About:

Title: Buffy S6.E07 “Once More, With Feeling” + S6.E08 “Tabula Rasa”
Released: 2001
Series:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Drinks Taken: 43+ (Once More was a doozy, y’all)
Vamps Dusted: 6

 

Follow the whole rewatch here!

Last week, Meredith took us through a sleeper hit episode that was precipitated by one of the most unrealistic/annoying storylines (Buffy being broke) and Dawn tried to rebel and nearly got vamped for her troubles. This week is rife with excellent character moments and storyline movement in the form of two awesome episodes I am SO FREAKING HAPPY I get to recap. (No joke, when Meredith made the posting schedule over a year ago, I squealed aloud with glee when I realized *I* got the musical episode.)

Be warned, if you follow the letter of the drinking game (so. many. callbacks.) you may die. Take tiny sips.

Buffy eagerly watching a pitcher of beer being poured into her glass.

The Buffy Season Six Drinking Game Rules

Drink once every time:

A vamp is dusted
A scene takes place in a cemetery
Giles removes his glasses
Willow misuses magic
Tara gets upset at Willow misusing magic
Anya or Xander mention being engaged or their wedding
Spike and Buffy are the epitome of Bad Romance
Warren, specifically, is the worst

Drink twice every time:

There’s an extremely outdated pop culture reference
A vampire is invited into a house
There’s a callback to previous season shenanigans
Dawn steals something
Buffy emotes existential dread
The “Trio” makes a pop culture reference
You really miss Giles

Get your headphones and queue up the soundtrack to sing along!

The Scooby Gang stands around as they sing.

6.07 “Once More, With Feeling”

First, we just need to talk about how freaking iconic this episode is. Joss Whedon had wanted to do a musical episode for YEARS but the WB was not on board, so after the move to UPN it was time, and he spent months putting it together. The cast will tell you it was one of the most difficult episodes to shoot since most of them are not singers/dancers. SMG apparently had a real rough go of it, but when they talked about dubbing her singing to give her a break, she adamantly refused to let her character’s biggest emotional moments be sung by anyone else but her. A consummate professional.

Buffy isn’t the first television show to do a musical episode, but it was one of the first to gain real critical acclaim for it, and many will say it was the inspiration for lots of future copycat attempts. It’s almost passé now for a show to do a musical episode, but when this aired I remember my mom and I were just floored at how cinematic and fun it was. The fact that this 50-minute episode is jam-packed with catchy number after number, that it manages to be true to its characters’ personalities, AND move major season-long plots along so well—it’s truly a classic hour of television.

I’m gonna break format a bit because…I really want to talk about every big song. #sorrynotsorry

Going Through the Motions

Buffy patrols the cemetery and kicks off our first big song about how she still feels disconnected to her new earthly life. It’s her Disney Princess, “I want” song, complete with background vocals from vamps/demons and lots of visual gags, punny lyrics, and an epic, Little Mermaid-esque aerial camera shot where dusted vampire particles swirl around her as she belts her final note (instead of crashing ocean spray):

Buffy sings as a cloud of vamp dust floats around her and the camera zooms out showing she's in a graveyard.
Buffy, singing: “Alive…

Sarah Michelle is not the best singer, but they’ve clearly autotuned her enough that she sounds pretty good, and I appreciate it’s HER voice and all the real emotion she’s giving us. I can be one of those people who get annoyed when a popular Broadway play is turned movie-musical and a part is given to a famous actor whose singing is aggressively fine versus a lesser-known powerhouse who has golden pipes (the less we discuss certain people in the movie version of Les Mis, the better). BUT, this is an instance where I don’t need flawless delivery, because it’s part of the plot that real people are suddenly just singing their feelings.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

Buffy perfecting timing a vampire staking to the last line of the stanza: “I’ve been going through the motions / walking through the part / nothing seems to penetrate my heart” and the demon she’s just stabbed singing:

A demon plays backup singer as Buffy stabs him and he dies mid-way through singing.

Demon: “She’s not even half the girl she—owww.”

I’ve Got a Theory/Bunnies/If We’re Together

The next morning at the Magic Box, Buffy asks if anyone else sang the night before, and it’s clear no one wanted to be the first to bring it up, but they all have a story. Giles, of course, kicks off “I’ve Got A Theory” and everyone chimes in with what they think it could be. Buffy closes out the medley by reminding them they can face anything together; she’s already died twice so what’s a little song and dance demon. I love that as one of the best singers in the bunch, Anthony Stewart Head gets all the fun harmonizing moments in this and all the other group songs.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

The clear winner is Anya’s hair-band rock moment about evil bunnies:

Anya, singing: “Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes! / They’ve got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses! / And what’s with all the carrots? / What do they need such good eyesight for anyway? / Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies!”

