“A New Man”
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Michael Gershman
Buffy and Riley are making out on her bed. Buffy doesn’t expect Willow to return until the morning, so they’re about to progress past making out when Willow shows up anyway, with news of badness. Some kind of fire-breathing demon is attacking the rec room. Buffy goes with Willow, who leads her to…a surprise party! Happy birthday, Buffy! Hopefully it stays happy this time. Riley pops out in soldier-y gear with a crossbow. Apparently he wasn’t in on the surprise.
In addition to the Scoobies, there are a bunch of random other college students at the party. Xander has ruined the perfectly good green button-up he’s wearing by adding a periwinkle blue and tan camouflage sweater-vest over it.
Giles is entertaining Xander and Anya with tales of his own college experience. Well. “Entertaining.” Anya isn’t interested, and she doesn’t mind if Giles knows that. Xander has been giving her lessons in tact, and she demonstrates what she’s learned in much the same way that a kindergartener would show off for her parents. Giles dismisses them to go get food, and then he spends much of the party awkwardly sitting by the wall alone. Willow comes to bring him some cake, and then Buffy brings Riley over to introduce him. AND SHE HUGS GILES! HEEE! This is a glorious day! First Buffy/Giles hug ever! And may there be many more where that one came from!
Buffy’s very happy to be introducing Riley to Giles, but Giles seems a bit put out that he didn’t even know there was a boyfriend until now. Despite Giles getting blindsided by the introduction, Riley makes a good first impression…until he asks if Giles is retired. Buffy distracts Riley by pointing out that Giles lacks cake. Except that Willow handed him cake literally forty-five seconds ago, and he hasn’t taken so much as a bite yet because of all this conversation.
Buffy is very happy to be having a birthday that’s going so well. Someone should knock on wood. Giles admits that he didn’t help much with the party planning, since he thinks she gets too many surprises as the Slayer, so he would’ve preferred something more overt. Then Buffy tells him about Walsh, whom she thinks he should meet. She also describes her as “the smartest person [she’s] ever met.” Which Giles seems to take as an insult. Wow, this is just one foot-in-mouth moment after another, and nobody seems aware of the fact except Giles. Giles (in a slightly bitter tone) suggests that maybe they should’ve invited Walsh, but Buffy thinks someone in their forties would have better things to do than hang out with a bunch of kids. She of course doesn’t mean this as an insult to Giles. Her bond with him transcends usual generational barriers. However, he takes it badly.
Xander is trying to hurry Spike out the door. He’s done being his roommate/warden. Spike is shamelessly picking various possessions of Xander’s to take with him. He wants to find a new place anyway. Anya makes conversation with him about where he’ll go. A crypt, most likely. She tries to give him a housewarming gift (i.e. something that belongs to Xander) because that’s what humans do. Xander points out that housewarming gifts are only for friends. Spike doesn’t expect his crypt will have electricity, and Anya points out all the reasons that’ll suck. He admits that she has a point, but Xander still doesn’t want him dawdling. How’s he supposed to leave right now, though, anyway? It’s broad daylight outside. What, is he going to awkwardly carry all his stuff while crouching under a blanket? Wait, yes, he should totally do that. It would be very entertaining to watch.
Xander is introducing Buffy to Walsh as the head of the Initiative, not just a professor. Walsh is a bit more okay with Buffy only getting a B- in the class, now that she knows what’s been taking up Buffy’s time. Walsh and Riley are rather proud of the Initiative’s track record against demons, using all their fancy technology. Seventeen! Buffy tries to act impressed, but she’s clearly fighting down a desire to laugh.
Giles is tidying up his apartment when he notices a particular book, and its contents rather alarm him. Apparently a demon prince is going to rise that night. He calls Willow, and he wants her to get a hold of Buffy.
Buffy has been telling Riley the tales of her slayage, and he’s so impressed that he now has some inferiority issues. Then it turns into mildly awkward flirting.
Giles shows up in Walsh’s office to visit with her. Walsh rebuffs all his halting attempts at cordiality. Admittedly, he’s a bit of a spaz, but Walsh pretty much destroys him. She says it’s not healthy for Buffy to have grown up so quickly, and she thinks Buffy must not have had a strong male role model. I suddenly hate her.
Giles, Willow, and Xander are looking for that demon who hypothetically should have risen that night, and they’re a bit behind schedule. However, there’s no sign of any demonic prince. Willow and Xander think the Initiative probably took care of it already. Giles doesn’t understand. Nobody has been keeping him updated about the Initiative or that Riley and Walsh are part of it. He’s even more offended when he finds out that Anya and Spike know about this too. He doesn’t want them to patronize him, though, and they leave. Giles leaves the crypt in a huff too, and then Ethan Rayne steps out of the shadows to have himself a little villain monologue. Alas, he should’ve kept his voice down, because Giles pops back in to see what the noise is.
