Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Tabula Rasa

Summary

Buffy is walking through the cemetery and Spike accosts her. He wants to talk about the kiss from Once More, With Feeling. She says it is done and she will never kiss or touch him again. She leaps on him and pulls him to the ground as a stake goes flying through the air. We see some vampire thugs and a loan shark (literally). They are after Spike who owes kittens. The vampires attack and Buffy fights them off. Spike runs off. The loan shark is really polite to her. He leaves to search for Spike. Buffy wonders why she keeps saving his life.

Xander, Anya, Tara, and Willow are discussing the revelation that they pulled Buffy from heaven. Willow says they were selfish. Xander says it's weird to be sad that your friend isn't dead. Tara says they should focus on making things better for Buffy, not on themselves. Xander says they should hang out more, maybe watch videos. Willow says she knows a spell and Tara is against this. Willow believes magic is the only solution and she and Tara start quarreling. Xander and Anya leave them alone. Tara tells Willow she knows about the forgetting spell and says Willow violated her mind the way Glory did. Tara says she doesn't think it is working out. Willow says she can give up magic, that she'll go a month without magic. Tara says to go a week. She says they need space. Willow ask if she's leaving.

Giles tells Buffy he is leaving. She accuses him of abandoning her. He says with him there, she'll never stand on her own. She says she can be strong with him there, but he's made up his mind. He says it's the right thing to do and she says he's wrong.

Dawn and Tara are waiting for Willow who isn't dressed yet. She tells them to go ahead and she will catch up with them. But she magically dresses after they have left and casts a spell to alter the memories of Tara and Buffy. Part of the spell is a crystal which she takes with her. At the shop, Giles tells Dawn they aren't meeting to discuss a monster. Willow and Xander arrive, she's wearing his coat because it is cold. Giles starts to talk, but Spike comes bursting in. He's wearing a ridiculous suit, brown with a bowtie. He says it's a disguise and he's avoiding the loan shark. Giles tells them he is leaving. Buffy is upset and goes to leave the shop, but collapses. They all do. The spell has started to work.

That night, the gang awaken and they don't remember who they are. Dawn is scared and Buffy comforts her. Giles wonders if they got drunk and blacked out. But there are no liquor bottles or bumps on their heads or Allen Funt. Xander tries not to panic. They realize they are in a magic shop and Buffy wonders whether something magic happened to them. Giles says magic is all nonsense. He realizes he is British. Dawn is scared and Buffy says they'll take care of each other. Giles says they'll get their memories back. Spike mocks Giles. He makes fun of his being English, then realizes he is. He wonders if they are related. Giles wonders if they are brothers and Spike says more likely he is Giles' son. He asks about Anya who he calls a trollop. She sees her ring and believes she is engaged to Giles because they were together when they woke up. Willow thinks of looking at their driver's licenses. Willow, Xander, and Tara discover their names. Willow and Tara realize they are both students and think they may be study buddies. Dawn and Buffy don't have wallets, but Buffy sees Dawn has a necklace with Dawn written on it. Dawn jokes her name may be umad (the way the letters look upside down). Giles figures out his name. Spike looks at the label on his suit and it says Randy, he thinks his name is Randy Giles. Willow looks at her coat, which Xander lent her, and sees his name, Harris, on it. They think they are dating. Anya finds the papers for the store, listing Anya and Rupert as owners. Buffy names herself Joan. Dawn thinks it's a bad name. They wonder whether they are sisters and hug.

Buffy says they should go to a hospital. They agree, but open the door to two vampires. It's the loan shark's goons. They slam the door shut. The vampires are shouting for the slayer and saying they want Spike. The gang think they want spikes. Spike gets some stakes. They think the vampires want to slay some woman. Xander and Willow find a trap door to the sewer. But before they can get there, a vampire breaks through the window and another breaks down the door. Xander starts preying to different religions because he doesn't know what he is. One of the vampires grabs Buffy and another threatens Spike. Buffy breaks free and stakes the threatening vampire. The other flees. Buffy realizes she's a superhero.

