Buffy 5×12: Checkpoint

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie | Director: Nick Marck | Aired: 01/23/2001]

This is a wonderfully pleasant episode and is Buffy‘s first serious take on the subject of power, which of course is a major theme of S7. Aside from a couple small isssues, this is solid material that both offers a bit to think about as well as being very entertaining. Even with major appearances from the Watcher’s Council and Glory, “Checkpoint” stays focused on Buffy and how she takes another fine step into adulthood while discovering more about her power as a Slayer which, of course, is a big theme of the season. I really love how she’s portrayed as still being childish in many ways (“They’re gonna expect me to… to be like a Slayer and, and know stuff, but I’m just me and I don’t know anything, and they’re gonna go away, and they’re not gonna tell me how to fight Glory, and I’m not gonna be able to protect Dawn.”) but when push comes to shove she steps up on her own and acts as an adult that is extremely formiddable and, dare I say, powerful (“I have it. They don’t. This bothers them.”).

As Buffy will come to fully realize in S7, “It’s about power. Who’s got it. Who knows how to use it” (“Lessons” [7×01] ). “Checkpoint” begins the extent of that knowledge and gets Buffy to begin that level of understanding in some clever ways. Throughout the episode we’re shown different shades of how power can be used to accomplish things. One side of the coin is the Watchers Council who, as Buffy finds out thanks to Giles, use their political power to get things done the way they want it done. They storm in with their supreme cockiness, shoe away customers, and make their authority known. The review is obviously very reminiscent of the test in “Helpless” [3×12] . The other side of the coin is Glory, who uses her sheer physical power to force what she wants, displaying extreme cockiness in her power over “Mousey.” Both of these entities attempt to use their respective powers to threaten Buffy into getting what they want. They’re also both accustomed to getting what they want.

At first the intimidation from both sides is quite effective against Buffy. The Council has her doubting her ability to impress them in the odd way they want things done, and Glory has Buffy just plain scared–enough to drop her mom and sister off at Spike’s crypt, a huge change in their relationship which Spike immediately points out and a bit later I will too. After the Knights come into the picture as well, it pushes Buffy to acknowledge something that just never occurred to her before: she actually has power over them. If she didn’t, they wouldn’t even need to use their powers. So Buffy fights back which culminates in a rousing conclusion in which she utterly defies the Council, and then flips the coin back onto them. There is more writing excellence at work here.

Some specific examples of these displays of power include Glory telling Buffy, “If I wanted to fight, you could tell with the being dead already” along with Quentin’s speech about Buffy’s ‘place.’ Glory is verbally expressing her power over Buffy while Quentin essentially tells Buffy that she’s disposable but the Council always remains–they have the power. It’s obvious here how Giles feels. He’s more attached to Buffy now that he’s ever been, which makes sense based on how close they’ve been all season due to the training and the shared secret about Dawn. He really sticks up for her until the council speaks of what they’re capable of doing. In “Helpless” [3×12] Giles ultimately decided to go against the Council’s test, standing up for Buffy even though it costed him his job. The Council also recognizes his attachment to Buffy and uses that piece of information to threaten Buffy into cooperating. Buffy tells the Watchers “you don’t have that kind of power.” They are quick to respond, “we do, and a great deal more.” In the training room Buffy, like usual, has to do things her own way so she fails the Council’s test. The test, however, has no practical purpose, hence Giles’ comment, “I’ve trained her to win.”

On an entertainingly different note I was very entertained by Buffy’s school endeavors. Yawning in class and tapping her pencil out of boredom. This just reminds me of how glad I am I’m done with the game that is academia. Also amusing is Buffy suggesting that Rasputin might have been a vampire or a demon (haha). That evening we see Buffy taking out her academic frustrations on the demon world, which is very happily lovely, classic Buffy. The “interviews” were all also extremely entertaining. Everyone is trying way too hard to not make Buffy look bad. I particularly enjoyed Lydia getting all flustered over meeting Spike in person.

While talking about Spike, it’s important to recognize some important signs that pop up here. Buffy tells Spike she doesn’t need a boyfriend. Which, by the way, good for her! But Spike doesn’t quit that easily and snipes back, “don’t need, or can’t keep.” He says, “Maybe that’s your problem, maybe you push ’em away. Or is it the other? Maybe you cling too much. Or maybe… your beauty’s fading. The stress of slaying, aging you prematurely. Things not as high, not as firm … Or maybe you just don’t hold their interest.” All of Spike’s rambling does eventually get Buffy thinking. After her encounter with Glory, Buffy still goes to Spike to protect Joyce and Dawn, even after their earlier oral jabs. Spike’s response is hilarious, “well there’s a boatload of manly responsibility flying out of nowhere.” Putting aside the amusement, this also proves that Spike is just as much aware of how much trust Buffy’s putting in him as we, the audience, are. This marks an important change in the relationship between Buffy and Spike. Despite her apparent disgust of him, when it comes down to it she does now trust him with the things that matter most to her, and that says a lot.

