The gang are at Buffy's, Giles tells them the council has information about Glory and is coming to Sunnydale to tell them about it. Travers (from Helpless (Eighteen)) is coming. None of them like it. Dawn is lurking on the steps listening, Joyce sees her and when Buffy hears she is there she gets frantic. Dawn claims she was just getting a snack. Cut to Glory, really sick and lying on the floor. Her minions drag in a human whose brains she sucks out. The human survives this, but is crazy. She's back to her normal health. Her minion tells her she has to use the key quickly because time is running out. She thinks Buffy knows about the key.
Travers and his fellow council members arrive at the shop. They close it down. Anya leaves, frightened they will want to kill her because she's an exdemon. Travers tells Giles they have come to inspect Buffy's methods and determine whether it is safe to give her the information they have. Buffy is in history class where they are covering Rasputin. She is suspicious about the story of his death and the professor makes fun of her theories and mocks her. Later she takes out her frustration on a vampire, continuing her discussion with the professor (who of course isn't there) while fighting the demon. Spike appears and stakes the vampire. Buffy is angry at him although he says he was just trying to help her. He starts riding her about her inability to hold on to a boyfriend.
Ben is approached by one of Glory's minions, who wants Ben to tell him about Buffy. Ben doesn't know she's the slayer, he does tell the minion her name but otherwise doesn't help. Giles is explaining the training he is doing with Buffy. Buffy walks in and is not happy to see Travers who tells her about the review they have planned. He also tells her the council remains while slayers change. He threatens to have Giles deported if she doesn't cooperate.
A beat up minion returns to Glory. Ben won't cooperate and the wounds are his message. Glory is really angry, but says she'll find Buffy herself. Giles tells Buffy the council isn't bluffing, they really could shut down the shop and deport him. They are very good at politics. He tries to reassure her, but she's concerned they will be critical of her decisions and her inability to fight Glory. The review begins with a questioning of Anya (who has invented a whole past) and Xander. Willow and Tara mistakenly think they are interested in their relationship and blurt out that they're lesbians. Xander says he, Willow, and Buffy are best friends. The gang don't know whether they should emphasize the way they help Buffy or emphasize her ability to function without help. Willow and Tara are asked what level of witches they are and Tara says 5 (although she doesn't what the levels are). They also claim to be registered witches, although they don't know about that either. Spike is questioned, by a woman who wrote her thesis on him. She's accompanied by two men, one with a cross and the other with a crossbow. Spike puts Buffy down, but gets interested in how she's doing on the test.
A test of physical skill is being held in the training room. Buffy is blind folded. She has to protect a dummy from one of the council members. Travers will shout out directions using Japanese terms. Of course, she doesn't know these and Giles tries to translate, but it's awkward. Eventually, she just does things her own way. She does defeat the attacker, but the dummy is also injured. Travers tells her that at 7:00 that night they will examine her strategies.
Buffy goes home and discoveries Glory there. She wants the key and tells Buffy she better help. Dawn walks in and Glory questions her, but lets her go. Dawns says Buffy is always talking about stuff she isn't supposed to know about and she'll eventually figure it out. Glory tells Buffy that if she doesn't cooperate, the next time they meet one of Buffy's friends or family will be dead. She leaves and Joyce enters. Buffy tells her to pack. They go to Spike's and Buffy gets him to promise to look after Dawn and Joyce. Buffy leaves and Joyce and Spike discover a mutual love for Passions.
At the store, Xander, Anya, Willow, and Tara are watching the council members and Giles. Buffy is late. On the street, she is accosted by three knights. She defeats them and discovers they are members of the brotherhood of Byzantium and they intend to kill her and destroy the key which they know she is guarding. She lets them go, but she keeps a sword. Buffy arrives at the store and refuses to participate in the review. She says she realizes she has power. She tells them about Glory's visit and how Glory didn't kill her because she has something Glory wants. Which gives her power over Glory. She says the council sent them because they want to be back with her. Their job is watcher, without a slayer they are unemployed. She has power. One of the people interrupts and she hurls a sword at him. She tells Travers he will tell her everything he knows about Glory and leave, contacting her only if he has more information. The shop will stay open and Giles will be reinstated as a watcher. Giles coughs retroactive and she says his pay should be retroactive to his firing. She says her friends will continue to help her and when the woman objects points out they are two powerful witches, a 1000 year old exdemon, and a guy who has clocked more field time then all of them combined. Travers agrees to all her demands. The gang cheer, Travers asks Giles for a scotch. He tells Buffy Glory is a god.
