"Life Serial"
Written by David Fury and Jane Espenson; directed by Nick Marck

Buffy returns from her reunion with Angel and will only tell Willow, Giles, Tara, and Dawn that it was intense. Giles asks Buffy what she plans to do with her life and she says she’s not sure. She mentions wanting to go back to school and Willow and Tara encourage her to audit the rest of the semester. At Nerd Headquarters, the Trio discusses tests which they are going to give Buffy to see if they can find her weaknesses. They have acquired a van with security monitors and luxuries of home so that they can observe Buffy without her seeing them. Andrew doesn’t seem to understand the concept of remaining incognito; he’s painted the Death Star on the side of the van.

The next day, Buffy announces, “This is gonna be great” as she tags along with Willow and Tara to UC Sunnydale. She sits in on a class with Willow, where the students discuss the social construction of reality and the conversation goes too fast for Buffy to keep up. After class, someone bumps into Buffy, putting something on her clothes. It’s Warren - the nerds have begun their tests. Buffy and Tara kill some time before class, but Buffy soon realizes that time is mysteriously speeding up. Tara doesn’t seem to notice, but Buffy grows increasingly irritated. The nerds congratulate themselves on beginning to drive her nuts. After class, Buffy notices the hands of a clock speeding up, then everyone else around her moving faster and faster. She ducks under a table and realizes that there’s something on her clothes. She finds the device Warren placed on her as Jonathan yells, “Self-destruct!” Warren makes the device disappear and time returns to normal. Jonathan and Andrew give him 240 points for his test.

The next day, Buffy again announces, “This is gonna be great” as she and Xander walk through his construction site. Xander introduces her to the foreman, Tony, who doesn’t seem thrilled to have a woman working for him. Xander assures him that she’s stronger than she looks. He leaves to work on something else and the other guys decide to make Buffy haul steel. They are soon impressed when they see her lift a beam that weighs a couple hundred pounds. The Trio spy on her from their van and Andrew blows on a set of wooden pipes. Demons appear at the site and attack Buffy. After Buffy kills them, they evaporate. In the van, Warren and Andrew fight over a pair of binoculars and accidentally hit the horn, which plays the Star Wars theme. Buffy hears the music and spots the van. Xander arrives and Tony says that Buffy attacked her. She tells Xander that she was saving him from demons, which Xander can’t see; the guys won’t back Buffy up, even when she reminds them that they were so scared they were crying. Xander agrees with Buffy that someone is messing with her and sends her to Giles to figure things out. She realizes that she’s being fired.

Buffy announces a third time, “This is gonna be great” as she reluctantly accepts a job working at the Magic Box. As Giles and Anya try to prepare her, we see a small video camera in the eye of a skull. In the van, Jonathan tells Andrew and Warren to hold hands so that he can perform a spell. They mess with his “magic bone,” which causes both yelling and giggling. Through the window of the shop, the van fills with smoke from Jonathan’s spell but Buffy remains oblivious. A woman enters the shop and Anya sends Buffy over to help her. On her way over she helps a man who is trying to decide between a slug candle and a lemon candle. The woman asks Buffy about a mummy hand she was told was in the store and Buffy goes downstairs to get it. When she tries to pick it up, it attacks her and she has to stab it with a dagger. She tells the woman that the dagger comes with the hand, but the woman is disappointed that the power is gone from the hand. Suddenly the bell above the door of the shop rings again and Buffy finds herself back where she was - the woman is entering the shop and Anya is about to tell Buffy to help her.

Warren congratulates Jonathan on performing a successful spell. He explains that in order to end the time loop, Buffy will have to “satisfy a customer with a task that resists solving.” Confused, Buffy hands the male customer a lemon candle before he can ask for her help, then tells the female customer that they can’t get her the mummy hand. She says that she was told she could have it and refuses to leave until she has it. Buffy heads downstairs as the Trio realize that she’s starting to figure out the task. Buffy goes after the mummy hand with tongs and a knife; upstairs, she hands the customer a bag and says, “Fingers sold separately.”

The loop begins again and Buffy grows more frustrated. She candles the guy and heads for the basement. This time, the mummy hand survives until she gets it upstairs, but then it strangles the woman. In the next loop, Buffy ignores the male customer and goes outside, only to find herself back at the beginning of the loop. In the basement, she watches as the mummy hand plays with the tongs. The bell jingles and she’s back upstairs. She pulls the bell off of the door, but the loop starts again and the bell is back in place. This time she gives the male customer the slug candle as the Trio goofs around in their van. The loop starts again and Buffy grabs Giles glasses, smashing them on the ground. Of course, when the next loop comes, the glasses are intact. She accuses the female customer of causing the loop; in the next loop she throws the slug candle at the male customer. Next she stands in the middle of the shop and cries as Giles and Anya look on. Finally, Buffy tells the female customer that they can’t get the mummy hand for her but that they can order another one for her. This satisfies the customer and ends the loops. The Trio can’t decide which of their tests won - they’re not done yet. To cap off her day, Buffy quits her new job.

