Intervention (5x18)

After the long post "The Body" hiatus, and last weeks' homage to "The Monkey's Paw", the long awaited (or long dreaded, depending on POV) has arrived. The "previously on Buffy" scenes go on for almost a minute and a half...Joss Whedon has a lot of balls in the air right now, and the time is definitely needed.

The teaser begins in the Summers' kitchen, where Giles is helping with the dishes and trying to be supportive (though he seems less than enthusiastic when Dawn suggests that he help them clean the garage). Buffy, remembering that Dawn is a de facto fourteen year old, sends her to her room to see if there are any plates that she has forgotten,"...before they get furry and we have to name them." Dawn retorts that she was five then and departs, though I suspect that in Sunnydale a furry plate might actually show up in the local version of the Monster Manual...best not to take chances.

Giles, doing the job that Hank should be there to do (remember Hank, everyone? Buffy's dad? The one who disappears for months at a time without leaving a number where he can be reached? All in favor of an excruciatingly painful death for Hank, raise your hands. *counts, then grins evilly * One can only hope), tries to see if Buffy is all right. Buffy tries to put a brave face on it, and says that she's starting to get into a routine. Giles perks up, and suggests that a good part of that routine would be beginning her training again (once a Watcher, always a Watcher). Surprisingly, Buffy seems reticent, saying that she thinks it might be time for "...a break or something...just ease up for a while." Concerned, which is reasonable given that Buffy once made the comment "Kicking ass is comfort food for Slayers," they adjourn to the living room, where Buffy haltingly tells Giles that she is worried about the effects that her new focus on Slaying has had on her emotions. She acknowledges that she is better than she has ever been in the physical sense: "I mean, I can beat up a demon until the cows come home, and then I can beat up the cows, but I'm not sure I like what it's doing to me."

Giles, trying to emphasize the positive, stresses the progress she has made: "But you've mastered so much. Your strength, your resilience..." Buffy breaks in and points out the problem with what Giles is saying: "Yeah, strength, resilience...those are all words for hardness. I'm starting to feel like being the Slayer is turning me into stone." Giles begins to protest, but Buffy cuts him off again and states flatly that she was never there for Riley like she was for Angel, and that she had been horrible to Dawn. She rejects Giles' suggestion that the stress of her mother's illness had effected her, and blames herself for driving off Riley with her coldness, and agonizes over whether Joyce knew how much she loved her. Giles tries to reassure her that Joyce knew, but Buffy simply says that she doesn't know, and says that Slaying is hardening her on the inside, and that "maybe being the perfect Slayer means not being able to love at all." She admits that even saying the words is hard for her (which would explain why she didn't try saying those three little words to coax Riley to accept treatment in "Out of My Mind") and tells Giles flat out--with obvious effort--that she loves him.

Giles ponders her words, and asks her if she is serious about this, and she is. Giles then tells her about a quest that Buffy can undertake to find answers that will take a day or two. Lucky for Buffy that quests aren't what they used to be in terms of commitment. The quest requires traveling to a "sacred place in the desert, not far from here." Is there more than one sacred place, or has every questing Slayer had to trek out to the California High Desert? That would have been annoying back in the old days... Anyway, Buffy objects to leaving Dawn alone, but Dawn comes back and encourages her to go, saying that the Scoobies can keep an eye on her. A long way from being ticked off at Buffy for being emotionally distant...amazing how almost coming face to face with Monkey Paw Joyce can lead to sister-sister bonding. Buffy reacts by, with a little more ease than she just showed with Giles, telling Dawn that she loves her, then telling her again after Dawn reciprocates, making Dawn a bit uneasy: "Getting weird." Buffy smiles at her and replies, "Sorry. But it's important that I tell you. Weird love is better than no love."

Which segues nicely to Spike and Warren looking over Spike's new toy. BuffyBot (tm) is dressed in a leather jacket and one of Buffy's more subdued pink Slaying outfits, and her eyes are closed. Warren assures him that the Bot has all of the programming Spike wanted, including the knowledge about Buffy's friends, and "scenario responses" and "special skills." Amazing how certain euphemisms can sound so tacky. Warren tries to bolt, but Spike stops him, saying that he isn't sure he's a satisfied customer, and that she looks a little "shiny" to him. At that moment, the subject of their discussion opens her eyes and greets Spike with disturbing enthusiasm. Buffy never smiles as broadly as the BuffyBot does here, and I suspect that not even in the ubiquitous Maybelline commercials we see her in is Sarah Michelle Gellar required to smile as broadly and as often as playing the BuffyBot will require her to do. She lays a serious lip lock on Spike, and he stares with a mildly stunned expression after she disengages and comments quietly, "She'll do."

Roll opening credits.

