August 6, 2022

Buffy 3.17, Enemies: Second Best

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:04 pm by Jenn

Heh, someone titled this “the happy couple”

Summary: Buffy and Angel are leaving a movie theater after seeing a French film they didn’t expect to be so…adult. They’re uncomfortable since it brought up feelings they can’t act on. She feels bad for accidentally tempting him to do something that would make him lose his soul. He tells her just being around her makes him feel “worked up,” but it’s a good thing, not a bad thing. He’s able to control himself when they’re close. He demonstrates by kissing her.

Faith interrupts the couple’s nice moment to whisk Buffy away for patrolling. The Watchers’ Council has finally cleared Faith for active duty. The two Slayers go to a cemetery, where Faith praises Buffy for enduring a relationship where she can only take things so far. She pauses the conversation so she can fight a demon.

He claims to have information about the Books of Ascension, which Buffy’s never heard of. The demon says they include some “dark stuff,” and the mayor would be ticked if someone else got their hands on them before… He won’t clarify, but he’ll sell the books to the Slayers for $5,000 if they meet up with him tomorrow. He wants to buy a plane ticket and get far away from the Hellmouth. Faith threatens him and he runs off. Buffy doesn’t think he can give them anything helpful, but she would like to get the books and find out what the mayor is up to.

Faith tells the mayor about the demon’s offer, but the mayor is less worried about the books falling into the wrong hands than about the fact that Faith always wears her hair down and doesn’t let people see her nice face. She reminds him that the demon could tell “Buffy and the Super Friends” something they shouldn’t know. Mayor Wilkins tells her she worries too much for someone her age and gives her a glass of milk. That will give her the calcium she needs to track down and kill the demon, then bring the books to the mayor.

Meanwhile, Buffy tells Wesley and the Scoobies about the books. Giles is annoyed that the demon wants to sell them: “Whatever happened to the still-beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore.” Xander asks what the ascension is, but Giles and Wesley aren’t familiar with the term. Willow, however, remembers reading about it in a book, in a section about genocide. Buffy and Xander smirk at the Watchers for not knowing something.

Giles finds the reference in a journal of a pastor from the 1700s. All it says is, “Tomorrow is the ascension. God help us all.” After that, there’s no record of the pastor or his town. Giles thinks Buffy should meet with the demon. Cordelia arrives just then to ask Wesley to help her with a paper on Friday night. (It’s an English paper and he’s English, so she figured she’d ask for “an insider’s perspective.”) She wants to “study” in a restaurant. Wesley can’t think of a response. “And on the day the words ‘flimsy excuse’ were redefined, we stood in awe and watched,” Xander quips.

Wesley refocuses the group, suggesting that they find the demon and get the books. Faith is already on that, breaking into the demon’s place to beat her way into achieving her goal. The demon still thinks she’s going to give him the money he asked for. Instead, he gets a knife in the gut. He fights back but Faith just keeps stabbing until he’s dead. Unlike when she killed Finch, this shakes her up.

She goes to Angel’s place, telling him she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She’s in trouble and needs help. He’s been waiting for her to open up to him, so he’s ready to listen. Faith says she’s scaring herself – she gets now what he meant when he said that killing people would make her feel powerful. She still has the demon’s blood on her hands.

Angel tells her she can’t get through this alone. She agrees, worried she’s turning into a cold-blooded killer like Angel. He assures her that she can stop before things go too far. She’s scared that it might be too late for her. He hugs her, which she takes as an invitation to kiss him. He stops her, telling her he can be here for her, but not physically.

Faith backpedals, saying she won’t interfere with his and Buffy’s relationship. She thinks they’re lucky to have each other. She decides to go be alone for a while, but she appreciates knowing that Angel cares. She asks if they might be able to develop something if things were different. Angel isn’t sure, and he says they’ll never know. As they say goodbye and she kisses him on the cheek, Buffy arrives and sees them together.

This was all an act on Faith’s part, as she later tells the mayor that she tried her best to get Angel to sleep with her. She’s annoyed that he only has eyes for Buffy. Mayor Wilkins tries to cheer her up, reminding her that there’s more than one way to skin a cat: “And I happen to know that’s factually true.” They can find another way to take away Angel’s soul. It’ll just have to be more painful than the proven method.

