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She’s a Girl With a Problem

Buffy Episode 6.14 Older and Far Away
Air Date: 12Feb02

In terms of borrowed titles that would be appropriate for this recap of the latest Buffy, I couldn't decide between the one you see up top or ‘Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown’. In the end, the Northern Pikes song won out over the Almodovar film (FYI to my American pals: ‘Girl With A Problem’ was a hit song in Canada around about '87 or so).

I didn't enjoy 'Older & Far Away' as much as last week's episode, but I haven't enjoyed one THAT much since 'Tabula Rasa' (the one where everyone forgot their identities. You know, Joan the Vampire Slayer and her tweed-suited sidekick Randy?). If that one was a 4 out of 5 (not that I like to rate them), I'd give this one about a 3, since it addressed a couple of the season's bigger issues and had some meaty character development. It was, however, lacking in comedy -- I've watched it twice now and, in my opinion, there wasn't a single laugh-out-loud line in the whole episode. The closest thing to a laugh came from the most unlikely source, but more on that in a minute.

So does this show have the longest "Previously..." montage in television history?

Giles: Previously...
Buffy: But MOM, why did we have to move here?
Giles: You're the Slayer.
Buffy: But I don't WANT to be the Slayer!
Willow: Hi, I'm Willow and I have a crush on Xander.
Xander (to Buffy): Will you go to the dance with me?
Buffy (to Angel): You're a good vampire?!?
Angel (to Buffy): I love you.
Buffy (to Angel): Now you're an EVIL vampire?

And blah, blah, blah through everything else that's ever happened on the show. 10 points to the first person to respond and say, "Oh come on - you're exaggerating."

It was good to see an opening scene that had Buffy out prowling through the graveyard in search of an anonymous nasty. I realize that the show has to be allowed to grow and change (since it does that better than any other), but it's very reassuring to see her out kung-fu fighting with a sword-swinging demon again. Less laying, more slaying! Someone recently coined the slam dunk: Buffy - The Vampires Lay Her, which is one better than that similar joke from Friends a few years back. Speaking of that demon, I totally dug him. All the now-you-see-me stuff was, of course, frustrating for the Scoobs, but I thought it was a cool little invention on the part of the writer. I can imagine a long backstory, where someone slays him, he goes into the sword, the sword gets a new owner, and eventually the demon gets released again - Rinse and repeat. A thousand years later it takes an ex-cheerleader to come up with the idea of snapping the sword in two to end the threat.

I missed the chance to see the preview for this episode (the network that carries Buffy here doesn't air them, though I usually see them online), but I guess I received bad information when I heard that there was a quick shot of Ethan Rayne. Too bad, because his appearances usually make for great episodes. Instead we got... Clem. Clem the nightmarish hellspawn who's shy around girls but thought Buffy's "date" was cute. Run, children! Run from Clem, The Arch-Demon of Mid-90's Seattle Grunge. Party on, Clem! Excellent!

One of the things that's been bugging me about this season is how fractured the plotlines have become. Something major will happen, then it'll be forgotten for 2 or 3 (or 5 or 6) episodes before anyone follows up on it. Isn't everyone a little put off that Xander's never been held accountable for summoning Sweet, the singin' & dancin' demon, and getting a bunch of innocents killed? HE even brought it up last night, but with no effect. After the last episode, I was really looking forward to seeing Buffy go after Warren and throw him up against a wall for killing Katrina and trying to pin it on her. But oh well, it's her birthday, so that can wait. At least mention was made of "Warren & The Nerd Herd" and how they've gone deeper into hiding. Small mercies.

A couple of months ago when I was first getting annoyed with how two-dimensional Willow's abuse of magic had become, I said something like, "At least they don't have her in a 12-step support group for recovering magic addicts." Friends & neighbours, I give you The Last Straw. A potentially powerful and touching concept that's been building beautifully for several seasons has now been reduced to a goofy little After School Special. Nice girl tries drugs and ends up in rehab. Winston Churchill used to take naps and say to his aides, "Only wake me if we're at war." Can someone wake Joss up? Cause I'm personally about to lead the attack on Mutant Enemy for COMPLETELY dropping the ball on this one. "What's that smell? Willow, have you been smoking magic again?"

