“Faith, Hope, and Trick”
Written by David Greenwalt
Directed by James A. Contner
It’s another lovely day at Sunnydale High, and Willow is reluctant to take advantages of her new privileges as a senior. Specifically, off-campus lunch. So Xander and Oz pick her up under the arms and carry her off campus until she gets over her paranoia about rule-breaking. The gang all goes over to join Buffy, who has a picnic spread waiting for them. Her reenrollment is still a work in progress, but she can at least bring treats. The two couples are tactfully tactless about not acting couple-y around Buffy. Also, Willow is now shipping Buffy with a complete dweeb named Scott Hope. But I’m just going to call him Dweeby Guy because he irritates me.
Despite her atrocious taste in rebound guys for her best friend, Willow has an adorable moment with Oz during this conversation, so it’s not a complete loss. Cordelia is willing to ship Buffy with anyone who won’t murder all of them.
That night, a limousine pulls up to a fast food place called Happy Burger. There’s a super slick black guy in a suit inside, and also a large guy sitting back in the shadows. These are clearly villains, and their goal is killing the Slayer. Turns out, they’re vampires! The black guy pulls the fast food employee out through the drive-thru window and bites him. The limousine drives away with his legs still flailing.
Buffy is at the Bronze, but since she’s dancing with Angel and Angel is wearing a white shirt, it’s a dream sequence. Her Claddagh ring falls off. He picks it up, then crushes it in his hand until blood starts gushing out of his fist. This is a dream about Buffy’s guilt over sending him to hell. His chest starts bleeding where she impaled him, and then his face gets all zombie-like.
When she wakes up, she pulls her Claddagh ring out of the drawer of her nightstand. It’s time for her final meeting with Snyder to find out everything she needs to do before she gets back into school. Buffy and Joyce are both rather sassy at him. After they leave his office, the secretary buzzes Snyder with a call from the Mayor, and he looks nervous.
Willow is happy for Buffy getting reenrolled, and they’re heading to the library to see Giles about something. Willow has a foot-in-mouth moment with Giles. (And I’m pretty sure Giles doesn’t make a cluck-cluck sound with his tongue when he’s angry but too British to say why. Giles takes off his glasses and cleans them whenever he’s having emotions he’s too British to vocalize.)
Giles is working on a spell to bind Acathla so it’ll never wake up again. Willow very much wants to help, since it’s magic. Giles rebuffs her offer; he’s more interested in getting the exact details from Buffy about how she stopped Acathla in the first place. She has to go take a make-up exam before they can really get into it, though. Willow starts talking about the herbs on the counter, which she’s been experimenting with over the summer. Giles suddenly gets stern. He’s not happy that she’s dabbling in magic, but he’s not stopping her.
Bronze time! Willow and Oz are cutely making out on one of the couches, and Buffy brings them drinks, psyched to have passed her exam. Dweeby Guy shows up (at Willow’s behest, a detail he fails to keep under wraps) to awkwardly ask Buffy to dance. Buffy declines, equally awkwardly. She doesn’t feel ready to date. Cordelia and Xander come over, Cordelia drawing their attention to a dancing couple. The guy is rocking moves a couple decades old and the girl isn’t dancing so much as grinding.
Buffy realizes that the guy is a vampire, so she leads the way out of the club after them, accidentally giving Dweeby Guy the wrong impression as she does. But the girl doesn’t need rescuing. She’s Faith the Vampire Slayer, and she stakes the vampire herself.
When we come back from commercial, the Scoobies are listening with rapt attention to Faith’s racy stories of vampire slayage back in Boston. Buffy’s getting shoved a little bit over to the sideline. Cordelia figures out that Faith is now a Slayer because Kendra died. Faith says she’s here because her Watcher is at a retreat in England, and she wanted to meet Buffy. Buffy’s more than willing to chat with Faith, but Xander cuts her off, wanting to hear more stories about Faith slaying vampires while naked. Cordelia puts a stop to that, thankfully. Faith asks Buffy what her toughest slay was, and Buffy immediately flashes back to Angel. Oz asks Faith her position on werewolves, and before Faith can even answer, Willow outs him as a werewolf. (Uh, maybe wait until after she’s verified that she doesn’t kill werewolves before you drop that factoid on her, Wil.) Faith is confused that Buffy’s Watcher didn’t go to England.
Giles tells the Scoobies (plus Faith) about that retreat in England. He’s a bit wistful and bitter not to have been invited. Faith assures him that he’s too young and cute to waste his time with stuffy old losers like them. (Ha! Jenny isn’t the only one who sees the appeal of Giles. Excellent.) The Scoobies are very grossed out and Giles is a bit flummoxed. But he has news about recent missing persons in town. Buffy will look into it after dinner, to which she reluctantly invites Faith. She wants Willow’s help studying for another make-up exam, but the instant Willow realizes Buffy has conflicting plans, she volunteers to hang out with Faith instead. Xander goes too. Giles’s reaction to Faith is positive as well, but he tones it down as soon as he sees the look on Buffy’s face. Now he wants to talk Acathla binding spells. Buffy gives him a brief rundown of the logistics, then quickly leaves, citing many other commitments.
