Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Angel Wednesday

April 30th-May 10th, 2008

So, in last week's post, I dragged my feet in the writing, since I really didn't have much to say about the episodes we watched. Not great, not bad.

But here I am, not three minutes home from tyranist's place, and I'm typing about tonight's Angel Wednesday. I guess I finally have something to say.

Unfortunately, it ain't good. And I'm finding it difficult to type up really lame synopses of all the shows we saw just to get to the part where I start to rant, rave, and foam at the mouth.

So, first up was "Couplet" by Tim Minear and Jeffrey Bell.

So, the Groosalugg (the correct spelling, apparently) is with Cordelia, and Angel is jealous. He tries to content himself with taking care of his child, and asks Wesley to research the prophecies concerning Connor.

Cordelia, meanwhile, is worried that she'll lose her visions if she has sex with the Groosalugg, since that was supposed to happen in Pylea. She has a totally run-of-the-mill and painless vision of a demon attack, and the Groosalugg (who they call Groo now, but I don't know that I can) volunteers to go slay it.

Angel and Groo go into the sewers to track the demon and find it, but it escapes to the surface, which, for once, is during the day, and Angel can't pursue it. But Groo can, and does, and kills it, and is everyone's hero.

Also meanwhile, Gunn and Fred seem to be continuing their relationship, having breakfast together and discussing the next step. While I do not dislike Gunn like tyranist does, I wanted her to hook up with Wesley enough that we're both on the same page as far as a relationship with Gunn goes.

Wesley finds some scrolls written long ago about Connor and goes to work translating them (or maybe it was a book that translated them, I can't remember).

Cordelia cuts Groo's hair, and he still looks like a male model, but an American rather than European one. She tells him about her fear of losing her visions and lets him wear Angel's clothes. We find out that there's a potion she can take to make sex with him safe, and she sends Angel and Groo to get it.

A woman hires A.I. to see if her fiance is having an affair with a witch that put a spell on him. Gunn and Fred take a video camera and watch the fiance go to a park, where he promptly disappears. Gunn and Fred find that he was pulled underground next to a big tree. When they investigate, they too are pulled under.

Turns out that the tree is alive, and has an underground internet cafe, where it lures lonely people to its location . . . and sucks the life from them. For once, one of them uses a cellphone to contact Angel and tell them they're in trouble.

Groo and Angel go to the park and the Groosalugg immediately attacks the tree, but is no match for it, and it begins to suck out his life. Angel steps forward and taunts the tree, which releases Groo and starts sucking on Angel. But Angel is a vampire, and apparently quite dead inside, and the tree dies.

Wesley tells Gunn that he shouldn't see Fred anymore, but Gunn realises that may be concerned for her welfare, but has other motives as well.

Groo tells Cordelia that Angel was the real hero that night, but his modesty only makes her that much more attracted to him. Angel gives Cordy a wad of cash and tells her to take a holiday with Groo. She does, leaving Angel alone.

Wesley is also alone, translating the Connor prophesies, and writes down six words: "The Father Will Kill The Son." The end.

I liked this episode, but as most serial shows are, it wasn't real satisfying. Of course we continued watching, and I will try to be even briefer about "Loyalty" by Mere Smith.

Wesley falls asleep during the translation and has a dream where Angel kills Connor, and the others just watch. He feels more protective of Connor than before, and when Angel takes the baby to the doctor for a check-up, Wesley goes with him.

Angel seems fine, though, and even trades baby care advice with women in the waiting room. The doctor takes a blood sample, but tells Angel the boy is completely healthy. After they leave, however, one of the mothers from the waiting room sneaks in and switches Connor's blood for another's. Uh oh.

Cordelia did indeed go away, and is not in this episode.

A woman comes to Angel Investigations and tells them about her son, who was taken and turned into a vampire. Turns out she is a member of Holtz the Vampire Hunter's little cadre, and is luring Angel into a trap. Holtz, and Justine his first lieutenant, have them training to kill Angel. The Scarface demon appears, wondering why Holtz hasn't killed Angel yet. For the first time, I noticed that Scarface has some personal interest in Holtz's mission, made all the more apparent when he goes to Wolfram & Hart to talk to Evillawyerchick Lilah Morgan. He wants Angel dead, and she says the lawfirm needs him alive, but secretly agrees to help him in his cause. Scarface (whose name is Sahjhan, but I will continue to not call him that) needs Connor's blood, and Lilah provides it.

Fred and Gunn (who are inseparable, despite Wesley's attempts to keep them apart) go to the Santa Monica Pier (gosh, I miss L.A.) to find the vampire lair (the trap set by Holtz), and sure enough, the trap is sprung and they are surrounded by vampires. Gunn fights them off, and Fred even dusts one.

Wesley has arranged a meeting with a god or demon to talk about the prophesy. In a very amusing scene, the unearthly being takes on the form of a giant hamburger mascot. The being known as the Loa tells Wesley to watch for three signs: the earth shakes, the air burns, and the sky turns to blood. Then the prophesy will be fulfilled.

Angel drinks his pig's blood (which he does several times during this episode), and I wonder why we don't see that happen more often. Is it because it's sort of gross and an unattractive thing to show in a series so filled with attractive people?

The woman who sent them after the vampires comes back to the hotel to thank (and pay) them. Angel and Wesley let her know who she really works for, but then . . . there's an earthquake. Sign number one.

Wesley follows the woman back to Holtz's lair, but instead of fighting them, he tries to reason with Holtz. He tells him that Angel has a soul and despite what he did as Angelus, he's a good man. But Holtz will hear none of it, and makes what sounds like a threat on Connor . . . but could actually be another clue that Connor is going to die at Angel's hands.

When Wesley returns to the hotel, he sees how great Angel is with his son, and begins to relax. But then, there's another earthquake, and the gas in the stove fills the air with fire. Sign number two.

Sign number three also happens, as the ceiling caves in around them. Angel gets a big gash on his head, but he, Wesley, and Connor get out of the room before it all falls down. In the hall, Angel licks his lips and says, "On the bright side, if we'd been trapped in there . . . at least I would've had a snack." The end.

The ending of this one really freaked me out (and oh, if I could only go back to those innocent, naive days), and I asked tyranist just what the hell Angel could've meant by that. He suggested that maybe, because Angel was bleeding, he was referring to drinking his own blood. I disagreed, but supposed he could've been referring to Wesley as food, but it sure as hell sounded like he was talking about eating his own baby.

So of course we hit the next show after that. It was called "Sleep Tight" and was written by David Greenwalt.

Wesley nervously tries to go about his business, while Angel sips a cup of pig's blood, and seems to be back to normal. It was around this time when I began to suspect what was happening to Angel and I thought, "Wow, that's pretty dark." Of course, I had no idea.

Wesley offers to take Connor for a day in the park and sunlight, and Angel agrees.

Justine tells Holtz that Angel's people seem decent, and he tells her that she chose to side with him and deserve to die. Not five seconds later, Wesley comes in again to meet with Holtz. Justine thinks Wesley is setting them up, but he tries to express to her that he's on the good side and would never betray anyone. Holtz tells Wesley he has a day to get the baby away from Angel . . . or he will. Wesley starts back and Justine stops him. They talk and he again tries to express that he is trustworthy, but Holtz is not.

A woman hires Angel Investigations to determine why she--

You know, that subplot wasn't important. All that's important is that Angel gets into a fight and is especially vicious.

Angel returns to the hotel, drinks more pig's blood, and begins to rant about Connor's annoying bawling. He throws the blood against the wall and everyone looks at him like he's dropped his pants in church. Lorne thinks something is wrong with the blood Angel's been drinking, and Fred studies it under a microscope.

Sure enough, it's not just pig's blood. Baby Connor's blood is in there too. Angel's enemies have been trying to get Angel a taste for his own child's blood.

Angel goes to the bar where evillawyerchick Lilah Morgan hangs out and threatens her like he always does. But Scarface demon shows up and tells Angel it's been a long time. Angel doesn't recognise him, but figures him for an enemy, since Scarface admits to bringing Holtz into the 21st Century. Scarface hates Angel for some past sin (though I believe he's a time traveler, so it could be a future one) and vows vengeance before bampf-ing away.

Wesley gets back to the hotel and starts packing Connor's things. He hums to the baby, and Lorne reads his intentions through the song. Lorne goes to warn the others, but Wesley bashes him over the head, leaving him on the ground. He scoops up the baby, turns, and sees Angel walk in.

Wesley puts on his poker face and says he's taking Connor for their play date in the park. Oh, and Lorne had to go run an errand. Angel doesn't seem suspicious, but takes his time in telling the baby goodbye and letting Wesley leave. He asks Wesley to research Sahjhan the Scarface demon, and Wesley agrees to, then slips into the night with Connor.

Gunn and Fred come in then and hear Lorne groan in the back room. Before he can explain, Holtz shows up with his followers (although not Justine). They fight. Lorne turns the tide by doing that high-pitched singing thing of his (which I honestly only thought worked in Pylea, but ah well), and chases Holtz off. He tells Angel that Wesley has been meeting with Holtz and stole the baby.

Wesley, outside his apartment, is about to get into his car, when Justine staggers toward him. She has been beaten severely and tells him Holtz did it. When Wesley tries to comfort her, she produces a knife and slits his throat with it. He falls onto the grass and she takes the baby and Wesley's car.

Back at Angel Investigations, Angel is furious with everyone, especially Wesley. And Holtz. And whoever messed with his pig's blood. And Gunn. And Joss Whedon for going off to make his gorram space western and leaving him in the lurch. He grabs one of Holtz's injured guys and forces the address of Holtz's headquarters out of him.

Justine drives to a rendezvous with Holtz, who gets inside and asks if Utah is nice. He and Justine are going to raise Connor as their own.

Angel grabs a truck and pursues. Lilah Morgan has a bunch of military dudes with her and they prevent Holtz from escaping. Everyone meets up on a bridge and Scarface appears, deciding that the best revenge on Angel would be to kill his son. He opens up a portal to Quor'Toth*--the most horrible of dimensions--and tells Holtz to kill the child or everyone will be sucked into the portal.

Angel doesn't know what to do, but Holtz acts: he grabs Connor and runs through the portal, disappearing into it. Angel tries to follow, but cannot, and the portal closes.

