Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Amazing. Jane E. managed to produce an entire episode of BadFic. And it's funny -- mostly.

It's a typical night in Sunnydale; Buffy and company are taking on a gang of vamps, and track the escapees to a nest in a crypt. Buffy does a headcount and comes up with five uglies... and heads off to get help, since she can't handle them alone. Huh? All becomes... well, even more confusing as Buffy enters a huge mansion and is shown into an impressive office. "We have a problem," she informs its occupant, who smiles at them from behind the desk. Dressed in black, with good hair, a charming smile (and way too many Bond movies in his private collection) is none other than the incredible... Jonathan? Yep, that's him. Our Boy of the Perpetual Losers has had a makeover, and how. Or maybe it's the rest of the world...

Go into incredibly surreal credits, which feature Jonathan being cool, competent, useful and just Da Bomb in every other clip, ending with a (screamingly funny) take-off of Angel's 'watch me walk coolly into the camera' routine. Leave credits, call friends for a quick reality check during the commercial.

Nope, reality has gone bye-bye. Jonathan is standing in the middle of Slayerette Central (aka, Giles' apartment), as Xander wanders around being more clueless than usual and Buffy apologizes for having to ask Jonathan's help (which he brushes off with a lovely touch of noblesse oblige). Jonathan patronizes Research Boy Giles, who looks gratified, then makes a brilliant chess move while giving orders to everyone else and coming out with Heroic Sayings. In fact, Jonathan seems to be the only one actually doing anything; everyone else exists to say "Okay." But he's got fighting moves worthy of Buffy when he leads the assault on the nest; in fact, he seems to have Buffy's moves, since hers aren't in evidence. But it only matters that she does her best, Jonathan assures her. Even Spike seems to have fallen under the spell, greeting Jonathan as a respected and feared adversary -- and the Slayerettes as "fluffy battle kittens".

Willow and Tara later discuss the evening's events, Willow with enthusiasm for the whole Slayerette game. Tara's not as enthused, and Willow is worried about Buffy and Riley, but they're both enjoying their work -- putting a collage of cute Jonathan pictures up on their wall.

Cut to Riley's bedroom. Long pause while the synopsizer drools over Riley sans shirt in tight jeans.... okay, I'm back. Sort of. Buffy is still worried about the whole Initiative drugging the food thing, but Riley assures her he's being careful, and that he's fine. He's no Jonathan, but.... (Honey, with abs like that, you don't have to be Jonathan... Sorry. I'm back. Really.) He is frustrated that the Initiative is still refusing to release information on Adam, not trusting Riley to do it. "I've felt that way my entire life," Buffy says softly, but when Riley moves to comfort her, she moves away. Even an attempt to give pointers in the fine art of door basketball gets awkward and Buffy retreats.

So she can pour her heart out to Jonathan, clad in suit and tie and obviously as good at relationship counseling as he is at everything else. In between signing autographs, he tells Buffy that she has to stop blaming Riley when she knows the Faith thing wasn't his fault; she has to forgive him. Buffy reluctantly agrees, but is worried it's too late. "You guys are very special together. That's worth a little hard work," Jonathan tells her, smiling benevolently as he stands in front of a billboard of, well, him. "If you really want it, you can make anything happen."

Foreshadowing, anyone?

The soldiers of the Initiative are ready to go after Adam, with the help of their special consultant -- Jonathan, suit exchanged for BDUs. He's the man with the plan, and the answers, even if everyone else is twice as big as he is. Turns out that Walsh's original design schematics show that Adam's power source isn't biological; it's uranium fueled and will last forever. No eating, no sleeping, and he has to be annihilated completely -- no staking or beheading for this dude. Oh, and did we mention that something large, hairy and mean, with a weird symbol on its forehead, is lurking around outside Jonathan's mansion attacking people?

