Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes. Warning: May contain spoilers for later episodes.
Episode 10 “Wrecked”
Buffy and Spike wake up in the house they destroyed, and Buffy immediately goes into a shame spiral. She insists that having sex was a mistake, while Spike says it was a “bloody revelation.” She tries to leave, and he gets super rapey, physically holding her back and touching her without her consent. He makes a comment about vampires “getting [her] hot,” and she says, “One vampire got me hot, one. You’re just convenient.” It’s cruel, but Spike is being so gross you can’t really blame her.
Meanwhile, everyone in this episode is sort of falling apart, hence the title. Since Willow also stayed out all night magicking with Amy, formerly Amy-the-Rat, Tara was left to take care of Dawn, and then have an awkward run-in with Willow in the morning. The metaphor of magic-as-drugs gets super explicit this episode–Willow is so hungover, her magic doesn’t even work for the rest of the day. Amy says she can get Willow a pick-me-up and takes her to a
dealer warlock named Rack, who will “take [her] to places [she] can’t even imagine.” Then Amy literally takes her to an alley, except there’s a portal in the alley–cute.
So they arrive at Rack’s place, and Rack is super creepy–the actor played a cult leader in SVU, which is all you need to know about him. He wants something in return for the magic he’s about to give Willow, and it’s strongly implied that it’s a metaphor for having sex for drugs: “You got to give a little to get a little,” he says, creepily. Amy reassures her, “It’s okay, it’s over fast.” Um, no, it’s not okay! Worst friend ever. Then Rack pumps some magic into Willow–pun intended–and whispers, “You taste like strawberries.” Ewwwwwww.
They all get high–it’s not even really a metaphor anymore, Willow is literally floating on the ceiling. Then she starts seeing terrifying hallucinations of demons, which is genuinely scary, and also clearly a bad trip. The next morning, Willow cries in the shower, like she’s been raped or otherwise violated. (And I guess she has! The fandom doesn’t talk about that too much.)
Later, Willow decides to take Dawn to a movie, to make up for abandoning her overnight. But she actually takes her to Rack’s so she can get another dose, leaving her with what are clearly junkies in the waiting room. After making Dawn wait and miss the movie, Willow comes out with the witchy version of dilated pupils–entirely black eyes. As they’re leaving, Willow freaks Dawn out by being all high and on top of the world, and the demon from Willow’s drug trip attacks them. (I guess Willow accidentally summoned him during her bad trip? Unclear.) Willow uses magic to open a car and drive them away, laughing the whole time, and drives them straight into a wall. Ouch.
The demon attacks while Willow is knocked out, and Dawn actually holds her own pretty impressively for a few minutes, until he breaks her arm. Buffy and Spike arrive in the nick of time to save her, and at some point Willow wakes up and kills the demon with magic. Her eyes go back to normal, she tries to apologize tearfully to Dawn, but Dawn slaps her with her good arm.
Willow collapses on the ground, weeping that she’s sorry. Buffy stays with her for a minute while Spike tends to Dawn, and while she’s clearly sympathetic on some level if she’s even engaging with her, she rightly reads Willow the riot act for almost killing her sister. Willow finally admits that she can’t stop using magic and she “needs help.” Rock bottom, etc.
Later, Willow and Buffy have a productive talk where Willow admits that she started to get out of control with magic because she had self esteem issues. “If you could be plain old Willow or super Willow, who would you be?” she asks. “Tara didn’t even know that girl.” Buffy reminds her that Tara wants her to stop using magic, and in the end, Willow promises to quit magic altogether.
Notes from a New Fan:
- It’s so weird to watch Buffy talk to Spike, tell him that their hookup is never going to happen again, and act like she thinks he’s only in it for the sex. Not just because it should be clear to anyone he’s not just in it for the sex. But also because the way it’s scripted, with Buffy so vehemently denying her attraction to him, and tremulously calling him “convenient,” it just feels like we’re on the way to a romcom-style resolution where she admits she does have feelings for him. However, having read up on Joss Whedon’s views on this, I somehow doubt that’s coming. I think he’s being truly literal when he puts words in her mouth like, Spike is a monster—even though he wrote Spike and wrote him as more than that.
- Buffy calls the night before “a mistake” and Spike calls it “a bloody revelation.” Hee! I mean, we’re told Buffy can barely sit down when she gets home. I’m with Spike on this one. That seems pretty revelatory to me.
- Anya wants to make Buffy wear “larva” for a bridesmaid dress. Not “larvae”? It’s just one giant larva? Gross. Although I guess it’s gross either way.
