“Never Leave Me”
Written by Drew Goddard
Directed by David Solomon
That was a super long previously. Thanks, Netflix. I definitely didn’t remember any of those plot points. We open on the Summers’ house, where Xander is working on repairing the front window while Willow and Dawn discuss Spike’s questionable good guy/villain status. Anya votes staking him, with a slight tinge of bitterness about recently getting stabbed through the chest herself by Buffy. It seems Anya will be heading up the anti-Spike side of the debate. Xander, for some reason, has ceded that position to her.
Andrew is walking along, attempting to look badass by wearing a long leather coat. The First/Warren is still using him, trying to get him to do stuff to further its plans. It reveals for the first time that it can’t take corporeal form (hence needing a dweeb like Andrew). It demonstrates by having Andrew wave its hand through “Warren’s” chest. Andrew would rather not kill anyone else. The First morphs into Jonathan and tries to convince Andrew it’s all good. The First thinks Jonathan’s death didn’t do the trick because he didn’t have enough blood in his short little body.
Buffy is tying Spike to a chair. He wants her to make sure the knots are tight, because he doesn’t want to kill anyone else.
Principal Wood is attempting to settle an issue with two students. He’s pretty awesome about it. Suspending them for vandalism would involve lots of exhausting paperwork/contacting parents steps, so he’d rather just call the police. They quickly take his deal to repaint what they graffitied. Dawn shows up to make Buffy’s excuses for not being at work, painting a colorful yet disgusting picture of a flu-ridden Buffy.
Buffy, who is not sick, is on the phone with Quentin Travers. He is not being helpful about contacting Giles, and he’s using the conversation to sneakily get info out of her. He’s in a big conference room at the Watchers’ headquarters, with several of the other Watchers from “Checkpoint.”
Spike is still tied to the chair. Buffy asks if she can get him anything, and he vamps out and struggles against the ropes. Buffy and Willow discuss what to do about him. Starting him back on animal blood is priority #1. Willow will go get the blood, but she’s a little concerned about Buffy having to do all this.
Andrew is holding a knife over his next prospective victim while the First/Warren eggs him on. The victim is a pig. Warren keeps up a stream of encouragement, and Andrew finally shouts “That’ll do, pig!” and lunges after it with the dagger. *snort* Wasn’t expecting a Babe reference, or for it to be that funny. Andrew doesn’t seem to know how to pursue something by any means other than leaping head-first after it, which he does like four times. This clearly isn’t going to work.
So next Andrew goes to the butcher shop and lists off a few items besides pig’s blood so as not to sound suspicious. It would’ve been funnier if he’d attempted an English accent so he could claim he was off to make black pudding, but oh well. He bonks into Willow on his way out and drops his stuff. Then tries to flee. She chases him. He thinks she’s going to kill and/or torture him. She’s not! He tries to convince her he’s good, but has no idea how to explain the pig’s blood, so he switches to claiming he’s protected by powerful evil forces. Willow is unimpressed. She shoves him against the wall and returns his ridiculous posturing with some of her own. Bahahaha.
She drags him back to the Summers’ house, where Xander has almost finished the front window. Nice work! Xander and Anya will be interrogating him. YES. This is going to be awesome. Xander ties him to a chair in Dawn’s room. Looks like he’s going to be the bad cop. No wait, that’s Anya. She grabs him and smacks him when all he says is obvious lies.
In the other room, Buffy is feeding Spike one of the blood bags, looking stony. Xander and Anya go to the hall and giggle about their mad interrogation skills. They’ll let Andrew sit for a bit and consider his options. Buffy joins them. No info from her end either.
Buffy goes back in to Spike. He’s lost his memories of those murders again. Buffy asks him about his chip and about blacking out. The latter started pretty much as soon as he got his soul. He figured it was just normal. He tells Buffy what he did to get his soul. Then he’s a clever git claiming that being in love with her has shown him kinds of pain and suffering he never imagined. *smacks him* He feels like there’s no need to bother being polite after murdering a bunch of people. Well that’s a terrible attitude. He gets now that Buffy really was just using him as an outlet for her self-loathing. Buffy is stunned by his powers of perception. (That was sarcasm.) He thinks souls are all about self-loathing.
Xander brings Andrew a glass of water and apologizes for Anya. He tries to intimidate Andrew by talking about all the horrific things Anya has done to men (conveniently leaving out that she’s mortal again). At first it doesn’t work because Andrew has a very short attention span, but eventually it starts sinking in. This episode might be my favorite one with Andrew so far. Excluding “Life Serial.” Xander ruins the threatening vibe a bit by telling a metaphorical version of what Anya did to him after he left her at the altar. Sensing it’s not working, he adds some violent evisceration. But he’s Andrew’s friend.
