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I Can Explain - Spike in 'As You Were'

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As You Were is a complex episode, frequently described as a big mess, but I think with a little thought it is possible to make sense of that mess and make at least some sensible guesses as to what was going on. For me, as a Spike fan, the real question of interest is was Spike the Doctor and just how much did he know about the eggs. Is he an innocent dupe or a criminal mastermind?

Riley
I’ve been up for 48 hours straight tracking something bad, and now it’s come to Sunnydale.
Buffy
What is it?
Riley
Suvolte demon. Rare, lethal… nearly extinct, but not nearly enough.
Riley
We’ve been tear-assing through every jungle from Paraguay up, taking out nests. As soon as we put one Suvolte down, a dozen take its place. They’re breeders, Buffy. One turns into ten, ten becomes a hundred. This gets out of hand and there’s a war with humans? Humans are gonna lose.
Riley
Sam and I have been tracking a Suvolte demon through Central America. Killing machine. Nearly mature.
Sam
Yeah, three months old and growing fast.
Riley
These things start to kill the minute they’re hatched. And leave a real clear trail.
Sam
Yeah. Just follow the villages with nothing in them but body parts.
Sam
It came here to the Hellmouth to spawn, but we think it already hatched its eggs somewhere.
Riley
And the plan was to track it. Let the demon take us to its nest.
Sam
You could never train it, but drop it on an urban population…
Riley
And it cleanses the area.
Dawn
Is that a nice way of saying it kills people?
Sam
Lots of ’em.

As You Were

So we have a big and extremely violent Central American demon killing machine that breeds at a huge rate but for some reason is very rare and nearly extinct. They can’t be trained and nothing in the behaviour of the one we saw implied they have any significant intelligence. Since Buffy has never heard of them and even Spike – something of a demon expert – doesn’t know enough about them to keep the eggs frozen, it is reasonable to assume that they don’t come to the Sunnydale Hellmouth very often. This beastie is a South and Central American specialty.

This particular individual is three months old, female, and unless we assume it came to the Hellmouth, spawned, went back to South America and then decided to return to the Hellmouth again (implausible behaviour for a nesting mother), it must have spawned some time in the last 48 hours. Possibly as recently as during the time when Riley was stopping off to ring Rovello Drive and find out where Buffy worked.

Sam
We think they’re gonna be sold on the black market. There are some foreign military powers that would love to have their own Suvolte.
Sam
Money’s been exchanged. There’s a dealer in town, calls himself the Doctor. Willow, you think you can help with a little locating spell?

As You Were

So it seems there is already a scheme to obtain these eggs and sell them to a foreign military power. And whilst there is nothing to say the final deals to the foreign power have been done, at least some stages of the deal have been carried out and the Doctor is the local agent. The question is, was Spike the Doctor.

Now as has doubtless been pointed out many times, Spike does not have a phone or computer and seldom if ever leaves Sunnydale, nor does he have the financial resources one would normally associate with an international arms dealer, let alone the sunlight-withstanding constitution to attend meetings to broker deals all over the world. However, there is nothing in what Riley and Sam say to imply that the Doctor is working alone on this deal. He is simply described as the local dealer, not the sole operative in the whole thing, so the Doctor could well be just the local supplier or middle-man for other dealers. And Spike is known to have contacts in the local demon underworld, at least in the form of kitten-poker-playing demons and loan sharks, from whom he could easily receive word of any shady deals that he might wish to be involved in. And if The Sopranos is anything to go by, the underworld tends to use pay phones anyway. In other words, there is no simple reason of practicality or logistics to reject Spike as the Doctor.

Riley
Two teams. No civilians. I’ll, uh… I’ll go out and look for our Doctor. You two find that nest.
Buffy
Me and Sam together?
Riley
You come across a Suvolte nest, you’re gonna want backup.
Sam
You know, I don’t wanna be dragging down the Slayer. to Buffy You’ve got speed, and power I can’t even—
Buffy
Let’s go.
Riley
I’ll check out some bars. Willy’s, some, uh, crypts that I know.

As You Were

Now you could argue either way at this point that Riley suspects Spike. When Sam first mentions the Doctor, Riley looks sharply at Buffy, looking hard and angry. Is this because he suspects Spike and is checking for her reaction? I would say, from the fact he wants both Sam and Buffy out of the way, that he knows he is going to speak to some pretty unsavoury characters that he doesn’t want either his wife or Buffy seeing. If he knew he was just going to see just Spike then obviously he might not want Buffy along, but I doubt he would mind having Sam there. And indeed if he had his sights fixed on Spike from the start it would probably have been simpler to ditch Buffy entirely but take Sam with him to go and deal with Spike together.