Buffy repeats that “this is gonna be great,” then downs a shot of whiskey in Spike’s crypt, following it with, “Blaaah!” Spike tells her that they should go talk to some demons to try to figure out why she had so many strange experiences. He encourages her to see how she fits in his world; she is sold when she learns that alcohol may be involved. Spike takes Buffy to a demon bar, where, already drunk, she takes a bottle rather than bothering with a shot. They head for the back room, where four demons, including Clem (James C. Leary), are playing poker. Spike tells Buffy that the demons will talk while they play and possibly give them information. She is shocked to see that, instead of money, they play for kittens. Spike is unsure whether he should have brought Buffy along, but she’s content to watch and drink. (“Blaaah!”) The Trio discuss James Bond as the game continues. Spike wins a basket of kittens and the demons accuse him of cheating. They tell him to leave the game and he challenges them to fight. (“Blaaah!”) She refuses to fight, then overturns the basket of kittens, letting them escape. She starts to leave the bar, telling Spike that he was supposed to fix her life, which is out of control. Also, she thinks he’s drunk.

In the van, the Bond discussion is still going on, and the Trio almost don’t notice Buffy approaching them. As she gets closer, a demon appears and says that he has been the one testing her to discover her weaknesses. She tries to punch him but misses the first time, since she’s drunk. The demon claims defeat, throws something that creates sparks and smoke, and runs off. Back in the van, the demon turns back into Jonathan. The Trio revels in their success, as well as the acquisition of free cable porn. Back at home, Buffy tells Giles that she’s screwing everything up and that things are too hard right now. He offers her a check and she refuses it to be polite, then accepts it. She thanks him and tells him it’s nice to know that he’ll always be there, though judging from the look on his face, that might not be the case.


GRADE: B+ Any episode that pays homage to Groundhog Day is good in my book.


MEMORABLE QUOTES - “Maybe it was lint. Maybe it was evil lint.” - Buffy, re: the device Warren placed on her

Warren: “Ah! Got visual of subject, four o'clock.”
Jonathan: “That's not four o'clock.”
Warren: “Well, it is if you're facing the front of the van.”
Jonathan: “But we're not facing the front of the van, we're facing out that way. That's twelve, so she's at two o'clock.”
Warren: “Look, she's over there, okay?”

Buffy: “The demons! They were these three big apey things!”
Xander: “No. No, not here. Not at my job. That's your job.”

“Don't worry, don't be nervous. Do what I do, just picture yourself naked.” - Anya to Buffy

Andrew: “I just hope she solves it faster than Data did on the ep of TNG where the Enterprise kept blowing up.”
Warren: “Or Mulder, in that X-Files where the bank kept exploding.”
Andrew: “Scully wants me so bad.”

Buffy: “Lady needs a mummy hand.”
Anya: “What? You haven't even talked to her yet.”
Buffy: “I could explain, but you would just forget it.”
Anya: “I'm worried about you. Um, retail is a, is a fast-paced and exciting world. I mean, this whole day, has it gone by too quickly for you?”
Buffy: “No. No, I don't think that's exactly the problem.”
Giles: “Buffy, a word in your ear. Um, if you, uh, think of the store as a, as a library, it'll help you to, to, uh, concentrate on, on…service rather than selling.”
Buffy: “Yes. And then I'm going to marry Bob Dole and raise penguins in Guam.”
Giles: “Yes, uh, quite, quite, yes.”

“Ya like slug? Go with slug. She's not gonna sleep with you anyway.” - Buffy to male customer

Buffy: “You play for kittens?!
Spike: “So, who's gonna advance me a tiny tabby, get me started? Come on, someone's gotta stake me.”
Buffy: “I'll do it. What, you thought I was just gonna let that lie there?”

Andrew: “We are really super-villains now, like…like Dr. No.”
Warren: “Yeah, back when Bond was Connery, and movies were decent.”
Jonathan: “Who remembers Connery? I mean, Roger Moore was smooth.”
Warren: “You're insane. You're short, and you're insane.”
Andrew: “I like Timothy Dalton!” (Warren smacks him) “Hey!”
Warren: “Don't make me pull over, okay?”

Clem: “I'm starting to think you cheat.”
Spike: “Me? I cheat? He's got X-ray vision!”
Scaly demon: “I'm not using it.”

Spike: “You wanna fight? You face the two of us.”
Buffy: “What? I'm not getting into a bar fight! I'll beat 'em up for information, great, but not to defend your right to gamble for kittens! Which, by the way, is stupid currency.”
Green demon: “They're delicious!”

“Scamper! Be free, kittens!” - Buffy

Buffy: “And, and my job at the magic shop? I was bored to tears even before the hour that wouldn't end! And the only person I can even stand to be around is a…neutered vampire who cheats at kitten poker.”
Spike: “Oh, you saw the cheating, did you?”
Buffy: “Also? I think you're drunk.”

Warren: “Connery is Bond. He had style.”
Jonathan: “Yeah, but Roger Moore was funny.”
Warren:Moonraker? The gondola turns into a hovercraft? It's retarded. Besides, the guy had, like, no edge.”
Andrew: “Dalton had edge. In License to Kill he was a rogue agent. That's edgy. And he was amazing in The Living Daylights.”
Jonathan: “Yeah, which was written for Roger Moore, not Timothy Dalton!”
Warren: “Okay, this is stupid! We're wasting time. End of discussion.” (pause) “I mean, there's a shot of, like, pigeons doing double takes when the gondola blasted by! Moonraker…is inexcusable.”

Andrew: “The Slayer touched you.”
Jonathan: “Yeah, it was sexy the way she touched me real hard with her fists.”

Buffy: “I don't…really know how to say this...but it's a little like having Mom back.”
Giles: “In this scenario, I am your mother?”
Buffy: “Wanna be my shiftless absentee father?”
Giles: “Is there some sort of, um, rakish uncle?”

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