And it's Riley's turn to go to Jonathan for advice and general heart-to-heart talking; the J-Man is, as usual completely insightful and utterly correct in all advice. This could get disgusting. That night at the Bronze, the place is rocking to Big Band swing, Xander is accusing Anya of saying Jonathan's name while they were making love, and Buffy and Riley are being... awkward together. Jonathan takes the mic to wild applause and dedicates a sweet love song (which he performs) to Buffy and Riley, who move out on the floor and commence snuggling. By the time the song ends, all is forgiven and all is mended. It's all very sweet -- until Jonathan pulls out the trumpet for something from his new album. But he stops instantly when one of his fans from the afternoon comes into the club, weeping and terrified -- yes, this would be the chick the monster attacked.

the cops are deferential and appreciative of Jonathan, as he soothes the girl and gets her to tell him all about the ugly; she even draws a picture of the weird symbols -- which weirds Jonathan out in an instant. He recovers quickly, then tells Buffy and Riley he'll handle it. No problems. But Buffy is... less than convinced. And across town, Adam is less than impressed with the whole Jonathan thing; it seems he's Mr. Aware -- since none of Jonathan's exploits are real and the world has been changed, he's not affected by the spell. (Spell? Well, that explains a lot.) Adam says the spells will lead to chaos, so he's not sweating it. Meanwhile, Jonathan broods in his mansion, oblivious even to the blonde twins inviting him to bed. He turns to the camera -- and we see the symbol tattooed on his shoulder. The same one the monster wears.

As Tara heads into her dorm, she's suddenly attacked by something big and hairy. Screaming, she fights back, and manages to cats a pretty nice spell, throwing fog into the beastie's face, and gaining enough time to run for it, locking herself in a closet. After a long night, she shows up on Willow and Buffy's doorstep, injured and in shock, and tells Buffy what her attacker was. Buffy's shake in Jonathan's infallibility receives a body blow. Anya plays reluctant hostess as Buffy, following her hunch, begins to go through Xander's extreme fanboy Jonathan collection. The neurons in Buffy's brain begin to fire (although Anya is still stuck in neutral), and she starts grilling Anya about the mechanics of alternate realities, creation and maintenance thereof.

She lays her theories out to the rest of the Slayerettes, none of whom are buying the whole "Jonathan is too perfect to be real" theory. Actually, most of them are waiting for Jonathan to show up for the real meeting to begin. But Riley backs her up to the Nth, which persuades everyone else to at least listen. A Jonathan swimsuit calendar (owned by Giles < shudder >) reveals the symbol on his shoulder; he shows up in time to turn Buffy back into a bibbling idiot, and lies his ass off that he's got a history with the monster than messes with his mind, and the mark is just there to remind him not to underestimate it. Everyone else seems to accept the theory, and Buffy and Jonathan head out to go monster hunting. One brief confrontation with Spike later, Buffy has regained enough of a spine to get in Spike's face and they've located the monster.

The research party back home, not as convinced by Jonathan as they looked, finds the mark in one of Giles' books -- it's an augmentation spell, designed to make everyone see Jonathan as the best of everything. Nasty kicker, though -- to balance the creation of a paramount good, an equal evil is created. Can we say Big Ugly Monster? kill the critter, Giles thinks, and Jonathan reverts. Information Buffy needs, to say the least, but she's already at the lair with Jonathan -- and in the middle of the fourth-act fight sequence.

While the Slayerettes wig over the concept of a World Without Jonathan (some more than others), the Jonathanized-Buffy squares off against Big and Ugly. She's got help at least; surprisingly, Jonathan is both willing and initially able to fight the critter (and give Buffy directions), but the more battered the critter gets, the more his strength and abilities drop. And as they do, Buffy's return. It's Jonathan's final, suicidal rush that drops the creature into a pit -- and Buffy's Slayer reflexes that pull Jonathan back to safety. And a blue light spreads across the town, erasing the billboards, posters and marquees with Jonathan's name, leaving the world less one uber-superhero.

