Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Week 46

7.4 Help
7.5 Selfless
7.6 Him

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 319-326.

If you’re watching Angel, the episodes are:

4.4 Slouching Toward Bethlehem
4.5 Supersymmetry
4.6 Spin the Bottle

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 253-259.

I wasn’t prepared to write something for this week’s episodes, but something suddenly came up for the guest host and he had to apologetically back down. So I apologize that this probably won’t be as deep or as thoughtful as it could have been if I’d had more time to think about it.

But first, Angel. Not only does this week’s viewing feature an episode named after one of my favourite poems, Yeats’ “The Second Coming” (see my book for the rundown of what the poem has to do with the episode), but we get one of my all-time favourite Angel episodes in “Spin the Bottle.” Not only is this episode hysterically funny (featuring our old, bumbling Wesley), but it’s written and directed by Joss Whedon (therefore television gold) and every character turns in great performances. Cordelia shows how she never changes when she sees Angel for the first time and says “Hello, salty goodness,” the very thing she’d said to him the first time she saw him on Buffy. But as I said in my book, despite all the hilarity of this episode, it contains what may be the finest line of dialogue ever spoken on Angel, when Wesley reacts to Gunn’s query on what exactly happened to him. Very quickly, and flatly, he answers, “I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me.” Amazing. I know there are people who don’t like Wesley after what he did with Connor in season 3 (we’ve been having discussions about it in the comments section) and side with Angel and Co., but I’ve always believed Wesley thought he was trying to save Connor, and that he’d get him away from danger and into the arms of someone who could help. He made a mistake – a colossal mistake – but he’s human. And the response his friends had to what he did is something that has utterly changed him, darkened him, hardened him, and he will feel alone for the rest of his life. I think Alexis Denisof is an extraordinary actor, and I’m glad there are viewers who feel the same way about him and Wesley as I do. I hope you continue to enjoy his performance.

And now over to the Buffster. This wouldn’t normally have been a week I would have chosen, because while I liked these episodes, I didn’t see them as particularly important. But when I watched them again, I liked them all a lot more than I remember liking them – especially “Him,” which for some reason I thought was an episode I hated (maybe because of the Dawn focus?) but this time, I was laughing aloud throughout the episode. I checked my book and sure enough, I didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about it.

I do remember the first time I saw season 7, and there was a LOT of pressure on this season. It was the season coming out of the one where Buffy came back to life and made the long journey back to actually wanting to live again. It was the one that followed our favourite Scoobie going Very Dark. It was the one where Spike was going to have a soul. And, it was the last one.

A bit of history to follow up on Elizabeth Rambo’s discussion last week. At the beginning of season 7, we didn’t know for sure it was going to be the last one. What we did know is that waaaaay back in season 1, the cast had all signed seven-season contracts, so fans were holding out that it could last that long, but most of us assumed it would end after that. Many cast members said they were happy to continue beyond that, and Joss seemed keen. But it was all going to come down to one person: Sarah Michelle Gellar. She was the star of the show, the titular character, and had been a star before she’d appeared on Buffy. She was now appearing in horror flicks and just as season 7 of Buffy was beginning, she and her fiancé, Freddie Prinze Jr., got married. Many fans assumed that was the death knell, and that she’d decide she wanted to try new things. After all, seven years playing the same character is a very long time.

The confirmation came in March 2003, when Entertainment Weekly published an article where she announced that no, she was not going to renew her contract and yes, the show “as we know it” is over. And, of course, the fandom glommed onto those four words… does that mean the show could continue without her? (We look back now and say, “OF COURSE NOT.” And even at the time, on message boards and chatrooms, I was saying, “OF COURSE NOT.” Because frankly, I don’t want to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer without, you know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer in it.) There was talk of Faith coming on as the lead Slayer, or Dawn ascending to be the lead (blech, gag, vomit). But it was all just unsubstantiated rumours. Gellar was turned into the bad guy, which was unfair, because she had done a great thing on this show, and had brought this character to life with charisma, drama, tears, and a great pout.

And so, at this particular moment, we didn’t know it was the end… but “going back to the beginning” certainly felt like the end, so we treated it as such.

I really enjoyed “Help” the first time I saw it – in season 1 we were given a world where the monsters were metaphors for teenage angst, where the lead character was a teenager who wanted to date boys and hang out with friends and instead was handed a huge responsibility, and dammit, she was pissed off. But here we get Cassie (played by Azura Skye, most recently seen on the creepiest creepshow that ever creeped, American Horror Story), a prescient girl who says she’s going to be killed next Friday and who everyone assumes is suicidal because she dresses like a Goth, she talks like a slacker, and she writes achingly angsty poetry. (The poetry, by the way, was all written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner, who joined the writing staff in season 5 and wrote some fantastic episodes, including “Tabula Rasa,” “Hell’s Bells,” and “Touched.” She also wrote for the stunning Freaks and Geeks and was a producer on Gilmore Girls, and until recently was the showrunner on 90210. In other words, this lady knows teenage angst.) But, just as Joyce’s illness was something that Buffy couldn’t fight, she discovers how helpless she is in the face of something as banal as a heart irregularity. She can stop the weird Stonecutters-type cult of red cape-itude, but she can’t stop a girl dying of a genetic defect. In a sense, the very title of this episode, “Help” is a throwback to the season 3 episode, “Helpless.” In that episode Buffy was turned into a helpless girl, but she still managed to vanquish her foe. In this episode she’s at full strength, and can’t do a damn thing. (Shameless self-promotion moment here: In my Buffy book, I have a breakout section after every season 7 episode where I mention all the “going back to the beginning” throwbacks and what earlier episodes are alluded to.)

