“Lies My Parents Told Me”
Written by David Fury and Drew Goddard
Directed by David Fury
Okay, side note about airing order: this one actually aired after “Orpheus” (Angel 4x15), but because it occurs before it chronologically, I’m breaking my rule of reviewing the episodes in their original airing order.
We open on a flashback to New York City in ’77 (not that Netflix was decent enough to inform me of that). Spike and Nikki Wood are fighting in a park where it’s pouring rain while four-year-old Robin watches from behind a bench. He knocks over a trash can, which distracts Spike at just the right moment to save her life. She throws a stake at him, but he catches it, taunts her, compliments her coat, and leaves. Nikki goes back to Robin. They can’t go home because it’s not safe there now that Spike is on her trail. She assures him that she loves him, but her work as the Slayer is very important. He runs back to pick up the stake Spike dropped before they leave.
Cut from bitty Robin holding the stake to adult Robin fighting vampires alongside Buffy in an alley. And also Spike is there. He helps Robin against his opponent, then pulls him back to his feet. Robin silently glares at him, holding his stake so tightly that it’s cutting up his hands. Like, a lot. He may need stitches. He’s waiting for the right moment to try to kill Spike, and Spike suspects nothing.
The next day, Wood is in his office at the school. Buffy comes to report that things are still pretty calm since they shut down the seal. She’s convinced this isn’t over, though. Wood tells her she reminds him of his mom, with the way she fights. She appreciates that very much, and they’re kind of flirty. In comes Giles, full of bluster because the library in this new school has more computers in it than books! He’s completely horrified. Giles is interested to meet Wood. He’s been away working with the Coven more, and he agrees with Buffy that the war against the First isn’t even close to over. Also, what can he do about the techno-library?
The subject changes to Spike. Who was apparently the reason for Giles’s trip in the first place. He’s still irritated with Buffy for having his chip removed, and she’s still not interested in his criticisms (which really don’t hold water). Wood listens to this conversation, very confused about how Spike has a soul and a trigger, and used to have a chip. It seems to be a bit of a lampshade-hanging moment, regarding how farcical all of Spike’s behavioral modification stuff has become. Giles thinks he’s found a way to do something about the trigger. Unhelpfully, Buffy can’t remember the song the First used.
In the basement of the house, Xander makes sure Spike’s shackles are secure. The whole gang is there. Giles pulls out a little stone thing that should help Spike find the trigger and deactivate it. It has to get into his brain. Willow does a spell which makes it all wriggly. Spike is super not happy with this, but he doesn’t have any alternatives, so he lets Giles hold it close enough to his face to wriggle up to his eyelid, under it, and into his brain. It is a singularly unpleasant experience. Buffy runs to make sure he’s okay.
He is, but he’s slipping into a flashback of himself as a human, reading his terrible poetry about Cecily to his ailing mum, who’s a big fan. She also encourages him to act on his feelings for Cecily. His mum coughs blood into a handkerchief, but she declines to see a doctor. It seems William is a very loyal son. He sits down on the floor next to her knees, and she sings “Early One Morning.” In the present, Spike vamps out and attacks Buffy. He lashes out violently, but then the freaky little rock thing falls back out of his eye, and he’s his usual self again.
Spike wants the shackles off. He thinks if the stone is out, it means he’s free of the trigger, right? The others seem less convinced. Giles and Wood question him about the song. He lies and says his mum sang it to him as a baby.
Upstairs, Willow is tending to the injury Dawn got when Spike flipped out. The potentials are annoyed that Spike is still in the house if he’s so dangerous, and Anya explains about how he’s an exception to the rules for some reason. Andrew tells Willow she has a call from someone named Fred in L.A. Yesssss.
Giles is still trying to get to the bottom of this trigger stuff, but Spike gets frustrated because he doesn’t think there’s anything useful he can tell him, so can he be unchained already? Wait, what happened to the Spike who thought he needed to be chained up for the good of the group? Buffy wants to unchain him because she, too, thinks this is pointless. Giles disagrees. The stone thing didn’t fix the trigger because Spike isn’t cooperating.
