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TRIANGLE (ep #5.11)

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: Christopher Hibler
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers
James Marsters as Spike
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Abraham Benrubi as Olaf the Troll
Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Co-Starring: Ranjani Brow as Young Nun

Plot Summary

Willow and Anya's bickering accidentally unleashed a troll.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Xander and Anya in bed. Xander was thinking about Riley leaving. Anya wanted to be reassured that Xander would not leave without sufficient warning for her to do what was necessary to get him to stay. Anya was hoping that Buffy was to blame for her own relationship turmoil, so there was no reason to think that this would happen to Anya and Xander. Xander was more sympathetic and wondered how Buffy was dealing with the situation.

We next see a nun in a convent. Behind her, Buffy was fighting a vampire. After a scuffle, Buffy staked it, helped the nun up, and asked her what life was like as a nun.

While training Buffy, Giles talked about how Watchers Council resources might help them learn more about Glory. Buffy did not trust the Council and was worried that Giles would tell them about Dawn. Giles saw no alternative to trying to get information from the Council.

Anya was looking forward to running the shop by herself. The others volunteered their assistance a little too readily for Anya's comfort, and Giles thought that Anya could use a little help with her people skills. This discussion devolved into bickering between Anya and Willow, with Xander in the middle.

That night, Buffy was pleased to see Joyce in regular clothes. Dawn and Buffy suggested burning the robe. Dawn followed Buffy to her room. Dawn was also missing Riley and wanted to talk. Dawn felt that Riley's leaving was very sudden, but Buffy admitted that she should have noticed.

Meanwhile, Spike held a box of chocolates in front of a mannequin dressed to look like Buffy. He rehearsed how he would apologize to her for showing her what Riley was up to. He seemed to anticipate Buffy getting very angry at him, so he got angry back and ended up bashing the box on the mannequin's head.

Willow and Tara were helping themselves to magical items in the Magic Box. Tara said that they wanted to create magical sunlight to kill a whole bunch of vampires. Anya thought that there was something wrong with Willow and Tara taking things without paying for them. According to Willow, only a twisted dictionary would call that stealing.

Xander entered the Magic Box and got caught in the middle of the fight. Tara weakly defended him, which was enough for him to try to hide behind her. Willow tried to defend herself but really hurt her case when she accidentally made the cash register disappear. She tried to recover, but instead brought back a different register. Anya was very worried about the money. Willow took the opportunity to mock her further. Xander and Tara fled.

Willow continued her spell with Anya keeping track of all expenses. Willow told Anya that the spell was sensitive and that any non-spell word would wreak it. Of course, Anya kept interrupting to ask if the spell was done yet. Willow finally turned to Anya to demand that Anya say what was on her mind. In other words, to let it out.

With the last three words, visual effects entered some crystals and let out a very large troll (Olaf). The troll did a fair amount of damage to the shop before going outside.

Buffy and Tara walked out of Greek Art class. Buffy wanted to take it in order to avoid a Central America Geopolitics class, which would remind Buffy of Riley. Tara mentioned that Willow and Anya were bickering, which caused Xander to leave. Buffy interpreted this as Xander leaving Anya, suddenly got very teary eyed, and embraced a confused Tara.

Anya and Willow pursued Olaf in Giles's car. Unfortunately, Anya had forgotten that she knew how to drive in "Graduation Day, Part 1" and was trying to learn what the different parts of the car do.

At the Bronze, Xander accidentally ran into Spike. Xander wanted Spike to leave, but Spike saw the opportunity to have fun annoying Xander. Spike noticed that Xander was upset and assumed that it had something to do with Buffy, which might involve Buffy holding a grudge against Spike. Xander had no idea of what Spike was talking about.

Tara and Buffy returned to the Magic Box to find a lot of wreckage and neither Willow nor Anya. This time, Tara was the one in tears thinking that Willow might have been harmed. Like Willow and Anya, Buffy and Tara decided to follow the troll's trail.

Olaf was having a lot of fun bashing things with his hammer until he caught the scent of ale. He burst into the Bronze demanding ale to drink and babies to eat. Spike suggested that Olaf go to the hospital, but Xander suggested something different.

