"Potential" is the twelfth episode of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the 134th episode in the series. It was written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner and directed by James A. Contner. It originally broadcast on January 21, 2003 on UPN.
THE CHOSEN ONES — With the First taking time to regroup since the slaying of the Ubervamp, Buffy and Spike take on the task of training all the potential slayers. The coven in England discovers another slayer-in-waiting already living in Sunnydale, and Willow attempts a locator spell to find out who the girl is before the Bringers are able to get to her. However, the spell leads the gang to a surprising conclusion.
Rona and Violet walk alone in the cemetery until Spike knocks Rona out of the way, grabs Vi and leans in for the kill. Buffy and the other Potential Slayers watch and learn from this example and Buffy lectures the girls on how to deal with vampire attacks. Buffy has Spike attack her to continue, but she easily gets the upper hand and pins Spike to the ground. When she worries she hurt him, the girls notice some intimacy between them.
Back in the Summers' basement, the Potentials argue about petty things until Buffy gets their attention focused again with a strict reminder about the seriousness of death. They believe the First Evil is taking a brief break from them, but it will come back stronger and better than before. While Dawn watches silently from the stairs, Buffy tries to give the girls another pep talk.
At work, Buffy talks with Xander on the phone until a student, Amanda, comes in for counseling. The girl asks about liking a boy who picks on her and seeks Buffy's advice, but Buffy gets a bit distracted with her own similar situation with Spike and rambles about how she's not going to let that problem happen again. Buffy returns home to bickering among the Potentials and news from Willow that another Potential has been found, already in Sunnydale. The Potentials examine weapons and Dawn tries to fit into the group's conversation, but it's a struggle. Spike arrives and then leaves with Buffy and the other girls for some training. Andrew pouts because he's not invited and although silent, Dawn feels left out as well.
Willow prepares the ingredients for a spell that will locate the Potential Slayer and surround her with a glowing aura. The spell is performed at the fireplace, but at first it doesn't succeed, just creates a horrible smell. Dawn tries to open a door to air out the room, but the light follows her, knocking her into the door and surrounding her. Dawn starts to freak out at the news that she's the latest Potential. She's worried that her becoming a Slayer would mean her sister would have to die first. Dawn doesn't want to tell Buffy what's going on and goes upstairs to think alone while the rest of the gang debate the pros and cons of the situation and telling Buffy. Dawn overhears the conversation and feeling the weight of their concerns and her potential fate of death, she sneaks out the window.
Buffy and Spike take the girls to a demon bar to explain the art of getting information out of the demonic patrons there. They run into Clem and, after a brief happy exchange with him, Buffy asks him to scare the overly confident Potentials. His face expands into a mass of snakelike limbs and such, making the girls scream and Spike laugh.
While walking alone outside, Dawn runs into Amanda who has a scratch on her head and claims to have been attacked by a vampire. The girl explains that she managed to get away and lock the vampire in one of the classrooms. Having heard rumors about Buffy, Amanda was going to ask for her help, but Dawn volunteers to take care of the problem. They break back into the school, but when they reach the classroom, they find the door unlocked and don't see the vampire hiding wedged against the ceiling. The vampire falls as the girls try to leave and it chases them out into the halls until they reach locked doors. Trapped, Dawn turns to a fire extinguisher and when she can't get it to work, she knocks the vampire around with it instead then bolts with Amanda.
Buffy and Spike show the girls a crypt and teach them about the living quarters of vampires. While investigating the area, the girls find a dead body, but Buffy shows them that it's a vampire. At the school, Dawn and Amanda hide in a classroom and push a set of drawers against the door while Dawn tries to come up with an escape plan. Buffy tosses the vampire around while lecturing the girls about successful fighting and keeping a straight head during battle. Meanwhile, Dawn puts Buffy's lessons to use and acts resourcefully until the vampire pins her to the ground and goes in for the bite. The Bringers then suddenly break in through the windows and grab Amanda instead of Dawn. After beating up the vampire a bit, Buffy drops her stake on the floor and, along with Spike, leaves the girls trapped alone with the vampire. Back at the house, Willow, Xander, and Anya find that Dawn has bolted and Willow rushes to do a spell to find her before it's too late.
Dawn uses the room's chemistry supplies to set the Bringers on fire and escape with Amanda. She realizes that Amanda is the true Potential Slayer and willingly hands over the right and her weapon to Amanda. The frightened teen has a hard time grasping these strange realities Dawn explains, but she doesn't have much time to think about it. Xander arrives at the school with Buffy and Spike as the Bringers attack full force. Amanda keeps the Bringers at bay and stakes the vampire that attacked her earlier while Buffy and Spike finish off the Bringers. As Amanda rambles to Buffy about the strangeness she's dealing with, Dawn reveals that Amanda was standing outside the front door when she was hit by the aura cloud from Willow's spell.