In the hall, Willow and Xander are recapping all of the horrible things that have happened in the school to an entertained Faith. Faith is slightly concerned that Buffy is too tightly wound, but pfft, who wants to talk about Buffy right now. It’s not like she’s Xander and Willow’s best friend and the title character or anything. Cordelia is very done with Xander and his incessant crushing on Slayers. She offers to pretend to be one, an idea he quite likes. Dweeby Guy bonks into Faith, and she gives him the silent “How ya doin’?”
At that precise moment, Buffy catches up with them. Willow, who has become astonishingly tactless, mentions that she now ships Faith with Dweeby Guy. This does not please Buffy (nor does watching Faith flirt with Dweeby Guy), even if she wasn’t feeling ready to date. Willow repeats a Faith line at Buffy, which makes things even more awkward. This is enough for Buffy to go drag Faith away from Dweeby Guy.
In a warehouse-y place, the vampires from earlier are all set up. Mr. Trick (which is the black guy’s name) is talking about the perks of Sunnydale, which seem to include fiber-optic internet that’s two and a half times faster than Google Fiber and two and a half decades early.
The large vampire isn’t impressed by any of this modern (or super futuristic) crap; all he cares about is getting revenge on the Slayer for gouging a deep cut across one of his eyes. Also he has hooves instead of fingers. That’s new. The pizza guy comes, but instead of tipping him, Mr. Trick uses a thick glove to yank him inside. He’s the meal.
Faith’s at dinner with Buffy and Joyce. Joyce likes Faith’s pumped attitude about Slaying, and she wants Buffy to be more upbeat. It’s yet another example of people in Buffy’s life seeming to like Faith better. Buffy is aware that she’s being irrational. Also, Joyce thinks Faith could just be The Slayer and Buffy could retire. Buffy tries to explain that it doesn’t work that way, and she accidentally lets slip that she died once. Joyce is trying very hard to be supportive since this wasn’t Buffy’s choice, but she just doesn’t want her baby to die.
Buffy and Faith go patrolling together, and it’s not long before they start getting on each other’s nerves. Faith goes too far when she pokes the Angel button. It’s about to come to blows, but a bunch of vampires show up, so they fight them instead. Faith gets so engrossed in beating the crap out of her vampire that Buffy is left to deal with the other three by herself. She succeeds in staking them all with difficulty and then goes over to stake Faith’s since Faith is more interested in using him as a punching bag. She tries to scold Faith, but Faith is thoroughly unapologetic. They part frostily.
The next day, Buffy is reporting to Giles (and complaining about Faith). He tries to get her to be a little more reasonable, and Buffy knows she’s being unreasonable. He’s going to research the vampires who attacked, since one of them was talking about Kakistos, which is the name of a vampire so old that he has hooves. Buffy thinks Kakistos might be in town because of Faith. Giles will call Faith’s Watcher while Buffy tracks Faith down.
Before she can get far, she’s intercepted by Dweeby Guy. He tries to ask her out, she says yes, and then he gives her a freaking Claddagh ring even though they’ve barely even interacted. Buffy has sort of an Angel-related panic attack and goes to pieces. Dweeby Guy takes the ring and leaves. Giles finds Buffy starting to cry. He has news: Faith’s Watcher is dead.
Faith is staying in a dump of a motel. Buffy comes in when she’s arguing rent with the manager. As soon as she namedrops Kakistos, Faith gets scared and starts packing. Kakistos killed Faith’s Watcher (extremely gruesomely, it seems). Just when Faith’s about to run out, Kakistos shows up at the motel, having killed the manager guy.
The girls escape through the window (and holy crap they must’ve sliced up their palms really badly on that glass) and flee down the street. They end up in…Kakistos’s lair, but they don’t realize it yet. Faith saw Kakistos kill her Watcher, and it kinda messed her up. She’s in Sunnydale because she was terrified. They realize they’ve been led into a trap just in time for Kakistos and his posse to show up. They fight. When Buffy takes out a minion and starts whaling on Kakistos, Mr. Trick and a blonde vamp lady decide it’s time to cut their losses and leave.
Faith stakes Kakistos, but it doesn’t go in far enough (also it’s a bit right) to do the trick. Faith uses a shattered wooden pillar to supplement the job, and he dusts. (So he was old enough to be stuck in vampface and look like a boar, but not old enough to leave a skeleton like the Master?)
Buffy reports to Giles that Faith has now dealt with her issues. Not to be outdone, Buffy admits that Angel had his soul when she sent him to hell. Why does she keep talking like she killed him? A metal sword through the chest wouldn’t kill a vampire. He went to hell intact, body and all. He’s not dead, he’s just stuck in another dimension. Also, the curse wasn’t a cure. Ugh, that word choice is so annoying. Anyway, it turns out that Giles made up the whole Acathla-binding spell just to get Buffy to purge her demons. It does seem to make her feel a little better. Also, Faith is here to stay. So say the Council.
