Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episode Guide
Season 4, Episode 10
Original Airdate: December 14, 1999
Written and directed by Joss Whedon
Yes, this is a gimmick episode, for the majority of which the characters cannot speak. In a way, it's the flip side of the coin to Once More, With Feeling, the musical episode. Both are smack in the middle of the season, and tie existing plot threads together in ways that would have been much trickier to do without the excuse of new dialogue rules.
A hell of a lot of major stuff happens in this ep, with repercussions still being felt. Buffy and Riley get together, Willow meets Tara, and Xander realizes how much Anya means to him. (Would anyone have guessed that two years later, that third relationship is the only one still standing?)
We begin with Buffy in class as the professor outlines the importance of language, and we realize it's a dream when she tells Buffy to lie down on her desk so Riley can finally kiss her. She wakes up (still in class) and she and Riley exchange a few words but really don't make any progress.
Willow goes to Wicca group and is disappointed by how little action the sisters evince. She suggests spells, and is mocked, but she gets the attention of a girl with Kurt Cobain hair and baggy clothes sitting on the floor.
Anya is frustrated with Xander because she doesn't know if the relationship means anything to him besides physicality. Giles makes Spike stay with Xander, as his lady friend Olivia is coming from the UK to spend the night.
While the town sleeps, a group of floating ghouls in three-piece suits convenes in the clock tower, and sucks the citizens' voices out of their mouths, across the sky, and into a small wooden box. When everyone wakes, they are unable to speak, and general panic ensues. Best comedic moment: Xander calling Buffy and Willow on the phone to tell them he's lost his voice.
But that's a bit of an exception: This crisis is given a mood of genuine despair, as no one can quite figure out how to function with the loss of something so easily taken for granted. Willow and Buffy see a man on a street corner selling magic marker message boards on a string for ten bucks a pop, and are rightfully disgusted. They buy them anyway.
Xander brings Spike back to Giles' place. He later walks in and, due to a misconstruance of awkward positions, thinks Spike is biting Anya. He punches Spike and Anya is all "Awww" and stuff. Spike still can't do anything, due to the Initiate's restraint chip in his head. Buffy and Riley meet on the street, and without anything to say, they spontaneously kiss before they part.
That night, the well-dressed floaters murder an innocent college student, and the next night, another. Between the message boards and Giles' overhead transparencies, the Scoobies are able to formulate a rough analysis and strategy. The demons are collecting human hearts, seven of them. They can't be killed by any weapon except a scream.
The following night, Buffy locates the ghouls' hiding place in the clock tower as Tara finds Willow's name and address in a student directory and goes looking for her. As she crosses the campus lawn, the ghouls spot her and begin pursuit. This sequence is a triumph of parallel action, as the orchestral score fills the silence much more emphatically than is typical.
Tara finds Willow, with the ghouls right behind her in the dorm halls, and the two of them hide in a student lounge, where Willow attempts to telekinetically move a soda machine to bar the door, but she can't do it. Tara takes her hand, and looks deep into her eyes: Trust me. The machine slams against the door. A spark passes between them as they grin. We seem to sense more than just friendship, but that's not possible...is it?
After Buffy wallops the butts of a few insane servant demons, she ends up in a crossbow Mexican standoff with Riley, who's in uniform. Before they can begin to fight together, there's a large WHA? quotient that needs to be digested--she didn't know about the Initiative, he didn't know about the Slayer. There's clever economy in placing these two scenes in this particular episode. Any other time, the characters would be compelled to extensively discuss the ramifications of these new realizations. Since they can't speak, we can just speed along to the next ass-kickin'.
That takes place upstairs in the tower, where Buffy, tied up in a demonic headlock, has Riley smash the box, and she screams to kill the demons. Boo-ya!
So: The long-awaited Willow-Tara dialogue scene. It's daylight, and they can pretend a bit of that magic is gone. Magic is what they discuss:
Willow: I'm nothing special.
Tara: No, you are.
They both smile.
Yes, folks, it appears Oz ruined her for all other men.
Riley comes to Buffy's room, and they sit down to have the talk they know they both need. They sit in an awkward silence. And we cut to black. The message is clear: Words just won't work with these two.
As always in Joss-directed episodes, the Steadicam work is impressive throughout, and there are cute signifiers that refer to the episode as a whole outside the context of the scene they're in. My favorite here is that the last line before the laryngitis is Olivia (to Giles): "I think that's enough small talk, don't you?"