In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone will probably die of sleep deprivation during this first week of school. 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- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?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.
- Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.
- Buffy is an abusive romantic partner.
- Riley is the worst.
- Joss Whedon has a problem with fat people.
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.
Sunnydale High is a cold crater in the ground and it’s time for us all to move on to Buffy: The College Years. Everyone is going to go through some new and exciting changes, and I think we’re all going to come out better for them.
Just not in this episode.
We open on a cemetery, where Buffy and Willow are trying to figure out Buffy’s class schedule for the upcoming semester. Buffy is considering dropping her psychology class in favor of something else, and Willow protests, saying it’s an interesting class and counts for a science credit. Also?
Willow: “Anyway, Professor Walsh is supposed to be great. She’s like, world-renowned.”
Boom. There we go. Big bad mentioned before the opening credit sequence. I think the only other time this happens is in season one, isn’t it?
Anyway, Buffy blames a summer of heavy slayage for putting off deciding on her courses for the semester. So, I can tell her right now for free that the pop culture class she wants is full. All the classes where you just watch TV or listen to music get snapped up immediately. While she and Willow talk about this stuff, a vampire rises from his grave behind them. He grins evilly to himself as he sneaks toward the girls, but stops when he sees the crossbow and stakes beside Buffy. He wisely chooses to hit the road while Buffy continues to talk about college:
Buffy: “I just can’t let it take the edge off of my slaying. I gotta stay sharp. Is this guy ever gonna wake up?”
After the credits, we join Buffy on the UC Sunnydale campus, where she’s overwhelmed by the crowd, the folder color orientation system, and vague, yet loud, protests.
I was thinking the other day about the whole thing with Joss Whedon being even more of a douchebag Male Feminist™ than we previously understood, and wondering how that would affect my analysis and enjoyment of Buffy. This throw-away moment is a great example of how Whedon’s real life actions have affected my consumption of the show. Why? Because in the past, I saw this as just a quick workaround wherein the audience could see an example of a campus activist group recruiting on the first day of classes, without highlighting a specific agenda or controversial issue, thus alienating viewers. “Look, it’s a campus group demonstrating. This is a different environment than Buffy is used to. No need to get into a bunch of details.” That’s all it was, in my mind. Now, having read the allegations of how Whedon treated the women he worked with, how he monetized feminist branding to benefit himself, I look at this moment differently. I see a dude bro making a crack about social justice warriors (though the term wasn’t really in use at the time, the stereotype existed), outraged women in particular. Whether or not he intended this as a mean-spirited joke about those hysterical Feminazis or whatever, I don’t know. But as Whedon wrote this episode, and as we now know more about his personal attitudes versus his public persona, it suddenly takes on a new possible meaning and makes me feel like I can’t trust the show anymore.
That’s not to say I don’t still have a lot of fondness for it. It just means that my feelings of betrayal are a lot deeper than I expected them to be, even after all these years of watching Whedon fuck up.
Anyway, as Buffy tries to find the right building, she’s inundated with flyers for like, more protests and getting saved by Jesus and a really gross party where they’re giving out Jell-o shots free to freshman girls. Ugh, why are dudes so gross?
Luckily, Buffy runs into Willow, who isn’t overwhelmed. She’s jacked up about all the school she’s about to do. She also has a bunch of flyers:
Willow: “I’ve heard about five different issues, and I’m angry about each and every one of them. What did you get?”
Willow: “I didn’t get Jello-shots. I’ll trade you for a Take Back The Night.”
See above. I didn’t necessarily think this was cute before (ha ha, she’s trading a flyer about a campus anti-rape group for a flyer about a party where she’ll definitely get raped), but now it seems less clueless, more sinister. It doesn’t matter what the original intent was. Whedon’s actions now cast these little moments in a whole new light.
Willow is perhaps a little too excited about this next chapter in her academic life:
Willow: “It’s just, in high school, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon. You really had to work to learn anything. But here the energy, the collective intelligence, it’s like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up, you know? And letting this place just thrust into and spurt knowledge into… That sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in.”
Buffy is already feeling trepidation because she didn’t get to school on time to get her student ID without waiting in a line, and also because she’s not as excited about the spurting as Willow is. Buffy and Willow run into Oz, who mentions the chaotic busy-ness of the campus. Buffy is relieved that she’s not the only one who feels out of place, but as she’s saying so, an acquaintance of Oz’s stops to chat with him. Since he’s in a band, Oz is no stranger to UC Sunnydale (where Dingoes has played many times before) and knows people and his way around already. He confidently helps the guy with directions, while Buffy silently realizes that yup, she’s still alone in her doubts and worries.
Since one was a big part of their high school lives, Buffy and Willow check out the library. Buffy mentions that it’s too bad Giles couldn’t just become a librarian at the college.
Willow: “Well, he says he’s enjoying being a gentleman of leisure.”
Buffy: “Gentleman of leisure? Isn’t that just British for unemployed?”
Willow: “Uh-huh. He’s a slacker now.”
Slacker!Giles is my second favorite Giles.
The subject of slackers naturally turns to Xander, who’s still on his post high school road trip. He told Willow he wouldn’t return to Sunnydale until he’d driven to all fifty states. She didn’t have the heart to tell him about Hawaii. Buffy says it’ll be nice to have the gang back together and hanging out in the library again…until she sees that the library is roughly the size of a ninth century Spanish mosque. And of course, Willow has to compare it to the old Sunnydale High library, which wasn’t as big and didn’t have as many non-occult books in it. We definitely get the feeling that Willow’s litany of “high school sucked in comparison to this” is bringing Buffy down.
At the campus bookstore, we get some awful foreshadowing.
Buffy: “I can’t wait till mom gets the bill for these books. I hope it’s a funny anyeurism.”
OH MY GOD WHY?! WHY?! FUCK YOU #21!
While trying to reach for a book on a high shelf, Buffy knocks a bunch of very heavy textbooks onto the head of a handsome dude who stole Aaron Carter’s haircut:
This is Riley Finn. He is the worst. Now, even though he won’t do anything that’s the worst yet, I’m still going to add a number to the list in preparation. #38: Riley is the worst.
Riley is Dr. Walsh’s teaching assistant, and he’s just as psyched about her class as Willow is. Meanwhile, Buffy stumbles through the conversation. I assume this is due to her uncontrollable attraction to our generic white love interest.
Buffy goes to her dorm room and meets her roommate, Kathy. She’s very talkative and peppy and positive and she has great taste in music:
I know this is supposed to show that Kathy is tragically uncool, but I will brook no slander against my French-Canadian Goddess of Song.
That night, Buffy struggles to sleep through Kathy’s apnea snoring and dream giggling. The next morning finds Buffy in that pop culture class:
Profesor: “The point of this course is not to critique popular American culture. It is not to pick at it or look down upon it, and it is not to watch videos for credit […]”
Dude, I have already failed your class.
As the professor is talking, Buffy whispers to another student to ask if the class is full yet. And the professor, a nasty looking little ego-maniacal prick of a man who is clearly ready to take his superiority complex out on his female students, decides to make an example of her:
Professor: “And there are two people talking at once and I know that one of them is me and the other is…a blonde girl. You. Blonde girl. Stand up.”
“Now, Jenny,” you might be thinking, “this dude has every right to tell someone to stop talking in his class.” Sure he does. But he doesn’t have every right to embarrass and devalue a young female student by condescendingly referring to her as “Blonde Girl” and making her stand up in front of the entire lecture hall. That’s some shitty, sexist shit. Granted, I did not finish college, but I can think of twice in my entire time there that any instructor called someone out for whispering to their neighbor, and they managed to do it without being giant misogynists about it. One was like, “You realize this is an ASL class, but we’re not all actually Deaf?” which will never not be funny to me. Like, who talks out loud during a mostly-signed class?
Anyway, the professor asks Buffy what was so important that she needed to talk in his class, and she tries to explain that she didn’t know if there were openings left and she was told to just show up to find out. But the guy isn’t interested in hearing any of that. He tells her she’s sucking energy from everyone in the room and shouts at her to leave. So, Buffy’s first experience in college is being humiliated in front of like, a hundred people by a guy who probably went home and jerked off about it later.
