“Lie to Me”
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
We open on a playground at night. A little boy is sitting on the jungle gym, waiting for his mom to pick him up. (So how long has he been waiting, exactly? There are no other kids out there and it’s the dead of night. Has this child been abandoned?) Drusilla comes walking up to him. She plans on having him for breakfast, but before she can get near him, Angel appears and tells the kid to run home.
Angel and Drusilla have a history, one that fills Angel with so much shame and remorse that he doesn’t even move when she gets all up in his grill. Drusilla misses the soulless version of him. Buffy’s nightly patrol has brought her to the roof of a building near the playground. From her angle, it looks like Angel and Drusilla might be kissing. She’s hurt and confused, but she leaves rather than trying to confront him about it.
The next day at school, Jenny (yay, she’s back!) is refusing to tell Giles what they’re going to do for their date. They’re still super flirty (by which I mean that Jenny is still flirty and Giles still stuttery) and into each other. The relationship must’ve been going well offscreen.
Buffy, who’s still feeling gloomy about what she witnessed the night before, joins Giles. He notices she’s out of spirits, so he gives her the night off from patrolling. She appreciates this consideration, but then he suggests that she spend time with Angel, which puts her right back on her depression spiral.
In history class, Cordelia is strongly identifying with Marie Antoinette while Xander looks on incredulously. Behind them, Buffy and Willow pass notes about the mysterious woman Angel met at the playground.
After class, Buffy and Willow continue their conversation out loud, and Xander joins in. He’s psyched that Angel’s done something to get him in the doghouse, and he wants them all to celebrate by going to the Bronze. Buffy’s not feeling it, but then her old friend and crush from Hemery, Billy “Ford” Fordham shows up unexpectedly. She’s instantly smiley and enthusiastic again. He’s transferring to Sunnydale High. Buffy invites Ford to come to the Bronze with them, and she and Ford head off to the admissions office arm in arm. Xander is horrified that yet another cute guy is in Buffy’s orbit.
They’re all playing pool at the Bronze later, and Ford’s been telling Willow and Xander embarrassing stories about younger Buffy. When Buffy goes to grab a drink, Angel appears at the counter next to her. She passive-aggressively grills him about his activities the previous night, then storms off when he doesn’t tell her the truth. He doesn’t get the hint, though, and follows her over to the other three. She reluctantly introduces him to Ford, then leaves with Ford. Willow tries to invite Angel to stay and play pool with her and Xander, but he vanishes.
Outside, Ford asks Buffy about Angel, but then she notices the sounds of a likely vampire attack nearby. She sends Ford back to the Bronze with a very feeble distraction. After a few seconds, he follows her instead, and he sees her fighting the vampire! When she stakes it, he makes his presence known, and she tries to pretend nothing happened. She is, as always, a terrible liar. But it’s cool, ‘cause Ford already knows she’s the Slayer. (Wait, he found out about that while she was still in L.A., and he never contacted her about it before now? Kind of a jerk move, dude! She got expelled and lost all of her friends; you couldn’t show a little support?)
Buffy and Willow talk about Ford knowing she’s the slayer on the phone a little later that night. Buffy’s relieved that Ford knows, because now she won’t have to hide it from him. Cut to Ford walking into this very goth club where there are a bunch of old portraits on the walls, people with overblown Victorian clothing and dark makeup wandering around, and old vampire movies playing on all the TVs. Ford wants to become a vampire! He’s going to betray Buffy to do it!
Willow is getting ready for bed when Angel knocks on her window. She invites him in, and she’s adorably awkward. He wants her help digging up information about Ford. It’s partly about jealousy, but it’s more about his gut feeling that there’s something up with Ford. (Also, what was the makeup artist thinking? Angel looks like someone covered his face in flour and then painted his lips bright pink, and Willow is wearing way too much mascara and maroon lipstick for an unfashionable nerd who’s getting ready for bed.)
Willow discovers that Ford isn’t registered at Sunnydale High at all, which doesn’t make sense. Angel has to leave to avoid being caught by Willow’s mom, and he tells Willow not to tell Buffy about their investigation.
