Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 32

5.10 Into the Woods
5.11 Triangle
5.12 Checkpoint

Follow along in Bite Me! on pp. 259-262.

And if you’re also watching Angel, this week’s episodes are

2.10 Reunion
2.11 Redefinition
2.12 Blood Money

Follow along in Once Bitten on pp. 169-175.

Well, this week we say goodbye to Riley and find out what Glory really is. I have to say, though, despite my sympathy to Riley on this rewatch, it doesn’t change that I never really saw any chemistry between the two characters, so something in “Into the Woods” has always fallen a little flat for me. Riley’s absolutely right when he tells her that he’ll always come second to her slaying and that he’s just become convenient (I adored that scene between the two of them, and thought it was powerful, brilliant writing and wonderful acting, more than I’ve ever noticed before). But when Xander tells her the same thing, and then says to go after him if she really, truly, honestly believes that he could be the one – and she DOES – I’ve never really bought it. She knows they’re right, and it’s like she runs after Riley out of some misplaced sympathy. (And I remember looking to the heavens at the end of this episode the first time I saw it, while whispering “thankyouthankyouthankyou.” The followup scene where Xander goes to Anya is lovely. We’ve never really seen a single scene where she seems caring or he treats her as anything other than a sexy joke, but when Xander sees Buffy about to lose Riley, he realizes how lucky he really is.

“Triangle” is an episode has always irked me (Willow is truly annoying and a bit of a bully in the beginning, and I don’t like not loving Willow!) but for some reason I liked it a lot more this time around. I particularly liked the ending, where like the mother of the baby that King Solomon threatens to cut in half, Anya steps up and refuses to let the troll (played by that guy who used to be the aide on ER) hurt him, and offers herself up instead. That moment happened because of Xander’s declaration in the previous episode.

“Checkpoint” has always been a great sequel to “Helpless,” resolving what the Watcher’s Council does to Buffy and Giles in that episode and putting the power back in Buffy’s hands. It’s a very important turn in her character. Buffy’s no longer the “one girl in all the world,” but the one WOMAN. She thought her life was tough in high school, but that was nothing compared to how complicated it’s become… and will continue to be. It’s also the episode where Buffy brings Joyce and Dawn to Spike’s lair (and he and Joyce discuss “Passions”) which is a turn in Buffy and Spike’s relationship that I love.

First up for this week’s guest hosts is Bryan Curry, with his first contribution to the Rewatch. Bryan contacted me after I went public with the Rewatch and he asked if he could join in. Bryan is the co-host of the Hellmouth Podcast (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and Investigating Angel podcast (Angel The Series). Both podcasts are an episode-by-episode review of the series, an indepth discussion of the characters, themes, plot devices and brief episode recaps. The podcasts attempt to take Buffy and Angel and show them to you in a completely new and different way. You may be amazed at what you missed the first time you saw Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel.

Take it away, Bryan!

If You Don’t Know Me By Now…
by Bryan Curry

When I was given the opportunity to participate in the Buffy Rewatch project I began looking over the episodes that were available for review and when I saw this grouping of episodes I had to snatch them up. These three episodes are a redefinition of many of the relationships that we have seen to this point in season 5. Problems that have been building from season 4 and in some cases as far back as season 3 have come to a head and things are about to change in Sunnydale forever. It all stems from our inability to see often what is right in front of us. To see those around us for whom they truly are; to understand their wants and needs and to refrain from projecting our own perceptions of their character onto them.

Into The Woods

“Into The Woods” is an examination of the Buffy/Riley relationship that began back in season 4. After the crushing dissolution of her relationship with Angel, Buffy has decided that the best path is forward and seeks to move on with her life and not look back. While I don’t think any part of that plan involved a new long-term relationship… enter Riley Finn. I find myself to be in the minority often times when in discussions about Riley; I am a big Riley fan and often argue that Riley was probably the best suited man for Buffy in terms of a romantic relationship.

Riley’s character, no pun intended, seems as though he was made in a laboratory and was engineered by the writers to be a negative or inverse image of Angel. In every way that Angel was mysterious, dangerous, tragic and brooding; Riley is upfront, charismatic, the all-American corn fed boy from Iowa. He was an experiment into what would happen if Buffy found a lasting relationship with a nice, ‘normal’ guy. Normal by Sunnydale standards anyway.

I always felt that this was Buffy’s best opportunity for being content. I use to say that Riley was Buffy’s best chance at love and happiness but I have come to learn that contentment and happiness, while not mutually exclusive, can be defined separately.

Riley provides Buffy with comfort and stability, while it is something that Buffy has longed for and probably what she loves most about Riley; it is not what she craves. Buffy craves passion, messy love and a love that elicits that feeling of desperation when she isn’t with the one she cares about. Buffy doesn’t feel this way about Riley, whether that is because she has shut herself off from him and kept him at a distance, or whether it is because Riley is too straight and narrow to elicit that type of reaction is something we could debate indefinitely.

The fact of the matter is that Riley sees that Buffy’s feelings for him are a pale, shallow, non-reflection of his feelings for her. He cannot understand how Angel, someone from her past, can still hold such sway over her and decides to venture into the darkness that Buffy seems to inhabit and try and figure it out on his own. What begins as a casual experiment becomes an addiction. Riley pays vampires to feed on him. What he finds so attractive is the need, the feeling he gets from a vampire who feeds on him. That longing to devour him whole physically and metaphorically is precisely what he is missing in his relationship with Buffy.

In retrospect, it is possible to see how this relationship was doomed to failure from the beginning. We find that Riley’s desire is to be Buffy’s protector, her support and her greatest desire. As the slayer, the chosen one who stands for the power, strength and independence of the ‘feminine’ he is asking for that which above all else Buffy cannot give. In effect, to be the girl that Riley wants her to be, Buffy would have to cease to be Buffy.

When it is revealed to Buffy what Riley has been up to she reacts violently and from her perspective there is perhaps no greater betrayal than what she finds Riley in the midst of. Buffy puts her life in jeopardy, daily; to protect people from the very evil Riley has walked right into. In season 1 Nightmares we saw that Buffy’s nightmare was something that Riley has sought out. It would have been crushing to find out that Riley had been cheating on Buffy, but to find that he had been cheating on her with the one thing that she had been pre-destined to fight is a betrayal above and beyond.

I think that in truth Riley was glad to get caught because it forced the two of them to face the problems in their relationship. Riley has been given an opportunity to return to the military and fight demons with Graham, what he is looking for from Buffy is a plea for him to stay. Even if Buffy had not caught Riley with a vampire, I am not sure that this is something that she could have given him.

So we see that in the final moments as Riley prepares to leave, Xander confronts Buffy. His role in this moment is to bring perspective and uncomfortable truth to what we have witnessed in Buffy and Riley’s relationship over the past year. Riley was convenient, he was comfortable; he was there when Buffy wanted him, and gone when she didn’t. Xander cautions Buffy that because she has been shut off, it is possible that she is missing out on a once in a lifetime kind of love.

Xander: If he’s not the guy, if what he needs from you just isn’t there, let him go. Break his heart, and make it a clean break. But if you really think you can love this guy… I’m talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need… if you’re ready for that, then think about what you’re about to lose.

Buffy loses; she arrives too late to stop Riley from leaving with the military. For people like me it is a sad moment, elsewhere in the Whedonverse there are choruses of cheers from the people who couldn’t wait for Riley to be out of the picture. One thing we all have in common is an understanding that despite whether or not Riley was good for Buffy, their relationship was not ‘ideal’ for Buffy in the sense that her definition of happiness, her type of love is not something that Riley could ever give her and the same could be said for Riley.

In the aftermath of Riley’s departure we are faced with another, even more complicated, relationship that is experiencing its own turmoil. The relationship triangle involving Xander and the two prominent women in his life Willow and Anya. The nature of the conflict in this relationship is the apparent dislike between Willow and Anya, which began back in Season 3. As the two of them bicker and argue they each try to force Xander to choose sides, preferably their own.

Xander becomes frustrated that he is constantly being forced to choose between his girlfriend and his best friend. The two women are constantly frustrated, each feeling justified in their arguments and feeling as though if Xander takes sides with the other it is simply a result of the relationship between the two and could never be based on the merits of the argument itself.

This is the structure of this self-perpetuating argument between these three that in this episode is going to have destructive consequences.

Giles has gone to see the Watcher’s Council and see if they have any information or resources that might prove useful with regards to Glory. Willow is taking the opportunity to raid the magic shop and try some spells, her justification being that it could aid Buffy in her Slayer duties. Willow and Anya argue about how Willow is abusing Giles’ absence and each tries to draw Xander into the argument once again to choose sides. His frustration boils over and he leaves them to solve this on their own. Their continued fighting leads to a fumbling of the spell and Olaf is released from his mystical prison and begins to wreak havoc on Sunnydale.

In a fun and interesting turn of events, Willow and Anya are forced to work together to try and track down Olaf and reverse the spell before anyone gets hurt. As we watch these hijinks unfold we get uncommonly honest communication between Willow and Anya. Their relationship problems don’t stem from a genuine dislike of each other; rather, it is based in mutual feelings of protection for Xander. Willow is concerned that at some point, should the relationship go bad, that Anya will inflict horrible vengeance of the human or demonic kind on Xander and she fears for him. Anya’s biggest concern is losing Xander and she feel s threatened by the relationship between Willow and Xander. She is worried that at some point Willow realize that she still loves Xander and will break-up Xander and Anya just like she did Cordelia. Once the cards are laid upon the table the two of them are able to ‘work things out’ to put it crudely.

Xander emerges from this situation in a much happier triangle in which, the fighting has mostly stopped, and all it cost him was a severe beating and thousands of dollars in damage to the city of Sunnydale.

One interesting aspect of this episode is the glimpses that we catch of how Buffy is dealing with the departure of Riley. In spite of the brave face that she puts on for the rest of the Scoobies, when it appears that Anya and Xander’s relationship is faltering under the mounting pressure she reacts very emotionally with crying and a determination to prevent their relationship from following down the path of her own. Obviously, the impact of Riley’s departure is having a profound impact on Buffy whether she may consciously realize it or not. I think it is a nice way to handle this situation. I don’t think it would be believable to watch Buffy crying and moping over Riley. A reaction similar to what she went through when Angel left would not be true to the nature of their relationship. This was a nice way to show that she does feel a sense of loss without overplaying it.

Probably the most attractive episode in this grouping for me is Checkpoint. Every time I watch this episode, I have vivid memories of the first time that I watched it. The uncertainty, suspense, desperation followed by the determination, confidence all culminating in one of the biggest fist-pump moments of the series immediately followed by one of the biggest jaw dropping moments.

From a relationship perspective, this episode illustrates a few of the relationships in Buffy’s life and how they are influenced by power. Glory, the Knights of Byzantium, the Watcher’s Council, all three relationships in this episode are presented as people make demands and try to intimidate Buffy. They arrive brash and full of bravado, demanding information, cooperation and describing horrific consequences if Buffy refuses to submit.

Glory is waiting for Buffy in her own home at one point. Glory is looking for the key, it is one of the most suspenseful moments of season 5. Buffy, Dawn and Glory are all in the Summers’ living room arguing about the location of the key. Glory not knowing that the key is standing there in her presence describes for Buffy all the ways that she will punish her, her family and friends if she does not give her the key. In the midst of all of Glory’s threats, there is one thing that strikes Buffy… Glory has yet to actually do anything.

On her return to the Magic Box, the knights of Byzantium intercept Buffy. They have come to Sunnydale to kill Buffy. She has had no previous interactions with the knights, never even heard of them before now. They are after her because of what she knows, and what she has, i.e. the key.

Finally we have the Watcher’s Council. It is easy to hate the Watcher’s Council because they are in fact worse than Glory in my opinion. The Council has come to Sunnydale to put Buffy and her friends through a series of tests. The bait is that they have some information about Glory that might help Buffy protect Dawn. The hook is Giles and their ability to destroy his life on a moments notice. Just like Glory, the Council wants something from Buffy and they arrive brash and full of bravado, demanding information, cooperation and describing horrific consequences if Buffy refuses to submit, sound familiar?

