Buffy 6×08: Tabula Rasa

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 11/13/2001]

This is a fun, emotional, and moderately probing episode that unfortunately isn’t consistently so. The first half or so along with the end of the episode are excellent and provide all kinds of important, memorable, and intriguing moments. All the stuff in between, though, is another story. I’ll concede that the middle material is occasionally hilarious but, unlike “Something Blue” [4×09] for example, it just doesn’t have very much depth or value. Did any of the memory-loss stuff propel any character arcs forward? No. Even for Willow, because it was her act of causing the memory loss that was the last straw for Tara. So, this episode marks one of those rare occasions where the main plot did not service the characters and, instead, we got it the other way around, played for (some admittedly fun) laughs. Because of this, I don’t feel the plot works very well.

Since “Tabula Rasa” is so cleanly split into different parts, I’m going to talk about the pre-spell stuff and the post-spell stuff separately (exactly like the episode itself is structured) — the former being the much meatier topic. It begins doing something that I never tire of and is extremely rare in television: good, solid, and immediate follow-up from the events of the previous episode. In this case it involves Spike running up to Buffy trying to pry her thoughts out on their big kiss in “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] . Buffy claims it was the spell and that it will never happen again, although we (and Spike) can see right through her words.

This episode-to-episode continuity continues strong when the Scoobies discuss the big news of Buffy’s deathly whereabouts. Each person has a very unique reaction that’s in character and still interesting. Willow says she was selfish (which is true), but then suggests another reckless action: doing a spell to make Buffy forget she was ever in heaven. This is typical of the way Willow’s been doing a lot of things lately: using spells to make things better in uber quick time. A shame she didn’t take what happened in “Something Blue” [4×09] to heart, but that’s not where the character has been heading since then, which is the point. Although robbing Buffy of her heavenly memories would, in the short term, make her happier, it is completely side-stepping the real issues. Plus, heaven was a happy place, somewhere Buffy felt endlessly warm and loved. Even if that memory causes her pain by contrast now, it is still a huge sin to rob someone of knowledge, let alone happy knowledge. Buffy’s traumatized enough. The Scoobies must suck it up and deal with the horrible decision they made in resurrecting Buffy, but Willow’s not listening.

Tara’s reaction is mute until Willow starts the undoing discussion. This is when Tara angrily bursts out “No! No more spells! … God, what is wrong with you!?” She’s been extremely clear of her opinion of magic and its proper use since she was introduced, but especially clear in S5 up until now. The fact Willow’s completely ignoring her partner (while erasing her memory) combines to push Tara to threaten ending their relationship. Tara gives Willow one final chance to show she can live without this magic on a daily basis, and Willow fails nearly immediately while additionally screwing around with everyone’s memories again and “fixing things to [her] liking.” This episode shows just how much growth Tara’s had since S4 and, while very sad to see, she’s completely right to show this kind of individual strength.

Xander’s opinion of Buffy’s situation is probably the most intriguing of them all. Although he pretty much agrees they made a monumental mistake, I sympathize with him when he says he’s having a hard time feeling bad that their friend is alive. While I have sympathy, it doesn’t make his statement anything less than extremely selfish. Buffy’s in awful emotional torment and pain because they made her ‘alive’ again. It’s time for Xander to see the context of the situation. But as Anya will tell him in “Selfless” [7×05] , “Xander, you’ve always seen what you wanted to.” Here and throughout most of S6, this trait of Xander is in full effect until he is forced to see what is sitting right in front of his Xander-face. On the other end of the spectrum, Anya’s reaction to this Buffy stuff is unsurprisingly superficial: harps and clouds. At least she keeps quiet and is understanding during the rest of the conversation.

Someone who sure didn’t have a superficial reaction to the situation is Giles. His conversation to her about going back to England is just as heart-breaking as Tara telling Willow it isn’t going to work out, if not moreso. Right or wrong, Giles has made his choice and Buffy isn’t happy about it one bit, going as far as practically begging him to stay and telling him he’s making the wrong decision. Both Buffy and Giles have valid respective points — Buffy’s being the emotional one and Giles’ being the rational one. Although one may lean to be inclined to agree with Giles here, it’s important to remember sometimes that we’re all human beings with complex, powerful, and relevant emotions. Although our emotions should never rule our rational thought, the same must be said of the reverse. This whole situation, as pointed out in my “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] review, is very complicated and, well, perfectly represents how real life actually is.

When Xander and Willow enter the Magic Box before the spell occurs Willow says, “Thanks for the jacket. It’s cold out there.” Xander replies with something incredibly subtext-filled in “Not a problem, the cold only makes me stronger and more macho-like.” The cold only makes me stronger, huh? Don’t I recall hearing Buffy saying something about touching the fire and it freezing her… about her friends not being able to face the cold? Didn’t Angel grow stronger after hitting rock bottom and feeling “the cold” in “Reprise” (AtS 2×15)? I think we know the answer to all these questions is a big yes! This will be true of Buffy as well, but it will be a much longer, personally painful, and harrowing internal journey than Angel’s in AtS S2 or, for that matter, anything else in the entire Buffyverse. This is also the exact reason why Giles is leaving, of which he’s going to tell the group right after Xander’s comment. I think we’ve just witnessed some more sublime writing!

At the Magic Box a big scene starts unravelling. Willow tells Buffy’s she’s sorry. Buffy’s reaction is fitting: apologies don’t help one bit for what the Scoobies did. Normally I’d be pissed that Willow’s spell cut Buffy actually verbalizing her feelings out loud short, but in this case there’s actually severe consequences from it, and not just for Willow. If Buffy had gotten out what she was trying to say, it would have been an important step to begin her healing process and things may have not dove into living hell for her after this episode. Interesting to think about.

Anyway, it’s at this point in the episode where the interesting material starts to disappear. There’s still a few things, though, that I find worth talking about. For one, the initial memory loss sequence is hilarious. Everyone seems to maintain their base feelings for one another. It’s like the part of their memories that holds their acquired instincts is still there, and only their raw memories have been lost. The thing I find most fascinating about this entire process is how Buffy begins to stroke Dawn’s hair again, something we haven’t seen out of her since S5. This is a really nice little touch that reminds us that, yes, Buffy still deeply cares about Dawn, but her revived situation is overriding her normal feelings and reactions. It’s also a hint that Buffy didn’t “come back wrong” in the demon-y sense.

It’s about at this point where the episode really starts to lose steam (and humor). The rest of the memory loss material — the sewer chase and the Buffy/Spike combo fighting outside (aside from Spike’s “I’ve got a soul!” speech) — is quite boring. It’s not until after everyone gets their memories back that I become interested in the episode again. When Buffy gets her memory back we see this huge contrast in feeling represented in only her face. Her fun time wailing on vamps with no memory is immediately dampened by this huge visible wave of depression and pain. In fact, being kicked repeatedly in the gut seems to hurt her much less than the emotional pain she’s feeling.

Spike reaches his hand out to help Buffy up. She just looks at him with sickness, disgust, and confusion that is completely meant to reflect her feelings and choices up to this point. Those emotions — sickness, disgust, and confusion — are where these two are headed as soon as the next episode, so that look from Buffy says a lot. The ending song “Goodbye to You” by Michelle Branch is very obvious in meaning, but powerful nonetheless as we watch Giles flying away for good on a plane, Tara packing up her stuff and leaving Willow, Dawn in tears, Willow in the corner of her bathroom crying, and Buffy completely failing at listening to her feelings of disgust with herself while having an extremely passionate/hot kiss with Spike.

And so the extra complicated times begin! To sum this episode up, I enjoyed it a lot but felt that something was lacking. That something boils down to the disjointed and unsupportive nature of the main plot. The memory loss doesn’t serve the characters very much and it doesn’t show the audience (us) very much either. With that said, the rest of the episode, which is still a sizable chunk, is excellent and does offer up loads of development and assorted character-related goodies. So, like most plots that struggle but still have a lot of excellent material in the episode, this gets a B+.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy getting all jittery after throwing Spike on the ground.
+ The awesome visual of seeing the flame of Willow’s spell burning transparently over a photo of Buffy in a happier time.
+ All the “Restless” [4×22] connections such as the shark “on land” and Spike being “like a son” to Giles.
+ Buffy calling herself Joan.
+ The group scream scene. Hilarious!
+ Buffy’s super excitement over being uber strong.
+ Anya summoning endless bunnies. I just love that popping sound!

– The “loan shark.” Simply too silly. Thankfully it doesn’t take up a big part of the episode.
– The shark’s minions getting uber cliched and annoying dialogue.


