Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 03, Episode 09
Writer: Marti Noxon
DIR: David Greenwalt
Blurb: After Cordelia tells her new friend Anya that she wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, she suddenly finds herself in a reality where vampires control the town.
Scene 01: We open our episode on a pair of black boots and the sounds of burbling growling. As we pan along, and up, we find Buffy being held and pinned against a tree. Her feet are dangling off the ground and she’s being choked out.
Our assailant is a humanoid Mindflayer-type critter. Thankfully for Buffy, it’s not a Mindflayer… just a strangler.
Scene 02: Nearby, Xander is lying on the ground stunned. Willow is looking through Buffy’s bag in a panic for anything that could kill the demon. It’s obvious that the gang were having a picnic, when they were interrupted by this attack in broad daylight.
Buffy calls out for “Nerf”, which after a moment of confusion is interpreted to be knife by Willow. Our mindflayer-alike is a tragically wimpy sort and goes down with one stab.
Meanwhile, Xan pulls himself together and rushes to Buffy’s side.
Everyone stands over the demon, happy that everybody is fine. Then they look in disappointment and complain that the demon isn’t conveniently going “poof” in that nice, no-mess way that vampires have.
Scene 03: Putting off the mess of burying the latest dead bad guy, talk turns to Faith instead. It appears that the gang were actually hunting this particular demon and the picnic was a side event as Xan wonders why Faith didn’t show since she likes the slimy demon killing thing. Buffy mentions that she hasn’t been hanging out much lately and seems to go off on her own a bit too much for comfort. Willow offers that they should try to socialize with Faith more and bring her into the fold.
Meanwhile, Xander is still dealing with Cordy’s rejection over his and Willow’s impending death make out session that they were caught engaging in. Xander offers that it’s really Oz and Cordelia’s fault that this whole upset thing is happening because if they’d just knocked before their dramatic rescue then everything would’ve been fine because he’s sure that he and Willow were having their last smoochies anyway.
Yeah, his trying to displace blame isn’t flying. In the meantime, Willow is glad it’s a Sunday as that means that she can see Oz the next day and beg for forgiveness. She tells Buffy that when she thinks she may have lost her chance with Oz, all of the air leaves the room.
Buffy tells her and Xan that she knows what that feels like, and Xander asks how she made it through after everything with Angel. She tells them that she had them to help.
Scene 04: Over with Cordelia, she’s cutting pictures of herself standing with the gang. She’s listening to Xan’s endless messages on her machine asking for her to call him back, but she’s obvs not in the mood. She places the cut up photos in a bowl and matches it up to watch them burn.
She’s very teary … not even wearing make up or anything, so we know she’s devastated.
Commentary: I’m not gonna lie. The first thing I thought of wasn’t “ex burning photos to heal” but “oh, no… evil magic is afoot for vengeancey reasons”. But no… Cordelia is just practicing the very human burn images in effigy thing.
I like just how Charisma plays this scene. We don’t see Cordy in this sort of vulnerable place very much in Buffy and this just adds another layer to the humanizing that has gone on with her character since “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”.
CREDITS BE ROCKIN’
Scene 05: When we return from Nerf Herder, we see Willow laying in wait for Oz - but she gets a distressed look on her face on failing to see him in the hallway. Buffy finds Wills there and asks how things are. She complains that Oz hasn’t been to his locker, despite there maybe being books in there that he’ll need.
Buffy then asks about Xan and Cordelia, but Willow doesn’t think that she’s spoken to him either. Both of their attempts to apologize and fix things seem stalemated by their respective love interests not allowing it.
But Willow tells Buffy that Amy saw Cordy at the mall “looking scary” and she indicated she was coming to school as usual today.
Scene 06: In the parking lot, a shapely leg in killer heels and a tight, high cut dress steps out of a red car door. It’s Cordelia, and she’s looking smokin’ hot and ready to move on from the Xander debacle.
Scene 07: In the hallways, Cordy has a moment of looking less sure but puts on a friendly, Cordy-smile when she spots members of her old crew.
Harmony and her two hangers-on, who have taken over the “Big Bitch” role around school beams at Cordy and tells her that she looks amazing. This puts Cordelia at ease and ready to resume her Queen C title.
Harmony introduces Cordelia to new student, Anya. Harmony tells Cordelia that she did the smart thing, taking a week off from school over her “injury” to let everyone forget about her bout of temporary insanity with Xander thing.
Cordelia is told that she needs to get back on the dating horse right away to put that ridiculous relationship out of her mind. Cordy readily agrees. Harmony tells Cordelia that she has just the stallion for her, assuring her that he’s just Cordy’s type.
But she’s being a facetious bitch: She means poor, lonely Jonathon. Harmony and the Harmonettes laugh in Cordy’s face, leaving her embarrassed for herself [and maybe Jon… I’d like to think that Cordelia has grown at least that much that she feels badly over his being teased this way too -- but I may be trying to give more credit than is due].
Commentary: I felt so badly for Jonathon. I was the kid that was the occasional butt of the joke, when he wasn’t lucky enough to be invisible so I may be relating a little too much in this scene. And watching Harmony trying to play the Queen H role just made me want to slap that grin right off of her face.
But then I remember what is going to happen to her Asian tagalong gal-pal and felt a little better… yes, that is pretty awful of me. I’m in an awful mood.
But what this commentary break was supposed to be focused on, before I got sidetracked, was Cordy’s outfit. FINALLY, I can complement an outfit! Charisma looks absolutely fabulous in burgundy!
In fact, this episode has managed to avoid making my eyes water at all, which is really a feat after some of our stellar bad outfits that this show has assaulted us with. So, big kudo to the costumer/outfitter for putting Cordelia Chase in that dress with that jacket in those shoes.
