Once More, With Feeling

Book by Joss Whedon
Music and Lyrics by Joss Whedon
Directed by Josh Whedon

Perri's Review | SunSpeak | Lyrics

Perri's Review

Once again, Joss has handed us an episode that no synopsis can possibly do justice to. I'll do my humble best, but I suggest reading the lyrics. Or begging a tape from someone because, seriously, you can't appreciate it until you've seen it. Joss is a god.

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike's in love, Buffy's dead, Buffy's friends make her not-dead, and Buffy isn't happy about it 'cause of the whole Heaven thing, but she won't tell anyone but Spike. Oh, and Dawn's a klepto, Buffy's not dealing, Xander and Anya are engaged, and Willow's feeling the mojo a little too much.

No teaser, just hilarious 50's style opening credits, with a sweet, melodic version of the opening theme replacing the usual thrash band version. When we return from commercials, it's to Buffy's alarm going off. As she lays in bed, staring in disgust at the clock, the other members of the household get ready to face the day. (Overture) Tara finds a familiar branch of flowers under Willow's pillow and, smiling, takes them with her. A normal morning leads to a normal day, with Anya and Xander staring wide-eyed at a bridal magazine, Tara and Willow studying, and Giles taking magic books away from Dawn before making Buffy train. And that night, Buffy has a nice, normal patrol. At least, it's normal until she starts singing. (Going Through the Motions) She's still feeling disconnected from the world, unable to care about anything, even slaying. Two vampires and a demon (in the middle of a sacrifice) get into the act, singing backup and dancing, until Buffy slays them and wanders off, singing "I can't even see/If this is really me/And I just want to be/Alive" through the dust of the last vamp.

The next morning, she wanders into the Magic Box, finding none of the frantic activity she was expecting. Finally, she works up the nerve to ask, "Last night did anybody... burst into song?" Everyone stops dead, then suddenly everyone's talking at once about their Broadway moments the night before. The consensus is that it was like being in a musical -- harmonies, rhymes, duets about dueling mushrooms, "synchronized dancing from the room-service chaps", the whole thing. They're split on how they feel about it -- Xander repeatedly states how disturbing it was, everyone else seems to have had a certain amount of fun with it, since it all seemed perfectly normal at the time. Buffy claims she doesn't remember what she sang about, and the gang starts trying to figure out what's happened. ("Do we have any books on this?" Tara asks.) As Xander starts the logic thing, Giles leans forward and begins singing. (I've Got a Theory/If We're Together Medley) A dancing demon, someone dreaming and pulling them in, evil witches (hastily retracted by Xander) and bunnies are the first ideas tossed out as they try to understand: "It's getting eerie/What's this cheery singing all about?" (Anya is particularly enthused with her bunny theory, and belts out quite the rock riff to support it.) Buffy brings the speculation home by singing, "I've got a theory/It doesn't matter/What can't we face if we're together." The rest of the gang joins the song, declaring "We have to try/We'll pay the price/It's do or die/(Buffy) Hey, I've died twice".

As they end the inspirational group sing (Giles contributing some kick-ass harmonies), Xander sits down heavily, with another declaration of, "That was disturbing." Willow smiles: "I thought it was kind of neat." But the consensus between Buffy and Giles is, fun or not, together or not, it's weird and needs to be figured out. "I'm not exactly quaking in my stylish, yet affordable boots," Buffy says, with a fairly good imitation of interest and involvement, "but there's definitely something unnatural going on here. And that doesn't usually lead to hugs and puppies." Anya points that they need to know if it's just them, which would indicate a spell; Buffy opens the front door, and the gang is treated to the wrap-up of a major production number, as a random man (PTB David Fury) celebrates that his dry cleaner "Got the mustard out!" As the note dies off and the cartwheelers finish, Buffy closes the door again. "It's not just us."

Dawn arrives a few hours later, when the research party has kicked into full gear. She's in a great mood -- seems her class burst into song. "What did you sing about?" Xander asks. She makes a face, her thunder stolen. "Math." Willow and Tara, meanwhile, have been giggling in each others' ears, and suddenly begin babbling about books they left at the house that they think could be important. Almost no one believes them but, as Giles says, "I'm a hair's-breadth from investigating bunnies at the moment, so I'm open to anything." They take off together; in the process, no one notices Dawn slipping a necklace off the store counter and hiding it in her pocket.

Outside, Willow and Tara celebrate their escape, since the books are nonexistent. Willow teases Tara about two passing guys checking her out ("Oh, my god, I'm cured!" Tara laughs. "I want the boys!"). They giggle some more, and Willow continues to tease, "And you can't imagine what they see in you." Tara says seriously, "I know exactly what they see in me. You." She begins singing in a gorgeous Disney-esque voice -- "I lived my life in shadow/Never the sun on my face" -- a love song to Willow (Under Your Spell) as they stroll through a gorgeous park. She's still singing ("You worked your charm so well/Finally I knew/Everything I dreamed was true/You make me believe") as they dance together into their bedroom in the Summers house and start doing, well, things that they're not supposed to be implying this much of on prime-time TV.

