End of Season 3 (3.12-3.22)
Apparently Faith isn't interested in "proper training". Also, being older than Buffy, it's possible she would have known about the 18th birthday slayer test if she had been around.
BUFFY: I hate being the good one.
She claims her dad takes her to the ice show every year for her birthday, though I seem to remember something different going on last year. Anyway, this year her dad lets her down.
We find out quite early on what's going to happen, I suppose so that we don't start thinking Giles has gone evil.
QUENTIN: It's been done this way for a dozen centuries.
What the council didn't forsee was what could happen to Buffy in a vulnerable state - when visiting an ex who she had been determined not to start seeing again.
ANGEL: I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon
out in front of your school. You walked down the steps - and I loved you.
ANGEL: Because I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. And I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe... to warm it with my own.
BUFFY: That's beautiful. ...Or taken literally, incredibly gross.
The vampire infested, very dark house is particularly scary knowing that Buffy's too weak to put up her usual fight. This episode spends much longer on this one peril than usual, and is also unusually singularly focussed on Buffy instead of following her friends or a rescue party. Buffy was never formulaic. And the twist at the end is as clever as any.
BUFFY: If I was at full slayer power, I'd be punning about now.
Giles is fired - it's clear to me that the council never liked him anyway.
QUENTIN: You have a father's love for the child, and that is useless to the cause.
A father... I see what they did there, again. They writers are keen on these little counterpoints in this series.
3.13 The Zeppo
The episode is punctuated by Cordelia needling Xander.
CORDELIA: you're the useless part of the group. You're the Zeppo.
When this was first aired I had no idea what a Zeppo was, but I've since heard that Zeppo Marx was the straight-man of the Marx brothers, so I guess it's about that.
This episode, in contrast to the last, has two parallel threads almost from the start, and for once we spend more time in Xander's than Buffy's, as he gets involved with a gang where you have to be dead to belong. He narrowly escapes from being initiated, about halfway through the episode.
XANDER: I'd say that's pretty much enough excitement for one evening.
In Buffy's plot thread the hellmouth opens and a fearful tentacle beast must be fought, but we only catch snatches of it as Xander proves his bravery (obvious from episode 1 to the viewer) to himself.
3.14 Bad Girls
WESLEY: A good slayer is a cautious slayer.
BUFFY: Is he evil?
This is an episode with a simple plot, but which has some complex things going on under the surface. Faith is bad, and starts to lead "the good one" Buffy astray, but is she evil? She kills the deputy mayor, but thought he was a vampire.
When Kendra came on the scene, with her book knowledge and manual and shyness with boys, it made Buffy look like a largely out-of-control rebel. Then Faith came along, and made Buffy look like Kendra. Rather proper, prudish, and full of middle class inhibitions.
WESLEY: Stay calm, Mr. Giles, stay calm.
GILES: Thank god you're here, I was planning to panic.
There's a good moment when they Mayor checks an item off his checklist just before "Call PTA": "Become invincible".
This episode is about the consequences of actions, but also about taking the plot with the Mayor onto the next step.
FAITH: We're built to kill.
BUFFY: To kill demons! But it does not mean that we get to pass judgment on people like we're better than everybody else!
FAITH: We are better! That's right, better. People need us to survive. In the balance, nobody's going to cry over some random bystander who got caught in the crossfire.
BUFFY: I am.
The key scene is almost the same as the key scene in The Zeppo - with Xander on Faith's bed. In the earlier episode, Xander is transformed from a jittery virgin to calm, self-confident adult. This time, Faith is out of control - "I could make you scream, I could make you die". Luckily Angel, after being mostly absent for several episodes, is back and on good form.
ANGEL: You want to go the long way round? Hey, I can do that... I'm not getting any older.
We learn that a couple of ships leave the docks every day, and visit them again. Angel can't save Buffy, as he's at the airport, but luckily Faith does. So when she goes to see the Mayor, we know she's not all bad. Just looking for the best way to avoid jail.
WILLOW: Yeah, that's me. Reliable dog geyser person.
Another of the best ever episodes (so many of them are in this season!) folding back on The Wish and bringing vampire Willow into the "real" world. Which is amusing until she shows her vamp-face to Buffy and Xander - their shock is touching.
