Conversations with Dead People
|"Conversations with Dead People"|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode|
Buffy stakes Holden after he reveals Spike is his sire.
|Episode no.||Season 7|
|Directed by||Nick Marck|
|Written by||Jane Espenson|
(but see writing credits)
|Featured music||"Blue" by Angie Hart|
|Original air date||November 12, 2002|
"Conversations with Dead People" is the seventh episode of the seventh and final season of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is the only episode other than "Once More, with Feeling" where the title appears on screen.
Several encounters take place around Sunnydale on one night, which are told in real time. Uniquely among Buffy episodes, the main characters do not interact with one another. According to the staff writers, this was intended to enforce the idea of "being alone." 
On patrol, Buffy discovers that her latest vampire foe is an old high school classmate named Holden Webster. Upon recognizing her, "Webs" stops their fight and takes on a friendly demeanor – seeming pleasantly surprised to have run into her and asking how she has been. Because she doesn't immediately remember him, Webs begins to jog her memory about the half dozen times they interacted with each other. Buffy finally recalls him, and the two begin to reminisce. The vampire, a psychology major in life, proceeds to psychoanalyze Buffy, and she opens up to him about her innermost conflicts and problems while at the same time fighting. She slays him in the end, but not before he identifies Spike as the vampire who (recently) sired him.
Back at Revello Drive, Dawn prepares for a night alone at home. An unnaturally loud banging sets her nerves on edge. She talks with her friend Kit on the phone, asking, "See? Do you hear that?" when the banging begins again. Eventually, Dawn comes to believe that her mother is trying to contact her, and the malevolent force is working to prevent her. Dawn manages to exorcise the malevolent force and Joyce appears to warn her that when the time comes, Buffy won't choose her.
In a story entirely devoid of dialogue, Spike picks up a woman at a bar, walks her home, and feeds on her, leaving her dead on her own doorstep.
Jonathan and Andrew return from Mexico to dig up an artifact hidden near the Hellmouth. Andrew is secretly in contact with what appears to be the ghost of Warren, while Jonathan is having a personal revelation that he misses high school and still cares for his old friends. After they dig up the artifact, Andrew, on Warren's instructions, insults and kills Jonathan, causing his blood to spill all over a 'door' in the dirt.
In the library, Willow is visited by the ghost of Cassie, a girl Buffy once helped, who claims to have been sent by the dead Tara. The ghost relays Tara's message that Willow will end up killing everyone if she ever uses magic again, and recommends suicide as a solution. This tips Willow off that she has not been talking to Cassie, and she demands to know who the being really is. The being reveals itself as The First and threatens Willow and all her friends before vanishing.
- This is the only episode of the entire series in which Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris) does not appear. Emma Caulfield (Anya Jenkins) also does not appear. James Marsters appears but does not have any dialogue.
- Jonathan M. Woodward, who plays Holden Webster, has also appeared in two other Joss Whedon series: as Knox in the final two seasons of Angel, and as Tracey in the Firefly episode "The Message." All three of these characters are initially friendly (or at least helpful), but eventually die at the hands of the heroes.
- With this episode, Kristine Sutherland becomes the only actress to appear as a guest star in all seven seasons.
- Stacey Scowley who appears as the young woman Spike kills would go on to appear as Cindy Perrin in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse.
- Under a severe time and production crunch, it became necessary to have four writers writing this episode. This, as well as actor scheduling conflicts, inspired the structure of the episode where characters are isolated from each other because all four writers wrote independently of each other.
- The writing of this episode is credited to Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard. However, according to the commentary by Espenson and Goddard on the DVD, this episode actually had four distinct writers: Espenson wrote the Dawn scenes, Goddard wrote the Geek Trio scenes, Joss Whedon wrote the Buffy-Holden scenes, and Marti Noxon wrote the Willow-Cassie scenes. Since Whedon and Noxon were the executive producers of the show, they would often forgo formal credit for their contributions to various scripts.
- Amber Benson was initially going to appear as Tara, taunting Willow instead of Cassie, but Benson chose not to because, among other reasons, she "didn't want Tara to be bad". In the commentary for this episode on the DVD, the writers claim that Amber Benson simply wasn't available.
- Other story lines considered were for Eric Balfour, who played Jesse McNally in the pilot episode, "Welcome to the Hellmouth", to have conversed with Xander; and, according to Drew Goddard on the "Selfless" DVD commentary, for Kali Rocha (Halfrek) to return and haunt Anya, but she was unavailable.
- Espenson claims to have given her first production note that made it to air: the monster appearing to strangle Joyce is actually the Gnarl costume from "Same Time, Same Place" shot from the back and spray-painted black.
