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

SELFLESS (ep #7.05)

Written by: Drew Goddard
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: Abraham Benrubi as Olaf
Andy Umberger as D'Hoffryn
Kali Rocha as Halfrek
Joyce Guy as Professor
Jennifer Shon as Rachel
Co-Starring: Taylor Sutherland as Villager #1
Marybeth Scherr as Villager #2
Alessandro Mastrobuono as Villager #3
Daniel Spanton as Viking #1
John Timmons as Viking #2

Plot Summary

A high body count forced Anya to regret becoming a vengeance demon.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Dawn, in her token scene, advising Willow on how to fit in at college. It mostly involved massive conformity. Xander had been thinking a lot about Anya, although he denied hoping to get back together with her. Meanwhile, an entire fraternity lay dead with a somewhat shocked and bloody Anya wondering what she had just done.

In Sjornjost in the year 880, the last person in the world that one would expect to cuddle bunnies (then going by the name of "Aud") was cuddling bunnies. Her husband, Olaf, had just returned, allegedly from a troll hunt. He was ready for sex, but the last person in the world to turn down sex was more interested in feeding him instead. Then, the last person in the world to express such a sentiment suggested that she was raising rabbits for others to create goodwill rather than for profit. The conversation went to Olaf's bar activities, and, in particular, a certain bar matron named Rannveig.

Someone who looked like Buffy was listening to Spike, in his token scene, reminisce about Drusilla. She offered to support him even though he said that he would never ask anything of her. Then, another Buffy came and told him that he needed to get out of the basement even if he had nowhere else to go.

Willow spoke with a professor who was happy to have her back in school. When they were finished, Willow noticed Anya walking out of the fraternity house. After gushing over homework and surprise quizzes, Willow asked what Anya was doing there. Anya came up with the most plausible answer, a boyfriend with whom she just had a lot of sex. However, Willow noticed a bit of blood that Anya failed to wash off her hand.

Willow walked into the house only to find more of the blood. She started to investigate the bodies when she heard sobbing in a closet. A classmate from her sociology class in "Life Serial" (Rachel) had apparently been the victim of a cruel and humiliating break-up in front of her boyfriend's entire fraternity. She wished that the others would know what it was like to have their hearts ripped out. Unfortunately, she used the "W-word" in earshot of someone who could make that happen, literally.

Willow naturally wanted to know where the heart ripper was. Rachel did not answer, but a CGI spider was crawling up the wall behind Willow. It tried to jump her, but, with black eyes, Willow created a force field and drove it out of the house.

Back in 880 Sweden, villagers spotted the presence of a troll. They did not like the fact that it was impersonating Olaf, but they successfully drove it away using fruits and various meats. The color improved and the film got less scratchy as D'Hoffryn approached Aud, who was watching the mob scene. He seemed to be very impressed. In English, he suggested that she should be a vengeance demon called Anyanka. She seemed interested.

Buffy was very bored at work, so she was probably glad when Willow called about a spider demon. Xander was doing freon vent work, so he was happy to tag along to a forest. Eventually, the spider jumped Buffy before hopping back up into a tree. A well aimed ax took it out.

Meanwhile, Halfrek was very happy to hear about what Anya did at the fraternity house. Anya was still a little shaken. Willow burst in and ordered Halfrek to leave. Anya insisted that the victims got what they deserved but did not seem convinced of that.

In St. Petersberg, Russia, in 1905, Anya and Halfrek were dining surrounded by eight dead men. Halfrek wanted to bask in Anya's success, but Anya was ready for more work.

Xander and Buffy returned to Buffy's home to find Willow waiting for them. Willow told them that Anya was responsible. Buffy interpreted this as meaning that she had to kill Anya. Xander did not like that idea and accused Buffy of having a double standard. She pointed out that she killed (really sent bodily to hell) Angel. It ended with Xander storming off, Buffy leaving with one weapon that we know does not kill vengeance demons, and Willow having another plan. Willow went to a bathroom, poured sand on the floor, and summoned D'Hoffryn. He was quite pleased to see her and, considering what she did at the end of "Villains," assumed that she wanted to join up. She had other plans.

