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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch s01e05 “Never Kill A Boy On The First Date”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will misnumber the episodes because what is she, some kind of math whiz? Fuck that. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.

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.

“Never Kill A Boy On The First Date” opens with Buffy fighting a vampire in one of Sunnydale’s numerous cemeteries (later in the series we learn that there are twelve such cemeteries in the town). She takes out the vampire, delivers a well-timed quip, and then Giles pops up from behind a tombstone to criticize her for not being fast enough at killing. While he’s verbally grading her performance, he finds something the vampire dropped. It’s a ring. Giles doesn’t know what the ring is about, but he’s worried it could be connected to something bigger than just a vampire looking for someone to eat. He says he’s going to consult his books.

Hey, you know who else has a book? The Master! Remember that guy? The one who isn’t from Doctor Who? He has a book and he’s holding some kind of vampire church.

Or a Depeche Mode video, I’m not sure.
The verses The Master is reading out of the vampire bible talk about an Anointed One who will come during a time of crisis. The Anointed One will lead the Slayer into hell, after five people die. Then The Master tells his vampire disciples that if they run around getting themselves killed, he’s going to be really pissed off. I don’t know how effective a threat he can make, considering he’s talking about punishing them for dying, but whatever. The point is, he doesn’t want them to fail him, because he needs The Anointed One to stop the Slayer and get out of his underground church prison.
Back in the school library, Buffy and Giles discover that the ring’s sun and three stars emblem stands for the Order of Aurelius. Then a cute boy comes in, and Buffy immediately turns to mush. Let me just point out that Buffy’s line just before Owen comes in was, “Ooh, two points for the Slayer, while the Watcher has yet to score.” As Sterling Archer might say, “Phrasing!”
The adorable kid is Owen, and he’s looking for Emily Dickinson poems, because they’re his security blanket. So, we know right away that Owen is sensitive. Buffy is clearly into this guy, and she tries way too hard:

Buffy: “So, Emily Dickens, huh? She’s great.”

Owen: “Dickinson.”

Buffy: “She’s good also.” 

That exchange painfully reminds me of this time I went out on a few dates with a really cool guitar player guy, and he said something about liking “The Dead,” and I was like, “Me too, ‘Casey Jones’ is totally my jam,” and he was talking about a hipster local band and I was talking about The Grateful Dead and he thought that was massively uncool of me, then we never went out again. Which turned out for the best because who the hell doesn’t like The Grateful Dead?

Giles directs Owen to the poetry section, and Buffy follows Owen so they can have this adorable conversation:

Owen: “I didn’t think I’d find you here.”

Buffy: “Why not?”

Owen: “I didn’t mean – I mean… I think you can read.”

Buffy: “Thanks.” 

Wait, does that book say DEATH BEAR?

Owen does NOT check out Death Bear, which is undoubtedly the most thrilling book of all time, so we know right away that Owen sucks.

Giles checks out Owen’s book for him, grudgingly admitting that Emily Dickinson is a good poet for an American. He doesn’t make any eye contact with poor Owen, and rolls his eyes when the kid walks away. File this scene under #2, because once we get through this series together, you’re totally going to come back, look at this little fiddly shit, and go, “OMG YOU WERE RIGHT!”

As soon as Owen leaves, Giles changes the subject right back to the Order of Aurelius. He tells Buffy that if the order is in town, it’s for a good reason. He’s even more stern than usual, and clears his throat a lot.

Buffy: “That was Owen.”

Giles: “Yes, I remember.”

Buffy: “Do you have any more copies of Emily Dickinson? I need one.”

 Giles: “Buffy, while the mere fact of you wanting to check out a book would be grounds for a national holiday, I think we should focus on the problem at hand.”

Now, some of you will probably argue that Giles is just upset that his Slayer is focused on dating when they have serious end-of-the-world shit to deal with. But throughout the entire series, Giles reacts super badly whenever Buffy is dating anyone, even if they’re not trying to prevent a catastrophe from happening. We’ll see this especially in the season 4 episode “A New Man,” but it happens no matter who Buffy is romantically interested in. He takes an intense and immediate dislike to any guy she’s into. I suppose this could be chalked up to the father/daughter nature some people see in their relationship, but… you know what? We’ll cover the father/daughter thing and why it isn’t a thing in season six. Moving on.

Buffy apologizes and assures him that he’s right, they need to contrate on vampires. But she wants to know if her dress makes her look fat.

