Same Time, Same Place

Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by James A. Contner

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow went nuts, Willow went to England, Willow got sent home and wasn't happy about it. Anya is a vengeance demon, Spike is insane and ensouled, and off we go.

The airport clock reads 9:24. A boy drops his backpack as he leaves the plane, and walks by Buffy, Xander and Dawn, waiting anxiously for Willow to disembark. Xander has a welcome home sign written in the infamous yellow crayon, and the girls takes a moment to harass him. Everyone's a little uneasy about Willow returning, especially after Buffy confesses that she hadn't finished her not-evil training. They're more uneasy at realizing that everyone is off the plane -- and there's no sign of Willow.

The airport clock reads 9:24. A boy drops his backpack as he leaves the plane, and Willow makes her way uneasily through the gate behind him, and into the airport. Looking around, she realizes that there's no one there to meet her. "Welcome home, me," she says sadly.

Outside in Sunnydale, a tagger slaves away with spray can on his latest work of art. From the shadows, something whispers (in a voice strongly reminiscent of the cartoon Grinch talking to Cindy Lou Who, only way scarier), "All alone...." A clawed hand slips into view, and chatters briefly. [Editor's Note: Gnarl freaks the crap out of me. I have massive Gollum issues and they come all slithering into play here. Watching this for the third time is way not of the fun. Just so you appreciate my dedication.] The voice continues, "Are you frightened to be all alone? The wind talks when you're alone." The boy freaks to realize someone's there, then screams as he's grabbed.

Willow waits outside Casa Summers for someone to answer the door, then goes around to go in the back door. The house is dark and silent; the microwave clock reads 10:41. She makes her way through the house and up the stairs to the room she once shared with Tara, now unmistakably stamped as Buffy's residence. She wanders over to the windows, but hears the echo of a gunshot and her own scream, and turns away. She finds Buffy's address book, open to pertinent numbers (for those curious: Buffy work -- 555-0101; Xander's office -- 0168; Dawn cell -- 555-0193); the sound of the door opening downstairs startles her into dropping the book to the floor. She races down the stairs, only to find that the house is still empty; depressed and alone, she curls up on the couch to wait.

The microwave clock reads 10:41 as the gang of three come in the back door, Buffy reiterating that Giles is sure Willow got on the plane in London. Her disappearance implies to everyone that Willow has backslid; before they can check messages, they hear a noise upstairs, like something hitting the floor. But when they investigate, no one's there. They settle down on the couch in the living room to discuss the situation. Giles hasn't heard from her and is wigging, blaming himself for not knowing she wasn't ready to come back. Xander tries blaming himself for not being ready to take Willow back; Dawn asks when someone's going to blame Willow. "Don't give me shock face. I mean, will anyone around here ever start asking for help when they need it?" Buffy shrugs. "If Willow flipped out, it's her bad. We can only be here for her so much if she won't... you know, be here."

The shot dissolves from the trio on the couch to Willow sleeping right where they're sitting, alone. A change of camera angle and she's waking up to the morning sun shining in the front window. She still hasn't seen the Scoobies; a call to Giles tells her he's in a CoW meeting all day, and unavailable. She heads for the Magic Box, and bumps into Anya coming out -- Anya immediately backs back inside, demanding. "What are doing here? I thought you were with Giles studying how to not kill people." Willow: "I just got back." Anya: "Just got back, as in you're all better, or just got back, to bring about a fiery apocalypse of death?" Willow: "Neither." Assured that Willow's "all right", Anya begins with the guilt, mentioning how many hours she's spent "cleaning the debris out of my ex-livelihood." Willow is ready and willing to take the guilt trip, which takes all the fun out of it for Anya. Willow slinks over to sit on the curb, and is surprised when Anya joins her after a moment. She starts pawing idly through Anya's box of debris and casually asks where everyone is. Anya says she's back in her own apartment, although vengeance takes her everywhere, most currently Brazil. When Willow tells her she hasn't seen the others, she concludes, "I guess they're still mad at you. They've been a little temperamental lately." She tells Willow about Buffy working at the school, and Xander's crew being set up there, and Spike being insane in the basement. Willow heads over to try to find Xander, but finds something quite different on the empty site -- a skinless, bloodless body, lying in the dirt.

