Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by David Grossman
We open with how the crap Giles survived that Harbinger’s axe attack. He apparently heard the chap’s squeaky shoes, so he was able to grab the axe and decapitate the Harbinger instead. Giles is regaling Buffy and the potential Slayers (who now include a Chinese girl Giles seems to think he can communicate with by speaking English more loudly) with his thrilling tale (playing up his heroism and expert battle instincts) when Spike tackles him because he’s out of the loop on Giles not being the First. Guys, this is a very small loop. How are people who live in the same house not in it? Giles notices that Spike’s chip didn’t go off when he tackled him, and Buffy awkwardly explains about having the army guys remove the chip. Giles reacts like that was an insane decision. Why? Even if he’s still under the First’s control, the chip wasn’t doing anything to stop that before. Also, the potentials have no idea what’s going on. Especially Chao-Ahn.
The next morning, Buffy is putting her earrings in when Giles comes to her room to discuss her decision to get Spike’s chip removed. Giles thinks there are too many dangerous factors at the moment to add the risk of Spike harming humans to the pile. Buffy also adds Principal Wood to that pile, because of his shiftiness in the school basement. She also thinks he’s suspicious because he’s “too charming to be real.” Bahaha. Oh, okay, Giles does think maybe a fully functional chip would counter the First’s control. Buffy wants Giles to give Spike a chance to be a good man. Giles thinks Buffy is letting her feelings cloud her judgment, even if she and Spike are platonic. Buffy points out that the chip was wrong anyway, so she wouldn’t want to resort to that. If she thinks the chip was wrong, then why did she never stake Spike when he had it before he got his soul? Uggggggh.
Xander is at his construction site...or...no, wait, it’s a hardware store. Weird. He spots a pretty lady who seems confused, so he heads over to advise her on the right type of rope to buy for storing her kayak in her garage. She seems quite charmed by his fumbly attempts at conversation, and he asks her if she wants to get coffee.
Buffy in her usual unsubtle way attempts to investigate Principal Wood’s office. She’s checking out a weird cabinet at the end of the room when he comes in and is justifiably displeased to find an employee snooping. But she manages to talk her way out of that tight spot by pretending to be a dumb blonde looking for supplies in the wrong place. He asks her out! He’s quick to assure her she’s free to decline and it won’t affect her salary or anything, and he’s hilariously foot-in-mouth-y about it. She accepts. He’s so attractive. But definitely still suspicious. As soon as she’s out of his office, he pulls a bloody dagger out of his jacket, cleans it, and stashes it back in that cabinet Buffy was about to investigate, which has a very impressive display of weapons hidden behind a white board.
That evening, Buffy and Willow discuss Principal Wood asking Buffy out while Willow folds her laundry. Buffy’s trying to convince herself that Wood either genuinely likes her as a potential romantic partner or genuinely likes her as a hard-working employee, rather than that he’s suspicious. Willow kind of bursts out laughing at the “good employee” possibility, then has to backtrack. It’s hilarious. Assuming he’s not evil, Willow wonders if Buffy is interested in him. Buffy’s worried that she might only be attracted to him because he’s potentially evil. Willow hypothetically ships Buffy/Wood, and Buffy overreacts, thinking this is more unsolicited anti-Buffy/Spike pressure.
Xander shows up at the house to announce that he’s got a date! And he’s slightly miffed when Buffy has the same news. Willow teases Buffy about her possible near future of makeout sessions with Principal Wood. Buffy gets revenge by threatening to talk about Willow and Kennedy. It works. Giles arrives with Chao-Ahn and numerous shopping bags. Wow they really need to get someone who can speak Cantonese. They should call Angel. That might be one of the thirty languages he speaks. Except he’s currently Angelus, so maybe not. Xander declines Willow’s offer to do a background check on his date.
In the kitchen, Andrew is using the microwave’s manual to figure out how to set up the clock. Wow. The First/Jonathan is similarly sardonic about it. Andrew tries to ward it off with a cross, which is silly of him. The First has an assignment for Jonathan. Andrew doesn’t want to help it. He’s on the path to redemption now! He thinks his chances are good, because roughly half of the Scoobies have killed people. The First says Andrew should pick the winning team: Team Evil! All he has to do is kill the potential Slayers! Yeah, he hates that plan. Mostly because it makes him queasy. The First recommends using the gun Willow/Warren brought to the house.
Buffy is getting ready for her date. Anya tries and fails to get a stain out of her cardigan. Anya is very jealous of Xander’s date. Buffy would like to be elsewhere. Anya’s indignant about that, except for how she also needs to pee, so yeah, Buffy can leave. Buffy runs into Spike in the hall, and he’s surprisingly cool with Buffy having a date. Buffy suggests he get a date too! Maybe with that chick he brought to Xander and Anya’s non-wedding. She hurries off to keep getting ready, and his face falls. He’s definitely not entirely okay with this.
Xander’s date actually arrives for the date. He tries to pretend he’s super macho by drinking hardcore espresso coffee, but he’s actually drinking hot chocolate. They’re getting along well so far.
