In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone just now realized she was missing a comma after the introductory phrase in this intro. 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- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?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/bi 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.
You know how I come off as absolutely hating Xander? Well, most of the time I really just loathe Xander. This time, though, I’m so grateful for him, because this episode is one of the highlights of the series.
We open on the Scoobies (and Faith this time!) fighting ugly monsters in a cave. Willow used a spell to make a cloud because low-visibility was somehow necessary for this fight. She mentions that this time it went better because nothing melted. The monsters they were fighting are dead now, but that’s not the end of the problem. Now that he’s fired, Giles is even more out of the loop, so he has no idea why there’s a nest of these beasties hanging out.
Now that Giles is unemployed, he has begun transitioning into the hottest of all of his incarnations: weekend-chores-dad edition:
How could anyone resist that gray fleece? Casual Giles is proof of #30.
Xander emerges from the pile of trash he’s been hiding in, and his cowardice gives Buffy and Faith some concerns:
Buffy: “Maybe you shouldn’t be leaping into the fray like that. Maybe you should be…fray adjacent.”
Xander: “Excuse me? Who at a crucial moment distracted the lead demon by allowing her to pummel him about the head?”
Faith: “Yeah, that was real manly, the way you shrieked and all.”
Buffy asks if they should burn the bodies, and Willow shocks them all by making a dark joke about marshmallows.
Willow: “Occasionally, I’m callous and strange.”
Giles is less concerned with how to get rid of the dead monsters and more with whether or not there are going to be more of these things. As they leave, Giles pulls Xander aside and suggests he stay in the background during the fighting. When the guy who gets knocked unconscious by a slight breeze thinks you might be in grave peril, maybe it’s time to listen.
The next day at school, Xander pathetically tries to get some varsity-jacketed guys to include him in their casual tossing of a football. When they finally do, he fumbles it and it hits a guy who is clearly too old to be going to high school:
Like, is this a 21 Jump Street thing? This guy is in his thirties, at least. He was also on Kindred: The Embraced. It was a whole Romeo & Juliet thing. Least interesting storyline of the show.
Anyway, Xander messed up the dude’s lunch, so dude asks if Xander is the r-word. You know, twenty odd years later, I’m surprised by how much this shocks me, when it was a fairly widespread and almost socially acceptable word to use as an insult. So, it doesn’t surprise me when it gets played off as a joke. Xander offers to buy the guy a soda as an apology for hitting him with the football, but the guy is more interested in rounding up his buddies and beating up Xander, who walks away legitimately terrified.
But notice the poster on the wall behind the guy in the screencap? It’s another anti-smoking poster! We know this guy is a bad dude, because we’re getting a #22 clue right in the frame!
Luckily for Xander, his ex-girlfriend saw everything:
Cordelia: “Boy, of all the humiliations you’ve had that I’ve witness…that was the latest.”
She doesn’t stop there with the hatefest:
Cordelia: “It must be really hard when all your friends have like, super powers. Slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires, and you’re like this little nothing.”
When Xander argues that he’s an integral part of the group, Cordelia tells him he’s the Zeppo. THEY SAID THE NAME OF THE THING IN THE THING! Hey, how does Cordelia have even a passing acquaintance with the Marx Brothers? She seems like the kind of person who would get Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin mixed up, so I’m calling #24.
Cordelia also says that Jack, the terrifying bully guy, repeated 12th grade three times, so maybe that’s why he looks so old.
In the cafeteria, Xander interrogates Oz about what makes a person cool. Realizing that Oz is cool because he’s in a band, Xander decides he needs to learn to play an instrument.
Xander: “Is it hard to play guitar?’
Oz: “Not the way I play it.”
Dan Vebber, who wrote this episode, has a flair for some Marx Brothers-style jokes, I see. Xander is pretty sure he can be cool, if he just figures out how.
In the library, Giles is back in the tweed and glasses. Enjoy it while it lasts. He thinks the monsters they killed at the beginning of the episode are going to open the Hellmouth.
Buffy: “The Hellmouth? The one that opens…”
Giles: “About twenty feet from where you’re standing.”
From his cage, werewolfed-out Oz howls mournfully. But when we cut to the next scene, it’s still clearly daytime out, so I’m not sure what’s up with the werewolfing?
