Mon
Sep 16 2013 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “So they’re like really mean tribbles?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Sam Riley

“As You Were,” by Douglas Petrie

Buffy’s at the day job, getting a lecture about office politics from a keen-eyed college student, and feeling demoralized about her apparently non-existent future. On the way home, she’s singing the Doublemeat jingle, which doesn’t serve to build her morale. It’s almost a relief to be attacked by a vamp, at least until he’s put off by her grill smell. He’s grossed out and only too happy to pile insult onto injury.

Don’t you wish you could kill people like that? Hey, in this case she can!

Finally, capping off an already imperfect evening, Buffy finds Spike waiting when she gets home. She tries to resist his charms, but her willpower is lacking in that department. (Studies show that sustained self-denial can really wear you down when crunch time comes!) In time, she heads home with grass stains on her coat and a cold, mashed Doublemeat Medley for Dawn.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Dawn

Instead of gratefully consuming the meat process made with love, Dawn, along with Willow, tries to lure Buffy out to the Bronze. It doesn’t work.

And perhaps it’s just as well, because XandAnya are already there, trying to figure out last minute wedding details and stressing out noisily. It’s not a vibe likely to mellow an overworked Slayer, or anyone within earshot.

Willow confides to Dawn that, as a kid, she used to imagine what her wedding to Xander would be like. Now she’s just relieved to have dodged that stress grenade. The two also talk about how Tara is taking Willow’s phone calls now. She could hypothetically ask her to the wedding. As a date, even! She isn’t quite ready to make that move yet. Still, Alyson Hannigan is always charming and adorable when Willow has her hopes up. It’s a moment worth enjoying.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Dawn Willow

All alone at her slowly depreciating home, Buffy is fighting to wash the stains out of her coat. She misses the garbage truck’s weekly run, and then learns that she didn’t get back into UC Sunnydale. There’s a mountain of dishes waiting for her, too. Why didn’t Dawn and Willow do some of the housework? We can only guess.

There’s also no sign that she’s had any chance to sleep or chill out when she goes in for another round of Doublemeat Punishment. And so, naturally, that’s when Riley Finn turns up in her burger line, looking freshly shaved and smelling of Iowa cornfields, or perhaps recently-washed American fighting man.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Riley

It’s a tough moment: Buffy babbles her way through it. She’s clearly glad to see him, though, and all it takes is an ‘I need you’ from Agent Finn for her to walk out of Stench Palace, leaving politics guy to deal with the line of customers. As Riley is explaining that there’s a suvolte demon in town, Buffy’s chortling over his gadgetry and making Star Trek jokes. How nice to be hanging out with a normal man again!

The two of them chase El Suvolte down an alley, lose it, and switch to tracking it in a car. They don’t fill each other in on their latest personal news, instead agreeing to catch up later.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Riley

(This is perhaps another episode that would have to be set up differently in the age of Twitter. Then again, maybe not. Riley’s Tweets would be classified and Buffy isn’t exactly about to go around posting about how she is in a Relationship with Spike.)

Actually, Buffy’s Facebook timeline might be pretty intricate. You’d have her birth date, when she was called as a Slayer, the first school expulsion, “Buffy and Angel are in a relationship,” the 1997 death, revival, “Buffy and Angel are not in a relationship,” and so on, right up through the 2001 death and resurrection.

Now I want a Facebook for all my imaginary friends.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Anya

Where was I? Oh! In an odd coincidence, XandAnya are also in traffic. They are picking up the oft-mentioned but never seen Uncle Rory, he of the Zeppomobile. (I suddenly remember that, at this point in first run BtVS history, there was some generalized fanburble expressing a hope that Bruce Campbell would get to play Rory.) The two lovebirds have reached the point in the pre-marital process where they are realizing they should have eloped. They are comfort-eating as fast as they can chew. It’s really a great scene.

Despite the many challenges ahead of them, Anya is determined to have an amazing, perfect day, so there will be no eloping! Which is too bad—it might have saved them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Riley

Meanwhile, Buffy and Riley have exited the vehicle only to discover a pressing need to rappel to the bottom of a big dam, closely snuggled against each other on a shared rope. Buffy’s getting overwhelmed by her nostalgia for the clean cut American cuteness of it all. They fight El Suvolte—who escapes again. They share a moment, and guess who turns up next?

Yep, it’s Mrs. Agent Sam Finn and her amazing can of kick-ass!

Perhaps fortunately, the demon returns before things can get too awkward, and in a fit of performing her fate-ordained function in the universe, Buffy kills it. This, it turns out, is a mistake. The newlywed agents (Ram? Samley?) were trying to figure out where it was going, you see. Well, it’s Riley’s fault. He was so busy not mentioning that he had a wife that he also forgot to tell anyone that this particular hunt was a bring ’em back alive gig.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Riley Sam Xander

The group zooms off to Buffy’s house, where there’s a peculiar ScoobRiley reunion. Dawn is snarky to Riley for having abandoned them. If only he’d shown up in time for the birthday party last week, huh? He too could’ve been stuck in the house with Sword Demon. Sam, who seems genuinely nice, gives Xander wedding tips and sticks her foot in her mouth about Willow’s addiction. She apologizes whole-heartedly, earning back a few points.

Then Sam and Buffy end up going out in search of the demon nest together. The two of them are in the graveyard, and Sam is filled with effusive admiration for Buffy. By way of sharing the general concept of “OMG, you rock!” she also tells the whole long story about how she picked up Riley’s wee brokenhearted pieces and made him a peppy, solvent, purposeful, sexually fulfilled kinda guy, the sort who emphatically who does not seek his happy place in scummy vamp bars.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Sam

It’s all a little too much. Buffy pries herself away and heads to the crypt to pump everyone’s favorite undead orgasm friend for a boost to her plummeting sense of worth, along with any information he might offer. (He doesn’t offer.) Then she goes to sleep with him, which is perhaps ill-advised. Riley arrives next, claiming Spike is the guy trading demon eggs to world powers, and he catches them in their post Spuffy slumber.

This spills a whole lot of ugly relationship milk, starting a fight which is only interrupted because Spike didn’t know the demon eggs needed to be frozen. So they hatch, Spike flees, and Buffy and Riley are stuck throwing grenades at the sulvoltini until they die.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Spike

Then, for a change of pace, we return to XandAnya, who are fighting in the bathroom while their houseguests argue in the rest of the apartment. They reach a happy conclusion: their wedding might be awful, but at least it will be over soon. Their marriage, on the other hand, will be deliriously joyful and of lengthy duration.

