Mon
Mar 11 2013 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Who’s Riding Off in a Huff(icoptor?)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

Season 5, Episode 10: “Into the Woods”
Written and directed by Marti Noxon

By now, everyone has been waiting forever for Joyce to get out of surgery, so let’s cut to the hospital waiting room for the good news, shall we? The procedure was a complete success! Everything’s going to be okay! Joyce will live forever! Hurrah!

Everyone’s happy except the doctor, who gets a rib-crushing Slayer special of a hug as his much-deserved reward. (And also, probably, hundreds of dollars per hour.)

With the vigil over and the outcome promising, the gang splits up, everyone heading to their respective homes to catch up on the things they’ve been missing, like sleep and regular meals and possibly a little zoning out in front of the tube. Sex, too: Dawn spends the night at Xander’s so BuffRiley can get a little quality couple time together.

At first glance, the couple time is working out beautifully. Everything does indeed seem dialed up for romance at Chez Slay. Buffy and Riley are all a-cuddle, and if she says a few things to fuel his still-raging insecurities, it doesn’t stop the two of them from getting horizontal.

Outside the bubble, Spike’s lurking himself into a well-clad bag of festering jealousy. Like Dawn, he’s all too aware of what’s going on in there, and he can’t deal. Even though it’s obvious he knows better, he hangs around for so long that Riley starts feeling unneeded by his sleeping beloved. When he sneaks out—in that same way Buffy used to, when she was slipping off to go hunting—Spike duly follows him to a vampire club that should, by rights, be called the Sucking Hole.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

Next day, Buffy and Joyce are celebrating their imminent escape from the medical system by trying on wigs in the hospital. They are both so incredibly relieved that Joyce is going to be okay. (Forever!)

“Shouldn’t you also be spending time with Riley?” Joyce asks. Buffy, clueless, replies she can see him anytime.

Which is true! With Spike’s help, she can not only see him anytime but anywhere, and can even follow him to his seedy dive, where as we all know it turns out he’s getting nommed by a female vampire in the most distasteful fashion possible (at least, possible between two consenting adults still wearing their underwear).

Nobody but Spike is happy about this revelation. More to the point—and rather to Spike’s surprise—nobody’s falling gratefully into his arms, either. Oh, Spikey, you silly silly being.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

As the love of his life staggers away, a shaken Riley goes home to regroup and finds his apartment infested with soldiers. He’s grumpy about it, but nevertheless is cajoled into listening a recruitment pitch from Major Ellis and Graham. Rejoin the army! Fly to exotic distant lands and risk your life killing evil things. Tempting, no?

Buffy, needless to say, is freaking out. Rather than confiding in her friends, she asks about the whole paying to be fed upon thing, and then expresses a general desire to kill everyone involved on the supply side. Giles mentions that there’s consent in play and suggests that there are other entities, like Glory, who may be in more immediate need of killing. The phrase ‘less ambiguous evil’ is deployed. This goes over with Buffy like the proverbial pregnant pole vaulter.

(It’s also just about the only mention, this week, of the bigger story building over the course of season five.)

This is, in fact, one of those episodes where just about everyone who gets a minute of screen time uses it to be cranky. Willow and Anya, for example, get into some serious sniping at each other. And Riley—whose beef is more understandable—heads off to the crypt and fake-stakes Spike.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

Why is there such a thing as a fake stake?

Somehow this bit of violence and revenge leads to Spike and Riley having a heart to heart about their love problems. This is not much good for either of them. “You’re not the long-haul guy,” Spike tells Riley. We all know it’s true. TV abhors a happy relationship.

In time, we circle back to the magic store where XandAnya are hanging out and Buffy is killing the danger room. Finally Riley shows up, too. By now Xander, having been half in the know anyway, has pretty much guessed the general parameters of what’s wrong. He and Anya bail to leave them to fight it out.

They do. Riley tells Buffy a whole buncha self-serving truth about his sucky habit. And then he tells her about his exciting new job opportunity. She basically hears “1) I’m sorry I hurt you; 2) it’s your fault 3) I’m leaving,” and is appalled. Go figure.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

As she’s wandering through Sunnydale processing this brain-whirling turn of events, the vamp pimp, whose name is apparently Whip, turns up with nine of his buddies to throw themselves on her stake. This is bad planning on his part, and it gets the entire gang the pointy end of the Slayer’s “I’ve been training really hard for months!” regime.

I’d forgotten about this fight, and I’m happy to have seen it again. The nine vamps are so completely outclassed! My memory of how this season went was that meeting Dracula sparked Buffy’s extra-shiny study regime, but that all fell under a bus after Joyce became ill. But this is a delicious bit of continuity, a line thrown back to those weeks of dedication. Okay, these guys are hardly the Order of Taraka, but Buffy barely breaks a sweat here! We can see the obvious dividends from all that practicing and it is truly amazing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

Sadly, this is not the episode where we get to enjoy Buffy on a thoroughly justified killing spree, so the fighting, and Buffy’s subsequent spearing of Riley’s paid succubus, are over all too soon. Xander shows, dragging our attention back to the seamy break-up in progress by trying to do some damage control.

