Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Seeing Red

Summary

It's morning, Willow and Tara are in bed. Willow worries about Buffy who didn't come home. She says seeing her reaction to the scene in the magic shop made her wonder about her relationship with Spike. Tara tells her that they were sleeping together, that Buffy confessed this to her. Willow is shocked, especially at not being told. They think Buffy needs someone to talk to and Willow goes and knocks on her bedroom door, hoping she returned silently. No one is there, but Dawn is up (it's 10) and comes out of her room. She wonders whether Buffy will hurt Spike. She says it was obvious about Buffy and Spike. Tara, wrapped in a blanket, shows up. Dawn is thrilled Willow and Tara are back together. She says she'll go watch tv, loudly, in the basement where she can't hear anything.

Buffy breaks into the stooges' lair. They've fled. She picks up some papers and then these whirling saws attack. She flees as the house is destroyed. Her jacket has been cut by the saws. At the house, Willow and Tara come downstairs where Buffy and Dawn are. Buffy tells them what happened at the lair and gives them the documents she found, which are somewhat cut up by the saws, to decipher. They wonder about contacting Xander, but Buffy doesn't think that's a good idea yet. Dawn suggests Spike, but Buffy says he's not part of the team. Dawn asks if that means he won't be coming around and Buffy says she doesn't know. They wonder about Anya, but Buffy says she's also not likely to be in the mood.

Anya, still trying to be a vengeance demon, is talking to a woman in a bar. The woman's boyfriend cheated on her with her ugly, fat sister. The woman actually is ready to make a vengeance wish, but Anya is so busy recounting her own relationship problems that she keeps interrupting. We cut to Andrew being pursued by a monster. Warren comes up behind it with an electric prod and knocks it out. They were working to trap it. He says soon everyone will be afraid of them. He gives Jonathan a knife and tells him it's his turn. Spike is drinking. Dawn enters and asks if that helps. He says it doesn't hurt. She says everyone's mad at him. She asks if he'll be coming round and he says it's complicated. She asks if it was worth it and tells him about the camera. She asks if he loves her. He says no, thinking she means Anya. She says she means Buffy. He doesn't reply and she takes this as a yes, asking how he could have done what he did in that case. Spike says there must be some evil left in him and points out Buffy treated him badly. Dawn says she doesn't know what happened between them, but if he wanted to hurt Buffy he succeeded.

The stooges are at the lair of the demons. There is an energy barrier around it and Jonathan is wearing the skin of the demon so he can cross through the barrier. Warren tosses him through, not sure it will actually work. Warren and Andrew discuss their intention to get rid of Jonathan that evening. Jonathan retrieves a box. Warren opens it revealing the orbs of nezzla'khan, which provide strength and invulnerability. Warren uses them, securing them to his belt. He attacks and destroys one of the demons. When Jonathan tries to use them Warren says he'll get his turn when Warren is finished.

Buffy visits Xander at his place. She tells him Anya loves him and just did a stupid thing. He says he understands why she did it, he doesn't understand Buffy and Spike. Buffy says it's been hard. He says lying to him and she says coming back from the dead. They argue. Xander says Spike is evil, Buffy notes they fought side-by-side and when she was dead they trusted him with Dawn. Xander says Spike doesn't have a soul, just a leash in his head. Buffy says it doesn't matter, it's over. Xander says there's a lot of that going round and leaves.

Xander goes to the shop, peeks in the window, and sees a morose Anya. He moves on. Willow and Tara aren't making much headway in deciphering the text from the stooges' lair. Possibly because they are more interested in each other than the problem. Xander is in a bar where a girl tries to pick him up and he's clearly not interested in anything other than drinking to forget. The stooges enter the bar. Buffy is fighting a vampire in the cemetery. She stakes him, but he still manages to kick her so she smashes into a gravestone and hurts her back.

Buffy is home and about to take a shower. Spike enters the bathroom. He apologizes for what he did. He explains why he went to the magic shop. He says she should have let Xander kill him. She says she couldn't let him do that. Spike says it's because she loves him. She says no, she has feelings for him but cannot trust him enough to love him. He says trust is for old marrieds. He tries to grab her, she struggles, he gets more violent and soon is trying to rape her. She screams and struggles and eventually kicks him off. She tells him that's why she can't love him. Spike is shocked at what he did.

The stooges are still at the Bronze and Warren is chatting up a girl. Her boyfriend shows up and Warren recognizes him as a kid who bullied him at school. They fight and Warren easily beats him up. A couple of other guys attack Warren and he beats them up. Then he walks over to these girls at th bar and tries to pick them up. Xander walks over and Warren hits him. Warren is about to kill him, but Jonathan says they have to get somewhere. Warren says Xander is lucky he's in a hurry.