(I didn’t say it was a correct conclusion.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Xander Anya

Back at the crypt, Riley asks if Buffy wants him to ‘take Spike out’ and she lays into him about her pathetic life. He tells her that none of it matters: not the job, not the job smell, not the Spuffing. Even with Spikebreath, she’s still awesome. Sure, he’s in a good space and she’s not, but so it goes. Next time, he implies, he may be down and Buffy may be up.

It may or may not be truth, but it’s kind, and instead of letting him know she tried to catch him that night when he helicoptered off into Sam’s clutches, Buffy tells him she’s sorry for how things ended between them. It’s a way of giving him closure, and with that done it’s about time for the newlyweds to leave.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Spike

As the episode ends, Buffy heads down to the crypt to find Spike rooting through the burned and grenaded remains of his stuff. She admits she wants him, admits she’s using him, and says she can’t ever love him. Being weak and selfish in this way, she says, is killing her. She dumps him yet again, but she calls him William to show him and us that she means it.

Riley’s return reminds Buffy of the squeaky-clean woman she wants to be, and her reasons for calling it off—that she can’t live with a version of herself who treats someone else so badly, even if that someone else is Spike and explicitly asking for it—are quite high-minded. She’s said all of these things about why she doesn’t want the relationship before, but rarely so coherently. It’s been “I’m disgusted with myself,” not so much “I’m disgusted with myself for using you.” 

As for Riley, he can make all the gracious statements he likes and it doesn’t change the fact that him appearing in Sunnydale with Sam in tow is another blow Buffy can ill afford. He’s moved on with his life, and that’s fair, but even though he didn’t look her up intending to give out with a big “Nyahnyah, I’m doing better than you,” the fact that he’s succeeding, professionally and romantically, while she simply isn’t has got to burn.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, As You Were, Riley, Spike

Her response—to break out of a bad pattern with Spike, one where he’s happily taking the worst she’s got to dish out—is, in that context, pretty noble.

In “As You Were,” it’s also possible to see how deeply the Scooby group is mired in individual dramas. They’ve stepped up their attentions to Dawn, which is why she’s getting to come Bronzing with them. But it’s as though this has sucked up their last reserves of energy. Of course XandAnya are wrapped up in their wedding, and of course Willow is still using all her available attention to not go back to using magic. The dishes piling up at Chez Summers are just a sign of how far behind they’re falling on the basics. And Buffy’s the one carrying the heaviest part of the load.

What they all really need is a Watcher. (Okay. A Watcher and a mom. And a sugar daddy.) At this point, even getting a six-month loaner deal on Wesley might not be a bad idea.

Next: Going to the (Hell) Chapel...


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,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

43 comments
Walker White
1. Walker
I liked this episode a lot. I was never happy with how Buffy treated Riley, particularly given how "well" her other relationships have turned out. This gave the Riley character some nice closure.
TBGH
2. TBGH
This is one of my favorite teenage trope episodes. The entire 'winning the breakup' storyline is one I usually find boring and insulting to everyone involved. It was nice to see it handled in this way without the exes trying to outdo each other and still having real emotional stakes in how the other is doing.

Besides, I always liked Riley and felt it was good to see some vanillas that were handling the situation elsewhere even if it wasn't always saving the world.
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
I liked this one, too. Catching up with a character that took off on his own and managed to come into his own (rather than come back as either a one-off love interest or a recently-turned villain) is both nice and a way to show that the world exists outside of Sunnydale. It gives depth that a lot of other shows lack.
Constance Sublette
4. Zorra
Wonderful episode, though filled with cringe-on-behalf of Buffy moments.

This is the bottom -- despite "Seeing Red." Buffy starts her climb out of the depression after this episode. She's even perky again, for the first time, on the behalf of The Wedding.

When we begin Season 7 she's authentically perky again -- the sun is even shining -- until for the Reasons she's not again, but that's different. And we'll get there.

Love, C.
TBGH
5. lvsxy808
One of my favourite moments was always when Riley surprises Buffy at the Doublemeat Palace. She looks up at him, towering over her. She says blankly, "My hat has a cow," and then hangs her head in shame. Total hilarius non-sequitur.
TBGH
6. Gardner Dozois
Hate to row against the current, but for my money this is another poor episode, although a bit more watchable than Doublemeat Palace or the trapped-in-a-house-with-a-Sword Demon episode. This whole stretch of Season Six is not only the low point of the season (fortunately, things get more interesting soon) but one of the low points of the whole series.

I did wonder why, if Riley and the government think so much of her demon-hunting abilities, they don't put her on the payroll, or at least on retainer on a freelance basis, which could go a long way to solving her money problems.

What the show really needs at this point is Giles. It's too bad that the actor didn't want to do the part full-time anymore, because the show suffers without him. He's part of the show's founding dynamic, and without him, there's always this annoying feeling that there's something missing. This is demonstrated by the palpable surge of relief you feel when Giles suddenly reappears in the season's penultimate episode.
Michael Ikeda
7. mikeda
Zorra@4

I don't think this is the bottom for "Buffy". This episode marks the near completion of her recovery. Basically the end of this episode is to her Season 6 recovery as the end of "Anne" was to her recovery from her depression after Season 2.
TBGH
8. Dianthus
@6. Gardner, you're not rowing alone. Mostly, I hate this episode. Watching Buffy make moon eyes at the guy who left her when her mother was at death's door? Pathetic. Spike running an international black-market "arms" deal from a hole in the ground? Yeah, right.
Near the end, he says he was "holding" the eggs for a friend. It's a lame execuse, but it certainly makes more sense under the circumstances. The only reason I'm even willing to entertain the idea of Spike as The Doctor is 'cuz he wants a big score to solve Buffy's money problems.
I do like Buffy's use of Spike's human name (recognizing his latent humanity), and I realize we're all supposed to be "You go, Girl!" as she sails out into the sunlight (to which I reply: don't tell me how to feel, dammit!). However, the cynic in me says this is just part of her martyr complex: "noble" self-abnegation. This brings me a measure of comfort, so I can't allow myself to have it. Gah! What a load of cr*p.
And just who is the "wrong guy" for whom?
TBGH
9. Dianthus
Also, too:
"He's not getting any gentler..."
F*ck that sh*t! We saw Spike handling her with kid gloves at the beginning of the season, so we know he's capable of it. She just won't accept it from him.
Spike might be "rough trade" (as the English say), but he's not exactly a sexual sadist. In Gone, they're doing it Missionary style in his bed. You just don't get more vanilla than that. In Doublemeat Phallus, Buffy's got her back to the wall and Spike is her shield.
TBGH
10. Alex C.
*sigh*

Time for As You Were, in the S.6 re-watch. I've been both eagerly anticipating and dreading this post for the same reason - I regard this as being my single least favourite episode, not only in the sixth season, but in the entire series, and cannot wait for us to get past it. I don't really feel like typing up all the reasons why, so instead I'm simply going to quote a lengthy excerpt from an episode analysis by Mark Field. (On a side note, for any Buffy fans with way too much spare time on their hands, I cannot recommend Mark's collected analysis essays on the show highly enough)
I’ll summarize the reasons why without even mentioning the “Mary Sue” nature of Mrs. Finn or the addiction dialogue.

