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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E02: “Some Assembly Required”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone take eat about half a jar of homemade strawberry jam in one sitting. 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.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.

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.

So, “Some Assembly Required.” This is basically the BtVS take on The Bride of Frankenstein. Which, shouldn’t that have been about Dr. Frankenstein getting married or something? I don’t know, I’ve never actually watched it. I don’t care for Frankensteins.

Anyway. Buffy is sitting on a grave, waiting for a vampire to rise so she can get to her homework. The vampire’s name, for all you The Vampire Diaries fans out there, is Stefan. Angel sneaks up on her and startles her. For once, he’s not here to give her some dire warning:

Angel: “So, uh, you’re here alone?”

Buffy: “Yeah… why?”

Angel: “I just thought you’d have somebody with you. Xander or someone.”

Buffy “Xander?”

Angel: “Or someone.”

Buffy: “No. Why? Are you jealous?”

Angel: “Of Xander? Please, he’s just a kid.”

Yeah, well… technically so is Buffy, especially when you compare her age to yours, Angel. But you’re hot and look like you’re in your early twenties, so the audience forgives you. But I have to say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries and Twilight all look kind of creepy to me when you realize that they all involve adult men picking up high school girls and then (in the case of Buffy and Twilight, at least) waiting patiently for their eighteenth birthday to bang them.

angel wooderson

Buffy and Angel fight about the way she danced with Xander, which Buffy admits was totally an attempt to make Angel jealous. Then Stefan the vamp rises, Buffy dusts him, and she and Angel continue their lover’s spat until Angel stalks away and Buffy stalks after him, falling into an open grave with an open casket in it. This strikes Buffy as odd, because she sees tracks leading away from the grave and a dirty shoe left behind, indicating a female someone had been dragged away.

Here’s why this scene is so neat. They don’t belabor the point that someone has been grave robbing, but they don’t force the viewer to just accept Buffy’s detective skills, either. While Buffy is fighting with the vampire, she can’t find her stake, and ends up dusting him with the handle of a shovel. Why was the shovel out there? And the casket in the bottom of the grave… bodies usually arrive in caskets and then are put into the ground, so why wasn’t it just an empty hole? And the grave is very neatly dug up in a perfect rectangle. The viewer is able to put together the grave robbery clues in exactly the same process as Buffy. That’s pretty cool.

After the opening credits, we’re at the Sunnydale high library, where Buffy and Xander catch Giles practicing his smooth romancing skills to an empty chair:

Giles: “What I’m proposing is, um, and I don’t mean to appear indecorous, is, is um, a- a social engagement, a- a date, if you’re amenable. You idiot!”

Buffy: “Boy. I guess we never realized how much you like that chair.”

Buffy tries to give Giles advice about how to pick up Jenny Calendar (like leaving off the “you idiot!” part), and I think he should probably take it, considering Jenny Calendar is just an older, more overtly sexual version of Buffy, a point I will continue to harp on not only for the rest of this season, but until the very end of time itself. Instead, he gets all offended and flustered and changes the subject to slaying. Buffy tells him about the grave robbing, which is super exciting for him, much to Buffy’s grossed-outness. She tells them that the body belonged to Meredith Todd. Well, actually, Giles says it would help if they knew whose body it was, and I’m like… there was a headstone, Giles. Keep up. But Buffy is way nicer than me, and just volunteers the information. They decide to have Willow figure out more about Meredith by using the computer, because Willow is the computer expert and literally no other character can use one for the rest of the goddamned series.

Hey, I’m going to add that as a number. #14: Only Willow can use a computer. I will now make it my mission to point out every single time one of the Scoobies who is not Willow uses a computer, and I will report it at the end of the re-watch.

Right at the moment, Willow is a little busy helping to organize the science fair. A kid named Eric comes up and snaps her picture without her permission, then makes a comment about another girl’s legs and heads off to take a picture of them, while his friend Chris tells him to chill out. Chris and Willow talk a little bit about the school science fair, since they have a friendly rivalry going on. Every year, Chris beats Willow for first place.

Cordelia, mostly over her terrible head cold, signs up for the science fair and complains about participation being mandatory. Her project is on whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable. Oh, Cordy. Creepy Eric starts snapping a ton of pictures of her. When she makes a crack about yearbook nerds, Eric says it’s not for the yearbook, but his private collection. GROSS.

When Cordelia leaves, Eric tells Chris that Cordelia would be perfect for them. Chris tells him it won’t work, because Cordelia is alive. And then Eric makes this face:

So, I guess we know who our creepy, creepy grave robber is.
So, I guess we know who our creepy, creepy grave robber is.

In the library, we get right to the heart of Willow’s computer efficiency as a member o’ the gang:

Willow: “This shouldn’t take long. I’m probably the only girl in school who has the coroner’s office bookmarked as a favorite place.”

I like that line, because it’s funny, but also because it’s a little weird. It’s very specific, isn’t it? She’s the only girl who has that bookmarked as her favorite place. Does that mean some of the boys do? Boys like Eric and Chris, perhaps? That’s a slick line, if it was written that way on purpose.

Cordelia comes in and asks Willow for help with her science project, and Willow interrupts her with, “It’s a fruit,” but that doesn’t stop Cordy from finishing her sentence about how asking Chris would bring up “too many memories of Daryl.” Nobody’s really listening to Cordy’s emotional pain, though, because Willow found the scoop on the grave robbed dead girl, Meredith. Buffy and Willow discuss Meredith’s car accident and broken- but not vampired- neck while Cordelia goes on about her sadness.

