Mon
Aug 5 2013 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Larry’s Gay, Larry’s Dead, and High School’s Kinda Over

“Smashed,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

After what feels like the longest “previously on BtVS” in the history of Sunnydale, we find Buffy interrupting a garden-variety mugging. Spike jumps in, eager to help. He means to prove manliness, devotion, willingness to do the right thing and possibly even the American Way, but instead what he (conveniently) proves is that his chip still works, because he gets an agonizing jolt when he punches one of the muggers.

I’ve asked before, I think, but how does the chip know when he doesn’t?

After the pain recedes, he tries to talk Buffy into more smooching. It turns out he enjoyed it. When she turns him down, he calls her a tease. She storms away in a mature fashion.

Back at home, Willow is missing Tara, so much so that she’s nattering at Amy the rat about her heartbreak. Eventually she realizes it’s her turn to give. “I swear if I figure out how to turn you back…” she says. Then it occurs to her that she can do just that. Amy, restored to naked girlish goodness, rewards us all with an eardrum-puncturing shriek.

Elsewhere in town, a certain Trio of wannabe evil villains are playing master thief at the Sunnydale Museum. Andrew lowers himself to the museum floor with crazy thief wires in a bid to prove he’s the coolest of the three. Ultimately, though, Warren is still the alpha male.

They grab a diamond the size of a ping pong ball, freeze-ray poor Rusty the security guard—and, as a bonus, freeze Jonathan’s arm too—before bailing through the front door.

At the Summers home, things are less Mission Impossible and more Carrie. Fixing Amy comes at a cost: not only is she upset and in need of clothes, but she’s freaking out, slamming windows and pulling curtains using telekinesis. Everything feels weird, as though—she says—she was in that rat cage for weeks. Willow looks guilty when she hears this.

(Hey, Willow, this part is not your responsibility! Many other things are totally your fault, but most of those will come later.)

Naturally, if not exactly gently, she tells Amy the truth.

In a continuing light burst of grown-up good sense, Buffy decides she’s ready to confide in someone. As almost always happens to her in these rare moments, it occurs just when Willow’s got her hands full. It’s a TV trope, of course, hardly unique to this show, but this time the bad timing is beyond unfortunate—it’s tragic. Like all of us, our Slayer needs to talk about her overwhelming compulsion to kiss Spike.

I think it’s no stretch to say that if she’d had a chance to confide at this point, the whole season could have played out differently. She and Willow are desperate for a chance to depend on each other, to relate as flawed, powerful, loving friends—to care, share and then work together to resist temptation. But before Buffy can get to the beefcakey heart of her problem, Amy interrupts. Wow, Amy’s human again! And so the moment’s lost.

Willow, it turns out, is pleased with herself, not least because Amy—freaked out or no—is so very pro-magic.

Instead of disclosing the state of the Spuffy, Buffy goes back to work. She hears on the news about Rusty the human popsicle and goes to the museum to investigate. And guess who’s there? Why, it’s Spike! He always knows where to find her.

She tries, once again, to convince him that there will be no more smoochies. “When I kissed you, you know I was thinking about Giles?”

Even Spike agrees that the only appropriate reply to this is: ewwww!

But hey, that’s not what she meant.

Spike tries to tell her that he can change. Buffy replies that he’s an evil disgusting thing. They come to blows, and the chip doesn’t kick in.

At first, Spike’s all Oh Happy Day! because he thinks he’s been unmuzzled. He goes out to savor his first warm meal in over a season. It’s harder than he thinks to bring himself to bite the woman he targets and terrorizes. But he is, in some ways, an evil disgusting homicidal thing. He gets past it.

And… ouch! No, Spike, you’re not fixed.What gives?

We’re all wondering that.

Elsewhere, Tara and Dawn are out having a movie date and a quasi mother-daughter chat about the WillTara separation. Dawn essentially claims Willow is using less magic, as part of a soft sell on Tara coming back home. That takes us handily to the Magic Box, where Willow is emphatically not using less magic. In fact, Buffy and Xander are disconcerted and uncomfortable when she appears to hoover most of the Internet into her brain while looking for info on the stolen diamond.

But yay Anya, because of course she bulldozes right in with a little truth-telling: “Tara left and you’re using too much magic and nobody will say so but me.”

I think that wins the prize for cutest moment in the episode.

