Halloween 2002 is dead and buried, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still digging up cemetery plots: In tonight's installment (airing at 8 ET on UPN), "polterguest star" Kristine Sutherland returns as Joyce Summers, the dearly departed mother of the Chosen One and her kid sister, Dawn. "It's a very scary episode," the actress tells TV Guide Online. "Something very, very dark and evil takes Dawn for quite a scary ride. In the end, she sort of calls on the forces that love her, and her mother appears."

Although Sutherland admits that she was as bummed out as viewers when her beloved character was bumped off back in season five, she has no complaints whatsoever about her alter ego's afterlife. "There are a few frightening images of Joyce after she went to the other side," she reveals, "but it was much better than being in the morgue, let me tell you." What's more, she suspects that there's at least a ghost of a chance that fans will see the late, lamented Joyce again. "I think so. I'm hoping to come back."

Whether she is invited to make more spectral appearances, Sutherland, who has a 12-year-old daughter herself, will remain grateful that Joyce was given such a memorable sendoff. The beheadings and bloodletting that are so commonplace on Buffy notwithstanding, "The Body" remains the series' most heartbreaking examination of human mortality. "On any show that starts when the kids are in high school, as they mature, the parents eventually just sort of drift into the background," she suggests. "So better to have a wonderful, glorious death than to risk not having people notice that you aren't showing up anymore."

Besides, she had been informed of her counterpart's fate well in advance of her demise. "I knew a couple of years before it happened, so I had time to adjust," she says, then adds wryly, "One should always get plenty of time to prepare for one's death."