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BuffyGuide.com — The Complete Buffy Episode Guide
Lessons
September 24, 2002
7ABB01

 
Credits

Writer:
Joss Whedon


Director:
David Solomon


Regulars:
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn
James Marsters as Spike
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Special Guest Star:
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Stars:
DB Woodside as Principal Wood
Alex Breckenridge as Kit Holburn
Kali Rocha as Halfrek
Cast:
Mark Metcalf as The Master
Juliet Landau as Drusilla
Harry Groener as Mayor Wilkins
George Hertzberg as Adam
Clare Kramer as Glory
Adam Busch as Warren
David Zepeda as Carlos Trejo
Jeremy Howard as Dead Nerd
Ken Strunk as Dead Janitor
Rachael Bella as Dead Girl
Ed F. Martin as Teacher (Mr. Lonegrin)
Simon Chernin as Student
Jeff Denton as Vampire

 
Synopsis

Buffy takes Dawn out on a training hunt. A new improved Sunnydale High School is back, but Buffy is nervous about Dawn going there, due to her own bad experiences in the old school. Willow is in England with Giles, learning to control the magic which is now a part of her. Halfrek tells Anya that D'Hoffryn and the order of vengeance demons think she's going soft. When Buffy looks around the new school after dropping Dawn off, she encounters the vengeful spirits of people she failed to save. When they attack Dawn and two of her classmates, Kit and Carlos, Buffy fights them off, until Xander discovers the talisman used to summon them and destroys it, which destroys the spirits. Buffy runs into a now borderline insane Spike, who has returned, but doesn't find out about his new soul. The principal of the new Sunnydale High hires Buffy to work part-time as a counsellor after he sees how well she deals with Kit and Carlos. Spike is being tormented by something which shape-shifts into the various big bads of previous seasons (and takes the form of Buffy, as well).

For the full, detailed synopsis, click here.

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Monstervision

Buffy, talisman, manifest spirit

The apparent zombies/ghosts Buffy fights are in fact identified as manifest spirits, controlled and raised by a talisman. They appear to be the vengeful spirits of people Buffy failed to save, who died in the old Sunnydale High School. They can appear and disappear at will, teleport (probably only within the school grounds), and while they can be hurt physically, they seem to be more or less invulnerable to any real damage — due no doubt to the fact that they're already dead. They were dispersed when Xander destroyed the talisman. We don't know who raised them.

Spike is being tormented by some presence. All we can tell from this episode is that it has the power to shape-shift, as when talking to Spike it morphs into the various Big Bads from previous seasons and finally Buffy. If it has a true form of its own, we don't see it in this episode. It tells Spike that they're going "back to the beginning," and that "the next few months are going to be quite a ride."


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Body Count

Anonymous Girl
Presumably stabbed by robed figure.
Anonymous Vampire
Decapitated by Buffy in the graveyard.
Total: Two
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Dialogue to Die For

Dawn (about a vampire about to come out of a grave): "He might not know those fancy martial art skills they inevitably seem to pick up."

Giles: "Do you want to be punished?"
Willow (plaintively): "I wanna be Willow."

Halfrek: "That waitress downtown wished her husband was a frog — you made him French!"
Anya: "He's smelly! And with a little mustache..."

Buffy (to a zombie who said he'd like Dawn as his girlfriend): "Wrong sister. I'm the one that dates dead guys. And no offense but, they were hotties."

More quotes from this episode...

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Dialogue to Bury

Giles (to Willow): "In the end we all are who we are, no matter how much we appear to have changed."
    This just comes off as obvious and lame.
Dawn: "Are you dead?"
Carlos: "Stop saying that!"
    This implies that he's been asked this at least twice, but he was only asked once. (It's not likely that the zombie spirits asked him if he was dead.) Perhaps something was cut from the original script that gave this some sense; otherwise, it's just awkwardly phrased ("Don't say that" would have made more sense).
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References

  • Willow: "Like I'm gonna turn them all into bangers and mash or something."
  • "Bangers and mash" is a traditional English dish, consisting of sausages (bangers) and mashed potatoes.

  • Willow (to Giles): "Instead you go all Dumbledore on me."
  • Dumbledore is the head of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the school Harry Potter attends, in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series of books and movies. The character is played by Richard Harris in the films.

  • Willow: "I'm learning... all about energy and Gaia and root systems."
  • Gaia symbolises the idea of a nuturing mother earth. Originally Gaia was one of the first Goddesses of the Greek and Roman tradition, the earth itself, who mated with Uranus (the heavens) to produce Cronos and the other Titans and Gods, the rivers, the cyclopes, the giants, and so on. Gaia has traditionally also been worshipped by the various pagan groups throughout history, and she remains an important part of those religions to this day.

