Written by Douglas Petrie
Directed by David Grossman
Buffy and Angel leave the theater amidst a stream of happy couples. Unlike their fellow viewers, they look super uncomfortable. Ooh, Buffy’s coat is so pretty! I love that raspberry color on her.
Turns out they accidentally just watched some kind of softcore porn. This is not helping with the sexual tension. Angel demonstrates that he can handle it by gently kissing her. It’s sweet with just the tiniest hint of bitter. And then Faith interrupts to collect Buffy for patrol. Faith’s continued lewd comments aren’t enough to take the stars out of Buffy’s and Angel’s eyes.
On patrol, Faith mocks Buffy about how she and Angel are managing to stay together without caving to their physical desires. Fortunately for Buffy, the arrival of a demon forces a change of topic. They’re about to stake him when he tells them he has some hot items (the Books of Ascension) he wants to sell them so he can blow Dodge before the Mayor does his thing. Buffy isn’t entirely convinced, but she’s willing to pursue any leads that would turn up information on the Mayor. Little miss double agent pretends to agree.
Faith reports to the Mayor. He wants her to kill the demon, take the books, and bring them to him. Also he wants her to pull her hair back so people can see her pretty face. And she should drink some of this milk he has sitting in a pitcher on his desk. (Ew. How long has that been there? Is it even still cold?)
Buffy reports to Giles and Wesley. Giles is indignant that a demon wants cash. Demons are supposed to want human organs or souls or something. They’re ruining capitalism for him. Giles and Wesley have never heard of “Ascension” as something mystical, but Willow has! Because she’s been reading the books on Giles’s forbidden books shelf. Giles, expression stern, retrieves the book she mentioned. The passage in question gives an account of a town that was wiped out on the day of an Ascension, but it doesn’t explain what actually happened. Uh oh.
Cordelia comes in, once again rather dressed up for a casual swing by the school library. She asks Wesley out to a fancy restaurant so that he can help her with her English paper. He’s so bumbling and flabbergasted and it’s AMAZING. The rest of the Scoobies watch in astonished amusement. She smiles coyly at him and leaves. He struggles to get back on topic. He wants Buffy to go find the demon and possibly convince him to give her a discount on the Books of Ascension.
That might be difficult, because Faith finds the demon’s apartment first. She asks to see the books, then punches him. Instead of paying him his $5000, she stabs him in the gut with a dagger. He fights back, but she eventually wins, and has blood all over her hands.
Angel’s reading at the mansion (can’t see the book’s title, but it’s probably something depressing and foreign again). Faith shows up. She still hasn’t washed her hands. She wants his help, or she’s pretending to want his help. She shows him the blood on her hands and talks about how she’s scaring herself with her power-tripping. He tries to reassure her. She throws her arm around him (Ew! Dirty hands!) and he hugs her back. Then she tries to kiss him and he slams on the brakes. With rather more tact than she deserves, he tells her he’s with Buffy and unavailable. He can be her friend, but that’s it. She goes to leave. She says she’s glad for his help, but she also wants to know if Angel/Faith could’ve happened in an alternate universe. He doesn’t feel like speculating. She kisses him on the cheek and leaves, which is the only part of this exchange that Buffy sees. Ugggggh please don’t tell me this is going to be one of those plotlines where the girl thinks the guy’s cheating because she witnessed something from just the wrong angle and for just the wrong amount of time. They already did that in “Lie to Me”!
Apparently that whole thing was Faith trying to seduce Angel so he’d sleep with her and lose his soul. The Mayor tells her not to be too hard on herself for failing; Angel clearly isn’t right in the head if he won’t go for her. They’ll just have to find another way to get rid of Angel’s soul.
Giles and Wesley have had no luck researching Ascensions. Giles suggests contacting the Council, and Wesley reveals that he’s been keeping his collaborations with Giles a secret from them. Buffy walks in, looking very gloomy (dangit, they’re totally doing that plotline), and Wesley tasks her with finding the demon. He thinks it might be hard, but then Xander strolls in, having obtained the demon’s address by bribing Willy the Snitch. When Giles hears that the demon lives in an apartment, he’s just as disgusted as before. So it’s probably a good thing he didn’t actually see the demon in his business slacks and button-ups.
Faith comes in just when Buffy’s about to leave, and is she wearing a leather shirt?
Tackiness aside, has it not occurred to her that suddenly upgrading her wardrobe to more expensive fabrics could raise serious questions? Up until now, she’s mostly been wearing jeans and tanktops, with maybe one leather jacket and one pair of leather pants, and one dress nice enough for the Homecoming dance. She kept the motel room so she could pretend nothing was wrong; she probably should’ve stuck with her old clothes when interacting with the Scoobies too. Maybe the only reason nobody’s figured out she’s working for the Mayor yet is that Cordelia hasn’t seen her outfit and commented on the improbability of her being able to afford it.
Buffy doesn’t even try not to act super cold around her, and she reluctantly lets Faith come with her to check the demon’s place. When they get there, Faith does a terrible job of acting like she hasn’t already been there. They find the demon’s body. Buffy wants to do a little more investigating, but Faith practically drags her out the door.
The mayor is meeting with a shrouded, grayish-purple-skinned shaman of some kind. He has the ability to remove Angel’s soul, but he doesn’t particularly like sugar-free mints.
Willow tries to get to the bottom of Buffy’s sadface. Buffy tells her what she saw with Angel and Faith. Willow tries to snap Buffy out of her funk, because there’s no way Angel would cheat on her. Buffy thinks maybe Faith is more his type because they have so much in common. Willow insists that Buffy go talk to Angel instead of wallowing. She gets up to go.
At the mansion, it is Faith who arrives to see Angel, not Buffy. She apologizes to him for coming onto him the previous night. He wants to help her, but he’s wary. She seems a little bitter when she realizes that he doesn’t trust her. He tries to apologize, but then she splashes the contents of a vial on his chest. The shaman guy steps out of the shadows (or maybe materializes from them) and starts chanting in Arabic, his eyes glowing orange. Cool! Blue lights swirl around Angel, then he falls to the ground. The shaman departs. When Angel gets up, he’s in vampface. He kisses Faith rather violently. Looks like his soul is gone again. Crap.
After the kiss ends, he backhands her, sending her crashing to the floor. He does this whole monologue about how great it is to be back, and he’s about to beat her up some more (or maybe bite her), but she pulls out a stake. She eventually convinces him to at least hear the Mayor’s offer. Then they make out some more.
Wesley tries to rally the troops; the Mayor has always been one step ahead, and they need to do something about it. Oz is there, and he’s blond now. Cordelia is there because Wesley is there, and she’s enjoying listening to his voice. Buffy is still bummed. She hasn’t been able to find Angel. Or Faith. She leaves to go gear up. Willow succeeded in hacking the Mayor’s files, but they were all empty by the time she got to them. (Um. That’s not how files work. You don’t delete a file’s contents and then leave the empty file folder on your desktop. Now, if she’d said his hard drives were all empty by the time she got to them, that would’ve been fine.) Oz suggests that they go to the hall of records and find actual paper documents. Cordelia wants to go with Wesley. Xander bails, not really wanting to be the fifth wheel. Willow’s coat is bizarre, but I kind of love it anyway?
Faith has brought Angelus to meet the Mayor. He waits impatiently for the Mayor to actually say anything worth hearing. The Mayor scolds him for his impatience. “Kids today,” indeed. He’s only 272. Such a kid. He plays with the Mayor’s letter opener until the Mayor notices, and then the Mayor invites him to stab him with it. He throws it straight for the Mayor’s heart. The Mayor catches it through the hand instead, and when he pulls it out, the wound heals instantly. Angelus is unnerved, but he volunteers to torture, maim, and kill Buffy for him. The Mayor cautions him to take his time so there isn’t a new Slayer anytime soon. Um. No. Buffy’s death already caused the next Slayer to be called. She’s not holding up the line anymore, just sort of standing next to it. There won’t be a new Slayer when she dies again, only when Faith does.
Xander is walking down the street, griping about Wesley and Cordelia, when he encounters Faith and Angelus, the latter of whom casually knocks him out with one punch without breaking stride. They go to Buffy’s house, where he is creepily charming with Joyce. They find Buffy gearing up in her room, wearing possibly my favorite shirt she ever wears.
I wonder if that shirt was a coincidence, or if it’s meant to be a visual symbol of her loyalty to Giles, which stands parallel to Faith’s loyalty to the Mayor? She’s not happy to see Angel and Faith together. Angelus kisses Buffy on the top of the head, and gallantly offers to carry her weapons for her. They go to the mansion, ostensibly to get the Books of Ascension. In reality, it’s a trap. Angelus reveals himself to Buffy, who is horrified almost beyond words. He taunts her a bit, and she shoves him away. Then she tries to get Faith to leave, but Faith would rather stay where she is. Angelus punches Buffy out.