Astute observers will note that Cordelia is willingly speaking to the gang like they’re all old chums. So, BtVS fans, I give you… YOUR NEW SCOOBIES LINE UP!

scoobies0201

Meredith and two other cheerleaders from another high school were killed in the same car accident. Wait, back up the canon truck. Remember the first episode of season one? When Cordelia said they don’t have a lot of town in Sunnydale? There’s apparently enough town that there are two high schools? I guess that will come in handy later, considering how Sunnydale High blows up in season three and isn’t rebuilt until season seven. They must just bus all the Sunnydale students over to the other school for those four years.

Because Meredith was killed in an accident and not by a vampire, it’s clear to everyone that someone dug up her corpse.

Cordelia: “Ew. Why is it that every conversation you people have has the word ‘corpse’ in it?”

Oh, Cordy. You have no idea what you’re in for.

Giles suggests a demon who devours human flesh could be digging up the bodies, or a voodoo practitioner making zombies. Buffy says they should go check out the other girls’ graves, but she draws the line at involving Angel. They invite Cordelia to come along, but she has cheerleading practice and also, exhumation of corpses is kind of a bad place to jump in to being a Scooby.

Later that night, at the cemetery, this bullshit is happening:

bullshit

Yup, that’s Giles and Xander digging up the grave while Buffy and Willow sit on the ground having donuts and coffee and talking about boys. No, I’m not kidding. They’re talking about Buffy’s recent romantic troubles with Angel. And Xander and Giles are not impressed at being the only ones doing the manual labor:

Xander: “You know, this might go a lot faster if you fems actually picked up a shovel, too.”

Giles: “Hear, hear.”

Buffy: “Sorry, but I’m an old-fashioned gal. I was raised to believe that men dig up the corpses, and women have the babies.”

#6. Excuse me, Buffy, but you have super hero strength. Use it. Don’t use, “But I’m a girl!” as a cop out to avoid work. The entire premise of this show is based around the fact that despite your small, pretty appearance, you’re stronger and more capable than most men. I get that it’s supposed to be a funny, throw-away line, and that Buffy and Willow discussing plot exposition is far more interesting than watching them dig, but come on. Why not make it appear that Buffy and Willow are taking a break from digging, while Xander and Giles take over?

While the “I’m girl, I can’t do manual labor” bullshit parade roars down Main Street, Willow explains who the Daryl Cordelia was talking about was. He was a star football player at Sunnydale high, until he was killed in a rock climbing accident, breaking Cordy’s heart. Uh… a lot of Cordelia’s romantic interests die. Are we sure she’s not just murdering them? Also, why is everyone so cavalier about this happening to her? In Harry Potter, everyone treated Cho Chang like she was made of spun glass and lit firecrackers when Cedric was killed. Because having a romantic partner die sucks, no matter what age you are. Haven’t any of these jerks seen My Girl? Why doesn’t someone give Cordy a fucking hug?

Daryl’s mother doesn’t leave her house anymore, and the person getting all the fallout over Daryl’s death is his brother, Chris, the nice, science-minded kid Willow was talking to in an earlier scene.

Giles and Xander have managed to unearth the casket, and Willow asks:

Willow: “By the way, are we hoping to find a body, or no body?”

Xander: “Call me an optimist, but I’m hoping to find a fortune in gold doubloons”.

Giles: “A body would mean flesh eating demon, no body would point toward the army of zombies thing. Take your pick, really.”

Xander and Giles argue over who’s gonna open the coffin, until Buffy calls them pathetic and jumps down to do it herself. Buffy pries open the lid, and they all stare in horror at the camera, but the audience doesn’t see if the body is missing, or what.

Back at the ranch, Cordelia is leaving cheerleading practice when she hears a noise and decides to be the only person in Sunnydale who is smart. She doesn’t go investigate, but instead runs like hell to her car. She does the horror movie cliche thing where she drops her keys, and when she tries to reach them beneath the car, she sees shoes and takes off to hide in a dumpster. When she peeks out, she finds it was Angel who was menacing her the entire time. He was out looking for Buffy. Cordelia tells him Buffy is at the graveyard and tries to climb out of the dumpster, but her skirt gets caught on something:

Hey, Cordy, need a hand?
Hey, Cordy, need a hand?

The Scoobies come back to the library, deciding that since both the other bodies were missing, they’re dealing with a zombie army. Then they see Cordelia and Angel standing like this:

angel0201

 

 

 

And Buffy is all:

buffy0201

Angel and Cordy tell the rest of the gang about the body parts they found, blowing apart the working theories re: demons and zombie armies. And they figure that the person stealing the bodies must be a student, because of the location the body parts were dumped in. Angel says that whoever cut up the bodies knew what they were doing, and Giles isn’t sure a student would have the anatomical knowledge required to do a good job carving up a body. But Willow disagrees, saying she knows of at least five students in the science club who would know how to do it, including herself. Buffy wants to check those students’ lockers, but Cordelia wants to leave like, thirty minutes ago, and asks Angel to take her home, because she’s scared. And Buffy is all:

Excuse me, but do you like living, Cordelia?
Excuse me, but do you like living, Cordelia?

At Casa del Eric, Eric’s mom is watching home movies of Daryl’s football victories and chain smoking. Eric says he’s going out and he’ll come back later, but she doesn’t respond to him, making all of these stickers:

stickers

pretty redundant. She ain’t going to fuck with your stuff, kid. She’s too focused on the kid that died.

At school, Giles makes a fuss about how he can’t condone the locker search, then he joins in the locker search. In Chris’s locker the find books on anatomy and mortuary science, as well as the newspaper carrying the story about the three dead cheerleaders. One thing that’s nice about early Buffy one-off episode villains? They make sure to leave really obvious clues. The only person who wouldn’t get these clues would be Steve from Blues Clues, the guy who somehow went to college despite not being able to put together simple riddles based on being able to spot three-foot high neon blue dog prints.

