Buffy the Vampire Slayer S06 E17 – We’re all a little crazy.

Previously: Xander called his wedding to Anya off and there were tears. Some of them even belonged to the characters!

Normal Again

Lorraine: Buffy is walking alone at night, but today we find her not in a graveyard, but on a sidewalk, looking over some information on rental properties. From Buffy we transition to a computer screen that has her image. Video surveillance. Jonathan is asleep in front of the computer until Warren squirts him with a water gun and berates him for sleeping on the job again.

Kirsti: Having recently destroyed a laptop by spilling water on the keyboard, I strongly recommend that Warren NOT use that method again in the future. Course, he’s a fucking sociopath and probably has no fucks to give about his computers, so whatevs.

Lor: Jonathan complains that he hasn’t gotten decent sleep since he became an accessory to murder. He doesn’t say that, but I’m assuming that’s what he means. I don’t feel bad for him for one second. HAVE FUN NOT SLEEPING.

Sweeney: We take sleep very seriously around here, so this is a major insult. ENJOY YOUR LACK OF PROPER SLEEP.

Lor: What he actually complains about is the fact that they’ve rented out a whole house and are only hanging out in the basement, on account of being on the lam. Andrew finally notices that their video feed features a certain Slayer, who is peeking into their darkened house. Warren panics a bit and tells Andrew to release his friend. Andrew promptly picks up a didgeridoo and plays a single note.

Outside, a waxy looking demon drops down behind Buffy. She snarkily asks if the Candle Demon happened across any nerds, and a fight ensues that uses a nearby car as a prop. There is a pretty cool sweeping kick she uses that reminds me of seasons in which actual vampire slayerage was more of an actual thing!

K: Oh, early seasons. How we miss you.

Lor: Buffy slams the Candle Demon’s head into the driver’s side window, and the Zoomy Cameraman shows us that the demon deploys a mid-knuckle spine from one hand. Candle Demon elbows Buffy, who is still behind him, and holds her down while he sticks her with his spine in the arm. She screams and that transitions us to Buffy in a medical gown, screaming as two orderlies try to hold her down. One of them is trying to administer a shot, but he says they’ll have to strap Buffy down. In case we aren’t sure where we are exactly, we pan out of the room and see the white walls, medical uniforms and lethargic patients indicative of TV psych wards.

Wolf howl.

After the credits, Buffy wakes up in the alley where she was just fighting the Candle Demon but she’s alone. She takes a few steps before we cut to morning at Contrivance University. Willow is practicing a few lines she wants to use on Tara, including asking her out for coffee, food, kisses or gay love.

K: Bless.

Lor: Willow spots Tara, but then soon sees another girl approach and greet her warmly. Willow’s face falls and she storms off in the opposite direction. Tara only sees her retreating figure.

Doublemeat Palace. Apparently running off mid-shift with a commando does not in fact get you fired! TV Life Lessons. Buffy is absentmindedly going through the motions, when Lorraine (STILL WEIRD) calls out to her. Buffy turns to her and we flash! bang! to the mental institution, where a nurse is telling her it’s time for her medicine. Flash! Bang! back to the DP where Lorraine is saying that if she didn’t know any better, she would think Buffy was on drugs. B’s all, “um, okay.” and heads back to the deep fryer. She’s burned all the fries.

Sweeney: More wonderfully unappealing fast food imagery!

Lor: Later, at Chez Summers, Willow is looking for signs of life from Xander on the Internet. I’d never be able to run away and hide from anyone because I’d be Tweeting about it. “PROBS SHOULD’VE BROKEN UP BEFORE THE WEDDING. THIS MOTEL IS SKANK NASTY.” Stuff like that, you know?

K: Like when we were in Orlando in January and I spent like half our trip to Disney abusing the free wifi. Good times…

Sweeney: I have this thought whenever I see people do stuff like that on TV. I have pretty adaptable standards so I could give up most major quality of life things…except access to the internet and social media. I’d tweet the shit out of my running away.

Lor: Glad I’m not alone.

Buffy asks why Willow is home in the first place, when she is supposed to be seeing Tara. Willow relates the whole seeing some girl give Tara a kiss on the cheek thing. She admits that she didn’t witness enough to draw conclusions but that she wasn’t willing to stick around either. Willow says that it might’ve made her angry enough to fall back into magic. Buffy best friends accordingly:


The doorbell rings and Xander lets himself into the house. He’s about to have a bucket full of feels so it’s probably not the best time to mention his hideous shirt, camel colored leather jacket combination, but you know. (K: It does nothing but emphasise how heavy he’s gotten in the past year or so…) Willow and Buffy greet him with hugs and assurances that he doesn’t need to explain anything. Xander’s looking for Anya, as her suitcase and things are gone, and there is a closed sign on the Magic Box. Anya left town a few days ago, and according to the girls, was in pretty bad shape when she left.

Xander says things got very messed up, and that leaving Anya was never about leaving Anya, just being unsure about marriage, his family, her demons, and the whole “forever” thing. He misses her. Now, there is a big hole inside of him that he dug out himself. He concludes that he screwed up and Buffy says they all screw up.

Cut to Spike walking in the graveyard. This super! significant! cut! is either because Buffy screwed up by being with him or screwed up by breaking up with him or because he’s a screw up. I’m keeping my vote to myself. Spike is carrying a grocery bag, ’cause he’s normal, see? but he’s also lighting a cigarette because he’s evil, see? He spots Buffy and asks her if she’s looking for him. She isn’t and doesn’t even turn around to address him, until he asks if she cried at the wedding. She fills him in on Xander calling the wedding off.


Yeah, yeah. And some people stay in abusive relationships. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Sweeney: Up until that line I was all, “Oh, hey, this is the comfortable chatting thing that they once did. I have a vague memory of finding that nice before they made me hate everything.”

K: Meanwhile, that hat makes Buffy look like an acorn. A really pretty acorn, but an acorn nonetheless.

Lor: Accurate.

Xander and Willow arrive now as well. Xander says he should’ve guessed Spike would tag along. Buffy nervously blabbers some overdone excuse about what she was doing with Spike. It’s the kind of excuse that makes you think, “well, I wasn’t suspicious before…” Spike says he’ll just get out of her way, and Xander cannot resist adding in his, “run along now!” Spike gets riled up, and says Xander would know all about running away. They exchange a few more verbal jabs before Xander decks Spike IN THE FACE.

While all this is happening, in the background, Buffy is unwell. She sits on a nearby bench and holds her head as we flash! bang! back to the mental institution, where she is crouched down in a similar position. She’s approached by a doctor who gently asks her if she knows where she is. Buffy answers, “Sunnydale,” and he replies that that’s all in her head. She’s in a mental institution and she has been for six years. We cut back to reveal the medical bed, restraints and all.

Flash! Bang! back to the graveyard, where Spike is still falling to the ground and rolling over his groceries. Xander and Willow ignore him and rush over to ask Buffy if she’s okay. She lifts her head slowly but we flash! bang! back to the institution. The doctor reaches out for her and she flinches in a bit of nice physical acting. He tries to brightly tell her it’s okay, and says someone is here to see her.



I guess that’s Hank Summers behind her too.



Lor: After a Not Commercial Break, Buffy recognizes her mom and dad. They are happy to have her lucid, and try to engage her in conversation, but she soon flash! bangs! right back to the graveyard. Spike says they can bring Buffy back to his crypt, but Xander is still testy and says they have dibs on being Buffy’s friend and Spike can’t sit with them and also neener neener. Spike watches them walk away and he’s all alone and sad.

Back at Chez Summers , Buffy is giving her own recap of the first 15 minutes of this episode, from the Candle Demon all the way to the hallucinations she’s had so far, to Xander, Willow, and Dawn. Xander is sacrificed to the script gods as he gets the obvious har! har! har! Sunnydale IS crazy! line. Everyone just sort of ignores him as Buffy tells them about her parents being there. Willow jumps up and nervously says that it sounds like research o’clock. She’s assigning duties as Buffy starts to flash! bang!

This time, we’re in the doctor’s office. He’s telling Joyce and Hank that Buffy’s condition is complicated. She’s created a whole world- the world we know- in her own head, complete with friends, monsters to fight and grand adventures. Buffy says Warren and Jonathan did this to her (Andrew. So forgotten and he’s the one who called the demon) and the doctor psychologies her about how her delusions are coming apart. Her friends aren’t so comforting any more and the Big Bads have been downgraded to three pathetic guys she went to high school with.

K: Buffy’s face when she realises that she’s abandoned Dawn again kills me. Because, of course, Dawn doesn’t exist in Mental Institution World.

Sweeney: Joss Whedon talks about this episode as being something of a metaphor for the act of writing the show and the way he talks about Dawn is a really striking example of that – something about reconstructing the rules of her internal universe for the sake of having a familial bond. It’s such a brilliant metaphor and while it’s easy to say, “Yeah she imagines demons, obvs crazy!” these little bits where they deconstruct the storytelling are the place where they really sell the idea that she’s crazy.

Lor: Cut to the Three Pathetic Guys She Went to High School With. Jonathan is being very jittery about where Warren and Andrew have been without him. My wish that he loses sleep for forever appears to be working. The other two douches seem perfectly okay, though, so I’ll wish harder. Jonathan wants to get out of the basement but Warren stops him from leaving.

At home, Buffy examines a picture of Joyce, Hank and Baby Buffy sadly. I think we’ve seen it before. Willow comes in with good news; she’s identified the Candle Demon and there’s an antidote for the poison he stuck her with. Buffy doesn’t react to the news because she’s really busy looking at this picture sadly. She’s been lost, and it started way before the Candle Demon and his crazy juice. She’s been detached and every day she tries to snap out of it, but depression isn’t a decision you make. Willow firmly tells her friend that she isn’t in, and has never been in an institution. Buffy confesses that she has been, back before Sunnydale, when she saw her first vampires.



