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"Selfless" is the fifth episode of seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 127th in the series. Written by Drew Goddard and directed by David Solomon, it originally broadcast on October 22, 2002 on the UPN network.

Synopsis

WITH A VENGEANCE — Anya seeks vengeance for a wronged college girl, and her spell ends in the death of several frat boys. As Anya reconsiders her actions, Buffy realizes she has to take her stand as the slayer against Anya, much to the chagrin of Xander. Willow re-enrolls at UC Sunnydale and tries to find a more peaceful solution to the Anya situation.[1]

Summary

Dawn helps Willow move into her new room at the Summers' house while giving her advice on how to fit in with people at school. Buffy and Xander contribute to the effort as well while talking about Anya. Buffy wonders about Anya's evil intentions, but Xander thinks she's getting better and isn't a threat.

Meanwhile, at a fraternity house, dead male bodies litter the room, each one with his heart ripped out. Anya sits on the floor, covered in blood, asking herself what she's done.

In Sjornjost, Sweden, 880 A.D., a pre-demon Anya, named Aud, cares for her mate Olaf after he returns home from what he claims has been a hard day of fighting trolls, although she doubts him. She waits on him, promising requested sex after he's eaten, and rhapsodizing about "the sense of accomplishment that stems from selflessly giving of yourself to others" and her plan to give away her rabbits to their fellow villagers. She worries about whether he's unfaithful when he talks about the bar matron.

In the present-day Sunnydale High basement, Spike talks to Buffy about his mental struggles and remembers Drusilla. Buffy reassures that they'll get through this together. The real Buffy then enters and approaches Spike, who has been instead alone. She insists that Spike must get out of the basement and away from whatever is making him so crazy down there, but he says he has no place to go.

On the college campus, Willow talks to Professor Hawkins into reinstating her in class. She then sees Anya leaving one of the fraternity houses in a trench coat. Anya's diffident and claims she's dating one of the fraternity boys before quickly rushing off. Willow spots a streak of blood on Anya wrist before she departs and goes to investigate the building. Willow finds the fraternity house full of blood and corpses. A young co-ed is whimpering in the closet that she "takes it back." She explains how, in response to a cruel fraternity stunt, she made a rhetorical wish about "having their hearts ripped out," after which a giant spider demon appeared and did just that. The spider then attacks Willow and the girl, but Willow magically creates a force field to protect them. With her eyes black, Willow makes a harsh comment to the girl before tossing the spider through a window. Willow then comforts the girl, her normal self again.

In Sjornjost, 880, Anya watches as Olaf runs from a mob of villagers seeking to kill him. D'Hoffryn approaches her and praises her magical skill and vengeful resolution in transforming Olaf into a troll in punishment for cheating on her. D'Hoffryn insists that Aud's true self is Anyanka, a natural born vengeance demon, and offers to make her one, which she accepts.

At work, Buffy receives a call from Willow about the fraternity house and the spider demon. Meanwhile, Halfrek is in Anya's room praising her return to enthusiastic vengeance while Anya is ambivalent and somewhat regretful. Willow barges in and orders Halfrek out. Anya rejects her assistance and considers Willow poorly qualified to judge following her own brush with darkness.

Buffy and Xander search the woods for the spider demon and are surprised by it as they inspect another of its victims — the spider nearly kills Buffy before she tosses it and kills it with a handy bit of axe-hurling. They return to the Summers house and find Willow waiting with an explanation about where the demon originated and the damage it caused. Xander blows up at Willow because she didn't tell them, but realizes she delayed because now Buffy will have to kill Anya.

In 1905, Anyanka and Halfrek drink champagne in a banquet room full of massacred men as the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, burns outside the window. Anyanka accepts Halfrek's compliments for starting the Russian Revolution, which she sees the success of revolutionary communism as inevitable and desirable. However, Anya rejects her offer to go celebrate, as her work — vengeance — is all she is or wants.

Back in the Summers home, Xander denounces Buffy's plan to kill Anya, with Buffy remarking that his feelings for Anya are clouding his judgement. He insists Buffy always protects demons she sleeps with, but Buffy reminds him how she killed Angel because it was necessary, and asserts that, as the Slayer, her judgements regarding demons are absolute: "I am the law." Xander insists there must be another way and rushes off when Buffy advises him to find it. She takes weapons from her weapon chest and leaves to find Anya alone, Willow pleading that she can't bear to accompany or help.

Left on her own, Willow rushes to her room and uses the summoning talisman that D'Hoffryn had given her. D'Hoffryn is happy that Willow has called him as he'd been impressed with her flaying of Warren Mears and her surrender to hatred, which he'd sensed her returning to that afternoon. Willow explains that she's called him to discuss Anya's recent actions, which he accepts to do.

Xander finds Anya at the fraternity house but Anya rejects his help. She reminding him of his breach of promise of marriage, which Xander insists isn't a good excuse anymore. Buffy arrives and tells Xander to get out of the way. Anya switches to her veiny demon face, throws Xander aside, and attacks Buffy. They fight until Buffy impales Anya through the chest with a sword.

