Written by: Joss Whedon
DIR: Joss Whedon
Blurbing: Buffy returns from summer vacation with a 'major attitude' and recurring nightmares involving the Master - even as the Anointed One and his followers plot their revenge.
Prestart: We start the episode, not with the first scene, but with a recap of the major developments of last season: Buffy is the Slayer, Angel is a vampire, Angel has a major yen for Buffy, The Master is destined to kill Buffy, Buffy is bitten and drowned, Xander revives her, she faces the Master again and kills him.
Scene 01: We pan across a cemetery at night. (The filmstock is seriously grainy, which is irritating me.) Xander and Willow are out and playing a "where did this quote come from" game. Xander and Willow catch us up on the summer. There has been no monsters in the wake of The Master's and the Hellmouth Beast's defeats. Buffy has spent the summer in L.A. with her father. Xan has an ice cream which he playfully rubs on Will's nose. When she complains her nose is now cold, he tells her he'll get it and goes to lick it off - she playfully pushes him away. He wipes nose with napkin and there is near-kissage.
The moment is broken by a vampire attack. Xander comes close to being bitten, when a hand grabs the vampire from off screen - it's Buffy, returned. She makes quick work of the demon and then grins at her friends, "Miss me?"
Scene 02: School re-starts. Buffy, Xan, Willow and Cordelia start their junior years. Cordelia is with some of her Cordettes and complaining that she spent the year in Tuscany, after being promised St. Croix by her parents. She laments her summer of suffering.
Close by Giles is walking with Snyder, who discusses how amazing it is how one day the campus is deserted and then the next it's crawling with students - "like locusts, crawling around, mindlessly bent on feeding and mating, destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist..."
Giles sarcastically tells him he's inspiring. He suggests that Snyder probably should have picked another vocation. Snyder feels like it's his duty to keep an eye on the young men and women, around him, complaining they're all just a hormone bomb. He is complaining about the boys turning into gibbering messes every time a pretty girl wanders by... que Jenny Calender's return and Giles' immediate attention shift from conversating with Snyder to her. They go off to the teacher's lounge together and Snyder is still rambling in his self-important way.
Scene 03: Rupert and Jenny get caught up on their summer in which Giles did librarian stuff, while Jenny was out at a burning man festival dancing around naked. She starts to tell him that he should have been there, but then changes her mind and admits he would've hated every minute.
The kids see Giles in the hallway and greet him and Jenny. Giles asks after Buffy, having not seen or talked with her over the summer (Willow already told us Buffy hadn't kept in touch). She tells him that she's "alive and kicking" ... but just before she gives her smile, there is something in her eyes... something unhappy, which quickly passes.
They tell Giles about the vampire from the night before and he goes to consult his books on any special dates they may have drawn them out after a quiet summer. Willow owes Xan some money as they had a bet on how long it would be before Giles had to 'consult his books' ... 8 minutes.
As everyone breaks up with first bell to get to class, Giles mentions that he and Buffy should re-start a training schedule. She assures him she's ready.
Scene 04: Cut to a training montage in the library (of course) after school. Buffy engages in enthusiastic and intense training. As she's practicing hitting on a practice board and pads, Giles looks increasingly uncomfortable with how intense she seems.
Giles tries to call her off, but we see her flashback to the Master's face and her intensity only increases. She ends up kicking the practice stand in half. As Giles looks at her with mild worry, she's hyped up on adrenaline ... "I'm ready," she insists in a way too intense manner, "Whatever they got coming next, I'm ready!"
Scene 05: Cut to a factory at twilight. Absalom, a vampire minion of the Anointed One, fires up the troops. He states that though they despair now, within three days things will change (except he takes longer and is more wordy). Anointed One sits, apparently inspired as well - or bored - it's hard to tell.
Scene 06: Buffy sits in a, uh, sitting area in school - which I'll admit we didn't actually have at my high school, but then I didn't live in CA. Anyway, Xander and Willow come in. Xan says 'Hey', but Buffy is off in her own world.
When Xan gets her attention, she immediately responds with "Fine. I'm fine"... which 'natch, has nothing to do with anything he said, pointing out the fact that she isn't fine.