Foreshadowing

* Spike rambles on about thinking he’s a vampire with a soul. This is both foreshadowing of Spike’s future and, thanks to Buffy’s “how lame is that,” a hilarious jab at Angel.


[Score]

85/100

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91 thoughts on “Buffy 6×08: Tabula Rasa”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on May 16, 2007.]

    Love your review, mikejer. Although I would still give it a 90. I found it really hilarious, although it is no Something Blue and maybe I am a little corny but I liked the loan shark being a shark and his comments. Just one question: we know that Tara was right by leaving but if she thought Willow was using way too much magic, don`t you think she could have helped kick the habit instead of just giving her an ultimatum.
    Keep up the good work, Mikejer.

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  2. [Note: rick posted this comment on May 16, 2007.]

    Mike, I agree for the most part that the middle part of the ep is a little slow, but I feel there’s a little more than you allow for. To start, looking at the title of the episode, the memory-loss parts become more significant. Tabula Rasa was a term devised by John Locke to explain the empirical approach to human development. Denying any innate ideas or abilities (knowledge a priori, or knowledge prior to experience), Locke argued instead that we all start off tabula rasa (or as blank slates) and gain knowledge a posteriori (or through experience). What’s important here for the episode is the question: “What if we could all start over.” None of the troubles of S6 would need to be dealth with. Everyone could just run away from their pasts. Buffy could enjoy the thrill of her strenght, WIllow could relive the slow progression of her relationship with Tara, and Dawn could go back to the annoying, and here aggravatingly unrealistic, childishness.

    So yep, there are probs, but I do see a satisfactory connection there. And the look on Buffy’s face when she realizes the truth is shocking. Why? Because we can’t just start over.

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  3. [Note: rick posted this comment on May 16, 2007.]

    Buffyholic,
    I would be as harsh on Willow as was Tara. The ultimatum was completely deserved. Tara had constantly tried to help Willow by telling her that the magic was “not good for [her].” But Willow ignores the warnings and continues to violate Tara. Tara, then, must now look out for her own well-being, as staying with Willow (or an alcoholic by extension) will endanger her own life, safety, or dignity.

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  4. [Note: Jake?! posted this comment on May 16, 2007.]

    Agreed Rick, I don’t see how Tara really had a choice. As she says in OMWF, “I wish I could trust that it was just this once…” I can only begin to imagine what it would be like to realize that my significant other had been invading my mind and erasing my memories, to wonder, “how many times?”

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  5. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on May 17, 2007.]

    I love TR, for being the saddest funny episode in tv-history. As many laughs as there are in the middle (and I like the scene in the sewer, with Dawn’s “it’s scary, but somehow familiar”) as many moments to burst into tears are in the beginning and in the end.
    And good observation, that it was an extra-special move to cut Buffy off in the middle of her spoken confession, although I would say it was for another reason. I just enjoy watching emotions acted out much more, than watching them spoken out, especially with this really good cast. If anything is verbalized in a dialog (or much worse a voice over) I’d rather listen to a radio play.

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  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on May 17, 2007.]

    I agree with both Rick and Jake?! but I still think that Tara should have stayed with her a bit longer. I mean, an alcoholic(for instance) needs help and support to deal with the problem, he cannot face it alone and Tara kind of did that. She left her alone, to deal with the problem all by herself. I´m not defending Willow, not at all. I think what Willow did is beyond excuses. Maybe they should an organization called “MA-MAGIC ANONYMOUS”. By the way, it is scary to see Willow like that.

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  7. [Note: Kyarorin posted this comment on May 17, 2007.]

    Heh, they do have a Spellcaster’s Anonymous later in the season. I loved this episode though. Xander’s praying to his various Gods was hilarious, and Spike’s rundown of British men was great. I agree about the loan shark though. Great review.

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  8. [Note: monkeypants posted this comment on May 18, 2007.]

    I actually find what Willow did to be very disturbing. Everyone’s concern in the show seemed to be more that Willow was using too much magic and less about what magic she actually did – which, to me, when I really think about what it would be like if I discovered that a loved one had erased memories from my mind, it’s just completely haunting. And I agree with Jake?! that of course you’d wonder how many times they’d done it – as well as what else they’d done…And, well, I don’t want to get flamed for this or anything, but…it was kind of like metaphysical rape. And yet people give the soulless vampire a hard time. I think it’s difficult to make a comparison, because obviously only the latter occurs in real life and therefore it’s a sensitive subject, but I think I’d be more tramautized if someone violated my mind than if they violated my body. Maybe I’m just weird for seeing it like that though, because they don’t seem to make a deal out of it at all (or even really address it); they just make a big deal about the fact that Willow’s using magic to solve all her problems.

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  9. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 18, 2007.]

    I saw it as a form of rape too.

    I had written a long post on it and the rest of the episode but I didn’t copy it and it erased.

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  10. [Note: Latoya posted this comment on May 18, 2007.]

    Tara: How could you Willow? You could you after what Glory did to me?
    Willow: I didn’t mean to–
    Tara: To VIOLATE my mind like that.
    Willow: Violate? No, I just didn’t want us to fight anymore.
    Tara: You don’t want to fight. You don’t fight. You don’t use magic to make a fight go away.

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  11. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on May 19, 2007.]

    I love this episode! it reveals so much about the characters and (i think) sets up the events of the rest of the series really well. There is so much information revealed through out. We get to see where each character is ‘at’. i might write a longer post for the discussion forum to explain my thoughts.

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  12. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on May 23, 2007.]

    My main problem is just that the problems you highlight spoil this episode for me, Mike, and it comes across as a wasted opportunity.

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  13. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 31, 2007.]

    Sometimes I am really slow, I never thought about the loan shark being a shark lol.

    Anyways, an important point I think you missed mikejer is that since, like you said, everyone retains their acquired instincts and only loose their memories, we get to see the true nature of the characters. For instance, Xander is initially attracted to Willow (ok, it was a girl and she was resting her head on him but still…) but he never once feels anything toward Anya, big foreshadowing. In addition, Dawn acts very childish, bringing us back to how she wants to be treated like an adult but is not really ready for it. Giles remains Mr. Cool and Buffy takes charge and handles herself admirably, which goes to show that she can in fact make it through this.

    BTW Latoya, next time your post fails and you didn’t copy it, just click the back button and your text will re-appear, then refresh the page (your text will stay but there will be a new code) then enter the new code, i’ve done this a few times myself.

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  14. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 14, 2007.]

    I think I enjoyed the ep a bit more than you seem to have. It had its faults, but I found it interesting to see what the characters did without those pesky memories. I especially find it interesting that Spike DIDN’T KNOW he was a vamp. Even when he was in vampface, he acts offended when Buffy (Joan) suggests that he’s a vampire. Spike must not have much of the vampiric bloodlust going on to be completely oblivious to that.

    And I was very happy to see Tara verbally smack Willow around. I think it would be wonderfully selfless for Tara to be able to stay and try to help Willow, but Tara has to think about her own safety, as well. She knows that Willow violated her once. She doesn’t know if it happened any other times. But she can’t be expected to stay in a relationship like that. It’s not selfish. It’s smart. It’s not easy for her, because she does still love Willow. But she recognizes that she needs to leave for her own well-being.

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  15. [Note: mmmtravis posted this comment on March 5, 2008.]

    Xander: (laughs) Sorry, I just got back the memory of seeing “King Ralph”.

    Definitely one of the funniest one liners of the season. Not sure how you could forget it!

    Like

  16. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    ‘blimey, shagging, bollocks, knickers…. oh god im english too’ Spikes one funny fucker. and Anya hittin Giles with the book. ha ha ha ha.

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  17. [Note: Jvamp posted this comment on June 17, 2008.]

    I loved this episode. Spikes line “Maybe I’m a noble vampire” and the growth of the relationships despite the memory loss is well handled. Tara and Willow realising their attraction, Buffy and Dawn realising they’re sisters, it all fits with the emotion over magic stuff that will ultimately lead to Xander saving Willow in the finale.

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  18. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on August 27, 2008.]

    okay at this point im incredibly im incredibly confused to what xander’s “special ability” is here.
    during selfless anya says that xander always sees the problems he wants to. but then in potential dawn says that xander can always see the problems in others lives.
    if these statements dont clearly contradict each other then i dont know what do!

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  19. [Note: Paula posted this comment on August 27, 2008.]

    Jaden, you’re not wrong. 🙂 I mean, in many ways I don’t think the writers ever had a very clear idea of how Xander fit in.