The Council’s actions are so much more reprehensible than Glory’s. Glory wants the key; the fact that Buffy has information about the key is inconsequential in terms of Buffy’s identity. Glory’s threats about killing Buffy’s friends and family are terrifying, but it is nothing personal, Glory needs the key and Buffy is an obstacle in her way. With the Council, it is entirely personal. Their threats are meant not as a means to an end but to inflict personal pain on Buffy. They are willing to withhold vital information that could spell the end of the world over a grudge between the Watcher’s Council and the Slayer. In truth, there is no question in the Council’s mind about whether Buffy’s abilities are sufficient to handle the information they have about Glory, they are abusing their position to try and manipulate not only Buffy, but her friends as well.

All of these relationships experience a reversal in this episode once Buffy realizes that all of the bravado exhibited by these different groups do not come from a position of power but rather a lack of said power. Once Buffy realizes that she is the one in control of each of these situations she’s able to clearly see the appropriate path forward. With Joyce and Dawn, she brings them to the only one capable of keeping them safe, Spike. With the Council, she arrives at the Magic Box with her own list of demands in one of the most empowering scenes in season 5 and the series as a whole, Buffy lays out exactly how things are going to happen as she speaks to Quentin Travers because “I think he’s understanding me.” Scoobies, myself included, all over the world are cheering and pumping their fists in the air in that moment. This marks then end of Buffy’s fear and cowering before the Council and although their interactions are sparse the Council will maintain a modicum of respect for the Slayer from here on out. This revelation is also going to be very empowering for Buffy through the rest of this season and is going to enable her to handle some tough decisions that are coming up. One of the things for me that defines Buffy as a hero is that even after she realizes how her power places her in a position of great influence and leverage; Buffy doesn’t exploit this fact. There are times when Buffy says we are doing it my way because I am the Slayer; but it is never from a place of malice or corruption. I think the ability to have that power, weild it but not let it corrupt you is heroic in and of itself.

In a way that only Joss Whedon can, just when we feel that the ship has been righted and things are progressing forward, we get a gut check before we have even had a chance to catch our breath.

Buffy: Just tell me what kind of demon I'm fighting.
Quentin Travers: Well, that's the thing, you see. Glory isn't a demon.
Buffy: What is she?
Quentin Travers: She's a god.

Thanks, Bryan! Next up is the always-brilliant Lorna Jowett (author of Sex and the Slayer), who last contributed during the I in Team/Goodbye Iowa/This Year’s Girl Week.

“dealing with grown ups now”
Lorna Jowett
“Into the Woods,” “Triangle” and “Checkpoint” work quite nicely as a block of three because “Triangle” offers comic relief between two quite serious episodes. Nikki’s already pointed out Riley’s pathos in this season and here we have its conclusion. It’s definitely the season where the characters start growing up properly. That is, they start realising that life is never going to be easy, that you never really feel like you’ve grown up, and that you’ll always just lurch from one crisis to another. This, I tell my students, is why serial drama is always life-like, however melodramatic, soapy and exaggerated it might be. As Quentin Travers points out in “Checkpoint,” the Scoobies are “dealing with grown ups now” and expected to respond in kind.

Last time I commented for the Rewatch, I said that Buffy and the team had some finding out to do about the Slayer. In this season, events force Buffy to think hard about who she is, and how being Buffy Summers and being the Slayer each affects the other. “Into the Woods” and “Checkpoint” demonstrate that ordinary life is just as important as Slaying and Buffy has to shoulder the burden of family responsibility while Joyce’s illness is diagnosed and treated, take a long hard look at her relationship with Riley (“Into the Woods”), and rediscover her confidence and her sense of self (as Buffy and as the Slayer) in “Checkpoint.”

I confess that when I first watched “Into the Woods” I leaped off the sofa and punched the air shouting YES!! as Riley flew off in the helicopter. (And I’m sure I wasn’t alone). But the episode has some serious moments between Riley and Buffy that equal the emotional family interactions we see. It’s notable that immediately after the opening shot shows us Buffy, Dawn and Riley waiting in the hospital, we see that Giles, Xander and Willow are there too – the Summers family is reinforced by the Scooby family. The pressure about Joyce’s operation is relieved very quickly at the opening of the episode but while Joyce, as Buffy says to Riley, might be “out of the woods” they, and we, are just going into them, as the title promises. I don’t want to get sidetracked into a long discussion of individual episodes here, and I’ve written about Riley in Sex and the Slayer, so I’ll try and pick out a few significant things about “Into the Woods” before moving on.

Spike’s complex feelings for Buffy are a key motivation here in his decision to follow Riley and to tell Buffy about her boyfriend going to get “suck jobs” from vampires (another genius phrase from Whedon and Co), and his selfishness masquerading as altruism maintains the edge of creepy stalker in his obsession. This continues to play out across the following two episodes and beyond. On the other hand, that Spike and Riley actually manage to have a constructive conversation about their feelings for Buffy is testament to Spike’s capacity for connecting with a huge range of different characters. (He does this again in “Checkpoint” in one of my favourite moments where he and Joyce discuss the latest happenings on Passions, a fictional soap opera to rival Twin Peaks’ Invitation to Love). Spike demonstrates the monster in the man and the man in the monster, often almost simultaneously.

While Spike and Riley’s heart-to-heart is rather unexpected, Buffy and Xander’s talk on the same topic shouldn’t be a surprise, but again the writers and actors offers far more than we anticipated. Xander, the Heart of the Scoobies, stands up for Riley and dares to tell Buffy that she is as much at fault in the failure of her relationship as Riley is. It might be a bit of a stretch to imagine Xander and Riley ever being best pals, and most viewers probably welcome the fact that Riley might finally be leaving, yet this conversation with Buffy is still heart wrenching, perhaps because Buffy finally admits that maybe Riley and Xander are right about her holding back emotionally. More growing up. Xander’s description, “scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need,” is of an adult relationship and the pay-off where he goes straight to Anya and tells her how much he loves her brings a lump to my throat every time. It perfectly balances Buffy’s despair as Riley leaves and segues into “Triangle,” which explores the way Xander and Anya’s relationship causes problems for his friendship with Willow, and for the Scoobies more generally.