Buffy runs into Riley in a hallway and asks him how his head is doing, but it takes him a minute to remember her and why she would ask him that. Then, when he does, he refers to her as Willow’s friend, and the sudden removal of Buffy’s identity makes her visibly uncomfortable. Riley walks her to psych class, where she meets up with Willow. When she asks Buffy how the pop culture class was, Buffy tells her she decided not to take it because it was dull.
Enter Professor Walsh:
Professor Walsh: “Okay, this is pysch 105, introduction to psychology. I’m Profesor Walsh. Those of you who fall into my good graces will come to know me as Maggie. Those of you who don’t will come to know me by the name my TAs use and think I don’t know about, The Evil Bitch Monster of Death.”
Is Ana Steele one her of TAs? Because that’s just like, a hop, skip and a jump away from “The Bitch Troll.”
Walsh tells the students that the class is going to be difficult and that if they want an easy class they should try Geology 101, because that’s “where the football players are.” (#11)
So, Buffy is strolling around campus at night and runs into another student, Eddie, who’s gotten lost. They walk together to their dorms and talk about Walsh’s psych class and how UC Sunnydale was supposed to be a party school. He tells her how much he loves Of Human Bondage, which she thinks is a porno, and they begin a tenuous friendship out of their mutual sense of being overwhelmed by the college experience. When they part ways to go to their separate buildings, Eddie watches Buffy go with a little smile. He’s so distracted by this pretty young woman that he’s easily ambushed by a group of vampires who have stepped right out of a post-grunge alternative music video:
After the break, the grunge vampires ransack Eddie’s dorm room, throwing things into boxes and emptying the place out. At psych the next day, Buffy is confused when she can’t find Eddie. She goes to his dorm and finds the place completely empty. An RA tells her that it’s normal, sometimes people bail during the first week. Besides a note explaining that school is just too much to handle, Eddie has also left behind his copy of Of Human Bondage, which he’d previously described as his security blanket he takes everywhere.
So, where is Eddie? Laying all gray on the floor of a room full of vampires, surrounded by piles of stuff. The main blonde-girl vampire is sorting through Eddie’s CDs, complaining that they’re not good enough and they need to kill cooler people. Shit, kill Kathy. I guarantee she’s got a whole STACK of Celine Dion cassettes.
Hey, ready for a killer moment of super original, never-before-heard comedy?
Red-head Vampire: “Does this sweater make me look fat?”
Blonde Vampire: “No, the fact that you’re fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple.”
I direct you to TVTropes.com’s pages, “Does This Make Me Look Fat” , featuring not one, but THREE entries on Joss Whedon.
Actually, no. I direct you there after you finish this recap. Because once you get over there, that’s the rest of your day all used up.
The surfer-guy vampire gets everyone’s attention because he’s got a poster for their ongoing poster wall competition. It’s Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss,” which he staples on the wall over several others like it.
Surfer-Guy Vampire: “Big score for Klimt. Monet still well in the lead, but look out for Team Klimt, coming from behind.”
They’ve got a tally board and everything, and are apparently racing “The Kiss” against “Water Lilies” and it’s so painfully true, you guys. Everyone I knew who lived in a college dorm at this time had one or the other.
Blonde Vampire: “Freshman. Man, they’re so predictable.”
Surfer-Guy Vampire: “And you can never eat just one.”
Red-head Vampire: “Yeah, I’m hungry.”
Blonde Vampire: “What a shock.”
Do you guys want to see this tragically obese girl who deserves to be endlessly mocked for her weight?
Buffy is on the few shows where I really don’t think of it as having a lot of fat shaming. There are definite instances, even besides this one, but it’s nothing on par with, say, 30 Rock, in which we are constantly told that size-four-at-best Tina Fey is grotesquely fat and unloveable because of it. If I were going to list the top ten worst TV fat-shaming offenders, Buffy wouldn’t make the cut. Which is what makes this scene stick out even more. There’s no need for it. The blonde vampire (I think her name is Sunday or Tuesday or something, I haven’t looked it up yet and they haven’t said it) is already unlikeable. She’s a vampire who kills students and steals their stuff. We don’t need the fat shaming on top of it. The only reason these lines are in here is to be cruel for cruelty’s sake.
