Ladyghosts of TV Past: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 2.17, “Passion”

Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping… waiting…  And though unwanted, unbidden… it will stir, open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.

Another week, another Season 2 greatest hit. I don’t know a single Buffy fan that can’t tell you what happens in this episode; this is the one where Jenny Calendar dies.

Ever since Angelus returned, he’s been feinting at Buffy, sending her little messages, threatening her friends, taking demons shopping at the mall. After his Valentine’s Day present gets thwarted, Angelus decides it’s time to stop screwing around and get serious about his tormenting.

Buffy wakes up one morning to find a sketch of her sleeping face laid on her pillow. The implication is obvious; Angelus can come and go from her house as he wishes. She’s not safe anywhere.

But neither is any one else. When Angel was good, he was granted access to the Scooby’s homes, their cars, their lives, and Angelus benefits from their good will. He slips into Willow’s house and leaves her an envelope full of her fish, which drives her to Buffy’s, where the two girls sit up all night, waiting for him to appear again. They need to find away to reverse their invitations.

Jenny Calendar, techno-pagan and Gypsy witch, can help with this. She has access to books that Giles has never seen, and gives him a volume that should help break the invitations. Jenny is still persona non-gratis in the Scooby gang ““ one of Buffy’s defining characteristics is her ability to hold a grudge. If it weren’t for Giles’s sad puppy eyes, Buffy might have frozen Jenny out into the next millennia, but she loves Giles, and Giles loves Jenny, so Buffy begrudgingly invites the witch back into their sphere.

What Buffy doesn’t know, because she doesn’t care, is that Jenny is guilt ridden over her betrayal of the gang. Jenny has a plan to alleviate that guilt; she’s going to give Angelus back his soul. Some pieces of the spell are easy to track down ““ the Magic Box is selling the Orb of Thesulah as a new age paper weight. Other parts of the spell are harder, like the untranslated spell that would actually summon the soul back from wherever souls hide when they’re ripped from the body. Not to worry ““ Jenny is working on a translation program.

At the factory, tensions are high between the Spike-Dru-Angelus trio. Angelus is the unwelcome house guest, poaching Spike’s home and his girl, and antagonizing the Slayer instead of just killing her. Their petty squabbling is broken up by one of Dru’s visions; the bad teacher is going to wreck their happy home.

At the school, Jenny is fretting over her computer program when Giles pays a visit. She’s close to figuring everything out, but she wants it to be a surprise, so she doesn’t tell him what she’s been working on. But this close to success, Jenny is feeling bold. They make a date to see each other later that night, at Giles’s place.

Angelus doesn’t know exactly what’s going on with Dru’s vision, but he’s not going to wait around to find out. That’s what Dru is doing over at the Magic Box. So to kill some time, he heads over to Buffy’s, where he catches Joyce coming home from the store. He tries on the spurned lover role, begging Joyce to make Buffy talk to him. Buffy’s beaten him to the punch, warning her mother that Angelus is a boy who can’t take a hint and should be avoided, so Angelus pulls out the nuclear option. He tells Joyce that he slept with Buffy and now she won’t talk to him. She’s horrified. But she’ll be worse off if Angelus follows her into the house ““ which he can’t, because Jenny’s spell worked, and Buffy slams the door in his face. He’s no longer welcome in her house.

So it is this frustrated Angelus who ends up at the high school, lurking in the back of Jenny’s classroom as she finishes the translation of the ancient texts. Like a good computer nerd, she backs up her work on a floppy disk and prints out a copy, which is when Angelus surprises her. He’s none too thrilled to hear that he’ll be getting his soul back. So he destroys the computer and burns the print out while Jenny runs for her life. He doesn’t know about the floppy disk, which drops down under the desk, safely hidden.