“Selfless” is that episode we’d all been waiting for – the Anya backstory! (It’s like when Lost fans finally saw Ben Linus’s backstory in “The Man Behind the Curtain.”) We see her as Aud, pronounced “Odd” by her – I love when she says, “I am ‘odd’” – and we see how she became a vengeance demon, and just how amazing she was at her job. We saw a long friendship with Halfrek (which makes Hallie’s death at the end all the more horrific), and her self-confidence, something she still had, until recently, only in a different way. The flashbacks even continue what some thought was a deleted scene from “Once More With Feeling,” but it was written for this episode (which I thought was obvious because they put a long blonde wig on her, and her hair was in a reddish bob at the time… I’ve never understood that inconsistency). While I actually don’t like the song very much, I LOVE the way it cuts away to dead silence, with Anya singing one minute, “I’ll be his missus!” cutting to her seemingly dead, pinned to the wall by Buffy’s sword. It was a heartstopping moment at the time, and I remember thinking Anya was actually dead. After all, if it’s the last season, couldn’t Joss kill anyone at this point?

I will admit that I don’t like Buffy’s smug attitude in this episode, and the way she says, “I have to kill Anya” the same way you’d say, “I have to remember to pick up milk and eggs.” Xander begs her to listen to him, and she stands there, resolutely telling him that she has to do her job. Despite not liking her smugness and the way she strides into the frat house as if Anya means nothing to her, I LOVE the scene in the living room between Buffy and Xander. Xander has always been the guy who says things like it is, the one who doesn’t give a crap what people think of him as long as he can express exactly how he feels in that moment. He’s the one who told Buffy that Angel was garbage right from the beginning, and who insisted that he be killed the moment he became Angelus. Despite knowing how much it hurt Buffy, he encouraged her to do so, and lied about Willow’s message to Buffy in Becoming, Part 2 (he was supposed to tell Buffy to hold off as long as she could because Willow was attempting a re-ensouling spell, and instead he told her that Willow wanted him to say, “Kick his ass”). In this episode we FINALLY get some closure on that… sort of. Buffy remembers exactly what Xander told her, and when she says Willow had told her to do that, Willow looks up, perturbed, and says, “I never said tha—” but Xander cuts her off before we could actually get a moment where Buffy realizes Xander betrayed her in that moment. It would have taken the entire season in a different direction, so it’s probably best that didn’t happen right there, and instead Xander finds himself on the receiving end of being told his true love is a demon – the very thing he abhorred in Buffy with both Spike and Angel (and he really won’t let her forget what Spike did in “Seeing Red”) — who needs to be killed. I guess what bothers me in that scene is that Xander is the sort of guy who sticks to his guns and says things like that – Buffy is the one who’s never seen things in simple black and white and woudn’t have been so resolute to kill Anya, especially after everything she’s seen, and everything she’s gone through with Anya. (Remember oh-so-recently how Anya stood behind the curtain in the Magic Shop saying those words to keep Willow’s strengths at bay when she fought Buffy?)

Anya’s sadness at the end of the episode is heartbreaking, but this is her moment to find out who she really is. In the beginning, she was married to a man she turned into a troll. Then she was a vengeance demon for 1100 years, her very existence based on her hatred of men. And then, once human again, she immediately became attached to Xander. Now she is alone, completely alone, and perhaps she can find out who Anya/Anyanka/Aud really is.

“Him” is a silly episode, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it at the time. After everything that just happened in the previous two, we’re subjected to Dawn’s girlie crushes, Buffy and Anya going insane over a boy, and Willow finding herself immensely attracted to a guy (yet somehow Xander remains impervious… but perhaps the magic in the jacket only attracts XX chromosomes). So on the surface, it’s crazytown, but the execution of it is quite funny. (Watching Buffy stride, cartoonlike, to the window and aim a bazooka at Principal Wood moments before Spike comes flying out of nowhere to tackle her makes me howl with laughter every time.) Willow’s spell to “create a daughter out of a son” is hilarious, Dawn is just annoying (shock) and I almost fell off the couch laughing when Xander discovered the sexy little minx he was ogling moments before (“Daddy like!”) is Buffy’s little sister (“Daddy… no… I wasn’t… when I was looking, I wasn’t… oh god…”). The thing is, Buffy grabs Dawn at the bar and makes a crack about going down to the docks to wait for the fleet to come in (ha!) but… does anyone remember how Buffy used to dress in seasons 1 and 2? With skirts so short, if she bent over you’d see London AND France?! Once again, Buffy becomes the mom, scolding Dawn for the same behavior she’d exhibited years earlier. Xander and Spike have a bit of a buddy show (when they run up to “him” and grab his jacket as their Big Plan), the women all look silly, and the episode is simply a lot of fun. Don’t worry… if what you wanted was Serious Buffy, get ready for the next episode. It’s a doozy.

