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(Transcript): BtVS7.01 'Lessons' Audio Commentary by Joss W. and David S.

6th August 2008 (23:05)

So, I've decided the best way forward is to transcribe the DVD commentaries that Joss himself did first. And since I'm working backwards, that means ''Lessons' is next up. Joss wrote this episode and David Solomon directed it, and they share the commentary. It was interesting since I've not listened to this one again since I first got the DVDs, and there were a few things I didn't remember. Also, funny.

Highlights include a discussion of exactly where Buffy keeps her cellphone (don't ask); how you can judge someone's character by the way they deal with holes (again, don't ask), and what the theme of Season 7 actually was. Favourite non-jokey quote, referring to 'Chosen':

"I liked Sarah playing the First, it was great."
"Well, it worked very well thematically in the end, when she faced herself down and got rid of her demons, and all that."

As before, I've tried to stay faithful to what was said, but I've omitted the 'um's and 'er's, the 'you know's and 'kind of's, and the repetition. Context is given in [square brackets] when needed, and passages where I was unsure of what was said are marked with (??). In this transcript, lines spoken by Joss are prefixed JW> and those by David with DS>.

.
'Lessons' Commentary

JW> Okay, so I'm Joss Whedon.

DS> Okay, and I'm David Solomon.

JW> He directed this episode, I wroted it. I made the words up.

[A caption says 'Istanbul', over library footage of the city]

JW> I remember this; flying out to Istanbul was really, really exhausting.

DS> It was a very warm night there and the people were very hospitable. I liked it. The food was a little strange.

JW> It comes in a napkin-y thing. This is what, Universal?

DS> It is! Universal back-lot.

JW> This is Universal where we shot everything that we ever shot. Including the opening sequence of the second episode which is very similar to this one. 

DS> But then we threw that away.

JW> We threw it away. And shot a new one because it was too similar to this one.

[A panicking Potential is pursued by Bringers]

DS> Let's talk about this girl. Don't you love her?

JW> I don't know! I never met her.

DS> Oh, she's just great. She's actually just a – I shouldn't say 'just' – she is a stuntwoman. We were looking for an actress to cast and she came in. She did such a great job and she was very good at all this acting scared stuff and we thought… I just loved her.

JW> It's amazing how people can't do that. 

DS> It is. 

JW> You'd be just shocked. And I'm not talking about some people, I'm talking about actors who come in to read, it's like 'scared'. And maybe if you opened your eyes wider and made a noise…

[The Potential uses a pipe to climb onto a rooftop]

DS> Thank God that pipe was there, she would have never made it.

[She's caught by Bringers, thrown down to the ground in an alleyway, and brutally murdered]

JW> You know, this is like – not to be all deep and stuff – but this is absolutely the primal scene for me, because it's everything that I made 'Buffy' to get rid of. Was the girl who couldn’t get through it.

[Cut to Buffy in a graveyard]

DS> And here's our girl.

JW> I remember her, she was on our show…

DS> 'Charmed'? 'Scooby'?

JW> Oh. And this is also our – this is I think probably the height of our laziness, the indoor graveyard. We built our own back-lot graveyard…

DS> But it looks great!

JW> The back-lot graveyard was like thirty feet too far, and there was weather, and so…

DS> It was night. Nobody wanted to work at night in the first episode of the season.

JW> Yeah. So we built the indoor one. I think it came out really nice.

DS> It came out great. It unfortunately spoiled everyone. 

JW> Yeah, well, a little late for that. I mean… go team!

[A vampire gets stuck in his grave and asks Buffy for help]

JW> I like this fellow. 

DS> I do too. 

JW> This is the old 'subvert the moment' thing that we try and do at least once every first episode. It's like, what was it - the beginning when she went to college and the vampire gets out of the grave and she completely doesn't see him. It's like you've got to have at least one moment that says "No, no, no, no. We're not taking ourselves that seriously."

DS> And even his threat just lasts for a second. 

JW> Yeah.

[Buffy lets Dawn fight the vampire]

DS> I like this whole idea of Michelle finally learning how to be a Slayer after all this time.

JW> Well, not a Slayer per se. 

DS> No, a fighter.

JW> Yes. Yes. Empowered and using it and sharing it. That really is what the whole season is about. 

DS> And she was very into this. She started to work out and train and do all this fighting stuff.

JW> Oh yeah. 

DS> Good for her.

JW> Oh no. They love it at first. They're all like, "Let me do as many of my own stunts as possible!" And then after about three episodes of doing that they're like, "Let me--"

DS> "--Sit here!" Yes.

JW> "I can do the close-ups!" 

[Dawn gets into trouble fighting the vampire]

DS> We threw Michelle to the ground several times this day. She liked it.

JW> Yeah. She actually died at one point, had to be revived. That was weird.

[Buffy intervenes to save her. Big fight scene.]

JW> Come on, here we go. Now who was doubling Sarah at this point? Was it Melissa or Michelle?

