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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E09 “The Wish”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone has been needlessly seduced by the blank book selection at Target. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. 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)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. 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 know I say that every episode is one of my favorites, but this one? Is for sure in the top ten. In the same way I believe that every show should have a “The Zeppo”-like installment, I firmly believe that every show should have an alternate-reality episode. This one is up there with Doctor Who‘s “Turn Left” for me, in terms of showing how things could have gone for your favorite characters. Especially if it reaffirms how much you love the actual story.

Also, this one introduces Anya.

So, right off the bat, this episode is all aces because the pre-credits action sequence takes place during the day.  Buffy, Xander, and Willow are on a picnic, which has been rudely interrupted by a slimy demon (that doesn’t “go poof” and they will later have to bury). After the demon fight, they talk about the fact that they haven’t heard from Faith lately, which is worrying, and then Xander tries to gaslight himself and everyone else into believing that what he and Willow did wasn’t that bad:

Xander: “But you know what really bugs me? Okay, we kissed. It was a mistake. But I know that was positively the last time we were ever gonna kiss.”

Willow: “Darn tootin’!”

Xander: “And they burst in, rescuing us, without even knocking? I mean, this is really all their fault.”

Buffy: “Your logic does not resemble our Earth logic.”

Thank you, Buffy.

Xander and Willow are both trying to win their respective partners back…which means they didn’t really want to be together, after all. Their only attraction to each other was mutual unavailability. I don’t know if this makes me a bad person or what, but because of this element of their characterization in particular, I have a difficult time committing to their future romantic entanglements. I mean, as the show goes on, they prove that they’re both pretty terrible romantic partners, anyway, but from this point out it’s very difficult to root for them to get together with anyone.

Xander and Willow ask Buffy how she deals with her heartache over Angel, and she tells them that she has them. Then we cut to Cordelia’s bedroom, where she’s cutting Buffy and Willow and Xander out of a photograph one by one. And if that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will. Because while Xander and Willow and Buffy have each other, Cordelia has no one. In losing Xander, she’s lost all of her friends.

I’m getting ahead of the episode here, though.

As Xander calls and leaves message after intrusive message, Cordy burns his photo.

After the credits, Willow is staking out Oz’s locker. She tells Buffy that Amy saw Cordelia, and that Cordelia looked “scary”. Then we cut to Cordy’s shiny red convertible rolling up, and it looks like good old pre-Xander Cordy has returned, decked out in burgundy leather. But she’s not quite as confident as the old Cordelia, especially when Harmony and the other members of the popular girl clique approach.

Let’s talk a minute here about Harmony. She has smoothly inserted herself as the leader of the mean girls of Sunnydale High. And I bet you money that happened within ten minutes of hearing that Cordelia got cheated on by Xander. I want to know what happened behind the scenes on this one. I want to know by what machinations did Harmony seize power. Because it had to be epic. Harmony is the Cersei Lannister of Sunnydale High. She fascinates me.

Harmony introduces Cordelia to Anya, a new member of the group.

Harmony: “You have to meet Anya. She just moved here, and her dad just bought…what was it? Oh, a utility or something.”

I love how this sets up Anya as knowing little to nothing about modern humans. She’s using Monopoly as a cover story. But she’s able to recognize the Prada bag Cordy is carrying, which also sets her up as the materialistic little monster we all come to love. Doesn’t know what kind of job a human might have, does know what an expensive purse looks like.

Harmony talks about Cordelia’s injury as though it were all an elaborate lie to get out of facing people at school after being cheated on by a nerd. Another friend tells Cordy that she has to start dating again, and Harmony says they have the perfect guy for her.

It's Jonathan, a nerdy little guy drinking a giant soda on the steps in the courtyard. He looks super confused at being the center of attention/butt of the joke.

Cordelia is humiliated as her friends laugh at her, and Jonathan just sits there, probably also humiliated, but used to it, as he is the most miserable soul at Sunnydale High. But I’m not tagging this one as #29, because it wasn’t one of the Scoobies doing the mocking.

In the hallway, Oz finally comes to his locker. He is not thrilled to see Willow.

Willow: “Oz, wait, please. What I did…when I think that I hurt you–”

Oz: “Yeah, you said all this stuff already.”

Willow: “Right. But…I wanna make it up to you. I mean, if you let me…I wanna try.”

Oz: “Just… you can leave me alone. I need to figure things out.”

Willow: “But maybe if we talk about it, we could–”

Oz: “Look, I’m sorry this is hard for you. But I told you what I need. So, I can’t help feeling like the reason you wanna talk is so you can feel better about yourself. That’s not my problem.”

YEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS! Thank you! Do not coddle her feelings! Do not act like she’s a victim, too! Hold Willow accountable for shit, because literally no one on this show ever does!

Actually, this is something that really bothers me, now that I think about it. For the rest of the series, nobody ever holds Willow accountable for anything bad that she does, and that’s what leads to her spoiled tantrum where she tries to end the world. We saw the road she was going down at the beginning of season six! All of this nonsense about not hurting sweet, fluffy, cinnamon roll Willow is exactly what lead to all of that!

I mean, I’m getting ahead of the series here, but let’s just keep that in mind as we go along. It might even get a number, eventually.

Meanwhile, Cordelia is trying to ignore how everyone is talking about her fall from grace. She sees Xander coming down the hall and, in a bid to save face, she stops a clearly thirty-year-old high school guy to make it look like she’s happy and moved totally on.

Cordelia, talking to a clearly middle-aged man who was somehow cast as a high schooler.
See? That guy has a receding hairline and a fucking 401k.

She manages to fool Xander into thinking that she’s flirting, but Senior Citizen Senior doesn’t actually return the flirt. He tells Cordy that because the guys on the team have been giving him a hard time and he’s been busted down to second string (probably because of his arthritic hip), he can’t be seen talking to someone who got dumped by Xander Harris. He’ll still have sex with her, of course, just so long as she doesn’t tell anybody.