ACT ONE begins with a frustrated Glory talking to her gang of Crusty Minions, including Jinx, who apparently died last episode, but "is fine now." Hmm...apparently the Monkey Paw version of Jinx is basically the same as the old Jinx, which is probably one of the few perks of looking like a "hobbit with leprosy" as Xander later quotes Buffy as describing the Crusty Minions. Glory complains about Ben's inept job of trying to shut up Jinx and about starting to lose the fight to keep control of the body she shares with him. Another of the minions points out that at least they know that the Key is human; of course, Ben never said that, he said "innocent." Buffy and Dawn would have been better off if Glory and the Crusty Minions were PETA members, as the Minions would have had to check out every cocker spaniel and garden snail in Sunnydale along with Buffy's friends...oh well. Glory grumbles that info alone won't do it, and without the Key she is screwed. The Crusty Minions start toadying again to cheer her up, but she points out that she is in exile, and stuck sharing a body with an enemy. Buffy probably wouldn't mind seeing Glory sent back home, either, as long as it didn't involve the destruction of the world or the involuntary discorporation of her little sister, but negotiation makes for such a dull plot. After listening to more bowing and scraping (near the end, the minions seem to be running out of new flattery, which was bound to happen sooner or later), Glory orders the minions to follow Buffy and her friends and look for someone "special" to her. She sends them off with an entreaty that seems a bit odd coming from a hell god: "If you love me, you'll get it for me." Hmm...resurrection benefits, apparent concern for their well being, and being guilted into job performance rather than random evisceration after failure (or at least in addition to it)...as minions go, the Crusty Ones don't seem to have it so bad, occasional encounters with platoons of insane Knights aside.

Buffy and Giles arrive in a spot in the desert, wearing moderately warm looking clothing, which provoked a flood of posts on alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer from those who didn't do so well in Geography (yes, it can get cold in the desert, even in the daytime, depending on the time of year and latitude). Buffy perks up when she sees Giles getting "supplies" out of his trunk, only to become less happy to hear that the supplies consist of "a book, a gourd, and a bunch of twigs": "I don't think I'll be THAT hungry." Giles explains that he will perform a ritual to transfer his guardianship of Buffy to a "guide", who will lead her to the sacred place where she will be enlightened. Buffy is less than thrilled, particularly given the lack of food and water, and Giles replies to her snide comment along those lines that it takes bones much longer than a week to become bleached. Buffy asks how the ritual is performed, and Giles, looking embarrassed, describes the ritual, which does indeed sound like the Hokey Pokey, and when Buffy points this out, he gives her a dirty look and tells her to "go quest."

Spike is playing with his new toy, bantering with the Bot as she rather gingerly moves around him carrying a stake. She makes a rather feeble attack on him and ends up in his arms, breathlessly telling him that "I want to hurt you, but I can't resist the sinister attraction of your cold and muscular body." No, I'm not kidding. The party line is that the writers on Buffy and other shows avoid fanfic like the plague for obvious legal reasons, but most of the deeply vacuous dialogue coming from the BuffyBot (Sarah Michelle Gellar either has no sense of humor, or deserves an Emmy for delivering the lines with a straight face) seems to be straight out of Buffy/Spike fanfic...and not the good ones, either. The theme of the endearments is how hot the Bot finds Spike's "badness": since the dialogue was chosen by Spike, I strongly suspect the theme to all of this is "methinks the de-fanged vampire protesteth too much." In any event, they get down to business, and intense (implied) boinking follows.

Back to the desert, where Giles apparently is blessedly finished shaking the gourd and jumping in and out of the circle, and is reading aloud from a book while sitting in the circle. Buffy is off wandering about, and before long runs across a mountain lion: "Hello, kitty." Admittedly, my reaction in the same situation would be more along the lines of "oh, shit", but then again I'm not the Slayer, and it is a rather attractive creature. She follows it for a while, then ends up in a rather familiar stretch of desert to anyone who watched "Restless" at the end of last season. Buffy notices, too: "I know this place."

Cut to Xander's apartment, where Tara has just cast the spell to warn against Glory's approach, though she rather modestly suggests that Willow could have done it better. Xander, who apparently absorbed tact lessons from his ex girlfriend, nags about whether Willow can "bulk up the spell a little" when she gets back (Nice, Xander...the last time I heard, none of Tara's spells had sent every demon in Sunnydale in a stampede at you...). Tara diplomatically ignores the comment as Xander mentions that he and Anya will be going out on patrol, which causes Anya to complain about why they have to patrol just because Buffy is gone, and that she would rather stay in and watch TV. Tara perks up and says that Willow wanted to watch a show about the Salem witch trials, causing Anya to contribute one of her disturbing history lessons by commenting that since the real witches could use spells to escape, the trials were only dangerous to the falsely accused, "and they never have a good time." While the others are cringing, Dawn has stolen a pair of Anya's earrings from the table behind them...Joss is messing with our heads again, damn him. She suggests ordering pizza, as we spot a Crusty Minion lurking outside Xander's window...too bad the spell doesn't spot them too.

Cut back to Spike in his crypt with the Bot, who is continuing with pillow talk so vacuous that even Harmony would be embarrassed by it. Spike seems subdued, but still into it as he occasionally pipes in, then waits for the endearing responses. The smiling is getting deeply disturbing: any wider and we could see SMG's molars. Abruptly, Spike's little fantasy is interrupted by a jarring reminder, as the Bot asks, "Should I start this program over?" Yikes. Spike admonishes her not to use "that word" and the Bot continues to smile broadly.

Brief shot of Willow at school (she is really compulsive about her notes coming to harm). She heads off, with a Crusty Minion following her.

Spike is out like a light; apparently, undead stamina has its limits. Deciding not to wait out post Bot Sex syndrome, the BuffyBot goes out to Slay with great enthusiasm, leaving the crypt as Spike mumbles restlessly in sleep.

ACT TWO starts with a brief shot in the desert, where Giles is drinking coffee and Buffy is huddled up, looking bored.

