Written by Steven S. DeKnight
Directed by James A. Contner
We open on Buffy and Spike having sex in his crypt. Great! Exactly the scene I wanted. (That was sarcasm.) Buffy seems slightly less extremely depressed than usual. It occurs to Spike that they’re having an actual pleasant conversation. He screws it up, though, by switching gears to dirty talk and calling her an animal. The self-loathing comes crashing back down on Buffy, and she searches for her clothes so she can bolt. Okay, side-note, wouldn’t it be very uncomfortable to have sex on a cement floor while using an area rug as a blanket? The undersides of rugs aren’t exactly Egyptian cotton. Whatever. Spike would like to have a DTR, but Buffy doesn’t think there’s an R to D. Also, she doesn’t trust him, but he's only asking because he wants to try handcuffs.
Cut to Jonathan and Andrew unpacking their stuff in their new lair, and also squabbling like particularly annoying children. Warren is putting the final touches on a device called the Cerebral Dampener. Jonathan does some mojo on it, and it is now operational. Essentially, the Cerebral Dampener (CD) is the comic book gadget version of roofies. The boys are very excited to go out and use it on women. Wow.
Buffy is working a shift at Doublemeat Palace, and she inexplicably likes her job enough to use her super Slayer pun powers for creating fun slogans. Gross. Tara shows up, and Buffy goes on break to talk to her. Tara thinks Buffy asked to talk to her about Willow because Willow did something horrible. But Willow is actually doing great! No, what Buffy wants to talk to Tara about is the spell that brought her back to life, and if it messed her up, since Spike can hurt her now. She admits that she’s worried she came back wrong. She doesn’t feel the way she did before. Tara agrees to check.
Warren is taking the CD for a test drive while Jonathan and Andrew sit in the van, observing the results through a button cam on Warren’s tie. They argue over which girl they want Warren to try it on, but he ignores them and goes for...Katrina, his ex from S5, dropping his earpiece into a glass of something on the way. She is very understandably still angry about almost getting choked to death by his sexbot. He uses the CD on her and she’s suddenly expressionless and calling him “master.”
Buffy gets home and finds Xander and Anya teaching Dawn some ballroom dances in preparation for the wedding reception. The Scoobies are about to head out to the Bronze and Dawn is about to go sleep over at Janice’s house (for real this time). Dawn makes a passive-aggressive jab about how Buffy shouldn’t mind because she’s barely ever home anyway. She does seem a little sad to miss out on time with Buffy, but Dawn leaving makes Buffy decide she’ll go to the Bronze after all.
Katrina is now in a French maid outfit, serving the Trio white wine. (I think. I know very little about alcoholic beverages.) Jonathan and Andrew are pretty psyched, but Warren declares that he has first dibs for sexytimes. Okay, this is seriously messed up. How has it not occurred to any of them how grossly wrong this is? Is Warren doing this out of revenge for Katrina breaking up with him or has he actually deluded himself into thinking he’s in love with her and this is the only way to get her back? Because it seemed like the latter at first, but if he’s fine with Jonathan and Andrew “playing with her” after he’s done, then maybe it’s the former. In either case, Warren is clearly even more horrible than I already thought.
Warren and Katrina go into the other room and start making out. At his command, she tells him she loves him and that she shouldn’t have left him. (Maybe it’s both the former and the latter?) But before he can make her give him a blowjob, she starts calling him Warren instead of Master. Aaand the effects of the CD have worn off. Katrina, back to normal, is utterly appalled by what Warren’s been doing to her. She throws him into the next room. Jonathan and Andrew frantically search for the CD so they can whammy her again, but it’s out of juice.
In the course of Katrina’s yelling at Warren, Jonathan and Andrew discover for the first time that she’s Warren’s ex, and they are no longer okay with this. (Wow, that’s what tipped this over the edge for them?) Katrina has about the same reaction to that as me, and she informs them baldly that what they’re doing is rape. Jonathan and Andrew are horrified. Katrina tries to leave after informing Warren she’s going to get him put in prison for this. She easily knocks Jonathan and Andrew aside and scratches Warren’s face, but Warren hits her over the head with the wine bottle as she tries to get up the stairs. He orders them to charge the CD again, but...she’s dead.
Jonathan and Andrew are extremely upset. Warren insists that this was a team effort; they can’t just pin it on him. He keeps referring to Katrina’s body as “it.” Warren wants to make the problem go away by having Jonathan teleport “it” away or Andrew summon a demon that can eat “it.” Ugh. Jonathan doesn’t think they can get away with this, because Buffy knew about the connection between Warren and Katrina, so if Katrina’s dead, she’ll figure out why. In that case, Warren proposes they use the body to get rid of their Buffy problem too.
