Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 6 Episode 17

Normal Again

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Mar 12, 2002 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
545 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

After being poisoned by a demon, Buffy comes to believe that she is confined to a mental hospital, her mother is alive, her parents are still together, and that her life as a Slayer has all been an hallucination for the past six years. Deciding that she prefers this "normal" life with her parents, Buffy attempts to destroy the things that tether her to the "fantasy" life of the Slayer: her friends.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • The plot in "Normal Again" is that which has been seen many times before in various shows from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to Charmed to Smallville.

    S6's follow-through for Buffy from S5 is now complete. From "After Life" to "Once More, with Feeling" to "Dead Things" to "Normal Again," Buffy's arc has been crafted with care and gradual near-flawless precision. "Normal Again" is also one of the most emotionally draining, painful, and powerful episodes I've ever seen, which was only made possible by the phenomenal foundation built by the episodes that preceded it. Kudos!
  • Dream or reality?

    This is one of the best episode of Buffy. The alternative reality was great and we got to see another side of Buffy. I just love the conversation Buffy had with Willow:

    Willow: Buffy, look at me. You are not in an institution. You have never been in an institution.

    Buffy: Yes, I have.

    Willow: What?

    Buffy: Back when I saw my first vampires... I got so scared. I told my parents ... and they completely freaked out. They thought there was something seriously wrong with me. So they sent me to a clinic.

    Willow: You never said anything.

    Buffy: I was only there a couple of weeks. I stopped talking about it, and they let me go. Eventually ... my parents just ... forgot.

    Willow: God. That's horrible.


    Willow: Buffy ... Buffy, you're not. I'm ... so sorry you had to go through that. But, i-it's the past. You've got to trust me. We're gonna get you that antidote. Xander's hunting the demon right now.

    Simply breaks my heart :Dmoreless
  • Alternate Reality.

    A demon unleashed by The Trio causes Buffy to drift between her life in Sunnydale and another world where she is locked up in a mental institution. In my opinion, 'Normal Again' is a very good episode that makes us question everything we've seen so far and whether or not the world as Buffy knows it exists. I don't have any major problems with this episode and I think it represents the moment where Buffy goes back to being the TV show we all love. The only thing I'd change is the fact that the storyline drags itself more than it should, but other than that I really like this and think that writer Diego Gutierrez did a great job. Things I really liked include Tara saving the day again (the first time being in Season 4's 'Who Are You?'); Spike telling Buffy some truths we all would like to tell her and seeing Joyce once more. The alternate world (or the real one, perhaps) was really clever and like I mentioned, made me question the Buffyverse. Sarah's acting was really good, as usual and I even liked the demon.

    Thumbs up.moreless
  • Is all we see or seem but a dream within a dream?

    The Good;

    Some great acting from SMG, lovely to see Kristine/Joyce again. Also I really like the idea of Tara to the rescue, so lovely that she get's to play the hero for once.

    The Bad;

    Nothing bad, just a depressing ep

    Best line;

    Spike; "You didn't say it was a Glarg gul cashmanik demon!"

    Xander; "Because I can't pronounce Glarg gul..."


    Not the ep if you don't like needles, including Willow snapping the demons stinger off

    Kinky dinky;

    Xander queries what exactly Buffy means when she says 'Poked'.

    Captain Subtext;

    Will sees Tara smooching with another girl but it might be just platonic. Spike uses the term poof of Xander. Also see Missing Scenes. Buffy says that once you fall for Willow you stay fallen.

    Guantanamo Bay;

    Rather ruthless that Xander just wants to go down to the basement and execute the demon

    Missing scenes;


    BUFFY: I could wrestle naked in oil for a living and still be cleaner than after a shift at the Doublemeat.

    WILLOW: Plus I'd come to visit you every single day.

    Apocalypses; 6

    Scoobies in bondage: Xander, Willow and Dawn all tied up

    Buffy: 8

    Giles: 4

    Cordy: 5

    Will: 4

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 4

    Oz: 1

    Faith: 3

    Joyce: 1

    Wes: 1

    Xander; 2

    Dawn; 4

    Scoobies knocked out: Xander and Tara

    Buffy: 17

    Giles: 12

    Cordy: 6

    Xander: 12

    Will: 8

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 6

    Oz: 3

    Faith: 1

    Joyce: 3

    Wes: 1


    Dawn; 2

    Tara; 1

    Kills: 1 demon for Buffy

    Buffy: 104 vamps, 55 demons, 6 monsters, 3 humans, 1 werewolf, 1 spirit warrior & a robot

    Giles: 8 vamps, 2 demon, 1 human, 1 god.

    Cordy: 3 vamps, a demon

    Will: 6 vamps + 3 demons +1 fawn.

