Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episode "Out of My Mind", Broadcast October 17, 2000
Sarah Michelle Gellar .... Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon .... Alexander 'Xander' Harris
Alyson Hannigan .... Willow Rosenberg
Marc Blucas .... Riley Finn
Michelle Trachtenberg .... Dawn Summers
Amber Benson .... Tara
Anthony Head .... Rupert Giles
James Marsters .... Spike/William the Bloody
Kristine Sutherland .... Joyce Summers
Mercedes McNab .... Harmony Kendall
Emma Caulfield .... Anya Emerson
Riley’s Super-soldier serum is killing him, and he may not live long enough to get to the surgery that would save him but make him a normal man again. Meanwhile, something strange is happening with Buffy’s sister.
Patrolling gets crowded as Riley and Spike both horn in on Buffy’s vampire-killing action. Riley is getting a little over-eager.
Buffy’s re-energized dedication to becoming the ultimate Slayer means harder work than ever, but it’s paying off in that for once her studies actually engage her. Meanwhile, Xander is using his hitherto-unseen powers of expert carpentry to help fix up Giles’ new magic shop. When Buffy arrives, they present her with a new Buffy Training Dojo, complete with practice dummy and pommel horse. And Riley’s still pretty darn wired.
Harmony, who is convinced that she has attained the status of Buffy’s arch-nemesis, hides out with Spike. This is good for Spike because although he can’t attack Buffy, she can do it for him with the right plan.
Mom serves Dawn some eggs and has a moment of clarity: “Who are you?” she asks, and the strain knocks her right to the floor. She’s rushed to the hospital, where Dawn chances to discover that Riley has an accelerated heartbeat.
Riley’s heat is so accelerated he could have a heart attack and die at any moment, but he's convinced the Initiative Regimen has made him immune to all that. More to the point, he doesn’t want to be reduced by a possible Initiative operation to being a “normal,” non super-powered, boyfriend of the Slayer.
At home, Joyce has forgotten her confusion about Dawn. Dawn, meanwhile, comes up with the way for Buffy to ask for the help of the Initiative: talk into Riley’s phone, because it’s probably bugged.
It is, and soon Riley’s Initiative buddy Agent Graham shows up to kidnap Riley into medical care. Riley runs and goes into hiding, and Buffy takes charge of bringing him in.
Buffy hires Spike to search the tunnels, but Spike and harmony have a better idea, and kidnap the Initiative surgeon in town so he can remove the aggressiveness-punishing chip in Spike’s head.
In a cave, Buffy catches up to Riley and convinces him to come in for the operation, vowing not to abandon him just because he can’t bench what she can.
The Initiative doctor is nervous about doing the operation at the medical school where Harmony and Spike have set him up, but they have faith in his survival instinct.
Meanwhile, Willow and Tara hunt for Riley at the old High School, where we learn that Willow can now use her magic to light a whole building.
The doctor finishes the operation and has Spike stitched up in time for Riley and Buffy to bust into lab so Riley can begin his operation. It turns out, however, that the doctor actually only pretended to remove the chip from Spike’s brain, leaving Spike to run for his life, still unable to fight Buffy.
Alive but normalizing, Riley runs into Graham, who suggests his time would be better spent back working for the government, not sitting on the sidelines as a Slayer’s boyfriend.
We fade out with a dream of Spike’s, in which he and the Slayer kiss. Spike wakes up in a cold (vampire) sweat, dreading the thought that he may be falling for the Slayer.
Finally, the mystery of Dawn is coming home to roost. "Out of My Mind" is the episode in which Joyce Summers looks straight at the girl she thinks is her daughter and short-circuits her own brain when she asks, "Who are you?"
I've been really interested in this storyline because I can't recall a time in television when this sort of reality-shift has lasted more than one episode. On Star Trek, it usually gets recognized by the more gifted characters in about Act 3 and fixed by the end, so too in similar Buffy episodes, but Dawn's existence has gone off without a hitch since the season began. One of the best choices of the story, if I'm reading it right, is that Dawn seems to lack awareness that she doesn't belong, which should make her extrication all the more painful and dramatic.
I also want to mention that Michelle Trachtenberg is yet another excellent Buffy discovery; her brattiness and confusion are all dead-on and never cloying. She's nervous, vulnerable, shaky and awkward, and still a holy terror, and I believe everything the actress says and does. I also appreciate that she eats-- or at least roots around in the box of-- Sugar Bombs, breakfast of Calvins.
Best moment? Buffy has a monologue early on about how hard work should be more like a montage. “I’m starting to think this working hard is hard work,” she says, when she had hoped there would be inspirational music and flitting scenes of her reading ("with glasses, because in my montage I have glasses.") It's a wonderful self-referential moment, and so very true of both hard work and pop ideas of hard work.
Harmony the super-villain moves back in with Spike, who still doesn't get the chip out, but at least now has someone to do his bidding, more or less. I'm tired of seeing Spike made a foil; I'd like to see him take a turn for the far worse. Instead, he seems to be falling for Buffy. Spike has the makings of an excellent and cruel villain, should the show ever decide to release him from the strange role as hateful ally he occupies now. This episode goes a long way towards that, though.
Willow’s become a powerful witch this season, and she's getting pretty scary. Recently episode she accidentally brought rain when she built a fire, but I don't think that will happen again.
As Tara and Willow explore the burnt-out school, I had to wonder, shouldn't someone have torn that place down by now?
Last episode I said Riley is doomed. Now I think he may just wander off.
Tara: “This place kind of creeps me out.”
Willow: “You should have been here when it was a school.”