Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Christopher Hibler

Perri's Review| Christina's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Cheeck Fight here! And how much fun is Xander having, hmmm?

Pillow talk, Xander and Anya style. Seems Riley's departure has left holes in more than Buffy's life; Xander misses him, too. "Sometimes I sort of forget that he's gone. It's like, 'Where's Riley? Oh, wait, the central republic of Where In the Hell.'" Anya's a little more practical, but she has her own anxiety -- she asks Xander to make sure to give her lots of warning before he ever leaves her. He agrees, and snuggling occurs, along with discussion of the romantic roadkill Buffy seems to leave in her wake (Xander is worried, Anya merely bemused). They're not the only ones; Buffy speedily dispatches a nasty vampire at a nearby comments, then stops for conversation with one of the nuns. "So, um, about being a nun. You know, um, with the whole abjuring the company of men, you know? How's that working for you? The abjuring."

Yes, Buffy is having Issues. Big, sloppy ones, and who can blame her? She chooses her usual method of dealing -- beating up on Giles -- and there's more worries on the horizon. Giles is heading to England to consult the Watcher Council about Glory, since all other resources have come up empty. Buffy is mostly worried that the news about Dawn will slip out, since Giles is going to have to tell them about The Key. Riley's name comes up by accident and awkward bonding occurs; Buffy emerges from the gloom and doom long enough to tease Giles and assure him that she'll be all right while he's gone.

Anya is pretty psyched about his upcoming absence, too, since she assumes she'll be left in charge of the store. Giles is pretty leery, of her abilities, though, and the other Slayerettes immediately join in to promise they'll deal with things. Anya's more than a little righteously offended at their lack of faith in her ability, and Willow doesn't help by assuring Giles that she'll be around to help run things. Xander immediately finds himself in the middle of Yet Another Anya/Willow fight, both girls expecting him to be on their side. Witness an extremely unhappy Xander....

Back at Casa Summers, Joyce is finally out of the bathrobe and into street clothes, on the road to recovery to her daughters' delight. Buffy and Dawn retreat after some teasing, and Dawn trails after her sister to her room. It's another case of Riley missage, and Buffy finds herself back in divorce mode, trying to explain the break-up without vilifying Riley, and without making Dawn feel totally abandoned. She's only partly successful, since she's hurting badly. "It hurts. In all kinds of horrible ways. In the way when I'm furious at him, and the way where I blame myself and all the little ways I imagine how I could have fixed things."

"It'll get better. Won't it?"

"I hope so."

As the sisters bond over guy missage, Spike stands in his mausoleum and addresses his Buffy mannequin, complete with box of chocolates. He's trying to do something that comes very unnaturally -- frame a sincere and quite cute apology for telling her about Riley and explain why he did it (i.e., the whole 'feelings' riff) and why she shouldn't be pissed off at him. Predictably, he ends up in a rage, throws the chocolates, and smashes the mannequin. And picks it up, dusts it off, composes himself back into 'sincere' mode, and starts again.

The first days of Giles-less coexistence at the shop get off to a rocky start. Willow and Tara are hanging around working out a spell, hopefully to create an artificial ball of sunlight, but Anya objects to them a) working in the shop and b) swiping ingredients from inventory. Willow asserts her right to use Giles' stuff, and offers to teach Anya some spells, then starts floating things over Anya's loud objections. And into this lovely scene, Xander walks, oblivious. Of course, the girls instantly pull him into the middle of the fight as referee, which role he resists (by hiding behind Tara). But when Willow makes the cash register disappear, she hits Anya where she lives. Anya complains, Willow mocks and The Fight Begins. "You know what, I'm tired of being the one in the middle. I'm not going to let you pull me into this. Whatever the issues is between you two, figure it out without me." Xander slams out and Tara wisely flees in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, this leaves Anya and Willow with no adult supervision as Willow begins to work on her spell again, with Anya popping off prices for each ingredient Willow uses. And continues her commentary as Willow tries to cast the spell, distracting her at a crucial moment. The spell floats off course as the girls go back to fighting and hits a crystal on the counter. There's a bright blue flash of light -- and a big, ugly toll suddenly appears in the middle of the store. Screaming and smashing ensues; the girls watch helplessly while the troll trashes the shop, then heads out into the streets.