One year earlier, in Xander's apartment, Anya sings a solo number about how her future role as Xander's "Mrs." In the present, Anya comes to and rips the sword out. Buffy fights the sword away from her and gets another shot at using it. Xander then tackles Buffy away from Anya.

Suddenly D'Hoffryn appears, interrupting the fight. He first approvingly inspects Anya's scene of carnage in the other room, then reminds Buffy that attacking him is futile. D'Hoffryn compliments Xander's gallantry and Willow's solicitousness, then notes Buffy's bloody-minded resolution, but he concludes by asking Anya what she wants to do. Anya asks to undo her act of vengeance, which is possible as her victims died "mystical deaths." D'Hoffryn warns that a sacrifice will be required: the life and soul of a vengeance demon. Despite Xander's protests, Anya is willing to die to undo her recent actions. D'Hoffryn makes Anya confirm she's willing to pay the price.

D'Hoffryn cast a spell that summons Halfrek then kills her by burning her from the inside out. He then asks Anya who she thought she was dealing with, reminding her: "Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain." He then turns Anya human again. Anya tells him she should have died, but D'Hoffryn assures her there's plenty of time for that yet. Reminding everyone that "from beneath you, it devours," D'Hoffryn teleports away as the frat boys start to wake up.

Anya walks out alone, but Xander follows. She voices her dread at now facing life for the first time without a role to lose herself in, as vengeance demon or girlfriend or wife or even businessperson, claiming she's always been without a self of her own. Xander comforts Anya by telling her to not be a dope. He then backs away and Anya walks in the opposite direction.

Continuity

  • In 880, Aud has a house full of rabbits which she breeds to give away, in contrast to present-day Anya who has a fear of rabbits, first revealed in "Fear, Itself."
  • Olaf bemoans the illogical reasoning of trolls; in "Triangle," Xander will use the phrase "insane troll logic."
  • Willow insists that she didn't finish her classes and finals using magic. She was "on the wagon" from "Gone" until "Seeing Red," when she had to catch up on her classes and finish her finals.
  • In the flashback to 1905, Halfrek credits the Russian Revolution to Anya, a real event. In "The Wish," Wishverse Giles stated that destroying her power center would reverse all wishes she had granted. There was an abortive revolution in 1905 which, though ultimately unsuccessful at toppling the Tsar, did force some needed reforms and a new constitution. The Russian Revolution which brought the Communists into power didn't happen until 1917.
  • In 1905, Anyanka is extolling the virtues of Communism, saying it will result in "socioeconomic paradise on Earth," in contrast to the present day shopkeeper Anya who defends Capitalism as an "extraordinarily precious ideology" ("Tough Love").
  • Buffy compares her decision to kill Anya with her decision to kill Angel in "Becoming, Part Two." She also brings up Xander's lie about Willow telling her to "kick his ass."
  • In "Consequences," Faith told Buffy: "We are the law," but Buffy denied it at the time. In this episode, Buffy states that, as the Slayer, she is "the law" in supernatural matters.
  • Willow attempts to help Anya throughout the episode without Buffy and Xander, just as Anya helped her in "Same Time, Same Place."
  • Willow uses the talisman that D'Hoffryn gave her in "Something Blue" to summon him if she decides to become a vengeance demon.
  • During their fight, Anya asks Buffy: "Are there any of your friends you haven't tried to kill?" Buffy set a demon loose to kill Xander, Willow, Dawn, and Tara in "Normal Again"; fought Willow in "Two to Go," Angel and Spike in season 2, and Faith in "Graduation Day, Part One"; and accidentally attacked Cordelia in "Welcome to the Hellmouth," Oz in "What's My Line? Part One," Riley in "The Initiative," and Giles in "A New Man."
  • This episode contains a flashback to when the episode "Once More, with Feeling" took place.
    • A man singing about getting mustard on his shirt will sing "The Mustard" in commemoration to have got it out.
    • Anya's song "Mrs." take place the same evening Buffy sang "Going Through the Motions" in the actual musical episode. There are coconuts on the kitchen counter which Xander and Anya mention at the meeting in the Magic Box.
    • During Anya's song, she sings about Xander, "Although he can be... I'll never tell," a reference to their duet "I'll Never Tell."
  • Anya says that Buffy knows better, that a sword through the chest doesn't kill vengeance demons. In "Older and Far Away," Halfrek was also stabbed through the chest and called it a "flesh wound."
  • When Anya says to D'Hoffryn that he should have killed her, he replies: "Be patient. All good things in time." D'Hoffryn will send demons after her in the episodes "Him" and "Get It Done," and Anya will eventually get killed in "Chosen."

Appearances

Individuals

Organizations and titles

Species

Locations

Objects

Rituals and spells

Death count

  • All fraternity house boys, hearts ripped out by a Grimslaw demon (reversed).
  • Unidentified man, heart ripped out by a Grimslaw demon.
  • The Grimslaw demon, killed by Buffy with an ax.
  • Unidentified man, immolated (in flashback).
  • Halfrek, burned by D'Hoffryn.