On the pure plot front not much happens in this episode, although we do get the Knights of Byzantium. The Knights add an extra layer to the season’s plot arc, but unfortunately the writers neglected to use them until “Spiral” [5×20] which, honestly, was way too little, way too late. Their use here, though, is mysterious and effective in adding yet another thing Buffy has to worry about.

After all Buffy’s been through by the end of the episode, she lays it on the Watchers and proves to them that she has the power that matters. Here’s the goods: “You guys didn’t come all the way from England to determine whether or not I was good enough to be let back in. You came to beg me to let you back in. To give your jobs, your lives some semblance of meaning … You’re Watchers. Without a Slayer, you’re pretty much just watchin’ Masterpiece Theater. You can’t stop Glory. You can’t do anything with the information you have except maybe publish it in the Everyone Thinks We’re Insane-O’s Home Journal. So here’s how it’s gonna work. You’re gonna tell me everything you know. Then you’re gonna go away. You’ll contact me if and when you have any further information about Glory.” After Quentin agrees to Buffy terms, she then sits down at Quentin’s level and is ready to talk with him. This initiative shows great growth in Buffy’s character and ability as a leader capable of handling things completely on her own.

To sum matters up, I really enjoyed “Checkpoint” and found that is has quite a bit of lasting value. It’s mix of humor and challenging character growth is a cut above the rest, which isn’t something I say lightly when it comes to episodes of this show. Aside from a couple minor issues and the fact that even though this episode is important, it really doesn’t feel all that important, “Checkpoint” nails all the right chords.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy getting freaked out over the news of the Council visiting.
+ Ben shutting Jinx and Glory down.
+ Glory wants Ben to get the key for her. She still doesn’t want to have to do it herself. For the first time since “No Place Like Home” [5×05] we see her get fed up with waiting and take some action.
+ Spike and Joyce sharing some more amusing moments together. Wonderful!
+ Buffy’s confident Quentin will tell her that Glory is something she’s familiar with. QUENTIN: “She’s a god.” BUFFY: “Oh.”

– What’s with Buffy always having to stand up in class? I never stood up on the rare occasion I’d offer an answer.
– Why do the Watchers even do all this crazy ####? Unfortunately the answers to that question are never explored in a meaningful way.




63 thoughts on “Buffy 5×12: Checkpoint”

  1. [Note: cayayofm posted this comment on December 22, 2006.]

    A very nice review, it has been a while. I very much agree. The episode does not do a lot for the plot, but there are a few interesting things going on. One of the things that I most agree is with the Knights of Byzantium point. They are nicely introduced here, to be completly forgotten until ‘Spiral’, in wich by then they end up looking just like a plot device for the episode, since they were never explored.

    Hope to see reviews more often. Also agree that you shoukldwait until you finish with the show and later review season 8.


  2. [Note: Rick posted this comment on December 22, 2006.]

    Oddly enough, I was always confused about that scene in which Buffy fights Phillip; did she impress or disappoint Quentin. Yes the dummy got killed very quickly which = bad. But remember the lecture about how “getting the best of Phillip will take….and strenght and STAMINA will win the race.” Well, Buffy, once doing things her way, dispatched of him effortlessly. To make matters worse, Quentin’s “That’s quite alright, I don’t think we need to see any more physical tests” is also ambiguous (meaning “you clearly suck” or “obviously you’re not weak.”) Please help me decide. I still cant tell!!!


  3. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on December 23, 2006.]

    On the pure plot front not much happens in this episode, although we do get the Knights of Byzantium. The Knights add an extra layer to the season’s plot arc, but unfortunately the writers neglected to use them until Spiral (5×20).

    I agree that they were perhaps a layer too much, and neglected for that reason, but I still think when it came to Spiral they were effective in their purpose, to show what a deadly situation Buffy had got into. They also brought up seriously interesting moral ideas into the episode, so although I’d say they were too little, they weren’t too late.


  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 23, 2006.]

    A couple lines in particular aside, I felt the Knights in “Spiral” came across as obscenely hokey and unrealistic. That’s one of my major problems with the episode. I’ll, of course, address this in detail in my upcoming review.

    Btw, the comment system should still be working just fine. I did a test comment and it went through perfectly. I’d suggest giving it another try. If you still have an issue, let me know.


  5. [Note: Fallen posted this comment on December 23, 2006.]

    I dunno, I think they sold it as fanatics pretty well. Few lines were a bit bleh, but none that really made them stand out as unrealistic.


  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 24, 2006.]

