Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Body

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The Body
The Body
Season 5, Episode 16
Airdate February 27, 2001
Production Number 5ABB16
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
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Buffy the Vampire SlayerSeason Five

It's always sudden. —Tara Maclay

The Body is the sixteenth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the ninety-fourth episode overall, and is an emotional 42-minute trip through the different methods of accepting and dealing with death as Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang deal with the shocking and abrupt death of Joyce.

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

and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles)

Guest Starring: Randy Thompson (Doctor Kriegel), Amber Benson (Tara)

and Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers)

Co-Starring: Kevin Cristaldi (First Paramedic), Stefan Umstead (Second Paramedic), Loanne Bishop (911 Operator) (voice), J. Evan Bonifant (Kevin), Kelli Garner (Kirstie), Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly (Lisa), Tia Matza (Teacher), John Michael Herndon (Vampire)


Plot Overview

Buffy, her sister, and friends must all cope with the sudden and unexpected death of Joyce.


Monster of the Week

  • Because of the nature of this episode, there was no Monster of the Week presented.

Body Count

# Whom By Whom How Where
1 Vampire Buffy Decapitated Morgue

Arc Advancement



  • Joyce: Joyce dies suddenly of an aneurysm, some time after surgery to remove a brain tumor (featured earlier in the season).
  • Tara: Tara's mother died when she was only seventeen.
  • Anya: Anya has her first experience of 'up close and personal' death since becoming human and cannot understand what is happening and why.


  • The Freshman: Buffy jokes about Joyce dying from a brain aneurysm with Willow in the UC Sunnydale Bookstore.
  • Restless: Buffy sees Joyce trapped in a wall in her dream sequence. This signified Joyce's inevitable death.
  • This Year's Girl: Some people say that if you have a dream of an open grave, while it is raining, someone you know will die within a year. Faith had a dream like this in the referenced episode.
  • Band Candy: Joyce and Giles have sex after they are reverted to their teenage selves when they eat enchanted candy being inadvertently sold by Sunnydale High's students.
As long as you stay away from the band candy.


The Show

  • Kiss: This is the first time Willow and Tara kiss on-screen. It was placed in this episode because Joss didn't want something as controversial as a lesbian kiss on network television to be the focal point of an episode, so he inserted it where it felt the most natural.
  • Musical Vacuum: There is no music in this episode in order to capture a sense of boredom and reality.
  • Previously On...: This is one of the few Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes that doesn't have a previously attached to it.
  • Unseen: James Marsters does not appear in this episode.

Behind the Scenes

  • Blink: Kristine Sutherland blinked at one point in the footage they aired during the morgue scenes, but was eventually re-edited as to cut out the frames of her blinking.
  • It's Christmas: The Christmas flashback that occurs in the beginning of the episode occurs because Joss Whedon didn't want the cast credits to be played during Buffy's present-day scene with her mother.
  • Too Late: Joss mentioned that had he received another chance to direct the Christmas scene, he would have had Joyce at the table with the rest of the Scooby Gang, instead of having her as a peripherary member in the kitchen. The reason it was originally shot this way is that Joyce's interruption of the table during the scene was a metaphor for Joyce being in and out of the Scooby Gang's lives.
  • Allergies: 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.
  • Nielsens: This was the 82nd highest rated show of the week when it aired, garnering a 3.5 in the Nielsen ratings.

Allusions and References

  • Amazons: Amazons are powerful women figures from Greek mythology. On another level, it's also a song by Phranc, the "all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger." Joss Whedon insists, however, that he didn't choose the song based on the common sexual orientation between the three. It makes sense that Willow and Tara know the song because not only are they lesbians, but Willow is Jewish.
Willow: Strong like an Amazon?
  • Burnt Bunboy: The stuffed toy Anya quickly grabs after her monologue in Burnt Bunboy, a Japanese character that Joss and his wife are big fans of.
  • The Avengers: The Avengers are a Marvel Comics superhero team created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963. Originally gathered together to battle Loki, the team was first comprised of Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Ant Man and the Wasp. Since then, the team has undergone significant changes and is now most identifiable by Captain America and their rallying cry, "Avengers Assemble."
Xander: The Avengers gotta get with the assembling.