"I bet they're not even working," Xander declares, on a smash cut back to the magic shop. It's not like he has to tell anyone else that, but he's restrained from really going off on the topic by Dawn's presence, to her disgust. "It's all kind of romantic," she thinks aloud. "Come on, songs, dancing around -- what's gonna be wrong with that?" Enter Exhibit A, a three-piece suited man exhibiting some serious tap dancing down the darkened streets of Sunnydale. But he doesn't seem to be in control of it, judging from his pained expression -- it's like some kind of insane Red Shoes moment (the type that doesn't involve David Duchovny, diaries, and lovely yet highly improbable sex). Smoke begins rising around the man's furiously moving body, until he suddenly bursts into flame and falls at the feet of a red-suited demon. "That's entertainment," the demon declares smugly.

The next morning, Anya and Xander wake up together, and have the usual couple-y discussions about breakfast and work (Xander shut his crew down for the day due to construction workers beginning to dance around; "It's a flab thing.") As Xander talks, Anya begins to sing about how happy she is to be marrying him. (I'll Never Tell) Xander kicks in an equally appreciative verse, both asserting that they'll never tell about any of the problems they have with the other -- then they slip into a 40's-style number enumerating said faults ("He snores/She wheezes/Say housework and he freezes/She eats these skeezy cheeses that I can't describe..."). More importantly, in between dance breaks, they both reveal their serious issues regarding the entire concept of getting married ("I lied, I said it's easy/I've tried, but there's these fears I can't quell/Is she looking for a pot of gold?/Will I look good when I've gotten old?"), concluding together that "We could really raise the beam in/Making marriage a hell/So thank god I'll never tell." They collapse laughing--

--then run to tell Giles how horrible it all is. They stroll down the street doing exposition about the people catching on fire, as Sunnydale continues to act out several different musicals behind them (including more dancers, sweepers on the run from Mary Poppins, and co-executive producer Marti Noxon trying to sing her way out of a parking ticket). Giles, who examined one of the bodies and found it burned from inside, believes the singing and the burning incidents could be linked ("One more verse of our little ditty and I would have been looking for a gas can," Anya says in disgust), but it's impossible to know for sure. Buffy is supposed to be checking the local demon haunts for info. They pause for a moment of Buffy Worry (TM) and Mutual Buffy-Related Support.

Of course, for Buffy these days, checking underworld sources means showing up on Spike's doorstep, which she does. He's apparently spent the last two days alternately enjoying the show ("600-pound Chirago demon making like Yma Sumac -- that one'll stay with you.") and doing his damnedest to stay drunk enough that he won't participate. His cheerful mood falls as he realizes Buffy didn't drop by for chit-chat; she just wants information. He flatly tells her he hasn't got any, and tries to hustle her out. She obliviously refuses to be hustled even when he holds the door open for her, and he fights really, really hard against the song fighting equally hard to get out. And he finally gives in, with great disgust. (Rest in Peace) He accuses her of only coming to him because no one else can deal with her feelings, and he's not real enough to her to matter. ("That's great/But I don't want to play/'Cause being with you touches me/More than I can say/But since I'm only dead to you/I'm saying stay away/And let me rest in peace.") By the end of his half-bitter, half-desperate [and fully kick-ass; James-drooling has now officially hit an all-time high. Homina-homina-homina....] rock number, they've been transported to a cemetery, Spike's broken up a funeral, and they're sprawled together at the bottom of a grave. Buffy freaks and runs away, but her expression during Spike's number seems to indicate some of the point hit home.

Back at Maison de Summers, Tara and Dawn discuss the situation, and Tara tells her they've got a lead on the cause: "This demon that can be summoned -- some sort of lord of the dance. But not the scary one -- just a demon." Dawn responds that she's glad Willow and Tara aren't fighting anymore, since it makes her feels bad. Tara visibly starts feeling bad herself, since she doesn't remember any fight. She fingers the flowers she picked up from the bed that morning, and heads off to the Magic Box, leaving Dawn alone in the house. Dawn watches her go sadly, then opens a small jewelry box on her desk, filled with jewelry and lipsticks with the pricetags still on. She puts one necklace on and begins singing -- thankfully, her teen-angst ballad is cut off after two lines, when she turns around and finds a guy with exaggerated wooden features who practically screams 'minion' standing behind her. Dawn begins screaming as she's grabbed by the minion and his two buddies.

Dawn wakes on a pool table in the empty Bronze. As she springs to her feet, the minions appear and Dawn finds her attempts at escape turned into a deeply surreal ballet. Finally, she slides across the floor and ends up at the feet of Mr. Red-Suit himself, a demon named Sweet. (Which I don't think he ever says, but it's in the liner notes.) Over the course of his beautiful song and dance exposition (What You Feel), we learn that he was summoned, by Dawn he claims, to bring singing and dancing to Sunnydale. Two catches: one, his music thrives on the deepest emotions. Eventually, it gets to be too much and the performance spins out of control -- ("Some customers just start combusting/That's the penalty/When life is but a song"). Catch number two: Since she summoned him, when Sunnydale is destroyed, Dawn will go back to the underworld with Sweet to be his queen. Dawn sings to convince him of the futility of this ("What I mean/I'm fifteen/So this queen thing's illegal"), finally telling him her sister's the Slayer. That stops Sweet mid-prance, and he sends his minions out to bring the Slayer to him. He wants to see Buffy burn.

