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CHOICES (ep #3.19)

(a.k.a. Willow > Box?)

Written by: David Fury
Directed by: James A. Contner
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Kristine Sutherland as Joyce
Harry Groener as Mayor Richard Wilkins III
Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
Eliza Dushku as Faith
Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Co-Starring: Keith Brunsman as Vamp - Lackey
Jimmie F. Skaggs as Courier
Michael Schoenfeld as Security Guard #1
Seth Coltan as Security Guard #2
Jason Reed as Vamp - Guard
Bonita Friedericy as Manager
Brett Moses as Student

Plot Summary

Buffy et al. had to decide whether to trade the Box of Gavrok for Willow.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Mayor Wilkins giving Faith a fancy dagger for picking up something crucially important for his ascension. Meanwhile, Buffy and Angel fought two vampires and discussed whether they were getting in a rut.

Joyce was excited to hear that Northwestern University had accepted Buffy. Buffy was unsure of whether she really could leave Sunnydale considering the fact that she is now the only slayer who is not evil.

Buffy discussed her (lack of) college options with Willow, Oz, and Xander. Buffy seemed resigned to UC Sunnydale. However, she did propose to Wesley that after stopping the ascension and Faith, Giles and Wesley could control local evil until she returns for winter break.

That night, a private plane brought a courier carrying a box to Sunnydale. He was supposed to meet Mayor Wilkins at the airport, but a vampire told him instead that plans were changed. When the courier protested, Faith shot him through the heart with an arrow. Faith then chopped off his hand to remove the box cuffed to his wrist.

Buffy watched Faith carry the box into city hall. Wilkins was quite pleased that Faith was able to recover the box without paying the courier. As the vampire driver parked the limousine, Buffy jumped him and found out that it was the Box of Gavrok, which was important for the Mayor's ascension.

At the library, Buffy, Willow, Giles and Xander discussed plans for stealing the box while doing their best to ignore Wesley. Eventually Wesley came up with a good point: the box likely had supernatural protection. This meant that they needed Willow. Meanwhile, Xander went to get ingredients for the spell to destroy the box's contents.

While on his way to pick up the supplies, Xander saw Cordelia in a dress shop. He suggested that Cordelia might be bitter about not getting into any good colleges when she mentioned that she got into three well-regarded schools as well as Colorado State.

That night, Wesley and Giles drove Buffy, Willow, and Angel to city hall while Xander and Oz prepared the spell. Willow cast an incantation that dissolved the magical barrier surrounding the box and left. Angel, who had apparently seen Mission: Impossible too many times, lowered Buffy using a harness. Unfortunately, alarms went off as soon as Buffy grabbed the box. Even worse, the winch jammed so Angel could not lift her back up.

Two vampires arrived. Angel jumped down as Buffy freed herself from the harness. After a fair amount of damage to city property, Buffy and Angel managed to escape as Giles and Wesley drove away. Unfortunately, there was a fifth person on that mission, and Faith had a knife to her throat. This last bit of news cheered up an otherwise infuriated Mayor Wilkins.

At the library, the characters were fairly upset that Willow was captured. Buffy was adamant that they trade the box for Willow, and Wesley was equally adamant that they not do so. Oz ended the discussion by destroying the materials necessary to destroy the box.

Willow was locked in a storage room in city hall. She made enough of a commotion to attract a vampire guard. When he came in, he decided that he wanted to snack on her, but Willow managed to float a pencil and used it to stake him through the back.

Willow wandered the halls until she got into the Mayor's office. There, she opened the cabinet and found The Books of Ascension. Rather than continuing to escape, perhaps with the books, she stopped to read. Eventually, Faith caught her.

The two of them did their best to hurt each other: Willow with words and Faith with punches. Faith pulled out her dagger when the Mayor arrived to stop them. He announced that he just received a very interesting phone call.

