The Weight of the World (5x21)

As has been the case for a while now, the "previously on Buffy" segment is rather lengthy...personally, I would have been inclined to slip in the scene where General Gregor meets his end via flying hubcap, but that probably just reflects my intense loathing for the guy...anyway, the teaser begins at Glory's apartment, and the Crusty Minions are scurrying about and loading things into trunks and the like; apparently, Her Magnificent Shininess and her gang are moving out. Understandable, given the lousy security...a goddess has a right to expect that every random witch or Slayer who comes by can't waltz in and trash the furniture. Two Crusty Minions grumble about the difficulties involved in dealing with Glory's stuff, and are horrified when Glory reminds them that good hearing is part of the god package deal. They come forward and grovel, but Glory-who is being fitted for a ceremonial robe by two other Minions-tells them she's not in the mood to kill them...which puzzles the hell out of her: "So tell me...Why am I not popping your head like a zit right now?" The Minions are clueless, and she wonders out loud whether she's just hungry (she decides that she isn't), then comments that she's "just a little tight in this skin"...she's "been waiting for an eternity-well, 25 human years" (which once again raises the question of how the whole scenario described by Gregor took place so recently, and how they knew about it, since given their methods I have a hunch that the last book in their possession was written at about the time Alexander Hamilton was still in short pants), and "it all comes down to tonight." The Minions gush about Glory's return to...well, glory, and Glory boasts about the havoc she will wreak when she gets home...then wonders why getting everything she wanted isn't making her happy: "Still-something's off. I don't know." She glances across the room and asks, "What do you think?" The camera pans over and Dawn is there: bound, gagged, and absolutely terrified.

Cut to the abandoned gas station, where Spike has managed to hot wire Ben's car (and it couldn't have been easy with his mangled hands). Giles is well enough to travel, but there's another problem: it's been about half an hour, and Buffy is still out of it. Spike asks hopefully, "Slayer's going to be all right, won't she?" There is a moment of silence, and Xander urges Willow to "try again." Willow expresses doubt, then moves forward, and the camera shows a POV shot of Willow trying to get Buffy's attention...but it is futile...Buffy stares into space, seeing and hearing nothing.

Roll credits.

Act One begins with Buffy still staring at nothing. Spike is frustrated, and comments that Buffy still has to be in there somewhere. Xander tries to get Spike ready to go to rescue Dawn, and Spike rather acidly points out the obvious: without Buffy, they're not getting Dawn back in any event. There is a brief discussion about whether moving Buffy is a good idea or not, with Giles suggesting that Buffy has been pushed too far, "into some kind of catatonia." As several million viewers mutter, "No shit, Giles," Spike moves forward and stares into Buffy's eyes, shouting at her to "rise and shine" as he shakes her. Anya calls out "Spike" with visible concern in her voice, and Spike snarls that this is "hardly the time to get dainty" with Buffy as he continues to shake her and call her name. Xander points out that they have already tried that, at which point Spike hauls off and slaps Buffy across the face: hard. Spike gets a dose of chip pain as Anya comments, "We didn't try that," and Buffy continues to stare blankly ahead as Xander pulls Spike away from Buffy and snaps at him about Buffy possibly having neurological damage: "Do you want to kill her?" Spike, sounding increasingly panicked, fires back that they need to do something, and that subtle approaches are just wasting time, then concludes: "I'm willing to wager when all's said and done-Buffy likes it rough." Nice, Spike. Xander replies to this comment with a right cross, and the two of them begin to tussle. This ends abruptly when Willow turns to them with a thoroughly pissed-off expression on her face and utters a single word: "Separate." Her eyes don't go black this time, but the results are impressive: Spike and Xander are both hurled backward and away from each other, bouncing softly off of opposite walls. There is silence as everyone stares at Willow's casual display of power, then Willow begins speaking with an edge in her voice: "Buffy's out. Glory has Dawn. Sometime real soon she's going to use Dawn to tear down the barrier between every dimension there is, so if you two want to fight, you do it after the world ends, okay?" Wow. She lets that sink in, and Willow lays down the law. They will head back to Sunnydale. Xander will take Giles to the hospital (where the doctors will take one look at who the patient is and ask, "What, no head injury this time?"). Anya will take care of Tara. Spike is dispatched to find Glory, with a stern warning from Willow that doing "anything stupid like payback" will make her "very cranky" (Spike must really be scared of her, or a comment about people in glass houses would have undoubtedly been forthcoming from him). Willow asks if there are any questions, and Anya inquires as to what Willow will be doing. Willow replies calmly that she will be helping Buffy.