At least Willow understands the importance of Owen talking to Buffy. He apparently never talks to anyone, and broods for forty minutes at a time, and Willow knows because apparently she times other people doing weird things. They have a seat at a table with Xander, Buffy fills her friends in a little on the new vampire threat, and then Xander snarkily points out Owen sitting alone. Buffy sees this as her opening, and heads over, but Cordelia is making her way to Owen’s table, as well, and the two girls collide. Buffy spills her lunch, and as Owen helps her pick it up, she quips:

“Boy, Cordelia’s hips are wider than I thought.”

Oh, Buffy. I am disappoint. You’re supposed to be a strong female character. Sure, everyone has their moments of weakness, but we just saw your insecurity in the last scene, when you asked Giles if he thought you looked fat. I really wish we could have seen Giles’s response to that question, because someone needs to be telling these girls that their physical appearance isn’t going to make up for their shitty attitudes towards other women. But we, the audience, are supposed to see Buffy’s dig as a coup d’etat, an overthrowing of Cordelia, the very symbol of popularity at Sunnydale, in favor of the more gentle and deserving Buffy regime. And the battle ground this mighty war is fought upon is poor Owen. Two girls, fighting over a boy. Get used to this, because Cordelia and Buffy will continually try to c-block each other well into the second season. (#6)

Cordelia tells Owen he should come to The Bronze, because she’s going to be there, and Owen asks who else will be there, then specifically asks Buffy if she’s going to go. They agree to meet there at eight, and the scene cuts to Buffy and Willow walking through the hall. Buffy doesn’t think it’s that big a deal that she’s going to hang out with Owen, and Willow heartily disagrees, even appealing to Giles, whom they meet outside the library, to tell Buffy how important this is. Giles agrees that things are serious, but he’s clearly talking about something else. He asks the girls what they’re talking about, and they answer, “Boys!” in indignant unison. Giles informs them that the Order of Aurelius means serious business. They’re going to be picking up the Anointed One, and by Giles’s calculations it’s going to happen that very night.

Willow: “Buffy has a really important date.”

Buffy: “Owen!

Giles: “Alright, I’ll just jump in my time machine, go back to the twelfth century and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and show.”

Buffy argues further, but Giles stands firm, insisting that they have a chance to subvert dark forces, and, “Tonight, we go into battle.”

Then the scene cuts to this:

I assume what he meant was, “Tonight, we go into a battle of wills wherein I attempt to keep you from dating anyone, ever. Round one starts now.”

Giles admits that okay, maybe he got the night wrong. Buffy points out that there are no fresh graves, so no one is going to rise tonight, anyway, and Giles tells her:

“Very well then. Follow your hormones if you want. But I assume I don’t have to warn you about the hazards of becoming personally involved with someone who’s unaware of your unique condition.”

So, in Giles’s expert opinion, she shouldn’t date guys who don’t know she’s the Slayer. This is another one that could go either way. He could be arguing this from the point of view that she’s the Slayer and can’t have personal entanglements… but he seems pretty okay with Willow and Xander not only knowing that she’s the Slayer, but also helping her fight the forces of darkness. Or, he could be doing the “fatherly feelings” thing, not wanting to see her make a stupid choice out of youth and inexperience. But the very bottom line is, he’s telling her she should really only date people who already know she’s the Slayer. The only other guys who know she’s the Slayer are Xander and Angel. We already know how Giles feels about Angel (“I think you have too many guys in your life,” from the last episode) and how Buffy feels about Xander (she dismisses the idea of him as a romantic partner in episode three) and we’ve already seen that Giles can only tolerate about two seconds of Owen, and just barely. He doesn’t like dudes being around Buffy. So… just put this on the list under #2.

Buffy leaves, and Giles repeats the prophecy about five dying and the Anointed One rising from the ashes. He comments to himself that he was sure the prophecy would be fulfilled that night. Cut to an airport shuttle with five people on it, including a crazy sounding dude talking about pale horses and riders and people being judged. Then, it’s on to The Bronze! Buffy sees Owen and Cordelia on the dance floor, and they look like this:

And then Buffy is all:

In high school dancing is just socially acceptable public sex. If you dance with someone, it’s probably because they gave you naughty in the pants feelings. Or, you went to the homecoming dance with another couple, but then your date and the girl in the other couple hooked up, and even though you really, really disliked the kid who was the abandoned half of the other couple, you dance with him anyway and immediately fall hard for him and wind up dating him for nine months, and when you break up you go to your BFF Jill’s house and cry while digging a big hole in the road for no reason.

Wait, what was I doing here today?

Anyway, dancing is either a product of tingly in the pants feelings, or a precursor to tingly in the pants feelings, so from Buffy’s perspective, it looks like Owen and Cordelia are pretty much a thing, and she missed her chance.