Memorable Moments

  • Dawn breaks down into tears after she insists that Buffy tells her the bad news in the middle of the school hallway.
  • Anya gives off a long monologue, frustrated at the fact that she has been trying so hard to understand mortality and human life but still cannot grasp the concept.


  • Buffy: What are ya doin'? Mom? Mom? Mommy?
  • Anya: No, I mean, it's a myth that it's a myth. There is a Santa Claus.
Xander: The advantage of having a thousand year old girlfriend. Inside scoop.
  • Buffy: She's cold.
911 Operator: The body is cold?
Buffy: No, my mom! Sh-Should I make her warm?
  • Giles: (on phone) Hello?
Buffy: Giles, you have to come.
Giles: Buffy?
Buffy: She's at the house.
  • Buffy: We're not supposed to move the body!
  • Anya: Are they gonna cut the body open?
Willow: Oh my god! Would you just stop talking? Just shut your mouth, please!
Anya: What am I doing?
Willow: How can you act like that?
Anya: Am I supposed to be changing my clothes a lot? Is that the helpful thing to do?
Xander: Guys...
Willow: The way you behave --
Anya: Nobody will tell me.
Willow: Because it's not okay for you to be asking these things!
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 Xander's crying and not talking and I was having fruit punch and I thought, "Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she'd never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever." And no one will explain to me why.
  • Xander: In my defence, some crappy wallmanship here.
Willow: Yeah, you can hear everything next door.
Xander: Who did the drywall on this place?
Willow: I always forget to ask.
  • Tara: Did I miss something?
Anya: Xander decided that he blames the wall.
  • Buffy: Giles says he's gonna go over the paperwork.
Xander: Man, if there's one day they should not give you homework.
  • Anya: I wish that Joyce didn't die. Because she was nice and now we all hurt.
Xander: Anya, ever the wordsmith.
Buffy: Thank you.
  • Buffy: Was it sudden?
Tara: What?
Buffy: Your mother.
Tara: No. And yes. It's always sudden.
  • Dawn: Is she cold?
Buffy: It's not her. It's not her. She's gone.
Dawn: Where'd she go?


  • Overall Grade: A+ with 2 reviews
  • Review Breakdown: A+: 2 A: 0 A-: 0 B+: 0 B: 0 B-: 0 C+: 0 C: 0 C-: 0 D: 0 F: 0
  • The Body is one of those episodes that gets to everyone. It doesn't matter if you're the most stoic television watcher in existence; if you've invested any amount of time into this series, you will break down. Joyce is one of the most well-developed characters in the series and was a great counterpoint to Buffy and eventually Dawn as her role as a mother, and then, just like that, she's gone from the series. A lot of people say that this series marks the beginning of the end for the show as, without a mother figure for Dawn, Buffy is forced to fill that role, which leads us to the unfortunate events and decreased quality in season six. However, this episode taken individually is a treat to witness, if not incredibly hard to force yourself to watch after knowing what the episode is about. My only complaint about the episode is that after several strong acts, the episode kinda falters its way to the end, starting with the hospital scene. However, a trivial complaint in an otherwise perfect, emotional, and gripping episode. Enjoy your Emmy for this one, Joss... oh wait, I forgot; the Academy hates WB shows. A+ --Wizardryo 15:42, 24 Aug 2005 (PDT)
  • As someone who recently lost his mother to an extremely sudden death (through blood clotting, incidentally), this episode really hurts. That's the sign of a great episode, something that subtly captures how the few left behind feel. The little touches, like Buffy never looking the paramedic in the eye and the extremely brief imagination sequence where Buffy makes things alright paralleled my experience. All of these simple little things like the awkward camera movements, the focus on the children in class watching rather than Buffy breaking the bad news conveyed more emotion than the music ever could. The acting and writing felt so genuine and so raw that it captured the reality of losing a parental figure at her age. This episode conveyed a sense of horror that hadn't been achieved since Hush, but it was interesting seeing the characters deal with something metaphysically terrifying rather than a demon or a vampire that can be killed and gotten closure from. The reality of the episode is crushing. An award wouldn't be able to capture how much emotional impact the episode conveys. This is what television should be. A+ --IndieRockLance 11:23, 3 Sep 2005 (PDT)