beginning | blinding torment | boils | lies | making me bitter | evil compounds evil | blah blah bity blah
season seven > lessons
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We begin the episode in Istanbul. No really. Istanbul. It's in the subtitles and everything. A young girl is running from some hooded guys, because they want to sacrifice her to a snake in their basement! Oh wait. That was someone else. We don't know why these hooded guys are chasing her. Or who she is. But we figure out soon enough that they're not vampires, unless they're toothless ones, because they use a big 'ole Faith-sized knife to stab her. And that's the last we see of her. I mean obviously, because she's dead and all. But, we don't hear another word about Istanbul the rest of the episode. So stop asking me about it already.
Then we cut to Buffy and Dawn in the cemetery. Buffy tells Dawn "it's about power." And who has it. And Dawn doesn't. Dawn tries to stake the witty banter vampire guy and misses his heart. Buffy tells Dawn that she missed the heart the first time too. We're back to the beginning already! It was such a short trip! Once the vampire is all dusty, they fret about the coming evil that can't be stopped. I should mention now, The misdirection fairy stops by this episode quite often. Wave hello to the nice fairy. [Hi fairy! -ST] Maybe she'll go away. [Ahahahaha. Yeah, right. This is ME you're dealing with. The misdirection fairy must have blackmail on their asses, the way she's employed. "You will write me into the script, or else I'll release this tape of you watching Deep Space Nine." The fools.]
Anyway, I'll just tell you now so you don't worry too much. The scary impending badness is Dawn going to high school. The new high school that was built on top of the old high school. Which can only lead to hilarity and doom. [And which must mean it's evil. Come on, in the spirit of recycling lines, the only things we don't believe in are coincidences and leprechauns! Well, that's not entirely true. I have issues with the myth of sanity, but that's neither here nor there.]
Slightly new and improved credits.
And then we get to the scene we've all been waiting for. At least those of us with mainline spoiler crack habits. Giles! On a horse! Sadly, he's not galloping, but I'll take what I can get. He wanders the pretty English countryside and finds Willow, who's all busy growing a Paraguan (Paraguaite? Cat thinks possibly "that thing from Paraguay") flower. Because it's connected to the earth. The earth, after all, being in both Paraguay and England. [Hey, SP, did you know that the everything's connected? Huh? Huh? Did you? Cuz if not, by the end of this ep you will. Oh, you will.]
Giles recognizes it right away and says, "oh there you are using magic, for which I am not chastising you. Instead I will remind you about how you must harness it since it's a part of you. Since last we saw you, you had given up the magic cold turkey although that was a really lame storyline and I must somehow explain why I don't seem all shocked that you're using it to grow this flower after you spent all that time trying to end the world and kill everyone and everything." Actually, he just thinks that part. [That is so exactly what he said, using forehead divets 3 through 18.]
He's very gentle and loving in that wonderful (and hot; did I mention he was just on a horse?) Giles way and asks her why she isn't at her lesson with the coven. He tells her that magic isn't an addiction (woo frickin' hoo) [Way too little too late, and I swear there was at least an implied "anymore" there. Oh, the bitterness. How it stings.] or hobby for her. It's part of her. Her responsibility. She has to learn to live with it. Much as she has to learn to live with the guilt of killing people. Evil people, sure, but people, nonetheless. [Wait, no. Wait. Is this our first "lesson"? Is this our first "metaphor"? Once a murderer, always a murderer? Once a black-haired, black-veined, crazy ass psycho, always a crazy ass psycho? It's all in the control?] She just wants to be Willow. [Right. Willow. But which Willow? Geek!softer-side-of-Sears!Willow? Heterosexual!groupie!Willow? Lesbian!Willow? Crack-whore!Willow? Evil!Willow? So many to choose from, too much bitterness to care…]
Guilt-laden, magic-burdened Willow isn't quite so much fun as carefree, computer geek season one Willow. She really would like to go back to the beginning. Only, she doesn't get to. Unless of course she uses her magic to poof them all back so she can have a do over. Then, maybe she could go back. Hopefully the coven has cautioned against this particular plan of action.
Back in Sunnydale, Xander (whoa. Back up.). Really buff, studly-looking Xander drives over to (wait a second; back up again. A scooby has a car?) Buffy's to bring Dawn to school. Buffy has a back to school present for Dawn. A weapon. We don't find out what exactly it is until later. It's all suspenseful and stuff. Only its actually just the misdirection fairy stopping by again to add suspense where there is none. It's a cell phone. Buffy didn't give her a back-to-school rocket launcher or anything.
