-- Quotes --
Written by Zinna
Buffy enters the house with a bucket of chicken that she picked up for dinner on the way home from her meeting with Angel. Willow, Tara, Giles and Dawn are all gathered around the table finishing up their meal. In an effort to make Buffy's gesture seem useful, all ask to partake in the chicken bucket feast despite their full bellies. They try to get Buffy to spill the juicy details of her rendezvous with Angel, but she won't. Instead Giles asks what Buffy plans to do with her life. Buffy begins to ramble on about her intentions to go back to college being hindered by her and her mom's death, among other things. Willow's quick with an idea - Buffy should audit classes with her and Tara until Buffy is eligible to enroll. Buffy seems game. She's not exactly "have-all-the-answers' girl right now, so she's willing to try anything.
Somewhere else in Sunnydale, the super geek trio is cooking up some mayhem for the slayer. Apparently the three plan to test Buffy's abilities and identify her weaknesses. Warren has loaded up a van with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment so they can watch and record all of Buffy's reactions with her being none the wiser.
Test #1: Stolen Time
Buffy attends Willow's sociology class with her. The day's topic is "Social Construction of Reality". Everyone in the class, including Willow, is able to swiftly and articulately discuss the complexities of this notion. Buffy, on the other hand, is without a clue. After class Buffy tells Willow that she may be too dumb to handle these kinds of classes. Willow tries to convince her otherwise but they are distracted by a man rudely bumping into Buffy without so much as an "excuse me". The bumper is Warren and unbeknownst to her he has just planted a tiny teardrop-shaped diamond on Buffy's sweater.
Willow and Buffy meet up with Tara. Willow goes to another class, leaving Buffy with Tara. They have twenty minutes before they have to go to Tara's art class. Tara gives Buffy a picture book to skim through. Buffy glances at the picture for a second and then looks up because she hears a roaring sound. It is apparent that more than a second has passed by. It is like time is being stolen from her. This happens several times. Buffy misses the entire art class as the hour moves swiftly by without her. Buffy tries to explain to Tara what is happening to her but she can't keep up with her. She follows Tara out of the building to be confronted with everyone and everything whizzing by on a much faster time continuum than her own. She is struck by the fast-moving people and is sent flying to the ground, where she is in serious danger of being trampled. She makes her way out of the chaos to an abandoned stone table and realizes that a sound is coming from her person. She takes off her sweater and locates the little diamond time-stealing gadget.
Warren and friends are in the van watching this take place on close-circuit television. Afraid she will figure them out, Warren hits an abort mission button that makes the diamond disappear from Buffy's hand. Time goes back to normal, but Buffy does not. She stands in complete bewilderment while the super geeks discuss the effectiveness of Warren's test. It is revealed that overall Warren scored a 220 for this stunt and 7 of those points are from the stunt's ability to give Buffy a bad case of the wiggins.
Test #2: Dissolve-a-Demon
Xander takes Buffy with him to the construction site he is working on. He pulled some strings to get Buffy on staff as a temp. She is very excited to try her hand at construction and avoid working for Giles at the magic store. Xander introduces her to the men she will be working with and the heckling instantly begins. The men see a pretty little blonde girl and automatically think she can barely lift a hammer let alone a steel beam. Xander tells them that Buffy is stronger than she looks and leaves to supervise some other part of the site. Unconvinced, the foreman tells Buffy to prove that she can handle the workload while not-so-affectionately referring to her as Gidget, Britney, and Princess. Buffy, of course, shuts them up by effortlessly swinging the few hundred pound steel beam over her shoulder.
Buffy does more than her fair share of the work but instead of receiving praise from grateful colleagues, a fellow worker asks her to slow down because she's making the others look bad. To top it off, it's Andrew's turn to test her, so Buffy has to deal with his antics as well.
Andrew's test comes to the site in the form of three very ugly octopus-head type demons that are summoned by Andrew's playing a certain instrument. Buffy takes them out with ease but the damage incurred to the site during the battle is more than Xander can stand. In addition, none of the workers that Buffy saved from the three monsters are willing to admit that they even saw the monsters (the monsters dissolved into nothing once they were dead). They all claim she just flipped out and started attacking everyone. Without any evidence, Xander has no other choice but to fire Buffy, though he believes her side of the story. Xander encourages her to seek the research assistance of Giles.
Not far from the site, the boys get into yet another scuffle (they are constantly debating or fighting over every little thing); resulting in one of them accidentally hitting the van’s horn. The horn calls Buffy's attention to the van and she begins to make a connection.
