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BTVS Episode Poll: 6.17 Normal Again

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"There's a world of strength in your heart, honey."



Poll #1963539 BTVS Episode Poll: 6.17 Normal Again
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 22

1. The Trio! They make a surprise return appearance after several episodes without them. Your thoughts?

View Answers
Wow, Jonathan is sure losing it
9 (40.9%)
Finally, action on the season arc
2 (9.1%)
I'd be just as happy if we never see them again
4 (18.2%)
Those guys? I forgot all about those guys.
6 (27.3%)
Other
1 (4.5%)

2. The college scene where Willow fails to talk to Tara. What do you think?

View Answers
WILLOW YOU ARE AN IDIOT
2 (9.1%)
Willow, you're an idiot, but I understand
6 (27.3%)
Yay, college!
1 (4.5%)
Yay, Tara!
1 (4.5%)
I'm so excited by this evidence that Tara has been moving forward with her own life and making new friends
12 (54.5%)
Other
0 (0.0%)

3. The institution scenes. Your thoughts? (check many)

View Answers
Yay, Joyce!
6 (8.2%)
Oh, Joyce! Break my heart again, why don't you?
13 (17.8%)
Wow, her dad, really?
11 (15.1%)
The stereotypical depiction of mental illness bothers me a bit
4 (5.5%)
The stereotypical depiction of mental illness bothers me a LOT
4 (5.5%)
I get that BUFFY (who is demon-drugged) feels like they're real, but I don't find them terribly convincing
2 (2.7%)
Too meta.
4 (5.5%)
I LOVE the meta.
11 (15.1%)
Buffy looks kinda cute all disheveled like that
4 (5.5%)
Her doctor reminds me of that counselor who gets killed -- season 2, I think? I wonder if that's deliberate.
4 (5.5%)
Just in case you didn't realize that Buffy has been going through a major depression all season, here, have some imagery that you will immediately recognize as signaling mental illness.
9 (12.3%)
Other
1 (1.4%)

4. Some fans think that Buffy's story about having been in a mental institution prior to the show's timeline is inconsistent with Joyce's behavior in seasons 1 and 2, and "fanwank" the explanation that this event exists only in the post-Dawn timeline. Your thoughts?

View Answers
I like it!
5 (25.0%)
I agree that it's mildly inconsistent, but I think it's just the kind of thing that will come up sometimes after a show has been around for six years. No fanwanking necessary.
4 (20.0%)
It's not inconsistent. First two seasons Joyce was clearly in a LOT of denial.
6 (30.0%)
When Buffy tells this story, my only thought is "poor Buffy!"
3 (15.0%)
Other
2 (10.0%)

5. Buffy dumps the first batch of antidote after a conversation with Spike where he pushes her to be honest with her friends about their relationship. Why does this conversation trigger that decision?

View Answers
Ironically, she's taking his advice. Trying to "stop with the bloody hero trip" and not be The Slayer for a while.
3 (14.3%)
He's being a jerk here. No wonder she responds badly.
3 (14.3%)
Her earlier conversation with Dawn indicated that she's starting to feel disoriented even when not actively hallucinating the mental institution.
0 (0.0%)
Just as it appears -- she can't deal with the thought of her friends finding out about her relationship with Spike, and that tips her over the edge.
5 (23.8%)
She just needs someone to take care of her right now. If Spike were paying attention to her needs (as he did back in the beginning of the season), she wouldn't feel such a strong urge to take refuge in imaginary Joyce. IT'S ALL SPIKE'S FAULT.
2 (9.5%)
Spike is just being his usual caustic, honest self -- his bad luck that she's in a distressed mental place where this triggers such an objectively horrible decision on her part
6 (28.6%)
Other
2 (9.5%)

6. Buffy kidnapping Willow, Xander, and Dawn -- what do you think?

View Answers
We have officially reset the bar on Buffy's lowest moment.
0 (0.0%)
Eh, she's drugged. I don't really see it as character-defining behavior.
2 (9.5%)
The scene where she's going after Dawn is super disturbing. Like, Serial Killer Buffy disturbing.
10 (47.6%)
It doesn't really work for me as a story turn.
2 (9.5%)
It's fine as an idea, but it doesn't work here.
1 (4.8%)
Wow, Tara showing up just then is pretty convenient, huh?
2 (9.5%)
I'll admit it. I've wanted to see her clock Xander with a frying pan for YEARS.
4 (19.0%)
Other
0 (0.0%)

7. The final "we've lost her" scene has been very controversial in some fan circles, because of the way it implies that, perhaps, the entirety of the show is a figment of Buffy's imagination. Your thoughts?

View Answers
I like it.
5 (23.8%)
Eh, it's just a little joke, who cares.
3 (14.3%)
IT IS A HORRIBLE "SCREW YOU" TO THE FANS AND IT MAKES ME HATE THE EPISODE WITH THE BURNING PASSION OF A THOUSAND FIERY SUNS.
2 (9.5%)
It's sort of a cheap joke but it doesn't ruin the episode or anything.
4 (19.0%)
I have no particular opinion.
0 (0.0%)
It's thematically very important.
5 (23.8%)
Other
2 (9.5%)

8. Quotes!

View Answers
BUFFY Um, you didn't by any chance just eat a bunch of nerds, did you?
0 (0.0%)
WILLOW Hi, um... Tara. How are you? I was wondering... do you want to go out sometime? For coffee? Or food? Or kisses and gay love?
1 (4.8%)
XANDER I don't wanna hear this crap from you. SPIKE Right. Wouldn't wanna listen to Spike. Might get a bit 'a truth on you.
1 (4.8%)
XANDER What, you think this isn't real just 'cause of all the vampires and the demons and the ex-Vengeance demons and the sisterthat used to be a ball of universe-destroying energy?
2 (9.5%)
DOCTOR You used to create grand villains to battle against. And now what is it? Just ordinary people you went to high school with. Not gods or monsters. Just three pathetic little men who like to play with toys.
4 (19.0%)
WARREN She's tripping like a Ken Russell film festival.
0 (0.0%)
XANDER Spike, we need muscle here, not color commentary.
1 (4.8%)
SPIKE Oh, balls. You didn't say the thing was a Glarghk Guhl Kashma'nik. XANDER That's because I can't SAY Glarma --
4 (19.0%)
SPIKE You're not drawn to the dark like I thought. You're addicted to the misery.
3 (14.3%)
SPIKE Let yourself live already.
0 (0.0%)
XANDER Hello? I'm back. Clean and with a better smell now.
1 (4.8%)
JOYCE I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you've got people that love you. There's a world of strength in your heart, honey. I know there is. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself.
4 (19.0%)
Other
0 (0.0%)

9. Rate this episode

View Answers
Mean: 6.73 Median: 7 Std. Dev 2.42
0
0 (0.0%)
1
1 (4.5%)
2
1 (4.5%)
3
2 (9.1%)
4
0 (0.0%)
5
0 (0.0%)
6
4 (18.2%)
7
4 (18.2%)
8
4 (18.2%)
9
5 (22.7%)
10
1 (4.5%)

Bonus question! We see Buffy working at the Doublemeat Palace for I think the last time. Who kinda thought she quit when she walked off the job to go chase demons with Captain Charisma?

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
mcjulie
Apr. 6th, 2014 06:13 pm (UTC)
1. I forgot all about those guys. They really are kind of incidental to the story arc by now, aren't they?

2. I'm so excited by this evidence that Tara has been moving forward with her own life and making new friends -- seriously, it makes me so happy to think about Tara being still in love with Willow, but using their separation to grow as a person. And honestly, I think that's what Willow is freaking out about here. It consciously manifests as sexual jealousy, but really, she doesn't know how to handle the whole "wow, Tara totally became her own person while we were apart, including making friends I don't even know" thing.

3. Oh, Joyce! Break my heart again, why don't you? -- I admit it, I felt a bit stabbed in the heart when I saw her. In a good way. More or less.

Wow, her dad, really? -- which really emphasizes one contrast between the institution reality and show reality: in institution reality she is a child who can be taken care of by her parents.

I LOVE the meta.

Buffy looks kinda cute all disheveled like that -- I can't help it, I think that every time they cut back to institution reality.

4. It's not inconsistent. First two seasons Joyce was clearly in a lot of denial. And season 3 Joyce doesn't handle Buffy's slayer side all that much better than season 2 Joyce, what with "Dead Man's Party" and "Gingerbread" and so on. She doesn't really seem okay with it until Season 5, when their relationship begins to be that of a parent with an adult child.