Willow, Dawn, and some potentials are looking up stuff on Principal Wood. Giles and Anya come in. Apparently Giles drew some flashcards for Chao-Ahn that are highly reminiscent of his overhead slides in “Hush,” and now Chao-Ahn is traumatized. None of the girls are surprised. Giles is very annoyed to find out how many people are going on dates when they’re in the middle of a war against the First Evil. Speaking of which, Andrew is lurking creepily around the corner.
Buffy and Wood are walking somewhere that looks decidedly not like a place you’d find a nice restaurant, and much more like somewhere you’d get murdered in an alley. Sure enough, a gang of vampires attacks. Buffy slays them. She thinks Wood set her up, but she sees him fighting and staking the last one. Make that last two. Dang. Attractive and capable. They’re going to have to have a conversation about this now. Also, there’s actually a nice restaurant at the end of that alley.
Xander and his date are discussing Anya and how strange their situation is now. She thinks it was probably better overall that he and Anya didn’t get married, since he had doubts. He wishes he’d taken her somewhere nicer, and she has an idea for how they can step things up.
Buffy and Wood are in the restaurant, discussing what happened and their backstories. Wood has killed a few demons and vampires, and he took the principal job on the Hellmouth on purpose and hired her, the Slayer, on purpose. He has the same reaction as Willow when she asks if her counseling skills had anything to do with it. Bahaha, that’s awesome. She wants to know how he even knew about Slayers, let alone that she is one. It’s because his mom was a Slayer. She was killed by a vampire when he was four. He tried to find the vampire, but never managed it. Buffy’s very fascinated by all of this. Wood doesn’t have any Slayer powers, just the benefits that come from being raised by his mom’s Watcher. Buffy seems very charmed. If I wasn’t a diehard Buffy/Angel shipper, I would be all about this. Wood is easily my second pick for Buffy’s romantic interest.
Andrew has gotten a hold of the gun, and the First wants Andrew to corral the potentials in the basement and then shoot them all. Andrew wonders why the First isn’t trying to get Spike to do all this. He starts asking (very unsubtly) if the First has any weaknesses he should be aware of. So he can be a more effective minion. The First is onto him. He’s actually wearing a wire. Bahahahaha. The First starts telling him what Jonathan suffered because of him. Andrew is fine with facing his punishment after the fight is over. The First isn’t planning on waiting that long to make him suffer. Or the rest of them. It appears as a more decayed Jonathan to Willow, Dawn, Kennedy, and Amanda. Freaky.
Turns out the idea Xander’s date had for stepping things up was to suspend him over the Seal of Danthazar in the school basement, using those ropes he advised her to buy for her “kayak.” Yeah, she’s some kind of cat demon, and a servant of the First. Xander laments how he’s apparently still a demon magnet. She cheerfully hoists him up over the seal.
The Scoobies discuss their effort to spy on the First. Andrew is a huge baby about Dawn pulling the wire off him, even though he has zero body hair for the tape to tug at. Spike is worried about when the First will target him instead of Andrew. Giles feels all of this proves his point that they need to stop with all these dates and get back on task. Spike volunteers to go end Buffy’s date, but Willow can just call her. Actually, she got a text from Xander. A signal. She can’t remember if it’s the code for a very good thing or for a very bad thing. How about err on the side of caution, then? Also, Buffy left her phone at the house, so Spike will go end the date after all. And why does he refer to Xander as “the boy.”
Buffy and Wood’s date is going very well. She’s eating brandy-soaked pears off his fork and not even getting super embarrassed when she says an accidental double-entendre. Spike shows up to get Buffy’s help regarding Xander’s possible danger.
Xander tries to talk his date out of bleeding him over the seal. Doesn’t work. Her eyes go all cat-like, and she stabs him in the gut. She, for one, quite enjoyed their date.
Buffy, Wood, and Spike are on the way to the school in Wood’s car. Wood notices Spike has no reflection, then asks Buffy how they know each other. This is a very awkward car ride. Bufy arrives at the school in time to fight Xander’s date. She’s quite good at fighting. Buffy and Spike together have trouble with her, and Spike vamps out, confirming Wood’s suspicions. Wood cuts Xander down, but the seal is lighting up and starting to open. A Turok-Han reaches out to grab Wood, but then the seal closes, chopping its arm off. Buffy finally succeeds in beheading Xander’s date, and she and Spike have a moment, which Wood sees. Xander hopes Buffy’s date went better than his, but judging from the way Wood is glowering at Spike, that may no longer be the case.
Anya is pacing restlessly, worried about Xander. She wants to rally the troops and go make sure he’s okay. Chao-Ahn comes downstairs to see what all the commotion is about, then gets offended when Giles tries to placate her with a glass of milk. (She’s lactose intolerant.) Dawn sees Buffy and Xander coming, and Anya goes back to being miffed as soon as she’s sure Xander’s okay. Xander is super done with his streak of demon chicks. Maybe he’d have better luck if he was gay. This is the last straw for Giles. He gives them a lecture about how they need to stop being so flippant about the situation they’re in. Maybe he shouldn’t use his flashcards if he wants them to take him seriously.
