“ONE qualm – When Dean says “You have one thing Max never had” it never made sense to me that the writers had Sam conclude he meant JOHN at that point! In my understanding of Sam’s character at that time Sam would have totally gotten Dean’s point and agreed. But….I know….good conflict.”
That’s a good point, PNP.
I got the impression that in season 1, Sam had NO IDEA how truly devoted Dean was to him, and how much Dean had already sacrificed for him. In “Skin”, Sam finds out for the first time that Dean is the one who carried him out of the fire. Later in season 1, Sam and John almost get into a fist fight, and it’s Dean who steps between them. From Dean’s reaction, it seemed like he’d spent a lot of his youth doing exactly that. In “Something Wicked”, and again in the Christmas episode (season 3) we see Dean doing his best to take care of Sam in a motel, try to keep Sam safe, and try to give the kid some sort of Christmas. And much later, in “Dark Side of the Moon”, Sam learns that even at the age of four, Dean was already trying to help keep the peace between John and Mary.
Dean literally sacrificed his life — all of it, without regret or hesitation — for Sam and John. To me, Sam’s response iin this episode says that Sam didn’t realize or appreciate how much he truly owed Dean until much later in the series.