First Date

Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by David Grossman

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Andrew sacrificed Jonathan and got caught by the Scoobies, Wood got caught with a shovel, Spike's chip misfired and the Initiative showed up to fix it or take it out, and the Scoobies thought Giles was the First.

Several weeks ago, we were left with the image of a Bringer looming over Giles, ax raised to kill him. Now, finally, we get to see Giles whirl in mid-word, grabbing the ax and forcing the Bringer backwards, before beheading him with one smooth stroke, Giles recounts the entire event to a gang of potential Slayers as he and Buffy lead them through a graveyard. (As per most of the rest of the episode, he's doing a damn fine imitation of himself six years ago, and Wesley four years ago. It's actually kind of scary. Return of Tweed Man!) As he's expounding on how years of training and experience have given him something of an "instinct" for danger and amazing reflexes -- something barrels out of the darkness and tackles him ass over incredibly British teakettle to the ground. Giles and Spike stare into each other's eyes in astonishment -- Spike that he didn't go right through Giles (Anya told him Giles was the First), Giles that Spike isn't writhing on the ground in agony from attacking a human. Buffy and Spike stammer out an explanation ("Dad, see, we didn't mean to wreck the car....") as Buffy tries to assure him that it's okay. The potentials are alternately confused and worried, Giles might be giving birth to large dairy animals soon and the newest arrival, Chao-Ahn, can't understand a word anyone is saying. It's going to be one of those episodes.

Giles brings the topic up again the next morning as Buffy dresses for work, but Buffy says she was going with instinct, just like him. Giles groans, "Buffy, I made that up! I knew the Bringer was there because his shoes squeaked!" They don't need another threat to the girl wandering around, what with demons, Bringers, etc. Buffy adds the principal to the list, what with the shovel and the office over the Hellmouth and all. She also points out that the chip wasn't stopping Spike from killing when he was under the First's control, but his soul will do the job even better. "He can be a good man, Giles. I feel it. But he's never going to get there if you don't give him a chance." [ED: Yes, she actually said that about William "Evil Thing" the Bloody. I stared at the screen in shock for a good five minutes myself. I'm trying to decide whether to applaud her for such a mature statement, or scream in insane rage at the howling hypocrisy of it all.] Giles tells her he wants more for her, a better future than one with a vampire, despite their obvious connection. Buffy denies all terms and conditions, claims the chip was Wrong and Bad and Unfair, and flees for work.

At a construction supply house [ED: I always call it The Hell Depot; guess it's even more accurate than usual this week], Xander sees a pretty young lady puzzling over rope weight and wanders over to help. A discussion of uses for rope, innocent and otherwise, later, Xander and Lissa have a coffee date. At work, Buffy takes an opportunity to begin her investigation of Principal Wood by sneaking into his office. "Now, if I were a sign of being evil, where would I be?" Wood shows up just before she can investigate his big cabinet, and patently doesn't buy her lame excuse of a search for office supplies. But he lets it go to ask her out to dinner (stumbling entertainingly over declaiming any and all implications of sexual harassment). Buffy accepts with a smile; after she leaves, Wood removes a bloody handkerchief from his pocket, uses it to wipe the blood off of the knife it was wrapping, and carefully stows it behind the white board in his big cupboard, right next to the rest of his huge supply of weaponry....

Buffy tells a laundry-folding Willow about her upcoming date with confusion -- there's the possibility that he's interested, not evil. And the hotness factor. Also, the possible-dangerous-killer due to Hellmouth vicinity issue. Buffy admits that she does like him, and Willow tells her it's good for her to "move on." Buffy: "Why doesn't everyone think I'm still in love with Spike?" [ED: Subtext becomes blaring text with the Freudian slip; we'll take a moment to appreciate the irony, then move on.) Willow says she meant moving on from the total self-reliance thing, and Buffy grabs Xander's arrival as a welcome distraction. Both of them gleefully announce their upcoming dateage (with people who don't remember the Industrial Revolution, a welcome change) and Willow teases both of them. Buffy retaliates with a snark about Kennedy and surreptitious hand-holding, and Willow asks Xander if his date is evil? He jokes, "Well, she's interested in me, so there's a good chance, but I'm hoping for the best." Giles arrives, having survived the shopping mall and getting Chao-Ahn some clothes. The language barrier continues to be formidable, but Giles insists it's under control and "Ice cream is the universal language." (Too bad his Cantonese sucks, or he'd know that Chao-Ahn is lactose intolerant.) Buffy asks Willow to research Principal Wood; Xander declines a background check on his.