The escaped vampire is explaining the situation to the loan shark. He says they'll wait until the humans turn on Spike and if they don't, they'll burn them out. Buffy has a plan. She and Randy will run out and lead the vampires away. The others will leave via the sewer and go to the hospital. Anya says she won't leave the shop and she and Giles stay to try magic. Giles calls Spike over and they hug, rather ineffectually. Buffy and Spike run out and the vampires catch up with Spike. He automatically puts on his vampire face and fights them off. He turns to Buffy, saying he's also a superhero, and she screams and runs away upon seeing his face. He fights off the vampires and goes after Buffy.

Xander, Dawn, Tara, and Willow are in the sewer. A vampire spots them and they run away. Giles and Anya are looking through the books. He discovers his ticket to England in his pocket and realizes it is a single, one way ticket. Anya is saying how it must be nice for them working together in the store. She picks a book, saying her intuition leads her to it. Giles isn't so sure, but she reads a spell and a bunny appears causing her to scream.

Spike catches up with Buffy. She fights with him and points out he is a vampire. He realizes she is right. He wonders why he doesn't want to kill her and why he fought other vampires. He wonders if he isn't noble, on a mission of redemption, helping the hopeless, a vampire with a soul. Buffy thinks that's lame. At the shop, there are bunnies everywhere and Anya is standing on a chair. Spike tells Buffy he's a hero. The vampire gang catch up with them. In the sewer, the gang are hiding from the vampire and Willow seems attracted to Tara. In the shop, bunnies are everywhere, Anya is now standing on the table, and she and Giles are arguing. Buffy and Spike are fighting the vampires. In the shop, Giles is engaged in a sword fight with a skeleton. In the sewer, Willow thinks she's gay.

In the shop, Anya has conjured up a monster and she and Giles are hiding behind the counter, arguing. She hits him with the book, saying she feels compelled to take vengeance on him. He tells her he's leaving her. She throws her ring at him and then is upset because the monster will eat it. In the sewer, the vampire finds them and starts fighting with Xander. In the shop, Giles does a spell which gets rid of the monster. Anya gets her ring. They make up and kiss. In the sewer, the girls arrive and the vampire attacks Willow, knocking the crystal out of her pocket. Xander fights with him. Dawn tosses a stake to Xander who destroys the vampire. Willow has fallen on top of Tara. They stare into each other's eyes and Willow goes to kiss her. Xander steps on the crystal, crushing it. Their memories come back. Tara realizes what Willow did. Anya and Giles stop kissing. Buffy and Spike realize who they are and a temporarily stunned Buffy is knocked down by a vampire.

In the sewer, they all realize what has happened. They head back to the shop. Tara cries. In the shop, Anya and Giles are tidying up and trying to pretend nothing happened. Buffy is lying on the ground, the vampire hurt her. Spike defeats the vampires. The loan shark says he can forget the debt, but Spike says he will pay up. The loan shark leaves. Spike goes to help Buffy, but she walks off ignoring him.

Buffy is at the Bronze. Tara is at the house, packing. Giles is on the plane, leaving. Spike comes into the Bronze, dressed normally now. Buffy looks away from him and he walks out. Tara is leaving. She sees Dawn, who runs upstairs. Willow is sitting on the floor crying. Giles is alone in the airplane. Buffy and Spike are kissing at the Bronze.

Analysis

Nurture or nature? One of the big questions of our time. This episode suggests nature is the dominant factor. Despite having lost their memories, most of the characters fall into their established relationships - as if they were genetically predestined for those relationships. Buffy and Dawn believe they are sisters. Willow and Tara realize they have feelings for each other, despite Willow at first believing she is Xander's girlfriend. Spike and Buffy end up together with Spike talking about himself as if he were Angel - Buffy's great love. And Buffy demonstrates the ambivalence about him in her amnesiac state that she has in her normal state. Disturbingly, for some fans, the relationship which doesn't seem inevitable is Xander/Anya.

