Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes.
Season 3, Episode 10: “Amends”
It’s a Christmas episode! If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know there’s nothing we love more than a holiday-themed episode (except maybe a training montage).
In a structure that vaguely resembles A Christmas Carol, Angel starts seeing ghosts from his past, namely all of the people he’s killed. He dreams about some guy he killed in Ireland way back when, which can mean only one thing: the return of the accent, with some very questionable facial hair as a bonus. Then, he runs into Buffy while she’s holiday shopping, and he sees his Irish victim’s ghost, gets all squirrely, and runs away.
Later, he goes to GIles for help, and Giles reluctantly lets him in the house while holding him at crossbow-point (?). He tells Giles that he doesn’t understand why he came back from Hell, but just as they’re getting somewhere, Angel starts seeing Jenny. Aw. He leaves, freaked out, and that night he dreams about threatening to rape, and then killing, a poor British maid (although really, the worst part is still the facial hair). This time, as he kills her, Buffy appears in his dream, and it turns out it was her dream too! Spooky!
Buffy immediately goes to Giles about the dreams, probably because she learned her lesson about keeping Angel-related secrets from him. He agrees that something is seriously wrong, and they hunker down to do Hell dimension-related research over Christmas break. Even Xander stops being a complete asshole for five minutes and pitches in. It’s a Christmas miracle, I guess.
After that, the ghosts start to grow in confidence and start talking to him–torturing him, really–about all of the terrible things he’s done. They say they “just want to show him who [he is]: a monster.” They lay out the evidence that not only was he a particularly sadistic vampire, even by demon standards, but he was also a “worthless” human being–a “drunken, whoring layabout.” It says a lot about the writing of his character that I had never once thought about who he was before he became a vampire, but better late than never. He goes to sleep and has another joint dream with Buffy–this time a dirty one. They have sex, and then he immediately loses his soul and bites her. When he wakes up, the ghosts, with Jenny as the ringleader, try to convince him to sleep with her and lose his soul for real.
When she’s not busy worrying about Angel, Buffy prepares for a balmy California Christmas with her mom. They buy a Christmas tree from a lot that has an ominous patch of dead trees (love it), and Joyce guilts Buffy into inviting Faith along. Faith, immediately sensing that this is a pity invite (“What, did your mom send you”?), declines in favor of spending Christmas alone in a motel room, but then changes her mind at the last minute. Aw! While they’re all celebrating, Buffy finds Angel in her room, looking totally strung out and agitated. He keeps looking from her to the bed, and advancing on her while Ghost-Jenny eggs him on, saying things like “She wants you to taste her.” Cringe.
Side note: We can only imagine she would not be willing to have sex with him and make him lose his soul, so is he preparing to rape her? This scene is actually very scary.
Eventually, Angel resists the voices in his head and literally jumps out the window. He tells Ghost-Jenny that he’ll die before he hurts Buffy, and prepares to stay outside as the sun rises, effectively killing himself. Buffy figures out, through a very cute and on-theme contrivance, that the ominous patch of dead Christmas trees is actually a harbinger of doom, and finds Ghost Jenny there with the eyeless Bringers. She quickly figures out that Ghost-Jenny is not actually Jenny, but actually the First Evil (!). The First does the Bond villain thing of helpfully telling Buffy that Angel’s about to die, so she runs to stop him.
And now–one of my favorite scenes of the whole show. Buffy confronts Angel, who’s standing on a hill overlooking Sunnydale. He says he has to die because the First wants him to lose his soul and become Angelus, but more importantly, because part of him wants to. She tells him to fight it, and he says it’s too hard. “I’m weak. I’ve never been anything else.” He says that she “can never understand what [he’s] done.” She tries to physically pull him away, and their fight escalates until she punches him, and he knocks her to the ground. He shakes her while she cries, and manically asks her, “Am I a thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man?” She asks him to think about her. “I love you so much. And I tried to make you go away–I killed you and it didn’t help.” The drama. I love it. Then the kicker: “I know everything that you did,” Buffy sobs, “because you did it to me.”
