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"Nightmares" is the tenth episode of the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the tenth episode in the series. Written by Joss Whedon with David Greenwalt and directed by Bruce Seth Green, it was originally broadcast on May 12, 1997, on The WB network.


NIGHTMARE AT SUNNYDALE HIGH — The world of nightmares and reality become one when everyone in Sunnydale is living out their worst fears. While Xander comes to school in his underwear and Giles is unable to read, Buffy must unravel the mystery before reality folds completely into the world of nightmares.[1]


Buffy has a nightmare about going to the Master's lair and being choked by him. Her mother shakes Buffy awake, and, as Buffy wakes up, she is excited to be spending the coming weekend with her father. Buffy confides to Willow that she thinks she might have something to do with her parents' divorce. In a class, when the teacher asks Wendell to read from the text book, he opens it. However, tarantulas crawl out of it. Buffy then sees Billy standing in the doorway, saying he is sorry.

The next day, as the Master explains to Collin how wonderful he finds fear, Buffy is nervous about being picked up by her father after school, and her mother calms her down. At school, Willow and Xander are worried about the spiders and want to talk to Giles about it. Giles mutters that he "got lost," seemingly in the stacks of books, and we assume that something that he fears happened to him. Giles has no information on the spiders and suggests talking to Wendell. Wendell explains that he loves spiders, but says that the spiders hate Wendell because Wendell's brother killed his pet spiders when he was off at camp. He explains that the spiders crawling out is a recurring nightmare for him, but this is the first time it happened. In the meantime, Cordelia lets Buffy know about a history test that Buffy has not studied for. Buffy has a hard time even finding the class, and the test is over in what feels like little time, and Buffy has not even filled in her name. She once again sees Billy, outside the class. As break-time begins, Laura takes a smoking break in the basement, where she is assaulted by an ugly man saying: "Lucky nineteen."

Buffy and Giles interview Laura in the Bowers hospital, where they hear about "lucky nineteen." Outside, they are shocked by the doctor saying that she got off easy until the doctor explains about Billy, who has been in a coma from assault with the same M.O. Back at school, the Scoobies are trying to come up with an explanation while a greaser kid's mother embarrasses him in front of his friends. As they are talking, Xander finds out he is in his underwear. As Buffy goes into the library to consult with Giles, he says that he has forgotten how to read. He has, however, managed to find a newspaper with a picture of Billy in an article. The article says that Billy has been in a coma for a week, which contradicts Buffy having seen him. Giles theorizes she might have been seeing Billy's astral projection.

Buffy's father shows up, and asks to talk to her. Outside school, he tells Buffy that her parents' divorce is indeed her fault. Furthermore, he claims to be bored by their weekends together and decides to call the whole thing off. As Buffy is crying, he scolds her. Xander and Willow show up in the library, and they realize Wendell's, Giles's and Xander's mishaps were all based on their nightmares, which seem to be coming true for everyone. Buffy finds Billy's astral body and the ugly man who assaulted Laura finds both of them.

As Buffy and Billy run away, the Scoobies decide to find Buffy and explain the situation to her. As Buffy and Billy run away from the ugly man, Billy explains to her that he was responsible for his baseball team losing and that it is a bad thing to lose at games. As Buffy and Billy find themselves in the cemetery at night-time, Willow finds herself starring in the Madame Butterfly opera. Willow is overcome by stage fright and runs away. Xander is chasing one chocolate bar after another until he finds one he has not had since his sixth birthday. However, he is soon assaulted by a knife-wielding clown. Back at the cemetery, the Master buries Buffy alive.

Still chased by the clown, Xander teams up with Willow and Giles. He decides to confront the clown, punching him and feeling liberated. As Willow, Xander and Giles find Buffy's grave, Giles claims it is his nightmare, letting Buffy die. Buffy crawls out of the grave — a vampire. They all decide to wake up Billy from his coma to stop the nightmares. In the hospital, they find Billy's astral body near Billy's comatose body. As the ugly man finds him, Buffy confronts him. After knocking him out, she forces Billy to face him. Billy wakes up and everything is back to normal.

As Billy's Little League coach shows up, it becomes obvious for the Scoobies that he is the inspiration for the ugly man, and that he beat Billy into a coma after they lost the game. Buffy confronts the coach and he tries to run, but is stopped by Giles and Xander and soon put into jail.

Buffy and her father leave for their weekend together. Willow then asks Xander if he was still attracted to Buffy as a vampire. Although he initially and nervously denies it, Xander then admits: "I'm sick. I need help." Willow agrees.


  • In this episode are confirmed some fears discussed in "The Puppet Show": Willow's being afraid of the audience and Xander's fear of clowns.
  • Willow's fear of appearing onstage returns once more in a dream in the episode "Restless."
  • Giles' fear is revealed to be Buffy dying, causing him to consequently fail in his duty of being a Watcher. Giles will later be forced to deal with this fear when Buffy dies more permanently in "The Gift."
  • It is revealed that Willow doesn't like spiders, and she says of them: "What do they need all those legs for anyway?" Anya will sing something similar about bunnies, which frighten her — "What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?" — in "Once More, with Feeling."
  • Although only in a nightmare, this is the first time the Master and Buffy meet face to face. They will meet again in their final battle, in "Prophecy Girl," then years later in Last Gleaming, Part Two.
  • The Master buries Buffy alive; she'll soon die at his hands in "Prophecy Girl."
  • Buffy's fear of being buried alive comes to pass in "Bargaining, Part Two," when she is resurrected and awakens in her coffin, having to claw herself out.
  • Buffy is the first of the core Scoobies to appear as a vampire; Willow and Xander have alternative timeline counterparts as vampires in episode "The Wish."



