Buffy vs. Dracula

Written by Marti Noxon
Directed by David Soloman

Mary Beth's Synopsis | Mary Beth's Review | SunSpeak

Mary Beth's Synopsis

After an unusually long previously on segment that goes way back to "Welcome to the Hellmouth" to introduce Buffy's calling and her relationship with Giles and continues through her friendships and up to "Restless" and her encounter with the First Slayer, we finally begin the 5th season. . . .

Buffy lies awake in her bed back in her old room at home. Riley sleeps soundly beside her. And I guess Joyce is of the mind that her daughter has slept with a 240-year-old deadguy behind her back, so having a 20ish live guy asleep in her house isn't so bad. Quietly, so as not to disturb her boyfriend, Buffy gets up and goes out for a little midnight ass-kicking. She tears through a cemetery, chasing after vampire who, upon reaching the designated spot, slows down to practically run in place while Buffy's new stunt double leaps over a headstone to tackle him. Buffy really gets into the fight -- a little kicko, a little foot-sweepo, a cartwheel, and a poof. Dusted vamp. She breathes heavily, a furtive look of exhilaration on her face, and returns home to crawl quietly into bed with Riley. He cuddles her close, and with a sigh and a slight smile of satisfaction, Buffy falls asleep.

Leave it to Joss to get a rude gesture in the opening credits of a national TV show with Spike's "peace sign" from "Hush." Okay, so it's rude in the U.K. Still. Take that censors!

A summer day on the beach near Sunnydale -- you know, the one we haven't seen since "Go Fish." Buffy lulls Riley into a false sense of superiority over her football throwing skills before nearly smashing the poor boy's face in with a "soft toss" Slayer-style. Nearby, the rest of the Scooby Gang and their SOs (that's be Willow/Tara, Xander/Anya, for those just tuning in) sit by and enjoy the "relaxation" part of a day at the beach. I'm with them. The more you sweat, the more sand has to stick to. Ick. Riley and Buffy, having slayed the bad football, join the group, hungry for burgers. Riley, for some reason, utters the phrase "cow me." I think this is a dangerous thing to say around witches in training. Just ask Amy. Xander is busy proving he was never a boy scout by being unable to light a match and hold it to charcoal. Willow helps out with a little Ignis incende to light a roaring fire that nearly incendes Xander's face. Buffy responds with an over-the-sunglasses "Check you out! Witch fu!" that just makes me thing SMG's been watching a bit too much of that other three-named Sarah on Sex and the City.

Tara looks on proudly while Willow tries to aw-shucks her way out of it -- it's just a matter of balancing the elements, she says. As if on cue (cuz it's in the script) those elements become unbalanced; the skies darken instantly, and a wicked storm blows in from the sea. As the gang gathers their stuff and makes a dash for cover, Willow cries out, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" And you know, considering the title of the episode, she's probably right

On this dark and stormy night, outside a tall, mysterious castle (and over dramatic gothic music) Clueless Movers R' Us unload a Very Large Box, which they promptly drop. Out of one corner spills dirt. Clueless Mover #1 (who really should have read up on Sunnydale before agreeing to move something there) begins complaining about rich people who move dirt, but he is rudely interrupted by a large, clawed hand that breaks through the box and slashes him in the throat. Clueless Mover #2 just gapes while whatever it is crashes out of the box. Gee. Do you think he made it?

At Giles' place, Willow -- who is wearing something akin to "Son of the Cupcake Shirt" from last season -- plays "Computer Whisperer" for Giles' new system, complete with Mac Powerbook and a scanner. They're setting up to start a big archiving project with Giles' books. Cuz this went so well the last time. Willow points out that Giles has been Project Guy all summer and that she's going to start worrying when he starts forming giant rubberband balls. She, like so many of us, thinks Giles should get a life -- only she thinks it more tactfully than that. Well, slightly more tactfully -- pointing out that it might help if he left the house. Giles chooses that moment to tell Willow a Big Secret. She makes with the worry about keeping something from Buffy, but agrees. Giles is going back to England. Buffy hasn't needed him for some time, so he's getting his things together so they'll be there for the gang to use in his absence. Willow picks her jaw up from the floor (where it rests near mine). She tries to convince him he is needed -- by all of them -- but Giles knows better. He'll tell Buffy soon, sure she'll understand

Buffy, meanwhile, is availing herself of the home-cooked meal. You may have noticed that I have yet to comment on her hair this season. That's because, well, I like it. She's got a bit of the Farrah flip going on, but it's healthy and a nice, darker blonde (sorta harkens back to he 1st season look almost). Buffy bails on dessert to go on patrol because even though it's only 8, to them "dark equals dinner bell." Joyce tells Buffy the house "gets so quiet" when Buffy's not around *cough*foreshadowing*cough*, and Buffy says they should make a regular thing of dinner once schools starts. She apologizes and heads off to do her duty, which is, she says, "a total drag."

Really, it is. I mean, the look of pure joy Buffy has on her face as she tussles with a vamp for quite a few minutes just screams "bored now!" Not. He's a tough one, but when Buffy -- who is wearing red leather pants, by the way -- dusts him, she looks, again, quite "jazzed." She stalks off across the cemetery, presumably looking for more prey, when it finds her -- and it's tall and dark and made up like it's straight out of a bad Kabuki theater production. Or possibly The Crow. He is impressed with her "hunt." She says it's just another day on the job and asks him to "step up for some overtime." He stares. How rude. She asks, with typical Buffy hubris, if he knows what a Slayer is. "Do you," he replies, with typical bad Translyvanian accent. This catches her a bit off guard (the question, not the accent), and she asks who he is. He assumed she knew. He is . . . . Drrracuuula. Buffy pauses, her eyes widen, and she shoots back, "Get out!"