GILES: She was truly the finest of all of us.
XANDER: Way, way better than me.
GILES: Much better than you.
Vampire willow is into boys and girls:
XANDER: Uh, Will, this is verging on naughty touching here.
Unfortunately fluffy Willow, in spite of being super-intelligent, seems to have no conception that it is possible, and fine, to like both.
WILLOW: That's me as a vampire? I'm so evil, and skanky, and... I think I'm kind of gay.
BUFFY: Willow, just remember, a vampire's personality
has nothing to do with the person it was.
ANGEL: Well actually (notices Buffy's glare) that's a good point.
In fact, Angel is just being nice - it's been made clear that the vampire has all the memories and skills of the host, and strongly implied that personality is carried over too (for example Spike refusing to make Ford a vampire in Lie To Me because he's irritating). And besides having her bisexuality exposed by her vampire self, perhaps Willow has also had an evil streak exposed for a moment that could become important later?
To add to the deliciousness, we see old reliable Willow pretending to be vampire Willow to the vampires, and vampire Willow pretending to be fluffy Willow to Cordelia.
Anya is left still believing that she will get her evil powers back and make them all grovel. Not any time soon, twelfth grader Anya.
The Mayor and Buffy, Faith and the book-selling demon, Willow and Faith, Faith and Buffy: the story develops several sets of enemies.
WILLOW: I mean, please, does Angel come up to Faith's standards for a guy? Let's see, is he breathing?
BUFFY: Actually, no.
The point when Angel is turned (again) was genuinely worrying - good special effects, too.
ANGEL: I should have known you'd like it on top.
FAITH: You want to listen or you want to die?
ANGEL: As long as you're there, I mostly want you to wriggle.
Again we're invited to consider the similarities and differences between Buffy and Faith:
FAITH: Everybody always asks, why can't you be more like Buffy? But did anyone ever ask if you could be more like me?
ANGEL: I know I didn't.
FAITH: You get the watcher. You get the mom. You get the little scooby gang. What do I get?
Ah, the sound of entitlement. But still Faith isn't painted as evil - she just turned to the Mayor because she's seen how good it is to have friends.
(This isn't the first time Buffy's group has been called a scooby gang - Xander was the first in What's My Line Part 1. The metaphor would make Buffy a dog but that's never pressed.)
Buffy is still fighting falling back into thinking of Angel as a boyfriend, while Angel is getting clearer that it's what he wants.
ANGEL: You still my girl?
Buffy suddenly has a problem with cheerleaders.
BUFFY: Is it me or is this really lame?
OZ: I don't know. I usually enjoy lameness, and this is leaving me kinda cold.
More of Oz's character is revealed in this episode than any other I can think of (which isn't saying much).
WILLOW: The school paper is edging on depressing lately. You guys notice that?
OZ: I don't know. I always go straight to the obits.
It turns out vampires are impervious to telepaths. It's like mirrors.
XANDER: You have no shame.
CORDELIA: Oh please, like shame is something to be proud of.
Finally Angel gets serious about fighting, putting on his party face and hunting down the demon whose heart is needed to cure Buffy (and then coming over to the Summers house in broad daylight with it). This is more interesting than the moral of the story (everybody hurts). Brave to do a story about guns in high schools though.
Buffy has choices of university. And she still has Kendra's lucky stake, Mr. Pointy.
WILLOW: Hey, I eat danger for breakfast.
XANDER: But oddly enough, she panics in the face of breakfast foods.
Xander has graduated from doing the donut run to doing the magic shop run. He has also taken to continually needling Cordelia instead of being continually needled by her.
Willow is captured and chooses to sit and read the Books of Ascension instead of escaping. Then she lectures Faith about the choices she's made.
MAYOR: She's a blossoming young girl and you want to keep her from the life she should have until it has passed her by. By god, I think that's a little selfish. Is that what you came back from hell for? Is that your greater purpose?
Willow chooses to stay in Sunnydale with Buffy, fight evil and become "a bad-ass wicca".
BUFFY: It's weird. You look at something and you think you know exactly what you're seeing, and then you find out it's something else entirely.