Scene 08: Elsewhere in the school, Willow has finally gotten her chance to waylay Oz at his locker.
Willow tries to apologize, but he isn’t having it. He points out that she already told him how bad she feels for hurting him. He asks her to leave him be. She suggests that maybe if they talk about it… but he cuts her off. Oz tells her that he’s told her what he needs (to be left alone to think things through) and that he can’t help but believe that she wants to talk things out to feel better about herself. That isn’t his problem.
He walks away, leaving Willow with hurt face.
Commentary: Which doesn’t work on me this time, Aly. Willow’s hurting Oz with that stupid, pointless fantasy crush on Xander puts me squarely on Oz’ side here. I loved both his dialog and Seth’s acting in this scene, especially throwing out that line how her feeling badly about what she did isn’t his problem specifically because he doesn’t sound angry or spiteful … just honest. It’s a great scene between he and Alyson.
Scene 09: Back with Cordelia, she spots Xander headed toward her. She grabs nearest hunky guy and asks him to check for something caught in her teeth. This is an excuse to play with Xander’s perspective to look like she’s making out there in the hall with random stud to show that she’s over-over him.
It works. He looks bitterly pained at the display and spins around to all but run in the opposite direction.
After he takes off to her satisfaction, she tries to engage in casual conversation with what’s-his-name-creep-gross-guy. He tells her that his teammates have been down on him lately because Coach has cut him to second-stringer [football player? Does basketball have ‘second stringer’ as a status… ugh, sports… I’ve no idea] and he can’t risk everybody seeing him talking to “Xander Harris’ cast offs” on top of that.
He suggests though that if she’d like to hook up in private later, then sure… maybe. Cordelia is left speechless.
Commentary: And I’m left like, “God - men are the worst!”. How much of that is the scene, and how much is my mood I can’t say. But I do feel horrible on Cordy’s behalf.
Although, really -- after some of the things she’s said insulting others, I guess an argument COULD be made that she has some of this coming. Karma is a bitch. But… ew… this scene. Gross. Nice job by the actor though for pulling off smarmy.
Scene 10: Cordelia makes her way a few steps, still stunned by the rebuke and insult when she runs into Anya, who greets her. She tells the new girl to go ahead and dazzle her with her best insult, but that isn’t actually want Anya wanted. She tells Cordy that ever since she met her that morning, she was thanking her lucky star that somebody in that town actually read fashion mags.
Cordy questions her hanging with Harmony, but Anya tells her that she’s been following her around and if she had an original thought in her head, it would probably explode.
They bond further over how men are awful. Anya suggests Cordelia getting things off her chest, but Cordy assures her that she’s so over her cheater ex, and he’s going to know just how over him she is.
Scene 11: That evening, the answer is to go to The Bronze where Cordelia is happy to happy-laugh at a table with some other boys where Xander is sure to see and hear her being over him. Anya is with her, but honestly she’s looking a bit bored.
A pan reveals Xander, Willow and Buffy sitting and looking kinda miserable. Xander fake laughs at nothing… a ploy, you see, to let Cordy know that he’s completely fine with her being over him, because he’s not even thinking about her.
Buffy and Willow respond with confused face until he explains the out-of-nowhere laughing.
Buff tells Xan that she’s trying to be support-o-gal, but she feels a little weird about the “us vs. her” thing because … well… Xan wasn’t in the right on this one, after all.
Willow agrees that Cordy and Oz have the right to make them pay for their wronging them. Xan refuses to do the guiltapalooza with Willow. He insists that what is done is done and they should all grab ahold of that little thing called life and enjoy the moments they have.
Buffy agrees. Willow, too. Buffy points out that they’re young and free in America, and how dare they all be glum. This lasts for 5 seconds before Buffy declares their attempt a failure and goes for chocolate as a Plan B.
Scene 12: After Buffy leaves, Xan scoots closer to Wills and points out Cordy is obviously faking her “tears of a clown” or maybe “grins of a sad person”. He unconsciously reaches out and brushes Willow’s fingers but she pulls away and points out the illegal touching.
Xander complains that they’ve always touched digits - it’s a purely friend thingie. But Willow points out that if she wants Oz back, she believes that all of her digits has to be his only. This leaves Xander and Willow realizing just how badly they’ve screwed things up, with even their lifelong friendship now being in the awkward bad place.
Scene 13: At the snack bar, while waiting, Buffy glances around to see Cordy giving an air kiss goodbye to the new girl. When she’s then bumped by a passing person, Cordelia grabs her side where the bar pierced her. She has a moment of “things aren’t all fine” look on her face, which Buffy sympathizes with.
She decides to follow her out of The Bronze. Buffy tells Cordy that talking to her friends when she was hurt by somebody helped a little bit. Cordelia appears as if she may admit to Buffy that Xander and Willow really hurt her, but before she can speak a random vampire leaps out at the Slayer [because … fucking stupid newbie, obvs].
Buffy and the vamp do their dance, with involves Cordy when the vampire is kicked into her. Cordelia gets hit on accident and flies into a mound of trash bags. Buffy is able to stake random vampire, of course. But Cordelia is lamed by the pain in her side. She’s unable to get herself out of the trash heap before Harmony and the Harmonettes manage to see her there… and laugh in her face as they pass by.
Well, this is the last effing straw for Cordelia. She opines that her life went straight into the toilet the moment that Buffy showed up.
Scene 14: This is something that she shares with Anya the next day, complaining that everything went to hell because she showed up in town.
Harmony walks by and makes a snark about Cordelia’s “look” the night before: “Dumpster Chic for the Dumped”, only adding to Cordy’s bitterness toward Buffy for ruining her life by getting her involved in the Scooby Gang shenanigans and making Xander seem a tiny bit cooler which blinded her to what she already knew -- that he’s a lame loser….
