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Changing Channels is the 8th episode of Season 5. It aired on November 5th, 2009.


Dean Purgatory Blade.png.png There was something about being there... It felt pure.

This episode summary is an official CW press release. It may contain errors.

The Trickster (guest star Richard Speight Jr.) throws Sam and Dean into an alternate universe where they are characters in different television series, including a sexy medical show, a Japanese game show, a forensics show and a sitcom. The brothers realize the only way to get out of this world is to play along and become the characters in the shows. However, Castiel appears and warns them this universe is dangerous and they must get out before they become trapped.



After an '80s-sitcom-styled opening credit montage and opening scene, the timeline shifts to two days earlier, in Wellington,OH, in a motel room. Sam walks in and finds Dean engrossed in an episode of Dr. Sexy, MD. After a bit of shaming, they leave to talk local law enforcement about the strange death of William Reynolds. The officer informs them that the death has been deemed a bear attack. Dean voices doubt, since this alleged bear chased William through the woods, smashed through his front door, chased him up the stairs, and ripped his head of in his bedroom—all witnessed by his wife, who is alive and well. He asks the officer if his wife said it was a bear, his reply is that she's traumatized and confused. They speak to Kathy Randolph and she eventually nervously admits she could have sworn it was the Incredible Hulk, the Lou Ferrigno one, that killed her husband.

Sam found the Trickster's candy wrappers at the Hulk scene.

Later, Sam returns to the motel from surveying the Reynold residence and reports that there's an 8-foot hole where their front door used to be. Dean has meanwhile been doing research on the late William Reynolds and found that he had a history of bar brawling and spousal abuse and had been court-ordered to attend anger management sessions. He sums him up:"You might say you wouldn't like him when he's angry." A hot head, Sam observes, killed by TV's greatest hothead. Having found evidence that someone with a sweet tooth had been on the Reynolds' property, and recalling his "just desserts" method of screwing with and/or punishing people, they work out that they are dealing with the Trickster. Dean immediately looks forward to ganking him, but Sam thinks they should consider talking to him first. He reasons that in addition to being one of the most powerful creatures they know of, he carries on like Hugh Hefner, and if the world ends so would his non-stop party. Sam thinks maybe he'd be interested in allying with them to avert the angel-demon war just to keep his status quo. Dean is dubious and chaffed by the idea of joining forces with a ruthless monster, but Sam rebuts that they haven't got the luxury of maintaining moral high ground right now. Plus, he adds, if his idea doesn't work, they'll kill him.

Dean gives Sam a primer on Dr. Sexy, M.D.

As Sam and Dean monitor a police scanner and prepare stakes in anticipation of confronting the Trickster, they hear transmissions about a possible murder at an abandoned paper mill and requests for immediate back-up. They arrive at the location and enter the mill with stakes at the ready, only to find themselves transported to vibrantly-colored Seattle Mercy Hospital, dressed as doctors. Sam is soon greeted by slaps across the face delivered in true soap opera fashion by a woman Dean identifies as sexy yet earnest Dr. Ellen Piccolo, from Dr. Sexy, M.D. They eventually realize that they've been trapped in TV land by the Trickster. Dean is giving Sam the low down on all the characters when he spots Dr. Sexy coming toward them. A little starstruck, Dean is unable to make eye-contact with Dr. Sexy and bashfully looks down. He sees that Dr. Sexy is wearing athletic shoes instead of his trademark cowboy boots, and instantly knows it's the Trickster in disguise.

Dean knew it wasn't the real Dr. Sexy.

The Trickster knows that the Winchesters want his help and tells them if they can survive the next 24 hours, he talk to them about it. He of course won't give them a straight answer to the question of exactly what they are supposed to survive, only saying that it's a game, and that they are playing it.

They are still wandering the hospital halls when a distraught husband approaches Dean demanding to know why he didn't give his wife the face transplant she needs. Dean tells him to get lost and walks away, and the man pulls out a gun and shoots him in the back.

