Buffy 7×04: Help

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner | Director: Rick Rosenthal | Aired: 10/15/2002]

This is a very difficult episode to judge, because it’s a very solid production with very little character and story relevance. “Help” feels a lot like an old school stand-alone which, I suppose, is alright from time to time, but just doesn’t have the lasting impact to the season as a whole that I crave. How is what happens to Cassie in any significant way relevant to the characters who are still alive? With that said, I still found an emotionally compelling story here. The actress who plays Cassie, Azure Skye, does an excellent job with the role given to her — I found Cassie to be a likeable and sympathetic enough character. So, I definitely enjoyed the episode, but it just can’t score much higher than it does here because of its lack of relevance.

The episode’s not a complete loss for character relevance though. It’s neat that the first person who stops by Buffy’s desk is an unknown Potential. The manner in which Amanda has been handling her problems is amusing (pounding her bully in the face), but also very much hints at the truth of what’s going on inside her. It’s also entertaining watching Buffy’s reactions to all these kids and their problems or excuses. I chuckled when Dawn showed up just to tell Buffy about all the things that she does to annoy her.

Obviously, though, the episode decides to hone in on Cassie, the girl who thinks she’s going to die. This is the crux of the episode: are there times when there’s just nothing you can do to help someone? If that’s true, should you even bother trying to help? I do see some light parallels to the impending Potentials situation and the apparent hopelessness of the fight ahead. Yes, it’s cool Buffy learns something about the nature of helping people, but it just doesn’t connect as well with the rest of the season as I’d have liked it to.

I like seeing Dawn thrown into the mix more. Here’s yet another example of Buffy living up to her promise of including Dawn more in her life. Although not initially slayer-related, Buffy’s making a consistent effort to include Dawn in research, investigation, and even the solution, even if it doesn’t work out so well (e.g. posable Dawn in “Same Time, Same Place” [7×03] ). Although, they’re not quite treating her as an equal yet. Admittedly, her idea here about the friend of Cassie potentially being her killer was dead wrong.

I appreciated that Willow went to visit Tara’s grave. It’s a very somber moment, but one that I feel was very necessary to actually see on screen. Willow’s conversation with Xander en route was also nice, as it further illuminates Willow’s central dilemma this season. She tells him, “I don’t know what I can do. I mean, frankly, I’m scared of what I might do.”

Xander, back to classic form this season after a slump last season due to personal issues, has a great analogy for Willow, “Yeah, I get that. Figuring out how to control your magic seems a lot like hammering a nail. Well, uh, hear me out. So you’re hammering, right? Okay, well at the end of the hammer, you have the power, but no control. It takes, like, two strokes to hit the nail in, or you could hit your thumb … So you choke up. Control, but no power. It could take like ten strokes to knock the nail in. Power, control. It’s a tradeoff.” Willow, thankful, amusingly points out the difference in consequences between Xander’s analogy and her reality, “That’s actually not a bad analogy … Except… I’m less worried about hitting my thumb, and more worried about going all black-eyed baddy and bewitching that hammer into cracking my friends’ skulls open like coconuts.” I think these two sum up Willow’s struggle very nicely in this conversation.

That’s really about all I have to say about this one. I appreciated the bits of foreshadowing we got, loved the usual top-notch continuity, enjoyed the one episode stint with Cassie and actually wish she would have hung around longer, liked all of the surrounding character material — especially the Willow and Xander interaction and the visit to Tara’s grave, and thoroughly enjoyed Buffy fully realizing that she just can’t save everyone, which doesn’t mean she should stop trying. This is a perfectly respectable episode of television that, sadly, just doesn’t have enough lasting relevance to the story or the characters, and is a bit shallow on complexity (although I did appreciate all the red herrings to Cassie’s actual death). In summary, not bad, but not particularly memorable either.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ I’ve got to point it out again: the characters are talking about what happened in the previous episode! 😀
+ Buffy being more nervous about her first actual day on the job than a potential vampire in the coffin behind her.
+ Cassie’s dad being extremely temperamental over Buffy’s implication that he’s going to beat on his daughter. I sympathize with Buffy’s concern, but I also sympathize with the dad’s point of view here.
+ The robed guys in the high school brought back unfriendly reminders of “Reptile Boy” [2×05]. Fortunately, in this episode they’re just a red herring for the real danger.
+ Spike trying to not listen to anything around him anymore, because he’s worried if he listens to all the voices — most of which are likely the First — he could hurt someone.
+ Spike wailing on Peter — head robe guy — despite the pain it causes him due to the chip.


* Cassie tells Spike, in one of those brilliant little moment, that “she’ll tell you. Some day, she’ll tell you.” Obviously Cassie is referring to Buffy telling Spike she loves him, which happens in “Chosen” [7×22].
* Buffy tells Cassie “See. You can make a difference.” Cassie replies, “and you will.”




71 thoughts on “Buffy 7×04: Help”

  1. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on March 2, 2009.]

    mike, great job and your reviews just make me relive the episode in my mind, and that makes me very happy. I agree with all your points, about not having much relevance regarding the rest of the season but this episode just gets a lot of love from me because of the characters and the Willow part. So for me, a solid 80.

    Mike, I can’t wait for your take on Selfless. I’m sure it’s gonna be great.


