In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone can’t think of anything witty because this episode is just too sad and frustrating. 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- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?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!
- The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
- Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
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.
Well, here we are. This is one of my very least favorite episodes. Let’s get it over with.
We open on a romantic, candle-lit training session between Buffy and Angel, which winds up with her straddling him and surprise surprise, it gets them all horny, so she has to leave. Angel asks Buffy if he’ll see her over the weekend, or if she has a date.
Buffy: “Actually, I do have a date. Older man. Very handsome. Likes it when I call him daddy.”
Angel: “Your father. It is your father, right?”
Behold, Tumblr. Buffy was making daddy jokes like eighteen years before you. No wonder I like this show so much.
Buffy tells Angel that her dad is taking her to the ice show for her birthday, because she could use some fun. Cut to the least fun thing I can think of: memorizing crystals and what they do. Giles is cranky because she won’t concentrate on learning about minerals. She’d rather be out, patrolling. Buffy blames her lack of concentration on Faith being flighty and taking off without giving them notice.
Giles: “Faith is not interested in proper training, so I must rely on you to keep up with yours.”
Buffy: “I hate being the good one.”
Giles asks Buffy why she’s so eager to get out and fight vampires, and Buffy realizes that she’s been unconciously giving a hand happy to a phallic piece of quartz. She says she has energy to burn off, because ha ha, sexual frustration.
Let’s talk about #1. The big bad of this season is The Mayor, right? But the big bad of the Angel/Buffy subplot is sex. Specifically, sexual pleasure. I don’t get it. Is the love between Buffy and Angel purer because they’re resisting temptation? Is it a truer love now that we’ve removed sexuality from the equation? Is that what we’re driving at? Also, since Buffy is sexually frustrated and wants to get out there and Slay as a result and sparring has replaced sex in Buffy and Angel’s relationship, does that mean sex and violence are interchangeable?
Giles ends the training by making Buffy concentrate on a blue crystal. Is staring at it going to make her learn about it, Giles? Really?
Buffy does get out to do some killing, but in the middle of her fight with a vampire, something goes wrong. She has a dizzy spell, just a moment that catches her off guard, and the vampire almost stakes her with her own stake. She headbutts him and he accidentally stakes himself.
At school the next day, Buffy is throwing knives in the library. Like you do. She tells Giles that something is wrong with her. He suggests she has the flu, and she freaks out because she doesn’t want to miss the ice show and quality time with her dad. Giles tells her that she should just take time off from patrolling to get some rest. That should be an alarm bell, Buffy. The dude who always is like, you’re not training enough, you have to be better at everything is like, “Hey, kick back a little, take a break.” Something is up.
Outside, Xander makes fun of Buffy for doing something as childish as going to an ice show, but Willow steps in with a defense.
Willow: “I went to Snoopy on Ice when I was little. My dad took me backstage and I got so scared I threw up on Woodstock.”
I guess that’s not really much of a defense, but good for you for trying, Willow.
Buffy says that she knows it’s kind of childish, but she likes it. You know what, Buffy? Fuck the haters. I used to love the ice stuff when I was in high school, too. One year, for Valentine’s day, my mom got me tickets to both nights of the ladies’ pro figure skating championships and it was amazing. I saw Katarina Witt, Denise Biellman, Yuka Sato…I mean, come the fuck on, who wouldn’t want to see them?
Xander thinks Buffy should have a party, but she’s like, nah, pass. She goes home and finds that her dad has sent her flowers and an apology letter about how work is more important than seeing his kid on her fucking birthday. HANK.
Joyce tries to make things better by offering to take Buffy to the ice show herself, but it’s not the show Buffy is going to miss. She says she’ll just have a quiet birthday.
At a ramshackle boarding house called The Sunnydale Arms, some guys are doing light rennovations. You know, bricking up windows and such. Like you do. They’re under the supervision of a stuffy British dude who is not Giles. He stares with dire import at a tall, locked crate and muses that the Slayer’s preparation is almost complete, muahahahaha.
Cut to the library, where Giles is unpacking crystals while Buffy tries to sell him the Icecapades as a fine cultural experience. He pointedly ignores her hints, so she has to be more direct.
Buffy: “If someone were free, they’d take their daughters or their student…or their Slayer.”
