Home page All episodes sorted by rank All episodes sorted alphabetically All episodes sorted by writer All episodes sorted by director All episodes sorted by season Episodes with the most polarized opinions Episodes largely forgotten by fans Best and worst streaks of episodes An analysis of what makes episodes great Buffy writers sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy directors sorted by the quality of their episodes Seasons of Buffy sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy characters sorted by their possible contribution to episode quality Predicted episode quality based on writer, director, characters, and when aired Episodes that are much better or much worse than predicted Tastes in episodes Episodes ranked by taste Seasons ranked by taste Characters ranked by taste Writers ranked by taste Directors ranked by taste How the results on this site were obtained Ranking important contributors Reviews and Essays Frequently Asked Questions The links page Go to the sitemap


(a.k.a. Best Episode Ever)

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers
James Marsters as Spike
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Guest Starring: Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles (Special Guest Star)
Hinton Battle as Sweet
Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Co-Starring: David Fury as Mustard Man
Marti Noxon as Parking Ticket Woman
Daniel Weaver as Handsome Young Man
Scot Zeller as Henchman
Zachary Woodlee as Demon/Henchman
Timothy Anderson as Henchman
Alex Estronel as Henchman
Matt Sims as College Guy #1
Hunter Cochran as College Guy #2

Plot Summary

A demon forced the characters to express their deepest secrets in song.

Plot Details

The episode opened with special title credits. It was morning and everyone but Buffy was eagerly preparing for their day. Tara found an herb under her pillow and smiled. Later, there was a research session in the Magic Box.

With the opening credits over, the episode could begin. Buffy was on patrol singing about how life has not meant that much to her since her resurrection. She did not even blink at vampires working with a demon, which was a big deal in "Where the Wild Things Are." Her opponents also recognized that, apart from slaying, she did not seem to be her old self.

The next day, nobody admitted to any singing until Buffy mentioned it. The others seemed grateful not to be the only one to do so. They decided to research but speculated on the cause instead. Giles thought that a demon might be involved. Willow thought that it was something like what happened in "Nightmares," only with a Broadway-themed dream rather than a nightmare about an ugly man. Xander thought that evil witches might be involved, but scowls from Willow and Tara made him back down. Nobody responded to Anya's theory that bunnies might be behind everything. Tara had a theory, but Anya interrupted by expanding on her bunny theory.

Most were in agreement that the situation was serious. Buffy, however did not think that it mattered. She probably just did not care, but the others, except maybe Giles, took it as a sign that, united, they could handle anything that comes.

Afterward, Anya wondered whether it was just them or if everyone in Sunnydale was singing. Buffy peeked outside and saw a man singing about how the dry cleaners got the mustard out of his shirt. Dawn arrived excited about the singing at school, but was disappointed to hear that everyone else was singing as well.

Willow and Tara decided that there was something they would rather do than research. While walking back to their room, Willow noticed a couple of guys checking out the hotness of Tara and wondered if Tara knew what they saw in her. Tara assumed that they saw Willow reflected in her and sang about how Willow's love rescued her from a lonely existence. This cumulated with Tara floating above her bed while Willow's face was somewhere lower on Tara's body.

Willow and Tara fooled exactly nobody with their intentions. Dawn thought that it was romantic, but the others disagreed. Dawn did not see a down side to all the singing, but, later that evening, a man tap-danced so fast that he burned up. A demon, Sweet, was pleased.

The next morning, Xander and Anya discussed their concerns about their upcoming marriage. Xander was mostly worried that he will never be successful enough to satisfy Anya. Anya was mostly worried about whether Xander would want to be with her when she grew old. There were other issues such as division of housework, skeezy cheeses, gifts from the Chumash, hairy toes, and beady eyes.

Anya and Xander were very upset about this. In particular, Anya was worried that their song was a retro pastiche and not a breakaway pop hit. As they walked past a woman trying to sing her way out of a parking ticket, Giles talked about people burning up. He was able to check out one body while the police took witness arias.

