Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by David Greenwalt
Buffy, Xander, and Willow’s picnic in the park has been rudely interrupted by a rather Cthulhu-faced demon, which doesn’t do the courtesy of turning to dust when Buffy kills it. Buffy is slightly concerned about not being able to get in touch with Faith for a while. Slayers plus excessive alone time equals issues. Willow and Xander are both rather downcast in the aftermath of Cordelia and Oz catching them mid-snog. Cordelia is still refusing to talk to Xander. Willow and Xander are convinced that their affair would’ve been over after that kiss even if they hadn’t been caught, which is why Xander feels getting caught was extremely unfair (*smacks him upside the head*). Willow is more repentant. She’s hurting very much without Oz. Xander asks for Buffy’s advice on dealing with relationship badness. Friendship, that’s how. Because…
Cordelia is cutting up pictures of Xander and burning them while listening to the thousand messages he left. She’s crying, but she looks like she’s just about done with crying about Xander.
The next day at school, Willow is trying to ambush Oz at his locker, but she’s having no success. She frets about this to Buffy, and oh hey, Amy gets a namedrop. That’s cool. Apparently Cordelia is taking a unique approach to moving on from Xander.
And now we see that this unique approach involves lots of maroon leather, dark makeup, and extremely uncomfortable-looking shoes. Cordelia draws many comments from passersby as she approaches her old gang of rich, popular harpies. She’s trying to look confident and unaffected, but as soon as she sees Harmony and the other girls, confidence becomes uncertainty. Harmony welcomes her back with open arms and introduces her to Anya, who qualifies to be part of the gang because her parents are super rich.
Alas, the welcome back was all a ruse (quelle surprise), which Harmony illustrates by recommending that Cordelia move on from Xander with Jonathan. (But wait hang on a second, Cordelia has already dated Jonathan. At the end of “Reptile Boy.” Didn’t seem to hurt her social standing then.)
So I guess Cordelia’s just hurt because friends don’t set friends up with exes.
Willow finally catches Oz at his locker and unsuccessfully tries to play it as coincidence. He starts to leave, but she stops him so she can apologize again. There’s an edge of desperation to her tone. However, what he needs is time and space. He’s remarkably kind, but he makes her realize that she’s still making this about herself. She can’t just make him forgive her faster by continually displaying her remorse; she has to respect his needs. She’s still miserable, but she lets him leave.
Cordelia is trying to hold her head up high as she walks the halls of the school, but then she sees Xander. She quickly grabs the nearest jock (who looks like he’s thirty-five) and moves him in front of her so that, from Xander’s perspective, it looks like she’s kissing him. Xander walks away. It’s hard to tell if he fell for the obvious trick, but either way, the barb struck home. Meanwhile, the thirty-five-year-old jock makes it clear that he considers himself out of Cordelia’s league now that she’s been dumped by a loser like Xander. He won’t date her publicly, but he’d have no objections about doing “science experiments” with her in secret.
Before she can quite recover from her mortification, Cordelia runs into Anya, who, despite meeting the qualifications for being one of Sunnydale High’s social elite, seems to be interested in having friends with actual substance. Cordelia is that much more than Harmony and the other girls. She tells Cordelia about the “good luck charm” necklace she has and starts consoling Cordelia about Xander. Cordelia is determined to show Xander how very much she’s over him.
This begins at the Bronze. With Anya as her wingman, she’s chatting and laughing with not-Xander guys. Xander is trying to show Cordelia that he is equally unaffected by their breakup, but Buffy and Willow don’t agree with his attempts to alienate and vilify her. He’s the one at fault, whereas Cordelia both discovered her boyfriend’s infidelity and was impaled in the space of thirty seconds. She has suffered enough. Willow is entirely on the guilt train. Xander tries to build positive momentum with forced optimism, but this fails for all three of them. He touches Willow’s hand without thinking, and she explains why that’s no longer a platonic friend thing they’re allowed to do. Even if Oz isn’t there, she’s going to be completely loyal to him in all ways.
Buffy sees Cordelia wince, her hand on the spot where she got impaled, as she leaves the Bronze. She follows her out. Cordelia seems to be teetering on the brink of accepting Buffy’s sympathy, but that’s when a vampire decides to attack. In the chaos, Cordelia ends up knocked into a pile of garbage—a far better outcome than getting killed by a vampire, which is what would’ve happened if Buffy hadn’t followed her, but Harmony and the other girls come out just in time to see her picking herself up out of the trash, and they take the opportunity to laugh at her some more. Cordelia is no longer interested in Buffy’s friendly overtures.
