5) Tabula Rasa (Season 6, Episode 8; Aired 11/13/01)
I can’t think of a more perfect episode to end my list. This remarkable episode has the characteristics of all of my favorite pieces of art — it makes you laugh, a lot; and it makes you cry, a lot.
Shockingly, this episode centers around a witchy Willow spell gone awry. Oh, Willow, Willow. You show the signs of a true addict in this season, and like all addictions, an addiction to magic not only hurts yourself but those around you. The Tabula Rasa incantation is meant to erase painful memories for both Buffy (that whole, wishing-I-had-actually-died thing) and Tara (the awful fights she and Willow have been having). Instead, it erases everyone’s memories — oops? — and hilarity ensues.
Anya and Giles are in love! Spike has no idea he’s a vampire, and Buffy has no idea she’s the slayer! Spike thinks he’s Giles’s son! There’s lots of making fun of British people! And Anya keeps conjuring up bunnies!
The best part comes when some monsters who are after Spike show up at the door of the Magic Shop, and the whole crew squeals in terror.
While I giggled during many other episodes throughout this bout of Buffy re-watching of mine, this was the one that actually made me laugh out loud the most heartily. That is, until, of course, the spell is broken … and reality crashes down hard, and I mean hard.
Willow and Tara are splitting, and while your heart breaks for Willow, you also can’t blame Tara. Devastation abounds. Giles is leaving! Leaving! Giles! Buffy is still stuck in her almost-too-heavy-to-bear misery of being forced back to life, and Spike — well, Spike gets to make out with Buffy … but only because Buffy is sad, which somehow seems the cruelest thing of all.
And during the montage of all this happening, Michelle Branch is performing “Goodbye To You.” Now, as I mentioned at the beginning of this very long article, we always remember Sarah McLachlan’s “Full of Grace” as being so closely linked to our Buffy memories and rightfully so, but this song in this episode seems to be overlooked. There is something about “Goodbye To You” — it’s one of those sentimental pop songs that really hip people would never admit to loving. But I firmly believe it’s next to impossible to listen to it without SOME feelings, without it affecting SOME part of your hidden emotional core; it’s hard to listen to it and not feel some kind of ache. And making us ache is something that Joss Whedon does so very, very well.
So what did I miss? What are YOUR Top 10?
Also, if this list isn’t gay enough for you, check out AfterElton’s Top 5 Gayest Episodes, which includes five more excellent (and gay) episodes I didn’t get to include.
I must admit that I was a late-bloomer when it came to Buffy, similar to how I was late to the awareness of my lesbianism. In fact, my introduction to both occurred simultaneously, two events which are not necessarily unrelated. Being able to look back at these episodes allowed me to remember that thrilling time, when I not only fell in love with a girl but with a whole community which Buffy the Vampire Slayer, more than any other show, truly encapsulates — a community of smart, funny women and their allies who are not afraid to kick ass.
And of course, as with anything we love, watching these episodes felt like falling back into the arms of old friends. A night spent with Willow, Xander, Giles, Cordelia, Anya, Spike, Tara, all of them, no matter how long they’ve been off the air, is always a night well-spent. May you all revel in Buffy nostalgia to your heart’s content this Saturday, or any time you want. Go watch a random indie 90s band at The Bronze. Air-drum for a bit to some Nerf Herder. You deserve it.