Outside, Buffy explains to Willow that the if they don’t stop the Hellmouth from opening, the world is going to be flooded with demons. This time, things are really bad, and they have to get their butts in gear on the research front. Just as they approach the school building, Xander pulls up in a classic convertible. It looks to be a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, but I have to admit I’m not as good with visual identification of ’50s Chevy convertibles as I am with ’70s Chevy convertibles, which are by far the cooler cars that will get you maximum trim.
Buffy: “What is this?”
Xander: “What do you mean, what is it? It’s my thing.”
Willow: “Your thing?”
Xander: “My thing.”
Buffy: “Is this a penis metaphor?”
Xander: “It’s my thing that makes me cool. You know, that makes me unique. I’m car guy. Guy with a car.”
Xander’s uncle got too many DUIs to drive anymore, so he loaned his classic convertible that has clearly been lovingly cared for to a newly licensed driver. I’m guessing Uncle Rory was not sober when he made this decision, either.
Buffy and Willow aren’t as enthusiastic about his new car as Xander is, but they explain that a really big evil is coming:
Buffy: “Biggest. Maybe more than I can handle.”
Xander: “We’ll handle it together. You know I’m here for you. Just tell me what I can do.”
Cut to Xander at the Espresso Pump–wait, is this the first time we’re seeing the Espresso Pump in the series?! Xander is picking up donuts for his evil-fighting friends when Cordelia wanders in and points out yet again that he’s just the errand boy while everyone else is doing the hard work. She tells Xander that even though he has a new car, he’s not a whole new person, and nobody cares about him. Just then, a hot blonde walks up and asks Xander if the car belongs to him. She says it’s a ’57 Chevy Bel Air, so I was only off by a year and some more exaggerated tail fins.
This girl is really into cars, which Xander learns later when he’s bored out of his gord at the Bronze. She’s giving him a detailed list of all the classic cars owned by the guys she’s dated before when Angel comes in. Xander desperately tries to get Angel to give him an out, but Angel is kind of busy with the apocalypse. He tells Xander to stay out of harm’s way. When that doesn’t work, the girl asks Xander to take her for another drive. But Xander is so distracted by getting the brush off from Angel and the rest of the gang that he isn’t paying attention when he pulls out of his parking space, and he crashes into the car in front of him. Unfortunately, that car is owned by the possibly-undercover-cop-posing-as-a-high-school-student-even-though-he’s-pushing-forty guy from the beginning of the episode.
In the library, Oz-the-werewolf is freaking out. So are the humans. Despite the end of the world being at hand, the council still won’t talk to Giles. He’s going to have to take other measures:
Willow: “Where are you going?”
Giles: “Um, to try and contact the spirit guides. They exist out of time, but have knowledge of the future. I have no idea if they’ll respond to my efforts, but I have to try. All we know is that the fate of the entire world rests on it. Did you eat all the jellies?”
Buffy: “Did you want a jelly?”
Giles: “I always have a jelly. I’m always the one that says ‘let’s have a jelly in the mix.'”
Willow: “We’re sorry. Buffy had three.”
Giles starts to say something about Xander making another donut run, but Buffy stops him. She doesn’t want him involved in anything, for his own safety. So at this point, Xander can’t be trusted to stay safe on a donut run.
That might be an accurate assessment of the situation, however, because he’s currently confronting scary bully guy, who has a freaking bowie knife. That he’s named “Katie.” They’re about to get in a real bad fight when a cop comes up and recognizes the bully. He calls him O’Toole, so now I have a name to put to him. I think his name got mentioned before, but I spaced out on it. Anyway, Xander tells the cop that he and O’Toole were just messing around. This impresses O’Toole, who suggests they go “pick up the boys” and “cruise,” which is apparently a thing people say. Xander, car girl, and O’Toole pile into the convertible and drive off.
Cut to one of Sunnydale’s many cemeteries, where O’Toole is doing some kind of ritual around a grave. Then an honest-to-god Zombie in a varsity jacket climbs out of the ground. He’s Big Bob, and he’s psyched to see O’Toole. Car girl, however, is less psyched to see Bob. She runs away screaming while the undead celebrates with his friend.
Big Bob: “How long I been down?”
O’Toole: “Eight months. I had to wait ’til the stars aligned.”
Big Bob: “Oh, eight months, I got some catching up to do. Whoa, Walker Texas Ranger. You been taping ’em?”
