Episode Number: 7.3
Running Time: 42:43
Summary written by Leoff
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Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow skins Warren, Willow thanks Giles but confides about her not being accepted by the others when she returns, Xander and gang confront Anya at the Bronze, Buffy discovers Spike has his soul back.
It's 9:24pm at Sunnydale airport, people disembark a plane, walking into the terminal. A child goofs off and his father reprimands him. Xander, Buffy, and Dawn wait for Willow's plane to arrive, with Xander holding a large sign that reads "Welcome home Willow" in a very hard to read light yellow. Buffy and Dawn say she won't see the sign, it's so light, and they question why. Xander begins to talk about his heroic speech when confronting evil Willow, but then stops, realizing Dawn is being sarcastic. Dawn starts to get nervous, wondering what to do, how to handle seeing Willow again. Buffy wonders what to say. Xander suggests "Hi Willow." Buffy wonders how he can be so calm. Xander says he has faith in Giles, knowing that he wouldn't let Willow leave unless she was fully recovered, which Dawn agrees with with a "right." Buffy gives a sour look, which makes Dawn question "right?" Buffy admits to them that Willow wasn't completely ready, but that Giles said she had to come back early, she was doing really well, and they shouldn't worry. Just then Xander notices that there is still a problem... Willow is still nowhere in sight, and no more people are entering the terminal
It's 9:24pm at Sunnydale airport, people disembark a plane, walking into the terminal. A child goofs off and his father reprimands him. Willow comes into the terminal, looking around for a failure face, but no one is seen. "Welcome home, me" she says, downtrodden.
Opening Credits: Nothing new.
In a dark alley, a street gang member tags a wall. Something watches him from a distance. "All alone..." it hisses. "Frightened to be all alone?" The man turns, getting scared, asking if someone's there. "The wind talks when you're alone..." the voice hisses and laughs. The man shouts for whoever it is to clear out, but then a his is heard and a slashing claw is seen.
Willow knocks on the door of the Summers home, but no answer comes. She lets herself in the back (a clock is seen reading 10:41pm). Calling out for Buffy and looking around, no answer is heard, no one is seen. Upstairs, Willow looks sadly in her and Tara's room and has audible memories of Tara's shooting when she glances at the window. She picks up a notebook, seeing Xander, Buffy, and Dawn's contact numbers. She then hears the noise of a door slamming downstairs and, dropping the notebook hard, races down to see, but finds no-one. Tired, depressed, Willow lays down on the couch and dozes off.
The clock reads 10:41pm as Buffy, Xander, and Dawn walk in the front door. They wonder what could have happened to Willow, questioning whether she doubled back. Dawn says that if she's ducking Giles, she may be evil, but Xander says that he's ducked Giles plenty of times, it just means that he got bored. Dawn suggests they check the answering machine. As they leave, Xander slams the door shut, and all three hear a noise coming from upstairs. They go up to investigate.
Later, the three come back downstairs, finding nothing. sitting on the couch, Buffy says she called Giles, who is in extra wiggins mode, and that he blames himself for Willow's apparent disappearance. Xander feels guilty himself, thinking that Willow may just not want to see them, probably feeling unwanted. "So Giles is blaming Giles, and we're blaming us... is anyone gonna blame Willow?" Dawn says what's on their minds, but Buffy says if Willow wants help, they're there for her. It's her fault if she's not there for the helping. The three fade off the couch and Willow fades on. It is now morning, and Willow slowly wakes. She walks over to the a phone and calls Giles, but does not reach him, hearing that he's in a counsel meeting all day. She looks around the empty house, seriously depressed.
Approaching the burned out remains of the Magic Box, Willow finds Anya exiting holding a box of charred... things. Anya is VERY suspicious of her, asking her in a scornful voice what she's doing there, wondering why she isn't still with Giles? Willow says she just got back, but Anya questions back how, to kill people or if she's really all better? Willow is apologetic, Anya still sarcastic. Willow offers to help Anya clean up the Magic Box because she feels responsible, which Anya says she IS responsible. Willow says she's sorry. "Here's something you should know about Vengeance demons. We don't ruth with the sorry. We prefer 'oh god, please stop hitting me with my own rib-bones...'" Willow tells her to continue, she deserves whatever is coming. "You don't mind? Well then that's no fun" Anya says, disheartened.