Anya seems all sympathy and even gives her the necklace that Cordy was admiring before as a bit of good luck to help her over this rough patch. Anya suggests that Xander deserves a bad wish on him, but Cordy’s focus is on Buffy being at fault for everything that has happened.
She wishes instead that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale: And Anya turns out not to be a new student at all! She’s a DEMON!
And apparently a wish granter. Anya says “Done” and a white light blots out the screen.
Commentary: I really liked how Anya was handled in this first episode she’s in because you can suddenly see how/why she kept mentioning “don’t you wish” to Cordy and trying to stay focused on Xan after Cordelia was trying to ignore him.
Now, it’s well known by now that Anyanka was supposed to be a one-off appearance but that Emma Caulfield was loved in the role by Joss and company, so they wrote her into the story. This is another happy accident to me, because I LOVE her upcoming work.
Yes, they will occasionally over do her “stranger to mortal ways” shtick that she develops in Season 5 but I’m so glad that they kept this character through to the end of the show.
And I really enjoyed on first seeing this episode that she wasn’t just a new girl for Cordy to hang out with, because I was honestly confused as to why we needed a new Cordette when we’d already seen Aura, et al. that they could’ve been using here instead if they were going to set up a Queen C vs. Queen H situation. And that’s what I thought was happening for Cordy’s character since she was obviously going to stay estranged from the Gang for awhile. I was looking forward to a war of the school bitches with Cordy showing up Harmony at nearly every turn, even while she continued to struggle not to stay ostracized by her former classmates. This is much better.
[Although, I do want to see Cordy cut Harmony to pieces figuratively when she gets her verbal mojo back.]
Scene 15: When our white light fades, Cordy stands confused for a moment. Anya is nowhere to be seen. Cordelia gets a large grin as she realizes that her “scary, veiny good fairy” must’ve granted her wish. The side effects of this is that Cordy never dated Xander, which means she never ended up trying to save him which means she never got impaled.
She’s thrilled that her Buffy-problem never was. What she doesn’t notice, but we certainly do immediately is that Sunnydale High’s campus is littered strewn and the student body seems rather thinner in number than usual.
Scene 16: In the school, Cordelia runs into Harmony, who is once again a Cordette along with the rest of her former clique how had turned on her. They’re all dressed in dark colors.
She’s complimented on her bright blue dress as being “so daring”. Meanwhile, our pig comes up to stammer out that he’d like to take Cordy to the next dance if maybe she’d consider it. She doesn’t seem to notice that instead of the Midwinter Dance, it’s the “brunch” that she’s being invited into. She deigns that she’ll get back to him, enjoying having the dating power again.
Scene 17: Later after a class bell rings to dismiss everyone, we can see that the class is half empty. The professor reminds everyone that the following day, they have their monthly memorials as everyone rushes to gather their things to get out of there.
Cordelia continues not to notice that everything is looking and feeling quite off.
Cordelia asks what the rush is with everyone, and Harmony tells her that her mother hates it when she runs late. Something that is new around the Kendall household as far as Cordy knows. She asks if they’re all going out that night, but is reminded about the curfew starting in an hour.
She suggests that they all go to The Bronze, and is looked at like she just made a majorly unfunny joke/faux pas in even suggesting it. Cordelia says that The Bronze must not be cool in this reality and she’ll have to try to make these little adjustments. Her friends must think she’s on drugs or gone nuts.
Harmony asks what is going on with her, what with her joke about The Bronze and her wearing “come bite me” bright outfits to school. Harmony tells Cordy that she’s acting a bit schizo, something that Cordelia puts down to bumping her head hard the other day.
After telling Harmony that she keeps forgetting things, she brings up Xander Harris and Willow Rosenberg and hopes that they’re miserable. Harmony’s face falls again as she reports that both of them are dead. Harmony rolls her eyes and walks away leaving Cordy to wonder just what might have happened to her former kinda-friends and her ex-boyfriend.
Commentary: I really liked what the set designer and the costumer accomplished with these few scenes before we start to hear just how things have gone wrong. The dark clothing, Harmony in clunky, sensible shoes, her acting far more serious than we see her and I like the way that her face just kinda freezes when Cordy asks about Xander and Willow. It’s all just really good in suggesting that Cordelia’s wish isn’t going to end in the world that she wanted and it isn’t hard to guess that without Buffy the Hellmouth is on super-active mode.
What was really great though is how Cordy is completely clueless even with the hints right in her face until Harmony reports that Xander and Willow are dead.
On first watch, I thought that this was going to be a comedy episode -- I can’t remember now why, though. I just remember that I was ready for a topsy-turvy world farce, but this is where I started to realize that things were going to be ugly and it sent a chill down my spine wondering just what happened to our characters and where Buffy might be.
Scene 18: Cordelia comes out to a completely empty parking lot, yelling that somebody took her car. She intercepts a custodian and speak insultingly at him, accusing him of taking her car somewhere. She’s nonplussed when he tells her that she knows that students aren’t allowed to drive.
He warns her that she needs to get on her way and get inside before the sun sets. Cordelia is still a bit confused over what is happening in this new reality.
Scene 19: The sun does set as she’s walking home. We see that she’s the only one walking down the street and that all of the businesses on the main strip of Sunnydale are closed, despite it being so early in the evening.
She hears a scream in the distance and looks around confused and on edge, when she nearly runs right into a man [who I can tell immediately is “dead” Xander Harris].
Xander is looking much too pale and he sneers that he’s run into Cordelia Chase on the streets. Cordy complains that Harmony told her he was dead. He acts confused as to why Harmony would make such a claim, but Cordelia clearly doesn’t understand the implications, despite the whole weird behavior and really, really pale skin on her former boyfriend.