The demon(s). The dialogue is hopelessly contradictory within the space of 10 lines: the demons are “rare”and “nearly extinct”, but they’re “breeders”: “As soon as we put one Suvolte down, a dozen take its place. … One turns into ten, ten becomes a hundred.” In which case they pretty obviously aren’t “rare”. That’s why Buffy could refer to them as “tribbles”,creatures which multiplied faster than the bunnies in Tabula Rasa. Nor is it very plausible that Riley would forget to tell Buffy not to kill the demon.

Spike’s purported international arms dealing makes no sense, particularly when sprung out of the blue in this episode with no lead-in. Among other problems, how can Spike be a demon arms dealer when he's a social outcast hated by all other demons and doesn't even have a telephone line (he used a pay phone to call Buffy in Smashed)?

Nor is Spike noted for his competence: “He-he's too incompetent.” Notwithstanding Todd’s reference to Machiavelli in the teaser, Spike doesn’t exactly fit the image. As recently as Dead Things he couldn’t even weight a body properly, and he has a long history of bollocksing up plans beginning from his first appearance in School Hard. Perhaps the “arms dealing” plot is satirical, but that’s not obvious and satire usually makes a relevant point.

Riley ex machina (h/t Exegy). This episode reinforces my view that the writers, particularly Doug Petrie, had a very different attitude towards Riley than the fans, and misjudged their reaction to him. Does anyone really believe that it’s Riley, rather than Angel, who would have the impact on Buffy we see in this episode?

Sam told Buffy how “ripped up inside” Riley was about Buffy: “The only thing that could ... help Riley work it out was time. Lots of time. Took him a year to get over you.” This is sloppy. Riley left 14 months ago and has been married for 4 months – so long ago that he implausibly forgot to mention it. Assuming a month or two of “courtship” (his word in The Initiative), he was over Buffy in 6-8 months max.

Riley's “pep talk” to Buffy in AYW brought to mind Xander's similar speech in The Freshman. Both came when Buffy was down, confused and ineffective (was it just me or were her initial attempts to fight the Suvolte demon very unSlayer-like?). Xander's speech worked for me, Riley's didn't. Why?

Xander, whatever his faults, worships Buffy. He has from the beginning. He is the most ordinary of the characters. By ordinary, I mean he's not an image, he's a person with flaws. His recognition of those flaws is both endearing (sometimes) and the reason why we accept his hero worship; people who don't recognize their own flaws generally worship only themselves. Buffy could respond to him because she and we could see Xander’s devotion.

Riley, in contrast, comes across here as a stereotype. He's the child from Seventh Heaven or Ozzie and Harriet. Too good to be true. I think of him as an image from the 50s of what we were all "supposed" to be. His character has completely regressed – it’s as if the events of Goodbye Iowa through Into the Woods never happened, and it’s doubtful that regression means progress. The episode title even implies this.

When this Riley delivers his speech to Buffy, there is no sense of hero worship in it because we can't believe this Riley sees Buffy as a hero. This Riley sees himself in the heroic image. When delivered from this background, his speech is condescending. Not "I admire you", but "You're better than this", an attitude he made clear in his earlier comments like "He's evil or had you forgotten that?" and "It doesn't really touch you". Buffy reacted not because she felt his sincerity but because she felt his reproach.

And he never asked about her mother.
.......

One of the things that I have always admired about Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an amazing piece of storytelling, from a technical perspective, was the consistent strength of the writers in remaining steadfastly true to the 'feel' of (almost) all of the leading characters as they guided them through multi-seasonal arcs over the course of the show's seven-season run. Sometimes I loved the directions that they took with the characters (Buffy, Spike), sometimes I had mixed feelings (Willow), and sometimes I was unhappy (Giles), but through it all, I was (and continue to be) impressed by how few missteps the writers took to character development - in other words, there were very few moments when I caught myself thinking "X Character wouldn't do/say that" or "Y scenario would not effect them that way".

In the midst of this fine record, As You Were stands out as a big black mark of disappointment.
.......

Okay, glad that I got that off my chest. On the positive side of the ledger, now that we've got past As You Were, we have almost reached the point where S.6 of Buffy turns itself around and starts measuring up again to the standards of its predecessor seasons. Both of the last two seasons of the show have relatively weak middle acts (although S.7 is much better than S.6 in this regard), but they both save themselves by following it up with a string of powerhouse episodes.
TBGH
11. Alex C.
Having vented about the negatives of this episode, I do think that there are some words that should be said for the positives as well.

As much as I dislike As You Were for the incredibly sloppy writing, it does succeed in maintaining the trajectory of Buffy's character arc for the season (and, though not as focussed on, that of Xander/Anya), and actually contains some scenes that I'm willing to re-watch this episode just for the sake of.

Here, I have to express disagreement with Dianthus @8. & 9. Whatever "comfort" it may have been bringing her, there is no room for doubt that Buffy's relationship with Spike in this season, up to this point, was a seriously unhealthy one from an emotional perspective - on both ends. They'll develop a much more positive (and ultimately fulfilling) relationship in S.7, but right now neither of them is really capable of giving the other what they want/need, and Buffy was not wrong when she said that she was "using him", and that doing so was a major part of her problem. That's been glaringly apparent for several episodes now, but all things considered, I never blamed her for it, and still don't.

Still, this was a necessary part of the ongoing development for both characters - and even if I think that the rest of the episode is little worth mentioning (though that initial scene in the crypt was also very good), the final scene is, on the whole, an excellent one.

Despite the fact that the entire episode adds up to one big guilt-trip for her, Buffy is actually the only character who comes out of it looking good. Neither Dawn or Willow exactly cover themselves with glory (although I appreciate Willow being willing to dislike Sam on Buffy's behalf), Riley/Sam need not be mentioned, Xander/Anya are hopelessly in denial, and as for Todd, he's pretty much the living definition of an asshole colleague (not to mention the kind of guy who makes me feel embarrassed to be a politics nerd).
Alyx Dellamonica
12. AMDellamonica
I'm enjoying the discussion here, but don't yet have anything to add. You're all covering it very thoroughly!
TBGH
13. Dr. Thanatos
Okay, I get it. People HATE this episode. I personally don't get that emotionally involved in it. I did always remember this episode because I 1) enjoyed seeing what became of Riley 2) getting a spark or two of Awesome at the concept of Mr/Ms Smith (or insert other example of young pretty married action heroes) just dropping by in-between episodes of their adventures just to say hello .

