Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Superstar

Summary

Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Anya are fighting vampires. One escapes and they follow him into a crypt which is a nest of vampires, too many for Buffy to take alone. They go for help, to Jonathan. In the next scene, Jonathan is giving Buffy fighting lessons while coordinating the research being done by Giles and Willow. He works out a way into the vampire nest. He leads the attack and they destroy the vampires, although Buffy almost lets one get away and Jonathan has to stop it. Buffy doesn't think she is doing her best. A hoard of photographers are outside waiting to take photos of Jonathan. He tells the gang that vampires aren't big on cooperation and prefer to hang out alone. He then spots Spike in the shadows where he has been lurking. Spike mocks them, and he doesn't even seem to remember Buffy's name. Buffy has trouble coming up with a witty comeback. Jonathan tells him off.

Willow tells the adventure to Tara. They are sitting in her room creating a collage of Jonathan photos. Buffy and a shirtless Riley are in his room where he is playing with the basketball hoop on his door. There is a poster of Jonathan on the wall. He says he has stopped taking the drugs the Initiative gave them, but that they still don't have all the information about Adam and have made no progress in finding and stopping him. Buffy tries a basket and misses. She's upset with Riley and leaves. Later, she is having a coffee with Jonathan. He tells her she isn't mad at Faith, but at Riley and that she has to forgive him. Meanwhile, girls keep coming over to get Jonathan to autograph his book, including one called Karen. He tells Buffy it won't be easy, but it will be worth the effort and that if she really wants it she can make anything happen. In the background, we see a giant advertisement with Jonathan's picture.

The Initiative, where Colonel George Haviland is now in charge, is going after Adam and have called in Jonathan to help them. Riley and the others are happy they have finally brought in the big guns. Jonathan looks half the size of the other men there. He tells them that Adam has a nuclear power source, hidden in the core of his body, and that he can go virtually forever. To kill him, they must destroy him completely. Karen is lurking outside Jonathan's home, hoping to catch a glimpse of him through his windows. But she is attacked by a strange looking demon with a curious symbol on its forehead. Jonathan is giving Riley advice about Buffy, saying she is scared he might be comparing Faith to her. Riley says Buffy is the one he cares about, Jonathan says he has to make sure Buffy knows that.

The gang are at the Bronze where the band is playing big band style music. Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya, and Buffy and Riley are there. Xander claims Anya called out Jonathan's name when they were making love, but she denies it. Jonathan comes on stage to sing and says he's dedicating the song to a couple he knows who are going through a tough time. As he sings, Riley and Buffy dance. Riley tells her she is the only one he wants. She says she knows, has known since he put his arms around her. Jonathan starts playing the horn, Tara says he is doing a number off his new album. Anya tells Xander she wants to go have sex and they scurry off. Then Karen, beaten and bruised, comes in. Jonathan stops everything to see what happened to her. He takes her to his place, with Riley and Buffy. She describes the monster and the symbol. Jonathan says it's just a mindless monster and he can handle it by himself.

Adam is watching a set of television monitors. He has a vampire assistant with him. He realizes that what he sees is wrong and that some kind of spell has been cast to warp everyone's vision of reality. He says he was unaffected because he is more aware of himself and of reality than any human or demon. But he's not going to do anything because the magic involved is inherently unstable and will lead to chaos. And Adam wants chaos. Jonathan is staring into the fireplace and thinking. A pair of scantily clad and beautiful twins ask him if he's coming to bed. He says yes. As he takes off his robe, we see the symbol from the monster etched on his back.

Buffy tells Willow and Tara that they don't have to fight the monster. Tara leaves to go to her place but is attacked by the monster. She uses a spell to fight it off and hides in the janitor's closet. She's found later and Willow calls Buffy over to talk to her. She reveals that it was the same monster which attacked Karen. Buffy goes out for a walk, she passes a building with all these posters of Jonathan. She goes to Xander's place, but he's not there and Anya is. She says she wants to look at some of Xander's stuff. Anya is reading Jonathan's autobiography. Buffy asks if she doesn't find it strange Jonathan is so good at everything. She points out he fights better than her and she's the slayer. Anya thinks she's looking for support and tries to give it.

At Giles', Buffy is trying to convince the gang something is wrong about Jonathan. She points out he starred in the Matrix but never left town and that he's only 18 but has a medical degree. She asks if they don't think Jonathan is too perfect. Xander says he's just perfect enough: he crushed the bones of the master, blew up the snake mayor, and coached the women's soccer team to victory. He says they saw him do those things. Buffy says she doesn't think they can trust their memories. Riley thinks she is speaking nonsense, but that they should trust her. She says Jonathan may be withholding evidence. She asks Giles for a Jonathan swimsuit calendar, which he grudgingly admits he owns. They find a picture of Jonathan with the symbol showing. Jonathan shows up and tells them he does know the creature. That it seems to have the ability to cloud his mind and he had its symbol tattooed on him as a reminder. Buffy says she and Jonathan should go after the monster right away. Somewhat unwilling, Jonathan agrees.

Jonathan and Buffy find Spike. Jonathan tries to get information out of him, but fails. Buffy threatens him with having his butcher's blood supply cut off and he directs them to a cave. Meanwhile, the gang are going through spells trying to learn more about the monster. Xander accidently sets a book on fire using one. Willow finds the symbol and learns it is an augmentation spell. It makes the possessor a paragon, best of everything. But an opposing creature of evil is also created. They realize if Buffy kills the monster, Jonathan's spell will be broken and he will revert to his former self. Anya speculates that Jonathan won't want Buffy to succeed.

