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Supernatural: Top Ten Sam and Dean Moments

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In between the mass insanity known as my family's holiday rituals, the hubby and I managed to filter through some Supernatural DVDs to help our withdrawal symptoms over this long hiatus. During that process, my warped brain threw together an arbitrary and subjective list of the top ten Winchester brother moments. In generating this list, rules had to be made. There was no other way to narrow the one hundred moments on my initial list to ten.

Rule 1. The scenes must involve both brothers either making me laugh or cry. Dean breakdown scenes in “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” “Wishful Thinking,” and “Heaven and Hell” are awesome, but a glassy-eyed Sam playing pretty wallpaper behind Dean’s speeches of woe doesn’t give strength to a “brotherly” moment. The reverse holds true for Sam pouring his heart out in “Houses of the Holy” or crying like a girl at the end of “Heart”.

Rule 2. The scene has to involve a conscious and alive Sam and Dean. While the exorcism scene in “Born Under a Bad Sign” is all kinds of awesome, it's Meg, not Sam, so it's disqualified. Same with Dean’s meltdown in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” since Sam is a corpse. Ditto with Sam crying over Dean’s corpse in “No Rest For The Wicked”. I could go on, but hopefully everyone gets the gist.

Rule 3. This is the strongest scenes, not the strongest episodes. “Hell House” has a fantastic string of brotherly moments, but not one prank scene trumps the other.

Finally, sorry, season one fans, but nothing from that season made the list. While there are many great moments in that season, the ones from the other three end up outdoing all those.

I know, get on with it.

10. Mystical Talking Board – “In My Time of Dying”

This scene gets me every time, and it’s all because of the way it’s edited. In some shots Dean is there with Sam, showing his point of view, and in the others it’s only Sam, showing his point of view. The subtle movements back and forth between these viewpoints are incredible, for we believe they’re carrying on a seamless conversation even though Sam can’t see or hear Dean.

Both Sam and Dean’s reactions to this grim situation are perfect. At first they’re both amazed that they can actually communicate, and then Dean has the perfect response to every one of Sam’s statements. After Dean spells out “REAP” on the board, Sam is crushed as the reality hits him. “If it’s here naturally, there’s no way to stop it.” Dean responds, “Yeah, you can’t kill death.” Sam then replies, “Man, you’re, um,” and Dean easily finishes his sentence. “I’m screwed, Sam.” Awesome.

In season one their chemistry is perfect, but in season two scenes like this take their relationship to the intuitive. No longer are they the brothers at odds and their loyalty to each other reaches a new level. It's a perfect setup for the trials to come in which that loyalty is constantly tested.

9. Clinic Scene – “Croatoan”

Sam is infected and is waiting to turn into a monster. Dean persistently sends everyone away, and we know he’s more than ready to die with Sam because he gives the others the keys to the Impala! A teary Sam begs his brother to save himself and leave, for he’s ready to put a bullet in his brain. Dean adamantly refuses. Normally slamming a fist against the table in frustration is cliché, but when Sam does it over Dean's stubborn act, it so works. Dean’s ready to give it all up, for he’s tired, and finally hints of a burden he’s been carrying since John died.

Of course it’s all interrupted because the crisis is over and it turns out Sam’s immune, but man, did we get some great drama out of that. This scene is so brilliantly acted, and the chemistry between Jensen and Jared reaches a pinnacle that sets a new standard for episodes to come. Luckily, we haven’t been disappointed yet.

8. Wrestling for Money Clip on Bed – “Tall Tales”

I have three siblings and, trust me, that’s the way brothers and sisters settle things. “He touched my stuff” is a very legitimate reason for a fight. Knowing that, there’s no better way to address family conflicts than to tackle your sibling on the bed and wrestle.

Everything about their argument over the money clip is classic sibling rivalry, thus making it that more hysterical. Immature, irrational, and flying off the handle over something trivial all without listening to what the other has to say — I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of that from Sam and Dean, especially with the close quarters they keep. I was pounding on my brother after one day in a motel.

It’s even a bigger riot watching Jensen and Jared do that. I’m still squealing in between my fits of laughter. It makes me want to fight my brother all over again. Oh, and take on a pair of Winchester brothers myself.

