"Choices" is the nineteenth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the fifty-third episode in the series. Written by David Fury and directed by James A. Contner, it was originally broadcast on May 4, 1999, on The WB network.
THERE'S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT — Since Faith's turn to the dark side seems to have put the proverbial kibosh on Buffy's chances of ever getting out of Sunnydale to go away to college, Buffy decides to launch an offensive and shut down the Mayor's plans for "Ascension." Meanwhile, plans for the future are the order of the day, as Willow tries to choose among a bevy of college acceptances, Xander prepares to hit the road on a Kerouac-inspired adventure and Buffy and Angel refuse to face the insurmountable obstacles to a successful life together.
Mayor Wilkins gives Faith a knife for a gift in exchange for an errand he asks her to handle for him. Buffy and Angel are fighting off vampires at a cemetery. They then discuss their relationship and how it seems to be going nowhere. Joyce finds out that Buffy was accepted to Northwestern University, but Buffy is reluctant to make any plans for leaving because of what she'd be leaving behind. Joyce doesn't seem to be hearing a word of it and goes to call family members in Illinois.
At school, Principal Snyder is on a drug search (even searching a student's lunch in the process). Buffy and friends discuss their college futures and Buffy mentions that she did get accepted to the University of California, Sunnydale so she doesn't have to leave town in order to go to college. Willow on the other hand has been accepted to every school in the country and some out of, including Oxford. Xander has plans to travel around and find out what his future may be since college isn't posing as much of an option.
Cordelia arrives for long enough to insult everyone based on their college futures. Buffy tells Wesley and Giles that she wants out of Sunnydale. The two remind her that its not as simple as just wanting to leave as the Slayer is needed in Sunnydale, but Buffy refuses to be defined by her role. Buffy then decides that, instead of having everyone sitting around waiting for graduation day, they should take the offensive against the Mayor and bring the fight to him. Giles agrees, and they decide that the first order to business should be to find out what the Mayor is up to at the moment.
Later that night, one of Mayor Wilkins's vampire lackeys arrives to meet the box at the Sunnydale Airport, however the courier refuses to hand it over as the Mayor isn't present as agreed. Before he can get too much further, Faith kills the courier with her longbow and takes off his hand to separate him from the box. Buffy watches from the bushes as Faith arrives in a limo and brings the box to the Mayor. After the coast is clear, Buffy attacks the vampire and forces information about the box out of him before staking him.
When Buffy returns to the library, with information about the Box of Gavrok, Giles and Willow bring maps of the City Hall so that they can plan to infiltrate the building in order to take the box from the Mayor. The box, which is being kept in a top floor conference room is protected by magic — which they plan to have Willow handle so they get to the box. Xander is sent off in search of supplies for the Breath of the Entropics, a ritual that will destroy the box. Wesley is annoyed that no one will listen to him, and feels that they are rushing this too much.
On his shopping trip, Xander spies Cordelia in the April Fool clothing shop looking at a prom dress. She puts it back on the rack just as Xander comes into the store. He stops in long enough to say that Cordelia is obviously bitter because she's jealous of Willow since she actually got accepted to college and Cordelia must not have. However, she shocks him with her acceptance letters to several very important colleges. That night, Wesley and Giles drop off Buffy, Willow, and Angel at City Hall. Back at the library, Xander and Oz follow Willow's carefully detailed with diagrams, instructions to prepare the ritual to destroy the box. Oz says that Willow did a good job with their pictures. Xander points out that they're all kind of stick-figurey so how can he tell which one is Oz and which is Xander. Oz points out the guitar on the figures.
After Willow performs the spell to disable the magic security spell on the box, Buffy tells he to leave and gets ready to go down and steal it. Angel lowers her through the skylight with a pulley to take the box. However, the moment she picks it up, a regular security alarm goes off. The pulley jams and Buffy is left hanging as two vampires enter. Unable to get Buffy free, Angel leaps into the fray and the two fight the vampires. After tearing up the conference room, they escape and hide in the bushes while Giles and Wesley cause a diversion.
Mayor Wilkins is extremely angry that they got away with his box, but he suddenly becomes very happy when he finds that Faith has captured Willow. The gang don't find out about Willow's capture until they get back to the library (as each group thought she was with the other) and they're all very upset, especially Oz who sits in silence. Buffy decides that they will trade the box for Willow. Wesley forbids exchanging it and tells Buffy that she was right to take the offensive against the Mayor, and that by giving up the box they are sentencing all of Sunnydale to death.
Everyone fights against Wesley over the issue until Oz ends the argument by angrily smashing the pot needed for the ritual. With that, the matter is settled; they'll trade the box for Willow. Buffy tells Giles to make the call.
Willow tries to escape from the room she's locked in, but only succeeds in attracting the attention of a vampire guard. He tries to taste a bit of her blood, but she levitates a pencil and stakes him before he can take a bite. Willow sneaks out of her room and finds the Mayor's office. Inside, she finds the Books of Ascension, which she manages to skim through several volumes until Faith discovers her. Faith tells her that she's seen too much and now has to die. In the ensuing confrontation, Willow launches a tirade against Faith, informing her that, despite her rough life, she had a lot working with the Scoobies, and now that she is working for the Mayor, she is now alone, friendless, and a "big, selfish, worthless waste."
Having been expecting a speech on how it was not too late for her to turn back, Faith is briefly taken aback, but quickly overcomes it and punches Willow. Willow tells her that she's not afraid of her and Faith pulls out her knife holding it to Willow's throat. Before she can truly hurt Willow though, Mayor Wilkins enters and informs them that the Scoobies have negotiated a deal; Willow for the box.
The meeting takes place in the cafeteria where the Scooby Gang meet the Mayor and his crew armed with weapons. The Mayor enjoying finally meeting Buffy in person, but Buffy isn't interested in pleasantries and demands Willow be let go. He tells her that she's not getting Willow until the box is in his hands.
Before the exchange, the Mayor gives a speech to Angel about how he and Buffy shouldn't be together anymore because they don't have any kind of real future. He says that he married his wife in 1903 and was with her to the end. She ended up old, senile and cursing his youth. He tells Angel and Buffy that the same thing will happen to them, as Buffy will continue to age while Angel stays the same. He also points out that they also have to deal with the fact that there is a constant danger of him losing his soul if he feels a moment of happiness. The Mayor tells them he's done and to make the trade already. It goes off smoothly until Principal Snyder shows up with security guards before anyone can leave. Buffy tells him to leave but he just snarks back that she can't tell him what to do. He takes the box from Faith and tells them that he knows he'll find drugs in it.
The Mayor then reveals himself to Snyder who quickly apologizes for the interruption, but before he can leave one of the guards opens the box and a large beetle-like creature crawls out and kills him. Another beetle climbs out of the still propped open box and goes after the Mayor. Faith pulls it off and, to Snyder's shock and fear, the Mayor's face instantly heals. Buffy slams the box shut, cutting off the legs of another beetle that is about to climb out. While she is kneeling there the first beetle jumps on Buffy's back and she falls backwards, smushing it. The second one is seen climbing up the wall behind Wesley and Faith throws her gifted knife at it, scaring Wesley because he thinks she's aiming at him.
The Mayor tells everyone that the box contains "about fifty-billion of these happy little critters" and threatens to open it again if Buffy gives him any trouble. He then leaves, box in hand with Faith following behind, staring at the knife before reluctantly leaving it behind. Snyder, shocked is standing with a chair, holding it like a shield and Buffy asks: "Snyder, you alive in there?"; Snyder furiously asks the gang why they all couldn't be dealing drugs like normal people. Buffy goes and pulls the knife out of the wall.