In the cave, they find a very deep pit and are attacked by the monster. Meanwhile, the gang are speculating on what will happen. Xander doesn't want the world to change. And they aren't sure if Buffy can defeat the monster. In the cave, the monster is doing pretty well. Jonathan starts fighting it, but tells Buffy she'll have to handle this alone. Buffy does start fighting the monster, becoming more like her old self as she does so. But it knocks her down and is about to knock her into the pit. Jonathan rushes the monster pushing it into the pit. He is knocked in as well, but Buffy saves him. The magic disappears, including a marquee for the movie Being Jonathan Levinson.

The next day, the gang can't believe they actually believed all that. Xander says he'll miss the way Jonathan made him feel, valued and respected. Riley said he felt way too tall. They still can't remember who starred in The Matrix. Buffy sees Jonathan and walks over. He tells her most people are forgetting what happened, but some seem angry. The twins have moved out. Buffy asks how he did it, she understands why. He says after the events in Earshot, he went to counselling. He met another problem kid who had the spell, he glossed over the part with the monster. Buffy tells him he can't keep trying to make things right with a grand gesture, that things are complicated and take a lot of work. That people are angry at him for being made actors in his sock puppet theatre. He says they weren't socks, they were friends. He says she's right and recalls that he said something very similar to her about Riley. He says he was right too. Buffy agrees. Later, Buffy and Riley are kissing. She says she's glad they talked it all out. He says they haven't talked at all. She says whatever they are doing is working. They kiss again and Buffy moans Jonathan. Riley pulls back in surprise. She says, "I'm kidding."

Analysis

I was bored. I was waiting, maybe praying, for the episode to end. And then something happened. It was just about the halfway point in the episode. Suddenly, what seemed to be a fantasy or alternate world or dream episode turned into something much more interesting. What happened was Adam realizing reality had been altered. It became an episode about self awareness - Jonathan's awareness of what he was and how changing himself changed the world, Buffy's awareness of who she truly was, and Adam's complete awareness of himself.

When I first saw this episode, I felt Buffy's sudden realization was just too sudden. But in rethinking it, I realize it was foreshadowed. When they destroy the nest of vampires, Buffy senses she wasn't fighting as well as she could. When she tries for the basket in Riley's room, she sense she should have sunk it with her slayer reflexes. When Jonathan tells them he can handle the monster himself, she's puzzled by his attitude. She slowly starts putting the pieces together, going from a vague sense of Jonathan being too perfect, to wondering how he could have done things like star in The Matrix without ever leaving town or get a medical degree at 18. She doesn't quite understand what is wrong, but she knows something profound is wrong and that Jonathan has warped reality.

It takes Buffy a long time to put the clues together and to trust in her own interpretation of them. She has to discount what everyone else believes and what her own memories tell her. Ultimately, she has to put her faith in an image of reality based on logic, not on physical evidence or memory. I have to wonder whether this won't be a crucial factor in her battle against Adam. His greatest resource seems to be the clarity with which he sees the world and his certainty of his role within it. He said as much to Riley and Buffy in Goodbye, Iowa. Buffy has to have the same clarity of vision to defeat him. Maybe she is developing that clarity in this episode. She demonstrates an awareness of the world around her deeper than anyone else except Adam. And she is also coming to a profound understanding of herself.

Of the various minor characters from last season, Jonathan was probably my favourite. He was certainly the one easiest to empathize with. He was the unsuccessful nerd, the kid without friends or recognition. More like most of us. He was short, unathletic, and not all that bright. Everyone made fun of him and in Earshot his anger and self hatred had reached the point where he wanted to die. In this episode, we got an insight into the continuing development of Jonathan. Buffy is right in that he is seeking a grand gesture, whether shooting himself or casting a spell to change the world. But while in Earshot he was trying to escape the world and his problems, in this episode he was trying to change the world and make it a better place. Unfortunately, Jonathan seems to believe he has to be a superhero to make the world better. Maybe he now understands that the world is very complicated and such easy solutions never work. And that there are always drawbacks.

Adam says he is interested in chaos. If chaos is his goal, then defeating him is going to be particularly difficult. He can achieve chaos in a variety of way and predicting his moves will be basically impossible. And with a force as powerful as Adam, only by predicting his moves will Buffy be able to be prepared to defeat him. Unlike the Master, Spike, the evil Angelus, or the mayor, Adam doesn't seem to have a weakness nor does he seem to confide his plans to anyone.

Some quick final thoughts. I really enjoyed the reworked credits with Jonathan added to them and the way various previous events were casually mentioned with Jonathan added to the cast - like crushing the Master's bones, destroying the demon mayor, and getting the class protector award. It was interesting the way Riley said Buffy was the one he cared about, pausing just long enough to let us know he was going to use the word love and thought better of it. I liked the small funny bits, like the ton of sugar Jonathan took in his coffee, the big band music that was Jonathan's idea of cool, Giles reluctantly admitting he owned a Jonathan swim suit calendar and trying to pretend it was a gift, and the juxtaposition of tiny Jonathan and all those huge Initiative guys. Adam says the vampire won't want to drink the blood of the corpse lying around because it is diseased. Does that mean the blood would taste bad or that vampires can capture blood borne diseases. If the latter, it pretty much messes up everything we know about vampires.

Line of the week:

"I don't care if it is an orgy of death, there's still such a thing as a napkin." - Willow on the lack of vampire table manners.

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