On a hunch from Sam, he, Dean, and Bobby find the Campbell family library hidden under Samuel's study. They search Samuel's books for a way to defeat Eve, and Bobby eventually finds a mention of a "Mother" that can be burned by phoenix ashes. Never having heard of a real phoenix, they continue to search until Dean finds Samuel Colt's journal. There is an entry under March 5, 1861, in which Samuel Colt mentions shooting a phoenix in Sunrise, Wyoming, leaving a pile of smoldering ash. Dean is convinced that they need to go back in time to 1861 and gather the ashes so that they can defeat Eve.
Dean prays to Castiel, but another angel shows up instead. She introduces herself as Rachel, Castiel's lieutenant, and she shows disdain for Sam and Dean. After a few moments, Castiel appears and dismisses her. They explain their plan to Castiel, and he agrees to send Dean and Sam back to March 4, 1861. He can only allow them 24 hours, though, or they will be trapped in the past.
Once they appear in Sunrise, Wyoming, Sam sets the timer on his watch for 24 hours. They walk into town and see a man, Elias Finch, about to be hanged in the town square. A judge reads him his sentence - apparently, Elias killed his wife - and then he's put to death. Sam and Dean are disturbed, but they follow the town's sheriff as he leaves the square and heads to the prison. There, they pose as law enforcement officers and question him about Samuel Colt, but he hasn't heard of him. He sends them to the saloon to question the bartender, an old man who apparently knows everything.
At the saloon, Dean starts to see that life in the Old West is less romantic than he thought: it's dirty, the whiskey is terrible, and the saloon girls are less than healthy. The bartender tells them that Samuel Colt passed through town about 4 years ago but hasn't been back since. Rumors are that he's building a railroad stop about 20 miles away in the middle of nowhere, and Sam and Dean surmise that he's currently working on the giant devil's trap that surrounds the devil's gate in southern Wyoming.
As they're talking, a sex worker named Darla approaches and tries to seduce Dean, but the judge who read Elias his sentence shows up and takes her upstairs. Moments later, they hear her scream, and they rush up to find that the judge is dead, burned to ashes. Darla swears that it was Elias' ghost that killed him. That night, Sam and Dean discuss the possibility that the Phoenix isn't a bird at all, but the man, Elias, who wants revenge on the three men that killed him: the judge, the sheriff, and the sheriff's deputy. They decide to split up, Dean staying behind to join the sheriff's posse and hunt down Elias, and Sam going to find Samuel Colt.
Meanwhile, in the present time, Rachel confronts Castiel about what he's doing in order to beat Raphael. According to her, it's unacceptable what Castiel has become, and she pulls out an angel blade. She manages to pierce his flesh, but not kill him, and he pulls out his own blade and defeats her. Wounded, he travels to Bobby's house, puts a ward against angels on the wall with his blood, and collapses.
In town the next morning, Dean shows up at the saloon, ready to form up a posse and go after Elias. Nobody shows up to join him, however, and soon the burned body of the sheriff is found. The bartender takes the star from the sheriff's body and pins it on Dean, congratulating him on his new position. After his promotion, Dean goes to find the sheriff's deputy. The man is packing a suitcase, determined to escape "Elias' ghost," but Dean tells him that he won't be able to run forever and that he needs to play his part: as bait.
Meanwhile, Sam finds Samuel Colt's cabin. Samuel has just used the Colt to kill two demons that wanted him to open the devil's gate, and he immediately splashes holy water on Sam to make sure that he isn't a demon, as well. Sam tells him that he's a hunter from the year 2011, and that he needs Samuel's help. Samuel is skeptical, so Sam hands him his cell phone, a Blackberry, and Samuel is immediately convinced. Sam then tells him that, according to the copy of Samuel's journal he's carrying, Samuel kills a phoenix in three hours, and Sam needs the ashes to kill a monster he's hunting. Samuel tells him that he's no longer hunting and that he lost the gun gambling, but Sam knows that he's lying, and confronts him. Samuel eventually admits to having the gun, but tells him that no matter what his journal says, he's not going to be killing a phoenix. Sam realizes that he's going to have to kill the phoenix himself, and demands the gun.
In the present time, Castiel tells Bobby the truth: that, given his injury, he won't be able to retrieve Sam and Dean from the past. The only way he can get enough power to save them is to touch Bobby's soul; the risk is that he'll cause Bobby to explode.
Back in 1861, Dean locks the deputy in a cell and, when Elias shows up, he demands that Dean open the cell. Dean refuses and then tosses an iron nail at him. When Elias reflexively catches it, his hand burns, and Dean confronts him with the truth: as a monster, Elias is vulnerable to iron, which is why he couldn't escape his iron shackles before he was hung, and why now he can't open the cell that the deputy is in.
