Andrew is showing off the Buffybody's dream house ("a spacious two-bedroom starter home") to Buffy, Spike, and a bug or two when he sees a broken glass of wine on the floor. Spike says there's no blood. Buffy asks Andrew if the bot would know how to fight back, and he says she's not programmed to know she's the Slayer, but there's muscle memory. Spike gets in his face for referring to his 'plan', which, Spike reminds him, was a convoluted disaster. Andrew escapes the rant by pointing out that Buffy is gone from the room.
Spike finds her exploring the upstairs. She asks, "How could Andrew do this?" and he offers to snap his neck. Buffy cuts him off; she's being literal. She wants to know how Andrew managed to put together this life for her when she couldn't do it for herself. She points out the office and wonders if "she" was planning on turning it into a nursery - Spike says this isn't anyone's real life, but Buffy counters, "I don't think she knows that..."
Andrew calls out to tell them that he's found the Buffybody through a signal from the tracking device on her necklace. In the next panel we see her, up close so it's visible that she's wearing the necklace and there's duct tape over her mouth, but not much else is shown.
On the next page, Simone rips the tape off and says "I always knew you were a joke." They're in your typical abandoned shack dirty poorly-lit hideout, and the Buffybody is tied to a chair while Simone stands over her waving a gun around. She continues to wax villainous, saying she never expected Buffy to give up completely and live in the 'burbs while another decoy took over for her, and also wonders if Severin sucked the Slayer out of her. Buffybody doesn't understand what any of this is about, and reacts like an ordinary human taken captive, begging and offering money.
This angers Simone, who pistol-whips her (blood comes out, but no teeth, phew) and starts ranting again. She calls Buffy gutless and accuses her of leading the Slayer army into battle just to see them die, and of thinking she was the Chosen One, better than the rest, but giving it up to be a yuppie hausfrau. The Buffybody tearfully tries to placate her by claiming that she's a terrible Slayer and Simone is the best, and asks again to be let go. This seems to finally alert Simone to the fact that she doesn't have the real Buffy. She stands back and asks, "Who are you...?"
On the next page, Xander, Dawn, and Dowling are looking for zompire!Cheung. They park outside the hospital(?) where she was last seen. Xander notes the lack of lights inside, and Dowling wonders if zompires are targeting cops. Xander, standing over the bloody body of a cop, explains that zompires can't plan like that, and says Cheung was just unlucky and unprepared. Dowling takes offense to "unprepared" and says he's going inside; Xander cuts him off to say that she's not in there, but they just missed her. He's now crouched over a second dead cop, as he tells Dawn to go back to the truck. She thinks he's trying to protect her and protests that she's been fighting these things since middle school, and he snaps, "Jesus, Dawn - just listen to me."
Before he can continue, the "dead" cop sits up suddenly, scaring all three of them. She's not a zompire - she begs them to get out of here, and speaks in broken sentences about "her face" and how the officers tried to stop her. Dowling tries to keep her down and get information; Dawn calls an ambulance. The cop says that "she" dragged someone down an alley, and Xander and Dawn go for the weapons in the back of the truck - lots of stakes and a small axe. Xander asks Dawn if she can stay with the wounded cop until the ambulance comes, and she says quietly that she's of more use fighting with him, and Dowling should be the one who stays. We see her phone slip out of her pocket into the back of the truck.
Xander apologizes for snapping at Dawn, and explains that they can't count on Dowling to stay behind while they stake his partner. Xander knows Dawn is competent, but someone has to stay with the wounded cop. Dawn watches him leave with his weapons, hanging onto a few stakes of her own. Xander gives the axe to Dowling, who talks about killing zompires with Spike but is freaked about the idea of killing his partner. Low on patience, Xander pushes him against the wall and tells him the story of staking Jesse (!) - in his memories he still sees Jesse's face, not the vampire's face. "But believe me," he finishes, as he drags him along and Dawn crouches over the injured woman, "you don't want her hurting any more people." We see Dawn's phone ring, unnoticed, with Buffy's name and a picture of Mr. Gordo on the screen.
Buffy's back in the bugship when we see her on the other side of the call. She leaves a message, saying she's sorry she missed Dawn's call and to try her again. Spike asks if Dawn knows she's not going to be an auntie ("yet, I mean"), and Buffy says she can't leave that on voicemail even under normal circumstances. A bug comes in to bring a message from "Master Andrew". Spike's outraged that Andrew's giving orders to his bugs, but Buffy reminds him that she might still need Andrew's help. They all gather in the cockpit and Andrew says he's tracked the necklace and shows Buffy and Spike a map - the Buffybody is on Angel Island. He reacts to the name with a "heh", and Buffy looks innocently away while Spike asks if there's any hint yet about who did the kidnapping. He glares at her and asks "What?", and she answers with a big grin and "Nothing - what?" He leaves, complaining about the awkward beats, and Andrew confides to a confused bug that he thought it was awkward.
In the next scene, Andrew is attaching an unfinished robotic arm to Buffy's shoulder. He's apologetic about his actions and admits that he should have asked her and that he knows she would have said no, and wouldn't have had to go through this. She sits up abruptly, knocking tools away and holding up the sheet to cover herself. She says yeah, she would have rather not had to go through any of this, and she's not talking about the arm. Her world fell out from under her when she saw the pregnancy test, and then "having to come to such crystal-clear certainty...you know, I understand you."
For this last line we see Andrew's confused face. He's quiet as she tells him he's still trying to impress Warren, and then she asks why he put so much work and detail into the house, and he answers, "I thought I could give you the life you'd want if you hadn't spent the last however many years saving the world." She smiles at him. He looks ashamed, but then jumps on their "moment" to ask if they're good now. She says, "Fat chance," but she's still smiling. The intercom announces that they're approaching Angel Island.
