Tabula Rasa (Buffy episode)

Tabula Rasa (Buffy episode)

Infobox Television episode
Title=Tabula Rasa

Series=Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Airdate=13 November 2001
Writer=Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director=David Grossman
Guests=Anthony Stewart Head
Raymond O'Connor
(Teeth, the Loan Shark)
Amber Benson
Episode list=List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes
Prev=Once More, with Feeling

"Tabula Rasa" is the eighth episode in season 6 of the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". It explores the characters not as they are, but as they could be, after they lose their memory to a spell gone awry.

Plot synopsis


Buffy and Spike meet in a cemetery as Buffy is "patrolling" for vampires. Spike wants to talk about their kiss (in the previous episode), but Buffy is still in denial. Suddenly, they are ambushed by goons working for a loan shark demon, to whom Spike owes forty Siamese kittens as a gambling debt. Meanwhile, Xander, Anya, Tara, and Willow discuss what heaven must have been like for Buffy. Willow and Tara argue over an amnesia spell, and Tara insists that Willow is dependent on magic. Willow promises to go a week without using magic.

The next day, the gang is set to meet at the Magic Box. Willow pretends to be running late. When the others go on ahead, she gets dressed using magic, then performs another amnesia spell by burning herbs in Buffy's fireplace and pocketing a crystal that will turn from clear to black once the spell takes effect. While she is out, however, the whole bag of herbs catches fire and everyone in the Magic Box falls into a deep magical sleep. Upon awakening, Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow, Anya, Tara, Dawn, and Spike have no idea who or where they are.

The loan shark returns with his vamp thugs that evening to demand payment from Spike. A confrontation occurs and Buffy realizes that she is "some kind of super hero." She volunteers to help Spike while the others try to get to a hospital to find out what is wrong with them. During the fray with the henchmen, Spike unwittingly puts on his "game face." He and Buffy realize that, although she is a hero and he a vampire, they have no desire to kill each other.

The rest of the Scooby Gang attempts to flee through the sewers, where they meet a lone vampire. After running from him for some time, they confront him and Xander kills him. In the heat of pursuit, however, Willow and Tara are knocked over. The stone controlling the spell falls out of Willow's purse and is crushed, ending the spell. Tara immediately realizes that the amnesia was Willow's doing.

Spike and Buffy meet, and kiss, in the Bronze, Giles is heartbroken on his flight back to London, and Tara packs her things to move out of Buffy's house.

Expanded overview

Buffy patrols and runs into Spike who wants to talk about their kiss. A demon loan shark (with a shark's head) confronts Spike about his kitten debt, but Buffy steps in and takes care of the thugs looking to beat 40 Siamese out of Spike. Willow, Xander, Anya and Tara talk about calling Buffy back from Heaven and their feelings in the aftermath of the truth. Willow suggests fixing the mess with a spell and Tara confronts her about her excessive and damaging use of magic. At the threat of losing Tara, a desperate Willow offers to go a month without magic to prove that she is not dependent. Tara asks her to try for a week.

Giles informs Buffy that he is leaving for England and Buffy takes the news very badly. He knows she is too dependent on him and he must leave if she's ever going to learn to survive on her own. Without her magic, Willow is late getting ready to leave the house so Tara and Dawn leave without her. She then uses magic to get dressed quickly and starts another spell by the fireplace that will make Tara and Buffy forget the damages of the spells Willow used on them. In her rush, she accidentally leaves a bag of the Lethe's Bramble (the herb she had been using for forgetting spells) by the fireplace.

The whole gang, including a disguised Spike on the run from the loan shark, gather at the Magic Shop during the day. Giles confesses that he is leaving and Buffy tearfully reveals that she's feeling deserted by everyone. Willow has a crystal in her pocket that was used with her forgetting spell and it glows brightly in her hand. However, back at the Summers' house, a spark from the fireplace sets the entire bag of Lethe's Bramble on fire. Instead of just Buffy and Tara, the whole gang falls unconscious. They wake up later that evening with absolutely no knowledge of who they are or where they are. Spike suspects Giles is his father (because they're both British) and Anya assumes she's getting married to Giles (because they jointly own the magic shop). Everyone figures out their names from their ID's and necklaces except Buffy, who names herself Joan, and Spike, who takes the name "Randy" from the inside of his stolen coat.