DS> God, I don't remember. Er… Michelle. 'Course, I'd say that and I'm sure it's Melissa now.

JW> Right.

[Buffy slays the vampire]

DS> Nice. And the first dusting of the year.

JW> And a beheading at that.

DS> You know, this graveyard looked great.

JW> Yeah, I know, it came out great. Well, you shot it pretty well too. I mean, okay, how many did you shoot?

DS> Twenty? Twenty-one?

JW>  Twenty, twenty-one. You, me and James Contner shot the most. I came in last, I only did nineteen. I'm lazy, what can I say?

DS> Well, yeah. You should really work harder.

JW>  You know, I feel guilt. But you were our best shooter.

DS> Thanks.

JW> Our best shooter. I'm saying this… actually I'm hoping they'll cut it, because it's embarrassing.

DS>Now I have to go out and buy this DVD set just so I can play that over and over and over.

JW>  Yeah. But we edited the first – the presentation, the god-awful presentation together.

DS> It wasn't god-awful.

JW>  Well, okay. It was awful; maybe there was less God. I don't know. But then – you've been through more of this than any non-writing person.

DS> Oh, man. It was fun.

JW>  Yeah. Really?

DS> It was really fun.

JW> I mean, yeah! Fun! Go team!

[Principal Wood opens the new Sunnydale High School]

DS> Hey, there's our Principal!

JW>  Yes. And our new school. And our…

[The teaser cuts to black so the opening credits can start]

JW>  And our "Don't speak over black". And our… What's the most terrifying thing I could re-introduce at the opening of the teaser? Would be… school!

DS> It was great. I love D B. Are we allowed to talk over the main title? Somebody waved. Okay, good.

[Emma Caulfield's credit comes up]

DS> Emma! I'm just going to say their names as they come along.

[Clip of a vampire dusting from 'Tabula Rasa']

DS> I love that guy. 

[Michelle Trachtenberg's credit comes up]

JW>  That one's Michelle. This is the kind of in-depth commentary you're not going to get anywhere else. 

DS> No, that's right.

[James Marsters' credit comes up]

JW> He was a guy, he was on the show at some point. 

DS> I heard he's going on Angel.

JW> Yeah.

[Alyson Hannigan's credit comes up]

JW> The many hairstyles of Aly Hannigan. 

[Joss Whedon's credit comes up over an image of Buffy]

JW> Hey look, me! That's really cool.

DS> You look different in person.

Act One

[Giles riding a horse through the English countryside]

JW> Okay. England, my England. I forgot about this. Bucketing rain. Took them an hour to fix the crane because it always takes them an hour to fix the crane. But we went to England and by God we were going to shoot it. And it was just pouring through all of this.

DS> You can't see the rain at all.

JW> You can't. And then it got completely sunny. And shooting in Bath - this is actually on Tony's front lawn. Apart from that shot you saw on the horse, everything we did in England was done on his front lawn or in his foyer, because it was just bucketing rain. 

[Willow makes a flower grow by magic]

JW> And she was freezing.

DS> Really?

JW> Fu-reezing.

DS> Wow. That's a nice front lawn. Looks just like mine. 

JW> Yeah. Yeah, not so much.

DS> I can't see the rain. They both look pretty happy to be there, though. They look very mellow.

JW> I'd forgotten about this whole second-unit thing that I did. Because Tony was back in Bath, and I'd been to his place, and he's got a great place so we could shoot there or somewhere around there. The other shot on the horse is actually at the horse farm that he and Sarah – not Sarah Michelle Gellar, his Sarah – own. And I used to say all we needed is Aly and some camera people, and we can get great production values.

DS> So basically it's just an excuse for a free trip, all right?

JW> I don't know what you're… I'm talking about production values. I clearly care about Art and, and…

DS> …And party. The big party. First class travel. That's nice, all that's nice.

JW> It was about the art.

DS> And England. Look how pretty.

JW> I know. Well, not in close-up. 

[Willow says the Coven are scared she'll turn them into bangers and mash]

DS> Bangers and mash. Does anybody know what that is? Do you know what bangers and mash are? You lived there for all those years.

JW> Yeah. It's sausage and potatoes. 

DS> I like this. I like Alyson coming back, Willow coming back this season and being strung out like this and on the road to recovery.

JW> It's very… it was very important. We knew buying back "Oh, I'll destroy the world and flay a guy alive" was going to take a little time. 

DS> Was that her first human that she killed?

JW> Yes, yes. Good times. Good times, flaying alive.

DS> Look how pretty she looks. 

JW> Mmm. You know, this is exactly what I'm not supposed to do with commentaries, sit there and go "They're so pretty!"

DS> Oh yeah. Sorry.

JW> But she does look great. 

[Willow compares Giles to Dumbledore]

JW> And any mention of Harry Potter always makes me happy. 

[Willow and Giles converse]

JW> This was something that I had never intended to be just over, over. They were going to have the horse, and looking off, and she wouldn't give that line just to him, and… oh, it just didn't work out.