Lor: B told her parents about the vampires and they freaked out on her and sent her to a clinic, where she stayed a couple of weeks. She quit talking about it and they released her. “Eventually, my parents just forgot.” It’s so sad that I have to muddle my JOYCE FEELS by remembering what a shitty parent she was for so long. This only confirms for me much of that early season hate, though. HOW DO YOU FORGET SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

Sweeney: YES. I typed something else along these lines up there, before reading this bit, but yeah – this whole Buffy-was-institutionalized-in-LA adds a lot of retroactive layers to their early season relationship.

Lor: Buffy cries as she wonders if she never left that clinic and she’s still there.


K: Sarah Michelle Gellar is knocking it out of the park right now.

Sweeney: Agreed! She was like 19 when they shot the pilot and it’s been really cool to watch her grow as an actress across these many seasons.

Lor: Willow tries to assure her that she isn’t. Xander is hunting the demon to get the antidote. Buffy worries about him, but Willow says they got some help.

Cut to Spike and Xander walking together because they use him. Spike is all, “oh, is Lorraine trying to feel a little bit bad for me? Let me say something incredibly stupid!” And he does: So, she’s having the wiggins, is she? Thinks none of us are real? Bloody self-centered, if you ask me. He babbles on about how this would all totally make sense if she made it up, because in her head she chipped him and made him a sex slave. Xander misses most of that babble. Just as they are about to get into another fight, the Candle Demon appears. So they fight with him instead, and take him down.

Chez Summers. Dawn brings Buffy some tea, and tenderly touches her face to check her temperature. Buffy is burning up. Buffy talks to Dawn in a disjointed way:

Buffy: I should be taller than you.
Dawn: Maybe you’re not done growing.
Buffy: Coming apart.
Dawn: What’s coming apart?
Buffy: We have to try harder, make things better.
Dawn: I’m trying.
Buffy: Your grades… stealing. Willow’s been doing your chores, hasn’t she?

Dawn denies it.

Buffy suddenly leans forward and startles Dawn, as she tells her that they have to deal with these things. Flash! bang! we go back to the institution, where Joyce is telling Buffy that she doesn’t have a sister. She wants her to repeat it, and she does, but she tacks on the story about the monks making her a sister. Her parents basically tell her she’s crazy, and Joyce reaches out and strokes her daughter’s face, kind of like Dawn just did. Flash! bang! (I really wouldn’t have started that if I knew it was gonna be so many. Phew.) back to Chez Summers.

Dawn is crying because she isn’t in Buffy’s delusions. According to Dawn, “It’s your ideal reality, and I’m not even a part of it.” Sometimes her brat is strong. Seriously, she sat there and heard the Scoobies all talk about how Buffy got injected by a demon. This kind of reminds me when Christian Grey yelled at Ana for leaving him, after she said IN A DREAM that she wouldn’t leave him ever. You just really can’t be held responsible for things you say while sleeping or in an alternate reality, you know? Anyway, Dawn leaves.

K: It *is* pretty bratty, but it’s still enough to give me a dose of the Dawn feels. Although I’m not sure I’d say that being in a mental institution is Buffy’s ideal reality…

Sweeney: I definitely got some Dawn feels; it hadn’t occurred to her that she didn’t exist in that other reality and it was painful to find out like that. I get that this caused her feelings. That said, Buffy is legit going crazy right now. So, like, yeah, that quoted line coupled with the angry storming out? Definitely in brat territory. Being angry with a crazy person for being crazy is a dick move.

Lor: I’m usually on the Dawn Feels train, but this is pushing it. They kept her involved and informed and she still seems too oblivious to what’s going on.

In the basement, Xander and Spike are restraining the Candle Demon while Willow breaks off his spine and puts it in a jar. Willow sends Xander to the Magic Box for some herbs and Spike stays in the basement to keep the demon contained.

An establishing shot shows us we’re still at the Summers’ home, but it is now daytime. Willow, still wearing the same clothes, comes into Buffy’s room and hands her the antidote in a mug. It took her a while to get it right without magic. Sounds like something Tara could’ve helped with, on account of that whole Buffy being poisoned and delusional thing. (K: I was just thinking the exact same thing.) Buffy tells Willow that she never stops coming through. Spike shows up at the door. Willow tells Spike to make sure Buffy drinks her antidote, as she’s going to check on Dawn.

Left alone, Buffy tells Spike to leave her alone, as he isn’t a part of her life. For a second it looks like he might actually just leave but, LOL. Nope. He starts to get closer to B, but it’s like he hits an invisible wall and backs off. It took me a rewind/rewatch to realize it’s because of a beam of sunlight. Properly chastised by the sun, Spike starts his speech again, and a bit calmer this time.

“I hope you don’t think this antidote’s gonna rid you of that nasty martyrdom. See, I figured it out, luv. You can’t help yourself. You’re not drawn to the dark like I thought. You’re addicted to the misery. It’s why you won’t tell your pals about us. Might actually have to be happy if you did. They’d either understand and help you, god forbid, or drive you out, where you can finally be at peace, in the dark. With me. Either way, you’d be better off for it, but you’re too twisted for that. Let yourself live, already. And stop with the bloody hero trip for a sec. We’d all be the better for it. You either tell your friends about us or I will.”

I was trying so hard not to rile everyone up too. SORRY. HAVE TO BE HONEST: EW.

(1) – How is this at all better than Riley’s speech OMG I DON’T GET IT.


(3) – “So, I was totally wrong about what I was working SO HARD to convince you of, that you were drawn to the dark. OOPS. No worries, though, ’cause I gots a new theory.”

(4) – Considering what Buffy was telling Willow about how she’s been trying to snap out of it, about how stuck she’s felt, can you imagine how it would feel to hear someone say that this is something of her own choosing? You want to be miserable! Ouch.

Damage all done, Spike leaves, and we watch Buffy pour out her antidote, because delusions gotta be better than that, right?

K: Truth. The only part of that speech I’m on board with is “Let yourself live, already.” She’s spent so much of this season going through the motions (as she said herself in The Greatest Episode Ever), and she was just starting to get back on track. Living is what she’s been trying to do since she broke up with him. It’s also a nice reminder of what she said to Dawn at the end of season 5 – “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Course, I’m not on board with the “Let yourself live by sleeping with me some more” subtext part. So…yeah.

Sweeney: Yeah, see, that’s why I can’t abide that either. He’s mentioned nearly every episode but the last one (including in this speech!) that letting herself live is being IN THE DARKNESS with him. That line is still part of his whole manipulation train where he alternates between put-downs and BE LIKE ME ‘CAUSE I GET YOU.

Lor: Flash! Bang! back to the hospital. She tells her doctor, Joyce and Hank that she doesn’t want to go back to Sunnydale. She wants to be healthy again.

After a cut to black, Buffy says she wants to go home with her parents, but Joyce tells her she needs to get better first. The Doctor says the way to do that is to rid her mind of hallucinations, and break down the things that keep her going back, namely her friends.

K: There’s an added dose of OMG WTF FEELS because the doctor mentions that Buffy became lucid for a while the previous summer. In other words, when she died in Sunnydale.

Sweeney: Added feels because with regards to the heavenly dimension she said that she didn’t know where she was but that she was happy there.

Lor: Buffy looks like she understands and we flash! bang! back to Sunnydale, where she finds Willow in the living room. Will asks if she’s okay and if the antidote worked. Buffy confirms that it did, though her face is blank and she isn’t very convincing. Willow is hopeful nonetheless and offers to make B some food.

Later, Xander is again letting himself into the house. When he gets to the kitchen, Buffy is standing at the sink, with a pan in her hand. There is no music or background noise of any sort as Xander says that now that she’s better they can take care of the Candle Demon in the basement. He hopes she’s up for it because he doesn’t want to deal with Spike again, even though he does feel a little bit bad for Buffy-obsessed Spike. Buffy ends his thoughts by hitting him with a pan in the face. A frying pan like what he saw in his vision with Anya.

He resists Buffy a bit, but she overpowers him and then drags him down into the basement. He sees Willow bound and gagged right before he passes out. The camera pans up, so that we see Buffy looking over her two friends before looking over to the bound Candle Demon.

Buffy heads upstairs and locks the the basement as the horror movie music kicks into overdrive. Next, B calls out to Dawn and heads upstairs to her room. Dawn is packing up a bag as she’s going over to Janice’s where they actually want her there. Buffy says she’s going downstairs with the rest of everyone. Dawn starts to get suspicious, and when Buffy lunges at her, she’s able to avoid her and run away. She locks herself in the bathroom as she yells through the door that the delusions aren’t real. Real enough for her to get pissy about them, though, huh?

Buffy breaks down the door, but by then, Dawn has already run around to Willow’s room. She tells Buffy to look at her. “You’re my sister. I need you and love you. Somewhere inside you must know that’s real.” Michelle Trachtenberg starts speaking out of her nose when she’s trying to convey emotion. It’s weird.

K: It really is. But it’s better than the screaming?

Lor: Different than.

Buffy deadpans that sure this world is real– a place where she is a supergirl chosen to fight demons and save the world. It’s ridiculous. Dawn closes the door, but Buffy immediately kicks it down. Buffy: A girl who sleeps with the vampire she hates? Yeah, that makes sense. Dawn tries to run but Buffy rolls over the bed, grabs her and wrestles her to the floor.

We cut to the basement, where Buffy has tied Dawn up as well. Flash! Bang! to the mental institution where the doctor tells her to take her time and make it easy. Flash! Bang! back to Sunnydale where Buffy releases the Candle Demon.

Xander begs her for help, begs her to release him because he needs his hands to fight. Xander kicks the Candle Demon, and his binds are broke when the demon grabs him roughly and throws him across the room. Tara gets to Chez Summers and calls out for her friends. No answer.

In the basement, Buffy is hiding under the stairs and she flash! bangs! back to the mental institution where she is also cowering in a corner. Joyce tells her to keep concentrating. In the basement, Xander keeps yelling for help as the demon hits him again. Tara comes down the stairs, calling for Willow. She acts quickly, and magics Dawn and Willow’s binds away, before magic-ing a bookshelf onto the Candle Demon. Tara moves down the stairs again, but Buffy grabs her foot from beneath them, and sends Tara falling down.

Mental Institute. Joyce is telling Buffy she’s a survivor.

