Episode Title: This Year’s Girl
Original Air Date: February 22, 2000
“It’s called a blaster, Will. A word that tends to discourage experimentation. Now, if it were called “the orgasminator”, I’d be the first to try your basic button-press approach.” – Xander
So just when it looked like we had everything in place for this season with Adam now on the loose and figuring out his own master plan which you can pretty much guarantee won’t be anything good for Buffy and the Scoobies. However this week things are shook up by the return of rouge slayer Faith, who last time we saw her had been put in a coma by Buffy with the doctors holding out little hope that she’d come out of it. Well it seems you can’t keep a good (or should that be bad slayer?) slayer down as snapping out of her coma she wastes little time on plotting her revenge on Buffy.
Faith as I covered already during the season 3 coverage is unquestionably one of my favourite characters on the show, especially as she has always represented what could have happened to Buffy had she gone down a different path or not had the support of her friends and family to keep her grounded. At the same time this is a role owned by Eliza Dushku who brings such rebellious energy to the role you can hardly blame the show runners for wanting to bring her back.
While it could have been enough to just have Faith return seeking revenge not only for being put in a coma but also the death of her father figure Mayor Wilkins, this episode takes some time to actually establish Faith’s mindset (aswell as teasing the introduction of Buffy’s sister Dawn) as we first see her battling to get out of the coma realm and later watching the video which the Mayor left for her alongside a device whose purpose is teased out till the end.
While Faith’s return is the main focus of the episode we still get some development for Adam who like Anya is strangely absent from this episode, though we do get to see some of his handiwork when the gang find a dissected demon strung up in a tree. Buffy assuming that this is part of him learning process which combined with how tough he was when she faced him last week really has her only all the more concerned for how she can beat him with one of her hopes resting on getting her failed blaster working which amusingly results in Xander briefly electrocuting himself….not that his friends seem to notice.
Riley meanwhile having served being stabbed and somehow over his withdrawal despite the cure never being revealed but then being kept out of the loop seems to be a running theme when it comes to Riley this week as Buffy also gives him an edited history about her connection to Faith. Still he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about being a double agent for the group by continuing to be part of “The Initiative” while reporting back to them. Its amusing though how none of this seems to raise much of a reaction from him as they continue to play him as good natured country boy and kind of making me miss that crazy side of him we got to enjoy in the previous episode.
Proving that less is sometimes more the brief cameo by Spike rounds out the episode as he predicatably wants nothing to with the hunt for a rogue slayer, while still showing himself still lost and searching for his tribe as he refuses to join the good guys while his demon slaying activities sees him branded an outcast by his fellow monsters. A situation perfectly highlighted by him stating
“Tell you what I’ll do then. I’ll head out, find this girl, tell her exactly where you are and then watch as she kills you. Can’t any one of your damn little Scooby club at least try to remember that I hate you all? Just because I can’t do the damage myself doesn’t stop me from aiming a loose cannon your way. And here I thought the evening be dull.”
Obviously the main focus here is the inevitable showdown between Buffy and Faith, with Faith more dangerous than ever now she doesn’t have the restraint of the Mayor to hold her back, here we get to see her truly off the leash as she holds Joyce hostage to lure Buffy into a showdown in what is a delightfully dark scene for Faith, even though she would top it during her appearance on “Angel”. The real kicker of the showdown which marks the climax of this episode is the discover that the device given to Faith gives her the ability to swap bodies with anyone she comes into contact with and so the episode ends with her and Buffy switching bodies with Buffy now in Faith’s body left to be arrested by the police.
So what’s next? How will Buffy get her body back now Faith has destroyed the device? Why are “The Council” back in Sunnydale?? All questions we have to wait until the next week to find as we end on the dreaded “To be continued”.
Next Episode: Who Are You