DS> And then it rained.

JW> and then it rained and rained and didn't and did. 

[Cut to Revello Drive]

DS> Oh, why's this look so jumpy? Hmm

JW> Oh, that's just the (??) it'll be fine.

[Xander gets out of his new car wearing a suit and tie]

JW> Check out grown-up Nicky.

DS> Grown-up Xander in a suit, neat. And a real car. 

[David Solomon's credit comes up]

DS> Oh, there's me. 

[Buffy and Xander walk into the kitchen]

DS> Let's watch the beauty of no editing here. Look how great this is.

JW> This incredible shot. Who was on Steadi? 

DS> I have no recollection. Probably Bill Brummond. 

JW> Probably.

DS> Steadicam's not moving at all: that's Bill Brummond.

JW> I know. He's the steadiest man alive. 

DS> Oh, that kitchen served us well all those years. Nicely.

JW> All those years. That house, the foyer that gradually got bigger and bigger.

DS> Yeah. Like the universe, it expands. 

JW> There it is; the end of the cool Steadicam first shot. I liked that. I love to use a shot for as long as possible without being Brian de Palma and just like "I can Steadicam forever!" Just having a frame that's useful for a wicked long time and knowing that your actors can get through it.

DS> You know what, I think they like it. I think they like doing more of a chunk of a scene. Not just so they don't have to do coverage but I think it plays a little better.

JW> Well, it's the thing that you're missing in film. The energy and progression of, you know, you go through the thing. Instead of just, "The…". "Okay, let's turn around!"

DS> Right. And TV does this, traditionally. Close-up, close-up, master.

JW> Yes. TV traditionally is radio with faces.

DS> Gee, they all grew up this year.

JW> Well, the writers didn't, so we figured somebody had to.

[Buffy gets Dawn her back-to-school present]

JW> This…oh, it was a mistake. The box was too small, bro… why would she say it's a weapon when it looks exactly the size of a cellphone? Not to give anything away… oh, I feel bad now.

DS> Oh, man. Can we go back and re-shoot that? It's too late.

JW> I'll be like that the whole time. I'm just going to like, rag on you.

[Xander, Dawn and Buffy get into the car]

DS> They did nasty jokes on this scene, by the way, during the rehearsal. I can't tell you.

JW> Really? Oh, well, legally you can't tell me during this. 

DS> See what I mean?

[They arrive at the new Sunnydale High]

JW> It's too bad. But this was our new school. Where was this? We were out of Torrance.

DS> This is… this is Northridge. (Next part unclear???) And we picked this location and scouted it for days and weeks and weeks, and then they decided to tear apart the entire back lot behind us there. 

JW> The construction, yeah. When I shot the last episode I had to avoid the construction too. 

[Principal Wood comes up to Buffy and Dawn]

JW> Here we go. D B.  Now, D B Woodside, who we knew… The character, Principal Wood, a lot of fun because still didn't know what we were exactly doing when we even cast him. What did he say to you?

DS> He was very curious about this. Came to me and said, "So, am I good or am I bad?" Well, it's a fine question, let's talk about it a little bit. And we came up with the idea of just being very charming all the time and make people wonder. And it really worked for him.

JW> And when we wrote the script, actually – when I wrote the script I never used any pronouns, because we didn't even know if we wanted him to be a man or a woman. And that's why I gave him the name 'Robin', because I was like…

DS> I never knew that!

JW> Yes. You never hear 'he' or 'she', it's always "Principal Wood walks away" or whatever.

[Dawn gives Buffy her instructions. "I love you. Go away."]

JW> That's one of my favourite Michelle moments.

DS> Yeah, she's great.

JW> She's very charming there. So; man, woman… we'd pretty much decided he was a man by the time we cast D B. Because, look at D B. 

DS> What a man! And better for a love interest.

JW> And good, but with a side of shady, that was where we wanted to take him. So. But we were always not telling actors. We never told Ben and Glory they were each other. Never told them, they found out in the script. 

DS> You know what? It works. Because it always kept him on his toes about what was going to be his lot in life.

[Buffy walks through the school corridors and hears a loud noise]

JW> This is one of those things where we do a suspenseful moment, and you shoot it and it's actually suspenseful. And I'm always impressed by that. Because it's amazing, you know, we have this brightly-lit set. Which, to me, still wasn't quite lived-in – but since it was a new school that kind of worked for this first episode.

DS> Yeah, we changed it up pretty quick. This was the first time we ever shot in there.

[Dawn's first class]

JW> And this was the classroom which was back where the classroom had been, if I'm not mistaken, right?

DS> Say again?

JW> It's where we had originally had the classroom when we were at Saulito High.

DS> Oh, yes, it's exactly… it's on the exact same location where Buffy's classroom was. Right.

JW> Yes. Just dressed a little differently.

