Season 4 Episode 17

It's a Terrible Life

Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Mar 26, 2009 on The CW
out of 10
User Rating
782 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Dean and Sam now lead ordinary lives. Dean works in the corporate world at the Sandover Bridge & Iron Company along with Sam who works as a Tech Support. Both have no idea who the other is until their colleagues start killing themselves.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Interesting up until the end.

    Pleased with the story, unsatisfied by the resolution. -shrug-
  • A normal life for the Winchester brothers - how does that sound? Fow a while, that seems to be just okay with Sam Wesson and Dean Smith.

    One of those amusing episodes. Not among the best that Supernatural can - and has - offered, but still good enough to provide a few laughs.

    Dean and Sam are suddenly working in a normal 9-to-5 job, no recollection of their true selves (this is a little confusing at first).

    Sam has dreams, though, and it seems that when people start to die in the office, and Dean sees a ghost, that some things are coming back.

    The conclusion is bearable, tying very well the final discussion of the previous episode where Dean decided he isn't strong enough to try and save the world.

    In and on itself, the episode was probably just as confusing as it was supposed to be.moreless
  • Another alternate reality with a twist

    This was one of those episodes that didn’t really faze me till the last scene. Don’t get me wrong, it was very entertaining watching the bros take on another ‘alternate life’ ep, but for some reason it just didn’t hold my interest very well until the very end, when things made sense. Still, like I said, it was an enjoyable episode nonetheless.

    The entire premise here was set into motion by our newest angel, Zachariah, who happens to be somewhat of a replacement for Uriel but is also Castiel’s superior. And after what happened with Uriel in the last ep, I’m really hoping Zach here will be one of the good ones. According to dialog, he seems like the real deal. But this is “Supernatural�, so you never know. Anyway, Zachariah has put into Dean’s head an alternate life for him which ultimately turns out to be a test of sorts to make Dean realize his true destiny in life. Of course, Sam is an unwitting participant in this as well but I was unclear on just how much of Sam’s involvement was incidental. Whether he was put there by Zachariah also or just happened to be in Dean’s “memory� is actually irrelevant, but still important. After all, Zachariah never brought up Sam to Dean in the end, so I’m guessing Sam’s presence in Dean’s alternate reality was a technicality. I don’t really buy that, but for now, to me, that’s the only thing that makes sense. And it DOES make sense since Sam is a major driving force in Dean’s decisions - both in the alternate version and in their true lives.

    To explain further, the ep basically focused more on Dean. We start out in the alternate life and watch Dean’s very successful corporate American businessman self start his day and continue watching it progress as a normal, everyday man’s life in a business world. Then we get Sam, a computer techie who happens to work in the same building as Dean and who seems to be part of the “lower chain�, so to speak. But in this odd universe the 2 are not even brothers; they are total strangers, even with different last names. Things quickly start to get very weird after they soon meet and have a few very awkward, weird exchanges. They soon realize they believe in ghosts and begin working together to dispel the one haunting their workplace. Now, some of the stuff throughout all of this was, I am so sorry to say, kinda bizarre and felt so out of place. The ghost story itself was okay, and even those gruesome deaths (the guy’s head in a microwave!) brought out the ugh factors like they’re supposed to on this show. But the stuff with the bros just felt

    Then again, I could be reading it the wrong way. I mentioned above that Sam was a driving force in Dean’s decisions, and I stand by my belief in that. After all, it was Sam who started to mention that maybe they were not meant for all this corporate America stuff. That maybe something else was in their destinies. And he was right. On the other hand, this was Zachariah’s doing, so perhaps all that was indeed intentional on his part. What would be the point of completely obliterating their minds of everything they’ve done and gone through if he didn’t think there was a chance they’d figure it out? True, a lot of stuff they DID have to “re-learn� on their own, but because it seemed to come naturally to them was the eye opener.

