Dead Things (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 13)


A very nicely put together episode, which only gets richer with the second and third viewings.  With this episode, the season really begins to develop the arch-villains’ descent into crime and true villainy, moving from theft to murder and the struggle to conceal a body.  Warren has invented a device called  a ‘cerebral dampener’, which can make any woman (or maybe for Andrew’s sake, any person) a slave to the user of the device.  Warren uses it on his ex-girlfriend Katrina, who instead of walking away from Warren in disgust, now refers to him as ‘Master’.  What the Trio doesn’t realise is that the dampener’s effects are only temporary.

As for the Scoobies, Buffy isn’t around much these days, spending all her time working or visiting Spike.  The episode opens with Buffy and Spike having a post-coital real conversation.  Spike asks Buffy how she sees him, that is, ‘What am I to you?’.  Later he comes to Buffy in the Bronze and says, ‘you see them, but always end up in the dark with me.’  The rest of the episode follows up on Buffy and Spike’s relationship through the use of unintentional innuendos on the part of Buffy’s interlocutors.  Xander, for example, points out that Buffy looks pounded (just around the eyes).  Meanwhile, the other Scoobies are all preparing for Xander and Anya’s upcoming nuptials.  Dawn is learning how to waltz, but Buffy seems to be all two left feet.

The plot lines of the Scoobies and the Trio intersect after Warren accidentally kills his ex-girlfriend Katrina.  She came to her senses when Warren was about to make her give him a blow-job.  Karina calls Warren’s scheme for what it is:  rape.  As she walked up the stairs to leave the villains’ lair, Warren attempts to knock her out with a champagne bottle, but accidentally kills her.  Needing to dispose of the body, Warren then uses a combination of disguised Jonathan, the dampener, and a summoned demon to make Buffy think she killed Katrina.  The presence of this particular species of demon alters human perception of time.  Initially, Buffy was stuck in some sort of time-loop (again — clearly the Wei Mai remain a touch diseased in our Slayer), but once Buffy thinks she killed Katrina (‘I killed her’), the time loop stops.  (Spike helps.)  After a night of dreams and a good-bye to Dawn, Buffy goes to the police.  At the station, she overhears the identity of the deceased, and guesses it was Warren who set things up.

So an episode with some darker elements:  some direct talk with Spike at the beginning, Buffy with Spike at the Bronze, and Katrina calling Warren’s scheme for what it is — rape.  Then there’s the closing scene with Tara, who tells Buffy she’s come back normal, just with a slight molecular suntan — forcing Buffy to look at why she treats Spike the way she does, and choose between two options:  love, or simple usefulness.   (Again, Tara is perhaps my favourite character of the series; Amber Benson really gave the character a powerful presence).

Rape, resistance, and will are all themes treated in this rather rich episode.

Sinew Vessel Diagnosis

First, let’s treat a sinew vessel, get a simple diagnosis out of the way before digging deeper into the above themes.  As in last week’s episode, this week Buffy’s legs are once again not working.  She isn’t paralysed, though.  She’s just having difficulty learning the synchronised dance steps with Xander and Dawn.  Later Anya, Willow and Xander at the Bronze do some swing dancing, and again, Buffy doesn’t join them (she does get busy with Spike, though).  What sinew vessels control fully body coordination?

The Jue Yin channel is concerned with paralysis; its pair is Shao Yang, usually associated with external rotation.  Tai Yang impels a person forward; Yang Ming allows them to stop.  The Shao Yin and Shao Yang sinew vessels, though, are pivots, allowing the body to rotate to the exterior-yang or the interior-yin.  I would suggest that the Shao Yang sinew vessels coordinate whole body movement, slightly more so than the Shao Yin sinew vessel; twisting movements are almost always external rotations.  My reasoning process relies first on the concept, drawn from Tom Meyer’s idea of ‘anatomy trains’, of band of fascia which spirals across and around the body, allowing external rotation of the trunk (rather than just the limbs, which is a shao-yin channel trajectory).  From the splenius muscles of the neck, through the rhomboids, serratus anterior, external and internal obliques, to the TFL and glutues medius, this band of muscular is the external pivot which helps engage the entire body.  (For more on these fascial networks, see Tom Meyer’s Anatomy Trains.)  The idea can be critiqued by the physiological philosophy of Tai Ji Quan:  the body’s pivot is not an external spiral, necessarily; it is an internal hinge stretching from Bai Hui (Du-20) to Hui Yin (CV-1), and key to its ability to rotate is that the kua, the inguinal ligament and coxal joint, open up (via relaxing the psoas muscle and pudendal nerves).  That would be the domain of ShaoYin.

This is all theory, however.  If we aren’t certain about which sinew vessel may be diseased and are tempted to just go straight to the EVs which integrate the meridians of the body, how do we determine what is going on?   If we want to treat Buffy using only the sinew vessels, rather than go right to the Wei Mai, and the pulse doesn’t give us a clue, what do we do?  The answer, of course, is channel palpation.  The practitioner should press along the trajectories of the channels, finding which one has points which elicit soreness or pain with only mild pressure.  That channel is then the one which should be addressed:  open Du-14 and Du-4 with some gua sha, needle the ‘ah shi’ sore points with a chiselling technique (no more than three points per side, otherwise you risk exhausting the person), and then some moxa or hot needle on the jing well point.  Reassess through range of motion exercises, and if problems persist, prescribe herbal medicine.  Mu Gua is excellent for relaxing tight muscles, while Chai Hu is the carrier herb for the Shao Yang channel.  For Shao Yin, I might think of yuan zhi, but combine it with Qiang Huo to direct its actions to the Foot Shao Yin, while opening up Du-14 and releasing the exterior.