The Scarface demon laughs at the loss of Angel's son and disappears again. Angel is left alone to contemplate what has happened, and cries. The end.

This episode wasn't bad, really. It surprised me that Wesley was so brutally murdered, and that he would attack Lorne, but the loss of Connor didn't surprise me at all. The moment the baby was introduced, I knew it was just a matter of time before a) he was whisked away to be taken care of by some secondary character, b) he died, or c) he was replaced by a much older actor, all three irritating tropes in television series, since people can't abide change, and a child makes someone as sexy as a tumor does.

Unfortunately, we were on a roll, so we decided to watch one more "Angel" episode, to sort of put this whole Connor thing to bed.

That episode was called "Forgiving," and we'll see if it ends up being the last episode I see. It was written by Jeffery Bell, who I resolve not to lay any blame on.

Angel goes back to A.I., and everyone (minus Cordelia and Wesley) find out what happened to Connor. Fred and Gunn go through Wesley's papers, trying to find some explanation for his actions. But hey, doesn't anybody remember Angel drinking his own baby's blood? If not, the reminder is still splattered across one wall of the lobby.

Meanwhile, a homeless guy finds Wesley, still alive, and still laying where he fell with his throat slit. The homeless dude gets Wesley's cellphone, and we think the guy may help our boy out . . . but this is Los Angeles, remember, and the homeless guy takes Wesley's wallet and leaves.

Angel tries to open a portal to the demon dimension Connor went, but can't figure it out. He kidnaps Evillawyerdude Linwood to force the information out of him, and eventually Lilah Morgan helps him cast a spell to bring Scarface from his dimension to theirs.

Sahjhan the Scarface demon explains that he is non-corporeal, and can travel all over time, but has no physical body due to a curse. He discovered a prophesy that told how he would be killed: by the human offspring of two vampires. It was then that he enlisted Holtz to destroy Angel and Darla, but that plan didn't exactly work out right, and the baby was born.

So, he went back in time and altered the prophesy made about Connor so that Wesley would think the boy was in danger from his father (I guess the tainted blood was part of this secondary plan), and that worked out fine.

Fred and Gunn go to Wesley's place, and after a bit of searching, they find his discarded notes that say "The Father Will Kill The Son" on them. They realise why he did what he did, and find his body, which they get to the hospital.

So, Angel figures out a way to make Scarface a physical presence again and fights him, but isn't really a match for him. Ultimately, Justine grabs the mystic urn Holtz had set aside to trap Scarface inside of, and uses it to trap Scarface inside.

Justine gets Holtz's crew together and takes over the leader role, hoping to continue Holtz's goal of killing Angel and pals.

The doctors tell Gunn and Fred that they managed to save Wesley's life, but he's going to be weak for a while and can't speak. The others explain to Angel when he arrives why Wesley did what he did, and Angel says he understands. He slips in to check on Wesley, who is dazed, but awake.

Angel tells Wesley that Connor was never in any danger, and that Angel would never hurt him. He assures Wesley that he's calm, in his right mind, and is Angel, not Angelus. Then he leaps upon Wesley, grabbing a pillow and pushing it over his face, screaming, "I'll kill you, you son of a bitch! I'll kill you!" The doctors and Gunn pull Angel away from the gasping, terrified stitched-up Wesley Wyndom-Pryce, with Angel still foaming and shouting threats, his face not vampiric in the slightest. The end.

Well, now that I've spent weeks trying to recap it, it doesn't sound all that bad. But that's because I'm not nearly the talented writer I supposed myself to be, unable to do justice to this blackest turn I've ever seen on a Joss Whedon programme.

Your faults as a recap are my failings as a father, he said sadly and sincerely.

So, now we're back again to where I started (three minutes into the house, my shoes not yet removed, and a drive to type something up, despite allergies having robbed me of 60% of my sight and 80% of my will to live). We've watched both "Angel" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" delve into some real darkness, and some real corruption of its characters this season. And while I continue to look to "Buffy" for laughs as well as tears and unsettlement, I don't know how willing I am to pick "Angel" up again and keep reading.

Back when "e.r." was at its best, I had a circle of friends who watched the show and we'd often debate the moral issues of the show, sometimes agreeing, sometimes being unable to find a common ground (not just "e.r.," there have been a number of shows that do that, and I've found the best shows are the ones you can talk to others about and hear their interpretations, share your favourite moments, and sometimes disagree on what something means or how well it works). It's been something I've prized, often more than the TV shows themselves--the discussions I've shared afterward, with many different people.

Sometimes people do things that are questionable on television, and we can argue whether they were right or wrong, or if we would've done it differently. And over the last nine or ten years or so, I've talked with my writer friends (and annoyed my non-writer buddies) with how I might have written it differently.

And it's something I was talking with my cousin about during our trip, how "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" was the best of the "Trek" shows because there was so much darkness, both confronting our characters and within them. That Garak or Odo or Quark or even Commander Sisko made mistakes or chose poorly or did the wrong thing for the right reasons was something to discuss, and something that made the show a lot more interesting than "Next Generation," where most of the time, the characters walked the straight and narrow with absolutely no deviation.

And on Joss Whedon's two Buffyverse shows, we've seen characters take nasty turns, or do selfish or stupid things, and make mistakes great and small. But I don't know how much I want to watch the adventures of a titular character I dislike as much as I do Angel right now. They could have written the scene in any number of ways, but they consciously chose to have him explain, in no uncertain terms, that he was not Angelus, that he was not under any alien control, that he actually had all the facts, and that he calmly went in to murder a man in a hospital bed who was in no state to defend himself. That tyranist did not react the way I did gives me pause and I have to wonder, did I miss something? Have I painted the situation with my own feelings and experiences and prejudices? Am I wrong to just be sick about it and not want to continue to watch the show for a while . . . or ever?

And you know, it was my insistence that got us watching "Angel" in the first place. Tyranist was perfectly happy to skip the series altogether and watch only "Buffy," but I kicked and screamed and got my way, and he spent all that money on the series . . . and now we've come to this place.

It probably says something that when Connor was stolen away and into a demon dimension, leaving his father to gasp and reel at what had just happened, that I felt nothing. It was like when they killed Starbuck at the end of Season Three of "Battlestar Galactica." This was the death of a main character on a show I once proclaimed to be even better than "Firefly," and I just shook my head and said, "Meh." I didn't for a second believe they had killed Starbuck, because why would you kill her in such a contrived, overly-complicated, and easily-escapable way? It would be like having someone fall through a magic mirror and disappear and then have a character explain that that was a representation of death from whence no one could return? Why not just kill them, if you're really going to kill them?

I recognise that I am old and certainly have outlived my usefulness on this planet (if indeed I was ever useful at all), but when I like Gunn more than I like the main character on a show, I gotta wonder: what's broken, the show or the viewer?


And you know what, we were STEERED by the writers to feel certain things, by what information they allowed US to see (not the characters) and the time we spent with what characters for how long. So to have been steered this way by "Angel," no, I won't say that the problem lies with me. Fuck that. The problem lies with everybody else.

I was at a convention a few weeks ago and Jeph Loeb expressed frustration at the way audiences seem to think that the writers of "Lost" didn't know where they were going and were just making things up as they went along. He then explained how a writers room works and how a season is mapped out, and in the end, who did I believe: Jeph Loeb, a fine writer of television and comics, or my own eyes, which have taken in every single episode of "Lost" that's been shown (even the cute little cellphone shorts)?

Hey, I still watch "Lost." It's still a great show. But I'll go eight rounds with anyone (even Jeph Loeb, or Damon Lindeloff, or even Uwe Boll) who says the turns we saw in Season Two were even remotely considered in Season One, otherwise, why start up a bunch of subplots that never went anywhere with a bunch of characters who, with the exception of someone who was already mentioned in the pilot, are no longer on the show?

Gosh, I'm really living up to the name of my blog today. I may have had a point at one point, but like the creators of "Lost," I seem to have misplaced it. Maybe only temporarily. Maybe tyranist will, in gentle, comforting words, steer me back in the direction of righteousness, and we'll continue with "Angel" Season Three and things will be explained to my satisfaction and I will begin to love the character again and all will be made well.

And you know, I do apologise for the swipe at J.K. Rowling. Still the greatest book series I've been lucky enough to come across.

So, yeah, I hated the turn we saw on "Angel," and it has bothered me in ways I can't even express in two weeks of long-winded typing (it's now May 10th and I still haven't finished this post). I've seen shows jump the shark before ("Smallville" did it, "e.r." did it, "The Simpsons" did it, even "Battlestar Galactica" did it, though I continue to watch), and even seen a couple of them jump back. But I can't remember ever throwing my hands up and walking away from the gaming table like this before.

Oh wait, there was that alien abduction mini-series with Dakota Fanning in it. I did it with that one too.

Rish Frownyemoticon Outfield

*You're damn right I had to look that up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

28 April 2008

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

I wonder how only 13% of all my blog pages can be considered "medium." Compared to what? You know, if only thirteen percent of my body had been touched by Ryan Seacrest, I'd say I got off pretty light.

And yeah, I'm aware that I just used the phrases "got off" and "Ryan Seacrest" in the same sentence.

Rish "Dammit" Outfield

Monday, April 28, 2008

Unrelated Ramblings

I listen to a few podcasts, mostly short fiction ones (many of which I've mentioned before), but my favourite one is SModcast, which is the podcast filmmaker Kevin Smith and Producer Scott Mosier do together.

Podcasts really fascinate me, mostly because they're something anyone can do. I've wanted to be a radio DJ for a lot of years, and still enjoy doing audiobooks of stories written by me or my friends. My buddy Merrill, for more than a year now, has been wanting to get a podcast together and do it, in a mad bid for fame and wealth. He seemed really excited about it yesterday, and a secret, scared part of me thinks he'll go ahead with it by himself, or worse, with one of his new friends that's so much cooler than me.*

Please ignore the last paragraph. Like I was saying, Kevin Smith's hilarious, incredibly foul-mouthed podcast is endlessly entertaining, and it fosters a crazy notion that I know Kevin and Scott, since I hear from them way more often than I do my father.

The most recent SModcast was a little different, as it was initially hosted by Kevin and his young daughter, Harley Quinn. They bantered a little bit and he asked her about her interests, and seemed very affectionate toward her.

