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Recap: Buffy The Vampire Slayer S 3 E 18 Choices
The episode starts out with the Mayor giving Faith a gift—as an early reward for going to the airport and picking up a package for him. The present: a big, expensive, mean-looking knife. Faith looks pleased with her new toy.

SHS. Buffy resignedly says it looks like she's attending UC Sunnydale, but she's excited for Willow, who got into Oxford (as well as Yale, MIT, Harvard...). Xander, who is reading On the Road, is resigned to joining the ranks of the unemployed. Cordelia wanders by to throw some insults their way, while neglecting to mention where she's going to school. Plot point.

Buffy, who saw Faith take a box into City Hall, attacks her henchvamp and demands to know what's in it.

Buffy tells the gang about the package—an item integral to the Mayor's upcoming Ascension—and they develop a plan to get it. Wesley doesn't like how fast things are moving, and points out that the Mayor will have supernatural powers protecting the box. Looks like a job for Wiccan girl. Later that night, Oz and Xander remain behind at the library, following Willow's directions for preparing the spell which will destroy the box. On the roof of City Hall, Willow pours a powdery substance through the skylight onto the box, breaking the supernatural barrier around it. Following a bit of a snafu with Buffy's winch harness, Buffy claims the box and escapes on foot while the confused guards chase after Giles' speeding van.

A bit later, the Mayor is scolding the guards. Faith puts a smile on his face when she enters holding Willow at knifepoint. What would he do without her?

Back at the ranch, the gang debates how to get Willow back. Buffy proposes they simply trade for the box, but Wesley insists the box has to be destroyed.

Willow is trying to escape the room she's locked in when one of the vampire guards comes in, deciding he wants a taste of her. But she uses her telekinesis abilities to kill him with a nearby pencil, and runs out of the room. Willow ends up in the Mayor's office, where she opens up his secret closet and finds the Books of Ascension. Faith catches Willow reading them and threatens to kill her, but rather than be intimidated Willow tells her off, calling her a selfish, worthless, waste. The Mayor interrupts their fight to tell them about a "heckuva" phone call he just finished.

The gang is waiting in the cafeteria where they have arranged for there to be only one way out (or in). The Mayor, Faith, and Willow arrive, along with a couple of henchmen. They make the trade, and Principal Snyder comes in with some cops, thinking he's caught them in a drug deal. Oy. Before the Mayor can explain, one of the bumbling cops opens the box, letting out some big bug thing (sort of a cross between a beetle, spider, and crab), which attacks and kills him, then scurries away. Giles tells them not to open the door; they can't let the bug out. Both Slayers cooperate in squishing the critters. Oz asks if that's all of them, and the Mayor says no, there's about fifty billion in the box, and challenges them to try and take it off him now they've got Willow back. As none of them have the Mayor's immortality, the Scoobies don't dare. The Mayor leaves, ordering Faith to come with him. She hesitates as her knife is still embedded in a bug (on a wall behind the Scoobies), but leaves. Buffy pockets the blade for herself. Plot point.

Later, Willow is telling Buffy about her "adventures," but Giles wants to know what she remembers from the Books of Ascension, and she surprises him with a few pages that she stole. Wesley is upset because they're right back where they started.

The next day Buffy tells Willow that she realizes she can't leave Sunnydale. That even if she defeats the mayor, there will be other evils to fight. Willow reveals that she's decided to go to UC Sunnydale, the same school as Buffy. Facing off with Faith made something clear to her — she realized that fighting evil was a good thing. She doesn't believe Buffy does it just because she must, but because it is the right thing to do. And that's what Willow wants to do now. Fight evil, help people, and become a Bad Ass Wicca — where better than in Sunnydale? The two go off for mochas.

Cordelia is in the store again, looking at a dress, when another woman comes in and tells her to stop goofing off. That's right. Cordelia is a working stiff now.

That night, Buffy tells Angel about her and Willow going to the same school; she's hoping to live on campus. She tries to reassure him that the Mayor didn't know what he was talking about (he's just a "stupid evil guy") and that they'll be okay. They cuddle up, both looking pensive.

