The adorable girl bonding that some of you love (some of you, I know, not so much) continues as WillTara ponder the next step in their relationship: animal adoption. I can’t help remembering that last week Tara floated some horse-related gambit past Willow and got reluctance and fear in response. She has scaled down her pitch considerably now, by suggesting they might merely get a cat.
This reflects Tara’s general optimism about how things are going and her growing importance in the world of Willow, chief evidence of which is the fact that she’s going to her first Scooby meeting. She helped defeat evil at Riley’s house last week, see, and now she’s invited to the clubhouse. Take note, Jonathan, because that could have been you!
The meeting itself is high on business, low on drama. Buffy’s not catching much in the way of monsterage, while the Initiative is up to their orifices in demonkind. Anya and Giles snipe at each other about whether this is meaningful or boring (I’d say some things can probably be both).
Then Oz walks in, offering up one of his typical Shakespeare-length monologues by way of greeting: “Lo, for though I have traveled far and wide, and also to Tibet, the better to bring you all prayer flags and inner peace, I, Oz, former denizen of Sunnydale and the race of manwolves....”
I know you’ve all been quoting it since ere the thing aired, so I’ll stop.
Is anyone surprised that it’s Xander who breaks the ice, reaches out, shakes his hand and thereby welcomes Oz into their space? Me neither!
Oz is very sweet about asking Willow if he can see her later, without making any big assumptions. Tara bails in a fluster, her preferred mode of transportation. Anya sums it all up when she says: “Everyone’s uncomfortable now.”
That would be everyone except Riley, who is out of the loop once more.
But discomfort is on the way, Iowa, so don’t feel left out! Buffy’s attempt to bring him up to speed spawns an argument neither of them is expecting: she tells him Oz is a werewolf, Riley throws her a “Willow is into dangerous guys, whoa, that’s so dark!” riff. And without knowing it—because guess who still hasn’t told him about Angel?—he kicks up all her issues about her original one true love and his general state of undeadness.
If Riley spent more time with Xander, he’d have gotten an earful about this by now.
It hurts a little to watch Oz light up at the mere sight of Willow. He pretty much glows in her presence. There’s no doubt he’s done nothing but work toward getting her back. He invites her out for a pleasant moonlit stroll (and I feel I must mention she goes in what may be the cutest coat ever sewn) and we get the big reveal: the moon’s full, yet Oz doesn’t turn into a werewolf.
“I can be what you need now,” he tells her. “I’m a different person.”
Oh, ouch. Because what she needs may indeed be a different person.
Oz’s monologue—and this time it actually is one—is pretty intriguing. He acknowledges the pain he caused Willow, without explicitly apologizing. He’s willing to hang around, not push, be available and hope to win back her heart through good behavior and lots of charm. And, again, he hasn’t made assumptions: he actually asked Xander if she had a new guy.
One of the things we have to love about Oz, I think, is he’s always extremely clear about what he needs.
Last week when I was writing about Anya’s burst of sexual insecurity, I got to thinking about which Scooby would make the best life partner. The total bluntness of Anya is something I find endearing in a “you always know where you stand” kind of way. But the Oz version of total disclosure has its appeal, too, and it’s overall more pleasant.
This in turn made me remember that wow, in the long-ago days when this stuff was airing, it was so very common for twelve BtVS fans a day to write up their own “Which Scooby Are You?” and “Which Buffy monster ate your homework?” and, yes, “Which Buffy Boy is your Dream Date?” memes and put them on sites like Quizilla, so that eight kazillion other fans would do the quiz—choosing the answers that would obviously lead the software to pick their fave—and cross-post the results to whatever they were using to blog.
Livejournal was lousy with these things:
“You picked Giles! What you want in a man is a dark past and a big collection of ancient texts whose contents can destroy this plane of existence.”
“Your soulmate is Faith. Seek help.”
Remember that? Doesn’t that seem like it was... decades ago?
Back to the rewatch! As WillOz commence talking the night away and BuffRiley descend into a world of snark, Graham and some other minor Initiators are attacked by inconveniently hairy demons.
Oz catches Willow up on his not-quite-cure and his travels. She tells him about her continuing pursuit of magical pwnage. In the morning, Tara comes by while Willow’s in the bathroom. She sees Oz is there, stammers a lot and flees. Thinking: did they, you know, reconcile? Is it even worth getting a cat now? Darn that Willow and the way she’s obviously just hopped back into the hairy arms of her first love!
It is legitimately, horribly upsetting and she cannot deal.
Oz, naturally, doesn’t give her appearance or departure much thought. There’s a single moment of disquiet and then, I dunno, maybe he thinks “Squirrel!”
As BuffRiley wake up together, our Slayer’s still steaming about the dangerous guys remark. The two of them get into it about whether it’s possible for demons to only be semi-horrific beings. Forrest, who’s been listening at the door as usual, realizes this is the perfect time to burst in and tell them that Graham is injured. This offers Riley the moral high ground, which is lurking offstage next to a tasty parting line, and so he storms off to get revenge on all things hairy and paranormal.
When Buffy gets home to the dorm, Willow is on the bed, pretty much in the same emo-hunker pose she adopted when Oz first left her. Buffy switches into supportive bestie mode, asking the obvious: why isn’t Willow kicking up her heels and singing “My boyfriend’s back and he’s gonna be less trouble!” or some similarly-themed expression of musical joy?
(Yes, I know. Alyson Hannigan prefers to not sing.)
Because of Tara, Willow says. It’s complicated, she says, which leads me to remark that if this had happened in the Facebook now rather than the Which Buffy Character Do you Dress Like? past, Oz would already have seen the change in Willow’s relationship status and the whole thing would have played out differently.
