Written by Rebecca Kirshner
Directed by David Grossman
Buffy is patrolling in a cemetery when Spike finds her. He wants to talk about that kiss. She does not. Buffy suggests it was just the effects of the spell. Either way, it’s not happening again. A demon with a shark’s head and some vamp minions interrupt. He’s a literal loan shark, here to get the kittens Spike owes him. Buffy beats up his minions, and then Spike skedaddles before they can regroup. It occurs to Buffy that her life might be much easier if she stopped saving Spike’s.
Xander, Anya, Willow, and Tara are discussing what Buffy’s experience in heaven might’ve been like. Well, Anya is discussing it. The rest of them are moping quietly. Willow is feeling pretty crappy about tearing Buffy out of heaven, since it was mainly her doing. Xander doesn’t think they should feel too guilty because they thought they were saving Buffy from hell, but Willow points out that they just sort of assumed that without checking, because that way they’d have an objectively good reason to rescue her.
Xander doesn’t like feeling bad that Buffy’s not dead, so he’s decided to just be happy about it and move on. Tara votes that they do more to improve things for Buffy. Yes, good plan! Willow thinks she can just fix it with a spell, but Tara stamps on that idea. Come on, Willow, I think you’re underestimating the power of fandom if you think Buffy won’t be at least a little heartened by enjoying movies and shows with her friends. Willow and Tara start arguing about the ethical use of magic again—loudly. Xander flees as quickly as tactfully possible, and Anya accompanies him.
Tara tells Willow she found out about the memory spell, and she doesn’t want to hear Willow’s excuses. She feels incredibly violated. Willow is upset; she just wanted the fight to be over. That’s lovely, but you can’t just do a spell to make a fight be over. For a relationship to work, both parties have to come to an agreement and move forward. One can’t just decide what’s best and end all discussion, unless they’re fine with the other person being extremely unhappy. Tara doesn’t think all this magic is good for Willow. She started out using it to help people, but now she’s using it to have her way. Tara can’t be with someone like that. Willow promises to go a month without magic to prove they can still make this work. Tara, skeptical, challenges her to go just one week. Also, Willow says “I need you, baby!”, at which point I throw up in my mouth. Tara and Willow are pretty much equally upset by this whole situation.
And at the Magic Box, Buffy and Giles are having a similar one. He’s going back to England. She feels justifiably abandoned. She doesn’t think she can do this without him, but he’s sure she can, and he’s equally sure that she won’t be able to discover that as long as he’s there. Or, he could, you know, suck it up and be a little better at tough love than he has been since he came back. This is such a stupid reason to get the character out of the picture. Nothing Buffy can say will sway him, so she storms out.
There’s some kind of Scooby meeting, and Willow, Tara, and Dawn are about to head over to the Magic Box. Tara and Dawn are ready to go, but Willow’s fresh out of the shower, so she tells them to go ahead, and what the hell did Tara do to her hair?
She put it all up in little ponytail buns? Ew! She should’ve gone for a net braid like this:
After Tara and Dawn leave, Willow pops out of frame for a second, then back into frame, dressed and with her hair styled gorgeously. That’s the hairstyle I was going for at my high school graduation.
She pulls out some magic equipment, including more of that one flower for memory spells. She casts a spell that will make Buffy forget heaven and Tara forget their arguments (again). Ugggggggh. The ingredient that binds the spell is a purple crystal. She heads out.
To Dawn’s disappointment, there isn’t any exciting new monster to discuss in this Scooby meeting. Xander and Willow show up (Willow wearing Xander’s jacket). The purpose of this meeting is so Giles can announce that he’s leaving. Buffy nearly spoils it, but then Spike runs in, heavily covered from the sun by a brown three-piece suit and a musher’s hat, but still smoking all over. He wants protection from the loan shark and his goons. Willow checks the crystal. The spell should be taking effect any second now. Only...the bag of flowers she left next to the fireplace at Buffy’s house has also caught fire. Giles announces that he’s going back to England indefinitely. Nobody (except Anya) is remotely happy about this. Buffy starts to leave, close to tears. Willow tries to apologize, but Buffy can’t handle how sorry everyone is. Nobody understands, and she can’t deal. Aaand then everyone collapses. Time for magical shenanigans.