  2. [Note: Tom L posted this comment on March 2, 2009.]

    MikeJer, don’t have much time right now to read all those new reviews, but 78?

    I love this episode. I would give it a A- any day. This is in my opinion the second best episode penned by Kirshner (Tabula Rasa being the best). It has a great script and a lovely stand-alone story.


  3. [Note: Zillex posted this comment on March 2, 2009.]

    I liked this episode. One big reason was the actress who played Cassie. She did a great job. Typically I don’t like child actors as they tend to overact (Dawn included).


  4. [Note: Adam posted this comment on March 2, 2009.]

    This episode tries too hard to be an episode that would have fit in with more of the earlier seasons. Unfortunately, it does not match in quality. There were some good moments but I just didn’t feel anything memorable enough to make me care about this episode.


  5. [Note: Sam posted this comment on March 2, 2009.]

    I love that you post three reviews in one setting. Hooray! However, much like “Beneath You”, you’re nicer on this one than I would be. Even though I love that the show is back in high school, I think that after “The Body”, this attempt to touch on death by natural causes is simply way too melodramatic and contrived, and no Anya! Still, I do love the intimacy of this season–the Summers home really is command center for the final season, and I think it’s entirely appropriate. Can’t wait for the rest of your reviews!


  6. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on March 4, 2009.]

    Thanks again Mike for the reviews! For this one, I’m quite surprised that this episode didn’t get a higher score than a B-. Your comment, “So, I definitely enjoyed the episode, but it just can’t score much higher than it does here because of its lack of relevance” is questionnble for me. Why does an episode have to be relevant to the season to score well? I saw this episode as Joss’ response to the viewers complaining about the darkness of season 6. It was, as you said a nice remindor of the highschool days and was undoubtably less dark than season 6 but thats not to say that it didnt have anything interesting to say. It wasn’t relevant to the season’ PLOT but it had a signifigant theme, the idea of, as you said, “realizing that she just can’t save everyone, which doesn’t mean she should stop trying”. This is an idea that follows through (with even more signifigance now after all buffy’s been through) from the third season in “Amends” when Angel tells Buffy that he admires her ability to fight the fight because she believes in it, not only to “win”. This part of the episode “Help” reminds me of my favourite Whedon quote from the Angel episode “Epiphany” when Angel realizes that “if nothing we do matters, than all that matters is what we do”. I think this idea applies to this episode as well: its the fact that Buffy tries to help Cassie thats more important than the fact that she can’t, hence the episode’s title, “Help”. For me at least, this signifigance combined with good writing, a sold plot and its entertainment factor raise the episode to at least an B .


  7. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 4, 2009.]

    llinnae, that comment wasn’t meant to exclusively refer to “plot” relevance, but also character arc relevance. I appreciate the episode for what it does, but the fact that it doesn’t tie in with the season OR the character thematic arcs this season simply limits its affect on me. I find this to be a borderline skippable episode — one of very few in the series since its early days. Even with that flaw, though, I still ‘like’ the episode, hence the struggle I had scoring it.


  8. [Note: AaronJer posted this comment on March 5, 2009.]

    It’s easier to understand MikeJer’s opinion if you take it to an extreme. If there was an extremely interesting stand-alone episode about trying to successfully navigate the dangerous frozen waters of the arctic circle, no matter how good it was you’d still have to be like “WTF, fail” since it had no relevance to the show it’s supposed to be part of. In that case you’d have to give the episode an F, whereas in this less extreme case it has to lose 10-20 points for the same reason.


  9. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on March 5, 2009.]

    Well when you put it like that lol… Nah, I get what youre saying. Just a difference of opinion, I suppose. I find standalones kind of refreshing if theyre well thought through but from a more structually analystical standpoint, makes sense ;D


  10. [Note: Rick posted this comment on March 5, 2009.]

    I have gotten in many arguments over this episode (including both Ryan and you!). While I have always felt compelled to praise the performance of the actress playing Cassie (indeed, if Joss had kept her alive instead of offing her as a plot contrivance, the season would have been the better for it), this episode falls flat for me. I think it is actually one of the weakest of the season, as it comes off as an episode that tries so hard to succeed that it inevitably fails. It builds Cassie up as a sympathetic character, allthewhile forging, literally from nothing, artificial relationships between her and the main cast. While the plot twist is genuinely suprising, it comes off as a bit tacky, and the emotional “payoff” at the end is incredibly cheap. It certainly doesn’t help that Michelle Trachtenberg is not very good at crying scenes, but it goes deeper than that, as even SMG struggled in this scene – a rare miss for her. I feel that likely has more to do with deficiencies in the teleplay than with her own abilities. I’d say more, but time is short and I am lazy.



  11. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on March 7, 2009.]

    I’m surprised that you gave the episode a measly B-, but I’m more surprised that you say it’s a bit shallow. You compare the episode to an old-school procedural, but check out the lasting effect of the ones back in seasons 1 through 4. Heavy handed moral statements about drinking, partying, sex, parental issues abound, and yet this great episode delves into the complexities of the ways in which a hero can and should help others, and the moral dilemmas that arise when going out of your way to help a stranger. Buffy’s come to the point at the end of the episode where helping others bears no semblance of self-gratification or obligation. She’s not doing it because it’s right, she’s doing it because it’s necessary. This is basically her entire philosophy as a leader, so I believe ‘Help’ does in fact bleed into the season suitably. I’d give it an A-, personally. It’s one of my all-time favourite one-offs.