Amanda and the other Potentials talk and bond about their successes with fighting the forces of darkness while Dawn secretly watches from the other room. Buffy checks in with Dawn, but she doesn't pick up on Dawn's real problem. While Buffy takes the other girls down to the basement for training, Amanda and Dawn trade a friendly smile. Xander catches on to Dawn's disappointment about not being a Potential. Xander confides in her how hard it is for him to be the normal member of the gang and he relates to Dawn's place. He tells her he's been fighting along side super powered people for years with no powers of his own, and that he saw her giving her power to Amanda and working hard today. Kissing her on the forehead, Xander tells Dawn she's not special, she's extraordinary. In return, Dawn suggests that he does have a power, his ability to notice things. He leaves, and Dawn resumes her work.
- This episode marks the beginning of the Potentials' formal training under Buffy and Spike.
- Buffy tells the Potentials that although most people have no idea why they exist, the Potentials do — they have "a mission, a reason for being here." This is very similar to what Giles told her in "Reptile Boy," when he asked her how many people her age can say that they have a purpose, a commitment in life.
- Spike tells Buffy that a couple of his ribs haven't set right, being recently rescued from the First's tortures in "Showtime."
- Buffy tells the Potentials that her death could make one of them the next Slayer. Dawn also makes the same assumption, stating that if she were to become the Slayer, it would mean that Buffy had died. It's known that Faith became a Slayer ("Faith, Hope & Trick") after Kendra died ("Becoming, Part One"), but the possibility of the line continuing due to another death of Buffy is never clear in the series, even after her death in "The Gift," when no new Slayer is discovered or mentioned.
- Buffy mentions Giles picking up a girl called Chao-Ahn in Shanghai; she'll arrive in Sunnydale in the episode "First Date."
- Andrew sits in on a Scooby meeting for the first time, a first step in his integration into the Scooby Gang.
- Dawn begins to tell the Potentials she has killed things before; she staked Justin in "All the Way" and beheaded an earth golem in "Grave."
- Andrew complains that Spike has just killed people and Buffy explains that he didn't have free will, as the Scoobies discovered in "Sleeper." Buffy also tells Andrew that he did have free will, in reference to when he killed Jonathan ("Conversations with Dead People").
- While preparing for the potential-seeking spell with Willow, Andrew says "Killing pigs is just so wrong... and also hard." This is a reference to his attempt and failure to kill a pig in "Never Leave Me."
- Willow recalls the information on Buffy and Dawn sharing the same blood, as Buffy concluded in "The Gift."
- Andrew mentions the microwave needing to be replaced; it exploded in "Conversations with Dead People" and a new one will be bought in "First Date."
- Dawn refers to the message her mother (actually the First Evil) told her in "Conversations with Dead People": "When it's bad, Buffy won't choose you. She'll be against you."
- Buffy tells the Potentials a Slayer wouldn't usually go to a demon bar to drink, then lies that she doesn't drink at all. Buffy drank at a demon bar in "Life Serial," incidentally when she first met Clem.
- Spike says he doesn't know if "posh" is the right word to describe his crypt, despite having told Buffy it was "quite posh" in "After Life."
- Buffy describes Spike's crypt as "comfy" and Kennedy asks about when she found it so, the Potentials noticing this as another sign that they dated in the past. In "Dead Things", Buffy praised the crypt as well, while lying with Spike after indeed having sex with him.
- Xander tells Dawn about his experience as part of the Scooby Gang for seven years, founded in "The Harvest."
- Dawn says to Xander, "You had that sexy army training for a while," which refers to the episode "Halloween." Although Dawn didn’t appear in this episode, as reality was not yet modified by monks of the Order of Dagon ("Buffy vs. Dracula"), Dawn is present in their memories and they in hers. She also smiles fondly at the mention of Oz although the two characters never meet onscreen.
- At the beginning of the episode, Xander questions if he understands what a "seer" is, then at the end Dawn says to Xander "seeing" may be his super power. This will appear again in "Dirty Girls," when Caleb will note that Xander was "the one who sees everything."
- The twelfth episode of the season was generally the episode in which Buffy has her birthday. Apart from the first season, which was a mid-season replacement and probably began just after Buffy's sixteenth birthday, this is the only season where Buffy's birthday isn't acknowledged. In the birthday episode of the previous season, "Older and Far Away," Spike did suggest Buffy should not celebrate her birthday anymore.
