Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Potential

Summary

Buffy and Spike are holding a training exercise in the cemetery for the slayerettes. Buffy tells them to follow their instincts. If they feel like running, then run and get the high ground. Fight on your own terms and understand the animal instincts driving the vampire. She has Spike attack her and notices he's still hurting when she takes him down. He says some of his ribs haven't set properly. She tries to look at his chest and the slayerettes find the scene 'hot'.

At home, the slayerettes aren't paying attention but a hurled ax from Buffy fixes that. She tells them they will all die, that's the prize for being human. She says Anya's sources tell them FE is regrouping and that gives them some time to prepare themselves. She says they are special, that they have a mission. Then she hurries Dawn off to school. At school, Buffy is on the phone to Xander who is upset because the slayerettes are peeking at him in the shower. We learn Giles is out of town picking up a slayerette. A girl walks in to talk to Buffy. Her name is Amanda and she thinks she's weird and that's why people pick on her. She wants to know if it's weird to think a boy who picks on you is cute. She says her mother told her that sometimes a boy picks on you because he likes her and she finds one of the boys doing this attractive. Buffy says sometimes that's true. Then she gets caught up in thinking about her relationship with Spike and by the time she starts paying attention to Amanda again Amanda has clearly decided she's a loon.

Buffy returns home to find Xander, the Slayerettes, and Andrew shouting at each other. Willow tells her the coven have discovered another slayerette, this one living in Sunnydale. Only they don't know her name. Buffy wants to cancel her training with the slayerettes to search for her, but Willow says to go training and she'll cast a spell to find the new girl. Andrew wants to go on the training, but Buffy says no. The slayerettes are playing with the crossbow and Dawn says not to point it in the house. So they move to the mace. The slayerettes hope they'll get to kill something on their outing. Buffy enters followed by Andrew begging to go with them. A slayerette says Andrew doesn't look evil and Buffy says he's not, but he's easily influenced by evil. Spike arrives and he, Buffy, and the slayerettes leave. Andrew asks Dawn if she wants to play Dragonball Z.

Willow prepares the locating spell. Dawn wonders if the girl goes to her school. She wonders if it's her lab partner, Margo, who fainted during a pig dissection. Andrew says killing pigs is wrong and hard. Willow casts the spell and it causes an awful smell. The aura, which is supposed to illuminate the slayerette, shimmies around the room. They think the spell has failed. Dawn goes to open the door and air out the room, but before she can the aura makes a beeline for her and illuminates her. They think she's the slayerette. She realizes to become the slayer Buffy must die. Willow wants to call Buffy, but Xander points out she didn't take her cell phone. Andrew walks in and he's really excited about the news. Dawn wants them to keep it from Buffy for a while. She remembers when Joyce appeared for her. Anya tells her she's part of something bigger now, like being swallowed by something. Dawn runs upstairs to her room. Willow and Anya argue over what it's like to be chosen. In her room, Dawn hears them talking about her. Eventually, they agree they shouldn't rush her. Dawn sneaks out the window.

Buffy and the others have gone to the demon bar which is a big surprise to the slayerettes. A demon approaches Spike and refers to the slayerettes as snacks. Spike warns him off. The girls want to drink, until they find out what's in the drinks. Buffy tells them it's a dangerous place, then Clem shows up and hugs her. He starts talking about a show he saw on the History channel. She whispers to him and he goes to talk to the girls. As they lean in, he kind of explodes his head terrifying them.

Dawn is walking down the street and meets Amanda. Dawn notices she has a cut on her head. Amanda tells her she was at school late because of swing choir. She tore her sweater and stayed behind to fix it. Then she was attacked by what she thinks was a vampire. Dawn says she believes her. Amanda says the vampire hit its head and she trapped it in a room. She was looking for Buffy for help. She has heard things about her. Dawn says she'll handle it.

