Monday, September 10, 2007

Buffy Marathon (Part Deux)

I went camping this past weekend, and my cousin was there. Turns out, he's a huge fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." And by huge, I mean, he knew who The Gentlemen were and the names of episodes and what happened in them. I was impressed, especially by how passionate he was about the show, and I feel it brought us closer as friends . . . if I can ever get past the "So, you're gonna be real bummed out when ____ dies in the ____ episode" parts of what he said to me. Arrrgh.

Which reminds me, I guess I should've put some kind of spoiler warning on these posts, since I do tend to give the whole plot away to each episode I see. After all, I'd hate for you to find out that Miss Calendar died the way that I did (ie, someone writing about it on the internet).

So, where were we on the marathon recap? Oh yes, I had just called tyranist a horse's pizzle. And then we did battle. With the immortal soul of Luciano Pavarotti hanging in the balance. Did I not tell you about this?

After that, we took in "Goodbye Iowa," which I interpreted as either the complete destruction of that Midwestern state, or the last appearance of one Riley Finn. Interesting how it actually turned out.

So, at Giles's place, Buffy tells the gang about Professor Walsh's attempt on her life. Riley comes in (I don't believe people knock anymore) and despite what he saw in the last episode, has difficulty believing she was up to no good. It doesn't help things when he sees Spike hanging around there, who he knows to be a) a vampire and b) an evil bastard. When he leaves, the gang decides to relocate to a safer location . . . Xander's basement.

Meanwhile, the Initiative boys discover Professor Walsh stabbed to death in her top secret workroom. Forrest, the cool black dude from "Heroes," thinks it was Buffy that did it. No mention is made of Adam, who has escaped the facility (somehow, undetected?), and is now wandering around Sunnydale, which in this episode, does NOT look like the Fox lot in L.A.. Adam is a bit puzzled by who and what he is, and speaks in a cool vibrato voice. He comes across a little kid and decides to examine him further. Later, on the news, they report that the little boy was mutilated.

When Forrest catches up with Riley, he tells him that Professor Walsh has been murdered (but her wound seems more consistent with the Polgara demon's spike than Buffy's stake). Riley begins to get a little paranoid and confronts Buffy at the demon bar she used to go to asking for leads, accusing her of doing whiskey shots with the denizens of the Mos Eisley Cantina. You see, without his daily Initiative drug, Riley is freaking out: sweating, twitching, scratching at himself, and basically acting like one of the Olsen Twins in the middle of a Sunday Mass. He is taken to Xander's basement to rest.

Willow comes up with the idea of casting a spell to show her where all the demons in Sunnydale are. There are multicoloured sprinkles that will fall on a makeshift map to show where and what kind they are. I was really interested in seeing this, as we could definitively see how many demons live in Sunnydale at one time, and I might be rewarded for finding out what Polgara, Brachen, Mohra, Fyarl, Mok'tagar, and Kungai Demons are. Instead of going to Giles for the spell, she hooks up with Tara again, and during the spell, Tara sabotages it for some reason, and it doesn't work.

Despite my cousin's best attempts, I don't know why this happened.

Buffy decides to go to Initiative Headquarters to find answers to what's happening with Riley. Because Xander "has military experience," he gets to come along. Also, she puts on a lab coat and glasses, and it is quite attractive. They enter the facility using Buffy's new clearance, and despite Xander's insistence that they do the old "pretend to make out" so nobody notices them, nobody notices them anyway. Awfully conveniently, a couple of Initiative scientists walk by, talking about Riley and Company going through withdrawl from the drug they'd been secretly given.

Riley shows up, still tweaking, and hey, so does Adam, all monstery and who-am-I? Luckily, he has a disk drive built into his stomach with which he can load the data he needs (about Professor Walsh, about Riley, and, oddly, about Ricardo Montalban, the greatest Mexican to ever walk the earth), after which, he gets all violent, kills the head Initiative scientist, and nearly kills Riley with his stinger-poker thing. In the ensuing chaos, Adam escapes.

The soldiers take Riley away to a military hospital (we presume) to treat his wounds and drug-withdrawl, but he still has Buffy's scarf to remind him of her. The end.

This too felt like a weaker show than most this season, and especially weaker than all previous Marti Noxon-penned episodes. It may be that all shows hit a period of fatigue three-quarters of the way through a season, before everybody ramps things up for the end.

I pretty much figured this was it for Riley on the show (or at least this season), but he didn't die and he didn't leave. In fact, he's back again in the very next show, "This Year's Girl." It was written by Douglas Petrie, who wrote the excellent Gwendolyn Post episode "Revelations" and the Spike and Oz "Angel" "In the Dark."

Faith the Vampire Slayer is having a friendly dream about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She looks down and realises Buffy has stuck a knife in her stomach (a familiar-looking knife, if you're like me and last season was weeks instead of months ago). We see that Faith is still in her coma, in a hospital somewhere*, and no threat to anybody anytime soon.

A bigger threat, however, is Adam the Cyborgdemon, who is running loose and uncaptured in Sunnydale, making demons (and probably more kindergartners) into modern art. Buffy hasn't been able to locate him, and is stressed out because she hasn't seen Riley in some time either. At least some of that stress is relieved when Riley, mostly recovered, leaves his hospital room and comes to Xander's basement, where our gang is still congregating.

Also recovering, though, is our gal Faith. After a dream in which Buffy interrupts her picnic with Mayor Wilkins with bloodshed (Buffy Summers has become a sort of boogeyman in her subconscious, much like Estelle Getty is in mine), Faith awakens from her coma. Wandering through the hospital's grimy halls, she encounters a girl and asks her if she's missed the graduation ceremony.

When we next see Faith, she's wearing the girl's clothes, who the hospital staff find beaten and stripped.** Faith wanders around Sunnydale, seeing the ruins of the high school, and eventually going to Giles's house, where she peeks in the window at the gang, talking about Adam the Cyborgdemon. The telephone rings, and Buffy is told that Faith is up and about. As she tells the others, they kick around suggestions as to what to do about her. Buffy says that maybe she's sorry for her transgressions last season and they can be friends again (at that, I'm quite surprised that tyranist didn't throw something at the TV set, but he is able to control himself a lot better than I am).

The next day on campus, Buffy and Willow are talking about Faith and bump right into her. She and Buffy do battle, Faith calls her "B," the police arrive, and Faith heads for the hills. The Watchers Council has also been called in to capture Faith, so she may well be in more trouble than Spike at this point (I failed to mention that the demon community heard he was doing a bit of slaying, and that there's a "No Changeling has EVER harmed another" line he had crossed, making him a target now).

Later, Faith runs into a demon that recognises her and has a package for her. It turns out to be a video taped message from Mayor Wilkins (it appears he made it right before his Ascension, as it refers to her being in a coma). In it, the Mayor tells her how special she is and what a shame it is that he is dead, and that he's got one last gift for her . . . some sort of device she wears on her hand.

Buffy warns Riley about Faith, thinking she might try to get at her through the people she cares about. Sure enough, back at Joyce's house (wow, we haven't seen Buffy's mother in a monkey's age), the doorbell rings, revealing Faith and a mean left hook. Faith thinks Buffy will arrive to rescue Joyce, but when she sees a stack of mail with Buffy's name on it, she guesses that Buffy don't come round no more, and taunts Joyce about it.

But Buffy does arrive, bursting through the window, and she and Faith do battle. Joyce calls the police, and right before they arrive, Faith produces the device the Mayor gave her. In a flash of light, something happens that seems to surprise Faith, and Buffy takes her chance to deck Faith and destroy the device. As the cops come in, Buffy smiles, and we realise that she is no longer Buffy. "To Be Continued" comes on screen, and in February of 2000, millions of fans shriek in excitement and agonised frustration.

Damn, this was good stuff. It's truly surprising how happy I was to see Faith return. And the Mayor too, if only in dreams and beyond-the-grave messages. This episode was riveting, really, and when it ended with a big ole cliffhanger, there was no stopping us from plowing on to find out how it ended.

And it ended in "Who Are You," three words I'm unable to say without singing due to "CSI." The episode, written and directed by Joss, picks up right where the last one left off. Faith has switched bodies with Buffy, and Faith's unconscious body is being wheeled out by authorities. Tyranist pointed out, 'cause I missed it, that the credits listed "Eliza Dushku as Buffy," and that was darn cool. Even cooler, however, was Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance as Faith, as she acted, talked, even moved the way Faith does. Really impressive, fun stuff.

So, "Buffy" and her mother talk about the confrontation, and "Buffy" doesn't really know how to act around her. She goes and takes a bath, very much enjoying her new body, and practices saying, "Don't do that, because it's wrong" in the mirror. She snags her mother's credit card and goes out to hang out with the gang.

Tyranist and I tried to guess who would be the first to recognise that it wasn't Buffy who was hanging around them. Would it be her mother, who's known her the longest? Would it be Willow, who's her best friend? Would it be Giles, who Watches her so closely? Would it be Riley, who's making ye olde beast with two backs with her? Would it be Xander, maybe, who knows Faith so semi-intimately? Or would it be Harmony . . . who does not appear in this episode?

Well, nobody seems to notice the change at first, despite "Buffy" not knowing Anya's name. "Buffy" goes to the Bronze and runs into Spike (will it be Spike, who has a more supernatural view of Buffy?), who she at first doesn't recognise, and then calls William the Bloody, and tries to seduce, and then pushes away. This infuriates Spike and . . . look, ladies, this infuriates all men everywhere, both vampire and human.

The Watchers Council steals "Faith" away from the cops, sticking her in a van and prepare to take her back to England. She tries to explain to them that she is not Faith, but they are most unkind to her. While waiting for their tickets home, "Faith" grabs one of them, taking him hostage, but the other two tell her to go ahead and kill him, because he is a wanker. "Faith" can't do so, and is stuck where she was before. Even more so, since now they think they'll have to kill her rather than take her back.

In the Bronze, Willow introduces Tara to "Buffy," and when Willow goes to get them drinks, "Buffy" laughs at how Willow went onto the other team, despite how much she was in love with good old Oz. I found myself displeased by this, because Tara strikes me as a tender lesbian flower. Willow comes back, pointing out a vampire leading a girl out the door. "Buffy" reluctantly goes out to slay the creature, and when she does, the would-be victim is REMARKABLY grateful. I mean, so much so that it makes us (and Faith) question the whole People Are No Damn Good philosophy.***

Tara tells Willow that "Buffy" was giving off some might bad juju, and that it wasn't really her friend in there. Instead of calling Professor Dumbledore, Harry and Hermione decide to make up a spell to fix things on their own.

Meanwhile, "Buffy" runs into Riley, and decides to make that aforementioned beast with him. You know, the one with two backs. I was gratified (though that may be an inappropriate word) to see that Riley was still sore from the Adam encounter, so the amorous acrobatics that Faith's used to weren't really an option. Even so, the sex is had, and afterward, Riley tells her that he loves her.

Wrong answer. Those three little words ruin Faith's mood faster than when my friend Ian's wife cried out "Skippy from Family Ties!" during lovemaking. She is out of there.

Also out of there is Buffy, who--oh crap, I just realised that I've stopped referring to them as who they are outside, but who they are inside. Dammit.

Also out of there is "Faith," who does manage to escape the Council and steal the van she was being held in (guess she can drive okay after all). She goes to Giles's place and before he can call the police on her, she manages to convince him that she is really Buffy (she mentions that she was the one who recognised him when he was turned into a demon and also that he nailed her mother that one time). Willow and Tara show up with Spock's katra (I kid you not, they really called it a katra!), and now all they have to do is find "Buffy."

"Buffy" goes to the airport to get the hell outta Dodge, and sees a news report about a group of vampires holding a bunch of churchgoers hostage (though the reporter might have called the vampires "Chinamen"). In a subplot I neglected to tell you about, Adam got a bunch of vampire followers and told them to confront their greatest fears, since that would make them, I don't know, cooler. Seeing what's happening, and knowing that she is the Slayer, "Buffy" goes to the church to stop them.

Riley arrives, claiming he was just on his way to church (which, for some reason, caused only me to laugh), and "Buffy" tells him he's too injured to take them on. She goes inside, and tells the vampires not to kill all the people. Why? "Because it's wrong." When they don't listen, she gives the vampires a mighty thrashing, allowing all the parishioners to escape. "Faith" shows up, killing the last of the vampires, and she and "Buffy" do mighty battle once again.

That is, until Willow uses her katra thing to switch their bodies back. A brunette once again, Faith flees, leaving town and feeling more alone than ever (I feel a little like Faith right now, but just way much less hot).**** Buffy is frustrated that this happened, and even more so when she finds out Riley had sex with her. Her being Faith, not Buffy. But really Buffy, not Faith. It really should be alright, actually. But of course, it's not.

And that's the end of the episode. Sadly, I may have to rethink the whole best episode of the season now that I've seen this one. It was more fun and much, much better than how I have described it (this show is sort of the opposite of "Saturday Night Live," which is always better when you retell it), and though I am years late, I want to tell Joss and SMG and Dushku how excellent their work was here. When I was an extra, I never got a chance to work on a Whedon show, or with any of the cast of the show (save Anthony Stewart Head, though he was fairly unrecognisable), so I don't know how I could've pulled it off. Chalk it up as another missed opportunity, just to be sure.

I have so little going right in my life right now, "Buffy" is literally one of the only things to look forward to and get me out of bed in the morn . . . okay, afternoon. Thanks, Joss and company.

Rish "The Vampire Viewer" Outfield

*I didn't get why the hospital was so run-down and crappy. I wracked my brain for some kind of explanation, but I still don't know what it was.

**I too would like to encounter Faith in this way.

***I wouldn't be surprised if this girl were on the Give Buffy Summers An Umbrella committee in high school.

****Yeah, I meant to say way much less hot. It was originally "way much less hotter."

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