Elias realizes that Dean is a hunter, and so, in an attempt to win him over, tells him why he was put to death. Although a phoenix, Elias was married to a human woman that he loved. On a visit to town, she was assaulted by the deputy, and, when Elias came across them, the deputy shot both him and his wife. Elias' wife died in his arms, but Elias was unable to die, so the deputy, sheriff, and judge pinned his wife's murder on him and tried to put him to death. Dean is moved by his story, but still resolved to kill him, so Elias grabs a gun from a nearby holster and shoots the deputy through his cell bars. Dean jumps out a window to escape Elias' gunfire and is on the run when Sam appears with the Colt in hand.
In the future, Bobby puts a belt between his teeth and Castiel prepares to touch his soul...
Sam gives the Colt to Dean, and he goes into the town square and calls for Elias. It's a duel at high noon, and both men stand ready before drawing their weapons lightning-fast. Elias misses, but Dean hits him with a bullet from the Colt, killing him. They're almost at the 24-hour mark, as Sam reminds him, and Dean rushes forward to gather Elias' ashes when Castiel suddenly pulls them back to the future. Back in Bobby's house, Dean stares at the empty bottle in his hand, stunned.
Bobby and Castiel are still recovering when the doorbell rings. Sam answers it to find a young man from a courier service. He has a package for "Sam Winchester." The young man is curious about the package because it's been around "forever" and was supposed to be delivered to Sam at this house specifically on this date. When Sam hears that the package is from Samuel Colt, he takes it and closes the door in the courier's face without signing for it. Back in Bobby's study, he opens the package while Dean, Castiel, and Bobby look on. First, he finds his cell phone - the Blackberry is dirty and cracked - and then he finds a note from Samuel Colt. In it, he tells him that he found Sam's address and the current date from his "thingamajig", and that he thinks he'll find the "enclosed" useful. Sam digs through the packaging and pulls out a glass bottle full of ashes: Samuel Colt gathered the phoenix's ashes and delivered them to Sam from 150 years in the past.
- (plays during the opening title card)
- (plays at various points in the episode)
- "The Hanging" by Federale
- (plays during the showdown between Elias and Dean)
Dean: We hop back in time, we join up with Samuel Colt, we hunt the phoenix, and then we haul the ashes back home with us.
Um, about your plan. You'll only have 24 hours.
Sam: Wait, what? Why?
Castiel: Well, the answer to your question can best be expressed as a series of partial differential equations.
Bobby: Yeah, aim lower.
The further back I send you, the harder it becomes to retrieve you. 24 hours is all I can risk. If I don't pull you home within that time, you'll be lost to me.
Dean, I can -- I can wear this.
Dean: And look like a spaceman?
Sam: Look, just because you're obsessed with all that Wild West stuff--
Dean: No, I'm not.
Sam: You have a fetish.
Shut up. I like old movies.
Dean: Think we'll have time to hit on saloon girls? I'm kidding. Come on.
Darla's my best girl.
Darla: Try me. You want a kiss?
S-so much more germier than I pictured.
Dean: I'll stay here, hook up with the posse. 'Cause you know me -- I'm a posse magnet. I mean, I love posse. Make that into a t-shirt.
You Samuel Colt? My name is Sam Winchester. I'm -- I'm a hunter from the year 2011.
Colt: Prove it.
[Sam shows Colt his Blackberry]
Colt: All right.
Sam: A-all right? That's -- uh, that's it?
Well, when you've done this job as long as I have... a giant from the future with some magic brick doesn't exactly give you the vapors.
The human soul -- it's pure... energy. If I can siphon some of that off, I-I might be able to bring Sam and Dean back.
Bobby: And the catch is...?
Castiel: Doing this is like...putting your hand in a nuclear reactor. I have to do it very gingerly.
Castiel: Or you'll explode.
Well. Keep both hands on the wheel. Let's do this.
You want to call me 'monster,' fine. But all we did was go into town. I go into the bank for five minutes. I come out, she's gone. And then I heard her scream. This... man had her pinned in the alley. I go to stop him, he pulls his gun, shoots me, then her. She died in my arms. 'Course, I don't die. The shots brought the Sheriff. Next thing I know, I'm in iron. That's why I want him just where he is -- trapped, scared. I saved the best for last.
Dean: Is that true?
Elias: So tell me -- are you really willing to die to protect this piece of filth?
Honestly, I could care less about him. He's a dick and a coward.
Is that what I think it is?
Dean: Ashes of a phoenix. You know what this means?
Bobby: Yeah, I didn't get a 'soulonoscopy' for nothing.
Yes. And... it means we take the fight to her.
Trivia & References
"Frontierland," the name of the episode, is also the name of one of the themed lands at Disneyland
, which is a Disney version of the 19th century Old West. It features the rides Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The original title of the episode was "Gallows Pole," which is a song based on an old folk song about a woman trying to buy her freedom from the executioner. Versions Dean would like
are by Leadbelly and most famously by Led Zeppelin
The opening titles are different from normal and are an homage to the 1960s Western series Bonanza
, see its opening titles here
. See the title card
entry for other Supernatural
episodes with unique credits.