  • Buffy: "I saw it on the Food Channel."
  • The Food Channel is a cable TV channel which focuses on the art of food preparation, featuring shows such as Iron Chef and Emeril Live.

  • Dawn (in response to Xander's suit): "Check out double-O-Zander"
  • James Bond (a.k.a. Agent 007) is the main character in a string of secret agent movies. The character, who has been played by such actors as Sean Connery and (most recently) Pierce Brosnan, is notoriously suave, sophisticated, and popular with the ladies. This isn't the first time Bond has been referenced.

  • Dawn: "I know, you never know what's coming, the stake is not the power, 'To Serve Man' is a cookbook."
  • This is a reference to the 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone "To Serve Man." In the episode, an alien race have come to earth, and are well intentioned and kind, sharing great knowledge. After a meeting at the United Nations, an alien accidently leaves a book behind, and mankind seizes the opportunity to learn the Kanamit language. Micheal Chambers, a U.S. decoding expert, begins the long and laborious effort to translate the alien tongue. Countless hours later, Mr. Chambers is thrilled to discover the title of the book reads, "To Serve Man." The human race rejoices in the revelation that the Kanamits are here to serve them. Mr. Chambers, along with thousands of other humans, book trips to visit the Kanamit's home planet. Just as Mr. Chamber is about to board the ship, his assistant breaks through the crowd and begs him not to board. She has discovered the true intention of the book: It is a cookbook. Mr. Chambers is shoved onto the ship as the title "To Serve Man" takes on a whole new meaning.
          Spotted by David Gast and Marci.

  • Halfrek: "Do I have to mention Mrs. Czolgosz?"
  • This could be a reference to Leon Czolgosz (pronounced Choal-gosh), the anarchist who assasinated President William McKinley at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition in September 1901. In 1900, Czolgosz, then 23, married Emma Wisemki, a 17-year-old German immigrant whom he had apparently gotten pregnant. She had gone to Charleston, West Virginia looking for the father of her unborn child (who was using the alias Fred Nieman); he reportedly readily agreed to the marriage after police located him. Stephen Sondheim, of whom Joss Whedon is a big fan, wrote about this event in "The Ballad of Czolgosz" in his musical Assassins.

    Britney Spears
  • Dawn: "I'm very into Britney Spears' early work."
  • Britney Spears is an extremely popular young pop artist and dancer. At age 11, she became part of the Mickey Mouse Club. Her big break came with the release of her debut album, ...Baby One More Time in early 1999. She has since released two more albums (as of this writing), starred in a movie (Crossroads), and become a spokesperson for Pepsi.

    Soft Serve Ice Cream
  • Halfrek (to Anya): "They're calling you 'Miss Soft Serve.'"
  • Soft Serve is the kind of soft ice cream (about a step up from a milkshake) dispensed from machines, usually only available in a few flavors (such as vanilla, chocolate, and perhaps strawberry). In Britain this ice cream is associated with the "Mr. Whippy" brand name.

  • Halfrek: "There was that thing in the Crimean War."
  • The Crimean War was a colonial war which lasted between 1853-1856, primarily between France-Britain-Turkey on one side and Russia on the other, over control of Eastern Europe and the Near East. More information can be found here, or in a variety of books about the subject.

  • Principal Wood: "Curiouser and curiouser."
  • This is a reference to the 1865 Lewis Carroll books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, where a day-dreaming Alice goes on strange adventures. She often spouts said line.

  • Warren: "She's a girl! With sugar and spice and everything... useless unless you're baking."
  • This is a reference to the children's poem, "What Are Little Boys/Girls Made Of," which says that boys are made of "snakes and snails and puppy dog tails," and girls are made of "sugar and spice and everything nice." (Note that the precise wording tends to vary depending on who's teaching the poem; I'll not bore you by presenting every variation.)

  • The Master: "Right back to the beginning. Not the Bang ... not the Word ... the true beginning."
  • "The Bang" refers to the beginning according to the Big Bang Theory — the cosmic explosion from which the universe was formed roughly 10-20 billion years ago. "The Word" refers to the beginning according to the Bible ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." —John 1:1).

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Continuity

  • Becoming, Part One

    Buffy tells Dawn that her first time out slaying, she missed the heart (of the vampire in question) as well. We saw this in a flashback in "Becoming, Part One."

  • Graduation Day, Part Two

    The previous Sunnydale High School, under which was the opening to the Hellmouth, was blown up 3 years ago in the Season 3 finale. Buffy committed the act in order to kill the Mayor, who had transformed into a giant demon snake.

  • Villains and Two To Go

    Willow unnecessarily reminds Giles that she killed people. This would be a reference to Warren, whom she killed in "Villains" as revenge for his murder of Tara; and Rack, her former dirty magic supplier, in "Two To Go."

