Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Dead Things

Summary

Buffy and Spike are on the floor at his place, having just had sex. She says the place looks good and starts talking about wanting to do something with her room. Spike begins to reply, then realizes they are having a conversation. Buffy first denies, then admits to this. She wants to leave and Spike is upset at her unwillingness to ever discuss their relationship. He asks if she likes him and she says sometimes. He holds up handcuffs and asks if she trusts him. She says never. Cut to the stooges in their new lair where Jonathan and Andrew are arguing. Warren has just finished a device which requires some magic from Jonathan and Andrew to charge. Warren says the cerebral dampener will allow them to make any woman their willing slave.

Buffy is working at Doublemeat. Tara shows up and Buffy goes on a break. Tara notices how mind numbing the place is. She thinks Buffy has called her about a problem with Willow. But Buffy says it is about her. She explains about Spike being able to hurt her and how she thinks the spell brought her back changed in some way. She asks Tara to investigate the spell. Tara doesn't think anything is wrong with Buffy, but agrees to look into it.

Warren is in a bar, scouting for the stooges' first sex slave. Jonathan and Andrew are watching via a tiepin camera. Warren spots the woman he wants and ditches his microphone so he doesn't have to listen to Jonathan and Andrew. She's his exgirlfriend Katrina (from I Was Made to Love You). She wants nothing to do with him, but he uses the cerebral dampener and she becomes his willing slave, calling him master.

Buffy arrives home to find Willow, Anya, and Xander teaching Dawn how to dance for the wedding reception. Willow invites her to come with them to the Bronze and Xander offers to buy the drinks, but Buffy says she just wants to stay home with Dawn. But Dawn is sleeping over at Janice's (Willow has confirmed this with Janice's mother). Her mother is making Mexican and teaching Dawn how to make tortillas. Dawn says she didn't think Buffy would be home, she rarely is. She leaves and Buffy agrees to go to the Bronze.

The stooges are being served champagne by Katrina, dressed in a sexy maid's outfit. Warren says he wants her first, but the others can have her when he's through. He takes her into his bedroom and makes her say she should never have left him and that she loves him. Just as they are about to have sex, Katrina comes out of the spell. She's furious. She finds Jonathan and Andrew, realizes what they did, and claims it is rape. Jonathan and Andrew realize she is Warren's ex. They try to use the device, but it's out of juice. They try to hold her, but she knocks them down. She threatens to put Warren in prison. He runs after her, she scratches his face, he hits her on the head and she falls. They realize she is dead. Warren says they are all responsible and they have to get rid of the body. Neither Jonathan nor Andrew can think of anything. Jonathan says there is a link to them, since the girl is Warren's exgirlfriend and the slayer will work this out. Andrew suggests they turn themselves in and Jonathan agrees. But Warren says maybe they can get rid of the body and Buffy at the same time.

At the Bronze, Anya and Xander are dancing. Willow joins them and Buffy wanders off, eventually going to the dark upper level where Spike finds her. He says she belongs in the dark with him. He asks what her friends would think. He caresses her and while she asks him to stop she does nothing to stop him.

The next morning, Xander and Willow are walking to the shop. Xander thinks he pulled a muscle dancing. Tara comes out of the shop with a book. Xander leaves them alone. Willow notices Tara is carrying a grimoire. She tells Tara she has not performed magic for 32 days and now can go to the shop as long as someone is with her all the time. Willow thinks she's there to check up on her, but Tara says she's looking for Buffy and asks Willow to tell Buffy to get in touch with her. They part, but Tara says she's glad Willow is doing better.

That night, Buffy goes to Spike's crypt. He senses her presence but when he opens the door she's not there. Walking through the cemetery she starts having these weird time warped experiences. She experiences things before they happen and then repeats them. There is a fight with some demons, Spike catching up with her and trying to talk to her and helping in the fight. At one point, she seems to accidently hit Katrina who falls down. She runs to the body and Spike follows. She thinks she killed Katrina. Katrina is watching from the bushes. Spike drags Buffy away and tells her it was an accident. He tells her he's going to take her home and she's to go to bed. He'll take care of things. Warren and Andrew are watching from their van and think their problems are solved. Katrina walks into the van, it's Jonathan shapeshifting. He's the Katrina Buffy fought with. He's clearly upset, but Warren says Katrina is Buffy's problem now.

Buffy is sleeping and having nightmares. She dreams of sex with Spike, handcuffing Spike, handcuffing Katrina, staking Spike, and staking Katrina. She wakes. She goes into Dawn's room and tells her what happened. She says she has to go to the police. Dawn realizes they will take her away. She says she thinks Buffy doesn't want to be with her. That she knows Buffy didn't want to come back from the dead and she wants to go away again. She claims Buffy isn't really there anyway and runs out.

