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Author's Chapter Notes:
Episodes 14-17: [BtVS] Older and Faraway, As You Were, Hell's Bells, and Normal Again.
[AtS] Couplet, Loyalty, Sleep Tight, and Forgiveness.

BtVS 14: Older and Faraway
[Dawn feels like the odd-girl out on Buffy's birthday, leading to a fateful wish that leaves the Slayer and her friends trapped in the Summers' home with a demon.]

Buffy's birthdays are never that good, are they? I think she's 21 now.

The fact that Xander and Anya set Buffy up with a guy was pretty funny. I have a hard time imagining her managing a relationship with an average guy at this point. Her life is just too crazy for most people. Even having two non-in-the-know people at the party made things pretty weird, because most of them had to be careful about what they said.

It was interesting to hear Buffy's relationship with Spike being referred to as "closeted", though I think that's a pretty good metaphor. It's interesting that Tara is the only one who knows, and now Spike knows that she knows. I'm reminded that Spike was one of the first ones to figure out Tara and Willow were together. And she's not being judgmental about him and Buffy, which is so Tara.

Spike: "I had a muscle cramp. Buffy was helping."
Tara: "A muscle cramp? In your pants?"

The look on Buffy's face when she realized Willow had given her a vibrator of sorts for her birthday was pretty funny. So was the smirk on Spike's face.

And eek, Dawn's actually been shoplifting for a while. I'm curious to see how that will affect things. It's interesting that she was always trying to get them to leave her alone last season, and now she's in the opposite position, desperate for attention. That's really typical for a teenager, though, so it works for me. I didn't recognize that Anya's vengeance demon friend was the guidance counselor until she showed up on the porch during the party. And wow, that's a wicked spell, trapping people in a house together forever? It was funny that she was trapped too, though, and that was why she ultimately broke it and released them.

Her point about the pain Dawn was feeling being so obvious it was a billboard was a nice touch, though. They all needed to hear that, I think. It seemed that the point of this episode was to get everyone in the same place and make fight together. They've all been quite scattered lately, wrapped up in their own issues. Of course, that might mean they'll need to stick together to face what's coming, and this could be a wake-up call for that.

And whoa, the vengeance demon knew Spike? And called him "William"? I hope there's a story behind that!

Edit: cheshyre points out that Halfrek was intended to be Cecily, and that Peter David even went on to write a comic about it. For more information, go here and here.


A:tS 14: Couplet
[Exacerbating the tension caused by the office's two latest couplings, Cordy asks Angel to help her achieve the next level of intimacy with Groosalugg. Meanwhile, Fred and Gunn discuss the new wrinkle in their relationship and track an alleged cheating fiancé, whom they promptly lose during a brief make-out session.]

Oh, Angel. I didn't expect him to really be able to get together with Cordy, but still, ouch. I was surprised that after everything that's happened, Cordelia still thinks of Angel as being asexual. You'd think that him getting Darla pregnant would be evidence that he doesn't have to be celibate. But what's interesting about it is that she's completely dismissive of his sexuality, almost in an emasculating way. It's something that clearly hurts his feelings, but he doesn't seem too anxious to argue about it with her.

I also thought it was quite interesting here that Cordelia was in a position that Angel can really understand, of not being able to have something she really desires because she might lose something that's worth even more. Cordelia never recognized that, and again, Angel made no effort to tell her he understood what she was feeling.

It did provide for some funny moments, though:

Cordy, admiring Groo: "I'm just so... and he's such a... grrr! Dontcha think?"
Angel and Wesley, looking really uncomfortable: "Well, yeah, sure, he's attractive and all..."
Cordy: "There's gotta be other things we can do to relieve the tension."
Angel: "Jogging! Jogging is good."
Cordy: "I guess we could actually komm... without any shucking..." (Best. Line. EVER.)
Angel: "No, that's a slippery slope!"

