Buffy is swimming. She tries to surface but Allan (who died in Bad Girls) grabs her foot and holds her down. She struggles free but when she reaches the surface she sees Faith, who pushes her back down again. Buffy wakes up from her nightmare. She goes downstairs to see her mother watching tv. There is a newscast on. It's about the discovery of the body of Allan Finch, the mayor's late and apparently murdered assistant.
Wesley wants Buffy and Faith to investigate Allan's death. Buffy doesn't want to, but Faith seems to have no problem. Cordelia walks into the library looking for psych books (Jung and Freud). Wesley clearly finds her attractive, but tries to play that down when he realizes she is a student. After she leaves, Wesley insists that they investigate the death. Buffy and Faith leave and Buffy confronts Faith, saying she can't continue lying. Faith points out she had no trouble lying about Angel being back. Buffy says things will only get worse if they continue lying. Faith says they are in it together, that Buffy is just as guilty as she is. She leaves. Buffy walks into the lounge and sees Willow. Things are awkward between them. Willow says she has to leave to meet Michael, the warlock we met in Gingerbread. They are working on deratting Amy.
The police are at the scene of the crime. A woman heard and reported the fight. And they have found the dumpster Allan bled on. Angel is watching and remembers meeting Buffy only a few feet away and seeing blood on her hands. We cut to the mayor who is busy shredding Allan's papers. He wonders why Allan had such a paper trail and whether he was planning on betraying the mayor. Mr. Trick shows him the coroner's report, which notes there were wooden splinters in the wound. Which implies a stake and a slayer. The mayor is thrilled, a slayer up on murder one.
Buffy and Faith have broken into Allan's office. They find nothing, which Buffy finds suspicious - all the files have been emptied. As they leave, they see the mayor and Mr. Trick walking down the hall together. Buffy is surprised, she never sensed the mayor was a bad guy. Outside, they talk about this. Faith says you can never tell about people because they always conceal their true natures. Buffy claims that's exactly what Faith is doing. She argues that Faith is denying her guilt and her guilty feelings, even to herself. Faith says she doesn't feel guilty, that it was just an accident. She says that all the people they have saved outweighs the one she killed. Buffy says their powers don't make them better than others, able to pass judgement. But Faith says they do. She tells Buffy that everything will blow over. And if it doesn't, they can just leave town. She says no one will cry over some incident bystander caught in the cross fire. Buffy says she will.
When Faith and Buffy get to their respective homes, the detective in charge of the case is there to speak to them. He obviously knows more than he's letting on, after all how did he decide they were suspects? Buffy sticks to the story. She was at Faith's, watching tv. Faith says the same. The detective leaves without any additional evidence.
Buffy goes to Willow and tells her the truth. Willow thinks Faith may be in shock, not really realizing what happened. She says Buffy must tell Giles. Buffy goes to the library and is about to tell Giles when she realizes Faith got there first. And Faith has told Giles Buffy killed Finch. Giles is angry at Buffy. He orders her into his office and tells Faith to leave. But when he speaks to Buffy, he reveals he knows Faith is the killer, she's a poor liar. He says he should contact the council, but he won't. He feels they have to get Faith to accept what she has done before they can help her. Unfortunately, Wesley overhears this conversation. Unbeknownst to them, he contacts the council.
Giles and Buffy talk to Willow and Xander. Xander insists that he should talk to Faith. The others point out he has had the least contact with her. He reveals that he had sex with her. Willow is really upset. Buffy says Faith doesn't take the guys she has sex with seriously. Giles tries to gloss over the revelation by saying Xander can help with research. He asks a preoccupied Willow to try to find out more about the mayor and his relationship with Mr. Trick.
A montage of scenes follows: Willow in the bathroom crying, Xander sitting alone at home thinking, Faith in her motel room alone watching tv. Faith answers the door and it is Xander. He says he wants to talk. Faith acts as if she doesn't want to see him. But she lets him in. He says he knows the true story, which she still denies. He says he believes there was more to their tryst than just sex. Faith denies this. She tries to prove she's right by tossing Xander on the bed and practically raping him. She demonstrates her physical superiority to him, saying that she could make him do anything she wants. Then she starts choking him. But before she can kill him, Angel comes in and knocks her out.
