Previously: Buffy had the bestest birthday in living memory, and it still involved getting cursed by a vengeance demon. So…yeah.
As You Were
Kirsti: We open at the Doublemeat Palace. Buffy is scraping a disgusting amount of brown sludge off the grill while another employee tells her that the key to working at the DMP is politics. He talks about Machiavelli, and when she thinks that’s a guy who works day shift, he’s all “OH RIGHT. COLLEGE DROPOUT.” Buffy says that she’s reapplying, and he’s a condescending asshat. He leaves to head to night school – after mentioning that he’s studying for an MBA so he doesn’t have to work at the DMP forever – and tells her to scrape the gum under the tables before she leaves.
Cut to the cemetery. Buffy wanders through the gravestones singing the DMP jingle and wondering why she can’t get it out of her head. A vamp attacks her, and she timeouts him so that she can set a bag of burgers on a nearby headstone. They fight, and he gets the upper hand then stops and asks what stinks. Buffy says that she’s been working, and when he hears that she works at the DMP, the vamp backs away and says that he doesn’t want to bite her if she’s been eating shitty fast food. She throws a stake, hitting him right in the chest, and he turns to dust. She sniffs herself and looks miserable, then picks up her bag of burgers and stomps away.
After the credits, Buffy’s outside Chez Summers. Just before she heads up the stairs, she stops and is all “Uuuuuugh. SPIKE!!” He appears from behind a tree – wearing another hideous pimp shirt, I should add – and is all “That one doesn’t count, I wasn’t really hiding.” (L: Lurking? Loitering? CREEPING.) He walks up to her, and she tells him no, but he says that she doesn’t even know the question yet. (L: Also, he doesn’t recognize that answer.) She tells him that the whole planet knows what the question is, and says that she can’t have dubious consent sex with him because Dawn is inside and counting on her. He tells her that if he can’t come inside, she should come outside, and he pulls her over to the tree he was hiding behind. She hesitates for a minute, then drops the bag of burgers as they kiss. Yeah, because having sex that you really don’t seem into in the front garden seems like an excellent plan…
Lor: RIGHT? You both just recognized what a terrible hiding spot that was. I’d be pissed if I were, say, talking a walk in that neighborhood or something.
K: Come on, guys. Everyone knows that you don’t walk around Sunnydale after dark unless you want to die. Public sex is a lot tamer than most things you could see while strolling around Sunnydale at night.
Sometime later, Buffy walks into the kitchen. She hands Dawn the bag of burgers, and Dawn says that she appreciates Buffy working and bringing home dinner, but she can’t eat any more DMP. Willow walks in and asks if Buffy’s had a rough night because she has a giant grass stain on the back of her coat. Dawn asks if a vampire got rough, and Buffy replies without thinking, “He’s not getting any gentler,” then has to awkwardly cover up her slip when the others are like “He???” Willow says that she and Dawn are going to the Bronze, and wants to know if Buffy will join them. She refuses, but tells them to have a good time. They leave, and she sadly adds “Somebody should.”
Lor: And it’s significant because she just finished having sex with Spike, see? Apparently, rushed front yard sex she was wheedled into was not in fact fun. Huh.
Sweeney: GO FIGURE.
K: Cut to the Bronze. Xander and Anya are squabbling about the seating plan for the wedding, which is now only a week away. Dawn appears behind them and asks how things are going, and they basically bite her head off. She heads over to Willow, and says that she’s betting they explode before the wedding actually happens. Willow says that as a kid she spent forever planning her wedding to Xander, but now she just looks at them being all stressed out and giggles smugly.
It’s kind of adorable. Dawn’s pleased to see Willow so happy for a change, and Willow says that it’s because she and Tara are making progress – if she were to call, Tara wouldn’t hang up.