Xander found Anya at the fraternity house. She did not seem pleased to see him. He tried to bring her around, but she did not want to hear anything he had to say. Buffy soon interrupted and started the first good fight since her bag fu in "Lessons." After Anya got some good blows in, Buffy shoved a sword through her. Everyone who did not see "Older and Faraway" might have believed that Buffy actually killed her.

Back in 2001, Anya wondered about the weird singing that she had heard, but Xander was too tired. As the Mustard Man and Parking Ticket Lady sang outside, Anya started to sing about how excited she was to be marrying Xander.

Back in the present, Anya pretended to be slumped over for a second before complaining about how swords through chests hurt. Anya also pointed out that Buffy should have known that swords do not kill vengeance demons. There was more fighting and Buffy was about to skewer Anya to the floor when Xander tackled Buffy. This seemed to upset Anya more than Buffy.

D'Hoffryn teleported in to admire Anya's work. He noted that Willow, Buffy, and Xander all had ideas of what should be done, but nobody asked Anya. Anya said that she wanted to undo what she had done. D'Hoffryn said that it was possible, but it required sacrificing the life and soul of a vengeance demon. Anya was willing to pay this price, but she assumed that it meant her own. D'Hoffryn instead summoned in Halfrek and burnt her up. He reminded her that a vengeance demon does not kill if it can hurt instead. He then repeated the seventh season catchphrase and left.

Anya left with Xander following. She said that she wanted to be alone and wondered if she was really nobody. Xander disagreed. The episode ended with Anya watching Xander walk away.

The Good

I understand that a show entitled "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has to focus on a vampire slayer named "Buffy." However it is good when the show focuses on other characters.

Emma Caulfield is so good with the comic relief that it is easy to forget that she is also very good with dramatic material. This episode is a good reminder of that.

Any extension of "Once More, with Feeling" is always welcome.

This is the first episode of one of the show's best writers.

The Bad

I am getting sick of hearing "From beneath you, it devours."

Overall Rank: 10

Action: 5

Buffy fought and killed a CGI spider demon.

Buffy and Anya fought in the fraternity house.

Comedy: 5

Most of the flashback scenes were very humorous, especially the ones from Sweden.

D'Hoffryn can also supply comic relief, especially when he was talking to Willow.

Drama: 7

Anya had to deal with a guilty conscience over killing the fraternity members.

Xander and Buffy fought over what to do about Anya.

Romance: 4

We see scenes of Anya's marital life back in 880.

Anya's jealousy eventually led to her becoming a vengeance demon.

The vengeance that she granted both in the past and in the present came from romance gone wrong.

Character Development: 9

Anya acquired her fear of bunnies less than 1,123 years before the episode aired as well as her love of sex, money, and capitalism. In fact, she instigated a worker uprising in Czarist Russia. She had always been blunt-spoken and always asked annoying questions. At the moment, she has no love of inflicting violence on people, which made her a very bad vengeance demon. Fortunately, she is now human, but at a price. Beyond that, she believes that she has always created her identity based on who she was around and does not know who she is as a person.

Xander may be under the delusion that he will be dating a lot in the future and that he will be dating women (rather than demons like he normally does). Despite all this, he still loves Anya very much.

Willow cares about Anya far more than she is probably willing to admit. She is still prone to changing eye color when she uses magic.

Buffy is still hurting from what she had to do to Angel in "Becoming, Part 2" and is upset that she was egged on by Xander and (she believes) Willow.

Importance: 3

Anya is now a human again and is not on good terms with D'Hoffryn.

Most Valuable Player: Willow

Willow gets the MVP for bringing in the one person who could solve the problem without Anya dying and without leaving the fraternity members dead.

Sherlock Holmes Award: D'Hoffryn

D'Hoffryn gets the award for realizing that one should ask Anya what she wanted rather than thinking that he should dictate. He understood that she would never again have her heart in administering vengeance.