Anya has overheard the whole exchange, and Cordelia expects her to say something shitty about it, but Anya is genuinely interested in getting to know Cordelia. Anya thinks Harmony is an obnoxious follower, which is why she wants to talk to someone who has genuine good taste and such. Convinced that Anya is being genuine, Cordelia asks about Anya’s necklace, which she calls “an actual old thing” and a “good luck charm.” Then she brings up Xander:

Anya: “I mean, apart from being without class, the guy’s obviously blind. Deserves whatever he gets.”

Cordelia: “I’m not even thinking about him. I am past it, I am living my life.”

Anya: “Still, I mean, don’t you kinda wish…”

Cordelia: “I don’t wish. I act. Starting now, Xander Harris is going to get a bellyful of just how over him I am.”

Which means going to the Bronze in a sexy dress and pretending to have a good time. Which is what Xander is also doing. Minus the sexy dress. He’s fake laughing and wants Buffy and Willow to join in.

Buffy: “I’m here for you, Xand. I’m supporto-gal. I just feel a little weird about this us-against-Cordelia thing. She’s had a rough time.”

True friendship tells you when you deserve to suffer for being a fuck up, Xander.

Willow agrees that they deserve to feel guilty, but she takes it so overboard that it enables Xander’s outrage at having to feel guilt. All three of them decide that heartbreak is pointless, and they should go out and experience life to its fullest. Instead, they decide to eat their feelings.

Buffy sees Cordelia leave, clutching her wound in pain, and goes after her to check on her. Our Slayer tries to be supportive, and advises Cordelia to talk to her friends about what she’s going through. Which, you know, Buffy doesn’t know what happened with Harmony and the other shitty girls at school, so it’s good advice. Cordelia even looks like she might open up to Buffy as a friend. But then a vampire drops in, and during the fight Cordelia is tossed into a pile of garbage. Harmony and the rest of the clique walk past and laugh at her, and it’s the last fucking straw:

Cordelia: “You know what I’ve been asking myself a lot this week? Why me? Why do I get impaled? Why do I get bitten by snakes? Why do I fall for incredible losers? And you know, I think I finally figured it out. What my problem is? It’s–”

The scene changes, and she finishes her diatribe as she’s talking to Anya:

Cordelia: “Buffy Summers. That’s when all my trouble started. When she moved here.”

That’s not untrue. Cordelia only became involved with the Scoobies because Buffy saved her so many times. I mean, is it fair that she blames all her current problems on Buffy? Obviously not, but Buffy was the change in Cordelia’s trajectory that landed her here.

Harmony and the others walk by and mock Cordelia, and Anya graciously loans Cordy her good luck necklace, because it seems like she needs it. As they watch Buffy and Willow and Xander happily chatting, Anya tries to direct Cordy’s anger back at Xander, but Cordy is stuck on hating Buffy.

Cordelia: “I never would have looked twice at Xander if Buffy hadn’t made him marginally cooler by hanging with him.”

Anya: “Really?”

Cordelia: “Yeah, I swear. I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.”

then Anya’s face looks like this:

Anya's face is all demony, with crinkly skin and veins and an odd split circle thing on the tip of her nose.

The demon makeup kind of fails for me, as it just highlights how gorgeous Emma Caulfield’s eyes are.

And she says:

Anya: “Done.”

All of a sudden, Cordelia finds herself standing in the mostly deserted and now trash-covered courtyard. Buffy, Willow, and Xander are no longer sitting in the spot they were just a moment before, and Cordelia’s impalement wound is gone.

Cordelia: “Anya? I wished Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale. She was like…a good fairy. A scary, veiny good fairy.”

Cordy is super pleased with herself. I mean, why wouldn’t she be? She rules the school again. She meets her friends inside, and stuff is a little…off. Like the fact that everyone is dressing in really drab colors, and there are little extras hanging on the walls.

Do you see it?

A shot of a Sunnydale High hallway. I've darkened most of the photo to highlight a small area, an oval around some garlic and a crucifix hanging between the lockers.

Cordelia doesn’t seem to notice. I’m not sure how, because that much garlic in one place has to create a wretched, eye burning smell. But she’s psyched when the student from before, the one with the AARP subscription, comes up and tells her he’d be honored if she went with him to the winter brunch. Which Cordy doesn’t quite get, but she’s happy to be on top.

In class–where there are fewer students than we’re used to seeing–everyone is hastily packing up and hurrying out. The teacher reminds them that due to their “monthly memorial” they won’t be having class the next day. And Cordelia still doesn’t get it. She tells her friends they should all go to the Bronze. Her friends are immediately horrified.

Harmony: “Cordy, what’s with you? I mean, you wear this come-bite-me outfit, you make jokes about the Bronze…you’re acting a little schizo.”

Cordelia: “You’re right. I just…well, I bumped my head yesterday and I keep forgetting stuff. Not that I care, but Xander Harris? He’s miserable, right? And that Willow freak he hangs with? Not even a blip on the radar screen, right?”

Harmony: “Well, yeah. They’re dead?”

Gotta flag the “schizo” comment with #14. It’s weird, I don’t so much notice when people say “crazy” or “insane”, but I go off the hinges these days when it’s stuff like, “You’re psycho,” or “schizo,” or “I’m so OCD.” That kind of thing.

Anyway, of course they’re dead. They’ve nearly died about sixty thousand times since Buffy arrived, and she never showed up, so obviously they were goners.

When Cordelia goes to her car, she finds it missing. A janitor tells her that kids aren’t allowed to drive, and that she should get home before sunset.

So far, we’ve heard about a winter brunch instead of a winter formal, Harmony mentioned a curfew that starts an hour after school is over, and the halls are full of garlic and crosses. Everyone dresses in drab colors, and half the population of the school is missing. So, in this reality, #26 is out in full force, and #8 is completely obliterated. Huh.

The only thing I don’t understand is why the kids aren’t allowed to drive. I would be much, much happier if my teen could drive away from a vamp, as opposed to trying to outrun them on foot.

