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Month: May 2013

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S01E10 “Nightmares”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will forget to change this opening comment before posting. 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.

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.

Dreams in the Buffyverse are awesome. There, I said it. And with the exception of the season four finale, no episode of Buffy does dreams as awesomely as this one.

We open in The Master’s lair. Buffy is there and ready to slay, stake in hand. But when she faces The Master, it doesn’t go well:

Know what happens when a Slayer has a bad day?

Luckily, she’s just dreaming, and her mom wakes her up for school. Joyce knows something must be wrong with Buffy because she actually wants to go to school, but since she doesn’t know about her daughter’s after school job slaying vampires, she figures it’s Buffy’s anxiety over her father’s upcoming weekend visit. Buffy expresses concern that he might not come, and her mom reassures her that everything is still on.
At school, Buffy explains to Willow that she doesn’t see her dad much now that she lives in Sunnydale. Dad is still in Los Angeles, and he only comes down on the occasional weekend. Buffy’s parents were officially divorced until the year before, but they’d been separated before that. Which doesn’t really fit with what happened in the movie, but whatever. Buffy clearly blames herself for her parents’ divorce:

Willow: “My parents don’t even bicker. Sometimes they glare. Do you know why your folks split up?”

Buffy: “I didn’t ask. They just stopped getting along. I’m sure I was a really big help, though. With all the slaying and everything. I was in so much trouble. I was a big mess.”

Willow tells Buffy that she’s sure her dad didn’t leave because of that, but it’s clear that Buffy still feels differently. Wow, what a powerful conversation guys, really. This not only clears up questions the viewer has about Buffy’s home life, but it adds another layer to Buffy’s burden of being the Slayer. She has this destiny she has been chosen to fulfill, but she believes it destroyed her parents’ marriage. In this scene, Buffy not only becomes a more realistic character, but she becomes a sympathetic figure to children of divorced parents everywhere, because face it, everyone thinks that they are somehow personally to blame for their parents’ break ups.

In a classroom, Cordelia is admiring herself in a compact mirror when a “doofus” blocks her light. Xander sticks up for Wendell the doofus by taunting Cordelia (fairly, in this case) for her belief that the world revolves around her. The bell rings, and they sit down. Willow asks why Cordelia is so “Evita-like,” a slur I repeat here only because any time I mention Juan or Eva Peron on my blog in any context whatsoever, I’m handed my ass by angry Peron fans in the comments. So, let me state here that I think Willow has Eva Peron mixed up with Patti Lupone’s portrayal of her in the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and the comparison is unfair.

Xander asks if there was any homework, and Buffy and Willow remind him that it was on active listening, a skill the teacher demonstrated with him the day before. Xander wasn’t actively listening, though, because the teacher had on a tight blue sweater. Xander does remember the sweater, so he feels pretty confident that he was really listening. (5)

Buffy drops her pencil, and when she looks up, baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt is there!

You look a little young to be going to Sunnydale high, kid. Also, you’re going to get eaten.

Okay, so it’s not actually JGL. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look just like him. But seriously, it’s not him. As Buffy is distracted by the presence of the soulfully creepy kid staring at her, this happens:

What, do they go to school at my house?

While the rest of the class screams and runs and freaks out and does not help the kid covered in tarantulas despite his numerous pleas, Mini-JGL watches calmly and says, “Sorry about that.”
After the credits, we’re back with The Master and The Anointed One, which is pretty neat, since we haven’t seen them in a while. The Master is schooling The Anointed One in fear and its power. According to The Master, we are defined by our fears… so basically, I am a textbook full of spiders. Great, now I’ll never go back and finish my degree. Thanks, Joss.
The Master burns himself with a cross- which becomes something of a motif among the vampires as the series goes on. We’ve already seen Angel willingly burn himself to kiss Buffy (never mind the impossible angle), now The Master is all about controlling his fear and embracing Christianity literally. Then he tells the Anointed One that something is psychically different in Sunnydale.
Joyce is dropping Buffy off at school, and Buffy seems pretty worried that her dad might not show up at the end of the day to take her off for their weekend. Like, she’s so obviously worried about it that Joyce picks up on it. So you know her anxiety is pretty bad. Buffy insists that she doesn’t doubt her father, but Joyce still reassures her that there’s nothing to be worried about. Her dad loves her and he’ll be there.
Buffy is in the building all of two seconds when Xander and Willow find her. Willow is understandably freaked out by the spiders from the day before:

Willow: “I don’t like spiders, okay? Their furry bodies and their sticky webs, and what do they need all those legs for, anyway? I’ll tell you. For crawling across your face in the middle of the night. Ew! How do they not ruffle you?

Xander: “I’m sorry. I’m unruffled by spiders. Now if a bunch of Nazis crawled all over my face…

Did anybody else start singing, “What do they need all those legs for anywaaaaay? SPIDERS! SPIDERS IT MUST BE SPIDERRRRRRS!”

Just me? Okay.

Xander actually has a pretty good handle on the situation here, citing the Hellmouth as the reason he can’t get too shaken up about stuff like spiders coming out of books. He has utter faith that Buffy will slay anything that threatens them.

In the library, they find Giles acting kind of suspicious. He comes out of a back room and tells them he “got lost.” How big is the Sunnydale library? Not big. At this point in the episode, the storyline hasn’t become entirely clear to the viewer, and later we’ll be like, “Okay, so that’s what’s going on,” but in my head canon this scene has nothing to with the plot of the episode at all, and Giles was back there with Jenny Calendar losing her piercings all over the damn place. It would explain why he looks so guilty and confused when he comes out of there.

Giles tells the kids to go talk to Wendell who is at school for some reason. I am sorry, I send my kids to school with runny noses or if they’re just having a bad day. I’m like, “suck it up, you’ll have to go to work like this when you’re a grown up.” But if their textbook was full of fucking tarantulas? You know what? Take a few days off. Or like, maybe go to a different school altogether.

Wendell explains that he loves spiders, but they hate him. Before he can tell them more, Cordelia stops by to snarkily inform Buffy that she’s missing a history test she didn’t study for. Freaking out, Buffy takes off, and Wendell tells Willow and Xander about his prized spider collection that his incompetent douchebag of a brother killed while Wendell was away at camp. Ever since then, Wendell has had nightmares about spiders coming back for revenge. He thought he was having another spooky spider dream in class, and only realized it was real when everyone else started screaming.

Wait, why would spiders hold that against Wendell? It’s not his fault they died. He was at camp. Why didn’t his parents check on the collection? Surely some of their money was tied up in the care and maintenance of these animals.

Meanwhile, in a community theatre production of Grease staring Cordelia Chase as Rizzo:

Seriously, costume supervisor?

Cordelia berates Buffy for not knowing where history class is, and for skipping it all the time. You’re probably thinking, “Okay, since when does Cordelia care about Buffy’s academic issues?” and you’re right. Cordelia doesn’t care. Buffy goes into the class she’s never even been to, sits down to an amazingly long and brutal essay questions only test packet, and her pencil immediately breaks. She starts to sharpen it and loses time; class is almost over, and she hasn’t even started on her test.

Get used to this feeling, Buffy. As a US citizen, you’ll be feeling it every April 14th.
When the rest of the class hands in their tests and starts to leave, Buffy again spots Mini-JGL lurking by the doorway.
In the hall, a student tells her friend she’s going to go take a smoke break, and she heads into the school basement. Mini-JGL says, “You shouldn’t go in there,” and I’m like, “No shit, this is Sunnydale high, the fucking last place you want to be is a dark and scary basement.” But the girl goes down there, anyway, where the meth-head cousin of Sloth from Goonies beats the shit out of her while muttering about “Lucky 19.”

Hey you guys!

There’s also yet another heavy-handed anti-tobacco message:

Just in case no one has ever mentioned it before.
Look, I’m not a smoker. I tried it in my younger days and quit. My grandfather was anti-smoking campaigner who regularly met with state lawmakers in the hopes that his tracheostomy would make them super uncomfortable. I get that smoking is bad. I wouldn’t be so annoyed by the anti-smoking messages in this show, if not for the fact that there are so many other messages in this show that are far more damaging than a kid trying a cigarette. I mean, what’s worse, a kid smoking to look cool for a year or two in high school, or a kid watching a show that glorifies slut shaming and promotes a strongly tech and science phobic culture? Maybe my values are screwy, but mote, eye.
Also, doesn’t this kind of imply that since she was doing something forbidden, she should expect a negative consequence? In this case, physical assault? The fact that it’s a female character experiencing this only ups the ooky factor, but it would still be pretty obvious, even if it were a male character getting beaten up.
Giles and Buffy go to visit the girl, Laura, in the hospital. They question her about what happened in the basement, but a nurse kind of chases them out. All Buffy and Giles walk away knowing is that Laura got attacked by someone or something she can’t describe. Just as they’re about to leave, Laura stops them to tell them about the guy saying “Lucky 19” before he beat her.
In the hospital hallway, Giles asks Dr. Exposition Dump if Laura will be all right. Dr. Exposition Dump asks if Buffy and Giles are family, and when they say they’re just friends, the good doctor happily spills tons of Laura’s medical details:

Doctor Exposition Dump: “She’ll recover. She’s got a couple of shattered bones, a little internal bleeding. She got off pretty easy.”

Buffy: “Easy?”

Giles: “Have you looked up the word lately?”

Doctor Exposition Dump: “Well, the first one’s still in a coma.”

Buffy: “First what?”

Doctor Exposition Dump: “The first victim. They found him a week ago, exactly the same M.O. as the girl, only he’s in worse shape. If he doesn’t wake up soon… Somebody’s got to stop this guy.”

Okay, this is all pivotal plot information. And I get that this is before HIPPA, but come on. Even before HIPPA, a doctor wouldn’t just give all this information out to any random person. There had to be a better way for them to get this info. Maybe the could have overheard some nurses talking about how the cases were similar, or a detective could have come to speak to Laura. Instead, we get this doctor who watches too much CSI speculating on modus operandi of criminals in two cases that might be entirely unrelated, and it’s up the viewer to suspend disbelief. Look, we’re already out here accepting that there are vampires and witches and Hellmouths, so the real world details have to be right. If they’re not, we will fixate on them like an out-of-pattern tile.