7. The Motel Confrontation – “Metamorphosis”

How could this not be explosive? This is the best setup ever. Dean, tipped off by Castiel, has caught Sam using his demon powers. What’s worse, he finds out Ruby is alive and helping Sam. Dean takes off and a bothered Sam waits for him back at the motel. Dean storms in and starts packing, Sam gingerly approaches and Dean punches him! Not once, but twice! Sure, it wasn’t the first time Dean punched Sam, but he’s never been this angry at him before.

This long exchange is a treat for those who waited four seasons for the brothers to finally openly address Sam’s struggle with his abilities. While Dean goes off, Sam tearfully does his best to defend his actions. Dean scares him though, a lot, not just by his anger (like smacking a lamp across the room) but when Dean reveals the angels told him to stop him. By the end Sam’s a wreck, and Dean’s look of betrayal is devastating.

This scene has everything: physical, verbal, and emotional conflict, with both brothers running through a wide spectrum of emotions, complemented by incredible dialogue that in no uncertain terms showcases how heated things are between them. Other scenes like the argument outside the Impala complement this one perfectly, but this scene easily stands out as a defining moment in terms of their relationship.

6. Sam Hugs Dean – “Mystery Spot”

There are three brotherly hugs in the series. The first is when Dean hugs Sam after he’s resurrected in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II”. “Mystery Spot” is the second, and the third is the mutual hug while reunited after Dean is sprung from Hell in “Lazarus Rising”. All three are great, but the second one delivers the most impact.

A very broken Sam rushes across the room and overtakes an unsuspecting Dean with one giant bear hug. It’s the big conclusion to Sam’s almost year-long personal hell that he cannot describe nor Dean is aware of, and his entire ordeal is summed up in that one hug. Both facial expressions are pitch perfect. Sam is exhausted and lost, Dean is perplexed.

The greatest emotional impact comes from the one simple question: “How many Tuesdays did you have?” “Enough,” a weary Sam replies. In season three, Sam grew especially distant and reserved so for him to do that, it proves how much Dean really means to him. This is especially important after all their fights in previous episodes. What doesn’t seem like much on paper turns out to be pure gold on the screen.

5. Fixing the Impala – “Fresh Blood”

Let’s face it, Sam and Dean aren’t the type of brothers that'll grab some poles and lures and go fishing together. Sure, they relax with a beer every now and then, but given the horror of their everyday lives, they don’t partake in normal family bonding. Except here.

After Sam’s heartfelt plea for Dean to be his brother again — in other words, stop acting like a jerk and a martyr — Dean goes all out in a way that even surprises Sam. He shows him how to fix the Impala. You know, the sort of thing a normal big brother does. Given how much the car means to Dean, there is not one greater personal gesture that Dean could do for Sam than this.

The way Sam’s eyes light up when Dean hands him the wrench, it’s a side of their brotherly relationship we rarely see — little brother looking up to big brother, wanting to be just like him. Too often they’re mired in life or death situations and trying to save one other to enjoy simple moments like this. We enjoyed it too, and yes, that was millions of women collectively going “Awww.”

4. Sam and Dean’s Christmas, Past and Present – “A Very Supernatural Christmas”

Eric Kripke claimed that they set out to do the most violent, horrific, anti-holiday holiday special on record. While he succeeded in spades for most of the episode, the sentimental side won out in the end. We see two Winchester family Christmases, one past, one present, yet both are the same. It’s just Sam and Dean alone in the world, having nothing but each other. Both times Sam sucks up all that pain and does something incredible for Dean, leaving us all misty.

While I certainly love the flashback, finding out that Dean’s cherished amulet was given to him by an eight-year-old Sam at Christmas, the grown-up version puts that glaring lump in my throat. After Dean gets the amulet in the past, the scene cuts to the present and with the camera focused on said amulet still around his neck, all with Rosemary Clooney crooning “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” What a perfect touch. A nervous Sam awaits, and he’s managed to find a tree, lights, a "Merry Christmas" sign, and even fishing lures and pine tree air fresheners as ornaments. The best part though is he even remembers the Christmas cocktail, spiking the rum with a little egg nog. Dean’s reaction to the drink and everything else is priceless.