Not knowing Dawn is re-enacting her usual role as Girl Hostage, Buffy joins Giles for a workout in the back room of the Magic Box. She's cracking far too many jokes about death, and worried that "this whole session's going to turn into some training montage from an 80's movie." Giles reassures her, then asks if she's talked to Dawn about the Halloween debacle. She blows it off, saying casually that she thought he took care of it. "What would I do without you?" Giles nods very seriously, as he turns away to the weapons board and starts picking things to throw at her. He also starts singing. (Standing) To no one's surprise, he's seriously worried about Buffy's seeming lack of desire to deal, and he thinks he's nailed down the cause -- him. "The cries around you, you don't hear at all/'Cause you know I'm here to take that call/So you just lie there when you should be standing tall/But I.... /I'm just standing in the way." [ASH drooling also hit an all-time high during this number; golden pipes on that man.] He finally concludes that the only way he can help Buffy is to leave her, and force her to help herself.

During the song (which Buffy, by popular musical convention, didn't hear word one of), Tara rushed into the Magic Box, hiding her arrival from Willow. She pages frantically through the books on the upper level until she finds the flowers: Lethe's Bramble, used for augmenting spells of forgetting and mind control. Her response (Under Your Spell/Standing (Reprise)) is heartbroken and heartbreaking: "I'm under your spell.../God how can this be?/Playing with my memory/You know I've been through Hell/Willow, don't you see/There'll be nothing left of me." As she sings, still crouched on the ladder, Giles walks up beside her, and their voices blend (sorry, only way to describe it) in a duet about the two they love -- Giles wishing he could "play the father/And take you by the hand", Tara wishing she "could trust/That it was just this once" and both wishing they could stay, when they've both decided they can't.

As their song ends, the front door bursts open and Spike enters with Sweet's minion in his grasp. Everyone emerges to hear what's going on as Spike orders him to sing. The music swells, the minion opens his mouth... and, speaking in a very normal voice, informs Buffy that his master has Dawn hostage, will take her to the underworld at midnight, and wants Buffy to come get her. He breaks away from Spike and bolts (Spike: "Strong. Someday, he'll be a real boy."), leaving Buffy to go all resolute ("Dawn's in trouble. It must be Tuesday.") and ask the others what the plan is. As they begin to answer, Giles intervenes and stops them. "We're not going just stay here?" Willow demands. "Yes, we are," Giles replies. "Buffy's going alone." Buffy stares at him with disbelieving eyes, as Spike tells Giles not to be a stupid git. Willow offers a confusion spell and get soundly nixed by Tara, and Spike assures Buffy that, no matter what the others say, he's got her back. Buffy stares back at him expressionlessly. "Thought you wanted me to stay away from you. Isn't that what you sang?" Ignoring the peanut gallery behind him that is delighted at the concept of Spike singing, Spike's face gets the exact same hurt expression Buffy just had, then hardens. "Fine. I hope you dance till you burn. You and the little bit." He stalks out, leaving the others in silence, until Buffy half-asks them, "You're really not coming." Giles tells her, gently, "It's up to you, Buffy." Buffy: "What do you expect me to do." Giles: "Your best."

Buffy heads out alone through the streets of Sunnydale. There are still people dancing, but there's desperation to it now, and fires are burning everywhere. Buffy holds her hands out to one as she begins to sing (Walk Through the Fire and there's no way in hell I can justice to this): "I touch the fire and it freezes me/I look into it and it's black/Why can't I feel?/My skin should crack and peel/I want the fire back." All alone, she heads out to her sister, "To save the day/Or maybe melt away/I guess it's all the same..." In an alley a few blocks away, Spike sits smoking a cigarette, being all broody and bitter: "I hope she fries/I'm free if that bitch dies.../I'd better help her out," he concludes, throwing his cigarette away and heading for the Bronze. And at the magic shop, Giles fights his doubts: "Will this do a thing to change her?/Am I leaving Dawn in danger?/Is my Slayer too far gone to care?" Xander and Anya renew their objections, and the gang finally heads out: "We'll see it through/It's what we're always here to do/So we will walk through the fire..." Everyone converges on the Bronze -- to help, to rescue, and, for Buffy, to find something that will finally end it all. "And we are caught in the fire/The point of no return/So we will walk through the fire/And let it burn." Spike leaps the fence behind the Bronze, Buffy's kick breaks down the door, and Sweet smiles from his chair beside Dawn. "Showtime."

