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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, with Feeling

"Uh, so did anyone, ah, last night, you know... did anyone, um, burst into song?"

Freaking brilliant. If this episode doesn't get Joss Whedon an Emmy, nothing will.

Why was it brilliant? Because Whedon got past the stumbling block of people bursting spontaneously into song by making its cause part of the story, and roping us in right at the beginning. Because it was a master stroke to have each character sing only the truth. And mostly because it covered every single major plot point they've been working on this season so far, and advanced the story to a brand new place.

Plot points, such as:

— Buffy's depression after her actual-death experience ("I don't want to be going through the motions") culminating with her telling everyone the painful truth at the end.

— The cohesiveness of the gang, which may be falling apart ("What can't we face if we're together").

— The evil thing that Willow has done to Tara, in what was probably the best song ("I'm under your spell"). Such incredibly ambiguous lyrics illustrating the darkness between them, while they walk through that preternaturally sunny park in Ren Fair dresses on their way home to make love. And sexy? "Spread beneath my Willow tree?"

— The problems with the Xander/Anya relationship ("I'll never tell"), especially illustrated by the lyrics, "The vibe gets kinda scary, like she thinks I'm ordinary, like it's all just temporary" and "Am I marrying a demon?" Well, yes, Xander, you are. Unless you back out, which I now see coming.

— Dawn's increasing misbehavior. She only had a few lines to sing, but she did well with the dancing. And she even got to dance with the "Lord of the Dance – not the scary one."

— Giles coming to realize that Buffy will never become an adult while he's there to be her father ("Wish that I could stay here, but now I understand... I'm standing in the way"). This particular song brought me to tears, especially when Tara joined in and she and Giles were singing about leaving Willow and Buffy, who couldn't hear them.

— Spike's painful and unrequited love for Buffy, in what was the other candidate for best song ("Let me rest in peace"). It was obvious that Spike had reached his limit and couldn't handle it any more, because she's still rejecting him all the while that she keeps seeking him out. He tried so hard to get her out of his crypt before he started singing, didn't he? The look on his face when he did start singing was priceless.

Has Buffy suddenly realized that she's in love with Spike? No. I think Buffy is attracted to him and maybe always has been (there's that bad boy thing that she has) but I think she finally succumbed to Spike because she's desperate to feel anything at this point. He's there, he's gorgeous, he understands her and is still crazy about her, and she might think he's safe because he's not human. Will she ever really love him? Hard to tell; stranger things have happened. But I don't think so. Poor Spike.

A lot of love and attention went into every moment of this episode, and it showed in the details: like the bizarre credits and the fifties feel, the discordant note when Buffy sang the word "heaven," the fire truck going by as the gang sang the word "burn," even the hairy toes and skeezy cheeses.

The voices. Anthony Stewart Head, James Marsters, and Amber Benson in particular were all wonderful. Sarah Michelle Gellar, as usual, did a large part of this episode and even sang and danced well; she's so good at everything that I often take her for granted. And Emma Caulfield more than held her own, too.


— The "grr argh" at the end was sung.

— Loved Anya and the bunnies. "They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses. And what's with all the carrots?"

— Spike: "I hope she fries, I'm free if that bitch dies. I'd better help her out."

— Why are baddies always putting Dawn in exotic dresses?

Wonderful, moving lyrics and serious moments:

— Tara: "Willow, don't you see? There'll be nothing left of me."

— Spike: "If my heart could beat it would break my chest."

— Buffy: "I touch the fire and it freezes me. I look into it and it's black. Why can't I feel? My skin should crack and peel. I want the fire back."

— Willow's face when she realized that she took Buffy out of heaven. I noticed that Willow didn't sing much, which was appropriate for her character since we still don't really know what's going on inside of her.

Other wonderful quotes:

Xander: "Respect the cruller. And tame the donut."

Xander: "Merciful Zeus!"

Man: "They got... the mustard... out!"

Dawn: "You will never believe what happened at school today."
Buffy: "Everybody started singing and dancing?"
Dawn: "I gave birth to a pterodactyl."
Anya: "Oh my god, did it sing?"

Tara: "I'm cured! I want the boys!"

Xander: "Somebody set people on fire? That's nuts!"
Anya: "I don't know. One more verse of our little ditty and I would've been looking for a gas can."

