"Tabula Rasa" is the eighth episode of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, and is the one hundred eighth episode in the series. Written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner and directed by David Grossman, it originally broadcast on November 13, 2001 on UPN.
Despite Tara's misgivings about her overindulgence in witchcraft, Willow tries to cheer Buffy up by making the Slayer forget the idyllic afterlife she left behind. Alas, the spell goes awry and affects the minds of all the Scoobies.
Buffy patrols and runs into Spike, who wants to talk about their kiss. Buffy tries to brush it off as part of the spell they were under and tells him that she has no intention of kissing him again. The conversation is halted when Teeth, a demon loan shark (with a shark's head), confronts Spike about his kitten debt, but Buffy steps in and takes care of the thugs looking to beat 40 Siamese out of Spike. Willow, Xander, Anya, and Tara talk about calling Buffy back from Heaven and their feelings in the aftermath of the revelation. While the other three agree they need to stop thinking about their past actions and just try to make things better for Buffy, Willow (feeling very guilty over destroying Buffy's peaceful afterlife) isn't receptive to this and suggests fixing the mess with a spell. Sensing the tension, Xander and Anya leave as Tara confronts Willow about her excessive and damaging use of magic. Willow suggests making Buffy forget about being in heaven, but Tara reveals she knows a memory-spell was used on her and lets Willow know how furious and violated she feels. Tara then decides that things aren't working between them at the moment and starts to break up with her girlfriend, however Willow is desperate not to lose her and offers to go a month without magic to prove that she is not dependent. Tara asks her to try for a week, but doesn't promise that this will save the relationship.
Giles informs Buffy that he is returning to England for good and Buffy takes the news very badly. He knows she is too dependent on him and he must leave if she's ever going to learn to survive on her own. She begs him to stay, telling him she can learn to stand on her own with him around. Giles stands firm, assuring her he's doing the right thing but Buffy, deeply hurt and angry that her Watcher is seemingly abandoning her when she needs him most, tells him he's wrong.
Without her magic, Willow is late getting ready to leave the house so Tara and Dawn leave for the Magic Box without her. As soon as they're gone, Willow uses magic to get dressed quickly and starts another spell by the fireplace that will make Tara and Buffy forget the damages of the spells Willow used on them. In her rush, she accidentally leaves a bag of the Lethe's Bramble by the fireplace.
The whole gang, including a disguised Spike on the run from the loan shark, gather at the Magic Box during the day. Giles confesses that he is leaving and Buffy begins to have an emotional breakdown, unable to cope with her painful memories and the feeling that everyone is abandoning her. Willow has a crystal in her pocket that was used with her forgetting spell and it glows brightly in her hand. However, back at the Summers' house, a spark from the fireplace ignites the entire bag of Lethe's Bramble. Instead of just Buffy and Tara forgetting their recent upsets, the entire gang falls unconscious. They wake up later that evening with absolutely no knowledge of who or where they are. Spike suspects Giles is his father (because they're both English), Anya assumes she's getting married to Giles (because they jointly own the magic shop and woke up next to each other), and Willow and Xander tentatively assume they're dating (because they woke up lying next to each other and Willow was wearing Xander's coat). Xander, Willow, Anya, Giles, and Tara get their names from their IDs (although Xander is referred to as "Alex" by Dawn), and Dawn gets hers from her necklace. Lacking their own IDs, Buffy names herself Joan, and Spike mistakenly assumes the name Randy from the inside of his stolen coat is his name.
A couple of vampires outside the shop scare the entire gang and they hide in fear. Looking for Spike to repay his debt, the vampires attack the shop. Joan discovers she's a superhero of some sort when she stakes one of the vampires and saves Randy. Anya and Giles stay at the magic shop to try and find a solution while Joan and Randy run outside to fight off the vampires. Randy unknowingly assumes his vampire visage to fight off the vampire thugs, which sends Joan running away in fear.
The rest of the Scoobies retreat to the sewers but they encounter vampires down there too. Anya turns to a random page in a book and reads the incantation there, which causes a bunny to appear and frighten her. Joan attacks Randy when he catches up with her and informs him that he's a vampire. He's confused by it, but assumes that he's a good, noble vampire — a vampire with a soul — because he doesn't want to bite her, which Joan thinks is incredibly lame. The loan shark and his minions attack the two and a fight ensues.