So I think he suspected Spike but also suspected some others, and the reason Buffy got to Spike’s crypt first was because Riley did indeed check out Willy’s and possibly some other places. This would explain why he appears at Spike’s convinced that Spike is the Doctor – because some time between him leaving Buffy and arriving at the crypt one of his unsavoury informants told him that was who the Doctor was. In other words, some time in the last 48 hours, Spike has obtained the eggs, and enough people in the Sunnydale underworld have heard of the fact that word has spread.

Now, Spike has been in South America, and since we know that Suvoltes breed there as well as at the Sunnydale Hellmouth, it is possible that he has knowledge of their eggs and nesting habits – or at least he can fake enough knowledge to pose as a local expert. Spike is actually only known to have been in Brazil (Lover’s Walk), and some other non-specified South American country where Spanish is spoken (Fool for Love), not specifically Paraguay or Central America, and he obviously isn’t experienced enough to know to keep the eggs cold, but in Sunnydale terms he could well be the most experienced man on the spot.

If money has already been exchanged, then somebody down in South America knew that this Suvolte was about to spawn, and since international arms deals aren’t carried out in 48 hours it is logical that they already had a buyer in place. But we know that Suvoltes normally spawn in situ in South America, it is therefore unlikely anyone would have predicted this one would decide to head for Sunnydale first. Since Suvoltes appear to have low intelligence it is unlikely the Suvolte was implicit in the deal in any way, or that it would reveal its intention to spawn away from South America, or that it be asked or coerced into doing so for some reason. It is even more unlikely that the dealer who made the actual deal would chance to have an established agent in Sunnydale – Sunnydale is after all not known for being a hotbed of international demonic arms deals. In other words, given the narrow time frame it is utterly improbable that Spike was in any way involved in the deal prior to the Suvolte leaving for Sunnydale. To believe that he was the sole organizer of the whole thing is to believe in a most ridiculous coincidence – that Spike had somehow organized an international arms deal and money had exchanged hands on the off chance that a Suvolte would against all established habit chose to leave South or Central America to spawn in Sunnydale.

So what I think must have happened is that down in South America an unknown arms dealer promised a batch of Suvolte eggs to a foreign government and money was exchanged. They then kept an eye out for a Suvolte about to spawn. As did Riley and his gang, who were hunting all Suvoltes indiscriminately. But to everyone’s shock the Suvolte – probably goaded by all this unwanted attention – decides to take off for calmer spawning grounds. The arms’ dealer works out where it is going (the simplest explanation being that they always spawn at hellmouths and the next nearest one is Sunnydale) and makes a quick phone call to a contact he has in the underworld there – the Doctor – saying find someone who can get me those eggs and hold them until I can arrange collection for the foreign government that’s paid for them. Riley’s lot intercept this phone call and thus know that the eggs have been paid for by a foreign government and that a local dealer called the Doctor is involved. Riley suspects but is not sure that Spike might be the Doctor. This scenario fits with everything we have heard Riley and Sam say.

Now the only question is, is Spike in fact the Doctor, or did the real Doctor simply ask him to obtain and/or hold the eggs for him.

I think it very unlikely that the Doctor could not have found storage space for the eggs so he would need to ask Spike rather than just hiring a lock-up or something, hence I think we can discount the possibility that Spike really was just holding them for a friend and knew nothing more than that. Why would the real Doctor take the risk of involving Spike? Spike must have been more actively involved than that and considering his record and talents I reckon he was probably the guy who actually obtained the eggs from the nest. Spike certainly has experience of stealing eggs from nasty beasties (Forever). Whether he was himself the Doctor, with direct contact with the South American arms dealer, or whether he was sub-contracting for the real Doctor is harder to parse out.

We do know Spike has been in South America, it is not inconceivable he would be known by a demonic arms dealer, but there are two problems with him actually being the Doctor.

Firstly there is the name itself. Spike’s whole attitude to the name is surprising. He seems not to recognise or care about it when Buffy mentions it, then he is at first amused and finally increasingly angry when Riley calls him it. This all seems very odd if he has been calling himself the Doctor in his dealings. But it seems so unlikely that Spike would call himself the Doctor, which is when all is said and done a pretty lame name and lacks any sort of Spike-like ring, never mind being oddly reminiscent of the demon who defeated him to great cost in The Gift. He also seems bemused and angry when Riley calls him the Doctor, as if the bad associations of the name do indeed very much matter to him. Why would he chose that name of all names for himself?

Secondly and more importantly, if Spike was the Doctor and acting for himself, it is unclear how word got out in the Sunnydale underworld such that Riley could obtain the info. Spike might have bragged, but I doubt it. If he was sufficiently conscious of security to use a false name, why then be stupid enough to brag about it in the local bars?

So I think the best explanation is that the Doctor was a third party who, knowing that Spike had knowledge of South American demons and was adept at stealing eggs, sub-contracted him to obtain the eggs in question, and in the less than 48 hours available hadn’t yet arranged collection.