Buffy saunters across the dance floor towards the stage where Sweet and her sister are seated. "I love a good entrance," Sweet approves. Buffy shoots back, "How are you with death scenes?" but Sweet isn't impressed. After a little more banter, Buffy offers Sweet a deal: if she can't kill him, he'll take her to the underworld instead of Dawn. "What if I kill you?" Sweet returns. Buffy shrugs. "Trust me... won't help." Sweet: "That's gloomy." Buffy: "That's life." Sweet leans back in his chair, cheerful and smug. "Tell me, is that what you really feel? Isn't life a miraculous thing?" He knows the answer to that, of course; Buffy starts singing anyway. (Something to Sing About) Taking off her jacket in quite the G-rated strip-tease, she delivers a nice, upbeat, hugely sarcastic take on singing one's way through life for Sweet's enjoyment. ("Life's a show and we all play our parts/And when the music starts/We open up our hearts/It's all right if some things come out wrong/We'll sing a happy song/And you can sing along...") The Scoobies arrive in the middle of this, and Giles immediately sends Tara and Anya over as backup -- singers, rather. Buffy demands that Sweet -- or her friends -- give her something to sing about ("Still my friends/Don't know why I ignore/The million things or more/I should be dancing for....") and the irony is darn neat thick enough to see. As she makes it to the stage, Sweet smiles confidently, and she finally gives in to the song she's been holding back for weeks: "There was no pain/No fear, no doubt/Til they pulled me out/Of Heaven." The Scoobies stumble back, shock and horror beginning to spread over their faces, and when Buffy demands again that they give her something to sing about, none of them can. She finally dives off the stage and begins dancing, the kind of desperate dance that burns people alive in their own emotions. Smoke begins to rise around her as she spins and jumps and the music keeps speeding up, the smoke beginning to envelop her--

--Until Spike's hands reach out and grab her, holding her in place. As she stares at him in shock, he sings the answer no one else could give: "Life's not a song/Life isn't bliss/Life is just this/It's living..." He keeps going, as she stares up at him in some of the first honest emotion she's felt since she came back: "You'll get along/The pain that you feel/You only can heal by living..." From the stage behind them, Dawn steps forward, echoing her sister's words from the tower: "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it."

When the music ends, Spike and Buffy are still standing together and Willow is gulping back tears, as Sweet begins applauding. "That was a show-stopping number. Not quite the fireworks I was looking for..." Willow orders him to "Get out of here," power in every word, and Sweet is mildly impressed. "I guess the little missus and I should be on our way," he says, standing and walking towards Dawn. It's the rules, he tells them; Dawn summoned him, Dawn has to do with him. When Dawn maintains, as she has all along, that she didn't summon him, he points to the necklace she's wearing -- his talisman. She fumblingly claims she found it in the store while cleaning, but didn't summon him. Giles looks around, realizing one of them must have done it... and Xander sheepishly raises his hand. "Well, I didn't know what was gonna happen! I just thought there was gonna be dances and songs. I just wanted to make sure we'd work out," he tells Anya. "Get a happy ending."

Sweet seems genuinely amused by the whole thing, and smirkingly agrees to waive the clause for Xander. "Big smile, everyone. You beat the bad guy," he says, as he starts his final number (What You Feel (Reprise)): "All those secrets you've been concealing/Say you're happy now/ Once more with feeling/Now I gotta run, see you all/In hell". He vanishes in a fireworks show all his own, leaving the Slayerettes stare at each other in a victory that doesn't feel like it, and a horribly uncomfortable silence. Dawn breaks it as she begins to sing (Where Do We Go), making her way down from the stage as she asks, "Where do we go from here?" Spike and Buffy join in, trying not to look at each other, then the others gradually join in two-by-two. "Understand we'll go hand in hand/But we'll walk alone in fear/Tell me/Where do we go from here?" As the singing continues, Spike suddenly realizes what he's doing; with a disgusted "Bugger this," he stops mid-choreography and leaves the Bronze.

As he stalks into the alley, the singing continues behind him ("The curtains close/On a kiss -- God knows/You can tell the end is near"), but Buffy follows him into the alley. Spike tells her to go back inside, and Buffy responds, somewhat confused, that she doesn't want to. Spike, finally caught at the 'laugh or cry' stage, tells her, "The day you suss out what you do want, there'll probably be a parade. Seventy-six bloody trombones." But even as he tells her she doesn't have to say anything, she starts to sing (Coda), moving towards him. He sings in return and their voices join ("This isn't real, but I just want to feel--/But you can make me feel--"). They both get closer and closer, then finally lunge into a passionate liplock of the grandest cinematic tradition. Cue swell of dramatic finale chorus, cue big ol' red "The End". [Cue the wild screams/shrieks/swoons of Buffy/Spike 'shippers everywhere. Everyone else can go collapse now. Oh, except wait for the operatic GrrArg.]

Giles has pretty much decided he has to leave Sunnydale again. Tara knows about Willow and the memory spell. Dawn's klepto tendencies continue. And the gang knows about Buffy being in Heaven.

Anya and Xander have gotten some of their issues regarding marriage out in the open.

