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LESSONS (ep #7.01)

(a.k.a. It's about Power)

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: David Solomon
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)
Alex Breckenridge as Kit Holburn
Kali Rocha as Halfrek
DB Woodside as Principal Wood
Co-Starring: Mark Metcalf as The Master (really Morphy the Wonder Villain)
Juliet Landau as Drusilla (really Morphy the Wonder Villain)
Harry Groener as Mayor Wilkins (really Morphy the Wonder Villain)
George Hertzberg as Adam (really Morphy the Wonder Villain)
Clare Kramer as Glory (really Morphy the Wonder Villain)
Adam Busch as Warren (really Morphy the Wonder Villain)
David Zepeda as Carlos Trejo
Jeremy Howard as Dead Nerd
Ken Strunk as Dead Janitor
Rachael Bella as Dead Girl
Ed F. Martin as Teacher
Simon Cherin as Student
Jeff Denton as Vampire

Plot Summary

Dawn has an eventful first day at the new Sunnydale High School

Plot Details

The episode opened in Istanbul. With Turkish sounding music in the background, a young woman ran through the streets, pursued by a couple of mysterious people in robes. Eventually, they cornered her. She tried to escape up a drainpipe, only to find a third person in a robe. She was pushed back down and stabbed with a curved dagger.

In Sunnydale, Buffy had brought Dawn to a cemetery to teach her how to stake vampires. Mostly, Buffy wanted to emphasize the fact that vampires are powerful. It would have helped her case if the newly risen vampire did not get stuck on its way out of the grave. After Buffy helped it out, Dawn quickly sank a stake into its chest, only to find that this was one of the very rare occurrences on the show in which a stake that lands in the general upper torso region does not result in a dusty vampire. Buffy came to the rescued and beheaded it.

Buffy said that Dawn did well for herself but believed that Dawn would be better off running from vampires than fighting them. Both were worried about what was to come, the opening of the new Sunnydale High School, rebuilt on its old location (a.k.a., the Hellmouth).

In Westbury, England, Giles rode a horse before watching Willow raise a CGI flower out of the ground. She was forlorn, but not enough to hide her admiration of his botany knowledge. Willow apparently ditched her lesson with a coven because they appeared to be afraid of her. She and Giles also discussed new age stuff and Willow's desire to be rid of her magic.

Xander, dressed in a nice suit, arrived at the Summers house to drive them to the new school. He brought blueprints of the campus. Xander found no pentegrams in the plans, but he discovered that the principal's office was directly over the Hellmouth. Buffy gave Dawn a back-to-school present, but the scene cut away before we could see what it was.

At the school, Buffy warned Dawn about various events that took place in "The Pack," "Go Fish," and "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" (or "Gone"). The new principal, Robin Wood, introduced himself. He and Buffy each commented on the relative youth of the other.

Buffy could not bring herself to leave the school and wandered the halls. In a restroom, Buffy noticed a talisman. When she picked it up, a rather grotesque looking woman snarled at her before disappearing. While Buffy pondered this, a grotesque looking man threatened her and disappeared. Buffy immediately decided to pull Dawn out of school. Dawn did not appreciate this.

At the Espresso Pump, Anya and Halfrek watched two folk singers sing a sappy love song. Neither vengeance demon was amused. Halfrek used the conversation as an excuse to segue into a warning about how the other vengeance demons have noticed that Anya has yet to kill or eviscerate anyone. Apparently, something nasty is coming, and Anya would be better off if she were clearly on the evil side.

Buffy sought out Xander, who was supervising the construction of the school's science building. He did not seem particularly surprised to hear that Buffy saw what she thought were zombie ghosts. Meanwhile, a person in Dawn's class asked to borrow a pencil. This, in and of itself, was not particularly creepy. The fact that he turned into another grotesque creature and tried to stab Dawn with the pencil did upset her.

Dawn went to the same restroom and hid in a stall. She heard sobbing and found another student (Kit) hiding. Apparently, Kit saw a grotesque being as well. As they were talking, all three grotesque beings appeared and the lights started sparking. Dawn and Kit screamed as arms reached through the floor and pulled them down. They seemed to survive their fall with very little damage.

In England, Willow felt the earth. Ordinarily, this would not be unusual for someone sitting on the ground. However, she also felt something that indicated that the Hellmouth was going to open up and swallow everyone whole.

Buffy ran into Principal Wood, who seemed surprised that Buffy was still on campus. He admitted that he was advised to read up on Buffy's file from when she was a student. This file appeared to be more interesting than Buffy would have liked. Buffy tried to convince Principal Wood into expelling Dawn, but he was not inclined to do so.

