Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Touched

Summary

We pick up right where Empty Places left off with the gang arguing about how to proceed. Kennedy says with Buffy gone they now have a say in their own destinies. She argues for power based on seniority. Amanda keeps going on about parliamentary rules. Everyone is talking at once and at cross purposes. Anya talks about how they are all likely to die. Wood wants to split into small groups. Giles tells Dawn Buffy will be ok. Faith starts asserting control, telling them that they need to get some rest and can figure it out in the morning. Kennedy disagrees. But the other girls seem to like the idea. Then the lights go out. They are out everywhere. Faith says the power company people have left Sunnydale.

Buffy is wandering. She enters a house and a man with a gun confronts her. She takes the gun from him and says she thought the place would be empty. She tells him to leave, but he wants to stay saying it is his house. She says it's not his house, not his town anymore. He leaves. She goes to the fridge, opens it, and asks if he has Tab.

At the mission, Andrew is annoying Spike while they wait for night so they can return to Sunnydale. Spike is worried about what Buffy may be facing. At the house, the gang are at the table discussing possible strategy now with candles for light. Kennedy says they should go to the seal. Faith interrupts her and says they should go over their enemies. Kennedy tries to take control again, but Faith shuts her down. They realize they can't touch FE, that Caleb seems untouchable, that the ubervamps are fantastically powerful, but the bringers are the weak link. Faith suggests kidnapping one. Kennedy mocks this idea as does Xander. Faith says if they get a bringer they can make it talk and get information about FE and Caleb. Kennedy says they don't need information, they already know about the seal and they should send a team to the school. Faith says no. Kennedy is angry at being shut down like that. Faith says she's the leader now and tells Kennedy to back down and let her do her job.

The bringers are doing something which involves hammering on rocks. Caleb and FE are talking. She is worried about the slayer getting it. Caleb says she won't. FE says he'll kill them all. Kennedy is walking through the streets alone. Bringers attack her. Giles and the girls appear and capture one while taking out the others. Kennedy was acting as bait. She says lets get him back to the captain. At the house, Giles and Faith come upstairs from having interrogated the bringer to reveal it is mute, someone ripped out its tongue. Dawn says she's been reading a Turkish spell book. There's a spell for talking to the dying. It's about talking to people who can't speak. She thinks they can use this on the bringer. Spike and Andrew return. Andrew tells them it went well on the mission mission. Spike says he has a lead and asks for Buffy. Dawn says she's not there. Willow makes a little speech about how Buffy took some time off. Spike doesn't buy it. He calls them traitors. Willow says they are her friends. He just gets angrier. He says Giles couldn't deal with no longer being in charge. Faith tells him to tone it down. He hits her. They fight. Spike leaves and starts hunting for Buffy.

Willow does the spell. It doesn't seem to work, but then Andrew starts speaking and they realize the bringer is talking through him. He talks about the bringers being a sort of group mind. That they work for FE. Kennedy threatens the bringer with a knife which Giles takes and asks what they do for FE. Andrew as bringer says they kill slayerettes and destroy the legacy of the slayer.The build an arsenal beneath the dirt and obey Caleb. Xander hones in on the arsenal remark. Andrew says they build them at the farthest edge of town. He says they are everywhere, watching them and unafraid. Giles slits the bringer's throat. Andrew snaps out of the spell, with a sore throat and really scared he could have been magically killed. Giles says they have to tell Faith and tells Xander to get maps and look for the arsenal.

Buffy is in bed. There is a knock on the door and Spike enters. He didn't need an invitation. He says the town really is theirs now. He starts criticizing Faith. Buffy says it was all of them and they weren't wrong. She asks him to leave. He tells her she was right. That he learnt Caleb is trying to hide something and he thinks it is at the vineyard. He says she was their leader and she still is. That it isn't something she gave up but something they took. She asks what the difference is and he says they can take it back.

