April 1, 2023

Buffy 5.7, Fool for Love: “What Can I Tell You, Baby? I’ve Always Been Bad”

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:16 pm by Jenn

I could watch these scenes all day

Summary: Buffy’s fighting a punk-ish vampire in a cemetery, and everything’s going like it should until he somehow gets the better of her and stabs her in the stomach with her own stake. She tries to run away but he catches up to her and prepares to stab her again. At the last moment, Riley tackles him and tries to taze him, but the vampire runs off.

Buffy passes out, and Riley takes her home and patches her up. He thinks she should see a doctor, but she doesn’t want Joyce to find out that she got hurt. Plus, there’s no point when she has her Slayer super-healing (and a boyfriend with combat medical training). Riley asks how many vampires attacked her. Buffy’s embarrassed to admit that it was just one. She’s in the best physical shape of her life, so she doesn’t know how he got the better of her.

Dawn runs into Buffy’s bedroom to let her know that Joyce is on her way in. Riley hides anything that might make her suspicious. Dawn even pretends that the rubbing alcohol he was using is hers, from a nail polish experiment. As a reward, Buffy tells her she got hurt. Mostly that’s because she needs Dawn to help out more around the house while Buffy’s healing. Riley offers to patrol that night, and Buffy asks him to take the Scoobies with him. Sorry, Dawn, you’re not invited.

Riley puts on some of his old camo for the patrol, while Willow, Xander, and Anya don’t bother. They try to interpret his hand signals, and when they can’t, Xander yells to him to ask what they mean. Riley tells them to go check out the Bronze instead of continuing to be unstealthy in the cemetery. They promise to be quieter, which means getting rid of the chips they’re snacking on.

At the Magic Box, Buffy and Giles read up on past Slayers. Buffy wants to know about their last battles and why they lost. She doesn’t get why, after training harder than ever, she almost got killed. If she can understand what went wrong, maybe she can keep it from happening again. Giles notes that after a Slayer dies, it’s pretty hard to find out why. Buffy asks about Watchers’ journals, but Giles thinks that after losing a Slayer, the Watchers can’t bring themselves to write about them.

Buffy realizes that there’s someone she can ask in person about Slayers’ final battles. Spike killed two Slayers, and she tells him that he’s going to show her how. They go to the Bronze so Spike can have a beer while he tells his story. He doesn’t think there’s much to tell, though – he fought the Slayers and they died. The end. Spike realizes that Buffy’s hurt and taunts her about it. She asks if he was born this annoying. “What can I tell you, baby?” he replies. “I’ve always been bad.”

London, 1880: Spike, then known as William, is writing a poem but can’t find a good word that rhymes with “gleaming.” As a human, his speech and clothing aren’t too different from Giles’. He sees a woman he’s interested in, Cecily, and gets some inspiration. They’re at a party where some people are discussing recent disappearances in town. When someone asks his opinion, William says he would rather think about things of beauty than dark stuff like death. The police can deal with that.

Someone swipes his poem and reads it out loud:

“My heart expands
‘Tis grown a bulge in’t
Inspired by
Your beauty effulgent.”

Everyone laughs except Cecily. A woman jokes that he’s called William the Bloody “because of his bloody awful poetry.” The man who read the poem says he’d rather have a railroad spike driven through his head than listen to any more. William leaves the room and finds Cecily, who asks if his poems are about her. He admits that they are and professes his love. She isn’t interested. He tells her that he may be a bad poet, but he’s a good man. Cecily tells him that he’s nothing to her: “You’re beneath me.”

William tears up his poem as he leaves the party. He ends up in a barn, which is where he meets his future girlfriend for the first time. Drusilla says that he’s surrounded by fools who “can’t see his strength, his vision, his glory.” Also, he has burning baby fish swimming around his head. William thinks that Drusilla is a pickpocket, but she says his real wealth is in his heart and mind, his spirit and imagination. He walks in worlds that other people can’t grasp.

William tries to leave, saying his mother is expecting him. Drusilla can see that he wants “something glowing and glistening. Something effulgent.” She asks if he wants it and he says yes. She vamps out and bites him. He yells in pain, then finds the experience pleasurable.

Present: The Scoobies spot the vampire who injured Buffy and track him to a crypt, where he’s telling some buddies about stabbing the Slayer. Riley decides there are too many of them, so they’ll come back in the morning to take them out.

Spike and Buffy play pool as he tells her about becoming a vampire. He says that dying made him feel alive for the first time. He was done with following the rules and decided to make his own. But first he had to get a gang.

Yorkshire, 1880: Drusilla has introduced William – now Spike – to Angelus and Darla, but Angelus isn’t interested in bringing him into their little group. Spike has gone from the quiet guy in the corner of the party to an attention-seeking trouble-maker. They had to flee London, and now they’re hiding in a mine shaft. Angelus complains that every time Spike makes a scene, they become targets.

Darla hopes the guys fight. Spike thinks Angelus should, since he needs to unleash and get out some aggression. Angelus would rather stay civilized, the only thing that makes them different from animals. Spike eggs him on until Angelus attacks, which is just what Spike wanted. Angelus warns that Spike can’t act like this forever. Maybe one day, an angry mob will teach Spike a lesson. Or maybe the Slayer will. This is the first time Spike has heard of one of those.

Present: Spike tells Buffy that he became obsessed with the Slayer. Unlike other vampires, he wasn’t afraid of her. He went looking for her. Buffy asks how he killed the first one. Spike grabs her from behind and tells her that a Slayer should always reach for her weapon. He shows his vamp face and says he already has his. When you become a vampire, there’s nothing to be afraid of except the Slayer..

China, 1900: Spike faces off with the Slayer, who’s Chinese, in a temple as a village burns during the Boxer Rebellion. Spike’s having a great time. The Slayer does some swordplay, slicing Spike’s brow and giving him his iconic scar. He breaks the weapon and she has to switch to hand-to-hand combat. She’s about to stake him when a fire flares nearby and she gets distracted. Eventually Spike is able to grab her from behind and sink his teeth into her neck. As she dies, she asks him to tell her mother that she’s sorry. “Sorry, love, I don’t speak Chinese,” he replies. He’s exhilarated by the kill and says he could get used to this.

Drusilla finds him a little while later, happy about his accomplishment. Spike is turned on, and he has Drusilla lick some of the Slayer’s blood from his finger. They start making out, ignoring the fire around them. Later, they meet up with Darla and Angelus, who was actually Angel again by then, having gotten his soul back two years earlier, and who says that killing the Slayer makes Spike one of them. Spike notes that when the next Slayer is called, Angel can have the first shot at killing her.

Present: Spike says that was the best night of his life. Buffy’s disgusted that he was so turned on by what he did. He thinks she must feel the same about killing vampires. She can stake all the vampires in the world, but they just need one good day to take out the Slayer. She’s so good at what she does that she thinks she’s immortal now. Buffy tells him she just knows how to handle herself. Spike punches her wound, which causes them both pain. She asks if this is the end of the lesson. He says they’re not even close. They’re just changing locations.

Instead of waiting for the morning, Riley goes back to the crypt by himself. He does a pretty cool move where he gets the vampire who stabbed Buffy to drop her stake right into his hand. After he’s staked that guy, Riley leaves the others with a parting gift in the form of a grenade.

In the alley behind the Bronze, Spike continues his story. The second lesson is that Buffy’s asking the wrong question. It’s not about how Spike won the battles with the Slayers; it’s about why the Slayers lost. Buffy doesn’t see a difference. He says it’s a big one. He starts sparring with her, which doesn’t hurt him because he knows he can’t touch her. If he doesn’t intend to hurt someone, he doesn’t feel any pain. Buffy punches him a couple of times and asks again how he killed the Slayers. Spike says she’s not ready to know.

New York City, 1977: Spike, who now has his signature bleached hair and is dressed like a Billy Idol groupie, fights the Slayer (who we’ll later learn is named Nikki) on a moving subway. He tells Buffy in the present that she and Nikki had similar styles. “I could have danced all night with that one,” he says as he and Buffy spar, recreating his fight with Nikki. “You think we’re dancing?” Buffy asks. “That’s all we’ve ever done,” he replies. The dance never stops.

Spike says that every day, you wake up wondering if it’s the day you’ll die. “Death is on your heels, baby, and sooner or later, it’s gonna catch you,” he tells Buffy. In 1977, he’s dislodged a subway pole, which he uses to try to hit Nikki. He thinks that part of Buffy wants to die, not just because it’ll end her uncertainty and fear but because she’s a little in love with it.

Nikki gets Spike on the ground and punches him a few times. The train goes through a tunnel, making everything dark, and when it’s light again, Spike is on top of Nikki. He looks up and says what he’s telling Buffy in the present: “Death is your art. You make it with your hands day after day. That final gasp, that look of peace. Part of you is desperate to know, what’s it like? Where does it lead you?”

That’s the real secret. It’s not about the moves Buffy screwed up during a fight. Nikki wanted death. Every Slayer has a death wish. Spike snaps Nikki’s neck in 1977, telling Buffy in the present that that includes her. He pulls the cord to stop the subway, then goes back to take Nikki’s jacket, the leather one he now wears all the time.

He tells Buffy that she’s only survived as long as she has because she has ties to the world, like her family and friends. But they just make Buffy put off the inevitable: “Sooner or later, you’re gonna want it. And the second – the second that happens, you know I’ll be there. I’ll slip in, have myself a real good day.” Buffy looks a tiny bit shaken. “Here endeth the lesson,” Spike says. He wonders if Buffy will enjoy death as much as Nikki did.

Buffy orders Spike to leave, and he taunts that he got to her. He eggs her on to fight him. When she won’t, he leans in like he’s going to kiss her. She’s disgusted, but he says he knows she wants to “dance.” Buffy shoves him to the ground and tells him that even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t do it with him. She tosses the money she offered him for his help all around him and tells him, “You’re beneath me.”

Spike cries a little as he picks up the money. Then he gets mad. He goes home to grab a gun, telling Harmony that if Buffy thinks he’s beneath her, he’ll put her beneath him – specifically, six feet beneath him. She doesn’t need a death wish. Harmony tries to talk Spike out of going after someone who will beat the crap out of him and then stake him. He thinks he can kill Buffy before she can hurt him. As he storms out, Harmony calls after him that he couldn’t kill Buffy before the chip, and he had plenty of chances.

South America, 1998: “Why can’t you kill her?” Drusilla asks Spike. They’ve fled Sunnydale, and Drusilla knows that Spike is still obsessed with Buffy. He says he tried to push her away for Drusilla, but Drusilla keeps cheating on him. In fact, the chaos demon he caught her making out with is standing right there. Drusilla says that Spike tastes like ashes. The chaos demon decides he shouldn’t be a part of this and leaves. Wait, shouldn’t he enjoy chaos? Drusilla says that Spike is “covered with her.” When she looks at him, all she sees is Buffy.

Present: Buffy goes home and finds Joyce packing a suitcase. Her recent health issues have led to the need for a CAT scan, which requires an overnight stay at the hospital. The doctors are optimistic, thinking that if there’s anything wrong, they caught it early. Joyce assures Buffy that she’ll be fine.

Buffy goes out to the backyard to be alone. Spike finds her there, crying. It would be the perfect moment to kill her – she’s vulnerable and unarmed, and she doesn’t even notice him for a few moments. But when he sees how upset she is, he just asks what’s wrong. Buffy says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Spike gently asks if there’s anything he can do. She doesn’t respond, so he sits down next to her and pats her back a little. She still doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t send him away, either, so they sit there in silence.

Thoughts: I’d forgotten that this was a companion episode to the Angel episode “Darla.” (Spoiler alert: Darla was resurrected.) In that, we learn that the disappearances people were discussing at the party in London were the work of Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla. Also, Darla tried to help Angel get his groove back in China by urging him to eat a baby.

If I were a Scooby and I found out about Spike’s poem, I would work the word “effulgent” into every conversation I had with him.

How many Slayers have been American? Buffy, Nikki, and Faith all were, and they were all called within a 20-year time frame. There are almost 200 countries in the world and three Slayers in 20 years came from just one of them?

The scene where Spike tells Buffy about killing Nikki is really well done with the way it goes back and forth between eras, as if it’s all happening at once. It starts to feel like a dance.

March 25, 2023

Buffy 5.6, Family: A Place in the World

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


Summary: While Miss Kitty Fantastico plays with yarn, Willow asks Tara to tell her a story. Tara makes one up about a kitty who was all alone and was taken to the pound, which was full of different animals, including dolphins and half of a camel. Then the kitty was chosen by nice people and taken home and got a happy ending.

Willow’s ready for bed but Tara wants to read up on some spells. She’s been working hard on magic recently so she can feel more useful to the Scoobies. Willow promises her that she’s essential to the group. They wonder if Buffy found out anything during her return trip to the factory. Willow guesses that if she did, she would have called.

Buffy only called Giles, who has no idea how to respond to the news that Dawn is a key. Buffy doesn’t want to tell her, since she would freak out. They need to keep Dawn safe. Giles suggests sending her away, since Glory must know that Buffy knows what’s going on. They could send Dawn to Hank. Apparently Hank ran off to Spain with his secretary, and he didn’t even get in touch after Buffy let him know that Joyce was sick. JERK.

Buffy says that Dawn cried for a week when their father left. Now she knows that wasn’t real, but she still feels it. The monks sent Dawn to Buffy, and she feels responsible for her not-really sister. She wants to take care of Dawn. Buffy doesn’t think they should let the other Scoobies in on the secret, since they would act weird around Dawn. It’s safer if they don’t know. Giles says they need to find out more about Glory, in case she comes after Buffy. Buffy’s sure she will. Back at the factory, Glory emerges from the rubble of the collapse she caused and says, “Okay. Now I’m upset.”

The next day, the Scoobies help Buffy move out of her gigantic single dorm room. She notices that Giles isn’t exactly contributing. He says he saw himself in more of a “patriarchal role,” pointing and scowling. He demonstrates by snapping at Xander and Riley to stop wrestling with each other. Xander says that Riley called him a bad name, or possibly just something in Latin.

Buffy’s moving back to the Summerses’ house since she’s always there anyway. She notices that Dawn hs disappeared, but it’s just because she’s been removing things from the room like she was supposed to. Buffy’s sore from her fight with Glory, and the Scoobies promise that they’ll provide backup the next time she comes around. Tara says that if Buffy learns Glory’s source, they can introduce her to her insect reflection. Apparently that’s a good joke “if you studied Taglarin mythic rites and are a complete dork.” “Then how come Xander didn’t laugh?” Riley quips. Heh.

When Tara leaves the room, Willow reminds everyone else to be at the Bronze by 8:00 the next night. They completely forgot about Tara’s surprise birthday party. Buffy’s looking forward to a break from the current craziness. Speaking of crazy, Ben notices the admittance of another patient with the symptoms the security guard from the factory had. It seems to be a spreading epidemic. As Ben is changing in the hospital locker room after a shift, a gross-looking demon with a snake-like tongue creeps toward him. Glory holds it back and tells it she needs a favor.

Anya’s already improved her customer-relations skills, thanking a Magic Box customer for shopping there and saying they value her patronage: “Please come again for more purchases!” Giles thinks she’s a little too enthusiastic, but how can she not be? The customers give them money in exchange for items, Giles gives Anya money for working for him, and Anya feels like she has a place in the world. She’s part of the system, a working gal. But she only wants to be part of the system when it involves interesting tasks.

Buffy and Xander come in talking about Tara’s party, which neither of them is really that thrilled to attend. Giles has been looking into Glory, but Buffy didn’t give him much to go on. He asks for more info on what she’s like. “She was kind of like Cordelia, actually,” Buffy tells him. “I’m pretty sure she dyes her hair.” Giles sarcastically replies that that should help him narrow it down.

Xander joins Buffy to do research, and also to talk about presents for Tara. They don’t know her well enough to know what to get her. She’s nice and all, but they don’t really click with her. They anticipate a lot of Wiccans at the party and worry that they won’t fit in. Xander notes that Willow has something new in her life, but she’s still the old Willow, so they get her. All they know about Tara is that she likes Willow, and, as Xander notes, “she already has one of those.” Buffy complains that Tara’s birthday is one too many things for her to worry about. Xander suggests that she train or do something to work off the tension.

Buffy takes his advice that night when she fights Spike in his crypt. He tells her that if she wants him, she can come and get him. She replies that she’s coming right now. Cut to Spike having sex with Harmony while daydreaming about Buffy. Harmony is, as usual, completely clueless.

Giles checks in with Buffy and Xander, asking if they’ve made any progress. They think he’s talking about brainstorming presents for Tara rather than figuring out what Glory is. He reminds them that they’re in a magic shop, so if they can’t figure out what to get a witch while sitting in a room full of things witches like, they’re both idiots. Xander asks what they’re supposed to get Tara, a crystal ball? Giles says no, since he’s already wrapped one.

A customer notices the pile of books Buffy and Xander are looking through, and Giles tells him they’re part of a private collection. The guy asks if the books are full of spells that do things like turn people into frogs. Xander quips that, yes, they’re “building a race of frog people.” The guy asks if everyone there is a witch and jokes that they shouldn’t do a spell on him. Tara and Willow arrive just then (Willow didn’t hear the “insect reflection” joke earlier, and she’s laughing at it now) and Tara is surprised to see the customer. He’s her older brother, Donny.

Tara’s stutter, which had mostly disappeared, returns when she talks to her brother. He tells her they came down to surprise her and have been looking for her all over campus. “They” refers to their father and cousin Beth, who come in next. Willow looks a little disappointed when Tara introduces the Scoobies as her friends but doesn’t single her out as someone more significant. Tara’s relationship with her family isn’t warm at all, but she agrees to have dinner with them.

After the research session, Buffy goes home, where Riley’s been unpacking her stuff for her. Dawn’s about to head out to have dinner at a friend’s house, but Buffy won’t let her go. She says it’s not safe, which makes no sense to Dawn, since the friend lives just across the street. Buffy declares this family night. Plus, she doesn’t think Melinda’s a good influence: “I don’t like you hanging out with someone that…short.” Dawn’s not looking forward to having her controlling big sister living in the house again.

