First of all, the majorest, maddest of props go to Eloquent Pelican.
I have a feeling that most of the recaps are going to be including a sticker with, "Now with 50 percent less snark!" in an annoying fluorescent starburst. Sad stuff, people. Joyce has a brain tumor. They're not exactly giving me good material. Sure, I could take the "Joyce climbed up a tree and said, 'Hey, look at me!' Nobody answered. Because she has cancer" tack, but it just seems disrespectful.
Previouslys. The Abimbomination pitches a fit about the key. The dying monk tells Buffy the key is with her. Buffy strokes Dawn's hair. Then all of the sudden someone wakes Anthony Stewart Head up and he jumps in with the "Previously on Buffy" voice-over. Riley tells Xander that Buffy doesn't love him and gets approached by vamp Sandy. And once again, Spike dreams he and Buffy are naked and going at it, because really, what show aimed at teenagers would be complete without a weekly opening repetition of fantasy sex between the undead and the main character? Buffy's mom is going to the hospital for sex, er, I mean testing. Buffy has sex -- dammit! -- I mean, she puts her head in her hands sadly. What is this show doing to me?
At the hospital, Joyce is getting her "CAT scan," although the machine looks to me more like a MRI set-up. And from a tiny bit of research I did, I think an MRI would actually be more appropriate for diagnosing problems with soft tissue such as the brain. Inside the machine, we look down on Joyce's face as she slowly closes her eyes. A long shot of the room and "CAT scan" machine; the room has vaulted ceilings and appears oddly uncluttered, as if the set dressers forgot to set out the "medical stuff" on the set. Joyce really, really does look like a younger Susan Sarandon. She stares upwards and swallows sadly. That's my reading, and I'm sticking with it.
In the waiting area, Dawn fiddles with her bracelets and then takes a generic cola that Buffy brings her. Dawn starts to annoy Buffy by asking questions she can't answer about why CAT scans are called "CAT scans" and so on. Buffy starts to get snappy, but then realizes her not-sister is very scared. Oog, I hope Greasy Intern Ben doesn't crop up in the first two minutes of the episode to fulfill his role as narrator of all things medical. Looks like we'll be spared his oleaginous presence, though, because Buffy just cuddles Dawn and does her hair stroking thing. Methinks SMG needs to work with her acting coach on a new shorthand for "pseudo-sisterly affection."
"Your one-stop spot to shop for all your occult needs," reads Tara, checking out Giles's ad for the Magic Box in the new Sunnydale yellow pages. Tara's hair is a medium reddish brown this week, and her demeanor seems changed -- less stuttery. The door to the Magic Shop opens and Joe Namath enters. Oops, my bad, that's actually Anya, in a flowered dress with shoulder pads Joan Crawford would have rejected as excessive. Willow, in super-tight crushed velvet jeans, and Xander follow behind Anya, discussing the fact that Riley ditched them on patrol the night before. Xander seems most bothered by the situation, and explains to Giles that they were supposed to meet Riley that morning to clear out some vampires. When they got there, however, they discovered that Riley had already made an appearance. "Tomb go boom," explains Willow succinctly. Giles seems quite unconcerned, dismissing Riley's action as "rather reckless." He's more interested in getting the gang to continue researching the Abimbomination. Xander gripes about the difficulty of researching something they've never seen, and Anya conspiratorially tells him to just "flip through the pages and look busy." I believe that's also the philosophy followed by whoever is writing plots and dialogue for the Scoobies this season. Willow wishes they knew where the mysterious opponent's hideout is, and Xander suggests, "Some sewer, or condemned church or rat-infested warehouse. You know, the usual haunts."