It's A Terrible Life is the 17th episode of Season 4. It aired on March 26th, 2009.
Sam and Dean live normal, separate lives but they don't seem to know each other, even though they work at the same company. However, when colleagues start committing suicide, they team up to investigate the situation.
In a nice apartment, Dean wakes up, dresses in a suit, and drinks coffee. He goes outside and starts his car, a silver Prius. The radio is set to a rock station, and he quickly changes it to NPR. He drives to work at Sandover Bridge & Iron Inc where he enters the office of Dean Smith and goes to work. The day is spent making sales calls and chatting with coworkers and his boss Mr. Adler. As he leaves for the day, Dean enters an elevator and stands next to Sam, who is wearing a tech support shirt. Sam looks as Dean, and asks if they know each other. Dean doesn't think so.
The next day, Sam, sitting at a cubicle labeled Sam Wesson, answers phone queries about broken computers. He talks with fellow worker Ian, a nonconformist who refuses to wear the tech support uniform and steals office supplies. Sam tells Ian about his dreams, in which he hunts things. For some reason, Dean Smith appears in these dreams. When Sam shares another elevator with Dean, he asks him if he thinks about ghosts, or if he ever has strange dreams. Dean says no, and informs Sam that he "overshares".
Back at tech support, Sam looks up supernatural creatures on the internet while answering more inane computer questions. Ian comes over to say that he has received a message summoning him to the HR department. They share a joke about stolen office supplies, and Ian heads off to the meeting. Sam overhears another worker, Paul, talking to his computer. Paul is agitated; the computer froze and all his work for the day has been lost. Sam tells him not to worry too much, but Paul is driven and keeps trying to restore the files.
Late at night, after everyone else has left, Paul still frantically searches for the lost work. At last, he gives up, saying that he has failed. He heads to the break room, opens the microwave, jams broken plastic forks into the safety latch, and sets the timer for ten minutes. He then sticks his head inside. Screaming and smoke follow.
The next morning, both Sam and Dean are present as the body is carried out of the break room. Independently, they each look at Paul’s employment file, and discover he was planning to retire in two weeks. Sam mentions this to Ian, but he refuses to be distracted from his work. Ian is wearing the tech support shirt, and working feverishly.
Ian receives a message ordering him to speak to a manager, and he goes to Dean Smith’s office. Dean tells him that a form Ian filled out had minor errors, and needs to be fixed. Ian becomes distressed, apologizes and moans that he has failed the company. Dean tries to reassure him that it is an insignificant error, but Ian runs out of the office. Dean follows him to the men’s room, where Ian is staring at himself in a mirror. Their breath becomes visible, and all the faucets in the room turn on. Suddenly, Ian pulls a pencil out of his pocket and stabs himself in the neck. Dean rushes over as Ian gushes blood. Dean catches a glimpse of an old man in a mirror, but no one else is in the room.
Ian’s body is removed while Sam watches and Dean talks to security. Later, Dean calls Sam up to his office. Dean asks who Sam is, and Sam says that he started at the company three weeks ago. This is the same time that Dean began working there. Sam realizes that Dean saw a ghost, and says that he believes the two suicides are ghost related. Dean says that his instinct is the same. Sam tells Dean that both Paul and Ian had been summoned to HR, room 1444, not long before their deaths, and afterward becomes obsessed with serving the company. They decide to go to the room in question to look around, and discover another tech support employee inside being attacked by a ghost. Sam kicks in the door and Dean swings an iron wrench at the ghost. It disappears.
At Dean’s apartment, they do research. Relying on the Ghostfacers website, they search for the identity of the ghost. It is the late P.T. Sandover, the company’s founder, and he is creating model employees out of unwilling workers. Room 1444 was his office. While Sandover was cremated, they assume some part of him remains in the building. With salt and fireplace pokers they return to the room to look around.
Sam is spotted by a security guard, who takes him to the elevator while Dean continues to look around. The television screens in the elevator go to static. The elevator breaks down, and the guard climbs out. He leans back in to help Sam out, but a sudden jerk of the elevator decapitates him. Sam manages to get out, and Dean calls him with instructions to go to the 22nd floor where a pair of Sandover's gloves are kept. As they reach for the gloves, they are attacked by Sandover's ghost. After a struggle, Sam manages to burn the gloves and the ghost disappears.
