Season 5 Episode 16 - The Body
Buffy walks in the front door of her house and sees flowers on the table. She reads the card — it says "Thanks for the lovely evening. See you soon? Brian." Buffy calls out to her mother and then walks into the living room to see Joyce lying awkwardly on the couch, motionless. Buffy asks Joyce what she's doing. Joyce doesn't answer. Her eyes are open, her skin pale. Buffy stares, as realization seeps in. In a small voice, she asks, "Mommy?"
Flashback: Buffy, Joyce, Dawn, Xander, Anya, Willow, Tara, and Giles have just finished Christmas dinner. Everyone compliments Joyce on the food as she, Buffy, and Giles begin to clear the table. The others chat about dinner and about Santa Claus (Anya reveals that there is a Santa Claus, but he actually disembowels children rather than bring them presents). In the kitchen, Joyce takes the slightly-burnt pumpkin pie out of the oven. Giles suggests opening another bottle of wine; Buffy gives the okay so long as they avoid any band candy, causing Giles to clear his throat and leave the room. Joyce teases Buffy and kisses her on the forehead. Buffy starts to cut the burnt edges off the pie, and it falls off the counter.
The scene suddenly cuts back to Buffy standing in the living room, staring at her still mother. She runs over to Joyce and grabs her by the shoulders, shaking and calling her. Joyce doesn't respond, so Buffy goes to the kitchen and calls 911. She tells the 911 operator that her mom isn't breathing, and gives their address. The operator asks if she knows CPR, and Buffy says she doesn't remember. The operator starts to give Buffy instructions, and Buffy puts the phone down and starts CPR. She pushes too hard on Joyce's chest and hears a cracking sound. Upset, Buffy picks up the phone again and tells the operator she broke something. The operator says the paramedics will be there, and that Buffy might have cracked Joyce's rib, but it isn't important. Buffy tells the operator that Joyce is cold, and asks if she should make her warm. This gives the operator pause, and she tells Buffy to wait for the paramedics. Buffy stands up and looks out the window. Then she tells the 911 operator she has to make a call and hangs up. In a daze, she calls Giles. She tells him only: "You have to come. She's at the house," and hangs up. She hears sirens and walks to the front door; she opens it and looks out.
Buffy walks slowly back into the living room and looks at Joyce. She sees that Joyce's skirt is hiked up, showing too much thigh; she pulls it down. Two paramedics come in, move Joyce to the floor, and note that she doesn't have a pulse. They ask Buffy about her, and Buffy says she's been like that a few minutes. The paramedics put a plastic tube down Joyce's throat to try and get her to breathe. They ask if Joyce had health problems, and Buffy says no, she had a tumour but she's fine now. Buffy watches as one paramedic performs CPR and checks Joyce's pulse while the other pushes air into her lungs with a pump attached to the tube in her throat.
Joyce coughs and the paramedics get ready to rush her to the hospital. Joyce asks for Buffy, and Buffy says she's there. The scene flashes to the ambulance rushing Joyce to the hospital, and one of the paramedics says it's a miracle. The scene flashes to the hospital where the doctor says Joyce is as good as new, and Joyce exclaims, "Buffy, thank God you found me in time."
The scene suddenly cuts back to Buffy, who imagined her mother's recovery, watching the paramedics. Buffy sees that the line on the heart monitor is flat, and one of the paramedics says, "She's cold." He tells the other paramedic to "call it." He gets up and gives Buffy the news that her mother is dead. He surmises that she died a while before Buffy found her and there's nothing Buffy could have done. He says that Joyce likely died of an aneurysm or some complication from surgery, and felt very little pain. He explains that the coroner's office will come for Joyce and determine the cause of death conclusively. The paramedics get another call and have to leave. The one talking to Buffy tells her that the coroner could take a while, and she should try not to disturb the body. He asks if there's someone she can call, and Buffy says someone is coming. He looks sympathetically at Buffy and says, "I'm very sorry for your loss." Buffy, seemingly in shock, thanks him and watches them leave, calling "Good luck" after them.
Buffy slowly walks towards the kitchen. In the hallway, she falls onto her hands and knees and vomits on the carpeted floor as sunlight streams through the window above her. She walks to the back door, opens it, and looks blankly outside. The sun is bright; Buffy is pale. She can hear a wind chime, and children playing. She goes back in and gets a paper towel to clean up her vomit. Giles comes running in, concerned, wondering if Glory is there. Buffy tells him she's waiting for the coroner, and has to go to Dawn's school to tell her. Giles is confused. He sees Joyce and runs into the living room. Buffy runs after him, somewhat panicked, saying it's too late. Giles moves to give Joyce CPR, and Buffy blurts out, "We aren't supposed to move the body!" She covers her mouth in shock as she realizes what she's said and Giles comes over to hug Buffy, who stares, mouth agape, at Joyce's body.
Joyce's body is shown being zipped into a body bag.