Tropes

  • All According to Plan: Faith is eager for some action and asks the Mayor if there's likely to be any fighting during his Ascension. The Mayor replies no, not if everything goes according to plan "but since when do things go according to plan?"
  • Always Save the Girl: Wes argues against swapping the box for Willow, as destroying the box is a sure way stopping the Mayor's ascension and saving thousands of lives.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Once the courier is dead, Faith barks at a henchvamp to "Get the keys to the cuffs!" The vamp can't find them. Faith draws her new toy. The henchvamp smugly tells her that the knife won't cut through steel. Faith, with a smile: "No, but it'll cut through bone." The vamp's face falls. She's so evil that she's squicking out demons.
  • Batter Up: Giles and Xander arm themselves with baseball bats in preparation for the trade.
  • Brick Joke: Xander is reading Jack Kerouac, which inspires to him to go on a road trip after graduation. However, as Buffy learns in Season Four, he only makes it as far as Oxnard when his car breaks down.
  • Buffy Speak: Buffy congratulates Willow on getting into Oxford. "That's where they make Gileses!"
    • Buffy tells Wesley she wants to leave Sunnydale after she graduates. "You can't just define me by my Slayerness. That's....somethingism."
    • Oz shows Xander instructions that Willow wrote out for them, noting the illustrations. Xander wonders which stick figure is which ("They both look kind of stick figure-y to me."), but Oz points out that he's the one with the guitar.
  • Call Back: Mayor Wilkins, face-to-face with the Slayer at, compliments Buffy's beauty (Faith scowls; looks like she didn't appreciate that.) He goes on that Angel must have strange taste in women not to have chosen Faith.
    Angel: Well, what can I say? I like 'em sane.
  • The Caper
  • Captain Obvious: Faith's henchvamp is stunned by the courier's death. This wasn't on the to-do list.
    Henchvamp: You killed him.
    Faith: What're you, the narrator?
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Principal Snyder attempts to bust a drug deal, but the lunch bag he confiscated contains only lunch. Hmm, that's sensible. Let's see if Snyder can respond like a complete asshat: "Sit up straight." He's still got it!
  • Chekhov's Skill: Willow warns her vampire jailer not to eat the hostage, but he grabs her and says he'll just have a little taste. He leans in, and we see that Willow has floated a pencil in the air like she was practising in "Doppelgangerland". She sends it into his back, dusting him.
  • Clock King: Wes orders the Scoobies to "synchronise your watches" only to be exasperated when Buffy and Willow silently hold up their bare wrists (presumably that particular accessory isn't fashionable this week). Creature-of-the-night Angel doesn't own a watch either. Willow suggests they try counting.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Joyce walks in and asks when Buffy was going to tell her. Buffy thinks she's talking about a pair of earrings that Buffy 'borrowed', but Joyce says that she's referring to the fact that Buffy was accepted to Northwestern.
    • This becomes a Brick Joke when Joyce tells Buffy not to leave the house wearing her earrings.
    • The Mayor surveys his wrecked conference room — most notably the box-shaped batch of oxygen on the table.
    "Well, this is very unfortunate. I just had this conference room redecorated, for Pete's sake. At taxpayers' expense! And, oh yeah— [smashes a chair] They've got my box.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: In City Hall, Willow hides and overhears the Mayor comparing Buffy to a dog, and stating that he plans to put her down like one.
  • Defiant to the End: Willow refuses to bend, even at knife point. "Oh, and here I thought you didn't have a good comeback."
  • Deflector Shields: An invisible dome of magic protects the Mayor's box.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Buffy and Angel tell each other that the Mayor didn't know what he was talking about.
    Angel: Well, he's evil.
    Buffy: Big time. He doesn't even know what a lasting relationship is.
    Angel: No.
    Buffy: Probably the only lasting relationship he's ever had is with... evil.
    Angel: Yeah.
    Buffy: Big, stupid...evil guy.
  • Description Cut: Faith practically glows upon seeing her new knife. Wilkins tells her not to put anyone's eye out with it, "until I tell you to." Faith: "Any particular eyes in mind?" Cut to Buffy and Angel, fighting two vamps.
