"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Listening to Fear (TV Episode 2000) Poster

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Possibly the weakest episode of the season
katierose29528 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Listening to Fear" is one of the weakest episodes of season five. It really doesn't contribute much to the main story arc, beyond reinforcing Ben's connection to Glory and her minions. And as a monster-of-the-week, "Listening to Fear" also falls short of the depth and meaning of other BTVS episodes. I'm not sure what's it's saying or what metaphorical significance we should derive from the story. All in all, if I had to skip one episode in season five, this would probably be it.

Basically, "Listening to Fear" revolves around a cockroach-y looking demon from outer space, called the Quellor, crash landing in Sunnydale. It's been called on by Ben to seek out the crazy people in town and kill them. (I guess he wants to stymie Glory by taking her brain-sucked army, but really the episode leaves his motivations kinna vague.) Anyway, Joyce is in the hospital and has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She'll need an operation, but in the meantime the tumor is pressing against her brain and causing her to hallucinate. Buffy takes her mom home to recover, while the Scoobies hunt the Quellor. Riley and his pals the army guys are also on its tail. They track it to Buffy's house, where the Quellor is already attacking the Summers family and Spike.

There are some good parts to this episode. I like Xander and Giles "Killer Snot Monster from Outer Space" conversation. It sort of sounds like an MST3K movie title, to me. And I think it's sweet that Buffy and Dawn are spending so much time with Joyce in the hospital. This season really shows the relationship between Buffy and Joyce moving from a strictly parent/child dynamic to an even deeper bond of friendship and trust. Also, Spike stealing stuff from the Summers' basement is pretty funny. And his yelp of surprise and fear when the Quellor demon leaps out at him always makes me laugh. Why did it go after him like that, though? Buffy attacked it, so I get why it tried to fight her. But, why did the Quellor seem to fling itself at Spike? It's only suppose to attack people "outside reality" or whatever, right? Maybe it has something to do with little golden fish stuff Dru saw swimming around his head, back in "Fool for Love." Maybe the Quellor could sense whatever makes Spike "different" than other vampires. Able to feel and change. Or maybe I'm just reaching. Either way, I like thinking about it.

Sometimes, when I'm watching BTVS and feeling especially annoyed at Dawn, I also wonder if she's the cause of Joyce's illness. Maybe, when the monks were implanting all the fake "Dawn" memories, they damaged something in Joyce's head. Caused some random cell to mutate and grow into a life threatening brain tumor. I don't have a lot to back up that idea and it's certainly never addressed on BTVS. But, if I had to argue my pet-theory in an critical way, I'd cite Joyce's behavior in this episode. Joyce drifts between reality and delusion in "Listening to Fear." As her tumor pushes against her brain, she hallucinates, talking to people who aren't there and saying un-Joyce like things. But, when she looks at Dawn, she'll sometimes get a very clear look on her face and ask "Who are you?" This isn't the ranting to the recently brain-sucked over at Sunnydale General. This seems more like Joyce seeing through the fake memories and knowing that Dawn just shouldn't be there. She doesn't see Dawn as a glowy ball of light or the Key. She sees her as a stranger. I think that somehow, the implanted memories didn't "take" right in Joyce. Maybe they caused the tumor. Or maybe the tumor was already there, making her brain different and hindering the monks' efforts. Either way, Joyce is the only person in Sunnydale who figures out the truth about Dawn without being told. She has no idea what Dawn is, but she knows that she isn't her daughter. When she talks to Buffy at the end of the episode, she explains that her knowledge of Dawn's new place in the world, came to her like "truth." The Quellor demon might try to kill Joyce, but in actuality Joyce isn't crazy or "outside reality." Joyce is the only one who can still see "reality," in fact. She's the only one who can remember a world without Dawn.

On the down side, I don't like the whole "outer space" thing about this episode. It's a little too X-File-y for my tastes. Also, I guess that Ben wanted to get rid of all the brain sucked people so that they couldn't help Glory, but still... It seems a little harsh to just have them killed.

My favorite part of the episode: Willow playing tiny, Jewish, Santa.
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Hard to watch Joyce so vulnerable
Joxerlives2 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The Good; Some great acting from SMG and KS with Joyce's madness. Lovely Buffy/Joyce/Dawn scenes, especially when they're in bed together. In many ways though this is Riley's ep, see him take charge of the military team, he's back in his place.

The Bad; Not a great deal

Best line; Joyce "My dear sweet brave Buffy, what would I do without you?" (always brings a tear to my eye)

Jeez!; The Queller is HORRIBLE! Ben demonstrates his ruthless side.Poor Dawn spends the entire episode quaking in fear at either the Queller demon or mad people (including her mother) shouting at her. Buffy breaks into tears and I don't blame her. The scene where Joyce, always the tower of strength in Buffy begs for her daughters to take her home like a frightened child is heartbreaking.

