Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | May 27, 2013

Robin’s Review: S6, E08 – Tabula Rasa

Synopsis: Giles tells Buffy that he plans to leave. Tara begins breaking up with Willow. Willow promises to use no magic for a week to prove she can live without it. She immediately breaks that promise and casts a spell to not only make Tara forget but to also erase the memory of Buffy’s time in heaven. The spell gets out of control and wipes all the Scoobies memories just as some vampires are sent by a loan shark to collect kittens from Spike.

The Good: This was a curious episode. I originally watched it with a crowd of fellow Buffy lovers at university and we all laughed hard. On Rewatch though a lot of the gags felt too big and too broad. It felt like an episode designed to rock a live crowd sitting in a cinema together. As the way to send Tara and Giles on their way I’m not sure it was the strongest. The big comedy showpiece felt almost like a distraction to avoid having several teary goodbyes.

The basic plot points were hit just fine. We may disagree with Giles’ logic or his timing but he makes the case which he sang in the previous episode. Buffy has been leaning unnecessarily on him at times and now she won’t be able to. Tara stands up for herself and clearly doesn’t want to break up with the love of her life. But it’s the right thing to do and by giving Willow only a week to avoid magic she makes it clear how far gone she thinks she is.

She is proven right and we head into comic memory loss. Plenty of the gags still worked. Giles and Spike realising how British they are or speculating that they are father and son were fun (See Best Moment). The whole sequence where Giles and Anya were left to bicker over magic was funny and an unexpected use of their dynamic. The cut to Giles fighting a skeleton or Anya sincerely acknowledging “That was the wrong book” after filling the room with bunnies were lovely bits of timing. There were some crowd pleasing moments with Buffy picking the name Joan or Spike calling himself a “Vampire with a soul” to Buffy’s disinterest.

The final shot of Buffy and Spike making out was nicely underplayed to show us that little has changed for her. With Giles leaving she needs comfort more than ever and he remains a willing slave.

The Bad: It wasn’t very clear what “default setting” the spell had returned the characters to. It seemed like the writers just took which parts of the characters they wanted to keep for the purpose of the plot. Xander for example performed the whole religious begging routine from The Mummy at the first sight of danger (and fainted) but was then fighting bravely down in the sewers. He wasn’t the only one who flip flopped between complete ignorance and a nagging sense of who they were. Tara’s stutter was back but Buffy very quickly remembered all the fighting moves which you need training to master. And wouldn’t Spike have the instincts of a vampire if you took away his memories?

That confusion over how memory loss would actually work coloured some of the dialogue. The gang’s reaction to the vampires was bordering on child speak (“to slay someone? A female someone?”) and the way Buffy and Dawn learnt they were sisters felt very convenient. Dawn had a pretty bad episode character-wise, asking not to be hurt when no one was being threatening and then sulking when Tara tried to hug her goodbye.

To have an actual shark play Spike’s “Loan shark” was about as broad and low as the writers have ever stooped. And I didn’t appreciate the extended commercial for Michelle Branch and her band. It was particularly galling as it replaced any meaningful goodbye scene with Tara and Giles. I know we have said goodbye to Giles once already this season but it couldn’t help but feel odd to see him slip away so quietly.

The Unknown: It was an interesting choice to use Giles one last time for comedy. As they did give us an emotional goodbye scene back in the season opener I am a bit more forgiving of that decision. I’m not so sure about Tara and Willow. I guess we don’t know if we will see her again. She has been around for so long now that it’s hard to imagine she is gone for good. But will we follow her story or will she disappear until Willow can win her back?

Best Moment: “Randy Giles!?”

The Bottom Line: My memories of this were good. The reality on Rewatch is that this fits with the broader pattern of comedy in Season Six. With the exception of “Once More” the comedy has been loud and broad. At times it’s still very funny but it can now be awkward and jarring in a way it used not to be. In terms of plot this was more like a confirmation of the changes which “Once More” brought to the group. Perhaps with Tara and Giles out of the picture the reduced Scooby ensemble will get more time to shine.

66/100

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