  • The Pack and Graduation Day, Part Two

    Xander mentions that the last 2 principals of SHS were eaten — Principal Flutie was eaten by hyena-possessed students in "The Pack," and Principal Snyder was eaten by the Mayor after he became a giant snake demon in the Season 3 finale. Buffy also mentions hyena people to Dawn, another reference to "The Pack."

  • Go Fish

    Buffy tells Dawn to be wary of any lizardy-type athletes. As well as general bullying, Buffy may be thinking of the swim team, some of whom turned into aquatic monsters.

  • Out of Mind, Out of Sight

    Buffy tells Dawn to be wary of invisible people. A female student who had turned invisible after being ignored by her classmates attacked Buffy and Cordelia, among others, in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight."

  • Doublemeat Palace and Doppelgängland

    Halfrek is a friend of Anya's and a fellow vengeance demon. She first appeared in "Doublemeat Palace." D'Hoffryn (whom Halfrek mentions) is the head of the order of vengeance demons. We first met him in "Doppelgängland" when Anya begged him for her powers back. (He also offered to make Willow a vengeance demon in "Something Blue," but she declined.)

  • I Was Made to Love You, No Place Like Home, The I in Team, Homecoming, School Hard, and Welcome to the Hellmouth

    The presence tormenting Spike morphs into several familiar faces. The first 6 are the various 'Big Bads' (i.e. main villains) of previous seasons. Warren (first seen in "I Was Made to Love You") and two other nerds, Andrew and Jonathan, troubled the scoobies in Season 6; Warren eventually killed Tara and was killed in turn for this by Willow. Glory, a hellgod, attempted to sacrifice Dawn and the world to get back to her own dimension in Season 5; she was first seen in "No Place Like Home." Adam (first seen in "The I In Team") was a prototype robot/demon/human super soldier created by the Initiative in Season 4, who attempted to create a race of beings like himself. The Mayor of Sunnydale, a soulless sorcerer, spent much of Season 3 preparing for his ascension into true demon form, which finally happened at Buffy's graduation. She blew up the school to destroy him; he was first seen in "Homecoming." Drusilla (first seen in "School Hard") was a long-time girlfriend of Spike's, and worked with him and Angelus in Season 2. The Master, perhaps the oldest of all the vampires, struggled to open the Hellmouth in Season 1, and succeeded in briefly killing Buffy, before Xander brought her back. The Master was first seen in the series premiere, "Welcome to the Hellmouth."

  • The Initiative

    Adam refers to Spike as number 17, no doubt a reference to "Hostile 17," the code assigned to Spike by the government body the Initiative, who created Adam.

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Goofs and Gaffes

  • Dawn refers to her first day at SHS as her "first day of high school." Yet she should be 16 years old and a sophomore by now, given that: A) she was 14 in Season 5 (this was stated in "Real Me" and "Blood Ties"), B) she said that she was a freshman in Season 6 ("All The Way"), and C) she said that she was in high school in Season 6 ("Older and Far Away"). Generally, you start high school at 14 (or even 13 if your birthday is early in the school year), so it was already slightly odd that she seemingly started high school at 15, but you could try to use the whole Key thing to justify that. She could perhaps actually be a sophomore, if Sunnydale is one of those fairly rare high schools that begin in 10th grade rather than 9th, but she clearly stated that she was in high school last season, so that's still a goof. In addition, there were statements in Season 5 that she was in both junior high ("Checkpoint") and 9th grade (Tough Love"), which supports the "high school starts with 10th" theory, but which means she should be a junior (11th grade) by now! (Some people speculate that she could have been held back last year, but that's the sort of thing that would logically have been mentioned in this episode if the writers intended it. Anyway, it doesn't explain away the goof; she still said this was her first day of high school despite having said she was a freshman in high school last year.) So all in all, they've buggered it up, and anal little Jamie finds this a glaring and bothersome oversight.

  • Principal Wood read Buffy's file, and thus would know that she's 21 and graduated in 1999. Hence, he should be fully aware that aside from "seeming a little young" to have a daughter Dawn's age, she just plain couldn't. Also, he probably would have known that Dawn was her sister (this would surely be something to note when reading her file, considering that Dawn was attending SHS). True, when he said that, he hadn't yet admitted to reading her file, but his mistake seemed sincere.

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Notes

  • The opening scene, with a girl running from some robed guys and getting killed, isn't explained in this episode. Presumably more on this will follow in the coming episodes.

  • Xander's construction company built the new Sunnydale High, and Xander was clearly in charge of at least two crews, possibly the entire project. In accordance with his position, Xander has a new car and wears spiffy suits to meet clients.

  • In the new high school, the principal's office is over the Hellmouth (in the old school, the library had that honor).

  • We learn that magic is a part of Willow now (not an addiction or a hobby), and she can't not use it.

  • The scenes of Willow and Giles in England were actually filmed on location in England. The place is named as Westbury, which is in the county of Wiltshire. Wiltshire also contains Stonehenge.

  • Xander's new car looks like a Chrysler Sebring Sedan. His license plate number is 3PCE187.

  • The principal's full name is Robin Wood.

  • Buffy and Dawn now have matching cell phone's. Xander also has a cell phone; Buffy has the number on speed dial on her cell phone.

  • It's not revealed who put the talisman in the high school to summon the manifest spirits.

  • Buffy is hired to work part time as a counselor at Sunnydale High.

  • There are many references, from Halfrek and Willow for example, to something bad coming. What this is, we don't know, but it's likely that it involves the presence tormenting Spike.

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Music

Note: To cut down on bandwidth theft, sound files are password protected. After you click "Listen," just enter the username bg and the password 8rt at the prompt. If the password doesn't work, that probably means it's been changed; refresh/reload this page to get the new one.

  • Strange Radio - "So High" (From Pop Radio, Pangea Music, 2001)
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Related Merchandise

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Comments

Soupytwist:
That was a great episode and strong opener. Dawn learning how to fight? Buffy hanging around a high school on purpose? Xander making money? What is this, Bizarro-Buffy World? If so, I like it! It's nice to see that Principal Wood is that hottie physical therapist from Once and Again. I miss that show, and I'm glad to see the actors getting decent gigs. Back to this episode: Is that the First Evil? Or are you just happy to see me? wink (8/10)
Elliot:
I quite liked this really. Perhaps not as much as The Freshman, my favourite opener, but certainly more than, say, "Anne" or "When She Was Bad." The new high school looks spiffy, even though the corridors look rather like the UC Sunnydale set painted over. I liked Xander getting some money. The characters in general seemed fresher and more cheerful than last season (except for Willow), which I liked. And it was good that it finally occurred to Buffy to give Dawn a mobile phone. Don't know what I think of Kit and Carlos; too early to tell. I suppose they'll be back. I also liked the new principal, who was appropriately different enough from both Flutie and Snyder, i.e. cheerful. The zombie things were interesting too — the Buffy bathroom "Get out!" scene was particularly well done. It was appropriate and realistic to make Spike slightly nutty. Angel took his soul-getting bad enough, and he didn't have some kind of demon shape-shifter thing hanging over him, so I have no problem believing Spike is pretty out there right now. Although I'm not sure about him trying to cut his heart out — if he was really trying to kill himself, wouldn't it just be easier to go for a midday stroll? I didn't like the score for this episode; I notice it's a new guy. Perhaps he just needs time to settle in. And the much talked about final "big bad" scene, I have mixed feelings about it. It was cool, in a sense, but utterly naff, in another. Still, overall, a solid episode. (8/10)
Jamie Marie:
Ah, the joys of having new BtVS episodes to look forward to. Nice, isn't it? And this one has me looking forward to the coming season. I've heard Joss saying that this season will be "back to the beginning," and I expect it to be fun. So far, so good! This season's premiere seems to have more setup for the coming season than most or all of the previous season openers. Not necessarily specific setup, as there are a lot of unknowns in this episode, but that's a good thing — you don't want to give it all away too soon. It always baffles me when I see people who are confused or even annoyed that some things are left unexplained... isn't that the point of watching the season? Seeing what comes next, enjoying the eventual revelations about things that made no sense at first? Maybe that's just me. Anyway, I liked the overall tone, and the nice Jossian dialogue. Unlike some others, I like the apparently upcoming development of Dawn (it'll be nice to see her have something to do and hopefully have some life of her own), and I like the idea of Buffy being back in high school. Although, one has to wonder if this will be her only job — will low pay for only 2 or say days per week pay all the bills? Oh well. Anyhow... I assume we'll be seeing more of Kit and Carlos (btw, while their names are fine separately, did they have to go with the alliteration?). They seem alright, from the little we saw, but I really like Amber Tamblyn (who played Dawn's friend Janice in "All the Way," formerly Emily on General Hospital) and I would have loved to have her back on a recurring basis. Oh, and I loved Spike's laugh, and look forward to seeing where that storyline goes. All in all, a solid opener and a solid episode, with my biggest grudge being the goof about Dawn's year in school. But hey, yay for finally getting cell phones! (Let's hope they don't get conveniently forgotten.) (8/10)
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Nielsens
Air Date Rating Ranking
September 24, 2002 3.1 83 of 125 (tie)
October 29, 2002 1.9 107 of 134 (tie)

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