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Recap / Supernatural S 05 E 08 Changing Channels

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Recap of Supernatural
Season 5, Episode 8

Changing Channels

Town to town, two-lane roads
Family biz, two hunting bros -
Living the lie, just to get byyyyyy
As long as we're movin' forward
There's nothing we can't do
Together, we'll face the day
You and I won't run awaaaaay
When the demons come out to plaaaay
Together, we'll face the day!
—Supernatural, opening theme

Written by Jeremy Carver.

Directed by Charles Beeson.

Air Date: November 5, 2009.

The Winchesters investigate a mysterious death in which the widow swears it was The Incredible Hulk that killed her husband. When Sam finds candy wrappers at the scene of death, they know what they're dealing with—the Trickster.

Two days later, they're Trapped in TV Land. Yeah, it's that kind of episode.

Body count

For this episode = 1 human.

For the series so far = At least 333 humans (of which 6 were witches), 39 demons, 28 ghosts, 11 vampires, 6 changelings, 4 angels, 4 gods, 3 shapeshifters, 3 zombies, 2 ghouls, 2 werewolves, 2 dogs, 1 crocotta, 1 djinn, 1 rakshasa, 1 rawhead, 1 reaper, 1 rugaru, 1 shtriga, 1 siren, and 1 wendigo.