I do like the idea that in Riley and wife she gets a look at what her life might be like if she had an equal partner to share her missions with.

In this light, does her interactions with Spoik make more sense? She sees that he has the potential to be that full partner but for reasons x/y/z is not fulfilling that potential, and she feels the absence of what Riley has clearly found?

Looking at it from that perspective, Buffy seeing what she wants but doesn't have, maybe there's added value in this episode that might balance the "OMG this sux" that some are feeling...
TBGH
14. Dr. Thanatos
Okay, I get it. People HATE this episode. I personally don't get that emotionally involved in it. I did always remember this episode because I 1) enjoyed seeing what became of Riley 2) getting a spark or two of Awesome at the concept of Mr/Ms Smith (or insert other example of young pretty married action heroes) just dropping by in-between episodes of their adventures just to say hello .

I do like the idea that in Riley and wife she gets a look at what her life might be like if she had an equal partner to share her missions with.

In this light, does her interactions with Spoik make more sense? She sees that he has the potential to be that full partner but for reasons x/y/z is not fulfilling that potential, and she feels the absence of what Riley has clearly found?

Looking at it from that perspective, Buffy seeing what she wants but doesn't have, maybe there's added value in this episode that might balance the "OMG this sux" that some are feeling...
Jason Parker
15. tarbis
Not a great episode by any means. Posters earlier in the thread already covered the plot holes, continuity errors, and logic gaps. Which were bad, but not hideous by the low standards of a Mutant Enemy production. Sam needed either one more flaw or a less attractive actress to avoid the dread Mary Sue tag. Although viewers were going to lack sympathy for her regardless of how the character was played or written. A former love interest of the title character shows up with a new love interest and the audience by default is primed to hate the new character.

This was an important episode for Buffy because while people in the audience can talk about life getting better the character of Buffy hadn't seen it. When Riley left he was a recovering prescription drug junkie with no sense of direction, inferiority issues, and a growing desire for vampire bites. All problems Buffy knew he had. Now he comes back and he isn't perfect, but he is together, doing a job he loves, doing it well (enough), and in a healthy relationship. Riley is Buffy's proof that her life can improve. The character needed an example even if the audience didn't.

I will add that getting a loaner deal on Wesley (if the networks and budgets would have allowed it) at this point would have caused the show to hit angst critical mass and implode completely. Do not send the Utilitarian who just got out of the hospital for having this throat slashed while kidnapping a friend's baby in an attempt to dodge a rigged prophecy to hang with the depressives. Somethings can only end badly.
Milton Pope
16. MiltonPope
I guess I like Mary Sues. I enjoyed Sam as an admirable person whose character might inspire me to be better. Yes, she could have used an extra character flaw, but for the length of the episode, I just appreciated her.

Riley, though...

I know that the Buffy / Angel often has -- pragmatic ethics. Angel lets Darla and Dru go, presumably with the warning, "Don't feed on too many civilians." But Riley went way further. I lost Riley when he used a hooker, then stabbed her to death. It only helps a little that she was a vampire. They had a deal, and he killed her.

It would make a difference even if he had expressed regret over that, but I don't think he did. So this is a hero who becomes a serial killer when he gets to feeling bad enough.
TBGH
17. Dianthus
@11. As I said, that's the cynic in me talking. It's not rational. It's just how I feel. I've never tried to argue that Buffy and Spike's relationship is a healthy one. It's clearly disfunctional, with Spike acting as Buffy's enabler.
s6 frequently brings out the cynic in me. As they say...scratch a cynic, and you'll find a bruised Romantic. Spuffy is very Romantic, in the old-fashioned, shared-journey sense of the word.
I'm an Anne Rice fan and her vampires are also Romantic in nature. I read Interview with a Vampire for the first time when I was 16, long before BtVS was a series. That definitely colored my perceptions.
I'll have more to say about that in our discussion of LMPTM.
Constance Sublette
18. Zorra
Isn't a Mary Sue a wish fulfillment stand-in for the author? In that case Sam cannot be a Mary Sue, as she's not a stand-in for the writers of the episode.

Presumably.

Love, C.
Chris Nelly
19. Aeryl
@Dianthus, While for the most part, I agree with you, here's my issue.

This brings me a measure of comfort, so I can't allow myself to have it.

I think it's been pretty well established, by the boatloads of tears to Tara, orgasms aside, this relationship doesn't actually comfort her. It's fulfilling a need, but it's a need that would be better addressed by confronting her friends so they can fill that hole of loneliness she has, not Spike.
TBGH
20. Alex C.
@12. AMDellamonica - Glad to hear it! Thanks for another great write-up!
.......

@13./14. Dr. Thanatos -
Okay, I get it. People HATE this episode. I personally don't get that emotionally involved in it.
Heh. That's probably a pretty healthy attitude to take to it. For myself I always tend to wax (over)strongly either positive or negative in my reactions. The perils of emotional investment in fictional works, I guess. ;)

Not to worry - the best part of the season (IMO) is just around the corner now!

To address a point that you make - as much as I think that their appearance was sloppily handled by the writers (unless they were trying to evoke a strong negative reaction from the audience), I do think that the visit from Riley/Sam cannot be overlooked as an important item in the development of Buffy's seasonal character arc. After spending several episodes of dealing with nothing except people and problems who remind her of why Life Sucks right now for her, Riley and Sam definitely come with the virtue of shaking up her perspective. As much as Riley brings a lot of painful emotional baggage with him, he's also a powerful blast from the past that reminds Buffy (and us) of How Things Used to Be (and could be). Sam isn't just a Mary Sue - she's a completely idealized version of Buffy herself. As much as seeing that might cause her to feel painfully inadequate (cue more fist-shaking by the audience at the perpetrators), it also gives her a much-needed boost in the end.

Buffy's at a point in the episode (one of the low points of her seasonal depression, although we haven't yet reached her nadir in Normal Again) where she really does need to be reminded that she is just what Riley tells her she is: a hell of a woman (words that are going to come back next season, but from a different source...). The episode makes a point of showing her, again and again, getting shoved down by her circumstances even though she's acting in a far better manner than the people around her (she's doing the housework while her friends are out socializing, she's doing her work while Todd is mouthing off, she's fighting the demon while Riley is forgetting to tell her not to kill it, etc, etc). She's been able to get some form of positive reinforcement from Spike, but the wrong kind. Now she finally gets a reminder of the kind of person that she used to aspire to be, and finds that she still does. It's not going to result in a swift turnaround by any means, but she's starting to get there.
.......

