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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

  1. #521
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    Hey, Rihannon – here’s the second part of my response to your wonderful review of Older and Far Away!

    One more thought regarding Halfrek’s appearance – when did she decide to help Dawn when she came to Sunnydale? We first see her appear in DoubleMeat Palace when she gives Xander a fright – but what event precipitated her decision to help Dawn?

    ANYA: How could you? Why would you do this?
    HALFREK: I told you I was going to take care of some business while I was here in town.
    HALFREK: Sling all the little barbs at me that you want, Anyanka, it doesn't change the fact that this girl was in pain and none of you could hear it. I could hear her crying out everywhere I went in this town. It was unbearable. And none of you knew.
    Was it just a medley of grumbling Dawn’s greatest hits? Or was there a particular moment that caught Hallie’s eye?

    The only episode between DoubleMeat Palace and Older and Far Away is Dead Things - where Dawn makes three appearances. The first is a light-hearted dance lesson from Xander in which Dawn makes a crack before leaving to visit with Janice and her mom.

    DAWN: Her mom's cooking Mexican. She's gonna teach me how to make real tortillas. Not like I knew you'd be around. (Dead Things)
    It’s just garden-variety grousing typical of a teen – not exactly something that would make Halfrek sit up and take notice. But the second appearance is much more cutting:

    BUFFY: There's something I have to do. I have to tell what I did. I have to go to the police.
    DAWN: The police?
    BUFFY: Dawnie, I have to.
    DAWN: But – what's going to happen?
    BUFFY: I don't know.
    DAWN: They'll take you away. Won't they?
    BUFFY: I'm sorry.
    DAWN: No, you're not. You're never here. You can't even stand to be around me.
    BUFFY: That is not true.
    DAWN: You don't want to be here with me. You didn't want to come back. I know that. You were happier where you were. You want to go away again.
    BUFFY: Dawn –
    DAWN: Then go! You're not really here anyway.
    Dawn gets out of bed and runs out. Buffy sits looking upset. (Dead Things)
    It seems that Spike wasn’t the only person brutalized that evening:

    BUFFY: It wasn't the demons. It was Warren. He knew Katrina. He had something to do with it, I know it.
    WILLOW: How can you be sure?
    BUFFY: (softly) You always hurt the one you love.
    Buffy pauses, contemplating this.
    DAWN: Does this mean you're not going away?
    BUFFY: Yeah. I'm not going anywhere.
    Buffy goes to stroke Dawn's hair. Dawn pulls away, disappearing into the training room. Buffy is deeply hurt, but doesn't move to follow her. (Dead Things)
    In her attempt to punish herself by going to the police, Buffy made a fateful decision that would have also sentenced Dawn to foster care. The carefully managed appearance of a guardian for Dawn that was kept up all summer would have been for nothing – the house would be lost, Buffy’s friends would be unable to take care of her and any contact with Buffy herself would be carefully monitored in visits. Dawn’s terror is understandable – she seemingly plays no part in Buffy’s choice to escape by any means possible.

    In fact, Dawn is made to feel peculiarly responsible for Buffy’s feelings of imprisonment and depression – if Buffy didn’t have to become a foster mother, she’d have a lot more time to deal with the pressures of slaying and living life. As it is, Buffy avoids Dawn because she’s an embodiment of everything that Buffy can’t deal with – the primary responsibility that makes Buffy feel inadequate and prompts her to run away.

    What’s even worse is that Buffy doesn’t seem to understand what she’s putting Dawn through – there’s a lot of complaining from fans that Dawn is too whiny in Season Six – but I imagine if they were fifteen year olds who found out they were the Key, had consequently lost any semblance of reality, had their mother die after a difficult operation, were the subject of a murder plot that threatened to destroy the universe, experienced the trauma of death and resurrection and were in constant terror that their guardian was unstable and their living situation was precarious, they’d be whining as well.

    When Buffy absent-mindedly muses on Spike’s words – You always hurt the one you love - they strike Dawn through the heart and prompt her to remind Buffy that she even exists. Surely this is the moment when Hallie hears Dawn loud and clear and decides to intervene.

    Rihannon, you said earlier that you remember “being almost as starved for a little kindness from Buffy as Dawn and Spike” and I think that Buffy’s inability to see the suffering around her is a huge component of Season Six. The hero who actively fought the cruel and the unjust, who had a big enough heart to extend mercy and compassion to even the worst kind of creatures – is now studiously ignoring the pain around her because she has to shut out the world or go mad. She’s acting out a part in a play –but at this point she’s trying to stage manage the world around her rather than drift through it.

    The Buffy who first returned was unable to deal with even the simplest tasks – the mask she presented was fairly shallow and buffeted by fate. But at this point in the season, Buffy has managed to deal with living by compartmentalizing her life into various acts like a circus routine – the Slayer act in which she performs feats of daring-do, the DoubleMeat Palace act in which she jumps through hoops like a corporate drone, the foster mother act where breakfast, school and chores are deftly juggled, and the S&M Spike Sex Olympics act where she can climb into Spike’s crypt and disappear.

    These distinctions are rigorously maintained to keep the boundaries between them firm – there’s very little bleed between them. We don’t see Buffy invite the Scoobies on patrol or encourage her sister to eat at DoubleMeat Palace after school – we do see the pathetic attempts of the others to break down those boundaries as the gang visits DoubleMeat Palace and Spike shows up during her patrol and is rebuffed and Xander and Anya invite a potential “date” to Buffy’s birthday party. But Buffy rigidly refuses to merge the acts – which causes some small amount of chaos in Older and Far Away

    The more, the merrier – Later that night, the Birthday party starts as a regular one. As expected in a place where many people are supposed to coincide, several things happen at the same time, and different aspects of the relationships among the characters are shown. That is something I like in this episode: we get to see people that may or may not have a history together, interact in an environment that is familiar in some ways and alien in others, just like we an actual gathering. Some of the interactions happen within the context of complicated dynamics, like Tara-Willow, Tara-Buffy, or (my favorite) Tara-Spike-Buffy. Some are new and have no baggage, like the ones where Clem is involved.
    I found the whole birthday party scene here to be so odd at first – Anya planning it out like a cocktail party with elaborately decorated little cheese cubes on crackers as a cookbook is spread out in front of her. But once I read the original script, it made much more sense. Once again, character definition is exchanged for expediency – the original dialogue is far more extensive and telling about Anya’s need to prove herself the happy housewife right before her wedding. She’s doubly nervous now that Hallie has placed doubts in her mind – so she swings the other way and tries as hard as she can to be the best human wife who ever existed:

    Anya stands at the center island preparing trays of food, a cookbook open in front of her. Xander helps. Buffy enters, wrinkling her nose.
    BUFFY: Is there a chemical leak in here?
    XANDER: Anya's making hors d'oeuvres.
    BUFFY: Oh, God.
    ANYA: No, they're yummy. A little cheddar cheese, some scallions, crispy rye...
    Anya’s smelly little appetizers aren’t generally a teen thing – they’re an adult invention that came from formal dinner parties and later were used as a contrast to strong drinks at a cocktail party. The open cookbook gives an idea of how complicated they can be – concoctions intended to impress with their interesting flavors and appearance – and Anya’s attempt to create them falls in line with her fondness for “stinky cheeses” and other sophisticated palate cleansers.

    But Buffy’s reaction to making hors d’oeuvres is also telling – she’s used to pizza and fast food as nourishment. There’s even a joking reference to Buffy’s conviction that a DoubleMeat burger was people – which also subliminally touches upon the idea that Anya isn’t necessarily the wholesome human woman that she seems as Buffy comments on the smell:

    BUFFY: Is there, like, demon meat in there somewhere?
    ANYA: No. Whole jar of mayonnaise, but –
    BUFFY: Gagggghhh.
    XANDER: Who's coming, you invite anyone else?
    I like how Xander quickly changes the subject when Buffy insults Anya’s attempt to create pretty little hors d'oeuvres. Buffy wants things to stay the same – she’s not interested in weird food that represents adulthood. She even asks later if this will be a traditional birthday at all with the customary birthday cake:

    BUFFY: There – is going to be cake eventually, right?
    This little scene may seem pointless – but it begins the party on an important note – there’s a concerted effort to appear “normal” and “adult” here. No supernatural demon food, no bad guys to slay, no outstanding problems to solve – just a little party between friends with lots of hors d’oeuvres and alcohol to celebrate Buffy’s birthday in her own home. And yet, it’s what those appetizers represent to Buffy that counts – Anya’s attempt to be a good wife with leads to the idea of Xander and Anya getting married which leads to the idea of growing up and accepting adult responsibilities.

    But the rewrite conveys none of these things – it’s just a cheap shot at Anya’s expense that keeps the Scoobies as juvenile as ever:

    XANDER: (OS) We're feeding an army!
    BUFFY: (OS) No, they couldn't make it.
    XANDER: (OS)So who’s coming, you invite anyone else?
    And again, it’s obviously all overdub – we see a shot of Anya looking at Xander as she plays with her food as both Xander and Buffy recite their lines off-screen. The lines are layered so awkwardly over the action that it almost looks like Anya is reciting the lines from the shot and the unnatural echo in the sound booth makes it clear that actors aren’t speaking these lines in the actual scene.

    The only thing this new dialogue tells us is that Buffy and her group aren’t expecting certain parties to show – and hence, the amount of food is overkill. But this is belied by Anya and Xander admitting that they’ve invited a work friend over (to a birthday party for someone he doesn’t even know) and Buffy admits she’s done the same. So they each knew at least one more person was coming after all – which Xander tries to hint at when he asks an apparently innocent question to lead into introducing Richard:

    XANDER: So, who's coming, you invite anyone else?
    BUFFY: Just you guys. Willow, Tara. The gang. Oh, and Sophie from work. What? Like I'm one of those losers who can't make friends outside her tight little circle? No. I'm friendly. We bonded instantly. Peas in a pod. Bonded peas.
    ANYA: Really? Um, what's Sophie's last name?
    BUFFY: Okay, shut up.
    Buffy’s invite of another DoubleMeat Palace employee seems to be a sign of her growing recovery – she’s reaching out to others around her who she doesn’t know. Or perhaps Buffy is trying too hard to impress the others that she’s fine – she doesn’t even seem to know much about Sophie, which makes her friend seem like a prop to parade about and show how much Buffy’s adjusted to her situation. Buffy’s weird jump to justify her decision by denying she’s a loser who can’t make friends outside of her tight little circle tells the viewer that it’s exactly what Buffy fears she is.

    But Xander and Anya don’t care that much – they’re giving Buffy a hard time about inviting her friend because they’ve invited one of their own and they’re hoping that Buffy will give him her undivided attention:

    Anya and Xander exchange a not-so-secret smile.
    XANDER: Don't worry about it, we're all over the new friend thing.
    BUFFY: What – new friend thing?
    ANYA: Well – well – we invited someone for you. A guy.
    One imagines that Xander and Anya didn’t hunt around and look for some random guy to date Buffy – Xander must have met Richard at the construction site and been initially impressed by his genial personality and good looks to bring him up as a possible love interest for Buffy – and one can imagine Anya jumping up and down at the opportunity to play matchmaker.

    With the breakup of Tara and Willow, both Xander and Anya probably feel that they’re heading into the “married with children” category of friends that come to naturally seek out others in the same boat rather than hang with single friends who often act as a third wheel. It’s very common for people to start pulling away when familial responsibilities become paramount – so Anya’s fervent hopes that Buffy will meet Richard, date Richard, marry Richard and have children so the two couples can double date with side-by-side strollers isn’t too far-fetched as it seems. And Xander and Anya honestly hope that Buffy will be excited by the prospect of dating someone else – as we see from Xander’s sly smile at Anya as he looks bashfully down at the floor.

    Dawn enters, starts poking around at the food.
    DAWN: For Buffy? Really?
    XANDER: Ahh, don't worry, it's not a setup.
    ANYA: Right. No. Just an attractive single man, with whom we hope you find much in common.
    But at Buffy’s pained look, Xander starts to fear he’s made a mistake and tries to stop Anya from continuing – but it’s no use. She’s on a roll because she’s thinking about her own upcoming marriage:

    ANYA: And if you happen to form –
    XANDER: Ahn –
    ANYA: - a romantic relationship leading to babies-
    XANDER: Ahn –
    ANYA: - and many double dates with us so we have someone else to talk to, yay!
    BUFFY: I assume this was an act of kindness?
    Xander huffs nervously with laughter as Buffy looks straight at him with THAT look.

    BUFFY: That'll help with the not throttling.
    XANDER: Hey, I'm just gonna get this stuff out there, people should be here soon.
    And Xander picks up a tray and skedaddles from the kitchen. Buffy doesn’t look too angry or put out, though – his heart was in the right place in inviting Richard. Sadly, Buffy’s depressive attitude is not at the right time. Especially when sex with a certain bleached blonde vamp is still in her thoughts.

    There’s another cut scene here in which Dawn tries to involve herself in the drama – but she’s ignored as always:

    DAWN: Oh, when they get here, can we start with opening the presents maybe?
    XANDER: Patience, grasshopper.
    BUFFY: I promise I'll let you know when it's time, hang out, have some punch.
    And Dawn is left alone in the kitchen to pour herself some punch as they three bring their adult hors d'oeuvres into the dining room in preparation for the “real” guests. Xander’s quotation is from Master Po training young David Carradine in flashbacks in the 70s TV show Kung Fu and it once again shows how the Scoobies – barely adults themselves – are treating Dawn like a young pupil who has much to learn.

    The door opens to let in the first guest – but it’s not one of the strangers who is the next to arrive – it’s Tara with a gift in hand. The closeness of Buffy and Tara in Season Six is one of the best things about the season. It’s wonderful to see Tara grow after she breaks away from Willow – gaining self-confidence and even a sassy quality that gives this episode some much needed humor.

    BUFFY: Hey, you came.
    TARA: Of course, sweetie. How're you doing?
    BUFFY: Oh, you know. Better. Mostly. Sometimes.
    TARA: So... Is Spike coming?
    BUFFY: He may be a chip head but he still doesn't play well with others. And I'm definitely not ready to...
    TARA: Come out?
    BUFFY: Yeah. I'm all stay inny.
    This conversation is interesting in light of Buffy’s previous view of her sexual relationship with Spike – it wasn’t real, it meant nothing, he’s just a disgusting thing, it would never happen again. But now that she’s revealed it to Tara - and acknowledged how much she’s using Spike to escape her unhappy life – she’s primed to claim responsibility for her actions instead of leaving all decision-making to others.

    And Tara’s attitude forces Buffy to start thinking of Spike as more than just a thing to be used – the realization that he’s a soulless vampire and unable to make good moral choices places the future of their relationship in her hands. So her concern about Spike becomes less focused on Buffy’s culpability and the unreality of their relationship and more about her readiness to finally “come out” and reveal it to the others whether she chooses to break it off or not. And she’s not ready yet – but the implication is that she will be at some point.

    Her statement that Spike doesn’t play well with others isn’t necessarily fair, though – one would think Spike had proven himself over the summer when he took care of Dawn and worked with the Scoobies. And indeed, Spike seems to play very well with everyone else when he shows up on her doorstep – it’s his toxic relationship with Buffy that he doesn’t play well with and she’s using her friends as an excuse for not seeing him.

    Buffy is obviously grateful that Tara cares about her well-being, though – and she lobs the ball right back in her court by bringing up the elephant in the room as we get a brief shot of Willow upstairs readjusting her outfit:

    BUFFY: How are you doing?
    TARA: The word "gulp" comes to mind.
    BUFFY: Just remember, we're all here to –
    Willow comes down the stairs.
    BUFFY: I have to – with the thing that I uh – coming!
    As Willow comes down the stairs, we get a moment of uncharacteristic over-acting from SMG as she tries to come up with a reason to leave – it’s too broad and too comic and kinda cuts the serious mood of Willow and Tara meeting again. But there’s still enough drama to make the brief scene arresting as Willow desperately wants to show Tara how far she’s come in dealing with her addiction. The scene’s a lovely incoherent mess as the two talk in an awkward shorthand that only ex-lovers know:

    WILLOW: Hey.
    TARA: Hey.
    WILLOW: Hey. How are you?
    TARA: Fine. Thanks, I'm fine. How are you?
    WILLOW: Great. I mean, fine. You know. All Finey McFine Fine.
    TARA: You look --
    WILLOW: Thanks!
    TARA: -- great.
    WILLOW: Thanks. You too Is that a new --
    TARA: Yeah.
    WILLOW: It's nice.
    TARA: Thanks. God, this is awful. I'm gonna get something to drink.
    WILLOW: Great! Good! You should, don't wanna get, you know. Thirsty.
    Tara runs into the kitchen to find Buffy pouring a drink.
    BUFFY: Hey, how did –
    TARA: Yes, please.
    Willow hugs herself as Tara flees the scene – the emotions are still too great to face Willow for longer than a minute. As Buffy pours into a paper cup in the kitchen, Tara grabs the cup and starts to drink, liquid unknown. For a moment, it’s Tara who is the flustered one and Buffy the comforter – but only for a moment as the back door beckons and more trouble saunters in.

    A knock at the back door, it pushes open, we see Spike holding a six-pack of beer in one hand.
    BUFFY: Spike?
    SPIKE: Yeah, Willow mentioned the shindig, figured we're all part of the team, thought I'd swing by.
    He enters. Clem, Spike’s loose skinned friend from Life Serial follows.
    BUFFY: Wait, what kind of team is this?
    CLEM: Hi. We met once before.
    BUFFY: Yes. Yes, we did.
    SPIKE: You know. More. Merrier. That whole thing.
    CLEM: Hi, I'm Clement. Clem.
    TARA: Tara.
    Spike brings one present to Buffy’s party (besides himself) – a six pack of Eisbock beer, one of the strongest lagers from Germany made by partially freezing beer and removing the ice to jack up the alcohol content. The world-famous ice-beer runs anywhere up to 57% alcohol with rather intense fruity and chocolate notes and dates back to the 14th century. Perfect for a vampire and his demon mate.

    Buffy’s initial confusion over Clem’s identity resolves as she remembers the kitten poker game. Tara immediately turns to Buffy to make sure she’s okay, but Buffy handles it with aplomb.

    Actually, I’ll take a couple of lines to say how awesome is Clem to me. Not only because he was a good friend to Spike (every bad boy should have a Clem, they would do better in life!), but also he managed to be a nice person and a demon as a same time. I know this is not a unique trait in the verse, but there was always something about Clem that made him especially lovable. So, for a few hours seems to be a perfectly fine party, where everyone is having fun and nobody is trying to kill someone else. Of course, it was Buffy’s birthday and the fragile harmony had to end sooner than later.
    Yes, Rihannon, Clem is one of the greatest additions to the Buffyverse and one only wishes he were used even more through Seasons Six and Seven. He’s a rare thing for a Buffy character – a good natured, lovable demon who seemingly wishes humans no harm – someone more likely to appear on Buffy’s sister show, Angel, than this one.

    Why does Spike “team” up with Clem anyway? Spike’s generally a loner who gravitates more towards women than men – primarily because he’s so insecure that most men threaten him and his manufactured hyper-masculine demeanor. But Clem is so friendly and non-judgmental (despite his initial repulsion towards Buffy’s smooth skin) that he’s literally the antithesis of Angelus or Spike – someone that Spike can actually hang with who won’t judge him no matter what he does. As you point out, the real bad boy in the room here is Spike who deliberately crashes the party with Clem at his side. The fact that Spike enjoys hanging out with Clem – who has a gentle nature and high likeability quotient – and treats him like a true friend goes a long way to making Spike himself a more sympathetic character.

    From Life Serial onward, Clem knows about Spike’s relationship with Buffy and he acts as a sounding board for Spike to express his hopes and fears. But the same nature that allows Clem to be so easygoing also allows certain things to slip under his radar – the jealousy and paranoia that Spike exhibits when Xander walks Richard in the room goes right over Clem’s head.

    Poor Richard – he’s even literally wearing a red shirt like Star Trek's human cannon fodder when he walks into Buffy’s home, fated to be nothing more than a quick Shish Kabob for an enraged demon. He might as well have a T-Shirt that says “Kill Me” on the back.

    Xander enters with RICHARD, 24, cute, boyish, nervous.
    XANDER: Buffy, Richard.
    BUFFY: Hey.
    XANDER: He was wondering where the best place was to park his car.
    BUFFY: Oh, that's easy, just –
    XANDER: Buffy’ll show you.
    Buffy looks at Xander. Spike looks at Buffy. Richard looks at Buffy. Tara's looking at all of them.
    BUFFY: Okay, uh – I'll be right back.
    RICHARD: Uh, the guy with the –
    BUFFY: Skin condition. He doesn't like to talk about it.
    Xander, grinning, goes to the living room.
    SPIKE: Stupid git.
    Tara sees the chance to needle Spike a little as he closes the back door.
    TARA: I don't know. He seemed – cute. Was he cute? I mean, I'm not a very good judge, but – I think he seemed cute.
    CLEM: I think he seemed cute, yeah.
    The look of dismay on Spike’s face is priceless as he looks from Tara to Clem. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t have a nasty response to Tara’s statement – if it were Willow or Xander or Anya or even Dawn, Spike would be vociferously arguing the point. And yet, there’s something about Tara that unnerves Spike – he helped her to realize that she wasn’t a demon in Family and was kind to her when she was mad in Spiral. He does mock her in the opening scene of Bargaining, Part One when Tara worries if her spell failed to work on the vamp due to prescription drugs – but for the most part, Spike seems to respect her opinion enough to be worried about Richard.

    Of course, he doesn’t know that Buffy’s told Tara about the two of them – so he’s as careful around her as he was when Xander entered his crypt in Gone. Tara gets away with figuratively yanking Spike’s chain a great deal in this episode – leading to some of its best moments.

    Blow out my candles – So, all the niceties and everyone’s attempts to behave their best, do little to prevent the pressure from building. I’m not sure if I’m capable of dissecting the dynamics of the party (and the pressurizing factors), but let’s give it a try: 1. The guests: Xander and Anya bring a [S]date[/S] “friend” for Buffy, called Richard. Buffy invites a “friend” from work herself, called Sophie. Spike pretty much invites himself (even if he heard about it from Willow?) and also brings a “friend”. “Friends” aside, the party feels pretty intimate but not in the comfortable sense. Now that I think about it, bringing people that are not from the inner circle is something you do when you think things are going to get weird and use them as a sort of safety… something. Maybe not an entirely conscious level, since for sure everyone means well: Anya and Xander want Buffy to meet a nice man, Buffy wants to show that she is capable of making friends, and Spike probably just don’t want to be the only demon in the party. But at the end, most people behave better if strangers are present.
    That’s a fantastic point, Rihannon – the introduction of strangers to the party means that they don’t have to deal with too much personal drama. We initially find that two different groups have invited over complete strangers – two colleagues from work – and we soon find that Spike has invited a third – a comrade from his poker parties. As you say, it’s obvious why Xander and Anya have invited their guest – he’s a potential boyfriend for Buffy. And it’s also obvious why Buffy has invited her work friend – it’s a feint to convince everyone that she’s just living a normal life. And I think that it’s two-fold why party-crasher Spike has invited Clem along – the first is linked to what you’ve said. Spike wants to show Buffy that demons are people, too, and brings Clem along as a kind of f**k you to being ignored for an invite. The fact that Buffy is forced to “explain” Clem to Richard is a bonus.

    But Clem’s also insurance to guarantee that Spike won’t be thrown out on his ear because Buffy is too polite to do that to a stranger. As far as we know, the last time that Buffy and Spike saw each other was in the alley in Dead Things when Buffy beat Spike to a pulp and he still carries the bruises of that evening. Since vampires heal very quickly, why hasn’t Spike healed yet? Either it’s very soon on the heels of Katrina’s death (a day or so) or Spike is deliberately starving himself to keep the wound nice and fresh to torment Buffy with her own handiwork in the hopes of making her feel guilty. Does Buffy feel guilty? If so, she’s not about to reveal it to Spike.

    To be honest, I find this episode hard to watch because of Spike’s injury – there’s no apology by Buffy or reconciliation – and Spike is still a sentient being who was just trying to save Buffy and the way in which they both studiously ignore that evening until their fight the next morning shows how rancid the relationship truly is. It’s like watching a battered lover walk around all night as they show affection to the person who did this – as much as Spike is responsible for the twisted relationship between them, no one deserves that.

    Strangely, although Buffy talks briefly with Tara, no one seems to care that Spike’s injured – nor do they care that he wasn’t invited even though they don’t know about the relationship with Buffy. Xander doesn’t even mention his presence as unwanted. Not even Dawn notices or cares. We find in the next episode that Buffy won’t even allow Spike to come into the house and visit Dawn after the debacle of the social worker’s visit in Gone – but Dawn doesn’t seem to make any attempts to visit him either.

    The sad decline of the Spike/Dawn friendship is just one of the things sacrificed on the altar of Season Six relationships that had to go because they conflicted with more important storylines. Buffy needs to compartmentalize and Dawn needs to feel alone enough that Hallie will hear her cries – and so Spike has to stay distant and solely involved with Buffy. There’s not even an acknowledgement between them when he enters with Clem. We’re meant to believe, apparently, that once he and Buffy have had sex that he’s lost all interest in connecting with Dawn – either because of his own inclination or a caution from Buffy. It seems to be the former – once Buffy comes down those stairs in After Life, there isn’t a single scene between Spike and Dawn until Seeing Red – which I’ll address in my review of that episode.

    But here Dawn is treated as if she’s twelve years old. She’s eager for Buffy to open her present and find the leather jacket she spent hours stealing and cajoles Xander and Anya – who are purposefully staying in the living room to allow Buffy to spend more time getting to know cutie Richard.

    DAWN: If we go get Buffy now, she can start on the presents. It's been enough time, hasn't it?
    ANYA: Not yet, sweetie.
    XANDER: I think Buff's busy right now anyway.
    ANYA: Buffy's making a new friend right now. A grown-up friend.
    DAWN: What? You mean that guy you invited to set her up with? It's not like I don't understand why
    you invited him. I was there, remember? I hear you when I'm in the room, you know. I do understand these things.
    Anya absently ruffles the top of Dawn's head.
    ANYA: Yes you do.
    DAWN: You know I'm in high school, right?
    ANYA: Yes you are.
    But Anya and Xander are wrong – Buffy seems to be actively avoiding Richard as she wanders through the house. As she walks down the stairs, Spike pulls Buffy into the shadows (get it?) beneath the stairs and seemingly looks towards the basement door for a little more private conversation. And a very aroused Spike starts right away with the dirty double entendres:

    SPIKE: You wanna slip away for a minute, luv?
    BUFFY: What?
    SPIKE: I'll let you blow out my candles.
    BUFFY: Here. Now? I don't think so.
    SPIKE: Oh, what, you worried about Richard? You don't wanna make your new boyfriend jealous, huh?
    BUFFY: Shut up. He's – sweet.
    SPIKE: "Oh, shut up, he's sweet."
    BUFFY: Maybe he's not the jealous one.
    SPIKE: You think he'll take you out on his ten-speed, pet? Maybe he'll let you ride in that little basket in the front. Jealous my ass.
    As said before, Buffy wasn’t really worried about Spike playing well with others at the party – she’s worried about his play with her – it’s very tempting. But instead of getting angry, she flirts and even smiles at Spike as she declines his offer and enjoys the obvious jealously that Spike displays. And this seems to unnerve Spike a little – he knows how to deal with Buffy’s anger, but not with her teasing. He looks a bit glum as she walks past him – unable to drag her away to a safe little hiding place, he’s feeling a little out of place himself. He knows that Buffy sexually desires him – but he also knows that he’s her dirty little secret as opposed to the redshirt hunk that Xander and Anya have openly gotten to flirt with Buffy.

    As Buffy finally decides to open her presents, the Scoobies and guests all take their places around her and it’s instructive to see who sits and stands where. Buffy sits in the middle of her couch flanked by Willow on one side and Dawn on the other – appropriate, since Buffy is opening their presents. Tara stands far away, resting on the stairway bannister behind Clem and Spike, who leans against the doorjam. Richard, Anya and Xander are missing because they’re getting their present ready – which seems rather rude of Buffy – no one’s presents should be opened while half the guests are missing! Willow’s present, however, engenders the biggest laugh for the viewer as Buffy pulls it out of the box:

    WILLOW: See? It's a battery-operated back massager, only it's portable, so you can take it with you on patrol.
    BUFFY: Uh huh.
    WILLOW: It's like instant gratification for all your little acheys.
    Buffy glances at Spike, who wiggles his eyebrows at her. Buffy quickly puts it down.
    BUFFY: Okay! Great, thanks, what's next?
    Unknowingly, Dawn saves Buffy by quickly plucking her present from the pile:

    DAWN: Here, do mine.
    BUFFY: Dawn...
    DAWN: Do you like it?
    BUFFY: It's gorgeous.
    DAWN: I was so nervous. I was afraid you wouldn't like it.
    BUFFY: It's still got a security tag.
    DAWN: Huh? That's so weird, I can't believe they left that on.
    XANDER: Happy Birthday, Buff!
    BUFFY: Oh my God!
    It’s surprising that Spike doesn’t jump in when he sees the security tag on the jacket – as her companion in crime, he must immediately know that Dawn’s stolen it. But Dawn is left twisting in the wind – Spike only has raised eyebrows for Buffy and totally ignores both Dawn’s discomfort and her obvious misery when Xander and Anya unwittingly upstage her by rolling the chest in the room. And it becomes increasingly obvious why Tara is standing in the background – she’s not only keeping distance from Willow, but an eye on Spike.

    The reason why it was rude of Buffy to start opening presents before all the guest were ready is because of precisely what does happen when Xander, Anya and Richard roll out the weapons chest – Dawn’s gift of leather jacket – compete with security tag – is forgotten in the oohing and ahhing over the beautifully designed chest.

    BUFFY: You guys made this?
    ANYA: Yes. Xander did the building, I offered helpful suggestions while observing from a safe distance.
    XANDER: Holds basic weapons, maybe a few non-basic ones. And there's a CD rack.
    ANYA: He wanted you to have something no one else would have.
    BUFFY: A Xander Harris Original. It's beautiful, thank you.
    Two things – the first is a huge WOW!!!! at Xander’s gorgeous wooden weapons chest – which I covet and desperately want for my own “weapons” of pen, paper and notebooks. The fact that Xander and Anya put so much time into trying to make Buffy’s birthday so enjoyable – building the beautiful chest, preparing the food, even bringing along a cute guy to have fun with – shows that all the planning they’ve been doing hasn’t just been for their own wedding. While Buffy was busy boinking Spike, fighting the Trio and turning herself into the police, Xander and Anya have been working on making this the best birthday that Buffy’s ever had. Which makes it all the sadder that Dawn’s wish ruins everything and makes it more understandable as to why Anya becomes so upset when things go wrong.

    The second is a bit more puzzling – what was Richard thinking when Xander showed him the chest built specifically for weapons? Did he tell Richard that Buffy was part of a medieval reenactment society? That she was a stunt actress who handled multiple weapons – enough to fill a giant chest? Or are we meant to think that Xander’s lowered voice telling Buffy about the weapons isn’t heard by Richard one foot behind Xander? For all the concern that Clem not be exposed as a demon and Spike not make a spectacle of himself, the Scoobies seem to have no compunction about letting total strangers know that Buffy is a very different kind of girl.

    Of course, few behavioral codes survive a crisis, such as… let’s say, getting mystically stuck at the most awkward and bizarre birthday party ever, while being chased by a stab-happy demon. I would like to point out that Richard was the only non-scooby that really freaked out, and well, he got badly hurt so it was understandable. Sophie, instead, was such a wallflower that it was almost as if she wasn’t there. Makes me wonder if she was even necessary for the episode.
    Sophie’s entrance completes the guest list for the Evening in Hell Party as Tara opens the door and we find out that Buffy’s new friend is a little maladjusted to life herself. As she reels off a long list of things she’s allergic to, Spike smirks behind her and Anya raises an eyebrow.

    BUFFY: Sophie, hey, we're somewhere between presents and cake. There is going to be cake
    eventually, right?
    SOPHIE: Hey, um, my mom told me to say thank you right away for inviting me, 'cause otherwise I usually forget, so thank you, and also that I can't have any chocolate or peanuts or egg yolks or sometimes dairy.
    BUFFY: No problem.
    ANYA: That's your friend from work?
    BUFFY: Well – yeah.
    ANYA: Our friend is better.
    BUFFY: Dawnie, you mind getting the door? We can do official introductions now that everyone's officially here.
    There’s a fairly awful line that was thankfully cut here when Buffy whispers to Anya why she’s really chosen Sophie: “All the good ones got picked off by that lady with the wig, lay off.” It’s necessarily crude and cruel and I’m glad they cut it. I love the little wave that Clem makes as he greets Sophie – he’s obviously drawn to her from the start and it’s fitting that the next scene shows them dancing together to a fast beat. Xander watches Willow do some hand dancing to the music and Dawn and Anya sit on the couch, Anya making some feeble hand dancing of her own as Richard and Buffy flirt at the bottom of the stairs while Spike stands behind them, steaming. Little do they know that Hallie has just granted Dawn’s wish on the front porch, locking them eternally within.

    2. The baggage and the dirty laundry: (Or, the “baggage full of dirty laundry”? Ha! A double metaphor! Is it cool or is it lame? It is yours to proclaim!) So, if we think of the Scoobies as family, as I think it should be done, families usually have lots of baggage. There are old wounds, and not entirely forgiven betrayals, and disappointments, and all that dumb things that for some reason are so difficult to leave behind. Of course, there is the love. Love makes the baggage bearable, to the point that most of the time its weight can be ignored. And well, that’s the way it is, as far as I know, and people learn to deal with the stuff, but it does exist nonetheless. Probably the most notable situation here would be Willow and Tara’s, since their breakup is still fresh and their interactions are tentative at best, but the love is undeniable. In the other hand, there is the dirty laundry, AKA the secrets we are ashamed of. Of course, the biggest pile of layers and layers is Buffy’s relationship with Spike.
    Yes, Rihannon, there are a dozen little dramas going on at the same time. The “baggage full of dirty laundry” is actually a wonderful way to describe what’s happening in the episode. The old wounds and betrayals are still fresh for many of them even as they pretend not to remember for the sake of keeping amity and secrecy from prying guests.

    In terms of love, I agree that Willow and Tara are utterly torn between their obvious feelings for one another and their past interactions. As for Buffy and Spike, they share a certain knowing quality with each other that places their conversations above that of Richard. The secret they share makes them connected in a way that is unique – something that Spike is obviously thrilled to keep apart from the rest because it places him in a special relationship to Buffy.

    In the surface there is this sort of camaraderie between them that anyone who paid a little attention wouldn’t miss. But if someone lifts the lid, what will find? Material for more than one discussion, for sure, including the origins of Spike’s battered face and Buffy’s short hair. This is kind of painful to think of, at least to anyone that can relate to the situation. How painful it is to carry a secret that is eating you from the inside, and not being able to let it out, because you could hurt the ones you love? Or lose them? Or both. All things considered, they are handling the situation in a civil (if not healthy) way. Thinking about how Buffy was able to be in such high spirits (faked or not) after what happened in Dead Things, what comes to my mind is her conversation with Tara at the end of the episode. Being able to “air up” a bit the dirty laundry somehow makes it more bearable. It makes sense.
    Yes, Rihannon, the outward surfaces show the hidden secrets within – Spike’s battered face and Buffy’s hair are psychological manifestations of their tortured relationship. I agree that Buffy sharing their secret with Tara opens her up to looking at things in a different way – revealing the secret and airing the dirty laundry allows her to step back and see Spike for what he is. Which enables her to finally break off the relationship. Their relationship runs the gamut from playing cards in the morning to fighting in the hallway. There’s camaraderie there that only comes out when Buffy can’t punch Spike in the nose and run off, virtue fluttering – but also frustration that neither is giving the other what they truly want even as they’re trapped together.

    There’s a famous book written in the 1940s about the trend in modern drama where a bunch of people all join each other in a remote or enclosed location (a funeral, a wedding, a cabin, a country house, a camping trip, a retreat, a hideout) where they cannot easily get away. The real relationships and manipulative strategies of the characters are revealed as the play goes on and the claustrophobic situation causes a series of breakdowns as the characters confess their deepest, darkest secrets. So many movies copied this kind of drama from Stagecoach to The Big Chill to The Breakfast Club – it’s in line with the new realist dramas of Ibsen the late 18th century that used the idea in melodrama that everyone is hiding a big, dramatic secret and made it a psychological reveal rather than a hidden will in the attic.

    Older and Far Away is indebted to this trope of characters in search of a plot – as well as the idea of people trapped in a situation who become increasingly bestial to one another. It’s not only the plot of the novel where the title of the episode actually comes from – Empire of the Sun – with its prisoners growing increasingly desperate in Japanese concentration camps – but also mimics the plot of one of the greatest films of all time – Luis Buñuel’s award-winning The Exterminating Angel.

    It’s very obvious that Older and Far Away is directly based on The Exterminating Angel. A Spanish artist who was the friend of Salvador Dali, Buñuel created surrealist cinematic masterpieces in the 1920s and The Exterminating Angel in 1962 is still considered by many to be his greatest film. It’s a savage comedy about the upper classes in which a group of rich men and women come to dinner and find themselves unable to psychologically leave the party, taking off their jackets and sleeping on the furniture and floor. Realizing the next day that they can’t leave, they begin to argue and covet what little food and drink there is – several become basket-cases and a few die. They eventually become convinced that one of them has caused this to happen and prepare to sacrifice him until another guest reconstructs what happened and they manage to free themselves – only to find themselves trapped in a church where they go to pray thanks for their deliverance. It’s a bizarre, anarchistic fantasia – one that Whedon’s favorite writer, Stephen Sondheim, is currently working into a musical.

    And just as in The Exterminating Angel, the characters only slowly become aware of their plight as they keep playing games and conversing through the night even though they know they should leave.

    RICHARD: Great party. Everyone's having fun.
    BUFFY: I hope so.
    RICHARD: Well, look at the clock. And no one's even thinking about leaving. I can't tear myself away.
    BUFFY: Yeah.
    RICHARD: Hey, can I get you a drink?
    Behind Richard we see Spike appear in the living-room doorway, observing.
    BUFFY: Uh – I'm good. Thank you.
    RICHARD: Okay.
    BUFFY: I think I’ll just head back in.
    RICHARD: Well, I'll look for you.
    BUFFY: Okay.
    SPIKE: (falsetto) Oooh, Buffy, might I get you a soda pop? I think I'm in looooove!
    BUFFY: Stop it, someone will see.
    Spike puts his hand on the wall to prevent Buffy from leaving.
    SPIKE: Mmmm-hmmm.
    He takes her hand, tries to push it onto his crotch, but Tara walks in. Buffy pulls away, glares at Spike, and walks off. Tara just stares.
    SPIKE: I, uh, had a muscle cramp. Buffy was – helping.
    TARA: Muscle cramp. In your pants.
    SPIKE: What? It's a thing.
    TARA: Right.
    Poor Richard – the awkward way in which Buffy turns him down only turns Spike on. One would almost think that Spike wanted the two of them to be caught as he brazenly places her hand on his crouch as he placed his hand on Buffy’s naughty places in Gone – but his embarrassment at Tara catching the two of them shows that he’s really not ready to deal with the wrath of the Scoobies either. Once again, Tara has Spike on the ropes as she teases him with the possibility that she knows exactly what he’s doing – which breaks the whole fantasy of Spike and Buffy sharing a secret that no one else knows. In Gone, Spike threw Buffy out of his crypt because she refused to reveal her relationship to her friends – but here he’s strangely timid. Perhaps he already sense that he’s on thin ice after Buffy’s beating in the alley – and any true reveal here would destroy his chances with Buffy forever.

    We see Xander and Anya treating their inability to go get beer as a romantic game – which leads to Willow vowing to go and then falling asleep at the kitchen table. The party moves to competing games of Monopoly and Poker where the guests are divided into two groups (sans a snoring Willow and a mysteriously absent Sophie who both appear sleeping on the living room couch in a later scene): Buffy, Dawn, Anya and Richard play Monopoly while Spike, Clem, Xander and Tara deal cards. Tara is still staying close to Spike just as Richard tries to interest Buffy in vain – which a glaring Spike notices as Buffy pays her Monopoly money to Anya.

    BUFFY: This sucks. I'm out.
    RICHARD: No way. I think you're doing fine.
    Across the room, Spike rolls his eyes at that.
    XANDER: Wanna try poker?
    CLEM: Still say it's weird without kittens.
    BUFFY: No kittens! He's quirky.
    RICHARD: We've been playing for, like, three hours. It's already two something. You can't bail now.
    ANYA: Yes, Buffy, stay. I want to bankrupt someone.
    DAWN: Oh, we should totally have a slumber party!
    BUFFY: Well... I don't know. I guess, as long as we're all staying up anyway.
    SPIKE: Must be some late-night activities to keep us busy till morning.
    Buffy glares death rays at Spike. Tara picks up on it, speaks to him quietly.
    TARA: How's that cramp, Spike? Still bothering you?
    SPIKE: What? Oh. Yeah –
    TARA: Maybe you, uh, wanna put some ice on it.
    And it’s Tara again for the win!

    We don’t get to see Buffy’s reaction, but Spike looks appropriately disconcerted by her subtle jabs. Meanwhile, Dawn is thrilled at her “slumber party” – all the adults willing to stay up all night and play games and listen to music and watch TV with her and eat snack food. Even Spike and Buffy are sitting on the floor together, playing cards as if they’re normal boyfriend and girlfriend. The spell seems not only to have taken away any real inclination to leave, but it’s also fulfilling Dawn’s fantasies of endless games and food and TV and friendship – and Buffy and Spike being good friends is probably one of them. Of course, this turns sour when Richard realizes that he and Xander only have three minutes to get to work as Dawn, Clem and Xander watch TV:

    RICHARD: Xander, we have to be at work in a few minutes
    XANDER: Okay.
    He doesn't move. Sophie and Willow begin to stir.
    There’s a pretty cute cut line here that references Tabula Rasa:

    WILLOW: Wait, does everyone know who they are? Just figure it's a good idea to check.
    But the characters do know who they are – they just don’t know why they’re still there. Spike looks particularly annoyed as Richard interrupts his card game with Buffy and decides to toy with him a little as Buffy grows more and more frustrated:

    RICHARD: I can't be late today.
    SPIKE: You should definitely go, let's find your coat, get you on your merry way.
    BUFFY: Spike.
    RICHARD: I don't know why I'm not leaving.
    SPIKE: Me either. 'Sides, Richie, can't skip breakfast, growing boy like you. Me, I used to love breakfast. In the old days, I probably would have eaten by now.
    BUFFY: 'Course, with that new diet of yours, you wanna be careful about what you try to put in your mouth now, Spikey.
    SPIKE: Yeah? Dunno, tummy's makin' all kinds of gurglies, maybe I oughta just feed on whatever's around, even if it doesn't go down well. You, uh, work out?
    BUFFY: Okey-dokey. Excuse us.
    And we see here in action the idea that you spoke of, Rihannon – “How painful it is to carry a secret that is eating you from the inside, and not being able to let it out, because you could hurt the ones you love? Or lose them? Or both.” Every character is talking past other characters because they either know something that the others don’t know – whether it’s a secret affair or a confession or knowledge of the supernatural – or they’re pretending to keep the conversation to small talk while discussing something much deeper – but unspeakable.

    The interaction between the characters is often accompanied by a listener absorbing the subtext beneath the text. Spike revels in the fact that Richard is so naïve he doesn’t even understand that he’s talking to a vampire – just as Tara teases Spike confidently with the knowledge of his supposed secret affair with Buffy. But Spike’s snarky jealously driven putdowns aren’t stopped by Tara this time – it’s Buffy who takes control of the situation before Spike goes too far and pulls him into the front entrance apparently not noticing that Spike is reflected in the mirrored furniture.

    BUFFY: Hey! Mr. Passive Aggressive Guy! Seriously, wanna take it down a notch or two out there?
    SPIKE: What, poor, dainty Richard can't take a joke?
    BUFFY: We do not joke about eating people in this house!
    SPIKE: What are you gonna do? Beat me up again?
    And there’s the first real mention of Spike’s horribly bruised face as Spike unleashes a bit of righteous anger at Buffy’s apparent disregard for what she’s done – we expect Buffy to stop and flinch, but she just plows onward with righteous indignation that Spike could even joke about eating people. This is an enormous shift from her laughter after Spike talks about eating a decorator – a sign that she is already relating to Spike on a different moral level again.

    BUFFY: I should have thrown you out the second you got here. I was insane to ever think you could just hang out with my friends.
    SPIKE: And I was insane to think – oh, wait. You were right, you're insane.
    What was Spike going to say? His frustrated expression and pause tells the viewer that it was a whopper – perhaps about her leaving him there – but he plainly decides that it would have gone too far and resigns himself to the easy insult. He’s still in love with Buffy and knows how precarious their relationship is at the moment – anger with the new beau warring with fear of losing her after she regains her agency in Dead Things and bites his tongue. Parallel to this argument is the uncomfortable meeting of Willow and Tara in the kitchen – bonding despite themselves and their seemingly meaningless conversation.

    Tara pours milk into a bowl of cereal. Willow enters, stops when she sees Tara.
    WILLOW: Oh. Hi.
    TARA: Hey. Breakfast. Didn't plan for a sleep over.
    WILLOW: No, me either. I mean, it's weird. I have class, I know I should go.
    TARA: I know, it's like I wanna leave, but I don't want to.
    WILLOW: Exactly!
    The discomfort of the two ex-lovers is contrasted with the wild anger of Buffy and Spike as she tells him to leave the house. In a twist, Spike explains that he can’t go and Buffy determines to leave herself. But in a redo of Waiting for Godot, they do not move.

    BUFFY: You know what? I think it's time for you to go.
    SPIKE: Yeah, well, can't. Daylight.
    BUFFY: Then I'll go.
    SPIKE: I'll get the door!
    BUFFY: Fine!
    SPIKE: Fine!
    Neither of them moves.
    BUFFY: I'm actually trying to move now.
    SPIKE: Me too.
    BUFFY: Well. This can't be good.
    Spike nods his head vigorously.
    No virtue fluttering today. The two are forced to remain side by side despite their resentful attitudes just as Tara and Willow are forced to interact despite their anxiety about each other. We see the entire group of guests now focused on each other as fellow prisoners – Sophie, Clem, Anya and Willow seated opposite Buffy and Dawn with Richard, Tara and Xander standing in the doorway as Spike skulls near Buffy out of the sun. For Sophie and Richard in particular, this must feel like a very unpleasant version of the Twilight Zone. Each character voices their own particular needs – as demons, Clem and Spike don’t have anywhere to go. Others, like Sophie, don’t want to go anywhere. But the core Scoobies have responsibilities – Willow and Tara have to go to class, Anya needs to open the shop, Xander needs to be at the site with Richard. Only Buffy tellingly refuses to voice where she needs to be – work or patrol or sex with Spike as he points out.

    BUFFY: There's something keeping us in this house.
    XANDER: Or someone.
    TARA: Has everyone tried to get out?
    WILLOW: What if we just, like, as a group, got up and threw ourselves at the door?
    XANDER: All right, count of three. One. Two. Three.
    A beat as no one moves.
    XANDER: Here we go.
    More not moving. Dawn looks angry.
    BUFFY: Hence the problem.
    RICHARD: I really need to go. I mean, I have a job to get to.
    ANYA: I need to open the shop.
    SOPHIE: I have a shift at DoubleMeat. Actually, I'm okay here.
    CLEM: Yeah, I'm fine.
    XANDER: Tara and Willow have class, I gotta be at the site.
    BUFFY: I know, I know, we all have places that we'd rather be.
    That doesn't sit too well with Dawn.
    SPIKE: Things we'd rather be doing.
    Buffy's getting pissed at him. She ignores him and moves on.
    BUFFY: So the first priority has to be finding a way out of here.
    DAWN: Sure. Of course you all wanna leave. 'Cause being stuck in here with me – that would really suck, right?
    WILLOW: No, Dawnie, it's just, there are important things we have to –
    DAWN: Yeah, I know. Important. Whatever that means, right?
    She turns and runs upstairs to her room. Everyone is stunned.
    Dawn’s reaction is so extreme that one wonders whether the parameters of the spell also include an amplification of Dawn’s emotional state – her neediness matched by their inability to leave. Otherwise, it seems extraordinarily selfish unless one really tries to delve into her emotional psyche at this moment.