I hope you took a long, hard look at Xander (I know I did), because that's just about the most you're going to see him this episode.
Buffy decides to walk Dawn to class, because she's read ahead in the script and knows they're going back to the beginning. And if Dawn is going to be Buffy 2: Back to the Beginning, then she has to be a social outcast, mocked by students everywhere. And what better way to make sure that happens then to be walked to your first tenth grade class by your older sister. Because she doesn't think you're safe by yourself. The only way better than that would have been to dress her up like the softer side of Sears (although, thinking about it now, maybe she did). Later Buffy bursts into Dawn's class and acts like a big 'ole freak just to ensure Dawn's lack of social status. [Because they're back to the beginning, SP! Giles, the authority figure muy mas prissy, destroyed Buffy's at the Bronze-well he sorta did, in Season One! It's only fair that Buffy continue this cycle of going back to the beginning by putting Dawn's social life on the critical list! She had to! The school made her do it!]
Also, Dawn's hideously ugly sweater is seriously distracting me from anything anyone is saying, but I'll try to block it out. I don't know if I'm that strong though. I realize she maybe was wearing a turtleneck, rather than the strappy halters of the rest of the girls because she has that pesky bite on her neck from the earlier vampire. But, first, she could have just asked Buffy how to cover it up. Buffy seemed to be able to balance vampire bites and halters all the time. I think her fashion secret was a well-placed ugly scarf. And second, argyle? Really? [I am also attempting to block out the fact that Dawn is wearing heels I wouldn't try to sit down in. To high school. Is that what the crazy kids wear to school these days? How the hell are they supposed to survive the lunch line in those? It can't be done.]
As a nice touch, Buffy and Dawn see Kit (who we'll meet later) walk by, all Ally Sheedy from the Breakfast Club-like.
They run into the new principal, who is clearly evil. OK, he seems all nice and stuff, but he's either evil or a snack. And I'm thinking, he's done his homework on Buffy, his office is where the old library used to be (hint, hint, directly over the hellmouth), and he's flirting with her. And she flirts back. And we know she tends to like a little demon in her man. Or so Spike has told us. Clearly evil.
Buffy follows an evil student. At least evil in the sense that he has a basketball, which makes noise. Then she wanders into the bathroom. There, she finds a conveniently-placed little doll on the counter, along with a scary corpsey girl who's all mad at Buffy for not saving her and getting her all dead. As if it's all about her! This facilitates Buffy's mad dash into Dawn's class to put the last nail in the coffin of any Cordelia-style popularity aspirations.
We then see Anya and Halfrek at the Espresso Pump, watching some folky duo play guitars and sing "happy shiny crap" seriously off-key. I mean seriously. In addition, the girl looks like she could be the guy's mom. But apparently, we're supposed to think they're dating. Right. Halfrek tells Anya that all the demons are talking behind her back that she's not all vengeancey anymore. She granted a wish to a wife who wanted her husband to a frog, but instead she made him French. Halfrek says that some big evil is coming, so beyond the fact that Anya may soon only be welcomed in Dawn's Social Outcasts Anonymous Yahoo group, and kicked out of Vengeance is Cool and Everyone Else is a Loser, she doesn't want to be on the wrong side when this new power takes over.
Buffy heads over to the still under construction portion of the school to have a scooby meeting with Xander about the corpsey things. Mmmm.... Xander. And we don't see him again the rest of the episode other than a brief glimpse in the girl's bathroom.
Back in class, an extreme dead guy, invisible to everyone but Dawn, borrows her pencil then stabs her in the eye with it. Then disappears. As does the pencil. And any visible injury to her eye. I actually buy everything but the eye injury part. We find out later in the episode about the whole disappearing act, but one assumes that any injuries the spirit creature thingys dole out are real. What's the lesson they kept trying to pound into our brains all episode? Crap, I guess it didn't take, but it was something like, everything's real. How are we supposed to learn that lesson when the whole pencil stabbing was a big magic trick? [I thought the lesson was Drink Ovaltine. Huh.]
Dawn wanders off to the bathroom to ponder her future as a social leper, when she hears a kindred leper crying in another stall (I may as well tell you now, she's Scrappy!Willow!, I mean Kit.) They are soon surrounded by dead people. Who they can see! And then all these hands grab at their feet and they fall through the floor. From here on out, the crowd of dead people is nowhere to be seen and we are stuck with the same three rotting corpses. I dunno where everyone else went. Dead Man's Party, maybe? Heh. I crack myself up.