  • Despite The Plan: An alarm goes off once Buffy grabs the box, which anyone who has watched a heist film should have seen coming. Then the pulley jams, and Angel can't pull her back out.
  • Dissimile: Wilkins explains that the errand in question involves something crucial to his ascension. He brightly says that without it, "well, what would Tollhouse cookies be without the chocolate chips?" Faith regards her cookie as if she's actually pondering that zen question. He continues, "A pretty darn big disappointment, I can tell you!"
  • Distressed Damsel: Willow.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Wilkins gets in Angel's face, saying that he's selfish for keeping Buffy from the life she should have. "Is that what you came back from hell for? Is that your greater purpose?" Wilkins, receiving a blank stare for an answer, disgustedly tells them to go ahead with the trade.
  • Exact Words: Xander, on his way to get spell ingredients, spots Cordelia in a clothing store and can't resist needling her about her lack of school acceptance letters. Cordy comes back at him by flinging numerous letters in his face: USC, Colorado State, Duke, and Columbia. What she doesn't mention is that she can no longer afford any of them.
  • Facial Horror: The Mayor's face-hugging spiders. A cop is messily killed by a Gavrok, while a second one latches onto the Mayor's face.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The courier stepping off his airplane.
  • Foreshadowing: Buffy wonders if this is how she and Angel will spend their nights, "when I'm fifty and you're....the same age you are now."
    • Faith goes to peek inside the box. Wilkins, showing unusual alarm, dives across the desk and slams it shut. "...Don't do that."
    • Xander and Oz discussing their mutual love for the red-haired one.
    • Believing Cordelia is in a shop to buy clothes, Xander later learns ("The Prom") that she actually works there because she needs the income.
  • Giant Spider: The Gavroks.
  • The Glomp: Willow announcing to Buffy that she "will be matriculating with Class of 2003" at UC Sunnydale. "Say, isn't that where you're going?" Buffy squees and tackles her to the grass.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Cordy's viciousness toward the Gang is extreme, even by her standards. Xander has an inkling why — his theory is that Cordelia didn't get into any university. Goaded by him, Cordy dumps out her pile of admissions. Deftly, Cordy avoids mention that she can no longer pay for any of these.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Leaving Willow alone in a storeroom full of useful utensils. But this pales to a henchvamp helping himself to "just a little taste."
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Sticks and stones might break the Mayor's bones, but words can only hurt Willow. Sensibly, Wilkins warns the Scoobies they might want to show more respect, "unless you want Faith to gut your friend like a sea bass."
  • Hammerspace: According to the Mayor, the Box of Gavrok "holds about fifty. ...billion of these happy little critters."
  • Hannibal Has a Point: The Mayor offers up some "fatherly advice" about Buffy and Angel's relationship, and the prognosis isn't good. He talks about his own wife, whom he married in '03, senile and angry at him for remaining young.
    Wilkins: Well, I wish you kids the best, I really do. But if you donít mind a bit of fatherly advice, I well, gosh, I donít see much of a future for you two. I donít sense a lasting relationship, and not just because I plan to kill the both of you— You two have a bumpy road ahead.
  • He Knows Too Much: Quoted by Faith when she catches Willow scanning the books.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Either that or the closest we get to Billow in canon; Willow reveals she's not going to Oxford, but is going to stay in Sunnydale with Buffy, who hugs her so enthusiastically they fall on the grass together.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Wilkins giggles at how much of a clichť the clandestine scene is. "I feel like we should all be wearing trenchcoats!"
  • I Have Your Wicca: Willow being held ransom in exchange for the Box.
  • I Want Them Alive: Faith hauls off and punches Willow. Willow continues to stack up the verbal points, noting that Faith hit her because she didn't have a comeback. Faith answers that by drawing her knife, but the Mayor calls her off.
  • Idiot Ball: Willow pausing to scan the Books of Ascention. Were she to escape, her side would be holding all the cards; They could destroy the box and stop the ascension. Faith even lampshades this.