On reviewing this episode, I was surprised at how much of its contents I found true to life, especially in terms of the timing. Both Riley and Spike have been in wait mode while Joyce was ill. They sit on their issues until the crisis has seemed to pass, and then hit the object of their affection—indecently fast—with their piles of messy love-inspired emotional crap. Man, that happens! Because tension builds, right? And even a saint—neither man is a saint, mind you—can only hold it in so long.

Or possibly it’s just that there’s never enough downtime to really let you recover from having to hold everything together while your parent’s having brain surgery, so the big stupid next thing always seems to come indecently fast.

Anyway, this sudden post-Joyce explosion struck a strangely believable chord.

I have also been extremely interested in seeing the Buffy/Xander scene near the end of this episode, where he essentially tells her to swallow her pride. (Okay, that and a whole lot of other stuff.) The extra interest came because I’d recently seen—as many of you may have—the Mary Sue article by Natasha Simons called “Reconsidering the Feminism of Joss Whedon.” In it, she talks about this particular scene and Xander generally.

If I were to really boil down what Simons says about this particular BuffXander heart to heart, it’s that it’s unfair to Buffy in a manifestly sexist way. That Xander’s castigating Buffy for being a bad girlfriend and picking on Riley. That instead, Xander ought to be cheering her on for having told Iowa to take his ultimatum and stick it where the vamps don’t sparkle.

In a sense I’m on board with the “unfair” part of the equation. A close friend, given this situation, is usually better off listening and supporting. Riley behaved badly, and he offered a thoroughly whiny self-justification. He did basically dump his bad choices on Buffy’s lap: you made me do this, you were distant, nyah, nyah and btw, I’m taking a job in South America.

But. Xander understands better than Buffy what’s going on with Riley. He thinks she wants to stay with him. And there’s no time. Under the circumstances, “swallow your pride and make a decision” is probably the kindest and most loving advice anyone could possibly offer.

And contrast it with Xander’s “Kick his ass” declaration in the lead-up to Angel’s death. In S2, withholding the news that Willow was trying the curse meant Xander deprived Buffy of the opportunity to save her love life. Now, three years later, he’s at least telling her to figure out what she wants and go after it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

In “Into the Woods,” Xander’s not saying a BuffRiley reconciliation would be anything but one of those slow, dreadful, figuring-it-out relationship marathons. The chopper conveniently leaving at midnight may be the stuff of fiction, but the “sometimes the wronged party has to make a decision before they’re ready to forgive” bit? Again, pretty true to life.

Which raises the question of how much realism the audience for a show like BtVS wants. Because me, I often come to my genre TV looking for the fluffy and improbable. Up with “School Hard!” Down with hospital vigils and cheaty boyfriends.

(I am in agreement with Simons about Xander’s belittling of Anya and Cordelia—the individual insults were often funny, but it never made me comfortable and I don’t think it makes him look good. Anyway, it’s an interesting article, packed with spoilers for most of the Whedon shows. If you want to discuss it with each other, please do read it instead of agreeing or disagreeing with my oversimplification.)

The upshot is that Riley goes. I’ve said before that I think having this kind of a long-running steady boy, with a pulse, was a good experience for Buffy. But Spike’s right. We all know Iowa wasn’t the long-haul guy, even if Buffy did run her heart out trying to catch him there at the end.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch Into the Woods Riley break-up

The episode ends with Xander taking a small but crucial step. Over the course of the episode both Willow and Buffy have taken shots at him for not really caring about Anya. So he takes his own advice, heading home and taking the time to tell Anya in no uncertain terms, that he loves her.

Then we get a few shots of Buffy and Riley being all mopetastic and newly single before the credits roll.

Next: Triangle


A.M. Dellamonica has kaboodles of 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.

Now you can read her novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

35 comments
Sun Dog
1. Sun Dog
This episode is where I get angry, not just at the character of Riley but at the show itself and the writing staff who form the fundamental values that drive its character interaction. Buffy and Riley's relationship, to me, seems symptomatic of an overly puritanical mindset that is the driving force behind the relationships on the show and which doesn't really have any place in the modern world beind depicted.

First we have Riley himself, the man who actually committed the act of metaphorical infidelity, who is apparently suddenly the victim in all of this? When Joss Whedon was asked about why Riley had to leave, he said that the viewers didn't want Buffy to have a "healthy' relationship. I would argue that Riley and Buffy's relationship was never healthy to begin with. From the beginning Riley had been overly and obsessively neurotic about the fact that he can't beat up his girlfriend, and unreasonably paranoid about her interactions with other men. He even brings up Dracula in his big speech, yet again, and yet again neither of them mention that Buffy was being mind controlled. Riley is angry at Buffy, a girl he's been dating for barely a year, because he doesn't think she wants to marry him. And we, the viewers, are apparently supposed to think that this is a good reason for him to emotionally and physically betray her, that if Buffy isn't prepared to commit to eighty years with a man she's barely known for one then she is a bad girlfriend who doesn't deserve the country fried goodness of a man who goes to not-prostitutes whenever he doesn't feel special enough.

