Selfless (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Episode no. Season 7
Episode 5
Directed by David Solomon
Written by Drew Goddard
Production code 7ABB05
Original air date October 22, 2002
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Selfless" is the fifth episode of the seventh and final season of television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Plot synopsis

Anya finally gets back into her old vengeance demon ways by helping a girl get revenge on an entire fraternity by having a spider demon tear their hearts out. Willow, returning to college, discovers this and she, Buffy and Xander fear the worst of Anya.

While Buffy is determined to kill Anya, Xander cannot believe she could do such a thing, as he is still in love with her. Anya, meanwhile, is feeling deep remorse about the event - even though Halfrek tries to convince her that what she did was a work of art.

Buffy and Xander track Anya back to the Frat house, where the two women fight as Xander tries to stop them. Buffy stabs Anya, seemingly killing her, but Anya's demon side prevents her from dying. Willow has called forth Anya's boss D'Hoffryn, using the amulet he gave her while trying to recruit her as Anya's replacement. When he interrupts the fight between her and Buffy, Anya begs him to reverse the spell she did - even though she knows the cost of reversing such a spell is the life and soul of a vengeance demon.

Anya is ready to die, even if Xander does not want her to, but D'Hoffryn instead summons Halfrek and kills her. He tells Anya he wants her to suffer rather than die. A distraught Anya leaves and Xander follows her. They talk and Anya wanders off alone, wondering what her purpose is now that she is mortal again.


  • c. 880, when Anya's lover Olaf comes home and she suspects him of infidelity
  • 880, when Anya first became a demon, after turning her lover Olaf into a troll
  • 1905, when Anya and Halfrek were involved in the onset of the Russian Revolution of 1905
  • 2001, a few months before Anya and Xander's failed wedding, during part of "Once More, With Feeling"

Production details


In a flashback to the musical episode "Once More, with Feeling", two new songs are heard, both written by Joss Whedon.

  • "Mrs." - sung by Anya (Emma Caulfield). It was arranged and produced by Douglas Romayne, with orchestrations by Wataru Hokoyama. In the song, Xander has fallen asleep and Anya muses over how good her life will be once she becomes Mrs. Xander Harris. One of the lyrics briefly references marital doubt similar to the number the two sing in the original episode, "I'll Never Tell": "He's my Xander and he's awfully swell, it makes financial sense as well, although he can be... I'll never tell."
  • Mustard/Parking ticket song - sung by Marti Noxon & David Fury. A brief off-screen number sung by David Fury and Marti Noxon. In the original episode, they played respectively a man ecstatic that the dry cleaner had gotten mustard out of his shirt, and a woman complaining about a parking ticket. Here, in a flashback set the night before their numbers, the aftermath of Noxon's character spilling mustard on Fury's character is heard.

Fullscreen vs. widescreen

In the audio commentary for the episode, writer Drew Goddard mentioned whether or not the "Mrs." scene should have been shown in widescreen for American audiences since it was a flashback to "Once More, with Feeling", the only episode of Buffy shown in widescreen in the US. Director David Solomon thought it would have been too confusing to switch between full-frame and widescreen, so it was not done.


  • All of Kali Rocha's (Halfrek) shots in her death scene were green-screened, because of time constraints.
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar was only available for three days of shooting on this episode because of her wedding to Freddie Prinze, Jr.
  • On the DVD around the 13:30 mark, a villager chasing Olaf in the flashback yells out, "You asshole!" while chasing the troll out of town.
  • For the benefit of the viewers and ease of scene production, Aud and D'Hoffryn speak to each other in American English. However, from a historical perspective, American English would not exist for almost another thousand years. English at that time (Old English) would be incomprehensible to modern English speakers.
  • In the DVD commentary for this episode, writer Drew Goddard claims that the Sjornjost scenes were written in Swedish but he intended for the lines to be dubbed badly in English. Thus, Emma Caulfield and Abraham Benrubi were told that they did not need to memorize the Swedish that carefully because it would not be heard. Both actors memorized all of the alleged Swedish words phonetically, and the show creators were so pleased with their performances that they decided to subtitle the scenes rather than dub them.
  • Goddard also says that he chose the name Aud for Anya's original human name because while researching Viking names he found a Viking king named Olaf who had a wife named Aud, known for her sense of humor and her ability to manage money. The description of Aud fit Anya so well that he had to use the name.
  • Drew Goddard considered a flashback to "Hush" rather than to "Once More, With Feeling", but decided that it would be difficult to show Anya defining herself through Xander without dialogue.
  • During Anya's song there are numerous pieces of trivia. Before she begins to sing the viewer can hear people singing outside about spilling mustard on their clothes, and worrying it will never come out. Also, she talks to Xander about the 'coconuts, and asks him if it was weird - in 'Once More With Feeling' at the beginning all the Scoobies are talking together and you can hear Xander and Anya mentioning the coconuts. In "Once More With Feeling" a group of ecstatic people sing happily about mustard being removed from a man's clothes just outside the Magic Box. Also, Anya says in her song that she is good at math, most probably a nod towards her love of money, yet in her first appearance after losing her powers she complains that she is stuck in Sunnydale High and "flunking math!" An allusion to her duet with Xander "I'll Never Tell" is also included, in the line "Although he can be — I'll never tell."
  • The 1905 Russian Revolution scene at the dinner table required extras, including three women at least 5'6 in height with 22-inch waists to be shrunk even further with the use of corsets to play three Russian princesses. One day before shooting the scene, the extra agency in charge still only had booked two female extras for the parts. They ended up hiring Sophie LaPorte, of Battlestar Galactica fame, who had been with the extra agency for a short time over a decade prior, whose measurements hadn't changed, and who agreed to sign on because filming was to take place only a half mile from her home. She can be seen in a yellow gown at the dinner table with other members of Russian nobility as well as in the next scene, where out of the three princesses, she volunteered to play dead at the dinner table, and thereby not to breathe for the tight corset would have revealed it. She was so close to the man on fire who bursts into the dining room that she could see the brightness from the flames with her eyes closed.


