Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 47

7.7 Conversations with Dead People
7.8 Sleeper
7.9 Never Leave Me

Follow along in Bite Me!, 326-334.

If you’re watching Angel, the episodes this week are:

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

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 259-265.

Or maybe you won’t be able to read the pages in Once Bitten because your eyes are bleeding from the sight of Connor and Cordelia together. (I STILL don’t think I’ve gotten over that. Blecccchhhh.) We’ve finally seen The Beast on Angel and, funny story (only in retrospect), I met the Beast, Vladimir Kulich, in 2003, I think it was. I was at some fan gathering and he was wandering around, and I was back in another section and suddenly he came up behind me and said, “Well, hello there, would you like to take a picture with me?” completely out of the blue. And his voice sounds EXACTLY like The Beast. I think I first peed my pants, then turned around to see him, and looked up, up, WAY up (my first Friendly Giant reference!) and saw him. We took the picture (my scanner isn’t working and I only have it in print – remember the days before digital cameras?!) and I think I look like I’m going to cry in the photo. Scariest celeb picture ever. Then I had to go change my pants. (But seriously, he was actually a very nice guy.)

But now over to S7 of Buffy, where the Big Bad has been revealed to us finally, and… it’s one we encountered before. Buffy says she knows who the Bringers are, and who the First is, and we saw all of this back in the season 3 episode, “Amends.” If you’ll recall, back then Angel was visited by ghosts of people he’d killed, and he went up on the hill to kill himself when the daylight would come, but Buffy talked him out of it before a miracle occurred and the sun didn’t show its face. That was the First playing with Angel’s head, and it’s waited four long years to return and play with Buffy’s. And Spike’s. And Andrew’s, Willow’s, and Dawn’s.

Now, let’s look at Dawn first. In “Conversations with Dead People” (one of my all-time favourite episodes) we see a new side to Dawn, a backbone and bravery and fierce courage in the face of blinding terror. That flash of white-eyed Joyce reaching out her arm to Dawn while being held down on the couch by a crazy-scary human-sized charred Gollum-type figure sends a chill down my spine worse than just about anything in the series. I think it’s actually scarier than the Gentleman going by the window just as Olivia’s looking outside in “Hush.” But Dawn doesn’t flinch. She develops a communication system with Joyce (knock once for yes, twice for no, another scene that freaks me out completely), does a magic spell, and doesn’t stop even when she’s being slashed to bits, like a little version of Willow from “Bargaining.” Was the final image of Joyce the real Joyce shining through the darkness, or was it the First playing with Dawnie’s head?

The big problem people have with this episode is that Cassie appears to Willow instead of Tara. Just like the death of Tara, it truly divided fans who said it wouldn’t have worked if Tara had shown up because that would have been far too painful vs. those who said they wished Amber had been available to have shot this episode. And even that matter has fans divided among those who declare that Amber says she refused to play the part and turned down the opportunity to those who said she was actually in a play in London at the time and was unavailable. I tried to track down the truth and David Fury, one of the writers on the show, told me point blank she was unavailable, as did Jane Espenson, another writer on the show (read my episode guide entry for this episode to see her explanation of how Marti Noxon had to entirely rewrite the scene for Cassie and taking out Tara). I also spoke to someone representing Amber at the time, who confirmed that Amber had been busy at the time and unavailable and she would have loved to have returned to Buffy. But others say they’ve seen Amber at conventions and she’s said she simply refused. Maybe she’s just being swept up in the fan fervor, or maybe she’s telling the truth. Goodness knows, and in the end, it doesn’t much matter. Personally, I think it would have been more effective to have had Tara there. I find it baffling when people say it would have been too painful – right, and having young Dawn see her dead mother being strangled on the couch was all sunshine and puppy dogs? No, it was horrifying, and that’s why it worked.

But I think the writers did a good job of convincing us Cassie was the person to appear, and Alyson Hannigan is downright extraordinary in the scenes with her. When she looks up, with tears tumbling down her cheeks and tries talking to “Tara,” who she believes is in the room with her, my heart is breaking. I love Alyson Hannigan on How I Met Your Mother but I truly hope she finds a great dramatic acting gig after that show is done. She’s astounding.

Bibs and Bobs:
• The guy playing Holden will appear on Angel next season as a scientist.
• Do the Summers women really like Spanish music? In S5, Buffy is washing dishes in “Listening to Fear” and she flips on some sort of salsa music really loudly, and the moment she turns on the radio it’s on that station. In this episode, Dawnie turns on the radio and it’s on that station. An interesting choice.
• Buffy: “I commit! I’m committed. I’m a committee.” Hahaha!

“Conversations with Dead People” is the ultimate “going back to the beginning episode. Through the First’s manipulations, we revisit the deaths of Cassie, Tara, and Joyce, as well as Jonathan’s experiences in high school (the guy who took a rifle into the clock tower to commit suicide misses high school?!), Spike’s previous bad boy persona, and Buffy’s entire psychological trajectory throughout the season. It’s a shame that Xander is absent from the episode, but it would have been one too many people.

Pay close attention to the opening song of the episode, which is sung by Angie Hart of Frente! fame, and was written by Hart and Joss Whedon for the ep. One of the best scholarly papers I’ve ever heard was delivered in Arkansas in 2008 by Rhonda Wilcox, where she deconstructed the song line by line and talked about how perfect it was in light of season 7. Unfortunately I couldn’t find that paper published anywhere, but Rhonda, if you’re reading this and you did get it published, please let us know where we can find it! It was brilliant. The last word of the song is “alone,” and the idea of doing things alone versus being part of a group will become a key factor in S7.

