Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Him

Summary

Buffy has convinced Xander to let Spike live with him and he's moving in even though Xander hates the idea. Willow and Dawn are also there. Buffy says the basement was driving him crazy; Xander thinks that's ok. Dawn asks if they are starting again and Buffy says no. She says things are different because he has a soul. Xander worries he may attack her. Dawn doesn't understand what it means. Spike walks over and touches Buffy's arm. She jumps. He says it isn't working, She says it is and tells him to go to his room. The next day, Dawn and Buffy talk while watching the football team practice. Buffy says she feels for Spike, Dawn is confused,. Buffy said Spike disgusted her when they were secretly lovers. Spike said he loved her and tried to rape her. Buffy says he knew it was wrong and that's why he went away. Dawn says he got a soul like it would make him a better man. But Xander has a soul and he dumped Anya and now says he wants her back. She thinks it isn't the basement making people crazy. Buffy leaves. Dawn sees a boy on the team and is captivated. The theme from A Summer Place plays. She falls down.

Buffy is at Anya's place fighting a demon which tried to kill Anya. D'Hoffryn decided to take revenge on her. Buffy came to see her and heard screaming. She kills the demon and Anya tells her to go. She doesn't. She says she doesn't want her friends out there alone. Anya says they probably can use her help. Willow isn't good at practical strategizing and Dawn isn't good for anything.

Dawn is in school, nervously pacing,. A group of football players and cheerleaders is talking. One of the cheerleaders is injured and they need to get a replacement. We learn the boy is R.J. Dawn goes over and awkwardly tries to enter the conversation. She just embarrasses herself and they eventually walk off. Later, she goes through Buffy's things and finds her cheerleader outfit. She tries out for the squad and is terrible. Cut to Buffy outside Dawn's room trying to comfort her. Dawn is inside crying. Xander is in the house and thinks it's still better than spending the evening with Spike and suggests getting pizza. He wonders if teens in a snit eat pizza. Dawn rushes out and shouts it is not a snit. Buffy sees that she has shredded the cheerleading outfit. She and Xander go to Dawn who is now lying on a bed and despairing. Buffy says it's a crush. Xander says it's the jacket, that there's something irresistible about a letter man. Dawn says it isn't a crush. She accuses Buffy of being disfunctional and of making fun of her.

At school, Dawn overhears R.J. and another player. The other player has been made the starting quarterback for the next game and R.J. will just be backup. Dawn confronts the other player and tells him he can't do this. He tells her it's part of the game. She pushes him down the stairs. Cut to Dawn being questioned by the principal about O'Donnell's fall. Buffy is also there. Dawn says he stumbled and fell. Since O'Donnell has been known to lie, the principal believes her. Because of the accident, R.J. will start as quarterback. In the hallway, R.J. approaches Dawn and asks about her conversation with the principal. He asks if she wants to meet him after practice.

That night, at the Bronze, Buffy is out with Willow and Xander. Xander says Spike is more cogent, but he wonders if getting a soul means you pick up your wet towels off the floor. Willow says no, you just feel badly about not doing it. They see R.J. dancing with this scantily clad hot girl who is writhing around the dance floor. Both Xander and Willow are turned on. They see it is Dawn. They are both disturbed at being turned on by Dawn. Buffy gets Dawn alone and tells her she's not happy with her lying about going to the library and dressing the way she is. She threatens to talk to R.J. and Dawn insists she stay away from him. Dawn asks if she thinks she's mom and Buffy says no and she's glad her mom isn't there to see Dawn like this. Dawn says she's jealous, that Buffy has always been the center of attention. That she resents Dawn getting attention. Buffy refuses to allow her back on the dance floor. Dawn leaves.

Dawn is walking down a deserted street. She hears a noise and thinks it's R.J. But it's another girl, one of the cheerleaders, who calls her a slut and tells her to stay away from R.J. They fight. Buffy arrives and breaks it up. The next day at school Buffy sees R.J. come out of Wood's office. He has been getting girls to do his homework for him and was caught. Wood warns him to avoid detention. Buffy calls him aside and starts riding him about the way he treats the girls and especially Dawn. He puts his letter jacket on and suddenly she becomes sympathetic. She tells him they are basically the same age and starts coming on to him. Someone comes and R.J. leaves. We hear the theme from A Summer Place.