- This guy who plays Rack is ALWAYS a creeper. He played the creepy landlord on New Girl! [And a pedophilic cult leader on SVU! Poor guy. –Janes]
- I can’t believe Willow lets Rack reach into her soul like that. When a creepy guy reaches over to you and says he won’t hurt you, and your friend says “It’s over fast,” that should NOT be reassuring.
- It’s creepy but also sad when Willow makes a suit of Tara’s clothes give her a hug. And yet it’s not that creepy; it really demonstrates the difference between Willow’s pure love for Tara (getting a hug from an empty suit) and Spike’s not-so-pure love for Buffy (getting a blow job from a creepy robot).
- Maybe I’m only noticing this because I have a toddler, but why is Buffy wearing giant hoop earrings?! I get it, she’s not planning to patrol THIS INSTANT, but she can and does run into demons at any time, any place. Doesn’t she realize those things are hazards? Anyone could just rip her earlobes apart by hooking a finger into one of those things. Is this just a me problem? OK, fine.
- Willow leaving Dawn alone in the supernatural equivalent of the waiting room of an opium den is… a new level. Like, she’s been kind of messed up all season but to me this showed how far gone she was.
- Spike is right, Dawn going missing for a little bit—in Willow’s company—really is a “thin” excuse for Buffy coming to get him.
- I love how Buffy pretends she’s too prim to see Spike naked. I mean. I think that ship has sailed.
- Buffy, upset: “Last night was the most perverse, degrading experience of my life.” Spike, joyfully: “Yeah, me too.” Hee!
- I love that Buffy fights the monster while Spike tends to Dawn. It says so much about the gender roles on this show.
- “Oh God, there’s blood,” Willow yells when she arrives on the scene. Wow, could she be less helpful?
- When Willow collapses to the ground, Buffy and Spike just share this look. This totally parental look like “I’ll take Dawn, you deal with this other problem,” where they’re so close they don’t even have to say it out loud.
- Which is why it is honestly bizarre that the show follows this up by equating Buffy’s fairly reasonable lust for Spike to Willow’s incredibly self-destructive love for the hard magic offered by Rack. “I think it’s right to give it up. No matter how good it feels.” I already wrote a long-ass essay in the last post about how I don’t really buy this, so I won’t repeat it here, but come on! Let our girl Buffy have a little fun!
Notes from a True Stan:
- After Buffy and Spike wake up together, Buffy’s shame-filled “oh my god” is so universal.
- The scene where Buffy tries to leave, and Spike basically fingers her without consent, is super icky. I’m sure we’re going to have a big conversation about that scene in “Seeing Red,” but honestly, it’s scenes like this that convince me it’s a necessary corrective. If the show doesn’t directly address that consent is an ongoing problem in their relationship, then this scene is just another lovely entry in the “no means yes” trope.
- Dawn comments that Buffy is always a “total pig after she kills things,” referring to food. Is that a callback to Faith’s “hungry and horny” theory?
- Dawn’s dialogue continues to be cringe and age-inappropriate. After getting a burger with Willow, she says it was like a “meat party in [her] mouth,” and then says, “I’m just a kid, and even I know that came out wrong.” No fifteen-year-old in the history of the universe has ever referred to themselves as “just a kid”!
- Of all the terrible things Willow does in this episode, making Dawn late for a movie and saying “we’ll just miss the previews” might be the worst. Previews are the best part!
- I don’t have a huge problem with the addiction plotline, even when it is on the nose. Except I really hate when Amy’s all, “It’s not what you think it is–it’s sage!” when Buffy catches her with a little baggie of what looks like pot. It’s a little too cute. Plus, why is she about to throw up? Like, why would that be, physically?
- It’s so disturbing that Spike says Buffy “had [him] by the short hairs” when he was just in love with her, but now that they’ve had sex, he’s “gotten his rocks back,” aka he has the power. I’m not complaining–it’s a great portrayal of the dynamics of toxic relationships.
- I agree that the heavy-handed parallels between Willow’s relationship to magic and Buffy’s relationship with Spike are super extra. Yes, they’re both trying to escape, but Willow has a hardcore addiction and Buffy is having sex with a toxic dude. One of those is a serious problem that could harm other people (like Dawn), and the other is just being in your early 20s.