Back on the airport shuttle to nowhere, the pale horse guy is walking up and down the aisle, bothering people with his crazy ravings. A mother is holding her small child close, and everyone is very nervous. The driver is so distracted telling the guy to sit down that he hits a dude standing in the road. When he gets out to check on him, the dude is predictably a vampire, and he’s brought his vampire pals along, who proceed to slaughter all FIVE people on the bus.

At school the next morning, Buffy is complaining to Xander about her ill-luck with Owen the night before:

Xander: “So you just went home?”

Buffy: “What was I supposed to do? Say to Owen sorry I was late I was sitting in a cemetery with the librarian waiting for a vampire to rise so I could prevent an evil prophecy from coming to pass?”

Xander: “Or… flat tire?”

Here, I will give credit where credit is due. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy most of the time, but he’s actually listening to and giving Buffy advice about guy problems in a sincere, non-agenda-ed way. Good for him. Buffy is totally freaking though, saying she feels like everybody is staring at her because she’s so hideously undateable. I hate to point it out, Buffy, but you are wearing a shirt with a target on it, and that tends to draw the eye.

And I’m not saying this because it’s on her chest. I just defy anyone not to look at concentric rings. There’s a reason they use that shit for hypnosis.

Xander tells Buffy she’s overreacting, because she could have any guy in school. She doesn’t want any guy, though, she wants Owen. But when Owen shows up she offers him a lame excuse about her watch breaking as an explanation for not meeting him at The Bronze. It’s kind of shitty that Buffy knew she wasn’t going to be able to make it and she didn’t call him or otherwise contact him to say, “Hey, I might not make it tonight, it’s nothing personal.” Good thing for her, Owen wants to try again, and to Xander’s horror, even loans Buffy his super cool pocket watch:

And Xander checks out his watch:

Let’s examine Xander’s watch for a minute. Xander’s character arc in the series is one of a young man trying to navigate from the teen years into adulthood, and struggling with the transition from childhood to being a mature, responsible person. This arc starts the moment he sees Buffy’s reaction to Owen’s watch. It’s this episode where Xander’s character arc activates, because he’s seeing what Buffy wants – someone mature and deep like Owen. So in season seven, when we get responsible suit and tie Xander, we can look back to this episode and see exactly where he came from. Pretty neat, huh?! WRITING!

Meanwhile, in an Advil commercial:

Maybe your head wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t get knocked unconscious at least once per episode, buddy.

Buffy busts in and subjects Giles to a conversation in which she plays both Slayer and Watcher, excitedly reasoning that she doesn’t have to patrol tonight and she will see him tomorrow. After she leaves, Giles uses the line that nearly every single male character who becomes romantically invested in Buffy uses throughout the series. That’s right. He calls her a strange girl. Because the writers just have to give me more ammo, don’t they?

Back at the Evil Ponderosa, The Master is talking to his minions about how he’s imprisoned, he’s been imprisoned for so long he can’t remember what the surface is like, yadda yadda. Now, I understand that when you’re telling a story in serial form, you have to reinforce some important details for the audience, especially when that audience may be joining your story already in progress. This is only the fifth episode, after all, and new viewers are tuning in every week as the show gains popularity. But it’s starting to feel a little heavy handed, when every single episode featuring The Master has him brooding out loud about how he’s trapped, he can’t get out, he needs this prophecy fulfilled, kill the Slayer, so on and so forth. Especially when Giles and Buffy have described the situation in this episode already. So, yeah, clue in new viewers, but we don’t need The Master’s entire backstory every single time he’s on screen or mentioned in an episode.

Anyway, The Master tells his minions that they’re to lay down their own lives if necessary to bring him the Anointed One.

In Buffy’s bedroom, Xander and Willow are helping Buffy pick an outfit for her date with Owen. Buffy asks:

“Do I want to appear shy, coy, and naive, or unrestrained, insatiable, and agressive?”

Do I want to look like a virgin or a whore, because those are the only two options? Thanks for making #6 easy to prove, I guess.

Furthering our theme of #6, Xander recommends Buffy wear a parka and ski cap on her date, because Owen is probably put off by assertive women. So, not only should Buffy not show too much skin for a man, she shouldn’t dress in a way that makes her feel confident and comfortable because her male friend and the object of her affection won’t like it. This is played for humor, because of course a jealous man trying to control a woman’s clothing choices is super funny.

 I’m making the same face Buffy is right now.