How many of us wished after this episode we got motor oil and a candy bar wrapped in newspaper for Christmas? Or skin mags and shaving cream? Sure one message is it’s the thought that counts, but for these guys, it’s knowing that all that matters is sitting right next to you. It’s a bittersweet moment too, since it’s Dean’s last year, but for at least one evening, all that is put aside. They didn’t succumb to a chick flick moment either, as their love for each other is declared appropriately by turning on the game.

Throw in the postcard perfect image of brothers watching the game through the window, complete with Christmas lights reflecting off the snowy Impala in the foreground, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better holiday ending for any TV show or movie.

3. Dean Watches Sam Exorcise Samhain – “It’s The Great Pumpkin Sam Winchester”

This scene is the equivalent of the freaking Academy Award of nonverbal acting. How a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, totally mesmerizing struggle could be depicted just by glances, Sam’s raised hand, and some serious face twisting still has me in total awe.

We saw it coming. The setup is pretty contrived. Sam would have to use his powers to exorcise the higher level demon Samhain. What we didn’t expect is Dean walking in on it, freezing at the end of the corridor and watching with stunning results. His troubled stare contains a swirl of terror, concern, heartbreak, and just plain sadness. He hates watching his brother being forced to do this, and couldn’t do much except watch.

On the other end, Sam is fighting hard, pushing his abilities to the limits while Samhain inches closer, not easily caving. He notices Dean but doesn’t back off his fight or ask for help. He carries on, even when he’s hit with a spiking migraine and a bloody nose. Eventually Samhain does succumb, and we are left with both Sam and Dean maintaining their positions on each end of the chamber, both glaring at each other horrified, both realizing that turning off Sam’s switch is no longer going to be easy. The result, deep sorrow for both. For us, we’re picking our jaws up from the floor and wondering how they managed that incredible scene without saying a word.

2. Dean’s Words of Wisdom Before Midnight – “No Rest For The Wicked”

We had all of season three to visualize the last moments, how the brothers would say goodbye when Dean’s deal came due. Nope, I didn’t call this one. Only one minute to midnight and Lilith has disappeared. Sam turns to Ruby and is ready to go against Dean’s wishes, to use his powers to save his brother. A vehement Dean stops him. “I’m not letting you go to Hell!” “Yes you are!” Dean declares, and that’s when the reality strikes. Dean is going to die.

Oh man, did they knock it out of the park on this one. Dean faces up to his actions and apologizes, accepting this is all his fault and what Sam wants to do won’t save him. A teary Sam asks what he’s supposed to do, and Dean comes up with the perfect set of words that aren’t lengthy, cheesy or sappy. “Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what dad taught you, okay?” A weepy and devastated Sam nods. “Remember what I taught you.” Now Dean has tears in his eyes. Those aren’t sappy words? Why am I bawling then?

Just then the clock strikes midnight and while the chimes ring in the background, a ready for his punishment Dean turns to his teary brother and gives him a brave smile. Those heartbreaking glances are Sam and Dean’s way of saying goodbye. How does this show keep doing this? How do Jensen and Jared come up with these fresh, incredible, utterly amazing ways each week to leave us sloppy messes by night’s end?

To think, this wasn’t even the death scene! We are already pouring through the Kleenexes when Dean meets his demise and Sam has to cry again. Dammit show, way to leave us completely wrecked and then force us to live with that all summer. No wonder I keep coming back for more.

1. Sam Dies in Dean’s Arms – “All Hell Breaks Loose Part I”

Remember, this was a time before Winchester deaths were cliché. We weren’t exactly hanging on the edge of our seats with the setup. Only one psychic kid would survive. We knew it had to be Sam. We sat there for an hour watching them get picked off one by one, wondering how Jake would bite it and Sam would walk away. After all, they wouldn’t kill off one of the two leads. They wouldn’t leave Dean to carry on without Sam.