Giles is happy to see Ethan, if only because beating him up will make his day much better. Ethan claims he’s there to warn Giles about something, though, so Giles reluctantly stays his hand. They head to a bar, where Ethan insists on sharing a few drinks before he gives his information. Giles wants him to get on with it. Demons have been talking about something called 314 that’s been causing a stir in their community. They’re terrified of it. The Initiative is also causing problems.
Buffy and Riley are sparring in some kind of training room. Riley offers to go all out if Buffy will do the same. It’s fun for about five seconds, and then Buffy kicks Riley across the room. Surprisingly, his entire ribcage isn’t shattered. He assures her he’s fine.
Giles is drunk now, and he’s ranting slurrily about Walsh. Ethan, equally drunk, is trying to hit on their waitress. Giles is annoyed, because he and Ethan used to be awesome, but now they’re a couple of has-beens. Ethan tells Giles he poisoned his drink, but he’s joking. Hilarious. They clink their glasses to magic.
Willow is hanging out with Tara so they can do some spell stuff. The goal is to make a rose float, then take its petals off one at a time. Their thoughts have to be in sync for it to work. It starts out okay, but then the rose zips around the room and kind of explodes.
Giles wakes up with something considerably worse than a hangover. He’s turned into a demon. He ends up smashing a lot of his stuff on the way out of his flat. He knows this is Ethan’s fault, so he wants to go throttle him until he fixes it.
Buffy and Willow are having breakfast, and Willow is very happy to see how much happier Buffy is now that she’s dating Riley. Buffy wants to know why Willow didn’t come back to the dorm, and Willow evades, saying that she was out studying by herself. She does tell Buffy about the rose disaster, though. Willow thinks it means there’s some kind of dark powerful magic going on in town. Buffy plans on reporting to Giles…or maybe to Walsh. Willow tells her she should definitely report to Giles, and scolds her a bit for not telling Giles about the Initiative. Buffy didn’t even realize she hadn’t told him. She’ll make it up to him later, but first she’s gonna spend more time with Riley! She feels a little guilty about kicking him, but she also admits that she was still holding back.
Demon Giles shows up at Xander’s basement, where Xander is still sleeping. He wakes him up. It takes Xander a while to wake up, and when he does, he freaks out. To him, it sounds like Giles is just making a bunch of demon growly sounds, not speaking like a polite British man. He starts throwing things at Giles, who runs away, causing panic amongst people he passes.
The Scoobies head to Giles’s apartment that evening, hoping to get Giles’s help figuring out how to fight that demon. Instead, they find a place that looks like it’s been attacked by a demon and no Giles. Anya picks up his shredded shirt. She thinks the demon ate him.
Demon Giles is walking through the cemetery, and he walks past Spike, who is happy to have a demon to fight. Giles is annoyed and resigned to the fight, but it turns out that one of the few languages Spike has bothered to learn in his 120 years as a vampire is Fyarl, the language of the demon species Giles is now a member of. Giles wants Spike’s help. Spike won’t just help, though. He’s evil. So Giles says he’ll pay him.
The Scoobies’ research isn’t going well, and just when Buffy may have found some good information, Riley shows up. He’s here to investigate reports of a demon; he doesn’t actually know this is Giles’s apartment. He offers to help.
Spike and Giles are in Giles’s tiny old car. Spike’s being a bit hard on the car, and he’s also teasing Giles about what powers Fyarl demons have. Giles seems to be succumbing a bit to Fyarl demon instincts. He fights back, though. He will remain civilized, dang it! Oh, except there’s Maggie Walsh over there, and he needs to go scare the crap out of her real quick. Ahahahaha, I love Giles. He gets back in the car.
The Scoobies (plus Riley) have found info about Fyarl demons, and apparently Spike wasn’t lying about weaponized mucus. They can kill Fyarl demons with silver. Riley gets a report about a demon attacking Walsh and stealing Giles’s car. Buffy thinks the Fyarl demon must be working for the person using that bad magic Willow sensed. Buffy and Riley will go to the magic shop to see if there’s been a new dangerous customer there lately, and she takes a silver letter opener with him.
At the same bar Giles and Ethan got drunk at, Spike gets Ethan’s location out of the waitress he hit on. Buffy and Riley break into the magic shop and find Ethan’s receipt. Riley doesn’t want Buffy to come with him to fight the demon, because he has orders from Walsh. Buffy doesn’t care about Riley’s orders. She’s going to kill the thing that hurt Giles.
Spike and Giles are on their way to Ethan’s crappy motel, but now they’re being pursued by a couple of Humvees. Giles offers Spike more money to distract them and lead them in the wrong direction. He makes it to Ethan’s room and starts attacking Ethan. Buffy and Riley arrive, and Ethan says the demon killed Giles. Buffy starts fighting Giles. *facepalm* Riley subdues Ethan, so that’s something, at least. Buffy ends up stabbing Giles with the letter opener, but that doesn’t work, because it’s not made of silver. That’s the moment when she realizes it’s Giles, though.
