Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) is the only character besides Sam and Dean to have appeared in every season of Supernatural. Jim Beaver will return to the series again during season 11. Bobby was a Winchester family friend who evolved into a father figure to the brothers after John’s death. Bobby was also a skilled hunter in his own right and an invaluable resource for the hunter community. So why not take a moment to remember Bobby Singer?
Sam and Dean were raised by their father, John Winchester, in “the family business.” Though it was not a life she wanted for her sons, their mother, Mary Winchester (née Campbell), had also been raised in a hunter family. Being a hunter means making sacrifices, but it also means being part of a community. Though there’s great power in Sam and Dean’s relationship as brothers, we’ve seen that family bonds are about more than blood. The most significant example of this bond in the lives of the Winchester brothers has been Bobby Singer. Supernatural has reminds us time and time again how their relationship to Bobby has shaped Sam and Dean.
[This article makes reference to events and plot points that occurred in previous seasons of Supernatural. The second part of this series, “Favorite Quotes” references some of the things Bobby has said or others have said in reference to him.]
“Family don’t end with blood, boy.”
– Bobby Singer, “No Rest for the Wicked” (S03E16)
Bobby first appears in Supernatural in the episode “Devil’s Trap” (S01E22). Sam and Dean go to Bobby when they realize they need help to find their father. John and Bobby haven’t always been on the best of terms, but clearly the Winchester family can rely on Bobby.
Throughout the course of the series Sam and Dean spend a lot of time at Bobby’s home, just outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Bobby runs a salvage yard and lives in a house on the property. After their father dies, we find Sam and Dean staying at Bobby’s at the start of “Everybody Loves a Clown” (S02E02). Bobby’s house is a place of safety and healing. Dean also uses Bobby’s tools to repair the Impala after it was demolished at the end of “Devil’s Trap.” Bobby’s house becomes a de facto home for the Winchester brothers as they gather with Bobby to plan, recover, unwind, and set out again.
Bobby has been involved in the lives of the Winchesters for a long time. In episodes that flash back to the boys when they were young, Bobby is sometimes mentioned. In “A Very Supernatural Christmas” (S03E08), 8-year old Sam has an amulet: “Uncle Bobby gave it to me to give to him [John]. Said it was real special.” Sam ends up giving the amulet to Dean for Christmas. This is the amulet that’s referred to as the “Samulet” during the episode “Fan Fiction.”
As Bobby lies dying in “Death’s Door” (S07E10), he remembers the time he spent with Dean when he was young, teaching him how to throw a ball instead of practicing with a double-barreled gun. He tells young Dean, “Today… you’re gonna throw a ball around, just like a regular snot-nosed little jerk.”
The last memory that Bobby experiences before he dies is being with Sam and Dean—drinking beers, eating popcorn, and watching a movie at his house. While alive, his last word to Sam and Dean is “Idjits.” Jim Beaver’s performance is engaging and moving throughout “Death’s Door,” creating a powerful ending for the life of Bobby Singer.
Bobby’s connection to the brothers, as well as his desire for vengeance on the Leviathan who killed him, prompts him to stay on earth as a ghost for a time. Sam and Dean have mixed feelings about Bobby’s continued presence. When it becomes clear in “Survival of the Fittest” (S07E23) that Bobby is becoming a vengeful spirit after he almost kills Sam, Bobby asks Sam and Dean to help him move on by burning the flask his spirit was attached to.
“I’m not gonna let you die. You’re like a father to me.”
– Dean Winchester, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (S03E10)
Dean has told Bobby several times he’s like a father to him. Bobby has shared similar sentiments with both Sam and Dean. When Dean returns from Hell in “Lucifer Rising” (S04E01), he tries to convince Bobby it’s really him by saying, “Your name is Robert Steven Singer. You became a hunter after your wife got possessed, and … you’re about the closest thing I have to a father. Bobby. It’s me.” Of course, being a father figure is not all it’s cracked up to be, which Bobby discovers in “Appointment in Samarra” (S06E11).
When the angel Balthazar tells soulless Sam that he must commit patricide to render his vessel uninhabitable for the return of his soul, Sam tries to kill Bobby. Sam is stopped and his soul is returned, but the attempted murder puts a damper on their relationship for a time, even after Sam gets his soul back.
Not only do Sam and Dean see Bobby as a father figure, but Bobby also cares deeply for the boys. As an uncle, Bobby had a different approach with Sam and Dean when they were growing up than their father John did. In “Death’s Door” Bobby remembers arguing on the phone with John about taking Dean out to play catch instead of shooting rifles, saying, “We threw a ball around. He’s a kid, John. They both are. They’re entitled.” Early on in the series, Bobby seems more like an uncle and mentor. In Supernatural Magazine #24 (April, 2008), Jim Beaver describes the relationship Bobby has with Sam and Dean:
“There are fundamental differences between him and John, and as much as the boys clearly love their father, in some ways they’re more comfortable with Bobby. But everybody has parent baggage, and sometimes your favorite uncle is a more fun parent figure than your real parents. I’ve always felt that it’s a cross between a father figure and an uncle.”
As the series continued on, it became clear that Sam and Dean relied on Bobby for the kind of emotional support and advice offered by a parent. Bobby is always there to provide the help the boys need and to intervene when their conflicts with each other get out of hand.
In “Weekend at Bobby’s” (S06E04), we realize that Bobby has a lot more to contend with in his life than just watching out for the brothers. Sam and Dean can take Bobby for granted, in the same way that children sometimes assume parents will put their needs first. Bobby did not have his own children, which had been a point of contention between his late wife Karen and himself. In “Death’s Door,” as Bobby is replaying scenes from his life as he lay dying, he confronts his own father about his abuse and the impact it had on him, finally telling his father, “Well, as fate would have it, I adopted two boys, and they grew up great. They grew up heroes. So you can go to hell!”