Giles and Wesley haven’t had any luck finding out any more about the ascension in Giles’ books. Giles suggests contacting the Council, but Wesley tells him that they don’t know that Giles is working for him. Okay, with him. Really, I’d say Wesley’s lucky that the Scoobies even acknowledge his presence. He still thinks the best plan is to find the books themselves.

Buffy arrives, mopey about what she saw between Faith and Angel, and says she’ll go find the demon. Wesley wants her to wait for Faith, since the demon will probably be difficult to find. “Found your demon,” Xander announces as he joins the group. “Fashion tip, Wes – mouth looks better closed,” Buffy tells him. Xander got the address from Willy, via polite request and then with a bribe. He asks to get his $28 reimbursed, but he didn’t get a receipt. Giles complains that the demon lives in an actual building instead of “a pit of filth or a nice crypt.” Buffy says she’ll mention that to him.

Faith shows up and offers to tag along on Buffy’s field trip to see the demon. “Is it me or did it just get really cold in here?” Xander asks after seeing how unfriendly Buffy is to Faith. The Slayers go to the demon’s place, where Faith left his body on the floor. Buffy thinks whoever killed him had a little too much fun. Meanwhile, Mayor Wilkins meets with a guy in a shroud, whom he summoned for a special job. Mr. Shroud warns that taking Angel’s soul will require very dark magic. The mayor knows, and he’s very much unconcerned.

Buffy goes back to school, where Willow senses that she’s distracted and encourages her to open up. Buffy confides that she saw Faith and Angel together and thought they seemed “intimate.” Willow’s sure that they didn’t do anything. Yeah, Faith would totally make a move, but Angel wouldn’t give in to her. Buffy’s the only thing that matters to him. Buffy’s still worried, since Angel and Faith have more in common than she and Angel do. Willow advises – well orders, really – her to talk to Angel about her concerns.

Faith gets there first, wanting to apologize to Angel for making a move on him. He tells her it’s okay but keeps his distance from her. He says he wants to trust her, since she needs someone who understands what she’s going through. “Chump,” she spits out as she spins on him and splashes something on his chest. Mr. Shroud appears from the shadows and starts chanting. Faith tells Angel she wanted to “do this the old-fashioned way,” but it’s Angel’s loss. Angel says she doesn’t have to do this. “I know, but it’s fun,” she replies.

Mr. Shroud casts a spell and magic swirls around Angel. When the spell ends, he falls to the floor and Mr. Shroud disappears back into the shadows. Angel gets up and faces Faith, wearing his vamp face. He’s Angelus again.

He kisses her, then thanks her for turning him back into his true self (though he keeps pummeling her, so I guess he just shows his gratitude in strange ways). He’s happy to be back in Sunnydale without his humanity. He’s not sure why Faith had his soul taken away, but he’s glad she did.

He tells her she can’t just have him as a boy toy, and he won’t listen when she tries to explain things. Vampires and Slayers don’t chat. Faith points out that Buffy might disagree with that. She reminds him that last time he lost his soul, Buffy sent him to Hell. If he’ll calm down and play nice, Faith will connect him with the “real power” in Sunnydale. Angelus likes that idea. “Get ready to meet the new boss,” she tells him. Then they make out.

The Scoobies are all gathered in the library, including Cordelia for the first time since she and Xander split up. (It’s clearly just because of Wesley.) Wesley needs them to mobilize to get the Books of Ascension. He wants Angel to participate, too, but Buffy says she doesn’t know where he is. Faith is also MIA. Willow assures her that that doesn’t mean anything.

Giles tells Buffy to search the mayor’s office for the Books of Ascension. Willow hasn’t had any luck with the mayor’s files – she made it through the encryptions, but the files were empty. He must have known someone was digging around. Oz suggests that they go to the Hall of Records and look for information on the mayor there.

