|This article is about the episode. For other uses, see Once More, with Feeling.|
"Once More, with Feeling", the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is the seventh episode of the sixth season, and the one hundred seventh in the series. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, it originally broadcast on November 6, 2001 on UPN.
Series creator Joss Whedon wrote, directed and composed the music for this episode in which a mysterious force impels the Scooby Gang to burst into song. Even Buffy devotees may be hard-pressed to find an episode as off-the-wall as this, as Sunnydale denizens become players in production numbers in which cast members do their own vocals. Hear Tara sing about her love for Willow! See Xander and Anya perform a duet! Listen to Buffy croon about her lack of life direction! Who's behind the music? Dawn provides the key.
Buffy is patrolling in a cemetery at night, but there is something wrong with her and with demons and vampires she meets: they are all singing and dancing. Buffy sings about her life after resurrecting, and the way she feels detached from it. She snubs the man held captive by the demon and two vampires she slays.
The following morning, the Scoobies reunite at the Magic Box and find out such things have happened to them all. They suddenly burst into song again, first wondering what can possibly be the cause for this — including a novel idea about bunnies Anya sings — and then, guided by Buffy, asserting their ability to deal with it together. They further learn that it's not just happened to them; all the people in Sunnydale are forced to sing about their inner feelings, as a group nearby performs about cleaning mustard out of a shirt. Willow and Tara leave the discussion to enjoy the day, and Tara sings a love song to Willow about the difference she's made in her life, which leads them to their bedroom. Somewhere else, at night a man uncontrollably tap dances on the street, until he spontaneously combust. A demon watches him and calls it entertainment.
In the morning in Xander's apartment, he and Anya sing together about things they would otherwise have never told themselves or each other, namely their fears about their coming marriage. They then complain with Giles about the constant singing, and discuss the man who caught on fire as reported on Sunnydale Press. At night, to investigate the current events, Buffy visits Spike on his crypt, when he's forced to sing to her about the torturous nature of their relationship, telling her to stay away from him if she doesn't make a decision about them.
When Dawn gets home from school, she talks with Tara, who tells her that it looks like a demon is responsible for the singing. Dawn mentions to Tara her recent argument with Willow, an argument Tara can't remember. She remembers the bramble she found in the bedroom that morning and has been wearing and begins to worry that Willow may have cast a spell on her and rushes out to check on whether this hunch is right. Dawn, now alone, goes through her stash of stolen goods, and puts on a necklace she took from the Magic Box. She starts singing about her life, but is kidnapped by Sweet's minions, interrupting her song. When Dawn wakes up in the Bronze, she and the three minions engage in an interpretive dance, which is Dawn's attempt to escape. Suddenly, the demon Sweet arrives tap dancing and introduces himself in a song. He mentions his intention of taking her to the Underworld and make her his queen, accusing Dawn of summoning him. He also explains if the melodies go on too long, people will combust and burn up from the intensity of emotion. Dawn tells him that her sister is the Slayer, so he tells his minions to bring Buffy to him so he can watch her burn.
Meanwhile in the Magic Box, Giles and Buffy train in case she is expected to fight whatever is causing the singing. Giles asks if Buffy spoke to Dawn about her misbehavior during Halloween, but Buffy tells him she'd assumed he had sorted it. As Buffy continues her training, Giles sings, unheard by her, a song about his thoughts that his continued presence encourages Buffy to remain emotionally dependent on him, thus he decides to leave again for good. Tara arrives at the shop and looks up information on the bramble, which confirms it is used in spells concerning memory alteration. Devastated, Tara sings her decision that her relationship with Willow should end. Giles' and Tara's songs merge into a duet about how much it hurts to leave, yet each knows they cannot possibly stay. They sing as they observe Buffy and Willow respectively, who are distractedly chatting at the shop entrance.
Spike suddenly arrives with one of Sweet's henchmen, who reveals to them that Dawn has been kidnapped. Xander, Anya, Tara, and Willow are eager to help save Dawn, but Giles insists that Buffy goes alone. Spike offers to back Buffy up, but she questions why he'd do that after saying he wanted her to stay away from him, so Spike skulks away, telling her he hopes she and Dawn burn. Buffy leaves alone, once again singing about her inability to feel, as both a conflicted Spike and the Scoobies express their desire to fight along with her, accompanied by Sweet, who summons them an ensemble song.