Kinky dinky; None this ep, too much happening

Captain Subtext; Joyce works out that Dawn isn't her natural daughter (she's more like Buffy's twin/clone) but doesn't care because she still belongs to her and Buffy, she's precious and they love her. She makes Buffy promise to take care of her. When Joyce asks what she'd ever do without Buffy you can see Buffy wondering what she'd ever do without her mum? When Anya suggests that the radiation from the meteorite might cause sterility Riley and Xander look alarmed but Giles doesn't, given up on the idea of having his own children?

Apocalypses; 5,

Scoobies in bondage: Buffy: 8 Giles: 4 Cordy: 5 Will: 3 Jenny: 1 Angel: 4 Oz: 1 Faith: 3 Joyce: 1 Wes: 1 Xander; 1 Dawn; 1

Scoobies knocked out: Buffy: 15 Giles: 10 Cordy: 6 Xander: 8 Will: 5 Jenny: 2 Angel: 6 Oz: 3 Faith: 1 Joyce: 3 Wes: 1 Anya;1

Kills: 2 vamps for Will and one demon for Buffy Buffy: 86 vamps, 32 demons, 6 monsters, 3 humans, 1 werewolf, 1 spirit warrior & a robot Giles: 5 vamps, 1 demon Cordy: 3 vamps, a demon Will: 6 vamps Angel: 3 vamps, 1 demon, 1 human Oz: 3 vamps, 1 zombie Faith: 16 vamps, 5 demons, 3 humans Xander: 5 vamps, 2 zombies, a demon, a demon Anya: a demon Riley; 18 vamps + 7 demons

Scoobies go evil: Giles: 1 Cordy: 1 Will: 2 Jenny: 1 Angel: 1 Oz: 1 Joyce: 1 Xander: 3

Alternate scoobies: Buffy: 6 Giles: 3 Cordy: 1 Will: 2 Jenny: 2 Angel: 3 Oz: 2 Joyce: 2 Xander: 3

Recurring characters killed: 9 Jesse, Flutie, Jenny, Kendra, Larry, Snyder, Professor Walsh, Forrest, McNamara

Sunnydale deaths; 6 mental patients 89;

Total number of scoobies: 7 Giles, Xander, Willow, Buffy, Anya, Tara, Riley

Xander demon magnet: 5(6?) Preying Mantis Lady, Inca Mummy Girl, Drusilla, VampWillow, Anya (arguably Buffy & Faith with their demon essences?), Dracula?

Scoobies shot: Giles: 2 Angel: 3 Oz: 4 Riley; 1

Notches on Scooby bedpost: Giles: 2; Joyce & Olivia, possibly Jenny and 3xDraccy babes? Cordy: 1? Buffy: 3 confirmed; Angel, Parker,Riley, 1 possible, Dracula(?) Angel: 1;Buffy Joyce: 1;Giles, 2 possible, Ted and Dracula(?) Oz: 3; Groupie, Willow & Verucca Faith:2 ;Xander, Riley Xander: 2; Faith, Anya Willow: 2;Oz and Tara Riley; 2; Buffy and Sandy

What the fanficcers thought; Buffy has sex with the Quellar demon. No, I'm NOT kidding either! 'Quelled'

Questions and observations; Our first hints that Ben is not all he appears. Will finds the dead body again. Graham again, yay! He should fix his beret though. Dawn saves Joyce through her quick thinking, she's a Summer's girl alright. Joyce's insane remark about Buffy being 'disgustingly fat' is all the more ironic given how painfully thin SMG looks this season. The vamps Willow stakes look like they're female wrestlers or something? Really this ep hits Buffy where she hurts, she can face all the dangers of being a slayer as long as she has her friends and Joyce and Dawn to come home to. When her home life is threatened that really unnerves her

Marks out of 10; 7/10
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The Demon from Outer Space
claudio_carvalho3 October 2007
While Buffy and Dawn stay with Joyce in the hospital, Giles, Willow and Xander patrol the cemetery chasing vampires and Riley continues in his process of transformation in a vampire. Later, while watching the stars, Tara and Willow see a meteor crashing nearby Sunnydale. The Scooby group realizes that a demon called Queller has just landed on Earth. Joyce returns home since her surgery will occur only two days after, and the Queller arrives in the hospital attacking crazy people. Due to the compression of the tumor to her brain, Joyce acts strange having hallucinations, but she also sees the truth about Dawn and makes Buffy promise that she will take care of Dawn if she dies in the surgery. When the Queller arrives at Joyce's home chasing her, Buffy fights with it to save Joyce and Dawn.