As soon as Andrew claims not to know anything, Anya comes bursting into the room with more threats and minor violence. She slaps Xander (to be dramatic) when he tries to pull her off Andrew, and Andrew is now ready to talk!
Buffy hears this development and leaves Spike to go check it out. Unfortunately, this leaves Spike wide open to manipulation from the First, who’s in Spike form again. Buffy doesn’t actually seem interested in sticking around to hear Andrew’s information, though, because she pops her head in, then heads back to her room. Outside the door, she hears Spike’s voice, which starts singing. When she goes inside, she suspects something’s off about Spike. He says he’s fine, if hungry. She’s still very wary, and rightly so. The moment her back is turned, he breaks free of the chair like it was made of kindling and punches straight through the wall to Dawn’s room, against which Andrew was leaning in his eagerness to put distance between himself and Anya.
Spike pulls Andrew right through the wall and bites him. Buffy yanks Spike off Andrew, then knocks him out (while the First/Spike watches). Andrew will be okay. Down in the living room, Buffy shares what happened with the rest of the gang. Spike’s abrupt moments of violence have both been paired with singing. Xander thinks it’s a sleeper agent trigger like in the military. Xander thinks the “ghosts” that have been haunting all of them are actually controlling Spike. So how do they get rid of it? Buffy divides up research assignments.
Robin Wood is shutting off the lights before leaving the school. The music is oddly sinister. He notices the basement door and goes inside. Down there, he finds that freaky goat head seal. Jonathan’s body is still there. All the blood has been absorbed, though. Wood seems oddly not horrified by the sight.
Spike is now chained up in Buffy’s basement. She comes downstairs and starts cleaning the blood off his face. He doesn’t remember what he did. Also, I haven’t mentioned it before, but there’s been a running gag since early S6 about nobody remembering Andrew’s name. They always think of him as “Tucker’s brother” or something. It’s pretty funny since Andrew’s pretty annoying, but it doesn’t really make sense that Spike would understand who Buffy means by “Tucker’s brother.” He has personally threatened the Trio; he knows who Andrew is. Whereas Tucker’s only episode was “The Prom,” in which Spike did not appear. Whatever.
Spike is miserable about all the people he’s killed in the last few weeks. He doesn’t understand any of it, but he feels horrible. Buffy tells him the sleeper agent theory. His solution is for her to kill him. She doesn’t want to do that, so he tries to convince her by telling her some of the stuff he did in his glory days as a vampire. Apparently his favorite strategy for killing (specifically girls) was to only drink enough blood so that they would still be able to cry when he raped them. And those victims often were girls, as in, under age. Dawn’s age. Does Buffy want to kill him yet? No. He’s getting frustrated now. He knows it’s not love, so what is it? She says it’s that he’s helped and saved lives. He thinks that’s a load of crap. He thinks she won’t kill him because she likes men who hurt her. The hell? She disagrees. She was full of self-loathing last year, but she’s overcome that. She tells him very firmly that he’s capable of being a good man. She might not love him, but she believes in him. Aww.
Yeah, well, if Spike is unavailable to do the First’s dirty work, then how about a bunch of Harbingers? They come bursting in through the cellar door and all the windows and doors on the first floor. So much for Xander’s hard work.
Wood is out in the middle of nowhere, burying Jonathan. Awwwww. FREAKING ANDREW. *sniffles*
The Scoobies fight the Harbingers. There are a lot of them. They’re gunning for Andrew. Dawn does a pretty good job of fighting. One harbinger is about to stab Andrew when Buffy catches up. Dawn’s about to meet a stabby death when Xander clubs the harbinger over the head. Buffy kills the two in Dawn’s room before they can get Andrew. The rest of them used the distraction of the fight to spirit Spike away. That’s not good.
Buffy takes a closer look at one of the dead Harbingers. She knows what they’re fighting now. It’s the First Evil. That’s their Big Bad.
At the Watchers’ headquarters, it’s bad news all around. Many of their operations around the world have been taken out. Quentin tries to encourage the others to keep stiff upper lips and go about their business. He gives a big speech. The First Evil has declared war on the Watchers and the Slayer, and he votes that they start fighting back. He wants info on all their surviving operatives. They’ll mobilize as soon as they’re all assembled. They’ll be heading to the Hellmouth. It’s a pretty good speech. He even quotes Proverbs. Sadly, just as he’s finishing up the speech, the building gets blown up.
In the school basement, Spike is getting tied to something so the Harbingers can bleed him out over the seal. The First/Spike taunts him about his failures. It morphs into Buffy. It was going to use Andrew, but it’s fine with using Spike. It tells Spike he’s about to see a real vampire. Uh oh. The seal opens up. We hear growling, and then something that looks like an orc emerges.
