Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Listening to Fear

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Listening to Fear
Listening to Fear
Season 5, Episode 9
Airdate November 28, 2000
Production Number 5ABB09
Written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Directed by David Solomon
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Into the Woods
Buffy the Vampire SlayerSeason Five

Listening to Fear is the tenth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the eighty-eighth episode overall, and fractures Buffy and Riley's relationship beyond repair. A strange alien creature has landed in Sunnydale via a fallen meteorite. Upon its arrival, there are several killings of mentally ill people. But with Joyce's brain tumor, he perceived insanity may be the end of her.

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers), Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Alyson Hannigan (Willow Rosenberg), Marc Blucas (Riley Finn), Emma Caulfield (Anya), Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn Summers), James Marsters (Spike)

and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles)

Guest Starring: Charlie Weber (Ben), Nick Chinlund (Major Ellis), Kevin Weisman (Dreg), Randy Thompson (Doctor Kriegel), Amber Benson (Tara)

and Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers)

Co-Starring: Paul Hayes (Older Nightwatchman), Keith Allan (Skinny Mental Patient), Erin Leigh Price (Vampire Chick), April Adams (Nurse Lampkin), Barbara C. Adside (Creature), Debbie Lee Carrington (Creature)

Uncredited: Bailey Chase (Graham Miller)


Plot Overview

An extraterrestrial creature falls to earth and begins killing the mentally ill. The Scoobies try to tackle the situation, so as to allow Buffy to take care of her mother before her surgery. Unfortunately, Joyce's tumour causes her a slight mental instability that sets her up as a target for the creature.


Monster of the Week

  • Queller Demon: In ancient times, people believed that the moon caused insanity and would pray to the moon in order to fix the problems that it caused. Their prayers were answered in the form of the queller demon, who would come to Earth in a hollow meteor and would hunt and kill the mentally ill. The demon has history dating back most recently to Russia in 1917 and as far as the 12th century in Iceland in response to sweeping plagues of madness.

Body Count

# Whom By Whom How Where
1 Crazy Man Queller Demon Choked Woods
2/3/4/5 Crazy Men Queller Demon Choked Hospital
6 Queller Demon Buffy Stabbed Buffy's Kitchen

Arc Advancement


  • Ben & Glory: It is revealed that Ben summoned the Queller Demon in order to clean up after Glory's making people insane to sustain her life in the mortal plane. It is understood that Ben and Glory have been at odds for a long time and the demon had been summoned previously because of Glory or someone like Glory.


  • Joyce: Joyce is released from the hospital and readmitted later on in the episode in order to undergo the surgery to remove her brain tumor. She also discovers that Dawn isn't really her daughter after going through her temporary insanity.



The Show

  • Finding Dead Bodies: Willow comments that she doesn't want to be the one who finds dead bodies anymore. This is in reference to when she discovered corpses in "Prophecy Girl", "Doomed" and "Real Me".
  • Outer Where?: Although the gang routinely deals with demons coming from below, this is the first time that they have to handle something that comes from space.

Behind the Scenes

  • Initia-Who?: Although he makes an appearance and has lines in this episode, Bailey Chase is uncredited.

Allusions and References

  • Jell-O: Jell-O is a gelatin dessert product, but it is also a name generally used (like Kleenex or Band-Aid) for non Jell-O brand foods. Gelatin is a protein made from collagen, which is typically found in the bones and skin of cows. The bones and skin are put in acid and the solution that results is processed to make gelatin.
Dawn: There's a girl at school told me that gelatin is made from ground-up cow's feet, and that if you eat Jell-O, there's some cow out there limping with no feet.
  • Mercury and Saturn: While Mercury and Saturn are planets, they are also American car companies. Saturn, an independent manufacturer, produces three types of vehicles; the L-Series, the SC-Series and the S-Series are all mid-to-compact sized vehicles. Mercury is a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company which, conversely, mainly makes mid-to-full sized sedans and SUVs.
Xander: (about the planets) Look at how teeny Mercury is compared to, like, Saturn. Whereas in contrast, the cars of the same name...

Memorable Moments

  • Joyce's random outbursts as she descends more and more into insanity.
  • Buffy's battle with the queller demon in her home.
  • Joyce realizing that Dawn isn't really her child.


  • Factual Error: Although Willow says that the Tunguska blast occurred in 1917, it actually happened in 1908.


  • Buffy: Waiting? Give me a break. We got - We got tons to do.
Dawn: We have soap operas to watch and trashy magazines to read.
Buffy: And an adjustable bed to fiddle with. That alone will keep me busy for four hours or so.
  • Giles: Oh my god, what a rough night.
Willow: Ha haa! I just did two of 'em! Yay on me. That was pretty cool. Except the part where I was all terrified, and now my knees are all dizzy.
  • Buffy: You got her a book on spells? The girl who can break things by just looking at them, now has a book to teach her to break things by looking at them.
  • Willow: Something evil crashed to earth in this and then broke out and slithered away to do badness.
Giles: In all fairness, I don't think we know about the slithered part.
Anya: Oh, no. I'm sure it frisked about like a fluffy lamb.
  • Riley: That might be toxic. Don't touch it.
Xander: Oh, yeah, touching it was my first impulse. Luckily, I've moved on to my second, which involves dry heaving and running like hell.
  • Willow: So, we'll just figure this out ourselves. We're experienced.
Anya: Yes, 'cause it seems like we're always dealing with creatures from outer space... except that we don't ever do that.
  • Giles: Perhaps we should explore a bit more. Head into the woods a bit.
Xander: Who votes research?
Anya: Me.
Willow: Research.
Giles: Much better idea.
Riley: Yeah, I think that's a good call.
  • Xander: Look at how teeny Mercury is, compared to, like, Saturn. Whereas in contrast, the cars of the same name...
  • Xander: I still don't get why we had to come here to get info about a killer snot monster.
Giles: Because it's a killer snot monster from outer space. I did not say that.
  • Joyce: No matter what she is, she still feels like my daughter. I have to know that you'll take care of her, that you'll keep her safe, that you'll love her like I love you.
Buffy: I promise.