There's a LONG list of characters from this show who get incredibly screwed, but poor Adam gets pretty screwed. Besides being horribly killed with his mother before this episode even starts, he never really has a chance, and definitely spends way longer in Hell than Sam or Dean. (One of my favorite moments of the high school musical is when a bunch of dead characters come out to sing Carry On Wayward Son and Sam and Dean have to ask hey who's that guy?, at which point I'm pretty sure Adam's still in Hell.)

Besides creating some plot conveniences, for me Adam (among a few others, but maybe Adam most directly) goes to how "family" doesn't adequately explain why Sam and Dean are the way they are with each other. Because, yes, it doesn't end with blood, and like most of us they form deep compelling relationships with people they're not related to. But JUST being related to them seems to count for like. surprisingly little! considering how thoroughly their lives are defined by some specific familial relationships.

But at this particular moment I think Adam is hard for Sam and Dean in different ways. Sam's right now pretty invested in this idea that his current circumstances were inevitable because if he had a real way out, and got so twisted up he can't even want it anymore, that's worse; he is also not a dude to let a perfectly good blood feud go to waste. And Dean I think still needs to believe that John truly was doing his best for them and really couldn't be the loving, playful dad he kind of remembers, and how bewildering it must be that John just couldn't be that for him. (And yeah Sam, but. him.)

Anyway this would've been a great time for Zachariah to show up and remind everybody how awesome hunting is because of the cars and fornication and what all.
posted by jameaterblues at 7:03 PM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I know this is a massive aside, but that shark-jumping episode of Happy Days was really such bad TV (with the cheapest special effects imaginable) that its lack of quality was readily evident to all, including young kids who watched the show. (Yes, I can attest this is from personal experience.)

And yes, this is really one of those cases where they needed to introduce the character an episode or two before they introduced his fate.

This is just one of the many circumstances where it's evident that it's not family (either the born-into kind or the made/found family type) or bloodlines that mean anything to Sam and Dean. While they may talk about family, to them it's only their sibling bond and the bond with their dad (and maybe their mom, although I'm less convinced of this one) that have any hold on them and their loyalties whatsoever.
posted by sardonyx at 1:44 PM on August 1, 2021

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