“Lies My Parents Told Me,” by David Fury and Drew Goddard
New York, 1977: Nikki Wood whales on Spike, and vice versa, while wee tiny Robin watches from behind a park bench. It’s hard to say which of the three is the most adorable. Nikki is looking as though she might get bit when Robin distracts Spike. Who decides that since he’s gone to all the trouble of stalking another Slayer—he knows her name, and has come looking for her just for the joy of it—he should drag out the hunt. Also, he loves her coat.
Having covered his otherwise sketchy motives for giving up on a fight he’s essentially won, Spike bails and Nikki gives Robin a big dose of tender loving care. She explains that she loves him but she also was born to Slay, and thus he must go be babysat by a Watcher who surely adores being put on childcare duty. Giles doesn’t know how good he has it. Oh, wait—Giles is now running a school for wayward young ladies.
In the here and now, Spuffy and Robin are fighting a pack of vampires in an alley. One imagines they were all headed out for a charming evening at that marvellous French restaurant when the remaining bloodsuckers of Sunnydale jumped them. Robin’s getting pummelled and, on Buffy’s instructions, Spike goes in for the save. He tells Robin to be bold, and stake the darned monsters already.
“Just waiting for my moment,” Robin murmurs. The part he doesn’t say, of course is: “To kill you, you mother-slaying former poet.” Spike isn’t listening to either text or subtext.
Next day at school, everything is relatively peaceful by Hellmouth standards. Robin is wishfully thinking that maybe getting Andrew to cry on the seal was all they needed to do to keep the First at bay. Buffy’s pretty sure that’s not true. They’re interrupted when Giles pops in, filled with rage over the oh so electronic state of the new library. He also, rather conveniently, reports that the coven says the Apocalypse is still on time, on schedule, and on evil budget. Everyone who hasn’t achieved minimum safe distance from the high school and the seal by, say, May? Is toast.
Giles moves onto the topic of Spike. As Robin tries to catch up on all the things Spike has in addition to fangs—the soul, military brain-altering hardware, a good bleach job, Nikki’s coat, kitten-gambling debts, crypt decor tips, and the affection of a good woman—Buffy and Giles argue about whether the trigger put in his mind by the First can be deactivated.
Giles has a spell that might help identify the trigger, and has hit Charms R Us for a magic stone that has to penetrate Spike’s mind. (I know, but it does!) They chain him up, and Willow turns the stone into an exciting CGI brain worm, which wiggles its way into his head through Spike’s eye socket. There it sets off a flashback: William the Bloody Awful Poet, reading to his thoroughly delighted mom.
Because she’s his mom, she tells him it’s masterpiece of verse. She adds that he should totally chase Cecily Underwood. Finally, we see that the old lady is a touch consumptive, but not so consumptive that she can’t sing “Early One Morning.”
Hearing the song in the flashback is enough to trigger a glorious outburst of Spikey violence. He attacks everyone, but then the wormy rock falls out of his eye and he seems to be back to normal. He also wants out of the chains. Giles and Robin interrogate him about the deeper meaning of “Early One Morning.” He insists that the song means nothing to him.
Upstairs, Willow is patching up Dawn, who got clocked in the scramble, while the Slayettes demand to know why a homicidal vampire gets to bunk in their basement. Then Fred phones, from L.A. and Willow goes zooming out of the episode to meet her.
Next more flashback: Drusilla and newly turned William dance in his living room. (Hi, Juliet Landau!) She wants to make out on his couch, and is really quite unimpressed to learn that he’s brought her home to eat and turn Mother.
Buffy, true to form, has decided to release Spike from bondage. Robin and Giles are not on board with this choice. They agree that Spike and his trigger are simply too dangerous to leave lying around… loaded? Robin tells Giles about Crowley the Watcher, his amazing foster dad. Giles, of course, knows all about Spike’s having killed Nikki.
The revelation means that Giles understands that Robin’s all about revenge. The thing is, he kind of wants to kill Spike, too. He’s dangerous, after all, and he’s simply not good enough for Buffy. And all Robin wants is for him to get Buffy out of the way.
No problem, says Giles. Off he leads Buffy to the cemetery. He tells her she has to look to the big picture, to start making sacrifices and hard calls. (I think The Walking Dead cribbed some of this dialog and then reused it every single week.)
The scam here is that because Buffy and Giles are out, Robin is tasked with babysitting Spike. The house full of Potentials doesn’t really want him around, especially with Willow off doing other stuff. He brings Spike to his sanctuary, whose walls are covered in crosses. He tells him the truth, and since he really wants to kill Evil Spike, not Souled Spike or Crazy Babbing Spike, or Chipped Spike or even Handing Down Slay Wisdom from the Mountain Spike, he puts “Early One Morning” up on the sanctuary sound system.
Spike, predictably enough, vamps out.
Flashback time! William the baby vamp returns home after a party weekend of shagging Drusilla, looting the National Library’s naughty romantic poetry collection and putting select members of the aristocracy on spikes. He has come to check out how it’s going with Moms. How it’s going, as it turns out, is a bit of a mixed bag. Oh, she’s looking radiant and has had some quality time with the hair crimper. She’s also got better things to do than listen to her son’s attempts at poetry for all time. William’s love for her survived his death. Her affection for him? Not so much.
As Robin fights the enraged, entriggered, engamefaced Spike, we see that William’s mother discovers she likes being mean, and so she calls the undead fruit of her loins a “limp, sentimental, fool.”
It’s all so crushing that Robin manages to Spike rather thoroughly and take back Nikki’s coat.
Elsewhere, Giles has hit upon the strategy of asking Buffy to drag out the killing of the evening’s dustable vampire. This is nice for the vamp because he gets to have a character name—Richard!—and five more minutes of screen time than usual. Sadly, Giles overplays his hand by raising the question of why are we keeping Spike, anyway? He forgets how well Buffy knows him, I think.
Back in Victoria’s day, William’s mom gets violent and incestuous, and then Spike stakes her. He says “I’m sorry,” in both the past memory and in the present day. But he’s not apologizing to Robin. Restored—in the sense that he’s no longer a mindless puppet of the First—he piles back into the fight.
Along the way, he does a nifty bit of psychoanalyzing about what Robin’s real issue might be: Nikki was a Slayer first and a mother second. He could, if he wished, have rubbed salt in the wound by making reference to Nikki’s having a death wish. This is, after all, what he told Buffy about why Nikki lost their fight. It’d be an interesting additional thing to lay on Robin, maybe.
Instead, Spike claims to be free of the First’s influence. He goes into game face and seems to be about to kill Robin.
Buffy bails out of the graveyard and the Giles distraction gambit as soon as she realizes what’s going on. She finds Spike reclaiming his coat, and Robin, naturally, still alive. (Though significantly less peppy.) Claiming that Robin’s used the one chance he’s getting for mercy, Spike stalks off. Possibly in a bit of a dudgeon.
Buffy checks out the cross-walled sanctuary, and tells Robin about losing Joyce. It’s an “I feel your pain, but—” kind of speech. She says she’ll let Spike kill him if it comes to that, because the mission is what matters and Spike’s a better fighter. Sucks to be you, Robin.
As for Giles, he still thinks Spike should be killed, but Buffy’s too hosed with him to engage in that particular conversation. And we all know she’ll probably get over being mad, in due course.
Next: The Mission is Can Faith Please Come Back Soon?
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!)