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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E06, “Band Candy”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone has revised her opinion of bullet journals and now owns one. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it. 

Oooh, boy. Whoo. Whoo doggies. This is it. Another of my very favorite Buffy episodes, because besides the potential baby eating, it’s totally light and cute and fluffy without sacrificing the overall arc. This is a great episode before the season gets darker.

This episode also ties in pretty heavily with my theory of #2. I know a lot of people are squicked by this, so I’ll mark out that passage like this:

#2 Squick Alert

followed by text. Then you know to scroll until you see:

Squick threat has passed

and we all go home happy. This isn’t a permanent feature, but I’ll utilize it in episodes that I feel are heavily #2 related.

So, let’s do this, because I’m so ready for awkward teen Snyder.

In the Sunnydale cemetery, Giles and Buffy are very serious about something:

Giles: “‘And on that tragic day, and era came to its inevitable end.’ That’s all there is. Are you ready?”

Buffy: “Hit me.”

Giles: “Which of the following best expresses the theme of the passage? ‘A: violence breeds violence, B: all things must end,’ c–'”

Buffy: “B! I’m going with B. We haven’t had a B in forever.”

Giles: “This is the S.A.T.s, Buffy, not connect-the-dots. Please pay attention.”

Giles, in addition to his Watcher duties, is also helping Buffy study for a standardized test. Honestly, it would probably be easier to assume she’s going to die before she could finish college, anyway. I mean, she doesn’t, but they don’t know that. Most Slayers beef it before they’re eighteen or something anyway, according to THE EPISODE JENNY DOES NOT SPEAK OF that will be later in this season.

Giles tells Buffy that the S.A.T.s are a rite of passage, and Buffy wonders why she can’t pick tribal mutilation instead, which I’m calling #17, for the “cheap laughs” part. A vampire attacks, and Buffy kills it with a No. 2 pencil, which breaks in the process. When Giles hands her another and makes her get back to studying, she complains that they’re the only people working late at night.

Come on, B. This is Sunnydale.

Mr. Trick is in The Mayor’s office, helping The Mayor do some nefarious thing. A demon needs a tribute, and Mr. Trick knows someone who’s worked in Sunnydale before and who can help The Mayor with this project. Also, we get more proof of The Mayor’s creepy evil when he opens a cabinet and reveals a bunch of spoooooooooopy shit:

The Mayor is standing in front of a cabinet full of stuff like mysterious boxes and skeletal hands and shrunken heads.

After the opening credits, Oz offers to help Buffy with S.A.T. prep, since he’s taken it before. Willow is quick to point out to anyone who will listen that Oz is the highest scoring student who’s ever failed to graduate, which I love. Willow, book smart and very concerned with her scholastic achievement, is proud of Oz, even though she would probably not deal well with similar circumstances at all. This show is so, so good to characters who aren’t good at school. I wasn’t good at school (tremble before my graduating 1.2 grade point average), so that’s probably what I like about it.

Everyone is complaining about having to take the test, except for Cordelia:

Cordelia: “Actually, I’m looking forward to it. I do well on standardized tests. What? I can’t have layers?”

There are so many of my favorite Buffy lines in this. Probably because it was written by Jane Espenson. She’s written or co-written some of my favorite episodes and, coincidentally, some very #2 subtext-heavy episodes, which makes me wonder if we don’t share some views on the subject (especially considering that she created my other favorite May/December ship in the Once Upon A Time episode “Skin Deep”). But she also treats female characters pretty well (provided I’m remembering all of her episodes correctly), which not every writer on this show does.

Anyway, Buffy tells everyone that she can’t study for the test that night, because her mom has her basically on lockdown due to the running away thing. Which is like, good job, Joyce. Maybe Buffy feels that her mom is being overprotective, but it’s better than just not being around at all ever.

The teens go into the cafeteria and find Snyder handing out boxes of candy bars that everyone has to sell for the band. Which, what the eff, guys? When I was in band, we had to sell our own candy. And it wasn’t even like there were that many of us. Sunnydale is a way larger school than the high school I went to, so they definitely have more than thirty people in the band. My school should have made everyone help out. That’s just my bitter band kid opinion.

Xander: “Yeah, those tall fuzzy hats ain’t cheap, huh?”

Oz: “But they go with everything.”

Every line of this episode is pure gold.

At home, Buffy tries to sell candy bars to her mom, who’s like, what would I do with forty candy bars? Then Buffy asks why she can’t have a driver’s license. Joyce reminds her that she failed so bad on the written test she wasn’t allowed to take the road test. Buffy protests that it was a year ago, but Joyce makes it clear that the reason she doesn’t want Buffy driving is because Buffy ran away.

Buffy says she has to go do Slayer stuff with Giles, and for the first time, Joyce finds it suspicious.

Joyce: “Honey, don’t you think Mr. Giles is monopolizing an awful lot of your time?”

