Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 03, Episode 10
Writer: Joss Whedon
DIR: Joss Whedon
Blurb: As the Christmas holiday approaches, Angel is tormented by visions of his past victims, including Jenny Calendar, who want him to kill Buffy.
My Blurb: So, uh... I just didn't have the energy to play games so I name the bad guys before we actually hear their identities discovered by the gang. If you really, really don't wanna know because, I don't know -- you read reviews of shows you don't even watch I guess -- then skip this review until you've watched all of Season 7.
Scene 01: We open in FlashbackLand in the Dublin of 1838 during the winter… presumably also near the holiday of our focus. With the sting of scary music, we focus on a scared young man rushing through the streets of Dublin.
Rush, rush, rush through the carolers and shoppers and street cart vendors as decidedly un-Christmas like music plays on the soundtrack. In fact, are those Gypsy Violins we hear?
Commentary: I loved hearing the weird, not-Christmas music, violins on the soundtrack and the way that it tells you we’re in one of Angel’s pasts flashbacks before we see Angelus come from stage left. That was a nice touch.
Scene 02: Our rushing young man is snatched from a side alley by a pair of hands and unceremoniously tossed onto the frozen, snow covered ground.
A, uh “Irish”, accent asks where he’s going and we find out our scared young man is Daniel. Alas for Daniel his stalker is Angelus, vamped out.
Daniel, it seems, was playing cards with the vampire but not very well and it further turns out that not only did he not play well, but he didn’t have the cash necessary to cover his debts on top of it. Angelus offers that he’s hungry though, so there are other ways to pay.
Daniel is held against the wall and starts to tearfully pray for forgiveness as clearly time is out for his mortal coil. Angelus tells the lad to be of good cheer, as it’s Christmas.
Then he bites him in the throat with glee… full of good will toward men, undoubtedly.
Scene 03: In the present, Angel snaps awake from this vivid dream. He’s deeply shaken by the experience.
Scene 04: Elsewhere, a television in the window of an appliance store has the weatherman on talking about how Christmas is going to be hot and sunny in CA.
Angel strolls by, rushing through the streets trying to clear his head. He unexpectedly and nearly literally runs into Buffy. The two share an awkward few seconds not sure how to react, as both are still reeling at the truths both recognize in Spike’s words that the two of them will never be “just friends”.
There is a tense attempt at small talk as Buffy asks if he’s doing okay and he claims he is and returns the question. Buffy points out the shopping she was doing for the Gang, but Angel’s attention isn’t on her… It’s on Daniel standing in the streets of Sunnydale and staring at him!
Buffy notices Angel’s distraction, but when she looks behind her she doesn’t see anyone there. She asks what’s the matter but Angel can only stare at the spot that Daniel had just occupied with wordless shock and a bit of fear.
Insert those credits that be crediting to kick-ass theme.
Scene 05: The following day in school, Buffy is filling in Willow and Xander on her weird meeting with Angel and how when she tried to ask what was wrong, he just bailed on her without a word.
Xan is impatient, because, you know… Angel. Willow is worried since Buffy seems worried and suggests mentioning it to Giles. Buffy declines because Rupert is still “twitchy” when it comes to her ex. Xander again butts in with the reminder of what Angelus did to Ms. Calendar and Giles himself. Buffy turns around with a slam of her locker and an “enough!” at him.
Wills wonders if Angel could have the regular type of Holiday Blues… being alone and stuff. Buffy complains about how hard it is to do the right thing and stay away from him when he keeps popping up unexpectedly.
Buffy huffs that she just wants a quiet Christmas holiday.
Commentary: So, of course it’s Xander who can’t just keep quiet about the entire subject of Angel and Season Two. Just as naturally, he’s not able to separate Angel and Angelus.
I’m annoyed right along with Buffy. And I’m actually agreeing with most of Xan’s sentiments, if not the way he’s expressing them. I’m just as ‘gun shy’ about Angel still being in Sunnydale as he is, but it’s these scenes with him that make it so difficult to stay on his side. He’s being a real jerk, and I like that Buffy is being allowed by the writers to tell him to cram it, already.
I also like Buffy refusing to bring anything Angel-related to Giles exactly because of what he’s already gone through. I just wish that the writers hadn’t had Xan point out so bluntly as to why exactly that would be… I’m relatively sure that nobody in the audience needed the refresher on what Angelus did to him. So not only did that just add to the “Xander is being an insensitive prick about Angel” vibe he has going, but it also implied we can’t remember big events that happened last season, which is mildly insulting.
