2.13: With This Kiss I Pledge My Love
Well, here we are. It's the episode that essentially serves as a cut-off point between the show's salad days and the raw power of its mid-series emotional height. It's also absolutely loaded with individual character moments, subplots, humor, drama, and twists....and, of course, Buffy and Angel consummating their relationship.
As much as I can, I'm going to touch on everything of importance and not just the shippy stuff, but Buffy is the main character and it can't be denied that for her there's nothing more important than Angel right now. So beyond the bare summary - Buffy has sex with Angel and it causes him to lose his soul - what happens here with both of them? Why does it change everything?
With that in mind, we'll skip the individual character examinations for both of them and go straight into...
The Buffy and Angel Show: My theory is that their wedding took place on the docks. It's metaphorical but so is everything. He gave her a ring that symbolizes romantic love, she accepted it, she acknowledged the same symbol he had on his finger. I also believe that he was consciously making a vow of lifelong devotion, but that he deliberately kept it a secret and thus didn't expect the same from her. In essence, he's now bound to her as a husband is to a wife, and she in turn isn't bound to him or to anyone. It's unbalanced and illogical, but this is Angel we're talking about. He wants to serve the only thing he believes in, whether or not he's getting credit for it.
It's ironic that this happens immediately after he agreed - with little to no hesitation - to leave her side for months, but also, it isn't. This aspect of Buffy and Angel's relationship was what really resonated the first time I watched the series, due in large part to my personal history and the relationship that I had thought was forever. The idea of a love wherein he removes himself from the equation for your own good initially didn't sit well with me because I knew that my boyfriend would never do that. Didn't Angel want to be with Buffy? What could possibly be more important to him?
The answer explains both why my boyfriend and I weren't forever, and why Buffy and Angel are. He does want to be with her, but two things are more important: her happiness, and the fate of the world. Since Buffy herself is a warrior dedicated to saving the world, these are entwined in her case, so Angel realizes that to be the man she deserves he has to match her devotion to the cause. Later on, we'll see a situation in which Buffy's personal fulfillment is more directly at stake, but at this point the terms of the curse haven't been revealed and it seems he still has hopes of making it work the way she wants - thus, impromptu one-sided elopement on the docks.
I don't see Angel's subsequent reversion to Angelus as a divorce, and I don't think he does either. He's created a chain that even he can't sever, and that's exactly what enrages him so much. When he dies at the end of the season, on the other hand, the marriage is over and Buffy is a widow, although she still doesn't know it. Things get even trickier when he comes back to life, so I'm hoping to revisit this idea when and if I ever get there.
My purpose here isn't to validate the love between them. I don't think I need to. It just seems to me that there's more to this plot twist than Buffy losing her virginity or her boyfriend turning evil, and that everything that happens before they get to Angel's bed has its own importance.
It also seems that there's a marked difference in Buffy as a character before and after "Surprise," particularly concerning her maturity. She didn't decide to get married, but she did decide to have sex, and it wasn't a wise move. In her conversation with Willow about whether to take the plunge with Angel, she says, "But, to not act on want. You could watch your whole life pass you by--" in the shooting script. In the aired version this was changed to “What if I never feel this way again?” and I’m curious about why that was. “Watch your whole life pass you by,” while cliché, carries a genuine fear of looking back in regret at missed opportunities; worrying that you’ll stop feeling what you feel now is honestly pretty stupid.
It’s like making a big impulse purchase before you have a chance to change your mind - if you realize you don’t want the thing, guess what, you don’t want the thing and buying it was a bad idea. So, maybe this line was supposed to highlight Buffy’s youth, or maybe it made sense in its own right for the writers, but either way there's going to be a lot less of that kind of thinking from her after she pays the price for it this time.
Lest I'm concentrating too much on the ominous side of the show's best couple, I'm also very much affected by the scenes that focus on their romance. Even in the stage directions we’ve got some nice Buffy/Angel nods, which I've collected for you below.
The crowd parts and Buffy sees ANGEL on the other side of the dance floor. They meet eyes - smile. Through all the oddness - it is a moment of true connection, love. They move toward each other...