Arriving at The Bronze, Buffy starts to sing and dance defiantly, expressing her current condition and the hardships of being the Slayer. Her friends arrive and provide back up dancing with her. Unable to stop singing, Buffy finally reveals to Sweet and her friends that, by resurrecting her, they had ripped her out of heaven. As her friends react in horror to the admission, she begins dancing wildly to the point of smoking in impending combustion. Spike suddenly arrives and holds her still, concluding the song telling her that the only way to mend her wounds is to carry on living.
Applauding, Sweet prepares to leave with Dawn, who continues to deny that she summoned him. After he points out that she bears his talisman in a necklace, Xander confesses that he did it to cheer the mood, but did not expect the implications. This leads Sweet to decide to waive the clause of making Xander his queen. He then points out in a song that, because of all the hidden feelings he caused them to reveal to each other, none of them can claim "it ended well", daring them to say that they are really happy "once more with feeling". After Sweet leaves to "Hellsville", the group performs together, questioning the costly victory they've achieved and what to do next.
Spike leaves the group in the middle of the song, but Buffy goes after him. Behind The Bronze, their previous songs merge as they sing to each other. They kiss, the curtains fall, and the chorus swells one last time.
- Tara finds out that Willow magically made her forget their argument from the previous night ("All the Way"). She'll confront her about it in the next episode, "Tabula Rasa".
- Giles refers to experiencing singing room service delivery, which suggests he has moved out of the Summers' house ("Flooded") and is living in a hotel.
- Giles asks Buffy if she spoke to Dawn about the incident on Halloween, from episode "All the Way".
- Despite never being part of a real life musical before, Buffy sang while under a curse in episode "Witch", Willow attempted to perform an opera in "Nightmares", and Giles previously played at Espresso Pump in the episode "Where the Wild Things Are" and at home in "The Yoko Factor".
- The song "I've Got a Theory" features numerous references to previous episodes:
- Willow suggests that "some kid is dreaming", a reference to the events of "Nightmares". At the time, Giles said: "Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. Nightmares — our nightmares are coming true."
- With his theory about "evil witches", Xander could refer to Catherine Madison, whom they had to face in "Witch".
- Anya blames bunnies, reinforcing her fear of bunnies, introduced in "Fear, Itself".
- Buffy sings "I've died twice", referring to the season finales "Prophecy Girl" and "The Gift".
- In her song about bunnies, which frighten her, Anya sings: "What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?" Willow says something very similar about spiders — "What do they need all those legs for anyway?" — in "Nightmares".
- Anya's line, "His penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe," refers to when a Native American vengeance spirit infected Xander with a cornucopia of various diseases, including syphilis, in episode "Pangs".
- Anya references Xander's 'beady eyes' again in the episode "Entropy".
- Dawn ends the song "Something to Sing About" by saying "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it". This is the same line Buffy used when speaking to Dawn in "The Gift".
- It's the second time (after "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered") Xander causes troubles intentionally using magic.
- Buffy finally reveals the truth about actually being in Heaven to everyone, albeit, after being forced to do so by Sweets. Before this, Spike is the only one to know that the Scoobies had pulled her out of Heaven with their resurrection spell, being told so in the episode "After Life".
- It's the third time Buffy kisses Spike, after "Something Blue" and "Intervention".
- In episode "Selfless", there is an extended flashback to this episode. Anya and Xander reference an earlier song involving coconuts, and Anya sings about wanting to become 'Mrs. Xander Harris.' She also opens the window to hear a man complaining (in song) that he got mustard on his favorite shirt, providing backstory for "The Mustard" song.
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Anya Jenkins
- Tara Maclay
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Captive Man
- Mustard Man
- Parking Ticket Woman
- Singing vampire
- Singing vampire with sword
Organizations and titles
- Halloween (Only mentioned)
- Buffy Summers' Heaven (Only mentioned)
- Hellsville (Only mentioned)
Weapons and objects
Rituals and spells
- Memory purge spell (Only mentioned)
- Two vampires, staked by Buffy.
- One vampire, beheaded by Buffy.
- One unidentified demon, impaled by Buffy with a sword.
- One unidentified man, burned by Sweet.
Behind the scenes
- Joss Whedon had wanted to create a musical episode since the first season of Buffy, but wasn't allowed to until the show was moved to a more permissive network, UPN.