Basement. Xander attacks the demon and gets thrown aside again. The demon throws Dawn as well. Willow grabs a baseball bat and gets a couple good whacks in, but he quickly gets rid of her, like the others. Buffy calls Willow’s name.

Mental Institute. Buffy is extremely agitated. She bangs her head against the wall.

Joyce: Buffy, fight it. You’re too good to give in, you can beat this thing. Be strong, baby, okay? I know you’re afraid. I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you’ve got people who love you. Your dad and I, we have all the faith in the world in you. We’ll always be with you. You’ve got a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself.

Buffy has stopped crying as Joyce strokes he head. She looks into her mother’s face and says, “You’re right. Thank you.” Her mom smiles, but we then watch her face fall as Buffy says goodbye. We flash! bang! back to the basement. Buffy stands slowly and immediately gets to fighting the Candle Demon. She punches through his stomach and kills him.

Buffy looks around as her friends stand. She whispers that she’s sorry. She wobbles a bit and Willow tells her to sit. She says can’t until she has the antidote. Willow says they will make more for her and that everything will be okay.

Flash! Bang! back to the hospital where the doctor is flashing a light into Buffy’s eyes.


Joyce sobs and we pan out of the shot.


Lor: Okay, from the top: I can’t help but feel so much for Buffy in this episode in which an alternate reality where she has been living in an asylum for six years is preferable to her Sunnydale existence. I have never given any thought to Buffy’s first encounter with vampires. Even at the beginning of the series, when she first got to Sunnydale, she didn’t want to fight vampires, but their existence was a given. This nod to when they weren’t, to having to face that “reality” for the first time was fantastic. The only thing I didn’t like was that the “my parents forgot about it,” line. Out of story, it seems like a cheap, “oh yeah! Didn’t mention this before!” device. In story, it gives us more reasons to rid Joyce Summers of Sandy Cohen Eyebrows.

There was a point there that I expected her to find Spike next and bring him down. She never went after him or Tara. Again, the out of story explanation is possibly, “time restraints” or “sloppiness.” I think the story felt full enough that I’ll go with A. In-story explanations are all over the place. What do Spike and Tara share that Willow, Xander and Dawn lack? I think they stand apart from the trauma of being torn out of heaven and what’s expected of her now that she’s here.

Also, we were talking about Giles’s absence last post, so we can make that link here again. Giles– the mind– is missing in action. Willow the spirit and Xander the heart are locked away in the basement, and hasn’t that just been the picture of Buffy all season long? What about Dawn? She wasn’t quite so literally defined, but I think you could make a good argument about Dawn representing life, the fullness and innocence of early life, Buffy’s reason to live, or conversely, her reason to die.

I think this episode was also subtly great at showing us how, yes, they’ve all been kind of “slumming” it this season. Willow mentions that something could make her angry enough to relapse back into magic. This season is so much about the dark places we go when we are at extremes. Spike would have Buffy believe that she has some great attraction to the dark, or to misery, but my line of thinking is more along Riley’s: the wheel keeps turning. Buffy is depressed enough to sleep with the thing she hated. Dawn is alone enough to steal. Was Anya hurt enough to take up vengeance? They’ve all got demons chained up in the basement, and this doesn’t excuse any actions, but again, this season focuses on those harmful decisions.

Seeing Joyce again was pretty rough. Part of the appeal of the alternate reality was her mom and dad, alive, together, and so willing to take care of her. I love that in the end, it was her mother’s words that gave her the push to face her life. Buffy found her mother dead. There was no time for final goodbyes, for kisses or hugs or parting words. Even if it was in a place deep inside herself, B got some final encouragement from her mom. Buffy, in turn, gets to say thank you, tell Joyce she was right, and say goodbye.

And finally, the end. I love that ultimately, Buffy was able to power her way through the delusions. She’s been wanting to fight her emotional problems all season, but again, depression isn’t something you decide yourself out of. Here we see a different circumstance, in which even at a weak point and with so many cards stacked against her, she beats it before she has the antidote. My first impression was that that was the point of the final flash! bang! She was still poisoned, so she vetnured back into that head space, although her decision was made.

K: This, for me, is what’s so important about this episode – she makes a choice. She chooses to be the Slayer, to live in Sunnydale, to face her demons. She’s spent so long just letting life carry her along without making active decisions. The last big decision she really made was to jump, to save the world. Here, she’s saving herself. 

Sweeney: I think Lor’s point about it being a thing you can’t just decide yourself out of is also pretty important, but yes, she made a choice. A series of things occurred to enable her to make a choice and that in and of itself is a big step for her.

Lor: Of course, the ending is open ended. I think it’s perfectly clear that her shitty Sunnydale existence isn’t exactly the stuff delusions are made of. Plus, a demon was summoned to make all that stuff in her head possible. That’s just my take on it, though, and I like that that bit can suggest that somewhere in LA, Buffy is lost to her delusions. Again, as much as that isn’t my view of things, I LOVE that it’s a view of things.

Sweeney: Somewhere in LA a crazy person was just dreaming up slayers and demons and shit. And we love him for it.

Lor: In the end, I think we can all agree that you have to be a little crazy to exist in Sunnydale, and that includes all of us.


Next time: Anya returns to Sunnydale and understandably has a mind for vengeance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer S06 E18 – Entropy.

Marines (all posts)

I'm a 20-something south Floridan who loves the beach but cannot swim. Such is my life, full of small contradictions and little trivialities. My main life goals are never to take life too seriously, but to do everything I attempt seriously well. After that, my life goals devolve into things like not wearing pants and eating all of the Zebra Cakes in the world. THE WORLD.

Sweeney (all posts)

I collect elaborate false eyelashes, panda gifs, and passport stamps. I earned my MA in Global Communications and watching too many YouTube videos. Now people pay me to edit YouTube videos. The circle of life. Reconciling my aversion to leaving the house/wearing pants with my deep desire to explore everything is my life's great struggle.

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  • Wilhelmina Upton

    First of all, this episode heavily reminded me of the Doctor Who episode Silence in the Library. We have the girl with delusions and she is taken care of by a (black doctor). Both times it turns out the delusions are real but the thing that seems to be real isn’t.

    I know I’ve talked about my irrational fear of ever ending up in a mental institution with some of you on Twitter so this episode gave me extra feels because of that.

    • lev36

      “Buffy Summers has left the Library. Buffy Summers has been saved.”

      • Wilhelmina Upton

        Little Buffy and the Doctor Moon…

      • One sentence. So many feels.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      Great. Now I’m going to be freaked out by shadows again…

      • Wilhelmina Upton

        You’re welcome?

  • Clément Polge

    “Cut to Spike and Xander walking together because they use him. Spike is all, “oh, is Lorraine trying to feel a little bit bad for me? Let me say something incredibly stupid!” ”

    I just want to say it took me a few minutes to understand this sentence, because I was thinking “huh ? Why would Spike care about what an employee from DMP think ?” and then I realise it was just Lorr talking about herself in the 3rd person.

    On to this episode now. I hate it with a fiery passion. So much I didn’t even rewatched it for the recap. Reading the recap is does sound good though, or at least it has its moments, but I honestly HATE that idea of “b-t-dubs, all those 6 season might actually just be delusions, lol”. I mean, it’s up there in the “WORST PLOT DEVICE EVER” list with “your main character wakes up at the end of the show and it was all a dream”. HATE HATE HATE.

    It’s funny though because I mentioned a few days ago that I didn’t have much to do as the Joyce Defense Front lately though, and I totally forgot she appeared there ! Nice coincidence.

    But uh, juste out of curiosity, what else could she have done ? Your daughter says she saw a vampire but can’t show you because it turned into dust, I kinda want to say that an institution is the way to go… And once she’s out, she didn’t “forget”, but I’m not sure waking up your child every morning with “here’s your cereal bowl honey, it’s better than what they had at the asylum AMIRITE ? *high-five*”

    Buffy’s first slay is mentioned in the pilot though I believe, she slays her first on-screen vampire, someone freaks, and starts trying to rationalise it, and Buffy goes “yeah, it’s a trick of light, an illusion, a mirror trick, I tried it all on my first time” or something, which seems to suggest that her first time WAS actually traumatic. So again, nice ground for getting her in an institution.

    So yeah, I think Joyce actually did the right choice then, given the information she had at the time.

    • It definitely erred on the side of “this-is-all-real” but, more importantly, if it weren’t, it wouldn’t just be S6.

      Anyway, RE: Joyce. Speaking for myself (but probably Lor as well) the complaint wasn’t that Joyce sent her to an institution in the first place. We’re talking about all the shit she pulled in the first three seasons. All of her general failure as a parent becomes that much more acute when we realize that the conversation Buffy had with her before running away wasn’t the first time Joyce had learned about all of this. Joyce learned about it and thought she was crazy…multiple times over. And there really wasn’t anything in the way of, “Damn, I’m sorry about that.” Just a whole lot of, “Well you need to be patient with me while I try to understand all of this.”

      • darkalter2000

        Thank you! Joyce and her “I needed time to process this!” always made me mad at her and this episode is more fuel for the fire.

      • Clément Polge

        Yeah I get your point, and I agree to a certain extent, but I don’t want to redo the match, I think everything has been said at the time 🙂

        My main argument though is always headcanon, I always believed that more happened between Buffy and Joyce off camera than on, and the apology is exactly the sort of thing that might have happened off camera… Either to not ruin the surprise, or because they had no idea yet is was in Buffy’s backstory.

        But, again, it’s headcanon, I just don’t believe Joyce and Buffy had that strained a relationship.

        • Oh, I don’t think their relationship was all that strained. I definitely think Joyce’s character just suffered a lot for the sake of the larger narrative. That said, her actions — whatever their explanation — became canon and were often pretty faily. But yes, you’re right, we’ve hashed all this out already 🙂

      • Jojo

        I have to say that dealing with a mentally ill child is a lot more complex than you seem to think. I have a nephew (Buffy’s age) who is schizo-affective. His delusions really do take over, and in the grip of a delusion he can do and say some very odd things. I can see him coming up with this whole Sunnydale illusion and getting so caught up in it that he needs to be hospitalized. The teen years are the age where many people have their first psychotic break. Also, as a family member, once the relative is home you don’t talk about the delusion because you don’t want to feed into it – reignite it.

