Buffy the Vampire Slayer: S07E04: Help

Funeral home. There’s a middle-age woman in an open coffin. Hey! Where are my “random girls being killed by robed people all around the world” scenes? I miss that! As workers leave for a night, Buffy and Xander climb out of the coffins. They let Dawn out from another, smaller coffin. Dawn complains that her coffin had a child lock on it (that line leads to plenty of scary Lovecraftian thoughts) and she should not be the one to get into the child coffin anyway, since she isn’t the shortest one here. They banter some more, until the woman whom they suspect of being turned reveals herself as a vampire. Then Buffy stakes her and closes the coffin. Huh.

Next day at her desk, Buffy is ready to impart advice and compassion on the troubled schoolchildren. Firsts victims start to pour in.

There is a very macho guy, whose older, even more macho brother has joined the Marines and will be risking his life a lot. So the guy is torn between concern for his brother and the feeling that being concerned and talking about it threatens their masculinity. Wow, being a man is so tough.

There’s some geek who’s trying to pull the ancient “I think I’m gay, so let’s get you naked and check that theory” routine. It’s funny to see Buffy trying to persuade him that there is nothing shameful about being gay, because I still remember her spectacular freak-out on discovering that her best friend is a lesbian.

There’s some meathead who wanders in out of boredom and pulls a couple of imaginary issues out of his ass in effort to skip a class.

My favourite is a strange-looking girl who’s been picked on. Buffy reminds her that bully’s are just “insecure” and tells her to stand up for herself. The girl perks right up and says: “That’s what I did. I stuck up for myself. The other day after class, I jumped him in the parking lot, and I slammed his stupid-ass insecure face right into the pavement.” That’s why she’s been sent to a counsellor. Buffy looks at her in disbelief. It’s always funny when class bully gets a concussion and everybody is so surprised, as if he didn’t have it coming. Oh, and I’d like to see superhero-Buffy explaining to this girl why vigilantism is not the answer.

Even Dawn drops by to complain about her bossy, pain-in-the-ass older sister. Buffy manages to sustain poise and professional demeanour, while gritting her teeth loudly.

In the meantime, Xander takes Willow to Tara’s grave. on the way they talk about Buffy’s job, impending doom (“From beneath you it devours”) and how controlling magic is a lot like hammering a nail. “Power, control. It’s a tradeoff,” concludes his spooky analogy Xander. He really could use a higher education. Tara’s headstone simply says “Tara Maclay. Oct 16, 1980 – May 7, 2002“. Willow puts some pebbles on it (I think it’s the Jewish equivalent of bringing flowers to the grave), touches the letters in Tara’s name and whispers: “Hi. It’s me.” This scene is so perfect, it hurts.

Next one in Buffy’s office is a girl with peculiar faded purple streaks in her bleached hair. She’s been sent to the counsellor because she’s not doing her homework anymore. That’s so sweet! In my school they’d just give you a bad grade and be done with it. Anyway, it turns out that the girl stopped with homework because she’s planning to die next Friday. Sounds reasonable to me. She explains that it’s not that she feels suicidal or that somebody threatened her life, and constantly tries to change a subject, because her death is a done deal and there’s nothing there to talk about. Buffy asks: “Cassie, please tell me, why do you think you’re gonna die?” and the girl answers: “I don’t think it, I know it. I just know.

Cassie? Oh great, she’s a prophet called Cassandra! And that’s when I’ve believed that Joss Whedon really doesn’t watch any TV, because this joke has already been done on Smallville. Except it worked over there, because Smallville really is all about cheesy cheery campy pseudo-mythology.

So Cassie knows that she will die, and there will be some weird coins involved, and Buffy will go some place dark underground, and will try to help. And that Buffy should put on a sweater to avoid staining this lovely shirt. (Huh? But again, Cassie herself is dressed even worse.) She looks like she has pretty much resigned herself to the thought that she’s no longer for this world and tries hard to be accepting and even cheery about it. After she leaves, concerned Buffy reports situation to principal Wood and he agrees that they will do the usual stuff: search the lockers, alert the teachers, – but it’s probably just talk. But Buffy is still worried, and she’s itching to do something, to spring into action, to help. And then she spills some coffee on her shirt. Da-da-dum! This adds weight to Cassie’s prophetness, and Buffy decides to take matter into her own hands. She sets Dawn loose on Cassie!