    However, it’s entirely possible for a person to be quite perceptive when it comes to other people’s affairs, and deeply stupid when it comes to their own. In fact, it’s easier that way – one tends to be too close to one’s own life to see clearly.

    (I think what Anya said in Selfless was that Xander “always sees what he wants to see”, and when it comes to his own life and his relationship with Anya particularly after becoming deeply attached to her, I think that’s pretty much true.)

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  20. [Note: Nix posted this comment on August 27, 2008.]

    Xander fits in very well as an Everyman. Just because he *wants* to have some extra ability like everyone else (!) doesn’t mean he’s got one. He can sometimes be perceptive, certainly: but he can also be really obtuse. This is Everyman to a T (can you say the same isn’t true of you? Well, OK, perhaps Everywoman in your case. Damn, English needs some new pronouns.)

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  21. [Note: Exit8buffy posted this comment on January 19, 2009.]

    I disagree and say that this episode did have significance in moving the story plot forward. Of course it wasn’t a big turn kind of thing, but without this episode, Tara wouldn’t have found out about the spell, she wouldn’t have left and Giles would never have left. Besides, it was funny. This should have a higher grade but I do value what you say, etc.

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  22. [Note: Zillex posted this comment on March 4, 2009.]

    I really love this episode. While the middle memory loss part may not have much ongoing significance, I’m glad we got to have some silly fun before the onslaught of depression begins again.

    One thing I noticed, when Buffy is trying to convince Giles to stay, she says “I can’t do this without you” which is what she said to him way back at the end of Passions.

    Its a shame ASH wanted to leave the show, because Giles leaving seemed really strange to me at this point. Who cares if Buffy has to rely on him for a while…shes gone through more than anyone else can imagine, has more responsibilities than anyone else, plus she has to regularly save the world.

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  23. [Note: Sam posted this comment on September 13, 2009.]

    Gabrielleabelle wrote “I especially find it interesting that Spike DIDN’T KNOW he was a vamp. Even when he was in vampface, he acts offended when Buffy (Joan) suggests that he’s a vampire. Spike must not have much of the vampiric bloodlust going on to be completely oblivious to that.”

    Is this suggestive of Spike’s lack of vampiric bloodlust or just his lack of self-awareness? After all, when he first woke up from after the spell had taken effect, he didn’t even realize he was BRITISH and was making fun of Giles for that. At this point in the show, Spike is infamous for possessing amazing insight into other people’s behavior while being somewhat clueless as to his own, so I think that could be it.

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  24. [Note: Susan posted this comment on September 18, 2009.]

    I am really enjoying the reviews you write and the comments written by everyone else. So glad I discovered this site. I have to say though VN6Athat this episode is one of my top five favorites and I would have given it a much higher score.

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  25. [Note: Jean posted this comment on September 20, 2009.]

    This episode is similar to ATS’s Spin The Bottle in season 4. Angel also loses his memory, and does not recall he’s a vampire. However, when he’s alone with Cordelia, and can sense the blood flowing through her jugular, he starts vamping out.

    I guess it’s the emotions that turn on the game face.

    BTW, great reviews.

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  26. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on October 1, 2009.]

    Can’t believe that nobody’s even mentioned Giles and Anya’s ‘engagement.’ That was my favourite part! It’s so funny that they keep calling each other ‘darling’ and ‘Rupey’ I love those scenes!

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  27. [Note: Scoobasteve83 posted this comment on October 12, 2009.]

    Hey Mike!

    I just cannot believe you actually left this great comment out… It’s when Spike is looking for any sign of his name in his jacket.

    Spike: RANDY GILES??? Why not just call me Horny Giles. Or desperate-for-a-shag Giles? I KNEW there was a reason I hated you!

    This is hilarious stuff, imo. One of the funniest remark in the entire series.

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  28. [Note: Kathy posted this comment on October 29, 2009.]

    I really love the song at the end, “Good Bye To You”, it is such a potent expression of what is going on for the characters. In your review you stated that Buffy was “failing to listen to her feelings of disgust about herself” when she kissed Spike, but I have a different take on it, inspired in part by the song and its lyrics. The song is about regretful partings, and I think that Buffy kissing Spike is about her finally accepting that the person she was before she was dead will NEVER be back, that the person she was is utterly gone. She had a brief reprieve from her depression and despair and a return to her happier self while her memory was gone, but with her memory restored as well as everything else that has come unraveled, that is over with. Not only was she yanked out of heaven, but she came back a very different person. In a sense, by embracing Spike, she is embracing this new person and a different way of being-even if that person is darker.

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  29. [Note: Cirrus posted this comment on November 19, 2009.]

    I really, really enjoyed this episode, it really was the Something Blue of S6 and is often overshadowed because it’s after OM,WF. I thought this episode was absolutely bloody hilarious, and the most noticeable thing about it was how amazingly it was acted. I could totally believe that they all had no idea who they were; every single character was played brilliantly, Willow and Giles especially really seemed to shine, so compliments to their actors!

    I agree with monkeypants, too — I totally thought this was the time for Tara to leave Willow, who really was at one of her lowest points here. She really did violate Tara’s mind, and if I were in her situation I’d be a little angrier to Willow. But then, I’m not very much like Tara.

    I disagree on what you said though, Mike, about this episode not showing us very much — I think it showed us a lot. How certain characters gravitated towards one another (and how Xander and Anya didn’t, interesting bit of foreshadowing there), how without their memories they truly are — am I the only one who found it intriguing how Willow was relatively assertive, and Spike was slightly vulnerable? I know someone mentioned above that he didn’t notice he was a vampire because he’s not particularly self-aware, just like he didn’t notice he was British, but it’s a great testament to his character for him not to act ‘vampiric’. Seems that vampire nature may be a little mixed in with perceptions of vampires and how one is supposed to act.

    Anyway, I really adored this episode, and to be honest I enjoy watching it a lot more than I do OM,WF. It’s extremely amusing but doesn’t feel like it’s ever trying too hard or even trying at all — definitely deserving of at least an A, I feel.

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  30. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on December 6, 2009.]

    It was good to finally see Tara stand up to Willow about her use of magic. Also Buffy pleading with Giles to stay then storming off after not getting her way.

    I think Willow’s comment, “Thanks for the jacket, it’s cold out there.”, is just a reference point for the viewers to remember why she had Xanders jacket once the spell is in motion.

    Notice that Buffy/Joan spoke like Faith when she realized how strong she was. Her words are “wicked strong”, with similar facial expressions.

    Great seeing things talked about in ‘Restless’: The shark on land, Spike like a son to Giles. Spike even wearing the same clothes.

    Giles and Anya together. Giles and Spike. And a line that I always find funny for some reason. “Ready Randy?” “Ready Joan!”. And Xander being called Alex.

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  31. [Note: Zaphe posted this comment on January 1, 2010.]

    Mike, I love your review. Can I add something here that I noticed the opening scene of this episode also marked a change of Buffy’s attitude towards Spike again? Ever since After Life, they had been having quite a harmoniously friendly relationship. They had casual conversations similar to the one in the beginning of ‘Dead Things’. Buffy didnt insult Spike in every sentence and even shared her problems with him such as in ‘Life Serial’. However, soon as they kissed in OMTWF, Buffy changed back to the ways she was treating Spike in pre-Intervention days.

    My thought is that she was ashamed that she kissed him and realised she was one step closer to giving in her lustful feelings. She needed to distance herself by treating him badly as a means to remind herself that Spike is still a souless monster. I feel this is a kind of a turning point (after their real first kiss) of the roller-coaster Spuffy relationship.

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  32. [Note: Echo posted this comment on January 8, 2010.]

    I think I’m with Cirrus.

    I hated this ep when I saw it, but when I look back, it actually turned me off with a semi-relevant bit at the beginning. I absolutely could not buy that Spike was remotely intimidated by the demon loan shark. And then to dress up like an idiot and run through the daylight to escape them? (Especially since, as established in All the Way, he has a subterranean route to the cellar of the Magic Box anyway.) Spike’s comedy gold, and he’s mercurial enough that you can do a lot with him and get away with it, but THIS characterization was just horrendous.

    It actually shows a ton, I think, in addition to the obvious of Spike hypothesizing that he’s a noble vampire. The two I don’t really see in the comments I’ve read are that Buffy is protective of Spike when she sees him threatened, that she assumes that she and Spike will fight together to protect the others, and that she’s amazed and delighted to discover her superpowers. The last seems really significant, going way beyond her S6 depression. Buffy has always wished to be normal and give up her powers. But if she’s released from the sense of responsibility, she actually thinks it’s fabulous to be a super-strong fighting babe.

