Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling
January 5, 2015 2:59 PM - Season 6, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Sunnydale is alive with the sound of music as a mysterious force causes everyone in town to burst into full musical numbers, revealing their innermost secrets as they do. But some townsfolk are dancing so much that they simply burst into flames, and it becomes clear that maybe living in a musical isn't so great after all.
posted by iamkimiam (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Also, a fun making of video on YouTube.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:05 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just saw this for the first time the other night and and was utterly delighted by how fun and joyful it was! Friends had built it up for me and I was worried that it wouldn't pay off, but no, it did and so much more than I could have imagined.

I love all the hidden details of this episode, some of which is covered in the wikipedia page. At any rate, good stuff and would love to read about anybody else's experience watching this episode.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2015

So much love for this, a bright spot in a dim season, although one that gets better every time I revisit it. I had to give it a break for a few years after a depressed ex watched "Walk Through The Fire" on repeat for about an hour. But it's still excellent when I came back to it.

I'm amazed that this has actually been a successful entry point to the series for a few people I've known. It's terrific and good musical fun, but it's also pretty dark and very very very tied to the various plotlines of the season. As the dancing demon (I don't like calling him Sweet because it's never mentioned on screen) says in his closing number, even though he's been defeated, he's left them in a much trickier place now that all their secrets, lies and fears are out in the open. A great marriage of gimmick, characterization and plot development.

The Xander reveal still rings false all these years later, as does the demon's refusal to take him as his bride. It would be nice if they had worked out a better way to get the demon into town and/or a way for him to leave aside from "eww gay icky." Still on balance one of the crowning achievements of the series.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:57 PM on January 5, 2015 [9 favorites]

As a Buffy fan with a band and a music degree who knows how hard good songwriting is, I was totally cringing in advance hearing that Joss Whedon was writing the songs for this. It was such a classic case of an auteur who is great at one thing being unjustifiably convinced that he could also be great at other things.

And you know what? The songs were great. Awesome job Joss, sorry I doubted you.
posted by dfan at 4:33 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Xander reveal still rings false all these years later, as does the demon's refusal to take him as his bride. It would be nice if they had worked out a better way to get the demon into town and/or a way for him to leave aside from "eww gay icky."

That part is honestly the dumbest thing in all of Season Six, which might as well have been called Buffy the Vampire Slayer: All The Dumb Stuff.

First, we're supposed to believe that one of the Scooby Gang, unencumbered by a magical hangover or love curse or whatthefuckever, summoned a demon and then was surprised when shit went wrong.

Then, we're supposed to believe that summoning a demon wasn't a thing that a member of the Scooby Gang would confess while under a magical truth spell.

And finally, we're supposed to believe that everyone just shrugs it off and everything's cool with Xander being responsible for at least a couple of deaths.

Honestly, the only redeeming thing about it was that they didn't make the cheap "Singing dancing demon... must be gay! LOL" joke.
posted by Etrigan at 5:58 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Or maybe witches. Some evil witches!

Which is ridiculous 'cause witches they were persecuted/wicca good/and love the earth/and women power/and I'll be over here!

This, I've Got a Theory, and Under Your Spell/Standing, and the ones sung by Hinton Battle are my favorites. Unfortunately I can't get through the songs without thinking about the drama with Amber Benson's character. So much ugh. I blame TWOP (or reading TWOP anyway.)
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 7:07 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Etrigan, I totally agree. The Xander thing (dude would KNOW BETTER) was the worst.

Then again, musicals tend to make people be really, really stupid. I suppose the whole thing is some kind of Musical Logic? (Really, they're singing about mustard, people.)

But that said, Joss is brilliant at musical writing and I love the songs and still go around singing them periodically.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:48 PM on January 5, 2015

This is great, and I watch it periodically. It's also followed by the very good Tabula Rasa, which is another high point of Season 6. I would love to do a rewatch of Buffy, maybe even Buffy/Angel.

The great thing about this is that this episode is perfect at being what it is, and moving the plot forwards. Just as Hush revealed lots of truths the characters had been concealing from each other, so did this.

Yeah the whole Xander thing is a mess, and it's best to just ignore it, because thats clearly what the show does.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:30 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

No worries about spoilers (the show is long gone) but I'll return to this thread after I've seen what the Xander thing is all about. ;)
posted by iamkimiam at 12:48 AM on January 6, 2015

I showed the episode to my parents who had zero knowledge or understanding of Buffy before hand. They both loved it.

It's also, in my mind, one of the more depressing episodes of the show. So many tragic and terrible things unfold throughout the episode, be it Willow's use of magic on Tara, and at the same time, Giles leaving Buffy (LEAVING BUFFY? WHAT GIVES WATCHER?!), the scene of Anya being left at the altar, the fact that Buffy was in Heaven, not some weird dimensional hell place, and so on, and so on. It's an episode about people falling away from each other physically and emotionally, and the music is just wonderful throughout.