Naturally, Willow breezes. This is becoming her go-to tactic when challenged on the magic thing: deflecting their concern and telling them it’s all okay.

Back in the lair, the Trio is contemplating their loot when Spike shows up, takes a Boba Fett action figure hostage, and asks Warren for info on his chip. This makes our villainous three look especially dumb and inept, but hey—they’re decoy villains. Why dignify them with a morsel of backbone or commonsense?

Be that as it may, Warren fires up his wacky brain scanner and tells Spike that the chip is just fine. Which means, as far as Spike’s concerned, something’s wrong with Buffy. This is significant: he has come to think that the chip being in working order means there’s nothing wrong with him. Evil or not, he has a certain sense of attachment to his leash.

By now, Amy has begun to feel better. She manipulates Willow into going out partying; they head off to the Bronze to conjure up some sexy bar fun.

And, speaking of manipulation, Dawn’s not above bringing Tara home to her empty house and then using guilt to make her stay, and possibly see Willow. She’s an experienced child of divorce, Tara. She can probably run circles around you on this.

Willow and Amy indulge in being bad, playing pool with telekinesis. A couple of guys ask Amy to dance. Later, when they get obnoxious and homophobic, the witches turn them into cage dancers.

At the Scooby meeting, Buffy and XandAnya are failing to figure out who stole the diamond and froze Rusty. They note the overall pattern of Trio crimes, and segue into talking about Willow and her not so little magic habit. Anya says buttoned down responsible types are the ones who go craziest when they finally stop playing by society’s rules.

This leads nicely into Spike phoning his favorite buttoned-down responsible heroine type. He summons Buffy, confronts her, hits her, and tells her she came back from the dead “wrong.”

Whereupon the two of them begin to sincerely beat the crap out of each other.

This is distasteful. It’s also, one could argue, something of a necessary development. If Spike cannot hurt Buffy every bit as badly as she can hurt him, their relationship is exceedingly unequal. (Not that this power imbalance ever stops male superheroes.)

What’s more—and as many of you have noted—Buffy seems to need to believe that she too is something of an evil disgusting thing if she’s going to finally break down and give the Spuffites what they’re looking for—which, I believe, may be hot, violent, steamy vampy sex with true love sprinkles. Tell me if I’m wrong.

Spike’s chip is thus serving as an impartial sort of Supreme Court, ruling that Buffy is not quite human anymore and thereby freeing her from feeling bound to all those inconvenient human taboos about monster-boinking.

She’s not the only one getting on with being naughty. Amy and Willow are, by now, zapping the whole Bronze. They’re on a magical rampage! If they had bumpy heads or snaggly teeth, the Scooby gang would be mounting up an assault on them even now.

But instead the Bronze has to wait until they’re bored and tired, because Giles is gone, Xander doesn’t know what’s up, and Spuffy are tearing each other apart, along with an abandoned house and many of their favorite garments.

Could Spike and Buffy have gotten together if his chip hadn’t gotten selective? Would it have been too unfair to Spike somehow, or too dangerous? Would it simply feel like too much suffering was being heaped upon him? He is, after all, a mass murderer. Is there such a thing as too much?

Speak up, Spike fans. I know you’re out there. Next: Wrecked!

 


A.M. Dellamonica has tons 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. (Watch for the second Gale, story too—“The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”!)

Or if you like, check out her sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” which ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

33 comments
Constance Sublette
1. Zorra
I recall the first time I saw this episode. There was so much in it, starting without any warning of Amy becoming Amy again -- and then, just breezing into being a Faith-like bad influence on Willow. But unlike Buffy's conscience putting an end to inappropriate, if not down-right It's Wrong! behaviors, Willow eats it all up and wants more.

Alex is right, it seems, in the analysis that everything might have gone very differently if Amy hadn't shown up at just that moment. Because once Willow is + Amy, she rapidly spirals down. And Buffy and Spike rip it up (and off).

At the end of that first viewing I felt I too had been worked over emotionally with a two-by-four. What? Did all that really happen? Will the next episode begin with everyone waking (again) from a dream?

But no. The waking nightmare is just getting started, and there are no grown-ups in the building.

Love, C.
Walker White
2. Walker
I understand the storytelling goals of having her hook up with Spike; she needs strong hedonistic vices to pull her back into the world of the living (much like what Sam does in Lord of Light). But I never felt this chemistry at all, and it always came across as fanfic het to me.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
3. Horneater_Goldeneyes
I hated this episode on first viewing. Still don't because Spuffy is the worst of many bad things about season 6.

