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'Buffy' nostalgia recap: Reactions to 'The Body'

Season 5 | Episode 16 | “The Body” | Aired Feb 27, 2001

We’re here. “The Body” is universally accepted as one of the saddest episodes in all of Buffydom, right? I don’t know what to say about this one without getting a little weepy, so I’m just going to go stream-of-consciousness.

Here are the thoughts I had during this rewatch. RIP, Joyce Summers. You really were the kindest of them all.

  • “… Mommy?” That line gets me EVERY. TIME.
  • The Christmas flashback is so weird. I get it, but it’s weird.
  • Buffy panicking is so … un-Buffy. It’s hard to watch, but also weirdly real for a show that’s so dependent on fantasy.
  • The long lingering shot of the touchtone pad as Buffy struggles to remember what to do and how to call Giles is gripping, and it’s weird that I never noticed it before. It’s a long shot.
  • The fantasy-sequence fakeout when they resuscitate Joyce is so much more effective than the Christmas flashback. For a half-second, you almost believe it, until it flashes too quickly to the happily ever after.
  • I love how much of this is shot distinctly from Buffy’s point of view. The shot of the paramedic from the chin down, because that’s how high Buffy can stand to look up, is as long and haunting as the phone shot.
  • Buffy saying “Good luck!” to the paramedics as they leave her with the body because she’s clearly in shock …Sarah Michelle Gellar is doing a lot of capital-A Acting in this episode.
  • Giles is such a good person. He’s the best family Buffy could ask for, and if you choose not to count Dawn, he’s the closest thing to family she has in a lot of ways. He comes running immediately, as soon as Buffy calls, and rushes to Joyce’s side when Buffy isn’t verbal enough to explain what happened.
  • Cut to Dawn crying, implying that she already knows about Joyce. Another fakeout. I didn’t remember how many of those there were in this episode. She’s crying about a boy, because of course she is. The tears about Joyce will be much uglier.
  • I can’t believe I’m kind of tearing up at a Dawn scene, but I am. The decision to cut to inside the classroom and lose the audio of Buffy actually breaking the news was brilliant, and Michelle Trachtenberg nailed the reaction.
  • Silent shots of all the Scoobies taking in the news and handheld, semi-shaky cam? All of this works so well. It was a great decision on Joss Whedon’s part to direct this one himself.
  • Willow is freaking out about her outfit because that’s what you do when you’re mourning. You displace and you worry about everything but the real problem—because the real problem is so hard to face.
  • While I’m not at shipper status for the Willow/Tara relationship, this episode features one of my all-time favorite moments for them as a couple. The desperate, comforting kiss Tara pulls Willow in for as she’s spiraling is so sweet and beautiful. It’s right up there with their floating dance.
  • This isn’t at all related to the episode’s plot, but that wide shot of Willow’s dorm is insane. I’m pretty sure her dorm is bigger than my first apartment.
  • Anya’s reaction to the death breaks my heart. She’s so new to being mortal and human, and she doesn’t understand what’s happening, not in a real way. It’s like watching a child learn about death for the first time. That sound is the pieces of my heart, all chipping away and falling to the ground, piece by piece.
  • Xander’s reaction is probably my least favorite, but it’s still totally understandable. Willow freaks, Buffy goes catatonic, Dawn breaks down, and Xander gets angry. Joyce was like a mother to all of the Scoobies, especially Willow and Xander, whom we know don’t come from the most functional home lives. But really, Xander? The wall? Bad idea.
  • The shots of Joyce’s body becoming more and more cold and pale and dead are hard to watch, even though I’ve now had 14 years to come to terms with this death.
  • “The Body” is really an excellent, hour-long dissertation on grief and mourning.
  • I remember this episode marking the beginning of my hypochondria about having an aneurysm. The idea that something in your body could go so wrong so quickly, and with no warning, was more terrifying than any of the monsters the show ever introduced.
  • The show so rarely utilized Tara in a way that did justice to the character’s potential, or to Amber Benson’s skill as an actress. There are few moments when she has scenes of any depth or impact with anyone other than Willow, but many of those scenes are with Buffy, and this is one of them. When Dawn goes to the bathroom and Willow, Xander, and Anya leave to find food, leaving Tara and Buffy alone in the hospital waiting room, Tara opens up to Buffy about the death of her mother. She summarizes perfectly the way death is universal, but different every time, and for every person.
  • I forgot all about the vampire in the morgue with Dawn. I completely and totally forgot about the vampire in the morgue. Buffy must be off her game because of Joyce. This fight is taking a lot more out of her than it should with a newborn vamp.
  • I also forgot how disturbingly quiet this episode is. I don’t think there’s been any soundtrack at all.
  • “That’s not her. She’s gone.” “Where’d she go?” What a way to close the episode. In case you were wondering, “The Body” is still one of the saddest hours of television.
TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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