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Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 3, Episode 12
Helpless Main
Air date January 19, 1999
Written by David Fury
Directed by James A. Contner
Episode Guide
"The Zeppo"
Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy
Nicholas Brendon Xander
Alyson Hannigan Willow
Charisma Carpenter Cordelia
David Boreanaz Angel
Seth Green Oz
Anthony Stewart Head Giles
Guest Starring
Kristine Sutherland Joyce
Jeff Kober Kralik
Harris Yulin Travers
Co Starring
Dominic Keating Blair
David Haydn-Jones Hobson
Nick Cornish Guy
Don Dowe Construction Worker

"Helpless" is the twelfth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the forty-sixth episode altogether.

As Buffy Summers turns 18, the Watchers Council makes her take a test.


Buffy and Angel go a few rounds of fighting until Buffy pins him and holds a bread-stick to his heart. It quickly becomes awkward, as Angel's words inadvertently remind them of their sexless relationship, as well as the unresolved sexual tension between them. The situation itself becomes even more awkward when Angel, feeling slightly anxious, asks Buffy what she would be doing on her birthday and if she had a date. Buffy points out that she does have a date, describing him as "very handsome, older man who likes it when [she] calls him Daddy. Slightly amused at first, Angel realizes it's with her father, but then checks to make sure if she was really talking about him, seeming a bit tense and jealous. Clearly amused at Angel's puzzled look, Buffy nods and reveals that she plans to go to an ice show with her father on her 18th birthday. This makes Angel feel better.

That night in the library, Rupert Giles quizzes her on crystals, demanding that she focus her attention on them. Later, while on patrol, a vampire nearly kills her with her own stake as her powers unexpectedly fail her.

Back at the library, Buffy tries throwing knives at a target, but misses terribly. When Giles walks in, she asks if he knows what might be happening to her. Meanwhile, Quentin Travers, the head Watcher, is setting up a "test" for the Slayer, assisted by two men named Hobson and Blair. She is to be locked up in a building, without any powers and defeat a powerful and insane vampire—Zachary Kralik. Giles meets with the head Watcher, and expresses his ambivalence about this test - it is supposed to strengthen Buffy, but also seems cruel to him. At home, Buffy is disappointed to find that her father canceled their date at the ice show, because he chose work over his daughter. Later at the library she tries hinting to Giles that he could take her to the ice show, however he fails to catch on and has Buffy stare into another crystal to "find the tiny flaw at the center." When she falls into a trance, he injects her with a syringe before bringing her out of the trance, after which he agrees to send her home.

In the school yard, Buffy tries to rescue Cordelia Chase from an aggressive suitor, but he knocks her down leaving Cordy to fight the guy off herself. At this point, Buffy really begins to worry, and enlists the help of her friends to figure out what's wrong, however their research goes nowhere. Buffy visits Angel and he gives her a book for her birthday. She tries to sound enthusiastic about it, but losing her powers has really begun to bother her. He tells her about how he saw her before she was the Slayer and how he loved her from the second he first saw her.

At the Sunnydale Arms, where Kralik is being held, the vampire manages to rip the seams of his strait jacket. While Blair is getting his pills and water, Kralik kills him and turns him into a vampire. When Blair wakes up, he frees Kralik. Giles goes to find Travers at the Sunnydale Arms building, but instead finds that Kralik is free and Hobson is dead.

While walking home alone, Buffy is first confronted by two men looking for a lap dance and then Kralik. Blair chases her until Giles drives by and picks her up. At the Summers' home, Buffy's mother hears a noise out front and goes to check it out; she then finds Kralik wrapped up in Buffy's jacket.

Giles shows Buffy the syringe, and explains that it's a special mixture that is designed to take away her strength temporarily, and that he's been injecting her with it for the Cruciamentum, a test that every slayer must go through when/if they reach their eighteenth birthday. The objective was to test Buffy's other skills such as intelligence and resourcefulness by sending her to the Sunnydale Arms where she would be locked in with Kralik and would have been expected to kill him without her powers. Buffy is very hurt, not only because he was drugging her but also didn't say anything despite seeing how much she was suffering, and tells him she doesn't know him anymore and that he should stay away from her or she'll kill him. Giles assures her that the test is invalidated because of what he has told her and that he will protect her from Kralik. Cordelia shows up to lend some books, but realizes something is happening and decides to leave. Buffy asks Cordelia to drive her home and Cordy, seeing Buffy is in an emotional state, agrees. When she arrives she finds a picture of her mother in the hands of Kralik. Buffy changes her clothes, grabs weapons and supplies, and heads out to find her mother.
3x12 Helpless

Giles must inject Buffy

Quentin seeks out Giles at the library. Giles explains that the test should be canceled because Buffy has been told of it and it has already gone wrong with Kralik's escape. Quentin replies that it is too late for that because Buffy has already entered the field of battle. Giles expresses himself about the Council's orders and leaves to find Buffy, hoping to help her.