Scene 06: The gang continue to discuss the break from school, with Willow reminding her friends that being Jewish, she won’t be doing the “worshipping Santa” thing. Buffy tells her she was just asking about vacation in general and Willow bummingly says she’ll be doing nothing fun.
Willow is bummed out as she and Oz had made plans, but with the whole “caught making out with Xander thing”, that’s kinda really-off now.
Commentary: If only Willow watched MTV, she could've turned it around on Oz and forced him to forgive her in exchange for her forgiving him. Fairs is Fairs.
Scene 07: The gang make their way to the lounge area, where Cordy is already sitting with one of the new Cordettes who isn’t hanging around Harmony, apparently. Xan has a stutter step on seeing her again (Cordy, of course - not the dialogless extra… go away extra! Shoo! Shoo!).
He tries to ignore her by telling Wills and Buffy he’ll be doing his annual X-Mas Eve campout and fills Buffy in on his tradition of spending Christmas Eve in a sleeping bag under the stars in the backyard.
[Really? Even knowing about the vampires and demons wandering around Sunnydale every night… *blink blink blink* Whut.]
Well, Cordelia can’t let this opportunity slip by. She wanders up to opine that she thought that Xan did that every year so he could avoid the Festive Drunken Arguments of Ye Ol’ Family tradition. Xan admits it so, but offers he’d hoped that she wouldn’t feel the need to spread that bit of gossip around.
Cordelia offers that she’ll be off to Aspen where she’ll get to ski in actual snow. Buffy, looking uncomfortable on Xander’s behalf offers a half hearted quip about hearing that snow can help with the skiing.
Cordy finally says it’ll be a drag to be stuck in “Sweatydale” for the holiday before announcing she’s now done and sauntering away.
Buffy opines that she’s reverted to form, but Willow wants everyone to cut her some slack since she’s only being a bitca because of her and Xander. She also says that this holiday season, her big theme is forgiveness… the rest of her [unneeded, anyway] explanation being interrupted by Oz’ appearance.
Commentary: I don’t like this scene very much and it’s not really the characters themselves that are my problem… even Cordy’s mean spirited dig at Xan’s home life.
My problem is that the character history between Xan and Willow is thrown out the window for some weird reason. First, Xander is going to spend all night in a sleeping bag outside… after everything that has happened to him in Sunnydale… including just having had his arm snapped recently and nearly losing Rupert, Willow and Buffy to Angelus, Spike and Drusilla?! Ummm… no.
Then, instead of having Buffy say “that sounds nice”, they have WILLOW offer that. So second, not only would you think his friends would be asking, “Doesn’t that seem like a really stupid thing to do you moron?” but Willow sounds like she’d never heard of Xander doing that as a yearly tradition, when of anyone, SHE is the exact person who should’ve known Xan’s traditions to avoid his family. It’s nuts that Will wouldn’t have heard this before, but Xander would’ve told Cordelia.
In fact, Second-point-One, Xan actually telling Cordelia that at some point seems just a tiny bit OOC to me. I can waive that away, but I don’t see Xan having a heart to heart with Cordy… even while they were seeing each other… about his family’s drunkenness and constant fighting.
Thirdly, I wish that Joss had toned back Cordelia’s bitchiness for this scene by just a smidge. I liked her pointing out that she wouldn’t be sweltering in Sunnydale for the holiday, but I’d have preferred it if they’d kept the scene short with her wandering over to mention it with her self-satisfied smirk, made mention how the others would probably be miserable… with a dagger look at Xander, and then left them with a pleased grin. The scene was just a little overbaked.
Scene 08: Oz looks at Wills. Everyone fidgets, especially Xander when Oz glances at him. He gives a “Hey” to Willow.
Scene 09: Oz has led Wills to an empty classroom. Oz opens by telling her that seeing her with Xander was intense and made him feel angry-hurt like he’d never felt before. Willow interrupts to assure Oz that she and Xan are over, but Oz’ point is that he knows that she and he have this whole deep history between them and that there may always be some thing lying there between he and she.
But he goes on to tell her that he, Oz, misses her. He explains that he feels like he’s lost a torso with not having her around and he’d like to try to move past what happened. He and Willow agree to try again.
Commentary: We cheer. Aly and Seth have an amazingly sweet quality to them that make Oz and Wills so right… yeah, yeah, I know… Tara is great, too. But Oz/Willow… *le sigh*.
Scene 10: Later that evening, Buffy is wandering through fake-snow covered pine trees.
She’s there with her mother to pick out a holiday tree. Joyce brings up Faith and wants Buffy to ask her to come to dinner. Buffy points out that she and Faith aren’t really bonding lately [see that whole disaster with Ms. Post], but Joyce asks her passive-aggressively if she really wants to leave Faith to spend Christmas in that dingy, little motel room.
