Never Leave Me

Written by Drew Goddard
Directed by David Solomon

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Previously on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer -- Andrew killed Jonathan on the Big Bad's orders, and his blood opened... nothing. 'Joyce' visited Dawn and told her Buffy wouldn't stand by her; Willow told Dawn it was the Big Bad, and Dawn may not believe her. Someone was killing girls, and it turned out to be Spike, who was under the Big Bad's control and is losing it. Buffy promises to help and brings Spike home to stay close to the Big Bad. Someone attacked Giles by swinging a big ol' ax at his head.

At Casa Summers, everyone's still picking up after the Great Dawn Attack (the front window is still nonexistent) as most of the Scoobies loudly cast doubt on Buffy's decision to bring serial-killer Spike home for therapy. Willow defends Buffy's decision and Anya complains. Andrew struts down the streets trying desperately to be cool in his long leather coat, and defending his lack of success with the Jonathan sacrifice to Warren (and to 'Jonathan'). The Big Bad in his various forms is trying to talk Andrew into another sacrifice, but he's wussing on 'them'. Meanwhile, Buffy ties Spike to a chair, as tightly as possible by his insistence. "I get free, someone's gonna die."

Principal Wood is busy doing the disciplinary thing to a couple of trying-to-be-unimpressed delinquents when Dawn arrives to tell him Buffy is calling in majorly sick, to which she supplies graphic details. Buffy calls Quentin Travers to try to track down Giles; he denies all knowledge, but Buffy 'persuades' him to start looking. Or so she thinks -- Quentin hangs up the phone and tells the assembled Watchers that "The girl knows nothing. We need to find Rupert Giles -- as soon as possible." Spike is heavy into the DTs with a sympathetic Buffy hovering, even when Spike goes game face and starts trying to break free. Buffy relents enough to ask Willow to go find animal blood; Spike is in too bad shape to be helpful so far, and it's rough going. Also not so great for Andrew, who is being psyched up by Warren for another sacrifice. He gets himself worked up, then lunges at the helpless female... piglet, who books a hasty and more-than-slightly comical escape. It's pathetic even for Andrew, who wants another way to get blood. So, of course, he heads for the local butcher shop, which doesn't blink at his order of pig's blood -- which is presumably why Willow is there, too. Watch Andrew Panic.

Andrew flees and Willow chases after him into an alley; he promptly claims innocence in Warren's assault on Buffy and Tara. He also claims to be good, but Willow heard the blood order and isn't buying. He immediately blusters )"I'm bad. I'm evil. But I'm protected by powerful forces, forces you can't even begin to imagine... little girl.") and Willow reduces him to patheticness without even bothering to do the black-eyed thing (remember when she interrogated Jonathan way back in "Earshot"? Kinda like that. With the perky). She drags him back to Casa Summers, and Xander takes a lot of pleasure in tying him to a chair. He and Anya settle down to some fun interrogation, playing Good Scoobie, Bad Scoobie, as Buffy feeds Spike upstairs, stopping only to get an update from the Interrogation Duo in the room next door, before returning to Spike, who is finally lucid. He still doesn't remember any of what he did, except in flashes "like watching someone else". He has no idea when his chip stopped working, but he's been losing time since Africa, and his soul. Buffy asks, "How did you do it? How did you get your soul back?" Spike almost laughs. "Saw a man about a girl." He gives her a quick rundown of the demon and the trials, ending with, "I have come to redefine the words "pain" and "suffering" since I fell in love with you." Buffy laughs in a way that's not even slightly funny. "How can you say that?" Spike: "Apparently I just slaughtered half of Sunnydale, pet -- I'm not really worried about being polite anymore." Buffy stands up. "So that's what this is about -- you're feeling sorry for yourself, Spike?" Spike: "Feeling honest with myself. You used me." Buffy doesn't even try to deny it. "Yes." Spike: "You told me that, of course. Never understood it, though. Not 'til now. You hated yourself, and you took it out on me." Buffy: "You figure that out just now?" Spike: "So, it's not all about moonbeams and pennywhistles, love. It's about self-loathing. I get it. Had to travel around the world, but I understand you now. I understand the violence inside." Buffy: "Violence? William the Bloody now had insight into violence?" Spike: Not the same. As bad as I was, as evil and wretched as I was. I never hated myself back then. Not like I do now."

