Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Who Are You

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 4, Episode "Who Are You"

Broadcast February 29, 2000

Cast:

Buffy: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Willow: Alyson Hannigan
Xander: Nicholas Brendan
Giles: Anthony Stewart Head
Riley: Marc Blucas
Spike: James Marsters
Faith: Eliza Dushku


Synopsis

Prologue
Faith has forced Buffy to switch bodies with her-- leaving Buffy to be hauled off to the hospital in Faith’s body, and Faith safely at Buffy’s mother’s side.

Act 1
Faith gets used to Buffy’s body by talking to Buffy’s mom, luxuriating in a bubble bath and making faces in the bathroom mirror.
Meanwhile, Buffy fights to escape the hospital until the personnel forcibly sedate her.
Willow admits that she hasn’t told the Scooby Gang about her time with Tara. Willow wants to keep something to herself, “something that’s mine.” Tara’s answer: “I am, you know... yours.”
After Faith orders plane tickets, she heads off to see the Gang, while the Watcher’s Council kidnaps Buffy from an ambulance, thinking they’re taking Faith.

Act 2
At Giles’ place, Faith learns that a special ops Watcher team has stolen her body, and she’s thrilled to hear that Buffy could be away for a long time. She promises to patrol for crazy cyborg Adam and heads straight for dancing at the Bronze.
At he club she flirts with and frustrates Spike, who can’t wait to get the chip out of his head so he can kill her.

Meanwhile, Adam the Frankenstein cyborg meets up with a team of young vampires and, after killing one, recruits the rest.

Buffy wakes up in the custody of the Watcher team, who aren’t interested in her story about being trapped in the wrong body. The Watcher’s Council has been perverted by Faith, they say, and they can’t wait to see her get justice.

Willow brings Tara to the Bronze to meet Buffy and finds Faith-in-Buffy chugging beers. While Will goes for drinks, Faith pegs Tara for a lesbian right away, taunts her about Willow’s ex, Oz, and cruelly teases her about her nervous stutter. Willow returns to point out a vampire leaving with a victim; Faith saves the girl and is momentarily shaken by the girl’s gratitude.

Buffy is running out of ideas on escaping the Council while Faith uses her body to visit her boyfriend, Riley.


Act 3
“She’s not your friend,” Tara announces when she and Willow are back at Tara’s. The energy’s all wrong, and the girl she met was “fragmented... plus she was kind of mean.”

Tara, normally the reticent one, suggests opening a passage to the nether realm... but she warns Willow that it would be an intense experience. “I trust you,” Willow says.

Faith-in-Buffy seduces Riley, who, although still healing, is up to the task. He’s a little weirded out by her wildness until her turns the seduction into a more intimate lovemaking.

Willow and Tara sit side-to-side and chant their spell to enter the nether world, the power of which overtakes Willow orgasmically.

After lovemaking, Riley says, “I love you,” and genuinely horrifies Faith-in-Buffy (“Who are you? What do you want from her?”)

As Adam makes apostles out of his team of vampires his apostles and Faith sneaks away from Riley the next morning, Buffy finally escapes the Watcher team.

Act 4
Faith-in-Buffy catches her plane the next morning while Faith-in-Buffy visits a terrified Giles. It takes about five minutes for Buffy to prove herself. But Willow and Tara, once they arrive, already know: they proved it in the netherworld and came back with a “Tatra” that can reverse the spell. But they have to find Faith-in-Buffy.

Meanwhile, Adam’s vampire apostles have taken over a church, news of which beckons Riley, the Scooby Gang, and even Faith-in-Buffy. Faith in Buffy insists to Riley on going in right away before everyone else arrives. (“I’m Buffy! I have to do this!”)
She repeats a phrase she’s used mockingly with earnest: “You’re not going to kill these people, because it’s wrong.” She’s “the Slayer-- the one and only.” Faith finishes off the vampires except one, which Buffy gets. Then the Slayers fight until Buffy switches their bodies back. Faith runs away.

The Council has cleared out, too, and we learn that Faith has hopped a train, headed for parts unknown.

Notes

In a fascinating episode that curves slowly from farce to poignancy, the most interesting arc of this story is Faith’s odyssey in Buffy’s body, which becomes less fun as she experiences things she’s avoided before. Her reaction to Riley’s love indicates a sad unfamiliarity with affection, and what creeps out along the way is a jealous sort of Buffy-worship. Faith starts out pretending she's controlling a puppet, looking for opportunities to insult Buffy. But along the way a strange seriousness comes to her role-playing: she defends Buffy ("I am not a killer. I'm the slayer.") She refers to Buffy as the "one and only," meaning she's coming to see herself as extraneous, meaningless. She's saddened by the happiness in Buffy's life, and she's overcome by both hatred and love. In the end she understands Buffy's genuine, Superman-like adherence to a code of right and wrong, and the truth saddens her.

Between the two acting tours-de-force, Eliza Dushku is the superior actress, at least if the yardstick used is the ability to impersonate another actress. Sarah Michelle Gellar is adequate in portraying Buffy with Faith’s wonky vocabulary, but her performances leans towards caricature. Dushku’s impersonation of Gellar is downright eerie.

Still, Gellar’s Taxi Driver bit in front of the mirror is extremely clever, as she sticks out her tongue and tries to recite “Buffy lines.” (“You can’t do that. It’s wrong.”) But there's something sickening-sweet about her aping of Faith's voluptuous sensuality, as if it doesn't fit her.

Homoeroticism is another order of the day: Faith's early time in Buffy’s body is highly sensual, as she caresses herself in a bath and admires "her" face. Meanwhile, the show itself manages to give us a lesbian love scene without Tara and Willow actually touching. The smoking circle in which Willow’s sweating entrance to the netherworld happens is, surprisingly, genuinely erotic. Nicely done and not particularly exploitative, this is a memorable scene.

Here's a question: Wetworks? From the Watcher’s Council? What on earth does the Council do? The question will remain in my mind forever, apparently, because I never have been able to get a handle on the shape of this Council. Surely one Slayer per generation wouldn't need a whole council, unless the Council's Slayer-watching is but one aspect of their work. Do they have demon-hunting teams in England? Are they doing nothing but waiting for some apocalypse that will require lots of work for them? Are they like a monastic order, folding in on itself and keeping arcana in preparation for the end-times? Will we ever, ever learn?

So we end with a chastened Faith heading of for parts unknown, having learned to hate herself even more. I'm curious to see what will become of her.

Quotes

Giles: They sent a retrieval team to capture Faith... this is a special operations unit; they handle the Council’s trickier jobs, smuggling, interrogations, wetworks...
Willow: What's wetworks?
Xander: SCUBA-type stuff.
Anya: I thought it was murder.
Xander: Well... yeah, but there could be underwater... murder... with snorkels.


Spike: You know why I really hate you, Summers?
Faith in Buffy (FIB): 'Cause I’m a stuck up tight-ass with no sense of fun?
Spike: Well, yeah, that about covers it...
FIB: 'Cause I could do anything I want instead I choose to pout and whine about the burden of Slayerness?


Buffy-in-Faith (BIF): Oh! When I had psychic powers I heard my Mom think you were a like a stevedore during sex. Do you want me to continue?
Giles: Actually, I beg you to stop.
BIF: What’s a stevedore?

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