The next day, Buffy and Ford walk up to Willow, who is even worse at subterfuge than Buffy. She’s extremely tightly wound about keeping a secret from Buffy, and she flees at the earliest opportunity. Giles comes to give Buffy the number of Jenny’s beeper in case anything of a Plot A nature happens while they’re on their date, and she tells him Ford knows she’s the Slayer.
That night, Buffy takes Ford on a tour of the town, which ends at the high school, where two vampires are lurking! Buffy fights one of them and stakes him, but Ford merely threatens the other for information, then lets her go while Buffy isn’t looking. She’s kind of impressed that he took a vampire down on his first night out.
Angel, Willow, and Xander are following up on a lead from Willow’s computer investigations. They’re heading to the underground club. Angel says something about how Ford’s lack of a paper trail is “incriminating enough,” but do 18-year-olds really do things that leave paper trails normally? That seems a little weird. Anyway, once they’re in the club, they quickly gather that it’s a club for people who worship (and aspire to become) vampires. If Ford has ties to this place, then it looks like Angel’s gut feeling about him was right.
Meanwhile, Buffy has pulled Giles and Jenny away from their date (which was a monster truck rally!) because vampires on campus seems like something Giles should know about. She sees a photo of Drusilla lying in an open book, and when Giles explains who she is, it ratchets her worries and suspicions about Angel a few notches higher. They’re about to start researching Drusilla when the vampire Ford said he killed comes bursting out of Giles’s office, carrying one of his books. She escapes before Buffy can slay her, but not before she recognizes her. Now she’s suspicious of Ford too.
At the abandoned factory, Drusilla is crooning at her dead pet bird. Spike isn’t happy that she went out hunting alone. He’s especially unhappy because Dru ran into Angel on that hunt. He seems to have quite a sore spot about Drusilla and Angel. Ford shows up at the factory. Ford is very into old TV clichés, which makes Spike very annoyed, but Drusilla insists on them hearing Ford out. Ford knows who Spike is, and he wants to be turned into a vampire in exchange for bringing Spike the Slayer.
Buffy’s drinking tea or hot chocolate or something in her kitchen when Angel comes to her back door. He wants to talk about Ford. Buffy isn’t happy to see him. She’s even less happy when he reveals that Willow and Xander helped him with his secret Ford investigation (even though she now knows Ford’s up to something shady). She demands to know about Drusilla. Before he tells her anything, he asks if she loves him. I don’t think he could handle it if she hated him again, like she did in “Angel.” She does love him, but she’s not sure she can trust him.
So he starts talking. It turns out that Angel’s not cheating on her with the evil vamp lady, but, as he says, the truth is kind of worse. Before he got his soul, Drusilla was his greatest sin. She was good, pious, and completely innocent. He drove her slowly insane by killing everyone she cared about, then turned her into a vampire when she tried to flee to a convent. Buffy somewhat regrets asking for the truth. Angel tells her about Ford now, and about the vampire-worshipping crowd in that club.
The next day at school, Ford finds Buffy and invites her to a “surprise” outing that night. She plays along, but we can see that she’s almost as hurt by Ford’s betrayal as she was when she thought Angel had something going on with Drusilla. She agrees to meet him that night.
Willow and Xander are waiting for Buffy inside. She’s feeling a little frosty towards both of them for their part in Angel’s investigation. Willow tries to explain that they were only checking Ford’s story out of concern, and they lied about it in case there was nothing to worry about. This doesn’t really make Buffy happier.
At the underground club, Ford’s two main sidekicks, Diego and Chanterelle, are updating him on the preparations for that night. Diego mentions that some people claiming to be Ford’s friends (Angel, Willow, and Xander) showed up the other night. Chanterelle is really worried that something will go wrong and she won’t be able to become a vampire. Ford assures them that everything will go according to plan.
Enter Buffy! Who is determined that everything not go according to plan. Unfortunately for her, Ford has pulled a Batman Gambit. He tells her he wants to be a vampire, and she realizes that he was planning to trade her for getting turned. Her coming to the club early because she found out he was up to something was all part of his plan. Diego locks them in, and even Buffy can’t break out (it’s a bomb shelter). Buffy tries to convince them that the vampires are actually evil and going to kill them, but it takes more than that to disillusion a fanatic.
