Willow, Dawn, Xander, and Anya are trying to tidy up the house. Dawn wonders what they are waiting for, Spike to do something crazy? Willow says Buffy knows what she's doing. Anya thinks they should stake him and appeals to Xander. He just says he has a house to repair. Anya thinks Spike is evil again. Andrew is walking around in a really cool coat. Warren appears to him and says they have work to do. Andrew complains about having to do all the work and Warren points out he can't take corporeal form. He has Andrew stick his hand through him. He says he's like Obi-Wan and Andrew, with a dreamy look, says he's like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Andrew says he doesn't want to kill anyone else. Warren morphs into Jonathan who says getting killed was the best thing that ever happened to him. Jonathan says it's his fault the ritual didn't work. That he's little and doesn't have as much blood as others and is anemic. Andrew says he can't kill anybody else and Jonathan says they can work around that.
Buffy is tying Spike to a chair. He tells her to make the knots tighter. He's worried that if he gets free, he'll kill again. After the opening commercials, we see principal Wood talking to two guys who are clearly troublemakers. He tells them they can repaint the walls or he'll suspend them and put it on their permanent record. They call his bluff. He admits it was a bluff, that the paperwork involved in suspending them would be exhausting. So he says he'll call the police and let them deal with it. They agree to repaint the walls. Dawn knocks on his office door to tell him Buffy won't be in because she is sick. She goes into a lot of detail about Buffy vomiting.
Buffy is calling Quentin from the council trying to track down Giles. He says the council doesn't keep track of exwatchers. She asks him to find Giles and he agrees to try. We see he is in a meeting with the council. He tells them Buffy knows nothing and they need to find Giles as soon as possible. Buffy looks in on Spike. He's having a tough time of it. He puts on his vampire face and starts struggling to break free. She tells Willow he's been drinking human blood for weeks and he's having withdrawals. She says they need blood and Willow offers to buy some. She says Xander is installing the new windows and is driving her crazy with proper tool maintenance lectures. Buffy says Spike is having a tough time, but she's bearing up. Meanwhile, Warren is trying to get Andrew to kill a pig. He's completely ineffectual. Andrew goes to the butcher, where we see him order a huge selection of meats trying to hide the blood order in with them. As he exits the store, he bumps into Willow and the blood falls out of his bag.
Willow chases Andrew out of the store and catches him in the alley. He grovels, then claims he's good. She asks why the blood. He says he's evil and protected by powerful forces. She says she's a powerful witch, Willow the destroyer, and backs him against the wall. She brings him home and Anya and Xander interrogate him. Xander ties him to a chair and Anya stomps on his new coat. Xander plays good cop, Anya bad cop. Andrew says he fell in love with a vampire girl in Mexico and they are back in Sunnydale on the straight and narrow. Anya grabs him and says it's not a game. She slaps him. Xander grabs her and takes her outside. Buffy is feeding the blood to Spike. In another room, Anya and Xander congratulate themselves on how well they played good cop/bad cop. Buffy comes in and they ask the status of Spike. She says nothing yet and asks about Andrew. They say he's ready to sing.
Buffy returns to Spike, who is a bit better and says he doesn't remember anything. He says he has flashes, but it's like he's watching someone else do things. And he has experienced lost time. She asks when his chip stopped working and he says he didn't know it had. He says he's been wonky since he got his soul back and he thought that's why. She asks how he got his soul back. He tells her a bit. He says he now understands her. That he understands her self loathing was why she used him. He says he understands the violence inside her now. She finds this strange, given the violence William the Bloody inflicted throughout his career. Spike says as bad and wretched as he was, he never hated himself back then. He does now.
Xander brings some water for Andrew and unties his hands. He says Anya shouldn't have hit Andrew. Xander starts talking about how dangerous Anya is and that she's a vengeance demon. Andrew says he saw her having sex with Spike. Xander says she's killed lots of men. That she tortures people. He tells him that there was one guy who hurt her badly. She killed him slowly. She removed his heart and replaced it with darkness. He continued to do things, but he was always empty inside. Andrew isn't very scared. He adds she then tore out his intestines and rubbed them in his face and took pictures. Andrew is scared. Xander assures him Anya is downstairs now. Anya rushes in and attacks Andrew. Xander grabs her and she hits him. She mouths an apology and grabs Andrew again who screams that he'll tell what they need to know. Buffy hears the screaming and leaves Spike. Faux Spike appears and tells Spike they have a problem.
