Buffy 4×16: Who Are You?

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 02/29/2000]

This is a fantastic episode that inspires a lot of conversation. At its core, it is completely and utterly about Faith. In fact, I think this is the most screen time Faith’s ever gotten and the least, aside from “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] , that Buffy’s gotten. This episode gets a perfect score because, after reviewing it, I simply couldn’t deny the affect it had on me. No, there isn’t a significant lasting effect on the series or season, but the changes and issues explored through Faith are so powerful and expertly handled, I find myself in complete awe. Time to jump right in, but take notice that I’m going to tackle this review in chronological order rather than the usual character-by-character approach.

Right from the beginning we can see SMG nailing Faith’s mannerisms with facial expressions, shrugs, and body movement. After Buffy, in Faith’s body, is hauled away by the police, Faith is disgusted when Joyce hugs her. She’s not at all used to that kind of affection and is very uncomfortable with it. While upstairs in the bathtub Faith tests out the range of her new body by stretching and touching herself. After the bath she looks at herself in the mirror and manipulates her face into various expressions to get used to it, and begins to say stuff like “You can’t do that! It’s wrong.” While repeating lines like this we get refreshed on exactly what Faith thinks of Buffy: a stuck-up girl who thinks she’s better than everyone else because of her moral code and restrained behavior. While there may be a little bit of truth to that, Faith imagines it all to the extreme.

Tara finally gets some development besides more “bonding with Willow.” She insinuates that she really wants to meet Willow’s other friends and says, “Well, you should be safe. Nobody knows you’re here. I mean, they don’t even know I exist, right? I know all about them, but…” This is an important step for Tara, because through the confidence she gets from Willow, she’s able to speak her mind without feeling like she’ll be judged. In the same conversation, Tara basically also admits her love to Willow: “I am, you know … Yours.” Willow’s reasoning for not wanting to introduce Tara to the Scoobies is that “I-I just kinda like having something that’s just, you know, mine.” As Willow will soon find out, she can still have her private time with Tara even if the gang knows about it.

While Buffy is having a genuinely terrible time, Faith is living it up. Buffy can see where Faith’s choices have led her, and for a brief time Buffy has to pay the consequences of Faith’s evil, which is genuinely cruel. Faith, at first, transforms Buffy’s body to look the way she likes it, not the way Buffy would have it. This just goes to show how amazingly messed up and confused Faith is. Back in “Enemies” [3×17] Faith says, “You know, I come to Sunnydale. I’m the Slayer. I do my job kicking ass better than anyone. What do I hear about everywhere I go? Buffy. So I slay, I behave, I do the good little girl routine. And who’s everybody thank? Buffy … You get the Watcher. You get the mom. You get the little Scooby gang. What do I get? Jack squat. This is supposed to be my town!” I feel that that speech really sums up Faith’s problem. She’s jealous of everything Buffy has and wants it all for herself. By stealing Buffy’s body she expects to get everything that she was jealous of Buffy for. During the beginning of the episode Faith is very much acting just like herself and taking for granted all that Buffy’s worked hard to create.

When Faith heads to Giles’ place to meet up with the Scoobies, we see her struggling to not act like normal, to try to say what Buffy would say. She imagines stabbing Willow several times, which makes sense because Faith has never liked Willow and vice versa. She was the reason Willow was becoming so separated from Buffy back in S3. She says to Willow, “I’d never let her [Faith] hurt you.” Faith isn’t at all genuine when she says this. At this point, she is just giving lip service to how Buffy would deal with her friends and the situations that arise. After telling the Scoobies she’ll be out patrolling, Faith heads to the Bronze instead to party. This leads to the mind blowing scene between Faith and Spike. Seriously people! WOW. Sizzling much? I’ll quote the entire dialogue exchange here in a second, but first I need to talk about their early conversation.

Spike tells her “as soon as I get this chip out of my head, I’ll be a vampire again. But until then, I’m just as helpless as a kitten up a tree. So why don’t you sod off?” Faith responds with indifference, “Okay.” It’s interesting to see, once again, the difference in how Spike conducts himself with Buffy compared to the rest of the Scoobies. When Faith walks away from the conversation, Spike is actually hurt by what he sees as Buffy’s indifference towards him. He says, “Oh, fine! Throw it in my face! Spike’s not a threat anymore, I’ll turn my back! He can’t hurt me.”

Spike then poses ‘Buffy’ a question: “You know why I really hate you, Summers?” Faith responds, for the first of multiple times, what she thinks of Buffy: “‘Cause I’m a stuck-up tight-ass with no sense of fun?” But she doesn’t stop there and decides to really ramp up the sexual tension. Here’s the potent exchange: Faith says, “‘Cause I could do anything I want, and instead I choose to pout and whine and feel the burden of Slayerness? I mean, I could be rich. I could be famous. I could have anything. Anyone. Even you, Spike. I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I’ve got muscles you’ve never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you pop like warm champagne and you’d beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don’t? Because it’s wrong” (smiles and walks away). Spike responds, after being completely entranced by her, “I get this chip out…you and me are gonna have a confrontation.” He then grabs his beer bottle and throws it against the wall in complete frustration and anger at not being able to respond to that taunting. Is this a setup for next season or what? Spike is shown here as very attracted to Buffy and that there is a very fine line, already, between wanting to kill her and wanting to have sex with her. I think I need to say it again: wow.

