Buffy 7×18: Dirty Girls

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Drew Goddard | Director: Michael Gershman | Aired: 04/15/2003]

“Dirty Girls” is an exciting and surprising episode, but is also one that is slowed by a focus on plot and unnecessarily long introductions. Interspersed into the plot are some great character scenes, a dash of humor, and some shocking moments. Added all up it’s a bit of a jumble, but it mostly works.

Nathan Fillion, of Firefly fame, enters the Buffyverse with some flair, but his introduction is not entirely successful. On one hand, we’ve got a nicely creepy and tangible villain. On the other, I think the episode would have benefited from seeing even less of Caleb than we did. All of those “sermon” scenes with the First only served to diminish his entrance. I would have preferred the “less is more” mantra while maintaining his ‘performance’ at the end of the episode. This would have given “Empty Places” some extra material to fill in some of the blanks around Caleb’s personality and motivations.

A larger problem that Caleb represents is that he usurps the First! It’s obviously not cool to have your main villain upstaged by a new guy who appears towards the end of the season. I see this mostly as a failure of the writers to capitalize on what they had started in “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07] and “Sleeper” [7×08]. Although Caleb mostly works here, we quickly find out there’s not much to him and that he’s essentially just the First’s brute. I feel a lot more could have been done here, with a much more pyschologically scary First Evil and the tangible Caleb as its current manifestation in this world. Had the First been used better before now and Caleb had deeper characterization and motives, this same setup could have been downright explosive. Instead we get something that’s certainly still entertaining and compelling to watch, but not nearly as mythic and complex as the end of the series deserved.

Also suffering the introduction syndrome is Faith, who we are re-introduced to far too many times. From Willow’s reminder of Buffy and Faith not being “study buddies” to the graveyard reunion with Buffy to Andrew’s entire — admittedly funny — monologue about the ‘dark slayer.’ It all reeks of overkill to me. Fortunately, Eliza Dushku seems up to the task of showing us a complex and newer version of Faith, and is obviously very comfortable in this role. The Faith we see now is much more mature, experienced, and in control of herself. Angel did a great job with her. By the way, to those of you who haven’t seen Angel yet, I fully recommend all of the Faith episodes along with the show as a whole.

Although seeing Faith interact with everyone was fun, my favorite interaction was seeing her with Spike. Together they are hilarious and genuine, obviously having a ton in common at this point. Again, I love the continuity and the humor. When they first meet in the graveyard they have a fun exchange of words and punches. The meat of their similarities comes out during the sublime basement chat though. This is two complex, well-established characters having a realistic and wholly entertaining conversation where they find a level of connection in their respective histories. I think this scene might just be the highlight of the episode. This is effortless, awesome character work. Kudos to Drew Goddard on the writing side, and kudos to Dushku and Marsters for the seemingly effortless acting.

It’s wonderful to see a follow-up to the huge events in “Lies My Parents Told Me” [7×17] (although this is not unexpected on Buffy), with Buffy re-iterating to Wood that she meant what she said to him before, but qualified it with a peace offering, also telling him she needs him on her side. Then he, amusingly, fires her! I can understand Buffy’s apprehension about leading the girls into battle, but Wood’s right: they need to be tested. It’s just unfortunate that their first real test had to be against Caleb.

Although Buffy falls into Caleb’s trap, I really appreciate that there’s a good reason for it. Buffy’s not just blindly going into the vinyard for ##### and giggles, it’s like what Wood said earlier in the episode: “maybe you should test them [in battle].” Buffy hopes to use this opportunity to apply more force than Caleb expects thereby getting a solid win and that needed real-world experience the potentials don’t yet have. With how much Buffy can take and with such strong allies behind her, I’m not the slightest bit surprised by her confidence. What happened, simply put, is that Buffy vastly underestimated Caleb and the force behind him. There was no real way for her to find that out, though, without some sort of encounter. Remember Buffy’s speech back in “Bring on the Night” [7×10], about taking the fight to the enemy? Well, this is her living up to her ‘campaign promises.’ The fact it didn’t work out well doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good — albeit risky — move at the time.

With my defense of Buffy’s position put aside, others in the group like Giles make excellent counterpoints. This message from Caleb, about having something of Buffy’s, is clearly intended to be a trap and everyone knows it. While everyone is collaboratively formulating their attack strategy, Spike even wisely makes mention of the “bait and switch,” of which Angelus used to devastating effect back in “Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21] (“And she falls for it every time!”). Buffy, remembering the past and using her allies’ advice agrees to leave Willow behind to protect the ones who aren’t part of the attack on Caleb. The one problem with this idea is that if I were Caleb, I’d be much more scared of Willow than Buffy at this point, despite Willow’s apprehension about her power.

Although I sympathize with Buffy’s plan, nobody else is really convinced by it, and that’s something Buffy really needed to factor more heavily into her decision. Despite having a gutsy move that may, indeed, give them a big win, Buffy must put aside her own ego and ideas in lieu of disagreement from all of her closest advisers. I do like how Faith’s the only other one totally digging the plan, which is true to character. Faith says, “Hey, I’m with you. Drop me in the hornet’s nest, what the hell.”

All of the potentials are also incredibly nervous about this entire assault and some even express extreme doubt at Buffy’s motivations. Xander, though, sets them all straight by briefing them on fight tactics and then going into a beautiful speech on his experiences and trust in Buffy that has been built over the last seven years: “I’ve been through more battles with Buffy than you all can ever imagine. She’s stopped everything that’s ever come up against her. She’s laid down her life, literally, to protect the people around her. This girl has died two times, and she’s still standing. You’re scared? That’s smart. You got questions? You should. But you doubt her motives, you think Buffy’s all about the kill, then you take the little bus to battle. I’ve seen her heart, and this time not literally. And I’m telling you, right now, she cares more about your lives than you will ever know. You gotta trust her. She’s earned it.”