Willow and Xander walk through the cemetery together, not with ice cream cones, but with iced cappuccinos. I'm telling you now that Xander's shirt disturbs me greatly. I'm telling you now because I'm going to tell you again and I want you to get used to the idea. Willow ever-so-not-slyly tries to get Xander to guess her secret without actually telling him the secret. Xander presumes she's talking about Tara, which she isn't. Not that Xander would mind if she wanted to share Tara secrets. Especially the naughty variety. Willow just gives him that look and they move on, with her trying again to not-tell him her secret while they go see if the Buffster's on patrol nearby.

Buffy incredulously questions Dracula about his identity. "You're sure this isn't just some fanboy thing?" she asks. "'Cause I've fought more than a couple pimply, overweight vamps that called themselves Lestat." Hee. But Drac's adamant that he is who he is. But you can't blame Buff for checking -- he's got the big showy cape and fangs and the long, flowy hair, but no bumps, and the make-up is just way over the top. With a steady gaze he tells her that she knows who he is as well as he knows who she is -- Buffy Summers, the Slayer. Buffy's pretty honored that she's known throughout the world, which is why Drac's visiting -- to meet the renowned "killer." Buffy bristles at that term, and reminds him she's the good guy. "Perhaps, but your power is rooted in darkness," he drones. "You must feel it." No, what Buffy feels. . . is bored. Yeah, I can relate. She yanks out a stake and goes for his heart. But all she gets is nothing but mist. Drac evaporates, Buffy falls through where he used to be, and he reappears behind her. She tries again, and he disappears. "Okay," she calls petulantly. "That's cheating." Willow and Ugly Shirt Guy chose that moment to happen upon the Buffster. She tries to tell them to beat it, but they don't get the message before Dracula reappears behind them. They turn and Willow whispers a hello while Xander goes into full mock mode. "Look who's got a bad case of Dark Prince envy." Hee. Dracula tells them to leave, which Xander refuses to do. "Where'd ya get that accent, Sesame Street? One, two, three victims! Mwhahahahaha!" I love Xander. The Dark Prince is not amused.

Buffy informs them she's pretty sure it is Dracula, so Xander apologizes and cowers while Willow gapes. Honey, close your mouth, it's not polite to drool in front of visitors. Drac decides the mood is broken and takes off like a bat out of hell. Literally.

At Giles', the gang gathers to hear Buffy and Xander and Willow bibble incessantly about their star encounter. Xander's all "he totally looked shorter in person" and "I wonder if he knew Frankenstein" while Buffy's all puffed up cuz he's heard of her and has "dark penetrating eyes and lilting accent." Riley is unimpressed. Willow is also enamored, until Tara questions her attraction. Willow reverses tracks and suddenly Drac was "yuck." Anya proves she's sort of learning the tact thing by trying to help, "Except for the whole tall, dark, and handsome thing, yucko." Turns out she and Dracula hung out once or twice back in her demon days. "It was pretty cool. From a whole evil thing perspective." Xander's manly feathers are ruffled. Giles interrupts the lovefest by saying he's sorry he missed it. In that way that means he's really not. But this grabs Willow's attention. She goes into overdrive on the road to making Giles feel needed -- a road that no one else has a map for -- by saying she was thinking how much she wished he was there. Buffy was pretty much thinking "bat!" (And "what's it going to do to my hair!") Giles offers that the bat thing is only one of many myths about Dracula, and the trick to defeating him will like in separating the fact from the fiction. Yes, Willow, it's a wonderful point, but everyone is looking at you. You can stop now. Buffy wants to do the research before she meets up with him again. Riley (and the green monster on his shoulder) wants to go crush, kill, destroy. Xander's with him, but Anya talks them into agreeing with Buffy. Giles, Tara, and Willow go into research mode, and they agree to meet up the next morning -- with doughnuts! Buffy heads home for sleep. She invites Riley, but he's wired and nothing she's suggesting will lead to the sleep she needs. *smooch*smooch* And all is well.

Xander -- I mean, the shirt has sparkles on it. Who wears Hawaiian shirts with sparkles on it? -- walks Anya home while she reminisces, much to Xander's chagrin. Turns out she knew Drac back when she was just a young 700 or so. Meanwhile, a wolf watches them from the roof of the Espresso Pump. Because wolves always hang out on the roofs of local coffee bars. Xander does the jealous thing (or is he just annoyed?), and they part ways -- because it's bleach night at the Harris home and the smell makes Anya nauseous. As Xander -- and it's orange and green and it's really not helped by the drab green t-shirt he's wearing underneath it -- walks home, he turns a corner through some bushes and runs directly into He Who Has But One Glare to Give. Xander decides to fight back, daring Drac to fisticuffs. Up go Xander's fists, "Silence" comes the command from Drac, "Yes Master" comes Xander's response. A little hand wave, some mesmerizing words, and you can just start calling the X-man "Renfield." Xander will be Drac's "eyes and ears in daylight" and in return, Dracula will make Xander immortal. Xander gets giddy so Drac has to tell him that he is "strange and off-putting. Go now." And he does, with this adorable little shuffle/hop thing and a giggle that just amuses me to no end.