Hey, this would have been an excellent thing to notice back in season one, when your teen daughter began this unusually close relationship with an adult male authority figure, but #3 and #8, am I right?

Giles has Buffy doing some ridiculous exercise where she’s blindfolded and has to hit him with a ball, which she does. That’s enough training for her, and she can’t patrol either, because her mom wants her home.

You liar, Buffy.

So, now that she’s playing both of them, Buffy takes off to find Angel. In a scene that I assume was typed in BOLD ALL-CAPS, she finds him doing tai chi. Glistening, muscular, shirtless tai chi:

Angel is standing in a darkened courtyard, doing tai chi poses that show off his powerful muscles. His skin is covered in a sheen of sweat. For some reason.

(#30) Wait, why is he sweating? He’s a vampire. I mean, they never covered “do vampires sweat”, but it seems like they wouldn’t.

Buffy ain’t complaining, though:

Buffy gazes at Angel with pure, unadulterated teen lust.

But Angel is still weak from the hell thing, so Buffy helps him inside. Also, he’s out of breath again. So. #20.

Angel asks Buffy how Scott is, and she doesn’t tell Angel that she’s single again. She brought him blood, but he doesn’t eat it in front of her. He tells her that he worries about her slaying, and they both decide that once Angel is healed, it would be better if they’re not around each other. I agree, because I hate Angel.

Buffy comes home and tells her mother that Giles made her stay late, and then oh snap, Giles comes around the corner and she is caught. They’re both mad at her for lying to them, and for lying to Willow and making them all worry. Also, Joyce and Giles are stress eating the candy bars like popcorn.

Buffy won’t tell them where she was, but they assume it was The Bronze. She tells them that she wouldn’t have to sneak around if they weren’t being so unreasonable, and that she doesn’t need to be treated like a child. Things get heated between Joyce and Buffy, so Giles steps in with some very un-Giles-like language:

Giles: “All right, come on, let’s not…freak out.”

Buffy: “Freak out?”

Giles tells her to go to bed, and she leaves, thinking all the adults she knows are against her, probably. That was the kind of shit I thought when I was her age. Giles and Joyce then go back to chowing on the candy bars.

Cut to a factory, where the candy is being packaged. A worker on the assembly line tries to sneak a bite, when our old friend Ethan Rayne stops him and tells him that eating the candy is a super bad idea.

The next day, in study hall (in the science lab, aka the only classroom in any show or movie made for teens for some reason), the students are wondering where Giles is, because it’s his turn to do “watch the kids” duty.  Cordelia complains to Buffy about how mean Giles is for making her pay library fines, while behind them Xander and Willow play footsie. Like, come on guys. That’s bullshit. But the important part is that we find out that people in town are buying scads of chocolate bars.

Like Snyder, for example. He’s eating one of them as he complains to another teacher:

Snyder: “The big pinhead librarian didn’t show up, and I don’t want to do it. You do it.”

Teacher: “All right, fine. I’ll do it.”

Snyder: “Everybody expects me to do everything around here because I’m the principal. It’s not fair.”

So, people are acting kind of weird. Like the teacher who comes in and tells the kids to pretend to read until Snyder leaves, and then they can all go home.

Buffy goes to Giles’s house, apparently expecting him to be dead or something. He’s just there looking at his records, and Joyce is there sitting on the couch. They were discussing Buffy’s complaints of over-scheduling. Joyce says she and Giles still have a lot to work out, and readily hands over her keys so Buffy can drive home. Even though Giles and Joyce are both acting deeply weird, Buffy seizes the chance to drive her mother’s car and runs out. When she leaves, Joyce asks Giles if he thinks Buffy suspected anything. Then out come the cigarettes and booze.

That night, Buffy decides to drive herself and Willow to The Bronze. Buffy is not a good driver. I’m really happy that she didn’t get her license in this series. Also, that they never really made a huge deal about the fact that she didn’t. Everybody acts like teenagers need to drive right when they turn sixteen, but damned if some of them aren’t ready. I wasn’t. I had like four accidents the first year I drove. It’s nice to see this strong, capable demon fighter unable to do something most people consider a basic skill.

Back at Giles’s house, this is happening:

Giles is laying on the floor, lighting a cigarette. Joyce is sitting cross legged on the floor looking through record albums.

I am almost one hundred percent certain that in this episode, they were meant to be smoking weed, but it didn’t get past standards who whatever department says “No, don’t do that on TV.” The reason I say this is not because I’m a huge pothead, but because they’re listening to Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” which you do not listen to and smoke cigarettes.

