Written by Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie
Directed by Nick Marck
All the Scoobies are at Buffy’s house for a meeting. Giles has been informed that the Council knows something useful, and they’re coming to Sunnydale. The core four are very uncomfortable with this prospect. Anya is worried they might be violently prejudiced against her for her demon past. Tara is operating under stereotypes about English people not being violent, and she feels very embarrassed about it. Buffy particularly doesn’t want the Watchers here now because of Dawn, a complaint that nobody but Giles understands. Also, Dawn is eavesdropping again. Joyce finds her and sends her back to bed, and Buffy panics about Dawn eavesdropping, which, again, nobody understands. Giles feels the Council might be worth tolerating if they can shed any light on Glory.
Who, in her swanky digs, is rather bedraggled and sweaty. Until her minions bring a postman for her to brainsuck. Then she’s totally fine again. The postman wanders off, babbling crazy talk. Glory is very excited for news from her minions, which basically amounts to “you’d better hurry up if you don’t want your mission to fail.” She’s confident. If Buffy’s the only thing between her and the Key, this should go very well for her.
At the Magic Box, Giles is advising his customers on how to use his merchandise effectively when Quentin Travers and a bunch of other Watchers show up and start being obnoxiously superior right away. Giles tries to politely catch up with Quentin, but he’s wasting his good manners. The other Watchers start pillaging the Magic Box of items they don’t think Giles should be selling to the public. Then they kick out all of the customers. Because they’re conducting an official inspection of Giles and Buffy’s operation before they’ll share any info with them. Fantastic. Anya is particularly upset, until she realizes they’re the Council.
Quentin is disappointed in Giles’s “disrespectful” attitude, but it’s easier to respect people who lord it over you when they’re at least paying you. Since being fired, Giles has felt no such obligation. Giles is indignant at their attitude that they have to review everything before they’ll trust them with any information about Glory. Buffy’s at the top of her game!
Or she’s falling asleep in class. The lecture is on Rasputin, and Buffy doesn’t become interested until the professor gets to the part about him being strangely difficult to kill. Why do professors at UC Sunnydale always seem to expect students with questions to stand up before asking them? I’ve never had professors do that, and I certainly don’t make my students do it now that I’m an instructor. Whatever. Buffy and the professor argue about whether or not Rasputin was successfully killed. Then the professor gives her a bunch of crap for disputing the accepted facts. Snobby git.
She’s still annoyed about it that night on patrol, but luckily, she can take it out on vampires. Or...she can try, until Spike leaps in and stakes one for her. He’s trying to earn points with her again. Uggggggh. Buffy brushes him off and stalks off. Spike, of course, isn’t just going to let her walk away. He has to needle at her about how Riley ran off on her, and on her track record with men generally. Will Buffy be punching him soon? He keeps following her, speculating that maybe men leave her because she’s too clingy or too aloof or losing her beauty.
One of Glory’s minions snatches Ben from the hospital corridor to give him a message from Glory. Glory wants info on the Slayer. Ben claims not to know a Slayer, but minion guy says her name is Buffy. Ben seems impressed. Minion guy wants to know where Buffy lives and who her friends are. Huh. So these people can’t do their own recon, I guess.
Giles is telling the Council about Buffy’s methods. Buffy walks through the door, sees the Council, and is about to walk right back out again when they call her in to demonstrate her methods for them. They plan to observe her training and interview all of her friends. Buffy is already fed up with this. Quentin explains that there has always been the unchanging Watchers’ Council and a revolving door of Slayers to fight as their weapon. Giles and Buffy don’t find that system as comfortable as Quentin. Quentin dangles the information about Glory in Buffy’s face, and Giles starts shouting at him. Then Quentin threatens to deport Giles and shut down the Magic Box. Wow these guys are the worst.
Glory’s minion, whose name is Jinx, apparently, returns to her place. He’s all beat up, which is Ben’s message to her. Ben refuses to help. Glory can’t believe it. She’s very frustrated with him. For some reason, though, she can’t do anything to Ben.
Buffy and Giles are alone at the Magic Box now. The Council has all the leverage, so there’s not much they can do. Giles would like to punch Quentin. So would Buffy. Giles is so frustrated about the Council that he breaks his glasses while compulsively cleaning them. Buffy doesn’t know if she can even pass their review, but she needs more information about Glory, considering how badly she’s had her butt kicked by her twice. After Giles gets her to calm down about it, there’s a really sweet moment where she tells him the Council chose exactly the right thing to hold over her. She can’t lose Giles.
