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"Return to Sender"
Dexter episode
Return to Sender.jpg
Dexter finds a clue from the Ice Truck Killer to help him frame one of his victims for another's murder.
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 6
Written by Timothy Schlattmann
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Production no. 106[1]
Original airdate November 5, 2006
Guest stars
  • Andi Chapman as Social Worker
  • Gabriel Cordell as Sketch Artist
  • Julie Dolan as Cindy Landon
  • Valerie Dillman as Valerie Castillo
  • Denver Dowridge as Police Cadet
  • Cesar Flores as Oscar
  • Minerva Garcia as Mariel
  • Daniel Goldman as Cody
  • Devon Graye as Teenage Dexter
  • Demetrius Grosse as Alex Timmons
  • Lynn A. Henderson as Roni
  • Benton Jennings as Gene Marshall
  • Haley King as Teenage Debra
  • Kelli Kirkland as Jess
  • C.S. Lee as Vince Masuka
  • Damian T. Raven as Forbes
  • Christina Robinson as Astor
  • Gabriel Salvador as Roberto
  • Vernee Watson-Johnson as Doakes's Mother
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Love American Style" "Circle of Friends"
List of Dexter episodes

"Return to Sender" is the sixth episode of the first season of the American television drama series Dexter, which first aired on November 5, 2006 on Showtime in the United States.[1] The episode was written by Timothy Schlattmann and was directed by Tony Goldwyn. In the episode, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) investigates a murder scene where one of his own victims has returned after he disposed of the body. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Rita Bennett (Julie Benz) tries to prevent her husband Paul from attending their daughter's birthday party, and Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) considers adopting a young witness of the murder whom she finds at the crime scene.

Though set in Miami, Florida, the episode was filmed at various locations in and around Los Angeles, California including a salvage yard, a field by Tujunga Wash and a waterfront house on Hibiscus Island. Goldwyn, who Erik King said was "a joy to work with", allowed actor C.S. Lee to improvise and David Zayas to memorize his Spanish lines in English and translate them mentally during each take. "Return to Sender" received generally positive reviews from critics.



While eating breakfast at Rita's house, Dexter is called to a crime scene, only to discover that it is the same salvage yard where he committed a double murder the previous night. He finds Valerie Castillo's (Valerie Dillman) body lying in the Airstream trailer where he killed her and her husband Jorge (José Zúñiga), despite having thrown the corpses into the ocean. He suspects that the "Ice Truck Killer"—a serial killer with whom Dexter has a personal connection—dived underwater to retrieve the woman's body and plant it in the trailer. In the yard, LaGuerta, Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King) and Dexter's sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) discover a young Cuban boy, Oscar (Cesar Flores), hiding in the trunk of a car who claims to have seen somebody take Valerie into the trailer. He begins to fear discovery, and experiences his first nightmare: Debra is a serial killer with an identical modus operandi to Dexter. As the investigation proceeds, he attempts to shoot down each of his colleagues' leads on the case. When Debra asks him to read through her report on the killer, profiling a man sharing many of Dexter's characteristics, he second-guesses her theory and she is hurt. Worried about coming under suspicion, he throws all of his knives overboard from his boat, but while looking at the blood drops from his victims, he notices that Valerie's slide has a happy face etched into the blood. He realizes that this is a hint from the Ice Truck Killer, and plants Jorge's fingerprints and a dry drop of Valerie's blood onto a knife, which he hides in a car at the salvage yard. He convinces Doakes to organize another search of the yard, where an officer (Denver Dowridge) finds the knife. After successfully framing Jorge for Valerie's murder, Dexter discovers that Oscar's description of the man who "saved" him from Valerie is in fact of Jesus, not Dexter.

Meanwhile, Rita dissuades her abusive husband Paul from attending their daughter Astor's (Christina Robinson) birthday party after he is released early from prison. Doakes takes Debra to dinner with his mother (Vernee Watson-Johnson) and sisters, while LaGuerta bonds with Oscar and considers adopting him until his uncle (Gabriel Salvador) arrives to take him home.