Willow and Anya entered the Bronze. After facing the troll, Willow wished that Buffy were there. Buffy and Tara soon followed. Willow wished for money, but none followed. Willow started a spell, but Olaf ordered her to stop. Olaf then addressed Anya as Anyanka and said that they used to date. Buffy and Xander were surprised, but Willow was not. Tara did not say anything.

Buffy got Willow to try the spell again, but it did not work. Buffy started fighting the troll while Willow made a third attempt. Buffy got thrown into Spike, who made sure to cop a feel before letting her get back up. He seemed pleased with himself. Olaf started a rampage that included knocking down a balcony before leaving.

Buffy sent Xander, Willow, and Anya to the Magic Box to find a spell that would actually work while Buffy, Tara, and Spike assisted people who were injured. Spike wanted credit for not sampling victim blood, but Buffy was not buying it.

Willow and Anya continued their bickering. Willow let slip that she was afraid that Anya would hurt Xander. Anya pointed out that Willow broke up Xander's relationship with Cordelia. Anya also pointed out that Willow had been making her feel like an outsider.

Olaf interrupted their bickering. He was very upset at having to put off his smashing, pillaging, and baby eating to kill the two of them first. Xander burst in and insisted that Olaf will not hurt either of them. Xander took a hammer blow to his chest that should have cracked ribs. Instead, he got up and continued fighting. He took a tap to his head and went flying. He then took a blow to his head that should have been fatal. Xander still got up for more.

Olaf was impressed by Xander's gallantry and rewarded him by allowing him to select either Anya or Willow to be spared. When Xander refused to choose, Olaf broke Xander's right wrist. Xander still refused to choose, so Olaf threatened to kill Xander. Anya immediately volunteered herself in his place.

Willow tried another spell, but she just made the cash register disappear again. Buffy and Tara entered the Magic Box. Buffy started to take on Olaf, which distracted him enough for Willow to start a spell. Willow sent Anya to distract Olaf in order to help Buffy. This worked, and Willow was able to separate the hammer from Olaf.

It turned out that not all of Olaf's power was in his hammer. He and Buffy fought some more. He was getting the advantage until he started to demean Anya and Xander's relationship. Buffy got very upset and beat him to unconsciousness.

Willow finally cast a spell that sent Olaf to what they hoped was an alternate dimension with many trolls, but Anya suggested other possibilities. Tara liked the world without shrimp. Buffy then got misty-eyed over Xander and Anya's relationship.

Giles was only mildly upset at the state of the Magic Box. The Watchers were very interested in the situation with Glory but did not know that much. Giles assured Joyce and Buffy that they did not seem to know that Dawn was the key. They talked about Dawn a bit more, some of which Dawn heard.

The Good

Olaf was a very fun villain.

This is the most quotable episode in a long time.

The Bad

Marc Blucas's absence left an opening for either Kristine Sutherland or Amber Benson to enter the opening credits, yet neither was included.

Tara's makeup in the first act made her look like a preteen girl who was just playing with a toy makeup kit.

Tara's reaction upon first seeing Willow in the Bronze did not make sense. See Imponderables below for details.

Willow's and Anya's reasons for their bickering seemed not to capture why they would have difficulty liking each other. See Random Commentary below for more details.

Overall Rank: 79

Action: 7

Buffy staked a vampire during the teaser.

Olaf had a lot of fun smashing things in the Magic Box, in the Bronze, and around town.

Olaf fought Xander and Buffy in the Magic Box.

Comedy: 8

This episode was filled with interactions that, on the surface, were tense but were really played for laughs such as the bickering between Willow and Anya, Buffy's fear that Xander and Anya were breaking up, and the threat posed by Olaf the Troll.

Drama: 4

Conflict between Willow and Anya drove much of the episode's plot, but the conflict was mostly played for laughs.

Buffy and Dawn missed Riley.

Buffy cried when she got the impression that Xander and Anya were breaking up, but this was also played for laughs.

Tara was terrified that something bad might have happened to Willow.

Romance: 6

Anya asked for a clear warning before Xander tried to leave.

Buffy misses Riley and still feels some pain.

Buffy idealized Xander and Anya's relationship.

We find out that Anya used to date Olaf.