    And I loved that they called Xander “Alex.” That was just hilarious to me.

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  33. [Note: Susan posted this comment on January 27, 2010.]

    Just rewatched this episode–a big favorite. One thing I’ve never understood is the reference that Xander makes concerning King Ralph when he first gets his memory back. I wish someone would explain it to me since it makes him laugh. Also, noticed that when Anya first discovers her name she doesn’t pronounce it correctly.

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  34. [Note: DFAS Giles posted this comment on January 29, 2010.]

    This is one of my favourite episodes, no question there. I find the dialogue hilarious, particularly between Spike and Giles, and Giles and Anya. The wrong book! Just laugh-out-loud funny.

    Each time I watch Willow walking out of the sewers with Tara following behind I am reminded of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld. It marks the end of their relationship, but maybe it signifies something even worse for Tara (although there are no shots of Willow looking back).

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  35. [Note: Alan posted this comment on March 28, 2010.]

    This episode highlighted a couple of “TV show morality” issues that I have always found a bit repugnant.

    1) “Using magic to make your life easier is immoral.”

    This was often used in 60s shows like “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie”. Darrin insisted Samantha do the housework by hand instead of just twitching her nose. It seemed more like a way to subjugate her than out of concern for her soul or whatever. As for Tara, she has been a witch for longer than Willow, but after a short time with Willow, she became the “no magic” killjoy. That would make sense if it was shown that using magic in the Buffyverse had a cost (e.g., you will become evil, go to hell, get bad breath ) — but that was never shown; and was never mentioned earlier when Willow was doing “good” magic. Of course if you use magic immorally, as Willow was here, that is bad, but not because it’s “magic”. If she’d done the same thing by some chemical drug, it would be equally as bad. Complaining about Willow using magic to decorate a room for a party (a couple of episodes ago) illustrates that it’s just the writers forcing a point of view on the characters, in the service of “foreshadowing”, that makes no sense.

    2) “Giles has to leave so Buffy can grow.”

    Buffy’s personal growth is more important than saving the world? This kind of absurdity almost inevitably turns up in a serious drama after a few years when the relationships become the focus of the stories rather than the life-and-death consequences of their actions. (That’s why I gave up ER several years ago, for instance.) That’s why in real life, effective police, doctors, soldiers, often have really screwed up personal lives. When you put “personal growth” ahead of saving lives, that means lives will be lost — or they would be in real life, not in TV land where the writers make sure that the protagonists “learn lessons”, while a few red shirts may die to show poignancy.

    In this case, Giles could easily have stepped back and made himself available only when he was really needed. Or he could have just told Buffy to deal with things like Dawn’s delinquencies herself, while still giving vital advice on demon and magic lore, weapons and tactics. Is he such a wimp that he can’t say that and stick to it?

    I’m sure though that Buffy will be fine, validating this choice. But that is just as unreal and untrue wish fulfilment, in any universe, scientific or magical, as slash fanfic.

    Like

  36. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on March 28, 2010.]

    Alan:

    I’ve read your two points and I completely agree with the second one.

    However, I strongly disagree with the first one.

    You’ve said:

    “That would make sense if it was shown that using magic in the Buffyverse had a cost (e.g., you will become evil, go to hell, get bad breath ) — but that was never shown; and was never mentioned earlier when Willow was doing “good” magic.”

    Yes, the consecuences of using magic for selfish motives in this show have been shown several times. I use the word “selfish” and not “bad”, because I think it is more adecuate to ilustrate my point.

    In Season 2, Xander’s spell to make Cordelia suffer made all the women in town go crazy for him. This was extremely dangerous. In the same episode, Amy’s spell turned Buffy into a rat. Another good example is Season 4, when in “Something Blue” Willow casts a spell to forget Oz and all her wishes finish becoming true. And the list could go on.

    Yes, these episodes were lighthearted; but all of them show that in the Buffyverse using magic for selfish or shallow reasons always have consecuences. In other words, there is no inconsistency here with previous episodes. You could agree or not with the message, but it is incorrect to say that it is being dropped here coming from nowhere.

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  37. [Note: Alan posted this comment on March 29, 2010.]

    “Yes, the consecuences of using magic for selfish motives in this show have been shown several times.”

    These were bad because they were selfish, and because they hurt people, not because they were magical.

    In this episode Giles and Anya were trying to use magic to protect themselves. No suggestion that was evil (though it obviously wasn’t very effective). Willow used magic a many times for “good”.

    What was bad about making party decorations magically? Changing clothes instantly? But Tara was very disapproving of these harmless uses of magic.

    My point was, until this season, using magic was no different than scientific technology. But now “it has a cost” and seems to corrupt the user. That’s a change in the rules of the Buffyverse.

    Probably the subtext is more that “power corrupts” (as the three evil nerds), but it seems like they’re again making people act illogically to demonstrate this.

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  38. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on March 29, 2010.]

    I’m sorry, I still not agree.

    Trying to protect yourself is a use of magic I wouldn’t consider selfish. When i say “selfish” motives, I mean using it to get in an easier way exactly what you want from others or from your environment. Willow’s wall was used in Season 5 and 7 and there were no consecuences since it was magic to protect and not to “get” something. Season 4 episode “Something Blue” shows exactly that it is about magic. It wasn’t in Willow’s intentions to hurt other people, but they indeed were selfish since she had broke up with Oz very recently. She was trying to use magic to avoid her feelings, something that should follow a normal process.

    In Season 3 “Doppelgangland”, Willow and Anya were trying to bring Anya’s necklace from the alternate reality troughout a spell. Sure, Willow didn’t know its real power; but in any case it was a material stuff from someone. And all this brought Vamp Willow to the normal reality!

    “My point was, until this season, using magic was no different than scientific technology.”

    Everytime magic was used until this season in order to “get something” for yourself, there were consecuences with different levels of danger. Not necesarily you had to use magic against someone else. In contrast, Willow has used her computer since Season 1 and there were never problems directly related to it.

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  39. [Note: Elbie posted this comment on June 8, 2010.]

    Did anyone else notice that GILES AND ANYA SLEPT TOGETHER??! Ha!

    Anya: “Loo, shag, brolly; what the hell is all that?” Loo, shag, and brolly would be words that Giles would have used since the memory loss.

    Then they wiped down the table shamefully at the end…

    The same table that Anya and Spike eventually have sex on (I think…)!

    And Giles – sleeping with people whenever something mystical messes with his head.

    Hilarious!

    Like

  40. [Note: Elbie posted this comment on June 8, 2010.]

    Oops! Just re-watched the episode and noticed Giles responding by saying, “There’s no way you could remember me saying any of those words.” Which doesn’t mean that they didn’t have sex. It just makes my argument slightly weaker. My total bad.

    Like

  41. [Note: Amanda posted this comment on June 14, 2010.]

    @Susan “King Ralph” is a John Candy flick from the early ’90’s in which John Candy’s character is a long-lost relative of a royal family and inadvertently inherits the throne to a country. Xandar was laughing because his memory of seeing that flick came back.

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  42. [Note: Susan posted this comment on June 25, 2010.]

    Elbie, I have a hard time imagining when Giles and Anya could possibly have slept together in the time they were in the shop. It seems to me that from the very beginning, right after the others left the shop, they were up to their eyeballs in bunnies and other magical things. She was standing on the table to get away from the bunnies when she made the remark about shagging,etc., well before they found the right magical solution to solve their problem. And it was shortly after that when the spell was broken. Their cleaning the table, the floor, and anything else they could always seemed to me to be just a way of covering their embarrassment for kissing each other. I’d be interested to know if others saw the scene the way you did.

    And Amanda, thanks so much for clearing up the King Ralph mystery for me. Glad to have that solved.

    Mikejer, are you still working on reviews? I miss your insight and still look forward to your season 7 review and re-reviews of season 1.

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  43. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 25, 2010.]

    Susan, the Season 7 Review is over half done right now. I’ve made a lot of progress in the last week. If you want to see more micro-updates on the progress of it you should check out the CriticallyTouched Twitter page (click on the Twitter icon in the top-right corner).

    I’m also really looking forward to starting up my polish pass of the series. But one thing at a time. 🙂

    Like

  44. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on July 10, 2010.]

    this probably the best episode of the series i can see why buffy thought a vamp with a soul is lame they just aren’t as fun plus they’re good guys so you have no reason to stake them

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  45. [Note: myze posted this comment on October 26, 2010.]

    @Amanda

    “King Ralph” is a John Goodman movie, but other than that, you got the description right. 😉 Funny movie, too, albeit a bit silly (haven’t seen it in about 10 years).