Willow sits on the curb, very sad, and Anya sits by her. Willow asks where everyone is. Anya says she's been busy with Vengeance demoning. She then asks where Dawn and the others are. Anya wonders why Willow hasn't seen them, then figures it's because they're still mad at her. Willow interrupts when Anya starts up about the Bronze confrontation, asking where she thinks the others would be. Anya says they're all probably somewhere around the High school, with Xander doing construction there, Buffy getting her new job, and Spike living in the basement, quite insane.
At the construction site of the High School, Willow looks down into a workpit, calling down for Xander, but the place is eerily void of life. She glances down at the ground to find a body completely skinless, barely any blood surrounding it.
"No skin" Buffy and Xander look down at the body. Xander had found the body first thing that morning and gave his crew the day off, then called Buffy right away. "I've gotta get a job where I don't get called right away for this stuff." Xander hears a noise nearby, glancing at a ladder. Willow is seen climbing up the ladder with a shocked look on her face. Xander says "Yeah, I know exactly what you're thinking... Maybe Willow IS back."
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In the halls of the High School, Willow walks as kids rush off to class when hearing a bell. Willow goes to a basement door and goes down. Looking around slowly, she is surprised by Spike, who tells her she needs special permission to be there, she needs to have a slip with a stamp. He is still quite out of it, as if he's holding a conversation with her and others at the same time. Spike mumbles that "you went away", and Willow says she did go away, but she's back now. She then says that she found a body, and she's been looking for Buffy, Dawn, and Xander, but she can't find them. She says the body had no skin, and asks Spike what could do that? "You did it once" he says. Spike continues to ramble about glowing, then gets flustered, saying he should go away. "Everyone is talking to me, but no one is talking to each other." He looks at Willow, then off in the distance. More rambling: "Someone isn't here...Button button, who's got the button? My money is on the Witch..."
Buffy and Xander walk down the basement corridor and hear Spike's murmuring in the distance. They approach him as he rambles on about someone not being finished. Buffy gets his attention. "You went away..." he says to her, then rambles about a body, asking if there is blood? Buffy and Xander see that he knows something and they ask him for help. Spike gets a warm look on his face and approaches Buffy slowly, saying "look at you, glowing..." Spike gets flustered, saying he should go away. "Everyone is talking to me, but no one is talking to each other." He looks away, then at Buffy and Xander, who decide Spike is not of use and start to walk out. More rambling: "Someone isn't here...Button button, who's got the button? My money is on the Witch..." THAT line stops Buffy and Xander in their tracks. They question him again, wondering if he's seen Willow. Spike talks of a body and skin, saying that "they think you did it." He then excuses himself, saying he has to leave. I have to go. There are things here without permission. I have to check their slips..."
Anya opens up her door to the concerned face of Willow, who walks in somewhat uninvited, asking for help. Anya says she doesn't have any money, but that's now what Willow needs. Willow tells that she found a body, saying something horrible happened to a boy, took his skin right off. "Was it you?" both of the gals ask each other in unison. "No!" Both answer. Anya says the others will probably blame the witch, but she understands that Willow wishes to do good, or at least discover who's really behind the horror so she isn't blamed. Willow again asks for help. "Is it difficult or time consuming?" Anya asks, shrugging her shoulders.
"This isn't gonna get all sexy, is it?" Anya asks. They both sit cross legged on the floor, facing each other, candles surrounding them in the dark room, a map of Sunnydale lays between them. They are casting a spell that will cause a light to appear on the map wherever there's a demon. "Oh, pretty! Will it hurt the carpet?" Anya asks. They both sprinkle magic powder on the map and pinpoints of glowing light appear here and there. "Aaaaoooohhh! Hey look!" Anya points to a dot. "That's me. Hello!" Anya asks what the large group of dots in the center is, to which Willow tells her it's right over the high School, where the Hellmouth lies. Anya says things have been busy there lately. The large clump of dots then begins to grow brighter, and soon POOF, a small flame appears. Willow stomps out the small fire and lifts the map. "Hey! OK, remember our talk about the carpet?!?"