Buffy is at the police station but Spike pulls her away. He tells her she can't confess. He claims he got rid of the body. But they overhear the police taking a call about a body found in the river near the cemetery. She turns to go in, but he won't let her. He says he loves her. She says he doesn't. He says he has tried not to. She hits him and tells him to try harder. They fight. She starts beating him, saying there is nothing clean in him, that he doesn't feel anything real, that she can never be his girl. Badly beaten, Spike says 'you always hurt the one you love'. She goes to the police station. Before she can confess, she hears the identification of the body as Katrina Silber. She realizes it was Warren's girlfriend.

Later, the gang are at the shop. They have found the demons Buffy fought in a book and they were the cause of the temporal disturbance. She realizes Warren did this. Dawn asks if this means she is staying and she says yes. Dawn leaves. Buffy says they have to find the stooges and stop them from getting away with it. Warren is telling the stooges they got away with it. He says the coroner labeled the death a suicide and they will deal with Buffy if she threatens them. Andrew thinks it's cool, but Jonathan seems unhappy.

Buffy is talking to Tara. Tara tells her she is unchanged in terms of her soul. But there was a slight alteration in her cellular makeup and this probably influences the technology in the chip which determines whether she is human or demon. Hence, Spike can hit her. Buffy says there must be something wrong with her and confesses that she and Spike are lovers. She says she only feels something when she's with Spike. She makes Tara promise not to tell. Tara asks if she loves him. Buffy says she's using Spike and that's wrong. She says she must be wrong and not to forgive her. She bursts into tears.

Analysis

An episode which succeeded in surprising me. A lot of unexpected things happened. I expected Jonathan to come forward at the last second and tell Buffy the truth. I expected everything to be neatly wrapped up at the end of the hour. I didn't expect Buffy to break down in front of Tara and actually admit she was using Spike. I didn't expect Tara to defend Spike. I didn't expect Dawn to get so angry and stay that way. I didn't expect an innocent person to really die. Things just got very serious in an episode which started out looking like a throwaway.

Let me start with Buffy. She finds herself increasingly drawn to Spike. Not just sexually, but in every aspect of her life. She admits to actually liking him, at least some times. She finds herself treating him more and more like a human, a boyfriend, than like a demon. She walks away from her friends and finds him in the shadows. He invades her dreams. She finds herself struggling not to think of him.

Buffy cannot reconcile her seeming inability to rid herself of desire for Spike with her slayer nature. This is a slightly different form of the slayer angst Buffy felt last season. Then she worried that being the slayer had turned her hard, made her incapable of love, and driven away Riley. This season she fears that there is something wrong with her, caused by the spell which brought her back to life. Something which makes her susceptible to Spike's demon charm. Something which over rides what she believes is the normal revulsion she should feel for him. She says Spike is all the things she stands against. She calls him unclean and soulless. For a long time, she tried to pretend her relationship with him was purely physical. Then she tried to convince herself it was a result of the spell. But when Tara tells her the spell has not changed her spiritually, only physically, she's devastated. She breaks down. She's forced to accept the reality of her feelings for Spike and that turns her whole world topsy-turvy. The triangle of her lovers now include Angel, Riley, and Spike. Which one doesn't fit?

Spike, to his credit, seeks to establish a relationship with Buffy. He isn't happy with just sex. While Buffy argues he has no soul, he's the one acting in a soulful manner in the relationship. It brings him pleasure when they have a simple conversation. He uses sex to break down the barriers to a relationship, not as an end in itself. He's the one trying to save her. He tried that last week, in Doublemeat Palace, when he tried to get her to walk away from her soul destroying job. He tries it this week when he tries to get her to open herself up to a relationship and even more so when he tries to stop her from going to the police. But Spike makes two tactical errors while also achieving one spectacular success.

His first error happens at the Bronze when he talks to Buffy about how her friends would respond if they knew about her relationship with him. This feeds Buffy's fear and leads to further polarization of her attitude toward Spike. Spike does this because he intuitively realizes it is a hot point for her. He's striving for an emotional response, recognizing that his major advantage is the ability to evoke emotion in Buffy, make her feel alive. Something she later confesses to Tara, saying she only feels when with Spike. But this is the wrong emotion. He evokes her growing sense of guilt, which leads to her decision to turn herself in.

And that's when Spike makes his second error, trying to rationalize Buffy's killing of Katrina. He makes it a numbers issue, saying the lives she saved outweigh the death she caused. But Buffy's a hero, she thinks in absolutes, not relatives. Spike is intelligent enough to know this. But he's desperate, fearful of Buffy going to jail and being forever away from him. This mistake leads to her turning against him. By treating as quantifiable the loss of life, he makes more evident to Buffy his demon nature. This makes her angry, at him and at herself for caring for him. This leads to her violent outburst.

