Mon
Mar 10 2014 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “Tell anyone we had this conversation and I’ll bite you.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Clem

“Empty Places,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

Sunnydale is emptying out as fast as humanly—and demonly—possible. Buffy’s strolling through the traffic-jammed streets, watching the exodus. The extent of the fear is underlined when she runs into, of all unpeople, Clem. He’s fleeing, too. He tries to express confidence in the Slayer’s ability to save the town, if not the world from the First. Sadly, he’s less than convincing.

It’s different this time, he says. But, you know. Good luck and all!

Then he zooms away.

Willow meanwhile, is using magic to convince a handsome young cop that Giles, who is disguised as a respectable and kinda hip middle aged Englishman, that the two of them are with Interpol and, therefore, worthy of inheriting a big file of info that might just relate to Caleb. Other police officers drag a new arrest past them—he’s screaming “From beneath you, it devours!”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Giles, Willow

This is now a pummelling offence, it turns out. Even the police are getting feisty, what with all that bad energy leaking up from the Hellmouth. And hey, since they’ve got their Bad Cop on anyway, why not recapture Faith, with extreme prejudice? It’s the best idea to ever strike Sunnydale’s remaining finest.

Over at the hospital, Buffy’s telling Xander his empty eye socket will be bruised when the bandages come off. He’s been there all week and is clearly feeling vulnerable. It doesn’t help either his mood or Willow’s when Buffy opts to take the police file back home so the others can work on it. They had hoped she’d hang around for original Scooby bonding and card games.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Xander

(Hey, Buffy, have it both ways! Install a fax at your house and send the pages to the gang! You’re gonna need these guys on your side soon.)

When she’s gone, Xander tries joking about his exciting new disability, but Willow breaks down crying. Somehow, despite everything that’s happened to them, they’d got the idea that they were untouchable. Now that they know better, they’re both clearly falling apart.

There’s a lot of that going around. Back at the house, Anya is briefing the Slayettes on the expected battle to come with legions of noseless vampirekind. She has learned they can be staked, apparently, as long as they’re fighting someone strong enough to drive the stake in question through a chest as strong as steel. (Wouldn’t it splinter?)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Andrew, Anya

Rona points out that they are all far more interested in Caleb, what with his having trounced them so thoroughly last week. Amanda agrees that he’s unbeatable. Anya, attempting to rally, tells them they can’t ignore one threat just because another has arisen. True to form, she also mentions Xander’s injury and their recent break-up sex.

Squick! Kennedy skips out on class and goes upstairs to share chips with Faith. She’s also afraid of Caleb, not surprisingly. The two of them are lamenting their lack of info on him when Buffy comes home with... information! It’s files on vandalism at churches which, it is hoped, will offer them a tactical advantage.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Kennedy, Faith

As Buffy hands out research assignments, Dawn makes a couple attempts to connect with her, particularly the “do you even care about Xander’s injury?” part of her. Faith sends the kid packing. Kennedy makes a smart remark about how Caleb eats slayers for breakfast, and Buffy can’t deal. Instead, she heads off to the abandoned high school to pick up her remaining work things.

What could she have at work that she still needs? Oh! It’s her picture of herself, Xander, and Willow. Fair enough. She gets a nanosecond to grieve a little over Xander’s skewered eyeball, but guess who finds her at her desk in tears?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Caleb

I rather wish the answer was Robin, or Angel, or possibly the nice ghost of Joyce, or even the First dressed as Glory. But no, it’s Nathan Fillion and his terrible haircut. He’s menacing, and it’s sort of cool to see how scary Buffy clearly finds him.

After awhile this turns to actually fighting, and he gives her another object lesson in Hey, Slayer, I can beat the snot out of you! But it apparently isn’t time to kill Buffy yet, because he tosses her through her office window and ambles off while she’s unconscious. 