[Buffy goes into the girls' toilets]

JW> But all of this bathroom stuff and the suspense. It's just… it's so amazing how much you can write this stuff and then get zero suspense in the frame from the director.

[She checks her 'mom hair' in the mirror]

JW> Being mistaken for a mom.

[And finds the talisman]

JW> Ah, phlebotnum.

[A female restless spirit talks to Buffy, then vanishes]

DS> Hey, how'd they do that?

JW> It's unbelievable how fast that woman ran away. She a stuntwoman?

[A male restless spirit tells Buffy to get out, while making scary hand gestures]

JW> Don't get me wrong, he was a very scary moment. But he was still doing 'Cats'.

Act Two

[Dawn introduces herself to her classmates]

DS> Here's Michelle in high school. Who would have thought?

JW> It's just nice to see her in self-confident mode, and starting to blossom. Because she'd had such a rough year the year before. And I don't want to say she whined a lot, but…

DS> She had a rough year.

JW> Not Michelle, Dawn. 

DS> I know.

JW> Michelle didn't whine a lot.

DS> So Michelle wanted to wear this Argyll sweater. We had a lot of talk about this Argyll sweater, and she shows up with it and it's great-looking on her. And we go out to Northridge to shoot the exterior and it's a hundred and ten. 

JW> Ah. Dig thine own grave, actor person. It is a good sweater.

[A duo play guitar and sing in the Expresso Pump]

JW> So, I guess if she has a voice like that then he must have, like, a very deep, baritone manly voice.

DS> Oh, no.

JW> That's interesting. 

[Pan over to Anya and Halfrek talking]

JW> Now I remember this is Kali, who was doing 'Noises Off' in New York…

DS> That's right. We had to fly her out here for a day.

JW> To shoot her for three different episodes.

DS> Right, and she got on a plane and went right back.

JW> It was Sunday?

DS> Yep. No, it wasn't Sunday. I don't think…no, it was a weekday.

JW> If it wasn't Sunday it must have been Monday because it was literally the day they don't do the performance. She's great.

DS> She's damn funny. You know what? The two of them are very funny. Emma, natural comedienne. 

JW> Yes. One of the most natural comediennes I've ever worked with. 

[Halfrek asks Anya if she needs to mention Mrs Czolgosz]

JW> Getting her to pronounce 'Czolgosz' was…

DS> I know. That was a toughie.

JW> And, you know, that's a reference to someone else's joke. I think Jane's joke from a long time ago about… Anya talks about making someone – a man – fall in love with President McKinley. Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley. So, it was a reference to one of Jane's jokes that not even Jane understood, because her knowledge of assassins is not…

DS> …As deep as you might think.

JW> It's weird. I mean, who doesn't know who shot McKinley? What are they teaching kids nowadays?

DS> You know, this episode was nice the way it reintroduced everybody's deal in the show. It was nice, it was a good first episode. I liked this.
 
JW> I think you could have done better. I mean, you were phoning it in. 

DS> Oh, I didn't say I wasn't.

JW> Don’t get me wrong – your England sequences were amazing.

DS> Yeah. I mean, the script was great as well, I was trying to say.

[Buffy talks to Xander at the school construction site]

DS> Okay, I didn’t like this scene, having said all that, really.

JW> You didn't? Why not?

DS> Don't know. 

JW> Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

DS> Yeah, sometimes you just…

JW> Well, Xander pulls off the suit, he pulls off the hat, he is like a fella.

DS> Yeah. See that guy painting in the background?

JW> Yes... What about him?

DS> Just thought I'd mention it.

JW> Were you distracted by a shiny thing?

DS> We had to talk more about his painting than about anything else this scene.

JW> Excellent, excellent. Good to know you're focussed on what's important when you direct.

DS> I'm on top of it, yeah.

[Dawn lends a pencil to another student, who stabs her in the eye with it]

JW> This was another thing that, every year I come back with the same mission statement. Which is "let's actually do something scary", 'cause you get into this giant soap opera, and you love all your characters so much, and everybody's noble and everybody's struggling and everybody's in love, and there's not a lot of room for actual horror.

DS> Scary.

JW> Horror is the one thing I think the series has had the least of in its mix. But I loved that moment, that pencil moment. That freaks me out.

DS> It's good. And she was great. She just took a late dive. 

[Dawn goes into a toilet cubicle to recover]

JW> I love this shot. Now is that – is there a cut in there?

DS> There's no cut in there. It looks like there is.

JW> Well yeah, just because the door gets so close. Bathroom stalls; always good for action or horror. Or, you know, going to the bathroom.

DS> If you have to. 

JW> But that wasn't really her arc. 

[Dawn hears someone crying in another cubicle]

JW> That's, I think, one of the other reasons why horror wasn't a big part of the show. We pack the scripts so densely with dialogue and things going on that we seldom took our time to do a sequence like this, which is very visual, very slow, very based on scary. And also makes commentary nearly impossible.

[Buffy runs into Principal Wood, who wants to know why she's still there]

DS> Look at him.

