Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander, Riley, and Joyce are at Buffy's home. Riley is saying goodbye as he leaves for his debriefing. He hopes to get off with an honourable discharge. Xander has made popcorn. They are going to watch videos, Xander got Apocalypse Now, but promises he has chick and British guy films as well. Joyce goes to bed, the others say they are still too excited to sleep. Xander puts in the video, we see the FBI warning, we see the gang all fast asleep.
We enter Willow's dream. She's with Tara. They are talking about how they don't know the name of their cat yet. Willow says she feels safe with Tara. We see she is writing on Tara's back in some strange language. Tara says they will find out about Willow. Willow has to go to drama class. She senses something is outside. She's in school going to her locker and passes Xander and Oz. Xander tells Oz that Willow and Tara are doing spells together. The bell rings and she goes to class. She's backstage and a play is about to begin. Harmony is there as are Buffy and Riley all in costume, Riley as a cowboy. Willow wonders why they are putting on a play in the first class. Buffy tells her the audience is packed, her family is in the front row looking really angry. She compliments Willow on her costume (she isn't wearing one) and says no one will know the truth about her. Giles comes out, he's the director. He says everyone Willow has ever met is in the audience, including them. Willow sees something lurking. While Giles talks, Harmony puts on her vampire face and tries to bite him, but is too short to reach his neck. The play is Death of a Salesman. Willow sees a man with cheese slices. She wanders and encounters Tara who says Willow doesn't understand what's happening yet. Willow wonders why there is a cowboy in the play. Tara tells her there is something following her. The play has begun with Riley talking to Harmony (carrying a yoke with two pails of milk attached). Buffy is wearing a black dress and stretched out on a sofa. Tara is warning Willow of the danger of being found out. Buffy is making a diatribe against men and their sales to Riley while Harmony cries in the background. Willow is attacked by something behind the curtains, Buffy grabs her and walks her into a classroom. She tells Willow to take off her costume and rips off Willow's outfit. She tells Willow everybody knows. She sits in the classroom which is now full of people. Anya says it is like a Greek tragedy. Oz tells Tara that he tried to warn her. Willow is now wearing a little girl school outfit and reading her book report on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She is attacked and nobody moves to help her. We see the sleeping Willow struggling.
Xander wakens with Apocalypse Now still playing (although the scenes don't seem to be from the movie). Buffy offers him some new car smell flavoured popcorn. He sees Willow struggling in her sleep and Buffy calls her a big faker. Giles says he realizes the movie is about the journey. Xander says he has to pee. He goes upstairs and meets Joyce, ratherly sexily dressed. She tells him the others have left. She comes on to him, wondering whether he's interested in conquest or comfort and he says both. He goes to the bathroom but leaves when he sees a group of scientists there observing him. He goes into a darkened room with something trying to get in. He says he didn't order any vampires and that's not the way out. He's in a park with Giles and Spike, dressed alike in brown suits, playing in swings. Buffy is in the sandbox. She asks Xander if he really was looking for them. Spike says Giles is going to teach him how to be a watcher. Giles says Spike is like a son to him. He says he was into that for a while but has other things going now. He looks into the distance and sees himself at the ice cream truck. He says you have to keep moving forward. Buffy says like a shark. He asks Buffy if she wants to play in the sand box, that it's pretty big. She says it isn't coming for her yet. He has a vision of her in a desert. She calls him big brother. Now Xander is at the ice cream truck watching himself at the swings and sandbox. He moves into the driver's seat next to Anya. But the truck is already moving. She asks "Do you know where you're going." She tells him she is thinking of getting back into vengeance. He says that's a bad idea, that you can't do whatever you want, that society has rules. In the back of the truck, Tara and Willow (rather sluttily dressed) are making out. They invite Xander to join them and Anya says it's ok. She says she can steer by gesturing emphatically. He crawls into the back of the truck but it turns into his basement room. There is still the pounding at the door. The man with the cheese is there saying they will not protect him. Xander finds himself in a greenlit room. Giles is there and tells him what is happening is the result of what they did. He says the others have gone ahead. He starts to tell him what to do, but he's talking in French. Xander says he can't understand. Giles, in French, says there's no time for stupid games. Anya arrives, also speaking French, saying they have to leave. Xander says he can't understand. In French they say it's not important and drag him away. He turns around and is picked up by a crowd. Next, in an Apocalypse Now type scene, he's brought before Principal Snyder doing a Marlon Brando Kurtz imitation. Snyder asks where he's from and he says the basement. He says he's trying to get away from something. Snyder asks if he's a soldier and he says he's a comfortador. Snyder says he's a whipping boy raised by mongrels. Xander sees the thing chasing him. He walks into Giles' house where Buffy and Anya are. Buffy says she can fight anything. He walks into a hallway and then into Buffy's dorm room looking for her. He goes through a tunnel back to his basement room. There is a pounding at the door. Xander looks up the stairs and says that's not the way out. The door opens and it's his father, asking why Xander never comes upstairs, is he ashamed of them, saying his mother is crying. Xander says his father doesn't understand. His father comes downstairs, says the line ends here with us, then transforms into the creature pursuing Xander and rips his heart out.
