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:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- 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)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
- Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
- Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
- Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
- Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
- The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
- This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
- Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
- 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:
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:
(#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:
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:
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 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…”
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:
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:
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.
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.