7.17 Lies My Parents Told Me
7.18 Dirty Girls
Follow along in Bite Me!
And if you’re watching Angel, this week’s episodes are:
4.17 Inside Out
4.18 Shiny Happy People
Oh! Well, hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the third last week of the Buffy… reWATCH. Pull up a chair, and settle in as we talk about Andrew, who finally comes into his own in this week’s episodes, the return of Faith, and that nasty sonofabitch preacher that we must refrain from calling The Hammer.
Oh, and Nikki the Freakin’ Vampire Slayer. YES!!! Thank you thank you to the person in the writer’s room who named her! (Can I just mention the squeal that escaped my lips when I did an image search for “Nikki the Vampire Slayer” and MY picture came up before the image I’ve posted above?! I think I woke up the neighbourhood… heeheee!)
This week I have two excellent commentators, so I’m going to keep my own comments very short. “Storyteller” is one of my favourite episodes of the series, mostly because Andrew is just SO damn funny, and I think Tom Lenk is a comic genius. (Why doesn’t this guy have his own show yet? Why isn’t he a regular on The Big Bang Theory?!) “Storyteller” almost acts like an extended “previously on Buffy” episode, bringing people up to speed who apparently are watching the show casually and missed a few things. Like, oh, I don’t know, the end of season 6.
Of course, Andrew is the most unreliable of unreliable narrators, so you can’t believe a word of what he says. And the show is funny ONLY if you’ve actually seen the previous episodes. Show this to a new viewer and they’ll actually think Andrew was strong enough to overcome Dark Willow. Ha! Everything Andrew says is fake, so it takes Buffy scaring the bejesus out of him to actually bring out something genuine… and when she does, it closes the seal. (Just one note: when you see the quick flashes of the dream sequence, watch for the Cheeseman’s reappearance!)
“Lies My Parents Told Me” is another Spike flashback, the sequel to season 5’s “Fool for Love.” In this one, we see who Spike’s first kill was, and once again it’s implied that even though Spike had to go through many trials at the end of S6 to be re-ensouled, he really had a soul all along. A monster wouldn’t react to his mother being so cruel to him, and would probably relish it. But William/Spike has his heart broken by her, and realizes the horrible mistake he’s made. I always feel so sorry for William in this, but also for Robin. I don’t like the way Spike tells him that his mother didn’t love him. That’s bullshit. William’s mother loved him, but when he turned her, she became evil. Now he’s taking his horrible mommy issues and projecting them onto Robin. Nikki the Vampire Slayer (oh YEAH baby!) loved her son, didn’t give him up, but she had a job to do and she couldn’t shirk it. It’s not like quitting a job at The Gap… it’s her friggin’ CALLING. She can’t walk away from it. And she pre-arranged that, should anything happen to her, she’d leave him in the single safest place she could think of. Don’t listen to him, Robin.
Just for the record, when this episode first aired, I totally thought Robin was going to kill Spike, and I was crazy with fear. I can watch this with a lot more ease now!
“Dirty Girls” is where we first see Caleb, Hell’s misogynist preacher. Andrew retells the Faith story so she attacks a Vulcan, not a volcanologist (how much do I love the cheesy Star Trek music that accompanies that scene!!!) and it’s another episode filled with great lines:
GILES And you're certain this is the best course of action? You don't even know what this man has of yours — if he, in fact, has anything.
BUFFY It could be a girl, a potential trying to get to us.
GILES Could be a stapler.
KENNEDY I don't care if it's Godzilla. (raises a huge sword) I want to get in this thing.
ANDREW Godzilla's mostly Tokyo-based, so he's probably a no-show.
AMANDA Besides, if Matthew Broderick can kill Godzilla, how tough is he?
ANDREW (whines) Xander... (crosses his arms petulantly)
XANDER Matthew Broderick did not kill Godzilla. He killed a big, dumb lizard. That was not the real Godzilla.
MOLLY (looking around) What is this place?
BUFFY Looks like an old vineyard.
KENNEDY An evil vineyard, huh?
SPIKE Like Falcon Crest.
Here’s my only question: Why wasn’t Will at the winery? It made no sense to leave her behind when the Potentials were about to face their scariest foe. At the very least, Willow could have helped with a protection spell or forcefield.
Oh, Xander… SOB. Watching S7 this time around, I noticed how many times Xander said, “I see everything” or someone comments on how he’s the one who watches. And of course I couldn’t say anything, because, as River Song would say, “Spoilers!”
Before I move on to the guest contributors, I just wanted to mention that Ensley Guffey (who has been involved with the Rewatch covering "The Body" and "The Zeppo" weeks, will be featuring the various books written about the Whedonverses on his blog tomorrow, so be sure to tune in here to get some Christmas ideas for the Whedon fan who has it all. ;)
First up guest hosting this week is David Lavery… and like Giles, he’s brought pictures!