Sunset! Spike, Drusilla, and all their minions head out from the factory. In the bomb shelter, Buffy is still trying to call Ford out on his crap. Becoming a vampire doesn’t mean you become immortal; it means a demon takes your place in your life. Also, all the vampire worshippers are just going to get killed, not turned, and that’ll be on Ford. Ford isn’t swayed. The reason he’s doing this is that he has brain cancer. He’s going to die within months anyway. Becoming a vampire is the only exit he can see.
Buffy feels sorry for him, but it doesn’t change that mass murder is evil. She’s not going to let him have his immortality. They hear the sound of Spike’s guys driving up. She begs Ford one last time to help her get everyone out, and then she tries to talk sense into all the vampire-worshippers, but Ford knocks her down the stairs with a sucker punch.
The vampires arrive! Chanterelle goes up to meet them, but one look at Spike in vampface, and she knows she had the wrong idea about her “lonely ones.” Spike bites her viciously and sics his minions on the rest of the vampire worshippers. Buffy throws Ford into a pillar, knocking him out. But if she tries to start fighting the vampires, she’ll be wildly outnumbered and a lot of people will die. So she goes straight for Drusilla and holds a stake to her chest.
She chose her hostage well. Spike tells his minions to stand down, and all the vampire-worshippers flee through the open door. Then Buffy throws Drusilla at him and leaves too, closing the door behind her. Now Spike, Dru, the minions, and Ford are the only ones trapped inside.
Angel, Willow, and Xander meet Buffy outside. She knows the vampires will get out before too long. They’ll have to come back later for Ford’s body. Inside, Ford points out that he held up his end of the deal, even if Spike fumbled the rest. He should still get his reward. Spike doesn’t look too keen on giving him that. The next day, Buffy goes back. Ford is lying there, dead.
Buffy and Giles are at the cemetery several days later (it has to be several days later, since Ford is already buried and has a headstone). Buffy’s a bit depressed at how things that used to be simple have become so complicated. She wants reassurance from Giles that it’ll get better as she gets older. Vampire Ford pops up out of his grave, and Buffy stakes him immediately. She asks Giles to lie to her, so he tells her that yes, things will get easier.
“Lie to Me” might be the best episode of S2 so far. Like “Angel” and “Prophecy Girl,” it’s one of those episodes where the themes transcend high school life and move into the realms of free will and destiny. But it’s not just a big sermon about doing the right thing, because everyone in the episode is lying and/or hiding something! Angel lies to Buffy to protect her from the horrible truth about himself and Drusilla. Buffy is passive-aggressive with him instead of telling him what’s really bothering her. Jenny isn’t telling Giles what they’re doing for their date. Willow and Xander aren’t telling Buffy their suspicions about Ford. The vampire-worshippers are lying to themselves about the “lonely ones.” Ford is lying to Buffy about why he’s really in town. Buffy pretends she hasn’t figured out what Ford’s up to. Giles kindly lies to Buffy about what life is like as a grownup. It’s also an arc episode. We have yet to discover why Spike sent one of his minions to steal a book from Giles. However, Spike is now 0 for 3 when it comes to encounters with Buffy and/or her allies. He’s looking less and less effective as a Big Bad.
Ford was deeply mistaken if he thought Buffy would feel sorry enough for him that she’d let him get what he wanted. She is a girl who, at sixteen, willingly sacrificed her own life to protect other people. Ford is trying to do the complete opposite: sacrifice other people to preserve his own life. She will never sympathize with Ford. His attitude, coming from someone she knew, liked, and trusted for seven years, is the greatest betrayal she has ever felt. So at first, it might seem like she left Ford locked in with the vampires out of spite. But I think it was mercy. Despite Ford’s heinous actions and intentions, she still didn’t want someone she’d cared about for so long to have to suffer that drawn-out death by brain cancer. So she let Spike turn him. The second part of her mercy was staking him before he could hurt anyone as a vampire. When Buffy asks Giles to lie to her about the trials and uncertainties of adulthood, she’s already resigned that doing the right thing is going to be difficult and miserable a lot of the time, but there’s no indication that she ever plans to stop doing it. If Joss was trying to create a role model with Buffy, he succeeded. But Buffy isn’t perfect. She’s very firm on questions of right and wrong in Plot A, but shakier in Plot B. She should have confronted Angel about Drusilla right away instead of stewing in it for two days first. Though, admittedly, only waiting two days is still a lot less passive-aggressive than I tend to be, so maybe I shouldn’t be docking her any points for it.
