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Recap / Buffy the Vampire Slayer S5E11 "Triangle"

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"I'm not choosing between my girlfriend and my best friend. That's insane troll logic."

Recaps fall under Spoilers Off policy. All spoilers are UNMARKED. You Have Been Warned

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

Directed by Christopher Hibler

Written by Jane Espenson

Xander and Anya lie in bed together and talk about Buffy's luck, or lack thereof, with men. They wonder if Buffy might be the problem. At a convent, Buffy protects a young nun from a vampire then asks questions about the life of a nun.

Buffy trains while talking to Giles about Riley, and then asks about his plans to ask the Watchers Council for help with Glory, since they can't find any information on her with their own resources. He assures Buffy that, although he has to tell the Council that Glory is looking for the Key, he has no intention of mentioning Dawn. While Giles prepares for the trip to England, he leaves the shop in the hands of Anya, however—as her people skills are lacking—Willow offers to help out too. The two then begin squabbling, causing Giles to consider getting an earlier flight back and and placing Xander and Tara in uncomfortable positions.

Dawn enters Buffy's room and notices that Buffy has removed all her pictures of Riley. Buffy and Dawn talk about how Buffy is recuperating after Riley's departure. Dawn tries to be as supportive of Buffy as possible, and Buffy appreciates her efforts and discusses her emotions openly with her sister. Dawn expresses sadness that Riley left so suddenly, and Buffy admits that everyone except Buffy had seen it come on gradually. Dawn seems surprised, and Buffy mentions her hope that Riley might return one day for another try, so that Buffy would be able to say all the things that she hadn't been able to say before.

Box of chocolates in hand, Spike rehearses a conversation he plans to have with Buffy on the Buffy mannequin. He wants to explain his motivations for showing her Riley's late-night extracurricular vampire activities, but his temper gets in the way. He begins to argue with the mannequin and ends by beating the mannequin with the box of chocolates and yelling, only to set it back up and start over.

Back at the Magic Box, Anya protests Willow's use of the shop products for magic spells, calling it stealing. Willow tries to tempt Anya by offering to show her some magic tricks, but Anya decides that Willow is using peer pressure and refuses to participate. Willow and Anya's argument escalates, and since Xander and Tara don't want to be in the middle of the arguments, they both leave.

Willow starts a spell, but Anya interrupts with questions and the two begin arguing again. Accidentally, the spell calls forth a giant troll. The store and much of Sunnydale are seriously damaged as the troll puts his large war hammer and great strength to good use.

On campus, Buffy and Tara talk about their new semester classes and then about the events at the magic shop. Buffy overreacts when Tara mentions possible trouble between Anya and Xander because of Willow and Anya's constant fighting. Buffy cries and buries her head in Tara's shoulder, declaring that Anya and Xander have a "miraculous love."

Anya drives a car for the first time wildly through the streets while Willow, in the passenger seat, searches for a spell to stop the troll, who proceeds to wreak havoc in Sunnydale, bashing trash cans, smashing his hammer into things, and declaring to the people running in the opposite direction, "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, MARK MY WORDS," before catching the scent of "ALE" and heading toward the source.

Xander mopes at the Bronze and runs into Spike. As Xander seethes hostility at his presence, Spike fishes for information on Buffy, to no avail. The two eventually begin to play pool and talk about woman trouble. Back at the Magic Box, Buffy and Tara fear the worst as they view the destruction left by the troll, and take off to try to track it. The troll arrives at The Bronze, declaring his desire to drink ale and eat babies. Xander suggests that Spike fight the troll, but Spike is "paralyzed by not caring very much." The troll asks Spike and Xander where to find babies to eat. Spike suggests the troll try the hospital, and Xander ineffectually attempts to talk sense into the troll, suggesting that he sit down in one of the more sturdy chairs to have a calm talk. However, the troll is unsatisfied with their suggestions of stags, strong grog, and onion blossoms. While the troll drinks beer straight from a keg, the rest of the gang gathers at the Bronze. When Buffy arrives, Spike cautiously greets her, but she ignores him and he steps back, his face filled with disappointment.