Back on campus, Buffy and Tara wander out of class together, enjoying the beginning of a new semester. Their conversation invariably finds its way to Riley, with Buffy still being determinedly cheerful and Tara offering tentative support. But as they head to find Willow, Tara casually mentions the fight she witnessed earlier, and that Xander was mad at Anya about it. Buffy comes unglued. "Anya and Xander are in trouble?" Tara tries to reassure her, but Buffy is beyond reason. "See, the thing is, little things get bigger. You know? And, and if you don't catch the little thing, and then boom! You have this whole huge thing! Not them, with the little things. They can't break up! They have a beautiful love." Tara finds herself with an armful of sobbing, sniffling Slayer.

She'd probably be even more afraid if she saw Willow and Anya tooling down the road in Giles' convertible. Anya is driving (sort of, since she doesn't know how) while Willow researches reversal spells and the bickering, of course, continues. And to complete the frightening pairings, Xander mopes around the Bronze and bumps into Spike. Spike gloms onto him to be annoying, and regales him with the wonders of chicken wings and onion flowers before oh-so-casually steering the conversation back to Buffy. He wants to know if she's holding a grudge, and Xander is clueless as to why. Buffy and Tara make it to the magic shop and find the wreckage, then head out on the hunt, while the troll breaks his way through the streets, bellowing things like, "You do well to flee, townspeople. I will pillage your lands and dwellings. I will burn your crops and make merry sport with your more attractive daughters." Then, he gets a whiff of beer and those chicken wings....

Spike and Xander have been trapped together in the fraternity of testosterone long enough to bond over pool and the mysteries of women. Xander's having real issues about backing up Willow as his best friend, and Anya as his girlfriend, but Spike isn't actually listening, since he's still hung up on Buffy being pissed at him. But all bonding ceases when the troll stalks in and starts breaking things. "Barmaid, bring me stronger ale, and some plump, succulent babies to eat." Spike is massively indifferent to anything other than his own well-being, but Xander starts talking, successfully distracting the troll until first Willow and Anya, then Buffy and Tara arrive. The Dueling Duo attempt explanations, then give it up in favor of attempting a banishing spell. Which is when the troll notices them. "You seem determined to put an end to all my fun. Just like you always did when we were dating, Anyanka." The Slayerettes turn as one towards Anya, who shrinks back. Meet Olaf, Anya's first boyfriend, the one who betrayed her. She turned him into a troll in revenge, thus earning her her gig as a vengeance demon. Witches later trapped him into the crystal for centuries; he's understandably not happy with the breed.

Willow's spell fails and the fight begins, Buffy jumping the troll and Spike leaping in to defend her (with a resounding lack of success, but at least he tried). In the scuffle, that rickety balcony we've eyed with suspicion since season one finally collapses, sending people to the floor. The troll escapes in the chaos, leaving the Slayerettes to clean up the mess of property damage and injuries. Spike actually makes himself useful, helping one of the victims; but when he looks for approval from Buffy, she's appalled that he wants credit for not taking any free samples.

Willow and Anya are having much the same relationship; as they look for solutions at the magic shop, the fighting continues, building up to a big finale. "I am human,' Anya finally objects, when one of Willow's jabs hits too close to home. "And there are lots of humans weirder than me."

"Yes, but unless I'm misjudging Crazy Larry at the bus station, he's not going to turn Xander into a troll," Willow shoots back. Anya finally gets it. "You think I'm going to hurt Xander? I would never hurt Xander!" Willow's not buying it; ex-vengeance demon = bad girlfriend for Xander as far as she's concerned. "Xander's my best friend!"

"Oh, and you don't want anyone else to have him. I know what broke up him and Cordelia, you know. It was you and your lips." Willow tries, but can't refute that accusation, as Anya continues, "You're always doing everything you can to point out how much I'm an outsider. You've known him since you were squalling infants together, you'll always know him better than I do. You can sweep in and poison his mind against me!"

"You're insane. I'm not going to take him away and I'm not going to hurt him!"

"Well, I'm not either!"

It's a pivotal moment in their relationship -- so, of course, that's when Olaf crashes through the doors. The girls try to take him on, but get thrown across the room for their trouble. But before any more damage can be done, Xander bursts in, flinging himself at the troll in rage. Xander puts up a good fight, but he's hopelessly outmatched; lots of bruises later, Olaf offers him a choice. "Only one of your women shall die, and you shall be the one to choose." The three humans stare in collective shock, and Xander categorically refuses to make the choice -- even when Olaf breaks his wrist. "Then you shall be the one who dies," Olaf declares, raising his knife. And Anya runs forward with a scream. "No! Choose me! Just don't take him. Don't take Xander!" Willow seizes the distraction to try another spell, the cash register disappears and Buffy reappears, assaulting Olaf immediately. She's coming off on the losing end, though, so Willow sends Anya out to distract Olaf ("Anya, I have faith in you. There is no one you cannot piss off.") and goes for the spells. With the usual lack of success; she manages to get rid of Olaf's hammer, which carries his magical power... but doesn't do anything against his troll strength, unfortunately. "What are you fighting for, minuscule blonde one?" Olaf asks as he throws Buffy across the room again. "Your friends? These two? Their love will never last."

And Buffy the Cupidic Crusader's buttons are pushed to the max. She lunges off the floor and the fight continues in the background, as Anya and Willow race over to Xander, assuring him that they love him, and have figured out their respective relationships with him. And Buffy pounds Olaf into the ground, declaring, "Their love. Will last. Forever!"

Willow and Tara send Olaf off to an alternate universe (they hope Troll Land), leaving the Slayerettes to deal with the remains of Giles' shop, and the remnants of Buffy's post-breakup sanity. Giles actually takes the ruination of his shop with equanimity, possibly because he's depressed that he came up entry with the Watcher Council. They're promising to research, though, so there's hope. And they're working on the Key, he tells Buffy and Joyce. "They don't know it's Dawn?" Buffy demands, worried what would happen if the Council found out, and Joyce has another moment of weirded-out about the whole Dawn thing. As Dawn herself stands on the staircase -- out of sight, but not out of earshot.

Giles has asked the Watcher Council for help researching Glory and the Key.

Willow and Anya appear to have reached detante regarding their respective relationships with Xander, which is going to make his life a good bit easier.

Buffy is wigged about Riley leaving, but coping reasonably well. In-between crying jags.

Well, I think we're all glad Willow and Any got that off their respective chests! It's been brewing for a long time; Willow's had that "what-the-hell-do-you-see-in-her? look" pretty much since that first date at the Prom. But it's nice to know that her antipathy towards Anya isn't based (solely) on jealousy. < g > And she does have a point -- someone who spent a thousand years whaling on men as a species is not the chick you want your best friend dating. But she was also taking major advantage of her position as Xander's friend and a long-standing Scooby-Ganger to run roughshod over Anya.

Whereas Anya also has a point -- Willow and Xander's relationship is a threatening one; witness Cordelia. And Anya is a hell of a lot ore insecure about her place in the Scooby Gang than Willow is, since until she started working for Giles, her position was entirely dependent on being Xander's girlfriend. She's learned some confidence in the relationship, which is a good and happy thing, and should allow her and Willow to coexist reasonably well now that the air has been cleared. Bu she really doesn't have all that much confidence in herself outside of sex with Xander (which is probably why she's so preoccupied with it). And Giles and company unintentially hit her right in that lack of confidence by not leaving her in charge of the shop, by assuming she couldn't do it alone. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong, but they didn't bother to give her the benefit of the doubt. A benefit she deserves to have by now, by the way. She's come a long way, from the chick who headed for the hills at Graduation, to the woman who offered her life to save Xander's. At least Joss, and the Slayerettes, are finally acknowledging that.