That's when Spike does the spectacular. At first, he tries to fight off Buffy. But then he realizes he cannot defeat her physically. Any victory would be a hollow one. Instead, he gives up. He lets her beat him to a pulp and then caps it with the line "You always hurt the one you love". The last time Spike was so badly beaten was by Glory in Intervention. It was then he first demonstrated his love for Buffy, his willingness to sacrifice himself for her. That's when she first kissed him. And she characterized that willingness to sacrifice himself as real. As she looks down at his badly beaten face, professing love for her, she has to remember that previous occasion and how it changed her understanding of Spike.

When Spike asks Buffy how her friends would respond to their relationship, he makes the tactical error I mention above. But he's also wrong about their response. He underestimates their sensitivity. When Tara learns of their relationship, she says it is alright to love him. That he has done good and he loves Buffy. But she also thinks it is alright not to love him, to be involved in a nonromantic relationship which meets other needs. And that's what Buffy finds hardest of all to accept. That bothers her more than coming back as a demon. It means she is using Spike (and she actually uses those words) to satisfy herself. He is the wronged one. He's the one in love, the one seeking a relationship with a soulful meaning and she's the one acting like a demon. But she has a soul, she knows better. And that's why she cries.

In a lot of ways, Buffy's relationship with Spike is the most normal relationship she has ever had. There are no secrets between them. When she first met Angel, he kept his vampire identity a secret. And it wasn't until it was too late that she found out all the details of the spell. Parker posed as a nice guy, but was just looking for another notch on his bed post. Riley turned out to be part of an experiment and half brother to a cyborg monster. Each of these lovers turned into something Buffy definitely did not want. But Spike is what he appears to be. Buffy knows all his failings and if he has any surprises, they are positive ones. It's interesting that this is the hardest relationship for Buffy to commit to while at the same time being the most honest and open of her relationships (she deceives her friends, but she and Spike do not deceive each other).

It's interesting to note the parallels between Warren's use of the cerebral dampener on Katrina turning her into a sex slave and Spike using the Buffybot built by Warren in Intervention. Both make their slave say things like 'I love you'. But Spike knows he has a machine, not the real thing. He never wants to enslave Buffy, he wants her to love him. The Buffybot is a poor substitute. Warren enslaves the real Katrina. He doesn't want Katrina to love him, he wants the poor substitute. He's ready to settle for that. Spike never dehumanizes Buffy, but Warren dehumanizes Katrina. And that makes Warren much more evil than Spike.

Like Buffy, Warren also knows better. He knows that a relationship without meaning is shallow and unfulfilling. But he's ready to take what pleasure he can. Unlike Buffy, he's ready to force himself on someone unwilling. And that's where this episode took a very dark turn. Rape and murder just aren't the regular themes on Buffy, especially not when a human does them. And, in this case, three humans we've come to know pretty well.

In the three, we see three different responses to the situation. Warren can only think of himself. When he realizes Katrina is dead, his only concern is to get rid of the body and avoid responsibility. Andrew realizes what they are doing is wrong, but he's easily seduced by evil. Warren doesn't simply browbeat him into cooperating (although he does do that). In the end, Andrew is fascinated by the ease with which they got away with it. He still sees himself as a comic book supervillain - exactly the misunderstanding Katrina was trying to clarify when she was killed.

When Andrew and Jonathan realized Katrina was Warren's exgirlfriend, they realized how sick he was. When she accused them of rape, they realized exactly how bad a thing they had become involved in. But her death stopped them from thinking about it any further. Everything began to happen very quickly and they followed Warren's lead. It was easy for Warren to act, because he was the only one who didn't need to think things through, the only one who didn't need to understand the moral issues involved. Warren had already abandoned morality. Andrew has put his morality aside, excited by the sick game they are playing. But Jonathan is still thinking for himself and like a human.

Jonathan takes the active role in fooling Buffy, but when he returns to the truck he clearly is not happy about his performance. And he's openly critical of what they have done and how they are responding to it. When he sees Andrew following Warren's lead, excited at the thought of escaping the consequences of their crime, he clearly only pretends agreement. Of the three, Jonathan is the one who has benefited most from Buffy. She saved him in Superstar and earlier in Earshot. It was he who gave her the class protector award in The Prom. And I think he is the weak chink in the stooges. The one who will ultimately help Buffy.

Some quick final thoughts. I was glad to see the zombie worker from Doublemeat is still there. It's really difficult to tell whether Spike and Buffy are simulating sex or simulating simulating sex. I like that little smile which passes between Xander and Tara. When Willow says they miss Buffy and Tara says she's sure Buffy feels the same, clearly they are really talking about themselves and their relationship or at least trying to.

Lines of the week:

"I ate a decorator once." - Spike on his home decorating skills and where they come from.

"Do you even like me?" - Spike asking the scariest question.

"I think maybe I came back wrong." - Buffy articulating her biggest fear and her biggest hope.

"You always hurt the one you love." - Spike letting Buffy know he sees through her lies.

"You always hurt the one you love." - Buffy understanding Warren's motivation.

"He's done a lot of good and he does love you." - Tara summing up Spike.

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