But mostly you (the view er) feel helpless in the face of the coming disaster and what's more knowing the only one who would care to Xander the weakest Scooby.

Gah

I mean we're treated to a very good couple episodes this season but in general this season is a painful watch.
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
I disagree that Amy's condition isn't Willow's responsibility, aside from the fact that it wasn't Willow's doing that turned her into a rat. The show's made it pretty obvious that despite her growing powers and ability, she never once thought about reviving Amy, after the end of Gingerbread, until she was lonely. I think it's no mistake that the only other time Willow even considered it, however momentarily, was after Oz left.

I also don't agree that Amy was suddenly turned into a bad influence, I think it's always been there, but was always careful with the Slayer of All Evil around. I mean by the next episode, when she introduces Willow to Rack, it must be assumed that she involved with him while still in high school.
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
What I'm saying is that I buy Amy's later bitterness.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
6. Ciella
"Could Spike and Buffy have gotten together if his chip hadn’t gotten selective? Would it have been too unfair to Spike somehow, or too dangerous? Would it simply feel like too much suffering was being heaped upon him? He is, after all, a mass murderer. Is there such a thing as too much? Speak up, Spike fans. I know you’re out there."

Hmmm... interesting question. I always related very strongly with Buffy here having (and continuing) to battle with depression. So personally, I don't think she even would have hooked up with Spike if he hadn't realized he could hit her. She wants to be hurt and feel pain and Spike supplies that in spades.

But as for how Spike would have reacted if they had hooked with the chip working? He would probably be the same at first. He's super obsessive, both with and without soul. He's obsessed with Buffy and having her for a little while probably would have sated him. But if she started to slip away, I can see him easily becoming abusive, not physically but mentaly, telling her friends about her ("Its was good enough for Buffy"), playing mind games, maybe trashing her stuff, or getting her fired, stuff like that. I think not being able to fight back physically would annoy him, but that he would find away around it. He's hurt her in the past without fists and he could do it again.

And yes, this is from a Spike fan ;)
Alyx Dellamonica
7. AMDellamonica
Ciella, that's a good point--there is indeed more than one way to hurt someone. Though I wonder how meaningful that would seem in storytelling terms: would it feel equal?

I buy Amy's bitterness about not having been turned back sooner. I might want someone to blame, too. I suppose I took it on faith that WillTara had tried.
Noneo Yourbusiness
8. Longtimefan
I do not remember the episode but wasn't there one where Willow could wish for things to happen and she momentarily wished Amy human and then said something else and Amy went back to being a rat before Willow knew she had transformed her?

I think it might have been the one where Giles goes blind. I love this re-watch but I have not been re-watching on my own.

I apologize for the vaugeness.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
9. jmb
I wondered at Amy's power and knowledge of the dark underbelly of Sunnydale's spell casting community, so I went back and reviewed her appearances on the show.

Season 1 Ep. 3 - Amy's body is taken over by her mother, so that mom can relive her cheerleading glory days. Amy's got quite the role model for doing evil magic, but doesn't seem to have much magic of her own at this point. Mom is permanently trapped in a cheerleading trophy.

Season 2 Ep. 16 - Xander catches Amy putting the mojo on a teacher to cover for not having a homework assignment. He gets her to work a little magic for him, to make Cordelia want him. It works on all the women in town except for Cordelia. So by the second season Amy is regularly doing magic, and seems to have lots of power, but maybe not a lot of finesse. Who is she learning from? Mom's still trapped, so maybe she has reached out to less savoury elements by this point.

Season 3 Ep 11 - Amy turns herself into a rat to escape the witch-burning. Oddly, she and some guy and Willow are exploring the "dark arts" in a coven. Odd because that's the first and last time we see the guy or the idea of Willow in a coven. Amy used the rat trick before, in the season 2 episode. It doesn't seem terribly powerful - or very practical. Maybe she has trouble casting under stress. We have to assume that by this point, Amy is very familiar with Rack and his addictive magics, since she remains rat-ly (with a brief exception) until this episode.

Amy is briefly seen in season 4, ep. 9 (Something Blue), when Willow casts a spell that lets what she wills come to pass. The spell causes things she mentions even in casual conversation to occur - hence the de-ratting and subsequent re-ratting of Amy.