One of my favorite images of the entire series is in this episode, one which gives me a massive sense of perspective and satisfaction. This is the scene where Buffy leads the group to assault Caleb’s lair. What we have here is this amazingly diverse group of people — the damaged, the lonely, the scarred, the reformed, and the innocent — working and fighting together under a common banner. It’s a truly inspiring image that reminds me of how many awesome events I’ve witnessed in this show — of all the character development it took to get us here. We have grown with all of these people, some for one year (the potentials), some for ~5 years (Faith), some for ~6 years (Spike), and some for the entire series (the Scoobies). And now, through all those trials and struggles from various points in the series, they’re all here… together. Just… amazing.

The vinyard fight itself is particularly brutal. Caleb shows what he’s capable of and the resulting damage to the group is immeasurable. Not to diminish the pain Xander goes through here, but be thankful that Whedon didn’t have his way and have Xander actually killed like originally planned. I was particularly impressed with how they showed off Caleb’s power. He can just casually punch and kick people across the room. I also loved that we got shown a preview of how he can be beat, as at the end of the encounter Buffy uses her superior speed and agility to dodge the bulky Caleb and whack him across the room. We’ll see an expansion of this strategy in “Touched” [7×20].

Throughout the episode we got several hints as to Xander’s awful fate. His fun opening dream involving lots of girls and a pillow fight is, in retrospect, very thematically relevant as it plays into Caleb’s whole ‘dirty girls’ motif. He also makes a special point of noting to the potentials that “everything’s got eyes.” Whether Caleb intended it or not, damaging Xander so badly really does achieve an effect of completely demoralizing the entire group.

“Dirty Girls” is a very solid episode that does a lot right. It’s got action, character development, drama, and some big shocks. Where it gets taken a down a notch is with its excessive introductions and unpolished feel. Its overall focus on plot doesn’t do it any favors either, as the plot is pretty simple: Caleb comes to town and draws Buffy into a massacre. There’s enough strong moments and great scenes, though, that most of the flaws can be accounted for but pushed aside for what’s a pretty entertaining episode of Buffy.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Faith’s back!
+ Dawn’s brief reunion with Faith. Dawn says, “Does she have to stay here? Because there’s some nice hotels that welcome tried-to-kill-your-sister types.”
+ Andrew thinking Faith killed a Vulcanologist, not a Volcanologist.
+ Buffy’s pre-fight recon and prep work. Hey, at least she’s trying!

–ย Andrew warns all the girls about Faith, but how would Andrew know what Faith’s past is? Also, why does this information get lost on the Potentials in the next episode when Faith gets elected as their new leader?
–ย During the fight with Caleb, I was a bit dismayed at how little everyone Caleb killed or maimed reacted. For example, why didn’t Xander flail around his other arm to try to stop him? Although useless, instinct would have us all at least trying.




56 thoughts on “Buffy 7×18: Dirty Girls”

  1. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on August 9, 2009.]

    I never knew Whedon had planned originally to kill Xander…he should have carried through with it! He’s never refrained from killing people off in his other shows, so why this one? As effective as maiming Xander was, his death would have been much more so. It would have made us all fear much more for the rest of the core four, because we would have known for certain that absolutely no one is assured survival.

    Also, it would have been a death that didn’t involve someone that I freaking loved! (Anya, Wash, Cordy, Fred) 8( The only loved character that hasn’t croaked yet is Giles. And Lorn. But he may as well be dead, seeing as the actor died. 8(

    Curse you, Joss Whedon! And curse heart problems!


  2. [Note: Darth Bunny posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Although I agree Xander’s death would have been more dramatic, the scene between Willow and Xander in the next episode is just as…painful. Plus, I fully believe that Xander’s death could possibly set Willow off again.

    I mean, to lose the love of her life, and than her best friend, the one who saved her from killing herself after the former’s death, would certainly cause Willow to lose heart in Buffy, more so than the next few episodes. Of course, this would certainly benefit the First/Caleb, so perhaps the First should have targeted Willow more than what was shown in Conversations.

    A possiblity would have been to use Amy from “The Killer in Me” to disguse Caleb as Giles while the real one, who might know the location of the scythe, be tortued. Than,as Giles, Caleb could have undermined Willow while also trying to silence Spike (Lies My Parents Told Me). And since they gang would be convinced that Giles is not the First, they would not have seen it coming. Alas, the possiblities are wasted, although this is one of the few times I can honestly say that in this show…


  3. [Note: Ursus posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    I agree the high point of the episode was the conversation between Faith and Spike. Truly entertaining, and what chemistry between Dushku and Marsters. How interesting a romantic angle between those two would have been.

    I’m going to disagree somewhat and say Caleb doesn’t work for me *at all*. I was fairly supportive of Season 7 until he made his less than grand entrance. I find him more annoying than the potentials.


  4. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    This was well worth the wait. We have another amazing review.
    I feel this episode grows on you. I mean, the first time I saw it I didn´t like it very much but now it´s one of my favourites.
    Can´t wait to see your opinion on Empty Places.


  5. [Note: MissKittyFantastico posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Thanks for the review! I just wanted to point out that Andrew’s introduction to Faith also contributes to the theme of how men can see women.

    Also, although I see your reasoning behind Buffy’s decision to go to Caleb, by this point in the series I found it far too annoying that Buffy ALWAYS falls for traps. This was just one time too many for me. Love Xander’s little speech though, and definitely don’t think Buffy should have been kicked out of her own house in Empty Places…


  6. [Note: nallan posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I have been checking frequently for another review ๐Ÿ™‚

    I did like this episode, although I didn’t realize Joss’s plan was to have Xander killed, I did think the losing of his eye was effective and got everyone’s attention.