Most of Sunnydale recovers quickly, memories fading quickly. The Slayerettes all remember, though -- and so does Jonathan. He and Buffy talk for a moment, and Jonathan painfully tells her how he got the spell from a kid in therapy, who glossed over the whole 'creation of a monster' part. Things are back to normal for him now -- no mansion, no twins, no one paying much attention to him at all. Things are complicated, Buffy tells him, and big gestures don't get it done; only time and work will get him the friends and the respect he so desperately wants. But at least Jonathan's dreamworld taught Buffy that same lesson, and gave her back her relationship with Riley -- he takes comfort in that as he walks away. Continuity:
Adam's going to be a tough sucker to kill -- he's got an independent power source and he has to be completely ripped apart to die. Everything else in the episode, continuity-wise, is highly suspect, to say the least.

Buffy and Riley are back together, aftermath from the Faith thing pretty much after.

Well, there wasn't really much character development happening, since the focus of the episode was on -- Mary Sue! That's right, everyone's favorite Ensign/computer hacker/Immortal/vampire/insert cool person here showed up this week in the role of Jonathan. For those of you not familiar with the concept, a Mary Sue is the writer's perfect character -- everyone loves him/her, s/he is perfect at everything s/he does, s/he is the center of the universe, with all other characters subordinate to the coolness that is Mary Sue -- or, in this case, Jonathan (as Chris first pointed out and I'm just expanding on). Jane does a great job with the mock, setting Jonathan up as the ultimate Mary Sue -- and pointing out the fatal flaw of that type of character (besides the fact that they're damned annoying). Because, to make Jonathan the best, everyone else had to be made smaller, given flaws and weakness or simply made less than what they were. The Watcher is less capable, the Slayer is weaker and less intelligent, the Initiative needs all the help they can get (oh, wait, no, that's the same :P).

Seriously, Jonathan never quite gets that concept, never quite figures out what he did to everyone else. But he did figure out it was wrong, and that the price was too high -- and he was willing to give up not only his newfound perfection, but even his life to stop what he inadvertently let loose. And, to his credit, he didn't just use his perfection to hang out in the hot tub with the twins and play for the NBA. He made himself part of something important and useful, and went around trying to save lives -- and fix them. His feelings of friendship for the Slayerettes -- Buffy and Riley in particular -- may have been the only real thing about his world, but they were undeniably sincere. When it comes down to it, he was mostly only guilty of having a far-too-vivid fantasy life, and not reading the fine print. Which doesn't make him any less a dweeb, but does make him a sympathetic one. Danny strong does a great job of playing Jonathan both supremely over the top, and as the hopeless secondary character we know and love

Everyone else is second fiddle to Jonathan, but there are some interesting insights as a result. Xander becomes the ultimate fanboy, throwing himself into the wonder of Jonathan heart and soul. He's terrified at the thought of losing his safe world of Jonathan worship -- which isn't all that far off from the Xander we know, who would kill or die to save Buffy, whose life has been entirely built around being a Slayerette for more than three years. In fact, imagine the Xander of our reality faced with losing Buffy -- changing realities to one that doesn't include her and never did -- and suddenly his reactions don't seem quite so overly. (Quite. What is it with the 'let's make Xander dumb for comic relief' thing lately? Did someone start thinking he's Wesley?)

Aside from Buffy, the girls stay essentially themselves -- Willow is Research Girl, Tara is Willow's girl (what was up with that spell, though?) and Anya is obnoxious -- except for their inexplicable attraction to Jonathan. Riley is also mostly the same; he pours his heart out to Jonathan, but everything he says and does is nothing different than we expect to hear. And wasn't it fun watching him get his first magic lesson? < g > And Spike, of course, is Spike -- utterly unimpressed by it all on the surface, but with a healthy dose of self-preservation beneath it. And can all of the Buffy/Spike shippers who started screaming during the stroking in that second scene please calm down now? ;)

Giles and Buffy probably suffered the most at Jonathan's hands, physical injuries aside. Giles lost all initiative, needing approval for his work as a Watcher more than he has since her first joined Buffy, and was desperate for the approval of the Council; more than a little scary to see that return, no? And Buffy, of course, was Slayer Lite, all of her skills and strength -- and, most importantly, her confidence -- subsumed beneath Jonathan's. Nothing lingers, thank the gods, and she bounces back but still... it's a sign of her strength (and the Slayer's gifts) that she was able to work through Jonathan's spell as well as she did, and still save the day.

