Sunday, March 24, 2013

Choices

Season #3, Episode #19: Choices
"You should get captured more often."

Today you get two reviews for the price of one. Why? Because Choices barely counts as an episode. Nothing happens. It's all plot, but somehow, there's no plot. Once all is said and done, Wesley summarizes the events of the episode: "We're right back where we started." And we're meant to see Wesley as an out-of-touch fuddy-duddy who can't appreciate the deeper subtleties of life. But really...the episode ends the same way it begins.

To begin. Faith and the Mayor--whose relationship I've already written doesn't convince me--have another father daughter bonding moment. He buys her a gift, complete with a bow. But before you start thinking this is a Giles-esque gesture, he threatens to take it away when she talks back. Clutching the gift, which turns out to be a fancy knife (flashes of The Zeppo's "Katie,") Faith says, "I'm sorry. Sir."


Then we get to a point where I realize that it really has been a long time since I updated this blog and I have no idea what's going on. Buffy and Angel patrol in the cemetery, and Buffy complains that Angel never takes her anywhere nice and that when they're 50 they'll still be back in the same graveyard. And I'm like, wait, they're a couple?? Hasn't Buffy spent the entire season reassuring the Scoobies that they are never ever getting back together, like ever?


Or maybe I just forgot the part where they got back together, because even as a happy couple, they're always looking for ways out. Always brooding, talking about how it can't work, doing shirtless yoga.

Escape route #3 presents itself to Buffy in the form of an acceptance letter from Northwestern. Please remember that if you can suspend disbelief long enough to forget the kids eating their principal or Joyce trying to burn Buffy at the stake, you can accept that Buffy managed to make it to her senior year of high school let alone get accepted to Northwestern.

There's college buzz abound at Sunnydale High: Willow got accepted to Oxford, "where they make Gileses," and Xander plans on attending the university of life. The chatter is too tempting to Buffy, who begs proud papa Giles and Wesley to let her escape to Northwestern. While they don't come right out and tell her "no," they do seem to err on the side of Cordelia, who tells Buffy, "This conversation is reserved for people who have a future."


Faith heads down to the infamous Docks of Ill Repute to receive a Sinister Package for the Mayor.


The Scoobies discuss a game plan for confronting the Mayor; my eyes glaze over. This is what Willow is wearing.


Xander runs along to do his part of the Scooby Plan (which I have since learned involves destroying a box) and runs into Cordelia, who is shopping for this beautiful creation.


He mocks her for not having gotten into any schools, but she presents him with acceptance letters to USC, Colorado State, Duke, and Columbia. Very respectable if not totally random.

At the Mayor's office, Buffy, Angel and Willow launch a recon mission to retrieve the box that they want to destroy. Buffy pulls a Mission Impossible but sets off the alarm; vampire fight ensues. Charmingly, Buffy and Angel thwart the vampires by pushing a table onto them and running real fast.

While they escape, Faith manages to capture Willow. The Scoobies know that the only way of getting her back is by giving the Mayor his box back. Wesley rightly points out that this box is necessary for the ascension and they have the means to destroy it; if they give it back in exchange for Willow, thousands will die. But we love Willow. Everyone wants to slap Wesley a lot.


Willow manages to break into the Mayor's office and discovers his file cabinet full of ancient artifacts and gross things. More importantly, she finds the "Books of Ascension." Cue montage of Willow sitting on the floor reading the Books of Ascension. She's interrupted by Faith, and acts as an audience proxy (at least for this audience member) by tearing Faith down.


Willow doesn't get a lot of big moments, particularly in the early seasons. And there's never been any love lost between Willow and Faith, largely due to mutual jealousy over the other's relationship with Buffy. But she gets up from her book reading montage, looks Faith in the eye, and tells her that she doesn't care about her Troubled Past or her nebulous Daddy Issues. And I'm like, OMG Willow, neither do I!! She even has the cajones to call Faith a "big, selfish, worthless waste," for which she receives a beating. But didn't it feel goooood, Willow?


Remember the beginning of this episode, and also the entire first three seasons of this show? The part about Buffy wanting to have a normal life that involves Northwestern, Angel, and growing up to be 50 years old? The Mayor explicates all this and more in the Sunnydale High cafeteria where the trade takes place. He takes a moment to offer his two cents about Buffy and Angel's relationship, particularly that Angel is selfish for wanting to keep Buffy when she deserves to live her life as a teenager who isn't deficient in Vitamin D. This is almost exactly what happened when Spike came back to Sunnydale in Lovers Walk, but hey, we have 42 minutes to fill here.

"But Rose," you're probably wondering as you white knuckle your mouse. "What is in that mysterious box?" Even if you've seen the episode, you probably don't remember because it is so pointless.


Well, there's your answer. Snyder busts into the cafeteria to break up the secret meeting. One of his guards opens the box and a spider jumps out and eats his face.

The rest of the episode follows as such. Spiders break out of the box. It is dark in the cafeteria so they can't see the spiders, but turning the lights on would be too logical. Buffy accidentally falls on top of one. Faith kills the other with her fancy knife. "Are there any more?" somebody asks. The Mayor responds that inside of the box, there are 50 billion! No word as to WTF they are or why an entire episode revolves around them.

The trade executed, it's time for everyone to go home. Faith stares longingly at her fancy knife, which is lodged in the wall. At the beginning of the episode, she was at a low. Her attempts to gain the advantage over Buffy--which increasingly seems like her only real motivation--were thwarted episodes ago. She didn't really want Angel, but she wants to be wanted by Angel. She doesn't want to be Buffy, but wants to get out of Buffy's shadow. And she bristles under the watch of the Council, but craves the validation of an authority figure. The knife was something special; a gift meant for her and only her, given to her by the one person who finds her more valuable than Buffy. But at the end of Choices, she has to leave it behind.



But she's not alone. Buffy leaves behind her dream of going to Northwestern, which was never really more than a carrot dangling in front of her face.

Willow leaves behind her dream of going abroad, instead deciding to going to UC Sunnydale. She insists it isn't about Buffy--she got a taste of power back at the Mayor's office and now feels that she belongs in Sunnydale, fighting the forces of evil, developing her powers. Remember this in Season 6. I'll be sure to come back to it in 2019 when I begin reviewing Season 6.

And most poignantly, it turns out that Cordelia wasn't shopping for a dress all those scenes ago; she's a shopgirl! She longingly stares at it in the storeroom mirror before her boss shouts at her that break is over. She leaves behind her dream of...owning a really pretty dress. And why? You'll have to tune in next week. We wouldn't want to reveal any pertinent information in Choices.


Favorite moment: The Willow/Faith showdown. But since that's already been covered, I'll give you an Oz moment. When Wesley insists that they need to destroy the box rather than use it to get Willow back, emotions run high. Everyone's shouting except for Oz, who sits calmly and stares ahead. Just when things hit a fever pitch, he stands up, knocks over the Magic Urn with which they would destroy the box, making that no longer an option.

 

Ahh, true love <333

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