Did Sammy Come Back Wrong? Supernatural 3.04 ‘Sin City’

The fourth episode of Supernatural Season 3 is one that I sometimes forget about, but it’s actually very interesting not only in how it moves the main plot forward, but also in how it moves the evolution of Sam and Dean’s (and the show’s) understanding of “monsters” forward too. Plus it’s a beautiful episode, with director Charles Beeson and DP Serge Ladouceur creating some gorgeous scenes. The show was still quite dark in this season, though it was transitioning, so I relish all the episodes that still retained that early season darkness, both literally and metaphorically.

This is one of the episodes co-written by Bob Singer, along with Jeremy Carver, two eventual showrunners themselves. The script is punctuated with all kinds of pop culture references, from the title referring to a comic, film and AC/DC song and nods to everything from Donnie Brasco to Psycho, Dick Cheney to Margaritaville.

The “THEN” reminds us of the Yellow Eyed Demon’s provocative question to Dean: How certain are you that what you brought back is 100% pure Sam?

It’s a theme that was so intriguing and I was hoping they’d make more of, but Season 3 is the season that was cut short by the writer’s strike and changed course in multiple ways, so nothing ever really came of that question unless you want to look at it as foreshadowing of Sam eventually losing his soul. We’re also reminded of the Colt that can kill anything, and Ruby’s manipulation of Sam with the promise that she can help him save his brother, the only thing Sam cares about right now.


The opening scene is beautiful and disturbing, a church lit by candles that suddenly flicker as a wind blows through. A parishioner in the choir loft insists that God isn’t with them anymore as a nun and priest look up – to see the man pull a gun and shoot himself, collapsing.

The nun screams bloody murder, and we get the title card in a perfect juxtaposition.


Cut to Bobby working on the Colt, Dean making bullets. It’s incongruously beautiful, as Supernatural often is even when it’s violent and dark.

Sam tells them he might have found some omens in Ohio.

Dean: Well that’s thrilling…

Sam goes on about the guy blowing his head off in a church and another guy going postal in a hobby shop. Dean’s still not entirely convinced and not very excited about going to Ohio.

Dean (hopefully): There’s gotta be a demon or two in South Beach…

Sam: Sorry, Hef, maybe next time.

Sam calling Dean Hugh Hefner, the infamous Playboy mansion owner, is kinda adorable. I bet Dean loved it.

He asks Bobby how it’s going with the Colt, and Bobby admits it’s going slowly.

Dean: I tell you, it’s a little sad seeing the Colt like that.

Bobby: The only thing it’s good for now is figuring out what makes it tick.

Sam: So what makes it tick?

Bobby: (bitchface)

Dean (taking his cue from Sam): So if we wanna go check out these omens in Ohio, you think you can have that thing ready by this afternoon?

Sam laughs, while Bobby….does not.

Sam’s (Jared’s) smile is so big here and so genuine.

Bobby: Well it won’t kill demons by then – but I can promise it’ll kill YOU!

The boys leave, smiling. I love the little glimpses we get of them, especially in these early seasons, being the mischievous annoying kids they are, brothers ganging up on their father figure. I love that they can do that with Bobby, because I’m guessing they did precious little of that with John, and it’s good to see their sense of humor (even if it’s at poor Bobby’s expense.)  I don’t think he actually minds all that much – in fact, he reminds them to call him if they run into anything. Bobby’s a good dad.

The boys drive, the Impala cruising into a small town, pulling up to the church. Sam and Dean are adorable in their Fed suits.

They meet with Father Gil, who says he saw Andy kill himself, and that he hadn’t been himself, that one day, he “just wasn’t Andy anymore. It was like he was…”

Sam: Possessed?

The father says kinda, that it was like a switch had flipped, that he gambled away his money and cheated on his wife and destroyed his business. In fact, he wasn’t the only one over the past two months.

The boys exchange a loaded look, Dean with his little notebook and pen, aww they’re so cute and so young still!

They’ve both put two and two together, that two months ago they opened the devil’s gate.

Sam: And all of a sudden this town turns into Margaritaville? Can’t be coincidence.

(As I write this Jimmy Buffet died last night, so the reference to Margaritaville is making me all kinds of sentimental. I once had a first kiss with a guy I’d been crushing on, not realizing he felt the same, as we sat there drinking tequila at lunch and that song played… anyway…)

There’s a great shot as the boys go into their motel room – we see them upside down, Dean so pleased by the mirror on the ceiling, no doubt imagining all kinds of uses for it…

In Season 3, Dean’s still such a hedonist, taking so much joy in the little things. Like mirrors on the ceiling.