The girls sneak into the school. Amanda wonders whether they could just let the vampire go and encourage him to enter the gym while the marching band is playing because it looks down on the swing choir. They go to the room, open the door, and don't see a vampire. The camera pulls back and we see the vampire hiding on the ceiling.The vampire attacks. They run. Dawn takes a fire extinguisher and hits the vampire. They run. Buffy has taken the slayerettes to a vampire nest. It's unoccupied, but the girls find a body which Buffy tells them is leftovers. It gets up. In the school, Dawn and Amanda run into a lab and try to barricade the door. But the vampire tries to break in. At the nest, the vampire attacks. At the school, Dawn tries to reassure Amanda. The vampire breaks in and Dawn throws stuff at it, including some acid. She tries to break the flag to form a stake. She fights the vampire, but it doesn't go well. Buffy and Spike lock the girls in the nest with the vampire.

Willow goes to Dawn's room. They discover she's gone. They realize they have to find her before the Bringers do. Willow says she'll do a locator spell. Bringers come crashing into the school. They grab Amanda. Dawn shouts that they want her, not Amanda. Dawn sets off a fire (turning on the gas in the lab) and she and Amanda flee. She tells Amanda that she, Amanda, is special, not Dawn. She says it's Amanda's battle, gives her the broken flagpole, and says she has her back. Xander arrives in time to hear and see this. He calls to Buffy who comes up with Spike. The bringers attack and Amanda and Dawn fight them. They defeat the Bringers and Amanda takes out the vampire. She explains that when the vampire attacked her earlier, she went to Buffy's for help. She was hit by the aura and made dizzy and confused. She wandered off. Dawn realizes Amanda is the slayerette and she was at the door when Dawn went to it.

At home, the slayerettes talk about defeating the vampire in the nest. They ask Amanda to talk about slaying a vampire by herself. Buffy takes the girls downstairs. Dawn goes to do research. Xander talks to her. He says the others will never know how hard it is for those not chosen. How hard it is to stand next to the spotlight but never step in it. He says he saw how she, realizing she wasn't chosen, just handed the power over to Amanda. He tells her she's extraordinary. She says maybe that's his power, seeing and knowing. He says maybe he should get a cape. She says a cape is good.

Analysis

I was really worried that Dawn might be a slayerette. That would be awful. So when it turned out to be Amanda, I was pretty happy. It turned a potentially bad episode into a mediocre episode. Then we got that last scene and a mediocre episode became a great one.

But first I want to go over the little things I enjoyed in this episode. And every episode has a few bits of dialogue or scenes which make it fun. They aren't the big reason I watch Buffy, but combined they amount to a very important part of the overall reason. There was the great phone bit about Xander and his lack of privacy in the shower. There was Dawn's great line about crossbow accidents - oddly I was in a house this Christmas where someone was pointing an unloaded crossbow and I got really nervous, Dawn has a valid point. Then we have all the great lines about Andrew - that he's like a little dog dancing for snausages, that he picks up the flavour of evil, and then his hatred of free will speech. There was Andrew (he keeps popping up in this list, doesn't he) do his tribute to womanly power and Xander's response. There was the scene in the bar with Clem. If only one demon in the world has Tivo, it would be Clem. In addition to the great dialogue (is Clem working out?), you've got the surprise scene of Clem's head exploding - or whatever creepy thing he did.

When Faith turned evil and teamed up with the mayor, back in season 3, I talked about her as a metaphor for Nietzschean morality where power equals good and the ability to do something gives you the right to do it. This metaphor was evident in Consequences, Enemies, and Graduation Part 2. Buffy ultimately renounced that philosophy. But it is only now that I realized the reverse of that philosophy has been hidden away in the show all this time - Xander. He has no power, yet he constantly struggles to do the right thing. Most importantly, he struggles to make others happy.

Of course, Xander is deeply flawed. He is sometimes selfish. He lied to Buffy when she went to kill Angel. He summoned the singing and dancing demon. He abandoned Anya at the altar. He participated in the raising of Buffy which has led to the emergence of FE. But those flaws, those moments of failure, are the very essence of his significance. He is not chosen, he does not have a destiny, he has no special power. He merely has the free will Andrew despises. And, unlike Andrew, he mostly makes the right decisions. If he were incapable of doing wrong, his right decisions would be meaningless. The fact that he is corruptable and temptable and yet still mostly does good makes his deeds all the more meaningful.

