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

NORMAL AGAIN (ep #6.17)

(a.k.a. One Flew over the Hellmouth)

Written by: Diego Gutierrez
Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
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: Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson
Adam Busch as Warren Meers
Tom Lenk as Andrew Wells
Dean Butler as Hank Summers
Michael Warren as Doctor
Kirsten Nelson as
Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Co-Starring: Sarah Scivier as Nurse
Rodney Charles as Orderly
April Dion as Kissing Girl

Plot Summary

A demon's sting caused Buffy to beleive that she was in a mental hospital.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Buffy searching new rentals for the nerds' new lair, where Jonathan was starting to go stir crazy. In fact, he failed to notice that Buffy was getting very close until it was almost too late. Fortunately for the nerds, Andrew was able to summon a demon with a magic didgeridoo.

This demon proved to be quite a challenge for the slayer. They were evenly matched until the demon injected Buffy with a spine that grew from its right knuckles. The next thing we see is Buffy in a hospital getting an injection.

Willow waited at UC Sunnydale for a class to get out so that she could "accidentally" run into Tara. Willow spent the time practicing what she would say to her, such as a suggestion of going out for food, coffee, or something else. Unfortunately, when the class got out, Willow saw Tara and another woman ambiguously kiss each other on the cheek. Willow left. Tara looked a little upset when she saw the back of Willow.

A depressed Willow was obsessively checking her e-mail for any word from Xander. Buffy could tell that Willow was upset about something. Willow told her what she saw at UC Sunnydale. Willow did not know what it meant, but it still upset her. Buffy reassured Willow that those who fall for her stay fallen.

Xander's arrival interrupted their conversation. He was rewarded with a simultaneous hug from Buffy and Willow. Xander was worried about Anya. Apparently, he still wanted to be with her despite jilting her at the altar. Buffy was a bit understanding about screwing up.

Spike ran into Buffy while she was on patrol. He asked about the wedding and was shocked to hear that Xander jilted Anya. Spike seemed to compare Xander jilting Anya to Buffy breaking up with him. Buffy did not buy that analogy.

For some reason, Xander and Willow decided to patrol that night and happened to pick the same cemetery that Buffy chose. Spike took the opportunity to do a bit of gloating. Xander was happy to respond with a fist to Spike's face, not noticing that Buffy was flashing back to the mental hospital.

There, the doctor told her that she had visitors: her parents, who were together and alive. They tried talking to her to keep her in the hospital, but she flashed back to the cemetery, where the others finally noticed that something was wrong. Spike was concerned and offered to take her back to his crypt, but Xander told him to go away and that he and Willow will help her.

Buffy told Willow, Xander, and Dawn about the hallucinations. Xander had a hard time believing that anyone could not believe in a world with vampires, demons, ex-vengeance demons, and sisters made out of universe-destroying energy. Willow suggested research.

Buffy flashed to the hospital. There, the doctor summarized the show to her and her parents and made some pointed comments about the sixth season in particular. He thought that the nerds were pathetic when compared to previous villains on the show.

Back at the lair, Warren and Andrew returned from picking up supplies and from spying on Buffy. Jonathan was upset that he did not go and was starting to get paranoid. Warren did not do much to comfort him. Jonathan tried just to leave, but Warren stopped him.

Willow discovered that Buffy was attacked by a glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon. Fortunately, the stinger contains an antidote. Buffy realized that she was detached from her friends. Willow tried to reassure her that Buffy was not now and never has been in an institution, but Buffy said that she was after she first saw vampires. She was worried that she was still institutionalized.

Meanwhile, Xander and Spike were hunting the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon. Spike was amused by the idea of being a delusion, but he realized that it would explain some things. Spike then made a pointed comment about Xander and Anya that might have evolved into another fight when the demon whose name only Spike could pronounce arrived. They fought until a couple of darts from the tranquilizer rifle downed it.

Dawn brought Buffy some tea and tried to be nurturing. Unfortunately, Buffy flashed to the hospital, where her mother tried to convince her that she had no sister. Even worse, Buffy mumbled this in Sunnydale, which hurt Dawn. Meanwhile, Xander and Spike dragged a struggling glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon to Buffy's basement, where Willow broke off its spine in order to make an antidote.

Willow presented Buffy with the antidote the next morning. Unfortunately, Willow left the room before Buffy drank it. In the meantime, Spike lectured her about how she likes to live in pain. This upset Buffy, so she dumped the antidote into a wastepaper basket.