Back at the house, Dawn and Giles are looking at a promising church incident while Andrew witters on tiresomely about pizza. The photos for the church case include a familiar image. It’s Caleb’s ring. Giles sends Spike to do some investigating, and makes him take Andrew along for the ride. This if nothing else keeps Giles and Faith from having to exert their willpower in the not killing Andrew department.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Dawn, Rona, Kennedy

Talk turns to the completely declining morale. Dawn suggests keeping the Slayettes occupied. Keeping busy, getting busy. Faith thinks, Hey, I still haven’t gotten laid! She sends out a general psychic booty call which causes Sunnydale’s remaining young men to flock to the Bronze. Everyone but Giles goes dancing.

Buffy comes home to an empty house and learns of Giles’s decision to send Spike off to the church to investigate. She is still mad about his recent attempt to kill Blondie Bear, and so things are already tense by the time he’s forced to admit that Faith and the gang went off to party without her.

What else is going on? Over at the evil vineyard, Caleb is gloating with the First over having primed Buffy to walk the gang back into the slaughterhouse. At the Bronze, Faith is trying to keep the Slayettes from getting hammered. Even so, she’s having a good time. They all are!

Then the cops show up to, as it turns out, assassinate her. It’s like they think they’re the Watcher’s Council or something.

This gives Faith license to thump on a gang of lawmen, which normally we’d frown on. A fifth officer tries to keep the Slayettes trapped in the Bronze. This is ultimately rather invigorating for the girls, as it happens. They bust out of the alley and spring to Faith’s rescue. Morale effectively improved!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Faith

But not for long. Buffy shows up and is horrified. Whaling on cops? Under-aged drinking? They argue, and Faith points out that a tiny little outbreak of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer is nothing compared to what happened last week. This strikes a major nerve, and Buffy smacks her.

Out on the road, Spike is on his motorcycle and Andrew is wearing Dawn’s helmet. Andrew is still on the food, food, food topic. They do agree to agree about the onion blossoms the Bronze used to serve. Mmm, onion blossoms. Spike even knows how, in theory, to cook one.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Spike, Andrew

Robin shows up at the house and finds Faith smoking on the porch. They debrief about Faith’s clash with Buffy, and she gives herself snaps for not fighting back. The two of them read each other a little—oh, there’s chemistry there for sure!—and then Xander comes home.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Faith, Robin

The Slayettes throw him a surprise party that consists of everyone turning out to greet him in the living room. Then, just when things are getting really celebratory, Buffy announces that they’re going back into the wine cellar.

On that chilling note we realize that Spike and Andrew have, finally, reached their destination. There’s what looks like a Bringer on the scene, and Spike is obliged to save Andrew from him. But the guy still has his eyes, not to mention one of Caleb’s burn scars. What they’ve actually found is a scared and traumatized monk, the last survivor of the order.

Monkman claims Caleb can’t be stopped. He tells them the monks took him in and he rewarded them by promptly searching their monastery, where he found a secret passage they hadn’t even known was there. These are not the key-making monks of season five, obviously. They don’t even know how to keep a lid on their secret passage, which—like many a hidden room in the Buffyverse—comes complete with a portentous inscription.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places

The inscription’s rough translation was Slayers Rule, First Minions Drool, and it maddened Caleb so that he simply had to murder all the other monks.

Why does Buffy want to go back to the vineyard, you may ask? She has realized that if the school and the seal of Danthazar were so darned important, Caleb would have all his evil forces there, guarding it. Instead, he’s at the vineyard.

This might be somewhat underwhelming logic, since Caleb told her flat-out he had something of hers and would be very pleased if she would drop in with all her forces at the vineyard for a Merlot tasting and some light slaughter. Come on down to my winery, any time you please!

Still, Faith objects to the idea of trying the same plan twice. It’s not a bad point. Giles and Robin pile on. The topic of Spike arises, and then everyone’s full of mutinous vigor. Even Willow is worried about Buffy’s judgment.

Carp, carp, carp. Buffy eventually lays down the law. “Too bad, I’m the boss of us, let’s go!”

The gang replies: “Did you see that we just beat up a handful of cops, oh Authority Figure Wannabe?”