...He opens the door. Just out of bed. Nicely rumpled...
...They kiss some more. The bed in the corner entices. They both feel it - glance there - but don't go there...
...A long moment. Angel finally says exactly what's been on his mind for some time.
I love you.
I try not to, but I can't stop-
Me too. I can't either.
They kiss. A kiss that is the beginning of something much bigger and they both know it. Angel stops - pulls away.
Buffy. Maybe we shouldn't-
Don't. Just... kiss me.
And he does. They do. Tenderly - full of emotion. They lie gently back on the bed and OUT OF FRAME.
I also made this experimental paintover of the iconic shot from the ending, because there's not really any way to improve on it but I wanted to see it a different way. Some years ago I made stickers from this screenshot. I still have some left if you want one.
Willow and Oz: It's too bad that Oz's Season 2 appearances are sporadic, since the beginnings of his relationship with Willow are just a joy. Not just his warmth and her excitement, but the way he gets integrated into the Scoobies so easily because he's already a smart, courageous misfit. I'm particularly fond of Seth Green's mannerisms, like the way he gestures when asking if anyone else just saw that guy turn into dust, and the way Sunnydale's paranormal activity is lampshaded with his "this explains a lot" comment and it not only fits his character but reinforces it.
This season has the highest concentration of best Buffyverse ships, but only Buffy/Angel gets a canon shot at being endgame. I'm going to try not to let that bother me as I journey through the past.
Xander and Cordelia: They have an extended awkward are-we-dating dance in the shooting script (I'm trying to space out these quotes because there's a motherload of them to get through):
He moves off. Cordelia closes her locker, catches up to him.
Let me... Think about it. Can I pick out your clothes?
For the party?
For pretty much... every day.
She walks off. Xander watches her, chagrined, then sees GILES in the-
Considering that neither of these characters are among my favorites and I know how this ends and there's no hope of a post-canon reunion, I'm pretty invested in Cordy/Xander. The inner conflict that keeps them apart is real, which means that their mutual attraction has to be real enough to overcome their misgivings, and overcoming their misgivings will make both of them into better people. How could I not root for them?
Well, okay, there is the issue of Xander still having an obnoxiously overt crush on Buffy. His daydream about rescuing her from a dead end future with Angel is downright stomach-turning. Youth and bad upbringing notwithstanding, he should know better than to make light of his friend's pain, and nobody should be putting up with it.
But I don’t mind this jealous moment from him because it got some cuteness out of Buffy:
Rough night. I had a dream that Drusilla was alive - and she killed Angel. It really spun me. I even went by Angel's on the way to school to make sure he was okay.
There's a line I haven't tried. "I just dropped by to see if you're dead." It says caring. Concerned. Smootchies guaranteed.
Please. I didn't go over there for smootchies -
Well. When I found out he was okay I was relieved, and so, naturally...
Someone stop me.
So, Angel's alright?
Spike and Dru: This very brief interlude between Drusilla regaining her power and Angelus returning may actually be where the Spike/Dru team is at their strongest. Spike's in the wheelchair, but he's still seen as the guy in charge by the rest of the vampires, and Drusilla still depends on him - or thinks she does, or pretends she does, and that's enough to keep him pacified. I wonder how long they could have lasted if not for the interruption of a third party who provides an inconvenient contrast to Spike's handicap.
The Judge accusing them of sharing affection and jealousy is something that comes up a lot in debates about whether vampires are capable of love and whether there are degrees of evil for soulless beings. I'm not that interested in getting into it now, but let's make a note that Spike and Dru could have been spared for no better reason than that they were the ones who reanimated the Judge, and also that Dalton's bookishness doesn't make him less evil but that bringing it up might be shorthand for his lack of interest in murder and chaos, and we'll revisit the subject in the next episode when Angelus mysteriously escapes being fried.
Giles and Jenny: I am going to miss them so hard. They didn't get nearly enough time to just be a couple. I'll mostly let the following script quote do the heavy lifting for this, though, and then unload the rest of my shooting script quotes. There was really quite a lot cut out of this episode and nothing significant added as far as I could tell, so I’m guessing the writers just tried to cram in too much.
