Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Empty Places

Summary

People flood out of town. Buffy spots Clem leaving. He talks about how bad things are going, you can't swing a cat without hitting a demon. He says he wouldn't swing or eat a cat - cholesterol, no morals. He pretends he has confidence in her to save the world, but it's clear he doesn't think she can do it this time. He suggests she get out of town. She says maybe she should. He tells her to take care and drives off.

Willow and Giles are on the street getting some documents from a policeman. He thinks Giles is with Interpol. Willow is using mind control on him, but it's weakening. A couple of cops bring in a crazy guy and we hear sounds like them beating him up. They leave the cop and Giles says the hellmouth is acting up. Two officers walk over to the first one and show him a flyer about a wanted fugitive who has been sighted in town. They talk about handing out some justice.

In the hospital, Buffy and Willow are at Xander's bedside. Buffy tells them what the doctor said. Xander acts cheerful. He may be released that evening. Buffy leaves to go back to the house and work, Willow thinks she should stay, but Xander says it's ok. Willow and he joke, but pretty soon it is all she can do to hold back the tears. In the house, Anya is lecturing the slayerettes on what they know about ubervamps. Andrew is drawing on a flip chart behind her illustrating her talk rather poorly. He spells stake steak, but corrects it. She says they can be staked but have sternums like steel. Holy water runs off them. Sunlight does work. Rona says she used to be scared of the ubervamps, but now she's terrified of Caleb. Anya talks frankly to them (although with a slight meandering through why she isn't with Xander and the makeup sex they had on the cot which gets the girls sitting on the cot off it) and says that they have to know these things.

Upstairs, Faith is in the kitchen eating chips. Kennedy comes up and asks for some and she offers to trade them for cigarettes and soap. Then apologizes saying it's habit. Amanda also comes up, worried Anya's sex life will be on the exam. They complain they haven't a clue about Caleb. Buffy returns and Dawn comes in as well asking about Xander. Buffy says he's fine. She hands out the files Willow and Giles got on incidents of violence and vandalism in California religious institutions in the last 10 years. They figure this might give them leads on Caleb. Dawn says school has been cancelled and sits down to help. She asks about Xander, Buffy doesn't make eye contact. Faith tells Dawn to go get the stuff Giles gave her and Dawn realizes Buffy doesn't want to talk about it and goes. Buffy tells the others to look for stuff on Caleb and Kennedy refers to his ability to render a slayer useless with one punch. She apologizes, realizing she upset Buffy. Buffy says it's ok and that she has to go to school to pick up some stuff. Kennedy and Amanda go back downstairs and Faith looks through the documents.

Buffy enters the deserted school. At her desk, she looks at a photo of herself, I think Willow, and Xander. She tears up and Caleb appears and makes fun of her. He mocks her and says he's praying for Xander and anytime he's ready he'll finish the job. She tells him that if he goes near Xander again she'll end him. He tells her to mind her manners. He says history will look back at this time and place and see the sweeping tide of change. He says she should want to be part of that and not get in its way. She punches him. They fight and he easily wins. He hurls her into the hallway, knocking her out. He walks off.

At the house, Dawn shows Giles one of the files. It's about a monastery in Gilroy. There was no vandalism, but the occupants disappeared. She finds the absence of vandalism suspicious. Andrew enters complaining about Faith taking the last pizza pocket which he called dibs on. He keeps going on until Giles tells him to shut up. Giles points out what looks like a knothole in a picture of the monastery but is actually a burn mark which I think is the same as Caleb's ring. He tells Amanda to get Spike. Faith comes in, eating the pizza pocket. Spike comes up. Giles asks him to go to Gilroy and check it out. He needs someone strong enough to take care of himself. Andrew starts on about the food and Giles tells Spike to take him. They both object. Dawn says Andrew is always saying he wants to get out of the house. Giles says there may be demons and Andrew may help with his pan flute. They go off. Dawn says to the others that they are making progress. Faith feels the girls are sitting and stewing and they need to be kept occupied. She takes them all to the Bronze.

Buffy arrives home to an empty house. Giles is there and she tells him what happened. He tells her about sending off Spike and Andrew. She says he sent off the one person who has been watching her back. He says they all have and she says it doesn't feel like that. She asks about the girls and he tells her about Faith taking them to the Bronze. She leaves.

At the vineyard, Caleb talkis to FE as Buffy saying all high schools smell the same. He says Buffy got the message and is ready to walk the girls into it. She just needs one final nudge. At the Bronze, Faith stops Amanda from drinking. The police arrive and take Faith outside. One stays in the Bronze and closes the door stopping the girls from joining Faith. She says she won't go back to jail. The police draw their guns and say nobody said anything about jail. She starts fighting with them. The girls inside try to get out, but the policeman inside won't let them. He fires his weapon. The girls attack and overwhelm him and get outside. Faith is being beaten by the cops and the girls attack and defeat the police. Buffy shows up as the fight ends. She sends the girls home and is angry with Faith. She points out some of the girls were drunk and she has to be sure the girls are safe when she isn't around. Faith argues they weren't safe when Buffy took them to the vineyard. Buffy punches her and knocks her down, then walks off.

Andrew and Spike are on their way to Gilroy and Andrew wants to stop for a burger or fries. Spike says no. Andrew says curly fries are really good. Spike says not as good as onion blossoms. Andrew says he loves then and Spike says he does, too. Andrew can't understand how they are made and Spike explains you soak them in ice water for an hour so they hold their shape, then deep fry them root side up for 5 minutes. He says if Andrew tells anyone about this conversation he'll bite him.

Wood walks up to the house, Faith is standing outside and he asks her if the meeting has started yet. She says no. He realizes who she is and she recognizes him as well. He asks about her bruises and she tells him about the cops and Buffy. He wonders what she'll do. She says she won't kill, although she wanted to. He says Buffy told him about her and Faith said to believe every word. He asks her what changed. She says other things matter more. He says she's worried about Buffy. Faith says he should brush up on his Buffy/Faith history. He says he reads people pretty well. She asks where he lives and notes that walking around in Sunnydale is an extreme sport. She says someone doing that, like him, could be mistaken for looking for a fight. She says she reads people as well. A car arrives, Xander's home. Spike and Andrew arrive at the monastery which makes them both uncomfortable. It appears deserted, but they are attacked by a man in monk's robes. Spike knocks him down and sees that he has Caleb's mark burned into his face.

At the house, the girls have put up Welcome Home banners and are having a little celebration for Xander. Kennedy says they didn't have time to do more and he has to imagine a big party. He says that's ok, whenever they have a party he has to repair things. He sits and Buffy enters and welcomes him home. She says she has found out some things about the cellar. She says they have to go back in.

Spike asks the man if he is in league with Caleb and the man says no. Andrew tries to play bad cop and Spike is surprisingly quiet. He says they are fighting Caleb. The man says all they can do is run. The man says he'll show them. He explains that Caleb arrived one day. He showed them a secret room in the monastery they didn't know existed. He was excited about it. He talked about an ancient inscription which the monk shows them on the wall. Caleb was angry when he read it. He burned the man and killed the others while the man hid. He's distraught at hiding and Andrew says it saved his life. Spike reads the inscription: "It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield."

Buffy tells the group about meeting Caleb at the school. She says they have been focussed on the seal and the hellmouth. But the bad guys always go where the power is and he went to the vineyard. She says he must be protecting something at the vineyard. She thinks it is his power and she wants to go in and take it. Faith says it's a good theory, but she doesn't think they should go back without proof. Giles and Wood agree with Faith. Buffy is stunned by this. Rona accuses her of being reckless. Kennedy agrees and Willow says she does too, that she is beginning to doubt Buffy's judgment. Buffy says it's not a democracy and they need someone to issue orders and be reckless sometimes. That they need a leader. Anya says Buffy assumes it's automatically her. She says Buffy thinks she's better than they are but they don't know if that is true. She says Buffy was given the slayer powers, but she never earned them. That she's luckier than them, but not better. Buffy says she got them this far and Xander says there has been a price. He says he can't see her point because it must be to his left.Buffy says she's still in charge because she's the slayer. Rona says Faith is a slayer, too. Faith says that is not what she meant. Kennedy suggests they have a vote. Buffy says they don't get to vote until she's had a chance to pal around and get everybody drunk. She says she didn't realize it was a popularity contest. Buffy accuses Faith of conspiring against her. She tells them about Faith's murders. Faith says she didn't come to take anything, but she won't be a lapdog. She says it isn't whether she can lead but whether Buffy can follow. Wood says they should vote. Buffy says she knows she's right, she can't stay and watch Faith lead them into disaster. Dawn says Buffy has to leave. Buffy gets her coat and goes. Rona says 'Ding dong the witch is dead'. Dawn tells her to shut up. Faith goes to Buffy and says this isn't what she wanted. Buffy tells her not to be afraid to lead them. That it will get harder and she has to protect them. Faith goes back in. Buffy leaves.

Analysis

All through the lengthy scene in which Buffy talks to the assembled gang and is rebuffed, I kept thinking that isn't Buffy, it's FE and this is its plan. It seemed pretty clear. Caleb and FE kept talking about getting the slayerettes to attack again. And throughout that scene nobody touched Buffy and she didn't touch anything. Plus, she just seemed so unlike herself. Then she picked up her coat and opened the door and immaterial FE just can't do that. I think I was being toyed with here. I think all those moments someone almost touched Buffy (particularly when Dawn gets right in her face) were just a way of setting up a false expectation and then shocking you at the end. It worked.

I've heard a lot of people say they found people turning on Buffy really hard to believe. But there were lots of things leading up to this point. Giles has become alienated from Buffy and doubts her ability to lead which he stated in Lies My Parents Told Me. Dawn has not fully trusted Buffy since the Joyce visitation in Conversations With Dead People. Kennedy has resisted Buffy's authority and did so quite vocally in Get It Done. There is no surprise in the attitudes of Rona or Anya. It's only Willow and Xander who surprise us. And both of them have been traumatized by Xander's injury. Caleb really has affected Xander's sight, metaphorically as well as literally. Through this scene, he seems to be struggling to see Buffy's point, as he states. He wants to defend her as he did in Dirty Girls, but he can't see his way clear to doing that. He can no longer tell the girls that Buffy deserves their trust, that she should be their leader, that she cares for them and will protect them, because she has so obviously failed to protect him and seems intent on putting them all into danger once more. Of course, it's also possible that there was another telepathic conversation going on between them as we saw in Showtime. But I doubt it.