    3. The orphaned child: Even though Dawn never was technically an orphaned child, since she has a living parent, I always thought she would have considered herself an orphan after Buffy’s death. As far as I can remember, Dawn never interacted with Hank in the series. I don’t really remember if there was a mention of them meeting since Dawn’s actual life. In any case, I suppose Hank didn’t make any effort to get Dawn’s custody after Joyce and Buffy died (It also was never clear to me how much Hank knew of Buffy’s death and resurrection, and if he did anything about it. Maybe someone her can shed a little light on the subject?).
    No, I don’t think that Hank ever interacted with Dawn during the time of the series. In Bargaining, Part Two, we’re told that Dawn has talked to Hank over the phone since Buffy’s “death” that summer – but Hank’s not aware that Buffy’s gone.

    The phone rings. BuffyBot looks excited.
    BUFFYBOT: I'll get it!
    DAWN: Um – it could be my dad. He said he'd call today.
    BUFFYBOT: I'll just say hello. He's my biological ancestor. (Bargaining, Part One)
    Buffy mentions Dawn possibly living with their father once she turns herself into the police in Dead Things – but since Buffy never loses custody of Dawn during the series, we’ll never know if he was willing to take her in. It’s probable that Hank kept parental rights while handing over custodial status to Buffy in his absence – otherwise, Buffy would have to maneuver through too many hoops to count in the California courts to keep Dawn with her.

    So, legal status not clear and all, we know that Buffy took the role of Dawn’s guardian after the death of their mother. Buffy’s death, not very long after that, had to be very hard on Dawn. Aside from the comic books (cannon-status also unclear to me), we don’t know much about how Dawn or any of the Scoobies dealt with Buffy’s death, at least until what we got to see in the first episodes of season 6. My point here, I guess, is that in real life Dawn would have to be in serious need of therapy. A Summers woman herself (and a magic child made from Buffy’s tough materia prima) she is resilient and brave and has the nerve to take life as it comes. Although, it is repeatedly said that she is human, and having Buffy back couldn’t possibly just erase all the trauma. And all the turmoil that is contained in her skinny body wasn’t that difficult to detect. Probably it would have been obvious to the Scoobies if they weren’t either too tightly wrapped up in themselves, or barely hanging from a thin thread, or both. So, the pressure was bound to burst out somehow, and it wouldn’t be the first time a teen finds a way to trigger it. This is what the petty theft was about, I’m sure.
    Yes, Rihannon, it’s obvious that Dawn is in severe need of therapy – which makes it so surprising that Giles felt he could leave and fly back to England without getting her the help she needed (and Willow also, for that matter) Despite caring for Dawn, she’s not really a part of the Scoobie plans - the three people left out of the plan to resurrect Buffy are Giles, Spike and Dawn. And when Buffy returns, Spike and the Scoobies pull even further away.

    In my opinion, this plot line lacks the subtility and multilayeredness (is that even a word?) that made this show great. Also, as I mentioned before, MT’s performance didn’t convince me at all (maybe it is not her fault, it could be a direction thing, I don’t know…). It struck me as a hormonal drowning-in-a-glass-of-water fit of a teenager that wasn’t even convinced of why she was doing it. Which, in the case of a spoiled brat, would have been believable, but here Dawn is supposed to be a genuinely grieving, lonely and lost child that is just trying to hold it together the best she can. This could have been epic if managed a little better, IMHO.
    Agreed that some of the acting is a bit “off” – especially Dawn, who is too overwrought. I’m not sure what happened in this episode, but there are so many flubs (like Spike appearing in the mirror and the numerous overdubs) that in my opinion, Older and Far Away has some of the most awkward sound and visual editing I’ve seen in a Buffy episode. I looked up the director and was surprised to find that it was one of the very best Buffyverse directors - Michael E. Gershman – who not only directed some of the best episodes (Passion, Consequences, This Year’s Girl, Blood Ties, Intervention Seeing Red and Dirty Girls) but was the primary Director of Photography for all the Buffy episodes, creating the brilliant cinematography for Hush, The Body and Once More With Feeling. Whedon himself said, “With a budget of zero dollars DP Michael Gershman made Buffy look grown up and gorgeous. It helped define the show more than people know.”

    And the cinematography in the episode is excellent for the most part – if it weren’t sacrificed to the uneven editing process. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened (my guess is some kind of rush job) but the clumsy edits not only removed character growth, but also squandered any possible suspense about the nature of the spell and the creature in the walls. The episode is ostensibly about being trapped in a house – but despite the near-death of one of the characters and the claustrophobic nature of their situation, the episode is weirdly devoid of tension. Characters who shouldn’t even be conversing with one another if they were more aware (like Buffy and Spike) loll on the floor with their bodies nearly touching and characters who need to connect (like Dawn and anyone other than Buffy) stay far away even as a monster roams through the house. The only possible explanation is that Hallie’s spell makes the inhabitants slowly forget their problems outside of the house – but that kind of amnesia doesn’t explain the numerous fights and Anya’s panic attack.

    I think again that the episode is modeled after the idea that confinement equals emotional breakdown – but they never quite pull it off because there are no BIG reveals in this episode like Once More With Feeling or Smashed – it’s all petty insecurity and jealousy rather than life-changing moments.

    If we see the spell, however, as emblematic of Dawn’s mood, then it makes a bit more sense. Dawn isn’t looking for life-changing moments. She only wants companionship and love and bonding and attention paid to her feelings – which is a wish comprised of small moments in time rather than giant confessionals. When Dawn races up the stairs, only the people close to her follow –Buffy, Tara, Willow, Xander and Spike. It’s very telling that the stage direction states:

    Dawn throws herself on her bed, all sulky. Buffy enters, followed by Spike, Xander, Willow and Tara. Lots of parents.
    It’s notable that Anya is not part of this group – and even more notable that Spike doesn’t say one word. Is he uninterested or unwilling to usurp Buffy’s authority – or is he ashamed that he’s completely abandoned his Niblet in favor of her sister? All of the others try to approach Dawn in their own way – Buffy is accusatory, Tara and Willow comforting, Xander trying to make her laugh. But Dawn is unwilling to open up and explain her outburst.

    BUFFY: Dawn?
    DAWN: What.
    BUFFY: Did you do something?
    DAWN: Me??
    TARA: Do you know something? 'Cause we want you to feel like you can tell us.
    DAWN: What would I know?
    WILLOW: We're not accusing you of anything. It’s just – you were taking it kinda personal down there.
    DAWN: Oh, okay, so you've all just decided that somehow I'm responsible. Great, here's me basking in the love.
    XANDER: It's just, you know, you're upset 'cause we all wanna leave, and now we can't leave. Only thing missing is a corn field. There – isn't a corn field, is there?
    Xander is referring to the famous short story and Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby about a child with godlike powers who terrorizes his town by sending those he doesn’t like to his family’s “corn field.” Xander is joking, of course, but his joke inadvertently puts Dawn once again in the position of a child who doesn’t know her own power. And like Once More With Feeling, she’s being blamed for something that she feels she didn’t do.

    BUFFY: Dawny, It’s okay. We're not gonna be mad –
    DAWN: Yeah, only I didn't do anything.
    WILLOW: You're sure?
    DAWN: You want me to ask my other self?
    BUFFY: We just wanna try to figure out what's going on.
    DAWN: Figure it out yourself, I'm done with being talked to like a kid.
    XANDER: 'Cause you know, sometimes you do something that seems like a good idea at the time, like, say, invoke the power of a musical amulet. And it turns out, you know. Not so much.
    Some fans point to this as a possible admission that Xander covered for Dawn in Once More With Feeling – but it seems more likely to me that Xander is using his mistake as a way to bring Dawn into his confidence – we all do crazy things that seem like a good idea even when they’re not. And if you’ve done something wrong, I’ve done the same thing.

    But instead of bonding with Dawn, this sends her into a greater rage – she’s tired of being blamed and used as an excuse for the others to ignore what’s right under their noses.

    DAWN: God! I didn't do anything. I wish I had! I'm glad you're trapped! How else can I get anyone to spend time with me?
    BUFFY: Dawn, if you want us to spend time with you –
    DAWN: I don’t. Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!
    Dawn’s words mirror her cry in Blood Ties when she finds out that she’s the Key.

    BUFFY: Dawn – Mom and I know what we feel. I know I care about you. I know that I worry about you –
    DAWN: You worry about me because you have to. I'm your job. Protect the key, right?
    BUFFY: I worry because my sister is cutting herself!
    DAWN: Yeah? How do you know? Maybe this is just another fake memory from my fake family.
    JOYCE: Sweetheart –
    DAWN: Get out.
    BUFFY: Dawn –
    DAWN: Get out, get out, get out! (Blood Ties)
    Both times, Dawn is upset because she feels a distinct loneliness that’s different from an average child – as the multidimensional Key, she’s a composite of feelings and false memories that she knows to be fundamentally unreal. And that sense of unreality permeates her view of the world – unlike the Scoobies or Spike, she has no real past and an uncertain future. Like Angel, the only vampire with a soul, she feels unique and alone – and not in a good way. For all their support, Dawn is surrounded with nothing but “lots of parents” – but sadly, no peers. The Key stands alone.

    I’ll finish this off tomorrow – thanks again, Rihannon, for a wonderful review that really raises my estimation of Older and Far Away. The more I think about the episode, the more revealing it becomes!

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    I love the suggestion that it was Buffy's almost abandonment of Dawn in Dead Things that caused Halfrek to intervene.

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    Hey, Rihannon – here’s the last of my responses to your excellent review of Older and Far Away!

    Actually trying to move – So, the party is going rather smoothly, even the fact that no one is trying to leave starts to give it all a weird vibe. Dawn seems quite pleased by the situation until the fact that something wrong is happening becomes obvious. Her statement about everyone wanting to be away from her seems out of the blue (and out of context), but it is not really about what is happening at that very moment. In any case, from the moment the teen-hormone explodes, everything else goes from bad to worse.
    Yes, Rihannon,, and this episode ties Dawn’s emotional state to their entrapment in the house – combine that with the monster in the walls and we have a classic “haunted house” theme – with all the psychological metaphors and symbolism that implies.

    The idea of being trapped in a place forever with other people that you don’t particularly like goes back to the dawn of time – mythologies in which characters are forced to team up in Hell or a Godly Paradise – folk stories about inhabitants of castles under a spell so they can never leave. Generally, the characters either find a way out or find that they’re in a kind of Hell forever like Sartre’s No Exit and Becket’s Waiting for Godot. I mentioned the dramatic theme that began in the mid-1800s of characters trapped in various situations and ultimately forced to come to a greater understanding of themselves and others. This is common enough in “Bottle” episodes – where a lot of money is saved by having all the main characters in a TV show stand around and talk in a single-set location – psychological depths are plundered even as the budget is not.

    It’s also a fixture of video games – the whole “Room Escape” genre in which the goal is to find a way out of a locked room with whatever is available. Adding a monster or two makes it even more imperative that the characters find a way of escape – especially if their “room” is really a sinking ship or a freezer or a seemingly normal house that happens to have monsters living in the walls.

    Unlike caves or grottos or other enclosed places, houses in particular traffic in ambiguity when it comes to horror – as a place of refuge built by human beings, houses are supposed to protect us from the outside world. They delineate boundaries between the outside world and the inner sanctum we set up as an extension of ourselves. So when a house is haunted by a ghost or a demon or a spiritual manifestation, it is doubly creepy because the fateful call is coming from inside the house – a monster of some sort has set itself up in our psyche as represented by the house we call our own. It’s an invasion of a very personal matter – which is why so many psychological horror films that involve a haunted house rely upon an abusive childhood, a violent crime or sexual repression that manifests itself as the monster within. The abused children who haunt the Lowell Fraternity in Where the Wild Things Are are manifested as are the fears of the characters trapped inside the haunted house of Fear, Itself.

    So one could see the monster in the walls as the psychological personification of Dawn’s angst and anger – she wants them all to pay for how they ignored her and she believes they’ve done to her. Then again, who brought this whole curse down on them in the first place because she wanted to have demon friends who would be on her side while marrying a human? Anya. Who brought the monster into the house in the first place after leaving Dawn in a rush and running away once again from what she perceives to be her greatest – and most burdensome – responsibility? Buffy. And who inadvertently released it right after finding out that her ex-girlfriend’s been holding out on her again with the magical toys? Tara. There’s a whole lot of indirect blame to go around – but no one is actually responsible. But in many ways, the monster in the walls is a psychological projection of all the main characters – their angst, their fears, their desires – and how they deal with them is the subject of Older and Far Away

    The irony of the little Scoobie powwow after Dawn’s outburst is that the gang talks in hushed tone about Dawn as if she’s the monster in the house when a real one is hiding in Buffy’s sword and ready to burst through the walls fairly soon. But every instinct tells them that she’s somehow responsible for their situation – and they’re right. But how to get any information out of Dawn when she’s so upset? They could go up there and force it out of her by pleading and threatening her with various punishments like grounding – but they’re also very aware that as a young teen, her emotional stability is precarious. They could end up making things worse if she IS responsible – as Xander jokingly says, she could wish them all into the corn field.

    Of course, Dawn’s outburst is also in line with the danger of certain secrets being discovered – a main theme of this episode because of what revealed and what is not. The psychological parallel to the monster coming in and out of the house isn’t really that it’s a manifestation of feelings – but a visual illustration of the secret feelings and motivations that are hiding within each character that make themselves heard as a general murmur, break out without warning and retreat back inside. The tension in the episode isn’t created through the monster (more on that later) but through the possible reveal of what they’re all desperately trying to hide.

    Anya in particular is freaked out by Dawn’s breakdown upstairs – and the news from Tara that they seem to be cut off from the outside world makes it even worse. A common theme of haunted houses is downed phone lines and sealed doors and inaccessible roads – anything to prevent them from ever leaving again.

    ANYA: I think she's possessed.
    XANDER: She's a teenager.
    TARA: Phones are all out, we're totally cut off.
    BUFFY: She was so angry. I've never seen her like that.
    TARA: It happens, we all went through it.
    Buffy’s obviously blocking her own memories – Dawn had nearly the same exact tantrum a year ago when she found out she was the Key. In many ways, she was actually more overwrought. But perhaps Buffy is discounting that because the anger then was justified. What Buffy really means is that Dawn has never been this angry WITHOUT reason.

    BUFFY: I know. I just can't figure out why she didn't just come to me.
    XANDER: Well, you have been a little busy lately –
    Xander gently brings up one reason why Dawn might be so upset – Buffy hasn’t been around lately much for her sister or her friends as we hear multiple times in Dead Things:

    XANDER: You've been going at it too hard, Buff. We hardly ever see you, what with slinging the DoubleMeat and pounding the big evil.
    DAWN: I didn't think you'd care. You're never home, so –
    BUFFY: I know, I'm sorry. But I'm here now. All visible and everything. Couldn't you stay with Janice some other night?
    DAWN: Her mom's cooking Mexican. She's gonna teach me how to make real tortillas. Not like I knew you'd be around.
    BUFFY: I'm sorry I haven't been around much.
    WILLOW: No, that's not -- it's okay. We all know you've been tied up.
    BUFFY: (startled) What?
    WILLOW: With your job. And the slaying – not like the vamps are going to start staking themselves, huh?
    BUFFY: A girl can dream.
    TARA: I was looking for Buffy.
    WILLOW: Oh. I haven't seen her since last night. She's not around much these days. We kinda miss her. (Dead Things)
    Where has Buffy been? With Spike playing Dominant/Submissive games with handcuffs and abdicating all her moral responsibility – from patrolling to taking care of Dawn – to a soulless vampire. Even though Buffy made a choice to take back her moral agency at the end of Dead Things (as personified by Spike’s injuries), it hasn’t mended the rift with Dawn. The nods from Tara and Anya back up Xander and confirm to a grim Buffy how obvious it is to all her friends that she’s been neglecting her sister. But Spike immediately jumps in and changes the subject in a rather muted tone – even he’s been affected by Dawn’s pain and Buffy’s reaction:

    SPIKE: Hey, I don't wanna keep you from all the touchy-feelies, but maybe the encounter group could meet later? Say when we're not trapped in a house?
    There’s no point is dwelling on who’s responsible right now for their problem – the point right now is to solve the problem. Of course, he’s also deflecting from his own culpability – as the primary reason for Buffy’s absence, Spike doesn’t want Buffy musing any further on why she’s spending so much time with him and so little time with Dawn. It’s also possible that Spike’s strategy of staying silent in Dawn’s room is a smart one – he knows that she’s not going to tell them anything until she’s ready – which recalls his earlier words in another birthday episode:

    SPIKE: The nibblet scampered off to get away from you. She hears you bellowing, she's gonna pack it in the opposite direction. Can't say I blame her.
    BUFFY: You were right. This is my fault. I should have told her.
    SPIKE: Look, she probably would have skipped off anyway, even if she never found out. She's not just a blob of energy, she's also a fourteen-year-old hormone bomb. Which one's screwing her up more right now, spin the bloody wheel. You'll find her, just in the nick of time, that's what you hero types do.
    In fact, keeping away from Dawn eventually does gives her the space to open up on her own and reveal to Buffy the news about her new guidance counselor. It’s a counter-intuitive strategy of letting Dawn stew in her own anger that actually bears fruit later on.

    And Tara seems to agree – interrogating Dawn or blaming Buffy isn’t going to get them anywhere near solving their problem. Of course, Tara knows about Buffy and Spike and witnessed her breakdown – so she tries to change the conversation to avoid causing Buffy even more pain.

    TARA: Even if Dawn does know something, she's obviously not gonna help us right now. We need another way.
    Buffy tries a different tact – if it is a spell, then maybe one of the witches can fix it. Which brings up the past culpability of Willow, ever ready with a spell to tackle a Big Bad problem. Willow’s eyes literally widen with fear for a second as Buffy mentions the dreaded “magic” word and Tara nods.

    BUFFY: Magic’s going to be our best bet, something general, you know – cast a wide net.
    There’s silence for a moment as everyone looks around. Xander looks at Willow for a split second and turns back to Buffy with unease as he thinks of the dangers to his friend.

    XANDER: But – Willow –
    Willow twitches nervously during this exchange – she knows that she’s hiding a secret of her own and is internally debating whether or not to reveal it – even though it means she may lose any chance of winning Tara back.

    TARA: No. I'll do it. It's just, obviously I didn't bring any supplies.
    BUFFY: And we don't have any in the house. We got rid of everything.
    Willow’s natural propensity towards doing good wins out and she hugs herself, breathing hard, as she admits that perhaps Buffy’s magical drug sweep wasn’t quite as complete as she thought:

    WILLOW: Actually – not everything. I, uh, might have kept one or two things. Sort of. Just in case.
    It’s never mentioned where Willow kept these magical items hidden, but I imagine a floating plastic bag in the toilet tank or perhaps herbs taped behind a poster on the wall or hidden in the light switches! She’s a very ingenious person.

    Tara hangs her head in dismay as Buffy looks incredulous. Willow rubs her arms in shame as Buffy looks down – possibly thinking about how hard it is to give up her own addiction sitting directly opposite her. But best friend Xander perks up at the news and raises his finger as if to give Willow credit for keeping magical things in reserve:

    XANDER: That's great!
    As Xander looks around at the gloomy faces, he realizes that this is NOT a good thing, despite the fact that it may save their lives. He immediately turns to wag his finger at Willow as if she were a disobedient child:

    XANDER: In a very bad way.
    But he’s not very convincing in his anger – Xander finds it hard to criticize Willow despite all she’s done because he knows how much pain she’s in. Tara knows it as well – but unlike Xander, she’s trying to keep distance from her feelings regarding Willow because she’s fearful that she’ll give in and resume their relationship without getting what she needs. Trust. Tara was the one who was violated by Willow’s original “Forget” spell and the fact that Willow’s lied once again about her magic dashes her obvious hopes that they could ever start again. Tara sounds mournful as she takes a breath, pushes down her emotions and gets to work on solving the problem.

    TARA: Just bring me what you have. But then I'm doing this alone, you need to stay away from it.
    Tara leaves the room after glancing at Buffy – without looking at Willow again – who sits in shock with her mouth open and tears threatening to fall.

    We get an establishing shot of the Summers house – a car drives by and things seem completely normal from without. But within, it’s a different story. As Tara prepares the spell flanked by Xander and Buffy Spike stands in front of the front door with Willow and Anya at his side. One assumes that since Spike is the strongest and least attached to Dawn or the house, he’s been chosen to try to leave. The comedic aspect comes from the irony that vampires are generally trying to get INTO a house to murder the inhabitants and the character insight from the fact that Spike’s in a place where he actually longs to be – in Buffy’s house in broad daylight – and he’s practically tearing off a fang to get out of there.

    One assumes that Dawn is still upstairs during this attempt – while the three others guests are mulling around the house, trying to figure out what is happening. As they walk towards the front door, Richard starts complaining about being kept in the dark – he wants facts:

    ANYA: So we're supposed to just wait?
    WILLOW: It won't take long.
    RICHARD: All right, somebody wanna tell me what's, what's going on here? We're trapped in a house by – by what, some unseen force or something. Who knows what she's doing in there? And I have to tell you, I don't think that's a skin condition.
    The original scene was much more extensive and Richard comes off as much more of a jerk as he freaks out over their situation – one assumes that it was cut so that we would briefly feel more for him when he’s impaled by the monster:

    RICHARD: What is she doing in there, some kind of voodoo spell or something?
    SPIKE: Or something.
    RICHARD: You want to tell me what's going on here? We're trapped in a house by some, what, unseen force or something, who knows what they're doing in there, the blonde guy here –
    SPIKE: Spike.
    RICHARD: -- whatever, is, let's face it, creepy, and I have to tell you, (pointing at Clem) I don't think that's a skin condition.
    SPIKE: Um, right, when you're done being a wanker, we are trying to help you.
    Tara finally finishes her release spell and we see the smoke head directly to the sword Buffy’s pilfered from the monster – which releases his presence even as Spike struggles to move as we get some nice close ups of his ring bling as his hands clench and unclench:

    TARA: Release. Try the door!
    Spike uses all his strength, straining, but just can't bring himself to grab the doorknob. Anya, Willow, Sophie and Clem watch him.
    SPIKE: Nope. Can't.
    Spike weirdly wipes away a trickle of sweat from his forehead – vampires sweat? – as everyone walks up to stare blankly at the doorknob. Whelp, there goes that hope!

    And suddenly, the monster appears running towards the doorway himself while wielding his sword. Every Scoobie plus Clem and Sophie move out of the way except Richard – who figuratively waves his red shirt in front of the monster like a matador – hey, look at me, I’m Star Trek cannon fodder! – and gets promptly gored. Spike, to his credit, immediately grabs the monster’s sword hand instead of feasting on his rival’s blood as he threatened (well, there is that pesky chip) and tries to swing the monster away from Richard as Buffy races up to the monster and tackles him to the floor. Or through the floor – he melts into the floorboard as Spike races up behind her. As they look at each other, the monster appears again behind Buffy and throws her into Spike’s arms while he steps backwards into the wall again. Ooops – another secret outed. But no one’s paying any attention because all their focus is on Richard.

    And we get some shoddy editing here as Spike seemingly changes positions while standing and some really weird overdubbing that doesn’t match the shots due to the creators feeling they had to spell out who the monster was and where it came from – in the original shooting script, these lines don’t exist.

    SPIKE: What the bloody Hell was that?
    BUFFY: That’s the demon I killed two nights ago.
    SPIKE: The demon you thought you killed.
    This is where I take issue with some of the writing in this episode – the creators had a golden opportunity to have Buffy take the sword she’d just won and place it in Xander’s beautiful weapons chest while telling them where she’d gotten it – but instead, Buffy just leaves it lying against a wall during a birthday party in which unknown guests are coming. It’s fairly obvious that someone saw the dailies long after Older and Far Away was filmed and found it confusing – so it was clumsily reedited and overdubbed to clarify who, what, why, when and how.

    Xander, Anya and Tara are tending to Richard, meanwhile, and as they turn him over, we see a bloody gash across his stomach.

    XANDER: It looks pretty bad.
    TARA: Let's get him upstairs. We need to get him to a doctor soon.
    Sophie panics at the sight, chanting “Oh, God” over and over as they carry him up the stairs.

    BUFFY: Hey. It's gonna be okay. Just trust me, I promise we'll be out of here soon.
    We see the Summers house again – and it’s now nighttime. Sophie looks out the living room window at the plant directly against the house – life is happening outside and she’s trapped in a nightmare.

    SOPHIE: Oh God, oh God –
    BUFFY: Okay, maybe "soon" was a bit of an overstatement.
    SPIKE: So, you ever think about not celebrating your birthday? Just to try it, I mean?
    This would seem like an odd remark from Spike, who has never actually been present during one of Buffy’s birthday parties. But it’s likely he’s not think of Helpless or A New Man or even Blood Ties. He’s thinking of her seventeenth birthday when she slept with Angel and he lost his soul. Buffy seems to take Spike’s words to heart because we never see her birthday celebrated in Season Seven.

    BUFFY: I'm gonna go check upstairs. Keep an eye on things down here?
    Spike nods, and Buffy looks at Dawn.
    BUFFY: Stay here.
    Dawn closes her eyes in misery – they’re still not listening to her. Which is fitting for the next moments in the script that play with the idea of silence. In the original shooting script, the silence is the point of the connected scenes – both the lack of speech within the house and the lack of noise without. We start with Spike in the living room – when the monster starts making noises, he follows it along the walls. There are some really fascinating directions in the script that use the lack of dialogue as a plus – Spike’s journey along the walls interrupted by Sophie banging on the window and then a switch to the outside world in which we realize that the party guests don’t even appear in the windows. As Spike goes back to listen, we follow the noise upstairs from the room in which Willow and Tara are tending to Richard and then to the hallway.

    In the center of the room, Spike cocks his head, listening. There's sound coming from the walls. Whispery, rhythmic. Like breathing. Spike moves toward the walls, trying to hear. Sophie leans against the window, oblivious to Spike. Spike gets to the wall. The noise is barely there, but it's there. He inches closer, just placing his ear to the wall – Sophie, frustrated, starts POUNDING on the window, SCREAMING. Spike and Dawn JUMP.
    From the outside, everything looks normal. No one's in the window, no one's pounding. No scared, trapped party guests.
    Sophie gives up, leans again against the window. Exhausted. Spike, without a word, goes back to listening to the walls –
    Tara sits next to the bed, tending to a barely-there Richard. Across the room, alone, Willow watches. We still hear the noise in the walls, relentless, cold, haunting. It's everywhere. They stare around the room, trying to place the noise, watching, waiting – Willow tries to catch Tara's eye, but Tara won't even look at her. She turns back to Richard...
    Buffy, dagger in hand, walks slowly down the hall, her spider- senses tingling, she looks around at the walls, feeling the presence there, hearing the noise within them. Clem suddenly steps out of the bathroom. Buffy jumps, ready to attack, sees it's Clem and relaxes.
    CLEM: Sorry.
    Buffy keeps walking.
    The silence is only broken when Clem appears – comically, the “monster” apologizes for breaking the silence.

    But this is ruined when we get some more overdubbing over the silence as the creators decided we need to be poked through the eye with what is clearly depicted on screen:

    DAWN: What's that noise? It's in the walls, isn't it?
    As Xander would say, news from the file marked 'duh.’ We can’t see Dawn, but we can hear that she’s ruined the mood. It’s too bad – it was a nice idea and it would have made for a nice suspenseful sequence as the monster shifts from room to room so we can see what everyone is doing. The loss of Sophie’s window banging from both within and without is also a shame – the outside view that shows they’re basically not even in that house gives the sense of being trapped in another dimension that is different in nature from without. They really are alone.

    And this would have been capped by Anya’s breakdown in the bedroom – the noise was meant to follow there and then stop as if the monster was listening in. And the lack of noise is what makes Anya really jumpy – there’s something even worse about silence in a trapped room where anything can happen. Anya shows the classic symptoms of a panic attack – palpitations, sweating, high anxiety – as she clutches her shirt and slaps her own skin.

    ANYA: Why is it so hot in here?
    XANDER: You're just a little freaked out is all, it'll pass.
    ANYA: He's gonna die. He's gonna die, and we're gonna watch.
    And we see that Anya’s fears are heightened by her awareness of her own morality – after almost a thousand years of immortality, Anya is coming face to face with her own death. The upcoming wedding to Xander isn’t really causing the jitters – it’s what that represents. Marriage, children, aging and the uncertain future to come.

    XANDER: Ahn –
    ANYA: We're just sitting here. Why are we just sitting here, why aren't we doing something?
    XANDER: We are. We will. We've been through worse.
    Xander’s right – they have been through worse. But Anya’s panic attack seems to worsen the more that Xander tries to comfort her because it reminds her that he’s mortal himself and like Richard, he could die at any minute from this monster or something in the future. Her reference to animals is just another indication that she’s realizing the real difference between immortal demons and mortal humans in a big way. And it’s also a reminder that Anya once treated other humans this way – as animals to be toyed with.

    ANYA: Not like this. Not trapped like animals. Seriously, did someone turn on the heat? I can't breathe. I just can't breathe – can’t breathe.
    She starts unbuttoning her shirt, tugging, pulling it off.
    XANDER: Ahn. Ahn, stop, stop. Stop. Anya. Listen to me. You're just freaking out, it's normal, you're just –you're just scared. We all are. We'll come up with a plan. We'll get through it, alright? We'll do something.
    ANYA: What?
    XANDER: I don't know. Lemme get you some water, okay? We'll cool you down, I’ll be back in a second. Don’t move.
    Anya feels the terror of entrapment – of just waiting for the final blow to come or the monster to appear. And it’s not happening in a crypt or a graveyard or the Hellmouth or the woods – it’s happening within a normal, human home – a symbol of everything that Anya is trying to so hard to obtain as a human. Her attempt to run a profitable business and create fancy hors d’oeuvres in Buffy’s kitchen is a prelude to her own aspirations as a wife and mother who will be both career woman and happy homemaker – and keep away the specter of death and destruction that she presided over for hundreds of years.

    But when the barriers falls between those of a secure, protected place to hide and the ever-present dangers of the outside world, when a person is trapped in that environment, our evolutionary alarms start ringing and buzzing like mad. We no longer are able to scan the landscape for dangers from a safe distance – we are literally trapped inside the danger with no way out. The less the ability to move on to a safe venue, the more terrifying the danger – which is why so many heroic stories and the Cruciamentum (Latin for “torment”) are all about being trapped in an enclosed space with a monster. A Watcher’s Council rite of passage for both Slayers and Watchers, Buffy and Spike do the same kind of thing in Potential when they lock Potential Slayers in a tomb with a vampire. True heroes are expected to find a way out – or die trying. Which is why so many haunted house movies end with the One True Hero left standing – the only person who was smart enough and brave enough to evade and defeat the danger.

    But then, somehow wryly and in a way that they make it work, the crisis is what brings out the positive outcomes: Buffy finally realizes her neglect of Dawn, Tara stands up for Willow (which was awesome, really), and Xander takes care of a claustrophobic Anya with a tenderness that reminds us of his great heart.
    Yes, Rihannon, Xander plays the hero here through his absolute determination that they will find a way out of this – he’s willing to do anything to assuage Anya’s fears. As a never-Supernatural, he has no qualms about his mortality. He’s already faced it and dealt with it head on in the years after Jesse’s death. Of all the characters in Older and Far Away, Xander seems the best able to deal with their entrapment (except possibly Clem) because he’s had a vague taste of it his whole life. His socio-economic circumstances and his parents both stood in the way of moving up and out of his trapped room scenario - but through ingenuity and persistence and Anya’s love, he manages to get out and find all the things he’s always wanted – a great job, fantastic friends, a loving girlfriend – and the upcoming wedding merely seals the deal.

    So Xander leaves the room to get Anya some water – only to be greeted by the monster in the walls as he reaches the ground floor and heads towards the kitchen. At Xander’s cry, Spike races out of the room and grabs the demon by the arm to loosen his grip. No good. Spike punches him several times in the stomach as he continues to hold Xander in his grip, but the monster punches Spike onto the floor like a rag doll. He then throws Xander against the wall and turns with sword upraised until Buffy appears and pummels the monster, who turns again and slashes Xander in the arm.

    BUFFY: Grab his sword!
    Spike stands up and punches the monster again – but is pummeled to the ground and is seemingly stunned for a few seconds. Buffy continues to hit the monster until it retreats into the wall and looks first at a waking Spike and then Xander clutching his arm.

    BUFFY: Are you hurt? Here, let me see.
    Xander grinds his teeth in pain and is about to answer when he sees Anya in the doorway, her face a mask of horror. Xander winces as he stands, masking his pain to approach Anya and show her that he’s not Richard – he’s not mortally wounded. He gently rocks his forehead against hers, calming her incipient hysteria as he strokes her hair.

    XANDER: It's okay, I'm okay. See? Shh. It’s alright. Okay.
    Anya’s terror must remind Buffy of Dawn – and she walks into the living room to check on her.

    BUFFY: It's getting kind of scary. You okay?
    DAWN: Do you care?
    BUFFY: Fine. Stay with Spike.
    And here’s where a lot of viewers lose sympathy for Dawn. It’s understandable that she’s upset, it’s even understandable that she’s feeling vindictive when they’re all trapped in the house with her. But it’s unconscionable that she doesn’t seem to feel anything at all for poor Richard red shirt upstairs or Xander’s fresh wound or Anya’s panic attack or Sophie’s hysteria. It’s all about her and her feelings – which is a rather sh**ty attitude to take considering there’s someone dying upstairs.

    And perhaps the guilt is impelling her to follow Buffy and finally initiate conversation – Spike’s idea that Dawn needs to find her own way home seems to be on the money – but there’s a huge difference between Dawn running off on her own and Dawn trapped in a house full of people who may soon die.

    DAWN: It's not like I meant for this to happen.
    BUFFY: I never said that you did.
    DAWN: I didn't want this.
    BUFFY: What did you want?
    DAWN: Nothing.
    BUFFY: Dawn, come on.
    DAWN: No, you don't know, you have this thing you do, you have all these friends, you have no idea what it's like.
    BUFFY: What are you talking about, I don't know what what's --
    DAWN: Being alone!
    BUFFY: You're not alone.
    DAWN: Then why do I feel like this?
    Dawn’s last words inadvertently echo Buffy’s words to Tara in Dead Things:

    TARA: Buffy, I promise, there's nothing wrong with you.
    BUFFY: There has to be! This just can't be me, it isn't me. Why do I feel like this? Why do I let Spike do those things to me?
    The problem is that the viewer is apparently supposed to side with Dawn as they did with Buffy at the end of Dead Things – we’re meant to feel bad for her that Buffy has neglected her and she’s hurting. But when their lives are in real danger, it seems the height of selfishness to dwell on herself. She’s not ten years old – she’s fifteen going on sixteen. Soulless Spike seems to care more about what happens to people in the house than Dawn does. It’s the right conversation at the wrong time. Which a furious Anya believes as well when the Scoobies argue over what they should do now.

    TARA: I just think we just haven't thought of the right way out yet, that's all.
    SPIKE: Well, we can't just stay put like cattle, waiting for the thing to pop out every time it gets peckish.
    TARA: I'd say we should do another spell, but I think we've tried everything.
    ANYA: Well, that's not completely true, is it? I mean not everything. Not exactly. We're sitting here with an incredibly powerful witch, much more powerful than you, Tara, I'm sorry, only no one seems willing to say it.
    No one except Anya, of course, who sits at the table and plays with a plate of food. It’s also notable that the only other person who compares them to animals waiting for the slaughter is Spike – an immortal vampire who has murdered thousands of humans himself like Anya.

    Actually, it’s a very important argument that Anya’s making – is there a tipping point where Willow’s power should actually be used despite her addiction? Tara’s first bit of dialogue assures the viewer that it’s only a matter of time before they find a way out – but at the moment, there’s an innocent stranger who’s seriously wounded upstairs – but suppose Buffy and Xander were killed by the monster? Suppose Dawn was eviscerated – or Tara? Would it be okay for Willow to use her magical powers then? Where should they draw the line? Willow believes that there is none.

    WILLOW: I can't.
    ANYA: No, see, that's not exactly true, either. Not can't. Won't.
    WILLOW: You don't know how much I hate this. I don't know if there's even anything I could do.
    ANYA: Yes, and a good way to find out is to sit around and try nothing. That was sarcasm, by the way.
    The tension becomes fairly heavy as Anya and Willow dig in their feet. Spike, always wary of magic and often a victim of Willow’s spells, tries to intercede, but Willow interrupts him as she adamantly tells Anya she’s not doing it.

    SPIKE: Look –
    WILLOW: It's dangerous.
    ANYA: And so is all of us dying.
    We’re back to the feud in Triangle here – Anya and Willow at each other’s throats and Xander jumps in, heart first, defending Anya’s position even as Willow looks hurt.

    XANDER: Will. I don't wanna gang up on you, but Anya kind of has a point. We brought you back from it once, we're all here, it's just one little spell, whatever happens, we can bring you back again.
    We see Spike and Tara side by side – Spike shakes his head “f**k no!” but Tara silently watches Willow to see what her decision will be. Willow screws up her resolve face and turns to face Anya.

    WILLOW: No, I can't. If I start, I might not be able to stop.
    Willow’s final refusal angers Anya enough that she leaps up from the table to confront Willow directly.

    ANYA: And whose fault is that? You know, if you hadn't gotten so much of this in your system in the first place –
    And Tara leaps to stand in front of Willow and face Anya with a look of total fury on her face.

    TARA: Hey! You're gonna back off. She said no, and you're not gonna make her do something she doesn't want to.
    Timid Tara finally finds her strength. Willow smiles behind her as Tara crosses her arms like the not-quite-as-powerful-as-Willow-but-pretty-damn-powerful witch that she is.

    TARA: And if you try, you'll have to go through me first. Understood?
    Anya doesn’t blink – but her face falls as she’s shamed into dropping it. Her teeth are almost clamped together as she puts on her own resolve face.

    ANYA: Fine. If you all aren't willing to get us out of this, then I will do it myself.
    And Anya runs up the stairs. We get a brief glimpse of Sophie and Clem sitting together on the couch, taking comfort in each other even as they’re excluded from the conversation. Buffy and Spike chose their friends well. We find Buffy and Dawn still talking in the bedroom – finally getting certain things off their chest. But here’s a question – if Xander, Anya, Tara, Willow and Spike are in the dining room and Clem and Sophie are in the living room, who’s taking care of Richard? For all they know, the monster could have eaten him by now and be wiping his mouth with Richard’s red shirt.

    BUFFY: I wish you had told me.
    DAWN: You haven't really been –
    BUFFY: What? I haven't been what?
    DAWN: Around.
    BUFFY: Dawn, the most important job I have is looking out for you.
    DAWN: You sound like my guidance counselor. She give you a handbook or something? Talking to the troubled teen?
    And the introduction of a stranger to the conversation makes Buffy pause. Dawn’s never mentioned any such person before. The irony here is that Buffy will go on to become a guidance counselor in Season Seven. It seems to be a fitting occupation for the supernatural.

    BUFFY: Counselor?
    DAWN: It wasn't my idea, I didn't even know we had guidance counselors. She called me out of class like I was a total J.D.
    BUFFY: And you'd never met her before?
    DAWN: No. Not until yesterday.
    BUFFY: And she got you to just start talking about things that bothered you at home.
    DAWN: Uh, yeah.
    BUFFY: You didn't, by any chance, happen to express – like a wish or something to her?
    DAWN: Um. Maybe just a little.
    And now Buffy’s figured out what happened – Dawn made a wish – so they need to track down the “counselor” and take it back. But before Buffy can bring this news back to the Scoobies, there’s a huge commotion in Dawn’s bedroom. Thinking it might be the monster, they rush to the room only to find Anya tearing it apart. She may not be able to find the monster in the walls, but she thinks she can find the reason in Dawn’s room. As Buffy and Dawn stand in the doorway, Xander tries to calm her down, fearing that she’s having yet another panic attack that’s leading to a kind of madness.

    XANDER: Honey, hey, honey, come on, this isn't the way, just calm down.
    ANYA: She knows something! She knows something, we have to find out what it is.
    DAWN: Hey!
    XANDER: Anh, just stop for a second
    ANYA: There has to be a clue in here somewhere.
    DAWN: Stop it!
    BUFFY: Anya, it wasn't her fault.
    ANYA: Where is it?
    As the Key, Dawn has filled her room with objects that represent solidity to her. Overstuffed book shelves, drawers full of trinkets, a box full of stolen goods. Anya reaches for the jewelry box that we’ve seen Dawn open before.

    DAWN: No!
    As Anya opens it, the contents pour out all over the floor. We see price tags still attached to necklaces, rings, braclets, pendants and other small items. Xander and Buffy watch in shock as Anya bends down to scoop a handful of the precious items into her palm. There’s another obvious overdub as we’re spoonfed information once again. The camera holds on Xander and Buffy as Anya tells the viewer where these items are from. It would have been much more effective without.

    ANYA: (OS) Half this stuff is from the Magic Box.
    Anya stands up clutching a handful with a bewildered look in her eyes.

    ANYA: How could you do this?
    Dawn looks at Buffy and then turns to run down the stairs. She seems to have forgotten – there’s no way out of the house. And the desire for everyone to stay close to her has now turned into a nightmare.

    As Dawn races into the living room, Anya follows in hot pursuit.

    ANYA: I work hard at that store, and I helped you, I took care of you. This is how you say thank you?
    Dawn turns when she realizes that she has nowhere to go. As Buffy and Xander plow down the stairs, Spike emerges to plant himself on the stairs, looking up for the monster in the walls as the noise begins again.

    BUFFY: Anya. Hold on, okay. Tell her you didn't do this. Tell her it's a mistake.
    Buffy’s eyes suddenly turn towards the jacket that Dawn gave her, still lying on the couch. She knows.

    DAWN: No.
    BUFFY: Oh.
    DAWN: Buffy.
    Dawn doesn’t know what else to say. As Buffy looks at Dawn with astonishment, Willow, Xander, Clem, Sophie and Tara all wander towards the room as Anya pleads with Dawn to tell the truth about the spell that’s keeping them there.

    ANYA: How are we supposed to trust you, Dawn? You say you didn't put us here, but look at this stuff, how are we supposed to believe you?
    And Buffy remembers the important news she had to tell everyone – stumbling over her own words now, Buffy tries to mitigate Dawn’s crimes. She may have stolen items, but she didn’t try to steal their lives.

    BUFFY: No. I don’t think she – I don’t think it was all her fault. She – there was a guidance counselor. Or someone pretending to be one, She made Dawn make a wish.
    And suddenly Anya’s panic attack subsides, her attitude turns less volatile and she almost sighs at Dawn’s stupidity. Unknown monster in the wall? Very scary. Vengeance Demon? Not scary at all. Anya suddenly talks to Dawn in a different manner – like she’s talking to a small child – and this time, Dawn lets her get away with it.

    ANYA: Guidance counselor. You made a wish to someone you'd never seen before?
    DAWN: Yeah.
    ANYA: Did she wear a pendant? With a dark blue stone?
    DAWN: And little red flecks.
    ANYA: Oh, for crying out loud. Halfrek! It's Halfrek. A vengeance demon. You made a wish to a vengeance demon.
    DAWN: I didn't know.
    ANYA: Only a vengeance demon can break her own vengeance spell, nothing else will work. She's the only one who can get us out of here. Hallie, get your ass down here!!
    Halfrek appears suddenly, apparating in front of them.

    HALFREK: You rang?
    And in that second, Halfrek is run through by the monster’s sword. As Halfrek falls to the floor, Anya’s fury over her friend’s death causes her to join Buffy in pummeling the monster.

    ANYA: I. Hope. You. Die. You. Stupid. Jerkface!
    For someone really terrified, Anya’s fury allows her to get some vicious cuts in there as Spike runs up and holds the monster by the shoulder. This is actually psychologically sound – Anya’s terror of death evaporates when she actually sees someone die – her fear replaced by an attempt to avenge Hallie’s death. As Anya is thrown to the couch, Buffy and Spike continue to fight the monster alone as Xander runs to Anya’s side to make sure she’s okay.

    XANDER: Anya!
    What’s amusing is that Tara doesn’t try one single spell to stop the monster (although she might have tried off-screen and we never saw it) nor does Clem – who seems perfectly happy to watch Spike and Buffy fight this thing alone. Clem appears to be a non-violent demon perhaps he’s now getting an idea of what Spike sees in her. The demon appears and then reappears again – and Spike seems to finally figure out that the only way to defeat him is to knock the sword out of his hand. As the monster drops the sword, Spike yells for Buffy to grab it.

    SPIKE: The sword!
    Buffy grabs the sword and the monster quickly tries to flee, evading Spike to disappear into the wall. Buffy forces the sword right into the wall and the demon is captured. She quickly cracks it across her knee in a bad-ass move.

    I hope you die, stupid jerkface! – Man! Every time I watched the episode, I really hoped that demon died soon too. He was just so blah. And well, as a monster of the week goes, it served the purpose of bringing the Scoobies together in the fight and all that. Ah, and it stabbed Halfreck, which was kind of funny. It was distracting, though.
    Yes, Rihannon, the one thing that Hallie didn’t seem to plan on was the presence of either witches or a demon trapped in a weapon. Trapping Dawn inside a house with those nearest and dearest to her – check. Perfect. Accidentally sweeping three total strangers into the mix – check. Deliciously evil. Check. Locking them all in with a monster trying to kill them. Ooops. It’s obvious that Halfrek has no idea this has happened since she allows herself to be skewered the second she appears.

    ANYA: The pendant! Get her pendant!
    But now that Hallie is dead, Anya calls for Buffy to grab her necklace.

    So, it was a very good thing for everyone involved that Anya was at the party. I don’t think anyone else would have discovered the origin of the curse so efficiently. Once again, she proves to be much more useful and resourceful than what she gets credit for. Halfrek herself, can’t be completely blamed since she is just materializing, in a (twisted) way, Dawn’s wish for attention and company.
    Something I enjoyed about Hallie (aside from being funny and not completely evil, in a totally coldblooded way) and considered a great achievement of the show, was that she made the audience remember where Anya came from. My perception is that after some time of knowing people, we stop thinking about why they are the way they are. Judging is easier than understanding and accepting, and Hallie makes us remember how far Anya has moved forward. This is pretty awesome, I think.
    That’s a fantastic point, Rihannon! I think that Spike was supposed to function originally in the same way – act as an evil foil to Angel – an unrepentant soulless vampire from his past who would die and Angelus would take his place. Didn’t work out that way, though.

    I agree Anya really comes into her own during the last five minutes of the episode – finding Dawn’s hidden stash, figuring out that Hallie’s to blame, attacking the monster, trying to grab the pendant. Despite her fears in the room with Xander, she manages to shake them off and take action when it counts. It’s very possible that the change in Anya’s behavior is due to Xander’s injury – she allowed him to go out and get her some water to calm her down – and he was hurt. The guilt and fury at herself for her own weakness has emboldened her – and is a hint of the Vengeance Demon she will soon become again.

    HALFREK: There will be no touching of the pendant. What? Oh, did you think I’d be stopped by a sword in the chest. Flesh wound. Honestly, Anyanka, you used to know better.
    And it’s true – Anya’s fear of morality has made her completely forget that Vengeance Demons can’t be taken out with a sword. Hallie’s attitude shocks Anya – her cutting “you used to know better” is a direct attack on Anya’s humanity. It’s obvious now that Hallie considers herself superior to mere mortals and now that Anya’s one of them, she’s fair game.

    ANYA: How could you – why would you do this?
    HALFREK: I told you I was going to take care of some business while I was here in town.
    ANYA: Yeah, but – cursing us? Some of them are in the wedding party.
    HALFREK: I go where I'm – William?
    It’s beautifully ironic that just when Hallie is crowing over Anya’s humanity that a figure out of the past returns to haunt her.