Thus in the next episode, the togetherness of the Summers women (both daughters teasing their mother; Dawn awkwardly encouraging Buffy to talk about her split with Riley) is set against tensions among the Scoobies, with both Xander and then Tara made uncomfortable by Willow and Anya’s squabbling. As anyone who knows me or who’s read Sex and the Slayer can probably tell, Anya’s one of my favourite Buffy characters and I enjoy how her alien perspective persists despite criticism from others, lasting throughout her character’s time on the show. “Triangle” starts to explore who Anya was alongside who she is now, sketching in more backstory. “Triangle” can de dismissed as a lightweight one-off but nevertheless it ties into ongoing themes in the season, it serves the function of comic relief, and some of its revelations about Anya’s past are revisited much more seriously as the seasons unfold. (I’ll even be back to discuss some of these in another few months). Plus, who wouldn’t want to see a large drunken troll rampage through The Bronze?

If “Into the Woods” is mostly serious emotion, and “Triangle” is farcical comedy, “Checkpoint” combines both. It also features the season’s Big Bad more consistently – welcome back, Glorificus! Glory’s hedonism, love of luxury and hyperfemininity make it tempting to dismiss her as trivial and silly but we can’t. She’s the most powerful Big Bad to date and “Checkpoint” tells us just how powerful: she’s a god. (NB not a goddess, a god; see also Illyria in Angel season 5). And once again Whedon and Co manage to create fabulous supporting characters - or am I the only one with a soft spot for “dear, bumpy minion” Jinx?

Anyway, back on track. “Checkpoint” brings together several of the themes that have been brewing in the previous two episodes and the season so far. Since Joyce’s illness, the Summers’ residence has become a rather different place than the happy home it (mostly) used to be: at the end of “Into the Woods” Buffy comes back to a dark, apparently empty house and in the opener to “Checkpoint” she hurries around tidying up before the Scoobies sit down for their meeting about the Watcher’s Council visit. Growing up again: now Buffy has to take responsibility for making the house a home if she wants it to be one. Her fears about Dawn are also foregrounded here. Buffy refuses to tell the Council that Dawn is the Key, worries that Dawn herself will find out (as she inevitably does), and far worse, that Glory herself will discover it (also inevitable). Both are combined when Buffy arrives home to find Glory in the house waiting for her. How many Big Bads have invaded the Summers’ house? The home in contemporary horror, whether film, TV or fiction, is a dubious haven, open to invasion and penetration of all kinds and we’ve seen the house under attack on Buffy before. But that Glory enters it so easily speaks volumes about her power and about the intimacy of her threat, not just to the Slayer but to Buffy and her family.

The whole scenario with the return of Quentin Travers, the Watcher’s Council “review” and its outcome is immensely satisfying, for all kinds of reasons. Whedon scholars love the line “I wrote my thesis on you,” the death of the practice dummy in the test fight is pure slapstick, and Giles’ line to Travers’ hench-Watchers, “You all stand around and look sombre – Good job!” makes me snigger every time (not least because it shows his adoption of some Americanisms in contrast to the Watchers’ precise and stuffy British English). There are many more classic moments and I bet you all have your own favourites. But the real beauty of the episode is the way it neatly folds together Buffy’s insecurities about her family and her calling, real life and life as the Chosen One. Dawn’s frustration at being left out of the loop by her big sister means that she risks talking with Glory, the Council threatens to deport Giles, Buffy experiences patronising male attitudes both in the university classroom and at “work” from Travers – all speaking to real life rather than just to fantasy. The very pervasiveness of situations that demonstrate how powerless she is to change anything allows Buffy to recognise that in some things she is powerful. Then, typically, the uplifting surge of positive affirmation is cut off at the knees by Travers’ revelation before fade to black and the end credits: Glory is a god. Her power overshadows the journey to the end of this season (spoiler): (and resonates beyond it). The real world also continues to overwhelm Buffy periodically for the rest of season 5: at this point, she’s hardly begun to understand how hard life is.

Thank you, Lorna!

Next week:
5.13 Blood Ties
5.14 Crush
5.15 I Was Made to Love You

Our guest hosts will be Tanya Cochran and Kristen Romanelli. And if you're following along with Angel, watch:

2.13 Happy Anniversary
2.14 The Thin Dead Line
2.15 Reprise

See you next week!


Marebabe said...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we got a new DVD player to replace the old, and I must say I liked the old one better. The new machine has a particular (stubborn) fondness for full-screen presentation AND subtitles. By now I’m quite used to tinkering with the remote (every damn time!) in order to select widescreen (when available) and to turn off the subtitles. But for “Into the Woods”, I spent a maddening few minutes trying to get the episode to play in English! It opened up with everyone speaking Spanish. (Grrr, Arrgh!) I didn’t know right off where to go to fix that, but I finally found the Language Selection thingie on the same page with “Play Episode”. Sheez-Louise! Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t have to settle for watching “Into the Woods” in Spanish. I would’ve missed so much. (Que?)

As my husband is so fond of saying, you learn something new every time you pay attention. Dawn taught me a new word: boink. So cute!

Riley has always been called a soldier, right? When the two Initiative dudes were discussing their next move, rather than calling Riley some military rank such as Lieutenant or Specialist, one of them referred to Riley as “Agent”. (Que? I mean, Huh?) That sounds more CIA than military to me. Just a thing I noticed.

I never imagined the existence of a vamp diner that’s like an opium den or crack house (or bordello? Denny’s?) Weird. Anyway, when Buffy got back outside after seeing Riley in there, I thought maybe she was gonna hurl. It would’ve been appropriate, I think.

I loved Xander in this episode. When he was talking earnestly to Buffy about Riley, I was reminded of the line (paraphrasing), “Right now I’m the true friend who gets to say all the awful stuff.” At first, I couldn’t place this line, which movie it came from. But several hours later, after digging around in my memory vault, I remembered. It’s from “Broadcast News” (1987), when Aaron confronted his best friend, Jane, about her questionable, even dangerous, choice of news anchor/boyfriend. Holy Smoke! The similarities are rather remarkable.

