“The Harsh Light of Day”
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by James Contner
We open in the Bronze, where the Dingoes are playing (and is it just me, or does Andy’s band in Parks and Recreation sound almost exactly like the Dingoes, only way crappier?). Willow and Buffy are sitting at one of the tables. Buffy is stealth stalking Parker. Apparently she and he have been hanging out all week. The band’s set ends, and Oz joins them. Willow encourages Buffy to do whatever she wants with Parker, since she’s single. Also, Buffy’s wearing a really pretty shirt.
And here’s a better shot of Willow’s weird/awesome coat from S3!
It’s also fun that Oz has been wearing a fleece-lined jacket in a lot of his scenes this season. I’m 100% sure he’s doing that because he finds the irony amusing. Oh hey, it’s Harmony. Who is a vampire now, and just as shallow as ever. Apparently the vampire that bit her during the battle in “Graduation Day” had time to do the whole thing. She bites Willow. Before she can do much damage, Oz comes to the rescue. Harmony threatens them with promises of revenge from her boyfriend.
Buffy and Parker are heading back to campus, and he notices the bite scar Angel left on her neck. She deflects a little and—okay, I don’t care about Parker at all, and any emotion I do expend on his behalf is negative, so I don’t feel like putting forth the effort to summarize their conversation. It’s a pleasant, flirty conversation, with a lot of “carpe diem” to it, and Parker unwittingly insults Angel a couple of times. He asks her to go to a frat party with him.
Holy crap it’s a scene with only Xander and Giles. I’ve been waiting for this since “The Harvest.” The one in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” barely counts. Anya comes in (without knocking), to Giles’s irritation. She has brown hair now. She tries to make Giles leave, but it’s his flat, so he just looks at her. She drags Xander outside so she can DTR him out of nowhere. Understandably, he wasn’t aware there was a relationship to define, and he tries to backpedal because he feels that relationships are supposed to develop organically. She’s both blunt and determined, so that doesn’t work.
Meanwhile, Buffy and Parker have arrived at her door. Their conversation has gone from pleasant to awkward, but they kiss anyway—or, they try to. Willow and Oz run up, Willow holding a tissue over her neck wound. They manage to get rid of Parker, and Oz patches Willow up in their room. Willow doesn’t believe Harmony actually has a boyfriend.
Well, she does. And it’s Spike. Um. Which of them should I feel sorrier for in this situation? He’s working on some kind of tunneling project with a bunch of minions, looking for a crypt. Harmony wants him to kill Willow for her. Spike finds her so annoying that he can barely keep from shouting at her, but she seems to be fairly good at manipulating him with sex. Which he will not get if he doesn’t take her to a party.
That party just happens to be the same one Buffy and Parker are going to. Spike makes fun of Parker, and Buffy makes fun of Harmony. Then Spike and Harmony skedaddle. Buffy follows them and fights Spike. Harmony informs her that Drusilla dumped him again, and he constantly mopes about it. Then she taunts Buffy that once they get the Gem of Amara, Buffy will be screwed. Spike didn’t want her to reveal that information, so he forcibly leads her away.
Xander is hanging a disco ball in his basement room when Anya shows up. He turns around to grab her a juice box, which gives her time to let her dress drop to the floor. When he turns back around, he freezes, squeezing the juice box so hard that most of its contents come shooting out the straw. *rolls eyes* Real subtle visual metaphor, guys. Ew.
Buffy’s on the phone with Giles about Spike and Harmony and the Gem of Amara. Giles is incredulous, because that’s not supposed to be a real thing. It’s like the vampire Holy Grail. But he’ll do some research just in case. When they hang up, Buffy goes back to the party.
Harmony is lounging on her and Spike’s bed, asking if she can go turn Antonio Banderas into a vampire (which Spike finds super irritating), then musing on the veins all over her skin. Spike forgets how annoying she is and panther crawls up the bed to her. He doesn’t appreciate any reminders from her about Drusilla, but it’s not enough to kill the mood.
Anya has been explaining her plan for getting over Xander. She feels that they’re going to have to have sex before that will happen. Xander is still so shocked at her sudden nudity that he’s having trouble absorbing her words. Xander already had a one-night stand once, though, and he isn’t keen on repeating the experience. But Anya does something Faith never did, which is to explain that she likes Xander, and why. It’s enough to get the rest of his barriers down. And his clothes off.
Buffy finds Parker again in the party. She awkwardly tries to explain what the deal was with Spike and Harmony. Her cover story is that Spike is an old friend who is kind of an alcoholic, so she had to make sure he got far away from the beer. Parker asks if they used to date, and Buffy’s reply is to burst out laughing. I love that. Even though it will become depressingly ironic a couple of years later. What the crap is that shirt? It’s like a black hankie tied onto her front with a few strings.
Buffy and Parker dance, and then they chat. He’s a history major, and he manages to make that sound romantic, even to someone who hates history as much as Buffy does. They kiss some more. He offers to back off. It’s her choice! Aaand they end up sleeping together, which forever ruins “The Lucky Ones” for me. Meanwhile, Giles finds out that the Gem of Amara is actually a thing, and it is Very Bad News. Buffy isn’t available, though, so he has to leave a message.
