Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Marita Grabiak
We open on a room full of a mixture of nerd gear and the sort of stuff you’d expect to find in a wealthy Englishman’s personal library, set to classical music, as the camera pans over to Andrew sitting in a fancy chair, wearing a robe and holding a pipe, looking directly into the camera. He’s going to tell us a story. He takes a puff of the pipe and coughs because pipes are nasty. Struggling to maintain his composure, he begins his tale.
It opens with Buffy on patrol. She fights a regular cold open level vampire, and then another. Before Andrew can finish this part of the story, he gets interrupted. He’s not actually in a lovely private library. He’s in the bathroom. Filming himself narrating. And as this is apparently the only bathroom in the house, it’s an extremely inconvenient place for him to be for extended periods of time when there are like fifty people living there. Anya in particular doesn’t appreciate it, nor does she understand his choices for how to use his free time.
Cut back to the previous night, when Andrew was also filming Buffy on patrol. He even caught her staking cold open vampire #2 on film! Buffy finds him very annoying, and he fails to convince her that this is important documentation for posterity or something. Back in the present, Anya drags him out of the bathroom so the potentials can use it. He fails to convince her this is useful as well, but he does succeed in stroking her ego until she wants to be part of it.
Cut to the basement, via a camcorder. Andrew is explaining his Big Board of impending threats. He’s drawn the Hellmouth under the high school (and when he explains it, he evades the issue of how the seal opened), the First Evil, and the Harbingers. His artwork is a bit better than Giles’s, but not by a huge margin.
Andrew takes his camcorder upstairs to film everyone crowding in the kitchen to have breakfast. Xander goes all bashful when Andrew labels him the “heart” of the operation. Andrew narrates about how the air is full of danger and foreboding, which really doesn’t seem to be the case. Spike enters and starts SMOKING INSIDE. What the crap? That’s disgusting. We go back to Andrew-vision, which gives us a dramatic cereal commercial starring Buffy and a shirtless Spike, and then Anya spinning in front of them with a bunch of grapes. Then A random potential Slayer eating cereal.
Cut to reality, where everyone’s mildly annoyed by Andrew’s antics. Particularly Buffy. Willow and Xander think it might actually be useful, and even if it’s not useful, it’s harmless. Buffy goes off on a speech about how they need to stay focused because they’re going to have to deal with the horde of über-vamps she saw in her vision. Andrew opts not to film most of it. Instead, he gives some backstory on himself. He describes himself as a supervillain who was the unequivocal leader and only cool member of the Trio. Jonathan and Warren were his bumbling moronic sidekicks.
In the kitchen, Buffy is still giving her demoralizing, chastising pep talk. Willow and Kennedy would rather pay attention to each other than Buffy. Which means they’ve recovered from any angst that came out of Willow using Kennedy as a magic battery. Andrew recounts his own highly edited experience with Dark Willow, in which he easily thwarted her attacks and stared her down with cool one-liners while Jonathan frets and hides behind him. Buffy’s speech is over! Andrew wants breakfast.
Buffy gets to the school and breaks up a fight in the hall. Then she notices a girl turning invisible. She goes over and pays attention to her so that she turns visible again. Another girl comes out of the bathroom crying because the mirror insulted her. Another kid is under so much pressure because of all his homework that the Hellmouth may literally make him explode. Wood has been beaned with a rock by a mystery assailant. Buffy puts a band-aid on him while explaining the effects of the Hellmouth on the school. She’s seen most of this stuff before, but it’s scary that it’s all happening at once.
(Brief cut to Andrew, who feels this proves his earlier point.) Back at the school, Buffy keeps talking about how on the Hellmouth, negative feelings tend to become reality. Case in point, stressed out kid explodes in the hallway, spattering the office windows with innards. Ewwwww. And why is that played for laughs? That’s horrible!
Now, Andrew is doing a spot on Dawn. He doesn’t get her Key backstory. He moves on to Willow and Kennedy, who are snogging on the couch. But Andrew is actually focusing on Xander’s excellent work repairing the house.
Buffy is telling Wood about more of the early seasons stories. They figure this excess of Hellmouth energy must be coming from the activated Seal.
Andrew is interviewing Xander and Anya together now. This is apparently the one-year anniversary of Xander leaving Anya at the altar. He doesn’t think this is a fun thing to talk about. They have an on-camera argument whether or not him leaving was the right thing to do. She points out that they clearly still love each other, so she doesn’t understand how it could have been the right thing.
