1.08: I'm Narrating This Post Out Loud as I Type It
As the fic I'll post in the links at the end could tell you, I don't think much of "I Robot, You Jane". But I see that as pretty much a given (has anyone anywhere given it high marks?), so I'd like to talk instead about what it does have going for it.
Everyone Else: And first on that list has to be Jenny Calendar. She was one of two deaths in the story that surprised me, because I had been spoiled for all the others, and since it happened so early in the series I've had a tendency to look back on her as "the first death" rather than as a character in her own right. I've noticed her a lot more in my rewatch, and it turns out I kinda love her. She's smart, independent, so pretty, and has this instant core of humanity that lets her seem like a real person even when she's plunked down into a ridiculous plot amongst characters who have already established their own cred. Everyone else who meets the Scoobies has to go through the rigamarole of discovering the supernatural and being sworn to secrecy; she's already comfortable with that and simply nervous about her own performance when her skills are tested.
Her relationship with Giles is one I'll be keeping an eye on. From the first, it's not just the two adult opposite-gender characters getting together by default: they're a true complement to each other's strengths, and they clearly enjoy each other. Even their arguments keep both of them engaged and interested, suggesting that they've already recognized each other as intellectual equals who happen to take opposing positions. She just likes him as a person, and I can't help loving her for that.
Their back-and-forth about books and computers makes the second aspect of this episode that I found worthwhile. Yes, it's old news. But it's still relevant. The Writer's Block question on LJ today seems to have something to do with it. I just read an article this morning about how users of tablet computers are finding that they can't concentrate on the e-books they're trying to read, because the instant access to the internet and other features of the device are too much of a distraction. I realized the same thing myself when I tried to read or write on my laptop (RIP), but it didn't stop me from wanting a Kindle Fire (just $199 on Amazon!). Jenny has a really good point - all information of every kind should be available to anyone who has the interest to go looking for it, and that's what the internet is all about. Giles has one too - I remember what I read in a book better than I remember what I read on a webpage.
The article about tablets was in the New York Times. I read it on a basic Kindle. No distractions, but also no smell - jury's still out on whether it feels more like reading from a book or reading from a computer.
Most of "I Robot, You Jane" doesn't really touch on that issue, though. The real-life parallel that it warns about is online predators, which I feel is less relevant now than it was then, not only because it's been discussed to the ground but also because there are easy ways to protect oneself which I hope have been widely distributed at this point (thanks, internet, for making information available!). Remember when your parents had to check all of your Halloween candy because there could be razorblades in the apples? I don't know why I just thought of that.
So maybe it's because it wasn't a focal point, or maybe it's because of a subtly conscious decision on the part of the writers, but neither Giles nor Jenny won the argument, and that's as it should be. Books will always be the best, and computers will always be the best. The characters will continue to use both of them throughout the entire series. Giles sticks with us to represent his side, and Jenny...sticks with Willow.
Does it make sense to view Jenny as a sort of mentor to Willow? They have a lot in common, and there's obvious respect there, but we never got to see it laid out in very clear terms until after Jenny's death.
Even without Jenny's entrance, though, this is an important episode for Willow. Okay, maybe not important, but I'm happy about her development. There's even some (indubitably accidental) foreshadowing about her sexual orientation - Malcolm's male, but she's not interested in his body, she just wants to connect with his mind. She handles her disaster with believable regret but a lot of personal strength, and she backs off the moment that Malcolm begins to act sketchy. No brainwashing here.
The third (or fourth, depending on whether Willow counts) thing I really liked about "I Robot, You Jane" is the concluding joke about Buffy, Willow, and Xander's doomed love lives. It's depressing, yes, but it's still hilarious, and it's depressing in a way that they certainly would be thinking about and probably should be thinking about. Also, prophetic much?
Giles and Objects: