Who Are You
Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Aire Date: Feb. 29, 2000

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Wow. What an episode. This is a 99/100 score, immediately. You don’t even have to read the rest of the review. It is masterful in all things: acting, directing, even the music, which I rarely talk about in a positive fashion. The only thing bringing this episode down is Adam, the “Big Bad” – so let’s get him out of the way, first. He sucks. In an episode that is all forward momentum, he brings it all to a crashing halt. He has a good line about vampires and their fear of death which is on point and insightful, but that’s it. He commands some vampires who regard him as a messiah after he pulls the head off one of them, but why? They are about as dumb as he is. Oh well, he wasn’t in the last episode and is barely in this one or the next one. I like that he barely has a presence this season: makes me feel like even the staff of this show knew better but had nothing else to work with. Oh well. On to the good stuff!

Let me just start by saying that SMG and Eliza Dushku must have had the most fun on this show, ever, playing against type and pretending to be each other’s character. They each do an amazing job, especially SMG who has to suddenly drop her entire demeanor to play sultry, slutty Faith in the most over-the-top way possible. Its still believable and right off the bat you can see the mannerisms shine through. And Dushku has a scene with Giles near the end that I’ll cover a bit more in depth further on, but – like I always say – she plays it through the eyes and lands the scene. Its such good acting and I’m assuming the pair of women shadowed each other, studied each other, and just had a gas playing each other. It shows in the episodes highest comedic moments as well as in its darkest, grimiest moments, too.

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After being unable to stand a show of affection from Joyce Summers(!), Faith takes a spin in Buffy’s body in the most comical way possible, first taking a bath (with more water drip sounds than make sense, mind you), and then staring into the mirror to get her pouts, her lines, and her part down. Its a hilarious bit of acting for the camera where Faith has to make herself sound and appear as Buffy before meeting up with her “friends” – she also buys some plane tickets out of town, because not only is she going to ruin Buffy’s life, she’s going to simply take it as her own. She visits the Scoobies at Giles’ place and has a vivid vision of stabbing Willow in the gut, taunts Xander’s lack of sexual stamina in front of everyone, and lies about going out on patrol when all she wants to do is party. She also lies to Willow, doing her first great job of pretending to be Buffy by telling her that she’d never let Faith hurt her. And Willow falls for it, hook line and sinker. And she is overjoyed that Buffy, in her body, is getting taken back to England by the Watcher’s Council, permanently. All is going well.

Not so much for Buffy, who is arrested, crashed into, drug out onto the street, drugged, threatened, beaten up, spit on, and left alone in the dark, chained and under constant fear of simply having a bullet placed in her head. These scenes give Dusku a ton of screen time to get Buffy’s speech patterns down, but its obvious that this episode is more about Faith-as-Buffy instead of Buffy-as-Faith as she spends most of her time in the back of the Watcher’s vehicle, under constant watch. But eventually she breaks out, right after overhearing that the Council can’t secure them passage out of the country. This means she’s dead. She breaks free (after taking one of them hostage to no effect – they are prepared for possible suicide missions) and in a great moment of grim comedy, we are reminded that Buffy sucks at driving, even if she is in someone else’s body. Gold, my friends. Gold.

Who Are You.

The best stuff comes from the back half of the episode, though: Faith at the Bronze and Faith with Riley. At the former – where we are no longer forced to listen to awful 90’s bands no one has heard of – we have two great interactions. First, Faith runs afoul of Spike who she taunts and teases, all while laying out in plain English what she thinks of Buffy: stuck-up, full of herself, always right. Spike agrees and gets in close to remind her he is evil. Then Faith gets NASTY. She sluts it up hardcore, telling him she could pop him like a cork if she wanted to. Its more graphic than I’d remembered and neither Spike nor myself will forget it any time soon. He even gets so sexually frustrated over it he tosses a bottle and shoves people on his way out. Later, Faith runs into Willow and Tara and she continues to run people into the ground, reminding Tara that Willow was with Oz and even figuring out the relationship they have before anyone else. This clues Tara off that nothing is right about Buffy and leads to another graphic scene, later on, where she and Willow perform a spell to prove Buffy ain’t Buffy. Its extremely sexual and anyone denying that magic and spells on this show aren’t sex metaphors is fooling themselves. Faith also stakes a vampire in there, somewhere, and is flabbergasted when the girl she saves goes ape-shit over being alive, still. Faith can’t process this recognition of helping and she bails.

During this aforementioned spellcasting, she goes to see Riley and sex him up good. And this is where the episode takes its darkest and most striking turn for her: Riley doesn’t want to be like the other guys Faith is used to, people that just use her and move on. He loves Buffy and wants sex to be meaningful, not some twisted game or fantasy. She lets him in (hey-o!) and in the morning when he says he loves her, she can’t deal. She leaves, and almost leaves the country but a news report gets her attention: the vampires Adam talked to have attacked a church in daytime and have hostages (for some reason). Meanwhile, an escaped Buffy-as-Faith shows up at Giles and my god is the scene powerful. Buffy has to convince Giles she is who she says she is and this is the moment where Dushku just nails it. The eyes, the body-language. Man. Just watch the scene and imagine its SMG – it is extremely well acted. She hears about the dilemma at the church and goes to the rescue. She and Faith take out the vamps and a magic spell that Willow and Tara put together puts everything right. But Faith has seen and felt too much. She knows what love feels like, what appreciation feels like, and what Buffy’s life is actually like. It isn’t what she expected and she bails. Fallout hits hard and hits fast: Tara and Willow understand what happened, but Buffy learns Riley slept with Faith and it is a confusing cheating mess. And just another nasty roadblock for this couple on the road of love. Who wrote that last sentence? Good lord.

Episode Rating: 99

Additional Notes:
-Sorry for the crammed review: this episode is really good and deals with the start of Faith’s redemptive arc in a fantastic way
-I just wanted to hold myself to the format I’ve run with this whole time and, well, there was so much to say
-Seriously, just watch the episode and see if you can possibly disagree with my rating
-Real notes: That stupid train car set looked wonky as hell
-SMG also had to look extremely slutty. Wonder if the hair was her idea?
-Because it was awful.
-Also, Willow mentions Hyena possession. Risky move, Joss.

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