He asks her to “let [him] be strong” for once, and she delivers what basically becomes the thesis statement of Angel: “Strong is fighting. It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day.” She starts to tell him than if he’s too much of a coward, then he should just burn, but then–a Christmas miracle. It starts to snow, even though everyone has been talking all episode about how hot it is. This somehow means that there’s literally no sun and Angel and Buffy can just take a leisurely stroll outside, which is not really how snow works, but whatever. After everything these two have been through, they (and the viewers) deserve a contrived happy ending.
Also Oz, who is a FREAKING SAINT, decides to take Willow back, even though she’s still hanging out with Xander every day. He says that he’s not sure whether things will “ever be over” between Willow and Xander (were the writers trying to do a Dawson and Joey star-crossed lovers thing? I’m so confused!!), but that he misses her and wants to try again. They joke so much about Oz being “stoic,” but he does a better job expressing his feelings than anyone else in this group.
Still, it’s awkward between them, and Buffy tells Willow that she should show Oz that he “comes first.” Willow takes that advice a smidge too literally, She tries to seduce him in ways that are both very obvious and hilariously age-inappropriate–she’s wearing a red velvet cocktail dress and playing Barry White. Is she fifty years old?? But then she shows her age when she tries to tell Oz she wants to have sex but can only eke out: “We could do that thing.” Oh, Willow. Oz brilliantly deduces that she’s not actually ready to have sex, and just wants to prove something to him, so he sweetly says that when it happens, it should be because they “both want it to.” Ugh, he’s perfect! He’s totally the Dave Rygalski.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Well Buffy seems to have rethought her hairstyle, but I do not think this is much of an improvement over the Ginger Spice!
- Roast beast! Buffy referenced the Grinch. I approve.
- Oh, OZ! Don’t take Willow back! She doesn’t even appear to know why she cheated on you–she hasn’t even talked it over with Xander yet! Ohhhh this is so dumb.
- Mrs. Buffy is very against Giles spending Christmas Eve with them. Do you think she is still harboring a little weirdness from that time they turned into teenagers and made out? Omg do you think they’re having a secret affair RIGHT NOW? I kinda hope so.
- Poor Giles. He must love Buffy so much to be willing to help Angel for her.
- On the other hand, I have no sympathy for Xander’s previous unwillingness to help nor for his half-assed apology about not being supportive. Shut up Xander!
- I actually caught myself wondering why Willow’s parents were going out of town on Christmas Eve when she just REPEATEDLY reminded us that she’s Jewish. You see why she gets frustrated!
- LOL, I love that the bartender gives Xander a little Christmas present, by telling him he was actually intimidated by him. What a champ. But why does Buffy even bother bringing him around places? She’s way scarier on her own. Ew, and now he’s touching her shoulder!! Gross!!
- Ha, I love Oz’s suspicious “How special are we talkin’?” when Willow says she wants tonight to be special.
- I like that Willow, like the fellas of my original favorite show Ally McBeal, uses Barry White as gettin’ in the mood music.
- Mrs. Buffy is so silly! She’s putting on a fire in the middle of a California heat wave!
- I wonder how Buffy knew that she could just… axe a hole into the ground. I would’ve started digging with a shovel. Wouldn’t you?
- Ha, I totally forgot that this whole time Faith and Mrs. Buffy have just been waiting around at home.
- Wait, so… if it snows, the cloud cover is enough to not kill a vampire? That’s so random. [I know, right? Shouldn’t they all like–leave California? –Janes] [I hate to say anything nice about Twilight, but I think Stephanie Meyer was right in putting the vamps in Seattle. –Nerdy Spice]
- I like that these kids are walking through what appears to be a calf-deep pile of cotton candy.
Notes from a True Stan:
- Oh, the Irish accents. They are bad.
- Nooo the Courtney Cox bangs. Noooooo.
- Aw, it’s kind of sad that Xander sleeps outside on Christmas to avoid his family’s drunken fights. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.
- I like that when Buffy and Faith have scenes together, Faith’s makeup gets darker, and Buffy’s gets brighter and more golden-toned, as if we couldn’t already tell that Buffy is the “good one.”
- Wow, in this episode we not only get the First, we get the Bringers. This is a deceptively important episode!
- When Angel tells Buffy, “You have to stay away from me,” she says incredulously, “You came to my house to tell me to stay away from you?” I mean, true, but would that really be out of character for him?