    Incidentally, Azura Skye was excellent in this role. I would’ve loved to have seen more of Cassie and her guy friend with Dawn, they were much more appealing than Carlos and Kit. With that said, the poem montages are really lame. It would’ve been better if those poems had related to the other characters in some way, and weren’t just pretentious twaddle.


  12. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on March 7, 2009.]

    Rick, why do you think the payoff at the end is incredibly cheap? I thought it was incredibly earned. While I agree MT and SMG’s acting was off, I think that final scene worked very well because the characters had rarely if ever dealt before with a *predetermined* death that was completely out of their hands.


  13. [Note: Guido001 posted this comment on April 18, 2009.]

    The subtitle of this episode should have been “Helpless,” as it is a sobering reminder to everyone that fate and inevitability are part of the equation. For this reason, I don’t think of this as a stand-alone, but a relevant series side-bar.

    Wilpy, on the poetry being pretentious twaddle, remember, Cassie’s a 17 year old high-school girl, and she KNOWS she’s going to die, so her poetry is intended by the episode writer (Rebecca Rand Kirshner) to convey this tragic juxtaposition. I have to give credit to Kirshner for pulling this off in however few days she was given to write the episode. If someone told me to cough up poetry for a character that was painfully aware of her impending death, you’d really see some twaddling!

    Xander initially took your same point of view when Willow discovers Cassie’s website and poetry. He says, “Poems, always a sign of pretentious inner turmoil.” But after Willow reads the poem, Xander says, “Okay, death really is on her brain.” After a couple more Xanderisms, the Scoobies are left wondering if there is something more to this than naive Goth fantasy. Re-reading the poem in this context, I think Kirshner did a fine job with it:

    The sheets above me
    cool my skin
    like dirt
    on a mad woman’s grave
    I rise into
    the moonlight white
    and watch
    the mirror stare
    Pale fish looks
    back at me
    Pale fish that will
    never swim
    My skin is milk
    for no man to drink
    My thighs unused
    This body is
    not ready yet
    But dirt waits for no
    and coins will
    buy no time
    I hear the chatter
    of the bugs. It’s they alone
    will feast.


  14. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 17, 2009.]

    Mike, I think you really missed out on something that Buffy says at the beginning of the episode:

    XANDER: 33 minutes. Since when do we go through all this trouble for one lousy vampire. Excuse me, one lousy potential vampire.

    BUFFY: Vampire by vampire. It’s the only way I know how.

    This is something that we’ve seen for a long time, something that Joyce herself says in “Gingerbread” (albeit quite cruelly because she’s under the gingerbread spell):

    Joyce: You patrol, you slay… Evil pops up, you undo it. A-a-and that’s great! But is Sunnydale getting any better? Are they running out of vampires?

    Buffy: I don’t think that you run out of…

    Joyce: It’s not your fault. You don’t have a plan. You just react to things. I-it’s bound to be kind of fruitless.

    I think this is a foreshadowing to the rest of this season, as well as the comics (I only read the first and second, so I’m basing this only on what I’ve read). This system of Buffy is going to change now that the Potentials will be coming; and it will especially change when they become Slayers. Buffy will have an army to deal with- it will be more than just vampire by vampire. Buffy’s way of fighting will change, if only because there are others like her and they can help.


  15. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 17, 2009.]

    Sorry for posting 3 times!! But I just have to add how much the scene with Willow at Tara’s grave breaks me up. I don’t really cry when Tara’s shot in S6- it’s too much of a shock to be able to cry. I tear a little when Dark Willow talks about Tara, especially when she says:

    Willow: The only thing Willow was ever good for…the only thing I had going for me…were the moments – just moments – when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful.

    But this part when she visits her grave- the first time I saw it, I had *no* idea that this was where Xander and Willow were going. So when I saw the cemetery, I started crying. Then when she walks up and puts the rocks, I cry more, and especially when she traces the letters of Tara’s name and says, “It’s me.” As you can tell from my avatar on the forums (Willow putting the rocks), this is one of…well, I can’t say favorite, because that sounds too happy to me, but I will say the most poignant, sad, heartbreaking scene of any show I’ve ever seen. The only thing that comes close to me is in “Charmed” when Fury-Piper yells at Prue’s grave in “Hell Hath No Fury” [4×03]. I guess I have a thing for grave scenes.

    I wish we had been shown more of what Willow says, or even just kept the camera on her for a few more seconds. Wow, I’m crying as I write this. I miss Tara.


  16. [Note: Tara posted this comment on June 29, 2009.]

    One thing about this episode really bugs me. Buffy seems awfully blase about lying in a coffin, considering that the last time she was in one, she had to break out of it and claw her way out of her own grave, the terror of which almost killed her, and in Nightmares was one of her deepest fears.


  17. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on July 9, 2009.]

    Great review, definitely.
    I was thinking… is just my impression, or you can make a paralell with S2’s frat party espisode?
    Notice that, once again, selfish boys are sacrificing girls to a demon as an exchange for wealthyness. It is just an idea.