When she comes to, she's chained up at Angel's place. She tries to reduce her captivity to a sexual game Angel is playing, claiming she was only playing a similar s&m game with Xander. Angel doesn't fall for any of this. He walks into the next room where Buffy is waiting. He tells her Faith is not going to make this easy. Buffy says she will go get some of Faith's things from her room.
Mr. Trick and the mayor are watching a security videotape of the Buffy and Faith in Allan's office. They know that they have been caught together by the slayers. The mayor says there isn't enough evidence to build a criminal case against them. He wants Mr. Trick to find a more efficient solution to his slayer problem.
Angel talks to Faith, recounting his own experience. He says he knows what it is like to kill without remorse. He says it is like being a god, but notes that Faith is not a god but more a child. He says that at one time he thought humans existed to harm one another. But now he has met people who genuinely want to do good. He says there is hope for Faith, that she doesn't have to disappear into the darkness.
Wesley arrives. He has crosses and assistants. He frees and then rechains Faith. He's going to take her to England for trial. But she escapes.
Buffy arrives to find a beaten Angel on the floor. At the library, he tells them what happened. Buffy wants to stop them. Willow suggests that Faith belongs in prison and letting the council try her might be a good thing. Buffy says that Faith is not beyond reaching, they they can't give up on her. Wesley comes in to tell them Faith has escaped. They split up, searching for Faith. Buffy says she'll go to the docks. Wesley offers to help, but Buffy rejects him, telling him to go back to England instead.
Buffy meets Faith at the docks. Faith continues to insist that Buffy is just like her. That Buffy is denying her true feelings of superiority. She gets Buffy mad enough to hit her, using that as proof of her point. Suddenly, a crate falls and Buffy knocks Faith out of the way. But she's hit by the crate and trapped under it. Then a gang of vampires, led by Mr. Trick, attack. Faith fights them off while Mr. Trick goes for Buffy. She's weakened by the accident and he gets the upper hand. He's about to kill her when Faith, who has killed the others, stakes him.
At the library, Buffy tells Giles that Faith saved her, although she could have run off. And she has come back to town. Buffy is determined to save Faith. Giles is hopeful.
At city hall, the mayor is leaving his office. He opens the door to find Faith waiting for him. She tells him Mr. Trick is dead. He's not surprised, given that she isn't. She says that means there is a job opening. The mayor lets her in.
Buffy's trying to keep her head above water in what has become an increasingly complicated life. She's got her attraction to Angel, the problems her friends are facing, Giles getting fired and replaced by Wesley, and trying to get into university and out of high school to deal with. But Faith is the additional problem that is just too much and as the opening dream sequence portrays, she's sinking. Buffy's nightmares don't end when she wakes up.
Communications are her first problem. Faith isn't listening to her. She doesn't feel free to confide in Giles without Faith agreeing. And talking to Willow has become awkward, partly because of the gulf that opened between them in Bad Girls when Buffy cut her out of the loop and started spending more time with Faith. The more Buffy is pulled into Faith's circle, the more she is cut off from her friends and advisers.
Faith promotes a Nietzschean philosophy. Being strong gives you the right to take what you want and do what you want. Strength is morality. Power equates to superiority. She first indicated this belief in Bad Girls when she stole the weapons she needed. Faith believes that being a slayer entitles her to take what she wants and ignore the needs or desires of the weak she is supposed to be defending. This is a seductive logic and Buffy is pulled into when she goes along with the store robbery. But she finds Faith violence against people harder to accept than her theft of property. She's upset when Faith injures the policemen arresting them in Bad Girls and breaks completely from her when Allan is murdered. But Faith's indicators of violence began much earlier, in her abusive use of Xander in The Zeppo, something unknown to Buffy until now. When Xander confesses this, Buffy says Faith treats her conquests as jokes. Xander is clearly upset, as is Willow.
