Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Gone

Summary

Buffy is clearing the house of all magical items (including candles). Dawn, her arm in a sling from her accident, is upset that so many things she likes are being removed. They are doing this so the items won't be there to tempt Willow, who is watching and looking sad. Willow points out there are crystals which belong to Tara. Buffy says she'll make sure she gets them. Downstairs, Dawn is still upset and Buffy explains the situation to her again. She says they have to get rid of everything which might remind Willow of magic so she won't be tempted. As she says this, she finds Spike's lighter and remembers their night together when they trashed the building. She tosses it into the box with the rest of the stuff she is getting rid of.

Warren has finished building a gun and the last step is putting in the diamond they stole. He fires it at a chair, making it invisible. He fires it again, bringing the chair back to visibility. They have an invisibility ray and Warren thinks this will make them unstoppable.

Next morning, Buffy is calling Dawn for breakfast, she's late for school again. Willow is making her an omelet. Willow is still shaky, but feeling better. Dawn comes down, pretends she didn't hear Buffy calling and refuses anything to eat. Willow asks Buffy why Dawn is angry with her when Willow is the one who messed up. Buffy says it was partly her fault, that she didn't notice the trouble her best friend was in. Spike, wrapped in a blanket and smoldering, comes in. He says he noticed his lighter is missing and came to see if it was there. Buffy says she hasn't seen it. Willow goes upstairs to get dressed. Buffy says his excuse for being there is lame. He says he is fond of the lighter and calls her 'luv'. She says not to call her that. He asks if he should call her pet, sweetheart, or Goldilocks. He touches her hair and says he loves it. She gets angry and goes to hit him with a spatula, but he grabs her hand and stops her. Xander enters and things Spike is hitting on Buffy again. He says he doesn't have a chance. Only a simpleton like Harmony or a nut like Drusilla would hook up with a loser like Spike. Buffy interrupts this rant and tells him he has to take Dawn to school. Dawn is ready.

They open the door and Doris Kroger from social services is there to talk about Dawn. Buffy forget she was coming. Buffy sends Dawn and Xander off and Doris comes in. She notes Dawn is late for school. Spike is there and still wants to talk to Buffy. She explains who Doris is and he tries to help, saying Buffy is a good mother and gives the example of how she stopped Dawn from hanging out at his crypt so much. Buffy says he said crib. She gets him to leave and Doris thinks he sleeps there because of the blanket. Buffy says he just has security issues. She says she lives alone with Dawn. Then Willow calls down to say she's not feeling well and is going to take a nap. She explains Willow lives there as well. Doris thinks she and Willow are together, but Buffy says they aren't although Willow is gay. Doris finds some magic herbs in a plastic bag in one of the boxes and obviously thinks it is pot. Buffy denies it, but Doris has already made up her mind. She points out Dawn's grades are falling and she's frequently absent from or late for school. She says she doesn't think Buffy can provide the stable home life needed. She says she's putting Buffy on probation which means she'll be monitoring her closely. She says if things don't improve, she'll take Dawn away.

Doris leaves and Spike pops up, he never left. He wants to talk to Buffy about what happened but she yells at him to leave. he reaches into her pants pocket, pulls out his lighter, and leaves. Buffy, angry, grabs a scissors and cuts her hair. Next, we see her in a salon asking the stylist to make her look different. Outside, the stooges are planning an attack with their invisibility ray - their plan is to turn themselves invisible and walk through a spa and spy on women in various stages of undress. It's bikini wax Wednesday. But Buffy walks by and they panic. Jonathan and Andrew start fighting over the invisibility gun, set it off, and turn Buffy and some objects on the street, invisible.

Xander and Anya are working on seating arrangements for the wedding. They have Buffy at table four with Xander's parents. He wants her at table one, but that's where Anya has D'Hoffryn. He says they shouldn't invite D'Hoffryn and Anya says as her exboss she has to invite him and that Xander is inviting his friends from work. Buffy enters and agrees. They notice they can't see her and she tells them she is invisible. Xander thinks she became invisible the way the girl, Marcie, in the first season episode Invisible Girl did, by being ignored. Buffy explains what happened, although she didn't see the stooges and doesn't know who did this to her. She's pretty playful through this, picking up stuff and fooling around and making jokes. Anya is interested in how she cut her hair and whether she should get her hair cut before the wedding. Anya also wonders why anyone would do this to her since an invisible slayer is even more dangerous. Xander wants to concentrate on how it was done rather than who, so they can figure out how to undo it. He says he'll go to where it happened and look for clues. Buffy leaves, saying she wants to take a walk and clear her head. Anya thinks it was a spell and an accident. Xander wonders who would be messing with such magic, then clearly thinks of Willow.

