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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Into the Woods

Buffy: "I thought he was dependable."
Xander: "Dependable? What is he, State Farm?"

Hanging around outside Buffy's house like a lovelorn fool finally paid off for Spike in a big way. If Spike hadn't shown her, would Buffy have ever found out about Riley's new and dangerous obsession? (Well, she might have if he had shown up at her door as a vamp some night, but other than that...)

Leaving behind the issue of whether Riley is a once-in-a-lifetime great catch which in my opinion is debatable, it was way past time for Buffy to let him go. Buffy has been keeping Riley at a distance, treating him like a dependable lap dog and a sexual convenience for way too long. That scene where he was begging her to hit him said it all; Buffy's feelings for Riley just aren't strong enough to provoke her into hitting him, and as I recall, she used to hit Angel all the time. (She even hit him recently during that cross-over Faith episode, didn't she?) Buffy couldn't even cry on Riley's shoulder, although she cried in front of Spike and even let him comfort her. Buffy gave her heart to Angel but couldn't give him her body. She did the exact opposite with Riley, and it will never be enough for him.

It wasn't just Buffy's fault, though, no matter how Xander made it sound. Riley has never been able to handle the fact that Buffy is stronger, physically and emotionally, than he is. And he couldn't handle Buffy's previous relationship with Angel, much less the competition Spike was giving him. I loved the Spike/Riley scenes in the crypt, both of them so envious of the other. ("Look at you, all afraid I'm hot for your honey." "You're not the long-haul guy, and you know it.")

Speaking of Spike... if Buffy is now in need of a sexual convenience...

Last but not least, it was great to see Xander confronting Buffy about what she was doing to Riley, and then confessing his feelings to Anya. I had been under the impression that Anya was just a sexual convenience for him, and that eventually they were headed for an extremely ugly breakup; maybe I was wrong. (Seems like such a Joss-worthy plot line, though, doesn't it?)

Interesting new development, discovering that vamps sell suck jobs. Was Giles possibly prudishly reluctant about letting little teenaged Buffy know about the seamier side of biting?

Bits and pieces:

— I'm glad Joyce made it, but it makes me wonder from a plot perspective: why the possibly fatal brain tumor in the first place? Perhaps this particular storyline is not over.

— During that first romantic Riley/Buffy scene, Sarah must have been standing on a box.

— Is Spike's hair whiter?

— Gurnenthar's Ascendance?


Xander: "So, what do you wanna do now, Dawnster? Keeping in mind that I won't chase you because I'm old and I'm stuffed full of moo goo gai starch."

Xander: "How's about a movie? They're showing them in theaters now. I hear it's like watching a video with a bunch of strangers and a sticky floor."
Dawn: "That one looks sad."
Xander: "The chimp playing hockey? Is that based on the Chekhov?"

Buffy: "I'm sure he'll come over later looking for a little... Bible study."
Joyce: "Well, good. I mean, just as long as the two of you are spending some quality time with... the Lord."

Anya: "Maybe we could do a holiday promotion. One free with every purchase."
Giles: "Oh, yeah. Dear holiday memories. Merry tykes by the fire, enjoying their new Christmas... chicken feet."
Willow: "Holding them tight as they fall asleep... painting their little toenails..."

Anya: "Have a nice day! Don't get killed."

So Riley is gone, traveling out of Buffy's life on a black helicopter. Romantic strike two for Buffy. Is Riley gone for good? Only Joss Whedon knows.

Four out of four stakes. I really liked this one.

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


  1. am i the only one who feels like, if buffy really wanted riley that badly, she could have lept up, grabbed a hold of the skid, and pulled herself into the helicopter? i really think that, even in the end, she held back.

    i agree though that riley wasn't really the guy for her anyway. i think xander's speech is more about what he wants to be true than what is. xander liked buffy before there was an anya, and he'll never quite get over that, and i think he's really seeing too much of himself in riley. his own feelings are at the root of why he is always so hostile towards buffy's vampire lovers and why he wants so badly for her relationship with riley to work.