“Never Leave Me” keeps up the momentum from “Sleeper” very effectively, with a fun smattering of lighthearted moments from the Scoobies’ interactions with Andrew. I hate to admit it, because I feel like those might’ve been the moments that made the writers think it would be awesome to keep Andrew around indefinitely. It’s also another one that has a lot of Spike without feeling like there isn’t a good reason for it, but my favorite parts were easily the ones with Xander and Anya. There’s also a lot of great suspense. The stakes continue to get higher. The Council has been blown up just when they were finally going to be helpful for a change, Giles is missing (presumed dead?), the Scoobies are subjected to a the most violent home invasion of the whole series, Wood is clearly not just a ridiculously hot principal, and now there’s a more powerful breed of vampire to worry about. The First certainly knows how to declare war. Keep it coming! Anyone know what the episode title is about, though? 'Cause it seems like an atypically weaksause title for a Buffy episode, but it's possible it's just a reference I'm not getting.
Also, now that we’ve caught our first glimpse of a Turok-Han/Über-vamp, I can talk about my theory regarding their origins! Basically, I think the Turok-Han were created by an Old One. They are the original vampire species (as in, they weren’t humans first). I think human-based vampires are essentially a viral infection created whenever a Turok-Han shared blood with a human instead of just killing him. Thus, the demons animating human-based vampires are the same type of demon as a Turok-Han, just diluted a bit by what’s left of the human physiology and personality once the soul leaves and the demon takes over.
Buffy continues to display an interesting mixture of extreme wariness and incredible compassion. Throughout this rewatch, I’ve always been impressed by Buffy’s compassion. This is perhaps one of the most profound examples of it. She may have significant, legitimate personal issues with Spike, but those are all with the demon, not the soul. She is able to give the soul the benefit of the doubt. That’s what Spike still doesn’t understand about her. She’s not looking for pain. She’s looking for the good in other people. She kills demons every day, and that only seems to have strengthened her ability to feel compassion for anyone who tries to do good, or even who just doesn’t want to be evil. However, I’m going to have it as my headcanon that when she was giving Spike that pep-talk, she was saying what she thought would get through to him the best, not what she actually thought. Because she could only have been referring to his quest to regain his soul, but as I’ve said several times, that was not what made Spike good. It was just what made him have a soul. What he does next is what will determine if he’s good or not.
Xander and Anya are awesome as an interrogation team. Hilarious and effective! I’ve never particularly shipped them before, but I think I suddenly do. They’re clearly fantastic together, and as lighthearted as their moments are in this episode, there seems to be a kind of unspoken depth to their relationship that was rarely if ever present when they were actually in a relationship. I think these versions of Xander and Anya would actually do well as a married couple. I love that Xander doesn’t object to being the good cop (I feel like early-seasons Xander would’ve been indignant), and Anya is excellent as the bad cop.
Dawn doesn’t do a ton in this one, but I very much like how Buffy puts her on research duty with Willow without even hesitating. Finally, Dawn gets to contribute to the Scoobies in the way that makes the most sense for her! Though she did also do pretty well in the fight against the Harbingers.
Spike’s soul clearly cured him of his, shall we say, highly subjective interpretation of reality...by substituting it with a much more cynical one. Where soulless Spike (and even William a bit) was very focused on what he thought the world owed him and lashed out when it failed to deliver, soulful Spike is taking it to the opposite extreme, which is almost as bad. He really needs to find a happy medium. If he’s apparently still killing people even though he has a soul, then it’s all pointless and he should just be put out of his misery. What’s particularly troubling about this attitude is the way he feels like he can just unload harsh [alleged] truths on Buffy. I sure hope he’s not deliberately attempting to make her feel crappy about their sordid past, because a) she doesn’t need help with that and b) he is by far the worse offender, so he shouldn’t even be bringing it up, and he definitely shouldn’t keep mentioning his feelings for her. It’s like part of him hopes he’ll provoke her into saying she really does have feelings for him if he keeps putting such a negative spin on it. Unfortunately for him, his spin really isn’t negative enough to be accurate, so that’s not likely to work.
It was fun to see Willow being such a dork when intimidating Andrew. It’s been quite a while since Willow got to be dorky, and it’s part of what made her so endearing in the early seasons. More of this, please! She’s also being attentive and compassionate about her friends’ feelings again. Yes, this is definitely a better Willow than we’ve had in a long time.
“Her exact words were ‘I’ve got stuff coming out of both ends.'”
“Thank you? That’s...very helpful.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.