In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone just spent a whole weekend off her meds because she forgot to pick them up before the pharmacy closed. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
- Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
- Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
- Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
- Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
- The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
- This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
- Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
- Slut shame!
- The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it. WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
I’m excited to recap this episode. Despite the fact that it used to be one of my favorites, I haven’t watched it in years. Usually, this is because I’m watching Buffy with my daughter, who only wants to see certain episodes over and over again. I know “Hush” and “Buffy vs. Dracula” by heart because of this. So I’m wondering if this episode will be as good to me now.
The episode opens with Willow and Xander discussing their SAT scores. Willow only got 740 on the verbal, and she’s calling herself illiterate and all kinds of dramatic nonsense. Xander attempts to comfort her, but Cordelia and Oz just happen to show up, and of course it’s time for the guilty excuse making.
You know what would be funny? If Cordelia and Oz were fooling around together, too.
Anyway, they’re planning a double date when Buffy comes up, looking disappointed by her scores. But she actually did really well, and that’s a problem, too. As the Slayer, Buffy didn’t really bank on having a future, and now she’s got the test scores to get a really, really good one.
Cordelia: “Well, I think this is great. Now you can leave and never come back! Well, I mean that in a positive way. Get out of Sunnydale? That’s a good thing. What kind of moron would ever want to come back here?”
Cut to the Sunnydale sign, at night time. Spike’s giant car once again crashes into the sign, but his exit this time is a lot less, “Ooh, no, big villain,” and a lot more “drunk who made it home from the bar by the grace of God alone.”
SIDEBAR: Has anyone been watching along with me? I’m absolutely thrown today, because I think Netflix switched to the remastered HD versions of the episodes. I say that because they’re suddenly super sharp and crisp in a way that they definitely have not been during this watchalong. Did anyone else notice this?
After the opening credits, Spike is drunkenly wandering around the burned down factory, singing Frank Sinatra and crying over Drusilla, who has left him. He smashes one of her dolls in a rage.
At school, Xander is trying to convince Cordelia to go bowling with him and Oz and Willow. Xander notices that Cordelia has pictures of them together up in her locker. She agrees to go bowling, and Oz gives Willow a little Pez dispenser witch. So basically, this scene is just to hammer home how shitty Willow and Xander are to their significant others who appreciate them.
In the library, Giles has an Oregon Trail game’s worth of camping supplies, getting ready to go on the fabled Watcher retreat we’ve heard about throughout the series.
Buffy: “Giles. You pack like me.”
He, like everyone else, is super impressed with Buffy’s SAT outcome.
Buffy: “Yeah. She saw these scores and her head spun around and exploded.”
Giles: “I’ve been on the Hellmouth too long. That was metaphorical, yes?”
Now, this is the part where Buffy expects Giles to tell her that she has to stay in Sunnydale and live her destiny or whatever. But he also sees this as an opportunity for her to get away from the Slaying for a while. After all, there’s still Faith to hold down the Hellmouth, right?
Okay, can I just say for a minute here that I’m totally bummed at the way everyone just assumes that Faith has nothing going for her aside from killing vampires? Yes, there needs to be a Slayer. That’s been made obvious at this point. But it seems unfair that everyone looks at Faith like, “Well, she isn’t going to do anything with her life.” She hasn’t been given the same support that Buffy has. She hasn’t grown up the same way Buffy has. She’s had none of Buffy’s advantages, so who’s to say Faith isn’t capable of greatness, if she’d just had the chance?
HEY! MAYBE THAT’S WHY SHE TURNS EVIL, HUH?
Buffy is shocked that Giles is on the pro-no-more-Slayer kick, but he says they’ll discuss it when he gets back from the retreat. He also asks her if she’s planning on seeing Angel, and she’s assures him that nothing is going to happen. But like, obviously Giles is not thrilled at the idea of his Slayer hanging around with the guy who brutally tortured him.
Willow tells Xander it’s a mistake to go bowling as a foursome, because the “sexy” sport might reveal the fact that Willow and Xander have been cheating on them with the smoochies. Xander tells Willow that he wishes he wasn’t attracted to her, and Willow asks if he has any suggestions for how to pull that off. So you know the witchy-witchy is going to happen.