Riley agrees with Dawn that Buffy is being too strict. He senses that something’s going on, but Buffy won’t tell him anything. He offers to contact Graham about helping them figure out what Glory is, but Buffy firmly says no. She thinks it’ll be safer for them the fewer people they get involved. Riley’s annoyed that she seems to be pushing him away. She promises that she wants him to help, but she’s not exactly showing him that.

Tara’s father is waiting for her when she gets home (she and Willoa aren’t in an apartment as I first thought; they have a dorm room in the same dorm Buffy and Willow lived in last season). He thinks she left out all her witchy stuff so he would see it. He snipes that she doesn’t even try to hide it anymore. He’d hoped she’d gotten past “the whole witchcraft thing.”

Tara says that she didn’t know her family was coming. Mr. Maclay thinks she should have. They haven’t heard from her in months, and her birthday is almost here. She knows what that means. Tara starts to say that she doesn’t think it will mean anything. Mr. Maclay reminds her that she’s turning 20, the same age her mother was when she…something. He asks if Tara’s friends know. She says yes, but he can tell she’s lying.

He announces that she’s coming home with her family. “You can’t control what’s going to happen,” he tells her. “You have evil inside of you, and it will come out. And letting yourself work all this magic is only going to make it worse. Where do you think that power comes from?” Tara timidly says that it doesn’t feel evil. “Evil never does,” he replies. He gives her the night to say goodbye; they’re leaving in the morning. He says her family loves her no matter what. Her friends might not feel the same when they see her “true face.”

Glory has chained up the demon in her huge closet full of nice clothes. She’s very unhappy about Buffy’s interference with her plans. The demon IDs Buffy as a Slayer, which makes Glory feel worse. She can’t believe she was bested by someone that common. She tells the demon to gather its friends and kill Buffy.

Willow comes home and tells Tara that Giles has called a Scooby meeting about Glory. Willow wants to try the demon-locating spell they didn’t have luck with last time (because Tara purposely botched it). Tara says her family’s there, so she can’t drop everything to go be a Scooby. Not everything is about them. She backs off and says she’s just tired and has a lot going on. She’ll see Willow in the morning. After Willow leaves, Tara looks up a spell. She sneaks into the Magic Box and performs it without the Scoobies noticing.

Willy’s bar is still in business, though Willy himself isn’t working tonight. Apparently Riley has been coming in a lot. Sandy, who is somehow not dead, joins him at the bar and flirts with him. She invites him to go somewhere private with him, but he says he’s seeing someone. Also, he doesn’t date vampires.

Spike is admiring the head of his Buffy-substitute mannequin when Harmony comes home after a shopping spree. Well, I don’t know if it qualifies as a shopping spree when she stole everything. She ran into another vampire who told her that a demon is recruiting people to help kill Buffy. Spike says he’s happy to hear it. Harmony suggests getting the killers a gift basket if they pull it off. Ha! Spike heads out, saying he wants a front-row seat if they’re successful.

Tara runs into Beth back on campus and tells her she’s not going home with their family. Beth, who’s been very pleasant this whole time, calls her a selfish b^%#$ who doesn’t care about how worried her father has been since she left. Donny and Mr. Maclay have had to take care of themselves (the horror!) while Tara has been in Sunnydale, “living God knows what kind of lifestyle.” Beth is looking forward to the Scoobies finding out the truth about Tara. No matter how innocent she acts, they’ll see the real her. That is, unless Tara did a spell on them. Beth realizes she did and threatens to tell Mr. Maclay.

Tara says she only did a spell so the Scoobies wouldn’t see the demon part of her. She bets Beth not to tell her father. It was a harmless spell. Maybe it was in terms of Tara’s true nature, but it’s blinded the Scoobies to all demons. That means that when a couple of them show up at the Magic Box to kill Buffy, Willow doesn’t see them.

Beth tells Tara that she’s out of control – she’s been lying to her friends for a year, and now she’s done a spell on them. “Is that right? Is that a human thing to do?” she asks. She’s going to tell Mr. Maclay, and she expects that if he doesn’t force Tara to come home with them, he’ll spill everything to the Scoobies. Tara should tell them first, then say goodbye.

Three demons enter the Magic Box and walk around completely unnoticed. Buffy seems to sense them, but she doesn’t get confirmation that they’re there until one growls a little. She starts fighting them and yells for Giles. One of the demons stops Xander from running in to help her, which just confuses Willow, who sees him fighting nothing. They quickly realize they’re dealing with invisible enemies and do the best they can.

Spike arrives, eager to watch Buffy get killed, but it doesn’t take long for him to decide to lend the Scoobies a hand instead. Buffy’s able to get out of the training room and join her friends in the main shop. She tells them to be quiet so she can hear where the demons are. Tara arrives just then and warns her that one is behind her. She realizes that her spell has put the Scoobies in danger, so she quickly ends it.

Tara’s family shows up as Buffy is finishing off the last demon. Spike, who killed one in the training room, comes in and IDs them. Tara apologetically says that she was trying to hide so Willow wouldn’t see what she is. Mr. Maclay announces that the women in the family “have demon in them.” Tara’s mother did. It was the source of her magic. They came to get Tara before this sort of thing started happening.

Giles realizes that Tara did a spell to keep them from seeing demons. The Scoobies aren’t happy about that, but Willow doesn’t want them to write Tara off for doing a spell that went wrong. Mr. Maclay says that Tara isn’t Willow’s concern. She belongs with her family, since they know how to “control her problem.” Willow says that she trusted Tara more than anyone in her life. Was it all a lie? Tara promises it wasn’t.

Willow asks if Tara wants to leave. Mr. Maclay says it’s not her decision. Willow snaps that she knows, then asks Tara again. Tara doesn’t want to go, but Mr. Maclay says it’s what’s right. It should be clear that Tara belongs with her family. Buffy says it is, and if Mr. Maclay wants Tara, he can take her. Tara’s sad to hear that until Buffy adds, “You just gotta go through me.”

Dawn joins her and Mr. Maclay scoffs at the idea of “two little girls” standing in his way. Dawn tells him he doesn’t want to mess with them. Buffy confirms that Dawn fights dirty: “She’s a hair-puller.” Giles stands behind the sisters, saying they’re not the only people the Maclays will have to go through. Xander agrees – the Maclays are dealing with all of them. “‘Cept me,” Spike speaks up. “‘Cept Spike,” Xander confirms. “I don’t care what happens,” Spike says. Mr. Maclay tells the Scoobies that they have no right to get involved here. The Maclays are Tara’s blood kin. Who are the Scoobies? “We’re family,” Buffy says.

Donny threatens to beat his sister if she doesn’t get in the car. Xander threatens him right back. Beth says she hopes the Scoobies will be happy hanging out with a “disgusting demon.” Anya raises her hand to ask what kind of demon Tara is. After all, not all demons are evil; some are “useful members of society.” The Maclays don’t think it matters, since evil is evil. Anya asks them to narrow it down.

Spike decides to lend a hand to answer the question. Literally, he lends a hand by punching Tara in the nose. Willow’s upset on her behalf until she realizes that the action hurt Spike’s head. That means Tara’s human. Spike guesses that the family tells their women that they have demons in them in order to keep them under the men’s control. He’s kind of impressed. Tara’s relieved to realize that she’s not a demon.

Mr. Maclay reminds Tara that her family has cared for her and supported her for her entire life. She just tells him to leave. Beth is angry at her for disturbing the family dynamic, but Tara’s thrilled to be able to live her life the way she wants. It’s the perfect time for a celebration, which the Scoobies have at the Bronze in honor of Tara’s birthday. Even the ones who weren’t excited for the party a couple days ago have a good time.

As Buffy and Riley make up, Tara tries to explain the “insect reflection” joke to Anya. She still doesn’t think it’s funny. Willow comes to get Tara so they can slow dance together. She’s a little bummed that Tara didn’t tell her about her family, but Tara says she was afraid that Willow wouldn’t want to be with her. Instead, Willow’s proud to see how well Tara has come out of what she grew up with. It makes her love Tara more. Tara says that even when she’s at her worst, Willow makes her feel special. How does she do that? Willow smiles and says it’s magic. They embrace as they dance, eventually levitating off the floor.

Thoughts: Beth is played by Amy Adams.

I like the little throwaway moment where Buffy and Xander worry about not fitting in with Tara’s friends, having no idea that she has the same concerns about their group. Everyone feels awkward sometimes! We’re all dorks! Isn’t it great?

In another instance of what I think qualifies as irony, Glory calls Buffy short not long after Buffy says the same thing to Dawn about her friend.

So now we have an answer for why Tara blew the spell in “Goodbye, Iowa” – she thought it would identify her as a demon.

Beth’s criticism of Tara’s use of magic is even more significant if you’ve seen season 6. Tara gets concerned that Willow’s using it too much, and may be thinking of what Beth says here about it not being “a human thing to do.”

March 18, 2023

Buffy 5.5, No Place Like Home: Pull the Curtain Back

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 1:08 pm by Jenn

Glory may hate a lot of things about the world, but she certainly doesn’t hate fashion

Summary: Two months ago: Some monks are running around a very old church, racing to do a ritual to protect something they call a key. As they’re chanting, someone or something pounds on a door, trying to break it down. Just as they finish their ritual, the door is busted down.

Now: Buffy’s fighting a vampire outside an abandoned factory. After she slays him, she runs into a security guard who tells her that if she’s looking for a rave, she’s in the wrong place. He finds a glowing orb on the ground and thinks it belongs to her. It didn’t before, but it does now.

The next morning, Buffy makes breakfast for Joyce, wanting to keep taking care of her after her health scare. Dawn takes credit for the gesture. Joyce is still having headaches, even though the doctors told her they would go away. She’ll have to go back for more tests. Buffy is eager to figure out what’s going on, but Joyce doesn’t seem worried. She thinks her daughters should relax and let her be the mom.

Joyce brings back one of Dawn’s old nicknames, “my little pumpkin belly,” and Buffy asks if she ever got any weird nicknames. “I got some names for ya,” Dawn says. Heh. Joyce sends Buffy to the Magic Box for Giles’ grand reopening. She and Dawn will be having a meeting of their book club tonight. Buffy tries but fails to hide her jealousy that her sister and mother have such a close relationship.

The sisters head to the Magic Box, where Giles has dressed up as a wizard for the grand reopening. Buffy doesn’t approve. The place looks great but no customers have come in. He thinks business will eventually be good, though. Buffy tells him that Joyce is still sick and the doctors haven’t figured anything out. Giles is optimistic about that, too.

Willow and Riley come in next, and Buffy shows them the glowing orb. Giles think it’s paranormal based solely on its shininess. Riley offers to go patrolling with Buffy that night, but Dawn blurts out that Buffy said it would be easier if she didn’t have to look out for him. Dawn can relate, since Buffy never lets her go on patrol, either.

As Buffy’s about to leave with Dawn, Willow asks her to go easy on her sister. Buffy complains that Dawn is even more annoying than usual. Buffy has to be the adult and take care of both Dawn and Joyce instead of being her mother’s little pumpkin belly. Willow reminds her that Dawn is the youngest and the baby; maybe Joyce needs that right now. Buffy admits that she wishes she were an only child.

The sisters go home and find Joyce lying down with another headache. Buffy immediately wants to take her back to the doctor. Joyce asks her to fill a prescription instead. Buffy does, and as she’s leaving the hospital with it, she runs into Ben, Joyce’s doctor. He’s with a patient who’s agitated and doesn’t seem mentally stable. Buffy uses her Slayer strength to help restrain him. Ben jokes that her strength must come from a radioactive spider bite.

The patient grabs the hand Buffy’s holding Joyce’s pills in and says that they won’t make any difference. Buffy recognizes him as the security guard who found her outside the factory. She tells Ben that he’s not crazy, despite how he’s acting right now. “They’re coming at you,” the guard warns her. “Don’t think you’re above it, missy. They come through the family. They get to your family.” She’d like more information on that, but Ben sends him off for treatment. Buffy tells him that Joyce will be better soon – she’s starting to figure out what’s wrong.

In the factory where Buffy fought the vampire, one of the monks from the opening is looking at a map. Someone or something pounds on the door, and the monk calls it the beast. This beast is more of a beauty, though – when the door comes down, a blond woman in a red dress walks through. She’s happy to have found the monk, as she’s been looking all over for him.

Giles makes his first sale at the Magic Box and adorably expresses his excitement to Willow. There are other customers looking around, so chances are that won’t be the only sale of the day. Well, if Anya keeps her mouth shut – when she comes in, she announces that Giles’ conjuring powder is really overpriced. She apologizes, saying she’s bitter because she’s running out of money. (As a vengeance demon, she never had to buy things, so she’s not used to budgeting.) She tells Giles he’s getting ripped off and she can connect him with the troll who sheds the powder.

Buffy comes in to tell Giles that she thinks she knows why Joyce is sick. It’s supernatural. The guard who found the glowing orb went crazy overnight. Giles, Anya, and Willow all hilariously back away from it at the same time. Buffy doesn’t think it’ll hurt them, though, since she had it with her all night and is fine. She thinks the guard can see things that no one else can. Someone’s hurting Joyce to get to Buffy. Giles isn’t sure they should go off of what a crazy guy said, but Buffy figures it’s a good place to start.

The blond woman, who we’ll later learn is named Glory, has tied up the monk at the factory. She doesn’t want to be there – “there” as in “the whole mortal coil” – and everything disgusts her. She thinks the monk has been selfish. She just wants the key, and all he has to do is tell her where it is. Glory is going a little crazy trying to get answers. Instead of telling her anything, the monk invites her to kill him.

Glory wishes that the monk could feel what she’s feeling right now. She’s captured another guard, and he thinks she’s on drugs. He asks to be spared because he has a wife and two kids. Glory ignores him and begs the monk again to tell her where the key is. She feels like he’s torturing her. She starts ranting, as if she’s crazier than the guard at the hospital. Then she sticks her fingers in this guard’s head until she feels better.

Willow and Anya are helping Giles at the Magic Box, which is now full of customers. When Xander comes in, Giles whimpers that there are too many people and they all want stuff. “I hear ya. Stay British,” Xander replies. He goes to the cash register, where Anya needs some work on her customer-relations skills, as she sends someone off after a sale with, “Please go.” When Xander advises her to say, “Have a nice day” instead, she doesn’t get why: “I have their money. Who cares what kind of day they have?” He tells her it’s “a long cultural tradition of raging insincerity. Embrace it.”

As Willow struggles to wrap something pretty unwrappable, Buffy tells Xander that someone put a spell on Joyce to make her sick. She hasn’t made any progress figuring out who it was. Anya and Giles know of a French sorcerer who could do a spell that translates to “pull the curtain back.” It was basically a trance that let people see spells. Spells leave traces, so this “pull the curtain back” spell could let Buffy see what’s affecting Joyce. Willow and Giles don’t think Buffy could handle what it requires, but she says she’ll do whatever it takes.

She enlists Riley to help her, which gives him something to do while he’s not allowed to patrol. He claims he’s fine being normal again. He suggests that instead of Buffy taking care of him, they can take care of each other. Then he ditches her to do the trance on her own. Okay, that seems like a bad idea. Never go hiking alone, and never go into a magical trance alone, especially when you’ve never done it before.

Buffy can’t get the trance started because Dawn won’t leave her alone. She guesses that Buffy’s doing magic and begs to be allowed to watch. When she gets rejected, she threatens to tell Joyce. Oh, is there a rule about magic not being allowed in the house? Doubtful. Buffy finally gets rid of Dawn, and after a while, she gets her trance going. She goes looking for spell traces in the house but doesn’t see anything.

There’s nothing around Joyce, either. In fact, Joyce is feeling a lot better. But while Buffy’s talking to her, she notices something strange about a photo behind her: It’s of Joyce, Dawn, and Buffy, but Dawn keeps flickering in and out. The same thing happens in another photo of the three of them. Buffy goes to Dawn’s room, seeing it both as her sister’s bedroom and as a room for Joyce’s art storage. When Dawn finds her there, she flickers in and out as well. “You’re not my sister,” Buffy says.

As the trance ends, Buffy grabs Dawn and demands to know what she is. She orders Dawn to stay away from Joyce. Giles calls to tell Buffy that the Scoobies have finally discovered something about the orb. It’s called a Dagon Sphere, and it’s a protective device used to ward off ancient evil. There’s no info on what that evil looks like, and accounts are pretty vague. The Dagon Sphere was made to “repel that which cannot be named.”

Buffy decides to go back to the factory. Giles warns her to be very careful – anything that isn’t named is usually the subject of worship or fear, sometimes both. He asks about the trance and Buffy starts to tell him about Dawn. But Dawn’s in the room, so she says that the trance didn’t work. Buffy heads out on Slayer business (I guess Dawn’s allowed to stay home alone now), saying she’ll be home before Joyce gets back.

On her way out, Buffy senses someone around and yanks Spike out of the shadows. She punches him and demands to know what he’s doing there in five words or less. “Out for a walk,” he replies, counting his words. When he realizes he has one left, he adds, “B&^$%.” Buffy calls him William and says she doesn’t have time for him. He claims he’s just passing by on his way somewhere else. Also, he never really liked her, and she has stupid hair. Ohhh, someone’s still feeling the effects of his make-out dream! Dawn watches from a window as Buffy sees a bunch of cigarette butts on the ground, indicting that Spike was there for a while.

Buffy returns to the factory and sees the door Glory broke down. Joyce gets home, where Dawn greets her with some tea. She says Joyce doesn’t need to worry about Buffy. Buffy finds the monk and guesses that he’s the one who planted the Dagon Sphere. Glory sneaks up on her, but Buffy can sense her coming. She thinks she’s pretty capable of defeating Glory, but when Glory throws her into a wall and breaks it, Buffy realizes she’ll need to reconsider that.

The workday is done and the Scoobies are exhausted from serving customers all day. Well, except for Anya, who’s invigorated and has lots of ideas for how Giles can make even more money. He offers her a job and she happily accepts. Glory keeps throwing Buffy around at the factory, planning to beat her to death, even though it’s going to take up a lot of her precious time. She wonders if ripping Buffy in half will give her two Buffys.

Buffy fights back and Glory objects. She realizes that Buffy has superpowers and wonders if she can fly. If sliding across the floor after being thrown counts as flying, then yes. Buffy gets that she’s not going to win this one, so she grabs the monk and jumps out a window with him. Glory’s less upset about that than she is about one of her shoes breaking. She stomps on the ground, which shakes the building so much that it collapses.