Cordelia walks home through the darkened, abandoned streets of Sunnydale. Businesses are closing up and people are screaming. Cordelia is relieved when she runs into Xander. She tells him that Harmony thinks he’s dead, and that they need to get Buffy. He recognizes the name of the Slayer, but he’s not as enthusiastic about finding her as Cordelia is.

Then Willow shows up and says:

Willow: “Bored now.”

You know what that means. #21. Even though the most likely scenario is that someone remembered, during the writing of season six, that Willow said it in this episode, I’m still calling it foreshadowing. It’s just unintentional.

Cordelia is outraged to find that Xander and Willow are together, even though her wish came true. They’re also super handsy with each other, and are decked out in tons of leather:

Willow and Xander are standing intimately close to each other. Xander is wearing a leather jacket a silver chain for some reason, and Willow has on dark makeup and a pleather corset get up.

First of all, is that a silver chain? On a vampire? I thought Buffy used silver to torture a vampire in season one. Am I misremembering that?

Also, let’s talk about vampires, evil, and sexuality. As I’ve noted a few times (and it’s even #1 on our list), sexuality is pretty well and truly demonized by this show. Female vampires and assorted demons are sexually aggressive. Male vampires often threaten rape (#6). Vampires are sometimes coded as bisexual or gay to give them a little added immorality (#23). Now, let’s be real here. At this point in time in the paranormal/urban fantasy genres of TV, movies, and books, this was pretty much par for the course. It happened in almost every major series (my series of vampire novels, included). But it’s still worth talking about. Here, Vampire!Willow and Vampire!Xander are coded as being oversexed and kinky, and that’s one of the major clues to the audience that they’re vampires.

Cordelia runs from them, and Xander and Willow make out a little bit to give her enough of a head start to chase them. They catch her and knock her unconscious. Just as they’re about to start eating her,  a van roars up, and out jumps Giles and Larry and another student. Oz is driving and manning a crossbow. They hold Willow and Xander at bay with crosses. They grab Cordelia and take her back to the library.

Wait. Buffy isn’t in Sunnydale. Why is Giles in Sunnydale? Why is he still a librarian? I mean, I’m not complaining about Giles being in an episode, don’t get me wrong. Especially when he looks like this:

Giles stands with Oz, Larry, and some girl student I've never seen before. Giles looks very tired and frustrated. He's not wearing his tweet suit, either, so you know shit means business. He's got his business sweater on.
The sweater. The rolled up sleeves. The stubble, sweet lady Jesus, the stubble.

But it’s not like he’s the local Watcher or something. He was sent to Sunnydale to be Buffy’s Watcher. If she never came to Sunnydale, shouldn’t he be with her in L.A.? This plot hole gets addressed, but never really cleared up. I supposed we could fanon it and say that of course if there’s a Hellmouth, they would send a Watcher to check up on it. But why wouldn’t they also send a Slayer? It’s never explained.

The students bemoan Cordelia’s fashion sense (vampires are attracted to bright colors) and Giles sends them to watch out for Willow and Xander, in case they follow them. But Willow and Xander are headed to the Bronze, which is now a hotbed of vampire hedonism. You know, people screaming, people in cages, people getting eaten in the bad way. Also, our old friend The Master is there!

The leather clad, bald albino bat looking vampire from season one reclines sassily on a velvet throne.
I know, I’m shocked to see you, too!

Xander tells The Master about Cordelia mentioning Buffy.

Willow: “Buffy, ooh, scary.”

Xander: “Someone has to talk to her people. That name is striking fear in nobody’s hearts.”

The Master doesn’t think it’s all that funny. He’s got a plant that’s going to be operational soon, and he’s not going to put up with any delays in production. He wants Cordelia dead before she can contact the Slayer.

Back at the library, Cordelia wakes up and tells Giles they have to find Buffy:

Cordelia: “You have to get Buffy! Buffy changes it. It wasn’t like this, it was better! I mean, the clothes alone. But people were happy. Mostly. And…wait, why are you here, and she’s not? I mean…you were her Watcher.”

Yes! Please, answer this one, Giles. Why are you there? Also, excuse me for just one moment:

Giles is still in the library, but his glasses are off and he has stubble, so...

Giles is stunned to hear Cordelia call him a Watcher, and he starts to say that he’s never told anybody about being a Watcher, but then they hear a noise. He goes into the cage to grab his weapons, but Willow and Xander are already in the library. Willow shuts Giles in and he’s forced to watch, helpless, as she and Xander kill Cordelia together.

That’s what we in the biz call “a metaphor”.

After the break, Oz and Larry are about to take Cordelia’s dead body to the incinerator when Giles notices the necklace she’s wearing. Then we cut to The Master having a cappuccino, because he gets real camp when he’s winning, I guess? Also, why does he always look like he has a Kool-Aid mustache or really badly chapped lips?

Anyway, Willow and Xander tell The Master that they killed Cordelia. He’s happy with them, so Willow asks if she can play with “the puppy”.

Let me tell you exactly how thrilled I am with the weird and sick use of the word puppy in this episode. But I’ll wait until we get there.

Back at the library, Giles is on the phone with Buffy’s Watcher:

Giles: “Yes, I’m aware that there’s a great deal of demonic activity in Cleveland. [pause] Well, it happens, you know, that, that Sunnydale is on a Hellmouth. [pause] It is so!”

Hey, check it out! It’s #34 in action, because Buffy’s Watcher doesn’t have any idea where she is. This calls back to a line in the very first scene of the episode, when Buffy says she hasn’t seen Faith in a while, and she’s worried about her because Slaying is lonely. On top of Buffy’s Watcher not knowing how to find her, they’re also argumentative about where she’s needed, apparently. And we still have no answer as to why Giles is in Sunnydale if Buffy isn’t there.

Also, why is Buffy in Cleveland? Is Cleveland the opposite of Sunnydale somehow? Because Buffy was from L.A., so wouldn’t she still be there? I suppose that in Alternate Buffyverse Joyce could have gotten a job in Cleveland, but it just seems like this script takes a lot of intuitive leaps that miss a step or two.