Faith and Giles are looking at a sewer map and making plans. She says they will set out at 7. He says she's doing fine and leaves her. The mayor appears to her and says she's doing better than fine. She tells him to go away. She says she knows what he is. He says he is FE, but he's also the mayor. He tells her things only the mayor could know, like his favourite character in Little Women, Meg. She tells him she's not affected. He upbraids her for using the word hell. He says she's doing a better job than Buffy. He says Buffy didn't care about her and would have killed her. He says Buffy will destroy her if she's not careful.

Buffy is saying no to Spike about taking back her authority. She says she's tired. He says the girls need her. He tries to convince her there is chaos in the house, but admits he didn't see much. He sits beside her and says he hit Faith a bunch of times and left. He says if she gives the word, he'll kill Faith. She says that's the problem, she says the word and girls die. He says there are always casualties in war. She says she cut herself off from them because she knew she would lose some of them. Then she says she has always cut herself off from others. That being the slayer made her different and she did nothing to change that. That people try to connect to her and she slips away. She says he should know and he says there was connecting. She says they were never close, he just wanted her because she was unattainable. He says he's not a thinker, he follows his blood and he makes mistakes. He says the only thing in all of his life and death he has been sure of is her. He says he loves her for what she is and wants nothing from her. He tells her she's the one. She says she doesn't want to be the one. He says he doesn't want to be good looking and athletic but we all have crosses to bear. He tells her to get some rest. He goes but she asks him to stay. He sits in a chair, but she asks him to lie with her just to hold her. He does.

The mayor tells Faith she always wanted Buffy to accept and love her. He says nobody will ever love her the way he does. She tells him to get out. He says he'll always be with her and vanishes. Wood appears. He says he didn't see anything except Faith spooked. She's sarcastic, he says he knocked and he just came to talk about weapons. She tells him FE was there, he closes the door. He says it proves her importance, FE doesn't appear to you unless you matter. She tells him FE appeared as an old boss of hers who was like a father to her. He tells her that it came to him as his mother. He says no one wants to be alone, we all want contact. She says hitting things and drinking dulls the pain. She asks him if FE told him the truth and he says yes. She says it told her to watch out for Buffy, that she was dangerous. He asks what she thinks and she says she may be, they've given her reason. She says she just wishes Buffy were there. She says Buffy is the only one and Wood says she's not. Faith comes on to him, they start having sex.

Willow walks into her bedroom expecting all the girls to be there, but Kennedy is on the bed alone. Willow closes the door and sits on the bed. They kiss. But as things heat up, Willow turns away, afraid of losing control. Kennedy says she'll be her tether. That Willow will be the kite and Kennedy the string holding her to the ground. Downstairs, Xander and Anya are eating ice cream as she complains about the moaning and groaning and sex upstairs. She says if they are done having sex, other people should knock it off. Cut to Buffy and Spike just looking at each other or possibly Buffy just looking at a sleeping Spike. Cut to Faith and Wood going at it. Cut to Willow and Kennedy going at it. Cut to Xander and Anya rolling on the floor. Cut to Spike holding Buffy, patting her head, looking at her. FE says she envies them. Cut to Caleb and FE. He says she is everywhere, she is the purifying fire that will make the weak strong. That they are sinners and she is sin. She says she enjoys his sermons. He says she is in him. He says she gave him greater strength than any man can have. She says he's the only man strong enough to be her vessel. She says she knows why they grab at each other, they want to feel. So does she. She wants to wrap her hands around an innocent neck and feel it crack. Buffy wakes. She looks at sleeping Spike.

Andrew is telling everyone about what they found at the mission. He thinks it is a weapon and it may be with the arsenal they seek. Faith tells four of them (I think she meant Willow, Dawn, Xander, and Giles) to keep an eye on Buffy but not to let her know they are there. She tells Wood to wait by his phone and she'll call him when she needs him. She then leads the gang she is taking to where they think the arsenal is. Spike awakes to find Buffy gone and a note left for him.

Caleb is in the vineyard with FE. He tells her prophecy says one thing and strength another. They'll get it out. She tells him to rouse the bringers and get them back to work. A bringer comes falling down the stairs. It's Buffy. She has come for what he's hiding. He goes to attack her and instead of fighting back she just avoids him. He can't touch her. Meanwhile, Faith leads her group through the tunnels. They find an arsenal. Bringers attack them. Caleb is having no luck against Buffy. Faith and the girls are doing well against the bringers. Caleb calls Buffy a whore, she calls him a woman hating jerk, he smashes a barrel in anger revealing a hidden passage. He leaps at her, she jumps out of the way and into the passage. A barrel falls on top concealing it and it's possible Caleb never saw. The girls have defeated the bringers and Kennedy finds a path which they follow. Buffy finds a weapon. Faith finds a box which she opens to reveal a bomb with only seconds to go before it explodes. She shouts to everybody to get down.

Analysis

If people ever argue that Buffy isn't a great show, that it jumped the shark seasons ago, that it can't equal the dramatics of St. Elsewhere or ER or Homicide or a dozen other main stream shows - just point to this episode. Not to the incredible scene between Spike and Buffy or to the fantastic paralleled structure of the 4 love scenes and the corrupt inversion of them by FE when it compares love to murder or to the great cinematography in the opening scene. No, just mention that this episode included an interracial sex scene and a lesbian sex scene and neither scene was forced nor incredibly important nor the highlight of the episode. In fact, neither scene makes it to the top 5 moments of this episode. And any other show, surely any of those I mentioned above, would be all about those scenes. And if you still get any argument, you might note that this isn't even the best episode of this season and this isn't the best season of the series. And it's still light years ahead in its sophistication of pretty much anything else we've ever seen on tv.

I'll start with the opening scene and its dizzying camerawork. Other shows frequently use that technique (NYPD Blue comes to mind), but it is rare on Buffy. So rare, I frankly can't remember when it was last used. The swirling camera conveys the confusion of the characters, also demonstrated by the pointless talk and the general lack of direction. They have lost their general and haven't established a new mode of operation. Kennedy is eager for democracy, presumably because she feels she can have power that way. Kennedy has always pushed the envelope and last week I listed her as a possible agent of FE (I half expected Kennedy in that street scene to be meeting Caleb or FE and giving them information). It's interesting that she was pushing for seniority as the route to power (her comment that those who had been around longer should have more of a say in things). That would obviously put her near the top of the pecking order since she's one of the first slayerettes to have arrived. It's very much the congressional system while Amanda keeps talking about the parliamentary rules of order.

Kennedy keeps pushing and pushing. She mocks Faith's idea of capturing a bringer. She pushes her plan of going to the school. She argues that things are supposed to be different, she complains that Faith isn't listening to her. But Faith shuts her down. Slowly in these scenes (the debate is actually split into two scenes) Faith grows more and more assertive. She's learning that Buffy is right, that she has to lead. As she asserts herself, the camera slows down and focuses more on her.

The four love scenes all arrive naturally and all have some importance in terms of the characters and their relationships. We know from past history that Faith uses sex as a release mechanism (this happened with Xander in The Zeppo). She chooses Wood not because she has any particular fondness for him, but because he's the only available vaguely suitable male. She was more drawn to Spike, but he's gone. Xander isn't really her type and Giles is out of her age range. It is interesting that Faith has established relations with almost all of the men Buffy has dated. She came on to Angel (Buffy's first lover) pretty heavily in Enemies. She flirted with Spike (Buffy's fourth lover) in Who Are You and again in Dirty Girls. She wants to have sex with Riley (Buffy's third lover) in Who Are You. Now she has sex with Wood (the only date Buffy has had in two years). Buffy thinks Faith is trying to take away everything she has. I think we are just seeing the evidence that Faith is very like Buffy. That slayers get called because they are in some fundamental way alike. Of course, there are differences. For all her talk of distancing herself from everyone, Buffy establishes an emotional involvement with all the men in her life, even if she might have trouble communicating that. Faith, on the other hands, maintains a clearly defined distance. She kicks Xander out in The Zeppo, gets angry with Riley when he talks about love in Who Are You, and tells Wood to stick by the phone and she'll call him when she needs him this week.