I also don't have any Giles and Objects this time aside from that failed attempt above, but I did notice that when Buffy falls asleep in his office, she's watched over not only by Angel but by a little Notre Dame gargoyle. That's my kind of decorating!
And the Slayer lore! Where else do we get an approximate lifespan mentioned? Are prophetic dreams not usually part of the starter pack? If Buffy’s intuition is heightened, is that not something we should take into account when it comes to her trust in Angel? And what did Giles end up getting Buffy for her birthday?!
Calendar and Giles enter - continuing their talk.
I guess it makes sense. I mean, all of Buffy's senses are heightened. Why should her intuition be different?
Precisely. It's not unheard of for the Slayer to start having prophetic dreams and visions as she approaches adulthood-
Adulthood? Buffy's seventeen tomorrow, Giles. Don't rush her.
I'm not the one rushing her. While I'm loathe to say it, the fact is - the Slayer rarely lives into her mid-twenties. It follows that she'd exhibit signs of maturity early on. Her whole life-cycle is accelerated.
Still, you should be careful about treating her like a grown-up. Like - this thing with Angel. Have you even talked to her about it?
I - I suppose I try not to pry.
Maybe you should, a little. The way she talks - it's clear she has intense feelings for him.
Well, yes. They're friends-
They're more than friends and you know it.
A beat as this sinks in.
I'm not her father, Jenny.
She looks up to you. She'll never actually say that, but she does. And I just think, at her age, it's easy to get in. over your head. She could make some bad choices here. Trust me on this one.
I'll keep an eye to it. Right now I'm worried enough trying to think of the right birthday present.
This is a nice nod to “School Hard,” in which Joyce found out that Snyder is a rodent and his word about Buffy can be disregarded.
First of all - you promised you'd stay out of trouble in school.
I try. You know I do. But Principal Snyder has it in for me-
I know. But... You behind the wheel, it worries me.
These next two are unnecessary, but I like the look at Cordy’s divided loyalties. It’s not just about Xander; at this point she probably likes hanging out with the Scoobies a lot more than with the Cordettes, but she can’t do both at once, and she’s not ready to lose her social standing yet. This attempt at testing the waters feels very real.
Cordy and HARMONY stroll to class. See XANDER and WILLOW hanging in the LOUNGE in the BG.
Hello. I'm having, like, a totally random thought...
Xander Harris. Is it just me, or does his shirt almost match his pants?
Harmony looks. Shrugs.
Almost. Why do I care?
Well. If you look at him a certain way - is he vaguely.., cute?
As XANDER does some spazzy dance for Willow's amusement.
Oh yeah. I'm hot for spaz boy. Are you tripping, Cordelia?
A beat. Cordelia laughs a little too loud.
You thought I was serious? Please. I was just testing you! Ha.
I'm hot for spaz boy. Good one.
For the other side of the coin, Xander gets to have Willow’s intelligent generous nature instead of a Harmony of his own, so there’s a lot less cringe to their conversation about Cordelia. It’s still a little sad to see how Cordy looks through Willow's eyes, though.
So we're all set. I've got all the decorations. And I think Cordelia's bringing snacks and stuff.
Yeah. She said she was. Which was thoughtful. Don't you think?
(takes the leap)
Hey. Cordelia: not as horrible a person as we once thought? I mean, she's obviously trying to be helpful.
But, you wouldn't ever, like, be able to be friends with her or something.
You mean, like hang out and take Cosmo tests together?
I mean - actually elect to be in her presence.
I don't know. She's better - but she's still Cordelia.
(nods to the hall)
CORDELIA and HARMONY are joined by a few other Cordettes. They all SQUEAL in greeting. Jump up and down.
ON WILLOW AND XANDER
Example: what is the shrieking thing? They just saw each other yesterday… And now, watch - Cordelia's going to model her new outfit-
ON CORDELIA, ET AL
Sure enough - Cordelia spins around, showing off her mini-dress. More shrieks.
