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Stew’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retrospective: Season 5 Episodes 3 – 4

April 5, 2024 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 5-04 Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Tothache: A BTVS Retrospective, S5 E3-4


Episode 3

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Episode three of what I’m already predicting is going to be a fucking nightmare of a season starts off with Buffy, Xander, Riley, and an arm-sling wearing Anya all watching a martial arts movie… though Buffy has her nose in a book, studying her Slayer lore, apparently. Riley eventually gets her to start watching the film, whereupon she critiques the fighting in the movie, which is probably (hopefully) a meta-commentary on folks who watch BTVS and do the same when, OH LET’S SAY, Faith’s kicks constantly miss by, like, a foot.

I see you coming for me, BTVS, and I do NOT appreciate it!

Anyway, Xander’s parents come home in a drunken state and start yelling at each other upstairs. This is, thankfully, played relatively seriously and discomfortingly, and not for laughs. Also, for the first time, I genuinely feel bad for Xander. And I don’t like it!

So thankfully we cut to a demon guy making a spell to kill Buffy.

With the unfortunate parental fighting event in the rearview, we move on to Xander apartment hunting to set up a better life for himself. The ever-sensitive Buffy and Riley sneak away into the bedroom being shown and start making out. Xander sees the price tag for the apartment and wigs out; his construction job is ending soon, and he won’t be able to afford that. Anya fights with him that she deserves nice things and storms out.

At his new magic shop, Giles is unloading supplies when the demon from earlier busts in. See Giles? This is why we all warned you against this. He whips Giles and heads off, moving us forward in time to Giles relaying the story to the team. He’s just happy he came out of it alive and conscious, so he calls that a win. The demon’s name is Toth, and Giles points out he had a very distinctive smell, so…

The team goes hunting for Toth in a landfill, but they first come across Spike scavenging stuff for his mausoleum home. Toth shows up with a fireworks stick and starts shooting colorful explosives at them all like he’s Broken Matt Hardy, but it’s Xander who gets shot. Toth is chased off, and the team pulls Xander out of the dump to take him home… but what they don’t see is a second Xander also lying in the muck.

Two Xanders. Now THIS is exactly what this show needed, right? Also, we just had a Xander episode two years ago. That was more than enough for the whole seven season run. Who asked for more of this schmuck?

This second Xander that they did not see after rescuing the first, which I will call 2nd Xander because I am intelligent and full of learned language skills, pulls himself out of the garbage and heads home. But when he gets there, he sees 1st Xander getting out of the shower and dressing himself!

Second Xander finds a pay phone (archaic!) and tries to call Buffy, but while doing so, 1st Xander passes him walking down the street. So 2nd Xander abandons his attempted call and follows his other.

We interrupt Xandermania running wild for a scene of Buffy and Riley making out. Dawn walks in on them to heckle the couple, then mom gets involved. And you know what? Now that she has two obnoxious ass daughters bickering at each other, I almost feel bad for her now. When she was just a parent of an only child—the slayer—and she was a moron, she was easy to detest, but now? I’d hate both of these kids, too.

God, what is this episode? First I have sympathy for Xander’s life at home, now I have sympathy for Mom dealing with her bratty kids? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, S5E3?! I hate these feelings you uncover in me.

Anyway, my last article assessment that Dawn is going to make this show even worse seems entirely prescient. She is just the pits. Screw this kid. NO, NOT YOU, JOSS WHEDON.

In another pointless scene, Spike is back home and makes a mannequin of Buffy, then kicks its ass. Gripping stuff.

First Xander heads to work at the construction site and gets called into the boss’ office. Second Xander is happy that at least it is his supposed clone who is about to get fired, but as he spies on the meeting, he sees 1st Xander getting promoted and kept on the crew! Second Xander is suspicious of 1stXander having a shiny metal disk he is moving about in his hand.

At the apartment from earlier, 1st Xander and the renter sign the lease for him to move in now that he has steady employment. The renter lady comes onto him hard because OF COURSE SHE DOES. While 2nd Xander listens to all of this at the door, 1st Xander calls Anya over to celebrate getting the nice apartment.

Xander The Second barges in and attacks 1st Xander, but 2ndXander is extraordinarily clumsy and awkward. First Xander decks him and leaves. Second Xander heads off to Giles’ place to report this, but he sees 1st Xander is already there, telling the others of his look-alike. He is asking them to kill the simulacrum of himself.

The 2nd Xander decides to turn to Willow and heads off to see her. He tells her everything that has happened to this point. Everyone with each Xander—Willow here, and the rest of the team with 1st Xander—decides that the other, cloned version must be Toth in a disguise. The 2nd Xander gets real down on himself because he sees 1st Xander living a better version of his own life.

