In the Buffy episode "Once More, With Feeling", how did the Scoobies "beat the bad guy", as Sweet the demon puts it? Or did he just get bored when he didn't succeed in making Buffy burst into flames?
As Tynam has said, Sweet didn't lose so much as cut & run.
It's not completely obvious what Sweet's goals are - he is apparently in it for his own amusement, not for any form of material gain. He seems to enjoy causing people to combust, and he likes spreading fear and chaos.
He had a secondary goal as well - he was summoned, and the invocation gave him claim over the summoner. I would guess that he typically brings ruin upon a city, confronts his summoner with the fact that it was their fault, and personally oversees their flaming demise in a bout of self-pitying choreography.
His goal changed when he saw Dawn, and decided to use his claim over her to force her into a demonic arranged marriage.
Enter Buffy. She has a reputation. She's one of the greatest Slayers to ever live, she's stood up to a literal goddess (and is alive to speak of it), and has put down some of the Biggest Bads to walk the face of the Earth. At her side are two potent witches, an ex-demon whose cruelty was legendary, a member of the Watcher's council schooled in magic, an oaf, and a vampire. Then he finds out that this simpering mortal is the one who summoned him, making his claim to Dawn invalid.
At this point, he's spread all of the chaos and ruin that he's likely to be able to accomplish (especially after his attempt at turning Buffy into a matchstick failed). He has met many of his goals, and staying will put his life at great risk.
He does, however, see a final opening: the Scoobies showed up ready to fight but willing to talk. Sure, they expected it to be a pre-ass-kicking banter, but if there's one thing Sweet can do, it's talk.
Once the little niggling problem of the summoner's identity is sorted out, Sweet has sewn all the seeds he can, and departs. He doesn't leave without pointing out to the Scoobies that he's won, however, despite stating (with laughter clearly in his voice) "You beat the bad guy." He points out that not one of them can say it ended well.
Let's look at some of the fallout of his little musical escapades, shall we?
Anya and Xander
do NOT get married, in part because of the hidden doubts and concerns that they voiced in their song. This leads directly to Anya resuming her role as a Vengeance Demon.
Buffy is driven
into Spike's arms, and enters into a relationship with him that is a veritable rollercoaster, and is somewhat self-destructive.
This leads Spike to
reclaim his soul, which threatens to drive him insane, and ends up costing him his unlife.
leaves, having realized he needs to let Buffy stand alone. His absence is painful to himself and the rest of the gang.
Willow & Tara
split, leading to Willow turning increasingly towards her magic.
Had that not happened, it's certainly possible that
Tara would not have been in that room when the gun went off.
would not have gone dark, becoming the season's Big Bad.
suffers from the loss of a fatherly figure, the loss of a good friend and guide, deals with her sister's tumultuous relationship, and still has to go to high school.
Sweet was not, of course, the CAUSE of all of this. He did, however, set things into motion.
He didn't lose. He WON, in a way that no other villain on the series ever did.
Sweet is summoned to Sunnydale by an amulet, and comes to claim his prize: the summoner is destined to be his queen in Hell. He therefore captures Dawn, who is wearing the amulet, and prepares to steal her away. Of course, Buffy and the others come to rescue her. When Sweet reveals why he came, Dawn protests that, despite having stolen the amulet (klepto girl!) which would summon him, she did not actually summon him.
Xander then sheepishly reveals that he had summoned the singing & dancing demon because things had been a bit depressingly recently, and he thought the singing and dancing might give him & Anya a happy ending.
Xander then asks if this means he has to go be Sweet's bride in Hell.
SWEET: I don't make the rules; she summoned me.
DAWN: I so did not! He keeps saying that!
SWEET: You've got my talisman on, sweet thing.
Dawn looks down at the necklace, realizes.
DAWN: Oh! But -- no! I just -- this at the Magic Box... on the floor, and I was cleaning and I forgot to... But I didn't summon anything.
SWEET: Well now, that's a twist.
GILES: If it was at the shop, that means one of us had to...
For a beat, we wait to see who did it.
In the background, Xander raises his hand.
XANDER: I didn't know what was gonna happen! I just heard, you know, revelries and song and... I wanted to be sure we'd work out. Get a happy ending.
Sweet laughs. Big time.
SWEET: And I think it worked out just fine.
XANDER: Does this mean I have to... be your queen?
SWEET: It's tempting. But I think we'll waive that clause just this once. Big smiles, everyone: you beat the bad guy!
Despite what he says, they don't actually beat Sweet. He decides to leave of his own free will after realising he's not getting Dawn as his bride. But he stays long enough to point out that "there's not a one who can say this ended well".
Sweet doesn't really lose so much as decide the risk is too great for the rewards and scarper. (He does say "Congratulations, you beat the Bad Guy!" but he's being ironic at the time.) There are two senses in which he's overmatched, however:
- He fails to make Buffy burn up as he planned.
- His reaction to Willow suggests he knows she has a large amount of magical power; enough to be wary of. He doesn't seem extremely intimidated, but then Sweet's a good performer. It's implied that he didn't want to risk a direct confrontation when she was angry.
Well his original plan was to take Dawn as his bride; it seems he didn't fancy taking Xander as much.
Also, his power is to make everything into a musical, the heroes ALWAYS win in a musical... (although normally defeat rather than kill the bad guy.)
It's made pretty clear in the draft script that Sweet is extremely intimidated by Willow and that combined with the prospect of facing her and the Slayer, he decides that the better part of valour is to announce that the Scoobies have secured a Phyrric victory and run back to his own dimension.
For the record, there's no special evidence that he's anything of a fighter, relying on his mind-control powers (and his "Puppet Henchmen") to create chaos. In a confrontation, there's every possibility that he'd be easily overmatched.
- Buffy declares her intentions to kill him.
BUFFY: (to Sweet) What do you want a little kid for? Deal's this: I can't kill you, you take me to hellsville in her place.
- Willow declares her intention to kill him (note the stage direction, he's surrounded and has no backup by this point).
WILLOW: Get out of here.
[There is such quiet vehemence in her voice -- and the look on her face is shared by pretty much everybody.]
SWEET: Hmm, I smell power. I guess the little missus and I should be on our way.
For the record, although he's not brought the city to ruin, he's still had good fun, killed quite a few Sunnydale inhabitants and left a trail of broken relationships in his wake. Not a bad day's work for a chaos demon, which is why he's still singing.