Written by Drew Goddard
Directed by Michael Gershman
A girl is running from a pair of Harbingers. A truck drives up and she tries to get a ride. The driver is Nathan Fillion in clerical garb. They drive off. He gradually goes from seeming like a kind if nosy Southern preacher by the name of Caleb to being extremely creepy and ludicrously misogynistic. Also, he works for the First. She wants out, but her door has no inside handle. She tries to fight him. He puts the hot cigarette lighter on his ring, then brands her neck with the ring. He’s using her to send a message to Buffy. Then he stabs her and whispers the message into her ear. He kicks the door open and tosses her out. She tumbles onto the road right in front of Willow and Faith’s car.
Xander has a bunch of potentials staying at his house. One of them is scared of being sent into battle, and Xander’s reassuring her. It quickly becomes clear that this is a creepy fantasy dream he’s having, particularly when another one joins in and they both try to seduce him. Also, in the living room, the rest of the girls are having a lingerie pillow fight. Rona wakes him up to get his help unclogging the toilet.
Faith and Willow are discussing the girl, who’s being operated on. Willow has been filling her in on the situation, and she’s a touch bitter that she’s only just hearing about a massive attack on the entire Slayer line now. Faith wants to go find Buffy. Willow doesn’t want Faith to go see her by herself, and she wants someone to stay at the hospital with the girl. Faith would rather deal with an uncomfortable reunion with Buffy than spend more time in a hospital.
A blonde girl is fleeing from something. A vampire. Spike, actually. Faith grabs him and tosses him into a large tombstone. He’s impressed with her fight game, and he correctly guesses her identity. She remembers him, but Willow’s update didn’t include that he’s good now. They argue about which of them is good and how good and whatever. She feels like him attacking the blonde girl is strong evidence against him. Buffy appears and punches Faith. Faith is even more confused, but Buffy explains that Spike has a soul. Faith instantly compares him to Angel, which he hates, which amuses her. Hahaha. The blonde girl gets up, having vamped out. Oh. Faith finishes her off by swiping Buffy’s stake.
They all head back to the house. I like Buffy’s loosely wavy hair. Dawn is super not happy to see Faith. Giles is neutral, but he and Buffy are still having issues. He heads off to find Faith somewhere to sleep. Spike informs Faith that the bad feelings in the air are at least as much about the failed plot to kill him as they are about her return.
Evil preacher Caleb is helping himself to some wine in a cellar somewhere, being all cleverly blasphemous about the Last Supper. I hate this guy. Can he be Mal instead? He talks about how he struggled to understand religion when he was young, until he met the First. Serving it is all that matters to him now. The First, which is masquerading as Buffy, asks him to look close. He sees strength and loneliness, and he realizes that it’s pretending to be the Slayer. He’s the one who orchestrated the Council getting blown up and all the Harbingers hunting down potentials. He’s confident Buffy will pay him a visit after the message he sent her.
Andrew is telling the story of Faith to the potentials. He makes an amusing mistake when he fails to realize that a volcanologist is different from a Vulcan. Amanda points out this mistake, except that he still doesn’t know volcanologists study volcanoes, not Vulcans. Molly calls him out for telling crazy stories again. Faith is in the backyard practicing her fighting moves. Andrew cautions the girls to be careful around her. Chao-Ahn comments that there’s a girl doing martial arts in the backyard. Yeah, apparently there’s still no one else on Team Slayer who speaks Cantonese.
Wood is in his office. Buffy drops by. He’s mostly healed from the beating Spike gave him. She’d like them to be on good terms, as long as he can put aside his vendetta. He fires her, though, because he wants her to have all of her time free to fight the First. The town is emptying out anyway, so there aren’t many students to advise. He thinks it might be time to test the girls’ battle-readiness.
Faith goes down into the basement of the Summers’ house for a smoke. Can’t she do that outside? Spike is down there. She grins and heads over for a chat. She shares the cigarette with him. She notices the chains on the wall and she thinks (perhaps jokingly) that it’s a kinky thing, but he tells her about the First controlling him. She’d rather put some distance between her and the forty girls living there, since she just busted out of a women’s prison. Spike notes that she could’ve left the prison any time she wanted. She agrees. That’s the point. She was doing penance, not being punished. They get flirtier and raunchier with their discussion. She informs him that she met him while body-swapped with Buffy that one time. He still remembers her exact wording. Faith is shocked to learn that Buffy has pretty much lived up to what she told Spike.
