Giles, the slayerettes, and Buffy walk through a cemetery. There is a new slayerette, Chao Ahn. Giles explains how he escaped the bringers, his almost sixth sense. Honed by training. Spike smashes in to him. Spike explains Anya said Giles was FE. Giles asks what was the point in tackling a noncorporeal being. He then realizes Spike was not in pain and Buffy reveals they removed the chip.
At home, Giles goes to Buffy and says what she did is very dangerous. She says she did it on instinct, just as he felt the bringer there by instinct. He says he made that up, he heard the bringer's shoes squeak. He says they have to protect the slayerettes. He says they face the bringers, random demons, and now Spike. She mentions the principal and his appearance in the basement in Bring on the Night. She says she's looking in to it. She says Spike is no more dangerous than before, that FE controlled him when he had the chip and made him kill. Giles says maybe the chip was defective then and a working one would stop FE. She says his soul will stop him from hurting people. That for Spike to be a good man they have to take a risk. Giles says she's too involved with Spike and fears her judgment is clouded. She says having him chipped was wrong and evil and you can't defeat evil by doing evil. She says she does see the big picture. He says she's taking a big risk and he hopes she's right.
Xander is at a hardware store and sees an attractive woman looking at rope. Her name is Lissa. He offers to help her. They flirt and he asks her out for coffee. At school, Buffy goes into Wood's office and snoops around. He enters. She pretends she was looking for supplies. He asks her to dinner. He jokes about how he doesn't want her thinking her job depends on it. He says he may have to write up a document saying he didn't say that and have her sign it. She says yes to dinner. She leaves. He takes a bloody knife out of his pocket. He opens his cabinet, lifts up the whiteboard, and reveals a weapons cabinet where he replaces the blade.
Buffy and Willow are talking about her date with Wood. They agree he could simply be interested in her. Buffy wonders whether she's getting promoted because she's doing such a good job. Willow laughs, then catches herself. Buffy wonders whether he's evil, suspects her, and intends to take her out and kill her. Willows asks if she's interested in him and Buffy says yes. She hopes he isn't evil, because that would demonstrate she isn't just attracted to the wicked energy. Xander rushes in to tell them he's got a date, only to find his thunder stolen by Buffy. Willow starts talking about Buffy and Wood making out and Buffy mentions Willow holding hands under the table at dinner with Kennedy. Willow changes the subject, asking if Xander's date is evil. He says it's likely since she's interested in him. Giles comes in with the new slayerette. They've been shopping, since she has brought nothing with her. She speaks Cantonese and Giles doesn't. He says ice cream is the universal language. In Cantonese she says she's lactose intolerant. Giles says she said she's glad to be in the land of plenty. They go upstairs and Buffy asks Willow to research Wood. She volunteers to research Xander's date, but he says he's going in blind.
Andrew is reading the manual which came with the microwave. FE appears to him in the form of Jonathan. Andrew tries to fend him off with a cross. Then says he's not listening to him because he follows Buffy and is redeeming himself for killing Jonathan. FE says he can never be part of Buffy's gang because he's a murderer. Andrew says so are Willow, Anya, and Spike. FE says Andrew is the only one she makes seek redemption. Andrew agrees that doesn't sound fair. FE says when the battle is over, there won't be a slayer gang but there will be evil. And Andrew can sit at his side. He says he just wants Andrew to kill the slayerettes. Andrew says that's horrible, that he couldn't stand the blood. FE tells Andrew he has to get the gun Willow brought into the house in The Killer in Me.
Anya is trying to get a stain out of Buffy's top. She doesn't think it's a date. Buffy says that's why she's wearing something ambiguous. Anya says she means Xander's date. She says she thinks he's trying to get her jealous. It's working. She can't get out the stain and Buffy goes to find something else to wear. Spike comes up. He has heard about her date and he says he's alright. She says he should start dating, too. Xander is at the coffee shop, waiting for his date. She arrives and he says he's drinking a red eye, but she realizes it's hot cocoa. She says she doesn't want macho, then she orders a read eye. At home, Willow can't find anything about Wood. Anya and Giles come downstairs. Giles made flashcards for Chao Ahn. She saw them and locked herself in the bathroom. Willow and the others look at the cards, they are incredibly bloody and violent - though very crudely drawn with stick figures. They understand why she's scared. They ask if he wants to help research Buffy's date. He is surprised she's on a date. Anya says everyone is dating. Giles is outraged saying no one seems aware of the battle against evil. Andrew peeks in at them.
