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Recap / Buffy The Vampire Slayer S 7 E 7 Conversations With Dead People

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"Yeah, what I really need is emotional therapy from the evil dead."

"Time goes by, and everything drops away. All the cruelty, all the pain, all the humiliation. It all washes away. I miss my friends. I miss my enemies. I miss the people I talked to every day. I miss the people who never knew I existed. I miss ‘em all. I want to talk to them, you know. I want to find out how they’re doing. I want to know what’s going on in their lives."
Jonathan Levenson

Directed by Nick Marck

Written by Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard, Rebecca Kirshner, Drew Z Greenberg, & Marti Noxon (uncredited)

While on patrol, Buffy is attacked by a newly risen vampire. They fight for a while and as he prepares to bite her, he recognises her from Sunnydale High. He tells her that the two of them were old classmates and his name is Holden. Buffy feels guilty as she clearly can't remember him at all. The two seem to have no inclination to kill each other and begin to reminisce. When Holden asks Buffy why she has a stake and why she's trying to kill him, Buffy tells Holden that it's her job as the Slayer. Holden takes the news surprisingly well and says it explains her absences and why she was often late at school. He tells Buffy that many of the student thought that Buffy was training to be a nun. Holden tells her that he was a psychology major and gets her to talk about herself, all in between bouts of trying to kill her. Holden predicts that Buffy will never truly connect with other and that Spike — who everyone thought couldn't hurt humans thanks to the chip — was the one who sired him. Buffy later stakes him.

At the Summers home, Dawn is home alone and plays with Buffy's weapons and tries on some of her clothes. She watches an old horror movie whilst talking on the phone to her friend, Kit before a series of knocks happen at the door. The phone line is cut as a malevolent force begins attacking the house. During the attack, Dawn sees images of her mother every now and then. Dawn believes it's her trying to contact her from beyond the grave and an evil spirit is trying to stop her. Dawn is able to drive it off and is visited by what appears to be Joyce's ghost who tells her that she predicts Buffy will side against Dawn.

Jonathan and Andrew arrive back in Sunnydale after hiding out in Mexico. They're looking to dig up an artefact hidden by the Hellmouth. Andrew is secretly in contact with what appears to be Warren's ghost while Jonathan is having a personal revelation. Andrew kills Jonathan, under Warren's instructions, causing his blood to spill over the seal they dug up from the dirt.

In the library, Willow is visited by the ghost of student Cassie Newton, a girl Buffy unsuccessfully tried to save. Cassie claims she's been sent to Willow by Tara. The ghost relays a prediction that Willow will kill everyone unless she commits suicide. Willow isn't fooled and the figure reveals itself as the First, implying the other ghosts were also manifestations.

During the events of the episode, Spike is shown to be speaking to a young woman at the Bronze. She invites him back to her place where Spike vamps out and kills her, revealing what Holden said to be true. Worse than that is Spike doesn't appear to show any remorse in his actions.


