Previously: Tara was amazing. Everything else that happened is too horrible to talk about.
Older and Far Away
Lorraine: Buffy is packing up a Slayer Bag-o-Tricks as she fills us in by way of conversation with Dawn that she’s running out mid-dinner to go track down some non-vampire beastie. Dawn is gamely saying everything is fine, but her tight smile and stiff body language say otherwise. Dawn says that perhaps they can set-up for Buffy’s birthday
trauma party the next day when she gets back, but B tells her not to wait up.
I wonder how she got word of this baddie, mid-dinner. Bat signal? Also, no, I do not like this flippy hair thing.
Kirsti: Me neither. I was on board with it when she cut it short, but now it just keeps getting more and more flippy, and I think we need to hold an intervention… Also, BRB, HAVING DAWN FEELS.
Sweeney: Hair Flippervention!
Lor: Graveyard. Buffy patrols and a red faced demon sneaks up behind her. Speaking of hair interventions, this thing appears to have an 80’s ponytail that he’s crimped like woah. They fight a bit, and despite the demon’s ability to disappear, Buffy is able to stab him. The Crimped Ponytail Demon turns into Alex Mac goo (remember this episode with Alex Mac goo? So long ago.) and decides to hang out in his sword. Buffy doesn’t notice, so she’s all, “SHINY SWORD!”
At the Magic Box, Xander awkwards his way into asking Willow if it’s okay if Tara comes to the party because Buffy really wants her there. Willow gives a, “sure! That’s fine!” that’s about as convincing as Dawn’s from the teaser. Speak of the devil, Dawn comes in, and fills everyone in on Buffy’s demon hunting. She asks if anyone wants to go to the mall with her, but they are all too busy doing valid adult things, and not realizing how hurt and alone Dawn is right now. SOMEONE JUST GO TO THE MALL WITH HER.
No one listens to me. Dawn sads away.
K: I’m going to quote directly from my notes at this point – “I just want to hug poor neglected klepto Dawn 5-eva. She clearly needs it.”
Sweeney: AGREED. Dawn, I hate the mall, but I’ll go with you.
Lor: Later, at Chez Summers, Dawn comes home to an empty house. She runs up to her room and empties her pockets of some stolen loot. She’s also wearing a stolen leather jacket and the Tinkly Piano makes sure we are well aware that this is both a bad and sad development.
The next day, Dawn’s at school, when she’s called out of class and into the guidance office. The new guidance counselor is following up with Dawn, after her loss. Dawn says it’s all fine, and that although that people have a tendency to abandon her in one way or another, it’s totes no big deal!
The doorbell rings, and it’s Tara. Buffy and Tara hug and greet each other in a manner that makes me remember that sometimes watching Buffy isn’t a life ruining experience. I’m mostly joking.
Tara asks Buffy how she’s doing and she says she’s totally fine! but quickly amends that sometimes she’s okay. Tara asks if Spike’s coming, but Buffy says he doesn’t play well with others and that she’s still firmly in the closet when it comes to that relationship. Their catching up is interrupted by Willow coming downstairs and Buffy using that as her clue to fake having an elsewhere to be.
Those two awkwardly (K: But adorably!) catch up and seriously, I’m proud of myself for picking this up so early on (GOOD TV!) but between them they say they are fine six times. Tara excuses herself to the kitchen.
Once there, the party just keeps getting crazier as Spike shows up with a shiner, a six-pack and Clem, who we met during the kitten poker scene. I’d question Spike still having a black eye but that would mean remembering things that happened in the last episode, and NO THANKS. I’M FINE. LET’S MOVE ON.
Spike heard about the party from Willow and figured the more the merrier.
K: DICK MOVE, SPIKE. DICK. MOVE.
Lor: On that note, Xander walks in with a blond, tall fella who he introduces as Richard. Xander throws them together by asking Buffy to show him where to park his car. They walk out, Dick only pausing to ask WTF is up with Clem. “Skin condition.”
Spike is already jealous.
