Riley and Buffy are on her bed making out. Willow dashes in and says a demon has burst into the rec room. They rush there only to discover it is a surprise birthday party for Buffy. All her friends, including kids from the dorm, are there. Giles tries to tell a story to Xander and Anya about his own school days, but she makes it clear she's bored by him. Buffy introduces Riley to Giles, referring to him as her boyfriend. Giles is surprised at this revelation. Riley asks Giles if he's retired. making Giles feel even older. Buffy sends him to get cake and tells Giles he's nervous. She also mentions Professor Walsh, whose intelligence she praises. When Giles suggest they should have invited her, Buffy says she's 40 and has better things to do than hang out with a bunch of kids.
Spike is moving out. He says he's going to find a crypt. Anya wants to give him a gift, Xander's lamp, but Xander stops her. And Spike points out he won't have electricity anyway. Anya says that mean he won't have a fridge to keep his blood fresh. He suggests Xander give him money so he can rent a hotel room with an honour bar. Meanwhile, Buffy is being introduced to Professor Walsh as the Slayer. Walsh says she now understands why Buffy hasn't performed up to her potential in class, her energies have been directed elsewhere. She says she is working on getting Buffy clearance to join the Initiative. She tells her that Riley alone has killed or captured 17 demons. She asks Buffy how many she's slain.
Giles is dusting his books. He picks one up and realizes a demon is going to rise that night. He tries to locate Buffy. Meanwhile she's walking with Riley who is overwhelmed by the stories Buffy has told of all the demons she has slain. Giles goes to Walsh's office, he doesn't know she knows Buffy is the Slayer, and he's offended by her comment that Buffy hasn't had enough support when it comes to academics. They disagree pretty strongly on how to deal with young people. He's deeply offended when she says Buffy lacks a male role model.
Unable to find Buffy, Giles gets Xander and Willow to accompany him to the site of the demon rising. Only everything is very quiet. Willow guesses the Initiative took care of it. Giles is surprised to learn of this. They tell him about the commandos, Riley, and Walsh - all news to him. He's even angrier when he realizes Anya and Spike also know about this. He sends them away. Then he decides to leave himself. As he walks out, Ethan Rayne steps out of the shadows. Giles hears him and comes back. He plans to beat Ethan up, but instead Ethan convinces him that they should talk. They go to a bar and have a beer. Ethan tells him the demons are scared of something called 314. Scared enough to get angry. He says that the worlds are being thrown out of balance and that something worse than chaos is coming. Meanwhile, Buffy and Riley are fighting. He asks if she is holding back. He says they should both go all out. She kicks him across the room.
Ethan and Giles are very drunk. Ethan gives the waitress his name and address. Giles complains that in 20 years of fighting demons he hasn't accomplished as much as the Initiative has in a few months. He says they are getting the job done. Ethan jokes about putting poison in Giles' drink. They laugh. Meanwhile, Willow and Tara are meeting to do some magic. They are going to float a rose and use magic to take its petals off. They succeed in floating the flower, but then it starts zipping wildly around the room, out of their control.
Giles wakes to find himself transformed into a demon. A very strong demon. He accidently puts his hand through he wall. Then he rips the banister off the staircase. He realizes Ethan did this. He crushes the phone when he picks it up. He rips a shirt when he tries putting it on. And he tears the door off its hinges when he leaves.
Buffy and Willow are having a chatty breakfast. Willow tells her about the rose, although she doesn't mention Tara. She suggests Buffy talk to Giles about it and tells her he's feeling out of the loop. Buffy realizes she forgot to tell him about the Initiative and Riley and Walsh. Buffy tells her about kicking Riley.
Giles has gone to see Xander, who's still asleep. He wakes him, only to discover Xander can't understand him. We hear English when he speaks, but Xander hears demon language. Xander starts tossing things at him and he runs away. As he escapes, a woman goes to call 911. Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Anya go to see Giles about the demon. When they get to his place, they think the demon has attacked him. Meanwhile, Giles walks past a crypt Spike is measuring (he actually has a measuring tape out). Spike is eager to fight and kill this demon. But when Giles speaks, he understand him. Giles speaks Fyarl and Spike understands it. Giles asks Spike to help him find Ethan and get turned back. Spike agrees to do it for $200.
Xander is looking through books trying to figure out what kind of demon he saw. Riley shows up. The Initiative intercepts 911 calls and looks for ones that suggest demon activity. They tell him about Giles missing and he offers to help. Giles is in his car with Spike. Spike is complaining about how small it is. Spike tells him Fyarl demons have a paralyzing mucous they can shoot out through their noses. Giles feels himself changing, wanting to destroy things. He tells Spike to pull over. He gets out of the car and chases Professor Walsh who is walking down the street. He gets back in the car.
Xander finds a picture of the Fyarl demon. Walsh phones and tells Riley about the demon chasing her and the car. They realize it's Giles' car. Buffy thinks someone is using magic to control the demon, maybe explaining what happened during Willow's spell, and she and Riley head off to the magic shop to see if anyone has been stocking up on supplies. She learns you can kill a Fyarl with silver and takes Giles' letter opener.
At the bar, Spike talks to the waitress and finds Ethan is staying at the Sunnydale Motor Inn. Buffy breaks into the shop, Riley tells her he has a master key to all the shops on main street. They start looking through receipts and Buffy finds one for Ethan Rayne. Riley calls his people and has them do a search on local hotel/motel registrations. He then tells Buffy Walsh told him not to take her with him when he located the demon. Buffy ignores this.