The next morning, Buffy wakes up to find no Parker. She starts chasing down her clothes when he comes back with coffee. She wants to spend some more time with him later, but he can’t because his mom’s coming to campus. Later, though. They kiss again.
Anya and Xander are getting dressed. She thinks maybe now she’s over him. Maybe? She doesn’t sound convinced. He says that’s fine, to which she takes offense and storms out. In Spike’s lair, wherever it is, Harmony is using black lipstick to graffiti Spike’s back.
When Buffy gets back to the dorm, Giles is there with Willow, waiting to update her about the Gem of Amara. Giles isn’t interested in knowing anything about where Buffy was all night, and he leaves to go find out exactly where the crypt might be. Willow wants details about Buffy/Parker. She’s so excited for Buffy. Buffy is also excited for Buffy.
The vamps are getting close to the crypt with the Gem in it. Harmony is being annoying and clingy again, and this time, Spike is so annoyed that gives a long, quiet-angry rant about how much he wants her to shut up. She’s very hurt. This is not a good relationship.
Buffy alternates between trying to track Spike and Harmony down (with no success) and checking her messages. Parker still hasn’t called her.
Spike makes it into the crypt at last. Harmony comes in, excited to loot pretty jewelry. Spike finds a large amulet and puts it on. Nothing seems to be different. He grabs a cross, and it burns him. The Gem of Amara is supposed to make him completely indestructible. Harmony starts rambling again, and he stakes her. Yay! Wait. It didn’t work. Because she’s wearing the actual Gem of Amara, which is a ring. He tries to grab it from her roughly, and she rips it off and throws it at him in temper, ‘cause he’s being a jerk. He puts it on and scampers off to go play in the sun.
The Scoobies are at Giles’s apartment. Oz is admiring Giles’s impressive vinyl collection, which includes Loaded by The Velvet Underground. They’re all shocked when Xander unburies a TV from behind stacks of books. They turn it on, and because this is a TV show, the only stations broadcasting are the ones with relevant plot information. Specifically, information about cave-ins from possible tunneling. They leave to go find Buffy.
Buffy is walking across campus, and she finds Parker feeding another girl the same lines about his dad’s death and living in the moment that he fed her earlier. She’s wearing a really cute outfit.
Buffy doesn’t understand what’s wrong between her and Parker. She thought that they were a serious couple. A bit whirlwind-y, but definitely in a relationship. He, on the other hand, thought it was a week of hanging out followed by one night of sex, and that’s it. She still tries to salvage it, but fails. And then Spike comes out of nowhere and punches her. Once she recovers from the shock of him in the sunlight and not frying, she starts fighting him. But he’s indestructible. He wiggles the Gem of Amara tauntingly at her.
Willow, Oz, and Giles find the crypt, where Harmony is sitting and crying. She vamps out, but there are too many of them, and they have weapons. She tells them what happened with Spike and the Gem. Then she jumps down the hole and vanishes.
Anya comes to find Xander, but he’s too busy to talk right now, because he has to find Buffy. Anya is hurt by his dismissal (but it doesn’t look like he wanted to hurt her; he just really didn’t have time).
Buffy and Spike are still fighting, and Spike mocks Buffy for falling for Parker’s tricks. Xander arrives and tries to help, only to get tossed right back out of the fight like a ragdoll. He has Buffy on the ropes until he makes the mistake of bringing Angel into the taunts. Then she whales on him and pulls the ring off. Instead of grabbing onto him so he’d fry in the sun, she allows him to run over to a manhole and jump to safety.
At Giles’s flat, the Scoobies are staring at the Gem of Amara. Giles starts talking about destroying it, but Buffy cuts him off. She wants to send it to Angel, and for that it needs to be not destroyed. Oz offers to take it to him while he’s in L.A. for a gig.
Buffy and Willow are walking together on campus. Buffy is super bummed about Parker. She’s upset at what he did, but she thinks he doesn’t want to be together because of something she did wrong. After all, this is now the second time that she’s slept with a guy one time, only to have him abandon her. Willow tries to convince her that there’s nothing wrong with her; Parker’s just a poophead. Excellent word.
Buffy, Anya, and Harmony all walk alone, moping about their guy problems, within shouting distance of each other.