5. IT'S ALL SPIKE'S FAULT.
The first time I saw this, I went for the obvious -- she simply wants to retreat from the reality where her relationship with Spike happened. But this time, I really noticed how much different he is toward her than he is in the early part of the season. Early in season 6, Spike is repeatedly the only person in her circle to notice that she's hurting and needs help, and so he's the only one who provides it. Everyone else is too focused on wanting to believe that everything is back to normal.

In this episode, though, Spike is very self-centered -- just like Dawn, he's mostly PERSONALLY offended that he doesn't exist in her alternate reality. He's not able to handle their breakup. He's turning obsessive and angry. When he confronts her, he's obviously confronting a person who is physically ill, and also suffering from extremely disturbing hallucinations, and also having a major existential crisis triggered by that, and also having a relapse of her major depression, which has been steadily improving.

He is oblivious to all of that. He would rather lecture her about being "addicted to the pain." Well, maybe she is, but now is really not the time. And early season 6 Spike would have noticed that.
mcjulie
Apr. 6th, 2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
6. The scene where she's going after Dawn is super disturbing. Like, Serial Killer Buffy disturbing. But I have wanted to see her clock Xander with a frying pan for a long time now.

7. It's thematically very important.
Joss Whedon is self-identified as an existentialist and an existentialist thread shows up again and again in his work. This season has already tackled the question of identity -- how do we know who we are? -- with "Tabula Rasa." But this episode tackles a different existential question: how do we know what's real?

From an audience perspective, I don't think we're meant to believe in the potential objective reality of the asylum scenes -- this isn't Life on Mars (the British one). The point is that Buffy herself can't tell the difference, emphasized when she stops and corrects herself -- "No. Not like. I was in an institution."

I've talked before about my angst at being a natural-born existentialist raised in the evangelical church.

From a young age, I had questions -- big questions, questions about the nature of humanity and reality and identity -- that the evangelical authority figures around me couldn’t answer to my satisfaction. I don't know if the problem is that there are no existentialists in the evangelical church, or if they just don't talk about it because the culture doesn't support it, or what. But the point is, I found no adult role models or mentors within the church.

But you know where you can find existentialists galore? Writers! And, as a child, I got a lot of comfort from the existentialist content of the stories I read and watched. The evangelical church made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I was literally a damned thing, because I was scared and full of doubts. But writers told me that just meant I was human. I was normal. I was okay.

I am still tremendously reassured (perhaps ironically) by messages about how we’re all going to die and nothing objectively means anything and you can’t know for sure what’s real. Particularly, I latch onto messages that combine existentialism with humanism. And so I am an absolute sucker for what I see as the core message of Normal Again:

We can’t always tell what’s real, in an objective sense. We have to decide what reality to believe in. So believe in the reality where you don’t hurt your friends.

To me, that message is driven home by the final image — yes, it’s a little joke, but it also reminds us that Buffy made a choice about what reality she was going to believe in. She chose the reality where she has to be an adult. She chose the reality where she has to be a hero. She chose the reality where she lost her mother (and, in a way, her father). She chose the reality that has seemed to her, at times, to be hell. And she chose it because, objectively real or not, she could not bear to watch her friends be hurt.

So, when people complain about that final image because they think it somehow “breaks” the premise of the show — I feel like we must be watching a totally different show.

8. JOYCE I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you've got people that love you. There's a world of strength in your heart, honey. I know there is. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself.

9. I give it a nine. I like this episode a LOT.
pickamix
Apr. 6th, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC)
On the one where I voted other ... those should have been check boxes. Half those answers were how I feel about that.

Spike was an asshole, but that's just who he is (remember DEMON?), and stuff. I agreed with the first two and the 6th possible answers.

*hugs and love*
mcjulie
Apr. 6th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC)
It is complicated! I don't know, maybe all the answers should be multiple choice? I'm not sure if I get a more interesting picture of people's opinions if I force a single "closest" answer or not.
kikimay
Apr. 6th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
1. I forgot about these guys. Seriously, potentially the Trio is interesting but I don't feel involved in their storyline and I find Andrew annoying.

2. I'm excited by the fact that Tara has other friends. She was so shy and insicure when we met her, but in S6 she's very indipendent and strong. I believe that she always had that kind of strenght.

