Written by Douglas Petrie
Directed by Michael Lange
Buffy and Faith are doing synchronized slaying again, and Faith wants to know if Buffy and Xander have ever done “science experiments.” It’s baffling to Faith that Buffy could spend so much time working Plot A stuff with him without eventually giving in to hormones. Buffy is equally baffled by Faith’s attitude; there have never been any hormones regarding Xander, so it hasn’t exactly been hard for her to resist sleeping with him. (Also, why does Faith have to ask about this? Xander made it pretty clear that she’s the first girl he’s ever slept with.)
There are tracks leading to another vampire (and all the vamps this time are wearing matching tunics and have fancy swords). Buffy gets annoyed when Faith just dives right into an attack instead of working with her a little, but in the end, all the vampires are dust. But when Buffy looks around to retrieve the fancy swords so they can show Giles, they’re already gone.
That would be because Mr. Trick snatched them and took them to the Mayor. Who is reading the newspaper funnies. The Mayor has seen swords like this before, but he’s not worried enough about it to discuss it immediately; instead, he asks Mr. Trick about his cartoon preferences. The Mayor likes Family Circus, Mr. Trick likes Marmaduke (which makes the Mayor cringe), and Allan Finch likes Cathy (which makes the other two both look at him like he’s a dork). Allan suggests postponing something called “the dedication” until they can be sure the sword-wielding vamps won’t be a problem, which the Mayor is not willing to do. He’d rather point the Slayers in the direction of anything getting in his way, so that he can quietly continue preparations for his Ascension, whatever that means.
In the student lounge area of the school, Xander is intimidated by Willow’s stack of Ivy League early admissions packets. She’s psyched about getting accepted to so many amazing schools, which are all kind of fighting over her. Xander has zero confidence that he will be accepted anywhere. Cordelia swings by to dispense insults, to which Xander replies by reverting to his old strategy of insinuating that she’s a whore. Classy. It merely bounces off her, though, and her retort is much more successful at touching a nerve. Buffy and Willow make plans for a study date that evening.
Next, Buffy will need to report to Giles about her patrol. Willow warns her that he’s not in the best mood, and the reason for that is the young, smartly dressed Watcher who’s prancing all over his territory. (HELLO WESLEY, IT IS SO VERY LOVELY TO SEE YOU.) Giles stares stonily into space while Wesley explains all about the updated methods and training procedures he knows. I don’t think he means to sound insulting to Giles, but that’s how it’s coming across. He’s also very proud of having fought two vampires under carefully controlled circumstances, which Giles would find hilarious if he wasn’t already so annoyed. (Why is Wesley setting up shop in the high school library? He doesn’t work there, and I’m pretty sure most high schools frown on random adults chilling on their campuses. Or did the Watchers’ Council somehow arrange for him to have a cover identity as Giles’s assistant?)
Buffy arrives and, remembering Gwendolyn Post (and Quentin Travers, who she didn’t like either, even though he wasn’t evil), is no more welcoming towards Wesley than Giles. His manner is so amazingly pompous (with lots of self-satisfied expressions and just kind of a perpetually smug look in his eyes), but he does seem to know his stuff. The theory, at least. He identifies the vampires Buffy describes at once, and sends her on an assignment to retrieve the amulet the other vampires in the cult are looking for. Buffy makes a few remarks at Wesley’s expense (and Giles doesn’t stop her), which begins to annoy him. Then Faith walks in, then walks right back out again as soon as she finds out Wesley’s their new Watcher. Buffy leaves reluctantly to go retrieve her. Giles starts cleaning his glasses, but regrets it as soon as he sees that Wesley is doing the same thing.
Buffy catches up to Faith, who isn’t remotely interested in taking orders from Wesley…or anyone, really. She accuses Buffy of liking slaying as much as she does, and Buffy has to admit it doesn’t suck. While Buffy may agree that slaying can be fun and the adrenaline/endorphins rush feels good, she still isn’t entirely comfortable with Faith’s tendency to conflate slaying with sex. Faith isn’t remotely abashed, and she leaves Buffy to take care of the assignment from Wesley.