Giles is hypnotizing Buffy. She's dressed as a little girl and he's with Olivia. They're a family at a carnival. Buffy gets some cotton candy and her face gets all covered with a sort of bluish mud. Giles thinks he recognizes her. Spike calls to them. Giles goes into the crypt to find a weeping Olivia there. Spike (in black and white) has hired himself out for photos and people are snapping shots of him taking poses. The man appears with the cheese on his head and says I wear the cheese it does not wear me. He walks into the Bronze where Xander and Willow are going through books. Xander has his chest wound. Anya is on stage doing a stand up routine, very badly. They tell Giles this is his fault. That some primal force is after them. He says that used to be them. Willow calls him Rupert and says he has to focus. He starts singing and goes up on stage. In his song he says they must have released some primal evil. He tells Willow to look through the chronicles. He says he has to warn Buffy as she might be next. Then he says wait, but the microphone goes dead. He follows the power cord backstage. He finds a watch. The creature stalking them appears behind him. He says he knows who it is and that he can defeat it with his thoughts. He says it underestimates him because it never had a watcher.
Buffy is in bed. Anya is in the bed across from her and tries to awaken her. Buffy has an image of the being stalking them above her. She is standing looking at the bed and says Faith and she just made it. Tara asks for who and Buffy says she thought Tara was there to tell her. Tara says she's lost the others. Buffy says they need her to find them. She looks at the clock, which Tara says is wrong. Tara hands her the card for hand used in the ritual in Primeval. Buffy says she's never going to use that. Tara tells her she hasn't even begun. Buffy sees the bed is made now. Buffy says she has to find the others. Tara warns her to be back before dawn. In the hall, Buffy finds her mother living in a wall. She says she's made lemonade and is learning mahjong. Buffy says it looks dirty and she shouldn't be living there. She walks on and finds an office with Riley and Adam (a fully human Adam). Riley says he was made surgeon general. That they are drawing up a plan for world domination, the key element being coffeemakers that think. Buffy doesn't think that's good. Adam says aggression is a natural human tendency although they come by it another way. We see the stalking creature behind Buffy as she says they are not demons. There is an announcement that the demons have escaped. Riley and Adam go to make a fort with pillows. Buffy sees her weapons bag at her feet. But it's full of wet mud and she spreads it on her face, looking the way Giles saw her with the cotton candy. Riley appears and tells Buffy she's on her own. She starts walking through the halls but soon finds herself in the desert Xander saw in his vision when looking at Buffy in the sandbox. Tara appears. Buffy says she's not in her dream and Tara says she was borrowed to speak for her - the stalking creature appears. It's a person, or at least personlike. Buffy says it should speak but Tara says it has no voice, it lives in the action of death. Buffy realizes this is the first of the slayers. She looks at the card in her hand and it is a picture of her friends. Tara says the slayer does not walk in the world. Buffy says she walks and talks and has friends. That the world has changed and she wants her friends back. Finally, the slayer speaks. She says "No friends, just the kill. We are alone." The man waves two slices of cheese at Buffy. She says that's it and she's waking up. The slayer attacks her. Buffy shouts enough and wakes up on the floor with the others in the chairs around her. Only it's still the dream and the slayer attacks again stabbing her repeatedly. But Buffy is unharmed. She tells the slayer she has to get used to it being over. That the slayer is not the source of her. She starts giving the slayer some advice on hair care and suddenly really awakes as do the others.
