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Monday, February 20, 2012

Faith, Hope & Trick

[Updated April 29, 2013]

The title of Faith, Hope and Trick seems to take its inspiration from Corinthians 13:13: 'But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love'. I think all three virtues play a part in this episode, but I want to discuss them in reverse order.

We saw 3 tricks in the episode besides the character: (a) Giles tricked Buffy into revealing some of the details of Becoming 2. Note, however, that Buffy said nothing to Willow or Giles other than to tell them that the spell worked and that she had to kill Angel rather than Angelus. In particular, she said nothing about Xander’s Lie. Buffy’s still repressing despite the events of Dead Man’s Party, because she thinks that’s essential in order to maintain her relationships. (b) Kakistos tricked the Slayers into a trap. (c) Faith tried to trick Buffy into dealing with Kakistos for her. This set up Giles’ trick on Buffy – Buffy’s words to Faith about Kakistos could apply to herself: “Faith: … *I'm* the one that can handle this. Buffy: Yeah. You're a real bad-ass when it comes to packing Buffy: … What was that you said about my problem? Gotta deal and move on? Well, we have the 'moving on' part right here. What about dealing? ... Faith: You don't know me. You don't know what I've been through. I'll take care of this, all right?” Buffy recognized this just before she told Giles and Willow what had happened: “She had a lot to deal with, but she did it. She got it behind her.”
The name/word Trick got substituted for “love”, which is “the greatest of these” in the original quote. It’s Buffy’s love for Angel which is on display throughout the episode. And just maybe it’s love that brought Angel back. (That’s not a spoiler – we never do find out what brought him back, so I’m speculating.)
During the episode, Buffy hopes that she can move on from Angel, represented by Scott Hope.
And that brings us to Faith. The name is ironic given what we see of her in this episode. Faith lacks faith in her own ability to slay Kakistos. Buffy shows her faith in Faith, which enables Faith to slay her personal demon.
Faith is a new slayer and that means she’ll play a metaphorical role in the season in my interpretation. In fact, it’s the most important metaphor in S3 so think about it as we go through the episodes. There are major clues to that role, and to the season as a whole, in the dialogue.
Since it’s too early to talk about that yet, let’s move on to the storyline. Buffy seemed to accept Kendra after her initial hesitation, but she’s very reluctant to share her life or her destiny with Faith. She feels crowded by Faith, even “single white femaled”. Now, that’s a very strong statement if you’ve seen the movie Single White Female, and I want to explore Buffy’s reaction. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, therefore, here’s a summary which is partly me but mostly Wikipedia (hence the quotation marks):
“Allie has recently broken up with her boyfriend and advertises for a new roommate. She eventually settles on Hedra, whom she immediately nicknames "Hedy", and they become friends. Hedy says she had a twin sister who died … After a few weeks, however, Hedy reveals her true nature: secretive, manipulative and deeply disturbed. Fearing she will be kicked out of the apartment in favor of [Allie’s boyfriend, who wants to make up with Allie], Hedy does everything possible to make [the boyfriend] look bad, even killing a puppy and making it look like it was his fault. Hedy then copies Allie's appearance, right down her hairstyle [i.e., turning herself into Allie’s “twin”]. … [Allie] follows an unaware Hedy that night to an underground sex club, and witnesses her passing herself off as Allie. Hedy, posing as Allie, sneaks into [the boyfriend’s] hotel room and performs oral sex on him. Afterwards Hedy attempts to blackmail [the boyfriend] but he insists in telling Allie the truth. Hedy kills him by gouging his eye with her stiletto heel. As she leaves his apartment complex, the doorman mistakes her for Allie. …Hedy takes Allie captive at gunpoint and threatens to frame Allie for the boyfriend’s death. … She is about to execute Allie, when Allie pleads "don't make me leave you". Hedy is convinced that Allie has come to realize her place as a twin, and plans to run away with her, until she catches Allie making another attempt to escape. A violent fight ensues,…. The struggle ends with Allie stabbing Hedy to death. The film ends with a close-up of a photograph presumably made by Hedy of their faces superimposed into one.” 