For those who want more Whedonesque music, go watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog (if you haven't), for another dose of fun and tragedy.

I had a friend once who was a Buffy fan, but when they heard there was going to be a musical they figured the show had jumped the shark and stopped watching. I could never, ever, convince her to watch OMWF. I hope somewhere, somehow, she finally watched it.
posted by Atreides at 7:06 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's also, in my mind, one of the more depressing episodes of the show.

Agreed, and even knowing so, every time I watch it I am surprised at the sadness. That moment where Buffy reveals she was in heaven is awful. Poor Willow!
posted by something something at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Giles leaving Buffy

Urgh. Don't remind me. This was one of my least favourite things about this season. Honestly, I appreciate that Head wanted to leave the show, so they needed to write him out without killing him off, but really?

"Yes Buffy, I, the only financially sound and emotionally stable adult remaining in your life must leave now. Yes, yes, you have been ripped out of Heaven, leaving you massively traumatised, and knowing that you have to care for your teenage sister, of whom you have sole financial and caring responsibilities, and that you have to provide for an entire household finanically, oh and you also have to make sure the world doesn't end by fighting demons every single night. But the only way you will stand on your own two feet will be if I leave!"

Buffy really needed to see a therapist at some point, and I don't count a manipulative vampire in Season 7...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 9:14 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

It would be nice if they had worked out a better way to get the demon into town and/or a way for him to leave aside from "eww gay icky."

I don't take that from it at all. I recall Hinton Battle's reaction to that as a very calm "yeah no thanks" absent of any revulsion or judgment - it's just a lack of interest in marrying a man. Xander's terrified and there's a pause before the "... be your queen?" line, but there's no "that's gross" in there that would be inappropriate for any forced magical coupling of any sort. Maybe there's a little have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too in that it can play the eewtehghey laugh out of people who have that reaction, but after two seasons of implied and some episodes of explicit gay relationship I feel like the show earned its even-handed bona fides there.

If I was going to take issue with this season and the portrayal of male homosexuality I'd be way more inclined to bring up the portrayals in this seasons' antagonist trio and when that's played for laughs.

[Battle's What You Feel linked for awesome. Makes me want to take soft shoe lessons.]

The funniest and easy to miss line in the whole episode, to me, is Giles saying "she needs backup."
posted by phearlez at 10:24 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

The backup moment is perfection. My favourite underacknowledged bit of dialogue - Giles saying he managed to covertly examine the body "while the police were taking witness arias."
posted by yellowbinder at 2:54 PM on January 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

You're not alone in that, yellowbinder! I giggle every time at that.

Not that that's the only giggle worthy point.
posted by flaterik at 3:41 PM on January 6, 2015

Yeah the whole Xander thing is a mess, and it's best to just ignore it, because thats clearly what the show does.

Yes, it feels like it's a nod to all the hasty 'let's all get married' wrap-ups in musicals past; the songs are over so any dangling plot threads just need to get snipped off and really no one minds.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:37 PM on January 6, 2015

This is one of my favorite episodes of Buffy and this along with Tabula Rasa and Something Blue are my "comfort viewing" when I know I have a rough time of things coming up. (Along with Angel's Smile Time.) I'actually attended the Buffy Singalong of this episode once (the other episodes they showed were Doppelgangland and Hush). If you have the chance, I highly recommend it.

Strangely enough today I was just thinking it was time for a Buffy rewatch. I do it every couple of years. The last time I did it was when a male friend was watching Buffy for the first time. It was really fantastic discussing those episodes as he was watching them for the first time because I often forgot how I reacted to episodes the first time.

One of my favorite moments is Anya's throw away line about child-demon marriages:

They never work....ok maybe once.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:23 PM on January 6, 2015

On a show with plenty of quotable lines, I think the only one I've ever used was calling a song "a retro pastiche that's never gonna be a breakaway pop hit".
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:01 AM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Buffy really needed to see a therapist at some point, and I don't count a manipulative vampire in Season 7...

Is there a better season 7 episode?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

That Wikipedia entry doesn't mention that executive producer Marti Noxon was also the parking ticket lady. Which also makes me smile.

Still one of my favourite episodes. The thing that annoyed me mightily is that we get all these revelations about what the characters are really doing and thinking and the next 6 episodes just go over the same ground. Season 6 is so stop-start in terms of story-arc development, coupled with my least favourite boss villains ever and some truly awful things (Tara's death; magic is bad, mmkay; Giles leaving; arrrgh the list goes on and on). I think there's a reason why my Buffy rewatch halted shortly after OMWF.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:03 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is there a better season 7 episode?

I'm not really a fan of Conversations With Dead People but I get why people like it. I'd put Selfless above it and could make strong cases for Help and Him, maybe even Lessons or Same Time Same Place. Man, that season started with such potential and ended with such potentials.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:23 PM on January 7, 2015 [15 favorites]

such potential and ended with such potentials.

Top quality comment, would favourite again!

Yeah my favourite Season 7 episode is Selfless by far. I think its a pretty perfect distillation of what the show was capable of doing at that point (and more often missed).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:24 AM on January 8, 2015

Man, that season started with such potential and ended with such potentials.

posted by Pope Guilty at 12:59 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love this episode so much. And completely uncharacteristically, I am unable to resist singing along whenever I watch it. Buffy's my favorite TV show of all time and I've seen (and listened) to OMWF many times.

This was almost my introduction to the show. I'd seen the movie -- which I liked and I still like, despite its flaws (maybe I liked it mostly because of Paul Reubens) -- but didn't even consider watching the show. I'd mostly stopped watching TV entirely in the eighties. That changed once this new golden age of television really got going, but through most of BtVS's run, I didn't watch television at all. But at the end of 2001 I was recently single, still moderately flush with dotcom money, had stopped working, and had lots of spare time. For the hell of it, I got cable. FX had recently started a daily airing of two episodes of the show, in sequence, and for whatever reason the day I stumbled onto it I watched an episode, then the one following, and then both the next day. I'm pretty sure that that first episode I watched was episode eleven of season two, "Ted"; the next was "Bad Eggs", and both of those aren't that good -- but the two the following day were "Surprise" and "Innocence" and, well, you know.

And then, as it happened, the next new episode of the show that aired on UPN -- which at this point I made an effort to watch -- was Once More, With Feeling. I was a little wary going in, but I'd been impressed by those season two episodes I'd watched and there was some hype about this musical episode, so I was very curious. And I was just blown away. My jaw pretty much dropped to the floor at the end of "Under Your Spell". Well, I was also laughing hysterically at the same time.

It wasn't until a good while later after I'd caught up and then had a copy of OMWF to watch again that the episode really meant to me what it has since -- all the context I'd lacked to understand the stuff that people above are discussing. A very few things I liked less -- like the problems with Xander summoning the demon. But my deep disappointment with Willow and my heartbreak for Tara was so much stronger. Of course, the following episode, "Tabula Rasa" really doubles down on this. As it sort of does with everything that happened in OMWF. I kind of think they should always be watched as a pair. It makes for a particularly powerful narrative flow -- the ramifications of all those revealed secrets are temporarily postponed by the amnesia in TR and, while that's the case, the characters and the audience experience an innocent camaraderie that's delightful and heartwarming. And then their memories come back and it's so much the worse because of it.

I think I'm going to have to watch OMWF again right now. It's been maybe a couple years since I last watched it. I might have some thoughts I'll post here after.

One weird thing -- and this is just about how my weird brain works, I always have an earworm (always! and sometimes the same one for weeks and weeks), and I have some similar/related tics and this is one of them -- but for no apparent reason I'll sometimes just hear in my head Xander's line leading into "I've Got a Theory": "Well, we've just got to break it down..." which has always bugged the shit out of me because the audio doesn't match with the preceding dialogue. I sometimes just hear it and its weird flatness of it in my head for no damn reason at all.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:32 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh I just love this episode (and show) so much. I keep thinking about the critical analysis I could do, but am overwhelmed by FEELINGS. I love how the musical walks that line between humour and heartbreak, and how everyone is giving his or her all, even with the range of musical talent. It's such a love letter to the form, too; I love when Anya complains that their number is a "retro pastiche" that will never be a "breakaway pop hit" (maybe a Sondheim vs. Webber reference?). I recently received a copy of the score for winning the Buffy trivia game at my Buffy-themed bachelorette (it was amazing, guys, you should have seen the "heart of a demon" blue drink with blood-red "dripping" melted sugar rim), hosted by my MOH who I used to call (or vice versa) excitedly after every episode because DID YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED.

I know Joss Whedon is a big fan of Sondheim (which is of course one of the reasons he wanted to do this) because I sat a few rows behind him at an early performance of Road Show at the Public Theatre, and I was conflicted, because on one hand NEW SONDHEIM SHOW and on the other hand AM I SITTING BEHIND JOSS WHEDON I THINK I AM BUT I'M NOT SURE LET ME STARE SOME MORE. Then at intermission, I was really surreptitiously trying to figure out if it was him and to my great embarrassment we made eye contact and he flashed me an enormous grin and winked. Even if it wasn't Top Sondheim, it was still a pretty good day at the theatre.

I know a karaoke bar that has almost the entirety of OMWF available, and occasionally I'll go sing Under Your Spell.
posted by ilana at 1:10 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm more jealous of your karaoke than your Whedon wink! *Some* places here have Going Through The Motions and I mean I'll do it but I'd kill for more!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:26 AM on January 9, 2015

I just posted a FFTalk to see if people are interested in a weekly rewatch. Post there if you'd be into it. Also I just watched I'll Be Mrs. and I may be slightly misty.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:46 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

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