Written by Rebecca Kirshner
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
We open on a funeral home, where a middle-aged lady is lying in a coffin. I’m willing to bet she’s a vampire. All the workers and funeral attendees leave...and just leave the body there? Buffy and Xander climb out of two closed coffins. And they free Dawn from a third. Was this the best way for them to get in position to slay a new vampire? Buffy is anxious about having to start the actual counseling part of her job soon, and they’re all still a bit unsure of how to help Willow feel like part of the group again—or if they should. Yep, the lady is a vampire. Buffy stakes her. Then she closes the casket. Well I hope nobody opens it and finds all that dust in there!
Buffy is in her office at school, straightening the stuff on her desk and sharpening many pencils in preparation for meeting with a student. A tall, skinny girl shows up. Wait, actually this is a montage of several students visiting her. One of whom is the oldest kid from Home Improvement. Fun. He’s there because he doesn’t want to go to class. The skinny girl is there because she beat a kid up. A kid in a hoodie just really doesn’t want to talk to her.
Willow and Xander are walking through some park we’ve never seen before, discussing Buffy’s counseling job and also the badness of the Hellmouth. Willow doesn’t know what she can do to help—or what she might do to make it worse. Xander is just as confident in Willow as he is in Buffy. Aww. They arrive at a cemetery. Willow visits Tara’s grave while Xander stands back. She puts a few small stones on the top (a Jewish tradition, so, nice touch), then traces Tara’s name with her fingers.
Eventually, hoodie kid finally starts talking. He’s afraid. His big brother’s joining the Marines. He’s really worried his brother will get killed. Another kid visits Buffy, and he pretends he’s worried he’s gay, and the best way for him to know for sure is for her to go out with him! Also, Dawn visits and trolls her. A girl with purple highlights visits, and she seems to like Buffy, but she’s very convinced that she’ll be dying the following Friday. Buffy thinks she means she’s suicidal, but she’s actually prescient. She knows that her death will somehow involve weird coins and somewhere underground, and that Buffy will try to help. She compliments Buffy’s shirt and advises her to put a sweater over it so it won’t get stained. (Wait, what’s nice about that shirt? It’s a super boring white tank top.)
Buffy goes to Principal Wood with her concerns about Cassie. He doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about. He acted out when he was in high school; that’s probably all this is. Buffy spills coffee all over the shirt, which makes her even more convinced that Cassie is actually psychic and her life is actually in danger. She finds Dawn and assigns her to go make friends with Cassie for recon purposes.
Cassie is talking to some guy in the library. He’s flirting with her. He wants to invite her to a dance. Dawn awkwardly introduces herself. They’re in a ceramics class. The cute guy skedaddles. Cassie warns him he’s going to get a B on whatever test he’s about to take. The reason Cassie has been turning the cute guy down for the dance is that it’s after she knows she’ll die.
Buffy has Willow look into Cassie’s records. She has a history of apathy and depression. Willow is slightly disappointed that Buffy can actually get a hold of Cassie’s medical records legitimately, as a counselor. Also, points for the show’s first use of the word “googled,” but then they immediately lose those points when Xander misunderstands and Willow has to actually explain what Google is. Cassie has a website full of emo poetry. Dawn gets home while Willow’s reading one of the poems out loud. Willow thinks this is normal.
Dawn thinks she has a lead. Mike! The guy who’s been asking her to the dance. She thinks he might be suspicious. Willow interrupts with a different theory: her dad might be an abusive drunk. Bahaha, I’m enjoying this recurring character thing Dawn’s having where she’s really interested in doing detective work.
Buffy and Xander go to visit Cassie’s dad to check him out. There’s really no comfortable way to find out if someone abuses his kid. He deeply doesn’t appreciate it. He thinks Cassie’s mom put them up to this to take away his already limited visitation rights. Buffy no longer thinks he’s a suspect, but only because he has an advance alibi. He kicks them out. Cassie finds them as they’re leaving. She appreciates them helping her, but she tells them it’s not her dad, and there’s no point in fighting against this. She’s not suicidal. She has hopes and dreams, but everything she sees comes true. Buffy is not going to give up.
A cult of red-robed guys are chanting and burning a picture of Cassie. Hmm, maybe these are our culprits.
The next day at school, Buffy is looking at Cassie’s website, trying to figure this out. Wood swings by to be an endearing boss for a few seconds. Buffy reads Cassie’s poetry. Montage of Cassie with her friends and the Scoobies trying to find leads. Cassie’s room is full of unsettling artwork.
Buffy finds Spike in the school basement. He’s still there? She snaps her fingers in his face, but he doesn’t respond. He thinks he can stop hurting if he doesn’t move or think. She tries to ask him for help with Cassie. It’s Friday. She’s running out of time. Spike knows there’s something evil in the basement. Him! He starts rambling about how evil he is and punching himself. Buffy grabs his fist. He seems surprised. She explains that she’s not here about her, she’s here about Cassie. He doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t want her to leave.
Wood is doing a locker search. Mike walks past and Buffy intercepts him. He’s upset over the B he got. She tries to shake him down, but he’s not super upset at Cassie for rejecting him. Maybe he’ll ask Dawn out instead! Buffy is briefly at a loss—he clearly isn’t the guy. But wait, he wants to ask Dawn out as a back-up?! A bunch of coins fall out of a locker Wood just checked. Buffy picks them up. They’re weird old coins. She gets the guy whose locker it is into her office. He doesn’t know anything about Cassie. Buffy’s getting more and more frustrated. She tries to go bad cop on him, which actually works. He knows about the weird cult guys.
Dawn offers to walk Cassie home to her mom’s house. Cassie’s onto Dawn, but Dawn isn’t just pretending to be Cassie’s friend. She is, however, wearing a horrible jacket.