Xander returns to playing Good Cop, bringing Andrew water and sympathy, and horror stories of Anyanka, but gets sidetracked with his "sample story": There was this one guy, he, ah...he hurt her real bad. so she paid him back. She killed him, she did it real slow. See, first she stopped his heart, and then she replaced it with darkness, and then she made him live his life like that. He still had to go do his job, and see his friends and wake up in the morning and go to bed at night, but he had to do it all... empty. Without anything to look forward to -- ever." He recovers and gets back on track with the blood and entrails, starting to set up some guy bonding, before Anya makes her enraged and violent entrance, toppling Andrew over and accidentally slapping Xander in the process. Andrew cracks like a hard-boiled egg, and the ruckus brings Buffy running. The Big Bad appears as soon as she leaves the room, wearing Spike's face. "Well, we've got ourselves a problem," he announces. As Buffy leaves the interrogation room, she hears voices and singing in her room and goes back in carefully. Spike is alone, and says he wasn't talking to anyone. Anya has Andrew backed against a wall, as Spike tells Buffy he's fine, he just feels "a bit peckish." She circles him warily, but is still caught by surprise when he lunges, breaking the ropes and going right through the wall for Andrew's throat.

Buffy pulls him off and throws him across te room before he can do too much damage, then knocks him out. She tells the story downstairs, completely puzzled by Spike's split personality; she thinks it had something to do with whoever he was talking to, and the singing. [Everyone in the viewing audience who has seen any variation of The Manchurian Candidate, or any crappy movie/episode with a sleeper agent, rolls their eyes a lot.] Luckily, Xander gets it almost immediately, proving that he's seen the same movies we have, but he doesn't have any solutions to offer. Buffy gives the Scoobies their marching orders for research.

Back at the high school, Principal Wood turns out the lights in his office and... heads down to the basement, as if sensing something there. He makes his way through the dark and damp halls unerringly until he finds the Seal Chamber, Jonathan's body still splayed across the exposed metal. He looks down at the body soberly, but without surprise.

Spike wakes up in chains in the basement, finding Buffy washing the blood from his face. "Did I hurt anybody?" he asks faintly. Buffy explains their theory about the brainwashing, but Spike doesn't really let her get too far. "Kill me." Buffy tries to shake him off, but Spike's serious. He's too dangerous -- William the Bloody is too dangerous -- to be allowed to live, as he demonstrates with a graphic example of how to drain blood from a girl: "The trick is to drain just enough that they can still cry. 'Cause it's not worth it if they don't cry." Buffy refuses to let him drive her to killing him, and he demands, "Have you ever really asked yourself why you can't do it? Off me? After everything I've done -- to you, to the people around you? It's not love, we both know that." Buffy starts, "You've fought by my side. You've saved lives, you've helped--" but Spike cuts her off. "Don't do that. Don't rationalize this into some noble act. We both know the truth of it. You like men who hurt you." Buffy denies it, but Spike persists until she tells him, "I don't hate like that -- not you, or myself. Not anymore. You think you have insight now because your soul's drenched in blood? You don't know me. You don't even know you.... You're not alive because of hate, or pain. You're alive because I saw you change. Because I saw your penance." Spike lunges for her, chains rattling. "Window dressing." Buffy shakes her head. "Be easier, wouldn't it? If it were an act? But it's not. You faced the monster inside of you, and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man, and you can be. You are. You may not see it, but I do. I do. I believe in you, Spike." His eyes are wide with the need to believe and the inability to do it, as Buffy says everything he's ever wanted to hear, and never thought he could.

So that, of course, is when the robed guys started diving through walls and windows in a full-on assault.

Somewhere outside of town, Principal Wood, in shirtsleeves, digs a grave for Jonathan, covering him back up with that same sober expression. There's no quiet at Casa Summers; Willow and Dawn take on one robed bad guy as Buffy battles a few more. There are too many, and they get past the defenders up the stairs (although Dawn manages to throw one against a wall with a nifty roll-and-toss). Andrew is hog-tied on Buffy's bed, unable to fight back though he hears the commotion, and sees the bad guys come. But he rolls off the bed in time, and Buffy arrives to save him. Dawn gets too close to the bad guy she took down and goes down herself, until Xander knocks him cold from behind. The fight upstairs for Andrew rages, until Buffy kills two at one blow. Things quiet, and Buffy suddenly realizes the black robes could have had another target. They race to the basement to find Spike's chains empty. "They were after Spike all along," Buffy realizes, but she knows something else now. She's seen men like these before, with X's where their eyes should be. A Christmas several years ago, with Angel, when he was being tormented by ghosts. "It's all the same thing.. From beneath us... it's all the same thing. I know what we're up against: The First."