Even Xander, who is usually a rock, who was all for whatever she thought was best last week, is having a perfectly comprehensible crisis of faith.

“Empty Places” offers us the last of the official BtVS pile-ons. There have been a few horribly painful Scooby fights in the past, and their general dynamic has, like this one, pitted Buffy against the group. Even so, the unity here is notable. Though she’s been doing as much as she possibly can to prepare for the coming Apocalypse, our Slayer has also been steadily alienating everyone. Robin and Giles just want to kill Spike. Xandillow are in shock over his injury. The Slayettes are encumbered with a high level of terror and cluelessness.

Of all of them, Faith’s the one who comes closest to being supportive.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Dawn

There are so many interesting dimensions to this mutiny. In the past, Giles might have stood beside Buffy out of a sense of Watcherly duty, and then criticized her privately afterward. But now he’s in serious disagreement with her over the handling of Spike.

What’s more, he has come to recognize that Willow and Xander aren’t necessarily kids to be overruled anymore. They too have grown; they’ve earned more say in world-saving decisions. The original Scoobies definitely have every right to balk, and balk hard.

The Slayettes, though? Robin? Anya? Well, their lives are on the line.

It’s only natural that Buffy, as the outnumbered one, is the one who gets angriest, and behaves almost childishly. She’s been doing so much. She’s exhausted and hurt. And while the others may have many valid points about her plan, she is certainly entitled to feel unappreciated and cranky when they won’t just buy into her leadership.

(Spike, of course, will point this out on her behalf next time.)

The Slayettes think maybe Faith should be in charge. Even as Faith objects to this clearly mad idea, Dawn kicks Buffy out of the Summers house. We all have to agree on something, she says, and it’s that you need to go.

Dawn is kinder than the rest, but the message is still You Came, You Saw, now Get the Eff Out.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places

Buffy flees to the porch, and Faith runs after her. She says, truthfully enough, that she was not trying to stage a coup. Buffy just tells her the girls are in her hands now. Then she heads out, crying, into the night.

 

Next: Imagine how things might have gone if Kendra had lived!


A.M. Dellamonica has a book’s worth 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 of The Gales, "The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti, in early March!)

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.

22 comments
DougL
1. DougL
Ya, basically Faith wasn't wrong here, but she doesn't really get any free passes, and umm, everyone else would already be dead like 400 times over if not for Buffy, so fuck em.

I haven't liked any of her friends or Giles since Season 3, so this was some heavy validation for me heh
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
No, Willow and Xander are not justified. Their little fee fees are hurt because Buffy is busy with things more important than them. This is The Yoko Factor all over again.

I'm not defending Buffy, or her plan, but the Scoobies were outta line. Giles objections was petty, and were borne from Buffy's rejection. Willow and Xander were petty. Anya was petty*. Faith and Robin were really the only ones with legs to stand on here.

*Anya's particularly ticks me off. No, having power doesn't make her luckier than you, because that's what puts HER LIFE on the line every night, while you guys sit on the sidelines until the big play.
Michael Ikeda
3. mikeda
I'd say that Buffy is almost entirely at fault in the argument. The other Scoobies are TRYING not to escalate the conflict but Buffy simply won't let them.

Buffy starts the argument, keeps escalating it, and finally kicks herself out of the house.
Constance Sublette
4. Zorra
It's the scoobs who are falling down on not thinking through anything. They've got experience up the wazoo, all of them, even by now, Dawn.

The teenies -- they've been thrown into the Victoria Falls with no training, no briefing and no assimilationg. The timing being what it is, there are reasons. Yet -- something better could have been accomplished among these very experienced, fated folk of destiny, one would think.

The Asian girl, to whom no one has even taken a minute to teach even basics of English, while they haven't -- NOT EVEN FRACKIN' GILES! O-- have taken a minute to even get a dictionary and introductory grammar and vocabulary book in the girl's own language, is the perfect emblem of all that's wrong with all of them. What she's gotten is to be played for laughs.

Bad BtVS, Bad, Bad, Bad.

