So, without further ado...Consequences.
Our episode begins with a dream of High Metaphorical Importance. Buffy is underwater, where gross dead Alan tries to pull her down further. She escapes and kicks to the top, where Faith is ready to dunk her back under. It would seem that she is dealing with the feelings of guilty and anxiety over Alan's death and her inevitable punishment for it...poorly. Whereas Faith gleefully ignores her emotions, and is also sadistic and evil!!!
Wesley sends Buffy and Faith on their next mission--solving Alan's murder. Pursuant to Buffy's dream, Faith keeps her cool and agrees to join the investigation, while Buffy flails about in protest. Lucky for her, Wesley becomes distracted when Cordelia comes into the library with her youthful exuberance and feminine wiles. She asks him what he's doing in Sunnydale and he responds, "I am here to watch girls."
And Buffy has plenty to worry about, considering the fact that everyone around Sunnydale is beginning to piece together the details. Angel remembers finding Buffy with blood on her hands (like, actual blood, we're out of the dream of metaphoric importance) at the scene of the crime, and Mr. Trick tells the Mayor that Alan had wood splinters from a stake in his stab wound. This delights the Mayor.
(Also, there's a huge missed opportunity to tie the events of Ted into this episode, as they're basically rehashing Buffy's process of grief after she killed a "human" only to contrast it with Faith's process. But there's no need to do that, since they already did it in Ted. Plus, the whole "I killed a guy before you made it fashionable" line of conversation might be to Buffy's advantage here.)
Regardless of her disagreement with Faith, Buffy keeps up the act when a detective turns up at her door questioning her whereabouts the previous night.
Luckily, Giles sees right through Faith, but doesn't let on. He finds her unstable and dangerous until she's able to take responsibility for what she did. He and Buffy decide to leave the Council out of it until they're able to try to get through to Faith, but a dramatic camera pan reveals Wesley sitting outside listening to their covert plan.
But there's more to what Faith says than just me being disingenuous. Throughout this season, Faith has served as Buffy's mirror, or in her own words, an example of what Buffy could be if she didn't have to toe the line. She is Buffy's repressed dark side. She gives into her baser impulses of a person with power, to exploit, to take thrill in exerting her power, to succumb to her earthly desires. And if Faith doesn't repent for doing these things, if she just gets away with it and doesn't have to suffer the consequences, then that means Buffy has no reason to stop herself from crossing the line. Because why not? Faith's having fun.
And that all sounds well and good in my head. But in my humble opinion, creating an entire character whose function is to be a mirror, rather than an actual person, is more obnoxious than intellectually satisfying. And Faith annoys the crap out of me. Nothing that happens with her character after this point held any weight with me the first go round, because suddenly we're supposed to stop seeing Faith as Buffy's shadow figure and feel sorry for her. And in episodes to come we're going to get some vague back story to flesh out Faith, but it's a hack job. They take her character too far with too little to carry her. OR SO I THOUGHT the first time--I'm already enjoying Faith more now than I did then. I will be happy to be proven wrong.
So anyway back to the dock. Mr. Trick turns up to take out the Slayers with their newfound knowledge of the Mayor's dirty doings, and very nearly kills Buffy--only to be unceremoniously turned to dust by Faith. Mr. Trick, we hardly knew ye. I mean, seriously, what a wasted character.
And sure enough, no sooner does Buffy express hope for Faith's redemption than Faith goes to the Mayor's office and asks him for a job.
Too far, and too little to carry her?