That night, Buffy goes to the Gleaves crypt (which is enormous) to retrieve the amulet. Before she can, vampires show up in force. She hides in one of the tombs so they won’t find her, but they get the amulet. Then Faith arrives and convinces Buffy that the two of them can take out the vampires, even though there are at least six. Faith jumps down the manhole the vampires went down without planning or thinking, and Buffy reluctantly follows.
Giles and Wesley are at the library still. Wesley is reading Giles’s Watcher Diaries about Buffy, and Giles is anxious that Buffy isn’t back from patrol yet. Wesley is confident that she’ll be fine.
She is not fine. She and Faith are surrounded. They manage to take out a couple of vampires, but then one of them tries to drown Buffy in a well of sewer water. Ew. Buffy goes limp, but she was faking! She grabs the sword the vampire left in the water and jumps up. She gets the amulet, and they leave. It looks like she’s starting to see things Faith’s way.
The next day, dressed much more like Faith than usual, Buffy brings the amulet to Wesley, who is being so uppity about procedure that she’s balking more and more. Unlike Giles, Wesley has not earned her respect, so when it’s a choice between Wesley and Faith, she’s going to pick Faith. And she’s also going to pick Giles, because she doesn’t care that he’s not an option anymore. She’s saved from further interaction with Wesley by the bell, which means it’s chemistry test time. Buffy cannot stop talking about the crazy experience that was patrol. Willow and Xander try to get her back on track with the test. She missed her study date with Willow (who is hurt), and Xander is very twitchy whenever anyone mentions Faith.
Faith, who is at the window. She invites Buffy to ditch school for more slayage by drawing a staked heart in the mist her breath makes on the window. Buffy goes, to the surprise of the entire chemistry class. She and Faith attack a nest of vampires. (Now that I think about it, why don’t they raid nests in broad daylight more often?)
From there, they go to the Bronze, which is in rave mode. They dance at the center of a crowd of boys, until Buffy notices Angel and goes over to him. He has discovered that Balthazar (the owner of the amulet, who Wesley has been insisting is dead) is set up in a warehouse in town. Buffy is affectionate with Angel in a more suggestive way than usual, which makes him uncomfortable. Then Wesley shows up. To Wesley’s consternation, Buffy takes the amulet from him, gives it to Angel, and they both leave without another word to Wesley. Buffy grabs Faith so they can go check out this warehouse. Also, Buffy got a wound on her right arm in the same spot that Faith has her tattoo. I’m sure that wasn’t deliberate parallelism or anything.
In the warehouse, a disgusting morbidly obese demon is chilling in a large tub of some kind of liquid, while an attendant ladles more of this liquid over his blubbery rolls of flesh.
He shouts at his vampire minions for failing to retrieve his amulet. Buffy and Faith peer in from the window in the warehouse’s door. Faith wants to just bust in immediately and start fighting, but Buffy thinks they need a little more weaponry than stakes. Faith has a solution for this: just burglarize the sporting goods store across the street! Buffy goes along with this, reluctantly at first—but only at first. Faith explains that being a Slayer comes with certain perks. You see something you want, and you just take it. Buffy tries it out, but two seconds later, cops show up to arrest them. This is enough to snap Buffy out of her Faith-like attitude, but definitely not enough to produce a similar effect in Faith.
They’re headed to the police station, and Faith suggests kicking the wire mesh between them and the cops so that they can escape. Buffy reluctantly helps her, and the combined strength of two Slayers smashes the mesh into the front of the car, knocking out the cops and sending the cruiser crashing into a parked car. The girls get out, uncuff each other, and run.
The next morning, Buffy checks the paper, probably looking for articles about two teen fugitives. Joyce wants to ditch their diet and make waffles. (Wait, are Buffy and Joyce seriously on a diet? Why?)
At City Hall, the Mayor is doing a photo op with a troupe of Boy Scouts. They leave, Mr. Trick comes in, and then one of Balthazar’s minions bursts out of the Mayor’s Satanic liquor cabinet and tries to kill him. Mr. Trick knocks him out, and the Mayor asks Allan about building security. He has Mr. Trick lock the vampire up instead of killing him. Interesting.