Buffy and Wood are walking down a dark and deserted alley.They are attacked by a gang of vampires and Buffy thinks he set her up. Only she sees him fighting and staking them as well. He helps her up and says they should talk. Wood points out the restaurant, which really is hidden in this little alley. Xander is telling Lissa about Anya and him walking out on her. He says their anniversary, or what would have been their anniversary, is coming up. She says if he had doubts, they are better off not getting married. She says it worked out alright for her and she suggests she can think of something fun to do.
The restaurant is nice. Wood is a freelance demon hunter. He knows she's the slayer. He got the job and he hired her because he knows something big is happening and he wants to help fight it. She says he didn't hire her for her counselling skills and he laughs. He catches himself and says they are valuable, too. He says he didn't approach her before because he wasn't sure he was ready. But now the fight has begun and he has no time to worry. He says he knows about slayers because his mother was the slayer. She was killed by a vampire. He now kills as many of them as he can hoping one day he'll avenge her death. He was taken in by her watcher and raised by him. He has no super skills or abilities.
Andrew has the gun and takes it to FE. FE says he'll have to trap the girls somewhere, like the basement. Andrew says why kill them and FE says they are the future of the slayer line. Kill them and the line ends. Andrew asks why not have Spike do it and FE says it isn't Spike's time yet. He asks about FE's weaknesses and when will they kill Buffy. FE asks if he's wearing a wire. Downstairs Willow is listening in (with Amanda, Dawn, and Kennedy) and she realizes they've been spotted. FE tells Andrew by killing Jonathan he started down a road and he can't stop. Andrew says no, he won't kill innocent girls. He's good now. When the battle is over he'll pay for killing Jonathan. But that FE isn't Jonathan. FE says he'll pay for more than that. Then it appears, as an increasingly decayed Jonathan, to the girls listening and tells them they only see and hear what he wants them to see and hear. He promises death and vanishes.
Xander is tied to a frame and suspended over the seal for the ubervamp. Lissa is a demon intent on raising the ubervamp by bleeding Xander. They are taking the wire off Andrew and explaining to Giles and Spike what happened. Willow wanted to study FE. Andrew explains that it said it wasn't Spike's time yet. He tells them it wanted him to shoot the slayerettes. Dawn tells Andrew he did good. He calls her a peach. Giles says this proves his point it is time to circle the wagons. He wants to get Buffy. Spike says he'll get her but Willow says she'll call. But first she gets a text message from Xander. It's one of their signals, they planned some signals in case of emergency. She says it's either "I got lucky don't call for awhile" or "my date's a demon". Dawn says they should go with the percentages. Giles says something is eating Xander's head. Spike says he'll get Buffy. Willow says she'll call. We see Buffy left her phone at home. Spike goes. Buffy is eating brandied pears at the restaurant. Spike appears and tells her Xander is in trouble. Lissa stabs Xander and he starts bleeding onto the seal.
Wood, Buffy, and Spike are in Wood's car going to the school where Willow's locator spell found Xander. Wood looks in the rearview mirror, then asks how Spike and Buffy know one another. She says he works for her fighting evil. They get to the school basement and fight Lissa. Spike puts on his demon face and Wood realizes he's a vampire. Wood cuts down Xander. The seal is partially activated and a hand comes out, but Wood breaks free of it and the seal closes, cutting off the hand. Buffy decapitates Lissa, killing her. She runs to Spike, who is ok. Wood sees this. Xander is alright. He asks how her date is going. She looks at Wood. Spike looks at Wood. Wood looks at them.
