Buffy is in the basement looking for a drip. She finds it and approaches with a wrench to tighten the pipe. Dawn offers to call a plumber, but Buffy says she can handle it. She does, the drip stops. A few seconds later, there is a flood as the pipes burst and Dawn runs screaming upstairs. Later, Buffy is a little out of it while the others have breakfast. Xander comes upstairs with Tito, the plumber, and they say a complete copper repiping is needed. Tito leaves an estimate and it's huge. Buffy figures it's ok, but the others tell her she's broke. The medical bills ate up much of Joyce's insurance and the house is costing them a lot of money. Anya suggests charging for vampire slaying. Dawn says you can't charge for saving innocent people. Anya says Spiderman does. Dawn says no. She appeals to Xander who says 'Action is his reward'. Anya walks out saying Xander never takes her side. He runs after her. She admits the real issue is his not announcing their engagement. He tells her he's still getting used to having a job and not living with his parents. He believes marriage is forever and wants every step they take on that path to be right. So he's going slow. They kiss, but Anya is angry again. She feels this is just part of his stall tactic and stomps off telling him to grow up.
Buffy is preparing for her loan interview while waiting for the loans officer at the bank. He tells her she's not getting a loan. There is no equity left in her house and she doesn't have a job. A demon comes into the bank and starts attacking people. Buffy goes to attack, but can't kick in her skirt. The demon sends her flying onto the loans officer's desk. She uses his letter opener to cut a slit in her skirt and attacks the demon again. Meanwhile, someone is stealing all the money. The security guard fires his gun and tells the demon to drop Buffy. It hurls Buffy at him. She tosses the gun away. The demon escapes. Buffy goes back to the loan officer and suggests some payment for her demon fighting.
Buffy and Willow are talking as Buffy trains. She got turned down for the loan. Buffy is mad and Willow thinks this is good. She tries to keep her mad by claiming she had affairs with Riley and Angel. She says Buffy hasn't displayed much in the way of emotion. Meanwhile, Anya is trying to get Xander to announce the engagement while Tara and Dawn are doing research. He says he will when Buffy and Willow return. She dares him and he says if he announced the engagement on a dare she would always wonder whether he really meant it. She says he's afraid. Dawn argues with Tara, saying she's old enough to do real research. Tara gives in and Dawn is shocked by the pictures (that isn't a horn she's looking at). Xander wonders what kind of demon robs a bank. Dawn finds it, a M'Fashnik. Buffy and Willow enter and Buffy confirms it is the demon. She says it was really strong. Giles arrives. Buffy hugs him. Cut to the demon walking down the street.
Buffy and Giles are in the training room. He says he met with the council and went to his flat in Bath where he met some old friends and almost made a new one. He admits leaving Sunnydale was difficult and returning bewildering. He notices Buffy looks tired. She says she is having trouble sleeping. She starts training again and he goes into the next room to talk to the others. Anya hugs him and tells him he can't have the store back. He asks what they know about the demon. He says the M'Fashnik are mercenary demons who work for the highest bidder. He wonders who is powerful enough to control it. Cut to the M'Fashnik busting up a place and demanding his payment, the head of the slayer. We see his three employers: Jonathan, Andrew, and Warren.
The demon asks who is leader and they all claim to be. He says he'll kill the leader. Jonathan gets up and says they'll pay him, offering him money from the bank. The other two quickly pretend Jonathan is the leader. The demon doesn't want the money. Jonathan offers a spell to make him supercool (like the one he used in Superstar) and Warren offers a robot girlfriend (like the one he built for himself in I Was Made to Love You). Andrew, we learn, is the brother of Tucker who trained the hell hounds to attack the prom in The Prom. He trained flying monkeys to attack the school play. The M'Fashnik doesn't want any of these. He wants Buffy dead. They agree to deliver.
Buffy is giving Giles some sheets and blankets (ones from her childhood because they are all she can find) so he can sleep on the sofa. She tells him about the money troubles and he says he'll go over the bills with her in the morning and help her settle things. She says she's glad he's back and he says the same of her. He reaches to touch her hand and she walks off.
