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HELPLESS (ep #3.12)

Written by: David Fury
Directed by: James A. Contner
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Jeff Kober as Zackary Kralik
Harris Yulin as Quentin Travers
Co-Starring: Dominic Keating as Blair
David Haydn-Jones as Hobson
Nick Cornish as Guy
Don Dowe as Construction Worker

Plot Summary

A Watchers Council ritual forced Giles to administer a drug to take away Buffy's powers before sending her to fight a vicious vampire.

Plot Details

The episode opened with a bunch of candles in Angel's mansion lighting a sparring session between Buffy and Angel. The session ended with Buffy victorious, leading to a discussion on whether they were "satisfied," with all possible interpretations discussed.

Giles was training Buffy by quizzing her on various crystals. Buffy was not interested and was a bit frustrated that she needed to be the good slayer because Faith was away on a walkabout.

Later, Buffy encountered a vampire on patrol. She was more concerned with taunting him than with staking him, until she started to feel weak. The vampire picked up on this and nearly killed her. Fortunately, the vampire was also very dumb and leapt onto her stake.

The next day, Buffy expressed her worry that she was not up to her usual abilities. Giles suggested resting for a couple of days, but she believed that more training would be enough to bring her to fighting condition.

While meeting with Xander, Willow, and Oz, she seemed to get smart and suggested that it would not be a good idea to celebrate her birthday, but Xander seemed to think otherwise. Also, she talked about how much she was looking forward to going to an ice show with her father. Therefore, to the surprise of nobody in the audience, Buffy returned home to find that her father would not be able to take her.

Meanwhile, at an abandoned boarding house, three men (Blair, Hobson, and Quentin Travers) were doing some interior remodeling. Travers commented that the slayer's preparation was nearly finished.

At the library, Buffy made some not very subtle hints to Giles that he should take her to the ice show. Instead, he wanted her to focus on a flaw in a blue crystal until she was hypnotized. He then pulled out a syringe and injected Buffy with a urine-colored liquid.

At school, Buffy and Willow saw a very angry guy start to get physical with Cordelia. Buffy tried to rescue her and got knocked on her rear end. Cordelia had to rescue herself. Buffy confronted Giles about this. Giles promised to find the answer.

Giles confronted Travers on the plan to lock Buffy in a tomb with a monster. Giles saw it as a barbaric anachronism, whereas Travers saw it as a time-honored custom. In typical Dilbert fashion, Travers said that Giles was not qualified to make decisions because he is the only one who knew what he was talking about. (Admittedly, Travers did not put it in the same way that I did.)

They were interrupted by some screaming. Hobson and Blair opened up a coffin-like box where a vampire (Kralik) was bound in a straightjacket. They very gingerly gave the vampire pills and water while staying as far away from the vampire as possible.

Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Oz researched possible causes for Buffy's weakness. The discussion, however, devolved into a debate over the effects of different colored Kryptonite.

That night, Kralik started screaming again. Blair gingerly tried to give pills to him again. However, this time, Kralick managed to get out of his straightjacket and choked Blair. Later, Blair rose as a vampire and freed Kralik.

Giles entered a bit later and found fresh blood. He grabbed a stake and found Kralik's box to be empty. He started to search the house and found Hobson's body. He fought the urge to vomit as he fled.

Buffy regretted not having Angel escort her home when Kralik and Blair ambushed her. She managed to break Kralik's grip and fled to a street where she tried to get a car to stop and help her. The first just honked at her. Fortunately, Giles was in the second car and drove her to the library. Kralik, however, managed to retain Buffy's red hooded jacket.

Giles made a full confession. He said that he had been injecting her with a compound that temporarily suppressed her slayer powers so she could fight a vampire. Her particular foe was very depraved before he became a vampire. Buffy was very upset at Giles, who claimed to be just following orders. He did say that telling Buffy invalidated the test and that he would do what was necessary to win her trust back.

Meanwhile, Kralik wrapped himself in Buffy's red jacked and curled up on Buffy's front porch. When Joyce went to investigate, he grabbed her and took a Polaroid photograph of the two of them. Buffy came home a bit later and found the photograph with the word "come." Buffy quickly packed various slaying supplies and left.