Outside, the monk thinks he’s dying, so he tells Buffy that she needs to protect the key. If she doesn’t, a lot of people will die. He explains that the key is energy – a portal. Like a typical key, it opens a door. Buffy thinks he means the Dagon Sphere. The monk says that the key had no form for centuries. The monks protected it until “the abomination” found them and they had to hide it. They made it human and sent it to Buffy. Buffy realizes that Dawn is the key.

She’s upset that the monks put something in her house and messed with her and Joyce’s memories. She demands that he reverse everything. The monk tells her she can’t get out of this. Buffy asks what Dawn is, exactly. The monk says she’s human now. She’s helpless and is an innocent. Buffy needs to protect her. She may know that Dawn isn’t her sister, but Dawn is clueless about that. The monk dies, leaving Buffy with a million unanswered questions

She goes home and finds Joyce and Dawn cuddling on the couch. Dawn leaves the room, anticipating that Buffy will accuse her of bothering Joyce. Buffy tells Joyce they’re just dealing with “sister stuff.” She apologizes to Dawn for their fight, and Dawn shares her theory that Buffy isn’t really her sister – Joyce adopted her from a shoebox full of howler monkeys. Buffy complains that Dawn can’t take an apology. She’s never been able to. Dawn’s still a little mad, but she’s also scared for Joyce. Buffy has to admit that she doesn’t know what’s wrong with their mother.

Thoughts: I wonder if the first part of the season would have been better if we hadn’t been told right away that Dawn was the key. They could have let us be detectives for a little while.

“No Place Like Home” seems like a weak title until you realize that it and “pull the curtain back” are both Wizard of Oz references. Oh, and Giles dressed up as a wizard! It’s like a whole theme!

Speaking of which, here’s the Buffy/Wizard Giles scene, which is too good not to share.

Dawn, knocking on Buffy’s door: “What are you doing?” Buffy: “My boyfriend.” Ha!

March 11, 2023

Buffy 5.4, Out of My Mind: Power Surge

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:03 pm by Jenn

Spike’s insurance provider is I Punch You in the Face and You Do What I Tell You

Summary: Buffy’s in a cemetery, watching for vampires from the top of a mausoleum. She takes off running, stops, then bends down to stake a vampire just as he’s coming out of his grave. Another vampire rises and she fights with him until Riley runs in and takes him down. He thought she was in another section of the cemetery and just wanted to help.

Another vampire emerges from a grave, and this time Spike jumps into the action. Buffy wonders why she even patrols anymore. She shoves Spike out of the way just as a fourth vampire starts to attack him. She tells him to stop getting in her way, and Riley backs her up. Spike notices that Buffy doesn’t seem excited to have Riley there, either.

Buffy and Riley leave together, and she tries to get through to him that she doesn’t like it when he patrols alone. He just doesn’t appreciate being left out. He wants to do more slaying, but it doesn’t look like there’s anything left to slay (other than Spike). As they head out, Spike vows to kill Buffy. Then he falls into an open grave. Womp womp.

The next day, I guess, Buffy and Willow have a debate about the French revolution. Willow’s thrilled that they’re having a school-related conversation, something she’s wanted with her best friend forever. Buffy’s trying harder in school, but she’s also doing more training and studying with Giles. She expected a movie-like montage, but instead she’s just working a lot and getting headaches.

Giles is also working hard, trying to spiff up the Magic Box with help from Xander, Anya, and Tara. Willow’s excited to get her witch supplies there. Tara thinks they should have a psychic read fortunes in the shop. Willow suggests that Tara do it, though Tara doesn’t think she’s good enough. Willow offers up her hand for some palm-reading, and the two of them flirt a little. Buffy, Giles, and Xander head into the new training area, where Riley tackles Buffy. She loves the room, which includes a punching bag, a pommel horse, and a dummy/scarecrow.

That night, Spike is watching Dawson’s Creek in his crypt when Harmony shows up. She thinks Buffy’s looking for her on patrol. Harmony had to go on the lam, since she’s Buffy’s new arch-nemesis. She begs to hide out with Spike, who’s clearly willing to take her in if it means their clothes will come off. She has no problem with that.

She steals one of his cigarettes, having taken up smoking since that’s what villains do and she sees herself as a villain now. Spike tells her that Buffy will hunt her down until she’s dead. Harmony should kill her first. “I tried! It was all hard and stuff!” Harmony whines. She thinks Spike should do it instead. He’d love to, but he can’t while he has the chip in his head. Harmony gives in and says she’ll do it, as long as Spike helps “with the thinking.” Elsewhere, Buffy has followed patrolling with sex, and Riley’s eager for another round.

Dawn nabs the prize from a cereal box the next morning, then requests eggs for breakfast. As Joyce is serving them, she suddenly stops in her tracks and asks, “Who are you?” before collapsing. Dawn quickly calls 911, and Buffy and Riley meet her at the hospital. Joyce’s doctor, Ben, tells them that Joyce is doing better, but they’re not sure why she collapsed. Dawn plays with his stethoscope, which lets her hear that Buffy and Ben’s heart rates are normal, but Riley’s is super-fast.

Riley gets examined but doesn’t listen to his doctor’s recommendation that he stay for observation. Buffy remains quiet, knowing she won’t be able to talk him out of leaving against medical advice. He thinks his heart just works differently now, after all the stuff the Initiative did to him. Joyce is also leaving, after undergoing a bunch of tests.

Buffy, Dawn, and Willow tend to her when she gets home, then discuss Riley’s situation. Buffy wants to do something, but she’s not sure what. Dawn just offers up facts about the CIA and Fidel Castro. Shh, Dawn. Willow suggests that Buffy call the Initiative – if they know what’s wrong with Riley, they’ll have to help.

Buffy notes that all traces of the group have been erased, so she doesn’t know how to reach them. She’s annoyed that, like Big Brother, the government can spy on you all the time, then ignore you when you actually have something to say. “Sounds more like big sister,” Dawn grumbles. She thinks that if the government really is spying on Buffy, all she has to do is say something they can hear. Riley isn’t at his place (wherever that is now) when Buffy goes looking for him there, so she picks up the phone and says, “Riley’s in trouble. He needs help.”

He doesn’t need help on the basketball court, though, as he’s single-handedly beating everyone he’s playing in a pickup game. Graham shows up with a couple of agents and tells him he needs medical treatment immediately. Riley has no interest in going anywhere the government can take advantage of him again.

Graham, who’s still working for them, promises that he wouldn’t let anything happen to his friend, but Riley can’t trust the orders Graham is following. Graham acknowledges that Walsh messed with them, Riley the worst. He needs to get fixed up ASAP, and Graham won’t give him a choice. Riley seems like he’s going to give in, but instead, he punches Graham out. He fights off the other agents and takes off.

Buffy’s understandably upset when she meets up with Graham to discuss Riley. He tells her that Riley has “hyper-adrenal overload,” which makes him stronger than he should be. His heart won’t be able to take it much longer. There’s a specialist waiting at the hospital. Buffy promises to get Riley there, threatening to beat Graham up if he tells her to hurry.

The Scoobies gather at the Magic Box to discuss how Riley’s gone AWOL. Xander thinks he just needs time alone. He had a friend once who liked a girl and was worried that she didn’t like him back, so it made him act like a jerk. Confused, Willow asks what he’s talking about. Xander replies that maybe Riley just wants attention. Anya assures him that she cares about him, and he shouldn’t be insecure. She has a friend who likes his friend, and…okay, that’s not important right now.

Buffy sends the Scoobies off to search places where Riley might be hanging out. Willow suggests the school ruins, since he stayed there for a while and might find them “homey.” That makes Buffy think that he went back to the Initiative’s caves. She just doesn’t know them well enough to search them. “We do have an associate who knows those caves like the back of his melanin-deprived hand,” Giles notes. Buffy doesn’t want to deal with Spike right now; he’s been making her want to kill him even more than usual. She’s sure he’s up to something nasty, hanging out in his crypt all day.

Not right now, he’s not – he and Harmony are playing 20 Questions. The thing she’s thinking of isn’t bigger or smaller than a breadbox; it’s an actual breadbox. She hides when they hear banging on the door just before Buffy bursts in. She offers him money to find Riley and take him to the hospital. “Oh, dear, is the enormous hall monitor sick?” Spike snarks. Buffy slaps him and tells him Riley isn’t the only person who can die. Spike asks for half his money up front, so Buffy rips the bills in half and throws them at him. After she leaves, Harmony emerges from her hiding place and asks what Buffy said about her.

Graham checks in with the doctor, Overheiser, who warns that it might already be too late for Riley. Spike and Harmony come in, knock out Graham, and tell Overheiser that he has a new patient. They take him to an operating room at UC Sunnydale’s med school and order him to remove the chip from Spike’s head. Overheiser says he can’t. It’s deeply embedded and removing it could cause permanent damage. Spike thinks that the crossbow Harmony is pointing at Overheiser is enough motivation for him to operate successfully.

Willow and Tara check out the school ruins, which are dark. Willow does a lighting spell she tweaked to be brighter. Buffy’s in the caves, where she finds Riley punching a wall. His hand is bleeding but he doesn’t feel any pain. She insists on taking him to Overheiser, but Riley doesn’t want treatment from a government doctor when the government made him the way he is. Buffy says that Overheiser is the only one who understands what’s wrong with him. Riley, however, doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He’s more powerful than most people could even dream of being.

Buffy tells him that his body isn’t equipped to handle the stress this new power is putting on it. He thinks he can handle it, and he tells her to back off. She doesn’t understand why he’s acting the way he is. Riley admits that he’s afraid of going back to being normal. He doesn’t think he’d be enough for her. After all, her last boyfriend wasn’t a “civilian.”

Buffy is frustrated that Riley’s willing to endanger his life because he’s feeling competitive about Angel. Riley says it’s about them – Buffy’s getting stronger and more powerful every day, which puts her further and further from his reach. She tells him she’s not the one running away. She can’t believe that he thinks she’ll dump him because he’s “not in the super-club.” He says it’s human nature.

She tells him that no one has ever known her the way he does. He must not think much of her if he believes she’s only with him because he’s strong. If Buffy wanted someone with super-powers, she’d date Spike. She needs Riley, and that means he needs to be healthy. If he wants to throw it all away because he doesn’t trust her, fine, but she’ll still make him go to see Overheiser. Riley gives in, then tells her that loving her is the scariest thing he’s ever done. She replies that she doesn’t know why.

Overheiser digs around in Spike’s brain while Harmony observes. She’s intrigued by the fact that he’s still awake, since he was only given local anesthesia. She claims that since the chip keeps him from hurting living things, he can’t even pick flowers. Overheiser begs her to shut up. Buffy and Riley find Graham, who tells them that Spike and a blonde knocked him out. Buffy guesses the blonde is Harmony, and that they took Overheiser to make him remove Spike’s chip. Riley’s starting to power down, so they need to find Overheiser quickly.

Graham heads off to send people to check local clinics and animal hospitals. Riley wants to make up with him, but Graham says that can wait until later, assuming Riley survives all this. Buffy insists that he will. She starts brainstorming how she’ll kill Spike when this is over. Coincidentally, he’s brainstorming what he’ll do to her. Harmony, who’s smoking again, excitedly spots the chip in his brain. Overheiser declares the operation over, and Spike eagerly anticipates being stitched up so he can go kill Buffy.

Once Overheiser is done, Spike declares his intent to make him an appetizer. Buffy and Riley arrive just then and face off with the vampires. Spike announces that his “bug-zapper” is gone, which Buffy thinks makes him fair game for slaying now. Harmony accidentally shoots Riley with the crossbow, and he fights her while Buffy and Spike fight each other. Spike gets Buffy on the ground and moves to bite her, but pain in his head keeps him from doing it. Riley is similarly incapacitated and goes down.

As Buffy checks on him, Spike looks in the dish where Overheiser supposedly put the chip after he removed it. It contains a penny. Harmony’s back was turned when he pulled out the “chip,” so she and Spike only heard something hit the bottom of the dish and assumed it was the chip. Overheiser reminds Spike that he said he couldn’t remove it. Spike and Harmony flee as Overheiser goes over to help Riley. Spike complains that Buffy is everywhere he turns. She’s made it her personal project to torture him. He can’t get rid of her; she’s haunting him. He declares that it has to end.

Riley’s surgery was much more successful, and he tells Buffy he’s back to normal, whatever that is now. She makes it clear that she’s not going anywhere. Well, not long-term. Right now, she wants to go check on Joyce. Graham tells Riley that it’s a good thing Buffy found him when she did. She’s always impressed him. But he doesn’t think Riley belongs in Sunnydale: “You’re nothing here.” He used to have a mission, but now he’s just the Slayer’s boyfriend. He belongs in the military.

Buffy bursts into Spike’s crypt and complains about the mess he made. She’s done with him, and she should have killed him years ago. He tells her to do it already – it’ll end his torment. He’s sick of seeing her everywhere he goes. “Take me out of a world that has you in it,” he says. Buffy moves to stake him, but she stops. He grabs her and kisses her. She jumps back after a moment, then approaches him and kisses him some more. She whispers that she wants him, and he replies that he loves her.

Spike wakes from this dream with a gasp. Harmony’s the only blonde in his crypt. “Please, no,” he says.

Thoughts: This episode really overestimates how much the viewers care about Riley.

Giles suggesting that Buffy team up with Spike feels out of character.

There’s a funny moment when Overheiser tells Harmony to put out her cigarette, since smoking isn’t allowed. She resists until he points out a no-smoking sign. Then she gets really apologetic. And that’s why Harmony isn’t the new Big Bad.

March 4, 2023

Buffy 5.3, The Replacement: Xander 2.0

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:17 pm by Jenn

I can’t believe no one was suspicious when Xander dressed like an adult

Summary: Xander, Anya, Buffy, and Riley are watching a kung-fu movie in Xander’s basement room, which isn’t exactly a great place for entertaining guests. There aren’t a lot of places to sit, he doesn’t have snacks, and when his parents get home, they immediately start yelling at each other. Everyone’s uncomfortable except Buffy, who’s studying. Xander says it’s time to find a nicer place to live. He notes that Buffy’s been to Hell and asks if they had one-bedroom apartments.

Riley tries to get his girlfriend to stop studying, something she’s come to enjoy. She takes a break, trading the violence of the Crusades for the violence of the movie. Riley rubs her shoulders, which inspires Xander to do the same to Anya. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want that, since her run-in with Harmony’s minions left her with a dislocated shoulder.

Buffy critiques a fight scene in the movie, and Riley advises her to leave her work at work. She notes that he would have the same reaction to a poorly researched military movie. As the fighting upstairs continues, Buffy tries to distract everyone by saying that Willow critiques movies they watch that feature witches. Xander agrees, saying that she comments that no one uses cauldrons anymore. Cut to a demon using a cauldron for a ritual he hopes will help him kill Buffy.

The next day, The Scoobies go with Xander to check out an apartment. He doesn’t want them to get their hopes up, since the rent is high and his only reference is himself doing a British accent. The apartment is big and nice, and Anya immediately loves it. The woman showing the apartment thinks Riley is Xander. She’s kind of disappointed that the person who would be renting the place is a little schlubbier than that.

Buffy and Riley slip into the bedroom as the others admire all the features of the apartment. Xander will have to pay a bunch of money up front and have a credit check, and he tries to explain to Anya that this isn’t a good time. His construction job is about to end, and he doesn’t have anything else lined up. Also, Anya has her own place. They’ll need to wait a little while.

Anya objects to having to wait for her boyfriend to have a quiet, private home. She’s cranky because her arm hurts and she’s tired and she doesn’t appreciate visiting a nice place she can’t have. As she storms off, Xander decides to fill out the application for the place he just explained is unaffordable and he probably doesn’t think he’ll be qualified to rent anyway.

Giles is organizing things at the Magic Box when the cauldron demon lets himself in. Giles searches for something he can use to repel the demon, but all he can come up with is a statue of a fertility god. At least it packs a bit of a punch. The demon doesn’t sustain any injuries, but he also doesn’t inflict any, since he’s only after Buffy.

Later, Giles shows the Scoobies how he fought off the demon. “So a mythic triumph over a completely indifferent foe,” Buffy summarizes. “Well, I’m not dead or unconscious, so I say bravo for me,” Giles replies. Willow gives him a book to look through to see if he can ID the demon. Xander comments that Giles bought the magic shop and was attacked before it even opened. He should’ve seen that coming.

Riley agrees that Giles’ new job doesn’t seem safe. “Toth,” Giles replies. Buffy thinks he’s using British slang to call Riley an idiot. Nope, it’s the name of the demon. He’s the last member of his clan and is, for a demon, very sophisticated. Buffy asks if that means she should discuss fashion with him before she kills him. Giles clarifies that he uses tools and devices to fight. He’s also focused, and from his mention of Buffy, it’s easy to guess what he’s focused on.

Giles thinks he knows where Toth has been hanging out, since he had a distinct smell. That smell was garbage, unfortunately, so the Scoobies take a field trip to the city dump. Willow says she found a spell that will keep them from smelling anything, but it involves removing their noses, so they should probably just suck it up. They don’t find Toth, but they do find Spike, who’s scavenging decorations for his crypt. Giles asks if he’s seen a tall demon in a robe. Spike says he’s right behind them.

Toth fires some kind of weapon at Buffy, who dodges it. Spike cheers him on, them complains when the next blast from the weapon breaks a lamp he just scavenged. Toth aims at Buffy again, and Xander shoves her out of the way and takes the hit himself. Toth disappears as the Scoobies go to Xander, who seems okay. But as they leave, they don’t realize that there’s still a Xander lying unconscious in a pile of trash.

In the morning, that Xander wakes up and goes home but can’t get into the locked basement. He looks through the window, hoping Anya’s there, and is shocked to see…well, himself. A second version of him – we’ll call him X2 – is in Xander’s room, putting on his clothes. Xander rushes to find a pay phone so he can call Buffy. X2, who looks very put-together and confident, walks by, distracting Xander. He hangs up just as Buffy answers her phone.