Rewatched by David Lavery
(40) “Stop. Stop telling stories,” Buffy screams at Andrew at the end of “Storyteller,” as part of her scheme to elicit his tears, which are needed to close the seal of Danzalthar. “Life isn’t a story.” Andrew seems to take her admonition to heart, for at the end of “Storyteller” he abruptly turns off his video camera, pointing his remote at the camera and at us.
(41) Now “Life isn’t a story” would be a startling, self-referential assertion in any serial narrative, but coming as it does in a series created by an “angry atheist” who nevertheless espouses his continued belief in “a religion in narrative” (see Lavery), it seems especially problematic.
David Lavery, “Apocalyptic Apocalypses: The Narrative Eschatology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003)"
When “Storyteller” originally aired in February 2003, the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still three months away. For the second half of Season 7 I had been receiving in my e-mail shooting scripts for each episode, and because I am a bit of a Spoiler Whore (non-promiscous, but willing), I read them. So days before Anya and Andrew would have this dialogue . . .
ANYA: For God's sakes, Andrew. You've been in here for 30 minutes. What are you doing?
ANDREW: Entertaining and educating.
ANYA: Why can't you just masturbate like the rest of us?
. . . I was already prematurely laughing at the signature naughtiness, but my illicit script did not prepare me for actually watching “Storyteller’s” hilarious teaser, which gave us Andrew (Tom Lenk) Alistair-Cookeing-it in a velvet smoking jacket (and choking on pipe smoke) before a raging fireplace. “Oh, hello, there, gentle viewers,” he greets us in the episode’s outermost frame. As he pats the thick, ancient volume he has been reading, he acknowledges “You caught me catching up on an old favorite” and then announces the episode’s theme: “It's wonderful to get lost in a story, isn't it?”
“Adventure and heroics and discovery—don't they just take you away?” Andrew asks, and then invites us in—into his episode: “Come with me now, if you will, gentle viewers. Join me on a new voyage of the mind. A little tale I like to call: ‘Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyrs.’”
But Anya interrupts—the first of many breaks—in the “documentary” Andew is making, and we realize he is not in a room of one’s own (a traditional, very British study with Star Wars posters adorning the walls) but on the toilet in the much-in-need only bathroom of the Summers house where he is engaged in narration instead of onanism.
Like Jonathan, the Troika member and south of the border bedmate he killed in “Conversations with Dead People” (7.7), who (thanks to a spell) assumed control of the narrative “Superstar” (4.17), Andrew seeks to take over BtVS and make himself its writer and director and perhaps star. It is the School of Whedon’s almost-always-brilliant Jane Espenson, the episode’s writer (and also the author of “Superstar”), and television-director-for-hire Marita Grabiak (who would return in May as the helmer of the series’ penultimate episode, “End of Days”) [read my interview with Grabiak here], who are credited with actual control of the story, but behind them showrunner Joss Whedon—who has acknowledged that Masterpiece Theatre was the most influential television show of his youth (Lavery and Burkhead, Joss Whedon: Conversations 51)—is having his say as well.
Still, Andrew doesn’t give up. Much of “Storyteller” screen time is seen through the viewfinders of his camcorder, his hyperactive imagination, or both. (The to-ing-and fro-ing of between frames in “Storyteller” results in more than a few continuity errors, catalogued by Keith Topping in The Complete Slayer .)
We are treated to Andrew’s version of recent events—actually a kind of nerdish white board-on-top-of-a-washing machine-beside-an-ironing board iteration of the customary “previously on”. . . .
Awkwardly, shyly, Andrew brings us up-to-date on the Seal, The First, the dreaded Über Vamps . . .
. . . “very mobile for blind people” Bringers.
The “actual” moments being captured on film by Andrew (like the one above) show the “Record” indicator in the upper left-hand corner of the frame. But a slow motion cereal Buffy is pure fantasy . . .
. . . as are Spike and Buffy posing (in Andrew’s imagination) for the cover of a romance novel while an intrusive Anya gobbles the grapes.
These light-saturated frames alert us that we are, as in the opening Masterpiece Theatre teaser, inside Andrew’s “mindscreen” (as Bruce Kawin called it in a 1978 study of “first person film”).
Spike’s subsequent angry vampire shtick is more real than Cereal Buffy, but still staged, as we realize when Andrew asks for a reshoot . . .
SPIKE: I thought I told you to piss off with this bloody camera, yet here you are again with that thing in my face. Would you sod off before I rip your throat out and eat—
ANDREW: OK, Spike. The light was kind of behind you.
