Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Intervention

Summary

Giles is helping with the washing up with Buffy and Dawn. He also cooked. Buffy sends Dawn to get the plates in her room. Giles suggests Buffy start training again. She says she was thinking of taking a break. Buffy tells him she's uneasy about slaying and what it is doing to her. She fears it is turning her hard. She says Riley left because she was never there for him. She says she doesn't know if her mother knew how much she loved her. Giles tries to comfort her, but she's unconsoled. She says she's not even sure she can say the word love anymore and have it mean anything. Giles tells her about a quest. It would take a day or two and she doesn't want to leave Dawn. Dawn returns and says she should go. Giles says it's a sacred place in the desert not far away. Dawn assures Buffy she will be ok with the gang. Buffy tells Dawn she loves her. She repeats it and Dawn feels she's getting weird. Buffy says weird love is better than no love. Cut to Spike and Warren. Warren has built Spike a Buffybot.

Glory is complaining about Ben getting stronger and her inability to control him. Her minions try to comfort her, pointing out they now know the key is a person. She says the key is tied to the slayer. She wants them to check up on her friends and family. Find out who is new in the slayer's life, who is special. Cut to Giles and Buffy in the desert. He has to perform a ritual to transfer his guardianship of her temporarily to a guide which can lead her to the sacred place. Buffy makes fun of the ritual which is reminiscent of the hokey-pokey. Meanwhile, Spike is playing with his new toy. He pretends it has come to slay him, but the Buffybot is irresistably drawn to him.

Giles, now alone, is speaking in Swahili. Buffy is wandering in the desert. She encounters a cat (not the domestic kind) and follows it to a stone. She sits and realizes she knows the place. Dawn is with Anya and Xander at their place. Tara has just put a protection spell on the apartment. She says Willow could do it better and Xander says maybe Willow can beef up the spell when she gets back from chem lab and that he and Anya will patrol. Tara says Willow wants to watch a special on tv about the Salem witch trials. Anya says she was there and it wasn't so bad. Real witches transported themselves away. Only the falsely accused were in trouble. Dawn seems to take a pair of earrings lying on the table. Dawn asks where's the pizza. We see a minion staring in the window.

Spike is still playing with the Buffybot - it's programmed to keep telling him what he wants to hear. It uses the word program and he tells it never to say that. Willow is getting out of class and lending her notes to a classmate. We see a minion following her. Spike is asleep and the Buffybot leaves to go slaying. Giles is in the desert at night. Buffy is at the rock waiting. Buffybot meets Xander and Anya in the cemetery. We see her programs (which are mostly things like locate Spike and love Spike) which identify Xander as a carpenter and Anya as a money loving exdemon. She asks Anya how her money is and a delighted Anya says fine. The Buffybot acts strangely, for Buffy. Spike comes running up. He tries to distract their attention from the Buffybot. He tells them there are vampires around. They don't see any, but then a bunch of vampires attack. They fight and Buffy focuses on protecting Spike. After the slaying, Spike suggests Xander and Anya go home and Buffybot agrees. They leave. Minions have been watching all this. Buffybot tells Spike she is still unsatisfied. They start making out. Xander thinks Buffybot acted weirdly, she never asked about Dawn. He and Anya turn back and see Buffybot and Spike making out.

Willow and Tara are watching tv (Salem) and switch the channel (koala bears). Xander and Anya return and tell them what they saw. Xander goes to find Buffy and talk to her. Meanwhile, Buffy is in the desert (there is a fire now). She awakens to see the first slayer. Spike is in his crypt with Buffybot. Someone is at the door and he has her hide, telling her not to come out until he says to. It's Xander. He's come to warn Spike that if he takes advantage of Buffy she has friends who would be happy to kill him. The minions enter. They knock Xander unconscious and take Spike captive.