Balthazar is very angry that his minion failed to kill the Mayor. It seems they used to be mortal enemies, and the Mayor is the reason Balthazar is in the state he’s in. If he gets a hold of his amulet, he’ll be restored to his full strength. Also, he sends his minions out to get the Watchers and to kill the Slayers. Uh oh.
Willow is at Buffy’s house, giving Buffy a lavender-scented protection spell. She’s excited to join Buffy in her slaying that night, but Buffy uninvites her. She tries to play it as being out of concern for Willow’s safety, but she’s been a little too gung-ho about slaying lately for it to feel genuine. Faith comes in and Buffy leaves with her. Willow is definitely very hurt by Buffy’s treatment of her.
Giles and Wesley are arguing about whether or not Giles’s attachment to Buffy is a problem. Then they get captured by cult vampires.
Buffy and Faith have been patrolling for about two seconds when they get jumped by one of the cult vampires. They slay him, and then another one jumps out. They slay him too. They round a corner, and an arm reaches out to grab Buffy. She throws the person attached to it off her, and we see that it’s Allan, the Deputy Mayor. Who Faith then stakes, not realizing in time that he’s human. He dies, while Buffy looks on in horror and Faith in shock. (So, was he there to give them information? And did that vampire really get past the Mayor’s security earlier, or did Allan let him in because he wanted the Mayor dead?) It’s a situation a lot like “Ted,” only, before Buffy found out Ted was a robot. A Slayer just killed a human. Buffy and Faith flee the scene.
Angel finds Buffy, notices the blood on her hand, and tells her the cult vampires have kidnapped Giles. Faith goes back to Allan’s body. It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking.
In the warehouse, Wesley is about to wet himself with fear, but Giles is merely feeling sardonic. Wesley is willing to bargain for their lives, but Balthazar is not. Wesley admits that Buffy gave the amulet to a “friend,” whose name he doesn’t know. Giles tries to take over, but Balthazar only gets angrier. He demands to know who has his amulet.
Enter Angel, in probably his coolest entrance so far. He and Buffy lay into Balthazar’s minions. Giles manages to get loose and does some damage himself (yay Giles!). Balthazar is about to kill Angel when Buffy drops a heavy duty power cable into his tub, electrocuting him. Before he dies, he gives them a seriously ominous threat about what’s coming for them.
That would be the Mayor, who makes his Latin spells sound rather more fluent than any other character so far. City Hall shakes with the effect of the spell. Then the Mayor gives Cult Vamp Guy his sword back and has Mr. Trick let him out of his cage. He immediately cuts the Mayor’s head in half, but it reseals with no trace of a wound, and Mr. Trick stakes Cult Vamp Guy. The best part of this scene is the Mayor’s to do list.
Faith is scrubbing her clothes in the sink of her motel room with a toothbrush (wow, that’s sad), and Buffy shows up wearing…a Sunday dress plus a giant blue overcoat?
Buffy wants to talk about what she and Faith are going to do about the man Faith killed. Faith isn’t interested. She already dumped the body anyway, and she’s not terribly concerned about what happened. Buffy can’t believe it.
“Bad Girls” is an excellent episode. I love how the Mayor’s plan has been gaining momentum in the background all season. Up until this point, it would’ve been fairly easy to stop him, but thanks to that ritual he does at the end, it’s kind of too late, and the Scoobies still don’t even know he’s a threat. That is some quality dramatic irony right there, and because Faith’s victim is the Mayor’s underling, we know that plot will soon come into the open. Another wonderful thing about this episode is that we get to meet Wesley Wyndam-Pryce for the first time. I freaking adore Wesley, even at this point, when he’s the most pompous of all the pompous dorks. Buffy’s brief flirtation with the Chaotic Neutral moral alignment has never quite made sense for me, but maybe that’s just because the most rebellious I ever got as a teenager was sneaking to the computer in the middle of the night so I could keep playing my Harry Potter PC games. It’s certainly fascinating to see Buffy’s take on Faith’s attitude, and we also get a much closer look at Faith’s own philosophy. I’m not sure we would have expected her to just steal weapons so her patrols would go better. Also, I feel like if Gwendolyn Post hadn’t done so much damage to Buffy and Faith’s relationship when just when they were starting to get along so well, “Bad Girls” would not have happened. Faith would have been part of the whole group by now, rather than merely being linked to Buffy because of their shared destiny. Balthazar is a disgusting but effective threat, especially because the end of the episode makes it clear that he’s small potatoes compared to the Mayor. Of course, what raises this episode to the level of game-changer is Faith’s staking of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch. Unlike with Ted, there are no take-backs. That was a real human man, and he is really dead. Things will never be the same again.