Then we have Buffy, who is painted as the person at fault not only by Riley, not only by herself, not only by Xander who shows up without warning and starts yelling at her without even learning the full story, but by the universe itself which brings Riley back when Buffy is at her lowest point just to rub it into her face what she'd lost. Not a single character, not a single part of the show, dares to argue that Riley might be at fault for his own insecurities. Instead, we get a big pile-on-Buffy blame train for not prioritizing her boyfriend's insecurities above her mother with brain cancer.

Above all else, what comes to mind when I think of Buffy and Riley's relationship is Nathan Fillon's character from season 7: an all-American, Midwestern, good-ole-boy who despises women to his very core. In season 7 there's a lot of hemming and hawwing about Caleb and his craaaaazy bible-fueled rants against women and their uncleanliness, but when it comes down to the attitude BtVS promotes whenever sex is concerned he may as well be at the head of the writing staff.

On a less serious note, I feel really bad for those working vamps Buffy took out. In these late seasons there are a lot of things, including Spike's slow transformation even without the help of a soul, that makes Buffy's crusade against vampires and demons seem like less of a fight against evil and more of a heartless genocide.
Sun Dog
2. build6
I agree about the "non-hostile vamps" that Buffy killed. I felt sad it happened. I really thought she was going to let that last one run away and felt that she did something wrong killing her while she was running away. It was cruel.

About Riley... I don't know about the "underlying rationale" behind why the writers had it happen that way - I can agree with how you see it. But I'm not sure if that's exactly the only option.

I notice that you say Riley is unhappy he can't "beat up" his girlfriend, and I think your interpretation is too "aggressive". How I've seen it is more along the lines of the power in a relationship.

In real life, there's a lot of couples who founder when e.g. it turns out the woman is more successful, for example. That's the analogue here, for me. What happens when the girlfriend/wife makes more than the boyfriend/husband? A *lot* more? This is a real problem for a lot of real people. Because logically while you can *think* it doesn't matter, the underlying biology/psychology might disagree. And what do you do then, when so much of a relationship isn't quite "rational reasoning-out"? A lot of people can't take it. It could mean here that Riley just really isn't "the right one" for Buffy.

But you could also take what he said to Buffy about telling him to stay, is that he is in fact *not* one of the guys who absolutely cannot handle being the 2nd guitarist in a band, and he just needs some confirmation that Buffy did in fact actually care that he is around, because we've had ten+ episodes of him seeing evidence of Buffy NOT caring. He's not seeing the full picture, but he's acting on what he sees, which is pretty much what anyone can be expected to do. So to that end his actions are justifiable...

until you get to the whole vamp feeding thing, which I can agree puts him beyond the pale. In terms of the story, the writers having made him do this may be a bit too extreme. It would be more of a "grey area" if Riley hadn't done this. I mean, if in a real life relationship one party sneaks off for prostitutes because the other made him feel unwanted, you could understand if he was forgiven for that, but you could ALSO understand if he was *not*. And that's not really something for "outsiders" to decide, it's for the parties involved.

Thing is, Buffy DID decide to go after Riley, and it irks me that it's just a "timing issue" that it ended up not happening. It's like they've both been cheated.
Fredrik Coulter
3. fcoulter
@Sun Dog: I disagree with your analysis of the show's view of Riley. I don't think that the show is making Riley out to be a victim. The show is making Riley out to be a victim in his own view of the world.

The former could be considered to be anti-female. The latter could be considered creating a more complex character.
Constance Sublette
4. Zorra
Blaming one and not blaming the other isn't how this played out.

They both were at fault. Buffy didn't talk to Riley about anything. Buffy generally doesn't talk to anybody about anything, until, generally, it's too late. She's always been like this. She tells people what to do, but she doesn't say why. She hates to speak to anyone of her own fears and disappointments. Buffy is not even an OK communicator. And she's young, for pete's sake!

Riley is, as @2 Build6 says, going through the 'less than my girlfriend / wife / partner thing. Anyone who has ever been in the situation of having more success than her boyfriend / husband / partner knows what hell that creates. Sometimes couples get through it. Mostly they don't. Whether or not they do, in the meantime lots of mean and hurtful things happen.

It's messy, no matter what. And like Buffy, Riley's young. He seems never to have a girlfriend before. Buffy's not had a boyfriend before -- Angel, really, was not a boyfriend, but more of a operatic dark lover. Not the same thing.

And people do lose relationships in one step at a time. Both Buffy and Riley took those steps. She ran to fix this one -- just a little too late.