In the school cafeteria, Xander, Oz, Angel, Buffy, Wesley, and Giles waited for Mayor Wilkins. Someone arranged for the lights-go-out cliché just as Wilkins arrived with two vampires, Faith, and Willow. Before the trade, Wilkins lectured Buffy and Angel about what he perceived as the lack of future for their relationship.

Eventually, Wilkins stopped lecturing and ordered the trade. Just as it was completed, Principal Snyder burst in with two security guards. Apparently, he thought that there were drugs in the box. He was about to open it when Wilkins stepped forward. Snyder immediately switched to deferential mode and started to apologize.

Then, one of the security guards opened the box and let out a giant spider. It immediately jumped on his face and killed him. It scurried away and eventually jumped on the Mayor's face while another spider escaped. Buffy closed the box and squashed the first spider, which had just landed on her back. Faith saw the second spider crawl up a wall and threw her knife into it.

In the library, Willow kept talking about her confrontation with Faith, but Giles wanted to know what she got from the Books of Ascension. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Willow pulled out some pages that she ripped out of the books and smuggled to the trade. Giles was excited, but Wesley played the spoilsport and noted that they had not accomplished much in this episode.

Buffy and Willow talked outside. Buffy recognized that she was pretty much stuck in Sunnydale. Willow said that she would also stay in Sunnydale, much to Buffy's delight, although a part of Buffy wished that Willow would go somewhere safer.

In the dress shop, Cordelia was admiring a dress when her boss told her to get back to work. Cordelia sadly put the dress on a hanger and did as she was told.

The Good

This episode set up a nice moral dilemma. The characters had a difficult choice with many reasons why each side was problematic.

The Bad

The debate on what to do with the Box of Gavrok was a little one-sided. It might have helped if someone other than Wesley advocated for something other than trading it for Willow.

Overall Rank: 60

Action: 5

Buffy and Angel fought vampires during the teaser.

Buffy and Angel had to fight two vampires to get the box out of city hall.

Comedy: 1

There was a little comedy from Principal Snyder, and Willow's dramatic presentation of a few pages from the Books of Ascension was amusing.

Drama: 8

The characters were faced with a serious dilemma: do they destroy the Box of Gavrok and sacrifice Willow or do they trade the box for Willow and lose what might be their only chance to stop the Mayor.

Romance: 2

Buffy complained that Angel never took her anywhere new.

Mayor Wilkins lectured Angel and Buffy on their lack of a future together.

Character Development: 2

Cordelia is in hurl insult mode rather than fawn over Wesley mode or part of the group mode. She is also working in retail for what are now unknown reasons.

Buffy is resigned to the fact that she will have to stay in Sunnydale rather than go away for college.

Wesley was the only character who believed that trading the Box of Gavrok for Willow was a bad idea.

Importance: 4

As Wesley pointed out, they ended the episode around where they started. However, the pages that Willow recovered may be useful, and Willow and Buffy's decision to stay in Sunnydale sets up the remaining four seasons of the show.

Most Valuable Player: Faith

This episode was nearly disastrous for the Mayor. Had Faith not captured Willow, there would have been no reason for Buffy to return the Box of Gavrok to him. Furthermore, Faith interrupted Willow as she was searching through the Books of Ascension and might have prevented her from getting another page or two.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Buffy

Buffy learned that the Mayor had the Box of Gavrok and figured out what it was.

Goat of the Week: Willow

Willow might not have Xander's military knowledge. However, she has probably watched enough war movies with him to know that the first job of any prisoner of war is to escape. She sort of understood this when she staked the vampire guard and got out of her room. However, she let herself be distracted by the Books of Ascension rather than get out of the building, perhaps with the books themselves. Had she done so, she could have destroyed the Box of Gavrok and stop the Mayor's ascension.

Random Commentary

Much of the college talk in this episode made little sense. Near the beginning of the season, Principal Snyder said that Buffy's grades alone were reason to keep her out of school. If this were true, there is no way that she would be able to get into selective schools like Northwestern or a University of California, even a fictitious one. I have to wonder if Willow either hacked into the computer system to change grades or cast a spell to trick people in admissions departments.