Holy crap! They did kill him! The knife goes through Sam’s spinal cord and is twisted by Jake, all while Dean watches in horror. He runs to his mortally wounded brother, who for all practical purposes is dead before he hits the ground. The lights slowly fade in Sam while Dean examines the fatal gash and gives desperate assurances, more for himself than his deteriorating brother. Then Sam quiet slips away, unable to utter a single word of goodbye, leaving Dean to grasp tightly onto his fallen sibling in the mud. The somber score plays while the camera pans overhead for the epic snapshot of the two locked in a final embrace. Then it goes back to Dean, who cries out “Sam!” before letting his tears fall.

Watching Sam quietly die and Dean’s devastated reaction over losing his baby brother trumps anything these two have experienced. The death is shocking, unexpected, and so damned emotional fans were left immobile from shock in front of the TV for hours after it aired. Some were able to hit the rewind button several times afterward only to be more crushed with each viewing. More importantly, this one moment set off a turbulent chain of events, defining everything Sam and Dean have been through since then.

That’s it! Feel free to share your favorite moments, or just tell me how full of crap I am. What would your list be?

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About Alice Jester

  • AlisonH

    I don’t think I can find fault with *any* your choices, Alice! Each scene you highlighted just confirmed to me how incredibly lucky Supernatural fans are to have Jensen & Jared portray Sam & Dean.I can’t think of another show where I care so much about the two lead characters, where one glance between Jared & Jensen leaves me blubbing and awestruck at the same moment and how a show in its 4th season can leave me with my jaw on the floor week after week!
    Thank you for your insights once again, Alice.I look forward to your reviews of the rest of season 4!

  • Alice, this article is fabulous! I agree with everything you said, every scene you outlined. Sam’s death scene and the final Christmas scene are probably my two favorites. Both not only left me sobbing for hours, I couldn’t sleep both nights after seeing them. I am WAY too wrapped up in this show, and I worry about my sanity sometimes. I’m just praying that Kripke doesn’t end the series by killing off one or both Winchester boys, because Alice, if he does, I won’t be able to deal with it!

    Love, Robin

  • I wholeheartedly agree on the final two. Both those scenes have me weeping (just reading your review of the scenes made me cry!) Jensen and Jared are perfection in the roles, and Dean and Sam have long since become as real to me as anyone in my life. I’m just wondering how I’m going to survive when the show comes to an end…

  • I think you missed what makes the “Fixing the Impala” scene so brilliant: it marks a turning point for Dean as he comes to terms with his impending death. Instead of simply living for the moment, as he’d been doing, he starts to think about what Sam will face after he is gone, and prepares Sam to handle car maintenance Dean would do himself were he alive.

    So it’s everything you said… and more!

  • Cookie6

    I re-lived every scene as you so eloquently described and analysed them. Superb insights, there’s not a Supernatural fan not affected by your words. Jensen and Jared bring these brothers to life in a way that has me rivetted to every epi, every scene, every week. I absolutely agree that their unspoken gestures, expressions and subtle nuances add depth to an amazing script so we feel and see everything this sibling relationship is. Fantastic article, Alice, I bookmarked it so I can read it again and again.

  • elle2


    I knew I was going to enjoy this when I started reading the rules — I stopped and said, oh, this is going to be good, even the rules are awesome!

    That said, I’d be hard pressed to alter the list. I’m sure I’ll enjoy going through and watching eppies again just to check (:-)

    A Very Supernatural Christmas still gets me weepy, and just reading the above blurb on it had me reaching for tissues again, No Rest for the Wicked — more tissues, AHBLII — where is the box!!

    Lists can be made about Sam’s most defining moments, the differences when Dean does let tears flow (ELAC, CSPWDT, Heart, WIAWSNB, AHBLI&II, and the trump card is Hell’s Angels [or Heaven and Hell, I can never remember] as he finally breaks and lets the floodgates open which issomething Sam has been willing to do but never Dean], there’s a dissection of what each of the hugs has meant, Dean and Dad in Shadows – his open embrace of his father showed his need to have his dad in his life – Dean and Sam in AHBLII, Sam and Dean in MS, and then of course the Dean and Bobby and then Dean and Sam in LR but yes, the Mystery Spot one still beats them all for me exactly because of Dean’s willingness to let his brother hang onto him for dear life even w/o understanding all that had happened, so much awesome packaged in one little show — I’m almost glad that only a select few know about it, not too many hands getting in the kitchen to mess up the soup.