We get a subtle hint that things are not as they appear as Willow and Xander both haul out their snacks. They each give them a disappointed look and switch, except that Willow had an apple and Xan had a chocolate bar. We already know from Nightmares that Xander loves his chocolate. It seems weird that he'd exchange it for an apple.
Willow is asking Buffy about what she did the night before. They have cute banter until Giles rushes in. He's in a state over something that he believes the vampires are up to.
Buffy tries to tell him that she thinks whatever it is, she'll handle, but he gives her a very weird statement:
"Oh, I don't know. I mean, I've killed you once, it shouldn't be too difficult to do it again."
As Buffy tries to catch up with that weirdness, Giles punches her onto a coffee table. She struggles as he begins to strangle her, all the while, Xan and Willow exchange smiles with each other and go on with their snacking as if nothing weird is happening in front of them.
As Buffy pushes against Giles, his 'face' slides off, revealing he is actually the staked Master.
Scene 07: Of course, Buffy wakes up... it having been a nightmare.
As she's trying to pull herself together, she realizes that she is suddenly not alone. It's Angel in her room. He's come to warn her about the Anointed One drawing more vampires to him toward some unknown goal. Buffy is relatively unconcerned with this.
But, more, she acts as a bit of a snot toward him with her comments. He tells her that he's missed her, which she ignores for a moment. When she admits she missed him too, he's already disappeared in that annoying way that he has.
Commentary: Unfortunately, I have to say that David's line readings here are a bit... bad. He nearly mumbles his lines about the Anointed. What I do really like about this episode is the fact that Joss and Company have allowed Buffy to be traumatized over her death in last season's Prophecy Girl. It's clear that her confrontation with The Master has really weighed on her and she isn't handling how close she came to being permanently dead very well. It's nice that we're being given this follow up to something so major, even though we've gone through the summer between seasons. Adding to this is Hank's comments to Joyce later that Buffy has been morose all summer.
Also interesting, is that this is when Hank starts to disappear from the series. In Nightmares, Faux-Hank tells Buffy it's her poor attitude (in addition to her not being very smart and getting into all sorts of trouble) that caused his divorce from Joyce. He tells Buffy there that he isn't getting anything out of his visits and doesn't want them to continue. Here, we'll get Hank talking about Buffy's attitude over the summer... and then he basically disappears from the series.
I also completely love the use of the soundtrack here as we close out this visit on the beginning chords of "It Doesn't Matter" which will bleed into the next scene....
Scene 08: We get a wonderful scene here with Buffy being given a ride to school by Joyce. Buffy is looking out her side window, unengaged with Joyce, who despite Buffy's attempts to tell her she's fine, knows that there is something wrong. She tries to draw Buffy out by asking if there is any chance that Buffy will tell her what is going on, but her daughter remains silent.
"Course not. It would take the fun out of guessing," Joyce sighs. (I don't know why, but I love this line - I guess it's Christine's reading.)
Commentary: And, as mentioned, "It Doesn't Matter" is playing over this scene, describing to us exactly what Buffy is feeling. It is a perfect use of a soundtrack to describe the emotional state of the main character.
Scene 09: In the hallway, Buffy is digging through her locker. She's just told Xan and Willow about Angel's visit. Willow hopes it was about kissing, while Xander fears it was about groping. Buffy calls them "hormones on parade" and tells them it was purely shop talk.
Scene 10: Cordelia intercepts them on the way to class, curious on whether they spent the summer fighting off demons while she was suffering her vacation. Xander and Willow wears looks of panic, as this is all supposed to remain secret, while Buffy just looks bored with it all.
She also ends up insulting her friends and Cordelia pretty badly. First it's just mentioning that Cordelia's mouth is producing sound and that's rarely good. But, then she swerves from a quip to just being mean when she tells Cordelia she promises not to tell anyone that she's a moron as she's walking away.
This immediately causes Willow to get that something is wrong with her best friend.
Scene 11: That night at The Bronze, Cibbo Mato plays. Willow and Xander are sitting at a table where Willow complains about Buffy's being really mean at school that day. And, we get what I'll vote as most painful scene in this episode:
Willow tries to recapture the magic from Scene 01 by deliberately dipping her nose in ice cream as Xander is looking for Buffy. Obviously, she'd like him to wipe it away and spark those sparks of romance from days before. Xan barely gives her a glance and tells her she's got something on her nose and continues scanning for the Slayer, leaving Willow to wipe her own nose and feel disappointed.