JW> I love seeing this footage because I hadn't… I wasn't there when you shot any of this. Which, again, means that I respect you more than pretty much any non-writing director I know.

DS> Aw, thanks.

JW> Because, with the trust. I'm just saying. But seeing D B's footage for the first time, I was just like "Oh! This guy is going to get it done."

DS> He's great, and all his stuff with Sarah was great. They were really good together.

JW> They enjoyed each other a lot, too. 

[The camera circles around Wood and Buffy as they talk]

JW> Why, this is a brilliant idea to circle them thus with the camera. 

DS> I think it was in the script, wasn't it?

JW> Yeah. It was. I'm the first guy who ever thought of that. Circling with the camera. 

[The scene alternates between Buffy and Wood, and Dawn and Kit]

DS> I just love them.

JW> I don't know. When I invented film, I thought one thing I can do with this medium is camera-circling. No, it was just like… I can't let their conversation lose the tension that's going on in here, so let's just gussy it up a tad.

DS> Make sure that these play off each other.

[All the lights in the toilets explode]

JW> And then it becomes pitch black! Which in TV terms means slightly dark.

DS> Light blue. Yeah.

[The floor collapses, taking Dawn and Kit with it]

JW> But through the floor, that stuff's great.

DS> That was so cool.

Act Three

[Willow freaks out on the lawn]

JW> So, I hope I won't forget to say (??) that that is in fact Tony's house. Again: my house in LA: not looking like that.

DS> Not like that one.

JW> No. Weird.

DS> Now. Raining here? Not raining here?

JW> Not raining. What happened was, it would start raining and stop raining in five minutes all the time. And so we'd be like, "Let's shoot this scene!" And then we'd be like, "Oh no, run run run inside and shoot this other scene! And light everything – the rain has stopped! Okay, run back outside!" Until eventually we were just like, "Okay."

DS> You did these three scenes in two days, right?

JW> Yeah.

DS> That's a lot of stuff.

JW> Two days of shooting. Well, I had Tony and Aly so I didn't have a huge amount of work to do in terms of getting them to the place. They're both… but then, you know, we'd just walk inside the house in between takes.

[The camera pulls back from Willow and Giles into the hallway of the house]

JW> His tiny foyer. I love that shot.

[Back to the collapsed floor in Sunnydale High School]

DS> Look at that.

JW> That house he owns was so old and dark and beautiful. We had another scene that we shot in there that didn't make it into the cut, 'cause the show was too long. 

DS> Oh, that's right. Them leaving?

JW> Yes. The scene where she says, "You're going to make me leave, aren't you?" – we had to cut it. But just the bunch of us going in for, like, tea, and then coming back out in the rain and shooting some more…

DS> Very civilised.

JW> It was a good time, a good time.

[Dawn and Kit find themselves in the school basement]

DS> And here we are stuck in a dark basement.

JW> Yeah. I'm like, "You can take the basement and graveyard stuff and I'll take the pretty England." But again, a dark basement that's actually dark, and big and scary. And not that big in real life.

DS> Not so big.

JW> Like, you guys did a really good job with that. Because the Hellmouth and the basement and all that stuff, I didn't really see.

DS> We just designed a maze down there that we could keep walking through again and again, which worked out fine.

JW> When I finally came down to shoot 'Chosen' I was like, "Everything's so tiny! TV makes it bigger!" I need to go to learn that.

[Dawn and Kit meet Carlos]

JW> Now everybody… these guys did great. 

DS> Yeah, they were. They were really good.

JW> They were really good. But everybody on the Internet was like, "So, these are the new guys. And, and, and we don't know how we feel about them. And, and what's going to happen with them?" And I was like, "Well, actually we just hired them for the one episode." Because we knew we were bringing in all the Potentials, so we weren't going to spend a lot of time with Dawn's friends and stuff. But every time somebody walks on, the world's like, "So this is the most important person!" But these guys did just great.

DS> But that's just what you want on a guest star.

JW> Yeah. And again, underlit and actually scary. 

[The restless spirits come out to surround Dawn, Kit and Carlos]

DS (Mock-scared voice)> How many of them are there?

JW> Three.

DS> Will this ever end?

JW> Yeah, in about forty minutes.

DS> Oh. That was it. I can stop. 

[Dawn pulls out her 'weapon' - a mobile phone]

JW> This was something we had avoided for six years. 

DS> Cellphones.

JW> The cellphone. We were like, "It's going to make life too easy if..." I mean, we were discussing this in the very first season. And then we were just like, "Well, we'll just say they can't afford cellphones." And then this season we were like, "They're taking their power back!" I mean, that is literally what the season was about. 

DS> And Sunnydale finally got some cellphone towers.

JW> Yes. They finally got reception.  

[Buffy interrupts her conversation with Wood to take Dawn's call]

JW> I actually shot my roundabout in the last episode in this exact same place. Because it's the place that's big enough for it. But I never even realised exactly where we were in the school. 

