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."
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."
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.
"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.
Ahh, true love <333