“Shut up. Do you think I’m afraid of you? You’re nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You’re nothing! You’re disgusting!”
We begin this week where “This Year’s Girl” left off, with Buffy-as-Faith and Faith-as-Buffy, and Buffy-as-Faith getting hauled off by the cops for the crimes that Faith (who is now Buffy) actually committed. Confused yet? I hope not, there’s a lot to keep track of.
“This Year’s Girl” spent a lot of time setting up Faith’s personal narrative of innocent wronged by the world, most especially and importantly, Buffy. Anyone who’s watched the show up to this point knows that Faith’s self-perspective lacks a bit of nuance, especially in the “I’m a repeat murderer” part and the “betrays the only friends I’ve ever had” part. So in stark contrast to Faith’s candy colored nightmares of being victimized at the hands of a methodical and cruel Buffy, this episode begins with FaithBuffy watching as her fellow Slayer gets carted off to jail in her stead while BuffyFaith protests, and then really sticking the knife in by grabbing Joyce’s hand while BuffyFaith is watching. Faith’s got her mother now, and there isn’t anything Buffy can do about it.
It’s narratively obvious that the Slayers will trade their bodies back, but in the meantime, there’s some interesting explorations of Faith’s character within her “Buffy” persona. The writer’s jump right into it ““ as soon as Joyce and Faith retreat into the house, Faith makes the mistake of being, well, Faith, gleefully suggesting that BuffyFaith might get raped in prison. Joyce is appalled. When Joyce corrects her, the expression on Faith’s (Buffy’s) face reveals a lot ““ no one had ever taken the time to raise her “properly,” to show kindness and sympathy, and to not take delight in someone else’s suffering. Buffy is who she is in a large part due to Joyce’s ““ and then Giles’s ““ influence. Faith’s family life was loosely sketched out as “shitty” and she loses her first Watcher to be betrayed by her next in short order. That’s not a lot of time in there to develop a working sense of empathy.
From there, Faith is off to wreck havoc in Buffy’s life. She heads to the Bronze, flirts with strange men, drinks some beers, and then taunts Spike with the sex-and-violence line that Buffy and Spike dance around. Faith doesn’t know about the events of “Something Blue,” but Spike does, and they can’t be far from his mind during this exchange:
Of all the people that Faith runs into in Buffy’s body ““ Spike, the Scoobies, Giles, Buffy’s own mother ““ the only person to understand that Faith is an imposter is the person who knows her the least ““ Tara. Faith immediately picks up on the burgeoning lesbian romance just based on the way Tara looks at Willow and then uses that affection as a weapon for no other reason than that she can. From there, Faith is forced to save a stranger from a vampire attack and seems shocked at the other woman’s gratitude, even though she’s been a Slayer for a while.
Faith has a similar reaction to Riley, who she casually seduces for basically the same reason she holds Joyce’s hand early in the episode. She wants Buffy to pay for everything that’s gone wrong in Faith’s life. So she seduces him and then has to deal with who Riley is ““ a decent nice guy who is in love with Buffy and wants a passionate, but loving sex life that doesn’t revolve around game playing and involves a lot of intense eye contact. Faith straight up has a panic attack, unable to handle that level of emotional connection. She wanted to wreck Buffy’s life, not find out what she could have had. If only.
Meanwhile, Buffy is being dragged around town by a Watcher extraction team. The Council tried to “save” Faith back in season 3 and got roundly beat down for their hubris. They’re not interested in being humiliated again, not by a girl who is supposed to be under their thumb, so they send some mercenaries to bring her back to England. Or kill her. Whichever is easy. It’s interesting to see that BuffyFaith is dressed almost identically to Faith when the last Watcher team tried this kidnapping trick, and that Buffy needs to escape in pretty much the same manner ““ some threats, some subterfuge, and a willingness to kick someone’s teeth in.
Her first stop is Giles. It has to be galling to walk into your father figure’s apartment and have him be terrified of you. And then, in the insult-to-injury move, refuse to believe you are who you say you are weeks after you, yourself, was able to recognize him in a demon’s body based on nothing more than the disappointed look in his demon eyes. I mean. Seriously, right? Luckily, Tara and Willow did some magic that was artfully shot as a sex scene, located Buffy on the astral plane, and conjured the plot device that will put everything ““ and everyone ““ back in order.
So now everything is in place. The Scoobies are onto Faith. Faith is on her way out of town. And Adam has sent his first group of followers out into Sunnydale to capture and slaughter the fine people at Sunnydale Presbyterian church. Which the local news ““ so helpful to us this season! ““ has caught on camera. Buffy goes to the church even though it means she might risk losing her body to Faith. Faith goes to the church because”¦ well, that’s more interesting.
Being stuck in Buffy’s body, seeing how people treat Buffy decently not because she makes them respect her with her strength as a Slayer, but by just being a good human being, has obviously gotten to Faith. She could have caught her flight out of the country and left the good people in the church to the vampires. But she doesn’t. She heads in for a showdown. Because it’s right.
Adam’s goons are just the excuse ““ they’re defeated easily and forgotten instantly, because the two Slayers are now in one place again. Their fight is destined. In the midst of it, Faith starts pummeling her own body, screaming at herself all the guilt and disgust she’s been harboring over her own actions in the past two seasons, all this gross mental baggage just flying out of her mouth. And then Buffy pulls out the McGuffin, and they’re back in their own bodies. Each of the Slayers has to deal with the ugly fallout of Faith’s revenge ““ Buffy discovering Faith and Riley slept together, Faith with her newfound feelings of guilt.
Faith skips town to LA, where her story continues on Angel.