Buffy went to Spike for information. He said that he has noticed singing, but had not sung himself. He tried to rush Buffy out before he started. Unfortunately, it was too late as he started to sing about how hurt he was that Buffy treats him as if he were not a real person.

Tara was watching over Dawn and told her that the songs probably came from a demon that was summoned. Tara spoke proudly about Willow's research abilities. Dawn said that she was glad that Willow and Tara were not fighting like they did in "All the Way," but Tara denied that they ever fought. Tara did remember the herb she found and got worried.

Dawn said that she was OK with the idea of Tara being gone for a half hour to do research, but, once Tara was gone, Dawn started singing about how nobody seemed to notice her. Before she got very far, she turned and saw what looked like a giant wooden puppet.

Dawn found herself in the Bronze. After a ballet dance, Sweet sang about himself and about how he was going to take Dawn with him to hell to be his queen because she summoned him. Dawn did not like the idea and protested that she was not the summoner and that she was underaged. Sweet was very excited to hear that Dawn's sister was Buffy. He told his minions to bring Buffy there so he could see her burn up.

Buffy, meanwhile, was training with Giles at the Magic Box. Giles was a bit upset that Buffy had done nothing to discipline Dawn for her actions in "All the Way." He realized that Buffy would never grow up and take on adult responsibilities as long as he was there to do her job for her.

Meanwhile, Tara arrived at the Magic Box and went straight for the books. She found a reference to the herb that she found on her bed. It was Lethe's bramble and was used for forgetting spells. She realized that Willow had cast a spell on her so that she would forget about their fights. She and Giles simultaneously decided that they needed to leave the most important people in their lives.

Before either of them could say anything, Spike arrived with one of Sweet's minions, bringing word that Sweet had Dawn and was planning to bring her to hell as her queen. Anya pointed out that those marriages seldom work. Xander wanted to go rescue Dawn, but Giles wanted Buffy to go alone. Spike protested, but Giles was not interested in hearing what Spike had to say. Spike was just as uninterested in what Giles had to say and was going to go with Buffy, but Buffy did not want him along. He stormed out.

On her way to the Bronze, Buffy sang about how she was not getting much out of life. Spike worked through his ambivalence over Buffy and decided to help. Meanwhile, Giles had a change of heart, so the other characters decided to go help as well.

At the Bronze, Buffy made a deal. Either she kills Sweet or Sweet takes her instead of Dawn. The others arrived, and Giles sent Anya and Tara to back Buffy up. Buffy sang about how she derived no pleasure from the good things in life and let slip that she was in heaven instead of hell. She was in danger of dancing to death until Spike intervened and told her that she just has to live to get over her feelings.

Sweet was still insistent that he was going to take Dawn with him until Xander admitted that he summoned Sweet. For some reason, Sweet was not interested in marrying Xander. Sweet conceded defeat and left, after cursing the others to sing one more song.

The characters wondered where they were going to go from there. Spike got fed up and left. Buffy soon followed him. They ended up kissing.

The Good

Just about everything between the moment when the title first appeared to when the Mutant Enemy sang "Grr-argh."

If there was one episode that was going to run over its allotted length by six minutes, I am glad that it was this one.

There is a good reason why I call this "Best Episode Ever" rather than "Best Buffy Episode Ever."

The Bad

The episode was very draining on the time and energy of the cast and crew and on the budget for the season. This had a negative effect on other episodes in the sixth season.

Overall Rank: 1

Action: 5

Buffy fought three vampires and a demon during "Going through the Motions."

Buffy beat up Sweet's minions in the Bronze.

Comedy: 8

The idea of all of the characters singing was very funny and many of the songs were light-hearted, particularly early in the episode.

Anya believed that Dawn gave birth to a pterodactyl.

Drama: 7

Buffy feels that she is just "Going through the Motions" in life.

Tara found out that Willow had cast a spell to make her forget fights that they have.

Romance: 8

Tara sang about how she was under Willow's spell.

Anya and Xander are nervous about their impending marriage.

Sweet wanted to marry Dawn.

Tara questioned whether she wanted to stay with Willow after learning what Willow did to her.