At the Arms building, Blair attacks Buffy, but she pushes a bookshelf over on top of him and escapes. Kralik finds and chases her until his need for his pills becomes unbearable. Buffy steals them away, and slides down a laundry chute, where she finds Joyce tied up. Kralik breaks through the door, looking for his pills and water. After he swallows the pills, he's surprised to find out that Buffy tricked him into drinking holy water before he is dusted from the inside, Buffy tries to free her mother, but cannot because the knots are too tight. Blair reappears and lunges at Buffy, but Giles also shows up and stakes him.

Back at the library, Travers congratulates a beaten and bloody Buffy on her accomplishment, but Buffy is very bitter over the deception and the fact they let Kralik get away and target her mother and tells Travers that he should leave town before she gets her powers back. However Travers isn't finished as he states that while Buffy passed the test, Giles didn't as he didn't remain objective. Travers tells Giles that he's fired because he's grown too close with the Slayer—he has a father's love for Buffy, which he describes as "useless to the cause". Travers then states a new Watcher is going to be sent to train Buffy, and warns Giles he will be dealt with if he tries to interfere or undermine their authority. As he leaves, Travers again congratulates Buffy on her success. However Buffy, her voice full of contempt, simply responds with "Bite me". After Travers leaves, Giles further proves his devotion to Buffy by helping to clean her wounds which she allows him to, now fully aware of his depth of feeling for her.

The next day, Buffy celebrates her birthday with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and her close friends. The gang learn about the previous nights events, and Joyce is very impressed with how Buffy killed Kralik while Willow is in shock that Giles was fired, despite Buffy assuring her that nothing is really going to change since he'll still be the school's librarian, and thinks about writing an angry letter. When Buffy, minus her strength, can't open the peanut butter jar, Xander offers to help, but he can't do it either.


  • This episode marks the beginning of Buffy's father's estrangement. Eventually Hank begins a relationship with his secretary and severs all ties with his former family until season 6 when he appears to be in contact with Dawn via phone.
  • Buffy is disappointed by both of her father figures in this episode - her father does not follow through on their tradition of attending the ice show, and Giles betrays her trust.
  • This marks the first of many severe falling outs that Giles and Buffy continued to have throughout the years up until his death.
  • Giles reveals his parental feelings towards Buffy.
  • Angel finally admitted to Buffy that he was there when she first became The Slayer and that he fell in love with her at first sight. Flashbacks of this event was shown in "Becoming, Part One" and more deeply elaborated by Whistler in "The Hero of His Own Story".
  • Buffy talks about getting Mr. Pointy, Kendra Young's stake, bronzed.
  • Head of the Watchers Council, Quentin Travers, is seen for the first time. He will reappear several times, usually in opposition to Buffy's methods and activities.
  • Giles being fired from the Council makes way for Buffy's own rebellion towards the Council and her decision to operate outside their authority. The separation of Council and Slayer - and Giles' own situation with the Council - will not be solved until "Checkpoint".
  • This episode shows for the only time what happens when a vampire drinks holy water.
  • The 12th or 13th episode of each season is traditionally when Buffy celebrates her birthday; her birthday takes place in episode 13 of season 2 ("Surprise"), episode 12 of season 4 ("A New Man"), episode 13 of season 5 ("Blood Ties") and episode 14 of season 6 ("Older and Far Away"). Buffy's birthday is not shown celebrated in season 1 (it presumably occurred before the beginning of the half-long season) or in season 7, presumably because in "Older and Far Away" Spike suggested Buffy not celebrate her birthday anymore.
  • Buffy says her father takes her to the ice show for her birthday every year, but there was no mention of the tradition a year earlier in "Surprise". Presumably Hank took her on one of the few days surrounding the birthday.
  • Buffy never actually sees Kralik take the pills and wash them down with water. Joyce must have told her about it, the pair having more time together than is shown onscreen before Kralik breaks in.

Body Count

  • a vampire, dusted by Buffy
  • Blair, sired by Kralik and dusted by Giles
  • Hobson, drained by Kralik and Blair
  • Kralik, burned after taking his pills with holy water

Behind the Scenes


  • This story had the workin
    Buffy Helpless Promo00:21

    Buffy Helpless Promo

    Original WB Promo for "Helpless"

    g title "18" as it is set around Buffy's eighteenth birthday.
  • David Fury reveals in the commentary of this episode that the name "Zachary Kralik" came from his own nephew's name.
  • The scene were Buffy is chased through the alleyway is reminiscent of Sarah-Michelle Gellar's chase scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
  • According to David Fury's commentary, the original idea for this episode was for Buffy to be drugged by the Council and hallucinate her friends and family as vampires. However, this was abandoned, as it was too close to the premise of 'The Wish' and Kristine Sutherland, who played Joyce, was claustrophobic, and couldn't stand the vampire makeup.

Deleted Scenes

  • Buffy lists some good things about being a normal girl in this exchange cut for length:
Buffy: "I mean, there's a plus side to being a regular girl. The whole not-bleeding-killing-and-dying experience."
Willow: "As for example."
Buffy: "Then there's buying outfits without worrying if they're good for bleeding-killing-and-dying in. There's a lot of good to it."