  18. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 19, 2009.]

    I loved the Willow-Xander scene when she goes to visit Tara’s grave, but am I the only one who thinks Tara’s gravestone looks kinda fake? Jenny’s and Buffy’s both looked quite real, but something about Tara’s just looked off to me. And Xander’s hammer analogy was quite effective.

    The Cassie storyline was okay, but felt rather redundant.


  19. [Note: Zephos posted this comment on September 19, 2009.]

    I’ve always felt that the relevant thematic point of this episode is one of the most important of the season – that of the “potential”.

    Cassie has the potential to be an incredibly bright, beautiful person, and she and all her friends know it. But it’s the knowledge of this potential juxtaposed with her fate that gives real weight to the situation.

    So mike, I disagree that it’s irrelevant. It’s the beginning of the most prominent theme in the final season, I feel.


  20. [Note: Jeremy posted this comment on October 8, 2009.]

    I dunno, I really liked this episode. Why must you judge according to that silly criteria (sorry criteria)? Stand-alones with individual plotlines are necissary and amazing in their own and your scoring openly discriminates against them :(. Maybe I just love red herrings in Buffy (haven’t seen this many since Earshot) but this episode threw out quite a few good ones.

    Also Mike, just about your security code thingy, what is that thing that looks like a cross between an f and P, neither worked?


  21. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on October 22, 2009.]

    Jeremy-it’s a T. Crazy font, though, isn’t it!

    I liked this episode quite a lot. The only thing that bugged me was that the main bad guy was that kid out of home improvement. Surely that guy’s about 40 by now? He was too old to be playing high school. Even if I hadn’t recognised him, he looked way too old!


  22. [Note: Masbrillante posted this comment on November 24, 2009.]

    I didn’t care for this episode, and it was not because of its overall relevance to the season. I just thought that the dialogue was overwrought, that many of the scenes went on too long, and that the heart attack at the end was kind of a cheap way to die. I think that part at least would have been better played if she had died in the midst of the ritual because of her heart or her brain or something. Afterward, it just seemed trite.


  23. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on November 25, 2009.]

    Rick said:

    “the emotional “payoff” at the end is incredibly cheap. … even SMG struggled in this scene – a rare miss for her. I feel that likely has more to do with deficiencies in the teleplay than with her own abilities.”

    I agree. The bit where she said she’d ‘failed’ Cassie irritated the crap out of me. How can you ‘fail’ someone when they die from something you had absolutely no power to prevent? Urgh.

    I also love the scene at Tara’s grave and would have liked to have seen more of Willow at that time, or in fact during her grieving process. Not to be morbid, but simply to acknowledge that Tara was an important and greatly missed character. The introduction of the Kennedy relationship might have been a bit less jarring and (for me) icky in that case.


  24. [Note: baunger1 posted this comment on June 9, 2010.]

    The sad irony here is that Cassie is not asking for help, and she can’t be helped. Spike is asking for help, and he can be helped — with caring, forgiveness, faith. But Buffy turns her back on him. The answer to her question “What do you do when you know that maybe you can’t help?” is: give help where you can. In the basement.

    I know she eventually gets there, but I’m really furious at her in these episodes. It would be one thing if she couldn’t deal with Spike at all because of their history. But no. She continues to use him and give him nothing — worse now because she knows that what he’s done — gotten his soul — was for her, and she knows what it’s doing to him.


  25. [Note: Sven posted this comment on June 26, 2010.]

    One thing that annoyed me about this episode is that there are a few things that happen that should have major consequences but don’t.

    Buffy goes to see Cassie’s father and falsely accuses him of beating on his daughter. Did the writers have any idea of just how bad an idea this is? In real life Buffy would be very lucky to walk away with her job from that one.

    And then there’s the kids raising the demons. Regardless of how Cassie ended up dying, they were willing to commit murder for personal gain. That’s a level that even the Trio wasn’t initially willing to sink to. But nothing comes from it. As far as we know they weren’t arrested, they weren’t sent to counselling, there are no repercussions at all. Does anyone besides Buffy even know that there are a bunch would-be murderers attending the high school?


  26. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on August 6, 2010.]


    as I previously said, the episode is similar in its villains to “Reptile Boy” from Season 2. One again, selfish teenagers are summoning a demon to exchange girls for wealthyness.

    Only that in Season 2, all of them went to jail.


  27. [Note: Jason posted this comment on September 13, 2010.]

    Wow, what a bad episode, with only one unexpected and truly great moment (“she’ll tell you”).

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my favorite television show, is also the most inconsistent television show.


  28. [Note: Flo posted this comment on October 12, 2010.]

    While I like the idea of this episode, I agree with some earlier comments that it tries too hard. Certainly at the end which fetured no less than three attempts at Cassie’s life. Fate mustn’t have been to certain about its ability to kill Cassie with all these failsaves. Plus the demon-worshipping boys felt very tacked on, obviously serving only as a way to get some action for the final (which is probably why we saw no fallout from that incident).

    Also I agree with baunger1’s comment about Buffy leaving Spike in his misery. Actually that seems to be a recurring trait of her. At the end of Revelations she walks out on Faith in a similar situation. Sure, she told Faith that she could always trust her, but that was plainly too little at that time, and I don’t think Buffy was really behind it (it felt more like it was just something she did out of obligation).

