Emmy voters, take note — this could save you a lot of time and trouble. Last week's haunting episode of the WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer — in which the Scooby gang mourned the sudden death of Buffy's mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) — instantly earned a place alongside ER's "Love's Labor Lost" and Jimmy Smits's harrowing swan song on NYPD Blue as one of the finest hours of television ever produced. Written and directed with paralyzing intensity by series creator Joss Whedon, the bold installment chronicled the four hours following Joyce's passing and featured wrenching performances from the show's underrated cast, led by The Chosen One herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Heightening the emotion was the fact that, unlike watershed episodes of other shows, this one was delivered without any good ol' fashioned Hollywood hype, and thus caught practically everyone off guard. "There was a lot of integrity in this," notes TV Guide critic Matt Roush, "not just in how it played, but in how it wasn't oversold."

Of course, true to Buffy tradition, the installment left viewers with a plethora of unanswered questions. And to help fill in the blanks, TV Guide Online called on the brainchild behind the one-hour masterpiece, Whedon himself.