- On the DVD commentary for the show, Jane Espenson revealed that the image of Joyce is The First. In the original draft of the script, Dawn was going to try to raise her mother. When Joyce appeared, she was to say, "They said I couldn't bring someone back." To which The First/Joyce would reply: "Maybe I'm the First."
- The song "Blue" performed by Angie Hart plays over the cold open of the episode, and is reprised at the end of the episode. The song was written for the episode by Hart and series creator Joss Whedon.
- The song "Never Never" by Scout plays when Dawn is messing around with Buffy’s weapons at about 5 minutes into the episode.
- Dawn accidentally gets pizza sauce on one of Buffy's blouses in this episode, shrugging and saying, "She'll think it's blood." In "First Date", Anya scrubs at the stain and remarks that it may be pizza sauce rather than blood: tomato remains reddish, while blood becomes brownish.
- Holden mentions that some of Buffy's classmates thought she was some sort of religious fanatic, presumably because she frequently carried vampire-repelling crosses, and others thought she was involved with an older man, which she indeed was, the over two-centuries-old Angel.
- Holden also reveals that Scott Hope, whom Buffy briefly dated in season 3, told everyone at the time that she was gay. According to Holden, Scott said this about every girl he broke up with, and that a year ago (i.e. season 6 of the show) Scott himself came out. The actor who portrayed Scott, Fab Filippo, happened to be on the Showtime series Queer As Folk when "Conversations with Dead People" aired.
- This episode shows this season's "Big Bad", The First Evil, which has the ability to take the form of anyone who had died. Previously displayed in "Amends" (where it appeared to Angel as three of his victims) and "Lessons" (where it appeared to Spike as a villain from each of the past seasons, and finally as Buffy).
- Holden informs Buffy that Spike sired him, giving Buffy doubts about Spike's newfound goodness.
- Jonathan, a notable recurring character since the second season of Buffy–appearing in every subsequent season but the fifth–is killed.
- The phrase "From beneath you it devours", repeated several times in this season, is quoted by Jonathan in Spanish – Desde abajo te devora – and mistranslated by Andrew as, "It eats you, starting with your bottom."
References to previous episodes
- Dawn's "Mom? ...Mommy?" when trying to reach Joyce echoes Buffy's pleas to her mother's corpse in "The Body".
- Cassie, supposedly speaking for Tara, reminds Willow that she is "strong like an Amazon", referencing a conversation that Willow and Tara have in "The Body", when they discuss being strong for Dawn. She also reminds Willow of the time when Tara sang to her on the bridge ("Under Your Spell") in "Once More, with Feeling".
- Holden Webster pronounces "nemeses" correctly and Buffy replies "Is that how you say that?" In "Gone" (season 6), both Warren and Buffy have trouble with the word.
- Buffy, while talking to Holden Webster, says "That's insane troll logic!", echoing Xander's line in "Triangle".
- The First appears as Warren Mears, who is killed in Season 6. It is revealed in the canonical comic storyline The Long Way Home that Warren is saved from death by Amy Madison. On the letters page of Buffy Season Eight #6, Whedon responds to the question of how The First could have impersonated Warren if he'd never died, by saying, "He was legally dead for like a second. Amy didn't tell him 'cause she didn't want to upset him. I forgot, okay?!"
- Warren and Andrew quote lines by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda from the Star Wars films. Warren also called Jonathan "Short Round", a reference to Indiana Jones's sidekick in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and at another point Andrew says "Think, McFly," in reference to the film Back to the Future. Also, the silent scenes of Spike reference the opening scenes in The Hunger with David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. The glowing Joyce may reference Twin Peaks where Laura Palmer's spirit speaks to the living, warning them.
- This episode was awarded the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
- The Futon Critic named it the 42nd best episode of 2002, saying it was "Heartbreaking and deliciously evil at the same time—that's Buffy at its best for sure."
- Marck, Nick, Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard, Danny Strong, and Tom Lenk. 2004. "Conversations with Dead People." Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season 7. Episode 7. Disc 2 (commentary). Los Angeles: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2006.
- DVD commentary for "Conversations with Dead People", at 0:22, 1:33, and 13:38.
- "BBC - Cult - Buffy - Amber Benson - Staying away". BBC 2. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "Buffy Episode Guide - Conversations with Dead People". BBC Cult. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- "Jonathan Levinson (Character)". IMDb. Archived from the original on 8 October 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- "2003 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Archived from the original on 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
- Brian Ford Sullivan (January 6, 2003). "The 50 Best Episodes of 2002 - #50-41". The Futon Critic. Retrieved August 2, 2010.