Written by: David Fury
Directed by: James A. Contner
Air Date: May 4, 1999

David Fury is fast becoming one of my favorite writers on this show. His characters just seem better than most. Take for example his writing of Faith in this episode; previously we’ve seen her as tough-as-nails, empathetic, and comical. But never all in one episode.  Here, we see every last facet of her character and its a telling reminder of her arc this season, as far as coming from nothing and winding up with everything is concerned. Her relationship with The Mayor is strengthened here, tenfold, but so is her movement toward being “evil” – its a great episode to watch Faith have to struggle through, because she’s on top of the world for the first time in her life. And she is both overjoyed and scared of it.

Her giant confrontation with Willow in the Mayor’s office is clearly the easy highlight of the episode. Here we see just how far Faith has fallen (and just how many balls Willow has grown) in such a short time. She was never really pals with Willow – in fact Willow has stated time and again that she never liked Faith, really – but here she is ready to cut on her, mercilessly. Its a scary transformation and with subtle clues from body language and distinct lines, one that bothers even Faith a bit. Not Buffy, though, who has confirmed for herself that Faith is now the bad guy and thrown herself in with the “Big Bad” – its one of those times (many will follow) when Buffy simply makes use of “absolutes” and deems her  bad from now on. We’ll see Angel as a means of combating this viewpoint later on.

Willow has signed off on her for a long time, now, but its nice to see someone actually tell Faith what they think of her during this time period. Even a knife to the face doesn’t keep her from ripping into Faith like its going out of style and it doesn’t keep Faith from thinking anything other than the fact that no one likes her but The Mayor. Which suits all the players just fine. At this point, no one on the Scooby side of things is going to try to get Faith back, and the Mayor is happy to further deepen his connection with her by giving her gifts, praise, and – above all else – power and position. The “Choices” the title of the episode refers to are those that everyone has now made about Faith; she is a killer, she is an enemy, and she is not to be trusted. Again, no one champions this more than Buffy who, for all of her problems with Faith, at least has the decency to stop trying to re-convert her back to the good guys’ team.

The box with the spiders in it is a lame MacGuffin (not to be confused with “MacGuffins“) but it works. It gives the bad guys something to need and the good guys something to keep from them. Faith doesn’t understand – nor does Wesley at this point – that sometimes friends matter more, which is why she doesn’t do a whole lot aside from being a bitch during the giant confrontation in the school cafeteria. This moment is monumental because The Mayor nails a few points home: that Angel and Buffy can never be together, that Faith is his, and that – more or less – so is the town. Its also the first face-to-face Buffy has with the “Big Bad” and that’s interesting considering how close to the end of the season it is. Even Angelus popped up early in season two and next season we’ll have Adam earlier than this. But I digress. Its nice that it all comes to a head in a conversation, rather than a brawl. Best save that for the finale.

As the last real episode of the season to advance the season’s arc, “Choices” doesn’t really do much advancing. It mostly runs on characters and interactions, something I love this show for. There are few action moments and very little in the way of major plot developments. But the characters are ever-present and fun to deal with. Xander, Willow, and Buffy are all about to make a big leap outside of here and Buffy is getting ready to do some major damage so she could possibly skip town for good. She needs to deal with The Mayor and Faith, but at least she has Angel and at least she has purpose. Her fellow Slayer has nothing to show in either the relationship or reason category.

This episode is kinda lackluster and meanders, but it never suffers a truly dull moment. The ship keeps moving along at a good pace and sets everything up for the explosive ending the season has been heading toward since day one. All the pieces are in place. Now to see where it all ends up.

Episode Rating: 82

Additional Notes:
-Joyce overreacts to Buffy getting accepted to colleges away from the Hellmouth and is overall a great TV mom
-Faith is all distraught over losing her knife. She’ll get it back.
-Just not the way she wants to…
-Willow ripping those pages out of the books Giles needs to understand the Mayor’s plans is a smart move and one true to her character
-Xander is aware that he is never, ever going to college
-Snyder’s involvement this whole episode is great. He will be missed