She tells him that something weird has happened and they need to find Buffy. She tells Xander that Buffy will figure out a way to save them, because as much as it “kills me” to admit it, things were better when Buffy was there. Xander is quite disturbed that Cordelia would know the name of Buffy, as clearly her reputation has proceeded her as The Slayer despite her apparently never having set foot in town.
From the shadows, comes a voice saying “Bored now” … a girl… dressed in leather and sounding like Willow. And, what’ya know… it is! Oh, but she’s not looking so pink-skinned herself these days.
Willow tells Xander that this is the part less fun, when there isn’t any screaming. She looks like she really, really likes heavy makeup in addition to cleavage - which Xander is also appreciative of, quite obviously. It’s incredible, but Cordy still hasn’t clued in to the fact that she’s in deadly danger!
[Oh for Cripes’ Sake Cordelia -- Do The Math!!]
Scene 20: Cordelia asks what the hell is up with the leather gear on them. She’s appalled when it quickly becomes apparent that Xan and Wills are still together, despite her wishverse where they never hung out with Buffy. She complains that she just cannot win. As Willow gives her creepy grin, Xander tells her that’s probably true but offers her that he’ll give her a running start. He vamp!faces on her.
Well - even Cordelia can figure out the puzzle after that clue. She cries out and takes off running. Willow grins huge and tells Xander that she loves this part, before the two of them do some passionate kissing.
Commentary: How awesome are both Nicky and Aly in this scene? I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m as horrified as Cordelia. But I KNOW that both actors must’ve had a ball playing their vampire selves and both of them are just radiating that this is a lot of fun. And, I like how Aly used her tongue in Nick’s mouth -- something that you just couldn’t see Willow doing, probably even to Oz without a lot of shy angsting over it first.
And the make up crew did a wonderful job with both of them. Even the costumer was awesome for this vampire couple with Willow looking absolutely fabulous in her outfit.
Scene 21: Xander and Willow go after the fleeing Cordelia, who can’t really sprint well in that tight dress she’s sporting. They easily catch up.
Cordelia is slammed to the pavement, knocking her out. Willow complains that she didn’t even fight back, and that’s boring.
Before Cordy can end up feed however, a van comes squealing up. Xander complains it’s the White Hats. These turn out to be Giles and Oz who back our vampires off with a cross and crossbow to Willow’s disappointed face.
From the back of the van springs Student Girl (who will be Nancy) and Larry! They scoop up Cordy for the rescue.
Scene 22: A bit later, and Cordy is lying out on the library table. [Wow. Even when Sunnydale goes to hell, nobody thinks to conduct hero business in an apartment where the vampires can’t just enter freely, huh? IQs are clearly just not as high in the Buffyverse as they are here. And considering how many people here seem to lack the most basic sense, that’s just really sad.]
Nancy wonders what she was thinking by wearing bright colors around. Larry offers that sounds exactly like Cordelia Chase -- she’d rather look good than stay alive. Giles sends the others off to watch the perimeter in case the vampires followed while he waits for Cordelia to come around.
Scene 23: Over at The Bronze, Xan and Willow show up arm in arm as vampires openly congregate and feed on those unlucky enough or clumsy enough to be out on the streets after dark.
They make their way through the vampire club to The Master! Without Buffy there to stop his escape, he’s clearly taken over as the power in Sunnydale [though how this relates to the Mayor, we’ll alas never find out].
The Master greets them warmly and offers them a bite to eat. He’s lost his appetite because the girl he was going to drain keeps looking at him. Willow isn’t bothered by that at all and fangs out [the first we see of her vampire face… it’s quite disturbing].
As Willow is busy off screen killing the girl, The Master asks Xander for news about town. He shares about Cordy and her save by the “wanna slay librarian”. But of more interest is how Chase kept talking about getting Buffy there.
Both Wills and Xan are contemptuous of Buffy’s name, but The Master isn’t in a joking mood. He tells them that “the factory” will be up and running in less than 24 hours and he wants the Chase girl found and killed before The Slayer can be summoned or he’ll throw Xan and Willow to the sunlight.
Commentary: And Mark is great as usual, but I really loved the touch of The Master gently stroking both Willow and Xander’s faces in the exact same manner. Yay subtextual Slash!
What’s interesting is Rupert Giles still being assigned here, despite the fact that Buffy didn’t move here. The fact that a Slayer isn’t assigned here at all suggests that maybe Cordelia’s wish caused another Hellmouth to be active, instead of Sunnydale. This may have been why The Master was able to rise -- because The Slayer is doing her job somewhere else. In addition, one has to wonder about Angel since he was supposed to come to Sunnydale to help Buffy. Did he just never take on the challenge from Whistler? Did he follow Buffy to a different city, wherever she current is?
And what of all the other things that happened in the other timeline? Did The Harvest keep all of the other plots that Buffy fought from happening?
Unfortunately, it was about here that I started to question the logic of this reality. It’s kinda ridiculous -- especially if the Hellmouth isn’t playing with people’s heads -- that Sunnydale wouldn’t be utterly abandoned. And what of the Mayor? I really wanted to know what happened to him, since he’s clearly not intervened in stopping The Master from taking over. So many questions that we won’t have a chance to learn the answers to, that I’ll end up finding this episode just a tiny, tiny bit disappointing despite loving what was done with this scenario while watching it through.
Scene 24: In the library, Cordelia awakes with a headache [Oh… and I noticed Cordy’s shoes too and I just don’t see her wearing them with that dress if she wanted to show off how hot she is around school, again. They look way too staid and school marmish].
Rupert tries to calm Cordy down as she’s going on about making a stupid wish, because of course he has no idea what she’s talking about. But she yells at him to shut him up and then immediately tells him that he has to get Buffy there right away to fix what she ended up creating.