In the kitchen, Andrew bends over the new microwave, instruction book in hand, and gets mocked by Jonathan, standing behind him. Andrew freaks, but the First is, as usual, unimpressed (not much use holding a cross on someone noncorporeal and non-vampiric). He's got a little job for Andrew, since he's still Hostage Boy in Casa Summers; Andrew tells him he's working for Buffy now, to redeem himself for killing Jonathan. The First is openly dubious of Andrew's chances of being accepted; Andrew points out the impressive number of former murders already on Buffy's roster. The First goes for the "be on the winning side" approach; besides, it won't be hard. All he has to do is kill the potential Slayers. Andrew fights it, but Jonathan tells him to go find the gun Willow brought home after her little Adventure with Warren.

Upstairs, Anya helps with a wardrobe crisis while observing that she doesn't think its rally a date. Buffy isn't sure either, but is going to go and find out. Anya was actually talking about Xander's date, which is obviously a ploy to make Anya jealous. And it's working, big time, as she loudly confesses. As she leaves Anya alone to seethe, Buffy runs into Spike in the hall, who gives the uncomfortable Slayer his blessing on the entire dating thing. "Think I still dream of a crypt for two with a white picket fence? My eyes are clear." Buffy tells him he should try to going out thing, too, and flees in a cloud of awkwardness. Lissa shows up for her coffee date, to Xander's relief, but immediately catches him drinking wussy cocoa instead of manly coffee; she says it's cool, then orders manly coffee for herself. Willow's research turns up nothing on Principal Wood before he arrived in Sunnydale, but before suspicions can run really high, Anya arrives with a handful of flashcards Giles made for Chao-Ahn, in lieu of the usual "one girl in all the world" speech. Remember the overheads in Hush? The ones where he used up every red magic marker in Southern California coloring in the blood? Picture those. Chao-Ahn is now, understandably, locked in the bathroom. "Want to help us get researchy?' Willow offers happily. "We're tying to invade Buffy's date's privacy." Giles: "Buffy has a date?" Seems he was too busy with his coloring to get the latest dumps from the grapevine re: Xander, Buffy, Willow/Kennedy and DateFest 2003, and he's not happy about it. "How can anyone think about their social lives? We're about to face the original primal evil! These girls are in mortal danger. Didn't you see the flashcards? This isn't right!"

Which is what Buffy is thinking as Wood leads her through a fairly skanky dark alley towards what he claims is the best restaurant in Sunnydale. Is anyone surprised when a gang of vampires leaps out of the darkness at them? Buffy deals with the first few is a flurry of kicks and dust, then starts to scream at Wood for setting her up -- only to watch him smoothly dispatch two vampires with moves like we've never seen from a non-undead male on this show. [Wood hotness factor, previously high, skyrockets through the room. James Marsters' previously nearly-undisputed title as Hottest Guy on Buffy is now seriously threatened. Yowsa.] Stake still in hand, he goes to help Buffy off the ground. "I guess we should talk."

Buffy is shocked speechless, but follows Wood inside the restaurant. At the coffee shop, Lissa has dragged the story of Xander and Anya out of her date, but is on Xander's side. "Sounds to me like, in the long run, you're both better off. I know it turned out better for me," she grins. "I should have taken you on a nicer date than this," Xander says in appreciation. Turns out, she has an idea of how they can have some fun.... Seated and looking at menus, Wood admits that he's fought a vampire or two before, and some demons, kind of freelance. He also knows Buffy's the Slayer, and that his office is 15 feet from the Hellmouth. Very informed boy is our Robin. "I maneuvered myself into that school, that office, just like I maneuvered you there." There's something big coming, and he needs to be there. Buffy asks, "So, you didn't hire me for my counseling skills." Woods laughs before realizing she was serious, and tries to cover, but fails.

