Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 14, 2013

Podcast #95: The Body

Here’s the podcast for Season 5, Episode 16 – The Body

Buffy is left alone

Buffy is left alone

Download: The Body

RSS Feed: The Buffy Rewatch

The next podcast will appear on Monday 21st January 2012 for episode fifteen of Season Five: “Forever.” That’s the one where Buffy and Dawn continue to deal with Joyce’s death.

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  1. If ‘Fool For Love’ made me think of Buffy as a different kind of monster show, ‘The Body’ made me realise this is a special show, full stop.
    What happens is brutal and visceral. The shock of Joyce’s death was revealed in the last episode. Now we watch as our hero falls apart emotionally. The tone of this opening scene is so stark and quiet, with fixation on small details. Somehow this feels honest and painful to me; Joyce is gone, but life’s minutiae, the meaningless objects, are still there. When Buffy says, “We’re not supposed to move the body”, it sounds as if Joyce too, is now just an object.
    The scenes of happiness are a clever device, allowing us the chance of denial, to dip back into fantasy, while we know it is really an illusion. The abrupt changes of tone add to the disorienting feel. It left me uncomfortable, not knowing what to make of it or what to expect next.
    Continuing this, Anya’s typical lack of tact seems more out of place than ever. The situation is turned on its head, with her frankness being the only way the gang can find to speak their true feelings. I had to smile at this.
    But I didn’t like the change of tone for the fight scene. Possibly this was to demonstrate the true nature of Buffy’s calling, or there was studio pressure for a fight scene (cannot think of an episode without one right now). Maybe the lack of meaning was deliberate, but it did not work for me.
    This is one of the most memorable episodes, not just because of the change of tone and emotional content, but because it stands out from the comparable shows of its era. It could have been underplayed and restrained, but it decided to tackle the subject matter head-on. Credit also to Sarah Michelle Gellar, who portrayed the emotions of loss and inability to cope so very convincingly.
    In the wider context this also added tension to the upcoming episodes. That Joyce’s death was seemingly unconnected with Glory adds an extra dimension. To put it simply, we don’t know that Xander won’t get run over by a bus in the next episode. Although that would be a disappointingly mundane exit.
    Sidebar: Xander says “Avengers gotta get with the assembly.” Joss obviously had this on his mind for a while.

  2. I’d like to leave a voicemail this week but I have some kind of chest cold (hopefully it’s not the flu) and I can’t talk for long stretches without my voice dying on me and I have way too much to say about “The Body” and “Forever”.

    I checked out Cordia’s score (Robin’s wasn’t there) and skimmed your reviews before I listened to the podcast, as I do every week, So I went into the podcast anticipating that I would have to some very terse passive-aggressive things to say. After listening to the podcast though and reading the reviews I don’t disagree. I’m very difficult to please as a viewer and there are shots in “The Body” that I hate but I stand by my score of 99 just because I can’t give it any less. I hate the shot of Anya riding in the car just because that to be is just so film school “trying to be deep” to me, as is the extreme close up of the phone and the final vampire scene. Some of the shots look cheap and it just takes me back, two years, to my freshman year of college in my film production classes where pretentious students would do these abstract film with “interesting” angles and “extreme close-ups” because they wanted to do experiments with space on film.

    I just loathe that approach to film making especially since as you can tell probably tell anything I do creatively is never serious. By the way diegetic is pronounced dye-jet-ick and it is sounds that the characters can hear as opposed to non-diegetic which is the sounds the audience hears. So if I was forced to sit and talk about “The Body” things that bother me would inevitably start to bother me. Just watching it “The Body” never pulls me out of the episode, it’s only after that things bother me whereas with pretty much anything else I watch things will irk me in that moment. Joss Whedon has many talents but shot composition is not one of them.

    By the way, it brought me great joy when Cordia said she may like Tara now, that moment didn’t happen for me in “The Body” it happens in a later episode but that was exactly my reaction too.

    Also last point on “The Body” though I watched Buffy just around 2 years ago for the first time I managed to avoid all major spoilers. I was spoiled on just two big events both occurring in season five from outside sources. One was because of Jeopardy which I reveal when the episode happens and the other was through Kristine Sutherland’s imdb page. I like to go to actor’s imdb pages when I watch a new show or movie just to see if they did anything else and right at the discussion board section of her page is a post titled “After Joyce’s Death”. So the entirety of season 5 I was waiting for this moment to happen but it was any less effective.

