Tabula Rasa: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #9

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“Tabula Rasa” has a similar plot to “Something Blue” because the events of the episode are triggered by a spell cast by Willow gone awry. But whereas “Something Blue” was mostly a hilarious episode, “Tabula Rasa” is both the funniest episode and one of the saddest episodes in the entire series. How the heck does that happen? Read on further to find out.

SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or haven’t seen this show in a long time, stop reading right now. Major plot points are gonna be revealed here.

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The episode follows straight after “Once More With Feeling.” Spike finds Buffy on patrol to try and talk about how they kissed in the previous episode, but Buffy isn’t up for talking. Spike gets attacked by a literal loan shark named Teeth and his cronies, leaving Buffy to save his sorry pale butt. (It’s a show with monsters. Just go with it.)

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Meanwhile, at Xander’s apartment, Xander, Anya, Willow, and Tara are feeling majorly guilty about ripping Buffy out of Heaven. (While I personally believe that Buffy wasn’t actually in Heaven, the show never says otherwise, so for the sake of argument we’ll just go with what the show says.) They think about how to help Buffy adjust to not being dead anymore. Willow, of course, wants to use magic to fix things, considering a spell that would make Buffy forget about Heaven. This angers Tara, who doesn’t want Willow to abuse magic anymore. 

One major complaint from the fandom is that Season 6 portrayed magic as a drug, which isn’t actually how magic is. In reality, Willow’s addiction isn’t to magic in and of itself, but the power and control it gives her. Willow always wanted to find a way to fix problems without actually having to deal with them, which is a really bad way of thinking. So yeah, I’m siding with Tara in this episode.

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Tara even says outright: “You did it the way you’re doing everything, Will. When things get rough, you don’t even consider your options – you just do a spell. It’s not good for you – and it’s not what magic is for.” Willow pleads for Tara to stay with her, but Tara knows that as long as Willow has the control freak complex, things aren’t safe for her. Tara contemplates breaking up if Willow can’t go without magic for a week. And she’s not the only one who wants to leave.

Before I cut to the next scene, I’ll tell y’all right now. Just because I love an episode doesn’t mean that it’s perfectly written. Every episode of any show will have its flaws. So forgive me for not liking this upcoming scene.

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Giles and Buffy are at the Magic Box’s training room. Giles is telling Buffy how he’s planning on leaving for England. Now in the context of the behind-the-scenes stuff, Anthony Stewart Head wanted to leave the show to go back to his homeland. But the writers made a really bad decision in having Giles leave because Buffy can’t handle things without constantly turning to him for help. To some extent, yes, Buffy needs to learn how to make her own decisions. But Buffy already has abandonment issues bigger than the state of Texas and she has depression on top of that! The last thing she needs is her father figure, one of the few people she feels she can still trust, leaving her. As much as I hate saying this, killing Giles off would’ve been more believable than having him abandon Buffy for what feels like a seriously contrived reason.

But maybe it’s just because Giles leaving is the start of everything getting worse for Buffy and the Scoobies.

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The next morning, Willow casts the Tabula Rasa spell, but leaves the whole bag of Lethe’s Bramble in front of the fire. The fire consumes the whole bag, which foretells some major consequences ahead.

In the magic shop, the Scoobies are all gathered and Buffy urges Giles to just announce his eventual departure, only for Spike to interrupt things. He comes in looking like this:

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Spike is still on the run from the loan shark but the conversation soon returns back to Giles who tells everyone of his plans of returning to England. Buffy can’t take any more bad news, so she starts to leave. Willow’s crystal starts glowing black, which means the spell is about to take effect. And take effect it does. Everyone in the room suddenly passes out.

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Day turns to night in the next scene. The way that everyone is arranged is important. Giles is leaning on Anya’s shoulder. Tara is asleep in her chair. Willow and Xander are asleep next to each other, with Willow wearing Xander’s jacket. Dawn is curled up on the floor. Spike is asleep on the store counter. Buffy is slumped on the stairs and is the first to wake up. As she turns on the lights, everyone else starts waking up with complete amnesia. This is where all the laughs really start coming.

 

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First of all, Giles finds magic to be “balderdash and chicanery,” which is pretty hilarious if you remember that Giles’s young, rebellious youth consisted of using dark magic as a drug high. Buffy instinctively comforts Dawn while Giles realizes that he’s British. Spike snarks at Giles about being all “Mary Poppins” only to realize that he’s British as well. His little bit gets me laughing so hard, my stomach literally hurts because James Marsters is actually American and he does the British thing so well, it’s hard to believe that he isn’t. (The fact that he does the British thing in Torchwood doesn’t help much, either.) Giles and Spike wonder if they’re related and Spike thinks that Giles is his father. This is a shoutout to a scene from a previous episode in which Giles refers to Spike as “like a son to me.”

