“The Killer in Me”
Written by Drew Z. Greenburg
Directed by David Solomon
Giles finds Buffy and Dawn in the living room. He’s anxious about leaving them for a couple of days. He’ll be taking the potentials out for a vision quest. Buffy sounds like Sarah Michelle Gellar had a cold while filming this one. Kennedy won’t be joining the group because she has the flu. The girls are fighting over who gets to drive (and shoving each other in the trunk to prove who wins), because Giles hasn’t renewed his California driver’s license.
Once Giles and the girls leave, Buffy goes downstairs to visit Spike, who has a little cot and is chained to the wall. Wait, so last time he was sparring with the potentials in a cemetery, but now he’s chained up? Shouldn’t that have been the other way around? Weird. Evidently the chains were his idea. Either he’s chained up or Buffy’s there to keep an eye on him. Buffy wants to do something to deactivate the First’s trigger. Spike suddenly gets slammed with pain from the chip, even though he’s very much not causing harm to a human. It gets steadily worse. That’s not good. Is it making up for lost time, not firing when he killed and turned all those people while under the First’s control?
That evening, Buffy comes up to the kitchen and updates Willow on Spike’s malfunctioning chip situation. Willow is preparing tea for Kennedy. Buffy teases her about it. They discuss the chip. Willow never actually managed to dig up much stuff about the chip, she claims because the Initiative never made a website about it. Um, excuse me, isn’t that the whole point of Willow being a hacker? She had access to all those decrypted Initiative files! There wasn’t a schematic and a report on the behavior modification chip in there?
When Willow goes to bring Kennedy the tea, she finds Kennedy getting dressed to go out and very much not sick. She’s playing hooky because she “has her own separate mission.” That’s an even lamer story than being sick. Her “mission” is going to the Bronze with Willow, for a date. Willow is very annoyed and wants to leave, but Kennedy pouts and flirts relentlessly, so Willow grudgingly stays. Kennedy starts grilling Willow on her history as a lesbian and how to do stealth flirting to find out if other girls are interested. Willow starts off uncomfortable and annoyed, but eventually warms up to the topic. It’s a bit of a somber one for her, because of Tara’s death.
At the house, the malfunctioning chip has been giving Spike so much trouble that he’s popping blood vessels in his brain. Spike thinks the chip’s warranty has simply expired. Buffy’s instinct is to do research, but this isn’t the sort of problem that can be solved by old books. But maybe Buffy can reach someone who can help over the phone.
Willow and Kennedy’s conversation is going even better now. Willow’s mom apparently thought it was a source of distinction, statistically, to have a gay daughter at first, but that wore off after a while. Willow still doesn’t really want to talk about Tara much, and Kennedy seems sympathetic.
Buffy is trying to reach Riley. The person on the other end is super unhelpful. Possibly because Buffy’s talking to the proprietor of a flower shop, who isn’t secretly working for the government. Spike’s chip pain is getting even worse. He tries to brush it off, but then it comes back worse than ever.
Kennedy says she realized she was a lesbian when she watched Gone with the Wind at age five. Willow is baffled by Kennedy’s crush on her, because Kennedy doesn’t know her at all. When Kennedy starts explaining, Willow’s interest is clearly piqued. It’s kind of irritating how dismissive Kennedy is of magic. “It’s all stupid fairytale stuff, but if you like it, it’s cool!” Why would you say it’s stupid fairytale stuff when you know it’s real? (Okay, good, I think this rewatch isn’t going to challenge my loathing of Kennedy.)
They go back to the house, and there’s an awkward moment in Willow’s room where Willow seems like she’s ready to be done talking to Kennedy because she’s not sure what else to do, but then Kennedy kisses her. It goes on for a while. And then Kennedy suddenly finds that she’s kissing Warren, not Willow. Which is extra confusing for her, because she doesn’t even know Warren. (Wow, I totally forgot about this twist.)