In this episode, a demon with appearance of an insect is summoned by Ben to destroy the people that Glory sucked the brain, but his motives are not disclosed. Dawn is still an annoying character, and Willow gives the best lines of the episode with her tiny, young, woman and Jewish Santa Claus. Spike, as usual, is also hilarious snooping into Buffy's house fool for love for her, being startled with her presence. I am curious with the behavior of Riley, being constantly bitten and sucked by female vampires, and who is Ben. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Ouvindo o Medo" ("Listening to the Fear")
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A Good Character Development Episode
Samuel-Shovel17 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In this episode, Joyce's mental health continues to deteriorate as the tumor worsens before her surgery. Buffy and Dawn decide to take her home and take care of her. Meanwhile a meteoroid crash lands in Sunnyvale, delivering a space alien that preys on the mentally unstable, eventually going after Joyce. Riley continues to experiment with vampirazation.

I was a little surprised that this episode's rating was so low; I rather enjoyed it. While there's not a lot of development here from a plot perspective, I think we get some great character insights from a lot of the cast. I also enjoyed the end (even if the alien didn't look great); it provided great tension.

This is the most we've interacted with Dawn in an episode and we really get to see her insecurities and fear of not belonging in this world. I think that deep down she's aware that she is not like most girls.

It was also heartbreaking to watch that scene of Buffy washing dishes as the weight of all her responsibilities and hardships collide on her and cause her to break down sobbing. This is the most insecure we've seen Buffy show in a long time, possibly ever.

Riley and Buffy have gotten to the point that there's so far apart, I often forget that they're still a couple. Riley and this whole vampire thing is making him act even stranger as we try to figure out his endgame.

Conclusion: A great insight into a lot of these main characters. While not important to the season's overall plotline, it's nice to get a better understanding of these characters.

Side Notes: I think someone would have noticed that alien-demon on the ceiling of the hospital, it was huge and grotesque!

That helicopter entrance by the Initiative into the park was loud and unnecessary. Just drive there. I thought you wanted to keep a low profile?

I thought Ben might turn into some kind of love interest for Buffy but he seems to have some type of intention. What's his story?
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Who else thought Joyce was hilarious...
JWaveBabe28 October 2008
...in an inappropriate way when she got really aggressive or angry? Especially Doctor - "Joyce, there's no reason to get upset". J - "I'm sorry I must just think there is because of my BRAIN TUMOR". Sorry, but I couldn't help it...

Anyway the episode was alright. The whole 'thing from outer space' theme was a little unfamiliar. But Xander did have some great lines. And the scene where Buffy breaks down and cries is very moving. Plus Tiny Jewish Santa was priceless.

The Riley storyline isn't very interesting to me. I never thought he was a very good match for Buffy to begin with. So I wasn't disappointed to see him drifting back to old habits.

-- Go west for the black setting sun.
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Is everyone here very high?
suzishadow12 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Why are the reviewers saying that Joyce's tumor is making her see Dawn, for the first time, as not her real daughter? Buffy told Joyce about Dawn in episode 5, "No Place Like Home." They decided to protect Dawn and accept her as "family" four episodes ago.

This is not a review, but a clarification of how the story of Dawn's acceptance (as the Summers sister formerly known as "the key") has already been addressed.
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When crazies walk the earth, the queller will follow
Realrockerhalloween4 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Ben thinking that the epidemic of crazy roaming the streets has gotten out of hand has summon a queller demon to cover Glory's tracks. Joyce feeling better after the surgery has been released from the hospital and its next target. Not a bad episode as the queller is quite freaky in appearance, demeanor and even it's screeches. It also raises the possibility other life in the universe does exist as it came from a comet located from the moon. I wish Joss had explored it more as I find it fascinating that it could survive both atmospheres and no one has ever found existence of their culture until it makes itself known.

Also its personal as it attacks Joyce determined to do its job by killing her and you worry if she'll live or die. She's on bed rest, lashing out at dawn because of the tumor and helpless against any threat. Another aspect is the tow its taking on her daughters as Dawn feels rejected and Buffy has to be the adult. It's a new dynamic as Buffy always looked out for herself and now has a little sister to reassure everything will be OK while keeping her safe from night creatures. It's almost taking on a parent role already as she takes care of her daughter shielding her from harsh realities of life and keep her calm.
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The One With The Out-Of-Space Creature...
taylorkingston19 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I don't love this episode, but I do like it. It's interesting, and a different concept than from previous episodes, but sadly, it is one of my least favorite episodes from the season, and the entire series.

In this episode, Joyce is released from the hospital, to everyone's excitement. When the gang see a meteor crash from the sky, and they notice something has come out of it, they start to wonder what it could be. Eventually, the out-of-space creature, known as a Queller, finds its way to the hospital, and then to the Summers' residence. Eventually, the gang tell Buffy how to destroy the weird creature, and you never have to see its creepy face again.

Overall, I give this episode a 6 out of 10, which in my ratings book is: Good.
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