This episode really kicks off my rest-of-the-series-long discussion of #2, which I know squicks some people out, so feel free to ignore this paragraph. This is the first of several times that Giles rejects the role of stand-in father for Buffy. A lot of Giles’s characterization throughout the series is wrapped up in where he stands in the Slayer’s life, but when he’s given the opportunity to assume a fatherly role, he backs away from it.
Backs away from it so far, in fact, that he hypnotizes poor Buffy with that big blue crystal and injects her with something from old-timey syringe that’s so huge it would undoubtedly leave some kind of mark she would be bound to notice. After he’s all done with the sketchy injection, she snaps out of her trance and goes home.
The next day at school, Buffy asks Willow how Amy The Rat is doing. I think I’m going to refer to her like that forever now, because Amy abandoned her friends to be burned at the stake to save herself, and she never does anything not shitty to the Scoobies after she does become human again. So fuck you, Amy The Rat.
Where was I?
Oh, right. So, Willow hasn’t been able to turn Amy human again, but there’s apparently a wheel scenario. Right away, this strikes me as poor rat research on the parts of everyone involved. Hamsters run in wheels. Rats sleep in them.
Across the courtyard, they see Cordelia involved in an altercation with a male student who grabs her and pushes her against a tree. When Buffy tries to intervene, the guy shoves her to the ground, leaving Cordelia to chase the guy off with weak slaps.
Buffy finds Giles in the hallway:
Buffy: “Okay, I just got swatted down by some no-neck and rescued by Cordelia. What the hell is happening?”
Giles: “I’m sure it will sort itself out.”
Buffy: “Look, you’re not getting the big picture here. I have no strength. I have no cooridination. I throw knives like–”
Giles: “A girl?”
Buffy: “…Like I’m not the Slayer.”
Giles: “Look, Buffy, I, I assure you, um, given time we’ll get to the bottom of whatever’s causing this…anomly.”
Giles: “Yes. I give you my word.”
Look at Buffy’s face when Giles says she throws knives like a girl:
It’s so raw and upsetting that Giles says this to her. Probably every woman has had that feeling of betrayal and disappointment when a man whose opinion she values reveals that he doesn’t think of her as equal due to her gender. It hits you like a punch in the gut, and Sarah Michelle Gellar captured that horrible feeling in her expression.
How fucking dare you, Giles. How dare you make Buffy have that face. Especially when you’re the one causing the anomaly.
We cut straight from Giles’s shitty, worthless promise to him sitting on the couch at the Sunnydale Arms. He’s talking to the dire old guy who was being so intense before. Dire Old Guy gives some serious exposition about what’s going on. Buffy is undergoing a trial called the Cruciamentum, a tradition that’s been around for centuries and happens when (if?) a Slayer reaches the age of eighteen. Giles thinks it’s “archaic and cruel”, because it involves locking Buffy, sans powers, up with whatever monster is in the big box.
Giles: “If any one of the Council still had actual contact with a Slayer they would see, but I’m the one in the thick of it.”
Toot toot! #34 coming through! The Council doesn’t have any contact with the Slayer? I mean, we already kind of knew that because we’ve never seen them, but if their entire organization exists specifically to aid and guide the Slayer so that evil can be like, destroyed? Why no communication? And this little test makes absolutely no sense, anyway. Why would you take Buffy, who has already been training, who’s already literally saved the world more than once, and risk getting her killed? Because of tradition? “Hey, Dave, you’re a great employee, but you didn’t pass this totally nonsensical test that proves nothing but that without your skills you wouldn’t be skilled anymore, so we’re going to have to let you go and hire someone who doesn’t have your skills or experience, even though you were doing fine this whole time.” Sure, Watchers, sounds like a great plan. Except yours involves the death of a young woman.
Giles leaves (but is still totally on board with the dumb plan), and whatever is in the box starts freaking out and screaming. So two of the worker guys open the box and have to spoon feed this vampire some pills carefully and from a great distance:
True story: Jeff Kober, the actor who plays this vampire, was my favorite character on another vampire show, Kindred: The Embraced (I used to be heavy into the White Wolf RPGs, okay, let’s not make a big deal about what a nerd I am). Now, because he was on Kindred, and because I knew I’d seen the actor who played The Judge in season two on Kindred as well, I kind of got these two guys mixed up. I was like, “Oh, The Judge is the same guy as the vampire in the box, and he was also Daedelus on Kindred: The Embraced.” Except I was wrong. Brian Thompson played The Judge, not Kober. And I had seen Thompson on Kindred, but he didn’t play Daedelus, the sensitive Nosferatu. He was Eddie Fiori, the Primogen of the Brujah (who are basically the super fucking worst of all the V:tM clans. Fight me). But I was right about one thing: Kober does come back later on Buffy, as Rack, the magical drug dealer.
