Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
We open season three in the graveyard, where a new vampire is digging his way out of his grave, only to find…Willow standing over him. She loses confidence as soon as he bears down on her. Xander and Oz pop out from behind cover. They fail to stop the vampire, though Oz does try to throw the stake at him as he flees. (Why is Oz wearing a 25¢ Peep Show shirt?) Buffy still hasn’t come back to Sunnydale, and they’re trying to cover the slaying while she’s gone. School’s about to start. Willow hopes Buffy will just show up at school, but she’s still expelled, so that wouldn’t be so simple.
Buffy is walking alone on a beach at sunset. Angel wraps his arms around her from behind (their theme plays on the cello—how awesome is that?). It turns out Buffy’s dreaming. She wakes up in a tiny apartment in L.A., and is it just me or does it totally look like she’s wearing one of Angel’s shirts?
The theme song has been remixed. Oz is in the credits now, and all of the clips of David Boreanaz are of Angelus.
Buffy is working in a low-end diner called Helen’s Kitchen, and her nametag says Anne. Some sleazy truckers hit on her and one of them smacks her butt. She doesn’t retaliate. She goes to take the order of a couple of unwashed kids who are very distracted by each other. The girl looks familiar somehow… And the two of them have matching ugly heart tattoos with each other’s names on them on their forearms. Ricky the boyfriend echoes a line Angel said in Buffy’s dream.
Students are getting their textbooks from Giles, and Willow reports on the attempted slaying she and the guys did the night before. Cordelia shows up. She had a very unsatisfactory summer during her fabulous resort vacation in Mexico. She’s really nervous/excited about seeing Xander again. Willow very much wants to stop talking to her, but she’s hard to escape. Oz walks up. He, you may recall, was a senior last year, so he should’ve graduated now. Except he didn’t. He’s terminally lazy, so he has to repeat twelfth grade. Willow isn’t terribly impressed, though she is okay with the idea of spending more time with him. The history teacher from “I Only Have Eyes for You” reprimands some boisterous students. Xander swings by, nervous/excited about seeing Cordelia. Larry and some other football guys are very optimistic about crushing it in football this season, especially if not very many students die mysteriously. Cordelia and Xander see each other and are both surprised by how underwhelmed they are. All of that stuff I just summarized happened in a single three-and-a-half-minute shot, so you know Joss is the one who directed it. I really like how it shows the characters, both main and peripheral, moving through the business of the first day of school.
And then we abruptly cut from all that life and energy to Buffy sitting alone in her silent apartment. She walks to work, passing a guy talking to a kid on the curb and an old homeless lady saying “I’m no one” over and over.
In the library, Giles has a lead on Buffy’s possible location, which could be Oakland. He’s been looking for her all summer. Xander doesn’t think he’ll find Buffy until Buffy wants him to.
The girl from the diner catches up to Buffy on the street that evening after her shift. She’s Chanterelle from “Lie to Me”! Only now she’s Lily. She’s an unwelcome reminder to Buffy of her past, and Buffy’s a little worried she might give her away. Lily and her boyfriend are homeless, squatting in various abandoned buildings. Lily is trying to be friendly, and Buffy is slightly receptive, but when Lily tries to invite her to a party, Buffy backs away. An old guy bonks into them when they’re arguing over whether or not Buffy should pay for Lily and her boyfriend to go to the party. The old guy staggers into the street, and Buffy runs to push him out of the way of a car. She gets hit instead, and it looks really nasty.
She gets up from the road, and despite the concern of several people, including Lily and the driver, she’s fine and runs away. She collides with the dude who was handing out fliers to kids earlier. He seems to be some kind of semi-religious homeless shelter guy. He gives Buffy a flier and does a little speech about despair. This fades into a song from a band at the Bronze, cut over a montage of sad homeless people in L.A. It’s a nicer, more theme-appropriate song than usual. “Back to Freedom.” Xander is bemoaning his failed attempt to reignite the spark with Cordelia, and the Scoobies as a group are bemoaning their failed attempt at vampire slayage. Xander thinks their chances might improve if they use Cordy as bait.
