[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: James A. Contner | Aired: 05/02/2000]
Oz returns to Sunnydale (yay, it’s Oz!) to find an oddly conflicted Willow. This is an episode that just had to happen and it’s pulled off pretty well. Tara and Oz meet and Willow has to decide now which way she wants to go: back to Oz or continue with Tara. Since Oz left Sunnydale a bit abruptly back in “Wild at Heart” [4×06] there’s been a lack of closure in his relationship with Willow, and this episode gives us that closure in a pretty satisfying way. It also manages to elevate Willow and Tara’s relationship to a new level. Some other important bits happen as a result of Willow’s conflict, including both Buffy and Riley coming to understand each other’s point of view on demons. This leads to Buffy’s not-so-complete disclosure of her relationship with Angel, which I say qualifies as an elevation in their relationship as well.
It all begins when Willow brings Tara along to a Scooby meeting discussing Adam’s whereabouts. In the middle of this, Oz appears in the doorway and shocks everyone. As soon as Tara hears that it’s Oz she disappointingly says, “Oz…,” and then Buffy looks over Willow’s way with this questioned look on her face. Oz comes in and is very respectful towards Willow, not expecting anything right away. He walks in, politely asks her if they can chat later, and then heads out. I really liked this entire scene and felt Willow’s confusion, like “what…uhhh…right…huh?”
When they get together to ‘chat’ later, Oz takes her outside to show that it’s a full moon, and he’s not a wolf! Go Oz! Willow’s reaction is really interesting though. At first she is absolutely thrilled and hugs him, but as Oz hold her she begins to notice it doesn’t feel quite right anymore. She then backs off a bit and says, “it’s wonderful for you.” Willow isn’t the same person she was when Oz left; a lot has happened including her separation from Buffy and the Scoobies, which coincides with her growing relationship with Tara.
It turns out the reason Oz returned is because he thinks he has his wolfy nature under control now and can give Willow what she needs. Interesting side-note, it just hit me that Spike also left town to better himself for a girl — interesting. After an evening of chatting in which Willow never reveals her feelings towards Tara, Oz feels like he’s got a good shot at hooking up again with her. Tara comes to the door when Willow’s in the bathroom, sees Oz there, and basically runs off. This makes Oz mighty curious for a few seconds but just dismisses the oddness, probably assuming that it’s just Tara’s personality.
I am switching topics to Buffy for a bit because what her and Riley go through is connected to what’s happening with Willow. While patrolling Riley begins expressing his observations of Oz’s return. Buffy says, “The thing is before that, they were doing great. I mean, she was totally dealing with Oz being a werewolf.” Riley responds in a very surprised manner saying “Whoa, wait. Oz is a werewolf, and Willow was dating him!? … You’re kidding me. Gotta say I’m surprised. I didn’t think Willow was that kind of girl … Into dangerous guys. She seems smarter than that.” These comments obviously tick Buffy off, because she knows that she’s the kind of girl who gravitates towards “bad boys” and Riley’s comments likely rub off as an indirect insult of her relationship with Angel, which Riley doesn’t even know about yet. Buffy’s response supports this theory, “Yeah, well love isn’t logical, Riley. It’s not like you can be Mister Joe Sensible about it all the time. God knows I haven’t been.”
I can’t help but be reminded of Spike’s speech in “Lover’s Walk” [3×08] , “Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood, blood screaming inside you to work its will.” This issue between Buffy and Riley brings out some very interesting discussion about the nature of demons. Buffy is so used to dealing with nicer demons that she’s forgotten what it’s like for someone finding it out for the first time. She was surprised when she initially found out that a vampire can be good in “Angel” [1×07] . It’s safe to say she was ‘thrown,’ which is a word that is used in this episode.
The next morning Buffy and Riley wake up (in his bed) together and she is angry at all things Riley because of his comment the previous night. This squabble feels very realistic to how a real couple would interact. Riley says, “Okay, I’m up less than a minute, and somehow I’ve managed to piss you off.” Buffy tries to tell him that it isn’t as simple as “Demons bad, people good.” She even goes as far as saying “It’s just…different with different demons. There are creatures – vampires, for example — that aren’t evil at all.” This is obviously a reference to Angel and is further evidence she was reminded of Angel when Riley made the comment about Willow.
All of this discussion is a wonderful lead-in to when Buffy finds out Willow is in love with Tara. Buffy walks into her dorm to find Willow sitting on her bed (which is a rarity these days). When asked by Willow if she’s okay, Buffy doesn’t want to chat and would rather redirect the conversation to Oz’s return. In previous years Buffy was much more open with Willow — things have definitely changed. Anyway, Willow is trying to explain to a confused Buffy why the situation is ‘complicated.’ When Buffy still isn’t “getting it,” she sighs and says, “It’s complicated…because of Tara.” Buffy amusingly responds with “You mean Tara has a crush on Oz?…No…” It’s at this point when it finally sinks in.
