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HELP (ep #7.04)

Written by: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
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: Azura Skye as Cassie Newton
Zachery Bryan as Peter Nichols
Glenn Morshower as Phillip Newton
Rick Gonzalez as Tomás
Kevin Christy as Josh
Sarah Hagan as Amanda
Beth Skipp as Lulu
Anthony Harrell as Matthew
Jarrett Lennon as Martin Wilder
DB Woodside as Principal Wood
Co-Starring: J Barton as Mike Helgenburg
Daniel Dehring as Red Robed #1
AJ Wedding as Red Robed #2
Marcie Lynn Ross as Dead Woman

Plot Summary

The characters tried to prevent a precognitive student's death.

Plot Details

The episode opened in a funeral home with three closed caskets and one open one that was being used. After the lights were turned out, two of the closed caskets mysteriously opened with Buffy and Xander crawling out. The third casket was a bit hard to open as Dawn was a little too tall to fit in a child-size coffin. The three of them examined the body while discussing Buffy's anxiety over her new job. The body awoke as a vampire, but a quick staking put an end to the mission.

Buffy found herself rather busy at work. One young woman (Amanda) was being picked on. Another student (Tomás) did not want to talk. A third (Peter) wanted to talk about parental divorce, namely the fact that his parents are not divorced, which made him feel left out. In response to a suggestion that she stick up for herself, Amanda confessed that she beat up her tormentor.

Willow and Xander discussed Buffy's first day at work and the catchphrase of the season so far. Willow wondered if she would be able to help when the big conflict comes. Still fresh off his yellow crayon speech from "Grave," Xander tried to continue his inspirational talk streak by giving a hammer speech. Although not as effective as a yellow crayon, the hammer seemed to help. Eventually, they arrived at the object of their quest, a cemetery containing the grave of a Tara Maclay.

Eventually, Tomás admitted that he was afraid for his brother, who was in the Marines. Another student, Josh, was worried that he was gay and was hoping that Buffy would prove him wrong. Another student apparently had issues with a controlling sister. To nobody's surprise, this student turned out to be Dawn.

Finally, we get to the point of the episode. A student named Cassie had not been doing her homework. Apparently, she sees no future for herself because she was going to die that Friday. She was not going to commit suicide and had received no threats. She just knew. She also knew that she would be underground, that coins would be involved, and that Buffy should cover her blouse to keep it from getting stained.

Buffy reported the case to Principal Wood. She wanted to do something, but he seemed to believe that there was not much that could be done. She protested and spilled coffee, staining her blouse. Getting little help from the principal, Buffy enlisted Dawn's help.

Dawn found Cassie in the library with her friend, Mike. Dawn overheard Mike asking Cassie to a dance that Cassie did not want to attend. Dawn interrupted with the pretense of asking about ceramics homework. Mike left to study for a history test with Cassie predicting a B. Dawn pried about the Cassie-Mike relationship and found that he had asked her to the dance many times with her saying no even more times.

Buffy, Willow, and Xander examined Cassie's school records. Buffy was open to the possibility that Cassie had some vision of her death that caused a drop-off in her schoolwork. Xander and Willow—having learned nothing over the previous six seasons—tried to play the skeptic. They then found the web site that the creators of the show set up on the real Internet. It contained pretentious, dark poems.

Dawn came home confident that she earned the Sherlock Holmes Award. She thought that Mike would kill Cassie because she kept rejecting him. Nobody paid attention to her and, instead, Buffy and Xander went to look for Cassie's father, who looked strikingly like Agent Pierce from 24.

Apparently, he has a long police record of being drunk and disorderly. However, he was very upset at the suggestion that he ever assaulted Cassie and wondered if this was just a ploy by Cassie's mother to deny him visitation rights. Buffy and Xander left to find Cassie waiting for them outside. She denied wanting to die but felt that there was nothing that can be done.

We then saw seven people in red robes lighting a picture of Cassie on fire. Buffy, in a new outfit, went to ask Spike for help. He responded by punching himself as punishment for hurting Buffy. Buffy left.

Buffy and Principal Wood started inspecting lockers. Buffy paused to question Mike, who was upset that he got a B on his test. Buffy seemed to believe Dawn's theory that Mike would hurt Cassie. Mike, however, recovered from rejection and was thinking about asking Dawn to the dance. Buffy seemed relieved at the first part but did not like the idea of Dawn being just a second choice.

This conversation was interrupted when Principal Wood found a locker with a lot of coins. Buffy interrogated the locker owner (Martin), who eventually admitted that there were people who wanted to hurt Cassie.

Dawn wanted to walk Cassie home, but Cassie realized why Dawn wanted to do so. Peter interrupted to pretend to ask Dawn to the dance. However, he was just distracting her. She was a little hurt and became upset when she realized that Cassie disappeared.

In the library, seven people in red robes, including Peter, started a ritual that was to have the same result as the one in "Reptile Boy," except that it involved a humanoid demon rather than a giant snake. Peter was about to sacrifice Cassie when Buffy threw off a red robe. She started to taunt them about their inability to summon lame demons when the demon in question showed up anyway.