That night, Buffy talks to Dawn saying she thinks R.J. is ok and that he likes Dawn but she comes on too strong. Next day, Buffy pulls R.J. out of math class and takes him to an empty room. Dawn walks by math class, hoping to peek at R.J. R.J. tells Buffy he wishes someone would stop Wood from riding him. They kiss. Dawn is desperately searching for R.J. She looks in the empty room and sees them together. She runs outside crying, Xander, working the construction site, sees her. She says she doesn't want to see R.J. or Buffy. Xander goes to get Buffy and walks in on her on top of R.J. Xander makes her go home.

At home, Dawn is crying and Buffy tells her it won't make R.J.'s love for Buffy go away. Willow, Anya, and Xander are there and they realize it is a love spell. Buffy thinks she's really in love and Dawn is under a spell. The sisters argue and eventually take it upstairs while the others look for a cure. Willow says love spells are dangerous and Xander remembers the one he cast in the second season. Buffy comes down saying Dawn has locked herself in her room. Willow finds some information on R.J.'s family and Xander realizes he knew his brother who was also a big time jock at the high school. He thinks that may be a way in.

Xander and Spike go to visit R.J.'s brother. The brother has blimped out, is a management trainee at a fast food chain, and lives at home. He reveals that he gave the jacket to R.J. and that he received it from his father who said it was lucky and that he wore it when he met their mother, a former Miss Arkansas. Xander and Spike leave despite entreaties to stay and play air hockey and eat raisin snacks. Willow and Anya are fruitlessly searching for an anti-love spell. R.J. drops by, saying he is looking for Buffy. They pretend she isn't there and send him away, but the theme plays as he walks off and they are both entranced. Soon Anya and Willow are fighting over which of them is R.J.'s true love. Dawn and Buffy come downstairs and join in the fight. They point out Willow is gay, but she says she can work around it. Buffy claims the others are under a love spell. They start arguing over how to prove their love. Buffy says she'll kill the principal. Willow says she can use magic and Anya, unthinkingly, suggests changing him into a girl. They rush off (Anya keeps her idea to herself) and Dawn stays behind. As she goes, Buffy says Dawn will never get him and Dawn agrees.

Each woman sets about her task and we get the screen split into four showing them all. Willow starts a spell, Buffy goes to the school with what looks like a bazooka, Anya prepares to rob a bank, and Dawn lies down on the railroad tracks to kill herself. Xander and Spike arrive in time to stop Willow from completing her spell. She reveals that the others are seeking to prove themselves and says Buffy is going to kill the principal. Cut to the principal's office where we see him working. Through the window, we see Buffy preparing to kill him. Spike rushes her and grabs the gun. We see them running back and forth as she chases him. She chases him to Xander and Willow who are doing a locator spell for Dawn. They arrive at the train tracks as a train approaches. Buffy pulls Dawn off the tracks in the nick of time. Dawn says she can't compete with Buffy, so she was going to kill herself so R.J. would always know how much she loved him. Buffy says no guy is worth that and that she would give him to Dawn if she could because that's how much Dawn is scaring her. They realize they are under a spell.

R.J. is walking down the street with the cheerleader who hurt herself. Xander and Spike rush him and take his jacket. The girl looks at R.J. and obviously becomes uninterested in him. The gang burn the jacket. Buffy is surprised Xander didn't wear it and he says it didn't fit. Anya says they were all under a spell and weren't responsible, morally or legally, for anything they did. Buffy tries to comfort Dawn who can't believe how stupid she was. Willow asks Anya what she did and Anya says she wrote an epic poem about R.J. We hear the news about a mysterious masked bandit and Anya quickly turns it off and offers to treat everyone to ice cream.

Analysis

It's all about love. Real love, fake love, unrequited love, over and done with love, and the things we do for love. Mostly, it's all about trouble. It's also an episode which emphasizes fun over content. There were some amusing moments, some nice directorial touches, but not much of thematic significance. The most interesting things were at the periphery of the episode: Spike moving in with Xander and Buffy's defense of him, Anya becoming part of the gang again at Buffy's behest, and Anya getting away with those robberies.

It's interesting that the slayer, the one person most opposed to demonkind, is the one helping out demons or exdemons. She's striving to help Spike get sane and she saves Anya's life and tries to get her back on track. She brings both of them back into the fold. I've raised the theme of reintegration several times in this and past seasons. It's certainly coming to the fore again. Spike and Anya are being reintegrated as the gang is reconstructed so it can face the major evil to come.

Something has to come of Xander's irrational hatred of Spike. Let's look at the facts. First, the good side of the ledger. Since he got chipped, three years ago, he's been harmless. In the past two years, he's fought at the side of the scoobies and risked his life for them many times - especially against Glory. He genuinely loves Buffy. He went and got his soul back. Now the bad side of the ledger. Even chipped, Spike really liked violence and often fought with the gang just so he could engage in violence. He had Warren make the Buffybot as a sex toy, which is a pretty sick idea. He attempted to rape Buffy. He had sex with Anya.