Everyone is preparing to leave when Spike hesitantly brings up something that is bothering him: "What if we come across Ben?" There is a momentary pause, as everyone seems to be wondering why Spike brought up that topic. Willow points out that Buffy really doesn't need a doctor right now. Spike replies sarcastically, "Well, yeah. Especially not one who also happens to be Glory." Spike notices that everyone is staring at him, and tries to spell it out very carefully: Ben showed up, turned into Glory, grabbed Dawn, and left. The others respond haltingly to Spike's comments, as if he's trying to explain quantum physics to them instead of something that happened right in front of them. Spike's expression grows increasingly frustrated, and he asks, "Is everyone here very stoned?" He raises his voice and lays it all out for them again: "Ben. Glory. He's a doctor. She's the Beast. Two entirely separate entities, sharing one body. It's like a bloody sitcom. Surely you remember." More staring, and Xander, Anya and Giles begin talking disjointedly about Ben and Glory, making it clear that they're still not getting it, and a little light bulb goes on over Spike's head: there is some kind of magic associated with the change from Ben to Glory, which makes anyone who sees it forget it instantly...which doesn't work on vampires. He carefully explains this, and they finally seem to be getting it, and Spike is relaxing when Giles calls out, "Excellent. Now, do we suspect there could be any kind of link between Ben and Glory?" Everyone looks at Spike with an expectant expression, and Spike really looks like he wants his chip out in order to facilitate some frustration relieving violence.

Cut to what appears to be a warehouse, and we see what happened to all of the brain suck victims from the hospital...they're busy working with welding torches and other tools, building something. Glory comes in, leading Dawn by the arm and trailed by the Crusty Minions, and all of the members of the Section Eight Construction Squad drop to their knees and begin chanting "The Key! The Key!" Glory looks irritated, and as the procession enters a back room and a tall Crusty Minion decked out like a high priest starts dabbing something on Dawn's forehead and chanting, Glory mutters something about how annoying groupies can be. The Crusty Minions babble about Glory's impending triumph, but she isn't interested, and asks the high priest what he's doing. He explains that the Key has to be anointed, and Glory gets a disgusted look on her face and mutters, "Really don't. Go." The high priest protests, and Glory begins screeching for everyone to get out. Since even Crusty Minions aren't fond of evisceration, everyone gets out, and Glory grabs a tissue and uses it to wipe the gunk off of Dawn's forehead, with an expression that I remember seeing on my mom's face during similar activities in the distant past, and which Dawn probably remembers seeing on Joyce's face. Creepy. Glory complains about how gaining divine power draws hangers on, then asks Dawn if she is okay. Dawn complains that she wants to go home, and Glory assures her that she is...well, the Key's home, anyway. She offers to get Dawn pizza or a pillow, and comments about "this thing" not getting cable. Dawn begs her to stop, and Glory comments on her nervousness (actually, stark terror would be a better description for Dawn's emotional state, and who can blame her?) while commenting that for the two of them, human bodies are like costumes, and "being something else-that's what we are." Glory refers to her captive as "Dawnie" during this speech, which Dawn objects to with gritted teeth and a glare: "Don't call me Dawnie." Gutsy: Dawn certainly acts like she's Buffy's real sister-I have a brief flashback to Buffy taunting Faith in "Enemies", then another one to her refusal to lie to Spike about any feelings she might have for him in "Crush." Glory blinks at the affront, stares at Dawn, then comments in a bewildered tone, "Wow. You know, that really hurt my feelings." Dawn backtracks a bit by muttering an apology, but Glory isn't upset...just confused. With a little help from Dawn, she figures it out: she's feeling guilty. Guilt isn't exactly part of her makeup, and she ponders that for a moment before accusing Dawn of putting a spell on her. Dawn is looking increasingly freaked out, and Glory realizes that it can't be a spell...but she's convinced that Dawn is the one doing it. She lets the High Priest back in and orders him to anoint Dawn again, while explaining to her that Dawn's blood is the key to the ritual. She taunts Dawn to make her feel as guilty as she can, because once it's time for the ritual: "You bleed, little girl."

