This Year's Girl

Written by Douglas Petrie
Directed by Michael Gershman

Perri's Review | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Oh dear, the bitch is back, and raising hell. The first part of the two-parter sets its standards nicely high; they'd better live up to it next week.

Someone is dreaming, Buffy making a bed working in mostly-peaceful partnership with Faith. Buffy tells Faith she has to go and Faith is understanding... then blood drips onto the white sheets. "Damn," Faith swears, straightening to show the knife buried in her side. "Are you ever going to take this thing out?" The dream shifts back to reality -- Faith lying quietly in a hospital bed while lightning flashes outside the window.

The Scooby Gang is assembled in Xander's apartment, as Xander swears over the remains of Buffy's Initiative-granted blaster. Buffy is having a bad day, exhausted from hunting for Adam and flatly refusing any backup, afraid to endanger her friends. On top of that, she's worrying about Riley, who is still out of contact and the Initiative isn't telling anyone anything. Meanwhile, in the Initiative infirmary, Riley is back on his feet... and out the door, over Forrest's vehement protests. Riley informs him that "I'm the one in charge." Forrest stares back calmly. "Things change." He wants everyone to stick together, keeping the problem in the family, but Riley's having none of it.

In the hospital, Faith's eyelids move as she dreams. A peaceful and happy family picnic with the Mayor, ended suddenly as Buffy appears from nowhere, and kills the Mayor in one stroke, while Faith scrambles helplessly for safety. In the real world, the Slayerettes move together through the trees, looking for Adam, but only find his handiwork -- the remains of a demon, flayed, eviscerated and strung between two trees. Buffy is on the edge, and her first plan of action is to take on the Initiative and get Riley out. Her battleplan includes ehavy machinery, an assault on the computer systems, and a death-defying trip down the levator shaft. "Am I really worth all that?" an amused Riley asks from behind her. Happy reunions follow (slightly impeded by the hole in Riley's ribs). And Faith runs desperately down a street, stalked by an impalcable kinfe-weilding Slayer. The pair fall together into a grave... and Faith slowly drags herself out and stares in triumph at the sky. In the hospital, her eyes pop open.

Faith looks around, disoriented, but puts the peices together fairly quickly. She's up and around in seconds and roaming the halls, where she gets the skinny on the last eight months -- and the Mayor's failed Ascension -- from a bystander. Then she 'acquires' the bystander's clothes and is out the door.

Riley and Buffy huddle together in her dormroom, trying to come to grips with the last few weeks. Riley has some big decisions to make -- like whether or not he can function without someone giving him orders. "I'm a soldier. Take that away, what's left?" Buffy is more than willing to teach him the knack, and to hold him together for a while.

At Faith's hospital, a frantic nurse is explaining to a doctor and a cop that Faith the murder suspect got up and walked away. As the cops head out to Faith's first victim, the nurse heads for a phone. "It's happened," she tells someone. "Send a team." The object of their hunt is roaming town, looking at all the lives that have gone on while hers ended in the ruins of Sunnydale High. Unsurprisingly, she ends up outside Giles' apartment, listening to the Slayerettes discuss the Adam situation -- with no Angel in sight, and Buffy cozy with Riley (who operates the gun with no problems, to Xander's total disgust, and is willing to go back into the Initiative to work the Adam problem from inside). She's also there when Buffy gets the call from the cops, telling her that Faith has woken up. The Scooby Gang wigs more than a little -- this is exactly what she doesn't need. But the only option any of them can come up with is to deal with Faith themselves, however necessary. After they explain the whole thing to Riley.

Buffy gives him an edited version of the story -- leaving out all Angel mentions. She didn't ahve any luck finding Faith the night before, which doesn't actually matter -- since Faith is on campus looking for Buffy. Talking to Psycho Girl is predictably fruitless -- Faith's memories have rewritten history to a ridiculous extent, and she's infuriated that the guy Buffy tried to kill her for is not even in the picture anymore -- and a Slayer-to-Slayer chick fight ensues. It;s broken off relatively early by the arrival of the cops, and Faith books for the hills, vowing revenge on Buffy.

Willow recruits some help searching for Faith, getting a less-than-enthusiastic Tara to lend her assistance. And Giles and Xnder head out after dark for their shift, attempting to recruit help of their own from Spike. -- forgetting that Spike's only interest in a dark-haired psycho that wants to kill Buffy is to either cheer her on or actively help. "Can't any one of your damned little Scooby club at least try to remember that I hate you all?" He wanders away on the search and Xander informs Giles, "We're dumb." The nurse has help coming, too -- lots of Brits in dark suits with a brihgt shiny helicopter.

And Faith continues to wander Sunnydale, until a demon tracks her down, with a package from a friend. She kills him and takes the package, finding a videotape from the Mayor. If she's watching it, he's dead and he knows it, but he had hopes that she would wake up. He wanted to leave her one last present for the world that had changed on her -- a small doohickey that will let her "go out with a bang." Buffy is having problems convincing Riley how dangerous Faith is, and reminding him that there's not much he can do just now. She manages to get it across to him and heads out on patrol -- but Faith has already struck. At Buffy's mother.

Psycho Girl leaves Joyce ties up on her bed as she rifles Joyce's drawers and listens to herself talk. A valiant attempt to convince Joyce that Buffy doesn't care, has abandoned her just like she abandoned Faith, gets nicely derailed when Buffy comes crashing through the window. The Chick Fight from Hell ensues, ranging up and down the stairs and causing major property damage. Joyce has the presence of mind to call 911 and across town, the Men in Black introduce themselves to Giles in his apartment. Yup, the Council has plans of their own for dealing with the rogue Slayer. But they're not the only ones; as Faith and Buffy face off, Faith slips the Mayor's device onto her hand, and grasps Buffy's. Something flashes between them and both girls jolt; in the ensuing shock, Buffy finally lays Faith flat.

As the police pounds at the door, Joyce comes to stand beside Buffy, checking her daughter over as she destroys the Mayor's device. "You sure you're okay?" Joyce asks anxiously.

Buffy smiles. "Five-by-five."

To be continued....

Our old friend Faith is back and bad. Oh, and in Buffy's body.

Riley has agreed to return to the Initiative as a double-agent to work against Adam, who is still doing outside lab work, but Forrest seems to have his own ideas about how things are going to happen.

The Watch Council has decided to take an interest in Faith now that she's awake. Napalm on a forest fire, indeed....

Riley and Buffy are more solid than they've ever been, but who knows what Faith will do to that.

Willow and Tara are doing a certain amount of dancing around each other.

Riley still doesn't know about Angel. Want to bet Faith finds the most hurtful way possible to tell him? I'm not taking any bets, it's exactly the kind of thing the little bitca would do. Interesting how she's managed to compeltely rewrite history in her mind; somehow, she's the poor, put-upon good guy and everyone else is evil. I have a teeny little bit of sympathy; it can't be easy waking up to find out that the only person who seemed to care about you is dead, everything you knew changed... but, as usual, Junior Psychopath goes way overboard. She's not even pretending to be sane anymore, which is good, since I don't think she could pull it off if she was trying.

Riley also woke up, figuratively speaking, into a whole new world, where he cann't trust the people who've essentially made his choices for him for most of his adult life. I doubt the Slayerettes wasted any time telling him about the drugs the Initiative was pouring into them, leaving him even more at a loss. He still wants to do good -- I doubt the boy has ever wanted to be anything in his life other than Sir Galahad, but he's got to start working on his definitions. Can he still do good as a soldier -- taking orders that tell you who tto fight, when and how? Or does he want to do it as a warrior -- fighting by your conscience, your own sense of duty, rather than your orders. Buffy is a warrior. Forrest is a soldier. Riley... gets to decide. Lucky him.

And Buffy, with Faith's awakening, gets her own tricky situation, on top of the Adam mess. She steeled herself to kill Faith once -- in a case of choosing between her life or Angel's -- and failed, not by her choice. With Faith on the loose again, and already hurting innocents, she's got to see if she can try to kill the other Slayer again. And she doesn't want to; Faith was suppsoed to be her friend, her ally. Faith is a human (more or less). Buffy doesn't want her dead. But she doesn't want anyone else dead. It may be lucky for her that Faith took the choice out of her hands temporarily. And, of course, being Buffy, even in the middle of the Adam crisis, she still focuses first and foremost on getting to Riley. She can justify it by saying they need his help to fight Adam, but it actually comes down to the fact that the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many for Buffy, always -- unless the one happens to be herself. Not pragmatic, not always intelligent, not usually realistic... but very Buffy.

Xander and Giles are relegated to their usual roles of backup, and so with their usual panache. Xander's reaction to Faith on the loose is hilarious -- he was genuinely freaked by their one night stand, and therefore expects Faith to have been equally as freaked. That's why we love him. < g > But he and Giles really do have to start remembering that Spike has no concept of gratitude, debt or conscience. And that's why we love him. < g >

Willow and Tara continue to play off each other in interesting ways. Someone on SunS pointed out that Tara is a near-perfect mirror of first-season Willow -- still freaked by the evidence of evil around her, but gamely in there swinging. At least, by most current evidence. And Willow is delighting in being the old-and-wise one, the role she learned from Buffy. Interesting dynamics indeed.

Best Moments:
Xander getting fried by the zap gun and everyone talking blithely away about Riley. < snerk > Poor Xander.

Riley's show down with Forrest and Graham. Entirely aside from the nice juicy angst and all that testosterone... the DGLC's! together on screen! Yum!

Riley and Buffy talking in Buffy's room. A very sweet, very real scene.

Willow and Xander enthusiatically getting behind the plan of kicking Faith's ass. And they used to be the ones who hated violence...

Riley's quiet, patient, "Who's Faith?" < snicker > I was wondering when they were going to remember him.

