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The Body
February 27, 2001


Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Stars:
Amber Benson as Tara
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Randy Thompson as Doctor Kriegel
J. Evan Bonifant as Kevin
Rae'ven Larrymore Kelly as Lisa
Kelli Garner as Kirstie
Tia Matza as Teacher
Loanne Bishop as 911 Operator
Kevin Cristaldi as Paramedic #1
Stefan Umstead as Paramedic #2
John Michael Herndon as Vampire

Credits submitted by Paul Clement.


Buffy comes home to find her mother motionless and unresponsive and calls 911. The paramedics are unable to revive Joyce; she's dead due to an aneurysm. Giles arrives and Buffy warns him not to touch the body. Buffy goes to the school to tell Dawn, who collapses on the floor sobbing when Buffy tells her what has happened. Xander and Anya arrive at Willow’s dorm to take her and Tara to the morgue. Willow gets upset by Anya’s crude questions, but Anya reveals that she's simply as scared and upset and confused as everyone else and doesn’t know how to act. At the hospital Tara tells Buffy that she too has lost her mother, and Buffy can talk to her if she'd like. Dawn sneaks into the morgue to see Joyce's body and is attacked by a newly risen vampire. Buffy arrives and saves her. After the fight, Buffy watches as Dawn stares at her mother's open-eyed face and slowly reaches out to touch her mother. — Short synopsis by Boo.

For the full, detailed synopsis, click here.

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Body Count

Joyce Summers (Cause of death learned in this episode.)
Killed suddenly by an aneurysm, a complication from brain surgery.
Anonymous Vampire
Decapitated by Buffy with a bone saw in the morgue.
Total: One (Since Joyce actually died in the previous episode.)
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Dialogue to Die For

Anya: "Mm-hmm. Been around since like the 1500's, but he wasn't always called Santa... but you know, Christmas night, flying, coming down the chimney, all true."
Dawn: "All true?"
Anya: "Well he doesn't traditionally bring presents so much as you know, disembowel children, but otherwise..."
Tara: "The reindeer part was nice".

Buffy (putting her hand on Joyce): "She's cold."
911 Operator (pause): "The body's cold?"
Buffy: "No, my mom! Sh-should I make her warm?"

Buffy: "We're not supposed to move the body!" Buffy puts her hand over her mouth, in shock.

Willow (tears running down her face): "Well, I can't see Buffy at the morgue and be all royal! "Oh, I'm the king of everything, I'm better than you!" I have to be supportive! I, Buffy needs me to be supportive, I can't...(she begins crying as Tara looks on). God, why do my all shirts have to have stupid things on them? Why can't I just dress like a grownup? Can't I be a grownup?"

Anya: "Are they gonna cut the body open?"
Willow: "Oh my God! Would you just... stop talking? Just... shut your mouth! Please!"
Anya: "What am I doing?"
Willow: "How can you act like that?"
Anya: "Am I supposed to be changing my clothes a lot? Is that the helpful thing to do?"
Xander: "Guys—"
Willow: "The way you behave—"
Anya: "Nobody will tell me."
Willow: "Because it's not okay for you to be asking these things!"
Anya (crying): "But I don't understand! I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's, there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore! It's stupid! It's mortal and stupid! And, and Xander's crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why. (She puts her hand over her face, crying.)"
Willow (after a long pause): "We don't know... how it works... why."

More quotes from this episode...

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  • Willow: "Santa always passes me by. Something puts him off. Could be the big honkin' menorah."
  • A Menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum used to celebrate the Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah, or the "festival of lights." It contains eight holders, one for each day of Hanukkah, plus the shamash (the head/center holder). You can find more information here.

    Santa Claus is the legendary figure who is the traditional patron of Christmas in the United States and other countries. His popular image is based on traditions associated with the 4th-century Christian Saint Nicholas. You can read about the history of Santa Claus here.

  • Willow: "I had too much nog."
  • Willow is referring to eggnog, traditionally a Christmas and New Year's drink consisting of milk or cream, sugar, and eggs beaten together and often mixed with a liquor such as rum or brandy.