In Dean’s office, they talk about the experience. Sam suggests that they quit their jobs and fight ghosts instead. Dean says it wouldn't work, that they would have to live off of diner food and stolen credit cards, and that they’d have no health insurance. Sam admits that Dean is in his dreams about hunting, and that he believes this is not their real life, that something has been done to them. Sam says that he knows Dean, and that this life isn't him. Dean orders Sam to leave, saying that Sam knows nothing about him.
The next day at work, Sam uses one of the fireplace pokers to beat his ringing phone into pieces. He announces that he quits. Dean is working in his office when his boss, Mr. Adler, comes in. He talks to Dean about his work and his future, offering him a bonus and telling him that if he works seven days a week for ten years, Dean could be a senior VP. Dean hesitates, then tells Mr. Adler he is giving his notice. He says that he has decided that this is not who he is meant to be. Adler laughs, and taps Dean on the forehead.
Suddenly, Dean Smith is Dean Winchester again. He stares at Adler, and realizes that he must be an angel. His name is Zachariah. He is Castiel’s superior. He planted Sam and Dean at this company without their memories so that Dean could realize that he is a hunter through and through. While Dean may be hung up on Hell, his family, and the potential Apocalypse, his life is better than it could be.
Featured Supernatural BeingsEdit
- ”A Well-Respected Man” by The Kinks (plays over the opening Dean montage)
- ”Hollow” by Brian Tichy (The rock music that briefly plays on Dean's radio and interrupts “A Well-Respected Man”)
- During the Ghostfacers tutorial, the hosts repeatedly mention the brothers Winchester in a bitter and disparaging manner. This is because the boys destroyed a massive amount of footage in a previous episode, "Ghostfacers."
- This episode introduces the angel Zachariah.
- While under his Smith persona Dean is shown engaging in activities he would normally be disdainful of, such as eating salad, going on cleanses, and disliking rock music.
- Sam has a little bobble head Dracula on his desk which is styled after Lugosi's Dracula from the classic films. This is a reference to the episode "Monster Movie" from earlier in the season, in which a shapeshifter, so enamored of classic horror films, took the shape of the Lugosi Dracula and dressed like him.
- Sam and Dean are shown behaving in ways normally associated with the other: Sam is more inquisitive about the supernatural and eager to act while Dean is more hesitant and favors normalcy. This is symbolic of how the two have changed throughout the season.
- While talking to Zachariah, Dean says, "Angel or not, I will stab you in the face." Later on in the fifth season, Dean would do exactly that.
- The title of this episode is a play on the Christmas movie classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
- When Dean mentions his family, he tells Sam his father's name is Bob, his mother's name is Ellen, and his sister's name is Jo. One can assume that he is referring to Bobby Singer, Ellen Harvelle and Jo Harvelle, all whom Dean has a close relationship with.
- Likewise when Sam mentions his ex-fiance, Madison, whose phone number directs to an animal hospital. This alludes to Madison from Heart. Interestingly, a future love of Sam’s turns out to be a veterinarian.
- Sam and Dean's surnames (Dean Smith, Sam Wesson) in this episode are a reference to the manufacturer of handguns Smith & Wesson. Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson helped in the creation of the Winchester firearms company.
- As tech support, Sam's most frequently said phrase is: "Have you tried turning it off and on again?". This is likely a reference to British sitcom "The IT Crowd", where the tech supporters answer every incoming call with this sentence.
- The number for the room the victims visit is 1444. Added individually, the numbers equal 13, a traditionally unlucky number.
- Dean: Details are everything. You don’t want to go fighting ghosts without any health insurance.
- Sam: I just can't shake this feeling like I... like I don't belong here. You know what I mean? Like I should do something more than sit in a cubicle.
Dean: I think most people who work in a cubicle feel that same way.
- Ian: I mean, thank God we got Harry Potter here to save us from the Apocalypse.
- Zachariah: All I'm saying is, it's how you look at it. Most folks live and die without moving anything more than the dirt it takes to bury them. You get to change things. Save people. Maybe even the world. All the while you drive a classic car and fornicate with women. This isn't a curse, it's a gift! So for God's sake, Dean, quit whining about it! Look around. There are plenty of fates worse than yours. So are you with me? You wanna go steam yourself another latte? Or are you ready to stand up and be who you really are?