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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E04: “Inca Mummy Girl”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will never learn the lesson that nothing good happens after 2AM. 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.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.

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. 

This is a Xander heavy episode. Because he is the Everyman ™, it’s difficult to make him the center of a successful story. The brilliant season three script “The Zeppo” by Dan Vebber points this out in a big way; no matter what Xander does, even if it’s incredibly exciting, heroic, and brave, he’s still just the bumbling sidekick in a larger story. That’s why “Inca Mummy Girl” falls flat as an episode… well, that and the fact that it’s a gender switch version of season one’s “I Robot, You Jane.”

The episode opens with Buffy, Xander, and Willow talking about how much Buffy isn’t looking forward to having an exchange student living at her house for two weeks. An exchange student, Joyce? Really? You’re constantly overwhelmed trying to raise your own kid, you’re going to take a crack at someone else’s? (#3) Xander is all for the student exchange program, incidentally.

In the rotunda of a huge museum complete with free-standing dinosaur skeletons– hey, what happened to Sunnydale not having a lot of town?– Cordelia is lusting over the Swedish exchange student who’ll be staying at her house. When Buffy says she doesn’t know what the guy coming to stay a Casa del Summers looks like, Xander’s tune doth change:

Xander: “Hold on a sec. So this person who’s living with you for two weeks is a man, with man parts? This is a terrible idea.”

Willow: “What about the beautiful melding of two cultures?”

Xander: “There’s no melding, okay? He better keep his parts to himself.”

#5. Because only Xander is going to put his parts near Buffy. He is the keeper of her sexuality, after all. He got dibs on it the moment he decided he had dibs on it, and that’s how it works. And of course, because this episode is written by two dudes, Buffy laughs Xander’s misplaced “protectiveness” off, rather than saying something like, “Excuse the fuck out of me, but I get to decide whose parts touch me, thanks.”

Buffy changes the subject by pointing out that the school bully seems to be defacing a priceless artifact and growling at anyone who intervenes. It’s Rodney Munson, a kid who beat up Xander constantly. Despite the fact that everyone thinks Rodney is stupid and useless, Willow is tutoring him in chemistry, and she goes over to gently warn him that he’s going to get into trouble. Because Willow doesn’t judge people based on everyone else’s opinion, and is basically a rockstar of humanity.

John Water’s doppleganger

No, seriously.
No, seriously.

herds the students into an exhibit called the Incan Burial Chamber, where an Inca “princess”‘s mummified body is on display. He tells the students she was buried alive as part of a human sacrifice.

Okay, record scratch here. The Inca didn’t bury kids alive as human sacrifice. They took them up a mountain, drugged them, and let them die of exposure. Also, what is the obsession with assigning western European roles like “princess” to ancient native North, Central, and South American cultures? #12

The mummy was buried with a seal that, if moved, would awaken the princess from her slumber.

So like, a slightly more desiccated princess Aurora.
So like, a slightly more desiccated princess Aurora.

Over the corpse of the human sacrifice, Buffy tells Xander and Willow that the exchange student coming to visit them is named Ampata, and they’ll be picking him up at the bus station the next day. The tour guide moves them along, and who should wander in but Rodney the Reprobate. He tries to steal the Inca seal, but it breaks and the mummy comes to life and strangles him.

After the opening credits, Buffy is beating the unholy hell out of Giles in the library, as part of her training. She’s asking for permission to go somewhere, and Giles is refusing:

Giles: “You have responsibilities that other girls do not.”

Buffy: “Oh! I know this one! Slaying entails certain sacrifices, blah blah bity blah, I’m so stuffy give me a scone.”

Giles: “It’s as if you know me.”

Giles argues that it will be difficult enough for Buffy to guard her secret identity with an exchange student in the house– an exchange student who, Xander is quick to interrupt, will not be living with her in a domestic sense, so much as sharing space–, so obviously she can’t go to a school dance.

Wait, that’s what they’re arguing about? Whether or not Buffy should go to a school dance? Why does Giles constantly want to stop Buffy from doing normal social things with her peers?

Probably for the same reason Xander begs Buffy to come along with him and Willow, as a group. Because if we keep Buffy away from guys, she can’t fall in lurve. It’s a #2, #5 combo!

Willow comes in at a real unfortunate time, as Xander and Buffy discuss how Willow is his friend, and he doesn’t feel sexy feelings for her. But while she’s utterly crushed at hearing this, Willow is more concerned with Rodney… who didn’t come back from the field trip. At first, the gang jokes about what kind of trouble Rodney could have gotten into at the museum:

Xander: “Hey, maybe he awakened the mummy.”

Willow: “Right, and it rose from its tomb.”

Buffy: “And attacked him.”

And then Buffy’s face goes:


Cut to the Scoobies at the museum, investigating the Inca exhibit. Giles is examining the broken seal, but the mummy is still there, albeit looking a little more toothy than before and nobody seems to notice. Probably because a random dude just runs in with a machete and tries to murder them, then disappears. Giles advises that they leave before the random dude comes back, and Willow asks if the Inca had orthodontics… because the mummy in the tomb has braces.

Rodney had braces.