Speaking of music, how awesome is Aimee Mann at the Bronze? Totally unfazed in a dazzling striped suit. It reminded me of a friend of mine, who is the lead singer of a prominent band who had a big Billboard hit (and they appeared on SNL) and she and her husband are HUGE fans of Buffy, and I remember the time she was telling me all about how she practically begged to be on the show, but her band was simply too big and Joss wanted to promote independent talent. Dammit. (Her band’s album became a focal point of an episode of True Blood instead.)

Sleeper looks at Spike’s personal hell and how he’s being driven mad by one particular song:
Early one morning, just as the sun was rising,
I heard a young maid sing in the valley below.
Oh, don't deceive me, Oh never leave me.
How could you use a poor maiden so?

Why that song? Maybe the First is Canadian (Canadians know that song as the theme song for the children's show, "The Friendly Giant" -- second reference!!) which would be consistent with the Lost idea that Canadians are evil. But as for the song, stay tuned… you’ll find out. Needless to say, the song is enough to trigger the big bad in him, and turn him into the soulless demon he once was, pre-chip, pre–Buffy lust. Can he fight the anger within? Angel loses his soul when he gets a big happy, and he can’t be easily turned back. Spike’s evil turns on and off, and they need to get to the bottom of that switch.

But someone who WANTS to be evil and isn’t is Andrew. As the member of the Troika whose name NO ONE can remember (“whatshisname” makes me laugh every time), he’s now back and will be funnier in every episode he’s in. The death of Jonathan was really sad for me, as we see how far he’d come from the scared unhappy nerd in the clock tower, but now Andrew (“THAT’LL DO PIG!!!!” hahahahahaha) is the last one of his gang. Will the others let him survive?

All I can say is, I hope Anya and Xander are heading up all future interrogations.

Meanwhile, over in merry olde England, the Watcher’s Council got blowed up real good. But can I just take this moment to mention once again how useless I’ve always thought the WC was? There’s one girl in all the world, and her name is Buffy. Well, and Faith. And the WC seems to know absolutely nothing about either of them. They’re not in contact with Buffy, nor have they done a thing to get Faith out of prison. So… if their job is to watch the Slayer, and they have no contact with them, what exactly are they doing? Researching apocalyptic events? That’s all well and good, but if they don’t pass their findings on TO THE SLAYER it’s not a lot of good, now, is it? Frankly, I remember watching them go boom at the time and thinking, “Oh well…” And I still feel that way.

But… Giles…

This week’s guest is my coworker (our desks are right next to each other) and fellow companion guide writer, and we’ve edited each other’s writing before. It’s the lovely Crissy Calhoun! Her first book was on Gossip Girl but she’s since moved into the vampiric realm with me and has written books on The Vampire Diaries. Her book, Love You To Death was a hit with fans, so much so that she released a book on the second season a couple of months ago. If you are a TVD fan (and I will be soon… no really, Crissy, I WILL get those season 1 DVDs back to you soon!) you can follow her weekly recaps at Vampire-Diaries.net, and follow her on Twitter here.

Take it away, Crissy!

Here we go.

Rather unintentionally, I’ve landed on a trio of episodes that form a turning point in the final season of Buffy: the Big Bad makes its presence known and Buffy figures out that it’s in fact the Biggest Bad, Spike comes to realize just how many layers there are in the blooming onion of his identity crisis (in large part brought on by the First), and thanks to an impromptu therapy session in a cemetery, Buffy takes one step closer to understanding the complex complexities that drive her — and ultimately guide her as she takes on the First.

To begin at the beginning, “Conversations with Dead People” opens with a montage set to “Blue” (a song so perfect for the episode you’d think it was written just for it . . . oh wait, it was) and we see Buffy on patrol, like we’ve seen her a hundred times before, alone in the cemetery — alone among the dead and undead. It’s the perfect visual to set up the coming dissection of her personality with Holden: as the slayer she is isolated, there’s only one of her (“pretty much”), and in some ways she is superior to her friends. She has superhuman strength and a calling; just watch her slay those two Bringers in “Never Leave Me” and it’s doubtless than Buffy is far better than your average badass, she’s an epic heroine. But coupled with that superiority complex is her feeling that she’s much, much worse — not only for believing that she’s better than her loved ones but for, as Buffy says, “what I’ve let myself become,” the darkness and pain that fuel her (as Spike figures out). The disconnect between her identity as slayer and as human being, between being moral and needing to kill and inflict pain on a daily basis has been part of Buffy’s struggle since the beginning, but post–death and resurrection, the darkness has amped up. It means that now more than ever Buffy is alone.

“Conversations…” features all of our characters in isolation, and for Dawnie, the fun and freedom of being a teenager home alone — pizza, dance parties, trying on your sister’s clothes, playing with her crossbow… — twists into the absolute horror of having no one there for you. The haunting absence of her mother, which the Summers girls live with daily, becomes nightmarish as Joyce reappears on the couch where she died (and with the creepiest creeper creeping on her). Just as “Blue” is used to create mood and set up the theme in the opening and close of the episode, we hear the most menacing salsa in the history of television, as the First haunts Dawn. In fact, all three of these episodes have great Buffy music moments: Spike’s trigger is the lilting song “Early One Morning” that takes on a sinister edge, and in what is my favorite Bronze performance scene ever, Aimee Mann’s “Pavlov’s Bell” is interrupted as the vampire Spike sired falls from the balcony and dusts on the ground. “I hate playing vampire towns.”

