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DVD Commentary: Cuckoo In the Nest (2/5)

Continued from DVD Commentary: Cuckoo in the Nest Part 1.


Over the summer while the kid is gone, things improve for Tony by leaps and bounds. He lands a new sales job and racks up the commissions and bonuses. He’s on such a roll with the money that any more of this he’ll be getting rich selling ice cream to Eskimos.

He and Jessica are getting along better than they have in years. Just the other night they were laughing and talking in bed like they never left high school. He’d forgotten how beautiful Jessica was in the dim light and how her smile always made his stomach do a barrel roll. It’s like he’s going through a second honeymoon.

His life is going so good that Tony really doesn’t need to take the edge off. That’s not saying that life is stress-free, but his luck is turning and he is finally hitting that smooth patch. About friggin’ time he got his piece.

Some people commented on this and a later part where Tony’s life is shown to improve by leaps and bounds whenever Xander isn’t around. A few people speculated that maybe Tony had a point: there was something about Xander that caused his life to go off the rails. Since this was a Buffy fanfic, a Xander’s “real father” story, and that this is Sunnydale, the general conclusion seemed to be that there had supernatural reason for it.

That’s the reaction I wanted by the way. I was planting the story’s dreaded “red herring.”

Yes, I was deliberately showing that Tony’s life did get better when Xander was absent and forgotten. I wanted to lead people to jump to the conclusion that Tony was 100% right in his guesses. I also wanted people to seriously consider that Xander was right when he speculates he’s half-demon after certain facts about Jessica’s incident in the frat house come to light.

However, there’s also a very simple psychological reason: without Xander around to constantly “remind” him of his “failures,” Tony stops sabotaging himself. He’s still not a nice guy, but he’s at least able to function and deal with day-to-day stress without necessarily relying on the bottle. Not to put too fine a point on it, the bottle is the source of a lot of Tony’s problems.



He forgot that it couldn’t last.

Tony pulls into the drive, gets out of the car, and breathes in the late summer air. He thinks he might sweep Jessica away this weekend, maybe go up the coast to some motel and pretend they’re both getting a bit of strange on the side.

He’s halfway to the door when he sees the junk car parked in front of the house. He stops and gives it the curious once-over. Doesn’t look familiar. Probably belongs to someone visiting the neighbors. Still, it pisses him off that someone parked that piece of shit in front of his house. People might think it belongs there.

He whistles his way through the front door and shouts that he’s home.

Jessica materializes in the kitchen door. She’s pale and wringing her hands.

“Honey?” Tony asks. “Honey, what is it?”

Over her shoulder, he can see someone sitting at the kitchen table with their head in their hands.

No, he thinks. No, things were just getting good. He wouldn’t dare. He wouldn’t.

Tony shoves his way past her and sees that the uninvited guest is the kid himself.

The kid hops out of his chair and stands with his head down and hands in his pockets. His shoulders are hunched and he shuffles nervously from one foot to the next. He looks pale, dusty, tired, and just plain old worn out.

Pre-S4 Xander just after his Oxnard experience. From guy who was intent on doing his own thing and be damned the consequences at home in the previous section to desperate supplicant in this one.


Tony wants him to leave and tells the kid to hit the road.

The kid hunches his shoulders a little more and he looks to Jessica for a reprieve.

It’s sad that Xander’s not sure whether Tony will agree to let him move back in on an even temporary basis despite his very obvious need for help.


“Tony, he’s got nowhere to go and he doesn’t have any money to go anywhere,” Jessica pleads. “We can’t just chuck him into the street. What will people say if they see he’s sleeping in that car?”

The kid acts like he’s been shot, but he quickly recovers and waits with bowed head and nervous fidgeting.

Xander’s reacting to the idea that Jessica’s initial argument rests on what the neighbors will think, and not that their son needs a helping hand. I’m torn between that being Jessica’s genuine first reaction, or if she thinks that it’s the best argument that’ll get Tony to agree to letting Xander move back in.


Tony asks the kid if he needs to take a piss.

The kid shakes his head no.

“Then stop that twitching. You’re making me agitated.”

The kid sits down in a chair and tries to force himself to sit still, but Tony just knows that one of the kid’s legs is jiggling with nerves.

“So, you’ve come crawling back,” Tony says. “What happened to our deal?”

“Deal?” Jessica asks as the kid sinks lower into his seat.

“Fucking useless, you know that?” Tony asks to the kid. “Should’ve known you couldn’t cut it.”

The kid closes his eyes and swallows.

“You want back in my nest?” Tony asks the kid.

Just wanted to put in a reference back to the title with Tony stating that Xander’s asking to move back into “my nest.” It also shows Tony’s mindset that Xander doesn’t belong there.


“What’s this about a deal?” Jessica’s voice is climbing the bitch scale.

“Answer me,” Tony orders the kid. “You want to move back into my house? Do you?”

“I…I just need a place to stay for…I’m out of money,” the kid mumbles. “I promise to leave when I save up enough, but I…I’ve got nothing. Everything I had pretty much went into that car out front.”

“Yeah? Well whatever you paid, you got took,” Tony snarls.

“Tony,” Jessica snaps. “What deal?”

Tony jerks his head at the kid. “The deal where he does the manly thing and stops leeching off us.”  

“He’s only asking for a helping hand until he gets on his feet,” Jessica says. She draws herself up. “I told him he could stay.”

“You what?” Tony roars.

The kid’s head snaps up and he shrinks backwards. Oh, yeah. The kid knows that whatever Jessica promised doesn’t mean shit if Tony won’t agree to it. He can see the realization dawning on the kid’s face that living out of that shitbox in front of the house is a very real possibility.

Jessica flinches, but Tony can see from the deadly glitter in her eyes that she’s going to make him pay through the dick for this little night’s work. Shit, shit, shit. He’s stuck. If he tosses the kid out on his ass like he deserves, Jessica will fucking hound him until he changes his mind, but the thought of paying one more penny to support the kid sets not at all well with him. As far as he’s concerned, he’s paid far more than his due for keeping the kid fed and clothed. It’s high time for the kid to earn his own fucking keep.

Tony loves the illusion that he’s the one deciding to let Xander move back in. The reality is that if he had his way, Xander would be sleeping in his junk heap of a car. He’s dimly aware that Jessica does have some power in this decision, if only because he doesn’t think that telling Xander outright that he has to leave is worth a long-running fight Jessica. He knows the war with Jessica will eventually die down, but he also knows that Jessica will make his life a living hell until it does.


“Fine,” Tony says to the kid. “Fine you can stay, but there are rules.”

The “rules” that Tony lays down allows Tony to hold on to the idea that he’s making the sole decision to let Xander stay, while not being so unreasonable that it puts him on a long-term war-footing with his wife.


The kid gives him a quick nod.

“First, you live in the basement.”

“The basement?” The kid’s mouth drops open.

“You can always sleep in the car,” Tony points out.

The kid attempts a protest. “What’s wrong with my old room?”

“Aren’t you a man now?” Tony sneers. “I’d think you want your place complete with own entrance so your mother and me don’t know when you come and go. Besides, if you fall back into whatever shit you were involved with in high school, I don’t want the cops knocking on my door when they’re looking for you.”

The kid sends a silent appeal to his mother with a look.

“We’ll talk about it,” Jessica says.

“Not open for negotiation,” Tony insists.

Jessica’s eyes narrow, but Tony knows that she knows from the tone of his voice that she’s got zero wiggle room.

He smiles at her. “You want me to help your son? I got ground rules. And that’s the first one.”

Hunh. I just realized how carefully Tony phrased that. Of course the message goes right over Xander’s and Jessica’s heads because they have no idea that Tony suspects that Xander isn’t his son.


“There’s more?” the kid quietly asks.

“Rent,” Tony announces. “I’m not going to support your lazy ass any more. I expect to be paid $250 a month for the right to park your ass in the basement. You want food? That’s another $35 a week. You want to use our bathroom? That’s another $35 a week for water usage.”

The kid’s shoulders keep slumping further and further down as he listens to the list. On the last item, he asks, “To use the bathroom? You’re charging me for using the bathroom?”

“There’s a shower stall and toilet in the basement,” Jessica says.

“Does either one even work?” the kid asks.

“You’re going to find out,” Tony says. “I’m not finished. To use the bathroom in the basement, I want $20 a week to cover water use. If your mother does your clothes, it’ll be $5 a load. Do it yourself, I expect $2.50 a load. To park that piece of shit in my driveway, I want $10 a week.”

“Any other charges?” the kid asks.

“Nope. That about covers it,” Tony says. “If something comes up, I’ll let you know.”

“When do you want me to start paying? I don’t have any money at all,” the kid says.

Tony agrees to waive the rent and fees for a month, but it’s a temporary reprieve. He stresses to the kid that he expects this month’s rent, as well as all applicable charges, to be paid in full by the end of November.

One or two people mentioned that they thought Tony’s list of charges were extreme. It is a heavier list of “taxes” imposed on Xander for the “privilege” of living in the basement than we saw in canon.