        So Joyce tried to ignore Buffy’s strangeness – as far as Buffy can seem strange in Sunnydale- because she seems to be rational, able to go to school, and not babbling and living in her head. It’s not evil to not want to hospitalize your child again. When Buffy goes off again on vampires and being the Slayer it has to be a nightmare come true. We do like to hold parents to a higher standard than the other characters – but in truth Joyce is a divorced mother trying to make a new life with a child who has a history of mental illness and who was kicked out of school for burning down some school buildings – and that really will frak up your head.

        Oh, and my nephew is also black – kind of terrifying given all the news stories about mentally ill people and young black men.

        • Clément Polge

          Thank you, that’s the point I was trying to make, because we tend to be annoyed at TV characters who aren’t showing the same suspension of disbelief than we do, but that’s actually believable.

          It does raise some continuity issues though, because I sort of remember that the first time Buffy says vampire in front of her mom, she seems to not catch the word, rather than go into full “oh my god is she spiralling back” mode, and to just not really care about it…

          Although sometimes stuff is really just thrown under the bus, which objectively (and sadly) happened to Joyce a few times, and these times aren’t any less canon…

          • Jojo

            I suspect everyone makes ill advised comments – and most people can handle that. Probably turning away and getting busy elsewhere.A casual word isn’t much to worry about. It’s even nice to be able to joke.

  • Democracy Diva

    “Buffy is absentmindedly going through the motions” I see what you did there, Lor, and I like it.

    “Oh, hey, this is the comfortable chatting thing that they once did. I have a vague memory of finding that nice before they made me hate everything.” – THE TAGLINE OF SEASON SIX. +1 TIMES INFINITY TO THIS. Also, the acorn thing made me giggle because a moment before K said it, I was thinking how she looks like a nut, but like, the kind of nut that you eat, not the crazy kind of nut. And then I wondered if that was on purpose, because in this epispde, SHE’S A NUT. I’m sorry, I have to keep things light because this episode DESTROYS MY SOUL. (Sorry, no soul-talk here.)

    I definitely paused this episode early on to say to my boyfriend, “I am not sure I am ready for the show to go to this place” re: the whole “this is all Buffy’s psychosis” thing, but I love this episode. It doesn’t have the rewatchability of some of the more fun ones, but this one fucked with my head in a serious way, and I value that in a show. And SMG has some of her most fantastic performances of the series in this episode. She destroyed me.

    Wrapped in Spike’s speech of insanity are some nuggets of truth like, fucking tell your friends so you can be happy. Obviously it comes from a place of “and then let’s have some more dubiously consensual sex,” and HELLO MID-MENTAL DELUSION IS REALLY NOT THE TIME FOR THIS, so I am in no way condoning this speech, but I had to agree with that single point. Buffy was there for Willow when she dated a werewolf, and when she came out of the closet, and she was there for Xander when he, you know, got syphillis from demons and fell in love with Anya. I know it’s different because Oz, Tara, and Anya are all good people who were good for Willow and Xander in their own ways, and Spike really, really isn’t. And I know Buffy’s been to heaven and back since then. But she should know that after all she’s given them and done for them, her friends wouldn’t turn on her for sleeping with Spike. The saddest thing about this whole plot line might really be that Buffy can’t see that. /endfeels

    Just kidding, more feels: Buffy’s sarcasm re: this world where she sleeps with Spike can’t be real. When things start flipping back and forth more quickly between the Scoobies tied up in the basement, and the mental institution – wow. I sobbed my heart out when she banged her head against the wall.

    At the end of this episode on first watch, I paused Netflix and sat in silence with my boyfriend for what felt like five hours but was probably like a minute or so, unable to express ALL THE FEELS. There aren’t many episodes of television ever that made me do that. And a million 1430s for Lor’s analysis of missing the mind,the spirit, and the heart. Just – wow.

    • LOL. Thank you, thank you! I’m so happy someone appreciated it. 🙂

      NICE. I agreed with the acorn thing without even thinking about it being a nut. That has got to be on purpose. I refuse to believe that it isn’t.

      As I mentioned, at the end I was fully convinced that it wasn’t all in Buffy’s head. I thought that was clear, which is why I loved the episode. But, it did just have that little sliver of, “hold on…” that fucked with your head and it was amazing.

      I get what you are saying about the Spike speech and about her telling her friends. I dislike the idea that telling her friends is what her happiness hinges on. Tell your friends! Be happy! That other shit about depression and stuff will be FINE. Your minimum wage job will be FINE. You’ll forget about heaven soon! JUST FIX YOUR BOY PROBLEMS AND COME SLEEP WITH ME GIRL. Ew. (And I mean, that’s of course how I interpret the whole thing. She’s mid delusion and Spike is arguing that if she just tells her friends about her sex life, she’d be totally happy. BIGGER ISSUES, SHOW.)

      Thank you! I started this recap early and we were mid discussing Giles’s absence when I was writing this recap. I MISS GILES.

      • Democracy Diva

        I think I had recently seen the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of Community which deals with multiple timelines when I first saw this episode, so I LOVED the idea of an alternate timeline where all of this is in Buffy’s head. I fully agree that this is NOT all in Buffy’s head, but for me, it gave me Community crossover magic that I very much enjoyed.

        • Clément Polge

          Maybe that’s actually what happened, they rolled a D6 to decide who Buffy would sleep with: Spike, Xander, Anya, Willow, Tara, Warren. Except there was no Abed at the writing table to catch the die mid-air and say “NO ! This is a trick ! Buffy is fine by herself !”

          • Guest

            I feel we should all collab on this fic together. To the library!

          • Christine Tran

            And then the darkest timeline actually turns out to be when she sleeps with Xander (who’d a thunk it!?).We see the world literally fall apart in a strange butterfly effect. The ep ends with everyone crowding around a cave fire in a post-apocalyptic wasteland as Abed asks why a feminist text appears to intent on punishing the female lead for her sexual decisions!

            I feel we should collab on this. To the library!

        • A+ Crossover Magic. I hadn’t even thought of that, but I love this theory.

        • Christine Tran

          Beautiful connection!

          Hey, if this is all in Buffy’s head…then what the hell is the Angel spinoff!? A side-fantasy? A share delusion with the guy in the next room?

          • LOLOLOL. Buffy and Angel actually met in the asylum. The doctor to her parents: “You think this is bad? That guy down there believes he’s hundreds of years old. He was originally brought in after confessing to thousands of murders. Sadly, their delusions coincided. We tried to keep them in separate wings, but they both just imagined that he moved to a different city.”

          • Clément Polge

            Does that mean that Angel’s delusion move faster then ? Because Buffy’s seem to be in real time, but he needs hundreds of year of existence.

            It would also explain the accent… But still not the wig, why would you delude yourself with bad wigs ?

            And when their delusions overlapped, Angel had to slow down to match Buffy’s delusion speed, which made him go crazy and quote-unquote “lose his soul”.

            Than he went to L.A. and went back to full speed but his brain had lost its habit, so he went half-crazy, and thus CrAngel was born.

            Darla’s probably just a crazy doctor, harley quinn style.

          • Anagnorisis

            Delusions don’t always follow actual reality time, different delusions can subsit at the same time,and one can jump in time, they follow a different logic.
            But yeah, this theory is hilarious.
            But totally spoiling Angel season 5 episode where he fights a demon that injects him with the same thing and he wakes up in a mental institution still being Liam. The rest of the episode is actually quite similar, they were running out of ideas.

          • Clément Polge

            Yeah but I always thought it was a bit contrived how Buffy kicked that demon ass so hard he saw the curvature of the earth and just happened to land on top of Angel with his hallucination thingies out.

          • Democracy Diva

            For the record, I CONSTANTLY delude myself with bad wigs.

          • SuzyLee

            I have actually read this fanfic; also an almost identical one whereby its Spike instead of Angel; I was young…

    • Your deep analysis of the acorn hat is the best thing ever. The acorn hat is now my favorite metaphor of the entire series.

    • Ashley Menvielle

      <3 this comment! Thank you for this: "because in this episode, SHE'S A NUT".LOL forever! You should be sorry not sorry for making that amazing observation,(LAYERZ, OMG) because it's probably, maybe…kinda, could be a legit costume choice AND because we need all the lols we can get this season; in this last half of the season especially.

      I have come to appreciate this episode, by the time it aired originally I was becoming comatose from all the sad this season and was just kinda like ok, that happened about this episode then. I think it's a very brave episode, just like this is a very brave season, and I'm glad they went there in terms of Buffy's depression and in addressing that as a t.v. show they could have gone with the "it was but a dream route" that shows sometimes choose to go with when things get too "hard" to deal with storyline wise.

      I'm right there with you on the feels front when it comes to Buffy thinking the Scoobs will freak on her of they find out about Spike sex. It really shows how isolated she is that she can't tell her best friend or sister about that or about how hard it is for her to be back from Heaven. She feels it is safer to put on a brave front, even to the detriment of herself then to tell them hurtful but necessary, one could argue, truths. It just makes me think that she's very much aware that she's on a pedestal for them and that it's so hard for her to be there but she's used to it so why risk changing the dynamic? They are her support system like Spike observed in S5, they have helped her survive and become an even stronger slayer but there's a dark side to that dynamic and it really shows this season. She feels she can't lose their support or she'll be truly alone, so she'll play the Slayer and girl that they want her to be even though she really is not the same girl she was, that she's been changing into every since she went down to meet her death in Prophecy Girl. As for the Scoobies they have such good intentions and they end up doing so much damage this season: to Buffy and to themselves. It's Buffy's story, she's the hero and their lives have become all about helping her, their stories are literally secondary to her own show wise and with in the show, so there's tension there. They can help her when there's a big bad, or even a llittle bad, the demon of the week in this episode, but they couldn't let her go, they couldn't let her be dead so they brought her back and don't want or really know how to deal with all the pain they forced her back into. So many feels on so many differing levels! This episode really highlights for me how deep Buffy's inner demons are and how I'll equipped the Scoobies are to deal with that kind of big bad. There are no monsters to fight this season, all that's left are the internal monsters.

  • SuzyLee

    I love this episode, I’m not sure exactly where I’d rank it but top 5 for sure. Its so cleverly done. No, its certainly not the only show to have ever used this plot device, but I’d argue that its one of the absolute best at convincing you that just maybe the alternate reality could be real, the way they tie things in is just so believable, it has its own internal logic and yet it never slaps you in the face with it. I watched the DVD commentary last night and they said that one of their main aims was to never push you definitively one way or the other, to make both equally real and I think they succeeded really well with that.

    Every time Spike makes his speech I want to slap him really hard. He thinks that he understands Buffy and to a certain extent he does, in ways others can’t, but when it comes to this stuff he understands nothing, what you’ve said previously about him projecting onto Buffy is completely true.
    V jnf nyjnlf ernyyl tynq gung gurl vzcyvpvgyl unq Ohssl fgngr gung ur qbrfa’g haqrefgnaq ure gur jnl ur guvaxf, naq vzcyl gur cebwrpgvba vffhrf va Frnfba 7 (V guvax vgf Arire Yrnir Zr).

    There’s a few extra lines from the shooting script where Xander starts reasoning that Sunnydale really doesn’t make any sense etc, which on the whole I’m glad they cut because it was too heavy handed, but part of me will always be sad that this line had to go “… and what the hell was Adam’s plan supposed to be anyway, ’cause I still haven’t figured out”, because I just love it when they reference/aknowledge the holes in their own mythology/plotting.

  • I love this episode and I don’t have a problem with the ending. To me, it doesn’t make sense for the whole demon world to be a delusion since Angel and the fang gang are doing their own thing in LA. Everything happening over there is completely unrelated to Buffy’s life, so it doesn’t make any sense for that to be in her head as well. I don’t know if that makes sense but it does in my brain.

    I never had any major problems with Spike this season. I mean, I thought he was a huge douche-face, but I just accepted it as part of his storyline. But rewatching now, I’m cringing every time he opens his mouth. THANKS GUYS.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      Welcome to my world.

  • Zovc

    Well, despite a lot of well done things, I really don’t like this episode. The biggest problem I have with it is Buffy saying she was in a clinic for a short time, because: A. There’s no way she wouldn’t have said something to Willow or Giles in five years & B. The idea that Joyce “forgot” is absurd (Wouldn’t you think the three times Buffy mentioned vampires in front of her before “Becoming” would have jogged her memory?).

    Additionally, the writers really failed to make the institution seem like a credible reality (I think it’s all the pop psychology the doctor uses). Last, without getting too spoilery, if this episode had been scrapped, the hole in the schedule could be used to make the events of the finale less rushed. The non-Snow friendly version of that comment can be seen below.

    Onfvpnyyl, V guvax qnex jvyybj arrqrq zber fperra gvzr gb or na rssrpgvir ivyynva.

    • I totally buy Buffy keeping quiet on this. I mean, everything in her history suggests that this is the time of thing she would never share. She isn’t a sharer and keeping secrets is kind of her deal. Plus, there is such a stigma attached to mental illness. This isn’t the kind of thing MOST people would freely share, without a reason.

      I wanted to comment on how much I didn’t buy the institution and their methods but I don’t actually know enough on the subject to say anything much more than, “this doesn’t seem right!” But it didn’t seem right, which is another nice little nod to the fact that that was just a place created in her head.

      • Zovc

        Well, you’ve got a point about Buffy not being a sharer, but what stigma would there be if she told people who *know* monsters are real that she was institutionalized for thinking monsters are real? Also, in “Bad Eggs” Buffy make a non-joke joke about saving the world from vampires and Joyce responds the way any normal parent would. While Joyce’s reaction may just be a part of her gunning for Worst Mother, Period, would Buffy really make that joke had she been committed?
        As for your second point, yeah, all I know about mental institutions I learned from Ken Kesey, but the doctor’s psychology had a number of sub-Dr. Phil moments, which bug me because various people who worked on the show said the ending is supposed to be ambiguous, and if that’s their intention, they should have worked at making the no-vamp reality seem real. Still, I get that you have been avoiding spoilers, so it makes sense you assumed the institution was supposed to unambiguously be an hallucination.

        • Clément Polge

          Maybe the monks created that internment thing when they created Dawn ! You know, for fun and lolsies, you don’t get a lot of those as a monk.

          Also, even with the truth on your side, being committed can still be a weird thing to admit… I guess it’s sort of a shameful memory, independantly of if it should be or not (for which he answer should actually always be no). Not the sort of thing you talk about over sunday’s roast beef either.

          • Jojo

            Hey – how many people have told you that they have depression and anxiety issues? The people who tell usually just tell close friends and tell them for a reason.

        • That’s one of the interesting things about the meta episodes – they rely so heavily on particular format decisions that even those of us who ostensibly like that kind of thing (which, really, should be everyone who likes this show/Joss Whedon) are going to find that some of those episodes miss the mark and when they do, they miss it in a big way. I enjoyed this, but there is a lot of personal preference at play in the love/hate reaction to an episode like this.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      When I was 18, I found out that I had a half-brother. I didn’t take it particularly well, and only told one person, a friend from high school who promptly dropped all contact with me. I didn’t mention it to anyone again until I was 23, and even then it was only out of necessity (i.e. “Um. Why is there a baby at your house?” “Oh, that’s my niece.”). I didn’t actively tell people – even my best friends – until I was 25. So I totally buy the “I never talked about it again” approach that Buffy took, because I’ve been there and with circumstances that are far less likely to lead to judgement from others.

      • Zovc

        Sorry it took so long to reply, I had to go to work shortly after my last post. I see the points everyone has been making about the stigma attached to mental illness and secrets in general, but I still maintain that: A. Buffy would have been comfortable telling the Scoobies, since all of them know there’s nothing crazy about thinking vampires are real, and B. there are a number of situations prior to her finding out about vampires where Joyce would have reacted differently had Buffy actually been institutionalized. The retcon probably bothers me more than it ordinarily would have, since season six already had the huge, super-illogical retcon that is magic addiction, thus making me more wary of retcons in general.

        With regard to what Sweeney said, I guess the law of averages says I would dislike one of the format-bending episodes, and since I love Hush, Restless, The Body, and OMWF, this one’s it. And yeah, when an episode like this misses, it misses by a HUGE margin.

        • Jojo

          But Buffy wasn’t comfortable telling the Scoobies – this is the 6th year since she came to Sunnydale and she has never mentioned it.

          • Zovc

            I know that, canonically, she didn’t tell the Scoobies, I’m saying it seems like she would have, considering they would need to know how to act around Joyce, and there’s no compelling reason not to be honest, since the Scoobies know there was no reason for her to be put in the clinic. Basically, canon is, in this instance, kinda dumb.

          • Jojo

            I disagree there. The Scoobs just need to know that- like everyone else, they don’t tell Joyce. Because she’ll worry, and because Buffy says Joyce doesn’t know. No reason I can see to share having been in a mental hospital for several weeks. Given Buffy’s personality, I think she just decided she was over it and therefore could forget it until these hallucinations began.So I think canon works fine here.

            Agree to disagree 🙂

          • Zovc

            I think I can sort of buy Buffy not telling the Scoobies (it still doesn’t make sense to me that she would hide it from them), but would she *really* make the “saving the world from vampires” joke from “Bad Eggs”?
            In the end though, I suppose we aren’t going to agree on this, but hey, encountering people with different opinions is why we’re here, right? 🙂

  • darkalter2000

    I think Hank Summers was probably was the one who pushed for putting Buffy in an institution. Joyce would probably have tried to deal with it in her own way. Remember when Joyce briefly thought Buffy was a murderer and didn’t call the police? She wasn’t the sanest person herself.

    People who defend Hank and say his character was sacrificed for the plot have always bothered me. He is the typical deadbeat dad who briefly puts out spurts of effort toward seeing his kids and acting super nice and reasonable while he is around. Then his efforts taper off as his guilt does. He moves on with his life and the kids start to see his selfishness. Remember this:

    Willow: He stills comes down on weekends.
    Buffy: Sometimes.

    I remember my brother and sister being so much like Buffy in that scene. They wanted our dad back so badly but even then they were starting to see the reality of it. In conclusion; Fuck Hank.

    • Love and totally accept your headcanon that Hank was the one her put her there and +1 to all the other things you said. I buy Joyce being sacrificed to the story, but Hank just sucks. Period.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      A+ assessment.

    • Ashley Menvielle

      This is excellent head canon, I like it! I can totally buy that Hank wouldn’t have been able to deal or even really wanna attempt to deal and would just dump Buffy into an institution and have them deal with her issues. It’s pretty much what he did on the show by disappearing from her life and leaving Joyce as Buffy’s primary guardian.

  • SnazzyO

    I think this is a good episode for summing up where Buffy’s state is in terms of depression. I like the realism that depression is not something you can just decide to get over and voila it’s done. She’s made some progress (like breaking up her abusive relationship) but she’s still isolated from her friends. Her feels speech to Dawn about recognizing Dawn is in trouble is so RIGHT.

    While there are parts of S6 that I want to burn and salt so nothing ever grows there, I think the writers do an excellent job of showing the damage to self and loved ones that true depression causes. And it’s not just “whistle while you work” to make it go away.

    • Agreed. It’s a weird season. There are so many things I loathe – most of it, really – but there are some standout moments that are just flawless thrown in there.

  • Melodye

    This episode could have been really great. I really liked that they explored Buffy’s depression and where she’s at with it, how you can’t just snap your fingers and get over it, etc. When this episode first aired, I was in the throes of a bad episode of depression, so I get how it is when you’re going through the motions and pretending like everything’s okay when it’s really really not. Depression is a bitch and you can’t just tell a depressed person to “buck up, camper.” It’s probably one reason why I don’t really like this season too much – it just hits too close to home for me and brings up a lot of painful memories and feelings.

    That being said:

    I feel like the showrunners or whoever should have done their homework a little better. I really don’t think that mental patients who are a danger to themselves would have had shoes that required shoelaces – shouldn’t she have been wearing slippers or just socks? Shoes with velcro maybe? I also feel like Buff’s hair wouldn’t have been so nicely streaked and styled if she was coming out of being institutionalized for six years. But maybe I’m just nitpicking.

    The biggest problem that I have with this episode is not that they used the alternate reality plot device. I tend to enjoy shows that do that, actually, because I like seeing what could occur from different choices, etc. The problem that I have came from someone spoiling me a little bit before the episode aired. I was told that this episode was one where there was going to be a big reveal and give us an explanation of where Buffy was while she was dead. After I got over the spoiler-induced rage!, I was a little excited to see what the writers were going to do with that explanation. And then we get the nerd-caused, demon-induced alternate reality cop-out. Whatever.

    • Totally fair. I mentioned to another commenter that I noticed that the whole institution felt fake. Clearly how they were “treating” Buffy was weird, and her whole existence there didn’t jive. I just felt like that was part of the point. As I mentioned, I was convinced the whole time that Sunnydale is real, and we’re meant to know that, even if the end does give you a small moment of pause. I mean, the demon was the one summoned to cause this, plus you have the amazing point others have brought up about Angel existing in LA at the moment.

      I just never saw this a true explanation for anything, which helped. It was just something Buffy experienced that taught us a lot about her reality, where she is in her headspace, her fears, etc.

  • behind blueiz

    I do enjoy this episode. I feel the deterioration of Buffy’s mind parallels the deterioration of the characters and their relationships during Season 6. This episode shows how even though you think you know who you are, there can be a piece of you that hasn’t a clue. And that small piece can start a downward spiral that can quickly consume you.

    I agree, Spike deserves a V8 dope slap. Not only was his speech self-serving, but very short sided. You can either be this or that. He chooses to forget: this or that or THIS…infinity. Regardless of her lot in life, Buffy can choose how to live it. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other, and Buffy knows this now.

  • Jojo

    I think this is one of the best episodes to show a newbie because it is a great meta on the entire Sunnydale existence. Yes – as Buffy says: “Sure it is… ‘Cause what’s more real? A sick girl in an institution? Or some type of. . . supergirl. Chosen to fight demons and save the world? That’s ridiculous. Girl that sleeps with the vampire she hates. Yeah. ‘Cause that makes sense.” The commentary on the Buffyverse is wonderful. BTW – Joss finally had to make a statement that Buffy is not in an institution.

    As for the lack of reality in the institution – it’s really typical of every medical scene on the show. I mean nurses in uniforms with cute little hats, glass IV bottles, and I can’t list them all!

    As for the Spike talk with Xander – I think it’s kinda funny. I also like the fact that he didn’t tell Xander what went on with him and Buffy even though he had a good chance. But this is a fun clip – the famous Spike and Xander kiss – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oyu7YlK1fSk

    It’s also rather telling that when Buffy first collapses Willow and Xander just shove Spike out but when they need muscle he’s suddenly welcome. As for his comment to Buffy while she is laying terrified and torn between hallucinations and an even scarier reality – massive dick move. I don’t think I realized until watching last night that Buffy pours the antidote out because she’s just not willing to deal with that one more thing- the thing that has taken over her life for weeks. I’d also like to say that this shows a break with reality that Spike experiences. Because if you really do love someone you don’t berate them when they are vulnerable. However, he does have some good points.


    • Alicia

      That clip was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of this episode! There’s a video I was going to share with quite a few funny outtakes in them. I think I’ll do it anyway.

      • Jojo

        I know I’ve seen a longer one but I couldn’t find it.

    • Raluca

      LOL. Nice Xander and nicer Willow push Spike away when B collapses, as he is not needed. He is needed alright when they hunt the demon. So yeah, I think Xander (and partially Willow) is a dick who doesn’t deserve to be in the vicinity of nice people. And I think he is childish and stupid and resentful and he doesn’t suffer enough for all the times he was a stupid dick.

  • Alicia

    Just thought I’d share this blooper video now since we’ve gotten past all the episodes the clips are from. My favourite is Sarah’s “No I didn’t” line. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUsRPFB9Kdw

    Great recap! I always liked this episode, though it’s painful to watch. Seeing Buffy attack her friends is downright scary. Sarah gives an awesome performance! Count me as someone who didn’t really like the ‘Buffy was in an institution before’ retcon. It doesn’t really gel with some of the early season interactions with Joyce. But I’m not too bothered about it. I’ve seen it suggested that it only happened in the version of events that includes Dawn, not the one before she was inserted into everyone’s memories, which is interesting.

    About Spike, I think what is going on with him in this episode is that he’s afraid that Buffy is going to cut him out of her life. I think he is always seeking personal validation from her, and he has nothing else in his unlife to focus on. He wants acknowledgement that their relationship did happen and he’s not going to let Buffy forget about it. It’s the only thing he has to hold on to. Buffy broke up with him, now what is he supposed to do with himself? Especially since she feels the need to make up a lame excuse for even being seen TALKING to him. He looked pretty disgusted at that, and I don’t blame him. And then he takes it out on Xander in frustration. Plus, a little resentment is coming through about the break up(hence the dig at the beginning).

    I do really like their little conversation though. They get on well when other things don’t get in the way. I have to wonder whether Buffy unconsciously wandered near Spike’s crypt. She looks a bit startled when he asks if she cried too, before she realises that he’s talking about the wedding. Spike’s “Put a little ice on the back of her neck, she likes that” comment was adorable, and hints at things we didn’t see in their relationship. I found it sad that he was cut out out of helping her at that point.

    And then, of course, once the Scoobies need muscle, they instantly go to Spike for help. He’s happy to, since Buffy is in trouble, but it must be annoying that they see nothing wrong with rejecting him one minute, and then doing a 180 just like that. So when Buffy tells him that he’s not a part of her life, it’s gotta be a kick in the gut, when he clearly just demonstrated that he IS, and that he has something of value to contribute. All he’s done is help out and show real concern for her welfare.

    Unfortunately, Spike reacts badly and I think that’s why he airs out some of his frustration right then and there. It’s really really the wrong time to do so of course, with Buffy in such a fragile state. And he’s harsh about it. It’s his version of tough love. He obviously HATES seeing Buffy STILL so miserable despite things looking up last episode. I think that’s what his “let yourself live” comment is about. I like that he admits he was wrong about Buffy being drawn to the dark. In fact, he hasn’t talked about that since ‘Dead Things’ three episodes ago. I think that he has a point about getting everything out in the open. It WOULD be a load off her chest to stop keeping what happened a secret. He frames the choice in this way because that’s what he relates to. Of course, Spike is also vainly hoping that it might lead to them possibly getting back together, too. But basically it isn’t helpful to a depressed person to tell them to stop being depressed, or give them an ultimatum. He went too far with that.

    It’s also interesting that twice in this episode Spike’s first impulse is to leave, but he doesn’t quite manage to go through with it. And the barrier of light is interesting too. Right now he is being stymied by his dark nature, unable to overcome and left alone.

    • Jojo

      I think the light just gave him a pause. It wasn’t enough to really bother him, but it did make him step back and take a breath. I agree with a lot of what you say about Spike, but I also think he’s getting more selfish and obsessed as the break up continues. He used to believe he loved her and he was giving her something she needed – which he was or why did she come back – even if it was a diversion and a punching bag. His ultimatum to Buffy is completely selfish, and kinda confused, because they are no longer together anyway and he already said she doesn’t belong in the dark, I do agree that Buffy has gotten addicted to the misery, though.

      • Alicia

        Yeah I was trying to make sense of him asking her to tell her friends now, since they are over. I agree that it’s a bit confused. He is sort of floundering a bit here. Buffy has been his purpose for a while now, and he doesn’t really know what to do now that they’ve broken up. So everything starts to go downhill and the selfishness comes out with the ultimatum. He was doing okay last episode, I think because he was so disarmed by seeing Buffy ‘glowing’. But he’s really not a happy puppy.

        • Jojo

          The less he has of her in his life, the less he tries to be human for her and the more the demon just takes over. At least he does realize that tying her up and torturing her won’t work.

          The ironic thing is that if the Scoobies and Buffy hadn’t had that huge, elephant in the house named ‘you tore me out of heaven you assholes’ – in other words, if they had talked and used their words – she could have said, hey I am so lost and depressed I am sleeping with Spike (exactly what he thinks he wants) and yes, her friends would have taken care of her. And since he has seen the scoobies, he knows that.

          • Alicia

            The thing is, I’m not sure that I see much ‘demon’ in him in this episode. I mean, human guys make inappropriate ultimatums and somewhat resentful jabs too. Riley gave Buffy an ultimatum in s5. And he’s pretty much given up the ‘you belong in the dark’ idea. It’s more his specific personality and issues than the demon ‘taking over’ to me.

          • Jojo

            You’re right – I didn’t express that well. I tend to see him as the demon all the time – with or without his face changing. But sometimes he can call on the person he was – taking care of Dawn, listening to Buffy and really talking to her. Those are selfless qualities and I think they are available to him ever since he got the chip in his head. He can no longer hunt humans and his demon lives on animal blood. Humans are no longer food – they are companionship (and Spike needs companionship, or at least an audience) So the more he could be human, the more he could have what he wanted.

            But sometimes he just does not get it – like Anya doesn’t get it. Anya is usually forgiven for that since she was a demon for 1000 years, and more since Xander cared about her enough to propose if not actually marry. When he does what Anya does – says something inappropriate, at the wrong time, and too honest he’s more demon to me (just as she is). He has a pretty limited ability to really behave and care as a human. He could almost be human talking to Buffy on her back porch, but he couldn’t hold that behavior for long

          • Raluca

            Actually, I totally understand Spike. And it doesn’t really matter who spoke, the demon or the man. I can totally relate to being bitchy to someone who dumped you. I know this sounds selfish and childish, but I am no “grand selfless hero who forgives and forgets”. If you do me wrong, I am going to remember and verbally bitch-slap your ass. I know everybody assumes that being forgiving and selfless is good and being resentful and selfish is bad, but why? Why is caring for somebody else more important than caring for yourself? You hurt me, I’m gonna hurt you back! And yes, kicking at someone who is already down is bad, but it’s also the only time you can really hurt them. 🙂
            (Now you guys will think I’m a total psycho. I am not. My problem is that I didn’t care about myself enough so many times. Now I wish I’d been more verbal about my feelings).

          • Clément Polge

            But how is dumping someone doing them wrong ?

            Also, caring about yourself and having fun hurting others seems like two entirely different matters to me.

          • Raluca

            It’s not about doing them wrong, it’s about pain. You want to inflict pain on someone who hurt you. I know I do. I don’t act on it, usually, but I do want to hurt them bad. I’ve fantasized about it plenty when I was hurt.
            And sometimes you just do what you can to hurt them. It doesn’t matter why they broke up with you, if they were right and the relationship was doomed, or if they cheated etc. What matters is the pain you feel over the breakup.

            I remember this girl – she was in a serious relationship with a guy whose job was DJing and teaching dance. She found out he had been cheating on her repeatedly, even with her own sister. Her revenge was easy – she broke all his CDs and DVDs – thousands of dollars worth. She broke everything she could get her hands on – music and dance teaching items. I thought she was a bitch, but when I got hurt myself, a couple of years later, I remember looking back at the event and understanding her.

          • Clément Polge

            But in this case the wrong wouldn’t be the break-up, it would be the betrayal 😉 And yeah, it’s a natural feeling to want to inflict pain on those who inflict it onto you. And it doesn’t always seem wrong (especially when the original wrong was done deliberately – as in your example), it can just be a way to show those people how they hurt you by making them share your pain, albeit a different pain.

            But then, I’m not sure how all that really relate to Spike, he wasn’t especially wronged here, quite the opposite actually, she actually did right by him just last episode by acknowledging the pain he was causing her… Knowing when to call it quits it also necessary.

            Or as Granny Flash says: “the problem with an eye for an eye is that everybody ends up blind”.

          • Raluca

            Well, Spike is obsessed with Buffy, so it doesn’t matter that she is nice about it – which I don’t think she is, I think she did it for selfish reasons (the breakup) and couldn’t care less what Spike felt (which is ok, it’s the way real humans do it). So she hurt him and now he retaliates – another human reaction.
            I think I mentioned in another post how I find Shakespeare’s world closer to “human reality as we know it”. Hate, betrayal, mistrust, jealousy, manipulation, combined with love, selflessness and vulnerability. So Spike’s reaction to kick at B when she is down is understandable. Don’t excuse him, if you will – I do not. I am just saying it’s the way people react sometimes to pain.

          • Clément Polge

            Break-up are selfish by definition, it’s about one person not finding satisfaction in the relationship. As far as break-up goes though, she did it best she could, she talked to him with respect, explained her reasons, did not shut him out afterwhile, and – again – was even nice to him at the wedding beyond was would be expected of her.

            What I mean is that while I do understand Spike’s action *in character*, he really doesn’t have any ground on which to stand to act the way he does, she did nothing wrong by him.

          • Raluca

            LOL I think I am not being clear. “Right” or “wrong” have nothing to do with pain. You feel hurt by someone’s actions, you retaliate in some way or another. You don’t stop to think “well, they were right!”, you just feel awful and want it to stop – which Spike does, as you may remember, but I cannot be more specific, because of spoilers. So you do anything in your power to make it stop, and retaliation is one choice. It doesn’t matter if the person broke up with you nicely and didn’t cheat on you or use you (and the last part, B did, but he doesn’t care, as none of those in abusive relationships do), what matters is the pain – the bigger the pain, the bigger the retaliation.

          • Clément Polge

            Except they do, I mean, we’re not beasts, we’re people, with brains, living in a society. It’s one thing to feel something, another one entirely to act rashly on those feelings without any thought for the other person.

            Saying it’s ok for someone to hurt someone else because they are themselves hurting is like saying it’s ok for someone to punch someone else because they were angry. That’s opening a huge can of worms.

            And that’s not being human, that’s being a sociopath, i.e. someone with no capacity for empathy for their victims and only considering themselves in the process.

            Again, it fits with Spike, but we, as adult human beings, are supposed to consider the consequences and justification of our actions. That doesn’t mean we always act right, but that means that we’re supposed to intellectualise the tiniest bit our actions and make the tiniest bit sure we’re justified in taking action.

          • Raluca

            You’ve never been really hurt, I take it :). Or you are this grand “forgive and forget” person I cannot be. Either way, good for you.

            You imply retaliation as physical in some way. I actually imply it in a worse manner – psychological. Word abuse can be really mean and worse than punches in the face. Which is what Spike does. What I did, when I was really hurt. Words can cut a lot worse than physical pain.

          • Clément Polge

            I do not imply physical – case in point, we’re talking about Spike, whose “retalation” here was purely psychological.

            I’m just saying that if every break-up is accompanied by mutual psychopathic behavior, then the world is seriously screwed.

            And I’m saying that what might justify action is not the pain, it’s the wrong.

            If someone inadvertently drop some scissors who land on your feet and give you a cut, I hope you won’t punch them. If they cut with you intent, I do hope you will. Same pain – different context – only one in which you’ve been wronged.

            If you want psychological, we can keep using the break-up example: between someone who breaks up with you face to face and respectfully and someone who breaks up in a 2 line text. Both are break-ups, but that’s about the only thing they have in common…

          • Raluca

            Well, breakups are painful, in general. But I was more talking about “bad breakups” where one party feels wronged in some way (I am sure Spike does, even if he was not). Bad breakups also involve one party who doesn’t want it to end and another who desperately wants out – so, what happens is pain and retaliation. I am not saying all breakups are like this – I am sure there are people who break up amiably, or less amiably but ok.

            Breakups are bad for those who need validation from the partner, for those who invest so much that they forget themselves, which is very abusive and wrong, but also real. “Normal” people react bad enough to breakups, but “needy” people are the worst – I should know, as I am one. It’s like you’re so hurt by the breakup, so bad that sometimes you actually inflict physical pain on yourself just to feel a different sort of suffering. I think this is the case with Spike. He is needy, and Buffy is what he needs – yes, he is abusive and she was right to end it (she was of course abusive too, but that’s not the point). It doesn’t make his pain less real. And only those who’ve never experienced it can say “let go, you’ll get over” – you actually don’t, you just get steadily worse until you hit rock bottom, and THEN you get better, but usually, in the process, you hurt your ex, your relatives and your friends in some way or another.

          • Jojo

            Or someone who gets together with an old flame and throws a grenade in your house. 🙂

          • Clément Polge

            That’s a…

            …Fiery subject.

          • Jojo

            Well she did say she wants the fire back…..

          • Raluca

            Is there a movie reference here? 🙂 Really, sounds like one…

          • Jojo

            Hell’s Bells – Riley and Buffy destroying Spike’s crypt

          • Raluca

            As you were, you mean 😛

          • Jojo

            Right – that was grenade meets wedding 🙂

          • Jojo

            Sociopath is the opposite of what that is. A sociopath can’t feel human emotions like empathy. Someone who lashes out in anger and in pain is just being human. And everyone has a different tolerance. We all might talk about love and forgiveness but there is a reason for war and we have plenty of it.

          • Clément Polge

            A sociopath can feel human emotions, it just has no regard for the emotions of of others. If you take, for instance, Sherlock Holmes, he DOES feel stuff (frustration, anger, love, desire, excitation, …), he just has no concern for others or how his behaviour might affect them.

            Which is exactly the case here, Spike is hurt, so he wants to hurt, and has no concern for the consequences of his actions other than what satisfaction he gets.

          • Jojo

            But Sherlock is high functioning.

            Not sure if a nonhuman can be anything like mentally and emotionally healthy. I mean, can a whale get anxiety attacks? What’s healthy for a demon is not healthy for a human.

          • Clément Polge

            I’m not sure there’s a definition a high functioning sociopath, but I understand it as meaning he’s able to live within society, albeit a bit weirdly… Not that he’s able to feel stuff despite his condition.

            Anyway, it was just an example, you can also think of the guy in Clockwork Orange. I’m not a fan of that movie (actually, it bore me), so I don’t remember particularly well, but he had feelings. Just no empathy.

          • Jojo

            Sorry – the Sherlock reference was a play on a common line from the show.

            Yeah – Clockwork Orange will do – I know what you mean. But these are rather dire and dramatic being constructs for entertainment. In reality the spectrum doesn’t really work that way. I also wouldn’t use Dexter as an example – more like pure psychopath – the entertainment version. In reality miracle cures don’t happen in an hour, and Ted Bundy didn’t kill because of anger.

            By and large sociopaths don’t act out because of anger – that’s a more normal human response. They act out of selfish enjoyment. I think that is where I would put a lot of demons, as well IF we are using human standards. The standards part is important. If you judge a fish on being able to climb a tree then the fish will always fail.

          • Raluca

            Exactly, Jojo. Sociopaths plan, as they do not feel the urge to smash 🙂
            Spike’s words were not planned to hurt, they just came out of him.

            And, without any relevance to the discussion, I love Dexter! 🙂

          • Clément Polge


            Diagnostic criteria for 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder
            (3) impulsivity or failure to plan ahead

            It is not a *required* condition (one only need to check 3 of the 7 boxes to be considered sociopath), but it is a possible manifestation of sociopathy.

            (the page says that the criteria are obsolete, but according to the wikipedia article on antisocial personnality disorder, the diagnosis did not actually change, only the classification, see: http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/Personality%20Disorders%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf )

          • Raluca

            I think the discussion is getting much too technical for my level of “preparation” in the field of psychology. I am an economist and, while I do enjoy reading psychology, I am in no way qualified to discuss or debate such definitions. That being said, I do not think Spike is lacking in empathy, I just think he applies different standards that the ones existing in the society of humans. 🙂
            Also, most of his actions, though extreme (for TV purposes, I am sure) are those of someone who was hurt and is lashing out in frustration and anger. He was hurt and is now retaliating – nothing any of us didn’t do at some point in their lives. I am sure everyone can relate to “lashing out”, be it throwing of things of the person who hurt us out of the window, or “I smashed the windows of your car” as the song says, or plain verbal abuse. I am not saying said throwing of clothes or window-smashing are ok (and I am sure that in many circumstances they are forbidden by law) I am just saying people react to the hurt in many ways. Spike’s is quite violent, either verbally or physically, Willow’s was to try a spell, Buffy’s to run away when she killed Angel, Angel’s to lash out against everyone who was involved in his son’s kidnapping (including trying to kill Wesley).

            I do not understand why Angel is excused for attempted murder of his friend and Spike is not even acceptable to verbally retaliate. Both are hurt and lashing out. To me, either behaviour is wrong, but understandably HUMAN.

          • Clément Polge

            Spoiler alert: my rot13 concerns Angel the Show, nothing beyond today episode though, so if you follow the recaps you’re good to read 😉

            Well, on one hand we have someone who have been dumped as cleanly and respectfully as possible considering the circumstances, and has been shown proper respect after the break-up (again – Buffy’s behavior towards him at the wedding was beyond what could be expected of her), while on the other hand we have fbzrbar jubfr arjobea puvyq jnf noqhpgrq ol uvf sevraq nsgre pbafbegvat jvgu uvf raarzl va uvf onpx, so not exaaaactly the same situation.

            And this is my EXACT POINT : the grounds for acting out. Spike may be in pain, but his behaviour is NOT normal behaviour for a simple break-up, and his reaction are in no way proportioned to the situation. It shows a complete lack of empathy towards the pain he might cause Buffy and concern only for himself and his own pain and desires.

            Natry vf abg rkphfrq sbe uvf orunivbhe ng nyy, ohg vg vf uhzna: ur’f orra orgenlrq naq gur bar guvat ur pbhyq arire unir qernzrq gb unir unir orra gnxra njnl sebz uvz. Naq juvyr jr pna haqrefgnaq Jrfyrl’f npgvba, jr pna nyfb haqrefgnaq gung Natry QTNS nobhg gubfr.

          • Raluca

            And since when is bad behaviour NOT HUMAN??? Since Warren and the other two Trio guys or people you read about in magazines, who kill their “loved ones” in gruesome ways? Come on… all I am saying is that you see things from B’s perspective – she had every right to break up with Spike and she gave him some sort of respect and so he should just behave himself! No way!
            I was dumped and went over to my ex time and again and pleaded on my knees for him to give me another chance (when I should have thanked God he had the guts to get out of our awful and abusive relationship)! I lashed out in anger worse than Spike has, so far at least, when my ex refused to get back together – I punched him in the face, I threw a bottle of wine at him and called him every possible bad name in the book, both to his friends and to his face! I followed him for a while, to prove he was fucking someone else. I told his friends secrets about him that he told me in strict confidence! I threw his things out of the window etc. And I am human… Anger and hurt can make otherwise non-violent people lash out in anger and hurt. Yes, my BF was right breaking up with me – our relationship was a massive fuck-up. I am glad he did NOW, but at the time I was miserable for months, depressed and whatnot… So Spike has, so far, had quite tame reactions, IMO, even for a human, not only for the “soulless monster” he is.

          • Clément Polge

            But then everything is human, isn’t it ? I mean, there’s been report of people putting babies in freezer, there have been countless genocide over the span of humankind, discrimination, gruesome murders, all done by humans, does that make does actions human in themselves ?

            If Spike was to abduct a baby and use its head to play football, we wouldn’t go “oh well, that’s human”, we’d say he’s a fucking psycho. Note that psychopaths are human too.

            Because then, the word starts to mean everything, which is basically the same as meaning nothing: it is useless in purveying any kind of idea, since it applies to anything indiscriminately.

            And I think that’s actually the source of our disagreement, from what I understand you’re thinking human as in “something a human could do”, while I’m using it as “what can reasonaly be expected of someone”. It’s a bit more subjective, obviously, because our appreciation of reasonable might vary depending on our personal experiences, but in my opinion, Spike’s reaction goes far beyond the typical acting out of a break-up.

            And I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to act out, his behaviour last episode WAS understandable for me: he was hurt, so he wanted to hurt back a little. It was “adapted” to the situation, but in this episode, he want off the charts, and his behaviour IS and SHOULD be seen as abusive and excessive and just plain wrong.

            [EDIT] Slight change in my definition, for clarity.

          • Raluca

            LOL of course you are right. His behaviour (and mine, at the time, of course) is all sorts of wrong and abusive. But it is real and it hurts. Hence my tendency to side with him. I sympathize because I can relate. His behaviour is wrong, but I would comfort him, not Buffy, if I had to choose.

        • Ashley Menvielle

          Great point in your first paragraph! I’ve read something somewhere that makes much the same point you did, except their theory was that Buffy may have subconsciously chosen to take her feelings out on Spike during their brief relationship because he is strong, physically at least, stronger than her friends and could better take the full brunt of her rage unlike her friends but ultimately it takes it’s toll on him too.

    • Jojo

      The clips are hilarious btw.!

  • JEL

    A few quick comments.

    At the beginning Buffy is actively hunting the trio – something she really hasn’t done up to this point. A sign of progress.

    Buffy actually tells her friends what is happening; doesn’t just try to deal with it alone. An even bigger sign of progress.

    For me, the “I was put in a institution before” never quite jibes with what happened in season 1 & 2, but I just have to accept the retrofit despite how out of kilter it feels.

    I don’t think it is quite fair to take away whatever portion of eyebrows Joyce earned by becoming a better & more supportive parent through seasons 3(*) – 5 for something she did before season 1! Whatever growth she achieved is the same no matter what is learned about the pre-TV past.

    (* After the beginning of 3 which made a lot of people mad at her, Joyce was much better through the rest of season 3 when not being magically manipulated.)

    (Clement wasn’t the only one defending Joyce way back when.)

    The “I should be taller than you.” line is actually pretty funny except for the context.

    One thing I just noticed fairly recently is that this episode is almost exactly 1 year after The Body. 1 year is often an average time period cited for getting over the worst of the initial grief of losing a loved one. That led me to think that Buffy this season hasn’t just been depressed because of being taken out of heaven and having to learn to live in this life again but also because she has still been grieving for her mother. And the penultimate scene in the hospital is Buffy finally coming to terms with her mother’s death and saying goodbye to her.

    • Ashley Menvielle

      Love your thinky thoughts! Especially your last paragraph, I really had never thought about Buffy still mourning Joyce this season after Buffy’s reaction to seeing her picture in Afterlife. But yes, of course she would still be grieving, not able to grieve properly with everything going on, that loss.

      The “Buffy was in a mental institution” is a rare instance of a retcon really standing out on this show and I agree, it does not jibe well info and characterizations we get in the early seasons and therefore doesn’t work for me too well either. But, I accept it because canon, so vItal tell myself to just go with it but yeah, it’s not seamless at all.

      • Jojo

        Is good all around. The cracks are a fanfic breeding ground

        • Ashley Menvielle

          Ah, yes, this is true and also why I enjoy good fan fic :).

  • Christine Tran

    Every time I Normal Again, I discover a new way to dislike Spike (in this episode at least. I do usually enjoy him). And you insightful ladies have revealed me a new one: Selective Ableism! Thanks guys!

    It’s definitely gross that when he has a shot at sexual access to Buffy, Spike is as supportive as he can be about her depression, telling her she deserves better than this (better = with him)…but after she dumps him, Buffy’s mental illness is suddenly a product of her being “addicted to the misery” and he calls her INVOLUNTARY hallucinations are “pretty self-centered”. Ugh.

    And also, what kind of medical advice is “Go Into Your Fantasy World, Gather Your Pals and Kill Kill Kill!”? well it is supposedly, hallcinatory medical advice but still…

    • Jojo

      Selective ableism – that’s funny!

    • Ashley Menvielle

      “And also what kind of medical advice is “Go In Your Fantasy World, Gather Your Pals and Kill Kill Kill”

      Oh, oh, I know! It’s because that doctor read the script! The script said to do it so….. (Red Letter Media I love you). Such a good point though! I never thought about that and considering I know nothing about treatment for mental issues it could be totally legit but when you put it that way, it seems kinda, well crazy lol.

    • Christine Tran

      I hope it made it clear about the selective ableism thing. SPIKE is being real abelist in his wishy-washy attitude about Buffy’s mental illness. The Snark Squad remains PC (as in Pretty Cool!)

      • Jojo

        I coulda sworn there was some sort of venom involved. Though of course everyone is being ableist here – behaving as if she is unable to make decisions for herself. XD

    • Clément Polge

      I actually thought it wort of made sense… If we work on the assumption that the institution is the real world, then her imaginary world is appealing to her, which is the reason why she wants to stay there, so by making her kill her little characters she’s actually killing her world, and breaking free from it. Creating a perturbation that the deluded part of her brain wouldn’t be able to fix.

      I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, neither do I really care, I just mean that I thought it seems… Reasonable enough for me to believe.

    • Raluca

      LOL Christine, something quite similar happened to me, only with Xander. Every time I see him now, I hate him with fiery passion. Before, I could kinda stand him 😀 (not really… more like didn’t like him much)

    • Jojo

      Also two completely different mental illnesses at two different times. – if depression really counts as one anymore. Both Spike and Buffy counted their disastrous relationship as being a sign of some demonic change after her being pulled out of heaven.

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  • Meagan Malachite

    This reminded me of an episode of Charmed where Piper is under a spell of some sort where the Halliwell mansion is an institution and she’s being tricked into giving up her (and her sisters’) powers. A decent recycled plot device for the supernatural genre.

  • SonicRulez

    “I should be taller than you” cracks me up. It’s an episode full of meta jokes, but that one hits home. Dawnie Feels denied on this one. They did all they could to keep her involved and she couldn’t be there for Buffy for longer than 5 minutes.

    This episode is grand. I love that Buffy literally drags everyone into the basement, her metaphorical sub-conscious. She tries to subjugate Sunnydale by forcing it into the depths of her mind.

    • Most of S6 I hate more with time — like, the longer I have for it to be a distant memory, the more I fucking hate it — but Normal Again is the rare exception. It’s an episode that I love more whenever I think about it. There are some weaknesses in the way the story is told, but the concept is so fucking smart that I can’t help but love it. It’s one of those moments where the ambition is enough to win out over flawed execution.