I had always assumed that when it came time for Riley to leave Sunnydale, he was gonna die somehow. Not ship out for some covert jungle mission! At least, writing him out of the story this way means that the writers can bring him back, if they choose. But will they choose? Stay tuned. (I ordered the next seasons of Buffy and Angel this past weekend.)

Marebabe said...

“Triangle” had that perfect blend of comedy and menace that I love so much. Right off the bat, we had Xander talking to Anya about Buffy: “I wonder how she’s dealin’ with it (Riley being gone).” I knew the scene was about to change in a very Whedon-y fashion. And I wondered, what’ll it be? In the split second I had to think about it, all I could come up with was an image of Buffy chowing down on some chocolate chip ice cream. But... nuns?!

Poor tearful Buffy, crying her eyes out on Tara’s shoulder! :(

Here’s another episode so chock-full of witty banter, I can’t possibly itemize all the zingers.

Reality check. Sorry, but Xander would’ve been graveyard-dead from Troll-Boy’s hammer blows. Broken neck, fractured skull, mushed brains...

Oh, no! At the end we had “Xander’s Choice”! A classic example of a cruel, heartbreaking, and impossible choice.

Watching “Checkpoint”, I found myself once again thinking that it’s hard to believe the Watchers’ Council is anything but pure evil (Giles excepted). And speaking of Giles, every now and then, like at the end of this episode, we see him look at Buffy with such pride and deep affection, I get warm fuzzies.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I'm fist pumping! Riley's gone! I found that most of the fans I know who like Riley are guys. And yet again, Yay!

Buffy chasing after Riley is Buffy at her most pathetic. It pains me to see it. And Xander should stop projecting. Does he really love Anya, or did HE want to chase after Riley? He even talks about him in bed.

Triangle is a very special episode for me. There's a little scene that turned me into a Spike redemptionist, which led to becoming an online fan and to getting obsessed with the show. In the Bronze, a girl is injured and he tries to help her to get Buffy to notice him. Buffy leaves, and he KEEPS ON HELPING THE GIRL!

Joyce's bandage is clearly stuck on her hair. Yet she wears a scarf that would imply her head has been shaved. Buffy even offers her a wig.

Speaking of heads, I agree. Xander would be shmushed by the troll hammer.

I like that Spike's disturbed that seeing he hurt Buffy hurts him.

Why is Riley carrying a plastic stake? Where do you get a plastic stake? Is that some sort of souvenir of Sunnydale?

When Dawn and Buffy are talking there's a different dynamic in their relationship - they're writing Dawn older now.

Poor Spike is trying so hard with the chocolates. He's fighting against his vampire nature.

Willow and 'Gay now.' It doesn't work that way. Though I read an interview with Marti Noxon today that implied they would have made her bi but there was pressure not to because it wasn't politically correct.

Glory's victim is paler than the others we've seen - is that because she was more desperate for the brain energy?

Giles must really be upset to break his glasses. And sorry, stupid Council - these people aren't children anymore.

"Magical proficiency level?" Is that guy from Hogwarts?

Many years ago, a group of fans decided to write Lydia's thesis on Spike (I did a bit of the proofreading.) I thought people might find it interesting.

Spike Thesis

Why doesn't Glory brainsuck Buffy? Not only would there be lots of yummy energy, couldn't she find out the info she wants?

Buffy calls Travers "Quentin", making it clear that they are equals.

Look! The Knights who say Key!

Dusk said...

I'm pretty sure Glory casually in Buffy's house and the sisters surviving by only luck is the moment made her my favorite villian.

I love the reaction shots to Anya used to date the troll. And Spike's smile when he gets a Buffy feel. The Buffy stand in scene went from funny to slightly creepy. But it is they first of Spike's substitues for the Slayer, the get funnier as we go.

Oh, and on first watch of Checkpoint, when Buffy tossed the sword, I thought "That was epic" just as Xander said "excellent."

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I forgot to mention - Passions wasn't a fictional soap opera (or any more fictional than any). It ran on NBC and those were actual story lines Spike and Joyce were dicussing.

Suzanne said...

I really enjoyed this week's rewatching. I am not one who usually cries easily when watching TV, but Xander's declaration of love for Anya got to me this time. I also loved that Xander was the one to talk to Buffy. They have a powerful friendship that is sometimes overshadowed by her friendship with Willow. Xander was the right one to talk to her this time, though.

As for Buffy and Riley, I really don't hate them together like so many others do. I agree with Bryan's comment that they just weren't "ideal" for one another. I think it would have been impossible for either one of them to have been their true selves around the other while still making the other happy. To me, Riley's true self is to be a Captain America type (just as someone called him in an episode). In order to be that, he must be a protector. Since he seems to embody old-fashioned values, he wants to protect the woman he loves. This is not in the cards for anyone who is Buffy's partner. Riley needed to get on the helicopter for himself, to be his true self fighting for a cause and protecting people.

As for Buffy, I think she really does want a partner, which is why things seemed to be better between them in Season 4. I don't think she liked having a boyfriend that she needed to worry about like she did with Riley in Season 5. It reminds me a bit of the boy she liked in Season 1 for an episode, but once she saw that he was fascinated with danger and could get hurt, she decided it wasn't right for her. She needs someone like Angel who can really stand beside her and fight as an equal. I don't think her fascination with him has to do with the danger he represents as is often mentioned. I think it has to do with him being her equal and being able to truly understand her since he is as much like her as anyone can really be in that world.

I was sad to see Riley's helicopter fly away, not because I wanted Buffy and Riley together (because I didn't), but because it was just one more time when Buffy's dream of having a "normal" life failed her. If she were a different woman, she might have had it with Riley, but as the slayer, it wasn't in the cards for them.

Christina B said...

I don't have much to say about Buffy that hasn't already been said, but here are a few thoughts.

Into the Woods--We all love Xander. We don't know when we started to love Xander...He's just always been there and we've always loved him.
But sometimes, on very rare and special occasions, we remember WHY we love Xander.
His speech to Buffy? Yeah, that's why. :)

Checkpoint--The look of pure pride on Giles' face when Quentin accepts Buffy's terms is beautiful.

Onto Angel...

Honestly, I wasn't at all impressed with this week.

