I Only Have Eyes For You S2 E19 (Buffy and the Art of Story)

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on Buffy and the Art of Story: I Only Have Eyes For You (Season 2 Episode 19 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer):

This podcast episode covers (1) the interplay of plot and emotion; (2) surprising major turns after the three-quarter point in the episode; (3) whether the pop scares fit the narrative; and (4) seemingly insignificant scenes that turn into a subplot with a twist of its own.

As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).

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About Lisa M. Lilly

In addition to hosting the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story, Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries, as well as numerous short stories. She also writes non-fiction, including books on writing craft, under L.M. Lilly. She is the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.

Episode Transcript for I Only Have Eyes For You

Hello and welcome to Buffy and the Art of Story Season Two. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories – or just taking them apart to see how they work – you’re in the right place.

I am Lisa M Lilly, author of the Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries and founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com

Today we’re talking about Season Two Episode Nineteen I Only Have Eyes For You.

What’s Included

This episode is all about twists and turns that grow organically out of the story and yet still surprise us. In particular, I’ll talk about:

  1. plot and emotions;
  2. a surprising major turn after the three-quarter point in the episode;
  3. scares that, in my opinion that don’t quite fit; and
  4. seemingly insignificant scenes that turn into a subplot with a twist of its own.

As always, there will be no Spoilers except at the end to talk about foreshadowing, but I’ll give you plenty of warning.

Okay, let’s dive into the Hellmouth.

This episode was written by Marti Noxon and directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

Opening Conflict

The opening conflict in I Only Have Eyes For You shows Buffy standing alone at the Bronze on the upper level. She’s leaning on the railing and looking down. The moment, I just realize, is echoed in a way in the climax of the episode.

But here another student walks up to her.

We have not seen him before. Below there is a band playing. The young woman vocalist is singing a song about language as an annoying necessity. Which fits because language becomes key to this entire story.

The student tells Buffy he was in her Algebra class. She doesn’t remember him but she does her best trying to. He asks if she’s going to the dance tomorrow. And she says, “Oh, the Sadie Hawkins Dance where the girls are supposed to ask the boys.”

He says right, and he thought if she wasn’t going already maybe she could ask him.

Buffy stutters and stumbles. He immediately backs off.

Willow Worries For Buffy

She apologizes and tells him he seems like a great guy but she says. “I’m not seeing anybody. Ever again actually.”

He says that’s too bad and leaves, and Buffy looks sad.

She goes down the stairs to the first floor where Willow asks if she’s bailing. Buffy says she’ll go to the library, patrol if Giles think she should, and then hit the sack.

Willow says Buffy’s been doing that a lot lately, adding, “You’ve kind of been all work and no play Buffy.”

When Buffy says she came to the Bronze tonight, she does have fun, Willow says:

Willow: You came. You saw. You rejected.

Excellent Exposition In I Only Have Eyes For You

Buffy doesn’t think she’s in date mode. Willow suggests that maybe she’s thinking too much. Maybe she needs to be impulsive. And Buffy responds by saying remember her last boyfriend and she says:

Buffy: I slept with him. He lost his soul. Now my boyfriend’s gone forever and the demon that wears his face is killing my friends. The next impulsive decision I make will involve my choice of dentures.

This entire scene is such a great example of getting exposition in through conflict. Even the background of the Sadie Hawkins Dance where the girls ask the boys slips in there really naturally with the humor and awkwardness of the scene where the boy asks Buffy out.

Not Just Sharing Information

Buffy’s dialogue summing up what happened with Angel does give us a ton of information. But unlike in Killed By Death last Monday, where some of the information sharing just felt like that’s all it was, here to me it really works.

One, it is in conflict. Willow is saying, hey relax, have some fun, be impulsive. And Buffy is saying exactly why she does not want to be impulsive.

It also has that rhythm and style of the language of the show that most of us fans just enjoy listening to. And it ends with humor.

So all of this makes it fun despite that there is a lot of information. They’re  both preparing us for the episode to come and giving us that quick reminder of what happened earlier in the season. And the major conflict, which will be key to this episode as well.

The First Couple Fights

We switch to the school to a young couple fighting. Two teenagers. She’s breaking up with him.

Boy: A person doesn’t just wake up one morning and stop loving someone. Love is forever.

He pulls a gun on her and we go to credits. This is a great hook and it could be the Story Spark in a different episode. The Story Spark or Inciting Incident gets our main plot moving. But we will find out that the gun and this particular fight isn’t exactly what this story is about.

We return and at 4 minutes 48 seconds in.

Story Spark In I Only Have Eyes For You

The boy says he’s not afraid to use the gun.

Boy: Don’t walk away from me, bitch.

Buffy sees the two of them. She runs in and tackles the guy. The gun flies away and as it skids across the floor it disappears.

We are now a little over 5 minutes in. So the Story Spark usually comes about 10% into the story. Here that 4 minutes 40 seconds. So 5 minutes, 20 seconds is right around the right spot. Our episodes are usually 42 to 44 minutes long.

