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Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S4.E16 — “Who Are You?”

“Shut up. Do you think I’m afraid of you? You’re nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You’re nothing! You’re disgusting!”

Buffy and Faith

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.

Animated gif of Faith-as-Buffy saying "Buffy" in an exaggerated fashion and then sticking out her tongue

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:

FaithBuffy pushes Spike against a wall while saying, "I could squeeze you until you popped like warm champagne, and you'd beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don't? Because it's wrong."

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.

FaithBuffy and Tara

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.

BuffyFaith in handcuffs

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, leaving town

Faith skips town to LA, where her story continues on Angel.

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.

11 replies on “Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S4.E16 — “Who Are You?””

I find it interesting that Faith tries so hard to BE Buffy, as much as she resents Buffy. She definitely knows that Buffy is a better person (nicer, more moral, more compassionate) but Faith still thinks she’s more “fun”.

And, well, Buffy is more determined to convince people that something is WRONG here. And nobody noticed that FaithBuffy isn’t acting like Buffy, until Tara noticed the fragmented aura (and a mean streak that Willow had never mentioned to her). Joyce didn’t notice that FaithBuffy was cold and callous, the Scoobies didn’t notice how flippant she was, Riley didn’t notice the complete change in personality. Hell, even SPIKE didn’t seem to notice that FaithBuffy’s confrontation was significantly more sexual than any of their previous encounters (usually she pummels, rejects, and stomps away; Buffy doesn’t tend to push him against a wall and tell him how much she could boink him given the chance). Sure, they each only saw her for a short time, but NOBODY noticed how strange that was?

I didn’t put it in the review, but I thought a lot about the over arching story implications of this. Because this isn’t the first time her friends can’t recognize her — they can’t tell her apart from BuffyBot in season 5 either. And Buffy seems really pissed off about it, but then everything else goes down, so they never get back to it.

I wonder if the implication is that they only see their idealization of her? They doubt her in season 7 too, to the point they kick her out of her own house. Spike and Tara always knew when something was going on with her — even when Spike wasn’t on her ‘side’. I hadn’t really thought about that too much until I rewatched this season again and BuffyFaith is paired up so closely to DemonGiles.

Being the Slayer is lonely work.

Its awesome to see SMG really letting ‘loose’, so to speak, and Dushku has a couple of Buffy mannerisms down pat. In the screencap above, she’s got Buffy’s ‘look’ perfect. Like I said last week, I’m not a big Dushku fan, but I gained some respect for her rewatching this. She does some interesting work here.

I do feel a bit bad that we find out more about Faith than we have through the entire series by SMG being Faith, but I guess she’s the star of the show and Dushku isn’t.

I know I’ve said this before, but I love and adore and very much look forward to your recaps of this show – and this week is a perfect example of why. So much Faith’s character development goes on in this episode, between this and “This Year’s Girl”, is where I went from “love to hate” to “oh wow there is so much more going on here”.
The only beef I had with this episode, and maybe this is just me, was that the sex with Riley, in order to be loving and pure, had to be him on top, missionary, vanilla etc. I get where they were going with contrasting the casual sex of Faith to the serious sex Buffy but something about the way it was framed rubbed me the wrong way. That being said, not sure how I would have done it differently.
All in all, a great episode and a most fantastic recap. Thank you Slay Belle. And next week! Oh next week. I am excited.

Thank you! I really liked reviewing these two episodes — there’s not always a lot of meat to analyze, but this gave me a lot to work with.

As much as I want to get to “Superstar!” I might — might! — break with tradition to review the Faith episodes on Angel. I feel a little invested in the story at the moment.

Oh, please follow the Faith episodes on Angel! I was going to write the suggestion but then you had already said it! It’s a fantastic idea, and won’t be breaking with tradition at all. I think we are all invested in Faith’s character arc, and it will help a lot when you get to Season 7!

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