Two Nights of Surprises
"Surprise" Plot Summary:
Buffy has a dream in which Angel crumbles to dust at her touch, and Drusilla appears. After visiting a shirtless Angel, who kisses her to shut her up, Buffy she tells Willow about the encounter and contemplates how far she should take the relationship. Willow advises her to sieze the day, then invites Oz to Buffy's surprise seventeenth birthday party. Xander asks Cordelia, who's less forthcoming.
Giles is concerned about Buffy's nightmare, with reason - Drusilla and Spike are arranging a party of their own in an abandoned warehouse. Meanwhile, Jenny Carpenter is visited by an older gypsy who reminds her of her responsibility to make Angel suffer for his crimes against their people. Jenny tells Buffy that Giles wanted Buffy driven to meet him, but they are intercepted by Spike and Drusilla's thugs. Buffy fights her way free and kills a vampire in front of Oz, who's a bit surprised to learn that vampires are real.
When the birthday party begins, Buffy opens a box belonging to the thugs, and an arm reaches out to sieze her throat. Angel identifies it as a part of The Judge, a demon brought forth to rid the world of humanity. He cannot be destroyed by any weapon forged, only dismembered. Buffy and Angel agree that Angel must take the arm far away so that Drusilla cannot put The Judge together, though Angel will have to travel by ship to avoid the daylight, so Buffy won't see him for months. But at the dock, they are attacked by Drusilla's men, who retake the arm.
Drusilla puts together the pieces of The Judge, who comes alive and fries a vampire by touching him. Buffy and Angel follow the thugs and see the creature in action. Buffy fights, Angel drops a TV on The Judge, and they flee through the sewers. Back at Angel's place, she's cold and hurt. He comforts her, tells her he loves her, and they have sex. When he awakens, Angel flees into the night, screaming Buffy's name.
"Innocence" Plot Summary:
As Buffy wakes alone, Angel turns on a would-be benefactress and sucks the life out of her. The slayer goes home and then to school, where people comment that she seems changed. Giles is nervous that The Judge is now walking around somewhere, while Buffy is nervous that no one has heard from Angel. In fact, the two are together: Drusilla tells The Judge to destroy Angel, but The Judge ascertains that Angel has no human soul, and Drusilla rejoices that he has rejoined her in evil.
On the romance front, Willow discovers Xander - who had earlier wanted to rescue Buffy over Cordelia and Giles' objections - smooching with Cordelia. She explodes at his inattention to her. Buffy goes to Angel's place, where he sneers that she has a lot to learn about men, but seems like a real pro in bed. Buffy is devastated. Jenny, who suspects what has happened, goes to see the old gypsy, who tells her that if Angel has experienced true happiness, the gypsy curse will have cost him his soul. He reminds her that they serve not justice, but vengeance.
Angel appears at the school and tries to kill Willow, but Jenny staves him off with a cross and then Buffy shows up to demand that he deal with her. Xander pulls Willow to safety as Angel kisses Buffy against her will. Willow wonders how Jenny knew Angel had reverted to evil, and Giles wonders what triggered the change. Buffy flees and cries herself to sleep, then dreams of making love with Angel and attending a funeral where he tells her she has to know what to see. She sees Jenny in black, and rushes back to school to confront her.
Jenny admits that she knew of the curse on Angel, and tells Giles that she is a gypsy. Giles and Jenny realize that Buffy must have been intimate with Angel, and all three of them know that that event precipitated his transformation. Buffy asks Jenny to take her to someone who can undo the curse, but when they arrive at the old gypsy's house, Angel has murdered him.
Xander, meanwhile, has a plan - he gets Cordelia to pretend to be his date and sneaks into a munitions plant, taking an M-16 for Buffy to use against Angel. Willow asks Oz to kiss her, but he realizes that she wants to make Xander jealous and says he'd rather wait. They give Buffy the weapon and she follows Drusilla, Angel, and The Judge to a movie theater, where The Judge is about to incinerate a mass of humanity.
Buffy destroys him with the weapon, tells her friends to pick up the pieces, and chases Angel outside, where she fights him. She has the opportunity to kill him, but kicks him in the groin instead and vows to do it later. She expects Giles to be disappointed in her, but he says she only has his respect.
