“Into the Woods”
Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by Marti Noxon
Buffy is sitting at the hospital with Dawn’s head in her lap and Riley next to her. Giles comes up and offers to get them some food. The other Scoobies are also there. They’re all getting antsy because of how long Joyce’s surgery is taking. Riley thinks that’s a good sign. A doctor emerges, and they all stand up.
Joyce is in recovery. They were able to get the whole tumor out, so she should be fine as long as nothing goes wrong during the healing process. Hugs all around for the Scoobies! Except for Xander and Giles, who go in for a hug and then remember they don’t like each other very much and just shake hands. Buffy hugs the doctor...with Slayer strength. Oops.
Dawn is having Chinese takeout with Xander and Anya. They try to figure out what to do to celebrate Joyce’s successful surgery, and most of the ideas seem lame (or illegal). Dawn doesn’t want them to try too hard; she’s only at Xander’s place so Buffy and Riley can have sex. It suddenly occurs to Anya that she and Xander won’t be able to do that if Dawn is with them.
Buffy and Riley are dancing to a nice song. Buffy feels much better now that her worries over Joyce’s health are gone. Riley, according his pattern lately, feels all hurt and abandoned when Buffy reveals that she did break down and cry—just, not on his shoulder. Buffy doesn’t notice this and is just happy to be able to spend time with her boyfriend now that all this stress is over. We then get one of the slowest and more explicit Buffy/Riley sex scenes of the series. Which Spike is totally creeping on down below Buffy’s window! Grooooooss.
After Buffy falls asleep, Riley gets up and leaves. Spike is still outside, and he follows Riley, who goes back to that rundown warehouse where he can get bit by vamp chicks.
At the hospital, Joyce is leaning towards scarves over wigs, but since they didn’t shave her whole head or even most of it, I’m not sure why either option is really necessary. All she needs to do is part her hair on the right for a few months while the one little patch grows back. Joyce wants Buffy to stop fussing over her and get back to living her own life. She has lots of school work to make up and she should be spending time with her friends and her boyfriend. But Buffy is determined to have more quality mom time, so she gave Riley “the day off.”
Graham and his team have found a serious demon infestation in Belize. Graham wants to get Riley on board.
Buffy is asleep when someone comes in her room. It’s not Riley, like she expected, but Spike! She threatens him with dismemberment if he doesn’t leave, but he has something to show her. After much hinting from Buffy, he turns around so she can get dressed. Then they head out to the rundown warehouse. Which contains quite a few willing meals for vampires. Buffy’s already horrified, but Spike leads her farther in until they find Riley. Who is shirtless and is telling the vamp chick to bite harder. Buffy gasps and Riley and the vamp chick look up at her. Buffy runs away. Spike mocks Riley a bit before leaving too. Some vamps try to stop Buffy and she throws them across the room. Spike seems to want credit for showing Buffy what Riley was up to, but Buffy just keeps running. The vamps inside aren’t happy with Riley for bringing the Slayer to their place, but he manages to get out.
Buffy goes back to her room and just stands there, dumbfounded. Riley goes to his place, where Graham’s team is waiting for him. Graham’s boss briefs Riley on the mission in Belize. He can join the operation if he wants. They’re not government men, they’re with the army. They don’t do creepy experiments on monsters, they just stop them. They ship out in a day, with or without him.
Giles has put up a big sign in the Magic Box welcoming holiday shoppers of all religions. He feels like a cheap sellout about it. Anya thinks Willow and Giles are making fun of her when she suggests packaging their extra stock of chicken feet as free gifts with every purchase. They and Xander all end up in a very strange and awkward argument, which ends with the arrival of Buffy. Buffy wants to know about the vamp nest where people pay vamps to bite them. According to Anya and Giles, that sort of thing has been around for centuries. Any vamp who prioritizes survival over violence can live quite handsomely off the money and blood, all while keeping a low profile because nobody turns up dead because of them.
Buffy is very upset that Giles never told her about this. He’s not apologetic. He thinks Glory should be Buffy’s priority right now, since the people getting fed on by those vamps are there of their own free will. Buffy is on the warpath, though. She gears up to storm the place immediately, and she doesn’t react well when Xander suggests she wait for Riley to back her up. Anya stays at the shop alone while the other three go with Buffy.
The nest is now empty, but Buffy is determined to find them. She tosses a lit stove against the wall, setting the place on fire. Giles, Willow, and Xander are now seriously suspecting something is up with Buffy.