I am reminded of the one time I met Harley. It was the last one of Kevin's signings at his Secret Stash comic book store in L.A.. The lines are interminable, because a) Kevin insists on greeting and chatting with every fan in the line; b) many more people than could possibly fit into the store in the alloted time show up; and c) because Kevin takes approximately nineteen smoke breaks an hour, and California law requires him to get up and go outside to do it.

I swear, every time, that it'll be the last time ("Never again is what you swore . . . the time before"), but that one really was the last time. Kevin and Jason Lee were there, and for part of the signing, Kevin's wife Jennifer brought Harley by to visit him. For fun, he sat her down next to him while he signed autographs, and she got some crayons out and drew flowers and princesses and Golgothan shitmonsters like every normal girl does.As my turn finally came close to arriving, I heard Harley (who would've been six or seven back then) tell her dad that she wanted to sign her name too. He tried to explain how autographs worked, but she didn't really get it, since she had been in movies by then herself. The guy two people ahead of me addressed her, though, and I figured he would be cool and have her sign his DVD, but instead, he said, "I sure wish your dad was my dad." The guy was about thirty-six years old, so she didn't know how to respond, and eventually the line moved up.

On my turn, I thought it would be funny to go immediately to Harley, forgoing Kevin altogether. I got out my MALLRATS poster (given to me by lawyer extraordinaire Ian "The White Tim Meadows" Puente), and said, "You can sign this if you want to, Kevin, but I'd really like Harley's autograph." She scrawled her name in gigantic Sharpie letters, and then I gave the poster to Kevin.

"I love you, sir," he wrote above his name.

Rish "Wouldbe Son of William Shatner" Outfield

*Do you have friends who start hanging out with someone new, someone who seems to have a lot more to offer than you do? If not, it could be that YOU are that friendship-stealer to someone else, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Buffgel Wednesday

We watched way too many episodes this week, and I have zero interest in recapping them.

I recently started the series over from the beginning and I've looked over my first Buffy Wednesday posts to see what I wrote, and hey, I didn't have a hell of a lot to say back then. In some ways, maybe that was better: maybe I only said the things I felt compelled to mention, and now I feel like I have to comment on every single show, even if I've already forgotten it, like the ones from last Wednesday.

I think we watched a pair of "Angel"s and a pair of "Buffy"s.

The first "Angel" we watched was called "Provider," though I insist on remembering it as "Benefactor," and was written by Scott Murphy. In it, Angel becomes much more interested in money, now that he has someone to provide for (his kid, remember?), and does all he can to get more business for Angel Investigations.

Cordelia, in a shocking departure from who she used to be, thinks he needs to focus more on helping people and less on cash.

Holtz the Vampire Hunter has his new recruit (whose name is Justine) and does all sorts of sadistic crap to make sure she is ready and dedicated, such as extensive training, testing her limits of patience and pain, and making her sit through all of the Tyler Perry "Medea" movies. He's not quite the teacher that Giles was.

Lorne is able to speak the language of a group of demons who want Wesley's brain to help them solve a puzzle. Fred is actually better at that sort of thinking than Wesley is, so they offer $50,000 for her services.

Angel, meanwhile, encounters a dude who wants him to smoke out a nest of vampires (in exchange for cash, of course). This guy turns out to have no money, but his best friend was killed by the vampires and he just wanted them destroyed. Angel is upset about the lack of payment, but ultimately he gives in and finishes the job just because it's a good deed that needs to be done.

In our third mini-adventure, Gunn takes the case of a woman who is being stalked by her undead ex-boyfriend. It is revealed that he was a very clingy boyfriend, so the woman murdered him, only to have him come back for more. In the end, she agrees to take him back if he agrees to give her some space (oh, and forgiving her for killing him might be nice).

The A-story demons give Fred the puzzle and she goes to work solving it. It turns out, though, that they literally want her head, as their leader is sort of rotting away. Lorne discovers this, but is beaten up by the demons.

Cordelia is left to babysit, and try as she might, she can't float again. Sad. It's kind of like in the comics a couple of years ago, when they gave Peter Parker a bunch of new Spider-powers, but then forgot about them and came up with a new batch of very similar powers to give him in another convoluted way. And those powers lasted just a couple of months before they too were ignored.

Cordie gets a vision about Fred and goes, baby in tow, to save her.

Fred is taken before the leader of the demons and Cordelia shows up with the $50 grand to try and trade back. Lorne translates, but the demons have their minds made up. Ultimately, Wesley and Gunn show up and kill the demon leader, then Angel arrives to fight off all the rest.

In the end, Angel decides that he should worry more about others' well-being and less about money. Of course, they've got that $50,000, so I'd say that makes the well-being part a little easier to focus on. The end.

The first BTVS we took in was called "Doublemeat Palace," written by Jane Espenson.

So, Buffy has a new job, and it's at Doublemeat Palace, a chain of hamburger chain that requires its employees to wear horrendous colourful outfits almost as bad as Hot Dog on a Stick's (which reminds me of Principal Snyder mentioning in Season Three that Buffy get a job at HDOAS).

Buffy goes through the regular initiation process, including the training video, which tells us that the "Doublemeat Medley" burger has a chicken patty AND a beef patty, as well as a secret process that gives it its zingy flavour. There's a wide array of employees there, but the only one who doesn't shamble about like me at nine in the morning is Manny, the manager. He's been there ten years, but hasn't given up on any of the fast food platitudes (seriously, I was expecting the old "You got time to lean, you got time to clean" at some point).

They put Buffy on the cash register her first day, and she sees a large array of regular customers, including a kindly old lady, and Xander, Anya, Willow, and Dawn. Spike also shows up, once the sun goes down, and nails Buffy during her break. He also tells her this job is beneath her and that together, they could make a go of it, if she'd only give herself to the Dark Side.

Anya and Xander, meanwhile, are still planning their wedding, and Halfrek, another vengeance demon, shows up to congratulate Anya. Or maybe she shows up there to curse Xander or talk Anya out of marrying him or answer Dawn's inappropriate wish, I don't quite remember.

Amy comes over to visit Willow, trying to tempt her off the wagon with talk about magic, and casts a spell to get Willow using again.

Buffy stays with the job, though, and sees how fast the turnover is, as a guy she worked with just the day before doesn't show up on her second day. She works the grill, and finds . . . a severed finger.

Since no one has revealed to her the secret ingredient to the burgers, Buffy puts two and two together: "It's people!!!!!!" She rushes out to the lobby, trying to warn hapless customers, and is promptly fired.

Nevertheless, that night, she goes to Doublemeat Palace and snoops around, while she has Willow check out the meat (using chemistry, not magick). Buffy finds the remains of Manny the Manager and then the kindly old woman pops up, revealing herself to be some kind of demon, or parasitic host for a giant schlong that comes out of her head and attacks Buffy.

No, I ain't kidding. It couldn't have looked more like a dong had they put a scrotum on it.*

Willow discovers that the secret to the Doublemeat Medley is that it's not meat at all, it's just made from vegetable matter (ick). She goes to the restaurant to tell Buffy, and ends up saving her from the giant worm-thing, not with magic, but with good old fashioned hacking and slashing.

Later, Willow confronts Amy about her trying to get her back on magic and tells her to not to come round anymore. Nice. Also, Buffy goes back to the restaurant to return her uniform, and the new manager there asks her not to reveal the secret (the vegetable part, not the lurking monster feeding on employees part). Buffy asks if she can have her job back, and the new manager (a woman named Lorraine) says she can. The end.

The other "Angel" we took in was called "Waiting in the Wings," and surprisingly enough (to me) it was written and directed by Joss Whedon.

I didn't really mention it, but besides Wesley having romantic interest in Fred, Gunn appears to have some too. Cordelia tells Wesley he should talk to Fred about it, but he is endearingly bashful.**

Angel tells everyone that the ballet is in town, and it's the same company he saw perform a hundred years ago. He was moved to tears by their performance then, and he was evil. Crazily, everybody wants to go. Cordelia and Fred go out to get new dresses, and Cordelia tells Fred she should give in to her romantic impulses (which, sadly, are focused on Gunn and not Wesley, though Cordie doesn't realise this). Angel gets a tuxedo and gets Lorne to babysit Conner the Baby while they go.

Everybody looks better than you and me and they go to the theatre. Cordelia falls instantly to sleep, yet Twilightzonishly, Gunn is engaged by the performance. Angel, however, realises that this is the same troupe, same dancers, and same performance he saw back in 1890.

During the intermission, Angel and Cordie go backstage to check things out. They find themselves trapped in some kind of alternate dimension, and are possessed by the spirits of two star-crossed lovers, much in the way that Buffy and Angelus were in that Season Two episode. They start kissing and groping until Angel burns himself on a crucifix and snaps out of it.

There's a corrupt Count behind all this who, many years before, caught his main ballerina in a romantic tryst with another man, and has cursed the company to repeat the performance of that night for all eternity.

The Count employs some cool-looking demons to do his dirtywork, and Angel, Gunn, and Wesley end up fighting them. After a bit of heroism, Gunn and Fred kiss each other. Wesley sees this and his little English heart is broken.

Angel encounters the ballerina, who is played by future Whedon fixture Summer Glau with a Russian accent. She is trapped in time, forced to dance forever for the wicked Count as punishment for loving someone else. Angel encourages her to dance the dance differently this time, and when she does, it distracts the Count long enough that they can destroy his power source. It frees the dancers, who fade into nothingness.

Going back to the hotel, Angel and Cordelia have mixed feelings about their own romantic encounter, but agree to put it behind them. But Angel changes his mind and decides to tell Cordelia about it. At that moment, the Grusalugg appears, having come from a now-free Pylea to be with his ladylove. He and Cordelia run into each others' arms, and it's The End.

I usually have a lot more to say, but that's just not the case this week.

Also, we watched "Dead Things" written by Steven S. DeKnight. It's interesting how we'll get a light episode in this darkest of seasons, but then we're right back onto the darkness.

In this episode, Spike and Buffy are still having sex, but while he's getting a lot out of it, Buffy continues to not want to be there, and continues to tell him she doesn't love him or even enjoy being there.