The Seal somehow got unburied since the last time Buffy and Wood were down there. She tells him about her vision. They’re still slightly flirty, but mostly very serious about this problem. Wood steps on the seal and examines it. Willow didn’t manage to dig up anything on the symbology of the seal. He wonders how she can trust anyone on her team, since they’ve all been evil at one point or another.
Wait, have they? Let’s take stock. Willow, obviously. Giles was definitely flirting pretty hard with the dark side in his youth. Buffy once tried to kill Dawn, Willow, and Xander because she thought they were figments of her crazy mind. She wasn’t doing it for evil reasons, but functionally, it was a pretty evil thing to attempt. Dawn...stole stuff? Xander was possessed by a hyena once, but he wasn’t being evil of his own free will.
Anyway, the longer Wood crouches on the seal, the creepier his voice gets. When he stands up, his voice is all deep and his eyes are white. He accuses Buffy of whoring around with “that vampire.” She slams him into the wall, and he snaps out of it. They agree they need to find out what Andrew knows about the ritual he did to open the seal. In a surreal punchline to the scene, the pig Andrew failed to kill runs past them.
Andrew is filming Spike now, who’s annoyed about it. Except that this is a scripted moment of him being annoyed about it, because they do another take. Seems he’s actually just apathetic.
Xander and Anya are still discussing their relationship issues. She wants to know if he does still love her. He does. And she loves him. But she realizes he’s right that it’s hard to figure out if that still means anything for them. They both seem to want it to, and they’ve each been noticing the brave, awesome things the other has done lately. (Andrew is covertly filming this, and then rewatches it later, having memorized their dialogue because he finds it so touching.)
Buffy and Wood arrive to tell Andrew how crazy things are at the school because of the Hellmouth. He needs to fix it. Cut to the seal, where five kids kneel down around it and hold their hands out and start chanting. It glows. Bad!
Cut to Mexico several months ago. Andrew and Jonathan are having nightmares of the Hellmouth and the First sending Harbingers after potential Slayers all over the world.
In the present, Willow is having Andrew do a spell to pull out his memories about opening the seal. He’s reluctant to be so much the center of attention, because it doesn’t fit with his journalistic goals. He keeps telling his story of him and Jonathan in Mexico, because it’s relevant now. Jonathan goes to the bathroom, and the First/Warren appears to Andrew. Andrew has acquired a special knife for the ritual. He really doesn’t want to stab Jonathan. “Warren” reminds him that if he does this, they will live as gods. This is Andrew’s mental image of that:
It seems the memory spell is kind of like a Pensieve. The Scoobies think the knife Andrew used on Jonathan is probably important. Luckily (and unluckily), it’s in the silverware drawer! Gross. Kennedy finds it. There’s demonic language carved into the knife, which translates to “The blood which I spill, I consecrate to the oldest evil.” Willow does some work on it, and Buffy and Willow think Andrew can use it to push the First back a bit. Buffy, Andrew, Wood, and Spike head out. Oh, what a fun group.
The school looks like a post-apocalyptic warzone, with plenty of graffiti, burn barrels, and debris. Andrew notices the tension between Wood and Spike and hilariously assumes it’s sexual in nature, rather than extremely hostile. They get set upon by rioting students who seem to have super strength. Eventually, they subdue them enough to continue. Wood and Spike will guard the entrance to the basement so that Buffy and Andrew can finish what they came here to do.
Andrew doesn’t appreciate Buffy calling him a murderer. In his imagination, he’s constructed a much less damning version of Jonathan’s death, in which Andrew tries to tell the First he doesn’t want to do it, Jonathan realizes what’s going on, and they struggle, and Jonathan accidentally gets stabbed. Buffy seems to accept that story, because of what she saw the seal do to Wood. Andrew likes this. He imagines a further revision to Jonathan’s death, in which he goes all white-eyed and evil and repeatedly stabs Jonathan, then comes to his senses and is horrified.
It does not escape Buffy’s notice that Andrew’s story is now completely different. They reach the door to the room with the seal, and they hear chanting. It’s those kids, who now have carved symbols into their faces. Newest batch of Harbingers! Yikes.
Xander and Anya are enjoying the aftermath of having sex on Spike’s cot in the basement. But it occurs to them that maybe this wasn’t them getting back together so much as them just having sex one more time. Closure sex, like Anya thought it was going to be way back in “The Harsh Light of Day.” They’re kind of sad at that thought, but don’t seem to know how to do anything about it.
