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Buffy Episode 7.16 Storyteller
AirDate: 25th Feb 03

I LOVE this kind of episode! I had a truly great time watching ‘Storyteller’, and it’s another big feather in the cap of Jane Espenson. She’s currently my second favourite Buffy writer, immediately behind Ultimate Drew. Sure, I love Joss’ episodes, and there’s a lot to be said for seeing the reins back in the hands of the creator, but it’s a question of, “What have you done for me lately?” Jane’s been really active this season, and she’s cranked out some comedy gold – not to mention a number of very touching developments.

‘Storyteller’ had both, and the latter came from a very unlikely source. Last year, who would’ve believed that Tucker’s brother – old whatzizname, would not only be the last nerd standing, but would eventually wind up with an episode completely centered around him? It was Andrew’s ‘Superstar’. It was Andrew’s ‘Zeppo’.

And beyond its inclusion on that short list of classic spotlight episodes, it was also unique in two ways. It was the first Buffy episode with scenes shot on video, and it was the first episode (outside of the singing in ‘OMWF’) where they broke the 4th wall and addressed us directly (although I’m giving ‘Passion’ a footnote for Angel’s narration).

Andrew’s Masterpiece Theatre-style intro was brilliant, and I loved the way Anya burst in to kick him out of his fantasy and the bathroom. That was about the fifth masturbation joke in the show’s history. Why is it always so funny? Remember “Sometimes I think about two women doing a spell, and then I do a spell by myself”? All praises to Mighty Jane for giving the self-love joke to Anya. It just wouldn’t be the same if Xander had said it, right?

Nice gratuitous shot of Spike with his shirt off. It fit perfectly since it was Andrew’s fantasy, and I know there are a lot of you who count the days between glimpses of a shirtless James Marsters. See, Spike lovers? Jane’s got everyone’s best interests at heart. She gives Anya the sexy lines, and she writes Spike out of his clothes.

There wasn’t a whole lot of focus on the Potentials this time around. It was more of a demonstration of what a day is like at the Summers household now that it also includes a bunch of teenage girls, and a vampire, and a Xander, as seen through the eyes of their formerly evil hostage-slash-baker-slash-videographer. And what IS the household like? It’s crowded, noisy, there’s usually a line-up for the bathroom, and there’s never enough cereal. Dick Van Patten is going to show up at any minute to call a family meeting – just you wait (ask your parents to explain that one).

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but with Amanda being the only Potential originally from Sunnydale, where the hell are her parents?!? Did she ever tell them she was going to go live with the new guidance counselor? And from an outsider’s perspective, would it not appear that Buffy’s running some kind of brothel?

More Molly! I was just starting to like her, and suddenly they’ve cut out her tongue. And who’s the new blonde girl?

It’s nice to see that they’ve dialed back on the drastic change to Kennedy’s personality and her role in the group that festered in ‘Get it Done’. If M.E. has any hope of keeping Kennedy around as an important character, they need to forget about portraying her as an obnoxious, abrasive, screaming drill instructor who calls people maggots and makes them do push-ups. How ridiculous was that?

While we’re on the subject of annoying behaviour, leave it to Andrew to finally say what many of us have been thinking for quite a while. Buffy TOTALLY overdoes it on the lectures and motivational speeches! It was a hilarious scene, and it’s about time someone outed Buffy as an old windbag. Fox could release a fridge poetry set for making up Buffy speeches. Aside from the I’s and We’s and You’s, there would be all sorts of words like promise, challenge, courage, together, scared, fight, defeat, beat, enemy, war, etc. You too could stir up your very own Patton-esque pep rallies!

Andrew’s recollections of his days in The Trio were funny and very reminiscent of ‘Superstar’. “In my plan, we are beltless” was beautiful. All the comedy was particularly effective when you consider the serious note that the episode ended on. It suddenly turned all the jokes bittersweet as Buffy forced Andrew to finally face up to what he’d done in very real terms. But before that happened, I enjoyed the hell out of stuff like Andrew’s “duel” with Dark Willow, his amped-up version of Jonathan’s murder, and I don’t think I’ll ever lose the mental image of those three in togas, living “as Gooooooods!!” Perfect. Have Strong, Lenk and Busch gotten to do some amazing things together on this show, or what? I keep hearing what great pals they are, so it’s nice to see that even though two of their characters are dead, they keep getting called back to work together.

There’ve been a lot of terrific nods to past episodes this season, and the girl at school who was disappearing because no one noticed her was primo. It’s yet another example of how this is a show written only for the faithful (as will no doubt be evidenced at this year’s Emmys). You either get the references or you’re left in the dark. Buffy’s not going to go home and say, “Guys! A girl at school today was turning invisible because she felt ignored!” “Wow, Buffy. That reminds me of the time back in high school when another girl did the same thing, and we learned a valuable lesson about treating everyone like they’re important and deserving of attention.” If anything, when the writers resort to obvious exposition, it stands out and feels decidedly un-Buffy. It’s the mark of a masterful M.E. scribe when they drop in references to old episodes that only the diehards pick up on, and the newcomers will be completely oblivious.