It happens.

And yes, Team Whedon does like to humiliate its central figures. Look at what they put Angel through on his show. That season 6 busines with Buffy -- they really really really hurt her, and Riley showing up was the icing on the cake.

OTOH, that's a wish fulfillment too, isn't it? To run into your ex, who was always so much superior to you, when you are happy, successful -- and in love with a terrific person who loves you back?

That happens too.

But O do I hurt for Buffy in season 6. It's like they yanked her out of heaven, shoved her into hell, and then -- into purgatory. She didn't deserve that. But it happens.

Love, C.
Alyx Dellamonica
5. AMDellamonica
@Sundog "Instead, we get a big pile-on-Buffy blame train for not prioritizing her boyfriend's insecurities above her mother with brain cancer." I am so with you on this! Well put!

I can completely buy that Riley felt insecure and acted out. But I also feel that Joyce's illness was the kind of crisis where you're called upon to hang on and be patient... not go looking for hobbies that will make everything worse.
Sun Dog
6. Dianthus
Man, I'm really glad I don't know how it feels to get shouted down for expressing a less popular point of view. Boy, that must really suck.

Anyhoo...thanks for the link, AMD. I found the article on Buffy very interesting. I never was as much into Firefly.
Also, The Sucking Hole! Yay! I imagine a much nicer, well-established, high class version in N'awlins. Where all the vamps are kinda like s5 Spike, sans chip.

Interesting, too, that even Riley ends up drinking with Spike and opening up to him. Dr. Spike is always in.
The fake stake is to psyche us out. There doesn't need to be a better reason.

I think it's Whedon who didn't want to see Buffy in a happy relationship. If I like someone, then I want him/her to be happy. Call me crazy, but that's just the way I am.
Constance Sublette
7. Zorra
@6 The Sucking Hole! Yay! I imagine a much nicer, well-established, high class version in N'awlins.
Have you visited many of New Orleans bars? The supreme home of dive bars? Particularly if you never get out of the French Quarter. Don't look at anything inside one of those places in the French Quarter closely and / or in the daylight.
Sun Dog
8. Dianthus
@7. I've been to N'awlins twice (both, pre-Katrina). I didn't spend much time in the French Quarter, and I'm not much of a drinker.
I think the House (of the Setting Sun?) would be somewhere on the fringe of the Garden District (maybe) in a pre Civil War mansion with only one owner. She uses her cut to grease local pols and support right-wing and Fundamentalist 'Christian' causes. It's just good for business.
My first trip was a long weekend. Anne Rice had just released Memnoch the Devil and threw a big party for the fans. What a night!
2nd trip, I was there longer (almost a week). I went on some walking tours, did a plantation/swamp tour (finally made it to Oak Alley, only 10yrs after Interview with a Vampire was released in theaters), took a jazz dinner cruise out on the river.
It's an amazing city, a Great American City, and watching the Katrina coverage, and the callousness of Bush et al, broke my heart into tiny little bits.
Leslie Arai
9. creepygirl
Re: Riley, on the one hand, I think he was in a really difficult situation. He lost his best friend, his mentor, and his career all in a very short amount of time, which left him with Buffy . . . and maybe school? (Not sure because the show seemed to lose interest in college after Season 4.) A few years ago, I moved away from family, friends, and my just-started career to be with my husband. It was extraordinarily difficult. If I'd felt even the slightest bit insecure about our relationship, I'd have been in a very, very bad place.

But on the other hand, Riley handled that situation about as badly as he could, for all the reasons that everyone has said, and capped it off with the "I have enough time to flirt with Buffy but not enough to tell her the objective of our mission or the fact that I'm married" Grade A dickishness of As You Were, so good riddance to him.

On a completely different note, was this an episode where the vamps chose to fight Buffy with wooden poles? One of those "I guess vampirism makes you stupid" moments.
Sun Dog
10. Dianthus
The actor who played Graham's commanding officer also played a super creepy villian on The X-Files. He still creeps me out here and in the previous ep.
@9. Grade A dickishness indeed. Let's rub Buffy's nose in what she could've had. Look @ who she's with. Ew! Never mind that they're back to makin' whoopie even after the beat down she gave him in Dead Things.
Supposedly, they were working on an ep. that made it 'ok' (somehow), but the script wasn't ready in time, so we got Older and Far Away instead. Maybe it wasn't working b/c it meant excusing domestic abuse?
Sun Dog
11. build6
@4 Zorra - ouch :-(. Not to intrude but that sounded personal-ish... hope it wasn't too bad.

Equal rights notwithstanding, there's a lot of societal and subconscious expectations about gender roles that people are often surprised to find that they have internalised, even if they don't *want* to have them... .

@9 creepygirl - hrm you're right, Riley DID have his whole world turned upside down - he used to have a Serious Important Group to belong to (and was pretty much top dog in it, no less), doing Fulfilling Important Stuff.

