UPDATED: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 20:30
VIEWED: 5966
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018 8:30 PM


I wish there were an Olympic Procrastination team. That way I would have a gold medal. I am truly stunned to see I haven’t gotten back to this for more than 3 years! The thing is it’s always been on my mind and something I kept telling myself: “Yeah, gotta finish that up.” But I thought it had really been maybe a little more than two years. But 3 years and 4 months! Wow that is some serious procrastinating. I’ve also noticed that I’ve begun every entry saying how stunned I was that I had taken so long to get around to it. So at least I’m consistent.

Now here we are at Round 6. If there is anyone out there in the far reaches of the black, thanks for tuning in. This is the semi-final round so we’re almost done with this baby. We’re going to find out which two eps face each other in the final round and there were some tough, tough decisions to make. The intro to round 1 of this thing states my approach and “methodology.” And as always, what follows is just my opinion.

First up:

010. The Body (5-16) vs. 058. The Zeppo (3-13)
Actually this was a pretty easy one to decide. “The Zeppo” has stayed this long because of how well it blends comedy (the zombie running alongside Xander’s car gets decapitated by a mailbox), parody of the medium (the A story is the B story), parody of itself (the Buffy/Angel scene), melodrama (the Buffy/Angel scene), suspense (Jack coming at Xander with the knife, the climax in the basement), character development (Xander/Faith and Xander’s newfound self-confidence at the end) all in a tightly scripted breezy 44 minutes. I don’t know of any better example of blending tone than this. I’ve seen things that pull off abrupt tonal shifts. But the ability to seamlessly go from one tone to the next or to have two tones at once—that’s a Joss thing. And nobody else does that! If that’s sound like a eulogy, it is. Because as great as “The Zeppo” is, it ain’t “The Body.” I don’t think I’ve seen a television episode even attempt to do what “The Body” does--take us moment by moment through the emotional impact of discovering and dealing with the death of a loved one. Touching, heart-breaking, exhausting. Every moment convincing and believable. Deliberately paced and stark in its portrayal of numbing sadness, confusion and even the mundane moments of grief, this episode creates an experience rarely if ever seen in a network television series.
Winner: The Body

018. Fool for Love (5-07) Vs. 033. Once More, with Feeling (6-07)
Seeing this are the 7th episodes of their respective seasons made me take a look at other 7th episodes. 7-07 is “Conversations with Dead People.” Season 7’s best ep. 1-07 is “Angel.” That’s pretty significant. 2, 3, and 4, their season’s 7th episodes are all really good but don’t hit the heights that these semi-finalists do. So now that we’ve had that pointless diversion, this one is absolutely the most difficult one to call. To be honest trying to decide which one I think is better called for the serious picking of nits to separate the two.
What can I say about “Once More, With Feeling that I or anyone else haven’t said before? We know why this one is great. It may well be the first of its kind and it’s no surprise that after this came long that a lot of other shows had their musical episodes. Although I’m sure the success of Glee was also a factor. It isn’t simply that the songs are all terrific. All the songs must fit in with what’s going on in the characters’ lives at that time. If this weren’t a musical episode the events and emotional beats would be the same, it just wouldn’t have lyrics and dancing. We get songs that are funny, clever, and heartfelt. All of them showing off Joss’ gifts not only as a songwriter, but as someone who knows how to tell a story in song and dance. This episode is an incredible triumph.
And in the other corner we have “Fool for Love.” A worthy opponent. As I’ve said earlier so much happens in this episode—and it’s all significant—it feels like there is enough for three episodes. Yet there’s a unifying theme of vulnerability. As a result of being wounded by an ordinary vampire, Buffy is in a physically vulnerable state. But she’s knows that’s a result of being off her game in a way she can’t quite figure out. This leads her to have to swallow her pride somewhat because she’s going to seek answers from Spike and she knows he’ll know she’s in this state. And yes, doesn’t Spike really enjoy that particular situation.