    I know this season is not always a favorite amoung many fans, but I actually really liked it, I found the episodes to be very adult and the situation intriguing ๐Ÿ™‚

    Can’t wait for more reviews ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. [Note: Darthmarion posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    like Buffyholic said, the waiting was worthy!
    Excellent review!

    Nathan FIllion made me shiver in this role. Caleb is a good vilain, from a narrative point of view since the writers didn’t seem able to use the First like they already did and from a thematic point of view.
    I have to agree although about the too heavy exposition, and I think it goes on in the next episode right, with the sermons… I d’ont remember well.

    About the non-death of Xander, I’m so OK with it. Loosing Xander at this point, oh my, that just wouldn’t be right. It would’ve break my heart, and somehow it would have feel wrong, not having the core scoobies standing in the end ( I’m also glad Joss finally decided to not kill Xander in Chosen, I think he thought of that too, did’nt he?) and I ike the idea of normal Xander with no power and all, wounded, but a survivor.
    And the maiming of the eye was one of the grossest scenes of the series, it was just painfull!
    Also, 5 ep that has also to end the series, I think there is no time for dealing with such a huge thing as the death of Xander. Too short.

    I have to admit though, I was a little disappointed by the return of Faith. And by reading your review this feeling get a little bit stronger because you made a really good point about the too heavy exposition.
    I would have like a little more interactions with the scoobies. For example with Xander, I mean they have a little history, you know with the struggle and all. However the interactions were great with Buffy (Faith always bring the bitch out of her) Dawn (I always wonder how season 3 was like in the post season 5 Dawnreality).
    Also the scene with Faith and Spike was really really great, I’m not to confortable with it. They don’t know each other and, ok they have a lot in common and the chemistry was great, but I kinda have the feeling that it’s pointless. It’s not like what they have in common leads them anywhere after that. I guess it would have been a little very usefull and nice piece in the case of a Faith spin-off (I believe Drew said it was the intent in the commentary of the ep).


  8. [Note: Dave C posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Hooray! Another review! While I enjoy this episode, I can’t help but feel it–along with the rest of the season–is marred somewhat by Caleb’s character. The ultra-misogynistic priest as subtext is just a bit too “on-the-nose,” for me. The total lack of subtly feels like lazy writing, and at this point, I had come to expect–or at least hope for–more from Buffy’s writers, especially Joss.


  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Dave, I pretty much agree with you. It’s just that I found Caleb new and dangerous enough in “Dirty Girls” to enjoy the sheer villain in him. I think what you’ve said becomes much more apparent in the upcoming episodes.


  10. [Note: Dave C posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Hey Mikejer, you’re definitely right. Caleb is entertaining, especially in this episode. Nathan Fillion can do no wrong, imho! I just sort of wish Joss and co. had chosen to use him as a thematic pickaxe instead of an anvil.


  11. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    Hello mikejer! A great review again! I find this episode to be amazing, but as usual, I disagree in some points.
    As MissKitty said, it’s pretty dissapointing to see Buffy falling in the same old trap of going after the villain. At this time of the series I find it a bit out of character; as if the writers were forcing Buffy’s actions to fit in the plot.
    I really enjoyed the episode, but I have seen the whole series and still feel Caleb is a villain who hasn’t been provided good motives or a solid background story (as the Master, the Mayor and Glory). Where did he exactly come from and WHY does he know that much about the First and the Slayer’s line? While his position about women is repeated many times as you said (too many times, maybe), his story could have had some more development.
    That said, I think that your reviews are outstanding!

    (sorry about my English, I’m not a native speaker)


  12. [Note: Sam posted this comment on August 10, 2009.]

    I just about hit the roof when I saw this. Only 4 more episodes until the rapturous “Chosen”. I am beside myself waiting to hear your thoughts on that, Mike!


  13. [Note: Adam posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    I actually like this episode, but it feels like there were too many opportunities missed (and in the season as a whole), so it just feels too ordinary of an episode. However, I did like Caleb as he brought a little something something to the show once it started getting dull. I think with better writing, plots, and some more creativity this could’ve been an amazing season of television.

    I love Faith as a character and I was kind of dissapointed with her return. I liked her more on previous seasons of Buffy and Angel. It’s not that I only like her bad; it’s just she doesn’t have an edge I love so much, and the uninteresting plot at the time doesn’t help either.

    I don’t think it would’ve been a good idea to kill Xander since it’s too far to the end of the series and it just simply wouldn’t have worked too well. Maybe killing someone like Andrew or Principal Woods would’ve made sense so then all the scoobies can be there for the finale (which I’m glad they were). I would’ve gave this episode a 75…maybe less, but I’m in a somewhat good mood right now. By the way, great review like always!


  14. [Note: Christian posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    Hey Great review Mike!

    Let me start off by saying that even though I wasn’t a big Xander fan, I was shocked to see him losing his eye. It was incredibly disturbing and made me truly fear for the rest of the Scoobies fates. I don’t think killing him would have worked due to everything that was already going on. Too many feelings at once… it would have been overwhelming and not very enjoyable for the rest of the season. I’m still mourning Anya =(

    I’ve always loved Faith and just having her back in the Buffyverse made everything better. I really wish they would have made a Faith spin off.

    I’m not very fond of Caleb. To me he’s justa n o.k. villian. I was kind of sad when he killed off that potential who’s name I can’t remeber right now.
    Anyway, good ep!


  15. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    Mike, gotta be honest with you, I’m very disappointed that you didn’t analyse the core theme of the episode and the implications about gender roles and perspectives. Notice in Faith’s scene with Spike the frank conversation about sex roleplay? “Every guy has some whack fantasy”, and this episode illustrates that well. Caleb recreates the killing a female victim, Xander masturbates to underage girls, Andrew glorifies Faith, a murderer… it’s all about how men objectify women and place them in ‘dirty’ roles for their own egoic satisfaction. Even harmless jokes like the “please you think I’m stupid?”/”Well, yeah” exchange play a thematic part in this, in my opinion, A-grade episode about male objectification of women. This season is rife with gender politics, and this episode forefronts that. I think it’s altogether an excellent ep. Another win for Drew Goddard (although apparently Whedon wrote quite a lot, which is apparent).

