Previously: Joyce tried to help, but she tried to help the wrong team. Also, Amy got turned into a rat.
Kirsti: We open at the mansion to candles, a picnic, and the Flutes of Lurve. Ten seconds later, we hear fighting, and the camera pans out to reveal Buffy and Angel going at it. NOT LIKE THAT. They’re sparring. Which seems like a terrible plan when vampires are so flammable and there are candles AND an open fire nearby…
Lorraine: Even though all the subtext and grunting and sweating are weird, I will say there are some fantastic moves here, including a sweep kick that sends Angel spinning. It was cool to look at. JEEZ YOU GUYS. NOT LIKE THAT.
K: ANYWAY. Buffy grabs a French bread stick from the picnic, and fake stakes Angel with it. “Satisfied?” she says, and #awkwardAngelboner because she’s straddling him and NO HAPPINESS ALLOWED. There’s some awkward conversation about not having personal satisfaction, and Angel asks Buffy if he’ll see her this weekend, on account of it’s her birthday. She says that she has a thing, and he not at all smoothly asks if it’s a date. “Actually, I do have a date. Older man. Very handsome. Likes it when I call him Daddy“, she replies, and EW. Yes, it’s with her father, but there is no way in hell I would ever word it like that.(L: +1) Apparently he’s taking her to the ice show.
Sweeney: I got way excited because this is also where a favorite reaction gif comes from, except for the fact that there aren’t nearly enough occasions to use it. SO I’LL USE IT NOW BECAUSE I CAN:
K: BAHAHAHAHAHA. Perfection.
We cut to the Wiggins Library, where Giles is waving weird crystals in front of Buffy and asking her to identify the type of crystal and what you use them for. I’m going to tangent into “this seems like stuff a Slayer doesn’t need to know,” because REALLY?? Aaaaand I just snorted water out of my nose because Giles referred to what they’re doing as “studying vibratory stones.”
Sweeney: He’s really not good at avoiding the seeming inappropriateness of their relationship to the outside world.
K: Not even. Anyway, apparently it’s part of Buffy’s training, but she wants no part of it because Faith’s gone walkabout, and someone needs to patrol, dammit! When Giles says that he’d like at least one of them to have proper training, Buffy says “I hate being the good one.” Aww. Life is hard. Giles asks why she’s so keen to patrol, and apparently she has post-Angel energy to burn off.
Lor: There’s a “grab a vibratory stone” joke in here, and I think I just made it.
K: Thank you for always making the tasteless jokes, Lor. I love you for it.
Cut to the park, where she’s fighting a vampire. It’s all business as usual until she’s about to go for the staking. Suddenly she gets all dizzy-looking and sways a little. The vampire gets the jump on her, and starts pushing the stake towards her chest. She’s terrified and powerless and ROLL CREDITS.
Just as the stake is about to go into her chest, Buffy headbutts the vampire before slapping him in the face. He falls back, and in his attempts to hurl himself on top of her again, he lands heart first on her stake. Because apparently vampires are even more stupid than you’d think.
At school the next day, Buffy’s throwing knives in the Wiggins Library. “Giles, something’s wrong,” she says, and we pan across to the target to see that every single knife has missed the target completely. Also, Buffy’s wearing long sleeves and some kind of weird scarf that seems to be attached to her jumper, so I’m gonna go with a big fat “UH HUH” of agreement on something being wrong.
Lor: I was mostly offended by her hair, which came up from the back like two hair-sculpted antennas. Stop it.
Sweeney: THEY’RE HELD UP BY BUTTERFLY CLIPS. I was obsessed with those things in ’99 but then, I was 11 and shopped at Limited Too.
K: I used to try doing my hair like that back in the day, but it was shorter, so I just ended up looking like a cockatoo with its crest up. Klassy. Buffy’s having a wiggins, but Giles seems only marginally concerned. He suggests that she’s sick, and that she take it easy. She’s all “NOPE. TRAIN HARDER”. That lasts all of thirty seconds – a misthrown knife breaks a lamp, and she flees for the exit. At lunch with the gang, Buffy fangirls about going to the ice show. Xander’s all pro-party in honour of Buffy’s birthday, but after last year’s birthday involved a surprise party and her vagina breaking her boyfriend, she’s not having a bar of it.
Sweeney: If only the gang would catch on and recognize that Buffy birthdays are not such a great idea.
K: At home that night, Buffy enters the kitchen to find a giant arrangement of flowers and a happy birthday balloon. It’s from her dad – he can’t make it to the ice show, and has sent her the tickets so she can go with someone else. Joyce offers to take time off from the gallery to take her, but Buffy tears up and leaves the room. I’m gonna go ahead and say that Hank Summers has now replaced Joyce as the ultimate negligent parent, and that the opposite of the should now be named after Hank. What say ye, Traumateers?
Lor: There is so much competition in the Negligent Parent arena. Hank is going to have some competition, mostly in the form of Goosebumps parents…
Sweeney: It’s true. Absentee non-parenting is a slightly different thing than the genuine negligent parenting of epic proportions in R. L. Stine’s books.
K: Seeing as how I know the future and all, I’m not sure that there’s any competition for this title. Hank wins hands down.
We cut to an abandoned old hotel called the Sunnydale Arms. Knowing Sunnydale, this place could literally contains arms. Of either variety! Anyway, the Synthesier of Creepiness plays, as we pan inside and see a man on a ladder bricking up the windows. A man in a suit enters and inspects his work. A man in a dirty apron enters, and Suit Man asks him in an English accent how long it will be until they’re ready. Another five or six hours, apparently. They stare at a large wooden crate with heavy locks on it, and Suit Man says “The Slayer’s preparation is nearly complete.”
With that, we’re back at the Wiggins Library where Buffy is trying to persuade Giles to go to the ice show with her.
Lor: It’s kind of heartbreaking. She insists it’s the type of show you’d take a daughter, or student or slayer to. I can’t help but feel that Buffy sees herself as all these things.
Sweeney: This was a brutal moment to be feeling Buffy’s feels.
K: Truth. He wants her instead to stare at a big blue crystal, looking for the flaw in its centre. The camera zooms in on the flaw, then out again to show that Buffy is now in some kind of trance state. Giles pulls a freaking big syringe out of his bag, rolls up Buffy’s sleeve, and injects her with a mysterious liquid that looks scarily like pee.
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN.
Lor: WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK YOU GUYS? I am sad and alone in my inability to see the future.
K: At school the next morning, WHAT THE FUCK IS WILLOW WEARING, YOU GUYS?
Lor: She looks like she could have an after school job at some place with “pollo” in the name.
K: And based on those tights, she’d be the one out the front dressed up as a chicken. I can’t even. Anyway, some random is getting all up in Cordy’s face about standing him up at the Bronze. Cordy tries to leave, and he grabs her and pins her against a tree. Buffy’s all “Oh, HELL NO”, but when she grabs his arm, she can’t move him at all. He knocks her back, and she falls over a bench and lands heavily on the ground.
Lor: Cordelia amazingly takes the lead with a nice round of sissy punches.
Sweeney: A+ Cordelia moment. GET IT, GIRL.
K: Cut to Buffy running up to Giles in the corridor. She’s even more wigged out that she was the day before, but Giles is non-committal and vague. But he gives Buffy his word that they’ll get to the bottom of things.
Over at the Sunnydale Arms, Giles is having tea with Suit Man. Apparently the whole powerless Slayer thing is some kind of initiation rite – when the Slayer turns 18, she must undergo Cruciamentum. In case your Latin is rusty, it means torture or torment. (As does Crucio, for the Potter fans amongst us) Suit Man argues that it’s a time honoured thing that’s been in place for 1200 years. Giles, on the other hand, calls it “An archaic exercise in cruelty“. Suit Man (who’s from the Watchers’ Council) argues that the Slayer needs to have cunning as well as strength, and that when it’s over Buffy will be stronger for it. Giles remains unconvinced. After he leaves, a man starts screaming.
Suit Man’s minion-y types head inside and unlock the big wooden crate. Inside is a vampire in a straight jacket, strapped to the back of the crate. One minion picks up a spoon with a metre-long handle, dumps a pill into it, and holds it out to the vampire, whose name is Kralik. The other minion does the same with a glass of water, then Suit Man orders them to lock the crate back up.