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Spike also thinks that Giles and Anya are together due to seeing them waking up together. Anya looks at her ring and remembers that she’s engaged. Problem is she’s engaged to the wrong man! The ensuing argument about Giles apparently marrying someone half his age leads to everyone checking for their driver’s licenses and IDs. Unfortunately, Buffy, Dawn, and Spike don’t have any. Buffy points out Dawn’s necklace, which has her name on it. “Or Umad,” Dawn joked. Spike checks his jacket and thinks that his name is Randy, leading to yet another gut-busting hilarious line.

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“‘Randy’ Giles?! Why didn’t you just name me ‘Horny Giles’ or ‘Desperate-for-a-shag Giles’? I knew there was a reason I hated you!”

Willow thinks that she and Tara are study buddies while Xander is her boyfriend. But since Buffy doesn’t have a license or a student ID, she decides to name herself “Joan.” Dawn’s snarking at Buffy’s lame name leads them to realize that the two of them are sisters. Buffy decides on everyone going to the hospital but when they open the door, they are greeted by vampires. Leading to this hilarious shot:

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The amnesia everyone has made everyone forget that they live in a world where vampires exist. Giles proposes using magic to fight back, even as the vampires bang on the door, demanding for Spike and the Slayer to come out. Xander finds a trapdoor that leads to the sewer. The vampires break into the shop through a window, since they can’t actually enter a door without being invited. In the ensuing fight, Buffy stakes a vampire and seriously loves the power she has.

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As the other vampires run back to their loan shark boss, Buffy formulates a plan. She and “Randy” will go out to fight the vampires while everyone else goes to the hospital through the sewers. Anya and Giles decide to stay in the shop and use magic to ward off anyone else who might come after them.

Buffy and Spike run out to fight the vampires. As the fight ensures, Spike instinctively goes into vamp-face and thinks that he’s a superhero, only for Buffy to go running, scared at the sight of his vamp face.

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Down in the sewers, Xander, Dawn, Willow, and Tara try to navigate around a place they’ve never been to and come across a vampire. Up in the Magic Box, Anya does a spell that summons a rabbit, which she is completely terrified of. Meanwhile, Spike catches up to Buffy to try and talk things out with her. Buffy tries to keep him away and then this happens:

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Spike realizes that he doesn’t want to kill Buffy, nor does Buffy want to kill Spike in spite of the two of them seemingly being natural enemies. Spike thinks that he’s a vampire with a soul, but Buffy thinks the idea is totally lame. (Take that, Angel!) Sparks kind of fly between the two of them. And they’re not the only ones.

Giles and Anya are still fighting as her attempts at magic keep going awry and Giles thinks that the plane ticket in his pocket was an indicator that he was getting out of the relationship. Giles eventually finds a way to reverse all the magic and the two of them kiss and make up.

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Down in the sewers, Tara and Willow are instinctively drawn to each other as the vampires in the sewer  Dawn and Xander try fighting the vampires only for Xander to step on the crystal that fell out of Willow’s pocket.

And it’s at this point that the laughs stop (except for Giles and Anya being grossed out about their kissage) and starts turning to tears.

When I was in middle school, I was seriously into an artist named Michelle Branch. So imagine my surprise to find her being the musical guest of the week, playing in the famous Buffy nightclub The Bronze. The song that she sings plays as Tara packs up to leave, Willow cries in the bathroom, Giles flies back to England, and Buffy turns down Spike only for her to make out with him as the episode ends.

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This episode is something TV Tropes calls “fanfic fuel.” Mostly because there were so many possibilities that this episode could’ve explored but chose not to, which behooves fans of the show to write fanfics that explore said possibilities. It would’ve been interesting to see the amnesia last longer than one episode. It would’ve been interesting to see Giles and Anya in a relationship. There were even hints of Dawn and Xander having some potential. Dawn had a crush on Xander before, after all. I wish I knew how Buffy went from not wanting to talk to Spike to actually kissing him. I wish that Tara stayed and Willow left the house. I wish that Giles would stay. I wish that Xander and Anya realized that they didn’t exchange any conversation while they lost their memories. Part of me wishes that the amnesia could’ve gone on a little longer, at least long enough for Buffy to realize that she was instinctively attracted to Spike in spite of the fact that he’s a soulless vampire.

But in spite of what I wish could happen, I love this episode. It’s not one I would show to casual fans or people who haven’t watched the show. For major fans of the show, it’s a favorite. It’s hard to find a show that can make you laugh and cry in the span of one episode and Buffy is definitely one of those shows.

Screencaps are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

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