Later, Buffy and Spike are alone in the living room. He sits next to her. He’s worried that the First has been making more appearances lately, because it’ll probably try using him again soon. He thinks he should move out, maybe even leave town. She disagrees. And it’s not just because of his demon fighting prowess. She just wants him there. Spike wonders where Wood fits into this. She doesn’t comment.
Wood is getting ready for bed when the First appears in the form of his mother, who is the slayer Spike killed in the ‘70s. Different actress, though. He doesn’t let the First get to him, but that’s before it tells him Spike’s the one who killed her. That’s information he’s wanted for a very long time.
Much like “Potential,” “First Date” stood out to me as being much more focused on Buffy/Spike than the surrounding episodes, and particularly in a romantic sense. It isn’t too surprising, because the writer of this one, Jane Espenson, is pretty well known for her shipping preferences. On top of that, Rebecca Kirshner, the writer of “Potential,” is the executive story editor for the entire season. That explains a lot. It definitely feels like they’re nudging the characterization in directions the other writers weren’t so keen on going. I remembered this episode fondly because I knew it had Buffy and Principal Wood’s date in it (and all of that was indeed excellent), but Giles’s attitude and the out-of-place, over-emphasized Buffy/Spike stuff kinda weighed it down. I don’t really care either way about Xander’s storyline, but Willow and Dawn attempting to use Andrew as a mole against the First was pretty amusing. I really like Wood’s backstory, and I’m really annoyed that Spike is going to drive a wedge between him and Buffy even though she’s not dating either of them. Wood’s such a cool character! One thing that makes Xander’s plot mildly interesting is how it’s kind of a bait and switch. We expect Wood to be the shady one—maybe even a servant of the First—, not Xander’s date. Wait, is that what the episode title is about? Xander and Buffy both go on first dates, and the mystery is which one is a First date, wink wink? *grimace* That’s so annoying.
Up until this episode, I didn’t particularly think Jane Espenson’s bias in favor of Buffy/Spike impacted the way she wrote the characters who are essentially products of a collaborative effort. But there are some cracks in this one. “Why does everyone think I’m still in love with Spike?” Buffy indignantly asks when Willow expresses relief that Buffy might be interested in Wood. Buffy was never in love with Spike. Maybe she only said it like that because it has better comedic timing than “Why does everyone think I’m still self-destructively allowing my unwanted attraction for Spike overrule my better judgment?” But it’s like Espenson is subtly (perhaps subconsciously) trying to retcon S6 Buffy/Spike into not being a degrading, mutually abusive, massively dysfunctional addiction with major recurring consent issues. She’s presenting the Scoobies’ concerns as them being unreasonable in their anti-Spike/anti-Buffy/Spike stances, which makes room for Buffy to react defensively, putting her increasingly on Spike’s side instead of the Scoobies’. On the other hand, there’s Buffy’s reaction to Wood. I love how excited she is at the thought of someone being the child of a Slayer. Perhaps this has her wondering if there’s a chance for her to be a mom somewhere down the line? I think she’s sort of always assumed she won’t live long enough to get there, so she hasn’t given it a lot of thought.
Xander, why are you going out with random chicks you meet at hardware stores when you and Anya have been getting along so well? Do you think Anya would reject you if you asked her out? Still, even though the girl turned out to be an evil cat demon of some kind, he did do a pretty good job of being charming in an adorkable sort of way. Although it’s probably unwise to discuss leaving your ex at the altar with a different girl on the first date. That she didn’t lose interest after that conversation should’ve been a red flag.
Anya being jealous and irrational is really endearing. She wants Xander to have a horrible time on his date with not-her, but she definitely wants him to come back safe and sound.
Dawn doesn’t really do a whole lot on her own in this one, although she does perhaps hang a lampshade on how the viewers really don’t care that much about the potential Slayers.
Spike has been very vocal in a somewhat passive-aggressive way about his feelings for Buffy all season, but suddenly when she wants to go on a date with someone else, he pretends that it doesn’t bother him at all?
It’s hilarious that Willow would actually set up some kind of wire rig for spying on the First. I wonder if that was her idea’s or Andrew’s. She’d be the one with the equipment, but he’d probably be the one who came up with it. And I guess she and Kennedy are official now. I like her conversation with Buffy about Wood and dating. This seems like the first time since S1, really, that she’s really tried to figure out how Buffy felt about a guy before pushing her towards him.
I get that Giles is protective and wants her to end up with a nice man, but where’s his faith in people’s ability to change for the better? I mean, he did. He went from being a total wild child to being...Giles. And he helped Willow get back on track after her own leap off the deep end. He’s clearly letting his own feelings cloud his judgment at least as much as Buffy is.
“I'd like to take you out to dinner, if that's all right with you. I mean, you don't have to. I'm certainly not saying ‘Come to dinner if you enjoy having a job.’” [laughs awkwardly before realizing how bad that sounded] “You know, I may have to make up a document saying I didn't just say that and have you sign it.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.