Giles confronted Travers about what happened to Blair and Hobson and told Travers that Buffy knows about the test. Travers did not seem to care and told Giles that Buffy had already entered the house.

Both Blair and Kralik jumped Buffy after she entered the house, but she escaped both. Eventually, Kralik was about to bite her, but he started screaming again. She managed to take his pills him and fell into the room where her mother was tied up. Kralik grabbed the pills back from her and took them with water. After a few seconds, he started to feel funny. Buffy showed him an empty bottle of holy water just as Kralik burned up. Buffy struggled to free her mother when Giles and Blair burst into the room. Giles quickly managed to stake him.

Travers told Buffy that she passed the test. However, she was not the only one being tested, just the only one who passed. Travers fired Giles for having a fatherly relationship with the slayer. Travers would have preferred that Giles have no contact with Buffy but settled for a demand that Giles not interfere with the new watcher.

The Good

I like this episode, but I have a tough time explaining why. Mostly it is the acting, especially from Anthony Stewart Head and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The Bad

It helps a bit that Giles understands that the test made no sense, but the test does make no sense.

Overall Rank: 69

Action: 6

Buffy fought a vampire in a playground.

Kralik and Blair menaced Buffy until Giles rescued her.

Buffy entered the boarding house and had encounters with both Kralik and Blair.

Comedy: 2

Other than Xander and Oz's Kryptonite debate and Cordelia's misunderstanding of what was going on, there was very little comedy in this episode.

Drama: 8

Buffy was hurt that her father was too busy to take her to an ice show for her birthday.

Buffy faced the loss of her powers and the fear that they would never return.

In a very tense scene, Buffy found out that Giles was responsible for her condition.

Romance: 3

Buffy and Angel have a nice scene together in which they discussed hearts.

Character Development: 5

Buffy resented having to play "good slayer" in comparison to Faith. She felt betrayed by Giles when she found out about his role in the test but appeared to be reconciled with him by the end.

Giles had simply followed the Watchers Council's orders without question, but he was to afraid to question the orders. He rebelled only when the test went completely out of control. This rebellion, however, cost him his job.

Quentin Travers is a by-the-book leader in the Watchers Council. He believes in continuing the old ways regardless of whether they make any sense. Buffy impressed him greatly, but he recommended that Giles be fired.

Cordelia apparently does not carry much of a grudge against Buffy anymore. She readily agreed to help her without even asking why.

Importance: 6

Giles is no longer a watcher. Presumably, a new one will arrive soon.

Most Valuable Player: Buffy

Buffy gets the award for all of the reasons that Travers cited in the denouement. As Travers noted, despite the loss of her abilities, she was resourceful and brave in confronting and defeating Kralik.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Kralik

Travers gets no credit for planning the test because it went awry. Buffy did not figure out what was going on until Giles told her directly, but she gets a little credit for tricking Kralik into drinking holy water. Kralik gets the award for figuring out how to escape and for coming up with a plan to lure Buffy to the house. The fact that he went back and drank the holy water does not diminish his accomplishment for this award, but it does negate any consideration of getting the MVP.

Goat of the Week: Giles

Travers would be a candidate, but he did succeed in testing Buffy and did not seem to care that Blair and Hobson died in the process. Kralik would be a candidate, but he started the episode in a straightjacket and still managed to accomplish quite a bit. Giles gets the Goat for going along with the test until it went out of control, and for then getting himself fired.

Random Commentary

Actually, Buffy cannot be drafted even though she is 18 years old because (1) there is not currently a draft in the United States, and (2) women cannot be drafted. It would not surprise me if #2 gets changed if and when #1 is changed.

Judging by the look of Buffy's head wound at the end of the episode, I think that she needed a trip to the emergency room for stitches more than she needed a wet washcloth. Unless her slayer healing powers have returned, she will get a nasty scar.