  2. Buffy: "I'm sure he'll come over later looking for a little... Bible study."

    Joyce: "Well, good. I mean, just as long as the two of you are spending some quality time with ... the Lord."

    This is one of my favorite Buffy/Joyce exchanges, perhaps because it reminds me of how I interact with my mother.

  3. Josie, I love this quote too. This and the time Joyce sarcastically says "it's so nice you two have learned to share" to the Summers sisters are two of my favorite Joyce quotes. And there is another great one coming.

  4. I love this episode but find it hard to put Reilly's actions into a real world context. It is like he's visiting a prostitute? (100% unforgivable imo) or more like a drug habit? (could be worked out given time).
    I do kind of think it is more like the former, and therefore not something that they would easily be able to get past (and I'm not sure that they should even try). He is betraying Buffy during the hardest of times for her family which makes it even worse.
    Some people prefer to cry alone, Spike was in the right place at the right time and Reilly let it get to him, he shows himself to be too self involved and I can't see how it would ever have worked.

    Therefore, Xander going on at Buffy is kind of annoying, he's speaking out of turn without all the facts. I'm disappointed that Buffy then chooses to chase after Reilly, a 'once in a lifetime' guy does not visit vampire hookers! I think a good friend would have let her do the talking and not tried to influence her decisions and muddy the water.

    I love the scene with Spike and Reilly in the crypt.

  5. I agree that it is time for Riley to go, simply because, from a story perspective, his has run its course. It's been clear from the beginning that he was the "rebound" guy and I don't blame him for leaving. The differences between the two are much too great.

    I love Xander at the end of this episode. His talk with Buffy is wonderful, but when he finally tells Anya how much he loves her, I always get a tear in my eye. He is growing up into a wonderful man.

  6. I found Xander's lecture to Buffy on this kind of annoying - I've been wanting Riley gone since he appeared. Let him go! But I do think Xander was projecting because of his own relationship and the final scene with Anya was sweet, so I ultimately forgave him.

    Also, for the previously on... segment they sure did get their mileage out of Spike's dream of kissing Buffy. Marsters and Gellar should get extra residuals for the use of that clip.

  7. I love this episode. Especially the Spike-Riley exchange. I am highly critical of Marti Noxon, especially her later work, but this was one of the best things she wrote. (If she indeed wrote it, you never know who did the final draft here). Still Spike's opinion that Riley is so close to Buffy without having her is spot on.

    Xander is also right. It is a great scene showing how much they all matured.

  8. Yes, finally goodbye Riley!! No problem with the actor, just no chemistry with SMG. Was never a big fan of Angel on this show, liked him, though. He was better on his own show. That is until he got together with a certain someone and I had to stop watching. Anyhoo, love Spike and Buffy. Now there is chemistry!!

  9. "Riley has never been able to handle the fact that Buffy is stronger, physically and emotionally, than he is."
    No no no, hard disagree, I think his primary issue was always about her emotional distance (which also means I disagree about her being stronger emotionally - someone who poured herself out once (well, twice if you consider Parker) and can't bring herself to do it again is more than understandable and relatable, but it also means I have no delusions about the limits of her emotional strength). All I could think of was that one guy she briefly dated after Angel who stopped seeing her because she always seemed distracted with him. I liked that, it hit me harder than Parker did in just how understatedly (not a real word) Buffy's turned down. This is pretty much the extended version of that. I'm with Riley on this.. I mean, Buffy isn't ordained to love him as much as he needs to be loved, it's not something that can be forced, but her pretending not to understand why Riley would try to find intimacy in some way that isn't straightforward cheating just makes her look willfully ignorant. Sorry. It's not unforgivable, what he did.
    Anyway, while I admire Xander for trying to make it work with Riley - I like to think that moment Riley told him 'but she doesn't love me' left its mark on him - I too felt annoyed by his interference and pushing. Once the ultimatum was made it should've been over. I would've liked if she arrived on time and he noticed, but he's able to tell instantly that she's not there to ask him to stay, only to see him off.
    It's a really good episode, but I didn't like how they ended it open-ended, it's like what they did with Oz. And I didn't enjoy Oz's return episode enough not to wish they ended it more cleanly (just like Xander said, listen to your own characters, writers!)/just killed Oz off altogether. Maybe we'd still have Jenny, someone for Giles, and I wouldn't still be bitter about his actor asking to be written off lol. Man, I loved Oz.. even if it's true he had the same problem most of the auxiliary scoobies did, which is never having proper scenes with anyone besides the person they were romantically involved with. I'm starting to think twice about all the praise I gave the show for its family dynamic. Maybe the best of it is in season 6? I used to be such a fan of the Giles/Buffy relationship, I still am, but only for the first 3 seasons. It's sad that all I've really been seeing between the two since then is about how one doesn't really need the other anymore, and the other being drawn back in just as they're trying to move on. Shopkeeper Giles has new life but this still feels like an extended denouement knowing he was on the brink of leaving (and I would've liked to see Buffy deal with that). This stuff with Joyce's brush with death would've landed better with me if Joyce was more of a presence on the show, too. She's more non-existent than I recalled.