Anya is wondering where they are it's 2 am. Chao Ahn comes downstairs asking, in Cantonese, whether the flashcard monsters are attacking. Giles offers her some warm milk. She shouts 'you're trying to kill me' and runs upstairs. He says she's shy. Buffy and the others arrive. Xander says he's going gay. He tells Willow to gay him up. He says he's starting by mentally undressing Scott Bakula. Andrew gets excited. Buffy says he'll just start attracting male demons. Dawn says Clem always liked him. Giles tells them to stop. He says it's time to get serious.
Later, Spike goes to Buffy. He says he wants to leave. That hearing what Andrew said about it not being his time yet, he wants out before FE can use him against Buffy and the others. She says no. She says she's not ready for him to not be there. He asks where the principal fits in. She doesn't answer. Wood is washing up. FE appears to him as his mother. He knows what it is and ignores it. But it tells him that Spike killed his mother. It makes him say thank you.
So how did a tied up Xander send a message to Willow? And wasn't it just a wee bit too obvious that Spike had killed Wood's mother? Of course, I have to hand out credit for making Wood the child of a slayer - something I never considered. And I'm ignoring the whole "Anya said you were noncorporeal evil" bit at the beginning (given that Anya already knew he wasn't), assuming that Anya was just having some fun, or she left a note which Spike read before she returned, or Anya was just speaking in her typically garbled and confused way and he got it wrong. It was weak writing - it basically happens so they can have that opening scene - but it doesn't matter much. Now with the nits out of the way, I can focus on what I liked - the continuing theme of redemption and of accepting the consequences of your actions. It happened to Andrew and Spike this episode.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. This season isn't about a battle between the slayer and demons. It's about good versus evil in their purest forms. Buffy and FE aren't slugging it out, they are battling for souls. Buffy scored the first victory. She won Spike. Despite everything FE did to him, he remained confident in Buffy's love. He knew she would come for him. Perhaps it was his confidence which undermined FE and gave Buffy the strength to defeat ubervamp and rescue Spike's body, having already triumphed over his soul. She scores again with Andrew. He showed enormous courage in conspiring against FE. He knows he has done terrible things and will be punished for them. But he has decided which side he will be on. He's siding with Buffy, with good. He won't be evil any more. FE argues that the others (like Spike) get off easier. But Andrew sees through this. He knows that they, too, are seeking redemption. That Buffy isn't treating him differently.
It's at this point that the distraught FE turns to Wood. It seeks to undermine his strong moral sense. With Spike and Andrew, it had naturally evil beings it felt it could easily use. But Buffy's power turned them away from evil. Wood is naturally good and by striking at him FE is raising the stakes and does to Buffy what Buffy has done to FE. It is suborning one of her natural allies. And it is doing so with arguments which almost seem reasonable. Wood has spent his life searching for his mother's murderer. It's a murderous and dangerous demon and destroying it is a reasonable and praiseworthy thing. Not long ago, Buffy would have helped him. But now Spike, the killer, has a soul. That means the rules of human justice should apply to him, not the vigilante rules of the soulless. But there is no way those rules can punish him for that distant crime. Wood is faced with the same challenge as Angel's Holtz. He has before him the body of the killer he seeks, but a soul that belongs to another. He wants vengeance, but anything he does harms a being who is essentially innocent. A being who would never have done what the killer did. A being who is a necessary part of the battle against evil.
If winning Spike's soul gave Buffy the strength to defeat ubervamp and winning over Andrew made her stronger, then FE must be getting weaker. Which explains the curious absence of the bringers. Maybe FE's power, its ability to control and send off its minions, is linked to Buffy's. As one waxes, the other wanes. This isn't so strange given that FE's ability to upset the balance of good and evil is linked to Buffy's return from death. So that makes the attack on Wood by FE critical. By getting him to say thank you it sets his foot on that path way to evil - the path it talked about with Andrew. And once you start, it's hard to stop. It's strange to think of Wood as weaker than Andrew, but he may actually be. Wood fully understands what FE is, but his desire for revenge may lead him to a deal with the devil. And such deals always have one very high price. Wood may feel his soul is a reasonable trade for his revenge. But his soul may tip the balance of power between good and evil. I don't think he's aware of that big picture.
