"Conversations with Dead People" is the seventh episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 129th episode in the series. Written by Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard and directed by Nick Marck, it was originally broadcast on November 12, 2002, on the UPN network.
AND WHERE WERE YOU? — While hunting for vampires at the cemetery, Buffy runs into a former classmate-turned-vampire and ends up turning to him for therapy. Meanwhile, Willow is interrupted at the library by the recently dead Cassie (or some form of her) who claims to have a message for Willow from Tara. Dawn returns home to find Joyce attempting to reach her from beyond, but some force prevents her from doing so.
It's November 12, 2002, at 8.01 PM. Buffy is out patrolling, Spike is drinking at the Bronze, Willow is studying at the library, Dawn arrives to her empty home, and Jonathan and Andrew return to Sunnydale.
Buffy & Holden
While on patrol, Buffy comes across a newly-risen vampire. After the two fight for a while, the vampire, ready to bite Buffy, recognizes her from Sunnydale High. He tells her that the two of them were old classmates, and that his name is Holden. Buffy slowly recognizes him and the two begin to reminisce.
Holden asks Buffy why she has a stake and why she was trying to kill him, so she tells him that it is because she is the Slayer and that it is her job. Holden says that it explains her frequent absences at school and why she was often late. He then tells Buffy that many of the other students thought she was a training to be a nun, much to her surprise.
Holden tells her that he is, or was, a psychology major, and manages to get Buffy to start talking about herself, all in between attempts to kill her. He is able to help Buffy realize her problems stem from feeling alone as the Slayer but reminds her everybody feels alone. She eventually slays him as he reveals that Spike was the one who sired him.
Dawn & Joyce
Over at the Summers' home, Dawn finds that no one else is in the house and begins to mess around with some of Buffy's weapons and tries on some of her clothes. Then Dawn watches an old horror movie and talks to her friend Kit.
Soon, she hears a series of knocks and the phone line is cut, as some force begins to attack the house. During this attack, Dawn sees images of Joyce appear every now and then. Dawn believes that it is her mother trying to speak with her from beyond the grave and an evil force is trying to stop her.
Dawn is able to drive it off, and is then visited by what appears to be Joyce's ghost, who predicts that Dawn and Buffy will become enemies.
Jonathan, Andrew & Warren
Jonathan and Andrew return from Mexico to dig up an artifact hidden in the school basement near the Hellmouth. Andrew is secretly in contact with what appears to be the ghost of Warren, while Jonathan is having a personal revelation. After they dig up the artifact, Andrew, on Warren's instructions, stabs Jonathan. As he falls dead, his blood fills over a seal in the dirt.
Willow & Cassie
Alone in the UC Sunnydale library, Willow is visited by the ghost of Cassie, who tells her she was sent by the dead Tara. She relays a prediction that Willow will end up killing everyone unless she commits suicide. Willow is not fooled, and the figure declares that it is done with the "good versus evil" battle and intends to attack and make sure Willow and her friends suffer. The "ghost" then reveals that it is what is being referred to by the phrase "From beneath you, it devours." then disappears.
Meanwhile, Spike has been speaking with a young woman at the Bronze. They leave together and he accompanies her on her way home, still talking. Once at her door, Spike vamps out, drinks her blood, then drops her dead on the sidewalk.
- Andrew and Jonathan discuss the nightmares they've been having, as it will be shown in "Storyteller."
- Sunnydale's population appears as 32,900, a drop from the 38,500 that appeared in "School Hard."
- Willow recognizes Cassie mentioning seeing her picture, as she had found her blog in "Help."
- Cassie, supposedly speaking for Tara (died in "Seeing Red"), reminds Willow of the time when Tara sang to her on the bridge in "Once More, with Feeling." She also reminds Willow that she is "strong like an Amazon," referencing a conversation that Willow and Tara had in "The Body."
- Holden mentions that some of Buffy's classmates thought she was involved with an older man, which she indeed was: the centuries-old Angel ("Angel"). Others, he notes, thought she was overly religious, presumably because Buffy invariably carried and wore crosses in order to ward off vampires ("Welcome to the Hellmouth").