He notices a guy across the hall and recognizes him.

Dean: Richie? I don’t believe it.

Richie: Hey, Dean…Winchester, right?

A provocatively dressed woman is beside him, and Richie awkwardly introduces her as “uh, this is my uh, sister, Cheryl”.

He pays her, she leaves, and they all watch her walk away. Sam and Dean look at Richie.

Richie: Uh, well, you know… step sister.

Dean: This is my brother, Sam.

Oh early seasons Supernatural with your constant wink wink nudge nudges into the realm of weirdness. It’s so fun to watch it now and watch them all add up!

It turns out Dean knows Richie from when Sam was in school. There is still awkwardness between the brothers about the Stanford years, and it shows as Richie and Dean argue about who killed the succubus with the “great rack”. Dean reminds Richie that he’s not cut out for this job, concerned he’s gonna get himself killed. (Uh oh, foreshadowing…)

Sam is amused by their reminiscing.

Dean: So did you find anything in this town?

Richie: Ah no, I got nothing. Oh wait, you mean as in demons and what not? No, I got nothin’.

Dean: What about your sister back there?

Richie (grinning): She definitely had the devil in her, but she wasn’t no demon, know what I’m saying?

They all agree that it might be possession, but wonder why a demon would blow his brains out.

Richie suggests it might be for fun, like wrecking one body and moving to another, like taking a stolen car for a joyride. He says there’s one guy still alive who follows the pattern of turning into a bastard all of a sudden, the guy who brought in the gambling and the hookers, Trotter.

Richie leaves and the boys get comfortable, pulling their shirt tails out, rolling up their cuffs, both of them looking so damn good.

Dean finds the Magic Fingers on the bed and is thrilled, grinning at Sam happily.

Sam, longsuffering, resigns himself to Dean indulging.

The next day the Impala pulls up to the bar Trotter owns, the outside patio crowded with patrons. There are some great music cues in this episode too – Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Run Through the Jungle’ plays as they arrive. The boys are surprised to find anything but the quiet boarded-up factory town that this was supposed to be.

Dean: Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s do some research!

He tosses Sam the bag and starts to walk past a car, then slowly comes back to stare at the scantily clad woman beckoning to him from the open door, a slow curious smile spreading across his handsome face.

In a perfect comedic moment, Sam appears in frame and grabs Dean by the shoulders to move him along, smiling apologetically at the woman.

Dean allows himself to be moved, still wearing a lust addled smile that is somehow adorable. Both Jared and Jensen cam make just a little five second scene like this hilarious with mostly facial expressions.

They walk through the crowded bar, Dean still grinning, Sam looking uncomfortable as people bump into him left and right. Richie’s there too, dressed so he fits right in. Dean has noticed the very attractive bartender, but Richie warns him that “me and her, we got a little somethin’ somethin’ lined up for later”.

Dean: Yeah right.

Richie: Stings, don’t it? I gotta hit the head, release the hostages, be back in a few.

Sam is amused, Dean is skeptical.

Dean: No way he gets a girl like that, I mean look at her, you could fit that ass on a nickel.

Father Gil is sitting beside them.

Dean: Sorry, Padre.

Father Gil says he knew they’d find themselves there sooner or later, and Sam and Dean question why he’s there too. He says he goes where his flock goes, and a certain bartender owes him a confession.

Casey the bartender (guest star Sasha Barrese) smiles but says not in this lifetime.

Father Gil to Dean: I better see your butt on Sunday. Nickel or no nickel.

Casey recommends a Hurricane and Dean orders one, flirting with her.

Sam: (laughing at him) You drink hurricanes?

Dean (turning to Sam with a smirk): I do now!

They don’t get much time to enjoy it, though, because two guys get into a fight and one shoots the other point black in the head. Dean tackles him while Sam throws holy water on him, which does nothing. The guy insists that he did it because the bastard slept with his wife, while Sam sees Trotter staring.

The police arrive; Sam pulls Dean aside.

Sam: Too many cops here, I say we roll.

Dean: Just be cool. Poor jerk, only thing possessing him was a sixer of Pabst. Maybe this is just a town full of scumbags.

A cop approaches and asks them if they’re ready for their mug shots, underlining the constant danger the boys are in of being not exactly on the right side of the law most of the time.

They both look nervous, especially when he says that they have a photographer coming to take their picture for the local paper.

Dean: Be an honor, officer, what a thrill!

Sam: Yep, time to go.

Dean notices that Richie has disappeared as they leave.

