Fool for Love (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 7)


I had forgotten about this episode as a full piece, until I rewatched it last night. I had remembered Spike’s backstory, of course, and the amazing beauty make-up done for Drusilla and Darla. And who can forget the kick-ass Slayer Nikki from the 1970s?

What I had forgotten was the framing of the story: Buffy staked by her own weapon, Riley’s slow movement towards the shadow sides of his character, and Spike’s vulnerable side. Although Doug Petrie, in the commentary, says the episode is about people telling one another things they need to hear but don’t want to hear (and therefore reacting badly to those statements), it is also about how a person’s character does not really change, even if the externals accumulate into creating a new persona. Spike remained the broken-hearted romantic; Riley still has the character of someone who needs to get the mission accomplished. While Spike’s changes are obvious, what changes in Riley’s case is the means and willingness to work with other people. I would argue though, that he remains true to his character — the classic ‘tragic flaw’ placed in a 21st century context.

What can be diagnosed in this episode?  I had thought about treating Buffy for her abdominal injury (SP luo treats ‘lancinating pain in the intestines’), or her inability to defend herself (BL luo treats that, although this is phrased as ‘sniveling’ in the Jia Yi Jing), or even Spike’s obsession with Buffy (again SP luo could come into play). Certainly, the death-wish that all Slayer’s have would be something to pre-empt (perhaps with the Great Luo of the SP), but I already addressed that in an earlier episode. Riley, however, provides a more interesting case.

Looking at Riley, nothing particularly physiological is going on. His adrenal overload is gone. He’s recovered well from Season 4’s events. But something is happening to him internally. His usual optimism is being blocked somehow, and unable to keep up with Buffy, he’s beginning to slip. A certain sadness at not being heroic (which is different from being the hero), a frustration at no longer having a well-oiled team to be part of, a disappointment from the lopsided relationship with Buffy (because he thinks Buffy is the one for him — and he knows he’s not the one for her) all conspire to move his personality to extreme behaviours, slowly but surely.

In a sense, we could argue that the po-corporeal souls are gaining dominance over the hun-ethereal souls, or more physiologically, his blood has begun to flow erratically upon itself, ying and wei qi mixing improperly.  The po-spirits are the ‘bone souls’ which seek to drag humans into their mortality. They are the souls which become dominant in cases of addiction and reckless behaviour, when the severe qi of the Lungs ceases to govern justly and evenly. They number seven, originally, and are lost after each cycle of seven (for women) or eight (for men) years, travelling down the spine to exit through the anus.  If something severe happened to a person during that cycle, or if the po-soul has something to hold onto, it will displace a portion of the vertebral column as it leaves.   The hun, as mentioned before, are more the personality-like souls, the souls often honoured at the ancestral altar, surviving for three generations before fading away or re-entering the family lineage.

We can therefore choose to look at Riley’s case either from a spirit-physiological perspective and figure out a way to harmonise the hun and po, or we can look at it from a psychological point of view.  In the latter case, we can give a simple diagnosis:  Riley is vexed.  He doesn’t know what to do, but he cannot break character.  Vexation and oppression is the sign of counterflow in the Kidney network vessels (foot shao yin luo).  Counterflow movement thus supports the above statement that the blood has begun to flow back upon itself.  Interestingly, of all the luo-channels, the only one to enter the bones is the Kidney luo.  The SI goes to ‘shoulder bone’ — some would read this as LI-15 — but the Kidney luo actually enters the lumbar spine.  Treating the Kidney luo by re-establishign its proper flow thus could have an effect over the po-souls which exit through the spine.  One could theorise that counterflow in the KD luo allows the po-souls greater freedom and draws them into the blood, where they reside as parasites or the three worms, but that would be a theoretical stretch which need not be explored in depth here.

The acupuncture treatment for Riley’s vexation and oppression would then be to lance KD-4, and check to see if any broken blood-vessels lie along the trajectory of the channel as it ascends the leg.  I might consider bleeding SP-4 and PC-6 as well, since the cause of the condition is known, but I think I’d actually lance those in a follow-up appointment, once Riley really begins to acknowledge what is going on.  For now, relieving the vexation and counterflow could help him re-establish a proper movement in his life.

Herbal treatment would focus on the gathering qi of the chest, rather than a strictly blood-moving formula for the Kidneys.  The po-souls are held in tension in the body, anchored between both by the solid bones and thick jing, and also by the yang qi which gathers in the Lungs.  When the qi is weak, the bones continue to store the po-souls, but they are allowed to wreak havoc.  One could argue that when the bones are weak, the po-souls begin leaving the body pre-maturely, having no strong residence; whether this could lead to earlier mortality or not is debatable.  Regardless, the greater danger is weak qi.

Herbally speaking, I would select a variation of Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang:  the early twentieth century formula, Sheng Xian Tang (Raise the Sunken Decoction).  The formula contains only five herbs: huang qi (four parts), zhi mu (two parts), chai hu (one part), jie geng (one part), and gan cao (two-thirds a part).  The formula tonifies the gathering qi in the chest, opening all the body’s physiological processes.  Currently, the formula is also used to treat cardiovascular disorders.

In Riley’s case, I was suggest his previous experience in the hospital when he had a heart rate well above normal led to an exhaustion of qi in the upper burner.  This in turn led to a backing up or counterflow of qi and blood in the lower warmer — his Ming Men- and Jing-related physiology seems to be functioning just fine, given his core strength and energy.  Tonifying the qi of the chest will help raise the blood back up and re-establish proper flow.  Additionally, the huang qi secures the exterior, while the jie geng floats qi to the surface, unmixing wei qi from ying qi.  This will give Riley some psychological balance as he negotiates his path between his love for Buffy and his conviction (whether misplaced or not) that he is not the one for Buffy.

It is unlikely that the formula would need to be taken long term in Riley’s case, unless Riley has the weak pulse indicative for the formula.

As always, this post is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have cardiovascular conditions and would like to seek herbal treatment under the supervision of your regular physician, please seek a qualified local practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

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