It's as if they are so terrified they've all become 15 again -- or at least the writers have.


Love, C.
Alyx Dellamonica
5. AMDellamonica
I would definitely agree that Buffy argued badly. As the very overtired person being piled upon, I can understand how she didn't rise above.

Xander might be entitled to a momentary loss of faith, though. He's suddenly realized that he's not untouchable.
Chris Nelly
6. Aeryl
@5, But he should have known that. This behavior is not the behavior of the experienced field operative Buffy painted him as in Checkpoint. He's seen Buffy take knock after knock that he KNEW he couldn't have survived, yet he still didn't know he was fragile?

No, he's drinking the same "She's not priortizing me" kool aid Willow and Giles are drinking. He may be more entitled to feel that way that W&G, but that doesn't excuse it.
Michael Ikeda
7. mikeda
It's not about "not prioritizing me". It's that the other Scoobies have enough experience to realize when Buffy isn't thinking clearly and right then she ISN'T. And she compounds the problem by trying to bulldoze over their objections and that predictably backfires.
Chris Nelly
8. Aeryl
@7, Except that she IS thinking clearly. She's not making her case well, and I'm not defending her for the clueless way she goes about this, but she's right. They need to go back to the vinyeard. Caleb has something important, something that is the deciding factor in their eventual victory.

They(Will&Xan) don't want her to be right, because she didn't stay at the hospital and play games with them. They(Giles) don't want her to be right, because she's thrown off their guidance, and Buffy accepting his guidance is MOAR IMPORTANT to him than winning the war(or else why try to have her strongest ally murdered?). They(Anya and the Potentials) don't want her to be right, because they are scared, and her being right means they have to fight.

The only person that actually wants Buffy to be right has been sent away conveniently enough. But the truth of the matter is, whatever Buffy's plan had been, the scoobies & the Potentials would not have accepted it, would have rejected it, and they'd still be back to right where they are.
Michael Ikeda
9. mikeda
Aeryl@8

She isn't even remotely thinking clearly. She doesn't have a plan or even an inkling of one. She's desperate to go back because Xander got hurt and the only way she sees to redeem that is to go back right away. Except that she's going to get beaten the same way or worse if she goes back in her current state. The Scoobies are absolutely right to reject a second attack on the vineyard under those circumstances. And, unlike past arguments where Buffy snd the Scoobies feed off of each other's anger, the Scoobies are calm and conciliatory throughout. The Scoobies try not to push the argument to the point of an open break but Buffy keeps forcing the issue.
DougL
10. Dianthus
I have to say that, while I'm far more sympathetic to Xander here than, say, Entropy, he did know the risks, and Buffy's talked to him about remaining "fray-adjacent" in the past.

Still, kinda pissed at the Scoobs on this one. Willow's the one who pulled her back into the fight in the first place, and she's only just starting using her magic again in any signifcant way. Plus, Giles is the one who's put all this on her, bringing her the potentials and questioning her judgement, re: Spike.

Buffy is totally blaming herself for Xander's injury and Molly's(?) death, too, which is why she simply can't stay at the hospital. This is what her calling has done to her, what she was worried about in Intervention. She cares too much, and has to pull away from it.

For the record, there's no Spanish-era mission in Gilroy, but HA-HA! let's send Spike to the Garlic Capital of the World. After more than a century, you'd think his (William's) Greek would be a little rusty, but what the hey.

Also, too, I think it's kinda funny they felt the need to backpeddle a bit from the whole religion sux (as represented by Caleb) thing. You know that's what Joss was going for here.
DougL
11. Alex C.
@mikeda -

Strongly disagree here, on several points.

First off, criticizing Buffy for not having a plan about going back to the vineyard is clearly unfair, because the argument means that she never gets round to explaining herself on that front. She says, quite clearly, that she's entirely open to suggestions on the tactics and planning of how they go back to the vineyard. The point on which she's adamant, on which she won't budge, is that danger or no, there is something at the vineyard that they need to get their hands on, and that means that they have to go back there.