She’s gathering weapons for an inevitable second showdown with Toth, which she can tell Riley is worried about. Dawn pretends to gag when she sees them making out. Buffy tells her to go away, but Dawn argues that since she’s in the hallway instead of Buffy’s room, she doesn’t have to leave. Joyce appears and Dawn tries to confirm that she can stand in the hallway. Joyce tells her daughters that their fighting is giving her a headache. (Everyone who’s seen the rest of the season whimpers.) They bicker over which of them is more responsible for it. “It’s so nice you’ve learned to share,” Joyce comments. Buffy finally just slams the door in Dawn’s face.

Spike dresses up a mannequin he got from the dump, putting a blond wig on it. It’s not for companionship, though – it’s his stand-in for Buffy, so he can beat up on it and imagine it’s her. X2 goes to Xander’s job on a construction site, though he’s dressed a lot nicer than most construction workers are. The foreman asks to talk to him in a trailer, since the job is ending. Xander spies on him, excited that his replacement will be the one who gets fired instead of him.

X2 plays around with a small, shiny disk as the foreman gives him news that surprises Xander: He’s done great work on the site, and they’d like to hire him full-time. In fact, they want him to head up a crew, which would give him both more responsibility and more money. Xander thinks the disk X2 is playing with has influenced the foreman to make this decision.

That night, X2 goes back to the apartment he was interested in and learns that his credit check came back fine. He’s been approved for the apartment. He plays with the disk again as the woman who showed the apartment tells him he can call her anytime for anything he needs. She’s even going to give him her home number. Xander grumbles about her being interested in the fake him, who’s too clean and whose socks are too matchy.

X2 leaves Anya a message (though she’s listening as he leaves it) to meet him at the apartment later. As he leaves, Xander jumps on him. X2 seems surprised to have a double, and he punches Xander and runs off. Xander yells after him that he won’t let X2 do this to him. He runs to Giles’ to get some help, but X2 beats him there. He tells the Scoobies that they have to find and kill the double. Xander prays that Buffy realizes she’s talking to an imposter. No such luck, and Xander is about to have the Slayer on his trail.

He turns to Willow next, ambushing her at her and Tara’s place. She wasn’t at Giles’, so she doesn’t get why he wants to prove that he’s himself. He starts by saying that he was disappointed not to get a toy firetruck for his seventh birthday, and she was really nice about it. Then there was a fire at the house next door and Xander got to see real firetrucks. For years, he thought Willow set the fire for him. Also, Xander thought he was lactose intolerant last year, but it was just bad brie. Also also, every year they watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and he does Snoopy’s dance, which he demonstrates for her.

Willow assures Xander that she knows who he is. He explains that he woke up in the dump after the previous night’s encounter with Toth. Confused, Willow says they walked him home last night. He asks if he did anything weird or waved around anything shiny. He explains that he has a double who’s pretending to be him and is hypnotizing people. Buffy, Giles, and Riley have no idea.

The Scoobies aren’t sure what they’re dealing with, but X2 and Riley don’t think it matters – they just need to kill it. Buffy realizes that Toth must be responsible. Xander thinks they’re dealing with an evil robot version of him that was made from evil parts and was designed to do evil. “Uh-huh. Or it’s Toth,” Willow says. “Or…it’s Toth,” Xander agrees.

Buffy was going to go after Toth anyway, so now she’s just going to look for Xander. She tells X2 that he’s free to go meet up with Anya. It’s probably better if he’s not around when she finds the double, in case she gets them mixed up and kills the wrong one. Xander complains that a demon has taken his life and is living it better than Xander does. Willow promises to find a spell to unhypnotize Buffy and get her on their side.

Xander’s not really enthusiastic about this, since he doesn’t think he can help. Normally, he gets in trouble and Buffy saves him. “That’s not true!” Willow protests. “Sometimes we all help to save you.” Also, sometimes he’s not in trouble. Xander calls this “another great humiliation.” X2 took his life and everyone’s treating him like an adult. Xander’s feeling inferior to the imposter and thinks maybe he should let the imposter have his life for good.

Willow encourages him not to give up, but Xander doesn’t feel like he’s been doing anything worth fighting for. Then he realizes that he has someone he doesn’t want to lose: Anya. He refuses to let X2 take the one thing Xander needs. He tells Willow to find a spell to reveal X2’s real nature while he goes to make sure Anya’s okay. Willow notes that Xander is just now thinking about Anya after spending the whole day knowing that someone was taking his place. “Hey, wait till you have an evil twin. See how you handle it,” he says as he leaves. “I handled it fine,” Willow replies to herself.

Xander goes to Anya’s place and hears the message X2 left her about meeting at the apartment. As he searches Anya’s dresser for something, X2 tells Anya that he got the apartment because he knew she wanted it. He asks if she saw him or talked to him today. She has no idea what he’s talking about. She asks what happens next for them – a car? A puppy? A child? She has a list of things she wants. They need to get moving, since she doesn’t have time to just let life happen.

X2 doesn’t think they’re in any hurry, but Anya disagrees: She’s dying. She might have as few as 50 years left! He realizes she’s having an existential crisis because her injuries have made her realize how vulnerable she is now that she’s human. She was going to live for thousands of years, and now she’s going to age and die like everyone else. She must be scared. He promises that they’ll get through it together.

Anya’s real worry is that Xander might not want to be with her when she’s old and wrinkly. X2 admits that he can’t promise they’ll always be together, but aging with her doesn’t sound horrible. And pretty soon, she won’t be thinking about getting older. They start making out, but they’re interrupted by Xander. Yep, I don’t think Anya’s thinking about aging or dying anymore. X2 tells Xander to get out – he doesn’t belong there. Xander tries to convince Anya that X2 is a demon who stole his face and is trying to trick her. Anya, however, thinks X2 is the real Xander.

Willow goes to Giles’ to tell the Scoobies that Toth is impersonating Xander. They already know, but they think they’ve been dealing with the real Xander. Giles finds something enlightening in a book and announces that neither Xander is a demon. And no, Willow, neither of them is a robot, either. The device Toth used splits people in half, separating their personality traits. Toth was probably trying to split Buffy into two people so he could kill her non-Slayer half. Instead, he separated Xander into a strong version and a weak version. They’re both the real Xander.

Riley doesn’t get the plan – why make a super-strong, Slayer-only Buffy? Giles notes that the two halves can’t exist without each other. If Toth killed the weaker Buffy, the Slayer half would die, too. That means they need to find and protect both Xanders or they’ll risk losing both of them.

Xander continues trying to convince Anya that he’s the real deal. She isn’t sure. X2 is ready to fight…uh, himself, but Xander has something he doesn’t: Anya’s gun. They fight over it as Buffy and Riley speed to the apartment. She starts to ask if he wishes that she were two different people so he could be with just her non-Slayer self. He says no before she can finish. Being the Slayer is part of who she is. Buffy acknowledges that it’s hard to date her, but Riley likes her the way she is. “There’s no part of you I’m not in love with,” he tells her.

X2 ends up with the gun as Buffy and Riley arrive at the apartment. Buffy asks for the gun, and X2 removes the bullets before giving it to her. Buffy explains that both Xanders are real and they can’t kill each other. They don’t believe her, so Riley says they can prove it. He’s not sure how, though. Buffy asks them what number she’s thinking of. They both answer 11 and a half. They’re wrong, but Buffy has proven that they think the same.

Riley explains that different properties went into each Xander. Buffy tries to clarify without insulting the one who got all the less desirable qualities. Xander brings up the disk X2 has been playing with, but it’s just a nickel that got flattened on a railroad track. X2 found it at the construction site and thought it was cool. There’s nothing magical about it. Xander agrees that it’s cool.

The group is about to go back to Giles’ when Toth bursts through the door. Aw, man, Xander just put down a security deposit! He’s never going to get that back now! Xander and Anya both hide behind X2. Toth fires his blaster thing, making a hole in the carpet that X2 complains about, since he made a cleaning deposit. Eh, my joke was better. Riley fights Toth until Buffy takes over and stabs him with a sword. X2 says the cleaning deposit is definitely gone. Xander gasps that he was thinking the same thing. “Hey, do you suppose we’re both Xander?” he asks.

Everyone gathers at the Magic Box, intrigued by how identical the two Xanders are. Riley kind of wants to do psych experiments on them. Anya’s interested in doing something a little more intimate with them. Xander only says that it would be “very confusing.” He asks X2 how he landed the promotion if he wasn’t hypnotizing people. X2 just says he’s good at that stuff.

Willow’s ready to do some spell to unite the two Xanders. Anya asks what they should do if it doesn’t work. “Kill us both, Spock,” the Xanders say, laughing in unison. Buffy notes that they’re pretty much the same now. “Yes, he’s clearly a bad influence on himself,” Giles says. Willow tells the guys that their natural state is to be together, so she just has to break Toth’s spell to unite them. It’s pretty simple – all she has to do is say, “Let the spell be ended.” Anya objects, wanting two Xanders again.

The Scoobies help Xander pack up the basement so he can move to his new apartment. He gets a little nostalgic, remembering the spot where Spike slept and the spot where Xander and Anya drowned a demon and the spot where he got his heart ripped out. “I really hate this place,” he says.

Anya’s doing better, both physically and emotionally, and is looking forward to many years of life, assuming she doesn’t die in a car accident. Xander asks her to carry a box or two, but she notes that Buffy has super-strength and should do more of the work. Xander comments to Riley that Anya has a way of making him feel like his suave self has gone away.

Riley knows that despite their struggles, they’re a good match. Xander admits to envying Riley sometimes, though not because he’s in love with Buffy. Riley says that when he’s with her, he feels like he’s split in two. Half of him is on fire and half is content. He knows she’s the one. “But she doesn’t love me,” he says. Xander’s stunned, and when Buffy comes in to get more of his stuff, he doesn’t know what to say.

Thoughts: Nicholas Brendon’s (Xander) stand-in/body double for this episode was his twin brother Kelly.

I spent a lot of this episode thinking about how bad Xander must smell, since he never changes clothes after the dump.

Where did Anya get money to pay for her own place?

Riley at the dump: “People say they’re recycling. They’re not recycling.” You can practically hear him shaking his head in disappointment.

Xander’s Snoopy dance is a must-watch.

February 25, 2023

Buffy 5.2, Real Me: The Dawn of Dawn

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

Hmm, I wonder why Buffy didn’t take this threat seriously

Summary: “There is nothing but you,” Giles tells Buffy as he guides her through a meditation exercise in a gym. I guess he’s helping her get in touch with her inner Slayer or something. Whatever this exercise is meant to do, it leads to Buffy doing a one-handed handstand. It’s impressive, but I don’t think vampires will be intimidated by it. There’s a trio of crystals nearby, and someone puts a fourth one on top of them. This causes Buffy to fall. “Can we go now?” asks Dawn.

Giles drives her and Buffy home in his very-out-of-character red convertible. Dawn, stuck in the backseat, reaches up between him and Buffy to change the radio station. At home, she writes in her diary, voicing over that she doesn’t think Giles likes her. It might be because he’s old. How old? Old enough to use the word “newfangled.”

Giles has given Buffy a reading list, and she’s not looking forward to all the studying involved in whatever they’re doing. He complains about his car, since he’s used to a manual transmission and the convertible is automatic. He says the car seduced him. He was feeling lost, so he got something to make him feel more… “Shallow?” Buffy supplies. Giles would appreciate if she showed her Watcher more respect. “Do I have to?” she asks. He tells her she can’t be “flighty” and “privileged.” Dawn spots Willow and Tara, and Giles notes that they haven’t seen his new car yet.

They pull up at the Espresso Pump, where Willow and Tara are getting coffee before going to the magic shop. Dawn has a more sisterly relationship with Willow than she does with Buffy, partly because they both like school so much. Dawn also likes Tara and how she and Willow are witches. Dawn once told Joyce that she wanted the witches to teach her stuff, but Joyce didn’t respond positively.

Buffy has worked out a schedule with Giles to focus on her new training. Willow praises her for finally developing a work ethic. She loves that Buffy is motivated to learn. The problem is that Buffy had to drop the drama class she and Willow were going to take together. Willow thinks she should bend her work ethic two afternoons a week to stay in it.

The group arrives at the magic shop (uncreatively called the Magic Box) and find it dark. They go in to check things out and find signs of a robbery. They also find the owner’s body. Buffy drags Dawn outside before she can see it. Dawn is able to peek through the blinds, but she can’t see anything disturbing. Unfortunately, there’s something equally disturbing outside – a man approaches her and babbles about loitering and being a cat. He says something hurts and begs for it to stop. “I know you,” he tells Dawn. “Curds and whey. I know what you are. You don’t belong here.”

Tara goes outside to get Dawn, who’s a little shaken by the encounter and what she’s already guessed is a death in the shop. Tara thinks the two of them “non-Scoobies” should let Buffy, Willow, and Giles deal with things. She suggests that they thumb-wrestle. Inside, Buffy and Giles determine that the owner was killed by three or four vampires, which means there’s a new fang gang in town. Willow checks the inventory and sees that a book about Slayers was stolen. Giles gets distracted by the ledger, surprised because the shop does such good business.

Buffy says she’ll grab Riley and they’ll patrol together, but Willow reminds her that she has to take Dawn home first. She’s not looking forward to Joyce’s reaction to Dawn going to a crime scene. Giles sees that something’s missing from a display case and worries that it’s a powerful object. Nope, according to the inventory, it’s a $12.95 ceramic unicorn. “What kind of an unholy creature fancies cheap, tasteless statuary?” Giles wonders.

Oh, Giles, you already know the answer to that: Harmony! She has minions now, and she’s proud of their raid on the magic shop. She especially appreciates the unicorn that a guy named Brad stole for her. He’s an old classmate, and she thinks he feels guilty for standing her up for a date in high school. The other minions are annoyed, but Brad says he had to get something for his sire. One of the minions says he’s “sire-whipped.” The books the minions stole will be useful for whatever plan Harmony is cooking up. A minion named Cyrus asks when they’ll be executing that plan. Harmony says it’ll be that night – tonight, they’ll kill Buffy.

Joyce is, as Buffy expected, upset that Dawn was at the scene of a murder. She’s also not happy that Buffy wants to ditch her sister-watching duties to go out with Riley. Buffy argues that they’ll be patrolling, which is work, not pleasure. Dawn doesn’t think she needs watching (to be fair, she’s 14), but Joyce and Buffy disagree. Buffy clarifies that if she can get someone to watch Dawn, she can go patrolling. Joyce asks who she’ll get on short notice. Dawn continues objecting to needing a sitter, but when Buffy suggests Xander, she gives in.

Dawn gets dressed up so she’ll look nice for her cute, smart crush. She’s proud of him for skipping college to get a job in construction. He’s also brave, having just recently gone “undercover” to stop Dracula. Dawn likes how he treats everyone as an equal and doesn’t look down on people, “even when he should.” Anya has tagged along, and Dawn isn’t a fan.

Tara’s worried about Dawn after the events of the day, and she tells Willow it must be tough for her not to be able to help the Scoobies. Willow and Tara are moving in together and are unpacking in what’s either an apartment or the world’s nicest dorm room with a private bathroom. Willow senses that Tara feels like an outsider and assures her that she isn’t. Okay, then why doesn’t she get her name in the opening credits until season 6?

Willow thinks someone’s making Tara feel uncomfortable. First she suspects Xander, whom Tara has no problem with, then Giles, who’s “British and doesn’t understand about stuff.” Tara promises that no one’s making her feel like an outsider. It’s just that the Scoobies have a tight bond that’s hard to break into. Tara isn’t even sure she wants to break into it.

Willow hugs her and says she considers Tara one of the gang. Everyone accepts her, since she’s “one of the good guys.” Tara looks uncomfortable at that. Willow suggests doing some kind of initiation for Tara or getting everyone matching rings. Tara doesn’t need that, but she thinks Dawn might like it. Willow isn’t worried about Dawn, since she has her older sister looking after her.

On patrol, Buffy complains to Riley about how overprotective Joyce is of Dawn. It’s not like Joyce shields Buffy from the bad stuff she sees all the time. Riley summarizes that Buffy wants Joyce to both give her space to be the Slayer and shield her from what it entails. “Thank you, logic boy. Did I mention this is a rant?” Buffy says. “Sense really has no place in it.”

Riley thinks Buffy’s tense tonight. She mentions the new vampire gang in town, but he says it’s more about Dawn. Buffy’s been on her case a lot. Buffy acknowledges that it’s always been this way, since Dawn is the baby. For some reason, it’s been getting to Buffy more. She feels like Dawn is always around. Riley tells her that she’s Dawn’s idol. To Dawn, Buffy’s life is glamorous. She doesn’t know the sacrifices Buffy has to make as a Slayer. Dawn is just a kid. That, to Buffy, is the big problem – Dawn doesn’t get how good she has it as a kid. Buffy would like to be able to be one and not have to worry about saving the world. She’d like to be protected.

Dawn is making a similar complaint to Xander, feeling like Buffy’s the favorite child. Xander promises that Joyce love both of her daughters equally. Though, if he’s wrong, Dawn should slip Joyce some money every once in a while and see what happens. Dawn voices over that Xander says he’s like a kid sister, but sometimes she feels like he sees her as a woman. Yeah, a woman with chocolate ice cream all over her face.

The two of them and Anya are playing Life, and she’s upset that she’s losing. She’s been saddled with a husband, a bunch of kids, and a ton of money. Xander tells her that that means she’s winning. “Can I trade in the children for more cash?” Anya asks. Just then, something flies through one of the living-room windows. It’s a rock with a note wrapped around it: “Slayer! Come out and die.” The dot over the I is a smiley face.

Harmony calls Buffy outside to face her and her minions. Xander goes to the door to tell her that Buffy’s not home. Harmony and her friends will have to come back and be killed by the Slayer later. Xander laughs at the idea of her having minions, then laughs harder when she tries but fails to get into the house, since she hasn’t been invited. He recognizes Brad and taunts him for being “Harmony’s lap dog.”

Harmony notes that Xander has experience with that, since he was Dracula’s lap dog: “I hear that mind-control thing he does works really well on weak, ‘fraidy-cat losers.” Dawn yells at her to shut up. Xander tells her he’s handling this, then repeats that Harmony should shut up. She challenges him to make her, but he says he doesn’t feel like having another hair-pulling fight with her. She calls him a girl, and Dawn calls out to her to come inside and say that again.