As with the music, so with the comedy: it all comes together to create that quintessential Buffy tone that’s often imitated, never duplicated. Part of that comes with the strength of six seasons and trust that the audience gets it. Andrew (Tyler’s brother) is a prime example of that, giving us the lightest comic touches with a dark edge. He adopts Spike’s look after killing Jonathan but can’t kill the little piggie. The butcher mocks his “Neo” look. And in a classic scene, Willow and Andrew have a standoff in the alley, threatening each other; it’s hilarious, but actually they are both murderers.

And there we come back around to the difference between “bad people” and “people who do bad things.” Why doesn’t Buffy kill Spike like any other murderous vampire? Why don’t the Scoobies judge Buffy for violence she’s perpetrated? Why is Willow allowed to go unpunished?

Penance. As Buffy tells Spike in that brilliant scene in the basement in “Never Leave Me,” she saw his penance, she saw him face the monster inside and fight back. Between the chip, the soul, and the song, Spike’s been having a rough go of it, unable to sort out how much of a baddie he is. He’s been controlled by the First, made into a murderous puppet, but even as he seems to be breaking free of that by the end of “Never Leave Me” he knows what he, alone, is capable of. He chillingly reminds Buffy of what kind of a vampire he’s been, taking pleasure in violence and in his victims’ pain. But she won’t stop him: she believes in him, and he can stop himself. Wresting control away from the First, breaking free from the psychological manipulation and influence, and becoming more man than monster is the battle Buffy wants Spike to fight and win. In a lot of ways, it’s exactly what she needs to do herself.

For me, the Spike/Buffy “I believe in you” dynamic is an interesting one to watch in light of this season of The Vampire Diaries, where we have a bad/gone good/gone bad again vampire that will at some point have to wrestle with an existence post–killing rampage and a heroine whose belief in him as someone innately good could easily fall into the realm of lady-writing-love-letters-to-a-jailed-serial-killer. But Buffy’s belief in Spike isn’t reckless (she chains him up, after all); it’s believable. How do you give up on someone when you know their potential?

The fight to be “masters of our fate, captains of our souls” — as Quentin Travers so sagely quotes to Lydia before being blown to smithereens — is hard enough without the First Evil’s diabolical plans, but it’s the struggle at the heart of this trio of episodes and, arguably, season 7 as a whole.

Thank you, Crissy!

Next week: Jennifer K. Stuller is back to guest host, and you’ll find out the reason why I ♥♥♥ Xander so much.

7.10 Bring on the Night
7.11 Showtime
7.12 Potential

And if you’re watching Angel, enjoy the return of one of my favourite Whedonverse characters!

4.10 Awakening
4.11 Soulless
4.12 Calvary

See you next week!


Marebabe said...

“Conversations with Dead People” had such a beautiful opening! I loved the song, and the establishing shots of Buffy, Willow, and Dawn.

Dawn really knows how to handle the situation when all the electronics in the house get possessed. Girl wields a mean axe! At first I was concerned about the way she was trashing the place. But it was nothing compared to the demolition of the entire ground floor by the end of the episode. I thought it looked bad enough that the whole house might actually collapse. The support structures were pretty seriously compromised.

Holden Webster, the personable and chatty vampire, was sure fun and interesting. (His best line: “I’m here to kill you, not to judge you.”) I enjoyed his scenes with Buffy so much, I was not at all surprised to learn later that Joss Whedon wrote the Buffy-and-Holden segments. Personally, I think that all four writers for this episode should’ve been credited, especially since “Conversations” received a Hugo Award. But that’s just me.

The geeky banter between Andrew and Jonathan was so delightful! Even “Warren” joined in, trading Star Wars quotes with Andrew. And I think we may have witnessed a Simpsons homage, when Andrew belly-flopped into the school library instead of rappelling. (I’m referring to the Simpsons couch gag, when Marge and the kids gently parachuted down to the family couch, and we hear Homer screaming faintly in the distance, growing louder, and then he plummets, face-down, onto the floor. One of my faves.)

Another thing about Andrew’s and Jonathan’s entrance into the library. In my notes, I had written that it was Andrew who crash-landed. When it came time to type up my comments, I suddenly doubted what I had written, thinking I might’ve made a mistake there. Easy to get names mixed up when one is in a hurry, right? So I looked at that scene again. Sure enough, it was Andrew who face-planted on the tile floor. And it was during that second look that I really noticed how elegant and skillful and James Bond-y Jonathan was. He rappelled like an expert, and he moved gracefully and with cool efficiency, like a career spook. NOT what we’ve come to expect from dear Jonathan. I think it was that uncharacteristic moment that caused me a little confusion. Interesting. On further reflection, I realized that the writers knew they were about to kill off Jonathan (of course), so maybe as a small tribute to a character we’ve known for a long time, they gave him a brief “Superstar” moment, remembering how he used to dream of being “Our Man Flint”.

I get that it was the Big Bad doing all the scary, haunted-house stuff with the earthquake and the destruction and the glavin. (Sorry. OK, not really.) Every apparition was really the Big Bad in disguise, right? “Joyce” wasn’t really Joyce, right? So, we had one version of the Big Bad staging a fake demonstration of itself trying to hinder another version of itself from manifesting. Why go through all that? It was all for Dawn’s benefit, to terrify and/or destroy her, not so much to warn her, right? So, is Dawnie far more important than we ever imagined?