And the next thing we see is Richie and Casey the bartender pulling up to a very nice old house. She says her parents left it to her and uh oh, there are bad vibes here, especially when she leads him to the basement and starts lighting candles.

Richie: You sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable in my motel room? I mean, not for nothing, but ya know, I got oils.

Casey: But I have toys.

Richie: Yeah no, toys trump oils. But you don’t get scared down here all by yourself?

Casey: Of course not. Not when I’ve got a hunter to protect me.

Uh oh. She blinks and her eyes are black. He pulls a knife from his boot but she’s quicker, stabbing him and then breaking his neck, twisting it gruesomely all the way around. Nice VFX!

Poor Richie. Dean was right about him.

Back at the bar, a worried Dean puts down his cell phone, a burger untouched in front of him.

Sam (carrying a couple of beers for them): You do realize there’s red meat within striking distance, right?

Dean’s worried about Richie though. Sam suggests maybe he just bailed.

Dean: He’s a moron. I mean, he’s a sweet moron, but he’s not a coward, he wouldn’t just bail. I gotta go find him.

Sam: All right – meanwhile I think I’m gonna trail this Trotter guy, something about the way he looked at me last night. Maybe there is something going on here…

Boys have good instincts and that makes me happy. Smart Winchesters for the win!

In a little interlude, we get what I think was the only Bobby and Ruby scene in the whole show. Bobby’s shooting at a feedbag hanging from a tree, testing the Colt.

Ruby: Cute piece.  Won’t stop a demon though.

She lets her eyes go black and Bobby aims at her.

Ruby: By all means, take your best shot.

Bobby hesitates.

Ruby: Are you gonna stand there like a panty waist or are you gonna shoot –

He shoots her.

Ruby: Ouch!

Bobby: What do you want?

Ruby: Peace on earth, a new shirt… So do you want me to help you out with that gun or not?

I like sassy Ruby at this point. Not so much now, knowing what we know…

Sam goes to Trotter’s office and hangs out in the hallway, spying on the bad guys through the glass door. His phone rings – it’s Dean. Sam ducks behind a wall.

Sam (whispers) Dean.

Dean: Sammy.

Me: I love it when they say so much with those two words.

Sam: Hey, I can’t talk right now.

Dean: You okay?

Sam: Yeah I’m fine, just meet me at the bar in twenty minutes.

He hangs up, over Dean’s protesting “Sam!”

At the bar, an attractive woman sidles up to Dean.

Woman: I gotta tell you, every woman in this place, they wanna eat you up…

Dean is flattered, saying anyone could have tackled that guy and wrestled the gun away…preventing mass murder…

Woman: Here’s what I’m gonna do. Normally I charge $400 a night..

Dean is so affronted, asking “what do I look like?”

Woman: A cheapskate.


Casey the bartender teases him for striking out with a prostitute, but Dean quips back that he told her he has a thing for the bartender. Unless she has something going with “some guy, yea tall, wears a sweatsuit…”

She asks “Who?” and he asks her to grab a drink after her shift.

Casey: I say why wait when we can go right now?

Uh oh.

Cut to Sam sneaking into the scary guy’s office. For some reason he leaves the door open as he roots through papers, looks through drawers – and then suddenly one of the bad guys is there attacking him. Sam totally wins that fight until suddenly the other guy holds a gun to his head, demanding to know what Sam is doing there.

Bad guy: I think I’m calling the cops.

Sam: (incredulous since he thought they were demons) Cops??

He realizes he’s got this all wrong, suddenly throwing them off him and grabbing the gun to point it at them.

They panic, telling him to take the money in the safe, but Sam says no, he just has to be sure. Then he throws holy water on them.

They look pissed off – and incredulous. But not like demons.

Affronted bad guy: What kinda psycho are you?

Sam (flustered): Oh god. Uh sorry… just a minor misunderstanding, okay how about I just leave…

He takes the bullets from the gun and then puts it down.

Sam: I’ll just…uh… leave this for you…

And then he awkwardly walks out, embarrassed, and OMG Jared nails the comedy in this scene. I can’t watch it without laughing out loud.

Dean and Casey arrive at the house with the dungeon and go downstairs.

She gives him a kiss and says to make himself comfortable, but she’s also looking around like something’s missing.

In fact, it is – Dean has already been there because it’s early seasons and he’s SMART as hell.

Dean: Oh I forgot to mention, Richie was a friend of mine.  Swung by, gave him a proper burial.

She runs at him, but is stopped short by a devil’s trap under the rug. SMART Dean. We don’t really know how he figured it out or found the house, but yay for smart Dean!