    Riding horses on a California highway chasing after a winnebago? Umm….remotely believeable? I say not. And when that one dying knight reaches his hand out saying “The Beaast…argh!” it’s just too much for me. I’d thought BtVS was past that level of bad corniness. The episode has its merit, particularly in some subtle but important character interaction, but overall it left me fairly unimpressed.


  7. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on December 24, 2006.]

    Can you honestly say a lot of what Buffy does is remotely believable? It’s the characterisation that’s realistic, not the plots. The scene on the highway was fantastic, and epitomised how Buffy could work so well contrasting the ridiculous with the everyday – the Knights are known fanatics, and seem to cling to tradition, but that doesn’t stop them being a dangerous force. Half the villains in season five don’t exactly move with the times. The only thing which is a little unrealistic was for Buffy to get the Winnebago in the first place, but I’d attribute this to panicked reasoning. It would have been far more sensible for them to have split up into two cars.

    And the Knight’s line? Sure, it wasn’t brilliant, but in all honesty it was far more subtle than you were putting it. He didn’t go “argh”, or at least not audible. He might have grunted. But if you have a problem with slightly unrefined lines like this then I’m surprised you don’t have a problem with Glory – she spouts twice as corny dialogue half the time.

    As for character interaction, apart from the great action scenes Spiral excells in them. The ideas running through it are subtle, but they are impressive, and the scenes with Ben are excellent, in my opinion.


  8. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 24, 2006.]

    The Winnebago was just over the top imo. As I mentioned in my previous post, the ep does have its merits, so I’m not trying to completely trash it. Overall, though, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with it, at least from the perspective of not looking at it extremely closely, review-wise.


  9. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on December 24, 2006.]

    “Oddly enough, I was always confused about that scene in which Buffy fights Phillip; did she impress or disappoint Quentin. Yes the dummy got killed very quickly which = bad. But remember the lecture about how “getting the best of Phillip will take….and strenght and STAMINA will win the race.” Well, Buffy, once doing things her way, dispatched of him effortlessly. To make matters worse, Quentin’s “That’s quite alright, I don’t think we need to see any more physical tests” is also ambiguous (meaning “you clearly suck” or “obviously you’re not weak.”) Please help me decide. I still cant tell!!!”

    Probably both – knowing Travers, he probaby hadn’t made his mind up yet.


  10. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on December 24, 2006.]

    On the pure plot front not much happens in this episode, although we do get the Knights of Byzantium. The Knights add an extra layer to the season’s plot arc, but unfortunately the writers neglected to use them until Spiral (5×20).

    I agree that they were perhaps a layer too much, and neglected for that reason, but I still think when it came to Spiral they were effective in their purpose, to show what a deadly situation Buffy had got into. They also brought up seriously interesting moral ideas into the episode, so although I’d say they were too little, they weren’t too late.


  11. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on December 26, 2006.]

    There are certain storylines, where I know how I react, no matter what. At “Innocence” I’m close to tears (AKA crying) from “I thought you were a pro” until Buffy’s dream as I’m in the break-up scene of “The Prom”, when Buffy tells Willow “I can’t breathe”. The end of Becoming and The Gift keep me breathless, as does the entire episode of “The Body”. When Buffy tells Giles, what happened in “Two To Go” I laugh as hard as does Giles. I’m screaming of joy at Giles’s entry in “Villains”.

    And the sword fight on the Winnebago makes me pee my pants. I get excited just thinking about it. It’s my top-fight scene of the Buffyverse.

    Plus: “You know, it’s your fault for saying that.”


  12. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on February 19, 2007.]

    On the DVD you can read the script for this episode and unfortunaltly some very funny dialogue had to be cut out. Spike and Buffy’s conversation when she drops off Joyce and Dawn is longer but the best bit is the extended dialogue between Lydia and Spike in his crypt – what a shame it didn’t make the final cut! well worth reading.LibMax


  13. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 26, 2007.]

    Rick regarding the Phillip battle and MikeJer regarding why the Watchers do all this crazy shit: I think you may have missed some of the point about Buffy’s “examination,” namely that it’s BS. They weren’t really testing her at all – they were just putting her on the defensive, trying to make her feel small and stupid so she’d let them control her.

    The Phillip-dummy fight is a perfect case in point. Notice how unrealistic and needlessly complicated it is. That way, even if she defeats Phillip handily without taking out the dummy in the process, she can still “fail” by not executing the right maneuvers in the right order (through not understanding Japanese). If you want to set up a combat test which Buffy is guaranteed to fail, can you think of a better way to do it?


  14. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 29, 2007.]

    Despite her apparent disgust of him, when it comes down to it she does now trust him with the things that matter most to her, and that says a lot.

    Since when can she trust him? Since he tried to get his chip out and bite her or since doing his best to ruin her and Riley’s relationship and then rubbing it in her face?

    Anyways, I love this ep, she’s got the coucil in check and she manages to make the entire gang proud of her and the part they play in it. Definiately A material 🙂


  15. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 12, 2007.]

