|Written by:||Drew Z. Greenberg|
|Directed by:||Michael Gershman|
|Starring:||Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers|
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Emma Caulfield as Anya
Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers
James Marsters as Spike
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
|Guest Starring:||Kali Rocha as Halfrek|
Ryan Browning as Richard
Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
|Co-Starring:||Laura Roth as Sophie|
James C. Leary as Clem
Elizabeth Cazenave as Teacher
Once again, Buffy's birthday leads to trouble. This time, it is an homage to The Exterminating Angel.
The episode opened with Buffy apologizing for looking for a nonvampire menace and not spending time with Dawn. Dawn said that she was OK with that, but, after Buffy left, she looked quite disappointed.
Buffy fought a demon in a cemetery. It had a sword that was more than a match for Buffy's battle-ax. Fortunately, Buffy took the sword from the demon and stabbed it. In a neat visual effect, it managed to enter the sword itself. Buffy did not notice this and took the sword as a souvenir.
Dawn went to the Magic Box to see if she could find someone to go to the mall with her. However, Willow, Xander, and Anya all had things to do. Dawn was disappointed but went to the mall anyway. She came home with several items hidden in her pocket and a leather jacket hidden under her coat.
The next day at school, Dawn was called to the guidance office. The counselor—who looked a lot like Spike's old love, Cecily, and Anya's demon friend, Halfrek—got Dawn to talk about issues in her life. Dawn wished that people would stop going away.
While preparing for Buffy's birthday party, Anya mentioned that she and Xander invited a single man who might make a good match for Buffy. Dawn seemed more excited about the idea than Buffy was.
Tara was the first guest to arrive. Buffy was glad to see her but skipped out as soon as Willow came down the stairs. Willow and Tara had a cordial but very awkward conversation before Tara fled to the kitchen.
While in the kitchen, Spike arrived with Clem, one of his poker buddies from "Life Serial." Meanwhile, Xander brought in his friend Richard in and suggested that Buffy show him the best place to park his car. After they left, Tara had a bit of fun with Spike by suggesting that Richard might have been cute. Clem agreed with her.
Eventually, Buffy started opening presents. She got a back massager from Willow, a leather jacket with anti-theft tags still attached from Dawn, and a weapons chest from Xander. They were interrupted by the arrival of Sophie, the closest that Buffy has to a friend from the Doublemeat Palace. This meant that official introductions could start. Meanwhile, Dawn's guidance counselor was lurking on the front porch. She morphed into demon face and said "Wish granted."
Spike was amused to watch Richard with Buffy. He teased her about it and started to make a move on her until they were interrupted. Buffy was probably relieved that it was Tara who interrupted and left. Tara again took the opportunity to tease Spike a bit more.
A bit later, Anya, Xander, Willow, and Sophie discussed going on a beer run, but nobody budged. Meanwhile, Dawn suggested a slumber party, since nobody seemed to be leaving anyway. Spike suggested that there were a few things that they could do to pass the time at night, but Tara had even more fun responding to that.
In the morning, Spike joked about eating Richard. Buffy pulled Spike aside and started to lecture him. Both tried to leave the house but found that neither of them could do so. They gathered the group together to discuss the situation. Willow suggested going out as a group, but nobody moved even though Xander, Richard, and Sophie had to work and Willow and Tara had classes.
Buffy noted that everyone had places they would rather be. Dawn interpreted this as meaning that nobody wanted to spend time with her. Willow denied this in the worst possible way. Dawn stormed upstairs. Tara, Willow, Buffy, Xander, and Spike followed. They questioned Dawn, who resented being accused. The conversation ended with Dawn screaming her catchphrase from "Blood Ties."
The group, minus Dawn, gathered downstairs. There was a suggestion to use magic to get out of the house. Tara insisted that she, not Willow, would do so, but she had no supplies. Willow admitted that she hoarded a few items, which disappointed Tara but excited Xander. Tara mixed a potion and shouted "release." Unfortunately, the only thing she released was the sword demon.
The smart characters fled, but Richard just stood there and got slashed. He was brought upstairs (dumb move, he should not have been moved) while Buffy promised to find a way out soon. Several hours later, she realized that the "soon" part was probably not accurate.