I hate to have to move on from that amazing scene, but fortunately there’s some more amazing scenes to drool over. One of which is not the scene where Adam shares his thoughts on vampires to a den of them. The leader of the pack says something I know I’m thinking about, “kill this guy already.” To be fair, though, Adam does say something very intriguing to that same vampire: “You fear death. Being immortal, you fear it more than those to whom it comes naturally.” That statement makes a whole lot of sense. Death is a part of what makes us human. We rarely worry or think about death because we know it is inevitable. This fact often makes us able to cherish life more. Because of vampires’ immortality, they’re naturally prone to thinking about death much more than humans do. Death is not inevitable to them, so it becomes something to fear.

Back at the Bronze, Willow decides to use this of all times to introduce Tara to Buffy. Willow runs off to get some drinks and leaves Tara to talk with Faith, who does everything in her power to ridicule and hurt Tara’s feelings. This is what tips Tara off to the fact that she isn’t actually talking to Buffy. When Willow returns she points out a vampire to Faith, who is pretty much indifferent to the fact that a girl is being led to her death. After seeing that Willow expects her to get up and take action, Faith finally gets up and goes in the back room to assist the girl. She saves the girl, who then expresses genuine (if heavy-handed) gratitude to Faith, who is a bit surprised to have someone actually thanking her for doing what is supposed to be her job. She could care less about the girl and was simply going through the motions of being Buffy, but that’s enough in beginning to spark a change in the way Faith sees Buffy and herself.

Immediately after the scene at the Bronze, Faith decides to give Riley a spin. The one area Faith’s confidence appears to soar is sex. She slithers her way onto Riley and hits on the notion, again, that Buffy is “joyless and proper” and that she should give into her “animal instincts” like Faith, herself, does. She asks Riley, “What do you wanna do with this body? What nasty little desire have you been itching to try out? Am I a bad girl? Do you wanna hurt me?” Faith is running on the assumption, likely based on her own experiences, that every guy has some dirty sexual fantasy underneath the surface, and that if she scratches hard enough she’ll be able to reduce them to nothing more than a sexual beast.

Faith tries to use this assumption to uncover Riley’s dirty little fantasy. But Riley’s not being enticed in the slightest by Faith’s aggressive behavior. He says, “What are we playing at here?” Faith responds, “Well, if you don’t wanna play.” Riley says, “Right. I don’t wanna play,” and then gently kisses her. That’s the truth of the matter. To Riley (and Buffy) sex isn’t about play, it’s about love. This is a concept that Faith unfortunately hasn’t been in contact with in her life. While she’s had a rough time, it still came down to her own decisions to persue ‘play’ instead of letting someone really in. This is likely the first time she’s ever experienced this kind of love, and it has a profound effect on her.

While Faith and Riley are ‘busy’, Willow and Tara are having their own sensual experience through magic. The two of them are doing a spell to ascertain whether or not Buffy is really Buffy. The spell is particularly intense and is obviously a metaphor for sex. The way the scene is shot is scrumptuous and displays variation rarely seen on television. It also feels very personal and magical. The music here, and throughout the episode, very much deserves applause as well — it’s beautiful and cinematic. The spell leads back to Faith and Riley in the middle of sex. I notice that Faith isn’t on top of Riley — she’s taken an interesting risk in allowing Riley to take the initiative in showing her love. He even tells her, “I love you,” which directly connects with the “thank you” from the girl she saved earlier at the Bronze. Riley’s declaration of love overwhelms her as she says, “Ugh. Get off. No. No. No! Get-get off! No! Off me! Get off!”

Faith is trying to reject these feelings that she’s dismissed all her life. She goes on to say, “Who are you? What do you want from h-her?” She is simply in shock that she’s let herself open to love like this and still doesn’t want to believe it’s real. The questions signify that she thinks Riley has to want something from Buffy other than just love. Faith desparately wants to think, and she says unconvincingly, that “this [sex] is meaningless.” She then continues to try to convince herself that she felt “nothing,” and repeats said word. Even though she’s trying to avoid facing the fact that she really did feel Riley’s love, she’s knows it’s true — she now knows Buffy and Riley do share genuine love.

This is why Faith takes off the following morning, trying one last time to escape all her newfound feelings and knowledge. Forrest catches her in the hallway and calls her a “killer.” She responds, very defensively, “I am not a killer! I am the Slayer! And you don’t know the first thing about me.” Forrest points out, “You really care what I think?” She responds, “No. I don’t care. God, I don’t care.” Notice the use of God in her response, which is ironic considering she’s about to selflessly help people in trouble at a church. But before that, Faith tries to flee Buffy’s life. This is the life she was so envious of before; the life she thought was handed to Buffy by circumstances and luck. Faith has now fully realized that Buffy’s life is the way it is because of the person Buffy is. This revelation makes Buffy’s life not something Faith wants anymore. The moment she sees a news report about vampires threatening people in a church, though, she decides to accept Buffy’s love of others and goes to save those people, even though she is off the hook of any obligation. At the same time this is happening, Buffy has escaped the custody of the Council and is on her way to find Faith.

