2.09. & 2.10. What’s My Line, parts 1&2
I remember these episodes as being among my favorite pre-Innocence
episodes, and they are as enjoyable. They have cracking dialogue throughout, especially part 2, Xander and Cordy's hilarious first kiss, the wonderfully twisted Spike/Dru/Angel dynamic, some great Oz moments… and the introduction of a major new plot point – another Slayer, an opportunity to examine the questions what it means to be a Slayer, what kind of Slayer Buffy is, and how she feels about her calling.
The title refers to another extracurricular school activity devised by Snyder, career week. It makes sense that the result of Buffy’s test is that her perfect career is to be a cop, since she's already a cop of the supernatural world. (Her second result – environmental architect?? – is, well, random.) Xander isn’t happy to get prison guard – another low paid, unglamorous job (but also another law enforcement job). Cordelia’s result, motivational speaker, is mocked by Xander, but motivational speaker is practically what she’ll be to Angel on AtS. Willow’s computer skills (which she’s going to put side later in the show as she starts using magic) have been noticed by a “leading software concern” (obviously not named), represented by two mysterious men in black suits (as every time that there are government or corporate representatives in the show). Which is really just an opportunity for the show to get her and Oz together, since he’s the only other student they've targeted (the first and only time we ever hear of Oz's computer skills) and have them have the first real conversation, after they've kind of met twice.
Spike and Drusilla are meanwhile trying to find out how to cure Dru, with the help of a bookish vampire called Dalton. Dalton is an interesting vampire – we only see him in vampface, but he seems very human, and very meek and shy. I guess not everyone has a strong dark, violent suppressed side that comes out when they become a vampire, the way it happened with Spike, who went from being a nerdy mild-mannered guy to one of the most notorious vampires ever. Dalton he even wears glasses (yeah, it’s a part of the cliché of what a bookish person looks like) – shouldn’t enhanced vampire strength and abilities include better eyesight?
Dru is not just psychic, she is also reading the future in Tarot cards (it seems to be a special version, nothing like the usual Tarot cards). It’s like the vampires have their own version of the Scooby gang, with the impulsive fighter/leader, the woman versed in magic and the bookish guy. They just need a Xander. Or on second thought, they don’t.
Just like in Lie to Me
, when Spike, already cranky and mistreating Dalton because the translation of books isn’t working, snaps at Dru, she immediately reverts to her helpless little girl persona and whines, and he quickly apologizes and gets mushy and tender. Which seems to be the underlying dynamic of their relationship (and it won’t change much even after Dru gets strong and Spike gets in the wheelchair). It must be why they don’t get to argue much – she is both manipulative and has a much calmer temper than him. If it was Harmony, he’ll stay annoyed with her until they had sex, and if it was Buffy, the two of them would shout and snark and punch each other.
The introduction of the human weasel Willy the Snitch and his demon bar frequented by both shady humans and shady demons, feels like proto-AtS, with all the film noir cliches and Angel acting more violent and morally ambiguous than he does when he is around Buffy, even threatening Willy by saying that he might be killing him long and slow because he is rusty at killing humans.
It’s nice to see Buffy and Angel finally having a functional relationship, and acting like two people who are dating, instead of having awkward conversations in the graveyard and uttering weird OTT lines like “When you kiss me, I wanna die“. Just in a few episodes, everything is going to go horribly wrong, but Angel going evil wouldn't have such impact if he and Buffy didn't have anything good before that. We rarely see Angel's perspective on their relationship in S2, since he's mostly the mysterious brooding love interest, and we get a glimpse of it when Buffy gets back home through the window (which she actually didn't have to do, since her mother is out of town, but it's out of habit) and, in a reversal of their usual dynamics, startles him (usually it's him who comes and goes unexpectedly) while he's in her room, looking at her things and holding her childhood toy, Mr. Gordo the stuffed pig. (At this point it's still the endearing, if vaguely stalkerish, behavior of someone in love, but soon enough after he loses his soul, Angel coming into Buffy's room will become ultra-creepy.) She reassures Angel's insecurity about his vampirity, telling him he is „the one freaky thing in my freaky life that still makes sense to me“. She's found a way to have something „normal“ in her life (having a boyfriend) in a „freaky“ way (boyfriend is a vampire). Later on the ice, after Angel vamps out while helping her in a fight, she kisses him in his vampface for the first time and tries to reassure him „I haven't even noticed“.