  10. About the Buffy / Reilly relationship, I pretty much agree with Onigirli. There was a point in Farscape when Aeryn says to Crichton (from memory and so paraphrased, I'm sure) "You may have noticed at times that I keep you at a bit of a distance." And Crichton replies (and this line stuck in my head more vividly) "Many times. Vast distances." I think that exchange pretty well encapsulates the Buffy / Reilly relationship, with one exception. That exception is that Aeryn is mature and self-aware enough that she knows when she is keeping some emotional distance, even when it isn't a reasoned conscious decision - and 19 year old Buffy hasn't reached that point yet.

    It's still true that Reilly eventually dealt with that in a very un-good way and Buffy was perfectly justified to be angry with that. However, all of that was a symptom of the underlying problem, not the root problem in and of itself.

    I think that I am closer to agreeing with Xander's advice, though. I mean, when it comes down to it, his advice was conditional and pretty straight forward. If she didn't have the deep feelings to let him inside to real unfiltered Buffy for the long haul (though I know the phrasing was a bit different), then let him go. If she did have those deep feelings for a lifelong shared life, then it would kinda stupid to throw that away over an inconveniently timed short term fight. I don't disagree with any of that. The rest of Xander's speechifying in that scene struck me as being all about trying to get it through Buffy's thick skull that she HAD in fact been keeping Reilly at arm's length throughout the entirety of their relationship.

    The thing that I disagreed with was that Buffy responded to that set of conditionals by deciding that she should try to stop Reilly from leaving. Every bit of behavior that we had seen from Buffy for the previous year told us that the real answer to that question should have been to let Reilly go. I think that Buffy wanted to want Reilly (or someone like him), and that clouded her judgement.

  11. Riley is the catch of a lifetime for someone, but not for Buffy. He always seemed to love her, but was constantly competing with her strength and singularity. And Buffy knew that, no question, she was the stronger…and the slayer who, by calling, was alone.

    I think this might be the first episode where Spike realizes that he doesn’t just not want to kill Buffy, he also no longer wants to hurt her feelings. He hadn’t anticipated how much Riley’s problem would hurt her.

    The crypt scene was so good. Geesh, first time I saw Riley stake Spike it scared me. But Spike’s keen observiness beat all.
    “The girl needs some monster in her man. And that’s not in your nature, no matter how low you try to go…”. And, “To be that close to her and not have her. To be all alone, even when you’re holding her…” Can’t really say much due to 20 year old spoilers, but that’s ok. This show is just as good now as it was then, with new fans still joining the ranks. :)

    But I really don’t understand the conclusion. It’s obvious in their training room confrontation that Riley & Buffy don’t belong together, so why does Buffy run after him? Just because of what Xander said? He doesn’t understand enough to advise her. Xander speaks as a human. She is more than human, she is the slayer. What he said didn’t change anything. It just made her doubt. Relationships aren’t built on doubt.

    I hated the ending.


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