Xander and Buffy stand over the exact same body; Xander found it early and told his crew not to come in, before calling Buffy. Buffy is less than pleased: "I gotta get a job where I don't get called right away for this stuff." Xander is momentarily distracted by a noise (Willow climbs an aluminum ladder as fast as she can), but only comments, "Yeah, I know exactly what you're thinking. Maybe Willow is back."

Willow wanders through the halls of the new Sunnydale High, and finds the stairs to the basement. It's only a little more work to find Spike -- he jumps out at her announcing, "This is my place! You need permission to be here. You need a special slip with a stamp!" Obviously, he's not noticeably saner than the last time we saw him, although he's back in the blue shirt and doesn't have any visible burns from hugging that damn cross. He stalks away, proclaiming, "You go off and you try to wallop the bad parts and put your heart back in where it fell out and you call yourself finished but you're not--" He falls silent suddenly, then walks carefully forward, looking away from Willow. "You went away. You've been gone since..." Willow: "I needed to go, but I'm back now and I found... there's a body." Spike: "Tragedy." He looks at her suddenly. "Is there blood?" Willow says there was, and babbles about how much her day has sucked, and the body was skinned, and what could do that? "You did it once," Spike points out, "I heard about it." Willow shifts uncomfortably. "Anything other than me?" Spike wanders forward, at right angles to Willow. "Look at you... glowy. What's a word means 'glowy'? Gotta rhyme." He suddenly cringes back, one hand coming up in front of his face. "I should hide. Hide from you, hide my face. You know what I did." Willow is befuddled. "You didn't do anything? Did you?" [Evidently, her gossip network isn't as good as Spike's.] He recovers enough to note, quite carefully, "Everyone's talking to me. No one's talking to each other." Willow ties to get him to listen, but he turns away, looking smug. "Someone isn't here. Button, button, who's go the button. My money's on... the witch." He turns to face her dead-on.

Buffy and Xander make their way through the endlessly changing (literally) labyrinth of the high school basement. The blueprints aren't any help, but as they go, they can hear Spike speaking ahead of them and home in. They enter his current lair as he's saying, "--and put your heart back in where it fell out and you call yourself finished but you're not--" He breaks off until Buffy manages to get his attention; then he walks carefully forward, telling Buffy, "You went away. You've been gone since...." Buffy: "The church. You scared me a little. I didn't... I didn't know what to think." Xander tells him, "We're here for a reason, Spike." Spike says, "Tragedy," then turns his head to where Willow should be standing, and isn't. "Is there blood?" He is diverted from carrying on the conversation with the witch who isn't, and wanders closer to Buffy to comment on her "glowing", before suddenly remembering and flinching away. Buffy and Xander start to lose patience, until Spike realizes what's happening. "Button, button...." Xander and Buffy snap to attention when he mentions the witch; he continues talking to someone not them: "They think you did it -- the Slayer and her boy. They think you took the skin." But before they can drag anything else out of him, he informs them, "I have to go. There are things here without permission. I have to check their slips, make sure they have authorization." He heads off back into the shadows.

Willow appears on Anya's doorstep to demand help finding out what killed the boy. After a moment of establishing mutual innocence (unison: "Was it you? No!"), Willow tells Anya she needs to figure this one out, to do something right -- and to assure herself that she's not guilty, Anya points out. Willow blinks at the insight, but forges ahead, and gets Anya's help to do a demon-location spell. Candles are lit, demons are reassured that it won't get sexy or hurt the carpet, and Willow casts the spell over a map of Sunnydale. There's little points all over the city, including Anya herself, and a major concentration at the high school (which would seem to explain whose "special slips" Spike's been checking). Willow notes one point off by itself, in the caves, before the concentration under the school sets the map on fire. Willow hastily stamps it out, but it's too late for the carpet. Anya is annoyed, and more so when Willow asks her to teleport to the caves to check it out. Seems that revoking the Wish last week has gotten her grounded: "I can only teleport for official business. I have to file a flight plan and everything." Willow is sympathetic to Anya's situation, as the demon explains, "The vengeance itself? It's... not as fulfilling as I remember." Willow: "Really? 'Cause I got the impression that you enjoyed, you know, inflicting." Anya: "Well, causing pain sounds really cool, I know, but turns out it's... really upsetting! It didn't used to be. Now it is." Willow is definitely sympathizing. "Is it like you're scared of losing that feeling again, and having it be okay to hurt people, and then you're not in charge of the power anymore, because it's in charge of you?" Anya blinks at her. "Wow. That was... really overdramatically stated, but yeah, that's it. I'm sorry, Willow. I wish it were better for you." Willow flees the momentary bonding moment, (Anya: "I guess it did get a little sexy, didn't it?"), and heads out for the caves. Anya blows out one of the candles she's holding, looking depressed.