Commentary: This scene always leaves me feeling so embarrassed for her, but at the same time, I kind of want to shake her, too. Alas, it's going to take a bit more time for Will to meet Oz and get over her Xander-fascination. As we know, Xander is still also suffering his own romantic turmoil. I'm not sure he ever really gets over Buffy, until S6 when she really falls off the pedestal he's put her on.
Scene 12: At the same time, in one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries, the Anointed One and his vampires are digging up a very uncleverly hidden grave.
Commentary: Seriously, this is the most pathetic attempt at getting rid of an enemies bones I've ever seen. As we see, the vampires have no problems at all approaching the gravesite, but worse that that is the 'crosses' that look like they might have been made out of popsicle sticks. Did Giles seriously think those were going to last? Are there no caretakers in the cemetery that would remove crap like that? Perhaps when they, you know, mow the lawn?! Ugh - this scene doesn't work at all!
Also, they try to impress on us how dangerous the Anointed is by his being able to command the vampires (as I'll describe it in a second), but this fails pretty much, too. He is a kid who never displays any mystical powers of his own, outside of his role in bringing Buffy to The Master and his telling his vamps to dig, even though their hands are going to smoke a bit... that's it. Where is the 'fierce warrior' we heard about in "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"? He never appears.
Anyway, the vampires are digging. The ground has been soaked in Holy Water, but the Annointed commands they dig with their hands anyway (rather than bringing enough shovels for everyone - whatever) and they do it because he commands their loyalty.
Commentary: Or does he? I get the impression it is far more about wanting the Master back, then about the Anointed's command powers.
Scene 13: Back in The Bronze - Angel meets up with Buffy, trying to discover what he's done to make her so bitchy. She denies that she is angry about anything, but we've already seen ample evidence that she is still trying to deal with The Master and her killing at his hands. It doesn't make me dislike her any less at this moment though. She tells Angel that she didn't spend the summer mooning over him, but then gets in an uncalled for dig by telling him she moved on... to the living.
Cordelia overhears this and as Buffy walks by, she gives her a look that says, "You're really being a bitch."
But Buffy has not finished yet with alienating her friends and allies, oh no. Her next trick is to decide she wants to dance with Xander - knowing how Willow feels about him, and she's going to take the opportunity to sexual tease him with a way too close for friends grind.
Commentary: This, I think, is mostly for Angel's benefit in order to throw that she's "moved on" in his face, again. But, I can't help but think her anger is also directed at Xander and Willow here, too. After all, if her friends hadn't been in such immediate danger from The Master's threatened rise, she wouldn't have gone to face him down... in fact, it was Willow being so upset that acted as the impetus for her to regain her Slayerhood and go to her fate. It's hard to believe that this particular scene with Xander on the dance floor isn't being directed at her best friend as well with a particular maliciousness. I can't quite decide about how she feels toward Xander: I'm pretty sure that she's using him here as a knife toward Angel and Willow, but I'm also relatively sure that her anger is also being directed toward him. I think also that there are a three different, but related reasons for treating him like crap here. One, as mentioned, is a way to hurt Angel and Willow. Secondly though, Xan is tied to her being the Slayer, which she has a general anger toward at this point, because of what happened to her directly because of it. But, third - Xander brought her back and if it wasn't for him, she wouldn't be feeling all of the buried fear and emotional pain she is right now.
If he wasn't included in her anger, she would have stopped at the sexy dance, but instead she adds - slinking up to him:
"Have I ever thanked you for saving my life? Don't you wish I would," before leaving him standing there, humiliated.
Scene 14: I love this next scene for Cordelia Chase. She has also scoped out the display, and as Buffy grabs her jacket and leaves her friends not knowing what just happened, she has this look on her face saying, "Oh, no, that is just about enough of that."
In the alley behind The Bronze, Cordy confronts Buffy about her attitude and behavior. Buffy snipes at her, but Cordy (in her blunt, confrontational manner) tells her off.
C: "You're really campaigning for bitch of the year, aren't you?"
B: "As defending champion, you nervous?"