And then there’s a standoff, as Dean tries to read an exorcism but Casey makes so much wind that the pages blow right out of the book and then the entire book flies out of his hands as one of the walls crashes down, trapping them both.

She smirks.

Dean: What are you laughing at, bitch? You’re still trapped.

Casey: So are you. Bitch.

Dean lights candles and the whole scene is quite beautiful, two beautiful people playing out a little bit of the enemies to lovers trope that fanfic loves. Dean tries to remember the exorcism.

Casey: Having a little trouble there, sport?

Dean: I got somebody coming for me and he did pay attention in class.

Casey: Oh right, Sam. Everyone says he’s the brains of the outfit. You Winchester boys are famous. Not Lohan famous, but you know…

Dean: Well, that’s flattering. I’ll be sure to let Sam know when he gets here.

Casey reminds Dean that it will only help if Sam is the one who, in fact, shows up first. She’s also got a cavalry on the way.

Meanwhile, Sam goes back to the bar, where the same sex worker who tried to entice Dean also hits on Sam, saying he looks kinda tense.

Sam: Maybe later.

Everyone watching: Yeah right…

Sam asks the bartender if he remembers the guy Sam was with the other night.

Bartender: The big hero who jumped on Reggie.

Sam (scoffing inside): Yeah right, the big hero. Have you seen him around today?

The bartender says “that depends” and Sam is righteously pissed, asking if everyone has their hand out? But he pays anyway, and the bartender says he left with Casey.

He refuses to give Sam her address though, asking if it’s just so he can go over there and get his freaky peeping Tom rocks off?

(Weirdly this would not be the first time Sam has sat outside watching his brother with (two) women, so I guess it’s a valid question, but it’s a weird one.)

Sam passes him more money with a sigh.

Bartender: Have fun…

The sex worker leers at him as he leaves, licking a cherry lollipop. Sam rolls his eyes.

He checks out Casey’s house and doesn’t find Dean – but he does find Sulphur.

Sam calls Bobby, concerned that he can’t find Dean.

When he returns to the bar, the bartender tries to give him a drink and tells him to relax, and Sam snaps that he doesn’t want to relax!

His brother’s missing, Mr. Bartender, there’s no way Sam Winchester is gonna relax!

He notices Father Gil drinking and approaches him, asking about Casey.

Sam: Well, she and my brother, they uh… left tonight…together…

The “Father” says he doesn’t approve but they’re consenting adults and weren’t Sam and Dean insurance investigators?

Sam: Right, well, we are. It’s like, a family business… anyways…I have a feeling they might be in trouble.

Father Gil goes to get his jacket, saying he’ll come along if Casey’s in trouble. We see his eyes go black but Sam doesn’t…

They have an entire conversation where Father Gil knows who he’s talking to and Sam doesn’t. He asks if Sam ever thinks about doing anything else. Sam says he likes being able to help people. The Father asks if Dean finds trouble often.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah, he finds his fair share.

Father Gil: Well, it’s a good thing he has you – his brother’s keeper.

Of course the demons would like nothing better than the break up that bond, but Sam doesn’t know that. And it stings for Sam, who is desperate to actually be his brother’s keeper and get him out of the deal.

Back in the basement, Dean and Casey go back and forth, Dean accusing her of killing Richie, Casey insisting he pulled a knife on her and that would damage her host’s body – and that all she did was point out to some of the people in charge of this town that they could make a lot of money catering to “harmless vice”.

Casey: All you gotta do is nudge humans in the right direction. Your kind is corrupt, Dean. Weak.

I am much more cynical than Dean, especially during this rewatch, so I was pretty much like, yup.

Casey sits on the floor, flirty. Dean sits down too.

They start talking.  Lit by candles, both beautiful.

Casey informs Dean that some demons are true believers, and says they have a higher power. Lucifer.

Dean: You mean the devil?

Casey: Your word, not ours. Lucifer actually means light bringer.

She tells his story, the first time we hear it on Supernatural – Lucifer, the most beautiful of the angels, who refused to bow down before humans and was banished. Dean doubts he’s real (Oh Dean, too bad you weren’t right about that…)

Dean points out that demons are evil, and Casey retorts that humans are lovable? Like… Dick Cheney.

Dean: He one of yours?

Casey: Not yet. Let’s just say he’s got a parking spot reserved for him downstairs.

Oh Show, I love it when you get sassy! A little preview of the social commentary that Kripke will eventually do with ‘The Boys’.

Dean asks her about hell and she tells him he won’t like it, that it’s a pit of despair, that he won’t be getting the presidential suite. Dean looks thoughtful about it, scared.

