Buffy is furiously punching away at a punching bag, irate at Spike for loving her. Giles tries to calm her down, but she just gets more intense. We discover the punching bag is actually Xander in a padded suit (he looks like the Michelin man) and she's starting to hurt him. She stops hitting and helps Xander lean against the wall - the suit won't let him sit. He tries to calm her down and makes some headway. She hugs him, as well as she can through the puffy suit. He suggests the hellmouth is just not a good place to build a relationship. We see a young woman arrive in town saying she is looking for true love.
Joyce is modeling a dress for her daughters. She has a date with someone she met at the gallery, Brian. She's nervous about it, but Buffy doesn't feel she is the right person to give romantic advice. We learn Buffy is going to a spring break party. Anya and Tara are walking down the street, discussing computers. Tara finds them difficult to use, plus everyone's spelling is so bad. Anya found them strange, but has gotten into them. She's trading online and tripled the money she earned. The young woman approaches them and asks if they know Warren, she's looking for him. They say no and she asks another person on the street. Anya tells Tara she'll show her how to trade online as well as the web site she created for the store, which has a huge picture of her.
At the spring break party Buffy and Xander are dancing. Anya tells Tara and Willow that she's letting them. It's a good deed and she's expecting a karmic reward. They stop dancing and Buffy notices Ben. She goes and stands near him, pretending not to see him. He approaches her and they talk. He makes a bad joke and she pretends to laugh (a little too much). She asks him to dance and he hesitantly says yes. He goes to put his drink away. Xander explains to Anya that the nibbles she is eating aren't hand made. The strange woman arrives and Anya tells him about her and how she speaks strangely (rather like Anya). Xander says some guys like that. She starts asking after Warren. Warren is there. He sees her, grabs his girlfriend, and flees.
Spike shows up and tries to talk to Buffy. She tells him to go away and he walks off. Ben shows up and asks if Spike was bothering her. Spike watches this. Ben gives her his phone number, suggesting they get together for coffee. She sketches out her bad track record - go for coffee and suddenly develop a desire to leave town - but he's willing to risk it. Spike sees the strange girl, who identifies herself as April, and hits on her. She picks him up, tells him that would be wrong because he's not her boyfriend, and hurls him out the window. Buffy tries to talk to her, but April picks her up and hurls her across the room. She apologizes for hurting Buffy and walks out.
The gang are discussing what happened. They decide April is a robot and Warren must be the guy who built her. Willow will try to track him down. Buffy goes to rescue Giles who is watching Dawn while Joyce is on her date. Giles has had a tough time of it. He had to watch music videos he despised, eat cookie dough, and talk about boys. Buffy tells him about the robot. Joyce arrives and Giles leaves so they can talk about Joyce's date. Joyce jokes about leaving her bra in Brian's car - shocking Buffy. Then she jokes about leaving it in the restaurant and Buffy flees. April is knocking on people's doors - it's late at night - asking for Warren.
The next morning, the gang are researching. Willow thinks she has found the boyfriend - Warren Mears. Xander points out April is a sexbot. Willow thinks Warren must have been very lonely to build a companion. They all find it rather sad as well as sleazy. Later, Buffy calls Ben. We see Glory transforming into Ben just before the phone rings. Buffy asks him for coffee the next night. He agrees. The camera pulls back to show him in Glory's dress.
Warren is packing and his girlfriend, Katrina, doesn't understand what's happened. Buffy shows up. Warren tells Katrina to go away and shut up. Angry, she walks out. Warren knows who Buffy is. He was at Sunnydale high. He confesses April is a robot. At the shop, the gang and Dawn are talking about the robot - she wonders if it was Ted the robot that dated Joyce at one time. Xander says he'll drop her off at school and opens the door, letting in a blanket covered and slightly flaming Spike. They tell him about the robot. Nobody wants to see him there, even Dawn doesn't want to talk to him. He tries to explain what happened with Buffy, saying it was a matter of misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Giles tells Spike to get over it and throws him out of the store.