  • Actor Allusion: Newly-sired vampire Holden tells Buffy that Scott Hope, her ex-boyfriend from season three, came out of the closet and is now openly gay. This is possibly a reference to the fact that Fab Filippo, the actor who played Scott, went on to star in America’s version of Queer as Folk.
  • Affably Evil: Holden the Vampire Shrink. He freely admits that he's evil, and that he kind of enjoys it, but he also seems genuinely delighted to see Buffy and to catch up with her, before providing some of the most helpful - and accurate - advice and psychoanalyis that she receives in the series. Granted, at least part of it is to put her off guard to make her easier to kill, but as he explains, it's Nothing Personal.
    "Buffy, I'm here to kill you, not to judge you."
    "I just think you're in some pain here (which I do kind of enjoy 'cause I'm evil now) but you should just ease up on yourself."
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Averted; Holden the Vampire Shrink is just what Buffy needs to talk over issues she can never discuss with her friends.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: What First!Warren convinces Andrew has happened to him, referencing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the process.
  • Author Appeal: Apparently, Jane Espenson likes anchovies, and was disappointed over a certain pizza chains' decision to drop them from their pizzas.
  • Badass Boast: Buffy, Holden; and Dawn's Magical Incantation certainly counts.
    Dawn: I cast you out with every prayer from every god that walked the Earth and crawled beneath. (thrown across the room, landing on her butt, she continues talking through a bloody mouth) I cast you out with the strength of those who love me. (stands) I cast you out with the strength I have inside me! I cast you out into the void. (throws bowl forward) That's right! Die, you bastard!
    • And the First as Cassie.
    The First: (mocking) Oh, baby, you left such a big hole. It hurt so bad. (serious, leans in) You don't know hurt. This last year's gonna seem like cake after what I put you and your friends through, and I am not a fan of easy death. Fact is, the whole good-versus-evil, balancing the scales thing...I'm over it. I'm done with the mortal coil. But believe me, I'm going for a big finish.
    Cassie: Oh, not it. Me.
  • Blank White Eyes: Corpse!Joyce
  • Blood Magic/Human Sacrifice: Andrew has to kill Jonathan in order to open the Seal.
  • Book Ends: The episode begins and ends with a montage of the episode's featured characters set to the song "Blue".
  • Buffy Speak
    Buffy: My parents weren't exactly the paragon of stay-togetherey-ness.
    Buffy: I commit! I'm committed! I'm a committee!
  • Brick Joke: In the 6th-season's "Gone", Warren declares to Buffy that "We are your" When they fail to open their escape door, Buffy mockingly says to Willow: "I give you my" Holden marvels that he and Buffy are now enemies, saying, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we became nemeses?", Buffy responds, "Is that how you say the word?"
    • Buffy leaves money for Dawn so she can buy herself something to eat, but the note specifies NO PIZZA. Next time we see Dawn she's eating pizza and singing the praises of anchovies.
      • And she's not worried when she gets sauce on her shirt, thinking Buffy will assume it's blood. A few episodes later, that's exactly what happens.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Buffy's mobile falls out of her pocket during her initial fight with Holden. When Dawn tries to call for help, Buffy doesn't hear it ringing because she's too busy insisting to Holden that she's connected to a lot of people.
  • The Confidant: Buffy finds herself opening up to former psych student Holden Webster. Which is part of an ongoing theme of Buffy having difficulty opening up to her own loved ones (but being able to open up to the undead—which, for instance, led to her tumultuous relationship with Spike).
  • Continuity Nod/Call-Back
    • "That time on the bridge when you sang to each other" was in "Once More With Feeling" when Tara sang "Under Your Spell".
    • Buffy briefly dated Scott Hope at the beginning of Season 3, only for him to dump her because she was too distracted (as she was caring for a recently Back from the Dead Angel). Holden suggests another reason.
    • "Strong like an Amazon" is what Willow said in response to Tara saying "We can be strong" (about Joyce Summer's death in "The Body"). Likewise Dawn's "Mom? ...Mommy?" when trying to reach Joyce echoes Buffy's first reaction upon seeing her mother dead.
    • Dead Joyce lies on the couch in the same position Buffy found her at the end of "I Was Made To Love You".
    • The music Dawn is listening to while home alone is the same Buffy was listening to while washing dishes in "Listening to Fear", before breaking down and crying over their mother's sickness.
    • Dawn talks on the phone to an off-screen Kit, whom we saw in "Lessons".
    • Dawn apparently did learn some spellcasting techniques from Willow and Tara, as she hoped to do in "Real Me".
    • Buffy says that she's "pretty much" the only Slayer; the other being Faith who'll return later in the season.
    • Holden talks to Buffy about a classmate they knew who's been in the Sunnydale mental hospital since Graduation Day. It's obvious what event drove him there.
    • Buffy confesses her secrets to a vampire as opposed to her friends, as she did to Spike in Season 6 (notably "After Life").