Hey, don’t worry, X. I’ve been down on you since season one.

Second Xander realizes Anya may be in trouble from Toth-Xander, and that shakes him out of his funk.

Back at the apartment, we see 1st Xander and Anya having a… picnic? They have a blanket laid out on the floor with food and drinks despite the fact that the apartment came furnished. Is this a thing? Have you ever had a picnic in your house, right bloody next to your furniture? If so, tell me why, immediately.

Anya starts panicking because her arm injury made her realize she is mortal now and will eventually get old and die. She wanted the apartment, and now she wants a car. And a puppy and/or baby. First Xander is very sympathetic to her, but we get the return of 2nd Xander. Both Xanders plead their cases to Anya, and she sides with 1st Xander.

Willow meets the rest of the team at Giles’, and they start sorting out everything they all went through with their respective Xanders. Giles, who always has this shit bookmarked to the exact page he needs to go to, realizes that neither Xander is Toth, nor is either an evil clone. Xander was split into his “stronger” and “weaker” attributes. And if either dies, they’ll both perish!

So at that, we cut to 2nd Xander pulling a gun on the first one.

Buffy and Riley are speeding towards Xander’s apartment, but they have time for a character-building chat! The magic Toth fired was intended for Buffy, not Xander. Buffy wonders if Riley might have wanted a more demure Buffy, separated from her Slayer self. Riley reassures her he loves all of her. So… sweet of him, I guess.

Why is Riley still around? I thought this guy was a One Season And Done character. How long does he last?

Buffy and Riley show up to Xander’s (Xanders’?) and talk them down. The 2nd Xander asks about the hypno-disc, and 1stXander says it is a flattened nickel he found and thought was neato, Jesus H. Christ. At that, Toth shows up, and you know what we haven’t seen in a while?! Buffy Effortlessly crushing a named bad guy with absolutely zero problem. She just stabs him. No more Toth.

Just like the Good… well, the Mediocre Old Days.

At the magic shop, the two Xanders have become fast friends now that neither is suspicious of the other. And Anya wants to have a three way with them. Giles and Willow ignore that, and the recombining spell is just a few simple words. We’re back to one Xander.

Some time later—Anya’s arm is out of the sling—we have the team helping Xander Prime move into his new apartment. And while it’s just the two of them, Riley confides in Xander that he knows Buffy does not actually love him. Hmm…

Episode 3

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

With that revelation behind us, we move into the next episode, and Buffy is out hunting a vampire. Riley charges in unexpectedly and kills a second vampire himself. Then Spike appears and starts fighting off a third, though Buffy ultimately stakes that one, too. Buffy bickers with Spike for a bit, then she and Riley leave. Spike swears vengeance, then turns and falls into an open grave. Oh, whacky hi-jinx!

HOLY CRAP, the show momentarily remembers that UC SunnyDale exists, and we see Buffy and Willow on campus, debating their opinions on French history. This intellectual fencing makes Willow very pleased, as she always dreamed she and Buffy would do this at school. They head off to the magic shop to meet the rest of the group.

At the shop, Xander is helping Giles put up shelves since last episode unveiled that he is actually an expert construction worker, I guess. Tara is there and wants the shop to get an in-store psychic, giving Willow the chance to tell her she should do that. Will this plotline go anywhere? What is the opposite of baited breath? That is what I am waiting with.

Giles takes Buffy to the backroom where the hard working men have put together a pseudo-professional gym for her to train in, and she is very appreciative. Riley seems overeager to spar a bit with her, and she turns the request down.

Elsewhere, we see Spike watching Dawson’s Creek in his public mausoleum that gets both electricity (plausible for a real mausoleum, but not for the ancient crypt Spike lives in) and cable (though I guess he could be using bunny ears still in 2001 or so since D.C. was a basic network show). Harmony rushes in saying she saw Buffy outside coming to get her. She agrees to have sex with him if he lets her stay safely with him, and he talks her into trying to kill Buffy with him.

Speaking of sex and Buffy, we move on to a post-coitus Buffy and Riley.

So wait, Buffy WASN’T just outside of Spike’s building? Was Harmony lying? Or panicking? Or… or what?

Buffy notes she has the endurance of ten men, to which Riley requests she say ten WOMEN because it’s the early 2000’s and gay panic is hilarious. They start having sex again.

In a plotline that seems incredibly important but goes absolutely nowhere this episode, mom is making Dawn an omelet. Then she suddenly looks at Dawn, says “Who are you?”, and passes out. Dawn calls an ambulance.