  • Buffy: "It's Cajun pie!"
  • Cajuns are the descendants of a small group of Acadian settlers who moved from Nova Scotia to Louisiana in 1755 (the word "Acadian" evolved into "Cajun" — get someone from the deep South to say the former and you'll see how). In 1980, chef Paul Prudhomme created Blackened Redfish — fish sprinkled with seasonings and cooked over incredibly high heat, creating a blackened crust — and proceeded to make the modern concept of Cajun food famous. Cajun food tends to be thought of as being cooked to burnt or near-burnt, but proper blackening isn't as simple as just cooking a bit of food until it's charred. Most Cajun dishes use black pepper and cayenne pepper and have a definite zing, but don't meet the common misconception of having a pound of pepper or being overwhelmingly spicy. More information about Cajun food can be found here.

  • 911 Operator: "Do you know how to administer CPR?"
  • CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation which can be used to restart the circulation and breathing of people who are critically injured or technically dead, usually by pushing repeatedly on the chest to mimic the heart beating and blowing into the lungs to mimic breathing. When CPR is performed by the inexperienced breaking the breastbone or a rib is fairly common; no Slayer strength required.

  • Paramedic: "I'm guessing it must have been an aneurysm or some clotting. Some complication from surgery."
  • According to the Aneurysm Information Project FAQ, an aneurysm is a small dilatation or rupture of one of the large blood vessels that supply the brain. This can lead to blood leaking into the brain or the space around the brain, which can be fatal. Joyce's aneurysm was a rupture, as Dr. Kriegel explains in the final act.

  • Tara: "Purple means ... royalty."
  • Tara is correct. The color purple has been a royal symbol since ancient Rome, when the color was reserved exclusively for use by emperors, in part because purple dye was extremely expensive.

  • Willow: "Strong like an Amazon?"
  • Amazons are part of ancient Greek mythology, a group of legendarily strong and fierce women warriors. The phrase is now used to generally denote strong women warriors. Pop culture icons such as Xena and Wonder Woman are often referred to as Amazons.

  • Xander: "Dig a hole in your skull, here's a Band-Aid."
  • Band-aid is a particular brand of adhesive bandage with a gauze pad in the center, used to protect minor cuts and wounds. The term Band-Aid has become the common way of referring to any of these types of bandages, even those that aren't actually Band-Aid brand (much like "Kleenex" is simply used to mean "tissue").

  • Xander: "The Avengers gotta get with the assembly."
  • Avengers is a Marvel comic book featuring a team of superheroes, currently including Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America, among others.

    Some references submitted by Jennifer Godwin.

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  • I Was Made To Love You
  • "The Body" picks up a few moments before "I Was Made To Love You" left off as Buffy discovers her mom lying on the couch.

  • Band Candy
  • Buffy's remark that she's cool with anything that Joyce and Giles do as long as the stay off the band candy refers to the effects of the candy in "Band Candy" when all of the adults behaved like wild teenagers, and Giles and Joyce had sex… twice.

  • Shadow, Listening to Fear and Into The Woods
  • Joyce's brain tumor was discovered in "Shadow" after she had a CAT scan at Sunnydale General Hospital. The surgeons operated on her at the end of "Listening to Fear" and she was given the all-clear in "Into The Woods."

  • Blood Ties
  • Dawn was getting a hard time at school about rumors that she was into cutting herself. Dawn cut her arm with a knife to see if she was real after finding out that she was the Key in "Blood Ties."

  • Never Kill A Boy On The First Date
  • Xander says that they know where the morgue is because they do morgue time with the Scooby gang. The first time they visited the morgue in "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date."

  • Family
  • Tara mentions her mothers death. We first found out that her mother was dead in "Family."

  • Checkpoint
  • Xander refers to Glory's threat to kill Buffy's family and friends.

    Some continuity submitted by JivinJane and Chris Campbell.

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Goofs and Gaffes

  • In the scene in which Buffy interrupts Dawn's art class, Dawn's drawing is partially shown as Dawn walks out with Buffy. It's then shown in full at the end of that segment, but the drawing is now quite different.

  • We originally thought it was a goof that Joyce's doctor (rather than a Coroner) performed her autopsy, but we've since learned that in California, the Coroner doesn't have to do the autopsy. In Joyce's situation, it is apparently perfectly reasonable that her doctor did it. (Thanks Anthony!)