    Like the other respondents above, when this show ends I will be left without something special that I have come to enjoy on a personal level. I go back to S1 and watch some episodes — Something Wicked and Route 666 are two especially that come to mind here] and the ending of those two episodes is playing I am hit with a nostalgia about this show that speaks to me and says, when this ends and there is a montage of ‘moments’ over the seasons, I will know this was special. What is the defining aspect to both those ending scenes? the moments between the brothers, a connection made, a moment shared, a revelation — well, revealed, and yes, some good old classic rock that washes over me and pulls me in.

    For something that is ‘just a television show’ this one has it altogether right.

    Thanks for another great entry from you and I look forward to all your ‘labors of love’ these next several months while new eppies roll out and more opportunities to analyze come to the fore.


  • Mindy

    Thanks so much for this wonderful entry highlighting some of our favorite Supernatural moments. Just reading this had me in tears half-way through. This list is simply amazing, I don’t know if I could compose something nearly quite as brilliant myself.

    Even watching a “Very Supernatural X-mas” for probably a 4th time when it re-aired on x-mas day, I had tears in my eyes by the end of the episode.

  • Rachel

    Very nice moments all of them, but still too bad you didn’t have a single one from season 1. I actually think there are several moments there that could have made it to the list, of which no. 1, Devil’s Trap, when Daddy Winchester says that taking out the demon is more important than anything, there is that shared moment when Sam looks into the rearside mirror, catches his brother’s eye (bleeding and broken), and says : “No sir, not over everything.”

    Other moments: When Dean stretches his arm before his little brother to stop Sam from crossing the street without looking (such a subtle moment that defines big brother so well), when Dean confesses to Sam that if Dad and Sam die for revenge, Dean will be left behind to bury them, and Sam’s trying to support Dean in “Faith” to help his ailing brother (Dean: “Get off me!”). And how about 4-year old Dean carrying baby Sammy out of the burning house?

    Of course, all IMHO. 🙂

  • I have to disagree that there was nothing that compared in season 1. There was definitely at least one scene that sprang to mind almost immediately.

    Toward the end of the season, when Dean was finally revealing to Sam how he truly just wants the family back and his veneer was finally pierced as they wait for that call from Meg, that whole section is an awesome moment, with tons of body language, but the most beautiful part was when Dean tells Sam to let go that the dead are dead, almost word for word the same speech Sam gave Dean in episode 1, and getting the same reaction from his brother that he did back then. Wall thumping and anger and slow realization. That scene should definitely make the top 10. Heh heh

  • Thanks everyone for the awesome comments!

    It should be noted, the highest season one moment on my list (#12) was the scene at the end of “Salvation”. Sam is lost in disbelief and rage over missing his chance to kill the yellow-eyed demon, while Dean is worried that he can’t get hold of their dad. As Gloria mentioned, Dean said the reverse of what Sam said in the pilot as Sam slams him against the wall, and Dean’s comment “I’m barely holding it together” just about killed me.

    The reason that didn’t rank higher is because after the crash at the end of Devil’s Trap, Sam and Dean’s relationship reached a new level of maturity. They were no longer at odds with each other, and I just couldn’t find where that could rank over the others. Maybe next time I’ll have to do the top twenty!

  • Haven

    There is always one scene, for me, that is always underrated by everyone else but I love, love, love. At the end of Long Distance Call! It is intense and heart-wrenching as Dean admits how scared he is and that he knows ‘hope don’t get you jack squat’. Then, it makes me laugh out loud as Dean states ‘that the only one who can get me out of this is me.’ Sam’s obvious response is ‘And me.’ As to which Dean blinks at him incredulously ‘And me? Deep revelation, having a real moment here and that’s what you come back with, and me?’ Sam deadpan as, says, ‘You want a poem?’ Dean snorts and shakes his head ‘Moment’s gone. Unbelievable’ And then they sit and watch tv. It is priceless and I think sums up the whole show in four minutes!

  • Kate

    Ditto for your number one choice – my throat still constricts when I recall that scene, with Sam’s eyes blinking sleepily closed, wavering like a ragdoll in Deans arms – omgimwellingup! Dear me.

  • Oy. This is great, and I’m bawling just reading through your work.