Next, Buffy finds Dweeby Guy and asks him out. He’s reluctant for about two seconds, then agrees. After that, she goes to the mansion, where she places her Claddagh ring down on the floor where Angel was when she sent him to hell. (Why is Acathla not still there? Giles’s story about an Acathla-binding spell would’ve been much more credible if it had still been sitting there.) She says goodbye, and then she leaves.
Fade to cred—no wait. There’s a rumbly noise and the ring lights up. Then There’s a big flash of light and Angel falls out of thin air!
He’s completely naked and covered in some kind of clear liquid (vampires don’t sweat, so I have no idea what it is). These are important details.
“Faith, Hope, and Trick” is okay. It’s never been one of my favorites, and I think I figured out why. On the positive side, we get introduced to Faith, Willow and Oz continue to be adorable, Angel comes back, and Mr. Trick is a pretty fun villain. There are good parallels between Faith’s issues with Kakistos and Buffy’s inability to move on with her life. On the negative side, I’m still getting hung up on the way the Scoobies are treating Buffy. Last time, I mentioned that it sometimes feel like they value her more as a Slayer than as a person with feelings. It definitely feels like that in this episode. I’m not saying they’re not allowed to offer a warm welcome to Faith, but it’s just so much warmer of a welcome than the one they gave Buffy in “Dead Man’s Party” that it’s very uncomfortable. On the whole, Buffy is feeling very alienated from her friends and her mom, which is exactly the worst situation for Angel to return to. Buffy won’t feel like this is something she can tell them about, and keeping him a secret will only alienate her from everyone even more.
Buffy is still having vague dreams about Angel. This one is much more pointed about her intense feelings of guilt than the last two were, and she spends the whole episode preoccupied about Angel. After helping Faith find catharsis, she’s able to get a little bit of her own. Which, of course, is when Angel comes back. In fact, my headcanon is that Angel came back because Buffy was able to let him go. We saw in S2 that when Buffy is focused on Angel, she’s less focused on being the Slayer (and it’s just as much of a problem for Angel). I think that whatever higher power gripped Angel tight and raised him from perdition* was waiting until Buffy proved she wouldn’t be as handicapped by him as she used to be. See? It’s not a plot hole if you squint. It’s definitely a deus ex machina, but that’s not always a bad thing. (But I think I would still have preferred episodes like I described in the other review.)
The end of “Dead Man’s Party” was supposed to be a return to the status quo in Buffy and Willow’s friendship (even if it did a sucky job with that), but it really doesn’t feel like it. Willow seems to think that she can just apply a boy to Buffy’s emotional problems and they will magically disappear. Why can’t they have the heart-to-heart she asked Buffy for last episode? Why can’t she let Buffy heal at her own pace instead of making her feel bad for taking so long at it? WHY DID SHE HAVE TO PICK DWEEBY GUY?! What ever happened to cute Ben from “I Only Have Eyes for You”? He has the same origin story as Dweeby Guy (had a crush on Buffy at the end of junior year, but Buffy wasn’t interested in dating then), he’d get a continuity bonus because we’ve met him before, and he seems like a great guy to date. Humph. I’m not okay with this. But back to Willow. As if the “apply boy to emotional trauma” approach wasn’t bad enough, Willow then latches onto Faith even though Buffy is clearly in need of some best friend time. Not cool.
Xander is also being not cool, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from him, so it rankles a little less. He’s just so incredibly shallow here, which retroactively makes his moral high ground moment in “Dead Man’s Party” even worse. Like Willow, he completely blows off Buffy (and, to a marginally lesser extent, Cordelia) for Faith. He spends most of the episode slack-jawed, focusing entirely too much on Faith’s risqué stories. I think this was supposed to be funny (in the way “Teacher’s Pet,” also written by David Greenwalt, was supposed to be funny), but he’s doing this even though he has a girlfriend who is sitting RIGHT THERE, along with his two female best friends. I think the best thing I can say about him is that at least he doesn’t have any one-on-one scenes with Buffy in the midst of all this. I may have enjoyed his pain when Buffy playfully punched him in the arm a little too much.
I’m not seeing as much of the tenderness Cordelia showed towards Xander here as at the end of S2. Maybe it’s gone, or maybe he’s not doing anything to earn it anymore. Either way, she doesn’t have much to do except be casually insensitive about Buffy’s taste in men and be annoyed at Xander’s lack of decorum.
I like Oz’s moment where he asks Faith her policy on werewolves, but like Cordelia, he doesn’t have much to do. He’s mainly just an extension of Willow, but he’s extremely cute when he’s being an extension of Willow, so I’m okay with that.
Giles continues to be Buffy’s best source of compassion. This time, he does it by tricking her into purging her own guilt. Well played, sir. Well played. I love his reaction to Willow’s growing interest in magic. He seems to feel a sense of foreboding about it, and I must say, the man’s instincts are just spot on.
*High fives to anyone who got that reference. (Sorry, Kairos, you’ll have to wait a bit.)
“Plus, bonus points for use of the word ‘mosey.’”
“And they say that young people don’t learn anything in high school nowadays, but I’ve learned to be afraid.”
“You guys are a hoot and a half. I mean, if I’d had friends like you when I was in high school, I…probably still would’ve dropped out, but I might’ve been sad about it.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.