“Intervention,” written by Jane Espenson
One week after Joyce’s funeral, we open on a cozy domestic scene at the Summers home. Dinner is over, and Giles is helping with dishes. Buffy says that she and Dawn are getting into a routine. Naturally enough, Giles takes this as an opportunity to suggest she resume her super-uber Slayer training.
Buffy balks. Recent events have made her fear that she has become too emotionally shut off. Could all the killing, death, mayhem, slaughter, hospitalizations, betrayals, fire-setting, blood-letting, and demon-bludgeoning be to blame? She talks about her various recent failures to share, citing the break-up with Riley, her remoteness, last week, from Dawn, and finally admits she isn’t even sure if Joyce knew she loved her. “Maybe being the perfect slayer means not being able to love at all.”
That’s a pretty rotten thing to be afraid of, and rather than offering up the opinion that maybe this is just a pattern of behavior with her, Giles suggests that she go on a quest. It’s not a Grail quest, despite recent encounters with Knights, but rather a seeking after answers at the nearby sacred place (did we know they had one of those?) in the nearby desert (did we know we had one of these?) Buffy doesn’t want to leave, particularly, but Dawn urges her to pursue the truth if it’ll help.
This is good sister and self-care on Dawn’s part. An emotional, functional Buffy is obviously gonna be a better parent figure.
Elsewhere on the Hellmouth, Spike is unwrapping his shiny new Buffybot. Warren has given him his very best work, and I’m impressed, because it looks exactly like Sarah Michelle Gellar. The things they can do with special effects these days!
It says something that Warren (I mean, really, Warren!) is creeped out by Spike’s requests, specifications and fantastic smut scenarios. But the Buffybot is happy to see Spike and, for the moment, that’s all that matters. Heck, I’m happy to see her. She may be a pleasure toy, but she’s peppy.
Now the smart thing at this point, clearly, would be for Slayer Barbie and her Bloody Boyfriend to leave town. Like, immediately! But Spike, while he’s plenty clever in some ways, is not so bright in others. This, of course, makes for better TV. So he takes her back to the crypt, where anybody who’s anybody can find them.
After the credits, we drop in on the glamorous and tasteful Glorificus. This season’s Big Bad is whinging to her minions about Ben getting stronger. Time is getting short if she wants to free herself and destroy the universe(s) for the win, and for that to come together, she needs her Key. So far, all stuff we already know, but now whine time is over: Glory and her scabrous peeps decide to get proactive. Marching orders are issued: it’s time to figure out who’s new, shiny and special in Buffy’s life.
Buffy’s not feeling very shiny as she and Giles take the Sacred Place exit off the I5 and arrive in the desert, clad in complementary leather coats. (They’re kind of browncoats, Firefly fans. And they look great against the desert palette. Who says questing can’t be fun and fashionable?) There’s some cute banter between them about the hokey pre-quest ritual Giles must perform. It’s not a belly-laugh, but we take the chuckle from it.
Giles turns himself around and shakes his gourd, and, after a bit of wandering, Buffy finds a mountain lion, who also looks good against the desert sand. She follows him or her to a likely quest spot, a place she kind of remembers from her vision back in “Restless.”
Back at the crypt, Spike and Buffybot are playing at sex. She’s filled with enthusiasm for all things Spike. It’s both funny and faintly distasteful, and post-coital Spike has hilarious hair. I’m not sure why, but this episode has turned me into Fashion Cop.
Even as the two of them are busy staking each other, the Key search brings out snooping minions all over Sunnydale. There’s one peeping through the window at Xander’s place as XandAnya guards Dawn and Dawn steals a pair of earrings. (This guarding thing is a rather peculiar Scooby situation that has been popping up, with ever more frequency, ever since Buffy got a sister: one or more of the gang being tasked with protecting the Key against something they can’t possibly defeat.)
That has to be a weird feeling: they can’t leave Dawn alone, but if the magical alarm goes off to say Glory is coming, anyone with the kid has to know they’re toast. The ‘we’ll run like stink’ option isn’t very realistic.
Getting back to the topic of the minions, there’s one watching Willow wrap up a chemistry class later that evening. And a few more are out looking for other Key clues in the graveyard. This becomes inconvenient when, as Spike sleeps off round one of his icky sex fest, Buffybot goes out to do some slaying. There she runs into XandAnya, who have swapped Dawnsitting duty for vamp patrol.
(It’s possible the Scoobies don’t get enough credit for how hard they work on Buffy’s behalf this season. I mean this is seriously unsung hero stuff. Xander probably put in a full day on a construction site somewhere, too, and Anya was at the store covering for Questing Giles. Wow. I’m exhausted just writing about it.)
