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.

Something Blue: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #10

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On paper, “Something Blue” should have been a bad episode. It was written by Tracey Forbes, who also wrote “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” two of the least-liked episodes in the whole series. The episode is about Willow using magic to get over her broken heart, only for the spell to go totally awry. But something about this episode just had me laughing out loud. You wanna know what it was? Read the recap to find out!

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow’s boyfriend, Oz, broke up with her and left Sunnydale in the hopes of taming his inner werewolf. Former Big Bad Spike has now become the Sitcom Annoying Neighbor when the mysterious government organization called The Initiative put a chip in his head that prevents him from hurting or biting humans. Also, Buffy has a new potential boyfriend in the form of one Riley Finn, who in my opinion is as boring as a cardboard cut-out. But I digress.

The episode starts with Willow going to Oz’s empty dorm room, sniffing out one of his shirts and missing him badly.

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Cut to a daytime shot of the UC Sunnydale campus, where Riley is found hanging a banner for the college’s lesbian alliance.

 

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Riley asks Buffy out on a date, a picnic on-campus. And Buffy is definitely all for going out. When she goes out on patrol with Willow later that night, however, she admits that while Riley is safe, there’s still something missing. Willow points out that Buffy doesn’t feel like she’s in misery the way she did with Angel. Buffy fesses that something in her associates love with pain and fighting.

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It’s clear that Buffy never heard the CS Lewis quote “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” One reason I never invested in the Buffy/Riley relationship was because they lacked serious chemistry and were never completely open and honest with each other. Besides that, Riley had major competition in the eye candy department:

 

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Spike is currently chained to Giles’s bathtub as part of Buffy interrogating him about the commandos. Spike, however, doesn’t exactly recall much. He’s fed blood via a “Kiss the Librarian” mug since the chip in his head renders him unable to bite people. Giles and Buffy want to be certain that Spike isn’t a threat to him and Spike isn’t taking the fact that he’s now been reduced to comic relief all that well.

And then Buffy teases him. And then a giggle escapes from my mouth. An then there’s a certain look in Spike’s eyes-

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But enough of that. Willow proposes using a truth spell on Spike. Buffy and Spike think that Willow’s doing alright, but Spike says that she’s hanging by a thread. The bleach blonde vampire turns out to be right. Willow goes to Oz’s room again to find it empty. She finds out from a friend that Oz has asked for his things to be shipped to wherever he moved to. Buffy tries to give advice to Willow, but it’s clear the redhead is in pain.

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The next day, Giles calls Willow to check on whether she has the ingredients for the truth spell and Spike whines about missing Passions. Buffy and Riley have their picnic and Willow arrives all mopey.

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Later that night, the Scooby Gang goes out to the Bronze as Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” plays. At first, everyone thinks that Willow’s doing okay and Willow boasts about her newfound resolve only for a small beer bottle to spill out from under her skirt. Willow asks Buffy “Isn’t there some way I can make it go away? Just ’cause I say so? Can’t I make it go poof?” Buffy gives Willow a look that says “No.” But that doesn’t stop Willow from trying anyway.

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The next morning, Giles visits Willow to check on why she forgot about doing the truth spell. The two of them have a minor argument and Willow declares “You don’t see anything!” to him.

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Later on, Giles tries doing the truth spell on his own, only for his vision to worsen. Spike takes advantage of the situation and escapes. Giles quickly calls Buffy to tell him of Spike’s escape, just as Buffy was trying to help Willow get over the fact that she seemingly failed the “Will be Done” spell. Buffy finds Spike and drags him back to Giles’s house where the two start arguing. Meanwhile, Willow mopes at Xander’s house and Xander tries to help Willow understand why Spike is necessary to have around. Which leads Willow to say: “Well fine! Why doesn’t she just go marry him?”

Back in Giles’s apartment, Giles finds Spike kneeling before Buffy. A strange feeling starts rising inside of me. As Buffy says “Yes” to Spike’s proposal, Spike stands up and they kiss for the first time. Then Buffy shows Giles her ring and says: “Giles! You’ll never believe what’s happened.”

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And in that moment, I gasp three little words:

“I SHIP IT!”

Yep, dear readers. This was the episode in which the “Spuffy” ship attacked my heart and never let it go. For the purposes of this blog, I will try to keep my squee to a minimum, but I can’t make any promises.

Willow continues moping at Xander’s, calling him a demon magnet. Meanwhile, Giles calls Willow and Spike and Buffy start planning their wedding. The kissing scenes between these two turn me into a pile of bubbly giggles and I’m still grinning as I write this. I mean LOOK AT THEM!

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Okay, okay. I’m gonna try and hold back my giggles now. Moving on!

Giles discovers that he’s gone completely blind, so Spike offers to help while Buffy goes out to get some ingredients from the local magic shop. As she wanders around town, she sees a gorgeous wedding dress on display.

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Riley comes across her and the two of them have the most hilarious conversation, in which Buffy tells Riley she’s not interested in him because she’s getting married to Spike and invites Riley to the wedding.

Xander and Anya get attacked by demons and make a run for Giles’s apartment. Buffy announces her upcoming nuptials to them and Xander goes:

"How?! What?! How?!"

“How?! What?! How?!”