After many light, funny, and touching moments in this episode, what a DARK and disturbing ending! “Cassie” tells Willow that she should kill herself; “Joyce” warns Dawn that Buffy will ultimately be against her; Andrew kills Jonathan; Spike (or is it “Spike”?) drinks the blood of the blond chick he met at the Bronze; and Buffy finally stakes the psycho-babbling counselor-vamp. Also – a minor point, considering – the Summers house is basically destroyed. It doesn’t even look habitable anymore. I’m pretty bummed that Jonathan was murdered. I thought there was something sweet and lovable about him, even when he was mixed up in Warren’s and Andrew’s schemes. The fact that he was nostalgic about high school added another big dollop of pathos to this episode.

Marebabe said...

In “Sleeper”, we got another international opening, this time in London. No big chase on foot, but I immediately recognized the curved knife that was used in the Istanbul and Frankfurt stabbings. Still waiting for the big reveal about what’s going on.

After the grim and dark ending of “Conversations”, I had pretty much given up on the notion of any more humor for the rest of the season. But then Spike caught Anya snooping in his room, and hilarity ensued! Anya lies about as well as Hurley on LOST.

Every time I think about the fake apparitions, my head starts spinning all over again. I’m referring to the scene with NotSpike and NotBuffy, when “she” confronted “him” in the alley with the brunette. And then there were two Spikes face-to-face. I’m glad I’m not required to explain or even describe it to anyone. Maybe I’ll eventually make a flow chart, or something. Meanwhile, I am completely confused. Baffled, even. Time travel and the sideways world on LOST was easy, compared to this!

Anyway, speaking of Spike, I love it every single time he declares his love for Buffy.

Cute and bizarre line spoken by the band singer: “I hate playing vampire towns!”

UN-believable ending, with the axe swinging down on Giles! It was late when I saw that, too close to bedtime on a “school night” to start the next episode. My husband happened to be in the room for that intense cliff-hanger moment, and he very promptly quipped, “Someone here about the reaping?” That’s a reference to Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”, when Death shows up at an English cottage in the middle of a dinner party. “It’s a Mr. Death, or something.” I laughed, which I’m sure is NOT the typical response of fans at the end of that episode. But it broke the tension in a marvelous way, and helped me be OK with waiting till the next day to find out what happened next. (They wouldn’t kill off Giles, would they?!!)

Marebabe said...

In “Never Leave Me”, they sure got on the cleanup and rebuilding pronto! Wasn’t this the very next day? The house was looking pretty spiffy, and it seemed that Xander just needed to replace the glass in a couple windows. Of course, the people of Sunnydale are remarkably resilient – just look at Willow – bouncing back from crippling traumas in no time. I guess the same is true for the structural damage to Buffy’s house. It gets licked back into shape in a jiffy!

WHO – except for residents of Sunnydale – keeps dungeon-style shackles handy, firmly anchored into their basement wall?

Dawn has been practicing! She showed some pretty formidable fighting skills. And Xander and Anya played an awesome round of “good cop/bad cop”. They really got into it, especially Anya!

It wasn’t immediately obvious to me that the Watcher’s Council was in the building that blew up. That could’ve been clearer. Anyway, I’m glad they’re gone. I never liked them, not for one minute. They reminded me of the various CTU bosses who always did their best to stand in Jack Bauer’s way on “24”. Now that I think about it, Buffy Summers and Jack Bauer had a lot in common. Jack also saved the world. A lot.

Andrew continues to be excellent comic relief. That poor piglet he was chasing was so adorably cute! It would not have yielded much blood, however.

About an hour after watching this episode, I was cooking some brats. I always use tongs to turn them, rather than a fork, because I don’t want all the juicy goodness to run out. It can sometimes be tricky, because they’re slippery little suckers! So there I was, chasing this one link all over the pan, and it made me laugh, remembering how Andrew was trying in vain to catch that piglet.

Once again, my husband was passing through just as I finished this episode.

Him: “What happened to Giles?”
Me: “So far they haven’t shown us.”
Him: “BAStards!”

Quite the intense arc happening on Angel this week. In “Long Day’s Journey”, everyone was talking about how the loss of the sun would mean unending darkness. That’s true enough, but why did no one point out that it would also turn the Earth into a lifeless ice cube? I was reminded (again) of The Simpsons. (I can’t help it.) Remember the episode, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” C. Montgomery Burns had an evil scheme to block the sun from the town of Springfield by using an enormous disc, like an umbrella. He wanted to get even richer by making everyone have to rely on his nuclear power plant for light. As I said, EVIL!

Wesley: “We need Angelus.” For me, this was a shocking and completely awesome twist! Nikki, in your book you stated that fans had been waiting for the return of Angelus since the series started. I was surprised to read that, because I’ve always been glad that Angel’s dark and evil past was (more or less) safely in the past. I knew there was a possibility of Angelus returning, if Angel ever got careless, but I sure wasn’t expecting it or hoping for it. I am aware that conflict is an essential element in any good story, and they’ll sure have plenty of conflict when Angelus returns!

Dusk said...

First of all, sorry to all first timers you had to see that on Angel. Even on the DVD commentary the writers mentioned how the fans sort of "went nuts" about it.

Also, the commentary on "Conversations" is actually pretty good, I'd give it a listen after the finale.

The writers said that yes, it was in fact the First as Joyce, and it can be in more then one place at a time. It's reason for picking at Willow will become more apparent, but Dawn I think it was just to attack the one Buffy was closest too.

I agree Tara would have been better, but I like Cassie and I love how her voice changes mid-way through "It's not that bad..." Also I think it's the eyebrows that add to the creep factor.

The Andrew humor is usually hit or miss for me, although the pig gag is good, and I like Anya and Xander's questioning. Although Johnathan missing high school doesn't quite add up, I still feel he deserved better. And without going into much detail, I do feel the long-term effects of his death are better handled then Tara's. Forgot to mention last week how I wished they had extended the cementary scene so we can see Willow's feelings about her death better, and not just the magical fallout from it.