Cut to the next day, when Cordelia is ranting to Anya about how Buffy is the source of all her misfortunes. Anya puts her lucky charm necklace on Cordelia as a gesture of support. She’s still being a pretty good new friend, even when Harmony and the Mean Girls deliver some drive-by insults. Despite Anya’s oddly single-minded focus on Xander-bashing, Cordelia will not be distracted from her anti-Buffy rant. She ends up wishing aloud that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. Anya turns around, her face suddenly demonic, and says “Done.” Flash flash! Cordelia looks around. Anya is gone, and so are a lot of other people. The school courtyard is mostly deserted and strewn with of litter. Cordelia puts her hand over her wound, which seems to be gone, and realizes that she must’ve just had her wish granted. She cackles and heads back inside.
In the hall, she finds the Mean Girls, who are wearing dark, muted colors. They’re entirely friendly now. Also, the thirty-five-year-old jock stops by to beg for Cordelia to go with him to a school activity called “winter brunch.”
In math class, there is only about 30% of the normal number of students, and the teacher dismisses class in a jumpy way, and all of the students are anxious to get home before curfew. Cordelia mostly ignores these weird details and says she wants to celebrate her new Buffy-free existence by partying at the Bronze. This is a record scratch moment for the Mean Girls. Harmony asks what’s going on in a way that implies she knows about (and fears) vampires in this reality. Cordelia claims to have temporary amnesia, and asks Harmony if Xander and Willow are at least miserable. They are, in a way. They’re dead! Now the shine is starting to wear off Cordy’s wonderful wish. She discovers that her car isn’t in the parking lot, which means she has to walk home.
Night falls. We see more signs that this is not a good place to be. Before she can make it through downtown on foot (because I guess she couldn’t call her parents for a ride?), she runs into Xander, who is wearing very un-Xander clothing. Not to mention guyliner. Cordelia doesn’t notice these ominous signs. She’s too busy focusing on how this is definitely the Darkest Timeline and she needs to find Buffy to fix it. Xander recognizes Buffy’s name, but not in a friend way. Then Willow, whose wardrobe and makeup are also radically different, strolls up and links arms with Xander. They’re acting very intimate, which makes Cordelia a little nuts. Then Xander goes into vampface.
Cordelia flees, Willow tongue-kisses Xander (particularly his fangs), and he gives chase. He knocks Cordelia out rather brutally. Willow finds the ease of that takedown disappointing. Then Oz’s van comes roaring up. Giles, Larry, and a girl we haven’t seen before all leap out, brandishing crosses and other anti-vampire weapons. They get Cordelia inside the van and drive away again. They take her to the library, where they marvel at Cordelia’s lack of caution. These “White Hats,” as Vamp Xander called them, seem to be Sunnydale’s first line of defense.
But they are kind of in over their heads. In case we didn’t already have enough proof of that, now we follow Xander and Willow to the Bronze, which is basically a vampires-only rave club now. Hold on a second, is that Faith getting drained by a vampire?
Willow and Xander stroll through the club, where there are humans in cages in the middle of all the partying vampires. They go to the back room, where they find the Master. Which makes a great deal of sense. The Master gives Willow his meal, a curly-haired girl. We get to see Willow in vampface. She sinks her fangs in and goes out of frame. After the Master drops a Merchant of Venice quote, Xander tells him about Cordelia’s mention of Buffy. The Master is not pleased. He tells Xander and Willow to go kill Cordelia before she can actually contact Buffy.
At the library, Cordelia regains consciousness. She tries to explain to Giles that they need to get Buffy and change everything, because she made a wish. He doesn’t know how she knows so much about Slayers and Watchers, but then he hears a noise. He goes into the book cage to get his weapons, but Willow locks him inside. Xander and Willow then kill Cordelia together, each biting one side of her neck. The only sounds we hear after they bite down are the music, an effect that emphasizes Giles’s feelings of helplessness as he watches her die and also passes the protagonist baton from her to him. He can’t break out of the cage until after the vampires have left. Larry and Oz, both banged up, arrive next, with the news that the girl in their group, Nancy, has been killed as well. Before the boys haul Cordy’s body to the incinerator, Giles notices her unusual necklace (the one that belongs to Anya), and he takes it.
The Mater is enjoying a lovely espresso when Willow and Xander come to tell him their job is done. He’s so pleased with their work that he’ll even let Willow play with the puppy. Uh-oh. What does that mean?
Giles is on the phone with Buffy’s Watcher in Cleveland, insisting to speak to her. It seems that the other Watchers aren’t aware that Sunnydale is on a Hellmouth. (Now, that either means they’re very stupid or that the whole world is just as bad. Yikes.)
It turns out that “puppy” here means Angel. Who Willow likes to use to while away her daylight hours, by torturing him in fun ways. She taunts him about how all the people he wanted to save are going to die once “the plant” opens. Xander shows up to join in the Angel torture. Vamp Willow and Vamp Xander are super unsettling.
