Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Life Serial

Summary

Buffy returns home from meeting Angel with a bucket of chicken. But the gang have already eaten. They have some chicken anyway and ask Buffy about her meeting with Angel. But she doesn't want to talk about it. Giles says they've been talking about her plans. She says she's thought about it and starts talking about how she can pay the bills. But he says he meant her plans for life. She says she had thought of returning to school, but it is too late to register. Willow and Tara suggest she audit courses with them until she can register next semester. She thinks it's a good idea and asks Giles what he thinks.

Jonathan, Andrew, and Warren (whom I will call the stooges for brevity's sake) are thinking about the slayer. Warren has outfitted a van as a surveillance vehicle. Andrew is painting the deathstar from Star Wars on the side, but he agrees to paint over it when Warren says they have to remain secret and unnoticed by the slayer. He says they'll attack her tomorrow.

Buffy is in class with Willow. Willow calls the teacher Mike, which seems weird to Buffy. Everyone is eager to answer the teacher's question and they all understand everything. Buffy feels lost. After class, she realizes she needs time to get acclimated. In the hall, someone bumps into her secretly attaching something to her clothes. We see it is Warren. He has a mike and talks to the others who are in the van. They can see him through the security cameras in the school. He tells them to initiate. Tara tells Buffy she has 20 minutes before class and gives Buffy her text to look through. There is a strange noise and time seems to jump forward. Buffy hasn't heard what Tara was saying. Then time leaps forward again and Tara is going to class calling to Buffy. The next thing Buffy knows, Tara is coming out of class wondering where she was. Buffy looks at the clock and it moves rapidly. Tara disappears and when Buffy runs outside everyone seems to be rushing around at hyper speed. They smash into her and to get out of harm's way, she crawls under a table. She realizes something is on her clothes and finds the device on her jacket. The stooges see this and press the self destruct device, returning everything to normal. Andrew and Jonathan score Warren, giving him 220. It's Andrew's turn next.

Buffy is going to work with Xander at a construction site. He called in some favours and got her a temporary job. She says she much prefers this to the offer to work at the magic shop which Giles made. Giles isn't sure whether there really was a device or if she was having blackouts and she wonders if he is right. Xander introduces her to Tony, who isn't impressed at having such a tiny woman on his crew. Xander leaves and Tony assigns Buffy to carry some heavy beams. Of course, they are amazed at her strength. One of the guys tells her to slow down, that she's ruining it for the rest of them.

The stooges are there and see her. Andrew plays music on something I think is a pan pipe. Buffy senses something strange. Tony comes to talk to her and she knocks him aside because there is a demon behind him. There are several demons and she fights them as they trash the place and toss aside several of the other workers. She slays them, but they evaporate when destroyed. The stooges quarrel over the binoculars and accidently hit the horn which plays the theme from Star Wars (Andrew's idea). Buffy hears this and notices the van. Xander comes down and wonders what happens. Tony, who was knocked out and never saw the demons, thinks Buffy went crazy. None of the others will back up her story because they are embarrassed at being scared and having a girl protect them. Xander says he thinks the events at school and the demon attack are connected and someone is messing with her. He says she should go see Giles and try to figure out who the demons were. She realizes he's firing her.

Buffy is at the magic shop, now working in retail. The stooges have bugged the shop and are watching, but are bored. Andrew points out she was a student, a construction worker, and now a sales person. Warren says she's completely without focus. They wonder if they can get cable porn on their monitors. Jonathan is ready and casts a spell. A woman comes in the store. Giles gives Buffy some advice. Anya tells her to sell the woman something. A man asks her advice about which candle to buy and she gives him Lemon Seduction. The woman wants a mummy's hand and Buffy goes downstairs to get it. The hand attacks Buffy and she stabs it with the dagger of Lex. The woman refuses to buy it. We loop back to Giles giving Buffy advice. Jonathan explains he cast a spell forcing her to satisfy a customer but making the task difficult to perform. The same things happen - Anya comes over, the man asks about the candle, the woman wants the mummy hand. The stooges wonders whether she'll solve the time loop faster than Data did on TNG or Mulder on the X-Files. She cuts the fingers off the mummy hand and the woman won't accept it. Next iteration she realizes what is happening and rushes through it, the mummy hand attacks the woman. In subsequent iterations Buffy tries leaving the store only to find herself back in it. She stares despondently at the hand. She rips the bell off the door. She gets desperate and gives the candle seeking man the slug scented candle. The stooges start doing the Monty Python parrot skit only about the hand. Buffy breaks Giles' glasses, attacks the woman, attacks the candle man, and cries. Finally, Buffy offers to special order the hand and breaks the loop by satisfying the customer. The stooges still can't figure out which of them won. Anya points out Buffy forgot to charge for delivery and says they'll take it out of her pay. Buffy takes off her name tag and leaves.