    For me “The Body” is so effective because it captures the situation of sudden death perfectly. I’ve lost two family members in my life (my grandmom and my uncle) very suddenly and both “The Body” and “Forever” capture that grief and that undefinable degree of awkwardness that surrounds death.

    Now I have defended Dawn in the past and almost teared up at “Blood Ties” but for some reason I could not get into the main story of “Forever”. The only scenes in “Forever” that get me are those with Buffy and those scenes are really effective. It’s not the Dawn story is bad it is just that I think I’ve given all I can really give to Joyce being dead story.

    Spike is also extremely distracting to me in this episode. This is not the same Spike we saw two episodes ago. He is way too nice in this episode. I believe that he liked Joyce and would probably like to pay his respects though he should do that at her gravesite not at Buffy’s house. What bothers me about Spike is that he is helping Dawn and I don’t know what his motivations are for doing it. If the reason is that he doesn’t like seeing summers women hurt that is not the same character who is currently commissioning a BuffyBot. It is a level of compassion that Spike hasn’t had as a character yet and quite frankly shouldn’t ever have. Spike no longer feels like the semi-dangerous guy he has been all season.

    The moment that bothers me more than any other is when he tells Dawn that is too dangerous to go back after Dawn breaks the egg. There is a level of emotion and caring in Spike’s voice that should not be there in a soulless evil creature. Spike has not been a character who has been concerned about Dawn’s safety and makes sure she gets to bed by 10. Spike feels far too much like an overall good guy in this episode and that is worrying to me.

  3. I bet there will be a The Body part two podcast 😛

    I can’t say I’m completely shocked by your scores for “The Body.” Although yall are totally heartless robot critics :P. I thought yall were very articulate in getting your points across and can’t fault you for any criticisms. Although I do have to restrain the inner fan boy in me from screaming out “BUT YALL GAVE (episode such and such) A (anything higher than the Body)”. Its just because I love this episode so much that I would get defensive about it. I have a lot of respect for yall to be as open and honest about these episodes. I could never get angry with yall for having a different opinion because that’s YOUR opinion. And I love that yall allow everyone to express their opinions, and while yall may disagree, yall never judge. IN fact yall sometimes even push us to continue bringing up why we thought or felt a particular way which I love.

    I love that this podcast exists to have this open forum discussion. When you have different points of view brought to the table it makes you look more critically as a whole. You get to see things in a different light and are forced to look at WHY you felt a certain way about a particular thing.

    I think the fact that I even state that some people could fault with the end of the episode suggests that there is probably an issue with the pacing. However like many other emotional episode, because of the investment I felt throughout in many cases I turn a blind eye to these faults. I dont know if there is anything in media that you can say is perfect or to say completely without fault. I just find the emotional resonance and connection in this episode to be SO overwhelming that I (like Derek) can’t give it anything lower than something in the 90’s. I found that my score keeps going up every time I watch it, because it still says something to me and I find myself finding new things every time I revisit it. (Such as my outlook on the vampire fight at the end)

    Robin you brought up the narrative death of Jenny Calender and the difference with Joyce’s death (go check out Buffycast 1-4) and I know your statement was more to point out that they are very different and that Joyce’s death can’t be as dramatic. But I think the randomness of this death and what is to come from the fallout from this death make it have a much more resounding effect on the show as a whole. As a piece of drama Jenny’s death lets us have a very direct connection with “ooo now we need to get the bad guy.” I just found Joyce’s death to touch me in a much more personal and real life sort of way. I found “The Body”…I wouldn’t say more enjoyable(because it is so hard to watch) than something like Passion. But I think this is a better episode and would rank it as such.

    Critically speaking on the episode I think it is a statement of fact that the first half of the episode is stronger or at the very least more dramatic. The vampire fight could be seen as something tact on to inject a little bit of action into the end of the episode. I think that most audience members probably felt as numb as I did at this point. So it’s probably a conscious effort by the staff to finish the episode on a more dramatic note. It got cut from the podcast(BTW THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR INCLUDING AS MUCH AS YOU DID!!!), but I did have a problem with the supernatural element the first time around. I did feel like the fight was almost unnecessary and something used just to set up that last shot. However this time around it just hit me in a completely different way. And I did feel the drama and the struggle in the fight. It had a much darker tone to it then the “typical” Buffy fighting the regular spear carrying Vampire (go listen to the Buffycast 1-4) and while I never felt like there was any real danger of losing another character. I think I was emotionally raw enough and invested enough that the fight real worked for me this time around.