Giles has discovered what Cordelia’s necklace is! It’s the amulet of Anyanka, sort of a patron saint of scorned women, who grants wishes. Oz and Larry are rather annoyed that their sucky reality is Cordelia’s fault. Giles heads to his apartment, but on the way, he sees a bunch of people being herded into a van by vampires. He tries to rescue them, but he’s in trouble. Then someone else arrives out of frame, and we hear fists and the sound of vampires going poof. Then the camera slowly pans up the newcomer. It’s Wishverse Buffy, who has a long braid, is dressed in muted colors and dark makeup, and has a diagonal scar across her lips. She seems to be much more full of attitude than Prime Timeline Buffy.
At Giles’s apartment, he delivers exposition about Anyanka. He believes they can return to the Prime Timeline by destroying Anyanka’s power center. Alas, he’s not sure what that is (come on, man, it’s the amulet). Buffy seems pretty skeptical that they can just fix the world by smashing some trinket. This Buffy is an extremely cynical girl. Giles mentions the Master when he’s trying to get her on board. Buffy is more interested in dealing with a master vampire than some rando wish-granting demon. She refuses to accept help; she just wants directions.
Buffy arrives at the Bronze, which is empty except for the odd human corpse…and Angel. She sees him in his cell and turns to leave, uninterested, when he says her name. This timeline didn’t split off until after the day Buffy was called as a Slayer, which means he still saw her. Buffy doesn’t react with much warmth. He tries to explain what was supposed to happen, but she’s just starting to get weirded out by how much everyone in Sunnydale seems to want her around. She starts to leave again when he says he can take her to the Master. When she unchains him, her cross necklace makes him flinch. He’s a vampire! She’s no longer interested in his help. He shows her what Willow’s done to him to prove that he’s on her side. It works.
The plant is a factory that drains humans of their blood so that the vampires can maximize quantity. Okay, as deeply horrifying as the giant needles on the blood-draining machine are, *none* of them is aimed at that girl’s arteries. If efficiency is the Master’s goal, he’s got some serious recalibrating to do.
Buffy and Angel enter the factory. The Master toasts the future with a glass of blood from the machine, and instead of waiting until he’s actually drinking the blood like a smart person would do, Buffy fires her crossbow while he’s still raising the glass, which enables him to see it coming in time to pull Xander into the path of the crossbow bolt.
In the chaos that ensues, Angel gets staked by Xander (while trying to protect Buffy), Xander gets staked by Buffy, Willow gets staked by Oz, and Buffy gets her neck snapped by the Master. Meanwhile, Giles has been summoning Anyanka and trying to get her to reverse the wish. She beats him up, but he realizes that her power center is the amulet (again, duh), and he yanks it off and smashes it.
Flash, flash! We’re back at the moment where Cordelia first made the wish, except that the necklace is gone now. When Anyanka tries to grant it, nothing happens. Her face doesn’t even turn all demon-y. She’s confused and upset, and when Cordelia lists off a bunch of other wishes (including “I wish that Xander Harris never again knows the touch of a woman,” which will prove deeply ironic for Anya less than a season from now), she still can’t do anything about it. The episode ends on a shot of Buffy, Willow, and Xander, sitting happily together in the courtyard.
“The Wish” is awesome. There are few things I love more than taking one of my favorite stories and seeing how the snowball effect would play out after one change to the timeline early on. It’s the Back to the Future: Part II episode. The It’s a Wonderful Life episode. Just fantastic. Even though none of the characters remembers anything about the Wishverse, meaning that no lessons have been learned by them, it’s still completely worth it. In Plot B, we get to see how much of a difference it makes to Buffy that she has a circle of friends and a Watcher who actually cares about her, and in Plot A, we get to see exactly how much of a difference Buffy has made. In light of my recent problems with the way the Scoobies sometimes seem to value Buffy more as a Slayer than as a person, a small part of me is a little troubled that we only see how Buffy’s absence affects the Scoobies on a Plot A level. Vampire versions of Xander and Willow are not a good representation of how their human selves would be different without Buffy. But I love Vamp Willow and Xander too much to be overly bothered by that. They’re awesome, and Alyson and Nick obviously had a ton of fun playing such different versions of their characters.