@15. tarbis -
This was an important episode for Buffy because while people in the audience can talk about life getting better the character of Buffy hadn't seen it. When Riley left he was a recovering prescription drug junkie with no sense of direction, inferiority issues, and a growing desire for vampire bites. All problems Buffy knew he had. Now he comes back and he isn't perfect, but he is together, doing a job he loves, doing it well (enough), and in a healthy relationship. Riley is Buffy's proof that her life can improve. The character needed an example even if the audience didn't.
Very well put - great point.
.......

@16. MiltonPope - I find the trajectory of Riley's character to be a very sad one on the whole. I actually liked him in S.4 and the beginning of S.5, became disappointed/angry at him as S.5 went on, and then had it all capped off by this episode.

In so many ways, he's the anti-Spike.
Janice Boyd
21. scaredicat
This episode mostly makes me go "meh." It's a bit contrived with a somewhat silly plot. I like having a reprise of Riley - sort of like when Oz came back in town. And I really like Sam - she's nice and normal (in an action hero sort of way). Her appearance doesn't herald some artifical 'chick fight' over the hot guy.

What is good in the episode is the way it captures this: when you are depressed, nice people, just by being nice and living their lives, can be hard to see. Riley and Sam hurt Buffy in a totally unintentional way. And Buffy does not try to hurt them back -- she sucks up and carries on.
TBGH
22. Alex C.
@17. Dianthus -

For me it all boils back down to the characters and why I became invested in them when I watched the show. As much as I enjoyed the show's exploration of Buffy's "inner darkness" as an important theme of her character arc, I never wanted it to grow to the point that it defined her and she became more of an anti-hero than a hero (this is deeply ironic considering that I normally can't get enough of anti-heroic characters, but go figure), and I was glad that her development followed the path that it did. Once she got to the point where she acknowledged Spike's essential worth as a person - which is the entire point of the last scene in this episode - she couldn't continue the kind of relationship that they'd been having without undergoing a major change in terms of her character - one that I wouldn't have wanted her to make.
.......

@19. Aeryl -

Excellent point, well said.
.......

It strikes me that, having opened with a comment to the effect that this is my least favourite episode in the show, I have just written a string of comments finding a number of good or semi-good things to say about it.

Huh.
Milton Pope
23. MiltonPope
Alex C.@20 -- Hmm. Riley the anti-Spike. Okay, I see it. And it makes me feel better about not appreciating Mr. Iowa.
TBGH
24. Gardner Dozois
A monster refuses to attack her because she smells bad. It's hard to see how she can get much lower than that.
TBGH
25. Dianthus
@22. Buffy was already treating Spike "like a man" in the latter half of s5 (to which he responded well). Her sexual relationship with him suggests that she considers him something more than an animal (unlike other vampires). This episode, IMO, brings it home to her in a more personal way.
All in all, I still see their relationship as a net positive. As her Inner Strength/Slayer/Darkness, he provides her the strength she needs to get thru a very difficult time. She resents him, but she needs him.
It's one of the big wake-up calls she gets over the course of the season. We've seen it already with Willow and Dawn. That's the one positive thing I can say about this ep. Otherwise, I think such ridiculous nonsense should be heartily ridiculed as the nonsense it is.
ME always did like beating us with the irony stick. Yes, Buffy dumps Spike out of respect. What else can she do? The trauma she's suffered, the bad choices she's made as a result...poisonous.
Personally, I see the toxicity in their relationship more as a result of her trauma. Other people see it primarily as a result of Spike's vampirism. The truth is probably somewhere in between, as usual.
Riley as the anti-Spike? I dunno. Maybe. There's a progression in Buffy's boys away from Angel. Parker is Angel-lite. Riley's a ring or two out from there, and Spike's the anti-Angel.
Riley's arc dovetails more with Buffy's. He's in pretty bad shape when he leaves her, he returns to what he knows, finds Sam, gets better. As Mark points out in his analysis.
I also find it insulting that Riley asks her if she wants him to take out Spike for her. Like she couldn't do it herself if she had to. Like she hadn't done it with Angel. He prob'ly didn't even know about that. Putz.
TBGH
26. Dianthus
Ugh...shorter version of the above:
It didn't have to be like that, but the damage has been done.
TBGH
27. Gillian Philip
I 've almost never commented on here - though I read the rewatch religiously - because I never feel I can add to the fabulous discussions. Anyway, I'm enjoying it enormously. Thanks, Alyx!

I'm a Spike/Spuffy girl forever, for all the reasons Dianthus and others regularly detail. So Sam never really had a chance of appealing to me: deeply wholesome, deeply tiresome. I think she is a bit of a Mary Sue, but not the writers'; I guess she'd be Buffy's, if she were writing fanfiction about herself. RilesMe just needs a slap for smugness. Has done forever.

But I really only came on to thank Dianthus from the bottom of my heart for 'Doublemeat Phallus'.
Alyx Dellamonica
28. AMDellamonica
"Doublemeat Phallus" is entirely hilarious, Gillian, - I am with you there!
TBGH
29. Dianthus
@27. Aww, Gillian, you're too kind.
@27. & 28. You're welcome. I don't remember now where I saw that, but it's just too perfect. Only steal from the best! That's my motto.
Spuffy has a hold on me I just can't shake. There's so much there there. I 'shipped Mulder & Scully back in the day; John & Aeryn, too. I got resolution with them, and I'm still hoping for the same in this case, even if it does mean subjecting myself to the comix.
Casablanca is one of my favorite movies. Witness, The Crying Game, and Brokeback Mountain are really good too. Four very different movies, all with one thing in common. If that's how it is for Spike & Buffy (they'll always have Sunnydale), well, I can live with it. Still, I hope for more.
TBGH
30. Alex C.
@25. & 26. Dianthus - Sorry for a belated reply.
Buffy was already treating Spike "like a man" in the latter half of s5 (to which he responded well). Her sexual relationship with him suggests that she considers him something more than an animal (unlike other vampires). This episode, IMO, brings it home to her in a more personal way.
There is some truth to this, but it misses what is, IMO, the bigger and more important picture: that there is a fairly wide gap between how Buffy treats Spike and how he percieves her treatment of him versus how she percieves it. This is why I continue to think that the theme of Buffy and Spike persistently misunderstanding each other is the key to understanding their relationship (such as it is) over the 5th and 6th seasons, while the fact that they finally overcame that over the course of S.7 was central to the blossoming of an actual (healthy) relationship between them for the first time.