It was hilarious that he was delighted that Groo and Cordy couldn't do the deed, but of course, he was the one she asked for help. And she gave Groo a makeover so he'd look like Angel? That was interesting. The demon brothel scene was also interesting, because it showed Groo as really, really innocent, to the extent that Angel practically had to hold his hand. Either that or really, really stupid. And what was it about the pillow fighting couple that stopped Angel in his tracks? It seemed random, but it can't be. There has to be something more to it. I liked Groo asking Angel for advice about Cordy, and it was sweet that Angel came around in the end, because he knew it was what would make Cordy happy. I went "Aww!" when he sent Cordy and Groo off with money, telling her to take a holiday with him and enjoy it. He wants her to be happy, and he seems to know that it probably won't happen with him. *sigh*

The demon tree as a internet predator was pretty funny. And it was interesting that trying to feed off of Angel weakened it so much.

Fred and Gunn are so, so cute, but I still feel sorry for Wesley. Of course, since he and Angel are both sort of heartbroken about being left out of the office couplings, they could probably keep each other company. Ya know? ;-)

The scene at the end really killed me, I have to say, with Angel holding Connor and saying that he wasn't really alone, and then the pan down Wesley's translation of the prophecy. I just can't imagine that Angel would be able to kill Connor -- at least not while he's a baby. Maybe something will happen to Connor later that will put Angel in the position of having to kill him (like Holtz killed his daughter when he found out she was a vampire). Or maybe Angel isn't really Connor's father... that would almost be worse.

And can I just say that I'm a little unhappy that there are babies in this fandom at all? I mean, fandom is not supposed to be about babies. That's why I'm in fandom to a large extent, because it helps me not think about babies. And then this storyline comes along. It's actually really been hard for me to watch, and it's not over yet.



A:tS 15: Loyalty
[Angel is concerned about Wesley's erratic behavior when the book man's greatest fears are secretly confirmed - the prophecy is true and he is given the three signs to look for before Angel devours his own son. When an earthquake shakes Los Angeles, all three signs come true.]

The theme of this episode was pretty clear from the title, but there was also a big theme of trust that I saw here. Does Wesley trust Angel, really? Does he put more faith in a prophecy, or in his friend? Does he really believe that Angel is a good man and that he's not Angelus, or did Holtz sway him when he said Angelus was still part of Angel? I'm not sure Wesley knows the answer, and it seems to be tearing him apart.

I have a bad feeling about all of this, generally. The first part of the episode was emphasizing how happy Angel is to be a father and how much he's looking forward to seeing Connor grow up -- which seems to me to be a big flashing neon sign that it won't happen. Add to that Angel's reaction to Holtz's spy, who told her story about her son becoming a vampire and her watching him burn, and it seemed even more ominous.

Everyone all around was questioning their own loyalties -- Lilah to W&H, Holtz to his destiny, Wesley to Angel, Gunn and Fred to the company. Everyone except Angel, that is. He was unaware of it all, and only thinking about Connor. His loyalty to his son is pretty damn firm, as is his loyalty to his friends.

And therein lies the mystery for me. Prophecies have been shown to be tricky things in both shows, and things rarely play out exactly as they are written. After all, the prophecy about Connor said he wouldn't even be born, and in the end, it depended on how you defined "born" whether or not that was true. So I'm thinking that words "father", "son", and "kill" might mean something different here than what they seem. There's also the possibility that Wesley missed something in the translation, like he did with the Shanshu prophecy. The big talking hamburger (OMG, that was bizarre) didn't say anything about Angel specifically -- he said "the vampire will devour the child". I know we're meant to believe that was Angel, and maybe it really is, but it isn't clear.

So there are a few possibilities that come to mind:

(1) Angel is not really Connor's father, so the "father" who might kill him could be someone else. That missing tube of blood (and its replacement) has me a little worried. Of course, two things could happen there:
(a) The results of the wrong blood test could lead them to think someone else is going to kill Connor, and distract them from the possibility that it will be Angel.
(b) W&H and/or Lilah & Sahjhan will learn something from the blood sample that implies that Angel isn't really Connor's father, and they may or may not share that. Even if they do, Angel and/or Wesley may not believe them until it's too late. Umm... how many possibilities does that make?

(2) "Kill" means something other than bite and suck blood until dead. It could be that some action of Angel's sets events into motion that cause Connor's death while he's helpless to stop it -- but he doesn't actually kill him. That would be pretty horrible to watch, I think, because that would give him so much pain to deal with afterwards.

(3) Another vampire either kills Connor or turns him into a vampire, leaving Angel with no choice but to dust his own child. Not only does he believe strongly that vampires are irredeemable, but it seems that a creature that was eternally a newborn would have no life of any sort. It's almost impossible to imagine that Angel would be able to do that, and yet I don't think he'd let anyone else do it. This is the worst possibility I can think of, really.

(4) A fourth idea is something I was wondering about when Connor first showed up. What if Connor might be someone who could give Angel a moment of pure happiness? What if being completely happy with his son is enough to turn him into Angelus? And if that happened, would Angelus kill Connor? I'm not sure if he would or not, and I'm not sure how feasible it would be to have Angelus emerge at this point.

(5) And finally, the most bizarre idea I've had: Groo is Connor. I know, this one ranks up there with "Ron is Dumbledore", but that made a lot of sense at the time, right? I started thinking about this when Groo showed up a couple of episodes back, mostly because I was wondering what the hell he was doing there. At first I thought it was just to throw a wrench in the Cordy/Angel relationship, but then I started to wonder if maybe he came to their dimension for some greater reason. Here's my evidence:
(a) A big deal has been made about Groo's resemblance to Angel, both through Cordy's makeover and Angel's earlier observation that Groo could do everything he could, plus a few more things.
(b) He was a human in his dimension, yet had some powers other humans didn't have. He was raised by a non-human family and told Cordelia he didn't know where he'd come from. In fact, now that I think about it, it's pretty bizarre that we learned so much about his backstory at that time. It wasn't necessary for the plot. And that leads me to believe there might be another reason we needed to know it.
(c) Like Connor, he played an important part in the prophecies in the dimension he came from, and that dimension's W&H were extremely concerned about his destiny.
(d) With the presence of Sahjhan, we know that there are beings who can time travel at will, forwards and backwards. And Sahjhan is very interested in Connor too.
(e) We've already seen something like a father/son dynamic between him and Angel, with Angel helping him and Cordy's relationship along, Groo asking Angel for advice about Cordy, and Angel sending them off with a wad of cash and his blessing.

So yeah, my crazy theory is that Connor grows up to be Groo somehow. Add to this the multiple mentions of Angel wishing he could see Connor grow up and the fact that Angel and Groo were "destined" to fight to the death in Groo's dimension, back at the end of season 2. Angel was about to kill him and didn't do it -- he backed away from it at the last minute, which led to the overthrowing the W&H folks in that dimension. So in this scenario, that "father will kill the son" prophecy could actually be about something that already didn't happen. (That, or Angel might kill Groo, which I think is really unlikely.)

I guess I'm holding out a ridiculous hope that Connor won't die and thus Angel won't have to live with that horrible guilt, and maybe Angel will realize Connor needs a more normal existence and he'll be adopted by some lovely family where he'll grow up safely and never know where he came from. And I think Angel would let him go if it came to that. But somehow, I doubt that's going to happen. *sniffles*

I don't know if I'll find out what will happen anytime soon, or if this is what the end of the season will be about. It was weird not having Cordy around. It occurred to me that Holtz's crew doesn't seem to know about her existence, and so she might turn out to be a secret weapon. And then there's Groo, who I'm convinced will play some sort of role, whether he's really Connor or not. I'm looking forward to seeing if one of my guesses about what's going to happen was right.


BtVS 15: As You Were
[Buffy is jolted by the reappearance of Riley, who needs her to help him — and his new wife — track a demon egg nest. It turns out that Spike is guarding the eggs.]

Poor Buffy. Not even the vampires want to bite her after she's been working at the DMP. That was pretty funny, actually. Ah, but it doesn't stop Spike from wanting to take a roll in the grass, apparently. He's the only one who hasn't mentioned the burger joint smell, ASAIK.

I am ready for Anya and Xander to get the fuck married already. My god, was I that single-minded when I was planning my wedding? Talk about your Bridezillas. Ack.

Willow to Dawn: "When I was little I used to spend hours dreaming about what my wedding to Xander would be like. Now when I look at the two of them, I can't help but go 'nya he he'!"

And then things pretty much went downhill for Buffy. She wasn't readmitted to UC Sunnydale, she can only manage to feed her sister fast food, the guy she's screwing is a vampire, and then Riley shows up. Married. Yeow. I don't think it could get much worse than that. I guess the social services lady could've showed up again. :-P

There were still a lot of funny lines in this episode, though:

Riley: "I've got some big stories to tell you too."
Buffy: "Did you die?"
Riley: "No."
Buffy: "I'm gonna win."

Willow to Buffy, about Riley's wife Sam: "Just so you know, I'm prepared to hate this woman any way you want. [...] Let me carry the hate for the both of us."

What a great friend! I've missed her so much. It's nice to have her back again. And of course, there was utterly nothing to hate about Sam. She was pretty much perfect and sweet and thoughtful and strong and everything that's difficult to dislike. And perfect for Riley too.

And eek, Riley walked in on Buffy and Spike in bed and not only didn't react, but was there to search for the missing demon eggs, which it turned out Spike really was hiding? The look on Buffy's face at that point was one of OMG I am such a pathetic blind loser. At that point, I figured she was done with Spike. Even though she'd come in before and wanted to hear him say that he loved her, and even though she clearly feels something for him, she realized that in the end, it doesn't matter that he loves her. He won't stop being a vampire, and the only reason he isn't out biting people is because of his chip. He'd do it again in a second, given the chance. And she really can't go down that road, can she?

The fact that she called him "William" when she broke it off with him said a lot, IMO. It was like she'd stopped thinking of him as just a vampire when she was with him, almost like she was separating the part of him that loves her from the rest. She seemed to be recognizing that what he feels for her is real, but because of what he is, they can't ever have a relationship.

So where do they go from here? I'm not sure. I don't think it's over, but I think something really big is going to have to happen to get her to change her mind. Both of them are pretty damaged people, so there are a lot of possibilities for what it could be. But after all the Angel speculating I've done, I'm out of speculation for the night.



A:tS 16: Sleep Tight
[Angel's angry behavior and sudden cravings for human blood frighten Wesley enough for him to kidnap the baby to keep him safe. Unfortunately, Wesley's plan to protect Connor falls apart when Holtz factors into the picture.]

Well, I didn't have to wait as long as I thought I would, and LOL, none of my guesses was right! I suppose I should've known it would be something I couldn't think of. Though I can't help but notice that Connor isn't actually dead. So I can hang onto my Groo-is-Connor theory for a little while longer. I kind of need that at the moment, even though it's just wild speculation on my part. As much as I would like for it to be true, I really doubt that it is. But PLEASE don't tell me that it's wrong, okay? I want to hang onto that hope for a little while longer.

Let's get this funny line out of the way -- Angel to Wesley: "You look like hell. And not the fun one where they poke you with hot irons all day. The hard core one with Nixon and Britney Spears." Heh.

It's kind of scary to think that drinking human blood would make such a difference in Angel. Actually, is that inconsistent? He used to keep bags of human blood in his fridge back in the early seasons of Buffy. Or was it just that there is something special about Connor's blood? Sahjhan did say something about the W&H people not knowing what to look for in Connor's blood. I thought it was interesting that W&H (or Lilah, at least) was pushing the prophecy along by lacing Angel's pig's blood with Connor's.

But that brings up a more general comment I have about this show, actually. We've seen so many references to prophecies, but it seems like everyone in this series uses them as a sort of almanac and tries to manipulate events in order to make things turn out to their advantage. That seems to be a statement about free will in a lot of ways. Even in a universe where supernatural things exist, nothing is set in stone. But people being what they are, if no one intervenes all of these bad things can happen. This wasn't the first time that an individual's action has thwarted a prophecy (or at least seemed to -- I don't know the whole story yet), and I'm sure it won't be the last. On the other hand, knowledge of the prophecy seems to be key to making people aware of possibilities. Understanding that bit of the prophecy that predicted Angel would kill Connor was the source of both Wesley's and Lilah's actions, and possibly Sahjhan's and Holtz's as well. But it's not clear whether those actions set into motion the events that made the prophecy almost come true, or whether that was what would've happened if no one involved had ever known about that prophecy.

Wesley scared me a bit in this. It's interesting how much he's changed and what he's capable of now. He can be so tough, mentally and physically, and in some ways he's taking on the same sort of shit that Angel does. He seems willing to sacrifice himself to do the right thing, no matter what the cost to himself. That's incredibly heroic, but also frightening. When he knocked Lorne out and lied to Angel to take Connor, with the idea that he would disappear and never come back, it was almost shocking. And yet, if he'd been successful, maybe things would have been different. But he played right into Holtz's hands, so he probably wouldn't have been anyway. When Justine approached him when he was running with Connor, all I could think was "Don't fall for it, Wesley". But he did, and she slit his throat, yeow. Somehow I doubt he's dead. From a narrative perspective, he needs to be around to create even more angst for Angel. :-P

You'd think people would learn to stop singing around Lorne when they're up to no good.

Holtz surprised me here. It seemed that he changed his mission when he learned about the child, and that the whole time he was raising that army, he was intending to sacrifice them. Why did Connor mean so much to him? Did he think it was his destiny? He really intended to take Connor away and raise him. I'm sure he meant it, because when he told Angel that, Angel believed him. I think Angel was in a place where he knew he couldn't protect Connor much longer, and that Holtz could. I thought that was partly a test on Holtz's part -- if Angel really had changed, he would let his son go. And so he did.

But why did Holtz take Connor and jump into the portal? And where did they go? Sahjhan said it was some hellish dimension, so one argument could be that Holtz sacrificed himself and Connor to save the world (sort of like Buffy did). But that makes me think that it isn't over and that neither of them are dead or lost forever. (Still clinging to the possibility that Groo is Connor. STFU.)

I was surprised that Angel had no idea who Sahjhan was, nor why Sahjhan hated him. I suppose we'll find out more about that at some point, but it sure seems like it's something that happens in the future, something Angel is going to do. Of course, now Angel has a reason to hate the guy... Argh, time paradoxes suck.

The look on Angel's face when he began to realize what had happened, that Connor was really gone, was pretty fucking horrible. I can't imagine where he goes from here.


BtVS 16: Hell's Bells
[On the day of his wedding, Xander gets cold feet after he's shown a disturbing glimpse into the future. Xander bails on the wedding, leaving Anya heartbroken. Anya is offered her old job back, as a vengeance demon.]

Ah, the wedding episode. I'd suspected this wedding was never going to happen, and I'm sorry that I was right.

You know what? Weddings suck. I had one of my own, and though it was pretty small, there was so much about it that was difficult. In retrospect, MDH and I sometimes wish we'd just gone to Vegas or something, because it would have been a whole lot cheaper. Every wedding I've ever been in has had its share of horrible bridesmaid dresses, bad weather, and bickering families. Marriage itself is great, but weddings? Not so much.

And this one had it all -- drunk and obnoxious relatives, fights breaking out, truly fugly bridesmaid dresses, thunder and lightning, and then a runaway groom. Of course, Xander had been freaking out about this for quite a while, hadn't he?

Buffy to Xander: "You're glowing. Oh my god, maybe you're pregnant!"
Xander: "Maybe I am."

