Supernatural: Changing Channels
August 11, 2021 5:01 AM - Season 5, Episode 8 - Subscribe

The Trickster traps Sam and Dean in an alternate reality in which they are characters in a succession of terrible TV shows.


Sam: What are you watching?
Dean: Some kind of hospital show. Dr. Sexy, M.D. It's based on a book.
Sam: When did you hit menopause?
Dean: It's called channel surfing!

Dean: [looking at a gigantic sandwich] I'm gonna need a bigger mouth.

Dean: [has been shot] Sam! Do somethin', come on!
Sam: [in costume as a surgeon] I don't know how to use any of this crap!
Dean: Figure it out! Sam! Come on, I'm waiting!
Sam: Okay, um, I need a... penknife, some dental floss, a sewing needle, and a fifth of whiskey! Stat!

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!

[Dean and Sam are trapped in a Japanese game show, there is a loud knocking noise]
Dean: Oh now what?
Castiel: [enters]
Dean: Cass?
Sam: Is this another trick?
Castiel: It's me! [looks around, confused] Uh, what are you doing here?
Dean: Us? What are *you* doing here?
Castiel: Looking for you, you've been missing for days!
Sam: So get us the hell outta here, then!
Castiel: [reaching for them] Let's go! [he vanishes]
Dean: Cass?
Game Show Host: No no no no. Mr. Trickster does not like pretty-boy angels!

Dean: How long do we have to keep doin' this?
Audience: [laughs]
Sam: I dunno. Maybe forever? We might die in here.
Audience: [laughs]
Dean: [to the audience] How is that funny? Vultures.

Sam: You gotta calm down.
Dean: Calm down? I am 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 'em on television, they're all the freakin' same, it's "ooh, a plane crashed here", oh shut up!

Dean: Sam? Where are you? [calling Sam's cell as he walks out to the car] Sam, it's me. [gets in the car] Where the hell did you go?
Sam: Dean?
Dean: [looks around, the car is empty] Sam? Where are you?
Sam: I don't know.
Dean: [notices Knight Rider-esque console in the dash, with Sam's voice is coming from it]
Sam: Oh crap. I don't think we killed the Trickster.
[cut to Dean driving Impala Sam in a Knight Rider-style opening]

Dean: [rummaging in Impala Sam's trunk]
Impala Sam: Dean?
Dean: What?
Impala Sam: That, uh, feels really... uncomfortable.
Dean: [slams the trunk lid down]
Impala Sam: Ow.

Impala Sam: You sure this is gonna work?
Dean: No but I have no other ideas. [yells at the sky] All right you sonofabitch! Uncle! We'll do it!
Impala Sam: Should I honk?
Trickster: [appearing] Wow. Sam, get a load of the rims on you.
Impala Sam: Eat me.

Trickster: I want it to be *over*! I have to sit back and watch my brothers kill each other, thanks to you two! Heaven, hell, I don't care who wins! I just want it to be over!
Sam: It doesn't have to be like that! There has to be some way to, to pull the plug!
Trickster: Oh-ho-ho-ho, you do *not* know my family. What you guys call the Apocalypse, I used to call Sunday dinner! That's why there's no stopping this. Because this isn't about a war, it's about two brothers who loved each other, and *betrayed* each other! You think you'd be able to relate!
Sam: What're you talkin' about?
Trickster: You sorry sonsabitches. Why do you think you two are the vessels? Think about it! 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. It's your destiny! It was *always* you! As it is in heaven, so it must be on earth! One brother has to kill the other.


The opening sitcom credits share a font style with Full House.

The Supernatural sequence (after the opening credits) opens with Dean looking at an impossibly tall sandwich. This is a homage to the famous "Dagwood" sandwiches immortalized in the Blondie comic strip/movies/television/radio series originated by cartoonist Chic Young.

The name of the show that Dean watches in the beginning and that both Sam and Dean find themselves inside of later, Dr. Sexy, M.D., originated in an earlier episode. It was mentioned in an offhand remark in "The Monster at the End of This Book" by Carver Edlund's (a.k.a. Chuck Shurley's) publisher, who tells Dean and Sam, "All anybody wants to read anymore is that romance crap -- you know, Dr. Sexy, M.D.? Please."

Dr. Ellen Piccolo is played by actress Christine Chatelain, previously played Jenny, a woman who was kidnapped and turned by vampires, in the season one episode "Dead Man's Blood". Chatelain also appears in the final episode of Supernatural as Jenny.

When Sam and Dean are on Dr. Sexy, MD there are several references to Grey's Anatomy including:

1) the background music which is a huge part of the show;
2) the name of the hospital is Seattle Mercy like the original name Seattle Grace which was then Seattle Grace Mercy West;
3) Dr. Sexy is a neurosurgeon just like Dr. McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy;
4) there is a character with the name of Ellen like Ellen Pompeo;
5) there is a neurotic doctor in love with a ghost, and on Grey's Anatomy the ghost character, Denny Duquette, was played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan;
6) there is a cardiovascular surgeon that mimics Cristina Yang.