Goat of the Week: Anya

Olaf could be a contender except that he eventually enjoyed becoming a troll and that he had no reason to think that Anya could turn him into one. Rachel made a very unfortunate wish, but she had no reason to think that it would come true literally. Anya is not a great candidate, but she gets the Goat in part because nobody else qualified. She crossed a line that forced conflict between her and two powerful entities: Buffy and D'Hoffryn. She managed to undo her damage, but at the cost of her friend, a cost she should have known she would have to pay. Furthermore, she did not part with D'Hoffryn on good terms, which could cause trouble later.

Random Commentary

Of all the characters who appeared in the sixth season of Buffy, only five had more lines in the seventh season than in the sixth season. For four of these five characters (D'Hoffryn, Rachel, Mustard Man, and Parking Ticket Lady), this is the only seventh season episode in which they appeared. The final character has yet to be seen in the seventh season.

As a psychologist, I have to say that it is impossible for a human to learn who she or he is alone. A person's sense of self inherently comes from interaction with other people. A so-called "wild child" who grew up without humans cannot have a sense of self like normal people who grew up with friends and family. I understand if Anya decided that she needed to spend time around people other than the main characters to understand who she is, but she cannot do so in isolation.

DVD Extras

Commentary by Director/Co-Executive Producer David Solomon & Writer Drew Goddard is actually quite good for a two-person commentary. It also serves as a good introduction to the new writer, Goddard. The commentary makes clear that he has been a fan and has a fan's understanding of the history of the show. There are spoilers through the tenth episode of the seventh season and references to episodes beyond that. Insights include:

Memorable Dialogue

"[In subtitles] I've told you a thousand times. I have no interest in this Rannveig. Her hips are large and load bearing, like a Baltic woman. Your hips are narrow, like a Baltic woman from a slightly more arid region." Olaf

"Dru used to see things, you know? She's always be staring up at the sky watching cherubs burn or the heavens bleed or some nonsense. I used to stare at her and think she'd gone completely sack of hammers, but she'd see the sky when we were inside, and it'd make her so happy." Spike

"[In subtitles] Hide your babies and your beadwork!" Villager
"[In subtitles] Stop! Stop! It is Olaf!" Olaf
"[In subtitles] The troll is doing an Olaf impersonation!" Another Villager
"[In subtitles] I am Olaf!" Olaf
"[In subtitles] Hit him with fruits and various meats!" Third Villager

"What'd he do?" D'Hoffryn
"Bar matron." Aud

"Vengeance..." Anyanka
"... but only to those who deserve it." D'Hoffryn
"They all deserve it." Anyanka
"That's where I was goin' with that." D'Hoffryn

"Ripped out the heart? My God... Hey, did you get that physics class you wanted?" Buffy

"The worker will overthrow absolutism and lead the proletariat to a victorious Communist revolution resulting in socioeconomic paradise on earth. It's common sense, really." Anya

"Behold D'Hoffryn, Lord of Arashmahar, he that turns the air to blood and rains... Miss Rosenberg, how lovely to see you again. Have you done something with your hair?" D'Hoffryn
"Hello, D'Hoffryn" Willow
"I figured I'd be hearing from you soon. 'The Flaying of Warren Mears,' truly inspired. That was water cooler vengeance. Yes, Lloyd has a sketch of it on his wall." D'Hoffryn

"Everyone is so considerate today. I should've slaughtered people weeks ago." Anya

"This is getting to be a pattern with you, Buffy. Are there any friends of your left you haven't tried to kill?" Anya

"I've boned a troll.
I've wreaked some wrath.
But on the whole, I've had no path." Anya

"What's the point of loving?
I mean, except for the sweaty part." Anya

"Breathtaking. It's like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog." D'Hoffryn

"Isn't that just like a slayer, solving all her problems by sticking things with sharp objects." D'Hoffryn

"Haven't I taught you anything, Anya? Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain." D'Hoffryn

"You should have killed me." Anya
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. 'From beneath you, it devours.'" D'Hoffryn

"My whole life, I've just clung to whatever came along." Anya

"What if I'm really nobody?" Anya
"Don't be a dope." Xander


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Buffy and the Law

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 7, 2013