Then he found out he'd been lied to, used, betrayed (Dr. Walsh!), and now he's with a bunch of people who he doesn't really fit in with (I'm thinking of the patrol where he was trying to be all "military", and Willow and Xander were walking around behind basically clowning around... he'd be reasonable in finding it disrespectful :-\). A group of people who really don't need him, mostly outpower him, and just have the "wrong attitude".

Not quite "Mom might die" bad, but still not all roses. So he was under stress too. But yeah, seriously, in S6 he couldn't have told Buffy right out "Buffy, there's something I need to tell you. I married a skank." (well ok that's not fair to her).

Speaking of burdens... Buffy doesn't really talk, but I mean, "Chosen One" and all that, who is there she can really share with? Well, there WAS Faith, but look how that turned out. It's no surprise she keeps to herself. Everyone looks to her to solve their (and the whole world's) problems. She can't even find an equal, much less someone she can really look up to/rely on... actually this has really been happening a LOT to her, all the time, way back in Season 1, wasn't there a teacher who was actually nice to her and encouraged her... and then immediately got killed by that Mantis-teacher? And that therapist too. It's a wonder Buffy hasn't gone crazy.
Sun Dog
12. Dianthus
@11. Buffy did have someone she could talk to: Spike. I know I sound like a broken record, but it's there in his song - whisper in a dead man's ear. He was her Confessor and Confidant. Spike understood her in a way no one else could.
FFL was the only time Buffy ever took any interest in Slayers who came before her.
Those girls were gone, they didn't leave records (unlike the Watchers), so it's no wonder she feels disconnected, but there was one person (who was a surprisingly good listener).
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
@12, The converse of that, is what was the listener saying? Spike was great for her to talk to, but getting shit off your chest is not the only step in healing, it's in the advice and concern they give back. And Spike's advice was mostly self-serving and designed to manipulate Buffy into maintaining the relationship, like in this very episode.

She also had Tara, who demonstrated a willingness to keep Buffy's confidences. I understood that it was a difficult situation, but Tara was not doing it for any self serving reasons, and would have provided her with some unbiased non judgy advice. I am very sad that story never got to go anywhere.

Buffy and Riley's break up felt real. I think Riley's excuses were crap, but I can understand why he would justify his decisions like that. In all honesty, Riley's needs were not being met, and those needs are intricately linked to his views on masculinity and gender roles, and those needs would never have been met by Buffy. And it's not fair to Riley that he be the one who has to change to make the relationship work. So while I can understand Buffy's desire to try and make it work, and chase after the helicopter, it would have only delayed the inevitable. And I think that's one reason why they went out of their way to demonstrate that Sam is capable and competent, to try and show that Riley wasn't freaked by strong women, or equality, but by the power differential.

As far as THAT episode, while I can understand why people don't like it, it was necessary for Buffy to be reminded what other people saw in her that was so great. For all that Spike tried(and he did, it's just that without a soul, even his attempts at good deeds are poisoned by the demon's self interest and short sightedness) to be there for Buffy and support her, it was in his own interests to keep her self esteem low, so she wouldn't believe that she could do better than Spike, that's what that scene is all about when she goes to him in As You Were. She wanted to end it before, but when Riley came back, she felt down, so she went to the one person who adored her. Buffy may have been physically abusive to Spike, but that just shows that she tries to solve all of her problems with violence, which is not necessarily an issue of being an abuser herself, while he was emotionally abusive, which is the one thing shared with actual domestic abuse, the emotional manipulation to keep the victim in the relationship.

But the kind of escape Spike offered wasn't healthy, and Buffy needed to learn that sometimes you need to face the judgement of those you love so you can see all the ways you've been exercising bad judgement. Bringing Riley in for that confrontation prevented Buffy from facing the Scoobs, since the plot wasn't ready for it yet. And in facing that judgement from Riley it also helped her to remember why she was so great too.
Jenny Thrash
14. Sihaya
I never thought that the viewer was supposed to see Xander as being fair or Riley as being the victim or any of that crap - it always seemed obvious that the viewer is specifically supposed to sympathise with Buffy and see the world around her as being oppressive even on a mundane level. We're supposed to be amazed that she's even still standing, most of the time. Xander is often sexist and not too bright - and he's portrayed in that light. I mean, the "XANDER YOU'RE A SEXIST IDIOT AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT" neon sign was activated just before his wedding, for any viewer who hadn't caught on yet. Riley is lonely and deals with it badly, but it's also obviously not Buffy's fault. Nothing about the episode is meant to make the viewer say, "Gosh, Buffy should just put on her best apron and pearls and go fix what she's done!" I don't know anybody who's reacted to the story that way. At this point the REAL takeaway is that she's getting too many problems tossed at her at once, and she doesn't even have time to prioritize them. Wow, that's a little like life.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
Well, the fact that Buffy obviously takes Xander's advice to heart is the big indicator to the audience that we are supposed to read him as being correct in his assessment, so correct even Buffy sees it, hence the Tom Cruise impression.