Chez Summers basement. Buffy’s listening to some godawful wrist-slitting music while spot cleaning her coat. The next shot is of her asleep on the sofa the following morning, covered by her coat. There’s a clanking noise from outside, and she realises that it’s garbage day. She runs outside with the bags just as the truck pulls away, leaving her staring at the ground all mopey. She heads back inside with the post, and Dawn reminds her that it’s garbage day. Buffy glares a little, then opens a letter. It’s from Contrivance U, rejecting her application for re-admittance. Womp womp.
Lor: Once the garbage truck leaves without your garbage, it’s time to just go back to bed.
K: Especially when you hadn’t really been to bed!
At the DMP later that day, she’s flipping burgers while Unhelpful MBA Guy craps on about politics again in the background. He tells her it’s her turn to work the counter. She heads out front and automatically starts her “Welcome to the Doublemeat Palace” spiel as she walks up to the register. Half way through, she looks up at the customer in front of her and trails off because said customer is RILEY. He’s dressed in all black, with body armour over the top and now has a scar across one eye. “You…” she finishes awkwardly. Fade to black.
After the Not Commercial Break, Buffy is still staring at Riley in shock. He starts rattling out facts in response to her confused questions – yes, he’s really there, he was always that tall, and he’s been up for 48 hours straight tracking something big and bad to Sunnydale.
All Buffy can come up with in response is “My hat has a cow…”
Sweeney: That line was kind of adorable while also driving home the relatability of this situation. Working a shift at a fast food joint is hardly the place you want to meet your ex — the one you met in college…where he was a grad student. Factoring out the supernatural, it’s a real-life-person nightmare scenario, of sorts.
K: Pretty much exactly. A queue forms behind him as Riley sighs and apologises for springing this on her at work. He needs the best, he says. He needs her. She stares at him for a second, then Unhelpful MBA Guy appears behind her and is all “Dude, there’s a queue.” She takes her hat off, grabs her stuff and leaves with Riley as Unhelpful MBA Guy yells after her.
Sunnydale Main Street. Buffy stares at Riley with a mixture of surprise and happiness. He pulls out a tracking device, which is beeping softly, and says that they’re after a Suvolte demon, which is rare and lethal and in Sunnydale. She starts laughing, then says that she’d forgotten about all his adorable gizmos. He gives her a look, and she apologises. He continues, saying that they’ve been killing Suvolte demons all the way from Paraguay, but that they’re breeders so whenever you kill one, ten more pop up. “So…they’re like really mean tribbles?” Buffy asks.
Just then there’s a growl and a shot of a demon that looks like the love child of Alien and Predator. Riley holds up an ID and announces that he’s from the National Forestry Service and there’s a bear on the loose. LOL, OKAY. SURE. (L: It was fantastic.) (S: AGREED!) They attack the Suvolte but it throws them off and scurries down an alley. Riley helps Buffy up, and she stares at him again before they follow it. In the alley, it throws a rubbish bin at Riley, and Buffy tosses him his gun. He shoots, and a tranquiliser dart hits the demon in the chest. It has very little effect though, because it turns and Mario Jumps over the nearby building.
Cut to a black SUV screeching out of an alleyway. A GPS unit on the dashboard is tracking the demon as Buffy and Riley awkwardly catch up. He asks how she’s been, and she says that it’s complicated. He agrees with her, and says that he’s got some pretty big stories to tell. “Did you die?” she asks. “No,” he replies. “I’m gonna win,” she says. Riley looks at her in surprise. Buffy pulls off her coat to reveal her DMP uniform underneath. Riley grabs something from the back and hands it to her, telling her that her uniform isn’t exactly black ops approved and she should put on some state of the art light weight kevlar – which looks like a field hockey chest pad – instead. He tells her that it’s good to see her, and that he likes her hair. Buffy smiles.
Elsewhere, Xander and Anya are stuck in a traffic jam en route to the airport. They bicker about Xander’s uncle, who can’t afford a hotel and will be staying with them, and some demon friends of Anya’s who are ALSO staying with them and due to teleport in in 20 minutes. Xander says they should have eloped, and Anya gets cranky. She’s put in too much time and effort, and it’s apparently going to be magical even if she has to kill half the town.