The troll, Olaf, reveals that he used to date Anya and (after his dalliance with "ONE WENCH") she turned him into a troll, which earned her the job of a Vengeance demon. Buffy attacks Olaf and Spike jumps in a moment later to back her up (triumphantly copping a feel in the process). Buffy and Spike are unsuccessful, and Olaf uses his hammer to knock down the second floor of the Bronze and injure many innocent people. As Buffy takes stock of the damage, she notices Spike comforting a bleeding victim. In an accusatory manner Buffy asks Spike what he is doing. He declares that he is only helping, and that would not dream of sampling any blood because he knows she wouldn't like it, but she refuses to give him credit for his intentions, declaring him to be disgusting. Buffy sends Willow and Anya back to the magic shop to find a spell that will actually be effective against Olaf.

At the shop, Willow and Anya finally address the root of their issues: Their fear of each other's potential to hurt Xander and pull him away from the other. Anya makes it clear that she has no intention of hurting Xander in any way, and Willow assures Anya that she has no intention of poisoning his mind against Anya, or luring him away with her "lips"—since, as she puts it, "Hello, gay now!" Olaf storms into the shop and intends to hurt the girls, but Xander arrives before the two most important women in his life are seriously wounded. The troll beats Xander up badly then tells Xander to choose whether Anya or Willow will die. Xander refuses to choose, proving his loyalty to both girls, but when Olaf decides to kill Xander, Anya offers herself. Buffy arrives and fights with the troll while Willow works on a spell and Anya distracts Olaf with insults. When Olaf says that Anya and Xander won't last, Buffy gets incredibly angry and beats the troll into unconsciousness. The troll is sent off into an alternate universe (probably the land of trolls, but possibly the world without shrimp).

