By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated November 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM EST
Diyah Pera/The CW

God, I love episodes with flashbacks. And Tuesday’s episode of Supernatural is a perfect example of why.

In “Bad Boys,” we traveled back into Winchester history to a two-month period during which 16-year-old Dean Winchester found himself living in a home for troubled boys run by an ex-con named Sonny after being caught stealing bread and peanut butter from a local market. (Dean had lost the food money their dad left them in a card game and had resorted to stealing so that Sam wouldn’t go hungry.)

During this time, which we learned was something Dean and his father had kept a secret from Sam, Dean got a taste of the normal life. (Well, a life as normal as one can achieve while living in a boys home.) He joined the wrestling team, got good grades and even found himself a sweetie named Robin, who not only gave him his first kiss, but also was set to be his first school dance date. That plan hit a snag, which I’ll explain in a second.

All this history was revealed, as I mentioned, in flashbacks that we were shown while Dean and Sam worked a case of an angry ghost who was killing people — and maiming children — at this boys home, which was still up and running after all these years.

In present day, Dean also befriended a kid named Timmy, who was at the home after having repeatedly run away from children’s services, where he had been placed after his mother was killed in a car accident. Now, this is far from the only time that Dean has found himself in a storyline with little co-stars. Actually, he tends to get the lion’s share of them, if you ask me, and that’s not a complaint. In fact, I feel like either the writers agree that Dean interacting with children is simply adorable or they see it as the type of personality trait a character like this would have. If you think about it — and as this episode hammered home — Dean spent his whole life watching over Sam; so it’s only natural that, even as a grown man, his instinct is to has a soft spot for kids. (Speaking as an older sibling myself, I feel like every little kid in some way reminds me of my little sister. Just me?)

Aside from assaulting me with soul-meltingly sweet images of Dean teaching Timmy how to properly shake a hand, the storyline with Timmy actually turned out to be a very important part of the episode.

In the end, we found out that Timmy’s now-ghost mother was the one who’d been killing people because she saw them as threats to her son. And after throwing the Winchesters around the house a bit, Timmy finally stood up to ghost mommy and told her that he’d be okay without her protecting him.

Aside from the fact that this kid was named Timmy (WHY ARE THEY ALL TV KIDS NAMED TIMMY?!), I really liked this boy and felt for him deeply. He was a nice mirror to flashback Dean, if you think about it. Timmy was a kid who found strength within himself, while Dean, years ago, was reminded that strength means being accountable to more than just himself.

Speaking of which, the last scene of the episode really gutted me. In it, Dean was upset when Sonny announced on the night of his dance that his dad had shown up to take him away. Sonny offered, at the time, to stick his neck out for Dean and lobby for him to stay, but then Dean looked out the window and saw little Sam in the backseat of the Impala playing with his airplane. The visual painted a smile on Dean’s face, and he told Sonny that he was going to leave. He didn’t have to say it was for Sam, but we knew. In present day, so did Sam.

The whole episode was just fantastic. But a few questions: Did anyone else find it odd that John just LEFT Dean there? I know he’s always been painted as a tough dad, but two months? That seemed a little excessive even for him. Also, how great was the actor who played Sonny and Sonny in general as a character? The line “being hungry isn’t a crime” particularly tore me up inside. Lastly, was anyone else secretly hoping Dean would adopt Timmy? Yes, I know that would never happen. It was just…too cute.

Great moments:

+ I loved that Sam was going to sit down to read The Marvelous Land of Oz. Nice nod to Charlie’s ep from a few weeks back.

+ Sam finding “Dean W.” under layers of tape on the bed.

+ Bruce the Monster Snatcher!

+ Dean teaching Timmy about hand shakes.

+ Dean seeing his teenage crush at the diner. The expression on his face when he thought she didn’t remember him had me cringing for poor Dean. It was like he was 16 again.

+ 16-year-old Dean talking about cars.

Best quotes:

“Being hungry’s not a crime.” — Sonny (I really loved this guy.)

“Is that a cape? A little impractical for fighting monsters.” — Dean, re: Timmy’s toy (Bruce the monster snatcher)

“If either of you touch him again I’m going to go all Guantanamo on you.” — Dean to some punk kids

“Nobody bad-touched me, nobody burned me with their smokes, no one beat me with a metal hanger; I call that a win.” — Dean to Sam about the boys home (Note: The “bad-touch” part particularly made me laugh because the Dateline-watching cynic in me cringed at the name “Sonny’s Home for Boys.” I believe my words were, “Well, that name’s just buckets of creepy.”)

“As you can see, I did not run off and become a rock star.” — Dean

“I guess we didn’t know everything we thought we did at 16.” — Dean

Sam: Dean, thank you — for always being there. For always having my back. I know it hasn’t always been easy.

Dean: [Pause] I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.