And what do you know, a neon blue dog print shows up, in the form of this creepy collage pasted in Eric’s locker:

Or, it could be an indicator of body dysmorphic disorder.
Or, it could be the laziest wank material construction ever.

Meanwhile, in the worst community theatre production of Weird Science: The Musical ever, Eric is sleazing around, singing “My Girl” (the song, not the movie I referenced earlier where the kid gets stung to death by bees), and Chris is checking out the rotting collection of sewn-together parts on his operating table. They’re on a pretty tight schedule for getting her up and running, but Chris says he’s working on it. Eric says he’s working on it, too, and he hangs up freshly developed photos of Cordy, Buffy, and Willow.

At school the next day, Willow tells Buffy and Xander that Chris was really shaken up about his brother’s death… but that doesn’t seem like a very good motive for building a girl out of spare parts. They find Giles tying himself in knots over asking Jenny Calendar out, and they try to give him some pointers and abandon him as she approaches. And she has an awesome line, when Giles calls her Ms. Calendar:

Jenny: “Oh no, call me Jenny. Ms. Calendar was my father.”

Look, Giles, you either ask her out, or I’m gonna.

As it turns out, Giles flubs the whole thing. But Jenny ends up asking him out for Mexican food and a football game.

When Chris and Eric don’t show up for school, Buffy, Xander, and Willow start to worry that maybe their project is done:

Buffy: “God, what if it worked? What if that poor girl is walking around?”

Xander: “Poor girls, technically.”

Giles comes in and tells them that he’s done more research, and all three heads were found. So, the guys don’t have all the necessary parts to finish… yet.

Meanwhile, Dr. Frankendee and Dr. Frankendumb are arguing about how long they can possibly wait to get a head attached to the body. Chris wants to wait for another accident, but Eric wants to cut off somebody’s head. Eric is super blasé about killing someone- in fact, he says it’s “just one girl.” Fucking jerk. Chris says he can’t kill anybody, then he turns and starts talking to a third person off screen, begging them to understand that he just can’t kill anybody. Who is he talking to?

I don't know, buddy, maybe switch to an electric razor.
I don’t know, buddy, maybe switch to an electric razor.

FrankenDaryl guilts his brother, saying he promised he wouldn’t be alone, and the scene cuts to commercial. On the other side of the break, Daryl is still harping on the forever alone theme. He’s insistent upon needing this Frankengirl, and he’s team Eric about it. We learn that Chris brought Daryl back… and though he’s all sewn up and has a crude external fixator on his arm, he looks like he’s made from one body. So, why didn’t they just bring back one of the three whole girls they had, rather than sew them all together? Daryl wears Chris down, and Eric lets Daryl pick a head from the photos he took. And Cordy becomes their target. Eric sings “My Girl” some more while happily cutting Cordy’s head off in the photo, and you get the sense that even if he wasn’t helping his friend build a Frankenfuckdoll out of real lady parts, he would probably still be up for murdering and dismembering women.

In the library, Willow and Giles explain exactly why the guys couldn’t have used the heads of the women they already cut up. The formaldehyde used in embalming would have destroyed their brains. So, I guess Daryl wasn’t embalmed before they threw his splattered remains into a bag and sealed them up in his coffin. Or maybe he was, and that’s why he’s so willing to murder now? Either way, Buffy wants to put an end to it, because she figures anyone who wants to cut up people and put them back together for fun probably isn’t going to make a distinction between live ones and dead ones. The gang gets ready to roll out, but Giles reminds them he has a date, and Buffy is all, “Fine.”

So, you know. Remember that for later, Giles, since you’re so intent on constantly c-blocking your Slayer whenever she has a date.

The group decides to meet up at the football game so that Giles’s night isn’t impeded, and Willow tells Buffy to take it easy on Chris, because he’s had a rough time. Which is like… okay, props to Willow for being a nice friend and all, but are you kidding me? He’s a murderer. Remember, the Scoobies don’t know that Chris is reluctant to do the killing, so Willow is basically trying to justify his actions on the grounds that his brother died. I would expect that kind of emotional thinking from Xander, but not necessarily Willow.

Buffy goes to visit Chris at his house, but she can’t even get a straight answer over whether he’s home or not from his mother. All Chris’s mom wants to do is talk about Daryl’s old games. Buffy goes into the basement, where she finds all the evidence a jury would need to convict- or a detective would need to issue a search warrant- but she leaves it all behind when she hears a noise from upstairs. The noise does prevent her from being attacked by FrankenDaryl, though.

How incredibly sad is it that FrankenDaryl’s mom is right upstairs, in a persistent state of unhealthy fixation on the death of her child, when that child is actually alive and right downstairs? I can’t decide if it’s better or worse for her to not know. There would be a horrible kind of torment in thinking someone was dead, grieving them, and finding out they were alive again only to know exactly what it will feel like when they die in the future.

That’s grim.

In the Sunnydale locker room- WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE LOCKER ROOM?!- Cordelia stays behind to put on lip gloss while the other cheerleaders head outside. This leads to her getting kidnapped. Because Cordelia ALWAYS gets kidnapped. Buffy thwarts the attempt, and Cordelia rushes out to the field. Because either Cordelia is super tough and laser focused about cheerleading, or she’s just so used to getting kidnapped or nearly murdered that it no longer fazes her. Buffy wanders through the locker room, talking to Chris, who is hiding in there somewhere. He steps out and tells Buffy that he has to fulfill his promise, and from his rambling she discerns correctly that Chris is talking about Daryl, not Eric.