As Giles is trying to figure out what Cordy could be rambling about, she realizes that Rupert shouldn’t be there, if Buffy isn’t. Giles is flabbergasted when Cordy refers to him as a Watcher, since that is something he’s never shared with anyone.
They’re interrupted by the sounds of footsteps nearby and Rupert immediately reacts with suspicion that they may be in for an attack. He goes to the book cage for defensive measures.
Scene 25: While in the book cage with his back turned, Giles tells Cordy to start her story again from the beginning. But when he turns around, he finds Xander and Willow have found them. Cordelia is now their prisoner.
Furthermore, Willow slams the cage door shut on Giles, locking him in.
Of course, The Master was pretty clear about not wanting a prisoner. Xander chastises Giles for his Watcher role by telling him to “watch this”. He bites deeply into Cordelia, and with a smirk from Willow, she joins in. Both of them stroke one another as Cordelia Chase is killed!
Commentary: HOLY FRICKIN’ NUT BALLS!
Obviously, this was meant as an homage of sorts to ‘Psycho’ in which the main character we believe we’re following actually isn’t the main character and is shockingly murdered half way into the narrative. And it works so well. Cordelia was set up as having learning a lesson that Buffy isn’t the enemy by being thrust into this alternate universe where she’s shown just how much of a difference Buffy makes to the world. Except, she can’t learn anything because now she’s dead.
This scene was amazing though, not just because of the sudden twist in our protagonist’s fate, but because the acting was spot on by Nicky, Aly and Anthony. All of them were terrific from Willow’s smirking to Xander’s mocking to Giles’ utterly helpless heartache and frustration at having to watch Cordy die in front of him. Just brilliant all around.
What I find interesting though, is my own reaction to our vampire gang. Somewhere along the way, both Xander and Willow stopped being my heroes who I can’t believe were killed and they became the vampires in my mind. I’m not sure when exactly, but it may have been when Giles and Oz showed up to be our Scooby Gang that my thought process changed from “oh my god, Wills and Xan!” to “kill those bloodsuckers!”
[But then my feelings change again later… read on.]
Scene 26: When we return from a not-commercial-break, Oz and Larry are just returning - stumbling down the stairs from the bookcase stacks [which again, apparently has a super hidden door somewhere back there that is never explained, but may have been the one that Phillip tried to enter in “The Dark Age” before Deirdre-zombie killed him -- no, no, I can’t explain why I’m obsessed with the thought that a door would be up there and why it makes no sense to me at all].
They find Cordelia dead and have to inform Giles that the vamp raid also took out Nancy.
Giles gives Oz and Larry the unenviable task of carrying Cordy away to the incinerator for disposal, but his eye is caught by the funny pendant around Cordelia’s neck. This along with her rambling about a wish and Buffy having supposed to be his Slayer has him thinking that there is something more to her bizarre ranting than he first thought.
Scene 27: Meanwhile, over at The Bronze, The Master enjoys a cappuccino. Xan and Willow arrive to tell The Master that his orders have been carried out. Xander complains that it was too easy, and Willow whines that she felt cheap.
With The Master pleased, Willow asks if she can play with “the puppy”, to which he agrees with a smile.
Commentary: I just want to say once again how great Aly is in this role. She uses a sort of seductive look, but whimsical line delivery that is amazing in making Vampire Willow somehow both extremely cutesy, that makes me grin widely, before my brain catches up with what she’s doing and to who and I stop being happy again that ‘my’ Wills was killed. She is just aces. And I love the dark looks that Nicky keeps tossing around the room in the background. You can feel Vampire Xander’s violence simmering and waiting for a target. Both of them are just wonderful in these evil roles [something that I commented on before in Nick’s case in ‘The Pack’].
Scene 28: With Giles, he’s called Cleveland looking for The Slayer. He’s left arguing fruitlessly with Buffy’s current Watcher who apparently has no idea where his Slayer is and hasn’t heard from her in perhaps days by the impression we get. It seems that Buffy isn’t any more controllable here than she was in Sunnydale-Prime.
Commentary: I like to think that he’s arguing with Merrick, who got out of L.A. alive after prying Buffy away from her parents. This opens up a whole range of possibilities about Hank and Joyce… again, we won’t get any answers or even have the questions asked by the episode. It’s just another small frustration that this is a one-off episode when it could have easily and awesomely been expanded. And, I just want that sooooo badly.
Scene 29: After daybreak, we go back to The Bronze. For some reason, it’s allowed to remain standing [and here I like to imagine that Wilkins is protecting The Master long enough for his own plans to come to fruition… plans that The Master has no clue are going on right now behind his back].
Inside, we see Willow’s legs walking toward a cage where a man lies face down on the cement floor. She complains to him/herself that daylight is so boring, being cooped up as she strokes various torture devices hanging on the wall.
She brings down a pair of shears with a smile. The man is in heavy chains and doesn’t react as the vampire clinks the scissors against the metal bars and happily says that The Master told her she could play.
When Willow turns over ‘the puppy’, we find that it is Angel. Vampire Willow tells Angel about the Master’s big party later to unveil his grand opening - before licking his face [a habit of Vampire Willow’s by the way -- she really likes that licking people’s skin thingie].
She goes on to remind Angel about all of those people he tried to save before his capture. She goes on to comment that the end will be quick for them. But not for him.
She straddles Angel and tears open his shirt, where we see that he’s still sporting injuries from the last playdate.
Scene 30: Behind her, someone lights a match and tosses it into the cage, landing the flame on Angel’s chest. It’s Xander.
Willow tells him he almost got her hair. He apologizes as having gotten carried away and tosses the box at her. When she asks if he doesn’t want to join her, he tells her that he just wants to watch her go.