Buffy and Spike kissed.

Character Development: 9

Tara does not view herself as being attractive in her own right. Instead, if people see her as being attractive, she thinks that they see Willow reflected in her. She believed that Willow rescued her from a lonely existence. However, despite all that, she was not willing to put up with Willow controlling her mind.

Dawn now knows about the nonmagical things that Willow and Tara do with each other and thinks that they are romantic. She hates it when Willow and Tara fight and is glad when they get along. She also feels that nobody notices her.

Giles is worried that his willingness to intervene whenever Buffy needed help is preventing her from having to take on responsibilities.

Buffy is getting very little out of life. She feels as if she was just going through the motions and that it did not matter much if she lived or died.

Xander is worried that Anya will expect him to make more money than he is capable of making.

Anya is worried about growing old and whether she will still be desirable. For most of the last eleven centuries, she has seen only betrayal in relationships and is worried that she will be betrayed in hers.

Spike has been frustrated that Buffy seems to confide in him only because she sees him as being less than human.

Importance: 9

The two most mature characters, Giles and Tara, have decided that they need to leave the most important people in their lives.

The other characters now know that Buffy was pulled out of heaven, not rescued from hell.

Buffy kissed Spike.

Any doubt that this is the most talented cast ever assembled on television was completely obliterated.

Most Valuable Player: Spike

It is tempting to give this award to Joss Whedon for coming up with this episode or for Amber Benson for being the best singer. However, this award goes to characters. Sweet was a strong candidate, but he failed both in his goal to marry Dawn and to see Buffy burn. This lets Spike sweep in and take the MVP in the very last moment for finally getting Buffy to kiss him.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Giles

Giles had the theory that it was a demon, a dancing demon. Despite backing off, he still gets the award. Tara gets credit for figuring out that she was really under Willow's spell.

Goat of the Week: Xander

I am intrigued by the idea that Xander pretended to be the one who summoned Sweet on a gamble that Sweet was heterosexual. If this were the case, Xander would be the clear MVP. However, I doubt that really happened, and Joss Whedon's commentary made it sound like he intended this episode to be Xander's fault. This makes Xander the clear Goat instead.

Random Commentary

A discussion of the songs in this episode are on the CD review.

It is a bit surprising that I like this episode so much, because I usually hate musicals. One of the things that I like about this episode is that it proves once and for all that musicals may not be the work of Satan, but they are at least the work of an evil, satanic-looking demon.

To me, musicals need to meet two criteria to be good. First, they have to offer something of substance beyond the song and dance routines. If they do not, there is no point in having anything more than a concert or a concert film. The concert itself would contain all the music and all the dancing, so there would be no need for a musical. Too few musicals have a good story.

The second criterion is whether the songs and the dancing add all that much to the story once there is something more. If the story is good, why distract attention from it by adding songs and dances? Many of the musicals that I do like—well, I do not like that many—are biopics or backstage musicals. The songs and the dances are necessary because the characters are performers who sing and dance as part of their performances, but there is still something more, such as a fantastic performance from James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

In "Once More with Feeling," there is more to the episode than the songs and the dancing. Giles and Tara both decided to leave the most important people in their lives. Buffy revealed that she was in heaven. Spike and Buffy kissed. There were character moments such as Xander and Anya admitting their nervousness over their upcoming marriage.

Furthermore, the singing added to the story. These characters tend not to share information with each other. Something had to cause them to reveal what they revealed. They did not have to do so in song, but they would not do so using normal means.

This episode is often grouped with "Hush" and "The Body" as being episodes that, in James Marsters's words, "scare the $#!+ out of the actors." The core ensemble is made of eight actors. None of them were cast based on their singing ability and only one, Anthony Stewart Head, has much formal training in singing. They appeared alongside the only living actor with three Tony awards. With only a crash course in singing and dancing, most of the actors were able to hold their own.

This leads into my assertion that Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head, James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Amber Benson make up the best group of actors in any television show. They, along with Marc Blucas and some guest actors, told a story with no dialogue in "Hush." They, minus James Marsters, created an incredibly dramatic episode purely on their performances without any musical cues in "The Body." Here, they show surprising singing talent. They have done action, comedy, and supernatural horror. They have taken on every challenge dished out to them and have created greatness.