    What I really love about this episode is the tonal change for the show. LMPTM is a precursor to this theme, but with these last five episodes the series becomes a different show. It’s no longer the self-parodying show with an unstable fourth wall – it’s totally immersed in itself in its relentless. This could be said for most of s7, but Dirty Girls in particular feels even more adult and high-stakes with the introduction of Caleb. While this is an interesting way for the show to go, I’m glad it only lasted a short time. The show without its tongue-in-cheek self awareness was not what BTVS was about. However, considering these were the last episodes, it’s fair game that they dropped that.

    By the way, has anyone listened to the commentary? It’s very informative as well as goddamn hilarious!


  16. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    **relentless storytelling…

    Incidentally, to the people talking about Buffy ‘falling for Caleb’s trick’, I thought it was pretty obvious that that was just a front for Buffy taking them to battle? That was the whole purpose of the Buffy/Wood scene. If Caleb truly had something she wanted, great. If what Caleb had really was a stapler, too bad, but at least the girls would’ve had some real action. That’s how I interpreted it.

    What I don’t understand is why Caleb actually told Buffy he had something of hers to begin with. Presumably he was digging up the scythe to destroy it. Then why didn’t he do that in private? Why invite the enemy to potentially sabotage that plan, which she ended up doing? These unclear motives make Caleb an overall weak, one-dimensional villain. It’s clear he was brought in at the last minute. Still, Fillion makes the role his own and is genuinely scary. I love the writers’ dig at religion with this character.


  17. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    @Wilpy: I agree with you about the trap stuff…I didn’t think she was stupidly walking into a trap. It’s not really a trap if you know about it, for one thing. And often the best way to beat a trap is to know about it and spring it purposefully.

    And like you said, she thought if Caleb really did have something of hers, great, she could go and get it…if he didn’t, at least the girls would take part in some real combat.

    As for Caleb’s goading, I think it was mostly had to do with his general feelings towards women…he thinks they are stupid, rash, etc. I’m also fairly certain he didn’t expect her to actually win that battle (which she very much didn’t), and he wanted to possibly cripple her forces both physically and mentally with the loss. Curiosity as to what she would do at all also probably played a part.

    And I liked your thoughts on the objectifying of women. Honestly never thought about it before. Don’t quite know how I missed it, now–after you spelled it out, it seems kind of obvious. haha


  18. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    Yay! Another review! Its great to have you back in business, Mike!

    Good review, although I definitely agree with Wilpy about the gender issues this episode deals with. If it weren’t for these ideas, and if the episode was only plot-oriented I think it would have suffered a lot more than it did. I especially like this episode’s theme because of the stark comparison it points out between Spike and the other males it focusses on: while the other males in the episode are objectifying the women around them, Spike continues to see Buffy for who she truly is and to confront her when he believes shes making a wrong call. This perfectly sets up “Touched” and makes his speech about “knowing exactly what she is” a lot more compelling, IMO.

    As far as Buffy goes, I personally find it 100% believable that she would continue to fall for traps. True, she has grown and changed over the seasons but thats one aspect of her personality that is virtually unbreakable at this point. As always, Buffy is blinded by emotion and the desire to save people to the point that she loses strategic objectivity and logic. Isnt it true that a lot of heroes in stories are like that? Its not a case of intelligence, but rash behaviour is something often associated with heroic figures.

    What I find out of character is not the fact that Buffy falls for the trap but the fact that she risks so many potentials’ lives in doing so. The Buffy we know is likely to believe Caleb has something of hers but shes unlikely, IMO, to jump at the idea of ‘testing’ the girls. Hasn’t Buffy always been against this approach to training (“Helpless”, anyone?). Besides, Buffy’s heroic personality often causes her to think she’s sacrificing *herself* for others but thinking she’s sacraficing others? To me thats not Buffy at all. Her talk with Spike in “Touched” supports that when she says “casualties… It just sounds so casual”. Even if she believed they were stonger than Caleb, its out of character for her to choose such a risky course of action when shes putting more than herself at risk, especially since she doesnt even know who/what Caleb is. To me this reeks of sloppy writing. It all seems too convoluted, as though its only there in order for the break in “Empty Places” to occur.


  19. [Note: Emily posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    Mike, thanks for a great review! I’ve missed them.

    @Wilpy, I agree with you completely about everything you said, especially the part about Buffy ‘falling for Caleb’s trick.” I knew from the first time I saw this episode that Buffy wasn’t falling for his trick- she was using it to her advantage. I, too, like the writer’s dig at religion, but at the same time, digs at religion on television always get me nervous, because religious fanatics are in the minority. It’s a little bit of a misrepresentation of religion, because this is not what most religious people are like.

    @Mike, you said in your cons that “Andrew warns all the girls about Faith, but how would Andrew know what Faith’s past is? Also, why does this information get lost on the Potentials in the next episode when Faith gets elected as their new leader?”

    As one of the Trio, I’m sure that Andrew, like Warren and Jonathan, compiled a history of everyone who was in the Scooby gang- temporary or permanent. As Faith was a very big part of Buffy’s life for Season 3 and part of Season 4, it makes sense that the Trio had info about her.


  20. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    “I saw this episode that Buffy wasn’t falling for his trick- she was using it to her advantage”

    How exactly did Buffy use it to her advantage? She didn’t. A couple of potential slayers died, Xander lost an eye and the rest of them just got asses kicked. That’s all. I would hardly call that using it to her advantage.


