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TABULA RASA (ep #6.08)

(a.k.a. Joan the Vampire Slayer)

Written by: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Directed by: David Grossman
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)
Raymond O'Connor as Sharky
Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Co-Starring: Geordie White as Vamp #1
Stephen Triplett as Vamp #2
David Franco as Vamp #3

Plot Summary

A Willow spell went wrong and caused the characters to forget their identities.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Buffy wandering through a cemetery. She sensed a vampire behind her and spun around only to find that it was the chipped kind. Spike wanted to talk about what happened at the end of the previous episode. Buffy did not want to other than to say that she never intended to kiss, or even touch, him again.

The latter part of the vow was broken immediately afterwards as she shoved him down to avoid a flying stake. A shark, with smaller fins, and on land, wanted to collect a debt of 40 kittens from Spike. The shark tried to sic his vampire minions on Spike, but Buffy easily fought them off while Spike slipped away.

Anya, Willow, and Tara met at Xander's apartment and discussed the fact that they pulled Buffy out of heaven rather than rescued her from hell. Willow suggested a spell to make Buffy forget that she was in heaven. This was not what Tara wanted to hear and she let Willow know exactly what she felt. Both Xander and Anya decided to leave the room.

Tara used the opportunity to let Willow know how upset she was that Willow used a spell to make her forget fights over the use of magic. Tara compared this violation of her mind to Glory brain-sucking her. Willow did not try to deny her actions. Instead, she apologized and tried to justify what she did. Tara was not interested in hearing any of this. Willow promised to go a month without casting a single spell, but Tara suggested a week. However, Tara sounded like she already made up her mind to leave Willow.

Meanwhile, Giles was telling Buffy that he made up his mind to leave Sunnydale. He was worried that his presence was causing her to have him solve all her problems rather than solving them herself. Buffy did not want to hear this and begged him to stay.

The next day, Tara and Dawn were about to leave for a meeting, but Willow was running late and was not even dressed. Once Tara and Dawn left, Willow magically changed into clothes and went to cast a spell to cause Buffy and Tara to forget the things that Willow wanted them to forget. It involved burning some Lethe's bramble in a fireplace and putting a crystal in the flame

While Tara and Anya thumb-wrestled, Dawn asked about the latest "oogly-boogly." Giles denied that there were any. When Willow and Xander arrived, Giles was about to announce that he was leaving Sunnydale when Spike burst in, wearing a tweed suit. He was in disguise, hiding from the shark demon.

Giles brought the topic back to his leaving long enough for him to tell everyone. Meanwhile, a spark from the fireplace ignited the entire bag of Lethe's bramble. When it burned up, all of the characters collapsed.

That evening, the characters woke. Willow was on top of Xander, which seemed to excite him. Giles found his head on top of Anya. Dawn was very scared and begged the others not to hurt her. Buffy went to reassure her by saying that she did not know anyone there either.

Xander asked who everyone else was. Willow was surprised that he did not know her, considering how excited he was to wake up with her. He said that it was because he thought she was a girl. Willow checked her chest and confirmed that she was one.

Giles realized that nobody remembered anything. Willow looked around the shop and noticed weird things. Tara realized that they were in a real magic shop, but Giles dismissed the idea of magic being real. Anya noticed her engagement ring and concluded that she and Giles were engaged to be married. Giles seemed to be quite pleased. Spike started to make fun of Giles's English accent, only to hear his own. Spike hypothesized that the two of them were related. Giles speculated that he was Spike's older brother, but Spike decided that he was Giles's son instead. Furthermore, he decided that he hated Giles and resented Giles being with Anya.

Willow came up with the idea to check driver's licenses for their names. This worked for her, Xander, Giles, and Tara. Spike saw the name "Randy" in his jacket and was very upset. Willow noticed Xander's last name on the jacket she was wearing, which led him to believe that he (or his brother) might be dating her. Anya figured out her name, if not how to pronounce it, by discovering that her key fit in the cash register and that she and Giles owned the shop together.

Buffy saw that Dawn was wearing a necklace with "DAWN" (or "UMAD") on it. Dawn volunteered to name Buffy, but Buffy decided to name herself "Joan" instead. They bickered a bit, enough to realize that they were sisters.

Buffy decided that they should go to a hospital to see what was wrong with them. They opened the door to see two vampires waiting for them. They slammed the door shut and fled in a panic. The vampires called for the "slayer" to send "Spike" out. They concluded that the vampires wanted spikes in order to slay an unknown "her."

Meanwhile, Willow and Xander went to find other doors and to block them with heavy objects (apparently not pillows or lampshades like in "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"). They returned with news of a trap door to the sewer. The others decided to go down. However, the two vampires burst in. One grabbed Buffy while the other threatened Spike. Spike tried to give it some stakes, but it was not interested. Buffy broke free and stake the vampire threatening Spike. The others were very impressed.

The remaining vampire fled and returned with Sharky and three other minions. The vampires wanted to attack, but Sharky believed that the others would turn on Spike and send him out.