Lor: First Dawn was all, “this wedding isn’t going to happen,” and now Anya’s all, “this wedding is going to happen or else.” THEY’RE MESSING WITH US. I didn’t know I had to be worried about the wedding actually happening, BUT APPARENTLY.
K: It’s the Whedonverse. You should ALWAYS be worried.
Riley pulls up and he and Buffy jump out of the car. They’re at the top of a massive dam. The demon, Riley says, is at the bottom. There’s a staircase, but for some reason Riley ties a thin rappelling line to the fence. He tells Buffy that she’ll have to hold onto him, then lifts her up. She flirts a little, then wraps her arms around him as they start the descent.
Lor: Seeing the way she looks at him hurt my heart. It reminded me of a time when I was going around the recaps going, “Riley isn’t so bad! Guys?” I mean, sure, I wanted to end him as time went on, but he didn’t start off all that bad! Poor B.
Sweeney: It’s also weird because it reminds us of simpler times when Riley being boring was the great struggle. For Buffy, too, his presence is a reminder of a radically different version of her life…which is part of what makes that look hurt so much.
K: There’s a long shot of them rappelling down the dam. They reach the bottom and Riley unhooks the line from his Batman Belt. They duck past a storm drain, then Riley gets attacked by the Suvolte. There’s a brief fight that culminates in them knocking it to the ground. Riley pushes Buffy back against the wall, and they stare at each other, panting. In the background, we see another black-clad figure rappelling down the wall. It’s a woman. She unclips her line, walks over to them, and says “Hey there. What exactly are you doing with my husband?” Buffy stares in shock as Riley looks embarrassed. Fade to black.
Lor: Well, crap.
K: After the Not Commercial Break, Buffy’s all “WTF?” (understandably), and Riley introduces her to his wife, Sam. The Suvolte jumps up behind them, and Sam declares it her fight before diving in. In a shocked voice, Buffy asks how long they’ve been married and Riley replies that it’s been nearly four months and that he meant to tell her. The demon knocks Sam to the ground, and Riley jumps in to help. They tag team for a minute with Buffy looking on sadly, then her eyes widen as the demon starts to overpower them. She grabs it, and snaps its neck, saying that they can consider it their wedding present. Except not – Riley neglected to mention that this was a capture operation, not kill.
Sam eyerolls over his inability to mention important things, then grabs her knife and slices into the demon’s torso. They’re too late – it’s already laid its eggs. Sam asks if Buffy has a safe house. Cut to her leading them in the door at Chez Summers. The Scoobies are on hand due to an off-screen phone call while en route. Riley’s all “Wow, Dawn. You grew” and she says angrily – and with a pointed look at Sam – that a lot can change in a year. Xander fangirls a little over the return of his bromance, and Willow hugs Riley. She then pulls Buffy aside for the following exchange of awesomeness:
Sweeney: IT’S SO CUTE. REMEMBER WHEN THEIR FRIENDSHIP WAS REAL?
Sam and Riley fill the Scoobies in on the whole demon problem. Apparently it came to the Hellmouth to spawn and now they have to track down the eggs, as Buffy puts it, “before Sunnydale turns into the Trouble Meat Palace.” Everyone stares at her, and she wishes she’d said something else. Xander thinks it’s just another Tuesday night in Sunnydale, and asks Riley how to choose between a wedding photographer and place settings. Buffy points out that she killed the demon, so it’s not as simple as just tracking it. Sam tells her that killing the demon was the right thing to do, and tells Xander that disposable cameras are the way to go, because they’re cheap and guests take the pictures for you. I hope to God they’re talking about the reception side of things…
Buffy asks when the eggs will hatch, and Sam says that it’s not that simple – they think they’re going to be sold on the black market by a dealer who calls himself The Doctor.
Oh. Sorry. Wrong Doctor(s).
