"The Body"
Written and directed by Joss Whedon

In a repeat of the final scene of “I Was Made to Love You,” Buffy comes home and finds Joyce lying still on the couch. We see a flashback to Christmas - all of the Scoobies have gathered at the Summers’ house and have just finished dinner. Anya informs the group that Santa really does exist, but he disembowels children instead of bringing them presents. In the kitchen, Joyce is frustrated that a pie has burned and Buffy tells her it’s Cajun pie. Giles and Joyce debate opening another bottle of wine and Buffy tells them they can do whatever they want as long as they stay away from the band candy (see “Band Candy”). As the pie falls to the floor, we’re suddenly back in the present and Joyce is still on the couch. Buffy runs over and tries to revive her, repeating “Mom” over and over. She calls 911 and is upset when she can’t seem to remember how to perform CPR. She bravely tries it anyway as the operator tells her that the paramedics are on their way. She hands up, calls Giles, and says, “You have to come. She’s at the house.”

The paramedics arrive and can’t get Joyce’s pulse. They decide to intubate her, and when they check her heart, they see that she has flatlined. Suddenly Joyce begins to gasp and wake up. Buffy rides with her to the hospital, where a doctor tells her that she’s “good as new.” Just as quickly, we’re back at the house - it was all a daydream. The paramedics decide that they can’t revive Joyce and tell Buffy that she’s dead. They tell her that it happened awhile ago and that there was nothing Buffy could have done to help her. They say that she probably had an aneurysm, and that they will call someone from the coroner’s office to come get her. She assures them that someone is coming to be with her, and they leave on another call. Buffy wanders through the house, throwing up in the living room and listening to the sounds of the rest of the world at the back door. Giles arrives, thinking that Glory is at the house, and is shocked to see Joyce’s body. He goes over to her and Buffy tells him that they’re “not supposed to move the body.” The realization of her mother’s death hits her and Giles hugs her.

Somewhere, Joyce is zipped into a body bag. Dawn cries in a bathroom at school and her friend tells her it’s not that bad. Dawn reminds her that a guy named Kevin called her a freak in front of a bunch of people and laments that she is seen as a “suicidal head case.” They complain about a girl named Kirsty who has spread stories about Dawn. The two girls try to appear confident as they leave the bathroom and head for class, passing Kirsty on their way. In art class, the teacher gives them an assignment to sketch the negative space around an object. Dawn chats with Kevin, trying to remain nonchalant as her friend writes “HE WANTS YOU!” on her canvas. They complain about Kirsty together as Buffy arrives in the classroom. Buffy tells Dawn that she needs to talk to her, but Dawn doesn’t seem to realize (or accept) that something bad has happened. She follows Buffy out into the hallway and asks what happened. Buffy warns her that it’s bad and Dawn demands to know where Joyce is. Buffy tells her that Joyce “had an accident,” then corrects that something went wrong with the tumor. Dawn tries to calm herself and convince herself that Joyce is all right. Dawn’s teacher and class watch through the classroom windows as Buffy gives Dawn the news. Dawn accuses Buffy of lying and breaks down in the hallway.

Joyce’s body lies on a table, about to undergo an autopsy. Willow tries to figure out to wear in her and Tara’s dorm room as Xander and Anya drive over to meet them. Anya notes that Xander is double-parking but he doesn’t care. Willow tries to find a blue shirt that Joyce liked and complains that none of her shirts are appropriate for the occasion. Tara tries to comfort her and Willow calms down a little when they kiss. On their way to the room, Anya asks Xander what they’ll be expected to do, but he doesn’t answer her. She mentions to Willow and Tara that Xander cried at their apartment, which was a strange experience for her. Xander wonders if Glory had something to do with Joyce’s death and thinks that they should go after her. He then blames the doctors for giving Joyce a clean bill of health when she wasn’t completely healthy. Willow tells them that “it just happened,” but he grows angrier. She finally holds up her fists and tells him to fight her. “You know I can’t take you,” he replies, calmer.

Anya asks if they’re going to see Joyce’s body and Willow is shocked by her question and attitude. Tara heads to the laundry room to look for Willow’s blue shirt and Anya asks if the body is going to be cut open. Willow angrily tells her to stop talking, but Anya doesn’t understand what she’s doing that’s inappropriate. Willow tells her that the questions she’s asking aren’t the right ones, and Anya begins crying and says that she doesn’t understand what’s happening. She’s never dealt with mortal death and none of it makes sense to her, but no one will explain what’s going on. More understanding now, Willow replies that they themselves don’t understand death. Anya finds Willow’s blue shirt and tucks it into a drawer. Xander punches his hand through a wall, giving Willow and Anya a brief distraction. Tara returns and the girls tend to Xander. He announces that it’s their job to help Buffy, as they always do. As they head out, Xander’s car gets a parking ticket.

Dr. Kriegel (see “Listening to Fear” and “Into the Woods”) finishes examining Joyce and leaves the morgue. The Scoobies reunite in the waiting room and Dr. Kriegel joins them. He tells Buffy that Joyce suffered an aneurysm as Buffy imagines that things could have turned out differently if she’d been there. As he assures her that she wasn’t in pain, Buffy hears the words he doesn’t want to say: “I have to lie to make you feel better.” Giles heads off with the doctor to take care of the paperwork and Dawn goes off to the bathroom. Buffy tells the others that she thinks Dawn is mad at her, and Willow reasons that she could be, because Buffy was the one who gave her the news. Anya awkwardly tries to offer her condolences, then goes off with Xander and Willow to get some food. Tara bonds with Buffy, telling her that her own mother died when she was 17. “Was it sudden?” Buffy asks. “No. Yes,” Tara replies. “It’s always sudden.”

Dawn leaves the bathroom and sneaks into the morgue. She finds Joyce’s body but doesn’t see a vampire sitting up on another table. Buffy goes off to find Dawn and hears her scream in the morgue. She forces her way into the room as the vampire starts to attack Dawn. Dawn falls, pulling down the sheet that was covering Joyce. She stares at her mother as Buffy fights and finally kills the vampire. “Is she cold?” Dawn asks. “It’s not her,” Buffy replies. “She’s gone.” “Where’d she go?” Dawn asks, reaching out towards the body.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: It’s okay to cry. Hold me!

R.I.P.: Joyce

GRADE: A It’s the little things - the lack of music, the raw emotions, Anya’s “I don’t understand” monologue, the Christmas flashback, and Buffy’s flashes of what could have been.

MEMORABLE QUOTES - Dawn: “My nog tastes funny. I think I got one with rum in it.”
Willow: “That's bad.”
Xander: “Yeah, now Santa's gonna pass you right by, naughty boozehound.”
Willow: “Santa always passes me by. Something puts him off. Could be the big honkin' Menorah.”

“My big sister could really beat the crap out of her. I mean, really really.” - Dawn

Tara: “We can be strong.”
Willow: “Strong like an Amazon?”
Tara: “Strong like an Amazon, right.”

Willow: “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: “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.”

Willow: “Did it make you feel better?”
Xander: “For a second there.”
Willow: “A whole second?”
Xander: “In my defense, some crappy wallmanship.”


Back to Buffy episode guides

Back to Fun and Games