Now invited in, Harmony tackles Xander and lands in the house. Dawn runs upstairs as the minions try to enter the house but can’t. Harmony smacks Xander a few times while Anya looks for a weapon, annoyed that there aren’t any lying in the Slayer’s house. She grabs a lamp, but Harmony has been bettering herself as a vampire, which includes honing her instincts. She senses Anya coming and knocks the lamp away. Xander and Anya are able to push Harmony out of the house, but she threatens to come back later.

When Buffy learns about the raid on the house, all she can do is laugh at the thought of Harmony having minions. Xander thinks she should take this more seriously, since Harmony came there to kill her. Riley points out that the gang has already killed someone, so they might be a threat (though he’s also tickled by all this). Anya mentions that Harmony can also get into the house, thanks to Dawn’s invitation. Xander tries to tell Buffy that it was an accident and Dawn feels bad about it.

Harmony’s disappointed that her big plan failed. She didn’t even get to kill Xander! She’s embarrassed. They can’t even go back later; Buffy will be expecting them. Spike comes across the gang, not realizing that Harmony is with them. The exes haven’t seen each other in a while, and they do that “how are you? You look well” thing that barely civil exes do when they run into each other.

Spike doesn’t think much of Harmony’s gang, and he’s not impressed when Harmony says she’s going to kill Buffy. She’s changed her persona and become more of a threat, but she’s not exactly intimidating. Harmony thinks that Spike doesn’t like that she’s her own person now. She’s taken the next step and found the real her. Spike’s like, “That’s great; you still shouldn’t go after Buffy.” Harmony vows to kill Buffy by sunrise.

Spike guesses that she plans to kidnap a Scooby to use as bait to lure Buffy into a trap. Harmony claims she has a much better plan than that, but she won’t share it with him. He leaves, telling her to let him know how “this arch-villain thing” works out. Harmony says that once she’s taken care of Buffy, she’ll kill everyone in Sunnydale who’s ever been mean to her. Then she returns to her gang, excited to have a new plan, courtesy of Spike.

Buffy gathers a bunch of weapons to take on Harmony, though Xander doesn’t think they’re necessary – Willow did the invitation-revoking spell to keep Dracula out, and she can do it again for Harmony. Buffy complains that Dawn knows all the rules, having grown up in the house. Xander reminds Buffy that people slip, like Joyce did with Dracula. Buffy thinks that was different, since Joyce was lonely and didn’t know that Dracula was a vampire. Dawn’s mistake was bigger.

Riley argues that Dawn is just a kid. Buffy’s tired of hearing that – she was just a kid, too, when she encountered her first vampire. Riley notes that that was part of her job. Buffy complains that Dawn is protected and coddled so much that no one expects her to even use common sense. They’re turning her into “a little idiot who is going to get us all killed.” Dawn has been listening to the conversation, and she leaves when she hears that. Buffy calms a little and says that Dawn needs to be more careful because Buffy can’t always be there to protect her.

Downstairs, Anya sees Dawn running out of the house and calls after her not to leave. Dawn stops in the yard and Anya drags her back to the house. As they’re going in, one of Harmony’s minions knocks Anya out, and the others run off with Dawn. By the time Buffy, Riley, and Xander get downstairs, the minions are long gone. Anya manages to say that vampires took Dawn.

In Harmony’s lair, the minions are eager to eat their hostage. Harmony tells them that’s not the plan. I don’t think they understand the concept of bait. One minion, Mort, notes that it doesn’t matter if Dawn is alive, as long as Buffy thinks she is. Harmony continues refusing to let the minions eat Dawn; it’s not the plan. I think she’s about to have a coup on her hands.

Buffy doesn’t know where Harmony’s lair is, so she goes to Spike for information. He doesn’t know, either, but he points her toward a cave they used to stay in. Harmony complains to Dawn that her minions don’t respect her. She put the group together but they treat her like she doesn’t matter. Dawn can relate a little. Harmony says she’s under a lot of pressure because she has to make all the hard decisions.

The minions approach and Mort tells her that they don’t like her plan. They’re going to feed on Dawn and kill Harmony. Harmony orders the minions to kill Mort, but no one moves. In that case, they all go on Harmony’s list. Mort closes in on her and she tries to convince him that she’s still growing into her leadership role. Cyrus approaches Dawn, who warns that Buffy will kill him if he hurts her. He’s not worried. That makes it even more satisfying when Buffy arrives and kills him. She tells Dawn to close her eyes.

“So Slayer, at last we meet,” Harmony greets Buffy. Buffy reminds the “half-wit” that they’ve met before. Harmony thinks Buffy’s the dumb one for walking into her trap. A couple of minions rush Buffy, who easily kills them. She tells Harmony that she was bad when she tried to be head cheerleader and chair the homecoming committee, but when she actually tries to be bad, she sucks.

Mort goes after Buffy, and Harmony cheers him on, then remembers that he wants to kill her, too. Dawn opens her eyes as Buffy fights Mort, who gives her a run for her money. Buffy eventually stakes him with the horn of a big unicorn statue. She frees Dawn from her chains and the sisters threaten to tattle to Joyce for various reasons. They get home just as Joyce is arriving but keep their mouths shut about the night’s activities. Dawn thinks Buffy would have gotten in more trouble than her anyway, but it was cool of her not to tell Joyce anything.

She’s writing in her diary at the Magic Box, which Giles is taking over. Buffy isn’t sure it’s a good idea, since magic-shop owners in Sunnydale don’t have long life expectancies. Giles thinks it’ll be the same as being a librarian, except with money. Plus, he won’t have the Scoobies at his apartment at all hours of the day and night. Buffy guesses that he was really bored during his year of unemployment. “I watched Passions with Spike,” he admits. “Let us never speak of it.”

As Buffy and Giles head to the back to check out space they could use for training, Buffy ducks back into the shop to tell Dawn not to break anything. Or touch anything. Sitting still is a great idea. Dawn voices over that Buffy hasn’t actually changed and never will. She still thinks Dawn is “Little Miss Nobody, just her dumb little sister. Boy, is she in for a surprise.”

Thoughts: Cyrus is played by Tom Lenk, who later plays Andrew.

Aw, I’m proud of Willow for taking drama after her nightmare about it.

Tara is so sweet with Dawn. Thumb-wrestling! Yes!

How is Harmony not the head of a multilevel marketing scheme? She talks like she is.

February 18, 2023

Buffy 5.1, Buffy vs. Dracula: But Do You Recall the Most Famous Vampire of All?

Posted in TV tagged , , , at 1:16 pm by Jenn

Season 5 is a good hair season for Buffy

Summary: Buffy is in bed, trying to sleep. Next to her, Riley is totally out. She goes out to patrol, engaging in a chase with a vampire and throwing in some acrobatic moves before staking him. She seems more aggressive than usual. Then she goes back to bed, this time able to fall asleep.

The next day, or whenever, Buffy and Riley throw around a football on the beach. He teases that she throws like a girl, so she accidentally/possibly not accidentally whips the ball at him. Xander, Willow, Anya, and Tara are also there, but they’re more interested in lounging on a blanket than running around. Buffy and Riley’s game ends when she kills the football. Xander’s having trouble lighting their grill, so Willow uses magic to get the job done. Apparently it’s easy as long as you don’t cause an imbalance in the elements. A sudden thunderstorm and downpour drive everyone inside. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Willow yells.

It’s also raining over a castle where two movers are delivering a large crate. They accidentally drop it and break the corner, revealing that there’s dirt inside. One of the movers scoffs at rich people who just ship dirt. But that’s not all that’s inside the crate. An arm bursts out and slashes the man’s neck.

Willow fixes Giles’ computer so they can start scanning his books. Because that went so well last time? She thinks they should wait until winter, so they’re not stuck inside while the weather’s nice. Giles has been working on various projects all summer, like labeling amulets and indexing his diaries. He knows he needs to get a life. He confides that he’s organizing everything for the Scoobies because he plans to go back to England. He doesn’t think that Buffy needs him anymore. Willow says the rest of them still need watching, but Giles is sure that they’ll be fine without him. He’ll break the news to Buffy soon.

Buffy has dinner with Joyce, taking a rain check on dessert so she can go on patrol. She’s been home all summer, and Joyce isn’t looking forward to her moving back to campus. Buffy has another successful patrol, which is observed by a guy who appears out of some mist. He approaches Buffy after she’s finished off the vampire she was fighting and praises he work. He’s pale and looks quite vampire-ish, so she makes the safe assumption that that’s what he is. He even expects her to know who he is. He introduces himself as Dracula. “Get out!” Buffy exclaims.

Willow and Xander have gone out for coffee and are walking home near the cemetery. She tries to gauge how he would react if she told him a big secret. Buffy chats with Dracula, skeptical that he’s the real deal; she’s dealt with fanboys before, though they mostly called themselves Lestat. Dracula is very familiar with the Slayer, who’s surprised (and flattered) to learn that she’s internationally famous. He wanted to meet the “renowned killer.” She reminds him that she’s the good guy. He tells her that her “power is rooted in darkness.”

Buffy tries to slay the count, but he’s able to phase in and out in mist. Xander and Willow join her, and Xander mocks Dracula for what he sees as a bad impression of the count from Sesame Street. When Buffy tells him that it’s Dracula, Xander hides behind her and apologizes. Dracula says this isn’t the time, then turns into a bat and flies away.

The group shares the story with the other Scoobies at Giles’ place, acting like they just met one of their favorite celebrities. Buffy’s still flattered that the most famous vampire in history has heard of her. Willow guesses that he was sexy during their conversation, which makes Tara a little uneasy. Anya reveals that she hung out with Dracula a few times back when she was a vengeance demon. “It was pretty cool. You know, from a whole evil thing perspective,” she says. Suddenly Xander wants to downplay the encounter.

Giles is sorry he missed it. Willow says she was thinking about him the whole time, wishing he were there because he’d know what to do. Xander wonders how Dracula was able to turn into a bat. Giles says that they’ll need to separate fact from fiction to figure out how to defeat him. Willow plays that up, like Giles is a genius for thinking of that.

Buffy wants to avoid running into Dracula again until they’ve figured out how to deal with him. Riley’s like, “He’s a vampire – just stake him.” Xander agrees, but Anya warns that Dracula is too slick to fall for their normal practices. Riley worries that Buffy is delaying killing him because she finds him attractive. Don’t worry, Riley, you’re still the prettiest boy in the room. Giles assigns Willow and Tara to find out more about the real Dracula. Riley wishes they had access to the Initiative’s files, which would help them end this quickly. Buffy isn’t that concerned with speed. In fact, she’s ready for a good night’s sleep.

Anya wonders if Dracula remembers her. She was “a silly young thing”(only around 700 years old) when they met, but he did praise her for one of her curses. A wolf watches her and Xander from the roof of the Espresso Pump as they walk by. Xander spits out that Anya should go hang out in a cemetery and show off her “neck cleavage” until Dracula shows up. Anya laughs at him for being jealous. He has nothing to worry about.

Dracula appears in front of Xander as he’s walking home alone. Xander decides that he can take the count on his own, as long as Dracula doesn’t do his trick with the mist and the disappearing. Dracula tells Xander to be quiet, and Xander replies, “Yes, master.” Dracula announces that Xander will be his emissary and observe things for him during daylight. As a reward, Xander will be made immortal. Xander is more than willing to serve him. “You are strange and off-putting. Go now,” Dracula tells him. After he disappears, Xander gushes over his dramatic exit.

Riley goes to Spike’s crypt, where Spike has armed himself with a crossbow in case any demons come after him. Riley pays him for information on Dracula. Spike knew him back in the day, and Dracula still owes him 11 pounds. But when Dracula became famous, he forgot about his old foes. Spike thinks he’s done more harm to vampires than any Slayers have. Thanks to Dracula, everyone now knows how to kill vampires. (Wouldn’t that be Bram Stoker’s fault?)

Riley asks about Dracula’s powers, which Spike dismisses as just for show. Riley tells him that Dracula’s in Sunnydale. Spike thinks Dracula’s there for closure with him. Riley says he’s actually there for Buffy, so Riley wants to take him out before he can do anything to her. Spike lets him know that Dracula likes luxury. He advises Riley to keep his distance – he’s out of his depth here. Riley warns that while Buffy might have a problem with killing Spike now that he’s helpless, Riley doesn’t. “I’d like to see you try,” Spike replies. “Would you?” Riley says, stepping closer to him. Spike backs off first.

Buffy’s room fills with mist while she’s asleep, and when she wakes up, Dracula’s in the room. He says she’s “kindred” and tells her to pull her hair back so he can see her neck. She tries to resist his charms, but it’s tough. He says he’s searched the world for a creature with darkness like his. He sees the scar on her neck from when Angel fed on her and notes that she’s “been tasted.” According to Dracula, Angel is “unworthy” because he didn’t stay with Buffy. He thinks she has fond memories of being bitten. Buffy resists, but Dracula mesmerizes her into letting him bite her.

The next morning, Buffy puts on a scarf to cover the fang marks on her neck. At Giles’, Riley shares what he learned about Dracula’s love of luxury, and the Scoobies agree that they should search for him in fancy housing. Willow reports that Dracula will kill just to be able to feed, but he prefers connecting with his victims. He has mental powers that allow him to read and control minds, and appear in dreams. Buffy denies feeling any of that when they met.

Xander keeps defending Dracula while trying to hide that he’s basically switched sides here. Giles says that no matter how differently Dracula acts from other vampires, he still turns his victims just like regular vampires do. Xander replies that he’s gifting his victims with his blood, which is life. He eyes a spider, then kills and eats it when the Scoobies aren’t watching. EW! Giles says that Dracula likes to form relationships with his prey. He wants someone who wants to be taken: “She must burn for him.”

Buffy takes off alone, telling the Scoobies that she can handle Dracula. Riley runs after her and tells her to take off her scarf. When she won’t, he accuses her of being “under the thrall of the dark prince.” She keeps protesting, but he takes off the scarf and reveals the fang marks to everyone. Xander thinks she just kept quiet so she wouldn’t worry them. Buffy admits that she’s not sure why she tried to hide them. She just heard a voice telling her to.

Xander argues that Dracula doesn’t have any kind of control over Buffy. That’s just stuff from monster movies. Then he kills and eats a fly. Riley tries not to take this personally; Buffy’s just having transference issues because of Angel. After all, he and Dracula are both “broody immortals.” Buffy firmly denies that there’s any transference going on. She’s Riley’s girlfriend and that’s not going to change.

Riley doesn’t want Buffy near Dracula again, and Giles agrees. Buffy doesn’t want to go home, since Dracula got in once, so Xander offers to let her crash with him. Giles suggests that he and Riley look for Dracula while Willow and Tara do a protection spell at the Summerses’. Willow wonders how he got in without an invitation anyway.

Well, the thing is, he did get an invitation – from Joyce. She thought he was a normal guy, if a bit pale. Willow advises her to “avoid white-skinned men in capes.” I would amend that to any men in capes. Joyce didn’t mean to invite an ancient vampire into her house; she just has trouble dating. Sometimes she feels like giving up on men altogether. Willow and Tara are like, “Yeah, we get it.”

Giles and Riley have been searching mansions in town but haven’t found Dracula. At Xander’s, Anya complains that she’s stuck Slayer-sitting. She’s the only one of the group who knows Dracula, so she should be out searching. Xander shoves her in a closet, then tells Buffy, “I’m supposed to deliver you to the master now. There’s this whole deal where I get to be immortal. You cool with that?” Buffy is.

They go to Dracula’s castle, and Xander asks for his reward of immortality. Dracula sends him away so he and Buffy can be alone. He knew Buffy would come. “Why? ‘Cause I’m under your thrall?” she asks. Turns out she’s not, and she brought a stake with her. Except when he tells her to put it down, she does. She tries to pretend that she wanted to. “Maybe I should rethink that thrall thing,” she says.

Riley and Giles come across a “big, honking” castle Riley’s never noticed despite living in Sunnydale for a couple of years. Buffy tells Dracula to stay away from her, but he’s sure she came because she wants him to bite her again. She says that won’t happen again. “Stop me. Stake me,” he says, unconcerned. “Any minute now,” she replies. He tells her she doesn’t resist because she doesn’t want to. The Scoobies won’t find them. They’re alone – “always alone.”

Dracula has a lot of things he wants to teach Buffy about her history and power and capabilities. She’s not interested, but he thinks she longs to know more. She’ll have eternity to learn it all. First, though, he wants her to bite him. Riley comes across Xander, who warns that if Riley wants Dracula, he’ll have to go through Xander. Riley just punches him out and keeps moving. Elsewhere in the castle, Giles steps through a doorway and falls into a cellar that has no stairs. He’s just glad he didn’t get knocked out for once. The mythical three sisters crawl toward him and start ripping his clothes and rubbing him.

Dracula offers Buffy his blood, asking if she’s really never wanted to know what vampires fight for or been tempted to have a taste. He hasn’t drunk enough of her blood for her to become a vampire if she drinks from him. She’ll have to be near death to become a vampire, and only if she pleads for it. Buffy resists, saying she’s not hungry, but Dracula replies that her craving is deeper than that. “You think you know…what you are…what’s to come. You haven’t even begun,” he says.

Buffy takes his hand and drinks from his wrist. He urges her to find the darkness and her true nature. Instead, she has flashbacks to her dream about the Primitive and her recent fights on patrol. She kicks Dracula away and tells him that was gross. He’s not happy that she’s able to fight his thrall. She thanks him for helping her find her true nature. “You want a taste?” she asks. They start fighting.

Riley comes across the doorway Giles fell through and tosses him a stake. The sisters skulk off, not wanting a fight. “Thank God you came. There was no possible escape,” Giles says unconvincingly. Someone enjoyed being groped by vampires! Buffy and Dracula keep fighting, and she almost gets him with a torch. In the end, it’s a good, old-fashioned stake that does him in. “How do you like my darkness now?” she asks before he turns to dust.

She meets up with Riley and Giles, telling them she’s fine and Dracula has been “euro-trashed.” Xander joins them, demanding to know where Dracula is. He’s “sick of being the guy who eats insects and gets the funny syphilis.” From now on, Xander is done being everyone’s “butt monkey.” Riley says it could have been worse – he could have been with the sisters. Giles insists that he was about to take care of them when Riley found him. Riley asks if he was going to nuzzle them to death. After the group leaves the room, Dracula reappears. But Buffy’s seen his movies and she’s ready for him with her stake again.