I’m glad we got that all straightened out.
So, what do the pills do for vampire Hannibal Lecter? They calm him down. So, I’m going to go ahead and hit this with a great big bag of #14. We’ve got a vampire in a straight-jacket, strapped down Hopkins-style, being dosed with pills to keep him from raging and becoming dangerous. You know, because he’s super, extra scary. Why? Because he’s crazy. It’s not enough to lock no-powers Buffy up with a regular vampire? Of course not! He has to be the extra dangerous type of danger that only mental illness can supply! Look at the straight-jacket!
At the library, the Scoobies have hit a wall with their research. This results in a disagreement between Oz and Xander over which type of Kryptonite did what to Superman. Willow tells Buffy that there might be an upside to being like everyone else, but before Buffy can explore the idea, Giles comes back and says he hasn’t found any answers, either.
Meanwhile, at the Sunnydale Arms, crazy scary super crazy scary asylum crazy vampire is freaking out and screaming for his pills. As one of the guys goes to get them, the vampire manages to pop the seams of his straight jacket and free himself. Then he lures the guy close enough to choke him out.
At Angel’s mansion, Buffy looks at a book that he’s given her for her birthday, but she can’t summon up the enthusiasm required to act excited about some dusty old book her bazillion year old boyfriend has given her. She tells him she’s freaked out about having lost her powers, and he tries to reassure her, but she’s given a lot of thought to how this could go bad.
Buffy: “I’ve seen too much. I know what goes bump in the night. Not being able to fight it…what if I just hide under my bed, all scared and helpless? Or what if I just become pathetic? Hanging out the old Slayer’s home, talking people’s ears off about my glory days, showing them Mr. Pointy, the stake I had bronzed.”
But what Buffy’s really worried about is the fact that before she became the Slayer, she didn’t have anything to offer anybody. She asks Angel if he would still like her if she wasn’t the Slayer. This is what he says:
Angel: “I saw you before you became the Slayer.”
Angel: “I watched you. And I saw you called. It was a bright afternoon out in front of your school. And you walked down the steps, and I loved you.”
Angel: “‘Cause I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see, and I worried that it would be bruised or torn. And more than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe. To warm it with my own.”
I know there is a strong contingency of you guys who hate when I defend Edward Cullen via comparison to Angel. Brace yourselves, because here it comes. Remember how it was “creepy” and “stalkerish” for Edward to watch Bella while she slept, and how unrealistic it was that he was so immediately in love with her? Okay, but he wasn’t immediately in love with her, and he only watched her sleep because he was trying to get the courage up to eat her. Because he didn’t want to date her. He wanted to eat her. Because he’s a vampire. Here we have Angel literally saying that he saw Buffy when she was like fifteen and instantly knew he was in love with her and had to protect her. Even knowing she was the Slayer and could take care of herself. I’m sticking to my “Edward was way less creepy than Angel” position, because he a) didn’t fall in love with Bella after seeing her walk down some stairs, and b) wanted to protect Bella from other vampires because she was just a human and couldn’t defend herself. Also, Edward has that Tuck, Everlasting thing on his side, where he’s been a high school student for his whole afterlife, and Angel was a grown man when he was turned.
Luckily, the script has something to offer to those of us who are really squicked out by Angel’s whole speech:
Buffy: “That’s beautiful. Or taken literally, incredibly gross.”
Angel: “I was just thinking that, too.”
I love it when this show ruins its own mood. God bless this show.
The guy who got choked out by the spooky crazy man vampire wakes up as a vampire and frees his vampire daddy, who chugs pills and makes a joke about how having a song stuck in his head makes him nuts. Har har. Giles shows up at the boarding house and finds Quentin (the older Watcher dude) is missing, and there’s blood everywhere. Giles immediately breaks a piece of wood to make a stake, because he’s a tweed-wearing warrior, but when he stumbles upon the body of the other worker dude, he nearly barfs, then runs away. Which I find pretty unrealistic, given some of the shit Giles has seen.
