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Episode Review Format

This essay explains how the episode reviews are formatted. Like many episode guides, these reviews sort information into categories, some with amusing names. All rules below are loosely enforced.

(a.k.a. Alternate Title)

This is another name for the episode suggested by the webmaster. The alternate titles range from serious to facetious, leaning heavily in the latter direction. These alternate titles are rarely as clever as the Webmaster thinks they are.

Written by:
Directed by:
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Guest Starring:

The above is a straightforward description of the people who wrote, directed, and appeared in the episode. Actors are listed in the credited order. Uncredited actors, writers, and directors are not mentioned. "Special" guest stars are listed in the "Guest Staring:" section with "Special guest star" in parentheses after the name.

Plot Summary

This is a one-sentence summary of the episode's plot.

Plot Details

This is a detailed description of what occurred in the episode. It is mostly a straightforward description, but the Webmaster often inserted his own occasionally snarky comments in the description. It is mostly for readers who have not seen the episode recently in order to remind them of various details in the episode. It is probably the least important part of the review, which means that it is the longest part and comes first.

The Good

This section describes aspects of the episode that the Webmaster likes.

The Bad

This section describes aspects of the episode that the Webmaster dislikes. In general, the length of these sections is a very poor measure of how much the Webmaster liked the episode. Sometimes, the Webmaster has a series of nitpicks for an otherwise good episode or likes a several things in a weak episode.

Overall Rank: #

This provides the rank that the Webmaster gave the episode, ranging from 1 (the best episode) to 144 (the worst).

Specific Ratings

The next few categories were inspired by the following quote from J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5 (B5):
For as long as I've been writing, I've had a very simple belief that comes across with B5 as well: try to get in one really great action moment, minimum one real nice character moment, one solid dramatic moment...and one moment or scene that's fall-down funny. (May 16, 1994)

The categories below rate each episode on each of the four aspects that Straczynski cited: action, comedy, drama, and character development. Furthermore, romance is more important on Buffy than it is on Babylon 5, so episodes are rated on romance as well. There is a sixth category for the importance of the episode.

All ratings are on a scale from 0 to 10. Ratings of 10 will be very rare. Following each rating will be a list of highlight in that particular category (e.g., comedic highlights, romantic highlights).

Action: #

This rating describes the amount of action in the episode, with action usually meaning fighting. In general, longer action scenes and actions scenes with many participants (i.e., battles rather than one-on-one fights) lead to high scores.

Comedy: #

This rating describes the amount of comedy in the episode.

Drama: #

This rating describes the amount of drama in the episode, with drama usually indicating the amount of angst, emotional pain, poignancy, and conflict.

Romance: #

This rating describes the amount of romance in the episode.

Character Development: #

Character Name

This rating describes the amount of character development in the episode, with character development involving both revelations about characters and changes in the characters. The list that follows will contain each relevant character along with how that character changes and what we learn about that character.

Importance: #

This rating describes the importance of an episode, with importance largely being the difficulty that a viewer who misses this episode will have in understanding what occurs afterward. Among other things, Importance includes advances to the arc of the particular season, advances in other story arcs, and the introduction or loss of important characters. It was created after the Webmaster noted that several episodes in the first season and the first part of the second season are not very good when compared to later episodes. However, fans still rate them as being very good or great episodes. The common factor was that the episodes all were important even if they were not well executed. This rating therefore allows him to acknowledge that an episode is important even if the overall ranking is low. Importance outside the show is sometimes considered for this rating.

Most Valuable Player: Character

In baseball, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award goes to the player who is most responsible for his team's success in a season. It is similar to, but not exactly, a Player of the Year award with the main difference being that great performances may be ignored if the athlete played for a losing team. After all, the losing team does not have any success that the athlete can be responsible for. It has been adapted into other sports and used for shorter periods of time, like a championship tournament or even for a single game. Sometimes one player on each team in a game gets an MVP even though one of the teams lost.

Taking after the late, lamented Hellmouth High Line League, these reviews treat each episode as if it were a game. There will be an MVP for each one. However, this site rejects the idea that losers can still be MVPs, so only one character will get an MVP, and that character will be successful. However, this site also recognizes that characters have personal agendas along with group agendas, so a character can get an MVP for advancing a personal interest rather than fighting for the cause of Good or Evil.