Casey reluctantly admits that unlike what she’d heard, Dean’s likable. That the deal he made to save Sam, others would mock him for it, think it was weak or stupid, but she doesn’t.

Dean: It’s been kinda liberating actually. You know, what’s the point in worrying about the future, when you don’t have one?

She asks if he’s scared, and he hesitates a second before saying no, of course not.

Casey stretches out provocatively on the floor, watching Dean.

Casey: Why Dean, if I didn’t know better I’d say that was lust in your eyes…

She considers it but says he wouldn’t respect her in the morning.

Dean: That’s okay, I barely respect you now.

He laughs for real, the two of them actually connecting.

She tells him the truth about Azazel’s plan – that the chain of command was supposed to be Sam. That he was supposed to be the grand pooh-bah and lead the demon army, but he hasn’t exactly stepped up to the plate.

Casey says, for the record, she was ready to follow Sam.

All of us rewatching: Oh the wasted potential!!! Boy King Sam Winchester!!

At that moment, Sam and Father Gil arrive at the house and Sam jumps out, banging on the door and yelling for Dean.

Casey thinks he’s won until Sam says he’s there with the Father, and Dean sees her change of expression. He warns Sam to be careful.

Sam turns around to see Father Gil’s eyes go black and then there’s a gunshot that just misses him. It’s Bobby, but the Father tosses him over and then throws Sam into the car windshield. Sam struggles up and helps Bobby.

Bobby: Go!

He hands Sam the Colt. Ruby appears.

Ruby: You heard the man. Go!

It’s Father Gil who breaks through the collapsed wall first, unfortunately. Dean rushes him, but is tossed across the room.

Father Gil breaks the devil’s trap and kisses Casey passionately as Dean struggles up.

Dean: (incredulous) You two??

Father Gil: For centuries. We’ve been to hell and back. Literally.

Father Gil grabs Dean and strangles him, lifting him off his feet, his boots dangling.

Casey: Don’t kill him, let’s just go. Please.

We don’t know what Father Gil would have done (though I’m guessing he would have killed Dean anyway) but at that moment Sam arrives and shoots Father Gil with the Colt.

He then aims it at Casey as Dean yells “Sam, wait!”

Sam fires again though, and the demons light up and die, their bodies falling to the floor, lying together with their hands almost touching.

Dean looks stricken as the brothers lock eyes.

The last scenes are a great tease for something that never ended up happening on Season 3, probably due to the writer’s strike that happened mid season. Bobby and Dean walk down the street, wondering if they made any difference.

Dean: Trotter’s still alive.

Bobby points out that “humans ain’t our job” and reminds Dean that shooting Casey had to be done, that Sam was saving his life.

Dean: Yeah, but you didn’t see it, Bobby. It was cold.

He confides to Bobby that Yellow Eyes said something to him in Wyoming – that maybe when Sam came back from wherever, maybe he came back off.

Dean: You think – you think something’s wrong with my brother?

Bobby: Nah. Demons lie. I’m sure Sam’s okay.

Dean agrees, but it’s clear he’s not totally reassured – and at the time, neither are we. He desperately wants to be though.

The final scene is in the hotel, Sam packing up his things seen from the mirror on the ceiling as Ruby comes to the door. She tells him not to pout, reminding him he killed two demons.

Sam: Yeah well maybe you don’t care but I killed two humans too.

I love the early seasons when the boys were still focused on trying not to kill the humans when they killed the demons. Ruby insists he did them a favor, that they would have died anyway.

Sam: You’re a cold bitch, you know that?

Ruby points out that she’s saved his ass more than once, but Sam counters that Dean is still going to hell. Sam tries to call her bluff, but she doesn’t back down even when he points the Colt at her.

Ruby: Go ahead if that makes you happy. It’s not gonna do much for Dean, though. So what’s it gonna be?

Sam reluctantly lowers the gun. Ruby admits that he’s going to have to do things that go against “that gentle nature of yours” and that there will be collateral damage, but it has to be done.

Sam: Well I don’t have to like it.

Ruby: You wouldn’t be Sam if you did.

Poor Sammy.

Katie Cassidy really made Ruby both likable and absolutely unlikable simultaneously at this point, and the underlying suspicion that something was wrong with Sam kept the anticipation even higher. I will always wonder what Season 3 would have been if the strike hadn’t happened…

Stay tuned for more of Season 3 Supernatural as our rewatch continues!

Beautiful caps by spndeangirl/raloria, gifs abordelimpala and horrorshow


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Supernatural in their chapters in Family Don’t

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