Next week: And speaking of the next episode, next week we’ll be joined by Crissy Calhoun, my work colleague and the author of guides to The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl.

7.7 Conversations with Dead People
7.8 Sleeper
7.9 Never Leave Me

And our Angel episodes will be:

4.7 Apocalypse, Nowish
4.8 Habeas Corpses
4.9 Long Day’s Journey

We’ll see you then!


Marebabe said...

I thought the funeral home scene at the beginning of “Help” was off-the-wall for several reasons. A) Here we are in S7, and so far, patrolling has always been done by strolling/hanging out in cemeteries. B) How long did they have to hide in the caskets? C) How long would it take to use up all the air in a casket? D) How did they manage to sneak in undetected by the funeral home staff? And finally, E) Why did it take 3 of them? It only takes one wooden stake to dust a vamp.

At first I didn’t know why Willow placed the stones on Tara’s grave. Was there some sentimental significance to it, something personal from their relationship? Later, I read Nikki’s brief explanation about this Jewish tradition, and THEN I remembered the scene at the end of “Schindler’s List”, where everyone paying their respects placed a stone on Schindler’s grave. At the time, I had no idea why they did that. I’m so glad to know about this reverent custom, demonstrating that the monument to the deceased will never be completed.

I really liked Cassie, her easy way of talking (she managed to be straightforward AND cryptic), even some of her poetry. For awhile there, I was thinking what a good addition a clairvoyant would be to the regular cast. It’s too bad she was only around for one episode. R.I.P. Cassie. In thinking about her later, I realized that she reminded me a little bit of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter stories. Kinda sweet, quirky and unflappable.

I was tickled to see Glenn Morshower in this episode. I’m a big fan of Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce on “24”. He was always sort of a Samwise Gamgee character – dependable, strong, principled, and loyal. Anyway, in his role as Cassie’s father, he had a line I just loved: “She’s not the sharpest apple in the barrel.” My husband and I think it’s great fun to talk wrong, and mixing metaphors is a prime example of how to do this. For instance, “No skin off my stiff upper lip!” (Feel free to use that one.)

In my opinion, Buffy waited dangerously long to reveal herself to the red-cloak group. (How did she infiltrate their ranks, anyway?) The meat cleaver held to Cassie’s throat could’ve gone into slicing mode at any moment.

When Buffy caught the bolt fired from the crossbow, I was all like Neo in “The Matrix”: “Whoa!”

OK, they got me. I never saw Cassie’s heart failure coming. Natural deaths are THE MOST unexpected in the world of Buffy.

I enjoyed the “Slaughterhouse Five” reference. Somewhat like Billy Pilgrim, Cassie has seen her own death. I found myself wondering, back when this first aired, were Buffy fans inspired to investigate every literary clue, like LOST fans later were? Somehow I doubt it.

I liked Buffy’s incorrect pop culture reference to Blue Clam Cult. Close, but no cigar.

Marebabe said...

At the beginning of “Selfless”, the bloodbath in the frat house was, of course, shocking to viewers. I was surprised that Anya was also shocked by it.

I loved Anya’s flashbacks! I found it hilarious that her scenes with Olaf were shown in grainy, scratched-up film, AS IF film existed back then. And the subtitles were also wonderful. I especially enjoyed the translation of Olaf’s “Ha ha ha!” as “Ha ha ha!” (I noticed that Aud was very fond of bunnies back then.)

I thought Emma Caulfield’s singing in the “Once More, With Feeling” flashback was top-notch. It was also wonderfully produced and edited. When she suddenly appeared wearing her wedding dress, I was reminded of “Little Shop of Horrors”, when Audrey sings “Somewhere That’s Green”. Gotta love musicals!

The other big surprise in this episode was when Hallie was killed instead of Anya. So, Anya gets to stick around.

“Him” was pretty uneven, but it had some good yucks. Highlights for me included the use of the theme from “A Summer Place” and the simple and direct way that Xander and Spike stole the letter jacket. The old grab and run.

We’ve seen Michelle Trachtenberg dance before (in OMWF), so I know how graceful she is. At the cheer tryouts, she did an excellent job of portraying Dawn as gangly and clumsy. It’s as difficult as “singing breathy” would be for a classically trained opera singer. It’s just hard to throw years of practice and technique out the window.

Where did Buffy get the rocket launcher? Her hall closet? Is that the same one we saw several seasons ago? I guess it wouldn’t be thrifty to use it once and throw it away.

Over on Angel, “Spin the Bottle” was such a treat! I perked right up when I saw “written and directed by Joss Whedon”. I knew that he wasn’t gonna have another writing credit on Buffy until the series finale, but I never thought to check regarding Angel.

My howls of laughter reached a peak when Fred was going on about being probed by aliens and Wesley, um, reacted. My prolonged laughing called my husband into the room, and he decided to stay for the rest of it. I quickly brought him up to speed, and we enjoyed the rest together. Everyone was so brilliant portraying their younger selves! This episode is now one of my absolute favorites.