    Angel: 3 vamps, 1 demon, 1 human

    Oz: 3 vamps, 1 zombie

    Faith: 16 vamps, 5 demons, 3 humans

    Xander: 6 vamps, 2 zombies, 1 a demon,

    Anya: 1 vamp and 1 a demon

    Riley; 18 vamps + 7 demons

    Spike; 8 vamps and 4 demons

    Buffybot; 2 vamps

    Tara; 1 demon

    Dawn; 1 vamp

    Scoobies go evil: the Buffster herself

    Giles: 1

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 1

    Oz: 1

    Joyce: 1

    Xander: 4

    Anya; 1

    Dawn; 1

    Buffy; 1

    Alternate scoobies: insane Buffy

    Buffy: 8

    Giles: 4

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 3

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 2

    Joyce: 2

    Xander: 4

    Tara; 1


    Spike; 1

    Recurring characters killed: 11

    Jesse, Flutie, Jenny, Kendra, Larry, Snyder, Professor Walsh, Forrest, McNamara, Joyce, Katrina

    Sunnydale deaths;


    Total number of scoobies: no more Anya, we must assume she's out of the gang for the time being

    Xander, Willow, Buffy, Spike,

    Xander demon magnet: 5(6?)

    Preying Mantis Lady, Inca Mummy Girl, Drusilla, VampWillow, Anya (arguably Buffy & Faith with their demon essences?), Dracula?

    Scoobies shot:

    Giles: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 4

    Riley; 1

    Notches on Scooby bedpost:

    Giles: 2; Joyce & Olivia, possibly Jenny and 3xDraccy babes?

    Cordy: 1?

    Buffy: 4 confirmed; Angel, Parker, Riley, Spike. 1 possible, Dracula(?)

    Angel: 1;Buffy

    Joyce: 1;Giles, 2 possible, Ted and Dracula(?)

    Oz: 3; Groupie, Willow & Verucca

    Faith:2 ;Xander, Riley

    Xander: 2; Faith, Anya

    Willow: 2;Oz and Tara

    Riley; 3; Buffy, Sandy and unnamed vampwhore

    Spike; 1 Buffy

    Spike; good or bad?

    Spike helps save Buffy. He abuses Xander but for once he's justified, Xander seems to go out of his way to vent his anger by picking a fight with Spike who for once has a viable comeback to use against him.

    Dawn in peril; 9 yes but in fairness the same as everyone else. She seems pretty resourceful both against evil-Buffy and the demon in the basement.

    Dawn the bashful virgin; 7

    What the fanficcers thought;

    Obviously a lot of fic in this regard but I have 3 favourites. In one Buffy wakes up as an old woman in the asylum and promptly chucks herself out the window. The paramedics wonder why this dead old lady has such a smile on her face whilst back in the Buffyverse Dawn wakes Buffy up to join her friends for breakfast. Number 2 also has the same premise but in this one old Buffy turns her delusion into a series of bestselling novels/TV series and uses the money to start an orphanage called Sunnydale, naming all the kids after the Scoobies and her parents. Best of all though is 'No Place Like Home' which has Buffy awakening from her delusion just after the end of Chosen, still only 23 in the real world. She returns to her normal life with her old friends from Hemery High (who are all still alive as the deaths in the movie/Lie to Me never happened) but convinces a pregnant Joyce to call her new daughter Dawn.

    Also plenty of fic focusing on a world where Buffy isn't the Slayer. Taboo Comics have a pornographic web-comic series where Buffy fantasises about a world where she isn't the Slayer. She and Willow end up slaves in a demon brothel but eventually get bored with it, poison their masters and go into business for themselves part-time whilst enjoying their normal lives into the bargain.

    Questions and observations;

    Actually for once it's Dawn who strokes Buffy's hair (and Joyce does the same thing to asylum Buffy). Buffy acknowledges for the first time that Dawn is taller. No Anya at all for the first time in 2 seasons. If you want to know how Buffy fared during her time in the asylum you can find it in the original Buffy comics (the fifty or so published whilst the show was still on air rather than the current post-Chosen/season 8 series). Although perhaps more fun is the story of Dawn and Hoopy Bear that occured whilst Buffy was away.

    There are probably about a thousand reasons why the premise of Normal Again (that Sunnydale is the delusion of Buffy who's a mad girl in an asylum) can't be true but here are just a few that occur to me off the top of my head;

    1. How does stuff happen in the Buffyverse that Buffy never knows about? Giles' questions about her killing Angel, Xander's 'Kick his ass' comment in Becoming pt2, all of Angel;TS but especially 'I will remember you'? And notice we only ever see the asylum from Buffy's point of view, she's in every scene.