- Chloe is the only Potential Slayer currently residing at the Summers residence who misses this episode's trainings, not appearing or being mentioned in the entire episode.
- Althenea (Only mentioned)
- Chao-Ahn (Only mentioned)
- First Evil (Only mentioned)
- Rupert Giles (Only mentioned)
- Alexander Harris
- Anya Jenkins
- Margot (Only mentioned)
- Daniel Osbourne (Only mentioned)
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Joyce Summers (Only mentioned)
- Andrew Wells
- Unidentified demon (Potential)
- Unidentified vampire (Potential)
Organizations and titles
- Devon Coven (Only mentioned)
- Harbingers of Death
- Potential Slayer
- Scooby Gang
- Watcher (Only mentioned)
- Shanghai (Only mentioned)
Rituals and spells
- One vampire, staked by Kennedy, Molly, Vi, and Rona (only mentioned).
- One Harbinger of Death, stabbed by Buffy.
- One Harbinger of Death, stabbed by Spike.
- One Harbinger of Death, snapped by Buffy.
- One vampire, staked by Amanda.
Behind the scenes
- The role of Amanda (who first appeared in "Help") was originally intended as a one-episode part, but was brought back as a recurring character (beginning with this episode) due to Sarah Hagan's connection to episode writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner, who wrote for Hagan's previous series Freaks and Geeks.
- When Buffy, Spike, Dawn, Molly, Rona, Vi, Kennedy, and Andrew are in the kitchen, this line was cut due to length:
- Kennedy: "Hey guys, we fit three more people in here and we can call the Guinness Book people."
Pop culture references
- The Slayer line is compared by Anya to the line of succession for the Pope.
- Andrew compares himself to Vegeta and in a roundabout way compares Buffy to Goku. He also asks Dawn if she wants to play Dragon Ball Z.
- Clem tells Buffy about a show he watched on The History Channel, but wasn't able to record it with his TiVo.
- Molly wears a shirt with the Love Is... cartoon.
- Talking about womanhood, Andrew mentions Eve, the first woman according to Abrahamic religions.
- Xander tells Andrew to not mention Skywalker, but then to talk about Star Wars again.
Goofs, bloopers & continuity errors
- In the scene where Dawn talks with Xander, Anya, Andrew, and Willow about the possibility that she might be a Slayer, a boom mic is seen at the edge of the screen. More specifically, the shot of Xander and Willow after Anya says "That's because you're a part of something larger. Like being swallowed. By something larger." The mic can be seen at the middle right of the screen.
- Armenian: "Բարձրագույն" (Supreme)
- Czech: "Adeptky" (Adepts)
- Finnish: "Kovassa koulussa" (In a Tough School)
- French: "La relève" (The Relief)
- German: "Die Anwärterin" (The Potential)
- Hungarian: "Lehetőség" (Potential)
- Italian: "Addestramento" (Training)
- Japanese: "秘めたる力" (Hidden Power)
- Polish: "Nowa generacja" (New Generation)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Caçadora em Potencial" (Potential Slayer)
- Romanian: "Potential"
- Russian: "Потенциал" (Potential)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Potencial" (Potential)
- Spanish (Spain): "Las candidatas" (The Potentials)
- Swedish: “Potential” (Potential)
- The book Chosen: The One includes a novelization of this episode, along with all season 7.
- This episode is included in The Slayer Collection: Dawn DVD.
Behind the scenes
|Andrew: "What's going on?"|
|Anya: "Dawn's gonna be a Slayer."|
|Andrew: "Holy crap! Excuse me. Plucked from an ordinary life, handed a destiny."|
|Xander: "Say 'Skywalker' and I smack ya."|
|Willow: "It's not like that. It's like, she's part of this huge power. I know what that feels like. It feels wonderful."|
|Andrew: "Yes, Willow so captured it. It's like... Well, it's almost like this metaphor for womanhood, isn't it? The sort of flowering that happens when a girl realizes that she's part of a fertile heritage stretching back to Eve, and..."|
|Xander: "I'll pay you to talk about Star Wars again."|
|Vi: "They're demons! It's a demon bar. It's like a gay bar, only with demons."|
|Xander: "Seven years, Dawn. Working with the Slayer. Seeing my friends get more and more powerful. A witch. A demon. Hell, I could fit Oz in my shaving kit, but come a full moon, he had a wolfy mojo not to be messed with. Powerful. All of them. And I'm the guy who fixes the windows."|
|Xander: "They'll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn't chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because...nobody's watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today. You're not special. You're extraordinary."|
|Dawn: "Maybe that's your power."|
|Dawn: "Seeing. Knowing."|
|Xander: "Maybe it is... Maybe I should get a cape."|