Let me make a note here about the writer of this episode. It’s Dan Vebber, who wrote only two episodes of Buffy, this one and the stand-out “The Zeppo.” I just had a conversation the other day with another author friend and we agreed that every television show ever should have at least one episode a la “The Zeppo”, which we get to later in season three. He also writes and produces one of my favorite shows, American Dad! (and yes, it’s Seth McFarlane and yes, it’s got lots of problematic stuff, I acknowledge all of this and absolutely do not defend it or my horrible taste), and worked on one of my favorite episodes, where Stan internalizes his own hatred of fat people and Roger dresses up as Lestat to pretend to be the president of the Anne Rice fan club. He’s also written for Futurama, Daria, and The Simpsons.
That all got away from me because I was thinking of Roger in his Lestat costume.
The point I was going to bring up is that the writing here is so good because the Pez thing reminds the viewer that Willow is a witch, while imparting that information for someone who’s never seen the series, as well. And then when the witchy stuff happens, it’ll be like, “Oh, that’s why the Pez. I understand now, and this foreshadowing was a comfort to me.” This guy is a really good writer, and they should have kept him around for more than just two episodes.
Back at the Summers residence, Joyce is enthusing about this college’s design program and that college’s history program. Which all sound a lot like shit Joyce is interested in. Do you know your daughter at all? Joyce just wants Buffy to have a normal college experience.
Joyce: “You belong at a good, old-fashioned college with keg parties and boys, not here with Hellmouths and vampires.”
Buffy: “Not really seeing the distinction.”
It’s almost like Buffy’s seen season four before the rest of us have.
Joyce has been talking to Giles about Buffy’s possibilities for the future, too, but Buffy isn’t digging the fact that everyone is so enthusiastic about her leaving town for good. She still feels a responsibility to be the Slayer. So, as much as Buffy wants a normal life, maybe Slaying has become her normal, and she’s reluctant to give it up? That makes total sense to me. I’m kind of wondering why it wouldn’t make total sense to Giles, of all people, but then I remember the whole “I wanted to be a fighter pilot” thing from the heartfelt conversation in season one. Still, it has to be hard on Buffy to see her family and friends so psyched for her to be “normal”. It probably drives home the fact that everyone sees her as “not normal”.
Joyce asks Buffy if there’s really anything keeping her in Sunnydale, so we immediately cut to Angel. He’s reading Sartre, which is hilarious to me, because of course he’s going to be reading something angsty and existential, right? Does this guy do anything other than brood? Spike is outside, still drunk, shouting at Angel through some a boarded up window. Somehow, Angel doesn’t notice this, and he doesn’t notice when Spike passes out in the tai chi garden area. Spike wakes up on fire, screams a lot (and apparently Angel doesn’t hear that, either), and retreats to his car with blacked out windows.
At a magic store, Spike asks the sales person for curses of leprosy. She’s explaining to him that they don’t exactly have leprosy lying around, when Willow walks in. She asks for a list of ingredients, and the sales lady assumes she’s looking for a love spell. As Willow clears up the misunderstanding and the woman explains which ingredients would work better, Spike lurks in the back and listens. Willow gets everything she needs for like, sixteen dollars, which is perhaps–even in a show about vampires and Hellmouths–the most outlandish fictional thing that happens in the entire series.
Anyone who’s ever been to a new age store will probably back me up on that.
The shop lady goes back to help Spike, but he’s got a better plan now, and he eats the lady.
At City Hall, The Mayor is practicing his putting and joking about selling his assistant’s soul for a better short game. The nervous aide tells The Mayor that Spike is in town, tearing shit up. The Mayor tells the guy to go ahead and deal with their Spike problem, then manages to sink his next putt. So I guess the assistant gets to keep his soul, then.
I love The Mayor, by the way. He’s so cheerful, even when he’s kidding with terrified staffers about selling their souls. He might actually be the best Big Bad.
At the mansion, Angel is making a fire in the fireplace while Buffy looks over college stuff. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your afterlife, Angel, but maybe you need to let the not-as-combustable actual human being sitting right there tend to your fire needs. Also, not to tell either of you how to live your love lives, but let’s have a romantic fire just as friends, shall we?
Buffy basically tries to get Angel to beg her not to go off to college and leave. I don’t think it’s purely a “oh, Angel, please tell me you love me and that we will be together forever” kind of thing. I think she just wants to hear one person say they want her to stay around. Which honestly, considering how this season has gone so far? I mean, Buffy came home from running away and everyone was basically like, “This is all about me and also everything was fine when you were gone!” and then Faith shows up and everyone is like, “Ooh, shiny new Slayer!” Now people are like, “Leave and never come back, Buffy!”, so no wonder she’s feeling a little shitty about this.
So when Angel pulls the “Yeah, I think you should leave,” business, she does. She just grabs her stuff and is like, “Bye, mom’s waiting.” Good for you, Buffy.
Willow has Xander meet her at the Sunnydale High chem lab, under the pretense that she’s going to help him with the class. She starts working the de-lusting spell without telling Xander that’s what she’s doing–a.k.a., she acts like Willow doing magic at any point in this show. I don’t know if this was intentional foreshadowing of how reckless her magic gets and how she never asks for anyone’s consent before working magic for/on them, but if it was, then brafuckingvo, Joss Whedon. I’m just going to throw this under #21 anyway, because intentional or not, it’s an integral part of Willow’s character that continues to develop throughout the show.
Xander is justifiably pissed at Willow’s attempt to dupe him into the spell. He reminds her that love magic has a history of being very, very bad for him. They argue, and Xander calls a halt to the entire spell casting plan, just in time for Spike to show up. Xander and Willow try to fight Spike, but it doesn’t go so well, ending with Xander unconscious and both of them kidnapped to the burned out factory. Spike has a whole bunch of stuff for Willow to do a love spell to help him get Drusilla back. He’s distraught over Drusilla leaving him, and he’s desperate to the point of threatening to murder Willow if the spell doesn’t work.
Spike: “She wouldn’t even kill me. She just left. She didn’t even care enough to cut off my head or set me on fire. I mean, is that too much to ask? You know? Some little sign that she cared?”
Spike is going through something. Majorly. And he goes through it right up until season five, when Dru comes back and they get together again for like, an episode. And why is this such a horrible, painful thing for Spike?
Because #19. We saw that Spike was willing to make a truce with Buffy to save Drusilla. We saw the way he doted on her and how it bothered him when Angelus used her affection to toy with Spike. And during all of that last season (I’m only just realizing that I didn’t comment on that until now), he didn’t blame Drusilla for his jealousy. He blamed Angelus for going after Dru. So, Spike really does love her. So, whether or not a vampire has a soul doesn’t seem to have any effect on whether or not they can still feel human emotions.
So, Spike ends up pouring his heart out to Willow, who’s a literal shoulder for Spike to lean on. But that shoulder is made of delicious Willow meat, so eventually his thoughts turn to eating. And raping. Spike says he hasn’t “had a woman” in a long time, and the implication is that he’s not just going to eat her, he’s going to rape her. Which is a definite #27, and especially troubling since this is a fan-favorite character, and it’s not the only time he intends to rape one of the main female cast members.
Willow tells him that she’ll do the spell, just as long as he doesn’t kill her or rape her, and he agrees, but warns that if the spell doesn’t work, he’ll kill Xander, instead. There are missing ingredients and a spell book she needs, and Spike doesn’t have them. She tells him that she left them somewhere, then we cut to the library.
In the library, Buffy is jumping rope without a bra on. I know, I know. But I’m weak. I’ll totally scourge myself later. Oz and Cordelia run in, and Cordelia has the most beautiful hair anyone has ever had, ever:
Do you see what I mean about the resolution, or is it not clear from screenshots? Alternately, my habit of sniffing Sharpies has done something to me. Someone tell me whether or not I’m right and they did switch to the high-def remaster, or if I need to stop getting kicked out of art stores.
Anyway, they take Buffy to the chem lab, where they find the spell stuff and no Willow or Xander. Apparently, they were all supposed to meet for the bowling date in the lab. What kind of school is Sunnydale, that everything and all the classrooms are wide open all the time? I guess it’s the same kind of place where a student can hang out in the library after hours jumping rope, no questions asked.
Buffy sends Oz and Cordelia off to find Giles. Hey, hang on a second. Oz says that the site of the retreat is forty minutes away. Either the Watchers are really into camping on the Hellmouth, or they came all the way to the greater Sunnydale area for their retreat specifically because that’s where he is. Or maybe it’s because that’s where the Slayers are. But now that I think of it, it’s a little weird that they came all this way and never met the Slayers. They’re forty minutes away, for cripe’s sakes! The Watchers are ridiculously inconsistent and nonsensical. You know what? They need a number. #34: The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
The phone in the library rings, and Buffy answers, hoping it’s Giles. Instead, it’s her mom, calling to see if Buffy will commit to a discussion about college. Before Buffy can tell her that it’s really not the time, she hears Spike’s voice in the background.
Joyce is fine. In fact, she’s in my favorite Joyce scene at the moment, making hot cocoa for a tearful Spike and counseling him through his breakup. That’s when Angel arrives at the back door. He can’t come in, because of the spell Willow did to rescind his invitation, so while Joyce orders him to leave, Spike gets to do this:
Joyce: “Get out of here!”
Spike: “Yeah. You’re not invited!”
Joyce: “He’s crazy, he’ll kill us!”
Spike: “Not while I breathe. Well, actually, I don’t breathe…”
Angel: “Joyce, listen to me!”
Joyce: “You get out of this house or I will stake you myself.”
Spike: “You’re a very bad man!”
Buffy manages to sneak up on Spike and slam him onto the counter. Joyce is like, whaaaaaaat because she doesn’t understand stuff:
Buffy: “You took Willow?”
Spike: “You do me now and you’ll never find the little witch.”
Joyce: “Willow’s a witch?”
Buffy: “And Xander?”
Spike: “Him, too.”
Joyce: “Wait, Xander’s a witch? I–”
You’re out of your element, Donny!
Spike tells Buffy and Angel they can follow him and he’ll lead them to Willow and Xander, but if they interfere, they’ll never find them. So they go along after Spike. He also calls Angel a “poof” at this time, which I’m flagging #23, because “Angel is gay” is Spike’s go-to insult in this series, and in Angel.
While Oz drives the van to the Watcher retreat, Cordelia imagines that Columbian drug lords have kidnapped Xander and Willow, when Oz stops. He smells Willow, somehow over the stench of gasoline that his Ford Econoline undoubtedly gives off, and they switch directions.
Buffy, Angel, and Spike are walking through town when Spike suddenly gets a headache:
Spike: “My head. I think I’m sobering up. It’s horrible. Oh, god, I wish I was dead.”
Buffy: “Well, if you close your eyes and wish real hard–”
Spike: “Hey, back off!”
Angel: “Buffy, we still need him to find the others.”
Buffy: “Need him? He’s probably just got ’em locked up in the factory.”
Spike somehow plays this off, even though he’s super unconvincing. Buffy can’t take the chance with her friends, so they keep following Spike, who regales them with a tale of killing a screaming homeless man with Dru. They get to the magic-shop-turned-crime-scene, where Spike lashes out at Angel and Buffy for destroying his relationship with Drusilla, and Buffy calls him pathetic.
Spike: “The last time I looked in on you two, you were fighting to the death. Now you’re back making googly eyes at each other like nothing happened. Makes me want to heave.”
Buffy: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Spike: “Oh yeah. You’re just friends.”
Angel: “That’s right.”
Spike: “You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love ’til it kills you both. You’ll fight and you’ll shag and you’ll hate each other ’til it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”
Ouch. Harsh truth from Spike. Also, more evidence for #19, because of everyone in the room, he’s the only one who doesn’t have a soul and the only one who’s truly in touch with his feelings.
Back at the factory, Willow is trying to break down the door when Xander wakes from his head injury. She fills him in on the fact that no matter what happens, they’re going to die, and they end up all cozy and kissing.
Which is exactly when Oz and Cordelia show up to rescue them.
Oh my gosh, look how sad Cordelia looks. How dare you, Willow and Xander! HOW VERY DARE YOU HURT MY PRINCESS LIKE THIS!
Everybody in the situation is horrified, but perhaps no one as much as Cordelia, who turns and runs, only to crash through the staircase. Xander rushes to help her, but things are like…bad.
Fun trivia: Charisma Carpenter, who plays Cordelia, has actually been impaled before. She’s also been through some other horrific shit, but the impalement is what applies here.
Spike, Buffy, and Angel are lugging supplies back to the factory when they’re surrounded by a bunch of vampires. They used to work for Spike, but now they want to kill him for reasons unspecified. Possibly just because he acted like Spike acts a time too many. Realizing that if Spike is killed in the fight, they can’t find Willow and Xander, Buffy and Angel fight with them before running into The Magic Box.