    2. How can Hank, Joyce and Ford exist in both Buffy's delusion and the 'real world'?

    3. Why is Buffy's delusion in Sunnydale not happier than real life? Surely her delusion is supposed to be an escape?

    4. The asylum can't be Buffy's ideal if it doesn't have Dawn in it

    5. How can Buffy be aware of current events (Tom and Nicole, Gatorade's new flavour, Star Trek; Enterprise) if she's a mad girl in the asylum?

    6. If Buffy had a momentary awakening when she was dead why doesn't she remember it? The asylum is far from heaven.

    7. What about when Buffy runs away from her calling after the end of season 2? She's a normal girl in the real world and also in her delusion?

    8. How can Buffy be in a fugue state in Weight of the World within her delusion? And how exactly can she be inside Faith's dreams in 'This Year's Girl'?

    On the other hand...?

    The final scene on Buffy has Sunnydale destroyed, the Hellmouth sealed forever, literally and figuratively defeating her demons and HERSELF in the shape of the First Evil, the Slayer's work done. Faith tells Buffy that from now on she's going to have to live as a normal person. Dawn wonders what Buffy is going to do now? Buffy smiles her enigmactic little smile...and wakes up in the asylum, her sanity restored. She resumes her normal life, all her friends who died in the film still alive as indeed is Joyce who is still together with Hank. She becomes a successful author of supernatural stories based on her delusion which are turned into movies and a TV series. And calls her children (and Joyce and Hanks beloved grandchildren) Dawn, Willow, Rupert, Faith and Alexander.

    Third explanation of course, both are true, asylum Buffy and Sunnydale Buffy are both real and have some sort of subconscious link. Post-Chosen asylum Buffy regains her sanity and enjoys her normal life once more (because with thousands of Slayers to share the burden Sunnydale Buffy can also now lead a fairly ordinary life) but the season 8 comics are her dreams/successful literary creations which are the reality for Sunnydale Buffy.

    Marks out of 10; 6/10 clever but not much fun

  • Hellmouth Asylum

    Normal Again-After being poisoned by a demon, Buffy comes to believe that she is confined to a mental hospital, her mother is alive, her parents are still together, and that her life as a Slayer has all been an hallucination for the past six years. Deciding that she prefers this "normal" life with her parents, Buffy attempts to destroy the things that tether her to the "fantasy" life of the Slayer: her friends.

    Sci-Fi, like many other genres of entertainment, developed avarietyof stories that have become a cliche in their respected genres. The idea that "the hero was never really a hero and has just been some crazy person in an mentalinstitution" has been done many times from over dozen other series including Smallville and Star Trek. During that 2001-2002, Charmed did an episode earlier that year to where one of the Charmed Ones was trapped in an aslyum and forced to believe that their real life was a fantasy world. Mixed with some dark drama and witty humor, it turned out to be one of the best episodes of that series. When it comes to "Normal Again", it goes far beyond that simply concept (as Buffy tends to do). This is truly one of the mostmesmerizingand heartbreaking psychological dramas I've ever seen. This concept works the best on Buffy, especially during this season because honestly, why wouldn't Buffy want to believe her life is all some twisted fantasy in her mind? After all she's been through since she's been brought back from the dead, from her suicidal thoughts to her abusive relationship with Spike, Buffy's view on life is anything but good. The asylum reality shows her a world where her mom is not only alive, but her parents never split up. Sarah Michelle Gellar once again shows that she was truly one of the finest actresses on the small screen at the time. The best moment of the episode is without a doubt when Buffy reveals to Willow she was in fact in an mental institution after she first saw a vampire. It's a brilliant twist on the storyline and adds so much depth to the episode. Sarah delivers that scene so well to the point where I was almost in tears.

    Other really heartbreaking moments is when Dawn finds out she doesn't exist in her reality. While Dawn's reaction can be seen as a bit selfish, it's not out of character and you can't blame her for being upset for not being apart of her sister's life in an alternate reality. Another twist on this storyline is the fact that when Buffy gives in, she begins brutally attacking her friends. Sarah really shows how much range she's capable of in this episode going from disorientated to sadness to pure madness, it's really astounding work, especially when Buffy attacks Dawn. I also have to give Sutherland for herterrificwork during the final sequence where Buffy is fading in and out of both realities. You really feel bad for Joyce watching her daughter suffer and ultimately seeing her say goodbye. I also thought the rest of the cast was great with Xander returning home and facing therepercussionsof his actions, Willow struggling with the fact that Tara might have moved on etc. It's nice to see the other characters' arc continuing to move forward at a believable pace. I also liked Spike's coldultimatumto Buffy that finally pushed Buffy over the edge and want to stay in her alternate reality. I also liked the hilarious irony that the writers play with with Xander and especially Buffy realize how ridiculous Buffy's life is when one really thinks about it. Not to mention, theincrediblyhaunting ending gets meevery-timeand once caused questions among the fanbase of the possibility of the entire series all being in Buffy's head. A truly masterful hour from the writers and cast who take a cliched plot and put a new spin on it better than any other attempt at the story.moreless
Michael Warren