Off in a familiar crypt -- which is looking quite homey with its candles and overstuffed chair -- Riley pays a visit to Spike, who's lurking in the shadows, crossbow in hand. Mmmm. This will do nothing to Riley, of course, since Spike's still firmly chipped. But Spike has apparently developed quite a reputation among the demons over the summer, and he can't be too careful. Riley's there for info on Dracula, and he's willing to pay. Spike smirks at the mention of Dracula -- poncy bugger owes him 11 pounds. They're old rivals, but lost touch when Drac got famous and "forgot about all his foes." *snerk* Seems Spike, and possibly other vamps, don't like Dracula much because he gets one book written about him and suddenly everyone knows how to kill 'em. Spike also says that Drac's tricks are nothing but "showy gypsy stuff." Jealous much? When Riley informs him Dracula's in town, Spike presumes he's there to see him, but his ego takes yet another hit when he finds out Drac came for Buffy, which Riley intends to stop. "Tough talk, cowboy," Spike tells him, but it's not going to be easy. He does clue Riley in on looking for mansions and other up-scale places before he tells him he should go home to Buffy and a "nice, safe snog." Riley's out of his depth. Riley, being a guy, takes offense and reminds Spike he doesn't have Buffy's problem of not wanting to kill a helpless creature. "I'd like to see you try," Spike threatens in his best threatening voice and yummy glare. Unfortunately, sadly, Riley knows it's all for show. He pulls himself up to full height and looks Spike, well, square on the top of the head 'cuz he's at least a foot taller than the vamp. This does not bode well for Spike's intimidation factor. Spike sniffs, looks away, and backs down. Calling out a relatively weak "you're never going to find him" in retort. Poor Spike.

At the Summer's home, a dry ice machine works overtime outside Buffy's window, pumping in the misty stuff, which then becomes the CGI mist, which then becomes Dracula. Buffy awakens with a start as a strong breeze wafts through the room. Drac stands at the end of the bed and drones that she is magnificent. "I bet you say that before you bite all the girls," Buffy responds, but he insists that she is different, "kindred." He orders her to pull her hair back, and she does. "This isn't how I usually fight," she stammers with girlish shyness while still trying to resist, "think you can just waft in here with your music video wind and your hypno eyes. . . " Drac continues on that he's searched all over the world for her, blahblahblah yearned, blahblah "creature whose darkness rivals my own." He sits next to her on the bed and pushes her head to the side, exposing the barely visible scar from when Angel fed off her. He insults Angel's worthiness, for letting Buffy go. Whisper whisper seduction seduction, and he moves in directly over Angel's bite mark and begins to feed.

The next morning, Buffy wakes feeling groggy. She dresses, does her makeup and hair, and puts in those huge why-did-they-have-to-bring-back-the-70s hoop earrings, before finally stopping to gaze at the big-ass bit mark on her next. It's two widely spaced puncture wounds, very unlike Angel's scar. She grabs a scarf and ties it around her neck. Because that's not at all suspicious. At Giles' place, she refuses a jelly doughnut -- which I guess is supposed to signal her funk, but considering this is Buffy we're talking about they might have conjured more worry if she'd refused to eat a grape. Xander -- who has exchanged The Shirt for something drab and pink -- hungrily grabs the jelly while Willow prepares to share her Dracula factoids. Xander scoffs that it's not enough to "stop the Dark Master." Off everyone's stares, he tacks on "bater." And after I pick myself up off the floor and wipe off my television screen from the spewing, I tune in to hear Willow sharing Dracula's "Turn-offs: wood, fire, crosses, garlic. Turn-ons: nice duds, minions, long slow bites that last for days." Riley interrupts her Bull Durham moment with the info he learned from Spike the night before about looking in the nice parts of town. Xander continues to try to throw them off track. . . unsuccessfully. Giles notes Buffy's reverie, while Willow tries to play more to Giles' ego. He smiles but tells her to keep her focus. Willow -- who is sporting a sparkly shirt of her own, and sparkly overdone makeup to match -- continues to go on about Drac's mental powers and the connection he likes to establish with his victims. Buffy huffily denies feeling any connection to him. Xander, who's fidgeting overly, calls out, "I think you're drawing a lot of crazy conclusions about the Unholy Prince." Again with the stares. So he mutters, "bater." And this gets no one's attention? Buffy's in a full-on pout while Giles says that even though Drac puts on a show, the end result is the same. Xander fidgets some more and blathers on some more rather obviously about Dracula "gifting" women and "blood is life." Oh, and he slams his hand down on a Big. Icky. Spider. Then, while the others aren't looking, he eats it. Ew. And Ew.

Truly uncomfortable with the direction the discussion is taking, Buffy bolts to go find Dracula. Riley follows her into the courtyard, where he insists she remove her scarf. She won't, so he yanks it off and accuses her of being in Dracula's thrall. The jig is up, and Buffy collapses into a heap on the edge of the fountain, head in hands. Xander tries to back her up and eats another bug. And a leaf. Ew. Buffy insists she doesn't know why she tried to hide it. She admits to Drac having some control over her, which Riley says is understandable -- what with Angel and all that, she's transferring, he thinks. Buffy argues, blah blah blah she's his girl. Riley's all overprotective manly man, and the gang decides Buffy should stay out of sight while they look for him. Xander eagerly offers to keep an eye on her at his place while Giles and Riley search and Willow and Tara uninvite Dracula into Buffy's house. And just how did he get in there anyway?