Anya continues to try random spells, which makes many more bunnies, a dark green cloud to form inside the shop, and a skeletal beast to appear (which he must swordfight against). Giles and Anya argue while hiding behind the counter from an unseen growling beast and Giles reveals that he found a one-way plane ticket in his pocket for London, assuming he must be abandoning Anya. Eventually, Giles casts a banishing spell to remove everything. With the threats removed, Anya begs him not to leave her and they kiss passionately. Alex fights with the vampire chasing them in the sewers, finally staking it, and then accidentally steps on the crystal that fell from Willow's pocket. The breaking of the spell finds Giles and Anya kissing, Willow atop Tara after a fall, and Spike and Buffy deep in mid-action conversation.
Tara and the others realize that Willow used magic, despite her promise. The spell broken, Buffy is momentarily too stunned to duck a few painful hits. Spike finishes off the rest of the vampires and promises to make up his debt to the intimidated Teeth. While Willow cries in the bathroom, Tara packs all of her things into boxes; then, receiving a hurt cold shoulder from Dawn, leaves. Full of grief, Giles takes his plane back to England. Spike finds Buffy at the Bronze, but she turns her face away and he stalks off. She doesn't let him get far though, and they kiss passionately beneath the stairs of the Bronze.
- Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya discuss the discoveries of the previous episode "Once More, with Feeling": Buffy being torn from Heaven ("Bargaining, Part One") and Tara's fights with Willow about her magical abuse ("All the Way").
- Even with her memories gone, Anya tells Giles that she feels compelled to take out vengeance against him, a trait she had since her spell in "Selfless" that made her become a vengeance demon. She also retained her fear of rabbits (revealed in "Fear, Itself") and felt the same compulsion to protect the cash register from "Triangle."
- Xander and Anya fail to sense any mutual connection, foreshadowing their doomed engagement in "Hell's Bells."
- When Willow tells Dawn about her attraction to women, she uses the same words she did in episode "Doppelgängland" to describe her evil vampire self: "I think I'm kind of gay." Andrew Wells will recognize his own sexuality with the same phrase in Love Dares You, Part One.
- The tweed suit worn by Spike in his guise as Giles' son "Randy Giles" is the same one used in "Restless" for Xander's dream, where Giles described Spike as "Like a son to me."
- Teeth, the loan shark demon that hassles Spike to pay his debt, reappears in After the Fall comic series as one of the demon lords during the fall of Los Angeles.
- When Spike finds out he is a vampire, he adopts Angel's persona by declaring: "I'm a vampire with a soul! I fight evil! I help the helpless!," which is the slogan for Angel Investigations. Ironically, Buffy reckons that is lame.
- Spike evokes to Buffy that they kissed each other once in "Once More, with Feeling." They have kissed as well in "Something Blue" and "Intervention," although under a spell in the first instance and the second kiss was a chaste thank-you.
- The memory loss that the Scooby Gang underwent will later happen similarly to the Angel Investigations crew in "Spin the Bottle," when they forget everything about their lives up to their teen years.
- Dawn says "Feature Creature" in this episode. Previously, Xander says "Creature Feature" in the episode "Ted."
- "Randy's" description of Giles' "mid-life crisis transport" matches his actual current car, a red BMW convertible acquired in "Real Me."
- "Joan's" reaction to "Randy's" vampire face is very similar to Buffy's reaction when she first saw Angel's vampire face, in episode "Angel."
- Giles leaves Sunnydale to England, to return in "Two to Go" and express regret for leaving the Scoobies in "Grave." Buffy will consider this the first step for the group falling apart (New Rules, Part One).
- Spike ran up the debt (for which the loan shark is pursuing him) playing Kitten Poker in Life Serial.
- Michelle Branch
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Anya Jenkins
- Tara Maclay
- Willow Rosenberg
- Buffy Summers
- Dawn Summers
- Skeleton warrior
Organizations and titles
- Kitten Poker (Only mentioned)
- Buffy Summers' Heaven (Only mentioned)
- London, England (Only mentioned)
- Los Angeles, USA (Only mentioned)
- Bel Air (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale, USA
- Janus' statue
- Lethe's Bramble
- "Magic for Beginners"
- Soul (Only mentioned)
- Stone of the Oversight
Rituals and spells
- Two vampires, dusted by Buffy.