    Like

  46. [Note: Kevbot posted this comment on November 10, 2010.]

    I agree with many of your points, but I do think this episode had a point with the “silliness” in the middle. The season needed a respite from darkness, badly, and it got it here. I think that was the chief design of the main plot.

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  47. [Note: Jermzy posted this comment on November 26, 2010.]

    I have to say, Tara leaving made me lose a LOT of respect for her. Willow was willing to look after Tara when she was mindless, even if she never regained her sanity, and Tara can’t stick out an addiction to magic?

    After everything they’d been through it seems a little like a slap in the face to Willow.

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  48. [Note: Miscellaneopolan posted this comment on December 3, 2010.]

    I never made the connection between the loan shark demon and the land-shark comment from Restless. Huh.

    While on the subject, I think the loan shark demon is both awful and awesome. It’s incredibly corny, but I have to laugh at the sheer ballsiness of it. To have that obvious a joke walking around for much of the episode: it takes guts. Or possibly a complete lack of self-awareness. Either way, it makes me laugh and groan at the same time.

    The memory-loss portion of the episode has less substance than the other parts, but it wasn’t completely lacking in meat. Plus it was funny, and I find I’m very forgiving of episodes which genuinely make me laugh, substance be damned.

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  49. [Note: Jonny posted this comment on December 12, 2010.]

    I agree with Lucy – Anya and Giles together is hilarious to watch. I always wondered if Anya’s belief that bunnies are scary is a salute to Monty Python (and the Holy Grail).

    This episode more than any other to me makes it clear that Xander is way too immature to marry, he acts like a kid while under the spell and Anya doesn’t even consider that Xander and not Giles might be her fiance. Love all the talk about names too when they check out their IDs.

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  50. [Note: John posted this comment on January 4, 2011.]

    @Jermzy- I think the issue was that Willow had twice now modified Tara’s mind with magic. Especially after what Glory did to her, that must have been particularly horrifying, and is indeed a form of rape. We see that Tara loves Willow and wants to help her, but she just can’t be with Willow if Willow is going to continue to violate Tara and rape her memories. I found this perfectly reasonable.

    Overall, I really loved this episode; it represents a great mix of comedy and serious issues that the rest of S6 begins to lack.

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  51. [Note: John posted this comment on January 8, 2011.]

    Also, while in hindsight the Scoobies were completely wrong to bring Buffy back, I can’t blame them at all for doing it.

    The only other person they knew who had ever fallen into a portal to a hell dimension (Angel) was tormented endlessly at the hands of horrific powers. All the evidence would have suggested that Buffy was suffering the same fate. Thus, they really had no option but to try and bring her back; to knowingly leave her to suffer that fate when they possessed even the remotest ability to bring her back would be unforgivable.

    So yes, they did the wrong thing, and their actions after they knew what they’d done were largely very misguided. But I can’t blame them for bringing Buffy back; it was under the circumstances the only thing they could have done.

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  52. [Note: jane posted this comment on March 17, 2011.]

    First of all I want to thank you for your great reviews, I love reading them after re-watching this amazing show… so thanks for taking the time to write such insightful articles.

    I actually don’t agree with your opinion of this episode though, I love this one and think it may be one of the strongest of the season. You say that the weakest part is the memory loss plot but that, for me anyway, is the strongest part. The episode starts right after OMWF, the tone is dark and there is such an ominous feeling of what is to come. Each character is going through turmoil and confusion and we know that Giles and possibly Tara will soon be gone. Then suddenly, the spell happens and we see the characters at their essence again, without the heavy baggage they have collected over the past 5 seasons. Everyone can be new and fresh again, free from their history and their true characters are revealed, Buffy’s joy in her strength, Tara and Willows love, Spike’s vulnerability…… they can start over.

    I think this episode works so well because it shows how dark and depressing the series has become and it is highlighted so well with the memory loss plot when we can see what things would be like with a fresh start.

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  53. [Note: debisib posted this comment on May 27, 2011.]

    This episode isn’t really slow imo. The parts that are not moving the characters forward, are made up for and more, with the hilarity that ensues. Joan is funny. Randy is hysterical. The Vampire with a soul, help the helpless was great. “and i think im a little gay”. There wasnt a part of this episode where I wasn’t, at the very least, entertained.

    The end, with michelle branch’s best version ( which i cant find an Mp3 of anywhere or torrent… and its killing me so if anyone can help id love you forever.)of Goodbye to you playing while willow is crying. It’s one of the best moments in the series in my eyes. The whole scene, Tara trying to hug dawn, buffy ignoring then kissing spike.

    I def think this episode deserves at LEAST a 90… and i almost always think u guys are right.

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  54. [Note: sacundim posted this comment on June 21, 2011.]

    This episode was pretty cool. There was one major negative point in the episodes that followed it: Willow, for no good reason at all, performs a powerful spell that makes everybody forget who they are and all their evil-fighting knowledge and skills, places them all in danger from the loan shark and his vamps, and NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT IT AGAIN.

    In later episodes, Buffy says she was completely oblivious that Willow was having problems with magic. Hey, Buffy, here’s a hint: WILLOW CAST A SPELL THAT NEARLY KILLED YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS FOR NO GOOD REASON.

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  55. [Note: Dave posted this comment on August 18, 2011.]

    Good job Tara.

    She was way too friendly with a CLEARLY ignorant Willow. She was absolutely right when she said: “you’re changing things to your liking, even me.”

    Willow looks so ignorant of what she’s been doing, it’s almost sad.

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  56. [Note: Odon posted this comment on January 6, 2012.]

    Regarding Giles decision to leave, there’s a line in this episode that’s worth keeping in mind: “As long as I stay, when things arise that you feel you can’t handle,

    you’ll turn to me. And I’ll step in, because… (insert platonic “I love you” here) Because I hate to see you suffer.”

    Giles is making the point that he’s not just worried about Buffy being weak and constantly turning to him for help, but also that *he* is the one who’s weak. In that context his radical decision to remove himself entirely is understandable.

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  57. [Note: Hannah posted this comment on February 29, 2012.]

    At this point in the season, I don’t understand why they had Giles leave like that. The previous episode Buffy revealed that she had just been torn out of heaven against her will and tried to kill herself right afterwards. And Giles immediately heads back for England, telling her that she won’t be able to grow as a person if he is there? This makes sense if he left right after “Standing” in OMWF without hearing her confession, or even earlier in the series, like in seasons 5 or 4 (not that I’d want that of course). He leaves her, knowing she is in a fragile state and depressed, saying that its for her own good. During my Giles rant for this season, why does he think that Buffy needs to start her own life, getting a job to pay the bills? As a Watcher, he gets paid- Buffy doesn’t, even though she patrols regularly and does the Councils work for them. Slayer should not be an unpaid position, and if the Council refused to give her a salary, Giles should help paying her bills. Obviously, Buffy could not easily get a decent job with her education, experience, and odd hours so having her make her way on her own financially was just cruel and doomed to failure.

    I agree with Odon that it was more about Giles being “weak”, and possibly not wanting to go through Buffy’s death again. I think the events of “The Gift” tore him apart, and he believes by distancing himself, he won’t have to suffer.

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  58. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 29, 2012.]

    I agree with you that there is a selfish component to Giles leaving, Hannah. For me, though, it stems more from his desire to start up a life back in England more than anything else. Remember in “Restless” we saw how torn he was between his duties as Watcher, his fatherly love for Buffy, and his desire to pursue his other goals and interests in life (singing, possibly starting a family, etc.)?

    These more selfish reasons aren’t the only reason he goes back, of course. He also really does believe the time has come for Buffy to stand on her own two feet and learn how to deal with some of these problems are her own.

    It’s the combination of the two that lead Giles back to England, even though I think he partially regrets that decision later on.

    Like

  59. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    I think in defence to Giles, it wasn’t simply season 6 that triggered his leaving, he told Buffy in season 5, when Joyce died that she had to be the one to be a parent to Dawn not himself. She was the one who was responsible in parental terms now.

    Giles’ character was on of the most well grown ones for me, he was the guy who did, said and didn’t say the hard things. He knew leaving Buffy was wrong in a lot ways but in a small one it was for the good. Buffy was in limbo, floating in a haze she needed to ground herself, not have others do it for her. Or rely on, do it for someone else. It had to be for her.

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  60. [Note: Hannah posted this comment on March 1, 2012.]