"He seemed so nice and normal. A little pale. . . " says Joyce. Willow reminds her of the No Pulse, No Skin Tone, No Service rule of thumb in Sunnydale. She and Tara are putting the mojo on the front door while Joyce blathers on about being lonely and how they wouldn't understand how hard it is to date. "Sometimes, you just feel like giving up on men altogether." Willow and Tara hide smiles while Joyce's train continues along the track away from Clueville. And why? She's accepted her daughter's slayerness, she's dealt with her affair with a vampire, and she lets her boyfriend spend the night in her house. She's gonna take issue with Willow's choice of a lover? Whatever.

Giles and Riley are out on the town while Anya whines about having to "Slayersit," Buffy sits in a trance-like state, and Xander paces. At six o'clock, Xander shoves Anya in a closet and tells Buffy in this whole deadpan, bug-eyed delivery that is priceless: "I'm supposed to deliver you to the Master now. There's this whole deal where I get to be immortal. You cool with that?" Buffy agrees and follows him to the big honkin castle. Inside, Xander "delivers the Slayer. She who you most desire. Sorry, whom." So, I guess being in thrall makes you more sensitive to correct grammar. Dracula, sans cape, dismisses Xander with a "we must not be disturbed." Finally alone, Buffy pulls out a stake and tells Dracula she's so not under his thrall. He tells her to drop the stake. She does. Oops. That wasn't part of the Slayer's plan.

"I've lived in Sunnydale a couple of years now," Riley tells Giles. "You know what I've never noticed before?" Yup, Riley and Giles have found the Big Honkin Castle that popped up out of nowhere. Took them long enough. Inside, they split up, and they're watched by a she-vamp with funky eyes.

Buffy tells Drac -- who must just use the heavy Kabuki make-up for those special nights out but even with less makeup is still depriving powdered doughnuts somewhere from their rightful toppings -- to stay away from her. He tells her to stop him. She will. "Any minute now." He asks if she knows why she can't resist. "Cuz you're famous?" she replies, weakly. "Because you do not want to," he drones, moving ever closer. He has much to teach her about the mystery and power of her body. Blah blah blah eternity. But first, a taste. She won't let him. He didn't mean for him.

In another part of the house, Riley encounters Xander, who tells Ex-Captain Farmboy that he'll have to go through him to get to his Master. So Riley does -- with a swift strong punch to the face, Xander is out like a light. And Riley actually says "Okey dokey." Goober.

Elsewhere, Giles gets what he deserves (and then some) when he walks into a room without looking where he's going. He falls several fit into a pit and is promptly overtaken by the Three Sisters from Dracula lore. These sexy vampiresses promptly tear at his shirt and begin a seduction of their own. But hey, at least he wasn't knocked out for a change.

Dracula pulls his sleeve back, cuts his wrist, and urges Buffy to taste "what it is [they] fight for." Drac assures her he hasn't taken enough from her to change her. "You must be near death to become one of us," he says. "And that comes only when you plead for it." Uh. Okay. I don't remember Angel exactly pleading for it, but then his face was stuffed between Darla's cleavage so he wasn't exactly arguing either. Buffy responds that she's not hungry. "The craving goes deeper than that," he tells her, then he whispers, "You think you know, what you are, what's to come. You haven't even begun." Hmm. . . . those words are familiar. Buffy stares, hesitates, then takes his wrist to her mouth to drink. As Dracula tells her to "find the darkness" and her "true nature" Buffy gets flashes -- her fighting vampires with glee, blood coursing, the First Slayer. She jerks back and whispers "wow" before shoving Dracula hard across the room. "That. Was gross." It really was.

Dracula tries to get her to go to him but she tells him "the thrall has gone out of our relationship." She thanks him for opening her eyes, though. Drac's not happy. Fighty mcfight ensues. And Drac's not half-bad for a guy who's been depending on magic all these years.

Riley finds the doorway Giles fell through, but avoids the same trap by actually looking down. He also spots Giles, who's "suffering" his punishment all-too-gladly. Riley holds out a cross and then tosses it to Giles to scare off the sisters. "Thank God you came," Giles whispers distractedly, "no possible escape." Riley drags him up, but Giles is not quite with it and wants to go back for his shoe. "No, sir," swears Riley. "No more chick pit for you." *snerk* and *snerk*

Buffy and Drac do the fighting and the kicking and the throwing. Until she grabs one of the many torches from the wall and tells him that a guy like him really should think of going electric. Before she can set him ablaze, though, he disapparates. Buffy watches carefully until she can see where he's reforming. She drops the torch and sets out across the room at a dead run, grabbing the stake she dropped earlier along the way. A hop and a jump up to another level and just as Drac reforms, she stakes him with a "how do you like my darkness now?"

Riley and Giles find her "chock full of free will" and Dracula "euro-trashed," and Xander arrives fully pissed off, holding a torch, and demanding to know where the creature is who turned him into "a spider-eating man-bitch." With Drac gone, all Xander can do is make a proclamation that he's "sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats insects, and gets the funny syphilis. As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt-monkey." Go, Xander! "Check," Buffy responds, "No more butt-monkey." Riley points out that at least he wasn't "making time with the Dracubabes" like Giles, who was ready to nuzzle those loathsome creatures to death. Poor Giles.

As the gang heads out, the dramatic music rises and the misty stuff begins to form where Dracula had fallen. Just as his form begins to appear, a stake appears and slams into his chest. "You think I don't watch your movies. You always comes back," quips Buffy. The mist starts to reform one more time when Buffy warns, "I'm standing right here!" And it's gone.

The next day, Buffy arrives to talk to Giles, at his request. I will refrain from describing the hideous ruffled strappy top thing she's wearing. Oh, too late. Well, it's ugly. She knows something's up when she ranks cookie treatment, and they sit together on the couch for a discussion. But Buffy has something she wants to tell Giles, too. And ever the gentleman, he tells her to go first.