The reactions Buffy has is not surprising in the slightest. If my best friend announced he was seriously gay, I’d definitely back up a few steps myself. For one, it’s simply a huge surprise. Additionally, I’d be concerned he thought I was hot in some way, which honestly would be a bit disturbing to me because I’m not homosexual. So when Buffy reacts exactly like I would, I can definitely understand what she’s feeling. After the initial shock/confusion and backing away has passed, though, Buffy is more understanding, because she knows Willow is still her best friend.
The problem now is that Willow is placed in an impossible situation of having to choose between Oz, who she still greatly cares about, and Tara, who is naturally trying to be supportive but is very obvious in showing how she feels. Willow says, “I don’t wanna hurt anyone, Buffy.” Buffy’s response is the hard truth: “No matter what, somebody’s gonna get hurt. And the important thing is, you just have to be honest, or it’s gonna be a lot worse.” This all leads to the Oz/Tara confrontation scene in the hallway. Oz smells Willow’s sweater on Tara and finds out about their relationship even though Tara tries to keep out of everything. This entire situation gets Oz so flustered he starts to somehow transform into the wolf (is this a residual side-effect of repressing the wolf during the nights?), chases Tara, then gets tagged by Riley and the Initiative because they think he’s the demon that tore apart their group earlier in the episode.
When getting very impatient waiting for confirmation about whether or not Oz was the demon that did the damage, Riley just pulls out his gun and decides to end it. At the exact time he does that Oz morphs back into a human and shocks the crap out of Riley, much like Buffy was shocked about Willow’s confession. This, of course, leads to Riley throwing away his career with the Initiative to help Oz escape, which fails. Quick note: the Initiative is still annoying me and have become a plot device rather than an institution for interesting discussion, and this hurts all episodes they are in, including this one, a bit. Anyway, I like how when Buffy frees Riley from the brig he expresses a moment’s concern that if he leaves now he won’t be able to come back. Buffy’s resulting static expression of “yeah, duh, what are you waiting for…” is awesome.
Both Buffy and Riley’s separate experiences after having their initial fight have shaped them to be more open about the other partner’s perspective. The way the Willow/Oz/Tara situation affects Buffy and Riley is simply brilliant writing. The two of them are hanging out at the ruins of Sunnydale High after their actions against the Initiative, when Riley admits he was being a bigot about the Oz situation. Buffy, though, in light of being ‘thrown’ herself by Willow’s ‘change’ sees now that Riley was simply ‘thrown’ by the idea of good demons — that the world they live in is one with shades of gray, especially when love is involved. In light of this new level of understanding, Buffy chooses this moment to begin telling Riley about her relationship with Angel. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful characterization! I love it!
While all of this is happening, Adam pays a visit to Spike. A result of this communication is Spike offering help to Buffy because he thinks Adam will remove his chip. Adam also opens the doors into the Initiative for the Scoobies, which is pretty cool. The bad guy’s helping the good guys without the good guys knowing it because it’s all part of a larger scheme. Anyway, you’ve got to feel sad for Oz in this episode, because he came all the way back to Sunnydale hoping to reconnect with the girl he loves, only to find out that he has the same problem as when he left and that his girl now loves another girl. Oz makes it clear that he’s not terribly at peace with the fact that Willow’s in love with a girl now. This becomes clear when she says “I can’t explain it” and Oz replies, “It may be safer for both of us if you don’t.”
This episode gives much better closure to their relationship than what we got in “Wild at Heart” [4×06] . The final scene between Willow and Tara was not only incredibly sweet, but very suggestive as well. Overall, this episode is extremely solid. It gives closure to the Willow/Oz relationship and beautifully sets up the Willow/Tara one. At the same time, a whole new level of trust and openness is gained between Buffy and Riley, who learn from the Willow/Tara/Oz situation. Great stuff!
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ First mention of Miss Kitty Fantastico. I’m so happy they kept that name! 😀
+ Parts of Adam was a boy scout. haha.
– Giles leaving his door open, again!
– There’s no way Anya and Giles, or Willow for that matter, could hack into the Initiative (without the use of magic).
* Riley says, “we’ve been busy at the Initiative. Our squads are pulling a lot more captures. We got demons coming out our ears.” This shows that Adam’s already beginning to implement his plan to create a massacre inside the Initiative.