This is the crux of the matter, the point on which the Scoobies, despite having the better of the argument, are ultimately left without a leg to stand on. They never, none of them, even pause to consider the possibility that Buffy might be right in her instinct that Caleb wasn't lying about having something that they need, and that what they really need to be doing right now is figuring out what to do with this insight.

It's fine, understandable, that the Scoobies should be skeptical about this. Given what's happened recently, they're entitled to that. But their skepticism should have been expressed by insisting that they look for a way to verify Buffy's intuition, discuss how they could best go about confirming or disproving it, and what the smart way would be to act on it being confirmed.

But they do not do this.

And the reason is, that they are not, none of them, anything remotely resembling calm and conciliatory about this. As Aeryl already outlined above, they're all being driven by their emotional responses - anger, fear, or just plain pique - and the proof in the pudding is that they refuse out of hand to give Buffy's conviction about the importance of the vineyard the light of day, even in the next episode, when Spike comes back with information that all but demands that they ought to give second thought to what Buffy had said the night before.

The absolute bottom line about the mutiny for me is this: Buffy was not in the right. Her insight - that Caleb's continued presence at the vineyard makes it highly probable that there is something important about the place - is brilliant and spot on, and should have compelled a response even if she had been incorrect (which she wasn't); but everything that she does with it is wrong. She did an unspeakably poor job of making her case (off the top of my head I can think of a dozen things she could have done differently that might have swayed at least part of the group) - which is only partly excused by the fact that she was overtired (there's a strong implication that she hasn't slept in days), injured, and emotional. That she was so quick to jump down their throats for not having her back is clearly a sign of guilt - that she herself is obviously worried that she doesn't deserve their trust.

However, even though Buffy is definitely not in the right, the rest of the of the group is firmly in the wrong.

This goes beyond their failure to even think about Buffy's insight beyond "Don't wanna go back! Caleb's there, he's scary!" There may be a lack of heat coming off their end of the last and worst of the official BtVS pile-ons, but that doesn't make the way that they behave any less contemptible.

Giles comes off terribly. For him to hurl Buffy's words from earlier back in her face like this, in front of the entire group, is utterly cheap, for him to make snide remarks about tilting at windmills in response to something that she clearly sincerely believes in is low, and it all suggests that he has learned nothing from their earlier clash over Spike. His complete failure to diffuse the argument as he has so many times in the past can only point in one direction: he wanted something like the outcome that transpired, because what Spike says to him in the next episodes rings far too true to be ignored: he can't deal with the loss of his status as the trusted mentor, and that's what he's acting on now, not reasoned thinking.

Anya is worse. What she says to Buffy is just so nasty and unfair that it instantly rekindles all of my sympathy for Buffy in the argument (which from a writing perspective, may have been the point). Not only is it ghastly that Anya of all people would have the nerve to call out Buffy like this, but what she says verges on being obscene. To so blithely dismiss, out of hand, the years of hardship, loss, fear, danger, and toil that Buffy has so readily shouldered because of her calling is infuriating, and speaks naught but ill of Anya as a person. (If anyone doubts that it is Buffy's character and choices, not her powers, that make her a hero, they should direct their attention at Faith). I swing back and forth between thinking that Anya's outburst stems from her resentment at being treated differently from Spike, or if this is just the petty sniping of a woman who knows that her past actions make her morally inferior and doesn't like it, but either way this episode marks the end of my affections for Anya.

Wood should not be allowed to escape from notice, despite the fact that he stays lurking in the background for most of the argument. With the incident at the vineyard preying on everyone's minds, he has no right to rest so easy in his own judgment - not when he was the one who urged Buffy on in her decision to go there in the first place (to say nothing of his previous track record). His role here is no less egregious for being understated, and there can be no question that he, of all of them, is being driven by resentment over reason.

Dawn's role I find to be the most forgivable, despite the fact that she more than anyone is playing the role of Brutus in this affair - "the unkindest cut of all", indeed. I give her something of a pass because, a) I think that when she forces Buffy to leave she's just trying her best to save her sister from being further humiliated, and b) the moment when she tells Rona to shut her mouth is so many kinds of awesome. That doesn't make it hurt any less though.