Spike had a little musical explosion regarding his feelings for Buffy, and what he sees as her abuse of them -- she responded by laying a liplock on him. Want to bet she falls back on the old "I was enchanted" excuse next week?

I'm actually pretty happy Tara found out about the memory spell so early, for the sake of everything involved. Willow and Tara's relationship is gorgeous and wonderful, but as Tara's song proved, she's placing way too much of her perception on herself, as special or worthwhile, on her association with Willow -- that's it's Willow who's special, not Tara herself, which is blatantly not true. Tara standing up to Willow about the total abuse of her magical power will do a lot to balance that relationship, I hope; I love Tara, but she desperately needs to get a sense of herself outside the bounds of Willow. She's showing a hell of a spine, and seems ready to leave Willow if she has to to preserve herself, which are all good things. Well, for Tara, if not for WillowandTara.

Giles is dealing with some of the same issues as Tara of course, but he needs to stop beating himself up. When he wishes he could "play the father", it's a total misperception -- because, in forcing Buffy to make the decisions in her life, to deal with life instead of hiding from it, he may be doing the most fatherly thing he's ever done. Kicking the baby bird out of the next, and all that. (As a voluntary, if reluctant, kickee, I'm qualified to comment, trust me. Thanks, Dad. And Mom.) I disagree with him, of course, that Buffy's current state is all his fault, and I'll be interested to see if his stance changes now that he knows all of the facts. (Yes, I know he's still going to leave, damn it. :( I just want to know how his reasoning changes.)

And Spike. Poor Spike. < sniffle > We all know I've got a soft spot a mile long for the guy (all other (< drool > ) considerations aside), and, through his eyes, Buffy has been using him. By her own constant admissions, she doesn't really seem him as a person or a friend, but all of the troubles she doesn't feel right laying on Giles' shoulders, she's been laying on Spike's. Admittedly, he's so a volunteer, same as Giles, but he's not getting anything back for it like Giles does. And he had every right to tell Buffy to make up her damn mind -- either he's worth something to her, or he's not, but she's got to choose one way or the other. (I want to make it clear that I'm not really mad at Buffy; she's dealing the best she can, but she's not actually getting that much dealing done. She needs to be shaken, and Spike and Giles are the currently the ones with the most right to do it.) And do I need to say how much I love him for going to help her even after she blew him off yet again?

She's got a real talent for doing that, Buffy does -- even pre-death, she was good at getting rid of people who challenged her emotions, who made her have to risk getting hurt. That was part of the reason Riley left (although most of his Issues were strictly his), god knows she and Angel refined their skills on each other -- Spike is just her latest threat zone. The frontal assault, of course, being put into use mostly when sheer avoidance won't do the job. She doesn't think she can deal with Dawn, so she'll let Giles do it instead of risking the try. (And wow, she's taking lots of things -- and people -- for granted.) And, again, she's got lots more reasons to be running scared now, when she's still raw, then she did before, but, as I said, she needs to start dealing. At least the Scoobies will have enough information to help her with that, now (although the constant off-hand death jokes should have been the first major clue to Something Is Wrong....)

Xander and Anya, meanwhile... I have to wonder why they're really so nervous about getting married when they're already all but. They know each others' faults, they already live with them and are apparently prepared to continue doing so, and they love each other in spite of them. Marriage. But they both bring their own unique issues to the game -- Anya's specialty being dealing with the downside of love, Xander with the sterling example of his parents before him. Getting through out in the open may be the best thing that could happen to them. (But isn't it funny to see Xander's eyes get all wide and panicked at the word ;wedding'? Tip, babe: don't look at the bridal magazines. It's a chick thing -- we like them, but they'll just freak you out.)

What's up with Dawn and the klepto thing? She left the price tags on, she's clearly begging to be caught. The continuation of the majority of the Scooby Gang to deny her access to magic (witness Giles taking yet another book away from her), the desire to be treated as an adult (again, despite the Scooby Gang's best efforts), or just the need for attention? A little of all of the above would be my guess -- Dawn has been submerged under other people for a long time now. Her mother's illness and death, Buffy's death and return, even her own status as Dawn-the-Key has left precious little attention for dealing with Dawn-the-Person. Buffy is the only person really equipped, with the right and the ability to deal but, well... See above re: Buffy.

Best Moments/Questions and Comments:
It's too hard to break these down into separate sections, so I'm just gonna go with this as I watch (for the sixth time; I've even got the commercials memorized. From two times zones since AT&T Broadband in Chicago sucks beyond the telling of it). Random, practically blow-by-blow observations follow.

The opening credits are delightfully twisted. Tastes great, saves valuable screen-time too. < g > Love the overture, too; just cute little stuff happening in the background, some of which turns out to be significant. Classic Jossness.

SMG does a nice job with her songs throughout -- she hasn't got a really strong voice, but her songs are written to suit it, and she's giving it all she's got, so I've got no complaints. And the two vamps/demon backup are too damn funny (so's the Fabio-wannabe rescuee. < snicker >).