- “Okay, I get it, you’re evil,” is another one-liner that played nonstop in the WB promos.
- Joss Whedon once said that “It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, it’s the man” is his favorite line of dialogue he’s ever written, and I might agree.
- Both David Boreanaz and SMG slay me in this fight scene. SMG still outclasses him, but less than usual.
- I love that we never find out whether the snow came from the First or not. I don’t want to know.
- I love this episode in general, more than is necessary. That fight scene is so intense and well-acted, and the ending, cheesy as it may be, never fails to make me tear up. It’s one of the top ten episodes of all time, fight me.
Season 3, Episode 11: “Gingerbread”
Continuing a series of baffling decisions, Mrs. Buffy decides one night to come out and watch Buffy do her slaying. And she brings snacks! Um, thanks? Unfortunately for everyone, this leads to Mrs. Buffy finding the dead bodies of two kids in the playground. They have marks on their hands as if they were sacrificed in some pagan ritual–it’s very Riverdale. Suddenly, on top of her other responsibilities, Buffy has to comfort her mom about the trauma of witnessing death.
Mrs. Buffy organizes a vigil for the dead kids, and Buffy pleads gently that they usually try to keep things like this a little quiet. Fat chance! Mrs. Buffy, convinced that Buffy doesn’t know what she’s doing, founds a group called MOO (Mothers Opposed to the Occult) and soon enough they’re removing unacceptable reading material from the libraries and generally behaving like your worst nightmare of a PTA. The worst part is that when Buffy tries to step in, her mom tells her that she’s doing a bad job of being a hero because people in the town keep dying and it’s because Buffy doesn’t have a plan. Wow, rude! Buffy runs to Angel, who provides her with the pep talk expected of a boyfriend who you’re pretending is just your friend.
Obviously, the fact that all the occult reading material has been confiscated kind of puts a cramp in Giles’ investigation of the deaths. But luckily, the gang uses the magical powers of The Internet to figure out that the kids are actually demons whose names are Hans and Greta (Hansel and Gretel, though they bear little resemblance to any Hansel and Gretel story I’ve heard). They surface every fifty years and whenever they do, everything goes to hell. So they’re to blame for MOO.
Meanwhile, Oz and Willow are back together, and I hope Willow appreciates what she has because when Oz and Xander run into each other in the cafeteria, Oz doesn’t behave like an outraged queen the way we all know Xander would. Willow’s real problem this episode, of course, is that she’s been dabbling in witchcraft and the entire town has gone all Salem. First her mom emerges from whatever ivory tower she usually resides in and patronizes Willow about her occult “phase.” Infuriated, Willow decides to reveal to her mom that she can do spells–and that she’s dating a magician! Hee. Things ratchet up, though, when Buffy finds the symbol that was on the dead kids’ hands in Willow’s notebook. And Mrs. Willow decides that Willow is a witch and she needs to “let you go with love.” Soon enough, Willow and Buffy (and Amy, who pops up in this episode for the first time in awhile) are being hauled off by an actual lynch mob to City Hall so the lynch mob, led by Mrs. Buffy and Mrs. Willow, can burn them at the stake with piles of books. Amy makes a neat escape by turning herself into a rat but totally neglects to do the same for Willow and Buffy. Rude!!
Giles is left unconscious on the floor at this point, since he was with Buffy at the time. But luckily, Cordelia comes by to complain about her black clothes getting confiscated and revives him. Giles and Cordelia run to City Hall, where the girls are being burned; so do Xander and Oz, separately. Finally they break into the room just in time for Cordelia to play hero and put the fires out with a fire extinguisher, while Giles himself casts a spell to turn the demon children into one giant warty demon. Buffy uses the stake she’s tied to to impale the demon, and everything goes back to normal… except that Buffy and Willow can’t get Amy turned back into a human. Which I must say, if I were them I wouldn’t feel too bad about it given that Amy left them burning at the stake.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Mrs. Buffy brings Buffy some SNACKS while she’s out hunting vampires. Omg. Too funny. Then she’s like “Buffy! He’s over here!” Thank you, Joyce. Very helpful all around.