Xander and Giles attempting to recruit Spike. < giggle > Um, yes, guys, you are dumb. But, in a cute way.

Joyce facing off against Faith. Entirely aside from how great it is to see Joyce again, Buffy's mom kept her cool!

The entire fight sequence through the house -- outstanding!

Questions and Comments:
Wilow's hats and skirt-T-shirt thing. Xander's shirt and sweater vest. Tara's dress. What were the wardrobe people on? < shudder > Come, join us in the 21st Century.

I still cannot come up with any conceivable reason why the Watcher Council let Faith live. It's obvious they knew where she was all along; equally obvious they've been prepared to deal with her. Did they expect her to suddenly wake up sane and compliant? No, the logical thing for them to do (remembering that these are the chaps who like to make 18-year-old girls defenseless, then lock them up with vampires) would be to slip something into Faith's IV. One Slayer dies, next one is called -- preferably someone young that they can take control of, as they once controlled Buffy and Kendra. But they didn't. Why not?

Rating: 4.5 out of five. An outstanding first part setting up what I hope will be an equally outstanding second part. Eliza Dushku still rocks.


"Damn! Both the mooses are flat. And we still have Forever Angel to go." -- Julie

"Who on Earth thought that shirt of Xander's was a good idea? He looked like Peter Brady!"
"The same person who thought poor Tara's shirt was a good idea? I was like "Sweetie, do you just not *want* to have a waist?"" -- Chris and Valerie

"Did anyone else think "Callisto and Xena!" at the critical moment last night? I *really* didn't see that one coming. Cute little doo-hickey on hand, yeah. Faith's life sucks and she is incapable of fixing it, sure. Switch bodies with Buffy? Never saw that coming. It made perfect sense by the time they did it, though. And it looks like SMG is going to have way too much fun with the role-reversal next week."
"And very interesting that the Mayor would set this up. Faith always wanted what Buffy had, actually always wanted to be like Buffy, and now she gets to BE Buffy. Now we'll see how badly she's still gonna self-destruct. ::shiver::" -- Chris and Julie

"Faith... Eliza Dushku is amazing; Faith is so evil, so selfish, and yet I always feel so damn sorry for her because she's incredibly damaged and needy. I doubt I'll feel sorry for her by the end of next week, but that'll no doubt be fun too. Poor Riley. He's going to be soooo confused."
"Oh, I'll never stop feeling sorry for her. Which doesn't excuse anything she does, not the least little bit. Especially because she *is* capable of turning everything around if she so chooses, and I think there *is* a certain amount of refusal mixed in with her inability to see that." -- Chris and Valerie

"The look on Joyce's face during the psycho-monologue was brilliant--just complete incomprehension that Faith could be not only so destructive, but so *self*-destructive. And going on and on and on and on about how everyone dissed her and dumped on her, when in reality they all repeatedly offered her everything she's never had, and she repeatedly flat-out refused it. The level of mental gymnastics that girl is capable of truly astounds me. " -- Valerie

"And what kind of impression is Faith/Buffy going to be making on Forrest and the rest of the DGLC's, and how far will it push Riley & his buds apart when she becomes a super-ho? *That's* sure to endear her to them--- they'll definitely decide she's too much of a risk. Not to mention the fact that I seriously doubt Faith can deal with Adam. Meanwhile Buffy will be getting her brain soaked courtesy of the Council--- I don't even want to *think* how much fun that's going to not be." -- Chris

"Any bets on who figures out that Buffy's not Buffy first? I'd put money on Willow, both as her roommate and best bud, then Giles, maybe Xander, and a wigged-out Riley in fourth. :> I do wonder if they're going to wrap this up next week, or if it'll take a little longer to get them back in their proper places. *That* should be fun."
"I pick Giles first. I think it'll be the flipside of Buffy recognizing Giles in the demon a few weeks back. Now if Angel were still here, I'd pick him to twig in less than five minutes." -- Chris and Julie

"Riley is learning. As he said, his whole life trained him to do without question. I'm wondering if his father was ex-military which may have been his true start. I kinda see Riley as having been in ROTC in high school, going into the military right after, maybe to finance college, having the aptitude and abilities and training for what this area was looking for-especially his being a good soldier and not constantly questioning orders. While you and I would, and constantly at that, if we were in the military for a career, we wouldn't last long. And in many of the branches of the military, if you don't get promoted at certain intervals, you may as well hang it up & go. People who don't follow orders go nowhere." -- Julie

"I'm wondering if it's that they feel that the gang needs someone who's shy and unsure and well, kinda innocent, to balance things out. For the past years that was Willow's place in the dynamics of the gang, but now she's seen too much and done too much to continue to remain that way. We've gone from the old Willow who wouldn't say 'boo' as a ghost to current Willow who nonchalantly explains to Tara that it's just a little spell to show where all the demons are in town. That's a pretty big change.... Or maybe they're just using Tara to point out Willow's emotional growth rather than having her to replace that innocent nitch." -- Julie

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