Dusk said...

Fair warning to all first timers, you will soon see one of the big reasons people don't like Angel Season 4.

I love Anya's backstory.

Cassie is one of my favorite minor characters.

I also laughed at most of the things in him. To blonde streaks in the night.

Had they had better access to Angel they might have expanded on Xander's lie.

Page48 said...

Glenn Morshower also presided over Arvin Sloane's "execution".

Halfrek is The Doctor??

Who buried Tara in Sunnydale? Her "family", Giles, the Scoobies?

Buffy at The Bronze = hotness.

Gotta get me a jacket with an "S" on it.

Buffy tries to kill Anya one day and the next day, she forgives and forgets. The Buffster is all about 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances, whatever you need. I love that about her.

Reference to Anna Nicole Smith brings back painful memories of the non-freaking-stop cable news coverage of her un-newsworthy demise. I was just beginning to put that behind me.

I liked "Help" and "Selfless", not so much with "Him", mostly because it was just embarrassing watching Dawn commit social suicide. It was like watching Hermain Cain talk about Libya.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

And the response his friends had to what he did is something that has utterly changed him, darkened him, hardened him, and he will feel alone for the rest of his life.

I'll admit it made him a lot more interesting.

So, still trying to understand. How do you get vamped once you're embalmed? When all the vamp blood you've ingested is replaced by embalming fluid?

That's a bad stitch job on her neck. I'd complain to the funeral parlour if I were her family. You think we all the practice they get...

Ah, look. Another Home Improvement kid goes bad. He's the white entitlement poster child.

The stones on the grave make me cry. Will is still Jewish.

Cassie - Cassandra, the prophetess whose prophecies were always true but never believed. Though why does she like Buffy's shirt? That's one boring shirt.

There really was a Cassie website when the episode aired.

From Doogie Hauser fan fic to Doogie Hauser playing the lead in Dr. Horrible - the incestuous nature of the Jossverse.

Machida cult jr.

I think Buffy seems so cold when she's going to kill Anya because she's learned to compartmentalize. Still "I have to kill Anya" means you're a crappy bridesmaid, Buff.

I love Olaf's line that he's so hungry he could eat a small child - and his aversion to trolls.

In the commentary they mention that they set the earliest Anya and Hallie scene in the Russian revolution so it wouldn't conflict with Hallie being Cecily.

I think the saddest line in Buffy is "I loved him more than I will ever love anything." That was High School, Buffy. (And she didn't kill him. Sword. Vampire.)

And now we know the Mustard Man is married to the Ticket Lady (or at least she feeds him.)

Trashing a frat house must be very cathartic for Buffy.

Drew Goddard (or Ultimate Drew as we called him) mentions in the commentary "The less you see of the monster the better" - years before he made Cloverfield.

Years ago I went to a soap opera thing with Thad Luckinbill (RJ) who was on the Y&R. He is one lovely young man, who was doing a signing for cancer research. Such a sweetie. I was the one person there who asked a Buffy question (I knew there'd be one, he said.) Ever since I've enjoyed the episode more. And yes - he signed my copy of Bite Me.

"It's the jacket" - score one for the Xandster.

Why are some girls affected by the jacket and some not? There's lots of girls in the hallway ignoring him.

Buffy and her Catholic school girl skirt. (Did Darla leave that somewhere?)

Single minded Buffy thinks she's the one not under the spell - like in Something Blue.

The scene with Buffy, Spike and the rocket launcher, and Wood's non-reaction, is the best scene ever!

The theme of girl power - sister love trumps boy crushes.

I always feel bad for Spike that he's not at the bonfire.

Alex said...

here is a clip of the Montreal Comic Con 2011 of James Marsters commenting on the possibility of a Buffy movie and why Sarah wanted to quit Buffy after her contract expired.

Basically he said that the show's demanding schedule "burned her to a crisp" because she was working from 12 to 20 hours per day as she was in almost every scene.


The Question Mark said...

First random thought: I really liked Buffy's hair in "Him", particularly the scene in the Bronze. She looked super cute.

Finding out Anya's backstory was, as Nikki put it, a lot like finally seeing the flashbacks of the more enigmatic LOST characters like Ben or Richard. She's also my second-favourite Buffy character, after Giles, so it was great to see her get her own episode.

Wesley + that sleeve-sword-thing = BADASS! I want an action figure of that! Better yet, I want a video game of that where Wesley runs around with his sleeve blade killing rogue demons. Kind of like Assassin's Creed...but with Wesley.

This week had a TON of hilarious moments. The way the villagers spoke in Anya's ye olde flashback was so funny I could watch an entire feature length film about those guys. "Let us pelt him with fruit and assorted meats!"
And the Buffy Background Bazooka Bonanza...well, pardon the pun, but that slayed me.

Missy said...

4 of my favourite episodes,this is a goooood week.