The first slayer tells Buffy it is just a form and she is the guide. Buffy asks about love. The guide tells her she is full of love. That the love is blinding and she pulls away from it because of its brightness. She says love is pain and the slayer forges strength from that pain. She says love will bring Buffy to her gift. Buffybot enters the crypt and finds Spike missing. She goes to see Willow for help, totally missing the unconscious Xander lying on the crypt floor. Willow tries to talk to her about Spike, but Buffybot demonstrates her devotion to Spike and starts telling Willow about how they had sex. She also puts down Angel. Xander arrives and tells them about the demons attacking Spike. He recognizes them as the minions. They realize Spike knows about Dawn and may tell Glory about her. They decide to go to Buffy's to get weapons and leave Tara to look after Dawn.

Buffy is confused by what the guide is saying. The guide says death is her gift. Buffy says death isn't a gift. The guide says her question has been answered and vanishes. The minions bring Spike to Glory. She tells them he cannot be the key. The key is pure and he's a vampire and hence impure. Before Spike can leave the minions point out Buffybot protected him, indicating he is precious to the slayer. Glory is interested. She punches him, sending him flying. Then she hurls him onto her bed. She crawls on top of him and punches her hand into his body, wondering whether there is something inside of him.

Xander, Anya, Willow, and the Buffybot arrives at Buffy's. Buffybot keeps talking about rescuing Spike. Willow suggests she go upstairs to get more weapons and change her clothes. She leaves and Xander says they have to do something. Willow says they need to stage an intervention. Buffy walks in, they think she is the Buffybot. They start talking to her about Spike, she's completely confused. The Buffybot enters and they realize what happened. Buffybot says the important thing is Glory has Spike. Hearing this, Buffy says to grab their weapons and go. She says she has to kill Spike. She also has an idea as to where Glory is. Meanwhile, Glory is threatening to peel Spike (tied and hanging from the ceiling) like an apple. He says he'll tell her who the key is.

Buffy has taken them (now joined by Giles) to the place where she killed Glory's snake (in Shadow). She thinks Glory must be nearby. Giles is upset to learn the Buffybot pronounces his name Guyiles. They split up with Buffy and Xander going together, Giles staying with the Buffybot, and Willow and Anya together. Spike has been playing for time, but Glory calls his bluff. He tells her the key is Bob Barker. She knows it cannot be since the key is new and Bob isn't. Spike admits he's lying. While attempting to loosen his chains, he starts insulting her. He calls her a lightweight. He insults her hair, body, and fashion sense. Outraged, she kicks him and knocks him right out of the room. She sends the minions to retrieve him. Spike manages to crawl to the elevator. He opens the doors and falls onto the roof of the descending elevator. He opens the door in the roof and falls into the cab. He walks out onto the ground floor and the minions are there having rushed downstairs. Buffy and Xander come in. There's a fight. Spike collapses. Giles and the Buffybot enter. Giles is hard done by and calls to Buffy, the Buffybot responds and a minion hurls her against the wall, but Buffy defeats him. The minions flee. The Buffybot's circuits seem to be fried. The minions try to explain their failure to Glory, who is not happy.

At the shop, Willow is working on the Buffybot. Tara thinks it's weird. Buffy says it isn't a good copy and they don't look alike. She puts her face next to the Buffybot and we see they are identical. Dawn is with them. Xander and Giles enter saying they left Spike at his crypt but he was too badly beaten to talk. Buffy says she has to know if he told Glory. We learn Tara told Dawn Spike built a robot Buffy to play checkers with. Willow has figured out how to fix the Buffybot, but she won't. Xander actually feels sorry for Spike, he realizes how badly beaten he was.

At Spike's crypt, the Buffybot arrives. She asks Spike why he let Glory hurt him. He says she wants to know who the key is. Buffybot says she'll tell her but he stops her. He says Buffy would be devastated if Glory found out. He could not live with her being in such pain. He'd let Glory kill him first. Buffybot kisses him. He realizes it's Buffy. She tells him the robot is gone. She says it was gross and obscene and not real. She says what he did for her and Dawn was real and she won't forget that.

Analysis

This episode existed so we could see Buffy on her desert quest and the torture of Spike and its aftermath. The stuff with the robot was just a plot device to get us there. Now, that's a pretty big payoff for a plot device, but I am a little disappointed by how little use was made of the Buffybot and how it relied on unusually stupid behavior from the gang. But let's start with the good points.