- At 50 minutes, this is the longest episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even with shortened opening credits, it is much longer than the usual 42 minutes. Joss Whedon comments in the extra material on the DVD that the network graciously allowed him to run past the regular hour.
- The deleted scenes from the 42 minute syndicated version include the morning scene before Buffy's patrol; the end of the "I've Got a Theory" song; and parts of the dialogue between Sweet, Buffy, and Dawn (including Dawn's repetition of the line from "The Gift").
- This is the only episode shown in the US in the widescreen format used for seasons 4–7.
- In the production documentary included as extra material on the DVD version, it is mentioned that as well as singing, James Marsters played guitar for "Rest in Peace".
- Choreographers Adam Shankman and Mama Fletcher appear in the background after the parking ticket song.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar said she "hated" making this episode (in particular the complicated singing and dancing she had to perform for "Something to Sing About"). She admitted she was glad she did it, and was glad she would never do it again.
- Writer and producer Marti Noxon can be seen singing and acting as the "Parking Ticket Girl". David Fury also cameos in the episode as the "Mustard Man". Fury started his career in musical comedy and also appeared in the Angel episode "Smile Time".
- The entire cast sang in this episode, albeit many who weren't comfortable singing with a limited number of lines. Alyson Hannigan actually begged Joss Whedon to not give her a lot of lines.
- Buffy's line, "Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday," is a reference to UPN, which was airing Buffy on Tuesday nights. Buffy also aired on Tuesday nights on the WB for the majority of its run.
- To keep up with the fact that the episode is a musical, the Mutant Enemy logo monster says his signature line in a sing-song voice.
- The three henchmen (Zachary Woodlee, Timothy Anderson, and Alex Estronei) played Buffy's graveyard opponents in the opening sequence of "Going Through the Motions" as well as a trio of street sweepers.
- In the DVD commentary, Joss says that the backpack Dawn is seen emptying is actually one he brought in from home.
- The original airing of "Once More, with Feeling" received 5.4 million viewers.
- The scene featuring Amber Benson's musical number, "Under Your Spell", featured heavily implied sex between two females (ending with a not-so-subtly implied cunnilingus by Willow), and was edited out during the episode's first broadcast in some countries like the Philippines and China.
- One line was cut due to length, about Sweet and Buffy:
- Giles: "What does he want?"
- Henchman: "Her... plus chaos and insanity and people burning up, but that's more big picture stuff."
Pop culture references
- One of the lines in "Going Through the Motions" references the song "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)". Buffy sings "You'll find this fight just doesn't mean a thing..." and the vampire she punches finishes, "...she ain't got that swing."
- Xander's line, "Respect the cruller. And tame the donut!" is a reference to a similar line from the film Magnolia.
- "I'll Never Tell" also references the song "You're Just Too Too" from "Les Girls" by Cole Porter. Both songs have a very similar filming style (two people dancing around a living room) and content (a couple somewhat-facetiously discussing each other's good and bad points), and it even features one direct reference: Anya's line "Look at me, I'm dancing crazy!" is also said by actress Kay Kendall in the original song, in both cases during the song's dance breaks.
- Anya compares her older self with newscaster David Brinkley (1930–2003).
- Spike tells Buffy he's seen "a 600-pound Chirago demon making like Yma Sumac," in reference the legendary Peruvian soprano.
- Tara makes a reference to Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance when she says to Dawn, "Willow said they have a lead on the whole musical extravaganza evil. This demon that can be summoned, some sort of Lord of the Dance. Oh, but not the scary one. Just a demon."
- The flower used as a catalyst for the memory spell is revealed to be Lethe's Bramble. Lethe is Greek for "forgetfulness" and is also one of the five rivers in Hades, causing forgetfulness in all who drink from it.
- Spike's line, "Finish the big group sing. Get your kumbaya-yas out", is a reference to both the song "Kumbaya" and to The Rolling Stones album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!.