Now, past experience with the show should clue us in to this being suspect, but people tend to forget that(see also: characters think Willow is addicted to magic, audience assumes they are right).
Jenny Thrash
16. Sihaya
#15 - The fact that Buffy agrees is our clue that we're supposed to agree with Xander? Naw, by now we've seen Buffy get misdirected alot. By now we know not to agree with everything that falls out of *anyone's* mouth, which is why the show's pretty good.
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
I agree. But at the same time, plenty of people will never and have never read into it any more deeply than that. People see Xander make a speech, they see Buffy agree by acting on it, and they assume that the intention of the writers was to demonstrate that Xander was right. But that's not the case at all, much like when the characters assume that Willow's addicted to magic, and treat it as such. Future events show that this assumption by the characters is wrong, but there are still fans who to this day insist that the writers were implying that Willow was addicted to magic.
Jenny Thrash
18. Sihaya
Ah, gotcha. My apologies for misunderstanding.
Jason Parker
19. tarbis
Before I get to the meat I have to say that my favorite bit of this episode is Giles and Anya failing to react with shock or horror that there are vampire prostitutes in Sunnydale. It was a nice simple way to remind the audience that both of them had been around the block a few times.

That said a girl (who was constantly wrapped up in her own stuff) and a boy (who felt like a third wheel) broke up. Neither of them were very grown up about it, but they hadn't been grown up about anything else in the relationship so why should the end be any different.

Riley's return was clumsy in some ways, but is there ever a good way to tell an ex that you haven't seen in a while and don't hate that since the breakup your life as really come together and you've met someone wonderful. There is no tactful way to open the subject. There are better methods then having the new significant other mention it, but it did make for a great act break.

@15 The idea of the writers messing with us would go down easier if we didn't have it on record that the directors and actors were given incomplete, false, or later retconned information over the course of the show. (See the last shot of season six.) If Whedon and Noxon weren't telling the performers what was going on then I see no reason to believe they were telling the writers' room everything either. As it is the writers might have played with us sometimes, but we can't know how much they were being messed with themselves.

@12 Buffy could talk to season six Spike. However the season five Spike was her creepy stalker and you do not talk to the creepy stalker. Talking to the creepy stalker encourages them and leads them into making bad assumptions about the relationship.
If anyone doubts the creepy stalkerness of season five Spike then consider a hypothetical. You have a friend named X who has always had a hostile relationship with a person named Y. Y lurks outside of X's house. Y breaks in and steals small items from X like clothes or photographs. Y openly sabotages X's already dysfunctional relationship. Y threatens to kill their ex to prove their devotion to X. Y attaches a photo of X to a sex toy. The only things I would tell X to say to Y would come in two word chunks like "stay away," "called police," "restraining order," and "loaded shotgun."
Spike did mellow eventually, but at the time he was in creepy stalker phase. He’ll start to drift out of it later in the season and relapse with the robot and come charging out in the last couple episodes.
Sun Dog
20. Dianthus
We don't even know what Spike said to her (if anything) after she told him about Joyce, since that convo took place off screen. We see far too few of their conversations, b/c (as we've already established) Buffy isn't a great communicator. There is only so much Spike can do, sans soul, but that he even tries says a lot about him.
Sometimes he tries harder than those around him with souls, and still gets less credit.
You're right about Tara, tho'. It really was a shame that they never figured out how to better utuilze that character.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
I don't feel that the writers were messing with us, at least not to have a laugh, more of just messing with the expectations an audience has. In any other show, Xander's big speech and Buffy's run which parallels Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire "I love this woman" moment, would mean that Xander's right.

But this show has always been about subverting expectations. Another example, is Buffy's "Hellmouth'll choke on me" speech in Bring On The Night. It appears to be a powerful, uplifting moment, but in actuality it was the first step down a very wrong path for Buffy and the Potentials.
Sun Dog
22. McJulie
@17
I totally agree -- that there is no reason to think Xander is "correct" here just because Buffy acts on it -- but I think because some of the scenes in this episode misfire, it feeds that impression. Most shows simply aren't intricate enough for a single poorly-written episode to throw people off like that.

I read the Mary Sue article in question and hated it rather a lot. Mostly, because I think Xander is too often *explicitly* the voice of pettiness, selfishness, and immaturity, and the article's thesis rests on him being "the voice of reason," which he almost never is.