In the hospital, Buffy said that she did not want to go back to Sunnydale. The doctor said that Buffy needed to get rid of what kept dragging her back into Sunnydale, her friends.

Back in Sunnydale, Willow tried to cheer Buffy up and offered to make food for her. Buffy looked at her ominously. Xander later arrived only to be smacked in the head with a frying pan and dragged down to the basement, where Willow was already bound and gagged. Buffy then chased Dawn around the house before dragging her into the basement as well.

Buffy then set the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon loose. Xander fought as well as he could given that this hands were bound around a post. He managed to free himself only to be thrown against a refrigerator as a reward.

Fortunately, Tara came to the rescue. She cast a spell to free Dawn and Willow and then sent a shelf full of paint cans onto the demon. Meanwhile, back in the hospital. Joyce told Buffy what the Sunnydale version of her needed to hear.

Buffy said goodbye to her mother and flashed back to Sunnydale. She rose up and fought the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon, eventually driving her fist through its torso. She then apologized to her friends, who were in a forgiving mood. The episode ended with the doctor telling a sobbing Joyce and Hank that Buffy was lost.

The Good

It is nice when the show does something different. This episode does not belong in the same league as "Hush," "Restless," or "Once More with Feeling," but it is not a typical episode either.

The Bad

A character hallucinating that she or he is in a mental hospital has been done elsewhere in shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Farscape.

Overall Rank: 29

Action: 7

Buffy fought a glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon during the teaser.

Xander and Spike had a bit of a scuffle in the cemetery.

Later, Xander and Spike fought the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon in a cemetery.

Buffy knocked Xander unconscious and dragged him into the basement. She then chased Dawn to get her in the basement as well.

Buffy set the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon on Xander, Willow, and Dawn and tripped Tara when she intervened. They fought the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon until Buffy came to her senses and killed it.

Comedy: 2

The interaction between Spike and Xander while hunting the demon was amusing.

Some of the doctor's comments were amusing when one realizes that he was talking about the show itself.

Drama: 7

Willow was upset at the possibility that Tara might be seeing someone else.

Buffy was worried that she was still in an institution.

Buffy's condition upset the other characters.

Romance: 2

Willow tried to run into Tara "accidentally."

Xander still wanted to date Anya.

Character Development: 3

Dawn apparently believes that life in a mental hospital is an ideal life.

Xander realized that he made a mess of things and still wants to be Anya.

Spike is getting a little frustrated at how he has been treated.

Importance: 0

The most notable thing about the fallout from Buffy's actions in the basement was the lack of fallout over her actions in the basement.

Most Valuable Player: Tara

There are many candidates. Andrew gets consideration for summoning the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon, thus keeping the lair safe from Buffy. Spike and Xander get consideration for capturing the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon. Willow gets consideration for creating the potion to save Buffy. Both Xander and Willow fought well against the demon in the basement. Finally, Tara gets consideration for helping to rescue Xander, Willow, and Dawn when Buffy was trying to feed them to the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon. Tara gets the award, but Andrew was a close second.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Willow

It is tempting to give the award to Spike for figuring out how to pronounce the demon of this episode. However, Willow gets the award for figuring out that Buffy was attacked by a glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon.

Goat of the Week: Buffy

I am not going to blame Buffy for getting stung by the glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik demon. However, after being stung, she did little to fight the effects and even gave in to them for a while. I could be incredibly unfair and give Joyce some consideration because Buffy's delusion of her failed to keep her out of Sunnydale, but I will not blame a character for what a delusion of that character failed to do.

Random Commentary

I am a psychologist. I am not the kind that deals with mental disorders like schizophrenia, but I do know enough to question what the doctor said. For starters, the elaborate delusion sounds more like paranoid schizophrenia rather than undifferentiated schizophrenia. Furthermore, the delusion apepars to be too coherent to be schizophrenia. However the distinctions between different disorders is not as clear as textbooks make it sound, and I am not qualified to make such a diagnosis.

More importantly, if Buffy had schizophrenia with prominent delusions, she would have a hard time differentiating between what is real and what is fake. If this were the case, would it be a good idea to suggest that the person kill those who are fake? Buffy would run the risk of killing a real person thinking that the person was fake. All this leads me to believe that, within the show, the hospital scenes were the delusion and the Sunnydale scenes were real.

Some people may cite the final scene, in which Buffy was catatonic in the hospital, as evidence to the contrary. However, as many have pointed out, the final scene took place before Buffy drank Willow's potion. It was the final gasp of the delusion, not reality.