Anya says as she rushes to clean up the small burn. Willow looks at the map and says that one of the spots looks promising, a small group of caves in a rock cliff nearby. Anya says it sounds pretty thin, which is when Willow suggests she teleport over there real quick to check it out. It is then that Anya has to admit she can't teleport there, she can only teleport for official business. It's a privilege, not a right. It got taken away when she had to pull the Vengeance curse the previous week. Willow offers her sympathy to Anya, who says the Vengeance just isn't what it used to be. Willow says she thought Anya enjoyed... "inflicting." Anya says it sounds cool, but now it's quite upsetting. Vengeance isn't the same anymore, not as fulfilling. Willow compares her old situation with Anya's, wondering if she feels like her power isn't really all what she thought, and that it can be more trouble than it's worth? Anya says it's very over dramatically stated, but she's right. Anya apologizes to Willow for her sadness, and Willow does the same to Anya. They understand each other's feelings. "It did get a little sexy, didn't it?" says Anya, to which Willow momentarily smirks at, but then the witch shakes it off and heads for the door, saying she has to find the demon that killed the boy. Anya lightly tries to keep Willow there, asking if there's another spell she could do to help, maybe a spell to find Buffy and Xander? Willow says she tried that, and it went bad. The spell said that Buffy and Xander didn't exist.
In the Summer's home, Dawn is at a laptop, researching up demons who skin people. She is really into the computer research, asking for gory details in a matter-of-fact tone. Buffy and Xander walk aside, talking apart from Dawn, wondering if it is Willow responsible for the death. Buffy admits she thinks Willow did this, but then Dawn interrupts, saying she's found a good one, a demon called Gnarl. The demon has claws that paralyzes it's victims, allowing it to then slowly peel off strips of skin to eat while the victim watches. Buffy questions why Dawn thinks this particular demon is the one. Dawn says they never mentioned blood, to which the research says Gnarl laps up the blood as a drink, leaving little behind. Now all they have to do is find the demon. Xander suggests Willy, but Buffy says we could be smart, accidentally insulting Xander and apologizing for it. She has a better idea, saying whoever did this had to have gotten blood on them...
Nighttime and Spike walks through a forest, rambling to himself. Dawn, Xander and Buffy all follow a short distance behind. Spike is following "the exciting smell of blood" and the others follow him. "It's Smellimentary!" Dawn says, then starts off musing about creating databases of demons and cataloging bad guys. Xander bumps into Spike, who has stopped at a rock-cliff face. They look confused. "A vicious skin-eating rock cliff" Xander jokes at Spike's expense, but Spike pulls some brush aside. "There's a cave in it... I'm insane, what's his excuse?" he asks. Spike takes off into the woods without a word.
Willow stands at the cave opening. She slowly, tentatively crawls inside to find the inside lit by torches. She sees a figure move off in the distance, then out of site. "All alone..." she hears a spooky voice say.
"Dark and dank... I was hoping it'd be dark and dank" says Xander as the three enter the cave through the same entrance. Buffy shushes him, asking if he heard something?
"Look at the shorn little lamb, see how it trembles... is it the cold wind?" The voice of Gnarl taunts Willow "or is it the flock is nowhere to be seen?"
"All alone..." Dawn hears, and asks the others if they heard it. Buffy says it sounds close, but she can't place it. Suddenly Gnarl jumps out at Dawn and slashes her in the stomach. "Poison Paralyses" she mutters as her face begins to go void. Buffy and Xander grab her and start to head out, forgetting about Gnarl for now. They barricade the cave entrance with rocks.
Willow sees the cave entrance slowly covered, then hears the evil laughter of Gnarl.
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"no way out... No way out..." the voice taunts. Willow starts a spell, calling for the Goddess for help, but the creature hints that magic won't work. Willow is scared, but offers to fight. The creature continues it's taunts, saying that Willow's friends abandon her.
In the forest, Buffy and Xander help a stiffened Dawn on her way. "Buffy, I'm really sorry..." Dawn mumbles through locked jaws. They are heading home to look up more info on the computer.
The creature continues to scare Willow, who is now slightly panicked, very scared. Gnarl talks of her friends abandoning her, to which Willow asks if they were really there, she saw nothing. Suddenly a flashing claw slashes Willow across the belly, wounding her. She falls and starts to go limp. "They were here" says Gnarl, "here they were, and there they went." He grabs Willow's leg and pulls her towards him, laying her out flat on the ground. We finally see the full demon (who looks like a large version of Golem from Lord of the Rings) as he crouches over Willow and exposes her slashed belly. He leans forward and licks at the blood from the small wound.
Xander and Buffy help Dawn inside the home, bringing her over to the couch (accidentally laying her upside down at first). Dawn is completely stiff now, only able to look and mutter. Buffy goes to check the computer as Xander sits with Dawn. Buffy reads that the paralysis is permanent until the creature dies and says they'll have to go back. Xander says they just can't leave her there, she might vomit. "She might vomit?" Buffy asks. Dawn mumbles something as Buffy suggests Anya and goes to call her for "vomit watch."