Spike has another flashback, this time of when he was freshly vamped, showing Drusilla his house. Okay, so this is what I don’t get. How did they get inside? Most likely, William inherited the house when his father died, and his widowed mother continued to live with him. A house of that size probably had servants. His mother living in the house should have been enough to keep the invitation rule in effect. Did Spike convince one of the servants to invite him and Dru in? Anyway. They’re dancing in the parlor, and Drusilla would like to make out all over the furniture in there. Spike has big plans about laying waste to Europe, particularly the upper class snobs. Dru is fine with that until he gets to the part about how he wants to bring his mum along. She thinks that’s super weird.
In comes William’s mum. She’s been terrified for his sake because he’s been missing for days. Oh, so I guess there was time for Dru to have buried him and let him dig his way out. William tells her there’s nothing to worry about, ever! He introduces Drusilla and explains that he’s a vampire now. She thinks he’s drunk. Well, yeah, but he’s also really a vampire. He tells her she won’t be sick or age anymore. She’s rather unsettled. He hugs her, then bites her.
In the present, Willow tells Buffy she’s got to head out for a day or two, but she doesn’t say why. She leaves. Buffy unchains Spike, which irritates Giles. She and Spike head upstairs, and Wood talks to Giles about Spike. He figures the First is waiting for the right moment to make use of Spike. If the trigger is still working, then Spike walking around unrestrained is a serious risk. Giles agrees, but what can they do? Buffy’s the one calling the shots, and she wants Spike unchained.
Wood gets into his backstory a little. He was raised by Nikki’s Watcher, Bernard Crowley. Giles realizes that means he must be Nikki’s son. He also knows Spike killed Nikki. Wood admits Buffy doesn’t know this much yet. Giles wants to be sure Wood’s goals aren’t based on vengeance, but Wood doesn’t see why it matters. Making sure Spike isn’t a threat is what’s best overall, not just for Wood. All Wood wants is for Giles to distract Buffy for a few hours. Giles seems to know he’s going to regret this.
Buffy and Giles are at the cemetery together. She’s not so sure about letting Wood babysit Spike, but she admits it’s a better solution than leaving him at the house with a bunch of highly breakable potentials. Giles wants Buffy to look at the big picture. She thought she was already doing that. He tells her being a leader requires difficult decisions. She thought she was already making those too, by treating her friends like underlings.
Wood leads Spike into his garage/workroom. Its walls are completely covered in crosses, which makes Spike very uncomfortable. Wood goes over to his computer. Spike would like to know Wood’s story. Wood isn’t interested in telling it just now. Spike doesn’t tell his story either. Wood takes off his button-up and straps on some brass knuckles. Then he admits he’s been searching for Spike for years, because Spike killed his mother.
Spike understands now why Wood’s been giving him the dark side-eye this whole time. But Wood isn’t done. He clicks on “Early One Morning” on his computer, because he wants to fight the evil version of Spike. Spike realizes what he’s doing, but can’t stop it. The trigger still works.
More flashbacks! William comes back to his house, presumably after a night of death and destruction. His mum is a vampire now. She looks much healthier than as a human. He’s delighted. She’s clearly less enthusiastic, and building up to be mean about it. He wants to go out killing and feasting together, but she just wants to get shot of him. She tells him his poetry is garbage (actually, the word she uses is “twaddle,” which makes me happier than probably seems rational to most) and she’d rather not spend eternity listening to it.
In the present, Wood and Spike are fighting. It cuts back and forth to the flashback. Also, not that anyone says her name in the episode, but it’ll be simpler to just use it. Spike’s mum is Anne Pratt. Anne marvels at how she no longer minds being cruel. It’s kind of fun now, actually. She’s quite keen to be shot of her little mama’s boy. She wishes she’d just committed infanticide on him. She’s spent years praying he’d find a woman to free her of him.
In the present, Wood smashes Spike’s face into one of the wall crosses. In the flashback, William tries to tell Anne he isn’t the same man who apparently drove her mad with boredom. She disagrees. He’ll never change. He’ll always be pathetic. Wood is beating the crap out of Spike in the present, screaming about what Spike did to Nikki.
At the cemetery, Giles stops Buffy from immediately staking the new fledgling who popped up. Giles asks if she’d let him live if he started saving the world. She glibly says sure. Then somehow the topic reverses, addressing Buffy’s willingness to view the Scoobies—including Dawn—as expendable if it means saving the world. The segue makes no sense, but Giles has a very good point. He’s trying to lead her to an epiphany about her special treatment of Spike, prioritizing him over the safety of the rest of her allies. Shockingly, she fairly casually claims that if she had to do S5 all over again, she would’ve let Dawn die to save the world. Why the crap would she be okay with that now? Giles still won’t let Buffy kill the newbie vamp. He finally brings the subject around to Spike.