C: "I can hold my own. You know, we've never really been close, which is nice because I don't really like you that much but you have on occassion saved the world and stuff, so I'm going to do you a favor."
B: "And this great favor is...?"
C: "I'm gonna give you some advice. Get over it."
B: "Excuse me?"
C: "Whatevers causing the Joan Collins-tude - deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever. But get over it...."
I love you in this moment, Cordelia. Alas, Buffy isn't ready to 'embrace the pain' or to 'spank [her] inner moppet', so she tells Cord to but out. Cordelia calls after her that she'll just go back inside and see how Angel is doing, but unnoticed by The Slayer, instead she gets a hand put over her mouth and dragged off by The Anointed One's minions.
Scene 15: Cordelia is shoved down a flight of stairs and left. She quickly discovers an unconscious Jenny Calender already captured....
Commentary: The only thing bad about these few scenes is that they're so dark and the film stock at this point was cheap, so everything is really grainy. This is even more pronounced on my computer screen, but it is an issue on the DVD release, too.
Scene 16: Post Bronze, Buffy wanders into the cemetery where Giles and the others buried (lacklusteredly) The Master's bones to find the grave dug up and empty. She backs away in shock and terror and suffers a hallucination of The Master standing beside her, grinning maniacally.
Scene 17: The next day, Willow and Xander are talking to Giles (in the crowded sitting/snack area surrounded by students). Willow tries to insist on Giles that Buffy is possessed, while Xan very briefly tries to hold onto the delusion that she may just be really attracted to him, before conceding the point. Giles offers that something more normal may be going on with her, instead.
The discussion is cut short by Buffy, herself, who immediately launches into tirade about the crappy job Giles did with The Master's remains. The others try to intervene, but Buffy harshly tells them that she'd like less input from 'the civilians', pissing Xander off.
The confrontation building between these two is temporarily put off by Snyder's appearance. He and Giles are so funny in their scene together.
Commentary: I have another one of those nagging observations here too, which I must now share so that you'll be as distracted as I: ASH needs his hair trimmed - he has a stray bit of hair sticking straight out from the left side of his head throughout this whole scene.
Scene 18: Later that evening in the library, Giles has found a 'bring The Master back from his bones' ritual, which the vampires are probably going to attempt. Giles tells the rest that in addition to the bones themselves, they'll need the blood of someone close to him at the time of his death.
Buffy immediately assumes it is her blood. As she tells them, "We killed each other. It really promotes togetherness."
But, we've seen hints that this isn't about Buffy for a change, as we've already seen that Cordelia and Jenny have been abducted (the gang hasn't noted their absences, yet).
In a shock-moment, a rock comes sailing in, smashing in a library window over Xander's shoulder. Tied to the rock is a note and Cordelia's bracelet, which Buffy recognizes. The note tells Buffy to meet later at The Bronze or Cordy will die.
The gang try to put together a strategy to rescue her, but Buffy is still in "lone Slayer" mode and tells them to but out and she'll handle it. Everyone is getting tired of her being rude to them, but she tells them that she can't keep watching out for them and watching her own back.
Commentary: Again, could this be a dig at Willow - she went to confront The Master because she was "saving her back" from his rise after her falling apart when she and Cordelia found Kevin and friends in the A/V room, dead.
Willow tries to point out that Buffy is clearly being set up to walk into a trap (as they believe at this point it is the Slayer's blood the vampires need for their ritual), but Buffy storms out insisting that this is her fight to wage. Xander is very frustrated at her over it, while Willow is just worried.
Scene 19: At The Bronze, Buffy approaches the front door only to have Angel show up behind her, to her irritation.
Buffy takes the opportunity to be a bitch to him some more. First by telling him that she doesn't trust him because he's a vampire and then wondering aloud whether he thinks he can beat her in a fight. She looks like she's going to precipitate said fight (but that's for later), but he reminds her that she has a previous meeting to get to (how he knows, I must have missed).
Scene 20: Buffy goes into the empty Bronze, Angel close behind (but not too close). On the floor, is someone turned away from her and apparently crying, but Buffy immediately says it isn't Cordelia. This is the cue for the someone to turn in her direction, revealing fang face and her crying to have been phoney as it turns to giggling.