In this particular episode, I think we're supposed to read Xander's speech to Buffy taken WITH his speech to Anya later, as "Xander is mostly talking about himself, here." It just feels too much like he's shaming her, and I don't like it, but I don't think that was the writer intent.
Sun Dog
23. Dianthus
@19. Buffy does talk to s5 Spike. Spike's comments to Riley after FFL make it clear that she confided in him. She will take Joyce and Dawn to him for protection in Checkpoint. She will talk to him about Dawn, and he will offer her good advice.
Dawn is frequently cited as representing Buffy's Innocence. Who's there to protect her? Spike.
I asked JM if he knew ahead of time that Spike would go on a soul quest, at a Q & A session. He said he didn't; that he didn't find out until the day of shooting. He's also said that if he had known, he would've played the role differently, as he was always playing Spike with as much 'soul' as they'd allow.
Some of Marti's comments suggest she didn't really 'get' what was going on btwn Buffy & Spike in s6. She seemed to think it was nothing more than 'Buffy doesn't know why she's in this relationship, except for the great sex.'
Spuffy is The Immovable Object vs. The Irresistible Force, and that is so much more.
Emma Rosloff
24. emmarosloff
Upon rewatching this, I actually think the scene between Buffy and Riley is pretty true-to-life, as Alyx puts it. I agree that a lot of what he says is self-serving (albeit honest), but I also think he makes valid points about what he needs. Now, I would've caged them in far more apologetic terms. The fact is, Riley may feel wronged by Buffy, but she hasn't actually done anything to him but not treat him (or feel toward him) the way that he wants. Riley, OTOH, has basically cheated on her, and two wrongs do not make a right.

Another part of what's frustrating is that Riley's weakness is showing through again. He could've benefited from Xander's advice -- "If he can't give you what you feel you need, then let him go. Break his heart, but make it a clean break." Riley should've done this with Buffy. He should've apologized for his infidelity, communicated his feelings around why, and then told her about the opportunity with the military and how he felt it best that he go.

Yeah, that's pretty shitty given Buffy's predicament with her mother, but at least it's honest and doesn't put the decision on her shoulders. If Riley was strong enough, he could see clearly that Buffy will never give him what he needs and vice versa, and break that news to Buffy as gently as possible. He could profess that he wished it didn't have to end this way, but he really thinks it's best for them both.

As for Xander's speech, my initial take-away is that he's trying to make a point about the kind of men Buffy tends to fall for. I always thought he was trying to say: "Riley might be the best guy (you know, by a general, arbitrary set of standards) that will ever come along for you, Buffy. No monster, no drama. He might be worth opening up to."

Not a bad sentiment, but Xander completely fails to take into account the cheating-with-vampire-prostitutes part, which Buffy is justifiably upset about. Not cool. At all. He should be on her side. Maybe he's trying to help her, but he should be supporting her.

Well, we all know Xander has his flaws. If anything, it would've been interesting if he'd confronted her here about her monster-in-her-man fetish. He's smart enough to get that Buffy isn't into vanilla boys (Xander himself was rejected by her) and I think it would've been compelling for him to point it out -- there's a reason she wasn't into Riley the way she was into Angel. Whether or not in an attempt to be helpful, or just to vent, I feel like it'd be very honest and real coming from Xander. He could've caged his speech in a different way: If he's really what you want, go after him, even if you haven't forgiven him yet. But if he isn't, take some time to think about why. It's time you were completely honest with yourself.

But that would've been too enlightened, wouldn't it.
Sun Dog
25. build6
re: confiding in Spike... would it be because sometimes you feel more "free" to say things to someone you feel *less* for? because you don't have to care quite as much what he/she feels or responds.

monster-in-man fetish... could it be said that this is something Angel messed Buffy up in? wayyy back in S1 she started liking Angel well before she found out about the "vampire" bit. what if Buffy's first boyfriend had been more, well, normal? There'd still be the she's-way-stronger thing but her "norm"/baseline would be elsewhere.
Jason Parker
26. tarbis
@23 Buffy has many fine qualities. She is brave, loyal, kind, friendly, intelligent, and things like that. Self-aware and bright are nowhere on the list. She didn't even realize she was being stalked until Drusilla got into town. All of her dealings with Spike before that in season five fed his assumptions.
Don't try to defend the idea of confiding in your stalker. Because right now the character of Buffy's only defense is that she didn't know and none of her friends could be bothered to tell her. (Gee Riley maybe you should mention that you caught somebody stealing your girlfriend's clothes.)
At best you could say the show was modeling what not to do and at worst you could say that the writers had no idea how to deal with a stalker and wrote it badly.
Sun Dog
27. Dianthus
@26. I think the reality of dealing with stalkers didn't matter to the writers.
I think Buffy wasn't really afraid, cuz Spike was chipped, so mostly she saw him as more of a nuisance than a threat. It's only after Crush that they do a disinvite.
She engages with him again and again in s5. That's just how it was.
Self-awareness is definitely not one of Buffy's strengths.
Emma Rosloff
28. emmarosloff
On the Spike front -- I agree with build6 and Dianthus. Spike was easy for her to confide in because she felt so little for him (up until he got his soul). Like the song says: "whisper in a dead man's ear, doesn't make it real." and that's exactly right. He is literally a dead man, and a very dead vamp if he were to reveal any of her secrets to the others. She can "trust" him to keep them, and sometimes even the Slayer needs to vent.