The interviews with Buffy’s friends begin! With Anya. Who has invented a fake backstory about being Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins, who was born on the 4th of July and grew up in New England. During Willow and Tara’s interview, they tell the Watcher how they’re a lesbian couple, but he was actually asking about their relationship with Buffy. When they interview Xander, he admits that he has never mastered any fighting styles. (Which is a serious oversight, in my opinion.) The Watchers don’t understand exactly what Xander brings to the table. Willow and Tara try to make it sound like they are crucial to Buffy’s success while also not making it sound like Buffy is incompetent enough to really need help. It goes about like this:
The Watcher guy asks Willow and Tara what level they’re at, magically. Tara says a random number, since neither of them has any idea about a magical ability ranking system. They’ve also never heard of a registry for witches.
They’re also interviewing Spike! ...Why? Shouldn’t they just be staking him? If they’re looking for a reason to disapprove of Buffy’s methods, wouldn’t the fact that she hasn’t staked Spike be a good one? Why did the Scoobies even tell them about Spike? THIS MAKES NO SENSE. One of the Watchers did her thesis on Spike, so she’s all starstruck. Uggggggh.
It’s time for Buffy’s practical exam! One Watcher blindfolds her while Quentin explains what qualities they’re testing. Buffy has to protect the dummy from the Watcher attacking it. But she can’t just do whatever comes naturally; she has to follow Quentin’s instructions. Which will be in Japanese. Wow, Giles really went off the book when he was working for them, didn’t he? It’s not a fun exercise. After a couple of awkward attempts to do the moves Giles translates from Quentin’s Japanese, Buffy abandons procedure and goes with her instincts. She defeats the Watcher but accidentally throws the axe through the dummy’s head. Oops.
Buffy wants to try again, but Quentin would rather move on to discussing Buffy’s strategies and plans. She has until that evening to prepare. All the Watchers leave, taking their insufferable air of superiority with them.
Buffy goes home. Where she finds Glory. So she can do her own recon. That’s too bad. Glory walks around, being dismissive of Buffy’s living situation. Buffy tries to prepare for a sneak attack, but Glory takes the fire poker away before she can even lift it against her. She’s not here to fight, she’s here to talk! She just wants Buffy to give her the Key. Dawn walks in. Buffy tries to tell her with her eyes to get the heck out of there, but Glory notices her. Dawn walks over into view, and Glory starts asking her about the Key instead. Dawn gets all sassy and irritable because Buffy says she doesn’t know anything. Wow, way to misunderstand the situation. She flounces off, but Glory doesn’t mind. Glory says she’ll kill everyone Buffy cares about while she watches if she doesn’t tell her where the Key is. This is her one chance to tell her without bloody consequences. Glory leaves. Joyce comes in, confused. Buffy tells her to pack.
Spike jumps up in alarm when sunlight hits his head while he’s sleeping in the crypt. Buffy is there with Dawn and Joyce. She wants him to look after them just until the Watchers are gone. He’s a jerk about it at first, but accepts. Buffy leaves, and Spike and Joyce bond over the fact that they both love terrible soap operas.
Anya, Xander, Willow, and Tara are sitting in the loft of the Magic Box, watching the Council continue their insufferable reign. Buffy is twenty minutes late, and they’re very disapproving about it. Buffy is on her way there, but then she gets jumped by a vampire. Wait, no, this is some dude in chain mail. Huh? Haven’t seen armor like this since The Three, way back in S1. Also there are two more of them, and they all have shiny metal quarterstaffs and/or swords. Buffy would really rather not fight them right now, but they don’t give her a choice. She knocks two out, then pins the one with the sword and takes off his cowl. He’s human! He’s one of the Knights of Byzantium, an order that has decided she’s their enemy. They also don’t like Glory. The reason Buffy and the Knights can’t get along is that they want to destroy the Key. Buffy lets him up and tells him to leave.