SPIKE: Oh, right. Uh, what? Is this better then? I thought I told you to piss off with this bloody camera, yet here you are again with that thing in my face. Would you sod off—?
Other shots, covered by Andrew’s gossipy narration, are more or less real—this one, for example, of Willow and her possible new love Kennedy . . .
Here and elsewhere Andrew’s attention is often drawn to significant moments of character interaction—a moment between the bent-on-revenge Principal Wood and Spike (who killed his mother), for example—which he entirely misconstrues:
Check out Spike and the Principal. There's something going on there. Sexual tension you could cut with a knife.
Andrew is a highly unreliable narrator, especially when he speaks of his own “dark past” as a criminal mastermind, the leader of the Troika . . .
. . . a cabal that, in Andrew’s recollection, was well-nigh divine:
We are gods. Oh, we are gods. We are as gods. We are as gods!
Legend-in-his-own mind scientist Andrew has all the answers—about both physics and wardrobe:
WARREN What'll [the latest super weapon] do to Buffy?
ANDREW Make her super magnetic!
JONATHAN Wow, she won't be able to get out of her car.
WARREN And knives and other sharp things will fly at her.
ANDREW We could walk right by her, and she wouldn't be able to stop us.
WARREN Unless we were wearing metal belt buckles, then we would stick to her.
ANDREW In my plan, we are beltless.
JONATHAN Wow, you're the best, Andrew.
In Andrew’s warped memory he even vanquished Dark Willow, though we know the narrative truth—that he and Jonathan ran in fear of her all the way to Mehico.
Although this is an Andrew-centric episode, “Storyteller” has much more to offer. It is a chapter of the Buffy saga in which we learn (from Buffy herself) the difference between a dream and a vision: “You're running to catch the bus naked? That's a dream. Army of vicious vampire creatures? That's a vision.” We find Principal Wood using Buffyspeak: “I may be concussed.” Xander and Anya “still spark” (and sleep together). Andrew reveals his drink preference: “Can’t I have a cool refreshing Zima.” Jonathan made a promise to Andrew during their Latin American sojourn: “Jonathan has been a good friend to me here in Mehico. He said he'll buy me a burro.” Also, in Mehico, the Cheese Man from “Restless” (4.22) makes a brief appearance in a shared Andrew/Jonathan nightmare.
“Storyteller” would be Jane Espenson’s next-to-last episode of Buffy (she would co-author “End of Days” [7.21]) before going on to write for Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, and Torchwood: Miracle Day. For Buffy fans “Band Candy,” “Earshot,” “Pangs,” “A New Man,” “Superstar,” “The Replacement,” “Triangle,” “I Was Made to Love You” had demonstrated beyond reproach her quirky sense of humor and delightfully playful characterization. (If the quite awful Torchwood: Miracle Day showed her to have feet of clay, then it was not unprecedented, for Espenson had also authored such forgettable Buffy episodes as “Listening to Fear,” “Harsh Light of Day,” “Intervention,” and “Doublemeat Palace.”)
When “Storyteller” originally aired on February 25, 2003, BtVS viewers would need to wait a full month before the season resumed with “Lies My Parents Told Me” on March 25. (Today’s multi-platform viewers, of course, need not wait, and they can rewatch it now with Lorna Jowett right here on Nik at Nite.) On May 20th, Buffy the Vampire Slayer would, after 144 episodes, “stop telling stories,” unless, of course, you count the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (and Season Nine and . . .) comics.
Thank you, David! And next up, to discuss the next two episodes, Lorna Jowett, author of Sex and the Slayer:
As David’s post concentrated on “Storyteller,” I’m going to be focusing on “Lies My Parents Told Me” and “Dirty Girls”.
Highlights: flashbacks (I love flashbacks); Xander’s fantasy about the Potentials potentially being Dirty Girls; Andrew’s version of Faith’s backstory (go, Spock!); Anya telling it like it is, inconsistencies and all; Faith and Spike bonding in the basement; wine crashing across the cellar floor in “Dirty Girls” like blood in The Shining.
Lowlights: annoying Potentials; Caleb, one of the worst Bads ever (Nathan Fillion deserves better).