By the time they wake up, it’s night. So...I guess the store was closed that day? Buffy wakes up first and turns on the lights. Xander and Willow wake up next. They were sort of in a pile when they collapsed. Anya and Giles kind of fell asleep against each other too. Everyone’s awake now, and they all remember nothing! Buffy tries to comfort Dawn. Xander gets hostile in his confusion. Giles shuts him up, having realized that they all remember nothing. They notice they’re in a magic shop, so they’re probably under a spell. Giles scoffs. Dawn and Buffy decide to stick together.
Spike mocks Giles for his Englishness, only to realize he is also English. Spike wonders if he and Giles are related. Giles thinks it might be true, since his instinct when looking at Spike is disappointment. Spike decides Giles must be his dad, which sucks for both of them. Also, they assume Giles and Anya are engaged because of the way they woke up and her engagement ring. Willow is the first one to think of checking for driver’s licenses. Xander, Willow, Tara, and Giles discover their names this way. Dawn has a necklace with her name on it. Spike finds the name “Randy” inside his coat, and he’s horrified. (For those of you in our studio audience who are too American to understand why, “randy” means “horny” in British-English.)
Xander and Willow assume they’re boyfriend and girlfriend because she was wearing a jacket with “Harris” on it. Anya finds her name on the paperwork by the cash register, but she pronounces it Ann-ya. Giles is psyched (or disturbed?) to learn that he’s the owner of this shop. Buffy decides to name herself Joan. (Fun story! Remember Chanterelle/Lily/Anne who has appeared on Angel a couple of times now? Well, in the shooting script for “Lie to Me,” it says that her name used to be Joan. She now goes by Anne, which is Buffy’s middle name, and now Buffy has decided to call herself Joan.) Dawn thinks Joan is a blah name, and they start arguing in a very sisterly fashion. They think they’re probably really sisters, and they hug happily.
Buffy votes they go to the hospital, but there are vampires on the other side of the door. Willow votes they barricade the door, and Giles thinks they could potentially fend them off with magic. The vampires are looking for Spike, which would be fine except nobody remembers who Spike is. Spike thinks they’re talking about wooden stakes. Also, they think that when the vampires say “Slayer,” they’re saying “slay her.” This is very annoying. The vampires break in, and Xander starts praying in a variety of ways. It was funnier when Benny did it in The Mummy, since Benny is actually a coward. Xander is not. One vampire gets Spike cornered, but his demand for kittens makes no sense even when you remember what he’s talking about, so Spike is mostly just confused. Buffy slays the vampire and is psyched. She’s a superhero! The other vampire runs away. Xander faints.
The runaway vamp meets up with the loan shark, and they plan to storm the shop. Buffy’s plan is that everyone but she and Spike will go through the sewers to get to the hospital. The two of them will stay to deal with the loan shark. Anya doesn’t want to leave the cash register, though, so she volunteers herself and Giles to protect the shop. Spike and Giles give each other a very uncomfortable hug, and then Buffy and Spike run out of the shop. Spike vamps out and attacks one of the minion vamps. Buffy sees his face and runs away from him. He fights off the minions, then runs after her.
Xander, Tara, Dawn, and Willow climb down into the sewer. Willow and Tara have a moment and are confused by it. Vampires are in the sewer too! The Scoobies run.
Giles has found a one-way ticket to England in his jacket pocket. He thinks this means he was planning to leave his fiancée. Anya lends credence to this theory by being very annoying, recommending a spell book based on her “intuition” alone. She does a spell and conjures a rabbit, then freaks out.
Spike catches up with Buffy and she throws him to the ground and pins him. She informs him that he’s a vampire. He’s very offended, but vamp face don’t lie. Weirdly, he doesn’t feel like attacking her. Heeeey maybe he’s a good vampire—a vampire with a soul! Buffy thinks that’s stupid. (Hahaha, that might’ve been clever if the premise of this episode hadn’t been executed so terribly.) Spike, however, is pretty sure they’re allies.