The BuffyBot runs into Xander and Anya while cheerfully wandering through a cemetery twirling a stake. Naturally, both are surprised to see her, and Xander asks how the "vision quest" went. The Bot is clueless about this, of course, and her reply oddly doesn't attract any suspicion from either Scooby. The Bot's inner programs (shown as a 'heads up" display as we saw with April in "I Was Made To Love You") are feeding her information about Xander (friend, carpenter, dates Anya) and Anya (dates Xander, loves money, ex-demon), and Anya is very appreciative when the Bot asks after her money. Xander is rather taken aback by "Buffy's" observation that it is a nice night to be out killing evil things, and seems to be about to ask more questions when Spike comes up, breathless (yes, I know he doesn't need to breathe, but he acts like he's out of breath). The Bot coos, "It's Spike! And he's wearing the coat." Spike makes a rather heroic effort to hide the fact that "Buffy" can't keep her hands off of him, feigning pain where she grabs his arm and announcing that there are vampires all over the place, and that they should split up. Proving that someone up there (or down there, take your choice) likes Spike, three vampires do indeed take that opportunity to show up. Fighting breaks out, and Anya has a cool moment when she stakes a vamp that Xander kicked away from him (she later complains about having breathed in a "quart of vampire dust"). The Bot is visibly and vocally concerned about Spike during the fight, which is duly noted by the Crusty Minions watching from the shadows. The Bot and Spike finish off the other vamps, and Anya and Xander leave after being reassured by "Buffy" that she and Spike can handle the patrolling.

Spike apparently ordered the Bot with the deluxe Faith package, because she complains of not being satisfied by the Slaying, and that her skin is "hot." Spike suggests a remedy, and they begin going at it right there in the cemetery. Meanwhile, Xander and Anya have doubled back after Xander wonders why "Buffy" never asked about Dawn, and loud moans lead them to the Bot happily bobbing up and down on top of a supine Spike (the long skirt she wears conceals anything other than implied skin) calling out "You're the Big Bad!" in a sing-song voice. Eww.

Back to Xander's apartment, where Willow and Tara are watching the Salem Witch trials show, and Willow is annoyed: "Those darned Salem judges, with their less Satanic than thou attitudes..." Tara isn't in a mood for grievances: "Oh honey. Let me change it. The Discovery Channel has koala bears." Tara is just too cute for words sometimes. Just as Willow changes the channel, Xander bursts in and is glad to find out that Dawn is asleep, because "Buffy's gone insane." He begins trying to prepare them for the unpleasant news, but Tara quietly tries to get them not to judge her too harshly, as she knows how much the kind of trauma that Buffy has gone through can make one do weird things. She starts to talk about her own actions after her mother's death, but Anya decides to cut to the chase: "Buffy's boinking Spike."

A long pause follows, then Willow picks up where Tara left off, trying to say how stress can make one do strange things. Apparently, the Center of All That Is Nurturing within the Scooby Gang has heard enough, as Tara bluntly comments: "What, are you kidding? She's nuts!" Willow, subdued, concludes, "Well, it's not healthy...we're all agreeing there." Anya points out that in movies, slapping crazy people sometimes works wonders, but Xander decides to talk to her instead, as if she is crazy she needs to be stopped before she gets hurt: "...but if I have to see her straddle Spike again, I will definitely knock myself unconscious." Numerous heads in the audience nod in agreement with that sentiment as Xander heads out.

Back to the desert, where Buffy awakens at the place the mountain lion led her to earlier, next to a bonfire. She looks over and sees something moving on the other side of the fire: it's the First Slayer.

Spike is leaning up against the wall of his crypt with a cigarette in his mouth, looking bored. A noise comes from outside, and the BuffyBot's head pops up from Spike's groin area, which will undoubtedly cause a flood of letters from observant and outraged parents to the WB, who will soon have the luxury of snickering and replying, "Take it up with FOX and UPN." She asks, "Who's that?" Spike sends her into his hidey-hole while adjusting his pants and turning to face the visitor, Xander. Xander confronts him with the scene in the cemetery, and Spike quietly replies that he doesn't think that it is any of Xander's business. Xander disagrees, accusing Spike of taking advantage of his friend's bereaved state. Spike protests that if Buffy comes to him for comfort, he's not going to turn her down; after all, "I'm not a monster." Xander points out that yes, he is a monster, and that they make monster movies about vampires. Spike concedes the point, and Xander is in the process of beginning to threaten Spike with staking with extreme prejudice when the Crusty Minions come in en masse, knock out Xander, and subdue, gag, and drag off Spike after a fairly short struggle. They have apparently concluded that Spike is the Key, in spite of his protestations to the contrary: "Key? Who's the Key? I'm not the-mmph."

ACT THREE starts back in the desert, where Buffy has recognized the visitor: "I know you. You're the First Slayer." The figure corrects her: "This is a form. I am the Guide." Which explains why she isn't trying to beat the crap out of Buffy and kill her friends this time: the First Slayer is not exactly someone you want to sit down and have a heart to heart with, anyway. Buffy absorbs this, then expresses her concern about her ability to love, "...not just boyfriend love..." The Guide responds, "You think you're losing your ability to love." Buffy demurs momentarily, then admits it: "Yeah." The Guide presses further: "You're afraid being the Slayer means losing your humanity." Nice of her to save up all of the cryptic for the end...and is it me, or does the Guide sound like Michael Jackson? Scary mental place. Buffy notices that the Guide is just asking questions, and decides that if she wanted to deal with the Socratic method, she'd go to law school. She asks bluntly, "Does it?"

The Guide goes into flowery cryptic mode: "You are full of love. You love with all of your soul. It's brighter than the fire, blinding. That's why you pull away from it." Buffy is confused: "I'm full of love? I'm not losing it?" The Guide replies: "Only if you reject it. Love is pain, and the Slayer forges strength from pain." Actually, observation over the last five seasons suggests that the Slayer forges strength from being really pissed off (see "When She Was Bad", "The Harsh Light of Day", "Into The Wood", "Triangle", and any number of other episodes for reference) but, hey, I'm not the Guide. The Guide continues, "Love, give, forgive. Risk the pain. It is your nature. Love will bring you to your gift." Buffy looks confused, then speaks for the audience: "What?"

Back to the crypt, where the Bot has come out looking for Spike: "Spike, I waited like you said, but then I missed you." Awwww. She wanders off, failing to notice Xander unconscious in the crypt. OK, in fairness, the real Buffy might have done that too.

Willow hears knocking at the door of Xander's apartment, and is surprised to see "Buffy." She leads the Bot out onto the balcony so they can talk without waking the others up, then asks "Did Xander find you? He was looking for you." The Bot replies that she hasn't seen Xander, while her heads up display gives her the rundown on Willow: "Best friend, Gay (1999-Present), Witch, Good with Computers." Gee, she gets four notes instead of three...Spike must really like her better. Also, he apparently knew she was gay before anyone, including Willow herself...he really is damned insightful. Willow is still in denial about the news from Xander and Anya: "Um, Buffy, this thing with Spike, it isn't true, is it? You didn't, you know, sleep with Spike?" The Bot disabuses her of that delusion, and adds "I'm sorry if it bothers you. You're my best friend!" The Smile is back...SMG is starting to make Julia Roberts look like that scary English lady from "The Weakest Link" by comparison. Willow struggles to try to keep her composure, and tries to give "Buffy" an out to justify a moment of insanity by bringing up the recent trauma with Joyce, then concluding: "...and so, just this one time, you just did something kind of crazy." The Bot smiles and replies, "It wasn't one time...it was lots of times, and lots of different ways. I could make sketches." The sound of thundering feet is heard as countless Buffy/Spike 'shippers run off to pre-order "The Kama Sutra of Spike and Buffy", while countless others try to escape from a really scary mental place. Willow, meanwhile, is not reacting well to this. Trying to reason with "Buffy", she brings up Angel. The Bot's response is memorable: "Angel's lame. His hair grows straight up and he's bloody stupid." OK, at this point Willow's MOTHER, the patron saint of the clueless in Sunnydale, would know that it isn't really Buffy. But Willow apparently doesn't have the nickel she needs to buy a clue, and she keeps trying: "OK, look, I just want to help you...let me help you." Willow may be clueless, but she really is trying. The Bot looks back at her and repeats, "You're my best friend." Willow is puzzled by the reiteration, and is reacting to it when the Bot throws in. "You're recently gay." OK, that might have finally rattled something loose, but Xander's arrival distracts Willow, and she and the Bot head back inside.

Anya and Tara wake up as Willow and the Bot come in, and Xander describes Spike's abduction by the Crusty Minions (using the "hobbits with leprosy" description mentioned earlier, which is a good one) and correctly reasons that they are taking Spike to Glory. The Bot expresses concern: "We have to get him back." Xander asks her if she has any ideas where to look, and the Bot responds: "I fight with weapons." Xander takes this as a suggestion to load up on supplies at Casa Summers, if a rather odd one, and Tara is detailed to watch Dawn while the others head there, saving Willow, Xander, and Anya from having the Scooby with the least seniority being the one to spot the Bot, and sparing Buffy the humiliation of her own sister not being able to spot the difference, since Dawn is probably too caught up in her budding kleptomania to notice little things like the Bot displaying less sentience than your average cocker spaniel.

Back to the desert, where Buffy is trying to decipher the Guide's words: "I'm sorry, I'm just a little confused. I'm full of love, which is nice...and love will lead me to my gift?" The Guide whispers "Yes", and Buffy continues: "I'm getting a gift? Or do you mean that I have a gift to give to someone else?" The Guide replies, "Death is your gift." OK, not what you want to hear when you're in the middle of an emotional crisis. Buffy, disbelieving, begins: "Death-" "-is your gift." The Guide reiterates. With that little quaver that gets in her voice when she's angry and upset and trying to stay calm, Buffy retorts, "OK, no...death is not a gift. My mother just died: I know this. If I have to kill demons because it makes the world a better place, then I kill demons, but it is not a gift to anybody." Well said, but the Guide is not impressed: "Your question has been answered." The Guide and the bonfire blur and vanish, and Buffy is left confused and a bit pissed off.

Off to Glory's suite, where Jinx and another Crusty Minion drag Spike into the presence of Glory, who wants to know "what the hell is that, and why is his hair that color?" Mental note: Glory is not a Billy Idol fan. Jinx explains that they believe that Spike is the Key (they say "the Key!" with a flourish, trying to recover from the earlier embarrassment of running out of new expressions to flatter her with). Glory steps forward and smiles, exclaiming, "Really? That's fantabulous!" as she steps up and pats Spike's chest, then concludes as the Crusty Minions beam, "...and impossible." The Minions deflate slightly, as Glory continues, "He can't be the Key, because you see, the Key has to be pure." She walks around Spike, then sniffs him with a hint of distaste on her face and elaborates, "This is a vampire, and lesson number one, vampires are impure." Spike, picking a rather bad moment to re-affirm his badness, pipes up, "Yeah, damned right I'm impure. I'm as impure as the driven yellow snow. Let me go." Nice imagery, Spike. Glory, annoyed, continues "You can't even brain suck a vampire...you're completely useless." Spike quite eagerly embraces this idea and tries to leave, but is stopped by a Crusty Minion as Jinx describes how the Bot protected Spike and treated him as "precious." Glory perks up and walks up to take a good look at Spike, who decides to tell her to "sod off." Bad move. A left uppercut sends Spike back fifteen feet into a wall, trashing it and leaving Spike rather worse for the wear. Glory wanders over and drags him to his feet by his lips (ouch), then tosses him onto her bed, which was probably more fun for him when the Bot was doing it. She climbs onto the bed and straddles him (wearing a rather skimpy blue nightie...James Marsters has a tough job, doesn't he?), commenting that "...if the Slayer protects him, maybe appearances are deceiving...maybe there's something on the inside." With that, she thrusts an immaculately manicured finger through Spike's T-shirt and into his torso, which really looks painful. As Spike squirms, Glory soothes him and coos, "What do you know, precious...what can I dig out of you?"

The Scoobies and the Bot arrive back at the Summers house, which the Bot immediately recognizes: "This is MY house." Ignoring the swarm of gremlins flying around them and whacking them with clues, Xander and the others go for the big weapons trunk in the living room, causing the Bot to perk up again and announce, "Those are my weapons! Give me something big and sharp!" Willow ignores this and asks, "Buffy, where do we go? Where should we look for Glory?" The Bot brightens up and offers the observation that Glory is a god, and that she wants the Key. Xander agrees, and asks, "Yeah, and we should look...?" The Bot looks lost, then replies, "I don't know...why are you all looking at me?" There is a long pause, then Xander reassures "Buffy" that she shouldn't have to know everything. The Bot reiterates that they need to save Spike, and Willow mercifully ends the cluelessness standoff by sending the Bot upstairs to get more weapons (Anya suggests that she change into something a little more "fighty"). The Bot cheerfully complies, and Xander comments that things are getting worse: "Buffy" thinks they're going to save Spike. When Willow asks what they will do, Xander bluntly responds that they will do what they have to do to keep Spike from spilling the beans. They are agreeing that they will need to seriously talk to Buffy about this, as "what we need right now is a sane Buffy", as Xander succinctly puts it.

The real Buffy, looking a bit surprised, walks into the room at that point, commenting: "Whoa. Group hang-time?" She is wearing a completely different outfit, has a completely different hairstyle, and-most importantly-is not acting like a lobotomized version of our favorite Slayer. Alas, this does not sink in. Willow comments, "That was quick." Buffy snorts and replies, "It didn't seem like that to me. 'Death is my gift.' Phht." Xander ignores this and begins, "Buffy, we need to talk." Buffy's eyes widen, and she asks, "What's wrong? Is Dawn O.K.?" Well, actually, she's stealing stuff, but that's probably just Joss playing with our heads anyway. Xander begins the standard speech about caring about her and being worried about the things she's doing, with Anya piping in at the end "It's wrong." Willow dusts off her non-judgmental riff from "Revelations" and urges that "this shouldn't be about blame." Buffy is wondering where the subject of blame came from, and Willow hastens to reassure her: "There's only love...and fear." Anya once again gets impatient with the beating around the bush and explains, "We're just kinda thrown by the, you having sex with Spike."

Buffy's reaction is predictably perplexed: "The who whatting how with huh?" Anya perks up and comments, "Okay, that's denial. That usually comes before anger." Buffy, looking increasingly upset, snaps, "I am not having sex with Spike!" Anya adds, "Anger." Xander, wandering into one of those less than brilliant conversational segues that raise the eyebrows of those around him, comments, "No one is judging you. It's understandable. Spike is strong and mysterious and sort of compact but well-muscled." Buffy looks as if she is about to rip Xander's head off and punt it through the front door, but decides on a nastier response: "I am not having sex with Spike, but I'm starting to think that YOU might be." As dozens of slashfic writers run to their word processors, Xander takes the slam in stride and tells Buffy that Anya and he saw her and Spike in the cemetery "...with the straddling." The Bot wanders back into the room, carrying an axe, and isn't happy to hear that someone else might be straddling her Spike. Buffy takes one look and goes, "Oh my God." Xander adds, "And so say all of us." The Bot checks out Buffy and comments, "Say, look at you...you look just like me. We're very pretty." Xander perks up and says, "Hey, I know this one...they're both Buffy!" Looking pissed, Buffy fills in the blanks for him: "No, she's a robot. She acts just like that girlfriend bot that guy Warren made...you guys couldn't tell me apart from a robot?" As the Scoobies share a collective "D'oh!" moment, the Bot perkily offers that she doesn't think she is a robot. Xander, moving on from clueless to not helpful, begins, "Spike must have had her built so he could program her to-", provoking another "Oh, God," from Buffy. Willow bursts in with, "Imagine the things-" Buffy interrupts, wanting to close down that little avenue of terror, but Xander admits he is already in that mental place. The Bot pipes up, reminding everyone that Glory has Spike, and that "she's going to harm him." Buffy is not happy with this development: she orders everyone to grab weapons and announces that she is going to kill him. When Willow objects that they don't know where to look, Buffy replies that she has an idea.