Willow is at home doing research. She almost uses magic to bring a book to her, but stops. Xander comes in. He's acting funny and asks if there is something she wants to tell him. She feels guilty about the near relapse and thinks he's talking about that. He realizes she doesn't know about Buffy and tells her. She gets angry that he would automatically blame her. He brings up the forgetting spell in Tabula Rasa and this gets her angrier. She wonders whether she shouldn't just fall off the wagon and not even try. She leaves.

Warren is trying to fix the invisibility gun. The stooges are worried about the invisible slayer stalking them. Buffy is in the park. She takes a cap off a woman and tells her it is a fashion mistake. The woman flees. She then sees a car being ticketed and drives off in the parking patrolman's vehicle, forcing him to chase her and leave the car alone. She drives to social services and finds Doris' office. She starts fooling around with Doris' coffee mug. Doris seems to be acting strangely in the eyes of her coworkers, complaining her coffee mug is disappearing. Then Buffy starts whispering to her 'kill, kill, kill'. Pretty soon, Doris is shouting at the mug and everyone in the office is staring at her. Doris goes to collect herself and Buffy finds her file, takes it, and replaces it. When Doris returns, her boss wants to discuss the file. Doris hands it to him and all it has are sheets with the line 'all work and no play makes Doris a dull girl'. More pages with this text are coming out of the printer. Doris claims she didn't write this and starts talking about the voice and the dancing mug. Her boss tells her to take the rest of the day off and see her doctor. He says he'll put someone else on her cases and have the interview with Buffy redone. Buffy exits, whistling.

Xander is at the scene of the invisibility attack. Willow is also there, using spray paint to make the street items which were made invisible, visible. She has found tire tracks, indicated a vehicle sped away. And black paint on an invisible fire hydrant which she thinks came from the speeding vehicle. Xander thinks it is the phantom van from Life Serial. They also find an invisible traffic cone which Willow sprays. She tells him to take it to the shop and see if it helps in their research. She's going to track down the van.

Spike is in his crypt, watching tv and drinking blood. Buffy enters. He thinks it's a ghost, but when she hurls him against the wall and rips open his shirt, he realizes it is her. Anya and Xander are researching. She suggests putting D'Hoffryn at table four with his parents and uncle Rory at table five near the bar. He says they are looking for invisibility spells and she says she hasn't found anything which explains why things near Buffy turned invisible. She touches the cone and it breaks. She says it feels like pudding. Xander touches it and has the same thing happen. Xander realizes the same thing will happen to Buffy.

Warren has also figured this out and explains it to the stooges. The others don't want to kill anybody. Warren is happy to let Buffy die, but Jonathan insists he save her and he seems to agree. Xander enters Spike's crypt. It looks like it has been trashed. Spike is in his bed, obviously having sex with invisible Buffy. He tries to talk to Xander, who wants to know if he has seen Buffy, while she grabs at him or tickles him. He's acting really strangely, pretending he was exercising. Xander leaves, telling him he really needs to get a girlfriend. Spike is angry with Buffy and she says it's perfect since Xander couldn't see her. He's upset, saying that's perfect for her. She doesn't understand, saying she thought this is what he wanted. He gets angrier, saying she's only there because she's not. She says being invisible makes her feel free of life. He says that's another way of saying dead. He tells her to leave. But she starts doing something to him.

Willow is doing research on the Internet. She's really tempted to use her powers to speed it up, but resists. Buffy is walking home, kicking a can, and griping about how insensitive Spike it. She gets home, nobody is there. She raids the fridge. Dawn comes home and Buffy starts fooling around, but Dawn is freaked out. She runs off. Buffy sees she has a phone message and plays it. It is Xander and Anya explaining that she may die if they don't reverse the invisibility. Willow has found the van and enters the stooges' lair. She sees the plans for the invisibility ray. She goes to get the gun, but is grabbed by the stooges who have made themselves invisible and say she is their first hostage.