- Is it weird that my first thought when Mrs. Buffy picks up the rusted toy in the park was not, “Don’t touch that, it might be a demon artifact,” but “Don’t touch that, it might have Coronavirus on it”?
- Amy has gone Goth, with dark lipstick… and this is her first appearance in quite awhile. Gee, do you think she could be involved?
- Then Mrs. Buffy shows up to school to interrupt Buffy’s conversation, lol.
- Mrs. Buffy is so funny, explaining seriously to the kids that even though they think witchcraft is cool, murdering kids in occult sacrifice rituals is not cool. Everyone takes this lecture very solemnly, presumably having had experience receiving outlandishly obvious advice plenty of times in drug education classes.
- Mrs. Buffy called everyone that she knew to tell them about the kids’ murder. Oh, boy.
- Is this the first time we see Willow’s mom? Crazy!
- Are Giles and Mrs. Buffy still having a flirtation? Am I kind of rooting for this? I think I might be.
- Oh, I see, so Willow’s mom is neglectful because she’s a career woman who publishes papers. Cool beans.
- Eep, Mrs. Buffy involved the evil mayor in this vigil. Bad idea.
- Mrs. Buffy argues that the town is a bad place because everyone knows someone who “got skinned or had a neck rupture.” Wait, I don’t remember when someone got skinned. I must’ve blocked it out.
- Mrs. Buffy makes a great demagogue. Finding scapegoats and making them pay is a demagogue’s favorite hobby!
- Ooh, Willow is in the cult with Amy! And they know the symbol! Interesting, I thought they were going to be innocent scapegoats, but they’re not looking so innocent anymore.
- I like that Buffy just has to show up and give bullies a head tilt and they wilt and run away.
- Michael, Amy’s friend, is “whatever the boy of witch is,” according to Cordelia.
- Of course Xander compares locker searches to Nazi Germany. Of course he does.
- A My Friend Flicka reference! This is such a period piece.
- Mrs. Buffy says, “Is Sunnydale getting any better?” and accuses Buffy’s work of being fruitless. Um, ouch!
- Oof the dead-kid makeup on these children is too graphic.
- Angel shows up and Buffy gives him a hug, so… are they back together? I’m so confused!!
- Giles is in the “Frisky Watchers Chat Room?” I don’t know if it’s more disturbing if it’s real, or if it’s a bizarre joke Xander makes.
- Mrs. Buffy chloroforms Buffy! Hee.
- This is so scary!
- Buffy gets it with the end of her stake. Just as Xander arrives to save the day. Hee.
- Buffy and Willow can’t figure out the spell to turn Amy back into a human. Uh-oh. Is Amy going to be a rat forever? Janes won’t tell me!
Notes from a True Stan:
- It seems that the tiny bangs are already gone?
- Okay, this is very sad, but is this the first time kids have died in Sunnydale? Wasn’t Drusilla always bragging about eating children?
- Aw, Buffy saying that her mom coming to school will make her “world dissolve” is such a teenager thing.
- It’s so crazy that I never once wondered about Willow’s parents before this episode.
- It’s also crazy how much of a slow burn the Mayor is. Buffy still doesn’t even know he’s evil yet!
- The older I get, the more I understand the real-life parallels of Joyce’s awful, parent-centric brand of activism. The “take Sunnydale back” rhetoric is so very “save our neighborhoods.”
- I also love that this is such an accurate portrayal of fear-based political thinking. There are so many monsters, literally every type of monster, in Sunnydale, but they’re worried about their kids?
- Willow’s facetious, purposely-cheesy rant about “worshipping Beelzebub” and “All hail Satan” sounds like in-earnest dialogue from the new Sabrina. Sigh.
- Joyce actually sort of has a point about Buffy (or really, Giles/The Council) not having a plan. Shouldn’t they have some sort of larger strategy? Like… dousing all graveyards with holy water, or advocating for everyone to get cremated?
- They found newspapers from the 1600s? They didn’t even have Google!
- “Now I just have to let you go with love.” Chilling!
- Cordelia and Giles are a delightful combination.
- “Mom, dead people are talking to you. Do the math.” Hee!
- Oooh this stake-burning scene is so stressful. Poor Amy!