"Cordelia couldn't make it...," the vampire chick says.
Angel is suspicious of this set up. Buffy asks him what's wrong, and he says, "There's the bait... where's the hook?"
Buffy admits he's right, that the vampire shouldn't be there by herself to confront them.
Scene 21: Back in the library, Willow is complaining because they didn't ignore Buffy's directive not to follow her into her clear trap. Giles in the meantime has been refining his research into the ritual and figures out that the targets needed for The Master's return are those who were with him at his moment of death physically.
This isn't Buffy - she was on the rooftop. But, Cordelia, Jenny, himself and Willow were all in the library - a realization that is on his expression, when he looks up and tells Xan and Willow that a trap was set up - it just wasn't for Buffy.
In the library behind Willow and Xander, the vampires have snuck in and are staring at them....
Scene 22: At The Bronze, Buffy realizes the trap has been sprung while she was away from the library. She shoves vamp-girl into Angel's arms and tells him not to kill her unless he has no choice. She rushes back to the school (and a trap which she will fall for again - most devastatingly when Angelus pulls it on her in Becoming I)....
Scene 23: In the library, Buffy rushes in to find she is too late. The table has been overturned and the library is apprarently empty.
Xander gets up shakily from behind the table at this point - and he's pissed off with her for not working with them. He threatens that if Willow dies because of it, he'll kill her, but she pushes this aside to focus on where Giles and Willow might have been taken.
Commentary: There are a few things to address here: (1) It seems highly unlikely that Xander wouldn't have simply been killed here. (2) Everyone wants to make a big deal out of Xander's threats to Buffy in this scene, and I think that is a mistake. He's angry and he's frightened, but this threat is not nearly as serious as commentary elsewhere would imply. He's not literally planning on killing Buffy if Willow dies - he's making an emotional exclamation and nothing more. (3) I understand Xander's anger about Buffy's prior attitude, but his arguments that this is Buffy's fault for not "working with [them] is empty. None of them had any idea that the library was targeted, or that Buffy herself wasn't the goal of Cordelia's kidnapping. Yes, this would have been prevented if they'd all immediately gone to rescue Cordy at The Bronze, but there was no reason for Buffy to think that anyone else was the targets of an elaborate con job. I submit that Xander is probably just as angry (wrongly) at himself for not insisting on the gang accompanying Buffy as he is at her for leaving them behind to be attacked. I don't think Buffy's running off to confront the vampires was wrong because the gang were left unprotected in the library. It was wrong because she was clearly walking into a trap because of her attitude problem - but she isn't to blame for not forseeing that the whole thing might be a diversion and not showing up at all would have left Cordelia to her fate.
Scene 24: Xander and Buffy return to The Bronze, where Buffy tries to get the faux-Cordelia to reveal where her friends are being held. She isn't forthcoming and Buffy shoves her cross into the vampires mouth and clamps it closed to burn the truth out of her.
Commentary: This brings up something that early Buffy is in the habit of doing: Bringing up a weighty topic, but not dealing with the ramifications of it. In this episode, Buffy deliberately turns to torture in order to extract information. Now, granted, Xan and Angel both look mildly queasy during this 'interrogation', but the issue is never properly discussed ... how far does Buffy go in her fight with demons? Is it ever acceptable to resort to deliberate torture for her to save lives?
Thankfully, that is what fandom is for, and this was a topic of discussion a while back. But, it bugs me that this incident is never referred to again and we're meant to simply blow it off once the scene ends. I won't say that Buffy was wrong here... her friends and the impending Master return had her backed into a corner, but the writer's and Joss' attitude toward Buffy's inflicting physical suffering on a sentient being in order to get the information bothers me... it is quite literally completely forgotten. Anyway, I hope you click the link above for my views on the morality of treating the enemy badly and what it says about Buffy in this disturbing scene.
Scene 25: At the HQ for the Anointed One, The Master's bones are laid out on a slab. The fake-kid brings Absalom a case and he blathers for a bit in his Luke-light (WttH and The Harvest) way.
At Absalom's order, the captured gang are swung out over The Master's remains, unconscious....
Commentary: I only wish we hadn't gotten so good a look at the vampire's bones... they're quite fake looking for one on their own. But, also, bones can't stay connected to each other without muscles, cartilage and tendons, so his skeleton simply shouldn't be intact the way it is.