Ethan has now reversed the spell, and Giles is wearing one of Ethan’s shirts, to his chagrin. Giles asks how she recognized him. She says it was his eyes. (Naturally! He has heterochromia! Very distinctive eyes.) Ethan says he’s gonna leave, because Buffy doesn’t kill humans. But not so fast, Mr. Chaos! Riley is there, and he can arrest him. Ha! Giles, delighted, goes to watch the soldier guys manhandle Ethan. This leaves Riley and Buffy alone. Riley has a better idea of what being the Slayer means for Buffy. He’s amazed, and definitely impressed.
Giles has replaced the things he broke as a demon, including his phone, and he guilt-trips Buffy a bit about not having told him things. She promises she won’t leave him out of the loop again. Giles has concerns about the Initiative, based on what Ethan said at the bar. Buffy trusts Riley, but Giles doesn't think they should trust the Initiative (and not just because Walsh is the worst).
Walsh isn’t happy with how Riley let Buffy steamroll over her orders. And he’s waxing awkwardly poetic about Buffy. Gross, make it stop. Walsh thinks he’s right about Buffy. Or does she? When he leaves, she goes into a room that says 314 on it. Uh oh.
“A New Man” is easily my least favorite Ethan Rayne episode. Well. Perhaps it’s a touch better than “The Dark Ages.” It’s certainly more fun. But I love Giles too much to be able to enjoy all the scenes in the first half where he’s being ignored and undervalued, and the Buffy hug can only go so far towards making up for it. I love how Ethan’s tendency to act like a supervillain is his downfall at least three separate times in this episode alone. He’s an excellent source of humor. We get to see Tara again, and we learn that for some reason Willow isn’t telling anyone else about her. As soon as the entire gang is on board about the Initiative, we find out that they’re secretly up to no good. Maybe. It was a good point in the season to start building towards that, although I think it might’ve had more of an impact if the writers hadn’t made Walsh completely unlikable from the way she treated Giles. It probably would’ve been a better twist if she’d seemed like a McGonagall type: good, but very strict.
Buffy is in the shiny happy stage of her new relationship, but she’s still anxious about Riley accepting her for who (and what) she is. She keeps holding back around him. I think he does a pretty good job of proving (for now) that it doesn’t bother him that she’s so much stronger. When she’s tracking Giles alongside Riley, there’s a distinct contrast between their methods. He’s all about protocol, while she follows her instincts. We’ve seen enough of her to know that her instincts are nearly always right, but it’s going to take more time for Riley to get used to that.
Xander doesn’t do much except attend Buffy’s party, kick Spike out, and accompany Giles to the cemetery. Probably the most interesting thing about him is his continuing interactions with Anya. They’re really quite adorable together. It would probably be extremely easy to offend Anya while teaching her normal human behavior, but he seems to be navigating those dangerous waters rather well.
I don’t know when things stop being platonic for Willow and Tara (my gaydar is either broken or I never had it installed to begin with, so I’m generally pretty bad at figuring these things out), but I don’t think fear of judgment is why Willow isn’t telling anyone else about Tara yet. At least, not fear of judgment about sexuality. Ever since she first started practicing magic, she’s mostly only received words of caution and warning from Giles and Buffy, and Xander hasn’t really been involved in her witchcraft one way or the other. Tara is a witch, and she supports Willow with her magical studies. I think Willow feels protective of that right now. She has someone who understands her interest in magic and approves of it, so she wants to keep that to herself.
Walsh worries that Buffy’s loyalties are unclear, but I think it’s Riley’s loyalties that are starting to get blurry. His admiration of Buffy as a fighter of monsters is growing, and at a certain point, that’s going to compromise his trust in the system he’s a part of. Which is a good thing, considering the corruption of that system.
Spike spent much of the previous episode hanging out with Willow and Xander, and now he’s hanging out with Giles. Slowly but surely, he’s networking his way into the group, even if he still hates all of them and they all still hate him. I’m not sure I buy that he wouldn’t still attack Giles once he realized he’d been turned into a demon. Has it just occurred to him that if he kills Giles, Buffy will end him? Is he really desperate enough for cash that he’ll help one of his enemies for it? Or is he just starved for conversation?
It’s kind of awesome that Giles can be about ready to deck Ethan in one scene, then getting drunk with him a couple of scenes later. They’re such fun frenemies. Giles is the only one suspicious of the Initiative, which I really like. It proves that he isn’t as obsolete to the group as he fears he is. Still, if he’s feeling so out of the loop and useless, why isn’t he trying harder to get a new job? Endless free time isn’t the same thrill ride for adults as it is for kids (as I have unfortunately discovered in recent years). Is he doing something about it? There haven’t been any indications that he’s looking for employment at all.
“The Slayer. We thought you were a myth.”
“Well, you were mythtaken!”
“What am I? I’m an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked on the head.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.