By Sabrina Boyer
I know I’ve said this about a lot of episodes, but this one is definitely in my top five. Superficially, I think it’s safe to say that we all have wondered what it would be like to be in another body, to have a different body than what you’ve been given; as a young woman, I had this fantasy a lot. I was chubby, had braces, acne, your basic nerd. If I had had the option of occupying the bodies of either Sarah Michelle Gellar or Eliza Dushku, complete with slayer strength, it’s safe to say I would’ve taken it. But this episode isn’t just about bodies. It’s about who we are, at the core, and how easily who we are can be shaped by where we are.
Last time we left off, Faith used a doo hickey left to her by the mayor as one last huzzah against Buffy. That doo hickey had quite a punch, as it allowed Faith to become Buffy and Buffy to become Faith. Remember that little tidbit in season three when Buffy mentioned that by a sheer twist of luck, she could’ve ended up like Faith? Well, we’re about to see how that could happen, and how, if Faith had been given the love, attention, and nurturing she deserved and needed, she might’ve chosen a different path. The mayor, first and foremost, was a father figure to Faith and arguably why she aligned with in in the first place. It’s not that she was just itchin’ to do some big bad, it was that she was itchin’ to have a loving parental figure, despite how sappy that sounds.
In addition to the absolute amazing acting by both the ladies in this episode, comes some of the best and fresh writing I’ve ever seen. Not to mention some great lines as well. To see Faith and Buffy all dressed up in each other’s clothes is quite a treat. As the episode picks up, Faith’s body is being wheeled out of Buffy’s house with a very Jungian moment as she sees herself (her body) standing above her (Buffy). Buffy’s body and Joyce are left to ponder why Faith is the way she is. It’s obvious Faith doesn’t mean it when she tries to pass off herself as Buffy, and Joyce hugs her. Then Faith (as Buffy: this is going to get confusing) goes to take a bath. She inspects the new digs. One of the greatest scenes ever. She makes faces in the mirror and practices one of Buffy’s tenets: you can do that. It’s wrong. It’s clear this is just an act for Faith as Buffy (as Faith) tries to explain she’s not really Faith. Oy. Faith dresses up in Buffy’s slut wear, choosing pleather pants and a black tank. She finds her passport and orders a plane ticket out of Sunnydale for the next morning. Then she’s off to see what it’s like to be Buffy, Scooby gang and all.
Then the Watcher’s Council takes Faith’s body. Again. And not surprisingly, they fail. Again. Meanwhile, at Giles’ Buffy as Faith calls herself evil. And then imagines stabbing Willow. Willow picks up on the change in Buffy as Faith, as Buffy swears she’ll be out there “doing her job” which includes grinding on random dudes at The Bronze. Then she grinds into Spike as he whines about not being a threat and she whines about being “a stuck up tight ass with no sense of fun.” After she laments about having power to be rich, famous, anything she wants, she could even have anyone, even Spike. “I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up, I’ve got muscles you’ve never even dreamed of, I could squeeze you ‘til you popped like warm champagne and you’d beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don’t? Because it’s wrong.” Except when she does, real Buffy that is, in season six.
And then Adam provides a way for Buffy to get her own body back. He riles up a nest of vamps, convincing them they are paradoxes, spouting off about how he can relate. Buffy as Faith can also relate a little to how Faith might’ve ended up bitter and angry, after experiencing what it’s like being her and how people view her, including the Watcher’s Council. While still at The Bronze, Faith as Buffy meets Tara with Willow; as Will goes to grab some drinks, Faith as Buffy is uber crude to Tara, picking up on their relationship. “So Willow’s not driving stick anymore. Who woulda thought?” She makes fun of Tara’s stutter and also saves a girl from being eaten, experiencing real gratitude from the girl she saved. She starts to change. A little.
Buffy as Faith escapes from the clutches of The Council while Faith as Buffy goes to visit Riley, giving him a welcome gift. While Faith is stealing Buffy’s boyfriend, Tara lets Willow know that Buffy’s energy isn’t “her.” Buffy’s energy was fragmented, like something forced in where it didn’t belong. They make a plan to figure out what’s the what.
Faith with Riley is quite interesting in the way that she views herself in relation to men; she’s a toy to be played with, but not an equal partner in lovemaking. Riley appreciates Buffy, her whole being, and it’s clear that Faith has never experienced that with anyone before. And as Faith experiences loving embrace for the first time, Tara and Willow have sex, metaphorically, for the first time, together while searching for what’s wrong with Buffy. And Faith, creeped out by Riley’s profession of love, freaks out and asks Riley “what do you want…..from her?” The next morning, Faith as Buffy skips out on Riley to catch her plane. She screams at Forest that she’s not a killer after he calls her one, and differentiates that from being the slayer. As she is at the airport, she sees the nest of vamps coddled by Adam are holding a church and its members hostage. She takes off to fight the vamps instead of hopping on the plane. Buffy as Faith makes her way to Giles and proves her identity by totally being Buffy-esque. And mentioning that she knows that her mother called him a stevedore during sex. What’s a stevedore?
Both Faith and Buffy head to the church to save the parishioners and through the spell that Will and Tara cast, is able to switch back to their rightful bodies. Then, in a moment of total Freudian experience, Faith in Buffy’s body beats her own body, screaming “you’re nothing, disgusting, murderous bitch, you’re nothing. You’re disgusting!” It seems that Faith has realized what her responsibilities are, and she’s changed. How to deal with these realizations, however, we will find out.
And then the real Buffy realizes Riley slept with Faith. In her body. Uh oh. It’s not really all that fun, being the slayer.
About Sabrina Boyer: As a kid my dad would sneak scary movies past my mom and let me indulge in his horror movie fetish. I grew up watching V, Alien Nation, The Thing, The Fog (all originals) and then, in 1992 when Buffy the movie came out, I became obsessed with vampires, girl power, and all things gothic. I once stayed home from school, faked sick, and watched BTVS: the movie 6 times in a row. I know the beginning cheerleading dance by heart (still). Currently, I’m obsessing over Laurell K. Hamilton novels, and dream about Anita Blake being my best friend.
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