At this point, everything is set into motion. Buffy arrives at Giles’ home to convince him that she’s actually Buffy. Eliza Dushku does a fantastic job in this scene of capturing Buffy’s mannerisms and speech pattern. Willow also arrives, coming through for Buffy again, but this time with Tara’s help. They all head to the church where Faith is in full Buffy emulation mode. She runs into Riley before heading in and tells him, “I can’t use you,” which is basically what Buffy told him in “This Year’s Girl” [4×15] , because she cares about him and doesn’t want him to get hurt. I believe that Faith has also come to the realization that she can’t treat Riley like she’s treated men up until now, trivially, and that she too doesn’t want to see Riley get hurt.

When Faith goes into the church and tells the vampires, “You’re not gonna kill these people … Because it’s wrong,” she now genuinely means it. This is amazing character evolution! Buffy then comes in and begins fighting with Faith. Now, forced to look at herself, the truth comes pouring out: “You’re nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You’re nothing! You’re disgusting!” After experiencing Buffy’s life and love, Faith has fully realized exactly what she is and hates herself for it. I’m sure she did before, deep down, but it’s now risen to the surface. The state Faith is in is carried over to “Five by Five” (AtS 1×18), where she lets loose all the rage and anger at herself in one last outburst, and then finally just wants it all to end: “I’m bad! Please! (sobbing) Angel, please, just do it! Angel, just do it! Please, just do it! Kill me. Just kill me.”

This is a powerful piece of television and a masterful character study on Faith that managed to blow me away. I always knew this episode had a ton of depth underneath, but before now I hadn’t taken the time to really gather my thoughts. Upon review, it’s better than I ever thought before. Instead of simply being a gimmick, Whedon once again uses a unique opportunity to its fullest extent. It’s got monumentally great writing, beautifully constructed scenes, wonderful music, powerful themes, great humor, and stunning character development for a secondary character. It really doesn’t get much better than this.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Tara being the first person to realize that Buffy isn’t Buffy.
+ Willow bringing up hyena possession.
+ Willow’s complete trust in Tara to perform a powerful spell.
+ Buffy’s lack of driving skills being remembered. “I can do this.”




55 thoughts on “Buffy 4×16: Who Are You?”

  1. [Note: Martine from Norway posted this comment on May 4, 2007.]

    I think you are doing great with your reviews. I also think this episode deserves full score, I liked thee scene with Spike and th one where Buffy is doing grimases=) Keep up the good work.


  2. [Note: Nina posted this comment on June 22, 2007.]

    i totally agree your doing excellent with your feedbacks! =D

    Love the scence with Spike and Faith.. “i have muscles where you couldnt even imagin” (i’ve used that line i thought it was that good!)


  3. [Note: Xenophon posted this comment on October 14, 2007.]

    So far this is the first episode in the season I really enjoyed.

    Oh yeah, my favourite part is where Faith immediately picks up on the ‘relationship’ between Willow and Tara and the reference to Willow “Not driving stick anymore”


  4. [Note: Zephos posted this comment on October 25, 2007.]

    I disagree that Faith genuinely imagines killing Willow. I think it’s more of a projection of her very confused feelings. She doesn’t like killing – she’s repulsed at being called a killer. Her guilt and self-loathing are manifested in the short daydream of murdering Willow. She knows what she has done and now has this horrible perception of herself.

    I also think she’s at least a little sincere on what she then says – “I won’t let her hurt you”. It’s subtle on SMG’s part, but it’s there.


  5. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 7, 2007.]

    I also love the care they have with small details. While in Giles´s house, SMG says the word “about” with the same accent that Eliza has. And one more thing, in the scene where she´s going thru her password, the expiration date is 5/01. Could this be some foreshadowing of Buffy´s death?


  6. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 10, 2007.]

    Great episode. SMG absolutely nails it as Faith. Eliza, unfortunately, doesn’t have as much to do, but she proves herself in playing Buffy. The actresses must have had a blast.

    The scene with Spike just sizzles. Poor, poor Spike.


  7. [Note: Austin posted this comment on November 15, 2007.]

    when faith(as buffy) says burn it about the lipstick is she playing the part or actually showing revulsion for and trying to distance herself from her former lifestyle?

    lol Nether realm 🙂


  8. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on April 19, 2008.]

    Not to be a total fanboy, but I love that the first thing Faith does when she’s in Buffy’s body is to take a bath. Naked.

    Just pointing that out. 😉


  9. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    yeah, buffy was great in this ep, it was good 2 see her play a mean bitch 4 a change… she is so sexy(so’s faith)


  10. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 20, 2008.]

    buffyholic, her accent’s noticeably shifted towards Eliza’s (lots of small details are spot on). It’s wonderfully done.

    (And let’s not forget the bodily tics as well: the stretches, the turning, the way of carrying herself. It all changes. Not completely, of course — which is plausible in-context: it’s Faith’s mind in Buffy’s brain, after all, and the brain must have some say in things.)

    lee: sexy?! That scene with Spike is *scary*. (Is it meant to be sexy rather than frightening?)


  11. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 20, 2008.]

    Another point. One of the black-bag guys says ‘The Watcher’s Council used to mean something. You perverted it.’

    It occurs to me that from their perspective this could be addressed to either Buffy *or* Faith, and be accurate (in different ways) in both cases. (As Buffy points out in _Checkpoint_, the Watcher’s Council doesn’t mean much without the Slayer… and an escaped murderess Slayer makes a bit of a mockery of the Council as well.)


  12. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on July 28, 2008.]