Back at school, the Scoobies are taking Rodney’s demise awfully well. I guess when literally every student in your high school is walking monster chow, you get blasé about these things. Giles thinks Buffy should go out hunting, but Buffy has to go pick up Ampata the exchange student. Xander is #5, suggesting that by not stranding a foreign exchange student, she’s neglecting her duties and is being wrong, wrong, wrong:

Xander: “Buffy, where are your priorities? Tracking down a mummifying killer, or making time for some Latin lover whose stock in trade is the breakage of hearts?”

Okay, first of all Xander, that’s #12, although it’s a case of the character being xenophobic and not the overall tone of the show being racist (and the fact that Latin doesn’t necessarily describe a racial group every time it’s used), but seriously. The “Latin Lover” trope is still a cultural stereotype, so shut up, Xander. Also, Xander, you really want Buffy to not be around this guy so much that you’re willing to not only strand him without transportation in a foreign country, but in Sunnydale. Xander is so set in his “If I can’t have her, no one can,” mindset that he’s willing to let another human being be killed by vampires. 

Cut to Ampata at the bus station, where things… aren’t going well:

so you had a bad day
Unless he’s a necrophiliac, in which case things are going incredibly well for him.

Buffy, Willow, and Xander arrive to collect Ampata, and Buffy is lamenting the fact that she’s forty minutes late. Xander asks if they have to speak Spanish when they meet him, and tosses out “Doritos” and “Chihuahua” as Spanish words he knows. Do we need to make a separate xenophobia tag? #17: Those wacky “foreigners.”

As Buffy calls for Ampata, a beautiful girl dressed in Ampata’s clothes emerges. And of course, Xander is instantly struck by her beauty and the fact that she doesn’t know he’s a huge dork and he might actually get some touch from this whole thing. The Scoobies take “Ampata” back to the Summers homestead, where Willow feels an instant and intense dislike to her, and Xander sits way too close while making gestures vaguely reminiscent of sign language. He also talks loudly and slowly as though Ampata were just waking up from anesthesia, even though it’s clear that Ampata’s English is fluent and she’s not having trouble carrying on a normal conversation without taking cues from exaggerated facial expressions.

Buffy asks Ampata if she’s ever been to the US before, and Ampata replies by saying she was “on tour” and “taken to” major US cities where she didn’t see anything. So… I’m really finding it hard to believe that they’re not connecting her with the mummy. Later, as Buffy and Ampata get ready for bed, Ampata tells Buffy that life back at home is “cramped” and “dead,” and Buffy still doesn’t get. The mummy is spoon-feeding her this info, dude!

At school the next day, Cordelia is dating a musician! She’s also got her exchange student in tow, and she’s way pissed that he turned out to be less Dolf Lundgren and more Dauber from Coach.

M-O-O-N, that spells disappointment.
M-O-O-N, that spells disappointment.

Cordelia’s musician boyfriend is going to be playing at the dance with his band, and oh hey… look! It’s one of his band mates!



You guys, you have no idea how excited this makes me. I love Oz. I love him even after season four. I love him even though he struggles with the line between man and animal. Screw that, I love him because he struggles with the line between man and animal. I love him because he is the most normal paranormal character on this show, and I love him, I love him, I love him.

I don’t know if you’re picking up on my subtly woven tapestry of thematic elements here, but I love Oz.

Devon the musician wants confirmation from Oz on Cordelia’s hotness, which Oz gives, but not as enthusiastically as Devon would like. Oz doesn’t want Devon to take it personally, but he’s got higher standards for hooking up, even though being a lead guitarist in a local rock band gives him carte blanche to as much pussy as one short little werewolf can carry.

Willow and Xander are walking across campus, discussing their costume options for the multi-cultural dance. Willow’s costume is done and she thinks it’s “pretty cool,” which is something you need to remember, because it’s going to be funny later. Xander is worried about looking stupid, because Ampata is going to be there. I mean, he doesn’t say it, but when he catches sight of her strolling into school in the highest waisted jeans known to man, the cause of his anxiety is clear.

Buffy tells Ampata that someone wants to meet her, and we cut immediately to Giles, who knows the girl all of a handshake before he asks her to translate the seal from the mummy tomb. Giles somehow believes that a twentieth century teenager is going to be able to translate ancient hieroglyphics just because it came from the same region she’s from. Yeah, Giles, that’s why I’m so good at reading Ojibwe syllabary.

But hey, wouldn’t you know it, Ampata can read the symbol for “bodyguard.” And the fact that she is, again, a twentieth century teenager, never crosses the Scoobies’ minds. This is a mix of #17 and just plain bad story telling. That’s the problem with television shows like Buffy: the strongest writer makes the characters realistic, intelligent, and strong, but the weakest writers ignore characterization in favor of making the storytelling easier. If Joss Whedon, David Fury, Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon wrote this episode? Giles would have been immediately suspicious that a high schooler could translate ancient text.

Instead, when Ampata tells them that the bodyguard protects the mummy from anyone who would disturb her, and they should totally hide the piece of the seal they found, Giles is just like, “Got it, great, thanks, you’re totally not a mummy,” and goes back to researching. Even though… wait… hold up.

When Giles asks Ampata to translate the seal, they tell her that it belonged to a mummy… but then she says that “legend” tells about the bodyguard and the mummy… how would someone who just arrived in Sunnydale the night before know which mummy they were talking about? And not a one of them stopped and went, “Huh. How did she know about the legends around this specific mummy? How did she know which one we were talking about at all?”