- Buffy learns that Scott Hope, who she dated briefly from "Faith, Hope & Trick" to "Homecoming," came out as being gay in college.
- When Dawn tries to call Buffy, an image of Joyce laying lifeless on the sofa appears, having the same clothes and positioning as when Buffy found her dead in "I Was Made to Love You."
- Jonathan tells Andrew that he won't be back to the big house, in reference to their incarceration in "Villains."
- Jonathan and Andrew discuss their interest in joining the Scooby Gang. Jonathan had expressed this desire in "Superstar," but only Andrew will "even hang out at [Buffy's] house" ("Never Leave Me" to "Chosen") and join the group permanently, as confirmed in Predators and Prey.
- This episode marks the death of Jonathan, a recurring character present since "Inca Mummy Girl." The First Evil will assume his identity in the episodes "Never Leave Me," "First Date," and "Storyteller."
- The First/Cassie tells Willow that she can't see Tara because she killed people, in reference to her flaying Warren in "Villains" and draining the life force out of Rack in "Two to Go." Although, it's revealed that the latter was only put on a coma and survived the event (Wonderland, Part Five).
- Holden pronounces "nemeses" correctly and Buffy replies "Is that how you say that?" This is an allusion to the episode "Gone" when both Warren and Buffy mispronounce it "nemesis-es."
- Buffy and Holden debate over her knowingly "doomed" relationships; she discussed the supposed impossibility of being with Angel, Riley, and Spike just before beginning a relationship with each of them, in the episodes "Angel," "Doomed," and "Smashed."
- Buffy tells Holden he'd laugh if he heard some of the things she's done to her friends; in "Grave," she and Giles laughed together as she told what happened with her and the Scoobies in the previous year.
- Buffy confides with Holden about her most recent relationship, mentioning she mistreated Spike, "behaved like a monster," "let him completely take [her] over," and the "joke" was that he loved her. This dynamic was most prominent in the episode "Dead Things," when she both accepted to have sex in a public space with him and beaten him after he told he loved her.
- With the exorcism, Dawn displays a little magic knowledge learned from Willow. Over the course of the season, she displays many skills gotten from other characters, such as fighting skills from Buffy in "Potential," and some Sumerian shown in "Get It Done" from presumably Giles ("Primeval").
- This episode further establishes the season's Big Bad, whose shapeshifting ability was displayed in the season premiere "Lessons" and previously in "Amends."
- Dawn accidentally gets pizza sauce on one of Buffy's shirts in this episode, shrugging and saying, "She'll think it's blood." In "First Date," Anya scrubs at the stain and says that she thinks it's pizza sauce and not blood.
- The First Evil appears as Joyce Summers, Warren Mears, and Cassie Newton, who died respectively in "I Was Made to Love You," "Villains," and "Help."
- First Evil
- Rupert Giles (Only mentioned)
- Angie Hart
- Kit Holburn (Only mentioned)
- Scott Hope (Only mentioned)
- Jonathan Levinson
- Tara Maclay (Only mentioned)
- Warren Mears (Only in visions)
- Cassandra Newton (Only in visions)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Hank Summers (Only mentioned)
- Joyce Summers (Only in visions)
- Tricia Waldman (Only mentioned)
- Holden Webster
- Andrew Wells
- Jason Wheeler (Only mentioned)
- Unidentified woman
Organizations and titles
- Mexico (Only mentioned)
- United States
- Bynum's History of Witchcraft
- Dagger of Lex
- Seal of Danzalthar
- Soul (Only mentioned)
- Weapon chest
Rituals and spells
- Holden Webster, staked by Buffy.
- Jonathan Levinson, stabbed by Andrew.
- Unidentified woman, drained by Spike.
Behind the scenes
- This is the only episode with a specific date and time given at the beginning of the episode — November 12, 2002; 8.01 PM. This is the same date and time as the original air date of the episode.
- This is one of only two episodes in the whole Buffy series that has the episode title appear on-screen at the beginning of the program. The musical episode "Once More, with Feeling" was the other.
