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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

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Episode 8 - Tabula Rasa

28 May 2013

Randy Giles

Synopsis: Giles tells Buffy that he plans to leave. Tara begins breaking up with Willow. Willow promises to use no magic for a week to prove she can live without it. She immediately breaks that promise and casts a spell to not only make Tara forget but to also erase the memory of Buffy's time in heaven. The spell gets out of control and wipes all the Scoobies memories just as some vampires are sent by a loan shark to collect kittens from Spike.

The Good: This was a curious episode. I originally watched it with a crowd of fellow Buffy lovers at university and we all laughed hard. On Rewatch though a lot of the gags felt too big and too broad. It felt like an episode designed to rock a live crowd sitting in a cinema together. As the way to send Tara and Giles on their way I'm not sure it was the strongest. The big comedy showpiece felt almost like a distraction to avoid having several teary goodbyes.

The basic plot points were hit just fine. We may disagree with Giles' logic or his timing but he makes the case which he sang in the previous episode. Buffy has been leaning unnecessarily on him at times and now she won't be able to. Tara stands up for herself and clearly doesn't want to break up with the love of her life. But it's the right thing to do and by giving Willow only a week to avoid magic she makes it clear how far gone she thinks she is.

She is proven right and we head into comic memory loss. Plenty of the gags still worked. Giles and Spike realising how British they are or speculating that they are father and son were fun (See Best Moment). The whole sequence where Giles and Anya were left to bicker over magic was funny and an unexpected use of their dynamic. The cut to Giles fighting a skeleton or Anya sincerely acknowledging "That was the wrong book" after filling the room with bunnies were lovely bits of timing. There were some crowd pleasing moments with Buffy picking the name Joan or Spike calling himself a "Vampire with a soul" to Buffy's disinterest.

The final shot of Buffy and Spike making out was nicely underplayed to show us that little has changed for her. With Giles leaving she needs comfort more than ever and he remains a willing slave.

The Bad: It wasn't very clear what "default setting" the spell had returned the characters to. It seemed like the writers just took which parts of the characters they wanted to keep for the purpose of the plot. Xander for example performed the whole religious begging routine from The Mummy at the first sight of danger (and fainted) but was then fighting bravely down in the sewers. He wasn't the only one who flip flopped between complete ignorance and a nagging sense of who they were. Tara's stutter was back but Buffy very quickly remembered all the fighting moves which you need training to master. And wouldn't Spike have the instincts of a vampire if you took away his memories?

That confusion over how memory loss would actually work coloured some of the dialogue. The gang's reaction to the vampires was bordering on child speak ("to slay someone? A female someone?") and the way Buffy and Dawn learnt they were sisters felt very convenient. Dawn had a pretty bad episode character-wise, asking not to be hurt when no one was being threatening and then sulking when Tara tried to hug her goodbye.

To have an actual shark play Spike's "Loan shark" was about as broad and low as the writers have ever stooped. And I didn't appreciate the extended commercial for Michelle Branch and her band. It was particularly galling as it replaced any meaningful goodbye scene with Tara and Giles. I know we have said goodbye to Giles once already this season but it couldn't help but feel odd to see him slip away so quietly.

The Unknown: It was an interesting choice to use Giles one last time for comedy. As they did give us an emotional goodbye scene back in the season opener I am a bit more forgiving of that decision. I'm not so sure about Tara and Willow. I guess we don't know if we will see her again. She has been around for so long now that it's hard to imagine she is gone for good. But will we follow her story or will she disappear until Willow can win her back?

Best Moment: "Randy Giles!?"

The Bottom Line: My memories of this were good. The reality on Rewatch is that this fits with the broader pattern of comedy in Season Six. With the exception of "Once More" the comedy has been loud and broad. At times it's still very funny but it can now be awkward and jarring in a way it used not to be. In terms of plot this was more like a confirmation of the changes which "Once More" brought to the group. Perhaps with Tara and Giles out of the picture the reduced Scooby ensemble will get more time to shine.

 

Cordia's Second Look
Tabula Rasa
Season 6, Episode 8
Original airing: 11/13/2001

My Rating: 67

The Good: I enjoyed the concept of this episode. It was entertaining to see everyone’s interactions from a fresh perspective. Overall, I thought the comedy worked well to explore a few of the relationships.