Spike and Robin Wood face their past in “Lies My Parents Told Me” just as Andrew was forced to do in “Storyteller”. Each of these episodes is about telling stories, stories that may be lies. It’s also difficult to know who’s telling lies. Past episodes suggest that Spike is an unreliable narrator. David talks about how the visual aesthetics of “Storyteller” highlight Andrew’s point of view and we return to this in both Xander’s fantasy and Andrew’s retelling of Faith’s history during “Dirty Girls”, but here it’s more complicated. Are the flashbacks to Spike, Nikki and Robin Wood’s past here lies my parents told me or lies I told about my parents? I didn’t include Spike/ William’s backstory in the highlights because if it’s a highlight, it’s a pretty disturbing one. The more the story unfolds, the more creepy it becomes (“all you ever wanted was to be back inside,” William’s mother mocks by the end). Even the insane Drusilla can’t believe that new vampire William wants to bring his mum along on their hedonistic vampire killing spree, so we know there’s something toe-curlingly wrong. Spike relives part of his past where he sired his mother and then staked her – well, we knew he had issues When he tells Wood that the things his mother said to him after she was turned don’t matter because it was the demon talking, we’ve seen enough of vampires by now to know this is doubtful. His mother crushes William’s argument that he’s changed now he’s a vampire, saying, “Darling, it’s who you’ll always be. A limp, sentimental fool.”
But even if this account of Spike’s past is tangled up in lies, revisiting it does rid Spike of the First’s trigger. Wood finds it harder to let go his mother. Wood has nursed the pain of Nikki’s death for years and now the fact that he’s expected to work beside the vampire who killed her becomes too much for him. Is he seeking vengeance for Nikki’s death or satisfaction for himself? Can he even tell the difference?
Wood’s dilemma is whether to accept Spike has changed and fight alongside him for the greater good, the sake of the mission, the same mission his mother died for. Buffy’s dilemma is whether to do anything about the fact that Spike may be dangerous because of the First’s influence. But just as Buffy (and Spike) take the decision out of Wood’s hands, so Buffy’s ability to decide what is best for Spike and the group is taken out of hers. Thus, the episode title also refers to Buffy. Surrogate father Giles, not just Wood, lies to her and she serves him notice of her adult status at the close of the episode in a devastating dismissal: “I think you’ve taught me everything I need to know”. About lying? About how people you trust betray you? This episode highlights again how male characters unite against the female Slayer, with good intentions or bad. We saw it with the Shadow Men in “Get It Done” [spoiler]: and there’s more to come as the season draws to its close. One of the reasons Caleb is an unconvincing villain is that he’s too obvious in his rants against “dirty girls”, but his tone is part of a broader resurfacing theme about gender and power.
There’s another lesson in “Lies” – about what it means to be close to a Slayer. Buffy, we have been repeatedly told, is unusual in keeping a circle of family and friends around her. That makes her, she argues, a better Slayer. It also takes its toll, on her and on her loved ones. In this situation, across both these episodes, we see Buffy getting conflicting advice from those around her and having to decide for herself what to do. Spike, Wood and Andrew face their past; Buffy has to face the present and the future. Faith, returning to Sunnydale fresh from Angel, has spent some time facing her past actions and seeking redemption for them by serving a prison sentence. When she’s needed, first by Angel and then by Buffy, Faith puts the present need above atoning for the past because it might secure the future. Yet what kind of a future can a Slayer have? Are Buffy and Faith just facing an endless succession of apocalypses (we never did find out what the plural was) and then a violent death? What kind of future can the Potentials have? Only one of them ever has a chance of being Chosen, and that’s only when a Slayer dies. In other words, where are they taking this story and how can it end?
When Giles tells Buffy in “Lies My Parents Told Me”, “it’s time to stop playing the role of general and start being one”, his words are compromised by his dubious positioning in the episode. And when Buffy tries to take his (and Wood’s) advice during “Dirty Girls” she makes a mistake that costs untested Potentials their lives and Xander his eye. [Spoiler]:It will cost Buffy and the group more in days to come. Buffy isn’t a general, she’s a Slayer. Slayers have been, until now, solitary warriors, as Spike reminds Wood in “Lies My Parents Told Me.” Maybe the question is not can she be a general but can she afford to be a general? Remember what story this is. It may not be Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyrs, but it’s still Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Right from season one this story asks, what does it mean to be the Chosen One? What does it mean to be the one girl in all the world with a mission to fight vampires and demons? Can Buffy make choices or is she stuck with being Chosen?
The biggest lie: It will only hurt for a moment.
Thank you, Lorna!
Next week: I can’t believe we’re at the penultimate week of the rewatch. I’m so sad! How quickly this year has flown. You will see the speech that ties with Xander’s in “Potential” for its ability to make me cry (♥♥♥) in “Touched,” and you can feel the anticipation for that huge finale about to come around. And just a hint of what you’ll be seeing in two weeks’ time: The finale night will be December 27, and it’ll be a post by me that night, and then starting the following morning and continuing throughout the day on December 28, I’ll be posting one post an hour looking back on the rewatch, on all of Buffy and featuring many of our commentators, and a few new ones! I hope you guys all like it. ;)
But until then, next week’s episodes are:
7.19 Empty Places
7.21 End of Days
And if you’re watching Angel, those episodes will be:
4.19 The Magic Bullet
4.21 Peace Out
See you then!