Willow lights up another match, and as we go to black, we hear Angel yell in pain.
Commentary: And the feeling here of Xander and Willow being darkly sexual in their interactions is carried through to Angel. The entire vibe of the scene is deliberately suggestive that both of them are getting a sexual charge out of dominating and brutalizing Angel. The way that it’s acted and filmed, it’s almost alluring if you can get beyond the wounds and obvious pain Angel’s going through. I found it quite disturbing when we finally went to another not-commercial-break, so kudos to the actors, director and the script which took us here.
Scene 31: In the library, Oz is maintaining a crossbow when Giles excitedly exclaims that he found the pendant that Cordy left behind. It turns out to be a Symbol of Anyanka… a demon who grants wishes on behalf of scorned women.
Rupert tells he and Larry about Cordelia’s claims. Larry is a bit incensed that the whole world sucks “because some ditz made a wish”. Giles tells the others to get some rest while he returns to his apartment for awhile. Oz warns him to watch his back.
Scene 32: On his way home, Giles sees a group of vampires herding up some more [ridiculous stupid] people into a van for transport to their lair. Being a ‘white hat’, he feels the need to stop and try to save them, despite being outnumbered.
Although he’s able to hold off the vampire enough for the van full to run away, he’s also bad at watching his back. Giles is slammed by the van door. He’s quickly swarmed and just when things look too bleak, a pair of khaki legs pop into view.
The vampires go flying around with the sounds of dustings. The Slayer has obvs arrived to his summons.
Buffy asks the prostrate Giles just what she’s doing there.
Scene 33: Giles takes Buffy back to his apartment to consult more of his books, while she wanders around bored. Rupert finds more information, suggesting that if Anyanka’s power center is destroyed the wishes she granted will be rendered undone, putting the world to the way it “should be”, according to Cordelia. He’s self-pleased that his Watcher lessons hadn’t atrophied with non use, while Buffy is just impatient and cold toward him.
Buffy doesn’t buy the “kill the bad fairy, destroy her power center, whatever” is supposed to reverse their crapsack world. She tells him bluntly that the world is what it is: you fight, you die, end of story.
Rupert tells her that he needs to believe in a better world. She tells him in return that she needs to live in this one. Giles tells her what Cordy said about her supposed to being there, but Buffy waves this off as a fan girl thing… interestingly suggesting that Buffy is more widely known in this reality.
[But only adding to the problems of logic in this world. It just doesn’t seem reasonable that there wouldn’t be more government action going on if vampires became publicly known, and it’s ridiculous to think The Master could get away with dominating an entire town when his hideout is known to be The Bronze and the daylight is still a regularly occurring thing.]
Giles disputes Buffy’s assertion by mentioning The Master sending his most vicious disciples to kill her, suggesting he was afraid of her and her knowledge. But Buffy barely hears anything other than “The Master” and she focuses like a laser beam on facing and killing him. Buffy refuses all suggestions of help, or sneaking, or anything that may help her even reach The Master. She warns Giles that she’ll ask him once where The Master hangs his hat, and then she’s going to get testy.
Scene 34: Cut to Buffy, The Hard-Headed Slayer waltzing through The Bronze. She finds it deserted, oddly enough, except for a caged guy who is dead.
Scene 35: She makes her way down to the basement level, where she finds the prisoner in his cage left alive. Angel twitches in suffering. She turns away from him until he calls her name.
Angel tells her that he waited there for her arrival, but she never showed up even though he was supposed to help her. Buffy scoffs at some no name being of any help to her, while Angel tells her that The Master rose but let him live. Angel mutters about her being his destiny --- obviously severely short-circuited by her relocation to Ohio instead of Sunnydale where everyone expected her to show up.
Buffy turns conversation away from how everybody in Sunnydale seems to think she’s the second coming or something, and onto The Master. Angel offers to take her to where he’ll be at his factory. She’s hesitant, but breaks open the cage and goes to free him from his chains… until he flinches at the cross worn around her neck.
She goes to leave again, but Angel convinces her that he wants to help her if for no other reason than what Willow did to him. It’s enough for Buffy to accept the help, even if she’s still very suspicious of him.
Commentary: All of this is so great! I love the way that both The Harvest and Becoming [at least the flashback portions] are clearly being referenced as having occurred. Anya’s wish didn’t alter our characters’ entire histories, it just sort of shorted out what was to happen in relation to them. It was really clever of Marti to hold onto these essential details of our characters’ pasts, while then twisting them to fit this whole alternate history.
I want so, so badly to see more of how everything went down from the moment of Buffy’s altered destiny and that is the sign of a fantastic episode. Except for the logical issues that I’ve mentioned bothering me, this entire world is wonderfully created and it hurts a little to see Little Ms. Badass so dour and even hopeless without her support systems she should’ve had around her to keep her grounded.
I even love that Buffy didn’t realize Angel was a vampire immediately, in keeping with her counterpart’s never having gotten that whole “honing” thing Giles complained about in the pilot. Apparently, our hardened warrior doesn’t spend a lot of time meditating either. It was also hilarious, in a dark way of course, when Angel talks about his destiny to help her and she immediately refers to him wanting to get into her pants. There is just so much to love in this episode that it bums me out that it is only one.
Scene 36: Over with The Master, we find him in his factory where he’s chosen to update the vampires’ age old seeking of blood into a most human, diabolical enterprise: Mass Production.
Among the captured humans in a wooden cage waiting for their turn through the machine of death waiting is one of Harmony’s Harmonettes, Oz and Larry.
The Master blathers, as is his bad habit before ordering one of the prisoners brought forth so he can show his legion how this mass production thing will work to harvest the human cattle.
Scene 37: While The Master is impressing on his vampire flock that a new age is dawning for them, Rupert is busy following a ritual to summon Anyanka to his apartment.
