This Year’s Girl
Written by: Douglas Petrie
Directed by: Michael Gershman
Air Date: Feb. 22, 2000

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Seventy years ago I was making good progress on this site, moving through this show, its spin-off, the comics, and video games at a good clip. Then I watched this episode and, for some reason, it all came crashing down. I don’t know why, but something caused me to snap and it was all over. And I wish that wasn’t the case (#1, I’d be done with this site by now…) because this first episode of Faith’s return is solid, has great comedy, a few good fight sequencs (minus a camera man or two popping into frame), and features some cameos from some great old cast members.

Opening with a delightful dream sequence that, in classic Whedon fashion, hints at things that are yet to come (“lil’ sis), the episode gets rolling with the heavy-handed and cheesy “Faith is going to wake up!”-junk, what with the lightning effect and the REM going on under her eyelids in the close-ups. More dream sequences follow and push the boundaries on being too over-the-top but never reach that spot, particularly because they give us a sweet picnic between Faith and The Mayor (Harry Groener!) and despite the crazy levels of beat-you-over-the-head symbolism with the graveyard bit, it all works. Because Faith is an over-the-top antagonist most of the time, so having everything be cliche and thunder-crashingly cheese-laden works. And that these dream sequences are split up over the first half of the episode works well, too.

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Once she wakes up, the episode is all about the contrast between what Faith lost and what Buffy gained in the fallout of Season 3. Faith lost her father figure, her place in the world. She has no family, she has no friends. The school, the Mayor’s final battleground, is in ruins. She even longingly looks in on some knives in a storefront, looking for anything to connect her to her lost past. She returns to Giles’ place to spy on Buffy and the Scoobies to see what is going on. They have it all, in her eyes – boyfriends, girlfriends, they are all alive… college, life goals, Buffy still has the “Good Fight” and the team to see it through, with. But Faith was never dumb and notices a few things very quickly, chief amongst them? No Angel. If you remember correctly, Buffy was willing to kill Faith over her blood to save Angel from a curse that would claim his life… for, like, the seventh time. Now he’s nowhere to be seen. She done got stabbed for nuthin’!

During this look-in, Buffy gets “the call” (from who? The Watcher’s Council? The police? That nurse that called the Council? It is never explained) and everyone is aware that Faith is back. Buffy gives a rousing speech about what they need to do, maybe Faith is sorry and wants to reform? Doesn’t matter, they still need to find her. Riley is like “wut?” and doof-faces it up to an 11. You’d think Faith seeing this would make her hide out as long as possible, but in a badass turn, she just shows up at Buffy’s college (remember, she goes to college), and they duke it out in broad daylight with tons of onlookers. Its a great brawl because of the number of extras, the cops showing up, the chase after, and the tension and anxiety it adds. Buffy has a great life going for her, right now (despite Adam leaving demon corpses mined out for their precious organs, just hanging out in trees) and now someone who has nothing is willing to show what that means.

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This leads to the two best moments of the episode. First up, Xander and Giles running around with a now-functioning gun (that previously electrocuted Xander to great comedic effect) on the hunt for a rouge Slayer. They encounter Spike in a darkened alley and he is very curious and wanting to help. He listens intently as they describe Faith and what she can do and Spike, in a dramatic moment, informs them that he’ll find this “Faith” and help her track down and kill them all. Giles and Xander’s expressions, paired with Spike’s frustration over the fact that they never remember he hates them is priceless. As is Xander’s best line in the entire series: “We’re dumb.” Its played so well and is all perfect. One of the great comedy scenes put to screen in the show’s history.

Elsewhere, Faith receives a gift from the Mayor (by way of killing the messenger) and in a heartfelt video tape, she gets the one goodbye that matters to her, her father figure Wilkins. He leaves her a parting gift – a magic device of unknown origin and with unknown (to us) consequences. She takes off to Buffy’s old house and there’s Joyce! Who gets just dropped like a sack of bricks. After she comes to, Faith attempts to dig at her by showing how little Buffy cares but we know Joyce gets it and before anything bad can happen, the climactic brawl of the episode comes to a head as Buffy and Faith smash up the Summers’ home again, resulting in broken furniture, banisters, and front door glass (awesome choreography on this fight) that all ends when the cops show up and Faith lets Buffy pummel her face in for a few moments before activating the device Wilkins left her, effectively switching their bodies. Faith, now in Buffy’s body, punches her opposite out cold, smashes the device, and then says she’s “Five by Five” when asked if she’s OK. Faith had nothing and Buffy had everything. Time for a switcheroo.

Episode Rating: 92

Additional Notes:
-Other good line? Willow: “That was the funnest coma ever”
-Riley gives a speech about how he has always taken orders and it is the most awkward, stilted speech ever.
-Xander tries to explain that he and Faith have a history. Giles is extremely uninterested
-Riley also says that, since he’s from Iowa and had to drive for hours to see a high school football game, he’s OK with long stories. Shut up, Doof.
-What if Faith just didn’t wake up? That’d have been an awesome twist!
-The Watcher wetwork team just sits by the phone night and day and answers in one ring, apparently
-“Hello, Rupert.” – solid delivery
-Willow and Tara continue to bond. Gonna keep bonding too, if you know what I mean. WINKY FACE

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