Buffy seems to realize two things: you cannot triumph over evil by doing evil and triumph over evil can only happen when beings have free will. So she frees Spike and insists he remain with her. If Spike isn't free and isn't exposed to evil, he doesn't have the chance to pick good. Buffy has also allowed Andrew free reign and he has repaid her by choosing good. She understands that by giving freedom to those which FE once held in thrall, she actually strengthens her own power base. She instinctually resists Giles' when he calls for greater control. Giles fears for the security of the slayerettes, but Buffy has in mind the bigger picture. Her world requires choice and chaos and the possibility of horror and disaster. FE's world is certain and without choice. But it is in the chaos of choice and freedom that good resides, not in the certainty and order offered by evil. Buffy understands better than Giles that there must always be a price to pay - even for being good.
Andrew comes to a great realization. He understands he will have to pay a price for what he has done. Willow has learnt this as has Anya. FE is wrong in claiming they are privileged above Andrew. And Andrew knows this. He knows killing his friend was a horrible thing and he has to be punished. He hopes to perform some form of penance before that punishment. In religious terms, he is seeking to change a mortal sin into a venial one. Spike suffers the torment of conscience for his sins in general and in particular for what he has done to Buffy. But killing the slayer was a greater sin. That murder is his Holtz. And like Angel he has to confront the one he wronged and hope he can atone for what he did. He has to accept, as does Andrew, that there is only punishment. And he has to decide, like Andrew, that he must still strive to be good.
I don't like Giles being so ineffective. His inability to communicate with the new slayerette was silly. And his griping at the gang seemed petty. Maybe this is supposed to be Giles under stress, but we've seen him act better under stress before. Of course, the dumb 'gay me up' scene seemed out of character for Xander as well. It was dumb, but not the traditional Xander dumb.
There's an interesting look on Buffy's face when Wood reveals his slayer mother was killed by a vampire. She knows Spike killed two of them, one in the US. When Wood drives Buffy and Spike to the school, he glances in the rearview mirror and I think he notices he can't see Spike's reflection. He's already suspicious as is Buffy. As FE later says to Wood, he already knows. Spike senses something is amiss and that's why he offers to leave. But For Spike and Wood to achieve their redemption, they have to meet and resolve matters between them. Redemption for Wood may be harder than for the evil Andrew or Spike.
Some quick final thoughts. Good footwear is obviously a requirement for any successful villain. I make my living writing manuals, so I have to take it as a sign of Andrew's innate goodness that he was reading the microwave manual before using it. Note that the evil FE says not to read it. When Wood says 'I guess we should talk" I was reminded of the ending of Hush. Giles' flashcards reminded me of that episode as well - remember his foils? Xander says his and Anya's anniversary will be soon. The wedding almost happened in season 6 episode 15. This is season 7 episode 14. Another solid piece of continuity. You've got to love it. You've got to love Andrew on Buffy's underwear drawer. Does anyone know if the actress playing Wood's mother played the slayer killed by Spike? I can't find the credit for that earlier role.
Lines of the week:
"I made that up. I knew the bringer was there because his shoes squeaked."- Giles who isn't FE but is a big, fat liar.
"Spike has his soul now. That's what's going to stop him from hurting people." - Buffy on Spike's redemption.
"He can be a good man, Giles. I feel it. But he's never gonna get there if we don't give him a chance." - Buffy on taking the free will risk.
"When Spike had that chip, it was like having him in a muzzle. It was wrong. You can't beat evil by doing evil." - Buffy on the real battle.
"You're a frisky vixen." - Willow trying to beef up Buffy's dating confidence.
"You'll have to dress for the ambiguity." - Willow on the dating problems of slayers.
"A bidet of evil." - Buffy putting evil in French terms.
"Didn't you see the flashcards." - Giles making a very good point.
"I guess we should talk." - Wood with understatement.
"Redemption is hard." - Andrew being realistic.
"I'm not ready for you to not be here." - Buffy admitting Giles was right.
"Thank you." - Wood possibly damning himself.
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