At the Magic Box, Anya has now conjured a whole bunch of bunnies. She can’t seem to do anything else. Giles is very annoyed.
The Scoobies flee from the vampire in the sewers. They go up into a side tunnel. Tara and Willow have another moment. A really long one. Like, really long. What the heck, editing team?
Giles is extremely fed up with Anya. The shop is full of bunnies, the ceiling is shrouded by green clouds, and Anya still won’t stop trying to make that book work. She’s equally fed up with his English slang.
Buffy and Spike have another tussle with the loan shark’s minions. They take out a few of them. At the shop, Giles is now sword fighting a skeleton. (Practice for when he does it again as King Uther in Merlin S3.)
In the sewers, Dawn feels like running away from a vampire is oddly familiar, so she’s not as terrified as she thought. Willow’s also less scared than she thought she’d be, and she’s starting to think she might be gay.
Anya and Giles are still squabbling. Anya hits him over the head with a book, and he shows her the plane ticket. She’s very indignant and throws her engagement ring across the shop. There’s some kind of summoned monster rampaging around, and now she’s worried it’ll eat her ring.
Xander is tired of waiting for the vampire to find them, so he climbs down into the main tunnel and fights it. In the shop, Giles finds the right spell and reverts everything back to normal. (Except the memory spell.) Anya puts her ring back on, and they kiss and make up. She calls him “Rupey.” Ew. More ew to the actual kissing.
Willow and Tara climb down into the tunnel, but the vampire jumps out at them, and they fall on top of each other. The crystal goes rolling out of Willow’s pocket, but she and Tara are too busy having moment #3 to notice. Dawn helps Xander stake the vampire, calling him “Alex.” Willow and Tara are about to kiss when Xander steps on the crystal and the memory spell breaks. Tara and Willow do not kiss and Anya and Giles very abruptly stop kissing. When Buffy gets her memory back, all the fun she’s having slaying vampires evaporates.
Tara knows exactly what Willow did, and that means Willow not only failed to go a week without magic; she tried to do another memory spell on Tara. Xander and Dawn don’t know exactly what’s up, but they know it’s not good for Willow/Tara. They all head back to the Magic Box, where Giles and Anya are aggressively tidying up without looking at each other.
Spike finishes off the last of loan shark’s minions. Loan shark decides it’s not worth the trouble of trying to collect on a debt from Spike. Spike offers Buffy a hand, but she gets up on her own and walks off.
At the Bronze, Michelle Branch is singing “Goodbye to You,” which is a fittingly depressing song for the Willow/Tara breakup and the departure of Giles. Buffy is sitting at the bar, looking vaguely bummed as per her usual lately. Tara packs her stuff and leaves the Summers’ house while Willow cries in another room. Spike finds Buffy at the Bronze. She won’t look at him, and he leaves without a word. Dawn is furious at Tara for leaving, because she clearly hasn’t thought about how it will affect her. Giles is on the plane to England. And now Buffy and Spike are snogging under the stairs at the Bronze. Ew.
“Tabula Rasa” could have been one of the funniest episodes of the whole series. Amnesia shenanigans in a series where all of the affected characters have well-established personalities and relationships with each other are a comedy goldmine. However, this one doesn’t seem to have much gold in it. I’ve always found “Tabula Rasa” annoying and disappointing. It just seems...lazy. Amnesia shenanigans only work if the writers can successfully boil the affected characters down to their most innate personality traits, but that’s not what happened here. More on that in each character’s analysis section. I do think Tara and Willow’s fight was done well, though. I still wish their argument in “Tough Love” had been about Willow’s selfishness, because that would’ve made this fight a pattern that’s been going on with them for at least half a year. But it’s still satisfying to watch Tara actually stand up for herself and make a coherent case against Willow using too much magic. If only Giles’s departure could’ve been similarly effective. I also liked Anya and Giles’ antics in the Magic Box. That was the only part of the episode I found actually funny. The loan shark is an eye-rollingly lame idea for a villain.