    Yup, just to reiterate… SMG and Eliza Dushku were INCREDIBLE in this episode! I couldn’t believe how well they got the other’s character down in terms of speech pattern, mannerism, body language, etc… I really believed that Faith was *in* Buffy’s body (and vice versa) – no small feat! It would have been easy to just deliver the lines half-assed and not really bother to actually change your acting that much to emulate the other person… amazingly well done.

    And yes, I love the moment when Faith is punching Buffy, but sees herself, and you understand what she’s saying is actually being said to *herself*… Definitely a masterful episode that really led me to understand (and sympathize with?) Faith more, a character arc that is carried over on Angel, as was mentioned in the review…

    The scene with Spike in the Bronze… definitely one of the hottest moments we’ve seen on Buffy.

    One other + I want to mention is how Faith realizes right away what’s going on between Tara and Willow before any of the Scoobies figure it out. Great in two ways: Faith’s talent for reading people (that she mentions in S7) is unexpected and adds depth and insight to her character, and underlines in a really sad way almost the way the Scoobies are starting to come apart at the seams.


  13. [Note: S posted this comment on December 20, 2008.]

    Great review but you are forgetting some very very important details about Faith and Buffy. And about their relationship. Faith is jealous of what Buffy has , and due to that she is lead into the Mayor’s arm who seems to genuinely love him. Also faith accidentaly kills a man . And when one does such thing trying to justify it is a move one may make.

    Their already antagonistic nature , both antagonizing each other becomes even more apparent when Faith attempts to take Angel away and then poison Angel, to stop their relationship. Then Buffy attempts to kill Faith so she can heal Angel and she kills the onlyone who loved her the Mayor .

    When Faith tells to Buffy’s mother that buffy does not care about either of them she means it. When Buffy says that Faith does not understand she is only partially right. And Faith is also partially right regarding her evaluation of Buffy , all to the first episode. Buffy is the better person but she is also flawed. Not like Faith is because she has her friends and has a different attitude.

    When Faith calls buffy a murderous bitch she may direct it at her self but she is also directing it at buggy who did attempt to kill faith and did kill the Mayor. They are both killers and mass murderers.


  14. [Note: Buffy Puissance 7 posted this comment on January 27, 2009.]

    this is my favorite épisode! i love it so much.

    ps. congraduation SMG for playing so good Faith’s caracter.


  15. [Note: Stilicho posted this comment on May 15, 2009.]

    Really superb acting from both SMG and ED. As I understand, the Faith story crosses over to “Angel” (1×18/1/19). I have so far not watched any episode of “Angel”, but I am sure I’ll adress it after I completed to resurvey Buffy.


  16. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 14, 2009.]

    I must say, I disagree with your assertion that Faith tries to flee because she’s discovered in the course of the episode that Buffy’s life wasn’t handed to her on a plate but rather earned. Almost the first thing we see Faith do is book a flight (using Joyce’s credit card, naughty, but I suppose next to murder petty thievery isn’t so bad). i.e., she was planning to run away from the start (very much in character, she very nearly ran away at least once in S3).

    The events of the episode cause her to decide *not* to flee, not the other way around.


  17. [Note: Dino posted this comment on January 27, 2010.]

    Did any body else find it interesting how Faith was dressed when she was waiting at the station? In bright floral colours?! And remember back to season three when she felt completely uncomfortable in the pink floral dress the mayor had gotten her to try on.


  18. [Note: BuffyRocks posted this comment on January 30, 2010.]

    yeah @Dino I actually thought that she was wearing buffy’s type of clothes, not leather and lowcut shirt like Faith is usually wearing….. another thing indicating her changing i guess?….

    (sorry for the bad english i’m french 🙂 )


  19. [Note: Dino posted this comment on February 3, 2010.]

    I think she was finally letting go of who she was and accepting herself as Buffy…which is why she dressed more like Buffy than herself. Actualy, your english is very good =)


  20. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 23, 2010.]

    This one gets a B-plus from me. I’ve never entirely bought Faith’s insanity. However, I liked everything else a lot. The spell Tara and Willow did was beautifully shot.


  21. [Note: Willow94 posted this comment on June 20, 2010.]

    I think one of the great things about this series is that they took the time and care to remember to but Eliza Dushku in the credits as Buffy, not Faith


  22. [Note: sacundim posted this comment on August 28, 2010.]

    Nix @17: I mostly agree, but I’d nitpick the “Faith decides not to leave” part. I don’t really see that she abandons her plan to leave, but rather impulsively postpones it to save the churchgoers. You could say that she catches a case of Chronic Hero Syndrome.


  23. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on September 5, 2010.]


    the title: ‘Eliza Dushku as Buffy’

    Faith staring into the mirror. It is like watching Sarah Michelle in her own bathroom without much makeup on.

    Buffy and Spike at the Bronze.

    Faith with Riley channeling Catherine from ‘Cruel Intentions’.

    Eliza nailing the Buffy characteristics in the scene with Giles. “What’s a stevedore?”

    Didn’t Work:

    Buffy in the leather. She can’t pull it off as well as the fuller Eliza. Still hot though.

    Faith reverted back to ‘This Year’s Girl’ when she went to LA.


  24. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on November 5, 2010.]

    What didn’t make sense was the Bronze scene with Spike and Faith(Buffy). Spike tells her he has a chip and says his name to which Faith responds. “Spike? William the Bloody with a chip in his head..”

