Changing Channels
Production information
Season : 5
Episode : 8
Original airdate : 5 November, 2009
Directed by : Charles Beeson
Written by : Jeremy Carver
Preceded by : The Curious Case of Dean Winchester
Followed by : The Real Ghostbusters
Supernatural Episode 500:53

Supernatural Episode 5.08 Changing Channels opening credits

Unique alternate version of title sequence

Changing Channels is the eighth episode of Season 5 of Supernatural.


The Trickster returns and sends Sam and Dean into another dimension based on TV channels, where the brothers must play the roles as characters in various TV shows and commercials if they are to win their freedom. Castiel attempts to free the brothers, and the brothers discover an unexpected truth about the Trickster's past and what he really is.

Full synopsisEdit

Sam and Dean are in Wellington, Ohio, investigating a case where local animal-hunter Bill Randolph was chased and killed in his home, by what his widow Kathy reveals she saw was the Incredible Hulk (specifically the TV incarnation portrayed by Lou Ferrigno). Dean discovers from police records that Bill Randolph had a very violent temper, and Sam reveals that he found a mass of candy wrappers at the crime scene - based on the candy wrappers and how this case involves a violent hothead being killed by Marvel's iconic hothead, Sam and Dean realize that they're dealing with the Trickster. Dean is eager to kill the Trickster after what the latter did to him at Mystery Spot, but Sam instead hopes they can talk with the Trickster and get him to help them stop the Apocalypse, since Sam figures that an ally as powerful as the Trickster could indeed help them.

After getting their stakes together for in the event that they can't get the Trickster to help with the Apocalypse crisis, Sam and Dean wait for him to show when he causes another death. The brothers pick up a bizarre CB asking for backup at the town's abandoned mill, and figure it could be the Trickster. When the Winchesters drive to the mill, they find that there's no police activity there at all, as the Trickster faked the CB to lure them in. Sam and Dean step into the mill to find and confront the Trickster - and suddenly the two find themselves in a Seattle hospital as doctors. An energetic Dean recognizes both the hospital and several of the other staff, and identifies it as the setting of the hospital drama Dr. Sexy, M.D.. The Trickster has put Sam and Dean in a virtual world (dubbed "TV Land" by Sam) which mimics and replicates the settings and fictional universes of television programmes.

While the Winchesters search for a way out, Dean detects Dr. Sexy, the show's titular character, as the Trickster in disguise by the doctor's lack of cowboy boots. The Trickster reveals he already knows about what's happening with the Apocalypse and that the Winchesters want him to fix it for them; he agrees to talk if the brothers can survive the next 24 hours in TV Land, then vanishes. Refusing to play along with the Trickster's terms (and in Sam's case unable to take the Dr. Sexy, M.D. characters' melodrama), Sam and Dean immediately set about finding a way out of TV Land. But when Dean, because it isn't real, rebutes a character's plea to give his wife a face transplant, the character shoots Dean in the back; landing Dean in need of live-saving surgery, with an unwilling Sam serving as head surgeon over the operation. Sam initially has no idea what he's doing, but he is able to fix Dean's gunshot wound and save his life by using the unorthodox makeshift medical tools the brothers are used to in place of the surgical equipment (with Sam's successful surgery earning him the awkward romantic admiration of Dr. Ellen Piccolo - the "sexy yet earnest" Dr. Sexy, M.D. character, who's apparently in love with Sam's character in TV Land).

Once Dean is healed, he and Sam find themselves transported to another 'channel' in TV Land; this one being a Japanese game show called Nutcracker, where the host asks the brothers extremely personal questions which they must answer before their time runs out. If one of the Winchesters fails to answer their question before their time runs out, an automatic pogo stick hits them hard in the crotch, as they discover when Sam fails to understand a question about Ruby that was spoken in Japanese. To Sam and Dean's surprise, Castiel then shows up, having broken into TV Land and revealing that the brothers have been missing for days now. But before Cass can get Sam and Dean out, he's expelled again by the Trickster's power. As Dean's clock is now ticking but he doesn't understand what his question is, Sam pieces together from how they got to here from Dr. Sexy, M.D. that playing their characters' roles in each TV Land world is how they survive unscathed and move on to the next channel. Dean, to his and Sam's surprise, manages to fluently speak Japanese despite not knowing the language, and correctly answers his question at the last second. Though Sam and Dean now know that they need play their roles on each channel to survive TV Land, they're still plagued by one thought - how long they'll have to keep playing their roles before the Trickster sets them free.

After playing their roles on Nutcracker, Sam and Dean are forced to play more roles on more channels in TV Land, including a commercial for genital herpes treatment, and a 70s-style sitcom. On the latter channel, a battered Cass returns, having escaped from wherever the Trickster sent him, and tells Sam and Dean that this Trickster is much more powerful than a trickster should be. But before Cass can elaborate, the Trickster arrives and silences him. Both the Trickster and a shocked Castiel recognize each-other on sight, to the Winchesters' surprise, before the Trickster sends Cass away again. Dean, having at this point had enough of TV Land, demands that the Trickster tell them what this is all about and let them out. The Trickster reveals that the purpose behind TV Land in teaching Sam and Dean to play their roles is that it's meant to get them to play their roles in the Apocalypse as Lucifer and Michael's vessels for the battle. Sam is appalled that the Trickster actually wants the Apocalypse to end the world, while Dean demands to know which side the Trickster is working for. The Trickster angrily claims to not be working for either Heaven or Hell, and when Dean suspects otherwise, the Trickster suddenly snaps and tells Sam and Dean in a flash of fury that they'll play their roles and fulfil their destinies or stay in TV Land forever.