Buffy is about to suggest that Willow show Ampata around the school, but Xander steps in and takes over, which results in Willow staring longingly at them and remarking about how much they like each other. Because the writing in this episode is superb.

Xander and Ampata bond over deep throating Twinkies–

No, really.

— while back in the library, Willow is moping. She decides that instead of waiting around for Xander to notice her, she’s going to move on with her life. Oh, and she decides this while she’s supposed to be researching, because this episode is a slightly OOC fanfic. Seriously, when faced with investigating an escaped mummy who murdered one of her friends, Willow is zoning out to pine over Xander? In what universe is this Willow’s characterization?

Giles examines the seal, and he says:

Giles: “This is most illuminating. It seems Rodney’s killer… might be the mummy.”

Wait a second, didn’t we already know that? We know that Rodney is a mummy now, and the mummy is missing. The possibility that the mummy is the killer has already been discussed, and is the reason for the research in the first place. Why is this new conversation about Rodney being killed by the mummy necessary?

Giles tells Buffy and Willow that the mummy can suck the life force out of a human, leaving behind an empty husk.  The only way they can stop the mummy is by completing the seal to learn what will kill her.

Back at the football field, Xander and Ampata are just chilling on the bleachers when the mummy bodyguard attacks them with a machete. He…



That’s Jacob Black’s dad! Now I get it! He became a paraplegic because of an accident during a mummy fight! It all makes sense now!

When Billy Black sees Ampata, he’s all, “It’s you!” and I’m all like, “No, it’s you, Billy Black,” and then he runs away.

In the library, Giles gives Ampata some tea, because he’s just that English. Ampata urges the Scoobies to destroy the seal, or else someone could die… again, she knows an awful lot about this seal for someone who isn’t a recently resurrected Inca sacrifice, but no one seems to notice this.

Because Xander has known Ampata a few hours, he’s Ted Mosby in love with her and decides he’s going to tell her all about what the Scooby gang is really up to. The group silently shames him into not sharing the details. Amapata runs from the library, and Xander catches up to her to tell her that everything is going to be cool, they get a lot worst than machete wielding ghost warriors in Sunnydale. No, I’m kidding, he doesn’t say that. He does promise that he’ll keep her safe, but she’s not convinced, and she just wants a normal life.

Sound like anyone we know?


Maybe Xander is drawn to the clawing desperation of longing for normalcy, and that’s why he was never attracted to Willow. Willow didn’t need him to make her normal, or to be a part of some life experience. She was comfortable with herself the way she was and didn’t care about fitting in. From Xander’s point of view, there’s nothing for him to provide for her in a romantic relationship. This is why he ends up falling for Cordelia, and later, Anya, because he fulfilled a role in their lives by being the normal guy to their extraordinary circumstances (Anya’s demonness, Cordy’s wealth and popularity). In return, they give him something, too; a chance to have extraordinary in his ordinary life. And it’s why he’s attracted to Ampata; not because she’s a mummy, but because she’s an exchange student and he can help her fit in while she helps him appear different or special for having a non-American girlfriend.

I feel like I could roll on that topic for a while.

But I won’t, because more stuff is happening in the episode. Willow tells Xander to ask Ampata to the dance, and he says they all should go. Willow shoots that down and says she’ll meet him there. Willow is fully done with waiting for Xander to love her.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles make a plan to go to the museum and figure out why a machete wielding werewolf bodyguard would want a bunch of broken seal pieces. And of course this means Buffy must miss the school dance, but that’s okay, there’ll be another one in two episodes or so. Sunnydale has a lot of dances. It’s like they just can’t get enough of rounding all the town’s teenagers into large, windowless spaces after sundown. What the fuck, Sunnydale?

Xander asks Ampata to the dance, but he’s really nervous about doing it. Why is that, Xander?

Xander: “Well, because you never know if a girl is going to say yes, or if she’s going to laugh in your face and pull out your still beating heart and crush it into the ground with her heel.”

And it’s teenage girls who have a reputation for dramatics? For those who don’t remember, last season Xander asked Buffy to go to a dance with him, and when she very gently rejected him, he flipped his shit. Because merely telling a girl you like them puts your claim on them, and if she rejects that claim, well, that’s totally unacceptable. Even if you consistently give her shit for the guys she likes and try to rape her while possessed by hyenas, she still totally owes it to you to return your interest, and if she doesn’t, well. See above heart smashing description. (#5)

Ampata tells Xander that she likes him, too, and Xander asks her if she’s a praying mantis. Xander learns from his mistakes, y’all.

Ampata goes into the ladies’ room, where she is confronted by the ghost of Billy Black. She begs him not to kill her, because she is innocent. He reminds her to that to stay alive herself, she has to kill innocent people. He calls her the chosen one– wow, those student exchange programs must be wicked good at matching up students and host families!– and tells her she must die. He tries to stab her with his knife, but she grabs him and sucks the life out of him and…


Wait a gosh darn minute.

This guy is like, a ghost or something, right? Because he keeps disappearing and reappearing, and he’s some kind of mythic guardian from the seal? So… why can Ampata drain his life force? Is this guy human, or is he a mystic warrior? Why has this not been cleared up in the script at all? We don’t know if this guy is a human or a monster or what, and that’s an important detail.