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Dawn finds Cassie in a new library (New library sucks! Nothing compared to the old one! No Giles, to begin with…) in a middle of a flirty talk with her friend Mike. Mike asks Cassie to the Winter Formal dance, not for the first time, and she declines. Dawn strikes a conversation with Cassie using homework assignment as a thrilling topic, and Mike leaves to prepare for the test. Cassie prophesises he’ll get a B, but he is sure he can get an A+. The girls have a chat about Buffy (Cassie figures out Dawn’s counsellor’s sister), Vonnegut (that’s what Cassie’s reading now instead of doing homework) and Mike. Cassie says she can’t accept Mike’s invitation for the dance because she’s “not gonna be around that night“. This is very considerate of her: if she’d agree to go with Mike it’ll leave him with less time to find another date after Cassie dies. Oh boy. Gruesome.

Buffy, Xander and Willow do research on Cassie, but her records do not indicate anything paranormal. Willow asks: “Have you googled her yet?” and Xander gasps: “Willow, she’s 17!Does he still think about sex 99.9% of his time? I guess it’s understandable since he’s been single for a while now. So Willow googles Cassie and comes across he website filled with angsty poetry and creepy drawings. It’s an actual website, guys. Just stop for a moment to ponder how strange is the world where fictional characters have websites just like real people.

I’ve actually googled Cassie too, and her site did not come up in the first twenty. Shoddy e-marketing, that. (Yes, I am a geek, how did you know?) Then I’ve googled myself and was quite pleased. But that’s nothing compared to googling my husband. He really knows a thing or two about how Google works.

They read Cassie’s poem out loud. I’d quote it, but I fell asleep after the first verse. So I’ve whipped up a punchier abridged version for you:

There is a cramp in my left thigh
My grave will be a big dirt pie
I’m waving all the kids good-bye
Because come Friday I will die!!!

Wow, I’m good.

While the gang digests Cassie’s creation, the dark truth is revealed: Willow used to write love poems! About Xander! He’s very chuffed, but she gently reminds him she’s over him now. Dawn runs in, overexcited about her new theory. She thinks Mike will kill Cassie because he’s secretly mad at her for rejecting his invitations to the dance. She wants to collar him before he lawyers up! Looks like Dawn likes films noir! I highly approve of that. But the older guys have a different idea: they’ve learned from the Internet that Cassie’s dad is a violent drunk. It’s a Global Village thing: somebody gets drunk and behaves like an ass and by the next day it’s all over the Net. Or maybe Willow just hacked into police database.

Buffy and Xander visit Cassie’s dad and ask him if he’s going to hurt his daughter in a fit of drunken rage. Amazingly, he does not throw them out of his house, but tells them instead that he loves Cassie very much and would never hurt her and since he and Cassie’s mother are divorced he only gets to see his daughter once a month and it’s not going to be this Friday. Xander and Buffy are completely satisfied by slurry ramblings of a violent drunk and leave, ashamed.

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For some reason Cassie is hanging out outside her dad’s house. She tells them that it’s not going to be her dad who kills her, and reiterates again that there’s no point in trying to help her. They think she’s being too passive and apathetic about it, and she gives a speech about her desire to live and do all the things life has to offer. There’s some nice acting and tears, and it’s all very sad, but at this point I’m already dying to see some monsters and fighting.

And hey, right on cue they show us some guys in ill-fitting red robes performing a dark ritual involving weird coins and Cassie’s picture. Oh no! They are doing it in the library! How dare they use the library, a traditional place of doughnuts, research and friendship, for their dark rituals? Thank Google, Giles is not around to see this travesty.

Next day is a Fateful Friday. Buffy starts the day on a happy note by reading another one of Cassie’s poems. It’s even more depressing than the previous one. It causes Buffy to go to Spike’s dark basement. Spike is meditating. Buffy snaps her fingers in front of his face – I think it’s rather rude, interrupting people’s attempts to meditate this way. He explains that if he does not move, or think, or listen to the voices, he does not hurt that much. Buffy asks him if he knows something that’ll help her save Cassie. Spike is too wrapped up in his own thing at the moment. He starts to punch himself in the face (no, seriously), but is thankfully stopped by Buffy and then explains that he is paying because he “hurt the girl” (Buffy). He says some other stuff, too, that in some unexplainable way confirms my hopes that there’s some serious storyarc going on in this basement. And I love that it unwraps so slowly. But after all he does not know anything about Cassie, and Buffy turns to leave. He pleads her to stay and help him be quiet, but she says it’s worse when she’s around.

In the meantime, the promised locker search is in progress. In the hall nearby, Buffy bumps into Mike who’s upset about getting a prophesised “B” for the test. Buffy asks him a few questions to check if Dawn could be right and Mike is planning to kill Cassie for rejecting him, but he’s very understanding about Cassie’s refusal, saying “I guess she doesn’t see me that way.” He even thinks of inviting Dawn instead. Buffy yells at Mike for daring to think about Dawn as a “second choice“, and just then principal discovers some weird coins in one of the lockers.