Back at Chris’s house, Daryl is in a rage, screaming and breaking things. Hey, if their mom never leaves the house, why is she not hearing all this? I get that she’s near catatonic with grief, but you’d think hearing the voice of her dead kid might make her check out what’s happening in the basement. Daryl attacks Eric, but Eric talks him down by promising to finish the dead girl sex doll himself.

When Buffy and Chris arrive at the basement, they find Daryl and Eric gone. Now that Chris is working with Buffy instead of against her, the audience is free to see him as a sympathetic character again. Keep that in mind when you’re working on your own stuff: if you’ve got a villain with sympathetic motives, their redemption lies in the reversal or participation in the reversal of their bad actions, behaviors, or beliefs. As an audience, we couldn’t really feel bad for Chris while he was going along with the murder plan, until he started working to keep the murder from happening.

More on that later, because at the football game, the cutest thing in the world is happening:

giles0201

Jenny regales Giles with her appreciation of the naked male aggression that is football, and Giles points out that rugby players don’t use protective gear and therefore Brits are probably a bit more manly than Americans, and it’s so cute I could just DIE. Xander and Willow show up and tell Giles that Eric’s house was a bust, and when Giles tries to tactfully get rid of them, they don’t take the hint and instead sit down right in front of their teachers, who are just biding time until they can rip each others’ clothes off and get freaky.

Hey, you know what’s a good place for that at a high school football game? Under the bleachers. But not these particular bleachers, because they have a Frankenmonster under them. Daryl watches the football game and gets all teary, because it’s not just his old life that’s over, but his entire life. Being around all these living people is understandably a bummer. I almost feel bad for him, until he spots Cordelia and is clearly thinking, “Oh, that’s right. I came here to murder Cordelia and sew her head on a corpse so I can rape away my loneliness.”

When Cordelia comes off the field, Daryl nabs her, and her screams are covered up by the crowd’s cheers. So, that’s two attempts to kidnap Cordy in one episode. This must be some kind of record. Eric and Daryl take her to an abandoned warehouse, where she learns Daryl is alive and she’s going to be a part of a Frankengirl.

Buffy demands to know where they would have taken her, and Chris tells her about the secret lab. Wait. Wait, wait, wait. In an earlier scene, Chris told Buffy that Daryl would never go “out.” But we’ve already seen Daryl in the secret lab. So, that’s kind of inconsistent. He goes out. Dead Daryl gets around.

Cordelia tells Daryl she would still be with him, even if she wasn’t part of a Frankengirl, but he doesn’t buy it. Then Buffy comes in and it’s fight scene time! After trying, unsuccessfully, to reason with Daryl, she starts laying the beat down. Daryl holds his own in the fight, which is, again, kind of inconsistent and confusing. Buffy is a superhero. She has incredible strength. She should be able to beat a guy who is not only dead, but recently stitched together from a catastrophic rock climbing accident. No where during this episode have we been led to believe that being reanimated somehow made Daryl stronger. He should be just as strong as any old linebacker, right? He picked up Eric by the shirt at one point, but Daryl is twice the size of Eric and Eric wasn’t resisting, so that’s not an indication of super-human strength.

This is adding another point to our list, by the way, and one that I should have added a long time ago: #15: Buffy’s strength is plot-convenience flexible. We’ve seen it before in her repeated troubles with doors or being trapped by heavy objects, and now she’s having a hard time beating a dead dude in hand-to-hand, because the fight looks better that way. All they had to do was throw in a line about his strength increasing, and I wouldn’t be so nit-picky about that.

Xander gets there in the nick of time to save Cordelia, while Giles and Willow drag Eric (who was Hulk-smashed into unconsciousness by Daryl) to safety. A bunsen burner tips over and sets everything on fire, and Daryl manages to knock Buffy down and briefly out. He’s about to deliver a killing blow with a desk when Chris runs in and begs him to stop. Seeing that the half-finished body of his Frankengirl is about to burn up, Daryl walks into the flames to join her so they can be together forever.

As the police and fire crew deal with the mess and weirdness of the crime scene, Chris confesses to Buffy that Daryl didn’t want to be brought back. But obviously, when you’re already Frankensteined, it’s too late.

Giles brings Jenny a cup of coffee to apologize to her for the weird turn their date took, and Jenny tells him it’s going to be hard for him to top it on their second date, and then she looks like this:

jenny0201

and he looks like this:

giles0202

AND OMG THEIR LOVE IS ETERNAL!

Meanwhile, Xander is trying to commiserate over his singleness with Willow. Because, you know. He hasn’t knifed her in the heart since the last episode or anything. Mid-conversation, Cordelia shows up, and it goes a little something like this:

Xander: “Well, I guess that makes it official. Everybody’s paired off. The vampires get dates. Hell, even the school librarian sees more action than me. You ever think that the world’s a giant game of musical chairs and the music’s stopped and we’re the only ones who don’t have a chair?”

Willow: “All the time.”

Cordelia: “Xander? I just wanted to thank you for saving my life. What you did in there was really brave and heroic, and I just wanted to tell you if there’s anything I could ever do to- “

Xander: “Do you mind? We’re talking here.”

I. Love. This. Scene. In the first season, I hated the way Xander spoke to Cordelia. And he’s still being rude here, but it’s setting up some important context. Xander and Cordelia will become romantically involved in this season (spoiler alert), and his unwillingness to kiss her ass, coupled with the cracking of her Mean Girl facade to reveal a genuine person underneath, is perfectly set up in this scene. It’s why they work as a couple. It’s why I wish they had stayed on Buffy and stayed together. Because no matter how great Anya is, Xander is a better person when he’s with Cordelia.