DS> It's the inner section here.

[Buffy makes a feeble dog-related excuse and runs off]

DS> Of course the other little problem we're presented with was, after never having a cellphone, was where does Sarah put it?

JW> She never had pockets. And somehow she would reach out of frame and pull out a cellphone.

DS> Ouch.

JW> And yeah, we never discussed the ramifications... There was talk about could she have a leather boot-pouch thing strapped to her, and it just was not the thing. People won't ask.

[Buffy finds the hole in the floor and jumps down]

DS> You know, there's Buffy right there. You see a hole, you jump in it.

JW> Exactly. I was going to say, I love the rhythm of that. It's just like, "Oh! Oh, a big gaping hole into Hell. Doot!" That's just the definition of a hero.

DS> "I'd better jump here." Look, her ears light up like that when you backlight her. Everybody's do.

JW> I heard there was an actor, they had to tape the backs of his ears because the light shone through them so much. I'm not saying who, so that we don’t get into a legal issue.

DS> Yeah. But we know who we're talking about.

JW> And I'm not talking about Armin. Because they had that great lit-up ear shot in 'The Puppet Show', his first show in Season 1; but no, there was another actor.

JW> Remember that funny thing that happened on set this day? Why don't you tell them about it?

DS> What was that?

JW> I don’t know. But I got nothing.

DS> No, nothing really. Nothing funny. 

JW> Funny thing: people are always like, "What's a funny anecdote about being on set?" I'll say, "Getting home early! It happened one time. We finished early." I mean, not that… people come in with good energy in the first episode. They're happy to be back, usually, and they're really pumping it. But it's not like we're all just, "Ah ha ha ha! Oh, the crazy laughter!" It's more like, "We have a huge amount of work to do! 

DS> "Let's get it done now!" You know what, they really did come in with a good attitude. This was fun. This was a good episode. Everybody came in happy, ready to work, ready to go back, this was good.

JW> The thing about your seventh season is that everybody's kind of gotten over their bad selves. And everybody's realised this is what we're doing, and passions are at an ebb. And either people get boring, which you see on some shows, or just they really get it done. And our guys really did. They always came to the party. 

[Buffy fights the restless spirits, who try to block her path]

DS> Look in there, did you get that?

JW> They all moved back to the same place. 

DS> I was never sure if anyone was going to get that. And sure enough, I watched it and I'm getting it okay.

Act Four

[Buffy finds Insane!Spike and stares at his hairstyle  him in utter disbelief]

JW> You know, we wanted it to be longer, because he was in a shaggy, crazy place. And then I saw this and…

DS> We had a laurel wreath that went in, and taken out at the last moment.

JW> Isn't this where he's in a toga singing "We are as gods"? No, wait, that's…

DS> Another episode. You know, we're shooting this whole scene and it's very emotional, and they're really working their a–, really working hard at it. 

JW> Yeah, I know, they're both wonderful.

DS> And I said to them both, "You know, the only thing Joss is going to say about this scene is his hair."

JW> You're not wrong. You've got me pegged. But then we got in here and the backlight was taken off it, so he didn't look so much like Leonard Turner. And we kept it in the dark and brought it down in the colour timing… And he's so good.

DS> It was great to have him come back completely mad. 

JW> Yeah. It's fun to be completely mad. And he brings such pain to it.

DS> I'm staring at him like she is.

JW> Yeah. And it's weird because you're dressed like her.

DS> Bitch.

JW> Sorry. The trick about playing mad, I believe, is that you have to have a logic for everything you're saying. You can't just babble and giggle and do a thing. And there has to be an emotional reason for everything you say, even if you're saying, "The Kaiser is trying to steal my string." And James totally brings that. He totally… you know that he believes. And everything he said was actually to a point, in this and all of his mad scenes that I wrote. He was always very specific. Writing mad is like writing dreams, like when I did 'Restless', or writing poetry. It's like you have to just evoke something without quite saying it out loud in a linear fashion. So James always understood where he was emotionally, and really conveyed that.

DS> And he stays in there. He gets in this moment and stays there for the whole episode. Comes back in the next one and stays there, until you let him out.

JW> Yeah. Well, he was getting kind of skanky.

[Buffy talks to Dawn on her phone again]

DS> They're pretty.

JW> I told you, we're not supposed to say they look pretty. We know they're pretty, that's why we hired them.

[Spike lurks in the darkness]

DS> Okay, see how his hair looks mad and down there. 

JW> See, there it looks fine.

DS> That's what we're talking about. We found the gel.

JW> This is, again, the kind of in-depth commentary…

DS> The hair gel.

JW> …you just don't get.

[Buffy puts her phone away. Somehow, somewhere.]

JW> See, again, she put it in her mythical back pocket that comes where it does.

DS> I think it slipped down through her rear and down her ankles on the floor right now.

JW> No, no, no, no. She has a back pocket. That not only fits a phone, but makes it disappear in skin-tight pants.

