Pick your favorite alter ego of Sam Winchester. Possessed Sam? Demon Blood Sam? Evil Sam? Mind-Controlled Sam? Discussing the many faces of Sam sounded like an easy topic for a Con-tinual panel of Supernatural media professionals... until I started listing the many times and ways that Sam wasn't the brother we all know and love!
Odds are that the same one or two images come to mind for all of us when we think of days when Sam "wasn't himself." But when challenged to really consider how often Sam had to fight for control of his body, mind and soul, I discovered that Jared Padalecki played an alternate version of Sam Winchester in at least one episode, and often in several episodes, in nearly all 15 seasons of Supernatural. That's a lot of faces for Sam!
What is the best way to do justice to all the versions of Sam we witnessed over the years? We could revisit Sam's journey chronologically. That would recreate the way he experienced his life being hijacked by supernatural forces. It's a bit more interesting, though, to look back at 15 years through the lens of accumulated memories. How many times was he possessed? How many times was he broken down by supernatural powers? All those traumas compounded each other. They could have insidiously perverted who he was as a person, yet, somehow, he chose to forge his trials into a more authentic, stronger, more compassionate Sam. No wonder he inspires so many of us.
So, I've chosen to group Sam's experiences into the categories of forces that overpowered him - both supernatural and human. Let's see how many I found, then you add the ones I've forgotten! Part 1 covered the times when Sam was truly a monster, by all the definitions that matter to a hunter (possessed, cloned, turned, etc.). Part 2 explored the faces of DemonBlood!Sam, followed immediately by post-demon blood, Soulless Sam in Part 3. Part 4 continued Sam's saga by looking at how he was broken by his memories of Hell once his soul was restored. Sam was whole then for a short time, until he slowly deteriorated through Hell's trials, traced in Part 5. To wrap up, just for fun, this installment looks at how many ways Sam was bewitched, bewildered and beguiled by supernatural mischief!
"I'm Just Not Myself Today" (aka "Not in His Right Mind") Sam
When is Sam not Sam? Apparently quite often, as he is a favorite target of supernatural forces who love to steal his mind, borrow his body, or commandeer both at the same time!
Dosed!Sam - 7.08 "Season 7, Time for a Wedding"
Definitely not in my Top 10 list of favorite Sams, stalker fan Becky roofied Sam with a demon's potion so he would "love" her as much as she "loved" him.
Sam went from a drugged-out-of-his-mind groom at a Las Vegas wedding, to a devoted obsessed husband, confusing the devil out of poor Dean.
The honeymoon only lasted as long as Becky's supply of the Love Potion #9. She eventually came to her senses and helped the boys (and Garth) trap the demon responsible for the deal, so we (and Dean) were spared from looking at Sam's puppy love grin any longer!
BodySwapped!Sam - 5.12 "Swap Meat"
What's worse - supernatural forces vying to claim you as a vessel, or a group of teenagers who selfishly want to help those supernatural forces succeed? Sam ends up in the middle of a teenage coven's dangerous experiment with the occult and gets body swapped with 17 year old Gary!
To make it even funnier, Jared (who was probably 28 at the tie of filming) humorously played the role of a boy who hadn't yet experienced alcohol, sex...
or being a healthy, handsome, muscular hunk of a man!
This body swap was different than possession for Sam because he felt like himself. He was fully conscious and had all his faculties but he was walking around in Gary's body while his own body was inhabited by the hijacking teen. Jared adeptly switched between both roles with nothing but dialog and body language to tell them apart!
Scam!Sam - 8.21 "The Great Escapist"
For a brief time in season 8, Crowley used his demons to create illusions of Sam and Dean to trick Kevin into translating the Angel Tablet.
Watching the theatrical production from the point of view of Crowley as a director, we saw Sam, who we don't know at the time isn't really Sam, banter with the prophet about food, work and taking care of himself.
Facial expressions should have clued us into the scam. "Looks can be deceiving" was all too true in this case!
This may have been Jared's shortest digression as another version of Sam, but he took advantage of the brief illusion to deliver several great out-of-character witty lines! It was fun to see Jared portray an actor portraying Sam!
Sitcom!Sam - 14.15 "Peace of Mind"
At the other end of the spectrum from the sociopathic, cloned Leviathan!Sam of season 7, prissy, Sitcom!Sam appeared in a 1950's town after Sam's mind was overpowered by a disturbed psychic who longed for simpler times.
Once again finding himself married to a stranger (or near-stranger), Sam made a convincing Ward Cleaver, i.e. a 50's sitcom picture-perfect husband. Do you think Sam knew that Mr. Cleaver's actor, Hugh Beaumont, was born in Lawrence, Kansas? Maybe Charming Acres Sam and Mr. Cleaver were related!
Sam's WandaVision self seemed completely content until Castiel tried to break the spell on Sam and the town. Then Sam's peaceful, straight-laced, picture-perfect facade was replaced with an incensed mob-mentality killer!
Press *Next* to see more of Sam's alternate personalities!
Alternate Realities Sam
Alternate universes became a primary theme of the later seasons of the Supernatural story, but altered realities, dream worlds and supernaturally created fantasies invaded Sam's life long before then. Glimpses of these "what could have been" Sams gave Jared the opportunity to play around with Sam's personality, gifting us with wonderfully memorable character portrayals.