- Despite both credited, Nicholas Brendon and Emma Caulfield don't appear in this episode. This is Brendon's only absence in the series.
- Amber Benson was initially going to appear as Tara, taunting Willow instead of Cassie, but she turned it down on the grounds that she thought having Tara as a villain would ruin her character. According to the writers in this episode's audio commentaries, Benson simply wasn't available.
- Other storylines considered were for Jesse McNally to converse with Xander and for Halfrek to haunt Anya, but Kali Rocha was unavailable.
- In addition to the two credited writers, show runners Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon also made significant contributions to the script of this episode. Each of the four plot strands were written by a different writer: Whedon wrote the Buffy & Holden scenes, Noxon wrote the Willow & Cassie scenes, Espenson wrote the Dawn scenes, and Goddard wrote the Trio scenes. Whedon also wrote the song featured in the episode.
- On the audio commentaries, Jane Espenson confirmed that the image of Joyce was of the First Evil. In the original draft of the script, Dawn was going to try to raise her mother; when Joyce appeared, she was to say: "They said I couldn't bring someone back," to which the First/Joyce would reply: "Maybe I'm the First."
- In the Slay the Critics featured in No Future for You, Part One, a mail pointed out the contradiction of Warren's reveal in The Long Way Home, Part Four that he didn't die in "Villains," while he was still impersonated by the First Evil, such as in this episode. About this, Whedon answered: "He was legally dead for like a second. Amy didn't tell him 'cause she didn't want to upset him. I forgot, okay?!"
- Jonathan M. Woodward, who plays Holden Webster, also appears as Knox in Angel season 5.
- With this episode, Kristine Sutherland becomes the only actress to appear as a guest star in all seven seasons of Buffy.
- This is a brief exchange where the First would appear as Tara:
- Tara: "I'm sorry to wake you."
- Willow: "Ha..."
- Tara: "Ha — what?"
- Willow: "Is that like a dream joke thing? You're sorry to wake me, but I'm clearly not awake and if I was awake and you really were her, would you be sorry to wake me? I mean, after all this time and — oh God, I'm babbling. I'm dream babbling and it's the best dream of my life and I'm wasting it and—"
- Tara: "I just meant, I liked watching you sleep."
- When Buffy confides with Holden, "I have all this power. I didn't ask for it. I don't deserve it. It's like… I wanted to be punished," the original script had her telling instead:
- Buffy: "I just wanted to be touched. To be reached. Were you here when everything turned into a musical?
- Holden: "I missed it."
- Buffy: "I explained it a lot better then. With rhyme, and all, but I just... I can't go back to that."
- Holden: "And you think you might? You're still attracted to this guy?
- Buffy: "Well, he's changed, a lot, a LOT a lot, but no, I... I just can't feel as low as I did then and do what I have to do. Things are getting worse. More of you guys are rising, and... something's coming."
Pop culture references
- Jonathan mentions Andrew was able to learn the entirety of The Klingon Dictionary (1982).
- Dawn corrects Kit that the movie she's watching does not feature the actor Tom Hanks.
- Holden reminds Buffy that he let her copy his essay on Václav Havel, the first President of the Czech Republic.
- Holden tells Buffy he did the lighting design for the school's spring production of the musical Pippin.
- Holden mentions attending Dartmouth College, a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire.
- Andrew references the movie Back to the Future when he says "Think, McFly" to Jonathan.
- The First/Warren starts the line "If you strike me down..." and Andrew finishes the quote from Star Wars (1977).
- In reference to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Andrew and Jonathan call each other Echo 1 and Echo 2 over their walkie-talkies.
- Buffy refers to Holden as "the evil dead," in reference to the 1981 film of same name.
- Andrew and the First/Warren quote Obi Wan Kenobi ("That boy is our last hope.") and Yoda ("No, there is another.") from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983).
- In the guise of Warren, the First calls Jonathan "Short Round," a reference to the sidekick character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- Andrew describes felling like in the horror franchise Hellraiser and mentions the antagonist Pinhead.
- Buffy tells Holden she "didn't mean to get all True Confessions," in reference to the 1985 TV series.