Faith used Xander to meet her needs - or at least that's what she tells herself and others. Xander believed it was more than that, that there was a connection. Willow is also hurt by this, feeling betrayed by both Xander (who is doing well for a geek having dated the campus queen and slept with a slayer) and Faith. Faith's violence reaches its peak when she almost strangles Xander. Whether she would have stopped isn't clear. I'd argue that her anger against Xander was partly, maybe largely, anger against herself. Xander was someone she knew, maybe even cared for. Having sex with him wasn't the zipless experience she wanted. Beating him up, maybe killing him, was a way of distancing herself from the emotional involvement she feared. Her sexual and eventually murderous assault on Xander in this episode is a restatement of her strength equals right philosophy. If she had succeeded in arousing Xander she would have proved, to herself at least, her superiority and her right to do what she wants without regard for the feelings of others.
Faith tries to reduce her capture by Angel to a sexual game. Faith has always been a highly sexual creature, but now she seems to be using sex as a way of distancing herself from others. If she can convince herself that men only interact with her on a sexual level, she can discount their friendship and can justify her abrupt dismissal of them. When Xander and Angel try to deal with her like friends, she's deprived of her major weapon and her major defense. She responds with anger.
It's interesting that in the first scene with Angel when she implies she and Xander were engaged in an s&m game and Angel says they forgot the safe word, Faith says "safe words are for wusses". Again she's promoting her philosophy of strength. Any weakness, any desire to establish limits on oneself or others, is defined as bad, as an attempt to restrict Faith's right as a superior being to do whatever she wants. Angel realizes that until he gets Faith to abandon the essential axiom upon which her belief system is built, her belief that physical superiority means moral superiority, he can't do anything to help her.
He challenges her. He notes that he had similar feelings, killing without remorse. But that the return of his soul ended that. He tells her she isn't godlike, but childlike. Most of all, he says that there are people - and clearly he is talking of Buffy and the gang - who genuinely want to do good. Faith has tried hard to believe that Buffy is just denying her amorality. But that's not the case. Buffy lives within a moral universe, one in which she has duties to discharge. Faith tries to ignore that, but universal laws are closing in on her. It's not a matter of crime and punishment, but of having a soul, being a human, or being something else.
When Buffy is weak, Faith comes to her aid. Just as Buffy has been trying to help Faith in her moments of moral weakness. This act belies her essential philosophy. It's the breakthrough, the recognition of a morality beyond strength, that Buffy has been waiting for.
If Faith has a friend in Sunnydale, it is Buffy. Buffy invited Faith to her house for the holidays. Buffy has accepted Faith's wayward ways. She has defended her, lied for her, and stuck by her. In return, Faith has abused her and betrayed her. Her major crime is not the accidental killing of Finch, but the attempt to frame Buffy for the crime. You can rationalize her abuse of Xander (he's never made a secret of his sexual obsession with slayers) or her disregard for the feelings of Willow (they hardly know each other) or her contempt for the council and its rules (the death of her watcher marked a break in her acceptance of the council and its ways), but you cannot rationalize her abuse of Buffy. Buffy is the one good constant in her life.
It's possible that Faith falls back. That she decides she would prefer to descend totally into the darkness rather than struggle to climb back into the light. She has had a taste of the power, as Angel notes, and might not want to give it up. I suggested in my review of Bad Girls that Faith might be Buffy's biggest problem this year. If she has fallen, we might be seeing a reprise of the bad Angel problem. Buffy forced to confront someone she cares for. Of course, it's also possible that Faith intends to use her bad reputation for a good purpose. That she plans to infiltrate the mayor's organization and find out the truth about him. In which case, Giles is right to have hope.
Some random thoughts. Wesley, although he acts rashly, at least acts strongly. He shows more backbone here than he did last week. He confronts Angel head on and owns up to his mistake to Giles and the others. He offers to help. I think Buffy was too quick to rebuff him. Is there no security at all in city hall. It seems awfully easy to get into the offices of the mayor and deputy mayor. When Cordelia walks in asking for Jung and Freud, she seems to be making a statement on the psychosexual mess almost everyone in the gang finds him/herself in. Finally, won't the council still feel the need to take some action? Won't they want to hunt down Faith? I hope this plot point isn't ignored.
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