[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Jane Espenson | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 04/04/2000]
This is an occasionally fun, but nearly completely inconsequential episode that simply doesn’t have a lot else going for it. Why isn’t this an arc episode anyway? This just tells me that the writers probably knew they didn’t have much of anything to do with Adam and the Initiative at this point. Jonathan somehow manages to alter all of reality so that he’s the big hero that everyone loves. Buffy and Riley mend their wounds over the Faith issue and Jonathan learns a couple lessons. That’s about all that happens. It’s also got the whole James Bond-type music going for it. The demon that was summoned as a side-effect to Jonathan’s spell is incredibly hokey, annoying, and certainly not the sum of everyone’s worst nightmares. I’m not a big fan of this episode, but I admit there’s some worthwhile stuff mixed in here.
I really enjoyed the altered opening credits along with how, right from the beginning of the episode, everything is already changed. Being thrown into something while it’s happening is a technique I’m quite fond of, the best example of which I’ve seen used is in the movie Dark City. Early on it is obvious that this Buffy has not gone through nearly as much as the Buffy in the real reality. Here she dresses in a way that makes her look frivolous and we can see she doesn’t have a lot of confidence because, as Giles puts it, “she’s never stood alone against something like this before.” This is what Buffy would be like at this age had she not killed the Master, defeated Angelus, fought Faith, and dealt with all the daily fighting she’s had to endure mostly by herself. In this reality, Jonathan did all that. This means that Buffy never trained, got little fighting practice, and didn’t have to go through all that pain, which made her able to take more both physically and emotionally.
Buffy’s conversations with Riley reveal a lot more. When she’s with him, she’s very much like the Buffy in the real reality. Certain characteristics, such as caring for and loving (and I mean this not in the romantic way) others, are a part of who Buffy is, regardless of memory. Her instincts are still extremely sharp as well. While borderline frivolous, we can still see that there’s some depth to Buffy. Riley tells her, “If they’d just put a little trust in me I know I could get the job done.” She replies, “I’ve felt that way my entire life.” This Buffy is untrained, underdeveloped, and just itching to blossom but is always superceded by Jonathan who is able to do everything better. That makes it all the much warmer when Riley sticks up for and supports Buffy when no one else will after she questions the perfectness of Jonathan.
That brings us to Jonathan who is, as Buffy puts it, “trying to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once.” He did that in “Earshot” [3×18] when he was going to commit suicide, and he’s definitely done it again here. At the end Buffy tells him that “things are complicated. They take time and work.” Through this fantasy Jonathan gets everything he wants. His album addresses his lack of popularity, the slaying addresses his lack of power and self confidence, the Swedish girls address his lack of a love life, and the Scoobies address his lack of companionship. While obviously envious of Buffy, he still very much likes her and who she is. That’s why when he gives her good advice on her relationship with Riley, it’s completely genuine. What’s also genuine is when he decides to help Buffy fight the demon, even though it means he will lose his fantasy. He does something very similar in “Seeing Red” [6×19] when he tells her how to drain Warren of his power, even though it means he’ll likely end up in prison for what he’s been a part of. This is something that is a part of who Jonathan is, and a good something at that. He should be, at the very least, proud of that.
One last thing to point out is the second scene between Buffy and Spike (when only Jonathan is with her). Spike says, as he caresses her hair, “Someday sweet slayer. I would love to take you on. See you face the evil alone for once.” Spike seems a bit infatuated with her already, and Buffy doesn’t do anything to deter him from continuing. Anyway, this episode has some humor, a decent amount of cheese, and a little bit of character insight. Overall, though, it’s simply mediocre.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Willow and Tara sticking Jonathan pictures to their wall.
+ Jonathan finding a document that reveals Adam’s power supply. Plus, he’s so amusingly short (sorry Danny)!
+ Buffy betting on Anya should a fist fight between her and Xander break out.
+ Anya being obvious that looking at Jonathan makes her want to have sex.
+ Adam being aware that everything’s been altered. Cool.
+ All the Jonathan props, especially the Jonathan.com and basketball posters.
+ Riley saying “Did anyone else feel way too tall? I felt way too tall.”
– Anya doesn’t react in any way to Xander using the word “bunny.”
– The demon’s attack of Tara is painfully hokey.
* While Jonathan is done with the “big gestures,” he’s found a new hobby in magic, which will play a huge role in S6.