For some reason, Buffy still trusts Xander’s judgement. She asks him which lipstick to wear, red or peach, and he says:

Oh, you mean for kissing you and then telling all his friends how easy you are, so the whole school loses respect for you and then talks behind your back. The red’s fine.”

Way to slut-shame, Xander. First of all, if Owen did that, it would be Owen’s fault, not Buffy’s fault for going on a date with him. Second, you just called the girl you’re interested in dating “easy” to her face, so that’ll probably score you a lot of points. #5.

Buffy decides on the peach, and then she’s going to get changed. Xander tells her it won’t bother him if she changes in front of him, and when he’s banished to go stand on the other side of the room with his back turned, he does this:

Yes. He is adjusting the mirror on Buffy’s jewelry box so he can watch her get dressed. Fuck you, Xander. I just gave you credit for being a good friend, and you have to blow it in this scene by being a Nice Guy creepy douchebag. #5. Of course this also played for laughs.

The doorbell rings and Buffy dashes downstairs, only to find it’s not Owen waiting for her, but Giles, and he’s all, “Good news, everyone!”:

Giles tells Buffy that she has to go to the funeral home tonight, because that’s where they’ll find the Anointed One, who died in the van accident in the paper. I think it’s weird that Sunnydale has twelve cemeteries and funerals at night because they have such a high death rate, but they only have one funeral home. Especially considering most of these people are dying in vampire attacks and rising again. The turnover rate for morticians must be unbelievably high.

Owen shows up, and he’s super confused as to why the school librarian is at Buffy’s house. Xander and Willow take Owen aside while Giles scolds Buffy for dating too much, and Buffy points out that she hasn’t been on a date yet because slaying. In the living room, Xander tries to sabotage Buffy’s date with Owen by telling him that Buffy doesn’t like dancing, kissing, touching, or being looked at. #5 Buffy is still fighting with Giles over why she should be allowed to date, while he tells her that slayers can’t really have normal social lives. Ultimately, though, he concedes that his hunch about the five people dying in the airport shuttle might not be significant at all, and Buffy goes on her date, telling her friends they can beep her in case of apocalypse. After she’s left, Giles tells Willow and Xander that he’s going to go to the funeral home, just to keep an eye on the situation. Willow knows this is a bad idea, and tells Xander they should follow along, but Xander wants to follow Buffy and Owen on their date because he’s a Nice Guy and can’t leave well enough alone. #5.

At The Bronze, Buffy and Owen are looking super couple-y. They’re having a convo about Emily Dickinson, and how awesome Owen finds death and loss and other stuff. So basically, he’s goth on the inside. He also complains about how “most” girls are frivolous and only care about dating, when there is more important stuff in life. Hard to take that criticism from a dude who’s ON A DATE, Owen. They dance, and Owen tells Buffy she’s “weird,” because every guy who is romantically interested in Buffy has to mention that she’s strange or different in some way. Then Cordelia comes up and makes a play for Owen, which he rebuffs, and cut to Giles’s sad little car with the bad transmission pulling up outside the funeral home.

He is immediately attacked by vampires, because what the fuck did he think was going to happen?

After the commercial break, Giles runs into the funeral home/mausoleum that is also in the cemetery. Basically, this business has the monopoly on death in Sunnydale. Inside, he tries a door labelled “flower room” only to find it locked, then finds the embalming room, which is unlocked. That seems like shitty security, locking up the flowers but not the bodies, but hey, I didn’t finish mortuary school so what do I know?

Back at The Bronze, Buffy and Owen are still dancing and having a good time, while Giles barricades himself in at the funeral home. Remember when I mentioned before that sometimes, Giles will do something and it’ll suddenly seem odd that he can do it? Like when he used a fucking keg to smash in a door at The Bronze? Here, he blocks the door to the embalming room with a full-sized filing cabinet, presumably filled with files. Have you ever tried to lift a filing cabinet? Did you try again after the doctors finished threading your herniated colon back into your body? Giles is super strong, yo. This is the second time we’ve seen evidence of this. In season 3 we’ll see another Watcher demonstrate some super strength of her own, so I guess weight training is a part of Watcher school.

Willow and Xander appear at the window and tell Giles they’ll go get Buffy. Time is kind of a factor, because the vampires are trying to get in.