My argument is that his parents were forcing him to live in a semi-finished basement, charging outrageous rent despite the fact that he was completely broke, and making him pay for food even though there was no refrigerator in the basement for him to store any groceries he would’ve bought for himself — all of which was seen or mentioned in canon. I didn’t think the rest of the charges Tony imposes here are so outrageous. Plus, Tony’s goal is to make Xander change his mind about moving back in or, failing that, get him to move out again fairly quickly.

By the way, I have zero issues with parents that charge the adult kids who live at home room and board to help defray costs. My parents did and my brother and I were more than happy to do it because, at the time, we couldn’t afford rent on a real apartment. The issue here is fairness, or degrees. It’s one thing to charge an adult child living at home room and board when they have a room in the house. It’s another thing entirely to hit them with a menu of charges when they clearly can’t even begin to afford it and then refuse to let them have the same level of comfort when they lived in the house for free.



The kid slowly picks up his duffle bag, slings it over his shoulder, and keeps his head bowed as he walks out of the kitchen. As the kid walks by Tony, he grabs the kid’s arm and the kid stops. He doesn’t look at Tony and instead resolutely stares at the floor while he waits.

“The free ride is over,” Tony says. “I paid for your ass for 18 years, now it’s time you pull your own weight. I’m through tossing money at you. Do you understand?”

The kid doesn’t look at him, but he gives a slight nod.

“Now, I think you owe me a thank you for letting you stay,” Tony points out. “We had a deal and I let you out of it.”

The kid looks at him like he can’t believe Tony just said what he did.

“Say thank you to your father,” Jessica prompts.

I put this in to show that Tony is not correct when he states that Jessica always “takes her precious baby’s side.” I wanted to show that Jessica clearly thinks Tony is out of line, but she’s not willing to really fight for her son beyond the basics.

I also wanted to lay down the groundwork for Jessica’s final break from Xander when she tells him in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t want him in her life anymore. I didn’t want that to completely come out of the blue, but at the same time I didn’t want Jessica to have as much of a adversarial relationship with her son as Tony does. It’s a difficult line to walk, mostly because you do need to have Jessica wavering all over the place between defending Xander from Tony’s more outrageous verbal jabs and actions and backing up Tony’s decisions even when they’re not in Xander’s best interests.

I think part of my problem with this part as Jessica wavers back and forth between helping Xander with his immediate needs and backing Tony’s final decision is that I’m still not sure if Jessica is concerned about Xander per se, or if she’s more worried about what the neighbors will think if they see Xander homeless and sleeping on the streets of Sunnydale. If her concern was the first item, she backed off a little too fast since she could’ve probably pushed for and won a permanent reprieve for Xander from Tony’s fees for a month or two. If her concern was the second item, she achieved her mission of presenting a good face to the neighbors and no further argument was really necessary. Either way, this doesn’t paint Jessica as mom of the year.



The kid closes his eyes and he bows his head like he just wants to cry. Tony didn’t think it was possible for the kid to look even more defeated than he already did. The kid breathes hard for a few seconds and Tony figures he’s thinking again about sticking around.

The kid finally mumbles, “Thank you.”

The repeated Tony-Xander dynamic rears its ugly head again and ends in the usual way with Xander submitting because he doesn’t think he has a choice. What makes this replay particularly sad is that Jessica is enabling Tony’s bullying. It’s the equivalent of holding Xander down so Tony can repeatedly kick him in the ribs.

 

Tony lets his hand drop and the kid walks past him with head still down. He immediately heads for the basement door instead of his old room. At least the kid knows better than to even ask, let alone assume, that Tony would let him slide for even one night.

This wasn’t exactly the outcome Tony wanted. What he wanted was for the kid to yank his arm out of his grip, tell him to fuck off, and leave never to be seen again. The only good thing about this situation that Tony can see is that there’ll be a little extra money coming into the house. Plus, there is no way the kid is going to stay for more than a few months before he gets sick of being dinged for every little thing, up to and including breathing the oxygen.

Tony’s pretty sure the situation will resolve itself given enough time. All he needs to do is kick back, come up with a few more outrageous fees, and wait.

Jessica is glaring at him and there’s smoke coming out of her ears. Tony knows he won’t be getting any sweet loving any time soon, thanks to the kid.

Fucking kid. Always has to ruin a good thing.

Love how Tony is blaming Xander for this when it’s really his asshole behavior, and the revelation that he and Xander made a secret deal for Xander to disappear after graduation, that’s really the source of Jessica’s irritation.


***

Over the next few months, Tony’s life falls to pieces. He thinks the kid might be responsible in some way, which on some level he knows is a stupid idea. He had his smooth run; now he’s in a bad patch.