Meanwhile, in the same community theatre production of Grease:

Tell me more, tell more, like did she have some fangs…

Willow and Xander are sort of idly talking about the strange goings on going on, when the mom of one of the T-Birds comes in and aggressively starts kissing on him and telling him how much she loves him. Xander observes that just because Wendell dreamed about spiders and spiders erupted out of his text book, that doesn’t mean the two incidents are related. Then he and Willow walk into a classroom and:

At least he was wearing decent looking underpants.
When Xander realizes he isn’t dreaming, he screams and runs away, leaving the entire class laughing behind him.
In the library, a newspaper has exploded:

Three students were killed in the blast, but no one will ever notice or care, because Sunnydale.

Buffy comes in and asks Giles if he’s found anything, and Giles, embarrassed, admits that he can’t read:

Buffy: “What do you mean? You can read like, three languages.”

Giles: “Five, actually, on a normal day. But the words here don’t make any sense. Gibberish!”

I’m going to state for the record that “gibberish” is an underutilized word.

Why does Giles have so many newspapers. I find it difficult to believe it took more than one or two tries to realize that the problem was with him and not the papers themselves. There are like, a minimum of two hundred thousand newspapers on that table.

Buffy picks up a paper and notices Mini-JGL on the front page, wearing a Little League uniform. Well, actually she says “kiddie league” but Little League is trademarked and they can get right on your ass for that. She reads about how he was found beaten after a game. She and Giles put two and two together, that she can’t have seen this kid at school if he’s in a coma. Giles suggests that it might be an astral projection, and Buffy notices the nineteen on Mini-JGL’s uniform. Just then, a wild ALMONZO appears:

You can hear the theme song right now, can’t you?
Buffy introduces Giles to her father in a scene that is begging for awkward Giffy fanfic, and then she goes off with dear old dad, who has something important to discuss with her about her parents’ divorce:

Hank Summers: “It was you.”

Buffy: “Me?”

Hank: “Having you. Raising you, seeing you every day. I mean, do you have any idea what that’s like?”

Buffy: “What?”

Hank: “Gosh, you don’t even see what’s right in front of your face, do you? Oh well, big surprise there, all you ever think about is yourself. You get in trouble. You embarrass us with all the crazy stunts you pull. Do I have to go on?”

Buffy: “No. Please don’t.”

Hank: “You’re sullen and rude, and you’re not nearly as bright as I thought you were going to be. I mean, Buffy, let’s be honest. Could you stand to live in the same house with a daughter like that?”

Buffy: “Why are you saying all of these things?”

Hank: “Because they’re true. I think that’s the least we owe one another. You know, I don’t think it’s very mature getting all blubbery when I’m just trying to be honest. Speaking of which, I don’t really get anything out of these weekends with you. So what do you say we just don’t do them anymore?”

And Buffy looks like this:

Oh hi there, visual approximation of what Jenny feels whenever fathers in general are brought up. 

Jesus, Almonzo, why are you such a dick?

This is actually a super hard episode for me, because I was, in fact, brutally rejected by my own father. Not quite so eloquently as old Hank here, but still. It’s rough, and I suspect there is more than one person out there who identified strongly with Buffy’s horror in this moment, because they had been there. I know I said some really awful shit about David Greenwalt’s writing before, and it was all deserved, but this scene is like bottled reality, and it’s the bottled reality moments in Buffy that make it so special. You can throw vampires at an audience all day long, but the things that really scare them are torn from real life.

Buffy’s dad leaves, and Buffy catches a glimpse of Mini-JGL, but she looks away; she doesn’t want to believe that the things her father said to her aren’t true, or are a figment of her imagination. Kudos to Sarah Michelle Gellar for her acting in this scene, because you get literally everything on Buffy’s side from her facial expressions.

Willow and Xander find Giles in the library and explain Xander’s bought of sudden public nudity. While recounting the details, Willow muses aloud that the attention would be the worst part. Xander calls the experience “a total nightmare,” and Willow has a lightbulb moment.

Willow just understood the plot of Akira and now she can see through time.

Willow reminds them that Wendell had nightmares about spiders, just like Xander had recurring nightmares about being naked at school. Giles had a nightmare about being lost in the stacks and not being able to read. So yeah, no fun lost piercing times with Ms. Calendar. Whatever, I’m still writing that fic.

Xander: “Um. Our dreams are coming true.”

Giles: “Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. Nightmares. Our nightmares are coming true.”

HA! Careful what seeds of bad ideas you plant in Xander’s head in season one, Giles, because they will bite you in the ass when you find yourself providing lead vocals for a training montage in season six.

Giles realizes that it’s Mini-JGL who’s causing all of this, by astrally projecting out of his own nightmares and bringing everyone else’s nightmares with him.

Remember the nice thing I said about David Greenwalt’s writing? When Willow asks how Mini-JGL managed to bring everyone’s nightmares to life, this is the only response the script offers:

Giles: “Things like that are easier when you live on a Hellmouth.”

Deus Ex Hellmouth much?

This is going to be the official Deus Ex Hellmouth image from now on, wrong season be damned

Giles says that unless they get Mini-JGL on lockdown, everyone will be experiencing their worst nightmares.
Meanwhile, Cordelia sees her reflection in her mirror in her locker (because of course she has a mirror in her locker) and finds she has Roseanne Roseannadanna hair. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, am I right, Cordy?

“I thought I was gonna die!”

Buffy sees Mini-JGL going into the gym, where she gently questions him. He tells her that he plays baseball and that his number is “lucky nineteen,” and that the “ugly man” calls him that. The ugly man wanted to kill him, and also hurt Laura in the basement. Before he can tell her any more, the ugly man appears and attacks Buffy. She fights him, but ultimately she has to flee because she’s outmatched.
At the library, the gang is setting out to find Buffy, since she doesn’t know what’s going on with the whole monster thing. They decide to split up to make things faster, but Willow points out that faster isn’t necessarily safer.
Buffy asks Mini-JGL who the ugly man is, but that’s kind of all the kid knows. He tells her they have to hide, because if they hide, the ugly man will come and find them, and that’s “how it happens.” Buffy knows the ugly man is too strong to fight, and she tells him they have to find her friends.
As Willow looks for Buffy, she sees Cordelia dragged screaming, in full nerd attire, to a chess club match. But then Willow hears Buffy calling her name from the creepy basement where Laura was brutalized, and Willow goes down there on her own because she doesn’t realize this is her nightmare. A hand comes out and grabs her, and she screams before we cut to Xander, who enters a broken down and empty Sunnydale hallway absolutely covered with swastika graffiti. So, we as an audience are aware now that we’re in Xander’s nightmare; we know from an earlier conversation that he’s afraid of Nazis. Xander finds a candy bar on the dirty floor, picks it up, and immediately starts to eat it. Then, he finds another one, and does the same thing.

Seriously? I know it’s wrapped, but come on. Look how filthy!
Buffy and Mini-JGL are trying to get to the library, but they end up outside, watching a baseball game. Mini-JGL says that when you lose at baseball, it’s bad. He missed catching a ball the week before, and “he” said it was all Mini-JGL’s fault. 
Notice how in all these scenarios, no one realized they were living their worst nightmare? Xander doesn’t immediately go, “Hey, this part of the hallway wasn’t graffitied and full of candy bars a moment ago.” Willow doesn’t think, “Maybe going into the basement and therefore closer to the Hellmouth is a bad idea.” And Giles… Jesus, he probably thought he was having a stroke all morning or something. So, when Buffy is confused and distressed at not being able to find the library, we know that one of her nightmares is not being able to find the friends she has only just recently come to rely upon.
The ugly man appears again, and Buffy pulls Mini-JGL through a hedge. It’s night on the other side, and also it is a graveyard. So, things are basically not looking up.
So, what was Willow’s worst nightmare? In the library, she said she couldn’t stand the thought of everyone paying attention to her, so she finds herself costumed as Cio-Cio San and being introduced on stage as the world’s most acclaimed soprano. The music begins, the tenor on stage sings, and Willow can’t make a sound. Remember when they had to come up with a talent for the talentless show last episode? Willow can play piano, just not in front of other people, because she’s too shy. Now, she’s paralyzed on stage in her worst nightmare.

Character consistency for the win!

Back in Xander’s nightmare, aka the “Ooh, piece of candy” portion of the first James Woods Family Guy episode, Xander finds a candy bar he hasn’t had since his sixth birthday party. As his dread increases, we hear maniacal giggling, and:

This is literally the only time in my life that I’ve thought, “I would have preferred a Nazi.”
In the graveyard, Mini-JGL finds an open grave and a waiting coffin. When he wonders aloud who died, The Master appears and tells them it’s no fun to bury dead people. The Master tells Buffy he’s free because she fears him, and… wait… does that mean The Master’s worst nightmare is finally meeting the Slayer in the flesh? Because at this point, they’ve never met before.
Hey, you know what else the Slayer is afraid of? BEING BURIED A GODDAMNED LIVE. The Master pushes her into the grave and starts burying her.

Hey, have you guys watched season six?

Willow and Xander find each other in nightmare land, and Xander reminds her of the scary clown from his sixth birthday party. Which she has a really funny memory of, until said clown comes lumbering after them with a knife. Giles finds them and asks if they’ve seen any sign of Buffy, and then they’re ALL running from the killer clown, until Xander has had enough and decides to punch him out. Then, he delivers a scathing review, something that would probably be filed as a one-star on a site called GoodClowns or whatever the clown equivalent of GoodReads would be, because there is no such thing as a good clown:

Xander: “You were a lousy clown. Your balloon animals were pathetic. Everyone can make a giraffe!”

Go Xander!