If you’ve never heard the song and are thinking, “I don’t know Jenny, a lot of people like a lot of music without being high,” then listen to this pretentious fucking song. And if you can’t listen to it, here is a selection of lyrics, and you can tell me if you could listen to this without some kind of pharmaceutical intervention:

And you see a girl’s brown body dancing through the turquoise
And her footprints make you follow where the sky loves the sea
And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body
Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind

The tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers
And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter

Her name is Aphrodite and she rides a crimson shell
And you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands
With tales of brave Ulysses, how his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing

So as you can plainly see, this is a song you listen to in the bathtub while you’re high. I know this, because I have done it more than once.

Water is optional.

Joyce says she’s bored, and that they should go to The Bronze. But Giles is like, no, nothing’s going to be happening there. Cut to The Bronze, where the crowd is very much middle aged.

Buffy: “Let’s do the Time Warp again.”

Willow: “Maybe there’s a reunion in town, or a Billy Joel tour or something.”

He is always with us.

They spot Ms. Barton, the teacher who let them out of study hall earlier. She’s staggering around with a blue solo cup in her hand, and she is waaaaaaasted.

Buffy: “Ms. Barton?”

Ms. Barton: “Buffy. Whoa.”

Willow: “Are you okay, Ms. Barton?”

Ms. Barton: “Oh, I’m cool, Willow. Willow. That’s a tree. You’re a tree! Are there any nachos in here, little tree?”

As Buffy and Willow continue to survey the scene with disgust, Principal Snyder drops in:

Snyder is standing between Buffy and Willow with his arms hanging around their shoulders like they're old pals.He refers to Buffy and Willow as “gang”, says The Bronze is “fun city” and mentions how wasted Ms. Barton is. Then Willow watches in horror as her pediatrician does a shirtless stage dive.

Snyder comes back and brags about a commendation he got from The Mayor, and proudly announces that they shook hands twice. Which I feel supports my theory of #28. Snyder doesn’t sound like he’s well connected or has any idea what’s happening in town if he thinks it’s a big deal to shake The Mayor’s hand. If he’s so starstruck by whatever The Mayor tells him, he might actually think he’s doing the right thing by making Buffy’s life difficult.

Anyway, Buffy believes she’s seen this behavior before:

Buffy: “They’re acting like a bunch of us.”

Willow: “I don’t act like this.”

At the evil candy factory, Mr. Trick is admiring the ingenuity of his plan, and kills a worker he suspects of “sampling”. When Ethan ask him how he knew the guy was eating the product, Mr. Trick is like, I didn’t, but now nobody else will. He also makes a comment about it being almost feeding time.

Back at The Bronze, Buffy, Willow, and Oz are still trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Oz: “They’re teenagers. That’s a sobering mirror to look into, huh?”

Then Snyder comes up and tells Oz that he likes his hair.

Then they notice that a lot of people are eating the candy bars. They leave The Bronze and Snyder tags along with them and says a line that was so funny the first time I saw it, before I knew it was a horrible, ableist term, so I won’t share it here.

Willow: “It’ll be okay when we get to Giles.”

Oz: “Of course. I mean, even if he is sixteen, he’s still Giles, right? He’s probably a pretty together guy.”

Willow: “Yeah. Well…”

Oz: “What?”

Buffy: “Giles at sixteen? Less together guy, more bad-magic-hates-the-world-ticking-time-bomb guy.

Oz: “Well, then I guess your mom’s in a lot of trouble.”

Speak of the devils, but there’s Giles and Joyce, wandering around town. Joyce talks about how she feels like getting married and having a kid was all a dream. She sees a coat in a shop window and says it’s “very Juice Newton”, at which point Giles proves Oz right. He breaks the store window to steal the coat.

Back in the car, Snyder suggests they go do donuts on the football field. Another driver, distracted as he tries to open a candy bar, t-bones Buffy at an intersection, and we cut to commercial.

Now, because what he did wasn’t already bad enough, Giles beats up a police officer and steals his gun. Then he and Joyce get frisky on top of a police car.

#2 Squick Alert

So, let’s talk about this whole thing, shall we? Teen!Joyce doesn’t act exactly like Buffy, which I really like. I think that was the road a less imaginative writer would have taken. But she’s not wholly unlike Buffy, either. She makes pop culture references, and her speech patterns could easily be Buffy’s. She’s like Buffy, but she’s not Buffy, and Giles, being Teen!Giles and stripped of his inhibitions, is attracted to her, and that’s okay because they’re both adults. Teen!adults.

Now, you could make the argument that adult Giles has a thing for Joyce, and now stripped of inhibitions he’s acting on that attraction, but they’ve never appeared to like each other at all, even in a fun will-they-won’t-they kind of way. This show is not subtle about that kind of thing; if Giles and Joyce dug each other, it would have been telegraphed broadly. It wasn’t as though at this point the audience was going, “Ooh, when will they hook up,” especially considering the fact that it wasn’t long ago that Jenny Calendar died (and I think fans would have collectively lost it if Giles had moved on in season three.)

Anyway, the fact that Giles is attracted to Joyce when she’s similar to Buffy supports #2, in my amateur opinion.

