“Same Time, Same Place”
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by James A. Contner
The Scoobies are waiting for Willow at the Sunnydale airport. Xander made her a sign with yellow crayon. Which is cute, but very difficult to see. He’s still pretty proud of himself for saving the world by talking Willow down. Buffy and Dawn are both kind of nervous about this reunion, especially because Giles sent her home before she finished her training. Oddly, Willow doesn’t emerge from the plane with the other passengers.
Cut to the same moment that scene began before, only this time, there are no Scoobies, just Willow getting off the plane. She walks right past where the Scoobies were, and she’s all sad and alone because she thinks nobody came to pick her up.
Some dude is spray-painting a wall at a construction site when an extremely unsettling demon starts creeping up on him and saying freaky stuff, before attacking.
Willow knocks on Buffy’s door, but nobody answers. She goes in through the back door. Nobody seems to be home. It’s 10:41. She goes upstairs, and she sees that Buffy took what used to be her room. She looks at the fateful window through which Tara was shot. She finds a contacts book on Buffy’s desk, which conspicuously lacks any info for Willow. She hears a noise and goes running, but there’s still no one else home. She sits on the couch and curls up.
It’s 10:41. Buffy, Dawn, and Xander get home. They’ve checked with Giles, who definitely put her on a plane. They think she might’ve relapsed and gone somewhere else. They go to check if she left any messages, but they hear a noise upstairs.
After an establishing shot of the house that’s definitely a few seasons old, they conclude their search, having failed to discover the source of the noise. Apparently Giles is extremely worried and blaming himself. Dawn votes they actually blame Willow.
Willow is still asleep by herself on the couch, where the other three are sitting, equally unaware of her. She wakes up there in the morning. She tries to call Giles, but he’s in a Council meeting all day. She heads to the Magic Box, which is still a wreck. Anya’s there, and she’s super wary of Willow. Even if Willow’s good again, that doesn’t make the Magic Box fixed, so Anya’s still angry. Willow apologizes, and she’s willing to take any angry rant or punishment Anya thinks is fair. That sort of takes the fun out of it for Anya. Willow sits on the curb. Anya joins her. Willow wants to know what’s up with the Scoobies. Anya thinks they’re still mad at her, but they’re probably at the high school.
Willow goes to the high school, at the site where they’re building the new gym. Which is where that kid got grabbed by a demon. Willow finds his body, which is completely skinless. Ewwwww.
Buffy and Xander are both there, looking at the body. Xander dismissed the construction crew and called Buffy so they could start investigating. They hear ladder sounds, because Willow is climbing a ladder the heck out of there. They still can’t see her. They’re worried she’s the one who did this.
Willow walks through the halls of the new school. Kids are rushing to class. Anya mentioned Spike being insane in the basement, so she’s paying him a visit. Because I guess he went back there? He’s not happy to receive a visitor, and he’s back to being bizarrely crazy. She tries to get info out of him about the Scoobies or the body, but he only spends about a third of the time talking to her. The rest is just crazy talk or talk that seems to be directed at someone she can’t see.
Like Buffy and Xander, who are also in the basement. Xander notes that blueprints are useless for basement navigation, because apparently it was designed by the same architect who planned Hogwarts. They find Spike, rambling. We fill in another third of his dialogue. Buffy’s been avoiding him since the weirdness at the cemetery chapel. They don’t get much more out of him than Willow. But he does give them a hint that Willow is there, only they can’t see her. And that is the end of his usefulness.
Willow goes back to Anya for help. They both suspect each other of killing that kid, but figure out they’re both innocent. Willow wants to find the real culprit so that she can exonerate herself and possibly do some good by killing the thing that did it. They set up some kind of tracking spell that will show demons on the map. Quite a few lights appear. Anya finds her own light and is amused. There are tons of lights at the high school. It gets brighter and catches on fire. So much for Anya’s carpet. There’s one mark on the scorched map that seems likely. Willow wants Anya to teleport to do recon, but her teleportation privileges have been severely restricted because of undoing that worm monster wish. Also, she’s not enjoying the vengeance as much as she used to. Willow can relate a lot. They have a really nice moment. Willow tried doing a tracking spell for the Scoobies already, but it said they don’t exist. She leaves.
