BtvS 3.14

© Text and musical examples: Rob Gokee

Promotional CD tracks

Sadly, this episode contains none. It is a shame none of the cues described here could have been included on the disc—especially the scene when Alan bleeds to death in front of a mortified Buffy and Faith (33'16").

The episode

Faith's "bad girl" influence begins to permeate Buffy's personality. She's shunning her friends, skipping class, getting arrested and finally becomes an accessory to murder. The new Watcher shows up, Wesley, and shows us just how much Giles has changed over the last three years. The villain-of-the-week is Balthazar, a slightly overweight demon after an amulet that belonged to him years ago. The gang manages to stop him, but the bigger problem is the Mayor, who becomes invincible and prepares for his "ascension," which promises to be as bad as it sounds. All of this pales, however, when compared to the death of the Mayor's aid Alan, at the hands of Faith. Faith stakes him in a frenzy of slaying, unintentionally, but immediately goes into denial, leaving us gaping and begging for the next episode.

Fun quotation:
Xander: "I feel your pain, Will. Like right now I'm torn between the fast growing fields of appliance repair and motel management. Of course, I'm still waiting to hear back from the, uh, Corn Dog Emporium, so… [crosses fingers]"

The music

Chris Beck does a wonderful job this episode, both in composition and spotting. The cues are all well placed, and he handles the death of Alan and Faith's subsequent guilt scene remarkably well. This episode is a good example of cues that fit together like a puzzle: by themselves they seem disconnected, but fit together into the whole of the episode they weave their own story that parallels the script.

Cue notes

All timings are approximate and originate from the region 1 NTSC DVD.


A brass and percussion action cue opens the teaser as Faith and Buffy vamp fight over sex talk. The cue and vampire end in a quick flourish.


Strings enter as Buffy goes back to the hunt, with Faith trying to fly solo. Horns and percussion come in, ending with pizzicato strings and a quick move to the mayor's office.


On the word "postponement" we get a low synth and double bass with low brass, also known as "The Mayor's Theme," which rises and takes us out of the teaser.


Nerf Herding, it's better than football!


On "El Illuminati," strings play a short 3 note motif twice [Ex.1]


Transition from campus to graveyard, using low brass and synth with light piano. Strings slowly come in, followed by synth sound effects. Then the percussion enters as vamps search the tomb for the amulet. Strings come back in as Faith and Buffy move into action mode and jump into the manhole to end the act.


Brass pumping as Buffy and Faith fight vamps, an interesting sequence [Ex.2], utilizing strings as Buffy is trapped. We are treated to low synth as Buffy is held underwater, and then the scene and cue immediately jump into brass action to the end of the fight. This is a great example of how Chris uses the score to emphasize the action onscreen, in this case the attempt to drown the slayer. His muted synth mimics the muffled sounds Buffy hears underwater.


Following Faith's bad influence, we hear "Zeppo-like" pizzicato strings [Ex.4] and a lone violin, moving to a string upswing "explosion" as the girls hit a vamp nest in broad daylight, with a quick jump to…


"Chinese Burn" by Curve in the Bronze as the girls go wild.


Balthazar being wet down as low strings rise and fall, with occasional brass behind them. The cue then moves to the pizzicato strings from the previous scene, moving to tremolo and then to a rock music cue as Buffy and Faith break and enter at the hardware store. A standard blues progression plays under the "borrowing" until the cops show up and end act two.


Low brass under the surprise in the hardware store, turning into low strings as they break out of the cop car. The cue then changes to frenzied strings and percussion as Buffy and Faith head off, the scene changing to the next morning at the Summers' home, fading out the cue with low synth.


Vamp attack on the mayor, very quick "surprise" cue with brass and percussion, ends as quickly as it started with a dusting.


The "Balthazar Theme" again (percussion and strings) as he orders the assassination of the slayers'. The cue fades out as we move to Buffy's room and Willow.


Soft strings on Willows sad look (tissue anyone?), switch to the girls fighting, quick out for the cue as the vamp jumps.


As the vamps show at the library, strings come back into play, and we move back to Buffy and Faith fighting vamp after vamp on the streets. The cue turns to soft descending strings as Alan bleeds to death while Buffy watches helplessly [Ex.3]. In perhaps the best musical moment in the episode, Chris leave the last note of the progression missing, and we are left hanging just as the girls are with an innocent life taken. The uneasiness and unresolved feeling you have aurally impacts the scene as much if not more than the visual depiction.


Low brass and strings (utilizing piano and toms) as the girls flee the scene of the crime [Ex.5]. Buffy runs into Angel (literally), and the cue switches back to strings, brass and piano as Faith goes back to the body. Tremolo violin underneath, we switch to Balthazar and low brass again as he prepares to kill the two Watchers. Angel enters, and we get the brass action motif, this time in short stattaco notes with ascending strings ending on Balthazar's execution. There is a quick, percussive jump as he comes back to life briefly and gives Buffy a cryptic message about the mayor, which in turn moves us right to Mayor Wilkins and his ritual. Brass and strings take us through the earthquake and stop promptly at the chants' end.


As the vamp attacks the mayor we hear strings and percussion, following the "reforming" of Wilkins. We then move to low brass and strings as we move out of the office and to Faiths' room. Then we are treated to Joss' trademark silence under the awkward murder talk…


How'd Nerf Herder get in here?

Musical examples

Ex.1 [midi] "El Illuminati"
Ex.1 notation

Ex.2 [midi] "Buffy and Faith fight vamps"
Ex.2 notation

Ex.3 [midi] "Alan bleeds"
Ex.3 notation

Ex.4 [mp3] Zeppo Faith 0'39" [466Kb]
Ex.5 [mp3] Buffy and Faith flee 0'18" [221Kb]