Squick threat has passed.

So, Joyce’s car is now wrecked, but that’s the least of Buffy’s worries. She just put two and two together that if everyone is acting like teens without any responsibilities or cares, the vampires should be out eating them all. Since they’re not, there has to be a reason.

Oz: “Something’s happening. Someplace that’s else.”

When someone snags Snyder’s candy, they realize that some monster has, to paraphrase Willow, used candy for evil. Snyder doesn’t know who was in charge of ordering the candy; the school board just sent it to the school. Snyder makes an aside implying the school board is scary somehow, but again, he’s not connected, or at least, not as connected as he pretends to be. But Snyder does know where the warehouse is. Buffy sends Willow and Oz to research the curse and takes Snyder to investigate the candy.

Cut to the warehouse. Buffy pulls up and marches with conviction toward the evil candy factory, only to be frozen in her tracks by horror untold:

Giles and Joyce are really super making-out with each other. Buffy has just walked past them and stopped, frozen in horror and disgust.

Buffy interrupts them, and Giles tries to be threatening, until Buffy gently suggests she’ll kick his ass if he doesn’t cooperate. She tells Joyce to go home and not eat any more of the candy, but Joyce won’t listen, even when Buffy points out the dent in the car. Joyce is more concerned that she bought a geeky car than she is concerned about the damage to it.

So Buffy tries to order Giles around:

Buffy: “Listen to me. You need–”

Giles: “No, you listen to me. I’m your Watcher, so you do what I tell you. Now sod off!”

So, basically they all remember who they are and what their lives were like, they’re just immature now. And you know, now that I’m watching this and analyzing it, they’re more like preteens than teenagers. Or they’re really young teens.

The point I was gonna make, though, was that all the grown ups we’ve seen have expressed something important about themselves through their behavior. In this scene, Joyce says it’s fair for her to get to do what she wants because Buffy “gets” to be a Slayer. Giles tells Buffy she has to do whatever he says. Snyder usually hates teenagers, but now that he is one, he desperately wants to be popular. What we’re learning about them is that Joyce still isn’t able to accept her daughter’s calling, Giles wishes he had better control over his Slayer or that he was a more traditional Watcher (a theme which gets revisited in THE EPISODE JENNY DOES NOT SPEAK OF), and Snyder’s bitterness as an adult comes from wanting to be liked by his peers.

Buffy fights her way into the factory, Joyce in tow, and Giles and Snyder follow. They immediately find Ethan Rayne. He’s on the phone, and when he sees Buffy and co., he tells the person on the other end of the line that they should hurry. Then he runs.

At the library, there’s a pointless scene of Cordelia telling a story as they research. It’s not pointless because of the story, but because it’s just another chance for Xander and Willow to almost blow their cheating cover. It adds nothing.

In the warehouse, Ethan is still running from Buffy. And from Giles, but he can’t really keep up. Buffy makes a crack about him smoking. Hey, check out #22 in action. Even though Giles isn’t evil, he’s under a curse…and the evil bad curse makes him smoke.

Buffy catches Ethan, while Snyder tries to put the moves on Joyce. And they’re both still eating the candy, which cracks me up because they know it’s evil now. While Giles tries to order Buffy to beat up Ethan, she interrogates him instead. He tells them that the candy is a diversion tactic while Mr. Trick collects a tribute for the demon Lurconis. It’s not just any tribute; it’s something so important that they would never be able to get it away from people any other way.

Cut to the local hospital, where a group of vampires strides right in, since no one is there. They collect up al the babies and leave.

Okay, wait. Now, I know everyone is being irresponsible and shit, but I don’t think a teenager would actually go, “Fuck these babies, I’m just going to leave them here on their own.”  Sure, some of the nurses or doctors would just leave, but not everybody in the whole hospital. Is the candy really making them act like teenagers? Or is it just giving their id free reign?

Buffy calls the library and asks Willow for more information on the demon. While that’s going on, Ethan tries to hit Buffy with a crowbar, but Giles pulls a gun on him. So Buffy has to stop what she’s doing and confiscate the gun, and I really, really feel what Buffy is going through because I am a mom and this shit happens when I am on the phone all the time. But without the gun. At least, in my house. I can’t speak for every weirdo in the U.S..

Willow tells Buffy that Lurconis eat babies, so…that’s not great, considering what we just saw going on. The tribute has to be made every thirty years, but apparently they’re running late, so Buffy has to get a move on now. She needs something to tie up Ethan with, and Joyce sheepishly pulls some handcuffs from her back pocket.

Buffy: “Never. Tell me.”

Wait, was this show sending me subliminal BDSM cues about Tony Head this whole time? Is that where Neil Elwood came from? Giles blindfolded Buffy, now Joyce has handcuffs, Jesus Christ, he even keeps Oz in a big cage, it’s all coming together.

