Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Storyteller

Summary

We're in a private library and the music from Masterpiece Theater plays. The camera pans to reveal Andrew smoking a pipe and wearing a smoking jacket. He addresses the gentle viewers and says it's wonderful to get lost in a story. He takes a puff from the pipe and chokes. He invites them to watch a story he calls Buffy, Slayer of the Vampires. Cut to Buffy walking through a cemetery with his voice over saying it was cold and cruel last night. A vampire attacks her and she slays it with a crossbow. A second attacks. Cut to Andrew saying it looks tough for the slayer. There is a knocking and we see Andrew is actually sitting in the bathroom. Anya bursts in and complains he's been there for 30 minutes. He has a video camera set up and has been speaking to it. She asks why he can't masturbate like the rest of them. Cut back to the cemetery and Buffy slaying the second vampire. Andrew runs up with his camera asking why vampires show up on video. Buffy tells him she doesn't want him recording her. He ignores this. He says it's an important historical record.

Cut to Anya dragging him out of the bathroom as he claims it's a story which has to be told. Anya doesn't think there is any point to it. But Andrew says he's going to interview her to bring balance and glamour to the story and she starts thinking it's a good idea. Cut to Andrew in front of a white board bringing us uptodate on what has happened. He shows drawings of the high school, hellmouth, seal, ubervamp, FE, and the bringers. Cut to Andrew shooting the slayerettes and some of the gang in the kitchen at breakfast time. He calls it the women of command central which annoys Xander. He says he's doing a special intro for Xander later - the heart of the slayer machine. He says Buffy is concerned with unknown danger. Dawn says they are out of Raisin Bran and Anya says she'll put it on the list. Spike and Buffy come in with Spike grumbling about how the house is a girl's dorm. Spike lights a cigarette and Dawn complains about the smell. Andrew says it's time for introductions and Amanda starts talking about herself but he says not her. Rona laughs. We see through Andrew's imagination again - a sexy vision of Buffy pouring cereal, then a bare chested Spike with a comment about the heat between him and Buffy, next Anya sexily eating grapes, then a girl whose name he doesn't know. Buffy interrupts and says can't they stop him. Rona says if they save the world it would be nice to have a record. Amanda says if they don't save the world, it won't really matter. Anya and Xander agree that having a record would be nice. Willow says viewing the tapes helps the girls train. Spike says as long as Andrew doesn't film him it's a good way to keep Andrew busy. Buffy says it's a waste of time, that there's a war on. She says Amanda and Dawn aren't going to school. She begins to tell them about her vision of the ubervamp army. Andrew pulls back, says these motivational speeches tend to go on for a long time, and starts talking about himself. He says he's a man with a burden, that he was once a supervillain. We get a mythical flashback of Andrew perfecting an evil plan and being praised by Warren and Jonathan. He returns to reality and we see Buffy is still talking. He comments that even Willow looks bored. Then Kennedy goes over to Willow and he says things are looking better for them. He explains that Kennedy wooed and won Willow then was scared by an encounter with her darker side. He starts talking of his own encounter with dark Willow at the end of season 6. The scene is the same as back then (Willow attacking Andrew and Jonathan in the magic shop) only Andrew gets different dialogue making him seem braver and more intelligent. Back in reality, Andrew notices Buffy has stopped talking and says that usually means she's had to go to work.

Buffy arrives at school and immediately breaks up a fight. Then she sees a girl turn invisible. She goes over and slaps where the girl was and the fact that somebody actually noticed her causes her to become visible again. A girl comes out of the bathroom crying because the mirror said she was fat, literally. Buffy sees a guy in the hall getting frantic because school work is piling up way faster than he can handle. He feels like he's going to explode. Buffy suggests a foot rub. In the office she finds Wood with a head wound - someone threw a rock at him. She says if they don't do something, they'll have war. He thinks she's exaggerating, she says high school feels like war. That the hellmouth makes people's negative feelings reality. There is a scream outside and I think the frantic guy explodes.

Andrew is interviewing Dawn. Then he walks into the next room where Willow and Kennedy are making out. But he focuses on the window which Xander has repaired. He says Xander is extraordinary. At school, Wood and Buffy are looking at the building blue prints while she explains what has happened there in the past. She mentions swim team monsters and killer prom dogs. She says the hellmouth energy is focussed by the seal and causing all these things to happen at the same time. Andrew is interviewing Xander and Anya. He says one year ago today Xander left Anya at the altar and asks how he feels about this. Xander is shocked at the question. Anya wants to know the answer. Xander says he has apologized enough. Andrew says does he think it deserves an apology. Xander says yes. Andrew asks if that means he thinks it was the wrong thing to do. Anya says of course he does. Xander says it was the right thing to do. He says if they had married it would have gone against everything he thought was right. She says they still spark and that he still loves her. She asks him if this is true. He's silent. Andrew repeats the question.

Buffy and Wood are in the basement where the seal has uncovered itself again. She explains about her vision. He walks onto the seal to examine it. She says Willow tried researching it, but the goat with its tongue hanging out is just too widespread and she wasn't able to narrow it down. He asks if she trusts Willow and she says why wouldn't she. He says he doesn't know how any of them trust the others since they've all been evil at one time. Buffy says that's not true, she was never evil. Wood's eyes go funny and he starts talking about her screwing the vampire in a strange voice. He comes toward her and she slams him into the wall. He comes to himself and she says the seal was controlling him. He says they have to shut if down before it affects everyone. She says they have to talk to the one who fed it it's first drop of blood. A pig runs by them and Wood says he hopes it's not a student.

Spike is being filmed by Andrew and gets angry at him. Then Andrew complains about the light and Spike replays the scene and we realize he was just acting and has actually agreed to be filmed. Anya and Xander are still talking about their relationship, but Xander hasn't clearly answered the question and Anya thinks they are just bouncing blame for what happened back and forth. He says he still loves her and always will but doesn't know if that means anything for them any more. She says she loves him too and doesn't know if that means anything either. He says it's nice to hear and that he's not going to find anyone like her. He says he's the more replaceable one. We see this is all still being taped. She says no, there's no one like him. We see Andrew now watching the tape. Anya says Xander was willing to stand up to danger even unarmed. She says he was ready to die to protect her. Andrew is mouthing her lines as she speaks them. Xander says he wants to get back in her head. She says he never left her heart. Andrew is tearing up. He rewinds the tape and starts watching it again. Buffy walks in and says they need to talk. Andrew says he's more about recording now, but Buffy says the seal is his baby and he has to get in there before it tears everything apart. Cut to the seal where a group of students enter the basement, encircle the seal, and start chanting. The seal starts to glow.

We're in Mexico back in 2002. Andrew and Jonathan are sharing a room while on the run. The both wake from the same nightmare - a collage of evil images that actually occurred in earlier episodes this season. There is a voice intoning something in a foreign language and they don't know what it means. They work each other up into a tizzy and Jonathan says he doesn't deserve this because he wasn't all that evil. Andrew says he thought he was and Jonathan thanks him for noticing. In the present, Willow tells Andrew they are getting off the subject. She's using magic to make Andrew remember what happened and he says he doesn't want to. He asks for a Zima but Buffy says no. They say he was the first to uncover the seal and they need to know how he knew it was there and what to do. He says he forgets and they tell him to look at the charm and remember. They say to keep on topic and he says his recollection was about to get relevant because Jonathan was going to go to the bathroom. Cut back to Mexico and Jonathan goes to the bathroom. Warren appears and asks if Andrew has the knife. Andrew bought some special knife and we learn he has to stab Jonathan with it. Warren says it will be a powerful tribute and they'll live as gods once it's made. Andrew has a fantasy sequence of the three of them as gods. Warren says he has to drive the words deep into Jonathan, that the knife is very special.

Back in the present, Willow realizes there is something special about the knife. Andrew tells them it is in the cutlery drawer. He says he washed it and they didn't have a steak knife. Willow says there must be writing on the knife. Kennedy brings the knife and Andrew says there is writing in protoTawarick - a very old language. He reads it - it's about spilling blood for evil. Later, Willow has a plan. Buffy says Andrew is going to the seal. They say he can talk to it and maybe stop it. She, Andrew, Spike, and Wood leave for the school.

At the school, they find vandalism, fires and general destruction. Spike says there must be injured kids. Wood says they would be easy pickings for Spike's kind. Spike says he's there to help and Wood is sceptical. Andrew sees the tension between them and believes it is sexual. They are attacked by some of the kids, who seem to be getting stronger. They fight them off and get to the basement entrance. Buffy has Spike and Wood stay there to keep their line of retreat clear. She takes a reluctant Andrew downstairs. He's still taping it all. She tells him to stop. She says she doesn't want a biographer, especially a murderer. He claims he's not a murderer. He recaps the death of Jonathan, only this time Jonathan attacks him when he sees the knife and his death is accidental and self defense. Buffy says she saw the seal possess Wood earlier and Andrew changes his story, this time he's possessed and that's why he kills Jonathan. She points out he just changed his story and he denies it. They get to the entrance to the room with the seal and she realizes there is someone inside. They enter to find the kids we saw earlier now looking like bringers.

At the house, Xander and Anya have had sex. They agree it was just one more time and they are finally over. At the school, Spike and Wood look at the makeshift clubs the students created. Wood assumes they were paying attention in shop. They are attacked and in fighting off his attacker, Wood breaks the club and a stake shaped piece comes off. He picks it up and goes to slay Spike but is knocked aside by another attacker. Meanwhile, Buffy is fighting the student bringers. Andrew starts filming it and doing a commentary. Buffy defeats them, pulls out the knife, and says it is Andrew's turn. She says the seal doesn't understand words, it understands blood. That Andrew's blood, as the person who opened it, can close it again. He asks if it's enough blood to kill him. He starts talking about how he can get his redemption this way. She tells him to stop telling stories. He says Warren said Jonathan would be okay and he lost his friend. Buffy says he didn't lose him, he killed him. She says she's tired of making speeches about how they can get through it, because she knows it's not true. That this isn't a story where good just triumphs. That good people will die. Maybe her. She says probably him, probably now.

Buffy holds him over the seal. She says when his blood pours out it might save the world. She asks what he thinks about that, whether that means he's redeemed. He says no. He says he killed Jonathan. That he knew it wasn't Warren but he pretended it was. He cries. As his tears hit the seal, it goes out. Buffy says it didn't want blood, it wanted tears. He thanks her. He asks whether she was really going to kill him. She says she wasn't going to stab him. He asks what if the tears didn't work. She says nothing and leaves. He follows. Outside, the students stop fighting as the power of the seal fades. Spike and Wood realize she won.

At home, Andrew is taping himself again but this time for real. He says he killed his best friend and he will probably die in the fight to come. He doesn't know what else to say and turns off the tape.

Analysis

I was really set to hate this episode until a few things happened. I began to wonder whether in some weird way Andrew isn't Whedon's alter ego - a geek looking to make a show about a vampire slayer. When Andrew described the slayer using his whiteboard illustrations I wondered whether this wasn't a slight exaggeration of Whedon's pitch to the network. Then it struck me that the 'gentle viewers' line might be a homage to Isaac Asimov. Finally, there were the amazing final minutes which reaffirmed everything I had been thinking about this season and then some. Plus we got some more insight into those two perpetually squabbling couples - Xander/Anya and Wood/Spike.

Let's start with Andrew's favourite couple - Wood/Spike. Lot's of sexual tension there - at least that's Andrew's read on it. The odd thing is Andrew has a strange, warped, but generally very correct understanding of everyone. He knows exactly how to play them all - he even gets Spike to participate in his drama. And Xander and Anya are putty in his hands. So maybe he really is seeing something in the Spike/Wood dynamic. Wood continues to taunt Spike. He can't bring himself to believe that Spike really has changed. But the big question is whether his attack on Spike in the school was his idea alone or whether he was under the control of the mystic forces emanating from the seal. I'm betting he was acting on his own and that means things will come to a head very soon.

There is a parallelism between Andrew and Spike. Both are seeking redemption. Both have killed - it's interesting that Wood points out how pretty well everyone in the gang has been evil at one time or another. As Andrew consciously faces what he thinks will be death at the hands of Buffy he has a moment of true repentance. He takes responsibility for what he did and truly regrets it. At the same moment, Wood almost slays Spike. So Spike unconsciously faces what might be death at the hands of a slayer's child. Had Wood succeeded, he would have doubly sinned. First, by killing a being with a soul regardless of the crimes its demon possessed body might have committed in the past. Second, and more importantly, by killing him without allow him the opportunity for repentance. Buffy never answers Andrew's question. What would she have done had he not truly repented? Maybe it doesn't matter. Much in the way the slayerettes pointed out that if they fail it doesn't matter what Andrew does. What was important was that Buffy gave Andrew the chance. Wood didn't do that and it makes his act purely evil. Fortunately, he was stopped from completing it by the very evil which is motivating him.

Andrew acts as psychoanalyst to Xander/Anya (although his interest in them is almost voyeuristic). It's interesting (and another sign of Andrew's sexual preference) that he takes Anya's role when he acts out their conversation. His questions, as ineptly put as they were, actually force Xander and Anya to talk about their relationship. Something they always avoid. They speak truthfully to one another. They reveal they still love one another. And Xander reveals that he still thinks he did the right thing because he had doubts. For possibly the first time in their relationship, they have a plain honest conversation. They really say how they feel. They care for one another, probably love one another, but that's not enough for them to build a relationship on.

