Story by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by: CN Winters
Directed by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Produced by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by: Kate
Sound Department: Steff
Art Director: Chris Cook
Artists: Chris Cook, David Zahir, Chantal, CN Winters
Teaser: As Christmas/Hanukah approaches, Kennedy comes into her and Willow's apartment to find it quiet. She calls for Willow, but there's no response. Walking deeper into the suite, she sees a light from under the bedroom door. Entering, she finds an early X-Mas gift waiting for her to unwrap!
Willow waits for Kennedy in their room.
In the meantime, across town, some Santa-sports fans are griping in a bar about football. One of them needs to leave, but he's not going to make it home. What are the little gremlins that grab him and drag him away kicking and screaming?
Act One: The next morning reveals more domesticity with Willow and Kennedy and gets us updated on a few points from the last several episodes 1) Jeff is doing better after his assault by the mysterious Presidium, 2) The Council believes the Presidium to be highly organized, which is a bit unusual for demons (and they're right... the Presidium is an organized force to be dealt with), 3) Lily has agreed to stay with the Council where there's safety in numbers, and 4) What is up with Willow's irritation with Kennedy's talkative-ness? Willow also mentions that she's too much a night owl, where Kenn think's Wills gets up way too early. Looks like despite the night before, there is still some sort of disconnect going on in this relationship. It also appears that Giles is still seeing Becca which is a 'way good'.
A bit later in a rec-room, Ro is watching the news report about the missing Santa. It appears he isn't the first one to vanish. There's some discussion of Ro and Will's upbringing, one being Christian and the other Jewish, but the interesting thing in this scene is how much Ro and Will seem to have bonded from when the blonde first arrived at the Council as part of the old Guard.
At a meeting about the missing Santas, there's some fun to be had at Giles' expense as he does his usual fluster-business when asked by Willow about Becca. But at this point, the Council isn't sure that there's a supernatural connection for the missing men. As the meeting is progressing, Andrew is in the kitchen (his usual domain) and interviewing assistants (you'll remember that's why he summoned Mora in the first place). It's not going well, until he meets a young woman named Tracey (Thora Birch) who we assume will be another recurring character to join the show. She immediately gains Andrew's interest by mentioning her obsession with video games (I roll eyes and smirk). She should work out just fine.
Act Two: Some sweet moments with Giles being all chivalrous and Becca being all strong and funny. I really like these two as couple-material and continue hoping to see them make a go of it. But that's for the future, right now... we have to check in back at the Council where Willow and Faith do a bit of talking. And the weird sense we've had of something off between Will and Kenn is confirmed here as Willow is starting to realize that outside of sex she really doesn't have anything in common with her girlfriend. In fact, she's starting to wonder why they're together... oh, oh.
Back in the kitchen again, Andrew is bopping and singing to some Eminem. He's interrupted by the arrival of Giles and Becca, but she makes inpoints with Andrew immediately by also singing along to the radio. Giles introduces her with this:
(Giles): This is Becca from the bookstore who, until just now, didn't appear to be insane at all.
As Andrew and Becca discuss music, Faith, Willow and Kenn which, of course leads to some lighthearted ribbing to Giles' embarrassment. With this round of intros finished, the gang end up with an invite to a party where Becca's band will be playing... and now that she knows Giles can play guitar AND sing.... :-)
Faith and Robin remain the Council's cutest couple, but could Becca/Giles dethrone them?
Elsewhere, we get a surprise guest role as we're at the Summers' home. Xander has arrived (the last we saw of him, he was traveling around Niagara Falls) to share the holiday with his girls, and this time we get a cameo from Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar!). We also finally get a look at Dawn's girlfriend, Skye (Lindsay Felton).
Buffy Anne Summers on WaTchers!
This is a nice scene, but mostly it seems to be to point out that Skye reminds everyone of Willow and Dawn being defensive that she's not transferring. And in addition, of course, we see the gang is keeping in contact with one another as they're going to be webcamming with Willow a bit later.
Elsewhere: Bonnie and the Presidium are revealed to be involved peripherally in the Santa-abductions. You see, there is an other-demensional being named Santra (the creature that Anya spoke of in BTVS: The Body that the Presidium has in their captivity for reasons unknown at the moment. This is causing his "elves" to try to find a replacement for him in Cleveland, and this is leading to the abductions of the Santa-dressed men around the city. The fear Bonnie has is that if Santra escapes to where his elves are, he could begin his typical disembowling of the children of Cleveland and that would draw too much attention from the Council. The Presidium, though, also wants to keep Santra on their side in case they need his help later. It's a bit unclear, but is related to opening portals. In any case, Bonnie gets a pledge from the Engineer for help in rounding up Santra's elves.
Act Three: The missing Santas from around town are starting to ring bells for Willow when the police reports state that one of the missing men has been found... dead and disembowled. And she even mentions that it could be the same demon that Anya had mentioned one year (I love continuity!). We get some history lesson about both Wicca and our possible disembowler as well, but the real joy here is the interaction between Willow and Giles, which the WaTchers writers are great at.
Ahhh... and our main Santa-related plot starts to come together. Santra and his followers are back in our dimension from where they'd been banished (which we learn all about in this Act), but the Presidium has captured the twisted not-so-Saint Nick so his elven creatures are trying to carry on his work without him, while at the same time attempting to locate him. A curse keeps them bound to one another, you see, and they must perform a ritual together (or find a worthy replacement) in order to remain in this dimension past a certain deadline.