Giles goes to Buffy’s house to tell Joyce that the lead went nowhere. Giles assures Joyce that wherever she is, she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Joyce tells him she blames him for Buffy leaving (which is a bit harsh). She feels like Giles took Buffy away from her because of the slaying and everything. He points out that he didn’t make her who she is, and Joyce asks a major theme question of the episode: “And who exactly is she?”
Well, right now, she’s Anne, the diner waitress who keeps her head down and makes her own way. Lily comes to her at the diner, very worried because her boyfriend has gone missing. She can’t call the police because Ricky would be in trouble with his parole officer. Buffy doesn’t want to get involved, and Anne makes a major theme-related statement: “But that’s who you are. You help people.” In the end, Lily just seems too helpless to ignore, so Buffy finally caves.
Buffy and Lily go to the blood donation center (which Lily and Ricky frequent because apparently they pay you to donate blood in L.A. in 1998), but he isn’t there and hasn’t been recently. The nurse lady seems a bit shifty.
That night, Buffy is checking out some of those buildings Lily said she and Ricky crash in. She finds the old guy she saved from getting hit. He’s dead—drank a bottle of drain cleaner. He has the same tattoo on his arm that we saw on Ricky. Uh oh.
Buffy goes back to her apartment, where Anne has been waiting. She tells Lily she thinks Ricky’s dead. She doesn’t take it well, especially when Buffy says that the body she found was an old man. Lily is extremely upset, and she doesn’t want to accept it. Lily thinks it might be because Buffy’s in town that this is happening. Buffy snaps at her, and she leaves.
Down on the street, flier guy finds Lily. He claims he saw Ricky. Crap. Hello, villain. She goes with him.
Buffy, meanwhile, breaks into the blood donation place to check their files. She finds some suspicious stuff. Several people have been marked “candidate” in their files, but it doesn’t say what they’re candidates for. The shifty nurse lady comes in and threatens to call the police, but Buffy casually rips the phone out of the wall. Buffy makes some subtle threats of her own, and the shifty nurse admits that she gives Flier Guy the names of healthy people with no family.
Lily is at Flier Guy’s “Family Home” place, getting ready for something called a “cleansing.” He is acting really suspicious, but no warning bells are going off in her head yet.
The Scoobies are going for Take 2 against the vampire from last night. Xander and Cordelia get caught up in an argument. Willow is so annoyed by their antics that she mimes staking herself. The vampire, meanwhile, is sneaking up behind her.
Unsubtle Buffy tries to get inside Family Home, but she realizes she’s being Unsubtle Buffy and instead switches to Straightforward Buffy. She breaks in just when Flier Guy is trying to get Anne into this creepy pool of gross-looking water. It turns out, it’s not a pool at all! It’s a portal. All three of them end up on the other side, and Flier Guy is actually a demon who’s been wearing a human mask and wig.
They’re in some kind of huge factory with giant vats of molten metal. Demon slave-drivers are keeping the humans working hard.
Xander and Cordy are still arguing when Willow gets attacked. After Oz gets tossed aside, Xander and Cordelia manage to stake the vampire together, which was exciting enough to reignite the sexual tension between them. Cue the melodramatic make-out music.
Buffy and Lily are in a cell in the scary factory hell dimension place. Lily has pretty much given up already. Demon Flier Guy explains the time dilation of this dimension. A few hours of earth time equal a few decades of hell dimension time. The people they take off the streets die of old age before anyone realizes they’ve gone missing—if anyone was looking.
A taskmaster demon who looks like he has a football sewn on his head—if it was a football made of human skin—explains the situation to all the new recruits.