“Here, let me look it up in my demon-detox manual. Oh, wait. No one ever wrote one.”
—Bobby Singer, “When the Levee Breaks” (S04E21)
Bobby helped the boys with their hunting in a myriad of ways. In “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (S05E15), Jody meets Sam and Dean when she questions what they are doing on a case. They give her the phone number of their “supervisor” to call and confirm that they are with the FBI.
At his house, Bobby has a wall full of phones labeled with different government agencies so he can answer the call when a hunter gives out a supervisory phone number to local authorities seeking to confirm their identity. When Bobby answers the phone, Jody recognizes his voice, consequently blowing Sam and Dean’s cover. Jody tells Sam and Dean, “Here’s what I know about Bobby Singer. He’s a menace around here, ass-full of drunk-and-disorderlies and mail fraud.”
When John was alive, he relied on Bobby not just to help with the boys, but also as a resource for things supernatural. While Dean lies in a coma during “In My Time of Dying” (S02E01), John sends Sam to go and see Bobby to get some herbs for a spell he wants to perform.
Sam and Dean came to depend on Bobby’s knowledge of supernatural lore and his experience as a hunter. Bobby is able to guide others through his skill, knowledge, and resources in a variety of ways. His experience helps him to identify what kind of monster or object is causing problems. Bobby often provides information about how to kill or ward off dangerous creatures. Bobby’s experience to a variety of hunters and knowledge of resources means that he can hook others up with people or resources they need. Bobby has in-depth knowledge of spells for summoning, trapping, and locating, and what he doesn’t know, he figures out through research. Most importantly, Bobby is always available to fight side by side with the brothers.
The Winchesters weren’t the only hunters to rely Bobby as a knowledgeable resource and support. This is certainly evidenced from his wall of phones. In “Weekend at Bobby’s,” we see Bobby at work answering phones to give advice and to help support other hunters’ cover stories. When Bobby dies, there is a hole in Sam and Dean’s life, but also in the hunter community. Hunter Garth Fitzgerald IV tries to step in to fill the void left by Bobby’s absence, much to Dean’s chagrin, as we see in “Southern Comfort” (S08E06).
Garth carries multiple phones around with him and shares advice with hunters. In response to the shock expressed by Sam and Dean, Garth points out that Bobby was gone, Sam and Dean were missing, and that “somebody had to step in and take up the slack.” Garth gives other hunters advice, wears an old hat of Bobby’s, and uses Bobby’s old phrases, all of which drive Dean crazy. When Dean tells Garth that he’s not Bobby and never will be, Garth responds, “Bobby belonged to all of us, Dean—not just you and Sam. Now, I’m just taking what he showed me and trying to do something with it. That’s all.” Clearly they are talking about Bobby at different levels: one as an ersatz father, the other as a crucial resource.
After his spirit is dispatched, Bobby continues to help the boys. In “Taxi Driver” (S08E19), the second trial that Sam must complete in order to close the gates of Hell is to guide an innocent out of Hell so that the person can be released into Heaven. When they discover that Bobby was brought to Hell instead of Heaven on Crowley’s orders, it becomes clear that rescuing Bobby will allow Sam to fulfill this task. Even as Sam is helping release Bobby’s soul to Heaven, Bobby scolds him for not searching for Dean when he was in Purgatory—always the father figure.
In Season 9 we see Bobby as a manifestation in Sam’s mind in “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” (S09E01). In Sam’s subconscious, Bobby represents Sam’s desire to let go and die, while a manifestation of Dean represents his wish to live. The figure of Bobby tries to show Sam that he has led a good life and that now is his time to let go. When the real Dean manages to enter Sam’s mind with the help of an angel, he’s able to convince Sam to live. Bobby being the representation of choosing death may be connected to the fact that Bobby is actually dead and in heaven, while Dean is still living, but it also reflect Sam’s strong connections to both Bobby and Dean throughout his life.
In the Season 10 “Fan Fiction” when Sam and Dean walk into the of St. Alphonso’s Academy auditorium in “Fan Fiction,” one of the first things they see is student Katie (Vivienne Armour) decked out in a flannel shirt, a hunting vest, and a trucker hat, practicing the delivery of one of Bobby’s favorite insults—“Idjit.” In the final scene of the play, as “Carry on Wayward Son” is sung by the students playing Sam, Dean, John, Mary, Adam, and Bobby. Bobby takes center stage as a member of Sam and Dean’s immediate family.
Though actor Jim Beaver didn’t appear in the episode “Ask Jeeves”(S10E06), Bobby Singer was still very present. When Dean finds out that Bobby has been named a beneficiary in the will of a wealthy heiress, Bunny Lacroix, he and Sam go to the estate to represent Bobby. When they present themselves to the Lacroix family they describe Bobby as their surrogate dad.
Sam contacts Bobby in heaven for help in “Inside Man” (S10E17). We see Bobby up in Heaven drinking scotch, readingsTORI Telling, and listening to Kenny Rogers. When the angels are alerted to Bobby being up to something, the call goes out on Angel Radio: “The Bobbys are fighting back. All hands. We need all hands. They’re surly. I repeat: the Bobbys are surly.” Amongst some of the best lines ever heard on Supernatural.
Bobby is scheduled to appear in Season 11, along with Rufus Turner (Steven Williams) in episode 16 of Season 11 in a flashback. Bobby will always be with Sam and Dean, and Supernatural, in one way or another.
For more about Bobby Singer and the funny, insightful, and moving things he has said throughout Supernatural, check out the second part of this series, “Supernatural: Remembering Bobby Singer – Part 2 Favorite Quotes.”