Dean undergoes back surgery, performed by Dr. S. Winchester.

Sam is forced to play the part of a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon (the best one Dr. Piccolo has ever seen) in order to save Dean. As soon as he closes the wound, the two find themselves on a live Japanese game show called Nutcracker, boot-strapped into two separate contraptions designed to be just that. The host produces a card, and calls Sam by name. The captions translate his question: "What was the name of the demon you chose over your own brother?", and a countdown timer starts. Sam tries to impart to him that he can't understand Japanese, to no avail. When the timer hits zero, the host shouts RUBY! and (in English) tells Sam he's sorry.

Sam loses the first round to the Nutcracker.

He flashes an impish grin and yells NUTCRACKAAAH!!! A ball attached to the end of a spring-loaded bar whacks Sam square in the Winchester family jewels. He is contorted in pain and Dean is almost frozen with fear, as the crowd goes wild. While the host pauses for an aside, Castiel appears and announces that he's been looking for them for days. He is about to teleport them away when he suddenly turns into TV static and dissolves. The host returns and announces "Mr. Trickster does not like pretty-boy angels!" He then produces a card and asks Dean in Japanese "Would your mother and father still be alive if your brother was never born?" Dean starts to panic when the countdown starts and looks to Sam for help. Sam tells him to just try to play the role, as he had to do with the role of surgeon. Dean hits the button to stop the countdown just in time to utter an answer in Japanese, to his amazement. The host dramatically pauses while Dean, not totally sure of what he said, braces for the worst. The smiling host then declares Dean the "Nutcracker champion."

Having figured out that they have to play their roles to survive the Trickster's game, Sam grudgingly plays his next role as a man who's found a way to prevent "passing it on" in an ad for "Herpexia."

Castiel is roughed up and dismissed by the Trickster.

Next, they are back in the sitcom trying to have a conversation about their predicament on a brightly colored set in front of a live audience. Castiel reappears, bloodied and bruised, and reveals that he thinks it may be something more powerful than the Trickster at play. Before he can elaborate The Trickster promptly rushes onto the scene and flings Castiel across the set and silences the angel. He greets Castiel and then banishes him.

Dean angers the "trickster"

The brothers question what he did with Castiel and wonder if he knew him. The Trickster says Castiel will probably live but doesn't answer the other question. He states he is trying to drive home the lesson that they must play their roles as Michael and Lucifer's vessels and finish the apocalypse even though it will destroy the Earth. Dean tries to find out which side the Trickster is on, but he denies he is allied with either Heaven or Hell. When he says that the Tricksters is most likely working for one side, the Trickster gets angry and demands that the boys accept their destiny or he will keep them in TV land forever.

The boys are back at the mill after staking the Trickster.

Sam and Dean next find themselves in a procedural cop show. They think they spot the Trickster disguised as a CSU investigator, and Dean stabs him in the heart with a stake that he'd dipped in the blood of the crime scene murder victim. However, a nearby beat cop starts laughing and morphs into the Trickster. But, the boys had prepared for his trickery, and Sam impales him from behind with a larger stake. Sam and Dean are transported back to the paper mill along with the Trickster's body.

Back at the motel room, things momentarily appear to be back to normal, though Dean wonders where Sam and Castiel are. He then discovers that Sam has been transformed into the Impala, a la "Kitt" in Knight Rider, and it becomes obvious that they've merely changed channels again.

As they drive, they consider everything that's happened, noting of Castiel's warnings that it may not be a Trickster, that the latter recognized Castiel, and his angry reaction when Dean mentioned Michael and Lucifer. Dean realizes that the trickster is really something else.

Dean tells the Trickster he's won.

Finally, acting on a hunch, Dean decides to set a trap by feigning surrender to the Trickster. After getting him to restore Sam to human form, Dean questions why the stake didn't kill him. The Trickster attempts to deflect it by saying it was just another trick, but Dean doesn't believe him.

Sam and Dean discover the "Trickster" to actually be the Archangel Gabriel.