Under Your Spell

Willow and Tara decide it’s much too nice of a day to stay inside doing research, so they play hooky and take a walk in the park. Tara is looking especially gorg in this episode and gets checked out by two dudes, and when Willow points it out, Tara sings her a love song about how the best part of her is…Willow’s influence. It’s a catchy pop ballad, and Amber Benson’s voice is so pretty, but in addition to making me want to tell Tara she is awesome all on her own, it has a slightly creepy undertone since Tara is literally under Willow’s forgetting spell and would definitely NOT be singing this song if she knew.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

Kudos on making a sweet and yet super dirty song that makes the homophobes out there clutch their pearls as Tara—“spread under her willow tree”—takes Willow to bed, suggestively gestures downtown, and floats off the bed at the climax of the song and, uh, other things.

I’ll Never Tell

Researching fizzles out after Tara and Willow leave, and Dawn muses that all the music is kind of romantic, but, because it’s this show, we cut to a man dancing himself to a spontaneous combustion death while an unknown demon looks on in glee. The next morning, Xander and Anya wake up in engaged bliss, but, uh oh, jump into a “retro pastiche” musical song-and-dance number about their various flaws and now not-so-secret concerns about getting married. This is, hands down, the funniest, cleverest, and best song in the episode and will get stuck in your head for DAYS. It’s a great culmination of their serious relationship problems and shows why everything goes wrong later in “Hell’s Bells”.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

I could just quote the whole thing, honestly, but this line and the way Anya sings it tickles me: “When things get rough he / just hides behind his Buffy / Now look, he’s getting huffy / ‘Cause he knows that I know” and later she interrupts his verse to interject that his eyes are beady, and this gets referenced back to multiple times throughout the episode.

Rest in Peace

After sunset, Buffy stops by Spike’s crypt to ask him if he knows what is causing all the singing. Spike is clearly disappointed she’s only there to talk shop: “Oh. So that’s all. Just come to pump me for information.”

Buffy sits in Spike's crypt and realizes she accidentally made a dirty joke.
Buffy: “What else would I want to pump you for? I really just said that, didn’t I?”

Spike holds the door and tells her to leave, and Buffy is being way too obtuse. Then Spike breaks into song and they both roll their eyes, but the show must go on. He sings a guitar-filled rock song about how she uses him as a confidante but he wants more, and until she can make up her mind she needs to leave him the hell alone.

While still catchy, this is my least favorite song—and I swear it’s not ONLY because I am not a Spuffy fan. James Marsters’ voice just doesn’t seem as well-suited to the hard-rock parts of the song compared to the softer parts (I want him to just growl and go for it), and it takes me out of it.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

Spike dances in the cemetery during his song, jumps on a coffin and somersaults off it.

Dawn’s Lament/What You Feel

At the Summers’ residence, Dawn tells Tara she’s happy her and Willow made up after their fight about magic. Of course, Tara doesn’t remember the fight, but she looks at the Lethe’s Bramble she’s had pinned to her outfit all day and comprehension begins to dawn. She tells Dawn she needs to run to the Magic Box if that’s okay, and Dawn replies with what we’ve all been saying in the comments for weeks now: “Yes. The 15-year-old can spend a half an hour alone in her locked house.”

Of course, that’s not totally true because Dawn stole a necklace from the Magic Box that summoned the Lord of the Dance demon, Sweet, and his minions come to kidnap her, cuting off her solo. She awakens in The Bronze and we’re treated to a dreamlike ballet sequence (supposedly Michelle Trachtenburg also requested not to sing much, but has a dance background).

In a bluesy number with plenty of soft-shoeing, Sweet explains to Dawn that since she summoned him he will return to his underworld home, Hellsville, with her as his queen. His voice is like warm honey-butter, and it makes sense they got a well-trained singer to play the musical demon.

Best Part(s) of the Numbers:

Sweet, singing: “All those hearts lay open; that must sting / Plus, some customers just die combusting / That’s the penalty when life is but a song.”

Dawn sits on the floor near the stage watching Sweet the demon dance and his suit goes from blue to red.

Standing and Under Your Spell/Standing Reprise

During training with Buffy, Giles sings a soft-rock ballad (that she can’t hear) about how he has to leave in order for her to become an independent adult. Of course I enjoy this song immensely because I love their father/daughter relationship AND it’s Giles singing a full solo. *swoon*

Tara’s love song blends into an immediate reprise of “Standing” as she confirms via spellbook that Willow did cast a forgetting spell on her, and together she and Giles sing about leaving the people they love. This song is just lovely as it features the two best singers in the cast, lots of angsty emotion, and a pretty melody. Plus it’s cool to see a duet between two characters who rarely spend any time together.

