August 20, 2022

Buffy 3.19, Choices: Where There’s a Willow, There’s a Way

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:15 pm by Jenn

I’d be sobbing by now, so good for Willow

Summary: Mayor Wilkins has a surprise for Faith, which he hopes will get her to agree to do a favor for him at the airport. When she pushes back, he threatens to take back her gift, worried he’s spoiling her, so she gives in. He just needs her to pick up a package from Central America. It’s crucial to his ascension. Faith finally gets to open her present, a shiny new dagger. The mayor warns her not to put out anyone’s eye…until he tells her to.

Buffy has apparently taken back her decision to keep her distance from Angel for a while because he’s joined her on a cemetery patrol. I guess the couple that slays together stays together. After they kill a couple of vampires, Buffy complains that Angel never takes her anywhere nice. (The fire-demon lair they recently raided doesn’t count.) She worries that this will be how the rest of their lives go.

The next morning, Joyce finds an acceptance letter Buffy got from Northwestern University. She’s proud, so Buffy decides not to bring up the possibility that she won’t be able to leave Sunnydale for college. Joyce thinks it’s great that she has choices. At school, Snyder busts a guy for bringing a brown paper bag to another guy. He thinks he’s caught someone dealing drugs. Instead, he’s just caught someone bringing his friend lunch. Deflated, Snyder tells the lunch bringer to sit up straight.

Willow, Oz, and Buffy discuss Joyce, whom Willow thinks is in denial about Buffy’s future. (Willow might be in denial a little, too.) At least Buffy has the option of going to UC Sunnydale, so she won’t have to miss out on college altogether. As for Willow, she has the chance to go all the way to England, since she got into Oxford. “That’s where they make Gileses!” Buffy notes. Willow isn’t sure she wants to go that far away, though.

Xander speaks up from under a nearby tree that everywhere is a foreign country. He’s been reading Jack Kerouac because he thinks he’s “bohemian” and “anti-establishment.” Buffy teases him, and Xander says people like him have always been targeted. “Well, sure – you’re all so weird,” Oz says. Willow admires Xander for wanting to travel and see the world. Cordelia joins the group in time to add that she’s ready to see him go away.

She doesn’t have anything nice to say about any of the schools Willow got into, which include Harvard. She also won’t tell the Scoobies where she was accepted. Buffy tells her and Xander to remember to breathe between insults. Cordelia shoots back that their conversation is only for people who have a future. The other Scoobies try to cheer Buffy up after that hit, but it doesn’t work.

Buffy goes to Wesley to announce that she wants to leave Sunnydale after high school. “You can’t just define me by my slayerness,” she argues. “That’s…something-ism.” Giles joins the conversation, which he’s had with Buffy before, and is just as proud as Joyce when she tells him she got into Northwestern. Wesley declares that she can’t leave Sunnydale – he forbids it, by the power invested in him by the Watchers’ Council. “Oh, yes, that should settle it,” Giles says.

Wesley points out that they’re dealing with a lot right now, what with the ascension approaching and Faith working with the bad guys. Buffy’s fully aware that she might not live long enough to graduate. But if she stops the ascension and captures Faith, then Giles and Wesley just have to deal with regular old vampires while she’s at school. She’ll come back for every break and be a Slayer then.

Wesley still won’t budge, so Buffy decides they should be proactive – they’ll stop waiting for whatever the mayor is going to do next and go on the offensive. Giles likes that idea and asks her what her plan is. Buffy doesn’t have one, so he advises her to find out what the mayor is up to. She’s fine with that; she just thought he meant a plan involving things like maps.

That night, a guy arrives in Sunnydale via private plane, carrying a very fancy box. He objects to being met by one of the mayor’s vampire minions instead of the mayor himself. He threatens to raise his price for the box, but an arrow in his back, courtesy of Faith, knocks it down to $0. “You killed him!” the minion exclaims. “What are you, the narrator?” Faith replies. Heh. The guy with the box handcuffed it to himself, and the minion can’t find the key, so Faith uses her new dagger to cut off his hand.

The minion drives her to City Hall, where Buffy lurks outside and sees her taking the box in. The mayor is pleased that Faith both saved him money and showed initiative. She just needs to stop putting her feet up on his desk. He tells her that if Buffy walked in and asked to join their side, he would turn her down, since Faith is all the Slayer he needs. She doesn’t like the mention of Buffy, but she says it’s not because of Angel. She starts to open the box, and the mayor slams the lid back down, telling her not to touch it. Meanwhile, Buffy follows the minion and asks him what’s in the box.

The next morning, she takes the information she got from him to the library. The Box of Gavrok holds some kind of demonic energy that the mayor needs to consume for the ascension. The Scoobies plan to steal it, which will require a mini-heist. Yay, heists! I love heists! Wesley tries to give orders, but Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles, plow ahead without his input. Buffy and Angel will grab the box, and Willow will use magic to destroy it.

Wesley tells everyone to stop so they can come up with a better strategy. Buffy advises him to get on board or get out of their way. He points out that Mayor Wilkins will probably have something supernatural protecting the box, so it won’t be as easy to grab it as they think. Buffy says Willow can handle it. They all leave while Wesley pouts.