Buffy wants to know why he didn't tell her upfront, but he swears it wasn't a trust thing; he just wasn't sure he was ready to jump into the fight. But now that's everything's started, "I don't have time to worry anymore. I have to do something." Buffy asks, "How do you know about Slayers?" Wood responds, "When I was a little boy, my mother was one. The one. The Slayer." Okay. That's a new one. As far as he knows, he's one of a kind. She died when Robin was four, killed by a vampire. He went through an avenging phase, but never found the killer, and has since been taking it out on every vampire he sees. "So, you do have any Slayer powers?" Buffy asks, giggling at the stupid question even as she asks it. And the answer is no; he was raised by his mother's Watcher, studied and trained while he grew up, but is normal. "So, you decided to tell me. In a darkened, little romantic French restaurant?" Wood: "Yeah,. Yeah, not really sure how that happened, but...."

At Casa Summers, Andrew displays the gun he retrieved from Buffy's underwear drawer to the First, wearing Jonathan's face, who tells him to attack the potentials while they're training in the basement; Andrew agrees, then asks with extreme innocence, "So. Have you got any weaknesses I should know about if I'm going to work with you?" It's possibly the worst surreptitious interrogation in history, and the First gives Andrew a narrowed-eyes look. "Are you wearing a wire?" A few rooms away, Willow jerks her headphones off her head in reflex. The First advances on Andrew. "Did you think you could trick the First? You think you can squirm free? I haunt you Andrew. I made you do this." He pulls bloody hands away from his stomach, displays them. "Jonathan suffered. He was your friend, he trusted you. And now he spends eternity in pain because of what you did.... You started down a road with that action, and you have to keep going." The guilt trip keeps coming, and Andrew quails back, then rediscovers his spine from wherever he left it back in preschool. "Stop looking like Jonathan. You're not him. You're the First and you're tying to get me to shoot innocent girls, but I won't do it. I'm good now. And when the fight is over, I'm going to pay for killing Jonathan." The First looks at him, unimpressed by the speech. "You're going to pay for more than that. You know why? Because the biggest, baddest First Evil in the world's angry with you." It keeps going, voice echoing throughout the house to the Scoobies and potentials listening in. "You think this was smart? You think you can trick me. You only hear what I want you to hear. You only see what I want you to see." Amanda screams as Jonathan appears in the room, a half-rotting corpse still talking. "So many dead girls. There'll be so many." With a mocking sob, he vanishes.

And Xander look around him at the seal room below the high school, half naked and bound to the wheel thingie the First used to tie Spike to. "I knew it," he sighs in resignation, as Lissa, now clad in skimpy leather thanks him for helping her choose the rope. He demands to know if this is because he's friends with the Slayer; that comes as news to Lissa. "This can't just keep happening to me!" he cries in frustration, as Lissa starts lifting the wheel into sacrifice position over the Seal. "It can't just keep happening that demon women find me attractive!" Lissa shrugs. "You just seem like a nice guy, that's all." She's quite chipper about the upcoming end to their date.

The surveillance team, in tried-and-true Scoobie fashion, confess all to Giles. Despite Spike's disdain for the whole thing, Willow defends it as a crucial information-gathering tactic. They did learn one thing; the First was using Andrew because "it wasn't time for [Spike] yet." Giles takes the opportunity to explain yet again why no one should be out on dates at a time like this. He orders them to get Buffy back, and Spike starts to go after her just as Willow's cell phone goes off. But it's not Buffy, it's a text message from Xander, who apparently had time to type a coded message before being bound for sacrifice. Willow can't actually remember the code, but the odds are good that "Something's eating Xander's head." Spike again starts out after Buffy, gets called back by Willow trying to call her, and finally gets to leave to go destroy her date when Buffy's cell phone turns up in the couch. And she's not going to be happy, because the restaurant is good and the date is going swimmingly. But she leaves willingly enough when Spike appears next to the table to tell her, "It's Xander." Who is frantically trying to talk Lissa out of doing nasty thngs with the Seal like calling forth uber-vampires, but she knows which side she wants to be on. With one slash and a scream, Xander's blood starts flowing. "Couldn't have it without you, Xander. Thanks for the great date."

Wood dries as the trip heads for the high school to rescue Xander, sneaking looks in the rear-view mirror at Spike, who of course isn't there. More awkwardness, then suddenly we're a the school, and Buffy is tackling Lissa. But Demon Girl is a strong one, and it takes both Buffy and Spike to distract her, as the Seal begins to open; Wood trips for a moment when Spike's game face comes out, suspicions confirmed, then hurries to free Xander. The first section of the Seal opens, a hand groping, only to be chopped off as the blood stops and the Seal closes again. Lissa keeps Slayer and vampire at bay, but as Spike slams against a wall, Buffy beheads Lissa. Demon Girl dies, Buffy and Spike have a moment, and Wood watches in silent, and unhappy, speculation. Then everyone focuses on getting Xander up and out. "So, how's your date going?" Xander asks ruefully.

Anya paces in frantic worry because Xander isn't home yet; most of the house is still awake (including Chao-Ahn; Giles offers his warm milk to comfort her, and she concludes he's trying to kill her). But before they can form another search party, the wanderers return, largely intact. ("Is Xander all right?" Anya fusses. Dawn: "Looks okay." Anya: "Damn him!"). Xander is fine, but has finally had it: "That's it, I'm turning gay. Willow, gay me up!" Buffy points out, giggling, "You'll just start attracting male demons." Giles is unamused, and goes back into his "no one gets to have a life because we're fighting Evil" lecture mode. "It's time to get serious," he informs them, before stalking off. And Buffy is serious when Spike finds her in the living room later that night. In fact, she's brooding on the couch in her very best Angel impersonation. She's been filled in on the First's appearance; Spike tells her the part where it's not time for him yet. He offers to move out, leave town, to keep them safer; she's got another demon fighter in Wood now. "That's not why I need you here," Buffy tells him. "Is that right? Why's that, then?" Spike asks. Buffy can't quite look at him as she answers, "Because I'm not ready for you to not be here." Spike stares at her for a long time. "And the principal? How's he fit in?" Buffy can't answer.

Wood brushes his teeth in the privacy of his own bathroom (something a number of the residents of Casa Buffy would no doubt currently kill for). But as he straightens, another image appears in the mirror. It's a pretty black woman with a familiar face -- and she's wearing a black leather coat we know very well indeed. "You look good," she smiles. Wood doesn't. "You're not my mother." She almost manages to look offended. "I give you a compliment and you don't say 'Thank you'? Did I raise you that way?" Wood: "You didn't raise me at all." She shrugs. "Well, I was dead." Wood doesn't answer, but walks straight through her, before leaning against the door jamb and crossing his arms. "So, you're the First," he says calmly. "Why are you here? Why now?" The First: "Because you've been coming up in the world. Taking the demons out. Makes a mother proud." Wood straightens and walks closer, getting into It's face. "Well, think how pleased she'll be when I take you out. But until it's time for that... I've got no use for you." He turns and walks away, but stops when It calls after him, "Would you like to know who killed me? I know you went after him." Wood: You don't know anything." She challenges him to check her story -- the timing, the witnesses in the subway station... "Who is it?" Wood demands. "You met him. you know him. You fought at his side." Wood whispers, "Spike." and the First nods. "Now, what do you say?" 'she' sing-songs.

Wood thinks for a long time, before answering, quite sincerely, "Thank you."

Principal Wood is the son of the Slayer Spike killed in New York in the seventies. He was raised by his mother's Watcher, and came looking for Buffy to join the fight.

The First told Wood that Spike is the vampire who killed his mother; what Wood will do with that knowledge is unknown.

The First tried to get Andrew to kill the potential Slayers; Andrew told Willow et al instead, who wired him for sound. The First is massively pissed.

Principal Wood is definitely interested in Buffy as more than a slayer, but she's still got feelings for Spike. Quite the messy.

Anya is still dealing with feelings for Xander, who is getting really sick of only dating demons.

Willow and Kennedy are still making with the cuteness.