Willow is definitely still the most naïve of the Scoobies. She lies to avoid upsetting Buffy in case there’s nothing to be upset about. As the lies in the episode go, I think this is probably one of the lesser offenses. In the first half of the episode, Buffy wouldn’t have been open to the idea of Ford being up to something shady, so if Willow had told the truth, Buffy might not have believed it, and she would’ve been much more upset with Willow, Xander, and Angel than she ended up being. Willow doesn’t seem to be able to appreciate this distinction. To her, the girl who gets straight A’s and has never had a detention in her life, all lies are bad lies. This is consistent with her horror in “Reptile Boy” when Buffy lies to Giles so she can go to a frat party. But this doesn’t mean she isn’t trusting. She invites Angel in without hesitation and easily accepts that more than just jealousy is motivating his suspicions about Ford. Also, her attempts to include him at the Bronze are very sweet.
Xander doesn’t really have a lot to do in this episode except relapse a bit in his attitude towards Buffy. As soon as there’s another guy in the picture, he’s back to being jealous Xander from S1. It’s one of several ways this episode parallels “Angel.”
This episode doesn’t do anything to answer our questions about Giles from “Halloween,” but it does give us more, finally, on his relationship with Jenny. Oh how long I’ve been waiting for more of that. It also develops his increasingly paternal role with Buffy. He’s the only one who is honest with Buffy for the entire episode (the end conversation doesn’t count, because she told him to lie to her). Angel, Willow, Xander, and Ford all lied to her. She will forgive the former three for it, but right now, Giles has no strikes against him and is therefore her best confidant. So it’s a good thing “The Dark Age” is about to change that!
It makes perfect sense that Cordelia is barely in this episode. She is far too blunt and direct to fit into a story about the many varieties of deceit.
Now we find out some of the specifics on why Angel was so infamous before he was cursed with his soul. I don’t blame him for being too ashamed to admit it to Buffy at first, and I’m fascinated by the way he acts around Drusilla. He still sees the girl she was before he entered her life. This is why he hates himself, and why he needs to hear that Buffy loves him before he tells her about his past. I really like his scene with Willow. He clearly respects her for her mind and her position as Buffy’s best friend (and I doubt he’ll ever forget the way she yelled at him in “Reptile Boy”). Ford provides an interesting contrast to Angel. They’re both smart, attractive, and resourceful. They also have no control over their circumstances. Angel’s a vampire and Ford is dying of brain cancer. But while Angel is trying to make the most of his situation, Ford takes the selfish route. Even worse, Ford acts like this is his only choice. Sorry dude, but just because you got dealt the crappiest hand in the deck, it doesn’t make it okay for you to throw other people under the bus. Angel was living in exile for most of a century. He could have given up. He could have decided he was just a victim of circumstance, so there’s nothing he can do but keep eating people. But he made a choice every day to deny his own nature. As soon as he realized that “bite” and “avoid” weren’t his only choices (when Whistler showed him Buffy), he tentatively took the third option: helping the Slayer. Now, he’s starting to get a glimpse of the fourth and best option, which is being a force for good on his own, not just helping someone else do it.
“See? You made him do that thing where he’s gone!”
“I am trying to save you! You are playing in some serious traffic here! Do you understand that? You're going to die! And the only hope you have of surviving this is to get out of this pit right now, and my God could you have a dorkier outfit?”
“She’s a nonbeliever! She taints us.”
11/24/2015 11:57:33 am
I think this is actually one of my favorite episodes. I credit Ford for a lot of it, since he's the first one-shot teenage male antagonist and/or love interest that can actually act and gets decent lines and a compelling arc to boot. Plus, all the lying. And the Scooby-bonding. And Angel. And all the Scoobies lying, and Angel lying.
Lenore Warren, M.A.
11/24/2015 12:01:14 pm
I can definitely see what you mean. Ford is an enormous step up from Owen.
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.