Episode 11 “Gone”
So Willow has agreed to give up magic, and Buffy has agreed to give up Spike. But unlike Willow, whose magic accoutrements get purged from her room by Buffy, no one is around to keep Buffy honest because no one knows about her and Spike. And Buffy is not exactly holding firm; even something as small as Spike’s lighter triggers some pretty vivid knocking-down-the-building flashbacks. Spike shows up looking for “his lighter” but actually, you know, to grope Buffy in the kitchen. (Xander catches them having a weird grope sesh in the kitchen and has no idea what’s really happening. Obviously he’s clueless, but frankly I kind of judge him and the rest of the Scoobs for not figuring all this out. They were all there during that moment when Spike brushed back her hair during “Once More With Feeling”! HOW ARE THEY NOT MORE SUSPICIOUS?!)
Spike isn’t Buffy’s only worry. A woman named Doris from social services shows up to add extra pressure on Buffy. She is not impressed by the revolving door of sketchy youths in the house, and Buffy becomes afraid she’ll lose Dawn.
But before that can happen, the Trio develop an invisibility ray gun which misfires and turns Buffy invisible. Buffy sics Xander and Anya to investigate while she peels off for, uh, some extracurricular activities. Namely, torturing the social worker who’s just trying to protect her sister. Also, pinning Spike against the wall of his crypt and having her way with him. Buffy clearly has a blast being invisible, but takes offense when Spike calls her out on not wanting to own her choices. Spike tells her to go—until she attempts to convince him via an invisible blow job.
Xander’s theory is that Buffy’s invisibility might be Willow’s fault. Willow is weirdly offended by this, like, maybe stay sober for ONE DAY before you get all offended. Then, when Anya touches a pylon that got hit by the ray gun, they realize that it’s disintegrating into pudding and Buffy is going to do the same. (It’s an “unpleasant tactile experience!” Anya complains. Heh.)
Willow finds the Trio’s lair, including a very convenient large whiteboard conveniently labeled “Invisibility ray!” It seems like they’re gone, but they actually are just invisible, so they take Willow hostage. (At first I was confused why they could get the better of her, but I guess technically she’s gone cold turkey on the magic, so she didn’t have many defenses.) They use her to lure Buffy to the arcade, and Warren plans to kill her with the ray gun. Jonathan defends her (he wants them to be “crime lords,” not murderers) and the three of them start squabbling. The four of them have a big fight around the arcade, which of course we can’t actually see happen since they’re all invisible, but it finally ends with Willow reclaiming the ray gun and revealing the trio to the world.
Buffy and Willow end up on the sidewalk alone, having a nice chat. They both say that it’s hard to escape themselves. But there’s progress on one front: Buffy really was scared of what the ray gun might do to her, in contrast to her recent nihilism and ambivalence. “I don’t wanna die,” she says. It’s a big step for Buffy! Now, if she could only learn not to want to be invisible…
Notes from a New Fan:
- Jeez, Buffy and Spike can even make threatening someone with a spatula look… pretty hot.
- Buffy tells the social worker the blanket that keeps Spike from bursting into flames is a security object. Hee!
- The social worker says that Dawn’s frequent absences, lateness, and bad grades are a reason to take Dawn away from Buffy, but like… does social services really have time to worry about girls who are living in giant houses with their adult sisters and one little baggie of magic weed?
- I like Buffy’s short haircut for her arc this season! For a long time her hair has signaled this ultra-femininity that was a barrier to her being taken seriously. But that point’s been made, and now she’s in a place where it makes total sense to reject that vibe, not just because of Spike but because of everything she’s gone through.
- I finally laughed at a Xander joke! Anya tries to seat Buffy with Xander’s family at the wedding and he says, “Great, except we don’t hate Buffy.”
- Willow, while studying, drinks from a square water bottle that’s obviously Fiji but has the label turned inward. How weird is it to watch shows from twenty years ago where they’re coy about the brands they’re using, instead of milking it for sponsorship money?
- How dumb is Xander that he finds Spike in a compromising position all by himself and doesn’t realize it’s an invisible Buffy?
- James Marsters does his best, but it does sort of look like he’s just pretending to grasp an invisible person in mid-air, which in fact, is what he’s doing.
- In my notes for this episode I had been referring to Andrew as the “third nerd” because I couldn’t remember his name. Apparently I wasn’t the only one—when he’s revealed, he has to remind Buffy that he was the guy who summoned the flying monkeys that attacked the school. Buffy has no idea what he’s talking about, and I’m guessing this is a meta-joke about the fact that no one watching remembered him! I mean, I don’t remember that flying monkeys episode either, and I recapped it!