Xander heads downtown, possibly for a donut run, and spots Cordelia in a boutique. He goes in to pick a fight with her, guessing that she didn’t want to talk about college plans because she didn’t get into any. She gives him “the gold medal in the being-wrong event” by showing him a pile of acceptance letters from respectable schools including Columbia and Duke. Xander assumes her father paid her way in.

That night, Buffy, Angel, Willow, Giles, and Wesley head to City Hall. The Watchers will stay in their black we’re-doing-something-shady van while the other three get the box. Wesley wants everyone to synchronize their watches, but Buffy, Willow, and Angel don’t wear them. Also, I’m not sure why they would need to synchronize them if they’re not operating under any time constraints.

Oz and Xander are in the library, tasked with mixing up a potion that Willow will later use to destroy the box. They’re not sure which ingredients are which, but Willow has left them very detailed instructions. She even drew a diagram featuring Oz, Xander, and the pedestal that will hold the urn they’re using for the mixture. (Oz knows which stick figure is him because he’s holding a guitar.)

Buffy, Angel, and Willow go to the roof of City Hall, where they get a clear view of the box through a skylight. Willow does a spell to neutralize any supernatural safeguards on it, then heads back to the van. Buffy suits up in a harness and Angel lowers her through the skylight so she can grab the box. Unfortunately, there’s still an alarm attached to it, and when Angel tries to pull her back up, the mechanism jams. When a couple of vampire minions burst into the room, there’s not much Angel can do other than jump down and help Buffy fight them.

He grabs the box and uses it as a weapon while she gets herself out of the harness. There’s a bunch of fighting and some tossing around of the box, but eventually Buffy and Angel get away with it. Giles and Wesley pull up outside and make the vampires think Buffy and Angel jumped in and are driving away. This diversion allows them to escape undetected. So the whole evening was a success, right? Wrong. The Scoobies may have the box, but the bad guys have something they’ll want even more: Willow.

The Scoobies regroup in the library, where Buffy can barely contain her anger over the failure to protect Willow. She promises Oz that they’ll rescue her. Xander suggests that they just stage an assault on City Hall, but Giles thinks the bad guys will kill Willow. Wesley notes that they might have already. Buffy doubts that, since they’ll know how valuable she is for a trade. All they have to do is offer up the Box of Gavrok in exchange for Willow.

Wesley objects, because of course he does. They need to destroy the box. “I need a volunteer to hit Wesley,” Xander says. Wesley asks Giles to back him up, and Buffy advises Wesley to take cover before they all attack him. He snaps at her, reminding her that the box is key to the ascension, and they could save thousands of lives by destroying it. He wants to help Willow, but they’ll have to do it another way. Buffy tells him there is no other way.

Wesley notes that she wanted to take the fight to the mayor. She was right, and the way to do that is to protect the town by getting rid of the box. If Buffy wants to leave after graduation (Angel looks a little pained at that), this will clear the way for her. Buffy can’t believe that Wesley thinks that’s important to her right now.

Giles calls for a rational discussion, but that just sets everyone off and causes yelling. Wesley’s shocked that the Scoobies are willing to sacrifice thousands of lives, including their own families and friends, to save one person. Ooh, it’s like the trolley problem! In the background, Oz – who hasn’t said a word through the entire discussion – gets up and crosses the room.

Wesley tells the Scoobies that this can all end right now. They have all they need to get rid of the box. Behind him, Oz throws the pedestal across the room, smashing the urn and all the ingredients they were going to use to destroy the box. He gives Buffy a little nod that says, “You know what to do.” She tells Giles to call City Hall and arrange the trade.

Willow searches the office she’s been locked up in for a weapon. A vampire minion catches her and eyes her as a midnight snack. She warns him not to “eat the hostage,” but he just wants a taste. As he’s leaning over her, she uses her pencil-floating skills to levitate a pencil and plunge it into his back, dusting him. Excellent.

Willow makes a run for it, hiding when she hears Mayor Wilkins and Faith approaching. He compares Buffy to a dog, a loyal creature who values friendship more than reason or self-preservation. The mayor plans to kill her like a dog. Once they’ve passed, Willow runs in the opposite direction and comes across the mayor’s office. She takes a look around, finding his cabinet of occult items (and wet wipes). It’s where he’s stashed the Books of Ascension, which Willow gets a good peek at.

Faith catches her there sometime later and slams her for “Nancy Drewing” instead of running for her life when she had the chance. Now she knows too much, so they’ll have to kill her. Willow tries to delay that by saying she wants to talk. Faith doesn’t want to hear another lecture about how it’s not too late for her to go back to the good side. Willow says that, actually, it’s way too late. It didn’t have to be this way, but Faith made her choice.

Willow doesn’t have any sympathy for Faith – yeah, she had a bad life, but she had more than some people. She had friends like Buffy, and now she has no one. She went from being a Slayer to being nothing. She’s “a big, selfish, worthless waste.” Faith punches her for that, figuring that’s a more efficient way to hurt Willow than to insult her. Willow taunts that Faith just doesn’t have a good comeback.