Willow lays motionless, horror in her face, mumbling something. Gnarl continues to hover over her, taunting her with the absence of her friends. With a sharp claw he slowly cuts out a sliver of skin from Willow's belly and slirps it into his mouth with a satisfying sound.
Anya asks if Dawn is dying, but the other two say no, she's just paralyzed. Anya asks what type of paralyses, then goes and lifts Dawn's legs up in the air. They stick straight up! "Hey, she's pose able!" Xander says as Anya "poses" Dawn into a sitting position, with Dawn mumbling things the entire time. Buffy and Xander head to the weapons chest to get ready to leave as Anya says there's no need to thank her for sitting with Dawn. "I'm feeling very benevolent today... helping Willow, helping you, might even call it even for that worm thing last week." Buffy and Xander turn, asking if Anya saw Willow? She says yes, that she was looking for them and said they might be by some cave. Buffy asks if Willow was heading there, and Anya says last she knows, yes. Anya wonders if it's amusing that they're all there with her comically paralyzed sister while Willow may be getting killed by Gnarl. Buffy asks Anya if she knows about the creature, and upon answering yes, Buffy hands her a battleaxe, telling Anya that she's coming with them. They leave Dawn, propped up on the couch, with a remote in her raised hand.
Willow mumbles as Gnarl continues to toucher her, peeling off yet more skin from her belly.
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Buffy takes the lead as she, Xander, and Anya run through the forest towards the cave. Anya is visibly panting, saying she's out of shape from teleporting.
Entering the cave, Buffy asks where Willow is. Anya looks at her like she's crazy, saying that Willow is right there, on the ground. Anya kneels next to Willow as Xander feels the area. His hand is going right through her Anya says, and then asks what's going on? Buffy doesn't know, but she at least realizes why they haven't seen Willow. She thinks that the whole skin eating monster and the Willow disappearance are two separate issues.
"Behind you!" yells Anya as Gnarl slashes at Buffy. His claws cut her shirt, but not her skin. The fight begins, with a sword wielding Buffy at the attack. Anya reminds Buffy to "get him in the eyes." Anya then turns her attention towards Willow, comforting her, saying they're all there, and explaining that Buffy is attacking the creature. Willow mumbles that she can't see the others, but Anya reassures her that they are all there for her. Willow mumbles "They're here, they're here... I'm not alone..."
Dodging back and fourth, Gnarl jumps up and over Buffy, who spins and stabs her sword into it's foot, pinning it to the ground. She then takes her thumbs and digs them into Gnarl's eyes as he howls in pain, then falls dead. Xander is disgusted. "Ah... thumbs? God, I can't believe you did that!" Willow start to smile and breathe easier, saying she can move.
(Dawn suddenly falls over with a yelp).
Xander asks where Willow is and Anya tells him to back up, he's getting his feet in her. Xander and Buffy stare at the area while Anya dashes off to get Willow help because she's wounded. They both say words of encouragement to Willow as she slowly starts to fade into existence with a bright light. A tearful Willow looks up at them "Oh, there you are! Don't go away!" Buffy says she's gonna be ok, but Willow knows, because they're here.
Summers home, Daytime. Buffy looks in on Willow, who sits crossed legged in her bedroom. Willow says it's ok, she's meditating and healing herself, growing new skin by drawing power from the Earth. Buffy wonders "we're on the second floor..." Willow sits back, tired and in pain. Buffy says she's going to leave and let her rest, but Willow asks her to stay. Buffy says she missed her, and wonders how this invisible thing happened. Willow says she cast a spell without realizing it, fearing the facing of her friends so much that she literally could not see them. It happened just by Willow thinking it. Willow says it's nice to be forgiven, especially with so much to be forgiven for.
Buffy then says that she has a confession to make, saying that she thought it was Willow who was responsible for the skinned body. Buffy says she doesn't want to be the person who thinks that. Willow understands and says it's ok. She then sits up and starts into meditation position again. Buffy says she thought Willow was too tired to try, but Willow says it hurts too much not to try, even if she doesn't have the strength. Buffy sits across from her, crosses her legs, and says "I have so much strength, I'm giving it away." "Are you sure?" Willow asks, and Buffy holds out her hands.
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