Buffy points out the obvs guilt trip, and Joyce says she tries -- Buffy agrees to ask Faith over. Buffy then asks about Giles, but Joyce doesn’t even let her finish her sentence, saying that she’s sure Giles is just fine [See the Band Candy incident].
Buffy offers that she could just ask him, but Joyce says that she just knows he doesn’t want to spend his holiday time off with a bunch of girls… let’s split up. Joyce runs off to “okay, what’s her deal” looks from Buffy.
Commentary: I love this scene. Kristine is hilarious and SMG’s “what the heck” look she gives to her back as she suddenly wants to split up makes me laugh.
This scene is also really great at referencing the recent past of our characters without the thudding info dump that Xander had engaged in earlier. And I always love the way that Kristine and Sarah interact when they’re on screen together.
It’s also, I think, very in character for Joyce to show concern toward Faith even if Buffy is having her personal problems with her. Which is what makes her turning Buffy’s offer to ask Giles down flat so amusing… we, and even Buffy, can recognize how out of character it is for Joyce to refuse to ask Rupert to spend the holiday with them since he’s far from home.
Scene 11: Buffy wanders through the copse of trees, only to come to a weird, single spot where all of the trees in a circle have died.
Scene 12: Elsewhere, and certainly tied to the tree death, we have fuzzy, spinning camera-POV of candles in a dark cave. There is dark witchcraft afoot and chanting monks.
We see one of our chanters, and his face has been mutilated with his eyes sealed shut and symbols carved into his eyelids.
Commentary: That was an excellent makeup job. And by not holding the scene too long, it actually creates sudden “Oh, gross!” moment that our Bringers won’t be able to match in Season 7 where we see them too much.
Scene 13: Back in Angel’s apartment, he shoots awake with a gasp. He’s clearly just had another of his Angelus’ past nightmares.
Scene 14: At the Downtowner Apartments, Faith is banging on the crappy television when she gets a knock on the door.
It’s Buffy with that invitation. Faith guesses that Joyce sent her, but Buffy denies it. She declines anyway, citing a big party that she’s gotten invited to. Buffy clearly doesn’t buy it. But Faith sticks with her “plans”.
Scene 15: Over at Giles’ apartment, he’s cooking up dinner over the stove when he also gets a knock on the door. This… unbelievably… is Angel.
Yeah, Giles is as shocked as anyone could be.
They have a very tense greeting. Angel apologizes for bothering him, which gets a bit of shocked laughter from Rupert, who apologizes but explains that Angel offering apologies for “the bother” just struck him as funny [Y’know, in a funny aneurism moment… definitely not, ‘ha-ha-ha, good one, ol’ torturing, murdering friend o’ mine!’].
Angel tells Giles he needs his help, something that Rupert is equally floored by. Angel tells him that he knows he has no right to ask, but he has nobody else. Rupert consents, but walks away from the door without issuing a specific invite.
Angel reminds him he can’t come in otherwise, and Rupert deigns to issue an invitation, but not until he’s gotten his crossbow which he trains on Angel’s chest.
Angel ignores the implied threat and gets to why he’s come: The very vivid dreams and nightmares of his past as Angelus. He’s there to ask Giles for help in figuring out why he’s back, why he isn’t in a Hell being tortured for what he’s done.
Rupert, on seeing his genuine pain, relents and puts the crossbow down. But as he does so we see … oh… we see *meep* Jenny Calendar standing behind Giles and staring at Angel.
While Giles is berating Angel for becoming to complacent about his continued existence previously, Angel is looking over Rupert’s shoulder with a look of horror. Giles looks but sees nothing. “Jenny” hovers her hands over Rupert’s shoulders, his arms, and looks longingly at him. Before returning her flat stare back at the vampire.
Angel rushes out of Giles’ apartment to his bewildered worry.
Commentary: Oh. My. Goodness.
I know that Robia, due to her religious convictions, regretted replaying Jenny as somebody evil but her presence in this episode was vital, in my opinion. To have Giles bend down and see Jenny standing there was a “take our breath” moment and was absolutely heartbreaking… well, y’all know of my deep trauma from her murder, so this could just be a me-thing. But this moment was excruciatingly perfect to really add a sense of emotional horror to what Angel, who at this time I wasn’t apt to sympathize with, is dealing with and dammit if I don’t end this episode kinda-sorta feeling back on his side again. Dammit.
But the nice touch was really in Jenny wearing what we’d last seen her in, bringing “Passion” right back on us… or that’s a me-thing, too.
This was a really inspired moment in an episode that was kind of humdrumming along.
Scene 16: Back, later, at the otherwise abandoned mansion, Angel is having another nightmare about Angelus invading an upper-class festive Christmas party. As the uppercrusters are laughing and wandering to chat with one another, Angelus has cornered a maid under the staircase.
He’s making sexual overtures at her, while she worriedly complains that she’ll be put out on the streets if anyone notices her here in this compromising position [despite not actually doing anything except talking to him, poor thing]. She tells him that for her little boy’s sake, she can’t lose this job to his sympathetic eyes full of feels for her.
Which quickly dissipates upon grabbing her by the upper arm hard and dragging her to a more secluded corner. He laughs at her as he taunts her to go ahead a shout for help, if she thinks that her mistress will believe her own behavior beyond reproach. Obvs, Margaret can’t gamble on that because she’s almost certain to lose [no doubt even if Mistress did believe her, she’d still side with Angelus over “the help”].
Margaret allows herself to be backing into the corner, no doubt expecting that she’s about to be sexually assaulted but willing to keep quiet in order to save her position in the household. Of course, we know Angelus doesn’t want her sex but her throat.
He vamps out on her. She tries to beg that she has a child who needs her, but Angelus offers that the boy will make a nice dessert. He kills Margaret before she can change her mind about that screaming thing.
But Angelus/Angel gets a sudden look on his face as Margaret’s body falls to the floor. There standing with a spotlight on her forehead is a shocked looking Buffy!
Commentary: I really liked this scene. First for the actors work, with Cornelia Hayes O'Herlihy making the most of her minor part, and David being especially oily. But the insertion of Buffy into the scene really got me the first time and I like how Slayer dreams are utilized to bring Buffy into helping Angel.
Scene 17: In the mansion, Angel snaps awake with another gasp. In Buffy’s bedroom, she also snaps wide awake with confusion.
Scene 18: But we return to the mansion, where Angel has gotten up and dressed again. He’s in a state, as we’d imagine.
Waiting for him is “Jenny”. As Angel crouches against a wall, Jenny slowly approaches him and this time talks to him, telling him that she’s always near him and that she can’t leave him because he won’t let her go. Angel asks what she wants and she tells him she’d like to die as a fat grandma surrounded by grandchildren, but that’s not going to happen now.
Angel tries to apologize for what happened, but Jenny tells him that she’s dead - she’s over it. She suggests he save his pity for himself… before adding nastily that she guesses he’s got that covered. Angel offers that he doesn’t know what more he can say other than how sorry he is for taking her life, but Jenny … morphing into Daniel now… tells him that she/he doesn’t want to make him feel any worse. They just want to show him who he is….
Commentary: And it’s right here, and only here, that I suddenly realized that Jenny wasn’t actually her ghost. Now, you’d think that the mutilated eyed chanters woulda had that covered… but no. I still thought this was Jenny and I was really upset that she wasn’t being allowed to rest.
Here though, it suddenly hit me that she was a trick and that just made me pissed at The Bringers/The First for doing this, using her. Yeah, tough breaks Daniel and Margaret… somebody else will have to be anguished on your behalf.
Scene 19: Later that day, Buffy is in Giles’ office where she tells him what she experienced. Rupert at first tries to tell her that she couldn’t have been in Angel’s dream, but unnoticed to her, he does so half-heartedly. She insists that there were details in the dream that she couldn’t possibly know about, while Giles continues sitting like a lump of hard granite, clearly buying what she’s saying but wrestling with his own feelings.
Buffy tells Giles that something is wrong with him, which is the time for Rupert to come clean about his own meeting with Angel. He tells her about Angel’s wanting to know why he’s come back, and Buffy wants to help find the answer for him.
When Buffy asks to help, Rupert gives her an appraising look. She insists that she’s not seeing Angel anymore and she’s trying to put her feelings for him behind her but she can’t as long as he and she are doing guest spots in one another’s dreams.
Giles reluctantly agrees with Buffy that they’re going to help Angel. Xander comes in, having been eavesdropping and offers his help, too, despite his own dislike for the vampire.
Buffy offers Xan a last chance out, but he offers that researching dimensional rifts is the most exciting thing he’d had planned. He wonders if anyone else could possibly have as little a life… cue Willow coming in to find out what everyone else is up to. She quickly signs up for Operation Angel Assistance.
Scene 20: We have a montage of researching, discussing and reading more books.