Back at the Summers residence, Ampata is surprised to find a bunch of suitcases in Buffy’s room. They’re Ampata’s– the real, dead Ampata’s– luggage from the bus station. Mummy!Ampata doesn’t want Buffy to unpack the bags, because when she finds them full of dude stuff, the jig will almost certainly up.

Well, maybe. Because Buffy and co. haven’t been real sharp so far in this episode. Buffy might just shrug and go, “Huh, fashion is really different in her country.” I’m pretty sure Ampata could have worn a t-shirt to school every day that said, “Soul devouring mummy, ask me how,” and these OOC Scoobies wouldn’t have gotten it.

She tries on Buffy’s lipstick and tells her:

Ampata: “You remind me of someone from very long ago. The Inca Princess.”

Buffy: “Cool, a princess.”

Ampata: “They told her that she was the only one. That only she could defend her people from the netherworld. Out of all the girls in her generation, she was the only one who was–“

Buffy: “Chosen.


No, seriously. SERIOUSLY. As Buffy unpacks Ampata’s luggage, she finds a pair of men’s underwear, and she just shrugs it off. Ampata gives an impassioned speech about how the Inca princess didn’t have a chance at love before she became a sacrifice, and Buffy still does not understand what is going on.

Remember all those recaps where I was like, “Don’t you love the way the subtle details of the plot is woven in so that a smart viewer can pick up on it and see all the little individual clues unravelling before the characters do?” That so does not apply here. Some episodes, like Witch, are so well-crafted and full of misdirects that even though you’re pretty sure you know what’s going to happen, you delight in the way it all plays out. But the clues have to be subtle to the characters for that to work. Here, rather than making the plot stronger, the writers have made the characters less intelligent, and it’s just frustrating for the audience.

Equally frustrating? When Buffy opens one of Ampata’s trunks containing the dead body of the real Ampata, and doesn’t notice anything is amiss because Xander arrives. So she drops the lid without looking. Buffy spends a lot of time in crypts; wouldn’t she notice the smell of a dead body?

Xander’s multicultural costume is from a spaghetti Western, which I find adorable in a totally demented way. One thing I’ve noticed about BtVS is that the characters all know a lot about old movies, for being kids in the 90’s, and they drop mad film references in almost every episode. Buffy tells Xander she’s not going to the dance, that it’s just him and Willow going with Ampata. Then Xander is all like, Willow bailed, and Ampata comes down the stairs and he just starts blithering like an idiot. Then Joyce pops in for her bullshit parenting moment of the week:

Joyce: “Ampata, don’t you look wonderful? Oh! I wish you could talk my daughter into going with you.”

Ampata: “I tried, but she is very stubborn.”

Joyce: “Well, I’m glad someone else sees that.”

That’s a dick move, Joyce. I’d be glad if you would see that it’s weird for your daughter to hang out in cemeteries with a grown ass man all the time, but it is what it is. Joyce’s dickishness continues as she comments to Buffy about how well Ampata is already fitting in. Considering Joyce is constantly pressuring Buffy to fit in, why did the writers feel this scene was a good idea? Because it makes Joyce seem cold and manipulative. #3

At the dance, Cordelia struts in dressed as Hula Hair Barbie (okay, she’s a brunette, she had to be Hula Hair Theresa) and makes fun of Willow’s “cool” costume.

Get it? Cool?
Get it? Cool?

Willow’s costume is literally the best part of this episode.

Scratch that, it’s the second best part of the episode, because Oz.

Willow sees Ampata and Xander arrive, and she feels bad about her Inuit costume. Screw them, Willow. Not a lot of people have the courage to wear an anorak in southern Cali.

Back in the land of oblivious parents, Giles arrives at Buffy’s house and the two them have a little spat about the fact that he didn’t let her go to the dance. Which, you know. As a parent, that should raise red flags for Joyce, but who knows where the hell she is. For most of these episodes, I’m convinced there is some kind of inter-dimensional portal that Joyce disappears through when she’s not on camera, because she never overhears any Slayer shit happening. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t think about something secret without my mom somehow tuning into it with her radar mom mind. I think most parents notice little shit like school staff randomly dropping by.

Giles tells Buffy that the bodyguard was found mummified in the school bathroom– I love that Sunnydale doesn’t cancel its school dances even if a mummified corpse is found on school property– and Buffy just at that moment starts to put the pieces together about Ampata acting weird the first time she saw the seal. Buffy remembers all the boys’ clothes in Ampata’s luggage, and races upstairs.

Cut to Buffy and Giles in Buffy’s room, looking through Ampata’s luggage. Uh, Joyce? What’s your seventeen-year-old daughter doing? Oh, she’s in her bedroom with her forty-something school librarian, with whom she has an unusually close relationship? No, you’re right, that’s probably fine. How do the writers keep forgetting that not everyone knows Buffy is a Slayer, and to the outside world this would end with Giles in the back of a police car?

Buffy finally opens the trunk with the dead Ampata in it. Seriously, that’s what it takes for Giles, Mr. Super Smart Watcher Pants, and Buffy the streetwise common sense wizard to crack this super not at all hard case. The writers dropped the ball in a big way on this one. Buffy and Giles from “Phases” would have figured it out twenty minutes ago.

At the dance, there’s more of Willow glumly watching Ampata and Xander have a good time. Then, on stage, Oz looks up from his guitar and is instantly smitten with someone in crowd. Not Ampata, but a beautiful girl in a parka.

oz0402 willow0402

The entire band sequence really makes me wonder what we were thinking about music in the ’90’s. Yeah, there was some really good stuff, but most of it was this whinging, needlessly gravelly alternarock crap that came straight through dudes’ noses.