I have to assume that Buffy having been in a mental hospital in the past was part of the delusion. There are too many scenes in the first couple of seasons that would not make sense if she did spend time in a hospital. In "Killed by Death," when she was feverish and talking about having to kill the vampires, Joyce would have reacted very differently if she had Buffy committed for claiming to see vampires. The confrontation between Buffy and Joyce at the end of "Becoming, Part 2" would also have been very different.

This episode took a big risk. A fantasy show requires more suspension of disbelief than does a show set in the real world. Episodes like this suggest that the suspension of disbelief might be misplaced. Some fans might (and did) take this personally as a suggestion that they were fools. Fortunately, this is a good episode, so not too many fans took it as an insult.

Copy and paste may be a basic computer function, but I was very grateful for the fact that it meant that I had to type out glarghk guhl kashmas 'nik only once.


Many wondered why Willow did not use magic to free herself when she was in the basement. The obvious answer is that she had stopped using magic and was out of the habit of looking to magic as the solution to problems. Another reason is that magic appears to be a combination of magical gestures, words, and objects. Willow was bound, so she could not do any magic gestures. Her mouth was taped shut, so she could not say any magic words. Finally, she had no magical objects.

DVD Extras

Commentary by Director Rick Rosenthal and Writer Diego Gutierrez suffered from commentators with very little to say. In the beginning, there were long silences. Later on, they talked more, but said little. There are minor spoilers through the beginning of the seventh season. Insights include:

Memorable Dialogue

"Hi, you didn't by chance happen to just eat a couple of nerds, did you?" Buffy

"Hi, Tara, how are you? I was wondering, maybe, you wanna go out sometime, for coffee, food, kisses and gay love? Hi, Tara, guess what? Magic free now for insert number days now." Willow

"They're probably just friends. I press my lips against my friends all the time." Willow
"I'm sure they're just friends. Once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen." Buffy

"So you left her at the altar but you still wanna..." Willow
"You still wanna date?" Buffy

"You think this isn't real just because of all the vampires and demons and ex-vengeance demons and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy?" Xander

"[Buffy]'s also created an intricate latticework to support her primary delusion. In her mind, she's the central figure in a fantastic world beyond imagination. She's surrounded herself with friends, most with their own superpowers, who are as real to her as you or meómore so, unfortunately. Together, they face grand, overblown conflicts against an assortment of monsters, both imaginary and rooted in actual myth. Every time we think we're getting through to her, more fanciful enemies magically appear." Doctor

"Buffy inserted Dawn into her delusion, actually rewriting the entire history of it to accommodate a need for a familial bond. Buffy, but that created inconsistencies, didn't it? Your sister, your friends, all of those people you created in Sunnydale, they aren't as comforting as they once were, are they? They're coming apart?" Doctor
"Buffy, listen to what the doctor is saying. It's important." Joyce
"Buffy, you used to create these grand villains to battle against, and now, what is it? Just ordinary students you went to high school with. No gods or monsters, just three pathetic little men who like playing with toys." Doctor

"I still say we're gonna need eight other guys to pull this off." Andrew
"I never should have let you see that movie." Warren

"It might explain some things. This all being in that twisted brain of hers. Yeah, fix up some chip in my head. Make me soft, fall in love with her. Then, turn me into her sodding sex slave." Spike

"You're not drawn to the dark like I thought. You're addicted to the misery. That's why you won't tell your pals about us. You might actually have to be happy if you did. They'd either understand and help you, God forbid, or drive you out where you could finally be at peace, in the dark, with me. Either way, you'd be better off for it, but you're too twisted for that. Let yourself live already, and stop with the bloody hero trip for a second. We'd all be the better for it." Spike

"Last summer, when you had a momentary awakening, it was them that pulled you back in." Doctor

"Buffy, look at me. I'm right here. You're my sister. I need you and love you. Somewhere inside, you must know that's real." Dawn
"Sure it is. What's more real, a sick girl in an institution..." Buffy
"Don't. Please listen to me." Dawn
"... or some kind of supergirl chosen to fight demons and save the world. That's ridiculous. A girl who sleeps with a vampire she hates? Yeah, that makes sense." Buffy

"You're too good to give in. You can beat this thing. Be strong, baby, OK? I know you're afraid. I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you've got people who love you. Your dad and I, we have all the faith in the world in you. We'll always be with you. You've got a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself." Joyce
"You're right. Thank you. Goodbye." Buffy

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Police and Guns

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 December 5, 2012