At The Bronze, Buffy and Owen are still enjoying their date, while Cordelia seethes and basically calls Buffy a whore, and then Angel walks in and Cordelia makes what sounds like a reference to semen (“Hello, salty goodness,” I mean, really, is that appropriate for prime time television?!) and tells her friend that Angel will need “serious oxygen” when she’s done with him. But then he walks over to Buffy and Cordelia freaks out, because it’s more male attention going to Buffy instead of her. Ugh, can we just be done with the “girl vs. girl, two bitches enter, one bitch leaves with the guy” trope abuse in this episode? Please? Isn’t there already enough conflict? We’ve got Buffy trying to maintain a normal life, Buffy trying to stop The Master from rising, Buffy needing to rescue her Watcher… at what point did we need yet another thread of conflict? Because this show was considered a “teen” show, and “teens” apparently live for girl-on-girl hate. That doesn’t mean they need to get it, though. #6.

Angel tells Buffy she needs to be out patrolling. He’d intended to give her the information about the Order of Aurelius, and he’s a little put out that she already knows. Then he’s mad because she’s on a date, and gives one-word answers in conversation with Owen. Even though his relationship with Buffy has, until this point, been “show up, antagonize, disappear, rinse, repeat,” Angel is offended that she’s on a date. Because #9.

Willow and Xander crash the date, too, and after some awkward lying, Xander proposes that they all go to the funeral home for fun. Owen wants to tag along, because he’s so into death and stuff, and he can’t understand why Buffy wants to abandon their date. Caught between her Slayer duties and her desire for a normal life, Buffy tells Owen that part of her has to leave, but part of her is having a great time and doesn’t want to go. Then she kisses him, and when she leaves, Owen says, “She’s the strangest girl.”

Ahem. *Giles already said that earlier* cough cough throat clearing.

Buffy, Xander and Willow arrive at the funeral home, only to find that Owen has followed them. He’s super psyched to see a dead body, which is, you know, something I always look forward to on a first date. This kid might be a future serial killer.

Buffy finds the embalming room all wrecked up and the bars over the window peeled like a banana, and she’s thinking something horrible has happened to Giles. And I guess horrible is relative, because I would find it pretty horrible to be in a morgue cooler drawer on top of a dead body, but when Giles comes out, he’s pretty cheerful about the whole thing:

Getting intimate with corpses is probably just par for the course as a Watcher.

Giles finds out that Buffy brought Owen along and he flips out. Buffy figures she’ll just tell Owen to get lost, but Giles points out that there were just vampires hanging out in the vicinity, so it’s probably not the best idea to send a delicious human out there for them. They are not a Slayer version of Jimmy John’s, after all. Buffy tells Giles to stay put so that Owen won’t have more questions than he already does. Xander, Willow and Owen hide in the “observation room.” Which I would have called the “viewing room” but whatever. Go observe some corpses, Sunnydale. While Xander and Willow stack furniture in front of the door, Owen, oblivious to danger, opens a curtain to reveal something we can’t see, but all three characters react to.
Buffy and Giles search the embalming room for the Anointed One, but he’s not in any of the coolers. Which, you know, is where they keep ALL of the dead bodies, right?
Not right. Because the thing Owen and Willow and Xander reacted to? Was a corpse behind a picture window. Owen is waxing all poetic about how awesome death is when the body sits up, and it’s the crazy guy from the airport shuttle. He is super psyched to be a vampire, and he breaks the window and goes after the kids. So, he’s the Anointed One, right?
Buffy and Giles hear the glass breaking, and Buffy runs to save the others. They tell her where the vampire is, and she orders them to get out. But they can’t get out, because the other vampires are waiting at the funeral home doors. Ain’t that always the way?
Unaware that her friends are still in danger, Buffy heads back to the embalming room where she gets a stake from Giles’s Mary Poppins bag o’ vampire killing supplies. She tells him to go help the others to safety, but her back is to the door, so she doesn’t see the crazy vampire, who grabs her and flings her like a rag doll into a shelving unit. Giles puts himself between the crazy vampire and Buffy, and manages to hold off CV for minute, but then he gets thrown, as well, right into the controls for the cremation oven.
Good work, Giles.

Having decided that Buffy needs rescuing, Owen charges in and hits CV with an instrument pan and an urn full of someone’s loved one (that is going to be hellacious paperwork and a difficult phone call for the mortician in the morning), which promptly gets him killed by the vampire. At least, that’s what the vampire says. He smacks Owen’s head with the door to one of the morgue drawers and says, “Dead. He was found wanting.” So Buffy is super pissed because her date just got murdered by a vampire, and she does the single most unnecessary backflip in all of recorded history before kicking the vampire’s ass and throwing him into the cremation oven. Giles recovers from being knocked out (a dubious recovery, considering this is the fifth episode and he’s been knocked out how many times already?) and slams the door on the burning vampire, and Buffy sees that Owen isn’t dead after all.
Even though he’s not dead, Buffy’s chances with Owen seem to be. He doesn’t even want her to walk him home, but since he’s all concussed (and not as practiced at it as Giles apparently is), Willow and Xander take him. Giles tries to offer Buffy some words of comfort, but she tells him “Don’t,” and wisely he shuts up.
The next day at school, Buffy asks Willow and Xander if Owen said anything about her on the walk home. The answer is no, Buffy’s chances are pretty shot. Xander suggests she should date someone who already knows she’s the Slayer, but still likes her anyway. I have this crazy feeling he’s suggesting himself, because while his friend is in a time of emotional fragility, that’s the best time to lay down his game on her. #5