    Buffy may have many talents, but dealing with other people’s emotions is clearly not one of them. This I think also shows when she confronts Cassie’s father so bluntly in this episode, and in how she never really manages to instill trust in the Potentials towards her leadership.

    I do like Spike in this episode though. This may be the first time he really seemed to care for the wellbeing of someone other than someone who he is in love with.


  29. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on October 30, 2010.]

    i love how spike starts punching himself and buffy grabs his arm right away and tries to get him to calm down of course it doesn’t actually work and she decides to leave when he asks her to stay saying it just makes him worse


  30. [Note: Seán posted this comment on December 21, 2010.]

    Really enjoyed this episode…if only the early standalone nature of the series could have come up with compelling standalones in S1 and S2! I’m really loving the change in tone this season. Buffy Seasons 1, 2 and 3 all had a similar tone because of all the characters being based in high school. Buffy Season 4 had a different tone being set primarily in UC Sunnydale. And then S5 and S7 shared a similar tone. I can’t really describe the tone of Buffy S7…it feels kind of homely and cosy.

    Really want to commend Azura Skye’s performance here and Alyson Hannigan’s…and because she doesn’t get enough praise Michelle Trachtenberg. Oh and I had to laugh at Xander not knowing what Googling meant! How quickly times have changed!


  31. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on January 1, 2011.]

    This is an ok episode. I did like Cassie right away and I find it interesting that she actually becomes a form for the First later on. Her speech about the things that she wants to do but is never going to get to is really touching.

    I have to say that I was very impressed at Dawn’s reaction to getting picked on by that jackass kid. I probably would have cried at her age but she just blew it off.

    Spike looks great at the end. And when Cassie says “She’ll tell you. Someday she’ll tell you.” I knew what she meant immediately. Great line and great job by the writers for not spelling out but just leaving it out there like that.


  32. [Note: John posted this comment on January 10, 2011.]

    The googling reference was great; again, more classic Buffy humor. It was good to see the old gang interacting together without most of the emotional baggage of S6.

    The talk about fanfic and love poems was also really heartening; again, seeing the gang (relatively) happy and (relatively) normal and interacting was REALLY nice after the emotional trainwreck of S6.


  33. [Note: Clem posted this comment on January 15, 2011.]

    Buffy’s Hood statement was a tad bit stereotypical. Great review though I agree w/ almost everything you said!


  34. [Note: Sasha posted this comment on February 1, 2011.]

    I did not like this episode at all! I agree it is nearly skippable. Seems out of place in the season. I don’t really like standalone episodes though.

    Again, I agree with those who don’t like how Buffy is treating Spike. He is obviously suffering and she just leaves him in the basement by himself? I’m not sure what I expect her to do, but not that!

    Love how Xander doesn’t know what googling is!


  35. [Note: luv2hike posted this comment on June 1, 2011.]

    I must respectfully disagree about it having no relevance. In the end, I think it plays a role further maturing Buffy’s character in realizing there are some things she has no control over and cannot fix. Natural death happens, and as the gang has been reminded time-to-time over the earlier series, you shouldn’t mess with changing it (ie. Buffy’s mom & Tara).

    Just another take on it…


  36. [Note: Dave posted this comment on August 10, 2011.]

    Something about Cassie’s facial expressions just constantly had me staring at her and not paying much attention to what was going on, unfortunately.


  37. [Note: Gon posted this comment on November 17, 2011.]

    The problem I have with this episode is not strictly about itself but about what it tells from what I believe S7 was trying to do at its beginning.

    From middle S5 to the ending of S6 BtVS was focused on personal interaction between main characters and frequently the end of each episode left an impression of “to be continued” . The season as a whole was much more important than the episodes and you could hardly watch an episode ignoring the sequence. As I said before, I think the show got a soap aesthetic it didn’t have.

    What it feels to me they’re trying to do with the series is to redefine its whole concept by working monster-of-the-week plots and conceiling standallone episodes. The problem is that’s very hard to accept at this point, after the S6 (example: in S6 one would expect Spike’s revelation at the end of “Beneath you” to have a sequence).

    In previous seasons monsters-of-the-week episodes were serving a bigger run. Here the series is asking us again to care for what happens to a single girl in a single episode. It feels strange and it doesn’t work for me.


  38. [Note: keekey posted this comment on November 23, 2011.]

    I’m in the process of watching Buffy straight through for the first time. So glad to find these reviews! It has been fun to watch an episode and then check out the analysis here.

    As other posters have noted it is interesting (and a bit frustrating) that Buffy tries to help Cassie, who doesn’t ask for help, but rejects Spike’s request for help. However, to me this episode seemed important because it gives some insight into Buffy’s confusion over how to handle the situation with Spike. So far, although Spike now has a soul and is clearly suffering, Buffy has pretty left him to fend for himself. Her comment to him in this episode that she thinks she’ll just make things worse offers a reason why she’s chosen to stay away for the most part. She sees the situation with Spike as one where she can’t help–it’s probably hopeless–better just not to get involved.