At the library, Willow is busy telling Buffy about her confrontation with Faith when Giles interrupts and says that's all fascinating, but he wants to know what she remembers from the Books of Ascension. Willow tells him she doesn't remember much of it because it was very convoluted, but she did see a few pages which looked important. When Giles asks her about them she then produces the pages folded up, having torn them from the books. Giles gratefully, and giddily, takes them off to research, while Wesley reminds Buffy that the Scooby Gang are now back exactly where they started, with no way to stop the Ascension.
At school the next day, Buffy has accepted that she can't leave Sunnydale understanding that even if Mayor Wilkins is stopped there's always going to be another evil around the corner. Willow reveals that despite being accepted by every college in the country and some in Europe, she's decided to attend UC Sunnydale. Buffy tells Willow she doesn't have to make that kind of sacrifice, but Willow insists that it isn't; she realized when she was being held captive that she wanted to continue fighting against evil and if she's going to continue learning Wicca, there's no better place to be. Buffy is touched deeply by her friend's gesture.
Cordelia, meanwhile, is posing in front of a mirror with the same prom dress she put back on the rack previously. The scene is upended, however, when her manager approaches and tells her to get back to work, revealing that Cordelia is not shopping; in spite of Xander's jibes about her father's money, she has been forced to take a menial retail job.
That night, Buffy and Angel talk about what the Mayor said about their relationship. They both insist that he doesn't know what he's talking about and they will be okay, but both can't help but feel the effect of his words.
- Xander tells the Scoobies of his plans of traveling after graduation, as he'll tell Buffy about its failure in "The Freshman."
- After the accident in "Bad Girls," Faith kills a human for a second time, killing for Wilkins once more in "Graduation Day, Part One."
- Willow levitates a pencil and uses it to stake a vampire, similar to how she impaled a tree in "Doppelgängland."
- This episode marks the first time that Buffy and Wilkins actually meet, even though they were in the same room at the City Hall press conference in "Gingerbread" and crossed paths in the sewers in "Band Candy."
- Wilkins asks Angel what sort of future he can give Buffy, planting the seeds for Angel breaking up with her in the next episode "The Prom."
- This episode reveals Cordy's financial woes for the first time. She will confess her situation to Xander in "The Prom."
- The security guard killed by the spiders is the tenth member of the Sunnydale High staff to die in the series, after the teacher Stephen Gregory, substitute teacher She-Mantis ("Teacher's Pet"), Principal Flutie ("The Pack"), teacher Jennifer Calendar ("Passion"), teacher Ellen Frank, teacher Grace Newman ("I Only Have Eyes for You"), nurse Ruth Greenliegh, coach Carl Marin ("Go Fish"), and counselor Stephen Platt ("Beauty and the Beasts").
- Arlene (Only mentioned)
- Mr. Chase (Only mentioned)
- Cordelia Chase
- Rupert Giles
- Alexander Harris
- Faith Lehane
- Daniel Osbourne
- Willow Rosenberg
- Rusty (Only mentioned)
- Buffy Summers
- Hank Summers (Only mentioned)
- Joyce Summers
- Edna May Wilkins (Only mentioned)
- Richard Wilkins
- Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
- Unidentified courier
- Unidentified vampire guard
- Unidentified vampire lackey (Choices)
Organizations and titles
- Illinois, USA
- Oxford, England (Only mentioned)
- Oxnard, USA (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale, USA
- Maple Court
- Revello Drive
- Sunnydale Airport
- Sunnydale beach (Only mentioned)
- Sunnydale City Hall
- Sunnydale High School
- University of California, Sunnydale (Only mentioned)
- Books of Ascension
- Box of Gavrok
- Faith Lehane's knife
- Mystery of Acathla
- Mister Pointy (Only mentioned)
Rituals and spells
- Ascension (Only mentioned)
- Breath of the Entropics
- Dissolution spell
- Ritual of Restoration (Only mentioned)
- A vampire, staked by Angel.
- A vampire, staked by Buffy.
- A courier, shot with an arrow by Faith.
- A vampire, dusted by Buffy.
