To deal with her escalating financial problems, Buffy gets a job as a kitchen worker at the Doublemeat Palace, a fast food restaurant, which she quickly finds to be degrading and dull. Furthermore, a series of strange events, combined with the disappearances of employees, leads Buffy to believe that it may not be cow's meat that they serve here.
Willow updates Xander and Anya about The Trio, explaining that the three seem to have disappeared and moved from their basement lair. Anya chimes in with supportive statements about working hard for money and the importance of working in America just before Buffy appears, wearing a uniform for her new job. Later, Buffy is introduced to the world of fast food with the help of a unique and graphic video about her new place of work, the Doublemeat Palace. Her boss, Manny, introduces Buffy to her unenthusiastic coworkers and walks her through the area behind the counter, clearly identifying off-limit locations.
Buffy is offered the Doublemeat Medley, a burger consisting of typical ingredients and layers of meat and chicken, and Manny requires that she eat it. She reluctantly takes a bite, then questions what the secret ingredient in the meat is, but gets no clear answer. Buffy watches as a coworker, Gary, waits on a woman wearing a wig who is a regular at the Palace. After his demonstration, Buffy takes the next customer, but is lost quickly in the process as the man's order is too difficult for her to follow.
During her break, Buffy sneaks around in the back rooms, searching for the truth behind the secret ingredient, but is caught by Manny. At the counter, Buffy finds her friends have come by to visit her and she treats Xander to a Doublemeat Medley. Anya goes on a rant about how behind the wedding plans are, partially blaming Willow for the complications. Later, Buffy receives a surprise visit from Spike at the restaurant. He teases her., reminding her that his chip can hurt meaning that Buffy is possibly a demon now, something she strongly refutes. Spike then tries to persuade her to leave the job and be with him, warning her that this job could kill her. He offers to do everything in his power to take care of her and help her with her money problems. She remains determined and turns away. Gary goes out to the alley behind the restaurant and encounters someone/something that he recognizes; then that someone or something attacks him.
The next day, with Gary not there to work, Buffy is told to work the grill and another coworker, Timothy demonstrates the process for her. Again, Buffy asks about the secret ingredient, but still can't get an answer from anyone. Manny then assigns Buffy to a double shift because of the reduction of employees. At the apartment, Xander talks to Anya, who's in another room, about Buffy working a double shift just before Halfrek, a female Vengeance demon appears suddenly before Xander, threatening to tear him into pieces. Fortunately, Anya enters the room and recognizes the Vengeance demon as an old friend and the girls greet each other gleefully. Anya clears up the confusion, explaining that she invited Halfrek to the wedding, not to seek vengeance on Xander. Wisely, Xander leaves to let the girls chat.
Back at the Doublemeat Palace, Buffy spots Spike outside through a window and spends her break having sex with him in the alleyway out behind the restaurant, though she looks thoroughly disinterested. Amy pays Willow a visit, wanting her rat cage as a souvenir and talks with Willow about her progress with avoiding magic. Before she leaves, Amy (wanting to get Willow back onto magic) gives Willow an unasked-for gift: A magical boost of power she can't quite control. Buffy watches the grinder grind meat, but discovers a human finger in the processed meat. Appalled at the idea of human meat being the secret ingredient, Buffy confronts Manny about it, but he doesn't agree with her suspicions. Buffy charges out into the dining area, attempting to stop all the patrons from eating while shouting that the meat is made of humans. The outburst gets her fired.
Over drinks, Anya and Halfrek talk about Anya's relationship with Xander and Anya begins to re-evaluate her situation with Xander after Halfrek repeatedly insists on addressing the issue. A meeting is called at the Magic Box as Buffy presents the severed finger and a Doublemeat Medley as evidence for her "people burger" theory, but Xander eats the burger before Buffy explains her theory. Willow arrives late, ready to begin researching despite the fact that she's still under Amy's gift spell and lacks control over her use of magic. Buffy leaves to investigate Doublemeat Palace after hours while Willow uses science to test a leftover piece of meat from the Doublemeat Medley.