Buffy is at Spike's crypt, drinking with him. She seems to hate the taste, but keeps on drinking. Spike says she should try the demon scene, throw a few punches, ask a few questions. She agrees to go. They go to a demon bar where Buffy gets a bottle and they go into the back room where a card game is in progress. Spike tosses out one of the players and sits in. He explains to Buffy that they will talk while playing. They ante up and Buffy discovers they are playing for kittens.

The stooges are in their van looking for Buffy. They get into a debate about who was the best Bond. Warren says Connery, Jonathan Moore, and Andrew Dalton. Spike has won and is ready to leave. The others accuse him of cheating, but it's clear they cheated. He's ready to fight them, but Buffy isn't. She frees the kittens and walks out. She tells Spike she's freak. Too strong for construction work and bored by retail. And the only person she can talk to is a neutered vampire who cheats at kitten poker. She walks out of the bar. The stooges are still arguing about who was the best Bond. Buffy recognizes the van. Jonathan sees her coming toward them. As she approaches, a demon appears and says he was the one testing Buffy. The van drives off. Buffy fights him, poorly because she is drunk, and he claims he is mortally wounded. He sets off a smoke bomb and runs away. Buffy thinks he exploded. And she's kind of sick. The demon runs up to the van and turns into Jonathan. Warren points out they have all kinds of data on Buffy now and can really be a threat to her. Andrew points out they also found free cable porn.

Buffy is home, being sick and talking to Giles. She says she has screwed up. He says she's too tough on herself. She says the phone company doesn't think so. He gives her a cheque. She refuses, but when he offers to take it back she admits she was just being polite. She says it's like having her mom back. When being her mother doesn't appeal to Giles, she asks if he wants to be her shiftless, absentee father. He asks if there is a rakish uncle. She goes to show it to Dawn. She tells him it makes her feel safe knowing he's always going to be there.

Analysis

Recently, someone wrote to me arguing that Jonathan, Andrew, and Warren (who for the sake of brevity I will now refer to as the stooges) parallel Buffy. It was a good theory and it provoked an epiphany in me. The stooges aren't a parallel to Buffy, they are a parallel to Willow. They are, in essence, Willow light. Using magic, they seek to short cut the normal process - getting power, money, and sex without having to do any work. In the past, Jonathan used magic to make himself cool, Warren to make himself a girlfriend, and Andrew to take revenge on the drama club. They are using magic (and technology) to do pretty much the same thing now, only on a bigger scale. In the past, Willow used magic to deal with Oz leaving and revenge herself on Glory when Tara was hurt. Now she has used it to bring Buffy back to life.

The stooges have bad motives. They always want something for themselves - control over people or material gain. Willow has good motives for the most part. She wants to be happy, she wants her friends to be happy, she wants to destroy evil. But both use black magic to accomplish their aims. While the stooges use small magics and have relatively limited goals, Willow has used a really powerful magic and has accomplished something great - bringing Buffy back from the dead. The stooges realize their motives are bad, but they don't really care. Their only goal is to escape punishment. Willow thinks her motives are good and that they justify her use of black magic. But the ends never justify the means. As bad as the stooges are they are merely selfish. Willow, pretending to be good, has performed an enormous evil.

I wonder whether the stooges aren't in some way a result of Willow's magic. As Spike says, there are always consequences. In this episode, they pester Buffy - causing her aggravation and sorrow. Her daily life is harmed - she loses a job. But the hurts they perform are temporary and don't go to the soul. Buffy is able to defeat them - by destroying their technology, defeating the demons they send, and solving the riddle of their magic. But Willow has dealt a soul damaging blow to Buffy. She's brought her back but cast her into perpetual depression (drinking with Spike is a good sign of that). And there is nothing here for Buffy to defeat. No externalized evil to vanquish. The stooges attack Buffy from without, attempt to confuse and disorient her. They believe the information they have gathered will help them battle her. But Willow has planted a virus deep within Buffy's being. This isn't something she can see or fight, but something she has to live with. And, as Buffy said in The Gift, the hardest part of life is living it.