Faith is ready to hurt Willow, who tries to be brave as she says she’s not afraid of Faith. That’s before she sees Faith’s new dagger, though. Mayor Wilkins finds them and tells Faith she’ll have to play with her new toy later. “I got someone,” Faith tells Willow – she has the mayor.

The Scoobies go to the school cafeteria, locking it down so there’s only one way in and out. This is where they’ll make the trade for Willow. The lights go out, leaving Angel the only person able to see clearly. The mayor, Faith, and Willow come in with a few minions, and Buffy and the mayor face off. He’s excited about the dramatic setting and thinks they should have worn trenchcoats.

Buffy tells him to let Willow go, but he refuses until he has the box. He comments that Buffy’s the “little girl” who’s been causing so much trouble. He tells Angel she’s pretty, but he wishes Angel and Faith could have made things work. Angel must just have weird taste in women. “Well, what can I say – I like ’em sane,” Angel replies. Faith doesn’t appreciate that, and Oz worries that she’ll take it out on Willow.

The mayor says he wishes Buffy and Angel the best, but he doesn’t think they’ll last (and not just because he plans to kill them both). Kids don’t like to make plans or think about the future. They need to respect their elders and listen to him right now. Angel notes that he’s older than the mayor. Mayor Wilkins says that’s one of the obstacles he and Buffy are facing: Angel’s immortal and Buffy isn’t.

The mayor married his wife in ’03 (no clarification if that’s 1903 or 1803) and stayed with her until she died. It wasn’t pleasant. Plus, Angel and Buffy have the added issue of not being able to have sex without him turning evil. He can’t offer her much of a life. They can’t even go out in the sun together. Angel’s selfish for keeping Buffy from the life she could have. “Is that what you came back from Hell for?” Mayor Wilkins asks. “Is that your greater purpose?”

Okay, enough talking – it’s time to trade. Faith and Angel exchange Willow and the box with no problems. But before the two groups can go their separate ways, Snyder bursts in with some security guards. The mayor steps back into the shadows as Snyder accuses the Scoobies of making a drug deal. Faith is ready to let her dagger take care of things when the mayor steps forward and announces his presence. Snyder’s scared of him, so he backs off.

But one of the security guards is curious about the contents of the box, and he starts to open it before the mayor can stop him. A giant spider jumps out and attacks the guard’s face. Once he’s dead, the spider scampers off. Snyder tells another guard to open one of the locked doors, but Giles warns him not to in case the spider escapes. Buffy quiets everyone so she can listen for it. It jumps down from the ceiling, right on the mayor’s face.

Faith goes to help him as another spider escapes the box. Faith throws the first one off, and the mayor’s face heals from the wounds the spider gave him. Buffy slams the box shut as another spider is trying to get out, but one jumps down from the ceiling onto her back. Faith spots one on a wall behind Wesley and whips her dagger at it.

The mayor decides this is a good time to leave, so he picks up the box. He tells the Scoobies that it contains billions more spiders and offers to show them. “Raise your hand if you’re invulnerable,” he teases. He summons Faith to leave with him, and she’s distressed to have to leave her dagger behind. Snyder takes everything in from behind a chair he’s picked up to use as a shield. He wishes the Scoobies would just deal drugs like normal people.

Once all the bad guys are gone, Buffy pulls Faith’s dagger out of the wall. “Well, that went swimmingly,” Wesley comments. “We did all right,” Buffy replies, looking at Willow. They head to the library, where Willow tells Buffy about her encounter with Faith. Giles interrupts to ask about her time with the Books of Ascension. She didn’t get much information out of what she read…but she stole a bunch of pages, which delights Giles. Wesley says they’re back where they started, having lost the box, so clearly he doesn’t care that they saved Willow, since they lost their one advantage in the process.

Sometime later, Buffy and Willow meet up on the quad for another conversation about Buffy’s future. She thinks she really won’t ever be able to leave Sunnydale. There will always be something that she has to take care of. Willow says she has the option to go pretty much anywhere she wants, but she’s chosen to attend UC Sunnydale with Buffy.

Buffy doesn’t want her to give up the great opportunities she could have, but being a hostage made Willow realize what she wants to do with her life: fight evil. It’s not always something you do because you have to. Plus, Sunnydale is a great place for her to develop her magic skills. Buffy comments that it’s nice how sometimes you see another side of something. At the boutique where Xander ran into Cordelia before, she’s admiring the same dress he saw her with. She’s not there to shop, though – she’s working there.

Buffy and Angel hang out in a cemetery that night, talking about her college plans. She tries to act like the mayor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There’s no reason they can’t have a lasting relationship. “Probably the only lasting relationship he’s ever had is…with…evil,” Buffy says. “Big, stupid evil guy.” But she and Angel both clearly doubt that they’ll be able to prove the mayor wrong and be together forever.

Thoughts: I love the line “that’s where they make Gileses!”

The scene where Oz smashes the urn is perfect. Always keep an eye on the quiet ones. They’re doing the most thinking.

Snyder’s freakout over the lunch bag “drug deal” is even funnier later, when Xander brings a paper bag of spell ingredients into the school. Snyder has the right idea, I guess, but once again isn’t monitoring the right people.

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