At the same time we're learning about all of this, everyone is getting ready for the Festival of Lights and the party that Becca had invited them to. Willow breaks down in front of Ro (I believe due to her imminent decision to break up with Kenn) while Faith, Robin, Becca and Giles spend an evening talking and looking at the Lights around town. The upshot of this scene is that Faith has begun looking into getting her G.E.D. since her own school career wasn't much of a success the first time around. Giles confides in Robin that he hasn't kissed Becca yet, but very much wants to move this new relationship forward.
Act three ends with two major things... Faith notices the elves stalking the area and elsewhere Willow and Kenn sit in a fancy restaurant.
"I wanna break up."
Act Four: The final act begins back at the park and the Light Festival where Faith and Robin have followed the elves to a cave. Giles has escorted Becca away from the area. Faith has also called in reinforcements before engaging, which shows how far she's grown from BTVS yet again... good character development, there. Vi and Rona show to help out with the elf problem, while Robin is tasked with retrieving Kennedy if the other Slayers don't return from the cave within 15 minutes.
Back at the restaurant, Kenn and Will are staring across at each other. Poor Kennedy did not have any idea that this was coming.
Silence washed over the table until Kennedy cleared her throat. "You wanna break up?"
Willow just nodded.
"Well if it's that big of an issue I could get the chicken," Kennedy replied.
Willow sighed shakily. "I'm serious."
"I figured as much but I'm trying to use levity here so I don't go ballistic in a public place. Look, I know things have been tense lately, Will, but that's no reason to call things off."
"It's not just lately, Kennedy. Yeah, recent events have been a real stressor but…it's more than that."
"Lemme guess," Kennedy offered. "After the sexcapade with Xander, you've switched sides again?"
(color added by me to make it easier to read in this post) -- This is a beautifully written scene all the way through and I really have to feel for both of the women. We knew there was still a lot of resentment on Kennedy's part about Willow's having slept with Xander as part of the healing ritual and we see here that she still hasn't gotten over it. But still, Willow kind of threw this at her from out of nowhere and in the middle of a romantic dinner, yet..., the only way it could have been worse is if it was Valentine's Day, or their Anniversary!
And Willow tries so very hard to explain: Willow released another shaky sigh. "I've been in love before, Kennedy. I know what that feels like. I-It feels wonderful. A-And I do love you. But something's missing here a-and no matter how much I try to make it fit it's not happening for me. And sooner or later the more you push, the more I'm gonna pull away. You'll feel lonelier. You'll grow angrier. Then when it's all said and done we probably won't even be speaking to each other…I don't want that to happen so I have to let go now."
While Willow continues to break Kennedy's heart, Vi, Rona and Faith are fighting with Santra's elves and trying to save one of the Santa-guy victims. They get interrupted by some very large demons, who help them out by scooping up the elves and carting them away. Although the Slayers should have engaged the newcomers, they decide to leave well enough alone this time out.
We next see Bonnie and Amy Madison opening another portal to send Santra and his followers back to their prison dimension. Santra offers the usual bad-guy rubbish about returning and there will be nothing Bonnie can do about it, but she is suitably unimpressed.
As the one set of bad guys is banished by another set (there's no way Bonnie is on the side of anything good, and the Presidium is up to something, we know), the gang are getting on with their evening....
Willow and Kenn are done, but Giles and Becca are starting something new. And is it possible that Andrew may be attracted to the new kitchen assistant?
Andrew and Tracey seem to be hitting it off.
While Ro comforts Willow at the party with whiskey, Vi and Rona work to comfort Kenn at the Council by suggesting a sweep for vamps.
And Giles gets in his first kiss with Becca....
The Good: All of the good is character related in this episode. We finally meet Skye, we have Becca and Giles definitely dating, we have good character work for Faith, there's the disruption of the status quo with Willow and Kenn's break up and Andrew gets a new friend who isn't a demon (at least not yet). The ribbing of Giles' is good dialog work and the break up of Will/Kenn is handled pretty well, building on the awkwardness between the two that has been cropping up throughout previous episodes. There's some wonderful continuity work with Xander, Dawn, and Buffy's cameos and mentions of the Snoopy-dance tradition and the 'Santa Claus Disembowling Demon' mentioned in passing in a BTVS episode, along with a mention of Anya. We get background information on Faith, Ro and Becca and a subplot starts for Faith (her going back to school) and some bonding between Kenn and Vi (and to a lesser extent, Rona) over Kenn's heartache. Finally, we get more Bonnie and a cameo from Amy Madison, building on their appearances earlier.
The Bad: Santra doesn't much figure into anything (he spends his entire screen time captured) and we have no good pictures of his demonic elves that could have added nicely to this episode. The Presidium's involvement at all in this story seems... unnecessary and dubious, especially the Engineer not wanting to kill Santra immediately because they may need him later. Considering that the Presidium is banishing him back to his prison dimension, there seems no reason to think he'd ever help them anyway. The scene where Vi, Rona and Faith let the mysterious demons (the Presidium agents) waltz in, capture the demonic elves, and casually stroll out again without any sort of confrontation doesn't sit right, at all, especially given Faith's personality. Although its nice to see Rona, Vi and Kennedy in scenes together, it feels like they should be a lot closer considering their the only original SiTs still active from Sunnydale at the Council.
The Verdict: If you're looking for exciting monsters and battle scenes, this one is skippable. If, like me, you love good character work, then read it for all of the nice things happening on that front. The "bad guy" plot really left a lot to be desired, however. I'll give this one a 3 star rating out of 5.