Meanwhile, "Joan" came up with a plan for her and "Randy" to make a run for it while Anya and Giles defended the store and the others went down the sewer. After a quick hug from his "father," Spike ran off with Buffy. When a vampire caught up to him, Spike turned to vamp face and punched it. When it flew backwards, he realized that he had super powers as well. Unfortunately, Buffy saw his vamp face and fled. After beating up the other vampires, he tried to catch up with her.

Anya used her intuition to pull out a book that would help them. She opened it up to a random page, said an incantation, and conjured a bunny. She was terrified.

Spike caught up to Buffy, who attacked him. When he protested, she realized that he did not know that he was a vampire. He concluded that he was a vampire with a soul on a mission of redemption to help the helpless. Buffy thought that the idea was really dumb.

Back at the Magic Box, Anya found herself surrounded by bunnies. Giles wanted to try a different book, but she decided that the book that conjured the bunnies would also contain the spell to get rid of them. Eventually, Anya conjured green mist on the ceiling, a Ray Harryhausen-style skeleton to fight Giles, and an unseen, growling creature.

Xander, Willow, Tara, and Dawn climbed down to the sewer, only to find another vampire lurking. They found a hiding place, where Willow and Tara got a little snuggly. Xander eventually went out to fight the vampire. He did well for himself, but the vampire had the advantage.

Patience was wearing thin in the Magic Box. Anya felt compelled to take vengeance on Giles and hit him over the head with a book. He responded by pulling out his ticket to London and saying that he was leaving Anya and the engagement. Anya responded by throwing her engagement ring at Giles. It bounced off him and landed near the unseen creature. She got upset and worried that the creature would eat the ring. Eventually, Giles read an incantation that undid the previous spells. A grateful Anya dashed out to recover the ring. The two of them apologized to each other and kissed.

In the sewer, the vampire turned its attention to Willow and Tara. Xander lured it away, but not until Willow fell on top of Tara and the crystal fell out of Willow's pocket. Dawn tossed a stake to Xander, who promptly dusted the vampire. Willow and Tara were about to have a tender scene when Xander got up and accidentally crushed the crystal. This restored everyone's memories. An angry Tara pushed Willow off of her. Giles and Anya were shocked to find themselves kissing and decided that they really needed to clean the magic box.

Meanwhile, the vampires caught up with Buffy and Spike. Each managed to stake a vampire before regaining their memories. The vampires took advantage of their confusion, but Spike recovered in time to stake the last two. Sharky came by and said that he would forgive Spike's debt, but Spike insisted that he would pay.

As Michelle Branch sang "Goodbye to You" at the Bronze, Spike approached Buffy. They went off to kiss. Meanwhile, Giles was flying out of the country again and Tara was moving out of the house while Willow cried in the bathroom. Tara tried to hug a very upset Dawn, but Dawn just turned away.

The Good

This episode did the near impossible. It followed "Once More with Feeling" without feeling like a let down.

With the possible exception of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" this is the funniest episode so far. However, as Television without Pity observed, it is really either the saddest funny episode or the funniest sad episode. It does a great job of mixing the pain with the humor. If I did not know better, I would have assumed that Jane Espenson wrote the episode.

The song at the end, "Goodbye to You," was probably the best and most appropriate episode ending song since "Full of Grace" at the end of "Becoming, Part 2," not counting any songs that the characters might have sung.

The Bad

For most of her run on the show, there seemed almost to be a competition among the costume designers on who could put the most unflattering costume on Amber Benson. Occasionally, the make-up department gets involved, most notably in "Triangle." In this episode, the hairstylists got involved.

Overall Rank: 15

Action: 7

Buffy fought two vampire minions during the teaser.

Two vampires raided the Magic Box, where Buffy staked one of them.

Spike fought off four vampires immediately outside the Magic Box.

The four vampires caught up to Spike and Buffy only to get staked.

Xander staked a vampire in the sewer.

Comedy: 10

There is a visual pun of a loan shark who is really a shark. He is also apparently wearing a sharkskin suit, but I am fashion illiterate and do not know what one is, so I just have to take people's word for it.

The scene in which the characters tried to figure out who they were was very funny, especially when they were wrong.

Spike thought that he was Angel.

Drama: 8

The characters dealt with the revelations from the previous episode, such as finding out that Buffy was in heaven, not hell.

Willow and Tara's relationship ended.

Romance: 7

Anya concluded that she and Giles were engaged. After a spat, they kissed and made up just as they got their memories back.

Willow and Tara got snuggly while hiding from the vampire. They were about to kiss when they got their memories back.

Tara broke up with Willow.

Character Development: 9

Willow feels very guilty about pulling Buffy from heaven. Without her memory, she initially assumed that she was heterosexual, but her attraction to Tara could not be suppressed for long.

Xander is more willing to be happy that Buffy is alive.

Tara likens Willow's spells to make her forget things to Glory brain-sucking her.

Spike defaulted to thinking that he was a human rather than a vampire. He saw the others as potential friends or a father rather than yummy meals. Even when confronted by the fact that he was a vampire, he assumed that he was a noble vampire with a soul, which suggests that he might secretly admire Angel.

Anya might have a latent attraction to Giles.

Giles might have a latent attraction to Anya.

Buffy is very upset that Giles was leaving.

