A New Man
Written by: Jane Espensen
Directed by: Michael Gershman
Air Date: Jan. 25, 2000

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Ethan Rayne, nasty dude from such episodes as “Band Candy” and “The Dark Age” gets his final on-screen appearance, I do believe, in an episode dedicated to Giles’ feeling of self-worthlessness. After attending a birthday party that Giles leaves Giles feeling alienated from everyone, he finds out that not only did Buffy know Riley was one of the commandos he’s been looking after, but that everyone knew, including Spike. And to top it off, he didn’t even know he was dating Buffy at the time. Compounded with the double-whammy of admitting to an adult that Buffy admires that he is her “friend” and that Prof. Walsh thinks he’s done a lackluster job as a father figure and you have a Giles who is very much at a loss for what to do with his life.

Enter Ethan Rayne, a man whose cunning is comically undone as Giles walks in on him monologue-ing. Rather than giving the poor sod a beatdown, however, Giles and Ethan have a few drinks, talk about the good old days, the bad recent days, and some information about a mysterious “314” that the demon underworld is terrified of. Its a nice change of pace to see these two being friendly and you get a real sense of their relationship prior to any mother-fuckery that might have gone on in their past. Its hilarious to see Giles laugh off Ethan lying about poisoning his drink while he was in the restroom, and its equally hilarious to see Ethan strike out with the waitress while “Ripper” rolls his eyes. The difference in their interactions are cut short, however, because Ethan DID put a spell on Giles, and what a spell it was.

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If Giles felt distanced before, nothing would make him feel more apart from the Scooby Gang than turning into a flunkie demon that uses mucus as a weapon. The sudden transformation leads to some laugh out loud moments where he doesn’t know his own strength and destroys doors, phones, and even his own shirt. His attempt to get Xander to help him is also funny as he quickly learns he no longer speaks English, but a strange demon language instead, one Spike just-so-happens to understand. This leads to a tag-team effort between the two of them to find Ethan before he jumps town and a brawl with both Buffy and Riley to save his own life. Overall, its a nasty, stupid day for Giles, and one he won’t soon forget.

The nice thing about this episode, though, is that it shows – to us – that Buffy and co. don’t really dislike Giles or want to keep him out of the loop. Buffy admits that she didn’t tell him because it was a secret, at first, but then assumes that, since everyone else found out on their own, someone must have told Giles. But she then admits to Willow that she screwed up. And while we see her tenacity toward finding out where “the demon took her Watcher” it isn’t until she recognizes his eyes that we really get a sense of just how well she knows her father figure, and how much she means to him. Buffy can comment all day that it was the frustration in his eyes that really told her who he was, but we know its because of the love she has, the respect for Giles that came through.

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Elsewhere in the episode we see Buffy’s crazy driving, Xander continue to teach Anya how to be human, and – most important of them all – Willow continue to develop a relationship with Tara, the witch she met back during “Hush” – a very secret relationship. She has been telling everyone that she has been studying and researching in the library, but in truth she’s been going to Tara’s dorm to practice spells and magic, witchcraft that, as of late, hasn’t been going very well. She assumes its because of the horrible things Giles tries to warn them about, but there may be a more sinister reason lying beneath.

While this episode is mostly played for laughs, I have to admit there are some deeper levels here. Mostly the fact that Giles, who is often shown as a mature, infallible adult, is just as petty and easily hurt as the rest of us. The fact that he doesn’t want to bother Buffy with his doomsday prophecy in the graveyard isn’t out of courtesy to her, but because he doesn’t want to deal with her. If he doesn’t tell her, he is “getting back” at her somehow. Its human and its weak. And its true-to-life. I also think the makeup/prosthetic work in this episode is fantastic. You can still see Giles in there, though, which is the absolute best part of the episode. Anthony Stewart Head didn’t get the kudos he deserved for his time as our favorite Watcher.

Episode Rating: 90

Additional Notes:
-When Giles laments having demon urges and his desire to control them, he immediately jumps from the car, almost going “booga booga!” as he chases Prof Walsh down the street. Petty, indeed!
-Spike totals Giles’ car. That thing ain’t goin’ nowhere
-Giles owns a bunch of fake silver things
-Willow’s rose goes zoom-zoom-zoom in an incredibly cheesy and poorly CG’d scene
-I may have lied, by the way, on which Willow relationship I like the most. Sorry
-Where is Buffy’s mom?
-Getting close to the big reveal of this season’s “Big Bad”
-Ethan is all “you can’t arrest me” and then Riley is all “you are under arrest”
-Riley is a doof to Walsh about how much he likes Buffy and Walsh basically says he is a doof. Love it

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