|Be warned: I shall be including screencaps of Spike in this outfit early and often|
What more would we expect from an episode scripted by the triple-threat team of Noxon, Fury, and Espenson? Rather than Do's and Don't's, all the titles in this post are subheadings for the episode's one big DON'T, as in:
DON'T forget that high school never really ends, even if you blow that shit up.
As evidenced by the following . . .
Buffy is lying about her boyfriend and faux-breaking up with him.
The end of "Hush" had B and R mutually discovering each other's secret identities. We pick up right where we left off, with the two discussing their callings in Buffy's dorm room. Rather than own up to the rest of the gang, Buffy pretends she's still in the dark about the identity of at least one of the Future Leaders of the Military-Industrial Complex, and then repeatedly calls the whole thing off with Riley because she doesn't want Angel, redux.
|Ah, a relationship-defining talk in a graveyard. Just like old times.|
We've got a brooding, suicidal vampire.
Spike has taken a double shot of Angel's existential despair, and it culminates in his attempt to stake himself.
|I ADORE the goofy, crane-esque posture he takes before leaping on the stake.|
However, because Spike is Spike, said angst results not from monumental guilt at the blood on his hands, but rather the blood he can't get on his hands since being neutered by the Initiative.
|That's Spike's non-bloody hand in the foreground, as he growls and lunges at Willow. Her expression needs no comment.|
However, he is able to assuage some of that bloodlust through emotionally wounding Willow and Xander by pointing out all their shortcomings. Gotta love William the Bloody--when life gives him lemons, he pelts them at the nearest available vulnerable person in what Jenn hilariously calls a "come to Jesus moment."
Willow and Xander feel like losers.
Thanks to Spike, of course. Though Percy, former high school classmate and recipient of vamp- and non-Willow's hard love tutoring skills, helps by calling Wills a non-hot nerd at a party. And Xander is currently making ends meet as a pizza delivery person--the cinematic shorthand for loser-dom.
|This is what my soul looks like when I consider my own post-graduation career prospects. Especially Xander.|
It's the end of the world.
"Again???" A group of apocalypse-prompting demons is in town, and Buffy and Riley are both trying to stop them. The cross-cutting between the different styles of research employed by the Scoobies and the Initiative is smart and revealing. And we all end up back in the ruins of the library, where Buffy once again saves the world with an assist from Riley. Who was "just passing by" after a vigorous game of "paintball."
|"We always use zip cords with high tensile strength when I play paintball with the fellas."|
Which begs the question, is his cover story better or worse than the one offered by Hostile 17, aka Spike?
|You need to find an audio file of Spike saying "I'm a friend of Xandrrrr's" in his fake Texas-American accent. I cannot do it justice here.|
The episode ends with the apocalypse averted, Spike thrilled that he can inflect bodily injury on demons, Riley and Buffy making out, and Giles, Willow, and Xander feeling included and loved. Spoiler alert: Won't last.