Buffy, still working at Doublemeat Palace, meets up with Tara and confides in her that Spike's chip doesn't work on her. Echoing Spike's words, she thinks she came back wrong and asks what kind of spell Willow performed to resurrect her.

The Geek Trio of villains has relocated, and Warren has come up with a device that will brainwash whatever woman they want into becoming their mindless sex puppet. To test it out, Warren goes to a bar literally filled with hot chicks, and after looking them over, "happens to run into" his ex-girlfriend, Katrina, from last season's "I Was Made to Love You" episode. In her first appearance, she was less affectionate than Jodie Foster in a men's locker room, and in this one, she is understandably cold toward him.

But Warren presses the button on his cerebral inhibitor, and whoosh!, she is eating out of his hands. And wearing a French Maid costume. She calls Warren "Master" and grossly, the other two geeks are eager to get to the sexin' with her, but are willing to wait their turn.

After a little while, though, the effects of the device wear off, and she is horrified by what the geeks were up to. Jonathan and Andrew don't seem as evil as Warren, and are shocked to find that Katrina is Warren's ex-girlfriend. They are all surprised, though, when Katrina makes her exit, planning to go to the police for their attempted rape of her.

Warren stops her by killing her with a champagne bottle. The others are also shocked by this, but Warren thinks of a way to use this accident to their advantage.

Buffy tries to bond with her friends, who are all caught up in Xanya's wedding plans, by going to the Bronze. But she feels alienated by them (and her own feelings) and ends up hooking up with Spike again, who tells her she belongs in the shadows with him.

At this point, tyranist paused the DVD and said, "You STILL think Spike's not evil?" Instead of answering, I thought of the valentines I handed out in the ninth grade that said "You belong in the shadows with me. Happy V-Day."

Tara and Willow run into each other on the street and have an awkward conversation. Willow talks about how she's been staying away from magic, and while they both want to say more, they don't.

Buffy goes patrolling, but it's all she can do to keep from going straight to Spike's crypt. Then she hears a woman scream, and begins to experience a strange jumping around in time, the way she did when Jonathan had her repeating her sale at the Magic Shop in "Life Serial." She is confused, attacked by demons, then alone, then near Spike, then near a would-be victim, who we recognise as Katrina, then attacked again. Finally, she lashes out at the demons and ends up, apparently, killing the young woman, who lies dead nearby.

The Geek Trio has done this using a variety of means, in order to both cover up Katrina's death and incriminate Buffy. Spike tries to convince Buffy that accidents happen and she shouldn't dwell on it. He has spirited the body away and dumped it in the river, but she can't live with the blood on her hands, and decides to turn herself in to the authorities. Spike goads her into hitting him, again and again, trying to get her to release her despair and anger on him. It doesn't work, though, and she goes to the police station to confess.

Once there, though, she finds out that the dead girl was Katrina, and we flash back to her meeting with her last season. Suddenly, everything becomes clearer. She tells the gang what happened and they put the pieces together, including that the demons mess with the way people perceive time.

As far as the Geek Trio goes, Warren is completely irredeemably evil, and Andrew could go either way. When Warren expresses disappointment that Buffy wasn't blamed for Katrina's death, we see that Jonathan has gone way over to the other side. Film at eleven.

Tara tells Buffy good news about the spell: it changed Buffy just enough for the chip to malfunction, but not enough so that Buffy is "wrong." With this knowledge, Buffy tells Tara everything that's been going on with her and Spike. Tara is supportive, but we see that Buffy really WANTED to hear that she came back wrong, otherwise, her actions and dark feelings are her own doing. The end.

That should've been it for us, but we were feeling adventuresome, so we drove down the freeway naked and blindfolded. No wait, that was you. Our idea of adventure was to watch an extra "Buffy" episode, this one called "Older and Far Away," by Drew Z. Greenberg.
This episode was more about Dawn than anyone else, and her issues with Buffy going off to work, patrol, and participate in old fashioned S&M with Spike, while she stays home and tries to deal with life.

At the first, Buffy fights a demon with the power to phase in and out of reality. He has a sword, and when Buffy finally grabs it and stabs him with it, he is sucked into the sword, where we promptly forget about him.

It's Buffy's birthday again--jeez, it seems like this happens every single year!--and the gang is planning a party for her. They ask Willow if it's okay if Tara comes, and she says it is. Dawn wants someone to go shopping with her, but nobody will, so she goes out and shoplifts a nice leather jacket for her sister. Awww.

Dawn would be in high school now, and we see her there (though I couldn't tell if it was the same high school as Buffy went), getting called out of class to talk to the guidance counsellor. The counsellor is a young woman who looked familiar (though I don't know that I made the connection right away), and asks Dawn what's wrong in her life. Dawn is reluctant to talk, but does say that she wishes people would stop going away.

That night is Buffy's happy twenty-first birthday party, and Buffy has invited a new friend from the Doublemeat Palace (Sophie), and Xander has invited a dude from his work to set up with Buffy (Richard). They have also invited Tara, and ask Willow if this was okay. Spike was not invited.

I realise that I have an unnatural attachment to Spike (how could I not, when tyranist reminds me at every turn?), but I gotta wonder if the summer they spent with him was conveniently forgotten by the writers. When Buffy was dead, Spike joined the team, and seemed to become friendly for everyone . . . didn't he? Well, I must not get these things.

Spike does show up, though, with a demon pal of his (who was part of the poker game for kittens a few episodes back). He sees Buffy's new set-up guy and tries to get her alone for a little slap 'n tickle, but Tara walks in on them and, having been informed by Buffy of the nature of their relationship, sticks around until Spike gets the hint. They open gifts and Buffy notices the leather jacket Dawn gave her still has the security device on it.

The party goes into the night, and while people mention the time or that they ought to go out, nobody does. When morning comes, everyone (including Spike) is still in the house. People argue, but don't go. Or can't go. People begin to realise that something is keeping them there.

When they express frustration about their situation, Dawn is angry that they all want to be away from her and throws something of a fit.*** They suspect a spell, but Tara doesn't have any supplies to cast a counterspell. Willow admits that she has supplies, even though she wasn't supposed to have any around.

Tara casts a spell to release them, and it sets free the demon that Buffy trapped in a sword in the teaser. Spike and Buffy try to fight the demon, but it keeps popping out of their reach. Anya freaks out because she is claustrophobic (I don't believe that's been mentioned before) and Xander calms her.

Turns out the guidance counsellor was Halfrek, the vengeance demon we met last episode. Buffy sees that Dawn knows more that she's saying and somehow gets her to tell about the guidance counsellor who had her make a wish that no one could leave and makes the connection that that's why they're stuck there. I, personally, would've had it be Anya that figured it out, since she's probably done that sort of thing before, but they must have felt the claustrophobia thing was stronger.

Mightn't it have been better, however, if Anya had the scene with Dawn while Buffy was the claustrophobic one, having been recently awakened in a coffin and forced to claw herself out? Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I had to say it.

The others hint that maybe Willow should be allowed to use magic just this once to get them out of their jam, but Tara insists that that's not an option. Willow agrees because she's afraid that if she uses magic again (even for a good purpose), she won't be able to stop.

For reasons I don't quite remember, Anya discovers Dawn's stash of stolen objects, and recognises a lot of items from the Magic Box. In a scene that I quite enjoyed, Anya was more hurt than angry, asking how Dawn could do this to her. It was both in character (as it's all about Anya) and showed a bit of growth, as she didn't scream at her or condemn her as a thief.

When Buffy tries to explain the thing about the guidance counsellor, Anya understands who it must be, and summons Halfrek, who appears before them. Immediately, she is stabbed by the escaped demon, but Buffy stabs him again and he goes back into his sword, which she breaks.

Halfrek stands up, unharmed. She tells them how sad and ignored Dawn was, and they all deserve to stay there forever, and will not break the spell. Unfortunately for her (but not for everybody else), she is unable to leave too, so she's forced to break the spell.

Everybody is able to leave, and Tara expresses how impressed she is that Willow didn't give in to temptation or peer pressure. It looks like there's actually a chance the two of them will be able to reconcile, and I'm all for that.

In the end, Buffy closes the door, leaving only the two Summers sisters in the house. The end.

Tyranist pointed out to me--via his handy remote--that Dawn smiles at the absolute last second of this episode, which is interesting to me. I certainly wasn't smiling, but tyr theorised that Dawn had everything out in the open now, and only then can the healing truly begin. Or something, he used so many big words I may have missed it.

I sort of glazed over this episode--heck, all of this week's episodes--because I have very little to say about them. Yes, this season has been quite unpleasant. And yes, it's hard to see these beloved characters suffering or causing suffering. But again, I have to defend Marti Noxon or whoever usually gets blamed for people disliking this arc: the show has, with the exception of Season One, ALWAYS been dark. You think a twelve year old girl, just developing that tickling feeling betwixt her nethers enjoyed when the object of Buffy's (and her own budding) affections suddenly turned into a cold-blooded killer in Season Two? You think audiences in 1999 were able to laugh at Xander's casual comment in "Earshot" about who hasn't dreamt of unloading a semi-automatic on their schoolmates? My cousin tells me he won't even let his wife watch past Season Three, for fear of the emotional damage that will befall her.

Bad things happen to good people, on the show and in real life. Friends stop being friends. People change, and often not for the better. Folks steal and cheat and become corrupted. Loved ones die or go away. Mistakes are made and can never be undone. Lovers break up. On the show and in real life.

You always hurt the one you love, and they always hurt you.

Rish "Mr. Brightside" Outfield

*And yes, I realise that's kind of irritating coming from a guy who recently complained about other people finding phallic symbols in innocuous objects, but . . . well, maybe I have issues.

**Odd, when I act this way, it is considered repugnant.

***I'm wondering if it's Season Six that inspires all the Dawn haters out there to feel the way they do. As I said before, I quite like Dawn, but with the stealing, the lying, the tantrums, and constant bitterness, this season has made her a lot harder to like. I think, though, that that could be said about pretty much everybody this season.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Top Five Marvel Movies

26 April 2008

So, IRON MAN is opening next week, and in preparation for that, I asked the gang to give me their Top Five Marvel Movies (or Movies Based On Marvel Comics Properties, if you must be precise). I thought I'd provide a list to help people jog their memories, but wikipedia didn't include the animated films or the "Incredible Hulk" TV movies. They also didn't include the awful "Spider-man: The Deadly Dust" TV film, but I found out that was actually just two episodes of the (again, awful) TV series edited together.