When watching this episode (and really loving it) I kept thinking back to three earlier episodes: Anne, Helpless (Eighteen), and The Freshman. In each of these episodes Buffy deals with her insecurity and faces conflicts with authority. And, in each case, she is reborn stronger and more secure and more in charge.
In Anne (and is it just a coincidence that this week's Angel episode - Blood Money - features a character from that episode), Buffy was running away from herself and from the life she found herself forced into. While she's away, the two authority figures in her life - Giles and her mother - conflict as Joyce blames Giles for her absence. But Buffy finally understands what she is, the slayer, and that denying that is denying herself. She returns and ultimately reconciles the rift between her mother and her father figure. In Helpless (Eighteen), Buffy reinforces her acknowledgment of Giles as father figure (asking him to fulfill the role her father had previously) and enters into a conflict with the council in the person of Travers (who is back again this week) who ultimately fires Giles. This eventually leads to Buffy quitting the council and leaving Giles without a job. It's the first time she asserts her authority of slayer and supersedes the authority of the council and her own watcher. In The Freshman, Buffy has symbolically started a new life and it's going poorly. She's again lost her sense of self. Xander (who starts functioning more and more as a watcher in training) reinvigorates her - reminding her of who she is and what she can do. She takes charge again and at the end of the episode Giles recognizes that even though he is not her watcher he needs to be in her life and work.
Which brings us to this episode. Again there is a conflict between the council and Giles (and Xander whom they single out as the weak link in her circle of friends). Again Travers is there and an attempt is made to batter down her self confidence. Her ultimate confrontation with Travers is reminiscent of her confrontation with the demon in the Anne. Her refusal to play by the rules and insistence on creating her own rules reminds us of the outcome of Helpless (Eighteen). In that episode, she came of age in a calendar sense. In this episode, Travers puts her down by saying she is dealing with grownups now - implying she has been playing with kids to date. But she asserts her adultness when - echoing the words he used and calling him by his first name - she lays down the law to him. Her defense of Giles and Xander (she gets Giles his job and pay back retroactively and defends Xander as an important asset in her battles) is reminiscent of the way the gang was reunified and reformed around her in The Freshman. But she is stronger and in more control than she was in any of those episodes.
It's interesting that in each of those episodes she had defeated an enemy and this was part of what reinvigorated her. This week, the battle lies ahead of her. Instead, she's defeated her own sense of worthlessness - something a lot harder to do. And she has done this without assistance from anyone. She has recognized her role not only as slayer (early in the season she was concerned that slaying was becoming the focal point of her life) but as the centre of an organization devoted to the battle against evil. She doesn't drive the council away, as she did before, but instead offers it a way of being involved. She reunites everyone - the council, Giles, and her friends - for the coming battle. She has made the leap from a soldier in the war to a general.
This was all paralleled in the classroom scene which I found really interesting. Buffy had clearly done her homework. The story of Rasputin has all the earmarks of a legend. The many attempts on his life seem fantastical and if he really was sighted years later (I never heard of that but the professor didn't question it) a good case could be made that his death never really happened. Certainly if you can argue about Richard III and the little princes, you can argue about something as murky as czarist history. The professor doesn't debate the facts with her or raise counter arguments of any sort. Instead, he uses his position at the front of the class to mock her. That's easy to do when you're standing at the front. Far easier than engaging in intellectual debate. It's the action of a bad teacher who is a little frightened by students who might actually be brighter than he. Not more knowledgeable, but smarter. Buffy's first response to this unfair treatment is to take it out physically, in her battle with the vampire. But she clearly thinks about what happened and realizes that the professor's mocking came not because he really felt she was stupid or incompetent, but because he feared her intelligence and the way in which it threatened his domination of the class. She then realizes that the council is doing the same thing. They are trying to create a situation in which they can criticize her - a situation which has no relationship to reality but which gives them the opportunity to assert control. Like the professor, they are taking advantage of their position to change the nature of the argument to one they know they can win. Once she realizes this, she triumphs by refusing to play the game by their rules.