Home Improvement kid comes up and acts like he’s about to ask Dawn to the dance, but he’s just being a jerk. And now Cassie is gone.
Cut to the cult, of which Home Improvement kid is a member (okay, that takes too long to type each time; his name is Peter). They begin the ritual, which is going to make them rich if they do it right. One guy booby-trapped the room so they won’t be interrupted. Peter drags Cassie into view. She’s bound and gagged. The other guys did not think this ritual would involve killing someone. Peter picked her because she has a suicidal vibe already, so it’ll be easier to get away with it. The other guys aren’t as enthusiastic about this as they were at first.
Buffy tears off a red robe and puts a stop to the ritual. She kicks Peter, then disarms him of his cleaver. She thinks ritual is super lame, and that the ritual didn’t work. Well, actually, there’s a demon right behind her. Buffy throws the cleaver at it and fights it. Peter takes advantage of the fight to make another attempt to kill Cassie. Spike shows up to help, with a torch. Buffy shoves it in the demon’s stomach. Spike punches Peter, but winces when it activates his chip. Buffy kills the demon. Spike unties Cassie and pulls the duct tape off her face. She tells him “someday she’ll tell you.”
Peter crawls over to the dead demon, all butthurt over not getting any riches. The demon is actually alive enough to take one chomp out of his shoulder, so now he has something real to complain about.
Buffy leads Cassie out of the room, catching a crossbow bolt from the aforementioned boobie trap. Wait, what? That kid said this was a booby-trap his cousin did all the time! Is his cousin a serial killer? Buffy thinks this all means Cassie’s in the clear. Cassie tells Buffy she’s going to make a difference, and then she collapses. She’s dead, of natural causes.
At the Summers’ house, the Scoobies are all very sad, particularly Buffy and Dawn. Cassie had a genetic heart defect. Buffy still feels like she failed her. Dawn disagrees. What matters is that Cassie had people who cared about her. Buffy has no idea how she’s supposed to deal with situations where she knows she can’t help. The episode ends on a shot of her in her office.
Thematically, “Help” feels a lot like an Angel episode. Like Angel failed to save Tina in “City Of,” Buffy fails to save Cassie, and the message is essentially the same as in “Epiphany”: the universe is random and chaotic, but that only makes it more important to show kindness and provide whatever help we can. I don’t think there’s been a Buffy episode yet that has focused so strongly on the “you won’t always be able to save everyone” idea. It’s a very grown-up, difficult lesson to learn, particularly when Buffy is so focused on what it means to be a Slayer and actually has a paid job that overlaps with it. I kind of wish it could’ve been addressed earlier, though. There have been quite a few episodes with high human casualties, but I think the closest Buffy came to blaming herself for not killing the monsters fast enough to save people was during the Angelus arc in S2. There have been more episodes that deal with a Slayer being directly responsible for someone’s death (or thinking she is until new evidence proves the victim was a robot or already murdered by someone else) than this one, even though this seems like an equally relevant issue for someone like Buffy, who tends to take on a lot of responsibility even beyond what she already gets saddled with. On the whole, I think it’s a pretty good episode.
The way Buffy and Dawn each want everyone to refer to the other as her sister, not as “Dawn’s sister” or “Buffy’s sister” is hilarious. Buffy is surprisingly good at being a councilor, considering how ridiculously underqualified she is. Her very empathetic and compassionate nature makes her pretty good at responding to individual students’ concerns in effective ways. She might feel overwhelmed and inadequate, but I think she’s doing a good job. Buffy’s role in S7 so far is oddly reminding me more of S1 than any other season. She’s the first Scooby to be convinced there’s a Plot A at work, even if the others are skeptical, and her instincts prove to be correct. I love the ending shot of Buffy being ready to keep helping students, even though she couldn’t save Cassie. She won’t give up.
Xander continues to be his best self by being very supportive of his friends. A lot of S7 seems like an apology for S6. Xander, Dawn, and Willow are all much more likable than they were for the bulk of S6. Hopefully that will continue.
Dawn is still being quite likable! Please, please let this continue. I feel like S6 Dawn would’ve gotten really angry at Buffy for failing to save Cassie, who wouldn’t even be Dawn’s friend if Buffy hadn’t told her to do recon on her. But this Dawn is just grateful she had the chance to be Cassie’s friend, and she pulls Buffy out of her guilt funk before she can stew in it too badly. I seriously love how Buffy and Dawn can troll each other like normal sisters, but they have each other’s backs when it counts. This is the kind of sister dynamic that’s fun to watch.
Spike is still crazy, but maybe that can be lessened by helping people. But why does the crazy seem to hinge so much on what he did to Buffy? Is that the only thing he feels bad about? Because that was only the final thing in a 120-year string of violent, evil acts.
Willow isn’t quite fully integrated back into the group, but she did get to have that one-on-one scene with Xander I was hoping for, and she’s doing internet research for the team again. Although, since that research only consists of googling, I think it might be starting to be less necessary to have an actual hacker for the computer research person. But she can do beneficial magic again, so it’s okay. Also, as much as I liked Tara, it might actually help tighten up the group that there’s only one witch. They didn’t really do enough to emphasize the differences in Willow and Tara’s magical specializations, like how they differentiated between Wesley and Fred’s research specializations on Angel. And they totally could have; “Who Are You” strongly implied that Tara had a knack for sensing auras and performing more spiritual magic, while Willow has had success with defensive and offensive magic. Bah. Oh well.
“Are you the counselor’s little sister?”
“No, she’s my sister.”
“You’re Dawn’s sister, right?”
“Uh, that’s right, Dawn is my sister.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.