I see this as the Story Spark – that attempt to shoot and the gun disappearing – because it is what sets off the supernatural conflict here. Otherwise, it would’ve been a story about Buffy stopping a guy from killing his girlfriend, and the story pretty much would be over.

Principal Snyder Suspects Buffy

In the next scene Buffy has been called into Principal Snyder’s office. Buffy tells him she stopped the boy from killing his girlfriend. The janitor who was there saw him.

But Snyder says people can be coerced and he is going to look at all the pieces of this puzzle carefully and rationally until he can see how it’s all her fault. This is another reference to fault.

We already had Buffy expressing her feelings of responsibility and guilt about what Angel has done. Now Snyder is telling her this incident is all her fault. But Snyder gets called a way to deal with a vegan boy who chained himself to the vending machine again. He tells Buffy to wait for him. He’s not done.

While she waits, a 1955 Sunnydale High yearbook slides off the shelf. Buffy takes a quick look and replaces it.

Jenny Calendar Remembered

Willow is teaching Jenny’s computer class. She tells a joke toward the end and is very pleased when the students laugh. Giles stops by as that’s happening to see how the class is going. And he tells her she looks like she’s doing fine.

Willow says she had a good lesson plans, that they were on Ms. Calendar’s computer. Which I thought burned in the Passion, but perhaps that was a different one. Perhaps it was only the printer. I guess it doesn’t matter. The line is here to let us know why Willow teaching a class and that Miss Calendar is gone.

She also tells Giles she found files on paganism and magic on the computer and they’re really interesting. And she gives him a rose quartz she found in Ms. Calendar’s drawer and says it has healing powers. She thinks Jenny might’ve wanted Giles to have it. Giles looks touched and thanks her, saying it’s very thoughtful.

The Jenny and Giles theme music plays.

Buffy’s First Vision

We switch to Buffy sitting in class looking bored. The teacher is talking about the stock market and the Great Depression. Buffy shuts her eyes for a moment.

When she opens them she is in a different classroom. A pretty, dark-haired teacher is handing a book to student in a varsity jacket. They’re alone in the classroom. She calls the student,James and asks if he liked the Hemingway book she gave him.

Their hands are touching, just barely. She says the book is based on a true story. He fell in love with his –

A door opens, interrupting them. Buffy is back in her real classroom.

A Message

The teacher is still lecturing. He’s writing on the chalkboard. The students start to laugh, and he looks in shock at what he wrote: Don’t walk away from me, bitch.

In the hallway after, Buffy tells Xander something weird is going on.

Xander: Something weird is going on. Isn’t that our school motto?

He opens his locker. An arm shoots out of it and grabs him by the neck and tries to strangle him. Buffy gets the arm off of Xander. It disappears back into the locker but there’s nothing there when she looks.

Lighthearted Willow

She and Xander go into the library. He is looking a bit disheveled from the experience.

Willow: Xander. What happened? Did Cordelia win another round in the broom closet?

She is so lighthearted when she asks that it shows us Willow really has gotten past her disbelief and anger that Xander is seeing Cordelia.

Buffy and Xander tell Giles what happened. He thinks it’s a poltergeist.

One-Quarter Turn In I Only Have Eyes For You

This is a little more than 11 minutes into the episode. We usually see the first major plot turn around here. It comes from outside the protagonist and spins the story in a new direction.

I feel like this scene is it because now Buffy knows there’s some kind of ghost causing this trouble. She had a hint before because the gun was nowhere to be found. Which was part of Snyder suspicion of her. But this is confirmation.

Buffy: So we have some Bad Boo on our hands.

Giles says it’s a spirit struggling to work something out but the spirit can’t. So it lashes out. The only way to get rid of it is figure out what those issues are and how to resolve them. Buffy says something like great, now we’re Dr. Laura for the deceased.

But Giles points out they have to figure out first who the ghost is.

Another Couple

The next scene takes place later that night, again in the school hallways. The janitor is mopping. A teacher asks if it’s okay to walk through. She calls him George, and then says, “That is your name, right?” And he says yes and it’s fine.

It’s clear they don’t know each other very well. As she walks away, he says, “Oh, Ms. Frank.” She turns back toward him. He drops the mop and they both start saying the same lines that the girl and the boy who fought did. Including George saying, “You can’t make me disappear just because you say it’s over.”

She is telling him she just wants him to have normal life. And when she persists in saying it’s over he tells her, “Then tell me you don’t love me.”

Teacher: Is that what you need to hear? I don’t.

George: A person doesn’t just wake up one day and stop loving someone. Love is forever.

A gun appears in his hand and we cut to commercial.

Guns As Hooks

So this is the second time we have seen the gun right before the commercial. It is a good hook. The repetition makes me wonder if the writers are doing a little bit of an inside joke. Because this makes me think of Chekov’s gun. The idea that if you mention a gun in the first scene, someone needs to use by the end.

So if you set up something so significant, there needs to be a reason. It’s there, it should just be a random detail.