At the hospital, the nurses are basically like, “Hey, it’s not our fault the babies got stolen and probably eaten.” Our heroes have run into a brick wall in terms of solutions, until Giles remembers that he knows all about Lurconis. The demon will be in the sewer, but Buffy needs help going after it. She gives them all a really mom-like speech about how she can’t do it alone, and they all grudgingly agree to listen to her. She orders Snyder to go home, and takes Giles and Joyce with her.

In the sewer, the babies are all lined up in a little trough, but Lurconis is a no show. The Mayor is using his time to multitask. He’s not just there for the tribute, he also wants to talk to the public works committee about the gas pipes in the sewer, because CLEVER FORESHADOWING. Buffy and Joyce rescue the babies while Buffy kills some vampires. Mr. Trick tries to take her on, but Giles rushes in for a piece of the action and gets thrown into Lurconis’s little feeding area/splash pool. He narrowly escapes the monster, and Buffy–using those foreshadowed gas pipes–makes a flame thrower and burns the monster down:

Lurconis is a big, eye-less serpent thing with black and white zig zag stripes and lots of pointy teeth. Buffy is about to immolate it with a fireball from the gas pipe.

First, let’s talk about how this could be the larvae of the sand worm from Beetlejuice. Second, let’s talk about how it’s yet another serpentine, phallic type monster (#7).

The monster dies, Mr. Trick runs, and Buffy remembers that she has the S.A.T.s the next day. Joyce says she’ll write Buffy a note to get her out of it, but Buffy declines.

Down at City Hall, Mr. Trick tries to convince The Mayor that their defeat is a good thing. With Lurconis dead, they don’t have to pay him tribute anymore. The Mayor warns him against fucking up again, because nobody understands that Mr. Trick has everything under control. He’s literally the most competent villain in the Buffyverse, if not the entire Jossverse. Also, Mr. Trick looks like a black John Waters. I just had to bring that up.

At school, Snyder is no longer all giggles and friendliness with the kids. One of the teenaged adults spray painted some classic rock graffiti across the lockers, and Snyder assigns Xander, Willow, Cordelia and Oz to clean it up.

Willow: “Kiss rocks? Why would anyone wanna kiss… oh wait, I get it.”

Outside, Buffy and Giles are having a heavy conversation about the serious stuff that has happened:

Buffy: “It was just too much to deal with. It was like nothing made sense anymore. The things that I thought I understood were gone. I just felt…so alone.”

Giles: “Was that the math or the verbal?”

So Buffy didn’t do great on the S.A.T.s. Giles points out that if her scores aren’t any good, she can retake them. She jokes that she could be dead before college, anyway, and as usual, Giles is uncomfortable with jokes about his Slayer dying. But obviously she has to joke about it, or she would be unable to go on with her job. Buffy has a better handle on existential dread than basically any of us.

Joyce pulls up and makes stilted conversation with Giles about the fact that the car got totaled. But dig this, she’s making Buffy pay her back for it! Like, how fucking dare you, Joyce. How very fucking dare you. Your daughter saved a bunch of infants from being eaten by a demon and you’re making her pay you back because your car got dented in the process? Because you gave her permission to take it, by the way. While you were under a curse that she saved you from. That’s horse shit, Joyce.

Buffy takes it in stride, though:

Buffy: “Uh, hey, the way things were going, be glad that’s the worst that happened. At least I got to the two of you before you actually did something.”

And then Joyce and Giles won’t make eye contact.

Joyce: “Right.”

Giles: “Indeed.”

Joyce: “Yes.”

Then they turn and walk in two different directions, while Buffy, oblivious to the exchange, gets into the car.

Oh yeah, let’s add that to the list of shit that means Buffy shouldn’t have to pay you back. You got to have sex with Giles, lady. That is payment enough.

So, there’s not a lot I can say about this episode except that Jane Espenson is an amazing writer and probably should have had more writing opportunities on Buffy. Like, 90% of the episodes would have been great.  And really, 90% of television, total. This episode is badly needed now, before the season goes to some really dark places. All in all, I just really enjoy this episode and don’t have much more to say about it.

I’m literally the “It was good. I liked it.” critique person right now.

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  1. Noisyninja

    Ok, theory about vampires breathing heavy with exertion…maybe he’s purposely oxygenating his muscles since he’s still so weak? I don’t know, that’s the best I could come up with. I mean, that’s why WE do it, just not consciously. Also, still hate the Xander/Willow cheat arc, it’s so completely pointless and purposely terrible.

    July 6, 2016
    • =8)-DX

      Nah he doesn’t need oxygen in his muscles, because demon-muscles, or something. I’d just go with the excuse that when a vampire is weak they’ll naturally breath/sweat more because they’re using their human hindbrain to control the human body. When the vampire is stronger the demon part is better at overriding the human brain/reptile brain. At least I think we see this with Spike as more of his humanity comes out when he’s weakened.. bla bla metaphor for the human condition.