Back as Casa Summers, Dawn is having way too much fun with the demon databases, looking up their perp. Buffy is busy having a wig, feeling guilty and stressed because her first and primary suspect is Willow, when Dawn comes up with a match -- Gnarl, a demon who paralyzes victims with his fingernails. "Then he cuts strips of their skin while they're still alive. It takes hours." Xander observes that, "We didn't find any strips of skin. Which, by the way -- guhh!" Dawn tells them that Gnarl eats the skin; she informs the doubting Buffy that she thinks it's him because there also wasn't any blood, which he laps up. I'm with Xander -- "Guhh!" Dawn, proud of herself, notes that all they need is a way to find the thing. Fortunately, Big Sis has the solution. Whoever did the dirty deed had to get blood on them, and would have left a trail. A trail that can be followed by--

--one currently insane vampire, who strides through the darkness trailing three Scoobies behind. Buffy thinks, "It's pretty easy. Spike follows the exciting smell of blood, and we follow the fairly ripe smell of Spike." Dawn agrees: "It's smellementary," and starts going off on the many non-magical ways they can go all CSI to track demons. Spike stops abruptly, and Xander makes rude and mocking noises about the rock cliff that Spike declares to be the end of the line. Spike looks at him in disgust and pulls aside the greenery to show a cave opening. Momentarily Spike again, he looks back at Buffy: "I'm insane. What's his excuse?" Everyone currently watching falls on the floor in hysterical laughter. As we recover and finish rewinding to hear the line a few more times, Spike stalks away, his work done. All alone, Willow stands in front of the same cave, then slowly wriggles her way over and through the narrow entrance. As she looks around the dimly torch-lit cave, she hears something scuttle through the shadows. "All alone," Gnarl sing-songs.

The other three Scoobies make their way into the cave, finding it apparently empty. But only apparently, since they can all hear something moving. Willow moves carefully, as Gnarl keep stalking. "Look at the shorn lamb. See how it trembles. Is it the cold wind?" A shadow scuttles across the wall behind her, "Or is it that the flock is nowhere to be seen? Poor little lamb, all alone." The Scoobies hear the same voice, but it's not enough warning for the figure that lunges out at them. Dawn doubles over with a scream as Gnarl's claws rip across her stomach. "Poison paralyzes," she reminds her sister; Xander and Buffy grab her and head for the hills, blocking in the cave behind them so they can deal with Gnarl later. But all Willow sees are the rocks being shoved into place -- sealing her inside with the monster as he laughs.

Willow tries a quick spell, but it doesn't do any good; "Gnarl loves spells," he tells her. "He keeps than as pets." Willow tries bravado, and Gnarl strikes back by telling her her friends left her there -- "They wanted me to have you." Outside, said friends try to maneuver Dawn's paralyzed body through the trees, as Willow tries to figure out where the hell Gnarl is. She demands to know if her friends were really there, which distracts her enough for Gnarl to get a slice across her stomach. She sinks to the ground, paralysis already hitting. Gnarl drags her to a prone position, and we get our first good look at him -- naked, skinny, gray, all bones and claws and really long nose; if Snyder had been an actual demon, and taller, he might have looked like Gnarl -- as he kneels over her and prepares to unwrap his "gift". Which begins with licking the blood away from the slices on her stomach, as Willow stares up at the ceiling in helpless horror.