Giles Overhears

When we come back, Giles is alone in his office. He hears George and Ms. Frank kind of in the background. He steps out of the office into the main area of the library. A woman whispers, “I need you.”

Giles says to himself in a bit of wonder, “Jenny.”

He walks out to the hall to see what’s happening and sees George shoot Ms. Frank.

Giles tackles George. The gun flies away and disappears. George asks what’s going on and Giles tells him he just shot a woman. As the boy did in the earlier scene, George looks shocked and confused.

Drusilla Dances

The scene changes to a courtyard garden at night. Drusilla dances around, loving it. Angel points out that the jasmine is night blooming. Spike, who is sitting on the edge in his wheelchair, says:

Spike: It’s paradise. Big windows. Lovely gardens. It’ll be perfect when we want the sunlight to kill us.

But Angel says if Spike doesn’t like it he can hit the stairs and go home. Or he can take a stand. Throughout the episode Angel will mock Spike for being in the wheelchair.

Series Subplot And More

This is the first of the scenes I mentioned at the outset that seem insignificant or like they are here just to give us a glimpse of what Angel is doing before he and Buffy cross paths later in the episode. But the scenes turn out to tell their own story, which is what you want in the subplot. But I love the subtlety here. Even on rewatch I had forgotten how the episode ended. And I did not necessarily see the scenes as part of an episode subplot.

I thought they were showing us the series arc subplot.

Spike also says their old place was fine until Angel got it burned down – a reference to the end of Passion. That’s where Giles goes after Angel with flaming arrows.

Angel: Life life changes. You have to roll with the punches. But I guess you got that covered.

Connecting The Dots

60 minutes 35 seconds in, Giles tells Willow, Buffy, and Xander about the shooting the night before. They agree that it’s the same scene Buffy witnessed, including the gun disappearing.

Giles says it’s Jenny because she died violently in the school and is trapped there and lashing out. But Buffy and Willow say it doesn’t fit. Jenny wasn’t shot. And Buffy also points out that the fights follow a pattern that doesn’t fit Jenny’s death.

Here we get some wonderful lines from Giles. They sum up the conflicting message that some adults send to children. And that I think we have all heard in the workplace, though usually we don’t get this from Giles.

Giles says after they’ve been disagreeing with him about Jenny:

Giles: I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. In fact, I will encourage you to always challenge me when you feel it’s appropriate. You should never be cowed by authority. Except of course in this instance where I am clearly right and you are clearly wrong.

Conference Without Giles

Buffy and her friends meet separately in a classroom without Giles, puzzled by his insistence that it’s Jenny. And Xander says:

Xander: He’s usually investigate things from every boring angle guy. Now he’s like clinging to my one lame idea guy.

Buffy: Giles misses Jenny and he can’t think.

Willow searches the Internet and finds out that a student murdered a teacher the night of the Sadie Hawkins Dance. They were having an affair. After he killed her he committed suicide by shooting himself. She says it happened in — and Buffy cuts her off and says 1955.

Grace And James

They ask how she knew. She tells them about the yearbook before hearing the names of the two people involved. She finds their photos. Grace Newman, the teacher, and the student, James. And Buffy says he couldn’t make her love him so he killed her.

The others feel bad for both James and the teacher. But Buffy only feels bad for Ms. Newman. She says James murdered her and he should pay.

They all agree that probably James, not Ms. Newman, is the ghost because the incidents are so violent. Or I should say is the ghost who is causing the incidents.

Willow says she’s been browsing Ms. Calendar’s pagan websites and maybe she can figure out how to communicate with James so they can figure out what he wants.

Nearing The Midpoint

Buffy says who cares what he wants? They need to shut him down before some other innocent guy kills someone.

We’re at 19 minutes 42 seconds in, so we are nearing the Midpoint of the story. That’s where in a well-structured plot the protagonist suffers a significant reversal, or fully commits to the quest. Or both.

In the lunchroom, Cordelia says she is organizing a boycott. She is appalled that the girls have to ask the boys to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. And pay and everything. And she says they have to stop this or things will get really scary. Which leads into our Midpoint Reversal to the extent I see one here.

Story Structure

If you find the story structure I talk about in these episodes helpful and would like to apply it to your own story, whether you are writing or revising, you can get free story structure worksheets at the link in the show notes. Or you can become a patron of the show for as little as a dollar a month and you’ll get a free copy of Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel.

It is also available on audio. You can buy it on Audible or wherever you buy audiobooks. Or you can borrow it at your library if they lend out audiobooks.

If you do become a patron you will also get bonus content. So far I have recorded a breakdown of Jessica Jones. I’ll be posting the first patron only question and answer today. And I’m working on a movie breakdown.

Midpoint Reversal In I Only Have Eyes For You

At 20 minutes 40 seconds in, Cordelia has just said that things will get scary and suddenly snakes are everywhere. The students are screaming. One of the snakes strikes Cordelia’s face.