O’Toole: “Every ep.”
They’re going to pick up the other guys. Who are also dead and psyched to be raised.
Speaking of raising the dead, Giles is doing some spooky magic in the cemetery as well. He argues with the spirit guide in Latin. They’re not inclined to do any guiding, which makes their name seem a bit counterintuitive. That’s when Xander stumbles upon Giles and asks him if he needs any help. Of course Giles doesn’t, and of course Xander couldn’t help talk to spirit guides, anyway, but he wants an excuse to get away from the dangerous bully and the dead guys waiting to hang out with him. Giles sends Xander away with a dire warning about everyone being called to fight or something like that.
At Willy’s, Buffy sits behind the bar with him as he bleeds all over himself. The place is trashed; someone was there looking for Angel. The battered barkeep tells her that the Hellmouth is going to open that very night, and that she should spend her last night on earth with Angel.
Xander is spending his last night on earth with zombies who want girls, Taco Bell, and revenge. One of them was thrown off a bridge by what sounds like a rival gang. Another was shot while trying to rob a liquor store. They tell Xander that they’re going to “bake a cake,” then take him to break into a hardware store. As he sits behind the wheel of the car, panicking about the fact that he’s now an accessory to a break-in, he sees Willow leave the Magic Box. She tells him that the big scary is happening tonight, but he doesn’t know what it is and she doesn’t have time to explain. She has to get back to Buffy and do a protection spell. She leaves Xander there with his new gang. They want to initiate him…by killing him.
See, the whole thing with this gang is that they’re all dead. O’Toole raises them. He’s been dead for three weeks, he just looks a lot better than the other guys because he was raised within ten minutes of dying. Xander runs away (and sprints right through the Espresso Pump, which is a business I’ve never really understood. It doesn’t have any doors or windows? No grates or shutters? They just stretch a chain over the entrance and hope it’s all going to work out?
Faith is in a park, fighting a demon like the one from the beginning of the episode. Xander sees that Faith definitely doesn’t have the upper hand, so he drives his car into the demon and tells Faith to get in. They speed back to the motel.
Faith: “She got me really wound up. A fight like that and no kill…I’m about ready to pop.”
“Pop” gets used a lot to mean something sexual in Buffy lingo, doesn’t it? Or is it just two instances I can think of, both of them Faith? Actually, yeah. Maybe it was two times and both times were Faith.
But that doesn’t matter right now, because Xander is about to lose his virginity, and we witness the tender moment via a reflection in the TV screen, complete with some softcore Cinemax music. Then she kicks him out the door naked when they’re all done.
In the library, Oz is getting too rowdy to handle. Giles is going to open the cage for some reason, though. Willow is there with the tranqulizer gun. She shoots Oz, but it doesn’t take effect, and Giles has to physically restrain him so Willow can get another shot off. Wait, Giles is strong enough to physically restrain a furious, rampaging werewolf? I’ll be in my bunk.
Back at the car, Xander finally gets around to looking in the bags of stuff the zombies put in it. Surprise! It’s bomb supplies.
Xander: “Hey. They’re not baking any cake.”
He drives back to the hardware store:
Xander: “Long gone. Probably loaded with supplies. Gotta think. I can’t believe I had sex. Okay, bombs.”
I love this part, because I so identify with the “I can’t believe I had sex” thing. After I had sex for the first time, I walked around for like a day thinking that. It seemed so out of the realm of the possible for a teenager.
Xander decides that Buffy will know what to do, but when we cut to Buffy, she’s telling Angel that she doesn’t know what to do. Everything is super dramatic. Angel is going to sacrifice himself to stop the evil that we have no idea about. There’s all this I can’t lose you, I can’t watch you die going on, with the romantic sadness music and everything. It all grinds to a halt when Xander clears his throat. He stands awkwardly in the door and tries to explain that there’s this bomb-making zombie plot happening, but he realizes it’s not so big in the grand scheme of what Buffy has going on, so he leaves.
At the school, Giles is doing some kind of dangerous spell over the hell mouth. Willow comes in and says she moved Oz and hopes he’s somewhere secure. In the school basement, the zombies are building their bomb.
Out on the road, Xander spots the zombies. He grabs one of them and drags it alongside the car as he speeds away. He demands to know where the bomb is, and the zombie tells him it’s at the high school. Then Xander accidentally decapitates the zombie by running into a mailbox. Screaming like he’s just seen a mouse in the kitchen, he drives away to the school. Once there, he finds the basement locked and the remaining zombies in hot pursuit.