Xander and Buffy drop Dawn on the couch, literally, and Buffy goes into research mode -- Gnarl's paralysis is permanent until he's dead. They call Anya to come watch over Dawn while they go back and fight. During this and the ensuing action, Gnarl continues to torture Willow, talking to her about how easy it is when "everybody helps", drawing pictures on her stomach with his claws, and picking off small sections of skin to eat. That's as much detail as I'm going into, folks -- this was a gross one. Anya arrives at Casa Summers, but is more interested in seeing whether Dawn's paralysis is the poseable kind (it is). Buffy is momentarily distracted, and Dawn winds up sitting on the edge of the couch, and not happy about it. Along the way, Anya drops that she's seen Willow, and the other two finally pick up on it. Anya tells them Willow headed for the same cave -- "Wouldn't it be tragic if you were here being kind of silly with your comically paralyzed sister while Willow was dying?". Since Anya is also familiar with Gnarl, Dawn gets left on her own, phone is upright and immovable hand, as the others head to the rescue. Insert more Gnarl grossness.

Buffy and Xander race through the woods, an out-of-shape Anya lagging behind. Gnarl is distracted enough not to notice them enter the cave until Buffy's already there, sword in hand. Only Anya can see Willow, lying on the floor bleeding, and can't believe the other two can't. "I'm starting to get the feeling I know why we haven't seen her," Buffy says grimly. Gnarl attacks from behind, but misses the skin; Anya keeps Willow up to date on what's happening, since all she can see is Gnarl fighting something invisible. "They didn't leave me?" she manages to whimper. Anya assures her, "They didn't leave you. They can't see you." Willow is close to tears of relief that she's not alone. Gnarl's got some funky tricks, but Buffy nails him foot to the ground with a knife then, on Anya's advice, goes for his eyes. With her thumbs. Ick. But it does the job -- Gnarl dies, releasing Willow and Dawn (who falls off the couch with a squeak) from the paralysis. Buffy and Xander huddle around where Anya says Willow is, alive and hurt, but they still can't see her. Anya leaves to get help. "We can't exactly see you, but we're really glad that you're back, " Buffy tells her friend, and the air begins to shimmer. Willow slowly appears at their feet, and the Scoobies are finally reunited. "You're gonna be okay, Willow," Buffy assures her. "I know," Willow tries to smile. "You're here."

Morning at Casa Summers, and Buffy walks into her old room to see Willow meditating on the bed. She's trying to grow back skin, drawing power from the earth, and it takes a lot out of her. "I missed you so much when I couldn't find you," Willow says. Buffy tells her, "We missed you, too. I missed you." Dawn hasn't been able to find out what made Willow disappear, but Willow knows -- "I did it." She thinks her own fear of coming back, of seeing the others, involuntarily cast a spell to make her disappear. Control is still an issue, it seems. Buffy assures her it's all right, and Willow comments, " It's nice to be forgiven. Too bad I need so much of it." Buffy has to confess that she thought the first body might have been Willow's work, but Willow doesn't take it personally. "Xander has the luxury of not saying it, but you're the Slayer. You have to face stuff like that. It's okay. It's okay, too, if you still don't think I can recover from this magic stuff. Tell you the truth, I'm not that sure about it either." She starts meditating again, despite her lack of strength, since it hurts too much not to try. Buffy thinks about it, then sits cross-legged across from her offers her hands. "I got so much strength, I'm giving it away." The two friends join hands and mediate together. Continuity:
Willow has returned to Sunnydale to reasonably open arms.

Anya's teleporting privileges have been revoked as a result of the wish she withdrew. She's in fairly serious trouble.

None to speak of, except for all the Scoobie-love going Willow's way. Oh, and Buffy apparently dumped Spike back in the basement and forgot about him after the church incident.

I'm back to feeling a certain amount of sympathy for Willow, which I haven't for about a year now. She was scared enough about coming back, about her own powers, and she got kicked in the butt in a seriously karmic way -- paralyzed and being skinned has just way too much cosmic irony. I think she's officially paid back whatever she had coming her way after Warren, and evidently the Scoobies didn't expect anything in the way of reparations. All is forgiven.