Buffy naturally focused her attention on the demon. It looked like it was about to stomp her, but Spike came to the rescue with a torch. Spike then pounded on Peter, setting off the chip in the process, while Buffy burned the demon. As Spike cut Cassie loose, she told him that, someday, "she" (presumably Buffy) will tell Spike something.

Peter was upset at the prospect of the infinite-riches-granting demon being dead. Fortunately, it was just alive enough to give Peter a nice bite before exploding. Buffy was not interested in treating his wound.

As Buffy and Cassie left the library, they set off a booby trap. However, Buffy caught the crossbow bolt just before it struck Cassie between the eyes. Buffy cited this as evidence that one can make a difference. Cassie said that Buffy will and then dropped dead.

Buffy, Dawn, Xander, and Willow met at the Summers home. Buffy felt that she had failed Cassie, but Dawn realized that they had helped because they at least tried.

The Good

Cassie Newton is one of the best single-episode characters to have appeared on the show. Much of the credit has to go to Azura Skye, but Rebecca Rand Kirshner also helped a lot.

I am glad that, for the first time in the seventh season, the show acknowledged that Tara actually meant something to one of the characters on the show. Considering that Joyce received nearly two episodes focused on her death and how it affected the other characters, I expect more than the 30-40 seconds that Tara's death received here. However, it is at least a start. On the other hand, the characters spent just about as much time mourning a one-episode character, Cassie, as they did the 46-episode character, Tara.

The Bad

I think that we are supposed to get that Buffy was not a very good counselor, so I will not hold her poor counseling as a fault in this episode.

Overall Rank: 28

Action: 4

Buffy and Spike fought a demon and guys in red robes.

Comedy: 3

Some of Buffy's conversations with students were played for laughs.

Drama: 7

For much of the episode, the characters anxiously tried to prevent Cassie's death.

The characters mourned Cassie when they failed.

Willow visited Tara's grave.

Romance: 3

Mike had kept asking Cassie to a dance, but she refused each time.

Later, he wanted to ask Dawn to a dance.

One of Buffy's students wanted to date her.

Character Development: 3

Principal Wood grew up in Beverly Hills.

Willow is worried about her ability to control magic and whether a failure would hurt her friends. When she was younger, she had posted love poems and Doogie Howser fan fic on the Internet.

Dawn thinks that her sister is a overcontrolling and does not like the fact that she borrows Dawn's clothes.

Xander does not know what the verb "to Google" means.

Buffy wants to be a good counselor but has a long way to go.

Importance: 1

Cassie dropped a couple bits of foreshadowing at the end of the episode.

Most Valuable Player: Spike

This is a tough episode for MVPs. Despite their best efforts, Buffy, Dawn, Xander, and Willow all failed to save Cassie. The guys in red robes failed to kill Cassie and get riches. I would like to give Buffy et al. a little credit for at least showing Cassie that people cared about her and wanted her to live, but that is not enough for the award. Spike takes the award for rescuing Buffy and for freeing Cassie from Peter even though doing so triggered Spike's chip.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Cassie

Few characters in the history of the show were as certain that they would win this award as Dawn was in this episode. Fewer were as wrong as she was. Buffy gets a bit of credit for getting the information from the guy with the coins. Cassie gets the award for predicting her death, figuring out the Dawn-Buffy connection, figuring out why Dawn befriended her, and for dropping a couple bits of foreshadowing.

Goat of the Week: Peter

Peter gets the Goat for not getting infinite riches from his lame demon.

Random Commentary

It seems to me that most modern carpenters use nail guns and do not have to worry about hitting their thumbs. However, a place so backward that land gets excavated using hand shovels (c.f., "Pangs") is probably backward enough to use hammers.

According to Tara's gravestone, her birthday was October 16. This episode first aired in the United States on October 15, suggesting that Willow was visiting Tara's grave on what would have been Tara's 22nd birthday. It also suggests that visits would be reserved only for special occasions.

I am assuming that Tara's gravestone was just a marker rather than where Tara was really buried. None of the other characters were related to her, so custody of her body would go to her father. He did not want her to stay in Sunnydale in life, so I do not see him allowing her body to stay in Sunnydale in death.

For reasons that I will never fully understand, many people do not like this episode. They will often acknowledge the good points, most notably, Azura Skye's performance. However, they also have issues that do not make sense.

For example, some people find Cassie's poetry to be pretentious. First, her poetry is a minor part of the episode, not something to judge it by. Second, it is not supposed to be especially good or profound. Nobody held up Cassie as a fresh young talent about to revolutionize the poetry world. She was simply an angsty teenager who posted some of her work on the Web.

Other people do not like revisiting the theme of Buffy not always being able to do what she wants. However, there are both realistic and dramatic reasons for Buffy to have to fail occasionally. It is hardly more realistic for Buffy to succeed in 143 out of 144 episodes than it is for her to succeed in all 144 episodes. Furthermore, her triumphs are more enjoyable when she does not always succeed. I do enjoy unqualified triumphs like at the end of "Family" or "Checkpoint." However, these are enjoyable in part because they do not always happen. To be interesting, there needs to be triumphs, qualified successes (e.g., rescuing Willow, but only after Gnarl started to snack on her skin), and failures.