I still think Amy seems to be a much more skillful caster in this episode than in any previous ones. I suppose she could have been spending all her rat-time watching Willow and learning more magic. She also seems much darker, but that is understandable. She's been trapped in a cage for almost 3 years.

I didn't appreciate it the first time I watched it, but I think Amy is going out of her way for payback - purposefully leading Willow to do things that are dangerous and addictive. This continues in the next episode, and cemented in Doublemeat Palace episode, when she deliberately gives Willow magic powers, breaking Willow's hard won "sobriety".
Horneater_Goldeneyes
10. Dianthus
I saw the chemistry between Buffy and Spike starting with Something Blue. Willow's spell only works with what's already there: Giles has bad eyesight, Xander and the demon girls, Spuffy.

Spike is, essentially, Buffy's enabler in s6, just as he was Dru's caretaker/enabler in s2. He is 'the girl' in their relationship, and the sacred goat who takes all the blame ("William is a good boy. Carries the water; carries the sin").

Speaking of s2, there's Band Candy. Joyce, Giles, handcuffs.... Spike Giles is like a stevador during sex.
Also, When She Was Bad, wherein Buffy (having returned from the dead the first time) challenges Angel ("kick my ass") and teases Xander with a sexy dance. So we've already seen this kind of behavior from her when dealing with trauma.

Back in the day, there was a 'pop-up' video style Spuffy vid set to the Divinyl's I Touch Myself. Buffy references the song in Lie to Me. Scenes from this ep were definitely part of it. I first saw it at a convention, just before the series ended. It played right before James came out for his Q&A. The crowd went nuts! I asked him if he knew ahead of time that Spike was gonna get his soul. He said he didn't know right up until they shot the scene.

From the fanfic and comments I've read, I'd say most Spuffy fans don't mind fighting as foreplay. Neither of them are really trying to kill each other anymore, and neither of them is what you'd call a delicate flower. We're willing to take the rough with the smooth.

Think about it. Of all the guys she's been with, she's known Spike the longest (before they got busy). She's already gotten busy with another vamp. The scar she bears from Angel biting her represents the emotional scars she wears inside from that relationship. Spike is nearly her equal in speed, strength, and stamina.
Buffy is a red-blooded heterosexual female with working sensory apparatus. Plus, she's seen first hand his willingness to suffer on someone else's behalf (Intervention, Family).
I think they could still end up together in the comix. It's hard to say for sure (Whedon), but there's a certain inevitabilty to it, IMO. OTOH, as invested as I am in Spuffy, it might be nice to see Spike interested/involved with a woman who's not one of Angel's broken cast-offs.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
11. Moniquena
I have to agree. Spuffy definitely had chemistry, it just wasn't anything involving healthy chemistry until season 7. I don't think Spike being able to hit Buffy had anything to do with equalizing the relationship, though. I think it was just something they wanted to do so Buffy could eventually face that something was wrong and actually address her issues. Spike had already started the emotional abuse, but Buffy could pretend to ignore him until this happened, just like Buffy had already started the physical abuse, just not in terms of a relationship.

And I'd just like to point something out. If a guy starts out bad, the minute he does something nice many people want to believe everything he does from then on is good and ignores what he doesn't. If a guy starts out good but does some bad things, it has the opposite affect. I personally view that scene where Spike's trying to bite the girl as talking himself out of his conditioning. It has nothing to do with morals.

I've just spent too much time straddling the fence on Spuffy v. B/A and have had too much time to think. Today, I want someone to Gibbs slap Angel so he'll stop being an idiot. Tomorrow, I'll want Spuffy to jump each other the next time they're in the same comic.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
12. Gardner Dozois
This is one of the most controversial of BUFFY episodes. Spike fans rejoiced; others were outraged. Myself, I think it was inevitable--they'd been heading in this direction for a long time, and it was time to pay off.

I agree that Buffy wouldn't have gotten intimate with Spike if he'd been unable to hurt her. The fact that they can trade blows as equals serves them for foreplay. Buffy clearly not only wants to hurt something, punish something, beat the crap out of something, she herself wants to BE hurt, to be punished, to have the crap beaten out of her. If they couldn't beat each other up in all-out combat, they'd never have ended up fucking. This is not the most wholesome basis for a relationship, but it's theirs. I think it's hard to deny that Buffy inclines toward rough sex anyway. She and Angelus beat the crap out of each other often, always with a mocking, sexual edge to it. She frequently traded blows with Riley, sparring was part of their courtship, as the scene that cut rapidly back and forth between combat scenes and scenes of them screwing made pretty clear, but she always had to hold back with Riley, since she was always stronger than him, even when he was on the super sauce. Since she and Spike are pretty close to being evenly matched in physical strength, she doesn't have to hold back with him, which must be a relief. (They also both heal easily and fast, which helps.)