Season 3, Episode 12: “Helpless”
It’s Buffy’s birthday, but after the hellish birthday she had last year, she’s done with big celebrations. Instead, she has longstanding plans with her father (who, if you remember, has not appeared since the second season premiere) to go to the ice show. She makes a big deal and tells everyone about it, and even says that if she cancelled, it would “break his heart.” Oh, Buffy. Unsurprisingly, Hank cancels–with flowers, not even a phone call, like he’s a flaky married boyfriend apologizing to his mistress. Yikes.
Buffy’s also having trouble with her other father figure, who is forcing her to study “vibratory stones” that “cleanse one’s aura.” Has Giles gone New Age on us? What does this have to do with Slayer training? Giles sighs when Buffy makes jokes and says she thinks she should patrol instead, but it sounds like Buffy is actually being the responsible one. She also hints, very unsubtly, that she wants Giles to take her to the ice show–she chatters about all the famous people who have performed, and says earnestly, “A lot of sophisticated people go. ”Aw. This is so sad! She says it’s something families do together, and “if someone were free, they might take their daughter, or student… or Slayer.” Giles! That’s as hard as she can hint!
But Giles isn’t listening to her, because he’s too busy hypnotizing her and injecting her with Kryptonite! While she’s hypnotized by the stones (I guess that’s why he’s gone all New Age?) he injects her with something that temporarily strips her of her super-strength and coordination. It turns out that it’s all part of a crazy Council coming-of-age rite for a Slayer’s eighteenth birthday, in which they strip her of her powers and lock her up with a particularly insane vampire that they’re keeping hostage and dosing with mysterious pills. Which is a particularly inefficient way to test a Slayer’s “cunning,” if you ask me. How many times has a Slayer died during this test, and wasn’t it a bigger hassle to train a new one? You’d think they’d want to protect their investment!
But Buffy doesn’t know any of this, so she’s freaking out. She almost gets stabbed by a vampire on patrol, and then can’t even pull some aggressive jock off of Cordelia. She starts to have an identity crisis–similar to when people started talking about Faith “taking over for her.” Who is she if she’s not the Slayer? She tells Angel that she was “shallow” before becoming the Slayer, a lot like Cordelia (um, rude!), and questions whether he would love her if she was never called. He tells her that he “watched” her before she was called (referring to that flashback sequence n “Becoming,” and that he already loved her back then. “I saw you walking down the steps, and I loved you,” he says. It’s a very sweet speech, accompanied by a book of poetry to boot, but like–she was fourteen?
Anyway, Buffy leaves Angel’s place and gets jumped by the crazy vampire, who has, predictably, escaped his weak-ass restraints and killed a bunch of Council members. She barely gets away. Giles picks her up in his car, and breaks the rules of the test to confess that he’s the one who stripped her powers. She is understandably betrayed, and sobs that he’s a liar. He says that he’ll do anything to “win back her trust,” but she’s not having it. “Who are you?” she sobs. “How could you do this to me?” Giles tells her that since she knows about the test, it’s called off. But then she goes home, and finds that her mom has been kidnapped by Kralik.
Kralik holds Joyce hostage and takes Polaroids of her, telling her all about how he’s going to turn Buffy into a vampire and let her eat Joyce. It’s super creepy! (Also convenient, since if he weren’t so sadistic he would have just eaten Joyce himself by now.) Buffy comes to the house with a bag full of stakes and holy water. Alone. I know she doesn’t trust Giles right now, but like–he’d probably come in handy right about now! She uses her ingenuity to knock out the vampified Council member who’s helping Kralik, but then she’s being stalked by Kralik himself. He whispers “hide and seek” as she walks through the dark house–this is also very creepy! When he finally gets ahold of her, she puts out a cross, very dramatically, as if this will stop him permanently. He places the cross on his skin as like, a sadomasochistic thing, and it’s supposed to be an “oh shit” moment, but like–that only would have stopped him for a second anyway!
He catches her again, and is about to eat her, but then conveniently gets a blinding headache and needs his medication. Buffy sees an opportunity, steals it from him, and runs down to the basement where he’s holding her mother. When he gets there, he takes his pills back and downs a couple, but it turns out Buffy has switched out his glass of regular water for holy water, and he disintegrates. Yay! They’re almost attacked, but Giles, who got word from the Council that Buffy was going through with the “test,” arrives and stakes him. Aw.