    • The First tries to convince someone to commit suicide, as in "Amends".
  • Conveniently Precise Translation: Andrew and Jonathan reveal that, while in Mexico, they've had dreams with the refrain "Desde abajo te devora." Andrew translates the phrase as "It eats you, starting with your bottom". The literal translation is "From below, it devours you", but this particular phrase probably would translate fairly closely to Spanish and back. Andrew provides his own lampshade when he complains that Klingon was easier to learn than Spanish because the former "had much clearer rules on transitive and intransitive verbs."
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Dawn sees what appears to be her mother, and the incredibly creepy words "Mother's milk is red today" appear on the wall.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Jonathan sprawled across the Seal of Danzalthar after being murdered by Andrew. However, this was an unintentional sacrifice on Jonathan's part, as he surely didn't expect Andrew to kill him so that his blood could be used to open the seal.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Well, duh...
  • Distracting Disambiguation: Buffy and Holden keep finding reasons to continue their conversation instead of their Duel to the Death.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Buffy lying on a sarcophagus as a make-shift Freudian Couch.
  • Dramatic Wind/Dramatic Shattering: The poltergeist in the Summers residence seems to like this.
  • Driving a Desk: The car scenes featuring Jonathan and Andrew were actually filmed in a studio, with crew members shaking the car to make it look as though it were moving.
  • Episode Title Card: The only regular Buffy episode to get one (the other is "Once More, With Feeling", which gets completely new credits).
  • Evil Feels Good: Holden the Vampire Shrink, who's extremely cheerful about it.
    Holden: Feels great. Strong. Like I'm connected to a powerful all-consuming evil that's gonna suck the world into a fiery oblivion. How 'bout you?
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The episode is about characters having conversations with dead people (or, in Spike's case, a living person having a conversation with him).
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The episode takes place only within a couple of hours at night. Enough time for Xander to have been asleep (and thus not in the episode) and get woken early when the next episode starts
  • Fast-Roping: Jonathan rappels down into Sunnydale High, followed by Andrew who loses his grip and crashes into the floor.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Holden tells Buffy she can't blame herself over her failed relationships as she's too young to settle down with a guy. This sets up her "cookie dough" speech in "Chosen".
      • He also tells her that her mess of issues all adds up to her "feeling alone". As of "Chosen", Buffy has declared that no longer will the Slayer be alone.
    • Dawn playing with Buffy's weapons foretells her later belief that she is a Potential in "Potential".
    • First!Joyce tells Dawn "When it's bad, Buffy won't choose you. She'll be against you." In "Lies My Parents Told Me", Buffy admits to Giles that she'd now be willing to sacrifice Dawn to save the world, unlike in "The Gift". Likewise Joyce's words might well have influenced Dawn's decision to side against Buffy in "Empty Places". Though oddly enough, we never do get a situation where Buffy has to again choose between Dawn and the world, like all this seems to be setting up. At most, Buffy 'doesn't choose' Dawn and is 'against her' when she chooses to send Dawn away with Xander for her own protection in the final two episodes, which Dawn rejects.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Lampshaded when Buffy opening up about her problems gives Holden an irresistible urge to bite her.
  • Forgotten Friend, New Foe: Justified as Holden was just another boy in Sunnydale High crushing on the beautiful and mysterious Buffy Summers; he gripes about having to spend 30 minutes reminding Buffy who he was.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The First Evil appears as Cassie, Warren and Joyce in order to break up the gang — and it's so good at it that fans are still discussing whether "Joyce" isn't actually Joyce, despite confirmation from Word of God.invoked
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: The episode features five stories taking place in different places at the same time, each of which includes, well, a conversation with a dead person. The stories aren't even thematically linked until the next episode, when they all converge.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: This episode has four plotlines with dialogue, and one without, which never intersect during the entire episode.
  • Freudian Excuse: Buffy admits that her parents divorce might have been due to an affair by her dad. Holden suggests that Buffy's inability to connect with men might be because she subconsciously thinks she's better than them. Buffy promptly threatens to stake him, showing Holden he's hit a nerve.
    Holden: Just answer me this — whose fault was your parents divorce?
    Buffy: (rolls eyes) OK, you know, this is beyond evil. This is Insane Troll Logic.
  • Get Out!: The poltergeist to Dawn, who instead slams the door and declares she's staying to protect her mother.