Cut to Xander's apartment. Willow is gathering supplies, and Anya is looking at her, visibly worried. She asks Willow if she knows what she is doing, and Willow admits that she is not sure, but that she has to try. Anya somberly points out that spells like the one Willow is about to cast can be dangerous to both her and Buffy. Tara becomes agitated, muttering about time, and Willow soothes her and asks Anya to take care of Tara while she's occupied. Anya quietly agrees, and Willow gives her a few instructions for how to take care of her, including pills to be administered once every two hours. Anya doesn't like the sound of that, and asks if Willow thinks she'll be gone longer than two hours. Willow shrugs, then asks Anya to wish her luck. Anya complies, using her overly enthusiastic voice that tells everyone that she's just getting the hang of something. Willow looks at her oddly, says goodbye to Tara and kisses her on the forehead, then goes into Xander's bedroom. Tara looks upset and reaches after her, and Anya quietly repeats, "Good luck." Ever get the feeling that Anya is faking a lot of her cluelessness?

Willow enters the darkened bedroom, and proceeds to light quite a few candles: this would be a very bad time for an earthquake. Having finished, she sits on the edge of Xander's bed and looks over at Buffy, who is still staring into space. My eyes ache in sympathy when I ponder just how long Sarah Michelle Gellar had to keep her eyes open for these shots. Willow just sits there, staring into Buffy's eyes and doing nothing else, then * poof * she's standing in a well-lit hallway. Damn: Willow has turned into Jean Grey. Wonder how she'd look in the Dark Phoenix costume? Willow examines her surroundings: she seems to be in a relatively normal home, except the colors seem a bit too bright. Willow walks by what looks like a photo of Joyce holding a baby, then walks around a bit more until she hears a small voice say, "Hello Willow." Willow turns and sees a six year old girl with blonde pigtails and Buffy's eyes: they did a good job of casting here. Willow smiles softly and greets her: "Hello Buffy."

Act Two begins with a shot of a foot smashing a lock like tinfoil, and Spike strides into Glory's apartment. He looks around, but the place is abandoned, with only a few signs of the former occupants, such as the remains of the magic circle traced by the two Crusty Minions during "Spiral". After a while, he spots a small door, concealed from casual observers. He enters the room and sees that Ben's possessions are here, further establishing the connection between him and Glory.

Young Buffy's voice pipes up over the shot of Spike's face: "What are you doing here?" The scene cuts back to inside Buffy's mind, and Young Buffy is looking curiously at Willow. Willow answers hesitantly that she is "looking for you", and the scene cuts back briefly to Willow and Buffy staring blankly at each other before the scene returns to Buffy's mind and Young Buffy asks Willow if she likes dolls, as she cradles a small blonde-haired doll in her arms. Willow tries to convince Young Buffy that they need her to come out, and Young Buffy replies that she likes it there, and that it is a big day for her.

On cue, the front door of the house opens, and Young Buffy runs forward (handing the doll to a confused Willow), calling out excitedly, "Mommy, Daddy!" I blink, then stare at one of the people who walks inside. My God, Willow really is all powerful...she brought Hank back! Joyce is holding a baby in her arms: guess who? Young Buffy is less than enthusiastic: she complains that she wants to be the baby and that Joyce and Hank will pay more attention to the baby and forget all about her. Joyce tells Buffy that they will be naming the baby "Dawn" as she hands Dawn to Buffy and shows her how to hold her correctly. Willow, in a moment that suggests that the true price of her powers is a compulsion to comment to no one in particular about the overwhelmingly obvious, mutters, "Dawn." Been there, heard that, Willow. Young Buffy's attitude has changed: she looks adoringly at Dawn and asks Joyce if she can be the one to take care of her. Joyce smiles at her and reaches out to smooth her hair down as she tells Young Buffy that she can take care of Dawn. Willow smiles at the scene, then hears a noise behind her and turns to see the older Buffy, wearing a tan dress and with her hair flowing down her back, walking across the floor of the Magic Box and over to a bookcase, where she puts a book on a shelf, pauses for a moment as if thinking of something, then turns away and walks right past Willow (who is also inside the Magic Box) without acknowledging her presence. As Willow is absorbing this, the scene changes again, and Willow is standing next to the bonfire in the desert from "Intervention." She looks around and reacts: "O-kay."