Each MVP will go either to a single individual or to a single group that is largely made of unnamed individuals. If nobody is deserving of an MVP, then the award will go to Nobody. There will never be an instance in which more than one specific character gets an MVP for a single episode regardless of how heroic (or diabolical) those characters are. This site is based in the United States, and Americans hate ties.

In this space, there will also be a description of why the character earned the MVP (or why Nobody received an MVP). Other contenders will also be discussed along with reasons why those contenders did not win. Consideration for the award is weighted based on what is expected of the character. For example, staking two vampires might not be a big deal for Buffy. For Willow, that would be a very big deal.

Sherlock Holmes Award Character

In addition to MVP awards, baseball also has a more specific award for pitchers called the Cy Young Award. This goes to the best pitcher of the year regardless of the success of that pitcher's team. Even though the pitcher is the most important position in baseball, pitchers rarely win MVPs because starting pitchers usually play in no more than 20% of their teams' games and they rarely pitch the full game even if they pitch. Relief pitchers usually pitch in more games, but only for short time per game. The MVP usually goes to players who play every game. Other sports in the United States have similar position-specific awards, but these are usually not as prestigious as the Cy Young Award. Unlike the MVP, this award is not given for a championship tournament or for single games.

On this site, the Sherlock Holmes Award is similar to the Cy Young Award in that it rewards an important aspect of the game that the MVP usually overlooks. In this situation, rather than rewarding action, this award rewards using one's brain. There are three main routes to winning this award:

It is rare, but not unheard of, for a player to win both the MVP and the Cy Young award. Therefore, it is possible for a character to win both this award and the MVP in the same episode, but this will be rare. Usually, it will be for separate things, such as winning this award for coming up with a plan and the MVP for carrying it out. In general, if the race for one of these awards is tight and one of the characters in the race clearly wins one of the awards, another character will win the second award. Sometimes, Nobody will win this award if there are no deserving candidates.

Goat of the Week: Character

Usually, people who give out awards want to be nice, so there are no major awards for making things worse. These reviews will not be so kind. The character who does the most to harm her or his interests will receive the Goat. These interests may be personal or for a greater cause like Good or Evil.

This award will not necessarily be for the character who loses. A character who lost simply because the opponents were better will not get a Goat. Instead, Goats go to characters who make critical errors in judgment or who perform below expectations. It is impossible for a character to be both the MVP and the Goat, so these awards will be mutually exclusive within a single episode. It is possible for a character to win the Goat and the Sherlock Holmes Award in a single episode, but that will be rare.

Random Commentary

This section is an opportunity for the Webmaster to expand on various thoughts about the episode. Excessively long thoughts will be placed in separate essays.


In this section, the Webmaster will either raise issues that do not make sense, or explain issues that other people thought did not make sense. Sometimes, these explanations will be what some people call "fanwank."



This section will contain a short analysis of important characters or romantic relationships that died or ended in the episode. The analyses will vary from a summary of that character's arc on the show to the Webmaster's impressions of the character. Characters who leave town but may come back will be addressed in a similar Good-Byes section.

DVD Extras


This section will discuss DVD extras tied to the episode in question and accessible from the episode's menu. More general extras—such as featurettes, photo galleries, and outtake reels—will be addressed in a separate page. In general, the description will summarize the extra, discuss it, and note any spoilers for future episodes in the extra. General featurettes will also contain a list of people interviewed as a record on who does or does not participate in them.

Memorable Dialogue

This section contains a list of the best and most important quotes from the episode. Special emphasis will be places on quotes that best exemplify some of the specific rating categories above such as the funniest quotes, the most dramatic quotes, and the quotes that best exemplify the characters' personalities.

Characters in Peril

This section describes instances in which important characters are in peril and how the instances were resolved. Peril is relative to each character's abilities. For example, there will be situations in which Willow would be in peril but Buffy would not be.


This section counts the number of kills that could be attributed to each character. A character gets credit for a kill if either the kill or the body is on screen or immediately off screen. When the exact name of the killer is unclear, the kill can be credited to a group (e.g., "Anonymous Vampires"). When a large group is killed, the number represents a count of the entities based on the largest number of identifiable entities in a screenshot or a pan. These are usually rough estimates.

Evil Escaped

This category represents cases in which evil entities are alive and at large at the end of an episode. An evil human would not be considered to have escaped if she or he is alive but incarcerated at the end of the episode, nor would any character who is incapacitated or who repents evil by the end of the episode.