Page48 said...

Great week for BtVS. With Warren and Jonathan (sort of) out of the way, this is where I really take a liking to Andrew. He hits his stride like right now and he's hilarious. Even the scenes 'about' him are funny:

Anya: "The weasel wants to sing, he just needs a tune"
Xander: "He's primed. I'll be pumping him in no time"

Xander: She's killed more men than small pox.
Andrew: "Does small pox still kill people?"
Xander: "She's killed a lot of men"

And, Willow and Andrew in the alley is priceless.

Buffy using Andrew as a weapon, more with the priceless.

Anya slaps Xander silly upside his head. YES!

The Summers house gets trashed and trashed and trashed. Xander has work for life, but is it all pro bono?

Great stuff.

Page48 said...

I would NOT have found Tara's appearance painful at all. I don't get that. I think it's kinda nice that, even though Joyce is dead, she still shows up from time to time.

Now, seeing Warren? That's painful.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I was at Toronto Trek when Amber spoke about the episode. She made it clear that it wasn't the way she would have wanted the fans to remember Tara, and she wouldn't have done it. That doesn't preclude that she wasn't available anyway. She was also horrified at the idea of Warren being flayed and thought the show had gone too far.

Angie Hart was also in Firefly, singing Amazing Grace.

When there was thumping at the Summer's place, it made me think of zombie Joyce at the door, before Dawn ripped the photo.

Dawn's cut feet always make me think of Die Hard.

Scott Hope coming out is a Queer As Folk reference. Fab went to that show after Buffy.

I was there when Jane Espenson picked up the Hugo for CWDP. I had brought my copy of Bite Me to see if I could get it signed if anyone from the episode showed up, but I couldn't get near her. I was with Cindy in our hotel lobby later in the evening - and yes, there was Jane! So I got it signed that night.

Dawn's "Mom... Mommy" echoes Buffy's when she finds her body.

I so love Buffy's lying on Holden's 'couch'.

I was so relieved to hear Buffy admit that she'd mistreated Spike - now if she could say it to him...

I recommend the film 'Wit' - much of it is conversation with Jonathan Woodward and Emma Thompson.

Each character in each segment, like the song says, ends up alone.

In Sleeper, Xander's 'is he in trouble' sounds concerned for Spike, not gloaty. He's also not getting drawn into trashing Spike in Never Leave Me.

Warren says that he can't be touched to Andrew. So how does The First destroy the Summer's house and cut Dawn?

James is looking a lot better in this season than he was in season six. He was too thin.

Buffy doesn't see Xander's job as important. "Xander, this is serious." I don't think she understands other people not having a calling and having that kind of responsibility - how often did she run out on DMP? But she has another calling.

Souled Spike is a modest fellow.

I think that's more people we see in Sunnydale than we've ever seen in the series. And they have non-Bronze clubs?

I love Aimee Mann. I bought her Lost In Space album to get the songs in Sleeper, and later got artist Seth to sign it. :) I really love the editing during Pavlov's Bell.

Often in Joss' writing it's always darkest before the dawn - and Spike has this horrible killing spree - and that's when Buffy says she'll help him.

Piggies have a hard time at Sunnydale High. At least this one got away. Though if Jonathan's blood wasn't enough, why would a little piglet's be?

Buffy was disgusted by feeding Spike with a straw in Something Blue - look at her now.

How would Spike know Tucker? Or is he just nodding because he's had a hard day?

If what Spike says to Buffy is true (and I'm not sure - he wants her to kill him) then he's had a good teacher (named Angelus.) And yet, Buffy has gone from saying she would never trust him to saying "I believe in you."

The Watchers. Eh. Boom. Nice that they could bring some back for such small parts, though.

I think Spike is getting karma for skewering Angel. Though why would vampire blood work to open the seal?

Look! The return of Camden Toy!

Shimon said...

If it is true that Amber was "horrified at the idea of Warren being flayed and thought the show had gone too far" and this had something to do with her not appearing, then Cassie is actually telling Willow the truth when she explains why Tara couldn't come.....

Shimon said...

I also do agree that it would have been more powerful with Tara. However that moment with Willow "When she looks up, with tears tumbling down her cheeks and tries talking to “Tara,” who she believes is in the room with her" is more than just heartbreaking. I felt like I was intruding on the privacy of a very personal awkward moment. This particular aspect would have been lost if Tara herself were there.

Efthymia said...

"Conversations With Dead People":
- More love here for "Blue". After I first watched this episode, I went straight to google the lyrics and find out which song it was.
- The salsa song immediately reminded me of that heartbreaking scene of Buffy washing the dishes and crying in Season 5, and I wondered if it was the same song, but I guess if it was the great Nikki would know and have told us...
- "Did I fall asleep?": she said it so Dollhouse-like!
- Dead Joyce on the sofa (that short glimpse where she is exactly as Buffy found her) is one of the most spine-tingling, hair-raising, creepy things ever!
I think the Dawn scenes are the scariest in the episode in general. Who knew I would be praising scenes involving Dawn?
- "One time you died and I ended up a Mexican.": this is so funny and so sad at the same time.
- That seal in the high-school basement pictures a goat's head. Anyone know why the goat is associated with the devil/evil? I mean, goats are quite lovely and peaceful, so I really don't get this association.
- I hate how Jonathan died -that he died in general, but mostly how. It was such an unglorious death, and if he was to go anyway, I'd like it to have been more heroic.