I really don't like the slapstick antics of the Trio during this part of the series, and their ridiculous bank robbery plans and their silly Freeze Ray continues to remind of something one of the costumed supervillains would have gotten up to in the campy old Batman TV show of the '60s--it has the same feel to it, and it doesn't mesh well with the mood of the rest of the episode.

I also don't like the fact that the witches have so quickly become so ridiculously powerful, practically gods, able to do almost anything with a wave of their hands. Magic shouldn't be this easy. That it is for them takes them quickly into BEWITCHED or CHARMED territory, and also doesn't fit well with the overall mood of the show.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
13. Dianthus
@11. Spike starts out bad, but he doesn't stay that way. They show him doing good things (making progress...) and bad things (but he's still got a ways to go). I never said anything about morals! Maybe suffering so someone else doesn't have to is, I dunno, actually making a moral choice, and that's why you think I'm talking about morals?
Evidently, I am doomed - DOOMED! - to keep having this same conversation.
There are paralles between Spuffy and Bangel, in reverse. Buffy falls in love with Angel, they have sex, he changes (for the worse). Once he's back to his old self, he's a good BF again - at least 'til he dumps her.
Spike falls in love with Buffy, they have sex, she changes (for the worse). Once she's back to her old self, she's helping Spike and giving him encouragement, kinda like a good GF.


@12. Spike's love for Buffy came about before she was abusing him. He loved her despite that (see above). Plus, we saw him treating her with kid gloves at the beginning of the season. He can be, and has been, gentle with her.
Dru left him because she said he'd "gone soft." Buffy won't have him 'that way' until he can get rough with her. Here are two of the most influential women in his unlife, and look at the message they're sending him.
Plus, you have the near constant assault on his manhood. His inability to do violence is linked with his ability to perform (in his mind?) even though he's perfectly capable of performing, quite well, for hours at a time - despite a lack of circulation. Maybe it's social commentary? Maybe he just needs a new definition of manliness? Like facing his Inner Demon.
I agree with you completely on Willow and Amy. It's ridiculous. Also, too, real Wiccans would never act this way.
They keep using that word. I do not think they care what it means. Still, no belief system gets off lightly in the Jossverse. He seems to feel they're all equally stupid and useless.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
14. Rebcake
@Dianthus for 13: Moniquena is right. Buffy started physically abusing Spike in S4. She would slug him, knowing he couldn't fight back, which is clear bullying behavior. It's not flirting at that point, although she tells Joyce that beating him up is, like, third base for Spike, so who knows? Maybe that was her way of dealing with her attraction all along. She definitely recognizes herself in Amanda in S7, when she explains that, romantically "Sometimes it's how people relate. Being mean to each other."

This isn't meant to excuse Spike's behavior for good or evil. I'm just looking at possible motivations for Buffy's behavior. And yeah, I'm not sure she would have started an affair with Spike if he wasn't able to be on a more even footing with her, violence-wise. At least, I like to think that she wouldn't have.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
17. Dianthus
@14. Rebcake? As in rebcake-o-rama? Cool. You ever gonna finish that story with ensouled Dru? I was really enjoying it.

I'll have to consider what you've said. It's too early where I am for a coherent response.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
18. Ciella
@14.Rebcake I could see Buffy battling an attraction to Spike that early. That's something they never really discussed on the show, being physically attracted to your enemy. Not love or friendship or a connection, just plain old physical attraction. It could very well be that Buffy felt a physical attraction and was super eeeeked out by it, hence the nose punching. Later on their relationship is WAY more complicated. I mean, after the "Spike lets himself be tortured to protect Dawn from Glory" Incident followed by being one of the first people to show her comfort after returning from the dead, there's more there already then just "hey you're hot". But in the earlier seasons, I can see it being just that.
Alyx Dellamonica
19. AMDellamonica
I think Gardner's take on the violence is right on, and very eloquently put, too. The issue of the two of them being equals is important, but I also agree that Buffy wants a bit of roughness in any sexual relationship as well as the element of punishment in what she's getting from Spike.