Yet, the idea that the kid is his personal black cat sinks into his brain and doesn’t let go. He almost swears that the kid brings him bad luck. Whenever the kid’s around, Tony’s life goes into the toilet so the universe can take a shit on his head. It’s like a curse. He’s even got evidence. The three-plus months the kid was gone were the best months in Tony’s life since he graduated high school.

I deliberately waited until now for Tony to connect Xander’s immediate presence to his life falling apart. He really can’t be blamed here. Xander’s summer away was the first time that Xander had been absent and forgotten from his life. It just so happens to be the happiest months of his life since he got out of high school and married Jessica.



Rory shows up on the doorstep a few weeks after the kid does. Turns out he finally got out of jail from his DUI and discovered that he was broke and out of a place to live. He winds up in the kid’s old room because, hey, Rory. Can’t turn him away. The kid clearly resents the fact that Rory gets his old room and that Rory ain’t paying any rent. Fuck it. Rory’s a guest, so who gives a shit what the kid thinks.

I just thought it was interesting that prior to S4, Xander seemed to like his Uncle Rory, even while acknowledging that his uncle was a screw-up. It seemed to me that sometime during S4, Xander started viewing Rory as a bit of an alcoholic pest. By S6’s ‘Hell’s Bells,’ Xander tolerates him, but doesn’t seem to like Rory all that much or find his antics all that amusing. It just seemed like a nice fanon way to explain Xander’s shrinking regard for his uncle.


Much as Tony loves Rory, he feels crowded by the other man’s presence. Rory takes up too much space with his schemes and dreams and never-ending streams of bad jokes as he sprawls out on the couch, help wanted ads forgotten and tossed on the living room floor while he watches Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right or some talk show scream fest on the boob tube while he sucks from a bottle of schnapps. Tony does hint around that maybe Rory needs to get back on his feet really soon because the guy’s eating him out of house and home. Plus the sheer amount of alcohol flowing through his veins on a nightly basis while he keeps up with Rory has resulted in some very brutal days after. He’s not young anymore and it’s taking him longer and longer to recover from a good old-fashioned binge.

Jessica and he are constantly on the outs again.

His once-golden sales touch is faltering and he’s having a harder time making his nut.

Rory’s presence is really the source of Tony’s current problems, since Tony falls right back into old drinking habits when the guy’s around. But since Rory and Xander show up on his doorstep in close proximity to each other, he naturally blames Xander’s presence for his downward spiral instead of his own drinking as he keeps pace with Rory.

Again, I deliberately timed the reappearance of both Xander and Rory in Tony’s life, if only to hint to people reading that “Xander’s presence equals Tony’s life falling apart” really is just a red herring
.


Thank god the kid is paying his rent and all his fees. Given the way his life is going, Tony isn’t sure how he’d make the budget otherwise. If there was at all one good thing he could say about having the kid around, that would be the one good thing.

Ironic that Xander’s the only one who’s actually living up to his adult responsibilities, no?


And the only good thing, he might add.

The kid’s found himself a piece of ass. First time Tony saw her, he had to rub his eyes and take a closer look because this one was smoking hot. There was no way in hell something that looked like that would touch the kid with a ten-foot pole. Then she opened her mouth. Five minutes after she starts talking — which involved some long convoluted explanation on how her parents named her Anya — Tony figures out the real deal. The girl is a retard, which explains a whole hell of lot.

He tends to avoid Anya as much as possible when she comes over. There’s only one thing worse than her being retard and that’s the fact that the kid is taking advantage of a retard under his roof. Sometimes when he gets a before-bed beer to help him sleep, he can hear the kid screwing her to the mattress through the basement door.

Again, this is Tony dismissing Xander as not being “a real man.” In Tony’s world, there’s no way Xander could land a hot girlfriend, unless there was something seriously wrong with her. This despite the fact that Xander did date rich and beautiful Cordelia Chase in high school. Given Xander’s present low circumstances, Tony’s sort of right since Xander’s not in a good place to have a regular girlfriend. It’s only because of Xander’s and Anya’s unique circumstances that they hooked up at all.

He’s also not entirely wrong about Anya. Anya may be shrewd about some things, but on other things she’s definitely driving in the slow lane, especially during S4.



Yeah, well, the kid better just hope she doesn’t come up pregnant, because then the fun and games would be over. Then again, if she did turn up pregnant, chances were pretty good she wouldn’t peg the guy living in a basement with only a high school education and a series of minimum-wage jobs on his resume. Oh, no. Good bet she’d go out and screw someone with a real future and then blame the whole thing on that other guy.

Tony’s not projecting. Not at all.