In the other room., Buffy asks if everything is ok. Anya, who is straddling Andrew, says everything is fine. Buffy goes back and at the door hears Spike talking. She hears the lyrics to the song from Sleeper. She enters and asks who he was talking to. He says nobody. He seems unnaturally calm. He keeps insisting he's fine. Andrew is about to talk. Spike asks for something to eat. Buffy goes to the nearby table. He puts on his demon face, breaks free, knocks Buffy aside, and, as Andrew is explaining that they needed blood to activate the seal, he breaks through the wall and grabs and bites Andrew. Buffy knocks Spike aside, saving Andrew. Spike looks confused. Behind Buffy we see the faux Spike. Buffy kicks Spike in the head knocking him out.
Buffy tells the others Spike didn't seem to want anything to do with her, that he just knocked her aside and went through the wall for Andrew. Xander and Anya come down to say Andrew is fine and they've tied him up again. Buffy explains about hearing the song and how there was a song in the basement in Sleeper as well. Xander says it's a trigger, a brainwashing technique. The song triggers the spell which controls Spike. That's why he looks like a different person, he is. Xander doesn't know how to fix Spike. Buffy tells Dawn and Willow to start researching and find out what did this.
Wood is leaving work. He passes the door to the basement, pauses, and goes downstairs. He sees Jonathan's exsanguinated body. Spike is chained in Buffy's basement. Buffy enters and gently cleans his wounds. He asks if he hurt anybody and she says he took a bite out of Andrew. He doesn't know who that is and she says Tucker's brother. She tells him about their theory and him being controlled by a trigger. Spike asks her to kill him. He talks about all the evil he has done and says she has to kill him before he gets out. He says she can't do it because she likes men who hurt her. That she needs the pain to do what she does. She says she doesn't hate like that, not him, not herself, not anymore. She says she lets him live because he has changed and is penitent. He says that's window dressing. She says he risked everything to be a better man and he is and can be. She says she believes in him. The robed guys break into the house and attack.
Wood is burying Jonathan. In the house, the gang are defending themselves against the onslaught. Willow is knocked out. Buffy rushes upstairs to protect Andrew from two attackers. Dawn is almost killed, but Xander saves her. Buffy kills the two attacking Andrew. Xander rushes in and says Dawn is ok, but wonders where the other attackers are. They rush to the basement to find Spike gone. They realize the attackers were after him all the time. Buffy looks at one of the bodies and realizes she has fought them before. She recognizes them as the harbingers of the First Evil she fought in Amends (A Buffy Christmas). She realizes all the events - the hauntings, Spike, from beneath - are the same thing.
There is a crisis at council headquarters. Their files have been taken and they have lost communications. They are getting casualty reports from around the world. They're crippled. Quentin says it's alright. He says the FE has launched a war and it is time for them to strike back. He wants everyone gathered and ready to mobilize. They will go to the Hellmouth. He quotes Proverbs 24:6 "For by wise counsel, thou shalt make thy war". We see a building explode.
Faux Spike is talking to Spike who has been tied to a frame and is being cut by the harbingers. He says he wanted to be more subtle, but Spike didn't live up to his end of the bargain. That Spike started learning things about himself. Faux Spikes morphs into Buffy and says she wanted to bleed Andrew, but Spike looks better with his shirt off. The frame is rotated upward and we see ritual cuts in Spike's chest. She tells Spike he'll see what a real vampire looks like. He bleeds onto the seal. It opens. Out comes a nosferatu type vampire.
By the time this episode ended, I had come to believe this is the season of Spike. A season in which Spike will be redeemed and maybe sacrificed as well. A lot of things are coming together: Spike's attempt at repentance now recognized by Buffy, the use of blood once more to open a gateway for evil, and the torture of Spike by an evil force intent on destroying Buffy and all she holds dear. I look at all that, remember that Spike was ready to die for Buffy when tortured by Glory before he had a soul, remember that the blood gateway once opened by Glory could only be closed by death, and I think Spike will be dust by the end of this season. At least, I'm hoping that. Not because I hate Spike, but because I think his making the supreme sacrifice and finding real redemption through it would be a fantastic end for this series. It would turn the whole vampire slayer mythos on its head with Buffy going from destroyer of vampires to their salvation.
Well, whatever the rest of the season brings, this episode brought some great moments. And it raised lots of questions to ponder through the holiday season. The great moments were serious and funny: Buffy and Spike in the room and later the basement, Andrew at the butcher, Willow bumping into Andrew, Xander and Anya interrogating Andrew, and Spike being tortured by the First Evil (FE). The questions include what is the involvement of the principal, what is the thing in the basement which was brought to life by Spike's blood, and where is Giles.