  • Affectionate Parody: Of multiple television shows in multiple genres.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Dean has an obvious crush on the character/actor of Dr. Sexy MD to the point of becoming tongue-tied around him.
    • The Trickster himself continues his habit of flirting with and making double entendres around the Winchesters.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The commercial for the fictional genital herpes medication, Herpexia, lists the drug's side effects as follows (as recited by Dean):
    Dean: [voiceover] Side effects of Herpexia include permanent erectile dysfunction, thoughts of suicide, and nausea.
  • Ass Shove: Sam turns into a Knight Rider version of the Impala. Later, Dean retrieves an object from the trunk and Sam comments about how uncomfortable it feels. Dean later makes a comment about pulling something out of Sam's ass.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: In the CSI: Miami parody, the coroner explains the body to Sam and Dean while sucking on a lollipop.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": In the CSI: Miami parody with a Hurricane of Puns, Dramatic Pauses and Glasses Pull. And in the sitcom parody, with the characters dully waiting their turns to recite their lines (including time for the laugh track) just like the worst of 80s sitcoms.
  • Bedsheet Ghost/Scary Flashlight Face: During the situation comedy-type opening credits.
  • Big Bad: The Trickster, revealed to be the Archangel Gabriel, places Sam and Dean through several television shows in order to force them to say yes to Michael and Lucifer.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Gabriel views his family i.e. God and the other angels as this.
    Gabriel: You do not know my family. What you guys call the apocalypse, I used to call Sunday dinner.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the Japanese game show segment, on the wall behind the boys are Japanese characters. "くるみ割り" (kurumiwari) means "nutcracker". The lonely character beneath the arc, "苦、", means "bitter, hardship, worry, suffering, trial". This ties in quite nicely with the aspects of the game show. After all, Sam does not only suffer from a Groin Attack, but the quizmaster asks questions which have hardship, trial, and worry as central topics.
  • Birds of a Feather: Why Sam and Dean were selected as the vessels of Lucifer and Michael.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Dean is totally not a fan of Dr. Sexy.
    • And in the sitcom...
      Sam: Have you done your research yet?
      Dean: [looking shifty] Oh, yeah! All kinds of research...all night.
      [Hot bikini babe comes out of the bedroom] Oh, Dean, we have some more research to do...
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "You're brilliant! And a coward! You're a brilliant coward!"
  • Catchphrase: Dean's "son-of-a-bitch!" is parodied in the sitcom.
  • The Chew Toy: Sam throughout this entire episode. He gets hit in the groin, given genital herpes, slapped multiple times, and turned into a car.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Gabriel gets really hammy once he's outed. Also the host of Nutcracker!, but at least he's got an excuse.
  • Cliché Storm (In-Universe)
  • Closed Circle: Maintained by the Trickster. Despite moving from show to show while Trapped in TV Land, Sam and Dean cannot leave or seek help from any other characters. When Castiel breaks into TV Land to help them, the Trickster just zaps him back out.
  • Cowardice Callout: Dean deconstructs Gabriel's assertions that his older brothers' world-ending battle is inevitable and his personal justification that he just wants to get the damn thing over with already by saying that Gabriel's just making excuses to cover up the fact he's "too afraid to stand up to [his] family". Gabriel responds with a Death Glare and complete silence for the rest of the scene.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Remember that special oil that Cas brought back from Jerusalem? Very rare stuff that can be burned to trap an angel with holy fire? The Winchesters now carry some of it around in the Impala's trunk.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Trickster is able to effortlessly fling Cas around and trap him...somewhere. This actually works against the Trickster, as Cas and the Winchesters realize that no trickster or demigod should be able to overpower and angel that easily if at all.
  • Dagwood Sandwich: Dean makes one when he finds himself in a sitcom.
  • Deus ex Machina: Averted; Cas barges in to save the boys, only to be quickly thrown out by the Trickster. This is a clue that he's much more powerful than a demigod.
    • Later invoked by the brothers when they force Gabriel to bring back Cas.
  • Double Entendre: In the sitcom version of Supernatural.
    Sam: I'm sorry, but we have work to do.
    Bikini Babe: But we did do work. [smiles at Dean] In depth. [Laugh Track]
  • Enemy Mine: Discussed. Despite being previously tormented by the Trickster, Sam hopes to convince it to help the brothers fight the Apocalypse.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Dean's tongue-tied reaction to Dr. Sexy.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Herpexia.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: The "bear attack".
  • Get It Over With: The Trickster's reaction to the Apocalypse.
  • Glasses Pull: Multiple times by both Sam and Dean, to "play their roles" in the parody of CSI: Miami. A step in distracting the Trickster.
  • Groin Attack: "NUT-CRACKAAAAA!"
  • Guilty Pleasures: Sam catches Dean watching a hospital show called Dr. Sexy, MD. Dean claims he isn't a fan of the show. Later on, "Dr. Sexy" actually appears.
    Dean: [notices the doctor's footwear, slams him against the wall] You're not Dr. Sexy.
    "Dr. Sexy": You're crazy.
    Dean: Really? Because I swore part of what makes Dr. Sexy sexy is the fact that he wears cowboy boots. Not tennis shoes!
    Sam: Yeah, you're not a fan...
    Dean: It's a guilty pleasure!
  • Hospital Hottie: The entire point of Dr. Sexy, MD, where not only the title character but also every other hospital worker is sexy.
  • Hot as Hell: The Fanservice Extra girls in the Japanese game show are wearing sexy devil outfits.
  • How Unscientific!: Sam asks why a show like Dr. Sexy would even have ghosts.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Sam towers over Ellen Piccolo. She practically has to stand on her toes in order to slap him.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Weaponized by the Winchesters during the CSI: Miami parody.
  • Improvised Weapon: The boys weaponized a CSI: Miami Shout-Out. They make the obligatory series of puns, which distracts the guy they're talking to so Dean can get behind him and stab him. Except he's not the Trickster. The real Trickster, nearby, was distracted by that stabbing so Sam can stab him. Yes, that's right, they weaponized a Shout-Out, and then weaponized the weaponization.
  • Incoming Ham: The Trickster entering the sitcom right after having Castiel Blown Across the Room.
    Trickster: Helloooo! [audience goes wild] Thank you! Thank you!
  • Instant Costume Change/Offscreen Reality Warp: The Winchesters enter an Abandoned Warehouse and find themselves in Dr. Sexy, MD, wearing Labcoats of Science and Medicine.
  • Ironic Hell: Sam and Dean fear being Trapped in TV Land forever.
    Trickster: 300 channels and nothing's on.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: Yes, Sam, and it's you.
    Sam: I need a pen knife, some dental floss, a sewing needle, and a fifth of whiskey. Stat!