"You haven't been my Watcher for a while," she starts. Nice of her to notice. "I haven't been training." She's had some pretty strenuous aerobic workouts going on with the Riley-boy, though. "And I haven't really needed to come to you for help." Giles agrees. She tells him that her encounter with Dracula made her face up to some things. Buffy owns up to the fact that she's been going out every night since the spell in "Primeval." "Patrolling?" Giles asks. "Hunting," she responds, using the term that Dracula did. She tells Giles that Dracula understood her power better than she does. "He saw darkness in it," she continues as Giles listens, rapt. "I need to know more -- about where I come from, about the other Slayers. And maybe if I can learn to control this thing, I could be stronger; I could be better. But I'm scared. I know it's gonna be hard, but I can't do it without you. I need your help. I need you to be my Watcher again."

With a small tip of the head, the barest raising of eyebrows, and the slightest of smiles, a year's worth of stress and sorrow melts away from Giles. He's extremely touched. You can tell by the way he sips his tea. He tells Buffy that no, he didn't really have anything he wanted to say. "It's nothing."

Back at the Summers' residence, Buffy tells Joyce that she's heading to the movies with Riley and stops in her room, where she finds a girl with long, straight brown hair searching through her stuff. "What are you doing here?" Buffy demands. And from down the hall, Joyce calls out "Buffy? If you're going out, why don't you take your sister?" As one, the girls turn and call out, as only indignant sisters can, "MOM!!!!"

Mary Beth's Review

Well, after an unsteady start with "The Freshman" last season, and a slightly less unsteady start with "Anne" the season before, Buffy begins its 5th season with it's freshest debut since "When She Was Bad." I know that some have thought the episode lacking, but I felt it was a return to Buffy's roots -- and not just with her darker shade of blonde hair. The show felt familiar -- with its camp and irreverence, its Scooby Gang bonding, and its touching moments thrown in. They can't go back to the innocent days of high school as horror, but with an exploration -- or the beginnings of one -- of the origins of Buffy's Slayerness and some determination to get the lives of the rest of the gang on track, they're off to an intriguing start.

The Dracula story can be approached in two ways, and I'm still unsure which way to choose. The straightforward approach takes the story as just what it was -- Buffy's encounter with the legendary Dracula, Whedon style. Count on Joss to introduce the Dark Prince in the Buffyverse as just an overblown ego with a bottomless bag of tricks and a penchant for face powder. It makes sense though. Those who've complained that Dracula was too easily bested should first realize that, well, he's not dead. More likely, Buffy waited him out until he took his mist and his rainstorms and his three chickadees and his deflated ego elsewhere to play. Second, in the Buffyverse, the bad-ass vamps are the Master's and the Angelus' and the Kakistos' of the underworld. Dracula is just another vamp with some powerful mojo and a really good press agent. Besides, there's no guarantee he won't be back (see above about the "not dead" part).

Marti Noxon did a great job of working all the standard Dracula fare into the story -- the arriving in a storm that blows in off the sea, the cape, the look, the Three Sisters, the dirt from Transylvania, the mind mojo, the seductiveness, and Renfield. Oh, and didn't Xander just make a wonderful Renfield? Nick Brendon made me giggle constantly, even when he was eating bugs. His body language, his facial expressions, his giddyness, all well done. And the perfect, hopefully, last straw in the butt-monkey Xander files. I want to see what Xander does to snap out of this.

But then, there's the paranoid fan approach to the story. The one that thinks that the Dracula lore was all followed just a little too perfectly, a little too over-the-top. Was it a case of a vamp who believes his own press too much and can't escape it? Or was it more? What of the fact that Dracula looked nothing like other vamps in the Buffyverse? A glamour the Dark Prince cast on his victims? Or something more? What about the fact that he was so in tune with exactly what's been eating away at Buffy since Primeval? Was this Dracula seeing into her mind and using her weakness against her? Or was it something more sinister? He repeated word for word the warning that the First Slayer gave to Buffy in her dream. That's more than a little suspicious. As is the fact as soon as Dracula disappeared, Dawn appeared. We know she was not around before that last moment of the episode, as hinted from Joyce's comment at dinner about how quiet it would be without Buffy around when school starts. No sign of this new mysterious Little Sister. Curiouser and curiouser -- could Dracula -- presented with such campy perfection -- have been yet another manifestation of the First Slayer -- or even something more sinister, such as the First Evil (assuming they're not connected) -- trying to tempt Buffy once again to give in to her darker nature? Everyone who claims to know Dracula (Spike and Anya) did not see him. Everyone who did was taken in by his wiley ways -- he played to their desires, their need to feel important, their need to be recognized. But the moment Buffy tasted the blood and had flashes of the First Slayer, she snapped out of it. Was this because Dracula overestimated her strength and her power as her weakness? Or was this because it reminded Buffy of her previous confrontation with the First Slayer and how she fought back? Or am I just one paranoid fan?

Either way, the episode was filled with funny dialogue, renewed relationships (the Willow and Xander scene even harkened back to happier times), and one beautifully poignant moment when Buffy asked Giles to be her Watcher again. Whether Dracula was real or not, that it served to wake her up to the darkness she'd been experiencing all summer makes this episode key. Buffy's headed down a scary path of discovery, and I have to wonder if she will be shifting her quest from that of having a normal life, to that of struggling to maintain her own identity in an onslaught of power and darkness from the deepest depths of her origins. And what will this struggle mean for her relationship with Riley? Even as she welcomes Giles and his guidance back into her life, you have to wonder if Riley, with his overprotectiveness and overall macho ego, will be able to withstand the test of Buffy's exploration. And if he keeps mocking seething bleach blonde vampires who could conceivably get their chips out of their head one day, he's going to be in for a world of hurt. Or death.

