Written by Drew Z. Greenberg
Directed by Michael Gershman
Spike is Xander’s new roommate, which they both super hate, but Buffy insists because the alternative is leaving him to remain crazy in the basement. She feels he deserves their help by virtue of having a soul. Xander disagrees, but not strenuously enough to flat-out refuse him the spare room (which is actually a closet). In the middle of Buffy explaining that Spike isn’t a threat, he grabs her arm, which makes her violently flinch away from him. Aaaargh why is she apologizing for that? It’s a perfectly natural reaction, given their history. He’s the one who should apologize for invading her personal space unexpectedly.
The next day at school, Buffy and Dawn are discussing Spike on the bleachers. Dawn wants to know what Buffy’s deal is with Spike. Buffy says she alternates between not being able to stand him and feeling for him. She doesn’t love him. Buffy thinks Spike got a soul because he knew how wrong it was to try raping her. BULL CRAP. *cough* Dawn responds with her own brand of bull crap, which is that Spike getting a soul is a garbage way to become a better man because people with souls do horrible things all the time. They are both missing the point. Spike got a soul because he thought it would lead directly to Buffy loving him, not because he was remorseful. And having a soul does not mean you will be a good person, it just means you have free will and (hopefully) an inclination to do good.
Moving on, Buffy needs to head back to work, but Dawn is still very confused about the concept of relationships. Until she notices a cute jock on the field, wearing a letter jacket. Doofy music starts up to emphasize the love at first sight happening here. And then she falls off her bench because she’s so swoony.
Buffy is fighting a demon which is trying to murder Anya in her apartment. She kills it. It was a hit man courtesy of D’Hoffryn. Anya thanks Buffy for the save and tells her to leave. Buffy doesn’t leave, because she wants to help. Anya wants alone time to figure herself out, but Buffy thinks things are too dangerous for that right now. Anya reluctantly agrees in an unintentionally condescending way.
Dawn is pining swoonily for her new crush, pacing at the foot of the stairs just around the corner from his locker. Where a couple of cheerleaders are talking to him. Holy crap one of them is in Pushing Daisies. Nifty. Dawn tries to join the conversation and flirt with the guy, whose name is RJ. The cheerleaders react to her much like Cordelia and Harmony reacted to Buffy. In their defense, Dawn is incredibly terrible at making small talk. The two guys and two girls walk away before long.
Dawn is not giving up! She digs out Buffy’s old cheerleading uniform and then attends tryouts. She’s even worse at cheering than small talk. Her cheer is personalized to RJ and involves a painful failed cartwheel. RJ and Dawn are both mortified. That evening, Dawn locks herself in the bathroom to cry and cut the cheerleader outfit (which is still Buffy’s) into tiny pieces. Buffy tries to cheer her up but it doesn’t work.
Xander finds Buffy. He very much wants to not be spending the evening at his apartment with Spike, but Dawn’s supreme teen angst is sort of making movie night not work. Buffy doesn’t think Dawn’s feelings are real (in a Plot B way, not a Plot A way), and Dawn is super offended by that. It’s love. She knows his soul. Excuse me while I barf. She makes Buffy and Xander leave her alone.
The next day at school, Dawn finds RJ again. He’s talking to his friend/rival about the football lineup. Apparently this other guy has deposed him as football captain. Dawn follows the other guy. When she can’t convince him to give RJ the captain spot back, she shoves him down the stairs.
Dawn ends up in the principal’s office, where Buffy also is. Dawn manages to convince them that the kid lied about her pushing him, until she mentions how lucky it is that RJ can still be captain. Buffy now thinks something’s up.
RJ finds Dawn. He sympathizes about her principal’s office trip. She continues to be awkward at flirting, but he appreciates what she did so much that she seems to be scoring points anyway. He invites her to the Bronze.
Cut to the Bronze that night, where a very dweeby band is playing. Buffy, Xander, and Willow are hanging out at a table, discussing Spike, who has some very annoying roommate habits. Buffy points RJ out to the other two, and they notice the girl who is dancing very provocatively with him. And is Dawn. Which makes what Xander just said about her super skeevy in retrospect. Buffy is horrified at Dawn’s outfit and dancing.
Buffy confronts Dawn shortly after that dance. Apparently Dawn said she’d be at the library! Dawn is in full “you can’t tell me what to do” mode, and Buffy handles it with wonderful tact, saying she’s glad Joyce isn’t there to see her like this. Dawn keeps being a supreme brat, so Buffy makes her go home.
