Supernatural Season 4, Episode 17 recap: What if Sam and Dean weren’t hunters?

Supernatural -- "Death Takes a Holiday" -- Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW -- Acquired via CW TV PR
Supernatural -- "Death Takes a Holiday" -- Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW -- Acquired via CW TV PR /

Every now and then, there’s a good what if tale. In Supernatural Season 4, Episode 17, we explored Sam and Dean’s lives if they weren’t hunters. In fact, this was if they weren’t even brothers.

Could you imagine Sam and Dean not being hunters? How about not being brothers? Both of these “what ifs” came up in Supernatural Season 4, Episode 17. Titled “It’s a Terrible Life,” we watched as Sam Wesson and Dean Smith learned all about hunting and found out the real reason for the alternate reality.

With a few fan Easter eggs along the way, this episode turned into an entertaining monster-of-the-week episode with a plot-driven twist. Here’s everything that happened in the episode.

The start of the alternate reality

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The episode opens with us already in the alternate reality. Dean Smith wakes up and gets dressed in his suit. He heads to a silver Prius and puts the radio station on NPR. This is clearly a very different character to the one we’re used to seeing.

When he gets to work, we get a montage of him chatting with coworkers, his boss Mr. Adler, and just doing work. It’s only when he enters the elevator to go home that he runs into Sam Wesson, who is wearing a tech support shirt. With a quick “do I know you” moment, the two head off in their own directions.

The following day, we get Sam, who works in a cubicle answering questions about broken computers all day. This time we get to hear the conversations with his nonconformist colleague, Ian, where Sam shares his dreams of hinting things. Dean Smith is in those dreams, even though the two have clearly never interacted in this world.

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When the supernatural world meshes with the alternate reality

The following day, Ian is called to HR. Sam overhears another colleague, Paul, worried about losing all his work from the day. At the end of the shift, Paul still hasn’t found the work and heads to the break room. Placing his head in the microwave and forks in the safety latch, he sets the timer and kills himself.

Dean and Sam learn, independently, that Paul was going to retire in two weeks. However, Sam is quickly distracted by Ian walking in now in the tech support uniform and focused on his work. When Ian is called to Dean’s office about mistakes in a form, Ian is worryingly apologetic and feels like he’s failed the company.

This is all in front of Dean, who tries to calm Ian down. When Ian rushes to the bathroom, Dean follows to help. However, just as the bathroom becomes eerily cold, Ian stabs himself in the neck with a pencil and kills himself. Dean sees a man in the mirror but there’s nobody in the room.

Getting to the bottom of the case

Sam and Dean both soon realize that they started working at the company at the same time. When Dean explains what he’s seen, Sam realizes it was a ghost and that he thinks the deaths were supernatural. It also turns out that both men had been summoned to room 1444 and when they get there, another tech support employee is being attacked by a ghost.

Dean manages to fight back the ghost with an iron wrench to save the employee and get rid of the ghost. For now at least.

The two head to Dean’s apartment, where they decide to research hunting. They come across a website for the Ghostfacers, which teaches them the hunter basics. It’s not long before the two figure out the ghost is of the late P.T. Sandover, founder of the company, and makes model employees out of the unwilling workers. His office was Room 1444.

The problem is Sandover was cremated, which means there must be something of him still in the building. Dean manages to figure out that a pair of Sandover’s gloves is on the 22nd floor, which must be what is keeping the ghost here. Sure enough, Sam burns the gloves and the ghost disappears.

Sam wants to hunt

After the run-in with the ghost, Sam suggests that the two go on the road and hunt. Dean isn’t interested in the idea of living on diner food and stolen credit cards. He’s also not keen on the lack of health insurance. Oh, the differences of the two characters.

This is when Sam admits that he’s sure this life they’re living isn’t real. He thinks the dreams are real, but Dean refuses to believe him.

The two head back to their jobs, which is when both decide to quit. This is when Mr. Adler taps Dean on the head and brings back Dean’s memories of being a Winchester. Mr. Adler is the angel Zachariah, Castiel’s superior. He planted the fake memories so Dean could realize his passion for hunting.

Right now, Dean’s thoughts are on Hell and everything that’s happened. However, it’s time to get back in the game.

Next. Supernatural Season 4, Episode 16 recap: On the Head of a Pin. dark

What did you think of Supernatural Season 4, Episode 17 the first time? What do you notice when you rewatch it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.