Spike and Giles discover they are being followed by the military. For another $100, Spike lets Giles jump out of the car and drives off with the military chasing him. Ethan is packing and Giles breaks in. Giles seems too much a demon to control himself now and starts beating Ethan up. Buffy and Riley show up and Ethan tells them the demon killed Giles and now is after him. Buffy attacks the demon while Riley holds Ethan. Spike seems to elude his pursuers, but then crashes the car. Buffy finally subdues the demon and whips out the letter opener. She stabs him in the chest. She then realizes the demon is Giles. Fortunately, he's unharmed. The letter opener isn't silver. Ethan turns him back. She tells Giles she knew it was him when she looked in his eyes. He's the only person in the world who can look that annoyed with her. Ethan thinks he can walk, but Riley has him put under military arrest. This cheers Giles up.
Riley tells Buffy that he likes how strong and in control she is. The next day, Giles tells Buffy he thinks Ethan may have been right about the Initiative. Walsh is upset with Riley. She tells him Buffy is undisciplined. He says she'll be an asset to the Initiative and Walsh seems to agree with him. Then she leaves him and enters a secured room numbered 314.
On her last birthday, in Helpless (Eighteen), Buffy made it clear that she saw Giles as a father figure. And he made it clear that he accepted that role. She's one year older now and Giles has practically faded from her life. A year ago, she was practically begging him to take her to the ice show. Now, she can't even remember that she hasn't told him about the Initiative. And he's the last of the gang to meet Riley. It's no surprise that Giles feels unneeded and unwanted. He's got no job - not as librarian or as watcher - and he's been reduced to a hanger on in a group that barely knows he's there.
But Giles was slow to step up to his role as father figure in that earlier episode. At first, he obeyed the orders of the council and engaged in acts which actually endangered his surrogate daughter. Even though he ultimately accepted his role, his authority over Buffy declined ever since. Buffy asserted her independence, from the council and from him. Now, like many fathers, he seems to be regretting that independence and his own lost opportunity. Also, in Professor Walsh, he sees his alter ego. He resents her much in the way Joyce resented him. In Anne, she made clear her resentment of Giles. She saw him as responsible for turning her daughter into the Slayer and away from her. By becoming a father figure, Giles usurped the parental role Joyce held. Now, he sees that his role of mentor is being usurped by Professor Walsh and feels just as angry about it as Joyce did. When Buffy praises Professor Walsh's intelligence - the one area Giles really feels secure about - she undermines what little confidence he has left. And when she suggests Walsh, being 40, would have far better things to do than come to her party, he realizes that he doesn't and feels even more left out.
While Giles may be experiencing some pangs of parental jealousy, he is justified in being upset at Buffy. I found it hard to believe that she would reveal her secret identity to Walsh (although secret may be an overstatement given how many people do know it) without first talking to him about it. Walsh represents a government agency and by talking to her, Buffy has essentially revealed herself to the government. And that could be pretty serious. Not to mention that Walsh's true intentions, and the goal of her research, are still unknown.
I guess there are five unanswered questions in this episode. One, why did Ethan turn Giles into a demon? Was it just out of personal revenge or was he hired to do this? Was he trying to send some sort of message? His warning about 314 seemed pretty serious, but maybe that was just incidental to his task. Maybe that was the beer talking. Two, why did Walsh not want Buffy to go with Riley? Was it simply a matter of discipline and procedure or is it possible she actually realized it was Giles under than demon? If the latter, did she intend to kill or capture him? Or does she simply not trust Buffy? Three, what happened to Spike? Did the Initiative recapture him or was he able to escape? And if he was recaptured, does Walsh have him now and will Buffy find out about it? And how will she and the others respond? Despite all of the pretense, Spike really has become their friend. Four, what is in room 314? Is it the implant experiment and does Spike reside there now? Or, as some others have speculated, is Faith in there? But if that was true, then Walsh would know about Slayers and Buffy. Five, why does Willow keep secret the fact that she has been practising magic with Tara. I know a lot of people are reading some lesbian subtext into the Tara/Willow friendship. I just don't see it. Maybe the writers will move in that direction, but there's nothing in the scene between these two to suggest anything other than a mutual interest in witchcraft to me. Still, that doesn't explain Willow's secrecy, especially since she was telling this privately to Buffy. But maybe Willow has some reservations about the Initiative herself. After all, the Initiative did drive Spike to attempt suicide and Willow was the one most bothered by that.
Some quick final thoughts. Helpless (Eighteen) was the 12th episode of season three. This is the 12th episode of season four. So, in tv time, it really has been exactly one year and somebody is actually keeping track of details like characters birthdays. If only they kept such track of the calendar on Charmed. Was that my imagination or did a look of happiness cross Spike's face when Anya tried to give him the lamp? Ethan was staying at the same motel as Faith did. Does it have some kind of demon special? I loved the scene of Spike measuring his crypt. Part of what makes Buffy storylines believeable is the way mundane activities are so naturally worked into the lives of mystical beings.
Lines of the week:
"I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse." - Riley revealing how overwhelmed he is by Buffy's track record.
"I'm not even sure I could take you."
"That all depends on your meaning." - Riley and Buffy on just how strong she is.
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