At least they're not shying away from dealing with Willow & Tara's breakup. I'm afraid the Summers house slid a few inches off it's foundation with all the shaking and twitching when they were greeting each other at the front door.

Speaking of Tara, what got into HER last night? Her charm has always been how sweet-but-awkward she is and, as I said last week, it's been verging on Rain Man status. I guess she's never really felt like she's in the loop with the inner workings of Scooby matters, but give her the inside scoop on who's doing who, and she becomes kitten-with-a-whip! The smug look she shot Spike last night while they were playing poker (did you love the fact that she was playing poker instead of Monopoly?) was priceless, and her verbal jab at his "muscle cramp" was my favourite moment of the episode. When was the last time Tara cracked a joke? Let's see, was it... NEVER?

My other favourite moment would have to be when the demon took out both Spike and Xander. The contrast between Anya rushing to the man she loves, and Buffy being paralyzed by about 11 emotions (and a fear of half of them) and standing back from Spike, was a crunchy bit of Jell-O (tm) indeed...

What was with that CRAPPY music they were dancing to at the party? If I'm not mistaken, it was track 5 off 'Disco For Wasps Who Can't Dance'.

It was a very different Anya we saw last night, as well. Her lack of social graces are usually amusing, but last night she was just... mean. Don't get me wrong - I love her, but why exactly do any of the characters on the show still invite her over? Outside of Xander, that is, and he's the recipient of sufficient perks to make all of her selfishness and juvenile behaviour worthwhile. Is it safe to say that Anya doesn't hold up well in a crisis? That whole nasty scene in the kitchen when she was trying to bully Willow into dispelling the curse was the closest thing we've seen to a Big Bad all season. And before I forget, thanks for stopping her from taking her shirt off, Xander. Now YOU'RE the big bad!

Except for Dawn, that is. Maybe that's the answer to the ongoing question of who the main villain of Season 6 is going to be. It's Dawnie! Cause she steals. And she's bad. And I know she's only 16, or something, but she's getting h-h-hot. I'm glad the writers remembered the kleptomania subplot. It's safe to say Dawn's been a pretty unpopular character this season, what with all the whining and the screaming and the "everyone hates me, I'm so alone" stuff. But one of the things I've always liked about the characters on this show is how flawed they all are. They can be thoughtless, irresponsible, insensitive, and they'll lie to save their own asses. On any other series, these qualities would be reserved for the villains and troublemakers, but the people Joss has so carefully developed over the years have to struggle to be good, and they find it hard to do the right thing a lot of the time. Dawn's no exception. Her mom just died, and that's enough to screw anyone up. But throw in everything else she's had to deal with, and can we cut her some slack? I'm sure YOU were no prize to live with at 16, so imagine if you found out that you were created from ancient energy to be the key to the doorway to hell. I screamed at people to get out of my room all the time in those days, and I didn't have to experience Joel Grey dragging me to the top of a 100 ft tower and hacking me up with a butcher knife. Dawn's an unpopular character because she's reacting in a reasonable way to unreasonable situations (thank you Dr. Joy Brown). And stealing stuff.

So how are Xander and the girl from Doublemeat (I'm drawing a blank on her name - Allergy Girl) going to explain missing a day's work? Should they use the old 'locked-in-the-house-by-a-demon's-curse' excuse? At least the guy that Xander & Anya brought for Buffy (was it Richard?) can say he was stabbed. By... a... demon.

Speaking of demons, here's a great little bit o' trivia that might mean something in future episodes. The actress that plays Hallie the Vengeance, sorry, the Justice Demon, is the same one that played Cecily, the woman that the pre-vamp Spike pined for in the flashback portion of Season 3's 'Fool For Love'. There have been numerous times where actors have been called back to play different small roles (Tom Lenk, who plays Andrew of the nerd troika, formerly appeared as one of Harmony's vampire minions), so it doesn't necessarily mean that Cecily went on to become a vengeance demon, but they know each other from somewhere and she DID call him William...

Whew! I'm cooked, but there's no new episode next week so I get to recharge for a while.
Take care, y'all.


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