The scoobies run outside, where they find general chaos:

Giles: “Things are getting worse. In a few hours, reality will fold completely into the realm of nightmares.”

How do we know this, Giles? Baby, you know I love you. But you gotta be more specific, because you always are. I know it’s not your fault. It’s the writing. In every other episode so far, the audience  has been given detailed backstory about why things are happening, and when. To ask us, in episode ten of a twelve episode season, to just blindly accept that because Giles says stuff is bad, it is, isn’t going to fly. Especially when Giles a) can’t read the books that would lend him expertise on this crisis and b) has admitted to not really understanding what’s going on. If the story takes away his power in the mentor/exposition role, then the script can’t ask us to trust that he has the answers.

Giles thinks if they wake Mini-JGL from his coma, everything should be fine, but they can’t leave Nightmare High without looking for Buffy. They notice that across the street, things are looking a little odd…

Don’t you hate when this happens?

Willow: “Excuse me. When did they put a cemetery in across the street?”

Xander: “And when did they make it night over there?”

The gang rightly assumes that Buffy should be in that cemetery. As they walk, Xander wonders aloud about whose nightmare they could be in. And then Giles spots a headstone with Buffy’s name on it.

Giles: “It’s mine. I failed… in my duty to protect you. I should have been more… cautious. Taken more time to train you. But you were so gifted. And the evil was so great. I’m sorry.”

 No worries, Giles!

See! This should make you feel instantly better, pal!
Buffy rises from her grave, startling the scoobies, but generally happy to be alive, until she realizes she’s a vampire. She doesn’t handle this news well. So Giles really has to step up his Watcher game:

Giles: “You never told me you dreamt of becoming a vampire.”

Buffy: “This isn’t a dream.”

Giles: “No. No, it’s not. But there’s a chance we can make it go away. This all comes from Billy. Now, if we can only wake him up, I believe that the nightmares will stop and reality will shift back into place, but we must do it now. I need you to hold together long enough to help us. Can you do that?”

This is enough to help Buffy regain her confidence in her skills, but she warns them that she’s getting hungry. In other words, she’s got to keep from eating her friends before getting unvamped.

This is one of my favorite Buffy/Giles scenes, because it shows how much he cares about her, and how highly he regards her, even after just a few months. He is truly in awe of her skill and her strength, and he wants her to succeed. Which for a slayer basically means not dying, but also, not giving up even when some dire shit like being turned into a vampire goes down.

As they head to the hospital, Willow asks Giles how he knows things will go back to normal, and what will happen if they don’t, and Giles tells her, as politely as possible, to shut up. It’s going to be rare in the series for Giles to be curt with Willow. In fact, it seems to only happen when he’s worried about Buffy. Because of this, I’m going to use any time Giles snaps at Willow as proof of #2 throughout the entire series.

You know what’s a shitty place to be when reality is turning to nightmares? The hospital. The place is in chaos, there appear to be zombies, and Dr. Exposition Dump’s hands have turned to deformed claws. They find Mini-JGL, still comatose, and Giles’s expert solution is to shout in the kid’s face. Luckily Mini-JGL is like, bi-locating? He’s standing beside his own comatose body when he says that it won’t work. And you know, Mini-JGL is right, without ever having to go to medical school. Shouting at people in comas rarely wakes them up. Reeeeeeally dropping the ball here, Giles. You’d think a dude with his history of head injuries would understand that.

Willow discovers that outside the window, a near Biblical invasion of wasps is plaguing Sunnydale. The ugly man appears, and that’s good, because Buffy the Vampire Vampire Slayer is spoiling for a fight to reduce her stress. She beats the ugly man unconscious, then tells Mini-JGL he has to do “the rest.” Wait, what? Is she going to make a twelve-year-old commit murder?

Nah, he just lifts the ugly man’s face off like a rubber mask on a Scooby-Doo villain. Light pours out, and everything goes back to normal. Mini-JGL wakes from his coma and reenacts the end of The Wizard of Oz, and Giles is about to go get a doctor when Mini-JGL’s kiddie league coach comes in. When the man fondly refers to Mini-JGL as “lucky 19,” Buffy reveals that Mini-JGL is awake and tells the coach that they’re on to him. They know he beat Billy in revenge for missing a catch in the game. Mini-JGL tells the coach that it wasn’t his fault they lost the game, there are eight other players on the team. When the coach tries to run, Xander and Giles stop him. Buffy congratulates Mini-JGL on his victory, but maybe she could also drop in a, “Please don’t solve all your problems by turning reality into a living hell wherein all our darkest fears come true next time, okay?”

At school, where everything is back to normal, Buffy expresses disbelief that an adult could go so psycho over baseball. She tells Xander it was heroic to grab the coach, and they’re all glad he’s in jail where he belongs. And oh, look!

Yay, momentary reprieve from inevitable parental abandonment!

Willow asks Xander if he was still attracted to Buffy when she was a vampire, and he admits that he was, and they both agree that he’s gross and the episode is over.
This wasn’t the worst episode of the series, but some glaring problems keep it from being one of the best. And it easily could have been. Just the addition of a line about Giles hearing or reading about this happening before would have solved the “The Hellmouth Did It” plot device. And some wrap up about how Sunnydale was dealing with the after effects of the terror would have been nice. We know that the residents of Sunnydale can ignore a lot of supernatural shit, but it seems like “our nightmares are now reality” is the sort of thing they couldn’t let slide. It’s a little too much to ask of the audience, as well. Even in light of #8. And the entire episode is an example of #11. The kid is being abused by his coach, and as a result, all reality begins to collapse. Not a real strong endorsement of team sports.

I mean, come on. Everyone knows reality isn’t going to collapse as a result of baseball. Unless the Tigers win the World Series.

How to judge readers and alienate people.

Posted in Uncategorized

Step one: write this blog post.  The post has since been deleted. But I’m still mad about it, and I still want to make a point here.

Kendall Grey feels that her art, her true passion, is urban fantasy, a genre that is apparently leagues above erotic romance in terms of merit and morality. I find this stance so patently absurd; I wrote some fairly successful urban fantasy, and no one seemed to feel those had any artistic merit. The most common question I faced from people who didn’t “get” the genre or who thought it was some worthless fad was, “Isn’t that just paranormal romance?” Because it wasn’t enough. It was genre fiction, it wasn’t smart, it wasn’t worth reading.

Sounds kind of like what people like Kendall Grey would say about erotic romance.

I became so fed up with and hurt by people and their foolish misconceptions about what was and wasn’t real writing. I loved my books. Writing them was fun, and I was proud of them. The added bonus was that I could support myself writing them. I didn’t feel like I’d sold out because I wasn’t writing literary fiction, because I was happy.

Those are the three magic ingredients to a successful writing career, by the way: Fun, Pride, and Money. In that order of importance.

Eventually, I burnt out on urban fantasy. It wasn’t as fun for me anymore, and I wasn’t excited about any of my urban fantasy ideas. So, I picked up a pen name and turned to a genre that was fun. The first book I wrote was Ravenous, a pirate-vampire-menage-a-trois. No, seriously. It was silly and fun and the prose got super purple. I had a blast. Did it make me ten thousand dollars in a week, like the book Kendall Grey only deigned to write? No. I don’t think it’s made ten thousand dollars since it came out years and years ago. But I’m still proud of it, and I still have good memories of writing it.

Next, I wrote Glass Slipper, a novella that I fell in love with from the first page. I could honestly write seven more stories just about Josephine and Julien and all the hot sex they could get up to as a married couple. You know, when you’ve been together a while and you can really let go? Yeah, they’re doing something naughty right now, I’ll bet. But I digress. I am proud of that novella, I had fun with it, and it made me a little money.

As I started out down the erotic romance path, I began to meet people who wrote in the genre, people whose paths I never really crossed before just because that’s the nature of the business. They were all warm and funny and incredibly good at karaoke. The readers? They loved their genre without reservation. And everyone involved in that community? They weren’t ashamed of what they wrote, read, and loved. Everyone was celebrating their love of reading and writing dirty books. I was writing something I really enjoyed it, I was proud of what I was doing, it wasn’t making me the most money ever but hey, the other two made up for that. I felt like a writer again.

I recently had a book, well. Fail to meet my expectations for sales. I am devastated. For the past few weeks, I have been struggling in deep depression, doubting myself, doubting my career, wondering if all my failures are a sign that I should give up, that I am a terrible writer, that I am worthless. But do you know what keeps me going? The Boss. A story I wrote because it was fun, and I was having fun writing it. And I’m proud of it. I’ve never been so proud of anything I’ve ever written before (with the exception of a eulogy, but that’s a downer and it was definitely not erotic romance because that would have been grossly inappropriate for the occasion). Is it making me money? Nah, I’m giving it away for free. Because I’m proud of it, and I want people to read this thing I did. And according to Kendall Grey? I’m doing it wrong:

You can be noble and stick to your guns and say, ‘Screw that! I’m gonna keep writing what’s in my heart no matter what!’ Fine and groovy, as long as you accept that this guerilla mentality of badassery won’t pay your bills. More power to you for upholding your principles!”

I disagree fundamentally with anyone claiming writing anything will “pay your bills.” See, I’m pursuing what I love- erotic romance- in a market that Kendall Grey seems to be claiming will make authors heaps of money, if only they compromise themselves. Here’s a cold, hard fact: Kendall Grey made ten thousand in a week? I made ten thousand last year. Same “trashy smut” that’s all the rage these days. And you know her failed UF series? Turns out that one of the most highly anticipated books of 2013 was Dead Ever After, an urban fantasy! What a fucking concept! It’s almost as though no matter which genre an author writes in, some will succeed financially and some will fail!

I would be a liar if I said I didn’t get bitter and envious when I see other authors, you know, paying their water bills or going to the dentist since 1998 or wearing clothes that don’t have holes in them. At the end of the day, though, I’m a pretty happy person, and I consider myself a success. Because when I sit down to write, I’m not forcing myself to write something I don’t care about, or actively hate. I’m not victimizing myself by choosing to write what I write. I don’t walk away feeling cheap, dirty, or ashamed.