They’re supposed to say “I’m no one” when he asks them who they are, or he’ll pulverize them. When he gets to Buffy, she says “I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Identity reclaimed! She kills Football Head Demon and leads the other humans on a rebellion. Buffy’s going to cause a ruckus by fighting with the demons so that Lily can get everyone else back through the portal. Flier Guy is incensed. There are a couple of really excellent power shots in this fight, and I think they’re both in the opening credits until season five.
Buffy is still fighting, but Lily gets captured by Flier Guy before she can escape. He makes a big speech about how humans who rebel will be made an example of. Lily puts an end to his speech by pushing him off the balcony, and Buffy starts fighting again. She heaves up a portcullis so the humans can escape. Flier guy tries to tackle her, but he only succeeds in knocking her through and getting his own legs skewered by the falling portcullis. Buffy does her best Gandhi impression and kills him. Apparently she’s just as bad at impressions as she is at subterfuge.
Back at Buffy’s apartment, she’s actually giving the place to Lily! She’s also giving Lily her job. Lily isn’t sure she’ll be good at taking care of herself, but Buffy reassures her. Lily asks if she can be Anne now.
Joyce hears a knock on the door. She seems to realize halfway to it who’s there. She opens it, and it’s Buffy. They don’t say anything. They just hug.
Once again, the season opener is the emotional bridge between seasons, rather than the plot bridge, and it’s just as effective with “Anne” as it was with “When She Was Bad.” One time, I was in a Sunday school lesson where we talked about how being damned is a lot like being dammed. It’s not just suffering; it’s the absence of progress as an individual. There seems to be a lot of that going on in “Anne.” Buffy has exiled herself to Los Angeles and abandoned her identity. She’s working in a diner called Helen’s Kitchen. It’s a form of hell—not the kind filled with torment, but the kind without individual progress. All she achieved by running from her problems was to become stuck. The kids who got taken into Ken’s hell dimension became “no one” there, but Buffy was no one in her Anne persona. It wasn’t until she traded her Plot B hell for a more literal Plot A hell (hitting bottom) and was placed in a position where other people depended on her that she found the mantle of Buffy the Vampire Slayer again. The snippets of the Scoobies’ first day back at school and their attempts to patrol without Buffy help to show both how much Sunnydale needs Buffy and how much Buffy needs the people she loves in Sunnydale. Xander and Cordelia’s inability to reconnect at first is sort of a sillier parallel to the hell of no progress. They overcome their problems shortly before Buffy overcomes hers, which links the two plots nicely.
When Buffy fought Angelus, all she had left was herself, but in “Anne,” she’s even turned away from that. She’s gone beyond grieving for Angel and is now just wallowing in despair. She’s succeeded in securing a job that pays well enough for her to afford rent in Los Angeles, which is sort of impressive, but she’s merely living in a purgatory of her own creation. She’s cut herself off from both her Plot B concerns (family, friends, school) and her Plot A ones (slaying). Granted, as far as she knows, she’s still a wanted fugitive who was expelled and isn’t welcome in her own home, so it’s not like she’s just being melodramatic. It’s wonderful to see Buffy find herself again. At least, her Plot A self. Plot B will come next time, and that’s more of a doozy.
The focus is on Buffy so much that there won’t be a lot to say about the other characters individually. Willow is still dating Oz (yay!) and she’s sad but cautiously hopeful that Buffy will come back soon. I think she’s the most hopeful character of the entire cast, actually. Xander and Cordelia don’t seem quite as focused on Buffy as Willow; they’re more wrapped up in their own drama. Oz is still Oz: cool, unmotivated, and there for Willow always.
Largely because of his scene with Joyce, I think Giles stands out among the non-Buffy cast. Now that Joyce knows what’s been going on with Buffy all this time, their roles as somewhat opposed parental forces is thrown into sharp relief. Emotionally, Giles is Buffy’s father figure, but he’s still her Plot A mentor. Joyce hates Plot A, so she hates Giles by extension. She doesn’t understand yet what a vital role Giles has played in keeping Buffy alive through everything she’s had to face.
“Oh, I’m gonna be busy a lot, but only until three, and that’s when you usually get up.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.