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Contains Season 6 spoilers. Don't read if you don't want to know.

Life Serial: Buffy tries to figure out her life, while the Trio tests her weaknesses.
Season 6, Episode 5
First US airdate: October 23, 2001
Written by David Fury and Jane Espenson, Directed by Nick Marck

Guest Stars:
Anthony Stewart Head... Giles
Amber Benson... Tara
Danny Strong... Jonathan
Adam Busch... Warren
Tom Lenkā€¦ Andrew

Episode Synopsis:
Buffy returns from her trip to see Angel. She doesn't want to talk about what happened, so Giles asks if she's thought about what she plans to do with her life. There's a discussion, Willow and Tara suggest that she try going to classes with them for the rest of the semester.

Elsewhere in Sunnydale, Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew are putting the finishing touches on a high-tech surveillance van. Warren announces that they will begin testing the Slayer the next day.

On said next day, Buffy goes to a sociology class with Willow. However, the class discussion leaves Buffy completely lost, and she's academically bummed after class. As she's talking to Willow and Tara after class, a disguised Warren bumps into Buffy and sticks a small chip on her sweater. As we find out, the device makes time go wonky. People begin rushing by Buffy at incredible speeds. Buffy soon finds the chip, but Warren auto-destructs it before she can examine it.

With the college world a bust, Buffy goes to Xander's job site to give construction a try. She's well suited for heavy lifting, and things are going pretty well... until we see the Trio in their van nearby. It's Andrew's turn to test Buffy, and he summons demons to attack the site. Buffy dispatches the demons pretty quickly, and each of the demons melts. Buffy briefly notices the van, but then the construction guys all say that she just went nuts and started attacking them. Xander has to fire her, but he tells her to go see Giles.

The next day, Buffy has entered her own personal hell: retail. She's working at the Magic Box, but the Trio isn't far away. Jonathan casts a spell that puts Buffy into a time loop. In order to get out of the loop, Buffy will have to "satisfy a customer with a task that resists solving," which in this case refers to the very active Mummy Hand that she has to retrieve for a customer. She finally places a special order to have a Mummy Hand shipped to the customer, and the loop ends. After the woman leaves, Anya points out that Buffy didn't charge for delivery and that the money can just come out of Buffy's pay. Buffy turns in her nametag and walks out the door.

With her options dwindling, Buffy goes drinking with Spike. They go to a demon bar, where Spike joins a poker game. As he explains, the demons talk while they play, and they'll find out whatever there is to know about whoever is testing her. However, the Trio is still tracking Buffy, preparing for "Final Jeopardy... where Buffy's the one in jeopardy." Buffy quickly loses patience with the demon poker scene, so she storms (ok, staggers drunkenly) outside. There, she recognizes a certain black van that has been following her. As she approaches the van, a large demon comes around the van and says that it's been testing her. She fights as best she can, and after she lands a blow, the demon runs off. The van has gone and Buffy begins to feel ill. Back at the van, we find out that the demon was a spell that Jonathan had cast on himself. Warren feels that they've done well; they've gathered lots of info on the Slayer, AND they've stumbled across some free cable porn.

Later that night, Buffy recovers from her evening of carousing. While talking with Giles, she mentions her worries about her financial state, and Giles gives her a check to help out. Buffy tells Giles that knowing that he'll always be there makes her feel safe, and she leaves the room to show the check to Dawn. Giles stays behind, looking worried.

Things to note

The title is, of course, a play on words on Life Cereal. In keeping with the title, Buffy's life here becomes very episodic; as Andrew says, "She's a student, she's a construction worker, and now she's some kind of... selling-stuff person?"

The sociology class that Buffy goes to is discussing the social construction of reality, which deals with perception and understanding of reality. I don't think this topic is brought up by accident. The other Scoobies believed that Buffy was trapped in a hell dimension, which motivated them to bring her back. As a group, they had never even considered that Buffy might be in Heaven, because they didn't have access to Buffy's perception of where she was.

Life Serial is very notable for the introduction of the demon Clem, a fan favorite. Here, he's only known as "Loose-Skinned Demon," but he'll return in later episodes with both a name and a penchant for Bugles corn snacks

Geek references, courtesy of the Trio:

  • Andrew paints an elaborate mural of the Death Star on the surveillance van. We find out that it's actually the Second Death Star from Return of the Jedi. Jonathan feels it's a flawed design. Andrew also alters the van's horn to play the Star Wars main theme.
  • The code names "Francis 7" and "Logan 5" come from Logan's Run
  • While Buffy is in the time loops in the Magic Box, they mention "the ep of TNG where the Enterprise kept blowing up" and "that X-Files where the bank kept exploding." The TNG episode they're referencing is Cause and Effect, in which the Enterprise gets caught in a causality loop; each time the ship explodes, they are sent back to the beginning of the loop. The X-Files episode is "Monday," in which a woman tries to stop her boyfriend from killing Mulder and Scully during a bank robbery.
  • While watching Buffy deal with the mummy hand situation, Warren and Andrew start in on the Dead Parrot sketch from Monty Python. ("This mummy hand has ceased to be!" "It is an ex-mummy hand!")
  • There's an extensive discussion of Bond movies. Warren likes Connery, Jonathan likes Roger Moore, and Andrew likes Timothy Dalton. Warren feels that Moonraker was "inexcusable" because of the gondola/hovercraft, and the fact that they show pigeons doing a double take when the gondola blasts by them. Andrew would like to see Timothy Dalton win an Oscar and "BEAT SEAN CONNERY OVER THE HEAD WITH IT!!!"

  • Quotes

    Dawn: I'll take a drumstick.
    Willow: I'm a breast girl myself. But then again, you knew that.

    Jonathan: Stop touching my magic bone!

    Buffy: I don't really know how to say this, but it's a little like having Mom back.
    Giles: In this scenario, I am your mother?
    Buffy: Wanna be my shiftless absentee father?
    Giles: Is there some sort of, um, rakish uncle?

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