As Spike starts to tell his story, we get one the funniest and most significant cuts in all of Buffydom—going from his announcement that he has “always been bad” (which we are perfectly willing to believe) to the unexpected revelation that he was an upper-crust ineffectual disrespected stuffed-shirt. Not only does this get a big laugh but we are instantly intrigued and pulled into the story further—‘cause now we want to know how can it be that this guy became our Spike. One of the first things we not see is just how vulnerable William is as he trepidatiously tells Cecily about his feelings for her. When she rejects him, his worst fears are realized and now he could not be in a more vulnerable state when he first encounters Dru. So we learn that “Spike” is a creation of William’s. Like “Heisenberg” is to Walter White, this is his chance to remake himself into something he always wanted to be--powerful and respected. He earns the reputation he gains as “William the Bloody” (awful poetry beside) and he’s more than happy to tell Buffy how he earned it. As Spike does this though, he takes every opportunity to psychologically nick and stab at Buffy telling her he was in the heads of Xin Ron and Nikki Wood, they had death wishes he knew about but they didn’t, he had the upper hand over them and he could have it over her if it weren’t for that chip, and he knows he can have “one good day” with her because he’s done it! Twice! He relishes telling her just how vulnerable she is and he is just waiting for the day he can take advantage of it.
But then… he lets his guard down for one moment (his own “death wish” perhaps?) and shows Buffy he has feelings for her. Now who’s the vulnerable one? He can’t not reveal to Buffy that he is a fool for love. Then comes the most devastating moment when Spike is, at his most vulnerable, kicked in the heart again by the phrase “You’re beneath me.” So yeah, not only do we get this enrichment of Slayer lore, we get it this intimate, moving story of the real Spike that embellishes and builds on season 3’s “Lover’s Walk.” Love’s bitch indeed.
And we’re not done yet.
Spike goes to his lair, gets a shotgun, and is on his way to kill Buffy. We get the flashback to the events referred to in “Lover’s Walk,” then Buffy finds out that Joyce has to go back to hospital for some more tests. Buffy goes to her back porch and in tears, sits on the steps. Spike approaches with anger and vengeance in his eyes but then relents. Why? Because he sees how sad and vulnerable she is. In seconds he goes from wanting to kill her to wanting to comfort her. He gives her a sympathetic pat on the back, but he can’t think of anything to say. Not speaking to each other, not looking at each other—there they sit, two very vulnerable people.
Whew! Don’t you just love this show?!

Throw in the artistic touches of the match editing and Spike’s direct address to the camera and of course, the humor. The scenes of Riley and the Scoobies stalking the hair band vamp? Harmony in the scene where Spike gets the shotgun? The reveal that the chaos demon has been there all along during Spike and Dru’s confrontation? Funny stuff. The blending of tones I talked about regarding “The Zeppo”? All this great humor amid this serious character study and Spike’s psychological cat-and-mouse game with Buffy and himself? All I can say is….
Winner: Fool for Love

So an upset there. The difference between this great episode and the other great episode that is “Once More, With Feeling”? Everything works together beautifully, perfectly in FFL. After seeing OMWF so many times I’ve detected a crack or two. When it gets to the climax, a bit of steam gets let out of the storytelling. The showdown doesn’t feel quite showdown-y enough. That Tara has ended hers and Willows relationship gets short shrift. That should be a bigger moment. More importantly I think the reveal that Buffy is sorry she’s back is supposed to be more devastating than it ends up being. It’s just isn’t quite powerful enough. That’s all very easy for me to say and in light of what this episode does so incredibly well it’s somewhat minor criticism. But it kind of nags at me. Here’s some real nitpicking though—Xander is being very disingenuous when we sings or talks about wanting to get to the bottom of this when he knows he’s the cause (and I can accept that he did what he did off-camera) or at least should suspect he is.

I’ve got to say this process really has crystalized for me how much I love FFL, and I can easily say it’s absolutely my favorite episode of Buffy. So thank you Douglas Petrie. Whenever I see your name in the credits of anything, it will always remind me you’re the one who wrote Fool for Freakin’ Love!

“Fool for Love” is my favorite. Is it my choice for the best? Stay tuned as we FINALLY head for the 7th and final round!






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