  • Implausible Deniability: A henchvamp hears the noise and opens the door, asking what she's doing. She says she's looking for a sucking candy, but realizes that "sucking" isn't a good word to utter around a vampire.
  • Improvised Weapon: The harness jams, and Buffy calls desperately for Angel. Two vamps enter the room. Angel gives up on the harness, jumps down, and grabs the box. Box-fu ensues: Angel swings the crate and smacks the henchvamps with it, even stubbing one's toe.
    • One of the henchvamps hurls a chair at Angel. He catches it, then shatters it over the offender's head.
    • Buffy hurls a vase at a henchvamp's head. Earlier, caught up in her "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop harness, she uses it to do a flippy-thing and boot another henchvamp in the face.
    • Angel and Buffy flip the table onto fallen guards, slowing them down while the heroes make their escape.
    • Ah, trusty No. 2 pencil. We meet again.
  • Indy Ploy: Buffy reckons that if she stops the Mayor and captures Faith by graduation day, then Wesley and Giles can hold the fort while she's away at college. Giles sides with her and asks for her plan. She doesn't have one. Giles advises the first step is to find out what the Mayor is up to.
    Buffy: Oh. I actually knew that. I thought you meant a more specific plan, y'know. Like with maps and stuff.
  • Ironic Echo: Wesley plays to Buffy's earlier anxieties about remaining in Sunnydale to convince her to destroy the box. "You're the one who said take the fight to the Mayor. You were right."
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Wesley interrupts the planning session to remind everyone that the Mayor is, in fact, not an idiot and probably has some sort of magical barrier protecting his box. A deafening silence fills the room. "Oh, we all forgot about that, did we?" Buffy briskly leaves that part to Willow, and everyone files out of the room, leaving Wesley fuming.
    • Double subverted — Wesley argues they should take the time to plan the operation properly. They don't, and during The Caper Willow gets left behind when both teams assume she's with the other lot.
  • Kirk Summation: Willow stalls, saying that she wants to talk to Faith. Faith thinks Willow wants to tell her it's not too late for her, but Willow says 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."
  • Knife Nut: The knife given to Faith is part of a collection designed by world famous knifesmith Gil Hibben. It is called "The Jackal" and was released in 1999.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Buffy considers bursting her mom's bubble by telling her she can't leave Sunnydale, but decides to let her have her happy moment, simply saying that she wants to consider her options.
  • Leitmotif: Starting in Season Three, the Buffy/Angel theme "Close Your Eyes" changes, and undergoes a slow metamorphosis that parallels their relationship coming apart. During the Mayor's advice for them we can hear several of the different themes played back to back, indicating that this is a pivotal scene, at least for Angel.
  • MacGuffin Escort Mission: Faith picking up the box at the airport.
  • Metaphor Is My Middle Name: Buffy ponders the conundrum of the Mayor's protective shield, and concludes that it's a job for Wiccan Girl. She asks Willow if she's game. Willow: "Hey, I eat danger for breakfast." Xander jokes that in contrast she panics when faced with breakfast cereal.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Deconstructed with Buffy's dodgy winch.
  • Name Mcadjective: Buffy grouses that she's "tired of waiting for Mayor McSleaze" to make his move. This is a pun on the McDonald's mascot Mayor McCheese.
  • No, Except Yes: Faith admires her gift box and wonders what the big occasion is. The Mayor acts wounded. "Faith! As if I need a reason to show you my affection. Or appreciation for running a small errand at the airport."
  • No Honor Among Thieves: The Mayor's delighted to see Faith and the box, but wonders where the courier is. Faith: "I made him an offer he couldn't survive." Wilkins compliments her initiative.
  • Noisy Shut Up / Not So Stoic: During the shouting match in the library, Oz wordlessly puts it to an end to by getting out of his chair and shoving the urn across the room, smashing it.
  • Oh Crap: Snyder hands the box of 'drugs' to a cop and turns back to find himself facing his worst nightmare — a girl more crazy than he thinks Buffy is wielding a humongous knife and, even more terrifying, the Mayor beaming at him in a friendly manner. Snyder is stammering his apologies when the Mayor has his own Oh Crap moment — the police officer is opening the box.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Wesley snaps at Buffy for the first time when she suggests handing the Box over the Mayor. Oz, who has been quiet throughout, gets up and smashes the urn that could have been used to destroy the box.