I think the important element of the time Buffy and Spike spend together is the change in her attitude. Consider her treatment of him in past episodes when she needed to get information from him. Spike has spent a lot of time tied to a chair and being questioned by Buffy and the gang. Always there was sarcasm and violence and a general dislike of Spike. Buffy has constantly attacked him emotionally. Especially since their affair. But in this episode, she's remarkably caring and considerate. We both see this and hear it. We see it in the way she looks at Spike as he goes through withdrawals. In the way she feeds him his blood. Most importantly, in the way she gently cleans his wounds. Two years ago, Buffy caring for Spike in this way would have been unimaginable. Maybe even grotesque. Now it all makes sense.
But the most important points, for me, were Buffy's three statements. First she says "You're alive because I saw you change. Because I saw your penance." This is in response to Spike's desire to die and his argument that she can't kill him because she wants the pain his existence brings her. She talks not about herself, but about him. About the change she has seen in him. She knows Spike genuinely regrets what he has done. Even though he wasn't responsible for those acts. And he regrets what he did before he got his soul back. She recognizes that, like Angel, his regret is genuine and deep and painful. Next she says "You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man." She is clear on Spike's goal and what he achieved. She recognizes that his decision to get a soul wasn't so he could trick or seduce or harm Buffy. It was to make himself worthy of her. Or at least worthy of being loved. Spike often spoke of being a monster and not a man (most notably in The Gift when he says "I know you'll never love me. I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man.") and his goal was to become a man. Or at least more of one. Buffy praises him not merely for the accomplishment, but for having so lofty a goal and for risking so much. After all, Spike was ready to give up immortality to achieve betterment. Finally, she says "I believe in you Spike." That pretty much says it all. Spike wants Buffy to love him and that may be impossible. But he has something better here. She believes in him. She believes he really is trying to be good. Neither Spike nor William has ever had a woman believe in him. At best, he had the mad devotion of Dru. He has something deeper and better with Buffy.
Andrew at the butcher was a beautiful parody of the way teenage boys buy porn. You go into a store and buy copies of Newsweek, Time, Scientific American, Popular Science, and Playboy. You hide the Playboy in amongst the others and hope nobody sees it or comments on it because you're pretty sure it's illegal for you to buy it. I know this, of course, purely through observation. This ties in nicely with Andrew's repressed sexuality (remember Anya called him the annoying virgin in Two to Go/Grave). Andrew's incompetence and general childishness make him all the more terrifying. It's scary that someone so unable is capable of so much evil. He's scared of everything. He's easily intimidated by Willow and later Xander and Anya. Yet his evil seems to know no bounds. He helps Warren cover up the murder of his girlfriend. He murders Jonathan. He's ready to raise a horrible evil. He does all this without a shred of regret or conscience or real ability.
In an episode which was really intense, we needed some light scenes and the Willow/Andrew scene fit into that. Two interesting things happened here. One, it reminded us that to Andrew at least Willow is still using magic and very scary. He has no insight into her remorse and presumably that may be an effective tool against some of the evil agents they will face. Willow's reputation is very big. Second, it showed us that Willow is capable of intimidating others when she needs to. Yes, intimidating Andrew is easy, but I'm guessing this is foreshadowing of future scarier conflicts. I was just slightly reminded of Willow's confrontation with Glory when Tara had been hurt by her.
The Xander and Anya interrogation scene of Andrew was a great parody of police dramas like NYPD Blue. Their good cop bad cop chemistry exactly paralleled those shows. Anya really did remind me of Sipowicz. In addition to being funny, and playing into Andrew's media influenced view of the world - note that his conversations with faux Warren have endless film and tv references, it contrasts wonderfully with the Buffy/Spike scenes. And in the centre of it is a wonderfully serious moment that's virtually Shakespearean. In the midst of comedy, we get a sudden deep insight into a character. I'm referring to Xander's description of how Anya tortured a man by removing his heart and replacing it with darkness, so that he continued living but with nothing but emptiness within. Andrew, who only understands tv violence, doesn't conceive of how painful this is. What's particularly interesting is that Anya never did anything to Xander. He did this to himself. The pain he feels, like Spike's remorse, comes purely from within. It's the response to his evil. Andrew, who is without feelings or remorse, cannot understand this kind of deep regret. Xander and Spike are humans, Andrew is a monster.
While Spike is being tortured, faux Spike tells him it's his fault, that he didn't keep his side of the deal. He makes it sound as if Spike failed. But, in reality, Spike succeeded. This success is what Buffy saw in him and what she was referring to when she spoke of him becoming a better man. Spike resisted the FE enough to slightly interfere with its plans. That may not be much, but it's more than anyone else has managed. His actions are as heroic as his refusal to talk to Glory when she tortured him in Intervention. In that episode, Buffy told him what he did was real and would not be forgotten. There is a direct connection between his selfless act there, his achievement of a soul, and his resistance of the FE. And I think faux Spike morphs into faux Buffy because Spike is focusing on her as he is tortured (note that the morphings often seem related to what the person they are directed at may be thinking - hence the Warren and Jonathan morphs for Andrew). I think Spike is thinking of Buffy and resisting even as his blood is used to release evil. And in that resistance is the hope of victory.
