So, you want to know how psyched elle was over this episode?  She sent me a review at 3:14 am this morning!  (Sorry, I usually check email after I get home from work).  I read it over and love it!  It's also her longest review yet. She was definitely running on some inspiration. 

This is a good way to start for I'm hoping to share some deep analysis on this one this weekend.  There's so much to discuss in the terms of Gabriel, angels, destiny vs. free will, Sam and Dean and their man pain, etc.  So let's see what gets sparked.  In the meantime, enjoy the review!

------------------------------------------------------

Thoughts on Changing Channels
First “ confession time. I skipped my night class so that I could watch this episode. *hangs head* Okay, that isn't entirely true. I was actually sick and being home on a Thursday night before 11 for the first time in two months was just a fringe benefit. On to the long, long review - my longest to date - now. The only way to tackle this episode is scene by rich-hilarious scene. Right away, this demanded an instant second (third and fourth) watch because “ how could I not?
The Teaser/Sitcom
Supernatural is filmed before a live studio audience. I wish there was a live studio audience -  I'd kill to be in it! Jensen's expressions in this segment were gold.  The best part? Son of a bitch! This opening sequence was so cheesy but oh-so good. The ostentatious decor and the off-screen audience that laughs at everything are delightfully comical.
The Opening Credits
Oh dear god, I thought I was going to die from laughter. How much fun do you think the boys had doing that tandem bike ride shot? And if I'm not mistaking, those mini-bikes are their own in real life.
Real Life
We jump back to two days ago and once again the boys are feebs, questioning a œbear attack story “ the bear that chased a man through his front door, upstairs and killed him. Right. What is really appreciable about Dean and Sam is now that they've been through enough of these weird interrogations they hardly blink at the answers from the witnesses. Though, I guess once you've been to Hell, ipecac-exorcised demons and Paris Hilton has tried to devour you, it takes a lot to phase you. Dean recovers a little faster this time, asking whether it was œBana or Norton and whether Lou Ferrigno (œspiky-haired Lou Ferrigno?) had a grudge against the dead man. Dean's knowledge of TV and movies always astounds me “ you'd think he wouldn't have time to keep up on Hollywood/TV and yet he does. I like that he's the databank of film and television information.
I admit, I wanted to see the shape of the Hulk-hole in the house. That would have nicely iced the cake. That's just me though. So, what is Dean's dirty little secret? He watches soap operas. Now, I once condemned the SO watchers of the world, wondering what was so compelling that they tuned in day after day, until I was seduced by General Hospital a few years back. I don't watch anymore, but it's not hard to see how some people can get sucked into those uber dramas that are daytime TV (or, some of those night-time SO's “ personally, I classify CSI:Miami as a science-based soap opera). Compared to Dean's other pleasures in life “ this is mild.
Glad to see the boys connecting the dots faster this time around “ their culprit is the Trickster, right off the bat. What is something great about Supernatural and that sets it apart? The characters actually learn from and act on past experience. Now, at this point, I wondered if it wasn't sloppy of the Trickster to leave the wrappers, but of course, the Trickster is playing the Winchesters all along and wants them to come after him.
Sam's plan “ ask the Trickster for help in this war “ does have merit. It isn't the first time I've wondered about the other creatures “ such as witches and vampires “ who might not want the world to end and I wonder why the supernatural community hasn't been a little more vocal in this war? Seems to me that all the mid-level, cognizant creatures (excluding demons, of course) would have a vested interest in the world not ending. As Sam puts it, the Trickster œdoesn't want the party to end and maybe the Trickster can be their ally because of this.
Not bad logic, except, can you really trust a œbloody monster? Dean has an ethical problem with aligning himself with the things they hunt to which Sam replies that they œdon't have the luxury of a moral stand “ careful Sammy, that is a little reminiscent of the œwe're above the law attitude from season four. Sam has definitely changed from his experiences last season, but this is another reminder of his loss of innocence and it is somewhat sad to see. Season one Sam liked the moral stand. I'm not judging Sam, or saying that he's necessarily wrong here either “ in war, we do things that wouldn't normally be done for the greater good and this is what I think Sam is getting at here- œthe enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that jazz.
Oh, an abandoned warehouse. We haven't been to one of those in a while. A second great point about Supernatural? The boys realize when something is off and acknowledge the possibilities of what they're walking into. (As opposed to the people on, say police procedurals (which Dean hates because there's too many of ˜em) when the citizens of a town are told there is a serial killer on the loose, hunting women at night on the running path and inevitably, some doe-eyed ditz takes a nice night-time jog only to end up [shockingly] as the next victim.)  Upon pulling up to the warehouse and finding no police, they recognize that something is a little off “ but whether that's because they think it's a trap or because they suspect the Trickster's trick has done something to the people it's hard to say.
Dr. Sexy, M.D.
Enter warehouse and exit in Seattle Mercy, a place where sexy nurses and doctors abound.
Right away I notice the emotive music and I'll bet the team had fun with the soundtrack for this episode because it's such mix but at the same time, meant to poke fun at the genres. The soft, gentle, heartfelt music is so perfect for the emotional hospital-drama. Next, we learn about the hospital and it's characters, to Dean's delight this is Dr. Sexy, M.D. You have to appreciate the inside joke about the œghost. Even though I don't watch Grey's Anatomy I heard all about the controversy involving Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Denny and his return as a spirit from beyond the grave - it's compelling.