Xander tried to calm a very tense Anya. He went to get water, but the sword demon ambushed him. He screamed, and Spike came to the rescue. Eventually, Buffy arrived and fought off the demon, who disappeared back into the walls.
Buffy asked Dawn if she were OK. Dawn responded angrily. Buffy started to walk away when Dawn admitted that she did not intend for any of this to happen. Meanwhile, the others discussed what to do. Anya wanted Willow to try the spell rather than Tara. Willow was reluctant. Anya started to get forceful when Tara stood up figuratively and literally and said that she would not let Anya bully Willow.
Buffy had a heart-to-heart conversation with Dawn. Dawn said that Buffy sounded like the guidance counselor. Buffy somehow guessed that the guidance counselor might be involved and might have induced Dawn to make a wish.
The conversation was interrupted by Anya ransacking Dawn's room. Xander, Buffy, and Dawn feebly tried to stop her. Anya eventually opened a box where Dawn stored knickknacks that she stole from various stores, including the Magic Box. Anya was furious. Buffy tried to defend Dawn until she remembered the anti-theft tags on the leather jacket.
Buffy mentioned that Dawn made a wish to a guidance counselor. Anya realized that it was her friend, Halfrek. She summoned Halfrek because only a vengeance demon could break her own spell. Halfrek arrived, and promptly received a sword through her torso, courtesy of the sword demon.
Buffy, Anya, and Spike did battle with the sword demon until Buffy got ahold of the sword. The sword demon tried to hide in the wall, but Buffy stabbed it and sucked it into the sword. She then snapped the sword in two, defeating the demon.
Anya immediately went to recover Halfrek's pendant, but Halfrek rose up and stopped her. Halfrek took the opportunity to lecture the others about their neglect of Dawn with only a brief interruption when Halfrek saw someone she recognized as "William." Eventually, Halfrek tried to make a dramatic exit, but she failed. Anya realized that she was trapped by her own curse as well. Halfrek lifted the curse and left.
Tara praised Willow for resisting the urge to use magic but wanted Willow to get rid of any more temptations. Anya and Xander went to take Richard to the emergency room as all the characters, except Dawn and Buffy, walked outside into the night.
Three things in particular raise "Older and Far Away" from a mediocre episode to an average one: the awkward conversation between Tara and Willow when Tara arrived at the party, Tara using her knowledge of Buffy and Spike's affair to tease Spike, and Tara standing up to Anya to defend Willow's non-use of magic. It should be quite clear what those things have in common.
The "bad things happen on Buffy's birthday" plot line has been played to death on this show.
There was absolutely no reason for Buffy to think that the guidance counselor was responsible by making Dawn express a wish. This was simply a case of the writer not knowing how to solve the problem and giving the characters the necessary information. At very least, he should have had Anya figure this out because she would be the most likely person to suspect that a vengeance demon was involved.
Buffy fought the sword demon during the teaser.
The sword demon made three more attacks in Buffy's house.
Anya and Xander tried to fix Buffy up with Richard.
Tara had a lot of fun teasing Spike.
Halfrek was also fun, especially when she got trapped in her own curse.
Dawn had been feeling that nobody was paying attention to her.
The characters were trapped in a house with a red shirt (literally wearing a red shirt) possibly dying.
Xander and Anya tried to set Buffy up with Richard.
Dawn has been feeling ignored by the other characters. Her pain was so great that it attracted one of Anya's old colleagues. Dawn did seem pleased with the idea of Buffy having a new love interest, however. Everyone now knows about her shoplifting problem.
Buffy has bonded with Tara, probably because of the last scene in "Dead Things." Buffy enjoys Spike making jokes about eating people less than she did in "Flooded."
Anya really wants to go on double dates. Not surprisingly, she is as good at playing Monopoly as she is at playing Life.
Tara loves knowing something that other people do not.
Halfrek prefers to think of herself as a justice demon than as a vengeance demon. She claims to be more well rounded than Anya was when she was Anyanka and focused on punishing men who wronged women. However, Halfrek has her own obsession with punishing bad parents.
The characters now know that Dawn has been shoplifting.
We learn a little about vengeance/justice demons.
