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Buffy 7.16: Storyteller

Sometimes I like to think I have unique tastes. If I really love a particular piece of music, or a particular movie, or a particular actor, that affection is made stronger by the belief that I'm the only one who feels that way, that I've discovered something or someone that nobody else knows about. When I found out that other people besides me loved "Back to the Future," or that other people had really big crushes on Robert Sean Leonard, or that other people really liked Mister Mister's "Kyrie," I felt a little disappointed: disappointed that I was no longer alone with my treasure, and also disappointed that I was not the taste pioneer I'd thought I was. Disappointed that I was just like everyone else.

I didn't realize how big a crush I had on Andrew until "Never Leave Me," the episode this season in which he tried to kill the piglet and couldn't, and then Willow found him at the butcher shop and brought him back to Buffy's house and the Scoobies tied him up. I found myself so happy to see him on his own, apart from the rest of the Geek Trio. I've liked him more and more as the season has continued -- when he threatened to cause trouble by gluing stuff together; when he appeared in the apron; when he said to the First-as-Jonathan, "What do you want from me, Jonathan-slash-The-First?" He's just quirky and nerdy and cute and short and theoretically gay and I love him.

But as this season has progressed, I've realized I'm not the only one who feels that way. Apparently he's been growing on lots of other people, too. My taste isn't as unique as I thought it was.

Last night was Andrew's "Superstar," his "Fool For Love," his "Selfless." It was his chance to take over the story for a while, and -- as usually happens with these things -- it was our chance to see another side of the guy. And it wasn't just the singing and the sobbing. We finally got to see him shut up for a moment and confront his feelings. He took responsibility for killing Jonathan. He revealed that he sort of knew it wasn't really Warren talking to him that night in the school basement. That was disturbing to learn, but at least he admitted it.

And he realized another thing. Over time, he's constructed all these narratives, some just embellished and some completely fantastical, to avoid dealing with what's been going on inside. He thinks he's a supervillain, but he's really just a scared nerdy kid. Remember in "Conversations With Dead People," where Holden told Buffy that she has an inferiority complex about her superiority complex? Well, Andrew's had a superiority complex about his inferiority complex.

He's made up all these stories to avoid the painful truth. It's reminiscent of last season's "Normal Again," in which the psychiatrist told Buffy's family that she'd made up this fantastical universe in order to avoid the pain of reality. But this time, it's -- well, in the context of the show, at least -- real.

So now Andrew's finally looking within, seeking his redemption.

(By the way, jeez, how many people need to go through this process? With Spike, Anya, Willow, and now Andrew all feeling guilty about past sins, the Summers house is turning into a rehab clinic. Um, a rehab clinic that also happens to be a training ground for proto-Slayers, but what can you do.)

"Normal Again" played up how ridiculous the whole premise of the show really is. This teenager was chosen over everyone else to fight supernatural beings, and she has a sister who was made out of a ball of energy. "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" (or "Buffy, the Slayer of VamPIRES," as Andrew called it) is a show with heroes and villains and magic. Anyone who believes in this stuff has gotta be nuts.

And yet Buffy's world has always seemed kind of true to life. For one thing, the show has never had an absolute hero. The Slayer power itself has demonic origins. For another thing, despite living in a supernatural world, the characters have usually been emotionally realistic.

Compare Andrew's one-dimensional view of things -- what he thinks he sees -- with what's actually been happening on the other side of his camcorder:

Willow and Kennedy. On the subject of Kennedy, I have this to say: I knew Tara Maclay. She was a favorite character of mine. And Kennedy, you're no Tara Maclay. They killed off Willow's perfect match and replaced her with someone who pales, and suddenly here they are in a big kissfest. I feel betrayed.

But maybe they did that on purpose. Maybe it's realistic. Maybe after losing your true love, you start to crave companionship again, and it's okay if the new person can't hold a magical scented candle to the original. She's not meant to. She'll do for now.

Xander and Anya. Well, that was a bit of a shock. One moment they were sitting there on the couch talking about their broken engagement, and the next moment they were having makeup sex. Or breakup sex. Or interim sex. Or something ambiguous. They definitely wouldn't be the first couple to break up and then have ambiguous sex.

And the scene was reminiscent of Season Four's "The Harsh Light of Day," in which Anya told Xander they needed to have sex so she could get over him. Of course, that time, they wound up engaged.

Robin and Spike. Okay, not exactly a sexual relationship, despite Andrew's seeing "sexual tension that you could cut with a knife." Instead, we've got two morally ambiguous beings. One is a vampire with a soul, a creature who has caused inordinate pain and suffering and yet is genuinely repentant for it. The other is a seemingly good man who wants to kill someone who is genuinely repentant, but he wants to do it to avenge the death of his mother. Who has the moral high ground?

Then there's Buffy herself, who once killed her true love and lately has been in danger of letting power go to her head. Last night it seemed like she was going to kill this poor little weakling to stave off the forces of evil. It would be atonement -- blood for blood -- but she'd be forcing atonement (and death) on someone against his will.

That turned out not to be what was going on, but for a moment there...

And that's just another reminder that everything's more complicated than it seems.

We tell ourselves stories. We tell ourselves we're superior -- that we're superheroes, supervillains, the Big Bad. That we can make no mistakes. Or we tell ourselves that we suck -- that we're awful people, that we can do nothing but make mistakes. We tell ourselves we're in love. We tell ourselves we're not in love.

None of these is ever totally true. The truth is always complicated.

And yet stories still have their appeal, don't they? They're an important part of being human.

We shouldn't stop telling stories. We should continue to tell them.

We should just make sure that the stories we tell are true.

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