Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 5 Episode 16

The Body

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Feb 27, 2001 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
900 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Buffy is devastated when she arrives home and finds her mother dead. The rest of the gang try their best to pull themselves out of their own grief so that they can help Buffy and Dawn to deal with the worst day of their lives.

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  • There's not much I can say that hasn't been said already about "The

    It's a brilliant masterpiece that is further proof that the Emmy Awards are meaningless. I will not lie--this is a tough episode to watch and, honestly, I am repulsed by the idea of dissecting and analyzing it. In light of this I decided not to take very many notes, not discuss many of the details, and not nitpick about specifics.

    This episode is presented in a manner that parallels our actual lives. Even shows that are based on 'reality,' such as the endless slew of cop, law, and medical dramas, are in reality very little like our actual lives, or even the lives of people in those professions. I've lost a loved relative and was there during the following hours after her death. What I experienced was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before in my life--this odd numbness where I couldn't feel, couldn't think, and felt like I was hearing people speak through an audio fog. To think that an episode of television could capture that unique feeling, and then convey it to complete perfection, seems like nonsense. After all, when a beloved character on a television show dies, you've got to have the endless sobbing and swelling sad music.

    Somehow, though, Joss Whedon has done it. It's well known that he wrote this episode from his own experience of seeing death. That must be why what is on display here is unbelievably powerful--a work of 'life,' if you will. "The Body" isn't about Joyce at all, but rather the "negative space" around her body--as in, how this death affects everyone close to her. And affect everyone close to her it does, in a major series-changing way. From this point on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not the same series. Some see this full-on dive into darkness as the wrong direction. I, on the other hand, see it as a welcome path. The characters have gotten older, so it's time the series got older with it. What follows through the end of the series is dark, complex, compelling, and at times absolutely riveting.

    How about Sarah Michelle Gellar? This girl puts out amazing performances on this show so often, I often forget just how talented she is. There's not one moment in this entire episode where I don't buy that she's feeling exactly what I felt in my own experience. Whedon uses a whole variety of simple techniques to help us see through Buffy's eyes and feel Buffy's heart: quick cuts, hopeful dream flashes, odd framing, blurring, and brash physicality. Additionally, the complete lack of any music is a unique and gutsy move by Whedon, but it pays unparalleled dividends here. Instead of pointing each technique out let me just say they all work perfectly for me and wonderfully add to the realism that Whedon has achieved here.

    The one specific thing I feel the need to discuss is the vampire in the final act. The first time I saw the episode I must admit that I was pulled out of the sense of realism that Whedon spent the entire episode holding onto. I even felt that it really hurt the episode. Since then, after hearing Whedon's commentary and rewatching the episode several times, it just doesn't bug me anymore. I accept Whedon's reasoning at face value, and it makes well enough sense from a story perspective. It is meant to show us that even in the face of tremendous personal tragedy the world outside still goes on. This is shown in different ways throughout the episode which include Buffy staring blankly out her back porch and hearing the sound of children laughing, Xander getting a parking ticket, and then finally Buffy being forced into a very ugly fight with a vampire. For Buffy, this fight represents her day-to-day life forcing itself on her, not caring that she's experiencing tremendous loss. I agree that the episode would have been just as potent without the vampire, but it being there doesn't bother me anymore.

    I want to apologize if you wanted a more detailed analysis from me. "The Body" is not complex nor is it meant to be. Simply watch the episode, listen to Whedon's commentary, put yourself in Buffy's shoes, and the episode will review itself. This is a piece of life that is rarely depicted outside of each of our lives. On display are emotions so naked and raw that we're forced to see just how beautiful and magnificent human life can be. As Anya will soon say in "Forever", "I'm not ready to make life with you. But I could. We could. Life could come out of our love and our smooshing and that's beautiful. It all makes me feel we're a part of something bigger. Like I'm more awake Anya, you nailed both the confusion of death and the miracle of life. Now, as Willow says, " I wanna be there for As do I.moreless
  • This is one of the best episodes of any TV show I have ever seen.