Best Part(s) of the Numbers:

Giles in “Standing”, singing: “I wish I could say the right words to lead you through this land / Wish I could play the father and take you by the hand.” *sob*

Tara in “Under Your Spell Reprise”, singing: “I’m under your spell / God, how can this be? / Playing with my memory / You know I’ve been through hell.” Tara’s right: it’s especially shitty of Willow to mess with her memory after knowing how Glory violated Tara’s mind only a few short months ago.

Walk Through The Fire

Giles stops the Scooby Gang from accompanying Buffy to Dawn’s rescue in an effort to shake her out of her funk. Buffy’s pissed off about Giles’ hardass tactics as she starts her solo, but one by one, everyone joins in as they all realize (even Giles) that they should go help her. Okay, I lied, THIS might be my favorite song. It’s such a perfect blend of everyone’s voices, all the various melodies, and the themes of the season thus far.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

Willow’s face when she sings, “I think this line’s mostly filler.”

Spike sits in an alley singing he wishes Buffy dies, but then gets up to go help her out.

Spike’s whiplash feelings as he sings: “I hope she fries / I’m free if that bitch dies! / I better help her out…”

Something to Sing About

Buffy confronts Sweet just as her friends show up, and she lays all her frustrations out there in a scathing song and dance. She finally reveals their spell pulled her out of Heaven, and the looks of devastation on their faces is heartbreaking. Willow just silently cries through the rest of the song, and you’d think this would be enough to humble her, but it won’t, and I’m annoyed enough at her right now (being a few episodes ahead on my rewatch) that I get a bit of schadenfreude at her reaction.

When Buffy’s emotions threaten to overwhelm her into combustion, Spike is the one that jumps in and saves her, telling her that, yeah, life kinda sucks, but she just has to keep on living anyway because she’s ALIVE.

After Buffy’s show-stopping secret, Sweet is ready to leave with his new queen, but is Dawn still insisting she did not summon him, and then Xander sheepishly admits he was the one who activated the spell. (FFS, Xander.) Sweet, ah, graciously allows Xander to stay in Sunnydale and makes his hasty departure.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

In a play on the typical “Buffy needs her friends’ help while fighting a demon” trope, Buffy is singing alone as the Scooby Gang shows up, so Giles tells them, “She needs backup! Anya, Tara,” and they run over to dance and harmonize:

Giles tells Anya and Tara that Buffy needs backup, so they run over and start singing and dancing behind her.

The discordant, minor to diminished notes Buffy sings when she says “heaven” in these lines: “There was no pain / No fear, no doubt / ‘Till they pulled me out / Of Heaven / So that’s my refrain / I live in Hell / Cause I’ve been expelled / From Heaven”

Where Do We Go From Here?

After Sweet leaves, everyone is standing around, stunned, until Dawn begins the final group number. They do some cheesy choreo until Spike snaps out of it and runs off, but Buffy stops him outside and sings that “this isn’t real, but I just want to feel” before they share an epic movie-kiss as literal curtains close on the episode. Perfection.

Best Part(s) of the Number:

The camera pans down the line of the Scooby Gang holding hands, then letting go and breaking away from each other.

Everyone, singing: “Understand we’ll go hand in hand / But we’ll walk alone in fear.”
Giles, sexily/angstily singing his little heart out: “Tell me!”

How many times do I have to take a drink?

I…lost count after 25. (♪ “I died…” ♪)

Vamps Dusted

4

Cameo

Actor Hinton Battle in a side by side with his demon makeup

Musical demon Sweet is played by Hinton Battle, a Broadway triple-threat singer, actor, and dancer who’s been working since the ‘70s when he first originated the role of the Scarecrow in the stage version of The Wiz.

The Funniest Things Anybody Said This Week

Buffy: “So Dawn’s in trouble. Must be Tuesday.”

Anya: “Dawn may have had the wrong idea in summoning this creature. But I’ve seen some of these underworld child-bride deals, and they never end well. Maybe once.”

I’m really enjoying Tara these days:

Tara pretends that because a boy walked by and checked her out she is suddenly straight. Willow grabs her arm and pulls her back, laughing.

Tara, after Willow told her the boys were checking her out: “Oh my god. I’m cured! I want the boys!”

Stylish Yet Affordable Boots

(First off, this episode is the origin of this section name! Buffy: “I’m not exactly quaking in my stylish yet affordable boots, but there’s definitely something unnatural going on here. And that doesn’t usually lead to hugs and puppies.”)

I could tell you what Tara’s princess-y orange and blue-green dress from her big number looked like years later from memory. It’s so light and ethereal looking, and the colors work for her.

I also love Anya’s adorable silky red PJs and fluffy heels, which are perfect for her number (and bless her for dancing in those scary, clear slip-ons):

Giles For Life

Singing is nothing new for Giles, but I loved this little moment where he talks to himself after they realize everyone sang the night before:

Giles mumbles to himself as he realizes why an orchestra backed up his song the night before.

GIFs from Bobbedrake

Giles: “I sang, but I had my guitar there— *mumbles as others talk over him* That WOULD explain the huge backing orchestra I couldn’t see and the synchronized dancing from the room service chaps.”

And only Giles could casually say, “But as far as I can tell, these people burnt up from the inside. They spontaneously combusted. I’ve only seen the one. I was able to examine the body while police were taking witness arias.”

The Scooby Gang opens the door and screams in unison when they see vampires.

6.08 “Tabula Rasa”

There are some really fun parts of this episode but, damn, I forget the depressing reasons it exists. Continuing to pull at plot threads from the previous episode, Giles and Tara face the music and have their come-to-Jesus talks with the people they love.

Giles tells Buffy he has to go back to England to force her to stand on her own two feet, but to Buffy, his abandonment is needlessly cruel, especially after she finally revealed her secret to him. I can totally empathize with both of their positions, although I have to side with Buffy because I feel like Giles would never actually leave Buffy (at least, not right then) and would’ve found a different way to deal with it if the actor himself hadn’t wanted to leave the show.

Buffy looks very upset at Giles when he tells her he's leaving.

Buffy is currently experiencing massive amounts of existential dread contemplating a life without Giles. Us, too, bebe.

Tara blows up on Willow at the world’s least fun double-date night when Willow suggests using a forgetting spell on Buffy so she doesn’t remember Heaven. You effing tell her, Tara! I’ve never been prouder of Tara standing up for herself as she berates Willow for abusing magic and abusing her trust. Willow recognizes Tara’s words for the breakup they are, and she launches into a classic abuser/user refrain, telling Tara that she can give up magic anytime she wants, baby, and will go a whole month sans magic to prove her love. Tara counters with a week, but doesn’t promise it will change her mind, and Willow internally flips out.

Everyone gathers at the Magic Box so Giles can make his announcement about his impending departure. Spike runs in—wearing a tweed suit as a disguise—begging for asylum because he is being chased by the minions of Teeth, a literal loan shark who says Spike owes him 40 Siamese cats. Just as Buffy is ready to storm off because she can’t deal with Giles leaving, everyone passes out. See, Willow broke her vow to avoid magic almost immediately and cast a spell using Lethe’s Bramble yet again, this time to make both Tara and Buffy forget their woes. But she left her baggie of flowers too close to the fire and the entire thing burned, making the spell too powerful and catching everyone in it.

When they wake up hours later, no one remembers who they are. The Scoobs use context clues and their sleeping positions to determine who they are to one another, and it’s fun to see the core parts of their personalities shining through the confusion. Tara and Willow are get all nerdy-excited they’re in a magic shop and bond over their clear-yet-unspoken attraction to each other; Giles and Spike made the leap that based on their accents they must be father and son, and Anya, having woken up by Giles, assumes they are engaged. Xander is uber-paranoid and kind of aggressive and jerky (that tracks), and because he lent Willow his jacket earlier, they think they’re dating. Buffy immediately dotes over Dawn, and they soon guess they’re sisters after Dawn makes fun of the boring name Buffy chooses for herself: Joan.

They decide to go to the hospital to sort out their memory loss, but Teeth’s vamp goons attack the shop. Everyone freaks out, which leads to some amusing hijinks and miscommunications:

Amnesiac Anya tells amnesiac Buffy to calm down as she gets indignant that someone is trying to kill the Slayer as they hide out in the Magic Box

Goon: “Send out Spike.”
Giles: “They seem to want spikes.”
Spike: “Oh!” *runs to get a bunch of wooden stakes* “Let’s give them these!”
Dawn: “But wait. What are they going to do with them?”
Goon: “Slayer! Come out and play!”
Tara: “Slay her—That’s just what they said before. Oh! They’re going to use the spikes to—”
Buffy: “—Slay someone? A female someone! Who do those jerks think they are?”
Anya: “Bloodsuckers. They kill by sucking blood. Take it easy, Joan.”

Anya’s line delivery always slays me.