In S.5, Buffy's feelings about Spike were fairly straightforward, and she made them fairly explicit: she sees him as being little better than any other vampire except by the virtue of being forcibly restrained from harming humans by the chip in his head, which is the central reason why she allows him to live (as a general rule, Buffy doesn't slay anything that isn't actively harming human life). There are some hints scattered around that she may be somewhat attracted to him on a subconscious level (interesting anecdote: one of the writers for the show - I can't recall which one - supposedly kept a note on her desk ever since S.2 saying that Buffy has had sexual dreams about Spike), but the important thing is that any such attraction remained just that: subconscious - and there is little reason to doubt the authenticity of Buffy's disgust when she found out about Spike's feelings for her in Crush (and considering how creepily Spike came off in that episode, one can hardly blame her).

It wasn't until the events of Intervention that she may have begun to reevaluate how she felt about him - his refusal to betray her and Dawn to Glory obviously impressed her, to the point that she shared that fleeting kiss with him at the end of the episode, and was later willing to turn to him for help, first in fleeing Sunnydale, and then with the final battle of the season. Exactly how she was feeling toward Spike over the last part of that season was left fairly ambiguous - in large part because it was subsumed by the conflict with Glory, and with her decision to sacrifice herself at the end of The Gift.

That brings us to S.6, Buffy's troublesome resurrection, and her shifting feelings toward Spike over the season. Those two things are fairly closely connected, needless to say. Buffy gravitated toward Spike because he was the only one who had something of an inkling of what she was going through on a personal basis (having experienced the whole 'die, come back, claw yourself out of the grave' thing firsthand) - the experience of death acted as something of a leveler between them, so that he was no longer "beneath her" as he had been in Fool for Love. Even more importanly (IMO), he was the only person close to her who didn't represent an obligation of some kind - unlike Dawn and all her friends, who expected her to fill the role that she'd played in their lives before she went away, and unlike her calling as the Slayer, Spike doesn't (apparently) demand anything of her. Hence her admission, in Life Serial, that he's the only one that she can "stand to be around."

The two key turning points in their relationship came, I think, in All the Way and Once More With Feeling. In the former, she began to be (consciously) sexually attracted to Spike for the first time - witness her mistaking his suggestion that they go patrolling together for a double entendre - and in the latter, she began to get a sense that Spike does in fact want something from her, and a sense of what it is:
But why you come to be with me
I think I finally know.
You're scared
Ashamed of what you feel.
And you can't tell the ones you love
You know they couldn't deal.
But whisper in a dead man's ear
That doesn't make it real.
...
That's great
But I don't wanna play.
Cause being near you touches me
More than I can say.
And since I'm only dead to you
I'm saying stay away
And let me rest in peace.
...
You know
You've got a willing slave.
And you just love to play the thought
That you might misbehave.
But til you do I'm telling you
Stop visiting my grave.
In short order that leads to their kiss (Hooray!) at the end of the episode, and then to the events of Smashed. But here's the thing: although they might now be in a 'relationship' together, Buffy and Spike have very different understandings of what it means, both to them and to each other.
All in all, I still see their relationship as a net positive. As her Inner Strength/Slayer/Darkness, he provides her the strength she needs to get thru a very difficult time. She resents him, but she needs him.
And that's where our disagreement really lies. Spike isn't providing Buffy with strength in this season (he'll do that next season instead). He's actually adding to her problem. He may not mean to do so - for the most part, Spike seems to be (by his standards) well-intentioned in his approach to Buffy (although his exploitation of the discovery that his chip no longer worked on her was manipulative and cruel). But that isn't enough to stop him from hurting her more than he helps her - something that's going to get driven home with a sledgehammer in Seeing Red.

Buffy's central conflict in this season revolves around her confronting the same challenge that she posed to Dawn in The Gift, and which Dawn helpfully echoed back at her in Bargaining: that the hardest thing about the world is living in it. To do that, she has to learn to reconnect with the living, and by offering her an escape from doing so, Spike is hindering her, not helping, no matter how well intentioned he may be in doing so. Worse, he's facilitating her in behavior (taking advantage of the sincere love of a man whose feelings she does not reciprocate for the sake of her own pleasure) that she would deplore in another person, and which thus undermines her already extremely fragile sense of self-worth.

That's why I strongly disagree with you that Buffy's break-up with Spike in this episode constitutes "damage" to their broader shared arc over the last seasons of the show. It's actually (IMO) the most praiseworthy aspect of it. The entire point of the "wake-up call" that meeting with Riley again gives to Buffy is that she's resolving to live up to her own standards better. And that means putting a stop to her mistreatment (which it clearly is) of Spike. Spike may not be happy about this, but Spike's happiness isn't the point here: it's about Buffy recovering her sense of self-worth.
Riley as the anti-Spike? I dunno. Maybe. There's a progression in Buffy's boys away from Angel. Parker is Angel-lite. Riley's a ring or two out from there, and Spike's the anti-Angel.
My labelling of Riley as the "anti-Spike" was more of a joke about his trajectory as a character. He starts off as a fairly likable character (IMO) and just descends from there - even managing to completely regress from most of the character development that he undergoes in the process. It's the exact opposite from Spike, whose character development becomes better and better with every season, until it grows to the point that I consider his relationship with Buffy to be the emotional core of the final season (unlike the previous seasons, where the emotional core was the friendships between the Scooby Gang).
Chris Nelly
31. Aeryl
@30, Exactly. As much as Spike WANTS to help her this season, he's incapable of it, for many reasons. He can't see past his own gratification to see how his relationship with Buffy is hindering her recovery, not helping.

Now this is a phenomenom that occurs in real world relationships, that one person is self centered enough that they don't see the hurt they are inflicting, so a lot of people resist connecting Spike's behavior in this instance to his soullessness, but I do, and I'll explain why.

When this occurs in RW relationships, it's typically because the self centered person has no actual regard for the person they are hurting. This is NOT the case with Spike. He genuinely cares for Buffy. He WANTS her to feel better, he doesn't want his actions to hurt her. But, IMO, the fact that he has no soul prevents him from seeing that.
TBGH
32. Alex C.
@31. Aeryl - Thanks, and you make some great points yourself.

It's worth emphasizing that whenever Spike urges Buffy to come and join him "in the darkness" (which he does frequently), as much as this might sound twistedly romantic (as long as we forget that when Buffy took him up on his offer to show her the 'dark side' in Life Serial, it turned out to be illicit games of kitten poker), it actually betrays just how far off-base Spike is in terms of what would be good for Buffy. What he's really asking her to do is give up on all her responsibilities and obligations and live the care-free life that vampires - creatures who have lost touch with their fellow humanity - typically surrender themselves to.