Cassie Newton(Azure Skye) is one my fav one off Characters.
Alittle cameo by Zach Bryan(Brad Taylor from Home Improvement)as head douche.
The Counseling session sequence is hilarious.(save for that poor guy who's worried about his brother in the war)
"Why don't we google her?" Willow
"She's a 17yo girl!" Xander
"It's a search engine" Willow
"Oh" Xander
One of my fav exchanges in this ep.Lol
As is everything Cassie says...Just like Sunday(from 'The Freshman') I wish they hadn't killed Cassie off,her precog powers would have been interesting to see.
I've always thought everyones reactions to Cassie's death were moving.They really don't like failing(which explains how they get to a paticular point toward the end of the series)


Being HUUUUUGE Anya fan ,I adore this episode.
Aud is GREAT!!
She LOVED Bunnies,DIDN'T care for money and was still that girl that talked funny and was misunderstood.
I also love the callback to 'Becoming' because it was one of the hardest Xander screwups to get past(though by the time it gets it's almost reveal here I understood why Xander lied,Buffy was never going to beat Angelus if she knew Willow was doing that spell)
I thought Anya was dead too.
Clearly Joss and Co. were banking on everyone forgetting Hallie being broad sworded back in 'Older And Far Away'.
And I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Prologue to 'OMWF' & Emma never looks more beautiful than when she's in that Wedding Dress.
"I still LOVE her" Xander,Of course you do.Buffy's just being a bitca.
The final moments with Xander & Anya are sooooo heartbreaking that I get teary every single time I watch 'Selfless'.
Notice Anya walks through the light..it's significant.


Good God do I hate this episode.
Our guestie is Y&tR star Thad Luckinbill as R.J(Or in Anya's head A.J.Lol) and as pretty as Thad is I hate hate hate R.J and his magical Letterman's jacket.
The only half redeeming quality is all of our girls plans to win R.J over.
Willow's gonna turn him into a girl,Which makes a kinda sense.Lol
Buffy's going to KILL Principle Wood,I still can't work out why she thought that was going to work aprt from R.J's comment about him riding all day.
Anya's ROBS a bank(the only girl to actually go through with her plan),I guess she though she could BUY A.J's love.
And Dawnie does the most dramatic thing of all she tries to KILL herself,that girl needs a good talking too.
I enjoy that Xander's not the only ogler in that Bronze/Skanky Dancing scene..Willow wanted to get herself alittle Dawn action too.LMFAO.

Missy said...


'Slouching Toward Bethlehem'

Apart from moving the season arc forward just an inch,I don't really care for this episode.
Two of my fav relationships hit speed bumps,Wes' not-as-off-handedly as most would think calls his and Lilah's a tryst a "Relationship" & Cordy goes to live with Connor in his creepy "apartment" And I do enjoy them hiding Lorne from Cordy.
And Charisma breaking out the 'Greatest Love' AGAIN.Lol

As much as this kinda retcons how Fred got to Pylea ,I still love her stealy resolve in killing Professor Seidel..this is the episode she changes,from this moment on she'll refuse to be the girl everyone looks after and become an integral FIGHTING member of AI.
We see Wes still carrying a torch for Fred and Lilah really hating that.(Lilah and Wes' relationship is soooo complicated)
"They talk about me in the chatty rooms" Angel,Yes Angel they do.Lol
UGH,Connor and Cordy Kiss.
And now Gunn and Fred's relationship is on the brink of collapsing.
I've never understood why Gunn didn't just let Pr.Seidel fall to his death because lets face it he was two seconds away from doing so,instead Gunn ruins any future he and Fred had by snapping the evil Professor's neck.

'Spin The Bottle'

Theres literally nothing to hate about 'Spin The Bottle'.
From Cordelia's "Hello Salty Goodness" & Fear of Bad hair to Fred's Conspiracy theories and pot obsession to Angel's racist tirad and fearing of being outed as a demon to Gunn's I"m a Bad Boy vibe to Wesley's Head Boy and Horny co-edness around Fred.
P.S this was the second Cross LOL moment I refered to back when Xander did that Shakey thing in 'Doppelgangland',though in this case it's used as a metal/Vamp detector.
Lorne's voice over framing of this ep is perfect.
And Cordy tells Angel that they were in fact IN LOVE.Which is all kinds of heartbreaking(considering whats about to transpire).

Efthymia said...

I, too, enjoy this episode, even if it doesn't seem to be anything special. Although naming the future-seeing girl Cassie wasn't very subtle naming.
"You post Doogie Hauser fanfic" - and now she's in a show with Neil Patrick Harris! Boy, those BtVS writers really do plan ahead...

This episode is great! Like with "Fool For Love", we get to see one of the awesomest characters' past and we see things we didn't expect, and it's very rewarding. And I love that there's a "Once More With Feeling" flashback (although I'm not a fan of the wig).
As much as I love Anya as a character and even though I occasionally find Buffy's attitude quite annoying, she's right.

This episode is stupid.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

I was literally sobbing at the end of "Selfless." Anya is a wonderful character (my second favorite behind Spike) and has been through so much. Her backstory was fun, wonderfully written and filmed, and very satisfying. It shows that she has always been Aud. "I am Aud." My heart aches for her and it all seems so pointless in the end. Oh Xander...why???!!!

P.S. I truly despised Buffy and her single-minded Slayer approach to Anya in this episode.