After he finally returns, Giles talks to Buffy about the damage to the shop. Joyce joins them and they discuss the fact that the Council had no records on Glory, however Giles mentions there's a chance they may be able to find something based on the information Giles gave. They then discuss the Key, however Dawn is eavesdropping and is left very concerned when she hears her name mentioned.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Affably Evil: If you can get past the violence and questionable appetite, Olaf seems pretty cordial for a troll. He's a boisterous and jovial guy who, after giving Xander a beating, is so impressed by his opponent's tenacity that he picks his foe up, dusts him off, puts an arm around his shoulder, and decides to cut a deal.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Buffyverse trolls are big, ugly Viking-types. This troll also endures sunlight, which otherwise would have turned him to stone.
  • Alternate Universe: Anya sends Olaf off to one, but can't be sure which.
    Anya: It's possible that he's in the Land of Perpetual Wednesday... or the Crazy Melty Land... or, you know, the World Without Shrimp.
  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: Willow asks this of Anya while they're chasing Olaf in Giles' car. Turns out Anya actually doesn't know how to drive and is working out what the pedals do as she goes. Willow takes this about as well as you'd think.
  • A Shared Suffering: Xander ends up playing pool with Spike of all people, griping over the women in his life. Spike's only lending a sympathetic ear so he can probe for information on what Buffy is thinking, then he starts griping about Buffy.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Buffy is sitting on her bed, reading a magazine.
    Dawn: What are you doing?
    Buffy: Playing soccer.
  • Baddie Flattery: Olaf is complementary to Xander.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: We never see how Buffy beats Olaf.
  • Berserk Button: Also an Inelegant Blubbering Button for Buffy—any suggestion that Xander and Anya might break up like Buffy and Riley did.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Olaf promises to make merry with the local virgins.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Olaf the Troll
  • Brick Joke: Willow's spell that makes the cash register disappear.
  • Brutish Character, Brutish Weapon: Olaf's weapon of choice is an oversized hammer.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: Buffy puts Olaf's Hammer on the glass counter that has that do not lean on the glass sticker. It breaks.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Spike assumes Buffy is angry over his part in the Buffy/Riley breakup, while Buffy is so miserable Spike isn't even on her radar screen.
  • Covert Pervert: Buffy falls on Spike during the Bronze fight. Spike doesn't miss his chance to get in some groping while "helping" Buffy to her feet.
  • Crash-Into Hello
    Spike: Hey, watch it mate! [turns and sees a huge troll] On Second Thought, do what you like.
  • Death of a Child: Olaf requests babies to eat. Nobody actually grants this request though, nor does he ever get any babies to eat.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Anya is driving Giles' BMW without having learnt to drive.
  • Eats Babies: Olaf—or at least he would like to, but no one will tell him where he can find some.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Dawn overhears Giles, Buffy and Joyce talking about the Key, and that it has something to do with her.
  • Feud Episode: Anya and Willow's squabbling over Xander leads directly to literal mayhem in the form of Olaf the Troll.
  • Forgotten Superweapon: Olaf's hammer is later revealed to make the wielder so powerful they can take on a god, but he never uses it as more than just a big hammer powered by his own strength.
  • Foreshadowing: Giles seeks the help of the Watcher's Council for information about Glory. This sets up the events of "Checkpoint".
  • Friend Versus Lover
    Anya: You [Willow] have known him [Xander] since you were squealing infants together. You will always know him better than I do!
  • Geographic Flexibility: There's a convent out there somewhere.
  • Gigantic Gulp: Olaf picks up a beer keg one-handed and drinks from it.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Buffy
  • The Hedonist
    Xander: But you seem to enjoy the—the being a troll.
    Olaf: ''[shrugs]' I ADJUSTED!
  • Imaginary Love Triangle: Anya is worried that Willow will steal Xander from her, but Willow got over her feelings for him long ago, and also she's gay now.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Xander's original comment when asked to choose between Willow and Anya, by Olaf the Troll: "I... I'm not choosing between my girlfriend and my best friend! You're insane. That's insane troll logic!"
    • What's particularly interesting is that, from Olaf's point of view, he was really impressed with Xander and doing him a favor. He was going kill both Anya and Willow, but Xander impressed him with his bravery, so he let Xander choose one to save. And then, when Xander refused, Olaf complimented him for his loyalty (and broke his arm to make sure he meant it) before agreeing to let him die in their place. When you say it that way, it almost makes sense...
  • I Resemble That Remark!
    Giles: Um, Anya, while, while I completely trust you uh, uh, to take care of the inventory and the money, um... dealing with people requires a certain, uh... finesse.
    Anya: 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, and bribe him with money and goods.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Spike quickly dials back the hostility when he turns around to see the guy who shouldered past him is a hulking troll.
  • Lap Pillow: Inverted with Dawn providing comfort to Buffy by resting in her lap and letting Buffy stroke her hair.
  • Large Ham: Olaf the Troll. All his lines were written in ALLCAPS, and it comes across onscreen. The actor is clearly having a blast. He also attacks the scenery.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: As Willow and Anya are fighting, Xander walks into the Magic shop and says, "Hey, look my two favorite girls [notices Tara]... three favorite girls."
  • Love Triangle: Well, not really. Depends on what kind of love you mean.
  • Made of Iron: No serious injuries are made to Xander when he receives several hits on his head by a hammer. Administered by a troll.