    I had forgotten until Cordia said something, but this episode is another example of the conversion from 4:3(TV/DVD) to 16:9(Netflix) being an issue. I hope seeing boom mics and such didn’t add to the taking you out of the episode.

    I can’t wait for when we can go back and look at the scores of the series overall. Then we can all bicker and fight about what was better than what. I need to start putting numerical values while we do this just so I can look back as well.

    FYI I just got my roommates into Buffy and They’re almost done with the first season now. Holy crap its weird to jump back that far. And really sad to see Joyce again .

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll go back to my ugly snot crying…but in a manly manly way. *Fist bump to Derek*

  4. Also for some reason I can comment at

    I would just say I’m scoring this 98 out of 100, because…

    It is “an episode which is not only exceptional but does something that other episodes can’t do.”

  5. The universe doesn’t care if you are having a crisis. That is the point of the intrusion of the vamp in the episode. Normal life interrupting on a crisis. And for Buffy vamps are normal life.

    • I totally agree. I agree with Cordia that it seemed out of place and it kind of bothered me because it took me out of the whole Joyce is dead feeling but I think that is what it’s about- that life continues regardless of what is happening and Buffy’s life happens to be fighting the evil dead. So, yep.

  6. My fan boy reaction to you not liking my favorite episode as much…

    “I am hurt.
    A plague a’ both your houses! I am sped.”

  7. Re: The Body
    Sorry but I wussed out of watching this episode again so I feel I lose the right to comment but perhaps that does prove something about its power. I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet that Joss Wheldon’s own mother died of an aneurysm like Joyce so I imagine this was a very personal episode for him.

    Re: Forever
    Nice that Angel pops up again. It was a good part of the structure of Wheldon’s shows that it allowed actors to cross-over occasionally and it was a very natural thing to happen. Shame that his appearance is sign posted in the credits.
    I would concur with Derek’s comments that Spike does act a little too kindly. I would have felt furious with Dawn after she dropped the egg but he seems comparatively understanding.
    I was very touched though by the main theme of this episode – Dawn wanting her mother back in some form. I think most people that have lost someone close have yearned for that at some point. The last scene between Dawn and Buffy was wonderful, with some heart-rending acting from Sarah Michelle Geller. Oh god, the bit where she runs to the door to find nothing there…sorry….I’m off to cry girly non-snotty tears.

  8. Ugh, I wrote up a huge comment and the internet ate it. I’m just going to summarize my thoughts quickly since I don’t want to type it all out again.

    – wasn’t Joyce’s death the first non-supernatural for the series?
    – I used to work in a morgue, not all bodies have their eyes closed. It may have been a deliberate choice to convey the numbness and shock of grief.
    – the vampire at the end didn’t surprise me, I more thought “of course there’s a vampire, this is Buffy.” As others have pointed out, it just shows that life in Sunnydale goes on, there is still evil to fight.

    – kind of a meh episode for me
    – Angel’s appearance kind of bothers me. He doesn’t really add anything to the episode, other than giving Buffy a chance to make out with him.
    – Tara and Willow’s conversations about the appropriate use of magic was very interesting. Tara has strong convictions about what is and isn’t the right way to use magic, but Willow seems to be more willing to experiment with it. I do wonder, did she really think that she wouldn’t attempt the spell? Was she hoping that that Dawn would go through with it? Wasn’t she concerned about Dawn’s well being (since we have seen that powerful magic can cause physical injuries)?
    – felt disappointed that not even the audience gets a glimpse of the zombie Joyce.

    • “Angel’s appearance kind of bothers me. He doesn’t really add anything to the episode, other than giving Buffy a chance to make out with him” – this made me “lol”