Some time much later, Wills tells Buffy about Oz coming over on Christmas Eve. With the Rosenberg parentals out of town, it’ll give time for her and Oz to reconnect. Willow doesn’t seem as excited as you’d expect and she offers that things are still a bit strained and uncomfortable; She’s unsure of how to make Oz trust her again.
Buffy points out that Xander has a piece of Willow that Oz will never be able to touch. The trick will be for her to show him that he comes first.
Willow comments on their monk-writer’s love of beets and Buffy points out that she already read that one. She complains they’re getting no closer than when they started.
Scene 21: In the meantime, Angel is flopping around to his knees again [you remember, when he was trying to run from Buffy and her suggestion that he feed from her and he was doing that stumbling trot thing].
He’s got a bad case of the shakes. Meantime, business suited guy is telling Angel how he remembers his kids looking like they were just sleeping when he got home and checked on them. It wasn’t until he bent down and kissed them goodnight that he felt how cold they were. He tells Angel that when he’d grabbed him from behind, he was thinking “who would go to all that trouble to arrange them like that?” … but as he kneels down, he becomes Margaret the Maid again. She tells Angel he’s different from others beasts in the pleasure he took in slaughtering.
Angel gives an ‘oh god’ and gets to his legs to dash away. Margaret’s words follow him, “That’s right. Make a scene”.
Angel’s flight away from these apparitions is stopped by Daniel in front of him. He’s angry because he was supposed to have been married that week. Angel tells him that it wasn’t him.
Which leads to Jenny disbelievingly throwing the statement back in his face. He tells her about the demon taking over his body, but he wasn’t the one who murdered her. He tells Jenny that he was a man too, once.
She’s contemptuous of what type of man he was.
Scene 22: We flashback to Liam as the drunkard, wench chasing, good for nothing lay about who had so disappointed his father.
Scene 23: Returning from Flashbackland, Margaret is standing there again and hey! She points out he was a drunken, whoring, layabout.
He tells her he was young, he didn’t have a chance… but she cuts him off with “…a chance to die of syphilis?” and goes on to point out that he was a worthless human being before he was ever a monster.
Angel covers his head and shouts for them to stop it.
Jenny returns [and despite hearing how The First can’t touch anything later… she does a lot of interacting with Angel’s hands and hair… we’ll just have to assume it’s all in his head] to tell him that she doesn’t want to hurt him, but he needs to understand that cruelty is the only thing he ever had a true talent for. She convinces him to lie down and rest as she tells him that he mistakes his natural talent for a curse when really it’s a gift….
Commentary: I liked this scene, too, relatively. The acting is again good, especially Cornelia and Robia. But it also feels a little bit redundant and I would’ve preferred to have many more flashback-nightmares rather than the apparitions telling us over and over what a bad, bad man Angel/Angelus is/was. More show… less tell.
Scene 24: That night, the gang has been at research all day and is starting to poop out.
As Rupert is grabbing a book with purpose, as if he’s on the right track, Buffy has passed out in the stacks. She enters another dream.
As she rolls over onto her back, we see that Angel in the mansion is doing the same.
Scene 25: The dream is in Buffy’s bed, which appears to be elsewhere: either at the mansion, or maybe Angel’s childhood home? Anyway, they wordlessly pulls off one another clothes and get to lovemaking.
As Buffy is nearing a Big O, she spots flashes of one of The Bringers in the room with them. Angel, who had been gently stroking the inside of her wrist, now clamps down on to it as he lies atop her. He fangs out and sinks his teeth into her neck to her shock.
Scene 26: In the library, Buffy launches awake.
At the mansion, so does Angel… to find Jenny Calendar there with a small smile on her face. She whispers to Angel that he wants Buffy, and he should take her. She tells him to pour all of his frustrations and guilt into the Slayer, take her and then be free.
Angel refuses, but Jenny goes on to tell him that he can’t live with eternity with all of that pain inside. She tells him that this is what he is and why “we” brought you back. She seductively tells him to take Buffy and then he’ll be ready to kill her.
Commentary: I want to give a final shout out to Robia here, because she is bringing on the spine chills. This is really the last great scene that she’s in and it’s nicely moody and dark. I also like the confirmation, finally, that this isn’t actually Jenny as the reference to “we” in relation to bringing Angel back specifically to kill Buffy kinda blows the point. The only thing that I kind of roll my eyes on is Angel intense look that is supposed to make us think that maybe he’s fallen under The First’s sway.
Scene 27: At the library, Buffy is coming out of the stacks and trying to get her head together after her intense dream. Giles, coincidentally, is headed to the library table from his office and calls her over to take a look at some old parchments that he located.
Rupert has found documents on The First Evil, which would have the power to have brought Angel back from the Acathla Hellgate. The parchments have drawings of The Bringers who Buffy recognize from her latest dream. Giles warns that she can’t fight The First, as it’s not a physical being but Buffy offers she can fight the Harbingers who are working the mojo against Angel. Xan wonders how they’ll find them.
Scene 28: The following morning, Buffy and Xander take a road trip to Willy’s bar.
Willy amusingly loudly calls out a greeting to The Slayer, which is the vampire and demon’s cue to mosey casually toward the back exit [probably the sewer entrance where Willy had delivered Angel to Spike].
During the questioning of Willy, Buffy tries to play good guy while Xander is a little too into his role as bad cop, which he’s not really gifted for. Willy, somewhat reluctantly, goes ahead and tells her about the migration from Sunnydale’s lower inhabitants underground, suggesting that something is scaring them off. He offers it could be her priest guys’ doing.
As Buffy thanks him for the information and they start to leave, Willy offers to Xander that he did a very good job and he was definitely intimidated by him. Xander is geekily pleased.
Scene 29: Outside the bar, Buffy and Xander have to consider how little help “underground” is when Sunnydale has been built on miles and miles of sewer pipes, natural cave formations and a Hellmouth portal.
Scene 30: That evening, we see why Willow wasn’t with Buffy and Xander rousting Willy the Snitch. She’s been busy preparing for her date with Oz.
When he comes into the Rosenberg house with vids, he finds subdued lighting and Willow in a sexy red dress with the fireplace going. He’s momentarily stunned into wordlessness as he was expecting some popcorn and movie night.
As Oz sits down on the sofa next to her, the Barry White starts up on the stereo. Oz tells Willow that he’s kinda coming into the middle of a play and he doesn’t know his lines or much about the plot.
Wills points out that they’re alone in a nervous fashion. She tries to suggest that she’s ready to have sex with him, but she can’t bring herself to actually say “sex” which kind of marks her as maybe not quite as ready as she wants Oz to think that she is.
Oz tells her not to take it the wrong way, but he’s not ready. This confuses Wills as she figured he’s already done “that thing”, which he has but he tells her that this is different. He goes on to tell her that she has the Barry working for her and everything that she set up is real good, but he doesn’t want her to go through with losing her virginity as some sort of test to prove to him that she’s not thinking of Xan anymore.
Wills offers that she just wants him to know how she feels about him and he smiles that he’s got the message. They kiss.
Commentary: This scene is so wonderful. It’s sweet and it’s funny and far from leaving Willow looking and feeling rejected, it actually cements her and Oz as back. I absolutely love the cuteness of Willow trying to talk about having sex without saying it and Oz’ stunned reaction.
Seth and Aly’s magic works again.
Scene 31: At the Summers’, Joyce is adding another log to the completely unnecessary fire in the fireplace. Buffy makes a comment about the fire driving away the blistering heat while adding some last minute touches to the tree trimming. Joyce insists it’s lovely… before stating she should turn on the air conditioning.
Joyce asks Buffy “So, Angel’s on top again?” which causes Buffy to start, but Joyce was talking about Angel or Star for topping the tree. Buffy opts for the Star this year. They’re interrupted by the doorbell.
Scene 32: This turns out to be Faith. She offers that her party thing turned out to look like it might be a drag… she’s not fooling Buffy, who isn’t fooling Faith that she hadn’t already figured there wasn’t a party.
Buffy gives her a small smile and welcomes her in.
Faith has brought a gift for each of them, but warns that they’re “crappy”. As Buffy runs upstairs to get the gifts she bought [including for Faith, unexpectedly], Joyce offers Faith nog.
Commentary: Ugh! No, not “ugh” because of this scene: It’s a wonderful scene that let’s us see Faith looking vulnerable, unsure and desperate for some human connection… explaining why she hasn’t left Sunnydale of her own volition with Kakistos not on her back anymore. Faith, despite being rough around the edges wants the Scooby Gang experience, and the sad thing is that she would actually fit in just fine if she wasn’t so defensive whenever things start going well and if the Gang weren’t in the continuing habit of getting into their own stuff without remembering to invite her.
Neither party are sure how to incorporate Faith into each other’s lives and it leaves our other Slayer in a horribly vulnerable position… and we know where that is going to lead.
When I see Faith, Buffy and Joyce here and then remember where it all leads… including Faith and Buffy’s relationship currently in the comics… it just breaks my heart a bit. It didn’t need to be the way it turned out.
Scene 33: When Buffy goes into her room to get the gifts, she finds Angel waiting for her and he slams her bedroom door closed. Angel tries to ask Buffy for help, but his attention is focused on her bed and the hangover of the dream of feeding on her again, this time not stopping until it’s fatal.
As Angel is obviously struggling with not staring at Buffy’s neck, she’s asking him to just tell her what is happening. But he’s distracted by Jenny-apparition again, egging him on to touch her, to taste her, and ultimately to free himself in her.
[Oh, shut up Fake_Jenny Bitch!]
Angel tells Buffy to stay away from him, which is confusing since he came to her. But she pushes past that to tell him that something else is doing this to him. She tries to break through his confusion, but he looks at her like he’s gearing up for an attack.
He’s only able to resist the impulse when The First opens its yap again. Instead he shouts to be left alone and dives out of Buffy’s window, leaving her scared for him.
Scene 34: Downstairs, Buffy gets Faith to watch out for her mom while she rushes off. Faith is willing, if really confused as to what the hell is going on, but Buffy offers a promise to tell her everything when she gets back.
Faith tells her to watch her back.
Scene 35: Buffy has rushed to Giles’ apartment for help… immediate, emergency help. He offers that he doesn’t know what to do to stop The First.
Buffy tells Giles that she’s afraid they’re losing him. He tells her that if he truly becomes a danger she may have to kill him again. He asks her if she can do that.
Scene 36: In the mansion, Angel is yelling at Jenny that he can’t do it. She keeps picking at him and picking at him, telling him he was never a fighter so why should he start trying now. She tells him that sooner or later he’s going to drink from her again. Angel says back that he’d never hurt her, but Jenny tells him that he was born to hurt her and asks if he’s learned nothing after the last year.
Angel determines that if he can’t fight against his demonic nature, then he’ll suicide. Jenny tells him he doesn’t have the strength for that, and he replies he doesn’t need strength. He just needs the sun to rise. He heads out into the dark night.
Jenny watches him leave -- she shrugs that his death is almost as good as Buffy’s.
Scene 37: Back at Giles’ they’ve dug out the books again. But this time, Rupert finds a clue as to how to locate where the Harbingers might be located.
The florid text leads Buffy to suspect they’re hidden below the Christmas tree stand where there was the circle of dead trees.
Buffy digs where the dead trees are grouped with a handy axe. She finds a cavern conveniently close to the surface and goes in. She’s able to kill two of the harbingers while the others run away and she’s able to disrupt their chanty circle of dream-image manipulation.
Jenny, for the first time, appears to Buffy. She tells her she’s impressed. Buffy tells “her” that she’ll never have Angel but The First goes on a spiel about how Buffy can’t fight it and that It’s the thing that darkness fears… yadda yadda… which Buffy short circuits by telling her she gets it already: She’s evil.
The First dissipates after telling Buffy that Angel will be dead by sunrise.
Commentary: Okay, that was cute. I was kinda-sorta starting to roll my eyes at how long The First was going on and on with its monologue. But obviously this was deliberate to set Buffy up with “Do we have to chat about it all day?” so I totally loved it.
I also loved Jenny First telling Buffy that she has no idea what she’s messing with only for Buffy to say, “Lemme guess… is it… evil?”
I think I coulda done without the silly looking CGI Spirit Beast, but otherwise that confrontation was more fun than I thought it’d be.
Scene 39: Buffy races back to the mansion calling for Angel, but obvs he’s not there.
She races off into the night, guessing that if Angel is going to die by sunlight, it’ll be on the bluff overlooking Sunnydale. She finds him there watching over the town.
He’s teary as Buffy begs him to get inside. They argue over whether Angel is a worthwhile person to survive, and whether he’s strong enough to fight anymore. He tells Buffy that part of him wanted to kill her, to drink from her until he couldn’t remember all of this weight he’s carrying, until he loses his soul again.
He tells Buffy that he’s weak and that he’s never been anything else. Buffy agrees he was weak, but tells him that everyone is, that every person fails. She tells Angel that if he dies now, here, before he can make Amends for what he’s done, then all he ever was, was a monster.
Angel orders her to go, but she tells him she won’t let him do this. She punches him, he retaliates by throwing her to the ground. Before she can get up, he’s on her, grabbing her by her shoulders and shouting in her face, asking her if he’s really worth saving, if he’s a righteous man?
Buffy is crying heavily now, too. She reminds him that she killed him and it didn’t help her stop loving him so much. She pushes him off of her. She shouts at him that she hates all of this, especially how it’s so hard and how he’s able to hurt her so badly.
She tells Angel that she knows everything that he did, because he did it to her.