There is a clear parallel being drawn between Giles and Tara. A parallel which began in Once More, With Feeling when they sang together of their need to leave and their desire to stay. Both have assumed parental roles in their relationships to Buffy and Willow respectively. Giles has been the father figure, looking after Buffy, preparing her for her role in life, and helping her when she got in trouble. But Buffy has grown up. She is now a complete adult. She left home to go to university. She assumed the role of mother to Dawn when Joyce died. She took charge of the gang and supplanted Giles in his watcher role. She faced down the council and reasserted her dominance. She demonstrated a high level of maturity, ultimately sacrificing herself for others. Buffy was on a steady upward path, despite some small set backs like the depression she felt after the departure of Riley. But she did achieve transcendence, hence her elevation to heaven. Now she has returned to her depression, worse than ever.

Giles has realized that his role as watcher is complete. He cannot train Buffy any further. She knows her duty well and is prepared to die to save the world. She has stronger allies both physically (Spike) and magically (Willow). And she doesn't need a father. She has grown up and must strike out on her own. He has become the security blanket which must be taken away. It's interesting that in this episode, Giles simply leaves. There is no scene at the airport as in Bargaining. This is a much sadder leave taking. There is no talk of continued contact or return visits. Instead of sadness, there is anger. Buffy feels betrayed, yet Giles stands firm in the face of her resentment. He wants her to grow and is removing the impediment to her growth. He realizes that to regain the life she spoke of yearning for in Once More, With Feeling, she has to embrace the world. But with him present, she is running from the world - using him as barrier between herself and adult responsibility. Buffy wants to avoid pain because she already has so much suffering. But it's only by confronting that pain, by dealing with the problems of life (like disciplining Dawn or making money), that she can find pleasure in living again.

Tara has functioned as a mother to Willow, nurturing her as a witch. She was the more knowledgeable, although less powerful, witch when they met. She shared her knowledge and maturity with Willow. In the same way that Buffy has grown stronger than Giles (taking his place as leader - note in this episode she was considered the boss), so Willow has grown stronger than Tara - taking the lead in things magical. But where Buffy has grown appropriately, accepting greater responsibility and the cost of that responsibility, Willow has grown inappropriately. She has grown in power, but not in wisdom. Giles speaks of Joyce having taught Buffy what she needs to know about life and he has taught her what she needs to know as a slayer. Both these parents have left her now, but she has their legacy. Tara taught Willow the rudiments of magic. Willow quickly grew to know more than her teacher. But Tara never infused Willow with the life lessons Giles and Joyce gave Buffy. Tara believed her love was sufficient. But Giles realizes love is not enough. That hard decisions have to be made and hard lessons conveyed to children. Tara learns this too late. She allowed Willow to raise Buffy from the dead, letting herself get dragged into a dangerous act of black magic. She ignored the tell tale signs of Willow's abuse of magic unlike Giles who has been noting the signs of Buffy's dependence.

And this is where the parallel ends and Tara and Giles end up at right angles to one another. Giles is leaving, having giving the matter much thought, because he believes it is the best thing he can do for Buffy. He continues to act as a father, hurting himself (he desperately wants to stay) so he can help his daughter. But Tara doesn't decide to leave, she's driven to leaving by Willow's actions. She is reacting emotionally, not intellectually. Giles controls his emotions, acting against them. He explains his reasoning to Buffy and why he thinks this is for her good. But Tara gives in to her emotions. She and Willow do not talk and there is no idea of how this will benefit Willow. Tara is just hurt and is fleeing.

Tara attacks Willow, while Giles tries to help Buffy. Her leaving is a punitive action. She is angry at Willow for lying to her and for manipulating her mind - reminiscent of Glory's manipulation of Tara's mind. There is a parallel here to the Buffy experience. Willow brought Buffy back from the dead, causing her great pain because she was in heaven. Willow brought back Tara's sanity and then attacked it again by manipulating her memory, causing Tara similar pain. In both cases, Willow thought she was doing good, was helping. But Tara doesn't argue this with Willow, she simply gets angry. She accuses Willow of treating her like a fool. She says Willow is dependent on magic and when Willow offers to give it up, she's less than enthusiastic. She does nothing to help Willow abandon magic. And when Willow's slip becomes evident, she simply abandons Willow.