Owen approaches Buffy while a sad song plays intrusively in the background. It takes a while for this series to find its feet with the whole “background music” thing. Owen tells Buffy that he loved all the danger, and he wants to be with her so they can do it again. He wants to pick fights in bars, etc. and Buffy realizes that he doesn’t really want to be with her, he wants an adrenaline rush. Buffy suggests they should just be friends, and Owen is not thrilled. Which is cool, because they don’t stay friends, anyway. We never see Owen again.
After Owen walks off, Buffy notices that Giles has overheard the entire conversation. He tells her about being ten years old and finding out that his destiny was being a Watcher, not a fighter pilot or a grocer as previously planned. He says his dad gave him a “tiresome speech,” so we get the feeling he’s not going to do the same thing to Buffy and kick her while she’s down. Buffy is wounded by letting Owen go, but she knows she has to:

“You, Xander, Willow, you know the score. You’re careful. Two days in my world and Owen really would get himself killed. Or I’d get him killed. Or someone else.”

Giles tells Buffy that he went to the funeral home on his own, and she argues that she should have been there. She tells him she dropped the ball, and he reassures her that she’s doing fine as the Slayer. This is an important moment for us to see, because it’s the first time we’re seeing the Slayer and her Watcher working together as a team, rather than antagonists to each other. It’s also the first time she’s not just grudgingly accepting her destiny, she’s making a real effort to accept it. There is so much character development and growth for Buffy in this episode that it’s mind blowing. She’s not just a funny teen girl with silly super strength and isn’t that funny because she’s so little and helpless looking, etc. She’s a real person now, with inner strength, and she’s citing a need to rely on her friends, as well as a responsibility to keep them safe.

There’s a big character development moment here for Giles, too, who is starting to see his Slayer as not just an automaton soldier in the fight against evil, but a person he can relate to. And yes, I’ll give the “father/daughter” dynamic a nod here, because when Giles tells Buffy that they don’t have a manual to navigate their relationship (wait, why isn’t there a manual? It seems like that would be the very first thing the Watcher council should have come up with), he’s reciting a line I think many, many people have heard from their own parents. And it draws a nice parallel to Joyce’s comment about reading parenting books in the first episode. Joyce is willing to read a manual, but not actually pay attention to what’s going on in her daughter’s life. Giles is willing to listen to Buffy and empathize with her, in a way that Joyce has already admitted to being incapable of doing (episode 3, “Witch).

Giles and Buffy have a little happy moment over the fact that she took out the Anointed One, and then cut to The Master, who is still spouting prophecy about how the Slayer won’t recognize the Anointed One when he comes. And OH SNAP, it’s the little boy from the airport shuttle.

So, now Buffy has an evil little Omen kid to deal with. So it’s good she has her friends.

Several people commented that this episode is worse than “Teacher’s Pet” on the problematic feminism/misogyny scale, but I’m not sure it is. The girl vs. girl for a boy stuff is pretty terrible, as is Xander’s slut shaming and creepy jewelry box voyeurism, and the episode is filled with scene after scene of the men in Buffy’s life trying to steer her course. But at the end, I think it really redeems itself with Buffy accepting her destiny and choosing to be the Slayer, especially when it’s clear that she could continue her relationship with Owen if she wanted to. She does what she wants to, makes her own choices, and generally ignores what the men in the episode are telling her to do in favor of those choices.

Oh, and where was Angel when all that stuff at the funeral home was going down? He didn’t come help. Because #9.

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Here for the first time because you’re in quarantine and someone on Reddit recommended my Fifty Shades of Grey recaps? Welcome! Consider checking out my own take on the Billionaire BDSM genre, The Boss. Find it on AmazonB&NSmashwords, iBooks, and Radish!


  1. Yes Angel is a dick. It was him and his dickery that made me give up watching Buffy after season 1. I'm considering picking it back up, but am still undecided.