I'm watching "Dead Things" today and will have more to say on this when you all catch up. (Oddly like travel, that!)
Horneater_Goldeneyes
20. Dianthus
I think there's more than just a semantic difference between the bullying Spike gets pre-Intervention and the abuse he takes in s6. As The Slayer of Slayers, he was a legitmate threat. The bullying and emasculation completely undermine that. This is, after all, the time when he's reluctantly becoming part of a group that's reluctant to have him. Some friction is to be expected.
Intervention is where everything changes. At the end, Buffy rewards Spike with a kiss. In Spiral she tells Giles and Xander in no uncertain terms that Spike is part of the group, and they should get over it. In The Gift she restores his invitation to the house. She's treating him like a person. If not for the trauma of her resurrection, she might've found a positive way to inspire Spike for the better.
I think resistence to the growing attraction between them could be part of it, but I don't think that's that's the primary reason.

If they're into a little rough stuff, I don't have a problem with it. As Gardner said, they both heal quickly and neither has to hold back with the other.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
21. Rebcake
@20. Agreed on all points. Weird, huh?

I may give too much credit to the writers, but I think that the beatings that Spike gets in Season 4 are part of a subtle "dangers of demonizing the other" story line that is made more explicit when Oz is captured by the Initiative. It's tricky with Spike, because he behaves so badly, but he's becoming a person to the Scoobies. Of course, he always was a person, but their worldview is expanding, as it does for college-aged kids.

Yes! I am going to finish that Dru story! Any day now.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
22. Gardner Dozois
Was just watching the next couple of episodes after this one, which we'll get into later, but I just wanted to mention that it becomes obvious that Sex isn't enough for Spike--he wants Romance too. His lines in spite of the fact that he's getting all this Great Sex--"What does this mean to you? Do you really feel anything for me? Where is this going?"--are traditionally the GIRL'S lines, in fact.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
23. Dianthus
@21. LOL! and...yeah.
I've very much enjoyed what I've read of the story so far, and look forward to more. Thanks for sharing.

@22. Yes! My point exactly. The gender-role reversal between them couldn't be more obvious. Here's a guy (drinks beer, rides a motorcycle, enjoys footie and dog racing) who wants to talk about his feelings, her feelings, what it all means... Also, I suspect he would be more gentle with her if she'd allow it.
Ironically, tho', that may be part of the problem. Buffy is numb and closed off emotionally. Hearing him natter on about his feelings must be very difficult for her.
It's like when Dawn tells Riley that Buffy doesn't get so crazy over him as she did with Angel. Dawn means that as a good thing, but Riley takes it badly. Buffy desperately wants to feel, and that's partly why she's with Spike, but mostly she can't, and it's killing her that he can.
Speaking of future eps., that's one of horrible, nowhere near true (about him) things she says to him in Dead Things: that he can't feel anything real, that he's dead inside. She's clearly talking about herself.
Emma Rosloff
24. emmarosloff
I agree with what a lot of people are saying -- the Trio's goofy antics and Willow and Amy's magic tear seemed heavy-handed and clashed tonally with what felt like the meat of this episode to me: Buffy confronting her feelings for Spike. I tend to just skip to the bits between them when I rewatch this episode (although I like the sense of continuity in bringing Amy back from ratland).

I gotta say, though, for all the dysfunction in Buffy and Spike's relationship, I love that final scene. I'm always stirred by the choice of music in the end; it lends a certain gravity to their union. With both Angel and Riley, it never felt like more than sex -- hot, steamy, love-making maybe -- but here it almost seems to transcend that, these two powerful forces coming together, creating something immutable.

Even Spike keys into this in the next episode. Buffy insists it was a mistake, and Spike counters that it was a "bloody revelation" -- he can barely get the words out fast enough. I won't argue that in many ways their relationship is unhealthy, even at this point, but it's here that I see how the two might be made for each other, if circumstances were different on both ends. And I think it's telling that, given the initial divide between them, they came together at all. Like magnets inevitably pulled toward each other, that can't help but collide.