Cut to the hospital, and Giles is painfully putting on his jacket and walking out of his hospital room. Having had abdominal surgery in the past, I know damned well how much pain he's got to be in. Xander comes up next to him and asks how he's doing, and Giles replies quietly that it "only hurts when he answers pointless questions. Giles rocks. He asks about Buffy, and Xander explains about the whole Willow channeling Jean Grey thing. Giles seems surprised, and comments "It's extraordinarily advanced." I'm hoping there'll be a payoff to all of these hints that there is something not good about Willow's exponentially increasing power very soon. Giles changes the subject, suggesting that they check on Glory's victims, but Xander's already thought of it, and breaks the news of the exodus with his usual sensitivity and tact: "The vegetable section's closed." OK, that was more like Spike's usual sensitivity and tact. Speaking of Spike, he wanders up to Giles and Xander (after swiping a package of fresh blood from a cart on the way) and lets them know that Glory and her entourage have abandoned the apartment. Giles makes a frustrated comment about them all being clueless about Glory's whereabouts, but Spike has an idea. He mentions that he knows a demon who is a good information source, and comments that while it is a "bit of a last resort" (presumably because after the Monkey Paw incident, he really doesn't want anyone squealing on him about his role in it), he thinks it's worth a try. He lights up a cigarette (right in front of a prominently displayed "No Smoking" sign). Giles and Xander nod in agreement, and Xander follows Spike, coughing from the smoke. Spike comments that he found Ben's room at Glory's apartment, and the mojo is apparently still there, because Xander seems shocked at the notion that Ben was "subletting from her." Spike grits his teeth, mutters "This is going to be worth it," and smacks Xander hard on the back of the head, causing both of them to yelp and rub their heads. Spike begins the whole explanation again: "Last time, from the top..."

Meanwhile, back at the warehouse, Glory is not loving life: she's starting to experience Ben's memories. She questions Dawn and discovers that she remembers seeing Ben change into Glory...that shouldn't be possible (she exaggerates a bit by saying that "nobody" should remember: the Crusty Minions and vampires are demonstrably immune to the whammy in question). She becomes more agitated and complains that the cloak between her and Ben is fading, then goes over to her high priest and demands that he excise Ben from her right then and there. She makes a quick back and forth shift to Ben, then falls to the ground, pleading, "Help me." The high priest solemnly explains that having to deal with Ben is the price she has to pay for the terrible magics she is calling upon. As the "Willow is going to get hers big time" watchers nod and make another notation in their ledgers, Glory snarls that gods don't pay and steps forward to seize Dawn by the throat, growling, "We do this now."

Back to the desert, and Willow spots the Guide across the bonfire. She calls out, "Hey, I know you. You're the first original Slayer who tried killing all of us in our dreams...how have you been?" Snicker. The Guide ignores Willow and calls out, "Death is your gift." Buffy asks, "Death is my gift?", and Willow interjects, "Wait. Death is her what?" as the Guide repeats herself. Willow looks confused, and the scene cuts back to Buffy in the tan dress putting the book on the shelf in the Magic Box. Her pause is more deliberate this time, and Willow watches her closely. She turns her head, and Buffy is walking down the upstairs hallway of the Summers' house, wearing dark clothing and with her hair in a ponytail. Willow asks, "Where are you going?" and follows her.

Meanwhile, Glory still has Dawn by the throat, and the Crusty Minions hastily remind her that killing Dawn will seriously muck up her travel plans. Glory calms down and dismisses the Crusty Minions, saying that she and Dawn need a little "girl time." They depart, and Glory begins complaining about how awful it is to be human, what with the emotions and crap to deal with. She nags at Dawn for some insight on the matter, and Dawn grudgingly tells her that some people actually like having human feelings, even though they can be unpleasant. Glory is unconvinced, and goes into a lengthy, though subdued, rant: "Funny, cause I look around at this world you're so eager to be a part of, and all I see is six billion lunatics looking for the fastest ride out. Who's not crazy? Look around-everyone's drinking, smoking, shooting up, shooting each other or just plain screwing their brains out because they don't want them any more. I'm crazy? Honey, I am the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind, 'cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts. Name one person who can take it. That's all I'm asking...name one." Dawn glares at Glory and replies proudly, "Buffy."

Cut to Buffy and Willow staring blindly, then back to the Summers house, where Willow is still following Buffy, and she's getting frustrated, pleading with Buffy to talk to her as they go into Joyce's room. Willow stops speaking as she notices that the floor is covered with grass, and there is a grave there with a simple headstone: "Joyce Summers: 1958-2001." Sniffle. Buffy stands next to the grave, and Willow tells her quietly, "I'm sorry." Buffy's voice is strangely matter of fact as she replies, "Don't be. Death is my gift." Willow doesn't find this too helpful, and remains unenlightened as they walk into Dawn's room. Dawn is on her bed, looking out of it. Buffy continues speaking, "It's what I do." She adds, "Come on, you've known me for how long? It's what I'm here for. It's all I am." With a casual motion, she grabs a pillow and forces it down on Dawn's face, smothering her. Willow is horrified and begs for Buffy to stop as Dawn flails away helplessly. Buffy turns back to Willow, looking puzzled, and keeps forcing the pillow down on Dawn as she asks, "What?" Dawn's struggles gradually cease as Buffy continues, "I keep telling you. I figured it out...death is my gift." Willow looks appalled as the scene goes to black.