But I don’t care, I really like this episode.

It’s daytime at the Bronze, and Willow is going to “play with the puppy”. The “puppy” is Angel. They’ve got him all chained up and caged for Willow to torture. She licks his face and tells him about how all the people he tried to save are going to die tonight because the plant is going to be operational, and she’s going to kill him slowly, etc. All the stuff a Buffy villain says. Then she straddles him and Xander gives her a box of matches for burning Angel.

All of the dialogue with Willow and Xander is so corny. It’s trying to show how evil they are through sexual banter, but that banter is super cringeworthy and the actors are not pulling it off at all. It’s forced and wooden and it’s terrible.

But I don’t care, I really like this episode.

At the library, Giles finds Anya’s necklace in a book. Turns out it’s the symbol for Anyanka, a protector of scorned women who grants wishes.

Larry: “Okay, the entire world sucks because some dead ditz made a wish? I just wanna be clear.”

At this performance, the role of Xander will be played by Larry.

I also just wanna…

Another picture of Giles in the library with his stubble. Because I'm weak.

Look, we don’t see this amount of Giles casual again until he gets fired, so I need this.

Giles heads home to check out his books there. In this reality, he still has the same shitty car, so he should ask for his money back. He drives up as some vampires are loading humans into a truck. As he tries to save them, he’s knocked down–but not out! Good job, alternate universe!–and it looks like it’s curtains for our favorite librarian. But no! Someone comes in to save the day!

Buffy is wearing a grey shirt and a black leather jacket. Her hair is pulled back in a braid, she's got dark makeup on, and a big scar slashes across her lips.

It’s Buffy, in a Lara Croft costume! And she’s annoyed to be there!

Wait, hang on.


Just hours ago, she was MIA in Cleveland. She just showed up and asked Giles to tell her why she’s in Sunnydale. So did she somehow get the message from her Watcher and get all the way from Ohio to California in a couple of hours? Why did she come to Sunnydale, if she didn’t have a reason?

At Giles’s house, he chews on his glasses a lot, the little tease.

Now we're in Giles's apartment, looking over Buffy's shoulder (so it's a good shot of her Lara Croft braid) and Giles is wearing a tweed jacket now, but he still has the stubble and he's chewing on the end of one of the ear things of his glasses.

Look, it’s not my fault that God made Eve weak, okay? I can’t control that. It’s in the bible. It’s science.

Giles tells Buffy that if she destroys Anyanka’s power center, all of the wishes she’s granted in the past will be undone and she’ll just be a mortal woman. Considering what we later hear about all of Anya’s wish granting, reversing some of those now would probably be horrifying. But luckily we never have to see the targets of those wishes in this episode or think about what might happen to them. The only thing Giles doesn’t know is what Anyanka’s power center is.

This makes me absolutely furious. He’s already seen a picture of the necklace in one book, and he’s reading another book. At no point is it mentioned that the necklace or the symbol or whatever could be the power center? At no point can this totally brilliant guy put two and two together?

But I don’t care, I really like this episode.

This, however, is not the Buffy we’re used to. She’s pessimistic, like, worse than Faith ever has been. Alternate Buffy has seen some shit:

Buffy: “The world is what it is. We fight. We die. Wishing doesn’t change that.”

Giles: “I have to believe in a better world.”

Buffy: “Go ahead. I have to live in this one.”

Welcome to Darksville, population Slayer.

Buffy is also pissed when she finds out about The Master, and wants to know why nobody has killed him yet. And I’m like, “He even killed you, Buffy. Even though you don’t know it. So stop acting so superior. Even though you don’t know it.”

She heads off to the Bronze to kill The Master. When she gets there, the place is deserted. The only person left is Angel, and he’s still all chained up and feral. You know, doing that shivery breathing, squinting, grunting thing he does to indicate that he’s in pain/struggle/angst whatever. He knows who Buffy is, and tells her that he was supposed to help her. So, apparently things in Alternate Sunnydale were on the right track toward becoming Actual Sunnydale at some point. Anyway, Buffy’s cross necklace repels Angel, and she realizes he’s a vampire. She’s going to just leave him there, until he shows her his burned up chest and tells her to believe that he hates The Master and wants to kill him.

At the vampire factory, The Master gives a speech about how the life cycle of a predator has held vampires back. They shouldn’t be out killing and feeding when they can just harvest the blood industrial style. Welcome to that super frustrating level of the Buffy video game.

While this is going on, Giles starts a spell to summon Anyanka. And he keeps putting his glasses in his mouth and making me ovulate. Anyanka appears, and she is not happy to see that a man has summoned her.

At the plant, one of Cordelia’s friends is selected to be the first victim. She’s tased into paralysis and put on a tray, then slid into a machine where what can only be described as trocars jab into her body and suck her blood out. The vampires are psyched about their new toys, but Buffy and Angel burst in and start fighting vampires.

Anyanka is basically psyched about the wish Cordelia made:

Anyanka: “I had no idea her wish would be so exciting. Brave new world. I hope she likes it.”

Well, I mean, she would probably be enjoying it a lot more if she wasn’t dead.

The conversation between Giles and Anyanka is intercut with scenes of fighting. He tells her that her only power is in granting wishes, and she grabs him by the throat and chokes him up against a wall. So she’s got a little more power than he assumed. But she doesn’t knock him unconscious, so if we take it on good faith that he didn’t get a head injury on the Watcher field trip in the last episode, good on you, Giles, that’s two in a row where you didn’t get knocked out!

During the fight at the plant, a lot of things happen. For example, Buffy fights Willow, and then repeatedly knees Xander in the face. I rewind that about as much as I rewind Joffrey getting slapped by Tyrion on Game of Thrones. Seriously, she just keeps kneeing him. It’s so satisfying. Then Angel yells, “Buffy, look out!” and charges all the way across the room, past other vampires he could kill or humans he could help, and jumps into the fight like he always does. Even in Alternate Sunnydale, Angel thinks the Slayer needs his help. But this time, there is a consequence:

Angel has a piece of wood sticking out of his chest, and he's grimacing, but I timed the screenshot poorly/awesomely and it looks like he's grinning and giving a thumbs up over the fact that he's about to die.