    After Cassie’s death though, the Scoobies discuss their failed efforts to save Cassie and, ultimately conclude that, even though it was hopeless, they were right to try. Dawn specifically notes that she became Cassie’s friend and feels good about that. The episode ends with Buffy back at her desk at Sunnydale High, sitting silently. Obviously, I don’t know what she’s thinking at that moment but in light of the preceding scenes, my assumption was that she’s thinking about Spike, in the basement of Sunnydale High, and whether–even if the situation is pretty much hopeless and she’ll probably fail–she should at least try to help him and maybe attempt to be a friend to him. If that’s the case, even though the episode is like an old school stand-alone, it does appear to provide some interesting insight into Buffy’s decision-making process going forward. (As noted, this is my first time watching the series straight through so there may be stuff that happens in the next few episodes that would change my thoughts on this.)


  39. [Note: Alanthir posted this comment on December 30, 2011.]

    The bigger picture here for the characters is just they have to realize some things can´t be changed and all might in the world can´t help everybody they like.

    It´s a really certain thing for Buffy´s steps to leadership. She has to learn to accept there will be losts and she can´t do anything about it, no matter how hard she trys.

    For this reason I would give this episode 85 Points.


  40. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on April 21, 2012.]


    Just a comment – the kid from Home Improvement who insulted Dawn and kidnapped Cassie was “only” 23 when this episode was made which is a pretty normal age for people to “play” high school age. He was nowhere near 40 then and is still a good ten years away from it. I think he looked a bit like a senior at the time, maybe a college freshman, but certainly nowhere close to middle age. Of course, that’s just my humble opinion. 🙂


  41. [Note: Tim posted this comment on May 9, 2012.]

    I don’t know if you’re still keeping track of these comments, but I must disagree with you that this episode does not tie in thematically with the season as a whole. As you’ve said several times in your reviews for other episodes, Season 7 is all about power. In this episode Buffy is forced to confront her own power, or lack thereof, to thwart fate and save Cassie.


  42. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 9, 2012.]

    I do keep track of these comments, Tim. I have to say that I think you’re right: this episode does connect thematically more than I gave it credit for. This really became apparent to me when I put together my Season 7 Review. So when I come back to this episode in the future, expect the review to reflect that change.

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂


  43. [Note: Great Whazoo posted this comment on December 21, 2012.]

    Your comment regarding the use of “Child Actors” is hardly relevant in this episode, if you refer to “My So-Called Life, with Clare Danes…. Azure Skye played the homeless girl on Christmas Eve that Angela Chase (Clare) donates her new boots to. This episode was at least 6 or 7 years older than when this episode was made. She was born Nov. ’81, which puts her at about 21 years old. She plays many sensitive roles on many other shows, as well. That episode of “MS-CL” was one of my fav’s of that way-too-short lived series.


  44. [Note: Willow posted this comment on June 23, 2013.]

    I found this episode so weirdly out of character for the storyline that it made me think whether it may have had some very personal meaning to the writers or producers … I don’t know, especially when they (Buffy, Willow, Xander and Dawn) were sitting together in the Summer’s living room in the end of the episode all down and sad and so affected by Cassie’s death … to me it felt like it was dedicated to someone they (in real life) knew who died way to young. It seemed so personal. Like they wanted to make a statement about how sometimes you can’t help it no matter who you are, some (young) people will just die. (Also the scene where Cassie tells Xander and Buffy what things she’d like to do but never will (like go to College and fall on love …) It all was so heartfelt, so not for entertainment reason but like it came from the heart of someone (a writer) who has thought about things like this a lot. Sad episode. Not doing much for the storyline. It’s like it’s own little piece of life-truth.


  45. [Note: Willow posted this comment on June 23, 2013.]

    Other than what I just posted I wanna say Buffy is still my show number 1 and I keep on waiting for anyone to at least present us with another tv show that could be remotely comparable, but so far … nothing. Sigh.


  46. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 25, 2013.]

    I am another who definitely likes this episode. I feel like it’s very different and holds a different mood that most other episodes of the season. However, I was so bothered by the “She’ll tell you,” thing, because I never once thought they’d have Buffy acting loving Spike. She’s not supposed to, that storyline makes me cringe and I just try to forget it happened.


  47. [Note: boispiquant posted this comment on November 29, 2013.]

    Tara, seeing Buffy so matter of fact at being in the coffin was actually one of the things I remarked on in a good way. To me, this is one more subtle way the writers show how much Buffy has truly gotten over her fears and struggles from the previous season/s.


  48. [Note: Buffster posted this comment on March 20, 2014.]

    I really liked this episode, it had a few good moments. I do agree to a few of the earlier comments that stated the episode was trying too hard, and the comment about the writers probably having a personal connection to this episode (maybe someone they knew died at a young age or something like that…)