    You guys know each other? – I guess a lot of people wanted to hear the answer to that question (that Buffy asked about Halfrek and Spike), since there is a comic book about it called “Spike: Old times”, just in case you didn’t know. I read it a while ago, but I distinctly remember enjoying it quite a bit. And well, I suppose that since there is not a more canonic version on the subject, that one will remain the most accepted. Fine by me. And I’m digressing.
    The bit about Cecily/Halfrek was written into the script at the last second when the writer discovered they were both played by the same actress. The writer of the script, Drew Z. Greenberg, says that they are absolutely the same person – but never quite explains how. I wrote a little about this in my Fool for Love review. The comic you refer to isn’t canon – but in the canonical Buffyverse, there is still evidence that Cecily was actually Halfrek:

    HALFREK: Listen, Anya. I know I've always been a little competitive with you. I mean, there was that thing in the Crimean War. (Lessons)
    The Crimean War? A battle between Russia and several other superpowers including Great Britain that occurred from October 1853 to February 1856 – twenty-four years before that fateful night. So it’s a bit more understandable why a lady like Cecily would be at the party – she was actually Halfrek in disguise. But how to explain this bit of dialogue?

    ANNE PRATT: This Cecily of whom you write so often? Would that be the Underwoods’ eldest girl?
    WILLIAM: Uh, no, uh, no. I do not presume. (Lies My Parents Told Me)
    All one can assume is that Anne and her son William met “Cecily” at some function in which Halfrek lied her ass off about who she was. And William fell instantly in love and hunted her down as Halfrek was planning her latest vengeance demon strike. And since Halfrek was the patron vengeance demon of neglected children – perhaps she felt sorry for William Pratt – a fatherless social outcast – and let him off easy.

    There’s a great deal of circumstantial evidence in Fool For Love that lovelorn William has been stalking Cecily for some time now – and he is unable to get the hint that she’s not interested. And if Cecily is Halfrek, then she’s deliberately avoiding William in order to accomplish some other plot that is unrelated to his presence – and he’s getting in the way.

    So the immediate moment of discomfort becomes a straight-forward denial by Halfrek – she connects “William” with William the Bloody suddenly and doesn’t want either him or others to know they were remotely involved – even tangentially.

    SPIKE: Hey, wait a minute.
    BUFFY: You guys know each other?
    HALFREK: Uh, no.
    Spike’s reaction is characteristic as well – he wants to slam the door on his shameful past as the ineffectual, namby-pamby poet entirely. He’s a different man now – and his past life is behind him. Or so he’d like to believe. And the last thing in the world he would want to parade in front of Buffy and the others is the women who was indirectly responsible for his siring – who turned out to be a Vengeance Demon. So when everyone moves eagerly forward, he shrugs it off as a mistake.

    SPIKE: Not really.
    It’s notable that Willow doesn’t say anything during this scene – most likely because she was once courted by D’Hoffryn and doesn’t want to draw attention to herself this time. But Tara is ignorant of this – it was right before her time – and she steps forward to better understand how this happened.

    TARA: I thought vengeance demons only punished men who wronged women.
    HALFREK: Oh, that was just Anya's little raison d'etre. Most of us try to be a bit more well-rounded. And actually prefer justice demon. FYI.
    ANYA: Hmmm. Well-rounded. Is that how you explain your thing for bad parents?
    HALFREK: It's not a thing, the children need me.
    ANYA: Mmmm-hmmm. (pretending to cough) Daddy issues.
    And we’re back to the idea that demons are just an extension of their human selves – even Vengeance Demons. Anya was wronged by her mate and she avenges women. Halfrek was wronged by her parents – and she avenges children. Much like Angel, Darla, Drusilla and Spike being unusual vampires because they were unusual humans to start with.

    HALFREK: Sling all the little barbs at me that you want, Anyanka, it doesn't change the fact that this girl was in pain and you couldn't hear it. I could hear her crying out everywhere I went in this town, it was unbearable. And none of you knew. You people deserve to be cursed. Enjoy your time together. From now on, all you have is time. Time – and each other. Good luck.
    All of the Scoobies look askance at this – even Clem, who has no idea who Dawn is (he’s so sweet!) – but Buffy of course takes most of the blame. We don’t get to see most of the reactions of the Scoobies to her denunciation, but Spike looks pretty disgruntled at the idea of spending eternity with this crew. Or maybe he’s still just wigged out after seeing Cecily/Halfrek again and hoping no one figures it out.

    The music builds, Halfrek waves her arms – and nothing happens.

    HALFREK: Wait. Wait.
    Halfrek tries again as Buffy looks puzzled and Spike smirks. Nothing. Anya’s eyes roll back so far, it’s a wonder she can see.

    ANYA: It's the curse, Hallie.
    Hallie tries to laugh off her obvious mistake – she’s ended up cursing herself. And the only way she can leave is to lift it on everyone.

    HALFREK: For crying out loud. Fine, the curse is lifted, we can all leave now. Dammit.
    Hallie disappears as everyone breathes a sigh of relief and Clem claps his hands happily. Spike turns to look at Buffy, who looks thoughtful.

    Time to work without the net – At the end, the curse is lifted via a rather simple plot device, with a heavy Deus Ex Machina feeling. This would be disappointing if it wasn’t trivial. In fact, I think it brings some welcomed comic relief. Aside of the general relief that the characters show when they are finally able to leave, I mean. The final act ends with a sensation of things starting to heal, but not without effort. Some of said things touched bottom in previous episodes (Buffy and Spike’s abusive relationship, Willow’s problems with magic), and at least one imploded noisily in this one. From this point things will take a turn, and this episode gives some glimpses. In addition to a hint of Buffy’s reluctance about keeping the damaging dynamics with Spike, and her acknowledgement of the poor role she has been as Dawn’s parent, we get a real advance in the recovery of Tara and Willow’s relationship. Their last conversation leaves a taste of maturity and hard work from both parts, a little more sweet than bitter.
    Yes, Rihannon, there is a feeling that their time in the trapped room has changed them – but that’s par for the course in modern drama. Totally agree with you that Spuffy reached the bottom in Dead Things and Buffy is slowly moving away as she tries to repair her relationship with Dawn. Willow and Tara are moving in the opposite direction – Tara’s still angry over Willow’s lies about hoarding magical supplies – but she’s proud of her for not giving in under pressure. And says as much as she bags the rest of Willow’s stash to take with her.

    WILLOW: Thanks. For before. And for taking this stuff with you.
    TARA: No problem.
    WILLOW: Just so you know, I was never gonna use it. I mean, not really. I just kept it like a safety net. 'Cause there was always this thing in the back of my head, this, you know, voice, saying, like, what happens if things get bad, really bad, and if you can't handle it? And it made me panic, so that's why I
    kept a couple things. I kept them so I didn't have to think about it. So I could focus on getting better.
    That’s an interesting concept that doesn’t really work as a parallel to alcohol and drug addiction – there is no comparable situation in which one would HAVE to become a user again to save others from dying. But Willow’s magic isn’t necessary good or bad but thinking makes it so – keeping an emergency stash around isn’t a bad idea as long as it really is an EMERGENCY stash for a time when either Buffy or Dawn or Xander are literally on the verge of death. Knowing that they exist is a relief for someone who knows they face potential death every day. And Tara seems to understand this – but she’s still taking away the supplies.

    TARA: I get it. I really do. But it's time to work without the net, Will. I don't know if you noticed, but it actually did get bad in there. Really bad. And you still said no.
    Tara offers a tiny smile and leaves. Willow's face looks about a thousand watts brighter.
    Hope. The thing with feathers that perches in the soul. Through those simple words, Tara may have healed Willow in ways that she can’t even dream of.

    All in all, a Buffy-birthday one. In a similar fashion to the one in the previous season, this is the kind of episode where things blow in people’s faces, but somehow things start looking up after the crisis. I’m sure there is a lot more that can be discussed, so I give you the floor. But not before pointing out a few of my favorite treats! Tara teasing Spike: Saucy Tara was so enjoyable. This is probably one of the best Tara episodes. Maybe it was totally intentional and aimed to make the audience love her even more. If you ask me, it worked.
    Rihannon, I love not only her teasing of Spike, but her defense of Willow when Anya demands she do something. What’s really lovely is how all the Scoobies respect her – even Spike – Tara gets in a few zingers as his expense and he doesn’t even try to bite her.

    Spike’s sorry attempt of territory-marking: Ok, this is a bit sad. I have to feel bad for Spike (as most of the time during season 6), but I can’t help but find it endearing. And Buffy not being that horrible to him is the icing on the cake.
    Spike actually comes off pretty well in this episode compared to the last – despite his groping ways and his snarky comments to Richard, he attempts to save the Scoobies from the monster when he could have just laid back and let it make Xander into little hors d'oeuvres. Bonus points for the fact that we’re supposed to cluck our tongues over her BAD relationship with Spike even as he wanders around the house with a gruesome black eye that reminds the viewer of his severe beating in Dead Things.

    Hallie being Cecily: As mentioned before, this episode insinuates heavily (and later it was confirmed, if I’m not mistaken) that Halfrek and Cecily Adams/Underwood are in fact the same person, and not two different characters played by the same actress.
    The moment between Spike and Hallie are fantastic – and it’s a pity that the connection was never brought up again outside of the comics. It would have been a great episode.

    Spike’s mirror flukes: Somewhere I read that Spike’s reflection can be seen three times during the episode. Honestly, I didn’t see anything and wouldn’t have noticed it by myself, but after several attempts I was able to make a screenshot that more or less shows Spike’s white head reflected on the mirror.
    I fanwank this as being part of the spell – Spike has been temporarily divested of his attributes as a vampire – which would explain why his reactions are so piss-poor, his fights with the demon are so weak and his frustration so paramount. It’s not that he’s human – but the vital components of being a vampire are cut off in the world without exit dimension that comprises the Summers house.

    But it’s all over now. Xander and Anya drag an ailing Richard down the stairs – he seems groggy, but nowhere near death. What’s odd is how no one removed his shirt – the likelihood of getting an infection is pretty dangerous with all that red shirt stuck in the wound. But perhaps Tara and Willow were fearful it might strip him of his only identity in this episode.

    RICHARD: You have weird friends.
    XANDER: News from the file marked "duh." We're gonna get him to the ER.
    ANYA: And then we're gonna talk about payment. And Dawnie? Two words I want you to get used to: punitive damages.
    Meaning that Dawn’s not only going to return the stuff she stole, but she’s going to be working some long extra hours for free at the Magic Box until Anya feels she’s paid back in full for the sales she might have lost.

    But they all pause at the door – what if Hallie really didn’t take off the curse? What if something’s gone wrong. No one wants to be the first to leave.

    BUFFY: Think it's worn off?
    SPIKE: Just one thing to do.
    Spike does his usual swagger towards the doorway and places his hand on the doorknob. He looks at the group and then opens the door in a grand gesture. Anya rolls her eyes as she catches the door with one hand and then hobbles out with Xander holding Richard between them.

    ANYA: Who’s pushing?
    Willow and Tara are next – Willow grins as they walk out together into the night and Tara looks at the sky.

    TARA: Oh, look at the stars.
    Then Clem and Sophie follow them – but not before Clem turns around and gives Buffy a big thumbs up.

    CLEM: Good party!
    I just LOVE Clem! Best addition to Season Six ever!

    XANDER: I just wanna run barefoot in the grass so I can feel the dewdrops between my – God, look at the stars.
    Lots of stargazing there - the natural roof of the world as opposed to the artificial world of the 1630 Revello Drive. As their voices fade, Buffy looks contemplative. Spike turns and smiles at Buffy and then walks through the door and down the steps. We see Buffy standing in the doorway as Dawn watches her – Buffy’s going to leave again. But Buffy turns to look at her and slowly closes the door as Dawn smiles.

    What’s interesting is that the ending in the shooting script was slightly different.

    As the crowd thins, Dawn is left alone. Again. She's resigned: getting out is good. But still. Here we go again. Through the open door, we see Spike look around. Someone's missing. Buffy. Dawn looks up, too, and realizes Buffy's still inside, standing at the stairs. Dawn looks a bit glum, waiting for Buffy to go as well. Buffy looks back at Dawn, then slowly shuts the door. We see the beginnings of a small, grateful smile on Dawn's face as the door shuts, closing them off from our view.
    In the original shooting script, it’s very specific that Spike was expecting Buffy to join him – and he’s surprised she’s not there. The reason for Buffy leaving the house is made fairly specific – it’s to run off and escape with Spike in some new sexcapade. And this is also punched at the beginning of the episode in the shooting script when Spike is particularly mentioned as the reason that Buffy is leaving again. And it’s very possible that the scene was shot as written – and then cut. Why?

    My guess is that the creators thought if Buffy closed the door on Spike at the end of Older and Far Away that it would give away too much – that the surprise of their breakup in As You Were would be diminished. It’s also possible that it just placed too much focus on Spike instead of Buffy. The final scene of Crush illustrates the danger of ending a scene with Spike emoting loss – all the viewer’s sympathies go out to him rather than Buffy.

    What’s interesting is that the same thing is done in the following episode, As You Were – originally, the scene was written to end with Spike’s tearful reaction to Buffy’s farewell and one can see the dailies on You Tube to show that this scene was actually filmed. But the episode ends on a more triumphant note with Buffy leaving the crypt – and so does Older and Far Away. My suspicion is that Spike was getting far too much viewer sympathy – especially after his beating – and the Power That Be decided to simply cut him out altogether. But I’m not sure that it really worked.

    Cutting the mention of Spike creates a small gap in the narrative structure that prevents it from coming full circle as a moment of Buffy’s growth. Instead of relating her failed relationship with Dawn to fighting monsters with Spike both figuratively (sex) and literally (patrolling), the initial impulse to leave and the closing of the door at the end connects only in a vague way. This is a pity – because the monster trapped within the sword that Buffy brings back into the house is a great metaphor for Buffy’s destructive urges and connecting it to the relationship with Spike would have sharpened the point and made it more of an emotional decision to start pulling away from him. Still, we have some nice character progression with Dawn.

    So, this is it. My brief thoughts on an episode that deserves a little more love than it gets, but that has this uneasy feeling of potential that was achieved completely. Thank you all for the patience, and I hope you enjoyed.
    Thank you, Rihannon, for such a thought-provoking review of an unfairly maligned episode – I know you said that fans weren’t too fond of Older and Far Away, but I’ve actually come to like it a lot more. I enjoyed going through your review and I'm looking forward to your next review in Season Seven!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 06-10-18 at 02:48 AM.

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  7. #524
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
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    Great additional thoughts on OaFA Aurora. I really appreciated the more considered/informed thoughts of the ties with Empire of the Sun than I was able to glean from having just found the extract. I also especially liked the details of the haunted house/trapping as a narrative tool and I agree the use of the monster Buffy has brought into the house as some secrets are revealed and the effect of her neglect on Dawn is exposed could have been made sharper if Buffy's choice to go out because of Spike at the start had been seen against her choice to not join him more specifically at the end. I love the points you raised about Dawn's want/need to gather items and create something solid around her that combats the sense of loneliness, to touch and have. Her desire to affect things always seems to meet that wish to be markedly in the world and be real, to matter. That her stealing is revealed as her neglect is exposed are of course totally entwined.

    I can see that Dead Things drew a specific line on the some of the negativity in the relationship Buffy and Spike have been engaging with, but I do think there is a note in this episode of Buffy wondering if anything could ever work, seeing the occasion as an example of whether they could function more positively, as brief and light as that might be, to ever come 'out'. But as much as Spike plays along and joins the party, he has his own agenda and reason for being there. He isn't really integrating or wanting to, not yet (and even when souled it takes him time to allow himself to be that vulnerable that he'd try to belong more completely). Whether the situation can be seen as fair is questionable of course as they are still operating within the boundaries of it being a secret to be kept, as Spike's responses to Tara show. And really I don't think Buffy ever truly believed it would/could work. Yet it is Buffy's use of him in AYW which in many ways goes to a new level when she openly brings in his love for her, arguably bringing him false hope that things are changing (right before they change in the last way he'd ever wanted), the mockery of it as a real/healthy relationship against Riley/Sam and so the stark truth of what it can't be is what seems to finally break her away and stop her from what she has been doing in using him. Something he won't truly understand is wrong of course until he is souled. But I can see the point and shift here in significance when Buffy doesn't turn from Dawn towards him again as part of her process to engage with the living again, definitely. It does work as it is, I think it's clearly what they were going for, but it could have been made more so with those missing links to Spike as you say.

    I have to say the moment of the door shut in Crush for me never overly sided on Spike's hurt. I've always felt that because of what he had done, that we are inside with Buffy, stood from her pov rather than outside with Spike, emphasises her position of power against what he did. It isn't the first time I've heard that the view of his upset is seen to bring him too much sympathy potentially though.

    I'm frustratingly not going to get the time to concentrate and complete my NA responses this weekend, so it will be my priority again next week and I'm hopeful to get it finished before Wednesday. As always you all are adding such great depth to my appreciation of the series.
    Last edited by Stoney; 06-10-18 at 06:27 AM.

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  9. #525
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    Hey, MikeB!

    Here’s my first response to your very insightful review of As You Were.

    * “As You Were” (B 6.15) happens because of “productions reasons” and it’s a way to end “Spuffy” on-screen sex scenes. It seems Marc Blucas got to look over the script before agreeing to do the episode (because Riley’s awesomeness factor otherwise makes little sense). But I will focus on in-‘verse reasons for things.
    I have no idea if that’s true, MikeB, but I do agree with you that the Riley “awesomeness factor” is sky-high in this episode – to the detriment of Buffy.

    I have to be honest and state upfront that this is my least favorite Buffy episode, beating out any of the Season One “monsters of the week” or Beer Bad by a mile. And it’s not because Buffy breaks up with Spike – that was a necessary, logical step for the character to take and it actually showed that Buffy was growing out of her reliance on Spike as an escape from all responsibility and learning to love life again. It’s not because Riley returns to Sunnydale either – I have no objection to Riley coming back and giving Buffy an outside perspective on her life which is sorely needed.

    No, As You Were is my least favorite episode of all time because in order to have Buffy reassess her life and make a clean break with Spike, it seems to be necessary to shame Buffy at every turn – and in doing so, it inadvertently upends the message of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They say that Sarah Michelle Gellar was upset by the balcony scene in the Bronze – but for my money, the most embarrassing episode that truly drags Buffy’s character through the mud is As You Were. The question for me is – was it truly necessary?

    To be honest, I find Angelus tormenting Buffy after losing her virginity or Spike having backdoor sex with Buffy at the balcony far more palatable than watching Buffy squirm under the gaze of Riley who tries not to notice her mortification at how low she’s supposedly sunk – the humiliation that she goes through in almost every scene is almost grotesque. As You Were hammers the viewer over the head with the idea that Buffy’s going down the wrong path, Buffy’s not living up to her ideals, Buffy’s got to turn things around like Riley has. And there’s merit to that – Buffy has made some wrong choices.

    But the ways in which the writer Douglas Petrie has specifically dramatized events to show us this leaves too many unanswered questions. Why is Buffy shamed for trying to make it through a very trying period in which she has to juggle parenting, working and slaying in addition to household chores like washing, cooking and cleaning while Riley flies around the world from one glamorous location to another? How can Spike possibly be the “Doctor” from everything we’ve learned so far in the series and why does Riley’s sudden appearance and pursuit of this creature fail to make much sense?

    Despite the depiction of Riley’s new wife as brave and resourceful, why are we left to automatically assume that Buffy might have been better off staying with Riley when – to be honest – the Sam/Riley relationship and line of work doesn’t remotely seem like anything that Buffy would have gone for anyway? We also aren’t given enough information about Riley and Sam’s relationship to make any judgments except on the shallowest level – and even then, it’s not all peaches and cream from this viewer’s perspective. We’re obviously supposed to see Buffy’s life from Riley’s point-of-view – and in Riley’s eyes, it’s not a pretty picture – but that all depends on your value system and what you consider to be important in life, doesn’t it?

    And this complicates one of the major themes of the episode – everything is not as it seems. Viewpoints shift and change depending on how one looks at something – appearances can be deceiving – but the fundamental change needed to grow as an individual is very, very hard.

    There are several moments in As You Were that focus on this idea – Buffy’s life appears to be quite awful – but Riley assures her that circumstances may change and Buffy may seem different, but in actuality Buffy remains the same “hell of a woman” he’s always known. And this also follows for Spike’s character – he loves Buffy and states so – but that love can’t fundamentally change his nature enough to be what she needs despite his constant avowals that it does. Spike is still a soulless vampire, missing that important spark that would make his actions match his words of love. Buffy doesn’t break up with Spike because of his scheme – she breaks up with him because she realizes that he can’t really change without a soul.

    This theme of the difficulty of true change is punched yet again when we see Xander and Anya struggling with their wedding plans, fearful that a fiasco will happen. But Xander assures Anya that the wedding won’t mean anything – what matter is who they are despite all outward appearances of enmity between their relatives.

    But what complicates this is the Riley/Sam relationship – Riley left under a cloud of suspicion when he was caught in a vamp whore house getting suck jobs. After trying to blame it on Buffy’s lack of attention, Riley takes his chance and leaves Buffy behind to move on. A year later, Riley returns apparently ready to work with Buffy, reformed and available – only for Buffy to find out that he’s married when Sam shows up.

    So far, so interesting – and I thought that the episode was going to be about wishful thinking - appearances vs reality – which fits Spike hiding the eggs, Xander and Anya’s problems, and the break-up of the Spuffy relationship.

    So when I first watched this episode, I thought for sure that Riley would somehow be exposed as something other than he appeared (working for the bad guys or not really married to Sam) but halfway through the episode, the marriage between Riley and Sam is suddenly held up as a paragon of perfection that the characters are somehow supposed to emulate.

    We’re supposed to accept at first glance that Riley and Sam have a wonderful relationship that should make Buffy jealous and Xander/Anya envious – proof that he’s grown from the man he was one year ago in Sunnydale and while the Scoobies are still struggling with the idea of growth, Riley has achieved a kind of heightened self-awareness through his work and his marriage.

    Before Riley righteously exposes Spike as the “Doctor” and blows up his crypt, we’re seemingly supposed to forget – or forgive – that Riley himself was caught in an equally compromising position right before his departure from Sunnydale one year ago. But that kind of cheating behavior and resentful attitude doesn’t magically disappear in such a short period of time regardless of a great job and a happy marriage.

    From a character standpoint, it’s not probable that Riley could have grown so much in such a short amount of time – and so one has to either ignore all of his prior actions in Sunnydale and pretend that it is possible because it didn’t mean much or it was all Buffy’s fault – or feel uncomfortable at the idea that any real psychological problems Riley faces have simply been swept under the rug to surface at some later date. The fact that the “Previously On” doesn’t ever show the reason for their breakup is very telling – we just see Riley tell Buffy “They want me back, Buffy…unless you give me a reason to stay” without ever getting into the reasons why he’s going. Obviously, we’re not supposed to think about that even as the scene shows him stone-faced in the helicopter as Buffy cries out for him. Within this edited framework, it would seem to be Buffy’s at fault for their breakup.

    And so we don’t really see any indication that Riley has matured since. There’s no moment in which Riley apologizes to Buffy for what happened or acknowledges that he’s faced his demons and dealt with them. The fact that he’s married Sam is apparently enough proof – which is ridiculous. In fact, the only person in the entire episode who brings the vamp whores up is Spike – but that’s at the worst possible moment when he is caught naked with Buffy and attacking Riley to cover his discomfort.

    And it’s only Spike who gets punched out three times (enough to draw blood) and has his crypt blown up despite the fact that all three characters – Buffy, Riley and Spike – act pretty despicably in this scene. Riley and Buffy come off almost as insufferable as Spike is craven – and it’s an extremely unpleasant scenario that ends in Riley placing the power of life and death over Spike in Buffy’s hands.

    So it’s not the character coming back that’s so bothersome, but it’s the underlying subtext that seems to ignore the drama bubbling under the surface in favor of cool weapons and fast cars and a great wife and an exciting job. It just doesn’t work for me – Petrie needed to do more to convince me that poor Sam isn’t in for some ugly future times when the marriage becomes routine or he fails to get a promotion or the relationship hits some rocky moments (as all relationships inevitably do).

    What does work in this episode is the arc of the Spuffy relationship – the opening scene in front of Buffy’s house leads naturally to the masterfully written and acted scene at the closer of As You Were which does a marvelous job of giving us the emotional weight of the break-up from both sides. The whole Riley mess in-between is actually pointless in a way – it’s just an elongated justification for Buffy to act upon a decision she’s mused upon for the past two episodes. Should she come out of the closet and tell her friends that she’s f**king Spike and using him to make herself feel alive? Or should she break it off secretly and spare both of them the grief and pain that might come from such a reveal? Either way, I think her choice to break off the sexual relationship was actually made long ago (in Smashed really) and only delayed until As You Were because she was weak and unable to accept that she was hurting Spike by using him.

    I think at the end of Dead Things, she begins to see Spike as an actual person with feelings and in Older and Far Away, she toys with the idea that they could openly be lovers. But when she closes the door on him at the end of the episode, I think she only needs a small push to finally break it off with him. Does this mean that she doesn’t love Spike? Love is a difficult concept to discuss in terms of characters because it’s so varied and complex – but the easiest way to view Buffy’s love for Spike at this moment is to take her at her word.

    Buffy has feelings for Spike – she enjoys sex with him and empathizes to a certain extent and cares if he’s in danger or hurt – and that reflects a certain kind of love. But she can’t love him in the way that he wants. Not without a soul. Even perhaps with a soul – but there’s no way to find out if it would make a difference. Buffy can’t love Spike and it’s killing her that she’s using him for sex when he obviously wants so much more. And even if Buffy did give Spike what he wants – it would be giving up something of herself that she just can’t emotionally provide without violating her sense of self as the Slayer and as Buffy Summers.

    And this is compared and contrasted with the ongoing drama of the impending marriage of Xander and Anya – as their separate worlds collide, the pressure becomes even greater to prevent that violation of self – which prefigures Xander’s ultimate decision in Hell’s Bells.

    To be honest, I always think of Hell’s Bells coming before As You Were because it seems so natural to me that Buffy would finally break it off with Spike after seeing the aftermath of the marriage fiasco – whereas it could never work the other way in terms of influence as Spuffy is a secret relationship that Xander or Anya couldn’t possibly know about. But either way, the two relationships are meant to act as foils for each other and the Willow/Tara relationship – three different ways in which relationships come together and fall apart in Season Six.

    I’ve always considered that the ‘time stamp’ in “Conversations With Dead People” (B 7.07) of “November 12, 2002” means that the end of “Smashed” (B 6.09) happened a year earlier on November 12, 2001 C.E. “All The Way” (B 6.06) happens on Halloween. “Once More With Feeling” (B 6.07) happens sometime after that, “Tabula Rasa” (B 6.08) and “Smashed” (B 6.09) both happen within a short time. Tara Maclay’s tombstone in “Help” (B 7.04) states she died on May 07, 2002 C.E. The end of “As You Were” (B 6.15) to when Tara’s killed happens within 2 weeks. The Xander/Anya wedding happens 1 week after the beginning of “As You Were”. So, Buffy/Spike’s sexual relationship in BtVS S6 lasted around 5.5 to 5.75 months. And "As You Were" (B 6.15) happens over 3 months after "Older and Faraway" (B 6.14).
    That’s a very helpful timeline, MikeB. I always love to try and make the timelines work even though the writers were pretty vague about the whole thing. As I calculated, Halloween on October 31, 2001 fell on a Wednesday – which means Once More With Feeling took place in the time period from Thursday, November 1, 2001 to Wednesday, November 7, 2001 according to Buffy’s line in the Magic Box.

    If we assume that a few days have passed, there are clues that tell us when the episode begins. Willow casts her spell and Xander announces his engagement in All The Way on Wednesday. From looking at lines in the text, Xander’s summoning of the demon happened in the time period of Thursday, November 1 through Saturday, November 3. Which means that Xander’s fears about his upcoming wedding were so great that within a three-day time frame after the announcement, Sweet was called to Sunnydale.

    Spike tells Buffy that people have been singing for two days. Looking at the script, Once More With Feeling seems to take place on three consecutive days. The opening of the episode begins on Sunday morning, November 4 and Buffy’s song “Going Through the Motions” happens on the evening of Sunday, November 4 – which would also take place the same evening as Anya’s song in Selfless. “I’ve Got a Theory” takes place on the Monday (Dawn is in school) morning, Under Your Spell is Monday afternoon and Sweet’s first murder happens Monday evening. Xander and Anya perform “I’ll Never Tell” the morning of Tuesday, November 6, Giles walks with the couple through the streets of Sunnydale past “The Parking Ticket” Tuesday afternoon and Buffy visits Spike for “Rest in Peace” early evening on Tuesday. The rest of the episode – Dawn’s kidnapping, Buffy’s training, Tara’s discovery, Buffy’s long walk to the Bronze and the finale take place late Tuesday evening and it’s possible that Spike and Buffy kiss in the alleyway behind the Bronze in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 7th once Dawn has been rescued.

    Tabula Rasa seems to take place a few nights after – enough for Spike to try and see Buffy again and not long enough where the memory has faded. So we could posit it happens from November 8th – November 10th. Between Tabula Rasa and Smashed? Spike gives us a clue in the opening scene:

    SPIKE: You're a tease, you know that, Slayer? Get a fellow's motor revvin’, let the tension marinate a couple of days – then Bam! Crown yourself the ice queen. (Smashed)
    And later:

    SPIKE: You know, as long as we're both here, you might as well tag along. I mean, as a team, we could –
    BUFFY: Yeah, that never really seems to end well, does it?
    SPIKE: It did the other night. (Smashed)
    A “couple of days” is a colloquialism that should technically mean two days, but can often mean more. However, the “other night” generally refers to either last night or the night before. However, there is talk of how well Willow’s doing in dealing with magic in both the Dawn/Tara talk and the Magic Box scene – which wouldn’t be happening after one day and probably not even two.

    So stretching Spike’s meaning, we can probably safely say that the events of Tabula Rasa happened two to three days before Buffy and Spike met the human muggers in Smashed – which means that it ranges between November 9th – November 12th. Which means that the Buffy/Spike sex takes place on the second day, placing it between November 10th – November 13th. Wrecked happens the next day on November 11th – November 14th and Gone takes place the next two days on November 12th-November 16th. In DoubleMeat Palace, some time has gone by. It’s likely that it’s December because of two things – Willow’s line:

    AMY: Hey, Will. It's your birthday.
    WILLOW: Um, no, it's not. Although now that you mention it, Buffy's is next—(DoubleMeat Palace)
    Willow either is going to say next month or next week – since Buffy’s birthday is January 19th, and we know that Dead Things takes place shortly before that (from Spike’s battered face), DoubleMeat Palace either takes place the week before or the month before Older and Far Away. But we have one more clue that tells us it’s a month:

    WILLOW: No, it's okay. I don't expect you to stop doing magic just because – you don't have to hide it. I'm not – I'm – I'm doing better. No spells for 32 days. I can even go in the magic shop now. As long as someone's with me. (Dead Things)
    If Willow is referring back to the moment when Amy gave her magic for her “birthday,” that would date DoubleMeat Palace from December 10th to December 18th. Then, as you say, we have Xander and Anya mentioning that their wedding is one week away in As You Were and Normal Again takes place a day or two after Hell’s Bells. Buffy mentions at the start of Entropy that she tried to kill her friends one week ago:

    BUFFY: You know why? I tried to kill my friends, my sister, last week ... and guess how much they hate me. Zero. (Normal Again)
    So we’ve got as a possible range of dates starting with All the Way:

    All the Way – October 31, 2001
    Once More With Feeling – November 4 - November 7, 2001
    Tabula Rasa – November 8 – November 10, 2001
    Smashed – November 9 – November 13, 2001
    Wrecked – November 11 – November 14, 2001
    Gone – November 12 – November 16, 2001
    DoubleMeat Palace – December 10 – December 17, 2001
    Dead Things – January 10 - January 17, 2001
    Older and Far Away – January 19 – January 20, 2001
    As You Were – April 13 – April 18, 2002
    Hell’s Bells – April 20 – April 23, 2002 (20th is a Saturday - the most likely date for the wedding)
    Normal Again – April 21 – April 27, 2002
    Entropy – May 3 – May 5, 2002
    Seeing Red – May 6 – May 7, 2002
    Villains – May 7, 2002
    Two to Go – May 7, 2002
    Grave – May 7, 2002 – May 8, 2002

    Spike ran off to get his soul on May 6th and won the trials sometime between May 8 and late August/early September, 2002. After Xander rescues Willow from total destruction and Buffy emerges with Dawn, the script cryptically says “Later” when returning to Spike. Could have been months for all we know.

    So Buffy and Spike’s sexual relationship lasted approximately from November 10, 2001 – April 18, 2002, give or take a few days. Which is 23 weeks or 5 months and one week or 157-160 days. Just about the same amount of time that Buffy was dead, give or take ten or twelve days.

    Which means that Buffy has also been working at DoubleMeat Palace for about 20 weeks or 4 months. And yet she’s not getting any farther in terms of promotions or salary increases as far as we can tell. Her work is difficult and dirty – she’s not just a toothy smile at the front counter, but also the fry cook who has to scrape down the grill as her insufferable manager boss does the tough work of ordering his staff around and looking like he’s doing something himself.

    TODD: You see, Buffy, the thing you gotta learn about the Palace, and this takes a while, is that job security all boils down to one simple thing. Politics. Now, I'm not a political animal. But you learn fast around here or it's -- Wham! Hello, glass ceiling. I mean, it's not like we work at Burger World or The Happy Bun where the power structure is simple. No, here at the Palace, you keep your friends close -- but your enemies? Closer. It's like Machiavelli says.
    Since Buffy generally starts with a seemingly innocuous lecture that sheds light on the episode’s theme, we learn that today’s lesson is about politics and the power structure. Who has it and who doesn’t. And it’s also about deception – and how one should stay close to your friends, but keep an even closer eye on your enemy who may be doing something behind your back. Those who don’t learn will hit the glass ceiling and never advance. The joke is that Machiavelli never said this – it’s a common misappropriation – the line is actually from The Godfather Part II when Michael Corleone says, “My father taught me many things here — he taught me in this room. He taught me — keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” So the manager is unwittingly quoting a movie about power – a group of violent mobsters who hide behind a façade of genial handshakes and “meetings” to advance the “family business.”

    But it’s fairly obvious how this applies to Buffy’s situation – she will never be able to grow until she acquires the wisdom inherent in political hardball – to discern and use the power structure that lies behind mere appearance and be able to distinguish the subtle difference between friends and enemies. It’s an ironic comment considering that the cheerful California coastal town of Sunnydale hides all manner of wicked supernatural evil within – and only Buffy and a few other humans are aware of it. And it’s doubly ironic because Buffy is the Slayer and she’s literally sleeping with the enemy who is cutting his own Godfather like deals (either for himself or someone else) right behind her back.

    The Machiavelli guy seems to be the new ‘Night Manager’ of the DMP Buffy works at. He’s been there 5 years and is going to night school to get his MBA (Masters of Business Administration). Buffy clearly doesn’t want to work at the DMP, yet she’s not gotten a different job and she’s not taken Spike up on his offer of financial support.
    Yes, MikeB, and I think that’s the point. The opening lines are a tangible reference to Buffy’s own inability to advance anywhere because she refuses to see things clearly – she’s content to just muddle along on a surface level rather then look deeply in the abyss of her own life and take measures to change it. The power structure behind things eludes her – it’s not that she’s incapable of taking charge, but the trauma and depression caused by her resurrection has still left Buffy incapable of dealing with that level of responsibility. When Riley returns, one of the reasons that he has such an emotional effect on her is because he seems to have it all – he’s worked the system to his advantage and he’s now got a glamourous job with a gorgeous wife and all kinds of toys – the kind of adventurous life that most people even dream of – and is utterly unattainable to all but a few who are allowed to share in the power structure that controls things.

    Of course, this begs the question – should Buffy envy these things? Does Riley really have it all – or is he in some ways a pawn of someone else’s power games? It’s not clear as to whether Riley’s true military or a contractor/mercenary – but he’s certainly not his own man. He’s under orders to chase this or that demon – and he is given the toys and the position in exchange for relinquishing a certain amount of autonomy and power himself.

    Yet it seems Buffy would work for the Initiative if she could stay in Sunnydale and continue her Slayer duties. It’s odd that the US Government seems to have never offered Buffy and the Scoobies money to fight the forces of evil. They know about Buffy and Co. I consider part of Buffy’s organization in BtVS S8 got funding from the US Government and perhaps other Governments and that simply Buffy’s thieving activities were to supplement the shortfall as those governments probably didn’t think Buffy needed the Military budget of a small country.
    Buffy’s always been an independent person – with her powers, she could easily have chosen a similar lifestyle that quickly accrued riches and fame. But she consistently turns all of that down for more simple pleasures and pushes back at authority – she regularly defies the Watchers Council and the Initiative and even goes against her own personal calling to kill vampires by allowing Angel and Spike to live. There’s a certain anarchistic spirit in Buffy that rebels against the kind of career that Riley has chosen – and so in many ways, her envy of Riley’s life is more about the road not chosen rather than a true “I wish I were him.” Buffy’s embrace of power is important to Season Seven – but it’s not the kind of power that wishes to rule the world and roll in money bins like Scrooge McDuck. It’s a different kind of power altogether.

    But someone like her manager Todd can’t even begin to understand that kind of independent spirit – he seems to be obsessed with measuring success and failure by certain arbitrary standards like education and money – both of which confer power in his eyes:

    TODD: You know Machiavelli, right?
    BUFFY: Tall guy, bleached mullet, works day shifts?
    TODD: I'm sorry, my bad. I keep forgetting you dropped out of college.
    BUFFY: I'm re-applying.
    TODD: Good luck with that! Well. Gotta motor. I don't want to be late for night school.
    BUFFY: You go to night school?
    TODD: I'm working on my MBA. You think I want to spend the rest of my life cleaning grease traps? Don't forget to lock before you go. And the gum under the tables? Be sure to give 'em a good scrape before you leave.
    BUFFY: Oh, may I?
    TODD: See you tomorrow!
    BUFFY: Yes, you will. And the day after that. And the day after that. And the day after that –
    There’s a really pathetic assumption here that someone who works in fast food is a failure – it’s the ethos that society is divided between winners and losers and what defines them is class difference – the higher the degree and salary, the greater the victor in the war between the haves and the have-nots. And yet it’s based on arbitrary quirks of fate – being born in the right place, knowing the right people, having the right attitude towards success – and most importantly, being the right kind of person. And, yet, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Todd the manager mocks Buffy’s ignorance of Machiavelli even as he mistakenly misquotes him. He throws down a cutting remark about what she’s doing as if he doesn’t work there – he’s superior because he has the authority to order someone else to do the dirty work.

    And this attitude grinds an already depressed Buffy even further down into the abyss. Instead of being proud of her work, she’s imagining endless days of grill-scraping and grease-cleaning – and what makes it even more sad is that she’s doing this not for herself, but for Dawn. The Scoobies brought Buffy back so that she could apparently work herself to death – pulled her out of an imagined Hell dimension only to continue with college and work a good paying position while she deals with drudgery on the edge of losing Dawn and the house. And to top it off, she’s insulted at every turn as she tries to keep Dawn safe and with her. The Scoobies complain she doesn’t spend enough time with them. Spike complains that she’s not willing to divulge their relationship to anyone. Even Dawn herself doesn’t seem to appreciate the backbreaking work that Buffy is doing. So when a random vampire tells Buffy that she stinks, it’s almost the last straw.

    Buffy takes a short cut through the graveyard, holding a bag of burgers, kicking along, looking forlorn, singing a little Doublemeat jingle:
    BUFFY: "Get the double treat/that's so double sweet/oh it's hard to beat/when the meat meets the – "Aah! Why can’t I get that stupid jingle out of my head!
    Suddenly, a skanky-looking VAMP leaps from atop a shadowy crypt and struts toward Buffy, all predatory.
    SKANK-VAMP: Least of your problems now, little girl.
    He approaches, fangs bared, looking to make a meal of Buffy. Buffy just sighs, holds up a hand, resigned.
    BUFFY: Wait.
    She carefully sets down her bag of burgers.
    BUFFY: Okay. Let's do this. Quickly.
    The Vamp jumps her. They grapple, holding each other, trying to gain advantage, when Skanky wrinkles his nose, almost offended.
    SKANK-VAMP: What's that smell? Geez, Slayer, is that you?
    BUFFY: I've been working!
    SKANK-VAMP: Where, in a slaughter house?
    BUFFY: DoubleMeat Palace.
    The Vamp backs off, almost apologetic, hands up.
    SKANK-VAMP: Oh. Know what? Let's just call it a night. If it's all the same to you, and you've been eating that stuff – I'm not so sure I want to bite you.
    BUFFY: You're dead. You smell like it. How do you get to say I'm the one who's – stinky?
    SKANK-VAMP: Really -- it's cool, I'll just catch you next time –
    It's a sentence he'll never finish -- as a STAKE comes flying into his chest and he DUSTS on the spot. Buffy stands victorious, watching the dust, not moving. Then she slowly, and a little unsure, smells herself. Frowns. He's right.
    This scene is Buffy hitting the bottom – she stinks so badly from her menial job that not even the vampires respect her as the Slayer anymore. The moment when Buffy smells herself and makes a face is a sign of her self-loathing. Which is only compounded by her recognition that Spike is hiding behind the tree next to her house:

    Buffy comes walking up to her house, burger bag in hand. She starts wearily up the front steps, stops. Sensing something. She steps back down, cocks her head, all senses alert -- then she figures it out, and suddenly relaxes.
    BUFFY: Oh, for Pete's sake. Spike?
    And Spike comes out from behind the tree smiling – there’s actually a charming look on his face. It’s been about twelve weeks (three months) since the debacle of Buffy’s birthday and her angst over their relationship the first few months seems to have settled somewhat into a series of routine meetings where they have rough sex.

    We hear from behind a tree:
    SPIKE: Ah. It's a fair cop. You caught me, Slayer. However –
    SPIKE emerges from behind the tree, grinning wickedly, sex on the brain. He tosses aside his smoke.
    SPIKE: In all honesty, we do have to say that one doesn't count. After all –
    He sidles right up to her, getting close, sexy –
    SPIKE: I wasn't exactly hiding.
    Spike lying in wait for Buffy to come in or out of her house is a call back to his first meeting with Buffy in No Place Like Home – also written by Douglas Petrie:

    Buffy walks down the front steps and is halfway across the lawn when she stops, sensing something. She reaches behind a tree and yanks Spike out into the yard.
    BUFFY: Spike.
    SPIKE: Hi, Buffy.
    BUFFY: Don't take this the wrong way but –
    She socks him in the nose.
    SPIKE: Ow!
    BUFFY: What are you doing here? Five words or less.
    Spike counts the words on his fingers.
    SPIKE: Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch.
    BUFFY: Out for a walk at night by my house. No one has time for this, William.
    SPIKE: On your merry way, then. You know, contrary to one's self-involved world-view, your house happens to be directly between parts – and other parts of this town. And I would pass by in the day but I feel I'm outgrowing my whole "burst into flame" phase.
    BUFFY: Fine. Keep going, I cut you a break.
    SPIKE: Oh, yeah. Okay, let me guess – you won't kill me? Ooh – the whole crowd-pleasing threats-and-swagger routine. How stunningly original. You know, I'm just passing through. Satisfied? You know, I really hope so because God knows you need some satisfaction in life besides shagging Captain Cardboard and I never really liked you anyway and – and you have stupid hair. (No Place Like Home)
    As You Were has some obvious parallels to that scene – everything from Spike hiding behind the tree on Buffy’s property to stalk her to talking about sleeping with Riley to Buffy calling him William to Buffy cutting Spike a break for his stupid schemes. But instead of asking why he’s there, this time she knows why – and in her mind, it’s not happening again. As with all of their encounters, there’s the constant pesky little issue of consent that is pushed time and time again.

    BUFFY: No, Spike.
    SPIKE: "No?" What kind of answer is that? Haven't even heard the question, yet.
    BUFFY: I don't need to. We both know what you're thinking.
    SPIKE: And we both know I'm not the only one thinking it.
    And there’s even a hint of the goofy Spike who said “Hello, Buffy” in such a dopey manner as his crush overwhelmed him. Spike actually grins at Buffy’s statement which is already very unusual for Spike – and then playfully tries to poke a finger down Buffy’s coat and she draws back as Spike pouts – POUTS – lightheartedly like a genuine boyfriend.

    BUFFY: No! Not here. I can't.
    SPIKE: Why not?
    BUFFY: Dawn. She's inside waiting for dinner. She’s counting on me. And I'm not letting her down by letting you in.
    SPIKE: So it's the fear of getting caught, then, is it?
    BUFFY: Reason number one on a very long list.
    He’s apparently been discouraged from entering the house since Dawn’s outburst about not having enough time with Buffy – although it’s never explained exactly why. Besides being afraid of Dawn and Willow figuring out that she’s been having sex with Spike, what reason would she have for keeping him away from her sister? Does Buffy truly believe that Spike is a bad influence – or is she just using that to keep up appearances and morally justify her choices by carefully segmenting each aspect of her life in different areas? If Spike’s banned from the house, then she can keep the boundaries much clearer between her apparently wholesome home life and her dirty little secret sex meetings.

    So Spike avoiding Dawn doesn’t seem to be his choice – it seems to be part of some kind of conditions that Buffy’s made in order to keep seeing her. She’ll only keep their secret relationship going if she can keep him out of all other aspects of her life. We don’t even see Spike help her on patrol anymore as he did before Once More With Feeling – or any other friends for that matter. Buffy is consistently choosing to be alone when she gets attacked by various demons who poison her, damage her back and insult her.

    And yet, Spike seems utterly unconcerned with Dawn waiting for dinner. His hunger for Buffy shows his selfishness – as much as he might care for Dawn, she comes second to his own needs at the moment. And the way in which Spike grabs Buffy by the arm and pulls her towards the tree is reminiscent of his arm pulling in Dead Things – it’s another physical gesture that ominously looks towards the AR in Seeing Red. The whole dominant-submissive routine seems to have been thrown by the wayside after the beating he took – he’s much more full of fun now as he almost coaxes Buffy to have sex with him. Spike has obviously learned over the past three months that Buffy does indeed like it rough as he said in The Weight of the World and she only needs a little pressure in order to give into her sexual desires with him. It’s very clear that Buffy allows Spike to lead her away, but that lesson will have horrifying consequences later on.

    SPIKE: Needn't be an obstacle.
    He leads her away from the steps, to the shadows
    BUFFY: C'mon, I mean it –
    SPIKE: I see you're serious. So am I. I want you. You want me. I can't come inside. So?
    He puts her up against the tree, the shadows engulfing both of them.
    SPIKE: Could be, the time is right – for you to come outside.
    Spike’s double entendre – he can’t come inside so she’ll have to come outside – is enough to make Buffy’s eyes glaze with lust as she looks at the house and then back at Spike. As he moves forward to kiss her, they embrace as she drops Dawn’s dinner on the ground and he shoves her hard against the tree.

    Spike has sex with Buffy in front of her house so that she won’t stop by later when the demon eggs arrive.
    Yes, MikeB, I totally agree that there’s a very good chance Spike is showing up at Buffy’s house to head her off from coming over to his crypt later on and finding the eggs. One assumes that the whole egg deal was only going to take a few days and then they’d be taken off his hands. But more on that crazy scheme later.

    UPN made BtVS change the original Buffy/Spike ‘Dumpster Sex Scene’ that was filmed during “DoubleMeat Palace” (B 6.12). The one in “DoubleMeat Palace” (B 6.12) was filmed during the filming of “As You Were” (B 6.15) and the writers decided to make the DMP a center focus in “As You Were”. It’s made a big point that a lowly vampire finds Buffy’s smell revolting and even Riley is ‘put off’ by Buffy’s smell. Yet Spike’s so sexually attracted to Buffy that her smell doesn’t at-all repel him.
    That’s a great point, MikeB, that Spike doesn’t seem to give a hoot about Buffy’s smell that drove the other vampire to gag and run away – and perhaps that’s part of the point of the scene. Spike is the one person that Buffy can truly escape with because he never reminds her of all the daily responsibilities that’s making her miserable.

    We see Buffy hurriedly enter the kitchen to find Dawn standing at the counter, waiting.

