Kisses, WAFFs, declarations of love - in short, relationshippers heaven, which makes what we know is coming in 'Innocence' even worse.
Buffy, waking in the middle of the night, walks through the hosue -- trailed by Drusilla. She opens a door and finds herself in the Bronze, confronted first by Willow and a monkey, then her mother asking her if she really thinks she's ready and dropping a plate. She spots Angela cross the room and starts to go to him, but before she can, Dru appears and stakes him; he turns to dust as Buffy screams his name. Drusilla tells her "Happy Birthday" -- and she wakes.
Angel gets an early morning visit from Buffy, still wigged by her nightmare. He reassures her, first with words, then by kissing her. Both are reluctant to part; Angel aks her what she wants for her birthday, and she tells him to surprise her. Then she confesses it's getting harder to leave him every night, and he admits the same. After Buffy finally makes it to school, she spills all to Willow, trying to decide what to do with her relationship with Angel; Willow tells her to seize the day. Buffy takes her turn at the advisor thing, talking Willow into going over to talk to Oz, who asks her out. She invites him to be her date to Buffy's surprise party -- with significantly more success than Xander, who asks Cordelia and is soundly rejected. Buffy tells Giles about her nightmare and he promises to check into it, but warns her not to freak out.
Below ground, Dalton arrives with a box -- a present for a very healthy (but still insane) Drusilla and a wheelchair-bound Spike, who are planning a party. She opens one 'present' and says it reeks of death.
On the morning of her birthday, Buffy is discussing getting a drivers license with her mother -- who asks her if she thinks she's ready, then drops a plate. Completely wigged by part of her dream coming true, she rushes to Giles to tell him. Meanwhile, Jenny Calendar gets a visitor -- a man she calls "Uncle", who lectures her about her responsibilites to her people, and says the elder woman has seen something different. Jenny informs him that nothing has changed, that Angel's curse still stands and he is still suffering. She also tells him about Buffy, and that Angel has been trying to make amends, but Uncle Creepy won't listen, and charges her to keep Buffy and Angel apart. He is a Gypsy, of the clan that cursed Angel -- as is Jenny, truly Janna Kalderesh.
Giles again calms Buffy, like Angel, convincing her that not all of her dreams come true. The Slayerettes are ready to cancel the birthday party, but Giles refuses to allow them to; Buffy will have her birthday party. On time, Buffy shows up at the library that night and is met by Jenny, who takes her to the Bronze. As usual, trouble intervenes, and she finds Dalton stealing a box like the on he brought Drusilla. Two vampire thugs jump her; she stakes one; the other sends her flying through a window into the Bronze, where the Slayerettes (complete with Oz) are waiting to surprise her. The surprise is Oz's, as he sees her stake the vampire and realizes that they are real.
While Buffy is pleased by her party, the fun ends when Jenny brings in the box Dalton dropped. In it is an arm -- which promptly attacks Buffy. Angel peels it off, and realizes what it must be -- part of an immortal demon called the Judge, created to destroy everything good. It was stopped by being chopped into pieces, and they conclude Drusilla is trying to reassemble him. They conclude they need to get the arm out of town; on Jenny's suggestion, Angel volunteers, despite the fact that the trip could take months.
Drusilla nearly kills Dalton in anger over the loss of her 'present'; Spike convinces her to leave him alive, to try to get it back.
Jenny drives Angel and Buffy to the docks. Angel promises Buffy he'll come back, and refuses to let her think they won't both be alive when he does return, then he gives her her present -- an Irish claddagh ring like the one he wears, a symbol of love and devotion. Their tearful farewell -- and a declaration by Angel -- is interrupted when Dalton and company attack. In the battle, Dalton steals the box and Buffy is thrown nearly unconscious off the dock; faced with protecting the box or saving Buffy, Angel goes into the water after her as Dalton escapes.
As Jenny takes Angel to get dry clothes, Buffy returns to the library with news of the loss of the box, and Giles tells her what he's learned of the Judge -- that only a creature of evil can stand his touch, which can burn the humanity out of anyone else; it took an army to stop him; and he can be killed by no weapon forged. The Slayerettes settle in for a night of research; Buffy falls asleep in Giles' office, to wake screaming from another nightmare about Angel's death at Drusilla's hands. Angel tries to comfort her, with no success.
At the same time, Drusilla is enjoying her party, which gets even better when she assembles the peices of her 'present'. In a flash of mystical light, the boxes join -- and out steps a seven-foot-tall, blue-skinned demon. The Judge kills Dalton, accusing him of being too close to humanity, and Drusilla bounces with glee.
Buffy and Angel head out to the location Buffy saw in her dream -- the abandoned factory where Spike and Dru have set up shop, charging the Slayerettes to check all shipping locations to watch for incoming boxes. As they arrive at the factory, they realize that the Judge has already been reassembled, but they are spotted and captured before they can retreat. The Judge prepares to kill Buffy, despite Angel's attempts to redirect him, but she fights back as Angel knocks down Spike's bank of TV screens onto the Judges head. Angel and Buffy escape into the sewers in the resulting chaos, emerging above ground into the pouring rain.
