“As You Were”
Written by Doug Petrie
Directed by Doug Petrie
Buffy is working a shift at Doublemeat, and one of her coworkers is giving her a speech about job security while she scrapes grease off the underside of the grill. Holy crap this guy is the worst. He very transparently looks down on Buffy for being a college dropout, even though it seems like his own career goals involve rising to the top in a fast food chain. Yes, clearly attending night school to get an MBA has earned him the right to look down his nose at her. Buffy is starting to feel like she’s going to be at Doublemeat forever.
To cement this fear, she finds herself singing their jingle as she walks through the cemetery after work. A vampire attacks, so she sets her bag of Doublemeat food aside. They start fighting, but as soon as he notices the Doublemeat smell, he lets her go, having lost his appetite. Hahahahaha. She is deeply offended, and stakes him, then heads home, bummed about the Doublemeat smell.
Buffy arrives home with her bag of food, and Spike is there lurking behind the tree. She tells him no, but he immediately starts trying to feel her up, then pulls her over to the tree despite her continued protests. She eventually gives in. This is so very messed up.
Afterward, Buffy goes inside and tries to entice Dawn with her offering of cold Doublemeat food. Dawn is kind of sick of the stuff by now. Also, she and Willow both notice the grass stains on Buffy’s coat, and Buffy blurts out something almost specific enough to clue them in about her and Spike. Willow and Dawn invite her to go to the Bronze with them, but she passes. Dawn at least seems to be in a better mood than lately, and she appreciates the effort Buffy’s been making.
Anya and Xander are doing last-minute wedding preparations because the wedding is one week away. Dawn catches them in the middle of a particularly frosty moment. Willow is pretty amused by how frazzled Xander is and feeling like she might’ve dodged a bullet by getting over him. That sounds mean, but the way they play it, it’s pretty funny. Willow’s in a good mood because of the progress she’s been making with Tara.
Buffy is in the basement, struggling to get the grass stains out of her coat. Judging by how she wakes up with the still stained coat as a blanket, she failed. Also she missed the garbage truck. She goes through the mail, which includes a rejection letter from UC Sunnydale. This deeply bums her out. Dawn heads out to school, but she’s very affectionate. Buffy has to do dishes now.
And now she has to do Doublemeat. That smug tool of a coworker is still rambling about his career prospects, making her feel particularly inadequate for her shiny new rejection letter. She takes her turn on the cash register, and her first customer is Riley! Who looks a bit more rugged now that he has a scar over his eye. He’s here for her help with a Plot A problem, and she is mortified that he’s found her working this job. Tool coworker pops over to chastise her for not helping customers (Why? Riley looks like a customer. What’s the problem here?), but she takes her hat off and bails immediately.
Buffy and Riley are walking towards the Plot A issue. He’s briefing her, and she’s nostalgic about all his gadgets and his military mannerisms. He’s too serious for nostalgia, though. This particular kind of demon breeds like tribbles and is very dangerous. And hey, there’s one of them now. Riley’s cover is apparently that he works for the Forestry Service, and the demon is a wild bear.
The demon gets away, but Riley has a suburban equipped with a tracking monitor. He’ll be happy to catch up with her when they get a minute. He gives her a Kevlar suit so she can be effective for this operation. He’s doing pretty well in his black ops job, and he’s glad to see her. She’s clearly glad to see him too.
Xander and Anya are stuck in a traffic jam on the way to pick up Xander’s uncle at the airport. Anya is annoyed they have to put him up on their couch. Xander jokes about his very jaded view of family life based on his own horrible family. They’re both still very high-strung. Xander wishes they’d eloped, but Anya has put too much work into this wedding to throw it away now.
Buffy and Riley get to a dam, at the bottom of which is the demon. They have to rappel down it. Buffy is kinda flirty with him, and possibly a little smitten again. He’s being a gentleman. They make it to the bottom and creep around looking for the demon. It jumps out at them, and they fight it. Buffy manages to knock it out, and then she looks at Riley like she’s ready to snog-attack him when a young woman rappels down next to them. Her name is Mrs. Finn! Well that was a pretty important detail to forget to mention to your EX-GIRLFRIEND, you dolt. Especially with her making moon eyes at you almost since you arrived. Ugh.