This could be seen as a reversal for Buffy because she didn’t stop the spirit from lashing out before this happened. I’m not sure this quite works as a reversal. For one thing, it doesn’t feel that personal to Buffy. And it doesn’t really drive her forward in any different way than she was already going to go.

My other issue with the snakes in the cafeteria also applies to the arm shooting out of the locker. Both of these are pop scares. They give us that little jolts and surprise us.

But neither incidents seems to relate to James when the story resolves. I can’t see any reason why he would cause either one. I get him causing the fights.

Now Giles has sort of covered this by telling us the spirit is frustrated and it lashes out. But it still just doesn’t feel like it fits.

Police In Sunnydale

As is usually the case in Buffy, it does result in us learning a little more about Sunnydale, which I love. Outside the school, everyone has evacuated. Principal Snyder is talking to an official. I think maybe he’s a police chief because we see all these police cars.

And they’re talking about what sort of cover story they can come up with. Snyder says maybe he can sell backed up sewers. At that point, someone in the crowd shouts a question at Snyder. And he says without missing a beat, “backed up sewer line. Same thing happened in San Diego last week.”

Principal Snyder

I love watching Snyder cover because he’s so good at it. But he turns to the police chief and says, “We’re on a Hellmouth. Sooner or later people are going to figure that out.”

The chief is not impressed. He says the City Council was told Snyder could handle this job. If he can’t, maybe he’d like to take it up with the mayor. Snyder quickly reassures the chief that he can handle it.

This scene adds to my view that perhaps Snyder is not simply a bad guy. Though maybe he is. Now we know he knows about the Hellmouth. And it’s possible he does think that Buffy is somehow responsible for some of the chaos that he is trying to manage. Or that she is working on behalf of the Hellmouth, not against it.

Snyder’s Vulnerability

It also shows a bit of vulnerability for Snyder. Because he seems afraid about having to talk to the mayor. Or at least nervous. And we don’t know – is it about losing his job? Is it because the mayor is very forbidding? Or both.

The vulnerability makes him a little more interesting. And we see that he too is under great pressure here. Which makes him at least a tiny bit relatable.

Midpoint Commitment

Now at 21 minutes 42 seconds in we do get a Midpoint Commitment. The friends have gathered at Buffy’s house. Willow says they should scrap the plan to communicate with James. It won’t work because she’s been doing research. And the only way is an exorcism.

Buffy agrees this is the way to go.

I see this as the throwing of caution to the wind. Because, as Cordelia will make clear, it’s a dangerous approach:

Cordelia: Are you crazy? I saw that movie. Even the priest died.

The way this plays out is part of why I feel this Midpoint is a little bit soft. As a group, yes, they throw caution to the wind. But Willow pushes us there. And Buffy kind of goes along. In a way it’s what she wanted to do anyway. She wants to get rid of James, not try to resolve his issues.

Do We Need More Willow

Also, we don’t see how Willow gets there. And I get that it’s not Willow’s story. We can’t see all her steps. But it feels a little like the plot just needs as to get everyone to the school and this is the way we do it. It doesn’t feel quite as built in as most Midpoints in Buffy are.

It does the job though.

Willow shows the map of the school and says they need to create a tripod. Buffy will chant at the hotspot Willow located. The other three will chant at other places in the school, forming a triangle around her. And Buffy does make a choice here. She is the one who says she will go to the hotspot.

At The School

They meet at night at the school. Willow has made them each a scapular. Which is a cloth necklace with pouches. She put sulfur in there to help ward off evil. They all have candles and they need to light them at midnight and chant at their different spots.

Once they are all in the school, all the doors slam shut around them.

Back To The Trio

We go back to Drusilla, Spike, and Angel outside in the garden again. Angel loves the way Drusilla is dancing around. Spike says, “Fortunately no one cares what you like, mate.”

Angel suggests that Drusilla very much cares. Then she has a vision and says, “There’s a gate. It wants her.” She says this is the moment that the Slayer is vulnerable.

And Spike says what difference does it make – Angel’s not going to do anything about it anyway.

Angel says the Slayer thing has run its course. He wants to focus elsewhere, and he grabs Drusilla. Spike says, “Is that right?” Angel tells Spike with him being special-needs boy, Angel figures they can always use an extra pair of hands. And he runs his hands over Drusilla’s body.

Distraught Giles

At 25 minutes 15 seconds in, Giles startles Willow in the school hallway. He’s there trying to contact Jenny. He smells a pungent odor. Willow tells him it’s the scapular. He asks if she used sulfur. She says yes. And he says, “Oh, that’s very clever.”

And then he tells her to run along in case there any phenomena when he contacts Jenny. Giles doesn’t ask why Willow is there at midnight. Why she needs the sulfur. All of this shows how distraught Giles is. How deep he is in his grief.

Quick Scene Shifts Keep The Pace Fast

Now the scenes at the school flip between our four characters. This works really well to keep the pace quick. And it raises the tension as each of them gets ready to do their part.

