12.04 American Nightmare

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Title American Nightmare
Episode # Season 12, Episode 4
First aired November 3, 2016
Directed by John F. Showalter
Written by Davy Perez
On IMDB American Nightmare
Outline After a woman dies from what appears to be stigmata wounds, Sam and Dean investigate a devout religious family living off the grid, who are hiding a dangerous secret.
Monster Gail Peterson
Location(s) Mason City, Iowa
Pleasant Valley, Missouri
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In Mason City, Iowa, bells ring as a woman walks bleeding into a church. Her body is shaking as blood drips from her hands and feet. She cries out as she is whipped by an invisible presence while she approaches the front of the chapel where the father stands and looks at her in horror. She is speaking in tongues, and crying out, which frightens the others in the pew before she collapses at the father’s feet and dies.

Entering under the guise of the clergy, Sam and Dean approach the front of the church, introducing themselves as Father Penn and Father DeNiro. The priest is reluctant to talk to them at first, having been admonished by his superiors after telling the press that demons were at work in the woman's death. After the boys assure him that they believe him, he reports no black smoke or sulfur, and repeats the phrase she was calling before she died; he says it sounded like Hebrew, but Sam says it was probably Aramaic.

Dean steps out to make a call to Cas, then sends a quick text to Mary, checking in and asking if it's still okay for him to call her "mom". Once Sam returns, Dean reports that there's nothing on Angel Radio, so a rogue demon is out as a possible culprit in the case. Dean has also found out that Cas is "chumming it up with Crowley" and that they are hunting Lucifer, who has taken rock star Vince Vincente as his new vessel and now at the bottom of the ocean, thanks to Rowena. Sam shares that the woman's last words were indeed Aramaic, a phrase meaning "Save me, oh God."

At the Medical Examiner’s office, Sam questions Dean as to why he has been so "cranky" lately but Dean turns their attention to the case. The woman, Olivia, died with punctures through her hands and feet, pinprick wounds around the top of her skull, and deep cuts on her back as if she'd been whipped – stigmata. It gets weirder, as the report states that her skull was filled with a "goopy mush."

At Child Protective Services, where Olivia worked, they find Beth Roberts, who was Olivia's assistant and who mentions that she is a Wiccan, putting her instantly on Dean’s radar as a suspect. With the standard questions they find that Olivia had a lot of enemies due to her profession. After their interview Dean is positive that Beth is the culprit and is ready to "put a witch-killing cap in her ass". The boys argue, and Sam convinces his brother that a little more investigation is needed.

At nearby Joe’s Market that night, a young man is taken over in the same way as Olivia. On the scene the next morning, Dean finds out that everything is the same – the wounds, the scrambled brains. Sam compares the delivery boy's route to Olivia's case load and finds a common family – the Petersons. Beth describes them as an ultra-religious family who live "off the grid." She says that they used to have a daughter, Magda Peterson, who died of pneumonia because they wouldn't let the doctor help her, saying that whatever happened was God's will.

Out on a back road, Sam and Dean pull up to a gated drive. On the way to the house, the boys discuss their mother. Sam tries to defend Mary and reassure Dean that she will be back, but Dean is set on the fact that Mary isn’t answering her cell phone. He believes that she bailed. Using the ruse of being the new case workers, they meet Abraham and Gail Peterson, who ask if they boys know God. Dean replies "oh, yeah, we're besties." Abraham asks if one of them would help him with something. When the scene cuts away, we see a helmeted man on a black motorcycle pull up to the back of the Impala, check out the plates, and drive away. Dean helps Abraham and their son Elijah replace wagon wheel, and he finds out that Abraham used to be a computer programmer before they moved to the county. Abraham and Gail didn’t want the materialistic world for their kids, so they made the change.

Inside, Sam looks at pictures of the family and listens to Gail as she explains that Abraham used to work 80 hours a week, that the kids were on meds, and she was in a car accident and she almost died. She says she was so hopped up on pills that she couldn’t take it. When things were at their worst, God came to her and told her to live a life of simplicity and he would take away the pain. Sam lets her know that the delivery boy is also dead, but when she shows no reaction Sam becomes upset and he asks about Magda. He tells her that God didn’t kill her daughter, she did, which is when Abraham steps in, asking them to leave.

Back at the Impala, Dean still believes that Beth is the killer but Sam wants to look into a vengeful spirit so they decide to split up. Back at the farm, Gail watches Elijah with the horses before she goes into the house, we move into the basement where singing can be heard. Laying on the cold floor before an altar, we find a young woman, whip marks on her back in a torn dress, living like a prisoner. Gail enters the basement and confronts her daughter, the one that everyone believes to be dead, and accuses her of killing Olivia and the delivery boy. Magda denies it, but Gail tells her that the Devil is in her, that he works through her, and that Magda needs to confess her sins. She hands her daughter a whip and she begins to flagellate herself, alternately praying in Aramaic and gasping from the pain.