"Spin the Bottle" reminded me how much everyone has grown up in the past few years. It was a nice look back at the vanity of Cordy, the ineptitude of Wesley, the hardness of Gunn, the Berkleyesque freeness of Fred and the long dead Liam. What a sad shocking bolt back to reality that was. Poor Angel and Cordy. It was over before it began.

Quarks said...

The first two episodes this week are two of my favourites in this season, as well as in the series as a whole, while the third is one of my least favourites.

‘Help’ is a great episode which, although it is a stand-alone, I think is quite important in the development of this season. The scene at the end, after Cassie has died, has Buffy realising that it is not always possible to save everyone. And I think it is this viewpoint which she carries through to ‘Selfless’. She realises that it is not possible to save Anya from herself, so she decides that she has to take radical action to protect the public as a whole. Buffy’s starting to lean towards the idea that death is sometimes inevitable, and it’s a small step from that to the idea that sometimes people have to be ‘sacrificed’ for the greater good.

I really like Cassie as a character, and it may be my imagination but she seems to bear various resemblances to our beloved Scoobies. The more obvious ones are things like she is the same age as Dawn and takes the same class, she has some kind of supernatural ability like Buffy and Willow, her parents are separated like Buffy and Dawn’s, and her father’s an alcoholic like Xander’s. But also, there seem to be more ‘subtle’ similarities. She says she wants to ice skate at Rockefeller Center, which reminds me of Buffy and Angel in ‘What’s My Line?’ and also Buffy’s father taking her to an ice show each year for her birthday. She posts poetry online like Willow said she used to (and Spike also has connections with poetry). She wants to backpack across the country, which is reminds me of Xander’s (planned) road trip between Seasons 3 and 4. There may be others.

I love the scene of Willow visiting Tara’s grave. One of my small complaints about the Season 6 finale was that we didn’t really get a chance to mourn Tara, so it’s nice to get that opportunity here. Part of me wishes we got more scenes at Tara’s graveside here, like with Hurley and Libby in ‘Lost’.

Unfortunately, ‘Him’ breaks the trend of good episodes this week. I didn’t like it when I first watched it and I don’t like it now. In fact, this was the first episode I’ve almost not rewatched (bear in mind that I joined the rewatch after ‘Beer Bad’). My problem with it is that it feels like a bad episode from Season 1 or 2. It’s almost as though the writers had written 21 episodes for the season and couldn’t think of a 22nd, so they decide to copy ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ except removing the aspect that made it entertaining: Xander being the one they all fall in love with. If it were in Season 1 or 2 I probably wouldn’t mind it so much, but because by now they have all gone through so much pain and heartbreak, seeing them fawn over the high-school quarterback seems almost disrespectful to all that has happened to them. Furthermore, the characters are all so out of character and it’s not in the good, entertaining way, it’s in the awkward, embarrassing way.

There are a couple of scenes which are mildly amusing, like the scene in the Bronze or outside the principal’s office, but in general it really annoys me. Sorry for ranting on so much.

Quarks said...


‘Selfless’ is another fantastic episode and is probably the most Anya-focused episode in the series. And, much like Anya herself, it does a great job of mixing humour with the seriousness of the situation. I love the flashbacks to her and Olaf’s relationship. One of my favourite lines in this episode is “The rapid reproductive rate of our rabbits...has given me an idea. I can give the excess out to the townspeople, exchanging them not for goods or services, but for goodwill and the sense of accomplishment that stems from selflessly giving of yourself to others.” But the most important aspect of the episode is how Anya has changed since she was first introduced.

Anya’s character development over the serious is actually fairly similar to Spike’s, only more subtle. She was a demon with the blood of hundreds of victims on her hands who was forced to stop doing what she was doing. Then, she fell in love with a human and grew a conscience, so that when she became ‘evil’ again she found that it was upsetting to inflict pain on people. While the similar development for Spike has been very clear, for Anya it has been much more in the background. We’ve seen that she has become more and more human as the series goes on, with episodes like ‘The Body’ and ‘Hell’s Bells’ really showing this. And it becomes really clear in this episode how much she does care about human life, when she is willing to sacrifice herself to save the frat boys.

You also notice that Halfrek was the only real friend which Anya has ever had. Back when she was human initially everybody thought she was ‘odd’ and didn’t associate with her. As we saw in ‘Lessons’ Halfrek was the only demon friend which Anya had. And then, when she became a human, all her friends were all of Xander’s friends. And when they broke up she essentially lost her friendship with them as well, them only seeing her when they needed her help. So Halfrek’s death was no doubt very painful for Anya.

When D’Hoffryn says “Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain” I think that that could be the tagline for the series. Compared to a show like ‘Lost’ the death toll in ‘Buffy’ is quite low. But the amount of pain which the characters experience is incredibly high. And when characters do die, the main emotion we feel isn’t grief for the character that died, but sadness for those who are still alive and have to deal with the loss of their loved one.

