What a way to bounce back from last week's episode, Supernatural! Did anyone else not feel the love building up to the show's December 1 return? The meat of this season is obviously the mama drama surrounding Mary Winchester's ( Samantha Smith) return to the land of the living, and it's been very good so far... I'm not interested in deviating from it, but this is Supernatural, so we must.

"Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox" was one of those delightful episodes that threw a ton of one-off no-name characters at us and actually managed to make us give a crap about a hunter we've never heard of before, and his patchwork family that we'll probably never see again. Asa was neatly slotted into Supernatural mythology with a quick line about Sam ( Jared Padalecki) and Dean ( Jensen Ackles) hearing stories about him from the late, great Ellen ( Samantha Ferris); and on a more earth-shattering note, the revelation that dearly departed Asa Fox got into hunting because one Mary Winchester saved his butt from a werewolf in 1980.

Rabid fans with a thing for details will note that this is after Dean was already born, meaning Mary never completely ditched hunting, even after her happily-ever-after retirement. If you didn't catch it, it's cool, Sam pointed it out because it's important. It's one of those small, but powerful cracks in the foundation of their lives that, after a good angst and maybe a roaring hangover, could bring a lot of healing to the fractured Winchester family.

Supernatural: the Winchesters have serious mommy issues

Sam and Dean — and, I think we're slowing learning, Mary too — were raised in a very closed segment of the hunter community. Dean and Sam didn't realize that there was an actual community of hunters, with its own culture and traditions, well into their adulthood. Their experience was a lonely one and hunting was presented as this awful, but necessary burden. Family, friends, and all the trappings of normalcy were not available to them because of hunting. It was an either/or scenario and that's how we ended up with Sam's college years going down as some kind of massive betrayal, Dean's time with Lisa dangled like some kind of unwanted reward, and Mary's tunnel vision for the future of her family that backfired so spectacularly.

Over 12 seasons, Supernatural has made it more and more clear that while hunting still isn't something to take lightly, it doesn't have to be some sad, solitary existence that ends torched on the ceiling of your kid's nursery. Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes), a late recruit to the hunting life, embraces the weird, acknowledges the danger and the despair, and then watches rom-coms while her teenage girls are off "being angsty at a Radiohead concert."

Even Asa himself, mourned by his mother for not having a life, for dying young and alone, wasn't quite as alone as she feared. Up until the bodies started piling up, his wake was truly a celebration in the sense that it was raucous and surprisingly jolly for a funeral. Friends told stories about a guy who loved his Jeep with the same dedication Dean has to Baby and, holy crap, he had children and girlfriends and people who loved him after all.

Now, of course, Supernatural had to go and turn all those warm and fuzzies into a pile of lighter fluid and ash by the end of things, when we learned that Asa's hunting bestie accidentally killed him and then tried to cover it up as some sort of demonic vendetta. But, well, people make stupid decisions after they smash their bestie's skull with a rock — and that dude gets to live with that.

The hunting community that Supernatural has created is surprisingly loving and it doesn't forget it's heroes (thanks to Garth apparently not being able to keep his freaking mouth shut about that time Sam was totally possessed by Lucifer) but that coldness and loneliness that the Winchesters grew up with is still there, and still a part of the culture. Die a hero, and they'll be drinking to your memory forever. Die a villain, and the ones left behind will make sure that story gets told too.

Supernatural airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of the CW's parent companies.)