Act Three begins back at the warehouse, where Glory complains briefly before morphing into Ben. He asks if Dawn if Glory has hurt her, and Dawn assures him that she didn't, but that it might be good to get the hell out of there. Ben is clearly in bad shape, and the problem quickly becomes obvious: Ben is experiencing Glory's memories, and they aren't very pleasant. Dawn tries to explain what is happening and get him focused on escape, but Ben is pissed off at Glory for messing up his life yet again. Dawn is beginning to see the drawbacks of Ben's personality being tainted by Glory's when there is a knock on the door. Ben opens it and the High Priest has a moment to register surprise at Ben's presence before Ben yanks him inside and KO's him. Ben tells Dawn that he will take her as far as he can, then ditch her before Glory comes back. Great plan, Ben...keep following Dawn around when you have absolutely no control over when Glory will be back...why don't you just show her to the exit and tell her to run like hell? Sigh. They leave the warehouse.

"OK, now this is weird." Willow's voice comes from offscreen, then we see her standing back in front of Young Buffy in the 1987 Summers house. Young Buffy asks what Willow is doing there, and Willow replies that she is looking for Buffy: "Here...again." Snicker. Young Buffy asks Willow again if she likes dolls. Willow, getting visibly more frustrated, replies, "No...and I think we already deja'd this vu." I chuckle as Young Buffy giggles and tells Willow that she talks funny, which Willow admits to before asking why they are there. Young Buffy seems uninterested and asks, "Don't you like it here?" Willow's harried comment is cut short as the front door opens and the scene of Dawn's arrival begins to replay itself. There is a brief cut to Tan Dress Buffy back at the bookshelf, then back to Willow watching Young Buffy as she asks if she can help take care of Dawn.

Cut to the office of Doc, the demon who knows how to bring people back to life using the Monkey Paw approach. He is reading quietly at his desk, and there is a fire in the fireplace. There is a knock at the door, and he calls out, "It's always open." Probably not a great idea in Sunnydale, even for a demon. Spike and Xander walk in, and Doc greets them and asks what he can do for them and adds, "You want some cocoa?" I'm having Mayor Wilkins flashbacks. Spike declines politely, and is in the process of explaining why they are there when Xander blurts out, "Ben's Glory!" Spike is momentarily pleased that the mojo has worn off, but he points out that they are there for other reasons. He begins, "Hellgod type, name of Glory-" "AKA Ben," Xander adds helpfully. "-has gone missing," Spike continues, ignoring Xander's epiphany, "Brewing up some major league bad. And she's nicked the Slayer's kid sister in the bargain." Doc remembers Dawn and asks if she changed her mind about her mom. Spike, who has to be really glad that it's Xander in the room with him and not Willow or Buffy, brushes the question aside and asks if Doc has any idea where Glory might have taken Dawn. Doc ponders the question, then asks if he means Glorificus, then comments that messing with her is a very bad idea, and that the best advice he could give is just to stay out of the way of hellgods. As he says this, he stands up and walks to the other side of the room, near a small desk cluttered with papers and other objects. Spike sums up the season's arc with a laconic reply that would impress Oz: "Love to. Can't." Doc continues to move around, then stands directly in front of an ornate looking box on the small desk as he explains that Glory is way out of his league. Spike persists, reminding Doc that Glory has Dawn, and Doc comments that he knows someone who knows someone...in China. Spike retorts, "How in the hell are we supposed to get to China...teleport?" Well, hell, Spike, at the rate Willow's powers are growing, you could probably get her to snap her fingers and bring the guy you need plus a whole mess of Chinese take-out, no problem. Doc is apologetic, but Spike notices him concealing the box and accuses him of lying, saying that he believes Doc is standing right in front of what they need.