I love that, even in Sunnydale, suddenly bursting into song is too weird and potentially embarrassing for even the Scooby Gang to admit to each other. I love even more that Giles nails the cause on his first try out. And I love best of all that ASH has a fabulous voice, and Emma Caulfield belts it out beyond what I could have expected. Wow, Anya needs to get therapy for those bunny issues.

I agree with Willow, "What Can't We Do" is an intensely sweet and happy song. But Buffy's issues run through it like a river of subtext -- "it doesn't matter" and shrug "I've died twice" mixed with assuring her friends everything's okay. Really nice.

And it's not enough that Joss has gone insane and took the cast with him, he pulled in the crew. David Fury and Marti Noxon have some 'splaining to do... < snerk > They got the mustard out?!?

God, Amber's got a gorgeous voice. Her pitch wavers occasionally, but I'm not gonna complain, and the entire "I'm cured! I want the boys!" was wonderful! I do wonder why she and Willow decided it was "dress-up for Ren Faire" day, but it's a lovely outfit regardless. The entire sequence was Joss thumbing his nose at all those morons who thought Amber isn't pretty -- take that! (And yeah, the sparkly trails in the air were cheesy, but what the hell, it was a Disney number anyway.) Don't ask me to comment on the subtext (and the sub-skirt) text of the end of the song; TMI, people, I don't care what gender the participants are!) Still, the wipe from the park to the bedroom was gorgeous!

I notice that Xander and Buffy united on the "No, it's not" to Dawn's romance, while Giles stayed the hell out of it. Smart Giles!

Gotta admire Sweet for making a hell of an entrance. The first death, coming right on the heels of Disney and they got the mustard out, was all the creepier for that.

I cannot tell you how delighted I am by "I'll Never Tell". Again, Nick Brenden is never ever gonna be a musical star, but he's trying, and he and Emma are fabulous together. Plus, it's just such a great song! All the funny stuff about each others' faults, stepping on each others' verses -- and still, the serious subtext about all the insecurities and compromises that go with relationships and marriage. Mind you, Xander is so not the silk pajamas type, but the tuxedo look of it, with Emma's red stuff, fits perfectly with the perky, bouncy genre, so, again, I'll go with it. But I demand boxer shorts on a future occasion!!!!

Did I mention the great continuity throughout? References to poor Billy from the first-season ep 'Nightmares', to the Chumash problems from fourth-season "Pangs'... I love this show.

Xander, Giles and Anya's walk through town is hilarious perfect -- Marti Noxon aside, the little stuff happening the background adds hugely to the atmosphere (and makes the background later in "Walk Through the Fire" that much grimmer), and Anya's half-heard rant about "our apartment was missing a wall" was hilarious.

Do I need to go off on Spike's number? Does the sexiness and cheekbonyness vulnerability and overall yumminess of Spike need to be expounded upon? I wish the song had suited James' singing style a bit better, but the lyrics were such essential Spike! ("Whisper in a dead man's ear/That doesn't make it real...") And he's so amusing in and of himself -- the second he figured out what was going on, he went and got drunk, and didn't trust himself around Buffy at all. He knew he was going to sing, he knew what he fought against it, and he looked so cute and disgusted when he finally gave in! God, I love this number -- it's totally classic, and gorgeously directed, besides (but how did they get to the graveyard again? ;) ). No typing during this song.

< giggling > Tara's crack about "the lord of the dance -- but not the evil one" made my night.

Michelle T's got a nice, sweet voice, but I'm far more impressed by the dancing. Wow. Kind of Funny Face meets 'Night on Bald Mountain' -- I'm inclined to suspect there was a dance double at least one point, but totally willing ( and delighted) to believe there wasn't. And how cool is Sweet? Now mind you, with multiple Tonys to his name, Hinton Battle can be expected to rock the house down, but... wow. Sweet is definitely one of the best villains Joss has ever come up with -- cool and stylish and amusing and laid-back and even when he loses, he wins. Kind of like Mr. Trick might have been, given more style and more screen time.

The lead minion keeps reminding me of someone wearing a Richard Nixon mask. Today's random weird thought.

My heart breaks for Giles. I think he's wrong on lots of points, but it breaks anyway. Very pretty direction, too, with the slow work out and Giles are normal speed... very effective. And god, I could listen to ASH sing forever.

As desperately as I love "Walk Through the Fire", I have to rank "Under Your Spell/Standing (Reprise)" as the best overall number in the episode. ASH and Amber's voices are perfect alone and together, the arrangement is gorgeous, the lyrics beautiful, and the unexpected emotional juxtaposition of two characters who have never had much to deal with each other makes the whole thing even stronger.

< rolling eyes > at the faux-song set-up for the minion. Followed immediately by some serious wincing as Giles, Buffy and Spike manage to inflict severe emotional damage on each other. Want to hug Giles, smack Buffy and then go hug Spike. After smacking him for including Dawn in his little condemnation.