I liked seeing Buffy attempt to go back to school and get a job. The school experience was an interesting and typical one. Buffy is actually really bright (we learnt that from her test scores at the end of her high school career). She's also really quick, look at fast she figures things out. And, despite appearances to the contrary, she has a good work ethic. But when you are out of the rhythm of school for a while, it appears really difficult. Walking into a class in the middle of the semester is like being in a room full of people talking a foreign language. I'm sure lots of viewers have had the same experience.

Getting your first job is also tough (although Buffy did work as a waitress in Anne so she has some work experience and knows something about crummy jobs). Construction seemed a great fit. Although Buffy isn't that good at putting things together (she's more a breaking apart type of girl), she certainly is strong enough. And she would have done well if it weren't for the stooges. Retail does not seem her strength, although she did a good job in the first iteration - selecting the right candle and making the man happy and remembering where the mummy's hand was and going to get it. From these experiences, we can argue that Buffy can succeed at almost anything she wants to do. The secret is to find something she really enjoys doing.

In high school, at the job fair, she was selected as a candidate for law enforcement and it certainly seems a good fit for her. I have to wonder whether the Sunnydale police force accepts high school graduates or if you need a university degree (where I live you definitely need a university degree to join the city police force). There's also private security. And Buffy could start her own agency, a la Angel. Which, when you come down to it, is what Anya suggested in Flooded. Self employment would be the best thing since it would allow her the freedom she needs.

The best scene in the episode was certainly the last, when Buffy tells Giles how his presence makes her feel safe and secure and how glad she is that he is staying. I think this is the moment at which Giles decides he has to leave. As Buffy's father substitute (and mother as well, now) his presence inhibits her growth. She has to leave home and achieve independence. Or, in this case, he has to leave. This was foreshadowed in the opening scene when Buffy, thinking about her plans for the future and auditing some courses, defers to Giles. It's clear that with him there, she will not consistently take control of her own life but will turn to him for direction.

Spike tells Buffy she's a creature of the darkness like him. That her life will become less complicated when she understands that. He's right and wrong. Having returned from the dead, Buffy is linked to the otherworld. She does walk in the otherworldly realm. But she's also connected to the world of light. Through her family (Dawn) and her friends. She still feels the weight of responsibilities. She can't simply run free the way Spike does. She still has a controlling moral sense. This is brought to the fore when she frees the kittens. She may associate with demons, but she hasn't accepted their morals or lack of them. However, Spike is right that part of Buffy's problem is her attempt to make herself into something she is not. To play the role of a normal person when she isn't one. She has to reconcile these two aspects of her existence and nature in order to be really happy.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked the construction workers lying about having a little girl defend them against demons. What else would you expect? I loved the way the Buffy/Angel meeting was talked about and not talked about. Both here and in the Angel episode this week, Fredless. It's hysterical the way the no crossover rule is adhered to while being totally ignored. Willow's breast gal remark was a little out of character and rather risque for Buffy which is generally subtler. What's with the numbers? I've noticed Willow and Dawn have been wearing clothes with numbers on them. In this episode, Buffy had a jacket with 8 on it. Do these numbers mean something. Was she behind the 8 ball in this episode? When Buffy kills the hand, she tries to pretend it's still alive, a brief homage to the Monty Python dead parrot skit. The stooges later pick up on this and start doing the skit with the hand as the topic. Warren is clearly the smartest of the stooges, since he realizes Connery was the best Bond. Andrew is clearly insane, since he thinks it was Dalton. Would even a drunk Buffy be fooled by Jonathan's demon act? Buffy gets fried chicken and in Fredless Angel gets ice cream, comfort foods which suggests their meeting really did end unhappily.

Lines of the week:

"What do you think Giles?" - Buffy demonstrating why Giles has to leave.

"It's like she's completely without focus." - Warren on the slayer's problems.

"Stop touching my magic bone." - Jonathan demonstrating he can't say or do anything without sounding and looking stupid.

"Just picture yourself naked." - Anya with very strange advice.

"Scully wants me so bad." - Andrew demonstrating what a geek he is.

"Don't make me pull over, ok." - Warren with the right attitude toward someone who likes Timothy Dalton as Bond.

"They're delicious." - Demon on why you'd gamble for kittens.

"I think at one point I actually turned completely inside out." - Buffy on why you shouldn't drink.

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