Buffy doesn’t get what she’s saying, at first, about Tara. Then she gets it. Then she has a mini-freak out. Finally she shakes off the fleeting attack of OMG you like girls now? and tries to help. There’s limited help to be offered: no monsters to bash, anyway. The uncomfortable reality is that no matter what, somebody’s gonna get hurt.
And on that bummery note, we look in on Adam, who has come looking for Spike. He’s a recruiter at heart, that young man, and he offers to help everyone’s favorite fanged blondie bear with his chip-related potency problems.
Willow hustles over to Tara’s Willow-Friendly Love Shack to make sure it’s clear she didn’t bang Oz the night before. It’s an emotional scene: Tara wants to be sure Willow knows they’ll still be friends, whatever happens. Willow tells her, honestly, “I don’t know what to do.”
“Do what makes you happy.” It just about kills Tara to say it, poor thing. But she knows it’s not her choice and she’s trying to make it as easy on Willow as she can. What this gets her is a weeping Willow and limited comfort on her own behalf. It’s all very lovely and patient of her.
The nobility is all well and good right up until thirty seconds later, though when she runs into Oz on campus and he smells Willow, as he puts it, “all over her.” And with that, suddenly, Oz’s lycanthropy is not so much under control. He manages to tell Tara to run before beginning to change.
Soon, and yet again, Tara’s fleeing for her life with a slavering monster hot on her heels. Really, just getting briefly possessed last week by homophobic poltergasms must have been so restful!
And since I made a fashion comment about Willow’s coat, above, I will also say that Oz’s bad werewolf costume remains pretty damned bad.
I know Seth Green was just returning for one last episode. I know the BtVS powers that be had decided that the point of “New Moon Rising” was for all of us and the Scoobies to wave one last goodbye. But Oz’s wolfing out makes Willow’s dilemma a lot simpler, doesn’t it? The fact is, Oz has not changed and he is still a danger. If he’ll eat Tara, he’ll definitely get down with Veruca’s younger sister when she comes sashaying onto campus next fall.
It all rather lets Willow off the hook, is what I’m saying, when it initially looked as though she might have to make an excruciating choice.
This is academic, though, because the Initiative gets Oz and the Scooby gang has to go into rescue mode before something really bad can happen. You know, like Riley shooting him. Or scientists playing power surge with his nervous system.
While Oz is getting captured and Willow’s love life is on high churn, Adam and Spike have been bonding over uranium mochas and a Weetabix blood shake over at the Sunnydale Art Gallery’s new Dismemberment and Disassociation in Modernist Culture exhibit. (I’m sure you all remember that Ancient Things that Raise Unspeakable Evil had closed down the month before.) Adam is all fulla armies and parts and battle and carnage—clearly he’s got himself a master plan, now. Spike counters with talk of Buffy’s tendency to pick battles and then, annoyingly, win them.
“Guess you better play for her team, then,” Adam says, so Spike promptly heads off to cement his tenuous Scooby position by helping them all with the wererescue. Even he gets it, Jonathan!
Oz has spent his afternoon getting drugged and then tasered on a gurney, an experiment whose chief result is convincing Riley that maybe there is a little wiggle room between the poles of human-good, monster-bad.
Iowa is decisive, give him that. Once he’s on board, he makes an immediate, if unimpressive, attempt at a rescue and gets himself arrested. He’s accused of disloyalty, abuse of command, and releasing a lethal HST. Possibly also forgetting Forrest’s birthday.
The Scoobies, of course, know none of this. Willow refuses to back up the rescue attempt from afar. Oz is in danger! She must be present at the jailbreak, rather than merely hacking from the sidelines! Adam, therefore, opens his weird-cyber headplate and secretly helps Anya and Giles hack into the power grid to cause a convenient blackout centered on the UC Sunnydale campus. This is useful to the rescue effort and cements the whole Spike is helping cover.
What is also useful is that nobody has shown the entire Initiative Buffy’s photograph. She and Xander and Spike and Willow traipse through the base unopposed, tra-la-la, and get into Colonel MacNamara’s boudoir without any trouble at all. He and Buffy have a ritual exchange of snarls, during which he lets drop that Riley’s all disgraced and arrested and in need of rescue himself.
The gang liberates Riley and Oz. Oz can’t really face Willow without getting wolfy. On their way out (They take the elevator that kills! Hello, don’t go in there!) the Colonel threatens Riley and gets himself socked in the jaw. Disloyalty and abuse of command are such piddly charges, after all. If they’re gonna convene a court-martial anyway, Riley figures, he should at least have assaulted a superior officer.
So now that’s done. Riley is hypothetically Initiative-free, and a fugitive, and he admits to Buffy he was wrong about Oz. Buffy, in turn, decides she trusts him enough to tell him about Angel.
And then Oz and Willow break up. For sure. In the van. Again.
Oz thought he had changed. Of course nothing in life is that easy—you can leave out the werewolf part of this equation and the story still rings true. Despite the identical staging of the two good-bye scenes, though, things have changed. Willow is far from shattered. And Oz, like Tara, cares more that she’s happy than for himself.
What Willow tells him, as she says goodbye, rates in my memory as one of the most moving and memorable of the Scooby speeches. It has always stuck with me: “I feel like some part of me will always be waiting for you.” It chokes me up.
But, as the wolfman says, now is not their time. It’s sad, but I do find myself content to wave Oz goodbye, and I’m happy when Willow goes directly to Tara and tells her, finally, that it’s her—it’s her time. Or, rather, theirs.
And then there’s some slightly disappointing business with a candle, wherein we’re encouraged to imagine them getting extremely frisky with each other but no visual teaching aids are supplied.
Next: Yoko Yoko Yoko
A.M. Dellamonica has so much fiction up here on Tor.com! Her “baby werewolf has two mommies,” story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales.