Buffy and Willow are at the Bronze, and so is Parker who, it turns out has a reflection, so big plus there. Buffy's having lusty wrong feelings. She makes the minimum attempt to deny it.
So that's OK, then. What's more, he's concerned about Buffy's safety this late after dark, and offers to walk her back to her dorm. Sweet and clearly totally innocent.
Oz has been playing a set with Dingoes, and Devon is enthusiastic about their forthcoming gig in LA. Are you paying attention? This is a PLOT POINT, in nice, big, friendly neon letters. Willow leaves the boys to walk home alone, and bumps (geddit?) into Harmony, who it seems has changed a little since graduation.
Oz reappears in the nick of time, though, and saves the day, as all good boyfriends are supposed to do. Harmony feels her boyfriend is going to feel cross that Willow rejected her.
Parker walks Buffy home, establishing that he is psychologically damaged, but won't use it for sympathy, because I mean don't you just hate guys that are all 'I'm dark and brooding so give me love?' Buffy says she's never met that type. Naughty Buffy tells fibs. Carpe Diem is Parker's motto. Remember how well that worked in WTTH? He asks Buffy to go to a frat party with him.
Xander helps Giles shelve stuff, but is bemused by the alphabet. Anya, who has given up the whole 'fleeing in terror' thing arrives, and with classic subtlety takes Xander away. I need to talk to Xander. Go away.
Anya needs to talk about the relationship Xander hadn't realised they were having. In deep there, pal.
Parker and Buffy arrive at her dorm door, which is almost definitely made of wood, but nothing indecorous can happen because Willow and Oz arrive with news about Harmony, and how pale she now is. Parker has lived at Sunnydale U for a while, but some things about the area have just passed him by, so he leaves, planning to pick Buffy up for the party the next night. Now there's an angry puppy to be dealt with.
They are all astounded that Vamp!Harmony has a boyfriend, who Must be like, the most tolerant guy in the world. Yes, right.
He promises to take her somewhere nice as long as she just sods off now to let him get on with finding a crypt with his minion.
At the party Parker wants to dance.
But Buffy bumps into an old friend, with a somewhat somnolent companion and a girlfriend.
They are both amused. Buffy asks Spike if he lost a bet to get Harmony. Spike likes the look of Buffy's young man, who looks deliciously vulnerable.
Fisticuffs ensue once they are outside, but Harmony, with her customary acumen lets slip the name of the object Spike has been searching for.
Meanwhile, Anya visits Xander with very explicit motives. He is a little startled.
But, after all, she is more romantic than Faith.
Giles abandons unpacking his stuff to do some research on the Gem of Amara, which probably doesn't exist.
Parker is worried Spike might have dated Buffy in the past. No. Really not.
Spike is not in a dating mood. He loves syphilis more than Harmony.
But somehow he is persuaded. And does that panther crawl thing.
And Buffy makes a choice.
So everybody is rather physically engaged, which is why Giles gets only the answering machine when he tries to call Buffy. Pity, as he has bad news. The Gem is not a fantasy after all, it's real.
And the next morning Buffy wakes up alone. For a moment, then Parker brings coffee. Turns out he's busy today, though. Anya is convinced sex with Xander has got him out of her system. So that's all good.
And Harmony is happy in her love too.
Until he tells her to shut up about France. Love hurts, baby.
Spike has a single focus, breaking through to the crypt. Buffy has two - finding Spike and checking frequently to see if Parker called. He hasn't.
Spike breaks through to the crypt, which is full of pretty things. It takes him some time to find what he wants, as Harmony has it. He's pretty pissed-off with her, though, and that helps answer his question.
And Harmony is left all alone.
Oz is impressed by the Giles record collection. But Xander discovers Giles is shallow like the rest of us - he has a TV. Which reports there has been unusual topsoil disturbance near campus. Aha!
Buffy finds Parker. Who is dismissive. He's already working on the next girl.
And just when her sense of abandonment and betrayal is particularly bad, she meets Spike. Enjoying the sunshine.
There is badinage, of a particularly hurtful kind, and fisticuffs, which hurt in a different way.
And Buffy takes the Gem. But some of Spike's jibes hurt, if only because they are true. Did he play the sensitive lad and get *you* to seduce him? That's a good trick if the girl's thick enough to buy it. And Anya finds Xander, who doesn't have time for her. And Harmony knows being a vampire really sucks.
Oz will take the ring to Angel in LA. (See, I told you the gig was a PLOT POINT) But we end on three miserable young women, a Slayer, a vampire and an ex-demon. Nope. Sex is not The Answer.
Wow, there was a lot packed into that episode! Lots of sex which didn't help anybody in the story but was not wholly unpleasant for the viewer. And lots of messages about the way people use and exploit other people, and how sex might seem to be a happy ending but is often a sad beginning. Of all the pairings we see in this ep, Willow/Oz is the only one we don't see doing the deed, and the only one which is essentially happy and stable. It is stable, right?
Harmony is hilarious in this. No longer a mere bitchy sidekick to Cordelia, we see that she hasn't changed all that much; she just wants a man, pretty things and glamorous locations. But this man is never going to them to her, and she really doesn't see that. She thinks she's using him for access to the pretty things and such, but it's the other way round. Anya thinks she's using Xander to work off sexual tension and get him out of her system, but it turns out it wasn't what she really wanted at all. And Buffy thinks she's making an adult decision and moving on with her life, not at all rebounding from Angel, and doesn't see she's been manipulated by one of the oldest tricks there is.
It's not an anti-sex episode, however; it can be fun, it can be good. But you have to understand yourself and your partner and both of your motives, or it will leave you feeling even more hollow than before. This time Giles doesn't reassure Buffy and talk about respect - he's just glad she isn't going to overshare.
Lots of plot threads to help build the season, too. Giles establishing his home base. Oz and the band moving around off-campus. Parker. (Ugh.) Spike, once again taken down by the Slayer just when he was certain the odds were in his favour. And we see the Spike who doesn't love his partner - a total change from his interactions with Drusilla.
Oh yes, and plenty of manly Spike-flesh on show. Not that this would concern me, of course. Honest.
So, what do you think of this one? As so often in this show, the third episode really does seem to kick everything up a notch. Is the loveless sex theme a little overdone or spot on? Do Anya, Buffy and Harmony have as much in common as is suggested? All those carefully-framed shots in which they parallel each other - clever or annoying? Are you pleased to see Spike back? And is the comedy up your street or a bit broad? (Yes, Xander's fruit drink, I'm looking at you here.) Do you have favourite lines, shots, scenes? Please share - comments are much-sought and warmly welcomed.
All caps courtesy of Screencapped.net.