Principal Wood has been just too good to be true. I was hoping he'd just be an innocent bystander, but the odds are tilting against that. FE hasn't been able to directly control a nonevil living person. It has been able to control the dead and to seduce evil people like Andrew. Wood may be evil or it may be that having his office on the hellmouth has corrupted him and opened him to FE influence. But other possibilities exist. Wood could be a good guy (why did he hire Buffy - to keep an evil eye on her or to have the slayer in the school fighting evil?), he could even be a watcher sent to guard the hellmouth. Given Buffy's poor relations with the council, keeping his identity a secret would make sense. He would be the first watcher without an English accent, but there doesn't seem to be a rule insisting they be English. But if that's the case, how come FE isn't surprised at the disappearance of the body. FE doesn't say or do anything to suggest surprise or concern at Jonathan's body wandering off. That suggests it knows what happened. It may be controlling Wood or it may simply not care. But given the organized attack on every watcher, you'd think if FE knew Wood was one he'd be toast by now.
I've seen lots of theories about the thing in the basement. That it's the Master reincarnated. That it's a pure vampire demon without any human element. That it's either one of those but not the same as the shape shifting thing I'm calling FE. I'm going with B, pure vampire demon. I think this is one of the demons which came to Earth and ruled over it before history began. That they were driven off and a few remained by merging with humans. This one was contained and has now broken free and intends to reconquer the Earth. Joss has said the show is going back to the beginning (the image of the Master says this in Lessons). The vampire which began all the vampires would be that beginning. The beginning of the need for the slayer.
Where is Giles? Lying on the floor where we last saw him, not quite dead? In an emergency room, fighting for his life? A captive of the harbingers (that's what FE calls its minions)? Maybe deep undercover having somehow escaped the harbingers and realizing only deep secrecy can save him? Wherever he is he has to show up in Sunnydale soon, confirm Buffy's fears, and start creating the counter attack the watchers were about to launch. He is likely the most senior watcher in the world, now. I'm guessing the harbinger which attacked him only knocked him out and took him prisoner.
Some quick final thoughts. I'm going to take a little credit. Way back in Lessons, I noted the resemblance between the force attacking Spike and FE. Last week in Sleeper, I noted the spy movie analogy and the use of the song as a trigger mechanism for the brainwashed Spike who, like Xander, I referred to as a sleeper. Ok, I also thought FE would take corporeal form as Jonathan and that didn't happen. But it was FE's original plan. I loved Wood's comment about the pointlessness of the permanent record threat. He's absolutely right. Quentin says with Giles a lapsed watcher, they don't keep track of him. But in Same Time, Same Place, Willow called Giles only to be told he was in a council meeting. I realize Quentin was lying, but it was a weak lie. The butcher calls Andrew Neo. Was this a Matrix reference because of the coat or just an indication the butcher knows he's buying the blood (presumably for a vampire) and he's a neophyte at it. Man, it must be great to be a butcher in Sunnydale. It has just occurred to me to wonder why FE uses a brainwashing trigger to control Spike. Is it possible Spike was brainwashed before he came to Sunnydale so he would be a foil for FE? Did the harbingers get to him? Come to think of it, might they have made the talisman in Lessons. I'm not sure where Jonathan was buried, but there was a pump in the background. Quentin quotes the first part of Proverbs 24:6, the second is "and in multitude of counsellors there is safety". I see there is some dispute over whether the exploding building is the building the council is in. It looks somewhat different than the first view of the building we get, but it could easily be a different angle.
Lines of the week:
"I get free, someone's gonna die." - Spike actually getting it backward, he gets free and someone is brought to life.
"Do you want me to kill Anya?" - Willow always eager to help.
"The weasel wants to sing. He just needs a tune." - Anya really getting into it.
"Saw a man about a girl." - Spike on how he got his soul back.
"I have come to redefine the words pain and suffering since I fell in love with you." - Spike on how things change.
"Did I hurt anybody?" - Spike proving he has a soul.
"Tucker's brother." - Buffy on Andrew's curse.
"Kill me." - Spike with a variation on help me.
"You like men who hurt you." - Spike on why Buffy won't slay him.
"You're alive because I saw you change. Because I saw your penance." - Buffy on why she has spared Spike.
"You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man." - Buffy on Spike's redemption.
"I believe in you Spike." - Buffy with something better than I love you.
"We are still masters of our fate. We are still captains of our souls." - Quentin keeping up the staff's moral.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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