    BUFFY: Dawn. Hey.
    DAWN: Rough night?
    BUFFY: The usual.
    The line punches the fact that Buffy is having rough sex with Spike on a regular basis – the script is careful to let the viewer know that Buffy has become so accustomed to it that she’s barely fighting it anymore. It’s also very clear from this and Buffy future line that they’re still not making love – they’re going at it in a manner more like the end of Smashed or Spike’s previous fights with a Slayer. Which both excites and depresses Buffy.

    Dawn’s quite slender for someone recently living on fast food.
    Eh – at that age, you can eat almost anything and not gain weight if you have a certain metabolism.

    BUFFY: I brought you dinner.
    DAWN: Great, I'm starved. Actually, I'm kinda full. But my metabolism's tummy has been growling. What did you – oh. Doublemeat Medley. Again. BUFFY: I know, it's not the most original these days, but I made 'em myself! I made hundreds, actually, and this -- is the best one.
    DAWN: Its looks kinda – squished.
    BUFFY: Oh. But you know, you know, give it a minute, 'cause these babies really bounce back. Literally.
    The joke is that Buffy and Spike most likely rolled over it in the throes of lovemaking. Which tells us that Buffy not only delayed Dawn’s dinner, but literally screwed on top of it. Eww. Luckily, Dawn hands it back with a look of repulsion on her face.

    DAWN: Buffy, it's not like I don't appreciate it. I do. It's just that, I can't eat this stuff another night. I'm sorry.
    BUFFY: No, all good. I get it. Tell you what, tomorrow night? I could bring home the Fisherman Nuggets with cheese.
    WILLOW: Hey, workin' lady. Rough night?
    BUFFY: Why does everyone keep asking me that?
    WILLOW: No reason. Just figured you were busy with the slayage, 'cause of the grass stains.
    Buffy turns, looking over her own shoulder to see grass stains running up her back.
    DAWN: Some vamp get rough with you?
    BUFFY: He's not getting any gentler.
    WILLOW: "He?"
    BUFFY: They. Them. Vampires, in the general population sense. Now I’m gonna have to wash this –
    Buffy’s comment that Spike’s not getting any gentler is disconcerting even though it’s been made clear multiple times that the two are turned on by rough sex. The implication is that Spike is responsible for this even though we’ve seen that Buffy attacks Spike with the same fervor. Some of it may be that Buffy wants to typify all of their sex as “rough” because that also precludes deep feeling – if it’s rough, it’s no more than a quick screw. Then again, from Spike’s perspective, you always hurt the one you love. We’re talking about a vamp who immediately mentions chains when starting sex with Harmony.

    Buffy ‘under her breath’: “He’s not getting any gentler.” Xander of course in “Gone” (B 6.11) is hit with the most blatant and obvious hints that Buffy/Spike are having sex, but the entire Scooby Gang and Dawn are relatively bizarrely unaware. Dawn even in “Normal Again” (B 6.17) doesn’t make the connection. Did Dawn think Angel was the vampire Buffy hated? That Buffy had sex with Uncursed Angel?
    Good question, MikeB! Buffy and Spike are becoming far too comfortable with their trysts and the tiny slips are indications that they’re almost ready to spill the beans after three long months of doing it behind everyone’s backs. I put it down to the curse of Sunnydale – just as the inhabitants can’t see what’s in front of them, the Scoobies are unable to see what they don’t want to see. And again – this is one of the major themes of the episode – the truth behind the façade, the reality behind the appearance, the enemy who disguises themselves as a friend.

    But Willow smiles at Dawn – she’s so eager to see Buffy smiling and happy that she’s ignoring the obvious signs and hints that Buffy is having a secret relationship with someone.

    WILLOW: Ready for a bold suggestion? Blow it off! Dawny and I are headed out to the Bronze.
    DAWN: Do I have your permission and wanna come along? You like how I slipped in the permission request like that?
    WILLOW: Very smooth.
    BUFFY: You guys go.
    DAWN: Really?
    WILLOW: Buffy, you sure? Might do you some good to get away from the DoubleMeat lifestyle for a night. See your friends.
    DAWN: Who'd love to see you.
    BUFFY: I'm sure I've seen enough action for one night. Home by eleven?
    DAWN: On the dot.
    BUFFY: Have fun.
    Willow and Dawn exit. Buffy just looks around the kitchen.
    BUFFY: Somebody should.
    So we learn that Buffy isn’t even satisfied by her sex with Spike – emotionally, anyway. She still pulls away from her friends – despite the pressure by Willow and Dawn who are every bit as cajoling as Spike was outside the house. But Buffy is exhausted after a rough sex session with Spike – although she’s now staying at home, she hasn’t much interest in anything else including Dawn. And much of that has to do with Spike.

    But much of it has to do with Willow herself – she was the one who specifically insisted on bringing Buffy back. So it’s odd that she’s not acted a little more to take on some of Buffy’s onerous responsiblities – why doesn’t Willow have a home-cooked meal for Buffy? There isn’t even the expectation of such a thing – Buffy automatically brings home food for Dawn in the expectation that no one else will. Yes, Dawn is not Willow’s responsibility – but Willow does bear some accountability for bringing Buffy back from the dead and the constant expectation that Buffy will do everything because Willow’s at University is simply unfair. I, myself, went through the UC system and it was never so onerous that I couldn’t cook a meal or clean the apartment I lived in.

    But the fact that Buffy is allowing Dawn to go out alone with Willow shows how far both have come in earning her trust after the debacles of All the Way and Wrecked. But she’s still not ready to share her relationship with Spike. Whether out of guilt or conviction, Buffy’s compartmentalized the various aspects of her life into little boxes and she not about to mix them.

    More tomorrow!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 09-10-18 at 09:48 AM.

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  11. #526
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    Really interesting points about AYW Aurora. I really appreciate you continuing to work through to catch up and adding great thoughts to the eps along the way. I'm about halfway through reading the superb NA review and will definitely post on that this week too.

    My issues with Riley do hang on the way that he left and although I found I had more tolerance for him when I rewatched this time, that is a background aspect that still bugs me an awful lot. I think part of it is, as you say, that really very little time has passed since he left. The notion that all his personal issues that were tied up in the choices he made have not only blown over but have been dealt with so well he's moved on and is now in a perfect relationship is dubious. I agree with you that Buffy is shamed throughout the episode for the condition of her own life in comparison, although I lean to seeing it as greatly emphasising her perspective and the increasing disquiet she really feels at her own choices, it is corroborated by others. She shouldn't be getting pulled down whilst working hard to try and manage the practicalities of supporting Dawn and managing the house/bills in the way that she is. I suppose that Riley representing moving beyond a low point does in itself label his previous behaviour as such too, but although a comparison can be drawn directly to Buffy's use of Spike it isn't a fair one against her taking what work she can to support Dawn. And the idea of Riley having been at a very low point himself before isn't given the spotlight it should be to not appear to simply be presenting him as an ideal that Buffy missed and regrets missing now, rather than openly looking back to what he did. As you say, the Spuffy break up makes sense, it has been building towards this and Buffy is unhappy, these things aren't the problem, the issue is just that Riley/Sam is presented without any scuffs despite what Riley did before whilst Buffy's current circumstances and varying choices are so looked down on from multiple angles.

    Interesting to consider the power theme within the episode and the elements of deception. The obvious link of course is Spike's involvement in the egg deal at some level but it does make Riley's failure to mention he is with someone straight away look worse. Not that it ends up being held against him and I do think there are understandable reasons why he doesn't say something straight away, but it makes me lean more towards him not wanting to rock the boat in a way that might make Buffy less inclined to do what he's wanting of her. I don't think that she should envy Riley's life, as you say Riley is clearly under orders to some degree. But Buffy facing what she dislikes in her life and taking the decision to make a change at the end is the positive she gains from the comparison making her want to assert herself more. I agree with you completely that Buffy isn't actually wishing she had the specifics of Riley's life.

    And, yet, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Todd the manager mocks Buffy’s ignorance of Machiavelli even as he mistakenly misquotes him.
    I love that.

    Great catch on the link in the scene outside Revello to No Place Like Home. Interesting that part of the distancing between Spike and Dawn may have come from Buffy trying to keep the separate aspects of her life defined/distanced from each other. Of course Spike's greater focus on Buffy and wish to try to keep building up the relationship plays a major part in him dropping Dawn, and going along with such boundaries. But in not letting Spike back in she is keeping to her conclusion in OaFA that he is incompatible and so all aspects of her life should be kept in separate chunks as you say.

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  13. #527
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    Thanks for the timeline Aurora - It never occurred to me while watching BTVS that Buffy and Spike had a relationship that lasted five months or that she worked at Doublemeat Palace for five months. I did not watch Buffy when it aired in the late 90's and early 2000's, but watched about four or five episodes a week about five years ago until I able to view all of them. This compressed time in a way that the original airing did not. Seemed like only a day or two passed between episodes in the BTVS universe. Until you highlighted the time line, I assumed that Spuffy and working at Doublemeat palace lasted only a couple of weeks. It gives me a different perspective of the length of time that Giles was gone, Tara and Willow separated, Dawn ignored and Anya and Xander planning the wedding. I hope that other fans who binge-watched BTVS like me, take the time to consider the period of time in the BTVS universe that the writers intended.

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  15. #528
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    Hey, MikeB! Here’s my second response to your thoughtful review of As You Were.

    We left Buffy alone at home – she’s too exhausted after a DoubleMeat Palace shift, having sex with Spike and fiddling with a smashed burger and a grass stained coat to even consider going out. It seems likely that Buffy will be feasting on that burger tonight because depression gives you the munchies. It also relieves stress as we see when Xander and Anya prepare for their impending marriage only one week away – and the fast food that Dawn turns down is on display as both partners discuss the last minute preparations, Xander with a beer, Anya with mineral water and a giant bag of chips passed between them.

    And their talk continues the idea of appearance – Anya is concerned that certain people will take offense if they’re seated at the wrong table. She’s worried that the guests won’t get along. She’s so intense that she’s even made Xander worry excessively about the floral arrangements. It’s as if Anya believes the wedding must be perfect or their marriage won’t be a success. And she’s got Xander so nervous that he imbibes chip after chip without stopping. It’s vital to pay attention to the power structure under even the simplest gatherings – seating certain people next to others can be an unforgivable sin.

    ANYA: See, this seating chart makes no sense. We have to do it again. We can't do it again. You do it.
    XANDER: The seating chart's fine. Let's go back to table arrangements. I'm starting to have dreams of gardenia bouquets and I am so glad my manly co-workers didn't just hear that.
    Xander may associate gardenias with girly things, but he’s wrong here. In England and France, gardenias are traditionally a man’s flower – worn as a formal wear boutonniere on special occasions – especially weddings.

    Gardenia bouquets are also one of the most coveted of wedding accoutrements – and also one of the most expensive. The flowers themselves are incredibly fragrant – but also incredibly fragile and wilt at the slightest touch or turn brown very quickly after clipping. Often, to cut costs and preserve the flower, bouquets might have only one gardenia tucked in between other less delicate flowers. If Anya and Xander are going for such bouquets on every table, then the two are spending a fortune on this wedding. The gardenia flower arrangements alone probably range from $3,000-4,000 American dollars.

    Xander continues to greedily stuff chips in his mouth until Anya reaches over and tries to place the bag out of his reach.

    ANYA: Would you stop wolfing down those chips? One more bag and you'll pop right out of your cummerbund.
    Xander looks affronted by Anya’s fat-shaming statement – although it’s possible that she was more interested in stealing the chips than teasing Xander as she takes one for herself. Anya doesn’t really seem to eat it though – she pecks around it as if she’s concerned that if she takes more than one, she’ll be joining Xander and popping out of her wedding dress.

    ANYA: You're not even hungry. You're just nervous.
    XANDER: Yeah! Wedding, one week. We have family, friends, demons flying in, a to-do list getting shorter. And do not take my chips.
    Xander grabs back his bag as Anya looks at him with growing irritation. Xander holds the bag like a security blanket as he embraces Anya’s contention that the chip eating is simply a stress-relieving mechanism for both of them. Well, duh! There’s a bit of cut dialogue here in which the couple discuss the wedding party – a cut scene that punches home the idea of keeping friends close, but enemies closer. Recognize the power structure underlying an apparent innocuous situation and you’ve solved the problem. And there’s an interesting mention of one of the little bads of Season Seven:

    ANYA: We cannot seat the Gnarl Demon at table five.
    XANDER: Why not? He's single. Table Five's for singles.
    ANYA: But your aunt and uncle are at table two. Table two's more prominent. We don't want to insult a Gnarl, trust me.
    XANDER: It's our wedding, not his.
    ANYA: We don't strip people's flesh from their bones when we feel insulted.
    This joke must have gone over big despite its excision from the script. It’s probably a reference to Han Solo’s line about Wookies in the original Star Wars: “It’s not wise to upset a Wookie” – but the name was used again to describe Willow’s tormentor in Season Seven:

    DAWN: A demon called "Gnarl." He's a parasite with these nasty long fingernails. He secretes something through them and uses that to paralyze his victims. He then cuts strips of their skin while they're still alive. It takes hours.
    Dawn is pretty handy with the books in Season Seven – but in Season Six, she’s still Buffy’s little kid sister. As Anya and Xander both munch on chips in a dual stress-eating binge, Dawn bounces up happily behind them with two drinks.

    DAWN: How's the soon-to-be newlyweds, guys? Nervous?
    ANYA: NO!
    DAWN: Okay, I'll just be over here then.
    Dawn shrugs and walks over to Willow, handing her one of the drinks.

    DAWN: Your Arnold Palmer, m'lady.
    The Arnold Palmer is a “mocktail” mixing lemonade and iced tea. Another example of appearances being deceiving – but the non-alcoholic concoction seems to make Dawn feel especially adult. And the fact that Willow is having the same drink creates a bond between them – Willow’s abstention from alcohol a symbol of her recovery from magical addiction.

    WILLOW: Thanks. How are Mr. and Mrs. High-strung?
    DAWN: I'm betting they explode.
    WILLOW: You know when I was little, I used to spend hours imagining what my wedding to Xander would be like. And now that I see them together I just think – Nyeah heh.
    I love AH’s expression as she looks at Xander and Anya struggling to work out their wedding plans and turns back to Dawn with a delightful grin as she mocks them. This, of course, is obvious set up for Riley’s return – Buffy wondering what her life might have been like if she hadn’t somehow forced Riley to seek out vamp whores and then leave her because she was too busy dealing with a gravely ill mother and a sister hunted down by a God to pay enough attention to him. Uh, wait, did I just say that?

    But the trip down memory lane seems to do Willow some good – she’s happy because she feels that the real target of her current affection – Tara – is almost ready to perhaps allow Willow back into her life again. Willow also knows that Tara will be one of the bridesmaids – and she’ll get even more time then to reconnect with her. And she literally sways with giddy joy as Dawn smiles and laughs too, finding Willow’s attitude infectious.

    DAWN: You're awfully chipper tonight.
    WILLOW: Can't hide it.
    DAWN: Big wedding coming up. Lots of date possibilities. You and Tara are speaking again. You want to call her? Invite her over?
    WILLOW: No. Still too soon for so bold a maneuver. But -- if I did call? She wouldn't hang up on me.
    DAWN: That's progress.
    WILLOW: Hence the happy.
    Progress. Willow’s view of the future is so different from the glum Buffy, who sees no road ahead of her except more sex with Spike and flipping burgers day after day after day. There’s a cut scene here with Willow pointing out a cute guy who’s checking Dawn out – he asks Dawn to dance as Willow watches approvingly. It’s a scene that should have included Buffy – but she’s no longer privy to the important moments in Dawn’s life that show she’s growing up. She’s cleaning her coat in the basement instead.

    We cut to similar-sounding music, coming from a crappy old am/fm portable radio. Buffy's doing laundry in the basement. She loads some wash, then takes a load out of the dryer. Holds up her coat for inspection. It still has the grass stains. She sighs, starts scrubbing the stain again.
    The song Buffy is listening to is apt for cleaning her coat – it’s “Washes Away” by Trespassers William and it obviously pertains to Buffy’s relationship with Spike:

    THIS IS ALL (“Washes Away” BY Trespassers William)
    Buffy left DoubleMeat Palace wearing the coat, fought with the skank-vamp wearing the coat, had sex with Spike still wearing the coat or using it as a blanket (hence the grass stains), spot cleans the coat, sleeps all night on the couch with the coat draped over her and runs after the garbage men wearing the coat again. Like Xander’s security blanket, the yellow coat seems to be something of a security blanket for Buffy – Stoney can probably do a better color analysis than me of why the coat is yellow, but it’s utilized as a prop throughout the scenes of Buffy’s degradation.

    Can Buffy really not afford to take her jacket to the dry cleaners? It seems she spends literally hours trying to scrub the grass stain out.
    Yes, MikeB, that is odd. But I’d probably do the same thing – attempt to clean it myself and then send it out to the cleaners if it won’t budge. But I’m also guessing that Buffy is trying to punish herself for giving in and having sex with Spike. In her guilty mind, she must feel that part of her penance – what she deserves – is to scrub this damn coat for a long time to try and get the stain out. The grass stain on the yellow coat obviously represents the relationship with Spike that she’s trying to hide from the others and like Lady Macbeth, it’s out, out, damned spot.

    But no matter how long she scrubs, it’s no use. The stain remains, visible to everyone. She’s so tired after her busy night trying to juggle work and slaying and sex and laundry – especially failing to remove the stain – that she falls asleep fully dressed on the couch, covered by the coat.

    Early the next morning. The first rays of morning light filter through the living room window. Buffy lies asleep in her clothes on the couch, laundry basket beside her. Suddenly, the silence is broken by the bleating sound a truck makes when it's backing up It's accompanied by the sound of the garbage men clanging cans around outside. Buffy awakes with a start.
    BUFFY: Oh, garbage!
    She gets up, still groggy, rushing from the couch – Buffy comes running out the house, holding an overstuffed garbage bag in each hand, racing to catch up to the garbage truck that's driving away, down the street.
    BUFFY: Wait! Wait up! Guys –
    The garbage truck turns a corner and is gone.
    This scene doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not as if garbage trucks travel miles between houses – they’re pretty steady as they make their way down the block and all Buffy had to do was run a little faster and she would have caught up with them. Being the Slayer does have its benefits. But Buffy is apparently so out of it that she never thinks of running after the truck.

    Buffy just stands there, her arms sinking, unable to believe she's yearning for a damn garbage truck to come back.
    BUFFY: Don't you want your garbage?
    So Buffy stinks and no one wants her garbage – except Spike, of course.

    It’s degradation time again – dragging Buffy through the mud in almost every scene. It gets to the point where you’re afraid for what will happen to her in every subsequent scene. If she were to turn on the faucet, it would no doubt explode and destroy her hairdo; the stove would start belching smoke all over her new clothes; the refrigerator would start spewing ice cubes in her face and knock out a tooth.

    As I said, the humiliation that she goes through in almost every scene is almost grotesque. Why is Buffy shamed for trying to make it through a very trying period in which she has to juggle parenting, working and slaying in addition to household chores like washing, cooking and cleaning? And apparently with no help at all from anyone else. There’s an infuriating moment here when Buffy enters the house, looking through mail, and Dawn says:

    DAWN: Hey, Buffy. Oh, don't forget – today's trash day.
    BUFFY: Thanks.
    If Dawn remembers, why doesn’t she take out the garbage herself? Didn’t she just finish cooking and probably throwing out a bunch of things? She’s fifteen going on sixteen – not ten. Does Dawn have any chores at all? The mess that she leaves in the kitchen from making breakfast is unbelievable – and apparently, Buffy is expected to clean it all.

    As Dawn packs her book bag, Buffy reads a rejection letter from UC:

    BUFFY: "Dear Miss Summers, we are sorry to reject your – “
    DAWN: What's that?
    BUFFY: Nothing.
    And we see why Dawn isn’t doing any chores. After the disaster of Older and Far Away , Buffy tries her best to be the happy homemaker to assure Dawn that everything will be taken care of. Buffy is so isolated from her own sister – so intent on keeping up appearances that she doesn’t ask Dawn to do chores and she doesn’t even tell Dawn about her rejection letter from UC Sunnydale. She bears the pain and rejection alone – and the implication is that Buffy is deliberately punishing herself for not being the person she once was.

    Why didn’t Buffy reapply to UC Sunnydale during “Life Serial” (B 6.05) or near afterward? And did Buffy not check the deadlines ‘checklist’? In addition, Buffy in BtVS S4 and BtVS S5 seems to only be taking ‘general education’ classes. Not getting back into UCSD isn’t the end of the world given Buffy can simply go to a junior college and take more general education classes or better yet some introductory business classes or whatever and then go back to UCSD in a future semester.
    I think the point is supposed to be that Buffy is so out of it – so discombobulated by her resurrection and depression – that she’s not thinking clearly. The letter doesn’t reject her because of grades – it faults her for missing the deadline. Since we’re now clearly three months past her birthday, one assumes that Buffy misread the application and sent it in under the deadline for new students, not readmits.

    To be honest, as an alumni of the UC system, the letter doesn’t make any sense. To readmit for the Spring Session, the deadline would have been in November – for the Fall Session, it would be June 1 – which is only a few months away. Even if they were on the quarter system like UC Santa Cruz, Buffy would only have to wait until June to resume her studies. The letter clearly states that she had to reapply before January 15, 2002 – but gives no particular semester/quarter and even the address is wrong (1630 Crestview). One has to assume either that they have the wrong address or Buffy changed her address in Season Four or Five to keep Big Bads away from her mother’s house and there’s another place somewhere where mail is forwarded to her house.

    DAWN: Huh. Bronze was fun last night. In a total home by elevenish way. You should have come.
    BUFFY: Maybe next time. Where are you going?
    DAWN: School.
    BUFFY: Oh. That's good.
    Buffy is so temporarily confused that she can’t even remember that it’s a weekday and Dawn has to go to school. But she does remember the most important meal of the day.

    BUFFY: Uh, don't you want some breakfast first?
    DAWN: Already made it. See you this afternoon. Unless you're working? Tonight, then... Or, you know, Tomorrow's cool – Don't work too hard. Bye!
    BUFFY: Bye.
    Buffy just watches Dawn go. Then she turns back to face the kitchen. It's a MESS. Uncleaned frying pan on the stove, sink full of dishes, syrup bottle and melting butter left around.
    So Buffy stinks, no one wants her garbage and now she’s stuck with another fine mess. Must be Tuesday. Life at DoubleMeat Palace must look pretty good right now. Or rough sex with Spike to unload a whole boatload of aggression. But as Petrie writes in the stage directions, she goes through the motions – but there’s not even a fun song to divert her from the droning of her manager boss, who is still going on about the power structure and what happens when you don’t understand it:

    A sizzling row of burgers -- a spatula enters frame and expertly flips them one by one. We see Buffy, looking like a drone, back where she started, just doing her job, going through the motions (in a non-musical way). Todd works beside her, loading up a tray of open buns with lettuce, tomato, special sauce –
    TODD: And that's where even your best political minds can drop the ball: zeitgeist. You're not taking the pulse of the public, next thing you know, you're LBJ handing the house keys over to Nixon. Heard back from your college yet?
    BUFFY: Yeah.
    TODD: All right. You know we're outta special sauce?
    The inherent phoniness of his “All right” to hearing that Buffy’s heard back from her college is comical – he doesn’t even know or care whether she’s been admitted – he’s just making all the right noises as a good politician would, keeping up appearances. The manager’s obvious disinterest in whether Buffy’s even gotten in or not is superseded by his interest in the scarcity of special sauce for the burgers. There’s no time for any real discussion – time is money. Buffy sighs as she robotically turns over the fake meat patties (yet another instance of appearance reigning over the truth) and turns away.

    BUFFY: I'll get it.
    TODD: No, no – your turn up front. I'll deal back here – you take the customers.
    And Buffy walks up to the counter like the good little Buffybot fast food worker she is, speaking corporate tongue even before looking up at the customer.

    BUFFY: Welcome to the DoubleMeat Palace, how may I help –
    She looks up, mid-spiel. And freezes, stunned.
    I generally don’t comment on the stage directions in the script – but I believe several on this Forum have brought up how particularly off-putting they are in As You Were. Of all the Buffy writers, Petrie has a habit of inputting a lot of slangy direction that can be rather questionable imagery that is heavily charged with eye-rolling descriptions. For example, in Fool for Love, he writes of William the Bloody Awful Poet:

    We pan across the crowd to find, sitting alone and staring longingly out the window, young William. Spike before he was Spike. The biggest sissy imaginable. (Fool for Love)
    This has always rubbed me the wrong way – it’s written for a cheap laugh in the writer’s room and it’s weirdly homophobic and out of place for a show like Buffy. Petrie often describes the characters in really reductive ways that sometimes rely on a stereotypical and almost comedic take on what he perceives to be masculinity at its finest. And the descriptions of Riley don’t disappoint – they are hilariously overwrought.

    Petrie was the writer to first introduce Riley as an Initiative Special Agent in The Initiative and his description of Riley was already a bit much:

    Riley takes center, speaks with total authority. Gone is the goofy loveable college boy. This is SPECIAL AGENT FINN. Camera swirls around him as he issues commands.
    RILEY: We start with a basic mobilization pattern, three teams. Sweep and search, just like practice. Thorough but fast, C-Team – (The Initiative)
    But Petrie’s depiction of Riley upon his return to Sunnydale has to be one of the funniest descriptions in any Buffy shooting script:

    Reverse angle reveals she is looking right into the steely, handsome eyes of RILEY FINN. Looking intense, fit, and more handsome than ever in his stylin' lightweight kevlar battle gear (the new scar he's sporting above his right eye don't hurt none).
    This description could only be improved if William Shatner read it slowly with bongos thumping gently in the background.

    BUFFY You – ?
    RILEY: Hey.
    BUFFY: Hurn?
    And Buffy is in shock – like Scrooge coming face to face with Jacob Marley’s ghost, she seems to be wondering if she’s just eaten a bad bit of undigested fake beef, a blot of special sauce mustard, a crumb of cheese food, a fragment of an underdone DoubleMeat potato and started hallucinating.

    The conversation between the two is actually kind of funny as Riley plays the straight man to Buffy’s dazed screwball heroine:

    Riley stands, dressed like a commando, completely unself-conscious about the line forming behind him as Buffy just stares at him blankly. She's stunned.
    BUFFY: Riley.
    RILEY: I'm sorry to just drop in on you like this, Buffy
    BUFFY: It's you.
    RILEY: It's me.
    BUFFY: You're here.
    RILEY: I know.
    BUFFY: And -- were you always this tall?
    RILEY: This isn't the way I wanted it, but something's come up. Something big. We don't have much time. You understand?
    BUFFY: Not a word you've said so far.
    RILEY: Right. I should have known – anticipated. You're working.
    BUFFY: Just counter, not grill –
    RILEY: I want to explain. But don't have time. I've been up forty-eight hours straight tracking something bad to Sunnydale and now it's here.
    BUFFY: My hat has a cow.
    RILEY: I know I'm putting you on the spot showing up like this, but here we are. I need the best. I need you, Buffy Can you help me?
    But look at their dialogue independently of each other. I think we’re meant to compare and contrast the two and see how much Riley has grown in comparison to Buffy. Special Agent Riley Finn appears to be all action man, decisive and serious, chasing down the bad guys with a no nonsense attitude:

    RILEY: It’s me. I know. This isn’t the way I wanted it, but something’s come up. Something big. We don’t have much time. You understand? Right. I should have known – anticipated. You’re working. I want to explain. But don’t have time. I’ve been up forty-eight hours straight tracking something bad to Sunnydale and now it’s here. I know I'm putting you on the spot showing up like this, but here we are. I need the best. I need you. Buffy, can you help me?
    Riley’s responses are almost like a monologue, practiced and effective – no doubt he’s been pondering what he’s going to say to Buffy and how he’s going to get her to help him from the moment he realized the demon was heading towards Sunnydale. Whereas Buffy is lethargic and confused and without purpose. Her responses are almost monosyllabic and stream-of-consciousness – immediate reactions to his arrival that barely register what he’s saying:

    BUFFY: Riley. It’s you. You’re here. And were you always this tall? Not a word you’ve said so far. Just counter, not grill. My hat has a cow.
    What’s interesting is how little Buffy’s responses matter in terms of what he’s saying – like the manager boss who speaks affirmatively about Buffy’s attempt to reenter UC Sunnydale while not really listening, Riley is making a whole series of assumptions about what Buffy’s thinking and feeling with very little input from her. It’s not deliberate, but it’s still keeping her somewhat on the sidelines in terms of any real response.

    And that may be because Riley can’t allow the conversation to get into personal issues – not yet, anyway. The danger is too great and time is too short to have that kind of talk. Just as the DoubleMeat Palace boss doesn’t need a college student – he needs a worker – Riley doesn’t need Buffy at the moment – what he needs is the Slayer. And that’s something that Buffy can understand – it’s the old punch and delete. So we get another gem from Petrie:

    TODD: Hello -- Buffy? People are waiting.
    He's right -- people are waiting. And one of them, the only one Buffy sees, is handsome Black Ops combat specialist Riley Finn.
    This is almost verging on comedy – and it’s also rather insulting to Buffy. In watching the scene, I’d always imagined that she happily flung off her DoubleMeat Palace cow hat in search of adventure and an opportunity to do some big game hunting of another Big Bad. But the script makes it clear that she’s just starry-eyed over tall, handsome Riley Finn, the only person she sees. The man who can take her away from all this and make things better again. It’s appearance winning again over reality and there’s a small cut scene that makes it clear that’s what Petrie is going for:

    Buffy and Riley rush onto Main Street together -- they're quite the odd couple -- he in his battle gear, she in her DoubleMeat Palace uniform. They walk fast, in sync, all business.
    RILEY: What's that guy's deal?
    BUFFY: Todd? He's got just enough authority to make my life miserable.
    RILEY: You sure this is all right? I don't want to get you fired.
    BUFFY: From the DoubleMeat Palace? Tougher than you'd think. So you're tracking a demon.
    RILEY: As per usual.
    BUFFY: So, are you just tracking through or – are you – will you stay?
    She doesn't want him to hear the tinge of aching hope in that question.
    Buffy’s falling for a very old trope – the hope that an ex-lover from the past will magically repair all the things that have gone wrong in the intervening time. Dickens parodies this in Little Dorrit when a depressive Arthur Clennam is eager to see his old love again in the hopes of turning back the years and fixing his life – only to find her obnoxious and unpleasant. And she seems to have forgotten how awkward their relationship was because she was the Slayer and how hard Riley tried to compensate – even in bed:

    BUFFY: Mm, that was relaxing.
    RILEY: You, uh – wanna relax some more?
    BUFFY: Again? Right away again?
    RILEY: Maybe you're too tired.
    BUFFY: Hey. I have the endurance of ten men.
    RILEY: Let's make it women, okay? Just for the imagery.
    BUFFY: Whatever. You know, it takes a lot to wear me out.
    RILEY: Oh, I love a challenge. (Out of My Mind)
    So how did Riley know where Buffy was? Did he show up at her house only to be told by Dawn that she worked at DoubleMeat Palace? Or does he have vast connections that let him know exactly where to find her? At any rate, Riley makes it clear that he’s not ready to talk about the past – or the future. He’s got a demon to hunt down.

    RILEY: Look. I'm sorry this is all so sudden. You know, if we get a minute, I'd really like to sit down –
    Riley is interrupted by a small electronic BEEP coming from his belt.
    BUFFY: What is it?
    RILEY: Suvolte Demon. Rare. Lethal. Nearly extinct, but not nearly enough. It's close.
    He unclips a small rectangular device from his belt, checks its electronic readings. Buffy LAUGHS, catches herself, covers her mouth.
    RILEY: What?
    BUFFY: I'm sorry, I just – you still carry around all that James Bond stuff. It's so cute, I forgot.
    And finally we get a glimpse of the old Buffy back – the one who found all of Riley’s macho high-tech gear to be adorably weak in comparison to her natural power. At her laugh, Riley gives her a look that would fry the fur off a cat – and Buffy puts on her ‘very serious’ face in response.

    BUFFY: Sorry. Carry on.
    RILEY: We've been tear-assing through every jungle from Paraguay up , taking out nests. Soon as we put one Suvolte down, a dozen take its place. They're breeders, Buffy. One turns into ten, ten become a hundred – this gets out of hand and there's a war with humans? Humans are gonna lose.
    BUFFY: So they’re like really mean Tribbles. I've been dealing with some geeks lately, it's a whole thing.
    Buffy’s constant baiting of Riley’s oh-so-important-mission should be proof enough of why they’re not suited for each other at all. Although Buffy takes her job seriously, she does it with a sense of humor that Riley sorely lacks. As opposed to Angel and Spike – who are both drowning in mordant humor even as they fight the bad guys – Riley is incredibly earnest in his job.

    I still find it very odd that Whedon believes that the problem with Riley as Buffy’s boyfriend was that he was a normal, human, all-American guy – when the biggest problem to me seems to be a total lack of acknowledgement that things can be very different than what they appear to be on the surface – which is the fundamental definition of irony. In ancient Greek, the word eirōneía means dissimulation or feigned ignorance – the Socratic Method derives from this idea – the clever underdog who triumphs over the arrogant fool through wit and wisdom. It’s a disruptive force that undermines the kind of power-based force that Riley represents – black operations that work outside of the normal laws of society often to the detriment of the general populace. Not unlike the Watchers Council and their own Wetworks Gang of merry murderers.

    Those within the Riley’s black ops group apparently see themselves as a force for good – the secrecy of their doings necessary to protect the innocence of the public. But Riley wasn’t always that secure after the events of Season Four – his mistrust of the government was intense:

    GRAHAM: What's goin' on, man? You gotta get this taken care of immediately. We gotta get you into an operating room.
    RILEY: Very convincing. Makes me completely wanna put myself under government control. Please take me where they can make me unconscious and naked.
    GRAHAM: Hey, you think I'd pull something on you?
    RILEY: You're still in. I'm out. I don't know what orders you're following.
    GRAHAM: Oh, come on. You know Walsh pumped all those chemicals and crap into us. You got more than anyone. She messed us up bad.
    RILEY: And now the government's knocking themselves out to kiss it and make it better.
    GRAHAM: Riley, I'm tellin' you, you need help. I'm not saying it to trick you.
    RILEY: Maybe you even believe it.
    GRAHAM: I know it. You don't want this.
    RILEY: You're sure you got the fix for it?
    GRAHAM: Yeah. We got a guy, a doctor. He's gonna take care of you, and we're going to him now. I'm not givin' you a choice.
    RILEY: I guess you're not.
    Suddenly he punches Graham in the face. The other two agents grab both Riley's arms but he throws one of them off, knees the other one in the stomach and punches him. He blocks a kick from the first one, punches him, clotheslines him, throws the other one to the ground and runs off. (Out of My Mind)
    Of course, the real reason that Riley’s resistant to fixing his overactive heart may be the fear that he’ll no longer be able to keep up with Buffy if he loses his extra powers brought on by the drugs.

    BUFFY: This stops now. I'm taking you to the doctor.
    RILEY: The one from the government, you mean? Like the ones who did this to me in the first place? BUFFY: He's the only one that understands what's wrong with you. He's the only one that can help.
    RILEY: What's wrong with me? I'm more powerful than I've ever been, Buffy. Most people would kill to feel this way.
    BUFFY: Yeah, and this feeling is *going* to kill you. Riley, your body was not built for this kind of strength –
    RILEY: I can handle it. This is my deal, Buffy, just back off.
    BUFFY: What is this? What's happening to you?
    RILEY: I go back – let the government get whimsical with my innards again. They could do anything that- Best-case scenario, they turn me into Joe Normal, just – just another guy.
    BUFFY: And that's not enough for you?
    RILEY: It's not enough for *you*.
    BUFFY: Why would you say that?
    RILEY: Come on. Your last boyfriend wasn't exactly a civilian.
    BUFFY: So that's what this is about? You're going to die, all over some macho pissing contest.
    RILEY: It's not about him. It's about us. You're getting stronger every day, more powerful. I can't touch you. Every day, you're just a little further out of my reach.
    BUFFY: You wanna touch me? I'm right here. I'm not the one running away.
    RILEY: Not yet.
    BUFFY: So you have this all figured out? I'm bailing because you're not in the super club.
    RILEY: It's human nature.
    BUFFY: Don't Psych 101 me. Not now. Not after everything that – nobody has ever known me the way you do. Nobody. I've opened up to you in ways that I've never opened up to – God, you're just sitting back there thinking that none of this means anything to me.
    RILEY: I never said that.
    BUFFY: Because it obviously doesn't mean anything to you. Do you really think so little of me?
    RILEY: Buffy –
    BUFFY: No! No. Do you think that I spent the last year with you because you had super powers? If that's what I wanted, then I'd be dating Spike. Riley, I need you. I need you with me and I need you healthy. But if you wanna throw it all away because you don't trust me, then I'm still gonna make you go to that doctor.
    RILEY: Take me to him. (Out of My Mind)
    Once healed, however, Riley seems to drop his cynical attitude and become more interested in work on the side because Buffy is too preoccupied with her mom’s illness. And it’s apparent to his friend Graham that it’s only a matter of time until he moves on.

    GRAHAM: It's a good thing Buffy found you when she did, 'cause you were about to detonate big-time. Always said she's pretty impressive.
    RILEY: You know, she really is.
    GRAHAM: But you know you don't belong here, right? This town? I mean, you're nothin' here.
    RILEY: Hey. What are you saying?
    GRAHAM: Come on, man. You know it's true. There's nothing for you here.
    RILEY: There's her.
    GRAHAM: Okay, right, there's her. And? You used to have a mission, and now you're what? The mission's boyfriend? Mission's true love? (Out of My Mind)
    This interesting line is “you used to have a mission” – and what mission was that, Graham? Working for a crazy scientist who was building a demon monster to subjugate mankind? Riley’s right to be skeptical of any kind of offer Graham might make coming from the same people. It’s not as if they’ve changed head of operations – they temporarily closed down the Initiative when things went wrong.

    There’s a long history, sadly, of the American government (and others) experimenting on their own soldiers without consent and for most people, it’d be a cold day in Hell before they’d work again for an organization that literally left him to die. But Riley is constantly asking Buffy to use the Initiative to help her with Glory – and Buffy absolutely refuses because she knows what they’d do to Dawn if they found out what she was:

    GILES: All right. Willow, you and Tara find out everything you can about the actual legend of Vlad the Impaler on the Internet, (Willow and Tara nod) and, uh, I'll check the library. (Everyone starts to get up)
    RILEY: If the Initiative was still around, we'd be able to find everything on this guy in a few hours.
    BUFFY: We might not be as fast, but we'll find him. (Buffy vs. Dracula)
    And again:

    BUFFY: We all have to be careful. This demon chick is exciting and new. I don't know what I'm up against.
    RILEY: If we're in trouble here I could contact Graham, maybe get the government boys on it –
    BUFFY: No! No, I don't want them anywhere near this.
    RILEY: Just a suggestion.
    BUFFY: Look, the fewer people that are involved, the safer I will feel.
    RILEY: Every time I think I'm getting close to you – I gotta take off.
    BUFFY: Wait! What?
    RILEY: I'll call you later.
    BUFFY: Riley! I *want* you to help. I'm not –
    RILEY: Yeah. Know you got a lot on your mind. You decide you wanna let me in on any of it, let me know. I'll come running. (Family)
    Of course, Riley doesn’t know about Dawn – he never does. And it’s interesting to speculate why Buffy never tells him. She never tells Riley about her sojourn in heaven either, as far as we know. Does she sincerely trust him? It’s not only Riley, though – Buffy keeps secrets from others throughout the series, including Angel and Spike. But Riley does the same – not only with vamp whores, but going behind the backs of the gang and calling his buddies when they find something from another planet.

    RILEY: Yeah, I think that's a good call. There could have been some other cases like this. I'm gonna stay here, examine the body some more, look around a little bit.
    XANDER: Yeah, don't do anything hunterly.
    RILEY: No, no, I'm just not great at research, which I'm sure you guys figured out. I like me a good crime scene.
    GILES: Um, give us a call if you need help.
    RILEY: Believe me, something jumps out at me in the dark, you'll hear me even without the phone. Call me if you learn anything.
    WILLOW: You got it. I don't wanna be the one who finds the bodies any more.
    Riley watches them go, crouching next to the body. Then he gets up and takes out his cell phone, dials.
    RILEY: I need to speak to the man at the desk. This is Ag – this is Riley Finn. You have an Agent Miller, Graham Miller, he'll tell you who. Yes. Emergency frequency. (Listening to Fear)
    And when they arrive, Graham gives Riley a hard time – why didn’t he call Buffy? Of course, she’s with her dying mother, but no need to mention that.

    ELLIS: You Finn?
    RILEY: Yeah.
    ELLIS: Major Ellis. I'm in charge of this op. What's the situation, just the one civilian casualty?
    RILEY: That I know of. This way.
    GRAHAM: You found a stiff in the woods and called us in? Don't you usually call your girlfriend for this kind of thing?
    RILEY: I wouldn't touch that stuff in his mouth if I were you.
    ELLIS: Toxic?
    RILEY: No, just messy. Guy seemed to have simply choked on the stuff. Near as I can tell, it's some kind of protein alkaloid.
    ELLIS: Does this fit the profile of any Sub-T you're familiar with?
    RILEY: Not subterrestrial, Major. Extraterrestrial. It came outta that.
    ELLIS: Miller, set the trackers for a protein signature.
    GRAHAM: Yes sir.
    RILEY: No good, Major. This alkaloid's breaking down at an accelerated rate. It's dissolving too fast to track.
    ELLIS: You got a better idea?
    RILEY: Thing came from space. Gotta be some trace radiation.
    ELLIS: We have Geiger counters in the packs.
    RILEY: Shouldn't be too much background gamma noise out here.
    ELLIS: Break 'em out. (Listening to Fear)
    And this work excites Finn – Geiger counters, trackers, a clear target and people who take him seriously. Not only that, but they want him back.

    A commando is sitting on a sofa fiddling with some high-tech equipment: he has headphones on his ears. Graham walks over to a table where Major Ellis has some maps spread out.
    ELLIS: What've we got?
    GRAHAM: Belize. Last transmission. Infra-red scans say they're –
    ELLIS: Breeding. They're not gonna stay in that village for long. Looks like we got ourselves a hot spot. Tell the men to get ready.
    GRAHAM: What about Riley? Agent Finn. I'm telling you, sir, if we go in for a sweep and drop, he's definitely a guy we want on the team.
    ELLIS: Well, let's bring him on board.
    GRAHAM: It, uh, might take a little convincing.
    ELLIS: Why? What's he got here in Sunnydale that's so special? (Into the Woods)
    And just as Riley is exposed for getting suck jobs in the vamp house, they come to Riley with their offer:

    RILEY: Get out.
    ELLIS: I need to talk to you.
    RILEY: I'm not in a talkin' mood.
    ELLIS: Then listen.
    GRAHAM: Riley, just give the man a chance. You don't like what you hear, we'll be on our way.
    RILEY: Talk fast.
    ELLIS: We have a Code One in Belize. A demon tribe is taking apart missionaries in the rain forest down there.
    RILEY: And you're telling me this because?
    ELLIS: We're going down to terminate their operation. We want you to join us.
    RILEY: I'm a civilian.
    ELLIS: You're a soldier.
    RILEY: I quit the government a long way back.
    ELLIS: We're not government. We're army.
    GRAHAM: Just like you.
    ELLIS: It's not the Initiative, Finn. We don't do experiments. None of us give a damn what makes monsters tick. We just stop 'em.
    RILEY: What do you need me for?
    ELLIS: I think you can handle yourself. And I always need bodies. I'm not gonna lie to you. It's the real deal. High risk, low pay, and seriously messy. We ship out for Central America tomorrow midnight. Now maybe civilian life is working out for you – and maybe not. Midnight. Tomorrow. The decision's yours. (Into the Woods)
    The whole bit about a demon tribe taking apart missionaries is a weird little line – but one assumes that this demon “tribe” is connected to the eventual pursuit of the Suvolte demon nest, Belize being in Central America. Or it’s possible that it’s a tribe of demons who migrated because of the Suvolte demon who perhaps was an aggressor who saw them as prey and they migrated into new territory. Riley’s only been gone a year – it’s possible that it took that long to figure it all out.

    RILEY: They want me back, Buffy – the military. It's deep undercover, no contact with civilians. Transport's leaving tonight. (Into the Woods)
    One assumes that the demon they’re talking about is the Suvolte demon – since it’s in Belize and that’s where Riley said they were tracking it.

    But who is Riley actually working for? We know it’s some subgroup of the US Army – but it’s never quite clear – and why should Buffy trust their motives anyway after the fiasco of Adam and the Initiative? For all she knows, they’re tracking down the Suvolte Demon to create a new super weapon – it seems ridiculously naïve of her to believe Riley at all. But she’s so desperate to find some way out of her situation that she takes everything at face value – Riley, his mission and the possibility of them reuniting again.

    We hear a roar and a horrible metal crunch. Buffy and Riley whirl – we see what they see: a SUVOLTE DEMON smashing over a metal newspaper machine, ripping metal in half and sending papers flying about. People panic, running from the thing.
    RILEY: You ready for this?
    BUFFY: Yes please.
    Riley rushes forward, pressing through the crowd. He and Buffy move counter to the flow of panicked civilians. Riley raises a BADGE above his head.
    RILEY: National Forestry Service! We got a wild bear! Everybody step back!
    Buffy makes a face as Riley spews his bulls**t about a wild bear – doesn’t he know Sunnydale residents don’t remember anything anyway? But as a political move in the spirit of her boss, Riley manages the civilians with aplomb. There’s a bit of slap and tickle as Buffy and Riley fight the incredibly strong creature. Not surprisingly in this episode, the demon’s almost too strong for Buffy and it throws her off to lead them on a chase and then leap over a wall and escape – but not before being hit by Riley’s tracker.

    RILEY: You all right?
    BUFFY: I'll feel better when we catch it. But it's too fast.
    RILEY: I wouldn't necessarily say that.
    He grins just slightly and we cut to Riley, driving a very cool, very fast vehicle at high speeds.
    Ah, yes, Petrie’s given Riley a very cool, very fast vehicle at high speed. As Spike says, shiny, shaped like a penis.

    “As You Were” seems to try to ‘hammer home’ how ‘pathetic’ Buffy is and how ‘pathetic’ Buffy is doing compared to Riley Finn. But it’s very likely Buffy’s net worth is considerably higher than Riley’s. Buffy still owns the Summers’s home, Buffy still has a moneyed father, etc. And in the supernatural world, Sam is quite a step down from Buffy and Spike is quite a step up from Riley. Riley’s body armor seems at least a size too small. Riley’s facial scar seems reminiscent of John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
    MikeB, your description of Riley’s body armor as a size too small made my day! I try to imagine the costume designer pulling their hair out trying to find Kevlar in Riley’s size – as it is, Riley’s unit must be cheap mother f**kers to dress him up in obvious second-hand armor from some army surplus store! Appearances, appearances. I was actually thinking about the scar as akin like Buffy’s grass stain – it’s an outward sign of who Riley has become.

    It’s hard to know what the comparative incomes of Buffy and Riley would be – but I don’t think that’s the point. Buffy’s money is tied to the house whereas Riley obviously has a movable income. Buffy is tied to Dawn whereas Riley has the freedom to go anywhere he wants. It’s true that in terms of supernatural powers, both Riley and Sam don’t remotely compare to Buffy and Spike. But this episode seems to lean a little on the side of the non-supernatural in terms of power structure. Buffy’s impressed by the car – it’s a symbol of everything that she’s lacking in the moment – money, power, freedom, and excitement.

    BUFFY: Nice wheels.
    RILEY: Came with the car.
    BUFFY: Know where we're going?
    RILEY: Got an idea.
    Close on: Riley's dashboard -- a built in TRACKING MONITOR displays a map of Sunnydale. A glowing red dot beeps softly just-off center. The Demon.
    RILEY: Tag's on-line. We'll find it.
    BUFFY: How's the arm?
    RILEY: It'll heal. How're you doing?
    BUFFY: Complicated question.
    RILEY: I just meant --
    BUFFY: I know.
    RILEY: I hear you. Got big stories to tell you, too. We get half a sec –
    BUFFY: Did you die?
    RILEY: No.
    BUFFY: I'm gonna win.
    Riley’s expression is nonplussed – instead of laughing or even asking Buffy what she means, he doesn’t want to know at that moment – and changes the subject to Buffy changing her clothes in preparation for battle. The real issue seems to be that Riley doesn’t know how to tell Buffy about Sam – he most likely didn’t expect to come back and see Buffy in such a miserable state. We learn later that Riley noticed the special scent of DoubleMeat after all – but like Spike, he’s never mentions it.