  • Magic Misfire: Anya interrupts Willow's chanting to ask questions and argue some more, leading Willow's spell to go completely awry and summon Olaf the Troll.
  • Nerdgasm: Giles is going on about the Watcher's Council library.
    Buffy: Don't talk about the books again. You get all... and sometimes there's drool.
  • No Bisexuals: Anya thinks Willow might put the moves on Xander like she did when he was seeing Cordelia. Willow promptly ridicules the idea of her being attracted to any man now that she has a girlfriend.
    Willow: Well, hello, gay now.
  • No Indoor Voice: Olaf the Troll, to the extent that his dialogue is always written in Caps Lock.
    Olaf: HAHAHA! PUNY RECEPTACLE! *smashes garbage bin for no reason*
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever fishbowl balancing act Willow did that got her banned from owning fish for five years.
  • The Nose Knows: "ALE! I SMELL DELICIOUS ALE!"
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Spike didn't help fight because he was "paralyzed with not caring very much".
  • Now You Tell Me: Anya tells Buffy that Olaf's power is in his hammer—after Olaf loses it, Buffy rushes in to finish him off only to get Punched Across the Room.
    Anya: Oh, yeah! I forgot he still has all that troll strength.
  • Power Floats: Willow doing a spell.
    Anya: Hey! Don't float the merchandise!
  • Punctuated Pounding
    Buffy: Their love! Will last! Forever!
  • Retroactive Wish: A Call-Back to "Something Blue" when everything Willow said came true.
    Willow: I wish Buffy were here.
    Buffy: I'm here!
    Willow: I wish I had a million dollars! Just checking...
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Olaf does end up being correct that Xander and Anya's relationship doesn't end up working out, he just blames the wrong person - while he assumes that Anya would drive him away, in reality it's Xander's insecurities and self-doubt that breaks them up.
  • Running Gag: The Alternate Universe without shrimp is mentioned again.
  • Sadistic Choice: Willow and Anya have made Olaf angry and he tries to kill them both, and Xander jumps to their defense, but isn't not much of a match for the troll. The troll is however impressed with his bravery, and offers him to spare one of the girls, if Xander chooses which one of them he shall kill. Xander's response: "I'm not gonna choose between my best friend and my girlfriend! That's Insane Troll Logic!"
  • Security Cling: Anya and Willow facing Olaf.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Buffy re: her break-up with Riley. "According to everyone who isn't me, it was kind of gradual."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Giles decides to take an early flight, then Xander and Tara beat a retreat rather than get caught up in Willow and Anya's squabbling.
  • Start of Darkness: This is the first time we see Willow abuse magic just because she can.
    • The first time? You sure about that...?
  • Stealth Insult: Willow tells Anya to annoy Olaf to distract him from Buffy.
    Willow: Anya, I have faith in you. There is no one you cannot piss off.
  • Stepford Smiler: Buffy appears to be coping with her break-up well enough, but descends into Inelegant Blubbering at the mere suggestion that Anya/Xander might break up as well.
  • Shaped Like Itself
    Anya: He probably got sent to the Land of the Trolls. He'll like it there. Full of trolls.
  • Taking the Veil: For a moment it appears Buffy is coping with her boyfriend problems this way, then she appears and stakes a vampire who's about to eat the young blonde-haired nun. Afterwards...
    Buffy: So, um, a-about being a nun... [they begin to walk along together] You know, um, with the whole... abjuring the company of men... you know, how's that working for you? The... abjuring.
  • Tempting Fate: When Olaf starts tearing up the Bronze, Willow wishes Buffy were there. As if on cue, she enters. Willow then wishes for a million dollars...and nothing happens.
  • Trash the Set: The Bronze and the Magic Shop.
  • Trick Dialogue / Tantrum Throwing: Spike (holding a gift-wrapped box of chocolates) appears to be apologizing to Buffy for his part in the Riley affair. It turns out he's rehearsing his lines with the shop dummy he'd dressed up as Buffy. Eventually Spike loses his temper over Buffy's imaginary rejection and hits the dummy over the head with the box, only to calmly put things back in order and start again.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Hoping to impress Buffy, Spike helps injured people at the Bronze without feeding from them. Buffy is incredulous that he "wants credit for not feeding on disaster victims" and storms off, causing Spike to exclaim, "What does it take?"
  • We Need a Distraction: Anya being irritating.
    Anya: Your menacing stance is merely mildly alarming and your roar is less than full-throated!
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
    Giles: I cringe to think what the place would have looked like if I'd been away for longer than three days.
    Buffy: Well, maybe we would have had time to clean it up. You know, if Willow used some magics to help.
  • Why We Cant Have Nice Things: Giles goes away for a few days and finds the Magic Shop trashed.
  • Wire Dilemma / Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Used as a metaphor by Anya.
    Anya: Xander? If you ever decide to go, I want a warning. You know, big flashing red lights, and-and-and one of those clocks that counts down like a bomb in a movie? And there's a whole bunch of, 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!" and then click, it stops with three-tenths of a second left, but then you don't leave. Like that, okay?
    Xander: Check. Big bomb clock.
  • Woman Scorned: Olaf turns out to be Anya's ex, whom she turned into a troll after he cheated on her, thereby getting her job as a vengeance demon. The story is shown in Season 7's "Selfless".
  • You Fight Like a Cow: During the fight with Olaf the troll, Anya, being the reason he is a troll, has a lot to say about him - though she runs out of snark once she gets past, "You're a troll!";
    You're as inadequate a troll as you were a boyfriend! Uh, y-you're hairy and unattractive, and even women trolls are put off by your various odors. Your menacing stance is merely alarming! And your roar is less than full-throated!
  • Your Television Hates You: Buffy notes that the only college class that fits into her schedule is Central American Geopolitics. Given that Riley is down there, she isn't interested.