But god, do I love "Walk Throught the Fire". SMG delivers her part of the deal with emotion that makes up for whatever her voice lacks (and those first two verses are such an eloquent summary of some manifestations of PTSD), Spike and Sweet give an unexpectedly powerful duet, and the interplay of the three sets of lyrics (and the very artistic visual intercutting) as they all converge on the Bronze is truly gorgeous. They ask ASH to hit a few notes that are too low, I was terrified for James going over the fence in that long coat, and Willow's "I think this line's mostly filler" was almost funny enough to jolt me out of the spell, but it was too classically Buffy to succeed.

SMG plays the confrontation with Sweet for all it's worth. "Trust me -- won't help" was perfectly delivered. "Something to Sing About" is a bit too sweet -- I don't think it hit quite the levels of irony it could have, and was probably intended for -- but it does the job. (Giles sending the two best singers (and two worst fighters) for backup was a great visual pun, thank you.) And Sweet sitting back waiting for Buffy to get to the point was... Gng. I wanted to smack him so bad!

I appreciate what the "Heaven" part was going for, with the deliberate dissonance thing, but god, those minors got on my nerves, for both SMG's verses, and James'. Still, watching everyone's reactions was really affecting;,Willow and Xander in particular (I got the feeling Giles figured out where she was going a second before she said it). And everyone forgot about Spike until he showed up and... < sigh > Sorry. My inner 'shipper has to go have a little lie down. Wow. < sniffle >

The only real chunk of dialogue and acting we get comes in the final showdown with Sweet, and it's good. Dawn's trying to mix lying and denying, Giles getting all Ripper on Sweet, and Xander fessing up, the silly boy. < rolling eyes > It's almost romantic. And wow, can Sweet make an exit or what?!? (Although I think Mr. Battle had a rough time singing through that make-up; the looping feels just a little off.)

The best part about "Where Do We Go" is the choreography and Spike's exit (although they had to play an editing game that was a bit too obvious on his exit; he's in the middle of singing the note that we just heard when the camera cuts to him. I know; nitpicks are us. Hush), but we still get some damned pretty harmonies. And I love the exit line -- yeah, when Buffy and Spike are kissing, the end is certainly near.... < snerk >

Best line of the ep, even better than "I'm cured!"? Spike's "The day you suss out what you do want, they'll probably throw a parade." -- less for the line than for James' dead-perfect delivery. And did I love the kiss? Of course I loved the kiss. My inner 'shipper cheered, my inner-musical fan enjoyed the classic liplock ending. Gotta love it. (And wow, does James look like he has the kissing thing down. < fan > < fan > < fan >)

Rating: 10 stars out of five, and then some. Okay, so it's not Great Art. But it's a damn fine show, bordering on brilliance at points, and it's sure as hell the most original thing to come out of TV in years. Joss Whedon does a amazingly (even for him) brilliant job of blending the comic and the off-beat with the horribly serious and pointy -- in the middle of all the songs and dance are revelations that are going to impact the Scoobies for a long time to come. It's not a stand-alone, for-fun ep -- it builds on everything that came before and gives us payoffs in the grandest Buffy style. Bravo!!!!


"Holy Mother of *THUD* That was brilliant and fun and funny and angsty and painful and amazing. I must watch it on constant repeat right. now."
"Considering that all I could say, for 68 minutes, was "Holy shit," over and over again... What she said."
"Jill made me shut up after I started echoing off her neighbor's walls. But I would have continued shrieking the entire time." -- Mary Beth, Celli and Jennie

"OK, so who can list off the musical nods? I saw a definite "Little Mermaid" moment (and how twisted was THAT?) and a TON of other stuff...but I'm still trying to rewatch over and over..." -- Jennie

Tony & James's songs were awesome, awesome stand-outs of course... but I think I liked the duet between Tony & Amber best. Ow! Beautiful! Wonderful!"
"Right there with ya. And the direction on that was one of my fave bits too." -- Chris and Val

"Re-ran the "Facing the Fire" (or whatever it was) song at least three times. Really really cool harmonies and melodies and everything snaking together...." -- Chris

The Dawn Dance was *so* Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face" that I started giggling the second she woke up. Terrific stuff there. Demon Dude was *wickedly* funny and what pipes! Man, I love that stuff!"
"I *shrieked* when I saw his name (Hinton Battle) in the guest credits. As for the pipes, believe me, this was nothing. I'm still bitter that they didn't do a Broadway cast album of Miss Saigon; I've only gotten to hear him sing "Bui-Doi" once, on a talk show. *pout* And I will love him forever for making a point of thanking them in his Tony acceptance speech for color-blind casting (after the whole ridiculous controversy over Jonathan Pryce). BTW, for those who keep track of these things, he was also Zoe's observer on QL, after Zoe became the leaper instead of Alia's observer." -- Chris and Val

"Can't believe they got away with the ending to Tara's song the way they did. *snerk snerk snerk* And I think that might've been the funniest line of the ep: "Wait, I'm cured! I want the boys!" *die laughing*" -- Chris

"When Spike is stalking toward Buffy during "Rest in Peace"? All I can say is that Buffy is a *much* stronger woman than I am. If it were me? I'd have ripped my clothes off and flung myself to the floor and let him take me, right there. Just saying. Y'know."
"Mmmm. When he sort of growls in her direction? The look? Combined with the sound? Let's just say that roomie had to physically reach over and shut my jaw during that scene. Mmmm."
"We know. You're saying, that if, you know, we're around when any amazingly incredibly coincidentally James Marsters look-a-likes start singing? We should get the hell outta the way. Understood. Completely. Not that we'll do it, mind you. I'll be looking for some rope and helicopter to get him for myself... my, my, my... and we descend into the BurbleSpeak of "yes, quite, well, really, I mean to say. Yeah. Wow... woo. Hoo. Whee." -- Maureen, Mary Beth and Chris, showing absolutely no self-control. And I'm going to be piloting the helicopter.

