Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episode: “Anne” (September 29, 1998)
Synopsis by Jason Henderson
Xavier, Willow, Oz and Cordelia are the Slayer scabs of Sunnydale while Buffy’s on the lam, waiting tables and investigating the demons that haunt the destitute and downtrodden in a slimy metropolis. When trouble follows you everywhere, what’s the point of leaving home?
Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Cordelia: Charisma Carpenter
Angel: David Boreanaz
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Oz: Seth Green
Mr. Trick: K. Todd Freeman
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
We open with a familiar scene: a fresh vampire climbing out of its grave. There’s a girl waiting to kill the newcomer, but we pan up to see—Willow! Willow tries to be clever (“That’s right, big boy, come and get it.”) but the vampire, unfortunately a former gymnast, vaults past her, and quickly outwits Xander and Oz, who together with Willow have the vampire-slaying prowess of Br’er Rabbit. The fill-in slayers lick their wounds, hoping that Buffy will reappear tomorrow, the first day of school.
Buffy, though, is in a hellish little apartment in a seamy metropolis far away, where she dreams of Angel, who she dispatched at the end of last season. (Buffy got thrown out of school along the way, and ran away from home.)
Buffy waits tables under the name of “Anne” at one of those diners where the waitresses get pinched too much, where she meets a hungry, sweet pair of runaways named Ricky and Lily, who have tattooed their names on one another’s arms. They look a little strung-out and broke, and Lily recognizes “Anne,” but can’t place her.
Back at Sunnydale, the Xander, Willow, and Cordelia confront the first day of their senior year. “Summer is over,” comments a teacher. “Be somber.” Cordelia and Xander both confide in Willow that they’re worried they’ve been forgotten by one another, and naturally they hit it off badly at first, assuming the worst. Giles the hunky watcher/librarian is obsessing over his slayer, and announces that he’s headed off to follow the latest in a series of disappointing leads as to Buffy’s whereabouts. Xander doesn’t want Giles to get his hopes up, though: “You’ll find her when she wants to be found.”
Back in Hell’s Kitchen, Buffy trudges through the depressing, steamy streets, where the throwaways of society mutter “I’m no-one” into brown paper bags. She runs into Lily the runaway again, who now recalls Buffy’s name. Seems Buffy saved Lily in another episode back in Sunnydale. Lily is a sweet, sort of innocent follower of whoever’s will she hands herself over to, and she’s on at least her third identity. Lily wants to attend some sort of Rave, but Buffy “wants to be alone.” A strange old man interrupts them, stepping in front a car to commit suicide before Buffy pushes him out of the way and takes the hit herself. Slayer-powers unfailing, she gets up and runs.
Buffy runs straight into the queasily caring Ken, a guy who hands out pamphlets for his runaway shelter. Ken is deeply concerned about what she’s running away from, and Buffy brushes him off.
Giles returns to Sunnydale, where he visits Joyce, Buffy’s mom, and tells her yet another lead was a dead end. Joyce appreciates the librarian’s attempts to bring her daughter home, but she blames Giles for Buffy’s problems in the first place. Pointedly, she resents “this whole relationship with her behind my back.” “I didn’t make Buffy who she is,” Giles the watcher replies, simply.
Lily comes to Buffy looking for help—boyfriend Ricky has disappeared. Buffy brushes Lily off. “But that’s who you are… you help people,” says Lily. Like any hero with a thousand faces, Buffy refuses twice before saying yes.
Lily and Buffy go to a blood bank where Ricky sells blood from time to time, and he hasn’t been seen, but something there gives Buffy the willies. Buffy goes searching an old building from Ricky, where she finds the same old man she saved earlier from the car, now dead from drinking Drano. But the twist is that the old man is Ricky, evidenced by the distinctive half-heart “Lily” tattoo.
Buffy presents Lily with this news, being a sort of sadistic hardass about it in the process. Lily freaks, accusing Buffy of bringing trouble, and runs out. Lily meets the creepy, hope-selling street-liberal Ken, who assures her that Ricky’s very much alive at the shelter, and they can go see him now.