    Faith never was into study and I doubt Giles ever told her about Spike and Dru during Season 3, so how did she know he went by ‘William the Bloody’?

    Also, how did she know what a chip was or that it was in his head? She doesn’t know of The Initiative.


  25. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 8, 2010.]

    I’m always up for a body-switching episode, particularly when it’s between two well-developed characters who are such fascinating contrasts, and when an actress as good as SMG gets to do most of the switching scenes.

    So yes this was great and the Spike speech (alright, the entire Bronze scene) was outstanding, and I’m quite happy to retain the memory of SMG slinking onto Riley’s bed with her leather pants …

    But here’s what I really like: The Faith character comes together. I finally get her.

    The young lady is quite sane. But very disturbed, very lonely, very repressed. I know that last part sounds strange when writing about Faith, but bear with me.

    It’s a misconception that Faith felt no remorse in Consquences. Oh, she did. But unlike Buffy, who coped with the immense pressures of being Slayer by reaching out to her frends (and lover, in Angel’s case), Faith has walked alone. Meaning she doesn’t address mistakes by talking about them, and sharing emotions with friends. She buries them. She packs those bad things away, puts the hard shell over them, and there they are to lie, never to be seen again.

    Which is why Buffy pisses off Faith so very much in Consequences, because Buffy wishes to discuss and share, and Faith wants to bury.

    So no, it’s not so that Faith failed to feel remorse in Consequences. She did. She just had a different mechanism for coping, an inferior mechanism as it turned out.

    The inferiority of that mechanism led to the vulnerability that permitted her to be recruited by The Mayor. (That was The Consequence for Faith of her stabbing the mayor’s aid — her inability to deal with the incident weakened her to the point where she turned from being difficult to be an outright agent of evil.)

    Then of course came the rest of S3, Faith stretched to the breaking point, so angry and frustrated and sad and confused that Buffy stabbing her almost came as a relief.

    So she wakes up in This Year’s Girl and nothing has changed. The Mayor’s video demonstrates how sad and lonely her existence has become — she yearns for Daddy. Misses him so. She wants love. She wants to be loved. She doesn’t know how to ask and would be horrified to hear that’s what she needs. But it is so.

    And that is what we see in Who Are You? Buffy’s life is so much richer and warmer and better than Faith’s, containing the pleasure of giving as well as receiving, that Faith’s emotions are stirred. And these emotions weaken her defenses. They crack the shell. Faith enjoys those feelings — and yet she resists, because they are alien and they threaten how she thinks about herself, how she defines herself. Leading of course to her pushing Riley away. But she has been very much affected.

    We see that more at the airport and of course when she abandons her flight to save the churchgoers, in true Slayer style. (That came too quickly, but such is the nature of drama.) She now walks and sounds more like Buffy.

    But she is far from cured. This is not a transformation. This is a step in the process. Seeing the real Buffy (aka Eliza) triggers her rage. This woman who has stabbed her is now getting inside her head. Faith without admitting directly to herself is starting to admire Buffy. And she hates her for that. And she hates herself. Hell, she’s hated herself for a long time now. And the loathing for what Buffy did to her, and what Buffy is now doing, and especially the self loathing, is released into the rage. “Murderous bitch!” is a curse on Buffy, and a cry to herself.

    After the fight, Faith flees. She is shattered. She sits silently, unable to talk. But she is thinking. For the first time since Bad Girls, there is the possibility that Faith can become something else. She is not a monster. She is a person. And she has opened herself enough such that she can change.

    I fully agree with Mike that this episode is a P, due to the writers’ great work in developing the fascinating character of Faith. Who so easily could have become a monster and a caricature, but who did not.


  26. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 8, 2010.]

    On a different note, I’d like to add that while I usually resist feminist critiques of how the patriarch manifests itself everywhere and in everything … here I will make a brief exception.

    Faith wants dirty wild sex with Riley, where she is leading the action. He takes control and maneuvers her toward traditional missionary sex. Faith is overwhelmed with a newfound sense of love.

    Hmmm. That doesn’t seem like the usual subversive Whedon to me.


  27. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on November 8, 2010.]

    Alright one last bit and then I’ll shut up. One possible explanation for why Faith was deeply affected while being in Buffy’s body, but Buffy did not in the least become Faithlike, is that Buffy is much stronger than Faith. Buffy knows who she is and is comfortable in her skin. (Although ticked off sometimes.) So Buffy’s spirit was strong and influenced the vulnerable Faith. Whereas Faith’s spirit was weak and had no influence on the powerful Buffy.

    Hey, it’s a theory.


  28. [Note: Brizon posted this comment on January 29, 2011.]

    Willow and Tara are having their own sensual experience through magic. The two of them are doing a spell to ascertain whether or not Buffy is really Buffy. The spell is particularly intense and is obviously a metaphor for sex.

    I do agree that it’s a metaphor but I think that it’s a metaphor for drug usage, Salvia divinorum to be precise. First, take a look at this nifty guide:


    Or just the shorter Wikipedia entry:


    Now, Willow experiences her astral trip alone, Tara doesn’t fall onto the pillow, she doesn’t participate ( like she should during sex ) she’s there to keep her safe, she’s a sitter. Then there’s the “beyond physical world” and “astral projection” and really, it sounds more like a description of an intense psychedelic trip rather than sex. Look at the room, curtains, darkness, candles…it kind of matches. One last thing – I don’t see a reason to use a metaphor for sex here, it’s just not that big of deal, it’s not like Willow is a virgin or underage or anything. Drugs, well that’s a different thing.