I will just tell you the highlights rather than cycling through all of the different scene shifts. But hopefully you get the idea if you haven’t rewatched recently.

Xander enters the snake-filled cafeteria. Lucky him. That’s where he gets to light his candle and chant. And he says, “Snakealicious.”

As Buffy walks the hallways she hears music. It’s the song I Only Have Eyes For You. She sees an old Sadie Hawkins poster and looks through the window in the door to a classroom.

More Danger

Grace and James slow dance inside. The song is playing on an old vinyl record player. The camera zooms in on James’s face which becomes decayed.

Cordelia is in the bathroom, which is her spot to chant. She looks at herself in the mirror where the snake bit her. That actually happens in an earlier scene. We see Cordelia quickly now. Just after we saw James’s face, half of her face becomes burned and red and she screams.

Willow is at the top of the stairs where Jenny was killed. So I find that very interesting because I would’ve thought that would be the hotspot but it isn’t. She is about to light her candle.

But a vortex opens at Willow’s feet and starts pulling her in. She screams for Giles. He runs out. Willow is almost all the way sucked down into the void. But he pulls her out, and they both fall down the stairs.

Buffy’s Drawn In

We’re about 28.5 minutes in. Now Buffy is on one of the outdoor upper walkways. This is part of what I meant when I said starting with her on that upper balcony, leaning on the railing at the Bronze. We kind of come back to that imagery.

And I’m guessing that that was not a mistake that the first scene took place there.

So she’s on the upper outer walkway. She puts on her scapular and has a flash of James shooting Grace Newman, then putting the record on the record player in the classroom.

We see his decaying face again. He yells, “Get out.”

A Quiet Moment

Cordelia’s face returns to normal. She takes a deep breath. Giles asks Willow if she’s all right. Willow says, “Giles, Jenny could never be this mean.” He says he knows. And he sits on the stair next to her and says it’s not her.

A clock starts striking. Its gong reverberates through the school. Willow and Giles go to the top of the stairs. Cordelia lights her candle. Buffy starts to. Willow struggles to get hers lit, finally does, and says, “I shall confront and expel all evil.:

Cordelia: I shall totally confront and expel all evil.

Xander is sitting crosslegged on the lunch room table, lit candle in front of him, snakes around him.

So I have to say I really like this Xander moment. He shows great bravery in doing this. And he seemed so calm. So Cordelia said I totally confront and expel all evil. He says “out of marrow and bone – ” And we switch to Buffy with her lit candle. And she says, “— out of house and home” and continues the chant. When she’s done, there is silence.

All the candles go out.

Nearing The Three-Quarter Turn

At nearly 30 minutes in our friends gather in the dim hallway, holding their candles. Momentarily we think it will be okay. We’re nearing the three-quarter mark in the story. It’s where we usually see the last major plot turn. It comes out of the Midpoint and spins the story in yet another new direction.

It should truly grow from the protagonist’s actions at the Midpoint or from the reversal she suffered. So it should not feel like something random just thrown in there to spin the story here.

Multiple Major Turns

This episode is really interesting because there is more than one major turn. Each one does grow out of that Midpoint for the most part, or out of what came before it.

At 30 minutes in a buzzing sound starts. Everyone looks around. Giles says, “Oh my God,” and they all run as swarms of wasps appear from all directions.

The doors are still shut and locked. Buffy has to kick them open so they can run outside. The wasps form around the school. So our friends are standing across the street watching. And it’s impossible for anyone to get in.

This development could be that Three-Quarter Turn. It comes from their decision to do the exorcism and forces them to take a new approach.

But we don’t know what that approach is yet. And there is a more significant turn to come.

James Wants Forgiveness

At Buffy’s house Giles says the good news is that none of the girls were shot while they were inside. As they talk they realize James keeps reliving shooting Grace Newman to try to work out whatever is keeping him in limbo.

Giles: Whatever it is he wants –

Buffy: He wants forgiveness.

Giles stands and says yes, but when James possesses people the scene always plays out the same way. So, Giles says, it’s a form of purgatory.

Giles: He’s doomed to kill his Ms. Newman over and over again and forgiveness is impossible.

Buffy: Good, he doesn’t deserve it.

Giles: To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need.

No Forgiveness From Buffy

But Buffy goes into almost a rant.

Buffy: No. James destroyed the one person he loved most in a moment of blind passion. That’s not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid. It’s just something he’s gonna have to live with.

Xander (quietly): He can’t live with it, Buff. He’s dead.

Buffy leaves the room. She goes into the kitchen.

Cordelia: Okay. Over identify much?

The next moment also is a major turn. And I think that this really is the Three-Quarter Turn because it spins the story in another new direction. And it is triggered by Buffy’s actions.

Three-Quarter Turn In I Only Have Eyes For You

At 33 minutes, 5 seconds, Buffy finds a 1955 Sadie Hawkins flyer in her pocket. She hear someone whisper, “I need you.”

She walks to the school, and the swarm of wasps parts to let her in. And we cut to commercial. So, another great hook there. That might be my favorite one in this episode.