Oh, Anya's squee about getting to be with her best friend forever -- that was how I felt on my wedding day, though absolutely terrified at the same time. The theme of Anya struggling with her vows the entire episode was interesting, because it seemed like she was working through her own nervousness about it. And then when she finally got her vows right, when she realized why she wanted to marry him, it was too late. The shot of him walking in the rain intercut with her saying how much he'd taught her about love was just ouch.

I was a little suspicious of the old man from the start -- all he did was show him those memories, and he didn't say anything that made it clear he was really Xander. So when he turned into a demon at the end, it all kind of clicked. A vengeance demon taking revenge on Anya. The irony.

But the demon had a good point that it hadn't taken much prompting to get Xander to call it off. He's really terrified of turning into his father, and he's probably right that it could happen fairly easily. It's weird how hard you have to work not to turn into your parents, isn't it? MDH and I both struggle not to turn into our respective mothers. Every now and then I'll hear him say something, and all I can think is that he sounds like his mother. I'm afraid to tell him, though. And I'm sure he's thought the same of me quite a lot.

Spike trying to make Buffy jealous was actually really sweet, especially since it was completely clear that he couldn't be remotely vindictive about it. I'd thought things were going to disintegrate between them after the last episode, but now I'm not so sure. She clearly cares about him, despite all the reasons not to, and he knows it. His remark about how nice it was to see her happy for once was quire sad, because it means that he also knows he didn't make her happy. Ouch again. The fact that she'd cared that he'd tried to make her jealous by bringing a date made him happy, because it seemed to mean that she felt something other than loathing for him. Despite everything she's said about him not being anything but a monster (though she's even called him "incompetent" at that), she sees something almost human in him, and she cares about it.

The episode left off with Anya being made the offer to come back and be a vengeance demon again. I really have no idea what she'll do.

So did Xander do the right thing by walking away from the wedding? Was that a selfish act or a selfless one? Did he do it out a fear or out of courage? I'm not sure how to answer those questions.



A:tS 17: Forgiveness
[Angel is a man out for revenge to get back at Wesley for kidnapping Connor and turning him over to their enemies. While Fred and Gunn try to reason with him, Angel conjures dark magic and risks ripping right through the fabric of reality to find his lost son.]

After the last episode, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this one. I didn't know if this would be an unbearably sad episode with Angel trying to get over losing Connor or if it would be the beginning of a quest to try to find him. The latter seemed more likely, seeing as we're six episodes from the end of the season.

I think the most interesting thing here was the revelation that Sahjhan was the one who rewrote the prophecies, and that the real prophecies said that Connor would grow up to kill him. This gives my Groo-is-Connor theory a little boost, because if no one knows what happened to Connor or who he even is, then Sahjhan can hardly know to interfere with him. Prophecies can come true in very clever ways, after all. This could be one of them. I don't care if I'm wrong. I may just have to write a fic like that, because I really like the idea. :-D

I also can't help but wonder why W&H's white room oracle told Angel to make Sahjhan solid again. There has to be something in it for W&H. Though since Justine put him in the jar, he can't be all that dangerous. Of course, if the rare and expensive jar is broken, they're up a creek and he'll need killing. I'm wondering if Holtz knew about all of this. He had the jar around for a reason, and he must have known something about what was going on. Maybe he knew what Connor's destiny was and decided that his mission would be to make sure it happened.

It's fascinating to me how much Angel walks the line between light and dark. When something happens to hurt someone he loves, he attacks first and asks questions later. It's always shocking to me, because I think of him as having a really strong moral center -- but he really doesn't, and episodes like this give a much-needed reminder. He seems to cling to the people in his life, and when that gets messed up he loses sight of the big picture. He really is still Angelus deep down, and he always will be. That makes him much scarier than Spike will ever be, even if he gets that chip out. Spike's human connections are also his weakness, but they literally weaken him. They actually incapacitate him and make him less dangerous. Angel's connections make him incredibly dangerous, and the soul seems to have little impact in that area.