  29. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on January 30, 2011.]

    Brizon, I think you’re underestimating how controversial lesbian sex was on network television in 2000. According to Whedon, he had to fight just to show the kiss in “The Body” — and that kiss is about as familial as it is sexual.


  30. [Note: NK posted this comment on February 24, 2011.]

    I think this is my favourite episode of Season 4 – Joss puts a totally fresh spin on one of the genre’s tiredest cliches, and SMG exceeds even her usual high acting standards. One other little thing I love about it is the scene where Willow says to Tara that Buffy’s ”really special”. In a season where the Scoobies increasingly drift apart, it’s nice to be reminded of how much deep affection Willow has for her best friend.


  31. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 31, 2011.]

    I believe that there was one amazing quote in this episode that you missed which is hilarious, well written, and great foreshadowing.

    When Faith and Tara are alone, Faith picks up on how Tara is sitting and looking at Willow and has the line:

    “I see Willow isn’t driving stick any more.”


  32. [Note: BackOfTheHearse posted this comment on June 23, 2011.]


    In response to “Didn’t Work: Faith reverted back to ‘This Year’s Girl’ when she went to LA.””

    Faith’s role on Angel was a much more violent version than we’d seen from her before. She’s still dealing with the emotions she felt whilst in Buffy’s body, and her attempt to “return to form”, so to speak, is much more extreme than even she expected. She’s overcompensating in trying to find out who she really is.


  33. [Note: Javier Cerda posted this comment on July 26, 2011.]

    Hi! great review! But there’s something that I catch’d up in a different way that may be of some discussion: In the after-sex-with-Riley scene, when she goes of the bed and says “Who are you? What do you want from h-her?”, I had the feeling that her reaction wasn’t from “feelin’ the love”, but from the Willow and Tara spell. I thought that somehow trought the spell, Willow actually got into Buffy’s body and the dialoge is with her, not Riley. After that scene is when Willow KNOWNS that she is Faith, not Buffy.

    Anyway, that’s the only thing that made me wonder. Excellent reviews, again!. Greetings from Chile!


  34. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on April 1, 2012.]

    @Bizon – the spell was definitely a metaphor for sex NOT drugs. Joss has said so himself many times. He was forced to use magic and spells as metaphors for sex between the girls because back in 2000, lesbian relationships were NOT the cultural norm on television. In fact, the Willow/Tara relationship set the stage for what is now normal today. Maya/Emily on Pretty Little Liars, an ABC show (owned by DISNEY of all things) gets away with far more than what the networks allowed Joss to do.

    Research this a bit and you will find interviews with Joss discussing this very subject.


  35. [Note: Ryan O\’Neil posted this comment on May 14, 2012.]

    This is actually more about your review than the episode: did you deliberately refer to Faith “going through the motions” of being Buffy, or was this genuinely just a happy accident?


  36. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 14, 2012.]

    It’s been a while since I originally wrote this review, so I can’t say for sure, but I’m inclined to go with “happy accident.” 😀


  37. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on June 9, 2012.]

    wow, Mike, that IS quite weird; Buffy’s shoulder movement is so like the dancing in OMWF for the final song of Buf’s.

    Then again – so much S6 foreshadowing, (yep, even the shadows! even the clothes!) the whole ep feels like the show kicked up a gear and nobody leaves this one unscathed.

    Willow; hefty piece of magic, distanced from Buffy, got her own thing going on. Buffy isolated from Riley, (who i warmed to finally here) and on and on. Spike’s so messed with by Faith/Buffy here.

    Props to SMG, unbelievable performance, nailed from the first “college and all” – and Dushku’s moment alone with Giles is almost as on the mark. Talking of ASH is comedy gold in this one as is Xander (and i generally ignore him). And the vamp’s line about God; “He gave us this address!” is priceless.

    This is BtVS as good as it gets.

    And did i mention the pretty?


  38. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 13, 2012.]

    John Roberts, I really liked your description of Faith’s journey, and your criticism of the Whedonverse failure to subvert in the Fuffy/Riley sex is really interesting.

    I think with the insights you list here, we can see both how and how much Buffy and the others failed Faith in S3. They failed because she was so different and needed such seemingly different things, but really what Faith needed was just so much more love and understanding than they were ready or able to give at that time in their lives. It’s a tragedy.


  39. [Note: R Martin posted this comment on October 17, 2012.]

    I don’t think it needs a perfect score it is good but definetley not great i think it has something to do with the charcter of Adam he just is’nt all that effective a villian.


  40. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 1, 2013.]

    The P rating is well deserved. You’re a bit harsh R Martin, we don’t see Adam much and for once, his lines actually make sense !

    I very much agree with John Roberts statements and I wish that, in the last episode, they had used the other side: Buffy seeing life through Faith. The loneliness, the lack of connections, the lack of love, the need to be recognized. A scene where Buffy (in Faith) would receive all the hate from the scooby gang, feeling the sense of being rejected would have been great.We never see Buffy regret trying to kill Faith and I’d have liked to watch Buffy struggle with it.