The chase is frantic, breathtaking. It’s been so long since I first saw the episode, I don’t remember if I thought Jenny would get away, if Buffy would show up like she so often does, if Jenny would collapse in Giles’s arms later and sob about what happened. Now, when I watch this scene, all I can read on Jenny’s face is dread and desperation, like she knows she’s running towards her death. When she finally runs into Angelus at the top of the stairs and the pair is silhouetted in the window, there are cars passing by in the background. Normal, human life going on unaware of the threat Angelus is to this world.

He snaps her neck. She’s not even worth drinking her blood. To him, Jenny’s just a bug to crush.

Later, Giles returns to his apartment, which is decorated in roses and candles, Puccini on the record player, and a note telling him she’s upstairs. There’s champagne in a bucket. It’s all romance novel perfect, two lovers reuniting. He climbs the stairs to the loft, his face expectant and eager, and the horror that washes over it a moment later is heartbreaking. Jenny is laid out on his bed, neck broken, eyes open, a present from Angelus.

The monster, himself, is lurking outside of Buffy’s house, waiting for the moment the girls get the call about Jenny. Buffy answers the phone, animatedly telling Giles that the spell worked until she’s cut off. We know what she’s being told. Buffy crumples to the floor, Willow howls her grief, and Joyce has to comfort the two girls without really understanding what that phone call meant; Buffy failed. She’s the Slayer and because she wasn’t able to kill Angelus when she had the chance, he’s murdered Jenny.

The Scooby gang rushes over the Giles’s house, but he’s already gone. This is why all the set up about the Ripper was important, because the Ripper is the man who collects a bag full of weapons and sets out to kill his lover’s murderer. Xander, for one, supports this plan of actions unreservedly. If Buffy can’t be bothered to kill him, Giles might as well be the one to do it.

Xander: I’m sorry, but let’s not forget that I hated Angel long before you guys jumped on the bandwagon. So I think I deserve a little something for not saying “I told you so” long before now. And if Giles wants to go after the, uh, fiend that murdered his girlfriend, I say, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”

Except that for all his anger, the Ripper is just a man. Angelus is going to kill him.

Buffy raids the warehouse, where Giles has already done a great deal of damage, lighting the place on fire and beating the snot out of Angelus. She’s just in time. Angelus has turned the tide, knocking Giles unconscious ““ the only reason he’s not dead is because Buffy leaps into the fray. Their fight is like all their fights, desperate and vicious, all that passion they felt for each other before Innocence channeled into violence. She has him on the ropes, but when the choice is killing Angelus or saving Giles, she’ll always choose her surrogate father.

The episode ends at Jenny’s grave. Giles and Buffy mourn together. She’s ready now, ready for what she has to do.

This is the kind of storytelling that True Blood should be paying attention to.

Published by

[E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com. She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

5 thoughts on “Ladyghosts of TV Past: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 2.17, “Passion””

  1. Great recap.

    One of my favourite scenes in this ep is when Buffy has rescued Giles and is so angry at him because she can’t lose him when she knows what she is going to have to do and the help she’s going to need.

    He truly is the best father/father figure in TV.

  2. This is the episode where shit got real. One thing I have to respect about Whedon (among other things) is his willingness to sacrifice characters for good storytelling. I still can’t watch certain episodes from later seasons for this reason, though I recently did finally re-watch The Body and it totally proves my point. Season eight (graphic) doesn’t handle death nearly as well as the show, but that’s fine because season eight doesn’t actually exist (I’ve blocked it out).

    I stopped watching True Blood after season two, so I couldn’t really say, but one of the things that makes the Vampire Diaries pretty compelling is that likable characters regularly die. It keeps it interesting from week to week, though the show pretty closely follows a three act structure so it’s fairly easy to predict when someone (and who) is going to die if you are paying attention.

    As always, dig the recaps Slay Belle!

    1. Everyone talks up Vampire Diaries so much that I think I need to cave and get caught up with the show. Despite my love of the sub-genre, High School, Vampires in, I just never started watching.

      By the way, I weep through The Body every time I see it. That is one incredible piece of television.

      Thanks, dellbot!

Leave a Reply