Out on the mean streets of Sunnydale, Buffy gets sexually harassed, to show us how vulnerable she is. She hears a humming noise and it freaks her out. It should because it’s Mr. Crazy Vampire, who tells her that he can’t remember the words to the song because his “mind isn’t what it used to be.”
Because he’s crazy, get it?
Buffy gets away from him by slipping her coat and running, but she’s so weak she can’t even climb a fence. She runs into the street and tries to get a car to stop for her. Luckily, Giles drives up in the nick of time to save her. He drives her back to the library, where he confesses everything. The injections, the ritual, and the vampire (who tortured and killed a bunch of people before being committed to an “asylum for the criminally insane”) who has now gotten loose. But Buffy doesn’t care about any of that. She’s kind of focused on the part where someone she trusted with her life put that life in danger:
Buffy: “You bastard. All this time you saw what it was doing to me. All this time and you didn’t say a word.”
Raise your hand if you want to hug Buffy and take her away from this fucking monster of a man right this very instant.
Cordelia comes in mid-argument. When Buffy asks her for a ride home, Cordelia, seeing how upset Buffy is, says “Of course.” Because Cordelia is a good person. Even though she still really hates Buffy, Cordelia sees a person in pain and wants to help. That’s what makes Cordelia such a great character.
At the Summers House, Joyce is balancing her checkbook when she hears a noise outside. And even though she knows she lives in Sunnydale, and even though she knows her daughter is a Slayer and monsters are everywhere, she still goes the fuck outside. #8, Joyce. #8. This is especially frustrating considering everything that happened in the last episode. Obviously, the noise is the vampire.
Buffy comes home and sadly/angrily swipes the flowers from her father off the counter and into the trash, because it’s symbolic of how all the men in her life betray her or whatever. Then she finds the front door open and a polaroid of Joyce being choked by the vampire. On the back, in metalic sharpie, it says “COME”.
Hey, wait. This vampire went and presumably purchased a polaroid camera and a metallic sharpie before coming after the Slayer? That is some Angelus-level planning.
Even though she’s regretably human, Buffy loads up a bag full of weapons and heads out. At the Sunnydale Arms, the vampire tells Joyce about the child abuse he endured at the hands of his mother. He says he plans to make Buffy into a vampire, in the hopes that Vamp!Buffy eats Joyce.
Buffy shows up to the Sunnydale Arms to find it booby trapped with bricked up walls and shit. At the school, Giles tells Quentin that he already told Buffy about the test. Quentin is like, that’s against the rules, yadda yadda and it doesn’t matter because Buffy is already at the Sunnydale Arms. He begins to tell Giles that it’s not their business to get involved, but Giles says:
Giles: “This is not business!”
Yeah, well, maybe you could have thought about that earlier, Giles.
Are you worried about our girl being in that house full of evil vampires? Well, you shouldn’t be. Because even though she can’t shoot her crossbow, she can trap a vampire under a book case and beat him until he’s unconscious. Buffy’s not just a strong Slayer. She’s also a smart one. That’s probably the point of the whole test, but it’s still a stupid test. The super scary crazy vampire catches Buffy and is extremely gross and sexual toward her, and also he speaks in fairytale references and seems to sexually enjoy pain, so obviously he’s bona fide insane and way more dangerous, right?
I hope I’ve adequately conveyed exactly how hard my eyes are rolling over this “mental illness in lieu of characterization” technique that’s going on here.
Buffy runs from him and finds a dark room to lock herself in. When she turns on the light, she finds the walls literally covered in polaroids of Joyce.
Now, hang on a second. When did he have time to do all of this? Also, how much did he spend on polaroid film? And how many cartridges did he get? This is all a little too complicated to be realistic, and I’m saying this about a show about vampires.
Buffy runs from the horrifying room and the vampire catches her. He’s about to bite her and turn her when he’s conveniently assailed by one of his weird headache spells. When he tries to take a pill, Buffy grabs them and runs, jumping down a laundry chute. She lands in the basement, where Joyce is tied to a chair. She runs to Joyce and tries to free her, but the vampire comes in. He staggers to the glass of water and pitcher sitting nearby and uses it to pop his pills. He realizes something is wrong, and Buffy shows him the empty vial of holy water in her pocket. And of course he ashes up and dies.