She’s not pleased at being called by a man.
Scene 38: Meanwhile, Ms. Harmonette gets the honor of trying out the new mass production machine [and now I feel bad that I can’t recall her name, but not bad enough to go hunt it down]. She gets cattle prodded into submission and then strapped down on a conveyor. As she lies stunned, arms come down holding large needles which pin her throughout her torso. Suctioning drains her and delivers blood to a tap which delivers the blood right to a goblet for enjoyment. Obvs, this is prototype and future machinery can be set up to bottle the precious elixir for mass distribution.
While The Master is showing off how they’ll cull the human race in future, Buffy and Angel arrive and sneak in to the display.
Buffy pulls out her crossbow and shoots at The Master [damn, all these capital letters are becoming an annoyance], but Xander is yanked by him to act as a shield. He’s hit in the shoulder.
Meanwhile, Angel frees the prisoners, allowing the humans to fight against their vampire capturers. Willow gleefully exclaims that ‘the puppy’ got out as she and Xander get ready to battle the invasive force to protect their patron.
Commentary: Which explains why none of this takes place where the iron bars were. The obviously thrown together wooden slats used for our victim’s cage become convenient stakes. I don’t really have a problem with the notion that the vampires would be arrogant enough not to worry about building cages out of wooden crate slats since this was all supposed to be firmly under The Master’s control with the humans being helpless. None of them expected The Slayer to arrive since Cordelia was supposedly killed before she could summon her.
Scene 39: In Giles’ apartment, Anyanka threatens to put a real hurt on Rupert for daring to use a woman’s vengeance casting to summon her when her entire thing is to avenge women from hateful men.
As Anyanka stalks toward him, we see that she’s got her pendant on again. Giles demands to know what Cordy wished. She’ll only confirm that it was Cordelia’s wish that brought forth this “brave new world”.
Commentary: A claim that can be quibbled with later when we’ll find that this universe continues to exist after the episode is over by being revisited again later. There is also the claim in this episode that ALL of Anyanka’s wishes are broken but that is clearly not the case as much later we’ll get a flashback of some of Anya’s actions and those events happened with her participation and obviously weren’t undone by this episode’s resolution. Clearly a little bit of revision occurred, so we can assume that not all of the information Giles found was exactly accurate.
Scene 40: In the factory, Buffy is getting a workout as she punches and tosses around vampires by the score.
Scene 41: In his apartment, Giles stares down Anyanka. He demands that she undo whatever the wish was that Cordy made. Rupert tells her that he isn’t afraid of her as her only power is in the wish itself. But Anyanka shows him that he’s wrong by showing greater strength as she begins throttling him.
She pins him to his wall.
Scene 42: In the factory, Vampire Willow takes on Buffy. She gets punched and kicked, knocking her back as Buffy moves on to another closer attacker.
Xander is next, but again he’s hit to the ground and Buffy moves on. Across the room, though, Angel sees Xan recover and with Buffy’s recovered crossbow that she lost early on in the fight. He leaps in front of her and Xan lets a bolt fly. Angel takes one into the heart. He calls Buffy’s name longingly, but ashes away. Meanwhile, Buffy doesn’t even react and just continue on like he didn’t mean a thing [which from her perspective, he didn’t].
Commentary: And this is the beginning of the real hurt to me in this episode. It isn’t the character deaths themselves that we’ll rack up as we go along. It’s the way that none of it affects Buffy at all, when we know that in ‘our’ universe, she’s watching her closest and dearest die off one by one. I just find it all terribly heart breaking, despite the excitement music and the dynamic fight choreography and the absolutely wonderful use of slow motion that we’ll get as we go along.
Scene 43: In the apartment, Anyanka strangles Rupert as she tells him that this is the real world now that she and Cordelia made. She asks if it isn’t wonderful.
Scene 44: In the factory, as we get the lone-wail-of-pain, Xander tries to punch Buffy in slow motion. She easily blocks and follows up with a stake strike, killing him.
As we know what he’s supposed to mean to her, she simply spins on her heel and doesn’t even watch him ash away.
Commentary: Yes, it is silly of me to be reacting this way. This isn’t our Buffy, this isn’t even Xander at all but the thing that killed him, and yet my heart really hurts watching our Scooby Gang be eliminated by somebody who is supposed to love them.
All of this is horrible!
Scene 45: Across the room from Buffy, Willow sees Xander killed and looks like she’s distracted by genuine shock and grief. It allows Larry and Oz [of course, of course it would be Oz if not Buffy] to push her back and right into a bit of broken crate-wood slat.
Oz [oh, Oz… I’m seriously feeling a lump in my throat here] and Larry dust her away.
Scene 46: Across the room, Buffy kicks a vampire minion in the face and when she spins, she sees The Master. The two of them lock eyes on one another. As one, they both head straight for one another for this confrontation, pushing human and vampire fighters out of their way with only eyes for one another.
Scene 47: Over at the apartment, Giles is at the last of his strength, being strangled to death. He looks down to see a gleam from Anyanka’s pendant… the same one Cordy was wearing when he removed it from her. A brainwave forms.
He snatches the pendant from around her neck. Anyanka is momentarily startled by this, and it allows Giles to punch her in the face.
Scene 48: At the factory, Buffy and The Master reach one another… all in slo-mo, by the way.
They start to trade punches.
Scene 49: At the apartment, Giles puts Anyanka’s jewel on the table. He picks up a heavy object. Anyanka calls him a fool, questioning how he knows the other world would be any better than this.
Rupert desperately tells her that it has to be.
Scene 50: Meanwhile, Buffy has been gotten the better of. She’s stunned by a vicious punch.
Scene 51: Giles raises his hand to bring the box down on Anyanka’s pendant as she yells at him not to do it.