I've argued before that there is a link, thematically, between Andrew and Spike. That both are evil characters in search of redemption. The bond between them was made evident during their voyage to Gilroy (isn't that the garlic capital - a weird place for a vampire to be heading). The conversation about the onion (Spike has gone on about those onions in the past in Crush) was both funny and an example of the similarity between these two. They can actually bond and both were fascinated by the onion cooking process. I'm amused that Spike actually took the time to figure out how they were made. Of course, when they enter the monastery Andrew talks about it making him feel funny and Spike says that's something else they have in common. Then there was the almost role reversal with Andrew taking on the role of bad cop and Spike good cop.

Giles sent Andrew and Spike off together without any real reason, but the connection between the two was deepened by the experience and that may mean something in the days to come. Andrew has been on a real mission and he's done well. Not in getting the monk to talk, Spike did that, but in consoling him. He's demonstrated an ability to care about others, something that Andrew has always lacked. It's a conscience and a sign of good within him. Spike demonstrated his gentle side in dealing with the monk and even in his conversation with Andrew. They've both demonstrated Buffy's faith in them was well put.

I think a big chunk of this episode was about the change in Faith and how it is becoming visible. She's much more sensitive to the feelings of others. She realizes Buffy doesn't want to talk about Xander before Dawn does. She jokes with the girls and tries to cheer them up. When Buffy leaves her with the police documents, she settles down into serious research. Research is hardly the kind of thing the old Faith would do. She stops Amanda from drinking. Amazingly, she doesn't fight back when Buffy slugs her. That scene really amazed me. Faith is not the kind to take being hit lying down. But that's exactly what she does. She thinks first, acts later. This is the complete opposite of the Faith we've seen in the past but in keeping with the changes which Faith has alluded to. She tells Wood other things matter more. And she sees more deeply into Wood than he would like. During the debate, she raises good points but doesn't want power. She sees to the heart of the matter, can Buffy be a follower as well as a leader. And, unlike the others, she seeks to placate Buffy, to bring her back into the gang. She's rewarded by Buffy's trust. The guardianship of the girls is handed over to her. Buffy tells her she must lead, recognizing that Faith's time has come.

Buffy's discomfort in the hospital reminded me of how uncomfortable the others were around Buffy when her mother died in The Body. She doesn't really know what to say or do and nothing she can say or do can make things better. She also feels responsible (and we see that sense of responsibility in her speech to the others and her sense that she must lead them, must protect them). She has failed to protect Xander, the weakest of them and the one who has most defended her.

Some quick final thoughts. As long as FE continues to be the prime enemy, as a rule of thumb everybody should always be touching everybody else - just to make sure they are real. In the opening scene Buffy sounds like she has a cold. It's the way she sounded in The Killer in Me. So was this scene shot at the same time as that episode, edited for time and then inserted here because this one ran short? I know they've done things like that on the show before. Buffy really ought to think about why Caleb hasn't just killed her. He's had two chances and could have done it really easily in the school. I've been told the band playing at the Bronze in this episode was Nerf Herder, the band which did the Buffy theme. You know, I've commented on how much FE seems to know about the gang. I have to wonder whether it doesn't have an ally in the house. I'm still not completely happy with the story of how Giles escaped. And Kennedy has been consistently disruptive. Anya's hair looks blonder and shorter at the end of the episode than at the beginning. Food seems a very important theme in Buffy and I think some enterprising individual should produce a Buffy cookbook. The Buffy Thanksgiving menu (from Pangs) and the onion blossom are obvious items. I'm guessing the inscription refers to a weapon Buffy can wield against Caleb.

Lines of the week:

"Cholesterol. Morals, I mean morals." - Clem on cutting back the cat eating.

"You take care of yourself." - Clem not thinking Buffy will make it.

"I keep waiting for my other senses to kick in an extra 50%." - Xander being cheerful.

"I just remind her I had him first." - Faith on her many complex relationships.

"Is this a mission from which you intend Spike to return alive." - Buffy not trusting Giles any longer.

"Masterful." - Andrew on the onion blossom.

"Tell anyone we had this conversation, I'll bite you." - Spike on the onion blossom.

"It's my favourite of all my current bruises." - Faith being remarkably mature.

"It's this new thing I'm trying." - Faith on self control.

"Other things matter more." - Faith on her motivation.

"Run is a four letter word." - Andrew not doing that well as bad cop.

"Running away saved your life." - Andrew caring about someone else's feelings.

"It makes you luckier than us." - Anya on the slayer legacy.

"I guess it must be a little bit to my left." - Xander on not being able to see Buffy's point.

"Ding dong the witch is dead." - Rona going too far.

"Shut your mouth." - Dawn letting Rona know it.

"Don't be afraid to lead them." - Buffy giving Faith some good advice.

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