Back at the Wiggins Library, the gang are in research mode. Xander suggests that maybe they should be on the hunt for Slayer kryptonite. I’m gonna go ahead and put in the full conversation that follows, because this is totally the kind of conversation I have with my friends at uni, except about Doctor Who and sonic screwdrivers:
Oz: Faulty metaphor. Kryptonite kills.
Xander: You’re assuming I meant the green kryptonite. I was referring, of course, to the red kryptonite, which drains Superman of his powers.
Oz: Wrong. The gold kryptonite’s the power-sucker. The red kryptonite mutates Superman into some sort of weird…
Buffy: Guys? Reality?
Lor: My source for all things Superman is Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, because I’m not-s0-secretly in love with 90’s Dean Cain. There’s a tag dedicated to it on my blog. ANYWAYS. On the show, red kryptonite made him apathetic. Just, FYI.
K: Good to know, seeing as I never watched Lois and Clark!
Back at the Creepy Hotel, the minion-y types are changing napping shift when Kralik starts screaming again. One minion goes to check it out. Kralik demands pills, and when the minion goes to get them, he strains, ripping out of the straight jacket. The minion returns and offers him pills on the stupidly long spoon, but Kralik – who has his eyes shut in apparent pain – claims to have no idea where they are. The minion steps closer, and Kralik grabs him by the neck.
Over at the mansion, Buffy’s unwrapping a birthday present from Angel. It’s a book of sonnets, and she seems less than thrilled. Angel picks up on her not-thrilled-ness, saying “Then why’d you seem more excited last year when you got a severed arm in a box?” She blames it on feeling wiggy about being powerless. Angel gives her a pep talk, but Buffy’s concerned about going back to pre-Slayer Cordelia-esque Buffy. Somehow, it descends from “what do I do if I’m not the Slayer?” into your bog standard YA book as the Flutes of Lurve strike up again:
Buffy: Angel, if I’m not the Slayer, what do I do? What do I have to offer? Why would you like me?
Angel: I saw you before you became the Slayer.
Angel: I watched you, and I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. You walked down the steps… and… and I loved you.
Angel: Cause I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe… to warm it with my own.
Buffy: That’s beautiful. Or taken literally, incredibly gross.
Angel: I was just thinking that, too.
Thank you, Joss Whedon, for redeeming yourself at the end of that schmaltz. #TeamHeartlessCow4Lyfe
Over at the Creepy Hotel, the minion has been turned into a vampire in a moment of Whedon-can’t-be-bothered-being-consistent-with-his-how-long-it-takes-to-become-a-vampire-timeline. Seriously. Some people? They’re at the funeral home for days, get buried, THEN become vampires. This dude? Like ten minutes.
Lor: YES. Also, homeboy has one hand free. How exactly did the minion drink his blood?
K: MAGIC. OBVS. Anyway, Minion Vamp picks up a fire axe and breaks Kralik free from the metal bindings. Kralik says that they’re still going to play the game. Just not by the Council’s rules…
After the Not Ad Break, Giles is walking into the Creepy Hotel. He looks around for the Council dudes, and instead finds blood. Being a resourceful chap, he breaks off part of a window frame into a stake, and heads for the wooden crate. When he finds it empty, he looks concerned, then follows a blood trail on the floor to find a dead minion. It’s apparently pretty gruesome because he runs for the exit with a hand over his mouth.
Across town, Buffy – in a red coat – is walking home in the dark. A couple of dudes in their 30s ask for a lap dance, which is super creepy and seems more like something that should have happened to her way back in episode 1, when she was in LA. I mean, Sunnydale has a population of 20,000 people (according to the sign on the way into town that Spike keeps driving into). If these dudes like to hang around in the streets after dark, surely they’d have seen Buffy kicking some vampire arse?!
Sweeney: If we’ve learned anything about Sunnydale it’s that a Hellmouth is essentially an underground contrivance mechanism.
K: Good point. She’s having a wiggins about being a weak little girly girl out after dark, and wishes that she’d asked Angel to walk her home.
She hears a guy humming, and then smacks face first into Kralik. She screams for help and runs, leaving him holding her red coat. She encounters various obstacles that would usually present no problems to emphasise just how helpless she is.