Pop Culture References

  • The book Angel gave to Buffy for her birthday was Sonnets From the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  • Willow refers to Snoopy on Ice. "Snoopy on Ice" is an ice show in which people skate and dance around in huge "Peanuts" character costumes. Snoopy is the dog in "Peanuts," and Woodstock is the little yellow bird often seen hanging around with Snoopy. "Peanuts" and its characters were created by Charles Schulz.
  • Buffy: "Brian Boitano, doing Carmen, is a life changer." Brian Boitano is a 1988 Olympic gold medalist, and one of the world's most celebrated figure skaters. He has won more than 60 other titles, including 23 international gold medals, two World titles, two Pro/Am titles, 17 professional titles and four U.S. National titles.
  • Carmen was originally a novel by Prosper Mérimée written in 1845. The story of a tragic romance between a Romani (Gypsy woman) and a Spanish military officer served as the basis for the 1875 opera of the same name by French composer Georges Bizet.
  • Oz and Xander are debating about Superman's kryptonite: "Maybe what we should be looking for is something like um... Slayer Kryptonite." Kryptonite is the term used to designate any surviving fragment of the exploded planet Krypton, home world of Superman. There are five distinct varieties of Kryptonite (green, red, gold, blue, and white), the first three of which are toxic to Superman. Green kills, red mutates, and gold drains powers; therefore Oz was right, while Xander had gotten it wrong.
  • Quentin (to Giles): "Cruciamentum is not easy for Slayer or Watcher." Cruciamentum is a Latin word meaning torture or torment.
  • There is a fairly overt connection to the story of "Little Red Riding Hood." Kralik hides in Buffy's hooded red jacket, and he also has lines which are reminiscent of the story ("Why did you come to the dark of the woods? To bring all these sweets to grandmother's house?" "If you stray from the path, you will lose your way."). Of course, this plot does not directly parallel the fairy tale, there are just overtones. "Little Red Riding Hood" is at least as old as the very early 19th century; it has been told and written in many different languages with many different versions — authors include the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.
  • Cordelia had to write a paper for school about Bosnia, probably referring to the Yugoslav Wars during 1990s. There were several parts of it, like the War in Slovenia (1991), Bosnian War (1992–1995) and the Kosovo War (1998–1999).
  • This episode pays homage to the horror/thriller film Don't Look Now, where a couples love and resolve is tested after their child drowns.

International Titles

  • French: Sans défense (Defenseless)
  • German: Die Reifeprüfung (The Final Examination)



  • This episode is Giles-centric.
  • Jeff Kober, who plays Kralik, returns to play Rack in Season 6. 


Angel - "Um, am I seeing you this weekend? Y-You probably have plans."
Buffy - "Right, birthday. Um, actually do have a thing."
Angel - "Oh. A thing. Date?"
Buffy - "Nice attempt at casual. Actually, I do have a date. Older man. Very handsome. Likes it when I call him 'Daddy'."
Angel - "Oh, your father. (chuckles slightly before reverting to a tense expression) It is your father, right?"
Buffy - (nods, amused) "He's taking me to a ice show. It should be big fun. I could use some fun."
Kralik - (to a bound and gagged Joyce) "I'll have your daughter. I won't kill her; I'll just make her like me. Different. She'll go to sleep, and when she wakes up, your face will be the first thing she eats. (stops and considers something) I have a problem with mothers. (chuckles) I'm aware of that."
Buffy - "Just feel better when I get my strength back." [tries to open a bottle of jar]
Xander - "Give you a hand with that, little lady?"
Buffy - "You're loving this far too much."
Xander - "Admit it. Sometimes you just need a big strong man.(struggles to open it) Uh, Will, gimme a hand with that?"
Giles - "You're waging a war. She's fighting it. There is a difference."
Travers - "Mr. Giles, if you don't mind..."
Giles - "The test is done. We're finished."
Travers - "Not quite. She passed. You didn't. The Slayer is not the only one who must perform in this situation. I've recommended to the Council, and they've agreed, that you be relieved of your duties as Watcher immediately. You're fired."
Giles - "On what grounds?"
Travers - "Your affection for your charge makes you incapable of clear and inpartial judgement. You have a father's love for the child and that makes you useless to the cause."
Angel - "I saw you before you became the Slayer."
Buffy - "What?"
Angel - "I watched you, and I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. You walked down the steps ... and ... and I loved you."
Buffy - "Why?"
Angel - "'Cause I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe ... to warm it with my own."
Buffy - "That's beautiful. Or taken literally, incredibly gross."
Angel - "I was just thinking that, too."
Buffy - "I'm way off my game. My game's left the country. It's in Cuernavaca."
Buffy - "Okay, I just got swatted down by some no-neck and rescued by Cordelia. What the hell is happening?!"
Giles - "I'm sure it'll sort itself out."
Buffy - "You're not getting the big picture here. I have no strength. I have no coordination. I throw knives like..."
Giles - "A girl?"
Buffy - " me! Somebody, please! Aah! Help me, please! Somebody! Somebody please help me!"
Buffy - [to Giles] "Who are you? How could you do this to me? [...] You stuck a needle in me. You poisoned me(!) [...] I don't know you."
Buffy - (as she watches Holy Water melt Kralik from the inside out) "If I was at full Slayer power, I'd be punning right about now."

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