    This episode made me sob, and not just because of the episode itself. My freshman year of high school, my aunt died suddenly of an aneurysm in the brain, the same thing Buffy's mom died of. I was watching Buffy for the first time on DVD, and by the time I got to this episode, it was exactly one year to the date that my aunt had died. I identified with Willow when she was freaking out about her clothes. I ended up sobbing on the floor of my room before my aunt's funeral, because I didn't have anything nice that was black, everything was colorful and juvenile, and I was sobbing during Anya's speech, because it made sense to me. This episode shows perfectly the different reactions people have, from disbelief to hating yourself to feeling completely lost. The lack of music was an excellent choice, and made the episode even more depressing, and I loved how the acts didn't cut away from one location, but stayed there. It gave the feeling of an inability to escape, which is perfect for this episode. I admired how Joyce didn't die of supernatural causes, but natural ones, showing that Buffy couldn't protect her family from everything.moreless
  • So beautiful yet so sad

    The Good;

    All of it, an epic 40 minutes of TV, the cast are all incredible

    The Bad;

    A few problems. Why did the paramedics tell Buffy to stop CPR when she breaks Joyce's rib? A broken rib won't kill her, lack of oxygen would. Surely only a doctor can officially determine that someone is dead? How can the vamp rise when it's already had it's autopsy, it's heart has been taken out and put back in again?

    Best line;

    Buffy; "That's not her, she's gone"

    Dawn; "Where did she go?"

    Just beating Anya's heartful monologue as she desperately tries to understand what's happening.

    Women good/men bad;

    No room for that here


    Buffy breaking Joyce's rib is just wince inducing. The scariest vamp in all of the Buffyverse is the one who attacks Dawn in the morgue, partly because this is a naked man attacking a terrified 14 year old girl but also because this is a vamp stripped to it's bare bones, it genuinely looks like what it is, a reanimated corpse. The scene where Buffy imagines successfully reviving Joyce then we realise it's all just her fantasy is just too cruel for words.

    Kinky dinky;

    Dawn's schoolfriend Lisa says that her crush Kevin 'Wants her'

    Captain Subtext;

    The Willow/Tara's first onscreen kiss, so much going on that it almost goes unnoticed. Willow likes it when Tara rubs her tummy. Could she be related to Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory? Willow and Tara refer to the Amazons. Anya and Giles hug. Buffy seems to just be able to sense when Dawn is in trouble, maybe their link is deeper than just sisters. Buffy's 'Mommy?' line surely needs no explanation?

    Scoobies to the ER;

    Xander hurts his hand again

    Apocalypses; 5,

    Scoobies in bondage:

    Buffy: 8

    Giles: 4

    Cordy: 5

    Will: 3

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 4

    Oz: 1

    Faith: 3

    Joyce: 1

    Wes: 1

    Xander; 1

    Dawn; 1

    Scoobies knocked out:

    Buffy: 16

    Giles: 10

    Cordy: 6

    Xander: 8

    Will: 5

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 6

    Oz: 3

    Faith: 1

    Joyce: 3

    Wes: 1


    Kills: 1 vamp for Buffy

    Buffy: 95 vamps, 32 demons, 6 monsters, 3 humans, 1 werewolf, 1 spirit warrior & a robot

    Giles: 5 vamps, 1 demon

    Cordy: 3 vamps, a demon

    Will: 6 vamps

    Angel: 3 vamps, 1 demon, 1 human

    Oz: 3 vamps, 1 zombie

    Faith: 16 vamps, 5 demons, 3 humans

    Xander: 5 vamps, 2 zombies, a demon, a demon

    Anya: a demon

    Riley; 18 vamps + 7 demons

    Scoobies go evil:

    Giles: 1

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 1

    Oz: 1

    Joyce: 1

    Xander: 3

    Alternate scoobies:

    Buffy: 6

    Giles: 3

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 2

    Joyce: 2

    Xander: 3

    Recurring characters killed: 10, goodbye Joyce, how we loved her and how we never really realised it until she was gone.