As I mentioned earlier, Buffy’s decision to kill Anya was very probably influenced by the events in ‘Help’, but like everybody else I think that she was being very cruel for doing so. I love the scene where they argue about it in the living room, and it always feels to me like a mirror of the conversation in ’Villains’ about killing Warren. There, she was adamant that they couldn’t kill a human, whatever he’d done, because being the Slayer doesn’t give her a right to kill. Yet here, she is willing to kill Anya who, despite being a demon, is very human, because “[She is] the law”. It seems as though she thinks she is making the right decision because she is making the hard decision, without considering the alternatives. It is Willow who is thinking clearly and tries to actually help, by trying to get D’Hoffryn to stop Anya being a demon. You can tell Buffy is acting rash, because she doesn’t consider any other way to stop Anya, such as destroying the amulet like Giles did in the Wishverse.

On a side note, the Willow in this episode, both in terms of looks and attitude, reminds me of the Willow from the earlier seasons, before she was ‘corrupted’ by the magick. And, although it’s not quite as good as the original OMWF songs, I do like the flashback to the episode and I sort of wish we had more. Preferably with Giles.

Suzanne said...

I struggle with my feelings about the way that Buffy treats the Anya situation in "Selfless." On the one hand, I don't like the cavalier manner in which Buffy speaks when she so directly says she must kill Anya. I thought it was unfeeling, especially in relation to Xander, but even in relation to Buffy's own friendship with Anya.

However, I have to say that it has bothered me that when they turned Anya back into a demon that there wasn't more of a negative reaction on the part of the Scoobies. Why is it that Xander has so much difficulty accepting Spike even when he "spends the summer" helping the Scoobies after Buffy dies, yet he seems to easily overlook Anya being a demon. In addition to that, her killing of the frat boys is fairly extreme. Even though they were cruel to the girl in the closet, it is apparent that even she is severely traumatized by Anya's vengance. Should Buffy and the Scoobies be worried that Anya is about to do more serious damage.

Maybe the problem has to do with Buffy's words more than her actions since she really seemed ready to kill Willow when she went dark if that was what was necessary. Isn't she being consistent here. She seems to treat Angel, Willow, and Anya fairly similarly when they all go dark; it is just that she seems a lot more reluctant and sad about it for the first two.

Lastly, I liked the exchange between Buffy and Xander a lot, which almost make my discomfort with Buffy's words worth it. Xander is very moralistic when the shoe is on the other foot. He has not problem proclaiming loudly that other demons like Angel and Spike are the scums of the earth and should be horribly and brutally killed. Yet, when it is Anya, someone he loves, he becomes outraged at the idea that someone would kill her. I am glad Buffy had a chance to set him straight and let him know that he was out of line to say that she didn't know how he felt. How can anyone say something like that to her after everything she has been though. The gall!

I think one of my problems with Season 7 this time around is that I am not liking some of the writing. It seems as if the writers just don't know these characters as well as Joss and company did in the earlier seasons. Buffy doesn't sound like Buffy in "Selfless" and that is the problem. Even though she has grown and changed, I am just not buying the idea that she would talk this way about killing Anya.

My last nitpick about this week's shows is that even though I enjoyed some of the humor in "Him," I could not bear Dawn's whining. Everyone else was very funny about their attraction to him, but Dawn, as usual has the largest chip on her shoulder of anyone imaginable. It is just so old, and it makes me wish her character was never invented even though it provided such a good storyline for Season 5. They just never got her right.

Last comment, I love Willow's look in "Selfless," too. She was like a hip version of her Season 1-2 self. Adorable!

Nikki Stafford said...

Suzanne: Yeah, I will admit with a bit of shame that the first time I saw this episode, I was rooting on that train to get to Dawn a little bit quicker. ;)

Christina B said...

While these three Buffy episodes weren't my favourites, I do love Cassie and it was a joy to finally see Anya's story.
Also, I really love Abraham Benrubi, who does an amazing job as Olaf.

On Angel--

You know, I said last week that I was disgusted with Wesley and his relationship with Lilah.
Well, that was NOTHING compared to the disgust I feel about Cordy and Connor. I mean, seriously?!? BLECH!!
WHO thought that was a good idea?!

Slouching Toward Bethlehem (PERFECT title, btw) and Supersymmetry were okay, but Spin The Bottle was brilliant.

I LOVED the narration by Lorne (it's nice to see him actually have a purpose in this episode) and I laughed often throughout the episode.

The end was so sad...Cordy and Angel's exchange in the hallway...
"Cordelia, were we in love?"
"We were..."

I'm glad the amnesia didn't last long and I'm anxious to see where this season is going.
They're obviously building up to something big, so it'd better be good! ;)

Dave said...

I certainly do remember the way Buffy dressed in the first two seasons. I longed for that Buffy for the next five seasons. And not just the outfits, but the body that filled them out.

Sorry to go all schoolboy crush there. But I love SMG as much as the ladies love James Marsters.

AEC said...

I'm a little late with this, but it looks like when the shows were airing in real time, Buffy and Angel weren't airing their episodes exactly in order (i.e. both playing episode 11 in the same week). I've been trying to watch them in the actual order they aired, if anyone else is interested in that, I found this schedule on Wikipedia that has been helpful! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer_and_Angel_episodes

Blam said...