When they are in the police procedural drama, both brothers are obviously imitating David Caruso in CSI: Miami.

This episode mimics the 1992 movie Stay Tuned. Stay Tuned is about a husband and wife who are sucked into a hellish television set and have to survive a gauntlet of twisted versions of shows they find themselves in.

The Impala is partially transformed into KITT from Knight Rider. While on the road, the scene comes complete with the Knight Rider theme tune.

When Sam gets hit in the groin during the game show, the Japanese text says "kurumiwari", which translates to "nutcracker."

The Japanese game show Sam & Dean appear on is probably a homage to the famous Mike Myers / late Chris Farley Japanese Game Show Skit from Saturday Night Live.

Since the 1980s some Japanese reality game shows have been reputedly so brutal as to leave contestants hospitalized. The nutcracker game was a real show in which contestants had to recite a text quickly and accurately, or get nutted. In 2008 an American reality TV show, I Survived a Japanese Game Show, started sending Americans to Japan to compete in very weird show competitions. This American reality show that spotlighted Japanese reality game shows won some very prestigious awards.
posted by orange swan (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I remember this one being more fun than I found it this time. Not that there weren't some laughs. That bit with the tandem bicycle... Sam getting clocked in the groin... the Knight Rider parody... Sam doing a commercial for genital herpes medication while Dean happily plays basketball in the background. But the Trickster, whom we can now acknowledge to actually be the archangel Gabriel without spoilers, always has an angry, malicious edge to his tricks that make them ultimately not funny, stylish and creative as they are.

I did some googling re: Richard Speight Jr., to see if I could get a sense of what he's like as a person, and I didn't find anything negative. He seems talented, intelligent, and very funny. He graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California, and besides being an actor, he sings, plays guitar, writes, and directs. He seems to be on excellent terms with a number of his Supernatural castmates, exchanging tweets with them regularly, and is always pleasant to people he interacts with on Twitter. Someone who worked with him tweeted that he has an "easy, fun personality". He doesn't write political tweets, but sometimes he retweets them, and the things he retweets would seem to indicate he's on the right side of things: criticism of the health care system or racial injustice, pro-mask/pro-vax stuff, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's tweets, Ted Cruz snark, etc. Given that there are a number of very problematic people on the cast of this show, it's always such a relief when a google dive on someone doesn't turn up anything bad.
posted by orange swan at 5:09 AM on August 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I remember backing away from fandom when a found a tumbler explaining the anal sex references in this episode.

TLDR: Sam gets turned into a car and Dean puts things in the trunk of the car.

While watching the episode those things never even occured to me.

I thought this was a great meta episode, but it was a little too fan-servicey?

Loki/Trickster actor was great.
posted by Faintdreams at 5:27 AM on August 11, 2021

I have no idea how well this episode will hold up the farther it gets from its particular biosphere of American network TV, but I have a ton of affection for it.

Sam and Dean's totally unearned confidence that they are always one step ahead of the Trickster and will DEFINITELY stab the right guy this time has got to be like. trickster catnip, right?

I think some of the Dr. Sexy stuff was also because for years Supernatural and Grey's Anatomy were on in the same timeslot in the US when live ratings mattered a lot more, and Grey's Anatomy was a ratings monster for ABC while Supernatural was perpetually on the verge of getting canceled (and for a little while it looked like the CW itself might tank.) 

Castiel is a good friend for Sam and Dean because when he loses track of them for a couple days and finds them losing a Japanese game show in another dimension he barely questions it, he absolutely doesn't want details, just whatever, pack your shit.
posted by jameaterblues at 10:59 AM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Heh, I just stumbled on Dr. Sexy, M.D. on Nestflix, from this episode, from a link on the blue today! (It's a catalog of shows within shows.)
posted by Pronoiac at 4:07 PM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was one of the people posting the Dr. Sexy reference. I included a link to this discussion and dug up a link to an episode of Legends of Tomorrow that I posted. After doing that and comparing the two, I just wanted to say orange swan that there is no comparison between the quality of the discussions you post and the slapdash ones I put up. Your are welcoming to newcomers and explain key concepts and interesting tidbits. I just assume everybody has been following along and just post something so we've got a placeholder for subsequent discussion. My hat is off to you and the effort you put into leading these discussions.

As for this episode, I love Dean's announcer voice and the musical stings and themes that perfectly exemplify the shows and genres. Also, the Knight Rider intro was just too perfect (although Dean should have been wearing his leather jacket for that extra added touch of authenticity).
posted by sardonyx at 7:24 PM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

My hat is off to you and the effort you put into leading these discussions.

Hear, hear <3
posted by jameaterblues at 8:04 PM on August 11, 2021

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