Spike is hanging by his hands in Glory's suite...he is seriously mangled. Glory wanders up to him and taunts, "I have a riddle for you, Precious." Anyone else think that Glory is starting to sound like Gollum in drag? The goddess continues, "How is a vampire who won't talk like an apple?" She pulls out a big knife and cuts the skin on his chest that is exposed by a rather large rip in his shirt, then wonders, "Think I can do you in one long strip?" Spike mutters, "No more...I'll tell you who the sodding Key is."

ACT FOUR, and Buffy, the Bot, Giles, and the Scoobies are in the park where Buffy beat that snake/bloodhound to death a while back, which Buffy points out is all they have as a starting point. Giles is admiring the craftsmanship of the Bot, who thanks him, but comments that they should be listening to the other Buffy, because she is smart and will help them find Spike. During this comment, she pronounces Giles' name "Guyles" instead of "Jiles", which irritates Giles greatly. Buffy bluntly tells the Bot that they are not going to save Spike, that rather they are going to kill him before he spills the beans about the Key to Glory. The Bot nods, then replies, "You're right...he's evil... but you should see him naked...I mean, really." As countless Spike fans sigh and nod emphatically, Buffy pointedly ignores the comment, then orders the others to split up into groups (she mispronounces Giles' name the same way the Bot did before correcting herself and pairing him with the Bot) and find the hideout.

Glory is giving Spike some water: she asks if that is better, and when he says yes, she breaks the glass across his face and makes it clear that she has lost patience with him. Spike begins talking slowly, subtly loosening the chains on his hands as he does so. Speaking in stops and starts, he identifies the Key as "that guy on tv...what's his name...that show...the prize show...the one where they guess what stuff costs." The minions catch on: "The Price is Right? Bob Barker? We will get you Bob Barker! We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Barker!" The minions are spared a re-enactment of the funniest scene in "Happy Gilmore" when Glory glares at them and snaps, "It is not Bob Barker, you scabby morons! The Key is new to this world, and Bob Barker is as old as grit." Is it wrong for me to be disturbed by the concept of a hellgod and her Crusty Minions perched in front of the boob tube avidly watching while some hyperkinetic contestant tries to figure out what a blender costs? Glory's eyes narrow and she states flatly, "The vampire is lying to me." Spike starts laughing, in that slightly high pitched way that suggests that someone is about to lose it, then comments, "Yeah...but it was fun, and guess what, bitch? I'm not telling you jack. You're never going to get your sodding Key, because you might be strong, but in our world, you're an idiot." He continues to subtly loosen his hands as Glory regally glares at the suicidal fool taunting her and replies, "I am a god." Great straight line, which Spike doesn't hesitate to exploit: "The god of what? Bad home perms?" Ouch. Glory involuntarily reaches for her hair, then tells him to shut up as she storms forward. Spike mockingly agrees to do so, then adds that he had "...no idea that gods were such prancing lightweights." Glory makes an incoherent noise of outrage at Spike's gall as he continues, "Mark my words, the Slayer is going to kick your skanky, lopsided ass-" Glory involuntarily glances down at her-IMHO-actually rather nice posterior as a flood of letters complaining about the effects that such comments have on the self esteem of young women heads toward the WB, where they will be carefully gathered and dropped in the bin marked "Send to UPN." Spike continues, unheeding, "-back to whatever place would take a cheap, whorish fashion victim ex-god like you." Glory is pissed, and expresses her anger by delivering a roundhouse kick to Spike's chest that knocks him back out of his restraints and about fifty feet back through the closed front doors; fortunately, he has loosened his bonds enough to avoid getting a double dose of Lindsey's old problem. He groans, "Nice plan, Spike" and crawls off as Glory sends the Crusty Minions in pursuit. Spike makes it to the elevator, and manages to open the doors and fall down the shaft to the top of the elevator, open the hatch and fall in. Don't try this at home, kids. The Crusty Minions catch up with him in the lobby, as one of them snottily challenges him: "You do not insult Glory by escaping!" Spike glares at him and seems ready to bleed all over them when Buffy and Xander arrive, causing the Minions to swarm them as Spike crumples into a semi-conscious heap.

Xander does better in this fight than the last one, and he and Buffy have put a pretty good dent in the Minions' numbers by the time Giles and the Bot show up. The Bot sees Spike and wanders off while Giles rescues Xander from a persistent Minion, then proceeds to get trashed...Giles should probably train a little more himself than he has lately. He calls out for help ("Buffy!") and the Bot pulls the Minion off of him, only to get smacked back into a wall and short out in rather spectacular fashion. Looks like Warren used some crappy parts in the BuffyBot...go figure. Buffy comes over and smacks the Minion around, and the whole scabby bunch of them retreats, where they have to explain to Glory that "her vampire" has escaped. Much screaming follows. Apparently there is a downside to being a Crusty Minion; on the bright side, repair jobs on them are apparently not difficult.