Yay, I get to be like, 60% smug about Principal Wood! So, not a Watcher, but raised and trained by one, and definitely a White Hat. His coolness factor has risen exponentially by the end of the episode -- not just a nice guy with style, but a kick-ass fighter who is prepared to help defend the world. Yay! And, of course, the second he said his mother was a Slayer who'd been killed by a vampire, I started yelling, "Nikki!" Always fun to be channeling Joss; even more fun when continuity strikes again. I've got serious money saying Wood was born before Nikki was called, just because I can't see a pregnant Slayer managing to survive; and I hope we get to find out more about her Watcher, who must have been Giles-level cool to have taken Robin on. He wasn't really phazed by the First, but the news about Spike definitely threw him for a loop -- fortunately, he seems to be the type who makes damn sure of things before he acts (which is a seriously unusual trait in Sunnydale; everyone could stand to pick up a little "think before you attack" from Robin). I hope that holds true where Spike is concerned....

So, apparently, there's been an executive decision that the stick must be passed around -- no episode can go by without someone having it firmly up his or her ass. At least this time it wasn't Buffy (for once), but the return of first-season Giles is not a happy thing. After seven years with this bunch, he should know that having lives, even in the middle of a crisis -- especially in the middle of a crisis, when all they're doing is sitting around feeling helpless -- is what's kept them collectively alive this long. Example: Willow getting a new girlfriend is good, Giles, and probably saved her life/sanity last week (it was the catalyst that kicked off the crisis, true, but Amy's hex was hovering. If it wasn't that kiss, it would have been something else). Stop being snotty just because you're the only one not getting any! And, of course, when he wasn't lecturing, he was being dorky and incompetent in the best old-Wesley tradition. Entertaining in small doses, annoying in large ones. While I'm amused by the flashcards (the man loves his red markers), I'm not happy that one of our few ASH episodes is wasted on caricature Giles instead of real Giles.

With the exception of Giles, the Scoobie were actually collectively acting more like themselves than we've seen in quite a while. The date teasing between Xander, Buffy and Willow was just too cool, an echo of all the fun they used to have, even in the worst of times. And Buffy carried that through the episode for the first time in a while -- even when she was riding to the rescue, she wasn't Tension Girl, or Weight of the World Girl. She was Buffy, and we've missed her. Plus, of course, there was the Buffy saying all of the things to and about Spike that many of us have been screaming at her for the last two years -- I've decided to be grateful for small favors and enjoy Buffy being mature and emotionally secure while I can.

Poor Xander. Yeah, I'd pretty much give up on the dating if I was him -- his track record is perfect with the demons. (Okay, so Cordy didn't go demon until way after the breakup, but still. High school Cordy could definitely qualify as demonic at times.) It's a damn shame, too. Xander's cute, he's funny and he's a good guy (most of the time) -- you'd think they'd be lining up around the block.

And go, Andrew! Okay, so, his protestations of goodness to the First sounded like he practiced them in front of a mirror, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he came through. For whatever reasons, he sucked it up, told Willow what was going on, faced the Big Bad, and told it to go to hell. There might be potential for the boy yet. Which doesn't make him any less irritating, but what the hell.

Best Moments:
Giles and Spike synching after the tackle. < snicker > These two get so little screen time together, but it always rocks when they do.

Giles' explosion about Bringers with squeaky shoes. One of the only really 'Giles' moments in the episode.

Xander picking up Lissa. He's so adorable when he's nervous; I'd date him.

Buffy, Willow and Xander on dating. Too much fun, as previously stated.

Buffy and Anya on dating. I love how Anya is so straightforward about what she feels -- someone else the rest of the crew could learn from -- and love her trying to help Buffy get the bloodstain out. Little 'friend' things like this are what I miss most about the show.

Watching Principal Wood fight. Did I mention, yowsa?!?

Spike desperately trying to escape to foil Buffy's date, and getting dragged back. Xander turning gay. < laughing > The reactions of his friends to it were just as good. And Andrew's little 'Mmmm, Captain Archer...' moment? I worry about that boy...

The etnire Wood vs. the First scene. Very taut, very tense, very cool.

Questions and Comments:
Danny Strong continues to rock and rock. As wonderful as he was as Jonathan, as The First being Jonathan, he's just amazing. Creepy and rotten and awful while still maintaining the veneer of Jonathan-ness.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5. A fun episode setting up some relationships for the future, and the backstory on Wood rocks the house down. Giles could have done with less caricaturing, but overall, not bad.


Nobody said nothing. I don't know what to tell you.

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