As night falls, Sam makes his way through the barn at the Peterson residence, looking for some sort of EMF but finding nothing. He ducks down into a stall and listens as Abraham and Elijah talk. Elijah is concerned that his mother is hurting Magda, but Abraham tells him that Gail is doing God’s work. He says that if anyone found out about her, they would try to take her away, and people would get hurt. "I love your sister," Abraham says, "but you know what she can do. Magda... Magda's our cross to bear.”

Dean arrives at the office to confront Beth. He asks her how she likes her new gig, gun ready behind his back, but he finds out that she hates it. As he listens to her complain about being the boss, he realizes that she never wanted the job, so he tucks the gun away.

Sam watches from the window as Gail continues to torture Magda, but his cell phone goes off and he ducks away from the window. Telling Dean that Magda is still alive, Dean questions what is really going on but Sam is confronted by Elijah with a shotgun and never sees the bat coming as Abraham swings at him from behind, knocking him out. Dean can’t get a response from Sam as he races back to the Impala and speeds out of the parking lot.

Sam wakes up in the basement with Magda singing. He asks her if she's Magda Peterson and she tells him that she's the Devil. She confesses to having abilities, and Sam asks her for a demonstration. Magda makes the cross levitate. Sam admits that he used to have visions and could make things move with his mind but he doesn’t believe that he has them anymore. He says that it didn’t make him evil, it made him who he was. She tells him that if that was the case, than he is evil, too. She tells him that she liked Olivia and Ricky so she prayed that they could help but when she reached out to them, they never came. Her mother said that she killed them. Sam tries to convince her that she can learn to control her abilities but Elijah and Abraham come down and bring them up to the dinner table, tying Sam to the chair. Sam finds out that it was Magda’s abilities that caused the accident that sent them on the path to the place where they are now. Gail blames everything on Magda. They pray over dinner and Abraham takes the first bite, but before Elijah takes a bite, Abraham starts to foam at the mouth. Gail has poisoned the food so that they can enter Heaven as a family. Gail tells Elijah to eat and Sam tries to convince Elijah not to; Magda send the spoon across the room using her powers. Gail comes at Magda with a knife but Elijah steps in front of the blade to protect Magda and he is killed. Magda turns the blade on Gail but Sam begs her to stop, telling her that she can control it, that no one else has to die, she doesn't have to be the monster that they told her she was. Magda lets Gail go, as the knife drops to the floor.

Ambulances and police cars surround the residence as Gail is led away in cuffs, spouting off how Magda is the Devil even as she is put in the back of the police car. Magda sits in the ambulance as Beth tells Sam and Dean that there is an aunt in California that will take her, with a lot of land and space for her to be able to adjust. Beth pulls Dean aside as Sam assures Magda that she will learn to control her powers in time, but if she needs anything she can always call him. Afterwards Dean admits that he understands that Mary needs some time on her own to adjust. He says that her return and subsequent departure have left him shaken, but he’ll try and be "less of a dick" about it. Before getting in the car, Dean checks his messages. Mary has texted back that her phone had died, she'll always be "Mom," and to tell Sam that she loves him too. The boys get in the car and drive off.

At a bus stop, Magda heads towards the bathrooms. She passes by a black-clad figure, the same one that had stopped to check out the Impala, and she never notices him until it’s too late. With two shots fired from the silenced gun, we see Magda lying on the bathroom floor, dead. The cellphone in man's hand rings and Mr. Ketch confirms that he has "cleaned up" the Winchesters’ mess.




  • "Golden Dunes" by The Budos Band
(playing on iPod as Ricky Copeland is killed)
  • "Down in My Heart" by Paloma Kwiatkowski
(sung by Magda Peterson as Sam and Dean leave the Peterson home)
  • "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" by Paloma Kwiatkowski
(sung by Magda Peterson as Sam comes to)


Sam: So what's the word? Cas have anything?

Dean: Yeah, uh... Well, good news, there's nothing on angel radio and Heaven's still on lock down. So rogue angel is out.
Sam: Bad news?

Dean: Cas is chumming it up with Crowley. They're hunting Lucifer together. That's right. One's an angel, one's a demon and apparently they solve crimes.
Gail: Do you know God, gentlemen?
Dean: Oh yeah. Yeah, we're- we're besties.
Sam: So what happened to your daughter, was that God's plan?

Gail: Yes.
Sam: She didn't have to die. She was sick. If you had taken her to a doctor.
Gail: God does not-

Sam: God doesn't care what kind of life you live. Trust me. And God didn't kill your daughter. You did.
Sam: Magda? Magda Peterson.