  21. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    ” I, too, like the writer’s dig at religion, but at the same time, digs at religion on television always get me nervous, because religious fanatics are in the minority. It’s a little bit of a misrepresentation of religion, because this is not what most religious people are like.”

    > Oh, of course not. I don’t think they were trying to portray it in that way. But according to the commentary, Goddard and the writers were using Caleb as a representation of how religion can sometimes have a hand in how males objectify women. Religion bares a great responsibility for the ways women were viewed in society in the past. Take a look at the witch burnings. They were purely a practice of blatant misogyny, and they were all in the name of Christianity and going ‘against God’. I think the best way to sum up Caleb is ‘religion gone bad’. We’re shown a monk in ‘Empty Places’ who is kind and helpful, so we were at least presented with the ‘better side’ of religion with him.

    “As for Caleb’s goading, I think it was mostly had to do with his general feelings towards women…he thinks they are stupid, rash, etc. I’m also fairly certain he didn’t expect her to actually win that battle (which she very much didn’t), and he wanted to possibly cripple her forces both physically and mentally with the loss. Curiosity as to what she would do at all also probably played a part.”

    > That’s a good explanation for it. I guess he was just very confident that he could beat her and that she’d never get her hands on the scythe.

    “And I liked your thoughts on the objectifying of women. Honestly never thought about it before. Don’t quite know how I missed it, now–after you spelled it out, it seems kind of obvious. haha”

    > I only started considering it after Drew Goddard kindly talked about it on the commentary! lol

    “How exactly did Buffy use it to her advantage? She didn’t. A couple of potential slayers died, Xander lost an eye and the rest of them just got asses kicked. That’s all. I would hardly call that using it to her advantage. “


  22. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]


    Regarding what you say about it being out of character for buffy to put the Potentials on the line: remember this is not like time’s past when Buffy had the *option* of fighting alone and putting her own life on the line, rather than others. She’d never been a leader of an army before, so she had to adjust her principles. She had to step up her game. As Giles said in LMPTM, “it’s time to stop playing general and start being one”. The Potentials had been sitting ducks up until that point. If they were going to go into battle, they’d need practice. And as Mike pointed out in his review, Buffy had already promised to take the fight to the bad guy immediately, rather than wait for him to come. I feel her decision in this episode was mostly in-character, and illustrates the tough choices an army general must make.


  23. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]


    I can see that Buffy may follow through with her speech’s promise by taking the fight to the enemy. A change in her character is possible, because times are differnt and she can’t *choose* anymore between putting her on life on the line rather than others’. Having said that, being a general doesn’t mean that she had to put others’ lives on the line based on such weak reasoning, especially when others are warning her not to. For me its still out of character for her to risk lives when she knows so little about Caleb. Maybe I could accept it as a change in her character if it weren’t for the fact that she changes right back to the Buffy we knew only an episode later (in “Touched”).


  24. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    Sorry, the last sentence of my last post was pretty hard to follow ๐Ÿ™‚
    What I meant to say was:

    Maybe I could accept it as a change in her character if it weren’t for the fact that only a few episodes after “Dirty Girls” (in “Touched”) she changes back to the Buffy we’ve known throughout the rest of the series (someone who’s terrified at the thought of putting others’ lives on the line).


  25. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on August 11, 2009.]

    @llinae: I believe we see a reversion in Buffy because of the horrible consequences of it all. She tried something different, and it turned out horribly, so she fearfully reverted.


  26. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on August 12, 2009.]

    wilpy, you showed me another perspective of the episode that I never thought about that, about how they objectify women and see them in “dirty” roles. Also, I´be already heard the commentary twice and it´s a real treat.

    About Buffy falling for the trap, I honestly think this is not the writers´s fault,it´s a character flaw of Buffy´s. Ever since we know her, she has always falling for traps and sometimes, she knows that they are traps but she lets her emotions get in the way most of the time. Remember than in Lie to Me, she says that her flaws are being rash and impulsive, also when she is hurting or mainly frustated she doesn´t take the best decisions. So this is entirely in character.


  27. [Note: Emily posted this comment on August 12, 2009.]

    @jarppu, I meant that she was trying to use it to her advantage, but it didn’t work. I never saw it as, “Buffy’s falling for a trap.” I always saw it as, “Buffy knows this is a trap, but she’s going to use this opportunity to try and get the enemy.” It’s just that this time, it didn’t work.


  28. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 14, 2009.]

    Ahh… been waiting on a new review but, i’m surprised – you dont seem to like Dirty Girls too much. It’s one of the best episodes IMO, one where the subtext and narrative are completely in harmony. (Wilpy got most of that covered)
    And Faith’s interraction actually serves to touch on character points within the scoobies and as a ‘dirty girl’ herself she is the lie to Caleb. Alas, she’s underused from here on in.

    The sheer impact of the finale is… terrifying realy, after all the speechy Buffy we’ve gone through and then – BLAM, it all falls apart on her. Awesome and moving.
    Caleb is a contender for ‘best’ big bad, certainly the most depraved and frightening.
    And for once, the low budget grainy look of S7 works in its favour here.

    All in all, a dark harsh episode – and one of the series strongest.


  29. [Note: GSilver posted this comment on August 17, 2009.]

    Changing topics a little, one thing that I really would have liked to have seen, but didn’t, was Faith not knowing who Dawn was. This would have been a good nod at the monks not perfectly rewriting reality perfectly to include her existence.

    I know that by here it was too late to go that path, but oh well.

    I also would have liked to see more tension between Faith and Buffy. Buffy seemed far too eager to put behind all of their past. While it’s obvious why she would do so quickly (all about the mission), it’s still a little disappointing. A little human frailty from the part of Buffy would have done the show wonders.

    As a final note, while I know the blog is written for re-watchers in mind as opposed to first-timers, I do wish that there were a bit fewer spoilers floating around for future episodes. This has greatly reduced the impact of character deaths on the show (and the comments for this episode was the first time I found out about Fred).