And another really cool thing about the path that I’m on? I’m meeting an amazing little group of weirdos just like me, but also just slightly different enough from me that we can all be interesting to each other. We can all bring something to the table.

“Once you’ve done your part to feed the reader machine, and you get paid ridiculous amounts of money for publicly shaming yourself and lowering your standards, you’ll be armed with the power to write what you want. Once you’ve built your readership, there’s a good chance many of your readers will follow you into your preferred, artsy-fartsy genre because they like you. Yes, you may have to compromise and write more sell-out books along the way to feed YOUR machine, but the beauty is that you can do BOTH and make it work.”

I can’t even get my head around a statement like this. When one of you guys draws me a flag of a fish with a severed arm in its mouth? That’s amazing. When you tell me about how your husband passed away unexpectedly and my 50 Shades posts are the only thing you can laugh at? You have no idea how much that touches and baffles me. And then I see someone encouraging other writers to “feed the reader machine.” This advice robs the struggling writer of the experience of connecting to their readers. A little over a year ago, I felt so incredibly alone and like such a failure. And now I feel like I have a success that, while unmeasurable in sales figures or dollar amounts, is truly greater than the money I was making before.

The reason Kendall Grey feels ashamed isn’t because the genre is “trashy smut.” The reason Kendall Grey feels ashamed is because she feels the erotic romance genre has no value or artistic merit, and she’s prostituting herself to it. Because she apparently believes that erotic romance authors don’t take the same amount of care and pride in their work as she did with her artistic urban fantasy. These are not problems with the genre. They’re problems of an individual.

We would all like to experience the runaway success of a 50 Shades or a Harry Potter. But if that’s why you’re in the business, you’re always going to be bitterly disappointed. There will always be a publishing company who doesn’t want you. There will always be a book you work hard on that doesn’t perform the way you want it to. And there will never be a rhyme or reason to why some books become insanely popular, while other books sell five copies. If the only way to make yourself feel better about your writing and your choices is to apologize for them and justify them with dollar figures… you’re doing something very wrong. And if a part of that involves insulting readers and writers and tarring an incredibly diverse genre with a judgmental and narrow-minded brush? Then what are you even doing writing in that genre in the first place?

Erotic romance has plenty of detractors from the outside (and some from the inside). We don’t have to be a Sunshine Sisterhood; that’s a mentality I’ve complained about, myself. But we do at least owe the genre and the readers the respect of doing the best we can, and believing in our own work.

So to everyone aspiring to cash in on 50 Shades by dashing off a dirty book on your lunch hour: If you don’t like erotic romance, then you shouldn’t feel the need to grace the genre with your artistic presence. It won’t suffer without you and the books you lower yourself to write.

50 Shades Freed recap Chapter Fifteen or: “Take the blue pill, it’s just better that way.”

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I had a whole bunch of links compiled for this post, and then I went and accidentally deleted my sticky note where they were waiting. Mea culpa.

We’re saved! Just as I was working on this post, I got an email from Thea K asking for me to share these links to her rip-it-to-shreds blog fest: link the firstLink the second.

At least I coming out of the haze of allergy, pain, and seizure medications I’ve been struggling with. Sorry for the long gap between recaps, I meant to just skip one week, do a Buffy recap during the first week and a 50 Shades recap in the second one, but then I got confused and did two Buffy recaps in a row. Hoping to correct that and get back to a recap each a week. But further patience would be awesome.

Another thing I want to address is the length of the recaps. I’ve had a few comments about the recaps of 50 Shades Freed being shorter than the recaps of previous books. There’s a really simple explanation of that, and maybe I should have mentioned it before: the chapters in the book are shorter. Which, by the way, is hilarious; remember when I was recapping 50 Shades Darker and I was like, NO ONE NEEDS TO WRITE A THIRTY PAGE CHAPTER THAT IS MADNESS? Okay, so, full disclosure time? There’s a twenty-nine page chapter in The Boss.


Okay, so get into the recap Jenny, Jesus.

Once again, Ana begins a chapter waking up. And once again, Christian is winding around her like goddamned kudzu:

I am too warm. Christian warm. His head is on my shoulder, and he’s breathing softly on my neck while he sleeps, his legs threaded through mine, his arm around my waist. I linger on the edge of consciousness, aware that if I wake fully I’ll wake him, too, and he doesn’t sleep enough.

This paragraph opens the chapter and somehow manages to sum up everything that is wrong with their relationship. One partner is willing to lie, hot and uncomfortable, so as to not wake the other partner. One partner is unwilling to let the other partner make a single decision for herself because it makes him emotionally uncomfortable.

Juuuuuuuuuuuust sayin’.

I drank too much- boy, did I drink too much. I’m amazed Christian let me.

“I am amazed another human being allowed me to chose what substance and what quantity of that substance I would put into my own digestive system.” Gosh, everyone who told me he gets so much better was completely right, I guess.

Let me tell it like it fucking is: there is a difference between a character learning and growing on an arc, and a character who doesn’t change at all while all the other the characters insist he has changed. The latter is what’s happening here. Just because some characters are learning to tolerate or ignore Chedward’s dickish behavior doesn’t mean he’s getting better or changing at all. Here’s a fun exercise, guys. Go back and read some of Ana’s parts in the first book. Compared to the character she is at this point in 50 Shades Freed, 50 Shades of Grey Ana is practically Xena, Warrior Princess.
Sorry, Xena. I know.

That’s because at this point, Ana has bent her hopes, her expectations, her own personality quirks (eye rolling, for example), everything about herself, into a pretzel to be what Christian wants. That isn’t character growth for Christian. That’s not how you do character growth.

My palm is still red from last night.

It’s nice that for once, she’s waking up with an injury given to her by someone other than her husband. It’s a refreshing change. But what was the creeper guy’s face made out of? Granite?

I smile as I remember him putting me to bed. That was sweet, real sweet, and unexpected.

So, you expected him to leave you in the car? Or at the nightclub? Or was it just that you didn’t have sex, and we’re once again heaping praise on him for behaving like a fucking human being and not a wind-up rape machine?

Christian wakes up, tells Ana that he cherishes her and he wants to take care of her, and then he flips out:

He clasps my hand and I wince. He releases me immediately, alarmed. “The punch?” he asks. His eyes frost as he scrutinizes mine, and his voice is laced with sudden anger.

“I slapped him. I didn’t punch him.”

“That fucker!”

I thought we’d dealt with this last night. 

“I can’t bear that he touched you.”

“He didn’t hurt me, he was just inappropriate. Christian, I’m okay. My hand’s a little red, that’s all. Surely you know what that’s like?” I smirk, and his expression changes to one of amused surprise.

“Why, Mrs. Grey, I am very familiar with that.” His lips twist in amusement. “I could reacquaint myself with that feeling this minute, should you so wish.”

So, remember how Christian always wants to punish Ana right after she’s done something “bad” and has caused him some worry or another? Is he saying he would spank her because some guy groped her against her will at the bar? That’s healthy. This is a healthy relationship.

“I’d fight you any day, Mrs. Grey. In fact, subduing you in bed is a fantasy of mine.”

Because he’s tired of jacking off to the many ways he’s subdued her in the rest of her life?

Ana considers the idea of fight-fucking from all angles:

What’s this about? Brawling? Fantasy? Will he hurt me? My inner goddess shakes her head- Never.

Check in with your subconscious, she usually makes more sense.

Remember how David Walliams in drag is Ana’s subconscious now? No, it’s not just an excuse for me to lust over David Walliams and I resent your totally on the mark accusation. Good day, sir!

It’s kind of sad that one of the first things Ana thinks when considering a new sexual kink to explore is will my husband, the man who is supposed to love me and be a caring lover, harm me. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP!
They do this whole “let’s play rough” thing that’s basically just Christian holding Ana down so she can’t move. Well, actually, first Ana asks him if he wants to play rough, and her idea of playing rough is to get a drink of water, and… urgh:

Taking a leaf from his impressive repertoire, I lean forward and kiss him, pouring clear cool water into his mouth.

So, they’re apparently back to the spitting in someone’s mouth thing? You know how much me and my OCD love that old chestnut.

Anyway, then they do this whole thing I described before, where Christian tells her to fight him, but he can’t let her win even a little bit on anything, so it’s just a scene of her struggling while he holds her still, and then:

 I seize the front of his pajamas and yank them down, freeing his erection. I grab and squeeze him. He’s hard.

No shit, dicks are hard when they’re erect? I don’t have a secret filthy Tumblr, so I had no idea.

They have sex, and I skip it, because I’m tired of reading the same shit over and over. They have amazing sex, and Ana is just relaxing and chilling out and enjoying the afterglow when, nope, can’t have that:

“You’re quiet,” I whisper and kiss his shoulder. He turns and looks at me, his expression giving nothing away. “That was fun.”

Shit, something is wrong.

“You confound me, Ana.”

“Confound you?”

He shifts so that we’re face to face. “Yes. You. Calling the shots. It’s… different.”

So, after he tells her to fight him in bed because it’s a fantasy of his, and she does fight him in bed, he now has to make a big, dramatic deal about it. He is CONFOUNDED that Ana, the woman he has groomed from day one of their relationship to be unquestioningly obedient, has done something he asked. And of course, since he’s expressed how CONFOUNDED he is, she scrambles to try and fix it, because she wants nothing but his happiness.

“You’ve never indulged this little fantasy before?” I blush as I say it. Do I really want to know any more about my husband’s colorful… um, kaleidoscopic sex life before me? My subconscious eyes me warily over her tortoiseshell half-moon specs. Do you really want to go there?

Of course not. Because there are definitely things husbands and wives should hide from each other. Emotional intimacy is waaaaaay overrated.

“No, Anastasia. You can touch me.” It’s a simple explanation that speaks volumes. Of course, the fifteen couldn’t.