Giles sends Wesley and the Scoobies off to do that. Cordelia says she wants to be in Wesley’s group, and Giles points out that there’s only one group. Xander decides to go around town in hopes of overhearing anything that could be helpful (which will conveniently keep him away from Cordelia). Willow’s adorably happy that Oz’s plan was approved. Giles tells Buffy to be careful as everyone leaves.

Faith takes Angelus to the mayor’s office, asking, “Can I keep him?” Mayor Wilkins asks if he can call Angelus “Angel.” Angelus replies that he hoped the mayor would call him “master.” The mayor tells him that attitude might get him attention but he’ll get more respect if he’s polite. After all, the mayor is responsible for his “new attitude.” He tells Angelus that there might be a future for him in Sunnydale.

Angelus has been playing with a letter opener, which he freely admits he was thinking about stabbing the mayor with. The mayor invites him to try. Angelus chucks it at him but the mayor simply puts out his hand and lets the letter opener impale it. He pulls it out and the wound instantly heals. Mayor Wilkins explains that he’s impervious, as part of his plans for the town. Angelus notes that he can’t be killed but he still hates germs.

The mayor asks Angelus’ intentions with Faith, as if he’s her father and Angelus is Faith’s new boyfriend. Angelus plays along, then says he wants to find Buffy, torture her, and kill her. Mayor Wilkins approves. He’s pleased that Angelus isn’t a slacker like a lot of people nowadays. He’s fine with torture, but Buffy’s death needs to be slow. He doesn’t need another Slayer coming along to replace her. He’s sure the next one won’t be like Faith. He sends Angelus and Faith off to have fun, asking Angelus to have his Slayer home by 11:00. “She’s not a little girl anymore,” he comments as they leave.

“‘I love when you talk, Wesley. I love when you sing, Wesley,'” Xander says mockingly as he heads downtown. “Can you say the words ‘jail bait,’ Wesley? Limey bastard.” He comes across Angelus and Faith and starts to tell them to find Buffy. Without responding or even breaking his stride, Angelus punches him so hard he flops onto the sidewalk. “That guy just bugs me,” he grumbles to Faith.

The two of them to go Buffy’s house, where Angelus pretends he’s still Angel as he assures Joyce that they’re not there for anything related to vampires: “The only vampire here is me.” He even compliments her hair. Buffy’s stocking up on weapons before she goes to the mayor’s office, and Angelus says he’s glad they found her before she left. They have the books at his place and want her to come with them to deliver them to Giles. Angelus continues his charade by offering to carry Buffy’s weapons bag.

They go to the mansion, where Buffy gets her first hint that something’s off when Angelus calls her “Buff,” something he never calls her. She thinks something’s wrong but he tells her he hasn’t felt this good in a while. With his vamp face on, he says he never properly thanked her for sending him to Hell. Should he send her a card or a fruit basket? Maybe he’ll just eviscerate her.

Buffy starts crying as Angelus grasps her arms and says she shouldn’t bother thinking that there’s still good inside him that she can reach. “I will kill you before I let you touch me,” she says, fighting him off. She tells Faith they need to leave, but Faith says she likes it there. Angelus punches Buffy out, telling Faith that she’s cute when she’s asleep.

In the Hall of Records, Oz finds something super-helpful: Mayor Wilkins looks exactly like a previous Sunnydale mayor with the same name. Oz guesses they’re actually the same person. Wesley realizes this means the mayor is over 100 years old and can’t be human.

Xander joins the group and says they have another problem. “You know how some people hate to say, ‘I told you so’?” he asks. “Not me. I told you so.” Angel is Angelus again, as Xander suspected would eventually happen. Wesley wants to contact Giles, but Xander thinks their top priority is protecting Buffy. Cordelia tells him not to get mad at Wesley. Xander thinks he should, since he was responsible for Faith, “Angel’s new playmate.”

Buffy wakes up chained to a wall at the mansion. Angelus regrets that they never did anything with chains while they were dating. Buffy warns Faith that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Faith, however, is enjoying herself. She always wanted a dog – something to love. Now she has Angelus. Buffy has to watch while they two of them kiss.