Scene 52: The Master has spun Buffy around, pulling her against him. He grabs her by the head and under the jaw. Buffy doesn’t look like she’s resistant to all of this ending.
The Master snaps her neck clean. It’s also about the loudest, base-heavy neck snap in creation.
Scene 53: As Giles brings down his arm in swing, Buffy’s body stands dully for a moment before her dead knees collapse and she falls. [And fulfilling her destiny that “Buffy will face The Master and she will die” just as the Codex foretells, wherever the book currently is stashed away. There is nothing in it that does not come to pass, you know.]
Meanwhile, Giles smashes the pendant of the demon wish granter. Another bright white light blots out the image of Buffy’s body falling to the floor with The Master having gloat face.
Scene 54: We’re suddenly back with Cordelia who once again wishes that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale. Anya makes her dramatic spin again, but she’s not in demon face. She tells her that it’s done, though.
But wait… no. No, it isn’t a done deal this time.
Cordelia goes on to wish that Buffy hadn’t even been born, while Anya has confused face and tries again with the dramatic “Done”. But, uh-uh… not done that time either.
Cordy, now enjoying this game, wishes that Xander never again knows the touch of a woman and that Willow would wake up the next day covered in monkey hair. If we look, we’ll see that she’s not wearing the pendant and neither is the scary, veiny fairy.
Anya continues to desperately call out “done” but nothing is changing.
Scene 55: As Cordy is busy wishing that most of men folk suffer humiliating curses, Giles walks by Buffy glancing meaningfully at his watch. She shares smiley laughter with Xander and Willow.
And nobody [except possibly Anya -- it’s not clear if she ever recalls the exact details of the other universe] remembers anything.
Commentary: This ending caused a bit of a stir among some of the fans who were angered that Cordelia didn’t learn any life lesson after she died and caused a crapsack world. And that Rupert Giles played the big hero and saved the entire world, but nobody -- not even him -- realizes it. I have no such problems, and never did. I liked the twist that nobody learned a damned thing about life in a convenient moral summarizing of the episode’s plot.
The wish was destroyed. It never happened [except not quite because of ‘Dopplegangland’] and so nobody remembers it. I liked it. And after having my heart broken by watching my characters dying left and right [even though I think I feel more badly for vampire Xander being killed by Buffy and vampire Willow being killed by Oz than I’m actually sad for-for them… if you get what I mean] that ending with laughing and joking and Cordelia making ridiculous empty wishes was a relief!
The Good: The opening was fun, from the look of the demon to the way the Scoobies look expectantly at it after it's dead, disappointed to see it not poofing.
I absolutely love Cordy's "I'm over him" dress and heels. She looks fabulous!
I also absolutely loved Oz straight up telling Aly's cute-face that her wanting to feel better about what she did isn't his problem. What I really loved is Seth delivering the line without anger or malice, but just plainly stating how he feels about her wanting to talk it out.
I also really appreciated that we're seeing that Willow and Xan's indescretions aren't only about Oz and Cordy. They've actually managed to hurt their dear friendship because of what lies between them now.
I liked the twist on Anya from being another Harmonette that wasn't needed in the show, to actually being the antagonist there for nefarious purposes.
The new world created to show the differences between Sunnydale-Prime and this wishverse was very well done, and it was frustrating that Cordy didn't clue in a lot sooner. It was also really cool how Harmony's face freezes and she gets this small change in her attitude toward Cordelia when the latter mention Xander and Willow and the former has to "remind" her that they're dead.
Everyone does a stellar job acting wise, but I want to especially kudo Aly and Nick for vampire Willow and vampire Xander.
I love the way that the histories of Angel, et al are all kept relatively intact in the new reality but everything changed because Buffy didn't arrive in Sunnydale as planned. I especially loved Angel's still having come to Sunnydale and trying to stop The Master's breaking free long enough for Buffy to arrive, when she never did. With The Harvest being a success... well.
The entire sequence cutting between Giles confronting and defeating Anyanka and Buffy fighting and losing to The Master, while her supposed-to-be-friends are slaughtered was excellently filmed. I loved/hated all of it for the right reasons. I loved the forelorn wail, the slow motion, it's just affecting and wonderfully directed. Super kudo to Marti for the script, David for the director's chair work and Christophe Beck for the score. I'm also giving a kudo to Michael Gershman, who as the director of photography had a lot to do with the way everything looks. The whole behind-the-scenes crew were really firing on all cylinders in this one.
The Bad: There are definitely logic problems the more we see of the new Sunnydale that there just isn't any time to address properly because we're not looking at an arc, but a standalone.
I also don't like how Faith is once again conveniently off doing her own thing, that seems to be happening way too much in this early season.
Other Thoughts: While I was really pleasantly shocked that Cordy dies half way through the episode, the set up with Giles clumsily not being more watchful around the library even worried as he is that the vampires followed, was pretty clumsy. I can mostly overlook it, because of the shocking twist and the fun that is vampire Xander berating Giles in this scene but the silliness of Rupert didn't escape me.
I love this episode, but damn it, I'm left through so much of it wanting more details! More character history! Just more!more!more!
I liked seeing The Master again, and loved watching the prophecy play out again from a different set of circumstances but honestly... the diabolical plan is an assembly line? And herding people into warehouses and draining them is supposed to somehow be better than just eating them "on the QT" is the big plan? Really? That's it? LAME Where's the Hellmouth Critter, too?
Thank you, thank you for somehow finding a way to end this dark episode on light and laughter.
The Score: Phenomenal, but those niggling logic questions kept distracting me so it isn't perfect. But it is one of the best of Buffy; It just needed more than one episode to make it as epic as it could've been.
4.50 out of 5 stars
Next Up: Buffy, Season 10, Issue 14