Given which, we can examine the scenes in Spike’s crypt in a new light.

Cut to Spike’s crypt. Spike sits on top of a coffin reading a book. Sound of the door slamming open. Buffy strides in.
Spike
Buffy. Hey now. If I’d ’a known you were coming, I’d ’a baked a cake.
Buffy
I need information.
Spike
Well, suppose I could be helpful. If the price is right. I’m not sure I’m selling out at Double Meat Palace wages, though.
Buffy
I need to find a guy. Dealer. Calls himself The Doctor.
Spike
Human?
Buffy
His traffic isn’t.
Spike
Clock ticking?
Buffy
Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it soon.
Spike
looking her up and down Soon but not now?

As You Were

It is interesting to note how Spike is sitting when she arrives – he is perched on the edge of the tombstone, reading, rather than slumped in his comfy chair. He actually looks as if he is waiting for someone. And he doesn’t look at all surprised when someone comes in, but he does sound a note of surprise that it is Buffy. So the obvious conclusion is that he is indeed waiting for someone and that someone is the Doctor, who he is expecting to arrive any minute to collect the eggs. Or if Spike is himself the Doctor then he is expecting the person who is to collect the eggs and transport them to the buyer.

On first arrival Buffy tells Spike she is looking for a dealer called the Doctor, and Spike immediately asks if the Doctor is human. This is an odd question to ask if Spike knows nothing about the Doctor – why does he assume human, not vampire or demon, both of which would be more natural assumptions given that Buffy has come to him? So it perhaps suggests that the real Doctor is indeed human. Maybe Spike really hasn’t heard the Doctor’s pseudonym before so he is quickly checking if she is indeed after the man he is expecting. This would explain his rather odd and constantly evolving reactions to the actual name, even though he must clearly know quite a lot about the man himself. Spike doesn’t ask what the traffic is, he asks if the clock is ticking – a second check as to how much Buffy knows.

So Spike must now know that Buffy is after the man who is selling the eggs, and he is expecting that at any minute someone will arrive who will reveal to Buffy just what he has been involved in. Why does he not immediately try to get her away from the crypt? It would be easy to spin her some lie about a possible place where they could look for the Doctor and lead her off on a wild goose chase. The eggs would after all be safe on their own as far as he’s concerned, since he doesn’t know they should have been kept frozen. Instead, he immediately starts tempting Buffy to stay. If he is the Doctor his mind should be racing to think up ways to get Buffy out of the crypt and the eggs removed on the quiet, the last thing he should be caring about is sex. If he is an innocent dupe he should be angling to find out more about this dangerous demonic traffic that his friend has lumbered him with. He does neither. The only sensible conclusion is that Spike is indeed not the Doctor, but merely subcontracting for the Doctor, and in those few moments he has decided to sell the Doctor out to Buffy.

At which point it is worth stopping to consider motive. Spike does not normally seem to value money highly beyond what he needs for blood, beer and smokes, he is no Angel living in luxurious apartments filled with fine furniture and art and cavorting with the local celebrities. So why should he bother himself with dodgy demonic arms’ deals?

It could be that the real Doctor really was a friend, although Spike has never shown much sign of having friends in the demonic underworld other than Clem. (Clem as the Doctor, now there’s a thought… Nah, nobody could do serious deals with those ears.) I also get the impression that Spike doesn’t know the Doctor well, certainly not well enough to know his pseudonym.

Or it could be that he did it for money because he wanted to be able to support Buffy. He had claimed a few weeks earlier that he could get money (Double Meat Palace). However, he doesn’t ever mention this to Buffy as an excuse, and it seems likely he would at some stage if it had occurred to him.

So personally I tend to go for the theory that he was doing it for fun, for the hell of being involved in a little petty crime, for the rush of snatching eggs from a dangerous big ugly, and the cash was a useful bonus. And the second he realised Buffy wanted the Doctor he was perfectly happy to switch sides and offer the Doctor up to Buffy for whatever credit it would gain him. Indeed, it is even worth wondering if, when Riley burst in upon them, Spike didn’t think that Riley was the man come to collect the eggs. A human, one who knows about the demon world, disgraced from the military (the last Spike knew of him) but still presumably with contacts, known to have dabbled on the dark side of things – it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility. Is that another reason why Spike is quite so pleased with himself that Riley has walked in on them? It would be deliciously ironic.

But whatever the fine details, overall I conclude that Spike was not an international arms dealer, nor was he a whiter than white innocent dupe. I think he was knowingly involved in stealing and selling eggs on the demonic black market as an active and known member of the Sunnydale underworld, but he probably wasn’t the actual Doctor.


Thanks to Rahirah, Shapinglight and Malkingrey for suggestions and discussion that helped in the writing of this essay.