[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Dan Vebber | Director: David Semel | Aired: 11/24/1998]
If I have one complaint about S3, it’s the lack of Spike. So when you mix S3’s awesome consistency and great character development with Spike, you’ve got one hell of an episode. There is just so much fun to be had here that if there wasn’t so much attention paid to the horrible Willow and Xander ‘thing,’ it would have gotten a perfect score. Thank the powers that this episode marks the end of that nonsense. Nonetheless, unlike some people I know, I don’t let something minor ruin my appreciation for the rest of the episode.
The episode begins with the group getting their SAT scores back. Buffy gets a high score which shocks her into actually consider that she may have a life outside of slaying still, and the “college talk” begins. I like Joyce’s discussion about it with Buffy at the house and how Buffy shoots down her mention of wanting keg parties and frat boys. Go Buffy! I think it’s great that Giles actually encourages her to go to college and uses Faith as a possible way out. Angel even tells her, as a ‘friend,’ that she should leave Sunnydale and go to a good college. All of this just goes to show how much the people around Buffy genuinely care about her well-being and future.
For the rest of the episode, though, Spike steals the show. He rides into town again in the exact same way as in “School Hard” [2×03] . He drives over the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign again and will be the cause of it falling over one more time in the series finale, “Chosen” [7×22] . He then visits Joyce just to chat with her about his breakup with Drusilla. His comment, “you got any of those little marshmallows?” gets me laughing every time.
All the great moments (many of which are captured in the quote section below) are attributed to Spike and his realizations. He admits he’s “love’s bitch” and explains to Buffy and Angel that they’ll never be ‘friends.’ He says, “You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love till it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends.” Spike is incredibly unhappy coming into this episode. He drinks a ton, which is always a sign of that (we saw him drinking a bunch while stuck in his wheelchair in “Surprise” [2×13] ). All this sorrow stems from his love breaking up with him. Love is everything to Spike. Right now it’s more a perverted love, but over the final three seasons of this series he begins to slowly change that perversion to purity and even ends up sacrificing his life (“Chosen” [7×22] ) for love and redemption.
What’s the one thing that brings Spike out of his sorrow? Violence. The moment he gets in a good brawl he feels himself again and leaves town in an attempt to get Dru back. Spike’s powerful words obviously didn’t go unnoticed to Buffy because she, soon afterwards, breaks it off with Angel realizing that they are not indeed ‘friends’ and that Angel can’t give her the relationship she wants. If the Buffy and Angel relationship wasn’t meant to end in “Faith, Hope, and Trick” [3×03] like I wanted, then this is the perfect cut-off point which is why I can’t understand why they get all snuggly again later in the season, but that’s another story.
The end of the episode shows everyone alone and unhappy, except for Spike who is back in form and singing while on the highway down south. This is a BtVS classic: it’s got loads of humor, drama, messages, and action all in one tightly wrapped package. It’s just a shame that I have to wait until S4 to get more Spike!
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Spike’s hand catching on fire when he wakes up in the morning and having a really hard time getting into his car. Hilarious.
+ The Mayor is so weird and creepy. He is offering babies as sacrifice to a demon in “Band Candy” [3×06] while here he’s playing mini golf in his office.
+ Xander’s reference to Amy’s backfired spell in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2×16] .
+ Spike mentions to Willow that Drusilla was making out with a Chaos Demon. We get to actually see this during a flashback in “Fool for Love” [5×07] .
+ The funny faces Spike makes behind Joyce when Angel’s stuck behind the vampire forcefield.
+ Joyce’s confusion about what’s going on after Buffy gets back. “Xander’s a witch?”
+ Great fight sequence in the magic shop.
+ Cordelia death fake-out.
* Spike tells Willow that it was his alliance with Buffy in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] that caused his break-up with Drusilla. We find out in flashback during “Fool for Love” [5×07] that Drusilla knows that, currently subconciously, Spike is completely in love with Buffy.
* It turns out Spike really does mean genuine affection when he ties his women up and tortures them. Spike says this will make Drusilla like him again. In “Crush” [5×14] he ties both Drusilla and Buffy up and offers to kill Drusilla as a token of his love for Buffy.