|Buffy the Vampire Slayer|
|Season 7, Episode 5|
|Air date||October 22, 2002|
|Written by||Drew Goddard|
|Directed by||David Solomon|
|Sarah Michelle Gellar||Buffy|
|Alyson Hannigan|| Willow |
|Jennifer Shon|| Rachel |
|Taylor Sutherland||Villager #1|
|Marybeth Scherr||Villager #2|
|Alessandro Mastrobuono||Villager #3|
|Daniel Spanton||Viking #1|
|John Timmons|| Viking #2 |
|David Fury||Mustard Man|
|Marti Noxon||Parking Ticket Woman|
"Selfless" is the fifth episode of seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the hundred twenty-seventh episode altogether. It was written by Drew Goddard and directed by David Solomon. It originally broadcast on October 22, 2002.
Anya gets back into her old Vengeance demon ways by helping a girl get revenge on an entire fraternity by having a spider demon tear their hearts out. Willow, returning to college, discovers this and she, Buffy, and Xander fear the worst of Anya.
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, rhythmically rocking back and forth, covered in blood, apparently in shock from what she's done.
Flashback (in grainy archival footage style) to Sjornjost, Sweden, 880 A.D., a pre-demon Anya, named Aud, cares for her Viking 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 things give away to their fellow villagers. She worries obsessively about whether he's unfaithful.
In the present-day school basement, Spike talks to Buffy about his mental struggles and remembers Drusilla. Buffy is warm and reassuring, but this Buffy is shown to be an delusion when the real Buffy enters and approaches Spike, who has not moved but is exasperated and clearly alone. She insists that Spike must get out of the basement and away from whatever is making him so crazy down there.
On the college campus, Willow talks an old professor into reinstating her in class and 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. There is a young co-ed whimpering in the closet that she "takes it back." She tearfully 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 attacks Willow and the girl, but Willow uses magic to hold it at bay, actually making a harsh style comment (disturbingly evocative of "Dark Willow") to the girl before tossing the spider through a window and comforting the girl, her normal self again.
In another flashback to Sjornjost, 880, Anya watches as Olaf, who she's magicked into a troll in punishment for cheating on her, runs from a mob of villagers seeking to kill him. D'Hoffryn approaches her and praises her magical skill and vengeful resolution. D'Hoffryn insists that Aud's true self is Anyanka, a natural born Vengeance demon and offers to make her one in reality, 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.
Buffy and Xander 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 a flashback to 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, but rejects her offer to go celebrate, as her work (wreaking vengeance) is all she is or wants (humorously she sees the success of revolutionary communism as inevitable and desirable).
Back in the Summers home, Xander furiously denounces Buffy's plan to kill Anya, with Buffy remarking that his lingering feelings for Anya are clouding his judgement. He insists Buffy always protects demons she loves, but Buffy reminds him how she killed Angel ("Becoming, Part Two") because it was necessary, and asserts that as 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 get busy finding it. She takes weapons from her cache 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 three years earlier. 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 as Dark Willow (which he'd sensed her returning to that afternoon). He assumes Willow has called to accept the role of a Vengeance demon, but Willow insists she's called him to discuss Anya's recent actions, which he resignedly agrees to do.
Xander finds Anya at the fraternity house but Anya rejects his help, reminding him of his breach of promise of marriage, which he insists isn't a good excuse anymore. Buffy arrives. Anya switches to her scary, veiny demon face, throws Xander aside, and attacks her. They seem matched until Buffy impales Anya through the chest with a sword. In a sudden, wistful flashback, we are shown a moment that would have to have occurred a year earlier during Sweet's enchantment of Sunnydale ("Once More, With Feeling"). Anya sings a solo number about how her future role as Xander's 'Mrs.' and the centrality of that role in defining who she is now. In the present, Anya comes to and, impervious to such apparently mortal injuries, rips the sword out. Buffy fights the sword away from her and gets another shot at using it when Xander tackles her away from Anya.