    Yes, Faith had become a psycho killer and she has blame to receive. But she’s been driven to it by many tragedies and only us viewers are able to see it.

    As for the sex scene, I don’t see the “missionary” position as some of you. I see it as the fact that for once, Faith is not in control. She’s let Riley guide her: obviously, she’s experimented in sex affairs but she never made love with affection. And then, Riley puts words on it: I love you. For someone who’s never experienced love (at all), it’s difficult to cope with its basic concept. That’s why she’s overwhelmed and shaky.


  41. [Note: Josh Man posted this comment on September 13, 2013.]

    I would disagree that there isn’t a lasting effect on the series. Faith is an important part of the Buffy-verse and the steps toward her place began in this episode (and more strides were made on Angel).


  42. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on January 14, 2014.]

    Just did a re-watch of this episode and picked up something I hadn’t noticed before: during the last fight in the church, Buffy saves Faith by staking a vampire through the back – in exactly the same way that Faith saved her from Mr. Trick back in “Consequences”. They’re even now.


  43. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 25, 2014.]

    I really don’t think the Scoobies failed Faith. They tried to help her and even tried to include her. But Faith’s ingrained habit of not making connections prevented her from seeing it or accepting it. Buffy, especially, tried to befriend Faith but her constant rejection of Buffy’s efforts led to Buffy giving up. As for Buffy’s attempt to kill Faith, we have to remember that Faith is the one who caused the situation with Angel by poisoning him. In truth, Faith was the instrument of her own almost-death. Angel has a soul and fights for the good guys, so in a way he is an innocent and Buffy fights to protect the innocent.
    The handcuffs Buffy brings makes me think she wasn’t going to kill Faith anyway. That and the fact that she stabs her in the abdomen, not where you stab someone to kill them but to incapacitate them.


  44. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on February 6, 2014.]

    Absolutely amazing acting by both young ladies.

    One of the things I enjoy about the Spike character is that he always listens and answers the question being put to him. In this episode, when Faith tells him why he doesn’t like Buffy, he admits that pretty much covers it.


  45. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on June 29, 2014.]

    This episode had a ton of fun moments. One of my BtVS all time favourites, actually. Excellent acting by Sarah Michelle Gellar — she did Faith’s mannerisms, speech patterns, and even Faith’s accent perfectly. I especially liked the mirror scene. Eliza Dushku also got in some good Buffyisms. I especially liked the thing about Giles being a stevedore during sex.

    The Tara and Willow scene was certainly a metaphor for sex, and it had this really surreal vibe to it. I always enjoyed watching them perform spells together. The Spike and Buffy-sorry, Faith, scene was just mindblowing. Okay, Faith gives ‘talking dirty’ a whole new meaning. It had so much kinky sub-text, something which I did NOT expect seeing on this show the first time around. Also, this scene just goes to show how much chemistry JM and SMG have together, even if the scene was small and quick. Everything involving Faith here was also just gold, you can see her internal conflict here and I really genuinely felt for her in this episode. Unfortunately, it will take her some time and some more bad deeds before she gets to the point of redemption, but I’m glad that she hasn’t completely switched over to the bad side. She still has a conscience.

    I really, really like Riley in this episode. There, I said it. Please don’t throw stones at me. Riley tells Buffy he loves her, and at this point it isn’t far-fetched to know that he meant it. As Mike suggests, sex is not just ‘play’ for Riley. Anyway, it’s interesting how he leaves out the part where he dropped the L-word bomb on Faith a.k.a Buffy that night when talking to Buffy about it at the end. Still, he is just what Buffy needs right now and a really good guy with a big heart at the end of it all. I mean, if he could get Faith to soften up to him…

    Everything else was also fun. The scene where Faith is taking a bath and experimenting on Buffy’s body is so funny. Even the scene where Giles is talking to the police, hilarious. Of course, the last scene was the best. Faith punching Buffy but actually loathing herself is simply her problem in a nutshell. It proves that she is capable of remorse and guilt, but simply suppresses it because she was never taught right from wrong. I mean, as far as we know, she grew up on the streets! Like I said before, I wish we’d gotten more Faith backstory, since she randomly pops up like a bat out of hell in both AtS and BtVS more than a couple of times. Oh, well. P-worthy for sure! Great review as always!


  46. [Note: Joy posted this comment on June 29, 2014.]

    Great review of a great episode! Just some random thoughts and observations:

    After Riley and Faith-as-Buffy make love, Riles tells her he loves her. Faith quickly begins to panic. At first I thought her distress was from having been so abused by men in her past, but Faith is not only afraid, she also seems disoriented. I wonder if this is because at that same moment Willow is poking around in the nether world. Between Riley breaking down her defenses with gentleness and Willow touching the essense of who she really is, Faith comes unglued.

    Then the fight in the church in the end. As Faith sees herself while pummeling Buffy she shouts, “You’re nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You’re nothing! You’re disgusting!”

    This scene reminds me so much of the scene in Dead Things when Buffy beats Spike to a pulp in the alley beside the police station:

    Buffy: You don’t … have a soul! There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can’t feel anything real!

    In both of these scenes the fighting is similar, the lines are similar, and the one doing the pummeling is in an agony of self-loathing. In both cases her words describe herself as much as the person she is hitting.


  47. [Note: YEup posted this comment on February 18, 2015.]