A bloodied Xander shows up at Buffy's house. He finds Spike's jacket downstairs. He goes up, angry at Buffy. But he sees the shape she's in. He goes to hurt Spike, but she calls him back. Willow comes in, they've made progress. Downstairs, Willow and Tara explain to Buffy and Xander that they've deciphered everything except one document. Xander recognizes it as Klingon love poems. They realize the stooges are planning a crime spree. But there is one job that is time sensitive and will happen tonight - so Buffy will go there.

Spike is at his crypt remembering what happened with Buffy and not happy about it. He starts drinking and shatters a glass in his hand. Clem arrives, with hot wings and an interest in the Knight Rider marathon on tv. He asks if Buffy broke up with Spike again and Spike says they were never really together, she wouldn't lower herself. Clem says Buffy has issues and that's not surprising since she came back from the dead. He says he had a cousin resurrected by a shaman who had lots of problems. Spike wonders why he feels like this. He blames it all on the chip. The chip stops him from being a monster and he can't be a man. Clem tries to cheer him up.

Guards are loading cash into an armored truck from what looks like an amusement park. Warren topples over the truck and breaks into it. Buffy arrives. She and Warren fight. He keeps calling her bitch. Jonathan jumps her from behind, he whispers to smash the orbs. She knocks him off. Warren attacks again. She grabs and smashes the orbs. Warren loses his powers. But he rips off his jacket revealing a jet pack and flies off. Andrew rips off his jacket and flies off. Only he's under a roof and slams into it knocking himself out. We see the police taking Jonathan and Andrew to jail. Jonathan realizes Andrew and Warren were getting ready to abandon him. Andrew is upset that Warren left him. He wonders if he'll come back for them. Cut to Spike riding out of town on a motorcycle.

The next day, Xander and Buffy are in the yard and Willow and Tara in the house. Willow and Tara are still pretty kissyface. Buffy is poking the bushes looking for more stooge spycams. She tells Xander about Jonathan and Andrew being caught and Warren still on the loose. Xander says it hurt that she didn't trust him enough to tell him about Spike. He says he realizes he made it hard for her to tell him. They hug. Warren walks up. He has a gun and fires. Buffy is shot as is Tara.

Analysis

An episode which in retrospect is even better than I thought. It reveals the real horror of the stooges and raises them from comic relief to major evil. It promises some interesting future for Willow. It continues the development of Xander and Buffy as they cope. And wow does it do great things with Spike. The almost rape scene is at the centre of the episode. It ties Spike and Warren together and also leads to lots of speculation about where Spike is headed.

The stooges always seemed pathetic. It's becoming clear that Andrew, and I enjoy the fact that the gang still cannot remember his name, secretly loves Warren. I know the subject of Andrew being gay has been debated a fair bit amongst fans and I think this episode gives us a definite yes answer. Jonathan, siding with Buffy at the end, may simply be saving his own neck - realizing Warren is out of control and a danger to him. Or he may actually still be pretty decent. But neither Andrew nor Jonathan ever seemed much of a danger. They were too obsessed with their geekish toys to pose a real threat. They had childlike ideas of what they would do with their power and money. Warren was and is different.

When we first met Warren, way back in I Was Made to Love You, he was committing the ultimate in objectifying women. He had built himself a mechanical girlfriend. This season, he was looking to enslave his exgirlfriend (who broke up with him because of the robot). And all this connects him to Spike (who got a Buffybot from him and also tried to force sex on his exgirlfriend). It's disturbing to think Warren and Spike are similar. Because it has become clear that Warren is a psychopath. He's totally without conscience. He's the one who needs the chip in his head. He's far more evil than the other two Klingon love poem writing stooges. And his hatred, especially against women, seems far worse than anything we've seen in Spike, chip or not. Warren as woman hater really came to the fore this week. In addition to the girlfriend robot and the enslaving of the ex in the past, we've got the scene in the bar this week where he treats all the girls as if they were hookers. Then we've got the fight scene with Buffy, where he calls her bitch. And finally we have the shooting attack which injures two women, at least one of whom is pretty much defenseless. Warren just doesn't care much what happens to women or what they think.

A critical point seemed to be when the others asked for the orbs and he said they could have them when he was through with them. This is pretty much the same thing he said about the enslaved exgirlfriend in Dead Things. The orbs clearly are meant as an indicator of his sexuality (you've got to wonder why this aggressively macho guy has hooked up with the short Jonathan and the gay Andrew - clearly we're meant to see this as a sign of his own sense of inferiority). Andrew's comment about wanting to get his hands on Warren's orbs emphasizes both their role as symbols of his insecure sexuality and Andrew's homosexuality. It's no surprise that Warren goes ballistic when Buffy smashes his orbs. This is his ultimate fear - a powerful woman shattering him sexually. He responds with the stereotypical phallic symbol of the gun.