Buffy's quest connects us to Buffy Vs. Dracula (where Buffy's discontent with her role was first made manifest) and Restless (where we first met the first slayer). It's also reminiscent of the Faith dreams. But I'm a little confused by some details of the quest. Giles says other slayers took it. He also says there is a sacred place in the desert nearby. Now, we know other slayers were not in Sunnydale or even California. So are there a number of suitable sacred places or did they have to make a longer journey? My impression was that the sacred place was metaphysical and Buffy actually journeyed out of our dimension when she made contact. This would explain her recognition of the area which seems to me to be from her experience with the first slayer in Restless. The guide's use of the first slayer's physical form reinforces this connection.

The guide's advice is obscure, but ties into the central themes of the series. Buffy asks about love. Since her first encounter with Angel, love and slaying have been mixed for Buffy. She has had to destroy the thing she loved (Angel when he turned evil) and she has loved the thing she is supposed to destroy (Angel the vampire). Now she is loved by the thing she is supposed to destroy (Spike). She's told death is her gift, although she is unsure whether it is a gift she gives or receives. Of course, Angel is currently undead and his wish is to become mortal (and hence die) so he can be with Buffy. And in Angel (in To Shanshu in LA) the prophecy spoke of Angel living until he died. So in that sense death could be a gift for both Buffy and Angel. Also, if we see vampires as creatures suffering eternal damnation, creatures in pain, then killing them is a gift. The resurrected Darla spoke of having no memories of the time between being slain and being resurrected. Perhaps slaying finally let her have peace. And so maybe Buffy is doing vampires a favour by slaying them. Given that the potential for unsouled vampire redemption exists, a rethinking of the wholesale slaying of vampires is necessary. If they can be redeemed, is it right to kill them without giving them a chance. Which leads us to the topic of Spike and how the possibility of redemption has been made evident.

Spike may be damned and destined for hell. It may be the evil of his vampire existence cannot be repaired. But after this episode no one can argue vampires cannot do good and redemption for vampires is impossible. Spike is ready to sacrifice his life out of love. Not lust, that's already being sated by the Buffybot, but out of love. And Glory really hurt him. There is no question he was in a lot of pain and she was ready to destroy him. And he knew it. But he would not tell her about Dawn. Because it would hurt Buffy and he couldn't live with himself if he caused her that much pain. Stalking Buffy, getting the sexbot, programming it to worship him - these are all sick and freakish things to do. They aren't nice or good or decent no matter how liberal your interpretation of those terms. While I think Buffy's reaction to it all is extreme, I certainly don't expect her to think positively about it. But I have felt she underestimates the genuineness of Spike's feeling. And in this episode, I think she gets it. She realizes Spike really cares for (and sometimes shows it in sick ways). And she thanks him. And that is probably the best thing that has happened to Spike in his unlife.

Buffy says weird love is better than no love. Maybe that realization helps her to understand what Spike is going through. Getting the Buffybot is definitely weird, but maybe it's better than nothing. We've seen that the love Spike and Dru had was pretty sick and twisted, but there was still something essentially beautiful about it. The relationship with Harmony was never like that. Spike never loved her and I doubt she really understands what love is. But with Buffy Spike returned to feelings he hadn't had since he was human. Feelings we saw in the flashback sequences in Fool For Love. In that episode, both Buffy and Cecily reject Spike with the same words - "You're beneath me". These two women are clearly joined in Spike's mind, both in his obsession for them and their distaste for him. Maybe Spike's feelings for Buffy are a mere twisted obsession. But his feelings for Cecily were real. She drove him to Dru and his unlife. And, now, Buffy is driving him back.

