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You Can Kind of Go Home Again

Buffy Episode 7.3 Same Time, Same Place
AirDate: 8th Oct 02

I was passionately excited about the first two episodes of this current season of Buffy, and it's only fair to say that not every episode is going to hit the high standard that they've set. So while I really enjoyed episode 7.3 'Same Time, Same Place', it ranks as my third favourite thus far. This is in no way a statement on anything particular that was lacking, they just can't all be the best. But before I commence with the closer examination, I just want to touch on two areas where I was remiss last week.

1. With all the praise and adoration we were heaping on James Marsters for his stirring performance, let us not forget to give due credit to the writing of Doug Petrie. That scene in the church wouldn't have existed without his beautiful dialogue.

2. I now agree with a couple of readers who leapt to Xander's defense when I stated that he was being unfair with Anya and clearly unwilling to accept responsibility for the pain he's caused her. I said it at the time and I'll restate it now when it comes to Anya I can be a little blind. The point that was made to me following the review was that Xander HAS taken responsibility for what he actually had control over. What he was pointing out to Anya last week was that the way she's behaving is going well beyond anything that she can continue to blame on him, and all things considered, he's right. A good aphorism mentioned by one reader was, "The whip used too often loses its sting."

Okay, on to the episode. This was a funny one, wasn't it? There were good laughs all the way through, and even in the moments that touched on more serious issues, Jane Espenson (I won't forget this week) managed to subtly weave in the kind of wit and camaraderie that has always been so evident between the Scoobs. Even Dawn, who continues to earn acceptance by the other characters AND the audience, seems to know how to get her jabs in at the right moments.

I'm glad Willow is home. Who doesn't love Willow? Ever since Cordelia busted her with that " softer side of Sears" putdown in the very first episode, our hearts have gone out to her. In one of his commentary tracks on the first season DVD set, Joss mentions how he realized early on that the best way to get the audience emotionally involved in an episode was to put Willow in peril. She's obviously been through hell, and we need our little buddy to come home and make with the healing among people who love her.

They do still love her, right?

Of course they do! It was a big relief to see that, despite some obvious apprehension, Buffy, Xander & Dawn were at the airport, complete with a sign in significant yellow crayon, ready to welcome her back. Unfortunately, Red's own insecurities manifested themselves in a little case of invisibility. Maybe that's not even the right word for what happened. Perceived non-existence? It seemed to be more of a dimensional shuffle where they were existing in the same physical spot but in two different realities.

This makes for an interesting parallel to Willow's relationship with her parents over the last few years. How much do you think they actually know about what's gone on in her life? Sometimes I picture the two of them sitting together at breakfast, and her mom says, "Ira, didn't we used to have a daughter?"

"No, not that I remember. Oh, wait! Red hair? Likes computers? You may be right. Whatever happened to her, anyway?"

I get that they haven't taken a very active parenting role, but with all of the witchcraft and murder and barely-averted apocalypses, you'd think they might at least wonder why they didn't see last semester's college transcripts.

This week it was once again the more demonically inclined characters who had the real insight into what was transpiring (although, interestingly enough, the nutcase figured it out before Anya). The scene in the basement was cleverly structured, and by that point I was really enjoying all of the Pulp Fiction-style moments of realization, as they rolled the clock back each time to show things from the opposite perspective. I assume that Buffy hasn't yet told Xander or Dawn about the return of Spike's soul, and Anya seems to have forgotten about the cat in the bag altogether.

Speaking of Anya, I would like to dub 'Same Time, Same Place' the unofficial first episode of the season, as last night marked the first time that she appeared in her usual heartbreakingly beautiful state both the outfit and the hair were flattering, leaving me to focus on that dreamy overbite. It was also nice to see her interacting with another main character in a situation that didn't revolve entirely around conflict and spite (I said SPITE, Spike. Go back to your muttering.), and for someone who earns a living off grudges, she showed real sensitivity in the way she treated Willow. Collective awww when she said, "I'm sorry, Willow. I wish things were better for you", because I admit that it isn't very often Anya remembers to care about other people, and I think that makes the occasions more meaningful. She's becoming increasingly vocal about how her heart just isn't in the inflicting of vengeance anymore, and I expect it won't be long before she has to decide once and for all which side of the dimensional vortex she's on. Halfrek cautioned her that with the major evil that's brewing, it's not the best time to be on the side of good. We'll see if that ends up being a factor in her decision.

Okay, let's talk about Gnarl, our Creep of the Week. Good fun in a Gollum kinda way, and aside from being sort of cute in the right light, he provided some pretty scary moments. He also contributed to what seems to be turning into a trend on this show. Can we stop with the skinning already?!? Willow skinned Warren, Gnarl skinned the skater kid, and I pretty much hit my breaking point when he started skinning Willow. Enough is enough! I don't like watching surgery performed on television, I don't want you to lift your bandage so I can see your scraped knee, and I DON'T have the stomach for any more skin removal on Buffy. Willow wouldn't have had much stomach left either, if Anya hadn't finally shed some light on what was going on in the cave. YUCK! I understand the theory about how effective it is to show Willow in danger, but Gnarl was tearing strips of skin off her stomach and eating them, and enough is bloody well enough.

Dawn would have been on the menu too, if they hadn't carried her home to prop her up on the couch like Abe Lincoln in the Hall of Presidents. Her paralysis made for the best laughs of the evening, from her clench jawed demand that Xander stop talking about vomit, to the involuntary salute, to Buffy leaving her with the remote, and finally the quick shot of her falling over once Buffy (ICK again) put her thumbs into Gnarl's eyes to end the threat.

The episode concluded on a heartwarming note, with Buffy coming in to give Willow the welcome home that they didn't previously have time for. I'm not even so sure I believe that Willow was actually utilizing Buffy's essence for physical healing, but the wounds on her stomach pale in comparison to the healing she needs to do inside, and I bet just getting to sit quietly and hold hands and feel like things could really be okay again did wonders for both of them.

That thought makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, so I'll sign off now and wish everyone well until next time. Be sure and watch Firefly on Friday night, because I'm digging it and I don't want to see it cancelled before it really gets a chance to grow.

Take care,

PS Are the rumours true? Did Sarah Michelle Gellar REALLY play both of the girls getting chased in the first two episodes' opening scenes? I went back and checked and I honestly can't be certain either way. The only place I've seen it in print is in that NY Daily News column ("Fall's Brief Bright Spots"), the link to which was posted on Slayage on October 7th. Sounds crazy, but it could well be true.

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