Organizations and titles[]




Death count[]

  • Buffy Summers, sired by the Master (reversed).

Behind the scenes[]


  • Sarah Michelle Gellar has a similar phobia as her character, which made filming this episode specially difficult for her. She described: "I have an irrational fear of cemeteries and being buried alive. I told the producer, 'Look, I can't do it, I'm sorry.' Through miscommunication, the message never got relayed, and it was four in the morning, and they basically made me do it, and I was hysterical. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done for my job, ever. Some people find cemeteries a turn-on. Some people like sex in cemeteries. Not me. I cried the whole way home. It was horrible. It's really hard to be a vampire slayer if you're scared of cemeteries."[2]


  • "Nightmares" pulled in an audience of 2.4 million households.[3]

Deleted scenes[]

  • A line of Xander's was cut from the original script due to length:[4]
    Xander: "Okay, despite the rat-like chill that just crawled up my spine, I'm going to say this very calmly: Helllppp…"
  • An exchange between Giles and Buffy was also cut from the original script due to length:[4]
    Giles: "Are you all right? You look a bit piqued."
    Buffy: "Hospital lighting. It does nothing for my fabulous complexion."
    Giles: "Are you… sleeping all right?"
    Buffy: "I'll sleep better when we find this guy. Nothing like kicking the crap out of a bad guy to perk up my day."

Pop culture references[]

  • Willow says Cordelia is "Evita-like," a reference to Eva Peron, whose life the musical and later film Evita is based on.
  • Nerf Herder can be seen written inside Willow's locker. Nerf Herder is the band that composed theme song for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • One of the chocolate bars Xander finds is of the brand Hershey's.
  • Willow is dressed to play the title character Cio-Cio-San from the opera Madame Butterfly (1904), while Aldo sings "Bimba Dagli Occhi Pieni di Malia" as her husband Pinkerton.
  • Before burying Buffy alive, the Master quotes the song "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (1950).
  • Billy's statement "I had the strangest dream, and you were in it, and you" is a reference to Dorothy Gale's awakening in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.


  • The establishing shot of Sunnydale High is from the episode "Teacher's Pet," with Willow visible on one of the benches wearing the same clothing as in that episode. This shot was also used in "The Pack."


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Գիշերային մղձավանջներ" (Nightmares)
  • Czech: "Nocní mury" (Nightmares)
  • Finnish: "Painajaisia" (Nightmares)
  • French: "Billy"
  • German: "Die Macht der Träume" (The Power of Dreams)
  • Hungarian: "Rémálom" (Nightmare)
  • Italian: "Incubi" (Nightmares)
  • Japanese: "悪夢" (Nightmare)
  • Polish: "Koszmary" (Nightmares)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Pesadelos" (Nightmares)
  • Romanian: "Coșmaruri" (Nightmares)
  • Russian: "Ночные кошмары" (Nightmares)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Pesadillas" (Nightmares)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Pesadillas" (Nightmares)
  • Swedish: "Mardrömmar" (Nightmares)



Promotional pictures[]

Behind the scenes[]



Master: "Fear is a wonderful thing. It is the most powerful force in the human world. Not love, not hate... Fear! When you were a mortal boy, what did you fear?"
Collin: "Monsters."
Master: "Oh. We are defined by the things we fear. This symbol, these two planks of wood, it confounds me. Suffuses me with mortal dread. But fear is in the mind. Like pain. It can be controlled. If I can face my fear, it cannot master me."
Xander: "Ah, the Hellmouth, the center of mystical convergence, supernatural monsters. Been there."
Buffy: "Little blase there, aren't you?"
Xander: "I'm not worried. If there's something bad out there, we'll find, you'll slay, we'll party."
Xander: "Probably be faster if we split up to look for her."
Giles: "Good idea."
Willow: "Uh-uh, faster, but not really safer."
Buffy: "I'm glad you showed up. You see, I'm having a really bad day."
Ugly Man: "Lucky nineteen!"
Buffy: "Scary. I'll tell you something though. There are a lot scarier things than you. And I'm one of them."
Buffy: "I just can't believe a Kiddy League coach would do something like that."
Xander: "Well, you obviously haven't played Kiddy League. I'm surprised it wasn't one of the parents."
Willow: "I'm just glad he's behind bars where he belongs.”
Buffy: "But that was kinda heroic, Xander, grabbing him and all."
Xander: "Well, I just did what anyone else would've. I mean, if you wanna label it heroic..."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001.
  2. Jancee Dunn, "Slay Lady Slay: Sarah Michelle Gellar and the Power of Buffy-hood." Rolling Stone, April 2, 1998.
  3. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's First Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Christopher Golden, Nancy Holder. The Watcher's Guide, Volume 1. Pocket Books, October 1998.