Sam asks Willow if she can do a locator spell, and Willow says she can’t do magicks. Sam thinks she’s being modest, but Willow’s all “Uh, no. Addict.” and leaves the room. Riley says that he’ll find The Doctor and that Sam and Buffy should work together to find the nest. Buffy is not on board with this plan at all, but reluctantly agrees.
Sam heads out to the kitchen where Willow is sitting by herself, looking sad. Sam apologises for putting her foot in it, and says that down in the jungle, they had two shamans on their black ops team who got addicted to magicks, and now there’s nothing left of them. “I’ve never met anyone with enough strength to quit before. I’m just saying…” she says before turning and walking out. Willow watches her go, and smiles a little.
Lor: Hate mission failed, I guess.
K: Cut to Buffy and Sam walking through the cemetery. Sam broaches the inevitable awkward topic, saying that she’s a little intimidated to meet Buffy, because a) SLAYER and b) husband’s ex-girlfriend. She tells Buffy how they met – she was in the Peace Corps in Central America, and everyone but her got slaughtered by demons. She joined black ops and met Riley in her first fire fight. Apparently he didn’t talk about things at first, but she knew he was all torn up inside. And that it took him a really long time to heal, and a year to get over her. I stop to go “LOL, WHUT” because Riley’s only been gone a year, and he just said he and Sam have been married for four months. So “a year” is probably more like “six weeks”, yes?
Lor: That or Sam didn’t mind marrying him while he was busy crying over Buffy at night. Timelines are hard.
K: Truth. Anyway, Buffy says that she wishes things were different, and Sam asks if Buffy’s seeing anyone new. Buffy awkwards that she doesn’t want to jump into something and be defined by the guy she’s with. Sam’s all, “no guy is better than the wrong guy,” and Buffy suggests that they split up because she’s got a slightly twitchy informant to talk to. Sam’s totally cool with it and heads off in search of Riley.
Buffy sad pandas her way over to Spike’s TARDIS crypt and there’s a scene that’s rather reminiscent of season 5 in that it’s all “I need information and am willing to pay you for it.” But then Buffy says “Tell me you love me,” and she’s clearly having “Where did my life go so wrong?” feels. It leads to some understandable sex.
Lor: The, “say you love me,” thing was terrible. She knows he does (as far as he can), but she’s using him as much as she’s ever used him. This is your episode-ly reminder that I would like this to be over now.
Sweeney: Their entire S6 relationship is just gross and horrible to watch and MAKE IT STOP.
K: Sometime later, Spike and Buffy are asleep when the door bursts open and Riley storms in. Buffy gasps and covers herself with a blanket. Spike sniggers and says that it must hurt to see the two of them together because everything he told Riley about Buffy needing a little monster in her man was right. Riley replies “That’s not why I’m here…Doctor.” Buffy turns to stare at Spike in shock. Fade to black.
After the Not Commercial Break, Buffy makes a disgusted face and rushes for her clothes. Spike, on the other hand, throws off the covers and sits naked at the end of the sarcophagus, his legs splayed. Riley looks grossed out, and I kinda don’t blame him. Unexpected penis is rarely welcome. (L: I spotted his modesty undies, though!) Spike reminds him of the whole two bit vampire whores thing, but Riley says that he’s thrilled to be back in Sunnydale because he knows who to beat for information, and all that information led to Spike. Buffy says Spike’s too incompetent to be The Doctor, but Riley reminds her that Spike is lethal and amoral and opportunistic. He then says that he’s going to tear the place apart until he finds the eggs.
He heads downstairs, and Buffy follows, repeating that Spike’s too stupid to pull off something like this. Obviously, just as she’s saying that, they find the eggs. Riley says they’ll need more weapons because Spike fucked up and didn’t keep the eggs frozen so now they’re about to hatch. Spike rushes up and says he can explain – he’s just holding them for a friend. Buffy punches him in the face and tells him to stop playing games. He stands up, angry, and says that she’s one to talk because all she does is play games where the rules constantly change. Buffy rolls her eyes and Spike storms out.