God bless Tara for messing with Spike. It’s adorable, on her end, even if antagonizing Spike is probably isn’t the best idea.
K: Yeah, but the chip only doesn’t work on Buffy, so Tara’s totally fine if she pisses him off. I love it when she wears her sassy pants. And I love Clem.
Sweeney: Sassy Tara is totally a season 6 highlight. MOAR SASSY TARA, PLZ.
Lor: Dawn is anxious for Buffy to open her gifts but Anya says B’s busy getting to know Richard. Dawn knows what she means, since she heard them talking about setting those two up, but Anya babies and condescends to her.
Buffy and Spike find each other in the hallway, and he asks if she wants to blow out his candles. I throw up in my mouth a little. Buffy says not here and not now, and Spike makes jealous comments about Richard, which B calls him out on. He huffs and mumbles after she walks away about how he’s totally not jealous.
Later, Buffy is finally opening gifts. She gets a portable back massager from Willow, and Spike gives Buffy an eyebrow raise that makes her put that aside and move on.
K: I feel the need to point out that Spike’s eyebrow raise is less to do with the gift and more to do with the fact that Willow says the gift is “instant gratification for all your little achies!” Also, back massagers will forever remind me of this:
And if you don’t know what that’s from, I’m not sure we can be friends any more…|
Lor: It was nice knowing you?
The next gift is the stolen leather jacket from Dawn, which she loves. Buffy notices that the security tag is still on it, and Dawn feigns surprise.
Next, Xander comes out with his gift which is a beautiful chest he made for her to keep weapons in. Buffy loves it, but Dawn is sad that her gift was so quickly pushed aside. The doorbell rings again, and this time it’s Sophie, Buffy’s work friend who walks in and tells everyone all about her food allergies. Right. Buffy asks Dawn to shut the door, and she walks over and does so sadly. Lately, all of Dawn’s actions are sad. Out on the porch, someone walks into the frame from the shadows and IT’S THE GUIDANCE COUNSELOR WHO IS HALFREK. I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED THAT! Seriously, I was looking at gifs at the beginning of this episode too and I still missed it. Halfrek puts her demon face on and says, “wish granted.”
Sweeney: Moments like this are the best part of having a Snow when we recap a series. They get fewer and farther between at this point, because you’re on your 6th season of this show and also recap all the things, so, again, GOOD TV. Still, they’re fun when they happen because I didn’t realize (though I probably had the same reaction) that this was even a big surprise reveal. YOU HELP KEEP THE MAGIC ALIVE, LOR SNOW.
Lor: A highlight of knowing nothing.
Inside, people are dancing and having fun. Richard finds Buffy and makes some small talk about having fun and wanting to get her a soda. Spike appears behind them. Buffy turns down the drink and says she’s going to head back into the party. Spike promptly teases Buffy in a matter befitting a 12 year old. He grabs her, Buffy says stop, he goes after again anyhow, bile rises into my throat, etc. Part of the problem with this season for me is that I could copy paste that last sentence at least once per episode and there is no end in sight. WE GET IT.
Anyway, Tara catches them as Spike is leading Buffy’s hand to his crotch. Buffy pulls away and leaves.
Sassy Pants, ladies and gents.
K: The amount of sass that she crams into a single word – “Right” – is phenomenal.
Lor: Anya and Xander argue mushily about which of them should go on a beer run. Willow’s all, “shut up. I’ll go,” but when it’s time to actually get with the going, all she can manage is to put her head down on the table. Oh, girl. Been there.
We cut to Dawn, Buffy, Richard and Anya playing Monopoly in the living room. Buffy says she’s out of the game, but the others encourage her to stick it out as they’ve been playing it for such a long time. Dawn excitedly says that it should be a slumber party, and Spike double entendres the joke, setting Sassy Pants off again.
Sweeney: MANY BROKEN RECORDS BECAUSE WE DON’T GIVE A FUCK. We want to adopt Tara as Snark Lady.