3. Surprise dad is a surprise, Joyce's presence kinda breaks my heart, I LOVE the meta and Buffy is cute and kinda believable in her look (Except for her fingernails. When did she found time to perfectly paint her nails?) I didn't notice the doctors parallel! Nice catch!

4. I thought "poor Buffy" and I think it was really believable since Joyce was in denial.

5. I love Spike, but he is a jerk in that scene. Excuse her while she's having allucinations and can't deal with your shit. That said, it's not all Spike's fault. He tried what he could and it was more complex than that.

6. Super-disturbing Buffy but Xander deserves to be hit sometimes.

7. I like it. It could also be explained in the same mythology of the series: we already know that there are more dimensions, so there could be the crazy!Buffy dimension and the hero!Buffy one. In any case I really don't care, I liked the episode and the ending was perfect for it.

8. I loved the meta observations of the doctor.

9. I gave it a solid 8.

I also thought that she quit after when she leaved for Riley!
mcjulie
Apr. 6th, 2014 10:38 pm (UTC)
in S6 she's very indipendent and strong.

Yes, it's one of my favorite things about this season.

we already know that there are more dimensions

I've seen that theory floated a bit. And it is in the nature of Buffy that we could have revisited the asylum reality later, confirming its stable existence as an alternate reality timeline. Dawn, the Superstar episode, The Wish, Anya's world without shrimp -- all of them point that direction.
rahirah
Apr. 6th, 2014 10:32 pm (UTC)
On #5, Spike's being both honest and a jerk. But even if he were being all sweetness and light, all season Buffy's been passively suicidal. She's not going to actively kill herself because That Would Be Wrong. But if she taunts Spike into killing her, or if she lapses into a permanent hallucinatory coma from demon poisoning, well, slaying's a dangerous job. Her hallucinations are about being in a place where she has no responsibilities whatsoever, and to Buffy, that's heaven.
mcjulie
Apr. 6th, 2014 10:46 pm (UTC)
Interesting theory!

I can't seem to find it now, but in one of her posts on Buffy's S6 depression, gabrielleabelle she compares Buffy's Spike relationship to "cutting" behavior, establishing the self-destructive (but not ULTIMATELY self destructive) nature of it.
kikimay
Apr. 6th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
I also had the same idea. Or, at least, in a Spuffy story I wrote I let Buffy admit that she was passively trying to kill herself by sleeping with a dangerous man. Being mentally ill is the epitome of doing stuff against your own best interests.

Still I don't think she's addicted to misery as Spike says. At least, she's pathologically addicted to misery because of her current mental state in the episode - and generally in some parts of her story - but not because her nature is like that. She can find pleasure in joy. I don't know if I explained well the difference.
rahirah
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, when she's in a normal state of mind I think she's perfectly capable of enjoying life. I do think she has a tendency to bottle up her misery and let it fester, even when she's not clinically depressed, which generally leads to badness.
kikimay
Apr. 7th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
That's true. It still part of her personality and she has to deal with that flaw.
slaymesoftly
Apr. 7th, 2014 11:05 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Spike's just being Spike, but Buffy's taking the easy out.
trepkos
Apr. 6th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
I thought she'd quit, yeah.
And I think Buffy's story about having been in a mental institution prior to the show's timeline is inconsistent with her own behavior in seasons 1 and 2. She would never have risked joking about being a vampire slayer, if she'd once been locked away for thinking she was one.
I like Spike and Xander's scene - that's the best bit of it.
mcjulie
Apr. 6th, 2014 10:47 pm (UTC)
I tried to work up a question about the quasi-sexual tension between Xander and Spike this episode, but couldn't come up with any answers other than "Hey! How about that Xander/Spike sexual tension!"
trepkos
Apr. 7th, 2014 06:50 am (UTC)
I do like the "fanwank" the explanation that the mental institution event exists only in the post-Dawn timeline, but I do think they just forgot, and it bugs me a bit. On the other hand, I like your existentialist explanation.
molly_may
Apr. 6th, 2014 11:56 pm (UTC)
1. I like the Trio! I find them interesting, and, in Warren's case, genuinely terrifying. So, I'm happy that they return in this episode.

2. Go Tara!

3. Just in case you didn't realize that Buffy has been going through a major depression all season, here, have some imagery that you will immediately recognize as signaling mental illness.