Buffy breaks into the fast food place and finds clues: Blood and Manny's severed foot. Willow struggles to avoid using magic while Dawn and Xander talk about the kind of future life Buffy will have because she's the Slayer. Then Anya shows up late after Halfrek's departure, and a tense argument develops between her and Xander over the less-than-attractive appearance of a Vengeance demon.
Willow's analysis reveals that the basic composition of the "meat" is cellulose. While continuing to snoop, Buffy encounters the regular customer, Wig Lady, without her wig. A demonic lamprey-like appendage emerges from the lady's head and sprays a paralyzing liquid at Buffy. The lady advances on Buffy and talks about eating Doublemeat employees as the Slayer struggles to escape.
Willow shows up and tries to inform Buffy of the Doublemeat Medley which is not made of humans, but processed vegetables, then begins to confess to her about Amy's magical gift. Buffy's unable to respond to the information as she continues to try to get away from the demon, which manages to latch onto her shoulder and start to feed. Inside, Willow tries to stop the Wig Lady, using a large blade to cut the lamprey from the woman's body. That doesn't immediately kill the lamprey and Willow quickly shoves it into the meat grinder. The next day at the Summers' house, Amy pays Willow a visit, needing to borrow a few necessities. Willow denies her entrance into the house and angrily suggests that Amy stay away from her.
Buffy returns to the Doublemeat Palace to return her uniform to the new manager, Lorraine. After revealing her knowledge of the Doublemeat Medley's composition, she is sworn to secrecy. She gets her job back and resigns herself to working there, at least for now.
This episode marks the first time Tara has been missing from two episodes in a row since the character was introduced.
This is the first time Halfrek appears undisguised, as a vengeance demon. Cecily, Spike's pre-vampire love interest in "Fool for Love", was actually Halfrek, at least according to Spike: Old Times.
At the beginning of the episode, when Xander remarks that he hears Anya's "Go Money Go" rant on money and efficiency daily, Willow responds that he will for the rest of his life. Xander's face shows dread as everyone else continues without noticing. This is just another example of foreshadowing of the events of "Hell's Bells".
Buffy mentions her experience as a waitress in LA, which was shown in Season 3's "Anne".
The Wig Lady, lamprey decapitated with a large knife and chopped in the meat grinder by Willow
Behind the Scenes
During the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences panel discussion that occurred between seasons six and seven, Joss Whedon revealed that this episode was the first episode that caused sponsors to threaten to pull support due to the portrayal of the fast food industry. Buffy working at Doublemeat Palace "made the advertisers very twitchy"; as Whedon joked, "the most controversial thing we ever had on Buffy was a hamburger and chicken sandwich."
Xander's line was cut due to length:
Xander: "We were all going to yell 'good luck on the new job', but we don't have that kind of timing that kind of thing requires."
Dawn's line was also cut due to length:
Dawn: "So much suspense. It's like taking a pregnancy test...when they do that in pregnancy test commercials."
Pop Culture References
Buffy screaming "It's people! It's people!" at the customers is an homage to the movie Soylent Green, with its famous line "Soylent Green is people!"
In the scene where Buffy is learning to use the grill, she flips the burgers when they are done on one side and then starts to speak with the manager. From a distance, the burgers now appear to be completely raw.
As a child, Sarah Michelle Gellar appeared in Burger King commercial ads. McDonald's infamously sued her for citing their meat in one of the ads and banned her from eating in their restaurant. Ironically, McDonald's was a sponsor for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy - (to Manny, holding up Gary’s severed finger) "Look! Look what I found under the meat grinder!"
Manny - "Oh my god."
Buffy - "Wanna tell me what's going on?"
Manny - "I'm not sure."
Buffy - "Try again."
Manny - (nervous) "Well... there was an accident, maybe six weeks ago. A grinder incident."
Buffy - "Right, but see, this isn't six weeks old. This...is new."
Manny - "It is? Oh... well, maybe Gary did come in this morning. Or, I don't know, late last night. Maybe there was an accident. Got himself to the hospital."
Buffy - "Right. Maybe he's in the hospital." (louder) "Or maybe, he's in the grinder! Huh? Huh? Meat process, secret ingredient? Maybe, Gary's on the grill! Or maybe he's under the pickle chips!" (She turns and runs off.)