He also suspects that she’s not the only person the kid’s screwing. There’s some skinny blond guy that follows the kid home on occasion who looks like he thinks he’s a bad ass. Tony can tell this blonde guy thinks so because he dresses head-to-toe in leather and walks around with a permanent sneer on his face. He doesn’t entirely like the way the guy looks at the kid when they enter through the backyard transom into the basement.

Turns out the kid’s bit of strange involves men. Terrific. The kid’s a fag and he’s bringing his fag friends here.

Jessica says he’s overreacting, and even if it was true, it’s probably just a phase. Besides, Anya is almost always over, so it seems to her that Tony’s overreacting. She renders these pronouncements in that drunken circular reasoning that she’s so good at when she’s had too much wine.

I love S4 S/X basement slash as much as the next girl, especially since the Buffy writers delighted in playing up the slashy subtext between Spike and Xander during this time period. I couldn’t resist playing a little bit with this piece of slash fanon. It was too delicious not to do it.

Seriously though, I meant it in good fun (especially since there are some damn good basement slash stories out there on the Net) and not as a criticism against slash writers. Frankly, there was a point in time when basement slash writers were the only people en masse bothering to write a sympathetic and decently characterized Xander. You could find it in some het and gen corners, but it required serious Googling and wading through a lot of Xander-bashing or poorly written/plotted/insane-o stories to find them.



Tony doesn’t think so. He doesn’t think Jessica’s worried enough.

For one thing, the kid’s screwing a retard, which means she probably wouldn’t notice any signs that the kid was getting some on the side, especially if it involved dick. A woman with a full deck would probably figure it out pretty quick. For another thing, the blonde guy has been around several times and not once has the kid taken him through the house. They always enter the basement by the entrance that would take them directly from the backyard. Plus, the blonde guy always stays not just overnight, but through the whole next day while the kid’s at work. The retard’s never around when the blonde guy is over, so right there that tells Tony something.

Really, all Tony sees are big red flags waving in his face, but Jessica would never believe her precious baby likes it up the ass.

Tony finally confronts the kid with it when he pays his weekly fees on Friday. Truthfully, he didn’t want to say anything, but he’s still nursing a hangover from the night before and three cans representing the hair of the dog that bit him isn’t doing a damn thing for his pounding headache. It doesn’t help his state of mind that he saw the blond guy leaving the house wearing one of the kid’s obnoxious shirts a few days ago, which can only be taken as a bad sign.

This takes place right after S4’s ‘Doomed’ when Spike attempts to stake himself while wearing Xander’s clothes and Xander enthusiastically cheers Spike on to give in and become dust buster fodder.


“This ain’t a whorehouse,” Tony remarks as he counts the money, “so I’d like you to stop treating it like one.”

The kid nervously licks his lips. “I’ll tell Anya not to come over so much.”

“Anya ain’t the problem. You can fuck her all you want for all I care,” Tony says. “Just make sure to keep the cock under wraps if you don’t want to get stuck with a brat. If she turns up pregnant, you’re out. I ain’t putting up with no screaming baby at my age. I had to do it once and it was more than enough, hear me?”

The kid blushes three shades of scarlet. “So I don’t understand the problem.”

“I want you to stop bringing your ‘men friends’ here. Bad enough that I know what you’re doing, but I don’t have to put up with you doing it under my roof.”

“Hunh?” The kid’s good. He’s got that whatchyootalkinabout look down cold.

“Your little leather buddy. Yeah. Don’t look so shocked. I’ve seen you sneaking him in through the back. I know he stays the night and sometimes hangs out down there the next day waiting for you to get home.”

“Spike? You think I’m…that I’m…with Spike?”

Spike. Jesus Christ. Between the leather, the pretty boy look, and the name, this Spike sounds like he probably has a pink triangle tattooed on his ass. Also, with a name like Spike, that pretty much tells Tony that the kid’s the one getting impaled like he’s the one with the pussy.

“Don’t even try to lie to me,” Tony tells the kid. “I got eyes. You want to play reindeer games with the boys you do it somewhere else, got me?”

“I’m not,” the kid shakes his head. “He’s a…well…he’s someone I know, that’s all. He’s down on his luck and, ummm, some friends of mine are trying to sort of, kind of, help and—”

“Don’t give me that,” Tony tells the kid. “You don’t have any friends.”

The kid clenches his jaw and looks down.

Tony’s noticed that Xander’s friends have drifted away. Throwing it in Xander’s face like this is a nice way to show Tony’s mean streak.