The boy whose locker it was is now in Buffy’s office. He’s playing dumb, and Buffy says she’ll “connect with his face” if he doesn’t start talking. For a moment I wonder which part of her anatomy will be connected with boy’s face and why will it scare him, before I realize she’s threatening to beat him up. Hey, shouldn’t he report that counsellor threatened him? Shouldn’t she be fired? Boy gets scared and promises to tell everything.

Dawn and Cassie finish their classes. Dawn is insisting on walking Cassie home, but she says she knows what’s going on: Buffy told Dawn to pretend to be her friend. Dawn explains that originally it was the case, but only because Buffy was worried about Cassie, and now Dawn is worried too, and also she genuinely wants to be Cassie’s friend. “You are my friend!” smiles Cassie. Aw. Well, I guess in her position there’s no point in being picky about whom you hang out with. Meathead who bugged Buffy earlier calls Dawn over. Cassie taps her on the shoulder and says: “Whatever happens now is not your fault“. Meathead wonders if Dawn already has a date for the dance. She feigns surprise, gives him her best flirtatious look and says “Not exactly” in the most inviting way possible. He says he was just doing a poll. Ugh! Men! They can be so googling… men-like! To Dawn’s credit, she shrugs it off and tells Cassie: “That guy is such an ass“, but Cassie is nowhere to be seen.

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The dark ritual is now in a full swing. And look, Meathead is their leader! The ritual is supposed to make them all rich. one of the guys says he has booby-trapped all the exits to ensure privacy. Meathead drags bound and gagged Cassie into the circle, puts a meat cleaver to her throat and explains that they’ve picked her for a sacrifice because she has this suicidal vibe going. If she disappears, everybody will just think she’s topped herself. He’s about to kill her, when one of the participants takes off the robe – and it’s Buffy!

What the Google? They did not notice that one of their chums suddenly got a foot shorter?That is going on your permanent record!” she says. That’s a second homage to “The Tick” (animated series) on this show! Go “The Tick”!

Buffy starts kicking Meathead around. There must be some policy about counsellors not being allowed to kick the students, don’t you think? She disses his demon-raising skills, but the demon actually does appear, although he’s nothing to be proud about. In fact, he looks like a total Google. He has a big cross on his abdomen, which clearly indicates his most vulnerable spot. I’m sure next demon will have a dartboard painted onto his forehead to really facilitate the slayage. Buffy hit the demon in the chest with Meathead’s cleaver, but demon isn’t really hurt, he pulls the cleaver out, tosses it away and proceeds tossing Buffy around the library. Meathead picks up the cleaver and goes after still tied up Cassie.

And then Spike arrives at the scene! He’s holding a big torch! He’s combed his hair! Sorry, I’m loosing the plot, because Spike is so Googling HOT in this scene, what with nice hair and sexy black shirt.

Buffy grabs the torch and sets demon of fire, while Spike pound Meathead, taking short pauses to moan because his chip is firing and then getting back to the pounding. This is so cool! Spike can help Buffy and self-flagellate at the same time! Just what he wanted. In the end he unties Cassie and she says to him: “She’ll tell you. Someday she’ll tell you.Who, Buffy? Like she ever hesitated to speak her mind about Spike’s character, habits and/or personal hygiene. Or do you think she’ll tell him something nice? …Hmmm… Nah, I don’t think that either.

Meathead gets beaten by half-burned demon (before it nicely bursts like a fireworks) and gets whiny, asking Buffy for help, but she helps mean meatheads like him only within her office hours. Buffy takes rescued Cassie out of library, and as they open the door a booby-trap goes off and an arrow flies straight for Cassie’s head. Buffy catches it in the air, breaks it and says: “See? You can make a difference“. Heh. Buffy likes cheese. Cassie strokes Buffy’s hair and says: “And you will“.

And then Cassie keels over and dies of heart attack! Bwahaha! Sorry, I know it’s not funny. But it’s a really clever plot twist. As it happens, Cassie had a heart condition all along; it ran in the family.

Later at Buffy’s, Dawn is crying over loss of her friend, and Buffy is crushed by her failure to save the girl. See, I don’t think Cassie’s death proves that Buffy was a bad Slayer or counsellor, only that Cassie was a great prophet! Buffy struggles to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you just can’t help people, no matter how you try. The episode ends with Buffy returning to her office. Looks like she will still be trying to help, no matter what.

This episode gets a Googling 13,890. Because, let’s face it, it had poetry!

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