- Among Willow's magic books, there's the real book Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft, by Ernst Lehner and Johanna Lehner.
- This episode was awarded the 2003 Hugo Award for "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form."
- Angie Hart — "Blue"
- Scout — "The Never Never"
- Los Cubaztecas — "Nicolito"
- Robert Duncan — original score
- Armenian: "Զրույց մահացածների հետ" (Conversation with the Dead)
- Czech: "Rozhovory se záhrobím" (Conversations with the Beyond)
- Finnish: "Pahan pauloissa" (Evil Enchanting)
- French: "Connivences" (Connivances)
- German: "Gespräche mit Toten" (Conversations with the Dead)
- Hungarian: "Beszélgetés halott emberekkel" (Conversations with Dead People)
- Italian: "Conversazioni con l'aldilà" (Conversations with the Afterlife)
- Japanese: "死者との会話" (Conversations with the Dead)
- Polish: "Głosy zza grobu" (Voices from Beyond the Grave)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Conversas com os Mortos" (Conversations with the Dead)
- Romanian: "Conversations with Dead People"
- Russian: "Беседы с мертвецами" (Conversations with the Dead)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Conversaciones con los muertos" (Conversations with the Dead)
- Spanish (Spain): "Conversaciones con los muertos" (Conversations with the Dead)
- Swedish: "Konversationer med döda människor" (Conversations with Dead People)
- The book Chosen: The One includes a novelization of this episode, along with all season 7.
- The Ouija board game Conversations with Dead People is a reference to this episode.
- The comic issue Buffy the Vampire Slayer #6 has a tribute variant cover to this episode.
|Holden: "So what, you like fight vampires professionally?"|
|Buffy: "Well, I don’t get paid. It’s more like a calling, since even in school."|
|Holden: "I heard a lot of rumors about you back then. You were all mysterious."|
|Buffy: "I was?"|
|Holden: "Well, you were never around. A lot of kids thought you were dating some really old guy, or that you were just heavy religious. Scott Hope said you were gay."|
|Buffy: "What? I dated that ringworm."|
|Holden: "He says that about every girl he breaks up with. And then last year, big surprise, he comes out."|
|Buffy: "Men. Do I know how to pick 'em."|
|Holden: "Oh, I have so much to learn. Come on, isn't this insane? I mean, I was afraid to talk to you in high school, and now we're, like, mortal enemies. Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we became nemeses?"|
|Buffy: "Is that how you say the word?"|
|Holden: "We're gonna have to fight to the death, aren't we?"|
|Buffy: "It's the time-honored custom."|
|Jonathan: "Time goes by, and everything drops away. All the cruelty, all the pain, all the humiliation. It all washes away. I miss my friends. I miss my enemies. I miss the people I talked to every day. I miss the people who never knew I existed. I miss 'em all. I want to talk to them, you know. I want to find out how they're doing. I want to know what's going on in their lives."|
|Andrew: "You know what? They don't wanna talk to you — all those people you just mentioned. Not one of them is sitting around going, 'I wonder what Jonathan's up to right now.' Not one of them cares about you."|
|Jonathan: "Well, I still care about them. That's why I'm here."|
|Buffy: "I just... If you knew what I've done, what I've let myself become. My best friends don't even... You'd laugh if you heard some of the things I've done to them."|
|Holden: "Buffy... I'm here to kill you, not to judge you."|
|Willow: "From beneath you, it devours."|
|First Evil: "Oh, not it. Me."|
- "Season 7." Craig's BuffyVERSE 4ever. Retrieved on November 8, 2021.
- "Amber Benson - October 2003 Curve Magazine Interview." Whedon.info, October 14, 2003.
- "Episode Guide - Conversations with Dead People." BBC. Retrieved on April 7, 2020.
- The Complete Seventh Season on DVD; audio commentaries for the episode "Selfless." [DVD]. 20th Century Studios, November 16, 2004.
- "Buffy - Conversations With Dead People." BuffyWorld. Archived from the original on August 13, 2018.
- "2003 Hugo Awards." The Hugo Awards. Retrieved on November 8, 2021.