Dean's fangirl moment at meeting Dr. Sexy was fantastic; wide-eyed and gleeful, he looked like he was squeeing inside. It's Dean's love of his show that tipped him off to the fact that Dr. Sexy wasn't wearing his sexy cowboy boots. I'm sure we can all appreciate the knowledge that is afforded us by our favourite shows. Only true fans know certain details. Sam knows this too and correctly infers that Dean watches this show more often then he lets on. My question? What is Sam doing while Dean is watching Dr. Sexy, M.D.?
Richard Speight Jr., welcome back! The Trickster is one character I'll happily watch every time he's on screen. Richard is in fine form in this episode, as taunting and sarcastic as ever. He explains the law of the land and how he couldn't resist messing with the boys once he knew they were in town and then winks out a-la TV fuzz. Great exit.  
Dean is shot. This scene didn't shock me because I have no willpower and read the spoiler that Alice posted before seeing the episode. So I knew as soon as Dr. Dean blew off the desperate husband (because his wife needed a face transplant, stat!), he was going to be the shooter. What I particularly liked was the surgery segment. Sam's use of floss and whisky to fix Dean despite being in a hospital was perfect in keeping with the characters “ I was hoping Sam wouldn't pull medical-prodigy skill set out of his bag of tricks because that would have been too much,  I like that he used the medical care skills he's picked up from the hunter lifestyle. The icing on this scene was Nurse Sexy-But #1 standing in the observation window afterwards mouthing what looked like œI love you and then Sam reaction to this freaky chick. The guest acting in this episode has to be acknowledged, because they all did a great job. From the Seriously-Slapping nurse to the œWhere's Dr. Sexy? “ they were small parts, but really quite funny. Best part of whole sequence was Sam's reaction to everyone around him. Poor Sammy, from being slapped to performing emergency surgery on his brother - it's just not his day.
Japanese Game Show
Nutcracker! How many takes did the game show sequence involve? It was excellent “ the flashy colours, the outrageous concept, pimping snacks in between and multiple replays of Sam's groin hit, A1, dear writers.
The questions and answers were fun and, had Sam and Dean known what the questions were asking I wonder if they might of known something more than a trickster was at work. Too much insider knowledge for a Trickster, particularly with Dean's question, in my opinion. It was a treat to hear Jensen speaking Japanese. Now we can cross that off our list. Spanish and Japanese. Check and Check.
Only one nitpicky thing about this part of the episode - how did Cas find the boys, what with the anti-angel sigils branded on their innards and all? The sigils explain why the Trickster had to lure the boys to the warehouse instead of just popping them into something but how Castiel lojacked them is unaccounted for. Really, it's not important, but I couldn't help but wonder all the same.
Sam figures out that they must play their roles to survive. Now, it wasn't until a few viewing later that the possibilities inherent in this statement hit me. Bear with me, pure theorizing here “ but is it possible that the boys have to find a way to take on the roles of Lucifer and Michael without actually sacrificing their free will? By this I mean “ can they get the juice without giving up the driver seats?
Herpexia
The commercial segment was so well done that I turned away from the TV when the yoga-Herpes carrier came on. I only turned back at Sam's disbelief that he was in a Herpes commercial and being made to be the one with the STD. Again. Jared is a comedic genius. The way he chokes out œI've got genital herpes followed by a classic Sam bitch-face was pitch-perfect.
The mocking of these commercials was very accurately done “ the cheesy sunset in back of the yoga chick; the older couple swaying and laughing together. By far, the best and most accurate part was the over-voice with Dean documenting the many side effects of Herpexia: œ¦permanent erectile dysfunction, thoughts of suicide, and diarrhea. Sideeffects listed in drug commercials always seem to fall one step short of and death and have the more serious ones bookended by nothings, so this was the perfect parody.
Sitcom Again - œWe now return to Supernatural
The hotel room is their original room, only now it is neon instead of fading and there's an off screen audience that laughs at everything, even death - Vultures! Poor Cas, he comes in and looks like he was put through a blender “ is there anything duct tape isn't good for? I want to know the where that he escaped from too. Now knowing that the Trickster is Gabriel, who's got a thing for family, what's with hurting Castiel like this?
Suddenly, the episode is not only taking a serious turn, but that myth-arc alarm is sounding violently too. This is only the partial reveal scene, but the Trickster tips his hand and you can see on the boy's faces that they're beginning to piece things together but they aren't quite there yet. The Trickster's play your rolesunderscores the metaphor inherent in the episode and, I'll admit, I missed that until he kindly pointed it out.
This was a really lovely scene because against the backdrop of ridiculously bright geometric wallpaper and a two-foot tall sandwich, we have some legitimate drama and emotion happening. In addition to his previously-established chemistry with J2, Richard Speight Jr. demonstrated that he has quite the range “ his anger was palpable as was the threat of power that surrounded the Trickster. He does mischief-maker and snark so well, that it was surprising to see him hit anger so quickly “letting the guise slip“ before reassuming his witness protection identity and changing the channel again. 