Lor: The next morning, everyone is still hanging out. Everyone but Buffy and Spike is watching cartoons. Richards tells Xander that they need to get going or else they’ll be later for work. He wonders why he isn’t leaving, and Spike passive aggressives stuff about wanting to eat Richard. Buffy grabs Spike and pulls him into the foyer, telling him to calm the heck down. They argue. I don’t care.
In the kitchen, Willow and Tara discuss how they both want to leave, but they also don’t want to leave. In the foyer, Buffy and Spike come to the same conclusion when Buffy tries to storm out and can’t.
In the living room now, the whole party has gathered, and Buffy says that something is keeping them in the house. GUYS. GUYS. I JUST GOT IT. The “wish granted,” and Dawn saying she wanted people to stop leaving! Wow. That took me a second because (1) – the Crimped Ponytail demon was misdirection and (2) – I set myself up with very low expectations when I started this episode. Basically, “try not to throw up!” which is apparently hampering my observation and critical thinking game. On the bright side, I haven’t thrown up much.
Sweeney: I love you. Good job not throwing up!
Lor: The gang all freaks about where they have to be, and Dawn says that she gets that being trapped with her all day would be miserable. Willow non-helps with, “It’s just, we have more important things to do.” Dawn runs off upstairs and they all follow because somehow confronting her five on one seemed like a good idea.
Sweeney: Less loving them right now. REALLY GUYS? REALLY?
Lor: They ask over and over again if she did anything to trap them all in the house and she insists that she didn’t and that she wishes she had, as this is the only way they will spend time with her. Buffy tries to reply to that, but Dawn bites back that she doesn’t want to spend time with them, and they need to get out. She squeal-yells and they all leave.
Downstairs, Anya guesses that Dawn is possessed but Xander identifies this as, “teenager.” Tara announces that the phones are all off. Buffy says Dawn is so angry, and Tara replies that they all went through that. No one seems to acknowledge Dawn’s very real and very serious accusations that NO ONE IS TAKING CARE OF HER. I mean, they have the food and shelter basics covered, but attention is sorely lacking. Buffy wonders why Dawn didn’t come to her and Xander gently points out that she has been busy lately.
Spike cuts off the feelings and says they have to find a way out of the house. Buffy suggests magic to Tara, but Xander points out that Willow is sitting right there. Tara says she’ll do the spell, but she has no supplies. Willow confesses that she kept a supply or two, “just in case.” Tara sighs loudly as she tells Willow to just get the supplies.
K: The disappointed look on her face made me sad panda.
Lor: Tara gets to the magic making in the kitchen while Spike, Anya and Willow stand in front of the door. Richard is being the token skeptical, confused human. Tara lights her magic concoction on fire, and pink-ish smoke comes out of it and heads over to the sword with the trapped Crimped Ponytail Demon in it. He leaks out, in Alex Mack Goo form. Spike tries the door again, but finds he still can’t leave.
Crimped Ponytail Demon starts waving his sword around and stabs Richard before he melts away. Buffy tries to be positive and say that they will be out soon.
Cut to night time. Spike jokingly asks if she’s ever thought about not celebrating her birthday. (S: Legit question.) The walls are groaning and making nefarious noises.
Anya and Xander are sitting together in a dark room, and Anya is having a panic attack, thinking about Richard dying and being trapped like animals. Xander calms her down and reassures that they will get through this. Xander offers to get her some water and leaves.
The walls keep creaking. I think I’d beat whatever this spell is by sheer force of will at this point. CREAKING WALLS ARE THE WORST.
Crimped Ponytail appears out of a wall behind Xander and holds a sword to him. He screams and I’m struck by the feeling that we haven’t heard Xander straight up scream very much, huh? He’s kind of bad at it. Spike and Buffy come to help fight the demon off, but not very effectively and not before it takes a swipe at Xander’s arm.
Buffy checks to see if Dawn is okay, but she just asks, “do you care?” Buffy doesn’t take the bait and leaves, but Dawn follows. She tells her sister that she didn’t mean for this to happen. She says that Buffy has no idea what it feels like to be alone. Buffy replies that she isn’t alone, and Dawn asks, “then why do I feel this way?”