      July 11, 2016
    • Mel

      i’m not big on the Xander/Willow cheat arc either, mostly because in high school, I had a crush on my best friend’s brother and he never noticed me until I met the father of my children, years later. Then all of a sudden he seemed interested. I felt for Willow during the whole first two seasons because of this, but then I started hating Xander for only being interested in Willow because she was unavailable. Typical men! Plus, Oz is great and totally doesn’t deserve to get cheated on.

      July 13, 2016
  2. Nanani

    I’m kinda glad I didn’t actually watch this show as a teenager because I have a feeling I would have found this episode extremely offensive.

    “I don’t act like this” from Willow is 100% correct.
    Most teenagers will not, in fact, blow off their responsibilities and make stupid decisions the second they can get away with it.
    The whole concept is pretty icky, in a shitting-on-the-audience sort of way.

    You could still have pretty much the same thing without calling it “acting like teenagers”, as alluded to in the recap. Why, writers?

    July 6, 2016
    • Mel

      I agree, I never acted like this either. They could say that the candy makes you immature or like Jenny suggested, it makes the id take over, rather than insulting teenagers like that. Although I must say, Young Snyder is a hoot. And Young Giles… well, let’s just say I’m starting to see what Jenny sees in him!

      July 13, 2016
  3. For some reason I thought this was when Buffy shuts down something Giles is saying by mentioning he had sex with her mother, but I must be remembering it from a future episode :/

    I loved this episode as a teen though because come on, seriously? Every teen is always bitching “You don’t understand what I’m going through!” and yet the adults became teens and despite the lingo change acted JUST like they did. Too bad it didn’t make Joyce more empathetic towards Buffy though…

    July 6, 2016
    • Erin Garey
      Erin Garey

      Yeah, she finds out about that later when she can read everyone’s mind…

      July 6, 2016
  4. Bryn

    I was looking up some of the actors for this episode and I learned Jane Espenson makes a cameo as the lunch lady. I’m going to have to look for her in other episodes now.

    July 6, 2016
  5. candy apple
    candy apple

    You know, the writers were pretty irrational as regards Buffy’s scholastic ability. There are constant jokes about her not studying, her inability to comprehend subjects Willow understands with ease, skipping class, almost failing class, doing poorly on her SATs….and then suddenly, she’s accepted into top colleges like Northwestern because her SAT scores were so good. WTF. Just let her be a bad student; Buffy doesn’t have to be good at everything. She goes from being a capable and innovative fighter of evil who also happens to suck at school, to a Mary Sue superhero with top-tier test scores. Just let her be bad at a few things, for balance.

    July 6, 2016
    • Quelaag

      Meh, Buffy has always come off as fairly intelligent and shrewd, particularly when it comes to fighting. I think she’s more like Oz – intelligent, but hates school. She only does well on the standardized test, but she still struggles a lot in her college courses.

      July 6, 2016
      • Casey

        Okay, jumping in super late, but I always thought it was more like Buffy could be smart and relatively studious — there’s no real suggestion that she was awful at school pre-slayage, and in my experience popular kids need to have a baseline level of scholastic intelligence or they’d be in the flunkie/dropout crowd — but being the Slayer really messes with her academics. Kinda like how it interferes with everything in her life. Not to mention it must fuck with your priorities to try writing a paper about the Louisiana Purchase when a demon is about to destroy the state or something.

        August 1, 2016
    • I never studied, but my grades were good. I absorb knowledge easily without having to try. I figured Buffy was a lot like I was/am. She probably felt like she didn’t do well on the SATs but actually did. I didn’t study at all for mine and still scored well enough to get into every college I applied to.

      July 12, 2016
    • Mel

      Agree 100%

      July 13, 2016
    • Hollykim

      I’m very very shocked I didn’t remember that they had Angel Tai Chi-ing Patrick Swayze in Road House style in a Ripper episode.

      July 20, 2016
  6. Lisa

    What is the episode Jenny does not speak of?

    July 6, 2016
    • candy apple
      candy apple

      I don’t know, I guess we find out when she doesn’t do a recap of it?

      July 6, 2016
    • jjgrl55

      I’m gonna guess it’s “Helpless” where (SPOILER!) Giles secretly drugs Buffy in order to steal her powers and test her against an insane vampire. It fits all the hints she threw in (occurs this season, and deals with concepts of slayers turning 18, Buffy almost dying, Giles struggling with his role as Watcher) and is also a very difficult episode to process if you are a Giles fan girl. Or, you know, a person who appreciates consent in any way.

      July 6, 2016
      • That whole business with Giles drugging Buffy was HORRIBLE, and I never quite got past it. So much Joss Wheden stuff, what with his sex-bots, hypnotized girls, drugged/drunk/cursed sexual dub con, and other such rapey-ness really makes me question some of the whole “JW is such a feminist, blah blah blah.” Do I think he creates strong female characters? Absolutely. Do I think that there is is far too often an undercurrent of eroticized sexual violence against women? Totes.