With Dracula taken care of, Giles is ready to tell Buffy about his plans. But first she brings up the fact that he hasn’t been her Watcher for a while and she hasn’t needed to come to him for help. Facing Dracula made her realize some things. She admits that she’s been going out every night – not just patrolling, but hunting. She feels like Dracula understood her power better than she does. He saw darkness in it.

Buffy wants to know about that. She wants to learn about other Slayers and where they and she came from. If she can learn to control things, maybe she can be better. But she needs Giles’ help for that. She wants him to be her Watcher again. Touched, Giles mentally drops his plans and pretends he didn’t call Buffy over to discuss anything important.

Later, Buffy says goodbye to Joyce before she goes to meet Riley for a movie. She goes to her bedroom, where a teenage girl is looking through Buffy’s things. “What are you doing here?” Buffy asks. Joyce calls to her to take her sister along when she goes out. “Mom!” Buffy and the girl (Dawn) both exclaim, annoyed.

Thoughts: Rudolph Martin (Dracula) worked with Sarah Michelle Gellar on All My Children. Here’s a ridiculous picture.

Let’s get this out of the way now: Yes, Dawn is annoying. But she’s supposed to be annoying. I’m no Dawn apologist, but what we will not do is pick on Michelle Trachtenberg for her performance. As some would say, she understood the assignment.

I’m confused about the castle. Was it just an illusion Dracula put in people’s minds?

February 11, 2023

Buffy 4.22, Restless: Dream a Little Dream of Me

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , , at 1:19 pm by Jenn

I love Buffy’s dress. I have much less positive feelings about the Primitive’s clothes

Summary: Buffy is seeing Riley off to a military debriefing so the Initiative can wrap up its business (beyond what the government has already wrapped up). He thinks that with the testimonies of Graham and some other commandos, he’ll be cleared as a traitor and will get an honorable discharge in exchange for his silence. “Having the inside scoop on the administration’s own Bay of Mutated Pigs is definitely an advantage,” he says. “It’s like you’re blackmailing the government,” Willow replies brightly. “…In a patriotic way.”

They’re at the Summers’ house, where Riley has finally met Joyce. She’s not pleased that it took so long for Buffy to bring over her boyfriend, but Buffy’s going to ignore that. She and the Scoobies are going to have a movie night. Joyce can’t believe that they’re not exhausted after their big showdown with Adam. They say they’re still wired to sleep.

Xander wants to start with Apocalypse Now, though Willow would prefer something “less Heart of Darkness-y.” Buffy also vetoes it, but Xander has brought over a ton of movies that will appeal to the women and to Giles. They have enough for an all-night marathon. But before the FBI warning (kids, ask your parents) has even finished displaying, Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles are all asleep. What follows are four very bizarre dreams.

Willow’s dream: She’s in Tara’s dorm, discussing Miss Kitty Fantastico’s name. Tara thinks it’s weird that she hasn’t let them know her real name. Willow says she’s not grown yet and they shouldn’t worry. In fact, she never worries when she’s with Tara. Tara warns that Willow doesn’t know everything about her, but since Willow knows her real name, she’s not concerned.

“They will find out, you know,” Tara says. “About you.” Willow doesn’t have time to think about that. She’s busy with homework, by which she means whatever she’s writing on Tara’s back in another language. Tara doesn’t want her to be late to class, since she’s taking drama for the first time. Willow doesn’t want to leave, though. She opens a curtain and says it’s bright outside, and something’s out there. There’s a desert outside the window, and something’s moving around in it. Inside, Miss Kitty Fantastico is walking in slow motion.

On her way to class, which is at Sunnydale High instead of UC Sunnydale, Willow passes Xander and Oz. (Hi, Oz!) He warns that drama is a tough course. Willow asks if he took it. “Oh, I’ve been here forever,” he says. Xander asks if she and Tara were doing spells together. The bell rings and Willow heads off to class. Xander makes an obligatory “by spells I meant sex” joke.

Willow winds up backstage in a theater, where everyone’s in wildly different costumes for the first performance of their first big production. Harmony is there, dressed like a milkmaid, and is excited to get to act with Willow (as long as Willow doesn’t step on her cues). Buffy, who looks like she’s going to be playing Roxie or Velma in Chicago, tells Willow that the theater is packed. Her family is in the front row and they look angry. Willow’s confused about them performing, since this is supposed to be the first class.

Riley comes over, dressed as a cowboy, and he tells Willow she should have shown up earlier to get a better role. He’s Cowboy Guy. Buffy tells Willow that her costume (which is just her regular clothes) is perfect and no one will know the truth about her. Willow notes that they haven’t rehearsed. Harmony says the rest of them have. “I showed up on time, so I get to be Cowboy Guy,” Riley brags. Willow says it’s too early to put on a play. She really hopes it’s not Madame Butterfly, since she has “a whole problem with opera.”

Giles, who’s the director, gathers everyone before the curtain goes up. Everyone Willow’s ever met is in the audience, including the cast, so they need to be perfect. Willow sees someone crawling around on the floor and asks if anyone saw them. No one responds. As Harmony vamps out and sneaks up behind Giles to bite him, he tells everyone that the audience wants to find them, strip them naked, and eat them, so they need to hide. “Stop that,” he tells Harmony.

Giles rallies everyone to have their costumes and sets ready, as well as…uh…the things you touch and hold. “Props?” Harmony offers. “No,” Giles says. “Props?” Riley repeats. “Yes,” Giles replies. Good job, Cowboy Guy! Giles tells the cast that “it’s all about subterfuge.” He admonishes Harmony for being annoying. Then he sends the cast out to lie and have a great time. If they can stay focused and Willow can stop stepping on people’s cues, this will be the best performance of Death of a Salesman ever!

Everything starts chatting with each other, but their voices suddenly drop out. Willow turns and sees a man in the shadows. “I’ve made a little space for the cheese slices,” he tells her, showing off a row of them. Hmm, okay. She wanders around until she comes across Tara. Willow complains that people aren’t doing things the right way, and her family is there, and also, why is there a cowboy in Death of a Salesman? Tara realizes that she doesn’t understand yet.

Willow asks if something is following her. Tara says yes. Willow’s worried because the play’s about to start and she doesn’t know her lines. Tara tells her that the play has already started, but that’s not important. On stage, Cowboy Guy greets the milkmaid as Velma/Roxie lounges nearby. The milkmaid asks why Cowboy Guy has come to their small town with no post office and few exports. He’s there looking for a man – a salesman.

“Everyone’s starting to wonder about you – the real you,” Tara tells Willow. “If they find out, they’ll punish you. I can’t help you with that.” Willow asks what’s after her – something she’s supposed to do? Tara hushes her, and Willow hears a buzzing sound. On stage, someone (the salesman, I assume) is dead, and the milkmaid is crying over him. Velma/Roxie rants at Cowboy Guy that all men are hoodlums: “Men…with your sales.”

Tara has disappeared backstage. A blade suddenly slices through the curtain Willow is standing next to. She runs but gets stopped by an arm reaching out for her. The blade slices through curtains on both sides, striking Willow’s hand. Buffy finds her and takes her into an empty classroom as they look for whoever’s after Willow. Buffy says that Willow must have done something. Willow denies that, since she always behaves. She just went to class and found the play starting.

Buffy tells her that the play has been over for a long time – why is she still in character? Everyone already knows, so she can take off her costume. Willow says she needs it. Annoyed, Buffy rips off her clothes, then sits at a desk in what’s now a classroom full of students, including Xander, Anya, and Harmony. Harmony asks if everyone’s clear on things now.

Willow’s dressed the way she used to dress at the beginning of the series, and her hair is long like it was then. Anya laughs that it’s like a tragedy. Oz and Tara are there, and he tells her he tried to warn her. “It’s exactly like a Greek tragedy,” Anya says. “There should only be Greeks.” Willow’s supposed to present a book report on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Xander exclaims that no one cares. Oz and Tara are giggling and flirting.

As Willow tries to start her presentation, someone tackles her, growling. Bored, Buffy just puts her head on her desk. Everyone in the classroom stays at their desks, ignoring the girl getting attacked right in front of them. The attacker is a woman with long, dark hair, who’s commonly referred to as the Primitive. She growls in Willow’s ear, and Willow looks like she’s having the life sucked out of her. In the Summers’ living room, the real Willow writhes in her sleep.

Xander’s dream: Xander has just woken up after dozing off. Buffy and Giles are also awake, watching Apocalypse Now (but not the real version; it’s just a guy walking around in the jungle, wondering where his men are). Giles thinks it’s overrated, but Xander promises that it gets better. Willow’s gasping for breath in her sleep, and Buffy accuses her of faking. Giles says he’s starting to understand the movie – it’s about the journey.

Xander leaves to use the bathroom, running into Joyce upstairs. She tells him everyone else left, and he says he should go catch up. He’s pretty fast. Men are always after – “conquest?” Joyce supplies. Xander calls himself a conquistador. She asks if he doesn’t really want comfort. “I’m a comfortador also,” he replies. She says she knows the difference; she’s learned about boys. She’s wearing a nightgown and definitely flirting even before she invites him to rest in her bed. “Yeah, I’d like you,” he Freudian-slips, adding that he’s going to use the bathroom first. She tells him not to get lost.

He heads into the bathroom, where he realizes that a bunch of Initiative commandos and scientists are observing him as if he’s one of their hostiles. He leaves to find another bathroom but instead ends up in his basement room. Upstairs, someone is trying to open his locked door. He thinks it’s a vampire. “That’s not the way out,” he says as he looks at the door.

He goes to a playground, where Giles and Spike are swinging while Buffy plays in the sandbox. Spike is dressed exactly like Giles. Xander’s happy to see the three of them (well, probably not Spike), but Buffy asks if they’re really the people he was looking for. Spike says that Giles is going to teach him to be a Watcher. Giles adds that Spike is like a son to him. Xander says that he was into that for a while, but now he has other things going on. His ice cream truck is parked nearby, and another Xander is inside, serving customers.

The Xander at the playground says that you have to have something so you’re always moving forward. “Like a shark,” Buffy says. Xander agrees, though he’s a shark with feet and no fins. “And on land,” Spike adds. Giles is proud of him for that. Xander asks if Buffy is sure she wants to play in the sandbox, since it’s pretty big. It’s turned into the desert. She says she’s fine – it’s not coming for her yet. Xander warns that there are some things she can’t protect herself from. “I’m way ahead of you, big brother,” she replies.

Spike and Giles swing higher (“a Watcher scoffs at gravity”) as Buffy and Xander stare at each other. The Xander in the truck watches them all, then goes up to the front to drive, even though the truck is already moving. Anya’s there, and she asks if he knows where he’s going. She’s thinking about going back to her old vengeful ways: “I think this is going to be a very big year for vengeance.” Xander doesn’t like that idea, since they live in a society with “rules and borders and an end zone.”

He gets distracted by some laughter in the back of the truck. Willow and Tara are there, looking glam. “Do you mind? I’m talking to my demon,” Xander says. Tara tells him that they find him really interesting. He replies that he’s going places. Willow says she’s way ahead of him. She tells him to watch as she and Tara embrace and kiss. We only see Xander’s reaction, which is to stare. Tara invites him to join them, and Anya gives him permission. She’ll take over driving: “I think I’ve figured out how to steer by gesturing emphatically.”

Xander goes to the back of the truck, crawling through a storage area…and into his basement room. Willow and Tara are gone, and the doorknob is still rattling. The rattler starts pounding on the door. Xander calls out that he knows what’s up there, then heads away from the door. “These will not protect you,” the cheese man from Willow’s dream says, holding up a plate of his carefully arranged slices. The pounding on the door gets louder and Xander starts running as something enters the basement, growling.

He ends up in a hallway at Sunnydale High, where he asks Giles what’s after him. “It’s because of what we did, I know that,” Giles replies. The others have already gone ahead. Xander needs to listen very carefully because his life depends on what Giles is about to tell him. Too bad it’s in French, and Xander barely understands it. Anya joins them, also speaking French, and she, Giles, and some other people take Xander down a hallway. They pick him up and turn him upside-down.

Now Xander’s in his own version of Apocalypse Now, where he’s Willard and he’s just found Kurtz, AKA Snyder. Snyder asks where he’s from (“the basement, mostly”) and whether he was born there. He walked by Xander’s guidance counselor’s office once and saw the students there as sheep. “The hope of our nation’s future is a bunch of mulch,” he says. “You know, I never got the chance to tell you how glad I was you were eaten by a snake,” Xander replies.

Snyder asks where he’s heading. Xander says he’s supposed to meet Tara and Willow (and possibly Joyce). Snyder tells him that his time is running out. Xander says he’s just trying to get away. There’s something he can’t fight. Snyder asks if he’s a soldier. “I’m a comfortador,” Xander replies. Snyder tells him he’s neither: “You’re a whipping boy raised by mongrels and set on a sacrificial stone.” All Xander can think about his leg cramping.

When he gets up, he’s outside Giles’ apartment, and the Primitive is lurking around. He goes inside and finds Buffy, Giles, and Anya trying to figure out how to help Willow, who’s still writhing and gasping in her sleep. Xander goes back outside but ends up in a hallway in Buffy and Willow’s dorm. He wanders around until he eventually returns to his basement room. Someone is still pounding on the door. “That’s not the way out,” he repeats.

The door flies open and Xander immediately cowers. His father berates him for not coming upstairs. Is he ashamed of his family? His mother’s crying. Xander says his father doesn’t understand. Mr. Harris tells him the line ends here, and Xander can’t change that – he doesn’t have the heart. He reaches into Xander’s chest, turning into the Primitive as he pulls out that heart.

Giles’ dream: He’s using a pocket watch to try to train Buffy for something. She thinks it’s old-fashioned, but he tells her this is how people have behaved “since the beginning, before time.” She just laughs. Later, he and Olivia take Buffy to a cemetery, where she’s eager to train. She’s dressed and acting like a kid. Olivia is pregnant and rolling around an empty stroller.

A sort of carnival has been set up in the cemetery, and instead of slaying vampires, Buffy throws a ball at one. She misses it completely. “Buffy, you have a sacred birthright to protect mankind,” Giles admonishes her. “Don’t stick out your elbow.” Her next throw “stakes” the vampire, and she turns to Giles, grinning. He tells her he doesn’t have any treats for her. Olivia chastises him for being too harsh. He says this is his business.

Buffy gets a stick of cotton candy, and Giles complains that she’ll get it all over her face. Instead, her face is covered in mud. “I know you,” Giles says. Spike calls to him from a crypt across the cemetery, telling him to come in before he misses everything. Inside, Olivia is crying next to the overturned stroller. Things go black and white as Spike says that he’s become an attraction. He lets people take pictures of him in his crypt.

“What am I supposed to do with all of this?” Giles wonders, taking in the photographers and Olivia and the empty stroller. Spike tells him he needs to make up his mind. He’s wasting time. Hasn’t he figured it all out yet? “I still think Buffy should have killed you,” Giles says. The cheese man approaches with slices on his head and stuck to his suit. “I wear the cheese – it does not wear me,” he tells Giles.

Giles leaves, winding up at the Bronze. Xander and Willow are doing research, and they tell Giles they’re dying. Xander even has a bloody wound from his heart extraction. But he’s not going to let that keep him from being there for Anya’s big night – she’s doing stand-up comedy. She’s not very good at it. “Do you know this is your fault?” Willow asks Giles. He says they have to think about the facts. He’s busy; he has his own gig.

Willow tells him that something’s after them. It’s like a primal animal force. “That used to be us,” Giles replies. Anya finally gets through her first joke, and the audience laughs and applauds. Willow tells Giles to focus. He must have an explanation for what’s happening. They need to know what they’re fighting or they won’t stand a chance.

Giles suddenly starts singing his thought process. The band onstage accompanies him and he goes up to sing into the microphone. The audience is very excited to hear him. Giles realizes that the spell they did in “Primeval” released some kind of “primal evil.” He tells Willow to look for a reference to a warrior beast. He needs to warn Buffy, since she’s probably next. The audience holds up lighters, including Willow and Xander, who are looking at their books instead of Giles. P.S. Giles would like Xander to try not to bleed on the couch, since he just had it cleaned.

The song ends suddenly when Giles thinks of something else. He follows the microphone cord backstage but loses it in a pile of other cords. He finds his pocket watch there and thinks the discovery is obvious. The Primitive is suddenly above him. Giles says he knows who she is, and he can defeat her with his mind. She grabs his hair and begins to slice into his skull with a big knife as he says, “Of course, you underestimate me. You couldn’t know – you never had a Watcher.”

Buffy’s dream: Buffy’s in her bed in her and Willow’s dorm room, only Anya, not Willow, is in the other bed. She begs Buffy to wake up, but Buffy wants to go back to sleep. As she turns over, she looks up to see the Primitive above her. Next Buffy wakes up in her bed at home. Another Buffy is across the room, and she says that she and Faith just made the bed. Tara is also there, and she asks who they made the bed for. Buffy figured Tara would tell her.

She asks if the other Scoobies are there. Tara tells her she lost them. Buffy thinks they need her to find them. She sees on her clock that it’s 7:30 and comments that it’s late. Tara tells her the clock is wrong. She hands Buffy one of the tarot cards from the Scoobies’ spell, the hands card that represented Buffy. Buffy says she’ll never use them. “You think you know…what’s to come…what you are. You haven’t even begun,” Tara tells her. The Buffy in the bed is gone, and the one with Tara says she’s going to find the others. “Be back before dawn,” Tara replies.

Buffy heads to Sunnydale High and asks around about her friends. She finds Joyce, who’s trapped behind a wall but insists she’s fine. Buffy doesn’t need to worry about her – she should go find her friends. Buffy says Joyce shouldn’t live in the walls. As Joyce is replying that Buffy could probably break through and get her out, Buffy spots Xander and follows him.

She comes across Riley and another man at a desk in what looks like a room in the Initiative. Riley, who’s wearing a suit, calls her “killer” and says the debriefing went great – he’s Surgeon General now. Now the government is working on a plan for world domination. (“The key element? Coffeemakers that think.”) Buffy asks if world domination is a good move. Riley replies that they’re the government, and it’s what they do.