I liked that the characters retained sense memory. Buffy and Spike were drawn together still, as were Willow and Tara. I also liked that, when threatened, Buffy pulled out her Slayer skills. Her body remembers what to do even if she doesn’t.

The crux of this episode is Tara and Giles leaving. I still highly disagree with Giles’ decision to return to London. Even Buffy says that he is abandoning her. This is a sad example of real life impacting a show as Anthony Stewart Head was asking to return to London. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t able to really work that into the story very well.

I did like how the show handled Tara’s exit. Her confrontation with Willow at the beginning is a very strong moment for her. Tara exists mostly as an independent person when she is standing up to Willow, and this is no exception. Their conversation at Xander’s apartment is a very intense moment as she threatens to leave. It was saddening to see Willow completely disregard Tara’s concerns the next day.

It’s easy to sympathize with Tara at the end of the episode. Following through on her threat must have been very difficult, and it is made clear in the final montage that this decision is not only difficult for Tara and Willow, but also for Dawn. It’ll be interesting to see the fall out.

It’s also hard to not feel incredibly bad for Buffy. She’s just opening up to her friends about how completely lost she feels, even saying it feels like she is dying, when her emotions and memories are taken away from her. Their return at the end is so crushing she ends up back in Spike’s arms. The desperation of their kiss at the end is even more compelling than last week’s.

The Bad: I was very disappointed with the loan shark. He was such broad comedy and so easily defeated with the deaths of his minions. Luckily, he was easily ignored.

Favorite Moment: This story is really about the dissolution of Tara and Willow’s relationship. The scene in the sewer right after the spell is broken is the arc of this story as we see Tara’s realization that Willow has broken her promise. This is a truly heartbreaking moment.

The Bottom Line: This was a fun episode, but it really was for the fans. If you don’t know the characters well, the comedy of their unusual situations doesn’t really work. But the intense fall out of this episode concerning Willow and Tara was the real point anyway. And that paid off well.

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  • I finished your Tabula Rasa podcast and as usual the feedback was on point about the reference to Restless and the scene where Giles thinks Spike is his son. Just wanted to add (for what little it's worth with such a throwaway demon) that I think the shark was referenced in the same scene. In Xander's dream he tells Buffy "Always gotta be with moving forward." To which Buffy says "Like a shark." Then Xander replies "Like a shark on land and much less fins." Are the two references related? Does it really matter? Probably not.

    Posted by Joe, 30/05/2013 10:59pm (4 years ago)

  • I am a sucker for comedy and this is coming from a guy that found “Beer Bad” funny. However everything before and after the spell was so strong I wish the whole episode was like that.

    I really enjoyed all of the reactions from the Scoobies at the beginning of the episode. It really matched each one of them and I wish the scene went longer. Anya was inappropriately curious though I thought her tone during the conversation was respectful. That was something I feel the writers had a hard time with when it came to Cordelia. I think back to “Surprise” when the gang is seriously trying to figure out what to do about the Judge and she wanted cake. Willow was on one hand was regretful and reflective saying they wrecked it for her.” I really liked her saying not only were they selfish but “she” was so selfish. Then she takes two steps back when she wants to fix it with magic. The next two reactions were my favorites. Xander is my favorite character because I identify with him the most. In this situation he feels bad for Buffy but can’t regret what they did because his friend is back. I believe he will do all that he can to help her. I appreciated and smiled at his list of stuff they can do to help. The next is Tara and in my opinion I think the way she is portrayed here tops what she did in the last episode. First she is the strong rational one of the group when they are talking about Buffy. After something big happens someone has to say stop feeling sorry and think of ways to help. Then she holds strong in standing up to Willow for what she did. It seems to be really hard for her and I really felt for her when she said “I don’t think this is going to work.” Good job Amber Benson.

    Interesting quotes: -“If I would just stop saving his life, it would simple things up so much.” ~Buffy in regards to Spike
    -“It was a genuine pleasure.”~ The Land Shark when meeting Buffy.

    Random things
    -While I rather the serious stuff, everything with Giles and Anya was great.
    -The Giles/Randy father/son goodbye scene was funny and relatable.
    -I am not a Dawn hater but I did not like how she was portrayed during the spell. Even the way she made her voice so fragile got pretty aggravating after awhile.
    -I don’t mind songs if they make sense and I thought they did a very good job at not only picking the song but making it apart of the story at the Bronze.

    Viewer score: 58 / 100

    Posted by Jarrid, 14/05/2013 11:32pm (4 years ago)

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