    Ya that’s my take on Faith as well for the Buffy/Faith showdown in Graduation Day. I have no problem with Buffy going after Faith to cure the person that Faith attempted to murder with plenty of malice aforethought. The only somewhat unsettling thing about it to me was part of Buffy’s motivation was vengeance and not just an attempt to cure Angel, but Buffy killing Faith in that instance isn’t murder but justifiable homicide(self-defense). Angel as far as I’m concerned deserves the same consideration as a person and Faith essentially has committed nearly as many evil acts as any number of demons Buffy has dispatched without any hints of of changing ways.

    I also think the Scoobies put forth plenty of good faith efforts to help Faith. I think at this point Faith needs a bit of the speech Jonathon got in Earshot. Faith was just an insecure, closed off, and vindictive person who just didn’t really want or wasn’t able to change certain aspects of herself at this point. She wanted to be able to be Faith and shut everybody out, yet at the same time have everybody praise her endlessly.

    One of Faith’s core issues is lacking an ability to trust and it’s not easy for others to impact somebody with this deficiency. I think the Mayor was able to succeed here because although there were a bunch of vampires helping with his cause, at the point Faith joined forces it seemed very much like a 2 man operation where Faith was the default #2. The Mayor endlessly fawned over her which fed her ego which is what she craved and she didn’t have to compete for attention with anybody else.

    If anybody is to blame it’s the Watcher’s Council or whatever in particular is responsible for activating potential slayers. In addition to the way they captured her at a pivotal time in Faith’s arc, Faith seems like the type of person you would want avoid giving these powers to in the first place at all costs. You can also put blame on her parents or whoever is responsible for neglect or abuse that she may have received growing up to mess her up(that is if it is in fact caused by that).


  48. [Note: Courtney posted this comment on April 30, 2015.]

    I think at the end of the church scene when Buffy looks heartbroken as Faith runs off, is Buffy still feeling what Faith felt when they were switched. She truly realizes how sad and broken Faith is.


  49. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 30, 2015.]

    I think that’s the allusion, yes. Emotions are a physical sensation, and whatever Faith was feeling at that moment Buffy would also feel once reemerging in her own body. It’s something you never see used, yet it makes perfect sense. This subtlety and attention to character detail is almost unmatched by any other medium I’ve experienced, and I love BtVS especially because of this.


  50. [Note: Val posted this comment on July 21, 2015.]

    This episode has The Dollhouse written all over it. It feels like a warm up, like a rough draft to test out that idea (but in a good way). SMG really nailed this one. I wish Eliza got a bit more screen time and more to do.

    On the first watch, I thought it was unfair of Buffy to get so upset about Riley sleeping with “Fuffy.” But on the next go round, I completely get it.


  51. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on July 23, 2015.]

    Season 4 as a whole has some interesting parallels with Dollhouse— secret organization in the bowels of California that disseminates behavioral control technology, big brilliant quasi-robotic beefcake achieves sentience and starts stabbing people, recent recruit goes and stops the threat. Beyond that obvious bit there’s some pretty huge thematic overlap; I redirect you to Mark Field’s take on “Goodbye Iowa”.

    Ironically, S4 of Buffy has a lot of great standalones but sort of botches the central arc, while S1 of Dollhouse has a rock-solid arc that’s botched by the standalones.


  52. [Note: Cotten posted this comment on August 2, 2015.]

    I was just wondering if anybody else wondered if Willow was acting a bit OOC when she and Tara and Spike ran into Buffy at the Bronze? Other then that one time in S3 (iirc) and Buffys´ taunting of Spike in Something Blue she never has been one to run wild…at least on Faiths level. I know that the seperation thing was happing but still. Maybe its just me cuz I do have a dislike for shows that do body-swapping episodes or episodes where the main characters start showing extreme changes in behavior and the other characters not seeing or reacting to it.

    PS: Saying this I will say that this episode is one of the best they made and SMG did an awesome job as Faith.


  53. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on March 22, 2016.]

    The problem is, Faith (in Buffy’s body) is not acting enough out of character to make her friends truly notice. If an episode like this happened in S2, Willow and Xander would know in a heartbeat she wasn’t acting herself (this happens in When She Was Bad). Willow doesn’t notice in S4 because she’s been so busy with Tara etc that she’s drifted away from her friends, to the extent that she’s no longer able to make this sort of snap character judgement. Even Riley doesn’t notice, though he hasn’t known her for years like the others (boyfriend-sense may not have quite kicked in yet). He doesn’t know (yet) how to properly read her moods like all males eventually do.

    I have thoughts on Buffy/Faith that I’ll put in another post. I did find the ‘Patriarchy’ comments amusing…so a girl started out apparently ‘in control’ but got ‘dominated’ into missionary sex and then feels love for the first time? You’d have to be extraordinarily cynical, as well as ignore the great big honking themes with Faith that this scene does in a not particularly subtle manner, to read that into the writing here. Typical of spoiled Western attitudes – we analyse every word, scene and character to the Nth degree searching for things that match our own views of the world. It’s especially silly to use that critique of a show with such good characters that flipped the table on traditional gender roles. In this very season we see someone with a more old-fashioned approach to courtship (Riley) struggle with situations that challenge this approach. It doesn’t make that approach invalid, it just means society is always moving and eventually the traditional background that Riley grew up in will no longer exist.


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