Willow and Xander's role falls under the category of being understandable, but not forgivable. They, more than anyone else in the room, should have memories of the countless times in the past when Buffy's raw instinct and hunches were spot-on. They, out of all the group, are the ones who could and should have stood up and tried to bring the group to a middle ground of seeking a way to verify Buffy's suspicions before acting on them. They were the ones who Buffy might have responded to if they had been open to her epiphany, but urged caution. They could, at least, have pointed out the folly of making Faith the new leader. Their failure to do any of these things has drastic consequences for the group, and more to the point it's a failure of friendship. They know it too - there's no mistaking the guilt in Willow's reaction when Spike comes back.

And then there's Faith. Out of all the group, she comes closest to looking good from this debacle. She's the only one who makes an actual attempt to stop the argument from escalating, and she's obviously sincere in what she says.

And yet...

The signs are stamped all over her role in the episode of why she's the least suited person to replace Buffy. She rejected the idea that there was something at the vineyard before any of the others. And for all her protestations, she's finally got her wish: Buffy's life is hers at last - house, Watcher, Scoobies, and all. And for any who think that this isn't on her mind... well, we'll see her reaction to what the Mayor's apparition says to her in the next episode.

*big sigh*

To sum up/reiterate, the group f***ed up in their response to Buffy's plan by being fixated on their own fears and insecurites instead of responding rationally, and what happens as a result is awful.

What hurts the most in all of this is how eminently sympathetic Buffy's position remains for me throughout. She's culpable in her own explusion from the group, big time, but that doesn't change that she's ultimately being punished for her commitment to trying to do right by the group, as best she knows how. What happens here destroys all traces of her self-belief, and she didn't deserve that, any more than she deserved to be cast out of her own home.
DougL
12. Alex C.
Also, if we need an explantion for why Buffy responds so badly to the group rejecting her plan, there's more to it than just being tired and piled-on. It's obvious that she was consumed with guilt for what went wrong last time at the vineyard, and she now thinks that she's come up with something that will make up for that. Think about the first thing she says as she announces the plan - "I'm fine - I'm better than fine". She's just so relieved to have found the way that she can make it all good, because it just seems so clear and obvious to her...

And none of them want anything to do with it, or, her guilty conscience drives her to think, with her. (This is as good a place as any to throw in more praise for how wonderfully emotive SMG's acting is - you can perfectly track Buffy's thought process just from watching her expressions).

The way that she snaps then is not pretty, but I can't find it in me to condemn her for it. It is, I feel, too understandable, and too human, a response for that.
Jason Parker
13. tarbis
Nobody winds up covered in glory here, but I can't jump on anybody as being entirely in the wrong either.

Buffy going back to the vineyard is what Caleb and the First want. Even though they want her there for different reasons. Unfortunately they're thinking villains and can adjust their plans to handle upheaval at the Scooby house.

Xander lost an eye, feels like he lost a friend, and gets to carry some of the guilt for the death at the vineyard because he talked the potentials into going. On top of that he's been housing potentials (proved last episode), missing work, and probably kicking in a chunk of whatever pay he is getting to keep things afloat. If he didn't lash out after all that he wouldn't be human.

The biggest fall down is that Anya speech came out of a pale skinned character who was dressed for an American Eagle photo-shoot. It was a decent critique of all Buffy's privilege (both as a Slayer and a white middle-class American), but it fell short in the final presentation.

Personally I find the biggest problem to be that after the group has outlined a couple ways that being the Slayer does not qualify one for leadership they turn around and put another Slayer in charge. The Slayer package is speed, strength, quick healing, dreams, and vampire detection nothing in there about tactical skill or moral authority.

