Samantha Highfill
October 17, 2017 AT 02:00 PM EDT

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It’s no secret that Sam and Dean have a lot to deal with right now. One episode into season 13 and they’ve said goodbye to Castiel, Crowley, Kelly, and even mom. (Well, at least Dean has.) Now, they’ve got a Nephilim on their hands. And speaking of Jack, he’s moving into the bunker until Sam can prove he’s good or Dean can figure out a way to kill him.

But there’s a lot more to the story of why Sam is protecting this kid. Sure, he thinks Jack might be the key to opening the rift to the apocalypse world and saving mom. But that’s not all Sam sees when he looks at Jack. “Sam sees a lot of himself in this kid,” Jared Padalecki says, recalling the days in season 4 when his character’s beverage of choice was demon blood. “[This season] starts out and Sam’s kind of lying to himself and maybe he doesn’t even realize, ‘I’m actually reaching out to this kid because I’ve been in those shoes where Dean thought I was a monster.’ Sam was the kid who didn’t really have his footing; he didn’t really know his place.”

For Sam, seeing Jack might bring up memories of tough times, but for Padalecki, the return of this story is nothing but good news. “One of my favorite story arcs for Sam was that feeling of being different or doomed,” he says. “I wrote the writers [this year] to say how excited I was that that undercurrent is back. I always dug that; I dug exploring that part of Sam.”

And now he gets to explore it without drinking demon blood.

Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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