Doc smiles, then leaps past Spike and grabs a sword, whispering, "Prepare to die, pale pieces of pig's ear." Oh wait, sorry...wrong Joel Grey character. He actually whispers, "Idiot," as he points the sword at Spike's throat. Spike kicks the sword away, but loses his balance and falls to the floor. Xander starts to move forward, only to be slammed back hard into a wall by a ten foot length of tongue that darts out of Doc's mouth...this episode is reminding me more and more of the X-Men movie. The tongue snaps back into Doc's head, and he moves over to Spike, asking "You think only underworld bottom feeders worship the Beast?" then snap kicks Spike in the head, stunning him. He walks over, grabs the box, then tosses it into the fire before grabbing Spike by the shirt and continuing, "Her day is coming, boys...and when she returns-then you're gonna see something." Xander notices that Doc is too busy shooting his mouth off to use his tongue for offensive purposes, and he kicks Doc in the throat, knocking him away and freeing Spike to grab the box out of the fire before it burns. Xander and Doc struggle, then Xander reaches out for the sword, grabs it, and delivers a two handed thrust that sends blue ichor spraying everywhere. Woo hoo! Xander kicks some demon ass for a change! Spike has the box, which he comments as being "something worth dying for" as they leave. Nooooo!!! Damn it, Xander, I know Ben is an idiot, but why couldn't you be smarter than he was and cut off the head of critters you kill? It couldn't hurt. Sure enough, Doc's eyes snap open after Spike and Xander leave the room.

Back to a brief shot of Willow and Buffy silently staring, then Willow is heard trying to get Buffy to stop and listen to her. Cut back to the hallway of the Summers house, and Willow is trying to get Buffy to stop killing Dawn. Buffy asks why, and Willow tries to convince her that this never happened except in her imagination. Buffy insists that she did it, and claims to not know what Willow is talking about when she says that Buffy's stuck in some kind of loop. Buffy heads to Dawn's room, and Willow follows, trying to get through to her.

Ben and Dawn are walking down Main Street, and Ben spots some Crusty Minions. He pulls Dawn into an alley and tells her to be still as he watches the Minions go by. When he turns back to her, Dawn smashes him over the head with a clumped heavy metal chain, and he goes down hard. Dawn mutters, "I'm sorry," then begins to limp off, only to receive a cold dose of reality: "Sorry?" Dawn turns in horror and sees Glory lying there. The goddess stands and snarls, "That actually hurt, you pre-pubescent puke." Sigh. Sensible actions are not being rewarded on this show lately.

Act Four begins still in the alley, and Glory complains about remembering the pain that Ben felt when Dawn hit him, then threatens to cause Dawn pain in a way that won't spill any blood. She seems to be about ready to carry out her threat when abruptly she seems to lose control. Rapid back and forth morphing between Glory and Ben begins, with Ben trying to keep Glory from hurting Dawn, and Glory trying to get him to back off. Dawn tries to sneak off, but Glory throws her at a dumpster, stunning her. Glory taunts Ben, telling him that she will get home regardless of anything he says or does. Ben breaks a bottle and threatens to bleed Dawn dry rather than let Glory do it. Glory isn't buying, knowing that Ben is squeamish about killing the innocent, though she throws the broken bottle away when she gets control. Glory decides to try bribery, telling Ben that if he helps her with Dawn, she will make sure he survives the transition of the ritual and she will make him immortal. Ben says that he believes her, but that he couldn't live with the knowledge of what his immortality had cost. Gee Ben, how much sleep did you lose over those guys that the Snot Bug...I mean, the Queller Demon killed after you summoned it? Glory tells him that once he's immortal, he won't give a damn about any of that guilt stuff. Really? Tell it to Angel. Eventually, Ben regains control...then takes Dawn by the hand and leads her to the Crusty Minions waiting nearby. He explains to Dawn that it comes down to Dawn or him...and he's chosen himself. Great, Ben...thanks a whole hell of a lot.

Willow and Buffy are heading to Dawn's room via Joyce's, and Willow is sounding more agitated: "No, Buffy...leave Dawn alone...what is this?" Buffy says again that this is her gift and that is what she does, but Willow replies that isn't what she is talking about. They walk into the Magic Box, and Willow and Buffy see Tan Dress Buffy at the book shelf again. She starts repeating the simple action of putting the book on the shelf then pausing, over and over again, and Willow has made the connection: "Right here, it happened. I know it's something small, but it's something...what?" Buffy's voice is low and edged with pain as she replies, "Don't go there, Will." Frustrated, Willow shoots back, "I'm not! You're the one who keeps dragging me back here. . .and you wouldn't be doing that if you weren't trying to show me something." Buffy hesitates, and Willow urges her on: "Buffy, come on...it's your brain. Just tell me." Buffy is silent, and Willow tries directing her question at Tan Dress Buffy, who answers quietly without looking at Willow: "This is when I quit, Will." Willow is startled, and asks, "You did?" Buffy picks up the conversation, replying, "Just for a second."