Cut to school. Dawn is leaning against the wall in the school bathroom with tears running down her cheeks because a boy named Kevin called her a freak in front of everyone. Her friend Lisa comes out of the bathroom stall and says he just said she's freaky, which can be cool. Another girl named Kirstie has spread a rumour that Dawn is into cutting herself, though Dawn insists that she just got cut once, by accident. Dawn's friend remarks that Kirstie is also telling people that Dawn is adopted, and Dawn says that if she could make Kirstie's head explode using only the power of her mind, that's what she'd do. She also points out that her big sister could really beat the crap out of Kirstie. Dawn wipes her eyes so that hopefully no one will realize she's been crying.
On the way to art class, Dawn and Lisa pass Kirstie, who feigns concern, asking if Dawn is okay. Dawn says she's good, "thanks for asking," then quietly calls her a bee-otch after she's passed her. In class, the students are working on charcoal drawings of a Greek nude female statue. The teacher tells them to draw the negative space around the object, rather than the object itself. Dawn talks to Kevin, who is next to her in class, and who she obviously has a crush on. Behind Kevin, Lisa holds up a note for Dawn to see: "He wants you!" Kevin says he heard that Dawn freaked out and cut herself. Dawn starts to deny it, but when Kevin says that sometimes you just need to do something extreme, she agrees. As Dawn and Kevin talk about how shallow Kirstie is, we see Buffy in the hallway through the window of the classroom. Buffy comes in and says something to the teacher, then walks over to Dawn. Dawn is surprised. Buffy tells Dawn she has to talk to her; after asking if it can wait, Dawn follows her sister into the hall. Dawn demands to know what's going on, refusing to go outside first. Dawn asks, "Where's mom?" Buffy tells her that there was an accident. Dawn insists that Joyce must be okay. The camera cuts back, looking out at the two sisters from inside the classroom. We can hardly hear the girls, but Dawn can faintly be heard crying, oblivious to her classmates and teacher watching with concern through the window. Dawn collapses onto the floor, sobbing. We see Dawn's unfinished drawing of the negative space around the statue's body.
Someone wearing rubber gloves begins cutting Joyce's slip off.
Tara and Willow are in Willow's room. Tara watches Willow, who is staring unhappily at a green blouse.
Anya is staring out the window of a car, as Xander drives in silence. They park, and Tara sees them through the window. She notifies Willow, who throws the green blouse onto a pile of clothes on her bed.
Xander asks Anya if she wants to go up. Anya points out that they're double parked, but Xander doesn't care if he gets a ticket.
Willow is upset (to say the least), and can't decide what to wear. She doesn't want to be too depressing, like a funeral home worker, but she doesn't want to be too cheery, which would be disrespectful. She really wants to wear a blue sweater which Joyce liked, but she can't find it. She considers wearing a purple blouse, but after Tara tells her purple is the colour of royalty decides she can't ("I can't see Buffy at the morgue and be all royal! 'Oh, I'm the king of everything, I'm better than you!'"). Willow wonders why her clothes all have stupid things on them, why she can't be a grownup. Tara kisses Willow, trying to comfort her. Tara tells her she can get through this and be strong.
Anya and Xander walk up the steps to Willow's room. Anya wants to know what she and Xander will be expected to do, but Xander doesn't answer her. They go into Willow's room and Willow and Xander hug. Willow is wearing a green t-shirt and a dark pink sweater. When she says that she's afraid she'll start crying again, Anya states that Xander cried at their apartment, and it was weird. They stand around awkwardly, and Anya asks what will happen. Willow says they'll meet the others at the morgue. Giles went with the coroner there, and Buffy will bring Dawn. Willow decides she has to change. Xander asks if Joyce's death was natural. Tara says it was, but Xander suspects Glory. Willow points out that if Glory did it, she'd want them to know she was responsible. Xander then says the problem is the doctors, who didn't take proper care of Joyce. Willow says it just happened, but Xander insist that things don't just happen. He wants someone to blame. Willow raises her fists sadly and says: "Okay, let's go. You and me." Xander realizes there's no one he can blame, puts his arms around Willow and kisses her on the forehead. He smiles a little and says he can't take her. Willow nods and says, "Damn straight." Anya asks if they're going to see the body, which upsets Willow. Willow again wishes for the blue sweater Joyce liked, and Tara goes to check the laundry room. Anya asks if Joyce's body will be cut open, and Willow cringes and orders her to shut her mouth and stop talking. Anya is confused; she doesn't know what she's doing wrong. Willow tells her it's not okay to be asking these things, and Anya shouts that she doesn't understand. Anya breaks down, crying, explaining that she doesn't understand why Joyce has to be dead, and no one will explain it to her. Xander goes over to her, but she moves away and sits down in the corner. Willow says they don't know how it works, or why. Xander paces as they wait in silence for Tara. Anya finds a blue sweater in the cushions of the chair and sticks it in an open drawer. Xander breaks the silence by punching his fist through the wall, where it gets stuck. Tara comes back and asks if she missed something; Anya tells her that Xander decided to blame the wall. Xander pulls his bloody fist out of the wall and they stare for a moment as the blood runs down the back of his hand. Tara and Xander share an understanding, as Tara remarks, "It hurts," referring to more than just his hand. Xander goes to the sink to clean up. Tara tells Willow she couldn't find the sweater, and Willow — who is calmer now — says it doesn't matter, but they should go. Tara and Xander agree, and they leave. Willow runs back to grab another sweater, and closes the door.