The Council guy, Travers, tells Buffy that she passed the test with flying colors, and she tells him to leave town before she gets her strength back. Hee. Then, he tells Giles that he failed the test, because he has “a father’s love for the child”–aw!–so he’s fired. So that’s sad, but at least we’ve established that Giles is Buffy’s replacement father. Now will he take her to the ice show?
Notes from a New Fan:
- Buffy and Angel trying to get out their sexual energy by practicing their fighting skills is so Ross Geller.
- Buffy’s dad is still a thing? Oh, never mind, he doesn’t show up.
- Another villain who has Buffy at his mercy and then is defeated in the extra time it takes him to taunt her. Don’t these guys ever learn?
- Is this episode going to be about Buffy losing her powers because she needs to get laid? Because, unlikely as it seems, that would be hilarious.
- It’s nice that Oz tries to support Buffy in her interest in the ice show, but “Ice is cool. It’s like water, but it’s not.” Really, from a science nerd?
- Does Giles know what’s happening to Buffy? He looks surprisingly evil as she walks away. [Five minutes later: Ah, so Giles DID know what was going on! I was right!]
- I love that Buffy was going to leap to Cordelia’s defense… even if she’s super weak and gets thrown to the ground like a doll.
- “A curse on Slayers!” says Willow, then, “Oh, no. It’s lawyers.” Ah, lawyer hatred reaches deep in society!
- Xander and Oz sublimating their rivalry into seeing who knows more about Superman comic book mythology: ahh, nerd love triangles.
- Hate to blame the victim but maybe when you’re keeping some kind of vicious Frankenstein killer in a coffin you should keep the room brightly lit so you can see if he starts to burst out of his bonds? [Five minutes later: Oh, this guy’s just a regular vampire but with more groaning? I did not get that.]
- Buffy, listen to Angel when he tells you you could never be boring. He is the world’s living expert on being boring, so if he says you can’t do it, believe him.
- I kept thinking the vampire in the coffin was Harry Hamlin but it was actually a random actor who played the creepy landlord on New Girl.
- This test thing just makes me so mad. These Watchers don’t know what it’s like to be a Slayer! They’re going to just test her? Um, I’d like to see you pass your own dumb test! Ugh. You may have noticed we on this blog do not have a lot of love for old white dudes thinking they know best when they actually don’t know a thing.
- At least when Buffy says if he touches her, she’ll kill him, he resists pointing out that she actually won’t and can’t.
- Omg, didn’t anyone tell Mrs. Buffy not to go outside at night? Does she not remember that there are vampires? Sigh.
- Oh I thought that old Watcher dude was going to turn out to have been turned as well. I was like, “Giles, don’t turn your back on him, what is wrong with you!” But then I was wrong. Whew.
- Buffy finally finds her mom, at the bottom of a laundry chute tied to a chair by a psychotic vampire, and Mrs. Buffy tells her, “Buffy, we have to get out.” Thanks, Mrs. Buffy. So helpful.
- Aww, Buffy finally finds a father figure to replace her own dad and he gets fired. That’s so tragic.
- Shut. Up. Xander. Ugh, bragging that you can open a peanut butter jar (especially because you actually can’t)? You are the actual worst!!
Notes from a True Stan:
- Why is Angel asking if she has a date? Didn’t they get back together in “Amends”? I see that we’re back to early season two Bangel, where they decide their relationship status every episode and then forget a week later.
- His shyness when he asks if she has plans is cute though. I wonder if he feels guilty about ruining her last birthday so spectacularly.
- I like when Buffy brushes the vampire ashes off her cute puffer coat like, “Ew.”
- It’s so interesting to see Buffy’s character develop from the first season. A couple of years before, she would have loved the opportunity to stop being the Slayer. Now, it’s a huge part of her identity.
- I also love how the first scene with Kralik punctures the “special girl” trope. When Kralik grabs her, she doesn’t have any snarky remarks, she’s just terrified and helpless, like any other woman would be. She doesn’t have the luxury of beating up guys who catcall her–she’s just moving through the world like women do.
- I love the way Kralik dies, but–wouldn’t the holy water have burned on the way down?