The Scoobies are looking up stuff that might’ve killed that kid. Dawn is leading the internet portion of the search. Buffy is getting restless. She thinks they’re wasting their time with this research when they have one very likely suspect already. Dawn interrupt. She found an excellent demon. It’s a demon called Gnarl, who paralyzes his victims then eats strips of their skin over the course of hours. He also laps up the blood that spills. Xander finds her enthusiastic presentation of this info very disconcerting. Xander wants to go ask questions at Willy’s (Yes! Do that! It’s been ages since we saw Willy!), but Buffy thinks that’s pointless, because the killer probably got some blood on them, so they can just use Spike to track the blood by scent.
They go with Buffy’s idea. While they follow Spike, Dawn starts elaborating on all the potential stuff they could do to make their supernatural detective work more streamlined. And once again, I must ask, why hasn’t it occurred to them to actually copy Angel and open their own detective agency in Sunnydale? Spike leads them to a cave. Creepy!
Willow is also there, unbeknownst to the Scoobies. She crawls through the opening. Fires are burning inside. She sees the demon running, and then it starts taunting her in a super creepy voice. I do not like this demon at all. The Scoobies enter the cave too. The demon seems to know what’s going on with Willow and the others. It leaps out and slashes Dawn with its claws, which have that paralytic in them. They leave to take care of Dawn, and they barricade the entrance, which traps Willow inside. Gnarl laughs at her.
Willow is trapped now with an exceptionally creepy demon. She tries to protect herself with magic, but he seems to be immune to them. She’s so scared (and abandoned) that she’s close to crying. Maybe Gnarl’s right; maybe they deliberately left her there to die. He slashes her with his claws. He says her friends were indeed there, but they left. He drags her over to him, and we see him for the first time. NOT OKAY. This is easily the freakiest demon on the show since the Gentlemen. He starts helping himself to her stomach skin while she cries, unable to move.
That Dawn was right about the demon isn’t much of a comfort to her while she’s paralyzed. Xander and Buffy get her home and put her on the couch. Upside down. She can sort of talk, but without moving her jaw or lips. Buffy tries to look up the antidote. She says the paralysis is permanent! ...Until the creature dies. Wow, this is why Buffy is never the one who does exposition. This means they’re going to have to go back and kill it. Buffy calls Anya to watch Dawn.
Gnarl slowly slices off strips of Willow’s stomach skin to eat. Ew. Ew. He teases Willow about how friendless and alone she is.
Anya is at the house now. She’s curious about the specific type of paralysis Dawn has. Turns out she’s pose-able! So Anya subjects her to the indignity of putting her in poses. She also happens to mention that Willow was looking for them, and that she went to check out a cave. Buffy decides Anya needs to come with them since she knows about Gnarl. She leaves Anya sitting upright on the couch, holding the remote in her paralyzed fingers.
Willow whimpers in pain while Gnarl keeps slicing off skin. NOT OKAY. Buffy, Xander, and Anya are almost to the cave. Anya complains; she’s been teleporting everywhere lately, so she’s out of shape. Hahahaha. Apparently the director forgot that Buffy and Xander collapsed a bunch of rocks in front of Gnarl’s lair, because they manage to get inside without having to make any noise. Buffy attacks Gnarl with an axe and he runs away.
Anya can see Willow, but Xander and Buffy can’t. Buffy has a close call with Gnarl’s claws, and she fights him with an axe. Anya tends to Willow, assuring her that Buffy and Xander are here to save her. She’s so relieved that she wasn’t abandoned to die that she starts crying (and so do I).
Gnarl laughs at Buffy, who then stabs him in the foot before poking his eyes out, which is apparently how to kill him. Anya tells Willow, who isn’t paralyzed anymore! Back home, neither is Dawn. Anya leaves to get help for Willow, since Buffy and Xander aren’t much help. Finally, the magic separating them wears off. They have the most heart-wrenching reunion.
The next day, Willow is meditating in Buffy’s former bedroom. Buffy comes to the door. Willow invites her in. Willow’s using magic to accelerate her healing. They have a really nice chat, if mostly devoid of substance, but Willow is in a lot of pain. Buffy offers to leave, but Willow doesn’t want to be alone. The conversation is nice again, now with more substance. The thing where Willow and Buffy, Dawn, and Xander couldn’t see each other was a spell Willow did completely by accident, because of how nervous she was to see them. Buffy admits that she suspected Willow. She feels bad for that, but Willow isn’t upset. Willow wouldn’t blame anyone for being suspicious of her or thinking she can’t recover from the dark magic. She tries to keep healing herself, even though she’s exhausted. Buffy offers her own strength to help Willow heal. Aww, I’m gonna cry again.