Whether or not it's the best choice for either of them, it certainly makes for gripping storytelling. Unfortunately, their relationship only spirals downward from here, and so does my hope for them, as Buffy sinks further and further into her depression and nearly drowns.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
25. Rebcake
@18. Jane Espenson said that she kept a little notecard on her desk starting in S4 that read, "Buffy has sex dreams about Spike." So it's not too farfetched for fans to think that maybe Buffy was attracted to him even then, when at least one staff writer did.
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
To address Willow's sudden ability to manipulate time and space, notice that they are on the same balcony that Willow and Tara had their initial fight on in All The Way.

I think Willow's been working on that interdimensional spell a bit.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
27. Dianthus
@24. Hey! Where ya been?
Not only a "bloody revelation" - he knows where she lives after their wild night together.
@25. I'd never heard that bit. I always felt Espenson was on our side. She wrote some great Spike/Spuffy eps, including Intervention. I know SMG was in favor of Buffy and Spike getting together ("I'm so the president of that man's fan club" she once said of JM). I bet s6 isn't really what she had in mind.
JM too: if you want screen time, either your fighting Buffy or kissing her.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
28. jmb
Spike-Buffy is the first relationship that Buffy has with someone who is her equal. Angel was too much the older man, brooding and sophisticated when Buffy was the teenage cheerleader-wannabe. Riley started out more-or-less a good match for Buffy, but he's not really tough enough, without the drugs and the Initiative. He loses his strength and his confidence - and Buffy outcleasses him.

Spike can beat the tar out of her, and she can beat the tar out of him. But it goes deeper. He's crawled from a grave, too. And he is the only one that accepts her darkness.

When someone who is deeply depressed has loving friends and family, there's a lot of pressure to "feel better." There are people in Buffy's life that literally ache to see her in this state. So she sucks it in, and tries to act like her former self. With Spike, she doesn't have to do this. Right now, he is the only person she can relax and let go with.
Emma Rosloff
29. emmarosloff
@27: Around. Strangely, I found myself with nothing to add these past two weeks, in spite of my love for both Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa. Just felt like everything pertinent had been said.

But I had to chime in here, because that whole last scene/exchange between Buffy and Spike is just awesome.
Jessica Trevino
30. Ciella
@28. jmb Yes! Exactly! Spike is the only one who isn't putting pressure on her to feel better/happy/alive. As much as her friends have their hearts in the right place, they want her to feel better, and when you're depressed, that's the last thing you want to deal with, so she runs to Spike, who will not only not put pressure on her, but also give her some of the pain she thinks she deserves.
Anthony Pero
31. anthonypero
I thought the way the writers wrote this whole arc with spike and Buffy was masterful and completely believable. Buffy disgusts herself through this whole process. She's doing it intentionally. She's depressed and has lost her father figure. She's acting out. She wants to be completely herself, doesn't quite know who that is, and still longs for Angel. Using Spike this way (and that's exactly what it is) is completely authentic to where her chracter is at and what she's been through.

Spike's subsequent transformation from neutered vamp to true hero is my favorite storyline in all seven seasons (and of course, it carries over for an eighth season in Angel S5). It was also handled unbelievably well and very subtly, over the course of 3 season.

And of course, the very next scene after this episode has my favorite line of all time:

"When did the roof collapse?"
Horneater_Goldeneyes
32. Dianthus
@29. GTK you're still with us. Teh awesome indeed. Also, HAWT!

@30. Spike is totally her port in a storm. Bonus: he's not afraid of the dark.

@31. Mostly, I agree. Do I wish things had gon a bit differently? Yes. Do I find it out of character for either of them? Not really.
It's all part of the dance:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TytGoeiWoaE
Horneater_Goldeneyes
35. Dianthus
Gah! Typo in the link above. It should be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TytGOeiW0aE. Sorry. It's Tom Lehrer's Masochism Tango.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
36. cellular scale
Love this episode, love Spuffy. Given that, Spuffy is a great portrayal of a really toxic relationship.
Spike knows she's only with him because she feels bad about herself and her life, so he tries to keep her down. He wants her to believe no one is there for her but him.
Buffy on the other hand knows that no matter how bad she treats him, he'll be there whenever she wants him, and she can completely take him for a granted convenience.
It's such an unromanticized shockingly believable relationship.
Horneater_Goldeneyes
37. nomoem
Just a thought...

Post-S7, we know that the slayer's power is granted through the 'dark' as is that of the vampire. To me, this indicates that this episode should signal the beginning of Buffy getting in touch with her dark side, and the break-off with Spike, rejection of additional slayer power, and everything else in S7, as her moving on.

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