Buffy and Giles race to the dance– well, no, they drive there. In Giles’s shitty car that doesn’t go faster than 40mph. Which Buffy points out, but come on, Buffy. You never even learn to drive in this series, and then when he buys his midlife crisis mobile in season five you give him all sorts of shit about it. Take a ride where you can get it.

Xander and Ampata are still dancing and clearly falling in love (you can tell because this is TV, and on TV, dancing and gazing longingly at each other means you’re in love now). They nearly kiss, but when their lips get close, Ampata’s mummy hand pops a wither boner because it thinks its getting fed, and she runs away, leaving a bewildered Xander to stare after her and wonder why the sudden rejection.

Ampata desperately scans the crowd and sees Jonathan, that one student that is always in the background doing things, and who you will grow to desperately love as the show goes on.

Back in Giles’s car, Buffy says she should have known Ampata was the mummy. Why is that, Buffy? Because she straight up told you about a hundred times? Yes, you’re right, you should have known. Because Ampata was so insistent on hiding or destroying the seal, Giles figures that if they put it back together, it will stop her. Which is a great conclusion to arrive at when you’re driving to a dance to confront the unkillable mummy and you don’t have the intact seal.

Ampata takes Jonathan off somewhere private, and we’re supposed to think Jonathan went with her because, “That’s great, let’s make out,” but this is early days, dear readers, and Jonathan isn’t at the part where he’s in love with Warren yet. The writers probably didn’t realize the direction that three-way relationship was going to take in season six, either. Anyway, Ampata tries to suck Jonathan’s soul, but Xander calls for her and Jonathan splits, even though from my vantage point, the fight would have been a pretty even match.

When Xander asks Ampata why she ran, she says she doesn’t think she deserves Xander, and his ego is so stroked he pulls a Ted Mosby and blurts out that he loves her. Ampata is super sad, because she knows she’s a mummy, but obviously Xander doesn’t know this, just like he doesn’t know that when they start making out, she’s going to suck his soul. Luckily she stops before she kills him.

Meanwhile, in a hip new bar called Puzzles (I don’t mean to keep making How I Met Your Mother references, they’re just happening), Giles is trying to glue the seal back together. But since Ampata has like, remote seal detection, she knows someone is fucking with it, and she leaves Xander gasping for air on the floor.

Buffy gets to the Bronze and finds Willow:

Buffy: “Ampata’s the mummy.”

Willow: “Oh. Good.”

I love you, Willow. I love you so much.

Buffy and Willow run off to find Xander, literally at the same moment Oz tries to chat up Willow. He’s totally smitten with her, even though she didn’t look at him when he tried to talk to her. Because he gets it. He gets that she’s her own person and she was under no obligation to stop and talk to him. Because Oz is the Anti-Xander.

#18: Oz is the Anti-Xander.

Buffy and Willow find Xander, who believes he’s just tired from all the sexy makings out. He tells them that Ampata said something about the seal before she ran, so Buffy and Willow figure it’s best to tell him on the way.

At the museum, Ampata finds Giles putting together the seal. He has it entire finished except for one piece, and when he stops to verbalize the fact that he has only one piece left, Ampata strikes. Dude, if you hadn’t stopped to talk to yourself, you could have finished the seal. Ampata smashes the seal and tries to suck Giles’s soul or life force or whatever vague essence it is that she has to suck to survive, when Buffy arrives:

Buffy: “I’ll say one thing for you Incan mummies. You don’t kiss and tell.”


I love how Ampata looks like, "Really?"
I love how Ampata looks like, “Really?”

It’s fight scene time, so Giles is unconscious, obviously. Ampata throws him into the mummy tomb, and she and Buffy fight. And somehow, even though she’s just a regular girl who is now a mummy (and who has a mummy arm because she needs to feed and therefore, one would assume, is slightly weakened) Ampata is stronger than Buffy (#16) and gets the jump on her. She throws Buffy into the tomb with Giles and puts the big heavy stone lid on.

Ampata is like, mostly mummy at this point, except for her face. She intercepts Willow on her way out of the museum and is about to drain her life force when Xander intervenes. He orders Ampata to let Willow go. Ampata begs him to let her kill Willow, but he isn’t budging; killing his friends is a deal breaker. He tells Ampata that if she wants life, she’ll have to take it from him.  She’s about to when the mummy curse speeds up and Xander is able to fend her off– Xander, the unmagical human is able to fend-off the mummy that just beat the Slayer (#16)– and Buffy bursts out of the sarcophagus in time to make Xander’s breakup literal:


That ain’t even the same girl’s head.

Willow comforts Xander, Giles is okay– not that anybody checked on him– and they all walk out of the museum and just leave all the mummy parts behind.