From Willow’s point of view, she’s still Willow, so she doesn’t know what’s going on. Kennedy is still really freaked out. Willow looks in the mirror and sees Warren’s reflection. They go downstairs, and Xander, Dawn, and Anya all freak out to see Warren. So does Andrew. Willow tries to convince them she’s Willow. Buffy comes in and punches Warren/Willow, and since the blow actually connected, that rules out the First. Andrew tries to grab “Warren,” but happens to grab right where Willow’s boobs are. Spike staggers in, holding his head, and collapses. The explanation that Warren is actually Willow finally comes out. Willow proves it to Xander by threatening to tell some non-yellow crayon stories from kindergarten.
Willow thinks she did this to herself by mistake, and she wants to try fixing it on her own. Buffy should probably work on helping Spike anyway. Spike doesn’t think he’s got much time left with the chip like this.
Willow heads out into town, and Kennedy finds her. She wants to help. Willow doesn’t want help. She already tried to reverse it and failed because something blocked her. Kennedy refuses to be deterred. Willow’s next stop is to visit some old friends.
Buffy and Spike are poking around in the woods, looking for the old entrance to the Initiative. Apparently there’s some kind of drug that can counter the effects of the chip for a couple hours at a time, and Spike remembers them using it on him when he was a captive there. Really? Because “The Initiative” sure made it seem like Spike didn’t have any memory of getting experimented on, just waking up, pacing angrily, not drinking the drugged blood, and escaping. Buffy wants to grab files while they’re down there too. Yeah, because the Initiative totally would’ve left sensitive documents lying around when they cleaned house.
At the house, the phone rings. Andrew answers it. It’s some British guy named Robson, with news that Giles got attacked by a Harbinger. Oh hey, this is that guy who was seemingly mortally wounded in that house in London when Giles got sneaked upon by the Harbinger. He survived! But he’s not sure how Giles did, because he blacked out right when the Harbinger swung his axe. It occurs to the Scoobies that maybe Giles is actually the First. They all struggle to remember Giles touching anything since he got back. They can’t remember. No one hugged him, and they can’t remember him picking things up. Xander, Anya, and Dawn jump up to go make sure Giles is Giles. Andrew doesn’t want to be left in the house alone. He threatens to do mildly obnoxious things to the house if they leave him, so they irritably decide to take him. There’s a really sweet brief moment between Anya and Xander. They’re worried about the potentials. Aww.
Cut to Giles sitting at the fire at the campsite, looking vaguely sinister. Then cut to a circle of witches doing some kind of ritual in a lecture hall at the university. Willow/Warren and Kennedy walk in and awkwardly interrupt. Willow is a bit surprised to find that the Wicca group is doing actual magic. Also, Amy is among them! Willow is super not happy to see her, but she vouches for Willow’s identity and does this whole speech about how she’s overcome her crappy druggie magic phase.
Willow explains about the crazy glamour. She was hoping to get some help from them. Amy doesn’t think it’s exactly in their wheelhouse, but they agree to try. Amy and Willow do a thing, and it apparently didn’t work. Willow slaps Amy in anger. The spell is getting stronger; Willow is actually turning into Warren now. She flees the room. Kennedy chases her. She freaks out yells at Kennedy in a very Warren-like fashion, then puts up a boundary spell so Kennedy can’t follow her when she storms out.
Buffy and Spike find lots of gross bodies in the Initiative. Yeah, that makes no sense at all. And actually, I just remembered that the facility shouldn’t even be accessible. At the end of “Primeval,” once the dust settled from the battle against Adam and the demons, the government decided that “the Initiative itself will be filled in with concrete.” The whole place should just be an enormous solid cement brick underground, not full of bodies and fairly easy to get inside. Adding to the continuity fails and improbabilities, Spike thinks he knows the way to the lab with his painkiller drug. They keep exploring, until something makes a creepy noise.
Xander, Anya, Dawn, and Andrew are still on their way to the desert campsite. They’re worried if Giles is really the First, the girls will all be dead already when they get there. And what the heck could these four powerless humans do about it anyway?
Willow strides down an alley, then leans against a wall and sinks down, crying. She switches to Warren. Then seems to have an idea about something, so she gets up and starts running.
Buffy and Spike brace themselves for whatever’s making the noise. They cautiously keep exploring, and they get jumped by some kind of monster.
Kennedy goes back to the lecture hall and finds Amy packing away the last of the magic stuff. Everyone else left. Amy is kind of surprised by how much Kennedy clearly cares about Willow, and she tells Kennedy to relax. She slips and says Kennedy is a potential Slayer, which is knowledge she shouldn’t have. Instead of covering that by claiming she can sense it, she tries to make Kennedy think she mentioned it herself. Doesn’t work. The game is up.
Spike gets so overcome by pain from the chip that he can’t even move, so the demon drags him away after knocking Buffy aside.
Willow/Warren is at a gun shop to buy a gun. The proprietor even recognizes “him” from last time. Well this is going horribly.
Xander, Anya, Dawn, and Andrew arrive at the campsite and all tackle Giles together. He’s corporeal, which means he’s really Giles! Yay! Giles is super confused and deeply wishes to regain his personal space. Particularly from Andrew.
Buffy goes after the demon that grabbed Spike. It looks really gross in the dim light. She fights it and eventually succeeds in gutting it. Spike can still barely move, and then all the lights blaze on. A bunch of soldiers are there. That phone call evidently did more good than she thought. Riley sent all these guys to provide Buffy assistance with “ass-face.” Bahahaha. They assess Spike’s chip. It will kill him very soon if nothing changes. Buffy’s options are to have it removed or have it repaired. For some reason, this seems to be a very hard decision for Buffy. Why? His soul is a much more effective and nuanced safeguard against evil behavior from him than the chip. And repairing it would just mean it would need regular service every few years. A pointless hassle.
Kennedy is furious at Amy for doing this to Willow. Amy isn’t sorry. She feels Willow deserved a “penance malediction” because she had such an easy time gaining so much power, while Amy and other witches couldn’t even come close no matter how hard they worked. And then Willow went evil and nearly destroyed the world, but the Scoobies just forgave her and took her back. That doesn’t seem fair to Amy. Also, Amy just thinks this is a game, and it’s Willow’s fault it’s going so badly for her. Kennedy’s disgusted.
Amy snaps her fingers and teleports Kennedy to Buffy’s back yard, where Willow arrives to reenact the morning Tara died. She says Warren’s lines and points the gun at Kennedy. Kennedy is finally getting to the bottom of this. The reason the spell did what it did to Willow is that she felt like she was disrespecting Tara’s memory by kissing Willow, so she turned into Tara’s killer. Willow’s terrified that Warren is winning the internal battle. By kissing Kennedy, Willow let Tara be dead. She collapses to the ground, crying and apologizing to Tara. Kennedy tries to comfort her, and she leans in for another kiss, because maybe magic is like fairy tales. The camera swivels around them until Willow is Willow again. Willow is deeply relieved to be herself again, but she’s not sure she’s okay. They go back inside, Kennedy offering to make Willow some tea.
“The Killer in Me” isn’t bad, even if the main story (Willow’s) is a bit surreal. I’m not sure Alyson Hannigan and Adam Busch did a good enough job portraying each other’s characters. It mostly just seemed weird the whole time, but not necessarily convincing. Alyson was definitely acting more guy-like in terms of body language once Warren started taking over Willow’s personality, but the performances didn’t seem to go much deeper than “girl portraying guy” and “guy portraying girl.” Also, Willow/Kennedy is one of my NOTPs, so I tend to resist emotional engagement in stories involving them. Still, I do find Willow’s arc in this episode very interesting. The other two stories didn’t seem to accomplish much except some basic housekeeping. Now we’ve dealt with the mystery surrounding Giles’s unexplained survival and we don’t have to worry about Spike’s chip anymore. Both of those were probably necessary to address, particularly Giles’s survival, but having them in the same episode as Willow’s story kind of served to minimize it a bit. Buffy, Xander, and Giles should’ve been more involved in this kind of torturous psychological experience for Willow, but instead they were preoccupied by completely unrelated adventures. Normally, if an episode is going to have multiple subplots, they’ll all be related in some way to the main plot (“Conversations with Dead People” is actually a good recent example of this), but I can’t see any sort of thematic connection between these subplots and the Willow/Warren plot, so it makes it feel particularly disjointed. Also, it’s kind of hilarious how Kennedy is the only potential who actually appears in this episode. The presumed threat Giles posed to them would’ve been much more convincing if, in addition to shots of Giles sitting by the fire and looking sinister, there had been shots of the girls hanging out around the campsite, looking incredibly vulnerable. I guess they just didn’t want to pay all those actresses for this episode. Maybe they couldn’t afford them on top of the army guys, the Wicca group, and Tony Head.