- Three vampires, dusted by Spike.
- One vampire, dusted by Xander.
Behind the scenes
- The title "tabula rasa," Latin for "blank slate," is a reference to the theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception.
- Without her memories, Anya mispronounces her name using the flat a, /'ænjə/, instead of with the usual broad a, /'ɑːnjə/ (like Anne-ya).
- The episode "Tabula Rasa" does not translate well into other languages. A sizable part of the humor is the interplay between Giles and Spike, laced with British idiom and Americans' stereotyped views of England; the puns based on "Randy" are meaningless in other languages. In French, "Randy" is translated to "Candide," possibly a reference to the Voltaire novel. Buffy's assumed name "Joan" is left as "Joan" in French, and the reference to Joan of Arc ("Jeanne d'Arc" in French) is mostly lost. Dawn's reference to Xander as "Alex," a more common shortened form of "Alexander," lacks significance in the French translation because he has been named Alex in France since "Welcome to the Hellmouth."
Pop culture references
- Spike compares his kiss with Buffy with the film Gone with the Wind (1939).
- Anya referred to Allen Funt, the host of Candid Camera, when they were trying to figure out what happened.
- When Anya is standing on the table and Giles saying to her "Come down, and we will go about fixing this in a sensible fashion," the lighting equipment behind the Magic Shop counter is visible the left of the screen.
- Armenian: "Մաքուր թերթից" (Clean Sheet)
- Czech: "Tabula rasa"
- Finnish: "Jäähyväiset" (Goodbye)
- French: "Tabula Rasa"
- German: "Tabula Rasa"
- Hungarian: "Tabula Rasa"
- Italian: "Tabula Rasa"
- Japanese: "白紙に戻して" (Return to Blank Slate)
- Polish: "Tabula Rasa"
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Tabula Rasa"
- Romanian: "Tabula Rasa"
- Russian: "С чистого листа" (With Clean Sheet)
- Spanish (Latin America): "El Hechizo" (The Spell)
- Spanish (Spain): "Tabula Rasa"
- A Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figure was produced based on Spike in this episode.
- The comic issue Buffy the Vampire Slayer #10 pays homage to this episode in an episode variant cover.
- As Spike walks away from Buffy at the Bronze, a fake severed hand can be seen under a glass lid on the counter.
- "Tabula Rasa" is also a phrase used frequently in Dollhouse, another television show created by Joss Whedon. It is also one of several episode titles shared by Buffy and the series Criminal Minds, which features Nic Brendon and numerous other Buffy guest stars.
- Just as the 5th season episode "The Replacement" mimics the plot of the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within," this episode bears a striking resemblance to the plot of the Star Trek: Next Generation episode "Conundrum" (save for the fact that the mass amnesia in "Conundrum" was a deliberate attack rather than an unfortunate accident).
Behind the scenes
|Giles: "We'll get our memory back, and it'll all be right as rain."|
|Spike: "Oh, listen to Mary Poppins. He's got his crust all stiff and upper with that nancy-boy accent. You Englishmen are always so... Bloody hell... Sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks. Oh, god. I'm English."|
|Giles: "Welcome to the nancy tribe."|
|Spike: "You don't suppose you and I... We're not related, are we?"|
|Anya: "There is a ruggedly handsome resemblance."|
|Giles: "And you do inspire a, um, particular feeling of familiarity and... disappointment. Older brother?"|
|Spike: "Father! Oh, god, how I must hate you."|
|Giles: "What did I do?"|
|Spike: "I must be a noble vampire. A good guy. On a mission of redemption. I help the helpless. I'm a vampire with a soul."|
|Buffy: "A vampire with a soul? Oh my God, how lame is that?"|
|Spike: "Randy Giles? Why not just call me 'Horny Giles' or 'Desperate for a Shag Giles'? I knew there was a reason I hated you."|
|Spike: "Dad can drive. He's bound to have some classic mid-life crisis transport. Something red, shiny, shaped like a penis."|
- "Watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 Episode 8: Tabula Rasa Online (2002)". TV Guide. Retrieved April 10, 2020.