The only shining moment (and it was VERY shiny!) was watching Juliet Landau's amazing performance.

You see, Dru was always more of a background character in Buffy. And, actually, I was annoyed by her more than anything.
She had a crazy accent, she was totally flaky and she really didn't matter much in the scheme of things, so I didn't pay much attention to her at all.

Well, wasn't THAT stupid of me?!

She out-acted, outshone and outdid EVERYONE in 'Reunion'!
I couldn't help but wonder how many of her odd hand gestures and body language and actions were ad lib, she's just THAT good!

Okay, enough about Dru...

I spent a lot of time while watching 'Angel' this week yelling at the TV.
"WTF?", "WTH?", "Who ARE you?!", "What is going on?!?"

Angel allowing a room full of people to be massacred? Angel firing his best friends?
I don't get what's happening to him at all. Am I missing something?

Yes, he feels that he has to go after Dru and Darla alone. Okay, I get that.

But then he sets them on fire, *poof*, they disappear into the night and suddenly, Angel is back out there helping the helpless?

So, I guess I just have to kind of forget that Dru and Darla are still out there somewhere, causing mayhem and chaos, and continue to watch Angel as he goes back to his old life, sans friends.

Right, then...I'll carry on! ;)

Christina B said...

Oh, and the "I don't get why they made your character gay..." line in 'Blood Money'? That made me snicker. ;)

The Question Mark said...

Seriously, Anya, I love you. I wish I had a sexy ex-vengeance demon girlfriend :(

"Checkpoint" was by far my favourite episode of this week's trifecta. It was terrifically paced, peppered with tons of big laughs, and had one of the most stellar conclusions to any hour of television ever.
Quoth the Xander: "That was excellent."

Who else loved all of the neat pairings in "Triangle"? I love when TV shows pair up characters you normally don't see alone together very much, in this case the 3 pairings of Willow-Anya, Buffy-Tara, and Xander-Spike. It always makes for such interesting (and often humorous) consequences.

Efthymia said...

"Into The Woods":
Is there an english word for machista? Because that's what Riley is: he wants a girl dependent on him and who considers him a priority, and, of course, weaker! I loathe him! Blackmailing ass!
Xander, I love you, but you're WRONG!
How can anyone not like Graham? He's nice, he's handsome, and he took Riley away :)

Spike & Joyce, once again, priceless!
I generally like Buffy, but in this episode I LOVE her! Go Buffy!

Linda345 said...

Oooo, Nikki, you're right. Olaf is Jerry from E.R.!

I followed Buffy's frantic run toward the helicopter saying, "Please don't get there in time!" Then, like Nikki, I said "Thank you." Riley was a hottie and I liked him, but his time was up. I agree with Bryan that Riley seems to be an experiment to contrast Buffy's life from "normal" life. Riley and Buffy are too different from each other, even though they both fight supernatural creatures. Riley is a Cowboy, as we saw in a dream in Restless. Buffy is not a female counterpart to that. For Riley, he is doing his job, and doing it well. For Buffy, she accepts that she was chosen. I could imagine soldier Riley sitting around with his buddies, clicking beers, laughing about the day's adventures. Riley's an adventurer. Buffy, she just does her thing and gets it over with. I don't know that she gets that much joy from slaying. But it's true, as Ethymia says, that Buffy doesn't need any macho hero type by her side as she slays. Her assistants are not like that. They are, from any other point of view, a bunch of losers. Xander. Nerdy Willow. Stuttering Giles.

Loved the Spike/Riley wine-sharing scene, discussing Buffy. So like guys, sitting around talking about their girlfriends.

I was a newbie, now I'm an official rewatcher, having finished the series about a month ago. Still, even rewatching after only a month I'm picking up things. Glory is such a wonderful villain precisely because she is so beautiful. It was understandable (last week) that Giles would sell items to this woman even as he is telling the group, "Be careful. She could be anybody." Glory just looks so innocent. But she's not.

Linda345 said...

I meant to add how much I was tickled by Spike's comment to Xander. Olaf: "I want babies to eat. Do you know where I can get babies?" Spike to Xander: "What do you think, the hospital?" You'd have to see how Marsters does it to find humor in this. And then, the onion. Spike and his obsession with the blooming onion!! Hee hee. Love that Spike.

Missy said...

My experience of 'Into The Woods'
Is limited to the polarizing opposites that are Buffy&Riley Breaking up and Xander&Anya finally coming together.
This is when any nice feelings I had toward Riley disapated...
He asks her to choose him over who she is as a person...who does that?
Why can't he just be happy being who he is...and be happy that Buffy has a place in the world.
He was a total jackass in that moment.
Ultimatums NEVER workout.
I heart Anya....and I love that after roughly a year Xander can finally say it too.
They're perfect for each other.But as the newbies are learning nothing stays copasetic for long.
Looks like Joyce will come out of this health scare unscathed.Right?

Such a fun&funny episode...this is one of the eps I just throw on to enjoy some much needed escape from the world.
Olaf(Ab benrubi)is a nice tie to Anya(nka)'s past....Some plump succulent babies indeed.
Is it only me who laughs everytime Sarah breaks into the ugly cry?It's soooo over the top.
Poor Tara....Poor Xander....Willow&Anya are a handful.
I love when Xander says "Tara's with me.Protect me, Tara" it's cute.
I also love this little exchange
Dawn: Whatcha doin'?
Buffy: Playing soccer.
Obviously she isn't.Lol
Willow&Anya working together ...still bitching at each other.Goodtimes :D
Spike being NOT subtle about what went down with Him,Buffy and Riley.
My Xander being used as a punching bag by Olaf...I cringe everytime Olaf snaps his wrist.
The entire ep is just a joy to watch.


This is where my heart lies within this block of eps.I adore this episode

The Watchers Council is BAAAACCCCKKK.(*in the voice of the little girl from Poltergiest*)
And with some demands and scary truths about what Glory is and can do.
I hate the constitution that is the Council...but I love Quetin Travers(notice Harris Yulin is sporting a goatee this ep).
Anya gives herself some adorable backstory,Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins..from South Eastern Indiana.
Born 4th of July...raised by both a Mother and a Father.Seriously Emma Caulfield is a comic genius.

