Supernatural: Appointment in Samarra
September 5, 2021 6:39 AM - Season 6, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Dean accepts a wager from Death in order to get Sam's soul back. Meanwhile, Sam is unwilling to take the risk of getting his damaged soul back, and summons Balthazar, who tells him what he must do to prevent it.


Dean: What's the bet?
Death: Don't roll your eyes, Dean. It's impolite. Now when you fetch my ring, put it on.
Dean: What?
Death: I want you to be me for one day.
Dean: Are you serious?
Death: No, I'm being incredibly sarcastic.

Tessa: Wow. They'll just let any slack-jawed haircut be Death these days.
Dean: Well, you are all charm today, aren't you?

Tessa: Just so you know, when people die, they might have questions for you. Well, not you, but Death.
Dean: You mean, like, "How did Betty White outlast me"?

Gunman: [after he dies] Why?
Dean: Mostly because you're a dick. Enjoy the ride down, pal. Trust me, sauna gets hot.

Heart Attack Victim: Why?
Dean: You think maybe it was the extra cheese?
Heart Attack Victim: Yeah. It was good, though.
Dean: That a local place?
Tessa: Dean...
Dean: Right. Umm, time to go, man. Sorry.
Heart Attack Victim: Wait. Will you tell me what it all... means?
Dean: Everything is dust in the wind.
Heart Attack Victim: That's it? A Kansas song?
Tessa: Sorry. He's new.

Tessa: Dean, you have to take her.
Dean: Says who?
Tessa: Death.
Dean: I'm Death.
Tessa: You know what I mean.
Dean: Well, who tells him?
Tessa: I don't know. It just is. It's destiny.
Dean: Give me a break. I spent my whole life fighting that crap. There's no such thing as destiny. Just like there was no Apocalypse. Just a bunch of stuck-up mooks who didn't want us human slaves asking questions.

Balthazar: Well, here's one for the list of dumbest things ever. Summon the angel who wants to kill you.
Sam: Desperate times. I need your help, Balthazar.
Balthazar: Interesting. Since last time we met, you wanted to, what was it? Oh yes, yes. "Fry my wings extra crispy."
Sam: Well, that was a misunderstanding.
Balthazar: Some misunderstanding.

Bobby: I may have been born at night, boy, but it wasn't last night.

Bobby: I presume Death's not doing this out of the goodness of his heart. So, what's your half of the deal?
Dean: ...
Bobby: I'm sorry, I didn't get that.

Death: Today, you got a hard look behind the curtain. Wrecking the natural order is not quite such fun... when you have to mop up the mess. Is it?

Death: This is hard for you, Dean. You throw away your life because you've come to assume that it'll bounce right back into your lap. The human soul is not a rubber ball. It's vulnerable, impermanent, but stronger than you know... and more valuable than you can imagine.

Dean: What's with you and the cheap food?
Death: I could ask you the same thing.


The title is a reference to an old Middle Eastern tale, in which a Baghdad merchant sends his servant to the marketplace, and the servant comes home and explains that he was threatened by Death while at the market. The merchant sends the servant off to hide in Samarra, then goes to the market to talk to Death. Death explains that he had not threatened the servant, merely that Death was surprised to see the servant in Baghdad, "-- for we have an appointment tonight in Samarra".

Robert Englund guest stars in this episode. He is best known for playing Freddy Kruger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

When the heart-attack victim asks Dean what it all means, Dean quotes the Kansas song "Dust in the Wind", just like Ted does when "philosophizing" with Socrates in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

When the doctor opens the apartment door you can see the apartment number is 4. In Japan four is considered unlucky because the word for 4 in Japanese "shi" sounds similar to the word for death "shin".

In keeping with the music theme, "Dr. Robert" was a Beatle's tune from their album Yesterday and Today.

Returning the ring to Death (and thus removing it from the Winchesters' ability to use) is an important plot point for the rest of the series, as Death has already said that he will eventually reap God himself. This makes Death's ring the most powerful item in the series, as it would appear to allow the wearer to kill anything.

In "Frontierland" (ep. 6.18), when Castiel needs to heal himself by touching Bobby's soul he makes a point of saying he has to be very careful doing so or Bobby might explode. So it seems strange that both Michael and Lucifer are able to violently abuse Sam's soul in the cage without any such explosive consequences.
posted by orange swan (6 comments total)
On my first watch, I spent season after season repeatedly yelling, "WHAT ABOUT ADAM?" at my laptop screen. It seemed like Dean and Sam hardly gave a thought to him and to what he was enduring in that cage with Michael and Lucifer, and never made any effort to rescue him. I had forgotten that at least Dean's initial ask of Death was to extract both Sam's soul and Adam from the cage. He's forced to choose and of course he chooses Sam over Adam, but then seems to let the matter drop after then, and it's so bizarre for someone who is so driven to save lives and claims to value family so much.

This makes one more time Dean died. This episode brings the death count for the Winchesters to 114 (111 times in the Groundhog Day episode, hell hounds, shot by hunters, temporarily put down by Dr. Robert) times for Dean, and twice (stabbed in the back, shot by hunters) for Sam.

Good on Bobby for managing to stay alive until Dean got back. He'd be no match physically for the much younger, larger, stronger, and sociopathic Sam, but he's wily, and he had the tactical advantage of being in his own house, where there was a convenient trap door and a place to lock up Sam, and it bought him time.

Why did Balthazar want Bobby dead?

Must admit I like the way Death bonds with Dean over fast food. The banality of their eating together makes it more chilling, and Dean can't even really eat because he's so freaked out, which of course is VERY freaked out for him.
posted by orange swan at 6:54 AM on September 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

I like the character of Death, but the way death is handled on this show isn't at all consistent. This may not be the best episode to use as a discussion point, but I'm going to do so anyways (with the option of revisiting the topic later on down the road).