  9. On Forever:
    Kind of a meh episode after The Body- understandable since it would be hard to top the intensity. I thought the reactions of Willow and Tara when Dawn said she wanted to use magic to bring Joyce back were very iteresting. Tara is completely against it and seems sure that it is wrong and should never be tried- she thinks about what the consequences could be and realizes that sometimes you just have to deal with what happens in life. Willow, on the other hand, is more held back by the fact that she doesn’t think it can be done but the way she talks about it makes it seem like it would be something she would definitely try without giving too much thought to the consequences She only agrees with the “wrongness” of it for Tara’s sake it seems like. Little hint there.
    I didn’t really like Dawn in this episode- not sure if it’s because I just don’t really like Dawn that much as a character yet or if Michelle T. just doesn’t pull off the acting very well… eh, I just couldn’t feel bad for her. She chooses to isolate herself when she and Buffy could be comforting each other and gets angry at Buffy for, what? Planning her mom’s funeral? Trying to deal with what’s going on? I get that she’s 15 or whatever but sometimes I think Dawn is portrayed as way to immature and selfish (not necessarily in this episode but just in general). I did like their conversation at the end of the episode as the zombie Joyce is approaching- Buffy trying to keep busy to avoid thinking about what would happen now that joyce is gone is totally believable. I thought not showing Joyce made it that much creepier and emphasized the sense of “wrongness” about her being back. If we would have seen her I think the effect would have been diminished.

  10. Hey guys – long time listener, first time poster here!

    I love this episode of Buffy so much, but I am not at all offended by your scores or reviews. Part of what makes this show so amazing is that it covers all different types of genres. That’s what makes its fan base so diverse. People can enjoy it for the comedy, the acting, the scares, the action, or the writing. Either way, this show is incredible and I appreciate what you guys do spending all the time preparing and giving me an hour or more a week to be able to relive each episode and rethink my views on things, so thank you both so much.

    In response to Robin’s critique of Anya’s reaction to Joyce’s death in “The Body”, my point of view as to why she reacted so strongly to this was because it was a natural death. While certainly no stranger to death by supernatural causes, Anya has never (to our knowledge) experienced a natural death first-hand. She has killed random people, either directly or indirectly, for over 1,000 years, but this time somebody she knew just died. I think that it is difficult for her to comprehend that somebody could just die naturally. Nobody cursed Joyce or sent a demon after her; she just died. I think a major part of this that really freaks Anya out is that this will happen to her. As we have already seen earlier this season (I believe in The Replacement) she is beginning to cope with life as a mortal and it scares her. For such a long time, she was immortal and never had to worry about death or getting hurt. Now, however, Anya will die and there is nothing she can do to change that and even scarier, it could happen at any time. As Joyce was presumably in her 50’s and Anya is in her 20’s, that gives her maybe only 30 years left – and after living for over 1,000 that seems to be quite a drastic change.
    To a larger extent, I think that that is the whole point of this episode. Buffy and her friends are subjected to violent, supernatural deaths on an almost daily basis. They can fight back and “balance the scales” so to speak. They can save lives by defeating the forces of evil, but this is not evil. This is a nature. Buffy cannot slay Joyce’s aneurysm or cast a spell to resolve it. She cannot prevent it from happening again. She cannot save the world in this case. In this episode, she is not a slayer, she is just an ordinary girl faced with a devastating challenge. In a show that gives us supernatural scares every week, this, to me, is truly the scariest episode, because it is so true and unavoidable.


    On a side note, I’d just like to thank you both for doing the podcast. I am so passionate about this show and I don’t really know anybody else who is so I love to listen to people talking about it in such an intelligent way. I am a registered nurse and every Monday I take my hour break and listen to the show. It is a great way to de-stress and disconnect when days get really hard and it really helps keep me going so thank you guys so much.

  11. On The Body:

    As somebody who is currently watching through all of Buffy for the first time (Final season) and discovered this great podcast early on in my viewings, I have to say that something has been nagging me since I got to this podcast. Forgive me if my memory isn’t fresh, it’s been a few months since I listened to it, but if I remember correctly Robin wasn’t a big fan of Anya’s reaction in this… I’d like to give my view on the scene, simply because it’s constantly brought up.

    Let me first say that this isn’t my favorite scene in the episode, that honor belongs to the first ten or so minutes when Buffy is simply alone with “The Body” However Anya’s scene really did stand out to me when I watched it.

    Forgive me if I can’t get a clear point across, this is my first time trying to look with a critical eye and spell it out.

    To me, Anya’s reaction to Joyce’s death is the reaction a child would have, while she certainly isn’t new to the concept of death it’s clear she has never experienced a natural one from an outsider’s prospective, much less somebody she knew. I get the feeling that Joss wanted to have a take on how a small child of maybe 5 to 10 would react to death, which to me makes sense for Anya to be in that role, after a thousand years as a demon she is new to the concept of being human again, learning everything for the first time, the joy’s of love, the way “normal” people speak, and now death. Natural death is but a concept to her before this, not a reality, much like a child see’s death.