Willow's scene with Kennedy was really reminiscent of earlier scenes with Tara. It's interesting that with Tara she floated in Once More, With Feeling but here she wants Kennedy to hold her down, to be the string to her kite. Willow is about fear right now, the fear of losing control. Kennedy is about control. She's been trying to seize it since she arrived on the scene. You could argue Kennedy merely has what Willow wants and their relationship is at least momentarily mutually beneficial. Or you could argue that Kennedy zeroed in on the person most likely to succumb to her control and kept hammering away at her until she gave in. Kennedy certainly pursued Willow and she has worked at driving a stake between Willow and Buffy. I really can't see this relationship as working in the long term or even the medium term. And I think the kite metaphor really explains why. At some point, Willow will have to soar and Kennedy won't like that. She won't be happy trailing on the ground.

The Xander/Anya scene was reminiscent of the scene in The Gift where they had sex. Anya is big on sex before the apocalypse as a method of staying calm. I did find it hard to believe that fresh from the hospital and losing an eye Xander was able to perform. But he's young and used to being beat up every day.

The Buffy/Spike scene really begins first, when Spike first finds her. She's despondent and has pretty much given up. It's reminiscent of the way she was in The Freshman when Xander cheered her up. Xander told her she was his hero. Spike tells her she is a leader, that she's right, that she can take back her authority. She says she's tired. He says the girls are in chaos, but he can't really back that up with evidence. At this point, the dynamic of the scene changes. He sits beside her and goes from lecturing to talking. I can't help but remember Fool For Love, where Spike also sat beside Buffy and gingerly, awkwardly tried to console her not even knowing what the problem was. That wasn't the beginning, but it was an important step in the evolution and the parallel to this moment just shows how long Spike has loved her and how consistent his characterization has been. He tells her about hitting Faith and she's touched by that act of support. He offers to kill Faith if she wants him to and at this point she opens up. She talks about how she feels the burden of the deaths that have happened. He tries to console her with the platitude that war means casualties.

It's at this point that her biggest problem, one we've been hearing pretty consistently since season 5, comes to the surface. She talks about her inability to connect, about always just slipping away (and I'm sure the irony of her slipping away tactic with Caleb - turning her fault into an asset- was intentional). But Spike disagrees. He feels connected to her. He talks of being sure of her and we're reminded of the unbreakable faith he had in her in Bring on the Night and Showtime. The faith that kept him going despite all FE did to him mentally and physically. He tells her how his love is not physical or emotional but spiritual. How he loves her for the virtue he sees in her. Angel left because he couldn't take the pain of being with Buffy and yet not being with her. Riley left because he couldn't take Buffy being better than him. Spike stayed. He stayed through the rejection and the abuse and the torture. He remained true and he finally gets his reward. Buffy asks him to hold her. When she needs human warmth, she turns to him.

Wood tells Faith that while FE deals in figments they work because of the reality of human loneliness. The desire for love and contact. That desire is what prompts all the couplings. But for Wood and Faith it's just contact. For Willow and Kennedy it's something less than complete love as Willow cannot quite give that up yet. For Xander and Anya it's the ashes of an old and lost love. For Buffy and Spike it's the real deal. FE attempts to corrupt all of these experiences. She talks about them grabbing at each other. Caleb refers to them as animals. She compares their caresses with murderous attacks. But while the comparison has some small merit in most of these cases, it just doesn't hold with Buffy and Spike. They aren't just feeling. They aren't grabbing at each other. They are together. They are sharing. Which makes me wonder whether FE is aware of that or whether she only knows what is happening in the house. Another hint that she has some sort of agent there.

If Faith's ability to discard Wood sexually weren't proof enough that she's stronger than him, we've got the way she handles the mayor. She immediately tells him to get out. When he demonstrates that he is, in some ways at least, the mayor she still spurns him. When he says he's the only one who will ever love her, she tells him to get out again. We know Faith desperately wants love and acceptance, the mayor has accurately analyzed her. We know she knows sex with Wood is no substitute for that. But she's too strong to be pulled into this game. She continues to resist while Wood caved almost immediately, falling into the FE trap, thanking his mother and acting as if it were really her and not FE. And isn't it interesting that Wood appears as the mayor disappears. Add Wood to the suspicious characters in the house along side Giles and Kennedy. Wood never talks about what FE said to him, while Faith immediately talks to Wood about it. She's trying to figure out where the truth and lies merge. And while worrying about Buffy as a potential enemy, she still views her as a valuable ally.