I hate to say it, but I somewhat agree with Travers that Giles's affection for Buffy has become a liability for the cause. Giles has a clear conflict of interest between his duties toward waging the war and his feelings as a father figure for Buffy. Even by "Prophecy Girl," Giles had a very difficult time sending Buffy to her death in order to fight the Master. He desperately sought any alternative that he could find. By now, I doubt that he could do so even if it were necessary. Furthermore, he has been talking as if Buffy could walk away from her duties as a slayer in favor of attending college away from Sunnydale.

That being said, it would be difficult for anyone else to be Buffy's watcher. She is a very independent person. She responds to Giles only because he fills a role in her life that was empty, that of a father figure. If the new watcher does not fill this role, he or she might find that Buffy would not listen to her or him. After a while, Buffy will figure out that she is under no obligation to follow the Watchers Council and may quit the fight or go on without them.


I accept that there is no logic involved in the test that Buffy went through, so I will not point out its lunacy.

There is no way that Kralik could have been fooled by the holy water. It has been made clear that holy water burns vampires on contact. He should have realized that it was holy water the moment that it touched his lips. Granted, his holding Buffy's cross to his abdomen suggests that he has a high tolerance for pain. However, he still would have felt the pain and figured out what happened, probably before he drank enough to be fatal.

DVD Extras

Commentary by Writer David Fury Although not as good as Joss Whedon, David Fury does a good job in providing an interesting discussion of the episode. In addition to episode-specific insights, David Fury also described the writing process on the show. There are general spoilers for later episodes through episode 5.12 on Buffy and the middle of the first season on Angel. Insights include:

Memorable Dialogue

"Actually, I do have a date: older man, very handsome, likes it when I call him 'daddy.'" Buffy
"Your father. It is your father, right?" Angel

"I think it might be time to put a moratorium on parties in my honor. They tend to go badly. Monsters crash; people die." Buffy
"But 18 is a big one, Buffy. I mean, you can vote now. You can be drafted. You can vote not to be drafted." Willow

"Maybe what we should be looking for is something like slayer Kryptonite." Xander
"Faulty metaphor, Kryptonite kills." Oz
"You're assuming I meant the green Kryptonite. I was referring, of course, to the red Kryptonite, which drains Superman of his powers." Xander
"Wrong, the gold Kryptonite's the power-sucker. The red Kryptonite mutates Superman into some sort of weird..." Oz
"Guys, reality." Buffy

"You really like it?" Angel
"Of course I do. It's sweet and thoughtful and full of neat words to learn and say like "wilt" and "henceforth." Buffy
"Then why did you seem more excited last year when you got a severed arm in a box?" Angel

"Before I was the slayer, I was... Well, I don't want to say shallow, but let's say a certain person, who will remain nameless—We'll just call her Spordelia—looked like a classical philosopher next to me." Buffy

"I watched you, and I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. You walked down the steps, and I loved you." Angel
"Why?" Buffy
"Because I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see, and I worried that it would be bruised or torn, and more than anything in my life, I wanted to keep it safe, to warm it with my own." Angel
"That's beautiful, or, taken literally, incredibly gross." Buffy
"I was just thinking that too." Angel

"Oh, God, is the world ending? I have to research a paper on Bosnia for tomorrow, but, if the world's ending, I'm not gonna bother." Cordelia

[To Giles] "I don't know you." Buffy
"Did something take her memory? He's Giles, Gi-les. He hangs out here a lot." Cordelia
"Cordelia, could you please drive me home?" Buffy
"Of course, but if the world doesn't end, I'm gonna need a note." Cordelia

"My own mother was a person with no self-respect of her own, so she tried to take mine. Ten years old, she had the scissors. You wouldn't believe what she took with those, but she's dead to me now, mostly, because I killed and ate her, but also because I know I won't be alone much longer. I'll have your daughter. I won't kill her. I'll just make her like me, different. She'll go to sleep, and when she wakes up, your face will be the first thing she eats. I have a problem with mothers. I'm aware of that." Kralik

"Interestingly, I don't give a rat's ass about the Council's orders." Giles

"If I was at full slayer power, I'd be punning right about now." Buffy

"The important thing is that I kept up my special birthday tradition of gut-wrenching misery and horror." Buffy

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Buffy and the Law

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 14, 2012