A couple of vampires outside the shop scare the entire gang and they hide in fear. Looking for Spike to repay his debt, the vampires attack the shop. Joan discovers she's a superhero of some sort when she stakes one of the vampires and saves Randy. Anya and Giles stay at the magic shop while Joan and Randy run outside to fight off the vampires. Randy unknowingly assumes his vampire visage to fight off the vampire thugs, which sends Joan running away in fear.

The rest of the Scoobies retreat to the sewers but they encounter vampires down there too. Anya turns to a random page in a book and reads the incantation there, which causes a bunny to appear and frighten her. Joan attacks Randy when he catches up with her and informs him that he's a vampire. He's confused by it, but assumes that he's a good, noble vampire--a vampire with a soul--because he doesn't want to bite her (Joan thinks the idea of a vampire with a soul is incredibly lame). The loan shark and his minions attack the two and a fight ensues.

Anya continues to try random spells, which makes many more bunnies, a dark green cloud to form inside the shop, and a big beast to appear. Giles and Anya fight while hiding behind the counter and Giles reveals that he found a one-way plane ticket in his pocket for London, assuming he must be abandoning Anya. Anya begs him not to leave her and they kiss passionately. Xander (or Alex, as Dawn calls him) fights with the vampire chasing them in the sewers, finally stakes it, and then accidentally steps on the crystal that fell from Willow's pocket. The breaking of the spell finds Giles and Anya kissing, Willow atop Tara after a fall, and Spike and Buffy deep in mid-action conversation.

Tara and the others realize that Willow used magic, despite her promise. The spell broken, Buffy is momentarily too stunned to duck a few painful hits. Spike finishes off the rest of the vampires and promises to make up his debt to the intimidated loan shark. While Willow cries in the bathroom, Tara packs all of her things into boxes; then, receiving a cold reaction from Dawn, she leaves. Full of grief, Giles takes his plane back to England. Spike finds Buffy at the Bronze, but she turns her face away and he stalks off. She doesn't let him get far though, and they kiss passionately beneath the stairs of the Bronze.



While the Scoobies generally have no memory upon waking up, they do retain certain aspects of their personalities.

* Buffy, who does not find any identification card and so calls herself Joan, retains her semi-maternal protectiveness towards Dawn, who finds out her name by looking at her "Dawn"-necklace, even before guessing they may be related.

* Xander is immediately the first to panic and is blatantly attracted to Willow (which she partially rebuffs), and he later guesses that because her jacket has his last name on it, they're in a relationship. Given that Xander and Anya ultimately do not get married in "Hell's Bells", it also might be notable that while the other two romantic couples (Buffy and Spike, Willow and Tara) are drawn to each other despite their memory loss, Xander and Anya do not seem to have a similar connection.

* Willow and Tara gradually realize their attraction to each other.

* Spike doesn't realize he's a vampire immediately, and when he does he rationalises that he must be a vampire with a soul; whether this is a hint at his eventual destiny or an ironic spin on his disgust at Angel is unclear. He does, however, maintain an antagonistic relationship with Giles (based on the assumption they are father and son), and much of his colorful vocabulary. He also, not knowing the tweed suit he's wearing isn't his own, assumes his name is Randy Giles, which he balks at ("" being British slang for someone who is sexually aroused). It is notable that Buffy/Joan hurries to defend and care for Spike/Randy without knowing why, and that he automatically knew that their assailants were vampires.

* Anya maintains her phobia of bunnies and love of money, but presumes her engagement ring was given to her by Giles (with whom she co-owns the Magic Box), who in turn later assumes that his one-way plane ticket to England was to get away from her.



* Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
* Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
* Emma Caulfield as Anya Jenkins
* Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers
* James Marsters as Spike
* Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg

pecial guest star

*Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles

Guest starring

*Raymond O'Connor as the Loan Shark
*Amber Benson as Tara Maclay


*Geordie White as Vamp #1
*Stephen Triplett as Vamp #2
*David Franco as Vamp #3

Production details


* Michelle Branch - "Goodbye To You" - The dialogue-less scene at the end is accompanied by a performance in The Bronze by well known singer Branch, one of the most famous musical guests on the series, singing her song "Goodbye To You". The version used on the show was slightly different from the radio version.


"Tabula Rasa" does not translate well. A sizeable part of the humor is the interplay between Giles and Spike, laced with British idiom and Americans' stereotyped views of England; the puns based on "Randy" are meaningless in other languages. In French, "Randy" is translated to "Candide", possibly a reference to the Voltaire novel. Buffy's assumed name "Joan" is left as "Joan" in French, and the reference to Joan of Arc ("Jeanne d'Arc" in French) is mostly lost.

It also can be noted that in the French translation of the series, Xander was renamed as Alex since day one. In the original version, he is referred to as that only once, by Dawn, in this episode, under the effect of amnesia.

* Italian title: "Tabula rasa"
* German title: "Tabula Rasa"
* French title: "Tabula rasa"

Quotes and trivia

* "Tabula Rasa" is Latin for "blank slate" — see also: tabula rasa

* The storyline has similaries to the "" episode "Conundrum".

* After Spike tries to convince Buffy/Joan that he is a "Vampire with a soul on a quest for redemption" he says "on a mission of redemption, I help the helpless, I'm a vampire with a soul." This is a reference to the TV show "Angel" in which Angel - the vampire with a soul, and on a mission of redemption, runs an agency with the slogan "We help the helpless." This also a reference to Spike constantly making fun of Angel.

* When Willow tells Dawn about her attraction to women, she uses the exact same words she did in the Season Three episode "Doppelgängland" to describe her evil vampire self: "And I think I'm kinda gay."

* The brown tweed suit that Spike wears in this episode is the same one used in "Restless" for Xander's dream. Giles and Spike assuming they are father and son also echoes Giles's remark that "Spike is like a son to [him] " in the same episode.

* There was also a reference to the land shark in the episode "Restless" given by Spike while swinging on the swingset.

* As Giles begins to tell the Scoobies that he is moving to England, Buffy interrupts him and says, "Jump to the chase", urging him to make his point more quickly. Giles then repeats the phrase in a subsequent line. The phrase is typically said as "cut to the chase."

* Teeth, the loan shark demon that hassles Spike to pay his debt, reappears in "" as one of the Demon Lords of Los Angeles that Angel must defeat to return the city back to Earth.


* Spike's entire rationalization speech for why he's a vampire helping the good guys is an almost direct description of Angel's life and motives.

Arc significance

* Even with their memories gone, certain things crop up;
**Tara and Willow are attracted to each other.
**Xander is immediately attracted to Willow.
**Xander and Anya fail to sense any mutual connection, foreshadowing their doomed engagement.
**Although Buffy retains many of her Slayer instincts, she and Spike feel no instinctive animosity towards each other, foreshadowing the significant change in direction of the relationship between the two in that season.
**Upon realizing that he is a vampire and not, like Buffy, a "superhero", Spike remarks that he must be "a good guy, on a mission of redemption.... A vampire with a soul." Whether or not he ever seeks redemption is handled in Season 5 of "Angel", but Spike does in fact regain his soul at the end of this season of "Buffy".
* Giles leaves Sunnydale until the final showdown with Willow at the end of the season.
* Tara finally leaves Willow, who continues her downward spiral into magic addiction.
*In 2007's "" #3, Brian Lynch reintroduces Loan Shark as the "Lord of Santa Monica." [cite podcast
url =
title = Your Qs Totally A'd, part one!
website =
host = Brian Lynch
date = 2008-01-24
accessdate = 24 January
accessyear = 2008
] Lynch also jokingly comments that should Joss have major plans for him in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight", then you are to imagine it is his brother.


* Stories that take place around the same time in the Buffyverse:

Notes and references

External links

* [ BBC episode guide to "Tabula Rasa"]

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