Buffy joins them in the basement, obviously not happy to see Spike and Faith getting on. The version of her getting fired that she tells them is that she decided to cut down on her hours. Dawn calls downstairs that the girl Willow and Faith picked up woke up.
Buffy goes to the hospital. The girl tells her what Caleb did. Willow takes a picture of the brand on her neck. Her message from Caleb is “I have something of yours.” Back at the house, Buffy tells all the troops the deal with Caleb. Buffy feels like she has to go get whatever Caleb has, and the potentials will be coming with her.
A blonde girl in a white dress walks around that cellar full of wine barrels. She walks up to Caleb. She really liked his sermon and wanted to talk to him about it. This isn’t actually a girl, it’s the First pretending to be Caleb’s first victim. It turns into Buffy again. He’s enjoying this stroll down memory lane. Can the First turn into another of his old victims?
Buffy is having a discussion with the Scoobies, trying to plan their strategy. Faith is on board, but Giles thinks this is a very risky idea, because Caleb might not even have anything of hers. This could be a horrible trap. He also doesn’t think it’s a good idea to take the potentials. Spike and Willow agree. They think the First might use the opening she gives it by leaving the house with half the fighters to attack the rest, who have less battle experience. Buffy wants Willow to stay to defend the house. Willow looks nervous, but doesn’t object. Good! She just kicked major butt in L.A.! Buffy wants Giles to stay too, pretty much just because she’s still icing him out.
Buffy and Faith follow Harbingers through the woods. Faith is much chattier than Buffy, who eventually flat-out asks why Faith came back. Faith bristles, and Buffy mellows out. She does need Faith’s help. The subject moves to Angel, which seems to be a somewhat tense subject for Buffy. The implication is that she’s surprised Angel would have asked Faith to say hi for him. Did they argue over the phone? Did he blow her off when she asked for help? Ugh! These little tidbits aren’t enough! Buffy’s definitely jealous that Faith got to take a tour of Angel’s mind, though.
They arrive at the wine cellar or vineyard or whatever it is. Back at the house, Xander is going over battle tactics with the girls who will be on the strike team. He makes a comment that is soon to become ironic about how the eyes are always a weak spot. Kennedy is the potential most excited about this mission. Xander and Andrew get into an argument about the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie. Rona starts complaining about how she came here for protection, not to be a soldier. Wow. Yeah, Buffy didn’t send out a sanctuary beacon inviting every potential Slayer to come stay at her house. They just started going there and assumed they were entitled to her protection and accommodations. If she wants to put them to work, it’s the least they owe her.
On the other hand, I do think Buffy’s battle plan is a stupid one. The girls should be on perimeter watch duty, taking out any Harbingers or vamps roaming the woods outside the vineyard to make sure Buffy, Faith, and Spike have a clear escape route, but not actually going inside. Rona thinks Buffy doesn’t care about any of their lives, and Xander gives a speech about how Buffy is a good leader who has given her life twice for this fight and still keeps fighting, so she deserves their trust. Buffy and Faith arrive halfway through this speech. Buffy’s very touched. Andrew’s crying.
Time to move out. Buffy’s plan is pretty much the opposite of mine. She wants to go in with a team of potentials, and then if it turns out it’s a trap, Faith’s and Xander’s teams should join her team inside said trap instead of getting them an exit. Buffy and Spike and a few of the girls go inside, staying alert for Harbingers. (Why do they always call them Bringers on the show? That’s a much less interesting word than Harbingers.) Several Harbingers attack. Lots of fighting ensues, and then Caleb strolls out. He does a speech about how powerful the Slayer is, then punches Buffy across the room like she’s nothing. Spike attacks him next, and he beats him up and throws him into a huge wine cask, sending wine flooding all over the floor. Rona treis to help Kennedy, but Caleb grabs her and breaks her arm. A Harbinger tries to stab her, but Xander, Faith, and the rest of the reinforcements have arrived, and Xander shoots the Harbinger through the arm.
Faith takes on Caleb, but he beats her up too. Then he snaps a potential’s neck, to Molly’s horror. Buffy wants to retreat. Caleb closes in on Molly and kills her too. Noooo she was my favorite. Bufy attacks him again. She does better, throwing him into a wine cask this time. Xander helps Kennedy up, and everyone is retreating now, but then Caleb grabs Xander. He wants to know how well Xander will do if he can no longer “see” everything, so he pokes out Xander’s left eye. Spike kicks Caleb aside and he and Buffy help Xander get out of there.
