Previously on Buffy: Willow killed Warren. Giles took her to England to recover, but then sent her home. She was scared to go and worried her friends wouldn't take her back. Anya went back to the vengeance trade. Spike got his soul back. Only thirty-five seconds. Thank goodness these are getting shorter.
We don't get a running girl at the beginning of this episode. Aw, I missed having a running girl to start me on my way. I'm all confused, because I thought Mutant Enemy was setting up a thing -- you know, an opening theme. A running motif, you might say if you liked bad puns (and I do!). I also like order. I like structure. Don't take that away from me, Joss!
Close-up on a clock that reads 9:24 (PM). Pan down into an airport setting and passengers disembarking from a plane. Two kids bicker as they exit the plane, and their dad reprimands them. As the passengers leave, they walk past Buffy, Dawn, and Xander (who's holding a large, hard-to-read sign.) Xander fretfully asks the others if Willow will "get" the sign, and Buffy snots that Willow won't be able to read it because it's so "pale." Turns out Xander wrote the sign (which reads "Welcome back, Willow") in yellow crayon. He explains that it was a "thing" from when he talked Evil Willow out of destroying the world last season. Dawn asks Xander to remind her again about what he said on the bluff, but she's just kidding, because the others have "heard the crayon speech a few times." "My mouth saved the world!" asserts Xander. That conjures up a few scary images. And hey, Mutant Enemy! Knock it off with the meta-quipping and quit gunning for my recapping gig. Dawn's all "yeah, whatever" because she's nervous about seeing Willow again; Buffy's not sure what to say to Willow and worries that the meeting will be strange. Xander says Giles wouldn't have let Willow "leave unless she completed that…whatever…recovery course," but Buffy makes a little face. Turns out Willow didn't finish the course. Dawn's pretty upset and grits out, "She didn't finish being not evil?" Buffy tries to assure them that Giles said it was necessary for Willow to come back and that they shouldn't worry about it. Xander notices that everyone has debarked the plane and the flight attendants are closing the doors. "Everyone's off the plane, so where's Willow?" he asks.
A new scene. Close-up on a clock which reads 9:24. Pan down into an airport setting and passengers disembarking from a plane. Two kids bicker as they exit the plane, and their dad reprimands them. This time, though, Willow is walking right behind him. She looks around the arrival area, obviously expecting that someone will meet her. She walks right past where we saw Buffy, Dawn, and Xander standing in their version of this scene. The flight attendants disembark. Willow looks around, unsure of what to do. "Welcome home, me," she says to herself.
We're at a dark construction site. The camera pulls in close on a boy who's defacing part of the site with an elaborate spray-paint tag. He doesn't notice something creeping closer from behind him. The creeper whispers, "All alone," and then makes a little gesture with its hand, clicking its scary-ass long nails together. Uch. Since I was little, I've have a visceral aversion to those long, curly nails featured in books like The Guinness Book of World Records, so I'm grimacing already. The creeper asks if the kid is frightened to be alone, and the kid turns around and asks, "Is somebody there?" The kid has a shag cut, and I entertain myself briefly with the idea that it's Connor, come to Sunnydale to lock everyone up in a box and deep-six them. But he's not Connor -- he's just our victim of the week. The kid tries to bravado that the creeper better "clear out," but he gets attacked and screams.