Spike is more direct. Having been humiliated by Buffy and her rejection of him he tries to rape her - a less metaphorical approach than Warren and indicative of Spike's more normal sexuality. Yes, it's weird to talk of Spike as more normal than anyone, but Warren is a guy who gets his kicks from robots, brainwashed women, and terrorizing women. Spike just wants regular sex and someone to love him. Rape is hardly the way to get that, but it's a whole lot closer to normal than drugging and shooting. That said, Spike is almost as messed up as Warren. The big difference is that he really wants to get better. He doesn't think that indulging his passions will make him happier.

We see this at several points. There is the wonderfully sad scene between Spike and Dawn. He's become increasingly close to Dawn (he's saved her life or at least attempted to on numerous occasions and clearly genuinely likes her). Dawn also seems to like him. Why else does she come visit? Why does she ask Buffy if Spike will be back? She misses him and wants him to be part of their lives. It's significant that Spike is shocked when he learns she knows of his cheating with Anya. At first, he's disturbed that Buffy told her. He wants at least Dawn to think better of him. Then he's angered at the stooges. His failure, his embarrassment, has become public.

When Spike confronts Buffy his question is why didn't she let him die. He's in pain, he wanted an end to it. He's hoping for a declaration of love, but only gets a declaration of like. His sexual assault on Buffy is an attempt to make her love him. Spike has convinced himself that the success of their sexual relationship is proof of her love for him. If he can excite her again, she will have to agree with him. But he only revolts and hurts her.

When Spike returns to his crypt, the memory of his attack haunts him. It's interesting that he has no trouble living with all his murders, including the deaths of two slayers, but cannot stand the agony of his attempted rape. He knows he has hurt Buffy and that's something he said he would not do. He said so in Intervention when he was ready to die to spare her pain and again in Entropy. He tells Clem he can't be a monster or a man. In The Gift he said to Buffy "I know you'll never love me. I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man." That statement, still resonating a year later, is at the core of his problem. He wants Buffy to love him. He knows he's a monster, but he wants to be a man. He leaves Sunnydale promising things will be different when he returns. Does he intend to remove the chip and become all monster or do something different and become all man?

Magic abuse was an interesting idea and an intriguing way to deal with substance abuse in the Buffyverse. But it looks as if it serves another purpose. In Tough Love, Willow went on a wild rampage, summoning dark magics to fight Glory after she injured Tara. Now she lost Tara because of her magic addiction, finally got her back, and it looks as if she has lost her again. And the closing scene shows that she is returning to the use of magic. Will we see another dark magic rampage? This would be her third foray into the use of such serious magic (the attack on Glory and bringing back Buffy being the other two). What will be the repercussions of that and how often can you venture into the darkness and still return safe and sound.

In The Freshman and Into the Woods, Xander was there for Buffy. He demonstrated his insight and his sensitivity. But this week he admits that he wasn't there for her when she was involved with Spike. He made things worse for her by making it hard for her to confide in him. He's beginning the journey to recovery. Admittedly, he's got to cut back on the drinking - but at least he isn't trying to pick up girls. And he does go to see Anya, he admits he understands what happened between her and Spike, and he rebuilds his relationship with Buffy. He says that you aren't much without your friends - hiding in a comment about Warren his realization about himself and his own relationships. Of course, this is also a comment on the disintegration of the team which has happened this season, much of it prompted by the stooges. Giles has left, Tara left temporarily and may have been permanently removed this episode, Willow's addiction has reduced her helpfulness, Anya has returned to her demon ways, Spike is leaving town, and Xander is finding solace in a bottle. Buffy has only Dawn, the one person she has explicitly forbidden to fight by her side, with her.

Some quick final thoughts. I wonder whether we are supposed to see a parallel between Willow's magic abuse problem and Xander, Anya, and Spike turning to alcohol as their solution. Was it symbolic of how upset Spike was that he left his jacket. Does Xander realize Jonathan saved his life? In The Zeppo, Xander was called Zeppo by Cordelia. This week, Warren called him Shemp. So he has managed to incorporate both the intellectual humour of the Marx brothers and the slapstick of the stooges. You have to wonder whether Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen aren't in the future.

Lines of the week:

"That's gonna cost ya." - Buffy getting really mad when her clothes are ruined.

"Does it help." - Dawn asking about Spike's pain numbing strategy.

"It's complicated." - Spike on everything.

"Do you love her?" - Dawn asking the big question.

"Soon as I'm done playing with 'em." - Warren on when he'll give up his orbs.

"That was rhetorical." - Buffy's response to the slain vampire who still managed to hurt her.

"You should have let him kill me." - Spike letting Buffy know exactly how desperate he is.

"Ask me again why I could never love you." - Buffy driving home Spike's failure.

"He's Picard and you're Deanna Troi." - Andrew explaining Warren to Jonathan.

"It won't let me be a monster and I can't be a man." - Spike on the internal conflict he suffers from.

"I can't wait to get my hands on his orbs." - Andrew possibly not talking about magical devices.

"He won't be much good without his friends." - Xander not talking about Warren.

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