The other man notes that Buffy is uncomfortable with some ideas. Aggression is normal for humans, though he and Buffy “come by it another way.” The Primitive is behind her now, but Buffy doesn’t notice her. She insists that they’re not demons. “Is that a fact?” the man asks. Riley tells his girlfriend that they have a lot of important work to do, like filing and naming things. “What was yours?” Buffy asks the other man. “Before Adam?” he says. “Not a man among us can remember.”

An announcement comes over the PA system telling everyone to run for their lives because the demons have escaped. Riley suggests that he and Adam make a fort. Buffy sees a bag of weapons on the ground, but when she tries to call out to the guys that she can help, she can only whisper. She opens the bag and finds mud inside. She smears it on her face and stares at her muddy hands.

Riley returns, now in his regular clothes, and says he thought Buffy was looking for her friends. If that’s the way “killer” wants it, she’s on her own. She heads off in the opposite direction, eventually coming to a desert. Her face is clean again. The desert is so vast that she doubts she’ll find the Scoobies. “Of course not. That’s the reason you came,” Tara says as she approaches.

Buffy says that Tara isn’t in her dream. “I was borrowed,” Tara explains. “Someone has to speak for her.” Buffy wants “her” – the Primitive – to speak for herself, since that’s what polite people do. The Primitive circles her, and Buffy asks why she’s following her. The Primitive, speaking through Tara, says she’s not. Buffy asks about the Scoobies, and the Primitive says she’s asking the wrong questions.

Buffy insists that Tara make the Primitive speak. The Primitive can’t, as she doesn’t have speech or a name. “I live in the action of death,” Tara says for her. “The blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction – absolute, alone.” Buffy realizes that the Primitive is a Slayer. Tara clarifies that she was the first.

Buffy looks down at a stack of cards in her hands, the first of which shows her that the Scoobies are in her living room. “I am not alone,” she announces. The Primitive says that the Slayer doesn’t walk in the regular world. “I walk,” Buffy replies. “I talk. I shop I sneeze. I’m gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There’s trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don’t sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends.”

The Primitive is finally able to speak, rasping out, “No friends! Just the kill. We are alone.” The cheese man pops up and wiggles some cheese at Buffy. She decides she’s done with this and that she’s going to wake up. The Primitive tackles her and they start fighting. But Buffy declares the battle over and says, “We don’t do this anymore.” The Primitive grabs her again and they both roll down a dune. “Enough!” Buffy exclaims.

She wakes up on the floor in her living room, her friends still asleep around her. The Primitive jumps on her, stabbing at her with her blade but missing and only hitting the floor. “Are you quite finished?” Buffy asks. She’s done with the fight and is going to ignore the Primitive until she goes away. The Primitive needs to get over “the whole primal power thing” because she’s not the source of Buffy. Buffy gets on the couch to go back to sleep. She adds that the Primitive should consider doing something different with her hair, because in the workplace –

Buffy and the Scoobies all wake up for real at the same time. They discuss their shared dream visitor, which Giles thinks was the result of invoking the first Slayer in their spell. Apparently she didn’t appreciate that. Buffy wishes that Giles had mentioned before the spell that that could happen. “I did – I said there could be dire circumstances,” he says. “Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast,” Buffy notes.

Joyce comes in and asks what fun she missed. Willow replies that the spirit of the first Slayer tried to kill them in their dreams. Joyce is like, “That’s a bummer. Who wants hot chocolate?” She asks Xander to help her, which makes him uncomfortable. Buffy says she’s never thought about the first Slayer before. The Scoobies would prefer to never dream about her again. “Well, at least you all didn’t dream about that guy with the cheese,” Buffy says as she heads upstairs to take a shower. “I don’t know where the hell that came from.” The other three look at each other.

Upstairs, Buffy pauses outside her bedroom and remembers what Tara said: “You think you know…what’s to come…what you are. You haven’t even begun.”

Thoughts: I love this episode but it was, fittingly, a nightmare to recap. So much bizarre dialogue and little details I didn’t want to miss.

This is, unfortunately, the last time we see Oz. It’s okay to cry.

Xander never talks about his father, but judging by Xander’s demeanor and body language in his dream, Mr. Harris is abusive. The second he appears, Xander ducks his head and tries to avoid eye contact. It’s a great detail from Nicholas Brendon.

Here’s the “Exposition Song,” one of the most memorable moments in an episode full of them.

Season 4 is no more. Up next: Dawn, Glory, and a lot of tears.


February 4, 2023

Buffy 4.21, Primeval: By Our Powers Combined…

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:11 pm by Jenn

Hi. We’re here to invade you

Summary: Buffy goes looking for Riley in the ruins of the high school, but he’s not there – he’s with Adam. Adam calls him “brother” and reveals that Walsh implanted a behavior modifier in Riley’s chest. It’s the first phase of his “preparation.” It was dormant until Adam activated it. Riley objects to being called Adam’s “brother,” but as Adam demonstrates by making him sit simply by telling him to, Riley doesn’t have any power here. At least not yet. Adam expects Riley to forget his old life and embrace his destiny like Adam has. Riley should like it.

Adam blathers about demons clinging to old ways, then turning to humans, who were smart and adaptive but imperfect and weakened by emotions. Walsh was meant to be Adam and Riley’s “deliverer.” She saw that Riley was “necessary” and would serve a role alongside Adam. That’s why he sees them as brothers.

Spike pops in to remind Adam that he’s supposed to remove the chip from Spike’s head. He has some fun with Riley when he realizes that he’s under Adam’s control. “So it’s chips all around, is it?” Spike asks. “Someone must’ve bought the party pack.” Adam tells him that he’ll get his chip out when Buffy is where Adam wants her. Spike is confident that his plan to split up the Scoobies was successful, and Buffy’s alone. Adam needs her in the Initiative now so she can kill a bunch of demons and weaken herself.

Spike notes that the disks he gave the Scoobies are supposed to send Buffy to the Initiative. Adam’s like, “You mean the disks that Willow was decrypting? Buffy’s friend Willow? Her friend who she’s supposed to be estranged from right now? Those disks?” Spike realizes he overlooked something in his plan. But really, it’s Adam’s screw-up, because he let Spike make this plan, and obviously he shouldn’t have trusted him. Yeah, that’s not a great defense here, Spike.

Willow and Tara go back to Giles’ in the morning so Willow can get her laptop and the disks. It’s awkward, and not just because Giles is really hungover. Alone in her dorm room, Buffy looks at a picture of herself with Xander and Willow, sad about their big fight. She picks up the phone to make a call, then puts it back down. She gathers some weapons instead.

Anya goes to Xander’s and tries to cheer him up. He should be over the fight by now, since it happened hours ago. “So they all think you’re a lost, directionless loser with no plans for his future. Pfft!” she says. Xander admits that they might be right. Anya doesn’t think that matters. He’s a good person and boyfriend, and she’s in love with him.

Buffy goes to Adam’s lair as Adam takes Riley to a lab he’s prepared in a secret area of the Initiative. He’s set it up for the “new race” he’s going to create. Walsh is there, or at least some Frankenstein’s monster/zombie version of her. Adam’s carrying out the plans she made. Angelman is also a zombie, and Riley asks if he’s going to end up one, too. Adam says the zombies are “just workers,” and Riley’s destiny is greater. Another zombie suddenly sits up, and Riley is disturbed to recognize him as Forrest.

On her way out of the caves, Buffy runs into Spike and tells him Adam’s been hanging out down there. Spike pretends he had no idea and doesn’t want anything to do with Adam. He asks about the disks, and Buffy tells him that Willow has them. He urges her to find out what’s on the disks anyway; she can’t ignore would could be vital information just because she and her friend had a fight. Buffy catches on that Spike knows things he shouldn’t but doesn’t let him know he made her suspicious.

Willow’s in the process of typing in a new code (something about algorithms; I don’t know) when the disks suddenly decrypt themselves. She guesses that they were programmed to do that after a certain amount of time. She complains that it’s like someone calling out the answer to a riddle right when you were about to solve it. Then she realizes there’s no need to be annoyed, since she’ll get the information she wanted. Buffy calls just then.

Alone with the zombies, Riley tries to get through to Walsh. Forrest tells him that she’s dead; she can hear him, but she’s just a “walking corpse.” Forrest, however, is basically a second version of Adam. He’s eager to try fighting Buffy again. He’s free of weaknesses and doubts now, and he’s thrilled by what he sees as an upgrade. Adam will make Riley the same as him once he’s found the right parts.

Forrest and Riley will be fighting on the same side again and moving toward a new future. Riley says he won’t let that happen, but Forrest replies that he doesn’t have a choice – he no longer has free will. Riley protests, so Forrest tells him to stand up. He can’t, since Adam didn’t say Simon says he could. Walsh finally speaks, telling Riley to “be a good boy” before she injects him with something.

Buffy, Giles, Xander, and Willow meet up on the quad, and Buffy confirms her suspicions that Spike drove them all apart. They all quickly agree to move on from the things they said to each other. I’m sure it’ll be just that easy! Xander thinks Spike was just having fun with them, but Buffy suspects that it had to do with Adam. “Spike’s working for Adam?” Xander exclaims. “After all we’ve done – nah, I can’t even act surprised.”

Buffy mentions the disks, which Willow says she decrypted. Well, she was present when they were decrypted. They mostly contained information they already know about 314, but they also mentioned a final phase where Adam makes a bunch of “cyber-demonoids” in an Initiative lab. Buffy guesses that he wants her to know about his “evil-guy assembly line.” He’s luring her to the Initiative, which is full of demons that were surprisingly easy for the commandos to capture. Giles says it’s like a Trojan horse.

The Scoobies figure out that Adam wanted the facility full of demons so they can attack from the inside. After the demons and commandos slaughter each other, Adam will have plenty of body parts to choose from to build his own army. “Diabolical, yet…gross,” Willow says. Xander asks if anyone else misses the mayor, who just wanted to be a big snake.

Buffy wants to move now, since Adam is obviously about to start the final phase. Giles thinks they should warn the Initiative, but she knows they won’t listen to her or Riley. Xander asks why Adam wants Buffy in the middle of everything. She guesses that he wants her to kill demons and even out the demon/commando ratio of deaths. He’s not worried at all that the Slayer might kill him, too.

Back in the lab, Adam can feel that Buffy’s coming. Spike would like to get his chip removed now so he can get the heck out of there before the killing begins. Spike is, like, the 30th thing on Adam’s to-do list, and there are only 22 items on it. He won’t remove the chip until Buffy’s actually there.

The Scoobies head to Giles’, where Buffy tells them that Adam’s power source is a uranium core. She thinks it’s near his spine. Willow suggests finding a spell that could extract it. Giles knows of a paralyzing spell, but he can’t do the incantation. It’s not that he doesn’t speak the language it’s in, Sumerian; it’s that only an experienced witch can do it. Plus, they’d have to be in close proximity. Xander quips that they just need someone who has a combination of Buffy’s Slayer strength, Giles’ language skills, and Willow’s magic. That gives Giles an idea.

The Scoobies go to the Initiative’s frat house to use their entrance to the facility. Willow asks if Xander’s nervous. “No way. I’m full of that good old kamikaze spirit,” he replies. “Xander, just because this is never going to work, there’s no need to be negative,” Giles says. It’s not that the enjoining spell they’re going to use isn’t powerful enough to defeat Adam – it’s just that it’s really dangerous.

They rappel down the elevator shaft to sneak into the facility. On the way down, Buffy apologizes to Willow for how strained things have been among the friends. Willow says it’s not her fault, since Spike caused trouble, but Buffy thinks it was easy for him because the group has drifted so far apart this year. She blames herself for being a bad friend, since she’s been wrapped up in other stuff (mostly Riley).

Willow acknowledges that she’s been distant and kept secrets. Buffy understands, since she was going through something big. Willow says she wanted to tell Buffy, but she was scared. Buffy promises that Willow can tell her anything – they’re best friends. They try to hug each other but it’s hard when they’re harnessed and climbing down ropes a few feet away from each other. They wait till they’re on the ground to really embrace. When Xander joins them, they hug him, too. He thinks they’re reassuring him that they love him because they’re all going to die. He calls up to Giles to join them because he won’t want to miss all the hugging.

The guys pry open the elevator doors, where commandos are waiting for them with guns. Spike and Adam watch on surveillance monitors as Buffy is led down a hallway. “Slayer has landed,” so Spike would like his chip removed now. Adam protests, since the Scoobies are with her. Spike failed. Spike wisely decides to just run, but Forrest stops him. Adam acknowledges that Spike tried, which is worth something. He’ll remove Spike’s chip…by having Forrest remove his head. Spike fights him off by putting a lit cigarette in his eye. Adam lets him go, knowing he won’t get far.

The Scoobies are brought before Colonel McNamara, who’s really tired of them sneaking into a government facility, like, maybe the government should do something if civilians are able to keep getting in. He opens a bag they brought with them and is confused to find a big gourd inside. Giles explains that it’s a magic gourd. “What kind of freaks are you people?” McNamara asks. Uh, the freaks who are going to save your life, if you’re lucky.

Buffy tells him that Adam is in the facility and used the demons to pull a Trojan horse on it. McNamara denies that there’s any area in the facility that isn’t under surveillance. “Including the secret lab?” Willow asks. “Including everything!” McNamara replies. “What secret lab?” Oh, yeah, this is a guy who should be in charge. Buffy determines that he also doesn’t know about the 314 project. McNamara thinks they’re fully equipped to handle any threat, including Adam. Oh, sweetie. Oh, honey. You’re not.

Giles asks how McNamara plans to get close enough to Adam to remove his power source. Why, they’ll just surround him and use multiple blasters until they incapacitate him! Buffy tells McNamara that Adam feeds on the voltage from the blasters, so they’ll just be giving him “an all-you-can-eat buffet.” McNamara doesn’t appreciate this college student questioning his methods. She angrily tells him that they’re in over their heads and messing with “primeval forces” they don’t understand. McNamara is skeptical that Buffy knows more than he does. “I’m the Slayer. You’re playing on my turf,” she replies.

McNamara will accept that Buffy has the advantage above-ground, but in the Initiative, he’s in charge. Just then, the lights go out. The backup power grid doesn’t come up, and a tech guy tells McNamara they’re locked in. Adam takes over, opening all the doors to the demons’ cells. Let the massacre begin!

Buffy insists that McNamara get his people out of there and let the Scoobies take care of Adam. McNamara orders the Scoobies’ arrests instead. As soon as they’re alone with just two lower-level commandos, Buffy knocks them out and the Scoobies search the surveillance monitors for a place where they can do the enjoining spell. It’ll be tough, since there are demons and commandos and scientists everywhere. Spike is in the middle of things, too, taking down as many demons as he can while he tries to escape.

Willow finds what looks like a nonexistent space behind room 314, which Buffy guesses is Adam’s hideout. As the Scoobies figure out how to get there, Graham joins the fighting. The Scoobies run through the battle, kicking and blasting along the way. Also, Giles hits a demon with his bag. They find an empty lab for the Scoobies to do the spell while Buffy goes to face Adam. Xander doesn’t like that she’s going after him alone. “I won’t be,” she replies.

In the hideout, Buffy spots Riley first and is disturbed when he can’t talk to her. Adam enters and says he’s not programmed to. He’s part of the last phase, like Buffy was supposed to be. She tells Adam that she’s never been one to follow commands. Forrest is, though, so Adam tells him to kill Buffy. He holds her so Walsh can come cut her open, but she gets out of his grasp. While she fights Forrest, Riley tries to figure out how to free himself.

The Scoobies start the enjoining spell, calling on some ancient power to join their minds, hearts, and spirits. Riley’s finally able to speak, but Forrest tells him to shut up and watch Forrest kill his girlfriend. Riley manages to move his hand and grab some broken glass, which he uses to cut open his chest. The Scoobies add tarot cards to their spell: Willow is the spirit, Xander is the heart, Giles, is the mind, and Buffy is the hand.

As Riley reaches into his chest to pull out his chip, Forrest overpowers Buffy and lifts her above his head. She’s able to grab some power lines, which would be a helpful weapon right now if she had the chance to use them. Forrest, Walsh, and Angelman get her on an exam table, where she keeps trying to fight them. Forrest taunts, “Is that all you got?” Riley announces that she has him, too. He takes down Walsh and Angelman, then takes on Forrest, which allows Buffy to go after Adam.

McNamara leads a group of commandos through the facility, quickly realizing that, uh, actually, they’re not as prepared for a big battle as he thought. Buffy finally reaches Adam and starts fighting him. He goes after her with one of his skewers, which she just breaks off. Unfortunately, he’s upgraded the other with a gun. Okay, maybe Buffy isn’t as prepared for the big battle as she thought, either.

The Scoobies continue the spell, which kicks in just as Adam’s new weapon makes contact with Buffy. Her eyes are a yellowish-orange now, and she’s more or less channeling whatever Willow summoned. She speaks Sumerian and puts up some sort of force field that keeps Adam’s bullets from reaching her.

Riley fights Forrest, who’s having a little too much fun trying to kill his former best friend. Riley suddenly runs across the room and ducks behind an exam table. Forrest looks up in time to see that the tank of oxygen he grabbed after Riley beat him with it is dangerously close to the sparking overhead power lines – and it’s flammable. ‘Bye, Forrest!

Adam must not be a fast learner because he just keeps firing bullets at Buffy, who’s still protected by the force field. Eventually she turns a couple of them into birds. Then she makes his gun retract into his arm by just waving her hand. She goes back to hand-to-hand combat, this time way more powerful than Adam is. She gets him up against a wall, reaches into his chest, and pulls out his uranium power source. ‘Bye, Adam!

Riley runs in and finds her just staring at the power source. It levitates out of her hand and disappears in a flash of light. Her eyes are still yellowish-orange, and she collapses as Riley reaches her. The Scoobies all nod out, then regain consciousness. Spike bursts in, fighting a demon, and tells the Scoobies that they’re lucky he was there. Giles is like, “Yeah, thanks for putting all this in motion; we know you helped Adam start a war.” Xander thinks Spike only saved them to keep them from staking him right now. Spike asks if it worked.

Buffy and Riley join the others, and the Slayer gives out instructions so they can end the battle and protect all the humans. Despite all the effort she had to put forth with Adam, she’s still in tip-top fighting shape. As we see the rest of the battle play out, a committee meets to discuss the Initiative, which they consider a failed experiment. The commandos suffered a 40% casualty rate, and the number was only that low because of Riley and some “civilian insurrectionists.”