Hey, uh… does this museum have security cameras, by any chance? They’re gonna check ’em when they find the mummy pieces. How did the Scoobies get away with wrecking an exhibit and shattering a mummy without any consequences?

a wizard did it

At school, Buffy and Xander are talking about the Ampata thing. Xander shows some remarkable character consistency here. It would have been easy for the writers to make it dramatic, to make him beg Buffy not to kill Ampata  because he loved her. But as they’re talking it out, it makes sense, and it’s the only logical thing the writers did in this episode. Xander hates vampires, and he hates that Buffy is in love with one. It would have been utterly hypocritical for him to believe Ampata was any better than a vampire, because she has to take life to live. So I guess, with regards to the writing, a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Buffy defends Ampata, because it’s clear that she sympathizes with the whole “chosen one” component of Ampata’s experience. Xander points out that when Buffy was supposed to die to fulfill prophecy, she did. And then they have this moment of deep eye contact, and it makes me furious because there was no need to tease out that they might get together. None at all. And even the thought that they were leaving the possibility open astounds me, because Xander doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for his nice guy behavior.

This is another episode that goes into my least favorite column due to writing. Xander is a difficult character to write an entire script around. Dan Vebber is the only person to have written a really good Xander episode, but Dan Vebber was like some kind of magic man, who breezed in, gave us “Lover’s Walk” and “The Zeppo,” then mysteriously vanished, anyway. When the story is focused on Xander, the writers seem to feel obligated to bring Xander up by bringing the other characters down. If that’s the only way a story will work… then you need a better story.

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  1. Laina

    I like the IDEA of this episode, of the parallels between Ampata and Buffy, but man, couldn’t it have been written by anyone else?

    Also. Is it just me or was young Billy Black HOT????

    September 23, 2013
    • Not surprising. I thought he was pretty fine in the Twilight movies (but I dig daddies, so…).

      September 23, 2013
      • Definitely, man. Twilight-wise, I am Team Any of the Dads. But I’m partial to Charlie. It’s a shame that they don’t give out special oscars to the actors who elevate totally unwatchable movies, because billy Burke would have 5.

        March 1, 2015
  2. Lisa Dollar
    Lisa Dollar

    Just want to follow comments, so thanks again for a great recap!

    September 23, 2013
  3. I hated this episode.

    Every time it came on after I saw it the first time, I was like: “Nope. Different channel time.” Not even the adorableness and allure of Oz (probably my favorite character of all—yes, even moreso than Spike) could make me watch it again. It was just so… Bad. All around.

    This guy is like, a ghost or something, right? Because he keeps disappearing and reappearing, and he’s some kind of mythic guardian from the seal? So… why can Ampata drain his life force? Is this guy human, or is he a mystic warrior? Why has this not been cleared up in the script at all? We don’t know if this guy is a human or a monster or what, and that’s an important detail.

    I thought he was like what’s-his-face from Pumaman or something. Vidinio. That was his name.

    One thing I’ve noticed about BtVS is that the characters all know a lot about old movies, for being kids in the 90′s, and they drop mad film references in almost every episode.

    I always loved this, because as a kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I watched a shit ton of old movies. Which really helped me when I got to high school and started working at Suncoast. People would ask where a certain movie was, and no matter how obscure, I never had to use the computer database to look up what section it should be in. This netted me the quiet, essential job of taking the huge boxes full of random DVDs that came in shipping and sort them in the back room. I was excellent at that job. Too bad it was only a holiday position, and too bad the store went bankrupt. I probably could have made assistant manager or something.

    My point is, I really identified with Willow because of her dropping references, being awkward, and also always being “one of the guys.” I was the Willow of our group of friends. More interested in getting my school work done, quiet, overlooked in conversation… Figuring out I was bi… Sooo much identifying going on there.

    At the dance, Cordelia struts in dressed as Hula Hair Barbie (okay, she’s a brunette, she had to be Hula Hair Theresa) and makes fun of Willow’s “cool” costume.

    I had one of those! The Theresa doll!

    Also, oh my glob, Oz’s face is just so adorable in that screenshot. God, I love him. Yes, I am still nursing a little crush on Seth Green. Bastard.

    #18: Oz is the Anti-Xander.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this count. Seriously, I fell in love with him and Willow when I started watching this show. Hard.

    September 23, 2013
    • Me too. I credit lots of late night cable TV, on those channels that used to play old movies instead of infomercials.

      September 23, 2013
      • TCM and AMC man. I was obsessed with old movies as early as elementary school. I love that about the show too.

        I actually re-watched this episode a couple of weeks ago and didn’t recognize Billy Black until that screenshot! “I’m down with the kids.” Yes you are, sir.

        September 24, 2013
  4. Anonymous

    “Because Xander has known Ampata a few hours, he’s Ted Mosby in love with her and decides he’s going to tell her all about what the Scooby gang is really up to.”

    hahahaha! jenny, you totally made my day. 🙂 okay, now back to reading the recap.

    September 23, 2013
    • RevoltInNeon

      Oh my god, bless you for that image.

      September 25, 2013
  5. L.

    This is why he ends up falling for Cordelia, and later, Anya, because he fulfilled a role in their lives by being the normal guy to their extraordinary circumstances (Anya’s demonness, Cordy’s wealth and popularity). In return, they give him something, too; a chance to have extraordinary in his ordinary life.

    This is genius.

    September 23, 2013
  6. Anonymous

    Two things:

    1. I can’t believe I never made the connection of Oz being the anti-Xander. It seems so obvious. Ugh, why couldn’t Xander be the one who abruptly disappears?

    2. I really can’t wait for you to eviserate Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Need someone to share in my rage from rewatching that one.

    September 23, 2013
  7. I completely forgot that this was Oz’s fateful first encounter with Willow. Probably because I half-watched this episode once out of completionism and never felt a desire to look at it again.

    By the way, I think the whole “can’t make out with you unless I’m draining your life force” thing might count as an another example of #1.

    September 23, 2013
    • I agree, definitely #1. Also, the whole concept was done so much better with the Xmen. Of course I just love Rogue and Gambit.

      September 23, 2013
  8. I’m wondering now if Sunnydale might beat Sweet Valley for Most School Dances Ever.

    September 24, 2013
  9. Sushi

    It suddenly struck me while reading this that although Sunnydale must be used to the random deaths and disappearances of their teens, surely the exchange program are going to ask questions about what happened to Ampata.

    September 24, 2013
    • Yup. A kid just came to America and died. People kind of notice that shit.

      September 24, 2013
  10. Jemmy

    Tiny nit pick, Oz isn’t a werewolf yet in this episode. Oz as the anti Xander makes sense, he’s a much more sensible and far less prone to the teen boy drama. He doesn’t take advantage of Willow in the later episodes when he could, I have a decent amount of respect for his character.

    September 24, 2013
    • Yeah, but if Billy Black is in the episode, you have to make the joke, LOL.

      September 24, 2013
      • Jemmy


        I’m kind of a non Twilight zone so I never even made the connection /blush

        September 24, 2013
  11. You know, it never even occurred to me that Inca Bodyguard Guy could be a ghost. I always just assumed that he was alive, and just had, like, super ninja skills or something. Because frankly, assuming there’s still some guy down in South America sitting beside a giant buzzer that goes off if a mummy’s seal is broken (and I guess points him to it…?) seemed to fit in with both the lack of sense and lack of cultural knowledge/sensitivity/giving-a-crap that this episode seemed to have…

    September 24, 2013
  12. Lindsay

    The Oz and Willow romance is by far my favorite story arc in the show, and I am certain that is because Oz is so completely amazing. Him and Anya are very close for my favorite characters of the show, but I think Anya wins overall. I steadily began to dislike many of the new characters, and a lot of the directions character development took after season 3 (especially Spike, oh Spike), and yet Anya remained this beautiful burning beacon of hope for me. So she remains my favorite for simply being amazing in a sea of terrible characters.

    September 24, 2013
  13. Katie

    Is it bad that throughout most of this episode I thought Ampata’s name was Empada and thought that was super racist? “Oh we have an Incan mummy, let’s just name her after a (delicious) Latin American street food”

    September 24, 2013
  14. Anonymous

    “M-O-O-N, that spells disappointment.”


    September 24, 2013
  15. Betty

    I’ve watched all of the Buffy episodes at least once (the first time in one, big gulp on Netflix) and oddly enough the meeting of Oz & Willow is the only part of it I remember.

    September 24, 2013
  16. Yay, new recap! And of one of my least favourite episodes – it was fun to see a takedown of that.

    I’ve never been a huge Oz fan. I mean, he is massively cute and THE best relationship rolemodel this show has (regarding kindness, respectfulness and – most remarkably – setting and enforcing boundaries for yourself!). He just always seemed a little too… perfect to me. I have a hard time pinpointing any flaws. It’s like, he’s a great rolemodel, but maybe not the best character, y’know.

    September 24, 2013
  17. I think you’re spot-on about Xander. Not only is he Ordinary Everydude, but he’s kind of a stereotype of Awkward Ordinary Everydude before we had Geek Culture to hang some better stereotypes on him. It always feels like his hammy sexism is supposed to make a point, or he was the victim of network notes and Joss’s reaction to same (“needs more dude! we need to sell stuff to dudes!”), or he was what Joss and some of the clumsier writers thought of as That Guy.

    This all makes me feel more charitable toward him, though. I do think he’s supposed to be unsympathetic and we are not supposed to like his crap if we are smart viewers with opinions or dumb viewers beginning to form opinions, but I think we’re also supposed to see through it to something that never got fully realized except in those really brilliant glimpses that we mostly got, I think, from Jane Espenson. Poor Xander’s kind of the Scarecrow AND the Lion AND Toto AND a flying monkey. (I think it is telling that my nerdy husband’s most favoritest episodes are the ones where Xander wins the day. Being awkward and adolescent is hard, and sometimes it’s even harder if you’re good-looking but temporarily hopeless.)

    September 24, 2013
  18. RevoltInNeon

    Literally the only nonshitacular thing about this episode is OZ!!! <3

    I love Oz. Oz makes me happy precisely because, yes, as you say, ANTI-XANDER.
    I never quite put that together before, but oh it makes such sense now. Yet it's XANDER we have to endure all 7 fucking seasons. So unfair.

    …OZ! <3

    September 25, 2013
  19. I was going to suggest #18 – Oz is the Best Boyfriend Ever, but the Anti-Xander works much better. Oz remains my favorite character from the show, precisely because he is everything Xander is not – and I like Xander. Granted, my feelings on Xander are very similar to Lyn’s, so I never hated him, I just sprained my eyeballs due to all of the eye-rolling when he opened his mouth sometimes. Bring on the Oz!

    September 25, 2013
  20. Amazingly, the character of Ampata (the mummy version) was inspired by a real person. There was an actual mummy that was found in an extinct volcano who had been an Incan sacrifice. I’m not saying that they did an okay job with their culture representation, but at least that was something that they based on fact.