I do not like “The Harsh Light of Day” very much. The three storylines are all woven together well—or, at least two of them are, and the third one is also about sex, so it’s there too. It’s an episode about three girls whose relationships all go badly, but for wildly different reasons. Buffy gets taken advantage of by a player while on the rebound, Harmony gets abused by Spike and tries to smooth it over with sex, and Anya ends up hurting herself because she thinks she wants closure when she actually wants stability. The problem is that I only find one of those three storylines even a little bit appealing, because I freaking loathe Parker and I don’t like Spike or Harmony. I’m not sure I buy that Buffy would rush into what she believed was a serious relationship. It took the better part of a year for her and Angel to sleep together, and they were in love for a large chunk of that year. But now she supposedly feels comfortable enough with Parker to want to sleep with him after a couple of weeks? She doesn’t think she’s having a one-night stand; she thinks she’s in a relationship. So what’s the rush? Is it more about proving to herself that she can get over Angel (which she clearly still hasn’t) than it is about being with Parker? Also, it just seems mean to have Buffy be used by a guy like this. I get that Angel turning into Angelus was supposed to be a metaphor for the jerk boyfriend who loses interest the second he gets the girl to sleep with him, but did she have to go through the non-metaphor version of that too? Did Joss realize that Angel wasn’t a great metaphor for that after all (because he genuinely did love Buffy and would have continued loving her if he hadn’t lost his soul), so he wanted to try it again? I also am not a Spike fan, and when he comes back only to be a jerk boyfriend and a very temporary threat, it doesn’t really seem like it’s worth it. “Lovers Walk” was much better. Being a mopey drunk is a much more entertaining way for him to handle Drusilla’s rejection than for him to sleep with and emotionally abuse a shallow preppy girl. I’m not a Harmony fan either. I do not understand what the writers thought was funny enough about her to justify keeping her around. But then, I don’t understand why people like watching sports or Mel Brooks movies either, and those are rather popular. It might partly be a personal preference thing. Hang on, is Spike supposed to be a metaphor for the kind of guy Parker really is behind the Bambi eyes? That would be interesting. The least unfortunate of the three plotlines is the Xander/Anya one. They have such a strange, fascinating dynamic that it somehow manages to be the most interesting part of the episode. Meh.
Though I might have problems with the idea of Buffy rushing into things with Parker, the aftermath is 100% in character. Buffy blaming herself for guys not liking her is definitely not a new trait of hers. It was the source of a lot of her angst in the early stages of her relationship with Angel, not to mention the way she reacts to Angelus’s cruelty in “Innocence.” She hasn’t learned yet that guys tend to have their own issues (or are jerks and/or evil), and that has nothing to do with her. She’s pretty hard on herself in general, even though she’s amazing. Not everyone can have the self-confidence of Prince Edward, I guess.
The problem is, why would Buffy still think she’s the problem after he told her to her face that he was just having fun, and she witnessed him using the same lines on another girl that he used on her? She’s not stupid. She’s seen the kind of guy he is. She can feel hurt and betrayed, but why is she still pining for a guy like that?
Xander, somewhat to my surprise, is very endearing in this one. He tries to talk Anya down from her crazy out-of-nowhere insistence on having sex with him. He wants sex to be meaningful, especially because of how un-meaningful it was for him the first time. And I have to agree with him about Anya. For all her social cluelessness, she is definitely more romantic than Faith. But Anya has forgotten a key lesson about Xander: his top priority will always be doing what he can to make sure his friends are safe. He can’t work things out with Anya while Buffy is in danger from an invincible Spike.
Willow is doing that thing where she pushes Buffy at a new love interest again, just like she did with Angel, Ben, and Scott. I know she probably just spent the bulk of the summer witnessing Buffy’s lonely misery in the wake of Angel’s departure, but best friends are supposed to be more suspicious than that. A best friend has the benefit of a mind unclouded by hormones, and she’s supposed to make the most of it. But Willow’s generally more inclined to attempt quick fixes for emotional problems, whether for herself or for others. But the “he’s a poophead” speech makes up for some of it.
Oz tends to feel like a more developed character in the episodes where he interacts with Devon. I find their friendship fascinating. Devon is a complete idiot, and Oz is pretty much a genius. But Devon has, from his very first episode, shown signs of being very supportive of Oz, and while Oz is constantly sarcastic with Devon, it’s a very gentle, affectionate sort of sarcasm. Naturally, I greatly appreciate when Protective Oz makes an appearance after Harmony attacks Willow. Oz has always had this habit of moving in front of Willow whenever something dangerous happens (such as when the Judge’s disembodied arm grabbed Buffy by the throat and when the Mayor walked right into the library), but he rarely gets to actually fight off something that’s threatening Willow, so that was fun to see. As was him taking care of her afterwards. And that moment when he was sorting through Giles’s albums is one of the only times he’s directly interacted with Giles, but it already gave him a better bond with the man than Xander has managed to achieve in almost three years.
Giles has cool albums and a newfangled television set, but still no job. It’s also funny whenever he shows skepticism about whether or not some Plot A MacGuffin or critter exists. It all exists! Except leprechauns. Two episodes ago, Buffy was revolted and horrified by evidence of Giles’s sex life, and now Giles has a fairly similar reaction to evidence of Buffy’s sex life. And Xander’s. Young people sex is just as disconcerting to old people as old people sex is to young people. *snort* It’s like people in other generations are aliens or something.
“You’re shelving them wrong.”
“I don’t get your crazy system!”
“My system? It’s called the alphabet.”
“And you with Harmony! What, did you lose a bet?”
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.