Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 6

Sarah grits her teeth and prepares to sit through Him, an episode she really, really hated the first time around. Is it any better now, all this time later?

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike was insane in the basement, and D’Hoffryn revoked Anya’s vengeance demon licence.

Let me preface everything else I’m going to say in this review by saying this: I really, really, really, really hated this episode the first time round. If I’d realised I had to watch this one next, I would have been less eager to get my arse back on the sofa for another episode. I’d probably have tuned into E4 and watched a few more of their endless reruns of Scrubs or Friends, instead. Still, at least it’s over now.

So, we open with Spike being moved into Xander’s flat. Because Buffy thinks that the evil in the school basement is what’s making Spike crazy, and because she obviously can’t move him into her own house, and because Xander clearly has nothing better to do than become part of a comedy duo with Spike, she decides for them both that that’s what’s going to happen. The only reason Xander agreed to this was because it’s a plot device. There’s no way Xander would let Spike move in with him, and even if he did, he’d stake him in his sleep or something. Except, I don’t know, this is some weird version of Xander who just lets his living space be invaded by the living dead. Whatever.

The next scene is an aerial shot of an American football game, with Buffy and Dawn talking over it, because I guess someone thought it was time to get some use out of that crane they had lying around. Dawn quizzes Buffy on her feelings for Spike, and throws in a few digs at the soul-having Xander for leaving Anya at the altar, because the whole point of this dialogue is to make it funny when Dawn falls for RJ, Sunnydale High’s star quarterback. It is, otherwise, a pretty terrible bit of script. And shouldn’t Xander tell people at some point exactly why he left Anya at the altar, so they’d all stop using it as a funny funny excuse for how useless men are? I mean, a demon came along, pretended to be Xander from the future, and told him that if he married her, he’d be ruining her life. He didn’t abandon her for a laugh, people!

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After the credits, Buffy fights off a demon sent to execute Anya, which is apparently an excuse to bring Anya back on side, even though, like, even when she’s supposedly been off the team she was always happy to help out by babysitting Dawn or something. I’m not sure if I’m prejudiced because I already thought this episode sucked from the outset, or if it’s really remarkably bad, but, wow, this episode sucks.

Meanwhile, at school, because Buffy’s not meant to be working there or anything, Dawn is pacing the hallway, trying to spot RJ. When she finds him, he’s talking to two cheerleaders about how there’s an empty spot on the cheerleading squad. Of course there is. Dawn embarrasses herself trying to talk to him, which obviously means she’ll have to dig out Buffy’s old cheerleading uniform and try out for the cheerleading team, because apparently this episode is a slapstick teen comedy. And, of course, when she does try out, instead of being all graceful like she was back in the day when Once More With Feeling was happening, she falls on her ass and makes an even bigger fool of herself. She runs home and cries, only to be patronised by Buffy (again: they gave her a job as a counselor? At a high school??)

The next day, when the other quarterback manages to oust RJ from his starting position on the team (I totally don’t understand American football), Dawn pushes him down the stairs so he won’t be able to play any more. Buffy suspects something supernatural might be going on, but it doesn’t stop her going to the Bronze with Willow and Xander that night. They spot RJ dancing with a girl who, according to their conversation, is scantily dressed, but actually Dawn (of course it’s Dawn, because it’s all about the really crappy visual jokes this week) is wearing jeans and an asymmetrical top which, okay, exposes one shoulder and part of her midriff, but it’s no worse than she usually wears, or indeed what Buffy usually wears. Not that that stops Buffy going completely overboard, which leads Dawn to accuse her of jealousy.

I think I’ve just about figured out that this whole episode is just designed to open up a rift between Dawn and Buffy that’ll continue throughout the series; it goes back to that thing where they’re trying to make Buffy really unlikeable, and I have to say, they’re succeeding. She’s really unpleasant in this episode.

At school the next day, Buffy takes RJ aside to give him a good talking to about the way he treats girls, but when he slips on his letterman jacket she goes all gooey and flirts with him instead. Embarrassingly. Was she always this bad at flirting? Urghhh. In order to put Dawn off, Buffy tells her that RJ really likes her, but thinks she comes on too strong, so she should just sit back and let him come to her. Then, the next day, Buffy makes her move, dragging RJ out of math class and … either making out with him, or possibly having sex with him, in an empty classroom. Because this is a slapstick teen comedy, of course Dawn sees them, and Xander has to come save the day by taking them both home. Interestingly, despite Buffy’s current issues due to having been almost raped by Spike last season, this kind of sexual exploitation – RJ is essentially using magic roofies – is never addressed, because this is a comedy episode and things like common sense can’t be allowed to get in the way of the LOLs. Except, really not laughing her.

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I’ve almost lost the will to rant, this episode sucked so hard. Sigh. Okay, so Xander and Spike decide to pay a visit to RJ’s older brother, who apparently used to be a star quarterback in his day, too. It turns out, though, that he got old and fat and pathetic – though he does manage to tell them that it’s the letterman jacket that’s working the mojo, that he got it from his father, who used it to win his beauty queen wife, before passing it to his baby brother.

While the men are out of the house, though, RJ drops by and enchants both Willow and Anya, despite Willow’s professed homosexuality. The less one questions this, the less it hurts. Trust me. Buffy, Dawn, Anya and Willow enter into some ridiculous competition to prove who loves RJ the most: Buffy plans to kill Principal Wood for him, Willow intends to use magic to turn him into a girl, Anya… goes to rob a bank, for no discernible reason other than ha, ha, isn’t it so funny that Anya’s obsessed with money? and Dawn, well, Dawn decides to kill herself by lying on some train tracks.

There’s an almost funny scene viewed through Principal Wood’s window, behind his head, as Buffy approaches with a rocket launcher only to be chased by Spike, who tackles her and takes the rocket launcher away. Buffy manages to get to the train tracks just in time to save Dawn, then Xander and Spike track down RJ, rip the letterman jacket off his back and throw it in a fire, and then it’s all hilarious because Anya robbed a bank.

Ugh. I’m starting to remember why I thought season 7 sucked – this episode was just an exercise in bad writing. It’s a filler episode, with a series of goals to achieve and a fairly terrible idea at its heart. I feel quite hypocritical, though, because I was bemoaning how depressing and serious the series had become, because everyone was so damaged, and yet I hated this lighthearted episode more than all the others. But actually, I don’t think that’s inconsistency on my part – I think it’s that this kind of slapstick doesn’t work in this context. All of these people are facing deep-seated issues and problems, and no amount of slapstick is going to change that. It just makes a mockery of the whole season. Yuck. I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth now…