Buffy appears to be back in form and earns her first MVP of the sixth season for defeating the sword demon. Tara also gets consideration for standing up to Anya and helping Willow to remain spell-free.
If there were any logical reason for Buffy to figure out what she figured out, she would be a strong candidate for this award. Instead, Anya gets it for discovering Dawn's shoplifting habit, for figuring out that Halfrek was responsible, and for figuring out that Hakfrek was trapped by her own curse.
Halfrek was on her way to an MVP for trapping the other characters in Buffy's house forever until she was dumb enough to get trapped herself. This forced her to lift the curse and free everyone in order to escape herself. Dawn had no reason to know that her guidance counselor was also a demon, so she gets spared from any consideration for that. However, she neglected to say anything to anyone for a long time even though there was someone injured who needed to get to a hospital. Furthermore, she caught shoplifting. She even left the tags on the items.
This was a bottle episode. This means that most of the episode took place on existing sets with a minimal amount of special effects and guest stars. Bottle episodes are done in order to save money for more elaborate episodes in a season (such as big musicals). Being cheap episodes, they are often not as good as other episodes anyway, so the cast and crew often do not do their best work. Somebody apparently forgot to tell Amber Benson that this was a bottle episode. She almost single-handedly pulled this episode from being a mediocre episode to being an average episode.
There was a debate about whether Spike was still an evil being who was neutered and worked with Buffy only because of lust for her or whether his love for Buffy has turned him into a good person. This episode provided strong evidence for the latter. When the sword demon ambushed Xander, Spike was the first on the scene to rescue him. The chip may prevent Spike from killing Xander directly, but it does not prevent him from letting Xander be killed through inaction. There was nobody around to notice if he happened to dawdle and arrive too late. Furthermore, Xander has given Spike more grief than just about any other character has. If there were anyone that Spike would want to die, it would be Xander. Still, Spike came to the rescue without hesitation and may have saved Xander's life.
Why did Buffy know that Dawn's school did not have any real guidance counselors when Dawn's teacher apparently did not know?
Knowing that there were two civilians at the party, Richard and Sophie, why did Xander explicitly call the chest a "weapons chest?" It seems that doing so would raise questions of why Buffy would need so many weapons as to fill such a large chest.
Anya was a vengeance demon for eleven centuries. Why did she not remember that swords through the torso do not kill vengeance demons?
"We invited someone for you, a guy." Anya
"For Buffy!?! Really?!?" Dawn
"Don't worry. It's not a setup." Xander
"Right, no, just an attractive single man with whom we hope you find much in common, and if you happen to form a romantic relationship leading to babies and many double dates with us so we have someone else to talk to, yea!" Anya
"I assume that this was an act of kindness? That'll help with the not throttling." Buffy
"He seemed cute. Was he cute? I mean, I'm not a very good judge, but I think he seemed cute." Tara
"I think he seemed cute, yeah." Clem
"I had a muscle cramp. Buffy was helping." Spike
"A muscle cramp? In your pants?" Tara
"Must be some late-night activities to keep us busy till morning." Spike
"How's that cramp, Spike? Still bothering you?" Tara
"What? Oh, yeah." Spike
"Maybe you want to put some ice on it." Tara
"Richie, you can't skip breakfast, growing boy like you. Me, I used to love breakfast. In the old days, I probably would have eaten by now." Spike
"Of course, with that new diet of yours, you wanna be careful of what you try putting in your mouth now, Spikey." Buffy
"Yeah, I don't know. Tummy's making all kinds of gurglies. Maybe I ought to just feed on whatever's around even if it doesn't go down well." Spike
"So, you ever think about not celebrating your birthday?" Spike
"Hey, you're gonna back off. She said 'no,' and that's it. You're not gonna make her do something that she doesn't want to, and if you try, you're gonna have to go through me first. Understood?" Tara
"I thought vengeance demons only punished men who wronged women." Tara
"Oh, that was Anya's little raison d'ętre. Most of us try to be a little more well-rounded, and, actually, we prefer 'justice demon,' OK, FYI." Halfrek
"Well rounded? Is that how you explain your thing for bad parents?" Anya
"Oh, it's not a thing. The children need me." Halfrek
"[coughs] Daddy issues." Anya
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.