Joyce's body lies on a metal table, covered to her shoulders with a white sheet. A bright light shines on her. Doctor Kriegel, who took care of Joyce before, takes of his rubber gloves, covers her face with the sheet, and turns the light off, leaving the room very dimly lit. He walks down a dim hallway toward a waiting room where Buffy, Dawn, Giles, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya have met up and are hugging and trying to be supportive of one another. Giles sees the doctor, and he, Buffy and Dawn walk over to speak to him. Dawn asks if they can see the body, but Buffy says not now. The doctor has examined Joyce and says she had an aneurysm — an artery in her brain ruptured near where the tumor was removed. The doctor says Joyce was aware of the risk of aneurysm when she had the surgery. He says it was likely sudden, with little pain. He says: "Even if someone had been by her side..." Buffy imagines her mom having a sudden head pain with Buffy at her side. Flash to the paramedics coming, and then Joyce recovering in the hospital. She returns to reality as the doctor concludes "..it's doubtful this would have been dealt with in time." Buffy asks if he's sure that Joyce didn't suffer. The doctor says "Absolutely" and his mouth keeps moving (forming the words "I think we can be almost positive about that") as Buffy hears him say "I have to lie to make you feel better." The doctor says there are some forms to be signed and decisions to be made. Giles offers to take care of them, and Buffy agrees.
Giles leaves with the doctor, and Buffy and Dawn go over to their friends. They sit down. Dawn starts to ask something, then stops and says she has to pee. After Dawn leaves, Buffy says she thinks Dawn is angry with her, and when she told Dawn that Joyce was dead, Dawn didn't believe her. Buffy thinks Dawn still doesn't believe it. Anya blurts out that she wishes Joyce wasn't dead because she was nice, and now they all hurt. Buffy thanks her. Willow says Buffy should eat something, so she, Xander, and Anya go to get snacks. Buffy and Tara sit beside each other on the couch, and Buffy apologizes for making Tara go through this. Tara says not to worry about her. Buffy says everyone wants to help her, but she doesn't know what's going on because she hasn't done this before. Tara has, as her mother died when she was 17. Tara comments that when her mother died, she had thoughts and reactions she didn't understand and couldn't share. She says if Buffy needs to talk, she can talk to her. Buffy asks if Tara's mother's death was sudden. Tara says no, but then, "And yes. It's always sudden."
Dawn comes out of the bathroom and sees Buffy and Tara. She looks around at the doors to the morgue, and heads down the hall towards the morgue. She looks through the window in the door to the morgue at the sheet-covered bodies. She goes in and bolts the door behind her. Dawn looks nervous but determined as she walks past the row of bodies towards the one she gathers is her mother, on the examining table. She looks down at the sheet, and seems to be steeling herself to move it aside and look at Joyce's body, when behind her one of the bodies sits up. A newborn vampire pulls the sheet off himself, and looks around. He spots Dawn and smiles as he begins to creep up on her. Dawn turns around and sees him.
Buffy and Tara are still sitting in the waiting room as Xander, Willow and Anya return with armloads of snacks from the vending machines. Willow explains that they panicked. Buffy says she's not hungry. They wonder if Dawn is still in the restroom, and Buffy tells them to wait there as she goes to investigate. Buffy sees the entrance to the morgue near the restroom, and goes towards the morgue.
Through the window in the morgue door, Buffy sees Dawn being attacked by the vampire. She breaks through the door and struggles to pull the vampire off Dawn. The vampire pushes Dawn away, and she falls, hitting Joyce's table on the way down, inadvertently pulling the sheet enough to reveal Joyce's face. As Buffy fights with the vampire, Dawn looks up and can just see the top of Joyce's head from where she's lying on the floor. Buffy grabs a bone saw that has been knocked off the table of autopsy tools and decapitates the vampire. She lies on the floor a moment catching her breath, and then rolls over to look at Dawn. Dawn is sitting on the floor staring up at Joyce. Dawn moves up onto her knees and, still looking at Joyce, asks Buffy if she's cold. Buffy tells Dawn that the body isn't their mother; she's gone. Dawn asks where she went, but Buffy says nothing; she doesn't have an answer. Dawn slowly reaches out to touch Joyce's face. Cut to black just before she does so.
— Synopsis written by Liz.