Jonathan doesn't want to kill Buffy and eventually wins a vote (basically because she's hot). We learn they have a mission: take over Sunnydale. They have goals: control the weather, miniaturize Fort Knox, conjure fake IDs, shrink ray, girls, girls, and the gorilla thing. Warren gives the M'Fashnik Buffy's name, phone number, and address and he leaves.
Giles is talking to Willow. He asks about the spell and she tells him about the snake and the demon gang. He says she's stupid, that she was dealing with unbelieveably dangerous forces. He says there are others who could have done it and she wouldn't want to meet them. She says they are bad and she's not and he should congratulate her. He says she's an amateur and he would have stopped her if he were there. She says she's really powerful and he shouldn't get her angry. She tells him she doesn't want to fight. That she'll think about what he said and he should try to be happy Buffy is back. He says they don't know where she was and he doesn't think she has returned undamaged.
Buffy is outside. Spike is there and he realizes she heard the argument between Giles and Willow. Buffy says it is exhausting her trying to make everyone happy. And he realizes her exhaustion just worries them more. He suggests killing them all. Buffy grins. She wonders why he's always around when she's miserable and he says it's because that's when she's alone. She asks if he knows anything about finances.
Later, Dawn comes downstairs. Neither she nor Giles is able to sleep. She suggests mixing bits of all the cereals they have into one bowl. Someone is trying the front door. It's broken down and the M'Fashnik bursts in. Buffy rushes in when Dawn screams and fights him. She's outraged at the expensive damage he has done to the house. Spike helps her get him into the basement, which is flooded. They fight in the knee deep water. He pulls down some of the pipes and Buffy grabs it and beats him to death with it shouting about copper repipe.
Jonathan, Warren, and Andrew are happy. They have the lair, the money, and Buffy killed the M'Fashnik. Of course, they worry about Buffy but decide they could hypnotize her and make her their willing sex bunny. Jonathan adds that to the todo list. He says while others work hard all their lives, they have discovered the wormhole of crime to get what they want. Andrew worries that wormholes collapse, but Warren tells him not to be a geek.
Buffy is assessing the damage. Buffy wonders who hired the demon. Willow says she could do a locator spell but at a glance from Giles decides not to. They give up on repairing the coffee table and lamp and take them to the trash. Giles tells Buffy she'll get by. That she has to handle one crisis at a time. The phone rings and she goes to answer it. Dawn thinks it's creditors. She asks if they'll starve and Giles says he doubts it. She wonders whether she'll have to quit school and work assembling cheap toys in a poorly ventilated sweatshop. Giles asks what she's been reading. Buffy comes in and tells them it was Angel on the phone. She has to meet him. Not in LA or Sunnydale, but a place in between. She has to leave right away.
Ok, I laughed out loud when Xander said "action is his reward" when questioned about Spiderman. So you can't say the episode was a complete waste. But it sure wasn't one of the greats in Buffy history. Not much of interest happened and the trio of villains it introduced aren't very promising at all.
I do like the fact that we got the real world intruding on Buffy, something we rarely see. She comments on how many times she trashed the house and how did her mother deal with it. Well, I wondered that, too, and now we are seeing the problems of daily life messing up the slayer's plans. There were a lot of amusing points along the way. Like the bank manager pointing out that real estate values in Sunnydale keep declining (not surprising given the demon infestation). Like all the damage to the house with a perpetually mounting bill. Like Buffy's completely inappropriate preparation for applying for a loan (her report cards?). On the sad side, we had the insurance money going to pay for the medical bills. A sad reality of modern American life.
But some reality was missing. Like where is Buffy's father? Shouldn't he be paying some child support and couldn't they get some additional money from him? What about her mother's business - doesn't Buffy own something there and who is looking after it? And why don't the council (who Buffy has beaten into submission) provide some financial support for the slayer? The latter could lead to some really interesting complications. In fact, any of these ideas have some significant plot potential. Even Buffy getting a job - which is likely what will happen - has more potential and makes more sense than applying for a loan she could never hope to repay.
