Written by Drew Z. Greenberg
Directed by James A. Contner
We open on people flooding out of Sunnydale. Shops are closing and it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic out of town. Clem is leaving in a cherry red Beetle. Things have just gotten too demonic for him lately. He doubts even Buffy can stop the evil brewing (but he quickly switches to encouragement mode when he sees how little that attitude is helping her).
Giles and Willow are talking to a cop. Also they seem to be pretending to be Interpol agents, and Willow’s using mind control to make sure the cop buys their story. It’s glitchy, though. The cops are looking for a fugitive: Faith.
Willow and Buffy are visiting Xander in the hospital. Buffy’s telling him about the recovery stuff, and he’ll be able to leave soon. Willow wants Buffy to stick around longer to help Xander, but she feels like she needs to do Plot A stuff because they could be close to a breakthrough. Willow remains, and she tries very hard to be up-beat and supportive, but she starts crying halfway through them joking about how he can be a pirate now if he gets a parrot. He doesn’t want her to cry, because it’s harder for him to be strong if she’s upset. (It’s okay, Willow. Right there with you.)
Anya and Andrew are doing some kind of basement briefing session with the potentials. Anya has found some info on übervamps from her contacts. They can be staked, beheaded, killed by sunlight, and possibly set on fire, but crosses and holy water don’t even slow them down, and the invitation rule doesn’t apply. Rona points out that she’s more worried about Caleb. They don’t have info on him yet. The girls are feeling pretty discouraged. Anya tries to give them a pep talk that mostly involves her saying that even though she’d rather be with Xander, she’s here, so they can be here too! The pep talk’s biggest flaw is that she mentions the breakup sex she and Xander had on Spike’s cot. The four potentials sitting on it quickly vacate it.
Faith is sitting on the kitchen island, eating chips. Kennedy joins her. Faith makes a Harry Potter reference! Yay Faith! Amanda comes upstairs too. They commiserate on the lack of Caleb info. Buffy gets home, and the three of them plus Dawn go to talk to meet her. They look at the info Giles got, which is about Caleb. Ten years’ worth of criminal history. Dawn asks Buffy about Xander, but Faith senses Buffy doesn’t want to talk about it and shoos Dawn off to go look at other info. Kennedy unintentionally makes a comment about how Caleb can lay a Slayer out in one punch, which sends Buffy’s feelings of failure skyrocketing. She gets up to go clean out the rest of her stuff at the school amid Kennedy’s profuse apologies. She puts Faith in charge of the research.
The school is pretty deserted. Buffy gets to her office and sits there holding the framed picture of her, Xander, and Willow. And then Caleb shows up right there. She backs away and reaches for a weapon, but he waggles his finger at her. He makes light of what he did to Xander, so she threatens him. He tosses her desk aside and gets in her face. He yammers about the glory of the First’s plan for a bit. She punches him. He laughs and starts fighting back. He lifts her several inches off the ground, then throws her through the glass window into the hallway. He walks away, leaving her unconscious on the floor.
Back at the house, Giles and Dawn are going over the files while Andrew flits around complaining about people stealing his Hot Pockets. Giles and Dawn may have just figured out something important. There’s something weird in one of the photos in the file. Giles has Amanda go get Spike. He’s going to send him on a mission! Spike isn’t a huge fan of that, what with Giles’s recent conspiracy to have him killed. He convinces him to go on the mission, and he’ll be taking Andrew because Andrew is being insufferable. Dawn tries to perk the girls up with the idea that they might be onto something. Faith wants to do something a little more direct for morale-boosting.
Night at the Bronze! Somehow, the club is still full and supplied with a nerdy band even though the town has been emptying out. Buffy arrives home to find it mostly empty. Giles is still there. She tells him about her second round with Caleb. Giles tells Buffy about Spike’s mission. She’s as skeptical about this as Spike was. She really doesn’t like that he sent Spike off elsewhere when she considers him to be “the one person watching [her] back.” Giles understandably takes issue with that. She gives him crap for the decisions being made in her absence. And she’s not happy at all about Faith taking all the girls out to party instead of keep working.