    March 19, 2013
  2. Wait, I'm confused. Isn't being often shallow and manipulative supposed to be an element of both Buffy's and Xander's character? And isn't the whole point of a lot of the interactions how naive and immature and self-unaware the main characters (who are high school students, mind) are? I guess also the adult characters tend to do foolish and irrational things out of fear also (which I guess is the Joyce is a bad parent thing).
    Also on the Giles thing, aren't there numerous purposeful overprotective father tropes throughout the series? I'm curious as to how anything in season 6 (when Buffy is, by the way, an adult and thus would have a much different relationship to parental figures) could negate that. (Mind, I'm still on season four myself and haven't watched through the whole thing.)

    March 19, 2013
  3. Anonymous

    Really enjoyed this post! I tried to watch along with the recaps but I got the flu, and then I got really impatient, and then suddenly season five.
    Can't wait to hear your take on Spike!

    March 19, 2013
  4. Anonymous

    (This may be a double post as I got a weird comment when I tried to publish my comment a few minutes ago).

    I hadn't noticed before how much the boy on the shuttle looks like Caleb. It's a long way off but I can't WAIT until you get to Caleb.

    March 19, 2013
  5. Jo

    You know, despite the gratuitous girl-on-girl drama, I really enjoyed this episode, because you see Buffy having real girl problems, in a way that makes her seem very human and relatable, and I kinda felt bad for her when she had to let go of Owen and…

    Hold on a second, did she ever give him his watch back?!

    March 19, 2013
  6. I had to look it up. I think it's Death Beam, by Robert Moss.

    Why is it always “BFF Jill”? =P

    March 19, 2013
  7. Good point. Buffy may have just stolen a watch.

    But I agree, she seems way more human and relatable in this episode, less of a caricature of a “strong female character.”

    March 20, 2013
  8. I think whoever did hair on the show just found that particular haircut a symbol of evil, LOL.

    March 20, 2013
  9. Oh, Spike. That's going to make my heart hurt.

    March 20, 2013
  10. There are a lot of daddy issues in this series, absolutely. That's probably why I like it so much, LOL.

    March 20, 2013
  11. I was all OMG BUFFY AND ANGEL TRU LUV 4 EVA when I first watched it back in the day, and now I'm all, “Fuck this guy.”

    March 20, 2013
  12. Anonymous

    Oh? Can we get a preview?

    March 20, 2013
  13. HellaNova

    This happened to me too. I blew through seasons 5-7 over the course of the weekend.
    So good for my already terrible sleep schedule.

    I'm also ridiculously eager for Spike-times.

    March 20, 2013
  14. Anonymous

    According to WorldCat, the book is probably “Death Beam”. From the telegraphic publisher synopsis, it's about a Soviet space laser. Sigh, disappointing.

    March 20, 2013
  15. These recaps are making it harder to watch Criminal Minds because Xander's actor is on it (the episodes I'm on, anyways) and I already have issues with the character XD

    Also, you're my favourite 😀

    March 20, 2013
  16. Jo

    Can't blame her, though, it was a kickass watch…

    March 20, 2013
  17. I wanted to post this comment in the last Buffy blog, but my keyboard broke. But anyways…
    As to the Buffy/Giles no one noticing close body contact. I was in high school when Buffy was on TV, and you'd be surprised what people chose not to notice when it came to teacher/student relationships back then. Even when the student involved went to the people in charge to point it out. Maybe things have changed now, though maybe not in every school. But it certainly wasn't a Sunnydale only problem back in the 90s. 😛

    March 20, 2013
  18. Watch it despite Angel being a dick. He gets his ass handed to him a few times if it makes you feel better.

    March 20, 2013
  19. Given Buffy's age in Season One vs Season Six, I think it is possible the nature of the relationship and how Giles views Buffy as a person can shift over time, from father/daughter to what you suggest in #2. Although Giles first has to shift from the Watcher Council view of the Slayer as a tool to fight the forces of darkness, to recognising her as a person.

    March 20, 2013
  20. He starts in Season 3 and I think he's on it up until the newest ones, actually, but I'm not sure.

    I've been marathoning it. It's fun 🙂

    March 20, 2013
  21. Anonymous

    I wonder if some of Xander's portrayal is the way it is b/c, at some point there was a thought/decision/story idea/theory that Xander was going to be gay, thus he is acting the way he is b/c he thinks this is how 'dudes' should be to be 'cool' and 'straight'. (This I heard from a fellow BtVS fan.) And, had that turned out to be the case – would your analysis of Xander then be different in these early episodes?

    March 20, 2013
  22. The original idea was either Willow or Xander, they just hadn't decided which at that point.