The Scoobies are at the Bronze, and Xander and Anya are swing-dancing! That’s so awesome! With big band music and everything! Willow hopes they won’t all be expected to do that at the reception because she definitely isn’t that good at dancing. Hanging out with friends makes it easier for Willow to deal with her issues. Buffy heads up to the loft by herself. Spike looms up behind her and delivers one of his creepiest speeches, set to incredibly ominous music. Then his hand starts going under her skirt. She tells him not to, but he tells her to stop him. She doesn’t, and then they’re having sex (with, again, very perplexing logistics). This encounter manages to be even more horrific and degrading than the dumpster sex from last episode, because while it’s going on, Spike makes her look at her friends and imagine how they’d react if they knew what she was doing with him.
The next day, Xander is sore from all the dancing, and he and Willow run into Tara on the way to the Magic Box. Xander quickly makes himself scarce. Tara was there to get books for her research on Buffy’s questions. Willow tells her about how she’s been doing living as a Muggle. Magic is still a huge temptation for her, but she’s gone a whole month now without it, and she knows her weaknesses, so she makes sure to have people with her whenever she’s around magic stuff. Tara is glad, and she asks Willow to tell Buffy she has something to tell her.
Buffy is patrolling. She ends up going to Spike’s crypt, but she doesn’t open the door. She’s holding a stake. Spike possibly senses her on the other side of the door. Their hands are on the same spot. When he opens the door, though, she’s nowhere in sight. Good girl.
She’s hurrying away, chanting to herself a mantra of thinking about anything but Spike. Helpfully, there’s a demon nearby! She rushes over there and tries to fight the demon, but then things get really trippy. The scene shifts to Katrina curled up on the ground. Then to Spike, who Buffy apparently punched in the face. Then there are three demons there, and she and Spike fight them. Then it’s back to just Spike, pre-face-punching. Then the demon fight. Then Spike with a bloody nose, and Katrina walking past and curling up on the ground to cry. Then the demons. Buffy gets so disoriented by all the scene jumps that she ends up punching Katrina, who rolls down the hill. Spike finishes off the demons and follows Buffy to where she’s crouching in horror beside Katrina’s body.
Spike wants to get out of there, but Buffy is still reeling. He grabs her and pulls her away. He wants her to go home while he takes care of the body. The Trio observe the scene from a camera, and then “Katrina” gets back in the van. She’s actually Jonathan under a glamour. Jonathan deeply resents Warren for this whole thing.
At home, Buffy is trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep. Spike climbs into bed with her and tells her not to worry. They start making out. Cut to his crypt, where they’re having sex—Spike in handcuffs. I seem to recall a blooper from this episode where Sarah Michelle Gellar said, exasperated, “There is so much sex on this freaking show!” I agree. Then suddenly it’s Katrina Buffy’s putting in handcuffs. Then more sex. Then Buffy’s staking Spike...or Katrina. (Dangit.) Then she’s back in her bed, alone and fully clothed. And very confused.
Buffy goes into Dawn’s room. Dawn wakes up. Buffy tells her she loves her, and she apologizes for not doing a very good job of taking over Joyce’s role. This kind of talk scares Dawn a bit. Buffy tells her about the accident with Katrina, and Dawn hugs her. Buffy feels like she has to tell the cops. Dawn doesn’t like that idea, and she thinks Buffy’s not really sorry that she might get taken away from Dawn. Dawn thinks Buffy can’t stand being around her. She starts crying and leaves Buffy sitting there.
Buffy is on her way to the police station when Spike intercepts her. He won’t let her turn herself in. He’s already taken care of the body. Well, sort of. Just as he’s saying they’ll never find her, police go running out of the station to go investigate a body that washed up not too far away. Despite that, Spike still doesn’t think Buffy deserves to go to prison for this, since it was an accident. He says he loves her. She doesn’t believe him and punches him. He makes an argument eerily similar to the one Faith made after accidentally killing Allan Finch. She starts beating him up, but while most of what she says to him about how he’s evil scum and can’t feel real emotions is basically true, she’s really talking about herself. This is more of the self-loathing. She beats him to a puffy, bloody pulp, then scrambles away, horrified by her actions. She keeps walking to the police station. He’s no longer in any condition to stop her.
Before she can make her confession, she overhears the police officer taking the name of the dead girl: Katrina Silvers. Buffy remembers hearing Warren say Katrina’s name in S5, and now she knows that something fishy is going on. She leaves.
Scooby meeting at the Magic Box! They find the demons Buffy fought, and Anya exposits on them. They cause temporal disturbances in this dimension, which explains the weirdness with time. If a human spends much time around them, they start hallucinating. Xander is pretty sure Katrina was already dead before any of that happened, and Buffy’s first and only suspect is Warren. So this means Buffy won’t be going to prison! And Dawn, paradoxically, seems angry about that. She storms out.
Warren has pulled a Willow on the coroner’s files and discovered that Katrina’s death has been ruled a suicide. Wow, really? Not accidental death? Who commits suicide by hurling themselves down a hill? That seems almost guaranteed to not work.
