"He's not a ball of sunshine," Willow says of Olaf the troll - but this episode certainly is. A rare respite from the angst-laden storylines of season five, Jane Espenson's sassy script doesn't dodge the various relationship issues present, but manages to view them from a witty, skewed perspective.
Spike, for example, gets an emotional scene with the Slayer - but only the mannequin version. Buffy deals with her break-up with Riley by checking out the local convent, "I met a nun, and she let me try on her wimple."
The central relationship issue is that between Anya and Xander. No amount of bickering between the ex-vengeance demon and Willow about the price of spell ingredients disguises the fact that both girls are very protective of the gentle giant.
Interesting to note that Anya describes pre-troll Olaf as a big dumb guy. Maybe she goes for a specific type when it comes to boyfriends?
When ex-es go bad...
Now, a few people I know really don't like this episode. I'm sorry, but I think it's one of my favourites. Perhaps it seems awfully fluffy in comparison to the rest of the season, but Jane Espenson really is a guarantee of quality. She writes dialogue for the girls like no-one else.
Willow and Anya's gentle competitiveness had to blow up at some point. Anya's unintentional straight talk does cause friction, and it's nice to see it exploited by the writers. Tara really is becoming a part of the group now, too.
However, the top moment has to be when the Troll goes on a dustbin rampage, shouting my all-time top line:
Should Xander be more worried about Anya's taste in men? So far this year, we've had Dracula and now a troll.
It is lovely that Anya's identity as a character is being kept strong, rather than allowing her to gradually become a Cordelia photocopy. Any episode that allows Emma Caulfield to shine is a delight - and one written by Jane Espenson doubly so.
Like much of the season so far it's Buffy-by-numbers. Monster unleashed. Team chase after monster. Angsty subplot. Lots of kicking. Ooh look, Dawn! The end.
But at least it's written by Jane Espenson, so the interplay between the characters (which, admit it, is what makes the show great) is reliably entertaining. There are also some lovely little touches, such as the cash register, that more than make up for a slight hollowness at the show's heart.
Triangle is a daft little pot-boiler, aptly calculated to sweep away the gloom of the illness/break-up episodes before it. It fairly skips along, full of little gems like Spike's great line: "I could do that, but I’m paralysed with not caring very much", a nice traditional troll, "Bring me stronger ale! And some plump succulent babies!", and a very unexpected revelation about Anya, "You dated him?".
It’s fun, though almost too light and whimsical. It feels rather like a season one episode, but with a thinner plot. Still, it’s nice to see someone other than Buffy taking centre stage for once, even if the constant bickering between Anya and Willow was genuinely irritating.
Have to say, Sunnydale may have its drawbacks, but they do a damn good serving of pistachios down at the Bronze, if the portion Xander got was anything to go by.