CSI: Supernatural
Dean's loathing of procedural cop shows is amusing.  I appreciate the digs at all their major Thursday night rating competition. That this show can poke fun at not only itself but its timeslot predicament tells you how much the writer's must have every week.
Sam and Dean swagger over to the dead body and I'm practically rolling on the ground at this point. Those were top notch Horatio Caine impressions, down to the removal of the sunglasses and sideways standing; saying the one-liner and then turning for the dramatic profile shot. I've only seen one other person do Horatio Caine aside from David Caruso and that was Jim Carrey, he was good but these are better. Such talent on our show and it's a shame it doesn't get more formal recognition.
Good for the boys for not chasing the decoy that was the lollipop cop. I had an œaww crap moment when the Trickster started laughing and I don't know how Sam œGinormatron Winchester snuck up behind him with the stake, but their plan was quite effective. No more TV-time.

Knight Rider
I thought for sure that Dean would be KITT. I guess I should know better by now that with Supernatural, assumptions are mostly a fool's errand. I've not seen the original knight rider, but I can appreciate the driving sequence all the same - it was grand.
It's great to see the boys working in tandem again, picking up the fragments of each other's ideas and running with them. Such as when Sam proposes that the Trickster isn't a Trickster and Dean puts the rest of the pieces together to get Angel. There were some great lines in this episode, no question, but Sam and his trunk were pretty awesome. My favourite part of the KITT bit was Sam asking Dean, Should I honk?
Regularly Scheduled Programming -  œGrumpy, Sneezy or Douchy?
Time for the big reveal and I'm speechless. Holy. Crap. Okay, so after Cas' second flicker out, I had my money on the fact that the Trickster, was actually an angel “ specifically, Zachariah. What a twist. Gabriel. The name Gabriel means œstrength of God and he is well known for being the messenger of God, Gabriel being the one who brought news to the Virgin Mary of her impending Immaculate Conception and birthing. Gabriel is said to have a horn that brings about the end of time “ it is believed that at the end of days he will blow this horn, as in, the apocalypse. So now we know that for the most part, all the major players (with the glaring exception of God himself) are on the board and it's all a matter of who moves where at this point.
I truly felt bad for Gabriel, he's like the child in a divorce and he just wants the fighting to end because he can't stand to watch his family tearing each other to pieces anymore. He ran off and became a Trickster to get away from it all. Wow. Dean has a great line here: œWhat did daddy say when you ran off and joined the pagans?