Spike: "I've seen some damn funny things in the last two days. A 600 pound Chirago demon making like Yma Sumac, that one will stay with you. I remain immune, happy to say. Drink?"
Buffy: "A world of no. So any idea what's causing this?"
Spike: "Oh. So that's all. You've just come to pump me for information."
Buffy: "What else would I wanna pump you for? (pause) I really just said that, didn't I?"

Buffy: "So. Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday."

Anya: "Dawn may have had the wrong idea in summoning this creature, but I've seen some of these underworld child bride deals and they never end well. Well, maybe once."

Buffy: "I thought you wanted me to stay away from you. Isn't that what you sang?"
Xander: "Spike sang a widdle song?"
Anya: "Would you say it was a breakaway pop hit or more of a book number?"

Spike: "You should go back inside. Finish the big group sing. Get your kum-ba-yayas out."

I could do another few pages, but I'd better stop here. It's only Thursday and I've already watched this episode three times; the third time I even had the close captioning on so that I could catch every word. I think this is one of the best episodes of the entire series.

Five out of four stakes,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. This is my all time favorite episode of the series. I remember feeling like it was going to be one of the worst mistakes, but then I was completely blown away.

    I will always remember this series fondly, and I'll be sure to read your reviews when I inevitably re-watch it.

  2. I recently saw this episode on dvd and there were extras lines and scenes that I don't remember on the broadcast version. Neat.

  3. That's right, Anonymous. The full version aired only once.

  4. This is definitely a fantastic episode. I love that Joss made it really work for the overall story and didn't just go with a one-off stunt episode. That's what really makes it special.

    If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend the "Buffy Horror Picture Show" thing they do with this episode at some cons. It is quite an enjoyable experience to sit in a room packed with Buffy fans singing along to all the songs and reciting dialog.

  5. Singing, dancing, fighting, heartbreak and a song about the evil of bunnies. What more could you possibly ask for in an episode of Buffy?

    I love it. In fact, because I love it so much, I think I'm going to watch it again.

  6. Ditto, Jess.

    I've recently rewatched the entire series and found out that almost all episodes get better on a 2nd watch, but this one is the one that improves the most.

  7. Just watched for the first time - fantastic! Laughed out loud AND cried...that's how you know it is a good show.

    So, "musical episodes" were popular for a while - was this one of the first done?

    And - did this episode win any awards?

  8. This wasn't the first. But I think it was the best. It didn't win any awards. If I remember correctly, it was because someone forgot to send in the nomination paperwork.

  9. Billie, just thoght you'd be curious, I just had a peek at the top 20 syfy uk thing, and interestingly this as #1. (Hush was #2 and Becoming part 2 was #3). I'd love to have seen the rest, too. I know that Graduation Day part 2 was all the way down the list at #15. Weird, that.

  10. Most excellent. Have watched this too many times to count. Bought the music CD and always replay Giles' s and Tara' s song the most. Willow needs to get herself under control. Tara singing "There'll be nothing left of me" is so moving. The songs and staging, perfection.

  11. This is a wonderful episode. I know SMG was afraid and she clearly doesn't have a great voice, but she delivered a great performance overall. The entire cast is really good here.

    I don't know what else to comment here that hasn't been said already. I'll complain that Netflix in Brazil doesn't have the full version... Why, God, why? Oh, well, pretty soon they won't have any Fox show on the catalog so what am I complaining about?

    Back when I first watched the show, Latin America Fox also broadcast the shorter version of the episode. I was so mad at it, especially after 24 started to have one hour long premieres and Fox respected that. Why Buffy didn't get the same treatment? I mean, during its fifth season, Buffy was the most watched TV series on Brazilian cable TV. It took me ages to watch the full version of musical.

    A fun fact: Warner Channel, another cable channel here, held the premiere of Smallville to go against Buffy's musical. To this day I wonder who won the competition. They never released that information.

    Boyfriend report:

    "I liked it. But it's no Phantom of the Opera." Well, it's not supposed to be, his blasé reactions to episodes I love drive me crazy, lol.

    He was surprised by Buffy and Spike's kiss. "Is it really happening? It's not a dream?"