We've seen lots of ghosts before. We've seen reapers before. We've seen people who seem fated to die at certain points. We've also seen people who apparently die at the whim of supernatural entities (jerk due who bumped into Death). What we haven't seen and don't have any rules for is how people wind up as ghosts. It seem that reapers are always sent out to collect people. They seem like a pretty efficient bunch. How are they allowing these people to remain as ghosts to deal with their unfinished business? Are the potential ghosts able to plead their cases that well? You can't tell me the average dead person has enough wily ability to evade the reapers. Are there just a bunch of reapers who don't really care about how well they do their jobs? Does Death allow a "slippage quota"? (You can let 0.5 per cent of people escape before you're fired as a reaper.) Do the reapers only go out for prescheduled deaths?

Again, I know I shouldn't think too long and hard about his show, as then even more of it will start to become senseless nonsense, but there are times when these kinds of questions just smack you in the face as you're watching along.
posted by sardonyx at 2:40 PM on September 5, 2021

I think the dead can refuse to go with whomever has shown up to reap them. They aren't told this and the reaper will urge them to go, but some simply won't go, and then they become ghosts, and they lose their humanity over time and become vicious and unreasoning. If their bodies are burned they are forced to go as there is nothing tethering them to earth anymore, but there mustn't be any remnant of them left, such as a lock of their hair or a donated organ, or they can still linger on. There are some variants to this, as we've seen ghosts destroying other ghosts, or people with a connection to the dead person communicating with them and urging them to go on to the next realm. In this episode we see all the recently departed leaving willingly if reluctantly with Tessa.
posted by orange swan at 3:17 PM on September 5, 2021

I remember that BBQ shop! It closed years and years ago (like a lot of places in Chinatown). Dean's note says 230 Keefer - I dug into it and the shooting location is 230 Pender St - Keefer is one street over.

WTH does IMDB trivia refer to Japanese for the letter 4? They're obviously in a Chinatown.

Dean's appetite - his continued healthy appetite, aside from when hobnobbing with Death, is inconsistent with him having progressed much along alcohol use disorder.

Not sure what was supposed to have been injected into Dean to flatline him that was so easy to bring him back. The likely candidates would be propofol or thiopental but there are serious side effects (memory loss among them) and defibrillation isn't the first line resuscitation technique (even if the heart beats once again, the drugs are still there and will stop the heart/ breathing again right away - although adrenaline/ norepinephrine might work by "powering through" the pharmaceutically depressed nerves). An overdose of an opioid, reversed with naloxone (which displaces the opioids from the receptors), is another candidate but the recovery is seriously no fun.

Heart stopping =/= brain death - there are credible reports of some-sort-of brain activity persisting up to 10 minutes after life support (no heartbeat, breathing) had been removed. It's complicated, but even brief anoxia (no oxygen) can cause permanent brain damage even if vital functions are restored - it's all a little tricky and varies from brain to brain, but once you reach a critical level of anoxia you trigger a massive glutamate excitotoxicity cascade (a few neurons die because they run out of oxygen to make the energy to keep ions and neurotransmitters where they're supposed to be - and splooshes out a bunch of stored glutamate, the glutamate then overexcites nearby neurons and they die, releasing more glutamate, etc. - a possible mechanism behind "seeing a flash of light" or "don't go towards the light Carol Ann" during near-death experiences).

To give credit to the show, screwing around with preventing death has consequences - but then this forces one to consider fate and free will. Apparently there's free will but someone doesn't like it/ considers "disturbing the natural order" gauche? Just because there's a cascade of tragedy to the nurse, doesn't necessarily mean all instances of subversion of "fate" leads to worse overall outcomes unless one subscribes to "best of all possible worlds." But 'Candide' is supposed to be satire.
posted by porpoise at 4:08 PM on September 5, 2021

Incidentally, it makes me smile that, as of this post, Betty White is still alive.
posted by orange swan at 4:16 PM on September 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Genuinely wonder what it's like to have a casting director decide you're exactly what they're looking for for Heart Attack Waiting To Happen Guy.

This patricide business. I'll give this show the benefit of the doubt that Balthazar suggested that because he knew exactly who he was talking to and what buttons to push, not because killing your mother is a lesser moral injury than killing your father. But this is one of a couple instances where bonds that aren't biological have the same metaphysical currency as those that are. If Balthazar's spell got its power from biology, you would think that Samuel would be at least as good a candidate for patricide as Bobby, but like with Andy Gallagher's adoptive mother, that's not what angels or demons find useful (unfortunately for her.) If Balthazar cared at all that he was getting Bobby killed, it might have been for about the same reason as stealing a bunch of shit on his way out of Heaven: if he can use Bobby's soul or resurrection to his advantage somehow, great, and if not, what's one more dead human?

I think this is the first time an angel refers to a human as a vessel for its soul, as opposed to an angel or demon. Could a vessel be morally scarred such that it's uninhabitable for other things too?

Poor Adam, loved best by the wrong people.

It seems a lot like Death was going to help Dean anyway (and probably only even broached the possibility of saving Adam to tweak him), and this whole adventure was meant to, if not humble Dean, then instill a modicum of shame about the consequences that always choosing Sam could have on innocent strangers who he mostly never has to look in the eye. But yeah, considering he's "Death" for twenty-four hours and manages to kill four people and one of them is by accident, I have to think he was maybe really being the grim reaper equivalent of a mall Santa. (Actually, you know who would be a great mall grim reaper is Robosam. Give him the ring and a list, he'd knock off all the meatsuits you want eight days a week.)

I have a lot of thoughts about Sam and Robosam and autonomy, but I'll save that for the next one.
posted by jameaterblues at 5:42 PM on September 5, 2021

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