Buffy: “If I was at full Slayer power I would be punning right now.”
That’s still pretty funny, Buffy.
But one thing that’s always bothered me: when did she pour that water into the cup? We don’t see it happen. Joyce reacts to Buffy’s arrival as though this is the first time she’s seen her. There’s a brief shot of the door before the vampire bursts through it, but due to the quick-cut nature of the scene, it doesn’t seem like there’s time enough for her to get the vial and pour it into the cup. And if she had it in her pocket the whole time, why didn’t she use it on him one of the two times he grabbed her? It just feels like everything goes too fast, like, “Well, we’ve passed page fifty, so we need to get this wrapped up.”
Buffy can’t undo the knots holding Joyce, so she starts searching for anything to cut them with. I don’t know, maybe the sword we saw you put in your bag earlier? Before she can find anything, a vampire lunges at her. Giles is right on the vampire’s tail, and stakes him.
Holy shit, you guys. Giles got into a physical altercation and did not get knocked out. What a time to be alive. Giles gives Buffy a look that says, “Killing this vampire was step one in my please-forgive-me plan,” and Buffy gives him a look that says, “I appreciate you killing that vampire, but things are not going to be right with us for a while.”
In the library, Buffy is cut up all to fuck and barely holding it together while Quentin congratulates her on what a good job she did. She tells him he should leave town before she gets her powers back, because she is pissed that they endangered her mom. Quentin tells her that they can’t be fair because they’re fighting a war.
Giles: “You’re waging a war. She’s fighting it. There is a difference.”
Yes, thank you! THANK YOU. Thank you, Giles, for doing anything fucking useful or constructive. Still hate you right now, though, buddy.
Council dude says that because Giles has “a father’s love” for Buffy, he’s not a good Watcher. Now, wait a damn minute here. A Watcher isn’t supposed to give a damn about his Slayer? How does that work? I mean, we know it happens, because in season five Giles mentions that he can’t find accounts of what happens when Slayers die, and his theory is that it’s too painful for the Watchers to write about it. Mentors have to have at least some investment in the people they’re mentoring, otherwise there’s no motivation. Even if there’s a common goal, the mentor/mentee relationship works best if there is, at the very least, mutual respect. This is just another example of how the council is cool with taking seasoned warriors and throwing them away like Dixie Cups. Another one is always going to pop up, right?
Council dude fires Giles and tells him he can’t have contact with Buffy anymore. He says he’s not going anywhere, and Council dude warns him not to interfere with the new Watcher. Through all of this, Buffy looks bewildered, like it’s the first time she’s ever considered that Giles could actually care about her. I’m extrapolating that into “the first time she’s ever considered that an adult could actually care about her,” because she seems real uncertain about Joyce’s love sometimes. Giles tends to her wounds and there’s like, a silent forgiveness vibe.
Back at the Summers house, Willow, Oz, Xander, and Joyce are joining Buffy for birthday brunch. Willow is freaking out that Giles is unemployed, but Buffy reminds them all that Giles is still the librarian and doesn’t plan on leaving. While she tells them all of this, she struggles to open a jar of peanut butter.
Xander: “Give ya a hand with that, little lady?”
Buffy: “You’re loving this far too much.”
Xander: “Admit it, sometimes you just need a big, strong man.”
But Xander is struggling with the jar himself when we fade to end titles and we hear:
Xander: “Uh, Will, give me a hand with that?”
Xander being insufferable is actually a really nice touch here. After the hell this show put us through, it’s nice to be reassured that everything is going to be business as usual again.
I’ve made it pretty clear that I dislike this episode, haven’t I? Well, the root of that is that I don’t like to see anyone betray Buffy. But it’s especially hard when it’s Giles, the only other person in their little group that knows what Buffy’s whole destiny thing is like, and how tough it is. And he chose protocol over her, even after all the shit the council has put him through. Sure, he’s been raised his whole life knowing this was going to be his calling, and maybe he was just like, you know, I better do this so I can stay in good with my employers. But no matter the reason, it will never be good enough for me. You knew better, Giles. It’s going to take me at least three more episodes to forgive you.
Okay, admittedly, this one might punch me right in the daddy issues. But fuck this episode. Seriously.