[The SunS break out into loud applause for the somewhat slow Slayer, and throw virtual popcorn towards Kiki and Tina, who figured it out six episodes ago.]

London: in a big but unremarkable stone building, the Watcher's Council is buzzing. They've lost contact with offices and have casualties coming in from as far away as Australia. Quentin tries to instill confidence in his shaky people (including some familiar faces from Checkpoint) by using rhetoric and stirring cliches to boost morale and gather them around his steadfast leadership. At least that's the intent, as he gathers them. "Our fears have been confirmed. The First Evil has declared all-out war on this institution. The first vollies proved most effective; I, for one, think it's time we struck back.... We'll be paying a visit to the Hellmouth. My friends, these are the times that define us. Proverbs 24:6: 'For by wise counsel, you shall make your war.'" It's a good time to quote the Bible -- there's a huge explosion, and the Watcher's Council vanished in a ball of fire.

Still wearing Spike's face, the First's minions tie Spike to a huge X, and begin carving on him. He screams once, then glares accusingly at the First, but it rolls off of him... her, since it morphs into Buffy. "I have to admit," 'she' smiles, "I'm glad it worked out this way. I was going to bleed Andrew, but you look a lot better with your shirt off." The X slowly lifts and cants over onto its side, and Spike's blood drips steadily down onto the seal from the runes carved into his chest. "Now, Spike -- you want to see what a real vampire looks like?" Where Jonathan's blood did nothing, Spike's has an immediate effect -- the sections of the seal flip up into a pyramid, then sink down, exposing what looks like a direct line to the Hellmouth. And rising from it, a gray form even uglier than the Master on a bad hair day; Spike stares in disbelief as it lifts its claws and fangs, and growls....

It's confirmed that our Big Bad is the First, who went after Angel about four years ago, and it just used Spike's blood to raise something nasty.

The Watcher's Council went boom, but not before the First had already decimated it all over the world.

Buffy seems to have taken Spike's transfer to the white hats to heart -- she seems to have let go of the past and is determined to believe Spike can continue working for the light.

Xander is really feeling the loss of Anya.

It's been a while and several episodes since this aired, so I'm trying to keep everything in order and remember my first impressions. apologies if I slip. But I do distinctly remember an awful lot of hastily stifled squeals of happiness during Buffy's speech to Spike, and she says everything I've been dying for her to say. She defends him, she helps him, and she talks to him, like a person and everything. Hell, like someone who's almost a friend. Hypocritical, Self-Deluding Buffy has gone away, and there's this grown-up person in her place who is seeing things from outside of her self-absorbtion. She's not compelled to keep Spike the bad guy anymore, so that she can hate him instead of herself; as she says, she's past that. She's judging him how he has been instead of what she wants him to be, and it just might be the saving of both of them. No, no, not in the stupid 'love conquers all' sense -- that's been effectively slammed into the ground and demolished to little bits of dust. But in the mutual strength sense, where her belief might be enough to keep Spike walking in the light, and he just might be able to keep her alive.

And Spike. I realize there are those out there who don't have the total weakness for Spike that I have, but come on, admit it -- you were just a little bit teary-eyed when he was telling Buffy to kill him, right? And when she was telling him why she wouldn't? The universe if playing tug-of-war with that boy's emotions -- just when he's at his lowest point, utterly sure the world would be better off with him gone, Buffy tells him she believes in him. And he almost believes it himself. Until he gets kidnapped and dragged off to be a sacrifice, of course. Grr. This is not going to be fun for the Spike crowd, no indeed. But at least we've got that basement scene to live off of.... And how much do I hate the First for brainwashing Spike? Of allthe horrid things to do, making him kill again was just the worst, especially when it endangered Buffy. But then, if it wasn't doing horrid things, it wouldn't be the Ultimate Evil, now would it? Blegh.

Xander and Anya continue to be a mix of amusing and heartbreaking. I felt so bad for Xander when he was telling about the guy who'd had his heart replaced with darkness -- that wasn't even subtext, that was just Xander being miserable and knowing it was his own fault. But it was very cool to see him and Anya working so well together, and he being absolutely horrified when she accidentally slapped him, which she would have enjoyed even a few weeks ago. Hope springs eternal for those two, it really does, especially since Xander is doing such a lovely job of growing up.