“Same Time, Same Place” is a very solid, character-driven episode. I like it. It feels like it has kind of slow pacing for about the first half, but the emotions it delves into with all the main Scoobies make it worth it. The last five minutes might be some of my favorite stuff from the whole season. It’s been entirely too long since Buffy and Willow had a sincere best friends moment, and it gave the show back something it’s been missing. The only advancing it does of the season arc is the map catching fire from how many demons are under the high school, but that’s okay. This early in the season, it’s fine if that’s just an ominous back-burner thing. I love that “Demons, Demons, Demons” is still the go-to website for demonology research. Is this the first time that site has been used on Buffy? They’ve been using it on Angel since S1, but it feels new on this side of things. Pose-able Dawn is hilarious, and this actually might be the most I’ve liked Dawn since...ever. Keep it up, writers! Maybe it’s easier for them to make her more likeable now that the setting doesn’t require her to be a source of problems before her plotline can intersect with Buffy’s. I like the discussion about how it’s the Slayer’s job to pursue any leads, even ones that make her question her friends. I like how horrifying the monster-of-the-week is, particularly because it manages to be thematically appropriate! Willow getting slowly skinned alive while not being able to move and thinking her friends abandoned her adds an extra level to the emotional impact, so bonus points for the Plot A/Plot B overlap.
After how much of the episode Buffy spends being mostly convinced that Willow is their monster-of-the-week, it’s almost surprising how well their actual reunion goes. I suppose she didn’t get a lot of closure on Dark Willow, since she failed to defeat her and it seems like Giles might’ve whisked her away to England before they could interact again. But that ending scene...it really feels like Buffy and Willow haven’t connected like that since season four. I hope that’s not the last time that happens this season. Moments like that are a big part of what made the first three seasons so special, and season four still fun even if the main plot was kinda dumb.
Xander has faith in his friends! So far, S7 Xander is one of the best versions of Xander. I’d like very much for this Xander to have some lovely individual moments with Buffy and Willow.
Anya has acknowledged that she feels empathy for the victims of the wishes she grants! She’s continuing to make progress! And I think that conversation she has with Willow is the best bonding experience they’ve ever had, including “Triangle.” They understand each other now, and they feel very sympathetic towards each other’s struggles. It’s too bad it took Willow turning evil and Anya becoming a demon again and breaking up with Xander to get to this point. Maybe if Willow had developed this kind of a rapport with Anya in the early stages of Xander/Anya, things would’ve gone better for that relationship.
See! What have I been saying all this time? Dawn is very capable of being involved in Plot A, as a researcher. She was practically taking over Giles’s role, right down to being enthusiastic to an almost indecent degree. Hopefully getting paralyzed by Gnarl and then enduring the embarrassment of Anya posing her will make her realize that research is her true calling and she need not enter the actual battlefield again unless absolutely necessary.
Spike is back to being crazy full time, so I don’t know how I’m supposed to analyze that. I’m still not convinced it makes sense for him to be crazy, but even I don’t want to believe he’s horrible enough to fake it for sympathy points. Why did he go back to the basement? Did Clem not hold onto his crypt for him, or is he no longer interested in living in the crypt? If he wishes Angel had warned him how hard it was to deal with having a soul, then why hasn’t he actually gone to see Angel about it? It would be kind of cool if he’d showed up in Los Angeles during the summer and tried to find Angel, but either failed because he doesn’t recognize any of the current members of A.I. or tried to team up with Fred and Gunn to find Angel. I doubt he’d have gone crazy if he’d had something constructive to do, and people to do it with.
Willow’s magic is so powerful and so innate that she can alter reality without even meaning to. That’s a bit frightening, but much less so than it would’ve been in any of the earlier seasons. She has thoroughly learned the consequences of abusing magic, and I don’t think anything significant remains of her narcissism. I mean, she’s not even indignant at the idea of her friends suspecting her of still being evil. I think I’m going to like Willow a lot in S7.
[After Willow barges in.] “Come in! Enjoy my personal space!”
“Well, causing pain sounds really cool, I know. But it turns out it’s really upsetting.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.