More on that later.

Angel walks Buffy home, and they discuss the crazy things people do for love. He admits that it’s crazy for him to be jealous of Xander, since Angel is 241. Wait, what? Back up the statutory train, choo choo. This is exactly what I was talking about before. It is just as creepy for an elderly vampire to lust after an underage girl as it is for an elderly human male to do the same thing. I have no troubles, bubbles, with PNR in which the heroine is not a high school student, but I have real issues with a 241 year old dude being in even a chaste romantic relationship with a teenager.

Angel points out to Buffy that even though she doesn’t feel romantic feelings for Xander, he still gets to be a part of her life in a way Angel will never be able to. Like going out in the daylight and eating food, for example. He also says, “laugh at your jokes,” which is like, cry me a fucking river, Angel, it wouldn’t kill you to crack a smile and it’s not Buffy’s fault that you don’t. But at least they’re communicating their feelings now. Buffy offers to walk him home, echoing and reversing Cordelia’s earlier pleas for Angel to walk her home.

This is another episode that I’m torn about. On the one hand, I love the romance between Giles and Jenny Calendar, and I love that Angel and Buffy are starting to build an actual relationship (age squick aside). And, this being the second season, subplots can play more of a role and be set up sooner, like Cordelia’s increased involvement with the Scoobies and all that other stuff I mentioned. It does hit it out of the park on points#11 and #13, what with the Frankenmonster and all the victims being athletes and Chris and Eric gaining their knowledge of how to Frankenstein via “science club,” making my job here super easy. But while this was a fun episode and the plot inconsistencies (the mother not realizing Daryl was in the basement, the strength disparity issue, the whole “Daryl never leaves” when clearly he does thing) don’t intrusively distract from the overall enjoyment of it, there is a huge point it’s missing:

THIS EPISODE IS ABOUT RAPE, AND RAPE IS NEVER MENTIONED.

It is 100% clear that Eric’s intentions, from his creepy singing to the Frankengirl to his fetishization of female parts, are sexual. It’s also clear that the Frankengirl they create will also be the romantic companion to Daryl, whether she wants to or not. She’s been created solely for that purpose, and will have no agency, even though Daryl clearly retained opinions, thoughts, and feelings from his old life. But nobody ever says that this is rape. It’s creepy and ooky and it’s made more than clear by the script that messing with life and death is wrong (another important addition to the Buffy canon)… but the rape issue is never addressed. Nobody says the word “rape.” We don’t see Eric or Chris being punished for their crimes. Nobody is concerned about this element at all. The script completely avoids it. And in avoiding it, it unintentionally reinforces the cultural perception of women being useful or important only as objects. As Eric says in the episode, “Hell, it’s just one lousy girl.”

Luckily, in the next episode we meet Spike, so the rape thing is… no, wait. Never mind. Season six.

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50 Comments

  1. Laina
    Laina

    My aunt’s town is about 15 miles (of highway and farmland and the dump and cemetary and drive-in – there ain’t nothing out there that’s really “town”) and my town is 1400 people and hers is around 500. My cousin’s school was so small that they didn’t have a home-ec room so for home-ec (Industrial Arts, technically, half the year was woodworking or welding or photography or drafting), they’d get bussed in. So we were a year apart, lived in different towns, went to different schools… and had a couple of the same teachers.

    Small towns be weird sometimes.

    We also don’t have traffic lights.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Laina
      Laina

      *obligatory comment because she forgot to subscribe to the comments*

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
  2. Betty
    Betty

    Actually that would be rule #15 seeing as you added: “14 Mental illness is treated poorly” a few episodes back. But I like it! And often wondered why Willow was the only one who seemed to be able to use a computer.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  3. Emerald
    Emerald

    Oh man I can’t wait for you to do the next episode. And also season 6, I need a blog fast-forward button please!

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Since you haven’t seen the Bride of Frankenstein, this episode follows it almost exactly. The bride was made of random girl parts so that the Frankenstein monster could have a companion. That was her purpose. Only, right at the end (spoiler alert), she comes to life and sees him and she freaks out because he’s so hideous. Literally. That’s pretty much the end. So now that I think about it, no, rape is never mentioned, not even in the source material. Because if the Frankenstein monster wasn’t so sad about his bride flipping absolute shit, it probably would have been on, whether she wanted it or not.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • The original novel had pretty much the same plot in it – the monster demands a mate, Frankenstein builds one but destroys it at the last minute because he’s worried they’ll breed and create a new race of monsters. It probably counts as less squicky in the book because it just reflects societal perceptions. British society was wrong to assume that marriage=consent, but I’m not going to fault Shelley for that.

      July 25, 2013
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  5. Possible? spoilers ahead:

    “Luckily, in the next episode we meet Spike, so the rape thing is… no, wait. Never mind. Season six.”

    I love Spike, he’s my fave. I despise that one ep in season six, absolutely despise it. I feel like it was contrived, one because he had to have REASONS for how he finished the season, like he couldn’t have hurt her in some other way and realized “oh, bad…” but it had to be THAT. Two, to make us not like Spike as much when season seven kicked off, so he had to spend most of that season re-earning the viewers’ sympathy. And three, to remind us, “oh yeah, he’s kind of an evil guy still.” Because all of that makes it more impactful when Buffy later realizes he’s the only one she can still trust implicitly.