“You got that girlfriend of yours and that’s about it. Hell, even Willow ain’t been around and she used to be on you like lint, so don’t give me that bullshit,” Tony says. “I’m not interested in hearing your fake sob story that you’re trying to help out a ‘friend.’ I don’t want to see him around no more. You get your bit of cock somewhere else.”

The kid’s face is sunburn red by the time Tony’s done and when he answers, his voice is low and furious. “You won’t see him again.”

Hello Tony-Xander dynamic. Nice to see you again. Back so soon?

Even though Tony’s demands that Xander bar Spike from Chez Harris falls perfectly in line with what Xander probably wants, Xander out of reflex actually argues for Spike’s periodic stays in the basement. Part of it is because it’s the classic case of Xander playing his expected role in the Harris family unit, even though he’s actually on the same side as his father on the Spike matter. The other part is that Xander is humiliated during his conversation with his father regarding his real sexual activities with Anya and his perceived sexual activities with Spike. He can’t quite bring himself to do more than grudgingly agree to Tony’s demands.

Also, I checked episode guides to make sure that Spike doesn’t show up at the Harris household on-screen after ‘Doomed’ before I wrote Xander’s promise that Tony would never see Spike again. Surprisingly enough, this actually took awhile to check.



“Glad we understand each other,” Tony says. “And you owe me another hundred bucks.”

The kid’s head snaps up. “What? Why? I already paid you everything I owe.”

“Fees,” Tony says. “For all the times when your boyfriend stayed over. He was using electricity and water. Someone’s got to pay for that.”

The kid’s jaw juts out and for a moment Tony thinks that this is it. He’s finally pushed the kid over the line and he’s going to walk.

“I’ll pay you in two weeks,” the kid finally says.

“Next week,” Tony counters.

“But—” the kid begins.

“Not negotiable,” Tony states.

***

Jesus, the kid’s turned into a fat fuck.

Given the harpy he’s about to marry, it’s no wonder. Although Tony’s anti-harpy poison of choice is beer while the kid employs the see food diet.

Get it? Get it? See food, Tony mirthlessly thinks as he watches the kid shove something else in his mouth. Dear god in heaven, the kid hasn’t stopped chewing since he and Anya walked into the house. He’s frigging worse than Rory. He almost went broke keeping Rory fed before he finally moved out to some trailer park outside of Santa Barbara. Kid’s eating like he’s trying to break Rory’s year-long grocery bill in one sitting.

Ahhhh, leading up to the train wreck that is S6’s ‘Hell’s Bells.’


While Jessica coos over the bridal magazines, Tony can hear Anya skillfully angling for yet another donation from Chez Harris. Did he actually once think Anya was a retard? It’s hard for Tony to believe he did now that he’s experienced Anya’s expert picking of his pockets. Still, there’s no denying there’s something wrong with her, but that’s probably due to the fact that she’s descended from a long line of circus freaks.

Despite that, he still doesn’t get why Anya is so into the kid, especially given the way he’s bloated up over the past few months. She’s still a hot piece of ass and could probably land herself some good-looking rich guy, assuming she could keep her mouth shut long enough to march down the aisle and could talk the poor bastard out of making her sign a prenup.

The kid’s watching Anya with nervous eyes and Tony can see the kid wants to get married about as much as he wants to be slowly tortured to death. It’s no mystery why he’s going to march down the aisle anyway. One, the kid’s gotta know he’s one back injury from permanent workman’s comp, which means less dough to impress the ladies. Two, the kid also knows he’s not going to get a better deal than what he’s got, even if Anya could take over as chief harpy for the lower 48 states.

Assuming the kid manages to keep it together until the wedding day, Tony figures the marriage won’t even last five years. Anya will probably conclude pretty quickly that she got a bum deal and will leave as soon as she gets a better offer.

Tony can not only see that Xander doesn’t really want to get married, but that the marriage is going to be a disaster if it happens at this point in their lives. It’s also amusing to me that he’s not entirely convinced that they’ll even make it to the altar. Just another Tony-Xander parallel that they are fairly observant people, even if they don’t always use their powers for good.  


Tony downs his shot. The sooner they get this wedding business over with, the better. Although to be honest, he’s not sure how he’s going to take the whole “Grandpa Harris” thing that he just knows Anya’s going to enforce. Since she’s an orphan, Tony figures Anya’s going to be shaking him and Jessica down to “help the baby” every chance she gets. Doesn’t help that Tony just knows Jessica’ll be sneaking money and presents to the kid for his kid, no matter what Tony says about it. He can feel his blood pressure rise at the thought.

“What’s she talking you into paying for now?” Tony demands.

Jessica and Anya look up from the bridal magazines.

“She’s not,” the kid quickly says. “Right, Ahn?”