Willow discovers Buffy is gone and sees the flyer. They all go to the school. But they can’t get in because of the wasps. Giles says Buffy’s under the spirits thrall and James wants to change what happened.

Willow is worried because it always ends the same and Buffy will get shot. So all the characters are assuming that the female ghost will inhabit Buffy and that’s what James wants. And she’ll be in danger. Which sets up the major twist of the story.

Who’s Haunting Whom?

The first time I saw the episode I think I too probably assumed that Buffy would be Grace. And that Buffy was so angry at James because she identified with Grace Newman. Once you know that James will take over Buffy, looking back at her dialogue, especially that last rant, it does seem more clear why she is so angry at James. Because she’s angry at herself. But at this point, Giles says Buffy should be safe because there is no man inside for James to possess. And Willow says, “In theory.”

Angel Confronts Buffy

Buffy slowly walks through the hall. Angel appears behind her and says, “Fun fact about wasps. They have no taste for the undead.”

This is yet another twist that could have served as the Three-Quarter Turn in a different story. Simply the fact that Angel appears there. It is late in the story to be the Three-Quarter Turn, but it is just as major as the one where Buffy chose to go to the school.

And that’s part of what makes the second half of the story so intriguing.

Buffy has her back to Angel. And she says he is the only person she can talk to. On rewatch I know she’s been possessed by the spirit of James at that moment. I don’t know that I realized it on first watch. That isn’t a line we have heard the characters say (the ones who play out the James and Ms. Newman scene.)

Angel definitely doesn’t know that because he says, “Buff, that’s really pathetic.”

You Can’t Make Me Disappear

Buffy spins around and says, “You can’t make me disappear just because you say it’s over.”

This is obviously one of the lines we heard the other couples say. So now we know she’s possessed, but it takes a second for it to happen. Angel say, “Actually I can. In fact –”

But he pauses. The sound effects and music cue us that a spirit is taking him over. And he continues.

Angel: I just want you to be able to have some kind of normal life. We can never have that.

Grace And James/Angel And Buffy

This is where it’s clear James possessed Buffy and Grace possessed Angel. Because that’s what Grace said to James. And she was the one breaking up with him.

Now Angel and Buffy act out the Grace and James lines. We see how perfectly they fit their relationship before Angel became Angelus.

Buffy says she doesn’t give a damn about a normal life. But Angel continues the breakup. And so does Grace because we switch between the present and the past. And we can see that Grace did not want to break up with James. But she feels she has to. She even says, “It doesn’t matter what I feel.”

Although Angel is the one who delivers that line.

Buffy: Then tell me you don’t love me.

Grace: Is that what you need to hear? Will that help? I don’t.

And we switch to Angel, who says, “I don’t.”

Why James Is Drawn To Buffy

Now we get the most heartbreaking lines. They fit that terrible night when Angel changed. And we see why James is drawn to Buffy.

Buffy: A person doesn’t just wake up and stop loving somebody.

We reach the point where Buffy is holding the gun. And she says, “Love is forever.” Her hand is shaking.

Grace runs away from James, and he chases her.

Buffy: Don’t run away from me, bitch.

The Shooting

Angel stops with his back to Buffy and turns. But it’s Grace turning around to James.

Grace: You know you don’t want to do this. Now give me the gun.

James: Don’t talk to me like I’m some stupid –

And we know he’s going to say “child.” And this, too, echoes Buffy and Angel before Angel changed. Remember, she would get angry at him that he was treating her like a child.

James is gesturing for emphasis with the gun and it goes off. This is the first time we see that while he threatened Grace, which is terrible, he may not have meant to shoot her.

Buffy’s Holds Herself Responsible

And I wonder, is this how Buffy feels? As if sleeping with Angel was the equivalent of holding a loaded gun and it went off. This shows us how hard she is on herself. The danger of a loaded weapon, everyone knows this.

Buffy could not have known about Angel, what would happen to Angel.

But she is not willing to let herself off the hook. I buy that because emotions aren’t logical. Because she can know, and her friends can tell her, that there was no way she could’ve known. Even Giles can tell her that. But because she’s Buffy and she always holds herself to a high standard, and because she loves Angel so much, she feels that she did the equivalent of waving a loaded gun around. It went off, and she killed the person that she loves.

The Climax Starts

We are at the Climax where all these plot elements come together and resolve. James and Grace and Buffy and Angel have run out onto that outside upper walkway.

This is the hot spot where Buffy was chanting. So that’s where they are when Grace is shot. But Angel falls over the railing. James goes to the music room, but we see Buffy walk into that room.

Grace had been lying on the pavement below dead. Now we see Angel lying there, blood on him. But he opens his eyes. Another major turn or twist.

In the classroom, Buffy puts the record on. Static he from needle as it starts gives us that feeling of the past. Holding the gun at her side, she looks at herself in the mirror and sees James. She lifts the gun to her head.

The Conflict Resolves

But Angel takes the gun away.