 This naturally leads into a discussion of Mrs. Robinson, the ghost that haunts their sex life due to Ana’s distaste at discussing Christian’s sexual past. She asks him if he liked it when Mrs. Robinson touched him, and he tells her that he did at the time, but not anymore. Which leads Ana to think:

My lost boy.

I’m starting to get this really uncomfortable feeling that if Christian ever did get mentally healthy and he wasn’t Ana’s lost boy anymore, Ana wouldn’t really be into him. Every time they’re together in any way, she’s like, “Tell me about your tortured past (so that I can feel bad for you).” I wonder if Christian would be as appealing to her if he wasn’t a wrecked up project. After all, this is the girl who apparently thinks Thomas Hardy was writing romance.

After they make slow, tender love one more time- off the page, so I don’t have to skim over it- Ana goes down to breakfast, where there is ACTUALLY A SCENE IN THIS GODDAMNED BOOK THAT I APPRECIATED AND ENJOYED:

As the two men amble across the lawn toward the house, lost in their conversation, Christian casually bends to pick up what looks like a bamboo cane that must have been blown over or discarded in the flower bed. Pausing, Christian absentmindedly holds out the cane at arm’s length as if weighing it carefully and swipes it through the air, just once.


This scene would be more funny and enjoyable if didn’t lead to a heart-to-heart two pages later, but I’ll take whatever meager crumb of enjoyment I can get, like a Dickensian urchin peering through a frosted window at a glowing feast of roast goose and treacle tart.

Pictured: Jenny writing a recap.

Kate sees Ana looking out the window, and then this happens:

“What are you doing?” asks Kate.

“Just watching Christian.”

“You have got it bad.” She snorts.

I think it’s weird that other characters have to blatantly tell the readers how Ana feels about her husband. It’s almost as if the main characters aren’t developed enough to prove their love to the reader on their own…

“And you don’t, oh soon-to-be-sister-in-law?” I reply, grinning and trying to bury the disquieting visual of Christian wielding a cane. I am startled when Kate leaps up and hugs me.

“Sister!” she exclaims, and it’s hard not to be swept up in her joy.

This is the most effusive we’ve seen Kate about the marriage so far, and of course, it’s because she’s gaining an Ana, not marrying the love of her life or anything. I’d personally rather chew my own arm off to escape a bear trap than be legally related to Anastasia Rose Steel Grey (most unwieldy stripper name EVER).

After a break, Christian is once again waking Ana up to start a new scene, to tell her to buckle her seatbelt because they’re about to land. So, they’re on the plane. Mia is sad and reading a book, Ana peeks up at Christian “through my lashes” (I had started to miss the one, actually) and Elliot is sleeping.

 I have yet to corner Elliot and quiz him about Gia, but it’s been impossible to pry him away from Kate. Christian isn’t interested enough to ask, which is irritating, but I haven’t pressed him. We’ve been enjoying ourselves too much.

We haven’t done a list in a while, so…

  1. It’s none of your business, Ana.
  2. It’s none of Christian’s business and at least he knows that.
  3. It’s more irritating to meddle in other people’s relationships.
  4. You obviously don’t care that fucking much if your good time can’t be compromised for something you apparently think of as super important to your friend’s happiness.
  5. You are terrible person.

Elliot rests his hand possessively on Kate’s knee. She looks radiant, and to think that only yesterday afternoon she was so unsure of him.

You know when you like a show or something, and you introduce someone to it, and then they start acting like they know more about it than you do? That’s how Ana is with Kate’s entire relationship with Elliot. It’s like Ana thinks she knows what’s best for Kate or what Kate is feeling just because Ana is married. Yet, Kate has the most experience with relationships, because she’s, you know, had them before. Ana’s love life is only months old, and she’s trying to speak to Kate’s uncertainty like she’s an authority or something.

At this point, the chapter begins doing its best to avoid plot and starts just filling up pages for no reason. There is a section break, then a brief scene of Ana and Christian in the car, where they talk about how fun the weekend was and how Christian was relaxed because Ana was safe. Basically, rehashing a scene we’ve already read a thousand times, in settings that are more striking than the backseat of an Audi. Then, Christian asks Ana if she’s ready to “face Gia”:

“I might want to keep you out of the way, keep you safe.” I smirk.

“Protecting me?” Christian is laughing at me.

“As ever, Mr. Grey. From all sexual predators,” I whisper.

Oh for fuck’s sake.

Then there’s a section break, and they’re going to bed. We don’t even get to see this supposedly exciting, nerve-wracking meeting between Ana and Gia. Now that they’re back home, Ana is thinking about the Jack Hyde thing again:

Tomorrow we go back to reality- back to work, the paparazzi, and to Jack in custody but with the possibility that he has an accomplice. Hmm… Christian was vague about that. Does he know? And if he did know, would he tell me? I sigh. Getting information out of Christian is like pulling teeth, and we’ve had such a lovely weekend. Do I want to ruin the feel-good moment by trying to drag the information out of him?

She brought up the woman who took advantage of him in his youth on the trip, but does she want to ruin the afterglow by asking questions about the dangerous man who was clearly plotting to kidnap and rape her and who may have an accomplice still gunning for her? Nah, that’s not important, because it has to do with Ana, and Ana’s entire life revolves around Christian.

It’s been a revelation to see him out of his normal environment, outside this apartment, relaxed and happy with his family. I wonder vaguely if it’s because we’re here in this apartment with all its memories and associations that he gets wound up. Maybe we should move.

You are moving, Ana. That’s why he bought a house.

I snort. We are moving- we’re having a huge house refurbished on the coast.

Oh, I see, that wasn’t a rhetorical statement you were making, it was an excuse to talk about Gia and the scene E.L. couldn’t be arsed to write:

I chuckle as I recall Gia’s shocked expression when I told her that I’d seen her in Aspen. Turns out it was nothing but coincidence. She’d camped out at her holiday place to work solely on our plans. For one awful moment I’d thought she’d had a hand in choosing the ring, but apparently not. But I still didn’t trust Gia. I want to hear the same story from Elliot. At least she kept her distance from Christian this time.

Wouldn’t it have been cool to see the scene where Ana, with her newfound backbone, confronted Gia and asked point blank if she’d picked Kate’s ring or was still involved with Elliot? Well, too bad, because E.L. isn’t interested in that scene. She’s more interested in hanging out in Ana’s head while Ana thinks about foreshadowing:

Yet with his family around him, he is less controlling, less anxious- freer, happier. I wonder what Flynn would make of all that. Holy crap! Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe he needs his own family. I shake my head in denial- we’re too young, too new to all this. 

You should definitely have a baby to fix your abusive marriage, Ana. That’s a great idea. Men never get more possessive or weird or crazy when their wives or girlfriends get pregnant. And he definitely won’t be able to hold the baby as a hostage against you leaving him.

Christian comes to bed, and Ana has to turn the only part of this book that I’ve enjoyed into something shitty because she’s awful:

“Do you miss it?”

“Miss what?” he asks, perplexed.

“You know, the caning… and stuff,” I whisper, embarrassed.

He stares at me, his gaze impassive. Then doubt crosses his face, his where-is-she-going-with-this look.

By the way, that’s the second time that description has been used in five pages, and I still don’t have any idea what the expression looks like.

“No Anastasia, I don’t.” His voice is steady and quiet. He caresses my cheek. “Dr. Flynn said something to me when you left, something that’s stayed with me. He said I couldn’t be that way if you weren’t so inclined. It was a revelation.” He stops and frowns. “I didn’t know any other way, Ana. Now I do. It’s been educational.”

It’s a revelation to Christian that he can’t force a woman to participate in sex acts she doesn’t want to engage in.

No, really. That’s what that says.

Someone else had to tell Christian Grey that it’s not okay to force women into BDSM if they don’t find it appealing. He is an adult and he’s managed to live his life thus far without figuring that out. He had to pay someone to tell him.

This passage just furthers the anti-BDSM message in the book, the message that E.L. James denies is there. While the author runs around every media outlet clamoring to interview her, boasting about how she’s been such a boon to the BDSM lifestyle and she’s introduced women to their deepest, most secret desires, she’s written a character whose involvement in BDSM is a mental illness that had to be cured. Christian has only been involved in BDSM because he doesn’t know better. How is this in any way complimentary to the BDSM lifestyle, or people involved in it?

50 Shades fans are even worse about this. I saw a woman tweet a couple weeks ago that people can’t judge those involved in BDSM, even though she doesn’t “agree” with it. And her tone, as she argued with multiple twitter accounts, seemed to be the tone of a born again Christian trying to defend their stance on gay marriage. It was very hate the sin, love the sinner, like she was secretly rooting for all the BDSM perverts out there to find their true loves and see the light or something. That is what E.L. James has done for BDSM with these books. She’s destroyed public perception of it.

She is the reason my face looks like this all of the time.

Then, as if this misunderstanding of BDSM isn’t enough, we have to continue:

“I don’t want you to hurt me, but I like to play, Christian. You know that. If you wanted to do something…” I shrug, gazing at him.


“You know, with a flogger or your crop-” I stop, blushing.

Uh… excuse me. But floggers and crops HURT. They’re supposed to hurt. That’s the draw. That’s why some of us like them. I suppose there are ways you could use both of these implements without causing pain. You could use a rubber flogger to tickle someone, or a crop to… train climbing vines? But the point of being flogged or snapped with a riding crop is to hurt. I just… I can’t get my head around this. Maybe because I like pain during sex. I just can’t see the point of using those tools in a non-painful way.

There’s a section break, and some emails that begin on August 29th, wherein Ana and Christian tell each other they love each other, and he reminds her about the Shipbuilding Association dinner. Apparently, Christian builds ships now. I don’t fucking know, and it’s not really covered. Ana’s assistant comes in and tells her she’s had to move some appointments around for her (spoiler alert, one of those appointments is for her birth control shot, but Ana interrupts her before she can mention that), Roach calls and asks Ana to come to his office, and we have another section break, followed by more emails on August 30th, in which Ana and Christian vaguely hint at the fantastic sex they had following the boring boat dinner. Then Ana’s assistant comes in again and tells her she’s had to move some appointments again, and then Roach calls again pulling Ana away to a meeting. Then there is another section break and HOLY SHIT AM I IN THE MATRIX?