    I agree that this was something that had been built up for a while, but I’m still baffled how Giles could think leaving when he did was a good idea. I wouldn’t have had a problem with it if he had left earlier, before he realized the cause of her depression, but getting a one-way ticket to England the week after Buffy tried to kill herself could not have been a very good move no matter what way you look at it. Maybe in season 5 (if Glory wasn’t in the picture) it would have been fine, since Buffy was relying on him too much, but then she was clearly capable of standing on her own. It just doesn’t make sense that he would leave right after she was ripped from heaven and possibly suicidal. I wish they kept him on for another episode or two, maybe showing him clash with Buffy some more and try helping her work through her issues so it didn’t look like he was bailing when times got tough.

    Giles is still one of my favorite characters though. I still wish he got that spinoff TV movie!

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  61. [Note: BGAP posted this comment on March 11, 2012.]

    I wonder if ASH was ready to move on to other TV/movie projects, and gave the writers enough heads up (excuse the pun) so they could write Giles out of the show in a way that was appropriate for the story and characters? Given his singing talent, I could see why he stayed in the series (or more accurately, returned in S6 for a few episodes as a Guest Star) through “Once More, with Feeling.”

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  62. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on May 18, 2012.]

    Was I the only one who thought of THE STEPFORD WIVES in episodes 6-8, with Willow as one of the evil husbands trying to create the “perfect” (read: compliant) wives*? Or that Willow didn’t consider that Tara already had experience being brainwashed by her biological family?

    On a more positive note, someone on TV Tropes reminded me that Willow could reasonably have reminded Tara of the time she/Tara used magic to hide something (which turned out to be fake anyway, but that’s not the point) from the Scoobies, and they almost died because they couldn’t see the demons attacking them, but that either: that was the line Willow wasn’t willing to cross and risk hurting Tara that way, or Willow had so thoroughly forgiven Tara that she/Willow didn’t even remember it happening. Either way, Willow still loves Tara completely, even though she’s getting worse at showing it.

    *which I just realized, by typing this sentence, connects her with Warren!!!

    Like

  63. [Note: Alex posted this comment on May 18, 2012.]

    It’s a good point, but I think the situations are very different and that Willow would have been very wrong to bring that up. I don’t think it’s about crossing a line or about forgiveness, I think it’s all about the motivation and the awareness that you’ve done something wrong.

    When Tara cast her spell, she was just trying to protect herself. Yes, you could argue that she was messing with people’s minds by trying to control what they saw or didn’t see, but it didn’t involve messing with people’s emotions. It was still wrong for her to try it, and it went even more wrong than she’d planned, but she wasn’t actually trying to mess with her friends’ minds.

    Tara also clearly had a bit of a guilty conscience about it, as shown from her conversation with her horrible cousin. And after the events of Family, she was very sorry (just as Willow was sorry at the end of Something Blue), and she never tried it again.

    What Willow does is much worse, because she first makes Tara angry (by trying to send a whole club full of people to another dimension) and then deliberately messes with Tara’s memory so that she’s not allowed to feel that anger. She’s selectively choosing what Tara can and can’t remember, so that she can keep Tara happy with her. You could argue that she’s trying to turn Tara into the perfect girlfriend, but I think she’s also trying to make herself the perfect girlfriend in Tara’s eyes by erasing any unfavourable memories of herself.

    What’s even worse, though, is that once she’s confronted, Willow doesn’t even understand what was so horrible about what she did. Never mind being brainwashed by her family – Tara’s just been through a horrible mental ordeal thanks to Glory. If Willow could realise that and be genuinely sorry about it, then that might have been the end of it. But the fact that she just goes on to do it again is disgusting. And even after Tara’s left, Willow’s still talking to Amy-the-Rat about people leaving her for ‘no good reason’. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable when I see Tara falling back into Willow’s arms without really resolving this issue with her later on.

    So, in summary, I think that if Willow had brought that up in her defence, she would have deserved a big slap in the face.

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  64. [Note: Lovinthebuff posted this comment on June 10, 2012.]

    Another great review but I think you missed out another piece of good foreshadowing.

    When you mentioned that all their base feelings stay with them, its interesting to note that while the buffy/dawn and willow/tara relationships both maintain themselves, Anya and Xander never seem to re-assert theirs. Interesting considering what happens in Hells Bells.

    Keep it up Mikejer 🙂

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  65. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on June 10, 2012.]

    Giles’ leaving isn’t a new principal to be born from season 6. He was going to go back to England in the opening episode of season 5 under the belief that Buffy didn’t need him anymore, that he had done all he could for her.

    The reasons behind his leaving this episode isn’t a notion that i have any problems with, in fact i resonate with his reasons for doing so. Giles was the only one who didn’t truly believe Buffy was definitely in a hell dimension. He shared these doubts with Willow in Flooded; saying that we don’t know for sure where she really was.

    He has always been like a father to Buffy over the years but since his return this season Buffy has been avoiding her responsibilities and not working forward or through the emotions and confusion she is feeling since her coming back. He had become somewhat of a crutch for her to hide behind, asking him to talk to Dawn in All the way is an example. His song, standing in OMWF hits the nail on the head so to speak as to his being in the way of her growing, of her being Buffy. -She may always be a little different to how she was what with her having gone through what she has but his being there wasn’t working.

    It had to be when the group found out about Buffy being in heaven, it meant that even though he is leaving she isn’t alone plus arguably it may be the push she needs.

    In truth it pushed her into darkness, finding compassion and a kinship with Spike, both preferring the shadows, turning away from the hardness.

    To sum up i think Giles leaving was a necessary evil.

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  66. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on July 21, 2012.]

    I’m going to stick to my earlier contention that Giles makes a big mistake here. Extremely bad timing. My sense is that as he’s sitting there frowning on the plane, it’s because he knows that this being for Buffy’s own good is mostly a rationalization masking motives that are more about Giles than Buffy. He doesn’t like the way certain things she’s said imply that she’s taking him for granted. And deep down, I’m sure he longs to be free of the weight of this responsibility the same way Buffy does. It’s not to say that part of it isn’t selfless, but I don’t think it’s the main part.

    Probably also frowning because he has a middle seat on a transatlantic flight.

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  67. [Note: Suzy posted this comment on January 28, 2013.]

    What really bothers me about Willow’s spell was that it added more potency to the problems magic had caused to begin with: besides hiding Tara’s brainwashing with even more brainwashing, it also caused Buffy to go through still another loss of innocence. When the memories came back and her emotions dropped from carefree to shocked and confused, I had the feeling that, for her, it was like being ripped from heaven all over again. I’m watching the series for the first time and don’t know how this will develop in later episodes (though I have caught some spoilers), but it’s incredibly foreboding for me to see Willow hurt Buffy and Tara all over again, in exactly the same ways as before, with absolutely no sense of self-awareness. Some people have mentioned that it would have been better of Tara to help her through it, but she has already proved that she is willing to lie, break promises, and harm and control those closest to her just to get what she wants, which is NOT a sign of a safe person to be around. For me at least, this episode is where Willow crosses what TV Tropes calls the “moral event horizon.”

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  68. [Note: Maria posted this comment on February 13, 2013.]

    One minor con for me, which happened so quickly but still really bothered me was Dawn leaving Tara on the porch by her self. Tara is clearly upset too, and leaving for a justified reason. She has been seen to care deeply for Dawn and vice versa, and Dawn rejects her affection. This really just bothers me, and kind of makes it seem as if Tara is the one in the wrong here. Just something that bugs me.

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  69. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on February 14, 2013.]

    Well, in Dawn’s defense (a strange sentence if ever there was one), it seemed like Willow and Tara were the ones who raised her the most after Buffy and Joyce died, so maybe Dawn doesn’t know that Willow was getting abusive, maybe all she knows is that one of her adopted mommies is leaving her after she’s lost so much of her “biological” family.

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  70. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 7, 2013.]

    I believe Tabula Rasa is a much underrated episode, though there are light flaws. But for me, the deep moments mix well with the comedy.

    Tara leaving is not selfish: it’s sensical. This is the continuity of Willow’s addiction (cf. my comment in After Life). There is such a thing as co-dependance. I won’t get into details, but leaving doesn’t necessarily mean not helping. This is stage 2: denial. There’s not much anyone can do at this stage. Two solutions: professional help to guide towards acceptance of the problem or getting to the bottom of the bottom of the pit. Addiction is a tragedy and soon becomes an illness that needs treatment. From the start of this season, Willow’s action are guided by her addiction, not her brain nor her heart: they are unavailable right now.

    Circumstances and her previous ways of thinking has led to it. Then, there is an influence (the dark spells she used and mostly the one that revived Buffy) of the “product”: something dark has remained inside that warps her vision of reality. The problem is, with magic, the consequences are dire but the physical and psychological effects are insidious. Selfishness or more accurately blindness of reality is one of the symptoms.