  30. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 17, 2009.]

    @GSilver: Not being able to freely discuss the impact that events in an episode will have on future episodes would not only severely limit my ability to completely analyze the show as a whole, but would also defeat the entire mission statement of the site. As you already pointed out, this site is specifically not built for first-timers. Spoilers can’t be helped, and the only thing I feel I can work on is to place more spoiler warnings throughout the site. In all honesty, though, if you were that concerned about them you shouldn’t have been reading the reviews until you had seen the entire series.

    From the About page: “Please be aware that most of my reviews contain SPOILERS of not only the episode reviewed, but of episodes potentially anywhere in the entire series. I have already seen the entire series several times on DVD. The purpose of these reviews is to not only share my opinion on the episodes and seasons with others, but also to attempt to unravel the many layers of depth this series offers.”


  31. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on August 18, 2009.]

    Can I join the chorus of ‘thank you’s for another review? I’ve also been checking with increasing desperation for the last couple of months. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I also want to second the approval of Wilpy’s comments – spot-on about the objectification, especially at this time where porn has become so mainstream that we can’t get away from its malign influence.

    As for Buffy’s recklessness in leading the Potentials into battle, I would say that she had no way of knowing (or reason to believe) that Caleb was an out-of-the-ordinary villain. She needed to test the Potentials and she even did a recce of the site – unusual for her. She was under pressure already and it’s entirely believable that she would have thought there simply wasn’t time to ease them into it, and that there would be safety in numbers.


  32. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on August 25, 2009.]

    Sunburn i agree, after all Buffy beat Glory and Glory was a God! I can’t imagine Buffy seeing Caleb in the same way straight off the bat.


  33. [Note: HarFang posted this comment on September 8, 2009.]

    I want to be in the chorus too!! I am totally on board with everything you said, Mike. I loved the scene between Faith and Spike and the awkward pause when Buffy walks in on them (just like in Sanctuary, on AtS!). It’s incredible how many old memories those few minutes bring to mind. Great stuff, really.

    But you also remind me of how much I hate Caleb. As a character, I mean. Besides all the other reasons that have been mentioned, what I really hate about him is that he is so one-dimensional and over-the-top: the Mayor, Glory and Angelus all had some funny quirks, but there is nothing NOT to hate about Caleb. He’s a mysoginist, a pervert, a bigot, a blasphemer and a murderer. Had there been enough time, I’m sure we would have discovered that he also was a racist, a homophobe, an animal-hater –and that he cheated at craps. Having a villain who is a stereotype doesn’t make Buffy’s fight more interesting, quite the opposite.
    Now I see that this was a last tribute to BtVS’ initial raison d’être: getting rid of the idea that the little blonde gal HAD to be the victim every time because she was so helpless –but Whedon used to be a bit more subtle about it. This doesn’t lessen my love for BtVS, and I can only applaude the intention; but I tend to roll my eyes a lot when Caleb is around.


  34. [Note: Baron posted this comment on October 21, 2009.]

    I never knew that it was originally intended that Xander die. I can see why they considered it and think that for the following episode it was needed, at least then Willow refusing to stand up for Buffy at the end of episode 19 would have been more understandable, as Willow would have lost all faith in Buffy but the fact that she did turn on Buffy so easily seemed out of character.


  35. [Note: Adam posted this comment on November 4, 2009.]

    Lately there has been a lot of short, disgusting and completly irrevelant posts on your website, Mike. I reccomend looking back over the last 4 episodes to get rid of them all.

    Also, I just want to say Willow is totally my fave character. If she wasn’t gay….well, I wouldn’t be dumb like Xander. Oh No sirey. I would pick her up in a fire station and never let her go from my arms!


  36. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on January 6, 2010.]

    Buffy and her ‘bait and swith’ and she falls for it again. She did it in ‘When She Was Bad’ and ‘Becoming Part 1’. Although this time is also used for a test for the Potentials.

    Faith is back and finally gets to meet Dawn…”Check it out, brat’s all woman size.”

    The Scoobies(Core 4)have their biggest hit since Buffy’s death and it’s probably the largest bad thing to happen that remains as Buffy came back.

    Xander losing his left eye has been hinted at for a while and here are times I can remember:

    ‘Innocence’- Xander asks the soldier to “give me a blind eye”.

    ‘Bad Girls’- Everytime Buffy says “Faith”, he puts his hand over his left eye making a patch.

    ‘Something Blue’- Xander asks “can I be blind too” as a joke for the spell.

    ‘Selfless’- The Crimslaw demons webbing goes down Xander’s left eye.

    Of course these are probably just jokes and similarities but they’re still there.

    I love Giles’ comment to Buffy that what Caleb has “could be a stapler”. Such a simple line makes me laugh. Also Molly (I think) yelling “No!” after seeing Caleb kill a Potential, and Caleb just saying, “yes” on his way to her.


  37. [Note: baunger1 posted this comment on June 28, 2010.]

    I do look the fact that this episode has interesting things to say about the objectification of women, and particularly the fact that Spike doesn’t engage in it. Interestingly, even as unsouled Spike/William, his flaw was to objectify women in a “good” way — revering them, deifying them — rather than reducing them to mere sexual objects or negative stereotypes (although doing so can, and has, had very negative consequences, both for him and the women in his life). Now, though, he is clearly the most evolved male on the show in terms of his relationships to women.