Faith uncovers a bunch of tools she plans to use to torture Buffy. Buffy tells her that Angelus is a killer, and once he’s done with her, he’ll turn on Faith. Angelus confirms this, but Faith says they can just drag things out to keep Buffy alive. She’s free to scream. Buffy asks why Faith is doing this. What’s in this for her? Faith says she hates how everyone loves Buffy so much, even when Faith does everything right. People say that Faith should be more like Buffy, but not vice versa.

Buffy gets everything – the Watcher, Joyce, the Scoobies. Faith gets nothing. This was supposed to be her town. Buffy must think she’s better than Faith. Buffy says she is and always has been. Faith reminds her that Angelus is with her now. Buffy points out that Faith probably had to use magic to get him. Without it, he would never touch her. Faith smacks Buffy, who notes, “You had to tie me up to beat me.” That makes her a loser.

Faith thinks Buffy’s trying to make her mad so she’ll kill her quickly. Faith wants her stick around instead. Buffy asks if she’s sticking around for the ascension. She’ll stop it. Faith tells her she can’t – no one can. The mayor built the town for demons to feed on, and on graduation day, he’ll get his payout. Faith will be right by his side, and the Scoobies will be eaten. Buffy should think about that when Angelus is cutting into her.

Buffy comments that she didn’t realize Faith was so full of rage. “What can I say? I’m the world’s best actor,” Faith replies. “Second best,” Angelus speaks up. He and Buffy confirm that they have all the information they wanted. “May I say something?” Buffy asks. She pulls her arms out of the chains that weren’t actually restraining her and announces, “Psych.” Faith realizes she was played – Angel was Angel the whole time.

The Scoobies run in, ready to take down Angel, and the Slayers start fighting each other. They end up on their knees, holding weapons to each other’s necks. “What’re you gonna do, B? Kill me?” Faith asks. “You become me. You’re not ready for that.” She kisses Buffy’s forehead and adds, “Yet,” before running off. Willow goes to Buffy, asking if she’s okay. Buffy glances up at Angel, not sure how to respond.

The Scoobies regroup in the library, along with a special guest: Mr. Shroud. Giles had him put on a “light show” to fool Faith into thinking he was taking Angel’s soul. Mr. Shroud tells Giles that he’s restored the balance between them and repaid his debt. After he vanishes, Willow asks what Giles did to earn a favor from Mr. Shroud. “I introduced him to his wife,” Giles replies.

Wesley’s upset that Giles pitted Faith against Buffy and could have gotten them both killed. Also, he didn’t tell Wesley. He’s tattling to the Council. Giles likes that idea – they have a rogue Slayer on their hands. Buffy’s glad that they’ve confirmed which side Faith is on. Plus, they know the mayor is planning something big for graduation day. Willow’s relieved that Angel is still good, though Xander wishes he could have proven that without violence. Buffy reminds him it was all an act, but she doesn’t sound that confident.

Faith tells the mayor everything that happened, and he tries to put a positive spin on it. Faith may have lost some friends but he still has her. And once the ascension starts, the Scoobies will probably all die, so who cares? Faith isn’t happy, so Mayor Wilkins tries to cheer her up by suggesting an outing: miniature golf.

Buffy goes to the mansion, where Angel praises her for putting on a show for Faith. She’s still struggling with what it did to her, even though it was her idea. Angel says that he never wanted things to go as far as they did. Buffy gets that, but she needs some space, a break. “You still my girl?” he asks as she leaves. “Always,” she promises.

Thoughts: When this episode first aired, I fully fell for Buffy and Angel’s scheme. I just figured they’d end it the same way they restored Angel’s soul the first time.

I wish they’d clarified how the Scoobies knew what Faith and the mayor were planning and got Mr. Shroud to help them. Did he just warn Giles when he was summoned? Does it all come down to luck that he was the guy the mayor called on? How did he know that Giles even knew Angel?

I love how the Scoobies openly mock Wesley. Like, they’ll respect that he’s “officially” in charge, but they refuse to like it. I also like that Giles has loosened up because he and the others have this common annoyance and he’s seen how being sarcastic makes it easier to deal with him.

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