3.20 The Prom
Buffy and Angel are snuggling and Buffy nearly kills him before the credits.
ANYA: I have witnessed a millennium of treachery and oppression from the males of the species and I have nothing but contempt for the whole libidinous lot of them.
XANDER: Then why you talking to me?
ANYA: I don't have a date for the prom.
XANDER: Well gosh. I wonder why not.
Joyce joins the Mayor in telling Angel not to be selfish, and one of the biggest turning points in the whole of Buffy's life happens in a sewer.
ANGEL: You'll always be a Slayer. But that's all the more reason why you should have a real relationship instead of this... this freak show.
Cordelia may be broke but she still looks "smashing" in her prom dress, and Xander has finally earned her forgiveness.
CORDELIA: Yes - thank you.
XANDER: It looks good on you.
CORDELIA: Well, duh.
Buffy slays and makes sure everyone has a perfect prom - and though it's not laboured, discovers that what goes around comes around.
JONATHAN: It's from all of us, and it has written here Buffy Summers, Class Protector.
Finally we get to see Buffy and Angel as the perfect couple, perfect together but only for one evening.
3.21 Graduation Day, Part 1
ANYA: Men like sports, I'm sure of it.
XANDER: Yes. Men like sports. Men watch the action movie, they eat of the beef, and enjoy to look at the bosoms. A thousand years of avenging our wrongs and that's all you've learned?
ANYA: I'm trying, okay?
Anya turns out to have useful knowledge about ascensions. We learn that demons that walk the earth are like vampires, hybrids with humans. Pure demons are bigger and badder.
WESLEY: Everybody does seem to be going a bit mad, lately. Faith has something of a head start.
Willow's frustration with her lack of powers leads to panic.
WILLOW: I'm no witch. I can't even change poor Amy back to a person.
OZ: But [...] I think Amy is in a good place emotionally.
Faith shoots a poisoned arrow through Angel.
BUFFY: Well, I've narrowed down my list of one suspect.
Fortunately, the Council of Watchers knows all about vampire toxins. Unfortunately, curing vampires is not their "policy".
BUFFY: Orders? I don't think I'm going to be taking any more orders. [...] tell them, until the next Slayer comes along, they can close up shop. I'm not working for them anymore.
Everything's changing in this episode and the previous one - all the group's relationships. Xander is worried about Buffy being ready to kill Faith - which she is. Faith is impressed - but defiant to the last.
3.22 Graduation Day, Part 2
The mayor worries about Faith. Everyone has their worries.
GILES: Tea is soothing, I wish to be tense.
If only he knew - that Faith dived off the roof, that the only way for Buffy to save Angel is for him to drink her blood (as prophesied by the First Evil in Amends). Angel gets to save Buffy again, and confronts the Mayor. Buffy has one of her most interesting dreams.
FAITH: Oh yeah, miles to go. Little Miss Muffet, counting down from 730.
At the time I thought this was a reference to Buffy's very first scene in Welcome to the Hellmouth, when she wakes from dreaming about vampires and turns off her alarm clock which reads 7:30. At the end of season 5, two years later (2x365 days) another reason emerged.
BUFFY: How are you going to fit all this stuff?
FAITH: Not gonna. It's yours.
BUFFY: I can't use all of this.
FAITH: Just take what you need... you're ready?
There's something slayer-magic related going on but it's never really clear what. What is immediately obvious is that if the active slayer is kept alive in a long-term coma, the next one won't be called.
BUFFY: Faith told me to play on his human weakness.
WILLOW: Faith told you? Was that before or after you put her into a coma?
In the final battle (where Xander gets to be "key figure",
commanding his troops - Halloween really was a key moment for him), we see that Larry is killed, Harmony is bitten, Cordelia stakes a vampire, Wesley is useless but Angel's fighting in the thick of it. Before losing his soul, Angel never fought and was afraid of everything; after returning from the hell dimension, he's less afraid but still wasn't much of a fighter until now. I think drinking slayer-blood has turned him into something different. He's graduating too. Buffy watches him turn away and walk into the smoke and darkness.
OZ: We're taking a moment... and, we're done.