    Nonetheless, this was still Dean’s ep, his experience. The angels have targeted him for a reason, which became clear last ep that Dean must stop the apocalypse. And what I got from his conversation with Zachariah at the end was that they need Dean focused and all his energy set on being a good hunter so he can play the valuable asset he is in stopping the apocalypse. After all, Dean’s attitude about the job has been waning and slipping for a while now. Always complaining about the perils and injustices of it, always spouting off how tired he was.... This may be well and true, but Zachariah was right: Dean needs to quit whining. He’s been turning into a version of Sam that has long been gone by now. Sam, for what it’s worth given his own indiscretions on the hunt, has at least grown some real passion for the job. This was sorta indirectly shown during the alternate reality, especially during the scene where he tries to encourage Dean to quit the corporate spot and “hit the road� to go ghost hunting. Meaning, Sam was the one trying to entice Dean to the positive aspects of the job: saving lives, etc. In the end, though, once all was revealed, I believe Dean finally gets it. He is on the way to be who he truly is.

    Bits and Pieces:

    - So the Ghostfacers boys - Ed and Harry - are still running their gig. Though it oddly makes sense because this is what helped the alternates Sam and Dean learn how to deal with ghosts, I just really could care less.

    - Still, some funny moments in the alternate reality. One example: Sam still hates being called “Sammy�.

    - I loved the references to Bobby, Ellen, Jo, and Madison. But this shows how the boys think of these people, even in this alternate reality, as close family and friends. Odd, though, why Madison was Sam’s chosen instead of Jessica. Not complaining, but just struck me as odd.

    I’m gonna rate this a 9. It was very good, but it just had its weak spots for me. Next ep looks as if Sam and Dean get to read about their own lives in the comics. THAT should be a hoot.moreless
  • Dean and Sam become normal as they work in an office.

    I liked that at the end of the episode, both boys chose to stay and do hunting opposed to working in a building for the rest of their lives. Although I really thought Dean would stay because he was so much higher up than Sam was.

    So the whole thing was a test for DEAN? Then why was Sam thrown into it? And was Sam told that it was just a test or what?

    Sometimes I don't know why the angels waste time by doing silly tests. Normally they get so heated over the boys wasting time and in turn seals get broken.

    Great job cast and crew. Can't wait for more!moreless
  • The acting is superb, the storyline is awesome, but the music sucks. The producers need to choose their accompanying music for better impact. Look at Smallville, what does it have that Supernatural doesn't....excellent music to carry the mood.moreless

    I really enjoyed this episode, as I do all of them. However, I believe Supernatural could surpass Smallville in ratings if they played better music throughout the episodes. Example for the episode - On the Head of a Pin - to Enigma's song Why, Its a Terrible Life - Enigma's song - Prism of Life, Heaven & Hell - Enigma's song Invisible Love. The show is pretty awesome but to make it truly awesome one needs the music to go with the superb acting to give that goosebump effect. Enigma's song Distorted Love could be perfect for Sam and Ruby.moreless
Jack Plotnick

Jack Plotnick


Guest Star

A.J. Buckley

A.J. Buckley

Ed Zeddemore

Guest Star

Travis Wester

Travis Wester

Harry Spengler

Guest Star

Kurt Fuller

Kurt Fuller

Mr. Adler/Zachariah

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • When Paul was working in the middle of the night trying to retrieve his files, the screen was white with black text. Typically computer "command run" programming section is black screen with white text.

    • Dean says that his mother's name is Ellen, his father's name is Bob, and his sister's name is Jo. These are characters from the 2nd season. Bob is most likely Bobby Singer. Ellen owned the roadhouse and her daughter Jo worked there until she went off hunting by herself. Sam says that he just broke up with his fiance Madison. Madison was the werewolf that Sam fell in love with in the episode "Heart."

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Dean: You broke into their e-mail accounts?
      Sam: I used some skills that I happen to have to satisfy my curiosity.
      Dean Nice.