To the Magic Shop, where Willow is fiddling around with the inert BuffyBot and Tara is asking Buffy "Is it weird?" Buffy concedes that it is, but comments that at least "it isn't a very good copy", as she leans down next to the Bot, creating a perfect mirror image. The others decide not to interfere with her denial, then Xander and Giles come back in. Buffy is hoping for "a dusty ending" to the Spike situation, but Xander reports that they deposited him back in his crypt. Of course, Glory and the Crusty Minions know where that is, but she's probably too busy sewing all of the scabby parts back into the right places anyway. Giles comments that Spike was too incoherent to reveal whether he told about the Key or not, and Anya provides one of the most piercing observations in an episode riddled with cluelessness when she comments that Spike would just lie about it if asked in any event. Buffy agrees, then points out that she has to know, as if Spike did tell she and Dawn need to get out of Dodge, pronto. Giles tries to reassure Buffy that they will be safe, and Dawn retorts "We're safe...right, and Spike built that robot Buffy to play checkers with." Tara looks embarrassed and comments, "It sounded convincing when I thought of it." Did I mention that Tara can be too cute for words sometimes? Willow pipes up, having had a breakthrough with the Bot: "I found where she's broken. Some of these wires got fried extra crispy. That's an easy fix-" Buffy gives her a dirty look, and Willow quickly amends her comment: "-not that I would."

Xander chooses this moment to interject another less than welcome observation: "God. I feel kind of bad for the guy. Gets all whupped, then his best toy gets taken away." Buffy directs the B version of the Glare of Death at Xander and replies in a low, deadly tone: "Xander, please don't be suggesting what I'd have to kill you for suggesting." Xander backpedals quickly: "No, no! Travesty! Completely on board." He pauses, then adds, "It's just...guy was so thrashed." When Xander starts feeling sorry for Spike, it has to send a message...but Buffy's expression does not change.

Back at the crypt, and Spike's face looks like a makeup test that was rejected for the "Rocky" movies as too gruesome: the left eye is swollen closed, and the other one doesn't look much better. The door opens, and what appears to be the Bot walks into the crypt in a jerky, mechanical manner and stares down at Spike before remarking, "Spike...you're covered in sexy wounds." Spike stirs, then painfully rises to a sitting position as he mumbles, "Yeah...I feel really sexy...where have you been?" His visitor perks up and replies, "I fell down and got confused. Willow fixed me. She's gay." Spike expresses surprise that Buffy and the Scoobies didn't "melt you down", and the response is "They were confused too. [ouch!] Do you want to ravage me now?" Spike demurs, asking for a little time for the broken bones to heal. She asks him why he let Glory hurt him, and he replies that Glory wanted to know where the Key was. She shrugs and announces that she will tell Glory who the Key is, and is wandering off when Spike loudly orders, "No!" Respectable volume for someone who looks ready to keel over, too. She turns back to him as he elaborates, "You can't ever...Glory never finds out." She looks at him quizzically and asks, "Why?" Spike focuses his one working eye on her and mumbles, "Because Buffy...the other, not so pleasant Buffy...if anything happened to Dawn it would kill her...I can't stand the thought of her being in that much pain...I'd let Glory kill me first...nearly bloody did." There is silence for a moment, as she watches him without changing the expression on her face or the look in her eyes, then she leans in, blinks, and kisses him very tenderly on the lips. They stay in that position for a moment, then he pulls away slightly and looks at her, shocked. Her expression has changed: her eyes widened and clearly moist...it is obviously Buffy. She turns and begins leaving, and after a moment Spike seriously pushes his luck: "And my robot?" Buffy turns back to him and replies sardonically, "The robot is gone. The robot was gross and obscene." Spike looks embarrassed-or as embarrassed as it is possible to look when beaten to a pulp, and begins: "It wasn't--" Buffy harshly interrupts him: "Don't...that thing...it wasn't even real." Spike looks down in apparent shame, and Buffy turns to walk away. She pauses for a long moment, then adds in a softer tone, "What you did for me and Dawn...that was real." Spike looks up in surprise, and Buffy turns and locks eyes with him as she concludes in an even softer tone: "I won't forget it." She walks out, and Spike stares after her with the battered remains of his face.

Fade to black. "Executive Producer: Joss Whedon."

Comments

There was a lot of anxiety about the whole idea of a BuffyBot, which certainly was not unreasonable: gimmicks like this tend to lead to rather cheesy plots. Espenson (and Whedon, with his own overarching vision of the show) avoided the pitfalls rather well, and did so by declining to make the BuffyBot an improved version of April, thereby helping to conceal the fact that it was a mere facsimile of the real Buffy. If anything, BuffyBot was a less convincing version of humanity than April was, if only because the original existed and was visible on screen concurrently with the Bot. Spike's reactions to his new toy made it clear that, while he was enjoying the physical aspects of the situation, he was quickly becoming dissatisfied with the situation as a whole. His clearly bored expression as the Bot was servicing him just before Xander showed up at the crypt, only a day or so after taking delivery, suggests to me that he was probably on the verge of giving up the whole thing, or at least seeing as if he could track down Warren and upgrade the Bot's conversational skills at least to the Harmony level (which still wouldn't require self awareness). My impression was that Spike knew damned well all along that a robot would not even be a good crutch for dealing with rejection, but he was probably surprised with just how fast it all went bad for him. The heads-up comments about Xander, Willow and Anya were cute (particularly Anya's surprised and happy response to the Bot asking after her money), and it would have been nice to see the ones for Giles and Tara.