They stumble into Angel's apartment wet and cold. Angel gives Buffy dry clothes and she begins to change as Angel turns his back, but hisses in pain as she takes off her shirt. As the tension in the air rises, Angel checks a cut on her back; she leans back into his arms and the impact of Angel's near-departure and their mutual near-deaths hits. Angel confesses he loves her, and they begin to kiss, then fall back onto the bed.
Some time later, as lightning strikes, Angel wakes as if from a nightmare. He staggers out into the rain and falls to his knees, screaming Buffy's name....
The surge of hormones between Xander and Cordelia is finally beginning to level out, leaving Xander wanting more than broom closet groping, which isn't something Cordelia is ready handle.
Willow and Oz are finally going out on a date! Yay!
Buffy and Angel... Wow. He gives her the claddagh ring, finally admits he loves her, and they make love. I'd be an utterly happy camper if all of this just ended there...
Jenny Calendar is actually Janna of the Kalderesh clan - a Gypsy, and descended from those who cursed Angel with his soul, sent to Sunnydale to keep an eye on him. Giles, et al, are so not going to be happy about this.
Drusilla and Spike are alive; Drusilla's health (and fashion sense) have been restored, while Spike is wheelchair-bound, but still more or less calling the shots.
Buffy is officially 17. Oz knows about vampires and the Slayerettes.
Seizing the day is the big motif here -- Willow gets up the guts to talk to Oz, he gets the guts to ask her out; Xander works up the nerve to ask Cordy on a real date; Giles refuses to let anything interfere with Buffy's seventeenth birthday, since she'll never have another; and Buffy and Angel make an actual commitment. Quite cool. Jenny gets her first real background/character development here and it's a doozy. A Gypsy, sent to Sunnydale to watch Angel and make sure he's still suffering -- I wouldn't have seen her as obeying anyone's orders like she apparently does Uncle Creepy's, but I'll buy it if she obeys out of a sense of duty to her clan. Jenny has proven before that she's got a very strong sense of loyalty -- it'll be interesting to see whether her loyalty to her Clan is as strong as her loyalty to the Slayerettes in general and Giles specifically. Looks like the Clan is in first place for the moment; but I will give her a certain amount of credit -- while she tries to break Angel and Buffy apart, it's a relatively harmless way and she's right; Angel is the only one who can really do this job. Still, I hope that loyalty shifts; I don't want to have to hate her.
Angel... < sappy sigh >. He's come a long way since the Cryptic Guy we all know and want to smack. He's perfectly comfortable wandering around the library surrounded by Slayerettes, and they're perfectly comfortable giving him a hard time (loved the group look < snerk > ). He's finally given up fighting his feelings for Buffy; he loves her and he shows it constantly, even though he can't get the words out until the end of the episode. He's even willing to show it in front of the Slayerettes -- the gooby look on his face when Buffy was sleeping in Giles' office, and holding her when she came out of the nightmare, are both things he would never have done publically before these last few episodes. And giving her the claddagh was a major commitment from someone who's been running from any kind of involvement for as long as he has. He's always been willing to die for Buffy; finally, he's figuring out that he has to be willing to live for her, too.
Buffy, for her part, is starting to think about the future, a topic she has religiously avoided. The scene on the docks is the first time (outside of the trauma of 'Prophecy Girl') that she actually verbalizes the fact that neither she nor Angel have the world's greatest life expectancy, considering how often they have to fight for their lives. But again, she's seizing; she's taking what she can get -- which is, at the moment, her love for Angel, which she's not even bothering to try to hide anymore -- and not dwelling on the rest.
Giles comes through in a big way by refusing to cancel Buffy's birthday party; he's another one who's finally wising up to the facts of life. This is the first time we've seen him actively encourage the Slayerettes in general and Buffy in particular, to do teenager things -- all the things they've been missing out on to fight the Forces of Darkness. He's learning what Buffy has been trying to tell him all along -- that if they give up their lives in order to fight, the Hellmouth and the Bad Guys automatically win.
Oz rocks. And rocks and rocks and rocks. He continues to handle Willow perfectly; doesn't allow awkward silences, plays no games, is absolutely up front about intentions, emotions, etc. Even better -- he thinks it's cute when she goes non-verbal! And he reacts really well to finding out about vampires. Given hard evidence that goes against everything he's supposed to believe, he calmly checks to make sure he hasn't lost his mind, then accepts that it must be real. A major accomplishment for a Sunnydale resident. As near as I can tell, though, Oz has absolutely no capacity for self-delusion. Which is deeply cool.