Sister feels break!
Everyone else is in the dining room. Tara says that they haven’t thought of the right way to get out yet (obvs), but that she’s tried every spell. Anya says that isn’t true and looks pointedly at Willow. OH, SHIT. THIS IS ABOUT TO GET DIRTY. Anya says that they have an incredibly powerful witch on hand and no one is willing to point that out. Willow says she can’t, but Anya thinks she won’t.
Xander agrees with Anya and tells Willow that they brought her back from addiction once and they can do it again. Simple, like he’s talking about actually falling off a wagon. Hop right back on!
Willow: No. I can’t. If I start, I … I might not be able to stop.
Anya: And whose fault is that? You know, if you hadn’t gotten so much of this in your system in the first place-
Tara interrupts Anya and says that if An’s going to have to go through her if she plans on making Willow do something she doesn’t want to do. “Fine,” Anya says. She’s going to handle this herself.
This scene was wonderful in terms of spelling out some of the sub-themes (as I see them) of the season. It speaks so well to how people outside of these situations sometimes see them, whether they are depression or addiction or self-harm. First, you have the idea that addiction is a won’t and not a can’t. The idea that power or strength makes one less of a victim. Plus we see some of the guilt, blame and manipulation that seem to run pretty consistently throughout this season.
Sweeney: YES TO ALL OF THIS. So many interesting things played out in that little scene.
K: Team Tara Appreciation stopping by to discuss how fabulous it is that while she’s disappointed in Willow for having kept magic supplies, she still gets all Momma Bear on Anya’s ass.
Lor: Dawn and Buffy are apparently wrapping up their sister talk. B says that Dawn is her most important job, cuing Dawn to be all, “hey, there are 8 minutes left in the episode, so perhaps I should bring up my GUIDANCE COUNSELOR! now to give you a hint!” Buffy’s all, “did you say guidance counselor?” like it’s some strange thing, and eventually makes her way over to the conclusion that Dawn expressed her wish to said counselor.
Anya is going through Dawn’s things like a crazy person, dumping said things all over the floor. Buffy and Dawn come check out what the commotion is all about. Dawn protests, and Buffy tries to explain that Dawn isn’t to blame. Anya picks up a red jewelry box, and Dawn shouts, “no!” Anya dumps it and inside is a lot of stolen jewelry, half of it belonging to the Magic Box. Dawn runs out, and everyone follows her downstairs.
Anya: I work hard at that store, and I helped you! I took care of you. This is how you say ‘thank you’?
Ooof. Rough. Emma Caulfield has been killing these scenes, by the way. Here’s a place where Anya’s unfiltered mouth feels less like a cheap laughs device. She’s saying what she believes are honest things– at the very least, things no one else is ever willing to say.
Sweeney: I was thinking the same thing about EC in that other scene! This has been such a great episode for her. She’s gotten a lot more to do, as an actress, than the usual shtick they have her perfecting.
Lor: Buffy starts to defend Dawn but then spots the stolen leather jacket on the couch. Anya wants to know how they can ever trust her again. Buffy goes back into defense mode, and says this isn’t all Dawn’s fault. She explains about the wish Dawn made to a mysterious guidance counselor with a blue pendant. Anya puts it together and identifies Halfek. She calls for Hallie, telling everyone that only a vengeance demon can break her own vengeance curse.
Halfrek materializes just in time to be impaled by the Crimped Ponytail demon.
I just remembered that Richard is dying somewhere. Wow. Sucks to be him.
After a Not Break, Buffy, Spike and even Anya start fighting Crimped Ponytail. Buffy grabs its discarded sword, but he melts into the wall. That’s okay; Buffy just stabs the wall for a small touch of Summers’ home destruction. The demon goes poof and then Buffy promptly destroys the sword.
K: It’s been a while since we’ve used that Buffy Break tag. Welcome back, old friend!