Suddenly D'Hoffryn appears, interrupting the battle. He first approvingly inspects Anya's scene of carnage in the other room, then reminds Buffy that attacking him is futile (she desists). D'Hoffryn compliments Xander's gallantry and Willow's solicitousness, and notes Buffy's bloody-minded resolution, but 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. Anya is willing to die to undo her recent actions, despite Xander's impassioned protests. D'Hoffryn makes Anya confirm she's willing to pay the price, then casts a spell... which summons Halfrek. Anya realizes what is about to happen, as D'Hoffryn kills Halfrek painfully by burning her from the inside out, completely immolating the vengeance demon. Anya is devastated at seeing her friend die and guilty that she is the one who caused it, as D'Hoffryn asks Anya who she thought she was dealing with, reminding her to "Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain!". He then turns Anya human again, and when Anya tells him she should have died, 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.
Hurt and scared, 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 argues with this and tries to comfort her, but backs regretfully away so that Anya, walking off tearfully in the opposite direction, can face her future, as she insists on doing, herself.
- Xander's lie to Buffy (telling her that Willow, who was preparing to re-ensoul Angel, said to "kick his ass," in "Becoming, Part Two,") is finally brought up, clearly it is the first time Willow has been made aware that he changed her words. However in the heat of dealing with Anya's return to evil neither Buffy nor Willow seem to recognise the importance of this revelation.
- This episode contains a flashback to November, 2001 when the episode "Once More, with Feeling" took place. Anya sings a song, "I'll Be Mrs.", which would have taken 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.
- In the flashback to November, 2001 Anya closes a window after hearing a man singing about getting mustard on his shirt. However in the episode "Once More, with Feeling" she seems unaware that the singing is affecting anyone other than the Scooby Gang.
- Buffy states to Xander "I am the law." Faith had once told Buffy "We are the law." in "Consequences" but Buffy had denied it at the time.
- Buffy compares her decision to kill Anya with her decision to kill Angel. However, she had in fact refused to kill Angelus when she had the chance when he was merely killing people, as Anya is here; she only killed him to prevent the destruction of the whole world.
- During Anya's song, she mention's Xander's "I'll never tell," a reference to their duet in Once More, with Feeling, entitled "I'll Never Tell," in which they discussed each others' flaws.
- Willow insists that she didn't finish her classes and finals using magic and she wasn't lying. She was "on the wagon" from "Gone" until "Seeing Red" where she had to catch up on her classes and finish her finals since she couldn't have done the finals after Tara's death.
- During the battle, Anya asks of Buffy "Are there any of your friends you haven't tried to kill?" This is most likely a reference to Buffy's trauma in "Normal Again," in which, under the influence of a hallucination, Buffy sets a demon loose to kill Xander, Willow, Dawn, and Tara, along with her fight with Willow at the end of the previous season, and such fights with Angel and Spike. Furthermore, she has forcefully attacked (albeit by mistake in all cases) Cordelia Chase, Oz, Riley Finn, and Rupert Giles in "Welcome to the Hellmouth," "What's My Line, Part One," "The Initiative," and "A New Man"; respectively. Therefore, Anya is correct: Buffy has attacked the majority of her friends in some manner.
- When Anya rouses herself after Buffy stabs her through the chest, she says that Buffy knows better, that a sword through the chest doesn't kill vengeance demons. She is referencing "Older and Far Away" in which Halfrek, a fellow vengeance demon, is stabbed through the chest and calls it a "flesh wound."
- In this episode, we learn that Anya's outlandish behavior throughout the series is not because she is an ex-demon; rather, she has been an outcast all of her life.
- Anya sings that she's "good with math" in the flashback to "Once More, with Feeling", despite her frustrated proclamation in "Doppelgangland" that she's flunking it.
- In the flashback to 1905, Halfrek credits the Russian Revolution to Anya, an event which actually happened. However, in The Wish, Giles states that destroying her power center will 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.
- When Anya tells D'Hoffryn that he should have killed her, he recites, "From beneath you, It devours," and then, "All good things in time," perhaps referencing Anya's death during the battle with the First Evil (the aforementioned "It.")
- Buffy's attempted murder of Anya mirrors her murder of Angel in "Becoming, Part Two" through her use of a sword through the heart despite knowing that it could not kill a vengeance demon from the events of "Older and Far Away".
- In this episode, we see Willow using the talisman that D'Hoffryn gave her in "Something Blue" to summon him if she decides to become a vengeance demon, but she instead uses it to ask D'Hoffryn to turn Anya into a human again.