As Dawn and Kit get caught up in a big corpsey earthquake, Willow gets knocked over by some strong force in the earth, aka the root of the hellmouth.It's all connected, you know. Just like she can grow flowers in England that have their roots in South America, she can feel hellmouthy tremors going on in Sunnydale. And on another viewing, I noticed the really important thing in this scene: Willow is wearing a fuzzy sweater! We are going back to the beginning. I can't wait to see the hats!
Dawn and Kit end up in the basement. And then the line recycling party begins! When Kit says they need to leave, Dawn tells her, "you're not wrong." I'm not sure if there's a method to the line recycling madness, or if ME has written all possible lines and has no option but to reuse some (don't you ever wonder if they'll run out of song melodies?), or if it's a nod to those of us who are old and crotchety and have been around since the newly-heralded beginning. Anyway, if you're not old and crotchety, or possibly just not quite as Buffy-obsessed as we are, you might not know that's a line from Lie to Me. Spoken by Xander. When he used to be in the episodes more than twice.
Then, we get a recycled line from this very episode! Don't worry, if you missed this one, we get another later. Dawn and Kit meet up with Scrappy!Xander!, I mean Carlos, and Dawn tells them, "lesson one, it's always real." Which Buffy told Dawn just the night before at the cemetery. I might not have mentioned it.
Anyway, Dawn calls Buffy on her new going back to school weapon, also known as a cell phone. As a nod to those of us who know you can't get reception when driving through a dip in the road, or an area lightly covered by tree limbs, much less in a basement, surrounded by concrete, Dawn remarks on the miracle reception. Maybe the hellmouth amplifies signal strength.
Buffy's heads back to the bathroom of doom and jumps down the hole in the floor. She meets up with the scary corpse!janitor. You get the impression that these zombie things are after Buffy. They talk about how she didn't save them. They want her to leave. But why are they terrorizing students? It's not even like they pinpointed Dawn because Buffy is her sister. They tell the scrappies they picked them because no one would notice they were missing. But pick them for what? Why pick anyone for anything? Bah.
Which brings me to something else. I realize we're all back to the beginning, and in order for Dawn to be Buffy squared, she has to enter high school with the hope of being well-liked and then be all ostracized. But no one would notice if Dawn went missing? What ever happened to Janice? Dawn hung out with her and her other friends every weekend last season. Even a throwaway "too bad Janice moved away", or "I'm all nervous about starting high school because all my friends are in another district". Instead, it's as though they never existed. Or Dawn forgot all about them over the summer. Or when you start high school, you lose your memory and have to start over making friends. [Or maybe some remaining monks were all "shit, man. Why the hell we makin' friends up for her now, huh? Where's it all end, ese?* We're gonna go loco. It's time to draw the line, vato." And poof. No more Janice. *in the spirit of ME's new casting policy, we are adding a little ethnic diversity to the recap. Enjoy. And yes, chances are it's evil or doomed.]
Or possibly, the zombie things picked scrappy doos two and three because they wouldn't be missed, but picked Dawn because she "doesn't belong." If this season has anything to do with Dawn being that glowy green key of mystical energy as opposed to an actual person. In which case, I still want to know where Janice and the rest of Dawn's friends went.
So, the three zombie people try to talk Buffy to death or something and she decides to just jump over them to get to the door behind them. Where she finds crazy!Spike. Later he mentions that it's just the "three of them" in the room. Maybe he's crazy. Maybe he's referring to whatever it is that we see at the end of the episode. Maybe he's talking about his demon or soul or who knows what. But maybe those zombies were stalling Buffy for a reason, to let whatever that third entity was hide so she wouldn't know it was there. We never do find out during this episode what was up with the zombie guys. Who called them. Why.
Right. So Spike is all crazed and he's been trying to cut something out of his chest. Could be that he's trying to cut out his heart because his love for Buffy is just too much. Could be that he's trying to cut out his soul because he didn't want it/thought it wanted it but realizes now he really doesn't. Could be that he's trying to cut out the demon, because it's really irritating now that he's got a soul and all.
Or, my favorite pet theory: One day Riley was feeling particularly punchy and was taunting Spike.
"Neener. Neener. My chip is gone. Yours is still there! Bwahahahaha!. You can never be the man I am! I single-handedly took that chip out myself! I am studly! I'm the man! I just took a big 'o piece of glass, and cut that thing right out of my heart. And I didn't pass out or die from blood loss or anything. Not because it was a stupidly written scene, but because I rule!"
So, Spike is in this nutso state, and he remembers that conversation. And in his delirium, he forgets that his chip is in his head. He's all confused, and he thinks, if Riley's chip was in his heart, maybe mine is too! Maybe that's what made my heart malfunction and love Buffy when I'd been all "I'll kill you slayer! Grrr!" for so long. If Riley can do self-surgery, so can I! Dammit!"
