Episode 16: The Circle

In Sunnydale, Julie and the gang spend Christmas with Buffy and her friends. Tara and Willow are not much in evidence, having to recover from their spellcasting in San Francisco, but Xander and Marcus get along really well, and Giles is interested in the inside story about some of Juliet's adventures. Anya's insight is useful in explaining why Marty disliked the taste of Diligence's blood (she suggests that he's possessed by a demon which is slowly converting his mind into its plaything, and it isn't quite done yet).

Indeed, he'd like her opinion on a vampire recently arrived in town who may be one of the Archons. Each vampire clan sends a representative to the Inner Circle, a sort of vampire parliament, when the interests of the clans conflict. The Circle maintains a force of Archons, vampires raised from childhood to be the ultimate martial artists and secret agents, to enforce its will. One of them, Johannes Capricorn, was photographed by an ATM security camera two nights ago, and he's probably still in Sunnydale. The question is, why?

Buffy wants to show Julie the Bronze, so everyone goes there, although Alexandra thinks they should be out looking for the vampire instead. So naturally she's the one who spots Capricorn, who slips away, and she goes back and tells Julie and Walker, who follow him into the kitchen. The kitchen is closed by now, so no one is there to witness the epic clash that follows. Diligence gets punched in the nose, but spits blood into Capricorn's face, and its foul taste makes him reel and gag until the Slayers arrive. The battle ends with Capricorn fleeing out the back door. Julie and Walker pursue, joined moments later by Buffy. Capricorn introduces his friends, Juan Scorpio, Jean-Paul Saggitaire, Ivan Pisces, and John Taurus, who were waiting for them.

Buffy starts the ball by knocking Capricorn into a dumpster, but then they're all over our heroes. Scorpio throws a weird back-falling savate kick at Julie, blocks her counterpunch and kicks her in the head, sending her stunned to the pavement. Walker takes on several vampires and holds his own, although he's getting shredded. Capricorn and Pisces get dusted, and the rest of the vamps scatter, drawing the heroes after them in a series of one-on-one chases.

Juliet and Buffy get their men, but Walker's gets away. Still, four out of five isn't bad, especially as these vamps had nearly as large a repetoire of moves as the Slayers themselves. Diligence suggests that there are probably eight of them left, one for each sign of the Zodiac.

A letter arrives for Juliet, from Julian, the Prince of San Francisco. He says the Circle is meeting because they're worried about Juliet's destruction of the entire Assamite clan. Eliminating a vampire clan is difficult -- only vampires themselves have been able to do it in all of recorded history. So some believe this may be the fabled beginning of the Final Nights, in which the vampires will finally be destroyed, root and branch. The existence of two Slayers at once is powerful evidence for this millenialist thinking, and a lot of vampire elders are ancients or medievals, inclined to think in terms of signs and omens anyway. So the Circle is planning to turn all its power on Buffy, then Julie, picking them off one by one before they can destroy any more clans.

Julian doesn't want that. He's prepared for death, he says, after a lifetime of abominable crimes. As Julie suspected, he's got his soul back, and he wants to make amends by destroying his fellow vampires. So he tells her where the meeting is (an old factory outside Sunnydale) and urges Juliet to strike now and wipe out the Inner Circle at one blow.

The gang decides to carry a homemade bomb under the factory, through a storm drain, and blow it to kingdom come. One problem: a time spell around the factory makes it perpetually night there, so they can't just sneak up close at noon. But the drains run a long way, so if they can avoid the guards on the hill where the factory sits, they should be all right. Billy, scouting ahead, spots several vampires moving around on the hill, but he doesn't think they've seen him.

Walker, Buffy, Juliet and Billy carry a bomb made from propane tanks into the drains while everyone else waits in a truck nearby to whisk them away. As they encounter the edges of the time spell, they find themselves slowing down and have to push really hard to get through. All of a sudden, the resistance breaks, and years worth of dust and rust stains appear on the tunnel walls.

But they press on, and then they hear howling and screaming coming from the factory above. Billy dares a look, and sees Miles Callendar, of all people, waiting for him! Miles says he's spotted the wizard but he needs backup. Billy watches his moving lips, spots fangs, and yanks Miles down into the tunnel, where Juliet stakes him. Yep, he was a vampire, all right.

Now they all go up and see Deliverance Dole, the Puritan vampire, torturing a werewolf with the aid of scuttling ghouls who bite him, drink small bits of his blood, then drool it into a cup which Dole offers to the wolf. Finally, the werewolf can stand no more, and drinks, becoming a vampire, and as Dole releases his new comrade in darkness, it's clear that the werewolf is Walker.

Walker, who's right there with Juliet, is enraged, of course. He attacks vampire-Walker while Dole's ghouls keep Buffy busy and Dole himself duels Juliet with his sword. Outside, the guards stir, and start shooting at the truck with rifles. Alex, Tara and Willow manage to set the guards on fire with spells, and that calms things down, but more guards are coming, creeping low to the ground and using vampire tricks to hide themselves until they get close enough to fire. Juliet tries to kick Dole's feet from under him, but he jumps over her leg and brings his sword down in both hands; Juliet tries for the sword-catch between her palms, but the angle's wrong, and she fails!

Then suddenly, everyone is back in the tunnel and it's still the present. Somehow, their breaking through the time barrier sent them into a glimpse of the future, and a terrible future it was, too. They set the bomb and skedaddle, Juliet checking on Walker's health and sanity all the way, and escape to the bullet-pocked truck just as the factory is blown into the air, consuming the vampires within!

Juliet insists on checking the ruins, and finds a scorched Puritan hat, but no sign of vampire-Walker. There's plenty of vampire dust around, though -- looks like the Inner Circle is no more! And with that taken care of, the gang can return to Arkham, which they have left in the capable hands of Professor Armitage.