Maybe the coroner has just seen so many deaths that were definitely the result of supernatural causes that he's just given up trying to make them sound plausible in his reports. Anyway, Warren thinks this means he’s off the hook. Andrew thinks it’s pretty cool that they got away with murder. Jonathan does not, but he pretends to agree so they don’t turn on him. (Aww, Jonathan.) Warren thinks they can deal with Buffy if she finds out what happened.
Tara is telling Buffy what she’s found out. Buffy didn’t come back wrong, she just kind of got a cellular tan. Enough to trick Spike’s chip, but not actually substantial. To Tara’s surprise, this news has Buffy dissolving into tears of despair. She wanted there to be a legitimate reason beyond her control for why she hasn’t been able to keep herself away from Spike or feel the passion and drive for life she used to. She ends up revealing to Tara what she’s been doing with Spike. Tara feels so sorry for her and tries to find a way to rationalize it so it’s okay, but Buffy doesn’t want it to be okay, she just wants it to stop. She breaks down crying on Tara’s lap.
Once again, in “Dead Things,” we have an extremely dark and depressing storyline, so much so that its being well-constructed still doesn’t make it fun to watch. It’s actually pretty difficult to sit through. The Trio graduate from petty, obnoxious comic book shenanigans to mind control, sexual assault, and murder. Get out of there, Jonathan! Warren’s abuse of Katrina is horrifying enough before he gets hold of that wine bottle. The best things about the episode are Xander and Anya swing dancing and Tara trying to help Buffy, but those are not enough to balance out the many Buffy/Spike scenes or the Trio’s plotline.
Buffy is either hitting bottom or getting very close to it. Spike is her drug, and she hates herself for not being able to quit. (Also, quitting is slightly more difficult than with an actual drug because Spike won’t leave her alone.) She’s so deeply ashamed that she can’t bear the thought of her friends finding out, even though they’re all proving through the way they’re acting with Willow that they would accept her and help her if she’d only open up to them. She thinks she deserves nothing good and would prefer not being human to accepting the idea that she’s been doing all this of her own free will. Which I’m not sure is entirely true. Firstly, there’s the factor of how Spike has been showing up all the time and more or less not caring if she’s consenting to sex before he starts groping her. Secondly, she is definitely suffering from serious depression, and that’s not typically something you can just beat through sheer willpower. Especially alone. And Buffy likely feels even worse about all this than an average person would because she’s the Slayer. She’s saved the world numerous times, but now she can’t seem to save herself. One thing that strikes me as a bit reassuring about Buffy, though, is the way she changes her mind about turning herself in the second there’s a shred of evidence that she was set up by Warren. I mean, she confessed to accidentally causing Ted’s death before she knew he was a robot, so it’s very consistent for her to want to turn herself in if she thinks someone’s dead because of her. But if she had no hope left whatsoever, she might’ve turned herself in even when she had reason to believe it wasn’t her fault after all.
Xander is barely in this one, but that’s not important, because he spends 90% of his limited screentime swing-dancing. My estimation of him has skyrocketed. I wonder if he and Anya got that idea from their oldies-y duet in “Once More, With Feeling.”
Anya doesn’t mention any demon stuff in connection with the wedding, which is good. After last time, it wouldn’t have surprised me if she’d gotten even more insistent about it thanks to Halfrek’s influence. Instead, she swing-dances, is very friendly and cheerful, and handles the demon exposition. Go Anya.
Dawn is once again being very teenager-y in thinking that Buffy’s recent aloofness is because Buffy hates her. It doesn’t seem to occur to her at all that there are many other possible explanations for it. And she reacts to her assumption in another classic teenager way: return perceived hatred with hatred of your own. Fantastic.
I don’t think Spike has ever been more disturbing than in this episode, and I very much hope he’ll never be this disturbing again. He’s been somewhat subtly trying to keep Buffy separated from her friends and Dawn pretty much since she told him she was bitter about her friends pulling her out of heaven. But he’s not being remotely subtle anymore. He very blatantly stokes her shame and fear regarding her friends’ opinions of her and uses that He knows she doesn’t have the self control to stop him from having sex with her if he just keeps going after she says no, and he thinks that makes it okay. (Or maybe he doesn’t. He’s evil, so maybe he’s fine with being reprehensible.)
Willow continues to be way more humble than she’s been in years as she struggles with her magic problem. She’s doing pretty well, but it’s consuming all of her attention and making it difficult for her to notice when the people around her are having problems. She keeps ribbing Xander about Anya even though he’s actually suffering some pretty serious insecurities and would benefit much more from reassurance. She keeps trying to talk to Buffy about her own problems (most memorably in “Doublemeat Palace” when she was actually speaking through the drive-thru microphone to Buffy about herself while Buffy was struggling to fight off paralysis long enough to get herself to safety) instead of picking up on the signs that Buffy is having serious problems of her own. I don’t think she’s being willfully blind to Buffy’s issues anymore, though, so that’s something. Kind of.
“Where are you going?”
“...Sleeping over at Janice’s?”
“And I’m falling for that again because of the surprise lobotomy.”
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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.