It was nice to see Willow back with the computer helping . . . and with struggling with keeping an important secret from her friends. I have to wonder if Giles told her because he half-hoped she'd be unable to do so. Her attempts to make him feel needed were sweet and touching -- and Giles thought so, too. And it was amusing to see her so enamored of the Dark Prince, too. And how little it threatened -- beyond a teensy bit of jealousy -- the bond she and Tara have formed. I fail to understand why Joyce is in the dark, unless it's just a matter of not telling Joyce so Joyce can't tell Sheila. Professor Rosenburg's reaction to her daughter's lifestyle choice would be most interesting to see.

Xander and Anya seem stuck in the same place when the episode starts as they were when the season ends. Let's hope that his stint as Renfield really does snap him out of it. But what's next? He needs to get out of that basement -- if that wasn't evident in "Restless" I don't know what was. Giles, too, needs to find something to do besides train Buffy, or he's just going to end up in exactly the same place he was when she dropped him the first time. Plus, the money has got to be running out.

Some superficial notes: The stunts were definitely different, and to this trained eye, the stunt double was more noticeably different from SMG. But, although some of the stunts were noticeably slower than in the past, there were some nifty new tricks thrown in. Buffy's style has definitely changed to something more wild and Faith-like as she struggles with her darkening power. I suppose the new stunt folks will help with that distinction. I do hope they editors figure out how to work with them, though. The scenes were choppy and jarring, with a distinct lack of flow.

The music was also quite different. As an admitted adoring fan of Chris Beck, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss his stuff. Thomas Wanker did a good job with the action music, though, and the Dracula music was pricelessly over-the-top Gothic. It really lent to the atmosphere. But in those key moments where Giles talked to first Willow and later Buffy, when the heartstrings would've gotten an extra tug from Beck, I felt something lacking. The music was too soft, almost unnoticeable. Perhaps that's a good thing, but to this fan who's used to being pushed over the edge of emotion with a gorgeously poignant cue from Chris Beck. I commend Thomas Wanker for taking on hard shoes to fill, though, and I look forward to seeing him grow into them.

Oh, and a word about Dawn. Wait and see. Okay, so it's three words. But still. Nothing much seen, nothing much to say. I could go on and on about all my favorite Dawn moments from the previous 4 seasons, just to confuse clueless viewers, but instead I'll say "Trust in Joss." And go rewatch "This Year's Girl." And then pray that Michelle Trachtenburg is no Raven Simone.

Favorite moments:
* Xander as Renfield, throughout -- especially the "master. . . bater" comments. But not the bug- eating. Ew.
* Willow nearly torching Xander with her "witch fu."
* Buffy's "get out" at Dracula's introduction and Xander's subsequent mocking with his Count Count impression.
* Willow/Xander bonding in the cemetery.
* Giles in the chickpit -- and Riley's quote about it.
* Xander's butt-monkey tirade.
* The Giles/Buffy talk.

Rating: A good, solid episode with great dialogue and some interesting thoughts to ponder. I'll give it a 4 out of 5. They definitely lost some tenths for Xander's shirt.


Coming tonight!

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seasons be called a streak?) of somewhat lackluster season premieres: do something *really* strange.

The more I think about it, the more certain I am that Drac and Primal Slayer were sent by the same power, and that neither is what he/she seems. I mean, okay, both of them saying the same thing about "You think you know what you are" tips that hand pretty deliberately.

But I also think Dawn is Try #3. It's awfully convenient that she showed up just as Drac disappeared--too convenient. Especially because Joyce's comment about how quiet it would be when Buffy went back to school made it clear that she was *not* around at that time.

Xander and bugs. Again. I guess it was inevitable... *snerk*

Got a giggle out of the way that everyone who could possibly know Dracula personally (Anya, Spike) *did*, and not just in passing--both had very chummy sorts of stories about him. Jonathan, anyone?

Maybe it was the lighting, but did anyone else notice that Drac's makeup seemed to get less drastic with each successive encounter? It was the most godawful chalky, fakey thing I've ever seen in the graveyard, but by the end he looked pretty darn good. Getting healthier on Buffy's blood...or getting realer on her and her friends' energy of belief?

Loved the nod to Fright Night with Mom turning out to have invited him in. *giggle* Loved all the "requisite Dracula movie" bits, and how everyone seemed somewhat aware that they were acting strangely/stereotypically, but couldn't seem to break out of their roles, apart from a liberal sprinkling of sardonic comments about their own and their friends' behavior. More clues that something is very wrong with reality.

The wheels are turning round and round and round once again on the whole "meaning of Restless and origin of the Slayer" thing, and I'm leaning more than ever in the direction that she started out as a more indiscriminate destructive force that the Watchers somehow harnessed. And now the Source is awake, and wants Buffy to do things Her way...

Not overly fond of Anya's new hair. Other than that, everyone looks great. Both Sarah and Alyson seem to have gained a bit of curve they didn't have a few months ago.