Michael Warren


Guest Star

Sarah Scivier

Sarah Scivier


Guest Star

Rodney Charles

Rodney Charles


Guest Star

Danny Strong

Danny Strong


Recurring Role

Adam Busch

Adam Busch


Recurring Role

Tom Lenk

Tom Lenk


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (8)

    • When Tara releases Willow and Dawn from the ropes, the tape has disappeared from Dawn's mouth.

    • The sticker on the Troika's monitor (the one Jonathan falls asleep in front of) says, "I'm a freak Touch me".

    • When we've seen Buffy's basement in other episodes, the space underneath the stairs has been encased in cement. However, in this episode, it's an open space that Buffy is able to hide under.

    • Yet again the tranquilizer gun fires multiple darts without reloading. This type of gun doesn't have that capability.

    • In the picture of Buffy when she was a little girl is the same little girl in season 5's Weight of the World and we see that she's a natural blonde, but in season 2's Killed by Death when she's in the hospital with her cousin we see that she's a natural brunette.

    • When Xander punches Spike in the cemetery, notice the box of cigarettes fly out of the bag, but when it flashes to Buffy in the asylum-then back to Spike falling over the bag-they are back in the bag.

    • Doesn't Dawn even question what Buffy means by "sleeping with a vampire she hates"? She can't mean Angel because they all know she loves him...

    • The show has been on for about 6 years and in that time they have researched a lot of demons and since in "Smashed" they said they looked through all the books they had, you think they would remember a few from the books.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Buffy: ...and that Sunnydale and all of this, none of it was real.
      Xander: Aw, come on, that's ridiculous. What, you think this isn't real just because of all the vampires and demons and ex-vengeance demons and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy?

    • Doctor: In her mind, she's the central figure in a fantastic world beyond imagination. She's surrounded herself with friends, most with their own superpowers. Together they face grand, overblown conflicts against an assortment of monsters, both imaginary and rooted in actual myth.

      Doctor: Buffy, you used to create these grand villains to battle against. And now what is it? Just ordinary students you went to high school with. No gods or monsters, just three pathetic little men... who like playing with toys.

      Buffy: 'Cause what's more real? A sick girl in an institution, or some kind of supergirl, chosen to fight demons and save the world? That's ridiculous. A girl who sleeps with the vampire she hates?!? Yeah, that makes sense.

    • Xander: And when you say poke...?
      Buffy: In the arm.

    • Doctor: It's no use...we've lost her.

    • Buffy: (to Dawn) You -- don't -- exist!

    • Spike: Put some ice on the back of her neck. She likes that.

  • NOTES (7)

    • There is an easter egg on the DVD of this episode. Select the episode "Normal Again" and then go to the "Language Selection." Highlight "English for the hearing-impaired" and then press left. You will now see a sign saying that there is a "Computer Download" available for the episode call sheet.

    • This marks the final appearance of Dean Butler as "Hank Summers" on the series.

    • The doctor explains how Buffy created Dawn recently due to a need for a familial bond. Of course, Dawn was added to the show last season.

    • In one asylum scene, the doctor tells Buffy that she had a 'momentary awakening' during the summer and it was her friends who pulled her back into the delusion. This is a clever reference to Buffy's death and resurrection (end season 5, start season 6).

    • When Buffy looks at the family photograph of her as a little girl, it is the same child who portrayed young Buffy in season 5's episode 'The Weight Of The World'.

    • Emma Caulfield (Anya) does not appear in this episode.

    • This episode was originally supposed to be shown as Episode 8, but was later changed.


    • Xander: Friends...Romans...anyone.
      In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Marc Antony addresses the towns people after Caesar's death. His monologue begins, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..."

    • Jonathon: I'm going all Jack Torrence here, you know?
      In this seasons second allusion to the Stephen King novel and Stanley Kubrick film The Shining, Jack Torrence is the husband and father of the story who takes a job as caretaker of a secluded mountain hotel and ends up succumbing to cabin fever and tries to kill his wife and son.

    • Andrew: I still say we're gonna need at least eight other men to pull this off.
      Uttered while preparing to break into a vault, the three geeks are talking about the movie Ocean's Eleven - three of them plus eight more men would give them eleven. They're presumably referring to the 2001 remake starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, since Warren then comments "I never should have let you see that movie."