- It’s very cute and on-brand that Buffy can’t pronounce arch-nemeses, but I feel like the joke is diluted because Warren just did the same thing, which is less on brand.
Notes from a True Stan:
- Buffy’s pre-haircut wig is a confusing mixture of plasticky and super lush.
- Xander fully catches Buffy and Spike groping each other and laughs it off as Spike “macking on” Buffy. He’s the dumbest boy in school.
- Buffy is so cruel to the social worker. She was condescending, but she was ultimately just doing her job, and Buffy gaslit her into thinking she was homicidal!
- Willow is wearing a questionable fuzzy sweater, a visual indicator that she’s back to her old dorky self (for now).
- One of my favorite things about this season is how much it corrects itself by the end. A couple of things that are played for laughs in this episode–Andrew wanting to use invisibility to spy on “naked women,” Buffy going down on Spike without his permission–are both part of larger patterns that play out in appropriately horrifying ways.
- Willow learned about molecular acceleration from a quick glance at a whiteboard? She really is a genius.
Episode 12 “Doublemeat Palace”
Buffy is still having money problems, so she starts flipping burgers at the McDonald’s-esque fast food chain Doublemeat Palace. (Seriously, where is the Council in all of this? Shouldn’t it be their job to make sure she has time to patrol and like, I don’t know, save the world?) Everyone who works at the Doublemeat Palace is a drone, staring into space and repeating capitalist mantras like “downtime robs us all.” Her creepy manager Manny talks about how she should want to get her 10-year badge and become a “lifer,” like them, but that’s the last thing she wants. This episode is kind of boring, but fittingly so for an episode where the villain is essentially the drudgeries of capitalism: watching Buffy flip exactly uniform burgers while a creepy guy talks to her about his earwax is one of the most depressing things to happen in an already super depressing season.
Buffy’s spidey sense goes off about a few things: workers are leaving suddenly without explanation, her boss keeps ominously talking about the “meat process” that the burgers are made out of, which sounds very Soylent Green. Her friends brush it off, but Buffy’s never entirely wrong, and it’s quickly confirmed that something is eating the employees. It’s also heavily implied that the wormlike strands of meat coming out of meat grinder are, in fact, made of the missing employees. (This episode really doubles down on the inherent grossness of meat, and since we’re vegetarians here at Adversion, we’re all about it.) [True story. –Nerdy Spice.]
Buffy eventually finds a finger in the meat grinder, seemingly confirming her suspicions, and yells at all the patrons that the meat is “people.” She gets fired, but before she leaves, she steals a burger for Willow to analyze, which Xander then eats by accident! Ew!
While Willow analyzes the crumbs, Buffy returns to the Doublemeat Palace to investigate, and finds Manny’s foot. Then she gets attacked by the monster that’s been eating people, and it turns out to be–twist!–the kooky old lady who frequented the place, and she has a phallic baby-Xenomorph thing that sprouts from her head. It’s actually kind of scary! It spits a paralytic at Buffy, and then bites her shoulder and tries to eat her! Yuck.
Luckily, Willow arrives to tell Buffy that the “meat process” isn’t people (lucky for Xander), but vegetables. Which is pretty hilarious, actually. She finds Buffy fighting the monster and cuts off its head, then Buffy stabs it, and together, they shove it into the meat grinder, which is disgusting. If I wasn’t already a vegetarian, I would be now.
In the end, Buffy tells the new manager that she knows the meat process is vegetables, and essentially says she’ll keep quiet in exchange for getting her job back. This is clearly blackmail, but the new manager is basically like, “Sure, we’ve already trained you, why not?” She’s a lot livelier than Manny, but she also wants Buffy to want to be a “lifer.” Buffy promises that she’s 100% committed to getting that five-year chip. Grim.
In a side plot, Willow, who’s in recovery, gets dosed with magic by Amy. She’s incensed, but Amy insists she’s doing her a favor, and that the magic will feel amazing (it doesn’t seem that great though – it just sort makes everything like, melt?). It’s supposed to be a metaphor for those friends that you need to cut out of your life when you go into recovery, but it’s also just generally a good lesson, to not be friends with people who dose you without your permission. In the end, Willow tells Amy to leave her alone forever – good!
Notes from a New Fan:
- This episode is weird. All the previouslies relate to episodes before the most recent one, where Buffy was all invisible and made out with Spike. Was it aired out of order or something?
- There’s a dehydrated pickle station at the Doublemeat Palace. You can dehydrate pickles?!?!