Manny - "Buffy. Buffy!" (He follows her. Cut to the kitchen; Buffy goes running through it and into the customer area)
Buffy - (yells) "Stop! Stop! Everyone, you have to stop! Stop eating!" (She shoves a customer’s tray so that it spills, and grabs a burger from another customer’s hand. We see the family from earlier; the little boys begin to cry as Buffy grabs their food away from them) "No, you can’t have this! It’s not beef! It’s people!" (She continues to run through the restaurant, shoving customers’ trays off their tables and similar) "The DoubleMeat Medley is people!" (Manny and Timothy run over, grab her and begin hauling her back toward the kitchen) "The meat layer is definitely people! It’s people! It’s people! Probably not the chickeny part. But who knows? Who... knows?" (The people stare at her; the old woman from before pushes to the front, holding up a half-eaten pie)
Wig Lady - "What about the cherry pie?"
Manny - (He and Timothy have managed to wrestle Buffy back into the kitchen area; she shoves Timothy aside with one arm) "What are you doing? I thought you were part of the team!" (Buffy backhands Manny and he flies onto a counter, slides across it and onto the floor. Philip rushes Buffy, and she shoves him back with slayer-strength; he flies across the room. Manny lies on the floor, glaring up at Buffy) "You are fired." (Buffy gives him an angry look and storms out)
Spike - "Damn fluorescent lights. They make me look dead."
Doublemeat Palace Training Film - "This cow" [moo!] and this chicken [bawk!] don't know it yet, but they're destined to become part of it as well. So what happens when a cow and a chicken get together? Why, that's a DoubleMeat Medley! Let's take a look now at the process of harvesting these two special meats." [panicking animal sounds]
Buffy - "Holy crap!"
Manny - "Interesting, isn't it?"
Buffy - "Oh, yes! Like how the cow and the chicken come together even though they've never met. It's like Sleepless in Seattle if Meg and Tom were, like, minced."
Xander - "It's fast food. I have swum in these murky waters, my friend. There is assorted creepiness, there is staring, there is the enthusiastic not-showing-up-at-all. I think you're seeing demons where there's just... life."
Buffy - "I'm working. Go away."
Spike - "Yeah, and you chose to be in a consumer service profession. I'm a consumer. Service me."
Manny - "You're working a double-shift."
Buffy - "What? Another eight hours? Right after these eight hours? That's... so many hours."
Buffy - (hands on hips) "I call an emergency meeting, and this is it? Where's Willow? Where's Anya?"
Dawn - "I-I couldn't find Willow. I knocked and knocked on her door."
Xander - "And Anya's entertaining a vengeance demon named Hallie. Say Buff, did you ever see Anya as a demon? 'Cause if that's it... whoa."
Buffy - "There's something wrong at the DoubleMeat Palace. Really wrong." (She turns and walks over toward the counter; Dawn gets up and follows)
Dawn - "Have you been demon-fighting? Is that why you smell funny?"
Buffy - "No! I'm talking about..." (pauses, sniffs her shirt, pulls some hair in front of her face and sniffs it before making a face, realizing what Dawn means) "Ucch. That's great. That's, that's just great. I try to do the simplest thing in the world — get an ordinary job in a well-lit place. And look, I'm right back where I started — blood and death and funky smells." (fiddling with something on the counter) "Look. Look what I found near the grinder." (Close shot of the severed finger as Buffy removes some of the tissue paper that she had wrapped it in)
Dawn - (very heartfelt) "Ew." (she pauses) "Whose is it?"
Buffy - "I don't know. It might be this guy named Gary, the only one in the whole place who didn't seem all brain-dead. He didn't show up this morning — except now I think he was there the whole time... as the secret ingredient. We need to analyze that burger. We need to find out if it used to be people."
Dawn - "My friend Janice? Her sister's a lawyer."
Xander - "You think I should sue over the burger? That's interesting."
Dawn - "No, I just mean..." (sighs) "Buffy's never gonna be a lawyer, or a doctor. Anything big."
Xander - "She's a Slayer. She saves the whole world. That's way bigger."