  • Karmic Death: A man with deep-seeded anger issues so bad that he's been arrested twice for spousal battery and gone through multiple anger management courses meets his maker at the hands of "TV's biggest hothead".
    Dean: I guess you could say... you wouldn't like him when he's angry.
  • Laugh Track: Done during the sitcom segment.
    Sam: We could die in here.
    [Canned Laughter]
    Dean: How is that funny? Vultures!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Multiple times.
    • After Sam confirms that the Trickster is involved, Dean retorts with this:
      Dean: Good. I've wanted to gank that mother since Mystery Spot.
    • Later on:
      The Trickster/Gabriel: Guys, I wish this were a TV show.
    • Even later:
      Dean: Right about now, I wish I was back in a TV show.
  • Left the Background Music On/Proscenium Reveal: An Elevator Going Down scene with accompanying song turns out to be on a medical soap opera that Dean is watching on TV.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode jumps from comedy to drama multiple times. One minute it's a glitzy sit-com parody, the next minute the Trickster re-banishes a bloody Castiel and rants threateningly at Dean about Michael and Lucifer. And then the next scene is the CSI parody.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The Trickster remarks that the relationship between John, Sam and Dean is exactly the same one that God, Lucifer and Michael have.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Castiel appears from wherever the Trickster zapped him, much the worse for wear. When the brothers ask what happened, he just waves his hands to indicate it's not important. "I got out!"
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The Trickster/Gabriel drops his playful demeanor when Lucifer and Michael are brought up.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Dr. Sexy does not wear tennis shoes! And The Trickster may be a demi-god, but he should not be able to throw Castiel around like a rag doll.
  • Point-and-Laugh Show: With the Winchesters being pointed at.
  • Product Placement: Shrimp chips in the game show. The initial shot of the sitcom parody is a close-up of the food products in the fridge, obviously designed for this - though the creators put it to other uses.
  • Relationship Reveal: Since The Trickster is an archangel, that makes Castiel his little brother and Michael and Lucifer his older brothers.
  • Relative Button: This helps reveal the Trickster's true identity — Sam notes just how angry he got when Dean mentioned Michael and Lucifer. Dean later says that in his experience, people only get that mad concerning family.
  • Reality Warper: The Trickster, who has actually always been the Archangel Gabriel in disguise.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dean delivers a scathing one to Gabriel just before they leave him soaking under the sprinklers.
  • Repeat Cut: Several instant replay shots of Sam getting smashed in the nuts.
  • The Reveal: The Trickster is Archangel Gabriel.
  • Side Effects Include...: The Herpexia commercial.
  • Share the Male Pain: Dean's reaction to the above.
  • Shout-Out
  • Show Within a Show: Dean's Guilty Pleasure, Dr. Sexy, MD. Also possibly a Soap Within a Show, as they're obviously taking the soapy melodrama and cranking it up to eleven.
  • Sitcom Homage Episode: Naturally, the Trapped in TV Land episode includes a cheesy sitcom.
  • Special Edition Title: Replacing the opening titles with a sitcom-style montage, complete with appropriately-styled theme song and credits (in the Full House font, no less).
  • Stealth Insult: "Call it my own little idiot box."
  • Stepford Smiler: Sam and Dean in their sitcom.
    • The Trickster/Gabriel reveals himself to be one. His lifestyle of messing with people for fun is the result of him being traumatized by watching his family kill each other.
  • Stylistic Suck: Every show the Winchesters find themselves in is either an Affectionate Parody or a Take That!, maybe both, of one or many popular TV shows.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: Dean is surprised to find he can speak Japanese when he decides to play along with the game show.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Lampshaded.
    Sam: You gotta calm down.
    Dean: Calm down? I'm wearing sunglasses at night. You know who does that? No-talent douchebags.
  • Take That!:
    • This episode essentially makes fun of the shows and genres that were popular at the time:
      • Police procedurals, particularly CSI: Miami. Dean hates that there are so many of them and they're all the same, and is embarressed that he's wearing sunglasses at night. They also make fun of the bad puns that are common in the genre.
      • Medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy. The episode essentially points that these shows are full of overdramatic romantic storylines and ideas, such as ghosts or a man shooting Dean for refusing to help his wife, that don't make sense or have anything to do with real doctors, though Dean defends it as a guilty pleasure
      • Game Shows are made fun of, especially foreign ones. Nutcracker! is confusing as the goal is simply to disorient the contestants, Sam and Dean, and humiliate them.
      • Sitcoms like Two and a Half Men. With Sam and Dean acting as stand ins for Alan and Charlie Harper, the show criticises the laugh track in sitcoms which often appears at jokes that aren't really that funny and how scripted they can be, as Sam and Dean visibly wait for the laughter to end before speaking again.
    • Let it be known that the two shows that get it the worst in this episode were essentially Supernatural's rivals. Grey's Anatomy (the show that Dr. Sexy, MD is parodying) and CSI (Vegas, not Miami) aired in the same timeslot as Supernatural: Thursdays at 9:00. The Grey's Anatomy riff is especially meta, as it references the ghost of a dead patient haunting one of the doctors. On the actual GA, that patient was played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, aka the actor who played John Winchester.
    • The Bana and Norton Hulks are derided in favor of the Lou Ferrigno version.
  • Take That, Audience!: In-Universe, Dean eventually becomes pissed with the Laugh Track while in the sitcom:
    Dean: How was that funny?! ...vultures.
  • Theme Tune: Parodied with an over-the-top, sitcom-style opening tune.
  • This Bear Was Framed: A sheriff attributes a murder in his town to a bear attack, because the truth is just too bizarre for him to take seriously: the victim's wife claims that he was beaten to death by The Incredible Hulk. This was caused by a reality-warping monster whose entire modus operandi consists of inflicting comical deaths.
  • This Is Reality: "Look guys, I wish this was a TV show. But this is real."
  • Trap Is the Only Option: The boys investigate a police officer desperately calling for backup and find an Abandoned Warehouse with no police cars.
    Dean: What does that look to you?
    Sam: Crappy. [gets out the wooden stakes]
  • Trapped in TV Land: Obviously.
  • Visual Pun: The Mr. Cheese in the fridge... as we lead into a cheesy sitcom.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: Castiel has been searching for the brothers offscreen and bursts in on them. Gabriel manages to thwart his rescue, but not before Castiel gives Sam and Dean enough clues to fight Gabriel.
  • Wham Episode: The Trickster is revealed to have been Archangel Gabriel, the younger brother of Michael and Lucifer, all along.
  • Wham Line: After Sam and Dean figure out that The Trickster is actually an Angel, they ask him who he really is.
    The Trickster: …Gabriel, okay? They call me Gabriel.