    September 25, 2013
  21. Finally, finally my favourite character shows up.
    As a teenager I loved Angel (of course) because I was a drama queen.^^
    But when Oz entered Sunnydale Angel was forgotten.
    Someone in the above comments said, that Oz was too perfect. Maybe that’s why they made him a werewolf later. Because they couldn’t believe there could be such a wonderful TEENAGER!
    Anyway, I always liked Willow and was so happy when she and Oz became a couple.
    I just never understood why they didn’t keep him in the series, I’ll have a little crush on Seth Green forever!

    September 26, 2013
    • Anonymous

      I suppose it would have been difficult to keep him and not keep him and Willow together. It never really seemed like he was friends with the others independantly of her, like I can’t remeber him hanging out with Buffy orXander without her being there as well.

      September 26, 2013
    • If I remember correctly Seth Green wanted to leave the show to pursue other interests. Oz’s character comes back in the Buffy comics.

      October 4, 2013
  22. I always assumed that the ‘not a lot of town’ comment was just Cordy kinda trying to show off to a girl who had just transferred from a major city. Like a ‘I’m a big city girl stuck in a small town’ kinda thing.

    September 26, 2013
    • Suzanne

      But someone – Xander? – refers to Sunnydale as a “one Starbucks town” which also suggests somewhere too small to have two high schools, a hospital, museum, university, etc etc

      April 8, 2015
  23. Dawne

    Absolutely loving your recaps but two tiny nitpicks:

    1. Unless I missed some serious subtext that you will no doubt point out when we reach seasons 6 and 7, I don’t think Jonathan was ever in love with Warren. Andrew was.

    2. You referred to Buffy as 17 here and also said in the past that Angel waits until she’s 18 to boink her. Because season 1 was a half season she doesn’t have a birthday in it so she’s really only 16 here. She gets it on with angel on her 17th birthday and the council tests her on her 18th birthday in Season 3’s Helpless. (Which just makes Angel that much more creepy)

    Please excuse my Buffy fan OCD and have a great day.

    October 6, 2013
    • kelly green
      kelly green

      about the correction about Andrew- THANK YOU!!! It just freaked me out to see this small and kinda legitimate mistake.

      September 15, 2022
  24. CBW

    I think some of the things you chalked up to number seventeen could very well also count in the tally for number twelve. There was also a ton of cultural appropriation, aka number twelve, going on during the dance proper in that the dress code literally seemed to be “wow culture!!! dress up like a culture that’s not your own in the least!! WEAR IT!!”.

    October 9, 2013
  25. First off, Tom Cullen is my favorite oerson of all time.

    Second, even though I love tall guys, I love red heads even more and Seth Green is so cute I’d have short babies with him.

    October 28, 2013
  26. Presumably the exchange student’s real family will want him back at some point.

    November 28, 2013
  27. The-Great-Dragon

    Somehow I missed this recap.

    I’m such a huge Oz fan. I’m so glad you love him too, because he’s brilliant and amazing and the greatest and I can’t ever get enough of him. For reals, Oz. Oz is the best.

    December 8, 2013
  28. ruraljuror

    Things that are crazy racist: “ethnic” costumes. I know this is the nineties and everyone was less aware (i.e. more racist), but seriously? #12! #12! #12! #12! #12!

    December 28, 2013
  29. Suzanne

    One of the very few – perhaps even the only – appealing thing about that unaired pilot you posted was the appearance, in the queue for the Bronze, of Jonathan-the-short-idiot.

    April 8, 2015
  30. 17 was actually the “heavy handed anti smoking” one. Sorry if someone else pointed that out, I know I’m necroposting. I think “wacky ‘foreigners'” fits in just fine with 12. This whole episode is racist as fuck, though.

    April 18, 2015
  31. Anon123

    Did they ever explain why an ancient Incan mummy speaks fluent modern English? She shouldn’t even know Spanish or Portuguese (not that it ever seems to have come up anyway, to the extent that I’m not 100% sure what country she’s even from).

    April 25, 2015
    • Meagan

      They explained it when the scoobies + Ampata were talking in Buffy’s kitchen. Xander comments that Ampata’s English is really good, and she says “I’m a good listener”, suggesting that she learned while being on exhibit and hearing people in the museum talking.

      May 15, 2015
  32. The actress who plays Mummy!Ampata is gorgeous and has incredible hair. I wonder what kind of cream rinse she used…

    I totally agree with what CBW said above. They should have called it the cultural appropriation dance since that is exactly what it was.

    January 10, 2016
  33. Agent_Z

    So did the school not inform the Summers that the student they’d be taking in was a boy? This plan should have fallen apart the second they saw “Ampata”.

    Also, is anyone bothered by the fact that we never learn the mummy’s real name? Combine this with the ambiguously human Native American guy and this episode’s depiction of non white people becomes even more troubling

    September 7, 2017
  34. I don’t know if you still read these comments, but my boyfriend and I are doing a Buffy rewatch right now and somebody pointed out this blog series to me. While everyone else was all excited about Spike showing up, THIS was the episode I was looking forward to. Oz was my favourite character in the entire BtVS series and I was so sad when he left. We got to this episode the other day and I literally squeed when I saw “Guest starring Seth Green as Oz” in the opening credits. I’m so excited for him to become a full cast member. (We’ve watched up to What’s My Line Part 2 now).

    October 7, 2019

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