At the hospital, the doctor tells Buffy that her mom is fine and merely suffered a mild plot-motivated episode. Dawn is playing with the doctor’s stethoscope and listening to everyone’s hearts. When she gets to Riley, his is going nutso!

My wife tells me that Dawn was originally meant to be a little girl, like ten or so, and that makes scenes where this teenager is playing with a stethoscope make more sense. But I assume Joss Whedon isn’t quite gross enough to want to ogle and harass a SMALL child, so they cast the still wildly underage Michelle Trachtenberg instead.

Presumably after everyone else heard Riley’s heart, he is now the one being checked up on. The doctors want him to stay, but he refuses, much to Buffy’s annoyance. He blows it all off as having a faster pulse due to his Initiative days as a lab rat.

Mom is at home resting on the couch and feeling okay now that the plot has gotten Riley’s condition revealed. Buffy is concerned about Riley, but she has no idea how to reach out to The Initiative and see if they can help. Dawn passingly gives Buffy the idea that the government is watching us all of the time, so Buffy goes to Riley’s house, picks up the phone, and says Riley needs help.

Is… is that how bugged phones work? I legitimately don’t know. You don’t have to actually make a call? You can just talk to the dial tone, and the spies can hear you? I know our modern cell phones are always listening (curse you, targeted ads!), but landlines?

I very much want to know if this would work. It FEELS lazy, but I could be wrong! Heaven forbid I give BTVS crap for something it’s actually right about for once.

Meanwhile, Riley and his Pulse Of Doom are out playing hoops with the boys. You know, like you do when you are having a cardiac issue. The Team Riley Guy That Isn’t Forrest shows up to offer some help, but Riley causes a fight and then runs off.

Team Riley Guy finds Buffy and reports what happened, noting that Riley’s in a dire situation, and his heart can’t handle all of the stress.

In Spike’s lair, he and Harmony are playing 20 Questions. Buffy shows up, sending Harmony scurrying into a casket to hide. She offers to pay Spike for info on Adam’s caves so she can find Riley, but he refuses to help her. Spike, realizing Initiative doctors are around to help Riley, gets an idea…

So they attack Team Riley Guy and the medical crew! Spike demands the doctor take his implant out so he can finally attack and kill Buffy. He and Harmony take the doc to a classroom with a medical set-up for some quick BRAIN SURGERY.

Elsewhere in a nothing scene that MAY have legs as the season goes on, Willow and Tara are exploring the STILL burnt out ruins of SunnyDale High. No one is, at the very least, demolishing this place, huh? It’s just going to stand as a testament to the time the mayor turned into a snake god and tried to eat everyone? That’s certainly a choice, city council. Anyway, Willow uses magic to light everything up, and Tara seems concerned about the level of magic that takes.

There’s a minor and weird background plot about Tara being more anti-magic than Willow is, and I’m wondering if that will go anywhere. Hmmm.

Buffy finds Riley in Adam’s cave system, and they have their tear-filled Emmy “For Your Consideration” scene. Riley thinks he needs to be strong like Angel was, or she will leave him! Buffy NEEDS him! But she needs him healthy! So Riley ultimately agrees to go under the knife.

Buffy and Riley find the chaos left behind by Spike and Harmony. They could be anywhere, but the episode is nearing its end, so our heroes immediately look into the medical classroom to save time. Right before they arrive, however, the doctor has removed Spike’s implant.

Riley fucking NO SELLS a crossbow bolt to the thigh during the ensuing fight, and I’m not sure if that’s to show us how strong he is getting or is just supposed to be a silly “Harmony is a moron” moment. BUT I CAN GUESS.

It turns out that the doctor did NOT remove the chip! So Spike still can’t attack Buffy. Riley goes into arrest, but Spike and Harmony flee since he is still in his chipped and neutered condition.

Riley has the surgery and is all better with just a little bandage on his chest. Team Riley Guy talks to him and says it’s time for him to leave SunnyDale and rejoin the team.

What team?!

The Initiative was disbanded!

Does Charlie Haas here have his own vigilante group? Has he re-enlisted in the military?


Buffy barges into Spike’s lair and threatens to kill him. A despondent Spike wants her to do it. Then… they kiss?! What the hell is this shit? Buffy breaks off the kiss, then kisses him back. Jesus Ch—

Oh, it’s a dream sequence of Spike’s. His hatred for the slayer is apparently just misplaced lust, okay. Well that’s dumb as hell. But not as dumb as Buffy not ACTUALLY charging into his home and killing him after the day’s events!