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  • There was no "Previously on Buffy" at the beginning of this episode.

  • There is no music (score or otherwise) in this episode.

  • This episode contains Willow and Tara's first on-screen kiss.

  • One of the cross streets near the Summers' home is Hadley.

  • Willow's dorm room is number 213. Presumably this is next door to the room she shared with Buffy last year (number 214).

  • According to Joss Whedon's DVD commentary for "Restless," the first act of this episode opens with a flashback scene because Joss didn't want to have the cast and crew credits appear over the main body of the episode.

    First two notes submitted by Matt J. Smoe.

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Joss couldn't just let Buffy deal with her mother's mortality through an illness. He had to kill her. And I love him for it. This was everything it needed to be, it was sad and uncomfortable, and it was the perfect combination of sound and vision. Too few television writers and directors remember that TV is an audio and visual medium. The lack of a soundtrack and the use of ambient sounds in this episode added to its realism. Life doesn't have a soundtrack telling you when sad and scary things happen. This episode deserves an Emmy in every category, but more than anything, Emma Caulfield deserves an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama. She made the grief of the entire cast palpable. (10/10)
Newsflash: Buffy fans stunned by 'Joss episode is good' shocker! The best episodes are always the Auteur Joss ones (as opposed to Workman Joss - see "Amends" or "Anne"), and this one is no exception — by far the best episode of Season 5 to date. Like many of the Auteur Joss episodes on the surface this would seem to be something of a filler, in that it doesn't advance the Glory story line, but it actually advances the underlying story arc of the season, namely Buffy's increasing sense of isolation from the world. Her mother was an important link to the world, and now she's gone. In that sense it follows on from "Into The Woods," which saw Buffy lose Riley, albeit in a different way. In my last review I said that most truly great episodes of Buffy have comedy, drama and horror, and those that focus on only one element tend to suffer. Well this is the exception, as there is virtually only drama here, yet it is still a great episode. Most striking is the direction. The whole episode is coldly lit, and is the quietest episode of Buffy yet, with several periods of silence and very little dialogue, and no music of any kind. There is also a theme of people outside of the grief looking in, but not really being a part of it, most clearly shown when Dawn's classmates look on from inside the classroom to her grief out in the hall which they can't really hear or touch. None of the regular cast are shown actually being outside, the closest we get is seeing Xander and Anya start to get out of their car. Buffy stands at the very threshold of each of the doors in her house, but is unable to leave — she is cut off from the outside world by her grief. It's a clear message; grief isolates you. The performances are all strong, even down to the bit players like the paramedics, and the little touches like Buffy hearing different things to what the doctor is actually saying add the final touch to this classic episode. (10/10)
Jamie Marie:
There is no justice in a world in which this episode doesn't achieve an Emmy. Excuse me while I stop crying and try to pull myself together. I am a sap at the best of times, but this episode rips me apart every time — every single time I watch it, or even when I watch one scene to check something, or read an excerpt of the shooting script, or look at the screen caps. And this is not a bad thing. It hurts like hell, but it's still a Very Good Thing. Joss Whedon has once again achieved Very Good Things. This is truly the most realistic presentation of death that I personally have ever seen on television or even in the movies. The worst (best) scene for me is when Buffy goes to school to tell Dawn. I've been there (under very similar circumstances), in Dawn's place, and that is real. And powerful. And heartbreaking. As was the entire episode. It went by shockingly fast; I was highly taken aback to see Joss' name staring me in the fact. There is so much perfection in this episode — the direction, the writing, the acting (kudos to the entire cast; they really need some Emmys), the lighting, the sound (or lack thereof; every little noise and every moment of deafening silent was spot-on). Perfect dose of very appropriate humor; nothing out of place. Thumbs up on the first on-screen kiss for Willow and Tara; it was smooth and realistic and they didn't detract from the enormity of this episode by making it a Big Deal. I have absolutely no complaints about this episode. Perfection, thy name is Joss. (10/10)
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Air Date Rating Ranking
February 27, 2001 3.5 82 of 134
July 04, 2001 1.0 110 of 133 (tie)
December 18, 2001 2.2 104 of 137 (tie)

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