Spike is enjoying some bourbon in his crypt when a furious Riley comes in, hauls him out of his chair, punches him, and stakes him! Oh hey, awesome! Except...dang it, the stake was made of plastic. What’s the point of that? Riley knows Spike has a gross crush on Buffy and he promises he’ll bring a real stake the next time Spike crosses him. Spike thinks that’s hilarious. He admits he has a crush, but claims Riley’s problem isn’t Spike. It’s that he isn’t monster enough for Buffy, which is why he was paying vamp trollops to bite him. Spike doesn’t really think he has a shot with Buffy, though. He tosses Riley the bourbon. He says sometimes he envies Riley, but sometimes he thinks Riley’s worse off. He talks himself out of the latter idea, though, by musing on what it’s like for Riley to be able to sleep with Buffy. Can this scene be over now?
Thank goodness. Buffy is beating the crap out of a punching bag in the training room. She’s been in there for quite a while. Xander is worried. Then Riley shows up. He asks Xander and Anya to give him and Buffy some space, so they leave—Xander shooing Anya out while she tries to loudly give Riley advice about how best to use the training room equipment for sex purposes. Anya’s a bit put out when Xander says they can’t go home and have sex just now because he has to deal with something else.
Buffy doesn’t want to talk to Riley. He doesn’t give her an option. He insists that she hear him out. Fine, as long as he’s not touching her while she listens. He says the first time he let a vampire bite him, it was his ridiculous way of getting even with her for letting Dracula bite him. Buffy gets very offended by his use of the word “let”. She was under Dracula’s thrall. There was no letting. Riley’s aware of that, but he couldn’t fully convince himself. He wanted to understand how Dracula and, more importantly, Angel, could have so much power over Buffy.
Buffy can’t believe what she’s hearing. She can’t believe Riley would pretty much metaphorically cheat on her. What was she not giving him that vampire whores could? Riley says it was that they needed him. He never feels like Buffy needs him. Not the way he needs her. Buffy can’t believe he’s making this her fault, and that he presumes to know what she feels. He claims she doesn’t let him in, but she doesn’t know how she could give him more even if she tried. She thinks this might be about him not being able to handle her being stronger than him.
That’s when Riley chooses to drop Graham’s offer on her. He’s going to go, tonight, unless she gives him a reason to stay. Buffy doesn’t appreciate him giving her an ultimatum. Riley says that’s not what it is, but Buffy’s options are pretty much to move past his infidelity and inferiority complex issues in about an hour or lose him forever. How is that not an ultimatum? Buffy starts to storm out, but Riley gets in the way. She wants him to move, he wants her to make him move. She goes around him.
She heads out into the alley outside the Magic Box, and vampires from the feeding den warehouse emerge and surround her. Buffy tells them to walk away. This isn’t the best moment to try fighting her. They choose to fight anyway. She stakes all seven of them in quick succession, saving the chick who was biting Riley when she found him for last. She almost lets her run away, but then throws the stake at her, dusting her.
Xander joins her in the alley. Buffy doesn’t want to talk to him. He wants to know what’s up with her. He keeps after her. He knows her mood has something to do with Riley. That gets Buffy’s attention. Xander thinks it’s Buffy’s fault she and Riley aren’t doing well, because Riley would do anything for her. Buffy fills Xander in on Riley’s recent extracurricular activities and the ultimatum. Xander wants to know what the problem is. So what if it’s super unfair, does she really want Riley to leave forever because of this fight? Xander thinks Buffy’s been treating Riley like a convenience: he’ll be there when she wants him to be and elsewhere when she doesn’t. Buffy wonders if he’s really talking about the way she treats Riley and not about the way he treats Anya. Xander doesn’t appreciate that, but he tells her she’s been treating Riley like her rebound after Angel. (Wait, wasn’t Parker the rebound guy?) If there’s a chance Riley could be it for her, then she has to go after him. She starts crying. Maybe Xander’s right. He tells her to run, and she does.
Riley is standing next to the helicopter, looking to see if Buffy will show up. She’s running as fast as she can. He checks his watch as the chopper’s blades start turning. She runs across a bridge and he looks up, but this is film trickery. She’s not actually there yet. He gets on the chopper. When Buffy arrives, the chopper is already in the air, and Riley doesn’t see or hear Buffy yelling for him. Bye, Riley. Buffy watches the chopper fly away, then walks back home.