So begins Xander’s desperate attempts to control Anya’s mouth and actions around his parents in this story.

I’m not in the camp that calls Xander emotionally abusive for doing so, by the way, especially since Anya did ask him to help her adjust to being human. Also, it seems to me that Anya was not at all afraid to give Xander shit if she thought he was acting like an ass. I do agree that he sometimes went a little overboard.

The S6 notion among some Buffy fans that Xander was a controlling prick who was emotionally abusive to Anya struck me as coming from out of the blue. Their bickering in the high-stress atmosphere during S6 didn’t strike me as all that terrible. It seemed to me to be more a function of both Xander and Anya contorting themselves into roles that didn’t quite fit during the lead-up to the wedding. Contrast with S5 when Xander and Anya weren’t practicing emotional and mental yoga to force themselves into new mental shapes. When allowed to be themselves, their relationship may have been weird when viewed from the outside, but it was actually pretty good.  

I’m not saying that Xander’s and Anya’s relationship was peachy-keen in S6, because clearly it wasn’t. I’m just saying that the “blame” for the state of their relationship was shared very much equally by the two of them. As for the mess of the wedding itself, I definitely blame Anya more for that, although Xander should’ve said something about his doubts and emotional issues long before it got to that point.

Hunh. In many ways, both Xander and Anya were setting up to traipse down the path of marriage non-communication that Tony and Jessica had going in this story. No wonder why Xander thought he was seeing a real future when he got tortured by the visions on his wedding day.



“Well, actually, this bouquet is exactly the one I want,” Anya holds up the magazine picture so Tony and the kid can see it. “You know the one that looks like flowers are spilling out of it and—”

“Ahn,” the kid winces. “I thought we agreed—”

“But I really want this one. It’s perfect. It has white and red roses.” Anya gets a dreamy smile on her face. “It’s symbolic.”

“Symbolic,” Tony snorts.

“Tony,” Jessica intones. She turns to Anya and pats her on the hand. “Symbolic of what, dear?”

“Don’t ask, please don’t ask.” The kid looks panicked.

“Oh, you know, the wedding night,” Anya chirps.

The kid lets out a breath. “That answer could’ve been so much worse.”

I’m always amused when I stick Xander in the middle of the supernatural and the mundane like this. The poor guy gets so torn up covering for one side so the other side doesn’t freak out that he’s the one who comes across as the only weirdo in the room.



Anya is practically bouncing in place. “I can’t wait for the wedding. It’s just…just everything. I can’t wait to hear the music and wear my very expensive, but tastefully understated gown and open all the presents, but I especially can’t wait for the Hymen’s Greetings from all my old friends and former co-workers and my old boss. It’s good luck to get Hymen’s Greetings on the wedding day.”

The kid does a spit take with his soda.

“What’s a ‘Hi man’ greeting?” Tony asks. “I thought ‘Hi man’ was a greeting.”

Another one for the list titled: “Xander has way too many female friends.” The only person in this conversation who’s totally missing what everyone is actually talking about is Tony.


Anya says, “Well, it’s Hymen’s Greetings because—”

“Ahn!” the kid snaps.

The bride-to-be gives him a hurt look.

“Now’s not the time,” the kid says.

“But he asked,” Anya points out with a wounded air.

“Never you mind, dear. I think someone’s suffering the jitters.” Jessica hesitates a bit before adding, “Hymen’s Greetings? My that’s…unusual I guess. Is that a circus thing?”

Anya opens her mouth, but the kid interrupts her with a quick yes. This earns the kid another wounded look from bridezilla, the woman who ate Sunnydale. No, wait. Anya is obviously not eating Sunnydale. The kid on the other hand…

Suddenly, a penny drops in Tony’s slot. Of course. Makes sense given the fact the kid looks trapped as all hell. It also explains why Anya’s actually planning on marrying the useless lump.

“So, how long have you been preggers?” Tony asks.

“Tony!” Jessica snaps.

The kid’s eyes go as wide as saucers, as he turns to look at Anya.

Anya just looks confused.

“You know, knocked up. How far along are you, honey?” Even though he was horrified by the prospect of ‘Grandpa Harris’ just a few minutes before, Tony can’t help but start laughing at the thought of the kid trying to raise a kid.

Because it has to be said again: Tony’s not projecting. Not. At. All.
 

“Ahn?” the kid’s voice sounds strangled, which only makes Tony laugh harder.

“I’m not pregnant,” Anya says. “We’re not planning on having any pink children until I finish buying out my half of the Magic Box. My silent and absent partner, who is not coming to the wedding because he’s too busy, is being stubborn about signing the paperwork.”