She arrives at the Magic Box, still carrying the Knight’s sword. Quentin is still being obnoxious and impatient. Buffy sets the sword down on top of his pile of questions. She tells them all how it’s going to be. She’s not taking the Council’s crap anymore. She’s the one who has power, so they’re going to do it her way. When one Watcher snarls his disapproval, Buffy throws a sword at him. It lands in the wall right in front of his face. He shuts up. The peanut gallery is loving the show. The Council’s information about Glory is useless without Buffy to do something about it. Buffy tells them to cough up their info, go back to England, reinstate Giles as her official Watcher (with retroactive payment back to when he was fired), and stop trying to interfere in her methods. She and the Scoobies have been doing just fine for four full years now. Including Xander, who has more field time than any of them.
Quentin nods. He accepts Buffy’s terms. The Scoobies all burst into applause. Quentin wouldn’t mind a glass of Giles’s scotch right now. But Buffy wants to know about Glory first. To start with, Glory isn’t a demon. She’s a god. Crap.
Despite my exasperation with the contortions the writers will put the characters through to continue justifying Spike’s survival (of which I feel the Council’s attitude is perhaps the most egregious example), I quite like “Checkpoint.” It’s extremely satisfying to watch Buffy put the Council in their place after all the crap they’ve pulled since S3. It’s particularly satisfying because she spends the entire episode getting crap from her professor, the Watchers, Spike, Glory and now these Knights of Byzantium dudes. They all want something from her or fear something she might do. Glory and the Knights want the Key. The professor fears student insubordination and the possibility of his facts being wrong. The Watchers want their little Slayer puppet they can push around. Spike just wants Buffy. Buffy realizes she can use all this to her advantage instead of to theirs, and she comes out on top. Also, even though I still mostly just find Glory annoying, she is at least a very frightening villain. The scene with her in Buffy’s house is extremely effective. It’s so stressful to watch. Points. The Knights of Byzantium are probably one of the weaker elements of season five. They’re like the ninjas in Daredevil S2. Having a no-killing-humans policy only makes sense when your enemies aren’t humans determined to fight you to the death, particularly when they outnumber you and aren’t locals whom it wouldn’t be too difficult to get tossed in jail. Then again, maybe there is a way for Buffy and Matt to stick to their policy. They could just start a new policy of shattering the femurs and/or amputating the arms of these kinds of humans!
I’m trying to figure out why Buffy would ever entrust Spike with the safety of Joyce and Dawn. Sure, his efforts to impress her suggest that he isn’t currently interested in working against her, but it’s only been a couple of months since the last time he tried to kill her. I suppose the Council didn’t exactly give her enough time to drive out to L.A. and drop them off with Angel instead, but that would probably be a better solution when she’s not so pressed for time.
I seriously don’t understand why Xander wouldn’t be interested in learning some martial arts. The Council might be a bunch of bureaucratic twits, but it’s only common sense that if you’re going to be going up against stronger opponents on a regular basis, you should probably have some training to help even the odds.
Willow seems to think she’s useful to Buffy primarily because of the witchcraft. But she didn’t always have that. She could’ve mentioned the computer skills too. I’m pretty sure those have come in handy more times than her magic has, and the hacking tends to backfire far less often. And another reason she’s useful to Buffy is just her friendship. We saw what Buffy would be like without friends in “The Wish.” Connections to people who care about her are what makes Buffy’s extremely difficult life as the Slayer worth living.
Anya’s fake backstory is hilarious. Also, I like that Buffy recognizes how valuable Anya’s thousand years of knowledge can be.
Why the crap didn’t Dawn turn right around and head upstairs or outside when she realized the person Buffy was talking to wasn’t Joyce? For such a clever girl, she can sometimes be astonishingly stupid. Also it looks like she’ll be finding out the truth soon.
Spike is still blatantly trying to score points with Buffy while also being a huge jerk to her about her history with guys. When she shows up to put him in charge of her mom and sister’s safety, he’s still being a jerk about it instead of recognizing it as his first real chance to score points. He wants her to appreciate him, but then when she actually entrusts him with something, he rubs her nose in it. It’s all a bit counterproductive. And he’s kind of an attention whore, isn’t he? The moment he realizes the Watcher chick has heard of him, his attitude instantly changes from bored to dangerous yet seductive.
Sometimes Giles is very defiant of the Council, and other times, he trips over himself trying to avoid their chastisement. It’s kind of funny. I love how much he sticks with Buffy, assuring her that there’s nothing wrong with her methods; the Council are just jerks.
“I was regrouping!”
“You were about to be ‘regrouped’ into separate piles.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.