Glory gets a chance to explain what it is she wants and needs from our Girl Buff...and what she needs & wants makes itself part of the conversation.Even after all these yrs I tell Dawn to leave the room..yes I'm crazy,but that scene is kinda terrifying even if you can't stand Dawn.

The cute Knights Of Byzantium showup swearing that they will Kill buffy and anyone helping her protect THE KEY.
Clearly that statement will end well.

Giles "I've trained her to win" ,Yea you did ..even against scarecrow thingys.Lol

"Big power outage in Buffy county?" One of my fav qoutes from the Slayer herself.

Gotta love the awkward sitdown with Willow&Tara..and Nigel's misunderstood questions.

Ben is looking shady these days isn't he?Jinx calls him SIR!!!Whhhhyyyy?...tune in next week.Lol

Missy said...


We were all thinking the same thing back then.You might be confused now but how it resolves itself..will be more of a WTF moment.Angel will be his normal self soon enough.

How'd you like seeing Anne in Blood Money?

Stevi said...

Colleen/redeem147: "Xander should stop projecting. Does he really love Anya, or did HE want to chase after Riley? He even talks about him in bed."

Xander is projecting, but I'm not sure it's in the way you think. I think he's been living vicariously through Riley. As long as Buffy could make it work with a vanilla human guy, he can hold on to his fantasy. Sure, he's with Anya, but I think he's always still wishing that Buffy would give him a shot.

JavaChick said...

I was sad when Riley left. Riley was a good guy and could have been good for Buffy, if she had let him. I do think Buffy was shutting Riley out – maybe past experience has taught her that she is better off if she doesn’t allow herself to need anyone. Riley pretty much gave up his life for Buffy – because of Buffy he found out the job he was so proud to be doing was not what he had thought. He gives it up and stays in Sunnydale...to wait around for Buffy to have time for him. I don't necessarily think he needed to be Buffy's protector, but he needed to be needed by her. I think he would have been happy with partner, but Buffy wasn't giving him that either.

I don’t fault either one of them (though the vampire blood sucking makes me shake my head and wonder ‘oh Riley, what are you doing?’ Maybe it’s timing. Maybe they were never meant to be. But I do feel sad for their ending.

Nikki Stafford said...

Stevi: Well said. I never thought of it like that, but now that you say it, it makes sense. If Buffy were to go with a guy who has no superpowers and isn't a vampire, it means she could fall in love with a human guy... ie, him. It's kind of like saying, "Oh look, Alexander Skarsgard and Kate Bosworth broke up... now *I* have a chance!" but hey, let's let the boy dream. ;) (While I dream of Skarsgard.)

Witness Aria said...

Great contributions again, as usual.

Bryan, I've always thought that Riley wasn't Buffy's perfect guy (she was his first, great love, he was more of a rebound love for her) but I hadn't really thought through it that not only couldn't he be what she needed, but she couldn't be "the one" for him either. I liked the way you stated that.

Linda345 said...

@JavaChick "I was sad when Riley left."
I was neither sad nor happy, merely expectant of this ending (thanks to the episode title "Doomed"). But I do think there was bad timing at play here, among other things. All at once Buffy had a sick mother, a persecuting god, and a sister who wasn't a sister to deal with. So she turned to the people who knew her best--her friends.

Riley's misstep was to think he could understand Buffy if only he could get the sense of her fascination with vampires. He was on the wrong track. He should instead have questioned why she relied on her friends rather than him. She shut Riley out, but not Xander, Giles, or Willow. They understood her in a way he did not. They were there from the beginning of her journey. Riley was not. He was not privy to her initial anguish over embracing her Slayer role, thereby giving up the much of her childhood. In time, he might or might not have been able to see that. But this was not the time, and I don't think Buffy was ready to settle down as much as he way anyway.

vw: mulamb. A cross-bred farm animal.

Anne said...

Welcome Linda345 to the rewatching group. So what did you think of the series as a whole? I have to agree with you that even after seeing it all for the first time, you always catch something you missed in the prior viewing (s).

Gotta love Buffy.

Thanks again Nikki and all guest reviewers for all your work on this project.

JS said...

My question - Why doesn't Buffy have a cell phone(at this point)? Joyce does. That may be the most unrealistic thing in the series.

Linda345 said...

@JS. Good point about the cell phone. Maybe superheroes don't need such things? It's hard to keep in mind what was going on in the culture at the time. I'm just glad we've passed the dreaded crimped hair era.

@Anne. Loving it! At the time of airing, my son's girlfriend (now my wonderful DIL of 10 years) was really into it, but I thought it was probably too young for me. Now look. Ten years later and it's not too young at all. The themes are eternal ones. And it's really funny.

It's hard to pick out my favorite season, but I like S5 a lot. I think Dawn was such a creative idea. And I like her. So little sister-like (yeah, I have one). And Michelle plays her well.

I'll be on vacation soon and will miss commenting on two of what I think are the best episodes of any TV show ever. But I look forward to reading everyone's comments when I get back.

wv: penceti - another yummy Italian dish.

Page48 said...

"Checkpoint" was my fave this week by a wide margin. Buffy's undressing of Quentin and the Watchers' Council, with the Scoobies watching from the balcony, was an honest-to-goodness BtVS moment. Pity Oz wasn't able to sit in on that.

And, let's face it, Spike and Joyce settling in for "Passions" is pure joy. The return of Glorificus after a few eppies on the sidelines was most welcome as well.

Riley go bye-bye. I'm not a Riley hater, but I prefer my hero chicks single. I just think pain and loneliness makes for greater viewer satisfaction. I want my heroines to suffer and still be heroines. IMO, Sydney AND Vaughn were never as good as Sydney BEFORE Vaughn (well, not necessarily before, but during those early days when they couldn't risk a real relationship).

Happy romances give the viewer steamy bedroom scenes. Pain, suffering, loneliness give the viewer wonderful scenes like Vaughn finding Syd at the train station. It's not the same as finding her in the laundry room. And don't even start with Peter and Olivia. Yuk. So, bottom line? Riley, buckle up and have a safe trip.