Who is lying on Wood’s garage floor, rather bruised and burned from crosses. Wood’s talking about how no one ever mattered to Spike; he only cared about the hunt. He strips Nikki’s coat off Spike and rips one of the crosses off the wall. Back to the flashback. Anne taunts William about having an Oedipus complex, and how he’ll only be able to think of her when he’s with Drusilla. He’s super uncomfortable, trying to back away, but she keeps pressing closer. She tries to kiss him, and he shoves her away. She tells him to get out. She wants to stake him. He stakes her instead.
In the present, Spike catches wood’s hand before he can plunge the cross/stake into his chest. He’s no longer in trigger mode. He’s not sorry for killing Nikki. Slayer vs. vampire is how this whole thing works. He won’t apologize for playing his part. Seriously? Also, he says “she knew what she was signing up for.” Wood yells that he didn’t sign up for it, but I think the more salient point is that neither did Nikki. No Slayer signs up. They’re all drafted, sometimes without even knowing that could happen. Spike taunts Wood about how he wasn’t Nikki’s world the way she was his. Slayers always fight alone, and the mission matters more than the people they love. Nikki didn’t love Wood enough to quit, did she? Seriously?
Spike, while beating Wood into submission, talks about how he loved his mum so much he turned her into a vampire. Yeah, because that’s an act of love right there. He says that unlike Wood, he had a mother who loved him. He’s finally come to terms with the fact that the Anne who said all that gross stuff to him was just a demon, not really his mum anymore. He casually plays “Early One Morning,” which no longer effects him. He wants Robin to be very aware that he’s acting on his own free will, before he kills him. He jerks him back to his feet and chomps down on his neck.
At the cemetery, while Buffy keeps fighting the vampire, Giles talks about how Spike is a liability and how unlike Angel, he doesn’t seem to be willing to remove himself from the equation. Buffy argues that they need Spike in this fight. She finally realizes, horrified, that Giles has been stalling her. She stakes the vampire easily and runs off, ignoring what Giles is shouting after her.
Spike strides out of Wood’s garage, putting the coat back on, just as Buffy arrives. Spike opens the door to show her Wood collapsed against the wall, still alive, but not doing so hot. Spike tells her if he gives him any more crap, he’s really going to kill him, and then he leaves. Buffy goes in to talk to Wood. She helps him up and looks at the signs of his and Spike’s fight. She tells him about Joyce’s death. She gets why he did what he did, but Spike isn’t the monster who killed his mother anymore. He has to put that aside, because they’re fighting a war too big for this crap right now. If he doesn’t, she will let Spike kill him. The final slap in the face is the way she echoes Nikki’s line “the mission is what matters.” The mission and Spike took both women away from Wood.
Back at the house, Buffy checks on Dawn, who’s asleep, her forehead bandaged. Then she walks into the hall, where Giles is waiting to talk to her. He gets that she’s angry. She tells him Spike’s still alive. He doesn’t back down from his position. She brushes him off and closes her bedroom door in his face.
“Lies My Parents Told Me” makes me angry with too many characters for me to really enjoy it. Buffy and Giles in particular; I’m quite used to being angry with Spike, so that’s not necessarily an episode deal-breaker for me. I’ll get into all of that in the character analyses, though, but overall the reason it’s so annoying is that it feels like there’s a rift between Buffy and Giles for very stupid reasons. Characterization isn’t the only problem here. I can appreciate the symmetry; the episode is about mothers and sons. But why would they deliberately draw parallels between Buffy and Anne? There was no reason for Spike’s mom’s name to be Buffy’s middle name, or for them to pick a blonde actress to play her. That just makes Spike creepy and messed up on a whole different level. Oh, also, I came up with an explanation for the two actresses who play Nikki Wood. The first one was just Spike’s subjective memory of her. All the times she appears now are from Wood’s perspective, which would likely be more accurate.