Anya tells Xander to grow up and she has a point. His continual delay in announcing their engagement can be prettied up, but it can't be denied. He pretends he's trying to do everything perfectly, but the truth is it's never going to be perfect. That's a recipe for perpetual delay. But the Xander/Anya argument and his need to grow up in a hurry is just a comic counterpoint to the Buffy/Dawn crisis and Buffy's need to grow up in a hurry and become mother and breadwinner in the family. Both Xander and Dawn are attempting to prove their maturity. Xander by contrived arguments which he pretends are logical analyses of the situation. And Dawn by engaging in adult activities - like demon research.
Willow has grown up as witch really quickly, though she does not really have the maturity to handle the power she has. Giles' argument with her is the key scene in this episode and easily the most interesting. He's right that she acted irresponsibly and took an enormous risk for everyone. He's even righter when he realizes Buffy is damaged. Willow has convinced herself she saved Buffy from a hell dimension. But Giles has seen a little deeper and realizes they don't really know where she was or what happened to her and that those experiences are key to understanding the ennui in which she is enwrapped. It's interesting that Willow doesn't give him any real details about the spell she cast. Especially about killing the deer - a secret she has kept from everyone. Like Buffy, she is keeping a secret. But while Buffy keeps her secret to avoid hurting others, Willow keeps hers to avoid being hurt. She knows Giles is right and she's working hard at ignoring that. She knows Tara would side with Giles and she's trying not to think of that.
More seriously, Willow is establishing a pattern of allowing her emotions to control her magic. And of using her magic to satisfy her emotional needs. She used magic when she was lonely over Oz leaving her (in Something Blue), when she was angry at Glory's attack on Tara (in Tough Love), and to bring back Buffy (in Bargaining). In this episode, she threatens Giles. She tries to make light of that threat, but he must realize that getting her angry could lead to a misuse of magic. And that makes it dangerous for her to have the power.
Spike does something really important in this episode. He makes Buffy smile. A big part of any relationship is making the person you care for feel better. Spike can bring some happiness into Buffy's life. Right now, he seems to be the only one who really can because he is the only one she has trusted with her secret. Being a trusted confidant and the guy who makes you laugh is a good beginning for a potential suitor. Spike makes a trenchant point when he says Buffy is always alone when she's miserable. Her sorrow always has loneliness at its roots. When Angel or Riley left. When her mother died. And now when she feels unable to be close to her friends because of the secret she must keep. Spike has been alone a lot too. It's now something they share and something which makes the loneliness more bearable.
Some quick final thoughts. I like the fact that Anya's business acumen is not being forgotten. And I liked Tito showing up, I assume this is the guy Xander referred to in Bargaining. I loved the Vulcan voting. I like Buffy saying that she will meet Angel but not in LA or Sunnydale - obviously avoiding the forbidden crossover. It was nice the way Buffy talks about how strong the M'Fashnik was and then immediately hugs Giles so strongly he mentions how very strong she is.
Lines of the week:
"We burn the house to the ground and collect the insurance. Plus fire, pretty." - Buffy kidding.
"That's an idea, you would have." - Buffy on charging for slaying.
"Action is his reward." - Xander revealing true Spiderman expertise.
"You're throwing away a goldmine." - Willow on Buffy's dismissal of Anya's idea.
"I am your side." - Xander on his relationship with Anya.
"I love you so much, I just want every step to be just right." - Xander on why he won't announce the engagement.
"When are you gonna grow up Xander." - Anya's response to Xander's romanticism.
"You can't have the store back." - Anya being true to form.
"You're a very stupid girl." - Giles on Willow's misuse of magic.
"I knew I could get a grin." - Spike making progress.
"So what do you know about finances?" - Buffy asking Spike a question he likely doesn't have much of an answer for.
"You find as you get older that you lose patience with throwing up." - Giles imparting some adult wisdom to Dawn.
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