[Spike leans against the wall, arms outstretched.]

JW> I like that frame very much. We're behind him.

[Buffy says, "Guys? Resentful dead guys?"]

DS> We paused just so we could all hear that line. Very funny.

JW> You know, this was actually one of the easier episodes to write. Even though it was hard work with the phlebotnum and what-not. It's like knowing exactly what we were going to do at the end of the season and knowing what I needed to set up, and just having them fall into it. It's so much fun to write them, it's so much fun. Their little banter, their thing. They're just… No script is actually easy, but this one was, they started talking. I was like, "Okay, keep talking!"

DS> "You keep talking, I'll keep writing!"

JW> Yeah. When it's like that it's so much fun.

[Buffy prowls through the basement]

DS> That's nice. It all very nicely flowed.

[Dawn fills Kit's school bag with bricks]

JW> And coming up with bag-fu was very important, because we definitely needed something in the episode that said, "Look! A different form of fighting!" Because like the horror, the fights can get short shrift. 

DS> It's true. That's more or less the first thing to go. But it's nice to see that Buffy had another skill besides kung fu.

JW> Besides a high kick.

[The restless spirits confront Dawn, Kit and Carlos again]

DS> These people are great. 

JW> Yeah. They're good zombie faces. The old 'Evil Dead' look, it just doesn't get better.

DS> Zombies are always tough, because they generally move slow. Not so interesting to watch them fight.

[Xander comes into the toilets to find the collapsed floor]

DS> Look here now, Xander finds the hole, he does not jump into it.

JW> He wants to fix it, and make money. Yes, you can learn a lot about a person by how they deal with a hole. Can we edit that?

[A spirit tells Dawn to thank her sister for this, just as Buffy rescues her. "Thanks, sis!"]

DS> This is one of my favourite gags. It's like from the season before, "Say goodnight, bitch!" "Goodnight, bitch." Taking it and turning it around.

[Buffy grabs the bag-o-bricks and swings it around]

JW> And here we go with bag-fu! 

DS> Now, this is mostly Sarah spinning this bag, by the way. 

JW> Sarah can give you the footage. Still, my favourite was her sword-fighting, which was really, really impressive.

DS> But we brought people in to train bag-fu, and we did a few days looking at it and thinking about it. And then Sarah just said, "Hey, let me try!" And she went in there and started swinging it around, and it just looked better than what we'd seen. 

[Xander finds the talisman, and gets attacked]

DS> Okay, I screwed up that moment, I admit it.

JW> But we saved it in the edit. 

DS> Thank God.

JW> Isn't that your nickname? Saved-It-In-The-Edit?

DS> Yes. Fixed it in post.

[Xander breaks the talisman and the spirits disappear]

DS> Problem solved.

JW> You have a talisman, you solve a problem. Because ultimately that's not what's interesting. At least not to me. What's interesting is that Spike told her, and she didn't tell anybody about it. So she's back to her old tricks of lying and deception.

[Buffy says that the school looks smaller than she remembers]

JW> I just love that because it's a high school thing.

[Buffy tells Dawn, Kit and Carlos to stick together]

JW> And you'll be regulars, just like… oh, no.

DS> They were great. They did a good job.

[Buffy gets mistaken for Dawn's mother again, and plays with her hair worriedly]

JW> I love Sarah playing that moment. Also, Sarah always counting on her hamnoo. When you write a word like 'hamnoo' you don't know what the actor's going to do. And she totally sells it. 

DS> Okay, here it comes.

JW> Are we waiting on the hamnoo?

DS> Yeah.

[Wood: "I've got to tell you, Miss Summers, I think you belong here."]

DS> I think he loves her.

[Buffy: "Hamnoo?"]

DS> Oh! There's a hamnoo. Almost talked over it.

JW> Sam Neady actually had hamnoo written on his hat. Now why is that?

DS> It was given to him because he thought this was the funniest word ever. He started to use it for everything. And every time somebody would talk to him, he'd go, "Hamnoo?" And so they had a hat made for him. And you know, it was a joke that didn't die all year. 

JW> Well, I didn’t see the hat until he was my AD on 22. And I was like, "What, you have a hat with that word on it?" Usually it would be "dyeh'" D-Y-E-H -apostrophe.

DS> Hamnoo came from where?

JW> My brain. It came from inside. Where it's squishy. 

[Wood offers Buffy a position as school counsellor]

DS> So here's where we're setting Buffy up for her job.

JW> Yeah.

DS> She's got her office next to him, they can keep an eye on the school. 

JW> Of course then we find out it wouldn't be all about the school, because we spent a lot more time in the house than we expected to. So we all used to hate the house the way we used to hate the library, and the magic shop, and wherever all the exposition had to take place. 

DS> That's exactly right, we did. 

JW> That's the worst of it.

[The First torments Spike, in multiple forms]

JW> Now this, I'm sorry, was cool. It was so cool to get them all here. 

DS> It was fun.

JW> Because they all bring such different qualities. And there was no better way to say "This is the last season". By summing it up, by bringing in everybody. And the fact that they all made the time. I remember we had to shoot Harry like, weeks after we shot the rest.

DS> Weeks later. He was in a play.

JW> He was also doing something on Broadway. 

DS> It was great to bring back all the bad guys. We had all worked with them.

[Glory/The First changes into Adam/The First]

JW> That's an amazing morph, too. It got from her to him and didn't look silly. 

DS> And he's a foot and a half taller.

JW> Now, he's a foot and a half taller than anybody. 

DS> It's just great because they're all such very different characters.

JW> It was fun to just write all their voices, and just to say this is it. I've been saying, anybody who didn't get that this is the last season after this scene was missing the point.

[Wilkins/The First talks to Spike]

JW> Harry, one of my all-time favourite actors to work with.

[Drusilla/The First's hand caresses Spike's cheek]

DS> He's got funny hands, though, for a man.

JW> That was cutting, again. Remember I explained to you how sometimes there's editing? From one shot to another… it's a complicated process I don't mention in the commentaries, because it's too confusing to the layman.

[The Master/The First says "Right back to the beginning"]

JW> I love that that's his first line, because he was our first guy. 

DS> He was, and you know what? I think the fans loved this part. I loved seeing him.

JW> Yeah, it was great to see Mark again. We wanted to see more of all of them, but time and money didn't permit. And we ended up having Sarah play The First more than anybody else. 

DS> But that worked well. I liked that. I liked Sarah playing the First, it was great.

JW> Well, it worked very well thematically in the end, when she faced herself down and got rid of her demons, and all that.

[Buffy/The First: "It's about power."]

DS> Hey.

JW> She said that before. Maybe… that's what this season's about!

DS> Nah.

[Cut to black, and the theme music starts]

JW (Fake German accent)> Now we dance. Now is the part on Buffy where we dance. 

[The credits roll]

DS> Who are all these people? What do they do?

JW> You know, some of them worked on… I don't know. I just remember trying to fire some of them.

DS> You were successful here and there. 

JW> Well, I managed to get rid of everybody this year. At the end of this year, I finally got… I just said "Everybody's fired. Including me."

[Grr. Argh]

JW> The end.Grr. Argh. Are we dull, or what?

DS> Was that dull?

JW> Oh, my God.

DS> Was that dull?

JW> Oh, my God.

.

Comments

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 6th August 2008 23:24 (UTC)

I've been saying, anybody who didn't get that this is the last season after this scene was missing the point.

Huh. ;-)

Seriously, I love that you're doing these; thanks a lot! A question - could you put a separate tag on the DVD commentary transcripts? It would make it a lot easier to link to them.

Also, I'm pretty sure this bit

Now start on Buffy (??) when we dance.

is "now is the part on Buffy when we dance." It's a Sprockets reference.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th August 2008 23:58 (UTC)

Glad it's useful!

Huh. ;-)

Yeah, yeah. Notice he makes not one but two references to the fact that Warren was flayed alive. ;-)

I've edited that line, and the tags, as suggested. Thanks!

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 7th August 2008 00:00 (UTC)

DS> Was that her first human that she killed?

JW> Yes, yes.


;-)

Thanks!

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 7th August 2008 10:34 (UTC)

Thanks for doing this. I'd say that Joss is better on his own. With someone else around, he can't seem to resist the urge to turn everything into a joke (and even on his own, it's close).

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th August 2008 20:48 (UTC)

You're welcome!

To be fair to him, I did find Joss's jokes here pretty funny. But you're right; if you're looking for serious in-depth analysis a joint commentary is probably not the best place for it. The people will spend too much of their time talking to each other and swapping jokes or anecdotes rather than discussing the meaning behind the episode.

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 8th August 2008 12:03 (UTC)

Or in the case of Rebecca Kirshner and whoever else it was on Hell's Bells, saying nothing at all.

Posted by: lara beckinsale (larabeckinsale)
Posted at: 7th August 2008 13:24 (UTC)
by stars of tears

They were being so silly at some point :) Joss was right about the fans loving the scene with the First changing into all the bads in the show, I loved that scene. But I resent the comment of James hair, I actually loved his crazy spiked hair!;)

It's so great that you are doing this, 'cause I don't have the DVDs and I always wondered about the commentaries. Thank you so much for posting them.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th August 2008 20:51 (UTC)

I remember watching that scene the first time around with bated breath, wondering who it was going to turn into next as I gradually realised they really were doing all the Big Bads. And then Buffy at the end just blew me away with its implications.

On his very first appearance in S7, Spike's hair really did look less like a crazy person's, and more like the oiled and curled ringlets of a Roman emperor...

Thanks!

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th August 2008 23:57 (UTC)

Thanks so much!

they're really working their a–, really working hard at it.

Hee!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 11th August 2008 12:19 (UTC)

I'm glad someone else noticed that almost-slip... ;-)

Thanks!

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