Importance: 8

Giles has left Sunnydale again.

Tara and Willow's relationship is over.

Buffy is once again kissing Spike.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

Xander gets the MVP for staking the vampire in the sewer and saving himself, Willow, Tara, and Dawn. Furthermore, he smashed the crystal and restored everyone's memories. Spike gets consideration for intimidating Sharky into overlooking Spike's debt.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

The characters spent much of the second act trying to figure things out.

Buffy figured out the most things without being wrong. Furthermore, it was her plan that helped save the others, so she gets this award.

Goat of the Week: Willow

Willow's inability either to stop using magic caused a lot of trouble for her friends and ended her relationship with Tara. She is the clear Goat. Sharky gets some consideration for losing five minions and for failing to intimidate Spike.

Random Commentary

I do not believe that Giles's excuse for leaving Sunnydale makes much sense. It is true that Buffy has been relying on him a lot recently, but that is understandable considering what she went through. It is not as if he liked Buffy not relying on him during the fourth season. I understand that Anthony Stewart Head's desire to spend more time with his children in England meant that Giles had to leave. However, I think it would have been better if there was a reason in England pulling him there rather than a reason in Sunnydale pushing him there.

I understand that Buffy might not want Sharky as a boss, but she does need money, and she would be good at intimidating deadbeat demons.

Given the age difference between the actors who play them, it would be far more plausible for Giles to be Spike's older brother than for him to be Spike's father.

I may hate Tara's hairstyle in much of this episode, but I do like Willow's outfit. It looked like an outfit that she would wear when trying to hold on to a significant other.


I do not know when the Magic Box is open. However, it is a bit surprising that nobody walked in and noticed eight slumped bodies when the characters were unconscious for hours.

I find it amusing that many people take Xander at his word when he said that he laughed because he got back his memory of having seen King Ralph. It was very clear that it was a nervous laugh. He pretty much figured out what had happened and, based on what he heard in Willow and Tara's fight, he had an idea of what the implications would be. He was clearly covering himself.


The Willow/Tara Relationship is my favorite relationship on the entire show. Until Willow started abusing magic, they were the most perfectly matched couple. Willow needs a lot of love. Therefore, it is a good thing that she is so lovable. Xander loves her. Buffy loves her. Dawn loves her. Giles loves her. Even Anya and Spike are more fond of her than they are likely to admit. Tara loved her as well, as did Oz, but Willow does not need a boyfriend or a girlfriend just to get love. She gets a lot already.

For much of her life, she had low self-esteem. Unlike the other people in her life, Tara admired her. In their first one-on-one conversation together in which they could actually speak, Willow said that she was nothing special. Tara immediately corrected her. In hindsight, Willow might label that moment as the time in which she fell for Tara.

For Tara, Willow represented something to aspire to. Tara was originally conceived as representing what Willow was like in the beginning of the show. Willow showed Tara what she was capable of becoming. Ironically, if it were not for her relationship with Willow, Tara would not have had the courage to stand up to Willow and leave her over Willow's abuse of magic.

There are two other big reasons why this relationship worked so well, Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson. They are two of the best actors on the show, and that is saying a lot. Furthermore, they have great chemistry together. They both have very expressive faces, which allows their characters to communicate with each other with much dialogue, which is useful for characters that do not talk much. Save for some of Vampire Willow's actions, there was no hint that Willow might be a lesbian before Tara came along. However, the chemistry between Hannigan and Benson was so strong that the relationship was believable.

Memorable Dialogue

"Can we talk?" Spike
"Vocal cord-wise, yes. With each other, no." Buffy

"Time is what turns kittens into cats. Look, I don't want to see anyone get hurt. Boys." Shark
"[Starts to beat up the vampire minions] Then you'd better close your eyes." Buffy

"If I would just stop saving his life, it would simple things up so much." Buffy

"I just feel weird feeling bad that my friend's not dead. It's too mind-boggling, so I decided to simplify the whole thing. 'Me like Buffy. Buffy's alive, so me glad.'" Xander

"Magic's all balderdash and chicanery." Giles

"Oh, listen to Mary Poppins. He's got his crust all stiff and upper with that Nancy-boy accent. You Englishmen are always so... Bloody hell, sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks. Oh, God, I'm English." Spike
"Welcome to the Nancy tribe." Giles

"Dad can drive. He's bound to have some classic midlife crisis transport, something red, shiny, shaped like a penis" Spike

"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." Spike
"A vampire with a soul? Oh, my God, how lame is that?" Buffy

"I'm a hero, really. I mean, to be cast such and ugly lot in life and then to rise above it, to seek out better, nobler things. It's inspirational, and the two of us, natural enemies thrown together to stand against the forces of darkness. A lot of trust, no thought of me biting you, no thought of you staking me." Spike
"Depends on how long you keep yapping." Buffy

"Stay up there and keep making bunnies. It's a capital plan." Giles
"What capital? I never know what you're talking about. Loo, shag, brolly? What the hell is all that?" Anya

"I'm all sweaty and trapped, no memory, hiding in a pipe from a vampire, and I think I'm kinda gay." Willow

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Willow Gay References

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 November 3, 2011