[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg | Director: Michael Gershman | Aired: 11/05/2002]
“Him” is a stand-alone episode that suffers precisely the same problem as “Help” [7×04]: long-term character and/or story relevance. While “Help” [7×04] earns its points through a fairly engaging script, “Him” stays in a decent point area due to the fact that I cannot, in my right mind, allow anything that causes me to fall off my couch in laughter get anything under a B-. However, just because an episode is totally hilarious doesn’t mean it automatically deserves an excellent score. An episode that can put relevance together with comedy — like “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2×16], “Doppelgangland” [3×16], “Something Blue” [4×09], and “Storyteller” [7×16] — can achieve an excellent score. So, in a nutshell, this is an episode that earns the vast majority of its points on how purely hilarious it is, but doesn’t offer very much more. With that said, let’s jump right into the thick of the review!
I’m a big fan of the fact that Buffy lived up to what she told Spike in “Selfless” [7×05]. Although Xander hates the idea, he lets Spike stay at his place for the time being for Buffy’s sake. It also, amusingly, flashes me back to seeing Spike tied to a chair and stuck in Xander’s parents’ basement in “Hush” [4×10]. I also like how, even though Buffy is standing up for soulful Spike, she still jumps when he grabs her arm from behind. The scars from “Seeing Red” [6×19] haven’t fully healed yet.
The next day, Dawn continues to probe Buffy on her treatment of Spike — something very wise of her to do. Dawn asks, “you didn’t do it [help Spike] out of pity, so what is it?” Buffy can only respond, “that’s a good question.” Buffy clearly doesn’t have all the answers yet, but she knows and feels that a soulful Spike is a brand new person that deserves a chance to prove himself. Dawn even outright asks the biggie: “Do you love him?” Buffy, truthfully, says, “No. But I feel for him.” What that exactly means is a complicated issue that hasn’t yet been sorted out. This whole conversation sets up the theme of the episode: love.
Well, poor Dawn spends most of the episode embarassing herself in the name of “true love.” I think there’s a lesson to be learned here in that the kind of true love Dawn experiences while under RJ’s spell, a metaphor, is not terribly real. Although that’s obvious to us, viewing it from the outside, it’s not so obvious to the person under the spell. A lot of people have relationships and even get married because, essentially, they’re under another person’s “spell.” As soon as that spell wears off, though, as it inevitably does with time and/or age, the relationship usually crumbles at an alarming rate. This is why I, personally, feel that relationships should be based on more than simply raw physical attraction. Otherwise, it’s doubtful to last. It’s easy to say that from the outside though. The real challenge is having the insight to look inside yourself and recognize whether or not you’re just under a spell, or genuinely love the person.
When Buffy later falls under RJ’s spell, we get some ‘interesting’ moments but also some more building comedy. One thing I love about Buffy when she’s under a spell is that she’s always convinced she has slayer immunity, so it can’t possibly be affecting her. Seeing Buffy romantically revert back to S1 is kind of like a shock to my system. It’s been so long since we’ve seen that kind of blind romanticism out of her — although, I’m selling S1 Buffy short, she was much smarter than spell-Buffy here. The best part of all of this is that RJ doesn’t even know why girls constantly fall for him, and he’s obviously not going to complain about it.
Xander, very experienced in the way of love spells, thankfully immediately calls it out the moment he sees Buffy straddling RJ on a desk. Then, Xander brings Spike along with him to get information out of RJ’s brother. The way these two look together is its own form of comedy. Haha. I also especially love the little moment where Spike turns the baby angel ceramic figure around so it’s not facing him, staring at him with judgement. It’s funny, clever, and relevant.
The comedy really kicks into gear, though, when Willow and Anya fall under RJ’s spell too. This leads to about six straight minutes of undiluted hilarity — some of the best raw comedy Buffy has pulled off since S4 (think “Pangs” [4×08] and “Something Blue” [4×09] ). I especially got a kick out of Willow’s confused and contorted facial expressions when falling under the spell. When Buffy, Dawn, Anya, and Willow all get into it, I’m starting to lose it with laughter. When Buffy drives like a spaz (I love that this is remembered) to kill Wood, I’m laughing even harder. Then there’s Anya telling Willow “his physical presence has a penis!” And the split-screen action-movie montage. When I see Buffy aiming the rocket launcher at Wood through the window, easy listening music in the background, I finally just fall out off my couch in pure glee. Spike and Buffy running back and forth outside of Wood’s window over the rocket launcher continues to adds to the fun! Wonderful!
Even though Buffy is totally in RJ’s thrall, Dawn trying to sacrifice herself for RJ’s love still really freaks her out. Buffy says, “no guy is worth your life — not ever!” Very, very true. Dawn later tells Buffy how stupid she feels over how she acted because of the spell. Buffy’s got some good advice here: “Get ready to feel even stupider when it’s not.”
After Buffy saves Dawn, we get to see Xander and Spike’s complex plan for dealing with RJ’s jacket: running up to him and stealing it. Haha! I like how, while the jacket is burning, Buffy asks Xander if he was even slightly tempted to slip it on for himself. Xander’s answer is perfect: “I refuse to answer that on the grounds that it didn’t fit.”
What more do I need to say about this episode? It’s, simply put, incredibly funny. I fully concede there’s not much more going on in it than that, but when an episode provides me with that much raw entertainment, I have to applaud. It’s not easy to do awesome comedy, and “Him” nails it. If you’re looking for a brilliant character study or foreboding drama, look to “Selfless” [7×05] and “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07]. If you want to laugh until you pee, watch “Him.”
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Buffy’s cute as hell in this episode. Drool.
+ D’Hoffryn sending lame demons after Anya just to annoy her.
+ Dawn pulling out Buffy’s old cheerleading outfit. We last saw that in “Witch” [1×03], right?
+ Xander figures out that it’s the jacket that’s causing all the girls to “woo” over RJ. Even though he didn’t mean it caused a love spell, he still got it right! 🙂
+ We had a Dawn bedroom scene, and there was no “GET OUT!” Yay!
+ Dawn pushing random jock guy down the stairs. A little creepy.
+ Even creepier is Xander saying “daddy likie” before he knows he’s talking about Dawn! Willow joining in, “right there with ya,” is hilarious. Buffy’s shock at seeing Dawn all dancin’ dirty is palpable.
+ Dawn walking outside alone, tenseful music playing in the background, only to have an angry RJ-loving girl pop out for a tussle. That truly is frightening! Hilarious that battle music is playing during their cat fight, harkening back to Xander’s fight with Harmony in “The Initiative” [4×07].
+ Xander’s reaction to seeing Buffy straddling RJ on a desk. “Ahhh!”
+ Xander’s quick flashback to “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” [2×16]. Grinning, he simply states, “good times.”
+ We find out that RJ’s dad met his wife wearing that jacket. That’s probably the creepiest thing of all!
+ The look on Willow’s face when Anya gives her the idea of turning RJ into a woman.
+ Anya’s episode-ending cover-up.
– Although I know a spell is in effect, some of the Dawn-embarassing-herself scenes still made me cringe a bit. Maybe that was the point, to show how ridiculous blind love really is, but I felt it went a little over-the-top a couple times.