The blonde vampire complains that she needs better minions, and the “fat” vampire tells her that if she’s going to act like that, she can have “Dead Eddie” hunt for their dinner. Blonde vampire says that was her plan, and Eddie’s eyes open.
If I were a vampire, I would for sure call myself Dead Eddie.
Meanwhile, at Giles’s house, Buffy lets herself right on in and…
This is why people knock, Buffy.
She asks the stranger if Giles still lives there, and Giles emerges in his bathrobe. He introduces the woman as his “old friend” Olivia. Remember the “old friend” thing, because I’m gonna address it again in a later episode. Oh, also of note, she refers to him as “Ripper.” Again, keep that in mind, because I want to point out a glaring inconsistency when we get to “Hush”.
Anyway, Buffy tries to take off by saying it’s a bad time, but Giles insists that she tell him what she came to see him about.
Buffy: “This is a bad time.
Giles: “You keep saying that–”
Buffy: “Well, it looks pretty bad! I think someone had just a little too much free time on their hands!”
Giles: “I’m not supposed to have a private life?”
Buffy: “No! Because you’re very, very old and it’s gross.”
Obviously, this is thrilling news for Giles to hear.
I bet you’re wondering, “Jenny, why aren’t you posting a picture of Giles in his bathrobe? That seems like it would be right up your alley.” Well, because it’s a fucking hideous bathrobe, friends, and if I’m ever to find Giles attractive again, I have to avoid creating permanent memories of it. Ugh, it looks like it’s made of an unholy blend of microfiber and velvet or something.
Anyway, Buffy tells Giles that a student went missing and she found signs of a scuffle and an RA told her that students go missing all the time. Giles listens but points out that none of what Buffy is telling him is unusual or something that’s too big for her to handle.
Buffy: “Remember before you became Hugh Heffner, when you used to be a Watcher?”
Giles: “Well, officially you no longer have a Watcher. Buffy, you know I’ll always be here when you need me. Your safety is more important to me than anything. But you are going to have to take care of yourself. You’re out of school and I can’t always be there to guide you.”
Hey, friends. Can one of you help me out? When Buffy walks into Giles’s house, David Bowie’s “Memory Of A Free Festival” is playing in the background, but it’s not the version from Space Oddity. Instead of an electric organ backing the vocals, there are guitars. I wasted a lot of my time this morning trying to track it down. I went through all my albums and I tried Spotify and YouTube and I cannot find that version of the song and it’s driving me up a wall. It’s not the version on Bowie At The Beeb. If you can tell me where it’s from, even if it’s from a freaking bootleg or something, please let me know in the comments.
That night, Buffy patrols campus by herself. She spots Eddie and chases him down, only to find he’s all vamped out:
Buffy: “God, I was worried that something had happened to you and of course it has because you’re a vampire.”
She fights Eddie and stakes him, and the vampire gang steps out of the shadows. The main vampire, the blonde one, introduces herself:
Blonde Vampire: “I’m Sunday. I’ll be killing you here in a minute or so.”
Buffy: “You know, that threat gets more frightening every time I hear it.”
Surfer-Guy Vampire: “Uh, are we gonna fight, or is there just gonna be a monster sarcasm rally?”
Surfer-Guy should be leading this group. I would hang out with him.
Buffy and Sunday fight and Sunday really kicks Buffy’s ass. But, not without a little “look how I subvert misogyny!” misogyny:
Sunday: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…you fight like a girl.”
Ha ha, see, if one girl says it to another it’s funny and I’m empowering women by writing it! See, it’s like, she’s saying, “You fight like a girl,” but she’s a girl and she can fight better, so using a “fight like a girl” as an insult to show that not fighting like a girl is superior is feminist! I didn’t subvert anything (I actually reinforced it) but I think I did, so I’m brilliant! (#6)
Yeah, okay. I’m going to be extra hard on Joss episodes in light of his nonsense. I see that now. We’re all just going to deal with it.
Buffy, realizing she’s outnumbered and that Sunday is stronger than her, runs from the fight. Because (#16). I’m not saying Buffy can never have an off day, or that no vampire is ever going to get the jump on her. But this isn’t like when the vampire stakes her in season five. She gets her ass fully handed to her, basically just to demoralize her further. We just saw her fight another Slayer two episodes ago. Maybe she needed to run from this fight, but the way she gets tossed around like a rag doll is unbelievable to me.