Seriously, the deja vu is strong with this shitty, shitty, go nowhere chapter.

Pictured: A 50 Shades fan’s contortions to suspend disbelief.

After the section break, there are MORE EMAILS, dated September 1st. Christian tells Ana that Hyde has been refused bail and he’s been charged with attempted kidnapping and arson. Ana asks:

Does this mean you’ll lighten up on security?

I really don’t see eye to eye with Prescott.

No, Ana, you don’t see eye to eye with your husband. Prescott is just following his orders. We’ve never seen any evidence of a personal beef between the two women, just Ana’s exasperation at being shadowed. She gives the white men on the security team leeway in this, reminding the readers over and over that they’re just doing their job. But when Prescott, a black woman, does her job, Ana takes it personally.

Christian’s response:

What’s wrong with Prescott? If you don’t like her, we’ll replace her.

Note that when Ana has complained about being followed the white men, Christian has never offered to fire them. Which is pretty funny, considering how threatening Christian considers white men who are in Ana’s presence.

I scowl at his high-handed email. Prescott isn’t that bad.

WHAT? Ana, you have done nothing but bitch about Prescott since she’s arrived in the storyline, seemingly only to be bitched at. Prescott has, until this line, just been a vehicle for Ana’s pointless exasperation. What the hell, now she’s “not that bad?” Ana responds to Christian’s email:

I was just asking (rolls eyes). And I’ll think about Prescott.

Stow that twitchy palm.

Ah, the repetition of fanfic/fanservice writing. Also, nice to see Ana talking casually about affecting someone else’s livelihood and career in the negative. She’s certainly adapted well to being a part of the 1%.


These emails are dated September 5th, and the subject line of the first one is “Sailing & Soaring & Spanking,” so basically there was this amazing scene where they did interesting things and we get to hear about it like this:


You sure know how to show a girl a good time.

I shall of course be expecting this kind of treatment every weekend.

And then there is an exchange about how much they love each other and how their life is beautiful and perfect and romantic. Then there is a section break and:

The following day, I gaze at the calendar on my desk. Only five days until September 10- my birthday.

The emails are dated the 5th, and Ana is looking at them the next day, which means it’s only four days until the 10th. I guess it’s a good thing she’s an editor and not a mathematician.

Hannah taps on my door.

“Come in.”

Prescott is hovering outside. Odd…

How is that odd? All we’ve been hearing about Prescott is about how closely she follows you and how much you hate it.

“Hi, Ana,” says Hannah.

LOL, that rhymes.

“There’s a Leila Williams here to see you? She says it’s personal.”

“Leila Williams? I don’t know a… ” My mouth goes dry, and Hannah’s eyes widen at my expression.

Leila? Fuck. What does she want?


I can only hope that the next chapter doesn’t begin with a five page series of emails hinting at what happened when she met with Leila.

Wait, no, I hope it does. Because I don’t give a shit about this book, the characters, or what happens to them. And no one else should, either, because the author doesn’t seem interested in writing the rest of this damn book, anyway.

The Most Unexpectedly Bittersweet Thing You’ll See Today

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This post is the beginning of a series about my favorite YouTubers. I promise they won’t all be about spiders.

I dislike spiders. Immensely. I have blogged about my hatred in the past. Last fall, I went to a reptile show with D-Rock, and it seemed like everybody there had fucking deli containers overflowing with goddamned tarantulas.

What kind of insane person voluntarily brings something like this into their home? I wondered judgmentally as we wandered the aisles. I overheard a guy talking about preferring one breed of tarantula to another, saying, “Yeah, with these they don’t shoot those little hairs off. Those can really irritate your skin, so if you’re planning to handle it, you need to get a guy like this.” WTF, who would handle a spider?

These people:

This is TarantulaGuy1976’s channel. I don’t know exactly how I wound up there, because I fucking hate spiders. But I did wind up there, and I watched a ton of his videos. Why? Because I got sucked into the saga of a molt gone wrong.
Over the course of six videos, TarantulaGuy1976 documents his care for a spider that he obviously cares about very much. I started watching in the middle, when he surgically removed the hardened shell that the spider couldn’t dislodge on its own. Then I went back and watched from the beginning.  I still can’t believe how invested I became in his struggle to save his pet, an animal which I would, under normal circumstances, happily daydream about beating to death with a shovel.
It’s not about the animal, though. It’s about this guy, who clearly has an amazingly open heart if he can connect with something as ooky as a giant spider, and his devotion and care. I know people who haven’t treated their elderly relatives with as much loving respect as he shows for the tarantula.
The strangest thing is, his tenderness toward this spider has changed my view of them, somewhat. Now, I’m not about to run out and adopt one of Satan’s fuzziest abominations for my very own, but I’m not quite as creeped out by them as I was before. And I was, unfairly, stereotyping “spider people” as weirdos, another ignorant assumption of mine that this guy blew all to smithereens.
If you have some time to kill- and you don’t mind watching what amounts to the spider equivalent of a dog tragedy movie- watch these videos after the jump.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S01E09 “The Puppet Show”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone is probably going to die from this cold, so start planning her memorial right now. 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.

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.

This is one of my all-time favorite episodes of BtVS, because it’s about one of my biggest fears: ventriloquism. I am terrified of ventriloquists and their dummies. The only one I’ve ever really liked was Lamb Chop, but only because she was really a sock puppet. Sherri Lewis remains suspect, even in death.

It’s also, dare I say, one of the least problematic episodes. Sexual Harassment Dummy aside, there’s really nothing glaringly wrong in this episode, and hardly anything on our handy list of issues gets used! Huzzah! We can just enjoy ourselves!

Anyway, I really liked the way this episode duped me into believing one thing for a really long time, then flipped it, and genuinely surprised me.

We get a weird angled shot of a stretching ballerina’s crotch while a scary voice promises that he will be whole and new. Then the camera zooms around a bunch of kids practicing various talents, from the tuba to magic to an awkward looking kid holding a really scary ventriloquist’s dummy:

You remember him from your nightmares, I’m sure.

On stage, Cordelia is “singing” the Whitney Houston hit “The Greatest Love of All.”

Singing is kind of a strong word for it, really.
And Giles looks like he wants to kill himself, because once you’ve heard Cordelia’s singing, you’ve already gazed into the mouth of damnation:

At least this headache won’t be the result of a serious brain injury.

Some of you have asked, “Jenny, Cordelia is a bully and a horrible person. How can you like her?” I was waiting for this episode, this very scene, to address this. Cordelia does horrible things, it’s true. She’s mean to her classmates, she views life as a competition that she will win at all costs, and she doesn’t care who she hurts to get to the top. These are not admirable qualities. However, what resonates with me is her confidence. Cordelia never once stops to question whether her terrible singing is good. She believes it is, and that’s all it takes to make her put herself out there. What’s more amazing is, she does this even though we learn later in the series that she has the same anxieties as every other teen at Sunnydale High. Yet she overcomes them just by thinking she’s the bomb. That’s some serious power of positive thinking.
So, while I do not admire Cordelia’s actions all the time, I do admire her overall personality. Later, on Angel, when life has hammered on her and she becomes a fully realized character instead of a stereotypical mean girl villain, this is more apparent. But it’s there from the beginning. Cordelia doesn’t need her fawning sychophants to bolster her; they’re an accepted tribute to the greatness she already knows she is. The fact that this foundation of her personality is there from her first appearances is testament to good character building.
Giles can’t take anymore of Cordelia’s caterwauling and begs her to get off the stage so they can move on to Tuba Girl. Buffy, Xander, and Willow come in, and OMG WILLOW IS WEARING MY FAVORITE SHIRT FROM HIGH SCHOOL!

Looking good, ducky!
I wore that shirt OUT in school, but like Willow, I wore it under a hoodie, because it was a baby doll t-shirt and my Catholic high school was not down with the bare midriff.
Giles tells the kids that he’s being forced to run the talent show on the orders of the “new fuhrer,” Principal Snyder:

Giles: “He thought it would behoove me to have more contact with the students. I did try to explain that my vocational choice of librarian was a deliberate attempt to minimize said contact, but he would have none of it.”

WTF is wrong with this school? Remember, from the vantage point of an outside observer, Giles is spending a lot of time having hushed, urgent conversations with these three students in the library, sometimes after hours. One of these girls has a picture of the two of them together in her locker. And they think this guy needs to spend more time around kids? Yes, we know he’s a Watcher and he doesn’t want to be one, and he certainly doesn’t like spending time around teenagers, but nobody else in Sunnydale knows this. Without that crucial piece of evidence, things are just getting creepier and creepier.

Hey, there’s an interesting angle of Giles that I’ve actually never considered before… he told Buffy in “Never Kill a Boy on The First Date” that he didn’t want to be a Watcher. So, in a way, Giles and Buffy are living parallel lives, enslaved to destinies they had no say in.


Anyway, Buffy has to crack on Giles a little bit, because that’s their schtick:

Buffy: “Giles, into every generation is born one who must run the annual talentless show. You cannot escape your destiny.”

Giles tells Buffy that if she had any decency, she would help him, and she tells him she’s going to do what he usually does, and just watch. Willow and Xander get in on the teasing, too, but their satisfaction is short-lived, because HEY IT’S QUARK!

Isn’t it amazing what the Federation can do with plastic surgery?