Wei qi, the spirits, and time

In what ways do humans experience of time sequentially, from the perspective of Classical Chinese physiology?  I am going to think aloud, on this first pass through.  Beginning with the spirits, the celestial concepts towards which Han and pre-Han dynasty thinkers sought to pattern individual and social life on earth, is a sound methodology for a Classical approach.  Of the five spirits (po, hun, shen; yi-intent, and zhi-will), the po spirits are associated with automatic reflexes, unconscious reactions.  The Lungs, which contain the po, are an example:  breathing is automatic, though it can be brought into conscious control.  Even more to the point, wei qi is unconscious and automatic, governed by the Lungs and breath, perhaps, but unreflective.  The hun are responsible for perception, and are more reflective than the po, though the hun usually follow the shen-awareness, which is the true source of thoughtful reflection.   Ying-qi contains consciousness and emotion, nourished as it is by the blood and mai-channel-pulse.

The demon in this week’s episode seems to provoke the hun into following the po, by deranging Buffy’s perception away from awareness and reflection and towards automatic reflex.  All she could see or understand was what was happening next, but undifferentiated, disjointed, like the 7 po and 3 hun themselves.  In point of fact, Buffy only comes to see Katrina’s clouded eyes when Buffy is dreaming; sleep is the domain of the heart, the realm of the shen.  It was only then that the shen was able to start the process of linking reflection and perception back to the emotions Buffy was experiencing.

How could the spirits become separated like that,  and what implications does this have for understanding addiction?

Ying qi usually follows wei qi, just as supply lines typically follow military troops, rather than precede them.  So the demon did not unharmonise ying and wei qi; Gui Zhi Tang is not going to work in this case, nor is treating the Liver which harmonises the two qi.  Thinking about terrain is the place to look now.

Wei qi falls in the domain of the sinew vessels, the primary channels (which convey both wei and ying qi), and in part, the Channel Divergences.  The Channel Divergences connect the wei qi and jing levels of the body, usually by sequestering wei qi that has turned against the body by calling upon jing, blood, or body fluids (think auto-immune and inflammatory conditions).

However, wei qi also has an association with time.  The sinew vessels operate along a yearly pattern, with sinew vessels becoming active in turn month by month.  Wei qi also has a daily rhythm.  Wei qi enters CV-17 at night to protect the viscera, allowing for security while a person sleeps (LU-3, LU-1, CV-17 is one protocol for bringing wei qi to the interior at night to promote sleep).  In the morning, wei qi emerges at BL-1 with the opening of the eyes.  Wei qi is thus tied to sleep and vision, or more precisely, to the Sinew Vessels, time, sleep, and vision.

Wei qi homes to CV-17, PC Mu point, entry to HT, centre of chest which is the end point of some sinew vessels; yet it is stimulated with the opening of the eyes, and emerges at Bl-1, the meeting of Yang Qiao Mai and the end of the Tai Yang sinew vessel.  BL-1 is also the upper confluence of the BL-KD channel divergence, which connects the jing level with the wei qi level.  (Note Yang Qiao and Yang Wei meet at SI-10, a Tai Yang point.)

Wei qi relates to automatic perception.  It relates to the lower part of the brain, from Du-14 to Du-16 laterally to GB-12.  As an automatic response, wei qi plays a role in sexual perception and response — in the case of Warren and the Trio, trumping the role of blood and conscious-thinking through of consequences.  It is, in this regard, well suited to be the domain of the po-spirits, whose lifespan stretches really only to the grave; they have little investment in longer consequences than the immediate moment.  If automatic perception and response becomes a problem, the Sinew Vessels, because of their influence over wei qi, are well suited to addressing those issues.

Dang Gui is an excellent herb for issues with time and wei qi, particularly when combined with He Shou Wu.

Extraordinary Vessels, the spirits, and time

If someone could remind me to return to the idea of the EVs, Spirits, and Time, I’d appreciate it.  Tara and Buffy have a conversation in which Tara describes Buffy’s essence as poured back into her body, but the basic cellular make-up was different only in shade — like a ‘sun tan’.  In Chinese medicine, one might rather say, the Ling is the same, but the jing was altered somewhat; which has repercussions for the shen (and thus destiny).  A different nuance must play itself out in her life from now on.

Finally, Buffy reveals her relationship with Spike to Tara.  ‘You always hurt the one you love’ and ‘It is in the nature of humans to destroy what they love most’ are two proverbs which come to mind in Buffy’s situation.  What does Chinese medicine have to say regarding destiny and causing pain towards loved ones?  I’m not sure Chinese medicine or philosophy does have anything to say to this; and the role of the physician is often focused on how a patient receives the environment, rather than how the patient acts within it.  The actions within an environment are the specialty of self-cultivation, a topic I’ve taken up earlier in the series.

As always these posts are meant to be thought provoking means of exploring Chinese physiological concepts.  If you think you may benefit from Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

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