I noted above that Andrew is a parodic version of Whedon. He's also a shipper. He yearns for happy relationships. He wants Xander and Anya to be together. He wants happy endings. His version of the story has the trio happy together as gods in some bizarre version of heaven (and it's a nice touch that the closing credits end with the sound of the trio chanting we are gods just in case we missed the Andrew as producer parallel). Buffy says it isn't a story. But it is. It's just a tv show. But it's a good show. And a good show doesn't give in to the sensibilities of the shippers. Make people happy and you destroy the drama. Buffy keeps saying people will die, good people, maybe her, certainly some of the girls. We've seen a couple of the girls die already. That's made the show better. In this, the show's last season, more than ever anybody can die at any moment. The deaths of Joyce and Tara were devastating. But I think they will pale in comparison to the impact of the deaths we'll see this season.

This episode further demonstrates the role of Buffy as redeemer, not slayer. The evil emanating from the seal is defeated not through strength but through her redemptive force. Andrew, living with Buffy and the others, has absorbed her positive values. When push comes to shove, when Andrew thinks everything is really on the line, he does the right thing. Buffy knows that Andrew has been hiding the truth from himself. He keeps changing the story to suit his needs. He tries to paint himself as an observer or a victim. But she knows that he's guilt ridden. That his constant story telling is an attempt not to remember so he doesn't have to live with that guilt. Like Spike, he's driven into a kind of madness - only his fantasy world takes place behind a video camera lens. Spike spoke to imaginary people who were creations of FE. Andrew has been so damaged by his exposure to FE (and he was much weaker than Spike to begin with) that he's created his own imaginary universe in which he can hide from reality.

Understanding this, Buffy realizes that only by facing up to and admitting to reality can Andrew find the redemption he really wants. But he needs to be pushed and she gives him that push. And he finally tells the truth. Not simply that he killed Jonathan - we already know that. But that he always knew FE was not Warren. He always knew he was doing something horribly wrong and yet he did it anyway. Spike had a demon suppressing his conscience, Andrew had no such excuse. His sin is far greater because all through the act of sinning he was aware of it. Admitting to that sin, taking responsibility, is the first step in penance. He isn't redeemed, but redemption is possible.

The final scene is critical to Andrew's sea change. He uses the camera again, but there is no imagining this time. Nor is he filming anyone else. He's neither observer nor fantasist. This time the camera records reality. And it stops in the middle. Andrew admits he doesn't know how his story ends because it's not a story, it's life. He's realized that life can end at any moment, especially when you live on the hellmouth. And if that's the case, then you can't afford to wait to begin the process of redemption. Andrew now understands he cannot afford the luxury of ignoring reality, of lying to himself and others. If he wants to be saved, he has to be honest. With himself most importantly of all.

Some quick final thoughts. In the opening sequence, one of the books has Nietzsche on the spine. Nietzschean philosophy has been an aspect of several episodes, especially during the Faith gone over to the mayor's side arc in season 3. Lots of continuity moments in this episode, in no particular order:

There were what looked like product placement in this episode, I assume done for humour. We got references to Raisin Bran and Zima. How could Buffy not have a steak knife?

Lines of the week:

"Why can't you just masturbate like the rest of us?" - Anya with a line which may be unique in tv history.

"They're very mobile for blind people." - Andrew with an interesting description of the bringers.

"The man who is the heart of the slayer machine." - Andrew on Xander

"Technically as a vampire he's room temperature." - Andrew having trouble with the heat between Spike and Buffy.

"A vulnerable heart that she hides even from herself. - Andrew with real insight into Anya.

"A man with a burden." - Andrew telling the truth about himself and lying at the same time.

"God, I hope that's not a student." - Wood on the wandering pig.

"Here's where we hop on the merry-go-round of rotating knives. I blame you and you blame me and we both get cut to shreds." - Anya being surprisingly serious about her feelings.

"Can't I have a cool refreshing Zima." - Andrew proving how twisted he really is.

"Drive the words deep into him." - FE as Warren giving us a clue.

"The blood which I spill, I consecrate to the oldest evil." - The knife letting us know what its job is.

"Sexual tension you could cut with a knife." - Andrew projecting on Spike and Wood.

"Struck down before I achieve redemption." - Andrew at least having his priorities straight.

"What I do is too important to show the world." - Buffy with a really good line.

"I'm a spitfire in the bedroom." - Anya self evaluating.

"It's your turn Andrew." - Buffy getting scary.

"Because I killed him. Because I listened to Warren and I pretended I thought it was him but I knew it wasn't." - Andrew finally telling the truth.

"Here's the thing. I killed my best friend. There's a big fight coming and I don't know what's gonna happen. I don't even think I'm gonna live through it. That's probably the way it should be. I guess I..." - Andrew finally telling his story and realizing he doesn't know the end.

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