The Trickster then sends Sam and Dean to another channel; a crime drama where the Winchesters' roles are as a duo of lead CSIs investigating a stabbing in the woods. When the brothers notice one of the CSIs eating a lollypop, they suspect from his sweet tooth that he may be the Trickster in disguise. The Winchesters at first play their roles, acting as Horatio Caine-esque CSIs, then use a branch as a makeshift stake to kill the sweet-toothed CSI. The Trickster then reveals himself to have been another cop in the background, but the Winchesters were already suspecting this. Sam stakes the Trickster from behind, and TV Land disintegrates back into the mill interior as the Trickster lies dead. It initially seems as though the Trickster is indeed dead and everything except Castiel's disappearance is back to normal, but the Winchesters soon discover otherwise - Sam disappears after a while, and Dean finds Sam has been turned into a sentient, KITT-esque version of the Impala, confirming that the Trickster wasn't killed and that the brothers are still in TV Land.

Dean and Sam discuss why it is that the stake didn't kill the Trickster, and Sam suggests the Trickster might not be a trickster at all, judging from Cass's mention that this Trickster is far too powerful. Sam and Dean take note of how Cass and the Trickster seemed to know each-other when Cass saw him, and about the Trickster's obsession with the Apocalypse and his angered reaction to the talk about Michael and Lucifer. The latter two clues drop the dime, and Dean pieces together what the Trickster really is. Dean and Sam lure the Trickster out by feigning giving in to his demands that they say yes to Michael and Lucifer. As soon as the Trickster has restored Sam back to normal, the Winchesters, armed with their new knowledge about what the Trickster really is, successfully outsmart and trap him... in a circle of holy fire.

When he's unable to cross the holy fire, the Trickster is forced to admit that in reality he is and always has been an angel, and dissolves TV Land around them. The Trickster reveals that he is in fact the archangel Gabriel, having gone rogue and left Heaven at the time of Lucifer's fall when he couldn't take the fighting among his brothers (the other archangels), and disguised himself among the pagan gods. Gabriel also admits that he doesn't want to see Michael and Lucifer kill each-other and doesn't care which side wins the final war, but just wants it to come and go already so that his brothers' fighting will finally be over. Sam pleads that there must be a way they can derail the Apocalypse, but Gabriel declares that this can't be stopped, and that Sam and Dean are just as much a part of the war as Lucifer and Michael. Gabriel points out that the Winchesters are a lot more similar to the archangels than they want to admit, which is why they're the ones who have always been destined to be the vessels for Armageddon - Dean/Michael, the elder brother and the blindly-loyal son; and Sam/Lucifer, the younger brother, rebellious of his father's plans. Gabriel then, in a moment of sympathetic sadness, says that he truly wishes this could just be derailed like on any TV show, but this is real and will find a way to happen no matter what they do.

Dean forces Gabriel, under threat of burning him to death with holy fire, to bring Castiel back from wherever he banished him, and Gabriel complies. Sam, Dean and Cass turn to leave as Gabriel calls after them because he's still trapped in the holy fire. Dean declares that because they're not like him, they won't leave him to rot in the ring of holy fire forever, and Dean also tells Gabriel that this isn't about inevitable destiny or about two brothers' fighting, but about Gabriel being too afraid to stand up to his family. Dean then sets off the building's fire sprinkler system, and exits with Sam and Cass, leaving a silently-fuming Gabriel staring off after them as the sprinklers extinguish the holy fire. Outside, Sam and Dean talk about whether what Gabriel said about the Apocalypse being unstoppable is true, and Sam says, "I think he believes it." As they climb into the Impala, Dean and Sam realize that they have no plan on how they can stop the end, and grimly admit that TV Land now doesn't seem so bad in comparison to the current situation in the real world.








  • Several of the TV shows and channels in TV Land appear to parody several real-life TV programmes:
    • Dr. Sexy, M.D. - Appears to be based on Grey's Anatomy
    • Sitcom - Apparently based on the classic sitcom shows of the 1970s
    • Cop show - Apparently based on CSI: Miami, with Sam and Dean's cop looks in the cop show setting serving as a nod to the chief protagonist Horatio Caine.
    • Sampala world - Appears to be based on Knight Rider, with Sam's 'role' in this world as the A.I. mind of the Impala parodying KITT.
Supernatural Season 5
Sympathy for the DevilGood God, Y'All!Free to Be You and MeThe EndFallen IdolsI Believe the Children Are Our FutureThe Curious Case of Dean WinchesterChanging ChannelsThe Real GhostbustersAbandon All Hope...Sam, InterruptedSwap MeatThe Song Remains the SameMy Bloody ValentineDead Men Don't Wear PlaidDark Side of the Moon99 ProblemsPoint of No ReturnHammer of the GodsThe Devil You KnowTwo Minutes to MidnightSwan Song

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