More crazy kids attack Wood and Spike. They fight. Wood ends up with a convenient stake-shaped piece of...wood, and is about to use it on an unsuspecting Spike when he gets tackled by another student. In the basement, Buffy is fighting the Harbinger kids while Andrew records and narrates. Then she pulls out the knife. She seems to think the only way to shut down the seal is by using the blood of the person who woke it up. She is rather sinister about all of this.
Andrew tries to romanticize it into his big redemption arc, and she yells at him to stop making up stories. He needs to deal with reality, and the reality is that he murdered his best friend. Andrew starts crying. Buffy isn’t enjoying this either. She’s tired of giving speeches because she doesn’t think it’ll do any good (well certainly not if she keeps giving the type she’s been giving lately). She holds Andrew out over the seal and asks him if saving the world by bleeding out over the seal will redeem him. He cries harder. No, it won’t. He admits that he was pretending it was really Warren, and that his fear of dying right now is probably how Jonathan felt. His tears fall on the seal, which immediately stops glowing. The way to turn off the seal was tears of remorse!
Up in the school, the kids suddenly stop fighting and wander off. Back at the house, Andrew finishes up his story by admitting the truth about what he did to Jonathan and that he’s pretty sure he won’t survive the coming fight, and maybe that’s what he deserves. He turns off the camera in frustration.
“Storyteller” is probably the best funny one-shot episode of S7, but it doesn’t have a whole lot to compete with. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I quite enjoyed it, for the most part. I’m pretty sure it annoyed me the last time I watched it. Andrew’s ridiculous versions of events are hilarious and easily the best things about the episode. I like that they were also relevant to the theme, which is about the importance of facing and dealing with reality instead of living in a subjective bubble. The way the Hellmouth was causing so much craziness in the school all at once was pretty interesting. The Xander/Anya side plot seemed kind of strange. Is that how exes act sometimes? I think I do like Andrew as a character now, but I still don’t agree with the writers’ decision to make an annoying murderer part of the Scoobies. Willow is already Buffy’s best friend, so it makes sense that Buffy wouldn’t want to kick her out of the gang, but Andrew spent most of the previous year being a moderately obnoxious threat. He was the least necessary member of the Trio—the villainy came from Warren and the pangs of conscience came from Jonathan. So as entertaining as Andrew can be, once again, it feels like the writers are prioritizing that over logic and the characterization of the more important characters. It’s the same thing they did when they came up with the stupid chip as an excuse to not kill Spike off, and when they didn’t bother to kill Harmony off because they thought she was funny enough to outweigh all the people she’s killing offscreen. It’s like they keep trying to recreate the way Cordelia went from an antagonist to being part of the Scoobies. The problem is that they’ve forgotten Cordelia was only a Plot B protagonist (well, until now), so she was still on Team Good Guys kind of by default. Not so for Spike, Harmony, or Andrew. Even Anya is a somewhat iffy case, but not nearly to the same degree, because she’d been downgraded from a Plot A antagonist for a few months before getting involved with the Scoobies, and she was never a Plot A threat again until S7.
Buffy continues to be a harsh and unpleasant leader, but I do like her scenes with Wood. It kind of figures that she would get along the best with someone equally gung-ho about fighting evil, when she’s currently frustrated with the gang and all the potentials for not contributing much to the fight. And her cold attitude lately also helped her to really sell her act with Andrew. The Buffy we’re used to wouldn’t be able to convince anyone she was going to gut a human to save the world, but harsh general Buffy can do that easy. Yay?
I just don’t get how Xander and Anya can’t make it work when they both clearly wish it could, particularly when they’ve had such great chemistry all season and they know they still love each other. If they know they still love each other, then they should do something about it! They shouldn’t just sleep together once and decide that was probably the end of it. How about go on some dates and see if it’s good?
Dawn basically only has a cameo in this one, but it’s a nice one!
Spike, do you really have to smoke inside the house to maintain your image? You didn’t even do that when you had no soul! His cameo in Andrew’s video is reminiscent of his part in Giles’s dream in “Restless,” though, which is pretty hilarious. And it’s very in character, in terms of how Spike is always playing the character of Spike. This is just the first time he’s done it on film.
Willow seems to be getting slowly more confident about using her magic, which makes sense, given that Kennedy has accepted her in spite of how things went last time.
“In my plan, we are beltless.”
“You put your old murder weapon in with our utensils?!”
“GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.