  • Gut Punch: [Spike killing again and [Andrew stabbing Jonathan.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Holden asks Buffy if there really is a God. "What's the word on that, by the way?" Her own experiences in the afterlife not withstanding, Buffy has to admit there's "nothing solid".
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: An Older and Wiser Jonathan looks to do the right thing, no matter how many people have forgotten about him in the years since high school. Then, under the goading of First!Warren, his best friend, Andrew, stabs him to death, right when he could very well have been on his way to finally becoming a Scooby. Sorry, Jonathan.
  • Heroic Wannabe: Dawn gets into Buffy's chest of weapons. "Taste my blade, spawn of evil!"
  • I Am a Monster: Buffy re her Destructive Romance with Spike.
    Buffy: The last guy I was with, it got really — I behaved like a monster, treated him like... But at the same time, I-I let him completely take me over. Do things to me that — (starts to cry).
  • I Am the Noun: First!Cassie assures Willow that it was the dark magic power that made her turn evil. Willow replies, "I am the power; it's in me."
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.: Used even though there isn't actually something lurking outside the Summer's house, watching Dawn dance inside.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: We get an explanation of the mindset that drives Buffy to make most of her decisions, dubious or otherwise.
    Buffy: I feel like I'm worse than anyone. Honestly, I'm beneath them. My friends, my boyfriends. I feel like I'm not worthy of their love. 'Cause even though they love me, it doesn't mean anything 'cause their opinions don't matter. They don't know. They haven't been through what I've been through. They're not the Slayer. I am. Sometimes I feel... (sighs) this is awful — I feel like I'm better than them. Superior.
    Holden: Until you can't win. And I thought I was diabolical — or, at least I plan to be. You do have a superiority complex. And you've got an inferiority complex about it.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Holden is exhilarated to be fighting to the death with the girl he once had a crush on in school. When he fantasises that a 'biteable' girl he knew might have shown up for his funeral, Buffy starts venting about how "sex and death and love and pain" are all the same to vampires, giving Holden a "Eureka!" Moment that Buffy has had a relationship with (at least) one.
  • Irony: Jonathan ends up dying at Sunnydale High, the very place he once tried to kill himself, and the place that, up until recently, he'd been trying to forget about.
  • It Won't Turn Off: The horror movie keeps playing even after Dawn mutes, switches off and unplugs the television. She then nearly electrocutes herself smashing up the TV, CD player, and microwave with an axe. She's about to do the same to the radio when Dawn hears Joyce talking to her over it.
  • Killed Off for Real: Poor Jonathan...
  • Light Is Good: An Invoked Trope by the First, with Joyce appearing as a glowing woman in white.
  • Lotus Position/Magical Incantation: Dawn, trying to exorcise the poltergeist.
  • Meaningful Background Event: As Dawn tries to figure out what's happening, the camera suddenly shifts angle and we see her mother's corpse in the background. Cue Scare Chord as she suddenly realizes what's behind her, and turns to see nothing.
  • Meaningful Echo: In "Fool for Love" Buffy turned down Spike's advances with the words, "You're beneath me." Here Buffy says "I'm beneath them" in reference to her family and friends because she's ashamed of her superiority complex.
  • Mid-Season Twist: (technically "end of first act of the season" twist) The Big Bad starts moving against the Scoobies. Ensouled and chipped Spike is killing humans. Andrew murders Jonathan.
  • Mysterious Protector: Buffy is quite pleased to find that her classmates at Sunnydale High thought she was mysterious, but can't help smiling wryly when Holden says they thought it was because she was having an affair with a much older guy.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: For all Holden's confidence that his martial arts skills and newfound vampire strength will enable him to defeat Buffy, in the end she dusts him fairly easily.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never get a clear look at the demon holding down Dead!Joyce. It's actually the Gnarl costume from a few episodes earlier.
  • Nothing Personal: Holden and Buffy re killing each other.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Dawn thinks Joyce is trying to communicate with her this way.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Willow is tipped that "Cassie" (supposedly channelling a message from Tara) is not who she appears when she suggests Willow kill herself so she can be with her dead lover. Willow doesn't buy that Tara would ever say that.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The episode features three A-plots and one B-plot that feel very surreal, even for this show. Buffy doesn't usually have a long heart-to-heart with a vampire before killing him. Tara supposedly reaches out to Willow from beyond the grave, but indirectly. Dawn spends the entire episode alone in her house, having to fend off a demonic disturbance that, unlike the norm for this show, is played for pure horror instead of action/laughs. Finally, in the B-plot, Spike walks a lady home... and bites her, draining her dry.