- Spike WAS more fun when he didn't have a soul...
- MAJOR FREAK-OUT! Despite my pessimistic nature, I refuse to believe that something so bad might have happened to Giles. What LOST has taught me is to never believe someone is dead unless you actually see the body.

"Never Leave Me":
I realised that I couldn't pick out anything specific to comment on, things are absolutely crazy at this point!

Celia said...

Efthymia asks "Anyone know why the goat is associated with the devil/evil? I mean, goats are quite lovely and peaceful, so I really don't get this association."

I don't know if it's THE reason, but one reason is that when early Christianity started spreading across Europe, they took the pagan gods and goddesses and either reinvented them as saints (the pagan fertility goddess "Brigid" morphed into the Irish Saint Brigid) or "demonized" them. The Greco/Roman character of Pan, the goat-footed, goat-horned god of the wilderness, sheep-herding and sexuality got translated into the image of goat-footed, goat-horned Satan. Basically negative PR for the previous religion!

Quarks said...

This week really is the turning point in the season, and for me starting with ‘Sleeper’ the season starts to dip a bit. That’s not to say that the coming episodes are bad (I enjoyed ‘Never Leave Me’ this time around more than I did before), indeed there are some episodes soon which I really like, but personally I think the series loses something as Season 7 develops (although it starts to get it back towards the end). I’m still wary of accidentally giving spoilers so I won’t say any more now, but I think by next week it starts to become clear what the structure of the season is, and that is where my problems originate.

Having said that, ‘Conversations with Dead People’ is ‘Buffy’ at its best and is almost definitely one of my top 10 (although thinking about how many other awesome episodes there are, it’s hard to differentiate between the top 20 or so). My biggest problem with this episode is the fact that it is impossible to read anything about it without reading about how Amber Benson was supposed to return and Tara appear to Willow instead of Cassie. Of course, I understand why it is the case, and by talking about it here I am just as guilty, but it means that now when I watch the episode I find it hard to watch the Willow-Cassie scenes without thinking about what it would be like if Tara were there.

I’m still undecided as to whether or not it would have been better if it had been Tara. I certainly think that the scene would have been even more emotional than it was which I think for this episode would have made it better. However, considering the entire scene had to be rewritten I imagine that it was quite late in the day that it was discovered that Amber Benson wouldn’t be returning, and so I wonder how much that affected the scripts of the following episodes. If they weren’t changed that much because they had already been written then I would be slightly disappointed with how quickly Willow shrugged off her encounter with the First as Tara, as I think it would have had a much larger effect on her. Of course, it is entirely possible that I am thinking about this way too much, and you have to bear in mind that I know next to nothing about how the TV industry works.

Dawn’s segment is incredibly creepy and well done. It shows how much Dawn has evolved since she was introduced, and although I’m sure that many people still find her annoying, I like her in this season more than any other. She’s also become quite the fighter as we see in ‘Never Leave Me’ when the house is attacked.

Andrew and Jonathon’s segment is, like ‘Buffy’ itself, the right combination of drama and comedy. The interactions between the two are often hilarious, but the scene near the end with Jonathon missing high school is quite touching, and when Andrew stabs him it’s clearly a more serious turn.

Buffy’s segment is also very well scripted and filmed. Much like in Season 4 when it was only the outsiders to the gang who could see the secrets that were being kept and the tensions between them, it’s only someone outside of the Scoobies here who can see that not all is right with Buffy, and that she can talk to. It’s nice to explore some of the issues surrounding Buffy in this scene (by the way, is Psychology the only course that UC Sunnydale runs?) and some of the aspects of her character that cause them.

I’ve just realised that despite all that I said earlier about Willow’s segment I think I forgot to say that, regardless of whether or not it would have been better with Tara, I absolutely love the Willow scenes in this episode. Alyson Hannigan is an incredible actress, and she conveys the emotion that Willow is feeling perfectly. Furthermore, the dialogue is amazing and it really shows how much Willow still misses Tara.

Quarks said...


‘Sleeper’, on the other hand, I am not a particularly great fan of. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t get into the plot. Perhaps it’s because, aside from a small scene at the beginning and end in England, every scene of the episode focuses on whether or not Spike is killing again. Normally when we have an episode focused on one character there is some kind of background plot to break up the main storyline, but because that was missing I must admit I found myself getting a little bored. Perhaps it would have been better if some of the Andrew plot was moved to this episode. As it is, I clearly find it quite forgettable as everything which I attributed to ‘Sleeper’ in my head turned out to actually be part of ‘Never Leave Me’.

I enjoyed ‘Never Leave Me’ more than I thought I would, largely because I had forgotten how funny some of the Andrew scenes are. The pig killing scene is hilarious, and I love Xander and Anya’s interrogation of him. As I (sort of) said earlier, one of my favourite things about ‘Buffy’ is the ability to blend drama, emotion and comedy all together, which is done fairly successfully in this episode.

It’s also observable in this episode how, to a degree, Xander was right in ‘Selfless’ when he said “You know, if there's a mass-murdering demon that you're, oh, say, boning, then it's all grey area.” Despite the fact that Spike has killed several people, and is a demon, Buffy refuses to kill him, and I doubt anyone believes it is purely because he might be useful. You can also see how Xander is trying to not be hypocritical by completely staying away from the conversation, which is quite a change from the Xander from earlier seasons who would certainly make his opinion known.

Linked with this, I love Anya’s line: “Shouldn't we stab him through the chest? Isn't that what we do when these things happen?”

Overall, one fantastic episode, one not so good episode and one fairly good episode.

Christina B said...

I need someone to tell me that it's worth it to continue watching Angel because, seriously, I'm pretty much about to give up on it.