We see her wrestling with that in this episode, in her argument with Riley. He claims that he ought to be there for her, that she shouldn't have to hold it together all the time, but she insists that, yes, she does. She's the Slayer. I can see why she feels this way -- in her mind, if she never allows herself to break down, she can always be strong when she needs to be. Not just for herself, but for the others.

So her breakdowns are private affairs, and since Spike doesn't qualify as a real person in her mind, she can confide in him and it won't matter. She's never cared about what he thinks about her, and really doesn't respect him till he's re-souled, whereas she definitely cares about what everyone else thinks, enough to keep Spike her dirty little secret, not to mention being torn from a heavenly dimension, come Season 6.

It reminds me a lot of any leader/follower dynamic, particularly in a wartime setting. Your commanding officer probably won't confide their personal woes to you, in order to keep you focused and morale high. Such is the case with Buffy, who puts duty before the heart in the case of the Scoobies, the needs of the many before her own needs, at least... at the best of times. Spike, however, is a total outsider. She doesn't feel that same obligation toward him.
Sun Dog
29. Dianthus
@28. Buffy would esp. feel the need to stay strong considering what Joyce had just gone through. She felt like she needed to keep it together for Joyce and for Dawn. The fact that Riley doesn't recognize this suggests he's never found himself in such a situation, altho' that seems unlikely, given his quasi-military service. You'd think, given that experience, he'd be a little more understanding.
I think Buffy does come to respect Spike (at least to an extent) in s6. When she goes to him at the end of AYW, her "I'm sorry, William" suggests that she recognizes his latent humanity/personhood. In a sense, she breaks things off with him out of respect. He's no longer just a thing to her, and she can't keep using him like one.
Again, considering her own history with the CoW, who collectively viewed her as a thing (their 'tool'), you'd think she'd be a little more understanding.
Really, tho', the writers were never so concerned about the 'reality' of how things are, especially if it got in the way of whatever point they were trying to make.
Alyx Dellamonica
30. AMDellamonica
Tarbis, yes! If you catch someone stealing your loved one's britches, it seems like you might want to tell her!!
Sun Dog
31. Dianthus
@30. LOL! It must've slipped his mind in all the excitement.
OTOH, if my britches suddenly started to go missing, I might actually wonder why, and where they're going. Of course, as the Slayer, Buffy has far more important things to think about.
Sun Dog
32. Sharon24
Nice review A.M.

Honestly, I'm not sure some the of people out there actually READ your point about Xander's comment. Maybe they can't stand him so whenever Xander talks, some people don't listen to his actual words.

As you said: Xander basically said "you're out of time, decide if this guy is worth it before he's gone." He didn't remotely JUSTIFY Riley's actions at the suckhouse. From his private conversation w/ Riley he knew Riley's POV (feeling that Buffy didn't love him). And while Riley's actions were atrocious, Xander was right -- Riley didn't think Buffy really loved him. Right or wrong, that's what Riley's POV was. And Xander suspected Riley was right. That was what he was trying to get Buffy to decide. He didn't want her to wake up the next day feeling she had made a horrible mistake with no chance to fix it.

At the end of the day, Xander basically said if you love him and "he's the one", don't let him fly away. If you don't, let him go.

Buffy chose to run to the helicopter.
Sun Dog
33. DougL
I have basically never forgiven Xander and Willow for the whole season 3 welcome home debacle. So, I was not on Xander's side here. Riley wants Buffy to NEED him, in a capital sort of way. He wants her to depend on him, above any other. Isn't the whole point of this Slayer is that she has a basket of friends and support, and isn't the need only one person kind of gal?

So, she will never need Riley the way he needs to be needed, Riley comes off here as super pathetic. I know he was basically written out of the show, but having Buffy run after the helicopter was bad, I basically repressed that memory.

Xander was not wrong her, in his general mission to get her to make decision, but the way he went about it was, really bad. First off he basically gave her a bit of grief for killing a bunch of Vamps, with no context. Xander, simply put, is a total tool but with some dumbly heroic qualities.

Buffy did love Riley, it was just never an all in, I will die without you kind of love, which is apparently what Riley was looking for. Buffy has way too many other priorities and some sometimes supportive friends and a family to care for.
Alyx Dellamonica
34. AMDellamonica
@33 Buffy did love Riley, it was just never an all in, I will die without you kind of love...

Yes. There are different kinds of love, even romantic love. And she'd been down this road with Angel.
Rob Rater
35. Quasarmodo
I felt that Riley was on his way out the entire episode, so I called it that Buffy would show up right after the helicopter took off.

And I thought the fight with the vamps was hilarious. It looks like it might be kind of an even fight, then suddenly a vamp runs at Buffy with a giant stake, which she promptly takes away and then just decimates all the vamps with it. I would think the #1 rule for vamps fighting a slayer would be: don't give her a big stake!

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