    My problems with the episode:

    1. Way too much exposition — a flaw that pervades much of the season

    2. Caleb introduced way, way too late. Almost an afterthought to solve the problem of dramatizing the First.

    3. The evil, sexually obsessed preacher is a tad obvious, although Nathan Fillion plays him beautifully.

    4. The eye. While this is a terrifying scene, it just reminded me of the awkward set-up for this to happen — the scene in which Dawn tells Xander that he “sees.” Xander is the heart. He feels. He doesn’t see. (In fact, he’s usually oblivious or in denial. ( Spike is the one who sees). That scene, while very touching in how Xander empathizes with Dawn (heart), was very jarring because Xander “seeing” came out of nowhere. Except to foreshadow the tragedy of his losing an eye later. I understand that killing him (probably by pulling out his heart) would have been overly disturbing, but the set up for losing the eye was really inconsistent and artificial to me. He should have just lost the eye without pretending that it was because “he sees.”

    5. I think a good opportunity for Spike and Xander to have some closure with eachother was lost in that Xander could have had a brief scene acknowledging that Spike saved his life, and had done so countless times before.


  38. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on June 28, 2010.]

    @Baunger1: About the “eyes” versus “heart”…originally, Xander had been slated to be killed, not just injured, in this season. So, I’m thinking perhaps Whedon meant for Xander’s heart to be ripped out, rather than his eye. But he ended up changing it to keep Xander alive for some reason or other. Which is probably why the show ended up with the not-so-well-handled “eyes/seeing” stuff, even though it had been established in prior seasons that Xander was the “heart” of the group.

    Of course, I also still contend that Xander is, in fact, the “douche” of the group. haha Seriously, the more I watch the show, the less and less I like Xander. XS


  39. [Note: Wolven posted this comment on August 18, 2010.]

    Hey everyone,

    I used to watch Buffy when it was being aired in the UK… I loved the show but I never got to watch all the episodes, I best remember seasons 1-4 but missed the occasional ones and 5-7 I didn’t follow so much.

    So I decided to watch them all again, and I’ve gone through almost all 7 seasons in about 5 weeks, can you believe? I’m totally hooked. It’s such an awesome show and Buffy is the perfect girl ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve been reading loads of your reviews and it’s nice there’s so many people into it as much as I am.

    I thought this episode was good even though it was sad and shocking, it kinda reminded me of “stanley’s cup” south park episode where it has a total shocker at the end.

    It was sad that after Xander’s talk to the potentials, the result of that battle were deaths, injuries and Xander’s loss.

    I don’t know if this was said before but I guess Xander being the ‘heart’ of the group and ‘seeing’ is why the group was so demoralized in the next episode, he’s the one that keeps spirits up.

    I never really had anything against Xander when Buffy originally aired, maybe because i was a little younger and related to the characters younger age (S1) but when I started watching again recently I found Xander was a more annoying version than Chandler from friends. That was mostly seasons 1, 2 and some of 3 but over the seasons he has really grown on me and matured as a character. He used to talk a lot and unnessarily but he’s quieter and more careful with what he’s said over 5-7.

    Let’s not forget that he saved Buffy’s life the first time she died, and I think the ‘seeing’ thing is the wisdom and maturity he’s displayed the last 3 seasons. For example the talk with Buffy when Riley was leaving Sunnydale. I think a lot of growth has been a result of his relationship with Anya.

    Anyway, I was real upset when that happened to Xander.

    I definitely agree that Buffy felt confident in taking the fight to the enemy and I think she was right in thinking so.

    I really want to watch S1-7 again in the future but watch Angel as well in the proper sequence. I’ve not watched any Angel before.

    Thanks again for the reviews!


  40. [Note: Wolven posted this comment on August 18, 2010.]

    Oh yeah I forgot, that’s why I think Xander is invaluable to the scoobies. He’s saved lives, not just Buffy’s and not just Willow (and the world) in S6, but in general and he’s always been there for them… supportive and always playing an important part.


  41. [Note: Wolven posted this comment on August 18, 2010.]


    another to add to the list is:

    Xander dressing up as a pirate in ‘All the Way’ season 6.

    All those hints must be more than jokes and similarities right?


  42. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on January 22, 2011.]

    Oh Nathan Fillion (sigh) how I love thee. I wish Caleb had been introduced earlier in the season. I would have loved to see his back story. Imagine seeing him before he met The First – preaching in a church, and luring the girls who were drawn by his sermon, then seeing him kill this “dirty girl”. Would have been creepily awesome IMO.

    This episode was more shocking than really good. We knew some Potentials would die but the de-eying of Xander was a jolt. And hard to watch.

    I agree that the basement scene between Faith and Spike was well done. I remember thinking that I thought the two of them would become involved. I wouldn’t have objected.

    Not much else to this episode. I liked it but it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack of episodes for me.


  43. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 20, 2011.]

    Re: baunger1 (#37) and Leelu’s (#38) thoughts above re: Xander being the “heart” of the group and not so much the “eyes,” I’d forgotten until I re-watched it recently that Xander does get his heart ripped out at the end of his dream sequence in Restless. This, after Principal Snyder tells Xander that “he’s a whipping boy, raised by mongrels, put on a sacrificial stone” (that’s from memory so somewhat paraphrased but essentially what Snyder says) and Xander’s Dad tells him that the family line “ends here.” So, there’s a lot foreshadowing of Xander’s death there and possibly even death by having his heart ripped out (although most of the foreshadowing in Restless isn’t that literal, so maybe not). However, Xander’s Dad (in the dream) also tells him that he “doesn’t have the heart” and I think Xander proves throughout the series that he very much does have the heart (to save the world by reaching Willow, to stand by Buffy in battle, etc.) so maybe Xander averts his potentially darker fate by proving himself throughout the later part of the series.

    Personally, I had mixed feelings about Xander (he was my favorite character in the early seasons but started to annoy me in later seasons), but I’m glad Joss Whedon didn’t have him killed here as originally planned. I think I’m happy JW saved Xander because Xander is really the only completely “normal” person who fights beside Buffy (following Cordelia’s departure). Even Dawn, who doesn’t have any special powers or abilities (e.g., magic, Slayer abilities, Initiative training & gadgets, etc.), has her history as the “key” that makes her different. Having Xander killed off I think would have indicated that someone really does need to be “special” to occupy Buffy’s world (something that Riley suggests in Season 5 and Buffy emphatically rejects) so I’m glad that Xander, normal guy, lives to fight another day.