Test #3: Looping
As a last resort, Buffy agrees to work at the Magic Store. To her horror, it turns out to be a "Groundhog Day" experience. Buffy has to contend with a spell Jonathan conjured to force her to re-live the same turn of events over and over until she does a certain action that will break the loop. In this case, she must satisfy the customer. This proves to be no small feat.
First and foremost, Buffy has to put up with Giles and Anya giving her all kinds of orders under the guise of new employee training. As we all know, Buffy doesn't really do well with orders. To add to her terror, they get to tell her what to do over and over in exactly the same way and she is expected to keep a smile on her face. Secondly, the customer that she must satisfy is requesting a mummy hand that can't be retrieved without it choking either her or the customer. Finally, who wouldn't be completely weirded out by this extreme case of déjà vu. Needless to say, Buffy goes through a number of emotional outbursts, which include: beating up the customer; storming out of the shop; breaking Giles' glasses; and crying. Nothing works. The looping ends when Buffy has a revelation and tells the customer that she will special order the mummy hand, which equals customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, Buffy forgot to charge the customer for delivery and you can believe that Anya had to annoyingly point it out. When Giles says that it would be reasonable for the shipping charge to come out of Buffy's paycheck, this is the final straw. Buffy quietly walks out of the store, leaving her nametag behind.
Since Warren's test seriously freaked Buffy out, Andrew's got her fired, and Jonathan's essentially broke her spirit, it is really hard for the boys to identify which one of them should score the highest. They decide there should be more games and more tests. They continue to follow her.
Defeated, Buffy turns to her newfound confidant Spike. Things must be really bad, because Buffy takes some shots of whiskey with him. She tells him that someone is messing with her life. Since her life was already messed up without the added influence of malevolence, she's pretty much at her wits' end. Spike suggests that she would be happier if she just accepted herself as a creature of the night like him. She can't expect to be accepted in a normal world. Buffy doesn't dispute or agree with his analysis.
Spike decides the best way to reveal the culprit is to hit the underground scene and see what they can find out from demon loose lips. Off they go to a demon bar, where Buffy follows Spike's lead while taking shots straight from a bottle of tequila.
Spike gets in on a demon card game in the back room while Buffy watches. She agrees to stay because Spike says the demons will spill all kinds of details as they play. On a fuzzy side note, the demons are using cute little kittens as currency for gambling purposes. Eventually, Spike wins the game. The other demons are ready to jump him, claiming that he cheated. Spike isn't afraid because he's got Buffy to back him up, except that she won't. She tells Spike that she will not be a party to his bar fight and kittens are a stupid currency. She tips over the baskets so the kittens may escape before she hastily and drunkenly exits the back room. Spike follows her, trying to figure out why she's so mad. Surprise, this is Buffy’s final breaking point. She emotionally tells him at a raised tone and in a drunken babble sort of way that she was counting on him to fix her life. She goes on to describe herself as too dumb to take classes with Willow, too much of a freak and too strong to do construction work, and too bored to tears to make a living in retail. Spike is the only one she can stand to be around and it would appear that he, too, is totally lame, or least that stupid card game was. Spike can't argue against the truth so they leave.
Outside in the van, the geek patrol is engaged in another heated argument over was the worthiest James Bond. This scuffle shakes the van making its presence obvious to even a drunk Buffy. She recognizes it from the construction site and begins to approach. Suddenly, a weird looking winged demon comes out and tells her to back off. He explains that he will not be defeated because he has been testing her and now knows all her weaknesses. Buffy attempts to fight him, but in her state, just ends up falling on her butt. She does, however, manage to get a kick in, which causes the demon to throw down smoke as a shield for him to run away.
A moment later, we find that the demon was really Jonathan disguising himself as a demon with a spell. Unfortunately for him, the spell did not give him added strength or girth so Buffy's kick really hurt him. Considering the trauma they have put her through, they are lucky that this is all she did. They, however, don't find it remarkable that they have gotten away relatively unharmed. Instead, they become arrogant and confident. They decide they are unstoppable because they have faced the slayer and prevailed. They are also very happy that their slayer testing efforts have gained them access to free cable porn.
Buffy, on the other hand, is sinking into melancholy and who can blame her? Her life is in complete disarray. There seems to be no end in sight. Just as it seems that things can't get any worse, Giles appears with a gift for her. It seems to be the answer to all of Buffy's troubles. It is a check, presumably enough to cover the bulk of Buffy and Dawn's financial hardships. Buffy is so grateful to have Giles' help that she tells him his very presence makes her feel safe, and that it's a little like having her mom back. She feels safe knowing that Giles will always be around. Giles smiles reassuringly in reply, but once Buffy leaves the room, Giles' expression changes to one that would indicate this may not be the case.