- A vampire guard, staked with a pencil by Willow.
- A security guard, killed by a Gavrock spider.
- A Gavrock spider, killed by Buffy.
- A Gavrock spider, killed by Faith.
Behind the scenes
- "Choices" had an audience of 3.6 million households upon its original airing.
Pop culture references
- Xander is reading the famous novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
- Xander mentions the bohemians.
- Cordelia mentions the brand of skin care and acne medication Clearasil.
- Discussing colleges, the Scoobies list Northwestern University, University of Oxford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, Colorado State University, Duke University, and Columbia University.
- After Faith shoots the courier, she puts the longbow down before jumping down to meet the vampire. But in the next shot, she's holding the longbow again.
- When Buffy, Willow and Angel are at the City Hall rooftop, you can clearly see that the background landscape of Sunnydale is actually the wall of the studio.
- After the Gavrok spider jumps onto Buffy's back and she smashes it, the camera switches to Xander, and he's laughing at first but covers it up.
- Armenian: "Որոշումներ" (Decisions)
- Czech: "Volby" (Choices)
- Finnish: "Valintoja" (Choices)
- French: "La boite de Gavrock" (The Box of Gavrok)
- German: "Die Box von Gavrock" (The Box of Gavrok)
- Hungarian: "Választások" (Choices)
- Italian: "Scelte" (Choices)
- Japanese: "選択" (Choice)
- Polish: "Na rozstaju" (At the Crossroads)
- Portuguese (Brazil): "Opções" (Options)
- Romanian: "Alegeri" (Choices)
- Russian: "Решения" (Solutions)
- Spanish (Latin America): "Opciones" (Options)
- Spanish (Spain): "Decisiones" (Decisions)
- The book The Willow Files, Volume 2 includes a novelization of this episode.
- The City Hall floor plans of featured in this episode are included as replicas in the reference book The Making of a Slayer.
- Wilkins with the Box of Gavrok is included as an illustration for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Adult Coloring Book.
- This episode's original score is featured in the album Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soundtrack Collection.
Behind the scenes
|Buffy: "So this is our future? This is how we're going to spend our nights when I'm fifty and you're... the same age you are now?"|
|Angel: (A vampire growls behind them.) "Let's just get you to fifty."|
|Buffy: "Liking that plan."|
|Buffy: "Well, I don't think I can talk any slower, Wes. I want to leave."|
|Wesley: "What? Now?"|
|Buffy: "No, not now. After I graduate, you know, college?"|
|Wesley: "But you're a Slayer."|
|Buffy: "Yeah. I'm also a person. You can't just define me by my slayer-ness. That's... something-ism."|
|Faith: "Give me the speech again, please. "Faith, we're still your friends. We can help you. It's not too late."|
|Willow: "It's way too late. You know, it didn't have to be this way. But you made your choice. I know you had a tough life. I know that some people think you had a lot of bad breaks. Well, boo hoo! Poor you! You know, you had a lot more in your life than some people. I mean, you had friends in your life like Buffy. Now you have no one. You were a Slayer and now you're nothing. You're just a big, selfish, worthless waste."|
|Faith: (Knocks Willow to the ground) "You hurt me, I hurt you. I'm just a little more efficient."|
|Willow: "Aw, and here I just thought you didn't have a comeback."|
|Snyder: "You... All of you. Why couldn't you be dealing drugs like normal people?"|
|Willow: "Actually this isn't about you, although I'm fond don't get me wrong of you. The other night, you know being captured and all, facing off with Faith, things just kind of got clear. I mean you've been fighting evil here for three years, and I've helped some, and now we're supposed to decide what we want to do with our lives and I just realized that's what I wanna do. Fight evil, help people. I mean, I think it's worth doing and I don't think you do it because you have to. It's a good fight, Buffy, and I want in!"|
|Buffy: "I kind of love you."|
|Willow: "And besides, I have a shot at being a badass Wicca, what better place to learn?"|