Although I am a bad enough person to admit a certain dark delight at Buffy being on the recieving end after she spent seven seasons rejecting anyone who tried to order her about.
Michael Ikeda
14. mikeda
tarbis@13

Ironically it's actually Buffy who plants the idea of Faith being in charge. "Because I'm the Slayer" is a really bad argument to use when there are two Slayers in the room.
DougL
15. Alex C.
@13. Sorry tarbis, but as far as I'm concerned, there is nothing in any way "decent" about what Anya says to Buffy. In fact, what we hear from her runs completely against the grain of an enormous part of the point that this season makes about Slayers in general: they are women who voluntarily (Faith's presence really underlines the voluntary part) dedicate themselves to the fulfillment of a 'mission' all but guarenteed to stamp their lives as nasty, brutish, and short, and by doing so demonstrate an enormity of moral character that has absolutely zip to do with their 'unearned' ability to win the local benchpress championship. There is nothing "privileged" or "lucky" about them - to think otherwise would be the height of absurdity.

Regardless of the issues about Buffy's recent behaviour, to lambaste her for not having 'earned' what she's got is patently untrue to what we've seen of her character for seven seasons. Anya is wrong. Buffy may have had the advantage of being born as the Chosen One, but what she's done with (and without) her power is entirely on her. To reiterate what I said above, these comments do nothing except show Anya up as a nasty, shallow, and self-centered individual who has just lost any and all claims on my sympathy for her as a character.

As for the 'problem' of the group immediately putting another Slayer in charge despite having made an argument that merely being the Slayer does not qualify one for leadership, I would argue that despite all my unhappy feelings about what transpires here, this is actually something that the episode does incredibly right by highlighting the extent of the group's hypocrisy: they're not interested in finding the best leader, or in helping Buffy to become a better one, they're simply acting on their own emotional insecurities, and looking for something that they're comfortable with, rather than with what's right.

The issue of "the Slayer must be the leader" is also important, insofar as it shows that the group just doesn't get it. The fact that Buffy is the best fighter of the group has nothing to do with why she's been the informal leader of the Scooby Gang for seven years; it's because despite her frankly often terrible ability to readily relate with other individuals, she does possess genuine qualities of leadership: a natural instinct to take command in any moment of adversity, determination of a truly fierce variety, moral integrity of truly extraordinary calibre, and a razor-sharp wit and intuition that is entirely distinct from the senses she is endowed with as the Slayer. This is what Anya completely fails to give due credit to when she makes her awful comments, and by doing so shows up the larger mistake being made by the group.

What the First and Caleb want is two-fold: they want to kill as many Potential Slayers as possible, but they also want them not to get their hands on the secret at the vineyard. By failing to harmonize those goals (the smart thing to do would have been the stage their ambush somewhere else entirely - here we see that Caleb is tripped up by his unrestrained greed), they've exposed themselves, and Buffy has clued onto that. Her mistakes here mean that the group isn't going to take any action to exploit that opening, and her complete loss of self-confidence after the mutiny prevent her from striking out on her own. Until Spike comes back.

Since almost none of the people who have ever tried to "order her about" have had anything resembling Buffy's own interests at heart, I have never found her "rejection" of them to be anything other than a positive thing. That's why there ought to be nothing "delightful" about her ending up on the "recieving end", as you put it - whatever errors of judgment she makes, there should be no mistaking the sincerity of her desire to do right by the group as best she can. That's what really hurts here: that by all their words and actions here, the group directly insinuate that Buffy cares more about her pride, or the need to achieve victory at any price, than she does about their lives wellbeing. And that is wrong.
DougL
16. Alex C.
@14. What that really demonstrates is that to a great extent Buffy is guilty of making the same mistake as the rest of the group: she associates everything special about herself with the fact that she's the Slayer (she has many strengths, but acute self-knowledge has never really been one of them). Stripping that illusion from her is just one of the many wonderful, beautiful things that Spike does in "Touched".
Constance Sublette
17. Zorra
@ 15 --
... these comments do nothing except show Anya up as a nasty, shallow, and self-centered individual who has just lost any and all claims on my sympathy for her as a character.
Thus she got called to be a vengeance demon; Buffy to be a Slayer.

