I'm warning everyone right now. I'm cranky and I'm sick. I feel like Nick Nolte looks. And that is not making me feel any more charitable to an episode that I disliked from the get-go.
We begin this episode in a rain-drenched New York circa 1977. Pan down onto Nikki and Spike brawling in a park. (This is not the same actress that played Nikki in Season Five. According to an interview I read, she auditioned for the expanded role but she was turned down because she's of a certain age now. Please. Like that makes a real difference. Check out Spike in those flashback scenes. He's clearly pushing forty. And forty is pushing back. Hard.) Spike is pleased at Nikki's prowess, and promises to "ride[her] hard" before putting her away. Nikki and her 'fro sass back, saying that Spike looks "wet and limp" to her. While they're tussling, a pair of eyes peeks out from behind the slats of a nearby bench. Spike gets Nikki in a chokehold and is about to do his business when a young Wood upsets a trashcan next to the bench. The noise breaks Spike's concentration, giving Nikki an opportunity to get her game back. She flings a stake at him, but he catches it neatly between his palms. He tells Nikki that he's "spent a long time trying to track [her] down" and he doesn't want "the dance to end so soon. This is just starting, isn't it?" He throws the stake to the ground and delivers a parting quip of "love the coat" before disappearing. "Momma?" breaks in little Robin Wood. She goes over to him and praises him for staying down and out of sight like he was told. Wood wants to go home, but he can't, because something has made home "not safe." She offers to take him to her Watcher's place and tempts him with all manner of "spooky doodads." Wood would rather stay with his mom but with a quick glance over her shoulder she tells him that she's "always gotta work the mission. You know I love you but I got a job to do. The mission is what matters." Pay attention -- you'll hear this repeated later. And it'll be just as wrong then. They walk off through the torrents of rain, but Robin breaks off to fetch his mum's stake. "Robin" calls Nikki.
Flash forward to the present day. Wood turns around, stake in hand. He's in the middle of an alley brawl with Buffy, Spike, and a couple of vamps. Spike dusts one and then is kicking back considering making a nice cuppa or something when Buffy notices that Wood is still struggling. She sets Spike off in his direction, and Spike dusts Wood's vamp just before the vamp gains the upper hand. See? Isn't Spike so nice now? The way he's eager to help someone in need, as long as it's Buffy or he's explicitly ordered to by Buffy? Ain't he something. Wood stares daggers at Spike, and after Spike walks off, we pan down to see that Wood is grasping his stake so tightly that he's injured himself and blood is flowing down the stake.
It's the next day at Sunnydale High. Wood peeks out from between the slats in the mini-blinds. Only three scenes into this episode, and Wood has already peeked out from between two different kinds of slats. Slat slut. Buffy enters his office and reports that everything is normal at school and "the swing choir and the marching band have gone back to their normal healthy seething resentment." Whoa! It looks like when SMG was beating Emma with the ugly stick it slipped and caught her on the rebound. Check out those bags under her eyes. Wood hopes that Buffy closed down the Seal for good but she's skeptical. Then, for no reason I can fathom, Wood creepily tells Buffy that she reminds him of his mother. Except for being a blonde, size-zero, self-absorbed twit. I hope that's not what he means. Buffy, deciding it best to ignore the Oedipal overtones, says, "Maybe you're right. Maybe everything is fine."