Two brothers that loved each other and betrayed each other. You think you'd be able to relate. The way Gabe breaks things down, “Dean, the big brother obeying the absent father (Michael) and Sam, the little brother, rebelling against Dad,“ this was a very intriguing plot point as it wasn't something I'd thought about before, certainly not the depth of the parallel between Sam and Dean, Lucifer and Michael. Gabe brought some matter-of-fact elements to the table which was thoroughly satiating. (Didn't see the ring of holy oil-fire coming, but that's become a great tool “ Thanks Cas, for the knowledge in the art of angel-trapping.)
Gabriel throws out another familiar phrase during this exchange, one that, like ˜destiny' keeps rearing its ugly head: œit was always you “ the Winchester brothers just can't seem to escape the agenda that the universe seems to have mapped out for them. One brother has to kill the other “ quite the blow there. Dean keeps his head and takes control of things very well “œNo, that's not going to happen - quite the emerging leader. Meanwhile, Sam looks positively crushed by this revelation. He has a very devastated expression on his face and he's speechless. Dean is seriously unhappy now. His threat to Gabriel is pretty black “ burn the angel alive “ yeah, he's pissed and you should bring Cas back, stat. By the time he reappears, Castiel has figured it out now too and though the angels don't talk much, but they communicate the way only family can through a glance and I'm not quite sure if it's hurt, anger or a mix. 
This Trickster-is-Gabriel answered a major question for me,  what was the motivation of the Trickster in having Sam watch Dean die over and over again? He explained that: 
There's a lesson here¦this obsession to save Dean? The way you two keep sacrificing yourselves for one another? Nothing good comes out of it. Just blood and pain. Dean's your weakness. The bad guys know it too. It's going to be the death of you, Sam. Sometimes you just gotta let people go.
Watching this scene again, with the knowledge that we've gained in Changing Channels makes it a very powerful watch. I'd always wondered why the trickster cared if Sam and Dean sacrificed themselves for one another, or why it'd matter if it leads to their death. Now it's clear “ blood and pain doesn't mean just for them, but for everyone.
Dean's reactions in this final part were especially potent. There's irony in the fact that he accused Gabe of not being able to stand up to his family, because of course that is something Dean truly has had firsthand experience with inside his own family. Also, that Dean recognized it was an angel because someone only gets that worked up over family was very observant of him.  I think Dean can relate well because he's been in between both Sam and John, recognizes the passionate anger that only family can inspire. Dean has come a long, long way since last season, as has Sam. In Dean's case, he's matured quite a bit and the signs of leadership are really beginning to shine through brightly.  Letting Gabriel go free was an especially telling move on the part of Dean. First, that he makes the decision they're going to let Gabriel go and neither Sam nor Cas question this (probably equal parts trust in Dean, shock at the new information and the fact that the brother's are pretty well in sync again). Second, he makes a point of not being a dick like the angels are: 
We don't screw with people the way you do. And for the record, this isn't about some prize fight between your brothers or some destiny that can't be stopped. This is about you being too afraid to stand up to your family.
Dean's incredibly sick of being a pawn in this game, that much is clear “ he's had it with the destiny crap. The final shot of Gabriel, wet and in the slowly dying ring of fire was a very poignant shot “ he looks sad and I can't help but feel sorry for his position with his feuding brothers. I like to believe that Gabe let the boys go is because Dean struck a chord within him and I hope this means we'll see him again before the season's done. Gabe as a player for team-Winchester would bring a great dynamic to the show.
I wish I was back on a TV show. How Meta, Kripke. And an appropriate way to leave us, I think. Given the hugeness of what we've just learned, the quiet ending fits in that the boys need time to recoup and process, much like the audience.  
This was quite a powerful episode and ended on a sombre note again, except that Dean's attitude really fueled the idea that the boys are going to start fighting back. I look forward to the Winchesters being a little more proactive and a little less reactive in this big game of Apocalypse Now.
So, episode eight down and only two more before the holiday-hiatus,  is your Supernatural-deprivation Survival Kit stocked and at the ready?