    Love the ep. I love the ending, especially, with Buffy standing up to the Council.

    I tend to think that Buffy left her mom and Dawn with Spike out of necessity. He IS the strongest person she knows. Plus, he’s chipped so she knows he can’t hurt them. Also, she knows that HE knows that she’ll stake him if anything happens to them. Thankfully, Spike rises to the occasion with only a few snide remarks.


  16. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 12, 2007.]

    Oh, another thing. Professors in the Buffyverse seem quite mean. I’ve never ever seen a professor act like that towards a student. A similar thing happened in The Freshman that threw me for a loop. Not too mention the whole Prof Walsh being an evil scientist thing. I think the writers had some college issues.


  17. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 26, 2007.]

    This is definitively A plus material. This is an amazing episode and my favorite scene of all is when Buffy stands up to the Council. Really amazing.


  18. [Note: Toby posted this comment on July 29, 2008.]

    I don’t know what american university is like but here in Australia, lecturers would NEVER belittle their students – no matter how rash their theories or decisions were.

    I don’t know if Joss went to University or even if American universities are much more brutal in the teaching sense than they are here (kinda mellow here, lecturers and tutors treat you more like equals) but in the entire series of Buffy, THIS is the one thing that pisses me off the most.

    Apart form that this episode is amusing, entertaining but certainly contains one of my favourite Buffy moments when she stands up to the Watcher’s Council and pretty much says “This is how it’s going to be…” and lays down the law! I feel like cheering with the rest of the Scoobies at the end of her speech.

    Great review again.


  19. [Note: bigmoneygrip posted this comment on November 23, 2008.]

    Spike and Joyce both “Passions” fans – love it!

    Nice continuity – Xander’s wrist still bandaged

    Buffy bitch slapping the council, then bitch slapping them again about Xander


  20. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 11, 2009.]

    Not the greatest episode, but a damned good one. Loved the bonding between Spike and Joyce; I always look foreward to seeing any scenes with those two.

    Loved the Willow/Tara questioning scene where their answers about their relationship evolve from “Just friends” to “Lesbian gay-type lovers,” until they’re reminded that the Council meant their relationship with Buffy. “Um, just good friends.”

    Almost slicing off Nigel’s nose “I’m fairly certain I said no interruptions.”

    CoughRetroactiveCough. Gotta love that!

    “The ‘boy’ has clocked more field time than all of you combined”

    The Knights were a problem for me. I know Sunnydale had a tendency to obliviousness, but guys running around in chain mail and medieval helmets gets absolutely no attention? Come on!


  21. [Note: Ida posted this comment on August 21, 2009.]

    I would have rated this higher.

    And I loove the Willow and Tara lesbian talk to the watcher during the interview! Haha!


  22. [Note: Chris posted this comment on August 30, 2009.]

    I don’t have a problem with the knights and I love the combination of comedy in this episode with plot advancement aswell.
    Interviews =comedy gold
    Glory at buffy’s = scary gold
    Knight fight = good fight scene
    End speech = Pure awesomeness

    I might have even put this episode as perfect.

    “willow’s a demon”


  23. [Note: Alan posted this comment on January 14, 2010.]

    As for the lecturer belittling Buffy, I went to uni in Melbourne and had that happened to me a few times. Once I yawned in a lecture and after that the professor — actually the head of the department — called on me several times to answer a question, obviously hoping to humiliate me. Fortunately, despite appearances, I had been paying attention, which pissed him off even more.

    What seemed unlikely to me was the Watchers interviewing Spike. Surely they would insist on dusting him — and Spike would have thought so too, so he was pretty trusting to put himself at their mercy.


  24. [Note: Luz posted this comment on February 14, 2010.]

    What about Spike’s line, when interviewed by the council: “See, the poor little twig can’t keep a man. Gets her all down. Few more disappointments, she’ll be cryin’ on my shoulder, MARK MY WORDS(!).”

    that has to be foreshadowing! (well not literally cryin on his shoulder but still!)


  25. [Note: Beth posted this comment on May 18, 2010.]

    This episode is entertaining in every way – humor, characterization, moving speech, etc. I love how they incorporated the different council members (side note: when I see Lydia now I can’t help but think of her on Veronica Mars). Buffy’s physical test was perfect – her flustering, and then taking matters into her own hands (but still “failing”) – which leads into her taking all her power back later. Glory’s visit to Buffy’s house was tense, but with humor, too.

    I will also take issue with the depiction of professors, as some have mentioned. I never really experienced professors that treated students that way, unless they were being incredibly rude.


  26. [Note: J Bedford posted this comment on July 23, 2010.]

    Rewatching Buffy again after a few years.