In Fool For Love we saw how Spike became more and more the model of a vampire. He remolded himself into the image Dru wanted. Now, we may be seeing the beginning of the process of his remolding himself into the image Buffy wants. His sacrifice is genuine. He suffers pain and is willing to suffer death to avoid causing pain for a loved one. This isn't as great as suffering and dying for a complete stranger or because it's simply the right thing to do, but it is a big step up the moral ladder for Spike. In Triangle, he was quite ready to lead the troll to some babies to eat. I doubt he would do that now because it would bother Buffy. As Spike tries to escape, he says oh God - something very unvampirelike. I think this is supposed to indicate that he has started on the path of redemption, although he may not make it to the end of the road.

I found it interesting that one of the points constantly emphasized in this episode was Spike's insight into human nature. We have Buffybot's details about Buffy's friends - including Anya's love of money. He also knows exactly how to get under Giles' skin by programming Buffybot to mispronounce his name. Most importantly, he sees Glory's weaknesses. He realizes she is vain and he insults her appearance to provoke her anger and orchestrate his escape. He's also probably figured out that as a god Glory will not pursue him herself (he hasn't a hope against her) but will send her minions. And he has some chance of beating or out thinking them.

The whole Buffybot idea strikes me as a little stupid. Spike is clever and he knows a robot isn't a real substitute for a person. If the robot were enough, Harmony play acting would have worked. But at least you can argue Spike was fooling himself. But why didn't any of the gang realize it was a robot. They knew Buffy was supposed to be out of town (and how come no one called Giles) and they certainly picked up on the robotic qualities quickly in I Was Made to Love You. They seemed really slow here. I felt the characters were dumbed down so we could have the big confrontation scene between Buffy and Buffybot. And even that scene had major flaws. Buffy returned way too quickly and that should have been immediately noticed. And Buffy talked differently from the Buffybot. If nothing else, the change should have been noticed.

I was really impressed with SMG's acting in this episode. She had to play Buffy (no big stretch), the Buffybot (and she did a great job of emulating the actress who played the first robot while still being Buffyish), and Buffy imitating the Buffybot (and the imitation was subtly different - less aggressively cheerful - so the audience was clued in even if Spike wasn't).

Some quick final thoughts. I guess gods never run their own errands. Had Glory gone after Spike herself, she would have captured or killed the gang and solved all her problems. I liked the joking between Giles and Buffy in the desert. His joke about how long it takes to bleach bones and hers about the hokey-pokey. And as a Babylon 5 fan, I was reminded of Londo and his problems with the hokey-pokey. Why did Dawn take those earrings and was that what happened? I loved Willow's long list of things not to do with her notes. Spike's descriptions of Buffy's friends were brilliant and spot on. I also liked Anya's not terribly effective fighting technique - there was a lot of hiding behind Xander. They kept flashing a parental warning after every commercial break on this episode. I have to assume the scene in the crypt, where Buffybot suddenly pops up and Spike starts buckling his belt, is one of the reasons. The Buffybot's obsession with Spike isn't all that different from the way Anya acted about Xander in Fear, Itself. Possibly the funniest moment in Buffy history occurred when a roomful of demons revealed they all knew who Bob Barker was.

Lines of the week:

"I'm not sure I like what it's doing to me." - Buffy on slaying.

"Weird love's better than no love." - Buffy on life.

"It takes more than a week to bleach bones." - Giles always the educator.

"Darn your sinister attraction." - The Buffybot proving Spike is a poor dialogue writer.

"What, are you kidding? She's nuts." - Tara with a firm grasp on reality.

"You are full of love." - The guide telling Buffy about herself.

"Love will bring you to your gift." - The guide giving guidance.

"Angel's lame. His hair grows straight up and he's bloody stupid." - Buffybot with a line so Spikelike it should immediately have clued in Willow.

"Death is your gift." - The guide telling Buffy something she doesn't want to hear.

"Death is my gift. Puhh." - Buffy summing up a quest in the desert.

"Bob Barker is as old as grit." - Glory with a little tv commentary.

"Oh God." - Spike saying a very unvampirish thing.

"I couldn't live her being in that much pain. Let Glory kill me first." - Spike having a human moment.

"What you did for me and Dawn -- that was real. I won't forget it." - Buffy recognizing what Spike did for her.

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