    • Dean: Oh, so what? This was all some sort of a lesson? Is that what you're telling me? Wow. Very creative.
      Zachariah: You should see my decoupage.
      Dean: Gross... no thank you.

    • Sam: Can I ask you a question?
      Dean: Look, man, I told you, I'm not into the, uh...
      Sam: Oh dude, come on, I'm not either. I just wanna ask you one question.

    • Zachariah: Real place, real haunting. Just plunked you in the middle without the benefit of your memories.
      Dean: Just to shake things up? So you guys can have fun watching us run around like assclowns in monkey suits!?
      Zachariah: To prove to you that the path you're on is truly in your blood. You're a Hunter. Not because your dad made you, not because God called you back from Hell, but because it is what you are and you love it, you'll find your way to it in the dark every single time and you're miserable without it. Dean, let's be real here. You're good at this.

    • Zachariah: You'll do everything you're destined to do, all of it. But I know, I know, you're not strong enough, you're scared, you got daddy issues, you can't do it, right?
      Dean: Angel or not, I will stab you in your face.

    • 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 sakes, Dean, quit whining about it. Look around: there are plenty of fates worse than yours. So you with me? You want to go steam yourself another latte, or are you ready to stand up and be who you really are?

    • Dean: Should we go check this out?
      Sam: Like... right now?
      Dean: No. No, it's getting late. You're right.
      Sam: I am dying to check this out right now.
      Dean: Right?

    • 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.

    • Dean: We do what I do best, Sammy. Research.
      Sam: Okay. Did you just call me "Sammy"?
      Dean: Did I?
      Sam: I think you did. Yeah. Don't.

    • Ed Zeddemore: First, salt. It's like acid to ghosts.
      Harry Spengler: Burny acid.
      Ed Zeddemore: Not LSD.
      Harry Spengler: No. It's a bad trip for ghosts.

    • Ed Zeddemore: You have to burn the remains. Okay, this next part gets a little gross. Sometimes you might have to dig up the body. Sorry.
      Harry Spengler: It's illegal in some states.
      Ed Zeddemore: All states.
      Harry Spengler: Possibly all states.

    • Dean: How would we live? Come on, you got to be kidding me. How would we get by--with stolen credit cards, huh? Eating diner food drenched in saturated fats? Sharing a crap motel room every night?
      Sam: Those are details.
      Dean: Details are everything! You don't want to go fighting ghosts without any health insurance.

  • NOTES (2)

    • International Airdates:
      UK: May 10, 2009 on ITV2
      Denmark: May 24, 2009 on TV3
      Australia: June 29, 2009 on Channel TEN
      Norway: July 16, 2009 on FEM
      Portugal: August 17, 2009 on AXN
      Sweden: October 4, 2009 on Kanal 5
      Spain: December 21, 2009 on AXN
      Germany: January 25, 2010 on Sky Cinema Hits
      Poland: June 4, 2010 on TVN7
      New Zealand: June 12, 2010 on TV2
      Czech Republic: September 3, 2010 on Prima COOL
      Finland: August 2, 2011 on Sub
      Slovakia: April 3, 2013 on Markiza

    • Music: A Well Respected Man (The Kinks)


    • Title
      References the classic movie It's a Wonderful Life (1946) starring James Stewart. A guardian angel helps George Bailey, a compassionate but frustrated businessman, by showing him what life would have been like if he had never been born. The classic movie is frequently aired around Christmas and illustrates the positive effect simple acts of kindness and generosity can have on generations.

    • Ian: I mean, thank God we got Harry Potter here to save us from the Apocalypse.
      Referencing the title character in author J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Harry is the boy wizard who over the course of seven novels is destined to defeat the ultimate evil wizard, Voldemort.

    • Dean Smith & Sam Wesson
      Referring to Smith & Wesson the largest manufacturer of handguns in the United States. The corporate headquarters is in Springfield, Massachusetts. Smith & Wesson is known for the many types of ammunition it has introduced over the years and for its revolver expertise.