Character Development: 8

Anya looked forward to the responsibility of running the magic shop in Giles's absence, but she was not forceful enough to stop Willow and Tara from shoplifting. She remembers that Willow was the interloper in Xander and Cordelia's relationship.

Willow regularly recopies her class notes with pens of various colors. She is also afraid that Anya will hurt Xander, which has caused tensions between Willow and Anya.

Tara is starting to feel comfortable enough with the group to speak up more and occasionally put her foot in her mouth. She thinks that Willow's note recopying system is quirky. Finally, Willow needs to hide Tara's makeup to prevent disasters like in the beginning of this episode.

Dawn misses Riley.

Buffy has grown to idealize Xander and Anya's relationship since the last episode.

Spike likes onion blossoms and thinks that he deserves credit for not feeding off disaster victims.

Importance: 4

The Watchers Council may come up with some useful information.

Dawn now knows that there is a secret about her.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

Buffy and Xander are the two candidates in this episode. Buffy defeated Olaf, whereas Xander rescued Willow and Anya from Olaf at great risk to his own life. Xander was probably the most heroic in this episode, so he will get the MVP.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Willow

There was not much figured out in this episode. Not even the Watchers Council was able to figure out anything so far. Willow did discover a couple of key spells, so she will get this award.

Goat of the Week: Willow

Willow gets the Goat for casting the spell that released Olaf.

Random Commentary

Onions are closely related to garlic. So I find it hard to believe that a vampire would like anything with onions in it. However, as I am quite fond of garlic and am disgusted by the sight of an onion, my hypothesis is that garlic represents good, which repels vampires, and onions represent evil, which vampires like.

I remembered not liking this episode very much. In fact, it was once in my bottom five. However, I do not mind it now. I suppose part of it was my dislike of certain details like the makeup job on Tara and the fact that Tara simply stepped up to Willow after a big emotional scene in which Tara was afraid that Willow was hurt. On the other hand, this episode is a lot of fun. Jane Espenson is one of the better writers on the show, which is saying a lot. There is a good reason why the Memorable Dialogue section is very long.

Jane Espenson has said that Joss Whedon asked her to insert a line into "Pangs" in which Willow got excited over the possibility of not inviting Anya to a Thanksgiving dinner. She was surprised that Joss Whedon would see this so early. In hindsight, it seems obvious that there would be tension, and not just for the reasons given in the episode.

This episode came closer to understanding Anya's reasons than to understanding Willow's reasons. Anya should remember why Xander and Cordelia broke up. Anya was summoned to Sunnydale to get revenge on Xander on Cordelia's behalf when Willow was the interloper. This led directly from Anya going from being an immortal demon to a mortal human. Finally, Anya has the same problem that Oz had, the history that Xander and Willow had together. This is something that neither Anya nor Oz could touch.

I do understand that Willow might fear that Anya will hurt Xander. However, there are more reasons for Willow not to like Anya. Willow's first impression of Anya was in "Doppelgangland," when Anya induced Willow into darker magic than what Willow felt comfortable with. This resulted in tense situations and at least one death (Riley's vampire friend, Sandy). Furthermore, Willow resented Xander dating Cordelia because, as Willow pointed out in "Innocence," it was a sign that Xander preferred Cordelia to her. Once again, Xander—who was not interested in Willow except for a few weeks of clothes fluking—is interested in someone who Willow believes should be beneath her.


Here is the situation: Buffy and Tara entered the Magic Box where they expected to find Willow and Anya. Instead, they saw wreckage and no sign of either Willow or Anya. Tara was very upset at the thought that something bad happened to Willow. This was very understandable. When Tara entered the Bronze and saw Willow safe, which of the following reactions would be most logical?

  1. Tara runs to Willow, wraps her arms around her, and tearfully tells her how scared she was.
  2. Tara lets out a big sigh of relief, greets Willow, and tells her how glad she is that Willow is safe.
  3. Tara calmly walks over and stands next to Willow without saying hello as if Tara had just come back from the restroom.