In the basement, Dawn and Kit decided to look for a staircase. Along the way, they ran into another student, Carlos, who had also saw a grotesque being. As they tried to find a way out, the three grotesque beings cornered them. Dawn then remembered her present, a cell phone.

Principal Wood seemed perturbed to have the conversation interrupted by Dawn s call to Buffy, but he appeared to believe Buffy's story about a dog walking emergency and let her go. Buffy burst into the restroom and jumped through the hole in the ground, which had grown since we last saw it. The grotesque beings quickly found her and started to harass her. She figured out that they were trying to keep her from a door to a room.

The room contained Spike, who did not seem to be himself. He had a vague idea that he was in a school, but it was not clear if he understood that he was not a student and that it was not the 19th century. He did know enough to say that the grotesque beings were manifest spirits rather than zombie ghosts and that the talisman was involved.

Buffy called Dawn and told her to find a weapon. Soon afterward, she remembered the talisman that she saw earlier and called Xander. Meanwhile, the manifest spirits went to harass Dawn, Kit, and Carlos again. This time, they had a bag filled with bricks. Buffy wielded the brick-filled bag quite effectively and held the manifest spirits off as Xander found and destroyed the talisman.

With the talisman destroyed, the spirits disappeared. Buffy led a very grateful Kit and Carlos upstairs. Principal Wood was quite impressed to see this gratitude from students he expected to implode fearsomely. He decided to offer Buffy a job as a part-time counselor. She accepted, thus sparing the show from the wrath of fast-food sponsors offended by the portrayal of the Doublemeat Palace.

In the basement, Spike muttered to himself only to have someone who looked like Warren (to be called "Morphy the Wonder Villain" per Herc from Ain't It Cool News) interrupt. It morphed into Glory, Adam, Mayor Wilkins, Drusilla, the Master, and, finally, Buffy as it taunted Spike.

The Good

The final scene was great, even if the dialogue was rather pretentious.

The Bad

Like many season openers, this episode was more bland than bad.

Overall Rank: 99

Action: 7

Mysterious Guys in Robes pursued an killed a young woman in Istanbul.

Dawn and Buffy fought a vampire during the teaser.

Dawn, Buffy, and Xander all fought manifest spirits throughout the episode.

Comedy: 2

A rising vampire got caught on a root.

Buffy reminded a manifest spirit of who dated dead guys.

Drama: 1

Other than a bit of anxiety about the opening of Sunnydale High, there is little drama.

Romance: 0

Other than a brief mention dating dead guys, there is no romance in this episode

Character Development: 7

Willow feels guilty about her actions in the last three episodes of the sixth season. There is no evidence that she remembers having known a person named Tara.

Dawn is learning how to fight vampires. She is quite fond of Britney Spears's finger painting and macaroni art.

Buffy is reluctantly training Dawn how to fight vampires. She now has a job as a school counselor.

Robin Wood is the new principal at Sunnydale High School. As of yet, it is unclear whether he does not know what he is in for or if there is more to him than meets the eye.

Anya does not seem to have her heart in vengeance anymore and has yet to do anything really nasty to any of her victims.

Halfrek used to admire Anya and still considers herself to be Anya's friend. However, she is worried about Anya's lack of interest in mayhem.

Importance: 7

There is a new high school in Sunnydale. Of course, it is directly over the Hellmouth.

One to three important new characters were introduced.

Willow is in England learning from a coven.

Spike is back in Sunnydale, but his sanity is elsewhere. He now lives in the Sunnydale High basement where someone (to be called Morphy the Wonder Villain until identified) has been taunting him.

Buffy has a new job as a school counselor.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

Xander gets the first MVP of the seventh season for destroying the talisman, thus dispersing the manifest spirits. Buffy gets some credit for holding off the spirits while Xander did his work.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Spike

Despite a lack of sanity, Spike figured out that a talisman summoned manifest spirits. Buffy gets a bit of credit for figuring out that the manifest spirits were trying to keep her away from Spike although she failed to figure out what Spike meant by "duck."

Goat of the Week: Manifest Spirits

Actually, the entity who summoned the manifest spirits deserves the Goat, except that she / he / it evaded detection. Therefore, the manifest spirits get the Goat for failing to scare Dawn and Buffy away from Sunnydale High.

Random Commentary

At this time the previous season, all surviving characters except for the Buffybot were mourning Buffy's death, with only Anya ready to go on with her life. In this episode, there is no evidence that anybody remembered that they had once known someone named Tara. Even without the enormous controversy over the casual destruction of one of the show's best characters, it would make sense to show at least a little evidence that any of the characters cared about Tara and was sorry that she had died.