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  71. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on May 15, 2013.]

    I really like this episode (it would have been the second A+ in a row from me). I especially agree with the person who said it was the saddest funny episode ever. I found the Giles-Anya stuff to be hilarious, but at the same time, many of the other things were so tragic.

    First, there’s Buffy, and you can kind of understand what Willow was trying to do with this spell. Buffy is happy, and excited to be fighting vampires. She has her season 1 level of enthusiasm for the fight and being the super powerful girl. You can almost see her ready to deliver terrible one liners. And that look when the memories come back is just very sad.

    The other one that I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is the Willow-Tara plot while they had lost memories. You can see them falling in love again at the same time you know the relationship has ended. And seeing that they truly seem to be meant for each other while Willow’s magic addiction is tearing them apart makes the part where Tara leaves even more tragic.

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  72. [Note: Marieke posted this comment on July 18, 2013.]

    The thing that stood out for me while reading the comments on this review, is the different opinions all of you have on Tara leaving Willow. There seem to be two sides, one side that believes Tara was right to do it to protect her own safety and the other side that believes she should have stuck with Willow. In my opinion, I think giving an ultimatum was helping Willow. Throughout the series and mainly the first few episodes of season six, Willow never seemed to realize the power that Magic had over a life. She was completely oblivious to the problem she had. I think her problem wasn’t that she wanted to solve everything with magic or even that she did it for selfish reasons. I think her problem was that she became dependent on magic, in an unhealthy way. The magic ruled her life and she wasn’t Willow anymore, she was nothing but the witch.
    Tara understood that and she gave Will an ultimatum to make her see the severity of her problem.

    Other than that, I think this episode deserves a higher rating. I think it combines everything we love about Buffy. The amazing continuity in the beginning, the creepy spell, the hilarious scene in which they first lose their memories, the plotless, yet funny action part in the middle and of course the poignant ending scene.

    I don’t believe this episode wasn’t about the characters, I think it reminded us who each character was at their core and how they related to one another. Stripped from their knowledge and supernatural ability, all characters were still very recognizable and in character. This certainly shows how much depth the writers have put into them.

    All in all, I would grant this episode with an A, just because the plot could have used a little more complexity after something as wonderful as “Once More With Feeling”.

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  73. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 18, 2013.]

    I obviously understand the connection of “Tabula Rasa” to “Something Blue,” but I actually believe this episode is much, much stronger. While I believe the latter was simply a shallow episode used for laughs and failed to sufficiently explore Willow’s heartbreak, the fast half of this episode serves as a segway for the theme and plot of the season, while the second half is pure relief from the overall bleakness from the previous episodes and the ones following.

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  74. [Note: LoanShark posted this comment on September 5, 2013.]

    I’d like to address two of the issues some people have with this episode with some of my own thoughts:

    1. Why did Tara leave Willow instead of trying to help her, even a little, with her magic problem?
    In the previous episode, they have sex while Tara is “under Willow’s spell.” There’s a parallel there between Willow and Warren, who tried to use magic on his ex-girlfriend. And when she finds out in the previous episode, Tara realizes (in song) that she has no idea how many times she’s erased her memory of such problems. So what does Willow do? Willow promises her she’ll go a week without magic and then and does it AGAIN. At this point, Tara has no idea how many times Willow’s “play[ed] with [her] memory” and knows that Willow won’t stop, and she knows that if Willow keeps messing around with her mind to fit their perfect relationship, she’ll lose what makes her Tara (“There’ll be nothing left of me”). Tara TRIED to help Willow, but now she realizes it’s a lost battle, and sees that the best thing for both of them (and really her only option) is for her to leave.

    2. Why would Giles leave at the worst time possible? Why can’t he just stay and just refuse to do all of Buffy’s work for her?
    Because of his father’s love for Buffy. The Watchers’ Council believed his affection was detrimental for Giles as a Watcher, and as it turned out, they were at least partially right. He broke tradition to save Buffy in the ritual where she loses her powers when he feared for her life, a ritual which is designed as sort of a “coming-of-age” test for Slayers. He stopped her from growing up because he cared about her and wanted to protect her from the terrible difficulties of the world.
    Though Buffy has graduated high school, she has yet to become a mature adult, capable of dealing with life responsibly. When she came back from the dead, Buffy needed her friends’ support. However, when she assumed Giles would talk with Dawn about her kleptomania, Giles realized that Buffy had begun to lean on him so she wouldn’t have to learn to stand on her own.
    But isn’t this a terrible time to leave? Actually, not really. This is one of the only times in the entirety of the show where there’s no real Big Bad (apart from the Trio, whom Buffy hasn’t yet noticed). The “Big Bad” of Season 6 is really life itself. And only Buffy can live her own life. Giles can help from time to time, but he knows that in order for Buffy to ever be able to live her life, he has to let her walk the fire alone for awhile. So he decides to leave her now, so Buffy can learn to walk during a relatively quiet time. And notice that as soon as something dangerous happens (Dark Willow), Giles comes rushing back to Buffy’s aid.
    Why not just step back a bit? Well, Giles TRIES to do just that. In “Once More, With Feeling,” he tells Buffy to go alone to the Bronze to save Dawn. However, Giles is weak because he sees Buffy as a daughter and WANTS to shield her from the world, the very thing he knows he musn’t do. So his doubts come roaring back, and he ends up backing her up anyway, realizing that he will always walk through the fire for Buffy. In the end, Giles knows that unless he leaves, he will always save Buffy. As a Watcher, his fatherly affection for Buffy DOES stand in her way for development into the woman she needs to become. This all culminates in Buffy’s extreme maturity to take on the serious role of leader of an army in Season 7, even surpassing Giles’s maturity.

    …WOW. I wrote a LOT.

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  75. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on November 4, 2013.]

    This is one of my favorite episodes, because it is funny and sweet and yet really brings the plot forward.

    First, the debate above about whether Tara should leave Willow or not. Absolutely! Would anyone here counsel a woman suffering physical abuse from her husband to stick around and take some more? In a way what Willow is doing is even worse. Bruises may heal, but Tara’s memories may be permanently gone. She is right to fear that there may be nothing left of her.

    Second, Giles. I thought it was very telling who he became when his memories were erased: an affectionate father (to Spike, what fun) and fiancé. This is a man who, at his core, wants to be part of a family. In a sense Buffy is his family – but in another she is not. So although I agree that he is partly motivated by wanting her to face her own responsibilities, he does want to go home.

    Third, the pairs were all very interesting. Giles and Anya, both just wanting to be part of a couple. Tara/Willow, Randy/Joan, and even Alex/Dawn (evidently after the series finishes they marry.

    Fourth, I think Buffy’s choice of Joan for her name is interesting. A combination of her middle name, Anne, and her mother’s name, Joyce? A throwback to Joan of Arc? A rebellion against the rather silly name, Buffy?

    Also, returning to the departure of Giles: Buffy’s affair with Spike could never take place until Giles was gone. I don’t attribute this to just her depression at the departure of Giles, but Buffy still wanted the approval of her father-figure, and so was only teasing Spike up until this point.

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  76. [Note: Night ChaosMage posted this comment on December 21, 2013.]

    – QUOTE –

    Why not just step back a bit? Well, Giles TRIES to do just that. In “Once More, With Feeling,” he tells Buffy to go alone to the Bronze to save Dawn. However, Giles is weak because he sees Buffy as a daughter and WANTS to shield her from the world, the very thing he knows he musn’t do. So his doubts come roaring back, and he ends up backing her up anyway, realizing that he will always walk through the fire for Buffy. In the end, Giles knows that unless he leaves, he will always save Buffy. As a Watcher, his fatherly affection for Buffy DOES stand in her way for development into the woman she needs to become. This all culminates in Buffy’s extreme maturity to take on the serious role of leader of an army in Season 7, even surpassing Giles’s maturity.

    There is a difference between wanting Buffy to take charge of her life and making her fight for her life and Dawn’s life alone. The problem with Buffy was she was leaning on Giles to fix her life problems. That is completely separate from fighting Sweet and saving Dawn. Instead of helping Buffy figure her way back into life like finding her a decent job or teach her how to take care of things back at home, Giles takes care of everything and never tells her to do it herself. It didn’t need to be so black and white.

    That’s my thought anyway, this was my first post so if it was very coherent then I apologize.

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  77. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on December 26, 2013.]

    I think what Willow does to Tara is on the level of what Warren does to Katrina. Actually, I think there are many similarities between Warren and Willow.