April is still searching for Warren. Warren explains to Buffy that he built April as the perfect girlfriend, but found perfection was boring. He prefers Katrina who surprises him and fights with him. He left April in his dorm room, assuming her batteries would run out. April meets Katrina on the street and asks her about Warren. Katrina says she is Warren's girlfriend and this enrages April who attacks her and insists she deny it. Spike is throwing all his Buffy stuff into a box, muttering about moving on. Warren and Buffy are searching for April. He's shouting her name. He says she's programmed so that if she hears him calling and doesn't respond it causes her pain. They find her, holding an unconscious Katrina. Warren gets her to let Katrina go and Buffy says she's still alive. Warren tries to explain to April that he doesn't love her. He gives up and just says he loves Buffy instead. April attacks Buffy. Katrina regains consciousness and realizes Warren's exgirlfriend is a robot. She leaves and Warren goes after her. April starts running out of power and the fight ends. She and Buffy sit and talk. Buffy tries to comfort April, who is slowly running down. April dies.
Xander is fixing the broken window. Amazingly, he really knows a lot about this stuff. Buffy realizes that devoting herself to a guy is not the answer. She has to devote herself to herself, become comfortable being Buffy. She calls Ben and leaves a message breaking their date. Glory gets the message and believes Ben is in some plot against her. She also cannot accept that Buffy turned them down.
Warren is on the phone to Katrina, who hangs up on him. Spike is there, Warren's mother let him in. He wants Warren to build him a Buffybot. Buffy gets home and discovers flowers sent by Brian to her mother. She calls out to Joyce who doesn't answer. She sees Joyce's body, disturbingly still, lying on the sofa.
Wanting to love someone and not having anyone to love - feeling like there will never be anyone to love - drives people to strange things. It drove Warren to building a robot girlfriend (and at least Xander understands that motivation) and it drives Spike to continually humiliating himself and veering wildly between protestations of love (accompanied by his obsessions with love tokens and gifts of flowers and candy) and outbursts of violence. Warren is Spike with an engineering background rather than a love for poetry.
Katrina, Warren's girlfriend, gets mad at him when she discovers what he did. Buffy doesn't think much of him. Xander seems to understand him. But all this pales in comparison to the reaction to Spike and his love for Buffy. Buffy talks about Spike loving her making her feel dirty. I can't really understand that. I can understand her finding it strange and freaky - but not the dirty part. After all, I'm betting a lot of more disgusting characters than Spike are interested in Buffy. I'd argue that Parker was actually more slimy than Spike. I think her extreme reaction is linked to two things: the parallel between Spike and Dawn which I discussed in my comments on Crush and which I think must force Buffy to ponder why she treats the two of them so differently, and the even clearer parallel between Spike and Angel which has to make her wonder whether her relationship with Angel wasn't similarly creepy. Whatever drives it, it's certainly an over reaction. And the others catch it. Giles is outright vicious to Spike - whose attempt to curry favour with the gang as a way of getting back together with Buffy is just outright sad. In fact, Spike's actions in the scene in the shop reminded me of Harmony. He wasn't the verbally quick, insightful character we know. He was socially awkward and overall pathetic. I felt even sorrier for him than usual. I'd expect a little more from Giles, but he seems to be reacting to Buffy's reaction rather than what is really happening.
During the party, when Buffy told Spike to leave, he seemed to run out ideas. He doesn't say anything, and Spike is almost never silent, and just walks off. I think this is Spike at the end of his rope. He just doesn't know what else he can do to get Buffy to at least notice him. And I can't understand why she just doesn't tell him that he should move on with his life and that a relationship between them is ridiculous for a 1000 reasons. Tell - not yell at him or beat him up. When he sees her with Ben, he gets jealous and tries to play the same game by hooking up with April. This just gets him assaulted. He tries to use the gang to get back into the game, and finds himself rejected again. Even Dawn, who seemed to connect with him and with whom he seemed comfortable, refuses to talk to him. Finally, driven to complete despair, he opts to go the robot route. It's stupid and that isn't like Spike. But he doesn't seem to have any ideas left. Unless he intends to use the robot for something else - like fighting Buffy. And I wonder whether a robot Buffy would be useful in the fight against Glory.
During the sexbot conversation, the gang realize everyone wants someone to be with and that loneliness can drive people to extremes -like building a robot. Buffy gets very quiet during this talk. At first, I thought she was realizing that this was what was going on with Spike. That intense loneliness (and being with Harmony was pretty much like being alone - Spike is clever and needs a companion who can at least talk to him) drove Spike to his delusion of love. And the delusion is real - for Spike it is true love as bizarre as it is. Just as true as the programmed love April felt for Warren and which Buffy clearly sympathized with. But I realized that Buffy was merely thinking of herself (interesting that Buffy accused herself of being self involved but doesn't seem able to actually do anything about it other than ask Ben how he was enjoying himself) and how lonely she is. Her immediate reaction is to call Ben for coffee. I have to wonder if she knew about Ben's transsexual nature, would she find that less disturbing than Spike's romance with her. For people who think Spike is out of line, I have to ask whether Ben - who has pursued Buffy - isn't even further out of line. Glory, his alter ego, has threatened Buffy's life and the life of her friends and family. And she actually did try to kill Dawn. And, unlike Spike, she could do it.