Their kiss on the ice is their first onscreen kiss since Angel
in season 1 and their first really romantic scene since that episode. Besides being a plot device to have Kendra see them and know that Angel is a vampire, it also seems to show Buffy has accepted him as a vampire (contrary to Darla's words to Angel in season 1 that Buffy will never kiss his vampface). But on the other hand, one could question if she has really accepted all of him – since she doesn't really know how bad Angel used to be, she knows he used to do awful things but has never seen it – or if she's just choosing to overlook things. Earlier in her room she told him she just wished they could be „normal kids“, before he reminded her that he can't ever be one. (In I Will Remember You
, while Angel is human, Buffy herself will say that this is the kind of happiness she always wanted, to be the „normal“ girl with a „normal“ boyfriend.) Camera focuses on the mirror where it looks like Buffy is alone, which was, according to Marti Noxon's DVD commentary, meant to show that there is a gap between them, because he's a vampire, despite their love for each other. But, maybe because the scene reminds me of S6 „I can be alone with you here“, I feel it could as well be seen as a sign that one of the reasons why she feels like finding comfort with Angel (later in the season she'll say that she still feels like running to him when things are tough and that she feels he's the only one she can talk to) – he's on the outside, not one of her circle of friends, not one of the „normal“ people from school and her everyday life, and at the same time, not one of the monsters she has to fight (not yet...). Later after she learns that the Order of Taraka is after her, and starts feeling paranoid at school, she goes to Angel's place as a safe haven and lies on his bed (echoing Angel earlier coming to her room when she wasn't there). Angel in the meantime tried to protect her by going to Willy's bar to get info, but got thrown by Kendra in a cage, so Buffy will have to be saving him instead.
The fight between Kendra and Buffy is good, but the best part is when Buffy, about to lose to Kendra, says „Don't make me do the chick fight thing“ and then digs her nails into Kendra's hand. It's both a nice parody of the way that women fight on TV but also a sign that Buffy is the better fighter because she's more imaginative than by-the-book, rules-abiding Kendra.
A couple more observations:
Buffy reveals to Angel that her parents used to argue all the time for years before their divorce, while she was a child, and that ice skating was her way of escaping that.
Angel's place is really nice, way too nice for someone without a job, who was living in the alley and eating rats just a year ago, and it's furnished with way too many beautiful,old artefacts. He seems like a collector, but how did he afford them? The most likely guess is, stealing. Does he sell or pawn them occasionally to get money?
Recurring characters introduced:
Kendra, Dalton, Willy the Snitch.
Cordelia: Oh, here I am. “Personal shopper or motivational speaker.” Neato!
Xander: Motivational speaker? On what? Ten ways to a more annoying you?
Dalton: The Order of Taraka? Isn’t that overkill?
Spike: No, it’s just enough kill.
Buffy (on being told what a reliquary is): Note to self: religion – freaky.
Paranoid Buffy attacking Oz in the school hallway: his nonplussed reaction is a classic Oz moment:
Buffy (takes him by the neck and shoves him against the wall): Try it!
Oz (confused): Try what?
Buffy (lets go): Uh, I’m sorry.
Oz: Still not clear what I’m supposed to try.
And when she walks away, he comments to himself that she is a “tense person“ - not crazy bitch, lunatic, freak, like many others would. That was the moment when he became one of my favorite characters.
The extended, gratuitous scene of Buffy ice skating. I know that SMG wanted to show off her skills, but for a moment I was under the impression that I was watching some other TV programme.
The Order of Taraka don’t ever appear after this two-parter, but it’s interesting that this order of super-bounty hunters who are 100% focused on their job is apparently made up of both humans and demons.
The cliffhanger is obviously a big shocker – for the first time, we have two Slayers at the same time.
Pop culture references: Scooby-Doo:
Xander refers to Buffy, Willow, Giles and himself as “the Scooby gang”, which will become the popular fan name for them. What’s My Line
- 1950s/1960s US game show where the contestants were trying to guess the guest’s profession. Tony Robbins, motivational speaker: Buffy says Giles is “on this Tony Robbins hyper-efficiency kick”. Buffy was a huge fan of ice-skater Dorothy Hamill, which is very anachronistic since she was active in the late 1970s before Buffy was even born.
Instead of fighting Buffy again, he’s sending super-assassins after her. But to be fair, he’s got more important concerns – curing Dru. Still, nothing that makes him particularly brave or badass. And bullying Dalton doesn’t get him any additional points, either.
Buffy calls Angel “Stealth Guy”. Spike’s terms of endearment for Dru, besides “pet” includes “kitten”.
Buffy thinks of her Slayerhood as a burden and says she didn’t choose to be a Slayer, she was chosen. But she’ll soon learn that there is another Slayer, which means that she really could give up being a Slayer and leave it to Kendra.
A setup with the real payoff to all the storylines coming in part 2, but still a really well written and entertaining episode.