But not before poor Xander got caught right in the middle of the Cheeck Fight from Hell. I'm desperately proud of him for staying the hell out of it as much as possible; there was no way to win, and no way to not wind up with one or both of them hurt and pissed off. He gains in wisdom. < g > And was he heroic or what, refusing to make that choice?!? Although I could have lived without hearing the broken wrist. < shudder > But it's really good to know that Xander has his priorities in place -- Willow has her little 'best friend' compartment, Anya has her 'girlfriend' compartment and there's no confusion between the two in his mind or his heart. Here's someone else who's grown up a lot. I really feel sorry for him, though; as much as he loves his girls, Riley was his only guy friend and they had just started to bond. Things are going to be pretty lonely for him for a while, poor guy.

And poor Tara, actually, who's also getting stuck in the middle. Amber had a great episode, actually; Xander trying to hide behind her was hilarious, I love that she sucked it up enough to tell Willow and Anya they were wrong to bring him in, and the expression on her face when Buffy collapsed in tears was hilarious! But as funny as that was, I liked even more when they came out of class together, laughing and just being friends. It's so neat to see a Scooby Significant Other actually bonding with someone outside of the relationship, and it gives me hope that she'll stick around for a while.

Buffy is officially psycho. < g > Actually, I'm very happy with the way the post-breakup trauma was handled. It was dealt with with all seriousness initially, as it deserved (and the way it was tied into Dawn's divorce issues was gorgeous). But instead of having an episode of sturm und drang, Buffy became Mood Swing Girl and focused on fixing everyone else's lives! Lots of laughs, the aforementioned priceless bonding with Tara, and a welcome change from her usual reaction to breakups.

But the girl has got to stop blowing Spike off like she does. She keeps expecting him to be human, to operate by human standards and being disappointed when he doesn't. Hello, vampire! Not human, not Angel, but he's trying. With a remarkable lack of success at times, true, but.... < sigh > I'm being way too optimistic but I still keep hoping that, if he does The Right Thing to make Buffy happy, maybe he'll get into the habit of doing The Right Thing and not have to think about it so hard (or so blatently demand approval for it). i know, I know, he's not nearly as much fun when he's being good as when he's being bad (< fan > ), but the happy ending part of my brain lives in hope. But the realistic part of my brain says there's just no way this is going to end well, or even neatly. This is going to be a Major Messy, when Spike finally gets tired of being treated like dirt whenever he tries to be good, and decides to go back to evil all the way. That shotgun might still be loaded...

Poor Dawn. When will these people learn not to have crucial conversations about major secrets when sitting around in an open room?!? So we've got wierdness on top of Riley leaving, which is just not good for a kid who's already got abandonment issues (thank you, Hank Summers! :P). This is another one that just is not going to end well....

Best Moments:
Xander and Anya in bed. Anya's riff on movie bombs was hilarious, and Xander's Riley missage was just sweet, and a little sniffle-worthy.

< giggling > Buffy in the convent. The usual joke, but actually shown and expanded on in an utterly Buffy-way.

Dawn and Buffy teasing Joyce. I'm glad to see that relationship isn't being neglected even though Joyce is getting better.

Dawn and Buffy bonding over Riley leaving. Wonderful writing, beutifully performed by both actresses.

The entire The Cat in the Hat conversation was far too cute for words!

Spike and Xander bonding in the Bronze. < snickering > Whole lotta bonding going on this ep, but these two define Odd Couple!

Any time Olaf was on-screen. Abraham Benrubi is rapidly becoming one of my favorites (his Dark Angel appearance was classic!) and his delivery on Olaf's silly, trolly, ridiculous dialogue was utterly perfect!