Xander is at Anya’s apartment. He tells her how in love with her he is. She’s so touched that she tears up, and she grabs him and kisses him. Buffy gets home and sits down on the stairs. Riley is in the chopper, stony-faced.
“Into the Woods” is the culmination of all the dysfunction building between Buffy and Riley for the whole season—well, maybe even since Angel beat Riley up in “The Yoko Factor.” It’s not really a fun episode to watch. Even though I don’t ship Buffy/Riley at all, I don’t enjoy watching them implode. It’s very raw and while I do think the breakup was inevitable, it probably could have at least been more amicable. The whole episode is about throwing things in Buffy and Riley’s way in order to make the moment of implosion as unpleasant as possible. Spike exposes Riley’s behavior to Buffy and Graham gives Riley a very close deadline to make an enormous decision about his future. Running parallel to that relationship is Xander/Anya, which is bizarrely quite functional. That’s a pretty established pattern in Joss Whedon shows. While one relationship is collapsing, another will be at its best. I think the thing that bugs me most about the episode is the plastic stake. There is no reason for Riley to not just stake Spike for real. I don’t even understand why the rest of the Scoobies put up with Spike. He doesn’t patrol with them, he rarely has information they couldn’t get through other means (like bribing Willy), and there’s no guarantee his chip will keep working. Also now he’s very creepily stalking Buffy. As little sense as it makes for the Scoobies to keep Spike alive, it makes even less sense for Riley to do so, particularly in this episode.
I’m largely on Buffy’s side in this episode. It absolutely isn’t fair of Riley to ask her to get past his discretions, which she clearly considers to be equivalent to infidelity, in such a narrow window of time. He definitely presented it in an all-or-nothing way, when maybe he could have approached Graham’s mission as an opportunity for him and Buffy to take a break and really think about their priorities in the relationship. With a little coaxing from Xander, though, Buffy is willing to put aside her own extremely justified problems with the situation and go running for Riley. If she can only get him to stay, then they can figure out how to work through their issues later.
I think Xander is maybe a little harsh with Buffy, but he’s never been super great at approaching Buffy with sensitivity or tact when she does something he doesn’t agree with. He puts a lot of blame on her. She might have contributed to the problems with Riley, but she was also dealing with a lot of very serious crap. All Xander really needed to do was ask her if she really wanted to never see him again because of this fight. Is what she and Riley had worth trying to work through the problems? It’s kind of a jerk move on his part to guilt trip her so hard.
Willow apparently still doesn’t particularly like Anya. Also, I think I would’ve preferred for her to be the one who talked to Buffy about Riley after Buffy found out what he was doing. Why hasn’t Buffy been having relationship talks with Willow lately?
Riley claims he wants Buffy to give him a reason to stay, but by the time she comes running to do just that, he’s not waiting for her anymore. He wants Buffy to give him more, then gives her no opportunity to either figure out how to do that or actually try. He has already given up and checked out, but he’s subconsciously created a way out that will put all the blame for the failure of the relationship on Buffy instead of on him.
Anya continues to be very endearing in her strange way. She’s so blunt and tactless with people that it’s kind of surprising how bad she is at talking about her feelings. Xander manages to figure out exactly the right thing to say to her.
Everyone treats Dawn like a kid and they shield her from certain topics, but I really like that she’s a lot more aware of things than they give her credit for. We often underestimate kids and younger teenagers. Dawn may be a spaz, but she’s very smart and very observant. It’s weird that she sleeps over at Xander’s apartment, though. Why not at a friend’s house?
Spike continues to get more repulsive. Eavesdropping on Buffy/Riley sexcapades with his vamp hearing? Super gross. And while I wouldn’t want Buffy to remain ignorant of Riley’s activities, Spike’s attitude when he shows her is appalling. He makes sure Buffy finds out in a way that will result in the most emotional pain for her possible because his goal is to destroy her relationship with Riley. Even if he doesn’t think he has a chance with her, he doesn’t want anyone else near her. He also wants credit for cluing her in. He seems kind of surprised when she’s not grateful for the heads up.
It’s hilarious how annoyed Giles is with himself about participating in the very holiday commercialization he once found crass.
“That’s very humorous! Make fun of the ex-demon. I can just hear you in private: ‘I dislike that Anya. She’s newly human and strangely literal.’”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.