- Fraternity House boys, all killed by a Grimslaw Demon (called by Anyanka) who rips out their hearts. All resurrected (by Anya) at the end of the episode
- One unnamed man, heart ripped out by a Grimslaw Demon
- The Grimslaw demon, killed by Buffy with a handy bit of axe-hurling
- One Prussian man, burned by Anyanka (in flashback)
- Halfrek, burned by D'Hoffryn in sacrifice to resurrect the fraternity house boys
- Sunnydale, CA
- Sjornjost, Sweden (880 A.D., in a flashback)
- St. Petersburg, Russia (1905 in a flashback)
Behind the Scenes
- Kali Rocha was performing in the play Noises Off when Season Seven 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.
- Joss Whedon wrote Anya's song in one evening while working on his science fiction / western series Firefly.
- 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.
- In the DVD commentary for this episode, writer Drew 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.
- Also of note for that scene is the fact that it was filmed poorly intentionally to give it the feeling of a bad movie, with things such as poor character framing and continuity errors.
- 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.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar was only available for three days of shooting on this episode because of her wedding to Freddie Prinze, Jr.
- This line was cut due to length, when D'Hoffryn tells Anya she must pay a price:
- Xander: "Something that involves grueling, hard labor. At fair market value taking into account your project's special needs."
Pop Culture References
- Aud and Olaf: Aud and Olaf are legendary figures from Scandinavian mythology. There are numerous conflicting reports of what the two got up to; most have them both being royalty and living in the Seventh Century. Since the Aud and Olaf we meet live in the Ninth Century and don't seem to be royalty, they are probably not intended to be the figures of legend.
- Spike (to Buffy): "Scream Montresor all you like, pet."
This is likely 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. The story can be found in many collections of Poe's works, such as The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.
- Xander: "Anything's better than breathing freon for eight hours."
In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Jr. aided by Charles Kettering invented Freon. Freon represents several different chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are used in commerce and industry, their initial use being a non-toxic replacement for various rather more dangerous gasses previously used in refrigerators. The trade name Freon is a registered trademark belonging to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (DuPont). Freon, or CFCs, are now infamous for greatly adding to the depletion of the earth's ozone shield.
- St. Petersburg, 1905:
The war with the Japanese, the Tsar's poor leadership and outdated notions of absolute rule, and the perceived influence of unsavory advisors in government (most infamously Rasputin) led to a peaceful demonstration early in 1905, St. Petersburg, at the Winter Palace. When troops opened fire on the protestors, killing several hundred, a revolution began, with several armed uprisings, army mutinies, general strikes and terrorist acts. Eventually in October the Tsar issued a new constitution for the country, limiting his own power, enshrining rights for the people, and setting up a parliament, called the Duma. These measures were successful in restoring order and ending the revolution, as most of the political organizations of the time accepted it. One of the few to not do so was Lenin's group, the Bolsheviks, and it is arguable that this failure to do so led to their success in 1917 in overthrowing the Tsar and setting up the Soviet Union, as they gained a reputation among the working classes for standing up for what they believed was right.
- D'Hoffryn (about the murdered frat boys): "It's like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog."
Abercrombie & Fitch is clothing company, founded in 1892, in New York as David T. Abercrombie Co., a small shop and factory selling high quality camping and hunting clothes. In 1900, a loyal customer, lawyer Ezra Fitch, convinced Abercrombie to let him buy into the firm as a partner, and the name was changed to Abercrombie & Fitch in 1904. Due to arguments between the two men, Abercrombie resigned in 1907. Fitch finally retired in 1928. Although the company has gone bankrupt and been bought out in the past, today it is a thriving business with hundreds of stores and a famous quarterly catalog which features college-age models. According to the commentary an alternate line was someone would have to tell Maxim magazine that they had just lost several subscriptions, a magazine aimed at young-adult men, for which practically all of the female Buffy cast have posed.
- Portuguese: Caridade (Benevolence)
- German: Wandlungen (Transitions)
Goofs, Bloopers & Continuity Errors
- In the episode "Tough Love", Anya refers to herself as an American and Giles states that her mortal self was born in the US. However, in this episode we learn that she is actually from Sweden. (Giles may have been referring to the fact that Anya became mortal again in the US, during the events of "The Wish".)
- Andy Umberger, who plays D'Hoffryn, has also appeared in two of Joss Whedon's other series: as Dr. Ronald Miltzer in Angel, and as the Captain of the IAV Dortmunder in the pilot episode of Firefly.
- This episode is one of the few Anya-centric episodes.
|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!"|