A Western episode has been discussed in relation to Supernatural for years. Jensen has often talked about the Western genre being his favorite and that he’d love to appear in a Western movies (Source). After this episode Jensen said "I sent a picture to my father [from this episode], and he wrote back, ‘You’ve been rehearsing this scene since you were six.’"
At Comic-Con 2008, both Jensen and Jared said they’d love to do a Western episode, and Jensen pointed out that the show already is a modern version of a Western, with Sam and Dean as cowboys. Jared mentioned that he couldn't see the boys in spurs and cowboy hats. "Assless chaps?" Kripke asked. "Yes, please," Jensen responded. Video of the panel.
At the beginning of season four, Jensen again said in an interview he’d like to see a Western episode.
Wow. All right, well, what are we looking for?
Bobby: Anything that'll put a run in the Octomom's stockings. Pick a row.
- A reference to Nadya Suleman, dubbed "Octomom" in the media after giving birth to octuplets.
Bingo. Either of you jokers ever heard anything about a phoenix?
Dean: River, Joaquin or the giant flaming bird?
- Dean is referring to actors and brothers, Joaquin Phoenix and the late River Phoenix, as well as the mythological bird of fire and symbol of rebirth, the phoenix.
I know where we can find one: March 5th, 1861, Sunrise, Wyoming. We’ll Star Trek IV
Bobby: I only watch Deep Space Nine.
Dean: It’s like I don’t even know you guys anymore. Star Trek IV. Save the whales.
- The plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage home involves the crew of the Enterprise going back in time to 1986 to find some humpback whales that they need to communicate with an alien probe.
- Bobby must've at least seen the second Star Trek movie, because in 6.16 ...And Then There Were None, he got Dean's reference to the Khan Worm.
- Jim Beaver’s late wife Cecily Adams portrayed the Ferengi Ishka on Deep Space Nine. The reference in the script was originally to Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Jim asked for it to be changed: "It was coincidence in the first draft when it was Next Generation, but deliberate when I asked to change it to Deep Space Nine.
We got a guy who can swing it. Castiel. The, uh, fate of the world is in the balance. So, come on down here. Come on, Cas, I Dream of Jeannie
your ass down here pronto. Please.
- In the classic '60s comedy I Dream of Jeannie the genie, called Jeannie, had to appear when her master, Major Nelson, summoned her.
I'm sure your issue's very important. But Castiel is currently commanding an army, so --
Dean: So we get stuck with Miss Monneypenny.
- In the James Bond novels and movies, Jane Moneypenny is the secretary to M, Bond's boss.
You can recite every Clint Eastwood movie ever made, line for line.
Bobby: Even the monkey movies?
Sam: Yeah. Especially the monkey movies.
Dean: His name is Clyde. At least wear the damn shirt.
- The "monkey movies" refer to an under appreciated part of Eastwood’s filmography which is part of the human/animal buddy genre of movies. He made two of these movies, the 1978 Every Which Way but Loose and the 1980 sequel Any Which Way You Can, which featured Eastwood with an orangutan sidekick called Clyde.
Now, is it -- is it customary to wear a blanket?
Dean: It's a serape. And, yes. It's, uh... Never mind. Let's just go.
- The serape is a traditional Mexican Poncho. It was worn by the iconic character “the Man with No Name” that Eastwood played in Sergio Leone’s movies.
Sam and Dean are sent to 1861 to the town of Sunrise, Wyoming. The Wyoming Territory
didn't come into existence until 1868, with Sunrise
being built in 1898.
Hey, we should try the Saloon first, uh, see what we get from the locals.
Sam: Sure. Whatever, Sundance.
- Sam is teasingly referring to Dean as 'Sundance' in reference to the Sundance Kid who was a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch. Their story was immortalized in the classic 60's bromantic Western.
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, where Sundance was played by Robert Redford.
- It's worth noting that the real Sundance was called Harry Longabuagh, and he gained his nickname from the town in which he was first imprisoned - Sundance, Wyoming. This episode is set in Sunrise, Wyoming.
The scene of Sam stepping in horse manure may be a shout out to Back to the Future Part III
, where Marty McFly also accidentally steps in horse manure. This episode also parallels Back to the Future III
in that it centers around traveling back in time to the Old West. Marty uses Clint Eastwood as a name, just like Dean, and also wears an Eastwood-esque serape.
Guess it's good to be judge.
- A possible reference to the much-repeated catchphrase "It's good to be the king," from Mel Brooks's History of the World Part I.
Marshall Eastwood. Clint Eastwood. This here is, uh, Walker. He’s a Texas Ranger.