Departed Characters Remembered

This category lists each time someone refers to a character who is either dead or has left town. This does not include episodes in which such a character appears, such as when a character who has left Sunnydale decides to return. It also does not include characters who are still around and could be in the episode but do not happen to be in the episode in question.

The reason for this category is a major spoiler. Highlight the following space to find out only if you have seen all 144 episodes of the show. This category came about because of many fans' frustration at how quickly the characters seem to have forgotten Tara after she died. This count allows me to compare the number of times that Tara is mentioned after she died to the number of times that other key characters such as Angel or Drusilla are mentioned after they left town.

Police and Guns

Much of what occurs in the show would not make sense in a universe in which guns or police exist. For example, a vampire with a gun should easily be able to defeat Buffy. The police should try to handle larger crises. This category counts times in which the show acknowledges the existence of guns or police, regardless of whether they appear on screen.

Buffy and the Law

Like most superheroes, Buffy and the other characters consider themselves above the law. They routinely make both minor and serious breaches of the law. This category counts all instances in which the important characters engage in criminal behavior. It is based on the assumption that the law applies to and protects only humans. Actions committed by and against vampires and other demons will not count unless the vampires or other demons explicitly have human souls.

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

The racial makeup of the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer does not resemble the racial makeup of the state of California an issue addressed in a related essay. This category counts instances of characters who were either Hispanic / Latino or non-White or mixed race. Characters are counted if they have a spoken line or if they interact with someone who has a spoken line. A character is counted as non-White based on skin color, facial features, accents, names, and other characteristics associated with race.

This category probably represents a slight undercount because a Hispanic/Latino or mixed-race character would not be counted if the character has light skin, Caucasian features, no accent, a non-Spanish name (or no name), and was not described as being Hispanic/Latino or mixed-race. The racial or ethnic origins of the actor are taken into account only to identify the specific race of a character who is clearly not White. For example, Charisma Carpenter's Mexican and Cherokee heritage is not used to label Cordelia as mixed-race because the character is given a WASP background.

Spoiler Categories

The following categories represent a minor spoiler and a major spoiler. Highlight the space below only if you have seen all episodes through the end of the fourth season.

Willow Jewish References and Willow Gay References

These categories represent every time that Willow labels herself either Jewish or as being Gay. Willow must make an explicit mention of this using the words "Jewish" or "Gay" or a close synonym of those words. Showing a bit of affection toward Tara does not qualify.

These categories were created in response to fan complaints that Willow seemed to be constantly asserting that she was Gay. I question this and decided to compare the number of times that the explicitly stated that she is Gay to the number of times that she explicitly stated that she was Jewish because nobody seemed to complain about the latter.

The following category represents a minor spoiler. Highlight the space below only if you have seen all episodes through the end of the first season.

Giles Unconscious

It will soon become clear that Giles gets knocked unconscious many times. This category keeps track of each of the instances.

Unusual Pairings

This category counts the number of times two characters who are not part of a "usual pairing" interact when they are alone or when only extras are present. This does not count unusual pairings within group scenes even if the characters in the unusual pairing are the only ones in a particular shot.

The "usual pairings" and the reason for this category contain major and minor spoilers through all seven seasons. Highlight the space below only if you have not watched all seven seasons of the show.

"Usual pairings" include:

Characters unmentioned on the list above are not considered part of usual or unusual pairings.

This category was created over concerns that Tara never seemed to be as integrated into the group as other characters are. These counts allow a comparison to how often Tara is alone with a character other than Willow compared to how often Oz or Kennedy are along with characters other than Willow. If the Webmaster could do this all over again, he would have simply had a "Pairings" category without any a priori assumption about what is or is not an unusual pairing.

Spoiler Questions

This section raises questions about how events in the episode may affect future episodes. The parentheses that follow the question contain a season number and an episode number in the format [season #].[episode #] For example, the seventh episode of the third season would be "3.07." This indicates the episode by which the question will be answered if it ever will be answered. The answer will appear as a blank space, like some of the spaces above. A user wishing to read the answer can highlight the space, although people who have not seen that episode yet should not do so.

Many of the questions will seem to telegraph answers. However, the Webmaster greatly enjoys writing misleading questions. For example, a question about a one-shot character who is never seen again may suggest that the character becomes a love interest for Buffy. In fact, a series of questions may posit how such a relationship develops even though each of the answers is "This does not happen because we never see or hear from Character X again."

This page was last modified on January 16, 2013