Quark is the new principal, Principal Snyder, who is replacing Flutie, the guy who got eaten at his desk. He is nowhere near as nice and tolerant as Flutie was. I guess when you’re replacing a dude who got literally eaten by students, you’re going to go for the one who seems a little tougher, discipline wise. Snyder has branded the Scoobies “real antisocial types” and orders them to “integrate” by performing in the talent show.
As the kids sit by in mute horror at this cruel twist of fate, Morgan and his dummy take the stage. Buffy is afraid of dummies, and Willow thinks they’re cute. So, that’s some pretty early foreshadowing of Evil!Willow in season six. Because only a monster would like dummies.
Morgan’s act starts off horrible. He’s not a very good ventriloquist, his jokes are stale, and he’s sweating like a sinner at Sunday mass. Giles is about to give him that old timey vaudeville hook when suddenly, Sid the dummy’s voice gets a lot rougher and deeper, and he starts cracking on Morgan, who pretends it isn’t a part of the routine. Everyone, even Buffy, is laughing at him.
Cut to the locker room. Hey, here’s a tip, if you’re a Sunnydale High student, don’t change in the locker rooms. Because in a weird, purple, up-angled shot, we see a female student get attacked by something that vows it will be whole again. Or something like that. I went and got coffee during that part because I knew I had time during the opening credits.
Back from the opening, Xander is freaking out about the dramatic scene he, Buffy, and Willow have entered in the talent show. Willow thinks it’s the easiest thing to do, and she’s probably right; it’s not like they can fight evil as their talent, and it’s really the only thing they’ve been practicing lately. We also find out that Willow plays the piano, she’s just really shy about it.

Morgan’s dummy starts sexually harassing the girls and insisting that he’s real, and Buffy threatens to burn him. Because as we all know from her transcripts, Buffy is excellent and burning stuff down. Giles walks in, enduring Principal Snyder’s lengthy diatribe about how fucking awful teenagers are:

Snyder: “Kids today need discipline. It’s not a popular word these days, discipline. I know Principal Flutie would have said, ‘Kids need understanding, kids are human beings.’ That’s the kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.”

Giles listens to all this and tries to stammer a word in edge-wise, but it’s clear from his reaction to Snyder’s monologue that what Giles is really thinking is, “Jesus, this guy hates kids even more than I do.” There will be no bonding here.

Truefact: People actually ship this. Because fandom is sometimes terrible.
Just as Snyder vows that Sunnydale is going to be totally different now that he’s in charge, we cut to the scene of yet another locker room murder. Hey, Sunnydale? Try putting a fucking security guard in there or something. (8
Giles tells the kids everything he knows, that the girl killed was a dancer from the talent show, and her heart was removed. The presence of a knife at the scene of the crime points to a regular human murder, rather than something demonic, which would have involved claws and teeth. Though Willow, Xander, and Giles all figure it really was just a vicious attack by a person, Buffy thinks something is up. She reminds her friends and the viewer about the Hellmouth, and how there’s all sorts of ooky goings on in the area. Giles tells them to talk to the other kids in the talent show, since they were the last people to see dancer girl alive.
Buffy interviews Tuba Girl, who says:

Tuba Girl: “I didn’t know her too well. There’s that whole dancer/band rivalry, you know?

No, I do not know. But I would pay money to watch a street fight between the two factions.
Giles interviews the talent show Magician Guy, who tells him that he saw Dancer Girl talking to someone the day she died. Meanwhile, Willow asks Eric Stoltz in Mask who Dancer Girl was talking to. Big surprise, it was the creepy fucking kid with the perverted dummy.
Seriously, I can’t be the only one who sees it.
Xander gets stuck interviewing Cordelia, who is profoundly affected by the death of the girl whose name she doesn’t remember correctly. The talent show kids tell the Scoobies that Morgan has been acting paranoid and muttering to himself, and that he’s been seen arguing with his dummy. Oh, and Cordelia continues to make it all about her.
Buffy walks into the auditorium to find Morgan’s dummy, Sid, talking about who will be next. Morgan is surprised to see Buffy there and tries to play it off as a rehearsal. You know, that classic ventriloquist routine about covering up and murder and planning to kill again? That slays ’em!
That was a double pun, by the way, because slayer, and also murder, and…
No one appreciates my art.
Anyway, Morgan tells Buffy he was talking to Sid and wasn’t really paying attention to Dancer Girl. Then he gets a sudden headache, and Sid takes over, telling Buffy that Morgan has said all he’s going to say on the subject. Morgan argues with Sid and stuffs him back in his case. Realizing Morgan is slightly unhinged, Buffy apologizes to him for making him mad, and he assures her he isn’t upset, and tries to explain that it’s not him, it’s the dummy. But even he hears how crazy he sounds, and quickly grabs his case and leaves.
The Scoobies convene in Giles’s office, where for once, he’s not wearing a suit. I say “for once,” but wait until he hits his midlife crisis/alcoholic/unemployment depression in season four. We’ll all be begging for a return to tweed. The gang decides that it’s definitely Morgan doing the killing, but Buffy still thinks a demon might be somehow involved. Giles is trying to research the possibility of a demon, but he’s got this whole talent show thing sucking up his time. Buffy and Xander argue that a talent show is the last thing they should be thinking of at a time like this, and one can’t help but think they’re less interested in catching a murderer than just not being in a talent show. Giles tells them there’s really no way around it; they’ve all caught Snyder’s eye, and the last thing a Slayer needs is to call unwanted attention to herself. So, Buffy sets out to check Morgan’s locker for a heart.
But, she gets caught:
Note the far away quality of this shot. This tells us someone is spying on them.

Snyder is not a fan of students being on campus after hours:

Snyder: “There are things I will not tolerate: students loitering on campus after school, horrible murders with hearts being removed. And also smoking.

Dedication to the future of America.

Buffy insists she doesn’t do anything from the proscribed actions list, and Snyder warns her that he knows something is up with her, and he’s going to figure out what. So, basically he’s the only person in Sunnydale that actually notices what the students in the high school are doing, ever, but he’s also the person who hates them the most.

Buffy tells Snyder she’s supposed to get something from Morgan’s locker, but when she opens the dummy’s case, it’s empty.

So, who was watching this go down?

Nope, not creepy at all.

Cut to Morgan fighting with Sid, or maybe himself, because we don’t see Sid’s face to know if his eyes and mouth are moving independently or not. Either way, “Sid” is saying that he knows Buffy is “the last one” needed for him to get free.
At the Maison du Summers, Buffy argues with her mom re: talent show attendance. See, Buffy’s mom wants to go to support Buffy, and Buffy is having none of it. Joyce asks Buffy if anything else is wrong, but Buffy tells her there’s just a lot of stuff going on. Then she gets ready for bed, and when she turns out the light…

After the commercial break, Buffy wakes to the pitter patter of creepy little feet. She screams, and Joyce runs in. Buffy insists there’s something in her bed, but Joyce reassures her there’s nothing there, before telling her not to sleep with the window open. And Buffy realizes that she didn’t.
At talentless show rehearsals, Magician Guy is not doing the greatest. Cordelia follows Giles around, badgering him about the order of acts in the show, and he takes a tip from Xander and implies that her hair is messed up. It works, Cordelia runs away to do emergency hair maintenance, and Giles has a little giggle about it and OMG, allow me a moment of squee.
But things get decidedly less funny when Buffy turns up and tells the Scoobies that Sid the dummy was in her room the night before, and that he was alive. By the way, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s delivery of “And he was alive,” is probably the cutest thing that has ever happened on this series. The Scoobies are having a hard time processing the allegation that a ventriloquist dummy attacked Buffy and was working alone:

Buffy: “It was like it pounced on my face.”

Xander: “Like a cat?”

Buffy: “Yeah, exactly. But when I turned the lights on it was already gone. I think it went out my window”

Xander: “Like a cat.”

Buffy: “Yeah. No!”

Giles suggests that Buffy had a nightmare about dummies, and despite her insistence that she’s the Slayer and she knows something funny is going on, they all pretty much agree that Morgan is probably just murdering people. But to err on the side of caution, Giles has researched a group of demons who masquerade as teenagers and need to steal certain human organs every seven years to keep from reverting to their original, ooky forms.

Hey, isn’t it funny that Anthony Head was in an episode of Buffy where people were getting their organs stolen, and then he was in Repo! The Genetic Opera stealing people’s organs?

Anyway, Giles tells them about how the demons are super strong, and Morgan is getting weaker and weaker. So no choices have really been eliminated here. Morgan could still be the murderer, he might just be the murderer who kills people because he needs to conceal his demon bits for another seven years.

Buffy is in class when Morgan’s dummy (who is sitting at Morgan’s desk with him, and no one seems to have a problem with this) turns his head all the way around to creepily stare at her. Cordelia tells Buffy the dummy digs her, and they should tour together in a freak show. But Buffy doesn’t have time for Cordelia’s bully shenanigans at the moment, because this is an evil dummy emergency. When the teacher calls on Morgan and Sid smarts off to her, the teacher confiscates him and sticks him in a cupboard. When Morgan returns later to get the dummy, the teacher tries to connect with him, asking if there are problems at home. Morgan just wants Sid, but when the teacher goes to the cupboard to get him, he’s gone. Morgan flips out, saying Sid knew to wait for him and demanding to know what the teacher has done.

The teacher didn’t lock her shit up, is what she’s done.

Xander stole Sid from the classroom so that Buffy could finally talk to Morgan alone. He also tries to get Buffy to believe the dummy is totally harmless, by pounding its head on the desk and making it talk like a creepy old man. Giles tells Willow they have more researching to do, and Willow says:

Willow: “Once again I’m banished to the demon section of the card catalogue.”

Remember when people knew what those were?

Giles: “You concentrate on reanimation theory, I’ll peck about in organ harvesting. Unless, of course, you prefer-“

Willow: “That’s okay. You can have the organs.

“Thanks, Willow, I know I can have the organs.”

I can’t promise that will be the last Repo! reference I make today.
Xander leaves Sid propped up on a chair in the library, and Buffy goes off in search of Morgan in the auditorium. She’s poking around backstage when stuff gets creepy.

Before Buffy can follow her instincts and investigate the creepy, Principal Snyder just shows up out of nowhere, lurking around like the angel of fucking death. Snyder creepily warns Buffy about going places alone, and Buffy tells him she can take care of herself. Which actually gets Snyder to back off and leave, so he’s not the murderer, right?
Back in the library, Willow has good news, everyone!