Buffy says, “Grace.” Angel tells her not to do this and she says, “But I killed you.”

Angel says it was an accident. It wasn’t her fault. Snd Buffy says, “It was my fault.” But Angel tells her that he is the one who should be sorry. It morphs into Grace telling James that “you thought I stopped loving you.”

Angel: I loved you with my last breath.

Which takes us back to that moment at the end of Surprise and the beginning of Innocence. When he staggered into the alley and gasped Buffy’s name just before he lost his soul.

The music changes. As Buffy and Angel kiss, we also see Grace and James. And then back to Angel and Buffy. A shaft of light beams down on them. There’s so much emotion between Buffy and Angel. Then we see sparkling and streaks of light that go up and disappear. And we know the spirits of Grace and James are at peace and gone.

Angel And Buffy Together

Angel and Buffy finish the kiss. They’re still holding each other. Buffy says, “Angel.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar is amazing through all of this playing that dual role of James and Buffy. Because she is really getting in the emotion that works for both characters here in that one word. Her longing and her love. For that second, she thinks she has Angel back.

The next instant is also amazing with David Boreanaz. We see this complete shift. There is a millisecond after the kiss when Buffy says, “Angel.” And we see him as Angel. His love, and his tenderness, and his feelings for Buffy.

An instant later his body language changes. He stiffens. We hear an intake of breath. He shoves Buffy aside and runs out. And we know Angelus is back. Buffy is left sitting on the classroom floor.

The Falling Action – Buffy And Friends

Now we are in the Falling Action. This is where all the loose ends are tied up. We’re 41 minutes in.

Willow, Xander and Cordelia walk into the library. They just checked out the school. Willow says everything is normal, no snakes or wasps. When Cordelia says the school can open tomorrow, Xander says, “Explain to me again how that’s a good thing.”

Giles goes into his office. Buffy sits there alone, looking pensive.

Buffy: James picked me. I guess I was the one he could relate to. He was so sad.

She goes on to say part of her still doesn’t understand why Grace would forgive James. And Giles says, “Does it matter?” Buffy says, “No, I guess not.”

Falling Action For Angel

We switch to the courtyard. Angel (with no shirt on), is washing himself in the fountain, rubbing his hands, his arms, over and over.

Spike: You might want to let up. They say when you’ve drawn blood you’ve exfoliated.

Angel tells him he doesn’t know anything about it and says:

Angel: I’m the one who was violated.

Drusilla asks what it was — a demon?

Angel: No, it was love.

This line confirms what we saw that for those moments He really was feeling his love for Buffy. He says he needs a really vile kill to wipe this crap out of his system.

Hell On Wheels?

Drusilla asks Spike if he wants to come, but Angel says no. He’s sure Spike would be hell on wheels but they don’t have much time and they need to travel light.

As they leave, he tells Spike to try to have fun without them. Spike sighs, and then smiles and says, “Oh, I will.”

The music changes. It’s very similar to what we heard when Buffy lifted the rocket launcher on to her shoulder to fire at The Judge. It’s triumphant and tense.

The camera pans to Spike’s boots. He places one foot and then the other on the ground, stands, and knocks over his wheelchair. And says, “Sooner than you think.”

And the episode ends.

Subtle Subplot

So that is the moment I was talking about which ends our subplot that we didn’t really even know was happening. Angel and Spike spar throughout. And it seems like just more of that running end of season subplot between them.

It also seems like it’s just there to tell us why does Angel go to the high school. He goes because Drusilla tells him that there is a window there for him to really hurt the Slayer.

But it turns out each scene where Angel taunts Spike leads to this moment where Spike has had enough. And we find out that he has been hiding his recovery and his strength all along.

Sympathy For Spike

This also gives us more sympathy for Spike. He already was an intriguing layered villain. Much more so than the Master, who was fun to switch to and watch, but we didn’t really connect with in any way emotionally. But Spike even before this happened to him was vulnerable.

He wore his heart on his sleeve. And we like him because he has such a great joy in the undead life in a very different way than Angel does.

Angel as Angelus likes being evil. He delights in it. Tut it’s different than Spike. Spike to seems to delight in everything about his continued existence.

Now, though, in that wheelchair we saw him so vulnerable. And also because of his deep love for Drusilla and her more – I guess she loves him but she’s clearly just fine with Angel being part of this dynamic to. With Angel coming on her.

Angel, Spike, And Dru

The implication is that they are having sex, and Drusilla is all fine with this. Spike is clearly not.

I also love just the difference with these three vampires. All powerful and dangerous in their own ways but very different characters.

Overall this episode is one that I don’t usually look forward to re-watching, and then when I do I find so much in it that’s amazing.

I think it’s because the first half, while I love certain moments of it (particularly with Willow and Giles when she gives him a rose quartz), the poltergeist incidents don’t quite add up. They don’t intrigue me that much.