- Clint Eastwood came to fame through his role in Sergio Lenone’s 1960’s Dollars trilogy - A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Eastwood went onto make other Westerns, as well as the hard-assed Dirty Harry cop movies.
- In 1992 Eastwood returned to the Western, directing and producing Unforgiven, the tale of a retired gunfighter reluctantly returning for one last job. Often referred to as a noir Western due to its dark tone and unsentimental take on the genre, it won four Academy Awards. 6.13 Unforgiven, where Sam is drawn back to face his violent soulless past, is named for this film.
- Marty McFly also takes on the alias of Clint Eastwood in the third installment of the Back to the Future series, in which he travels back in time to 1885.
- Walker, Texas Ranger was a 1990s action series starring Chuck Norris as a Texas Ranger named Cordell Walker, who believes in the code of the Old West and is a martial arts expert.
Candygram for Mongo!
- This is a quote from Blazing Saddles. Mongo was a character played by Alex Karras in the movie.
Missed you at the posse this morning. I was a one-man wolfpack, thanks to you. What's going on here?
- A reference to The Hangover. You can watch Alan's wolfpack speech here.
is shown to be left-handed. This was rather unusual at the time because sinistrality was looked down upon and left-handed children were often re-educated to use their right hand instead.
You go put on a few more miles, then come back and we'll talk.
Sam: Trust me, I've got plenty of mileage.
- This may be an indirect reference to a famous line from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones says "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
Cas, you -- you look like you went 12 rounds with Truckasaurus. What happened?
- "Truckasaurus is a car destroying robot dinosaur Simpsons parody of Robosaurus.
Well, good...'Cause we got less than an hour before you pick up the kids at Frontierland.
- As mentioned above, Frontierland refers to the 19th Wild West themed land at Disneyland. Bobby saying it is, of course, a nod to the episode's title.
Are you sure?
Bobby: Well, we can't just strand those idjits in Deadwood can we?
- Deadwood was a TV series in which Jim Beaver played a prospector called Ellsworth.
Yippie Ki Yay, motherf...
- "Yippie Ki Yay, motherfuckers" is a catchphrase of Bruce Willis' John McClane in the Die Hard movies. Here's a compilation video of him saying it.
I'm still kickin', Annie Oakley. Be back good as new in... a decade or two.
- Annie Oakley was a sharp- and trick shooter from Ohio, who lived from 1860 until 1926. She started shooting and hunting at the age of 8 to support her family and later became internationally known for her talent, performing for royalty and touring with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.
The end of the episode, where Sam receives a package from Samuel Colt, is a direct reference to the end of Back to The Future Part II
. At the end of the movie, a courier from Western Union arrives minutes after Doc Brown has disappeared in the DeLorean after being struck by lightening. The courier gives Marty a letter, sent 70 years ago, with instructions for it to be delivered at that exact day and time. It is from Doc, who has been trapped in 1885 after the lightning strike caused the DeLorean to malfunction. It is also possibly an homage to Neil Gaiman
's Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
, in which a witch receives a package from her ancestor several centuries after her death.
This episode was shot before, and originally planned to air before 6.17 My Heart Will Go On
but the order was switched due to the amount of post-production worked required on this episode. This explains why Sam and Dean are unconcerned about the ramifications of traveling back in time following the events with the Titanic.
On September 23, 2019, it was reported that Genevieve
and Jared Padalecki
are starring as Cordell and Emily Walker in the new TV series Walker
, a reboot of Walker, Texas Ranger
, which ironically was his alias in this episode. The new series began airing on the CW in January 2021.
The name of the Saloon owner is Elkins, and he is said to know Samuel Colt
. He may be an ancestor of hunter Daniel Elkins
, who is the owner of the Colt when it first appears in 1973 in 4.03 In the Beginning
. In this podcast
director Guy Norman Bee describes a scene in the director's cut that was removed for time. Dean and Sam are walking from the sheriff's office to the saloon and while Dean removes his bolo tie they discuss the name Elkins and wonder if he is a relative of the hunter their Dad knew.
The uniform of the courier who delivers Samuel Colt's package to Sam in 2011 has the same name and logo as the postal service in Sunrise, WY in 1860: Western Courier, with a courier riding a horse.
Sides, Scripts & Transcripts
- Ardeospina. 2011. A Visual Review -- Frontierland. The Winchester Family Business, September 1; archive link
- 6.18 Frontierland: Maybe You Got To Go Find Him And Make History by bardicvoice (May 2011); archive link
- Bond, Silvia. 2011. A Dean-Centric, Sepia-Toned, Wild West Extravaganza: "Frontierland" Season 6, Episode 18. Pink Raygun, April 26; archive link, spn-heavymeta
- Chan, Suzette. 2011. Supernatural Talk: Tarts talk about 6.18: Frontierland. Sequential Tart, June 13; archive link, spn-heavymeta