Buffy is at the hospital again, this time with Xander, who has a bandage over his eye. There’s a Caleb voiceover on top of Willow crying as she sits at Xander’s bedside. At the house, the potentials are nursing their wounds. Buffy ends up walking alone in the street. Caleb is yammering about the glory of the First in a pseudo-Biblical sort of way.
“Dirty Girls” is impressive in terms of its high stakes (particularly with Xander losing an eye), and Faith is just as fantastic here as she was on Angel, but overall, I don’t much like it. I’ve never really understood Caleb; he’s always pretty much just seemed like a misogynistic caricature, but I think I’m getting an inkling now. He grew up around people who described themselves as good, but all he could see was their flaws and sins, so he eventually decided that there really isn’t good and evil, just hypocrisy and evil, and in that case, he wants to be straight-up evil instead of lying to himself. But for some reason he’s still angry at women for “controlling” men with their wiles. You’d think someone who feels like succumbing to one’s darkest tendencies is the most honest way to live would appreciate vice of any kind. Or is it that he thinks the women who destroy men are the worse hypocrites for “pretending” they aren’t doing it on purpose? Or that he hates the way men lose power through the temptations presented by women? Ugh, okay, I’m going to stop trying to understand him now. He’s a smug, self-righteous (self-wicked?) creep and it’s giving me mental indigestion. The point is that Caleb is not much more effective of a villain than the Beast. His personality is ridiculous, so it doesn’t really add to how menacing he is, and his misogyny is so overblown that it kind of fails to be an effective commentary on sexism; in the end, he’s only scary because he’s powerful, motivated, and difficult to predict. You hate him, but you don't respect him like you do a well-crafted villain (like Angelus). Also, this episode cranks the pacing and the tension of the season back up to where it was in “Showtime,” but it’s kind of jarring because there wasn’t much buildup to that. The last few episodes have been fairly self-contained one-shots, and the First hasn’t been doing anything. I feel like the tone of this episode would’ve worked better if we’d seen Caleb in the background earlier in the season and/or more of the First’s machinations during the one-shot episodes.
Unfortunately, it looks like Faith still has the innate ability to bring out the worst in Buffy, even when she’s trying to be friendly. I do not like the Buffy who punches an ally in the face in greeting and treats her like crap even though she’s only here to help. Also, why the crap didn’t she do more recon on the vineyard than just finding it? She should know better than that. She’s not supposed to be as impulsive as S3 Faith. Faith actually did a better job of marshalling the troops on Angel than Buffy does here.
I like Xander’s support of Buffy, but I think she would’ve benefitted more from his critical assessment of her battle plan. I really don’t appreciate his horny fantasy about the underage girls sleeping in his apartment. Again, why are they doing the sleeping arrangements this way? The men should all be staying with Xander, while the girls stay at the Summers’ house and Anya’s apartment. Or, you know, the enormous abandoned fortress-like mansion.
Anya...wasn’t in this one, was she? I don’t remember her being in it at all. That’s odd. Shouldn’t she have been there at the very end, at least, to react to one-eyed Xander?
I love it when Dawn goes into protective sister mode. She did it against Spike at the beginning of the season, she did it to Riley last season, and now she’s doing it to Faith. It’s great. But I think she’s definitely feeling a bit ignored by Buffy. The two of them haven’t interacted a whole lot lately. Buffy’s been primarily focused on the potentials.
I don’t ship Spike/Faith, but they do have chemistry, don’t they? I kind of feel like they have more chemistry than Spike does with Buffy. And they get along much better.
I’m pretty impressed with Willow’s behavior around Faith. I think succumbing to her own dark side has given her a great deal of perspective and humility when it comes to people who’ve majorly screwed up. She can sympathize with Faith now.
Giles continues to be a pointless source of negativity and disapproval. Not cool. He should know by now that he can’t talk Buffy out of doing something she’s set on doing; the best way for him to help is to suggest better strategies than the horrible one she came up with. Like, seriously, couldn’t he and Willow come up with some kind of surveillance spell to do recon before Buffy goes charging in with a bunch of barely trained girls?
“You’re protecting vampires? Are you the bad Slayer now? Am I the good Slayer now?”
“Well, that makes me feel better about me. Worse about Giles. Kinda shaky about you.”
“No more Starbucks for the wannabes, man. They’ve been spazzing for, like, hours.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.