We're back in the alley with Xander and Dowling. Xander's coaching him on how to hold the axe - he himself has a stake in each hand - when Dowling sees something and tells him to hang back. It's another dead victim. Dowling says he appreciates that Xander has a history with this stuff, and apologizes for coming drunk to his apartment. They move on. Xander lets him take charge, but keeps coaching. There's another body, this one some kind of female neo-Nazi (although I expect we're supposed to assume "prostitute"). Xander says he doesn't miss any part of this, and mentions the smell, to which Dowling replies, "I don't smell anything."
On the next page we see what Xander smelled - they've entered a bar completely packed with dead bodies. Xander says, "You just don't recognize it yet." Most are sprawled on the floor lying in pools of blood, but behind one of them, sitting in a chair, we see a pair of bare arms and some black hair. Dowling sets down his axe and calls in a mass homicide while the arms and hair are revealed to be Cheung. Xander alerts him, despite looking in the opposite direction (maybe there's a mirror?).
Cheung attacks. Xander grapples with her, and she throws him across the room. Dowling tries, and she's about to bite his neck when Xander swings the axe. She snatches it away from him, but lets go of Dowling. He shoots her in the neck; she throws him into Xander. Finally, her attention is on Xander and Dowling manages to stake her. Xander says, "Was I right, Detective? As the smoke clears...which face do you see?"
That brings us back to the bug ship, and the preview pages. Buffy, Spike, and Andrew are on a not-quite-covert op to find the Buffybody on Angel Island. Spike tells Buffy to hang back; she tells him she's neither pregnant nor human so they're not playing that game. Spike jumps up on a rock to look around while Buffy and Andrew talk about finding the Buffybody so Buffybody can kick some ass and send her back to the burbs. (Wait. Really?) She asks him who the Buffybody really is - it's her own body, but how did he program the mind? He tells her how the robot mind began to develop personality and could interact naturally with people, and Buffy asks, "What's she like?"
Andrew looks comically terrified. Spike comes back; they decide to split up and search the island. Buffy says not to engage if they find anything, but to regroup in fifteen minutes. Spike soon does find something - Simone's van - and decides to ignore the instruction about not engaging. The van, however, is empty. Andrew wanders around pretending he's a fearless vampire hunter and being scared. Buffy finds an abandoned warehouse, and then the Buffybody's necklace. "So what happened to her...?" she asks. As she's picking it up, she gets hit from behind and knocked out.
The last page shows us her assailant. In a twist that will need a lot of splainin', it's the Buffybody with purple streaks in her hair. "Nothing much," she says. "I've just been liberated."
I didn't deliberately avoid the leaked issue, it just worked out that I didn't read it until today. The month of waiting can have me climbing the walls when I'm really into a series, but, as I've probably been fairly clear about, this one doesn't do a lot to stoke my anticipation. There was nothing in here that I was dying to find out about, and I thought it was particularly odd that the preview pages were from the end of the issue instead of the beginning - felt like I'd seen this before even though I hadn't.
None of which is to say that this was a bad issue. Actually I kind of liked it, and there were a few good examples of deft writing and nods to parts of the Buffyverse that we actually want to hear about. Jesse? Xander just aged a decade. He really does have a history with the worst of the underworld, and now we can clearly see exactly how much he wishes he didn't. I was struck by how humorless his dialogue with Dowling and Dawn was - he's not walking away when he knows he's needed, but he's really, really upset: over the massacre, over the vamps getting into his life again, and most likely about that secret he's been keeping that we'll find about within the century.
Dawn's being pretty cool about the whole situation, too. I think she has a talent for physical combat that was never really developed in the show or Season 8. It's probably too late to take her character in that direction, but at least she retained her confidence during matters of life and death. Not sure what was up with the missed call to/from Buffy - seemed like it was portrayed a little too dramatically to just be for the sake of showing us that the two of them are still communicating. Also, Dawn didn't know about the abortion decision? I know I already wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with Buffy on this, but it seems cruddy to have a heartfelt talk with your sister about your pregnancy and then tell her a couple days later that you're not pregnant anymore.
Buffy has been really emphatic about how much she envies her double, and while I like it that her desire for normality is at the forefront, I cringed at her talk with Andrew about it. Let's not minimize the importance of him apologizing - seriously, I'm not planning on letting him off the hook but that really was a step in the right direction, and those are far and few between for him - but Buffy, sometimes you can't tell someone you understand. You can't tell Andrew what you dream about. You can't let him think he can help. Also, what the hell was that line about finding the Buffybody and getting her back to the Buffy Dream House? Please tell me I read that wrong, and she actually meant finding her so the minds could be switched back.
The whole idea of the robot mind acquiring personality through her exposure to human life has me very disturbed, and I count that as a plus. The twist at the end made it even better. The purple hair has me intrigued the most - that has to be symbolic of Simone, right? Did she somehow get herself into that body? Did she get the mind out? Does Severin have something to do with it? Will we have one of those inevitable moral dilemmas when it comes to the fate of the robot when she's back in her own body and there's no longer a use for her? Haha, no. She's just going to die, obviously.
Oh, and the line about Angel! Let's not forget about that. I'm not looking for any deeper meaning; I just think it was adorable.
Curious about Cheung - that's a lot of damage for a single zompire, and as a plot thread it seems like a dead end. Will something happen to Dawn before the ambulance comes?
Anyhow. Fairly solid, considering my dissatisfaction with this arc and the title in general. I'm not going to review the lettercol, but the failure at work here mostly takes place there. Oh crap, forgot to say anything about the art. Um, lots of panels have characters that don't look like themselves? Really I'd just like to know what's up with Andrew's Charlie Brown face. Nothing too distracting, though.