Walsh had a brilliant vision, but it was “insupportable.” They can’t harness or control demons. “They” include McNamara, who gets killed by a monster. (Graham survives, though, in case anyone cares about Graham.) The project will be terminated, the records will be destroyed, the commandos will be sworn to secrecy, the Scoobies will be monitored in case they decide to go public, and the building will be filled in with concrete. “Burn it down, gentlemen,” the head of the committee says. “Burn it down and salt the earth.”

Thoughts: When talking about Walsh, I accidentally typed “Frankenstein’s mother” instead of “Frankenstein’s monster,” which is the mother (heh) of all Freudian slips.

Sidelining Riley for most of the episode feels like a misstep.

I remember checking after this episode first aired to confirm that it wasn’t the season finale, because it definitely felt like it was. And then for the next week, everyone was all, “What are they going to do now?” Oh, silly, naïve is.


January 28, 2023

Buffy 4.20, The Yoko Factor: Helter Skelter

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 1:13 pm by Jenn

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Summary: Colonel McNamara is on a call with some government official, telling him how things are at the Initiative. The commandos are struggling to keep control of the hostiles, and their morale is low in the wake of Walsh’s death and Adam’s escape. McNamara is there to try to maintain control while the government official decides what to do with the organization.

Government guy wants to talk about Riley. McNamara blames the Scoobies for his desertion, though he’s not sure Riley was ever the soldier the Initiative thought he was. He “thinks too much.” The government wants Riley back, and McNamara is confident that they’ll find him. He’ll probably stick close to Buffy. Government guy doesn’t know much about her, but McNamara says she’s “just a girl.”

“She’s a lot more than that,” Spike tells Adam in their underground lair. Adam thinks he can easily defeat her, but Spike disagrees. At the very least, she’ll screw up his plans like she always does. He needs to be ready for her to be right in the middle of whatever his big, bad endgame is. Adam says he’s counting on that.

Spike tells Adam how he killed two Slayers, which makes Adam curious about why he’s afraid of Buffy. Spike claims he’s not; he just knows who he’s dealing with. Adam asks why Spike hasn’t killed her yet. Spike blames bad luck and his chip. Adam knows that makes him feel smothered and trapped. He’s a beast too powerful to be contained, and he’ll eventually break free. Adam vows to make Spike whole and savage again. Spike is inspired, and he can see why demons want to follow Adam: “You’re like Tony Robbins, if he was a big, scary, Frankenstein-looking…you’re exactly like Tony Robbins.”

Adam promises to restore Spike to his factory settings when he has control of Buffy. Spike is still skeptical that he can accomplish that goal. She and the Scoobies are “crafty.” Her buddies will throw another wrench into Adam’s plans. Adam simply says that they need to take them away from Buffy. This has apparently never occurred to Spike. He tells Adam he’ll take care of the Scoobies. He won’t even have to do anything – they’ll do it for him.

Buffy has just returned to Sunnydale from a crossover episode trip to L.A. to deal with Faith. Willow’s out (…heh, no pun intended), so Buffy mopes by herself. Xander checks in on Riley, who’s still hiding out in the ruins of the high school. He brings him some clothes, though Riley would prefer if they weren’t Xander’s clothes, because Xander’s style is…okay, “style” is the wrong word. Xander’s clothes are bad. Anyway, Riley’s still off the Initiative’s radar.

Both guys are eager for Buffy to get back from L.A., and not just because they miss her – they don’t like the thought of her being around Angel. Xander claims not to hate Angel; “just, you know, the guts part of him.” Riley thinks he just hates the curse. Xander’s confused and asks what Buffy told Riley. Apparently she just said that she loved Angel, he turned evil and killed people, she “cured” him, and he left. LOL, she skipped over an entire season! Riley’s not familiar with how the curse was triggered, i.e., by having sex with Buffy.

Xander promises that that’s ancient history. Riley grumbles that Buffy ran to L.A. to “bone up” on that history. “No! I’m sure it’s boneless,” Xander replies. She just needed to make sure everything was okay. He thinks Riley will feel better when he sees her. Riley doesn’t seem so sure.

Giles is playing guitar and singing “Freebird” when Spike shows up at his place. He suggests that the former Watcher be a little better about watching his door. Spike is supposedly there to get a blood bag he left, but he’s really there to start creating a rift between the Scoobies. He tells Giles to give Buffy a message that he might have useful information for her. He may know the location of some classified Initiative files that could contain intel about Adam.

Giles is smart enough to know that it’s pretty convenient that Spike is offering what the Scoobies need exactly when they need it. Spike acknowledges that and adds that he wants a bigger payment than usual: a year’s supply of blood, lots of money, and a promise that he won’t be slain. Giles agrees, but Spike will only make his deal with Buffy. He doubts that she’ll listen to Giles if he presents the deal to her. It’s not like she listened to him when he was in charge of her. She treats him like what he is – a retired librarian.

Tara has followed through on her decision to get a kitten, and she’s now the happy owner of Miss Kitty Fantastico. Willow loves having something that’s theirs. Well, Tara’s. Just Tara’s. Tara says she can be theirs. She’s helping Willow pick classes for next year, and former shy girl Willow is considering taking a drama class. She mentions that she hasn’t decided on housing yet. She suggests off-campus housing with a group, but Tara thought that Willow and Buffy would live together again. Willow expected them to be roommates until they were old and gray. Now, though, they have such separate lives.

Riley goes to Buffy and Willow’s room, so impatient to see Buffy that he willingly wore Xander’s pants out in public (and also risked being spotted by the Initiative, though he’s patched into their frequency with a walkie-talkie and can stay a step ahead of them). Buffy isn’t very talkative, and all she says about her trip to L.A. is that Angel upset her. She wants to refocus on finding Adam. Riley jokes that she just doesn’t want to have a serious conversation while he’s wearing Xander’s crazy pants. He’s unable to hide how hurt he is, though.

Anya and Xander take Spike some camo for another stealthy trip into the Initiative. There’s a gun in with the clothes, and Spike learns that even pointing a weapon at a human activates his chip and causes him pain. Even worse, the gun is fake. Spike thinks he should have something he can use to defend himself. Xander doesn’t care. Spike warns that his attitude won’t get him very far in boot camp. He claims that Buffy and Willow were laughing about him joining the Army and sucking at being a soldier.

Xander insists that he’s not as useless as his friends seem to think he is. He has lots of skills and “strategems”! He can’t really think of anything specific, so he asks Anya for help. “He’s a Viking in the sack,” she tells Spike. Thank you, Anya. Xander complains that Buffy and Willow have been freezing him out because they’re so into college life. College isn’t so special – “it’s high school, only without the actual going to class. Well, high school was kinda like that, too.”

Xander’s out in the real world, working to support himself, and all his friends can do is laugh at him for getting fired from places like Starbucks and a phone-sex line. Anya says that Buffy and Willow look down on Xander. He replies that they hate her. “But they don’t look down on me,” she notes. Spike tells Xander not to get so worked up. Xander angrily asks if anyone was talking to him. “Sir, no, sir!” Spike replies.

Out on patrol, Buffy runs into Forrest, who would probably love nothing more than to hurt her, but who’s willing to just walk away if she is. They’re both planning to check out a cave, and Buffy’s surprised that Forrest is there without backup. He says the “family” is spread thin. She asks what kind of family they are – the Corleones? He thinks they were doing great before she got involved.

Buffy asks if they have a no-girls-allowed club. Forrest says that’s not the issue – the problem is that she got Riley to commit treason. He had a career and a future until he met Buffy. Buffy doesn’t think it was much of a future, since it included experiments, torture, and murder. Forrest tries to intimidate her into leaving, but she warns that if he touches her, he’ll get a demonstration of her Slayer strength. He eggs her on, wanting to see what she’s made of. Adam, who’s also in the cave, speaks up that he’d like to see that, too.

Buffy starts fighting Adam, trying to get Forrest to leave. Adam knocks her down and Forrest zaps Adam with a blaster, but it seems to give him a power boost instead of hurting him. He skewers Forrest, steals his blaster, and turns it on Buffy. She’s lost her weapon and knows she can’t beat Adam in hand-to-hand combat, so she runs. During her escape, she trips and falls down a hill, hitting her head on a rock and knocking herself out.

Spike goes back to Giles’, pretending he just ran away from some commandos after leaving the Initiative. He gives Willow some disks he allegedly stole. Giles, who started drinking when Spike left earlier and doesn’t appear to have stopped since, snarks that Spike didn’t put up much of a fight. He’ll get paid when Willow confirms that the information on the disks is useful.

Spike notices Tara playing with Willow’s hair, then undermines Giles some more by saying that he has to wait for Willow’s permission to finish their deal. The information on the disks is encrypted, so it’s going to take a while for Willow to get anything out of them. Spike pokes at her about not being as much of a computer whiz as she used to be. It’s probably because she’s been so busy with her “new thing,” according to her friends. He says it’s Wicca, but he’s hinting that it’s her sexuality. The Scoobies said this is a phase and Willow get over it.

Willow assures Tara that Buffy doesn’t feel that way. Spike says Buffy defended Willow; Xander’s the one who said she’s “being trendy.” Was lesbianism that popular in 2000? Wait, popular isn’t the right word. …Common? I don’t know. Anyway, Spike plays innocent, saying that if someone wants to be a witch, that’s their business. Willow thinks Buffy’s more freaked out about certain recent revelations than she’s led on.

A lieutenant tells McNamara that the Initiative’s cells are at capacity and they can’t take in any more hostiles. McNamara considers them animals and wants to pack in as many as they can. He’s not concerned with them killing each other. Uh, and if they kill your employees? Actually, they already are, just out in the field instead of in the facility. Riley hears a mayday call on his walkie-talkie and heads out to provide backup. He comes across a team of commandos who have been knocked out by Angel.

Riley doesn’t know Angel on sight, but Angel knows him from his last trip to Sunnydale, and he says they have a mutual friend. Riley figures out who he’s talking to. Angel thinks Riley sent a “welcoming committee” after him. Riley thought Angel was a good guy; if he’s killing people, does that mean he lost his soul again?

Angel warns Riley not to push, but Riley ignores him, asking what could have happened between him and Buffy to make him lose his soul. Angel says that’s between them. Oh, stop it. You didn’t sleep with her. Angel wants to go see Buffy, which of course Riley isn’t going to let happen without a fight. The guys get into it, throwing each other around in an alley until they hear an Initiative vehicle approaching and have to run away.

Buffy makes it back to her dorm room just before Angel shows up. He decides not to tell her that he had a run-in with Riley. She thinks he came to see her because he thought of something else hurtful to say and wanted to see her reaction in person. Angel says this is time-sensitive, but before he can elaborate, Riley bursts in with his gun out. Oh, put it away, soldier boy.

Buffy immediately thinks that Angel only came to town to confront Riley. Angel promises that their encounter wasn’t planned and tells Riley to put down his gun. Riley knows he’s outmatched and refuses to give up his one possible form of defense. He tells Buffy that Angel attacked a bunch of commandos, but Buffy insists that he won’t hurt Riley. Angel’s like, “Actually…”

The guys bicker, then start fighting again. Buffy threatens to take them both down if they show “one more display of testosterone poisoning.” Angel actually tries to say that Riley started it, like, dude, know when to quit. Buffy addresses Riley first, asking for a moment alone with Angel. Riley refuses to leave the room, so Buffy and Angel go into the hallway. “I’m not moving a muscle,” Riley says to himself, like he’s seven years old and still thinks he can have the higher ground here.

Buffy blasts Angel for treating her like just an ex when she came to help him. (Yeah, yeah, she is his ex. Shhh, Angel.) He ordered her to leave L.A., then came to Sunnydale and beat up her boyfriend. What is he trying to do? Angel says he wanted to make things better. Buffy starts laughing, which breaks the tension between them. He tells her he couldn’t leave things the way they were. He wanted to apologize for the way he talked to her in L.A. He only fought Riley because Riley thought he was evil again. Buffy thinks Angel can understand why Riley acted the way he did.

She admits that he wasn’t totally wrong about what he said in L.A. They don’t live in each other’s worlds anymore, so she shouldn’t have barged into his and made judgments. Angel apologizes again, promising that next time, he’ll just call. He notes that things are tense in Sunnydale. He’d like to help, but when Buffy hints that it’s better for him to leave, he agrees. Still, she appreciates that he came to see her. As Angel leaves, he pauses to say that he doesn’t like Riley. Buffy just smiles and thanks him.

Spike joins Adam in his cave, happy about all the cracks he’s put in the Scoobies’ relationships. It was even easier than he expected. He tells Adam it’s “the Yoko factor.” Adam looks confused, so Spike asks if he’s heard of the Beatles. “I have. I like ‘Helter Skelter,'” Adam replies. Spike says that they were a powerful group once. When they broke up, everyone blamed Yoko Ono, but the group really split itself apart. She was just there. Similarly, the Scoobies simply grew apart after high school. Adam is pleased, and Spike thinks it’s time for his big plan. Adam says there’s one more thing he needs before he can remove Spike’s chip.

Buffy returns to Riley to give him the news about Forrest’s death. Before she can, Riley guesses that she’s going to break up with him and go back to Angel. She’s offended that he suspects her of cheating on him. Riley blames Xander, who Buffy declares “the deadest man in Deadonia.” Riley admits that he went a little crazy after learning what triggers Angel losing his soul. He knows he should believe in their relationship, but he also knows how it can be with exes. Plus, when he saw that Angel was bad, he jumped to a reasonable assumption. Buffy says Angel isn’t bad. “Seriously? That’s a good day?” Riley asks.

He notes that Angel is probably popular with girls even when he’s good, since he’s “Mr. Billowy Coat King of Pain.” Buffy asks if she’s ever given Riley a reason to feel like he can’t trust her. He acknowledges that she hasn’t, but he’s so in love with her that he can’t think straight. Buffy feels the same. They hug, everything forgiven, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows – she still has to break the news about Forrest’s death. She promises to find Adam and destroy him. Riley just replies that he needs to go.

Willow hasn’t had any luck with the encrypted disks, and she thinks it could take weeks or even months to do. “Whatever happened to Latin?” an increasingly drunk Giles wonders. “At least when that made no sense, the church approved.” Buffy’s impatient, and Anya tells her they worked hard to get the disks. Xander even delivered clothes. Buffy apologizes, but they’re pressed for time.

She considers going back to the cave and tracking Adam. Willow tells her it’s a bad idea to go back alone. “You never train with me anymore,” Giles says. “He’s going to kick your a%$.” Buffy’s shocked, and he apologizes, asking, “Was that a bit honest?” Xander wants to rally the troops to go with Buffy, but she tells him he’s not going. He’ll just get hurt.

He thinks she and Willow are going to exclude him again. He’ll just stay behind at the Bat Cave with Alfred. Giles objects to being Alfred, since Alfred had a job. Buffy says Willow isn’t going, either – she’s going alone. Willow and Xander are annoyed that they’re not allowed to help. As the argument heats up, Tara and Anya both quietly slip out of the room.

Xander snarks that Buffy and Willow might have to ship him off to the Army to get him out of the way. He accuses them of talking behind his back. Buffy slams him for telling Riley about her relationship with Angel. Willow objects to herself and Buffy being considered the two edging out Xander: “You two are the two who are the two. I’m the other one.” Xander thinks that’ll change when he’s “doing sit-ups over at Fort Dix.” Giles cracks up at that and Buffy asks if he’s drunk. “Yes, quite a bit, actually,” he replies.

Buffy tries to end the argument, calling it stupid. Xander thinks she’s calling him stupid. She says she’s not; he just needs to stop being an idiot and let her fix this. She promises that she needs her friends all the time, just not this time. Willow asks how Buffy really needs her. Buffy says she’s good with computers and “witch stuff.” Willow asks her to clarify what she means by that. Buffy asks what’s happening. Things are crazy. Giles says it’s actually finally making sense. Then he falls out of his chair. Elsewhere, Tara and Anya wonder how long the fight will go on and admire the bathroom they’re hiding in.

Xander says he’d do great in the Army because he might get a job that couldn’t be done by a dog. Giles decides he’s done and heads upstairs to go to bed. Willow snarks that the umbilical cord between Xander and Anya might not stretch far enough for him to enlist in the military. Xander thinks this is confirmation of his theory that Willow hates Anya. Giles drops the sweater he’s just taken off down to the living room and it falls on Xander’s head.

Willow says she’s not being judgmental. Xander and Buffy can handle that themselves. Buffy thinks she’s been more than open-minded about the choices Xander and Willow have made. Xander blasts her for her attitude: “Just because you’re better than us doesn’t mean you can be all superior.” Buffy tries again to stop the argument, asking what happened to Willow and Xander today. Willow says it’s not just today – things have been wrong for a while.

Buffy doesn’t get it. She hasn’t noticed anything wrong. Willow thinks things changed when Buffy found out about Tara. She can’t handle Tara being Willow’s girlfriend. Xander says it started before that, when Buffy and Willow went off to college and abandoned him. Also, Tara is Willow’s girlfriend? “Blood hell!” Giles exclaims from upstairs.

Buffy reminds her friends that they want to help and be part of the team. They’re less enthusiastic about that now, but she calls them out. Why don’t they all go after Adam with Xander and Willow attacking Buffy and Giles drooling on things? Maybe that’s how they can kill Adam. “How can you possibly help?” Buffy asks angrily. Xander and Willow don’t reply.

“I guess I’m starting to understand why there’s no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One and her friends,” Buffy says. If she needs help, she’ll go to someone she can count on. But that one person she has left to count on is a step ahead of her: Riley is in Adam’s lair, where Adam has been patiently waiting for him. To be continued…

Thoughts: I love how overly dramatic Willow gets when she’s considering taking a drama class and she practices by telling Miss Kitty Fantastico, “You cannot have more catnip! You have a catnip problem!”

Speaking of Miss Kitty, for a character who only appears in two episodes, she has quite a fanbase.

I want to hear Xander working on a phone-six line so badly. Imagine all the awkward pauses and accidental double entendres.

I love so much the little smirk Angel gives Riley when he and Buffy leave her room because Riley refuses to go.

Drunk Giles is perfect. No notes.

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