    • When Faith gripes about the apparently routine job the Mayor is sending her on, he threatens to take his gift back. Rebel!Girl Faith is immediately cowed, showing how much she's buying into the Mayor's surrogate father role.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Xander assumes Cordelia never got into college, only for her to produce evidence otherwise. He delivers a parting shot that they must have seen a different side of her father's money, completely missing Cordy's grim expression.
  • The Pen Is Mightier than the henchvamp.
  • Perp Sweating: Faith's henchvamp pulls the limousine up to City Hall. He hears a noise, and then Buffy punches the driver's side window in. She drags him out, and with a bright smile asks, "Soooo, what's in the box?" :D
    • Smash Cut to Buffy spilling the goods about the box to her teammates. She admits that the vamp proved uncooperative and needed to be "introduced to Mr. Pointy."
  • Person as Verb: Willow is finishing with the last of the volumes when Faith strolls in. She chides Willow for "Nancy Drewing."
  • Perverted Sniffing: Faith sniffs her new knife like a Cabana cigar.
  • Post-Mortem One-Liner: On the tarmac, a courier a mysterious box handcuffed to his wrist steps off a plane. A limo rolls up, and the courier is unimpressed with the Mayor for sending a flunky. "I don't like surprises." On cue, an arrow pokes out of his chest.
    Faith: Surprise.
  • Punched Across the Room: Angel's patented spin kick sends a henchvamp flying across the conference room.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: At episode's end, Wesley reckons they're right back where they started.
  • Redshirt: One of the cops starts to open the box. The Mayor warns him not to, but it's too late. With a high-pitched shriek, a large black beetle-like creature jumps out and attaches itself to the cop's face. The cop yells and struggles with the bug, until a large pool of blood emerges from his head and he goes silent.
  • The Reveal: The Mayor has a hard time keeping the lid on his rage after he discovers the Scoobies have made off with his box. He cheers up when Faith rounds the corner, dragging Willow along at knifepoint.
  • Scare Chord: Jumpin' Gavroks!
  • Selective Obliviousness: Buffy laments that Joyce is in "a continent of denial" regarding college, not comprehending that Buffy can't leave Sunnydale yet.
  • Sunnydale is a Statistic: Wes is furious that the Scooby gang would consider exchanging the box for Willow, given that thousands will die if the Ascension takes place.
  • Snakes Are Evil / Tattooed Crook: The Courier has a snake-tattooed face and snakeskin boots.
  • Stab the Scorpion: Faith turns toward Wesley and draws her knife. He Screams Like a Little Girl but ducks as she lets the knife fly. It impales the other bug on the wall.
  • Storming the Castle: Buffy says they should take the fight to City Hall. Wesley thinks that's too risky, but Giles agrees with her, and suggests finding out what the Mayor's up to.
  • Volleying Insults: Xander and Cordelia. Lampshaded by Buffy, who reminds them to breathe between insults.
  • We Meet Again
    Wilkins: So. You're the little girl that's been causing me all this trouble. She's pretty, Angel! A little skinny.
  • We Need a Distraction: Giles and Wesley peel out in the van, and the vamps, thinking Buffy and Angel are inside, give chase. Stupid vamps. Buffy and Angel, who took cover in the hedges, run off with the box.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: In a cemetery, Angel and Buffy dust a couple of vampires together. Buffy expresses concern that they are in a rut; all they do is patrol and Angel never takes her anywhere new. Angel protests that the demon nest on the beach was a nice change of pace.
  • Where Do You Think You Are?
    Buffy: There are better schools.
    Willow: Sunnydale's not bad. A-And I can design my own curriculum.
    Buffy: Okay, well, there are safer schools. THERE ARE SAFER PRISONS! I can't let you stay because of me.
  • You Remind Me of X / Who Wants to Live Forever?: Wilkins says that he married his wife in '03 and that he was with her to the end, which was "not a pretty picture." He suggests that the immortal Angel and the mortal Buffy will have the same problem.

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