        July 7, 2016
        • Quint&Jessel

          OTOH, the ep makes a really good point when Buffy’s walking home after dark and is hassled by human men and is scared. That’s how real life is when you aren’t a Slayer.

          July 12, 2016
        • Lainey

          You’ve hit the nail with the “undercurrent of eroticized sexual violence against women” thing. I did a rewatch of Dollhouse recently and my god, Eliza Dushku gets hit across the face every single episode in the first season, not only by her “clients” but also by her “love interest”. Okay, so spoiler alert, the bigger reason behind it sorta makes sense in context of where the season arc was heading but it’s jarring to see so many people hit her across the face as though she’s a broken tv. And these weren’t light slaps either, she actually ends up on the floor in a lot of them. The show never addresses this either, even though human trafficking, consent, and sexual violence are huge themes of the show.

          July 13, 2016
      • Mel

        I originally thought it was Passions from Season 2 as Jenny Calendar dies, but yeah, good point. I really did not like Giles in Helpless. Thought, WTF, why would he put his Slayer through all of this, and risk her dying for a fucking TEST? Especially at the behest of the council.

        July 13, 2016
  7. Bunny

    This is one of my favorite episodes too. I had a theory that Giles was in love with Buffy and she was in love with him. They don’t act on it because they both think the other isn’t interested. And Giles slept with Joyce to make Buffy jealous. Oh and love teen Snyder! Just Snyder like Barbarino!

    July 6, 2016
  8. Laina

    I think the episode you do not speak of is actually an episode I really like XD

    You know, I have some time off this summer. I think I’ll find some cardboard, make a giant “3” and paint and glitter it because.


    3. A lot of 3 sometimes.

    July 6, 2016
  9. Anon123

    ” . . . (in the science lab, aka the only classroom in any show or movie made for teens for some reason) . . . ”

    Actually, this one I get–a science lab is more visually interesting than just desks, so if you’re only going to make one room, it might as well be that. It’s the same reason that dialogue takes place during PE sometimes–it’s just more fun to look at than desks. Something like an art or band class wouldn’t necessarily contain all the main characters, so I think that’s why you don’t see that as often. And this only shows up in stuff made for teens because (at least in the US, can’t speak for elsewhere) elementary school and sometimes middle school as well lack specialty classrooms. My 2 cents. 🙂

    I totally agree with you on the point about Buffy not getting her license in the series. I kept expecting it to be a big deal, but they just treated it as part of life. As someone who also wasn’t ready–even though I actually waited until 17–and then as someone who spent a few years poor and on the bus, I appreciated that.

    I’m cracking up here at how bad the lyrics to that song are. This is why, in general, I don’t listen to song lyrics. (It also saves me a lot of getting offended, I’ll tell you that much.) Pot doesn’t do anything for me, but I have this migraine med that throws me for a real loop (and feels almost worse than the disease, so I rarely take it), and I could totally see that song suddenly becoming the best thing ever in that state.

    “Mr. Trick looks like a black John Waters. I just had to bring that up.”

    Roflmao…oh, Jenny. Only you would make me see that and never stop seeing it. (My friend says John Waters is literally the creepiest-looking individual he’s ever seen, so I guess that’s why the face makes a good villain, lol.)

    “I’m literally the ‘It was good. I liked it.’ critique person right now.”

    That’s okay! Being that way once in awhile shows you have breadth as well as depth as a critic. 😀

    Anyway, great read as always. Even more spot-on than usual, and I’ll even somewhat buy the #2 arguments more than I usually do. 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    P.S. Aren’t we supposed to hear about your trip to the UP for the writers’ retreat sometime? Or did I miss that?

    July 7, 2016
    • A. Noyd
      A. Noyd

      A science room isn’t just more visually interesting on its own. It also allows for more interesting staging of the characters. Rows of desks do not lend themselves well to the storytelling used in TV and film.

      July 9, 2016
  10. Alisha

    Hey now! “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” is one of my favorite songs! And I’ve never ever been high in my life! Granted I love it more for the overall sound and Clapton’s fantastic guitar work, but still. 🙂

    But I agree they were supposed to be smoking pot – in fact, I always remembered it as they WERE smoking pot!

    July 8, 2016
  11. Zoe

    Here’s something I’ve always wondered about.
    Teen!Giles speaks in a much more common, working-class accent than educated, middle-class Adult!Giles. So which one is fake? Do you think he was born a chavvy, bad-magic-doing punk and when he cleaned up his act, he affected a smarter, more respectable accent, or was he always wealthy and educated and as a teenager he faked being poor to sound cooler?
    It’s basically a question of is Giles a hipster or Eliza Dolittle?