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  78. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on December 26, 2013.]

    You know, now that you mention it, I completely agree… When Tara says that Willow is fixing everything to her liking including Tara herself, I can definitely see a connection between Warren and Willow. Warren made the robot girl and fixed her to his liking and then he tried to fix Katrina to his liking later on in the season by attempting to make her his sex slave… He also manipulated his “friends” to his satisfaction, and those who showed some resistance (Jonathan) were discarded such as when Willow shrugs Buffy and just about everyone else off who stood up against her. All of these corresponding characteristics in Willow culminated in the way she treated Tara in their relationship. Willow and Warren’s most striking similarity, however, is how, after they had committed murder, they embraced the evil and darkness inside themselves.

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  79. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on January 5, 2014.]

    One thing that always bothered me is that Willow’s murder of Rack is barely touched upon (even though it could supply a reason for Amy’s malediction spell later). Rack was human, right? Even if he was not a good man, he was supplying what people wanted.

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  80. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on February 25, 2014.]

    Another interesting point: Spike, when he has no memory, assumes that he is a good person. So perhaps he has reverted to his natural state (William, who wanted to be a noble soul) or he is starting to be good.

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  81. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 2, 2014.]

    Mike after some time thinking about this episode, I actually do believe that the middle part does have relevance. It provides an important foundation for the season as a whole. It emphasizes that while the characters on this show do grow, they are still the same person. Season 6 provided significant growth and evolution to the main characters but who are they really at the core? Who are they without all that they have been through? That’s what this question answers. Although it does not propel the character arcs forward, I believe it is the most fundamental episode of season 6 and therefore one of the most important.

    Who is Buffy? Buffy is a good person and a natural born hero. After a few seconds in the first direct fight with the vampires she saves Spike’s life. Why? Because that’s who she is. What’s more? She takes on the name of Joan a very important female heroine in French history. This illustrated to us that Buffy is, innately, a hero, down to the core, as I said earlier. So no matter what kinds of things she did throughout this season she still is who she is: the hero.

    Who is Xander? This question may be a bit more difficult as we didn’t get as much insight on Xander in this episode. However, this episode shows us Xander’s complete willingness to risk himself for the cause (to protect others). He battles the vampire that was chasing him, Dawn, Willow, and Tara even though he is clearly out matched. Furthermore, at the beginning of the spell Xander reacts in quite a paranoid manner when he doesn’t recognize the people around. This demonstrated Xander’s complete lack of trust towards those whom he doesn’t know very well. This paranoia, however, quickly subsides when he’s met with the prospect of having a girlfriend who might offer some possibilities (some sexual possibilities) even though he did not quite know her (Willow) that well (Remember Cordelia?!), showing us his more innately boyish tendencies.

    Who is Giles? Giles, from the start, was the rational parental figure in all of this. He quickly dismissed the idea of a magical world, thinking that idea to be completely unfounded and irrational, only until he is presented with the evidence which suggested otherwise. His actually caring attitude toward Spike (as his “son”) solidified the fact that Giles is, at heart, a affectionate fatherly figure. Also, his interaction with Anya hinted at his desire to have a good relationship with a female partner. All of these details were provided in “Restless” and are now being reemphasized here in this episode.

    Who is Willow? Willow, at first, was keen on the idea of having a male partner but quickly succumbed to her inherent attraction to females, as evident by her interaction with Tara. At the core, Willow is gay and a loving human being who, herself, wants affection, affection which was provided by Tara in this episode.

    Who is Spike? Spike, at the heart, is a good person who wants to help people and fight for the protection of others. Notice how in this episode, while he was under the spell, he appeared to have a soul, exemplified by the absence of his tendency to bite people.

    Who is Anya? Anya is someone who clings on to the first thing she can get a hold of. Notice how fast she was to assume that Giles was her fiancé? Xander was pretty much the first human male Anya got close to and what did she do? She clung to him and became his girlfriend. Also, she displayed signs of her inherent need to take vengeance on people as evident by her words and actions: “I feel compelled to take some vengeance on you!” (hits him on the head with a book). This episode also showed some positive things about her as well. She, eventually, accepted the fact that Giles was right (about the book) as she eventually does accept the possibility that Xander may have been right about calling off the marriage. While this may not be innate, it does give us a glimpse into Anya’s deeper character.

    Who is Dawn? Dawn is the sister, the child, and also one who can and does help in dangerous situations (she helped Xander stake the vampire that was chasing them). Her immediate bonding to Buffy/Joan after the spell is definitely a result of the blood ties between them. Buffy and Dawn love each other down to the core.

    This episode, while it does not provide as much insight into her, did show us Tara’s strong attraction to Willow.

    One quote that ties this episode all together is the one Giles made at the beginning of season 7: “We all are who we are, no matter how much we appear to have changed.” This idea is central to the themes of season 6. These characters have gone through a lot, but they’re still the same people at the core. Buffy eventually came to terms with her problems after she accepted who she is. Willow did the same in season 7 after her dark streak at the end of season 6. Anya and Spike too. This episode provided a subtle glimmer of hope throughout the darkness of season 6, and in my opinion, that makes this episode pretty damn important, especially during the middle portion.

    Sorry if this is long and not very well written or explained (you can ask me any questions if you don’t understand some of my points). I typed this fairly quickly.

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  82. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 2, 2014.]

    First paragraph: *That’s what this episode (not “question”) answers.
    Third paragraph: *… when he doesn’t recognize the people around (him).
    Fourth paragraph: *…an (not “a”) affectionate fatherly figure.
    Tenth paragraph: *… especially the middle portion of the episode.”

    Wow! My last comment was poorly written. I promise you, I do write better than this.

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  83. [Note: Bronxite posted this comment on July 14, 2014.]

    I think Kyle’s comments were very astute. This was one of my favorite episodes, and I think if it hadn’t come right after Once More With Feeling, people would still be talking about how clever it was for showing the essence of the characters. (Except for the shark costume being way over the top, no matter how well played the character was).

    Like

  84. [Note: QuarkisSnyder posted this comment on September 14, 2014.]

    I loved this episode. I loved the loan shark and that Spike owed him Siamese kittens. It made me laugh out loud, as did Anya and the bunnies.

    It’s interesting that the way Buffy talks about herself and the others talk about her when they’ve lost their memory is very reminiscent of the first episode of the series. Remember Xander saying “It’s cool, Buffy’s a superhero?” Loss of memory brings them back to that innocent time.

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  85. [Note: Rob W posted this comment on September 18, 2014.]

    I like this one too, and even though I think I agree with MikeJer that the Loan Shark is too ridiculous, I always like to hear his comment about time and kittens. B+ is a reasonable score, what really puts it that high for me is the final sequence, which gets me every time. Poor Dawn and Tara.

    The loan shark is maybe an example of AtVS bleeding back into its mother series. This is the kind of ridiculous rubbery demon costume that often pops up in AtVS. In early BtVS seasons the demons are almost always shown as scary rather than ludicrous. I can’t think of any examples of the goofy rubbery type until Clem shows up in S6’s Life Serial.

    I almost think I can detect a look on SMG’s face when they first meet the Loan Shark, a look like “Really? We’re gonna do sight gag demons now?”

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  86. [Note: evid posted this comment on November 17, 2015.]

    Great review! even though I’m a few years too late. I really like this episode, and agree with what you’ve said, but one thing that just really bugged me that I have to get out was Dawn in this episode.
    I’ve recently begun to actually like and value Dawn as a character, but in this episode she is overly childish and, for want of a better word, stupid.
    I think I’ve always expected Dawn to prove everyone’s assumptions that she is too childish wrong, yet this episode demonstrates the opposite, regardless of her memory being erased.
    And the end, where she refuses to hug Tara, that was just selfish, and also implies Tara is in the wrong, even though she had legit reasons for leaving. Couldn’t she see Tara was also upset?
    Urgh!! oh well.

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  87. [Note: Sebastian Howard posted this comment on January 7, 2017.]

    I actually thought the whole middle of this episode was hilarious. Giles and Annya together was really funny, I could kind of see why the rest of material would be kind of boring but I liked the concept and think that the action scenes were pretty well done.

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  88. Love the humor in this one. Good episode.

    Count me among those who feel that this is the worst time for Giles to leave. I get that the writers had to do something, and I appreciate that they didn’t just kill Giles off, but I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a way to remove Giles that would make more sense.

    Every once in a while we see that normal humans can beat up vampires. Xander does quite well in that regard. Part of me feels it makes vampires too weak. I mean if normal people can beat up vampires, why doe we need a slayer?

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