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(a.k.a. Poseability)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: James A. Contner
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
Co-Starring: Camden Toy as Gnarl
Anthony S. Johnson as Father
Matt Koruba as Teen Boy
Nicholette Dixon as Sister
Marshè Daniel as Brother

Plot Summary

Buffy, Dawn, and Xander failed to see Willow while a demon feasted on her skin.

Plot Details

The episode opened at 9:24 with Buffy, Dawn, and Xander waiting for Willow at the airport. Xander brought a sign written in yellow crayon, which would have been a good gesture if he wrote it on something other than white paperboard. After a brief discussion of the significance of yellow crayons in the mythology of the show, they noticed that they had not seen Willow get off the plane. This, along with the news that Willow had yet to complete her being not evil course, caused some worry.

At 9:24, Willow got off the plane. She looked around and saw nobody waiting for her. She was not feeling particularly welcome back in Sunnydale.

Late at night, a tagger was completing his latest masterpiece at a construction site. Ordinarily, such a person would be vampire fodder. However, he fell prey to a different demon, one who liked to taunt him.

Willow arrived at Buffy's house to find nobody there. She went to her old room, which was now Buffy's. She recalled an event from the end of "Seeing Red" before picking up a planner. Willow heard a door slam downstairs and dropped the planner. She raced downstairs to find nobody. She disappointedly curled up on the couch.

Buffy, Dawn, and Xander returned to the Summers house wondering where Willow went. Xander slammed the door. They all then heard something drop upstairs. They went to investigate and found nothing. They went downstairs and sat on the couch. They continued speculating about what happened to Willow.

In the morning, Willow tried to call Giles, but he was in an all-day council meeting. She then went to the remains of the Magic Box and found Anya clearing out what she could. Anya was still angry with Willow over the events of "Two to Go" and "Grave," but the anger did not last long. They had a conversation that included Anya slipping in a common American stereotype of Brazilians and a suggestion that some of the characters might be at the new high school.

Willow went to a construction site on campus and found the tagger in a condition somewhat similar to one that Warren was in after Willow got bored during "Villains." Coincidentally, Xander and Buffy were examining the same body. He had found the body and called Buffy right away rather than calling, say, the police. Willow quickly climbed away as Xander speculated that she might have been the cause.

Willow went to the Sunnydale High basement and found its most insane resident. In addition to Spike's usual rantings, he seemed to be holding two conversations at the same time. Coincidentally, Buffy and Xander also went to see Spike. Along with his rantings, they also found that he seemed to be holding two conversations at once.

Willow went to Anya for help. Apparently Willow wanted to cast the same "spell" with Anya that she tried to cast with Tara in "Goodbye Iowa" (involving glowing dots on a map of Sunnydale). Anya was a bit worried about whether the spell would be a metaphor like spells were in the fourth season and whether the spell would harm the carpet. Unlike in "Goodbye, Iowa," Willow cast the spell with someone who really was a demon and did not care if Willow knew, so it was successful. There were about 45-50 demons in Sunnydale, with all but nine or ten on the grounds of the school itself. In fact, the huge concentration of demons lit the map on fire, hurting the carpet. It looked like Anya would have preferred the spell to have gotten sexy.

At the Summers home, Dawn used the computer to find demons that skin (or flay) their victims. Buffy was starting to think that all the research was simply them being in denial over the likely villain. However, Dawn located a good prospect, a demon named Gnarl who eats the skin of victims and drinks the blood. Fortunately, Buffy knew of a good, if somewhat insane, blood tracker.

Buffy, Xander, and Dawn followed Spike as he followed Gnarl's trail to a cave. Meanwhile, Willow crawled through a narrow opening to find torches already waiting for her. Gnarl started his taunting routine before leaping out and scratching Dawn, paralyzing her. Xander and Buffy got the bright idea to take her out of the cave and seal Gnarl in. Willow found herself sealed in the cave.

Gnarl was very amused by this predicament and taunted Willow. She started a spell, but Gnarl claimed immunity. He then pointed out that Willow's friends were there, but they abandoned her. This distracted Willow long enough for Gnarl to scratch her, also causing paralysis.