I wonder if, next month, when I do DC Comics movies, if I shouldn't just let people list whatever they want.

Anyway, my list would have to look something like this:
3. X-MEN

You know, it's weird. I probably had less complaints about BLADE and BLADE II, since I didn't have any knowledge or affection for those characters, than I did for the X-MEN or SPIDEY films, but I recognise that they're maybe not as good of films.

Tyranist answered quickly, providing:
1 - Spider-Man 2
2 - X-Men
3 - The Punisher (2004)
4 - Blade II
5 - X-Men 2

Big time lawyer Ian was next to answer, with:
1. Spiderman 2
2. Spiderman
3. X2
4. Spiderman 3
5. Hulk

Here was Merrill's list (and comments):
1. X2: X-Men United (I have a friend who says this one is too convoluted, but all I can say is that he is wrong. This is not just the best Marvel movie, but the best superhero movie ever)
2. Spider-man 2
3. X-Men
4. Spider-man
5. X-Men: The Last Stand
(There should be other properties on this list. Does this give me away as an X-Men fan? Oh well, I just couldn't justify putting Electra or FF2 or Hulk on here, though they were the closest contenders, and maybe Spider-man 3. I'm hoping that Iron Man is good enough to make this list next time we make it.)
Cousin Ryan gave me:
5 X-Men
4 Spiderman
3 Electra
2 X3
1 X2

Beta Ray Charles, the biggest comics fan I know, sent me his list:
5. X3: The Last Stand
4. Spider-Man 3
3. X2: X-Men United
2. Spider-Man
1. Spider-Man 2

Once again, his entries are startlingly similar to mine.
When Jeff the Chemist sent in his list, he said that they were in no order. So I had to decide if I'd stick them in alphabetically or how he had listed them, or just arrange them in order of my own preference. Ultimately, I just copied the list here as he wrote it, whether he intended it or not.

Jeff's Top 5 in no order:
Spiderman 1
Xmen 1
Spiderman 2

Prison Guard Johnny was last to answer, giving me the following:
1. Spiderman
2. X-Men
3. Electra
4. Spiderman 2
5. Ghost Rider

So, unless my math is terribly, terribly wrong, our Top Five winners are:
3. X-MEN
4. X-MEN 2
5. (tie) X-MEN 3/ELEKTRA

ELEKTRA? Maybe my math was wrong.

Rish "Well Known Secret Identity" Outfield

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

(Buffy) Through the Eyes of a Child

23 April 2008

People say that once you become a parent, you begin to look at the world through the eyes of your children. They also say that life becomes all the richer. They also say "Go away now, I have real people to be around." Odd.

So, I sat my sister's kid again last weekend, and for some reason, my niece grabbed my "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Season Two, Disc Five, and watched it. I was surprised by this, but not displeased. In many ways, the child reminds me of me (just a less psychotic one), from trying to talk like Christopher Walken to constantly wanting to watch scary movies

We had the evening alone together and I asked her what she wanted to do. She said, watch BTVS, and I said, "You know, I think I know an episode you'll really like." So I put on "Once More With Feeling" and we watched it together.*

We also watched "Tabula Rasa" immediately after, and I wanted to say a few words about it.

Why not? It's my bloody blog.But yeah, "Buffy" was completely different with a seven year old girl than with a thirty-something year old pal or a twenty-something year old cousin. Plus, my niece is a girl (hence the "niece" instead of "nephew" I suppose; I'd never really considered that before), and she had different things to say than my pals do. For example, Buffy and Dawn are really pretty. And Spike is cute.

Especially chilling was when, during the first song, my niece said, "I wish I was a vampire." I actually had to stop the DVD and ask her why. I used to think about being a vampire too, and it's especially tempting once you start growing wiry white (not grey, but WHITE) hairs in your beard or realising that you've got t-shirts the same age as that hot girl on "Heroes." But why would a little kid, who doesn't understand sexiness or the spectre of growing old, want to be a vampire?

"Because they're cool," she answered. And yeah, that was hard to argue with. "But they're evil," I said, parroting Jeff everytime I express a fondness for Spike, "Wouldn't you rather be a Slayer, like Buffy?"

"Yeah, a Slayer," she said, "That's what I want to be." I just saved her mother at least a month of counselling fees.

It was weird the things she asked to be clarified, such as why people were singing or where Buffy's mom went or why Spike wasn't in a wheelchair anymore. But she didn't ask who Dawn was or how Buffy had a sister or why she was so much taller than her. And she simply accepted that Buffy died and went to Heaven, but Willow brought her back.

My niece wondered if Giles was Buffy's dad, and when I said "No," she sort of got the feeling that maybe he was in love with her, cause he was singing, "Standing" and reaching out his hand, but she didn't see him there. That reminds me of that one issue of the Stan and Jack "X-men," when Professor Xavier reveals that he has the hots for the then-fifteen or sixteen year old Jean Grey. I don't suppose there's an X-men fan alive who doesn't shudder when he thinks about that.

And explaining to a seven year old what Tara's relationship to Willow is was strange. "Tara is Willow's girlfriend," I said. Later, during their pre-lovemaking song, she asked again. "Willow is Tara's girlfriend and Tara is Willow's girlfriend," I said, hoping that would suffice, and I wouldn't have to get out my Emma Frost and Spider-Woman figures and demonstrate how it worked.

The child couldn't quite decide if Spike was good or bad, so I asked what she thought. Not surprisingly, she said, "I don't know, that's why I asked you." I told her that Spike was bad, but he was in love with Buffy, and that makes him sort of good. If I could only explain it to tyranist with such succinctness.

And later, when Tara reprised "Under Your Spell," my niece didn't understand why Willow couldn't hear her singing, but Buffy could hear Spike sing his song. A good question, actually; one that I believe I raised the first time I saw the episode.

Most satisfying, my sister's child wanted to continue to watch after our allotted two episodes were over, even though it was now an hour later than I told her mother I'd get her to bed. I told her we'd watch more in the future, and the next morning, while I was still sawing logs (is that the old cliche?), she watched the first two episodes on the disc by herself, though out of order.

I'm not sure Season Six is the best way to introduce "Buffy" to anyone, let alone a child, but if they make her a fan, then who am I to argue? It would have been better to just sit her down with "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and let her go from there, but those discs are currently in the posession of my friend Merrill, who is struggling with those early shows even more than I did, and seems to have stalled with "Teacher's Pet."**

Maybe I should bring over "Once More With Feeling" and see if it works on him as well.

Rish "The Missionary" Outfield

*Little bit of trivia: "Once More With Feeling" is now the episode of "Buffy" I have seen the most times. I don't ever see that changing, just like I will never see a movie as many times as I watched the original STAR WARS.

**That reminds me: I was at Merrill's house the other night and his wife was telling us about this new CBS show she liked called "Moonlight," with a vampire private investigator. I began to rail against it, like I always do, and pointed out what a huge ripoff of "Angel" it is. To which, Merrill's wife responded, "Angel's a vampire?"
I looked at Merrill, and he was blinking too. "Did you seriously not know he was a vampire?" I asked. "No. They've never said he was in the episodes I've seen."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top Five Jimmy Stewart Movies

Actually, this was one I asked tyranist for back in 2007. I stumbled across it and thought I'd use it this week, for no particular reason.
I told everyone that they could count "Mr. Krueger's Christmas if they'd like.

Tyranist was the first one I asked, and the first one who answered. Here was his list:
1. Vertigo
2. Rope
3. Rear Window
4. The Man Who Knew Too Much
5. Bell, Book, and Candle

I was actually quite surprised tyranist was able to name five, since he openly hates Jimmy Stewart.

Ian the lawyer wrote:
1. Philadelphia Story
2. It's A Wonderful Life
3. The Man Who Knew Too Much
4. Harvey
5. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Cousin Ryan had this to say:
5. Harvey
4. The Man Who Knew Too Much
3. Rear Window
2. It's a Wonderful Life
1. Vertigo

This was mine:
1. It's A Wonderful Life
2. Rear Window
3. Vertigo
4. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
5. Mr. Krueger's Christmas?

If I can't count that one, then "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."

Merrill was quick to reply, with:
1. It's A Wonderful Life
2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
3. Vertigo
4. Mr. Krueger's Christmas
5. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
(Almost as good as another Silver Screen Great, Orson Welles' performance as Unicron on Transformers the Movie)

Prison guard Johnny gave me (though, he did ask if Mr. Krueger's Christmas counted):
1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. Vertigo
3. The Shootist
4. Winchester 73
5. Rear Window

Jeff the Sex Doctor did give me a pseudolist, but it was so filled with obscenities that I don't know that I can post it here. Regardless, of the Stewart films he has seen, he liked:
1. The Glen Miller Story
and 2. The Flight of the Phoenix

Long after I had published this and tallied the score, my old buddy Rhett sent me this list (which ended up rearranging things a bit):
1. Harvey
2. It's A Wonderful Life
3. Vertigo

It appears our winners are:

Reading that makes me think I ought to do a Top Five Hitchcock Movies list sometime.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fairly Short Buffy Post

About halfway through the "Tabula Rasa" BTVS post, I realised it was going to be extra long and sprawling. After going on and on in the last one, I dedicated myself to burning through this one like an enchilada through stomach lining. Wish me luck.

So, we moved on to the next disc, and it had three episodes on it, all with interchangable titles you could complete the sentence, "Man, I got so ______ at the party last night, I don't know who I got pregnant!" with. We figured that probably meant they were a trilogy, like "Angel" just had, so we vowed to watch them all.

The first was "Smashed," written by Drew Z. Greenberg (who I didn't recognise, and when I looked him up, I saw this was his first BTVS).

So, Tara has moved out, and Willow is unhappy about it, but still unwilling to blame magic or herself. As proof of this, she sees Amy the rat in her little cage, and knows she can change her back to human. She casts a spell (rather simple for her now) and Amy reverts to her previous form, albeit with a different haircolour. Amy and Willow seem to hit it off immediately, and just as immediately, my Spider-Sense starts tingling.*

I don't remember much about Amy, really, except that she seemed a nice girl in the, what, third episode of the show, and the next time we see her she is magically convincing her teachers she did her homework. I suppose the most telling incident is her transforming herself into a rat to escape the angry mob, leaving Buffy and Willow to be burned at the stake, but still, I was surprised at what a bad egg Amy is.

The Geek Squad--wait, that's copyrighted--The Geek Troupe steal a big mystical diamond from the museum with the help of a freezing ray that they have developed. We're not sure what they need the diamond for, but it's part of their plan for world domination and dorky male mischief.

Also, Spike follows Buffy around, and in a repeat from last week, she won't have nuthin' to do wif him, despite their kissing. She calls him "a thing," tells him to go away or she'll kick his arse, and he insists she really wants him around. So she punches him, and by reflex, he punches her back. To his surprise, he feels no pain from his chip.

Liberated, Spike heads to the one alley in Sunnydale, and grabs a chick to eat, but his chip incapacitates him as usual. Spike then goes to the Three Geek Villians' hideout to have Warren look at his chip. He won't tell Warren what the chip is for, but Warren insists the chip is working perfectly.

He puts three and two together and realises that Buffy no longer qualifies as human now. In his own words (before and in this episode), "she came back wrong."

Let me take this opportunity to say just one thing about Spike both loving and hating Buffy at the same time: it's totally a unique relationship compared to anything I've seen before. Sure, you can have the typical Sam & Diane love/hate thing, or you can have the
but what's strange is that he is in love with her, and yet seems to legitimately hate her at the same time. I've talked with my cousin a time or three about how, if I were Joss, I would work as hard as I could to make Spike different from Angel, since the comparisons are inevitable. Angel was almost always suave and mysterious, but Spike is a more fallible comedic foil. Angel seems to be a good person who strives to overcome an evil nature, but Spike strikes me (at least most of the time) as a legitimately evil creature who just keeps on doing good, whether by choice or by circumstance. And yet, I've no doubt that Spike actually loved Drusilla (as gross as she was), and seems to not only love Buffy, but finds little reason to pretend he doesn't.

Wait, that came out wrong too, since Spike seems to be unhappy that he digs the Slayer and wishes he could just go back to being her mortal enemy again.

Heck, maybe he's like all of us, and doesn't know exactly why he does what he does, or feels what he feels. That seems pretty easy to relate to.

It could be that we look to the people that Spike and Angel were before becoming vampires (William and Liam) as a bedrock for who they are today. Liam was a shifty layabout, a drunkard, and really popular with the ladies. From what I've seen, William was well-to-do, an educated dreamer, and a romantic failure of Rishoutfieldian proportions. And you build on that, I suppose.

Damn, I wish I hadn't detoured. Let's pretend I didn't.

Tara has her daddy/daughter weekend visit with Dawn, and takes her out for ice cream and a movie. She asks about Willow, and assures Dawn she'll always be there for her, even though she's not under the same roof anymore.

Willow continues to use magic, even when others, like Xander are worried about it. To her it's no big deal, and even when Anya is her usual blunt self and says, "Everyone knows that Tara left you because you were using too much magic, but here you are, still using magic for ordinary things."**

Back away from her good influences, Willow tells Amy what she's missed since Season Three, and they decide to go out and see the town. Of course, that includes the Bronze, and Amy being the sweet lil enabler that she is, encourages Willow to use all the magic she can. In the Bronze, Willow and Amy cast spells to make people attracted to them, to play pool without cues, to get back at a couple of dudes that insult them, and turn the male-fronted band into a female one. Willow then comments that there have to be bigger places they can go.

Tara is dropping Dawn off at home, but when she sees that Willow and Buffy aren't home, sits on the couch and watches TV with Dawn until one of them returns.

So, Spike goes and picks a fight with Buffy. She hits him, he hits her back. He tells her that she's a freak, who doesn't fit in anywhere, just like him. She gets angry and they fight, really, quite a bit. She throws him through the door of an abandoned house, and they keep whaling on each other until . . . well, they start doing something else. It struck me as particularly explicit, when the walls start cracking and the ceiling falls down, and the humpin' and pumpin' continues unabated, but hey, maybe that's just me. The end

Then begins "Wrecked," written by Marti Noxon. Morning has come, and Tara realises no one has come home. Buffy awakens and realises what she has done (apparently multiple times), and feels dirty and
ashamed. He tells her everything has changed now, and she can't treat him like dirt anymore. She tells him nothing has changed
and punches him. He's stuck there 'cause the sun is up, but she leaves immediately.

You know, I've talked to a handful of Buffy fans, and found that a lot of them really don't like the turns things take in the Sixth Season. Sarah Michelle Gellar remarked at last month's Buffy retrospective that she felt the character went astray and didn't get back to who she was supposed to be until Joss took the reigns again. Being too new to the show, I can't say that I dislike this season--some of the storylines have been disturbing, but the drama, conflict, and moral ambiguity of the last few episodes has really fascinated me. But that may just be my taste; those three qualities are a big part of why I consider "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" to be the best show of that franchise.

Anyhoo, Willow and Amy return to the Summers house, stinking of cigarettes, cheap perfume, and black magic, finding Tara and Dawn making breakfast. Amy actually boasts about what a mind-blowing witch Willow is, and Tara stutters a bit before marching for the door.

Buffy also comes in, and Dawn sees the bruises (you should see the other guy; Spike's back was covered in scratches). She just knew Buffy was fighting evil, which is why she didn't call. Willow goes to bed, Amy goes home, and Buffy goes to the magic shop, where Xander and Anya are doing their demon research and wedding plans, respectively. When Buffy mentions that Willow is sleeping off her night out with Amy, Xander gives some of that Season Two "Ah, Tara left her for the magic-dabbling, so Willow conjures up a friend who'll let her do all the magic she wants" talk that is somewhat ugly to hear, but 100% Grade A certified bullshit free.

Buffy gives an interesting little rebuttal about how Willow is going through a tough time right now, and she may have made a mistake last night, but who are we to judge?

Cut immediately to Amy and Willow walking down the street, talking about how draining their magic was the night before. Amy says, and I quote, "I know this guy, and he knows spells that last for days. And the burnout factor is, like, nothing." At this point, I believe tyranist started to complain about the nylon thin drug metaphor. But oh, it didn't stop there.

You see, there's a warlock called Rack who lives in a "cloaked" location that can't be seen, and has a waiting room where the junkies wait hours for their turn. He's a long-haired, scary-faced dude who senses that Willow has true power. He puts his hands on her and does something, a revolting energy-transfer, soul rape-type thing, and the next thing you know, Amy is spinning around and Willow is flopping like a beached shark on the ceiling. She has a hallucination or an out of body experience featuring a bestial creature and herself, black-eyed, eventually finding herself on the floor of her own room back home.

In my favourite part of the episode, she takes some of Tara's clothes and magically fills them out SLEEPING BEAUTY-style, having them hold her like Tara used to. Later, she tells Dawn she'd like to take her out for dinner and a movie, still feeling bad for leaving her the other night.

Buffy comes home and hears a rattling upstairs. It's an ominious sound and I thought, "Uh oh, Spike's about to get disinvited again." But it turns out it's Amy, filling her pockets with Willow's magic stuff. She's as twitchy as a junebug, really needing her fix, and claims Willow would understand her stealing, what with her addiction and all. Amy bets Willow is at Rack's right now, and when Buffy asks how to find the place, Amy says you just have to feel it out, then runs off to vomit.

Willow and Dawn, however, are just walking down the street after dinner, talking about Tara. Since there's a few minutes before the movie, Willow says she needs to stop in someplace. Sure enough, Willow takes her to Rack's waiting room and says she'll be out before the movie starts at nine.

At five minutes to eleven, Willow comes out, having floated around the room in some kind of lightning bubble, traveling through time and space and seeing the demon beastie again. Her eyes are black, which NEVER ceases to disturb me. Willow tries to pretend everything is okay, but she's stoned to the gills, and even mocks Dawnie for wanting to go home. They walk down the alley, and are followed by the demon beastie from Willow's visions.

Buffy, meanwhile, has gone to Spike to get him to help her find Rack's. He is familiar with the man and his methods, and they hit the streets together. While they're looking, Buffy refers to the previous night's activities as the most degrading of her life. But Spike says it's her true self that she allowed to slip out, and now that he's seen it, he's got the advantage. Buffy tells Spike if he tells anyone about their tryst, she will kill him.*** Actually, there's a lot more of that kind of talk, but eventually, they hear Dawn scream and run in that direction.

The demon beastie confronts them, asking Willow why she summoned him, and coming after Dawn. They leap into a car which Willow starts up with magic, and flee. Willow drives it right into a wall, though, and both of them are injured. They stagger out of the ruined car (which, sadly enough, belonged to a kindly old man who took a night watchman job so he could put his granddaughter through college), and the demon appears again, throwing Dawn around and breaking her arm.

Buffy appears and does battle with the demon (which is remarkably tough), and Willow ends up using some kind of spell (the eye-blackening kind) to burn it up. Spike gets Dawn to safety and Willow keeps asking if she's okay. Finally Dawn stops and slaps her. Willow collapses on the ground, crying about how she's ruined everything. Spike leads Dawn away and Buffy helps Willow up, who says she needs help before really breaking down into hysterical sobbing.

Dang, it's some rough, rough stuff to watch. Like "The Body," it's so raw and real that I can see why people flinch away from it. Plus, it probably reminds everyone of incidents from their own lives, so I don't fault people for not wanting to feel that way.

Once home, Buffy asks Willow for the whys, and Willow admits she was to blame, that she couldn't get enough of magic, and that's why Tara left. Buffy seems very adult as she listens to Willow talk about how she used to be nobody and magic made her somebody, and that she wanted to forget all her problems and her selfish, thoughtless behaviour accomplished that. Buffy tells her she understands, thinking of shagging Spike (which I don't think is exactly the same thing, but may be deluding myself), and when Willow promises it won't happen again, Buffy seems to be thinking the same thing.

Willow spends the night sweating and writhing on the bed, and Buffy spends the night hanging garlic cloves in her room. The end.

Tyranist and I spent hours postponing the next episode, "Gone," because we knew the darkness of the show was going to get very, very thick, and with a title like that, hey, it had to be right at our doorstep. But when we finally began the episode, written and directed by David Fury, we found we had been granted a short stay of execution by the Governator.

The next one begins with Buffy gathering up all the magic-related items in the house, so Willow won't be tempted. Dawn, strangely, is angry at Buffy for this, and won't speak to her.

Spike, however, will speak to her, and comes over (braving sunlight, even) to pay Buffy a vist. He says he left his cigarette lighter, and Buffy just happens to have it in her pocket. He comments that he likes her hair, and Xander sees an almost kiss between them. Amusingly, Xander tells Spike to give it up already, and that "only a complete loser would ever hook up with you."

A woman from Social Services (who I believe was Corbin Bernsen's secretary on "L.A. Law") comes to the door, to meet with Buffy about Dawn's situation. Buffy says and does just about everything one could do to make their encounter a bad one, including not knowing what day of the week it is, pointing to some of Willow's herbs and calling it "magic weed," mentioning that Willow lives there and is gay, and handing Spike his blanket. The lady, Doris, tells Buffy that Dawn's grades have slipped and she's putting Buffy on probation, which could lead to her losing Dawn to the Ned Flanders family.

Meanwhile, the dastardly trio (Warren, Jonathan, and the guy I always have to look up, Andrew) have developed, using the diamond they stole a couple episodes back, an invisibility ray. It turns whatever it shoots as invisible as my reason for being, and with a flick of a switch, can bring it back again.

Buffy, stressed, sort of freaks out and cuts off her hair. I do have to wonder, was Giles' leaving the best thing? Surely Willow's descent into heroin addiction would've still happened, but gosh, he did have a way of putting things into perspective.

I even went as far as to say that Spike should move in, maybe stay downstairs, since it would be another adult that SS Doris could see was there. Tyranist did not agree, and though I don't remember his exact argument, I believe it hinged on both Spike's propensity for evil, and my quite unnatural attraction to him.

Buffy goes to a stylist to get her hair fixed, and the Geek Trio happens to be outside, about to make themselves invisible and free in a bikini wax salon. They see Buffy, and cartoon hijinks ensue as they fight over the ray gun and accidentally blast Buffy and her surroundings with it.

Buffy goes to the Magic Box, where Xander and Anya are planning on where to seat people at their wedding (I was amused that Anya wanted to invite D'Hoffrin, the vengeance demon dude we saw a couple years back). Amazingly, Buffy is reacting to being invisible with some kind of childlike joy. She jokes around with Xander and Anya and, as I observed several times, is acting like a fifteen year old.

Buffy goes off to make mischief, and Anya comments that no enemy of the Slayer would turn her invisible (making her even more of a threat), but a friend . . . Xander goes over to talk to Willow, who is working on her laptop like a good little Luddite. He tries to be understanding, but she gets more than a little angry when he suggests she might have turned Buffy invisible. A lot of that going around, I think.

Again, I think it's neat that Xander has become a grownup, since he was always the least mature of the bunch. But maybe I have deviant sexual feelings about Xander too. I'm starting to get paranoid about this.

Buffy goes to Social Services and plays tricks on Doris. She types "All work and no play make Doris a dull girl" in Dawn's case file. Her boss thinks she's losing her mind and schedules a new appointment with Buffy.

Willow finds paint scrapings from the van that the Terrible Trio drive around in, and some tire marks. She also gives Xander a partly-invisible traffic cone for him to study. Anya discovers that the cone is turning into a pudding-like substance, and it will probably happen to Buffy too.

Spike is in his crypt, watching TV, and InvisiBuffy comes in to mess with him too. However, "messing," in his case, turns out to be something you do without your pants. Xander comes in mid-pelvic thrust, and Spike claims he was doing push-ups. As soon as Xander's gone, Spike mentions that Buffy's only there because she
can't be seen. She claims she's finally free now, but he throws her out.

Buffy gets home, but her invisibility freaks out Dawn. She hears Xander's answering machine message about the deadly consequences of staying invisible.

Willow does a trace on the van, and though she's tempted to use magic, she doesn't. She goes to their house (is it Andrew's house? I can't recall), and letting herself in, finds the plans for the invisibility ray. But the three villains are already invisible, and grab her.

They call Buffy's house and arrange to trade Willow for . . . well, I don't really understand that part. Regardless, they meet at an arcade, with Willow being the only participant who's actually visible. Warren promises to revisible Buffy, but Willow realises that the gun is set for molecular dissolution and warns her. An invisible fight ensues, and Willow ends up zapping them all with the gun (on the right setting), revealing to Buffy who her tormenters have been all this time.

Nobody has any idea who Andrew is, so it's not just me.

The trio escapes through the back door and Buffy and Willow (with the invisibility gun) walk down the street, talking. Buffy says that when she heard Xander's warning that she would die if she stayed invisible, she was afraid . . . a good first step from the girl who didn't want to be alive just a short while ago. Not exactly a rollicking way to go, but a happy ending nonetheless.

I really have nothing more to say about this episode. It wasn't one of my favourites, but there's really nothing wrong with it, if you can get past Buffy's strange behaviour. But like I said, with a title like "Gone," tyranist and I feared the worst (even putting this episode off for several hours). We had nothing to worry about, I suppose.

But now we have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

Rish "Cliffhanger" Outfield

*Or maybe that's just my underwear.

**Also, Anya says something later in the episode about how Willow grew up all innocent and repressed, and now that she's got a taste of the power of the Dark Side of the Force, she just can't get enough. I guess Anya should know, but I can't help think of my own upbringing, and how there was/is what I term "Bishop's Daughter Syndrome," that essentially states that the girl with the strictest religious upbringing in the neighbourhood . . . would also be the most rebellious, and often sluttiest girl in town.
Hey, I don't make the rules, folks, I just kill by them.

***If she really means it (and it certainly seemed like she did), I gotta say, folks, she really did come back wrong.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

You know, it's pretty rare when I don't list something I did or said myself on these weekly showcases of the weird and unsmart, and I probably said something during my argument with tyranist the other day that might qualify, but no, I'm going to give the award away this week.

On Saturday, my buddy Jeff and I went to a soccer game the other night, and his brother was with us. I'm not really close to his brother--I can barely get along with the people I'm similar to and we're far too different--but I see him from time to time.

One topic of semi-fascination with Jeff's brother is that, either due to finances or personal preference, he only goes to one movie a year. It was HARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX in 2007, and like those great folks you grew up with that don't have a television in the house, it seems to be a fact he's strangely proud of.*

So, I was curious, what film was it going to be this year? INDIANA JONES? BATMAN? Something virtually guaranteed to please, like WALL-E? Something with a long history like JAMES BOND? A family adventure like the NARNIA sequel? IRON MAN, perhaps? Maybe he would be traditional and wait till the end of the year to see HARRY POTTER 5.

Well, it was to my shock (and considerable horror), that he said he was really looking forward to STEP-BROTHERS, with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

The prosecution rests, your honour.

Rish Carlos Outfield

*But hey, I keep a blog dedicated to what a loser, moron, and smartass, and dope I am, so don't throw stones, right? Plus, I could be wrong about Jeff's brother and I recognise that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Super Long Buffy Post

April 12th, 2008

Tyranist and I had a weekend to ourselves, and we were bound and determined to get some Buffy the Vampire slayage in there. We did pretty, well, if I do say so myself, though I dare not admit how many "Veronica Mars"es we watched as well.

First up was "Tabula Rasa," written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner. Tyranist told me that the title alone should give away what the episode was about, and I pretended the phrase meant something to me. A couple of days after sitting down and watching this with tyranist, my cousin came over and put his "Justice League" DVDs in. There too was an episode called "Tabula Rasa," and he too knew what it meant. Here's your weekly opportunity to be smarter than Rish Ezekiel Outfield: you know what tabula rasa means and I don't.*

So, Buffy is patrolling through the cemetery and Spike follows after her trying to bring up their kiss at the end of the musical. She brushes him off, saying it was part of the spell and she'll never do it again. This infuriated me, since I tend to loathe the "reset button" trope in series, but hey, I've also had a girl try and convince me that the other night meant nothing, and, as tyranist pointed out, I've got something of a mancrush going on Spike, so there. Anything else?

Anyhow, a shark-headed demon and his vampire lackeys shows up and demands that Spike pay him the Siamese he owes him ("Siamese" being the kind of kitten). Buffy defends Spike, who makes a run for it (this too reminds me of me . . . sigh).

Elsewhere, the four who brought Buffy back from the dead are talking about it, feeling differing levels of bad for finding out she was actually in Heaven. Willow comes up with an idea: what if we do a spell to make her forget she was ever there? Tara gets upset at Willow for constantly going back to magic, and when Willow doesn't get the big deal, she plays her "I know you cast that forgetting spell on me" card. Tara thinks they ought to call it quits (reminding Willow that Glory the Blond Beast messed with her mind too), but is willing to give Willow another chance if she can go a week without magic.

At the same time, Giles tells Buffy that he is going back to England, which she sees as abandoning her when she needs him the most. He tries to explain (this time not through song) that she doesn't need him, that she can only stand on her own two feet by standing on her own. Buffy doesn't react the way I expected her to, but goes the angry route.

Giles calls everyone together at the Magic Box to give his announcement, and Willow lags behind, needing to get dressed. The second Tara and Dawn are gone, she magically makes herself up and then casts the previously-mentioned forgetfulness spell . . . on both Buffy and Tara. Basically, there's a clear crystal she puts in a fire and when it turns black, the spell will happen. Unfortunately, she's left some kind of herbs near the fireplace, and they go up as well, causing the spell to go awry.**

Everyone is at the Magic Shop, including Spike, who is on the run from the loan sharks, and--

Holy crap, I just got that. The demon loan shark has a shark's head. Boy, I am really, really thick sometimes.So Giles is about to tell them he's leaving, but Willow's crystal turns black, and whoosh, everyone passes out. When they awaken, they're confused at what happened . . . and who everyone is. They've all lost their memories.

They check their IDs, and make some speculations based on their surroundings. For example, Dawn has a necklace that says "Dawn" on it, and she and Buffy act so sibling-like that they must be sisters. And the paperwork on the Magic Box says that Rupert Giles and Anya Jenkins own it, and she's got an engagement ring on, so clearly they are about to be married. Willow is wearing Xander's jacket ('cause she was cold), so they must be in a relationship too. And Spike and Giles have accents, so obviously, Giles must be his father.