Lor: Anya says they have to get Halfrek’s pendant. Hallie is awake, though, and sends Anya flying back with magic. Anya asks how Halfrek could do this to them, but her explanation is interrupted when Spike enters.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY TUMBLR. That is to say, that this is the gifset I saw before I should’ve, so I knew that this was coming when we first met Halfrek. It’s a nice moment, whether this was used to explain a repeat actress or not.
Sweeney: Definitely feels like a retroactive decision to explain the repeat actress, but it’s a totally plausible explanation, and I love it. They’ve recycled before and just ignored it so they didn’t have to. A+ for that, show.
Lor: Tara says she thought vengeance demons only worked for women spurned, and Halfrek explains that that was Anya’s deal. She calls herself well rounded, but Anya explains that Hallie’s got a thing for bad parents.
K: She’d have a field day in Traumaland.
Sweeney: I KNOW! My first thought was, “Halfrek is the vengeance demon Traumaland needs/deserves.” I want to head canon her into every other series we cover. AMAZING THINGS WOULD HAPPEN.
Lor: In one episode we adopted a Snark Lady and gained a vengeance demon. Not bad.
Halfrek says the point is that Dawn was in real pain and no one noticed. “You people deserve to be cursed.” Halfrek wraps up her speech by saying that she hopes they enjoy their nothing-but-time together. She gives a dramatic wave of her arms and nothing happens. This actress has great mannerisms.
Halfrek tries again to disappear but nothing happens. Anya points out that it’s the curse keeping her trapped. Halfrek is all, “FINE. The curse is lifted.” And indeed it is. She is the first to leave.
Tara is in the kitchen cleaning up the last of the magic supplies. Willow thanks Tara for her help and explains that she kept the magic supplies as a safety net, in case things ever got really bad. Tara points out that things did get bad at the party, but that Willow held her ground and said no. Will smiles a little.
Anya and Xander help Richard down the stairs. Xander says they are going to take him to the ER and Anya tells Dawn they will talk about payment for the stolen goods. Spike tries the door and it works. Everyone leaves the party and Buffy and Dawn watch them go before closing the door.
K: The look of joy on Dawn’s face as Buffy closes the door is painful. She was clearly expecting Buffy to leave as well.
Lor: I have a feeling people might rank this episode pretty “meh” for its focus away from Buffy and Spike and the main plot as a whole. This is one of those “time-out” episodes, that asks you to follow a story that doesn’t fully address things that have happened directly before it. That, dear readers, is probably why I liked it. I liked that Dawn’s issues were addressed, though we’ve yet to see if this’ll mean anything to the story. People who are not Dawn-sympathetic might have a harder time with this episode. I loved Queen Sassy Pants. I loved that Spike and Buffy were kept apart for most of the episode. I liked how issues came bubbling up as shit got real.
Sweeney: I think part of the problem with Dawn is that people find it easy to like her and be sympathetic when she’s not expressing her emotions. Whether it’s something in the writing or MT’s acting (probably the acting), but she gives a bit of a BRAT read whenever she’s expressing her feelings. I mentioned this in the comments, but it’s worth stating up here: I think recapping the show makes Dawn a thousand times more sympathetic because we get to talk about what’s being said/done instead of just absorbing MT’s shrieking.
+1 to the other stuff, too.
Lor: The wish as a plot device is always sort of flimsy to me, just because of the contrivance of ever saying, “I wish…” before anything. I’ve mentioned this before on this website, thanks to a Goosebumps book. Of course.
Finally, this is low on the trauma scale as far as birthdays go. It’s interesting to note that, considering how this has been probably the most traumatic year of Buffy’s life. During a time when she’s having a hard time feeling or caring about much, not even her birthday does much to live up to the standards of the past. This birthday was more of a study of how her post-heaven depression has effected everyone. It was a parade of problems she already had, instead of the creation of any new ones.
Happy birthday, B.
Next time: Riley comes back to town looking for some demon eggs in Buffy the Vampire Slayer S06 E15 – As You Were.