The Scooby Gang put on a relatively poor show this week (except for Anya, who really shouldn't have been expected to have as readily spotted the fake Buffy, and who dusted a vamp and made the pointed observation that directly confronting Spike about whether he gave up Dawn was pointless). A little of willing suspension of disbelief is necessary (and not begrudged) when watching "Buffy", but the cluelessness of Xander and Willow reached epic heights in this episode, and was rather annoying. Tara was sweet in her few scenes, and "Are you kidding? She's nuts!" competed for best line of the night with "We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Barker!" Dawn is apparently acting out by branching out into kleptomania...guess we'll have to stay tuned on what that's all about.

The desert scenes were nice, and Giles got some good lines out of Buffy's dismay at the whole situation there. The Guide left Buffy (and presumably the audience) more confused than before, which is not really surprising.

Of course, the big event of the episode was the kiss and Buffy's "thank you" in the last scene, and what it entails for the complex relationship between Spike and Buffy. Clearly, she is still a bit pissed off at him for the whole BuffyBot scenario (and if I was Warren, I would arrange to move to the other side of the country rather than risk running across Buffy again). She isn't ready to fall into his bed. However, she is clearly ready to start treating him as something other than pond scum: the days of her walking into his crypt and greeting him with a punch in the nose are almost certainly over. Even before the whole blow up over his feelings for her, she was starting to act as if she could trust him with the safety of the people in her life that she cared for; as of now, she has cause to believed that trust was justified all along, the recent unfortunate incident with Drusilla and chains aside.

As for Spike and the ever-resurfacing issue of his potential redemption, the events of the week clearly have suggested that there is hope in that area. Obviously, there is some disagreement as to what Spike's actions mean beyond the undeniable fact that he loves Buffy enough to sacrifice his own life in a very painful manner. As a poster on alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer suggested, it's a pretty good bet that Spike would have been willing to sacrifice his life for Drusilla when they were a couple, and he did indeed take some serious risks during the second and third seasons while trying to win her back. However, I have a couple of observations. First, while Spike has always clearly been evil, even when his chip prevented him from using violence against humans, his actions have always suggested that in his hierarchy of values, love comes before evil. He allowed Buffy to escape in "Lie To Me" rather than see Drusilla die at Buffy's hands, and teamed up with Buffy in "Becoming 2" rather than let Angelus keep Drusilla as his own and destroy the world. Since he is now in love with Buffy, and she will presumably now start treating him at least politely, that alone will make evil a less attractive option for him, since he knows she would disapprove. As Tom Hanks observed in "Saving Private Ryan", the fact that you are doing something for what you believe is in the best interests of those you care about is a powerful motivation, and in fact for most people it is a far more compelling one than the simple notion of "doing the right thing" for abstract reasons. In practice, only saints and monsters act solely or even primarily for idealistic reasons, and there are far less of the former than the latter. Spike now has a very good motivation to act on the side of light, and I suspect he will act on it.

Also, the very fact that he has fallen in love with Buffy says something, particularly since he recently could have gotten Dru back. Spike had already proven capable of love...with an insane, cruel monster. This time around, he fell in love with a heroine, though admittedly one with profound flaws and a pronounced dark side of her own. Spike may believe that it is the darkness in her that draws him...but it is interesting to note that Spike could have certainly given Warren cues that would have created a more evil personality for the BuffyBot; instead, he opted to make her far lighter than the original, to the point where even early fourth season Riley would have been suffering from sweetness overload. It's hard to dismiss that as accidental, even though the end result turned out to not be too pleasing to Spike. The heavy emphasis on the Bot calling Spike evil stands out, too...as if he needed to convince himself that he still was, while suspecting that he really wasn't. Spike is clearly different than he was when he first arrived in Sunnydale, or even from what he was at the beginning of this season; whether that leads to him being genuinely good, or simply grey, is a matter that has yet to be established.

Overall, a good episode, with the main flaw being the cluelessness of Xander and Willow, plus a few plot holes...but very entertaining, with plenty of open plotlines still to be dealt with in the last four episodes. 8 out of 10.

Quotes:

"I know this ritual! The ancient shamans were next called on to do the Hokey Pokey and turn themselves around." -- Buffy, mocking the ritual to summon the Guide.

"I never could do it...I'm helpless against you, you fiend." -the BuffyBot to Spike, proving that he has a future as a romance novel writer if the redemption thing doesn't pan out.

"I was there...it really wasn't that bad. See, if you were really a witch, you'd do a spell to escape, so really it was only bad for the falsely accused, and they never have a good time." -Anya, giving her unique take on the Salem Witch Trials.

"What, are you kidding? She's nuts!" -- Tara, upon hearing that "Buffy is boinking Spike."

"We will get Bob Barker! We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Barker!" -- Murk the Crusty Minion, who obviously never saw "Happy Gilmore."

"It's not Bob Barker, you scabby morons! The Key is new to this world, and Bob Barker is older than grit." --Glory, sparing her minions a savage beating.

"Ugh...looks very complicated in there. Personally, I'd prefer guts." --Anya, peering into the innards of the BuffyBot.

"Spike...you're covered in sexy wounds!" -- Buffy, impersonating the BuffyBot, getting a look at the aftermath of Glory's torture of Spike.