They are sitting around the table discussing what happened. Giles says the ritual they performed in Primeval must have offended the slayer. Joyce appears and offers hot chocolate. She asks Xander to help. Buffy says she's going to take a shower. She tells the others at least they didn't dream about the guy with the cheese. On her way to the shower, Buffy stops and looks at her bed. She hears Tara's voice telling her she hasn't begun.
What can you say about an almost incomprehensible hour of tv? I'm not even sure if I enjoyed myself. I've always enjoyed the dream sequences on Buffy, but maybe a show comprised of nothing but dream sequences is a bit too much.
Willow's dream seems to be a combination of past and present, with possibly some premonitions of the future. She assumes Tara is talking about the cat when she says they don't know her name. But she could be talking about the first slayer or about an as yet unintroduced character. Willow is afraid of and warned about discovery, presumably of her relationship with Tara. She seems very concerned about her family who probably don't know about Tara and who are in the audience. The reference to a Greek tragedy affirms this, since those tragedies tend to be about family conflict. Also, Greek drama was acted with masks and Willow is constantly having people comment on her costume when she isn't wearing one. But Willow does wear a mask all the time, just like the Greek actors, hiding her real emotions and portraying an approved and static emotion. In the play, everyone seems to be acting their natural roles. Riley, the good guy from Iowa, is cast as the American archetype cowboy. Harmony, the most hopeless and hapless of vampires - she can't even bite Giles when he stands still, is the crying milk maid. Buffy, unlucky in love, has a diatribe against men directed at Riley's male archetype figure.
Death of a Salesman is a play about family disintegration. Everyone in the play lies and maintains a false front of a happy and successful family. They lie about their relationships and their successes. Of course, Willow has been doing something very similar in concealing her relationship with Tara, concealing Buffy's secret identity, and maybe most importantly concealing her own needs and desires. Willow talks about never doing anything, rarely being naughty. She plays the good little girl (just as the family on Salesman play their roles) and that role is made evident when she's stripped down to her final disguise. But underneath Willow has a personality, one she represses so that she won't anger others by disagreeing with them.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the story of four children who venture into a mystical world where they are forced into heroic roles. The same is true of the gang and the book can be read as a metaphor for Willow's life. Interestingly, as the series of novels progresses, one of the children falls to the wayside, lost to the world of adult relationships. Willow is in the same position, beginning a relationship with Tara which has sundered her from Oz and already caused friction within the group. I suspect a strong analogy can be made to events in the Narnia series and Buffy, but I'll leave that to others. Personally, I've always found the Narnia books overly preachy and boring.
Xander's dream seems to be about sex and family and self observation. The sex part is pretty straightforward. First Joyce comes on to him and invites him to lie down in her bed. Later Willow and Tara invite him to join them in a menage a trois. But neither encounter comes to fruition. In both cases, Xander finds himself elsewhere although he does tell Snyder that he's supposed to meet the women. But he says so tentatively. These are safe fantasy figures. Joyce is Buffy's mother and in real life no relationship with Xander will ever happen. Tara and Willow are involved with each other and aren't the porn mag fantasy lesbians Xander imagines them to be in his dream. Interestingly, the woman he is actually involved with (who he refers to as my demon) is the one he keeps leaving. He leaves her in the truck to join Willow and Tara and again leaves her in the French scene when he tries to run away. He doesn't want Anya to take up vengeance (presumably for his own dreams of infidelity) and in the dream she actually consents to his joining Willow and Tara.
Most of the dream seems to be about family. Xander's first fantasy is about Joyce, who serves as surrogate mother to the gang. He sees Spike and Giles together as father and son. He says he was once into that, meaning both following in Giles' footsteps as watcher and in being a son. Buffy refers to him as brother. When he talks to Snyder, he's insulted by the statement that he was raised by mongrels. But he keeps fleeing the presence of his family, hides in the basement locking them out, and keeps returning to family substitutes rather than the real thing. His father says they are the end of the line. He asks if Xander is ashamed of his family as he certainly seems to be. And he says his mother is crying. That last statement has to provoke some guilt. Xander isn't only hiding from his family, but he's avoiding creating his own family. He treats Buffy as a sister and Giles as a father, but he keeps walking away from his chance to form a conventional family unit with Anya. Instead, he retreats into fantasy. When he is finally united with his family, when his father actually enters his room, it's lethal.