Except that this is Sunnydale, so she barely gets outside the club before being cornered by...that other cheerleader. Who is super jealous of Dawn and RJ. They get into a nasty catfight, which Buffy breaks up. The other girl kicks Buffy in the shin and runs off.
Principal Wood brings RJ to his office because he keeps getting besotted girls to do his homework for him. Before he can leave, Buffy brings him over to her cubicle. She thinks there’s a Plot A going on, and she wants to get to the bottom of it. Before she can get very far, he puts on his jacket and she gradually starts losing track of her suspicion and indignation. A minute later, she’s hitting on him. He’s totally fine with that!
When Dawn gets home that night, Buffy wants a word in the living room. She tells her about talking to RJ. She says she thinks RJ likes her. She deliberately phrases it in a way to make her feel super insecure and horrible about how strongly she came on. She acts like she’s looking out for Dawn, and Dawn will for sure be with RJ if she just lets him come to her.
Cut to the next day, when Buffy pulls RJ out of class so that she can make out with him in an empty classroom to “Warning Sign” by Coldplay. It’s trippy when this show does songs by bands I still listen to on a semi-regular basis. Dawn tries to peek in on RJ in his class but notices he’s not there, so she goes looking for him. By this point, Buffy has moved past sympathizing with RJ about having the principal on his back all the time to actually snogging him. By the time Dawn finds them, Buffy is straddling RJ and things are about to get super R-rated. Dawn flees to the courtyard, where Xander finds her. She never wants to see RJ or Buffy again. Xander finds Buffy and RJ, thankfully before any clothes have come off.
Buffy tries to console Dawn by saying her love is fake love spell love (unlike Buffy’s). Willow and Anya are working with Xander to break the spell. Buffy and Dawn have an unpleasant argument about betrayal and love, which ends in Dawn fleeing upstairs and Buffy following. Xander flashes back fondly to “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” Buffy rejoins the others downstairs. Xander knew RJ’s big brother (in the sense of being his bully victim), so he thinks he could go talk to him to find out stuff.
Xander and Spike go to talk to RJ’s brother, who is one of those washed up jocks living in his parents’ basement now. Hahaha. Apparently RJ used to be cool! (By which I mean a nerd. Because nerds are way cooler than jocks.) While Xander talks to the big brother, Spike walks around the room, noticing that the guy is wearing the same jacket in all the pictures of him. He mentions that, and the guy confirms it. The jacket is a major heirloom from his and RJ’s dad. Bingo.
Willow and Anya aren’t having much luck so far in breaking the love spell. The doorbell rings. It’s RJ! Who is wearing the jacket. Crap. Willow and Anya do not know it’s the jacket that activates the spell, so their hostility towards him quickly turns to doe-eyed infatuation. Buffy and Dawn come downstairs to find them arguing about which of them RJ really loves. It becomes a four-way argument. Buffy points out that RJ is a boy, so why is Willow even interested? She says it’s about his presence. (Which totally supports my argument from forever ago about how Willow is pansexual.) They all keep arguing. They start making it a competition. Buffy will kill the principal for him. Willow will prove her love with magic, by turning him into a woman! Anya runs out to do something to impress him too, and Dawn is left feeling hopeless and inadequate.
We get ridiculous split-screen glimpses of what the four of them are doing. Anya is robbing a bank. Willow is starting her spell. Buffy is getting a bazooka with which to blow up Principal Wood, and Dawn is lying down across train tracks so she can die. Xander interrupts Willow’s spell just in the nick of time. She complains, because now Buffy, Anya, and Dawn will have an easier shot at winning. The next scene is easily the funniest of the episode. From the perspective of Principal Wood’s office, we see Buffy getting into position with the bazooka, and then getting tackled by Spike, who runs away with it. It’s amazing. Except for Wood’s choice of music, which is surprisingly boring. Buffy chases Spike all the way to Willow and Xander, who are doing a locator spell on Dawn and Anya. They all make it to Dawn right as a train is coming in. Luckily, Buffy’s love for Dawn overcomes her desire to keep fretting about RJ, and she saves her. Dawn reveals that she has serious inferiority issues about her superpower big sister. Buffy insists that no guy is worth Dawn’s life, and she’d let RJ have Dawn if Dawn would just be okay. She’s finally convinced this is a love spell.