"And I'd blush, but, well. What the hell. I'm sorry. This week, after Donna on West Wing slept with a guy who she'd known only 24 hours, and who was also investigating her boss? I decided that it was out of character because (a) we'd never seen her act that way before, ever, or had a hint that she was that impulsive, (b) she wasn't in the middle of a life-trauma that would be a good excuse or justification for something that dumb, and (c) he wasn't James Marsters. If he's James Marsters, especially James Marsters stalking and singing, that 24-hour-acquaintance-subpoenaing-your-boss thing kind takes a back seat to other considerations. I'm just sayin'." -- Chris, who will kill me for putting this one up, but I was on the other end of this phone conversation and damned if I can resist

"And one of my favorite musical moments remains Spike's part in "Walk Through the Fire" -- "I hope she fries. I'm free if that bitch dies. I better help her out." LOVE it. :-)"
"Lots of Spike-y goodness this ep out. The whole bit at the end--- see, it's *very* weird to admit that Spike and I deal with trauma the same way: we go out and make new happy memories as a padding until we can deal. And then we make some more. Plus, voluntarily *walking away*, and telling her to get her Kumba-ya-yas out with the gang, and willing to go with the 'you don't owe me, I didn't mean it, let's pretend you didn't hear me say all that stuff about loving you and wanting you to go away....' *Coooool.*"
"Oh, yes. Who'd ever have thought he'd end up being the most complex and . . . in some ways the most emotionally mature character. I didn't just say that, did I? Yipes. Agreeing with Maureen and Christina and MaryBeth on the . . . oh my. *fans self* In fact, when try to comment, find self writing in style of Bridget Jones . . . what's *that* about?" -- Mary Beth, Chris and Catherine S.

"I can't believe they've found the one avenue of Buffy/Spike that I can get behind whole-heartedly. Buffy just using him to feel alive. . . . . that makes perfect sense to me. I don't ever see her really loving him. Maybe she can get to where she *thinks* its love, or where she justifies it as some kind of love, or where she's blinded by passion into thinking it's love. And it can only end in pain and misery. Whee!!"
"I ... don't know. I don't want to agree with you. But I withhold judgment, at this point. Mostly because I just can't bear watching Spike break his heart again. I was rewatching Lover's Walk on FX, and feeling so bad for him... and then I watched Amends tonight, and I felt so bad for Angel, although I gotta say that *that* ep is where he developed a purpose and a spine and a hope for a destiny of his own apart from Buffy, so I love it. But, um, not everyone gets a happy ending here. Unless they break new territory and go into the menage' a trois thing, and I just can't see it."
" Not being a B/A shipper myself, I'm rooting for Buffy/Spike. I'm not sure about long term viability, but the passion that's there . . . and I just want to *see* it." -- Mary Beth, Chris ad Catherine S.

"And you could pretty much see Spike fighting the urge to sing from second one after Buffy walked in. Dear oh dear oh... *laugh*"
"And the look on his face when he finally started. He was *so* incredibly disgusted with himself. ROTFL!!"
"And after the fire song, and James hoofing it through the streets, and that KISS, I was pretty much: "Dru *left* him? Dru left *him*? Dru _left_ HIM? Ohmigod, the girl *is* whacked!""
"And this is news since when?" -- Chris and Val

"And I am just gonna break my heart when Giles leaves, I know I am. I'm gonna miss him sooooooooo much.... *sniffle sniffle sniffle*" -- Chris

"But back to the musical - disappointed Michelle didn't get to sing a bit more, but admired SMG's guts for getting into things and doing her own singing in the true broadway tradition of an actor singing a part. Loved the overall style of the show, too, from the opening credits, to the end curtain. Someone made his film teacher proud." -- Karen

"As Jack pointed out, this served much the same purpose as "The Bitter Suite" did for Xena. And Joss HAS to have known it -- three seconds after Jack said that, Xander popped out with that "Merciful Zeus!" *chortle* Main difference between this and TBS, tho, is one I really approve of: this little extravaganza got a bunch of stuff out in the open that needed to be out in the open, and put people several steps ahead of where they were in resolving some things, but *didn't* tie them all up neatly at the end of the ep. In fact, it left them dangling out there quite messily and obviously. I adore TBS, and it was the way it needed to be for Xena; but this was Buffy, and that means messy." -- Val

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