Dawn - "But that means she's gonna have, like, crap jobs her entire life, right? Minimum wage stuff. I mean, I could still grow up to be anything. But for her... this is it."
Xander - "Okay, but maybe you'll be a lawyer or a doctor, and you can use all your money to support your deadbeat sister."
Dawn - (sarcastic) "Oh, that's terrifically better. Thanks."
Willow - "Hold this." (hands something to Xander) Okay. If the solution reacts to the proteins, then I'll be able to see it." (quickly) "I mean, I'll be able to look through the microscope and, and then see it." (bends over the microscope)
Anya - (to Xander) "It's not like you're so perfect either, what with your... strangely large upper arms and your tendency to criticize."
Xander - "Huh?"
Dawn - (to Willow) "What do you see?"
Willow - "There's no reaction."
Xander - "Oh god, no! No reaction!"
Willow - "Which means it's not human."
Xander - (upset) "It's not human!" (realizing) "It's not human?"
Anya - "Well, is it demony? I mean, maybe someone's... you know, killing demons and using them as a cheap source of meat. I mean, we've all heard of that." (Dawn makes a very disgusted face to show that she hasn't heard of that until now) "And by the way, I'm opposed to using demon meat, no matter how much money it saves." (to Xander) "Does that surprise you?"
Xander - "Again, I say 'huh?'"
Wig Lady - "The paralysis spreads upward, by the way. You may want to flail your arms a bit while you still can." (Buffy is struggling away slowly, gripping the counter for support; the Wig Lady follows) "Did I tell you? You're my favorite." (We get a close shot of her face clearly showing that she has no eyes; Buffy glances back, and continues trying to get away) "DoubleMeat workers. You're all so full of DoubleMeat burgers, and you just slide down so smooth."
Lorraine - "Yeah?"
Buffy - "Hi. Uh, you must be the new manager. I-I'm Buffy Summers."
Lorraine - "I'm Lorraine Ross. They called me in when Manny did his disappearing act. You hear about that? Guy just disappeared."
Buffy - "Yeah. I think... I think that used to happen a lot around here."
Lorraine - "Buffy Summers. I heard about you. Caused a big scene."
Buffy - "Oh, yeah. Practical jokes not really right for the workplace; I so get that now. Anyway, I just wanted to return my uniform." (She hands it over)
Lorraine - "Oh. Most people don't even bother."
Buffy - (starts to leave, pauses and turns back) "The DoubleMeat Medley... is vegetables?"
Lorraine - "How do you know that?"
Buffy - "So I guess it's true."
Lorraine - "Um, close the door?" (Buffy does) "Have a seat." (She sits at her desk, and Buffy sits in the chair opposite) "It's a formed and texturized vegetable-based meat-like product, suitable for grinding. It's blended with large amounts of rendered beef fat for flavor."
Buffy - "Wait, the secret ingredient in the beef is... beef?"
Lorraine - "Buffy... you know something powerful here. Do you understand that? The DoubleMeat reputation is built on a foundation of... well, meat. You can't spread this around."
Buffy - "I get that."
Lorraine - "Is there something you want?"
Buffy - "I really need money."
Lorraine - "You want money?"
Buffy - "No! Well, I mean, yes, but, but no. I... well, I, I want to work. See, I-I have zero money coming in, and there are expenses, and by the time I interview for a new job and get hired and go through a training process, it... well, I'd... I'd really like to not be fired anymore."
Lorraine - (gives a small smile) "Well, I don't want any more practical jokes. I mean it."
Buffy - "I promise."
Lorraine - "Well, I'm a little short-handed right now, and you're already trained..." (smiles) "I think you can not be fired."
Buffy - (relieved) "Thank you. That's...that's great. And I can do the job, I promise that too."
Lorraine - "I certainly hope so. I don't like short-timers, Buffy. I like people who want to be here. Maybe you didn't take this job seriously before, but from now on?" (She points at the "5 years" pin on her uniform) "See this? I want you to be shooting for this from here on out."
Buffy - (looks a little displeased by that, but resigned) "Right. Here on out." (She gives a small brave smile)