Appointment In Samarra
Written by Sera Gamble and Robert Singer.
Directed by Mike Rohl.
Air Date: December 10, 2010.
Dean goes to Death to make a deal to bring Sam's soul back. Death agrees, on the condition that Dean put on his ring and do his job for one day, under the guidance of a Reaper, Tessa. At first, Dean does well, reaping a robber who got shot while holding up a convenience store and an overweight man who has a heart attack. But when his next victim is a twelve-year-old girl with a heart defect, he refuses. By upsetting the natural order of things, Dean causes the death of a nurse. Her grief-stricken husband, driving home drunk, nearly crashes into a bus and causes more deaths, but Dean removes the ring in order to stop him. Even though he has already lost the bet, he returns to the hospital and reaps the girl in order to prevent more unnecessary deaths.
Meanwhile, Sam summons Balthazar and asks for his help in preventing Dean from returning his soul. Balthazar gives him a spell that requires the blood of Sam's father figure. So Sam attempts to kill Bobby, eventually tying him up in his own basement. Sam is just about to slash Bobby's throat when Dean returns and punches him out.
Dean lost the bet but, since he learned an important lesson, Death holds up his end of the deal and returns Sam's soul to his body.
For this episode = 4 humans.
For the series so far = At least 439 humans (of which 6 were witches), 77 demons, 33 ghosts, 26 vampires, 19 zombies, 14 gods, 11 angels, 9 hellhounds, 7 skinwalkers, 6 changelings, 5 shapeshifters, 4 ghouls, 3 djinn, 2 werewolves, 2 dogs, 1 crocotta, 1 fairy, 1 lamia, 1 okami, 1 rakshasa, 1 rawhead, 1 reaper, 1 rugaru, 1 shtriga, 1 siren, 1 wendigo, 1 whore of Babylon, and 1 wraith.
- Accidental Innuendo: "I have to say, I'm not a fan of your brother, so screwing him would delight me."
- An Aesop: When you Screw Destiny, it has consequences for other people.
- Ax-Crazy: Sam. Bonus points for actually wielding an ax at one point.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Dr. Roberts, played by Robert Englund, used to patch up John Winchester in the old days. And he's willing to do highly unethical and dangerous procedures like artificially inducing clinical death (with a 75% successful resuscitation rate).
- Balancing Death's Books: It turns out that the disruption of the natural order caused by someone not dying when they're supposed to automatically leads to the death of someone else, then another someone else, over and over again until they actually die. The brothers' tendency to repeatedly come back annoys Death quite a lot.
- Chess with Death: In exchange for bringing Sam's soul back to his body Dean has to do Death's job for a day. Dean ends up failing the test, but Death returns the soul anyway, first because his real reason for the task was to show Dean what forces he was messing with by constantly resurrecting, and also because Sam and Dean's current investigation suited his purposes. (He may have wanted a day off too.)
- Complete Immortality: Death states that nothing lasts forever. Then he corrects himself, saying he himself will.
- Crazy-Prepared: Bobby prepared a trapdoor in front of the closet leading to the basement, and bolted the cellar door with reinforced steel. This comes in handy when Sam tries to kill him, but Sam gets out of the cellar anyway.
- A Day in the Limelight: For the Reapers, as Dean learns exactly what the Psychopomps of his reality have to deal with every day.
- Deadpan Snarker: Death has his moments.Dean: Are you serious?Death: No, I'm being incredibly sarcastic.
- Death of a Child: Dean outright refuses to reap a little girl who is dying of a genetic heart defect because it's unfair (which, admittedly, it is). This upheaval of the natural order results in the death of other people. Dean then corrects his mistake and kills her, agreeing with her after she dies that the natural order is stupid.
- Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: After Dean failed the test, Death shows up in Bobby's kitchen and invites Dean for some bacon dogs. Death seems to like junk food.
- Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Subverted when Dean tries to blackmail Death into helping him by using Death's ring (which Death previously loaned to Dean) as leverage. Death notes that Dean's gamble assumes that he doesn't already know the location of his own weapon, but he remains open to an equal exchange and asks Dean to become him for a single day.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Death has two moments of this when Dean gets too snarky or disrespectful, like rolling his eyes in front of him. Death warns him, and Dean immediately gets the message.
- Doom Magnet: Anyone who cheats death and disrupts the natural order will cause death and chaos wherever they go. Considering all of the times Sam and Dean came back to life and all the trouble they've caused as a result, you can see why Death is tired of the Winchesters.