That’s right. Xander got to kill Angel. He’s living his best life in Alternate Sunnydale. And Angel learned an important lesson about trying to be a hero in a melee situation. I’m so pleased with how this screenshot turned out. He looks totally psyched that he’s about to turn to a pile of ash. He’s doing the Fonzie thumb.

Anyanka: “This is the real world now. This is the world we made. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Not for the audience, Anyanka. We have to watch our friends die/get killed/kill each other.

Buffy kills Xander:

Buffy is driving a stake into Xander's chest.

Oz kills Willow:

Oz, pushing vampire Willow onto the sharp end of a broken 2 by 4 that's jutting out of a wall.

Giles grabs Anya’s necklace and punches her, knocking her down long enough that he can smash the stone. Just as he’s about to, one of my favorite pieces of Buffy dialogue ever happens:

Anyanka: “You trusting fool. How do you know the other world is any better than this?”

Giles: “Because it has to be.”

And just as he crushes the necklace, The Master snaps Buffy’s neck.

The Master is standing behind Buffy. His arm is on her shoulder, and he's just broken her neck, so she stares deadly off at nothing.

We flash to white, and then we’re right back with Cordelia, the moment she made her wish.

Cordelia: “I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.”

Anya: “Done.”

Anya is in the same position as she was when she first turned veiny and scary, but now she's just a normal person.

Oh shit. That whole “done” thing isn’t quite working out now that your power center has been destroyed, huh? But that doesn’t stop her from trying a few more times, because she doesn’t yet realize that she’s trapped as a mortal being now.

Cordelia: “That would be cool. No, wait. I wish Buffy Summers had never been born.”

Anya: “Done!”

Cordelia: “And I wish that Xander Harris never again knows the touch of a woman. And that Willow wakes up tomorrow covered in monkey hair.”

Cordelia rambles her vindictive way off screen, and we see:

Xander, Buffy, and Willow sit in the place they'd earlier disappeared from. They're smiling and laughing.

The fight sequence at the end of this episode is so incredibly paced. To hear Anyanka talking about how great the Alternate Sunnydale is while we watch our friends get murdered? It’s chilling. Giles stating simply, “because it has to be,” as Buffy dies? Oh my gosh, yes, of course it has to be! Because the better world is where Buffy is alive, and the writers have taken us on this horrible journey, right to its terrible destination. Sure, there are massive plot holes that are never resolved. Sure, nobody learns a damn thing from the experience and Cordelia doesn’t realize that she’s really better off living in a world with Buffy in it. But it’s wonderful to watch and it makes you feel closer to the characters. You’ve seen a part of their lives they weren’t privy to. And now you can watch the show and know that, yes, everything is exactly as it should be. What you’re seeing is the reality that everyone else is seeing.

Until season five.

See you next time for one of my least favorite episodes. Hey, not every part of season three can be a winner, right?

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  1. Jemmy

    I swear Cleveland is mentioned in an earlier episode as having a hellmouth or demons or something. May be it is later and they borrow from this one. That is going to bug me now.

    September 2, 2016
    • Nocturnal Queen
      Nocturnal Queen

      You are right. It’s in the series’ last episode called Chosen. Cleveland has a hellmouth.

      September 2, 2016
  2. Sushi

    “I thought Buffy used silver to torture a vampire in season one. Am I misremembering that?”

    You are, a bit – it was the crucifix necklace Angel gave her. She shoved the cross in the vamp’s mouth to torture her. 🙂

    September 2, 2016
  3. Earthed Angel
    Earthed Angel

    The fight scene gets me every time. Oz kills Willow! Angel sacrifices himself and Buffy aggressively does NOT CARE. And Giles with his desperate hope just as the Master kills Buffy with no one around to bring her back. It just…it breaks my heart to see these people who love each other be enemies or apathetic. To know how a slight change to a timeline can change them so fundamentally. I totally agree with your closing remarks!
    Your description of that screenshot of Angel dying made me giggle a lot. “Ayyyy, Xander’s killing me!” XD
    Also, yay Anya, a character I love more every time I watch this series!

    September 2, 2016
  4. Alison

    This is one of my favourite episodes too, because of vampire Willow, and the introduction of my favourite character, the newly human and strangely literal Anya.

    Also, it’s so clever that they kill off Cordelia halfway through the episode. Usually in this type of show, you have the one character who knows everything is wrong and is the audience’s guide, or reference point, through the episode. We are so used to this convention, it’s shocking and unsettling when we lose her.

    September 2, 2016
  5. Nocturnal Queen
    Nocturnal Queen

    My guess about the “Bored now” thing is that they studied this episode to see how they have previously characterized evil Willow.

    September 2, 2016
  6. Paris

    Yea in the very last episode of the show they talk about what theyre going to do next and Giles mentions there’s a hellmouth in Cleveland. I love Vampire Willow and Anya so this episode is amazing.

    September 2, 2016
  7. “Hey, check it out! It’s #34 in action, because Buffy’s Watcher doesn’t have any idea where she is. This calls back to a line in the very first scene of the episode, when Buffy says she hasn’t seen Faith in a while, and she’s worried about her because Slaying is lonely. On top of Buffy’s Watcher not knowing how to find her, they’re also argumentative about where she’s needed, apparently. And we still have no answer as to why Giles is in Sunnydale if Buffy isn’t there.”

    I always thought this bit and how Buffy is characterized was specifically set up as more evidence to the “Faith = What Buffy Could’ve Been/Buffy’s Dark Side” thing that the writers do. Buffy has Faith’s tendency to wander off with her Watcher having little-to-no idea where she is or what she’s doing.