The Giles/Tara duet is the most important scene in the sixth season because it sets up nearly everything that is to come. They are the two most mature characters. With them out of the picture, one can imagine what will happen next.

David Brinkley had a long and distinguished career as a journalist, so it is very unfortunate that I cannot think about him without thinking about being worn and wrinkly.


Even in cities without large vampire populations, people do not hold funerals in cemeteries at night. Why would there be one in Sunnydale?

DVD Extras

David Fury's Behind the Scenes of "Once More with Feeling contains a few interviews, but it is mostly cinema verité intercut with scenes from the episode itself. It emphasized the amount of work involved in making a musical.

"This is My Verse, Hello!" - Buffy Karaoke is pretty much what is sounds like, karaoke versions of "I've Got a Theory/Bunnies/If We're Together," "I'll Never Tell," and "Walk through the Fire."

Commentary by Writer/Producer Joss Whedon, like most of his commentaries, covers many of the details in making the episode. He also spends time discussing various influences on the episode. I would not say that I prefer listening to the commentary than listening to the singing, but it is still interesting. There are major spoilers through the following episode and modest spoilers through most of the sixth season. Insights include:

Easter Egg is a news report on the signing of the "Once More, with Feeling" soundtrack CD at a Tower Records in Los Angeles. It included interviews with a few of the fans who waited in line. Joss Whedon, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Amber Benson attended the signing. There were a few shots of Joss Whedon and Michelle Trachtenberg, but the clip very conspicuously did not show Amber Benson, except for maybe her right arm and left hand. It can be accessed by going to Language Selection, then to English for the Hearing Impaired, then pressing the left arrow. This will highlight a B. Click enter to view the clip.

Memorable Dialogue

[Excited] "Oh, my God, you will never believe what happened at school today." Dawn
[Bored] "Everybody started singing and dancing?" Buffy
[Disappointed] "I gave birth to a pterodactyl." Dawn
[Excited] "Oh, my God, did it sing?" Anya

"I'm a hairsbreadth from investigating bunnies at the moment, so I'm open to anything." Giles

"Who wants to be cooped up on a day like this? The sun is shining. There are songs going on. Those guys are checking you out." Willow
"What? What are they looking at?" Tara
"The hotness of you, doofus." Willow
"Those boys really thought I was hot?" Tara
"Entirely." Willow
"Oh, my God, I'm cured. I want the boys!" Tara

"They were really looking at me?" Tara
"And you can't imagine what they see in you." Willow
"I know exactly what they see in me, you." Tara

"His penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe." Anya

"When I get so worn and wrinkly that I look like David Brinkley." Anya

"Hey, I'm not wearing underwear." Parking Ticket Woman

"You just come to pump me for information." Spike
"What else would I want to pump you for? I really just said that, didn't I?" Buffy

"If my heart could beat, it would break my chest." Spike

"So, Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday." Buffy

"I've seen some of these underworld child-bride deals. They never end well, maybe once." Anya

"I hope she fries.
I'm free if that bitch dies.
I'd better help her out." Spike

"First he'll kill her, then I'll save her." Spike
"Everything is turning out so dark." Tara
"No, I'll save her, then I'll kill her." Spike
"I think this line's mostly filler." Willow

"So one by one, they come to me,
The distant redness as their guide.
That single flame ain't what they had in mind
It's what they have inside." Sweet

"You'll get along.
The pain that you feel,
You only can heal by living.
You have to go on living,
So one of us is living." Spike

"I didn't know what was gonna happen. I just thought there were gonna be dances and songs. I just wanted to make sure we'd work out, get a happy ending." Xander
"I think everything worked out just fine." Sweet
"Does this mean that I have to be your queen?" Xander
"It's tempting." Sweet

"The day you suss out what you do want, there'll probably be a parade." Spike

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Police and Guns

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Unusual Pairings

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 December 3, 2012