    I do like standalone episodes as long as they have solid plots and atleast a little bit of character work here and there, I did like Cassie, I don’t think I liked the way she died, and I also gotta agree with one of the comments earlier that Buffy and the gang’s reactions just seemed well… I don’t know if they even had the right to grieve in the way they did, they barely knew the girl, trying to help her aside, and Buffy saying she ‘failed’ her just seemed like the writers wanted us to feel sympathetic for her or something? How can you fail someone when you had no control over their situation? It just seemed like some self-pity from Buffy, she was probably feeling guilty somewhere on a deeper level for not helping Spike. I get that he’s done a lot of bad yada yada yaadaa but he has a freaking soul now, and it was all for her. He made that very obvious in the church scene, which I honestly felt was so amazing it deserved some continuity in the next episode. We were all surely curious to know what Buffy responded to that. And the fact that even when she knows he’s being driven crazy, and it’s all because of her, and that he’s all alone and needs some help she doesn’t bother, nor does she tell the rest of the gang about the fact that he has a soul now. Like COME ON, after everything Spike’s done you’d think he’d atleast get some respect from Buffy and the gang, or atleast the title of ‘personhood’ I hate how Buffy used him in the previous episode as a bloodhound and to find out if he knew something about the Cassie girl in this one, but didn’t seem to care much about what happened to him and left him in there all alone. I dunno, after everything they’ve been through, I just found it a little insensitive, and out of character for Buffy. He may have been a demon, but he has a soul now, and he did it for you, the least you could do is be kinder!

    Ok, I’m rambling. Too many feelings, maybe it’s because I’m a Spike stan, oh well. Overall, this episode was alright, not one of my favorites, but it did have it’s strengths.


  49. [Note: Kadis posted this comment on March 20, 2014.]

    As a standalone episode, I really enjoyed this, as we see Buffy adapt to her role as a counsellor and the inevitable end for Cassie, and also she could relate to one of the students.

    Also when Cassie gave her speech about how she wanted to live, I think Buffy could relate to what she could really empathize and it is was kind of similarity e.g. Buffy was bound to her duties as a slayer, but certain sacrifices had to be made, due to her duty, even though she could attend some of the events.


  50. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on October 21, 2014.]

    Couple of interesting points:

    First, folks gloss over the fact that Cassie has the sight. That’s a big deal in the buffyverse, especially for humans. Dru, Cordy and Buffy very infrequently. And buffy is the only one who stayed human and alive in the wake of attaining the power. She is also the only one who figures out a way to share her power in order to heal the world. Cordy becomes a higher power of course. Same outcome in some respects.

    Second, Zander’s obvious weight gain. Was that on Whedon’s orders?


  51. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on October 21, 2014.]

    I also think this episode explains why Buffy became so overbearing in her training of the potentials. Nothing makes you try harder than knowing that there are some you just can’t save. It makes you want to do everything you can to help those who have a shot.

    Interestingly, Buffy witnesses three deaths due to mortal cause. Each event is a pivotal one for her.

    Cassie’s death is the most important one in some ways because she related to it as an adult. The final scene is testament to her adult response: you keep on trying.


  52. [Note: Peter Luke posted this comment on November 3, 2014.]

    One of the most touching and real episode of the series. I was expecting a better score. At least 80. I liked a lot Cassie too.


  53. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on November 23, 2014.]

    I feel like this episode “should” have been (as some have called it here) a “borderline skippable” standalone, but is saved from that by how very compelling Cassie was as a character, and how interesting and emotionally charged her story/situation was. The episode leaves me both wishing that she would have survived and become a recurring character, and at the same time recognizing that she had to die for the story to have the intended power and meaning. An episode that successfully creates that kind of irreconcilable tension in my emotional responses is usually doing something right!

    I’d also like to add that the meaning that I saw in the “one vampire at a time” scene in the beginning relates to Cassie: Xander’s “all this trouble for one vampire” comment stands in for the question of why Buffy later devotes so much time and effort to trying to help one girl. The answer is because that’s the only way to actually help people with their personal pain and struggles–one at a time, by listening to their individual stories, as Buffy is trying to do in her new role at the school.

    I think all the criticism of how Buffy is “treating” Spike is a bit harsh. A case can probably be made that the show dropped the ball a bit by not following up better and sooner on her discovery that he got his soul back–but I think it’s clearly a case of the show struggling to juggle various story elements, and not at all to be taken as Buffy leaving Spike hanging. (And in the previous episode…she wasn’t “using” Spike, in some kind of cruel or insensitive way. He had offered his help in general, and she was relying on it in a situation in which his unique abilities were helpful. And her comment to Xander wasn’t “making fun” of Spike–just pointing out the dubious wisdom of Xander’s “leash” notion…)


  54. [Note: Random posted this comment on March 24, 2015.]

    I’m surprised nobody else picked up on the whole Cassie/Cassandra (Greek woman of myth, cursed to always be able to see the future accurately but never be believed when telling others.) I imagine Joss and co. were quite proud of that one.


  55. [Note: Jay posted this comment on March 26, 2015.]

    I picked up on it! [mythology nerd]

    I believe I also mentioned it to MJ when we were watching it circa 2006, but who knows.


  56. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on March 26, 2015.]

    I’m surprised you find no relevance in this episode when it sets up, and might just be the most relevant episode to, one of the major themes of season 7: that not everyone can be saved. It’s also one of the few instances where you can really point back to and use as a solid reference for why Buffy suddenly becomes the emotionless general later on in the season. From this encounter, she realized putting all her efforts into saving a single life may be futile and in the process many others could get hurt or die when fighting the war that eventually dominates the season. She realizes casualties are not only inevitable in war, but necessary. It parallels Wesley’s words of wisdom in Ats season 2 during the Pylea arc, being an adult already as opposed to Buffy now mounting that position, when he says while raiding the castle “you try to get no one killed, you end up getting everyone killed.”