    That said, I wish they’d cut the idea that Xander “sees” and, thus, that’s the reason for his fate here. I think one of Xander’s defining (and sometimes even endearing) characteristics is that he’s so often blind to stuff that’s going on.


  44. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on December 25, 2011.]

    -Too much lighting in the cemetery. Night time is supposed to be dark.

    -Faith notes that Buffy and herself were Potentials. They never were. Buffy was called into being the Slayer while on the steps of her high school and Faith was made a Slayer after Kendra died. Season 7 retconned so much of Slayer origin.


  45. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on April 5, 2012.]

    @nathan.taurus, omg that has bothered me for so long! and i still dont know why that was in there. like i never understood how they were potentials??? she was called then she was the slayer, she was never a potential


  46. [Note: Dave posted this comment on May 14, 2012.]

    There’s a difference between being a trained potential, and a potential. I get what you’re saying, but it’s kind of a moot point.


  47. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on August 10, 2012.]

    “It’s obviously not cool to have your main villain upstaged by a new guy who appears towards the end of the season.”

    Yep, totally agree here. To me the Caleb character is the main thing that pushes S7 down to the lower tier for me. It just comes out of nowhere. And I hate misogyny, have seen enough for one lifetime.

    The flip side to this episode is that it’s a real win to bring Faith back into the plot, rather than leaving her thread hanging at series’ end. I never cared for the Faith arc much, to be honest, but since half the team now is made up of murderers, she’s no longer the odd woman out. Welcome back.


  48. [Note: Rob W. posted this comment on August 10, 2012.]

    Nathan, Antoinette — you can see the Potentials as simply all the girls who have been given the Slayer nature (but not yet its power) by whatever magic mechanism the Shadow Men set in motion, rather than the subset that have actually been identified as such by a Watcher. Buffy and Faith were at least Potentials in that sense prior to their activations. A number of the Potentials in S7 wouldn’t necessarily have ever known what they were under more normal circumstances. Many were killed without having gained that knowledge, and yet they were still referred to as Potentials.

    What’s always been more perplexing for me is why some, like Kendra, were identified and prepared beforehand. Was that simply up to the Watcher’s discretion? How far in advance did Merrick know about Buffy?


  49. [Note: WCRobinson posted this comment on April 14, 2013.]

    I really shouldn’t have entered this comments section xD Wasn’t expecting Angel spoilers, ah well – I have avoided most of them.

    On the episode though, while I don’t think Xander, the relatively normal member of the group, should be killed (the blinding ties nicely into Dawn’s “you see things” speech”, having a main character death could have maybe worked here to really hit home the defeat and strengthen the intimidation factor of Caleb.


  50. [Note: Megren posted this comment on July 1, 2013.]

    My favourite part of the episode, other than the Spike/Faith scenes, was the fact that it was Spike who saved Xander


  51. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 29, 2013.]

    I know this sounds irrelevant, but does anybody notice a change in Faith’s manner of speech from this episode on? Instead of her usual Boston way of talking, I feel like they made her talk with an excessive use of…slang? I can’t think of the right word.

    I can only think of a specific example when in Chosen when she keeps saying “yo” and “I got mad skills!” It seems out of character for her to talk like that, I felt they tried making her act ghetto. Anyone else pick up on this?

    Also, Xander dying would have been disgusting in my opinion. This would have been another Joss-personal issue-death and it would have made me as sick as when a similar situation happened in Angel.


  52. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 29, 2013.]

    Faith has recently spent three years in prison, and wasn’t all that educated to begin with (i.e. high school drop-out and all). It’s not remotely out of character.


  53. [Note: Monica posted this comment on August 29, 2013.]

    I understand that, but it’s entirely different from how she spoke in the third and fourth season of Buffy, and first (and second) season of Angel. It doesn’t lessen my opinion on the character, the episode, or the writers I just found it a little strange. I was more just wondering if anyone noticed a change in the way she spoke…


  54. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 29, 2013.]

    Well, you said “It seems out of character for her to talk like that.” My response was that it’s not. Again, being in prison for three years will impact how some people speak. It seems to me an intentional choice by the writers, and one that makes sense (at least from my perspective).


  55. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on November 30, 2014.]

    Just another 2 cents to add to the discussion about Buffy “falling for the trap”: I’m with the people who have defended her here, for all the reasons already stated plus one more: I would suggest that to some extent, in any story structured around a villain and a hero, when the villain sets up a trap for the hero and the hero realizes that this is what is going on, the hero nevertheless almost “has to” (knowingly) take the bait. Ideally, of course, the hero should go in with kind of ace in the hole by means of which (s)he changes the rules on the villain, rather than simply playing into the villain’s plans. (In this episode, Buffy arguably tried to do exactly that–it just happens that she failed.) But my point revolves around an interesting aspect of the dynamic between a hero and a villain-trying-to-kill-the-hero, which is that there’s one thing that they both want: to confront/engage with each other. Villains delude themselves that they are cleverly manipulating naively foolish heroes when they get the latter to come willingly to their lairs, but what they forget is that the hero’s goal isn’t just to stay alive (a goal that would be best served by avoiding the trap)–the hero’s goal is to thwart/defeat/kill the villain! To accomplish that, you have to engage–and since villains seldom give heroes the luxury of engaging on the hero’s terms, heroes are left, of necessity, having to engage on the villain’s terms (i.e., knowingly “walk into the trap”) and hoping to emerge victorious anyway. This, in my view, is what Buffy does here–and is also at least an aspect of what she has done on other occasions as well, even if, when she was less experienced, she often put less thought into the ways that it could potentially go wrong than she did this time.


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