I didn't think he'd be able to forgive Wesley so easily, so when he went into Wes's hospital room hat in hand, I was about to call it OOC. And then he went the other direction altogether. I found myself wondering why he just didn't bite him if he wanted to see him dead.


BtVS 17: Normal Again
[A demon's venom causes Buffy to hallucinate, convincing the Slayer that she's a normal girl in a mental ward, that her parents are alive, Dawn never existed, and her Slayer life is a delusion.]

This was an awesome episode! I like a good mindfuck better than just about anything, and this was a really good one. I feel like I need a cigarette now, you know?

I loved that the episode could be interpreted in several different ways. It could have been some effect of the demon's venom that it just opens up some fear in the victim's subconscious mind and drives them insane with it (and gets them to kill all their friends in the process); or it could be that it shifts the victim back and forth between one reality and an alternate one; or it could be that the venom in this case was enough to break through a real psychosis that Buffy is actually suffering, that she's really living in a fantasyland and the demon's venom just happened to be enough to knock her out of it.

And of course, the third option is the one that's really intriguing. I loved the fact that the doctor in the institution basically explained away all of the weird stuff that's happened on the show as Buffy's imagination, from the insertion of Dawn to her death and resurrection, and even the appearance of Warren at al as villains. It was almost like the writers were thumbing their noses at criticism about the direction the show was going (and from what I understand, there were sections of the fandom that were extremely critical of the show during the last couple of seasons) and saying, "Hey, if you think that's bad, how about this? None of it ever really happened. So please to STFU." That's pretty funny, actually.

Every time I've thought Buffy has hit some sort of bottom, things have gotten worse, and that's really been throwing me for a loop this season. I keep thinking that what happened in each episode was finally it, and that she would turn a corner in the next episode and start working back towards being better again, and every time she's tried, she's been thrown some new curveball that sinks her even lower. And with my sense of irony fully operational, I really want to say that this seemed like it was really a brand new level of bottom, and that she turned a corner. I mean, she had to face the fact that everything she's been doing for the last six years might have been in her head, that none of it ever really happened. She's been through so much, and for all of it to have been for nothing? Yeow. No wonder she briefly chose the other world, the one where she's in an institution -- I'm not surprised that sounded more appealing than the life she's living now. And by the end of the episode, I wasn't sure which one was real, and considering that I've been obsessed with this show for nearly six seasons, that's really quite impressive.

Spike keeps telling her she just needs to live her life, and in some ways she's really trying. But in other ways, she's not trying at all, and I keep thinking that Spike is the one who'll finally help her break through that. I thought it was interesting that Spike gave her an ultimatum of sorts here. It's unclear to me what the status of their relationship is. I want to think they're friends on some level, but I'm not sure. I feel for Spike that he gets pushed out of her life over and over by her friends, who generally don't know that they had a relationship. It was also interesting here that Spike basically told Xander he knew he was nothing more to Buffy than somebody to fuck -- because we haven't seen much of what Spike is feeling about this. It's been clear to me that he's not said much to Buffy about it because he doesn't think he'll ever get anything more from her. The moments where she seemed to be opening up to him in previous episodes made his face light up with hope, only to be crushed again. It's not that I blame Buffy, really -- but the two of them need the same thing, really. I would really like to see them get it. And knowing this show, I doubt they ever will. Or they'll get it in such a way that they won't actually really get it.

And in the end, Buffy chose to be the Slayer, even knowing it might not be real. I guess one could argue that there's not a lot of choice between a world where you're suffering immensely because of the pressures of being a Slayer and all the tragedy that brings, and a world where you're suffering immensely because you've been in an institution for six years. But people tend to choose the evil they know, don't they? And at least Buffy's in control of something here. She has power, and she has friends who mean the world to her, and she has an important cause to fight for, one that can't be won without her. In the real world, not many people have that, which is why shows like this strike a chord, I think.