Lor: Mostly, she looks a lot like I would look like trying to climb a fence.
K: Right there with you. Just as Minion Vamp is about to grab her, Giles pulls up. She jumps in and they drive off.
Back at the Wiggins Library, Buffy is crying, wrapped in a blanket, and telling Giles all about her super extreme feebleness. He shows her the syringe and pee coloured liquid, and tells her that she’ll be back to normal in a few days. Buffy is visibly hurt that Giles – her surrogate father – would do such a thing. He tells her that it’s a test, and that Kralik was, before he was turned, a psychopath who killed a dozen women before being committed to an asylum. AWESOME CHOICE, WATCHER’S COUNCIL. Buffy, meanwhile, is focusing on the whole lying father figure thing (understandably) and is ugly crying:
Buffy: You bastard. All this time, you saw what it was doing to me. All this time, and you didn’t say a word!
Giles: I wanted to.
Giles: In matters of tradition and protocol, I must answer to the Council. My role in this… was very specific. I was to administer the injections and to direct you to the old boardinghouse on Prescott Lane.
Buffy: I can’t… I can’t hear this.
Giles: Buffy, please.
Buffy: Who are you? How could you do this to me?
Giles: I am deeply sorry, Buffy, and you have to understand…
Buffy: If you touch me, I’ll kill you.
Happy birthday, Buff. Betrayed by both your father figures in one day.
Lor: The scene is heartbreaking. I know Buffy often says she wants a normal life, but maybe she never understood what that meant. I once, long ago mentioned how awesome it must be to walk around, knowing that you can take care of yourself. To have that stripped away, and as a betrayal by the one person you’ve consistently counted on? Ouch.
Sweeney: This. It’s one thing to navigate the world based on your known strengths and weaknesses, but to suddenly find yourself robbed of that strength by way of betrayal is horrifying. SMG has a habit of overacting some of B’s more dramatic scenes, but this one felt far more honest, perhaps in part because of alltheepicfeels; it’s hard to overdo that.
K: Giles says that the test is invalid now that he’s told her about it, and that he’ll take care of Kralik. Cordelia enters, takes one look at Buffy’s face and asks if the world is ending. Buffy basically tells Giles that he’s dead to her, and asks Cordy for a ride home.
Lor: A+ to Cordy who just immediately says yes. I loved her in that second.
Sweeney: It’s interesting that in an episode where Buffy takes a stab at her, Cordelia is consistently awesome, and assisting Buffy with that awesome. Well played, Whedon.
K: So much. Cut to the Summers residence. Joyce hears a noise outside, and follows it to the porch. Kralik is lying there wrapped in Buffy’s red coat.
Buffy comes home to an empty house. She pushes the bouquet of flowers from her dad into the rubbish bin (YES, LOR. RUBBISH BIN) (L: LOL.) and walks towards the front of the house. The front door is open, and a polaroid of Kralik holding Joyce by the throat is stuck to the doorframe. Buffy immediately heads upstairs. She packs a bag of Slayer supplies, which she can barely lift, and slips a bottle of holy water into the pocket of the Overalls of Overall Sadness.
Lor: It’s a nice little touch there. No Ass Kicking Trench Coat today, folks. I mean, if you can overlook the fact that she took time to change and re-comb her hair.
K: Over at the Creepy Hotel, Joyce is tied to a chair with a gag in her mouth as Kralik takes polaroids of her. He spills his entire plan, as bad guys are so prone to doing – he’s going to turn Buffy into a vampire, and then have her eat Joyce. Meanwhile, Buffy is walking in the front door with her trusty crossbow ready. She props the door open with a stake, and heads towards a door as the obligatory spooky music starts playing. Just then, a hand reaches out and pulls the stake from the door, which promptly slams. Buffy hides in the shadows as Minion Vamp looks around.