But the second half I love. There is so much there. So much emotion. So many significant plot turns that really do fit. And probably what happens is in my memory when I think about re-watching is I’m remembering the beginning. Not how good the second half is. Or how much the second half speaks to me I should say because I’m sure there are people who love the entire episode.

Marketing Angel And Buffy

There isn’t any DVD commentary for this episode. There is a very short interview with Joss Whedon, which I’ll get to in a second.

Before that, a quick memory from when the show originally aired. I remember they showed that Buffy and Angel kiss in the trailers teasing the episode. And everyone thought that perhaps Angel was back. So, great marketing.

I sort of wonder whether they created the whole episode with that idea. Or at least part of the goal was to have a moment where Angel and Buffy, we would see the romance, their love, again before we get to the end of the season.

Joss Whedon Talks About I Only Have Eyes For You

In the DVD interview, Joss Whedon talked about how each episode of Buffy takes emotional experiences and blooms it into a horror plot. Here, it is Buffy who starts out thinking she can’t forgive Angel. And everyone else thinks that’s what’s going on to.

It turns out in reality she can’t forgive herself. Through Grace’s and James’s story she discovers she can be forgiven and move on. That there is redemption.

Joss also said he liked the twist of the gender reversal with the ghosts. And he said seeing David Boreanaz play this part is what made him feel confident that David could carry his own show. He liked seeing him play this emotional role without overplaying it. And that he was open to playing this female part and didn’t shy away from it as a lot of male action stars might.

Action Angel?

And it’s funny. I hadn’t really thought about that he was a male action star, but that is fairly good description of Angel and Angelus to this point.

I love David Boreanaz in both of those roles, but it doesn’t give him a really wide emotional range. In Season One, we talked about Angel didn’t have that much to do. He mostly showed up and looked gorgeous and was very cryptic.

In Season Two we saw a little more of how he was a good partner to Buffy in many ways. We saw some more emotion. But the character of Angel — he broods. He has a little bit of a lighter side, but he doesn’t express this wide range of emotions. And then Angelus this out and out evil character. He’s not one note, but we don’t get to see him play this range of emotions the way he does when David Boreanaz gets to play Grace.

Next Monday

That is it for this episode except for Spoilers. If you are not sticking around, I hope you will come back next Monday for Go Fish. A fun and sort of funny and silly episode that gives us a break in intensity before the two-part Season Two finale.




And we are back for Spoilers.

Season Three

We have some Season Three foreshadowing here. The mention of the mayor and that Snyder is nervous about having to talk to him. Great foreshadowing for the mayor being our big bad for Season Three. And a nice building of the Sunnydale infrastructure and government that knows about the Hellmouth.

Another Season Three foreshadowing is Angel breaking up with Buffy. Toward the end of Season Three, when he tells her he wants her to have normal life, it’s very much the Ms. Newman dynamic with James. There are differences. But it is Angel making that decision for both of them. Being the one who initiates the breakup as Ms. Newman does.

And Buffy is devastated.

Willow’s Spells In Season Two

We also have some major foreshadowing for the end of Season Two. One aspect is fairly subtle and the other is obvious.

Willow twice mentions looking at pagan websites and resources Miss Calendar left.

The first is in that scene with Giles in the classroom. And it is sort of a throwaway line, but later it’s more significant because Willow is the one who does the research and says that they need to do an exorcism.

So at first I thought, oh, okay this is how they started weaving in that Willow is starting to learn magic. And it sets us up nicely for when she says that maybe she can do the spell to bring Angel’s soul back (when they find that disk that has the spell on it).

Willow’s Arc

The more I thought about it, though, this also foreshadows Willow’s series arc. Because notice how quickly Willow goes to “we need to do an exorcism.” And yet what gets rid of James and Grace is what Giles says in the beginning. Helping them resolve their issues.

The exorcism does not work.

And it fits with Willow later, over time, we will see she goes to magic. To kind of big gestures with magic. To try to fix things with spells to get past her feelings.

It has terrible results. Although we get a really fun episode when everyone acts out what Willow wills to happen to them.

There are so many steps along Willow’s arc where she doesn’t want to let things play out. She wants to go not just to magic, but to a very significant spell that has dramatic consequences and sometimes very dark ones.


The obvious foreshadowing is Spike. When we learn that he has been building up his strength, that he is in fact powerful and he is fed up with Angel. It’s clear that we are being shown this for a reason. It sets up so well when he comes to Buffy to team up with her against Drusilla and Angel. To stop the world from ending in Becoming and to get Drusilla away from Angel.

We believe by then that he is perfectly fine if Angel gets killed and sent to hell. And I had forgotten just how well this was woven in to the earlier episodes.

So that is it for this week.

Next Time: Go Fish

Thank you so much for listening. I hope you will come back next Monday for Go Fish, when Buffy will once again show how bad she is at undercover and Xander will wear a speedo.

You can find my fiction, including mysteries and supernatural [email protected] and you can find articles on writing, time management and publishing at WritingAsASecondCareer.com. Music tor this episode was composed and performed by Robert Newcastle.

The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC copyright 2020.