“But Jenny,” you might say, “that store is way smaller than The Magic Box, and there isn’t a step down and the cash register is on the wrong side!” But oh ho, dear reader, it is The Magic Box, as it is shown in the same location in Sunnydale. I meant to illustrate this with a crystal clear screenshot, but my internet connection is the pits at the moment and and it now looks like not watching in super high definition, but on a VHS that got left in a car on a hot day. So fuck it. Just trust me, the magic shop is The Magic Box. At some point they must have remodeled.
While the fighting is going on, back at the factory, Oz has gone for help and Xander is trying to help Cordelia, who is lying motionless, still impaled on a pipe.
In the magic shop, One of the vampire accuses Spike of having gone soft. It’s almost like he’s been watching the entire episode with us. This sets Spike off and he’s suddenly all fight. They send the vampires screaming away with holy water bombs, which looks incredibly silly. But the important part is, Spike is back to his old self:
Spike: “Oh, sod the spell. Your friends are at the factory. I’m really glad I came here, you know? I’ve been all wrong-headed about this. Weeping, crawling, blaming everybody else. I want Dru back? I just gotta be the man I was. The man she loved. I’m gonna do what I should’ve done in the first place. I’ll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her, ’til she likes me again. Love’s a funny thing.”
Clearly the concept of vampire love is a lot different than human love. Or maybe not. So…that’s scary.
At the factory, Xander begs Cordelia to hold on, but she’s fading. Her head tilts to the side, she gives a last, weak breath, her eyes close, and she falls limp. The music swells sadly, and we cut to:
Buffy: “So, Cordelia’s gonna be okay?”
Willow: “She lost a lot of blood. None of her vitals were punctured.”
Cordelia is fine! The funeral is unrelated! We’ve all been had!
I remember the first time I watched this. I was so upset, like, HOW COULD YOU KILL CORDELIA I WILL NEVER WATCH THIS EVER AGAIN! Then I was like, “Damn it.”
It’s such a freaking good “gotcha”, any writer, for any medium, has to hate it on principle because they didn’t think it up.
Willow tells Buffy that she’s never felt so bad in her life. She didn’t know what she wanted, but now she wants Oz back. I partially feel for her, but partially feel like, good, Willow. Let this be a lesson to you.
At the hospital, Xander arrives with flowers for Cordelia. He tries to apologize to her, but she tells him to stay away from her. He leaves, and Cordy cries alone in her hospital bed.
Buffy goes to see Angel at the mansion, and things are awkward. She tells Angel that she’s not coming back:
Buffy: “We’re not friends. We never were. And I can fool Giles. And I can fool my friends. But I can’t fool myself. Or Spike, for some reason. What I want from you, I can never have.”
Okay, but…you never really fooled Giles or your friends. You can apparently fool yourself about fooling them, but they’ve been saying this since the moment they knew Angel was back.
Angel tells Buffy that he can’t accept them being apart, and she tells him he has to.
Angel: “Look, there’s gotta be some way we can still see each other.”
Buffy: “There is. Tell me that you don’t love me.”
When he can’t, Buffy leaves, and Angel sits down to be gloomy. Which is his hobby.
I guess I would feel more busted about Angel and Buffy breaking up if their will-they-won’t-they dance didn’t end up dragging this whole season down.
The episode ends with a montage of everyone being sad and alone, until we cut to Spike driving away from Sunnydale singing the Gary-Oldman-as-Sid-Vicious version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
I like this episode. It brings Spike back during the Great Spike Drought Of Season Three, though I do feel like, “I got in a fight and now I’m all better” is kind of a lazy way to send him off again. I know that it’s an action show, so there has to be at least one fight scene, but I think it would have been more convincing if he just spent the whole night with Angel and Buffy and decided that no, he’s not anywhere near as pathetic as they are. Being empowered by the deus ex machina arrival of some vampires who want to kill him with no clearly drawn motive is disappointing.
Also disappointing? Buffy’s potential leaving of Sunnydale is never again addressed in the episode. What’s set up to be a pretty serious problem for her gets pushed aside when the angst of the other characters and her love story arc pushes it to the background. It’s not even touched on briefly after the kidnapping/love spell plot begins.
Perhaps the thing I love about this episode most of all is the absence of Giles. Because you see, Giles has been on his camping trip. And he has allllllllllll of this drama to come home to. Hope you’re well rested, Giles!