  • Overly Long Gag
    Andrew: Check communications?
    (Still standing beside each other, they both reach into the pockets of their cargo pants and pull out walkie-talkie radios.)
    Jonathan: (to radio) Check. Check.
    Andrew: (to radio) Check. Check.
    Jonathan: Check.
    Andrew: Check. Check.
    Jonathan: Check. Check.
    Andrew: Check. Check. Check.
    Jonathan: Check.
  • Percussive Therapy
    Buffy: I think I'm gonna kill you just a little bit more than usual.
  • Real Time: The episode begins with an accurate to the minute (at the time of airing) title and time card, intended to imply that all the titular conversations are real time.
  • Relative Button: Dawn gets Wicca on the poltergeist's ass when she thinks it's trying to stop her from talking to her mother's spirit.
  • Rise from Your Grave: Buffy checks out a freshly dug grave. When Holden's hand punches through the soil, her response is a quiet "Here we go."
  • Running Gag: Going back to the second season, Jonathan has been the Victim of the Week Butt-Monkey, over and over. In keeping with this season's theme of "going back to the beginning", Jonathan returns to be the victim one last time.
  • Ship Tease: Buffy acknowledges that Spike's love for her was real, in contrast to the previous season where such an idea would be met with denial, condescension or a punch in the face.
  • Sickly Neurotic Geek: After his pratfall while trying to rappel inside Sunnydale High, Andrew blames his shin splints — this starts a Running Gag throughout the season of him complaining of various physical problems that have nothing to do with the situation at hand.
  • Significant Reference Date: The episode begins with a title card identifying the episode (staggeringly rarely done), followed by the date and time; November 12, 2002 8:01 PM, which on the night it aired was accurate to the minute (the Previously on… took up the 8:00 first minute). The intention was to imply the episode takes place in Real Time.
  • Slasher Smile: First!Warren and First!Cassie — the latter taken up to eleven when her head splits open and she turns inside out.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Buffy explaining to Holden why she's in the cemetery trying to dust him.
    Buffy: I'm the Slayer. It's sort of a thing.
    Holden: "The" like as in "The only one?"
    Buffy: Pretty much.
  • Stake The Messenger: Buffy kills Holden after he drops the bombshell about Spike siring him.
  • Super Window Jump: While fighting Buffy and Holden go crashing through a stained glass window into a crypt.
  • Sword over Head: Buffy doesn't stake Holden when she has the chance, because she finds she likes talking to him. Averted when Holden reveals that Spike has been killing again.
  • There Is Another: Parodied:
    Warren: "No, there is another."
    Andrew: "Wait, really? Who's our last hope?"
    Warren: "No, I was just going with it. It was a thing. He's our last hope."
  • The Team Wannabe: Jonathan wants to hook up with the Scoobies, and is gathering information on the Seal of Danthazar he can present to Buffy as an olive branch to prevent her handing them over to the police.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Holden Webster puts up a good fight for a newly-sired vampire because he got into Tae Kwon Do in college.
  • The Triple: Holden suggests Buffy goes for bad boys to avoid committing to a long-term relationship.
    Buffy: I commit. I'm committed. I'm a committee.
  • Verbal Backspace: A Running Gag with Holden.
    Holden: Oh, my God!
    Buffy: Oh, your God what?
    Holden: Oh, well, you know, not my God, because I defy him and all of his works...
  • Warrior Therapist: Buffy tangles with a rather literal version of the trope — a vampire who had been a Psychology major prior to being sired. He was at least as, if not more, interested in analyzing Buffy as in fighting her.
  • Wham Episode: The First Evil makes itself known to Willow, Dawn and Andrew by disguising as Cassie, Joyce, and Warren respectively. It convinces Andrew to kill Jonathan, terrifies Dawn, and tries to get Willow to kill herself. In addition, Buffy opens up to a vampire only to learn that, despite having a soul, Spike is still siring people.
  • Wham Line: "Spike? He's the one who sired me."
  • What You Are in the Dark: Jonathan's speech right before being killed:
    Jonathan: Time goes by, and everything drops away. All the cruelty, all the pain, all the humiliation. It all washes away. I miss my friends. I miss my enemies. I miss the people I talked to every day. I miss the people who never knew I existed. I miss 'em all. I want to talk to them, you know. I want to find out how they're doing. I want to know what's going on in their lives.
    Andrew: You know what? They don't wanna talk to you—all those people you just mentioned. Not one of them is sitting around going, "I wonder what Jonathan's up to right now." Not one of them cares about you.
    Jonathan: Well, I still care about them. That's why I'm here.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Dawn is playing about with Buffy's weapons. First she plants an axe-blade in a desk, then has an accidental crossbow discharge. She tries to yank the quarrel out of the wall, only for a large lump of plaster to come out as well, which she tries to conceal with a potted plant. She also gets pizza sauce on Buffy's dress, which she doesn't worry about as she figures Buffy will assume it's blood (this sets up a Brick Joke in "First Date").