  • Anya's history with Olaf the troll (who appeared in "Triangle" and mentioned their history briefly) is fleshed out in this episode.
  • In Anya's flashback sequence, before she starts singing her song, Xander mutters "I just want a happy ending". In the musical episode, "Once More, With Feeling" (season 6, episode 7), Xander claims to have summoned Sweet, a demon who makes people dance until they burn. His excuse for summoning Sweet was that "I just wanted to make sure we were gonna work out. Get a happy ending."
  • In Sjornjost 880, Aud happily raises rabbits, while from season 4 until the end of the series Anya demonstrates fear and hate toward rabbits. This implies that Anya's hostility toward rabbits might be a subconscious association of them with the simple, happy life she enjoyed with Olaf before his infidelity, the action which set her life as a vengeance demon into motion.
  • During the battle, Anya asks Buffy "Are there any of your friends you haven't tried to kill?" This is most likely a reference to "Normal Again," in which, under the influence of a hallucination, Buffy sets a demon loose to kill Xander, Willow, Dawn, and Tara. Buffy has also battled Willow ("Two to Go"), Angel ("Becoming") and Spike (often), Oz ("What's My Line, Part 1"), Riley ("The Initiative"), and Giles ("A New Man").
  • When Anya rouses herself after Buffy stabs her through the chest, she says that Buffy should know better, that a sword through the chest doesn't kill vengeance demons. She is referencing "Older and Far Away" in which Halfrek, a fellow vengeance demon, is stabbed through the chest and calls it a "flesh wound." She also remarks, "I forgot how much swords to the chest hurt," implying that she had been stabbed before; but she was surprised when Halfrek survived it.
  • By killing Halfrek instead of Anya to restore the lives of Anya's victims just to torment her, D'Hoffryn clearly reminds Anya, as well as Xander and Buffy, that despite his wit and levity at times, he is still an evil being. When Anya tells D'Hoffryn that he should have killed her instead, he says that he wouldn't worry about that and tells her to be patient, clearly foreshadowing her death at the end of the season.
  • D'Hoffryn comments to Willow about her vengeance against Warren in "Villains."
  • When Halfrek is congratulating a remorseful Anya in the interior of her new apartment, the camera passes a round glass jar in a box of leftover "Magic Box" supplies. It closely resembles the "Mu-Ping" Jar that will temporarily house Angel's soul during the fourth season of the spinoff series Angel.
  • During Anya's song, she sings the name she invented in "Checkpoint", Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins. She later sings that it was a stupid name she made up.
  • D'Hoffryn tells Xander that he sees with the "eyeballs of love." In the episode "Dirty Girls," Caleb tells Xander that he sees everything before putting his thumb in Xander's eye.

Arc significance

  • The Xander and Anya problem is reversed in Buffy and Spike, which would be fully explored in further episodes.
  • Willow finally discovers that Xander never told Buffy of her plans to restore Angel's soul (season 2), when Buffy quotes the message that Xander had instead invented.
  • Through the flashbacks, it is established that Anya's odd behavior throughout the series is not because she is an ex-demon, but that she has been an outcast all her life. Fittingly, her original human name Aud is pronounced "odd."

External links

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