Thankfully, the sexual tension between Buffy and Spike seems to have dried up for the time being. They’re back to the previous arrangement, where she’s very earnest in her willingness to provide emotional support but very platonic about it. This one makes much more sense.
The moment where Willow convinces Xander she’s really Willow is pretty funny. I wish there were more of those childhood friend type moments for her and Xander. I think this episode might be the first time Xander has been in charge of the Scoobies. Buffy has to deal with Spike’s chip, and Willow has to deal with turning into Warren, and Giles might actually be a threat, so that means Xander is the highest ranking Scooby, and he’s in charge of figuring out what he, Dawn, and Anya (and Andrew) will do.
Anya is concerned for the lives of the potential Slayers! It’s such a brief moment, but it’s still a really sweet one. I love how she and Xander connect on that issue pretty much without saying anything.
I’m kind of surprised Dawn didn’t have some kind of uncomfortable reaction when Xander implied that the person Buffy trusts most is Giles, not her own sister. I’m not saying I wish she’d gotten into a snit about it; I’m actually really glad she didn’t react. And she really does seem like a full member of the Scoobies now, in terms of active participation in all cases. Unfortunately, Andrew is also increasingly seeming like a full member of the gang, even if that’s still largely in a Jerry from Parks and Recreation capacity.
Spike’s part of the episode is severely marred by the weird continuity errors, none of which were at all necessary. Didn’t Riley and Sam give Buffy a number she could use to get in touch with him? *checks transcript of “As You Were”* Okay, yeah, Sam totally gave Willow an email address to keep in touch. Buffy could’ve used that to get Riley’s help about Spike. She and Spike could even have tried to go to the Initiative, only to discover it was filled in with cement as stated in “Primeval.” A random demon could’ve attacked them while they were there, and then the soldiers could’ve found them anyway. Same outcome, no continuity problems. But regarding Spike’s actual characterization, I still think he’s making too much of Buffy’s willingness to help him. He keeps making weird, self-deprecating comments about their thing in S6, almost as if he’s trying to goad Buffy into telling him it wasn’t that bad, or something. He needs to stop that.
Willow feels guilty for kissing Kennedy because she’s convinced herself she’s betraying Tara’s memory. That’s perfectly understandable. What this episode fails to do with Willow, I think, is make her side of Willow/Kennedy convincing. So far, Kennedy has just been the pushy and obnoxious instigator of everything, while Willow passively (or grudgingly) lets it happen. I think the main reason Willow allows Kennedy’s advances is that she feels completely unlovable after what she did. Kennedy’s interest allows her to feel like there might still be hope. But that doesn’t really bode well for them long-term. Willow is recovering more than she’s reciprocating.
I love the Giles group tackle scene so much. So funny. And he’s so British about it. It’s great. I do think it’s been kind of forced, though, how he hasn’t touched anything and nobody has touched him at any point since he came back to Sunnydale. I know the potentials walked between him and Buffy when she went to hug him, but why wouldn’t she try to hug him after that? And Anya wouldn’t care about a silly interruption. She really cares about Giles, so there would’ve been hugs there too. Willow would’ve been so relieved to see the man who’s been supporting her through such a difficult time that she would’ve hugged him. You get the point. Giles hugs would have happened.
“Remember when things used to be nice and boring?”
“Who’re you gonna call?”
[Buffy gives him a weird look.]
“God, that phrase is never gonna be useable again, is it?”
“Now, wait a minute. You think I’m evil...if I bring a group of girls on a camping trip and don’t touch them?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.