Djinn Dream!Sam - 2.20 "What Is and What Should Never Be"
After being captured by a djinn, Dean imagined a perfect life where he and Sam never lost their mom, never learned about monsters and the supernatural, and never took up hunting. This dream version of Sam got the normal life he and Dean always thought Sam deserved. His unblemished innocence is conveyed in Sam's face as he interacts with a brother he hardly knows.
Sadly, Dean's utopian life meant that he and Dream!Sam never became close.
Without hunting, the bond that defined Dean's reality was never formed with his brother.
Dream!Sam went to law school, became engaged to Jessica and lived across the country from Dean in California.
Sheltered from hunting, this Sam didn't save hundreds of people with his brother, and had little patience for Dean's drinking and laissez-faire attitude.
Despite his sheltered life, Dream!Sam's hard core family values were hiding deep inside him, at least in Dean's mind. When Dean asked for Sam's help, he put aside his doubts and showed up at his brother's side - despite being unprepared, unskilled and highly skeptical.
Jared again played two different personalities for Sam in this story. While the majority of time was spent with the dreamt version of Sam, the real Sam was desperately trying to save Dean from the djinn.
The contrast in emotional intensity was striking...
and a big part of the story's impact.
Sam Wesson - 4.17 "It's A Terrible Life"
Two years after Dean's dream world, he and Sam were forced into a another altered reality by the angel Zachariah.
In this life, Sam worked in tech support at Sandover Bridge & Iron, Inc.
He and Dean didn't know each other but were once again drawn together when Sam became suspicious of "dreams" of fighting evil with Dean.
After supernatural forces invade their boring, predictable, civilian lives, Sam's naturally analytical mind figured out that they were dealing with a ghost, and Smith (Dean) and Wesson united to battle the evil...
proving that the brothers' bond, and their drive to be hunters, were stronger than even an angel's power to wipe their memories and supplant their lives with a less fateful existence. In this episode, there weren't any scenes of the real Sam, so Sam was his altered self throughout the entire story.
Ted Talk!Sam - 14.13 "Lebanon"
An alternate time line gave us the gem of TedTalk!Sam!
Much like the real Sam, this Sam was well-educated and a deep thinker.
Unlike Sam, though, TedTalk!Sam was confident and comfortable speaking in the public arena. He was obviously a respected leader in his field...
but was definitely not someone Dean would want riding shotgun in Baby on cross country road trips!
Nope! You can hear Dean jamming on the brakes at the first sign of that smirk looking over at him from the passenger seat! There may have been some inside humor in Sam's recorded speech, though. Note Jared looking straight into the camera.
If you're a diehard Jared fan, you know that he memorizes his scripts while running on a treadmill. Might he have been lampooning himself with his Ted Talk treadmill desk recommendation? Too funny! But while Jared might have seen a little of himself in TedTalk!Sam, it's clear that our Sam didn't approve!
Neither did Dean!
For once, the brothers agreed on something! Sam decided the Ted Talk version of him had to go!
Hunter Corp. (aka "Trust Fund") Sam - 15.13 "Destiny's Child"
Was this a dream or a nightmare? Much like the Sam who delivered Ted Talks, Trust Fund Sam was also rich, famous and a bit more... delicate than our Sam.
As a co-owner of Hunter Corp, the very successful business enterprise started by John, this alternate universe Sam grew up in luxury. He managed the "family business" of fighting monsters from an ivory tower, proud that he never had to get his hand dirty in the field. He and Dean were still partners, providing entertaining banter with their sibling rivalries...
... but the brothers' refined sensibilities were easily annoyed...
or scandalized by the slightest faux pas of etiquette or suggestion of hard work. Their disgust generated priceless facial expression that said just as much about their personalities as their clothes, their conversation and their actions!
There's no arguing that Sam's taste in hair styles was a win in either universe, though!
Throughout this journey with our beloved Sam, we've looked back at 18 different personalities he endured in the 15 years we spent with him. Seen through over 300 images of Sam's facial expressions, Jared flawlessly portrayed Sam as evil, addicted, broken, brave, rich, poor, young, old, bewitched, bewildered and beguiled! Besides these many character tangents explored in this 6-part monograph, we've also been beside Sam as he's been hurt, grieving, enraged, obsessed and downright dangerously scary. Which "Sam" did you like the most? Did I miss your favorite Sam? Is there an aspect of Sam you'd like featured in its own photo essay? Share your thoughts about Sam below in the comments!
Enjoy the full Con-tinual panel, "Who Wore Sam Winchester Best?" with panelists Michelle Crowley, Carole Stokes, myself and host Gail Z. Martin.
Continue the fun with more of Nightsky's Supernatural insights!
If Sam is your jam, enjoy our deep character studies, "Breathtaking" photo essays and fun articles dedicated to Sam Winchester!
If Dean is your man, enjoy "The Many Faces of Dean Winchester"!
Use WFB's Supernatural Episode Guide to look back at any of the episodes mentioned above.
Grieving Sam vs BAMF Sam is a study of his best and his worst days as himself.