Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 14

Buffy and Xander go on first dates - not with one another - and Sarah's pleasantly surprised by this episode...

Buffy First Date

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Andrew killed Jonathan, Spike’s chip went all wonky, and Giles was possibly dead.

A slightly awkward cut from the previously on into the episode replays the scene where Giles almost got his head chopped off, but this time the scene doesn’t cut away, so we see him grab the axe before it made contact with his neck. Go Giles! Then it turns out he’s using this story as a lesson for the Potentials in the graveyard, talking up how big a part instinct and intuition play in any situation, all too obviously setting himself up for a fall. I actually thought he was going to trip into an open grave, but instead he’s tackled to the ground by Spike. Spike explains that he thought Giles was The First, and Giles asks why, then, he tried to tackle him, given that The First is incorporeal. Spike’s not usually that stupid, is he? Giles asks, next, how Spike was able to attack him given the behaviour modification chip he’s supposed to have in his brain, and Buffy sheepishly explains that she had it removed. Giles takes this opportunity to introduce the new Potential, Chao-Ahn, newly arrived from China and completely unable to understand anything anyone’s saying. Oh dear.

After the credits, Buffy’s preening in front of the mirror, putting on huge, ostentatious earrings. Giles comes in to lecture her on having Spike’s chip removed, pointing out that it’s a really bad idea and puts everyone else in danger. It’s nice to have Giles back. Buffy finally says that she’s noticed that Principal Wood appears to be up to something, and I have a quiet celebration over that, because, yes, thank you for noticing that, Buffy! She also points out that Spike killed people while the chip was in his head, so it wasn’t doing much good anyway, and then bizarrely has a bit of a rant about how it was wrong to muzzle him and that he can be a good man if only he’s given the chance. Er. Okay. I’m torn on this, because I did think Buffy should get the chip removed from Spike’s head, but at the same time I can definitely see Giles’ point about her endangering everyone. Then again, screw it, we’re coming up to the final fight, how much of a chance should one vampire have against twenty would-be Slayers anyway?

While all this is going on, Xander’s at work, which gave me a bit of a jolt because I’m totally incapable of figuring out when and where in time anything is happening, but, okay, he’s still holding down a job, good. He spots a pretty girl across the way and goes over to help her, because… wait, what is going on here? I’m boggled again by what his job is. Although he says he isn’t a sales assistant, he helps the girl, Lissa, pick out the correct kind of rope, managing to make several clumsy innuendos along the way, and then asks her out for coffee. Yay, Xander!

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At her job, Buffy goes to snoop around Principal Wood’s office, looking for signs of being evil. He catches her red-handed, and … asks her out to dinner. As you do. After she leaves, guiltily, he pulls out a blood-soaked cloth containing a knife, which he then stores in his giant weapons cabinet. Uh oh.

Back home, Buffy and Willow gossip about Buffy’s date – and whether it’s a date, or whether she might be getting a promotion, or whether he’s actually evil – at which point Xander bursts in, bragging that he, too, is going on a date. Everyone jokes about Xander’s date being evil, which is a shame, really, and then Giles gets home with Chao-Ahn, to whom he has apparently been feeding ice-cream despite her lactose intolerance. The joke about Chao-Ahn and milk is really, really out of place (and will annoyingly crop up again later) and I wish I could just ignore it until it goes away. Because surely, even if she can’t speak to Giles, she could indicate a lack of desire to eat ice-cream, or even just not eat it? This is silly.

In the kitchen, Andrew is busy setting up the microwave when The First-Jonathan shows up for a chat. It goads him about how he’s being treated by Buffy, and tells him to steal Willow’s gun to shoot the Potentials. Uh oh. Andrew threatens to scream and summon Buffy, but The First says that she won’t be able to see it even if she comes in. Which makes me wonder, if it can be invisible, why does it ever bother leaving? Or why doesn’t it just prod at Buffy until she goes insane and gets committed? If she was in a straitjacket, she’d maybe find it harder to avert the Apocalypse… and, actually, didn’t we already do something along those lines in Normal Again? Hmph.