    Would just like to point out that I think you missed an important point in the conclusion to your review by not mentioning Travers’ ‘She’s not a demon. She’s a God’ after Buffy talks him down. Although this was in your quotes, I think that as well as being a nice line and a big moment on which to end the episode, his reply does go some way towards putting her back in her place. Yes, they do need her, because without a slayer they’re just instructors without anybody to instruct. On the flip side, however, the resources and knowledge they possess is something she’d be better off with. She may not want a tradition-bound institution telling her what to do, but she’d have been better off finding some sort of accomodation with them rathering than severing all ties except in times of dire need, such as this point in season 5 or later on in season 7. (In the series’ extended metaphor of growing up, it’d be like learning how to be independent from your parents, but making the mistake of assuming you don’t still need them for help and support).


  27. [Note: sarah posted this comment on August 20, 2010.]

    Random question: Did you others also mention that the woman from the council who took part in interviewing Spike seemed to be a little bit too attracted by him?


  28. [Note: ShellRoth posted this comment on August 20, 2010.]

    Sarah- I believe that she was totally obsessed with Spike (not unlike some of us, lol), although it was an academic obsession and not necessarily a sexual attraction. When you write a thesis on any subject you basically live, eat and breathe that particular subject for years. So here she is, face-to-face with the guy she has been studying and writing about in great depth- no wonder she’s flustered.


  29. [Note: David posted this comment on September 7, 2010.]

    One of the fifth season’s best episodes. Buffy standing up to the council was amazing, but it was her reaction to Quentin’s revelation about Glory that is just priceless:


    Best ending to an episode ever!


  30. [Note: Aaron posted this comment on January 18, 2011.]

    Addition to minor pros: Giles sensing the advantage and taking it with his cough-speak “retroactive” when Buffy dictated that he was to be reinstated with full salary.


  31. [Note: BB posted this comment on May 11, 2011.]

    That speech at the end always makes me cringe – although the the things she said in this one were all important and interesting. I think it’s the motivational music and the ott cheering that you see in cheezy sports movies when the underdog wins (maybe this is how Americans act in real life?).

    Other than that, I found this is an entertaining episode with a good balance of comedy, mystery and all that other good stuff from Whedon’s head.

    Oh, and I LOVE Glory! I’ve never seen a more original villian. The character could have been really ott and cheezy (I hate cheeze) but she’s believable as a real threat to Buffy (esp. in this episode – that sudden “I think I’m gonna kill her” is very creepy). Those writers have got some balls!


  32. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 18, 2011.]

    Overall this is definately an episode I enjoy to watch again, however many times I’ve watched the whole series through. It’s got a good balance of humour and gives us a great feel of how frustrating and overwhelming Buffy’s life is getting for her, only to end up telling us what Buffy has been starting to wonder: that she probably doesn’t stand a chance up against Glory. I can totally empathise with Buffy from this episode, and respect her for taking back control of her life at least as much as she can.

    My only real problems are the knights of hack and slash; although the fight was quite fun I felt the knight Buffy lets go’s acting is bad and that we could have done with a little more info about them. And the big cheesy cheer after Buffy’s speech is too OTT for my liking. Not quite an amazing episode but good review and I agree the episode is deserving of it’s ‘A-‘.


  33. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 22, 2011.]

    The ‘big cheesy cheer’ is to my mind completely plausible after a speech that awesome from a friend of yours has crushed a bunch of nasty arrogant sods. Perhaps it’s not so likely from, say, Giles, but as Lydia points out, Buffy and her friends are not yet Giles’s age.


  34. [Note: amberpoochie posted this comment on January 7, 2012.]

    I love this episode and would gladly watch it over and over. The interviews with the Scoodies…. very very funny. I love how she is starting to see Spike as an asset and someone whom she can rely on. Her wonderful speech at the end is awesome and shows Buffy at her amazing best.

    Loved it!


  35. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on April 18, 2012.]

    I loved the big cheer from Buffy’s friends and cheered right along with them. Moments like that are so rare in BTVS and so when we do get them, they are ALWAYS earned and deserved. It didn’t feel corny at all to me. It was a moment of pure happiness in a season full of misery and the characters and the audience alike needed it. I say well done writers. You knocked this one out of the park.


  36. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on December 10, 2012.]

    What exactly was it about Buffy’s speech that made the Council change their minds? Buffy basically called out what they were doing, gave them a bunch of orders, and demanded the information about Glory. Was it that she convinced them no matter how much threatening they did, she wasn’t going to be controlled?The situation hadn’t changed. The Council still had leverage of both the Glory information and taking Giles out of the picture. Yet they gave it up because Buffy realized it was a power play?I would have been more convinced by a “Glory is the enemy, I need this information to destroy here, why are we fighting each other?” speech.


  37. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on December 10, 2012.]

    The way I see it, the council had -no- leverage whatsoever. Glory was a threat to the entire world and they had nothing to fight her with. Just the slayer. Not helping her would be utter folly.However, they tried to bluff Buffy into re-entering the fold and accepting their strictures. After all, in many cases authority only exists because it is perceived to exist, irrespective of whether it can actually be enforced.Buffy’s speech (and sword-throwing) demonstrated to the council that their bluff had failed and Buffy was not going to accept their threats. At this point Travers could either make good on his threats and leave Buffy to her own devices and deprive her of her watcher, or he could give her the information she wanted and hope for the best. (Wherein “best” may well be “hope the Slayer and Glory kill eachother so we can try again with the next one.)The council is power-hungry and cares little for the lives of its slayers, but it’s not that corrupt. So they gave in to Buffy’s demands.


  38. [Note: Alex posted this comment on December 11, 2012.]

    I agree with Iguana, but I’m also with J Bedford (#29) on this one. I see Quentin’s revelation at the end of the episode as the final trump card he’s been keeping up his sleeve. Buffy’s all puffed up with confidence and ready to fight yet another ‘demon’ and then Quentin somewhat knocks her down by revealing that actually Glory’s something far powerful than anything she’s ever faced before, and she can’t just assume that she’s going to win this one.I see this moment as then council saying ‘OK, we’ve agreed to your demands… but you still need us, because there are still things out there that you can’t hope to understand’. Buffy’s rather deflated little ‘oh’ at the end of the episode says to me that she’s heard that message loud and clear.It’s a very Whedon move to put such an ‘Oh, shit’ moment right after the big empowering kick-ass speech that Buffy gives.


  39. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 11, 2012.]

    I’ve always been had a sort of neutral approach to the character of Quentin. He is hard and treats Buffy, any slayer as a tool. He said himself, the council remains and the slayer changes. An instrument to fight the forces of darkness. This is different to that of Giles, who treats Buffy with care and love. Quentin believes that his approach is the best to create strong and good watchers. His hardness can lead to people hating the character but his willpower and leadership skills, in running the council (no matter how hard handed it is) especially seen before its blown up in season 7 is i consider a valuable trait. I have the view that although different outcomes Maggie Walsh and Quentin may have seen eye to eye in a few things, seeing the mission a head of an individual. I also ponder as to whether Buffy and Giles in Season 7 would share his view that the mission matters. Things need to be done regardless? Giles in particular because he developed some of Quentin’s ruthless characteristics; conspiring to kill spike to keep Buffy’s mind focused on the war to come.


  40. [Note: JEL posted this comment on December 16, 2012.]

    I also have found it a bit strange that Buffy is shown as trusting Spike as much as she apparently does at this point in time. (Before the events in Intervention.) In the script but not on the screen there is a bit more talk about money which makes it seem that Spike is just doing it for the money (which would be more consistent with how she has interacted with him in the past). Perhaps if that was in there it wouldn’t seem quite so premature. Or maybe it can be speculated that Buffy is subconsciously reacting to Spike’s changed behavior in the last few episodes. The other thing that is never explained is why everyone is back in the house in the subsequent episodes. Buffy clearly is trying to protect Dawn and Joyce from Glory by getting them out of the house so they can’t be found. (And if found, with the strongest protector she can think of after herself.) The threat to them hasn’t diminished. Did Buffy decide that since Glory was a god it didn’t matter where they stayed anymore? (Glory did seem able to find Buffy pretty quickly after Ben refused to help.) A minor point of apparent inconsistency in the show, probably never to be solved. So while it is a great scene with Spike / Dawn / Joyce I think it is not without its problems. As broadcast it doesn’t feel completely consistent to me with what comes before and after.


  41. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 31, 2012.]

    I’m not a big fan of this episode but I enjoyed the review and the comments. It gave me a new perspective. In terms of plot I don’t quite buy it… I know Spike has the most strengths but Buffy has left Dawn and Joyce in the care of all the Scoobies before. Bringing them down there is… a bit strange. The council is useless and I never got their point of existence. The overall plot is only moved forward a half step which is frustrating because if you think about it the whole Glory thing has been gong nowhere for a while now. Overall, I found it a bit too goofy and cheesy with the humor, especially Xander who’s usually goofy plus clever but this time way too much of a doofus. However, did like Buffy standing up for him.In terms of character development it was good as you pointed out and I like the power theme.


  42. [Note: sarah posted this comment on January 3, 2013.]

    Did anyone else notice that the Buffy manniquin Spike has in his cript was clearly visible when Buffy, Joyce and Dawn arrived there. I’m surprised they didn’t see it! haha


  43. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on January 3, 2013.]

    Maybe they thought it was Harmony? :)Or Darla? Or Kate? Or Nina? OK Joss, now this is starting to look like a pattern…


  44. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 4, 2013.]

    I found the final speech to be a bit too “hammery” (I don’t know if that’s a word, but I’m sure you’ll understand its meaning :P). And I would have liked to have the “Glory is the enemy, I need this information to destroy here, why are we fighting each other?” that Other Scott mentions but it was necessary and powerful.

    Quentin’s reaction is spot-on: his bluff has failed, his only remaining option to fight Glory is to collaborate and accept the reversed roles.

    I like to see the parallel between Xander’s time on the field and Giles vs Quentin. If I remember well the first season, Giles was very “all business, no fun, slayer’s duty, no life” = the slayer is a tool. The watcher’s council can be detached because they are not directly in the war. Giles, by being right in the middle of it, by witnessing and accepting Buffy’s strength (and flaws) has grown beyond the natural watcher’s detachment.

    The watchers are not the bad guys, they’re just theorists with knowledge, but with hunger for power.

    I completely see the parallel in real life: my work is social and I work in the thick of it, on the streets. I don’t fight demons, I fight poverty and what lead to it. And when it comes to talk to those in power (politicians mostly), I know they need me as a tool to “hide it and make it less painful for the public” but don’t experiment it. Their lives have been fortunately comfortable and they’re incapable of hearing or seeing what we – the tools – witness, thus refuse to give us the real tools we need. Not because they are bad persons, but because they’re blinded by another perspective plus power hunger. This is a very simplistic resumé and things are much more complicated than that, but it shows the parallel I wanted to highlight. I just regret I don’t have Buffy’s powers to lobby :P.


  45. [Note: Firewalkwithme posted this comment on November 4, 2013.]

    I don´t know if it has been mentioned before but I love that his episode thematically sets up some of the events in season 7, where Buffy surpasses her former mentor by challenging the power-balance of the world and subverting everyone´s expectations. Here in this episode, we see that Giles quickly buys into the council´s rules and regulations instead of challenging their approach and assessment of the slayer-situation. Both Giles and the council though are controlled by fear. The former fears to be deported back to England and the latter fear being insignificant and loosing their “power” over to the slayer if they play with open cards.
    I think this episode shows that although Giles is quite an anomaly as a watcher because he´s showing a fatherly love for Buffy and working as a freelance-watcher, he still sees a lot of their rules as set in stone and grants this institution more power than they actually have. Although he has distanced himself from some of their methods and tests, he´s still prone to slip into his old mindset and fall back into what he has learned from them. Buffy though subverts.


  46. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 24, 2014.]

    I love this episode to bits. It isn’t necessarily an important one; but a definitely a bit of a turning point for all characters involved. Especially Buffy. The Watchers Council Fascist Subcommittee blew into town and immediately began high-level intimidation and blackmail tactics on Giles and Buffy. And Buffy turned the tables on them and completely blew them away. Was that cool or what? I absolutely loved the last ten minutes of this episode. It was like Buffy’s Declaration of Independence, her final step in acknowledging to herself what a powerful adult she already is. And putting Quentin Travers and the Watchers Council in their place was two years coming, and extremely satisfying.

    I mean, after what they did to her in “Helpless” I’m surprised she was as civilized as she was around them. Anyway, moments like these remind me of why I love the character of Buffy Summers so much and why is she is such a unique, complicated, intense and beautiful fictional person to study and understand.

    The rest of the episode was good, too. Giles was terrific. You could tell he was proud of Buffy, and confident in her abilities; but he was also thrown off balance by his former bosses and the need to translate instantaneous Japanese martial arts instructions, and who could blame him? It’s about time he was reinstated with (*cough*) retroactive pay; he’s certainly been doing the work all along.

    The scenes where the Watchers were interrogating Buffy’s friends — even Spike — were great, too. I agree that it was slightly strange that the Council would go all the way to Spike’s crypt and not bother to kill him. Maybe they think he’s got valuable information or something? I loved Anya’s attempts to be wholesome; loved Willow and Tara needlessly explaining their relationship and fabricating their magical proficiency level (“Five?”); and I loved Spike’s conversation with Lydia (“Heard of me, have you?” “I wrote my thesis on you.”) Personally, I’d love writing a thesis on Spike. And yeah. Who wouldn’t? Also, was Spike exceptionally cute in this episode or was it just me?

    We got even more feel-good stuff when Buffy had the chance to defend her friends. “We’re talking about two very powerful witches and a thousand year old ex-demon.” and “The boy’s clocked more field time than all of you combined.” Like Giles’ retroactive pay, this was well-deserved credit. And Buffy asking Spike for help was yet another small positive progression in their strange relationship. I didn’t find it contrived in the least; the Scoobies have taken care of Dawn before; but if there was anyone who could hold their own when it comes to Glory; it would be Spike. Plus, she couldn’t put the rest of the Scoobies in more danger than they already are. Also, I think Buffy’s subconsciously noticing that he’s changing; and he always did have some obscure affection for Joyce.