The scene cuts back very briefly to Buffy and Willow staring silently in Xander's bedroom, then back to the Magic Shop, where Buffy and Tan Dress Buffy take turns explaining what happened to Willow. She had been in the shop, helping Giles, when it suddenly hit her: she couldn't beat Glory. She knew it in her heart, and in that one instant, she wanted it to happen. Glory would win, Dawn would die, she would grieve, and all of this would be over. The feeling had passed, but Buffy thinks that enough of her wanted to lose that when Glory appeared, she was slowed just enough that it caused her to lose. Tan Dress Buffy concludes, "And this is why-" "-I killed my sister," Buffy adds. Willow looks at both Buffy, visibly upset, then comments, "I think Spike was right back at the gas station." She pauses, then snaps, "Snap out of it!" Both Buffys whirl to face Willow with identical astonished expressions on their faces, and say "What?" Willow tells both Buffys that what she's feeling is guilt, and that it is important, but not more than that, then adds: "You've carried the weight of the world on your shoulders since high school. I know you didn't ask for this...but you do it every day, and so you wanted out for one second...so what?" Buffy isn't convinced: "I got Dawn killed." Exasperated, Willow retorts, "Hello! Your sister-not dead yet! But she will be if you stay locked inside here and never come out." Buffy asks quietly, "And what if I can't?" Willow looks at Buffy: time for some tough love. She replies, "Then I guess you're right...and you did kill your sister." She starts to walk out of the store, and Buffy asks where she is going. A brief cut back to Xander's bedroom is followed by Willow replying, "Where you're needed. Are you coming?" Buffy looks back to where Tan Dress Buffy is still putting the book on the shelf. Tan Dress Buffy looks over at Buffy, then the scene switches back to Buffy staring sightlessly in Xander's bedroom. After a couple of seconds, she blinks and shakes her head, and a couple of seconds later Willow is aware again as well. Buffy's eyes are wide, and they fill with tears as her face contorts. She begins sobbing, and Willow moves over to comfort her.

Cut to the Magic Box, and Giles turns to see the front door open and greets Buffy. Buffy assures everyone that she is all right, then mentions that she heard that Giles had found the ritual text. Xander makes the last "Ben is Glory" comment of the episode before Buffy asks Giles what they know. Giles hesitates for a long moment, then tells Buffy that there is a way to stop Glory. He hesitates again, then tells her that he has read the scrolls very carefully, and that there isn't much margin for error in his interpretation. Buffy prods him to come out and say it, and Giles explains that Glory is going to open the dimensional portal by means of a ritual bloodletting using Dawn's blood, and that the results would be basically as Gregor described them before Glory bisected him with the hubcap. Buffy wants to know how to stop it from happening, and Giles replies that the blood has to be stopped, and that the only way that would happen was-- He pauses again, then continues with a grim expression on his face, looking very old: "Buffy-the only way is to kill Dawn." Dead silence, and the camera moves in on Buffy's face. Once again, she is silent and staring, but the emotion in her eyes is not blankness this time...it is sheer horror.

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

COMMENTS

Buffy has been through a lot of crap in the past five years, and admittedly it was a little disappointing to see the exact nature of what had driven her over the edge; however, it makes sense when one considers the scene from the late 1980's in Buffy's mind, which-of course-never actually happened. Buffy remembers herself as immediately taking on the role of Dawn's protector, years before she ever heard of Slayers. With Joyce dead and Hank MIA, Dawn is the only family she has left, and the intensity of those false memories makes it pretty clear that origins aside, Buffy still looks at Dawn as her actual sister. Her admission to Willow made it clear that her heart and her head agreed that she couldn't defeat Glory, though she was able to shake it off and soldier on until Glory actually took Dawn...and there it was: she had given up, and it had caused her to fail, and about the most important thing possible. Also, Buffy knew something that she hadn't known when she had her moment at the Magic Box: Glory winning would mean the end of everything, and this time she wouldn't be able to stop it. Add all of that up, and throw in what Spike told her about how Slayers all had a death wish, and what happened to Buffy was pretty clear: her subconscious was trying to give her the death that she wanted deep down, but that her sense of duty to her friends wouldn't let her do consciously. Willow attacked that mindset at its core by convincing Buffy that it wasn't hopeless, that she still could salvage the situation if she just snapped out of it, and as it always has in the past in the end, Buffy's sense of duty won out over her doubts and fears. Of course, Giles almost immediately broke the news to her that Dawn would probably have to die to save the world, but this time she'll fight rather than retreat..."The Gift" should make an interesting counterpoint to "Prophecy Girl", only with the life at stake being Dawn's instead of her own.