I also noticed that Buffy's letter from Northwestern was thin and just contained a single sheet of paper. As all high school seniors know, acceptance letters are thick because they contain information on housing, orientation, etc. Rejection letters are thin because they contain just a letter declining admission. At least with UC Sunnydale, we did not see the acceptance letter, so we can assume that it was properly thick.

I know that things have changed since I applied to college, but the characters' experience did not approach anything like what I went through. Applying to college was both expensive and time consuming. Each college charged an application fee to even consider applications. When I was applying to college, the average fee was about $35. It would not surprise me if the average was above $50 by the time the episode took place. If this were the case, it would have been very expensive for Willow to apply to all those colleges, which would be a waste if she were not serious about most of them. Furthermore, each college required its own application. I know that the internet has streamlined the process since I applied to colleges, but there is no evidence that Willow had that kind of time.

The Mayor may be evil, but I believe that he is also right about Buffy and Angel. I admit that Buffy is too young to start thinking about whom she wants to spend the rest of her life with, but, when she is ready for that, I do not see her with Angel. She should be with someone who can be happy without subsequently turning evil. She will want to have sex at some point. She may want children. She may want to go outside with her partner in the daytime.

Analyzing the Choice in Choices

In "Choices," the characters faced a dilemma. They could both destroy the Box of Gavrok and prevent Mayor Wilkins's ascension but lose Willow, or they could trade the box for Willow and risk allowing the ascension to occur. Most of the characters, except for Wesley, supported trading the box for Willow. As is typical, the characters used emotional arguments to support their case. In fact, when Giles suggested examining the situation rationally, Buffy assumed that he disagreed with her. However, each side could have used rational arguments.

Reasons to Sacrifice Willow

Casualties Occur in War As Quentin Travers observed in "Helpless," the battle against evil is a war. In war, each side takes casualties. This is an unfortunate fact of life, and one that the other characters need to deal with. The objective was to avert, or at least hinder, the ascension. Before undertaking the mission, the characters should have considered whether it was worth the risk. If the objective were not worth the risk, then the characters should not have gone to city hall in the first place. One can argue the morality of using 16 and 17 year olds as combatants, but that would simply argue against going on the mission in the first place. Instead, they went. They took a risk. Things did not go as well as hoped. They need to accept the consequences.

Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few This was the argument that Wesley tried to make. He understood that casualties might occur. However, he saw a larger picture. He believed that, to stop the ascension, destroying the Box of Gavrok was either necessary or sufficient. The one life that would be lost in the process, Willow's, is fewer than what would have been lost if the ascension were allowed to occur.

Understanding the fact that the other characters act emotionally rather than logically, Wesley tried to point out the possibility that other loved ones could die. However, as a moral argument, he did not have to. He would have been right even if only strangers would have been killed. If one values human life, the death of one person is no better or worse than the death of another person. In any case, a person dies. It is true that the characters love Willow and would be greatly pained if she died. However, if strangers died, their loved ones will be pained. In fact, if more people were killed, then there would be even more pain than there would be if Willow were the only casualty.

Reasons Not to Sacrifice Willow

Wesley was so close to being right that he could not see where he was wrong. Although the other characters used mostly emotional arguments, there are rational arguments to do the trade that the characters eventually made.

Unreliable Source of Information At the time of the argument, Willow had yet to bring pages of the Book of Ascension to the others. Therefore, the only information that the characters had about the Box of Gavrok came from a now-dusted vampire. Wesley seemed to forget that vampires, at least vampires without souls, tend not to be trustworthy.