Sam tosses a lighter and ignites a ring of holy oil and entraps the Trickster. Dean then states "Maybe you've always been an angel." The Trickster attempts to deny it, but Dean dares him to step out of the holy fire. The Trickster hesitates and returns them to the real world. He congratulates them on figuring it out and asks where he slipped up. Sam says that no one ambushes Castiel like he did and Dean adds that the way he talked about Armageddon and the angels, from his own personal experience, is the way one talks when speaking of family. They then demand to know who he really is. The Trickster reveals himself to be the Archangel Gabriel. Not too surprised, they question his past as Gabriel reveals he left Heaven and took on his disguise as the Trickster because he couldn't bear his father - God - and his brothers - Lucifer, Michael, and the other angels - fighting. He says that the Apocalypse is about two brothers fighting and the reason Sam and Dean are destined to be the vessels. When they are confused, Gabriel reveals the reason they are the vessels is because they mirror the relationship between Michael and Lucifer. Dean is like Michael - the loyal oldest son obeying the absent father - and Sam is like Lucifer - the rebellious youngest son. He says it was the reason he has been interested in them and that the Apocalypse has always been predestined. They ask him for help in stopping it, but he insists that nothing could stop the fight from happening, Dean argued that it won't happen but Gabriel tells them he's sorry but inevitable things are going to end bloody for all of them.

Dean extinguishes the holy fire and leaves Gabriel to think about family matters.

Gabriel asks are they just going to stare at each other for eternity but Dean gets Gabriel to bring Castiel back by threatening to use holy fire on his vessel. After returning roughed up, Castiel tensely greets his brother, revealing he figured Gabriel's identity as well. Gabriel then taunts him on his pointless search for their father. As the trio turn to leave, Gabriel asks if they intend to leave him trapped. Dean turns around and says no, that they don't screw with people the way he does. Dean goes on and says the Apocalypse isn't about an ultimate match between his brothers or a destiny that can't be stopped, it's about him being too afraid to stand up to his family. Dean then hits the warehouse's fire alarm, setting off the sprinklers to extinguish the holy fire.

As the trio leave, Sam asks his brother what he thinks about Gabriel's words, while Dean tells him not to put much thought on it but is worried about the meaning.


Main Cast[]

Recurring Cast[]

Guest Stars[]


Featured Supernatural Beings[]


  • The Trickster was last seen in the Season 3 episode Mystery Spot.
  • Dr. Sexy, MD was also mentioned in The Monster at the End of This Book by the book publisher who said that it was this kind of stuff that sold now, not the Supernatural series.
  • There is a continuity error whilst Sam and Dean are in the Nutcracker section. When Sam gets hit in the groin, Dean's left arm is seen going up to cover his own mouth in shock. In the next cut, his right arm is seen instead.


  • Antagonist: The Trickster/Gabriel
  • Steve Bacic (Stargate SG-1, Andromeda, Flash Gordon) plays Dr. Sexy in the medical drama.
  • Hiro Kanagawa (Smallville and Caprica) plays the host in the Japanese game show.
  • The Japanese game show segment is similar to a Saturday Night Live skit in which Chris Farley plays a stereotypically dressed American tourist who accidentally ends up on a game show while visiting Japan with his wife. Like Dean, Farley frantically claimed that he didn't speak Japanese, yet miraculously answered a question correctly when facing harsh physical consequences if he answered wrong.
  • The medical drama is a parody of Grey's Anatomy, which also shows Thursdays at 9pm on ABC.
  • The Winchester Brothers' sunglasses-fiddling antics and successive one-liners in the crime investigative drama segment parody CSI: Miamis Horatio Caine character to hilarious effect.
  • The last TV show parodied was Knight Rider.
  • The repeated use of the word "Doctor" in the Dr. Sexy segment references the 1985 movie Spies Like Us where in one scene, a group of doctors refer to each other as "Doctor."
  • Dean reveals that he hates procedural cop shows because they are always the same.
  • The "ghost character" Dean was referring to in Dr. Sexy, MD was parody of the "ghost character," Denny Duquette in Grey's Anatomy who was portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who plays the boys' father, John Winchester.
  • In the medical drama, the doctor Ellen Piccolo is likely a reference to Grey's Anatomy's lead actress, Ellen Pompeo, yet the other doctors mentioned have names more similar to the characters on the show.
  • Sam was shown to be a skilled basketball player in the genital herpes advert, effortlessly able to make an impressive free-throw shot and a lay up. It is unknown if Gabriel granted Sam this ability or if Sam was already a skilled basketball player. The latter is more likely, given his demonstrated skill at darts in Free To Be You and Me and his soccer trophy in John Winchester's storage unit seen in Bad Day at Black Rock.