When Giles tells Spike to get over it, Spike replies I don't know what you mean. I think this is Spike desperately trying to hang on to a shred of his dignity. He realizes how ridiculous his love for the slayer is (he says as much in Crush. He realizes how foolishly it is making him act (but pretty well everyone in love looks foolish). As William, he was a foolish, love stricken, idiot. As Spike, he's worked hard to overcome that image of himself. He's formed a persona that is cool and detached and in control. Now the chip controls him and his coolness is entirely gone. He's turning back into William, something that probably both attracts and repels him, not unlike Buffy. Vampires in general, and certainly Spike, see their transformation as a form of salvation. They were unhappy as humans and while most still seem unhappy as vampires, at least they are strong and able to act out their revenge if not achieve their dreams. Spike is clever enough to know being a vampire isn't all that great, but weak enough to be afraid of making the big leap forward and really trying to be good. If the chip was intended as a transforming and not merely controlling mechanism, it has partly worked. I suspect with appropriate guidance (and he's certainly not getting that), Spike could have been and may still be changed.
When Warren explains why he built April, he talks about creating the ideal girlfriend. April is that, in theory. She's beautiful, loves everything he loves, never complains, and devotes herself to making him happy. When Buffy was talking to puffy Xander about her romantic difficulties, she considered becoming that kind of girlfriend. And she tries it for a moment with Ben, laughing at his not funny jokes and trying to focus all attention on him. But, as Warren points out, that kind of perfection isn't so perfect. It's not a relationship and it grows tiring over time. As Xander said, it's best for Buffy to be Buffy and find someone who responds to that - not to some persona she creates to please. She realizes how sad it is to be that persona when she sits and talks with the slowly dying April. April still persists in being the perfect girlfriend - it's all she can be. Her life revolves around Warren and without him she has nothing. All she can do is spout cliches. Interestingly, her last words are 'it's always darkest before the'. Of course, the final word is dawn, what Buffy is ultimately fighting to protect.
The confrontation with April leads Buffy to the realization that she has to become comfortable with herself, rather than striving to find someone else. This reminds me of her conversation with Giles in Buffy Vs. Dracula. There, she was concerned with what was happening to her and wanted Giles to help her understand her slayer role and her nature. Now she realizes that part of what she seeks is just an understanding of herself as a person. This leads her to break her date with Ben. She realizes she was reaching out to him (pretending to be something she wasn't) because she felt she had to have a boyfriend.
The death of Joyce, if that's what actually happened at the end, has to lead to a lot of complications. Practical issues like money and the guardianship of Dawn come immediately to mind. But I'm also curious as to how Joyce died. Was it a result of her tumor or was Glory involved? I'm not even sure if she's really dead, although she certainly looked it.
Some quick final thoughts. I liked the fact that Anya was so level headed about Xander dancing with Buffy and staring at April while Tara got jealous of Willow saying April was pretty. I won't pretend to be an expert on women's clothes (and maybe this has been answered elsewhere), but was the dress Joyce was wearing one you could wear a bra with? I like Giles kidding Xander and I liked Xander actually demonstrating some real construction know-how. I also liked Tara trying some spicy talk. The people in Sunnydale are strange. They open their doors late at night to strangers, something I wouldn't do in a town with such a high violent death rate. They never seem to call the police and people who should be billionaires from manufacturing lifelike robots are just helpless dweebs. April may be problematic as a sexbot, but I know there would be a huge market for a maid robot. Imagine a human shaped machine that lives to clean. I'd buy one in a second. The view from inside April was interesting. I noted that a lot of her programs were about positions and fetishes.
Lines of the week:
"This is the day you choose to hug me." - Puffy Xander bemoaning his fate.
"You're messing with me." - Joyce being spun by her daughters.
"I had trouble adjusting to the idea of Lutherans." - Anya and the issues of being a 1000 plus year old exdemon.
"Get over it." - Giles giving Spike some advice.
"I don't know what you mean." - Spike trying to preserve a shred of his dignity.
"People are the strangest people." - Buffy thinking deep thoughts.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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