It'll take a while to get used to the new stunt style, but I think I'm going to enjoy it in general. Certainly not the *severe* dip in quality I was afraid of. More flash and fancy moves, less sense of solid connection and sheer power. I'm hoping the negatives will iron themselves out quickly; it took a while for Jeff and Sophia to hit their stride initially too. The new double obviously comes from a dance and/or gymnastics background; and her body and hair are distinguishable from Sarah's in different ways than Sophia's were.

I wonder if the Big Honkin' Castle went back where it came from? And will anyone really remember that it was there?

Julie's Comments

And now the beach. Buffy & the Scooby gang having a nice day at the beach. (Isn't this a first for them? Nope, excuse me, second. I forgot 'Go Fish' for a minute.) Buffy & Riley playing catch with the football. ::snerk:: That boy was _so_ asking for it, wasn't he? Someone had best remind him not to play soccer against her. ::blink:: And a small question here. Is whatever Maggie gave him last year still working on the heightened strength? If not, that boy should have brain damage and several less teeth. Just wondering what sort of injury logic to try to apply to him this season. Not that it matters or anything. So, besides the unintentional tackle football, we see how well Anya and Tara are integrating in the group. I still like Anya, supporting Xander in her usual tactless manner. And it's nice to see Tara feeling secure enough to joke aroundŠand not stutter. She still reminds me of high school aged Willow. It's also good to see everyone being comfortable with the direction each is going. And I loved the giggle about the fire and rain. "I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" LOL. Poor Xander, things are still not going well for him. I guess he was never a boy scout, huh?

And now to Drac. Okay, right now I have to say that several times my brain ran to other vamp flicks & such, and I wonder if that was the intention? Oh, well. We have 2 guys hauling a large rectangular, *heavy* box. And they drop it to discover dirt in it. ('Salem's Lot time for my brain) And gee, dirt wasn't the only thing in it, was it? Surprised? Naaaaw. (Brain also took the detour to the 1979 Dracula movie only we didn't get to see the throat being ripped open here.) The Count is in the building. So to speak. What follows is is mostly the usual Dracula story line but as the guy's almost 600 years old, I guess the term 'set in his ways' is an understatement. The Count arrives and kills the delivery men. He makes his servant/slave (male). He seduces the women and is inexplicably drawn to women who are already in involved relationships. He slips in at night and seduces them. The young suitor/husband grows suspcious and uncovers the truth. He and the older man who has Knowledge, go to try and find the Count during the day, but don't find the lair until after nightfall. And they've left the enthralled woman either inadequately guarded or with the absolute worst person, and she ends up right in his clutches immediately after sunset. The intrepid heroes are delayed by the slave and the Count's three vamp wives. (::giggle:: "No more chick pit for you.") Delayed just long enough for the Count to have the heroine drink of him. Oooo, the seduction. :) And then the Count's defeat and staking byŠthe heroine? I said _mostly_ the usual Dracula plot. We can't forget this is Buffy we're talking about. She just bounces right back and poofs him quite handily and the troops roll inŠlate. And then the Count reformsŠand is staked again by the sardonically waiting Buffy. ("You _always_ come back.")

Okay, yes I liked it. But being a bit of a Dracula buff, it's not surprising. It had just the right bit of silliness at the right time. Everyone did such a great job in their roles. Xander as Renfield was absolutely marvelous! I laughed so much at that. Especially as I kept thinking 'Artie Johnson' while watching him. ("Love at First Bite." If you haven't seen it, do so. George Hamilton & Jeff Goldblum just kill the whole Dracula legendŠin a very fun way. Artie Johnson was a happily weird Renfield.) Giles as Van Helsing, the older man of learning who knows how to fight the vampire. Riley as Jonathan Harker. The young, dashing hero who will do what it takes to save his lady-love. (On a semi-serious side hereŠour squeaky-clean Riley realistically threatening to off Spike, an effectively helpless being. What's up with that? Are they trying to give the boy a dark side? Then what will Maddog & Rastro have to hold against him? Besides chocolate?) Buffy as Mina Harker, at first amused and slightly intrigued by Drac, then, helplessly enthralled after being a midnight snack and being seduced into doing the blood sucking thing. (eww) Joyce had a tad of the role of Lucy, being the means Drac employs to being invited in the house. Everyone played their roles to the hilt without quite going over the top. Okay, with out going too far over the top. I just enjoyed it so. :) An enjoyable time was had by one and all.

And now on to other matters here. Giles wants to go back to England. I wasn't surprised. Sad, but not surprised. His self-worth is right where Xander's isŠsomewhere at the bottom of the Black Sea. Or more geographically, the bottom of Death Valley. Yep. Past rock bottom. However, he is acting a bit more as he once didŠhe used Willow as a kind of sounding board before trying to tell Buffy. If I recall correctly, that's something he hasn't done since before the library went *boom!* I think he finds her much easier to talk to when it's of a personal nature that's not a dire emergency. I dunno. Must ponder this more. I was very happy to see the beginning of a resolution for thisŠHis being needed by Buffy as a Watcher because her Slayer powers _are_ getting stronger and she doesn't know what to do, where it comes from or what the possible repercussions are from it. Yea! It's about time. Only I don't think it'll be the old Watcher/Slayer relationship. I'm looking forward to it being a bit more equal-sided than the old mentor/student one of old. Time will tell.

And how interesting was it that old Drac suggests that her power comes from darkness & he knows what it is? I think he was telling the truth. At least a part of it. It's looking more like Slayers were formed from two sides. But the compassion and the need to help can't come from that darkness. There's got to be something else in the mix & more than just humanity.

Even more interesting, the blood-sharing seemed to bring the attention of the First again. And with it, the power to throw off old Drac's mind games. That shortcut from First to current is alive & well. This season looks to be _very_ interesting indeed.