The eggs start hatching, revealing creatures that are a slightly more crab-like version of Those Things The Mayor Had To Eat To Become Invulnerable. (S: A+ reference! I mean, gross, but A+!) A crab baby drops from the ceiling onto Riley’s shoulder. He yanks it away and hurries Buffy towards the ladder. They scramble up it, the crab babies following close behind. Buffy grabs Riley’s Batman Belt, pulls the pin on a grenade, and drops the whole belt down the hole. There’s an explosion that wipes out the crab babies and the unhatched eggs. Buffy and Riley lie together, panting.
Cut to Anya’s voice saying “You know, if you love Riley Finn so much, maybe you should just marry him.” She and Xander are hiding out in the bathroom at the Gift Apartment. Xander says that’s not the point. The point, apparently, is that Riley and Sam – who he refers to as “Nick and Nora Fury” (AVENGERS SHOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) – wouldn’t hide from their relatives in the bathroom. There’s some more conversation, which can be summed up as “our wedding is not our marriage,” and they kiss as we hear things being smashed in the apartment.
Lor: I loved that they referenced Xander’s mancrush on Riley a couple of times. Also, this was a nice little moment for Xander and Anya. STOP TROLLING ME, WHEDON.
Outside the Magic Box, Riley tells Buffy that he and Sam are off to Nepal. He also says that he’s officially done in Sunnydale, but the mission included authorisation to kill The Doctor (don’t bother, yo. He’ll just regenerate)(L: A+), and if Buffy wants him to, he will. She’s shocked, especially now that Riley knows that she’s been sleeping with Spike. She wants to know if he waited until his life was perfect before rubbing it in her face. It’s kind of long, but I’m going to give you the entire exchange that follows, because it’s fabulous:
Riley: Hey! You want me to say that I liked seeing you in bed with that idiot? Or that blinding orange is your very best color? Or that that…burger smell is appealing?
Buffy: You smelled the smell?
Riley: Buffy, none of that means anything. It doesn’t touch you. You’re still the first woman I ever loved…and the strongest woman I’ve ever known. And I’m not advertising this to the missus…but you’re still quite the hottie.
Buffy: You know, it goes away after many bathings.
Riley: This isn’t about who’s on top. I know how lucky I am right now. I love my work, and I love my wife.
Buffy: I know. And I kinda love her too.
Riley: So you’re not in the greatest place right now. And maybe I made it worse.
Riley: Wheel never stops turning, Buffy. You’re up, you’re down…it doesn’t change what you are. And you are a hell of a woman.
Lor: SO FANTASTIC. You know, in the past, bad things have happened to Buffy but it always seemed like her calling was the one thing she could count on. She’s lost so much of that this season. It’s been the least slayer-y we’ve ever seen her, and having the Big Bads be human adds to that feeling. I mean, Riley didn’t just catch her in bed with Spike, he caught her there mid-mission. We’re missing the “the Vampire Slayer” part of Buffy right now, so this was a reminder that she is something so beyond her current state.
Beyond her own feelings of depression and inadequacy, you also have Spike, who has tried to give her his version of this speech, but always manages to mess it up. Spike tells her who he wants her to be (dark, wild, playing in the dirt, morally ambiguous, animal), not really what she is. (Maybe bits of that, but also more.) It’s nice that she got to hear, “you are amazing, no matter what.”
I loved it.
Sweeney: YES! ME TOO. It’s also so amazing in the context of her depression arc. As much as I rag on this season for all the things that I hate, I do appreciate — between tantrums — the way it handles this subject. His speech is so perfect in part because she’s now in a place where she’s capable of hearing it. She’s starting to become a lot more self-aware and, as such, being told that what’s going on in her life right now is a a place she’s at on the wheel, rather than defining who she is can actually be taken to heart.
K: And the fact that it comes from Riley, who we were so often meh about!