I do think Buffy has a good point about how Spike’s too strong of a fighter for them to bench him in such a huge fight, but it’s completely ridiculous of her to not even attempt to do something about the trigger. She’s extremely lucky the First didn’t just pop up and have Spike slaughter everyone in the house at some point in the last few weeks. Which, incidentally, makes the First seem rather moronic. Why wasn’t it trying that? Anyway, Buffy was determined to keep Spike around, but only in a willfully blind way that makes her seem like a hypocrite. No attempts to do something about the trigger. She didn’t even bother remembering the lyrics of the song, and she didn’t know Giles’s trip was about de-triggering Spike. Buffy and Giles both would’ve made more sense in this episode (as would Giles’s absence for the past few) if she had known what he was after, if she had been the one pushing for him to find this. He could’ve been reluctant because he didn’t think this was the most effective use of time and resources, and the way he quickly gives up on the de-triggering and changes tactics to letting Wood try killing Spike would’ve made much more sense.
Xander has like a line and a half in this one. Just an oblique joke about how he and Anya had sex on Spike’s cot. Has Spike noticed the smell of that yet? Because he hasn’t commented on it if so.
Anya also has only one line, but it’s longer than Xander’s. She makes a very good point about Spike’s level of special treatment. Sure, she and Willow have both been accepted back into the Scoobies, and even Andrew is like a Scooby intern at the moment, but Spike is actively dangerous because of the First’s trigger, and yet Buffy’s still letting him stay at her house, which is full of all the people the First wants dead.
This might be the episode where Buffy chooses something else over Dawn. Even after Dawn got injured by Spike, Buffy’s priority was helping Spike, not protecting her sister. Is she going to be angsty about that? So far she’s just been pouty about Willow only treating her wounds in a Muggle way, which was pretty funny.
What the hell, Spike? You think turning your mum into a vampire was an act of love? You murdered her and turned her into a demon. But it totally fits Spike’s personal definition of love that he would think that counts. To him, love is incredibly selfish. It’s about holding on to someone no matter what, even if it’s not what’s best for them. That’s why he came back to Sunnydale even after his soul should’ve made him understand just how badly he hurt Buffy and that she’d probably be happier if she never saw him again. But what’s much more appalling than his interpretation of how things went with his mother is how he treats Robin and the memory of Nikki. I like to contrast this with how Angel treated Holtz. In their case, the common theme was sons, not mothers, but it works about the same. Holtz tried to kill Angel even though he had a soul, but Angel’s attitude around Holtz was always one of remorse and respect. He understands Holtz’s vendetta and he wishes he could take back the murders of Holtz’s family. Even when he was furious with Holtz for taking Connor, he still didn’t stoop to taunting him about his family. But Spike thinks it’s okay to needle Wood about whether or not Nikki loved him? That’s utter bull crap. And he still insists on wearing Wood’s dead mother’s coat, even after all that? How does he not feel horrible for what he did to her? So far, I officially do not like soulful Spike.
Willow is off to L.A. to help with the Angelus situation. It’s interesting that she doesn’t mention what she’s up to. I suppose it was for the best, because Buffy definitely would’ve dropped everything and run to L.A. too if she knew what was happening there. Or she’d want to and hate how she can’t risk leaving the Hellmouth without a Slayer.
I agree with Giles, but not with the way he makes it or the timing. His anti-Spike argument loses all of its credibility because he wasn’t making it way back in S4. He was fine with keeping chipped Spike alive, but not soulful Spike even though he just personally went on a trip to obtain the means to deactivate the trigger? Seriously? He spent weeks getting that de-triggering thing, and he’s going to give up on trying to make it work after Spike’s first irritable outburst about it? That makes no sense! So yeah, so far, S7 is making a very strong case for why they should’ve just had the guts to actually kill Giles off in S5. They could’ve replaced him with a new Watcher character with a much more rigid attitude, instead of trying to make Giles fit into such an unpleasant mold. What happened to the Giles who has learned over the course of countless experiences to trust Buffy’s instincts? What happened to the Giles whose biggest goal was to support Buffy and smooth her path, rather than chiding her for failing to make difficult choices? If I have to analyze Giles’s character development in-story, instead of just being annoyed at the writers, then it seems like perhaps when Buffy died at the end of S5, something broke for Giles. He probably felt like it was his fault she chose such a drastic solution. He failed her, and he spent the summer grieving. When she came back, he never could quite return to the same emotional bond they had, because he’s too afraid of having to grieve all over again. If he keeps her at arm’s length and stays more professional than fatherly, then the next time she inevitably dies, it won’t hurt so much. That sucks, but it does kind of make sense.
“All the rubbish people keep sticking in my head, it’s a wonder there’s any room for my brain.”
“I don’t think it takes up too much space, do you?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.