- Obviously Buffy does not want to get fired from this job that she desperately needs, and yet the worst thing about it is the fact that people keep telling her she might be there for ten years. That is so real.
- Also I love that all the creepy things about the store are exactly the things that make it resemble real jobs in fast food: disengaged employees who disappear at random, mysterious “meat processes,” creepy managers, creepy coworkers, creepy customers…
- [SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF SEASON 6] I think I’m glad I know from fandom that the Spike/Buffy thing ends badly, because the way he looks at Buffy while she works in this dead-end job and tells her she’s better than that? It ABSOLUTELY SLAYS ME (no pun intended). If I didn’t know it ends with some kind of fracas in a bathroom, I would get way too attached and the disappointment would break my heart. I’m not even joking. When Blair chose the wrong guy at the end of Gossip Girl I filled like six pages of my diary complaining about it, and I might be more attached to Spike/Buffy than to Dair (RIP).
- I figured the vengeance demon who appeared in front of Xander was a wedding guest, but it was still an amusing gag when it turned out I was right.
- It was definitely a surprise when the vengeance demon described Xander as “the man with the large upper arms.” I hadn’t really noticed that his arms are quite big, possibly because the buff-ness doesn’t really fit with Xander’s character, sort of like when Adam Brody got really fit at the end of The OC. [Ha, the producers actually told Nick Brendan he had to stop working out, because it didn’t fit his character to be so buff. Maybe that was an in-joke. –Janes]
- Jesus. The cuts from Buffy and Spike looking at each other to, um, the other stuff they’re doing are really escalating. Four episodes ago, they gave each other a sad look and the next thing you know they’re making out at the Bronze. In this episode they look at each other through the window, and next thing you know they’re banging against the exterior wall of the Doublemeat Palace. It’s easy to see why Buffy’s reservations are no match for her attraction, when he’s the one person who says exactly what she wants to hear (that she doesn’t belong in her own life, it’s too dreary and too bleak for her–who wouldn’t be a sucker for that speech at that moment?!).
- Anya describes Xander as “kind”, “brave”, and “sweetest smile.” Um? Then the vengeance demon points out that Xander just corrects Anya all the time. That sounds more accurate.
- Dawn points out Buffy smells funny, and I thought for a sec it was gonna be Spike’s aftershave (or worse), but it’s just human blood. Whew.
- Buffy brings in a burger as possible evidence of cannibalism at Doublemeat Palace and doesn’t warn Xander to not eat it! Oh my god. At this point it’s not even Xander who’s an idiot—it’s definitely Buffy leaving suspected cannibal food in front of her friend.
- Dawn says that Buffy is never gonna be a lawyer, or a doctor, and will always have to be a minimum-wage worker, whereas Dawn could grow up to be anything. I mean, she’s supposed to be a dumb kid, but I think it also speaks to the American fascination with money that Dawn finds this so sad.
- I love how Xander’s big worry is that Anya used to look like the demon friend. He never even considers that it might be him who comes up short in the eyes of Anya’s friend.
- Wait, I don’t get it, so the wig lady wanted to eat humans who were filled with veggie burger?
- Omg the special effects on her weird head stem are so funny.
- I like the idea of Amy as the archenemy for next season! I hope that happens.
- At the end, Buffy’s happy ending is that she gets her job back and is told to aim for a 5-year button. You can really see why Spike gets to her this season. He may not be a good person, but he’s the person who still sees her as extraordinary, when everyone else has kind of gotten used to her heroism. And she needs that because otherwise she might forget that she’s special as she trudges through her first, awful year of independent adulthood.
- In fact, the close-up of the 5-year button might be the biggest “scare” of the episode. (Although, to be clear, a stable job in fast food service, if it paid well enough to live, would be a perfectly fine way to live, if one enjoyed it! But Buffy doesn’t. Also, realistically, it almost certainly doesn’t pay enough to live.)
Notes from a True Stan:
- Xander hears that the Trio had pictures of Vulcan women in their lair and is all like, “oooh!” I feel like Xander being exactly like the Big Bads could have been unpacked a little more.
- “You’re marrying that man with the large upper arms? Why?” Halfrek is the girlfriend we all need.
- Wait, Halfrek also points out that Xander and Anya’s relationship basically consists of Xander correcting her all the time? She’s the best!
- Every time I see that scene where Buffy and Spike are having sex outside the Doublemeat Palace, I flash back to when I was eleven and this first aired, and our other sister (who was fourteen at the time) came in and shrieked, “Are they F*CKING?!”