Love, C.
DougL
18. Alex C.
@17. Very well put.
DougL
19. Alex C.
Something else that strikes me about this messy situation: despite the mistakes she makes here that lead to her rejection by the group, Buffy clearly does have at least one thing here over the rest of them: she's the only one who (before the end of the episode) has not succumbed to defeatism about their predicament.

With all the doom-and-gloom atmospherics that are going on here, it's relatively easy to accept without questioning the notion which has completely pervaded most of the group that they are utterly helpless to resist the foes arrayed against them. Anya's little briefing in the basement sums up their attitude to a tee: Caleb is the Worst Thing Ever, and it's not even worth talking about him because it's futile to think of fighting someone so scary.

Which is absolute nonsense when you actually think about what we've seen that the Scoobies are capable of. Caleb is not an appreciably more formidable opponent than some of those they faced in the past: Glory, Adam, Dark Willow - all of whom they found ways of at least holding their own against. In fact, we have already seen the signs that Caleb is not at all unbeatable, despite his terrifying strength. Apart from the fact that he's not particularly bright (telegraphing the location of your greatest weakness, even for the sake of setting up an ambush, is just not the done thing), he's also not all that fast: we saw in the first fight in the vineyard that Buffy, after she recovered from her initial clobbering, had some success at dodging Caleb's blows when she went at him again, prefiguring the approach that she'll take during the fight in "Touched".

If all three of the group's best warriors (Buffy, Faith, and Spike) had engaged him simultaneously while bearing that in mind, and if they had also found some way to bring Willow's magic into the mix, and perhaps something else on top of that (like a rocket launcher, or a truck, or a wrecking ball - those have all worked in the past), then it stands to reason that Caleb can be taken, and with him out of the way it's only the Bringers (who are basically chumps) to worry about, and perhaps a Turok-Han or two (who we've seen can be beaten with the right approach).

In other words, it shouldn't be flatly accepted that a second attack on the vineyard was predestined to failure, at least not if it had been planned right. That was the entire point that got made by "Showtime": that there's nothing so scary that the Scoobies can't handle, if they do it in the right way - and the previous six and a half seasons of the show are there to be cited as proof.

The problem is, simply, that most of the group have effectively abandoned hope by this point, and are just looking for the most comfortable and least risky way of continuing the fight, which we'll see completely confirmed by what they do in the next episode. They just don't trust Buffy as they used to (which is her fault, at least in part), and that's why they're looking for someone who will fit what they see as their needs better.

Buffy may have botched her relations with the group, but it is clear, not just from this episode, but also from past and subsequent ones, that of them all she's the one who really *gets it* that when they all band together and bring their A-game (her speeches may have been boring and sometimes harsh, but at least they were consistent on this point), they can never not stand at least a chance of winning.

It's actually Faith's (and by extension the group's) failure to appreciate this point that most leads them to the edge of catastrophe: we'll see that by succumbing the to words of the First/Mayor, she winds up dividing the group, with near-fatal consequences.
DougL
20. RetepAdam
Oh. I didn't realize this was a thing that was still ongoing.

Let me know when we get to Chosen.
DougL
21. JoJoss
Another factor that isn't really obvious is the the First has been working to tear the group apart - preying on insecurities, private pain, irritations, everything. Yes, we only saw a few key instances but it's more than likely that there have been overheard snippets of conversations, and all sorts of minor exacerbations of a truly difficult living situation.

Giles (and Woods) followed the desires of the First in attempting to kill Spike. Both of them have very personal reasons not to want to follow Buffy. Caleb took out Xander's eye - Willow is upset that Buffy won't drop everything to bond, and I really believe Dawn wants her sister to live. Let Faith take the risk this time.

I think I realy hate Giles at this point - and that's odd because I love him in earlier seasons. He just seems like such a bitter old man - Buffy closed the door on his "lesson" for good reason so he supports kicking her out just because he can have more influence with Faith.
Alyx Dellamonica
23. AMDellamonica
I'd definitely buy Dawn doing anything that might result in Buffy not dying.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment