[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: David Fury | Director: Daniel Attias | Aired: 02/13/2001]
Fun, fun, fun! This episode is just plain fun! Luckily it’s also extremely relevant as well, which is why it scores so big. I suppose if for some crazy reason you don’t like Spike, this episode isn’t very appealing, but for the rest of us it’s quite a treat. Buffy finds out Spike’s in love with her and “wackiness ensues.” This storyline has obviously been in heavy development since Spike’s passioned dream/nightmare in “Out of My Mind” [5×04] , and finally Buffy does something about it. Although a bit convenient, it’s a perfect test for Spike to have Drusilla return and lure him back to how things used to be. It all begins…
…with dancing at the Bronze. Only this time it’s worth noting that Buffy herself doesn’t dance and prefers to hang back and watch others having fun. Her life is really taking its toll on her and it’s starting to show. Spike uses this opportunity to try to initiate casual conversation with Buffy. Enter the always amusing flowering onion. Before S5 Buffy would be dancing on the floor with her friends. Now she’s not, and in S6 she’s giving into Spike’s maneuvers (and thensome), exploring the shadows. Buffy’s right at the crossroads between the two here, which is probably why she jumps at the opportunity to hang out with Ben, which shows that she’s still barely clinging onto the idea of having that normal life and that normal boyfriend, which after Riley she should know better. She comes to an important realization about this in the next episode, “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15] .
Dawn gets some useful attention following her discovery in “Blood Ties” [5×13] , but it’s by hanging out with Spike who actually giving her some no-frills advice. He says, “Doesn’t seem to me it matters very much how you start out.” This scene is also high in entertainment due to Buffy crashing Spike’s storytelling. This leads to Dawn telling Buffy that Spike’s in love with her. Buffy’s response is one of her best in the entire series: this non-chalant, very confused and surprised “huh?” I also love how she says “hanging out with Spike isn’t ‘cool’ Dawn, okay?” hahaha!
Most of this episode explores Spike’s side of things, as Buffy’s response is fairly straightforward: surprised and somewhat disturbed. When Buffy and Xander are checking out the crime scene in the train, it quickly becomes obvious that what Dawn said about Spike has been bugging Buffy since she heard it. Xander laughs at the knowledge and Buffy says, “I’m not joking.” Xander responds with a golden response: “Oh, I hope not. It’s funnier if it’s true!” Funnier indeed, because it leads to Spike’s hilarious fabricated date with Buffy. The bourbon, the “hey!,” the “eww,” and the singing all in Spike’s car… wow, yes (where did Spike’s car go after this though?).
Inside the vamp nest there’s more great, fun dialogue. Buffy says, “What is this?” Spike replies, “Oh, come- don’t get your knickers twisted, I was-” Buffy interrupts, “What … is this? The late-night stakeout, the bogus suspects, the flask? Is this a date?” Spike quickly responds, “A d- Please! A date? You are completely off your bird! I mean – Do you want it to be?” Buffy looks like she’s about to heave right about now.
Joyce later asks if Buffy led Spike on at all. She responds, “Well, I… I do beat him up a lot. For Spike that’s like third base.” Buffy definitely understands Spike fairly well, which in retrospect is just faintly hinting at the events to come, particularly in “Smashed” [6×09] . Now that Spike’s little secret is out it’s, of course, the perfect time for Drusilla to reappear to test the extext of his ‘love,’ which is still somewhat more like an obsession at this point. Spike tries to go back to how things were when he was with Dru, but very quickly realizes that he has changed.
The Dru/Spike scene at the Bronze can be added as another brilliant classic moment for this wonderfully fascinating couple. Perfect acting, perfect music, and perfect direction allow Spike to revel in the final time he gets to relive the old days, even though he still momentarily questions it. It also occurs to me that this is the first time in a long while we’ve seen Spike’s vamp face on (I believe “Fool for Love” [5×07] was the last time). Ever since his dream/nightmare in “Out of My Mind” [5×04] he’s definitely been different.
All of these scenes culminate to the moment when Buffy discovers the hidden ‘Buffy Altar’ in the bottom of Spike’s crypt, which is extremely creepy. Spike then chains up the girl he supposedly loves and demands something in return from her. This is, indeed, very sick, although not unexpected from Spike. At this point he just has no clue what real love is. He’s trying to interpret his feelings in the only way he knows how. Eventually by the end of S6 he figures out that the only way he will be enabled to understand what love is really about (which goes beyond just feelings) is by getting a soul.
For now, though, he can only prove his raw feelings are genuine. Offering to kill Drusilla for Buffy does prove at least that much. All this is simply too much for Buffy right now so she shuts him out. The look on his face when he learns that Buffy’s used the reverse invitation spell on him is painful to watch, even after all the disturbing stuff he’s done. He looks so hurt and surprised. To make me feel sorry for a guy that twisted is an extremely impressive feat. The writers on this show are simply amazing.
I really love this episode. It’s not a powerhouse episode worthy of a P, but it sure delivers the goods. This season’s really hit a stride and is providing some fantastic character development and is still high on entertainment. While the season will retain its quality for the rest of the season, its tone is getting really close to dramatically changing forever. While I admit to confusion about why Glory wouldn’t be tearing Buffy’s door down in anger after their encounter in “Blood Ties” [5×13] , this episode is really perfectly placed in the season.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Joyce tells Buffy she feels a lot more safe with her in the house while Giles is right there listening. She amusingly backpedals and tries to make Giles feel better.
+ Buffy notices that her sweater, taken by Spike in “Shadow” [5×08] , is gone and yells at Dawn for it.
+ Harmony is back with Spike again and now she’s even willing to play sex games, play-acting as Buffy in Buffy’s sweater. She must be very desperate.
+ Spike hanging out with Joyce and Dawn, all laughing together as Buffy walks in the room looking very concerned.
+ It’s cool that Dru has burns on her gotten from “Redefinition” (AtS 2×11). Her plan seems to be to get Spike to go back to L.A. with her and possibly join-up with Darla again. I wonder where Dru went after this episode.
+ Harmony gets all mad at Drusilla, but Spike just casually ditches her. This is the last we see of her until she appears on Angel S5 (and, of course, “Disharmony” [AtS 2×17]).
+ The ‘fight’ between Buffy, Harmony, Drusilla, and Spike is very fun.
– Why did Buffy just let Drusilla leave? That’s an incredibly deadly vampire she just let walk away.
* Tara talking about Quasimodo completely parallels Spike’s situation and even hints at what’s to come. Tara says, “No, see, it can’t, it can’t end like that, ’cause all of Quasimodo’s actions were selfishly motivated. He had no moral compass, no understanding of right. Everything he did, he did out of love for a woman who would never be able to love him back. Also, you can tell it’s not gonna have a happy ending when the main guy’s all bumpy.” When asked what Buffy thinks about it, she gives a fittingly foreshadowy response: “The test isn’t till tomorrow, right? I don’t have an opinion till then.” This is like Whedon dangling some candy in front of us and then snapping it away right before we can get to it.