Mrs. Finn (first name Sam) attacks the demon. She’s special ops like Riley. They’ve been married four months. They met on the job. He joins in the fight, leaving Buffy a moment to be bummed. But she snaps out of it by snapping the demon’s neck. Which is actually a bad thing. Another important detail Riley failed to mention was that they needed a live capture. Wow, he kinda sucks at his job. Or at least at briefing his civilian consultant. Sam gives him a hard time (only somewhat playfully). Buffy offers her house as a place for them to regroup and get much more info.
Dawn is waiting when they get there, and she’s a bit frosty towards Riley. Xander and Willow are there too. Willow hugs Riley, and Xander’s fairly happy to see him. Willow offers to hate Sam Finn viciously for Buffy so that Buffy doesn’t have to be the irrational ex. Hahaha. I’m not sure that’s necessary; Dawn has that covered. Riley and Sam talk about the towns they’ve seen that were decimated by these demons, and Sam’s willingness to treat Dawn like an adult who can handle this kind of talk greatly endears her to Dawn. They were trying to follow the demon to its nest so they could wipe out the species for good, but that’ll be harder now that it’s dead.
Xander thinks all this mission talk is nice, but he’d like to get advice about marriage. Sam proposes a cheap, fun solution for wedding pictures: just hand out disposable cameras instead of those stupid little baggies of white chocolate almonds. That way the guests can do the photography for you! That actually sounds like a great idea, except that smartphones are a thing now and it would sorta be redundant.
Sam and Riley think the demon’s eggs are likely to be sold on the black market to unscrupulous foreign powers. They need to find them and destroy them before that happens. There’s a dealer in town called the Doctor. They need to find him. Sam asks if Willow can do a locator spell, and Willow leaves the room, upset (partly because of her willful hatred of Sam). Riley will look for the Doctor, and he wants Buffy and Sam to team up and look for the nest.
Sam finds Willow sitting by herself and apologizes for the request she made. She tells Willow about the shamans they had on their team, and they got addicted to dark magic too. She’s impressed with Willow for how well she’s clearly doing after going through something like that, because those guys are either dead or just lifeless husks or something. Whatever “there’s nothing left” means. Willow might not be able to keep hating her.
Sam and Buffy are patrolling together, and Sam can’t decide if she’s psyched or intimidated to be working with the Slayer. Buffy’s pretty legendary. Sam joined the special ops squad after her Peace Corps infirmary got slaughtered by demons. That’s when she met Riley. Sam is remarkably objective and fair about the issue of Riley and Buffy’s past. She doesn’t assign blame, and she’s sorry things went badly, but glad it led to her and Riley meeting. Buffy doesn’t seem to be as over it as Riley is (which is kind of odd, since she hasn’t mentioned him at all this season). Sam hopes Buffy’s found a great new guy. That only bums her out more, and Sam’s enthusiasm prompts Buffy to suggest they split up. Sam’s fine with whatever Buffy wants to do.
Unfortunately, what Buffy wants to do at the end of this extremely unpleasant day is go get her Spike fix. Well, officially she wants him to help her stop this demon egg deal, but it takes very little prodding from him before she admits that’s not all she wants. She wants to pretend she’s in a relationship so she can feel better about Riley getting married while she was still harboring secret remote hopes that they might make it work. Spike complies very readily, and then they get on with the sex.
Later, they’re asleep under a blanket on top of one of those above-ground tomb things inside the crypt, and that’s where Riley finds them. Spike could not possibly be any smugger, and Buffy couldn’t be more ashamed. Riley keeps his cool pretty well. Also, Spike is the Doctor. Buffy gets the heck away from him. He taunts Riley some more, but possibly he’s not aware people are calling him the Doctor. Riley isn’t rising to the bait.