    RILEY: Here. No offense, but this is black ops, and you look like a pylon.
    BUFFY: Ninja wear?
    RILEY: Battle gear. Lightweight Kevlar. State of the art.
    BUFFY: What a surprise.
    RILEY: Boys like toys. Put it on. Thank me later.
    BUFFY: You won't look?
    RILEY: I'm a gentleman.
    So what was the reason for Buffy to actually change into the body armor? She’s never found a need to wear it before – and there doesn’t seem to be anything exceedingly different about a Suvolte demon that would require Kevlar armor or any other battle gear. It doesn’t cut your heart out of your chest like The Gentlemen or poison you with venom like the Glarghk Guhl Kashmas'nik demon in Normal Again. And we’ve just seen the demon rip through metal like paper – it could have just ripped Riley’s head from his shoulders if it wanted, armor or no armor.

    So the need for the armor seems to be all about how “we must disguise ourselves lest others find our black ops mission to follow the demon and track down its nest” theme. This brings up a whole host of problems about the entire plotline that doesn’t make much sense including the fact that Buffy’s already wearing a dark black coat that would work as cover for their operation. Does the Suvolte demon react badly to orange or something?

    It’s really all nonsense and seems to be here only to get Buffy in the same outfit as Sam in order to make her really feel the kind of life she’s missed out on – one of high tech and perpetual excitement. There’s also the unpleasant thought that Riley has Buffy change in order to place them on the same level – comrades in arms rather than a mercenary and the Slayer.

    RILEY: So come on, let's test this puppy out. Think you can take me?
    Riley throws a few fake punches at Buffy. She mostly ignores him, walking farther into the room.
    RILEY: What's the matter, afraid of a little competition? (Out of My Mind)
    It’s been clear from the start that without Professor Walsh’s drugs, Riley isn’t much stronger than Xander in a supernatural fight – and the shame over his sudden weakness is just one of the things that drive him to play with vamp whores.

    RILEY: May be more where that came from. I say we go back out again tonight.
    BUFFY: Um... sure.
    DAWN: You can't patrol. Buffy said.
    BUFFY: No, I didn't.
    DAWN: Yeah, remember? You said it'd be easier if you didn't have to look out for anybody.
    BUFFY: Well, I wasn't talking about Riley.
    RILEY: Don't worry about it.
    DAWN: Oh, she just said you look even cuter when you're all weak and kitteny and she'd better go solo or you'd get hurt. So welcome to the club. She'll never let me go either. (No Place Like Home)
    The difference in power relations between Buffy and Riley – Buffy was the Slayer in charge of Sunnydale whereas Riley away from his military group was basically sidelines by the Scoobies – has changed. Now Buffy’s lost her mother and her support system and her Watcher, forced to take care of Dawn on a limited income and do her slaying on the side. And Riley seems to be embarrassed by this – no doubt, he was expecting the same Buffy that he left behind, strong and morally righteous. So the body armor may possibly be a way to make her feel more on his level than the opposite.

    Of course, there’s an even more unpleasant thought that Riley’s a married man who’s insisting that Buffy change in front of him for a very, very flimsy reason.

    Why didn’t Buffy keep the battle armor? Why didn’t the US Government or Riley give the Scoobies battle armor and other ‘Initiative’ technology?
    Like guns, I don’t think Buffy feels that battle armor is much help to her for 99% of demons – her body is tough as nails to begin with and with super powered healing, the weight would probably be a hindrance. The real question is – why don’t they have cell phones? Costly, yes, but they would be an enormous help in chasing down vampires rather than using Willow’s telepathic skills. A Handspring Treo 180 was about 180 dollars and Willow/Tara could have gotten them discounted at least 40% as students at UC. At least Giles could have put out some cash for the phones considering he’s drawing a salary thanks to Buffy while she languishes at DoubleMeat Palace.

    As for any government assistance, I doubt they’d give anything to Buffy of her free will. Riley and Buffy are drawn together by their dual necessity of keeping their demon hunting secret from the general population. But she’s not a member of their operation and she’s not even gone through basic training except for a few days under Maggie Walsh.

    Still, Buffy seems to consider the job Riley has in comparison to her own DoubleMeat drudgery – and the grass is definitely greener:

    BUFFY: Okay. So the black ops life – it's working out for you?
    RILEY: Don't suck.
    BUFFY: They got dental?
    RILEY: We're covered. You know, there's not a lot people I'd ask to risk their life for me, Buffy It's good to see you.
    BUFFY: Thanks.
    RILEY: Welcome. And Buffy?
    She looks to him.
    RILEY: Love the hair.
    Buffy smiles to herself. God, she's missed this so much. Riley hits the gas and together they race off, picking up speed, pushing 100.
    Yes, Riley’s awesome car is pushing 100 mph – I suppose this is to show how cool he is – because the lives of civilians who might be driving or walking nearby are so unimportant compared to Riley’s BIG mission. But some of it may be that he’s thinking of Buffy’s initial criticism of Giles’ car in The Replacement as they race to save Xander which turns into a mediation on whether Riley can love Buffy as the heroic Slayer:

    BUFFY: Can't this thing go any faster? Ultimate driving machine, my ass.
    RILEY: We're pushing 70.
    BUFFY: Riley, do you wish –
    RILEY: No.
    BUFFY: No? You don't even know what I was gonna say.
    RILEY: Yes, I do. You wanted to know if I wished you got hit by the ferula-gemina, got split in two.
    BUFFY: Well, you have been kind of rankly about the whole slayer gig. Instead of having slayer Buffy, you could have Buffy Buffy.
    RILEY: Hey. I *have* Buffy Buffy. Being the slayer's part of who you are. You keep thinking I don't get that, but –
    BUFFY: It's just – I know how – un-fun it can be. The bad hours, frequent bruising, cranky monsters –
    RILEY: Buffy, if you led a perfectly normal life, you wouldn't be half as crazy as you are. I gotta have that. I gotta have it all. I'm talkin' toes, elbows, the whole bad-ice-skating-movie obsession, everything. There's no part of you I'm not in love with. (The Replacement)
    Buffy must remember this conversation as they race again to stop another catastrophe from taking place – but this time, the positions are reversed and it’s Riley who’s doing all the heroic action now. And just as a resurrected Buffy tried to escape her life by having sex with Spike and handing over her moral agency in Dead Things, now she’s daydreaming of what it would be like to rely on Riley instead.

    RILEY’S INITIAL INTERACTIONS WITH BUFFY ARE SIMILAR TO ANGEL’S AT THE END OF “I WILL REMEMBER YOU” (A 1.08). – Riley wants to see Buffy’s reaction to seeing him. He wants to know what Buffy’s feelings still are for him. There’s no tactical reason to not show up with his wife. If the demon eggs things were dangerous enough, Riley could have an entire ‘Initiative’ team with him.
    That’s an interesting theory, MikeB, but I think the idea is that Riley and his wife are tracking the demon separately through different means. Riley’s got a tracker on him – but Sam may have some other, more technological means that they used in Belize to hunt the demon there. It’s pure happenstance that she arrives that early – Riley himself tells Buffy he thought he’d have more time alone with Buffy before she met Sam. I think that Riley is nervous that seeing Buffy again might trigger long-buried feelings and he’s probably surprised that she hasn’t moved on to someone else. Of course, we never do see them discuss her death – and it seems unlikely that they ever do because Riley surely would mention it a lot more if she told him that she had been in heaven.

    Riley lets Buffy believe Riley came back to see her and wants to be with her again. He’s relatively very flirty with her until his wife shows up. It seems Riley planned for Sam to talk to Buffy alone to find out if Buffy is dating anyone, has ‘moved on’ from Riley, etc. There’s no other good reason Riley pairs Sam with Buffy. That Riley never mentions Spike is very glaring. Either Riley assumes Spike is no longer slaying, no longer in Sunnydale, or he assumes it’s likely Buffy’s dating Spike.
    Riley is flirty with Buffy, it’s true. That – on top of not telling her about his wife – is very disconcerting and shows a lack of bravery despite his machismo in fighting demons. I think Riley didn’t expect Buffy to be so depressed and needy and he still loves her enough to feel ashamed and embarrassed when she flirts with him. In fact, he may delay telling her about Sam because he simply doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings.

    And we cut to nightmarish car journey of Xander and Anya who are also trying to figure out how to deal with their feelings while stuck sitting in traffic on the way to the airport – and Xander’s coping-mechanism of chip-eating has now been adopted by Anya.

    We cut to Xander and Anya, seated in their plain-old regular car, in the exact same positions as Riley and Buffy but going nowhere -- stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They both eat from bags of chips, which lie about the dashboard (amidst some empty, already-eaten ones).
    ANYA: I think we died in this car on the way to the airport. And now we're stuck in hell.
    XANDER: The radio said no traffic.
    ANYA: It's a hell radio. Of course it said that.
    Her joke is really a metaphor for her psychological state – anxious about the wedding and her choice to marry Xander. As a Vengeance Demon, Anya avenged wronged women, inflicting untold suffering on men. It’s only fitting that Anya would perceive Hell as eternally sitting in traffic on the way to pick up unwanted relatives for a wedding that will never happen.

    ANYA: We'll never get to the airport in time to pick up your stupid uncle.
    XANDER: It only gives my uncle Rory more time at the bar. Trust me. He'll be happy.
    Xander is talking about his infamous Uncle Rory, who ends up causing havoc in Hell’s Bells. For six years, Xander’s joked about his drunkenness, his womanizing and his profession as a taxidermist stuffing animals. Anya first met him when he welcomed her into Xander’s basement apartment (while smelling of peppermint) a short time after Xander and Anya first have sex and she seems well aware of his proclivities:

    ANYA: Yeah, we'll put D'Hoffryn at your parents' table, and move your Uncle Rory to table five near the bar.
    But now she’s realized that he’s actually going to be staying with them the week before the wedding – a time when one least wants to deal with a drunken skirt-chaser – she’s resentful.

    ANYA: Oh, great – so he can sleep off his drunken stupor on our newly re-upholstered couch?
    XANDER: He can't afford a hotel.
    ANYA: Why are you defending him?
    XANDER: I'm not. I hate my uncle. I hate my whole family. That's why I'm marrying you – to start a new family, have children, make them hate us, then one day they’ll get married – we’ll sleep on their couch. It’s the circle of life.
    A nervous joke designed to calm Anya down, Xander’s humorous litany of the circle of life also reveals some pretty deep seated doubts about marrying any woman because of his fear that he’ll end up like his father and uncle. In Hell’s Bells, we see visions of the very thing Xander jokingly talked about here, revealing his increasing psychological dread of the future – weighed down with the responsibilities of a family of his own that he could potentially destroy.

    This contrasts with Buffy’s idle daydreaming in the car with Riley, her mind running wild with the possibilities of running off with Riley and finding future happiness in an escape from her responsibilities.

    And then we learn that the misery is doubly compounded through Anya inviting over the gnarl family for dinner – and a possible incineration of drunken Uncle Rory:

    ANYA: Well, the Gnarls are teleporting in in twenty minutes. If I'm not there to greet them, somebody's getting incinerated.
    XANDER: Why did we ever agree to let your friends -- who are demons – and my family – who are monsters -- stay at our place?
    Xander equates his family with Anya’s demonic friends – so if Anya is a former (and potential) demon, does that make Xander a possible former (and potential) monster? Again, his fears bubble unwittingly to the surface as Anya whines.

    ANYA: Well, I can only do so much, Xander! Planning this marriage is like staging the invasion of Normandy.
    XANDER: Without the laughs. We should have eloped.
    ANYA: No! I've been through too much planning this wedding! It is going to happen. It's going to be our perfect, perfect day if I have to kill every one of our guests and half this town to do it.
    And this is both heart-warming and a little disconcerting considering Anya has done just that in her life as a former Vengeance Demon. Xander does a little double-take and turns to look at Anya’s chip bag.

    XANDER: Cool ranch?
    ANYA: Cajun Fiesta.
    Xander grabs the bag from Anya’s hand – something a bit more spicy is needed to dull the terror.

    And we get another Petrie direction that once again evokes William Shatner emoting over the distant sound of bongo drums:

    Screech! Riley's convertible skids to a stop, kicking up dust in some remote location. Riley and Buffy get out of the car simultaneously. Gone is Buffy's less-than-flattering DoubleMeat Palace uniform. Instead, she's wearing form-fitting black-ops battle gear. She looks very, very cool.
    Actually, to me, Buffy looks very, very silly. If you’re going for a covert operation. It seems to me that if they’re part of a Special Operations Force, then they shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Shouldn’t they blend in? Real Special Ops in Afghanistan wore hats and native outfits to blend in. Bad guys are going to look for senior leadership and other special targets. If you’re walking around in skin-tight black clothes with Kevlar gear in Sunnydale, you might as well draw a giant target on your back. I suppose there’s less to grab onto in hand to hand combat, but wouldn’t it behoove them to at least wear long coats (like Spike and Angel) that covered their armor until the enemy is in sight?

    Buffy and Riley slink over in their cool outfits to the edge of a large Dam miles outside of Sunnydale.

    BUFFY: End of the line? I don't see our Demon.
    RILEY: It's not here.
    BUFFY: Let me guess.
    She takes the lead, walking ahead of Riley, across the dam's gated walkway. She looks over the edge. We follow her gaze all the way down – the drop is long, sheer – and deadly.
    BUFFY: Down we go.
    RILEY: Looks that way.
    BUFFY: That's a big first step. So, Mr. Finn? Got an extra jet pack for a girl like me?
    RILEY: Sorry. Fresh out of jet packs. Looks like we'll have to share. This test line's built for one, so if we go together, we're not hauling any gear. Just be you and me.
    BUFFY: I was never big with the hardware anyway.
    RILEY: Can you hold on to me?
    BUFFY: If that's what it takes.
    Riley puts his arms around Buffy. She holds him back, maybe a little snugglier than is absolutely necessary.
    RILEY: Come on.
    BUFFY: Ready when you are, Agent Finn.
    Buffy’s enthusiasm for high-tech hijinks aren’t that far removed from Andrew’s descent into the museum in Smashed – there’s a Mission Impossible feel to her acrobatics with Riley that feel less like it’s about chasing the demon and more about living out a childish dream of Mickey Mouse militarism. Soldiers who fool around with their equipment and invite their ex-girlfriends for a ride are generally instantly fired – even if she is the Slayer. One assumes that Riley knows others are tracking this demon, including Sam. Isn’t he a bit concerned that someone might show up and see what he’s doing? He’s not a bounty hunter, but an elite member of a military organization that would probably throw a fit to see him bringing the Slayer along for the ride.

    We see Buffy and Riley rappel down into the dam's big open space. They make it to the housing station below. Separate. Each take a step forward, when Out of the dark, the Demon attacks. A fast and brutal fight breaks out. The Demon is attacked on two fronts -- Riley with his telescoping baton, Buffy kicking and punching. Riley gets the baton slapped out of his hand by the Demon. The Demon then hits Buffy, sending her staggering back. The Demon turns on Riley, defenseless.
    BUFFY: Riley!
    Buffy leaps, tackling Riley out of the way of the Demon's attack. They roll together, each of them a little breathless, a little sweaty. The Demon drops, affording them a small moment of time. Buffy pulls Riley to his feet and they hold each other, him for support, her for – well, only she knows.
    Buffy’s ride with Riley down into the depths to catch the monster is a psychological metaphor for her desire to hold on to something or someone in her depressive state. Riley not only holds her and gently helps her down, but takes the lead in fighting the demon and allows it to attack him first. In the end, though, Buffy kicks the demon away and pulls Riley to safety against the wall as it retreats. The mutual support fits every idle dream Buffy has had since Riley returned – to escape with him into a world of adventure. The two look into each other’s eyes in what appears to be a romantic moment – and then the bottom drops out as Sam drops down.

    BUFFY’S SEXUAL ATTRACTION TO RILEY AND FLIRTINESS WITH RILEY – The only thing that makes any sense to me is Buffy’s attracted to Riley’s possible current love for Buffy. And Buffy’s attracted to how comparatively fun and high-paying a job with the Initiative would be compared to Buffy’s current DoubleMeat Palace job. Buffy likely considers Riley’s been pining for Buffy this whole time and hasn’t ‘moved on’. Even in BtVS S8, when Buffy goes to see Riley she knows either Spike’s dust or hasn’t bothered to contact her. Spike in BtVS S6 is not being loving with Buffy and Riley relatively was loving with Buffy. The moments before Sam shows up, Buffy and Riley seem ‘pumped’ from the slaying.
    Yes, MikeB,I agree that Buffy is looking at both Riley and his job and liking what she sees. She absolutely believes that Riley is still in love with her – and responds accordingly. Even worse is the fact that Riley must know that Buffy’s interest has been rekindled by the way in which she’s wildly flirting with him. The fact that he fails to mention anything at this point demonstrates that on one level, he’s too gutless to tell her the truth and dash her newly awakened feelings. Which makes it all the more awful when Sam unexpectedly arrives and springs it on Buffy without warning.

    They look into one another's eyes, frozen, when a figure rappels in from the quarry wall behind them. Buffy and Riley both turn to see Sam. A raven-haired beauty who also wears battle-gear. She unlatches her cord and saunters forward, brimming with confidence, smiling to Buffy and Riley, amused by the tableau.
    SAM: Hi there. What exactly are you doing with my husband?
    Sam puts her hands on her hips and raises one eyebrow, awaiting her answer. Buffy looks shocked. Riley looks married.
    Where did Sam come from? Again, she must have been chasing the demon through different means. And Petrie wants us to believe that she’s such an awesome tracker that she made it there long before Riley expected her to arrive.

    If Xander did this, this wouldn’t be as disturbing – after all, it’s very possible that Riley was going to tell Buffy any second. But that moment between the two of them right before Sam’s arrival is very telling – and considering Riley’s past in secretly going behind his girlfriend’s back and playing with vamp whores, it’s not too farfetched to believe that he’s playing the same kind of game with Sam. Not that he was ever going to physically cheat on Sam – but psychologically, he’s addicted to the attention that he’s getting from Buffy every bit as much as he was to the vamp whore’s sole focus on him and it’s almost like he doesn’t want to tell Buffy everything and break the spell.

    But poor Buffy learns that appearances can be deceiving – she’s utterly embarrassed when confronted by Sam and tries to push through her shock by making sure that she’s heard what she thought she did. Sam, on the other hand, looks from Buffy to Riley to Buffy with a puzzled expression – who in the Hell is this?

    BUFFY: Husband.
    Riley nods.
    BUFFY: Wife.
    Sam nods.
    BUFFY: And those aren't just code names like "Falcon" or "Big Dog" or – didn't think so.
    RILEY: Buffy, meet Sam. Sam -- Buffy.
    But wait – surely Riley told her that he was going to go get Buffy. Why, then, does Sam confront Buffy like that? If it’s a joke, then she should be good and pissed at Riley for not telling Buffy he’s married and embarrassing all three of them. If it’s not, did Riley tell Sam that he was going to get Buffy at all? Sam seems to know that Buffy was going to be recruited and was seemingly making a joke – her surprise must be due to the fact that Riley hadn’t told Buffy about Sam yet. It’s an awkward situation all around.

    SAM: Pleasure.
    BUFFY: Demon.
    Sure enough, the Suvolte Demon has gotten to its feet, and it comes lunging after them.
    SAM: Mine!
    Sam rushes past Buffy and Riley, gets into it with the Demon. She kicks the crap out of it, using a flurry of martial-arts moves that catch the thing off-guard.
    BUFFY: She's good.
    RILEY: Sam's a special one.
    And here’s where the episode first goes off the rails. Sam is supposed to be a doctor who joined the peace core – and then Riley’s unit in Central America. She’s obviously a trained fighter – but it is highly unlikely that without any high powered weapons that she could manage a demon as powerful as the one who just knocked the Slayer against a wall. And yet, Riley and Buffy just stand there smiling as Sam does the impossible and holds her own with the Suvolte. If a normal woman can do this so easily, then what good is the Slayer?

    As they watch her fight the demon, Riley finally finds the time to fill Buffy in on the details of his life away from Sunnydale.

    BUFFY: How long you been married?
    RILEY: Four months, almost.
    Trying to figure out the date as to when Riley left is difficult. Tara was born on October 16 (according to her tombstone), so we know that the episode Family took place on October 16, 2000. And we know that Riley was gone before the end of December – Giles is putting up a sign in Into the Woods that says, “DON'T FORGET WINTER SOLSTICE, HANUKKAH, CHRISTMAS AND KWANZA ARE COMING!" as he prepares holiday decorations. In 2000, Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice were on December 22, Christmas on December 25 and Kwanza on December 26. Since Christmas advertising usually starts right after Halloween, we can assume that Riley left between the week of October 30, 2000 and the week of December 11, 2000. It wouldn’t make much sense to advertise any later than that.

    We know that the events from Fool for Love all the way through Into the Woods take place in just ten days with a small gap between Triangle in which Joyce is in the hospital – probably two to three days. So that entire period is about 12-13 days.

    [I]Triangle takes place less than three weeks after Riley leaves in Into the Woods because Xander mentions lending a wrench to Riley three weeks ago. Triangle takes place over four days and there’s a time gap between Triangle and Checkpoint. Xander has his broken wrist in a cast at the beginning of Checkpoint and it’s gone by Crush. Since a broken wrist generally takes a month in a cast, we can guess that less than a month has gone by between Giles’ meeting with the Watchers Council in England and their return to Sunnydale in Checkpoint.

    Checkpoint starts around the week of January 8, 2001 because we can count back three days from the beginning of Blood Ties and Buffy’s birthday and there only seems to be a day or two in-between. So we’ve got as a timeline:

    Family – ends on Monday, October 16, 2000
    Fool for Love/Shadow/Listening to Fear – Sometime from November 12 – December 4, 2000.
    Into the Woods – Takes place sometime between November 24 – December 18, 2000 – most likely earlier than later for Giles to advertise Hanukah and Winter Solstice shopping which are both on December 22, 2000.
    Triangle – Takes place between December 19, 2000 and January 8, 2001
    Checkpoint – Sometime from January 8 – 17, 2001
    Blood Ties – January 18-19, 2001

    So Joyce most likely has her operation sometime during the month of November or early December. There isn’t any mention of Thanksgiving, but one imagines it would be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Still, to me, the most likely dates for the 13 days that comprise Fool for Love through [I]Into the Woods are the time period of November 24 through December 10, 2000. After Thanksgiving and just in time for the start of real holiday shopping. Joyce’s operation most likely delayed Giles’ redecorating the Magic Box for holiday shoppers.

    So Riley departed sometime during the week after Thanksgiving or the first week of December 2000. Since As You Were takes place from April 13 – April 18, 2002, Riley has been gone over 16 months. Sam tells Buffy that it took a year for Riley to get over Buffy which makes sense because that would have been in late November-early December and their marriage in December 2001. One imagines that even though he probably met Sam a year ago, it took time before he felt he could commit again. Once Riley finally felt he was over Buffy, he married Sam almost exactly one year after he left Sunnydale. And that’s what Sam refers to later on – it’s an important moment for her because it led to their marriage.

    Given Riley and Sam are likely together for at least years after Season 9, Riley/Sam is the longest continuous romantic relationship in the Buffyverse among current or former Scoobies of relationships that began after 1997 C.E.
    Yes, MikeB, I think they are. And they’re mentioned in Season 12 as still together, I think.

    BUFFY: Mazel tov. Any kids?
    RILEY: Buffy, I meant to tell you. When the time was right -- and she caught up to us a hell of a lot faster than I would have guessed possible. She does that.
    BUFFY: Uh-huh. You do a lot of this, then? The whole husband-wife tag-team demon fighting thing?
    RILEY: It's what brought us together. I almost feel sorry for the Suvolte.
    The Demon finally gets in a shot, sending Sam sprawling.
    RILEY: But not quite.
    Riley gets into the fight. Buffy watches a minute, seeing Riley by Sam's side. She cannot move. Riley whips out a telescoping cattle prod and zaps the thing, sending electric current through its whole body, making it reel backward.
    And here we see how Riley and Sam work together – he admires her skill in fighting the demon and then apparently waits until she almost fails and steps in as the hero. There’s an element of feminism in Riley allowing Sam to wail on the demon herself – but then a touch of bravado as he conveniently enters to save the day at the last minute. Nonetheless, it seems to work well for both of them. And this makes Buffy feel sad for a moment – it could have been her and Riley - but it spurs Buffy on to be the big hero of the story – she may not be able to win back Riley, but she can prove her worth as the Slayer.

    Buffy snaps out of her funk. She grabs onto the Demon from behind, holding it.
    BUFFY: Call this your wedding gift.
    And with one strong twist of both her arms, Buffy twists the Demon's head sideways, breaking its neck with a solid SNAP! It falls to the ground, dead. She backs off, watching it.
    BUFFY: So. Guess that's mission accomplished.
    It’s actually funny how easily Buffy takes the creature out after all of that fighting. Was she deliberately holding back to allow Riley to feel like the hero? Or did her depression also depress her fighting skills? Riley and Sam look disgruntled as Riley bends down to check out the creature.

    RILEY: She killed it.
    SAM: Oh honey, it's okay.
    BUFFY: "Okay?" Wait. You guys have been tracking this thing, as a couple, for two days straight and -- you did want it dead, right?
    Awkward pause.
    BUFFY: Oh.
    SAM: Let me guess. Captain Can-Do over here forgot to mention this was a homing operation.
    SAM: It's nice to finally meet you, by the way. Knife?
    Riley tosses her a big knife. She catches it expertly and in the same fluid motion bends down to the demon's prone body.
    BUFFY: What is a homing operation?
    RILEY: My bad. I should have explained.
    BUFFY: That would have saved me some – trouble.
    Was Buffy actually going to say the word “embarrassment” instead of “trouble”? She’s obviously not thinking about the demon at all, but Riley’s marriage. It’s almost as if her entire life was one big nightmare of humiliation and disappointment. And it’s not getting any gentler.

    Why didn’t Riley tell Buffy to NOT kill the ‘demon eggs’ demon?
    Good question, MikeB! It’s pretty preposterous that not once in this fight or in downtown Sunnydale does Riley say something like, “Don’t kill it – we need to track it!” He knows that Buffy is the Slayer – he can clearly see her fighting with it – but not a single word where one would think it was imperative. It’s almost as if he can’t conceive that she could actually kill it without all of his toys.

    SAM: Damn. We're too late. Finn, how could you recruit the Slayer and not fill her in on the objective?
    BUFFY: That'd be my question.
    SAM: If we weren't under severe time constraints, I’d seriously consider ripping you a new one.
    RILEY: Stand down, soldier.
    But they’re not really busting each other’s chops – Sam is grinning wildly as Riley looks even more embarrassed. His “stand down, solider” is muttered in a very muted way as he looks anywhere but at Buffy as she keeps her eyes focused on him with a slight “J’accuse” stare.

    BUFFY: He’s your boss, too?
    SAM: He wishes. We better re-group. Buffy, I hate to impose further. But, you got a safe house?
    BUFFY: I – have a house. But I think it's safe. Sometimes, you can't even leave!
    And this is a reference, of course, to the events of Buffy’s birthday in Older and Far Away. Sam looks at Buffy with a puzzled expression – she doesn’t know what to say. Riley himself avoids looking at Buffy and tries to guide the conversation along.

    RILEY: I know the way. And I'll fill you in. On everything.
    Riley looks away – he’s ashamed of the way he’s treated Buffy, leading her on.

    It’s hard to overstate how awful Buffy must feel about flirting with Riley and dreaming of the possibilities of running off with him now that she knows he was never free to begin with. She must also be wondering why Riley himself didn’t say a word – was it because he was too timid to tell her – or did he fear that Buffy wouldn’t help out if she knew? If so, he’s misjudged her character – the woman who threw herself off a tower to save the world wouldn’t have thought twice about chasing down a demon.

    Last part tomorrow!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 11-10-18 at 04:29 PM.

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  17. #529
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    Loved the next part of your comments. Petrie' descriptions are bizarre. I wonder if it is ironic parody.

    "Fill her in on the objective." That phrase can be taken a couple ways, can't it?

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  19. #530
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    Fantastic link Aurora between Willow's changed perspective on her relationship with Xander, the solid sense of progression she has with Tara against Buffy's sense of being static, trapped, her coming gaze backwards at what 'was' when Riley reappears and fantasising of what could be.

    It's a great post full of so many neat observations. I love the mocktail as another example of deceptive appearances and Willow being present for Dawn growing up in Buffy's absence. And again I'd failed to think about song lyrics and it works so well against the scene of Buffy cleaning the coat and her disquiet in the relationship with Spike.

    Like Xander’s security blanket, the yellow coat seems to be something of a security blanket for Buffy – Stoney can probably do a better color analysis than me of why the coat is yellow, but it’s utilized as a prop throughout the scenes of Buffy’s degradation.
    Well, I'm not convinced by 'better', but I'll give a related analysis a try. As per usual, yellow has associated meanings that are both positive and negative. I would say that yellow is pretty dominantly associated with positive ones. Linked in studies to the release of seratonin, it isn't surprising to hear I'm sure that yellow is often associated to sunlight, happiness, energy, intelligence, optimism, creativity etc etc. Yet Buffy's coat is more of a mustard, muted yellow and with her literally staining it, wearing it down and wearing it out, the negative associations of corruption seem more apt. So alternate negative associations can be to toxicity, illness (jaundice), anxiety, emotional fragility and depression.

    In contrast the purple top that she wears when she breaks from Spike at the end can indicate balance between mental and physical, linking to power, wisdom, dignity, spirituality and peace in positive terms. Interestingly, in negative terms it can also be linked to suppression and introversion. Lighter shades tend to be seen as more light-hearted, often with associations to femininity, nostalgia and romance. Lilac with its more pinkish hue can be tied with immaturity but also youthfulness and mauve with aspiring to higher ideals and good decision-making.

    As I said, the humiliation that she goes through in almost every scene is almost grotesque. Why is Buffy shamed for trying to make it through a very trying period in which she has to juggle parenting, working and slaying in addition to household chores like washing, cooking and cleaning?
    Yes, it is problematic that this was the route they took for Buffy's unhappiness to peak as she compares, contrasts and finally seeks to change.

    This description could only be improved if William Shatner read it slowly with bongos thumping gently in the background.

    Of course the problem with depicting Buffy as falling for the false hope that an ex can come and fix everything that has gone wrong, whilst understandable as a response, is that it brushes over the issues when Riley left. Only his over-egged example of how to bounce back so terrifically from a low point seems to give the nod to that.
    Last edited by Stoney; 11-10-18 at 12:04 PM.

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  21. #531
    Sunnydale High Student StateOfSiege97's Avatar
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    Far as we blind moles can see, man's life seems but an acting
    upon Mysterious hints; it is somehow hinted to us to do thus
    or thus. For surely no mere mortal who has at all gone down
    into himself will ever pretend that his slightest thought or
    act solely originates in his own defined identity.

    ———Herman Melville, Pierre

    Dear American Aurora

    Here is the my response to your marvellous reading of Rihannon’s equally marvellous review of OaFA

    (I write with apologies to Rihannon for not responding to your original review, but I was then too ill… I’ll weave in thoughts about your post along with my response to AA… )

    Between the two of you, you bring out the primary elements of the episode, give them further depth and resonance, connect them finely to the season as a whole—

    I just have a few thoughts to add, one that moves athwart, here and there…

    To begin, American Aurora, I love your analysis of home, the whole of it, the way the house becomes a character, where each of the other characters’ displacements—especially those of Dawn and Buffy—working as they do on different levels to prevent their connection, becomes literally embodied in the house through Halfrek’s spell and the sinking of the demon into the walls—

    I would only add that Buffy’s homelessness begins, in S6, at the end of Barginning2, when Dawn grasps her, possessively embracing, saying “You’re alive, and you’re home—you’re home”—then the camera turns from Dawn’s joyous, relieved face to Buffy’s, to its absence, its blankness.

    That homelessness will then become localized in the Summers’ house, as you so finely analyze, but it begins with her being not-at-home in being alive in-itself. That homelessness in life is what Buffy flees on a daily and nightly basis, flees in turning to DoubleMeat and Spike’s crypt as you show—for the supposed home is the location of life, what should be life, thus it is that from which, in her disembodiment and de-pression, she must repeatedly seek escape.

    Beyond this, you have made too many wonderful points for me to comment upon them all—or even mention them… I would just highlight, first, your reading of Dawn’s kleptomania as a way to ground her amorphous key-born self in the world and, second, the brilliant connection you draw between Buffy’s threatened abandonment in DT and the calling of Halfrek by Dawn’s responsive pain: it makes utter sense and draws the two episodes together, deepening the connection between them—and the reverberations of Buffy’s neglect of Dawn.

    I love, as well, the link you make to Exterminating Angel….But may I confess that I dread the musical? (I admit—doubtless thus making a rather heretical statement—that I have but the tiniest of tastes for Sondheim … A Little Night Music and “Send in the Clowns” and my youth aside…And there resonates something fundamental in Buñel, something far beyond Sondheim’s grasp—their angel of vision, their humour exist on utterly other plains… I could go on, but this… so not the place….)

    Yet countering this quiSlug-Lovebble, a brief pause for a small yeah—! to the Slug-Love… Donna Harraway, emeritus of HisCon, will ever be one of my heroes… even if she is a dog-person…

    And to Rihannon

    Adored your metaphor of dirty laundry, it fits so perfectly within the broader metaphor of an entrapping home… I would, only, extend it beyond Buffy/Spike and Willow/Tara: all the characters bear psyches stuffed with dirty sheets of secrets, some of which they cannot even fully admit to themselves—Anya/Xander with the upcoming wedding and life together; Dawn/Buffy, the longing of the former for felt connection, the endless leaving of the latter, given her displacement from all connection’s, all feeling’s experience; the entire group and their non-relation to Buffy’s depression, linking back, as it does, to their responsibility for her resurrection, its trauma; the violent anxiety any utterance of “willow” and “magic” in the same sentence provokes… Given this massive piling, there can come no grand revelations—beyond Dawn’s thieving—in this episode: because the stained fabric is stacked so high, spread so far that unpacking, sorting, cleansing it would take—will take—far more than a single episode, especially one with Dawn at its centre...

    So love upon love for all….


    One counter-thought, American Aurora, one that centres on your comments about the cutting of the reference to Spike at the beginning and the alteration of scenes at the end—although I feel less strongly about the latter, as I think it could serve my reading just as well, perhaps even better, than does the one they use, given the threat of Buffy’s departure that it holds.

    I prefer the un-Spiked opening because it places the emphasis fully upon Buffy’s flight in-itself: first, we know, after all, that patrol is a code-word for time with Spike, and the fact that we do not know how exactly things stand between them since the beating in DT is at this point less important than her relationship with Dawn, need not be highlighted—we can assume without mention of his name that she might be planning on seeing him… or not. And that she may not be—that waver, to the extent that it draws our attention—is significant only in the power it focuses upon Buffy’s drive to flee dinner, Dawn, familial intimacy and responsibility. Whether or not Spike’s crypt be her final destination for the evening in the graveyard, whether or not there be a “thing” out there that demands her attention, she will go. Go in the middle of dinner or before dinner could even have begun—and her inability to bear even a meal with Dawn gains greater force without the mention of Spike’s name, the bringing in of the events of DT or, beyond them, the important role Spike plays in her flight.

    For Spike’s erasure from this scene suggests what the aftermath of Buffy’s breakup with him will painfully reveal: Spike is not the cause of her abandonment of Dawn, her flight from her responsibilities—he is but a symptom. Yes, breaking up with him at some point would be necessary, since his soullessness prevents actual love between them, bars his understanding of her—and hers of him, opens the way for her abuse. But that breakage need not happen when it does, gives her nothing, leads to nothing, provides her no solution to what so wracks her, synapse to bone. Breakage gives no more solution than did going to the police—for that was not the true way of taking responsibility for her actions. It was but one more form of flight. A flight that provoked the call of Dawn’s pain, a call that Halfrek heard, to which she responded with the curse that forms the centre of this episode. And that is where this episode needs to hold its centre—on Dawn, with Spike as what he is, a symptom. (Something I say with pain, given my deep passion for Spike… )

    Thus the leaving at the start does, I think, fully circle around to the staying at the end—but that circle does not form a movement of growth. Buffy has realized her absence and its consequences, yes, but she has not learned yet how to be with Dawn, how to give her sister the felt connection she so desires—this becomes clear in the distance that marks their relations, as I wrote, in NA. I think that here, in DT, and AYW, Buffy does certain things, things that seem necessary, to fall in a line of cause and effect: she tells Tara, stays home, breaks up with Spike…

    Her doing cannot, however, be taken as signs of “growth”—as signs of her movement along a trajectory of progressive time, one that will, eventually, culminate in what we would like to call “health,” “health” being, as I argued in my review of NA, far from a neutral or transparent word, being rather one determined by dominant social forces, by biopolitics. The episodes leading up to NA, particularly DT, OaFA, and AYW, each of which narrates a seeming progressive movement on Buffy’s part, an act of “growth,” a step toward “health”—these episodes exactly seem to telegraph such progress, and they may have been meant to show this, but what they actually do is show Buffy merely reacting to external forces, doing what either others, driven by their own normalizing expectations, or her internalized regulative norms, tell her, directly or indirectly, that she should do. She behaves, closes the door to be with Dawn alone, breaks up with Spike, confesses to Tara—but little truly changes. If it did, she would not, still, be so distant from Dawn in NA, would not be, still, so desirous of flight that she keeps sliding back to the asylum, would not be so immured in the temporalities of depression, slow death, and trauma, so bound, even across the greater part of NA’s narrative, to merely react—react to the words of the Doctor, to the expectations of the fantasized but false images of her parent, merely react to the point of committing murder—merely react until Willow’s endangerment echoes forth, reaching Buffy’s true, abyssally de=pressed Slayer-self, until the true Joyce glimmers forth, edging out of and touching Buffy’s original otherness to the norms so early imposed upon her, until their calls evoke response, obligation, emergence—becoming.

    Buffy never grows over the course of S6, never adheres to the trajectory of regulative progressive time, its movement towards health. Yes, the episodes give the appearance of growth, but they do so only to better to crystallize, once we hit NA, the sheer reactiveness of her seemingly agential decisions, the absence of growth they embody—and the deceptiveness of its draw. This is why it is better that OaFA focuses primarily upon Dawn, just as the episodes before and after will upon Spike (although, as you point out, Dawn is far from absent from DT, with repercussions to follow), with those with the Scoobies as a whole surfacing in various ways in all, really, but DT—and taking centre stage in HB. Given the episodic structure of the series, it is best that each weekly instalment separate out its intensities amongst Buffy’s various relations, so as to better through her distances, inabilities, and paralyses—I will not say failures, as the term carries tones of judgment and shame outside of which depression trauma should be understood, for the most part—grasp her inability to move through the world.

    And if, American Aurora, you will allow the Dickinson scholar one last cranky moment….

    You wrote of the final encounter between Tara and Will, of what it gave, what Tara gave:

    Hope. The thing with feathers that perches in the soul. Through those simple words, Tara may have healed Willow in ways that she can’t even dream of.


    “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all –

    ———ED, 314

    I confess I ever found this poem disturbing….

    Those quotation marks around “Hope”—


    the tune without the words –


    never stops – at all –


    (It’s just, with this poem, a thing… )

    To, once more, to you both, thanks upon
    and upon for giving so to think—

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  23. #532
    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
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    Hey, MikeB! Here’s my next response to your thought-provoking review of As You Were.

    Up to this point in the episode, Buffy is the only member of the Scoobie gang who has had any interaction with Riley – a figure from the past who never experienced the death of Buffy – and the new woman called “Buffy” who dug out of her grave.

    In so many ways, the Buffy who wanders through the wasteland of Season Six is fundamentally different from the teen she used to be – not only because of her recent twenty-first birthday, but because her arc led to that spectacular leap off the tower. And then she was done. Buffy had dealt with the denial of death for five seasons – doing her best to stave off the inevitable while suffering through numerous reminders of her impending death. She had already triumphed over death once. In many ways, her first resurrection made her a dead girl walking – Faith was always the Slayer who reminded the still-living Buffy that she was a fluke, an accident, no longer connected to the Slayer line.

    So when she finally found contentment in nothingness – she was done and content – her friends pulled her back into the temporal world. As Spike takes her hand, she allows the dead man to guide her to the couch. Just like Lear, Buffy could easily have said, “Let me wipe it first: it smells of mortality.”

    And now she drifts through life – no matter how degrading or demanding, Buffy accepts her fate. She sleeps with Spike – the dead man animated by magical means – he helps her to feel temporarily alive for a moment or two in the throes of passion. And then she kicks him in the head, virtue fluttering. The old compassion that Buffy had is just a ghost that haunts her.

    The old Buffy must feel like a distant dream – some long-forgotten person who died long ago – until Riley comes back into Buffy’s life. And suddenly, she is confronted not only with the shadow of the past, but the shadow of who she used to be competing with the Buffy of now. Her hyper-awareness of what she once was follows her throughout the episode from the second that Riley appears – and she starts to view everything around her from that perspective as well.

    Riley’s return in As You Were – a military phrase that formally means to disregard the last command; but informally means to go back to what you were doing before the previous order. It’s a reset button that allows the group involved to ignore recent events in favor of the past. A clever title that reflects Buffy’s dilemma of enacting a version of herself that doesn’t really exist.

    There’s something about Season Six that plays with the consciousness of the self; Buffy’s supernatural resurrection allows for an extended mediation on reality and what constitutes our sense of identity. I talked a bit about this in Fool for Love regarding memory – memory being the one thing that truly constitutes an acceptance of one’s self as a continuing and uniquely identifiable person. But is that true? How do opinions and belief, culture and custom all contribute to a narration of sorts that creates a “fiction” of the self that can be shattered in a moment?

    I’m hoping to talk a bit about this in Seeing Red because I think the episode (and the season) centers around this difficult question of consciousness and self – especially the idea of a singular consciousness moving through various permutations and yet remaining a distinct entity. William Pratt and unsouled Spike and souled Spike. Non-magical Willow and Dark Willow. Powerless Warren and Supernaturally empowered Warren. Life and Death. And the belief in change, in transformation, in movement as opposed to stasis and stagnation that results in the feeling of being alive.

    But at the moment, Buffy feels like a walking shadow, a poor player who strutted and fretted her hour upon the stage and should have been heard no more. But thanks to her four companions, she’s back, signifying nothing. But Riley’s return shocks her with the meaning of change – he’s moved on to a different life altogether with a wife and a high-tech job that gives him meaning and helps him to regain a sense of self after the nightmarish events of Season Five in the vamp whore house.

    And Buffy suddenly feels the ground drop from beneath her – her tentative sense of self derived from going through the motions suddenly splinters into pieces. And everything suddenly looks different – her friends, her job, even Spike – there’s a drastic reset in her mind that allows all the pain of the past to come flooding back through the ghostly Buffy who hovers in and out of her sight.

    So after a moment of earth-shattering awkwardness when Buffy learns that Riley is married, our gentle Slayer sportingly invites Riley and Sam back to her “safe house” to regroup and suddenly sees that her house is rundown and unkempt:

    BUFFY: Sorry the place is such a mess. I really haven’t had a chance to give it a good clean.
    Usually, a safe house is a temporary abode used by both military and terrorists to conduct clandestine activity – but even though Riley and Sam are most likely used to crumbling buildings and small huts, Buffy is embarrassed that she’s neglected to give 1630 Revello Drive its annual Spring Cleaning job.

    The house doesn’t actually look particularly dirty in any way – but Buffy is projecting her psychological state onto her home. The house is dirty because she literally and figuratively feels she stinks – and no one will take her garbage. Except Spike – and this starts to pain her.

    Dawn is standing before the doorway, arms crossed, to face Riley as Buffy steps back against the doorsill. Uncharacteristically, Buffy’s drawn back in order for Riley to greet everyone and introduce Sam – something that she’s loathe to do. There’s a second of uncomfortable silence before Riley cautiously greets Dawn. Greetings are always awkward – but even more so when the person previously departed without a word. Riley wasn’t there when Buffy and her sister went through one of the most grueling and terrifying moments of their lives with Glory. And Dawn doesn’t seem too happy that he’s back.

    RILEY: Hey.
    DAWN: Agent Finn returns.
    RILEY: Dawn. Jeez, look at you. You grew about a foot and a half.
    DAWN: A lot can happen in a year.
    RILEY: Well, it's good to see you.
    Dawn’s pointed insult – Riley’s been gone more than a year without any word – is part and parcel of the Summers abandonment curse. Men that they care for seem to leave without a backwards glance – their father Hank, Angel, Riley and now Giles (soon it will be Spike). And when they do return, everything has changed – and not always for the better. But the tension is quickly diffused when Willow and Xander enter.

    XANDER: Hey, there's the man. Life-taker – heart-breaker. Y'know – figuratively speaking.
    Xander’s phrase “Life taker – heart breaker” is a rhyme that was popularized in the 1979 Pat Benatar song “Heartbreaker” that made her a star:

    DON'T YOU MESS AROUND WITH ME! (“Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar)
    But it’s more likely given Riley’s commission that Xander’s quoting from Clint Eastwood’s 1986 film Heartbreak Ridge about an old Vietnam Veteran who whips up undisciplined Marines into an elite fighting unit:

    MAJOR POWERS: Well, I ask for Marines, the division sends me relics. The men in recon platoon are less than highly motivated to say the least. I want those men in shape.
    GUNNERY SERGEANT HIGHWAY: I'll make life takers and heart breakers out of them, sir.
    Petrie really gives his early descriptions a run for their money here.

    They exchange a manly handshake (Xander) and hug (Willow).
    RILEY: Xander – Sam. Willow. Hi.
    We get detailed gendered greetings in which Riley gives Xander a “manly handshake” (as opposed to a sissy handshake from someone like William Pratt, I assume) and a hug safely administered to the girly-girl Willow.

    WILLOW: We got your call.
    XANDER: We're here to help.
    When did Riley call them? Was it before or after Riley enlisted Buffy to help him hunt down the demon? Or did he lend his phone to Buffy to warn Dawn and Willow they were coming – and Xander was either present or contacted by Willow to meet them there? Either way, they’ve been told that Riley needs help – and he’s got his new wife with him.

    XANDER: Just like old times, except with you being all big with the married life.
    We’ve seen Xander muse earlier on the possible negative future that awaits him – a vision courtesy of his own parents and their toxic co-dependent relationship. Now, he’s face-to-face with an old friend who’s gotten married – and he’s tentatively asking if there’s any significant difference between then and now. And Riley doesn’t disappoint.

    RILEY: Hear you're getting hitched yourself. Believe me – you're gonna love it.
    Xander looks a little nervous at Riley’s adamant belief in marriage – but it must also fill him with hope that Riley has had such a happy experience.

    Xander is remarkably insensitive regarding Buffy/Riley. He fawns over Riley and Riley/Sam even though he considers Buffy hasn’t ‘moved on’ from Riley given Buffy hasn’t dated anyone since Riley. It takes at-most around 3 months (the end of the school year to the new school year) for Buffy to ‘move on’ from the supposed love of her life Angel. The Scoobies likely don’t know Angel showed up in “Forever” (B 5.17). The Scoobies reason the post-“Flooded” (B 6.04) Buffy/Angel meeting didn’t ‘go well’.
    I’m not sure, MikeB – I don’t think that Xander is thinking about Buffy at the moment – he’s so wrapped up in the wedding that’s about to happen less than a week from now that his mind is fixated on whether he’s making the right choice at the right time. So his intense interest in Riley and Sam isn’t intended to hurt Buffy – it’s to reassure himself.

    In terms of Angel, I don’t think that Buffy ever really gets over any of her “boyfriends” – there’s a wistfulness in her interactions with both Angel and Spike in the comics that would no doubt engender the same kind of “Did I choose right?” moment if they were to find someone else. Heck, she never even dated Xander and yet she has that moment when he reveals that he and Dawn are together in Season Eight.

    Buffy has always had a certain fear of commitment that most likely stemmed from childhood experiences – people who suffer from this kind of relationship anxiety find intimacy to be far more intense and aggravating than others and will do anything to retain a sense of freedom when with a partner. As the expectations of that commitment grows, they break up with their partner and then come back and then break up again and then come back again in a yo-yo effect that eventually becomes painful for their significant other. This is a complicated issue and too vast to go into here, but Buffy’s trust issues with her father, Angel, Riley, Spike and others only seem to intensify that initial impulse to flee. It doesn’t make Buffy a bad person – some people with these issues prefer to remain alone – but it may make her an unhappy one.

    And Willow recognizes this – after her experience with Oz and Veruca and her breakup with Tara, she understands how miserable Buffy must be and tries to act as the bad girl so Buffy won’t have to:

    WILLOW: Congratulations. Really. Both of you!
    She takes Buffy aside, out of earshot.
    WILLOW: Just so you know: I am prepared to hate this woman any way you want.
    There’s a certain splitting of the self here already with Willow willing to act out Buffy’s deepest primal fantasies of jealousy and envy – and it reflects the DoubleMeat Palace boss’s ethos of political expediency – you have to understand the power structure even if you’re under it to mock it. And distancing yourself from – well – yourself – is a great way to keep an even keel in terms of self.

    And Willow’s been there before.

    Harmony: Willow, will you sign my yearbook?
    Willow: Yeah. You have to sign mine too.
    Harmony: You know, I really wish we woulda got to know each other better.
    Willow: Me too.
    Harmony: I mean, you're so smart. I always wanted to be like that.
    Willow: Thanks. You're so sweet.
    Harmony: I hope we won't lose touch.
    Willow: No, we'll hang out.
    Harmony: Bye!
    Willow: Bye! Oh, I'm gonna miss her.
    Buffy: Don't you hate her?
    Willow: Yes, with a fiery vengeance. She picked on me for ten years, the vacuous tramp. It's like a sickness, Buffy. I'm just missing everything. I miss P.E. (Graduation Day, Part One)
    And this goes double for Xander when he thinks about the impending marriage – he constructs an alternative Xander to belittle so that he can separate himself from his own fears.

    XANDER: I hate my uncle. I hate my whole family. That's why I'm marrying you, to start a new family. Have children, make them hate us…
    Buffy rejects Willow’s help at first – she’s still playing a part and can’t see sharing it with another actress:

    BUFFY: Thanks, but, no. I don't want to seem all petty.
    WILLOW: That's the beauty. YOU can't, but I can. Please. Let me carry the hate for both of us.
    Buffy sneaks a look at Sam standing beside Riley.
    BUFFY: Go nuts.
    I LOVE Willow here – as the daughter of someone who co-authored material on psychology and problematic behavior, one imagines that she learned how to displace her emotions onto a manufactured twin as an exercise in dealing with her own feelings. This would explain a lot of Willow’s internal repression – it’s possible that she was always divided in a sense through internal guilt over “bad” urges that were stifled. And such bottled-up emotion always inevitably comes to the surface once the cap is removed.

    But Dawn doesn’t need to displace her own anger – she’s doing just fine voicing it herself as she lobs another nasty bit at Riley:

    DAWN: So, what brings you back to town after you left suddenly with no word?
    Ouch. Riley ignores Dawn’s obvious anger and gets to the nitty-gritty of why he and Sam are there. At first, it’s a clear objective that makes a lot of sense and it connects to Riley’s initial journey to Central America – demon tribes were making it tough for missionaries – which apparently were Suvolte Demons or demons running from the Suvolte Demons, take your pick.

    RILEY: Sam and I have been tracking a Suvolte Demon from Central America. Killing machine. Nearly mature.
    SAM: Three months old and growing fast.
    RILEY: These things kill the minute they’re hatched and leave a real clear trail.
    SAM: Yeah, just follow the villages with nothing in 'em but body parts.
    There’s a lot of emphasis on the Demon as a half-grown creature, still maturing that parallels the destructive arc of the Scoobie Gang – growing fast and leaving a real clear trail with nothing in ‘em but body parts. One of them might be growing up too fast – Riley looks at Buffy to make sure it’s okay that Dawn hears the gruesome details.

    RILEY: Uh, Dawny. You sure you wanna be around hearing all this?
    SAM: Ah, c'mon, Finn. She looks all grown-up to me. That is if it's alright with you.
    BUFFY: Oh, yeah, sure. It's fine.
    Dawn seems exceptionally happy at Sam’s brown-nosing of the Summers family and beams a bit as she pulls back her punches at Riley and becomes more interested in the story. Buffy seems to notice that Riley and Sam seem to be more concerned about Dawn than she does herself.

    DAWN: So this Demon shredded your guys and now you're looking for a little payback?
    SAM: No, it came here to the Hellmouth to spawn. But we think it’s already hatched its eggs somewhere.
    RILEY: And the plan was to track it – let the demon take us to its nest.
    DAWN: And now they’re going to hatch a bunch of baby demon things?
    SAM: Unless we stop it.
    BUFFY: Which means we find the nest fast – before Sunnydale turns into the TROUBLE Meat Palace. I wish I'd said something else.
    Poor Buffy – not only is her pun dreadful, but she doesn’t even realize that her words were apt before Riley arrived. Growing things that are destructive will lay eggs that will eventually hatch more baby demon things that will be equally destructive until they multiply into a nightmare – the obvious analogy to the struggles of every character in Season Six as their growing pains hatch monsters everywhere.

    But the real problem here is that the Suvolte Demon story doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    RILEY: Suvolte Demon. Rare. Lethal. Nearly extinct, but not nearly enough…We've been tear-assing through every jungle from Paraguay up, taking out nests. As soon as we put one Suvolte down, a dozen take its place. They're breeders, Buffy. One turns into ten, ten becomes a hundred. This gets out of hand and there's a war with humans? Humans are gonna lose.
    So – the demon is rare – nearly extinct – but each time one goes down, a dozen take its place. One turns into ten, ten becomes a hundred. How can both be true? Have they mutated into something more powerful? If they’re rare and almost extinct, how can they be such fast breeders? This part of the story doesn’t make much sense. Why did this particular Suvolte Demon come to Sunnydale to spawn when others apparently had no problem spawning in Central America? When and where did it drop the eggs if Riley and Sam were tracking it so closely? Why would it abandon its eggs before they hatched? Why was it near the dam? Was that where the eggs originally were laid? Why aren’t Sam and Riley searching the area to check for them?

    And if it was so urgent to track the demon, how hard would it have been for Riley to say, “We’re tracking the demon to his lair. Don’t kill it.” as he walked the streets of Sunnydale with Buffy or drove her to the dam in his fast car. This must be going through Buffy’s mind as she sits, weighted by failure.

    Perhaps the whole story sounds kinda nonsensical to Xander too – he dismisses the whole mission as simple and moves to a far more important topic – his marriage to Anya. He’s not really interested in Riley the demon hunter – but Riley the married man.

    XANDER: Okay. So we track the demon, find the nest, Mr. and Mrs. Finn here make with the killin', and everyone goes home happy. But seriously, married man – if forced to choose between a photographer and place settings –
    And Buffy blurts out her guilt – she’s made the mission impossible – she’s useless – but she can still play the happy homemaker in her safe house until Dawn points out that they have no food except maybe a left-over squished had-sex-with-Spike-on-top-of-it veggie burger.

    BUFFY: We can't track the demon. I killed it. So, who's hungry? We have, um –
    DAWN: Ice cubes.
    BUFFY: All you can eat.
    And Sam sees how Buffy is going over the past and blaming herself – and it’s not really about the demon – and tries to reassure Buffy that it’s okay. Which only makes Buffy feel worse because she wants Sam to be a horrible bitch. But it’s even worse than that – she’s practically the Queen Mary Sue of wives, good with a left hook and a Martha Stewart moment:

    SAM: Buffy, it's a good thing you killed the Suvolte before it killed us. Disposable cameras.
    XANDER: A-dur-hey?
    SAM: Yeah, you know. Little plastic ones? Ten bucks a pop. You arrange 'em like table settings, guests snap photos, breaks the ice, and when the wedding's over -- you can take home the pictures.
    XANDER: I like it.
    There’s a close-up of Sam and Riley holding hands without thinking about it as Buffy watches mournfully. As Xander and Riley both admire Sam, Willow makes a mocking expression that’s gloriously charming and mean at the same time. She would have made a good Cordette if given the chance.

    And Buffy tries to steer the subject back to the Suvolte Demon.

    BUFFY: So, demon eggs. Any timetable on when we think they’re gonna hatch?
    RILEY: Hatching's not the problem.
    SAM: We think they’re gonna be sold on the black market. There's some foreign military powers that would love to have their own Suvolte. Could never train it, but drop it on an urban population –
    RILEY: And it "cleanses the area."
    DAWN: Is that a nice way of saying it kills people?
    SAM: Lots of them. Money's been exchanged. There's a dealer in town, calls himself "The Doctor."
    And there are more problems with this story. If they knew that money had already been exchanged, wouldn’t the Suvolte Demon have been unable to find them anyway? If they’re not worried about the eggs hatching, then why all the sound and fury to catch the creature in time? It took Riley only a few hours to choke the information out of Willie and other demons who the contact was – didn’t really seem all that difficult. If they were part of a sting operation or knew the other end of the money chain, couldn’t they easily find the “Doctor” that way?

    The idea seems to be that the Suvolte Demon is akin to a radiation bomb or an anthrax attack – it’s imperative that one get them before they enter the black market and go to the highest bidder. But using demons as “bombs” to destroy the urban populations of one’s enemy is really kinda silly – we’ve already seen a lot of big-ass demons who could seriously kill as many (or more) people as the Suvolte and yet no one has ever seen fit to recruit them. Couldn’t the writers have the Suvolte spit liquid fire that disintegrated a human on impact or something that truly set them off from other demons? And wouldn’t magic take care of a lot of that? But that leads to an even bigger issue that has always plagued the whole “military” aspect of Buffy. Mixing the supernatural with the real world.

    Since the supernatural is “hidden” from the majority of humanity, who in fact is going to care whether outright mercenaries or black ops are chasing down rare demons or demon dealers in secret? Other countries? Wolfram & Hart? Dr. Evil’s Organization of Wackos? Who are we talking about? Russia? China? Who would believe it? Are terrorists from other countries or organizations like Wolfram & Hart tracking them through a town already built on a Hellmouth? And what makes Riley think the US government isn't trying to capture the demon to use for its own nefarious purposes? They've done it before - they can do it again!

    If the idea is that Riley needs to stay covert to fool the Doctor, then why wouldn’t they set up an operation in which the Doctor sells them the damn eggs and catch him in the act? Why run around in ninja outfits with Buffy looking every bit like the operatives they are? Hardly any of this plot makes sense so far – and I haven’t even gotten to the ludicrous reveal of the damn Doctor.

    And to cap it all off, Sam asks the craziest question:

    SAM: Willow, you think you could help with a little locating spell?
    Uh, wouldn’t they already have brought along a mage or witch to do this? One would have assumed that the Suvolte Demon was impervious to magic or this whole thing was a wild goose chase in the first place. They could have just locked hands, done a locator spell and presto – it’s leggo of my eggo. But they waited until Willow might be around and then decided to ask her to do the obvious?

    But it’s just a set-up line for Willow to balk at doing magic once again.

    WILLOW: I can't do Magicks.
    SAM: Riley says you were coming on as a major league Wicca.
    WILLOW: I got addicted. The way addicts do.
    Willow gets up and leave, heading for the kitchen. Sam knows she stepped in it.
    Buffy’s not the only one feeling useless. As Willow quickly leaves the room, Riley covers by dividing up his “team” into two separate units – Me, myself and I – and the two women.

    RILEY: Two teams. No civilians.
    Buffy’s not really military, though, is she? And that only leaves out Xander and Dawn since Willow’s left the room – the two non-super-powered Scoobs. Xander doesn’t seem to consider this much of an affront – he’s most likely feeling like he’s got a battle of his own to win back home where the guests are at each other’s throats. And Dawn’s too used to being left out of the fighting to care.

    No, it’s Buffy who’s uncomfortable with the arrangement. But when Sam tries to back out of the suggestion, Buffy agrees to prove that she’s not bothered.

    RILEY: I'll go out and look for our "Doctor," you two find the nest.
    BUFFY: Me and Sam together?
    RILEY: You come across a Suvolte nest, you're gonna want backup.
    SAM: You know, I don't want to be dragging down the Slayer. You've got speed and power I can't even begin to –
    BUFFY: Let's go. Xander, you okay to stay at home with Dawn.
    RILEY: I'll hit the bars, Willie's, some crypts that I know.
    Of course, in hitting up some crypts, there’s one other person who would be an obvious asset – but Riley has zero interest in going there. Or even asking about him.

    “No civilians” on the hunt for the demon eggs and The Doctor? How about Spike? Why couldn’t Buffy and Spike go look for the demon eggs while Riley somehow tries to find The Doctor? If Angel were in Sunnydale, would Riley also somehow not include him among those who should try to deal with the demon eggs problem?
    It’s an interesting thought, MikeB. Riley most likely still blames Spike for his break-up with Buffy – the last time they saw each other, he was torturing Spike with a plastic stake as revenge for revealing his nighttime vamp whore escapades. It seems highly doubtful that Riley would want to involve him in anything.

    And there’s also a slight – very slight – hint here that Riley may already suspect who the Doctor is – or at least who is holding the eggs. And if that’s the case, he certainly doesn’t want Buffy tagging along because he has authorization to take the Doctor out – and he knows she wouldn’t be happy if he fit Spike into an ashtray.

    Before they leave, Sam wanders into the kitchen to give a glum Willow some needed support.

    SAM: Hey. Willow. I’m sorry, I think I really stepped in it in there. Back in the jungle we had not one but two hard core shamans working for us. They were working the dark Magicks and got addicted. And now they're gone. "Gone" as in there’s nothing left. I never met anyone with enough strength to quit before. I'm just saying.
    Sam really is Queen Mary Sue of Sunnydale in this episode with the power to melt hearts everywhere, always saying and doing the right thing. Is what she’s saying true? In the end, it probably doesn’t matter – the important point is that Sam makes Willow feel she’s accomplishing something important by NOT giving into the Dark Magicks.

    Which begs the question – why in the f**k is the military using Dark Magicks anyway? Shouldn’t Willow be concerned that a bunch of magic-addicted shamans and witches are most likely wielding the power of life and death over innocent civilians? Considering what Willow has done, shouldn’t she warn Riley and Sam to carry around their I.D. cards just in case? It’s a wonder they don’t try to recruit her like D’Hoffryn.

    So we see Buffy and Sam do a bit of patrolling through the graveyard – not exactly egg central. It’s an odd scene – they’ve been sent out to locate the nest in a limited amount of time – but they’re just wandering around like they’re hanging at the mall, talking about work and guys and stuff while Riley bangs heads at Willie’s bar and roughs up demons for information. As You Were suffers from a lot of stereotypical gender cliches – and this scene is no different. It might have been a lot funnier if the tables were turned and Buffy/Sam were roughing up the bad guys while talking shop.

    But it’s also possible that Riley has assigned the two women together to prove that he has complete trust in both women – it’s a sign to both Buffy and Sam that he’s comfortable with either one inevitably discussing their relationship with him and saying their peace.

    Buffy seems distinctly uncomfortable with her new companion – earlier that evening, she thought that there might be a chance that she and Riley would be together. And now she’s spending a moment of togetherness with Riley’s wife – who seems to be everything that Buffy is supposed to be. Supportive, charming, tough, brave, empathetic and wise. Sam does seem aware that she’s treading on Buffy’s turf in more ways than one – but she treats Buffy with the kind of reverence and gentleness that only makes Buffy feel even worse. With every compliment Sam makes, Buffy manages to twist it into a negative.

    SAM: Thanks for letting me tag along.
    BUFFY: No problem.
    SAM: Maybe not for you. I've got to tell you, Buffy. I'm a little intimidated. I mean, patrolling with the real-live Slayer. You're like – Santa Claus or Buddha or something.
    BUFFY: Fat and jolly?
    SAM: Legendary. And it's not just Slayer status I'm talking about. It's you.
    BUFFY: Riley talks about me?
    Buffy looks at Sam penetratingly for a moment – and then looks down at the ground as they walk.

    SAM: He didn't say anything for a very long time. But I could tell, he was ripped up inside.
    BUFFY: Good thing he has you.
    SAM: More like miraculous. I went down to Central America with the Peace Corps. One night, my entire infirmary got slaughtered by – I didn’t know what they were. I got saved. Quit the corps. Joined the squad. My first major firefight, I met Riley. We started talking. First about tactics. Missions, stuff like that. Then about you.
    BUFFY: He thinks I let him go.
    Petrie’s stage directions make it clear that Sam is actually shaking down Buffy for an answer.

    SAM: Do you wish you hadn't?
    Busted. That's a big question and they both know it. Sam waits for an answer.
    The most interesting thing about this talk is that the whole business of Riley’s interest in vamp whores (or Joyce dying) is never brought up. It’s very probable that her mother was a topic of discussion on the ride over to the house – but it’s equally probably that Buffy believes Riley never told Sam about his adventures in bloodsucking. Even if Sam knows, it’s not Buffy’s place to tell her without talking to Riley first.

    Riley isn’t actually over Buffy and Sam almost certainly knows that.
    Yes, MikeB, I would agree that Sam is afraid that Buffy may possibly seek to come between them and Riley still holds a small torch for the Slayer. So Buffy doesn’t bring up any grievances – she keeps things very vague when discussing the break-up – it’s irrelevant anyway. Riley is with Sam now and Buffy has no intention of coming between them.

    BUFFY: I wish things were different. I'm not trying to – I don't – you know.
    SAM: I didn't mean to put you on the spot, Buffy. There's no bad guys in this one. The only thing that helped Riley work it out was time. Lots of time. It took him a year to get over you.
    BUFFY: I'm glad he's over me.
    Buffy is both lying and telling the truth. She’s happy that Riley has found someone to love him – someone who will give him the care and attention that he desires. And she knows deep down that he’s not the long haul guy. But there’s also the sense of the man who got away – the possibilities of what could have been – that deepen Buffy’s depression. It’s the “potential” of what Riley represents rather than Riley himself that forces Buffy to reassess what she really wants.

    And that is brought home by Sam’s next question:

    SAM: So you seeing anyone new? Someone special?
    This question flusters Buffy – she’s forgotten about Spike until this moment. And she realizes that she can’t even acknowledge him as a boyfriend, fumbling over her words as she tries to make up an elaborate series of explanations for being alone. It’s fairly obvious that Sam doesn’t know much about Buffy’s death and resurrection or she wouldn’t even be asking the question. For such a perceptive person, Sam seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Buffy’s love life.

    BUFFY: You know. I'm, uh, taking my time. I don’t want to jump right into anything. I don’t want, you know, to be defined by who I'm with.
    Uh-huh. Doesn’t want to be defined by who she’s with. The difference between Riley and Sam and their marriage of equals (to an extent) and the destructive relationship of Buffy and Spike who both are using each other to feel alive is vast. As Buffy fumbles over her words, she no doubt is thinking about the sex under the tree atop of the veggie burger and recoils from what her life has become – rough sex with a soulless vampire who she cannot love. Or can she?

    SAM: Yeah, better no guy than the wrong guy, that's for sure.
    Buffy can bear it no more – she has to get out of there – now.

    BUFFY: Sam? You know what? I think we should split up?
    SAM: Oh. I'm slowing you down. I knew I would – this was just selfish of me.
    BUFFY: No, it’s not – uh – there’s this guy. An informant, but he’s twitchy. I show up with company and we get nothing.
    SAM: Cool. I'm guessing Finn needs me about now. He's probably off somewhere getting his ass kicked. You know how wild he gets. Don't worry about Rye and me – we're good.
    BUFFY: I noticed.
    Buffy just stands there, alone, feeling like crap.
    Petrie says that Buffy feels like “crap.” And I think that it’s an apt description of how Buffy feels the carefully contained boundaries of her afterlife has been exploded into pieces. She doesn’t know who she is anymore – who is the Buffy that Riley pined over for a year? Who is Buffy now? Like a soulless vampire who finds it impossible to emotionally connect to the past, Buffy is numb to her former self. She looks behind her and sees only disappointment – she looks ahead of her and sees eventual failure. Compared to Riley and Sam, she’s not moving or growing at all – the only thing she even looks forward to is time with Spike.

    But I also think bizarrely that at the same time Buffy feels envy, shame and despair over her failed life, there’s a tiny part of her that hopes for a fervent second that perhaps she’s been wrong all this time about her vampire lover. After all, Spike does love her in his own way – even Tara said it.

    From what we can see in the opening scene, he’s become much more moderated and even human in the past three months as he playfully runs hide and seek behind her tree and pouts and teases her. And he matches her in power and has done some good and helped the gang and genuinely seems to care about what happens to her and Dawn. In her mind, Buffy races to try and make sense of her relationship with Spike – what she feels, where it could possibly go, who they are together, how they could be, and why not?

    It’s a very different impulse than she’s had before with regards to Spike – she actually needs him this time for more than just physical sensation or an escape from life. She needs him to tell her that she’s still Buffy. Even if it’s not real, she can still pretend that it is – as she always does with Spike. Buffy feels an intense need for assurance that she is still lovable – that someone, somewhere wants her. So she runs off – to use him once again.

    I’m having trouble fitting the rest of my response (too long as always), so I’ll finish this off tomorrow, MikeB. Saving the best for last!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 13-10-18 at 08:06 AM.

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    Really interesting thoughts about OaFA SoS. Buffy's disconnection to her home is definitely there from the moment that she is taken to it by Dawn. In my review of After Life I drew a link between Buffy's disconnection as she travels through the house and the hitchhiking demon's taunt later about her lack of presence. It's true that this is in fact there from the moment Dawn hugs her in Bargaining pt2, welcoming her home and we see Buffy's total lack of connection to that. Considering Buffy's detachment and repeated attempts to escapism as a general homelessness in life works well.

    I see your point about how removing the focus of Spike in the opening and close emphasises Buffy's relationship with Dawn in the episode and that Spike isn't the cause for their distance, the relationship a symptom, as we've been identifying, in great part a way to attempt to escape the pressures of expectations/connection on her. Seeing Buffy as greatly reacting rather than 'moving progressively' and changing in these episodes leading to NA is very interesting and is something I am considering and responding to within my reply to your review.

    And another great post Aurora. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on the final chunk of OaFA and then HB as well. And as you're steadily catching back up to us I'm drawing together my final chunk of responses to NA too. It's nice to see activity on the thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    The old Buffy must feel like a distant dream – some long-forgotten person who died long ago – until Riley comes back into Buffy’s life. And suddenly, she is confronted not only with the shadow of the past, but the shadow of who she used to be competing with the Buffy of now. Her hyper-awareness of what she once was follows her throughout the episode from the second that Riley appears – and she starts to view everything around her from that perspective as well.
    I think Buffy's deeply aware of the difference between who she was and who she is now from the moment she is brought back. That sense of separation comes greatly from this and her awareness of what others want from her, that they want who she was back, even though that person no longer exists as we've discussed before. It's an interesting point that Riley missed a lot of the significant events that Buffy has been through, so he in some ways brings this sense of stepping backwards and it emphasises to Buffy who she was. But of course things haven't stayed static for him either and the sudden reveal of his wife underlines this. Yet the comparison to the past and what was, along with what could have been, is still very much pulled to the fore for her through his return. But Buffy can't be who she was then, that version of her doesn't exist anymore. Great link to the title btw.

    I’m hoping to talk a bit about this in Seeing Red because I think the episode (and the season) centers around this difficult question of consciousness and self – especially the idea of a singular consciousness moving through various permutations and yet remaining a distinct entity. William Pratt and unsouled Spike and souled Spike. Non-magical Willow and Dark Willow. Powerless Warren and Supernaturally empowered Warren. Life and Death. And the belief in change, in transformation, in movement as opposed to stasis and stagnation that results in the feeling of being alive.
    This is really interesting and one of the most compelling things about the stories of these characters for me, that they have different sides to them and how they come to understand themselves and when/where/if they find balance or changes occur.

    We get detailed gendered greetings in which Riley gives Xander a “manly handshake” (as opposed to a sissy handshake from someone like William Pratt, I assume) and a hug safely administered to the girly-girl Willow.
    Do the directions he/others give normally provide so much impression of character opinion? I've been really surprised at how much opinion about Riley is conveyed through the shooting script. I suppose you can argue that it is an emphasis they deliberately were looking to play to in order to underline how it was making Buffy feel. It's also something they wanted front and centre with William too, the contrast to the big bad persona he'd built up.

    Buffy has always had a certain fear of commitment that most likely stemmed from childhood experiences – people who suffer from this kind of relationship anxiety find intimacy to be far more intense and aggravating than others and will do anything to retain a sense of freedom when with a partner. As the expectations of that commitment grows, they break up with their partner and then come back and then break up again and then come back again in a yo-yo effect that eventually becomes painful for their significant other. This is a complicated issue and too vast to go into here, but Buffy’s trust issues with her father, Angel, Riley, Spike and others only seem to intensify that initial impulse to flee. It doesn’t make Buffy a bad person – some people with these issues prefer to remain alone – but it may make her an unhappy one.
    Interesting thoughts in light of S12 which seems to be showing both the push away and then likely return of her relationship with Spike.

    Dawn seems exceptionally happy at Sam’s brown-nosing of the Summers family and beams a bit as she pulls back her punches at Riley and becomes more interested in the story. Buffy seems to notice that Riley and Sam seem to be more concerned about Dawn than she does herself.
    I think Buffy's taken aback a moment that being unsettled by Riley/Sam has thrown her enough to not think of this. There's also that question of whether Buffy would have decided this is one of those times that Dawn is too young to know, all part of shielding her and how that sits alongside her own disconnection to life that they step out of together at the end of the season.

    Great points about the nonsensical elements of the Suvolte/black market plot.

    It’s a very different impulse than she’s had before with regards to Spike – she actually needs him this time for more than just physical sensation or an escape from life. She needs him to tell her that she’s still Buffy. Even if it’s not real, she can still pretend that it is – as she always does with Spike. Buffy feels an intense need for assurance that she is still lovable – that someone, somewhere wants her. So she runs off – to use him once again.
    Certainly what Buffy wants consciously and subconsciously from her relationship with Spike has complicated layers to it, but this occasion is the time where she goes to him wanting to feel loved as someone in a relationship does. She's using him in a different way very specifically and Spike's surprise and happiness at that change, the significance it could mean for him, is really pronounced.
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    And another great post Aurora. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on the final chunk of OaFA and then HB as well. And as you're steadily catching back up to us I'm drawing together my final chunk of responses to NA too. It's nice to see activity on the thread.
    Thanks! But my post was on As You Were!.

    Yeah, I know.what you meant. We’re still ping-ponging back and forth between episodes. Mainly my fault. After the next few days when I work on Sosa’s marvelous Hell’s Bells, we’ll finally be on the same page!

    I stopped last night right before Buffy runs to Spike to ask him to tell her he loves her - I think that the entire last quarter of the episode deserves its own thread - it’s complicated.

    Do the directions he/others give normally provide so much impression of character opinion? I've been really surprised at how much opinion about Riley is conveyed through the shooting script. I suppose you can argue that it is an emphasis they deliberately were looking to play to in order to underline how it was making Buffy feel. It's also something they wanted front and centre with William too, the contrast to the big bad persona he'd built up
    Well, it’s not so much that it’s atypical to convey impression of character (although most directors don’t appreciate it - directions should be spare and used only when necessary except when delving into a psychological state that’s so removed from the text that i’ts unreadable) but that it’s rare to see such dedication to promoting specific behavior. Especially when it’s unlikely that any variation would change the outcome.

    There could be valid reasons to specifically spell out in the directions that Riley should take Xander’s hand in “a manly handshake” and then hug Willow - Riley needs to reinforce social gender norms because Xander is a homophobe or Riley suffers from gay panic or an insecure masculinity or Willow needs a boost to feel more feminine or Riley is tying to hide the fact that he and Xander have had sex in the past or Riley needs to impress on others in the room (like his new wife Sam) that he has an old-fashioned sense of what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman. But none of these apply here. We’ve seen Riley hug his buddies before and we’ve seen him shake hands with women.

    I think in this case, it conveys what Petrie perceives to be the signifiers of a man who knows himself - he knows how to treat each person in the way they would like to be treated. Xander wants to be perceived as manly - Willow wants an emotional greeting. Dawn wants a hands-off approach because she’s angry. The problem is that this isn’t written in any way that creates conflict - there’s no big reveal later when Riley supposedly falters and shows his hand. This is a Mary Sue moment in which Riley and Sam show themselves to be perfectly perfect in every way. Petrie describing handsome Riley Finn in his Kevlar jacket shows that Riley’s only function in As You Were is to be a foil to Buffy’s fears - he’s a symbol, not a real person with his high-tech living and fast cars - of the life that Buffy wishes she had.

    And that’s fine to an extent - some characters can act as nothing more than mirrors for another character to make a decision. But Riley was a main character once - the reduction to fantasy symbol is really sad - and it’s rendered highly problematic by the final part of the episode where I think there’s a major divergence between what the author intended Riley to represent and what the viewer sees. It also means that Petrie ignores all the issues that caused Riley to leave in the first place in favor of a regretful fantasy of what could have been - when in reality, it never really was.

    Generally, the kind of stage directions that Petrie writes aren’t so much typical of Buffy but popular in the hyper-driven 80s and 90s (when he probably learned to write scripts) with the emphasis on high concept and buzz words. The intent is to convey a kind of mood - not for benefit of the director - but for the benefit of the producer who is throwing in millions and needs to be reassured that it will appeal to the broadest segment of audience imaginable. It also gives an impression of tone - the writer spelling out the mood they want to convey.

    “SPIKE, badass in his rockin’ leather jacket and devastatingly handsome, swaggers towards BUFFY as female cops (and a few male ones) swoon - at that moment, Buffy feels like the luckiest girl in the world.”

    A stand-alone script uses that kind of cornball imagery to convey a mood - and quickly describe a character's attitude in a few strokes. But there are hundreds of screenplay how-to books that warn about this level of crass reductionism. Your producer could be someone who finds the imagery offensive and even unintentionally hilarious. And I think that Petrie’s script directions fall on that edge, sadly. It’s rare to find such florid writing in other scripts by Buffy writers - it’s all Petrie.

    Agreed that Buffy is looking for something different from Spike this time.

    StateofSiege, some fantastic points about the erasure of Spike from Older and Far Away. Some marvelous thoughts about Buffy’s relationship to Dawn and the politicized idea of “health” - I’m looking forward to going into them in depth when I get to your brilliant Normal Again review.

    Yeah, I know that I was taking Dickinson at face value in the Willow line - I tend to just grab at phrases out of the air when typing madlly. You’re right, of course - “Hope” within the context of her verse is actually a terrifying concept destined to drive one mad. As we see in Seeing Red.
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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post

    Yeah, I know that I was taking Dickinson at face value in the Willow line - I tend to just grab at phrases out of the air when typing madlly. You’re right, of course - “Hope” within the context of her verse is actually a terrifying concept destined to drive one mad. As we see in Seeing Red.

    American Aurora

    Absolutely understood:

    I know only too well what
    happens when typing madly....

    But I love the connection between
    "Hope"'s never-stopping
    Seeing Read

    It perfectly illuminates...

    More on your marvelous thoughts
    on AYW sometime today or
    very early tomorrow...

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Thanks! But my post was on As You Were!.

    Yeah, I know.what you meant. We’re still ping-ponging back and forth between episodes. Mainly my fault. After the next few days when I work on Sosa’s marvelous Hell’s Bells, we’ll finally be on the same page!
    Yes, clearly that was only a typo because I'd just mentioned OaFA to SoS above. As you say, it's the ping-ponging between episodes that fuddled me for a moment, but all my responses to you are clearly about your post/AYW.

    Well, it’s not so much that it’s atypical to convey impression of character (although most directors don’t appreciate it - directions should be spare and used only when necessary except when delving into a psychological state that’s so removed from the text that i’ts unreadable) but that it’s rare to see such dedication to promoting specific behavior. Especially when it’s unlikely that any variation would change the outcome.

    There could be valid reasons to specifically spell out in the directions that Riley should take Xander’s hand in “a manly handshake” and then hug Willow - Riley needs to reinforce social gender norms because Xander is a homophobe or Riley suffers from gay panic or an insecure masculinity or Willow needs a boost to feel more feminine or Riley is tying to hide the fact that he and Xander have had sex in the past or Riley needs to impress on others in the room (like his new wife Sam) that he has an old-fashioned sense of what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman. But none of these apply here. We’ve seen Riley hug his buddies before and we’ve seen him shake hands with women.
    Ah I get you and it does then just come across as trying to convey their perfection for Buffy to react to and this goes alongside the failure to dig properly into anything really about 'him' from the point when he left and then really cements his shallow use/appearance.

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    Hey, MikeB, sorry for the delay. I’m finishing up my response to your review of As You Were tonight!

    As we near the last act of As You Were, Buffy once again enters Spike’s crypt without knocking to find Spike sitting quietly on his kitchen table/sarcophagus fully dressed in a black button down shirt, reading a paperback novel in one hand. It all looks very innocuous – which is no doubt the image Spike is trying to convey – except for the fact that Spike has his kitchen table/sarcophagus all made up to act as a temporary bed, with gold pillow and bedding and all. And he looks so nervous that it’s likely Spike was hoping the whole transaction would be completed and the eggs gone before Buffy ever came by. If Riley hadn’t shown up, it’s possible that Buffy would never have known about them at all.

    Spike sits on his crypt (made comfy) reading a paperback. Buffy enters. Spike stands, a bit uncomfortable.
    SPIKE: Buffy! Hey now. If I’d known you were coming I'd have baked a cake.
    Spike is quoting yet another popular song (to go along with “You Always Hurt the One You Love”) – the 1950 hit "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" was written by Al Hoffman, Clem Watts and Bob Merrill.





    HOWD-YA DO, HOWD-YA DO, HOWD-YA DO ("If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" by Al Hoffman, Clem Watts and Bob Merill)
    I like how Petrie has a pointed reference to the crypt (made comfy) here – he’s setting up the crypt as an expression of Spike’s outward appearance that hides the more volatile emotions below. It’s all about the politics of the situation – Spike bluffs his way through the first part of the scene because he knows that he’s doing something down below that Buffy would never approve of.

    BUFFY: I need information.
    SPIKE: Suppose I could be helpful. If the price is right. Not sure I'm selling out at DoubleMeat Palace wages, though.
    It’s interesting to note that Spike immediately jumps on Buffy’s statement with a joke about money as if the whole idea of finances is foremost in his mind. He also points out that she probably doesn’t make enough on her salary to pay her vamp informant. Both are indicators that he’s really focused on the money he’ll make from keeping the eggs below. They’re also a sly inside joke (only to himself) that Buffy couldn’t pay enough to reveal anything about the eggs – she wouldn’t have enough to exceed whatever payment he’s hoping to get for the Suvolte brood.

    But Buffy shocks him with her next statement – she obviously knows all about what he’s been doing.

    BUFFY: I need to find a guy. Dealer. Calls himself the Doctor.
    Spike pauses for a moment at the word “Doctor” – he swallows nervously and smiles at Buffy, smirking a bit. He needs to know how close she is (and whoever else is inquiring) to finding out the truth and asks a question deliberately designed to pull focus from himself.

    SPIKE: Human?
    BUFFY: His traffic isn't.
    There’s a sense of relief as Spike realizes she doesn’t know anything. Does Spike believe that he’s going to actually get away with it now? He tests her to see how much she knows and is seemingly relieved that she doesn’t know enough to realize that he’s got the eggs. And Spike inadvertently reveals too much again about the eggs by referring to the limited time to sell them – but Buffy doesn’t catch it.

    SPIKE: Clock ticking?
    BUFFY: Whatever he's doing, he's doing it soon.
    SPIKE: Soon but not now.
    Spike and Buffy look at each other with the same thought as Spike smirks and runs his eyes over her skintight outfit. And all thoughts of Buffy’s responsibilities once again go out the window. No matter how much Riley has impressed on her the imminent disaster if they delay, Slayer responsibilities take a back seat. Soon but not now. It’s a perfect metaphor for their relationship. And then, knowing that they’re going to have sex, Buffy says something that shocks Spike – something she’s obviously never said before – ever.

    BUFFY’S HAVING ‘COMFORT SEX’ WITH SPIKE – Buffy to Spike: “Tell me you love me.” “Tell me you want me.” If at any time you could argue Buffy ‘used Spike for sex’, THIS is the one time. Buffy’s saddened about: Riley’s being ‘over’ Buffy, Riley/Sam, etc. and she decides to have ‘comfort sex’ with Spike.
    I agree, MikeB, that this is the one time during their relationship in which Buffy is unequivocally using Spike. We know from her conversation with Tara that she’s aware that she’s using him – that she can’t love him. And yet, to make herself feel better, she treats Spike little better than the Buffybot in asking him a set of pre-determined questions that he can’t help but answer.

    BUFFY: Tell me you love me.
    But why is Buffy asking this? There’s an echo of a much earlier exchange between Buffy and Angel when he’s caught doing something behind her back – talking with Drusilla. And before telling Buffy the whole sordid story, he tries to preempt her response.

    ANGEL: Do you love me?
    BUFFY: What?
    ANGEL: Do you?
    BUFFY: I love you. I don't know if I trust you.
    ANGEL: Maybe you shouldn't do either.
    BUFFY: Maybe I'm the one who should decide. (Lie to Me)
    And Buffy does much the same thing here – tries to preempt Spike’s responses by guiding him through what she needs him to say at the moment. It’s a very different attitude from when he first tried to profess his love – and she wouldn’t even let Spike complete the phrase.

    SPIKE: You can't deny it. There's something between us.
    BUFFY: Loathing. Disgust.
    SPIKE: Heat. Desire.
    BUFFY: Please! Spike, you're a vampire.
    SPIKE: Angel was a vampire.
    BUFFY: Angel was good!
    SPIKE: And I can be too. I've changed, Buffy.
    BUFFY: What, that chip in your head? That's not change. That's just holding you back. You're like a serial killer in prison!
    SPIKE: Women marry 'em all the time!
    SPIKE: But I'm not – like that. Something's happening to me. I can't stop thinking about you.
    BUFFY: Uhh.
    SPIKE: And if that means turning my back on the whole evil thing-
    BUFFY: You don't know what you mean! You don't know what feelings are!
    SPIKE: I damn well do! I lie awake every night!
    BUFFY: You sleep during the day!
    SPIKE: Yeah, but – you are missing the point. This is real here. I love –
    BUFFY: Don't! (Crush)
    When Spike finally does say the magic words to Buffy, she turns away and makes a face of disgust. Of course, she is chained up in Spike’s crypt at the time.

    SPIKE: Simple. I'm gonna prove something. I love you.
    Buffy closes her eyes and grimaces in disgust.
    BUFFY: Oh my god.
    SPIKE: No, look at me! I – love you. You're all I bloody think about. Dream about. You're in my gut – my throat – I'm drowning in you, Summers, I'm drowning in you. (Crush)
    And so it goes – every time Spike professes he loves Buffy, she reacts with anger and disgust – even after they’ve had sex:

    BUFFY: Your job is to kill the slayer. But all you can do is follow me around making moon eyes.
    SPIKE: I'm in love with you.
    BUFFY: You're in love with pain. Admit it. You like me because you enjoy getting beat down. So really, who's screwed up? (Smashed)
    SPIKE: Now, I admit it. You've had me by the short hairs. I love you. You know it. But I got my rocks back. You felt something last night.
    BUFFY: Not love.
    SPIKE: Not yet. But I'm in your system now. You're gonna crave me, like I crave blood. And the next time you come crawling, if you don't stop being such a bitch, maybe I will bite you.
    BUFFY: That's it! I want you out of my life! Out of my work, out of my home –
    SPIKE: Too late for that. You invited me in already. (Wrecked)
    SPIKE: You're not going in there.
    BUFFY: I have to do this. Just let me go.
    SPIKE: I can't. I love you.
    BUFFY: No, you don't.
    SPIKE: You think I haven't tried not to?
    Buffy hauls off and punches him in the face. Spike goes flying back into a couple of garbage cans.
    BUFFY: Try harder. (Dead Things)
    But this time, it’s different – Spike’s face is awash with varying emotions as Buffy asks him to profess his love.

    BUFFY: Tell me you love me.
    And this elicits a heartfelt avowal from Spike, who looks shocked for a moment before he drops his snarky attitude.

    SPIKE: I love you. You know I do.
    Spike looks puzzled and a bit frightened at the sudden intimacy as Buffy draws nearer to him, not taking her eyes off his face. But there’s no real emotion in Buffy’s voice – only a need to pretend. She’s deep in the fantasy now – but Spike can’t see that Buffy’s not really looking at him at all. She’s only seeing what she wants to see as Spike literally trembles a bit at the closeness. Is Buffy finally going to admit her feelings for him? But the tone changes as the question changes – it’s all about Spike’s desire – not Buffy.

    BUFFY: Tell me you want me.
    SPIKE: I always want you.
    As Buffy comes right up to Spike, it’s too much and he pulls back a bit from the intensity of it all – the smirk returns as he runs his eyes up and down Buffy’s frame suggestively and settles back into his old snarky self. It’s a much safer place to be when Buffy kicks him in the head again afterwards.

    SPIKE: In point of fact, I –
    BUFFY: Shut up.
    It’s not what Buffy wants to hear right now – she’s not interested in Spike’s sexual innuendos and jokes. She needs Spike to simply mirror back the person that she’s trying to create through her series of questions. In many ways, a relationship isn’t much different from the concept of a home. It’s also a means by which one chooses one’s self – and in the worst cases, we end up creating an ideal version of who we would like the other person to be that ignores who they are.

    And so the “Shut up” isn’t angry or teasing – it’s desperate as Buffy grabs Spike by the neck and pulls him around to lie on top of her. She’s not only asking leading questions – she’s literally leading him into the position that she wants. Petrie has an interesting stage direction here:

    Buffy maneuvers Spike and then pulls him down on top of her -- this isn't the throes of passion -- Buffy helps Spike wrap himself around her -- a human blanket. They start kissing –
    Spike is a human blanket here – not a lover. A comforting thing designed to warm Buffy and cushion her from the blows she’s just received. The stage directions also have Buffy unbuttoning Spike’s shirt without his input during their exchange – the director wisely moved it as the prelude to the act itself as Spike and Buffy get down to removing each other’s clothes almost dispassionately. Spike seems to be a bit confused about her clothing – how do you undo Black Ops pants, exactly? But she pulls him into a kiss before the camera pulls away.

    We don’t know whether Buffy/Spike have ‘made love’ before “As You Were” (B 6.15), but it seems they do in “As You Were”. Did Spike ever want to “make love” to Buffy before the Crypt Scene in “As You Were”? If anything, it seems Spike was pushing Buffy into kinky and sexually ‘adventurous’ things and wasn’t interested in ‘making love’. Given Drusilla and Harmony are vampires and Buffy is the Slayer, Spike likely enjoyed the sexual possibilities of such beings.
    It’s interesting, MikeB – I’m not really sure that one can say Buffy and Spuffy are making love here. Spike certainly might be after that exchange – but Buffy is obviously in a world of her own where she’s manufacturing a “Spike” who doesn’t really exist. If she were really interested in moving forward with their relationship, she’d have a heart-to-heart talk first. But instead she uses his feelings for her to goad him into making love to her – all to make herself feel better about losing Riley – or the fantasy of him. The fact that Buffy cuts Spike off before he can express how he feels independent of her needs says all that we need to know about her concern for him. To her, he’s still just a dead thing because he’s soulless – something to be used – and his words of love may sound pretty but they aren’t real.

    So she deals with the fantasy of losing what never was by pulling Spike into a fantasy of she knows deep down will never be – at least not in Spike’s current state as a soulless vampire. It’s probably one of the cruelest acts that Buffy ever commits in the show.

    Then again, Spike is making love to Buffy while the very demon eggs she asked about are lying downstairs. So he’s not much better in terms of fabricating reality. And the metaphor of the two sides of Spike – the man who loves Buffy and drinks his meals in a glass and reads paperback novels upstairs – and the monster who lies to her and keeps secret stalker shrines and hoards demon eggs for profit downstairs – is exemplified by this scene.

    Later. The room is dark. Buffy and Spike lie motionless on top of the crypt under a real blanket.
    And after such a night, it’s sad to see them side by side on the sarcophagus, inches away but not touching at all. Buffy is lying under her own blanket with Spike’s blanket tucked between them – no chance of contact – and lies so close to the edge that her leg is hanging off. Spike sleeps with his arms tightly wrapped around him to avoid touching Buffy at all in his sleep – as in their post-coital conversation in Dead Things, the impression left is that Buffy doesn’t allow the kind of intimate touching and holding after sex that most couples share. Weirdly, Spike moves in his sleep, almost cuddling himself as his hands move up and down his own back. It’s as if he’s dreaming of a Buffy who isn’t there even though she’s right beside him. Which indicates that the sex was probably physically enjoyable, but emotionally unfulfilling.

    A question – aren’t Buffy or Spike concerned that someone – like Xander in Gone – might just wander into the crypt at any moment and they’re practically screwing in the doorway? Or is that part of the excitement of their sexcapades – as Spike says, they’re getting away with it right under her friend’s noses.

    In the original directions, Petrie has Buffy and Spike wake up with Riley standing over them – no advance notice given. But this obviously played out as much more creepy than intended – how long had Riley been standing there anyway? So in the filmed episode, there’s a sound effect of Spike’s crypt door being opened.

    Buffy slowly awakes. Spike wakes up beside her. Sits up straight -- and a toothy, wicked grin spreads across his face as he says.
    SPIKE: Well, looky here!
    Reverse reveals: Riley stands before the two of them, holding a very large gun, armed and ready. Buffy goes straight to shock -- she cannot speak. Spike wants to play.
    Spike immediately looks up to see who entered his crypt – and he’s gleeful at the sight of Riley and his Big Gun standing before them.

    DID SPIKE WANT RILEY TO FIND BUFFY/SPIKE IN BED TOGETHER? – I’ve always reasoned Spike in “In the Dark” (A 1.03) led Angel into a trap and timed Angel’s beating up on ‘leads’ for Angel to get trapped by the torture demon. I always reasoned Spike wanted Riley to find out who The Doctor is and that Riley is delusional enough to think the ‘leads’ would be more scared of Riley than scared of Spike. I’m not sure Spike considered Buffy would have sex with Spike before Riley finds out who The Doctor is. But there is a good chance she would after finding out about Riley/Sam. Spike certainly has the upstairs ‘set up’ for Buffy/Spike sex…I reason Spike was ‘The Doctor’ and his contract for the demons eggs was “FOB Shipping Point”—meaning that his contract was to get the demon eggs to Sunnydale and then someone/thing else would pick them up. I reason Spike knew about Riley/Sam and the demon eggs thing was his way to try to find out how Buffy still felt about Buffy/Riley and Buffy/Spike vs. Buffy/Riley.
    Interesting thought, MikeB – although it seems doubtful that Spike could possibly know that Riley himself was pursuing the demon all the way from Central America. He seems to have no knowledge at all of Riley’s marriage to Sam. But when we look at the problematic aspects of Spike as an International Man of Mystery who deals in the black market world of government intrigue, the plotline has holes large enough to stake a vampire through.

    There’s a very famous essay online that takes a look at the ridiculous plot elements of As You Were and comes up with an alternative theory that the whole “egg” business was a setup by a vengeful Riley who concocted the whole thing and even planted the eggs in Spike’s lower crypt as an excuse to dust him. It’s a very clever and fanciful piece of work and I think it’s been highly influential on a great number of fan fictions that use the same slant on the episode.

    But it seems likely that it’s all true to an extent – the most telling thing is that Spike doesn’t bother to deny it when Buffy returns. Even incorrigible liars become self-righteous and indignant when they’re accused of something that they didn’t do – and Spike is neither in the final scene. But how in the world did Spike get swept up in something like this? He’s a chipped, powerless vampire with little electricity and no phone line – considered a traitor by the demon community – with very few connections to the outside world. He’s also so naïve that he allows the eggs to hatch for lack of refrigeration. And one suspects that it has to do with his actions during Buffy’s absence – not just the debts incurred over kitten poker, but other shady dealings that led to Spike taking this on for a little money.

    What’s odd is that we’re never even given a reason as to why Spike would do this – outside of cadging cash for blood and smokes, it’s not as if he lives an extravagant lifestyle or maintains an expensive wardrobe. There’s really only one reason that Spike would have to make money and he even states it outright:

    SPIKE: You're not happy here.
    BUFFY: Please don't make this harder.
    SPIKE: You don't belong here. You're something – you're better than this.
    BUFFY: I need the money.
    SPIKE: I can get money. Walk with me now, come on.
    BUFFY: I need to go help Gary with the fries.
    SPIKE: You gotta get outta here, this place'll do stuff to you. This place'll kill you. (DoubleMeat Palace)
    And yet – there are no excuses given for his behavior – he could have easily made up a story on the spot about wanting to help Buffy pay her mortgage and bills and get away from DoubleMeat Palace. And yet – nothing. Crickets. I suppose one could say that his reluctance to say that actually makes it more likely that Spike did it for Buffy – but it still leaves a huge question mark as to what was actually going on here because the discrepancies are wild. Riley contradicts himself in one scene:

    RILEY: Suvolte demon. Rare, lethal – nearly extinct, but not nearly enough.
    We've been tear-assing through every jungle from Paraguay up, taking out nests. As soon as we put one Suvolte down, a dozen take its place. They're breeders, Buffy. One turns into ten, ten becomes a hundred. This gets out of hand and there's a war with humans? Humans are gonna lose.
    And later, contradicts himself again:

    RILEY: Sam and I have been tracking a Suvolte demon through Central America. Killing machine. Nearly mature.
    SAM: Yeah, three months old and growing fast.
    RILEY: These things start to kill the minute they're hatched. And leave a real clear trail.
    SAM: Yeah. Just follow the villages with nothing in them but body parts.
    DAWN: So, this demon shredded your guys, and now you're looking for a little payback?
    SAM: No. It came here to the Hellmouth to, to spawn. But we think it already hatched its eggs somewhere.
    RILEY: And the plan was to track it. Let the demon take us to its nest.
    DAWN: And now they're gonna hatch a bunch of – baby demon things?
    SAM: Unless we stop it.
    BUFFY: So, demon eggs. Any timetable on when they're gonna hatch?
    RILEY: Hatching's not the problem.
    SAM: We think they're gonna be sold on the black market. There are some foreign military powers that would love to have their own Suvolte. You could never train it, but drop it on an urban population –
    RILEY: And it cleanses the area.
    DAWN: Is that a nice way of saying it kills people?
    SAM: Lots of 'em. Money's been exchanged. There's a dealer in town, calls himself the, The Doctor. Willow, you think you can help with a little locating spell?
    So they’re rare and almost extinct – except when they breed out of control. And they’ve got to stop the eggs from hatching – except that hatching isn’t the problem – the Doctor is the problem. That original accusation of Riley making this s**t up to get back at Spike sure sounds good right now.

    When faced with an impossible plot twist (and if you’ve ever worked on older shows, they’re plentiful) it’s fun to try and untangle it. So although I really like the idea of Riley being a vindictive, lying son-of-a-bitch of an unreliable narrator, I’ll try to come up with an alternate plot that also fits the facts.

    The first thing that struck me was the name – “Doctor” – and the fact that the very rare, almost extinct Suvolte Demon not only suddenly began to rapidly breed. This “Doctor” or his/her accomplice could have found one in Central America and engineered (through magic or chemistry) a new genetic sequence for the Suvolte that allowed them to breed much faster. After impregnating the creature, the havoc their spawn created drew Riley’s unit to the area right before [I]Into the Woods{/I] which takes place sometime between November 24 – December 18, 2000 – six months before Buffy’s fall from the tower.

    I would imagine that the good Doctor and his companions initially found it difficult to control the demons that they were hoping to sell. Riley seems to be sure that the Suvolte is essentially untrainable – which means that either the US government tried and failed (shock) or that he’s been given some pretty reliable intelligence documents by a foreign agent who reports that another government or organization tried and failed. Well, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. The Doctor and friends figured out that they could still be used as an untargeted weapon of mass destruction and marketed the eggs as potential “bombs” to be unleashed on one’s opponents. But where to store the eggs in the meantime?

    It really wouldn’t really help to make deals with international organizations if the creatures were rampaging throughout Central America and shredding anyone who touched their eggs while fighting US military – so through magic or training, several Suvolte demons were encouraged to come to Sunnydale (or another Hellmouth) to safely spawn their eggs – which could then be stored and sold when convenient.

    I know this is all farfetched – but no more than the original plot or the supposition that Riley has made the whole thing up. Which only leaves one question – who is the Doctor?

    Again, it seems highly unlikely that it’s Spike who initiated the whole thing – I think that Buffy’s instinct is correct here – although I’d say it’s not that Spike is incompetent, but too impatient to go through the kind of hoops it would require to set up such a complicated operation.

    ANGEL: We duke it out, huh? Is this your big strategy to get the ring back?
    SPIKE: Hey, I had a plan!
    ANGEL: You? A plan?
    SPIKE: A good plan. Smart. Carefully laid out. – But I got bored. All that watching, waiting – my legs started to cramp. (In the Dark)
    And if Spike were patient and determined enough to set up the whole egg operation with the contacts and the negotiations it would require, he certainly wouldn’t blow the whole thing by failing to refrigerate the eggs so that the whole thing would fail. No, it has to be something that was most likely engineered by someone else and happened in the spur of the moment – something that Spike probably thought would yield big rewards for a few weeks of work.

    My bet is that it is directly connected to Glory’s “Doc” – who has been revealed as the Doctor in several fan fictions – because of his past dealings (remember how he knew exactly where to send off Spike and Dawn to fetch the Ghora egg?) and the fact that there’s “talk” around town about him including an easily accessible address – exactly what someone who deals on the black market would want to put out there in the demon world in hopes of being contacted.

    SPIKE: I've never used this bloke's services myself, but there's talk. Word is he knows everything there is to know about resurrection spells. (Forever)
    He could have easily been involved in work like this for years until the right moment arose for Glory’s return. Glory/Ben has to keep up her expensive lifestyle somehow and I can easily see Doc buying and selling all manner of nasty things to the highest bidder to finance his Goddess.

    I can also see Spike returning to Doc’s place some point after Buffy’s death to snoop around and ensure that Dawn wasn’t in any future danger from other baddies. And while rifling through his things, Spike might have found an enormous goodie bag of evil but lucrative operations going on – and either was in the right place at the right time or deliberately decided to step in and impersonate the good doctor when the time – and the price – was right.

    So it could have been that Spike came in contact with one of Doc’s suppliers or buyers – and decided foolishly to take it upon himself to pretend that the “Doctor” wasn’t actually dead – and make a deal that he couldn’t really deliver because of his lack of knowledge. So the eggs were dumped in his crypt by someone and another party was scheduled to pick them up. So far, so good – but Spike didn’t realize that they needed refrigeration. He probably thought it would be a hop, skip and jump to making big bucks and Buffy never needed to know. Why Spike needed the money is anybody’s guess – for Buffy, for himself, for some other scheme that never materialized. The issue isn’t really how or why, though – it’s enough to show that soulless Spike lacks the kind of moral boundaries that he needs in order to be a genuine boyfriend to Buffy. He outright lies to her face when she asks him about the eggs – he’s proven himself both an untrustworthy partner and friend.

    If Spike is just the middleman either acting on behalf of someone else or impersonating Doc, he wouldn’t have any idea that the US Government was searching for the “Doctor” or why Riley would even be involved. He hopes that Riley’s there for some other reason – probably crawling back to beg Buffy’s forgiveness – and he finally feels that he can get a little payback for what Riley did the last time they spoke. Still, he also needs to distract and try to lure both Buffy and Riley away from even thinking about visiting the lower half of his crypt.

    SPIKE: I don't often use the word "delicious," but I've got to wager this little tableau must sting a bit, eh? Me and your former? Must kill.
    Spike is right – he only uses the word “delicious” twice ever in the Buffyverse – here – and when he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s come back with a soul by acting equally monstrous with Buffy:

    BUFFY: You haven't changed, Spike.
    SPIKE: Working out some personal issues, are we? Hey, I guess this would be first contact since, uh, you know when. Ooh, up for another round up on the balcony, then? Right you are, luv. I haven't changed. Not a lick. And watching your face trying to figure me out was absolutely delicious. (Beneath You)
    Spike’s worst moments – his most appalling taunts – are made when his back is up against the wall and he’s fighting – interestingly, not for his life, but for the preservation of his identity. To reveal even the slightest bit of vulnerability would shatter him – and so he’s all bluster and insults, nasty jibes and fiercely offensive name-calling. The use of the word “delicious” in both contexts really means that what’s happening in the moment is terrifying and threatening to his sense of self – anything other than delicious. The fact that if Buffy finds out the eggs are downstairs means he might lose her as well pushes him on to new heights of verbal abuse as he tries to talk his way out of the situation.

    And when it’s a male who threatens Spike’s hard-won persona as a macho bad-ass, Spike becomes even more of an attack dog – and ends up diminishing Buffy in the process by calling her all manner of reductive names as if she weren’t even there. What’s really sad is that Spike seems incapable of taking into consideration Buffy’s emotional reaction as he taunts Riley – she sits up next to him, blanket pulled to her body, as her eyes grow wide with horror and shame and tears threaten to fall. Then again, maybe Spike does see but doesn’t let on – in his mind, there’s nothing for Buffy to be ashamed of. She’s not in any relationship, she’s not cheating on anyone and she’s not allowing Spike to drink her blood (like Riley and his vamp whores.) Buffy’s tearful reaction at being caught having sex with Spike is just as potentially humiliating for him as it is for her if he acknowledges it. As for Riley, he seems to be looking at Buffy with compassion and concern, deciding what to do, as Spike rambles on, laughing and sneering at his old rival. And then, to push in the stake further, Spike brings up an old conversation:

    SPIKE: What can I say? The girl just needs a little monster in her man.
    This last line is a callback to the scene in Into the Woods when Riley enters Spike’s crypt, bent on revenge for bringing Buffy to see Riley in the vampire suck house and tortures Spike with a plastic stake:

    Riley pulls back his arm and we see there's a stake in his hand. He plunges it into Spike's chest.
    SPIKE: Ow! Bloody hell! Oh god! Hey –
    RILEY: Plastic wood-grain. Looks real, doesn't it? Don't think I don't know what's goin' on with you, Spike. Stay away from her. Or we'll do this for real next time.
    SPIKE: Oh, man. You are really under it, aren't you?
    RILEY: What?
    SPIKE: Look at you. All afraid I'm hot for your honey.
    RILEY: Because you are.
    SPIKE: Well, yeah. But that's not your problem. Even if I wasn't in the picture, you're never gonna be able to hold onto her.
    Riley puts his hand over Spike's hand that is covering the wound. He pushes his hand deeper into it.
    SPIKE: Ow, bloody hell!
    RILEY: Maybe I didn't almost kill you enough.
    SPIKE: Come on. You're not the long haul guy and you know it.
    RILEY: Shut up.
    SPIKE: You know it. Or else you wouldn't be getting suck jobs from two-bit vampire trulls. The girl needs some monster in her man and that's not in your nature – no matter how low you try to go.
    RILEY: You actually think you've got a shot with her?
    SPIKE: No, I don't. Fella's gotta try, though. Gotta do what he can.
    RILEY: If you touched her, you know I'd kill you for real.
    SPIKE: I had this chip outta my head, I'da killed you long ago. Ain't love grand? Sometimes I envy you so much it chokes me. And sometimes I think I got the better deal. To be that close to her and not have her. To be all alone even when you're holding her. Feeling her, feeling her beneath you. Surrounding you. The scent – no, you got the better deal.
    RILEY: I'm the lucky guy. Yeah. I'm the guy. (Into the Woods)
    And Spike had said something similar to Riley when caught sniffing Buffy’s sweaters in her bedroom:

    SPIKE: Face it, white bread. Buffy's got a type, and you're not it. She likes us dangerous, rough, occasionally bumpy in the forehead region. Not that she doesn't like you – but sorry Charlie, you're just not dark enough. (Shadow)
    What’s interesting is the parallel between Spike and Riley here – both characters attempt to make Sunnydale their home – both fall in love with Buffy – and both end up in houses of the dead and eventually flee the city, coming back changed men. And just as Riley’s flight was indirectly caused by Spike’s discovery of his dirty little secret he’s hiding behind walls, Riley is about to turn the tables on Spike and do the same to him when Spike’s own dirty little secret is about to be exposed.

    RILEY: That’s not why I'm here – Doctor.
    Buffy’s eyes widen and she turns to look at the naked vampire next to her in shock as Spike quickly glances at her with a second of trepidation and then turns back to Riley as if nothing happened. The commercial break makes for an odd edit where we seem to see the exact same scene again sans the line – there’s a pause as if someone’s speaking dialogue and then Buffy widens her eyes and turns her head towards Spike in the exact same manner as before. It’s an obvious duplicative outtake of the same scene. But Petrie makes it clear that none of the participants are happy.

    No one's real comfortable.
    That is an understatement as Buffy slides off the sarcophagus and starts to put her Black Op clothing. In a way, this is the bottom rung for Buffy in an episode of bottom rungs – her worst fears are soon to be realized – not only did she slack off and stop looking for the nest of eggs – but she’s been sleeping with the enemy who’s been hiding them. And the humiliation of Buffy in As You Were accelerates as neither men are willing to even back down enough to leave the crypt and let her dress in private.

    BUFFY: Oh, God.
    But at this point, Buffy is convinced that Riley is wrong – Spike isn’t the Doctor – this is all a mistake and the worst that she has to deal with is the embarrassment of Riley finding her in bed with Spike – and making sure that it doesn’t have a dusty ending.

    I consider Buffy gets dressed so quickly mostly to try to protect Spike from Riley if necessary. I consider other than wanting to permanently end Buffy/Riley, Spike doesn’t much care about Riley’s feelings regarding Buffy/Spike.
    Yes, MikeB, I agree that Buffy is also rushing because of the fear that Riley might attack Spike. Of course, his gun won’t have much use on vampires unless he blows Spike’s head off his shoulders – but there are other ways to skin a cat. And Spike at the moment is acting like a frightened cat who blows up its fur to look bigger as he throws the blanket off of him and spreads his legs wide to point his own Big Gun back at Riley.

    SPIKE: Here I thought we ran you out of town, mate. Last I saw you, if memory serves, you were getting the juice sucked out of you by some undead ladies of very questionable reputation. Now be a good tin soldier and um –
    He gestures "run along."
    Spike is the only person who reminds Riley of the reason he left Sunnydale in the first place – Riley turning to vamp whores – and so there is a kind of turnabout in Spike’s mind that Riley has no place to judge Buffy at all.

    Riley looks off in the direction of Buffy – who doesn’t go down into the lower crypt to change, but stays nearby in case something drastic happens. As he turns back and sees Spike sitting with his legs up and spread, he sighs and looks away. The right thing to do as far as Riley is concerned is to politely say “I’m sorry” and leave until Buffy and Spike are fully dressed. But Riley can’t take the chance that Spike could flee downstairs and escape through a back tunnel with the eggs and so he has to witness the post-coital couple each put their clothes back on. Again, the scene is calibrated for maximum Buffy humiliation – and it’s discouraging to see how much it punishes her for her choices considering the two male characters are forgiven for a multitude of sins.

    RILEY: Where are they, Doctor?
    SPIKE: Where are what? And why you keep calling me that?
    Spike grabs his jeans and pulls them on as he continues to play dumb. Riley just patiently waits for Spike to get dressed before the fun begins.

    RILEY: Glad to be back in Sunnydale. Locals all speak English and I know who to beat for information. It’s all brought me here.
    If Spike’s lines were obscene, Riley’s line about who to beat for information is equally obnoxious. Not only it is playing Mr. Tough Guy – do you know how many demons and humans I had to beat to find you? – but it’s an implicit threat – Spike had better come clean or there’s gonna be a little ultra-violence around here. And since Spike is chipped and defenseless, it’s not exactly going to be a fair fight. There’s also a little bit of an awkward “They speak English here” line that obviously just meant that Riley could understand his informants, but comes off in this context as kinda weirdly racist.

    And Spike knows Buffy isn’t going to allow Riley to try to kill Spike. Spike already knew that in “Goodbye Iowa” (B 3.14). Obviously, Riley’s threat to kill Spike is toothless. He can’t even get the location of the demon eggs if Spike is dusted; in addition, obviously, Buffy isn’t going to allow Riley to kill Spike.
    Yes, MikeB, I totally agree. And Riley would never touch Spike now that he’s seen Buffy in bed with him. But it’s not like Spike isn’t trying to get staked - in response to Riley, Spike goes for broke and starts name-calling everyone in the room while trying to be as demeaning to Buffy as possible in order to throw Riley off his game.

    SPIKE: Look, crew-cut: she's not your bint anymore, and if I can speak frankly, she always had a little thing for me when she was shagging you.
    This line is freighted with insecurity – it’s a pathetic attempt to swagger and seem masculine – and it reminds me of a similar line thrown at another foe:

    ANGEL: That's why Buffy never really loved you: Because you weren't me.
    SPIKE: Guess that means she was thinking about you – all those times I was puttin' it to her. (Destiny)
    Puttin’ it to her – she’s not your bint anymore – she always had a little thing for me – she likes a little monster in her man. Spike is scripting here and with Angel – trying to impress Riley with his uber-masculine position – and it all comes off incredibly pathetic. He views his worth through his sexuality – which comes no doubt from Drusilla’s view of him as a plaything – and proudly puffs his well-muscled chest and swaggers around the room as if having sex with Buffy and making her scream was like winning the lottery. It’s very much tied into his feelings about going after Slayers and is linked back to his inequitable relationship with his mother.

    Sadly, the same impulse that drives Spike to place love above all else is shared with the impulse to prove himself a man because he’s certain deep down that he’s never been a real man – even when he was human. And that has disastrous consequences for Spike’s character not only in Seeing Red, but in future storylines as well. It’s not until the final comic seasons that Spike manages to finally accept who he is and grow out of his psychological need to self-aggrandize and cover for his massive inferiority complex.

    But in this scene, we have two macho blowhards going at each other as Buffy continues to get dressed. Although Riley pretends that Spike’s not getting to him, he starts to huff a little and drops the whole “Doctor” bit to call Spike by his name:

    RILEY: Nice. Very distracting. Now tell me before I get unprofessional. Where are the eggs, Spike?
    And Spike reaches for one more low blow:

    SPIKE: Eggs? You're off your nut. It must be those drugs they were keeping you on. I did warn you.
    RILEY: Okay. We can do this the hard way or we can do this the fatal way.
    And Riley punches Spike hard on the left side of his face as Buffy races up, finally able to get that tight Black Ops suit on.

    RILEY: Where are the eggs?
    BUFFY: The "Doctor' – it can't be Spike.
    Spike touches his face and moves his jaw as Buffy tries to convince Riley that she hasn’t been sleeping with the enemy. Interestingly, Buffy never asks Spike herself if he’s the Doctor – she or Riley never suggest that Riley leave for an instant so Buffy can have a serious talk with him alone. She just assumes that Spike is NOT the Doctor – and Spike takes that as Buffy defending him from Riley’s attack:

    SPIKE: No need to defend me, love.
    But Spike is misreading the moment – and so Buffy punches Spike hard on the right side of his face.

    I’m guessing that the double tag team punching of Spike by Buffy and Riley was meant to be funny, but there’s something truly upsetting about this action to me. Yes, Spike has misunderstood Buffy – she wasn’t necessarily trying to defend Spike, but was explaining to Riley why she’s certain that Spike is incapable of being the Doctor. Because he’s too stupid, too incompetent, too beneath her to even pull off something that big. And yes, Buffy has punched Spike many times before and he’s punched her back – including the horrific pummeling in Dead Things. And yes, Spike is a vampire and a punch that might kill someone else is nothing to him.

    But for some reason, Buffy’s action here feels different – it doesn’t feel like she believes Spike is lying to her – not yet anyway. He’s said some dreadful things, true, but it almost feels as if the punch to Spike’s head is on the same level as Spike’s taunts – it’s a big show for Riley, designed to prove that even though she slept with Spike, he means nothing to her at all. He’s just convenient – a sex playmate, a punching bag, a bit of muscle in a fight with a Bad Guy. Buffy has to do something to prove that Spike is still beneath her and sucker-punching him when he least expects it shows her lack of concern for him.

    And that’s not the Buffy who was the heroine throughout the series who refused to let others die even at the cost of her own life – that’s the petty Buffy who tried to get revenge on Faith. She just had sex with this man and asked him if he loved her – to immediately resort to violence without provocation and insult him is to fall to his level. In fact, all three of them are acting like a bunch of a**holes in their own way. And Spike is the only one without a soul.

    BUFFY: It can’t be! He's too – Incompetent! It's just Spike, Riley.
    RILEY: Right. Deadly, amoral, opportunistic – or have you forgotten?
    Buffy is shamed into saying nothing.
    Riley slut-shaming Buffy really disgusts me here – almost as much as Buffy slugging Spike. I dunno, Riley, have you forgotten about your own escapes with vampires? Were they all sugar and spice and everything nice? Were they even chipped? Or is that all forgiven now that you’ve married Queen Mary Sue?

    Spike is pretty disgusting as well – even after Riley says this, he just stands silently looking at Buffy. As she walks away leaving Spike in Riley’s hands, Riley steps up to threaten Spike some more:

    RILEY: I'm taking this place apart until I find that nest.
    SPIKE: Over my dead body.
    RILEY: I've seen enough of your dead body for one night, thanks.
    SPIKE: Well you're not gonna –
    Riley throws Spike aside and heads to the stairway as Buffy watches.

    RILEY: You coming?
    Buffy looks back at Spike – who looks at Buffy to see what she’s going to do. And she moves to go down the stairs with Riley. Spike furiously pulls on his shirt as he complains, upset.

    SPIKE: Oh, this is – unconstitutional, is what this is. Here. There's nothing to see down there.
    As Buffy follows Riley into the lower part of the Crypt, she still tries to convince him that he’s mistaken about Spike:

    BUFFY: Riley, look, I'm not saying he's good, Riley, I'm just saying he's not capable of something as –
    We pull back to reveal the entire lower-crypt floor is covered, wall-to-wall, with EGGS. Big, leathery Demon eggs.
    Buffy stands before them in shock as Spike barrels down the stairs, barefoot with his shirt open.

    SPIKE: I can explain.
    RILEY: We’re gonna need more weapons. Spike screwed up. You didn't keep 'em frozen, did you, Doctor.
    SPIKE: You can stop calling me that anytime. If I may – the thing of it is, I'm holding these for a friend who –
    And Buffy slugs Spike again – this time so hard that it bloodies his nose and sends him hurtling to the ground. This time, she’s a bit more justified in her anger. Spike has played her for a fool.

    BUFFY: No more games.
    And Spike knows that he’s lost Buffy – to Riley, presumably – over some stupid scheme that didn’t even matter much to him anyway. And the fear that Buffy is probably going off to reunite with Riley overwhelms him emotionally enough that his big monologue is played while fending off tears, his voice hoarse and shaking with fury and despair.

    SPIKE: Well, that's bloody funny, coming from you? No more games? That's all you've ever done is play me, and you keep playing with rules you make up as you like! You know what I am – you've always known – you come to me all the same!
    There’s a lot of truth in what Spike is saying here – and Buffy knows it. But at this moment, Buffy’s not in the mood to hear one of Spike’s speeches.

    RILEY: Can you shut him up?
    BUFFY: Not so far.
    This is a callback to Buffy’s initial words at the beginning of the scene when she begged for validation – “Tell me you love me – tell me you want me” and then when Spike went off-script, she told him to “Shut up” and started to unbutton his shirt. And Spike did shut up – so Buffy’s actually not telling the truth here – but I don’t think she cares much. And that’s a big problem. It’s not that Buffy shouldn’t be furious at Spike for lying to her – but she doesn’t even care enough to go after him. Granted, he rushes away in an emotional fury without even checking to see if Riley’s telling the truth and the demon eggs will hatch.

    Buffy’s dialogue with Riley here is crude – and again, it’s verging on cruelty and abuse. Yes, Spike does the same and even worse in some ways – but he’s a soulless vampire who doesn’t know any better. Buffy wants to have her burger and screw on it too. She doesn’t want to stake Spike and keeps him around to protect her friends and sister, help her in fighting bad guys, have fantastic sex with her and validate her when she’s down. But at the same time, she retains the privilege of beating him up and belittling him whenever she likes because he’s soulless. Whereas Spike wants to claim all the benefits of masculine privilege through his boastful speech with Riley, but he’s actually afforded none outside of the demon world because of his chip.

    Of course, Spike has been abusive to Buffy as well, taking advantage of her depression to pull her away from her friends – but she’s been playing Spike for four seasons now, using him for an alliance, for muscle, for emotional support and for sex despite the fact that he was a soulless vampire who had killed and tortured and raped tens of thousands in his past. As much as Buffy found him useful and could channel his passion for her in more constructive ways, she knew what he was. He did a lot of good for the Scoobies – but most of that was because of the chip in his head and Buffy’s example – if he wasn’t trying to please her so much, would he really be good?

    Buffy learns Spike’s responsible for perhaps thousands of more deaths and yet he’s able to make her feel guilty about ‘playing games’ with him.
    Yes, MikeB, the ethics of the Buffyverse and how soulless Spike is treated by the Scoobie Gang is complex and what it signifies often crosses wires with what the creators intended. If Buffy had turned evil, would Spike commit evil for her? Would he have tortured children or burned down a town? Maybe – maybe not. Then again, have the Scoobies lifted one finger to try and truly integrate him into the gang and teach him by example? We saw Giles attempt this in when he visits Spike in his new crypt – but Spike rejects any contact with them at first. Still, Spike could have been a great experiment to see how much change could really happen for a soulless vampire – especially because Spike’s eventual obsessive focus on Buffy enabled him to go out and seek redemption on his own.

    But Buffy doesn’t have much time to think about Spike. She’s temporarily enlisted into Riley’s one-man army as the Demon eggs hatch.

    RILEY: You better get out of here.
    And before he can answer we hear a horrible cracking sound as one by one, the eggs not so much hatch as RIP OPEN. Each one has a slime-coated, gnarly-looking Suvolte Demon hatchling burst out – they don't look like much, about ten inches across and all claws and teeth – like crabs from Hell.
    RILEY: On second thought, stick around.
    Riley tosses the gun to Buffy. Just as the demons start scuttling across the floor.
    BUFFY: Riley, I –
    RILEY: Aim high, plenty of lead.
    BUFFY: I'm not exactly gun gal.
    RILEY: Want to live? Learn fast.
    And we have a moment of comedy in which Riley hands his gun to Buffy – who fails to shoot the baby demons and destroys Spike’s crypt instead. Har Har.

    The demons come at them. From all directions, it seems. Buffy tries to shoot them but can't hit them. Gunfire shatters Spike's bedpost, pillow, and barber's chair.
    BUFFY: These things? Never useful –
    RILEY: We have to pull out.
    Riley gets slashed by one of the demons. Buffy throws the gun at the thing. She grabs Riley and pulls him out of there. They head for the ladder, Buffy helping the wounded Riley up. They make it out as the demons close in, their screeching reaching a crescendo
    RILEY: We need a way to contain those things!
    Apparently, when the heat is on, Riley panics! And no-nonsense Buffy saves the day as she grabs Riley’s equipment (get it!) and throws it down to land on Spike’s lower half (get it!) and destroys Spike’s awesomely elaborate collection of hanging lanterns and artfully placed candles flanked by huge rugs and stolen furniture as the lower crypt explodes.

    I’m going out for a minute, MikeB, but will be back later to post the rest – which won’t fit at all in one post!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 15-10-18 at 10:44 PM.

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  35. #538
    Well Spiked Stoney's Avatar
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    Love your character observation about Spike's defensiveness when Riley comes against his behaviour in Beneath You when he fears being exposed and tries to distract/cover Aurora. And the crass terms in which he talks about his relationship with Buffy, just like with Angel in Destiny as you observe, really is about trying to protect himself emotionally too. He doesn't want to make it about the emotions in front of someone else as he doesn't feel secure at all in what Buffy feels, despite his insistence to her she will come to feel for him and even after her seeming to want to hear his feelings this time. No doubt Riley's arrival is throwing up plenty of connections to him about why Buffy's suddenly shifted in what she wanted from him, but they're ones he doesn't really want to face. So he resorts to the usual defences.

    As you say, Spike views his worth in the romantic relationships he has through his sexuality, likely in great part generated by how he found approval with Dru and because he hadn't been met with equal emotional regard in a relationship. I agree it all links up to his underlying issues to identity, his mother and wanting to be praised, seeking slayers, all with that need to prove himself, to be good enough to be seen and wanted. This is why the step away from the physical connection in Buffy and Spike's relationship in S7 really underlines an important shift between them, there's a deepening emotional connection and this is why it hits new ground for Spike and sits alongside why at differing points he is so at sea about what to say and do.

    Interesting to consider that his need to prove himself and fit to some impressions of what will be wanted ties to being seen as manly, a reaction no doubt in part to the weakness he saw in himself as William, even though he retained the motivation to be loved. I look forward to seeing how you draw this into the events of Seeing Red. I agree that his responses to the situations in the final season show how far he has come in escaping the need to react defensively. Greatly in part I feel because of his altered sense of emotional security, having finally found a sense of belonging and, despite their current split, a strong belief in his worth to someone specific and others who mean a great deal to him too.

    Great observation about Riley turning the tables in exposing Spike's secret this time too. And I agree Buffy's punch to Spike is done in a similar vein to his taunting, she's looking to regain ground and present a preferred image as well. There's no doubt all three behave pretty appallingly.
    Last edited by Stoney; 16-10-18 at 12:31 AM.

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  37. #539
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    Hey, MikeB – here’s the last – but not the least – response to your review of As You Were!

    In this final few scenes of the episode, I want to pause for a moment as Spike’s crypt is blown sky high and look at one of the most remarkable metaphors for change in the Buffyverse – the complex, constructed spaces that people call “home” – and how one space in As You Were in particular represents the tension between the need for social continuity and the drive towards individual transformation.

    A major theme of Season Six is about growing up - which inevitably leads to ways in which we grapple with the instability of identity and polish the presentation of the self. And one of the main expectations is a change in environment – one that presents new and challenging expectations.

    Buffy moves several times in her young life before the destruction of the Hellmouth – from Los Angeles to her mother’s new home in Sunnydale to the UC Sunnydale dorms and back to 1360 Revello Drive again when her mother dies. Even after her plunge from the tower, a case can be made that Buffy’s resurrection creates a total reset of the house – in her absence, the Summers house has been altered to accommodate Dawn’s guardians Willow and Tara – bedrooms have been completely redecorated, furniture changed and personal effects carefully positioned around the house to create a whole new design.

    And that’s vital to the two witches reestablishing the space as their own. Environment is just as important in the construction of the identity as anything else. It’s not necessarily ordered to impress others – often it’s arranged (or deliberately scattered about) to fortify a desired sense of self. Staying in a person’s personal space is like following in another’s psychological footsteps – sometimes, it’s not only what people like, but what they THINK they should like (or deserve) because of their social situation, their background and their experience. Whether dark or light, cluttered or empty, house or hole in the ground, each space is an extension of how a person views themselves – for good or bad.

    And as we view ourselves differently, so does the need to change one’s surroundings. Xander moves from his parents’ depressing basement apartment with its utilitarian washing machine décor and cat pee-lined hotplate to his own nicely furnished apartment with Anya. Willow moves from her parents’ house to a small Sunnydale dorm shared with Buffy and later to Joyce’s bedroom in Buffy’s house while taking care of Dawn during the summer of Buffy’s death. Cordelia moves from her parents’ house to a roach-infested dump and later to a lovely, haunted apartment in Los Angeles. Even the Evil Trio of Warren, Andrew and Jonathan move from their childlike fantastical room in the basement of Warren’s childhood house to another secret location – another basement of a secret hideaway home after their murder of Katrina.

    And then there’s Spike – whose very first words in the Buffyverse were a comic announcement that his arrival at the Sunnydale Hellmouth was a desirable endpoint of a long journey.

    SPIKE: Home, sweet home. (School Hard)
    Spike sees the Sunnydale Hellmouth – a center of mystical energy where a portal exists between this world and a Hell dimension – as a place where a sickly Drusilla can recuperate and regain strength after being attacked by a mob in Prague. Yes, there’s a Slayer there – but she’s just a bonus. And when Spike returns from Africa fundamentally changed, he still makes the same connection:

    SPIKE: This is my home. I belong here. Always been here. Cheers for stopping by. (Lessons)
    Why does Spike say the school basement is his home? Why does he claim that he belongs there and that he has always been there? Obviously, Spike’s mind is addled and a bit merged with the First, but Spike’s proprietary attitude towards his prison basement is telling – babbling of visitors, solicitors, permission slips – as well as the confusion of the new Sunnydale High school with distant memories of his own school days. And this fragmentation explodes the grand narratives of Spike’s life that create identity – the composite memories and events that seem to make up who he is – past and present and future all jumbled together thanks to three different forces working on him – the shiny new soul within, the First without and the Hellmouth that constitutes a psychological force of its own.

    Spike seems to be making a peculiar connection between himself as a composite of man/demon and the location of the Hellmouth – both beneath Buffy and her friends and the hellish nature of the walls that make up his self-imposed prison. The basement/Hellmouth seems to be a metaphor for the chamber of isolation that Spike believes he has lived in throughout his life – never truly close to anyone – and Spike reverts back to ugly memories as a child, judges his broken relationships with his mum, Drusilla and Buffy, relives painful moments from his past and determines not to leave the safety of its confines.

    From Season Two onward, there’s an interesting association between the changeable nature of Spike – his need to constantly construct a new self that can adapt to any situation and any person – and the psychological space that he calls “home.”

    ANGEL: You're not getting an office.
    SPIKE: You selfish sod. The rest of your lot get to go home to their nice and cozies. Me? I gotta nest in somebody else's roost. It's not bleeding right. (Destiny)
    And this all stems from William Pratt – who never considered leaving his sickly housebound mother’s side until he was sired – not even when contemplating marriage:

    WILLIAM: I have a woman in my life.
    ANNE: You, what? You've never – oh.
    WILLIAM: Do not mistake me. I have hopes that one day there will be an addition to this household.
    But I will always look after you, Mother. This I promise. (Lies My Parents Told Me)

    We don’t know if William ever lived anywhere else but what appears to be a comfortable upper middle-class London townhouse – but his intention to add to the household rather than move away is fitting for such a timid character. But once Drusilla turns him into a creature of the night, he can’t wait to get away and bring his mother along for the ride.

    DRUSILLA: Ooh, such a pretty house you have, sweet Willy. Smells of daffodils and viscera.
    WILLIAM: Don't get too attached, now. Won't be here for long, love. (Lies My Parents Told Me)
    Impending adulthood – or any kind of transformation from one state to another – necessitates a jettisoning of the past self in terms of likes, needs, desires, dreams, tastes and expectations. But in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the entire mythology of the Buffyverse demands that newly sired vampires jettison their past in a very different process – not as an act of growing-up, but as an embrace of an entirely new view of existence in which human beings are both prey and plague – a pestilence that lives above ground in the heat of the sun. Luke cites demonic scripture 'And like a plague of boils, the race of man covered the Earth.' There’s a special irony that vampires are unable to enter human “homes” – and how it’s in direct relation to whether a building is public or private. One assumes this is due to some kind of original curse long ago when the Old Ones were driven away – but the disassociation between the concept of “home” and vampire is apt.

    As a rule, vampires in the Buffyverse stick to dark places like crypts or underground tunnels without windows – not only to avoid the deadly light, but to feel closer to the world of the dead. Not only are graveyards and internments of the dead where vampires first emerge, but they afford a golden opportunity to evoke maximum terror from their prey – terror which apparently makes the blood taste even better. And they also work to support a vampire’s self-image of what they want to represent to humans. Vampires don’t build crypts themselves – they are the undead who live within the very walls created to contain them.

    He stops at a small mausoleum. The entrance is a well of black.
    VAMPIRE BOY: Hey. You ever been in one of these?
    WILLOW: No thank you.
    VAMPIRE BOY: Come on. What are you afraid of?
    He pushes her into the blackness of the entrance. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)
    Buffy is used to vampire homes, though – and scathingly mocks their penchant for living in unappealing places – vampires nest wherever their appetites draw them:

    BUFFY: Well, this is nice. It's a little bare, but a dash of paint, a few throw pillows - call it home! (Welcome to the Hellmouth)
    But what a crypt actually represents is more than just a place to store dead things – the etymology of the word “crypta” means “hidden” in Latin and derives from the Greek krupto, which means “to conceal/to hide.” And what’s hidden is the very idea of death itself within a human building. Instead of a body buried in the earth – dust to dust and ashes to ashes – crypts function as a “built” space fashioned by human beings to commemorate life. It’s important to remember that human beings housed the dead before they housed themselves in Neolithic times – crypts and tombs commemorating the dead predate houses by thousands of years – creating a temporary space between the living and the dead was more imperative than providing shelter. A resting place for memories – legacies of afterlives that would fall upon the descendants.

    And when the first ancient houses were built, they seem to be centered around ancestor worship – an altar or shrine was a major focus of the room in which the presence of the dead hovered around the living. The dead were in the soil creating the harvest. They served the Household Gods through the persistence of memory. They were the metaphysical manifestation of the boundaries of the house that protected against invasion from the outside. And the house itself has always been specifically designed to be a transient space, half-open to nature and half-sealed as tomb. A tension between the social construction of the past and the unpredictable freedom of the future. Which is probably why most vampires aren’t very fond of houses – or at least fixed-up houses. The entire concept of Time to an immortal being would be very different to an immortal being – and so the meaning of a “home” would be very different as well.

    And yet, some members of the undead enjoyed the trappings of the living. Interestingly, Angelus happens to be a strange vampire who rejects traditional haunts – he prefers a plush bed in a luxurious room decorated with fine, rich things and fearlessly treads above ground like humans do. He refuses to be just another “dead” thing who lives in a building designed for people like him seems part and parcel of his desire to mind-f**k with everyone around him. His fondness for things that literally rub one’s nose in the deceptions that humans utilize to help them forget their mortality deliberately sets a contrast with his cruelty and lack of concern for life.

    MASTER: The order of Aurelius. We are the select – the elite.
    ANGELUS: And you live in the sewers, do you?
    MASTER: We live below, giving tribute to the old ones. Awaiting that promised day when we will arise! Arise – and lay waste to the world above us.
    ANGELUS: Why'd you want to do that?
    MASTER: Huh?
    ANGELUS: Well, I mean, have you been above lately? It's quite nice. Me – I could never live in a rat infested stink-hole like this, if you'll pardon me for saying so. I got to have meself a proper bed or I'm a terror. Isn't that right love?
    DARLA: He's young.
    ANGELUS: And this one, down in the goose feathers, and the finest silks and linens and a view. She's always got to have the view, don't you, my lamb?
    DARLA: We fed very recently. The blood is still hot in his veins.
    ANGELUS: You noticed that, did you?
    MASTER: We stalk the surface to feed and grow our ranks. We do not live amongst the human pestilence!
    ANGELUS: I'll be honest, you really couldn't with that face, now could you?
    DARLA: Angelus!
    ANGELUS: It's not stuck like that now is it?
    DARLA: The Master has grown past the curse of human features.
    ANGELUS: I'm not gonna get a bat-nose like that, huh? Am I? (Darla)
    Almost all the flashbacks of Angelus and Darla show them dressing well and living it up in posh human surroundings with his insane protégé Drusilla towing behind. And when newly sired Spike is brought “home” by Drusilla, he find them shacking up in someone else’s extravagant London Hotel:

    WILLIAM: Is this your home?
    Drusilla points to two corpses propped up on the couch.
    DRUSILLA: Their home. Ambassador to – something and his plump, lovely wife. Till their spirits flew away on fairy wings. When Angelus took them for dinner. (Destiny)
    But their new addition to the family doesn’t seem to appreciate the surroundings – as Spike rebels against his old self and Angelus, he also rebels against any taste for the finer things. The timid young poet turned mother-saving vamp quickly transforms into Spike – a swaggering, brawling animal adopting a faux working class accent and vocabulary. Why? From a personal viewpoint, Spike found his new transcendent life as a vampire falter as a slow-burning private war developed between himself and Angelus. So he dug even deeper into eradicating all social distinctions – even the barely civil social boundaries of the vampire as he weaved in and out of human spaces – in favor of mindless savagery that represented the only kind of freedom that Spike could obtain under Angelus.

    In my Fool for Love review, I suggested that the essentialist argument between Angel and Spike – what constitutes a vampire – not only had to do with how their original human personalities felt before their siring, but the time period in which they were sired. Whedon told Douglas Petrie that the essential argument between Angelus and Spike centered on the attitudes of an aristocrat vs a working class person despite both Liam and William mostly likely being middle class. Both adopted the societal nightmares of their respective time periods and localities – Liam as the 1750s sadistic English aristocrat in Galway and William as the 1880s cockney hooligan in London. Both driven by bloodlust, both murderous monsters – but both taking completely different paths to achieve the same basic result.

    Liam was the son of a wool merchant – his family in Galway had servants and land. Born in 1727, he was sired in 1753 – raised at a time when the boogeymen of the Irish middle-classes were not the peasants who tilled the fields – but the decadent Tudor and Stuart English aristocrats who owned over 70 percent of the land. A hereditary peerage that was transferred from the English court to the Irish countryside as a rationalist way for the Crown to control and “civilize” supposedly barbaric Ireland, their heel was dug deeply into the autonomy of the Irish people. In Galway itself, numerous laws were passed to prevent Irish Catholics from engaging in commerce or landholdings – something that Liam must have been fairly knowledgeable about considering his father was a merchant himself. So for the newly arisen Angelus, the most ghastly monster that he could imagine would be a decadent aristocratic rationalist. And this shows in his choice to wear opulent clothing and surround himself with the trappings of wealth.

    Whereas Spike’s adoption of a working class persona came from his life as an Englishman from the 1850s to 1880. Victorian England had the harshest criminal code in Europe and the working classes were the chief target of the increasingly harsh laws. In the eyes of the nobility and the middle class, the police force had two main tasks - to protect property and to put down rebellion. With the advent of union protests and volatile social movements, the image of the working classes in the late 1800s moved from popular sentimental depictions of the downtrodden to terrifying images of rabble out of control. So Spike’s adoption of working class attributes and anarchistic attitudes was certain to strike fear in the hearts of the very classes who bullied and taunted him as William Pratt. Spike’s fascination with punk music, his adoption of painted nails and platinum hair to play with gender norms, his heavy smoking and drinking are all bits and pieces that come together to form the self-image of a tough bad boy. And this shows in his indifference to his immediate surroundings until he is chipped – any port in a storm.

    And when Spike manages to drive the vampire gang underground, luxury-loving Angelus is less than pleased:

    ANGELUS: You've got me and my women hiding in the luxury of a mine shaft, all because William the Bloody likes the attention. This is not a reputation we need.
    SPIKE: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I sully our good name? We're vampires.
    ANGELUS: All the more reason to use a certain amount of finesse.
    SPIKE: Bollocks! That stuff's for the frilly cuffs-and-collars crowd. I'll take a good brawl any day. (Fool for Love)
    When Spike and Drusilla separate from Darla after Angel’s ensoulment, we get the sense that Drusilla still wanted to indulge in the luxurious style that was so favored by Angelus. Spike, on the other hand, seems only interested in pleasing her. In Season Two, Colin and his minions set up their operation in an old Factory after the release and death of the Master from the underground church – which was promptly taken over by Spike when he arrived at the Hellmouth to find a cure for Drusilla.

    Spike: Me and Dru, we're movin' in. (School Hard)

    Shortly after their arrival, Spike and Drusilla set up a private space apart from the minions that functioned as a bedroom decorated with Drusilla’s dolls, a Victorian looking lamp, some chains, a ceiling hook and a TV. A weak Drusilla lies on the bed, redolent in her elegant dresses and plush bedding. The security’s a bit weak as we see when Ford enters, admiring the place.

    FORD: This is so cool! I would totally live here.
    SPIKE: Do I have anyone on watch here? It's called security, people. Are you all asleep? (Lie to Me)
    But when Angel loses his soul, he moves into the Factory with wheelchair-bound Spike and Drusilla – and promptly starts to take Spike’s place as head of the household:

    SPIKE: Have you forgotten that you're a bloody guest in my bloody home?
    ANGELUS: And as a guest, if there's anything I can do for you – any – responsibility I can assume while you're spinning your wheels. Anything I'm not already doing, that is. (Passion)
    Once the Factory is burnt down by Giles in Passion, Angelus, Drusilla and wheelchair bound Spike move to the Crawford Street Mansion, a rather elaborate place that is much more appealing to Angelus and Drusilla than Spike.

    ANGELUS: And this – is the garden.
    DRUSILLA: Wow! Look. Jasmine.
    ANGELUS: Night blooming.
    DRUSILLA: Like us. Oh, Angel, it's fairyland.
    SPIKE: It's paradise. Big windows, lovely gardens. It'll be perfect when we want the sunlight to kill us.
    ANGELUS: If you don't like it, Spike, hit the stairs and go. Take a stand, man.
    SPIKE: Well, our old place was just fine till you went and had it burned down.
    Angelus: Things change, Spikey. You gotta roll with the punches. Well, actually, you pretty much got that part down, haven't you? (I Only Have Eyes for You)
    After Angel is sent to Hell by Buffy, Spike and Drusilla run off to Brazil – but Spike soon returns after she dumps him. This time, he not only drunkenly repeats “Home, sweet home” but visits the empty factory to weep over the burnt remnants of what he once called home with Drusilla, dolls half-scorched and askew:

    SPIKE: Drusilla! I'm home! (Lovers Walk)
    He also returns to the Mansion to find Angel still living there – passing out drunkenly in the Atrium, Spike almost burns himself up in his desire to revisit the past and eventually leaves to return to Drusilla – torn between the memory of Sunnydale and Drusilla in South America as a symbol of his inability to find anywhere that he can call “home.” When Spike returns in The Harsh Light of Day, we find him now living in a typical vampire’s crypt – albeit one that’s all dressed up in frilly pink and lace with unicorn paraphernalia scattered everywhere. It’s not just a vampire lair but a statement that reflects aspects of his girlfriend Harmony’s personality – or at least the personality that she wants to project to everyone.

    What’s notable here is how William Pratt/Spike never creates a “home” for himself before the Initiative gets a hold of him – any attempt at creating a personal space is always for the benefit of his mother or Drusilla or Harmony – the ephemeral quality of his attempts at nesting pre-chip are a tremendous clue to William Pratt’s initial psychological stumbling block to create a genuine sense of self without the guidance of someone else. The self-defining memories of ridicule, neglect and isolation led him to adopt certain working class signifiers to separate himself as far as possible from his former self – but deep down he fears that he’s still what his mother called “a limp, sentimental fool” as we can see by Pavayne’s taunt that touches on his deepest fears:

    PAVAYNE: Nothing here without the will. Your voice – your body –
    GLASS GHOST WOMAN: Clothes you think you wear –
    Spike's clothes disappear, and he stands naked, being circled by the ghosts.
    PAVAYNE: William the Bloody. Scourge and destroyer. But scratch the surface –
    ARMLESS GHOST WOMAN: Little nancy, still crying for his mother.
    PAVAYNE: Know all your hiddens, dirty red things you've done. Then fell in love. Won himself a soul. No more dirty things. Thinks himself special.
    GLASS GHOST WOMAN: Thinks it matters.
    HANGING GHOST MAN: Hell still waits.
    PAVAYNE: Knows he deserves it, like all the others. (Hell Bound)
    But identity isn’t a snapshot of a person – it’s a series of snapshots – a developing narrative that only creates a coherent picture of someone through the illusion of time. In that sense, self-identity is a narrative we tell ourselves to makes sense of who we were in the past and what we can possibly be – it’s a story that’s always about change. And the slow integration of various elements into our environment are symbols of that change – they are central to how we see ourselves and how we want to be seen by others.