Anyway. Anya and Buffy have a conversation about Buffy’s date and Xander’s date in which Anya expresses her jealousy and Buffy is largely useless. No change there, then. Spike wanders in to tell Buffy that he’s perfectly okay with her going on a date, and she tells him he should get out more. Because the last time he went on a date, he didn’t murder loads of people or anything.

Xander appears to have taken his date to… maaaaybe the Bronze, I’m not quite sure, but anyway it’s somewhere they serve coffee. He talks big about his “red eye” (black coffee with an additional shot of espresso) until Lissa points out he’s actually drinking cocoa. Apparently, this means he loses macho points, and may also mean I’m really, really macho because I drink coffee, or it could just be another one of those times when American TV shows seems to be making a much bigger deal of coffee than it is.

Meanwhile, Amanda, Dawn and Willow are Googling Principal Wood but can’t find anything. Giles upsets Chao-Ahn even more by drawing pictures of vampires and Slayers and Bringers and all the rest of it – they look like the pictures he drew in Hush, which is nice continuity, but again it’s this weird “silly Giles!” subplot that really doesn’t quite fit with the rest of this episode, since Giles is being constantly called upon to act as the voice of reason and sanity. Yuck.

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Buffy and Principal Wood are walking through a darkened alley to a restaurant, though Buffy suspects it may all be a set-up. And indeed it appears to be one when they’re ambushed by vampires… only, okay, I can totally remember Wood’s deal and that’s ruining a lot of the suspense, because I can’t work out if I would have been fooled by it if I didn’t already know what was going on. Anyway, Buffy and Wood both fight off the vamps and then have a “We need to talk” moment.

Cut to Xander and Lissa, talking about Anya and how Xander ruined everything with her. Um. That’s not the best conversation to have on a first date, surely?

Back with Wood and Buffy, they’re now in a posh restaurant eating food that sounds really, really good. Nom nom nom. He confesses that he knew she was the Slayer and set everything up in order to meet her. (He also laughs at the idea of her being good at counselling, which is nice. I’m glad he’s aware how rubbish she is, though you’d think he should care a bit more about Sunnydale High School kids than that!) The reason he knows so much about Slayers is because his mother was one, though she was killed when he was 4. Oh dear.

At Buffy’s house, Andrew has now got the gun – out of Buffy’s underwear drawer, which is sort of funny – and The First-Jonathan wants to get the massacre rolling, but Andrew stalls by asking a series of questions about The First’s possible weaknesses. He’s not very good at lying, and The First soon clocks that he’s wearing a wire. The manifestation of Jonathan gets all bloody and dead and rotted and really, really, really gross, and The First shouts at the girls, hiding in the basement and trying to record the conversation. Because they’ve got nothing better to do? This is another kind of stupid subplot.

Xander’s date has, predictably, gone horribly wrong, and he ends up suspended over the Seal of Danzalthar, while Lissa goes all cat-eyed and demon-y. Oh dear.

Now, lots of things happen that couldn’t really have happened and are really silly and plot-holey. Xander somehow text messages Willow in code (why?) to let her know he’s being killed by his demon date (how?) and Spike runs off to find Buffy (how?) and when he does, he tells her where Xander is, because Willow did a locator spell to find him (when?). BLECH. Basically, the point of it all is that Spike vamps out in front of Wood, who will later be visited by The First in the form of his mother – because guess who the vampire was who killed her? Oops. Buffy rescues Xander and then Giles, quite rightly, shouts at them all for worrying too much about their social lives and not enough about the impending apocalypse. Only he manages to thrust milk at Chao-Ahn again in the process. Sigh.

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See, the thing is, overall, I enjoyed this episode, but there’s too much nonsense thrown in. I like the Buffy-Spike-Wood dynamic, a lot, and I thought The First’s manifestation of dead Jonathan was supremely creepy and brilliant. But I hate the Chao-Ahn milk jokes, and I hate the “Xander’s a loser who can only date demons” shtick. I guess, on the whole, I’m glad that things really do feel, finally, like they’re moving towards a climactic finish, and I like a lot of the character work, but I hate the flippancy of it all. I like Buffy when it’s funny, but everything in its place, y’know? I’m not sure I see what the point of undermining Giles’ authority was, other than to put Buffy even more in charge, and she’s not good at that. Oh well.