Featured Music[]

  • "Move You" by Anya Marina
  • "Not A Through Street" by Anya Marina
  • "Something Real" by Renee Stahl
  • "Love To See You Happy (Livin' my Life)" by Robbi Spencer (during Dr Sexy show)
  • "Supernatural Sitcom Theme Song"
  • Knight Rider Theme


[At the start of the episode]

Dean (voice over): "Supernatural is filmed before a live studio audience."
Dean: "I'm gonna need a bigger mouth."

Sitcom Opening Lyrics:

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!

Sam: "Okay, um, I need a... penknife, some dental floss, a sewing needle, and a fifth of whiskey!" [notices nurses are staring at each other in confusion] "Stat!"

Sam: "So what one are you, Grumpy, Sneezy, or Douchey?"
Gabriel: "Gabriel. They call me Gabriel."
  • Sam: Gabriel. The Archangel?
  • Gabriel: Guilty.

Gabriel: "You do not know my family. What you guys call the Apocalypse, I used to call Sunday dinner!"

  • Dean: (notices doctor's footwear, slams him against the wall) "You're not Dr. Sexy!"
  • Dr. Sexy: "You're crazy."
  • Dean: "Really? Because I swore a 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!"

  • Gabriel: (after sending Castiel away) "Relax, he'll live ... Maybe."

Dean: "Calm down? I'm wearing sunglasses at night! You know who does that? No-talent douchebags! I hate this game! I hate that we're in a procedural cop show, and you want to know why? Because I hate procedural cop shows! There's like three hundred of them on television, they're all the freakin' same. It's like, 'ohh, plane crashed here' -- oh SHUT UP!"

  • Gabriel: I have to watch my own brothers kill each other, thanks to you two! Heaven, Hell; I don't care who wins! I just want it to be over!

[During the CSI spoof]

Dean: "What do we got?"
Forensics guy: "Well, aside from the ligature marks around his neck, he has what appears to be a roll of quarters jammed down his throat."

[Sam and Dean take their sunglasses off]

Sam: "Well I say... 'Jackpot.'"
Forensics guy: [laughs] "Also, there is a stab wound to the lower abdomen."
Dean: [puts his sunglasses back on] "Well I say... 'No Guts, No Glory.'"

[Forensics guy laughs again]

Sam: [also puts sunglasses back on] "Get that guy a... Tums."
Dean: "Gutter ball..."

  • Sam: "...I have genital herpes."

  • Castiel "Hello, Gabriel."
  • Gabriel: "Hey, bro. How's the search for daddy going? Let me guess: Awful."

  • Gabriel: I love my father, my brothers. Love them. But watching them fight? Watching them tear at each other's throats? I couldn't bear it, okay? So I left.

  • Gabriel: Michael, the big brother, loyal to an absent father. And Lucifer? The little brother. Rebellious of daddy's plan. You were born to this, boys!
  • Dean: You could say I pulled it out of Sam's ass.


International Titles[]

  • Brazil: Trocando de Canal (Changing Channels)
  • German: Wie im Himmel, so auf Erden (As in Heaven, so on Earth)
  • Hungarian: Szemfényvesztő (Delusive) [literally: "eye-blinder", hungarian word for tricksters and magicians]

External Links[]