Please can I help kill Mr. Self-Aware? Huh? Dangerous is one thing, but he's just... smug!

Best Moments:
The opening credits. Pardon me while I die laughing.

Tara and Willow's Jonathan collage. < snerk >

Riley. No shirt. Jeans. Do I really need to say more? < g > All drooling aside, the scene in Riley's room was nicely performed, and the Jonathan poster on his door was a cool, subtle touch.

Jonathan briefing the Initiative. That initial entrance, short Jonathan in his cammos surrounded by the big dudes, all of whom are hanging on his every words, was far too amusing.

Riley and Buffy at the Bronze. Surreality of Jonathan aside, it was a nice, tender reunion.

Tara fighting off the monster. The spell was cool (if lots better performed than I really expect from "Willow's lots more powerful than I am" Tara).

Anya attempting to be a hostess. < snicker >

Any and all Spike scenes. Gotta love him.

Riley standing up for Buffy at the meeting. So sweet; in fact, I think I need insulin. But in a good way, honest!

Questions and Comments:
I admit it, I had to watch the first half of this episode with the mute button on the first time through -- and for lots of the second, which made synopsizing interesting. I have a limited capacity for Mary Sues (and I've perpetrated more than few of my own, although never on this scale), and an even more limited one for BadFic. That doesn't make this episode any less brilliant, with all of its beautiful little touches and rewriting of continuity. It just means I can't appreciate it on the same emotional level as I can on an intellectual level. Really, really well down, painful to watch.

Tara's wardrobe continues to amaze and frighten me. Does the girl own anything that isn't two sizes too large?

So, did this only affect Sunnydale, or was it a a world-wide thing? Because I have the sudden terrible image of Angel's copy of that swimsuit calendar hanging in the office, and Cordelia wearing a Jonathan original design to a party, and Wesley trading Jonathan cards with Xander. Blows the mind....

Great job by the makeup and costume department throughout. Danny Strong did a good job as his alter ego, but got a lot of support behind the scenes to pull it off.

Rating: 4 stars out of five. Like I said, a really brilliantly written and produced episode that just can't be watched all the way through without excessive use of the mute button or lots of squirming.


"Okay, for those who are going to be watching Buffy tomorrow. Just a warning - very, very sweet. May need to take insulin after it's over." -- Lynn

"I miss the angst. I do. I was all for a happier, more upbeat Buffy at the beginning of the season. But right now -- I'm ready to strangle her. I'm not saying I want her whining about Angel or bemoaning her life as a Slayer -- been there done that, seem to be over it. But this show used to have a depth of emotion that I'm just missing a lot lately. I'm hoping the events of the end of the season (which I'm spoiler free on. . . .) serve to inject some energy into these peoples. Light and happy and funny is getting old fast with me." -- Mary Beth

"Okay, Jonathan as Mary Sue. It doesn't get scarier than this. < g > I was muting a *lot* --- the Jonathan-worship made me gag and roll my eyes at some points early in the show, but it was either tolerable or breaking down by the end, so I could watch without making it very very quiet. My head was hurting, and I was going "whaaa...?" at the beginning, and then they managed to give me whiplash, because life would go almost back to normal-- and then we'd see that Tara and Willow were making a little Jonathan Shrine, or that Riley had a *poster* of him on the back of his door. Little throwaway stuff, stuff that was almost forgettable, but then they yanked the rug out from under you again. In the Bronze, I thought it was just *one* song that was mambo, or a kind of big band style for Retro Night, then I realized that Jonathan had changed what *everyone* liked, because swing was his favorite. Giving advice to Buffy on her love life--- that was the point at which I was yelling, "Johnny Sue! He's Johnny Sue!" because that's gotta be one of the all-time classic indicators." -- Chris

"Also, Joss managed to skate out of a lot of angst by putting Riley and Buffy's problems in the middle of all this silliness. Nice avoidance." -- Chris

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