The kid cringes.

“I would like to start a family right away, but someone thinks we need to be more financially settled and own a ranch home before we have pink children to carry on the Harris name.” Anya glares at the kid. “I don’t see the problem. We can always put a baby in the closet.”

Jessica looks horrified.

“We’re not putting a kid in the closet, Ahn,” the kid says.

“I don’t see why not.” Anya seems confused. “It’s a big closet, and you said yourself that it’s only called a closet because there are no windows. It’s a lot bigger than our bathroom, which if you ask me means that it’s not really a closet but a small room without windows.”

“There’s no ventilation in that room, so we can’t put a kid in there.” The kid says it with a weary air, like he’s had this discussion a few thousand times before.

“We could just open the door,” Anya says.

“Ahn, please, not now,” the kid pleads.

“Well, the fact is that someone doesn’t want children right now so we are not having children right now. Someone wants to have a ranch home first, so we’re going to wait until we have a ranch home first. But we can’t get the ranch home until I finish buying out my half of the Magic Box, which I can’t do because I can’t reach my partner on the phone,” Anya explains.

In the original version of this story, the above quote was the first time that Xander’s name is mentioned. It made sense to me that Anya would casually mention Xander’s name since she does actually love the guy and she is talking about their future family.

What’s interesting is that almost everyone who read this story completely forgot Anya’s earlier mention of Xander’s name and honestly thought Giles at the end of the story was the first (and only) person to do so. I even got feedback saying how much people liked this fact and how heart-breaking it was that Xander goes nameless for almost the entire story, with the sole exception of Giles’s brief appearance.

Needless to say I was pretty surprised, since I knew that wasn’t true.

For whatever reason, the idea that this was true seemed to emotionally resonate with people, so I thought I’d try it their way to see how it worked. I altered the quote so Anya says “someone,” meaning “Xander,” instead of Xander’s name.

Score one for the readers/feedbackers. They were 100% right.

It’s absolutely no wonder that they completely forgot Anya’s earlier mention of Xander’s name because the idea (and now the reality) that Xander’s name is never spoken until Giles says it  — especially given the circumstances under which he says it — really does deliver a better emotional punch. It comes across as a shock of cold water to see it on the page if somewhere in the middle of the story you’ve forgotten that Xander’s been stripped of his identity and dehumanized by Tony to such an extent that he’s only “the kid” and nothing more than that.

Also, changing Anya’s quote to say “someone” instead of “Xander” better illustrates Anya’s irritation at Xander for his stubborn insistence that certain conditions need to be met before they have a family. It fits in perfectly with her earlier refusal to say Giles’s name because she’s irritated that he won’t be attending the wedding and that he hasn’t finished signing the Magic Box over to her.

The other reason I wrote Anya’s rant about all the hoops Xander insists they jump through before they start a family was to try to illustrate that Xander’s more afraid of having children of his own than even getting married. With a wonderful example like Tony ahead of him, it’s no wonder.



“In a nutshell in case you missed it, no, Anya’s not pregnant,” the kid says.

“I better get pregnant soon, though,” Anya interjects, “because these ovaries are not getting any younger and all the magazines say that the older you get the harder it is to conceive.”

Tony grins as he pours himself another shot of Southern Comfort while he watches the kid pinch the bridge of his nose like he’s got a raging headache. Appears Anya always has to get in the last word. Oh, yeah. Not only is this marriage not going to last, it’s going to be pure hell on the kid while it does.

Payback’s a bitch, Tony thinks with satisfaction as he downs his shot. Don’t come crawling to me when it all falls apart, because the bank will be officially closed once this wedding is over.

Fuck it. Let Jessica have her fun. They’ve already paid for the bar, rent on the space, the minister, and the musicians. She might as well pay for the wedding bouquet. Anything to give the kid a taste of what he’s had to put up with for more than 21 fucking years.

I have a fetish for bringing up the Scoobs’ ages in whatever story I write, to the point where there are damned few stories where their ages don’t get mentioned. I think part of it is a meta reaction on my part is because people watching Buffy when it aired tended to forget just how young the characters were supposed to be. Not one of them could legally buy alcohol until S6, for heaven’s sake.

I always blamed “visual disconnect” for this phenomenon. Somewhere near the end of S4 and the beginning of S5, most of the actors started looking significantly older than the 19- to 20-year-olds they were supposed to be playing, so it wasn’t too hard to forget the Scoobs real ages. While I don’t think any of actors looked as old as their true ages even by the end of S7, I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet would’ve pegged these people as being as young as the fictional characters they played.




Continued in DVD Commentary: Cuckoo in the Nest, Part 3.

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