    It just pisses me off. Especially with his character arc from the beginning of season six. Dammit.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Katie
      Katie

      I also love Spike, above all of Buffy’s other love interests. It always bothers me a bit when people demonize Spike while comparing him to Angel. Obviously, in the earlier seasons Angel is set up as the good guy and Spike is bad, but let’s look at these two when they are on equal footing. Spike fights with Buffy, gets a chip in his brain preventing him from hurting people, kind of becomes one of the Scoobies in an outlier, Daryl Dixon kind of way. He eventually falls in love with Buffy, takes care of her kid sister, actually gets thrown off of a tower trying to protect Dawn. In season 6 he becomes Buffy’s confidant and lover while she is just using him. He does all of these things WITHOUT his soul.

      Now, let’s look at what Angel does without his soul. He terrorizes not only Buffy, but all of the Scoobies, tries to destroy the world multiple times, tortures Giles, and kills Jenny Calendar. He does all these things and is forgiven almost as soon as he gets his soul back.

      I just feel that Spike gets a bad wrap, which pisses me off, too.

      July 25, 2013
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      • This. You explained my feelings perfectly! Spike is such a great and complicated character but they screwed it up by making him sexually bad/evil which didn’t really make sense to me at the time (Also in an unrelated note, Buffy was especially insufferable in those last two seasons, ugh) and this, at an early age, is why I learned that our Lord Whedon doesn’t want any of us to be happy in a relationship. Ever.

        July 25, 2013
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      • Yeah, I dislike how the writers used that ‘rape is the evillest crime that we use to show how evil people are’ trope. I mean, It was lazy storytelling and also unhelpful in terms of reinforcing the stereotype that only Evil McEvilFaces can rape so if they’re not an Evil McEvilFace then then they can’t be a rapist. They were like ‘oh, we need Spike to do something evil, so we’ll just put some rape in’. Angel MURDERED someone and the narrative didn’t treat it as seriously as the rape.*

        *should also probably make clear that I am not defending or justifying Spike’s actions in said episode. I take issue with the reasons the show decided to put it in and how it was dealt with.

        July 26, 2013
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      • Yes yes!! All of this!

        Granted, Spike has the chip in his head, but when given the chance to more or less return to his old life with Dru, he doesn’t.
        Meanwhile, even with his soul, Angel (in his own series) pulls some even more asshole moves.
        And Spike is just more fun overall.

        July 26, 2013
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  6. adult men picking up high school girls and then (in the case of Buffy and Twilight, at least) waiting patiently for their eighteenth birthday to bang them.

    Angel doesn’t actually even wait till she’s 18. It’s her 17th birthday. Her 18th birthday is in season 3’s episode “Helpless.” 🙂

    July 24, 2013
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  7. You could also add Sunnydale’s location and size is plot-convenience flexible. For a small town, not only do they have another high school, there’s a prep school nearby (Reptile Boy) and a college (Reptile Boy) that may or may not be Sunnydale University (season 4). In Surprise, (and at least one season 3 ep), there’s a harbor but when (SPOILER) the town is destroyed at the end of season 7, they are clearly land-locked. I’m sure there are many other examples that just aren’t coming to me right now.

    July 24, 2013
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    • Nerem
      Nerem

      I didn’t really notice this because my hometown is technically a small town, and it has four high schools, two hospitals, several factories, and a community college.

      It is kind of an unusual small town though.

      May 18, 2015
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      • Do you read this stuff anymore, Jenny?

        May 18, 2015
        |Reply
        • JennyTrout
          JennyTrout

          I read it as it comes in! I just don’t generally leave replies on old stuff unless someone specifically asks. 😀

          May 18, 2015
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  8. marteani
    marteani

    Is there any reason to believe that the high school isn’t in an adjacent town? I grew up in a city that didn’t have its own high school until after I left, and so went to a high school in an adjacent city. Now the area has 3 high school, all within 15-20 minutes of another, even though the individual cities aren’t very big. Plus, Sunnydale has sports teams that apparently play against other sports teams, so I’m assuming the cheerleaders were hanging out after a game and decided to go somewhere together.

    July 24, 2013
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  9. Alex
    Alex

    Maybe Sunnydale has a “Three Days of Mourning” policy. During those three days, you get all your hugs, but then it’s over because the comfort-resources are scarce in this town. Mourning for longer than three days is seen as excessive and therefore discouraged by ignoring the mourner. Before Buffy came to Sunnydale, they only had a “One Day of Mourning” policy.

    July 25, 2013
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    • Alex
      Alex

      That’s also why they never mention Jessy again.

      July 25, 2013
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  10. I’m about to finish the second series now and I think this show is full of all kinds of absurdities – except for the plot, which has a lot of plotholes sometimes even the monsters on this show are crazy bad. They look like the ones on Red Dwarf – so fake it’s ridiculous. It’s like they had the tightest budget ever.

    July 25, 2013
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  11. Lindsay
    Lindsay

    Really happy you mentioned that last paragraph. I never liked this episode because it’s really obvious that Daryl has fully developed emotions and thoughts, and yet they are creating this other girl out of various pieces to be his without even recognizing her as being on a similar plane as Daryl. The plot does follow the Bride of Frankenstein motif really closely, but one thing I usually like about Buffy is that it can take these classic horror themes and plots and address the more emotionally complex underbelly in light of the fact that this takes place in the 1990s and is supposed to be a “female-centric” show. I mean, keep in mind that the original Bride of Frankenstein was made in 1935, so women’s rights weren’t exactly much of a thing yet. Buffy doesn’t have that excuse.

    Also something else I found to be a really gross thought is beyond being made as a sex doll can you imagine any girl’s reaction to waking up, being fully cognizant and realizing that she is made out of different people? At least Daryl is all Daryl. If they had succeeded, Cordelia would have had to deal with the fact that absolutely nothing about her body except her head is actually hers, and that she is constructed from three other dead girls. I think that in itself is a really horrific idea.