Xander's secret good deeds have a long history. He bought the dress for Cordelia in The Prom. This was an amazingly generous act since she was going to the prom to meet another man. But he saw how sad she was, how hard the blow fate had dealt her was for her to take. He saw, he knew, and he acted. He made her happy without expecting anything in return. In The Freshman, he does the same for Buffy. She's dispirited and feels helpless. He reinvigorates her, telling her that she is his hero. As Dawn gave power to Amanda, so he gave power to Buffy. You cannot be a hero in isolation. Someone must admire your deeds. There has to be someone weak to save. He fulfilled that role for Buffy.

His biggest good deed was the salvation of Willow in Two to Go/Grave. Again, it was a matter of seeing and knowing. Where others saw an incredible menace with enormous power, he saw his old friend. As he invigorated Buffy by telling her how he felt about her, what she meant to him, so he caused the good in Willow to regain ascendancy by telling her how he felt about her and what she meant to him. In both cases, all Xander had were words. And words were enough.

He does the same for Dawn in this episode. Seeing that she is downcast, deprived of being special, he reminds her that she is not ordinary. He sees, he knows, the struggle she must face. Not so much against powerful demons, but against her own sense of helplessness and unimportance. In The Gift, Buffy said "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it." That's truer for those not chosen than for those who are. They have no destiny, no defined role, no obvious purpose. They must live life with nothing but blind faith and a belief that their actions, however small, do matter. That's the message of hope that Xander delivers. It's a message for the small characters who people the world that the heroes briefly stride across.

The issue of free will ties together Xander, Andrew, and Spike. Xander uses his free will to do good, becoming heroic (the Lord of the Rings parallel is to the hobbits who are not heroes yet are the heroes of the book although not the deeply flawed films). Andrew despises his free will, he wishes others to make his moral decisions for him and eschews responsibility. He is neither hero nor villain (though he pretends to both) but a nonentity. Spike was made a vampire against his will and was controlled by the demon which inhabited him. He was then controlled by the chip. He has been neither good nor evil, since he's never been free to choose. Now he has a soul and while the chip or FE may control him, he at least has genuine feelings of desire and remorse. Buffy has freed him, at least temporarily, of the control of FE. But until he is freed of the chip, we will not really know what Spike is made of. These three characters represent the spectrum of moral action. And Buffy's influence on them is a metaphor for her new role as hero/saviour.

I'm sure everyone noticed Buffy saying her death could make one of the girls the next slayer. Only the line passed to Faith, no new slayer was created when Buffy died fighting Glory, so she's wrong. This could be a deliberate lie to simplify things for the slayerettes or just lack of knowledge on Buffy's part.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked the reference to Andrew's attempted pig killing. That's a very sloppy science teacher who leaves acid lying around the lab. Have Giles and Anya said anything about what they learnt about FE and Buffy? That was surely the biggest omission in this episode. I liked the way the slayerettes are depicted as regular teenage girls. They peek at Xander in the shower and they're eager to drink in the bar when they realize they won't be carded.

Lines of the week:

"If you're going to take a shower in my house, lock the door." - Buffy with a little advice for Xander.

"Household crossbow accident claims teen." - Dawn with an all too common headline.

"He's not evil. But when he gets close to it he picks up its flavour, like a mushroom or something." - Buffy perfectly defining Andrew.

"I hate my free will." - Andrew with a deep theological statement and proof that Buffy was right in her assessment of him.

"Say Skywalker and I smack you." - Xander saying what we all were thinking.

"I'll pay you to talk about Star Wars again." - Xander saying what we all were thinking.

"It's like a gay bar, only with demons." - Slayerette with an apt analogy.

"a high-functioning schizophrenic" - Amanda with a common description of Buffy.

"It's not a body. It's leftovers." - Buffy taking a vampire point of view.

"Not one of them will ever know." - Xander on the ignorance of the chosen.

"How much harder it is for the rest of us." - Xander on the secret of the unchosen.

"Seven years working with the slayer, watching my friends get more powerful." - Xander on his life.

"I'm the guy who fixes the windows." - Xander on his job.

"The windows really did need fixing." - Dawn on Xander's value.

"I saw what you did." - Xander letting Dawn know someone watches.

"I see more than anybody realizes because nobody's watching me." - Xander getting deep.

"You're not special. You're extraordinary." - Xander evaluating Dawn.

"Seeing. Knowing." - Dawn on Xander's power.

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