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

    Sunnydale deaths; Joyce but from natural causes


    Total number of scoobies: 6

    Giles, Xander, Willow, Buffy, Anya, Tara,

    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: 3 confirmed; Angel, Parker,Riley, 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

    Questions and observations;

    Notice that Buffy never hugs Dawn, never holds her? More on that next episode. How can you have an episode so sad yet so beautiful? Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, cannot praise this highly enough. Wonderful details like Buffy pulling down Joyce's skirt as the paramedics arrive. The end of the fantastic Joyce/Kristine Sutherland as a semi-regular on the show, she'll be missed as all the cast and crew remark upon but what a wonderful send-off she gets. A very real posibility that this may be simply the best ever episode of television ever.

    Marks out of 10; do you have to ask? 10/10

  • Want to know what I think about The Body? Simple, it is the single greatest hour of television in the history of the world.....

    Want to know what I think about The Body?

    Simple, it is the single greatest hour of television in the history of the world, and being someone who watches more tv than your average family of 5, this should mean something to you. Id rank this episode of Buffy with the greatest films of all time, its that damn good.

    From the flawless acting to the camera angles that truly depict ones vision and range of "comprehension" during such trauma, there is literally nothing you can complain about this episode. As a guy who most people would never call a softie, I have to say, even after over 100 viewings of this episode, I still cry every single time, and i am not ashamed to admit it.moreless
  • Simply Phenomenal!

    Been on a Buffy/Angel marathon on Netflix the last few weeks watching them straight through. There had been a few powerful episodes, but this one blew them out of the water. An emotional person I am not, but within about the first two minutes I was choking up and it continued through the episode.

    Each character had their own moment to show their grief and each one was superb in it's own right. Especially moving in my opinion was Willow's breakdown and Anya's complete bewilderment. The lack of any background music throughout just highlights those moments; in fact, I thought I had accidentally muted the tv a couple of times. Just a brilliantly acted/directed/produced episode all around.

    * Only thing I'd change would be to take out the beginning credits and the end credits. The music was completely jarring after an episode with none. Although; on second thought, it does bring you abruptly back into the real world.moreless
Randy Thompson

Randy Thompson

Doctor Kriegel

Guest Star

Stefan Umstead

Stefan Umstead

Second Paramedic

Guest Star

Loanne Bishop

Loanne Bishop

911 Operator

Guest Star

Amber Benson

Amber Benson


Recurring Role

Kristine Sutherland

Kristine Sutherland

Joyce Summers

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Goof: In the scene where Xander punches through the wall, you can clearly see that there is a circular hole in the wall surrounding his arm. However, when the screen shows his arm again, there are broken pieces of wall filling the hole that surrounds his arm.

    • UK DVD Goof: After the Scoobies get the autopsy results they sit down, and as they do the tip of a camera lens is visible in the top left-hand corner for several seconds.

    • Goof: At Willow's dorm when Xander is pacing, a shadow moves against the back wall across the hallway, but no one is walking in front of it.

    • Nitpick: There seems to be a slight flaw in timing. When Buffy returns home, she calls for Joyce asking if she wants her to pick Dawn up from school, which would set this in late afternoon (after fighting the Aprilbot from the previous episode) but after the tragic opening scene is played out, Dawn is preparing to go to class, as well as the entire lighting of the house scene seems to be in the morning time at some point.

    • Goof: The image we see on Dawn's canvas when she leaves the room is completely different than the image we see when the camera does the close up of it at the end of the scene.

    • Goof: When Buffy first enters the kitchen to dial 911, the roll of paper towels are visible across the room near the sink. After Buffy vomits and leaves the back door to re-enter the kitchen, the paper towels are now in the middle of the room on the counter.

    • Goof: When Dawn enters the morgue to look at Joyce's body, she is wearing canvas tennis shoes, yet the sound effect of footsteps is dubbed in, making it sound like she's wearing hard-soled shoes. Her tennis shoes wouldn't make any noise except maybe a squeak.