Three excellent questions, Xander. But in the midst of trying to figuring out what’s going on, Xander realizes that all the weirdness goes back to Willow, who got kidnapped by a demon named D’Hoffryn. According to Anya, D’Hoffryn turns humans into vengeance demons and Hoffy, as she calls him, makes Willow an offer. As demons rampage on the Scoobies, Willow decides to turn down D’Hoffryn’s offer. She undoes the spell and Spike and Buffy go right back to hating each other again.

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Willow bakes cookies to make up for the mess that she made. Spike teases Buffy about how she wanted “Wind Beneath My Wings” to be their song. Buffy blames the spell, but I know she’s lying. In spite of the fact that Spike and Buffy were only this adorable under the influence of a spell, and Buffy quickly went running into Riley’s arms at the end of the episode, my mind was already made up. I stepped onto the Spuffy ship and never looked back.

The episode shows that you can’t use a quick fix for your problems. It also shows that Spike and Buffy have enough chemistry to set off a nuclear warhead and have the power to divide the fandom for days to come.

I realize, of course, that I am horribly, horribly biased. But give the episode a watch if you want to see the mindset of Spuffy shippers. And if you’re not a Spuffy shipper:

 

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Screencaps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

Catharsis and Character Empathizing: The Heroes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

I have gone into detail in other entries about how one aspect about Asperger’s Syndrome is having narrowly defined interests in something, otherwise known as “obsessions.” My latest obsession, if you haven’t read my blog before, is currently Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I said in my previous entry that one reason I started watching Buffy last year was to get into the Halloween spirit. However, another reason that I got into Buffy was because I was seeking catharsis.

The dictionary defines catharsis as: “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions,especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.” I wanted an escape from some things that were stressing me. Without going too much into detail, somebody I wanted to cut off all ties with tried to contact me again and was in completely in denial about the hurt they caused me. This person was also into vampires, so naturally, a show where the vampires were the bad guys was just what I needed.

Joss Whedon stated that the things Buffy was put through represented the things teenagers had to overcome. Even though the first season had horrible lighting and the writing was “safe” but nothing special, I wanted more. Long story short, I watched all seven seasons of Buffy in a matter of five months.

What I love about Buffy is that I felt like I was part of that world. The show didn’t have social media marketing, just an underground of message boards and chat rooms. I didn’t chat with anyone about what I was watching. I just let the show sink into me. Not only did this show provide me the catharsis I needed, but I found myself relating to three characters from the show: Buffy, Spike, and Tara.

When I got halfway through Season 2, I was particularly drawn to all the times that Buffy felt vulnerable. I felt Buffy’s pain as Angel lost his soul. I cheered for her when she used the rocket launcher against the Judge. I cried when she sent Angel to Hell and felt so devastated that she decided to run away. I wanted her to be happy in Season 3, even as Angel was sending her mixed messages before deciding on leaving her. I loved it whenever she embraced her Slayer duties and used her powers to stand up against all who opposed her, especially in Season 4. I wanted to hug her in Season 5 when she suffered so many losses and finally decided to embrace her gift. I wanted to be there for her in Season 6 when she couldn’t find a single soul who understood what she really felt except for one particular reluctant ally. And I was on her side in Season 7, even when everyone else except for that same reluctant ally was turning against her.

I knew that I would love the show and I knew that Buffy was always going to be my fave, but there were some things I didn’t expect.

One of them was me growing to love Spike. From what my friends told me and what I read on TV Tropes, I assumed that Spike would be this poorly written character that got a large fanbase because he was the bad guy or that he was the Buffy equivalent of Loki. Boy, was I proven wrong! Getting the chip didn’t make Spike less of a badass. One fan of Buffy pointed out that it actually made him even more badass. I can’t help but agree because although I liked Spike as a comic relief character in Season 4, it wasn’t until Season 5 that I realized that I was falling for the bleach blonde vampire.

So I guess you’re wondering why and how I fell in love with this particular vampire even though I originally watched the show because the vampires were bad guys.

It’s pretty much a matter of empathy. I understood what he was going through, to an extent. I tend to sympathize more with people who experience unrequited love rather than people who are being chased by someone whose feelings they don’t returned, although both have happened to me. Spike was stupid, don’t get me wrong, but he was a bad guy who was trying to make the best of a bad situation. He stood up to a Hell Goddess and refused to reveal any information about Dawn, even if it meant getting himself killed. He helped Buffy try to deal with her depression in Season 6, even though his actions were horribly misguided. He got his soul back after realizing that his misguided actions led him to pushing things too far and he ended up saving the world in “Chosen.”

Tara Maclay was a character who didn’t appear until Season 4 and [SPOILER ALERT] ended her run towards the end of Season 6. She’s one of the characters I wish had more screen time because I saw a lot of myself in her. We were both introverted and intuitive. I loved that she did her best to help Dawn and Buffy out in Season 5 and felt like a genuine member of the family, but she was pushed to the side and eventually left the show in the most heartwrenching episode that to this day I refuse to watch after seeing it once. I also liked that she was friendly to Spike. She didn’t judge him like the other members of the Scooby Gang and she could do magic without falling into darkness like Willow. And without going into detail (again), I understood how Tara felt when it came to people who tried to control her. She learns how to stand up for herself. If I could change one thing about the show (other than how “Chosen” ended), it would be so that Tara would’ve been a bigger asset to the team.

Tomorrow, I look into the villains of Buffy and talk more about the process of catharsis.