    Dawn is the youngest character on the show to react to Joyce’s death, however she still seems to understand clearly that her mother is gone, she just needs to see it with her own eyes to confirm it. Anya on the other hand seems to understand that Joyce is gone, but simply cannot comprehend that a person who she spent time with and seemed like a nice person is ripped away without reason. After all, in her eyes the only people that deserve death are those who have hurt other’s in a relationship. She thinks like a child, working on strictly emotion and speaking her mind whenever anything pops into her head. Sure she does act like a grown women, what with constant talk of sex, but she still deals with it like a child, demanding what she wants often and even bragging about her sex life to others without thinking of their feelings towards it.

    Anyway, there’s my two cents… hope I got my point across.

  12. I’m glad that Anya’s speech worked for so many people, but for me, the speech was the worst part of the episode.

    First, I don’t buy that Anya doesn’t understand death. How can you be a vengeance demon if you don’t understand what happens when people die? On top of that, over a thousand years, some of her demon acquaintances must have been slain or killed each other. If this speech had been about how as a demon, her emotions were different, I could have bought it, but I didn’t see that in “I don’t understand why she can’t just come back.”

    Second, I don’t buy that Anya cares that much about JOYCE. Anya didn’t become a Scooby until Season Four, so we have hardly ever seen her and Joyce together. Anya barely cares about Willow or Buffy, so it’s hard to see her this worked up about the death of her boyfriend’s best friend’s mom. Again, I guess you could say that post-Dawn, Anya now remembers having a close relationship with Joyce, but it doesn’t work for me because I didn’t see it and the speech didn’t lay the groundwork.

    Third and most importantly, I thought Anya’s panic before she launched into the big speech was much more in character. It’s not that Anya doesn’t know what death is, it’s that she doesn’t know what to DO or SAY. The one person she does care about – Xander – is in pain, and Anya knows that all of her social instincts are wrong, so she starts to panic. The part that works for me is when Anya says “Am I supposed to change my clothes a lot? What am I supposed to do. . . . Nobody will tell me!”

    Maybe I’m just projecting, but I totally emphathise with that experience – where someone is in pain and I haven’t had the experience or judgment to know what to do. In real life, you take your best guess and hope it helps, but in the show, it’s totally in character for Anya to want to do the right thing to help Xander, and to be completely at sea what that might be.

  13. Whoops – I should have listened to a few more podcasts before commenting. I just heard Andrew’s idea that Anya is reacting to Joyce dying of natural causes, and I love it, but personally, it doesn’t work for me.

    I would have loved it if Anya had said something like “It’s not fair that Joyce died. She didn’t do anything wrong, and now she’s gone and she’ll never get to (etc)” That would make total sense for a newly mortal former vengeance demon, but she doesn’t say that. To my ears, she basically said that she doesn’t understand death itself.

  14. We are closing in on 2018 and I just found the podcast a couple of months ago. Sorry I missed out on all the fun. I just wanted to say that while watching The Body is emotional and heart-wrenching, I have no problem watching it. I did, however, find myself stopping the podcast halfway through and switching over to some Taylor Swift music and then, despite having listened to 3 podcasts a day for several weeks, didn’t listen to the podcast again for a week. And I had to skip ahead. To Intervention. My mom passed away almost 20 years ago and my dad and I found her at home so hearing the episode being described in great detail was especially hard. Watching the episode I feel more of a comradery with Buffy than say, dredging up past memories.

    I couldn’t get past what Cordia said about how she didn’t like the vomit scene and would that actually happen. It didn’t happen to me, but I could see how it might for others.

    Anyways, I’ve now made it to the end of season 5 of the podcast and am deeply looking forward to listening to season 6! I’ve watched the entire series through only once because I just started watching in March before it left Netflix (and continued again when it joined Hulu a month later) I breezed through in about 4 months and then found myself at working wanting a podcast to listen to and started rewatching again (albeit, not one episode a week). I unfortunately did not remain spoiler free during my first run as I have a habit of looking things up. Pretty much every major spoiler for the entire series was spoiled for me before I got to it.

    • Hey, thanks so much for posting. It’s great to know people are still finding the podcast. No episode has made me question my own critical skills like “The Body.” The reaction of so many listeners made it clear that if you’ve experienced the death of someone close then this episode is a very different experience. I hope you continue to enjoy the show and Buffy 🙂

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