In the library, the Hellmouth has opened, and this has come out:
You probably can’t tell from the screencap, but the monsters fulfill our #7.
Xander runs from the zombies through the school. He crushes Big Bob under a vending machine, and another runs away only to be intercepted by the demons everyone was fighting in the first scene of the episode. Xander is still oblivious to the peril in the library, until a big tentacle weiner monster busts through the wall at him. He runs to boiler room, where he finds the bomb:
Xander: “Less than two minutes. Dumb guy, little bomb. How hard can it be?”
I’m so bummed, because my internet just crapped out so I can’t get a picture of it, but on the back of the boiler room door there’s a poster that says “First Aid and Choking”. Like, who the fuck is going to choke in the boiler room? Why is that poster there?
Before Xander can disable the bomb, O’Toole attacks him. He talks a tough game, but Xander reminds him that their time is kind of running out. Xander manages to get between O’Toole and the door, then has one of the most badass Xander moments of all time:
Xander: “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Can I get by him? Get up the stairs, out of the building? Seconds ticking away? I dont’ love your chances.”
O’Toole: “Then you’ll die, too.”
Xander: “Yeah, looks like. So I guess the question really is… who has less fear?”
O’Toole: “I’m not afraid to die. I’m already dead.”
Xander: “Yeah, but this is different. Being blowed up isn’t walking around and drinking with your buddies dead. It’s little bits being swept up by a janitor dead, and I don’t think you’re ready for that.”
O’Toole: “Are you?”
Xander: “I like the quiet.”
WTF, Xander just comes out of nowhere with the action hero ambivalence to death. Where has he been hiding that one?
In the library, everyone is still fighting the monster, unaware that a bomb is going to go off in eleven seconds. As the clock ticks down, O’Toole disables the bomb. Xander tells him that he doesn’t want to see him at the high school again, and leaves. Alone in the boiler room, O’Toole begins to monologue:
O’Toole: “I’m not going anywhere, Harris. The first time you turn your back–”
And then he opens the door and Oz jumps in. There is much screaming and wet tearing sounds.
The next day, everyone is bruised and beaten up, struggling with the aftermath of the violence they experienced and wrought. There’s a brief reconciliation moment between Buffy and Giles that I assume is supposed to gloss over the shit from the last episode, but it’s only two lines and it kind of doesn’t satisfy:
Buffy: “I don’t know how you managed. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Giles: “Stupidest. But the world continues to turn.”
Meh. I mean, I’ll grudgingly acknowledge that there’s a little basis for #2 in the way he reacts to the praise, but it doesn’t fix all that betrayal from the last episode. There wasn’t room to deal with it in this episode, but maybe there should have been something in between that one and this one, just so we could have seen some believable forgiveness with our own eyes?
Xander comes up to the table and Willow tells him he’s lucky not to have been there the night before. Xander doesn’t mention what happened to him, and pretends everything was just peaceful and fine.
Xander: “Well, uh, give me the quiet life. I’m gonna grab a snack, anyone want?”
Giles: “No, thank you.”
Oz: “No. Oddly full today.”
As Xander walks away, he runs into Cordelia, and she tries her best to cut him down. He just smiles at her and walks away, while she stands there confused as to why she hasn’t been able to shake him.
So, in addition to the aforementioned I-need-more-than-just-these-two-lines lack of resolution from the previous episode, there’s just one other thing that rubs me the wrong way, and that’s Willow sitting at the picnic table and congratulating them all for saving the world, how no one will ever know they did it, etc. Yes, they were worried about Xander’s safety, and that’s why they kept him away, but I feel left out on his behalf. This episode actually gives me a lot of sympathy for Xander, in terms of being the only person in the group who doesn’t have much to offer. When the chips are down, he can do amazing stuff (see also: season six), but this episode drives home just how little recognition he gets. We often see him depicted as cowardly and useless, but this episode is really good at reminding you that even though he really is the odd man out, he has more courage than the rest of them. He’s willing to be there on the front lines, even though he doesn’t have any special power or strength to protect himself. This was the point in the series where I really started to soften toward Xander, even though he continues to be dickish and annoying through the rest of the show, right up until mid-season seven.