Part of me wonders (because Whedon) if Buffy getting beat up here isn’t supposed to be like, “Oh, look, she’s so sad and emotional, and being sad and emotional has made her physically weak because that’s how women work.” I mean, did you read his Wonder Woman screenplay?
Buffy goes back to her dorm room and nurses her injuries, and in the morning she spots Willow and Oz happily talking to another student, totally well-adjusted already somehow. In the vampire nest, the vamps are making fun of Buffy behind her back, mocking her outfit and talking about how weak she was. Sunday says Buffy won’t last the night and tells her minions to head to the tunnels below the town.
Discouraged, Buffy goes home, intending to stay there for a few nights, only to find that while she’s been gone, she’s basically lost her place there, too, as Joyce has filled her entire bedroom with crates full of artifacts.
Joyce: “You know, I didn’t think you’d be back for a couple of weeks. But I didn’t move anything. It’s still your room.”
Buffy: “You filled it with packing crates.”
Joyce: “Yeah, but I didn’t move anything.”
Buffy: “If it’s still my room, shouldn’t I be able to fit in it?”
Joyce: “Well, it’s just for a couple of weeks while we do inventory at the gallery. I just really didn’t think you’d be back so soon.”
Buffy: “Neither did I.”
Downstairs, the phone rings, and when Buffy answers, there’s no one there. Since there’s no place for her to sleep at home, she returns to her dorm to find her side of the room completely cleaned out, just like Eddie’s was, in preparation for her death. There’s even a note, saying basically the same thing as the note they left for Eddie.
If there’s one place that Buffy can count on, it’s the Bronze. Of course, her crowd isn’t there. Angel isn’t going to show up to be mysterious. Oz’s band isn’t playing. Cordelia isn’t slinking around being bitchy. For a moment, Buffy thinks she sees Angel, but it’s just a guy who looks like him. So, basically, a dude in his mid-to-late thirties hanging out with all the kids. This isn’t “Band Candy,” dude. Take a hike.
Just as Buffy is realizing that she’s lost in her last refuge from change, Xander’s there. He got into town a few days before, but he didn’t want to help Willow and Buffy move, so he laid low for a while. When Buffy asks how his great American road trip went, he tells her saw the Grand Canyon. The movie, Grand Canyon.
Xander: “Basically, I got as far as Oxnard and the engine fell out of my car. And that was literally. So, I ended up washing dishes at the fabulous Ladies’ Nightclub for about a month and a half while I tried to pay for the repairs. No one really bothered me, or even spoke to me, until one night when one of the male strippers called in sick, and no power on this earth will make me tell you the rest of that story. Suffice to say, I traded my car in for one that wasn’t entirely made of rust, came trundling back home to the arms of my loving parents where everything was exactly as it was except I sleep in the basement and I have to pay rent. How’s college?”
Damn, Xander! I’m not even going to label this #36, because it actually calls out Buffy’s economic privilege. While some people might see this story as a funny, “Oh, that Xander,” kind of moment, the “how’s college” at the end has me cheering every time. There will be plenty of opportunities to critique the show’s weird ideas of poverty, but “I’m stranded far from home, trying to get enough money to get back” is so real for so many people. I love the fact that Xander isn’t letting his friend forget that he lives in a much, much different world than she does.
Xander asks Buffy why she’s so down in the dumps, and she explains that her experience with the vampire gang was kind of demoralizing. In a humorous bit of unintentional foreshadowing of Joss’s life, Xander says:
Xander: “Then where’s the gang? Avengers assemble, let’s get it going!”
Buffy tells him that she doesn’t want to burden her friends with this nonsense.
Xander: “Buffy, I’ve gone through some fairly dark times in my life. Faced some scary things. Among them, the kitchen at the fabulous Ladies’ Nightclub. Let me tell you something: when it’s dark and I’m all alone and I’m scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, ‘What would Buffy do?’ You’re my hero.”
This is the Xander I love. This is the side of him that makes him one of Buffy’s greatest allies. He doesn’t offer to help with magic or tell her what he thinks she should do. He really does try to think of what’s best for her in most cases, and he knows when to bust out the tough love and when love is all that’s needed.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop talking.
Xander: “Okay, sometimes, when it’s dark and I’m all alone I think, ‘what is Buffy wearing…”
God damnit, Xander. (#5)
But his pep talk is enough to get Buffy out of her slump, and he makes it clear he’s going to help her in any way she needs.
They break into an office at the college and look over records on the computer, subverting #15. So, I guess that one only applies if Willow is in the room when the scene takes place. Buffy finds that a number of students abruptly leave campus every year, but not enough that it ever raises any alarms. They find out that a zoning issue has kept a disbanded fraternity’s house vacant since the ’80s, when the disappearances first started. They decide that must be where the vampires are nesting and hoarding all the students’ stuff.
At the frat house, Buffy and Xander spy on the vampires through a skylight. The vamps are going through all of Buffy’s things and making fun of her. Sunday holds up some of Buffy’s clothes:
Buffy: “Oh! That’s my skirt! You’re never going to fit in it with those hips. We have to kill them.”
We have to kill them…because a girl with wider hips than mine dares think that my clothes could fit her.
You know what? I’m adding that number now. Just to be petty and spiteful. #39: Joss Whedon has a problem with fat people. And that’s not just me being too critical of a few lines of dialogue in this single episode. Later this season, when Tara is introduced, keep in mind that he had this to say about actress Amber Benson on the DVD commentary:
“I was thinking of somebody more physically like Alyson: smaller and… [long pause] less womanly than Amber. It was [executive producer] Marti Noxon, when Amber auditioned, who said – you know, she knew the physical type I was thinking of because I really wanted that vulnerability. […]”
In Joss’s worldview, women who aren’t delicate and sylphlike can’t be vulnerable. Because we’re all tanks, or something.
Lest you think, “Jenny, why are you saying ‘fat people’? Sunday isn’t fat! The red-headed vampire isn’t fat! Amber Benson isn’t fat, for Christ’s sakes!” let me assure you that I agree. But if Whedon has a problem with the hips of a woman as slim as the actress playing Sunday, I guarantee that he has a problem with the hips of a person who’s actually fat. That fact that there are literally no fat people on Buffy, with the exception of a few demons depicted as fat to make them more hideous and disgusted (they were probably portrayed by thin actors in fat suits) makes these comments even more insulting; not only are extremely thin actresses mocked for their “fat” bodies in the script, actual fat people don’t exist in the Buffyverse. We might as well be invisible to Joss Whedon. He can’t even be bothered to put us on the screen to mock us.
Why yes, I have reached critical “FUCK THAT GUY.”
Buffy doesn’t see her weapons in the nest, so she sends Xander to get them from either her room or Willow’s. Then, leaning directly on the glass of the skylight, Buffy monologues:
Buffy: “Laugh all you want. This time, we play it my way. And the rules are gonna be just a little bit–”
The glass breaks mid-sentence, tumbling Buffy directly into the center of the vampire group. After a commercial break comes the pre-fight banter:
Buffy: “You got a nice setup here. But you made one mistake.”
Sunday: “What was that?”
Buffy: “Well, I’m not actually positive, but statistically speaking, people usually make at least–”
Sunday punches her in the face, and we cut to Buffy’s dorm room, where Kathy is showing Oz and Willow the note the vampires left behind. Willow says it’s not like Buffy to run away, except for the time she ran away, but they’re certain that something is fishy. Which makes Kathy feel real secure, knowing her roommate once ran away for months and changed her identity. Willow realizes that she and Oz have been so wrapped up in their own lives that they haven’t been paying attention to anything that’s going on with Buffy. As they try to figure out the problem, Xander shows up and tries to subtly clue them in on what’s happening without revealing anything to Kathy:
Xander: “Well, some friends of Buffy’s played a funny joke and they took her stuff, and now she wants our help to get it back from her friends who sleep all day and have no tans.”
Very slick, Xander.
Thinking Buffy is still just hanging out on the roof, Xander tells Willow and Oz they have a little time. In reality, Buffy is struggling hard. She spots her weapons chest and tries to crawl to it, but Sunday cuts her off. She mocks the Class Protector award from Buffy’s senior year and breaks it in half. That’s all Buffy needs to get her spirit back. Sunday twists Buffy’s hurt arm and says:
Sunday: “You know, this arm’s not looking so good. It might have to come off.”