Since we’re discussing observation, how much did you love the bit where Andrew stood in front of the passionately smooching Willow and Kennedy, only to remain transfixed by the work Xander did on the window? A lot? Me too. And yes, Ellen, I caught that Andrew’s word to describe Xander was “extraordinary” – a noteworthy label ever since Xander & Dawn’s tearful conversation at the end of ‘Potential’.

Ah yes – Dawn Summers. I really felt like ‘Potential’ was going to be a big turning point for Dawnie. It appeared to be the episode where she stopped feeling so out of place and lost in her sister’s shadow. Xander convinced her that it takes a strong person to play this game with no special powers, and she had proven herself to be that kind of person.

And since then she’s done… what? Well, she’s managed to make it into a number of group shots, and every now and then they even toss her a line of dialogue. The misfire that was ‘Get it Done’ portrayed her as the Scoobs’ go-to guy for translating ancient text. Where in hell’s half acre did that come from? Never mind having a hard time translating ancient Sumerian – the Dawn Summers I’ve been watching for almost three full seasons doesn’t know Sumerian from Hungarian.

Andrew set her up at the dining room table, framed her nicely, and observed what a cutie she is. Yep – that about sums it up. Michelle has turned in some great performances this season and I’ll be a fan forever. I just hope they find better ways to utilize her character before the series finale.

Something else I’m eager to see is the inevitable blow-up of the Buffy-Wood-Spike triangle. It’s seeming like Robin has backed off a bit now that he sees that A) Buffy and Spike have an obvious emotional connection, and B) Spike is the vampire he’s been hunting his whole life. Mama Wood didn’t raise no dummies – or at least her Watcher didn’t, and Woody knows that dusting Spike will probably put a damper on his chances with the Slayer. Still, that doesn’t change how badly he needs to do it (as we saw in the high school in this episode).

It was pretty creepy when Robin and Buffy were down by the seal and something – The First, or the essence of the Hellmouth, took him over and had him all white-eyed and spouting what he’s probably feeling deep down anyway in his angry and confused heart. Makes you wonder whether the evil put the words in his mouth, or just took away his internal censor. What are you gonna do, Woody? Win the Slayer over with your sweet and sensitive side, or break her heart by killing one of the people closest to her? Either way it’s going to be fascinating, because if he and Spike don’t come to blows they’re going to develop into one hell of a tag-team.

And if you want to consider Robin Wood’s loyalty and motivation a little further, let’s think about his relationship with the First. The Big Bad has given him a gift that no one else was able to provide. Something he feared he’d never find – a positive I.D. on his mom’s killer. If you watched the Sopranos last season, you’ll remember that Tony secured Christopher’s loyalty in exactly the same way. He gave him the name and address of the man who killed his father, and to Christopher, that meant everything. It’ll be interesting to see if that moment in Robin’s bathroom at the end of ‘First Date’ is relevant in the home stretch, because you have to think Woody’s pretty grateful too. If the First decides it wants Spike dead, it now has its instrument in Buffy’s camp.

Just as things were heavy and creepy in the high school basement, in came that damned pig that Andrew couldn’t kill! It’s hilarious to think that it’s been down there all this time, eating god knows what. Will it just stay down there permanently, getting bigger and weirder (it’s a pig in a basement full of rats and ghosts), until it shows up as the Big Bad in the 5th season of whatever sort of spinoff Joss dreams up? Maybe it’ll team up with the long lost Miss Kitty Fantastico to really put the Scoobs’ jaws on the floor. Yeah. Can I have a job on your new show, Mr.Whedon? I bet Fury didn’t think of bringing the pig back as the Big Bad. The PIG BAD!

I was totally surprised by the way Spike got into hamming it up for Andrew’s camera, but it was a bit like that scene in ‘Restless’ (ahhh, always there is ‘Restless’) where he was doing just that. Posing and, um, vamping for the paparazzi. What are we to take from this? I think it all means that, despite wanting his soul back and wanting to fight evil and be a better man, he really likes being a vampire because it’s COOL! He loves the wardrobe and the fangs and playing up to the mythology. Can’t blame him for that. The other nod to ‘Restless’ was, of course, the appearance of the Cheese Guy in the dream that we saw Andrew & Jonathan having in the Mexico flashback. I love it. Keep the nods and nudges coming, people. If I’m not mistaken, Drew Goddard co-wrote the next episode with David Fury, and the one after that is 100% Ultimate Drew. Keep your eyes peeled for the Presidents’ faces in the trees (that’s kind of a M*A*S*H joke, but a pretty obscure one – sorry).

One of the most important and meaningful things to occur in this mostly silly (in a good way) episode was between Xander & Anya. Someone likened Andrew’s role in that scene to Barbara Walters, and it was either that or just a marriage counselor, but either way he did a fantastic job of asking all the right questions and getting his subjects talking. A scene that started off as comical ended up becoming quite poignant, as Anya & Andrew trapped Xander and got him to open up about the breakup, one year after their almost-marriage. As far as I’m concerned, nobody writes Anya like Jane Espenson, and I can sympathize with Andrew’s desire to rewatch his record of the conversation and mouth along with the sigh-inducing candidness.