At the moment, the reason why Principal Wood thought that Buffy would make a good counselor is a bit of an imponderable. After all, Buffy never had any training in counseling, and her only psychology class was with, as Willow once put it, "an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation before the final." However, an explanation will probably come when we find out what is up with Wood. In any case, it is unclear why anyone thought that it would be appropriate to counsel students in a cubicle where anyone can listen in on the conversation. Furthermore, Buffy probably had a duty to talk with Principal Wood about her concerns for Cassie's safety. However, it was an extreme violation of Cassie's privacy to bring Dawn, Xander, and Willow into the situation.

Memorable Dialogue

"With bullies like this, they're really just..." Buffy
"...insecure? Yeah, everyone says that. You know, I'm really tired of everyone being so insecure." Amanda

"I stuck up for myself. The other day, after class, I jumped him in the parking lot, and I slammed his stupid-ass insecure face right into the pavement." Amanda
"You what?!?" Buffy
"I guess that's another reason Mr. Miller wanted me to see you. Do you think I should pound on him some more?" Amanda

"'From beneath you, it devours.' It's not the friendliest jingle, is it? It's no 'I like Ike' or 'Milk, it does a body good.'" Xander

"Figuring out how to control your magic seems a lot like hammering a nail. What? Hear me out. So you're hammering, right? If you hold the end of the hammer, you have the power, but no control. It takes, like, two strokes to hit the nail in, or you could hit your thumb." Xander
"Ouch." Willow
"So, you choke up: control, but no power. It could take, like, ten strokes to knock the nail in. Power/control, trade off." Xander

"I'm less worried about hitting my thumb and more worried about going all black-eyed baddie and bewitching that hammer into cracking my friends' skulls open like coconuts." Willow

"It sounds like it's difficult for you. Like, maybe, your sister makes it hard for you to establish your own identity. You said she's controlling. She doesn't let you make your own decisions." Buffy
"Yeah, and she borrows my clothes without asking." Dawn

"When I was in high school, I had a thing with this guy, right? Real bully. I kept telling everyone that he'd better sleep with one eye open, 'cause I was gonna bust his ass. Well, I got suspended. Talk like that is taken pretty seriously where I come from." Principal Wood
"The hood?" Buffy
"Beverly Hills, which is a hood." Principal Wood

"I don't usually get a heads-up before somebody dies." Buffy
"What do you mean 'usually?'" Principal Wood

"Have you Googled her yet?" Willow
"Willow, she's 17." Xander

"We all deal with death." Dawn
"This girl [Cassie] isn't just dealing. She's giving death a long, sloppy word kiss. She has a yen for the big dirt nap." Xander
"I don't know. I mean, a lot of teens post some pretty angsty poetry on the Web. I mean, I even posted a melodramatic love poem or two back in the day." Willow
"Love poems?" Xander
"I'm over you now, Sweetie." Willow

"You think I want this? You think I don't care? Believe me, I want to be here, do things. I wanna graduate from high school, and I wanna go to the stupid winter formal. I have this friend, and it would be fun to go with him, just to dance and hear lame music, to wear a silly dress, and laugh and stuff. I'd like to go. There's a lot of stuff I'd like to do. I'd love to ice skate at Rockefeller Center, and I'd love to see my cousins grow up and see how the turn out 'cause they're really mean, and I think they're gonna be fat. I'd love to backpack across the country or, I don't know, fall in love, but I won't. I just never will." Cassie

"That's funny. You're Dawn's sister, right?" Mike
"Dawn is my sister." Buffy
"That's so weird. I was just thinking about her. Yeah, I was thinking if Cassie won't budge, maybe I'll ask Dawn." Mike
"You aren't mad at Cassie with her rejecting you like that?" Buffy
"Nah, she's a girl, right? Making boys crazy is, like, your job description." Mike
"You're asking my sister to the dance, and she's your second choice?" Buffy

"I'm a counselor here because I wanna help. I know what it's like to walk these halls and feel lost, alone. I just wanna make things better, connect, and I'm going to connect with your face if you don't stop wasting my time and help me do my job." Buffy

"Do you know how lame this is? Bored teenage boys trying to raise up a demon? Sorry he didn't show. I bet it's 'cause you forgot the boom box playing some heavy metal thing like Blue Clam [sic] Cult. I think that's the key to the raising of lame demons." Buffy
"That lame demon?" Peter

"She'll tell you. Someday, she'll tell you." Cassie

"See, you can make a difference." Buffy
"And you will." Cassie

"She was special. I failed her." Buffy
"No, you didn't 'cause you tried. You listened, and you tried. She died 'cause of her heart, not 'cause of you. She was my friend 'cause of you. I guess sometimes you can't help." Dawn


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 7, 2013