Xander is always watching himself and imagining others watching him. There is the scene in the bathroom with him under observation and later the interrogation by Snyder/Kurtz. He's being examined and made to answer for himself. And the examination makes him feel uncomfortable. He has to search for another bathroom and Snyder's remarks are obviously hurtful. He also observes himself, as made evident in the park scene where he sees himself at the ice cream truck and later is in the ice cream truck seeing himself in the park. He talks about the need to keep moving while in the park and the ice cream truck is already in motion while he is there. But he's never going forward. Like the shark Buffy likens him to, he simply moves to live not to get to any predefined goal. He wanders aimlessly from scene to scene often finding himself back in the same place. Xander is so obsessed with watching himself, with not making a mistake, with not looking foolish, with not getting in trouble, that he never takes the time to examine the world around him and actually pick a direction to move in.
Giles' dream starts with the creation of family: little girl Buffy and wife Olivia. But when Giles enters the crypt Buffy disappears and Olivia is in tears. He loses Olivia as he walks into the Bronze, but encounters the injured Willow and Xander who criticize him for letting them down. Giles has always made sacrifices for the slayer and her sacred duty. he has given up chances for love and family in order to function as part of the slayer's family. He has given up chances at a normal life and normal fun things, like singing at the club. But while he dreams of these things, he quickly abandons them. He isn't as confused or as unfocussed as Willow and Xander are in their dreams. He relies more on intellect and less on feeling. He makes the breakthrough, realizing what the stalking beast is. But he isn't quite strong enough to conquer it. It's interesting that Willow calls him Rupert when she tells him to focus and he suddenly begins to understand what it happening. That's not the way Willow talks, but the way Giles talks to himself. He's begun to direct his own dream at that point.
Buffy is most in control of her dream, right from the start. She refuses to listen to Anya or Tara. She refuses to use the card. She sees a connection between this dream and the one she had about Faith in Graduation Part 2 (although it seems closer to the dream Faith has about her in This Year's Girl). She knows this is a dream. She doesn't allow herself to be distracted by her mother in the wall. She challenges Riley and Adam and their quest for world domination. She insists the slayer speak for herself and not through Tara. That they play by the rules of Buffy's world. And she forces the slayer to attack her in her world, in her living room. And there it is helpless to harm her. Her recognition of that drives the slayer back into the void and saves the others. Of course, there is also a prophetic aspect to Buffy's dream. It is connected to the dream she had of Faith and clearly Buffy has changes waiting for her in the future.
The connections between dreams are interesting. At the beginning of Xander's dream, Buffy says Willow is a big faker, a continuation of the theme of acting and hiding from Willow's dream. At the Bronze in Giles' dream, Xander says he is there for Anya's big night. At last he is doing something for the woman who actually loves him rather than invoking fantasies with unreachable women. It's interesting that Xander and Giles see Buffy as a child (little sister and daughter) while Willow sees her as a dominant character (the femme fatale in the play and the one who strips Willow of her disguise in the classroom).
The cheese man. I think he stands for the chaotic and amusing nature of existence. His interpolations make no sense at all, but they are funny. When Buffy sees him, she demands an end to the dream and to the world of the slayer. The cheese man is the opposite of the slayer's world where only action and death exist. He's the concretization of the slayer puns and the good times Buffy has with her friends. He's the fun of being part of a group as opposed to the loneliness and silence of the first slayer.
Some quick final thoughts. That Kurtz imitation by Shimerman was excellent. I loved everyone holding up a lighter during Giles' number. Spike striking poses has got to be a reference to Bela Lugosi and the sad extremes he was pushed to late in his life to make a living.
Lines of the week:
"Did you notice how pointedly I said finally." - Joyce who just never meets Buffy's boyfriends.
"A watcher scoffs at gravity." - Giles giving Spike some career counselling.
"Do you know where you're going?" - Anya asking Xander the most terrifying of questions.
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