Which, as usual, is annoying me. < sigh > Willow tries to end the world and kill Giles/Buffy/Dawn along the way, and they meet her at the airport with signs and hugs -- well, they would have if she'd been there. Anya turns herself back into a demon after Xander screws up heinously, and apparently the only time she's allowed to be a Scoobie is if they need something from her. The rest of the time, she's an awful demon-type. Ah, forgiveness Scoobie-style. And Anya seems to be feeling it, if her willingness to hang out with Willow the Destructor is anything to judge by. She's ostracized by her human 'friends', on the outs with her demon 'friends', and tying desperately to figure out who and what she is with no help whatsoever. She's doing the best she can -- making strides toward coming into her own nicely, actually, although she's really got to pick a hair style and stick with it; the current one will do nicely -- but she's doing it alone, which she doesn't deserve.

Dawn is also coming into her own, actually -- she's turning into quite the research geek, in addition to getting to do the fighty stuff without anyone complaining. Go Dawnie!!! I've always liked Dawn, but I'm having more fun with her this season than I ever have before. She's fun.

Buffy and Xander are Buffy and Xander -- dealing with the corpses and enlisting aid as necessary, regardless of whether they've done anything to deserve the help. < sigh > Yes, I'm bitter. I can't help it. I don't really like either of them any more, and that makes me unhappy. Spike is crazy and tormented and hiding in the basement, and Buffy apparently only bothers with him when she wants something from him. Yes, I know I'm irrational about Spike, but see above re: Anya. It's not an attractive trend and it's pissing me off. And Xander continues to be a complete and total jerk about Spike -- apparently, basic courtesy to the guy helping them even though he'd rather be curled up in a corner whimpering is a little too much for him. See? Bitter. I don't like it.

And Spike is still trying to sort out what's there and what isn't, and he seems to be patrolling for demons in the basement -- go, Spike. And that one lovely flash we got of our old, funny, sane Spike -- "what's his excuse?" -- rocked the house down. < sniffle > I want Spike back. James Marsters is doing an amazing job, but I want Spike back!!!!

Best Moments:
Buffy and Dawn teasing Xander about his world-savingness.

The dissolve from the Scoobies on the couch to Willow -- neat effect.

Both iterations of Spike's basement scene were just way too cool -- we were invited to figure it out and if we didn't, it just made the second iteration that much cooler.

Anya and Willow doing the spell -- the little homages back to the first spells with Tara should have been painful, but were bittersweetly funny, instead. A very fine line, but nicely done.

Dawnie being the research queen. She's too cute for the room.

Spike's "I'm insane. What's his excuse?" Perfect line, perfectly delivered. James rules.

All of the stuff in Gnarl's cavern was brilliantly done. The fights were cool, but the slow torture of Willow was maximumly wiggy with a minimum of actual detailed gore. Ick. Yuck. Niiiice.

Anya posing Dawn -- very funny stuff.

But not as funny as Dawn squeaking as she fell off the couch. Michelle T. did a really nice job throughout.

Questions and Comments:
Who filled Spike in on Willow when? At some point, either Buffy or the voices in his head told him about Willow's little rampage, and I'm very curious as to which.

My personal theory, based on some of Gnarl's nattering and such, is that Willow may have subconsciously wanted the invisibility, but something from the Hellmouth -- say, whatever it is making Spike's life miserable -- gave the wish a little push. Something that wouldn't want a super-powerful witch hanging around the forces of good, maybe?

Rating: 4 stars out of five. Jane managed to create a villain creepier than the Gentlemen, which I didn't think was possible, and the invisibility set-up led to some very neat directoral twists. Coolness.