I quite like Joan the Vampire Slayer. It’s a much better name than Buffy. Also, “Joan,” unlike several of the other characters, actually acts like you’d expect a Buffy with no memories to act. She takes charge, she’s protective, she gives an ally a chance even after she discovers he’s a vampire, and she’s generally up-beat and witty. I strongly sympathize with Buffy’s attitude about Giles leaving, but if she wants him to stay, then why not point out to him that he has more options than a) coddling her or b) being five thousand miles away? Also, she can’t handle the way everyone’s acting around her, but...how does she want them to act? Because it would be helpful if she could give them some idea. Instead, she just keeps snogging Spike, and that’s not helpful for anyone.
Amnesia Xander is a complete coward. Where the heck did that come from? Xander has always been brave to a foolhardy degree. We saw evidence of that as early as “The Harvest,” when he refused to sit at school and do nothing while Jesse was in danger. Heck, even the weaker half of Xander in “The Replacement” wasn’t a coward. I would’ve expected amnesia Xander to be lighthearted to a degree that annoys anyone wanting to take this problem seriously, and maybe disappointed to find he has no superpowers of his own once Buffy discovered her strength and skill.
Is it just me, or does the name Anya have a pretty obvious pronunciation? It’s not like she’s Princess Anna from Frozen, with a name spelled exactly the same way as a much more common name with a different pronunciation. (I’ve heard more people talk about Princess Ann-a than Princess Ah-na.) Other than that, I really don’t have much of a complaint against amnesia Anya. Like I said already, her scenes with Giles in the shop are the best ones.
Dawn, don’t be mad at Tara! Willow’s the one who ruined everything. Be mad at Willow. It’s healthy for her to have people mad at her. Otherwise, she’ll be able to remain in her self-righteous bubble indefinitely.
Amnesia Spike makes no freaking sense. Why would he and Giles assume they’re related just because they’re both English? The English aristocracy’s rich history of cousin incest notwithstanding, not all Englishmen are closely related. They don’t even have the same accent! Why wasn’t there a moment where he noticed someone’s neck and vamped out? Why weren’t his vampire instincts taking advantage of his sudden lack of knowledge of his brain chip? He should’ve been trying to attack people!
I’ve accepted that Willow has a major case of narcissism, but how stupid does she think everyone else is? What if her spell had actually worked, and Buffy and Tara had suddenly slumped over unconscious for several hours, only to wake up with patchy memories? The rest of the Scoobies would’ve thought they were under attack from some kind of sleep demon, and the truth would’ve come out. If she was going to insist on doing the spell despite her promise to Tara, she should’ve done it at night, when the targets falling asleep for several hours would’ve seemed normal. Or maybe that’s not how the spell would work if it worked as she intended. Maybe Buffy’s and Tara’s eyes would’ve just gone unfocused for a second, and then they’d be back, with no memories of the things Willow made them forget. But there’s no way someone wouldn’t have mentioned heaven to Buffy. The truth would’ve come out no matter what. But while I can nitpick about the stupidity of Willow’s execution of the super messed up spell, I should also focus on how horrible it is that she’d still try casting that spell after her conversation with Tara. She may genuinely not have realized that Tara would consider a memory spell to be a mental violation, but there’s absolutely zero excuse for doing it again. Tara was absolutely right to break up with her at that point. But Willow also should’ve just asked Buffy if she’d be willing to forget heaven in order to have an easier time adjusting to life. It seems likely to work, given how much more upbeat amnesia Buffy was, but you can’t just do a spell like that without the informed consent of the subject.
Why does it seem like amnesia Giles’s only personality trait is concentrated essence of Englishman? I know he’s extremely English, but there’s a reason they cast Tony Head to play him instead of any middle-aged English actor. He’s more than just an assemblage of the stuffiest English traits. And would an amnesiac Englishman even have enough mental context to be automatically annoyed at Americans? The way he was written seems a bit slapdash. As does the explanation for his departure.
“Tch, magic. Magic’s all balderdash and chicanery!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.