Buffy is going to leave to find Xander, but the phone rings. It's Jonathan, telling her they have Willow. She thinks she knows his voice, so he starts disguising it. They arrange to meet at the arcade. At the arcade, she sees Willow who tells her there are three invisible guys. Warren is there, but the others are playing a game. Warren has them all move to a less crowded area and takes the invisibility gun. Warren says he's going to reverse the process, but Willow sees he has the gun set to kill her. Jonathan wants to know what is happening. Warren knocks down Willow. Buffy throws an air hockey mallet at Warren. Jonathan and Andrew are angry at Warren, but realize Buffy will attack them all. All the invisible people start fighting. This scares the kids in the arcade who run out. Willow grabs the gun and fires, making Buffy and Jonathan visible. She then gets Warren and Andrew. Buffy and Willow recognize Jonathan and Warren, but not Andrew. But the others explain he is Tucker's brother. They say they are her arch nemesis and Jonathan sets off a smoke bomb so they can escape. But the door they are going to is locked. A policeman comes in to find out what is happening and while Buffy is distracted by him they do escape. Willow notes how great Buffy's hair is.

Buffy and Willow are outside. Buffy asks how she found the van and she says the spell free way. Buffy congratulates her on a good first step. She says she'll have to deal with Dawn, who is upset. She says when she got the call from Xander, she was scared. She doesn't want to die. But a few days earlier, she wouldn't have minded. So she's taken a first step, too.

Analysis

I'm always telling people this is the best show on television. But episodes like this make it hard to convince them. This episode ranged from mediocre to - well - mediocre. It had one or two interesting thoughts and half an interesting idea. Maybe, a few episodes deeper into the season, we'll look back and see the seeds of something really good here. But as it stands, it was a qualified failure.

Buffy has been thrown into adulthood and adult responsibilities several times. When she became a slayer, she had to give up most of the things of her teen years (like being a cheerleader and being socially active) and go out slaying demons. When her mother died, she had to take over responsibility for Dawn. When she was brought back from the dead, she had to take on the economic responsibility for the household. These are things which happened to her in her late teens and early 20s. She's never had time to do the dumb things most kids in their teens get to do. Sure, she got drunk (in Beer Bad) and had a lot of sex (pretty much all through season 4 and then part of last season and this season). But, for the most part, she's had to act responsibly. So it's no surprise that she takes advantage of her invisibility to be irresponsible.

It starts with fooling around in the store with Xander and Anya. Then she has some fun with the social worker. But the important part comes when she goes to visit Spike. For Buffy, this is a no strings relationship. She's never really listened to anything Spike has said to her. Or she simply refuses to believe that Spike has feelings. She thinks he's like Parker (from season 4). That he's just interested in sex. But when he gets sex, he's unhappy. He wants more. Spike wants a relationship, recognition, commitment. He wants the stuff adults have, the stuff Xander and Anya have. And that scares Buffy. Buffy really wants her childhood back. She wants to be carefree and have fun. Only that can never happen. She's stuck with the hand fate has dealt her and while there are a lot of good cards there, there are some losers as well.

When Spike kicks her out, for acting like a kid, she's angry. She goes home continuing to act like a kid and that frightens Dawn. Spike and Dawn, the two people she is building a relationship with, need her to be an adult. They need her to work on those relationships with them. Dawn needs her to take the role of mother (and the social worker had some good points here - Buffy has to think of what is good for Dawn and not what's fun for her). Spike wants her to take the role of lover. And if she's not capable of that, she shouldn't be pretending. For Spike, sex is the route to commitment. When it becomes clear to him that's not the case, he backs off. The responses of Dawn and Spike get Buffy thinking.

Ultimately, this leads to Buffy's realization that she wants to live. Spike tells her freedom is death and she realizes she doesn't want that. She fights to get her life (via the metaphor of invisibility) back. The invisibility gun can make her visible again (thus bringing her back to life) or permanently invisible (killing her). She has no trouble knowing which way she wants to go. This is very different from the depressed Buffy who confronted the singing, dancing demon in Once More, With Feeling. Not that Buffy is really happy yet. She hasn't resolved her problems. She still has to deal with Dawn and figure out how to be sister/friend/mother. And she has to deal with Spike and figure out what relationship she wants with him. But she has taken the first step of realizing that she does want to deal, not run away or disappear.

I always find Buffy most frightening when it deals with real life issues. It's easy to defeat a demon whom you can use a spell against or stake or just beat to death. It's way harder to defeat a bureaucratic entity like the social services department. Doris may be gone, but someone else will come to interview Buffy. And she'll have to do a better job in that interview. It seems that this season is about Buffy coping with the mundane problems of real life: money, job, parenting, friendships, and relationships. Buffy realizes she has misunderstood the needs of Dawn and Spike, but she also realizes she has ignored the needs of her oldest and best friend, Willow. And that's far more significant. After all, Dawn and Spike and the relationships she has with them are new and complicated. But she knows Willow well. They roomed together in school and live in the same house now. And Buffy, absorbed in herself, ignored what was happening to her.

It's interesting that Buffy recognizes these things are connected. It's a bit like the seating arrangement problem Anya and Xander have. If you move one person, then you have to move another. Each table can only hold so many people and the room can only hold so many tables. Her obsession with herself blinded her to the problems Willow and Dawn faced. Then she focused so much on Spike, she ignored the others. But she has also ignored Spike for them. The opening scene was a graphic representation of this. All three of these people were in the house and Buffy failed them all. She didn't have time to help Willow. She wasn't able to deal with Dawn. And all she could do was reject Spike. She didn't listen to any of them, didn't try to understand their pain. Dawn, feeling isolated and hurt and seeing so many things she likes being removed from the house (in Buffy's attempt to help Willow), needs Buffy to reassure her. Willow, still dealing with her addiction and feeling guilty because of Dawn's obvious anger, needs Buffy to support her. Spike, in love, needs Buffy to listen to him but she's too obsessed with Dawn problems to hear anything he says. She helps none of them and so when the social worker arrives she is seen as failing.

By the end of the episode, she is attempting to support Willow (although she realized earlier her failure to support Willow previously was one of the things Dawn held against her). That's a start, the first step they refer to. This is a very different ending from Wrecked. In that episode, Buffy was left alone in her room with garlic and crosses hiding from everyone and everything. At the end of this episode, she is supporting Willow, sitting with her, and realizing she has to do something for Dawn. And she might even realize she has to do something for Spike that goes beyond sex.

I have to believe that at some time in the near future Xander will put two and two together and figure out what is really happening between Spike and Buffy. In fact, a friend of mine believes Xander does know what is happening but just won't admit it yet. It's interesting that Xander, the most normal of the characters, is the one who seems to listen to everyone. He realizes something more than invisibility is wrong with Buffy. He understands the hardship Willow is going through and tries to support her. He hears her anger. And he realizes something is wrong with Spike. He's doing the things Buffy should be doing, which may explain while Xander has the only successful relationship in the group.

Some quick final thoughts. I've got to guess that in their first clinch, Spike felt his lighter in Buffy's pants. Else how did he know it was there? Also, since she tossed it into a box, she must have retrieved it later. Indicating she wasn't ready to let go of Spike. I think it's pretty clear the stooges are a case of arrested development. Using the invisibility ray to spy on naked girls is the kind of thing kids fantasize about. You'd think guys this age would just get real girlfriends. We know at least Warren had one. It was really nice to see the continuity with the first season episode Invisible Girl. Most shows have the characters act as if nothing outside of that particular episode ever happened. I liked the fact that Anya and Willow both really focused on Buffy cutting her hair. You've also got to appreciate the nod to The Shining. I loved the fact that the girl in the horror film Spike is watching screaming about all the blood makes him hungry. In Wrecked, Dawn said Buffy always hits the fridge when she comes home. We got evidence of that here. We also got a reference to the somewhat alcoholic uncle Rory. While the folks at Pottery Barn will probably object, it was good to see someone take a stand against candles. There are just way too many of them.

Lines of the week:

"Rhymes with blinvisible." - Xander showing a lack of rhyming ability.

"I am the ghost of fashion victims past." - Buffy clearly thinking she is in the Christmas special.

"I told you, stop trying to see me." - Buffy with some sexy advice for Spike.

"A man shouldn't use immortality as an excuse to let himself go." - Spike with words of wisdom.

"You know, kidding aside Spike, you really should get a girlfriend." - Xander with some words of wisdom for Spike.

"Ok, that's cheating." - Spike on Buffy performing an invisible sex act just out of camera range.

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