In flashbacks, a teenage Debra (Haley King) pleads with her father Harry (James Remar) to bring her on his and Dexter's (Devon Graye) hunting trips. When Harry forbids her from joining them, she steals his gun and practises shooting cans by herself. Later, Debra lashes out at Dexter in jealousy of the time that he spends alone with their father.


The salvage yard's Airstream trailer was shot both on location and on a sound stage.

The day of filming in the salvage yard, which took place at LA Japanese Auto Parts in Sun Valley, California,[2] was abnormally hot according to Lauren Vélez.[3] The Airstream trailer in which Dexter's dead body is found was brought into the salvage yard for filming externally, but was assembled on a studio sound stage for shooting scenes inside the trailer. Erik King remarked that the trailer was dirty, odorous and humid—"all the things we needed it to be".[3] Other filming locations included a waterfront house on Hibiscus Island in Biscayne Bay, Florida as the Castillos' home,[4] an empty field next to Sun Valley's Tujunga Wash where a young Debra practises shooting with Harry's pistol,[5] and a house in a residential neighborhood of Long Beach, California which stands in for Dexter's childhood home.[6]

King said that Tony Goldwyn was "a joy to work with", while Vélez called him "an absolute actors' director".[3] Shooting a scene in which Det. Angel Batista converses with a witness entirely in Spanish, David Zayas did not feel confident to memorize all of his Spanish lines. Instead, he learned his lines in English and translated the dialogue mentally during each take.[3] In a scene between Dexter and Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee), Masuka pauses after examining a corpse and says, "I'm hungry." Michael C. Hall said that "C.S. [Lee's] ad libs are different every time. When he said, 'I'm hungry,' that was the only take that I didn't laugh."[7] When asked about improvising on the show, Lee said that the writers "come up with some good lines themselves. [...] So I pretty much leave it up to them."[8]


"Return to Sender" was generally praised by critics. Eric Goldman of IGN wrote that the episode's "most interesting facet" was its flashbacks to Dexter's youth from Debra's perspective, though he felt that the young Debra's hasty apology to Dexter after insulting him was "a slightly cheesy moment". He thought that LaGuerta's bonding with Oscar "was okay, but [the storyline] fell a little flat".[1] TV Guide's Paula Paige "love[d]" the episode, saying that "It just keeps getting better and better", but was unsure "what Deb having dinner with the Doakes' family has to do with anything".[9] Writing for TV Squad, Jonathan Toomey opened his review of "Return to Sender" by saying, "Dexter did it again. Wowed me. Amazed me. Edge of my seat for the whole hour." He was amused that Debra's profile of Valerie's murderer matched Dexter, but was uninterested in Rita's storyline with her husband.[10]

Both Malene Arpe of the Toronto Star and Daniel Fienberg of Zap2it were disappointed with the episode's audio commentary featuring Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, Lauren Vélez and David Zayas on the first season DVD.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c Goldman, Eric (November 6, 2006). "Dexter: "Return to Sender" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  2. ^ Wayne, Gary. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 1: The Auto Salvage Yard". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  3. ^ a b c d Carpenter, Jennifer; King, Erik; Vélez, Lauren; Zayas, David. Dexter: The First Season – Audio commentary for "Return to Sender". [DVD]. Showtime Entertainment. 
  4. ^ Wayne, Gary. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 1: The Smuggler's House". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  5. ^ Wayne, Gary. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 1: Debra's target practice". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  6. ^ Wayne, Gary. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 1: Dexter's Childhood Home". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  7. ^ Nguyen, Hanh (March 8, 2006). "Paley: Blood will tell in upcoming season of 'Dexter'". Zap2it. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  8. ^ Farinella, Tony (December 12, 2008). "411 Movies Interview: C.S. Lee of Dexter". Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  9. ^ Paige, Paula (November 6, 2006). "November 5, 2006 – “Return to Sender”". TV Guide. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  10. ^ Toomey, Jonathan (November 5, 2006). "Dexter: Return to Sender". TV Squad. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  11. ^ Arpe, Malene (August 21, 2007). "'Dexter' aims for emotional development". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  12. ^ Fienberg, Daniel (August 21, 2007). "DVD Review: 'Dexter, Season One'". Zap2it.,0,6885950.story. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 

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