To answer Willow's question, bangers are a style of English sausage, and mash is short for mashed potatoes.

Given the high body count at the original Sunnydale High School, the manifest spirits could easily have been victims that we have seen before. If one particular actor had not been available, there were many more to choose from. I do not know why we needed to see three new victims.

I disliked this episode when it first aired, in part because it made the show look like it was going in a direction of setting up a Dawn the Vampire Slayer spin-off that had been speculated about since Dawn first appeared on the show. I considered this direction to be a mistake. I have no doubt that Michelle Trachtenberg is a strong enough actress to carry a television series, but I am not sure that Dawn is a strong enough character to do so. Furthermore, I believe that, to be successful, any spin-off had to be as different from Buffy as Angel is. To do so, it probably cannot focus on a vampire slayer and her sidekicks.

It would be a spoiler to say whether Dawn ever becomes a slayer or even if it is possible for her to become one. However, there never was a series entitled Dawn the Vampire Slayer. With this knowledge, I dislike the episode less than I did at first. Still, it is rather bland.


Keith Topping questioned Xander's conclusion that a hole in the bathroom floor meant "contracty goodness" when it could really mean a lawsuit. It could mean a lawsuit for the contractor who installed the floor. However, it is likely that that contractor was not the one that Xander worked for. Therefore, assuming that the school district no longer trusts the contractor who installed the floor, Xander's company would have a shot at repairing it.

DVD Extras

Commentary by Writer Joss Whedon & Director/Co-Executive Producer David Solomon was reasonably insightful, although it contained awkward pauses common to multi-person commentaries. There are spoilers through most of the seventh season and for the first episodes of the fifth season of Angel. Insights include:

Memorable Dialogue

"It's about power. Who's got it and who knows how to use it." Buffy

"He's new. He doesn't know his strength. He might not know all those fancy martial arts skills they inevitably seem to pick up." Dawn

"Is there anything you don't know everything about?" Willow
"Synchronized swimming, complete mystery to me." Giles

"When you brought me here, I thought it was to kill me or to lock me in some mystical dungeon for all eternity or with the torture. Instead, you go all Dumbledore on me." Willow

"I love to dance. I like music. I'm very into Britney Spears's early work, before she sold out, so mostly her finger painting and macaroni art, very underrated. Favorite activities include not ever having to do this again and..." Dawn

"I felt the earth. It's all connected. It is, but it's not all good and pure and rootsy. There's deep, deep black. There's... I saw... I saw the earth, Giles. I saw its teeth." Willow
"The Hellmouth." Giles
"It's gonna open. It's gonna swallow us all." Willow

"What are you after: fear, revenge, tasty brains?" Buffy
"I think I'd like Dawn to be my girlfriend." Manifest Spirit (Dead Nerd)
"Again, wrong sister. I'm the one who dates dead guys, and, no offense, but they were hotties." Buffy

"What do they want?" Dawn
"So far, to piss me off." Buffy
"Please tell me it's working." Dawn

"Look at that. It's not even noon, and I've already bullied my first family member into helping out. I'm gonna be the best principal ever." Principal Wood

"[As Warren] Of course she won't understand, Sparky. I'm beyond her understanding. She's a girl: sugar and spice and everything useless, unless you're baking. I'm more than that: more than flesh...
"[As Glory] ...more than blood. I'm... You know, I honestly don't think there's a human word fabulous enough for me. Oh, my name will be on everyone's lips, assuming their lips haven't been torn off. Not just yet, that's all right though.
"[As Adam] I can be patient. Everything is well within parameters. She's exactly where I want her to be, and so are you, Number 17. You're right where you belong.
"[As Mayor Wilkins] So, what did you think? You'd get your soul back, and everything would be jim-dandy? Soul is slipperier than a greased weasel. Why do you think I sold mine? Well, you probably thought that you'd be your own man, and I respect that...
"[As Drusilla] ...but you never will. You'll always be mine. You'll always be in the dark with me, singing our little songs. You like our little songs, don't you? You've always liked them, right from the beginning, and that's where we're going.
"[As the Master] Right back to the beginning: not the bang, not the word, the true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride, and I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You'll learn you're a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn't sunk in already. Look at you, trying to do what's right. Just like her, you still don't get it. Not about right, not about wrong...
[As Buffy] ...it's about power." Morphy the Wonder Villain

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

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 January 4, 2013