Shake-up time on Buffy, huh? Seems to be a popular theme this season on shows I like - change the tone, make everything darker. Which has its pluses and minuses. This show occasionally reminded me too much of 90210 (which I should qualify by saying that I never WATCHED 90210, but it gave me the same impression as the ads). I'm glad to lose some of the teen fluff, but as for the teen angst, well...
I'm trying to decide how I feel about Buffy having sex with Angel. My gut reaction was annoyance and distaste, which might just mean I'm getting old. Still, the first part of this episode made a big deal about her seventeenth birthday - I realize that is not particularly young in terms of the average age at which teenagers have sex, but for Pete's sake, she can't even drive a car yet. There are a lot kids watching this show who are younger, less mature, and less responsible than Buffy. They get enough pressure from their peers without more pressure from their TV heroes to assume that jumping impulsively into bed is something that all teens do.
And Buffy's not just a typical teen: she's a role model. OK, she thought she was in love, but since when does love have to be followed by the immediate gratification of sex? Angel should have known better - not only is he an older man, he's a several-hundred-year-old immortal. In some ways this relationship is as disturbing as if Buffy had decided to lose her virginity with Giles.
It's not that I've lost respect for Buffy, who is after all just a teenage girl; I've lost some respect for her creators. I wish they'd left the "did they or didn't they" question offscreen, and made it Buffy's love, not her you-know-what, that symbolized her devotion to Angel and thus his happiness. Television would ultimately be better served if, instead of giving what are ultimately conservative messages about sex being scary and dangerous, shows put more emphasis on relationships themselves, and the fact that sex is not the only barometer of love.
On the other hand, I am pleased that Buffy's power isn't tied to her chastity or any medieval supernatural crap like that. It's so typical for women to be put in a position where they can only have strength if they remain celibate (just look at Captain Janeway). I really wanted to see Buffy kill Angel and was angry that she didn't, thus giving the suggestion that she has been weakened by her sexuality. I guess the producers thought Buffy's behavior would be excusable if girls watching the show got the cautionary message that sex can have unforeseen bad consequences...and I guess there's no point in wondering whether she should have asked about protection with an immortal who can't reproduce. Oh, TV sex messages are always a mess. I better stick to talking about this episode on a story level rather than in terms of its social responsibility.
The drama itself was well-crafted and unfolded intriguingly, though the cast of characters is getting too large to juggle. The humor in this episode was more jarring than in most, particularly Willow and Cordelia's asides - their concerns seemed juvenile in the face of the issues Buffy was facing. Willow's nervous about dating Oz because he's a senior, whereas Buffy's nervous about dating an immortal...at least Oz's sexual fantasies apparently end with kissing! I enjoyed most of the Oz/Willow/Xander/Cordelia interaction, though Cordelia is MUCH too much of a caricature at present; it's difficult to like her at all. Willow's getting increasingly flaky too - we saw almost none of her intellect at work this episode, and indeed Xander came up with all the good ideas. Must be more of that female hormonal thing. Sigh.
I love Oz. He's flaky, he's smart, he's cool, he's witty, he has a great head on his shoulders. Good addition to this team. I won't precisely be sorry to lose Angel, either - he's very nice to look at, but I've never believed in the untold depths he's supposed to have from having lived all these years. As immortals go, Spike and Drusilla are more interesting, though also too one-dimensional. As for The Judge, a combination of Hellraiser and Frankenstein...I was sorry to see him get blown up. He had a hysterically dry sense of humor.
Giles is wonderful, and getting ever more so. I like the twist in his relationship with Jenny now that he knows she's part of a vendetta against Angel, and I like everything about his relationship with Buffy - particularly that he always trusts her to lead. He was neither judgemental nor overprotective when he found out about her intimacy with Angel. Indeed, he's always known when to treat her like a woman instead of a girl, without ever pushing inappropriate boundaries.
Buffy suffers a little from Xena Syndrome this season; as it gets darker and more serious, the trademark lightheartedness becomes more difficult to sustain. And if they're going to do a dark, serious, Anne Rice-ish show about vampires, they had better do it well or people will be laughing, and I don't mean in a good way.