Dislike isn't a strong enough word for how I feel about this season so far.

Nikki Stafford said...

Keep watching, love. Season 5 will absolutely make up for season 4. I PROMISE.

Christina B said...

I have faith in you, Nikki. I'll grit my teeth and keep watching.

Let me explain a bit why I'm disliking this season so much--

Cordelia has come such a long way from the shallow, mean person she was in Buffy.

I've fallen in love with her character and I feel completely let down and betrayed with what the writers are doing to her this season with the horrible Connor/Cordy plot.

There was such potential with her half-demon side and her time as a higher being, and I really feel that they went in the completely wrong direction, making Cordy do something she would never, ever do.

This isn't the Cordy I love. This is some stranger that thinks sleeping with a child is a good idea.

Aside from that, I'm starting to hate the Gunn/Fred boo hoo stuff. Sheesh, break them up already.

Andif Wesley goes back to Lilah after finally ending it with her, I'll lose all respect for him!

Sheesh, I'm harsh today! ;)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I love Sleeper. Very Spikey, which by this point was pretty much why I was watching the show.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Keep watching, Christina. Even season four won't (totally) suck by the end.

Dusk said...

I won't break the spoiler rules here, but if it gets to be too much for any first-timers, post a question in the yahoo answers drama section about the whole Connor/Cordy thing, and I'll give a minimal outline of things not shown in the episodes yet.

This plot to this day is still vile to most fans, and I was brought into the fandom less then a year ago, and even I soon found out how hated this story is.

Suzanne said...

@Colleen, I also love Sleeper. In fact, I thought all of the episodes this week were great. Sleeper really had me on the edge of my seat even though this was second viewing. I adore the Spike character, so an episode completely focused on him is more than alright with me.

One thing that really bothers me about some of the characters' attitudes towards Spike even before this episode is that no one seems to properly realize what an amazing core spirit he must have to be able to chose to get a soul while still being fully possessed by the demon. Buffy seems to finally get it in this season, but you would think the others would be really amazed too.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

@Suzanne, I agree with you about how amazing Spike is in terms of his quest to regain his soul. To first choose to go through all of the necessary trials and then have to live with all the guilt of his past. He's amazing. Angelus never wanted his soul back and fought tooth and nail whenever he knew he might get his soul back. Jenny sure paid the price for that.

Missy said...

'Conversations with Dead People'

A very experimental episode,along the likes of 'OMWF' and 'Restless'.

And it comes through with the creepy.
The First is back and Badder than EVER!!;)
Being a Fan of Cassie I was fine with her being Willow's Faux Guide.
I also love the little nod to Scott Hope who is apparently gay now.


And Spike proves Holden Correct.
He's killing people and burying them all over the place.
The woman Spike meets at the Bronze and later kills on the stairs of her apartment was Kelly Donovan's GF at the time Stacey Scowley.
Aimee Mann ROCKS and is the only musical artist to get a line on BtVS.
And my favourite scene is Anya snooping and getting caught only to turn it into a potential sexcapade just to escape with her life .Lol

'Never Leave Me'

Is a GREAT episode
from Willow finding Andrew to Anya and Xander torturing Andrew for info to The First kidnapping Spike to Principle Wood burying Jonathan.

And sayonara Watcher's Council you won't be missed.
Hello Turok-han.

Missy said...

'Apocalypes Nowish'

I wish we could have warned the Newbies of this horrifying developement.
I spend this episode feeling bad for Angel he didn't deserve to see that ..actually we all didn't deserve to see that.ICK!!

'Habeas Corpses'

Well with the Watcher's Council gone it was looking shifty for the folk at Wolfram and Hart.
Thank God Lilah escaped.

The Beast made fast work or everyone at that company..but the Senior Partners a smart they had a Zombie Clause.Lol

'Long Day's Journey'

Gwen's back YAY!!
And The Beast is destroying totems of the Ra Tet
and we have mole in our group.
me thinks the nrewbies will be surprised.
Things are about to get crazy in L.A ;)

Missy said...

Oh and did everyone catch the dedication to Glenn Quinn at the end of Long Day's Journey?

Blam said...

Buffy 7.7 "Conversations with Dead People"

Andrew: "Everybody spoke Mexicoan."

Loud mariachi music on the radio = Horror film!

The song at the start sounds like it belongs in "OMWF". Lo and behold, as others have remarked here, Joss wrote it with singer Angie Hart — who contributed backing vocals to Tara's "Under Your Spell".

It's weird enough that the first (and I think only) episode in which Xander / Nick Brandon doesn't appear comes now, but it's also right when Jonathan, the only recurring cast member to date from Season 1 — we shouldn't count Spike's vision of the Master in 7.1, I don't think, and besides Jonathan appeared throughout the whole series — returns to die.

Notes from the DVD commentary...

Drew Goddard: "This is one of those episodes where every single thing went wrong, and it turned out better than any of us could have hoped, I think."

Goddard & Espenson are credited writers, but per the commentary (and Nikki's interview with Jane for Bite Me!) Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon also wrote segments. Joss wrote Buffy in the cemetery; Marti wrote Willow and "Cassandra" in the library; Jane wrote Dawn at the house with "Joyce"; Drew wrote Jonathan, Andrew and "Warren".

Nick Marck: "The song became the glue."

Jane on "Mother's milk is red today": "It's just one of those things where you type it, and then you read it — and go 'Holy crap."

Jane: "... [T]he fans are constantly asking me if Joyce, appearing in this episode, was really Joyce or was the First — and if she was the First, how could she be here and in the library with Willow. And ... the way I remember it was Joss said, yeah, they're all the First — not Holden, but [Cassandra] and Joyce, and it can simply be in more than one place at once."

