"Hell’s Bells"
Written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner; directed by David Solomon

Buffy and Willow stare, horrified, at something we can’t see. We soon realize that they are looking at their bridesmaid dresses, which are green and have puffy sleeves. They discuss the uncivilized events of the previous night’s rehearsal dinner; apparently Xander’s human family is no more dignified than Anya’s demon friends. Anya enters, excited about how Buffy and Willow look and the fact that she’s getting married. At Xander’s apartment, he tries to get ready while dealing with family and demons. His parents arrive and Mr. Harris isn’t too thrilled about his future daughter-in-law’s guests. Outside, a man walks down a street in Sunnydale. (Yes, that’s important.)

Buffy helps Xander get ready and tells him she’s happy for him and Anya. Willow and Tara exchange flirty looks and help Anya get dressed while she practices her vows. Guests begin arriving at the Sunnydale Bison Lodge and Dawn plays hostess. She welcomes Halfrek (another bridesmaid) and D’Hoffryn, who has brought a live present. Spike arrives with a date, who doesn’t seem too friendly, while Clem tries to educate Xander’s family about the history of circus freaks. Dawn tells Buffy and Xander that Spike arrived with a “total skank” and Buffy is uncertain about this turn of events. As Xander is bombarded by family and guests, the man from earlier approaches him and says he needs to speak with him. (Told you he’d be important.) The man tells Xander he can’t get married, then announces that he is Xander.

The man explains that he’s Xander in the future and came to warn his younger self. He shows Xander a glowing orb and takes him aside while Buffy tries to keep the peace between the two clans. Xander is sucked into the glowing orb and finds himself in the future - he and Anya are married and have two kids. Buffy is dead and Xander and Anya are constantly fighting. Later in the future, the kids bicker and it’s pretty clear that the daughter is probably Clem’s. Even later in the future, Xander and Anya battle about their loveless marriage and he starts to hit her with a frying pan. He suddenly returns to the present and frantically asks the man if he hurts Anya. The man tells him that he can’t marry Anya, and that he will save her more pain than he will cause her.

Spike and Buffy run into each other and he admits that he’s trying to make her jealous. He decides that he and his date should leave, then tells Buffy that it’s nice to see her happy. Xander tries to make Willow think that everything is okay, but he’s uncertain about the wedding. Anya practices her vows again and is advised by Tara not to include the words “sex poodle.” Anya hears the music start and Buffy comes by to ask her if she’s ready, but is quickly pulled away by Willow. Xander has split.

Willow tells Buffy to stall the wedding while she goes out to look for Xander. Buffy tells Anya that the minister had to perform a C-section (“he's half-minister, half-doctor, he's a mini-tor”) and that the wedding will be delayed. As Xander walks through the streets of Sunnydale, Anya practices her vows a third time, this time hitting the sentimental mark. Buffy tells the minister about the delay as Anya complains to Tara. Buffy tries to occupy the audience; Clem is the only one who seems to be having a good time. Dawn flirts with a demon teenager as the wedding guests play charades. Anya heads for the main room, where Buffy is juggling, and overhears Dawn telling her new friend that Xander is missing. The wedding guests begin to battle each other and Willow has to save Tara from the fighting. Anya finds the old man, who indicates that he used to know her. He tells her Xander left because of her, then turns into a demon.

The demon reminds Anya that she exacted vengeance on him fifty years earlier and he has been plotting revenge ever since. He tells her that he scared Xander off by showing him false previews of their future together. He threatens to kill her just as Xander returns. Buffy fights the demon as Anya tells Xander that what he saw in the orb wasn’t real. Buffy kills the demon and the wedding guests applaud. They soon begin fighting again and Anya gets them all to stop. She tells Xander that it’s time for them to get married and he replies that he’s not ready. He’s afraid that they could end up with a horrible future and worries that they’re moving too fast. He sees the way his parents treat each other and fears that he and Anya will wind up like them. He doesn’t want to make a commitment because, if it’s the wrong decision, it will last forever. He tells her he doesn’t want to hurt her, apologizes, and leaves, both of them in tears. At home, Buffy, Willow, and Dawn discuss their sadness over the wedding that wasn’t and wonder where Xander is. Xander goes to a motel for the night, still in his tux. Elsewhere, D’Hoffryn says to Anya, “When you were a vengeance demon, you were powerful, at the top of your game. You crushed men like him. It's time you got back to what you do best…don't you think?”

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: Don’t get married, ever.

GRADE: B- Maybe it would have been more surprising if Xander hadn't been terrified from "All the Way" on.

MEMORABLE QUOTES - “What if I can't wear my cummerbund, and then the whole world can see the place where my pants meet my shirt? Buffy, that can NOT happen. I must wear das cummerbund!” - Xander

Mr. Harris: “Hey, what do you say we slip in the back room and I show you my--?”
Buffy: “You finish that sentence and I guarantee you won't have anything to show.”


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