She apologises for the way things ended between them before Sam and the rest of the Scoobies walk out of the Magic Box. Sam’s telling Xander about their wedding, then makes Willow promise to keep in touch. She hugs them both as Dawn confronts Riley, asking if he’s actually going to say goodbye this time. Which is interesting, because I always counted the “Everyone abandons Dawn” thing as starting with Joyce’s death. But really, it was a problem long before that. Poor Dawnie… (L: YES. SAME THOUGHT.)
Riley hugs her, and Sam says it was great to meet them all as a helicopter appears overhead. A spotlight appears, along with a rappelling cord, which Riley clips to his Batman Belt. He wraps his arms around Sam and they rise into the air. The Scoobies head inside, leaving Buffy standing alone, staring after the chopper. (L: Again.)
In the TARDIS crypt, Spike surveys the damage. Buffy appears, and he’s all “The bed’s blown up, but we never really used it anyway.” She says that she’s not there for sex, or to talk about his attempts at black market demon egg sales. It’s over, she tells him. He scoffs, saying that he’s memorised this speech. But she interrupts, saying that while she wants him – at this, he looks surprised – and that being with him makes things better for a while, but she’s using him. He has no objections to this, but she finishes with “…and it’s killing me.” He stares at her in surprise. “I’m sorry…William,” she says.
It’s a little heavy handed at times, but I rather enjoy this episode. Really, Buffy’s depression began when Riley left town, especially when Joyce’s death came close behind. So as much as I hated Biley, it was nice to have Riley return to show Buffy that while a lot of stuff has changed for both of them, he still sees her as the same person she was before. While stepping into the light at the end was basically bashing us over the head with the Anvil of Metaphors, it was still the first moment we’ve seen all season of Buffy willingly changing her situation. Plus, Sam was awesome and I kind of wish there’d been a spin off based around her, because I would watch the shit out of that.
Lor: Really? I hated Sam. Wait, let me start at the beginning: I really enjoyed this episode because it was PROGRESS compared to the never ending cycle of Spuffy that’s been season 6 so far. The episode had excellent intentions, but where it failed was in the cheesy, heavy handed bits. The little “let’s go kill some bad guys!” like line Riley tells his wife at the end was one such line. That whole ending sequence, in fact, with all the Scoobies just a little too happy and giddy at Riley’s departure. Sam was incredibly heavy handed and the actress was pretty bad. She gave me Jessica Biel on 7th Heaven vibes. (K: I think she feels less heavy handed on rewatches??) (S: Yes. Definitely. I remember thinking she was super heavy handed first watch and she still is, but I like her a thousand times more this time than the last time.)
Walking into the sunlight wasn’t as bad for me. I rather liked that bit, as well as the “taking out the trash,” bit. Nobody wants Buffy’s garbage.
Spike insists that Buffy needs a little monster in her man, and I’m sure there are arguments aplenty regarding that. I think Riley proved that she needs a challenge in love as much as in life, but Spike proves that all said and done, she can’t love a monster.
Sweeney: As usual, a general yes to all the things, particularly the way this episode represented PROGRESS. Also, Riley’s one episode appearance made him a welcome, nostalgia-evoking sight. He was a rather perfect device to move things forward. Buffy’s been existing in this bubble of routine and monotony (a point they drove home at the very beginning of the episode) and there’s a trapped, suffocating feeling to it. This blast-from-the-past, now living a whole new life, was an excellent way to help pull Buffy back to herself. Or her new self, I suppose.
K: YES. The Spike’s lame-arse evil plan side of the episode bugs me, but I guess they needed a way to emphasise his character traits to Buffy and that was the best they could come up with? Whatever, the Riley stuff is fabulous and far outweighs the crappy evil plan side of things.
Next time: Xander and Anya’s wedding is finally here. Will everything go smoothly? And just how awful are the bridesmaids’ dresses? Find out in Buffy the Vampire Slayer S06 E16 – Hell’s Bells.