(Okay, I’m coming up with a headcanon about that Doctor nickname. Whoever Spike was dealing with is a Doctor Who fan and didn’t bother to get Spike’s name during their transactions, so he just started calling him the Doctor because of the accent.)
Spike taunts Riley even more, this time about how Buffy definitely already had a thing for him when she was with Riley. Wow he is so delusional. I’m pretty sure the only time Buffy ever showed the slightest signs of interest in Spike were a) when she was under Willow’s “will be done” spell and engaged to him and b) when Faith was in her body and dirty-talking all over him. That’s it. Riley demands to know where the demon eggs are. Spike claims ignorance. Buffy is back, clothed now. She doesn’t think Spike could be the Doctor because he’s too incompetent for that. Riley ignores Spike’s protests and goes to check the lower room of the crypt. Buffy goes with Riley, which is clearly taken by all parties as a statement about whose side she’s on.
Lo and behold, the demon eggs are down there. But Buffy was still right that Spike is too incompetent for this. If he was going to sell those eggs, he should’ve been keeping them on ice. He hasn’t been doing that, so now they’re hatching. Buffy punches him and demands “no more games,” which Spike thinks is really rich coming from her.
The demons start hatching, and the larva stage of this species is like a football-sized attack beetle. Riley gives buffy a gun, but all she manages to shoot is Spike’s stuff (several times, for good measure. She and Riley get out of there, and then she throws a grenade down into the lower room, taking the bugs and the rest of Spike’s stuff out in one go. Nice.
Xander and Anya are discussing the Finns while their demonic and unpleasant family member houseguests trash their apartment. They finally get over their high-strung-ness by realizing that their wedding, which is extremely stressful, is not the same as their marriage, which they’re both looking forward to. They kiss and sit there serenely in the bathroom while the guests continue breaking things out in the main room.
Buffy and Riley are saying goodbye. The mission is over, but Riley has permission from his higher-ups to take the Doctor out...if Buffy wants him to. Buffy rather resents Riley showing up with his perfect life right when her life was so crappy, and she thinks he did it a little bit on purpose. But it’s more like he was using all the good things in his life to shield him from her. And finding out that Buffy’s life is crappy right now hasn’t lowered his opinion of her. She finds that very encouraging, and she’s happy for Riley. She tells him she wishes she’d had the chance to tell her how sorry she was for how things went with them. He doesn’t need her to. Aww.
Sam comes out of the Magic Box with Xander, Willow, and Dawn, finishing up an exciting special ops story and exchanging contact info with them. Sam is basically awesome. Dawn and Riley hug. It’s sweet. She’s going to miss him, but she’s not angry at him anymore. Riley and Sam get airlifted out. Willow claims to still hate Sam. *snort* The others leave, and Buffy is standing there alone.
Spike is poking around in the ruins of his crypt when Buffy shows up. She tells him Riley’s gone. She’s not here for sex or to beat him up for trying to sell demon eggs to North Korea. She’s here to end this thing they’ve been doing, for good. He doesn’t believe her at first, since that sounds a lot like how most of their foreplay starts. (Gross.) She can admit that she wants him, but it’s only to make herself feel better for brief intervals. She doesn’t want to do this with someone she can’t love, because it means she’s only using him. Being with him is killing her. She apologizes, then turns and leaves. He looks completely gobsmacked, but she looks strong as she walks out into the daylight. Dang, that was the most inspiring scene of the whole season so far.