  12. Anonymous said that the dvd he has had extras? My season set didn't have the full size original broadcast episode. only that standard 44 minute one that doesn't start with the song that takes place pre opening credits. Wonder where Nony got it and if I could get one (any reply to klsnyydeyeah@gmail.com)? Alot of these tv box sets do that (excluding Friends and Greys' Anatomy with their trumpeting the bigger-ness of the set) or they switch music like Northern Exposure and WKRP in Cincinatti with some other generic junk. Did that with the final episode climactic fight in the Watchtower on the The Birds Of Prey dvd set where they threw out TATU's and subbed some bland instrumental or some miscellanious vocalist on the youtube online version.(Personally thought that the choice of a nominally lesbian oriented viewpoint song was perhaps to be indicative of either some attraction between either or by one or both of Harley Quinn or Huntress)

  13. I originally bought each Buffy DVD season as they were released(Region 4), then after years of regular viewing a good friend bought me the complete series box set. Both the variants had the full version of OMWF and the extras (documentary, karaoke, commentary etc).

    Good retailers will list full list of extras on their listing for the box set.

    That said here in Aus the full version aired on tv too (i taped it on vhs and was singing along months before the dvd came out). I wasnt aware that in some regions episodes were edited doen to accomodate more advertising.

    Across all seven seasons i think SMG only appeared in extras twice, both external (not produced for the dvds) one was a con panel.

    I wish streaming services had soundtrack options to listen to the commentaries and features too. Im currently wanting to invest in Farscape 20th Anniversary box set, but want to ensure all the features and commentaries are on it.

  14. I just watched this episode for the first time and now that I'm listening to the soundtrack I realized something. In Under Your Spell — the happy joyful song Tara sings about her love for Willow with the haunting undertone in our mind that she doesn't know the truth — whenever she got to the high note on "believe" she never hit it right, it was always too flat. On the first listen it drove me insane but the music seemed to follow the flat note and the song overall was lovely and sad so I let it go as an odd choice.

    But in the reprise of Under Your Spell, after she's found out the truth, when she gets to "believe" again she hits it exactly right. You can clearly hear the difference. Which means it was on purpose! The false sour note disappears once she's found out the truth! Love that kind of musical storytelling so much.

  15. Even though this one was hyped and hyped for me long before I saw it, when I finally did I somehow still fell madly in love with it. It offends my contrarian sensibilities, but bully. So good. What else is there to say besides reiterating the claim that it's one of those rare episodes that have no diminishing returns for repeat viewings? I meant to listen to the commentary but found Sweden's words too distracting and swapped in the commentary subtitles instead so I can still listen to everything again. BUNNEHS, BUNNEHS IT MUST BE BUNNEH-EH-EEEHHS. How the HELL did he pull it off??

    Tara: "I'm cured! I want the boys!"
    That was great lol.

    "I just had a peek at the top 20 syfy uk thing, and interestingly this as #1. (Hush was #2 and Becoming part 2 was #3). I'd love to have seen the rest, too. I know that Graduation Day part 2 was all the way down the list at #15. Weird, that."

    Ha-ha at Graduation Day's placement. I fully agree with it. Although I'd swap Becoming with Hush.

  16. One thing that I noticed that I have seen mentioned:
    In the last evening of the episode, Tara had decided that she would leave Willow, and was ticked enough at her that she very obviously cold-shouldered her in the Magic Box.
    But, still .....
    As soon as Willow found out that she had pulled Buffy out of heaven, Tara went right to her side to offer a comforting touch.
    At any point up until this, that would have been assumed - not at all worth a comment. But with the way that Tara had walk past Willow without a glance just a bit earlier, it caught my attention.

  17. “The curtains close on a kiss, God knows….” And how! This episode was near perfect. The music entwined with the story completely. I loved how each song gripped the specific person that sang, AND the person it was sung to. One could not avoid singing, (like Spike,) nor avoid listening, (like Buffy). And those who were not to hear, didn’t. And it was interesting that all Buffy’s closest friends stood and watched her nearly combust, but Spike stepped in and saved her.

  18. Im not a musical fan. Currently rewatching the series and it’s way past my bedtime but when I got tot his episode I knew I had to watch it. I don’t like musicals and loved this. Because it was incorporated into the story, advanced several storylines and made the characters speak unspoken truths. What willow has done to Tara really borders on unforgivable. But then my heart broke for her when she realized she had ripped Buffy out of heaven. A credit to Alyson Hannigans acting. And that Buffy spike kiss at the end. I had forgotten that’s how the episode ended. And it made total sense why Buffy would finally stop fighting it and give in. Total five out of four stars. I don’t know why the series was never appreciated by the Emmys (maybe bc the network it aired on) but I like to think that if the show aired today it would be honored for at least The Gift and this.

  19. Amber Benson's singing was incredible, did she ever had a singing career?!

    1. Anonymous, I know Amber Benson has done a lot of writing. Don't know about singing. You can check out her IMDb page.



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