Yeah, so that's my own made-up theory. Don't go taking credit for it or anything.
Anyway, then Dawn calls and Buffy tells her that the zombie things can hurt her and she can hurt them back. Again, I say, what was up with the pretend eye stabbing?
Back to Spike for a second. I know some people are irritated that Buffy seemed all sympathetic to Spike, even though she knows nothing about his soul, and he recently tried to rape her. I don't know that she was sympathetic so much as she was shocked. She's never seen Spike like this. [In fact, this was the first time she'd seen him since the attempted rape. She did manage to look a little uneasy and unsure of what to do. Way to go SMG! Earn that paycheck!] This isn't the pathetic Spike of missing Dru even. This is something else entirely. And she had no way to process it, since she couldn't get anything coherent out of him and because she was busy looking for Dawn. So, I don't think that this is a glossing over of what happened at the end of last season. I don't think Buffy had a chance to decide how she was going to react to Spike. [Of course, we have Marti's opinion that they've both done really naughty things to each other, so there's no need on either side for an apology. Ahahahahaha. Man, am I the only one that thinks the writers of Buffy have all had some seriously whacked out relationship issues? Am I?]
In fact, I don't think ME is going to gloss over the attempt rape scene because I think it was meant was meant to be jarring, both to us and to Spike, and was meant to be a big turning point, to wake him up a bit so that he realized that he had to either get himself a soul or just forget about this walking the line of good. Because even with a chip, and with doing good stuff (first to keep from getting killed, then to fit in, then because of caring), and maybe even, near the end, wanting to be good, it was never going to happen if were a soulless vampire. The evil would always win out. So, if we are to believe that he went to purposefully get himself a soul, then I think the attempted rape was what motivated him to go get it. Because otherwise, redemption was impossible for him. But that's for the upcoming Spike article. For now, back to the recap.
Crazy!Spike mumbles that the zombie creatures are obviously spirit apparitions summoned by a talisman for vengeance purposes. Buffy remembers that freaky doll thing in the bathroom. Could that be the talisman? Dawn rigs up a cool brick swinging thing, although, sadly, the zombie creatures still kick her ass. Buffy, however, shows up just in time, and puts the brick thingy to very good use.
Some have wondered why the zombie creatures weren't actual people we knew who were killed in early seasons. To that I would say, do you really want to see Buffy smashing Jenny Calendar's head in with bricks? Or Larry's? Yeah, that would be sorta creepy.
Buffy calls Xander to destroy the talisman. He edges around the big gaping hole in the floor and bypasses the corpsey dead things and breaks the doll in half. Once again, Xander saves the day!
Buffy helps the scrappy gang out of the basement and they're all grateful. Ally Sheedy!Willow! gives Buffy a hug. James Dean!Hispanic! Xander! calls Buffy the coolest mom ever.
The principal catches the love-fest and comments that the scrappies have files as big as hers. Oh that makes me miss Shiela the snacky cake! He wonders if Buffy wants to stick around officially, rather than creepily hang out as she's been doing all day. She's all woo! I'm a watcher! Where's my library!
Last scene is Spike. Now, if it's not clear by now, Evil!Spike! is my absolute favorite. Oh the memories. Spike throwing the annoying one in that cage and sizzling him in the sun. Spike wanting to snack on the policeman while trying to get Buffy to help him. Spike calling Angel a nancy boy. And I haven't always liked what they've done with his character. But. This scene is heartbreaking. Really, the previous scene with him is as well. We know he has a soul. We know that soul is William's. And we know what William went through in life and how hard it must be for him to take the knowledge of all those years as an evil vampire. It was hard for Angel too, but his soul was made of different stuff. He was a much different person per-vampire than Spike was. And he's got the added twist of knowing he hurt someone he loves and I'm sure his thoughts on that post-soul are very different from them pre-soul. So, he sits in the dark.
"I had a speech. I learned it all. Oh god. She won't understand. She won't understand."
And then they come. We don't know what. We don't know why. The entity that he was referring to when he said "the three of us?" Something new? We don't know. It becomes the very worst of the previous seasons until we end up back at the beginning.
And then Buffy. Wearing black in contrast to the white she wore during the episode.
The entity talks about being more than flesh. About going back to the very beginning. Not the bang. Not the word. The true beginning. That it's not about right. It's not about wrong. It's about power. Running out of lines again. Reusing them so soon. Or perhaps there's an actual purpose and they didn't actually run out. I'm reserving judgement.
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