    It’s really played up with her dialogue, how cold she is compared to the non-AU Buffy. “Slaying is lonely,” indeed, and Giles is a very different kind of Watcher than all of the others. The few times we hear advice that other Watchers give, it’s completely contrary to what Giles does, “my Watcher doesn’t allow me to have friends” being the big one that Kendra mentioned. So without the Scoobies, Buffy falls into the Slayer role completely, and that role is something that gets so wonderfully picked apart and examined by the show in so many more episodes.

    With Giles being in Sunnydale, I assumed he’d been sent there by the Council, then they changed their minds at the last minute and sent Buffy to Cleveland, leaving him stuck there along with Angel, who arrived thinking he was going to help the Slayer and stayed because he could do some good. And got captured instead, because Angel is pretty useless.

    September 2, 2016
  8. Laina

    Everybody already said what I was gonna say about Cleveland XD

    So all I’ve got is how much my little shipper heart actually enjoys the Buffy/Angel dynamic in this episode.

    September 2, 2016
  9. Nerem

    Yay! Anya! A character I liked until she got ruined. I mean, I still liked parts of her, but she was basically used as a tool to toot Xander’s horn, in more ways then one.

    September 2, 2016
    • Mel

      Okay so it’s not just me who became irritated by the whole Anya/Xander thing. i mean, I felt sorry for Anya when Xander did what he does and abandoned her at the altar -because he’s a skeevy coward – but I think she was much better off without him. I like her working at the Magic Box and getting back into the vengeance gig. Yeah, parts of her relationship with Xander were good, and I teared up when Xander told her how in love with her he was (in Into the Woods, after Riley left) but apart from that, what was her purpose in the Scooby Gang except as Xander’s girlfriend?! I love her character. i just think she deserved more of an arc than just will they/won’t they get married.

      September 3, 2016
      • Nerem

        I liked Anya for a while but after she got together with Xander her only lines for a long time became about how awesome Xander was at sex. Constantly. With nothing else. Beyond it being annoyingly tedious, it made me keenly aware of Whedon’s talk about how Xander was basically him. And Xander basically had a long line of beautiful girlfriends despite being the same immature asshole he always was.

        September 3, 2016
        • Casey

          In Anya/Xander/Whedon’s defense, 1) she really doesn’t have anything to compare him to, 2) I think it’s mostly just to show that she’s hilariously bad at social cues and not used to this whole “being a human and having human desires” thing (she didn’t need to eat or whatnot as a demon, right? Maybe I’m just assuming), and 3) new couples do that. A lot. Like, for the first 6 months you better get used to new relationships being all in your face. Maybe not to this literal degree because Anya, but I enjoyed it on those grounds.

          Admittedly this might be coming from a biased place, as I was super into Xander the first time watching this, and despite his seriously annoying flaws still really like him as a character (also see: Angel and Dawn). So I can’t quite get on the hate parade just yet . . .

          September 7, 2016
          • Aurelia

            I thought that Anya had had a fair bit of ‘whatnot’ in her demon time. I thought the demon guy who instigated the whole jilting thing was an ex-boyfriend??

            Plus she definitely had herself a big viking looking boyfriend/husband when she was originally human. Maybe Xander has some secret awesome moves in bed, but it’s not like she’s totally inexperienced.

            Also I’m sure she has a line in S7 which goes along the lines of “That’s demons for you, they’re always Oh I’m so evil, I’m really evil, does it make you horny baby?”

            However, I think you’re spot on about the social cues … she doesn’t seem to know them, or be overly concerned about learning them … she just looks adorable and says something like “is this one of those things I’m not supposed to say?”.

            October 21, 2016
        • Mel

          I know, right?

          Poor Joss. I mean, i know most writers tend to insert themselves into a character here or there as a sort of vicarious thrill but did he actually think we’d accept that someone like Cordy would be interested in Xander? He has his good points, sure, but sometimes he can come off as a complete jerk. Like in The Pack from season 1 where he becomes a hyena – it was almost like the most jerky parts of him were exaggerated when he humiliated Willow in front of everyone and constantly compared her to Buffy. That was the worst version of Xander I remember seeing.

          September 11, 2016
  10. Nanani

    Isn’t Faith in Cleveland, and no one knows where Buffy is because she never showed up in Sunnydale? Or am I reading too much logic into this?

    September 2, 2016
    • Laina

      If Buffy wasn’t in Sunnydale yet, then the Master didn’t kill her. No dead Buffy, no Faith. It wouldn’t even be Faith yet. It’s be Kendra being called when the Master kills Buffy in the AU.

      September 2, 2016
  11. Quint&Jessel

    Blah blah blah groundbreaking lesbian relationship, but Willow was better with Oz, because he didn’t let her get away with her Willow/witch shit. Even though Tara did break up with Willow that one time, she still allowed Willow to get away with almost murder, and the rest of the Scoobies went the whole way.

    September 2, 2016
    • Mel

      When did Oz stop her from using magic?! I don’t remember this. Yeah, he told her some cold hard truths when they were broken up but i don’t remember him ever showing a distaste for her using magic. Tara did, and was vocal about it. I liked Oz and Willow together, too, but I didn’t buy what Joss was selling about Willow turning gay and forsaking men. Sure, Oz hurt her by leaving but people get left all the time. They don’t suddenly become gay because someone hurt them. Apart from AU evil Willow, she never shows any inclination that she is attracted to women until Tara shows up. And after that, it’s all girls, girls, girls. What’s up with that? And before someone accuses me of being homophobic, both my children are bisexual, so I think I know what I’m talking about.

      September 3, 2016
      • Laina

        …having bisexual children doesn’t mean you can’t be biphobic.

        Also Willow was under the age of 18 before Tara. Surprisingly, people can change as they become adults, and that can include sexuality.

        September 3, 2016
        • Mel

          I wouldn’t know… all I know is that my kids showed attraction for both males and females from puberty onward. I’ve never met anyone who behaved straight right through high school and then suddenly become fully, completely gay. And that’s even with an uncle who was married and had two kids but left his wife for another man. We all knew he was bi years ago. Sorry, just don’t buy it. Pardon the pun.

          And no, I’m not biphobic. I’m a very open-minded person who will accept whomever my children fall in love with as long as that person treats them with the love and respect they deserve. If they don’t they can expect to get their arses kicked.

          September 3, 2016
          • Kokairu

            I think the main problem with Willow’s relationship with Tara is that bisexuality is never alluded to or discussed, she is simply “gay” because bisexuals don’t exist on television. I don’t have a problem with it not being foreshadowed because I find Tara/Willow a very believable pairing.

            September 3, 2016
          • Laina

            …seriously, you’ve never heard of someone not coming out of the closet until after graduation? Or “acting straight” because they either don’t have the vocabulary to label themselves (which, that would be me, the ace who “acted straight” because I thought I was, because I literally did not know what asexuality was – guess I’m still a unicorn) or because of parents or social pressure?

            Seriously, nobody who only dated the expected gender because they were raised believing that was the only option?

            Maybe you should talk to more people.

            And you previously said this:

            “both my children are bisexual, so I think I know what I’m talking about.”

            Your kids are not the One True Bisexuals, and their experiences don’t dictate everyone else’s. And using your bisexual children to say “I can’t be biphobic” is icky in the same way saying “I have a black friend so I can’t be racist” is gross.

            I don’t care how you feel about the character or their arc, but you are making some sweeping statements about sexuality that are making me seriously uncomfortable.

            September 3, 2016
          • oblomov

            I think the problem here is that it’s never really explored and kind of anyone’s guess, especially since Whedon’s understanding of gay women seems to have come mostly from having gone to Lilith Fair once, so I’m calling death of the author here.

            That said, my theory here is that Willow was so deep in the closet through high school that she never really considered being into women as an option. This doesn’t make her relationship with Oz any less true or diminish from it in any way, but since she doesn’t express any sign of attraction to men after meeting Tara and identifies exclusively as gay, I’m calling her gay. This might be bi erasure but it doesn’t necessarily have to be since gay people dating partners of opposite sex and being *deeply* convinced of their heterosexuality while doing so has been a thing for ages.

            But as I said, it’s never really explored much and I’m not taking anybody’s interpretation of Willow as bi from them.

            September 3, 2016
          • Withenoughcourage

            One of my oldest friends has actually had a life path that in a lot of ways mimicked Willow’s. Lots of crushes on males in middle/high school, dated boys in high school and college, met a girl she liked, came out as bi, but she now identifies as gay because she is in a long-term, monogamous relationship with that woman. She may still have attractions to men, but essentially she is “rounding up” to gay because I don’t believe she has any plans on ever having relationships/encounters with men ever again. (I know that this sort of thing contributes to bi-erasure and even people who read as gay or straight “should” come out as bi, etc, etc…..but there it is.) So I tend to read Willow the same way as my friend. Tara was her long-term partner, and I don’t believe she had any intention on dating anyone else but her, male or female, so she was “gay” for that reason.

            Yes, in reality, Willow’s sexuality was most likely biphobia and general ignorance on the parts of the writers, but it is very much so possible for people to have a sexual path that is genuine and looks a lot like Willow’s. Sexuality and identity can be complicated and fluid, and your post came off a little harsh and judgmental about people who don’t follow “the rules” about identifying their sexuality.

            September 4, 2016
        • JennyTrout

          I think the original commenter wasn’t saying that they aren’t biphobic, but that they’re not coming from a place of homophobia by saying that it’s possible that Willow is bisexual.

          I have a huge issue with the way Willow’s sexuality is presented in the show, and I’ll talk more about that when we get to season four. But to sum up briefly, I feel like Willow realizing she’s gay coming on the heels of this big, dramatic breakup furthers the harmful stereotype that lesbians “become” lesbians due to male rejection or hatred of men. I also feel that dismissing the entire arc of Willow’s childhood crush on and sexual attraction to Xander and her relationship with Oz as “well, but she wasn’t gay then, and she’s gay NOW” (at one point she actually says “Hello, gay now!” as though she wasn’t always gay) is significant bi-erasure, when it didn’t have to be, if they’d bothered to take any of the many opportunities they had to discuss Willow’s sexuality.

          September 3, 2016
          • Casey

            Jenny, you’re my hero. And I think you’re totally right.

            While I normally wouldn’t criticize someone for calling themselves whatever they want to call themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with someone LIKE Willow declaring herself gay, the fact that she’s a character written by writers means that we can throw more scrutiny on the labels she applies to herself, since they’re labels being applied TO her. And in the case of Willow, I think it was totally bi erasure. I guess we need to take baby steps from gay to bi (to trans?) in society, but it’s still disappointing that I can only think of one fully-developed and “out” bi character . . . like, in the history of TV.

            September 7, 2016
          • Mel

            Thank you, Jenny, you summed up what I had been trying to say so much more eloquently than I could at the time. i guess I just took what that first reply to my post said very personally, in that I don’t feel like I’m either biphobic or homophobic. I have straight friends and gay friends, and as I’ve mentioned, both my children have identified as bi but I certainly don’t think that they are what the definition of bisexual is, or that other people don’t walk other paths. I simply stated that I personally had never heard of anyone being completely straight throughout school only to come out as bi or gay in later life. But that’s just me. Maybe I expressed that a little harshly for some people and if I did, I’m sorry. I also had a problem with the portrayal of Willow’s sexuality for the same reason Jenny did. I didn’t buy that you could go through a harsh breakup and just give up on men altogether, because that’s just how it came across to me.

            September 11, 2016
  12. Mel

    Well done Jenny on yet another fantastic review…. I like how you keep a balance between criticism and praise. Sure, Buffy has quite a few holes and you admit that but you love the episode anyway. And I had more than a few chuckles with your Giles obsession. He does look good with stubble, doesn’t he?! I’m the same with ADA Barba from SVU. Any chance to post as many pics as possible, I’ll take it.
    I’m also with you on the students not being allowed to drive in AU Sunnydale – I think I’d want my kids to be able to drive away quickly if they were in danger. That rule just doesn’t make sense to me. But mostly, I agree that the episode is a winner because it introduces Anya, one of my favourite female characters throughout the show’s entire seven seasons.

    September 3, 2016
  13. Hollykim

    Um, actually [pushes up glass, doesn’t have the time to read the other comments that have suredly mentioned this]….the silver torture thing is just True Blood (and Underworld, but she was doing it to the.Lycans instead) At some point Buffy’s silver cross burns Angel but he gave it to her in the first place and its just because he’s (comparatively) really sensitive to crosses.

    September 5, 2016
    • Charlotte

      Buffy also tortures a vamp using silver! I think it might be When She was Bad? She and Angel have a female vamp captured at the bronze and they torture her by putting Buffy’s silver cross necklace in her mouth while she’s held down on a pool table. I feel like the vamps had captured Cordelia and they’re trying to find out where she is, but it has been a REALLY long time since I’ve seen these episodes.

      September 7, 2016
      • Laina

        I think the emphasis is supposed to be on the fact that it was a silver CROSS, not that it was a SILVER cross.

        Vampires… crosses… Spike burns himself on a cross, too, so it goes for all vampires in this series.

        September 7, 2016
  14. Anon123

    One of the things I appreciate about the show is Oz, because most works of fiction won’t have an Oz. I’ve known tons of Ozes in real life, but I can see how it’s hard to get drama out of this combination of doesn’t-care-about-most-things and but-needs-to-process-internally-about-deep-matters. You pointed out his making Willow accountable in that first interaction; I like the exchange because his request for help in the form of *leaving him alone* strikes me as very true to the character.

    Now Anya, who might just be my favorite character, I like for different reasons. She’s simultaneously completely like several people I’ve known and also totally alien. I think this episode sets her up very well for that as a character, and it keeps me guessing. Plus, no one could deliver those lines with the same combination of timing and odd inflection like Emma Caulfield could. No, not even Christopher Walken. There. I said it. Take *that*, internet!

    Also, your screenshot of staked Angel is the literal best. And I, too, loved Giles’s desperate hope that the other world “has to be” better than this one. Great line paired with great acting there, for sure.

    I’m with you on loving this episode and not caring about the flaws. Besides, something in me finds it so cute that it comes full-circle and becomes sexy again when vampire!Willow can’t quite pull off the attitude to go with her leather. 😛

    September 5, 2016
  15. Earthed Angel
    Earthed Angel

    The car thing…I think the writers just wanted a shorthand for “awful”/”loss of freedom” in the AU, because this is a teen show, and that struggle is super real at that point in American (middle- to upper-class) lives.
    The only Watsonian reason I can see to ban all cars on campus is to create a sunlit “safe zone” around the school, since we see vamps use cars to get around during the day several times in the series. It’s a weak reason, to be sure; they could just ban tinted windows.

    September 5, 2016
    • Jelly Bean
      Jelly Bean

      I think it could also be that teens are not allowed to drive because it limits their ability to sneak out after dark. Like, they wouldn’t be able to drive up to makeout point, nor attend drive-in movies. It makes greater sense in the world outside Sunnydale, since the kids there walk everywhere anyway.

      September 6, 2016
  16. Gabriel

    Just noticed that one of the pics is called “giles-chewing-on-glasses-please-send-help-1024×577.png”.

    I love this.

    September 6, 2016
    • Mel

      I was going to post a couple of pictures but they didn’t work. I also find Jenny’s crush on Giles extremely cute. But hey did you know – bit of trivia for you now – that Anthony Stewart Head is related to the guy who sung One Night in Bangkok? Saw the clip the other day and thought OMFG that looks like Giles! Researched it and what do you know, they’re brothers. Spooky. Look up Murray Head if you’re interested. But I suspect Jenny already knows because if she’s anything like me, she’s done all the research on her crush!!!

      September 11, 2016
  17. John D.
    John D.

    The scene with Jonathan, painful as it is on its own merits, is even more heart-breaking when you realize how badly things ultimately go for all four of the participants. All of them – Cordy, Anya, Jonathan, Harmony – are dead by the series’ end, with Harmony turned into a vampire, no less. Yikes.

    September 7, 2016
    • Casey

      Forgive my ignorance, but . . . uh, Cordelia dies? I thought she just kinda . . . left.

      September 7, 2016
      • Charlotte

        Spoilers for Angel:

        She dies in the pettiest way after having her character messed up by the pettiest arc ever.

        September 7, 2016
      • Laina

        Cordy doesn’t die in Buffy.

        September 7, 2016
      • Suzy

        She dies ilon Angel…or is transformed into a conduit for, I want to say The Powers That Be but I think that’s Charmed. At any rate she is no longer living.

        September 8, 2016
  18. Charlotte

    Another awesome review. And it makes me happy that you dislike Amends. It’s always been one of my least favs ever (there’s only so much Angel manpain I can take) but I feel like it’s so beloved in the fandom and I’ve never understood that!!

    September 7, 2016
    • Mel

      Yeah there’s only so much you can take of broody Angel. I always skip that episode.

      September 11, 2016
  19. Lacey

    God, Jonathan looks ADORABLE in that screenshot.

    September 14, 2016
  20. Sigyn Wisch
    Sigyn Wisch

    Wait, plot hole! They destroy her power center, so all her curses are reversed, right? Whaaaat about the troll who shows up later?

    September 14, 2016
  21. Why isn’t Sunnydale already like this? It’s not as if the students are safe from vampires in the main universe.

    February 7, 2020
  22. Haywire

    Not sure if anyone else is even still reading these but I think some of the plot holes could be explained by the Wish itself only changing just enough to ‘fill the order’ as it were. In doing so, it creates small inconsistencies and paradoxes that are only noticeable to the one making the wish.

    Or a wizard did it. 😉

    May 25, 2021
  23. So, to follow your assertion: Only Cordelia would perceive the differences because she made the “Wish”?
    If that’s the case? I don’t think anyone cares much.

    May 25, 2021

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