Magda: That's not my name. I'm not Magda. I'm the Devil.

Sam: No. No, you're not. You're really not.
Sam: Magda... You're not the Devil. You're just psychic. There are others out there like you, like-like me. I have powers too. I'd get these visions sometimes and I could move things with my mind.

Magda: You can do that?

Sam: Well, no. Not anymore, I don't think. But it didn't make me the Devil, it just made me who I am.
Sam: Magda, that wasn't your fault. You are not the Devil. You're not evil. And it's scary. I-I know it's scary. But you can learn how to control it. You don't have to hurt anyone ever again.
Dean: Sorry I missed all the psycho.
Sam: Hey, you thought our family was crazy.
Magda: Beth called my aunt in California. I'm gonna be staying with her.

Beth: She has a ranch. Lots of wide-open country.

Dean: Well, that's great. You know sometimes in order to figure things out a person needs space.
Sam: Magda. I-I know it doesn't feel like it right now. But, you're gonna be all right. You can do this. You will do this. Just remember, that power... It doesn't control you. You control it.

Magda: I know.

Sam: If you ever need anything. Anything. Call, me okay? I'll be there.
Dean: Think you made the right call back there letting her go?

Sam: I hope so. I mean Magda didn't know what she was doing, she had no idea. I think she deserves a second chance. What did Beth want?
Dean: She gave me her number. Her personal number.
Sam: You were gonna shoot her.
Dean: Yeah, I know. Kinda weird, kinda hot.
Sam: Hey, did you mean what you said back there?

Dean: Yeah. You were right. This whole Mom thing. It's-I mean, we get her back and then she leaves, I hate it. But I get it. I do. I guess I'm just still working through some of that crap. I'll try to be less of a dick about it.

Trivia & References

"American Nightmare" is a song by The Misfits. Writer Davy Perez tweeted a link to the song just before this episode aired.
Sam and Dean use the aliases Fathers Penn and DeNiro as priests. References to actors Sean Penn and Robert DeNiro who also pretend to be priests in the movie We're No Angels. They also use James Morrison and Ray Manzarek while posing as social workers, a reference to Doors singer Jim Morrison and keyboard bass player Ray Manzarek.
Dean: So, Lucifer. The Lord of Evil, the Angel of Light, is now the Master of Butt Rock. He jumped into Vince Vincente.
In the '90s rock music radio stations used the tagline "Rock. Nothing but Rock." – which people quickly parodied as "Nothing Butt Rock." Butt rock became slang for bad rock music – which of course varied depending on your tastes! It can be assumed with Sam being a fan of Bon Jovi and Vince Vincente, that his musical tastes veered more towards '80s hair/glam metal growing up, which is in contrast to Dean and John's classic hard rock and heavy metal tastes. The name of Lucifer's chosen vessel could also be a play on Vinnie Vincent, who was the lead guitarist for KISS from 1982-1984, a band some would describe as butt rock. Vincent's career with KISS and his life after the band was the subject of a lengthy Rolling Stone story in 2014.
Sam: 'The victim's skull was filled with a goopy mush.'

Dean: That Carl paints quite a picture, doesn't he? All right. What can do all that?
Sam: I got nothing.
Dean: Me neither. Well, maybe we should focus more on the case and less on the Dr. Phil crap.

"Dr. Phil" is a reference to TV personality and relationships advice guru Phil McGraw.
Dean: Well, that was easy.

Sam: What?
Dean: What? The Wicca'd Witch of the West in there. Little Miss 'positive energy,' wanted a bigger office, did a little hoodoo. Boom. I say we put a witch-killing cap in her ass and call it a day.

The Wicked Witch of the West is an evil witch from the Oz books by Frank Baum. She also appeared in the episode 9.04 Slumber Party.
Dean: Weird creepy off-the-grid Children of the Corn people? Yeah, I'm in.
Children of the Corn is a story by Stephen King (and subsequent movie franchise) about a town where children kill their peers on their 19th birthdays as a sacrifice to an evil deity who lives in the cornfields.
Dean: She hates the way that we were raised. She hates the fact that we're hunters. Maybe she starts walking and she doesn't stop. You know, she obviously has zero interest in keeping this family together.

Sam: Well, you know sometimes families do better after a little time apart.
Dean: Yeah, who? The Mansons?

The Manson Family refers to the followers of cult leader and murderer Charles Manson.
Gail: Olivia Sanchez was a papist, but at least she believed in God.
"Papist" is disparaging term for Roman Catholics typically used by sectarians.


William MacDonald, who played Abraham Peterson, previously played Sheriff in 5.08 Changing Channels.
The grandfather clock shown when Sam and Dean first talked to the Petersons was used previously in 7.12 Time After Time at the home of Chronos and Lila Taylor.

Sides, Scripts & Transcripts