    • Goof: The doctor who did the autopsy/post-mortem exam of Joyce is the same doctor who performed her surgery. This is an ethical, if not legal, no-no in all fifty states.

    • Goof: When Dawn entered in her classroom, she pulled her school bag down from her back. Following that scene, we see Kevin (for a second). After, we're back with Dawn who STILL has her school bag on her back and she pulls it again. This is due to the editing cuts.

    • Goof: When Buffy grabs the paper-towel, she holds it close to her chest. We also see that it's wrinkled. Later, when she puts it onto her vomit, the paper-towel is neatly folded into a square.

  • QUOTES (14)

    • Giles: (Bursting through the door) Buffy? What is it? Is it Glory? (notices Joyce in the living room and rushes toward her)
      Buffy: Giles, no. It-it's too late, she's gone... w-we're...
      Giles: (Attempting to wake Joyce) Joyce!
      Buffy: We're not supposed to move the body! (covers her mouth in shock as Giles rushes over to hug her)

    • Willow: Did it make you feel better?
      Xander: For a second there.
      Willow: A whole second?
      Xander: In my defense, some crappy wallmanship.
      Willow: Yeah, you can hear everything next door.

    • Xander: (Talking about being there for Buffy) We'll go. We'll deal. We'll help. That's what we do. We help Buffy.

    • (After Xander punches the wall in Willow's dorm)
      Willow: Xander, where did your hand go?

    • Willow: (to Anya, after her rant about death) We don't know how it works. Why...

    • (Anya, Willow and Xander return with armloads of snacks from the vending machines)
      Willow: We panicked.

    • Dawn: I have to go to the bathroom...
      Buffy: Do you need someone to go with you?
      Dawn: No... I still remember how to pee.

    • Tara (entering to see Xander's fist in the wall): What happened?
      Anya: Xander decided he blames the wall.

    • Buffy: Mom? Are you home? (turns to see Joyce laying on the couch) What are you doing? (camera zooms in on Joyce, showing her eyes are frozen open) Mom? Mom? (voice grows faint, quivering)... Mommy?

    • Buffy: Was it sudden? Your mother?
      Tara: No. And, yes. It's always sudden.

    • Tara: There's a Santa Claus?
      Anya: Mm-hmm. Been around since, like, the 1500s. He wasn't always called Santa, but you know, Christmas night, flying reindeer, coming down the chimney -- all true.
      Dawn: (smiles hopefully) All true?
      Anya: Well, he doesn't traditionally bring presents so much as, you know, disembowel children, but otherwise...

    • Willow: Why do all my shirts have such stupid things on them? Why can't I just dress like a grownup? Can't I be a grownup!

    • 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.

    • Dawn: Is she cold?
      Buffy: It's not her... it's not her... she's gone.
      Dawn: Where'd she go?

  • NOTES (21)

    • On the DVD Commentary for the episode "Restless" (4x22), Joss says that the scene in Buffy's dream where Joyce is living in the wall was a metaphorical hint about Joyce's illness in this season. Primarily that Buffy would not be able to get to her, or save her.

    • This episode is number four in Joss Whedon's list of his top ten favorite episodes according to The Last Sundown featurette in the season seven DVD box set.

    • In a 2003 interview with Entertainment Weekly shortly after announcing her decision to leave the show, Sarah Michelle Gellar said that this episode was "pretty amazing" and said that it was one of her favorites.

    • This is one of the few episodes that begins where the previous one left off, with out being a two parter (a "to be continued...").

    • In a situation like this, the first person you want to call (excluding 911) is your other parent. Buffy, however, calls Giles, her closest father-figure. As we later see in season six, Buffy finds it hard to deal with things without Giles.

    • This episode is the opposite to the season 4 episode "Hush" in which there are few spoken words and more music. In this episode, there is the absence of music through out the episode, and most is spoken word. Joss Whedon explained that music comforts the audience, and he wanted this episode to be touching and horrifying at the same time.