    March 20, 2013
  23. Interesting! They did end up having a character like that (Larry) who was all macho bully guy then we find out he's gay.

    March 20, 2013
  24. Jo

    Michelle Trachtenberg also makes an appearence in season 8, for one episode, as a pshyco stalker and killer (because Criminal Minds has one of those every episode).

    I don't if it's because I hate freaking Dawn, but I found her character more obnoxious than scary.

    March 20, 2013
  25. After reading this recap, I was reminded of just how much a fixture girl-on-girl rivalry was in teen literature, TV, etc. of the time (and still is, sometimes). In the stories I wrote as a teen, there was nearly always a female rival for the heroine, usually over a boy (cringe). I admit I still write girl-on-girl rivalries, but these days they're rarely over a boy (more often, they're over an achievement of some kind, like sports or grades) and I try to add a twist to it so the rival is more than just a 2-dimensional villain.

    I believe I said this in an earlier recap, but honestly, I'd have been all right with Xander's deplorable behavior (sadly, it is very realistic) if he'd ever get called on it or suffer any consequences over it. It's the lack of consequences that gets me.

    lol to this day, I still say “hello, salty goodness.”

    March 20, 2013
  26. You know, if that were the case, I'm not sure I would have even commented on it, just because I can't presume to know what a gay man is going to think/feel before he comes out. I've never been in that situation. But it's a good theory and, like Alison mentions, does seem to be supported by the character of Larry, who went through the same kind of transition.

    Larry should have stayed on the show past season 3.

    March 20, 2013
  27. Honestly, I can't stand watching the episodes with the anointed one, because he looks like a tiny Doug Robb, from Hoobastank. Plus, child actors trying to be menacing always makes me feel blech.

    March 20, 2013
  28. Yes, that's exactly what I feel happens. It's a relationship that evolves over time. When we get into the latter half of season 5 and season 6, after Buffy's mom dies, the relationship between Buffy and Giles gets a lot different. But then when you go back and look at the series from the beginning, you get a sense of the seeds of the characterization being there, whether the writers intended them or not. They've done other unintentional shipping they've later admitted, ie, Buffy and Faith and the homoerotic undertones to their relationship. Until a fan pointed it out to Joss, he vehemently denied they'd written any such thing, LOL.

    March 20, 2013
  29. Anonymous

    I recently learned that Joss Whedon originally intended for Xander to be gay, not Willow. I wonder if, as the series goes on, this might change your analysis of him. Also, I love these recaps! I can't wait for season 4 (I may or may not also ship Buffy and Giles).

    March 20, 2013
  30. Anonymous

    I recently learned that Joss Whedon originally intended for Xander to be gay, not Willow. I wonder if, as the series goes on, this might change your analysis of him. Also, I love these recaps! I can't wait for season 4 (I may or may not also ship Buffy and Giles).

    March 20, 2013
  31. That “Death Bear” book reminds me of this time in 8th grade I was in the library with a friend, and he grabbed a book that, according to the spine, was titled “Men and Disco” and he was like, whoa, this is gonna be great. Unfortunately, the library sticker on the spine had partially obstructed the actual title: “Men and Discovery.”

    March 20, 2013
  32. I would have enjoyed that more, given that gay Willow didn't do much for me (and I found Tara insufferable) and straight horndog Xander was too over the top for comfort. It being some kind of hyper-masculine front would have been interesting.

    March 20, 2013
  33. I was going to chime in about the “they hadn't decided who was going to be gay, Xander or Willow” yet, but a few others have covered that. I do want to point out that, IIRC, Joss hadn't decided if Angel were a vampire or not, until he comes out as one (which I can't remember right now which episode that actually is).

    I'm enjoying your recaps. This alternative view of the show is fascinating. I don't particularly get the Giles/Buffy ship, for instance, but you're successfully pointing out why you do see it and that's pretty neat.

    March 21, 2013
  34. Aaand you've just ruined “hello salty goodness” for me.

    March 23, 2013
  35. Kitteh_catta

    Why WAS Angel such a dick during the first season? I mean, he's supposed to love her already. He mostly just hangs around smirking. Also, you need a tab for these. Or some tags. Something starting with “ta”.

    March 26, 2013
  36. Samantha

    I know male teachers that were “affectionate” with female students, and this was in 2005-2009.

    Maybe if officials weren’t too busy checking for bra straps they’d see the sexual harassment going on.

    October 2, 2013
  37. lady macbeth
    lady macbeth

    OMG. Just when I thought I couldn’t like you any more than I do, you go and mention The Grateful Dead. You are officially one of my favorite people.

    March 30, 2015

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