Spike arrives on the scene too late to keep the bot from being chirpy and extravagantly weird to Buffy’s friends. Then, thankfully, some disposable vamps show up. The fight distracts everyone from the Buffybot except the Glory minion watching it all. He sees her being extremely protective of Spike and draws the wrong conclusion.
Xander, like the minion, is also adding one and one together and sort of getting three. One: Buffybot didn’t ask about Dawn. Two: she was acting strangely. Three: she didn’t quail at the mere sight of Spike and instead sent her friends home. His Scooby sense draws him back to the graveyard, just to check, where he and Anya see what he will later refer to as ‘the straddling.’
Off XandAnya runs to tell the gang: “Buffy’s boinking Spike!” Even the ever-patient Tara agrees that this is not a good life choice.
Xander goes off to the crypt to deliver a warning on behalf of the gang. He’s midway through threatening Spike very seriously indeed when several Glorious minions show up. They smack Xander down and are thoughtful enough to say, loudly, that they’re grabbing Spike for Key purposes. (They also don’t even try to kill Xander. It may be that, like Ben, they lack villainous follow-through. Anyway, we’re all grateful, so I shouldn’t kvetch about it.)
Back at the ritual, Buffy has come face to face with something that looks awfully like the first Slayer. “You are full of love,” it tells her. “Love is pain and the Slayer forges strength from pain. Risk the pain, it is your nature.”
And then she adds: “Love will bring you to your gift.”
“Huh?” says Buffy. Thinking, I’m sure: Questing was supposed to make things clearer, Giles. All this thing’s telling me is run towards the pain.
Amid all the scrambling back in town, Buffybot has ended up with the Scoobies. Since she really does have a one-track mind, she is worried about Spike. Willow is trying to rationalize Fake Buffy’s exciting new sexual preference, and the bot is brightly, perkily, delightedly unrepentant. She offers to draw pictures. Willow is hilariously grossed out.
Real Buffy’s gift turns out to be “Death.” She’s not impressed with this answer.
The minions bring Spike to Glory. Initially, she rejects him: he’s a vampire and thus not pure enough to be Key material. But they persist, saying Buffy treated him as though he were precious, so she buckles down to tormenting him. And why not? If someone brings you a chocolate torte when you would have preferred a croissant, you’re still gonna eat the torte, am I right?
Back at Chez Summers, things not related to Slayers, love and death are getting clearer: Slayer Barbie goes upstairs to change, and actual Buffy shows up. Oh! The gang really should do a collective facepalm here. Unfortunately, there’s no time, since Spike knows about Dawn and Spike is being carved up by Glory.
He’s enduring it manfully. Vampfully? He even manages to tell Glory that the Key is Bob Barker and, when that fails to convince, that Buffy will kick her “skanky, lopsided ass.”
Glory throws him through a wall, which is what he was hoping for: it gets him free of his chains. He makes a pretty decent attempt to flee, or at the very best get killed trying. Sometimes it’s very easy to see how Spike has survived for so long.
Just as Spike’s attempt to run for it is looking rather doomed, the Scoobies show up for the save. Xander fights well! The ’bot gets zapped by loose wires. Glory couldn’t be bothered to come downstairs and join the fray, so Team Good wins this round. They drag the extremely battered Spike and the ’bot away.
The story wraps when Buffy dons the pink dress and pretends to be the ’bot, trying to discover if Spike told Glory about Dawn. He tells her the truth: he’d die before causing Buffy that much pain. She rewards him with one little smooch and tells him she won’t forget what he’s done for the two of them.
“Intervention” is one of those episodes that comes off, in retrospect, as a bit of a grab bag: it is less a coherent story than a collection of bits and pieces meant to nudge us closer to the season finale. The Knights who say Key don’t make an appearance, but Glory is actively hunting a person now, Spike reveals a bit of his best (pre-souled) self to Buffy—thereby thawing relations between them—and the ’bot itself becomes available to the gang for the final battle. We get the important ‘Death is your Gift’ prophecy from the First Slayer, and, as an extra bonus, Dawn embarks on her life of petty crime.
The Jane Espenson scripts in this season tend to be the ones that have a bit of humor in them, despite all the grim. She mixes darkness and froth nicely, better than many of the other regular BtVS writers, perhaps better than anyone besides Joss himself. The introduction of Buffybot brightens things up considerably. Giles is the other source of warmth in the mix: his unstinting support of Buffy and their Watcher-Slayer pre-quest schtick offer a bit of cheer.
But Joyce is still dead, everyone’s still pretty sad, Dawn’s still in danger and none of the gang has any clue about how to go about defeating a deity.
Next: Tarabrains, Tarabrains, for Breakfast Dinner and Lunch
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.