All funny, cool stuff. Buffy doesn't have ID, so she decides her name is Joan.

I gotta make the comparison with the "Star Trek:TNG" episode that was like this, with all the characters losing their memories. As much as I love TNG, this episode used the same premise in so much more amusing and ultimately resonant ways, well, I just won't say more about it.

Vampires appear at the door, frightening everyone (who has to deal with the realisation that things like vampires actually exist), and demanding Spike. Thinking they're referring to nearby pointy sticks, Buffy ends up plunging one into a vampire, dusting it. With that, she understands she is some kind of superhero.

Giles and Anya decide to look through the magic books to find a solution to their amnesia, and everyone else runs outside. Buffy fights vampires and Spike helps her, inadvertently "vamping" out in the process. Buffy is horrified to see that he too is a vampire, but after dusting the others, they put two and two together: obviously Spike is a good vampire, a vampire with a soul, on a mission to help the helpless.

Lame, yes.

Giles and Anya try to restore their memories with a spell that makes--oh, how horrid!--bunnies appear, among other things. After arguing, Giles understands that the plane ticket in his jacket was so he could get away from his fiance, and Anya tosses her engagement ring away. Giles reads an incantation and the monsters disappear. The danger gone, the couple apologise for their argument and start smooching.

Xander, Willow, Tara, and Dawn head for the sewers, hiding from the one remaining vampire. In the dark, Willow and Tara find themselves drawn to each other, and Xander somehow finds the courage to stake the vampire hunting them. Willow falls down and the black crystal drops from her pocket. Xander steps on it and the spell is broken.

Buffy and Spike fight--and stake--the shark guy's vampires, then remember who they are. Pretty much everyone knows who was behind the spell, but the important one is Tara, who could never trust Willow now.

The loan shark is afraid of the Spike/Buffy twosome, and retreats, but Spike tells him he'll pay him back anyway.

At the Bronze, Michelle Branch is onstage singing, and Buffy is sitting alone in the depths of despair (or, as I call it, weekends). Spike approaches her, wanting to talk, but she gives him the cold shoulder.

Tara packs up her belongings and moves out of the Summers home. She tries to talk to Dawn, who is angry about it. Upstairs, Willow is in the bathroom, weeping about the bed that she's made.

Giles sits in his airplane seat, in silent contemplation.

The last shot of the episode is in the Bronze, with the song ending, and Buffy and Spike passionately making out under the stairs. Nice.

Amazing. Another top-notch episode, entertaining, moving, funnysad, and just cool. I don't really recognise this Rebecca Rand Kirshner lass, but I tip my hat to her, for writing a show that would be a serious contender for best of the season if it hadn't followed the damn musical.

And speaking of music. Having--don't laugh--watched more than a handful of WB-era teen dramas over the years (stuff like "Dawson's Creek," "Roswell," "Buffy," and "Smallville"), I've grown rather wary of the pop song shorthand ending an episode. I'm not sure if I want to waste time talking about its tiredness, triteness, and overuse on shows aimed at that target demographic. But boy, it must be so easy, since pretty much every WB show did it, and "Smallville" actually did it every single episode ("Tonight's episode of 'Smallville' featured music by Olsen Twins Covered With Yellowjackets and Lesbian Shishkabob, available at the WBdotcom."). But I gotta say, somehow, using Michelle Branch doing "Goodbye To You" was just excellent. Maybe it's just my personal taste, since I like the song***, but when Willow is on the bathroom floor crying while the lyrics say "You were the one I loved, the one thing I tried to hold onto" . . . that just works regardless of it being a cliche or not.

"Tabula Rasa" was a really fun, really nice episode. I don't know what point there is in saying more about it, but I would like to examine just how much the show has changed since its first episodes.

Change. It's one of the things that made "Buffy" such a unique show. I remember Trey Parker and Matt Stone saying they'd like "South Park" to be a fluid show that changed as it went on. Parker said, back around 1998 or so, that he hoped that the show would change so much that viewers who checked in three seasons later wouldn't even think it was the same show. Now while that didn't really happen with "South Park" (though there have been some significant changes over the years), it certainly has with BTVS.

Watching the next episode, "Smashed," it hardly compares with the Season Two episodes that I'm rewatching in our downtime. And I suppose that's irritating to someone who can only catch one or two a year (or longer), but it sure is fun on this show.

Wow, I've been going on. And, sadly, there's like ninety more episodes to go. So I'll keep on keepin' on.

The next "Angel" in the rotation was . . . well, already seen, but I'm going to blog about that show anyway. "Birthday"**** was written by Mere Smith, and it begins with Cordelia celebrating her 35th birthday, with the guys having--

What? She's only twenty-one? Come on, I may be naive, but I'm not a complete moron.

Okay, I checked. Yes, it's supposed to be Cordelia's twenty-first birthday. Yikes.

Regardless, the gang have a surprise party set up for her, but it's ruined by a hugely painful vision, which knocks her across the room. When she opens her eyes, she's no longer inside her body.

The others discover that Cordelia has been suffering brain damage from her visions and has been taking a lot of pain medication, but this vision really pushed her over the edge.

Cordelia, amazingly, is actually more concerned with the girl she saw in danger in her vision than her current situation. Okay, it alternates, but in reading a book Wesley has open on astral projection (tyranist paused it, and we spent a couple of minutes trying to translate the Latin), she waits for Angel to fall asleep and leaps into his body. She writes the address from her vision on the wall, but apparently, nobody notices.

Angel tells Lorne he wants to talk to The Powers That Be, and Lorne is really hesitant to make the appointment. While the others discuss what to do, a familiar demon appears before Cordelia. I pointed and said, "THAT guy!" referring to Skip from the "That Vision Thing" episode. He is there to explain what has happened to her, and sort of guide her on a Clarence the Angel sort of journey. He explains that the visions Doyle gave her weren't meant for non-demons, and they tend to kill humans. As a colourful example, a young woman appears, showing how the back of her head was blown out by a vision (presumably her last).

Skip shows her a bit of footage from the first episode of "Angel," where she and Angel ran into each other at a party, and explains that had she not bumped into the vampire with the good hair, she would've hit it off with a bigshot agent and become a famous actress, a sort of less witchlike Reese Witherspoon.

If she likes, he'll return her to her body and she will die from her visions, or he'll do a big of rejiggering of the timeline and she'll get to be that successful actress. Cordelia catches part of Angel's conversation with The Powers That Be, mainly the part where he tells them she's too weak for this kind of responsibility. And that pretty much makes up her mind.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to mention that tyranist hates it when movies/TV/stories do this: having a character only hear part of the conversation . . . the part that, taken out of context, is really really bad.

Suddenly, Cordelia is the star of a show called "Cordy!" which appears to be your typical really bad sitcom (just like the one you most love), and shows me that I've been misspelling her name every time I type "Cordie." She's finally a bigger star than Sarah Michelle Gellar, with tons of money and scads of fame and scores of underlings.

But in the back of her mind, she hears the word "Hyperion," and goes to the hotel, which is open and thriving in this new reality. She asks for a specific room and, being a V.I.P. is ushered up there immediately. Also immediately, she goes to the wall and tears the new wallpaper off, revealing the address she wrote down in her other life.

It's a place in Reseda, and that's where she goes. A teenage girl answers the door and, recognising her as Cordy(!), invites her in. She's just summoned a demon, and Cordelia fights it until--wham!--the front door bursts in, and Gunn and Wesley run in, there to, well, do what she's doing. The demon destroyed, Wesley introduces Gunn to Cordelia, who he knew (and made out with) in Season Three of "Buffy."

Wesley only has one arm in this timeline, and is quite a bit scragglier looking. If that is a word. When Cordelia tells him about her memory/vision leading her there, he tells her that Angel is also in L.A., and that he had a vision too. He takes her to see Angel, who is completely and totally insane (we're talking Andy Dick crazy), having inherited the painful visions from a man named Doyle, his only friend.

Cordelia instinctively knows what to do: she kisses Angel, and he passes the visions back into her. With that, the timeline is restored to where it was before, and Cordelia is once again standing with Skip, who isn't pleased with the turn of events. She tells him that she was meant to have the visions, and that the Powers That Be have their Heads That Be up their Asses That Be if they're just going to let her die rather than continue her mission.

He tells her that to keep the visions and live, she'll have to be turned into a part-demon herself, just like Jennifer Aniston, but that the transformation will be unpleasant to say the least. She agrees, and suddenly, she's back inside her body, and awakens from her coma.

The others are happy to see her okay, and she gets up to tell them what happened. She is interrupted by another vision, but this one is pretty much painless. Everyone reacts with surprise at her, and Cordelia realises she's floating a foot off the ground. The end.

This was a very good "Angel" episode. The IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE episode has been done so many times on so many different shows (and yes, again I immediately think of the "Star Trek: TNG" episode), but I have yet to get tired of it. If anything, this episode could've used an extra twenty minutes or half hour, just to make it a bit more epic and effective.

And since I've talked this long, I ought to say something more about the progression of Cordelia's character. She isn't even remotely the same character she was on "Buffy" Season One. I've been rewatching those early shows, and it's astounding what an awful human being Cordelia Chase started out as. But like real life, people change and grow (some for the better and some for the worse), and though I occasionally miss her unapologetic beastliness, it's actually been fairly believable that she's turned into this decent, altruistic human being.

Makes me wonder if there's hope for me too.

Rish Jacobian Outfield

*I do know what it means now, yes, but it makes me sound stupider to claim I still don't. And that's really what I'm here for, right?

**You know, in retrospect, this is a wise and interesting choice for the writers to make. I probably would have had a demon or evil influence (or those semi-lovable geek villains) mess up the spell, either by accident or design. But it's just BETTER to have the mistake be Willow's, whether due to hurriedness, nerves, or just carelessness. Most of the major mistakes I've made in my life were mine and mine alone.

***I doubt it, though, since the most egregious example that I can think of was from a "Smallville" episode, which used the Jewel song "Standing Still," another track I really like. Clark Kent stares longingly at Lana Lang in the high school hallway, while Jewel sings "Dooooo you want me, like I want you?" I grimace while writing this.

****You really ought to hear tyranist say "birthday" in Engrish. It's delightful.