Buffy 7.4 "Help"

Willow: "Have you Googled her yet?"
Xander: "Willow. She's seventeen."
Willow: "It's a search engine."

The funniest part of that joke now is that it was so new(ish) at the time they needed to explain it.

So the Hurley gravestone and Alpert mausoleum aren't the only precognitive references to a future TV show. The jerk ringleader's big cleaver says Dexter on it.

Efthymia: Although naming the future-seeing girl Cassie wasn't very subtle

I knew you were going to say that.

Who thinks that [1] Buffy was fated to save Cassie from the cult kids and that Cassie was fated to die anyway from her congenital heart issue, and who thinks that [2] Cassie was simply fated to die on that day by some means, with the congenital heart issue next in line after death at the hands of the cult kids was averted (plus any number of other pivotal moments during the day that might have resulted in her death but didn't by chance)? I feel like we're probably supposed to think that the former was the case but not sure that the episode really promoted that angle.

I'm not necessarily expecting an answer at this late date, but when I wrote that Nikki's post was still fresh. Sigh...

Rick Gonzales later co-starred in CW's Reaper, which had a lot of Buffy in its DNA.

Blam said...

Buffy 7.5 "Selfless"

Xander: "When our friends go all crazy and start killing people, we help them."
Willow: "Sitting right here!"

D'Hoffryn: "Breathtaking! It's like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog."

D'Hoffryn: "Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain."

How awesome is that flashback-to-Sjornjost dialogue?

"Sweet Aud! Your logic is insane and happenstance, like that of a troll. It is no wonder the bar matrons talk of you."

"Run! Hide your babies and your beadwork!"

"The troll is doing an Olaf impersonation!"

"What'd he do?"
"Bar matron. A load... bearing... bar matron."
"Is there any other kind?"

"I don't talk to people much. I mean, I talk to them but they don't talk to me — except to say that 'your questions are irksome' and 'perhaps you should take your furs and your literal interpretations to the other side of the river'."

FYI, Marebabe, in case you're still checking in or subscribed, Flashback to Sjornjost is my new band name.

And of course the revisitation to the musical (with a new song from Joss), even if not up to "OMWF" standards, is appreciated; I happen to find the song quite catchy. Mrs. Anya Lame-Ass Made-Up Maiden Name Harris gets her groove back!

In my eyes Buffy's actually right in her argument with Xander. There's a huge difference between the choice that Anya made to become a vengeance demon again (with all the carnage that ensued) and the soul / no-soul situation with Angel and Spike.

Buffy 7.6 "Him"

Dawn: "I don't even want to hear his name anymore."
Xander: "I just called him 'that guy in the jacket'."
Dawn: "That's what I used to call him in my head before I knew his real name!"

The non-diegetic songs on the soundtrack are jarring and really make the ep feel like some generic WB show when they play. On the other hand the chicka-chicka-wah-wah '70s music (not so much porny as Starsky and Hutch or Charlie's Angels) is awesome, especially with the split-screen action.

Willow: "Aw, man. Now I've gotta start all over. Hecate hates that."

Dawn: "You're older and hotter and have sex that's rough and kill people!"

Blam said...

Angel 4.4 "Slouching toward Bethlehem"

Fred: "Have you been caffeinating your blood again, or is there something you're not telling us?"

Angel 4.5 "Supersymmetry"

Fred reunites with her old professor and it totally sucks.

Lisa? the Assistant: "Professor Seidel... The oscillators tweaked again."

Fred: "Plasma and Fluid Turbulence in with neutrino book? That's just wrong."

Just about all of the comics at Thwak! are from Dark Horse, longtime publisher of Buffy (including, at the time this episode aired, Angel).

Cordelia and Connor? Yeah, I know it's creepy, and not just because she held him as a baby. She's 21 and he's 18. Then again, Buffy was 16 and Angel was 247-ish when they got it on. Double-standard much?

Angel 4.6 "Spin the Bottle"

Uh-oh. Sitar music — always a sign that things are gettin' freaky.

Now that's a great episode of television. Even before you see "Written and Directed by Joss Whedon" you can feel that we're in for a different kind of ride, but the credits confirm that something special's gonna happen and we're not disappointed. The framing material with Lorne was just great.

Lorne: "The spell was legit, straight up. I had it off this wraith — sweet girl, not overly tangible, but she deals in memory spells professionally."

Gunn: "What happened to you, man?"
Wesley: "I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me."

Cordelia: "I want to make sure I have enough cleavage for the ritual."
Okay, I made that one up.

Wesley: "Judging from the amount of facial hair I've grown, we've all been unconscious for at least a month."
Me: "I hope that's supposed to be a laugh line."

Wesley: "Perhaps the whole point of this experiment is hair."
Gunn: "I vote he's not in charge."

Liam: "I knew it. It's the devil."
Fred: "Why's the devil sleepy?"

The scenario reminds me of Huis Clos. If we, like the characters, were unfamiliar with their surroundings, this could be purgatory or hell. L'enfer, c'est les autres... Sadly a phrase that bodes ill but somewhat prophetic for our team.

Cordelia: "She's the tasty one! I mean, Look at her. Half of her is neck."