Caleb is strolling around in the vineyard. He and the First have been planning something big with Buffy and the girls, and they’re confident that it’ll happen soon. At the Bronze, the girls really like Faith for letting them have fun like this. In come some cops...including Billy the “primal misogyny” dude from Angel S3.
They’re here to arrest Faith. They take her outside. Unfortunately, they don’t intend to take her back to prison. They just want to shoot her! She beats them up while another officer guards the door inside, then shoots a light fixture when Dawn sasses him. Kennedy, Rona, Chao-Ahn, and Dawn dogpile him, then go out to help Faith. Buffy arrives just as the last cop collapses. Doesn’t look good. Buffy sends the girls home so she can talk to Faith. Dawn is getting more and more fed up with Buffy’s treatment of her, but she leaves. Buffy chews Faith out for bringing the girls out to party and get drunk instead of staying focused. Faith isn’t abashed. The girls need to have fun and they won’t learn if they have to stay cooped up all the time. Faith clearly thinks more highly of them than Buffy does. Faith brings up the vineyard fiasco, and Buffy punches her.
Spike and Andrew are heading out to the location from that photo. Andrew wants to stop for burgers. They end up talking about how awesome onion blossoms are. Back at the house, Faith is having a smoke on the porch when Wood shows up. They both already know who the other one is. He asks her about her bruises, and she tells him about getting beat up by the cops and Buffy. She’s impressed that he would walk from his place to Buffy’s at night in this town. They have a majorly intense moment. Yesssss. Faith/Wood is one of my ships, yo.
Spike and Andrew get to their destination, which is an old church (or monastery?). A dude with a brand on his face attacks them.
Back at the house, Anya and Willow bring Xander inside. Faith and Wood come too. Dawn runs to hug Xander. The girls apologize for his welcome back party being so sedate. Buffy comes in to talk about the new stuff she found out about the cellar of the vineyard. She has a plan! She wants to go back down there. Ooh, this’ll go over well.
Spike asks the guy who jumped him and Andrew about the brand and Caleb. He offers to show them something. He tells them about Caleb showing up there. He came looking for an inscription in a secret room in the monastery. It’s in Greek. Caleb was furious when he read it, and he slaughtered everyone in the monastery except this dude, who he branded. Spike reads the inscription. “It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield.”
Buffy is telling everyone about Caleb’s visit to the school. It has occurred to Buffy that it’s really weird how Caleb isn’t guarding the Hellmouth. What’s he doing at the vineyard? It would only make sense for him to be there if there’s something really powerful he’s guarding. So Buffy wants to go steal it. Faith is the first to object. She doesn’t want to go back there on a mere hunch, especially with the potentials. Wood stops Buffy from interrupting, and Buffy looks all betrayed. Giles joins in on Faith’s side. Buffy doesn’t understand why they aren’t siding with her. Also, she thinks Giles got rid of Spike for the day so that they could corner her without her yes-man present. Rona joins in. She thinks Buffy’s being reckless. So does Kennedy. Willow agrees with all of them, too (in a nicer way).
Buffy tries to pull the “I’m in charge so I get to make the orders” card, but Anya doesn’t see why the dictator of the group has to be Buffy. She didn’t earn being the Slayer. She feels that Buffy being the Slayer doesn’t make her better, it makes her luckier. Xander agrees too. Rona points out that Faith is a Slayer too, so she might as well be the one in charge. Faith tries to squash that idea. Kennedy calls for a vote, and Buffy changes from “because I said so” mode to straight up insulting them. Wow. She thinks Faith is trying to take things away from her again. Buffy says she can’t stay and watch Faith destroy everything she’s tried to achieve with them. So Dawn kicks her out. Wait, how’s that? I actually think the rest of them are right about Buffy at the moment, but she’s the one who was paying the bills. They should all have left, not Buffy. There are plenty of abandoned houses to choose from now.