    As such, I’m in disagreement. It’s a very good episode that gives merit to Buffy’s jarring transformation in a season that did not handle it well overall.


  57. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 26, 2015.]

    Check out comment #45. In essence, I think you’re right: there is more thematically at work here than I gave it credit for in the review. If I ever get around to polishing up these later reviews one last time, I’ll be sure to remedy that omission.


  58. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on March 26, 2015.]

    Yeah, I see. Tim also gives insight that’s worth exploring now that I read it. I haven’t gotten around to the season review or where you mention “power” as a theme, but if that is your interpretation I can easily see how the episode is relevant in that sense as well. Her transformation may have also been an attempt to hide the fact that she feels powerless when it comes to the lives of these people who are looking to her for guidance. This episode would be the one that solidifies this insecurity.


  59. [Note: MichaelJB posted this comment on December 24, 2015.]

    I feel that this story is relevant to the larger season, not in plot but in theme. As the season progresses, and Buffy faces the First, she will feel very much that it is a situation where no amount of fighting will allow her to win – to help herself or those around her. “What do you do when you know that? When you know that maybe you can’t help?” The answer this episode gives us, in the form of Buffy going back to work: “You keep trying anyway.”


  60. [Note: Pathebeyondthedark posted this comment on December 24, 2015.]

    Many of us over time have brought this to Mike’s attention, as can be seen in several comments, and he has mostly agreed. He’s just not had the privilege to revisit and rewrite the review as of yet. This is the case with multiple reviews.


  61. [Note: Nov posted this comment on June 11, 2016.]

    Hello !
    I see here that most people think the episode doesn’t do much in terms of moving the story forward or the character. I think the episode was meant to highlight how much the characters have evolved since highschool.
    I think there are strong parallels between Cassie and Buffy. After all, what other girl with special powers did we know who was foretold her death when she was sixteen ? (Cassie’s dialogue outside her father’s reminded me of “Giles, I’m just sixteen…”) Also when the gang finds Cassie’s website, Buffy seems to relate to her struggles because she went through the same thing last season.
    And when the jerk behind the ritual said “Get back you stupid bitch” it screamed Warren to me. The way I saw it is that the characters, like us viewers, have a new perspective on the “villains”. He’s not just another misogynistic jerk but he’s a potential new Warren, and while Buffy couldn’t completely save Cassie at least she stopped him.
    So yes I really liked the episode and I think the feeling we get that the writers try to go back to the early episodes but that it’s not quite the same is totally on purpose.


  62. [Note: benny posted this comment on June 11, 2016.]

    season 7 felt too much rushed and jammed…. too many things happened….. with the reconciliation (of everything that happened on earlier seasons, especially 6), and then the feeling of impending doom by the “biggest bigbad ever”. and then the real finale …


  63. [Note: Samm posted this comment on June 11, 2016.]

    Season 7 is definitely a mixed bag. I feel the season started very strongly, some great episodes, amazing scenes, the first actually felt intimidating and all was looking good.

    Then the potentials came and everything did just feel rushed, that is because they took up all the screen time from the scoobies, which just made it messy. But it still had great scenes/moments.


  64. [Note: benny posted this comment on June 13, 2016.]

    somehow the episodes that I have problem with this season is eps 4 and 13….. many time I thought about “what if…” scenarios that include these episodes were removed, or cut short, or compacted become 1 episode….


  65. [Note: Devoted posted this comment on September 30, 2016.]

    This is a fine episode. I’ve watched it several times. The actress who plays Cassie, Azure Skye, gives a standout performance. Unique and endearing. You can’t fake that kind of authenticity.

    And we see Buffy as a counsellor. That’s her job this session. Shouldn’t we have at least one episode devoted to that? It takes us back to the heart of the whole series–kids in high school. How do they cope? Who’s there for them? It’s Buffy, all over again. Maybe if the season had spent more time playing on that idea–getting in touch with the original Buffy–it would have developed an intriguing arc. This is the ‘potential’ episode the never materialized.

    And the scene with Cassie and Spike at the end! It hits me every time. “She’ll tell you,” Cassie says. “Someday, she’ll tell you.” What does she mean? Spike doesn’t know, but he’s clearly taken aback. Someday, Buffy will tell him she loves him. That what Cassie means. That scene, and many after it, foreshadow the final scene at the end of the season between Buffy and Spike. How could this episode not be more relevant? It’s always been an A+ for me.


  66. I’ve commented on it before, I may as well again. I still don’t get this business of docking an episode just because it is a stand alone. If an episode is good and well-done, shouldn’t it just get graded for being good and well-done? “I liked most things about this episode, but I’m going to dock it because it’s a stand alone.” Uh huh. What if it turned out that the very best episode of the series was a stand alone? Would it really get docked for being a stand alone? And as others have said and as Mike has acknowledged, there are things in this episode relevant to the season as a whole.

    As others have said, Buffy goes over the line as far as her job as counselor. Going to the father’s house to accuse him of abusing his daughter can land Buffy in all kinds of trouble.

    I caught the Cassie/Cassiopeia reference, and it’s too bad she couldn’t have been a recurring character, but her predictions were always right, so she had to die having predicted it.


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