Buffy checks out the blood bank by breaking into it, where she extracts information from the head nurse and finds out the bank “refers” its healthiest patrons to someone. Buffy decides to check out this shelter of Ken’s.
The shelter is a cover for a demonic slave-recruitment office that feeds off of runaways. Thinking it merely a religious sect, Lily agrees to go through a “cleansing” (being baptized in a dark pool) before she sees Ricky. Buffy shows up just in time, busting in (“I suck at undercover,” she says after failing to merely insinuate herself past the doormen.)
After Buffy knocks Ken’s face off and she learns he’s a demon, Ken captures Buffy and Lily and takes them through the pool, which is a portal to another, sub-terran dimension. “Welcome to my world. I hope you like it,” says Ken. “You’re never leaving.”
The underworld is a place where Ken works the runaways for their whole lives as slaves, turning wheels and banging on anvils with hammers until finally, so old they no longer remember themselves. Then they’re cast back to the upper world, where no time has passed while they lived out their miserable lives. “What is Hell, but the total absence of hope?” Ken observes. Ricky, he says, remembered her name for years, even after he forgot his own.
It’s down here in Hell that Buffy truly remembers who and what she is. She quickly manages to best the demons and she and Lily lead the slaves out of the underground before smashing Ken’s head with a club.
In Sunnydale, Xander, Willow and Oz kill a vampire (one of few successes) after getting Cordelia to act as bait. In the end, it’s Xander and Cordelia who kill the vampire together, and their relationship is made whole.
In the world above, Buffy decides to go home. Lily has to take care of herself now, and maybe she can. She takes over Buffy’s apartment and job, and even the name, “Anne.”
Finally, Buffy returns to her mother.
• A lot of heavy-duty classic hero myth in this one. The concept of this episode is a neat example of one of the unique strong points of the show—metaphors become literal reality. (This is the show where a girl was so unpopular that she became, literally, invisible.) This episode is about the identity crisis of runways, and perhaps teens in general. In the Buffy universe, teens struggle with finding themselves and run the risk of being thrown in a hell where they become truly no-one. This is good, modern myth-making.
But on a more literary level, this episode plays out the motif of the hero’s struggle to return home, a struggle usually more internal than external. That’s why it really doesn’t matter that Buffy overcomes the demons fairly easily—the real challenge was for her to remember her calling and identity. Whereas for this whole ep she’s been Anne, runaway, when put to the test (as a slave, she’s supposed to say, “I’m no-one,”) she says, “I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.”)
It’s so incredibly appropriate that this episode not have Buffy in Sunnydale, and incredibly clever and classical of the writers. The place Buffy ends up is like hell, sure, but in a classical sense it’s more like Calypso’s island, where the warrior Odysseus spent many years after a harrowing experience in the Trojan War. When is it time to leave? When he remembers what home is. Buffy has been running, but until now, until she’s forced to reckon with who she is, she’s not ready to return.
• Another neat example of kid’s fears becoming literal horrors is the villainy of “helper” Ken. He’s so sweet and sickening, you just know he’s secretly a demon.
• How, really, could Buffy run away from her watcher? Doesn’t he have a “watcher sense,” in the same way Buffy has a “slayer sense?”
• I like Joyce’s comment that Giles’ relationship, as a secret, is a little inappropriate. This is a subject that I suspect is treated with utmost gingerness by the Buffy People, and it’s a good idea to transition the relationship into one that Buffy’s mom is aware of.
• Xander actually decides to use Cordelia as bait for a vampire! Does this seem like a good idea? With the track record these guys have, what on earth would prompt him to ask his own girlfriend to be vampire bait? I mean, I know he thinks she might be breaking up with him…
• Okay, I’ll say it. The scene where Buffy shows up at her Mom’s door is moving. Call me a sap.
“You’ve got guts. I think I’d like to slit you open and play with them.”
Ken the demon to Buffy
Xander: And what’s with “come and get it, Big Boy?”
Willow: Well, the slayer always says some pun or witty play on words before she kills them. I think it throws the vampires off.
(X & W, on whether witticisms belong in a slaying.)
“If we can focus, keep discipline, and not have quite so many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna RULE.”
(Jock to Jock, making Jock sense in a Buffy world.)