    July 25, 2013
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    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      The impression I got when watching it was the logic went along the lines of “the girl will be a ‘freak’ like me, so she’ll want to stay with me forever because I’m the only other person who is like her”. That she would choose to be with Daryl IF she was a reconstructed person.

      I’m not saying that thinking is remotely reasonable, but I always got the impression Daryl figured if he had a female counterpart, she’d want what he wanted. I don’t think he’d give her many options if she didn’t though.

      July 25, 2013
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    • Laina
      Laina

      You know, there was a couple Criminal Minds episodes that did similar plots. One was this guy who was cutting legs off one person and attaching them to another.

      July 25, 2013
      |Reply
      • Jen
        Jen

        Except that wasn’t about trying to make a new person, he was more or less, trying to perfect doing a live leg transplant(in that he would take a leg from person A, put it onto person B and it would be usable) since his wife was missing a leg(at least from the knee down) because of a birth defect.

        November 7, 2013
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      • Laina
        Laina

        @Jen I was referring specifically to “can you imagine any girl’s reaction to waking up, being fully cognizant and realizing that she is made out of different people”. I’m pretty sure waking up with someone else’s leg attached to you would be PRETTY WEIRD. Hence the “similiar plots”, not “identical plots”.

        There was also an episode where a guy used different parts of people to try and build a new body for his dead brother. So you know. Also similiar.

        November 7, 2013
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  12. Jo
    Jo

    I wasn’t thinking about rape at first. I was going with necrophilia. The “She’s alive” comment coupled with Eric’s lustful stare sent shivers down my spine. I’m pretty sure he did unspeakable things to that headless body while Chris and Daryl weren’t looking, and I’m not sure he would have been as interested in doing them once she could move and, you know, breathe, because then she would have been Daryl’s to rape.

    Plot-wise,I agree it makes no sense that they had to cherry-pick her parts. I think that’s part of Eric’s creepy fetish too.

    Also, I think you missed a chance to show another example of the “mental issues are treated poorly” point. Chris’ mom is depressed. Not “I’m feeling a little blue” depressed, but “I need a therapist, a sucidie watch and maybe some prescribed meds” depressed, which is completely normal since she’s lost her son. Yet, neither Buffy nor Chris are doing anything to help her, even though she’s very clearly not capable of asking for help herself. How long do you think she has been sitting on that couch? This is seriously one of the saddest depiction of clinical depression I’ve seen, and it’s compeltely brushed aside. It just… agh.

    Brilliant as always Jen, keep up the good work!

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I apologise if this sounds super-creepy, but, I’m unable to make it sound anything else.
    Perhaps the three-girl-jigsaw was necessary because parts of all of them were too badly damaged in the car accident that killed them for any one whole body to be viable? That is what I, in my habit of over-analysis, had assumed.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
    • People drop like flies in Sunnydale – and the vampire victims are nice and intact. I think they’d be able to find a whole corpse if they bothered looking, but Eric was having too much fun being creepy. Might have used that to justify it to Chris though

      July 25, 2013
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    • Anna
      Anna

      I always assumed that as well. I might be wrong, but I though one of the boys made a comment about it at some point.

      July 26, 2013
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  14. Andrea
    Andrea

    Excellent recap, as always Jenny!

    Have you read this book called “Unwind”? Its about a distopian world where abortion is illegal, but parents can decide to “retroactively terminate a pregnancy” once the kid turns 12…by having them cut up and all their body parts are donated to other people.

    Anyway, I bring it up because this recap reminded me of the sequal to that book, which is called “UnWholly.” It’s about a boy who is made entirely of the parts of unwound kids. The story focuses on whether or not this boy can have a soul, if he’s really his own person, or if he is just the sum of his parts. It’s super creepy, but at the same time, incredibly touching and compelling. The series is by Neal Shusterman, and I highly recommend it.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
    • Nim
      Nim

      This episode definitely reminded me of Unwind- I second the recommendation to anyone you enjoyed this episode!

      I’ve been hesitant to read the next book in the series though because it’s such an emotional ride and the first left you with a feeling of satisfaction that I wouldn’t want to ruin for a book that might not also deliver in the same respect.

      I found this to be one of the more disturbing episodes when I watched it the first time (in elementary school) and your recap illustrates even creepier undertones I didn’t pick up the first time around (because rape wasn’t a concept to me at the time). It’s like watching a whole new show sometimes.

      July 26, 2013
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  15. CS
    CS

    Missed a #12 on… well, on basically any mention of Voodoo on this series, ever. But including in this ep.

    July 25, 2013
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  16. Errant Endeavour
    Errant Endeavour

    Dude, wouldn’t it be hilarious if, at the end of all the recaps, you have about a hundred numbered points? Wait, then you’d have to redo the recaps, just to highlight the newer points. Urgh. That would be torture 🙁 .

    Also, while I do think you’re right in the #15 – strength thing, I’m not entirely sure it’s applicable in this situation. I’ve noticed, not just in Buffy, but other supernatural based shows that undead/monsters tend to have superhuman strength, as well as some other abilities that they didn’t possess while pre-undead. Not really sure why, but it could just be a continuation of that trope.

    July 26, 2013
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    • Stella
      Stella

      They say people never use the full strength of their bodies because the instinct to avoid damage kicks in as soon as it starts to hurt; maybe Daryl just doesn’t feel the pain of pushing his body beyond safe limits.

      Fanwank aside, it’s definitely a trope I’ve noticed, too. Even with demon possession, where you’d think the possessed character’s body would still be as human and fragile as ever but the person suddenly seems nightmarishly strong.