Faith follows Buffy outside. Buffy, a tear rolling down her cheek, tells Faith not to be afraid to be their leader. She needs to understand that their lives are in her hands, and she has to protect them. The awesome music plays a little. Faith nods and goes back inside. Buffy walks away from the house, alone.
Nope. Didn’t like that. It was more pleasant to watch the parts of S4 in which the Scoobies are drifting farther and farther apart than to watch “Empty Places.” The S4 stuff hurt, but this makes me angry. Buffy seems wildly out of character, and so do the rest of the Scoobies. I like the scene with Willow and Xander at the hospital, the stuff with Spike and Andrew is pretty funny/intriguing, and the scene where Faith meets Wood is great, but most of the rest of the scenes contribute to this very forced coup against Buffy. Normally, one of the best things about this show is how character-driven it is, but in this episode, it really feels like the writers were forcing the characters to behave in a certain way so that they could arrive at the plot point of the Scoobies kicking Buffy out. Massive splits between the main characters need to feel organic and inevitable if they’re going to resonate properly. That didn’t happen here at all. And, again, even if there are like thirty people living in that house, Buffy is the one whose name is on the deed, so they shouldn’t be able to kick her out no matter how upset they are with her methods.
This isn’t Buffy. Yes, she has been petty about Faith in the past, but she’s still going to act that way when it’s been three years since they last interacted? If she can forgive Willow and Spike, then continuing to treat Faith like crap just makes her seem like an immature brat. Which brings me to the wider problem. Buffy’s defining traits have always been compassion and empathy. You wouldn’t know it if this was the only episode you’d seen. This Buffy can’t take time out of her day to sit with one of her oldest friends after he lost an eye, but she can blow up at Giles for allegedly sending Spike on a mission to keep him away from her. It’s like the only person she has compassion or empathy for anymore is Spike, to a crazy extent. This is definitely what I was thinking of when I remembered not liking S7 because of how Spike-centric it is. It’s not the season that’s overly Spike-centric, it’s Buffy herself.
I really admire Xander’s ability to make jokes right after losing an eye. I can’t imagine doing anything but internally screaming for days if I lived through that kind of eye horror. And I can definitely see how that would’ve shaken his trust in Buffy’s leadership abilities.
Anya contributes nothing pleasant to this episode. First, she’s incredibly tactless with the potentials, and then she’s belligerent with Buffy in a way that makes no sense. It’s true that Buffy wasn’t picked to be the Slayer based on merit, but she has lived up to her position a hundred times over. Also, what exactly is lucky about being the Slayer? It just means that instead of having a normal life, you get to have an extremely abbreviated one which you must spend fighting monsters and saving the world. The burden of it far outweighs the perks.
I can tell that the writers were trying to make the split between Dawn and Buffy a gradual one. Buffy’s been focusing more on the potentials than on Dawn for quite a few episodes now, and Dawn has had the niggling doubts about Buffy ever since “Conversations with Dead People,” but why couldn’t Dawn voice her concerns earlier than the “kicking Buffy out of the house” stage of her frustrations?
Spike gets along with people at the most unexpected moments. Him chatting with Andrew about bloomin’ onions is a bit reminiscent of him chatting with Willow in “The Initiative.” Also, apparently he knows Greek. So I think that brings his language count to three. English, Fyarl, and Greek.
I love Willow’s moment with Xander. I think her approach to Difficult Buffy is the most reasonable of the whole group. She’s still Buffy’s friend, but she’s worried about her judgment. Friends shouldn’t pretend everything is fine when it isn’t, so it’s good that she was willing to say something, but it’s definitely not okay how everyone ganged up on Buffy at once. This should have been a small-scale Scooby meeting, not a public trial.
Giles is just being a git. He keeps trying to crush Buffy’s plans and undermine her, even though he’s the one who dumped the potentials on her in the first place and kept talking about how she has to be the one who fixes everything. He can’t tell her she has to fix everything and then shut her down whenever she tries. He needs to be providing suggestions for more effective strategies and ways they can learn more about what they’re up against. His current approach just seems spiteful and useless.
“It’s my favorite of all my current bruises.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.