    Two things I didn’t like were the Knights, who I feel and rendered kind of useless plot devices; and a Prof behaving unrealistically rude to Buffy, again.
    Still, I quite did enjoy Buffy being all smug in class and pointing out the possibility of Rasputin being a demon or a vamp; so I can forgive it. A- is well deserved. Enlightening review as usual.


  47. [Note: Stewball posted this comment on July 28, 2014.]

    Lydia, thank you for naming the Watchers’ delegation; I laughed out loud when I read that. This is a wonderful episode on multiple levels, as noted in many of the preceding comments. There are, however, two little things that bug me. First, why oh why do the Knights not have modern weapons??? Even the Swiss Guard carries Uzis, and you don’t get much more traditional than the Vatican. Certainly, gunfire wouldn’t harm Glory, but I’d bet that a few 9mm rounds would slow down her hobbit attendants. Secondly, this episode comes to mind whenever I see “Flooded”, “Life Serial”, “Doublemeat Palace”, or any of the season 6 episodes that highlight Buffy’s money problems. As Buffy so effectively demonstrates in “Checkpoint”, the Council exists to back up the Slayer. And yet they can’t provide her with a stipend? (Preferably retroactive.) Sure, the whole back-from-the-dead thing would probably entail some paperwork, but I’m sure the Council could cope.


  48. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on July 28, 2014.]

    Whenever I start wondering, “Why don’t the Watchers try to help Buffy out?”, I just remember that they really don’t care for her. Sure– she is THE SLAYER. But if she starts faltering, then some vamp kills her and then a new one gets called.

    This is presumably why the Cruciamentum test from “Helpless” exists; they want the Slayer dead before she starts struggling with the pressures of adulthood.


  49. [Note: Stewball posted this comment on July 29, 2014.]

    It’s always the bean counters, isn’t it? It’s not cost-effective to subsidize the Slayer, since another one will be along shortly.

    “Helpless” is a great episode, but the Cruciamentum makes no sense at all. “Let’s turn our primary asset into an ordinary teenage girl and then send her up against an insane vampire.” As Lydia notes above, Travers is lucky that Buffy was too polite to break him into several pieces as soon as he returned to Sunnydale.


  50. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 29, 2014.]

    I think the Cruciamentum makes sense even if it is very immoral. The watchers don’t really care about the slayer. As long as there is a slayer to replace the one that dies then they’re fine.


  51. [Note: Stewball posted this comment on July 30, 2014.]

    It just seems dreadfully inefficient, not to say wasteful. (And, oh yes, immoral.) But the Council has been in business for millennia, so I suppose they take the long view.
    I still wish that Buffy had smacked Travers upside the head.


  52. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on September 5, 2015.]

    Not sure why Buffy would try to suggest that Rasputin was a vamp or whatever. It just seems like a waste of time given that no one would believe her anyway and she’s not gonna be willing to cough up any hard evidence. Just seemed like a contrivance to get Buffy more mad at authority or whatever.


  53. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on September 7, 2015.]

    The Cruciamentum makes perfect sense, when you think about why it actually exists. The Council has no real way to control Slayers – all they get is the ‘but thou must’ lectures. If a rebellious Slayer keeps telling the Council to stuff it, or won’t follow orders, or develops unhealthy tastes for extreme violence, then the Council can simply arrange for her to ‘fail’ her Cruciamentum so a more worthy (obedient) Slayer can be called. Also, the Slayer may actually suck and be in danger of getting people killed. She may have survived until her 18th via sheer luck or Watcher assistance. So the Council has this convenient little test in place, that they control the rules of, to get rid of any Slayer they consider a problem.

    Buffy wasn’t a particularly rebellious Slayer – she just retained her social and family ties, not allowing them to be sacrificed for the sake of fighting vampires. Even Faith accepted her Watcher (she is visibly shaken when even referring to her death, or of the prospect of facing Kakistos again) prior to her running to Sunnydale and eventually going rogue. Unfortunately the ‘rogue Slayer’ possibility may have been what pre-empted the implementation of the Cruciamentum in the first place. ‘Slayer looking like she’ll go rogue? Let’s just get rid of her and hopefully the next one will be better..’

    Horrendously cynical, but then the (senior) Watchers don’t really care about the Slayer in their modern guise. Once, when they were still warlocks, shamans and wise men who were actually wise, they probably cared like a lot of ‘on the ground’ Watchers like Giles.


  54. [Note: Poltargyst posted this comment on January 26, 2017.]

    I’m watching Buffy fight the knights and thinking

    Buffy: Who are you?
    Knight: We are the knights who say NI!!! We will say NI to you until you give us the Key!
    Buffy: Do your worst!
    Knights: NI! NI! NI!
    Buffy: Oh! Argh! No!

    Are all the professors at that school dicks? That’s the second time a professor has dressed down Buffy for no particular reason. I would think a professor would welcome the discussion.


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