Yeah. That. Which is basically why I don't like this episode - for the entire season, Buffy's depression has been this messy, organic thing always simmering right below the surface (and sometimes boiling over, as in Dead Things). In this episode, which is the climax of the depression arc (the rest of the season focuses much more on Willow's downfall), it becomes something created by an external force, curable if she swallows a potion.

4. I chose "Other" because my answer would be that it's totally inconsistent with the earlier seasons. Like trepkos said, Buffy in S1 wouldn't have been making jokes about slaying vampires to Joyce if she'd been locked away in a mental institution for insisting that vampires were real! It just feels like a massive, lazy retcon in order to justify this episode.

5. I voted for Buffy taking Spike's advice, but also believe that Spike was just being his usual caustic self.

6. She's drugged, it's not character-defining behavior. But I agree that she's super disturbing when she goes after Dawn.

7. Other. I don't care for it, but since I also don't like most of the episode preceding it, I can't say that it ruins anything for me.

8. SPIKE Oh, balls. You didn't say the thing was a Glarghk Guhl Kashma'nik. XANDER That's because I can't SAY Glarma --

The Spike and Xander demon-hunting scene is one of the few scenes in this episode I do like!

9. A 2, mostly for SMG's acting and for the aforementioned demon hunting. (It is interesting looking at the grading on this episode and seeing how wildly divergent it is.)
mcjulie
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
(It is interesting looking at the grading on this episode and seeing how wildly divergent it is.)

It is -- I think one of the things that makes Buffy such a great show is that it can appeal to people who have very different reactions to individual episodes and themes. Normal Again is one of the more divisive episodes, because people who like it often really like it, but people who don't, really don't.
itsnotmymind
Apr. 7th, 2014 01:01 pm (UTC)
The Trio are awesome?

I enjoyed this episode a lot.

The mental institution retcon worked for me, but I can see why other people have a problem with it. It is odd that Buffy was so comfortable making jokes about vampires in the early seasons if that had happened.
mcjulie
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
Maybe -- although by season 1 Buffy knows what vampires are, and if she saw one a couple of years earlier and didn't understand, she might have described it in a way that didn't instantly signal "vampire!" in her mother's mind.
red_satin_doll
May. 13th, 2014 04:48 pm (UTC)
The mental institution retcon worked for me, but I can see why other people have a problem with it. It is odd that Buffy was so comfortable making jokes about vampires in the early seasons if that had happened.

I can see why people do but I don't have an issue with it in a show that inserts a sister halfway through the run who never existed before. That means everything that we've seen up to that point can be called into question - or at least implies that everything that Buffy has known or experienced up to that point is altered at least in her memories (aka "Keyverse").

Including, how do parents deal with a child saying crazy things when there is another child in the house to protect?

And also, the out of story reason that this is a tv show and writers change their minds about stuff all the time for the needs of the plot. (Giles the shy librarian who never kissed a girl or cast a spell in S1 vs Giles with a Ripper backstory, anyone?)
treadingthedark
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:00 pm (UTC)
That ending really pissed me off. It seemed like cheap nonsense. But I think I'm the one person in the world who loathes the Bob Newhart series finale. Mcjulie I'm glad to read your response to it for a different perspective.
5.I thought I answered Buffy still being disoriented but that answer still says zero so I'm not sure what I did wrong. But so much of the episode makes no sense to me. Including that. But I thought Spike looked pretty in that scene, that's what I took away. ;)
Even for her to be convinced to kill her friends to end the delusion, no sense.
I used to really hate the Xander/Spike interaction in this episode, until I saw the outtakes where they are having fun. Nick Brendon is too good at acting like a jerk. I hated him there.
mcjulie
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:51 pm (UTC)
That ending really pissed me off. It seemed like cheap nonsense

I was hoping we'd get at least one person with that viewpoint! Honestly, I think it probably has a lot to do with how well the episode is working for you before we get to that point.
treadingthedark
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:04 pm (UTC)
Also I found the trio very amusing. And I figured she would have gotten fired for jumping over the counter to go off with Riley. Unless they had to keep her on because of her inside knowledge about the doublemeat ingredients.
mcjulie
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:53 pm (UTC)
An earlier version of the script actually has dialog where Riley wonders about that, and she reassures him that it doesn't matter.

Because I usually refer to scripts while composing the polls, I have seen a lot of alternate versions of the scripts that often address tiny little things like that.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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