She goes on to tell him that she wishes she wished him dead, but she can’t. He’s still on the “let me be strong by burning away” thing and she tells him angrily that if she can’t convince him to stay then she doesn’t know what can. She tells him to go ahead and burn, but don’t expect her to watch, or to mourn him.
As she rants, snowflakes start to fall from the sky as a sudden cold front moves through.
She and Angel are left to gaze up into the wintery skies in confusion as Sunnydale, CA receives a sudden, magical snowfall.
Commentary: So, this is our episode’s big scene and I gotta say… It just didn’t hit with me. I mean the acting was good and Sarah is giving some great ugly-cry face and David is acting his little heart out, but it all felt so… melodramatic. And I feel like it goes on a bit too long before the magical snow mercifully intervenes. I do love many of lines in themselves, if they just weren’t surrounded by so much other high drama. The part where Angel in anguish asks Buffy if he’s a righteous man and the part where Buffy tells him that she knows all of the stuff he did, because he did it to her and she forgives him any way are really nicely acted by both.
Scene 40: In Willow’s bedroom, her and Oz have been lying - dressed - on her bed. They note the sudden snowing outside.
Scene 41: At the Summers’, Joyce and Faith comes out onto the porch with Faith giving the snow a large smile.
Scene 42: Giles glances out of the window with disbelief.
Scene 43: Xander, in his backyard sleeping bag, is awoken by snowflakes falling on him.
Scene 44: And in Sunnydale, the weather man is back on tv telling everyone of a freak, extreme cold front hovering over Sunnydale and warning that the area isn’t likely to see any sun peeking through that day.
Buffy and Angel walk through downtown, hand in hand and wondering at the snowfall.
Commentary: Okay, so yeah… the magic snow. I know that it’s more than a bit cheezy-whiz but I gotta tell ya all. I don’t mind it a bit. [Okay, there was that bit where the snow that Sarah and David are walking through looks like Cool-Whip, but otherwise….]
It was wonderful to see especially Faith with a genuinely pleased and innocent smile on her face and I loved that everybody was given a “moment” to appreciate this magical event. After that bluff scene, it was nicely unusual to end on joy, rather than weeping or terror about what is to come. I dug it.
There, I said it. And I won’t be shamed.
The Good: Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green on screen together. Both of them are terrific in this episode when Willow and Oz are talking and feeling out where they're going to go from here.
I loved Kristine and Sarah's acting together when Joyce guilts Buffy into inviting Faith for Christmas, and then turns around and completely refuses to talk about Giles joining them, too.
I liked the creepy Harbinger eye mutilation.
That scene of Angel dropping in on Giles to ask for his help, only to be interrupted by Jenny Calendar's apparition was just great. I just loved both ASH and Robia in this scene.
I enjoyed the flashbacks of some of Angelus' repulsive behavior that Angel is paying emotionally for.
I defy you all: I liked the magic snow saving Angel from extreme sunburn.
The Bad: I'm sorry, but Xander continues to sleep outside in Sunnydale and he doesn't end up dead? And even more strange, this "tradition" of Xander's is something that is coming as news to Willow... his oldest friend? Hmmm... I don't think so. I also just don't buy that if Willow didn't know Xan made a habit of avoiding his family on Christmas by sleeping in the backyard that he'd have spilled all of this to Cordelia, despite their dating. No, no, that whole scene is wrong.
Other Thoughts: The Xanderish side commentary right off the bat was a bit overdone and boorish which left me irritated to start off the episode. But I am glad that Buffy, this time, told him to knock it off. And I really liked Buffy's retiscence in bringing anything revolving Angel to Giles. I like the continuity in this episode when it comes to Angel.
I also liked that Cordy/Xan/Willow/Oz was also brought up and the way that one couple finds their way back while another doesn't. It's nice to have one couple growing stronger at least.
I have mixed feelings about Angel and Buffy's big confrontation scene; I liked many of the lines and I liked most of the acting, but some of it tipped over into melodrama that just struck me wrong. This is especially true of Buffy's "what about me... I tried to make you go away..." part that is too much and David is swerving drunkenly between great acting and bad soap opera. I wish their whole mutual speeches to one another had been trimmed just a little bit to pull things back some.
The Score: The episode feels slow to get going and seems to coast through a lot of scenes, but is nicely puntuated by others. And though I liked the confrontation of Buffy trying to save Angel from his suicide by sunlight, it also felt like it was too much. I have real mixed feelings on this one.
3.50 out of 5 stars
Next up: Another Buffy: "Gingerbread", but I'll probably have A&F and Buffy latest comic issues reviewed and posted first just because of the work scheduling.