As her birthday approaches, Buffy loses her slayer powers and must do battle with a vampire who is not only extremely powerful but also quite mad.



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Episode cast overview:
Rupert Giles (as Anthony Stewart Head)
Zachary Kralik
Construction Worker


For her upcoming 18th birthday, Buffy declines the Scooby gang's offer of a big party, hoping to celebrate with quiet reflection and a traditional trip to the ice show with her father. But Buffy doesn't know that preparations are being made for a life-threatening rite of passage that drains the slayer of her powers and then entraps her with a powerful and psychotic vampire foe. Written by Alex

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 January 1999 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


On the original idea presented by writer David Fury, the drug Giles gives Buffy would made her hallucinate that her mother and friends had turned into vampires, but with the episode The Wish so close in time, Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt changed the content of the Counsel test. See more »


The audience is told several times throughout the series that vampires do not show up in photographs, but Zachary Kralik is seen in a photo that he took of himself and Joyce. See more »


Buffy: [straining with peanut butter jar] Just feel better when I get my strength back.
Xander Harris: Give ya a hand with that little lady?
Buffy: [passes Xander jar] You're loving this far too much.
Xander Harris: Admit it, sometimes you just need a big strong man.
[can't undo lid, screen fades to black]
Xander Harris: Uh, Wil, give me a hand with that?
See more »


Referenced in Angel: Spin the Bottle (2002) See more »


Buffy the Vampire Slayer Theme
Written by Nerf Herder
Performed by Brandon K. Verrett
See more »

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User Reviews

An important episode in Giles and Buffy's relationship
3 August 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Buffy's birthdays never go well. She's either attacked by big blue demons or fighting hell gods or mystically trapped in a house... Basically, she'd be better off if she just left town when her birthdays rolled around. She never does, though, and her 18th birthday finds her sapped of her Slayer strength and battling an insane vampire. This is actually a fairly important episode that paves the way for Wesley, reinforces Buffy and Giles bond, and introduces the Watcher's Council. It's also the episode where Giles gets fired, a story line that will play out over the next few seasons. All in all, it's worth a look.

The episode revolves around the Watcher's Council's Slayer test. Basically, they use drugs to steal Buffy's strength, lock her in with a deranged vampire named Kralick and make her fight it using her only her wits. It's kind of a dumb idea. And to make matters worse, Giles is in charge of administering the drug. He hypnotizes her and secretly gives her the power-stealing injections. As Buffy's strength wanes, she begins to panic. She can't even beat up school bullies, let alone Big Bads. Giles feels miserable and guilty about the deception. He and the Watcher's Council argue about the test, but he goes along with the plan until Kralick escapes.

It's also Buffy's birthday. Deciding against a party, she instead makes plans with her father to go to the Ice-Capades. When he cancels on her, she starts "hinting" that Giles should take her to the show. After Kralick breaks free, he comes after her and Buffy nearly dies. Giles saves her, takes her back to the school and admits to drugging her. Hurt and angry, Buffy goes home and discovers that Kralick has kidnapped her mother. She has to save Joyce and fight Kralick, all without her powers. Buffy passes the test, but the Council is furious over Giles' interference. They fire him as Buffy's Watcher.

There are some good parts to this episode. I think it's so cute that Buffy wanted Giles to take her to the ice show. Her father is becoming a less important figure in her life and she's transferring all her dad-love to Giles. It's a shame that he was so distracted when she was "subtly" hinting about the trip or I'm sure that he would have gone with her. Also I think the idea of a powerless Buffy is interesting. She might say that she wants to be a normal girl, but when her Slayer strength was gone, she REALLY wanted it back again. It's hard to go from super-hero to average person. As Angel will find out in the "Angel" episode "I Will Remember You." Also, Willow looks really cute in that hat.

I think the title of the episode, "Helpless," is interesting. It could be talking about the draining of Buffy's powers or about Giles' situation with the Council. Without her strength Buffy hardly seems a match for Kralick. Her fight against him seems impossible. And Giles is an employee of the Watcher's Council. He might want to stop the test, but he doesn't have the authority to change the rules. They're both caught up in situations beyond their control. But, are either of them really helpless? Buffy beats Kralick with creativity, not muscle. And Giles ruins the Slayer test and betrays the Council, because he loves Buffy more than his job. They both might have seemed helpless, but in reality, they each fought back and won.

Some questions about the episode. Why does Kralick still need medicine as a vampire? Shouldn't his human illnesses be cured? And after Joyce got kidnapped, why didn't Buffy go to Angel or Faith for help? They're both strong enough to fight Kralick and protect Joyce. Why did she go alone? And what's the deal with this Slayer test? She's the Chosen One and has been for years, why are they testing her? Why would they test any Slayer like that? What's the point? What would they do if the Slayer failed? It's nuts! Also, did Buffy and Giles ever go to the ice show together? I hope so.

My favorite part of the episode: Angel's birthday present to Buffy. It's sweet that he remembered that she likes poetry.

28 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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