Monday, April 28, 2008

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.

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