Mayor Wilkins may be savvy enough to realize that vampires cannot be trusted and are likely to do what is necessary to save their undeaths. Therefore, as far as the characters knew, it is possible that Wilkins gave the vampire misinformation either to mislead Buffy intentionally in such a situation or to protect the real information. Even if Mayor Wilkins did not feed the vampire misinformation, it might still have lied to Buffy out of loyalty toward Wilkins or out of fear of retribution if Wilkins ever found out that it gave information to Buffy. If the characters destroyed the Box, they could be sacrificing Willow based on a lie.

Incomplete Information The information that they had was incomplete even if it were accurate. It was not clear that destroying the Box of Gavrok would be either necessary or sufficient to stop the ascension. In fact, Mayor Wilkins suggested to Faith that the box was not necessary and simply made the ascension much better, although the characters would not have any knowledge of that conversation. It would not be worth it to sacrifice Willow just to make the ascension a bit more boring for Wilkins.

Willow Needed for Future Crises As I mentioned above, morally, one cannot value one life over another even if that first life happened to be someone one loves. However, practically, people are not the same. Even though Willow has received only two MVPs so far, she has been a valuable contributor to the group and helped save many lives. In fact, her magic was critical in obtaining the Box of Gavrok in the first place.

Wesley is new to Sunnydale. This is the first major crisis that he had to deal with. Therefore, he is focused on solving the current crisis. The others have dealt with the Master, the Judge, Acathla, and whatever they faced in "The Zeppo." By the next crisis, they will probably just whine, "Again?!?" They have to focus on not just the current crisis but on all future crises as well. Without Willow, they run the risk of failing the next time they have a crisis.


Although I understand and respect Wesley's position, I believe that it would not be worth it to sacrifice Willow simply to destroy the Box of Gavrok based on the information that they had.

Memorable Dialogue

"There's something you don't see every day, unless, of course, you're me." Buffy

"That's where they make Gileses!" Buffy
"I know. I can learn and have scones." Willow

"Hey, did you hear about Willow getting into Oxnard?" Xander
"Oxford." Willow
"And M.I.T., and Yale and every other college on the face of the planet as in your face I rub in it." Xander
"Oxford, whoopee, four years in tea bag central. Sounds thrilling. And M.I.T. is a Clearasil ad with housing, and Yale is a dumping ground for those who didn't get into Harvard." Cordelia

"I made him an offer he couldn't survive." Faith

"Hey, I eat danger for breakfast." Willow
"But, oddly enough, she panics in the face of breakfast foods." Xander

"OK, toad me." Oz

"I'm looking for a sucking candy 'cause my mouth gets dry when I'm nervous or held prisoner against my will, and suddenly I'm thinking 'sucking' isn't a good word to use around vampires." Willow

"A dog's friendship is stronger than reason, stronger than its own sense of self-preservation. Buffy's like a dog, and, hey, before you can say Jack Robinson, you'll get to see me kill her like one." Mayor Wilkins

"Give me the speech again, please. 'Faith, we're still your friends. We can help you. It's not too late.'" Faith
"It's way too late. You know, it didn't have to be this way, but you made your choice. I know you had a tough life. I know that some people think you had a lot of bad breaks. Well, boo-hoo! Poor you. You know, you had a lot more in your life than some people. I mean, you had friends like Buffy. Now you have no one. You were a slayer, and now you're nothing. You're just a big, selfish, worthless waste." Willow

"You're immortal; she's not. It's not easy. I married my Edna Mae in ought three, and I was with her right until the end. Not a pretty picture, wrinkled and senile and cursing me for my youth. Wasn't our happiest time. And let's forget the fact that any moment of true happiness will turn you evil. I mean, come on, what kind of a life can you offer her? I don't see a lot of Sunday picnics in the offing. I see skulking in the shadows, hiding from the sun. She's a blossoming young girl, and you want to keep her from the life she should have till it's passed her by, and by God, I think that's a little selfish. Is that what you came back from Hell for? Is that your greater purpose?" Mayor Wilkins

"You, all of you, why couldn't you be dealing drugs like normal people?" Principal Snyder

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Questions

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This page was last modified on November 16, 2012