4) This Year’s Girl and Who Are You? (Season 4, Episodes 15 & 16; Aired 2/22/00 & 2/29/00)
I’m actually not trying to squeeze in an extra episode with this one too; it’s just a two-part-er and makes more sense together. Both of these episodes combined hold some of the greatest moments in the greatest lesbian relationships of the show. There’s Willow and Tara, of course — and then there’s Faith and Buffy.
For some reason when I thought about Tara recently, I remembered her being waifish and sweet in an almost irritating way, but when I watched these episodes I realized, “No, self! What is wrong with you?! She is adorable! Adorable! 100%, certified adorable!” This episode includes one of the sweetest, most lesbianic moments in history, when after Willow has said that she likes having something that’s just hers, Tara looks back at her over her shoulder and says, “I am, you know.” “What?” “Yours.”
Dear hardest of hearts: even you swooned, and you know it.
(Also: this hat happened.)
But to get to the more pressing matter at hand: Faith has been in a coma for nine months, ever since Buffy put her in one. When she finally wakes up, she reasonably has some unresolved issues to take up with the slayer. When they finally reunite, two things happen.
1. They have some seriously no-joking-around ass-kicking fights. Like, let’s toss each other through glass doors, break all manner of furniture, slam each other’s heads into walls, what have you. It is not sexy, no, nope, not at all. And I mean, I don’t get a little thrill each time Faith calls Buffy “B” with that sassy little sneer in her voice. Nope, never.
2. Using some thingamajig left to Faith by the Mayor, they accidentally switch bodies. Whoopsie!
What makes the Faith-Buffy relationship so intense is that they each have parts of themselves that understand the other perfectly. There’s almost no other relationship on the show that contains such fiery resentment, and it’s because no other relationship is so personal. There are parts of the other person they’re jealous of, and parts they despise because they know that somewhere inside themselves, they possess them, too. They fear but respect the other simultaneously, both in the deepest of ways.
This episode takes that dynamic to the next level by showing each girl what it’s literally like to be in the other’s skin. Sure, Faith taking over Buffy’s body is hilarious and amazing to watch. For instance, when she’s trying out some of her new facial expressions:
But in the end, it’s really not so funny at all when Buffy experiences firsthand how quickly the rest of the world writes off Faith, how it feels to be The One Everyone Hates. Faith, meanwhile, gets to feel what it’s like to have genuine affection in your life, people that believe in you; what it feels like to have the opportunity to do the right things.
By the last scene before the spell is broken and they return to themselves, when Faith-in-Buffy’s-body is beating the crap out of Buffy-in-Faith’s-Body on the floor of that church, shouting, “You’re nothing! Nothing!,” you suddenly don’t know if Faith’s talking to Buffy anymore, or simply yelling at herself. And Buffy knows it.
In the last scenes, while everyone else is joyful that Faith has disappeared again, Buffy’s trying to contact her with nothing less than concern on her face. When she says, “I don’t think she’s coming back,” there is no peace, no relief in her statement, but some kind of sorrow, an empathy she can’t shake.
And then we see Faith on an abandoned railroad car, face quiet, drawn, heading to nowhere, where she feels she belongs.