Buffy: “You wanna know the truth? I only need one.”
BA-BAM! You do not fuck with the only symbol of recognition of Buffy’s sacrifice that she has ever received. Because that gets her going. She’s mopping in the floor with Sunday and the Red-Headed vampire, while the dude bro vampires decide to run. But then the doors burst open and in come Xander, Oz, and Willow, repelling the vamps with a cross and shooting them with a crossbow.
I wonder if just turning a crossbow sideways would repel a vampire. That would free up a hand.
Buffy and Sunday continue to banter, and the red-headed vampire flees. As Sunday gloats about breaking the Slayer’s arm, Buffy punches her square in the face to prove it’s not actually broken. Xander asks Buffy if she needes help, and she does a sassy little stake twirl as she declines. Then she throws Mr. Pointy right through Sunday’s chest. And rather than looking shocked or scared or anything, Sunday puts her hands on her hips, annoyed, as she crumbles to dust.
As the gang leaves the house, Xander asks what’s going to happen to all the stuff inside. While Oz feels that taking it would be wrong, Xander has no moral qualms about getting himself a new rowing machine. Then, Giles literally runs to Buffy, his arms full of weapons:
Giles: “I’ve been awake all night. I know I’m supposed to teach you self-reliance, but I can’t leave you out there to fight alone. To hell with what’s right. I’m ready to back you up. Let’s find the evil and fight it together.”
Cough, #2, cough. I told you season four is where this shit ramps up. Let’s think about the context of these lines in conjunction with new, casual Giles. Buffy is out of high school and ostensibly an adult. Angel is out of her life and she is currently boyfriendless. What does Giles do? Seemingly re-establishes a sexual relationship with a former lover and emotionally distances himself from Buffy, almost as if to ensure that one of them is unavailable in as many ways as possible, thus eliminating the chance that he might act on his essentially forbidden love for her. Then he changes his mind and runs to her and stammers through an impassioned speech about “To hell with what’s right” and fighting together and, oh yeah, lying awake all night thinking about her and the mistake he’s made in emotionally backing off from her. This is basically Giles declaring his love but framing it as his Watcher duties.
Buffy says thanks, real casual, and Willow asks Giles to carry a box as they all head back to Buffy’s dorm, her confidence in herself and her friends restored, ready to take on college life.
One of the vampires who escaped Sunday’s nest runs, panicked, across the campus. Suddenly, he’s tasered by a group of heavily armed soldiers who emerge from the bushes. They converge on him and we cut to the end titles.
In terms of Buffy season openers, this one is by far the weakest. It’s also high in the running for worst Buffy episode of all time. I would go so far as to say it’s the weakest Buffy episode that Whedon ever wrote himself. There are too many unanswered questions: who is Sunday? Why is she fixated on college kids, and the Sunnydale campus in particular? How can the same group of vampires get into the residence halls over and over again every year without anyone noticing, recognizing, or connecting them to the disappearances? How do they even get into the residence halls at all? To enter Sunnydale High, Angelus had to have an invite from the words over the door. Do “Welcome, students!” banners apply if the vampires themselves are former students? If so, why don’t welcome mats apply if vampires have ever been welcome anywhere?
Also, Sunday is the most obnoxious vampire in Buffy‘s entire run, and we don’t get as much satisfaction out of her death as we deserve.
All of that over-analyzing aside, this episode does show one of the major strengths in Whedon’s writing, which is his ability to directly communicate with the audience without being too obvious. In this episode, Buffy is an avatar for the viewer; we’re unsure of how the dynamic of the show is going to change while the characters are in college. We worry that our TV friends are going to change, but we know they have to, lest the story stagnates. But they all prove themselves to us in the end, and we’re ready for the new adventures ahead. “Don’t worry,” the script says. “We’re not going to abandon you after we’ve spent all these years together.”
Unfortunately, the episode’s theme isn’t enough to overcome the clunky characterization, fat hate, cartoonish depiction of college, and the just way, way too much plot and new character set up crammed into the fifty minute run time.