I was a bit surprised that it led them down into the basement and into Spike’s bed (eww). I honestly didn’t see any reconciliation in the cards for these two. Neither did Xander, and it was sad the way he suddenly realized that it felt right, just as Anya decided that there would be no encore. Nobody’s ever happy for long on this show, are they?

It’s that sort of stuff that really sucks me into an episode – much more so than all the kung fu fightin’. The punching and the kicking are all well and good, but I love this show for the great acting and the emotional depth of the writing. Aside from all the laughs and the brawls in the high school halls, there were three moments that stick out in my memory as being the most affecting. Xander & Anya’s heart-to-heart was the first, and the second was that bone-chilling scene in the basement when we got to see how Bringers are made. Yoikes!! Like, Scoob – we gotta get outta here! I don’t know if it was Jane’s idea, or Joss’, or someone else thought of it in a story meeting, but the idea that the seal pulled those kids down there and made them carve up their own eyes is truly horrifying, and I gasped when Buffy & Wood burst in and found them like that. So once you’re under the First’s control and you’ve performed the surgery, do other Bringers show up with your knife, your robe, and your membership card? I hope there’s no probationary period, because if you don’t make the cut (shhh), there aren’t a lot of other career options left for you at that point.

The third thing that really moved me in ‘Storyteller’ was the ending. As I said earlier, there were so many laughs and parodies and in-jokes that it was only more of a breakneck lurch when Buffy forced Andrew to finally face up to what he’d done. The Trio may have felt like comic book supervillains all last season, and maybe Andrew can gloss over the details in his memory, but the fact is that he murdered his best friend in cold blood – the last person left who trusted and respected him. As the other people living at Buffy’s house can attest, scars like that don’t heal so easily. Remember Xander’s line from last season’s finale? “I’ve been walking around all day with blood on my hands, and it’s the blood of people I love.” Spike, Willow and Anya have learned that it’s all too easy to collapse into remorse and write yourself off as a lost cause in the wake of the terrible things you’ve done. The hard part is accepting them and forcing yourself to continue growing as a person. Andrew’s confession at the episode’s end that he should probably die for his crimes only showed us that he hasn’t yet learned the same lesson. Here’s hoping there’s still time.

Take care, everybody.


About Ron : Email Ron
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Latest Comments

Also, I wanted to add my voice to those who want Clare Kramer to come back and reprise Glory before the show ends...somehow this must be possible. Glory was the first Big Bad that Buffy really did not believe she could beat, and the only one that ever inspired a sense of defeat in our heroine. Has to be a reason for the First to take on that wolf's clothing.

Posted by: Caroline on May 7, 2003 01:13 PM

Thanks for yet another great review Ron. I always look forward to your comments. As a huge fan of Jane Espenson's genius, I thought there was oceans of it on display in this episode, although an episode without a good kick ass fight scene is I think lacking something. But on the whole I would say this was the most Buffy-like of all the episodes in Season 7 so far - together with Potential. It grafted sparkling humour to darkness and tears, which is the show's essence. And it gave us more than a good glimpse at Buffy's excellent soul. Buffy's speech in the final scene gave me a greater sense of closure than the denouement in Killer. I honestly thought she was going to kill Andrew - an act that would be in keeping with her generalissimo persona, but instead she was forcing him to close the seal with his tears of remorse. So poignant. Like many here, I was initially dismissive of the fact that ME had kept " the other one" of the Troika as a permanent feature in this season's landscape. I could never have guessed that such a weak character could be central to such deep themes as ran through this episode, of authorial perspective, the shifting nature of reality, and redemption. It wouldn't have had the same power if it had been a character we loved better than Andrew. Huge credit must be given to Tom Lenk for his performance - he shone.
Note to ME though, please allow Michelle T to shine as she did in Potential!! Four episodes to go!

Posted by: Caroline on May 7, 2003 01:06 PM

It is always great to read a review by someone obviously intelligent and completly Buffy-literate, especially about a great ep like this one. I've always felt like one of the amazing things about this show is the stuff that you miss on the 1st, 2nd, 100th viewing and that other Buffy fans get, and I love reading the comments to your reviews too because of the different perspectives. With a show whose creator admits is very much BYO subtext, that is so important. So thanks. I really felt, apart from the very real emotional moments in this ep, that this is also one of the best things about the episode. Andrew is reviewing the last two seasons of 'Buffy' for us and bringing his own subtext and perspective. Fantastic stuff, Ron and Andrew!

Posted by: briony on April 28, 2003 08:52 AM

Buffy has been my favorite show since the begining, it started when I was in 5th grade and I have watched every single episode. I have them on DVD and Video and I always wanted to meet the caracters, cause there all rolemodles to me. Anyways if you could send me pictures in the mail I would be very greatful. MY Address is RR#1 Box 237z Selinsgrove PA 17870

Posted by: Jessica Biddinger on April 14, 2003 09:03 AM


Must admit, I haven't read the review yet (I will) -but I must congratulate you on spreading the word and the light. I saw mention of the leader, and I know He will be happy.

Posted by: Fellow Minion? on March 28, 2003 09:13 PM
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