Memorable Dialogue

"Xander, if you ever decide to go, I want a warning. You know, big flashing red lights and one of those clocks that counts down like a bomb in a movie? And there's a whole bunch of colored wires, and I'm not sure which is the right one to cut, but I guess the green one and then at the last second, no, the red one, then click, it stops with three-tenths of a second left, but then you don't leave. Like that, OK?" Anya
"Check, big bomb clock." Xander

"Humans make the same mistakes over and over. I saw it when I was a vengeance demon. Some guy dumps a girl; she calls me. I exact vengeance, blah, blah, blah. The next year, same girl, different guy. I mean, after you smite a few of them, you start going, 'My goodness, young lady, maybe you're doing something wrong here too.'" Anya

"So, about being a nun, you know, with the whole abjuring the company of men, you know? How's that working for you, the abjuring?" Buffy

"I'm envious, Mr. Giles. A trip to England sounds so exciting and exotic... unless you're English." Tara

"Usually, I use that time to copy over my class notes with a system of different colored pens, but it's been pointed out to me that that's, you know, insane." Willow
"I said 'quirky.'" Tara

"I have finesse! I have finesse coming out of my bottom! I can completely lie to the health inspector. I can, you know, distract him with coy smiles and bribe him with money and goods." Anya.

"I killed something in a convent last night." Buffy
"In any other room, a frightening declaration. Here, a welcome distraction. Tell us all about the killing, Buff." Xander
"Pretty standard, vampire staking. Oh, but I met a nun and she let me try on her wimple." Buffy
"OK, now we're back to frightening." Xander

"There's something I got to tell you about showing you Riley in that place. I didn't mean to... Anyway, I know you're feeling all betrayed, by him, not me. I was trying to help, you know. Not like I made him be there, after all. Actually trying to help you, best intentions. You know, pretty state you'd be in, thinking things are all right while he's toddling halfway around the bend. Oh, I'll insult him if I want to. I'm the one who's on your side. Me, doing you a favor, and you, being dead petty about it. Me, getting nothing but your hatred and your venom and... You ungrateful bitch! [Bashes the head of the mannequin with the box of chocolates, then picks up the mannequin and the box.] Buffy, there's something I want to tell you..." Spike

"I'm not stealing. I'm just taking things without paying for them. In what twisted dictionary is that stealing?" Willow

"I know what this is. This is peer pressure. Any second now, you're gonna make me smoke tobacco and have drugs." Anya

"Money, did you hurt the money? Money good? She endangered the money!" Anya
"Of course, that's what she cares about. 'I like money better than people. People can so rarely be exchanged for goods and / or services." Willow
"She's pretending to be me!" Anya

"I only just figured out what the left pedal does. It makes us stop." Anya
"You don't know how to drive? Why didn't you say you don't know how to drive?" Willow
"Well, I couldn't know if I could until I tried, could I?" Anya

"You do well to flee, townspeople! I will pillage your lands and dwellings! I will burn your crops and make merry sport with your more attractive daughters." Olaf

"Barmaid, bring me stronger ale and some plump, succulent babies to eat." Olaf
"I'm gonna run and get Buffy, or maybe you could fight him." Xander
"Yeah, I could do that, but I'm paralyzed with not caring very much." Spike
"You there, do you know where there are babies?" Olaf
"What do you think, the hospital?" Spike

"I wish Buffy was here." Willow
"I'm here." Buffy
"I wish I had a million dollars." Willow

"You told the witch to do that, Anyanka. You seem determined to put an end to all my fun, just like you always did when we were dating." Olaf
"You dated him?" Xander
"You dated a troll?" Buffy
"And we're what, surprised by this?" Willow

"You seem to enjoy the being a troll." Xander
"I adjusted." Olaf

"I'm not sampling, I'll have you know. Look at all these lovely blood-covered people. I could, but not a taste for Spike, not a lick. I knew you wouldn't like it." Spike
"You want credit for not feeding off bleeding disaster victims?" Buffy
"Well, yeah." Spike
"You're disgusting." Buffy
"What's it take?" Spike

"I know what broke up him and Cordelia, you know. It was you, and your lips." Anya
"No it was not! Well, yes, it was so, but that was a long time ago. Do you think I would do that again?" Willow
"Why not?" Anya
"Well, hello? Gay now." Willow

"Anya, I have faith in you. There is no one you cannot piss off." Willow

Characters in Peril


Departed Characters Remembered

Buffy and the Law

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Willow Gay References

Unusual Pairings

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 29, 2012