"I need to watch again with a clear head, but I thought Buffy was fun and funny and campy and a wonderful mix of reverance and irreverance and friendship and emotion. . . . and everything it wasn't for much of last season." -- Mary Beth

"I would suspect the "big honkin' castle" came from the same place Dawn did. Or not the same place, but by the same mechanism. Not to mention Drac and his And Now For Something Completely Different traits and powers. Something is rotten in the state of Sunnydale...and methinks it's dry-rot in the walls between the worlds. (Didn't CG and NH already do this in the Gatekeeper trilogy?)" -- Val

"Drac: I think I'm at a slight disadvantage--- I remember this actor when he and SMG were exchanging smoochies on All My Children. He was annoying, but they had chemistry then, and as--- weird? bizarre? yeah, bizarre--- as Drac is, I think he and Buffy had an interesting kinda sexy thrall thing going for most of the ep. Except for every time I noticed his neck, which was makeup-free. Which made that pale face above it remind me even more of the Coppola version of Dracula, and no matter how cool other people thought it was, it *always* struck me as lame.... On the other hand, having seen that movie, most of the cliches in this were even funnier to me, especially Buffy's reaction to the blood. "That's really gross." *snort* Yayyy! For once, a sane human has the right reaction to sucking down someone else's bodily fluids! Anyway, Drac wasn't all that impressive for himself, but I loved everyone's reactions to meeting him in the cemetary--- almost as cool as meeting David Boreanaz!" -- Chris

"Xander-as-Renfield: hmm. Wow, I was annoyed by this. Xander's such an easy target for Drac and for bad humor. Irritating. But when he started eating bugs I got amused again; I think Nick was just having too much fun, and he's *so* obvious, and they completely miss it because of Xander's usual twitchiness and non-sequitor-inclined brand of humor, so if you just turn off your brain and watch him, it's fun. Humiliating as it was for the character and in-your-face as the declaration of not wanting to be comic relief any more was, I still kinda liked it. But I'll like it better if they do finally move Xander past this type of situation. " -- Chris

"I liked that they finally had Buffy *ask* for help when she knows she needs it. I also really liked how they handled Giles planning to leave--- everything in order, not on a whim, kind of sad, kind of proud. But the look on his face when Buffy said she still needed him was just lovely--- he'd been so worried, once she described how the First Slayer was effecting her, that he didn't see her request for extra help coming. I don't think he was relieved, just touched that she asked. I don't, honestly, think she had any idea that he was going to leave unless it was subconsciously. I'm pretty sure Willow didn't spill. "
"When the scene started I called Willow telling, then I changed my mind. I think it was just lovely causality."
"Yeah, I agree. At most, Willow simply nudged Buffy towards mentioning her feelings to Giles _now_ ... more likely Buffy (sub?)consciously caught the hints that Giles might be feeling generally underappreciated. Or else it was a happy coincidence. :) If Buffy had known Giles was planning on leaving, we would have had _some_ kind of a scene. At the very least the thought would freak her more than she showed there." -- Chris, Lizbet and Dianne

"What else from the book/movies did they mock well? The inevitable bit with the dropped coffin. Anya as Lucy, but already been-there-fanged-that. Buffy's nonchalant "let's go" when Xander says he's gotta take her to his Master now, since the Minna types usually go kicking and screaming. Riley was *born* to be Jonathan Harker, having all those vamp issues about his girlfriend. And I was amused at Spike calling him "cowboy" in the crypt. Can I mention that Spike was wasted in this ep? But he still looked good, and the opening credit shot makes me chortle a lot. Probably too much. :> I loved Anya's bunnysuit credit shot. *All* of ASH's credits looked really cool this season. " -- Chris

"How much did I love Giles in the chickpit? *snerk snerk snerk whoa* Another scene straight out of the movie (I don't know if it's in the book or not) which just gets out of hand right away. Of course, all the inevitable GASPer jokes apply... *much giggling* Wow, that was gratuitous. I should be annoyed. I *should*. It's totally catering to the audience, to do that. On the other hand, I am part of that audience, and I can't honestly claim to be annoyed, so...."
"Yeah. It's not gratuitous if the audience likes it. Like me, when Angel lost his shirt. All those times Angel lost his shirt. Not gratuitous at all." -- Chris and Lizbet, Droolers R Us

"I was really glad that they set up both the "Buffy getting down with her Slayer self" and the little sister bits to the end. Best as I can tell, those are the things that really needed to be established to kick off the season, but instead of spending the hour doing it, we had a wild, whacky monster-movie ride... and then just dropped the set-ups in at the end. I think it worked much better that way." -- Dianne

"I did like this episode of Buffy. Though I do have to ask the other Canadians, did Xander remind anyone else of the Conspiracy Guy from Space? It was the extended giggle and the figdity stuff that was freaking me out. Now I can't decide whether I'm be expecting the Conspiracy Guy to start eating bugs, or expecting Xander to start wearing a bulky tan coat." -- Kimberley

"I've decided that I don't like having the Gentlemen in the opening credits. They're just a little too much of a shock. And was the graveyard scene in the credits the Scooby gang ducking bat-Dracula without the special effects added in?" -- Kimberley

"Wading into the Willow consequence thing, I think she was right when she said that she didn't do it. I'm pretty sure that arriving by sea during a terrible storm is a classic part of the Dracula mythos. I think that it was in the movie, but it might be in the book too, and that was my first thought, knowing that Dracula was going to be in the episode." -- Kimberley

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