Spike and Xander are lurking on a corner as RJ and the cheerleader on crutches go walking past. They have an elaborate plan that involves jumping RJ and stealing his jacket. They succeed, then burn the jacket at Buffy’s house. All the girls talk about how crazy they were acting. Dawn is particularly revolted by her behavior. Buffy teases her, because it’s probably not far off from how she’ll act when she has a normal Plot B crush. Anya avoids admitting she just became a bank robber by claiming she merely wrote an awful epic poem. She hastily turns off the radio when a report comes on about Sunnydale’s masked bandit.
So, we get to take a brief break from the love triangle between Angel, his son, and Cordelia to enjoy a love triangle between Buffy, her sister, and an underage boy. Great! But seriously, “Him” is probably one of the more enjoyable S7 episodes. It’s a funny, weird episode that almost manages to recapture the brilliance and hilarity of episodes like “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” The music is hilarious, there are lots of great lines, and all the girls are pretty funny with how they express their obsessions with RJ. I also really like the sweet sister moment between Buffy and Dawn there at the train station. However, I think one of the things that makes this one not as good as BB&B, aside from largely repeating its plot, is the lack of repercussions for the guy behind the love spell. Buffy, Willow, Anya, and Dawn are all left feeling mortified by their actions, but RJ is just confused about having his jacket stolen. In BB&B, Xander had the love spell backfire directly against him in unpleasant ways, felt horrible about it, humbly went to Giles for help, and worked on fixing it. That kind of accountability is missing from “Him.” Is RJ going to revert back to being a dateless nerd? Is his brother going to become an even sadder sack than he already is? Are his parents going to get divorced because his mom only fell for his dad because of the spell? Will his mom be traumatized for life because she spent over two decades brainwashed?
The episode sort of glosses over this part, but as focused as I am on Anya’s arc, I was really intrigued by the fact that Buffy went to pay Anya a visit in her apartment, alone. Last episode, they were fighting to the death, but now, Buffy’s already fully prepared to welcome Anya back into the Scooby gang with open arms. So at least it’s not just Spike who gets this kind of compassionate treatment from her. Buffy just has a very big heart, and she’s willing to accept anyone with the potential to become a force for good. (But yeah, boundaries with Spike would still be a better idea.)
Xander can remember BB&B fondly now? What? That was the day he and Cordelia nearly got axe-murdered and he got hit on by Drusilla and Buffy’s mom. How can that be a positive memory? Also, I think he probably agreed to let Spike stay at his place because he was worried Buffy would just take him in if he refused. The way he complains about Spike’s roommate habits implies that he, Xander, is actually a rather tidy person. I never would’ve expected that. (Nor, actually, would I have expected that Spike would be a slob of a roommate. The crypt never seemed to have dirty clothes and towels lying about. Is he just doing this to spite Xander?)
Continuity for Anya! She still wants to figure out who she really is. I like it. She can officially add Scooby to her identity. Perhaps more officially than it ever was, because this time, she got invited in by Buffy herself, rather than as Xander’s plus-one and Giles’s business partner who happens to have encyclopedic knowledge of demons and magicks. And the bank robbery thing is great.
It’s nice that Dawn being horrid stereotypical teenager is just the result of a spell this time. The pattern of her being a much more tolerable character this season continues to hold! But we’ve looped right back around to where she started in S5, which was feeling insecure because of how awesome her big sister is. Those feelings might become exaggerated now that Buffy is working at her school.
Spike is finally not crazy, possibly, but he’s still incredibly bad at respecting Buffy’s boundaries. (She makes that really easy though, since she puts it all on herself.) I have to admit, though, that he and Xander make a surprisingly hilarious buddy cop pair. Can silly Spike become a more regular thing, please? I think I could actually enjoy that. It’s a big part of what made him fun in S3 and S4. Thinks he’s badass, but is actually incredibly dorky.
I’ve seen people use Willow trying to turn RJ into a girl as proof she’s a lesbian rather than bi or pansexual. I disagree. The spell already worked on her before she had that idea; it was merely the easiest way she could think of to disqualify her competition. I really don’t appreciate her comment earlier in the episode where she sympathizes with Xander about having unwanted lustful feelings about Dawn in her questionable dance outfit. Did the writers really need to go there? It’s bad enough that they went there with Xander, who’s always been a touch lewd in his appreciation of female hotness. Willow only has brief moments of that, but they’re always really jarring.
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”
“The one who, according to Dawn, is the, quote, ‘smartest, funniest, coolest, hottest, and having-of-the-thickest-boy-eyelashes boy in school’ unquote.”
“I’ve tried every anti-love spell spell I could find!”
“Even if you find the right one, the guy would probably just do an anti-anti-love spell spell...spell.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.