Scene 26: As Absalom is ... pontificating... Buffy, Angel and Xander arrive - obviously, having gotten the location from the female vampire before dusting her. And this abandoned factory has bales of straw in the background... really? Straw?! Really?!?
Buffy sends Angel and Xander to free their friends from captivity, while she goes to kill the vampires - as way of distraction.
Scene 27: Absalom starts the ritual, with the idea being that the captives will have their throats slit and cover The Master in their blood while the recitations are made. Buffy interrupts this process by staking an anonymous henchman through the back, dusting him.
While the Slayer starts brawling with the henchvamps, Absalom makes sure The Anointed One retreats to safety from the factory.
As Xander helps his friends to revive, Angel and a henchvamp fight. On the main floor, Buffy fights off a group of Anointed followers.
Scene 28: Absalom returns from escorting The Anointed One out with a huge sledge hammer. He threatens Buffy with bone grinding. Buffy burns him up, while simultaneously staking the last henchvamp attacking her.
She retrieves the hammer from where Absolom dropped it to the floor and stares at The Master's bones, before pulverizing them.
Scene 29: Angel comes up behind her and she collapses in cathartic sobs against his chest, finally releasing her anguish over what happened in 'Prophecy Girl'.
Commentary: There is a bit of continuity issue in the skeleton as Buffy smashes it, and then it's more intact so she can dramatically smash it some more, but I was surprised on this rewatch that Buffy's breakdown is pretty emotionally affecting.
Scene 30: Cordelia is walking with Ms. Calender, commiserating on their near death. Cordelia tells her the worst part is that it stays with you... but she isn't talking about the near death, no. She's talking about the rust and blood stains left on her clothing. She complains to Jenny that you can dry clean until judgement day, but you're living with those stains.
Jenny responds mildly facetiously that yes, the worst part of being hung upside down and nearly having your throat slit is the stains on the clothing. Cordelia, being so direct as she is, completely misses the sarcasm.
Scene 31: Our POV shifts to Buffy, who is walking beside Giles. She tells him she doesn't think she can face Xander and Willow after her behavior lately. He sends her off to class with assurances that she'll be forgiven.
Scene 32: Buffy arrives in class, and there is a bit of unsure strain in the air, but it is quickly dispelled by Xander's sense of humor. Buffy is left grateful for her friendships and Willow and Xander act like she hasn't been a contender for bitch of the year for the past several days....
Scene 33: The Annointed One has returned to the factory and sees the results of Buffy's destructo-rama on his patron, The Master. "I hate that girl," he exlaims comically (only, not really).
The Good: The continuity to S1 and Buffy's still being affected is the big plus of this episode. The fact that they don't just forget everything over the summer break is excellent.
I like the slow hints we get that something is wrong with Buffy before she starts really becoming obnoxious.
I love the scene with Angel in her bedroom, the "It doesn't matter what I want, It doesn't matter what I need...." over the ending of that scene and the bleeding it into the next scene with her and Joyce in the car, the sexy-dance/sexual tease of Xander to Willow's WTF face, Cordelia's "Get over it" speech and Buffy's breakdown as she smashes The Master's bones.
The Bad: I hate the upbeat instrumental over the classroom scene after Absolom's defeat. I mean, really hate it - for some reason.
I can't stand the way David B. delivers his line about Buffy not being able to handle things alone outside of The Bronze, just before she starts with her "kick my ass" challenge.
I really don't like the faux-Cordelia vampire's teeth... it's the worst overbite, ever.
Absalom joins the ranks of actively irritating Master followers.
Other Thoughts: As mentioned in the review, I'm really uncomfortable with Buffy's torturing the she-vamp without any sort of comments on her actions.
The Score: I like this episode for the way that it extends the trauma of Buffy's death last season. I also had fun with Buffy's bad attitude and really liked Cordelia Chase's calling her out on it. The Bronze scene with Buffy's dance and her mean-spirited comments to Xander were fun, in a "Oh, what a bitch!" way. I also liked SMG's acting when she's staring at The Master's bones with the hammer in her hands. It was more emotionally affecting than I remembered.
I find this episode better than average: 3.50 out of 5