They decide to split up: Randy and Joan will lure the goons away from the store while Giles and Anya search for a magical solution to their amnesia, and the rest will escape through the sewers to safety. Of course it all goes horribly wrong: Spike unknowingly sports his vamp-face while fighting, prompting Buffy to react in horror and run away; the vampires search the sewers, so Xander, Willow, Dawn, and Tara must play a very tense game of hide-and-seek to avoid being eaten; and Giles finds his plane ticket to England and assumes he’s leaving Anya, so they start to bicker as she tries random spells and causes bunnies, a sword-fighting skeleton, and an invisible growling beast to appear inside the Magic Box.

As they’re fighting off vamps in the sewers, Xander accidentally steps on and crushes the crystal Willow had tucked in her pocket that contained part of the forgetting spell, and their memories immediately return. Willow is awash in shame as everyone realizes what happened.

Tara stands in a sewer looking at Willow sitting on the ground, having just found out she caused their amnesia with a bad spell.

Again, if only THIS could’ve been the lowest low point to snap Willow out of this destructive behavior.

The look of betrayal on Tara’s face as she turns from Willow while tears slide down her cheeks makes me want to cry with her. What a disappointment, Willow. The episode closes with an early-2000s pop ballad montage: Giles leaving on a jet plane, Buffy stewing in her sadness at The Bronze until Spike shows up and she uses him for his makeout skills, and a brokenhearted Willow crying on the bathroom floor while a brokenhearted Tara packs her things and moves out. Who else needs a tub of ice cream and a spoon?

How many times do I have to take a drink?

18 (There may be a preemptive “You really miss Giles” in there.)

Vamps Dusted

2

Baddie Of The Week

A demon in a suit with a shark head.

Kudos to the makeup/special effects department: the loan shark demon has some awesome looking prosthetics!

Xander’s Religious Moment

Xander with eyes closed and his hands in the air, praying.

Anyone else a fan of The Mummy? When Xander thinks he’s about to get eaten by a vamp he drops to his knees and tries a few different prayers since he’s “not sure what he is” and this reminds me of Benny and his necklaces of various faiths trying to pray the Mummy away. Made me giggle.

Souls Are Lame

Spike, after learning he’s a vampire: “I must be a noble vampire. A good guy. On a mission of redemption. I help the helpless. I’m a vampire with a soul!”
Buffy: “A vampire with a soul? Oh my god, how lame is THAT?”

Don’t let Angel hear you say that, Buff.

Giles For Life

Nooo! This is the last Giles For Life I get to write for a long while! We can always find something awesome about Giles, let’s see… How about when he sword-fights with a skeleton?? (Adorable and also possibly the weirdest part of this episode.)

Giles sword-fights a skeleton reanimated by magic.

The Funniest Things Anybody Said This Week

The entire lead-in to Spike and Giles thinking they are related:

Spike as Randy realizes he's English and Giles snarks at him.

Giles: “We’ll get our memories back and it’ll all be right as rain.”
Spike: “Oh, listen to Mary Poppins. He’s got his crust all stiff and upper with that Nancy-boy accent. You English men are always so— Bloody hell. Sodding. Blimey. Shagging. Knickers. Bollocks. Oh, god. I’m English.”
Giles: “Welcome to the Nancy tribe.”

Giles: “You do inspire a particular feeling of familiarity and disappointment. Older brother?”
Spike, sneering: “Father. Oh, GOD, how I must hate you.”
Giles: “What did I do!?”
Spike: “There’s always something. And what’s with the trollop?”
Anya: “Hey!”

Spike, finding his “name” in his suit: “‘Made with care for Randy’. Randy Giles? Why not just call me Horny Giles, or Desperate For A Shag Giles? I knew there was a reason I hated you!”
Giles: “Randy’s a family name, undoubtedly.”

Headlining At The Bronze

Michelle Branch singing at The Bronze.

What have you been up to, Michelle Branch? “Goodbye to You” was one of my jams way back when.

Is Amy Still A Rat?

Yes, but not for long… (although I will maintain she will ALWAYS be a rat, personality-wise, because of what comes next).


So what was YOUR favorite song in the musical episode!? How brutal (and yet so very funny) was “Tabula Rasa”? Which amnesiac odd-couple was your favorite? Father-son Giles/Spike duo? The I’m-kind-of-digging-this combo of faux-engaged Giles/Anya? The pairing of Giles and his glasses because you’re savoring any amount of screentime that gives you one. more. second. of Giles before he leaves us?? *uncontrollable sobbing*

Come back ‘round next Wednesday as Sarah revisits the cheery-sounding episodes “Smashed” and “Wrecked” (all you Spuffy fans are lucky a fellow Spuffy fan is recapping these two, because I would NOT be kind).

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.