Jane: "I had a line in the version where Dawn actually thought she'd brought [Joyce] back from the dead ... where Dawn says, 'They told me I couldn't bring someone back,' and Christine, Joyce, says 'Maybe I'm the first.'" [everyone oohs] "'Cause maybe she's the First."

VW: gesto — A vigorously noble and generous act.

Blam said...

Buffy 7.8 "Sleeper"

"Man, I hate playing vampire towns."
(I've been waiting the whole Rewatch for that line.)

Anya: "Let's... get it on, you... big bad boy."

Anya: "All I'm saying is soulless Spike would've had me upside-down and halfway to Happyland by now."
Spike: (pause) "I need my pants."

Has downtown Sunnydale ever been that busy?

Okay, Xander seems to have totally geek-bachelor'd up his apartment since Anya moved out, but you can only see the knick-knacks at night.

How the frak does The Bronze get Aimee Mann or Cibo Matto anyway? I mean, UC Sunnydale, maybe, but a little club in a small town with... it's... own airport and... a... now-you-see-it-now-you-don't waterfront? Never mind. Sunnydale just does not compute.

Buffy 7.9 "Never Leave Me"

'Warren': "You know the deal: I can't take corporeal form. ... Pretty bitchin', right? I'm like Obi-Wan."
Andrew: (dreamily) "Or Patrick Swayze."

Xander: "What're you doin' back in town?"
Andrew: "You'll get nothin' outta me, carpenter."

Nikki (in print): It's safe to say that few tears were shed by viewers watching this episode when the Council went boom.

Especially because the "special effects" were so laughable. It looked like they just superimposed the explosion on the film of the building.

VW: merfloth — What a lisping sea siren uses for oral hygiene.

Blam said...

Angel 4.7 "Apocalypse, Nowish"

So the attempted pregnancy-hiding begins. "Hi. I'm Cordelia, and I'm chilly, which is why I'm wrapped in this thick fuzzy blanket — but never fear, my plunging neckline shall remain exposed to showcase the inflation of my already considerable endowments. You're welcome."

Lorne: "Do we fight snakes?"
Angel: "Only if they're giant... or demons — or giant demons. (excited) Are they giant demon snakes?"

Angel: "You think I should keep these alphabetical or rearrange them by how much damage they inflict?"

Was higher-being Cordelia specifically assigned to monitor all of Angel's history? If she was omniscient she should know a whole heck of a lot of other stuff.

Angel 4.8 "Habeas Corpses"

Lilah: "How hard can it be to find a giant...horned... thing?"

Wesley: "She bit you?"
Gunn: "You worried I'm gonna turn into one of those mindless meatbags?"
Wesley: "No, I don't think it works that way here."
Gunn: "Good to know — but if it is, don't let me be one for long."
Wesley: (nods) "You'll do the same for me?"
Gunn: "Oh yeah."

Angel 4.9 "Long Day's Journey"

Fred: "'The answer is among you.' Have I mentioned I hate cryptic messages?"

Ooh! The Ra-Tet! I love their Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.

Manny: "An' it's not just killin' us, either. There's props, and a ritual, and a thing, and a — pfff. Suffice to say, it ain't easy."

Manny: "For example, I'm immortal — unless I'm ritually murdered, of course."

Blam said...

Nikki: Angel was visited by ghosts of people he’d killed, and he went up on the hill to kill himself when the daylight would come, but Buffy talked him out of it before a miracle occurred and the sun didn’t show its face. That was the First playing with Angel’s head.

It was? it wasn't the Powers That Be (which I know haven't actually been mentioned on Buffy)? It wasn't something good up there giving them a break?

Nikki: I love Alyson Hannigan on How I Met Your Mother

You finally starting watching it? Huzzah! I hope you went back to the beginning (not an intentional Buffy reference). I told you: flashbacks, flashforwards, alternate timelines — right up your alley. I really like it.

Marebabe: [W]hy did no one point out that it would also turn the Earth into a lifeless ice cube?

For one thing, it's supernatural, so nobody can be sure of what the rules are. And we do hear that it begins over LA before spreading out across the surrounding area — eventually, the world, but until then it has to be mystical because the sun-blotting will always be consistent with Los Angeles no matter the rotation or revolution of the Earth.

Page 48: I would NOT have found Tara's appearance painful at all. I don't get that. I think it's kinda nice that, even though Joyce is dead, she still shows up from time to time.

Joyce has appeared often enough — as a memory, a vision, a dream — that it is nice to see her, but also somewhat expected even though it's a special event. I can see just as much fan outcry over the fact, had Amber Benson been in the episode, that Tara's last appearance would be as a manifestation of evil. Far from bringing closure it could have been even more painful than her sudden death. Willow convinced that she can feel Tara's presence in the library but is somehow unworthy of actually seeing her is devastating, all power to Alyson Hannigan.

Colleen: I love Aimee Mann. I bought her Lost In Space album to get the songs in Sleeper, and later got artist Seth to sign it. :)

Neat! That was gallant of him. ;^ )

Efthymia: Anyone know why the goat is associated with the devil/evil?

Like Celia, I think that it has something to do with depictions of the Devil being drawn from depictions of the mischievous Pan in Greek myth — and perhaps with cloven hooves signaling an unclean (trayf, non-kosher) animal in Judaism; to whatever extent goats are or aren't menacing, pigs are even less so.

VW: uncheri — Ms. Oteri's standing reservation for a party of one in an exclusive Paris bistro.