“As You Were” is probably my favorite episode since “Once More, With Feeling.” Like Buffy, the audience needed closure about Riley, and we got it! I like that we got it after we’d stopped expecting it, too. Sam is a very likeable character (but it’s probably for the best that this is her only episode), and it’s been long enough since Riley left that both we and Buffy aren’t still angry about all his S5 crap. The demon design for the suvolte was pretty cool. Humanoid, but with a really freaky head. Not nearly as cheesy as most of the rubber suit demons, and a huge improvement on the one from “Older and Far Away.” I like how the episode’s arc works. It’s kind of a miniature version of Buffy’s character arc for the whole season. She’s trying, but obstacles keep getting in her way, which leads to a depression spiral, at the bottom of which is Spike, but then she manages to get back up and find the strength to quit him. Awesome. The stuff with Spike being a black market dealer seems a little odd, not because I thought he wasn’t that evil, but because, like Buffy, I thought he was too stupid to pull something like that off. Which, admittedly, he was. And I suppose he has to have been doing something to pay for all the stuff in his crypt. The Scoobies haven’t been sponsoring him for quite a while now, and a bunch of that stuff, like the bed, seems rather too big to easily steal. Whatever. Buffy’s doing the best she has all season, so is Willow, Dawn is nice again, and there’s about to be a wedding! What could possibly go wrong?
Buffy has just started getting back up after hitting bottom, and now a whole bunch of crappy news slaps her right back down. She can’t go back to college and her ex is now happily married and employed while she’s scraping a living at a burger joint and having hate-sex with a soulless vampire even though it makes her feel worthless. But in the end, closure about her relationship with Riley and the assurance that he still thinks she’s amazing even though he knows about her and Spike is just the boost she needed to continue making strides towards pulling herself together. When she walks out of Spike’s crypt, she becomes the Buffy I’ve been rooting for the entire series again.
I’m going to talk about Xander and Anya as a unit in this one, because all their scenes are about their wedding and their stress about it. If this was my first time watching this show, by the end of this episode, I would completely expect it to be smooth sailing for them to have the wedding and then be married. There have been hints in nearly all the S6 episodes so far that Xander and Anya have serious communication problems and issues they need to work out, preferably before they get married, but this episode makes it seem like they’re actually ready now. This episode was the most important one to have foreshadowing of badness, but it has none of it. Not cool. The closest it comes to that is what Xander says about how his family sucks so he’s looking forward to making a new family with Anya, but it comes across as a joke rather than a hint of his real fear that he’ll become his father.
Dawn is back to being nice! Good! I hope that lasts. I like her initially cold reaction to Riley, too. From her perspective, he was fine and he and Buffy were happy, and then he was suddenly gone. He definitely would’ve seemed like a jerk. But their hug at the end is really nice.
Okay, I’ve got to deal with this. For all the years I’ve been in the Buffy fandom, the common consensus has generally been that “Seeing Red” is the episode where Spike tries to rape Buffy. I mean, in forums, it’s referred to as “the AR” (because people get tired of actually typing out “attempted rape”), but on this rewatch, I’ve noticed that there are at least two cases of actual (if non-violent) rape, and several more of sexual harassment. Buffy quite clearly tells Spike “no,” in this episode, “don’t” in “Dead Things,” and “stop that” in “Gone,” and the only time of those three that he actually stops is when they get interrupted in “Gone” by Xander. Just because she stops protesting and starts enjoying it doesn’t make it okay that he has no respect at all for her boundaries, and he’s constantly trying to get in her head and make her believe she wants it. I didn’t think it was possible for my opinion of Buffy/Spike to get lower, but it has. In making Spike like Buffy’s metaphorical drug dealer/addiction, the writers made him her literal stalker/rapist.
Willow is still doing better! She doesn’t have withdrawal symptoms anymore (maybe that started in “Older and Far Away,” actually), and she’s happier and more confident. Also, points for trying to be a good best friend by hating Sam for Buffy, but how about noticing Buffy’s depression and trying to help with that? I wish she’d stumbled across Buffy’s rejection letter in the garbage or something, so that she at least could’ve been consoling about that. Also, it just occurred to me that if Buffy’s been spending so much time with Spike, wouldn’t she smell like cigarettes? Wouldn’t the Scoobies have noticed that? I mean, I’m pretty sure this is at least the second episode where there’s no way Buffy could’ve showered or put on clean clothes after sleeping with him and before encountering various Scoobies. Whatever. I guess since the audience can’t smell anything, smell is only in the story when it’s convenient.
“My hat has a cow.”
“We can do this the hard way or we can do this the fatal way.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.