At the Hall of Records, they find a photo from around a hundred years earlier, of the Mayor. Who looked exactly the same age then. Xander shows up with a bruised face and a self-righteous attitude, and he informs them about Angelus being back. He wants them to go rescue Buffy before Faith and Angelus kill her. Also, he slings some blame towards Wesley for Faith turning evil, since he’s her Watcher. (I’ll admit that it’s partly Wesley’s fault, but not for the reasons Xander’s citing.)
Buffy comes to, chained to the wall of the mansion. Angelus is watching her…with an uncharacteristically tender expression. *narrows eyes* But then he starts with the taunting again. Oh well. Faith joins in with the taunting, then grabs Angelus for some more snogging, which makes Buffy cringe and look away. Then Faith whips the cover off an array of torture implements. Buffy asks Faith why she’s doing this. Faith says she didn’t particularly enjoy getting continually outshone by Buffy. Buffy gets everything, and she gets nothing. She dares Buffy to admit she thinks she’s better than her. Buffy obliges. Faith could only get things she wanted by taking them, not earning them. She had to use magic to get Angel. She had to tie Buffy up to beat her. Which makes her a loser. Then Buffy says she’s going to stop the Ascension, and Faith begs to differ. She drops a lot of new information, like that the Mayor built the whole town for the exact purpose of his Ascension, which will happen on graduation day and involves some kind of transformation, after which the Mayor plans on eating a whole bunch of people.
Buffy marvels at not seeing through Faith’s duplicity earlier, and Faith boasts that she’s world’s best actor. Angel politely corrects her. That title belongs to him. Since he’s Angel, not Angelus. Buffy whips her hands out of the manacles Angel supposedly locked her in. They’ve been playing Faith for a fool this whole time, and they got exactly what they wanted. Faith realizes this at the same time as the audience, and she’s furious. Before she gets much of a chance to retaliate, the entire Scooby gang comes bursting in. She and Buffy both grab knives off the torture table and put them to each other’s throats. Faith jeers that Buffy can’t kill her without becoming just like her. She kisses her on the forehead and runs out.
It’s the next day at the library, and we learn that the shaman guy is an old acquaintance of Giles’s. Giles earned a favor from him by introducing him to his wife, and he paid it by merely pretending to take Angel’s soul. Willow’s kind of disappointed by this explanation, but I love it. I have this whole headcanon where the reason Giles and Buffy knew the Mayor wanted to get rid of Angel’s soul is that the shaman guy popped in to show Giles photos of his kids before he headed to the mansion. Wesley isn’t happy that Giles, Buffy, and Angel pulled this whole charade without telling him. He’s gonna go tattle to the Council now. Giles agrees; the Council needs to know Faith’s gone rogue. Xander is still smarting over getting punched out by Angel, not particularly comforted that Angel wasn’t actually evil at the time. Buffy reminds him (or maybe herself) that it was just an act.
The Mayor tries to rally Faith from her sulky mood about getting found out and having any remaining ties to the Scoobies severed. He’s still on her side, and after the Ascension, he’s just going to eat all the people who don’t like her. Also, they can go play mini golf. She’s incredulous for a couple of seconds, then laughs. His weird affable evil ways are finally starting to get past her emotional barriers.
The scene switches to the mansion, and the first thing we see in the shot are the manacles that Angel put on Buffy. Symbolism that things won’t be able to go straight back to the status quo, perhaps? Buffy walks in. Angel’s sitting on the hearth. He tries to apologize for how hard their little act was on her. She doesn’t blame him; it was something they planned together. But it was hard, so she wants a little space from him for a while. He asks if she’s still his girl. She smiles and says “always” before leaving the mansion.
“Enemies” is fantastic. We get all the fun of having Angelus back without any of the badness that would come with him actually being back, we get the triumph of the good guys successfully pulling an awesome con, and we finally get Faith’s duplicity out in the open. It feels like the pieces are all on the chess board now. The father/daughter dynamic between Faith and the Mayor is even more overt than it is between Buffy and Giles. They’re the perfect pair of villains, because they’re like an evil mirror image. Huh. First we have Willow and Vamp Willow, then we get a reminder of Angel vs. Angelus, and now we’ve got Buffy and Giles versus Faith and the Mayor. This season also had an alternate timeline episode, an episode where the adults turned into teenagers, and an episode where three of the male characters have a man/beast dual nature. I’m sensing a major overarching theme here. It looks like season three is about conquering one’s darker nature. For Buffy, that’s represented by Faith most of the time, but she also has it in herself, which we saw in “Bad Girls.” She has to remain in control of her passions so that she can take care of her responsibilities.