Andrew is just... pathetic. Seriously. He lets himself beleive he's actually talking to Jonathan and Warren, even when they morph right in front of him, because it's easier than thinking for himself. And how stupid was he to try to bluff Willow? Utter loser. Seriously.

My theory about Principal Wood? He's a Watcher. It was the first thing I thought when he went straight to Jonathan's body, and I still think it. It explains so much, really -- what he's doing at Sunnydale High, why he was so unsurprised to see Jonathan's body (surely Council records know about that seal?), why he invented a job for such a young, totally unqualified woman that lets Buffy be right where she needed to be. And yes, I know he could be evil, but I don't beliieve it. Evil dumps bodies. It doesn't usually bury them, or look so serious and non-gloating while it's doing it. My money's on Watcher; I'm willing to be wrong, but I'm really certain of White Hat standing. The man is just cool.

Best Moments:
Principal Wood taking on the delinquents. < snicker > I love how cool he is, going from the usual threats to the cops without blinking.

The pause to consider after Willow asks if Buffy wants her to kill Anya. I love Anya, but I also appreciate that not everyone does. Very fun little bit.

The entire pig slaughtering sequence. < laughing helplessly >

Willow versus Andrew. Lord help us.

Any interrogation of Andrew -- he's pathetic, he's annoying, it's really fun watching him get whacked around.

Buffy and Spike's first conversation in her room. It's painful, it's harsh, but it's communication at last.

That's a gorgeous transition from Buffy leaving to seeing 'Spike' behind the door. Very creepy.

The talk in the basement. Have I gushed enough about that? Yes. Fantastic acting from both James and Sarah.

The entire fight sequence in the house -- great choreography and everyone got to do some damage. Wonderful.

The Watcher's Council getting blown up. Yes, technically, they were good guys, but was there anyone who didn't cheer at that git QT finally buying it? Anyone?

Questions and Comments:
None, really. It was a 'let's move the arc forward' episode, but it was solid.

I had been going to ask where the hell the title came from, but then the lovely Katerine sent me the lyrics to the song the First is singing, and it makes more sense.

Rating: 4 stars out of five. Like I said, an arc-moving episode, but with some moments of awesome characterization, comedy balanced with angst, and a kick-ass fight scene. Very nice.


"Council of Watchers go BOOM. Damn, they're really killing off the recurring characters this season, aren't they? First Jonathan, now Travers and his minions. Jeepers. All of this was made weirder for me when Travers walked into the President's office on"24" less than 15 minutes after he died on Buffy. There will always be another show, I guess. But the weirdness of the crossover possibilities had me boggling there for a while. Anyway. I will miss the minions, who had potential, as well as fun accents. I won't miss Travers, but he deserves better than to be bombed. And I am getting seriously pissed off at how successfully the First's plans are progressing at this stage: it's really managed to clear the field of quite a few people opposing it, and I'm getting creeped." -- Chris

"Everyone playing into Andrew's little delusion fen-view of the universe was just... fun. Anya and Xander's good-cop/bad-cop routine was just spontaneous enough for it to be a surprise for a second, then amusing.... Anya and Xander could get back together, after what I saw last night, and I wouldn't object. They were finally interacting as equals, now that they don't have a claim on each other, and he isn't criticizing and she isn't expecting anything from him. It's cool. And was it just me, or is Nick Brendan back to being a hottie again? I always thought he was cute, but the puffiness is gone again, and he's looking... very yummy. Yay." -- Chris

"The butcher calling Andrew"Neo" (from Matrix) and everyone edging away from him in the shop was another great sight gag. Heh. Sunnydale may be weird, but occasionally, even the denizens get a little freaked by the really big weirdos." -- Chris

"I think Spike/William is finally integrating, becoming a combination of the two without attendant wigginess. Now that he knows he's being played, I think he'll keep it together a lot better. That is, if anyone gets him down from that Catherine wheel anytime soon. *Meep!*" -- Chris