Spike and Buffy assume there is a weapon she can wield against FE. But what if FE's goal is to feel, to corporealize. FE has said that Buffy returning from the dead freed her. Maybe it makes Buffy a potential corporeal vessel. Maybe that's why she constantly appears as Buffy. Maybe when Buffy wields the weapon it doesn't let her attack FE, or doesn't just allow that, but lets FE take her body. In which case the warning from Joyce to Dawn about Buffy and the warning to Faith from the mayor would be accurate.

Some quick final thoughts. Is Kennedy's tongue stud new or have I just not noticed it in the past? I was actually shocked to discover Faith wears a bra. I can understand why she would given the athletics, but it just seems so unFaithlike. The big problem with tv sex scenes is that they inevitably show people having sex with their clothes on (hence the bra remark). In real life, I don't think Faith and Wood are so appropriately garbed and covered. Do they still make Tab? The time sequence is confusing. Spike and Andrew are waiting for night, but it seems to be night in Sunnydale. I have to assume it's approaching morning and the drive from Sunnydale to Gilroy takes too long to accomplish in the time before sunrise. Remember when Willow was trying to kick the magic habit and Buffy threw out all the candles. I guess they bought some more since then. FE says Caleb has not brought her good news. Okay, where is he getting news from. Again, I think we are getting hints that FE has an agent in the house. I still find Kennedy, who keeps trying to take control, and Giles, who tried to kill Spike, suspicious. It's interesting that Kennedy first pointed the knife at the bringer and Giles killed it. I wonder what else it might have said. Kennedy is also the one who found the path to the bomb. I have to wonder whether Faith chose Kennedy to be the bait to get a bringer in order to placate her for having been shut down. I loved Spike's traitor remark. Could anyone have believed he would say something like that in defense of Buffy when he was first introduced in season two? I like the way Faith gives the time as about 7, then says 7 sharp as she realizes a leader has to be specific. I loved the achilles heel thing. FE says only Caleb is strong enough to be her vessel. Is that the truth and is there something special about him which can be used against him? The closed captions have Buffy saying 'woman hating prick' while the actual dialogue was 'woman hating jerk'. It's interesting that Dawn doesn't try to calm Spike when he returns to find Buffy gone. He's fonder of her than any of the others and he might actually listen to her.

Lines of the week:

"Got any tab?" - Buffy being Buffy.

"I think they pant. Like dogs." - Caleb on bringers.

"I'm method." - Kennedy with a great metacomment.

"There's a translation of it?" - Dawn with the question she should have asked first.

"You sad, sad ungrateful traitors." - Spike saying what they are thinking.

"I feel used and violated and I need a lozenge." - Andrew pretty much summing it all up.

"This town really is theirs now." - Spike distancing himself from evil.

"There's always casualties in a war." - Spike demonstrating he is a thinker.

"Being the slayer made me different but it's my fault I stayed that way." - Buffy getting to the core of the slayer problem.

"I follow my blood which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain." - Spike being unfair to himself.

"I love what you are. What you do. How you try." - Spike taking his love to another level.

"You're the one." - Spike not talking about the slayer.

"I don't wanna be the one." - Buffy talking only about the slayer.

"No one wants to be alone." - Wood getting the point.

"She's not the only one." - Wood wrong about Buffy.

"Our foreplay was threatening to turn into 12 play." - Kennedy frustrated.

"They're just sinners. You are sin." - Caleb defining FE.

"I do enjoy your sermons." - FE on what she likes about Caleb.

"I want to wrap my hands around some innocent neck and feel it crack." - FE on wanting to feel.

"Good thinking Andrew." - Faith saying something you never expect to hear.

"By your phone. I'll call you when I need you." - Faith letting Wood know his place.

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