The final fight in the magis shop. I can't possibly seperate out any of this, since it was all scream-worthy, from Willow and Any finally hashing it all out, to Olaf's attack and Xander's heroics, to Buffy's entrance and the entire, hilarious comedy of errors until Olaf was taken out. Just a wonderful fourth act!

Rating: 4 out of 5. A well-done, character-driven episode without much plot to it, but dealing with old business and setting up Things To Come in a funny, solid way.

Kiki's Review

Onto Triangle... and again, I'm struck by the fact that I must share Anya-the-ex-demon's sense of low humor. Or something. Evidently lots of people on the posting boards and some of the other lists didn't like this one much, but I enjoyed it a lot. Mostly because it was a break from the angst, and a dive into silliness. I'm shallow that way.

First off : Troll! I liked the troll! I didn't recognize Abraham Benrubi (late of ER) right off, but I'll put that down to the red hair and green face. Anyone could miss him in that coloring. The last time I saw him on TV, he was playing a cross-dressing opera-singing stolen merchandise fence on "Dark Angel". And doing "Die Fliedermaus" really well, too. Talented guy. I thought he had a lot of fun with the beer-swilling, scenery-destroying loudness here. I kept wincing for Giles, knowing what his reaction would be when he got back, but still... I was amused. It's childish. But I like breaking things, or things being broken, and watching that loft at the Bronze *finally* collapse like I've half-thought it should since the pilot was just... fun. (Okay, bad about people being hurt. Sure. Bad. But fun! Hehehehehe.)

Second, Buffy's mood swings. Feel the breeze in your hair, whee!

[And I laughed hysterically at whoever said they're *really* afraid of ever seeing her pregnant now. ]

I knew she was repressing, or processing, or just trying to deal with the break-up or whatever the hell that was in the first half. Yawn. Feel the angst for something I can't even miss. But I loved how all that emotion came out in the totally inappropriate sappiness in the second half. I've had friends get that silly over soap operas when they're avoiding finals or thinking about their boyfriends. Mostly it was in college, but still....

She's resigned to her love life sucking, so everyone else's must be perfect. And she's going to be this obsessive about her friends now for a few episodes, I'll bet. I hope they don't drop it real fast. It'll be a good way to keep her single for a while, if she's being overly about her friends lives, or her family. Without going into a convent. (And again, more proof that I'm easily amused... who wants to write the rest of that conversation with the nun?)

The scene with Giles was sweet. Terribly awkward in bits; he still doesn't cope with emotional weirdness very well. But she's trusting him again, both in dealing with the Council, and with how's she's feeling. Nice to see, after too long apart. It strikes me that Riley never occupied the place in her life that Giles or any of her friends ever did.

I liked that Xander and Dawn missed Riley too. Xander not quite as much; just in a 'guy friend gone' kind of way. But still, they acknowledged it. Dawn, on the other hand, was having Divorce Issues. Buffy was probably saying the exact same things that the two of them remember her telling Dawn when Joyce and Hank broke up. I didn't see it coming, and I was actually kind of touched by it --- Riley *was* spending more time with Dawn than her dad probably has in months, if not years. She hasn't started dating yet herself, so she's got to wonder if the Summers women are cursed, if she even wants to go into this guy-girl thing, or if it always ends as badly as it has so far. I liked how Buffy handled it, too; unloading the real issues of the break-up on her baby sister would've been a big mistake.

Anya and Willow. Somebody, somewhere, was saying that it was like watching a bad buddy movie... and I happen to like those kind of movies. Sue me. They remembered all the issues these two legitimately have with each other, and finally got them out in the open; they've snarked at each other off-and-on before, but never really openly. I'm glad it finally blew up. Xander wasn't enjoying it, but hey, it probably reminded him of his family, and getting put in the middle, so no surprise there. He and Tara very wisely bailed, and left the two combatants to duke it out.

With Anya's and Willow's history together, they're like the kindergartners who can't *stand* one another, but get along well enough to break everything in sight while they're behaving badly. They reminded me of some of the kids in my car pool twenty-five years ago. And they are no longer allowed to play together.