Given how hard the burden of those responsibilities is weighing on her at this point, it is no surprise that Buffy finds the possibilities of such an offer rather tantalizing. In fact, Spike's inducements to her are actually just a low key version of the temptation that she is confronted with in Normal Again (my pick for the best episode of this season, excepting Once More With Feeling), when she is offered the chance to give up altogether on the painful world that her friends dragged her back into at the beginning of the season.

She rejects it of course, and thereby takes the biggest step towards her true triumph of the season (sealed in Grave when she has her revelation with Dawn): realizing that no matter how hard and painful living in the world can be at times, she'll be damned if she's going to give up on all the wonderful things that are in it for her if she works for them.

The irony is, at the same time that she and her sister are climbing into the sunlight (echoing her action at the end of this episode, incidentally), Spike is in the process of proving that he, despite having been her metaphorical temptation all season, is in fact capable of becoming one of those wonderful things for her.
TBGH
33. Alex C.
Some more points of metaphorical/thematic significance in this episode:

In previous comment threads, I have brought up the suggestion that the Trio can be interpreted as a representation of Buffy's season-long struggle with depression. The fact that they are pointedly absent in these three episodes - Older and Far Away, As You Were, and Hell's Bells - is consistent with this interpretation, as these three episodes mark points at which Buffy was making progress at confronting the various surface symptoms of her conflict: she resolves to devote more time/attention to her sister, breaks up with Spike in a respectful manner, and starts to hope she sees a "light at the end of the tunnel" for this dark period in her life. The Trio were last seen in Dead Things, when she fell to a nadir in her depression, but then came back from the brink, and they're next going to show up in Normal Again, when she'll once again have to confront her repressed longing for oblivion - and this time triumph over it (and not coincidentally, the Trio are never again as dangerous to her).

In fact, something about this season just struck me in the face: all those viewers who say that they didn't like the Trio ought to consider that most of the best episodes in the season are ones which feature them, while almost all of the worst episodes in the season are ones where they don't appear.
.......

Speaking from before of Buffy's subconscious desires, I don't think it's at all an accident that she and Spike have been doing most of their lovemaking in the cavern beneath his crypt - a space that could be seen as a metaphorical representation for the mind's unconscious (the basement in her house also sometimes serves this purpose). Taking this view, it probably isn't insignificant that we see this space, the home of Spike (the id) invaded and blown to smithereens by Riley (a representation of the superego if there ever was one).

Alternatively/additionally, using Spike's cavern as the main site of their Spuffying serves to underline the connection between their relationship and Buffy's desire to return to the blissful oblivion of the grave - the central obstacle that she has to overcome in order to defeat the season's real big bad: Life Itself.
TBGH
34. Alex C.
Another item to add to the list of the character inconsistencies in this episode: Buffy's mishandling of Riley's gun.

Although it does make a certain amount of sense for her character that Buffy would subscribe to the Batman Principle of firearms (you can't kill vampires with them, after all), by my recollection there have been at least two occaisons on which she previously handled guns with a great deal of skill and confidence (Homecoming and Who Are You), and the latter time she demonstrated uncanny marksmanship.

*does some further thinking about guns in Buffy*

Actually, considering the ending of Seeing Red that's still to come, the inclusion in this episode of a "guns only make things worse" message might be a bit of foreshadowing.

.......

With that being said, I'm going to make a surprising (to me) declaration: I am retracting my statement from above that this is my least favourite episode. All of this discussion about how it fits into the broader themes and arc of the season has got me (over)thinking about it quite a bit, and I've found on reflection that there's just too much good/important stuff in there for me to dislike it as vehemently as I had.

It's still got a lot of sloppy writing, and I still think it's a low-point for Season 6, but henceforth I'm going to rate it somewhat higher than, say, Go Fish for example.

Chalk up one (partial) mind-change for Alyx's Re-watch series.
Constance Sublette
35. Zorra
It's one of those episodes like the Thanksgiving episode of season 4 ("Pangs" #8) that, the more you look at it, knowing all that went before and all that is coming after, the more important it is.
TBGH
36. Alex C.
@35. Zorra -

Heh. I don't think that I'd go so far as to compare those two episodes. Pangs is (IMO) one of the best-written episodes in the series, and a hilarious highlight of season 4. This episode, needless to say, is not.

But you're right that it is very important.

In terms of comparing it to other episodes, my view is that it is more similar to some of the episodes from the middle of the next season - such as Potential and The Killer in Me - that serve to advance some of the most important themes of the seasonal arc. I still like both of those episodes better than As You Were though - particularly The Killer in Me, which manages to give a far more satisfying send-off to Riley's character role in the Buffyverse than this episode does (despite the fact that he never appears).
TBGH
37. Dianthus
Alex C. You are, of course, free to disagree with me. As I've said to Aeryl a few times, I don't think there's an objective right or wrong here. There's so much going on, on so many levels, that there's a lot of room for different interpretations. Buffy has a hard time seeing the bad in Angel, and an equally tough time seeing the good in Spike.
Angel doesn't understand Buffy. By your logic, it seems like he'd understand her the best, but he doesn't even understand himself. He sees her only as a bastion of Goodness and Light. Parker doesn't even bother trying, and Riley clearly doesn't get her either. In fact, trying to understand her leads him down a dark path.
Spike understands her the best. That doesn't mean there'll never be misunderstandings btwn them.
The period btwn Intervention and The Gift is what I meant by 'the latter half of s5.' s5 is when we see slaying become personal for Buffy in a way it hasn't been before 'cuz of Dawn, and Spike is very much a part of the team. She's prepaired to die for Dawn, and so is he. Plus, he suffers for her, just as she has suffered for so many others.
We've seen parallels btwn these two going all the way back to his introduction is s2. What kind of parallels?
*They both take over their worlds: Spike takes charge by killing The Annoying One. Buffy takes charge at Parent/Teacher Night.
*They're both rebels: They are both suspect and troublemakers. Neither one is happy about participating in ritual.
*They're both unconventional: Buffy doesn't bother with the Slayer Handbook, and Spike...well, he's Spike.
In Becoming Part 2, when they team up for the first time, Spike knows exactly how to get past Buffy's initial reluctance to listen: "He's got your Watcher."
Buffy also has Spike's number: "You want my help because your girlfriend's a big 'ho'?"
In this ep, Spike's deal threatens the lives of innocent people in faraway lands. Still, it's the same deal Buffy accepts by working with him in the first place. He and Dru aren't gonna stop killing, they're just gonna do it somewhere else. The stakes are worth it for her then, and they're worth it for him now.
The writer you're thinking of is Jane Espenson. That came up in an earlier discussion.
Crush was written by David Fury, who was anti-Spuffy at the time. IMO, the analogy btwn Quasimodo and Spike is strained, if not downright disingenuous. Spike may lack a soul, but he's not lacking in intellect. Back to Becoming Part 2 - All Buffy has to do is clear her throat, and he realizes he shouldn't kill the cop if he wants her help. Later, all she has to do is look at him, and he understands that Kendra's death was not a good thing "from (her) perspective."
OTOH, there's Spike's line to Dru:
"I don't wanna hurt you, Baby. Doesn't mean I won't."
Being the Slayer gives Buffy superhuman strength, but it causes her a lot of pain at the same time. That's pretty much s6 Spuffy in a nutshell.
TBGH
38. Alex C.
@37. Dianthus -