Evidently having Christmas Eve together and working together to stop the apocalypse in “The Zeppo” has been sufficient to help Buffy reconnect with Faith. Because this renewed synergy lines up with Giles being replaced by someone as ridiculous and annoying as Wesley, it becomes the perfect recipe for Buffy to find Faith’s approach to things appealing. The more Wesley nags, the more Buffy will be inclined to try the “want, take, have” philosophy. But that only lasts as long as there are no consequences. Then Buffy remembers that she already didn’t like being in trouble with the law back when she hadn’t done anything illegal. Doing something to deserve it does not make it more fun. Also, behaving like Faith quickly alienates her from Xander, Willow, and even Angel. Buffy’s doing that teenager thing where she lashes out against authority by becoming the authority figure’s worst nightmare instead of taking the more reasonable course of doing what she feels is right. When Buffy’s being herself, she and Wesley aren’t on opposite sides; he’s just trying to be authoritarian and she responds better to more balanced mentor/student dynamics. Judging by the ridiculous outfit she’s wearing in that final scene, she’s now snapped so far back into being Normal Buffy that she’s going to be Uptight Buffy for a while.
Xander has regressed almost entirely to what he was prior to “The Zeppo.” I had a hard enough time stomaching his prostitution-themed insults to Cordelia before (and during) their dating relationship, but he’s really going to pull that crap now? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO CHEATED ON HER, SCUMBAG. Please find a new angle for your insults. Or just stop insulting her entirely. I thought one of the main points of “The Zeppo” was that he learned how to not be bothered by Cordelia’s remarks. Is he just doing this to try to get things back to the old status quo between them? Bah. Even if he is, I still don’t like it. The only forward momentum from “The Zeppo” seems to be that he’s still very preoccupied about his one-night stand with Faith, but that’ll be developed more in “Consequences.”
I feel so sorry for Willow in this one. Things start out so great for her. She’s being accepted to all of the country’s best universities, which is a distinction shared by no one in the Scooby gang (even Oz, who probably could’ve been accepted to equally good schools if he’d bothered to apply, and I strongly suspect he did not). But for the rest of the episode, she gets shoved to the side whenever Faith comes around. Buffy running away without a word over the summer was one thing, but Buffy seeming to repeatedly choose Faith over Willow is something completely different. She’s bound to feel like it’s actually about her this time, that she’s not good enough because she isn’t a Slayer.
This is probably the coolest Giles gets to be in the first three seasons without much of Ripper showing through. And the introduction of Wesley really helps to highlight just how much Giles has changed since “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” Giles essentially was Wesley when we first met him, though perhaps less pompous. Now, he’s Buffy’s surrogate father, and he can kick serious butt. He’s adapted very well to working with Buffy and her friends. As rigid as Wesley is, he’s going to snap like a piece of chalk if he doesn’t start demonstrating similar powers of adaptability soon.
Cordelia and Oz basically do nothing in this one. Oz only has two lines, which, while funny, don't exactly tell us anything new about him. Cordelia also has only two lines—and she and Oz share the only scene in which they appear—but hers do slightly more; they prove that she has completely moved on from Xander. That’s the only explanation I can come up with to account for how little his insult hurts her.
Angel might not have a lot of screentime, but he still gets possibly the coolest moment of the episode when he strides into that warehouse. He’s pretty busy offscreen, too. He finds out where Balthazar is and he talks to Giles. I like all these signs that he’s back to being the guy with all the contacts who figures things out behind the scenes. He hasn’t had many opportunities to do that since “What’s My Line: Part 1,” and those kinds of moments, while subtle, are just as important to setting up his spin-off show as that epic entrance.
“Hmm, a trade. Intriguing. No. Wait. Boring. Pull off his kneecaps!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.