    I’m wondering, if the brothers live through the end of the show, how broken and dysfunctional they would be.

    And… just a tiny comment for #1. Sam’s dying hasn’t become a common occurrence yet. Dean? Dean’s been dying, one way or another, since season 1 (and semi-regularly). Sam, however? I think there are but three times – once in Ava’s vision, this, and once struck by lightning.

    … and I still bawl when either of them bites it anyway. So it’s not really relevant…

  • cassi

    Awesome article Alice!
    I was so curious how you would be able to pick just 10 from all the amazing brother moments throughout the 4 seasons.

    Your rules are a sign of genius!!!! I think the best part of your article was reading through this great rules, I was so impressed.
    I agree with you that season 1 certainly had some amazing and breathtaken brotherly moments but like you I think that with their changed relationship in the following seasons the scenes improved to a level where you gasp, cry or are just laughing by the awesomeness. 😉

    You have created a great list and I couldn’t disagree with any moment for making it on your list!

    The Motel Confrontation – Metamorhosis: was my personal number one because it illustrated the drama and the helpness of the brothers changed relationship in season 4 and if Kim Manners is the director the close-ups and shots are so perfect that you just can’t help it and get emotional involved. And this was the scene was dying to see when I heard about Sam and Dean’s changed relationship in season 4! and it certainly was far far away from being dissapointing, I just wanted to kill the guy who dared to interupte this amazing scene with a phone call! 😉

    Sam hugs Dean – Mystery Spot/ Sam surprising dean with a little Christmas party – AVSC: One thing which is certainly impossible for me is to pick between Mystery Spot and AVSC, I love the hug scene in MS and I equally love the present exchange in AVSC.

    Wrestling for Money Clip – Tall Tales: The entire episode was a constant back and forth between a classic silbling fight. I especially loved the Dean-eating-on-Sam’s bed and Sam-argueing-with-Dean scene.

    Motel room discussion – Fresh Blood: Season 3 showed a differnt Sam, he was busy trying to save Dean and didn’t get any help from his brother, he was alone on an impossible mission and that was a new feeling for Sam because usually he always could count on Dean’s support. So he was frustrated and bitchy quit often in this season. Dean’s “what should I do, write a poem” and Sam’s” I just wish you would be my brother again” was amazing to watch and Dean’s simple but powerful reaction “Ok Sammy” just nailed it. I love the whole car scene at the end but personally I think the motel room discussion was just stronger and the best brotherly moment in that episode.

    PS: Maybe you could a little top ten lists with Supernatural’s best guest stars

  • Julie

    Loved your list! Only one problem I have though will be the Samhain scene, since Dean is pretty much in the background of this one. It’s only after Samhain’s on the floor that we actually see Sam and Dean have a possible look at eachother… But that might just be me! =) On the other hand, I looooooved that you put one of my all time scenes in: The ouija board in the hospital! Whoever thought about making this scene is a genius!

  • Jane

    Just read your list and I must say you picked some of my favorites. I have been watching some episodes recently from S1 and S2 and within the last week rewatch “In My Time of Dying”. That is a favorite episode and that scene is a definate favorite of mine. I also like the scene where Sam is standing at the door while they try to revive Dean and he hears him for the first time. After he’s revived and Sam is standing in the hall, Dean is talking to him and the camera pans out and Dean is there, then he’s not. Sam looks in his direction, like he heard him speaking. That is a cool scene. It’s as if he feels his presence, but he also not sure. Well, so much for that. This whole list is great, and I’m gonna have to go back and see them all.

  • Nicky

    i know i’m a little late reading this now, but you had me tearing up the whole way through. i wouldn’t change your list at all- every one of those moments were ones that stuck out in my mind!

  • John Cho

    The last few episodes had some awesome Sam and Dean moments. Especially the scene when Dean winks at Sam before killing Zacariah

  • Muse

    Thank you so much for this great article! After each recommendation, I watched the episode you talked about, which made it so much more pleasurable! Thank you so much for sharing. Cheers 🙂

  • becca

    well… after reading number one, I think I’ll go cry in a corner for the next 3 weeks… thanks..

  • Myslef

    What about the fireworks scene in Dark Side of the Moon?