Xander and Buffy brought Dawn back to the Summers house. Buffy started to research the Gnarl poison. At first, she thought that the paralysis would be permanent, which caused Dawn to say a word that would have landed a big fine from the FCC if it were not so muffled. However, Buffy soon realized that it would last until Gnarl died. Buffy was ready to go back, but Xander was worried about Dawn vomiting. Buffy decided to call Anya for vomit watch.

When Anya arrived, she quickly set out to discover what was most important: Was Dawn poseable? To everyone's amusement (except Dawn's), she was. Anya let slip that she helped Willow and that Willow might be in Gnarl's cave.

Back in the cave, Gnarl started to feed on Willow skin while continuing to taunt her. He was so involved in playing with his meal that he did not notice Buffy, Anya, and Xander enter. The three of them figured out that Willow was invisible to Buffy and Xander while Buffy started to fight Gnarl. Anya comforted Willow while Buffy shoved her thumbs into Gnarl's eyes, killing him. This ended Willow and Dawn's paralysis, causing the latter to fall over. Anya went to get help as Willow became visible to Buffy and Xander.

The next morning, Willow meditated as a way to regrow her skin. This led to a new age discussion about how the earth has the power to grow skin and how Clem was probably overdoing it. Willow also hypothesized that she was responsible for her not being able to see Buffy, Xander, and Dawn and for them not being able to see her. It appears that Willow's anxieties about seeing them triggered the episode.

The Good

The more Willow in an episode, the better.

Gnarl may be the creepiest villain on the show since the Gentlemen (one of whom was also played by Camden Toy).

James A. Contner's direction in this episode ranks with some of the best directing across all seven seasons of the show.

The Bad

Between the flayed body, the skin eating, and the eye gouging, this is not an episode for people with sensitive stomachs.

Overall Rank: 16

Action: 4

Buffy, Xander, and Dawn had a brief encounter with Gnarl, resulting in Dawn's paralysis.

Later, Buffy had a bit longer fight with Gnarl.

Comedy: 6

Xander apparently really enjoys repeating his yellow crayon speech.

Anya supplied a few laughs.

Willow almost suggested that Anya teleport quickly "like a bunny."

Poseable Dawn was very amusing.

Drama: 7

Buffy, Dawn, and Xander spent most of the episode worried about Willow.

Willow worried that the others abandoned her.

In the end, everyone seemed to forgive Willow for what she did in the last three episodes of the sixth season.

Romance: 2

At first, Anya feared that her "spell" with Willow would get sexy, but Anya soon warmed up to the idea.

Character Development: 7

Xander enjoys telling people about how he earned the MVP for "Grave." He was probably the least ambivalent about welcoming Willow back.

Dawn is getting a little sick of hearing Xander talk about how he won the MVP for "Grave." She went along with welcoming Willow back but was also quick to theorize that Willow turned evil. More than the other characters, Dawn holds Willow directly responsible for what she did in "Villains," "Two to Go," and "Grave." Like Michelle Trachtenberg, she wants to wear high heels more often. She also knows what the word "viscera" means.

Buffy is also getting sick of hearing Xander talk about winning an MVP. She seems to be the most ambivalent about welcoming Willow back.

Willow, despite evidence to the contrary in the previous two episodes, actually remembered that she knew somebody named Tara. However, she had to return to the room where she last saw Tara to remember.

Giles was worried that he sent Willow back too soon.

Anya was still a little upset at Willow but got over it quickly. She believes that Buffy, Xander, and Dawn overreacted in "Beneath You." She no longer has the right to teleport and does not find vengeance fulfilling. She might be curious about what it would be like to have "spells" with Willow.

Spike is still insane, but now has a super scent tracking ability that would have been useful in some of the Dawn Is Missing episodes of the fifth and sixth seasons.

Importance: 3

Willow is back in Sunnydale, and the other characters seem to accept her being back.

In case there was any doubt, the Magic Box is beyond repair.