Tara becomes like the postdead Buffy, retreating from life rather than dealing with its problems. It's no accident that a key moment of Buffy's retreat was her refusal to deal with Dawn's Hallowe'en night actions and that Dawn runs away when Tara approaches her. Dawn recognizes that Tara, by not confronting Willow and trying to help her, is doing exactly the wrong thing. Tara tells Willow that you don't fight by not fighting, not by using magic. She's right. And you solve problems by working them out, not by running away. Giles is leaving because his presence is the problem. But Tara is just running from the problem, leaving Willow to struggle through on her own.

Willow is depicted as having an addiction to magic. Like any addiction, it is hard to kick and needs the support of family and friends. Tara is the closest person to Willow, yet when Willow needs her the most she leaves. Her action is understandable, but still inappropriate.

There is a key difference between Joan and Buffy, Joan is happy. She's happy when she thinks she has a sister. She's happy when she discovers her powers. She revels in her strength and her purpose. And there is a key difference between Randy and Spike, Randy perceives himself as noble. He spouts off at length about having a mission of redemption, having a soul, being a noble character (essentially saying about himself what is said about Angel). Buffy was happy in the past and yearns to be happy again. Joan's happiness suggests it is possible. Spike, as William, was noble in a romantic, poetic way. His actions and thoughts as Randy suggests that is possible for him again. Spike has acted good because the chip stops him from being evil. But Randy didn't know about the chip. Randy was naturally good. Spike, unaware of his demon nature, was nondemonic.

Every character seemed to act in their natural way. Anya had her greed and fear of bunnies. Giles had his thoughtfulness and fatherly nature - here directed to Spike. Willow and Tara had their mutual attraction. Xander had his general good nature and fumbling self. Dawn had her sisterly devotion to Buffy. So it stands to reason that Joan's happiness and Randy's nobility (and isn't it interesting that these were the only two characters who didn't know their real names) are intrinsic to their natures. That they can be those things if they can just overcome the barriers which surround them. Giles leaves because he thinks he is one of those barriers for Buffy. For Spike, it's more complicated. The presence of the chip makes it impossible for him to choose good of his own free will. So as long as he has the chip, he cannot be truly noble.

I'm generally not all that keen on the humour in drama series like Buffy. But Buffy tends to handle it well and I liked most of it this episode. I didn't like the loan shark, which I thought was over done. The whole kitten thing is silly and it will take a really good explanation to make it work. I did like Spike's disguise, about as unlike him as possible although quite a bit like William. I liked Anya creating bunnies like crazy and in a panic. I very much liked Xander's multifaith prayer. Best of all, I liked Giles and Anya not looking at each other as they cleaned the shop, trying to pretend the kiss never happened.

Some quick final thoughts. I've got to confess, I needed someone to explain the loan shark sight gag to me. I'm fish confused. I liked Giles commenting that he felt disappointment when thinking of Spike. Spike seemed destined for a closer relationship with Giles (remember him as a watcher in training in Restless). Giles attempted to reach out to him in The I in Team, but was rebuffed. I think we may have reached the peak in Anya bunny fear.

Lines of the week:

"If I were to stop saving his life, it would simple things up so much." - Buffy on the quandary of Spike.

"I just feel weird, feeling bad that my friend's not dead." - Xander with one of life's conundrums.

"A young shopkeepers heart can only take so much." - Anya on Giles leaving.

"Welcome to the Nancy tribe." - Giles on realizing Spike is English.

"Familiarity and disappointment." - The feeling Spike evokes in Giles.

"You never showed me affection like that. I'd wager." - Spike on Buffy and Dawn hugging while Giles never hugged him, he thinks.

"I help the hopeless. A vampire with a soul." - Spike building an Angel identity for himself.

"How lame is that." - Buffy on the whole noble vampire theory.

"Bugger off, you brolly." - Anya frustrated with Giles.

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