I had a flashback to "Restless" while Anya was driving --- I really must watch that again, and figure out which predictions have come true again--- and again, was hideously relieved that at least Giles' car survived. < g > Hey, he should be *grateful* Willow conjured Olaf while he was in England --- given the track record of that Magic Shop's owners, he could've been dead if he'd been in the room when the troll manifested! Yeah! (Somehow, I don't see Giles buying this as a defense, but maybe Willow and Anya will try to sell him on it anyway....)

Spike, despite his attempts at goopiness, still has an edge, if you ask me. That frustrated trashing of his Barbie-Buffy-mannequin reminds me that he *did* have a shotgun trained on her a few episodes ago. When his feelings for her eventually become public, and she truly, finally rejects him... this is not going to be pretty. I don't care if he has a chip or not, he'll work around it. I mean, I know he knows that she doesn't feel the same way, and he knows that it's pretty much hopeless. But I don't see this ending well.

The thing is, he keeps *trying* so hard, and he's working from such a handicap. He's a demon, a natural predator. He should get some credit for not munching on the victims, even if that's the only reason he did it. Not a lot of credit, but some. But this is never gonna work. He's a wolf in love with a sheepdog, for gods' sake. And the sheepdog doesn't think of him as a wolf, or a vampire, or a demon; Buffy thinks of him as a psychopath, as a temporarily-restrained evil person. And he is a psychopath, and evil, but--- it's not like this is a lifestyle choice. It's not like he's Angel. Which may be the whole problem, right there.

I don't know, maybe I'm analyzing this too much.... (ya think?)

Anyway. The last scene was dumb, dumb, dumb for the characters, to discuss the Key in the same house with Dawn... but I can't think of another way they could've set it up for her to overhear stuff, and to know that Giles, Buffy and Joyce all know something about her that she doesn't. It was awkward but necessary. So we'll ignore the unlikelihood and just accept that Dawn is now going to be listening at keyholes and lurking more than usual. And accept that the Watcher's Council will undoubtedly screw this up at the crucial moment, because that's what they do. They're British. They're not Giles. They're Eeeevil.


"Just so much fun and pain and whee! I love Willow/Anya interaction. I even like Buffy/Tara interaction. What scares me more than anything is Buffy spontaneous tear action. Yikes! That was disturbing." -- Mary Beth

Also. . . . . the Spike thing is officially old. Although the look on his face when Buffy had fallen on top of him . . . hee! But this needs to go somewhere NOW. Enough with the secret pining. Get on with it. Although, I freaked myself and the roomie out when he said "What's it gonna take?!" and I answered "Not being a blood-sucking vampire, for one." And then we actually thought about that and Joss is just evil enough to try that. Or to have Spike try that. Meep!"
"I _loved_ the copping a feel look he had on his face. The spontaneous bashing of the manaquin at the start of the episode... Something of a wake-up call to the fact that Spike love isn't all cheekbones and chocolates." -- Mary Beth and Kimberely

"Okay. . . . don't trust the Watcher's Council one bit. Kinda wigging out at the thought of them getting their grubby paws back into things. . . . not that it's entirely unexpected. I don't trust them not to use this situation to try to gain the upperhand with the Slayer. Hell, I don't trust them not to go to Glory and try to make a deal with her to kill Buffy so they can get another one already." -- Mary Beth

"See, this is what I liked. It was such a flakey fun episode. Dealt with the whole Willow/Anya-thing, kinda sorta. Ultimately, though, there for fun. Even the Buffy breaking down was along the fun lines. Which leads me to think that they partially did that so there wouldn't be the multi-ep arc of Buffy moping. (However, the idea of Buffy ever being pregnant now scares me silly.)" -- Kimberley

I still don't think that the Willow/Anya thing is going to be totally resolved. There was the big step in Willow's eyes when Anya offered herself up, but they are still going to get on each other's nerves. Especially if Giles holds the destruction of the store over them and they still try to partion the blame." -- Kimberley

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