    July 8, 2016
    • Earthed Angel
      Earthed Angel

      I think teen Giles and Teen!Giles lean more hipster and were affecting a (classist) rougher accent. We’re all problematic sometimes, and more so as near- and new-adults I think. I love how you phrased the dichotomy!

      July 8, 2016
    • Mel

      I think he was Cockney growing up and then when he became a Watcher he spent a lot of time around the other posh Watchers and members of the council and started to speak as they did. Have you ever noticed that if you spend a lot of time around a person with an accent you invariably start to sound like them? My cousin came over from New Zealand in the late 80’s and stayed at my Nan’s where my brother and I spent afternoons until our parents finished work and every now and then I’d catch myself sounding very much like a Kiwi. Just sayin’.

      July 13, 2016
    • Anon

      In the hospital, you can actually hear Giles’ accent shift. When he says ‘I know this… I knew this’, you can hear him shifting into Watcher mode and shifting accent along with it. It was always a tiny but very cool thing for me.

      Anthony Stuart Head’s natural accent is actually closer to Ripper’s, but given that we know Giles was a child of a Watcher, presumably his family is, if not ‘old money’, at least old highly educated and upper class. The Watcher’s Council certainly seems to have both plenty of resources to throw around and a heavy degree of classism. Everyone we meet in S5 speaks with a very precise… I don’t want to say upper class accent because it’s *not*. It’s not the accent that the actual aristocracy have – listen to recordings of the Queen’s speech, she has a noticeable drawl. But it’s the accent of the *educated* class. The accent which developed from Received Pronunciation, the one a grammar school or a public* school would teach. But it does emphasise that a Watcher, and hence almost certainly their family and their children, would speak that accent and not a more working class one as standard.

      *note for confused Americans: a state school is one paid for by taxes, a public school is one paid for by the fees charged to individual parents, and is what Americans would call a private school. The name comes from the fact that unlike a monastery school, they were open to any member of the public who could pay the fees, not just ones of a specific religion – the public school/monastery school divide predates the whole concept of state-funded universal schooling by a fair bit more than the duration of America’s existence as a nation.

      August 12, 2016
      • Fem

        Thank you for that elucidation! I’ve always wondered about this In Australia we’d call that a private school too.

        November 16, 2018
  12. Promise

    Jenny, I haven’t finished reading the recap, but I had to come down here to tell you that this bit

    “So as you can plainly see, this is a song you listen to in the bathtub while you’re high. I know this, because I have done it more than once.

    “Water is optional.”

    Made me literally laugh out loud like a crazy person and my husband was looking at me as one does when someone is doing that.

    July 8, 2016
  13. sarajevo

    Stupid little aside, but the moment during Buffy’s interrogation of Ethan Rayne when Giles punches the air KILLS ME. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

    July 9, 2016
    • Ann

      YES. It’s such a perfect little bit of background acting. The air punch is actually one of my favorite gifs from this show. I wonder if ASH improv-ed (improvved?) it?

      July 11, 2016
      • Ann

        Trying to post the air punch gif as a comment! Here goes…

        July 11, 2016
  14. Alison

    Remember later on in the series, when we see Giles listening to this song by himself? I thought that was a nice little moment.

    July 10, 2016
    • And it’s after Joyce’s funeral. He’s drinking alone and listening to that song. Such a sweet, sad little moment.

      March 26, 2019
  15. Nerem

    This episode help cemented Snyder as being my favorite character ever.

    July 16, 2016
  16. Kim

    Somehow I had forgotten that Angel doing glistening, muscular, shirtless tai chi like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse was in the best Ripper episode. Thanks for that, Jane Espenson!

    April 4, 2017
  17. Nia

    Buffy can drive. She drives just fine.

    She wasn’t a great driver in Band Candy because it was literally her first time behind the wheel. Cordelia failed driver’s education 3 times (which involved actual driving) and even after getting her license hit a parked car and a girl on her bike and yet nobody ever says Cordy is a bad driver.

    I think Riley taught Buffy how to drive in s4. They had a conversation that makes it clear he was willing to teach her. And then in Who Are You, she drove that van all the way back to Sunnydale. In No Place Like Home, she picked up her mom’s medication (she said “10 minutes” so it makes the most sense that she drove instead of walked there). In Listening to Fear, she drove her mom and sister home from the hospital. In I Was Made To Love You, she asked, “Do you want me to pick Dawn up from school?”

    Buffy definitely prefers life as a pedestrian. Probably part of that whole “fear of being trapped/boxed in” thing. She’ll ride in a car if she has to but no more than necessary. A motorcycle is more her style.

    May 7, 2017
  18. Lizzy

    Many years late to this but let’s point out that Buffy’s training early in the episode was about targeting an enemy she can’t see by using her other senses, and then she clocks Ethan’s location the same way when he’s hiding in the warehouse. More foreshadowing!

    August 19, 2023

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