Most Valuable Player: Buffy

Buffy gets the MVP for killing Gnarl and saving Willow.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Dawn

Dawn gets this award for discovering that Gnarl was the villain of the episode. Anya gave fought hard for the award by knowing how to kill Gnarl and for discovering that Dawn was poseable. Spike gets a bit of credit for discovering that something was up with Willow and the others and for finding Gnarl's cave. Willow also gets credit for figuring out where Gnarl lived.

Goat of the Week: Gnarl

This was a tough choice as one could excuse Gnarl as simply being defeated by a superior foe. However, he gets the Goat for letting his guard down while feeding on Willow, thus letting Buffy get the jump on him.


In the aural flashback of Tara's death, we hear the gunshot, the glass breaking, and Willow crying out, "Tara!" Why do we not hear Tara saying, "Your shirt"? It would be very cynical for me to suggest that they did so in order to avoid paying Amber Benson for the use of her voice in the episode.

The planner that Willow picked up contained three phone numbers: "Buffy work," "Xander's office," and "Dawn cell." Unless the planner were Anya's or Spike's, I wonder why the owner referred to herself in the third person.

I understand that Anya has a very good reason to be upset at Willow. However, I am not sure that Anya has much cause to complain about Willow killing people when Anya is now a vengeance demon.

Why did Gnarl's poison create a poseable paralysis with Dawn and a limp paralysis with Willow?

Memorable Dialogue

"I saved the world with talking, from my mouth. My mouth saved the world." Xander

"Well, if she's doing that, ducking Giles, then she's evil, right?" Dawn
"Well, I've avoided Giles tons of times. It just meant I was lazy, not evil." Xander
"I hope you're right, because defeating lazy Willow, probably less hard." Buffy

"So, Giles is blaming Giles, and we're blaming us? Is anyone gonna blame Willow? [Off Buffy's stare] Oh, don't give me shock face. I mean, will anyone around here ever start asking for help when they need it?" Dawn

"Here's something you should know about vengeance demons. We don't groove with the sorry. We prefer, 'Oh, God, please stop hitting me with my own rib bones.'" Anya
"Go on. Say whatever you want: rib bones and so forth. I deserve it." Willow
"And you won't mind? [Willow shakes her head] Well, that's no fun." Anya
"Sorry." Willow

"Everyone's all about the high school. Buffy's got some kind of job there helping junior deviants. Spike's insane in the basement. Xander's there doing construction on the new gym." Anya
"Spike's what in the what-ment?" Willow
"Insane. Base." Anya

"Everyone's talking to me. No one's talking to each other. Someone isn't here. Button, button, who's got the button? My money's on the witch. Red's a bad girl." Spike

"Something horrible killed a boy, took his skin right off." Willow
"Was it you? No!" Anya and Willow

"The vengeance itself, it's not as fulfilling as I remember." Anya
"Really, 'cause I got the impression that you enjoyed, you know, inflicting." Willow
"Well, causing pain sounds really cool, I know, but, turns out, it's really upsetting. Didn't use to be, but now it is." Anya
"Is it like you're scared of losing that feeling again and that having it be OK to hurt people and then you're not in charge of the power anymore because it's in charge of you?" Willow
"Wow, that was really overdramatically stated, but, yeah, that's it." Anya

"Spike follows the exciting smell of blood and we follow the fairly ripe smell of Spike." Buffy
"It's smellementary. Also, I'm sure there's tons of stuff like this; you know, procedures we can use that don't involve magic spells, just good, solid detective work. And we can develop a database of tooth impressions and demon skin samples, and I could wear high heels more often." Dawn
"Wow, that was so close to being empowered." Buffy

"I'm insane. What's his excuse?" Spike

"It says the paralysis is permanent." Buffy
"$#!+" Dawn

"Wouldn't it be tragic if you were here being kinda silly with your comically paralyzed sister while Willow was dying?" Anya

"That's magic, right? I mean, when most people meditate, they don't get extra skin, right? 'Cause Clem should, like, cut back." Buffy

"It's nice to be forgiven. Too bad I need so much of it." Willow

Characters in Peril


Departed Characters Remembered

Police and Guns

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 January 4, 2013