    When Spike is chipped and seemingly helpless, he relies heavily on the protection of Buffy and her friends at the beginning – hiding away in Giles’ apartment and then Xander’s basement – far from any humans or demons who might want to harm him. He ends up trashing Xander’s apartment – accidentally shrinking his clothing and forced to wear an embarrassing wanker-wear ensemble of cutoffs and a Hawaiian shirt – it’s enough to make him try to stake himself. But from the moment that he learns he can fight demons without pain, he immediately determines to live on his own. Not in the natural wilderness – in the caverns that run beneath Sunnydale – but in a building of human foundations – one dedicated to commemorating the dead. Why?

    Vampires are scavengers by nature – they don’t build new homes, they find old Factories or abandoned Mansions or tombs that inter the dead and nest there in a parody of human relations because they are only mimicking the life of the living. The intrusion of nature into a vampire lair – the tree roots, the bugs, the cobwebs, the dirt floor, the lack of artificial light in favor of the natural fire of candlelight – keep them closely attached to the earth where they truly belong. Jesse said that he could hear the worms in the earth – feeding on life, one imagines. Vampires don’t feel the cold or the heat or suffer infection or concern over disease. All the barriers that humans set up to avoid means of death they ignore – only the threat of invasion or direct sunlight strikes fear into the heart of a vampire.

    And perhaps after the disaster of Drusilla, Spike doesn’t want to live in an abandoned factory or mansion again – too many bad memories and his experience in the artificial Initiative complex may have put him off from anything too wedded to technology. His recent dalliance with Harmony sent him underground while looking for the Gem or Amara and it’s possible that Spike enjoyed communing with the earth – especially with a lair that afforded a back-door exit to the sewers. So Spike is looking for a nice vampire lair that protects him from enemies and sunlight – one preferably with a downstairs where he can link to the Sunnydale tunnels and perhaps a dank crypt that will keep his skin nicely moisturized – or keep away the living. As Anya presses Spike as to what she feels a new “home” should have, Spike is forced to think about losing all the little luxuries he’s been accustomed to with Angelus and Drusilla:

    ANYA: So, what kind of place are you looking for?
    SPIKE: I don't know. Maybe a crypt. Some place, you know, dark and dank. But not as dark and dank as this.
    XANDER: That's it! Let's go.
    ANYA: Wait. I want to give you something for your new place.
    XANDER: That's my lamp.
    ANYA: A gift is traditional. I've read about it.
    XANDER: That's among friends. With bitter enemies we don't give them my lamp.
    SPIKE: It's not gonna have electricity anyway. It's a crypt, remember?
    ANYA: What about running water? A fridge to keep your blood fresh?
    SPIKE: No.
    ANYA: Well, that's gotta suck. You should just get a hotel room or something.
    SPIKE: Demon girl's got a point. I need fresh blood. If I had a few bob for a room with an honor bar--
    XANDER: Out! Before I get the Slayer over here to kick your ass out!
    SPIKE: Don't know why she didn't come. Say good-bye, shed a few tears. (A New Man)

    Spike is fairly methodical about settling on a crypt rather than a human house – in the same episode, we see him holding up a measuring tape to the outside of what will become his first home sweet home alone – a large stone mausoleum. When Giles comes to visit, Spike admits that the crypt needs a lot of work:

    A dank, musty, unkept mausoleum, with nary any sunlight. A rusty metal door is pushed open, SCRAPING against its stone door frame, and GILES steps in, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He moves inside and is startlingly confronted by –
    SPIKE: Wipe your feet when you enter a person's home.
    GILES: Yes, careless of me. Tracking mud all over your mud.
    SPIKE: I'll admit – bit of a fixer-upper. Needs a woman's touch. Care to have a crack at it? (The “I” in Team)
    Spike’s crack covers up the fact that he’s never really had a home of his own before – and he has no idea how to decorate it without his mom, Dru or Harmony to imprint it with their distinctive personalities. But he has nowhere else to go with the chip in his head preventing him from hunting or feeding.

    GILES: I think it would be wise for you to leave Sunnydale.
    SPIKE: I'm not going anywhere. Not until those bastards undo whatever they did to me. Put me back the way I was. (The “I” in Team)
    And for the rest of Season Four, Spike’s crypt doesn’t really change all that much. It’s fairly barren – representative of his attitude towards his unlife at the moment – and maintains its primary function as an indicator of death. Spike intends for his crypt to represent an image of himself that he tries very hard to maintain – the Big Bad, the Bringer of Death, the Destroyer of Worlds – even as he finds himself more and more drawn to Buffy’s group and the land of the living. His crypt’s function in Restless acts in many ways as a reminder of mortality – the family or group who built the crypt intended it to mark a certain point in time – just like a real home, a grave represents a memory of its inhabitant, a signifier that says someone once lived and died here.

    ANGLE: THE CRYPT at the end of the lane. Spike is leaning out of it, waving frantically at them.
    SPIKE: (stage whisper) Hey! Come on! You're gonna miss everything!
    Giles enters, Olivia (who is already there) trying to fold the stroller without much success.
    GILES: Don't push me about, You know, I have a great deal to do.
    He is speaking to Spike, who stands before a group of tourists taking pictures, posing and making faces.
    SPIKE: I've hired myself out as an attraction.
    GILES: Sideshow freak?
    SPIKE: At least it's showbiz –
    Olivia has failed to fold the stroller. She is sitting on the floor, crying, the misbent thing in her lap. Giles looks at her, unsure how to help, torn -- he must go. Asks Spike for advice:
    GILES: What am I supposed to do with all of this?
    SPIKE: Gotta make up your mind, Rupes. What are you wasting time for? Haven't you figured it all out yet with your enormous squishy frontal lobes?
    GILES: I still think Buffy should have killed you.
    He moves down through the crypt, not sure where he's heading. Passes the Cheese Man, who has slices of cheese on his head, including two with holes ripped out over his eyes.
    CHEESE MAN: I wear the cheese. It does not wear me. (Restless)
    But throughout the next two seasons, Spike begins to build a vast “home” directly within the crypt that mimics human life – both an upstairs area for show and a more private downstairs area that becomes even less like a commemoration and more like a narrative of Spike’s slowly emerging sense of self as he creates a Buffy shrine and later, a bedroom area. The passages below that lead to the tunnels beneath Sunnydale are also a hidden entrance and exit that show the crypt entrance as more for show than anything else.

    Spike climbing up some stairs, emerging in his crypt. A woman is watching him; we only see her from the back. Spike reaches the top of the stairs, sees her and gasps in surprise.
    SPIKE: Oh, it's you. What are you doing here lurking about?
    He bends over to slide a trapdoor cover over the hole in the floor that he just emerged from. We see the visitor is Dawn.
    DAWN: I'm not lurking. I'm looking. What are you doing?
    SPIKE: Nothing.
    DAWN: So is that how you get around town in the daytime? I mean, does that lead into the sewers or something? Can you show me?
    SPIKE: No. Why are you – does Buffy know you're here?
    DAWN: Yeah, right. 'Cause nothing would make her happier than to find out I'm hanging out after school in the vampire's lair. Especially yours. (Crush)

    The more that Spike ransacks dumpsters and Buffy’s basement and various shops looking for decorative features that will reflect aspects of his own identity, the less crypt-like his “home” becomes as he covers over the original signifiers of the dead person interred with his own meaning – and this becomes even more pronounced when Spike falls in love with Buffy. Buffy herself even notices the radical changes of Season Six with the multiple rugs, the giant King-sized bed with ruffled bedding, the various tables and cabinets and chairs stuffed with “Spike” items – favorite books and records and pictures taped to the refrigerator that reflect Spike’s burgeoning personality. When he sees Harmony again in Season Five, the first thing Spike tells her is all about his new TV set:

    HARMONY: How've you been?
    SPIKE: Not bad. Just got a brand-new telly in my crypt, so –
    MORT: Why are you talking to him? (Real Me)
    And this all creates a dual effect of both the past and the present – of time now stopped and time racing forward. With the undead Spike living in its walls, the crypt becomes both a signifier for death – an immobile dead thing who once lived – and rebirth – the potential for Spike to transform death into life.

    And this is a fantastic representation of Spike’s mind - unlike souled Angel, who chooses to live in an apartment and separate himself from the houses of the dead, soulless Spike signals his appropriation of the dead person within by building a new life on the literal ashes of the former inhabitant. And the more “human” that Spike becomes in terms of creating a home that separates the living from the dead – the more he desires to move into the land of the living – the more he covers up the original purpose of the crypt. By the time Riley and Buffy destroy the downstairs, there appears to be full electricity everywhere with lanterns hanging, lamps in corners, dozens of candles illuminating the darkness – and the demon eggs.

    And with that sense of “being alive” comes an accompanying expectation of privacy – when Buffy comes charging into his crypt, Spike demands that they knock first.

    BUFFY: I've got a proposition for you.
    SPIKE: Funny, I've got a proposition for you, what about knocking? Seems only fair since we vamps can't enter your flat without an invite, you could at least – (Out of My Mind)
    Of course, Buffy entering without knocking is also indicative that Spike has fixed up the crypt enough to where Buffy can feel comfortable about entering without discovering something awful. His visible personality as reflected in the homey feel of the stuffed easy chair and the new TV and the refrigerator covered with pictures seemingly hides an even more human impulse down below where he’s constructed a Buffy shrine – and later, a makeshift bedroom complete with dressers and cabinets full of clothes and booze and records and apparently jewelry. It’s deliberately made appealing enough that Buffy feels comfortable leaving her mother and sister at Spike’s crypt for protection.

    SPIKE: So, what's with the family outing?
    BUFFY: I need your help.
    SPIKE: Great. I need your cash.
    BUFFY: I'm serious. You have to look after them.
    SPIKE: Well, that's a boatload of manly responsibility to come flying out of nowhere. What's the matter, Slayer? You're not feeling a hundred percent?
    BUFFY: No.
    SPIKE: They didn't put a chip in your head, did they?
    BUFFY: No!
    SPIKE: Be funny if they did.
    BUFFY: Spike, I need an answer. Now. In or out? You're the only one strong enough to protect them.
    SPIKE: All right then. Ladies! Come on in. There's plenty of blood in the fridge.
    DAWN: Do you mean like, real blood?
    SPIKE: What do you think?
    DAWN: Mostly I think "ew."
    BUFFY: Keep Dawn here as long as you can. I'll be back soon.
    JOYCE: Okay.
    BUFFY: I don't think I need to remind you, but –
    SPIKE: Yeah, yeah, "anything happens to 'em I'll stake you good and proper." Sing me a new one sometime, eh? That bit's gone stale.
    JOYCE: I, I love what you've, um, neglected to do with the place.
    SPIKE: Just don't break anything. And don't make a lot of noise. Passions is coming on.
    JOYCE: Passions? Oh, do you think Timmy's really dead?
    SPIKE: Oh! No, no, she can just sew him back together. He's a doll, for god's sake.
    JOYCE: Uh, what about the wedding? I mean, there's no way they're gonna go through with that. (Checkpoint)
    But Joyce’s dig about Spike’s decorating must have stuck as much as the decorator Spike ate – after Buffy’s death, Spike does a thorough renovation of his crypt until it resembled a human habitation so closely that it was hard at first glance to tell the difference. One assumes that this was for Dawn’s benefit – Spike’s vow to protect her till the end of the world inspired him to duplicate the creature comforts of her own home in his crypt. But it must also have been inspired by Buffy herself - her death forcing him to calculate his existence in Time down to the day of her demise – and that required a means of separation from the timeless dead who inhabited his crypt.

    Buffy’s admiration of how Spike has managed to fix up his “hole in the ground” actually leads to a genuine conversation between them once their sexual relationship starts up on her return.

    BUFFY: Is this a new rug?
    SPIKE: Mm – no. Just looks different when you're under it.
    BUFFY: You know, this place is okay for a hole in the ground. You fixed it up.
    SPIKE: Well, I ate a decorator once. Maybe something stuck.
    BUFFY: I've been thinking about doing something to my room.
    SPIKE: Yeah?
    BUFFY: Yeah, I think the New Kids On The Block posters are starting to date me.
    SPIKE: Well, if you want, I can –
    Spike stops, looks at Buffy in surprise.
    SPIKE: Are we having a conversation?
    BUFFY: What? No! No. Maybe. (Dead Things)
    Spike actually has changed so much in terms of seeing his crypt as a “home” that he’s fixed it up to human standards – to the extent that the living ask for decorating advice from the dead – Spike offering his services to Buffy is amazing. Of course, Spike has a standing invite to Buffy’s house – first from their truce in Becoming that was revoked in Crush and given again in The Gift. So it’s rather tragic that his laboriously constructed “home” is destroyed by the end of this episode – at least the hidden half. Because it wasn’t just a metaphor for his failed relationship with Buffy, but a symbol of how Spike has slowly (and perhaps unconsciously) embraced the human side of himself.

    But was Spike truly capable of the change necessary to turn his back on his previous life as a soulless monster? The potentiality is certainly represented by the dramatic transformation of his crypt from a barren tomb to a nicely decorated home – but the presence of the demon eggs in the basement acts as a metaphor for Spike’s inability to truly change in his current state. You can take the man out of the monster, but you can’t take the monster out of the man, apparently.

    So the Spike who looked to turn his crypt into a romantic hideaway for Buffy – who fell in love with Buffy because it made him feel alive – also introduced something demonic that almost gave birth in the windowless darker recess of his mind down below. And it’s Buffy – not Riley – who prevents it from spiraling out of control and destroying the entire sense of self that he’s carefully created up to this point. But soon even Buffy won’t be able to save Spike – and he’ll have to make the fateful choice as to whether he’ll open the windows and let the light in – or close them forever and live in the dark.

    And we shift from the sound of baby demons shrieking as they explode in balls of fire to inebriated relatives shrieking as they explode in shouts of anger – it seems like the dreaded wedding party of Gnarls and Uncle Rory all enjoy a little booze with their hard liquor as Xander and Anya hide in the bathroom, as uncomfortable as the trio we left behind in Spike’s now decimated crypt.

    And we get to the idea of the “home” as an extension of one’s identity – Xander and Anya have handed over their apartment temporarily to a pack of wild relatives who take full advantage of their generosity. The chaos outside the bathroom door mirrors the chaos churning within the couple as they hide in the most private area of personal space that there is. Anya looks frazzled with her hair up in pigtails and her makeup smeared.

    To pass the time, Xander has obviously been telling Anya about adventures in demon hunting with Riley and Sam – how great Riley is doing and how wonderful Sam is and it’s having the same effect on Anya that it did on Buffy. Making her feel utterly inadequate in comparison – which she doesn’t need right before the wedding. And so she finally interrupts him with a caustic remark:

    ANYA: You know, if you love Riley Finn so much, maybe you should marry him.
    XANDER: He's taken. And that's not the point.
    ANYA: You think their marriage is better than ours? Is that it?
    XANDER: No! Granted, it's hard to imagine Nick and Nora Fury hiding out from relatives in their own bathroom.
    This is one of my favorite lines in the entire Buffyverse – a delightful portmanteau of Nick Fury, World War II Army Segeant turned Agent of Shield and Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles, the husband and wife duo from the Thin Man series of books and films.

    Born and raised in the area of New York City known as Hell's Kitchen around 1920, Nicholas Joseph "Nick" Fury was around 20 years old when he was drafted into the United States Army to fight the Nazi's in World War II. He soon florished in the rangs of the U.S. Army and became sergeant. During this time, Nick was asked to lead a handpicked squad of highly trained soldiers. This squad would soon become known as the famous Howling Commandos. Sergeant Fury and the Howling Commandos fought through much of World War II, with missions in France, Greece, Belgium, Holland and even inside Nazi Germany itself. The team also encountered and fought alongside a few of America's superheroes, such as Captain America and the Invaders. Nick even met Logan, the person whom would later be known as the X-man Wolverine.

    Nick Fury managed to get most of his teammembers back alive after each and every mission. However, Nick himself was injured by a grenade at the end of the war. This grenade was the cause of the eye injury that eventually cost him the vision in his left eye. Fury began covering the eye with a cosmetic black eye-patch, which became one of his trademarks after the war. It was also at this time that he and most other Howling Commandos began their annual injections of the Infinity Formula, a chemical they found during the war. Injections with this chemical greatly slowed their aging proces.

    Nick Fury’s most popular interpretation is as the eye-patch-wearing superspy agent (and director) of SHIELD, played in the recent films. But Fury began as a WWII army sergeant. In the 1960s, his World War II adventures were published at the same time of his modern-day spy heroics. Even though it’s the SHIELD-era Fury that sports an eye-patch, in Buffy season eight, Xander confesses a love for the military version of the character.

    Nick and Nora Charles were characters in the last novel by hard-boiled mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man. An alcoholic former detective married to a Nob Hill heiress in San Francisco, the couple solved murder mysteries together (with their dog, Asta) while trading witticisms, cutting barbs and a LOT of liquor. The popular books was turned into a series of classic movies all bearing the Thin Man title starring William Powell and Myrna Loy – films that are still celebrated for sparkling wit, free-spirited attitudes and fiery sexual chemistry between the two leads that presented marriage as a true wedding of two fun-loving, wisecracking people who adore each other.

    Combining the two to describe Riley and Sam is clever – and Xander tries to make Anya see how unimportant trivial concerns like weddings are when it comes to the real deal.

    XANDER: And I have no idea what Riley and Mrs. Riley's wedding was like.
    ANYA: Well, you haven't shut up about them.
    XANDER: Well, they have a great marriage and it bummed Buffy out, but I could see it! And Anya? I have no clue what their wedding was like.
    And Anya finally gets what Xander is trying to say. And here’s where the idea of appearance over reality comes into the episode again. After Buffy’s manipulation of Spike and Spike’s lies to Buffy, the viewer comes to see that a relationship can’t subsist on sexual attraction and wishful thinking – a relationship is nothing without that essential all-important connection between two people who trust each other. Anya breaks out in a big smile.

    ANYA: So – our wedding – is not our marriage.
    XANDER: Separate things. One fills me with a dread akin to public speaking engagements.
    ANYA: Then that would be the wedding.
    XANDER: Which will soon be over.
    ANYA: But our marriage –
    XANDER: That lasts forever.
    ANYA: Huh. Well.
    ANYA: That works out nicely then.
    Anya leans over to kiss Xander and he gives her a quick peck. There’s another crash outside of the bathroom and Xander raises his eyebrows and shakes his head. They’ll somehow get through this.

    But Buffy and Riley won’t – they both walk outside the Magic Box with glum looks on their faces as Riley prepares to leave. It’s obvious that the two are still thinking about the disaster of Riley finding her with Spike in the crypt and both are afraid to bring up the topic out of consideration for the other’s feelings. Buffy’s voice quavers as she asks Riley what his new plans are:

    BUFFY: So, you and Sam are headed back to Central America? Or is that classified?
    RILEY: Nepal.
    BUFFY: Sounds fun.
    RILEY: I'll send you a post card.
    BUFFY: Riley, I –
    RILEY: Buffy –
    They both stop. Needing to talk. Unsure how.
    Riley looks at Buffy with a pained expression – he doesn’t know how she’ll take what he’s about to ask her.

    RILEY: By mission parameters, I'm done here. But I have authorization to take the Doctor out. You want me to do that?
    And Buffy is dumbfounded by Riley’s question. Is Riley asking her if she wants him to take out Spike?

    Regarding Riley’s ending episode offer to Buffy to kill Spike: Does Riley think he could kill Spike? Maybe, but it’s unlikely given Spike in BtVS S4 was able to evade the Initiative for hours and Spike at the time didn’t have a power base. Does Buffy think Riley could kill Spike? Given Spike’s The Doctor and Spike, Spike very likely had a contingency that if Riley and/or Sam ‘went after him’ that either or both would be killed.
    I’m not sure what would happen if Riley really did try to kill Spike, but the question as to whether it was achievable is moot in comparison to the reaction from Buffy. She tried hard to convince Riley in the crypt that Spike meant nothing to her – he’s too incompetent, watch me punch him twice, who can shut him up? – but now Riley is asking her something very serious that places Spike’s fate in her hands.

    What to do with Spike? As Riley says, he’s deadly, amoral, and opportunistic – but Buffy also knows him to be self-sacrificing, loyal and caring. The question is not a new question for Buffy. She’s already had ample opportunity to stake Spike after all the crap that he’s pulled – especially when he teamed up with Adam against her – but there’s always been something that’s held her back. She does know who he is – she’s always known – and yet she comes to him all the same. And it’s not right.

    But what to do? At this late juncture, killing Spike is out of the question. Regardless of the stupid, cruel, reckless things that he’s done, he’s also saved Dawn’s life multiple times and those of her friends. He stopped her from committing suicide under Sweet’s musical theater spell. And he loves her in his own way – as much as a soulless vampire can. That’s a massive improvement on Angelus or any other vamp that she’s known. But Buffy has constantly pushed the ethical dilemma of how to deal with the problem of Spike on the back burner. It’s easier to think of him as a soulless, evil dead thing that she can use as a sounding board, a punching bag and a sex toy than a complex bundle of memories and emotions, demonic impulses and human longing, malevolent thoughts and noble intentions.

    But Riley’s question forces Buffy to come to terms with her feelings for Spike – would it be better for all concerned to just let Riley take him out and be done with any accountability for a man who died so many years ago? The same kind of talk happens in Angel’s Just Rewards when Spike first returns as a ghost – while wandering through W&H, Spike overhears Angel and his crew discuss whether they shouldn’t destroy the amulet and any chance of Spike returning to corporeal form:

    ANGEL: This is an unusual situation, but I think it's our only choice.
    WESLEY: It's what we'd do in any case of a haunting, isn't it? An exorcism of sorts.
    FRED: We're talking about killing him. I mean, I know he's already dead, but he'd be gone-dead. Forever. It just doesn't seem right.
    WESLEY: I agree, but neither is leaving him here, trapped between realms, with no control over his fate, not able to touch anything, affect anything. Unable to fight. Letting him cross over seems the most merciful thing—
    ANGEL: Yeah, yeah, mercy. I'm all for it. Just, hey, tell me how we do it.
    WESLEY: The amulet's protected, invulnerable to anything, but the magic that's protecting it doesn't work on hallowed ground.
    GUNN: Hallowed. Like a church?
    WESLEY: Or cemetery, yes. It has to be taken there and destroyed.
    FRED: Destroyed how?
    WESLEY: I think a sharp blow would probably do the trick.
    GUNN: Angel, what do you think?
    ANGEL: I think I want to sleep on it. (Just Rewards)
    Spike manages to talk Angel into trusting him now that he has a soul – but in Season Six, Spike is still without one. And his fate seems to rest in Buffy’s hands. Should she allow someone who would breed demons for profit to go on to commit other deeds – or is he too dangerous?

    There is simple honesty in the question, but it's just too much for Buffy.
    BUFFY: Do I want you to –?
    And her initial reaction is very different from hearing that Spike is the Doctor. Back then it was a sarcastic huff and the words, “It's just Spike, Riley.” But now that Riley is actually offering to off Spike, Buffy is choked up at the thought. She looks incredulously at Riley and then away as she fights back tears. She doesn’t love Spike – not in the way that he wants – but she realizes that she does have feelings for him. Even Riley becomes choked up by the emotional wave that washes over her

    BUFFY: How can you ask me –?
    There’s a moment of clarity as Buffy stops fighting reality – drops the pretense – and accepts responsibility for what she’s done. She’s no longer complaining how Spike is doing things to her – how he’s everything she hates. She admits to Riley that she’s chosen of her own free will to carry on a sexual relationship with Spike – and once she admits the truth to the one person who she fears will judge her the most, everything starts falling into place. She struggles at first to get the words out – she can’t even say his name.

    BUFFY: I'm sleeping with – him.
    But then her voice becomes firmer and stronger as she looks into Riley’s eyes and tells him – and herself – the truth.

    I'm sleeping with Spike.
    And Riley nods his head in confusion – he’s not quite getting how hard it is for Buffy to say this.

    RILEY: I had actually noticed that.
    But now that Buffy’s spoken that truth, there’s a sudden outpouring as she tells Riley exactly how she feels about his return.

    BUFFY: And then you come back – and – did you wait until your life was absolutely perfect and then send that demon here so you could throw it in my face?
    And now that the truth’s out, Riley snaps back with his own misgivings about seeing Buffy again.

    RILEY: Okay. You think this was easy for me?
    BUFFY: Yeah! I think it was a rollicking adventure – fun for the whole family!
    Now Buffy is angry – angry that Riley can’t see how terrible he’s made her feel with his perfect wife and his perfect job. And Riley becomes angry because she can’t see how terrified he was to ask for her help.

    RILEY: I was terrified about seeing you again.
    BUFFY: Well, I'm sure my incredible pathetic-ness softened the blow for you.
    That really hits Riley – he looks away and lets the anger dissipate, realizing just how low Buffy has descended in terms of self-loathing. And he should know – he’s been there himself. He scoffs at the idea that Buffy is pathetic even as Buffy lashes out at him again.

    RILEY: I don't know what you're talking about.
    BUFFY: Riley, please don't patronize me –
    Riley stops her from sinking any lower – if Buffy’s going to do this, then he’ll lay out all his cards on the table as well and give her a big dose of truth.

    RILEY: Hey. You want me to say I liked seeing you in bed with that idiot? Or that blinding orange is your very best color, or that burger smell is appealing?
    Buffy is looks ready to cry until Riley rudely mentions the burger smell. And Buffy’s shocked at this – even Riley thinks she stinks?

    BUFFY: You smelled the smell?
    I have to admit – I always laugh so hard at Riley’s burger line that I have to rewind the scene to hear the next few phrases. It’s said so solemnly and yet it’s so ridiculously trivial and offensive. It almost overshadows the next few lines which are actually quite touching and heartfelt.

    RILEY: Buffy, none of that means anything. It doesn't touch you. You're still the first woman I ever loved and the strongest woman I’ve ever known.
    And then Riley blows it by making a creepy remark that I’ve always found to be demeaning to both Buffy and Sam.

    And I'm not advertising this to the missus, but you’re still quite the hottie.
    Couldn’t he have used the word “beautiful” or something else that doesn’t make Buffy sound like a retired pole stripper? But Buffy is still fixated on the stink and teases Riley after his remark.

    BUFFY: You know it goes away after many bathings –
    Riley laughs at Buffy’s joke – at least he hopes it’s a joke. But he reassures Buffy that they’re not in a contest because one can never truly be happy until they’re dead – and in the Buffyverse, maybe not even that. His happiness could end at any moment – his marriage could fall apart, his wife could die, his job could end – and he could end up in the same place as Buffy.

    RILEY: This isn't about who's on top. I know how lucky I am right now. I love my work and I love my wife.
    BUFFY: I know. I kind of love her too.
    RILEY: So you're not in the greatest place right now. And maybe I made it worse.
    Buffy smiles and nods her head – she’s beginning to suspect that despite the whole initial nightmare of Riley’s return, it may actually have made things better in the long run.

    BUFFY: No.
    RILEY: Wheel never stops turning, Buffy. You're up, you're down, doesn't change what you are. You're a hell of a woman.
    Riley’s words are a foreshadowing of what Spike will say to Buffy in the empty house in Touched:

    SPIKE: When I say, "I love you," it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy. (Touched)
    And this confession of Riley’s prompts Buffy to apologize for everything that happened between them.

    BUFFY: Riley, that night – I never got the chance to tell you how sorry I was. About what happened between us.
    RILEY: And you never have to.
    And – the show deftly sidesteps what Riley did by having him forgive Buffy for everything that happened in their relationship even though he was the one who blindly followed Professor Walsh, refused to get help for his drug addiction because it would make him weaker than Buffy, resented when she spent time with her sick mother and went to creepy houses to get sucked by vamps, endangering everyone’s lives. Whew! I’m glad that’s all cleared up!

    I consider Riley’s ending speech to Buffy doesn’t much affect Buffy and I consider Sam’s ‘fangirling’ of Buffy doesn’t much affect Buffy. I can see why some would call Sam a “Mary Sue”, but she’s a much lesser version of Buffy albeit taller and better looking.
    Well, yes and no, MikeB – I agree that his speech per say wasn’t that brilliant, but I think it does affect Buffy in many ways. Sam, on the other hand, is an ideal woman who’s more Warren-bot than real - which relieves Buffy of any residual guilt regarding Riley. He’s in the very best of hands. And they address each Scoobie in turn like the Wizard before going up in his balloon back to Kansas. First, there’s Xander:

    SAM: Well the wedding itself was held in a military chopper just before a hairy night drop into hostile territory.
    XANDER: Huh. And, just curious, how much a chopper rental run you these days?
    Xander’s dreaming about the cost of those gardenia bouquets again, no doubt.

    SAM: Oh, well, actually, we commandeered it from a local guerilla squad, so – cheap. You have my e-mail. You promise you'll stay in touch.
    And as they talk, unnoticed and uncommented on by anyone, a small wind picks up, swirling, and a light begins to shine from above, growing brighter...
    This description by Petrie is a bit much – at a certain point, I expect angels with trumpets to appear in the heavens, heralding the ascension of Riley and Mrs. Riley to the Heaviside Layer like the end of Cats where they lift the mangled cat above the audience to be reborn again after singing an overwrought version of “Memory.”

    And then there’s Willow:

    WILLOW: You won't get traced? I don't want to lead the bad guys your location by mistake.
    SAM: Our line's secure.
    WILLOW: Oh. Duh! Of course it is. I keep thinking you're all, like regular people. But you're not.
    SAM: Oh, right, like demon hunting's all exotic to a girl from Sunnydale.
    No, just getting paid is.

    And finally, there’s Dawn:

    DAWN: So, you gonna say goodbye this time or just split all secret-agenty like last time?
    RILEY: Depends. I warrant a hug?
    Dawn glares at him, then relents. Hugs him.
    RILEY: Goodbye, Dawn.
    DAWN: I thought it would suck less this time. Doesn't.
    And the light and wind keep growing from above as Sam grabs Riley around the waist

    SAM: It was really nice meeting you all. Ready for Nepal, agent?
    RILEY: Firefights. Bug hunts. Big body count. Yeah, I could use a break.
    Riley attaches a harness to his vest, holds Sam tight. The bright light now fills the street, the fierce wind crops up to its max and Riley and suddenly he and Sam are whisked out of frame. Up and out.
    WTF??? They harness Riley forty feet in the air but Sam’s just supposed to hang on and hope she doesn’t get hit by a gust of wind? What kind of an operation is this, anyway? Do they only have enough money for one harness?

    We see a STEALTH HELICOPTER, nearly silent, fly away into the night sky, disappearing. Two small figures towed beneath it.
    XANDER: Bye, Riley! Bye, Sam!
    Bye, Scarecrow! Bye, Tin Man! Goodbye!

    As the light fades, Buffy continues to look up at the sky.

    Willow waves happily, then turns to Buffy, and without missing a beat:
    WILLOW: What a bitch.
    This is the best line in the entire episode.

    The gang heads back inside. Buffy just stands alone a moment, thinking –
    Buffy must feel a tremendous sense of relief – she’s basically admitted to Riley all the shameful, dirty things she’s done, revealed that she does have feelings for Spike, shown herself at her absolute worst – and nothing happened. No Hellmouth opened up beneath her feet, no lightning bolt struck her from on high – she still remains Buffy – albeit with a DoubleMeat Palace aroma.

    And now that she’s finally taken full responsibility for her actions – no blaming, no pointing fingers, no relinquishing of agency – there’s something that she’s got to do and someone else she has to apologize to. Because Buffy can’t fully forgive herself without asking for the forgiveness of those she’s wronged.

    Spike stands amidst his decimated home.

    I like Petrie’s use of the word “home” here – the outward appearance of the crypt as a “home” for Spike has now been destroyed, its transformative meaning blown apart. As a signifier of the destruction that’s happening within as Spike’s sense of self, the decimated lower level of the crypt is a sign of what loving Buffy has done to him:

    SPIKE: You think I like having you in here? Destroying everything that was me, until all that's left is you, in a dead shell. You say you hate it, but you won't leave. (Crush)
    The humanity that Spike tried to emulate through his elaborately decorated “bedroom” was somewhat of a chimera – like the shows on the television set he kicks around. Just the trappings of what he thought Buffy would want rather than something he desired for himself – the appearance of a human house didn’t really disguise the fact that it was a hole in the ground originally built to house dead people like himself.

    Of course, the literal blame for the destruction lies in Spike’s stupid scheme to act as the “Doctor” in some fashion – but even as a middleman, Spike’s failure to protect either the eggs or his crypt shows that he’s still trapped between two worlds – not evil enough to care about the particulars of the plan nor good enough to refuse to hide the eggs in his crypt. So both end up being destroyed by Buffy in an attempt to stem the chaos that constantly roils Spike as he fights against his nature and his feelings for Buffy. He’s tried not to love her and he’s tried not to disappoint her. And neither works for him.

    And now Spike’s walking forlornly through the rubble, imagining that Buffy is off with Riley somewhere making love and laughing at Spike’s patheticness – as Buffy says – and his uselessness. He’s changed his outfit – no more button down shirt – back to his classic black tee and leather coat that act as his last defense against invasion of his psyche.

    Could Spike begin to rebuild and start creating a cozy home all over again? Cleaning up the mess would take more energy than Spike’s willing to give at the moment – all the macho swagger and fury of the previous scene has burnt itself out. Spike uncharacteristically acts exhausted and even fretful as he scrutinizes the tremendous damage. And then Buffy slowly enters. She’s changed her outfit as well – from the black ops Riley gear to worn blue jeans and a light purple top with a pendant. It’s a soft look that reflects the gentle handling Spike’s about to receive. Stoney did a knock out analysis of Buffy’s clothing here and I highly recommend looking up thread for it.

    The breakup ends Buffy/Spike ‘on-screen’ sex in BtVS S6. Buffy remembers only have sex with Angel twice (including BtVS S8), there were stretches of no sex with Riley, and not having sex with Spike for Buffy doesn’t mean she was no longer in a relationship with Spike.
    That’s an interesting perspective, MikeB – but I think that Buffy’s need to break off with Spike is less to do with sex and more to do with the expectations that each has of the other. Buffy’s return here is actually a delayed visitation – in many ways, it’s the talk that Buffy wanted to have with Spike long ago in Crush when she came to his crypt and was attacked by Drusilla’s cattle prod.

    SPIKE: So she's back.
    And Spike makes a kind of half-snort, half-sigh in his throat as he continues to look at the ground – anywhere but her – he’s torn between anger and hopelessness as he waits to see what Buffy will do – enact retribution or want more sex with him. Either way, he’s steeling himself for it.

    To be honest, I find this final scene to be one of the most touching in the entire series. The acting is wonderful, the dialogue is smart and sharp, the direction is clear. The breakup of Buffy and Spike is actually the most convincing evidence for possible future Spuffy when Spike gets his soul – both are wholly sympatico in their reading of each other’s motives and fully understand what the other is saying here without a lot of snark or anger.

    SPIKE: Thought you'd be off snogging with soldier boy.
    Does Spike ever suspect that Riley was authorized to take him out? Does he realize that it’s Buffy who once again steps in and prevents that from happening? It’s hard to say. But he’s despondent over the thought that Buffy might be back together again with Riley. Spike still doesn’t look up at Buffy – he continues to peruse the ground as she stands in front of him. He’s bracing himself for the answer – and he’s genuinely surprised when Buffy tells him that Riley has left Sunnydale.

    BUFFY: He's gone.
    Spike turns his head to look at Buffy – if Riley’s gone, then why is she back and what does that mean for them? Petrie has an interesting stage direction here:

    Spike turns to her, not showing relief.
    Spike characteristically shifts gears and tries to pretend that nothing happened – sure, the crypt’s a little bit blown up, but nothing that can’t be dealt with. But Buffy has an odd look on her face that Spike’s not used to seeing very often – it’s a look of compassion that seems to unnerve him.

    SPIKE: So, come for a bit of cold comfort?
    His bluster falters a bit as he pauses after the words “cold comfort” and swallows. The term has a double meaning here – the idiomatic phrase that means little to no comfort or consolation – and the fact that Spike himself is a member of the undead and “cold” to the touch. Spike vaguely gestures towards a heap of torn fabric and splintered wood that used to be a bed.

    SPIKE: The bed's a bit blown up, but then that was never our –
    Buffy quickly cuts him off.

    BUFFY: I'm not here to –
    Spike looks nervous as Buffy stops mid-sentence – she stops what she was going to say before the conversation goes in a bad direction and starts again.

    BUFFY: And I'm not gonna bust your chops about your stupid scheme either. That's just you. I should've remembered.
    And now Spike gets it. The gentle voice. The look of compassion. The soft clothing. Buffy’s come to say goodbye.

    SPIKE: Oh. This is worse, isn't it? This is you telling me –
    BUFFY: It's over.
    Buffy says the words in a clear, calm voice. Spike immediately switches to a predatory look and struts over to Buffy in his sexiest manner. He smirks at her - he’s heard this before.

    SPIKE: I've memorized this tune, love. I think I have the sheet music. Doesn't change what you want.
    And Buffy looks Spike straight in the eye and for the first time, tells him the truth.

    BUFFY: I know that. I do want you.
    Spike’s smirk fades as he realizes that she’s serious. Buffy’s finally admitted that she wants him. His eyes widen as he realizes that this talk is different from any previous one they’ve had.

    BUFFY: Being with you –
    As Buffy stumbles over her words, she carefully chooses ones that mitigate the harshness of this breakup by telling him how he does help her at times – which scares Spike much more than invective about getting out of her life.

    BUFFY: – makes things simpler. For a little while.
    And he clutches at her statement like a drowning man at a raft – he can make things simpler for far longer than she can imagine.

    SPIKE: I don't call five hours straight a little while.
    Spike is so unnerved that his usual snark falters – he chokes a bit on the word “call” as he tries to persuade Buffy – and himself – that she’s deluding herself – how else could he pleasure her so and how could they be so good together in the sack if they’re so wrong for each other?

    But Spike’s avowal of their sexual bliss together forces Buffy to bluntly come out and say it.

    BUFFY: I'm using you.
    Spike looks at Buffy askance as she acknowledges that she’s hurting him. He doesn’t know what to say as she continues.

    BUFFY: I can't love you.
    We don’t see Spike’s face – but we see Buffy’s expression as she pushes through the pain to admit the terrible thing that she’s done to Spike. Before her resurrection, Spike understood where he stood with her.

    SPIKE: I know you'll never love me.
    Buffy pauses halfway up the stairs, turns back to look at Spike.
    SPIKE: I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man. And that's – (The Gift)
    But now she’s given him false hope. She’s allowed him to believe that his love could be returned.

    BUFFY: I'm just being weak and selfish.
    Spike focuses on the word “selfish” – if that’s what Buffy’s worried about, then Spike is all too happy to let her take without getting anything in return.

    SPIKE: Really not complaining here –
    As a soulless vampire, Spike intellectually understands what Buffy is trying to say – but like most human scruples, he can’t understand why it’s that wrong that Buffy use him. Some of this is because of Spike’s background as a vampire who was originally designed as a plaything for Drusilla – but some of it goes back even farther to William Pratt’s life with his mother – in which he sacrificed much for her comfort.

    But Riley’s arrival has shocked her into seeing her life from a different perspective – he’s changed and she’s still playing at being the same. Buffy hides from her friends, determined to keep everything in a state of suspended animation to avoid the hard questions. And her on-going toxic relationship with Spike from that perspective is cruel and unfair to him. And to her.

    She realizes that he fully expects that Buffy will eventually fall in love with him because she’s drawn to him as a dead thing that she can use without consequence. Buffy never expects that there will be any change in Spike – demons don’t change – and up to this point, she has ignored his feelings and his pain because it wasn’t real to her.

    BUFFY: And it's killing me.
    Spike is taken aback at this statement – despite his inability to understand how she’s using him, he hears the pain and anguish in her voice. And Spike doesn’t like to see Buffy in that much pain – he’s said it before in Intervention. For the rest of the scene, to his credit, Spike doesn’t say a word.

    BUFFY: I have to be strong about this.
    The acting from both actors is just superb – the smallest flicker of emotions saying so much on their faces. As Spike looks at Buffy with confusion and growing alarm, the script has an interesting detail:

    He looks on the verge of another sly comeback, but she puts her hand to his face.
    In the edited scene, this gesture is omitted. But in the dallies for As You Were, one can clearly see Buffy doing this. The gesture will come back in Season Seven many times as a sign of real affection that goes beyond the sexual.

    And then Buffy says the line that explodes Spike’s carefully constructed self-image as much as the grenade that she threw down into his crypt – the persona that he spent so much time laboriously building up for over a hundred years.

    BUFFY: I'm sorry, William.

    In the series, Buffy only calls Spike “William” one other time – when he first comes to realize that he’s in love with her:

    BUFFY: Spike.
    SPIKE: Hi, Buffy.
    BUFFY: Don't take this the wrong way but –
    She socks him in the nose.
    SPIKE: Ow!
    BUFFY: What are you doing here? Five words or less.
    Spike counts the words on his fingers.
    SPIKE: Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch.
    BUFFY: Out for a walk at night by my house. No one has time for this, William.
    SPIKE: On your merry way, then. You know, contrary to one's self-involved world-view, your house happens to be directly between parts – and other parts of this town. And I would pass by in the day but I feel I'm outgrowing my whole "burst into flame" phase.
    BUFFY: Fine. Keep going, I cut you a break.
    SPIKE: Oh, yeah. Okay, let me guess – you won't kill me? Wooo – the whole crowd-pleasing threats-and-swagger routine. How stunningly original. You know, I'm just passing through. Satisfied? You know, I really hope so because God knows you need some satisfaction in life besides shagging Captain Cardboard and I never really liked you anyway and – and you have stupid hair. (No Place Like Home)
    Buffy told him then that “No one has time for this, William.” And time is the element here that’s collapsed in Buffy’s phrase. He’s the demon Spike and the overcompensating William the Bloody and the poet William Pratt all at the same time. Buffy acknowledges that Spike is more than a dead thing – an evil, disgusting thing who isn’t real – he’s a person made up of all the experiences that define him. And at the very base of that is William Pratt, human being. And that’s the person she apologizes to – the man who was victimized and became a soulless demon and was victimized again – this time by her.

    I’ve always considered the most important part of the ‘breakup’ is Buffy calls Spike “William” and that she never calls him “William” again. Buffy’s not in love with “William” and doesn’t know “William”.
    True, MikeB – and yet Buffy does know “William” in a sense. Because despite the journey of William Pratt, humble poet, from timid momma’s boy to heartless monster to chipped menace to wayward lover – despite the various outward layers added to Spike – his accent, his name, his scar, his coat, his hair, his chip – as each identity is continuously built from the ground up – Spike still carries the same self-schema of ineptitude and self-loathing that William Pratt and William the Bloody did over a century ago. And it’s that “person” – whether demon or human – that Buffy’s apologizing to.

    Buffy turns -- and walks out. We can see her strength in her face. It's painful – and fragile – but strength all the same. Spike stands in the crypt, alone. And we hold on his face as he takes in the truth of this. It's over. It's final. And Spike, without moving, gets hit fully and hard by the Thunderbolt –

    And there’s a filmed record of this – in the outtakes from this You Tube video, one can clearly see the tremendous work that both actors put into this scene, ending in Spike breaking down as Buffy leaves:

    But the episode ends on Buffy leaving the crypt – the director gives her the last second of the episode as she triumphantly walks from the lower level of the crypt to the upper level – and then into the light.

    Thanks, MikeB, for a really thought-provoking review of As You Were! Looking forward to reading your next review!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 16-10-18 at 10:24 PM.

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    Great final post on AYW and exploration of the metaphor of 'home' Aurora. The home is definitely something that has been relevant plenty of times this season since Buffy's return to a changed Revello Drive, a return to the failing pipework representing the struggle of dealing with all the internal pressures. Still used as the centre that everyone gravitates to it can be a social hub, full of memories, but full of obligation that can literally trap you and weigh you down. The benefit and burden of running the home plays a big part of the season and represents a great deal of Buffy's practical need to grow up and face responsibilities.

    The basement/Hellmouth seems to be a metaphor for the chamber of isolation that Spike believes he has lived in throughout his life – never truly close to anyone
    I love this view of Spike's self-internment in the basement. With no personal space marked, he really is just nesting in the area with no attempt to individualise. His sense of self has been shattered with the addition of the soul and is reforming. The adjustments and guilt, the battle in his mind taking all the focus, with no outward expression of self he feels able to make, to establish yet. It's a far cry from the elaborate multi storied, functional and decorated crypt that he had built around himself before.

    Really interesting to see the destroyed crypt by the end of AYW as not only representative of his relationship with Buffy but also symbolic to the connection he had developed with his human side after steadily creating a truly 'homely' lower floor through S5-6. As you say, the presence of the demon eggs, the trigger to destroying it, really there to demonstrate his inability to change fully.

    Anya leans over to kiss Xander and he gives her a quick peck. There’s another crash outside of the bathroom and Xander raises his eyebrows and shakes his head. They’ll somehow get through this.
    Revisiting that bathroom scene between Anya and Xander after seeing Hell's Bells again just emphasises what we see confirmed at the start of Normal Again, Xander's separation of the wedding from the relationship. He really hadn't wanted to end the relationship with Anya, it had all been about the fears which he tied to being married. But the destruction of the wedding, like the destruction of the crypt, didn't stay separate to the relationship it was symbolic of.

    Couldn’t he have used the word “beautiful” or something else that doesn’t make Buffy sound like a retired pole stripper?
    I think it is just supposed to be a casual/fun acknowledgement that he still thinks she is attractive but without it being emotional.

    And – the show deftly sidesteps what Riley did by having him forgive Buffy for everything that happened in their relationship even though he was the one who blindly followed Professor Walsh, refused to get help for his drug addiction because it would make him weaker than Buffy, resented when she spent time with her sick mother and went to creepy houses to get sucked by vamps, endangering everyone’s lives. Whew! I’m glad that’s all cleared up!
    It really wouldn't have hurt for them to have had Riley work in an apology himself would it.

    I like Petrie’s use of the word “home” here – the outward appearance of the crypt as a “home” for Spike has now been destroyed, its transformative meaning blown apart. As a signifier of the destruction that’s happening within as Spike’s sense of self, the decimated lower level of the crypt is a sign of what loving Buffy has done to him:
    SPIKE: You think I like having you in here? Destroying everything that was me, until all that's left is you, in a dead shell. You say you hate it, but you won't leave. (Crush)
    That's a brilliant tie to Crush.

    The humanity that Spike tried to emulate through his elaborately decorated “bedroom” was somewhat of a chimera – like the shows on the television set he kicks around. Just the trappings of what he thought Buffy would want rather than something he desired for himself – the appearance of a human house didn’t really disguise the fact that it was a hole in the ground originally built to house dead people like himself.
    Whilst I agree that there was a lot that Spike did with the crypt to try to make it more appealing to Buffy, he also did a lot of it during the time that she was dead. As you said, some of that could well have been driven by looking to make it more suitable for Dawn, but I think it does also expose that within Spike is that wish to have somewhere he belongs. Right now Spike is lost looking at the burnt out remains, it reflects how he is feeling and there is a tone of exhaustion to him I agree. Perhaps the destruction of what he had steadily built up and its link to losing the relationship with Buffy makes his decision at the end of Seeing Red far easier. There isn't anything left that binds him here but the potential to make himself more acceptable, to be able to rebuild from a new foundation because a 'home', to belong, to be loved and wanted, is still what drives him above all else.

    I agree that the break up scene between Buffy and Spike is really touching. After having admitted to sleeping with Spike out loud, clearly not wanting him to be 'taken out' because she does have some feeling for him, even if it is limited because of his soullessness, it's made clear the affection and connection that they have isn't all dark and violent. The apology to him as 'William' acknowledges the person within him at the same time as she acknowledges that her feelings are fundamentally held back. Like the start of the season, and their scene in Hell's Bells to come, it shows a glimmer that the possibility of a more positive relationship if only things were made to change is there.

    Thanks for the You Tube link to the takes on the scene, which I hadn't seen before, and for yet again really bringing some insightful thoughts and expansions to the episode discussion.

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