Behind the scenes

Production

  • Kali Rocha was performing in the play Noises Off when season 7 was shooting. She was flown in for one day and filmed all her Season Seven scenes ("Lessons" and this episode) on that one day. She filmed her "death scene" before a green screen for later super-imposition into the scene.[citation needed]
  • Writer Drew Goddard originally questioned whether or not the "Mrs." scene should have been shown in widescreen for American audiences since it was a flashback to "Once More, with Feeling," the only episode of Buffy shown in widescreen in the US. Director David Solomon thought it would have been too confusing to switch between full-frame and widescreen, so it was not done.[citation needed]
  • Goddard claims that the Sjornjost scenes were written in Swedish but he intended for the lines to be dubbed badly in English, so Emma Caulfield and Abraham Benrubi were told that they did not need to memorize the Swedish that carefully because it would not be heard. Both actors memorized all of the alleged Swedish words phonetically, and the show creators were so pleased with their performances that they decided to subtitle the scenes rather than dub them.[2]
  • Goddard also says that he chose the name Aud for Anya's original human name because while researching Viking names he found a Viking king named Olaf who had a wife named Aud, known for her sense of humor and her ability to manage money. The description of Aud fit Anya so well that he had to use the name.[2]
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar was only available for three days of shooting on this episode because of her wedding. Goddard said that her hair in this episode was her "wedding hair."[2]
  • The network was unhappy with D'Hoffryn's Abercrombie and Fitch line ("It looks like someone slaughtered an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue") because he didn't care about the deaths of the frat boys. Goddard explained that D'Hoffryn is in fact evil but the network still didn't get it. He wrote another line — "It looks like Maxim has just lost 15 subscriptions" —, but the original line eventually was okayed by the network.[citation needed]
  • Goddard considered a flashback to "Hush," but decided that it would be difficult to show Anya defining herself through Xander without dialogue.[citation needed]

Deleted scenes

  • This line was cut, when D'Hoffryn tells Anya she must pay a price:[3]
Xander: "Something that involves grueling, hard labor. At fair market value taking into account your project's special needs."

Pop culture references

  • Spike says: "Scream 'Montresor' all you like, pet." This is a reference to Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado." In the story, Montresor leads his friend Fortunato to a catacomb and, desiring revenge, traps him in. At one point near the end of the story, Fortunato shouts out, "For the love of God, Montresor!" But his screams do nothing to change Montresor's mind; he leaves Fortunato for dead.
  • Xander says that "anything's better than breathing Freon for eight hours," the trademark of non-combustible gas used as a refrigerant in air conditioning applications.
  • Anya grants a wish that sparks the 1905 Russian Revolution. It led to a constitutional reform that included the establishment of the State Duma, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906.
  • D'Hoffryn compares the murdered frat boys: "It's like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog."

Music

International titles

  • Armenian: "Եսասերը" (Selfish)
  • Czech: "Obětavost" (Selflessness)
  • Finnish: "Noiduttu" (Enchanted)
  • French: "Crise d'identité" (Identity Crisis)
  • German: "Wandlungen" (Transitions)
  • Hungarian: Önkívület (Delirium)
  • Italian: "Altruismo" (Selflessness)
  • Japanese: "無私無欲" (Selfless)
  • Polish: "Zatracona" (Lost)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Altruísmo" (Selflessness)
  • Romanian: "Altruist" (Selfless)
  • Russian: "Самоотверженная" (Selfless)
  • Spanish (Latin American): "Alguien Generoso" (Someone Selfless)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Desinteresadamente" (Selflessly)
  • Swedish: “Osjälvisk” (Selfless)

Adaptations

  • David Solomon and Drew Goddard provided the DVD commentaries for this episode.
  • The book Chosen: The One includes a novelization of this episode, along with all season 7.
  • The scene of when Anya meets D'Hoffryn was illustrated for the Big Bads & Monsters Adult Coloring Book.

Quotes

Olaf: "You speak your mind, and are annoying."
Buffy: "I killed Angel. Do you even remember that? I would have given up everything I had to be with— I loved him more than I will ever love anything in this life. And I put a sword through his heart because I had to."
Olaf: "Bah! I've told you a thousand times; I have no interest in this Rannveig. Her hips are large and load bearing, like a Baltic woman. Your hips are narrow, like a Baltic woman from a slightly more arid region."
D'Hoffryn: "Oh, breathtaking! It's like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog."
Villager 1: "It's the largest troll I've ever seen!"
Villager 2: "Run! Hide your babies and your beadwork!"
Olaf: "Stop! Stop! It is Olaf!"
Villager 3: "The troll is doing an Olaf impersonation!"
Olaf: "I am Olaf!"
Villager 4: "Hit him with fruits and various meats."
Olaf: "Aaarrrgh! I am Olaf!"

References

  1. "Season 7." Craig's BuffyVERSE 4ever. Retrieved on July 16, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Drew Goddard, November 16, 2004. The Complete Seventh Season on DVD: DVD commentaries for the episode "Selfless." [DVD]. 20th Century Studios.
  3. "Buffy - Selfless." BuffyWorld. Archived from the original on July 31, 2021.
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