Not too much for Xander and Willow in this one, except for the aforementioned sucking it up to talk to people/ask people out. You have to feel for Xander when Cordy totally rejects him -- although I don't think she meant to do quite so much damage. She's used to Xander just accepting her insults or hitting back when she stings his pride -- she's not used to being able to actually hurt him. As for Willow, I do note that she actually shushed Angel in the Bronze, and was acting normally around Oz -- a few months ago, she would have been incoherent around either, much less both. Very cute.
Uncle Creepy needs to get a life in the worst way. Has no one ever given him the concept of "Let it go"? Ugh. Vincent Schiavelli (one of my all-time favorite character actors; the man is brilliant) did a lovely job with what he was given, but someone must have shown him Merrick's scenes in Buffy the Movie. He couldn't have been more Merricky if they'd brought in Donald Sutherland.
Angel's reaction to Buffy showing up on his doorstep is wonderful. He gets this cute, "um, have you finally lost it?" expression, then proceeds to calm her down very effectively, and very sweetly. And we won't comment on drawstring pants and bare chest...
Buffy and Angel trying to break apart long enough to get her to school. Sooo cool... < thud > Okay, I'm back. For now.
Buffy and Willow's conversation about Angel. Willow's eyes just get all wide and she stops blinking.
Oz asking Willow out. Oh, my. He's so good with her; he jumps right in as soon as silences get awkward, he admits he's as nervous as she is, and the groupie thing was classic. So was his understanding 'It's okay, you have to bail' look when Willow got nonverbal after getting the word 'date' out. And, of course, her thrilled, unbelieving pride that she said date. This whole scene is too cute for words.
Xander teasing Giles about being long-winded. The boy is going to die. < g >
Willow shushing Angel while they wait for Buffy. < g > It was just cute.
The 'chorus line of disgust' looks at Cordelia when she popped up with the "Surprise!" LOL! Cordy's brain batteries need recharging again.
Oz's reaction to vampires. He dealt remarkably well, once he was sure he wasn't hallucinating. "Actually, it explains a lot." *snerk* *giggle*
YES! Angel gave Buffy a claddagh! I've been waiting for this ever since I noticed David/Angel wearing one all the time at the beginning of the season, and this was excellent! I do note that he left out the 'wedding band' part of the tradition, and couldn't quite get the word love out, but, ohhhh.... *sappy sigh*
Angel walking around the library in that black shirt. Okay, hormones on parade, but damn he looked good! And Giles in Research Mode yelling for Angel like he was a Slayerette or something, then Angel looking all gooby when they realize Buffy's asleep. < g >
Angel commenting on Buffy's tossing and turning, and the group 'And you know this how?' look the entire gang gives him. He's so cute when he's defensive.
Buffy waking up from the nightmare and Angel being right there to hold her. < sigh > < WAFF >. Very sweet.
The confrontation with the Judge and Spike and Dru. Yeah, yeah, Angel being noble is cool, but Spike stole the scene by being a wise-ass; then Angel had a thought! Cool; I wonder if it got lonely... (Sorry, sorry... < g > ).
The Scene. Need I say more? Angel getting all concerned about Buffy being cold and hurt, neither of them quite able to keep their distance, Angel finally admitting he loves Buffy... *really sappy sigh* Beautiful job by both David and Sarah - the little break in Angel's voice on the "I can't stop." was just heartbreaking. This scene was almost worth all the pain it's going to cause.
Questions and Comments:
Argh! Willow hat! This one wasn't actually too bad, but it hid her eyebrows! We need to see Aly's eyebrows, especially during scenes like the opening one with Buffy!
Do American censors just not know what 'wanker' means? *snerk*
I'm not sure whether it was the directing or editing that was off, but a couple of reaction shots got left out that I really missed. We needed a cut to Cordy's face when Xander left after she dissed his date request; I wanted a reaction of the Slayerettes, or just Giles, as Angel calms Buffy after her nightmare. On the other hand, we got the chorus line of disgust, and the group Looks at Angel. So I won't complain too much.
Cargo ship to China? Trek to Nepal? Oy.
Sunnydale has docks? Since when?
Cordelia was unnecessarily dumb for most of the episode, the party in particular. If we need comic relief, let's get intelligent comic relief, huh?
Angel just broke the land speed record for dressing. In the middle of losing his soul and being repossessed by a demon, he manages to get fully clothed, including coat, socks and shoes, before making it out into the rain to start screaming. One has to hope he didn't do everything that fast... However, it is now proven that vampires wear the same thing to bed that Immortals wear beneath their kilts -- black biker shorts. *g*
Rating: 4.5 out of 5. So much of the ep was set-up for 'Innocence', and the whole 'Angel leaving' scene was gratuitous. No less appreciated, mind you, but gratuitous. Still, a great episode, with much WAFFing and many happy things. Too bad 'Innocence' looms ahead; would have gotten a 5 out of 5 except for comparison between the two. < sad sigh >
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