Spike and Willow were the central characters of the episode, and both acquitted themselves well. Buffy's judgment in bringing him along for the ride was vindicated when he turned out to be the only one immune to Glory's mind trick, and he was the one who hotwired Ben's car and got them all back to Sunnydale (by the way, they fit seven people in Ben's car? What did they do, put Spike in the trunk?) His frustration at trying to explain the Ben/Glory situation to the others led to some fun comic moments, and it took guts to head back to the apartment where he had been tortured when Glory or the Crusty Minions might still have been around. His only low points were the crack about Buffy liking it rough, and getting his ass handed to him by Doc (though going into the fire for the box was a nice recovery).

I love Take Charge Willow: she cut through all of the crap and got everyone doing what they needed to do to be useful...then she went in and brought Buffy back...not too shabby. Giles' cryptic comment about Willow's spell being extraordinarily advanced makes me think that something is going to happen soon regarding her powers, whether it is her paying a price or perhaps that it will come to light that her increased power level is due to the proximity of the Key, which would mean that if Dawn dies or loses her Keyness, Willow's power level would drop quite a bit. Willow can seem rather insensitive at times, but her well-chosen words to Buffy at the end show that she understands quite well what motivates her best friend.

Xander was the foremost victim of the Ben/Glory whammy, and it sent him dangerously close to butt-monkey territory at times this episode; however, he saved the day by stepping in to kick Doc's ass...though I really wish he had gone the extra mile and decapitated him, damn it. Anya was sweet in her few scenes, and her whispered, somber, "Good luck," convinced me that--at least at times--she is playing dumb on purpose. Giles, in the few scenes he had, was appropriately gutsy in the face of what had to be a horribly painful injury, and his scene where he had to break the news to Buffy about Dawn made it clear that the pain he was feeling at having to give the news was pretty much equal to the pain he knew he was about to cause to Buffy...kudos to Anthony Stewart Head for a very well played scene.

Meanwhile, in the other part of the story, Dawn acquitted herself very well...staying remarkably composed given the horrific nature of her situation, and even getting in a few shots of her own...though they proved futile. The portrayal of Glory's confusion over her newfound emotions could have been scripted a bit better...Glory's clearly had emotions all along, but guilt is not a godlike emotion by any means, and that should have been made a bit clearer. Ben proved that he is a bit slow on the uptake by not just letting Dawn escape on her own...what exactly would he do if the Crusty Minions came along in force, anyway? His eventual surrender to the temptations offered by Glory was a bit disappointing, but not surprising...when you're alone with no backup and things look hopeless, a surrender on reasonably good terms for you is rather attractive. Still, he's made his choice, and if the resolution next week involves Ben buying the farm, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

Doc is still alive...does it seem strange to anyone else that a demon who apparently likes to sit around and read in quiet surroundings would worship a goddess who is apparently determined to reduce the entire universe to a state of chaos?

All in all, a good episode, though a lot of it is a work in progress, pending the outcome of the season finale, and the memory loss whammy was played up to the point of absurdity. 8 out of 10.

Quotes:

"Separate."
--Willow, annoyed with Xander and Spike's fighting, uses a bit of Witch Fu to calm things down.

"Is everyone here very stoned?"
--Spike, who can't understand why no one else can remember seeing Ben change into Glory right in front of them.

"It's just a rental, Dawnie. Being human's like a costume for girls like you and me. Being something else...that's what we are."
--Glory, singing the praises of not being human.

"How are you doing?" "It only hurts when I answer pointless questions."
--Xander, asking about the obvious, and Giles, proving his sense of humor is not wounded.

"Hey. I know you. You're the first original Slayer who tried killing all of us in our dreams...how have you been?"
--Willow, seeing a familiar face and trying to be chatty.

"Actually, I'm looking for you...here...again."
--Willow, back with Young Buffy and explaining why she is there.

"No...and I think we already deja'd this vu."
--Willow, who doesn't want to talk about dolls with Young Buffy.

"How the hell are we supposed get to China...teleport?"
--Spike, asking a rhetorical question and ignoring that, with Super Willow around, the answer to that question might well be "yes."

"Buffy, come on...it's your brain. Just tell me."
--Willow, trying to get through to Buffy.

"I think that Spike was right at the gas station...Snap out of it!"
--Willow, deciding to cut the Gordian Knot.

"Buffy...the only way is to kill Dawn."
--Giles grimly delivers what is just about the worst news possible.