Buffy still hasn’t learned that she needs to communicate before she assumes the worst. It’s extremely aggravating. However, when we get to the twist where Angelus is really still Angel, it becomes clear that we missed some key moments between them. She must’ve made it to the mansion before Faith after all, they cleared the air, and they came up with their plan to trick her. After how much time I’ve spent giggling over Unsubtle Buffy, I was almost tempted to cry foul about how perfectly she plays her part. However, she has deep emotional scars from Angelus. I fully believe those are enough fuel for her to draw on for her performance. And that’s why it’s hard for her to be around Angel at the end. All this time, she’s kept Angel and Angelus neatly separated in her head, but Angel was very good at pretending to be Angelus, and that dredged up a lot of pain. Angel still contains everything that Angelus is inside him.
Willow does basically two significant things here. First, she reveals that she is ignoring any barriers Giles has set up in order to ensure that she paces herself with her magic. That’s pretty arrogant (which isn’t all that unexpected from a girl with a near-genius IQ), but there still aren’t any consequences. The continued lack of consequences pretty much guarantees that she won’t stop taking these risks. Her dangerous overconfidence will keep growing, and when the consequences finally do come, they’ll be much worse than if this tendency had been dealt with before it became a pattern. The second thing is that she snaps Buffy out of her funk about Angel and Faith. Which is adorable, particularly when she compares Buffy and Angel to herself and Oz. “I too know the love of a taciturn man.” Heee. So cute.
I can’t tell if Xander still has feelings for Cordelia. He’s certainly treating Wesley a lot like how he treated Angel back in S1, so maybe he does. Maybe he thinks it’s unfair that Willow managed to patch things up with Oz, while he’s had no such luck with Cordelia, and now she’s happily moving on. She never acted so swoony around him, even when they were dating. His whole “I told you so” routine about Angel going evil is not as annoying as it could have been (I mean, he did get socked in the face), but it’s still annoying. Does it mean he’s been quietly expecting Buffy to sleep with Angel again all this time? Does he have that little faith in her good judgment? She’d never put everyone in danger like that. Neither would Angel (not that Xander cares).
Oz contributes a valuable idea to the Scoobies’ plans! Excellent. Mostly he just provides dry but astute commentary. I seriously wish he had more to do. He started out as a character who was more than just a love interest, but for much of season three, it kind of feels like he’s atrophied.
Giles certainly rubs shoulders with some interesting people. For as long as we’ve known him, it still feels like there’s so much we don’t know about his past and his connections. It’s fantastic. I love that he, Buffy, and Angel were the only ones in on the plan, too. (Well, aside from the shaman dude.) Buffy and her two best confidants. Yesss. And Giles is getting along with Wesley a little better lately. Which is a sign of Wesley starting to go slightly off the books. Good job, Wesley. Also, Giles’s attitude towards demons living modern lives is so hilarious.
Cordelia continues to crack me up more than she ever has. Her crush on Wesley is wonderful. And it really was enough to get her back in the group. She doesn’t have to think about Xander hurting her anymore, because she can just focus on Wesley and his great voice instead.
It’s lucky that Faith and the Mayor never actually met Angelus in person, because if they had, they’d know that he never does other people’s dirty work. Either you accept your place beneath him or he kills you (or at least makes life extremely unpleasant for you). He would never agree to work for the Mayor. Anyway. Even if he was portraying a slightly out-of-character Angelus in order to get what he wanted, I love watching Angel use this particular gambit. It’s a very good example of why nobody should underestimate him. I also love how much compassion he shows Faith, and that he still tries to help her (though more warily) after she crosses a line. It would sort of help if he was more protective of his personal space, but being so unrufflable is pretty cool too. It’s like each episode in the second half of season three is establishing another important side of the Angel who will star in his own series. This time, we get both his determination to help people others might consider too far gone and the fact that he’s just as cunning as Angelus.
“Six-course banquet of nothing with a scoop of sod-all as a palate cleanser.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.