Xander gets cracked on the head by the hammer from which Olaf gets his power?? OUCH! That's sooooo gotta hurt.

The freaking Watchers' Council, all the way from England, actually interviews Spike, a serial-slayer-killer, about Buffy's competence, but doesn't dust him when they're finished chatting. I love these guys. And they think Buffy is the one in need of a review?

Anne said...

JS said...

My question - Why doesn't Buffy have a cell phone(at this point)? Joyce does. That may be the most unrealistic thing in the series.

If I am not mistaken, Joss said in a commentary that he thought it would be too convinient if the scoobies had cell phones. Also we have to remember that at the time cell phones wheren't as mainstream. I think a similar reasoning can be applied for Buffy and cars = non mixy things (it would be too easy if she would drive to places instead of running (Say she would have driven after Riley, she probably would have gotten there on time...).

However, Angel does get one in season 1 of AtS and its a running gag that he doesn't know how to use it properly, so the scoobies being cell phoneless would definately be conveninent for the sake of Buffy and friends' journey...maybe because she hasn't entered the adult (real) world yet and Angel has with his business.

Also I think the non-use of guns is very convenient in Buffy, yet the first episode of Angel, he himself gets shot multiple times, slowing him down so guns in this world would be non-lethal but effective against Vampires.

I guess we just have to accpet the rules and the way Joss and the writers decided to shape this fictional world, yet totally relatable world.

JS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JS said...


It definitely isn't conducive to drama to have cell phones. Just like it would be a bit convenient to have super soakers full of holy water, or artillery guns full of wooden stakes mounted on every roof top. And I get your point re: guns (though they do become more prominent on Angel....and that's all I'll say about that.)

Lots of shows have our heroes on other shows have phones, but mitigate their usefulness. They’ve got bad cell reception, lost phones, ignored phones, etc., because they are so damn convenient. So I get that. What I do not get is why Joyce would have a phone (it helps with establishing the brain issues) but Buffy, et al do not. I would feel better if NO ONE had a cell phone, then we could chalk it up to yet another unique cultural difference in Sunnydale. I think this was a miss. Joyce shouldn’t have a phone. Who does she talk to? Only the “adults” have cars, but that is a money issue. The cell phone thing bugs me.

Anonymous said...

I have a soft spot for Riley, and I always cry when he doesn't see Buffy running after the helicopter. I don't think they were the world's greatest couple, but it does pull on my heartstrings!

Witness Aria said...

For what it's worth, I may have been unusual, but I didn't get a cell phone until post-911, and then it was a gift from my parents because of the relentless news about last phone calls made from the towers to loved ones. Suddenly having a phone on you at all times was seen as a necessary safety measure.

Before that, I was more of the "I don't want to be available to people 24/7." They were just phones then, and the coverage was far from universal. Now it's hard to imagine being without one, but back then they had not become anywhere near ubiquitous.

Unknown said...

I've been really busy and have turned into a lurker, without really sharing any of my thoughts on this season's episodes, so please excuse some of my general comments, which touch on broader things.

I love Anya this season, but I am so confused about what she did before the Magic Shop? It's implied she had her own apartment, but how, and with what income? It's never stated whether or not she is a student or what. I never wondered about it before this re-watch, showing how she really never became "human" to me until she got a job. . .how capitalist pig is that of me? lol

I love to hate Harmony. Gold lame pants. Unicorns. Insipid Harmony.

People have been talking a lot about Riley and Dawn this season so I'll just add my thoughts about Glory. She's my favorite big bad. I love how she's a mirror image for Buffy (chicks with superpowers) without all the human moral ambiguity of a Faith. But, where a lot of people find her alternately fun and terrifying, I find Glory sad.

Nikki, you have to let me know if there is already a piece of Buffy scholarship on this, but I am prepared to "write my thesis" on how Glory is a fictional portrayal of the Borderline Personality Disorder, narcissistic type. I have a close family member with this disorder and have become way more familiar with it than I ever wanted to be. So when I saw Glory on screen, her behavior and attitudes all seemed so real to me! Eerily familiar to anyone who has been in a close relationship to someone with the disorder.

Spike totally won me over in these eps. The way he has to play comedy, intense romantic longing, jealousy, rage, caring (for Buffy and family), I was just amazed, and still am, at how he can evoke humor in one second, threat and danger the next, and pity and empathy co-mingled with all of that. It's a bit dizzying, so is it any wonder he swept this fan off her feet. . .I don't know if I'm a "Spuffy" but I love the character of Spike, not necessarily as anyone's romantic pairing.

I am watching Angel, too, and the only thing I am surprised about so far that no one has commented on the arrival of Charles Gunn, one of my top Angel characters. I love how the enmity between him and Wesley is immediate and complete. GREAT to see Anne this week!

I, too, enjoy Drusilla more on Angel but I agree it's because she's given more to do. Also, Julie Benz knocks it out of the park as Darla in these episodes. It's from a prior week's set, but the line where Darla and Drusilla are watching Angel and Spike fight and Drusilla makes some typical bats&*( crazy comment, and Darla says "Good point!" to Drusilla in that totally Darla-way, she just nails it.

Missy--it's been long enough since I watched Angel (and never re-watched) to have forgotten wtf is up with Angel, too! So I'm kind of like a newbie on this rewatch and yeah, I'm so yelling at my screen at Angel, ChristinaB!

Anne said...


I have to admit that I had forgotten that Joyce had a cell phone, and I agree with you that if she didn't have one it would be easier to accept that the scoobies don't.

Does Joyce use it often? The only distinct cell phone memory in BtVS season 1-5 is Cordelia's uber gigantic one in "Welcome to the Hellmouth", or maybe Riley with all is gagets used one onscreen, sorry my memory is failing me...lol

Linda345 said...

JS. "... why Joyce would have a phone. It helps with the brain issues." Didn't you want to just smack that doctor when he approached a stunned Buffy with those questions? How does it help to know if Joyce lived near power lines? How does this comfort Buffy. Bedside manner, not. And yay for Ben, rescuing Buffy from that.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

If they lived near power lines Buffy and Dawn could be next.

Though it doesn't seem like that doctor would care.

I almost typed Doctor. I'm such a DW fan. :)