- It also explains why everyone around the Winchesters die gruesome untimely deaths. It's the universe trying to balance the scales that have been disturbed by Sam and Dean's unnatural resurrections.
- Drowning My Sorrows: After the nurse dies, her husband starts drinking heavily and driving at the same time. Dean has to intervene to stop him.
- Flatline Plotline: Dean has himself temporarily killed by Dr. Robert so he can contact and make a deal with Death. According to the man conducting the procedure, he has a 75% success rate.
- Fridge Horror: What exactly did the doctor do to get his license revoked?
- The Grim Reaper: Both Death, the actual Grim Reaper, and Tessa, an individual Reaper, figure heavily into the plot. We are given a much deeper look into their daily dealings in guiding the deceased to the afterlife.
- Goth: Dr. Roberts' creepy assistant, who seems a bit too eager to go all "Flatliners" on Dean.
- Hell: Dean taunts the robber after he's dead that this is where he'll go.
- Just in Time: Dean saves Bobby just as Sam is about to slit his throat.
- Karmic Death: The robber dies from a gunshot wound after he threatens to shoot the owner's kid, and the overweight man dies from a heart attack while he was gorging himself on a pizza.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Hilary, the 12-year-old girl dying from a genetic heart defect. She's not only dying before she got the chance to live a full life, but her death would also leave her lone father behind (her mother is already dead), who doesn't really have any other family. Dean is so upset by this that he simply refuses to claim her soul, despite being warned by Tessa that it will cause havoc to the natural order.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Bobby knocks Sam out when the latter attacks him. He goes over to the table to get some rope, and when he turns around, Sam is gone.
- The Omniscient: This is strongly hinted at with Death, since he somehow knows without being told that Dean contacted one of his Reapers (Tessa) even though she didn't call out for him, where Dean hid his ring, and the outcome of Dean's day in his shoes while presumably not being there.
- The Problem with Fighting Death: Dean gambles with Death to get Sam's soul back from Lucifer's Cage and return it to his body with a temporary fix to keep the hell memories from killing him or worse. Death buys him a hot dog and holds up his end of the bargain—even though Dean failed his—because Dean learned something. Death, of course, continues to impress upon Dean the depths of his insignificance at every opportunity.
- Self-Made Orphan: The spell to keep a soul out of a body requires the killing of a parental figure so it will taint the vessel. Sam therefore tries to kill Bobby, but is stopped just in time by Dean.
- Subbing for Santa: Death makes Dean wear his ring so he will carry out his job for a day, as part of a deal. He finds he can't go through with seeing all the people dying.
- Sadistic Choice: Dean wants to free both Sam and Adam's souls from the Cage, but Death will only let him choose one of them. Dean immediately chooses Sam.
- Screw Destiny: Dean tries to use his powers as Death to do good by letting a sick girl live in defiance of what Tessa calls "the Natural Order", the established flow of life and death. Subverted when it causes more collateral damage than Dean had foreseen and he's forced to follow destiny anyway, even if it's unfair.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Dean questions why people have to die even if they don't deserve this, and Tessa replies that she only knows that the orders come from Death, who's following a specific plan. Then Dean attempts this trope when he claims that since he's actually Death (albeit for a day only), he doesn't have to reap everyone. Tessa just replies that he knows damn well that she's referring to the real Grim Reaper.
- To The Shining. Sam breaks through a door with an ax to get to Bobby, leading Bobby to reply, "Don't say 'Here's Johnny'."
- The episode's title is a reference to a Mesopotamian folktale of the same name: a servant encounters Death at a market in Baghdad who makes a seemingly threatening gesture at him. The servant runs away and asks his master to borrow his fastest horse so he can run away to far away Samarra so Death won't find him. The master not only agrees but goes off to confront Death for scaring his servant. Death replies that they weren't threatening the servant: they were surprised to see him in Baghdad since they have an appointment with him in Samarra later that day.
- Touch of Death: When Dean becomes Death for a day, he reaps people simply by touching them.
- Would Hurt a Child: The store robber makes it clear that he would kill the owner's kid if he wanted to.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Discussed by Dean and Tessa. Dean questions why some have to die and others don't, and Tessa replies that it's all part of a larger plan. Dean rejects this and goes on a tirade about destiny being nothing but a lie, but Tessa notes that he doesn't actually believe that.
- You Will Know What to Do: Death instructs Dean to keep researching the souls, saying that he will understand when he needs to.