"I was discussing with my sis while we were watching last weeks 'Buffy'.. What if.. When the first evil shape changes morphs into a villain, that it actually becomes that person? I.e. it's actually Warren standing there talking to Andrew. Basically if it's The FIRST evil ever, then you would assume all evil is born of him/her. Therefore it can take the evil parts of any person and become them. So Warren is really warren standing there. And then would know all those geeky references and such.. And why when he became Glory he/she suddenly became A LOT more vain.. I think it's all these different entities with the common goal. Like when he's spike he's REALLY spike... just the worst aspects of him..."
"You mean, the villains have been absorbed into it on death? They've literally been eaten up by it, and thus all of them (including the non-evil portions that know geek references) are now a part of it? Or - when these characters were being villainous, it was actually the first evil within them controlling their actions? i.e. the characteristics came from the first evil to begin with, all it took was some poor decisions on their part to open the door, and the evil itself began to define who they were?" -- Tom and Jennie

"But it then begs the question of what it is when it's Buffy. I realise that she's died... a couple of times, but if it takes on the evil, does that mean that there's no evil left in Buffy? Assuming that you want to argue that there was evil in Buffy in first season, something related to the First Slayer, and that there was more evil to take by the time she died two seasons ago. It also managed to take the shape of Jenny, Joyce, Jonathan (debatable if really evil and somehow I'd debate whether he'd be all the happy being the sacrifice) and the dead girl (blanking on the name,) while doing a good impression of their personalities. Which doesn't mean that it doesn't absorb the evil people, just that it can also mimic the good guys. I'm also wondering if the people it mimics have to have died. I know that officially Spike, Buffy, Dru, and the Master have died/are dead. But Spike and Dru seem to have the personalities that they had after they died, not the ones they had as mortals. Does this mean that the First is connected to them through their deaths, or is in continual contact with them because they are dead and can therefore mimic them."
"The theory i was treading on was that we all have a"little" evil inside us ..first sin and all.. and that bit is born of the first.. Therefore it just became the evil aspects of Buffy.. her selfishness, etc. . . I don't think it has to do anything with having died.. More so with having touched evil ... They are connected to the first through there evil.. . . I know its hard to wrap ones head around it, but perhaps they are actually in two places at once.. the pure evil form of themselves.. and then the real them balanced out.... (Kind of like Superman in Superman II after being exposed to red K). -- Kimberley and Tom

"Why did Principal Wood have to know about the basement and be so willing to bury the body?! I wanted him to be good. Especially since his name is"Robin Wood" and I've been corrupted by too much French at an early age and read it as"Robin des Bois" <-- Robin Hood."
"Who says he isn't [good]? That was *so* obviously meant to undermine our liking of him (especially after the class-A way he handled the two graffiti artists earlier in the ep), it wasn't even subtle. Deep cover Watcher, anyone?"
"Uh, second. Him telling Buffy not to let students become friends, or they'll eat her up (not to mention knowing the bastinada) suggested Watcher to me way back in"Beneath You"."
"Either that, or he *really* did his homework and went in knowing he'd need a plan for dealing with bodies. We know he did homework on Buffy; that alone says either he was doing overtime or he's a Watcher. Or he's evil, but I'm perfectly willing to pretend that's not a possibility."
"I think it's (e) all of the above at this time. I mean, how did he even know there was a body down there? He suddenly starts sleep-walking downstairs, the walls move aside to let him find the body, and he decides that he isn't even going to react before he's burying it out with the film noir oil derricks? The First hypnotized him with the jazz music after all the nights he spent there doing extra paperwork. That's *my* theory." -- Kimberley, Valerie, Mel, Jennie, Kiki

"Oh, and whoever checked their tape was right - that was *not* the same building blowing up at the end of the ep, with all the Watchers in it. Either the production office screwed up - or the Watchers are alive. Either way, we need an explanation."
"According to someone I talked to at MidOhioCon this weekend, it's the former. Or at least, there was confirmation on the Bronze that it was indeed the Watcher HQ that got blown up. Which, now that I think about it and am not near that person to ask her *exactly* what was said, does not preclude the meeting we saw having taken place elsewhere..."
"Fair point. *Sigh* I still think all of them are dead, though... but I want to know about *Giles!* I think he's alive, because AlmostDeadGuy gave him a message ("Gather them. It's beginning."), which, in true smoking gun fashion, must be passed along. And yet.... *whimper* Where. Is. My. Giles? (Can you tell I've heard"Where in the World is Carmen San Diego" three times tonight?)" -- Chris and Valerie

"You know, it's really going to kill the spirits of the Council that Giles and Wesley are all that's left." -- Tina

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