In the third of the episode that takes place in the regular Buffyverse, Buffy is amazing. I love that she tries to offer Cordelia her friendship. As the best friend of the two people who hurt Cordelia, she didn’t really have a social obligation to be there for Cordelia. Buffy and Cordelia have never been close or gotten along all that well. But that’s not what matters to Buffy. What matters is that she sees Cordelia hurting and she wants to do anything she can to help. Buffy is wonderful. Also, I really like the link between what she says at the beginning about the dangers of too much alone time when you’re the Slayer and how she acts in the Wishverse. Wishverse Buffy doesn’t seem to have any joy in her life or anything worth fighting for, and it’s killed the compassionate spirit we’re so used to seeing in her. It’s almost painful to watch her treating Giles and Angel with indifference, and we see what would have happened to her when she faced the Master if nobody had her back.
Willow has this tendency to try too hard to make things better. She tries to nudge Buffy into dating again when Buffy doesn’t feel ready, she tries to use magic to get rid of unwanted hormones, and now she’s practically stalking Oz so that she can apologize at every possible opportunity. It feels like she’s generally more interested in returning to an acceptable status quo than she is in being introspective and respecting other people’s boundaries. Fortunately, after she talks to Oz, she accepts that she’s going about it the wrong way and stops pushing, but she hasn’t been cured of this character flaw. Now then, Vamp Willow. She is very scary but also kind of awesome. She seems pretty laid back and unenthusiastic, but she clearly excels as much at being the Master’s minion as human Willow excels at school and computer hacking, or she never would’ve become one of his favorites so quickly.
Is Xander completely incapable of taking responsibility for his own actions? He just broke Cordelia’s heart, and all he can do is be resentful that she won’t talk to him, and he even tries to hurt her back when she’s acting like she’s already moved on. I’m not saying you’re not allowed to feel resentful if the girl you’ve been dating for most of a year won’t talk to you after you cheated on her, but that should be a very tiny slice of the emotional pie chart. With Xander, it seems to be most of the pie. Not cool.
Cordelia has been through a lot of crap. Her life has been in danger at least twenty-two separate times since the series began. It’s not remotely fair of her to blame Buffy for how often she ends up in danger, because Buffy is usually the one who gets her out of said danger. Buffy may be the cause of her Plot B problems if you really squint, but Cordelia forgot that Plot A problems kind of trump those when you live in Sunnydale. Of course, she didn’t actually believe her wish was about to be granted, or she probably would’ve been a little more careful with it. I’m curious now to know what would’ve happened if that vampire hadn’t attacked when he did, because it really did seem like Cordelia might’ve accepted Buffy’s offer to talk. That could have spun both girls’ trajectories through S3 in a very different direction. Buffy and Cordelia have never really been in each other’s corner before. What would have happened if that had changed? How would Buffy have juggled friendships with Xander and the girl whose heart he broke? How would Cordelia have responded to having a genuine friend? Anyway. I used to think it was kind of lame that Cordelia didn’t remember the Wishverse, because it probably would’ve been a good thing for her to not blame Buffy for her problems, but she basically gets all her issues off her chest in the next few seconds in the Buffyverse anyway. Her smile gets bigger and bigger and her stride gets more and more confident the longer she spouts off ridiculous wishes. Maybe she just needed a good rant; she isn’t actually spiteful enough to want any of this stuff to come true.
Oh, Oz. I want to hug him. He’s just so sad right now. But he’s still remarkably gentle with Willow after how much she hurt him. Her kissing Xander is the manifestation of everything that made him approach with caution back when they first started dating. He must be wondering if their entire relationship has just been about making Xander jealous. Wishverse Oz is pretty sweet. I want to know more about his role as one of the White Hats. Is he still a werewolf? Does he still find time to play his guitar? Is there any connection at all between Wishverse Oz and Buffyverse Oz? As in, would he have felt a twinge of something when Wishverse Oz staked Vamp Willow? Probably not, but these are the kinds of things I wonder about.
Regular Buffyverse Giles isn’t in this episode at all except maybe in the corner of the final shot with the kids smiling and happy. Wishverse Giles is fascinating. Even without the support of the Council and with no Slayer to his charge, he’s doing the best he can to rally the few souls brave enough to fight back. He’s stubbly and not all buttoned up in tweed. He has so little hope for a better future that he’s willing to forfeit his entire reality on the chance that there’s a better alternative—which, as far as we can tell, he won’t even be able to experience for himself, since Buffyverse Giles has no memory of the Wishverse.
Like Buffyverse Giles, Buffyverse Angel wasn’t in this episode. Like everyone else, though, his life was dramatically altered by Buffy not showing up in Sunnydale. I wonder how long he held out against the Master and all his minions before he was captured. Is he responsible for all the familiar faces missing from this episode, like Darla, the Three, and Luke? I sort of doubt he would’ve staked Darla for anything less than an attempt on Buffy’s life, but he must’ve done something to really tick the Master off. (I have a lot of fun speculating about the Wishverse.)
“Oh, she follows me around. If that girl had an original thought, her head would explode.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.