    • This is one of Alyson Hannigan's favorite episodes of the show, according to an October, 2005 interview with PopWatch.

    • Although listed in the opening credits, James Marsters does not appear in this episode.

    • The toy which Anya throws away from underneath her in the chair in Willow's room is a Japanese character called 'Burnt Bunboy'. Joss and his wife are big fans of him and Joss couldn't resist putting him in his show.

    • Buffy makes reference to the episode "Band Candy" when she says "As long as you two stay away from the band candy..." to Joyce and Giles. In the Season 3 episode, the two had sex.

    • According to Joss's DVD commentarry he wishes that he had included Joyce in the scene at the table, and not have her seperated from the scoobies in the kitchen.

    • There was no "Previously on Buffy" teaser at the beginning of this episode and there was no music, incidental or otherwise at all. Joss Whedon told the BBC Buffy website: "The lack of music, the no cutting, every act in one scene... it was all supposed to be relentless, almost a kind of boredom to create what I wanted to capture".

    • This episode reveals that Tara's mother died when Tara was 17.

    • Willow's dorm room is number 213. She shared a dorm with Buffy last year which was number 214, so this is probably next door.

    • Joss wanted Willow and Tara's kiss to be natural, and not to be the main focus of the episode so he included it in this episode.

    • Alyson Hannigan was allergic to the plaster dust from the scene when Xander punches his hand through the wall. Her right eye and face swelled up during the filming of that scene and she had to be taken to hospital.

    • Kristine Sutherland has said in interviews that Joss told her at the start of season 4 that Joyce was going to die in season 5.

    • It is said that if you have a dream of an open grave, while it is raining, someone you know will die within a year. (Faith awoke from a dream such as this last season in "This Year's Girl".)

    • According to Joss Whedon's DVD commentary, the episode begins with the flashback of the gang's Christmas dinner because Joss didn't want the cast and crew credits to appear over the main scene of Buffy finding her mom.

    • This episode is the most vampire/monster-light episode of the series, being completely free of any vampires or supernatural beings until the vampire that appears in the last few minutes.

    • After almost a full year of the implied off-screen physical relationship between Willow and Tara, the two finally share their first on-screen kiss, bringing an end to the WB's apparent policy about contact between same-sex partners.


    • Tara: Purple means ... royalty.

      The color purple has been a royal symbol since ancient Rome, when the color was reserved exclusively for use by emperors. This is probably due to the fact that purple dye was very expensive.

    • Willow: I had too much nog.

      This is a reference to Eggnog which is a drink consisting of milk or cream, sugar, and eggs beaten together. This drink is traditionally served at Christmas or New Year's and is often mixed with liquor such as rum or brandy.

    • Xander: The Avengers got to make with the assembling.

      The Avengers are a superhero team from Marvel comics. "Avengers Assemble" is their battle cry, usually shouted by a leader as they rush into combat.

    • Willow: Strong like an Amazon?
      This is a reference to the song "Amazons" by Phranc, the "all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger" and record-holding Tupperware Lady (I kid you not). Willow is quoting the line of the chorus. Whedon reveals this in the DVD commentary, but insists he didn't choose this song because of Willow's, Tara's and Phranc's sexual orientation. This is odd, since Phranc's success has mostly been with her gay audience. It makes sense that Willow and Tara would know this song, but it would make sense mostly because they're lesbians.

    • Willow: Strong like an Amazon?
      From Greek Mythology, the Amazons were a group of strong and fierce warrior women. The term is generally used today as a way to denote strong women figures. Two such icons are Wonder Woman and Xena: Warrior Princess.

    • Willow: Santa always passes me by. Something puts him off. Could be the big honkin' menorah.
      A Menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum used to celebrate the Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah, or the "festival of lights". Santa is the traditional figure of Christmas in Christian religion. Since Willow is Jewish, she doesn't celebrate Christmas.