      July 26, 2013
      |Reply
  17. Mojitana
    Mojitana

    Remember that bad Frankenstein rip-off movie with Sting and Jennifer Beals, “The Bride”? I remembered that when I read the last paragraph of your recap blog. I don’t know why I am mentioning it because it has nothing really to do with Buffy or anything. I’m just tired and thought of it.

    July 27, 2013
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  18. Lisa Dollar
    Lisa Dollar

    I so enjoy these and also the comments. I have nothing to add that others haven’t already said but I do want to follow the rest of the comments.

    July 27, 2013
    |Reply
  19. Great post again Jenny. I had comments … but then you said the ‘S’ word, and now my head is all blank (well not blank, actually FAR from blank), and I can’t remember what I wanted to say, so I shall just move over here and meditate. *mmmmmmm, Spike*

    July 27, 2013
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  20. Ilex
    Ilex

    Why is it always the locker room? Maybe partly because #11 — cheerleading is considered a team sport these days. But partly because a lot of locker rooms are just inherently creepy, what with weird recesses and a maze-like feeling.

    I swam in college, and the women’s showers were up a dark stairway and around a couple turns in a narrow hallway, and after morning practice, we swimmers were pretty much the only people in those areas. I was always positive there was going to be an ax-murderer hanging around up there because it looked like such a perfect horror movie set-up.

    August 1, 2013
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  21. Red31
    Red31

    I’ve also started re-watching Buffy. I caught the marathon on Syfy late, but then remembered it was on Netflix. I forgot how totally gay the first couple of seasons were. That’s not offensive because I’m gay. It’s like Black people with the N word. I didn’t realize how much it centered around Buffy and Angel’s relationship. Or how Xander was so overprotective of Buffy. Or how Giles had a weird father/protector/lover thing happening with Buffy. Just watching things with an adult eye kind of kills the innocence of it. I was in 10th grade when it went off air, re-watching makes me almost feel like I never watched it at all. It’s so surreal.

    August 1, 2013
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  22. Ilex
    Ilex

    This episode has gotten me thinking about the movie Frankenhooker, which came out in 1990. I remember finding it absolutely hilarious at the time,but I’m wondering if I’d see it in the same light now.

    Has anyone else seen that?

    August 2, 2013
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  23. Considering the rate at which teenagers die in Sunnydale, they need at least 12 high schools. How else are they gonna fill up all those cemetaries? There’s apparently only one Starbucks, though. Guess Sunnydale kids rarely grow up to be old enough to develop a caffeine addiction.

    November 27, 2013
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  24. Very helpful info. Lucky me I uncovered your internet site by chance, and I am astonished why that coincidence would not occurred ahead of time! I book marked them.

    February 3, 2014
    |Reply
  25. Nana
    Nana

    I hate this episode. It creeped me out the whole way, exactly because it was about rape. The fact that she never made it to life doesn’t really help, because all I could think about throughout was that they were handling the body parts, and who knows what they were doing with them? Did they pick a vulva they liked from the corpses? Did they fondle her? I had no reason to think they wouldn’t have been doing terrible things to the chick they were trying to wake up, and it deeply disturbed me.

    June 7, 2014
    |Reply
  26. Raging Brainer
    Raging Brainer

    It is a frustrating trope for me in the zombie genre that somehow they develop superhuman strength. My body is weak and fleshy, designed perfectly for sitting on a couch, I doubt it would be much different in death. I assume they just gave Daryl the zombie strength, it is too bad they didn’t put something in the script explaining it so I wouldn’t have to beat my head bloody against my desk at yet another super strong zombie (I’ve probably had as many concussions as Giles because I love the zombie genre for some reason, it is also one of the reasons why I didn’t have as much of a problem with I Am Legend because I was able to suspend my disbelief since in my head canon those zombies were made stronger by the illness).

    December 26, 2014
    |Reply
  27. Holly
    Holly

    Hey now, Angel only waited until Buffy’s 17th birthday.

    February 27, 2015
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  28. Kim
    Kim

    “When Cordelia said they don’t have a lot of town in Sunnydale? There’s apparently enough town that there are two high schools?”…and a hospital, 15 churches and oh yeah, a freaking university!

    February 27, 2015
    |Reply
  29. Suzanne
    Suzanne

    Yes, I assumed they were picking the ‘best parts’ to create a girlfriend who had great legs AND boobs AND face etc. but bits being too smashed up makes more sense.

    Do headstones go up immediately people are buried in America? Cos in the UK we gave to wait several months for the ground to settle.

    Also, this sentence in the recap: “Eric comes up and snaps her picture without her permission, then makes a comment about another girl’s legs and heads off…” I had to read twice before I realised he wasn’t dismembering people right there.

    April 8, 2015
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  30. Anon123
    Anon123

    I’ve got it! I understand both the incompetent vampires in “When She Was Bad” and the sexist digging in this episode–the props department could only afford two shovels for the whole season! The writers were simply *forced* to work with that!

    But wait…the writers could still have had the Scoobies taking turns with the shovels, or Buffy digging with the crazy-strong-at-random-moments Giles, or even Buffy dual-wielding shovels. (Hehe, Buffy dual-wielding shovels is an amusing mental image.) I guess it turns out my facetious excuse for the writing is no excuse at all, at least for this episode. #6.

    April 25, 2015
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  31. This is the episode that launched the Angel & Cordy ship, which I wasn’t on board with until season 4 of Angel. (“Waiting In The Wings” anyone? Bueller?) Not sure at this point if she wanted the d or to just piss off Buffy.

    Also, does anyone else think that the cross pendant on the necklace that Buffy wears in this episode looks like its upside down? I noticed it in S2E1 as well.

    January 10, 2016
    |Reply

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