Ok, I think we can agree that this summary exposes just how strong Buffy’s reaction actually was. The question is, why such a strong reaction? This may in part reflect Buffy’s sense of duty, but it’s also, I think, tied to the idea that she’s supposed to be “the” slayer, the one girl in all the world. Having Faith around constantly challenges that self-image, as well as reminding Buffy that she died. In addition, Faith’s self-involved, even selfish approach to life makes it hard to consider any shared activity as fair. There may be spoilerish reasons as well related to Faith’s metaphorical role. The point is that this episode raises an issue which will resonate throughout the remainder of the series (literally) in very surprising ways.
Trivia notes: (1) Willow’s “I’m walkin’ here” when they drag her off the curb comes from the movie Midnight Cowboy. (2) The lyrics in Buffy’s dream right after the teaser match the scene perfectly: “Everything is quiet/ Since you're not around/ And I live in the numbness now/ In the background/I do the things we did before.” (3) Scott Hope asked Buffy to dance to the song “Cure”. The refrain is “you will never be the cure”. (4) “Disco Dave” – Cordy’s description of Faith’s dance partner – is a slang term for a party animal. (5) The phrase “five by five” (and yes, I deliberately made this the fifth trivia note) comes from the communications industry. (6) Faith’s statement that slaying makes her “hungry and horny” should recall Buffy’s lines at the end of Prophecy Girl: “I'm hungry. … Is anybody else hungry? … I'm really, really hungry.” (7) When Faith asked Buffy about her “toughest kill”, Buffy responded with “The Three” (from the episode Angel). She didn’t kill them, though. (8) Mr. Trick’s description of Sunnydale as the place “Where the humans are jumpin’ and the cotton is high” plays off a line from the song “Summertime”. (9) Joyce’s reference to the “Slayer Pride parade” reinforces the “coming out” associations in Becoming 2. (10) State Street, where the Buster Keaton festival is playing, is the main street in Santa Barbara, the real world Sunnydale. (11) Angel’s return is an homage to the film Terminator.


  1. My favorite story about Faith, comes from an instance where Joss Whedon was participating in an online fandom discussion(I don't know if he was anonymous or not), and was arguing with a fan that there was NO lesbian subtext between Buffy and Faith. The fan then pulled out a ton of specific instances of B/F interaction, and pointed out what the subtext was in each particular scene.

    Ever since then he's been forced to admit, that yes there is a LOT of lesbian subtext to their relationship. Although I have a hard time believing he's so clueless, how many times do Buffy and Faith refer to each other as their date.

    1. I hadn't heard that story. Interesting. He must have been convinced, because I recall later discussions (I think with him, but could have been Doug Petrie) making express reference to that subtext.

    2. Yes he was properly schooled by that fan, I must say. I never thought of it either, until I read that story and then BOOM, it's like those 3D images, once you see it, you can't unsee it.

    3. I've certainly come across lots of Fuffy shippers on line. Just another example of the fact that the interpretation of a text isn't limited to the author.

  2. [SPOILER]
    Just for the record, Angel's reconstitution is explained in Season 4 of Angel as the divine workings of Jasmine. I don't blame for you forgetting and/or blocking that out, though. While I prefer AtS to BtVS, THAT particular dynamic or that particular storyline always irked me for a number of reasons. Namely that it was so unnecessary and so poorly told. Perhaps the weakest moment in all of Joss's storytelling career. But for the record...


      If Jasmine is telling the truth... or if the First was in Amends.

      A-ha! I like it! THIS is why I enjoyed the AVClub discussions and your write-ups!

      I honestly hadn't considered those options. Of course (a) God is a liar in Whedon's world - it fits with his other global constructions of humanity's place and identity in the universe. I still think that it is an unearned plot twist, but it opens some interesting boxes of how we construct reality and, more importantly, does it matter? Which, I suppose, is the thesis of AtS in a nutshell.