I don’t know why I love this episode so much. It makes me smile, even though it has one of the creepiest stories in the series. An eerie family painting that comes to life and kills owners in their sleep. This should have been a spine chilling mess given the premise alone, but it was anything but. It was brisk, witty, fun, romantic, had an unpredictable ghost story, and was creepy as hell, too.
The Quick Review
We all know what’s most appealing about this episode. It’s Sam Winchester coming out of his shell and connecting in a romantic way with the guest of the week, Sarah Blake. Considering he just spent 18 episodes prior pining for his lost love Jessica, it was a refreshing change. It helps that Sam and Sarah both had some real chemistry and their scenes together were super charming.
Dean playing the awkward third wheel was great as well. The things he did to get those two together! Very sneaky, playing the “lost wallet” trick to get Sam to see Sarah again. It also made for the perfect reveal that the painting couldn’t be burned, which was a wickedly cool twist.
Sarah was an extraordinary character though, one of the most memorable ones of the series. She wasn’t a rich snob like her father, and she took this whole haunted painting thing in real stride. Most of the people they’ve encountered have played the damsel in distress or have run away screaming. Sarah went along with everything and did what she could to help, even though this was her first exposure to the paranormal. It freaked her out, but she wasn’t running away.
“Look, you guys are probably crazy, but if you're right about this? Well me and my Dad sold that painting that mighta got these people killed. Look I'm not saying I'm not scared because I am scared as hell but...I'm not going to run and hide either.”
That led up to one of the best Dean Winchester lines ever. “Sam? Marry that girl.”
She even provided the most important clue when it was needed the most which helped Dean save the day. Of course, it helps that Sam and Dean were honest with her when she asked what was going on, something that they have been very cagey about in later seasons with others. I take that to believe they thought she was extraordinary enough to take it. She taught Sam a thing or two about believing he was cursed, one of the few people to have that chat with him. “But when you shut out pain, you shut out everything else too.” It, didn’t last long, but hey, it made her more special.
The other selling point was the MOTW story. The whole haunted painting thing was engaging from beginning to end, with many twists that constantly kept us guessing. The painting constantly changing, it being repainted when it was burned, and then the suspense of Sam and Sarah being trapped in the house with the murderous little girl was through the roof. It was a thrill ride for sure, even if you knew the good guys would prevail in the end. They cut it awfully close!
“Provenance” was written by one time Supernatural wonder David Ehrman, a Singer/Sgriccia/Buckner/Ross-Leming cohort from another show (“Hack”), who like many from the writing team departed after season one. The creepy came skillfully from director Phil Sgriccia, who proved his horror might for all 14 of his seasons with Supernatural. You knew when Sgriccia was directing an episode just by how chilling the horror story truly was. His style was that distinctive.
This episode had one of my favorite bits of the entire season. The camera rolling along the lines of expensive cars, including the very swanky Rolls Royce with “The Krip” license plate, then scanning by the dusty and out of place Impala. Nobody puts Baby in a corner!
This episode also has one of my all time favorite motel rooms. The disco room! It’s one of the few times Sam and Dean walked into one of these outrageously decorated motel rooms and actually reacted to it. “Huh.”
I forgot just how much Dean used to let loose and have fun in a bar with the ladies. Reality TV scouts. Love it. Those were the days before FBI became default. That’s probably why I loved him doing that in season eleven’s “Baby.” It was refreshing to see that Dean still knew how to let loose, going back to his season one roots.
My favorite line - Sam: "Well, this isn't exactly the first grave we've dug. Still think I'm a catch?"
My very close second favorite line - Sam: "What kind of house doesn't have salt? Low-sodium freaks."
Pop Psychology of a Main Character in a Paragraph
So let’s dig into that Sam Winchester psyche. His discussion with Dean about Jessica in the middle of the episode revealed something about where his head was. He wasn’t just plagued with losing Jessica, but he stopped there. It was his conversation with Sarah later that revealed the real issue. He believed he was cursed and no one that got close to him was safe. It was about losing Mary as well as Jessica and considering this episode was after “Nightmare,” being one of the psychic kids probably rattled him a lot too. He was walking danger and no one could get close. I’m glad they waited until later in the season to let Sam open up to another person about what’s plaguing him. Given his issues, anything sooner would have seen out of place.
The tragedy though is the ending didn’t stick, making what I saw here rather bittersweet in rewatch. As we learned as the series progressed, Sam’s issues went way deeper than the quick little fix at the end when he decided to kiss Sarah goodbye. If you think about that scene between him and Lucifer at the theater in “Swan Song,” Sam’s tragic destiny obsoleted this sweet little declaration of his. He didn’t get to move on and know that he wasn’t putting people in danger. He had to kill his love interest in “Heart,” he had to walk away from his love in season eight to save the world, he watched Sarah Blake senselessly die in “Clip Show,” all because of him.
Even now, at the end, Sam’s plight is still very tragic. Sam isn’t suffering now from “sleep with me and die,” but watching him in this final season, I still hope that he would find someone to share his life with other than Dean. It’s really sad that 15 years later everything Sam feared about getting close to people has come to be. Look at his last year. He got close with Eileen, only to see that stripped away from him thanks to Chuck. He had to kill Rowena which shook him to his core, he watched his mother die again, he watched his entire team of hunters die. He’s even having issues with Jack, his surrogate “son”, likely because his past relationships have all been based on deception and mistrust. He’s a f***ing mess on the inside and I’m not sure if there will be healing. It really makes me sad knowing this small victory was decimated by the rest of the series. I don’t know how that boy goes on.
Overall grade, an A. It is a fixture on my S1 rewatch list. Coming up next, “Dead Man’s Blood,” aka, I hate vampire stories.
What are your thoughts on "Provenance"? Reactions to Alice's observations? "Provenance" was voted to be one of "Supernatural's Top 100 Favorite Episodes" (coming in at #66)! Considering it was a MOTW and had to compete with all the highly dramatic myth arc stories, it's obvious that it's something special. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Enjoy Alice's many episode reviews! They can all be found on The WFB Writer's Page!