Back in the Wiggins Library, Giles is cranky with Suit Man and his “perfectly controlled test.” Suit Man tells Giles that the test has already begun because Buffy has entered the field of battle. At that, Giles shoves Suit Man to one side and heads off to save his Slayer. Meanwhile, Buffy and her crossbow are on the prowl. Minion Vamp growls behind her and she spins, firing the crossbow and missing by a mile. He grabs her round the neck, and she embraces the Gracie Hart approach to fighting:
Somehow, she manages to pull a bookshelf over on him, then beats him over the head with…a book?? I honestly have no idea. Meanwhile, Kralik is on the prowl, whispering to her. He grabs her around the neck, but she holds him off with a teeny tiny crucifix. This works for a second, but on account of him being crazy and all, he grabs it and holds it to his chest before pushing her hand and the crucifix down, and…you know what? This whole episode is kind of a giant ball of “girls are helpless and guys can be kind of rapey.” Gross.
Sweeney: I’d really like us to cover less rapey things on Snark Squad. We need to work on a rapey vetting process.
K: Buffy hides in the kitchen, which contains the Mangled Dead Minion.
Lor: Slayer strengthless or not, I love that she doesn’t seem to even flinch at the sight. Meanwhile, Ripper got all gaggy.
K: To steal an idea from a very early episode, a Slayer slays and a Watcher watches. Homegirl never flinches.
When Kralik stops banging on the door, she makes a run for the stairs. But he’s waiting underneath and grabs her legs. She breaks free, and runs upstairs, hiding in a dark room. She turns on the light to find that the walls are covered in polaroids of Joyce. It reminds me of Memento, which probably isn’t good for anyone concerned. Kralik breaks through the wall, and Buffy makes a run for it again. But he catches up and overpowers her. Just as he’s about to drain her blood, he starts grabbing his head in pain. Apparently it’s time for more pills. Buffy grabs the pill bottle from him and dives down the laundry chute, landing in yet another Basement of Don’t Go In There next to a tied up Joyce. Kralik runs in and grabs the pills from her. He goes for a nearby glass of water, and swallows the pills with relief. He starts to lecture Buffy about her place in the game before stopping dead in his tracks and saying “Oh my.” I giggle hysterically for fairly obvious reasons.
K: Kralik thinks Buffy’s done something to his pills. But LOL, NOPE. She filled up his glass with the holy water that she shoved in the pocket of her Overalls of Sadness. Pockets: They’re important to have, kids.
“If I were at full Slayer power, I’d be punning right about now,” Buffy says as he turns to dust. I love that her punning power and her superstrength go hand in hand, I really do.
K: She goes to untie Joyce, and Minion Vamp appears behind her. But luckily Giles has arrived and takes care of Minion Vamp. Cut back to the Wiggins Library, where Suit Man is telling Buffy that she’s passed the test. “Do I get a gold star?” she asks. She’s super cranky with him, and rightly so. Suit Man then tells Giles that Buffy may have passed the test, but he failed, and is fired because his fatherly love for Buffy makes him ,”useless to the cause“. Buffy tears up at that, until Suit Man congratulates her. “Bite me,” she sneers, and it’s freaking awesome.
She puts her hand to her head and cringes as she touches her cut. Giles comes over and takes a cloth from her, and begins to dab her cut as the Flutes of Sadness strike up. All is forgiven between them.
Sweeney: Forgiveness isn’t one of Buffy’s major strengths but that’s an awful lot to forgive so quickly. I get why, but that still seems like a big thing for her.
K: Agreed. At the Summers’ house the next day, all the Scoobies (minus Giles) are making sandwiches in the kitchen. Willow’s freaking out about Giles being fired, and holy hell, I’m pretty sure she stole this from The Cat in the Hat:
Anyway, Buffy says that at least she got to keep up her birthday tradition of epic suckitude, and then struggles to open a jar of peanut butter. “Give you a hand with that, little lady?” Xander says, and I briefly want to punch him before he too is unable to open the jar. As we fade to black, we hear him say “Uh, Will? Give me a hand with that?” and HAHAHAHAHA.
Lor: Wait, you guys, Giles is FIRED? WHAT THE HELL?
K: Fired as Watcher, Lor. Not as librarian. It’ll be okay.
Lor: This means a new watcher, though, doesn’t it? Damn it.
Next time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Watch Sweeney go insane as she has to cover a Xander-centric episode! Find out if she survives with her sanity intact when we cover BtVS S03 E13 – The Zeppo.