ON WILLOW AND XANDER
Note the reaction - like Cordelia invented clothes.
They're not bad people, Xander. It's just - we are of two worlds.
(can't help herself)
And theirs is bad.
Xander lets this sinks in.
Right. Of course you're right. What was I thinking?
Oh and there’s a third side to the coin! A Willow/Oz moment that didn’t air! And Xander being jealous. Of course. At least he would take a bullet for her.
Now OZ approaches. Willow immediately gets shy, happy.
Hey. So - tonight?
I'm there. Feeling surprise-y.
Can I pick you up?
Xander's watching them, unsure what to make of all this.
Yeah. That would be... Here-
She writes it on her pad - tears it off and gives it to Oz.
I have your address.
He moves off. Xander looks at Willow - a little shocked.
Is this a date?
Yeah. It's a date.
Shouldn't you meet him or something? Are you sure you should be giving some stranger your address?
He's not just some stranger, Xander. He's a friend. He took a bullet for me.
So? I would've taken a bullet for you. Nobody offered me one.
Off Willow - enjoying Xander's discomfort.
There was already too much “Character says line and Xander has to comment on said line” in the finished version, but it turns out there was even more of it in the script:
Except I won't be wearing the little hat.
He has dignity.
I remember this from the first time I read the script at the height of my BtVS obsession. It made me smile again. It’s so Joss.
A beat as Buffy catches her breath. Then the HULKING VAMP is on her. FITE! (and if we can afford it) FITE! FITE!!
This one too:
You think they left his heart in San Francisco?
(aside to Xander)
I had that thought too.
Oooooooh, I like this. Remember there was a time before everyone was used to General Buffy?
She heads out the door. Angel follows her. A beat while everyone reacts to General Buffy.
One cut Buffy/Angel scene. Note that Angel tries to be macho and keep Buffy out of danger, but only after she did it to him first. It’s not condescension, it’s “this virtuous thing.” I would have liked to see the actors performing this one.
Buffy and Angel steal in through a dark doorway to the balcony. They keep out of sight, talk quietly.
Angel. Maybe I should go in alone. I mean, if my dreams are so true-
I'm not letting you go by yourself.
Buffy knows she can't fight him on this.
Okay - what do we do if the Judge is already put together?
I'll deal with it. You keep your distance.
Buffy looks at him. Blinks.
We're going to have to get over this virtuous thing or we're dead meat.
If he's assembled, we retreat. Together. Get the others and make a battle plan.
Character introductions for Jenny's uncle and the Judge:
As she passes an OLD, DARK-SKINNED MAN who lurks near the school. His dress has a slightly ETNIC flair. He watches her enter the building, then moves off - unnoticed.
As he takes his first, LUMBERING steps out of the BOX. His aura is that of deadly indifference. He is a killing thing, not good or evil.
Plenty to unpack there but I'm reaching the end of my endurance for writing this post, so have at it. Regarding the links, I'm finally getting the chance to post my extended semi-abandoned B/A AU fic, "Older," which combines Seasons 2 and 3 by making everyone a year older than they were in canon. It begins in an alternate "Surprise" and I left off just after "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," so if I play my cards right this rewatch might get me back to it.
- I'd like to read some fic exploring why exactly the Romani that Angelus murdered was so beloved of her tribe that even those who never met her are supposed to make her their top priority.
- Buffy's inability to drive is such an interesting aspect of her character, especially since the references to it are so few and far between.
- I know most of the vampire lore is there to serve the plot and frequently retconned, but I'm curious about why Spike's injuries immobilized his legs while Drusilla's run-in with the angry mob weakened her with no visual signs. Also, why he healed naturally but she needed an elaborate spell.
- When Drusilla claps and demands more music, the subtitles say [EERIE MUSIC PLAYING] and the song that begins is "Transylvanian Concubine" by Rasputina. Apt enough but they have eerier and better songs.
- Surprise, Part One
- Surprise, Part Two
- Surprise, Part Three
- Surprise, Part Four
- Surprise, Part Five
- Surprise, Part Six