Most of those are fair points. Except for this:
Being the Slayer gives Buffy superhuman strength, but it causes her a lot of pain at the same time. That's pretty much s6 Spuffy in a nutshell.
Where is it ever indicated at any point in S.6 that Buffy is drawing strength from her relationship with Spike? It's made abundantly clear over and again that the relationship agonizes her as much as it gives her fleeting comfort - and a very unhealthy sort of comfort at that.

Don't get me wrong - I love the Spuffy dynamic, and I was rooting for them all through Season 7. But in Season 6, Spike isn't helping Buffy. He may be honestly trying to, as best he knows how, but that doesn't change the fact that he was wrong in a lot of what he said and did.
TBGH
39. Gardner Dozois
Actually in what I consider to be the two best episodes of the season, "Once More, With Feeling" and "Tabula Rasa," the Trio don't appear at all (although, since they were in Sunnydale, you have to assume that they were singing and dancing as well, which might have been interesting to see).
Constance Sublette
40. Zorra
@36 Alex -- Look who is there in Pangs, and who is not.

Even Angel is there, though looking in from outside -- while Spike is inside.

But who is not there?

And who is there at the very end? Even Angel is there, though again from the outside, and bringing gifts, while Spike is inside, co-instrument to closing the Hell Mouth, using the amulet Angel brought.

Oz, of course is not there. Riley is not there ... in season 4, Riley is not there.

Anya is not there, and she doesn't make it through the final conclusion.

It's the core Scoobies, and Spike was one of them.

Of course that leaves the conundrum of Dawn, but nevermind. :)

Anyway, to me that seemed deeply significant the second time I watched the series all the way through from beginning to knowing how it ended.

Love, C.
TBGH
41. Dianthus
@38. I dunno that they ever do say it out loud, but the signs are there. As Zorra (@40) points out, it is Spike who has a seat at the table(!) in Pangs and it is he - not Angel, not Riley - who is there for her (and the lovebirds) in Family. The Scoobies are Buffy's support team, and Spike is part of that.
He was, understandably, reluctant to become part of a group that was, understandably, reluctant to have him. However, in The Yoko Factor we see that he already knows the group dynamics well enough to twist them for his own ends. There's also Buffy's choice of song for the First Dance in Something Blue, namely Wind Beneath My Wings.

It must've been cold there in my shadow
To never have sunlight on your face...

...So I was the one with all the glory
while you were the one with all the strength... (my emphasis)
Not all their sexual encounters take place in Spike's crypt either. Again, I refer you to the alley scene in DP. Buffy's back is literally (and figuratively) up against a wall, and Spike is shielding her with his body. It's open to interpretation, no question. Someone less Spike friendly could argue he's got her pinned to that wall. The way I choose to interpret it, Spike is her shield. She's using him, all right, and not just for (mind-blowing) sex.
Then, there's the balcony scene in Dead Things, and the suggestion that they've had some al fresco sexytime in AYW. Besides which, Spike will spend most of s7 in one basement or another (with a soul) and Buffy joins him in her basement the night before the final battle in Chosen.
There's also this line from Same Time, Same Place: "William's a good boy. Carries the water; carries the sin." It's a reference to Gunga Din of course, the water bearer or bhishti - pronounced like beastie (as in animal) of the classic Kipling poem. The movie version (1939) is great fun, right up to the end, which is very moving. Here's a sample:

Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the living Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

IMO this reference is far more appropriate than the one in Crush. Certainly, Hunchback is the kind of thing that would come up in a college class, and it's a free plot, but even Fury's heart doesn't seem entirely in it.
Dru, who recognized Spike's feelings for Buffy long before he did, gives him up for "lost." He is, indeed, lost to her. She didn't (couldn't?) fully appreciate what she had in him, 'cuz part of her will always want her 'Daddy.' So he's moved on, down a much harder but, ultimately, more rewarding path.
She didn't even want him for himself, really. She just wanted her family back together again, a near constant theme of the show. One which is very much related to Whedon's personal tragedy.
TBGH
42. Dianthus
Yeesh! Sorry, everybody. Sometimes I can be such a big dumbhead.

This is where they say it out loud! Spike doesn't want/need the money for himself. Remember he told her he could "get money" in DP. Hence, the deal.
Not that she'd take any money from him. She'd prob'ly figure it was tainted somehow.
It's not like he could go to the bank himself, and pay off her mortgage. Unless he made arrangements to have the money transferred directly to the bank? It makes about as much sense as anything else we see here.
This is her wake-up call. Even after she beat the ever-loving cr*p out of him in Dead Things, he's still trying to help her.
TBGH
43. Alex C.
@42.
She'd prob'ly figure it was tainted somehow.
No kidding. How could money earned through arms dealing, of all things, possibly be considered tainted? (/sarcasm). At least it's a step up from mugging people outside the Bronze.

Seriously, if the best argument that can be made for Spike's relationship with Buffy in this season being "helpful" to her is that he tries to illictly acquire a large amount of cash to give to her, then it isn't an argument at all.

If Spike wants to play the role of sugar daddy for Buffy, then that's great for him, but all it really goes to show is that he truly does fail to comprehend why being with him at the moment is causing her just as much pain as pleasure.

I may be going out on a limb here in my reading of the character, but I have a fairly powerful hunch that Buffy would prefer to become a 'lifer' at the Doublemeat Palace than accept blood money to alleviate her problems.

@41. I'm well aware that Buffy and Spike have sex in a variety of places other than the cavern beneath his crypt. What I'm getting at is that it is implied that they do most of their lovemaking there, and that there is likely some symbolic significance to be read in that.

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