There's a lot of evidence that the chip works. And we know how having a soul changed Angel. So Spike's love of violence is not likely a real problem. He's shown he can be a good guy, or at least act like one. While the Buffybot was sick and the attempted rape totally bad - Buffy has forgiven him. She's the injured party and if she thinks Spike merits forgiveness, that he regrets what he did, and that having a soul changes everything - then what right has Xander to hold it against him. Xander's only genuine gripe is the sex with Anya. And Xander is as responsible for that as anyone else. He's the one who dumped Anya.

When you come down to it, Xander's hatred of Spike boils down to Spike having had sex with Buffy and Anya - the two most important women in Xander's life right now. The first one is his dream girl, the second the girl he let get away (okay, that's some revisionist history but I think it's the way he looks at it). Spike has had them both and the first one is willing to forgive him pretty much everything. That has to hurt.

The jacket made the women fall in love with the wearer, but it didn't seem to change their natures. Each of them sought to prove their love in ways which matched their personalities. Willow was going to use magic to make R.J. into an ideal lover (pretty much what she was doing with Tara when she cast the forgetfulness spells), Buffy was going to kill R.J.'s enemy the principal (much in the way she has slain other monsters threatening her lovers - didn't she beat a vampire into oblivion in a first season episode because she thought he had killed her boyfriend), and Anya stole money (she has always been the ideal capitalist except for her apparently communistic demon period). Dawn pushes a boy down the stairs and then lies about it. She's committed crimes and lied about them before (shoplifting). But this is a more violent act than we've seen before. And she also attempts suicide. Both of these are violent acts. I have to wonder whether we're getting foreshadowing of some serious problems Dawn will be facing this season.

There seems to be a minor theme of passivity this episode. Spike was amazingly passive, basically just going along with what others tell him to do. He was even letting Xander take the lead, which is weird for him. R.J. and his brother also seemed very passive. The jacket changed their lives, but not permanently and they didn't seem to be using it. It's not even clear if R.J. really understands the power of the jacket. I have to guess his brother didn't. I'm not sure whether R.J. was using the jacket to get the girls to do his dirty work or whether he was just as surprised as everyone else at how they responded to him. I'm leaning to the latter based on his actions at Buffy's house. He comes to see her, Anya and Willow are entranced by the jacket, but he doesn't do anything. He doesn't try to take advantage of the situation with the two of them. He really does seem to be the nerd who temporarily got lucky.

There are a couple of loose ends which likely will lead to something later in the season. There's the money Anya has stolen. While she argues that none of them is legally nor morally responsible for what happened while under the spell, I'm betting she doesn't return the money and that does make her responsible. And in the Buffyverse, you always end up paying for your crimes. The other is Dawn pushing O'Donnell down the stairs. She got away with this crime, but just like Anya I'm betting she will have to pay for it eventually. I'm guessing R.J. will not talk about his make out session with Buffy or won't be believed if he does. But the number of secrets the sisters have to keep from Wood is piling up and that's not good.

Some quick final thoughts. I loved the use of the theme from A Summer Place. It's one of the few pieces of music I would actually recognize. I also liked the split screen and its reference of so many movies. It's amusing that Xander actually gets it right. He says it's the jacket and he's dead on. The injured cheerleader, was that really an accident or was it like the O'Donnell incident and did one of the other girls cause it to remove some competition. It was clear the girls were ready to fight over R.J. It's interesting how the Buffy and Angel episodes this week (Him and Supersymmetry) both touch on sexual feelings between a young adult and a teenage minor. In Buffy, Xander and Willow find themselves attracted to Dawn when she dances with R.J. although they are upset when they realize who she is. In Angel, Connor is attracted Cordelia and they actually kiss and she is upset especially since she suspects a relationship with his father.

Lines of the week:

"Crazy basement guy is better than stalking Buffy guy." - Xander on why they shouldn't help Spike.

"I just don't think it's the school basement that's making people crazy." - Dawn on love.

"It is not a snit." - Dawn on her despair.

"No expects the Spanish inquisition." - Dawn revealing that she, likely alone in the high school, has watched Monty Python.

"I'm the pushy queen of slut town." - Dawn with a little extreme self analysis.

"It's called knocking." - R.J. having no sense.

"I refuse to answer that on the grounds it didn't fit." - Xander admitting to temptation.

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