- At the end of the episode, Spike says to Buffy, "The day you suss out what you do want, there'll probably be a parade. Seventy-six bloody trombones." This is a reference to the song "Seventy-six Trombones", from the musical The Music Man.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar — "Overture / Going Through the Motions"
- Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield, Alyson Hannigan and Anthony S. Head — "I've Got a Theory / Bunnies / If We're Together"
- David Fury — "The Mustard"
- Amber Benson — "Under Your Spell"
- Nicholas Brendon & Emma Caulfield — "I'll Never Tell"
- Marti Noxon — "The Parking Ticket"
- James Marsters — "Rest in Peace"
- Michelle Trachtenberg — "Dawn's Lament"
- Christophe Beck — "Dawn's Ballet"
- Hinton Battle & Michelle Trachtenberg — "What You Feel"
- Anthony S. Head — "Standing"
- Anthony S. Head & Amber Benson — "Under Your Spell / Standing (Reprise)"
- Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, James Marsters, Hinton Battle & Michelle Trachtenberg — "Walk Through the Fire"
- Sarah Michelle Gellar & James Marsters — "Something to Sing About"
- Hinton Battle — "What You Feel (Reprise)"
- Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Marsters and Emma Caulfield — "Where Do We Go from Here?"
- Sarah Michelle Gellar & James Marsters — "Coda"
- See also the songs' lyrics.
Goofs, bloopers & continuity errors
- Xander's line "Respect the cruller. And tame the donut!" does not, in fact, respect the cruller; he has a twist donut and a cake donut in his hand, not a cruller.
- Scot Zeller portrayed the tap dancing victim, but was miscredited as Henchman.
- During the showdown at The Bronze, when Buffy sings "And every single verse," Amber Benson accidentally bumps into a support beam. In the next shot she can be seen laughing, then hiding behind this same beam.
- In the first chorus of the song, Buffy sings "I will walk through the fire", but her lips clearly say "And I will walk through the fire".
- Right after "I'll Never Tell", during the scene with Giles, Anya, and Xander, the camera and camera crew are visible reflected in windows following them along the sidewalk.
- "Once More, with Feeling" was nominated for "Outstanding Music Direction" in the Emmy Awards and "Best Dramatic Presentation" in the Hugo Awards.
- Armenian: "Եվս մեկ անգամ, և զգացմունքով" (Once More, with Feeling)
- Czech: "Ještě jednou a s citem" (Once More with Feeling)
- Finnish: "Vielä kerran tunteella" (Once More with Feeling)
- French: "Que le Spectale Commence!" (Let the Show Begin!)
- German: "Noch einmal mit Gefühl" (Once More with Feeling)
- Hungarian: "Egyszer, érzéssel" (Once, Feeling)
- Italian: "La vita è un musical" (Life Is a Musical)
- Japanese: "ワンス モア ウィズ フィーリング" (Once More with Feeling)
- Polish: "Zagraj to jeszcze raz" (Play It Again)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Quem Canta os Males Atrai" (Who Sings the Evil Attracts)
- Romanian: "Once More, with Feeling"
- Russian: "Ещё раз, и с чувством" (Once More, with Feeling)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Una vez más, con Sentimiento" (Once More, with Feeling)
- Spanish (Spain): "Otra vez, con más Sentimiento" (Once Again, with More Feeling)
- Joss Whedon provided the DVD commentaries for the episode.
- The original soundtrack of the episode was released in CD and vinyl formats.
- The episode itself was released in DVD format.
- The episode script and its sheet music was published in The Script Book: Once More, with Feeling.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures of Anya and Dawn were produced based on this episode, as well as a deluxe action figure of Buffy. A Tooned Up Buffy the Vampire Slayer maquette of Buffy, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer busts of Willow and Tara in this episode were produced as well.
- Scenes from this episode were included in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Adult Coloring Book and Big Bads & Monsters Adult Coloring Book.
- The Spike: Shadow Puppets comic miniseries has the issue Once More, with Felt in parody of the title "Once More, with Feeling".
- The comic issue Welcome Back to the Hellmouth, Part Four has a tribute variant cover to this episode.
- Sesame Street episode 4220 (2010) replicates the mustard scene from this episode.
Behind the scenes
|Buffy - "I'm not exactly quaking in my stylish yet affordable boots, but there's definitely something unnatural going on here. And that doesn't usually lead to hugs and puppies."|
|Dawn - "Oh my god! You will never believe what happened at school today."|
|Buffy - "Everybody started singing and dancing."|
|Dawn - "I gave birth to a pterodactyl."|
|Anya - "Oh my god! Did it sing?"|
|Buffy - "So Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday."|
|Anya - "It has to be stopped. It was like we were being watched, like there was a wall missing from our apartment. Like there were only three walls and not a fourth one."|
|Anya - "Dawn may have had the wrong idea in summoning this creature. But I've seen some of these underworld child-bride deals, and they never end well. Maybe once."|