"Is it me, or was Willow partially eaten by Gollum? I'm wondering where the ring wound up, now...and whether Frodo's finger's lying about someplace in Sunnydale... " -- Jennie

"So, the "I'm all alone in the woild" plotline. A bit heavy-handed way to demonstrate Willow's reluctance to face her friends and her fears, made about ten times more so by the rather silly ending."
"I liked it. Perhaps over-direct, but I still liked it. "
"Willow. You're an absurdly powerful witch. You rip people's skin off with a wave of your hand. You have a thought on the plane that you're not ready to see your friends, and it takes you two days to figure out why you can't find them? Come on!"
"I wasn't so much concerned about that in itself--since, hey, who remembers every passing thought if it doesn't seem pertinent at the time? And she had no reason to suspect that there was magic involved at all. What I couldn't figure out is why she didn't use that ability to cast spells by thinking about it to help her out of her predicament. Just because magic didn't work on the demon, would that stop it from working on rocks? She has levitated objects while under stress before. She could have moved the rocks blocking the cave entrance, or she could have pummeled the demon, even while paralyzed. Or cast magic on herself--a protective barrier, invisibility so the demon couldn't find her, *something*. I understand that she's traumatized, but surely to save her life she could have come up with an option other than whimpering. Unless somehow, on some level, she *wanted* to be skinned alive. She did seem to want Anya to insult her, so she may still be in "punish me" mode. Consciously, though, she didn't appear to be enjoying the process." -- Mike, Chris, Mike and Amparo

"Love Xander bragging about saving the world. We're lucky he's not using it as a pick-up line. "Hi. You don't know me, but--you know how you're alive? All me. See, there was this crayon..." " -- Mike

"I'm insane; what's his excuse?" Winner line of the night, though "Oh, she's poseable!" was also very silly. Crazy Spike will get old if it goes on too long, but for now it's funny to watch him be Babbling Poet-Boy and then ricochet back to old sarcastic Spike when everyone least expects it. And liked that Buffy was taking Dawn being paralyzed in stride, rather than freaking out about it." -- Mike

"...[D]id you realize what I did later - the people Spike was referring to without permission slips are all those demons congregating beneath the school, that Willow and Anya saw during the spell? So he's acting the part of Hall Monitor (shades of Riley) and trying to chase them out. He's *still* speaking Insane Vampire, Victorian Era, so I'm trying to brush up on my poetry again. (Insane Vampire, English Victorian vintage means you need to know your Tennyson, Shakespeare, and possibly Poe. French Victorian: Hugo, Villon, and Moliere. For 20th Century American vintage crazy vampire, you need to know your Bible and Stephen King books. Sad times.)" -- Chris

"As for Spike - my theory, and it's only a theory, is that his mind is like a raw wound now; completely unprotected. The soul's stripped him of all defenses, and he's open to seeing and hearing any mystic or demonic thing that happens by. This on top of his own internal conflicts, trying to integrate William and Spike into something approaching a whole, while dealing with mind-crushing guilt. The more you poke at Spike's mind, the more he flinches, the more reaction you get out of him, the more damage he causes himself in response... ugly, vicious cycle. I was glad Xander wasn't more cruel to him while he was down this week - and really amused by the "What's his excuse?" line." -- Chris

"Michelle Trachtenburg's physical comedy keeps getting better -- having her fall off the couch with the remote still in her hand was hysterical. Plus, the bouncy enthusiasm is just really a joy to watch. We haven't had a whiney Dawn moment since the beginning of the season. And that's a good thing. " -- Chris

"Crappy demon this time. And really annoying with the nursery-rhyme taunts. I expect better villans than this from BtVS, or at least better jokes at their expense."
"I can't comment, except to say that I was creeped and I didn't see anything. I wasn't allowed. "
"Ya, ya, eating skin and all, but for me the two most wigsome things were seeing Gavin Park in an AT&T commercial (I kept screaming "Don't talk to him; he's evil! Hang up the phone, quick!") and Anya flirting with Willow. The mind reels. Besides, I'm still pulling for Willow and Faith." -- Mike and Chris

"The whole "Yes, let's tie ourselves to the insane vampire," bit was a nice revisit to 'Teacher's Pet,' using Fork Guy to find Ms. "I'm-a-Big-Bug" French. At least Buffy learned from that experience. :) " -- Julie

"I should also mention how I was feeling bad for Anya, and adoring the empathy she and Willow were finally having now that most of their issues are so similar, and Xander isn't a problem. Plus all the shout-outs back to Doppelgangland, the first time Willow and Anya did a spell, and New Moon Rising. You don't have to repeat lines to have continuity; you can have visual continuity that works just as well. Plus I loved Anya's hair. " -- Chris

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