The interviews with the various characters were interesting, in that they demonstrate how everyone assumes everything is about them. The council is only interested in the slayer and in reasserting control over her. It's a turf war to them. But no one sees it that way. Anya obsesses over them finding out she is an exdemon. Spike takes the opportunity to flirt and is intrigued to learn someone wrote a thesis on him. Xander worries about the assessment of his value to the team. Willow and Tara think it's all about them being gay. They're not really listening to the questions, they are just affected by the situation. At first, Buffy is like this. When they have the trial of her skills she is put off by the demands (like Travers using Japanese) and focuses on the situation rather than on what is really happening. But when she focuses on the goal of the council, rather than the methods they are using to achieve it, she regains control of the situation.
The scenes with Glory were both good and bad. The bad was in the beginning when we see her in bad shape, desperately needing to suck the brains out of someone. While it was nice to learn this is how she sustains herself, it gave her a huge vulnerability and if this is exploited to defeat her I'll be a little disappointed. I hope this is like the mayor's fear of disease - a red herring which kept us all occupied for a long time. The good part was her showing up at Buffy's home. She was really scary here - bringing the fight to the slayer's home turf. But she is still a confusing character. She threatens Buffy and her family, but doesn't act. Apparently, she can have the key right in front of her and not realize it. She's enraged at Ben, but doesn't kill him. She's strangely nonviolent for such a violent and amoral being.
Spike's attack on Buffy when she rejected his help in slaying the vampire was very interesting. He suggests a wide variety of character and physical flaws - attacking her confidence and self image in every way he can. During the post Parker phase of last season, in episodes like Beer Bad, this kind of attack would have devastated Buffy. It still has to hurt, but she over comes it. Not only does she discover the strength within herself to take charge, but she also finds the strength to go to Spike for help. She realizes that doing so doesn't mean admitting she's weak or that he was in any way right in his assessment. That's self confidence. The fact that Spike goes from trying to help her, to slagging her, to agreeing to look after Joyce and Dawn also indicates how flexible and how clever he is. He wants her gratitude, hoping it will turn to love. When his slaying activities engender the reverse, he attacks and since he can empathize strongly with Buffy he knows exactly how to attack. But when she makes an overture, offering him a way to enter her life positively, he takes it. Spike knows his chance of love with Buffy is remote at best. But he's not about to miss any opportunities. And Buffy has obviously seen something in him that leads her to trust him.
The staging of the final scene is interesting. Travers is sitting, assuming a dominant position of control. Everyone else on his level is standing - the gang are relegated to the rafters, seemingly out of the action. Clearly Travers intends to inspect Buffy as if she were a school girl and he were the headmaster. He would face her, ensconced behind his desk, and behind her would be his assistants ready to attack from the rear. Buffy enters and stands close to Travers, closer than anyone else. Giles is next closest, but behind and not in the actual action as befits a watcher. Buffy faces Travers and confronts him. Standing she dominates him. And she doesn't stand still. She reduces the other council members to quiet observers, an audience on the periphery of the action. The gang become a Greek chorus, commenting on the action and participating in the drama. When Travers agrees to her demands, she sits - accepting a position of equality.
Some quick final thoughts. I liked Buffy cleaning up the living room and being the hostess. I loved an angry Giles breaking his glasses by accident. Buffy tells Giles she can't lose him. I wonder whether her openness has to do with some of the things Xander said to her in Into the Woods, She's realized you have to tell people how you feel when you have the chance. During the questioning, they slipped in that question about the key. I'm sure everyone was asked that and it was probably the real point of the questioning. I have to assume Ben let the knights know about Buffy. I loved the sword hurled at the interrupter, the cheer, and Travers asking for a scotch.
Lines of the week:
"I thought English people were gentler than normal people." - Tara being very American.
"Who are you talking to?" - A very confused vampire.
"I never need you, Spike." - Buffy rebuffing.
"You're dealing with grownups now." - Travers asserting his authority over Buffy.
"It's a power play." - Giles correctly analyzing the council's motives.
"I can't lose you." - Buffy letting Giles know how important he is to her.
"You're the only one strong enough to protect them." - Buffy being nice to Spike."You came to beg me to let you back in." - Buffy determining the true motives of the council.
"I think he's understanding me." - Buffy letting Travers know she has grown up.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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