Willow: “Look what I found in the section on toys and magic: ‘On rare occasions, inanimate objects of human quality, such as dolls and mannequins, already mystically possessed of consciousness, have acted upon their desire to become human by harvesting organs.”

Oh, well, as long as it’s rare then. Jesus, I’m not going to sleep for weeks, and I’m giving my rag doll John Denver the serious stink eye right now.

Aww, I’m just kidding, John Denver. You don’t need to steal my heart, it already belongs to you.

So, this happens:
Now you see him.

Now you don’t.

Backstage in the auditorium, Buffy finally gets Morgan alone:
For all the good that it will do her.

 As she backs away from the horrible murder scene, a chandelier falls on her. Because it’s the theatre, and a chandelier always has to fall on somebody. When Buffy regains consciousness, we run into yet another example of how Slayer strength can conveniently fall by the wayside in favor of dramatic tension. In the past, we have seen Buffy rip doorknobs off with her bare hands, punch a lock into a locker to open it, easily pry the lid off a crate her mother couldn’t dislodge with a crowbar, and, oh yeah, fight vampires. But now, she can’t lift the chandelier off herself, even when a dummy starts attacking her with a knife. Come on, show. Regular, non-Slayer humans have been known to rise to enormous feats of strength in times of stress. You hear all the time about some random bystander lifting a burning car off an injured and trapped victim.

Wouldn’t “murder puppet” be more of an incentive?

Buffy gets free and pins Sid to a wall, and they have one of those conversations where two people are clearly talking about two different things:

Sid: “You win. Now you can take your heart and your brain and move on.”

Buffy: “I’m sure they would have made great trophies for your case.”

Sid: “That would have been justice.”

Buffy: “Yeah, except for one thing: you lost, and now you’ll never be human.

Sid: “Yeah, well neither will you.”

Buffy and Sid together: “What?”

Back in the library, Sid shares his origin story with the Scoobies, who are all, well… they’re talking to a dummy. Just look at them:

Willow is actually processing this better than all of them.

Sid tells them he was a demon hunter who ended up cursed into the body of a ventriloquist dummy. Like you do. He’s been tracking down and killing these organ harvesting demons in the hopes of getting his curse lifted. He noticed Buffy’s super strength, and that made him believe she was the organ harvesting demon.  Since the demon already has the heart and brain, he should move on. Sid is pretty sure the demon was in the talent show, so by process of elimination. whoever doesn’t show up is the demon. Giles heads to the auditorium to get all the students in a “power circle,” a theatre warm-up that Sid suggests. It’s all pretense to gather them in one place, so they can play “spot the missing demon.”

Backstage, Cordelia is having a freakout:

Cordelia: “I… I can’t go out there. All those people staring at me, and judging me, like I’m some kind of… Buffy. What if I mess up?”

Giles: “Cordelia, there’s an adage that, um, if you’re feeling nervous, then you should imagine the entire audience are in their underwear.”

Cordelia: “Ew! Even Mrs. Franklin?

Giles: “Perhaps not.”

Worst pep talk ever.

Buffy and Sid are up on the catwalk, keeping an eye on the situation on the stage. To kill time before the talent show contestants assemble, they discuss their demon-fighting lives. Buffy tells Sid she’s the Slayer, and he fondly remembers banging a Slayer in the 30’s, before he was a dummy. Buffy correctly deduces that when Sid kills the demon and is freed from his curse, he’ll die. But Sid tells her not to be sad, because he’s lived longer than most demon hunters, or Slayers. This is one of the first times we’re reminded of Buffy’s tenuous mortality. That’ll be important at the end of this season, and then it will be a running theme through the rest of the show. It’s worked in really slyly here. We’re not talking about the danger of Buffy’s life, but the fact that Sid is going to die. But the seed has been planted, we know a little more keenly now that Buffy’s life is destined to be brutal and short.

The talent acts assemble on stage briefly. None of the students are missing. Buffy jumps down from the catwalk to confer with Giles, and they both agree that the demon isn’t a part of the talent show. But it’s almost time for curtain, and Giles has to run the show. He sends Buffy off in search of the demon, and spots Snyder lurking in the wings. Sid has gone missing, and while Buffy looks for him she finds…

Oh, so THAT’S where I left that.

In the library, Buffy laments that she’ll never stop washing her hands, while Xander voices his suspicion about Sid, suggesting they’ve been “Keyser Soze-ed,” and thus spoilering the end of The Usual Suspects for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Which is really your own fault, it’s been out plenty long enough.
Hey, remember when Buffy found that dead body backstage? What’s going on with that? Presumably it’s still there, because we haven’t seen the police show up and the talent show is going ahead. So kids are swarming backstage and nobody has noticed they’re having to step over Morgan’s decapitated body? Maybe it just happens so often in Sunnydale, people have gotten numb to corpse presence at school events. This is a loose end that never gets tied up, pretty sloppy in an otherwise awesomely written episode.
Willow hacks the school’s files and finds out that Morgan had brain cancer. The demon never got the healthy brain it needed to keep its form. Since it went after Morgan, who had super great grades,  Buffy figures it’s going to go after the smartest brain it can find.
Cut to Giles, explaining something about velocity to Magician Guy, who is rigging up a guillotine and complimenting Giles on how smart he is.
Cut back to Buffy, Willow, and Xander in the library, who are all concerned that Willow is going to be the demon’s next target. 
Cut back to Giles, watching the guillotine cut a melon in half. 
So, we’re on the same page here everybody?

Magician Guy wants Giles to help him with his “trick” by sticking his head in the guillotine. Then, in case anyone needs help catching up, we see Magician Guy’s hand. It’s looking pretty demony.
Meanwhile, in the library, Buffy is freaking out. She doesn’t want to wait for the demon to come to them, and they’ve ruled out all the people in the talent show. Willow points out that they came to that conclusion before they learned that the demon hadn’t found a brain:

Buffy: “So it probably is one of them, and- and Giles doesn’t know it. He’s with them all right now!”

Xander: “Giles can handle himself. I mean, he is really… smart.

So, where is this allegedly smart guy?

Just sticking my head in this guillotine, like really smart people do.
If I were this demon, that would be my test for smartness. “Did he willingly stick his head in my decapitation machine? Then he’s not smart enough for me to harvest his brain.” It seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Giles: “S-shouldn’t it be aimed at my neck?”

Demon Magician: “No. This way your scalp gets sliced off, and your brains just come pouring out.”

Giles: “What exactly is the trick?”

Demon Magician: “Trick?”

Here’s the thing; the first half of the episode leads us to believe that the demon is Morgan, or Morgan’s dummy, or possibly the new Principal. When it turns out to be random Magician Guy, we as an audience should be pissed off at all the red herrings, right? Not necessarily, because this is what this episode has done so brilliantly: in every scene involving the talent show, we have seen Magician Guy. He was in the very opening. He was interviewed by Giles after the murder. We saw his trick with the disappearing cabinet go wrong. He’s been constantly in the background, in the pool of possible demon offenders. So, when the big reveal happens, we don’t feel like it’s coming from out of left field. I know some commenters have said they read these recaps to learn about writing, so there’s a big one for you: you have to put some work into a “gotcha” moment, so the reader/viewer doesn’t feel cheated or like you’re pulling some serious Deus Ex Machina nonsense on them.

So, Magician Guy starts chopping at the rope for the guillotine. I feel like it would have been more effective to just untie it and let go of the rope, but whatever, I’m not a demon or a French executioner. I assume they did it this way for the dramatic potential of watching the rope fray a little more with each strike of the hatchet. It’s nearly cut when Buffy tackles Magician Guy and starts fighting him. The rope breaks, but Xander grabs it, saving Giles from certain death.

One good thing about Xander: he saves people’s lives like crazy. And he never gets any credit for it, which is a shame.

As Buffy fights the now totally demonriffic Magician Guy, aided by Sid- who has a fuck-off huge knife and will star in all of my nightmares from now on- Willow frees Giles from the guillotine. Buffy manages to get the demon under the blade, and they decapitate it. Sid says they have to get the heart in order to make sure the demon is dead.

Seriously, how is this not mentally scarring everyone right now? It has a KNIFE.
Buffy offers to do the job for Sid, since it will kill him, but Sid does the honors and promptly slumps over dead.
But remember how there was going to be a talent show starting in fifteen minutes or whatever?

The arts!
In the audience, Snyder declares that he doesn’t get it, and we go to credits. Then, in a very rare post end-title card sequence, we see Buffy, Xander, and Willow doing their “talent.”
The picture kind of says it all.
Giles watches in extreme second hand embarrassment as Xander flubs his lines and Willow, gripped by stage fright, runs away.
Next week, we meet Buffy’s dad!

Tired of waiting for weekly chapters of THE BOSS?!

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You’re not having deja vu, this is cross-posted to The Boss blog, as well.

Are you tired of waiting for chapter by chapter updates? Wanna read the entire novel right now? Well, it’s your lucky day, because from now until May 11th, you can register to win the uncorrected proof of The Boss. The winner will get to know what happens to Sophie and Neil before anyone else. That’s some pretty big incentive.

I’m going to tell you where to go and how to win, but first, I have to share something that blew me away this morning. I logged in to blogger to make this post, and this is what I found:

Over a hundred thousand views? That’s unbelievable! Thank you so much to everyone who has tweeted, facebooked, blogged, or just outright badgered your friends into reading.

So, now you want to know how to win the full version of The Boss. Over the past weeks, people have been fan-casting Neil in the comments section of each chapter. We want you to go to That’s What I’m Talking About and tell us what real-life person you’re imagining as Neil Elwood. And of course, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway. Follow the instructions and you can earn up to 5 entries per day!

Writing Neil and Sophie’s story has been the most fun I’ve ever had writing. Your reception of this project has been overwhelming. Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next week with chapter fifteen!